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Tropical Trials & Tribulations (Closed: Taco)

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The warm breeze, dulled only lighty by the cooling night, came in heavily flavored with the taste of salt heavy in the air, a fact which disquieted Applejack. She wasn't much for the beach. Sand had nothing on good, solid ground. The ocean was a pile of salty nothing that had a bunch of mystery critters she wasn't much fond of. She'd take a deep fresh lake any old day. And the salt? It just carried with it memories of one too many salt cubes as a younger mare and a few too any raging headaches as a result. Not that she'd openly complain about any of this, anyhow. It'd be a right stupid thing to do about an all-expenses-paid-trip to the  Gallopocus Islands at the best of times, least of all when it was her job as a member of the Twilight Guard to investigate reports of mysterious critters down south.

 

She wasn't alone. Seven other members of the Twilight Guard joined her, the most important being the Captain of the Guard herself, Fire Walker. Equestria must've been real quiet to send the Captain on what was gonna amount to a wild goose chase! Not that Applejack didn't appreciate her company. The other members of the Guard were all right no doubt but four of them were former Royal or Night Guards who were folded into the Twilight Guard and the other two were fresh into the ranks. Twilight above, it was good to have somepony she knew on this trip. 

 

They were also taking a new-fangled airship, and the only pony who could fly it was one of the Night Guard. It was built for speed and was supposed to allow a small group of Guard to respond to calls very, very quickly. It was a very small airship. Very, very small. Two ponies could be on the 'deck' at most, climbing up and down a small ladder through a hatch. A single large magi-tech crossbow with ten bolts was hitched to a rail but that was it for defense. Then Underneath that was the crew cabin with four small bunk beds with small personal chests and a table and chairs that were bolted into position. The door in and out of the airship was located here and it was a simple unhitch and drop. and one room to either side. One was for storage of supplies and gear and was hardly large enough for that and the other contained waste disposal and a small emergency supply of magic charges to power the auxiliary magic engine should the sail-powered craft need it.

 

She was sure they would need to. They had gotten a late start and the airship had proven to be slower than they had thought- though still really fast, all things considered. What should have been a six-hour trip to the island had instead taken almost ten hours. Applejack busied herself as best she could as she went over the supplies. They didn't know how long the investigation would take so they had been told to pack for a week. Each pony had their own bag with essentials and they brought in a bunch of mission critical gear and additional food supplies. She spent some socializing with the new crew and even some time top-side, though the air rushing past her face almost made her lose her stetson- thank Twilight for that conveniently placed crossbow!

 

By the time they arrived at Fire Stone Island, a smaller but densely forested island with a dormant volcano, it was ten at night. The airship came in with a swoop astride the island. To its credit the airship was silent as all get out and moved like a dream, almost like a bird. It slowed and came to a stop gently. Applejack could tell that much. Even though she was now stuffed inside with five other guardponies near the exit door in full armor and by all rights she would have been fine even if they had crashed against rocks. Instead it smoothly slide into the sand and settled in. That warm breeze, the salty smell, it soon overtook the cabin as the door was unhitched and landed softly in the sand.

 

One by one they exited. The first Guard out, a Royal Guardspony unicorn, cast a spell. A small, dull green wave that was nearly invisible radiated from his position and into the treeline. Creatures larger than a newborn foal became outlined in a pulsing red briefly as the guards scanned them. Some small island predators, a large bird or two, even a shark or two in the water a bit. Nothing to be too concerned about just then. The others fanned out.

 

"Woo-eee, happy to move mah legs! Alright, secure tha perimeter and we can set up camp. Reckon it's a bit too late ta start investigatin'. Right, captain?" She asked Fire Walker as she trotted out. She was the XO to Fire's CO out here, after all. Whatever Fire said was law!
 

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Fire Walker's eyes curled up in a true happiness as her snout sniffed the wonderful salty air. She almost wanted to break out into song. 'Somewhere beyond the sea..Somewhere waiting for me..My lover stands on golden sands..And watches the air-ships that go fly'n.' Thankfully she did not. She had what she considered a -decent- voice, but this was a SERIOUS mission. No singing. No prancing or frolicking about on the wonderful, magical sand. No stylish bathing suits. And definitely no Martinis with salt on the rim! This was business. She had other days she could return to these wonderful, wonderful islands. And then she would have her sweet Swifty at her side. She wondered if Martini Paradise returned to her homeland.  She hoped to see the magical masterful mare of mixed Mojitos and Manehattans!
 
And it was another 'critter' mission as her partner would say. What's with all the critter missions? Fire Walker would also say. Whatever it was, it had to be very important, having all these Twilight Guards...Especially a Captain and an actual hero along with the ride. And they also got to test out a mini air-ship. She knew her husband to be would want one of these. He already had a big and fancy one, but a small and sleek one? She could picture him zooming around in one of these.  
 
She never heard of 'Fire Stone' until they took off for the mission.  It almost sounded like an romantic getaway. Secluded forests. Probably have a lovely cabin or two there for couples. But then there was the volcano.  Something she did not lava. at all. After a quick and safe landing, the red Pegasus pony followed the others out of the air-ship.
 
"It's a bit too late to be wandering out into the darkness.", the mare kept her voice down low as not to disturb the creatures that choose to sleep at this time. "We should all get some proper sleep so we'll be well rested before we need to find the lay of the land." with a nod, she asked the others to help set up their temporary camp and set up two look-outs who could switch after four hours. She volunteered to go first.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     
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Fire Walker was thinking the same way Applejack was. The XO nodded and snapped off a quick salute. "Aye aye, Cap'n," She said as she turned and trotted towards the airship. Several guards were getting gear out and she did her part while she spoke.

 

"Get your tents set up, two ta a tent," she said as she started to help with one of them. They were simple designs with two entrances, but had a few cool features. Shadows and figures could be seen if they were close on the outside but you could have a small fire on the inside yet it would remain completely concealed. Plus it had a decent manner of anti-flame protection. 


"Swift Star-" Applejack pointed to the pilot, who jumped off the top and glided next to the Ponyville native. "Yer tha first watch with tha Captain," She said. Star saluted and started setting up her tent.


"Second watch, Brickhouse and Lighthouse. Third watch, Gleaming Shield and Brightblade. Fourth watch, Crescent and Ah. Lighthouse and Brightblade, do a perimeter sweep ta place tha early detection alarms. Ah'll handle yer tent," Applejack ordered as the pairs went to setting up their tents, sans Lighthouse and Brightblade. It took only a few moments for the experienced camper to set them up as the two dropped off near invisible magical alarms. If triggered by a creature with an aetheric link- so not a random animal- it would alert all of the Guards. Just one of may tools Applejack was glad to have as they tried to keep everypony safe out here.

 

It wasn't long before it was done. Each Guard had their own supply kit and they only needed four tents after all! Applejack trotted back up to Fire Walker. They were going to be sharing a tent, so might as well see to being a good tent-partner!
"Tents up an' perimeter secure. Need anythin' for tha watch starts, Cap'n?"

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The month had been interesting so far. The red coated officer was able to spend some quality time with her mother during the early week. She had never been the same when a old friend of hers said she 'looked good for her age'. This did not sit well for the middle-aged mare who proceeded to try her very best to push back the march of time. From hiring a personal trainer to get back into shape, to dying her hair back to its original color, she didn't want to look 'good' for her age, she wanted to look incredible. And normally she would have enjoyed a nice cup of tea with her mother on Monday, but not anymore. They spent the day at the 'Obstakillers Cirque Du Sore Legs' Obstacle Course' in Canterlot.  Fire Walker's poor performance highlighted the need for her to go on a mission. Any mission to get any from her mother. Thankfully Applejack had one lined up for her. One that did not seem very serious, but somepony knew something she didn't know, as they gathered a rather skilled group of guard to figure out who was causing some ruckus on the islands. Or was that rackus?
 
Hokey smokes, Applejack was really getting into this. You would have been lead to believe they had snuck into enemy territory and were about to sneak into the head's base. Still, the farmer took this very seriously, which was good. It had been a rather long time since the Pegasus pony had joined a group such as this. With a grin, the officer joined in and helped set up everything. In The R.E.A, nopony just sits and 'supervises'. Once things were settled, she did go over and make sure everything was set up correctly. And that it was.
 
"Everything looks good.", she responded, "Get some rest and we'll alert the siblings (Brickhouse and Lighthouse) once it's their turn. Till then, get some rest..", she saluted the good Captain*
 
Now it was Fire Walker's least favorite thing to do. Watch. One obviously does not want anything to happen, but it gets so boring, you almost want something. But nope. She made sure the mare was on opposite ends of her so they had an optimal view of the surrounding areas...
 
And so they waited...And watched...
 
 
 
* Or whatever Applejack is. I forgot
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"Sounds like a good plan ta me. If y'all need anythin' just get me, Ah'll be in our tent," Corporal Applejack replied with a salute, more formal with her salute than her phrasing. They were close. Applejack trusted the Captain completely- she was a mare who knew how to fight, how to lead, and more importantly knew what she was fighting for. You couldn't ask for much more when it comes to a true leader and Applejack was happy to follow her, even if the mission seemed a bit silly. And some overkill. Nothing wrong with making sure though, right? Better they do that then do too little and have a problem in the future.  

 

Applejack started trotting back. As she did so, she sought her gaze over to Swift Star, who was currently taking her position on the deck of the ship. "Eyes sharp, Swift. Yer gonna have ta watch tha captain with them special eyes of yours," Applejack said optimistically. She knew that Swift Star was a good mare but importantly for now she had that bat pony vision that would allow her to see better in the dark than anypony else here. Swift Star nodded and resumed her watch as Applejack, assured of their safety, trotted into her tent.

 

It took only a few moments for her to make her tent a home. Pictures of Zap Apple, Rainbow Dash, Apple Bloom, Big Mac, and Granny Smith quickly went up, a pillow went down, and she laid down on the soft bottom of the tent and yawned. She brought out a small journal and started writing, as was her promise to herself when she joined. Had to leave a record, right? She felt a kick and rubbed herself- "Momma's gonna be fine, Ambrosia," - as she continued to write. She was as true and honest in her journal as she would be at any other time, though she couldn't but try to impart some lessons while doing so. What would today add to what was turning out to be a holistic tome of maternal good will? 


Indeed, what would it bring...

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One of the things a pony needed to be during watch was on their hooves. None of this sitting about. That usually opened up a quick trip to Slumberland. Nope. On your hooves and also one needed to move about. Circulate those legs! Her older brother, Walk did this for a living! He could have easily got a nice, comfy office job. But nope, he prefered to walk the streets of Canterlot, making sure things were nice and safe. How he was not driven insane to the boredom had always puzzled the young mare. She also needed to keep her mind set firmly in reality. There are no monsters. There are animals, small and large, but no monsters. She needed to keep her eyes moving. If one stared at one spot for too long, one's mind starts to make up stuff. A stump in the distance starts to look like an Cockatrice lurking in the night.
 
The mare did pause to breathe in the salty, but very healthy air. She would soon be here, or at least in the region, with her Swift Squall. It would take some convincing, but she would prefer a simple Island Cabana. A nice little hut on stilts that rested over the beautiful waters of the Gallopocus Islands. He would want to go big. Rent one of those oversized estate mansions that were usually as far away from the beach as possible.
 
Huh? Fire Walker heard some rustling in one of the nearby bushes. Wild dog? Lost pelican? She nodded at Swift Star who got a better look at it with her 'Special Eyes'. "It appears to be one of those feral piggies. Nothing to worry about.", she added with a smile, "Cute little guy." before she returned to her side. There were stories about a group of Diamond Dog pirates known as the 'Sea Dogs'. Their Captain kept a few onboard as pets. However, when the 'Sea Dogs' were blown out of the water by a rival, the pigs were able to swim to an nearby island and over the next hundreds of years, those pigs managed to make a ton of new piggies. Those piggies made new piggies and so-forth. There was now an island known to the tourists as 'Piggie Island' where the adorable piggies would play with the visitors and more importantly, clean up after them as well.
 
 
 
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And sure enough, there was now a Piggie. A rather adorable little guy. Oh, how Fire Walker wanted to pet the Piggie. But she could not. She needed to keep watch. She managed a quick smile at the little guy who made a friendly snort before finding a little spot for a nap. He could be useful. If something horrible got near, the Piggie would be alerted and make a good deal of noise. She will name him Pork Walker. He sort of reminded of her brother, Punk. And if he were on guard, he probably would be doing the same. Even smelled very similar to her often in trouble sibling  as well.
 
The watch continued with no other random 'events.'. Pork Walker seemed to be having a dream where he was enjoying a good meal, as his little Piggie mouth was making adorable 'nom' sound. Soon it would be 'House' Siblings' turn, and then Fire Walker would be able to get off her hooves for the rest of the night.....
 
Spoiler
 
 
 

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