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[Bareback Gulch] the Rhinestone Quarry [ENDED]

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Doctor Whooves smiled to Martini gratefully. He stuck a straw into the glass of water and, in one long, thirsty draw, drank the whole thing down. Then transferred the straw to the Banana Daiquiri and sipped from that as well.

He let loose the straw and settled back. "Ahhhh... that's a wonderful daiquiri, thank you very much!" he said happily. He took a big mouthful of peanuts, chewed and swallowed rapidly, and let out a contented sigh. Then he leaned forward over the bar. "So, anyway... I just needed to ask..."

He glanced around surreptitiously, as if worried they'd be overheard, then quietly said, "You haven't happened to have seen anything... *weird* around here, have you? Like... weird weird? Unbelievable weird? Like, for instance, just pulling some random weird thing out of weird air... flying cactusses? or cacti. Whatever. That fly."

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The door to the saloon opened, and a loud, rhythmic ticking noise, like that of a clock, resonated through the room. The ticking was followed by a griffon, who walked into the saloon and made her way towards the bar. Most notably, in place of her left foreleg was some sort of clockwork contraption, fashioned into a functional, if somewhat unsettling facsimile of a normal griffon foreleg, claws and all, with only a few gears sticking out at the elbow and other joints. As the ticking continued, it became apparent that this prosthesis was the source of the noise; the rhythm would speed up as the griffon gripped an object, only to slow down again as her grip loosened. She sat down at the bar next to the Doctor. She spoke to Martini, "I'll have a Talonopolis Twist, please."

Turning to the Doctor, she smiled - or perhaps smirked, it was hard to tell - and commented, "Nice hat."

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You want a second one? You haven't even started on your first one there, hon!

As Satchel blinked at his error, Dio laughed. 'You sure know how to snag 'em, chief.'

The Pegasus savored the last few drops of bourbon before putting his glass down and sliding it down the bar to the bussing bin. The bar was starting to fill up now. The saloon doors swung open again, admitting another earth pony and a griffon. It was the Griffon who caught Dio's eye, as she sported a prosthetic arm. The machine clicked, ticked, and whirred as she moved, but seemed to match her movements as if it were organic; Dio had never seen anything like it. Well, this is a night of firsts, now isn't it?

I guess I kinda grew up doing this down on Gallopocous, an' it becomes second nature after a few too many parties.

He smiled at the bartender's mention of Gallopocous. 'Ah Gallopocous, that's the place to be. I haven't been out there in a while; I can't exactly choose where Pony Mail wants me to deliver packages. I wish I could make more trips down; their papaya is simply the best.'

Dio shifted his weight, leaning into the bar and making eye contact with the barkeep. 'And you grew up there? You are one lucky filly, Martini.'

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It had been a long journey, and Dusty had been unprepared for the wide and forsaken wilderness that spread before him. With little more than his hard hat, a pickaxe and his trusty spade lashed onto his back, he had braved it anyway.

He was young and foolish, after all, with that particular streak of invincibility that seemed to infect the youth. Years working in the mines of the Blackhorse Hills had inured him to the fear of death. After seeing so many accidents and losing friends, he had just stopped caring about it. He'd accepted a simple truth adopted by many of the mining ponies- that there was a time and a place he would pass, and there was nothing he could do about it.

He hadn't expected to die in the desert, though. A cave-in or gas explosion, sure. Nice and quick. But the baking heat of the daytime and bone-rattling chill of the night, draining him until he simply collapsed? Never. He had cursed himself a thousand times for being too proud to ask for advice or for help, too foalish to take charity when it was offered.

"Celestia help me." he wheezed, sinking to his knees and staring up at the merciless sun. "I swear on the sun and the moon, if I ever get out of here I will never be prideful again." The bedraggled, dust-streaked stallion muttered to nopony in particular, racking his throat for enough spit to finish the oath but finding none of it.

The desert was silent, save for a thin moaning wind coursing through some distant canyon. "Blast and damn." Dusty muttered, "Like that old oath would do a damn thing."

He squinted at the horizon, looking for anything that could be his salvation. There! In the hazy blur of the mirage! Was it a building? No, a town! A whole herd of buildings!

He felt his spirit returning, and enough energy for one last hope. Slowly and painfully he pushed himself back to his feet, and trotted towards the image.

----

The doors of the Rhinestone Quarry slammed wide as an emaciated and dust-streaked stallion staggered through and collapsed in the entryway. The bundle of tools on his back slipped off and skidded across the smooth floor, fetching up against a table. His yellow hard hat likewise skidded into the bar.

"Waaaater." the stallion moaned in a rattling-barely there voice, reaching upward with a forehoof as if supplicating a deity. Then he collapsed, his eyes rolling closed and his tongue hanging out.

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Martini Pardise blinked at the brown pony. What a strange question ... to hide her reaction and give her time, she instead decided first to concentrate on the griffon's request.

"Alright", she thought, "this drink, in the Talonopolis way, required less fanfare". Talonopolis was a very hard-working sort of a city... so rather than her normal show, she went about it very matter-of-factly, scooping up some ice, pouring a healthy dose of the fine vodka into a mixing cup, topping it off with lemonade, and slapping on a cover. She gave it a vigorous shake, one, two, three times, just enough to chill the drink a bit without letting the ice melt, or the vodka bruise - and strained it out into a tumbler glass. With her magic, she floated up a slice of lemon over the tumbler, gave it a *twist* to squeeze out a couple drops of raw lemon juice into the drink, and then garnished the glass with a second lemon slice before putting it down before the griffon and smiling, "Here you are miss, one Talonopolis Twist!". It was actually the first one she'd ever made, but she wasn't going to mention that. She just gave herself a small smile as she remembered all those nights happily flipping through drink recipe books, and practicing with empty bottles.

Turning her attention back to the strange tan earth pony with the wild, spiky dark mane, "Well..really, umm flying cacti did you say? Uhh..", she smiled awkwardly, "I..I am afraid I haven't, why? Have you?". Partially she asked to be a polite hostess, partially because she was genuinely curious, and maybe, just maybe, a little afraid, at least for Sunrise.

That thought was shaken from her mind as an empty glass slide into the business bin. Turning towards the red pegasus, she was rather instantly stuck by his size and build. He seemed more like an earth pony who works the mines around here if it wasn't for the wings. She flashed a smile toward him and it only grew when he began reminiscing about her home, "And you grew up there? You are one lucky filly, Martini.", he smiled.

Martini blushed slightly, "Yes..yes I did, both myself and my daughter are from there", she sighs, "I really do miss the place, the white beaches, the crystal clear waters that never grew cold, the warm tropical sun...and yes, the Papaya is indeed the best!", she mused before looking down, lightly saddened, "I am often sorry we decided to leave... It wasn't easy". She was about to elaborate on that when suddenly yet another pony came in and collapsed on the floor begging for water...

Martini was still for a second or two; the sudden appearance of the earth pony completely threw her out of her mindset. It wasn't the first time she had seen something like this here in Bareback Gulch, but it was no the less unsettling. She quickly trotted out from behind the bar, a bottle of water glowed and followed behind her through telekinesis until she reached him. She certainly was no medic, but at least she could do this. The bottle of water floated around then in front of her and up to the lips of the nearly unconscious pony and tipped ever so slightly so a small stream of cool water emptied out into his mouth. "Here..drink", she said quietly.

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Doctor Whooves sipped some more at his banana daiquiri before stuffing down as many peanuts as he could fit in his mouth. It was a little bit before he could respond, and by then, the barkeep had already gotten distracted. He glanced at the fallen prospector only long enough to determine that it was dehydration the pony was suffering from, and not something *interesting*.

He leaned over to the griffin sitting next to him, gave a lil' grin and a wink. "Now don't tell anyone, but I did see some flying cacti. Got the sore rump to prove it, too. But don't let on, they'll think I'm crazy." He took another sip of his drink, eyed her. "But what I want to know is ... what are *you* doing here? Not living here, I'm sure, not with that look to you ... hold yourself like an airman. Or airwoman. Silly term, really." He eyed Irontooth thoughtfully. "But not for a while, I would think... look a bit thin. Just out of the hospital? Wings are all right, but that is one *beaut* of a limb." He leaned closer, unthinking of personal space as he tapped his front hoof at her artificial leg with an appreciative and discerning eye. "Gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous. What craftsmanship! Certainly not local manufacture. And it'd get a bit jammed in the dust storms round here... and yet here you are, all the same."

He sat upright again, after that rapid-fire series of statements, and tossed back the rest of his banana daiquiri. "So," he said, "Time's a wastin'. Flying Cacti to find and stop. If they're not here, then they must be drawn to something *else* ..." he drained the second glass of water in a long, single draw, let out a satisfied 'ahhhh', and then turned back to the door, dropping another couple bits on the bar as a tip. He stopped and looked back over his shoulder at the griffin. "Well, you coming or not?" he asked impatiently.

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"Thank you, ma'am." Irontooth reached into her pocket and pulled out a few silver - standard currency in the Griffon Empire. "Will this cover it? I'm afraid I don't have any... pony money."

Irontooth just sort of stared at the Doctor, talking about "flying cacti". She sipped at her Talonopolis Twist as he continued to ask questions, not really having time to answer any of them; not that it mattered, he seemed to have figured out most of it on his own. As the Doctor tapped on her clockwork leg, she just said, "Um... thanks? Just something the scientists back in Talonopolis came up with after I lost my old one."

"Wait... you want me to come with you?" Irontooth was sort of confused. First of all, she was pretty sure there was no such thing as a "flying cactus", but moreover, she's resigned herself to a life of retirement after the accident and her subsequent discharge... or had she? After all, if she were truly content with retirement, she wouldn't be traveling like this, now would she? She sighed and downed the rest of her drink.

"Sure, why not?" Irontooth stood up, tipped Martini with a generous amount of silver (just in case silver was looked down on around here), and followed the Doctor. "So... where are we going now?"

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Doctor Whooves grinned to himself as the griffin tipped back her drink and then followed along after him. He always could tell a pony ... or griffin, apparently ... who was looking for adventure. Who would follow a stranger into weirdness. They always had that look in their eyes, a look he imagined he could see whenever he peered into a mirror.

Her question stopped him as if he'd been pulled back by a leash, the pony leaning backwards as if forcibly restraining the boundless energy that the drinks and food had restored to full. "Ah!" he cried, "That's right! You don't know me yet! See, there's this *thing* I do." He paused, his eyes blazing eagerly, his eyebrows waggling in an exaggerated manner, pressing up to look Irontooth in the eyes. "This very, very fun *thing* that I do! And this thing I do is that I don't exactly know where I'm going, I just tend to *get* there, as soon as I figure it out! That's the fun part!"

He turned and started to hurry out the door, but then forcibly restrained himself again, swaying forward, then turning around and looking back into the griffin's eyes from only a few inches away, a wild and infectious manic glee on his face. "Ah, right, I'm the Doctor, by the way. Doctor Whooves. And what's your name?"

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"Chief Petty Officer Irontooth, senior engineer of the airship Indestructible," said the griffon, "Or at least, I used to be. You can call me Irontooth." She smiled; this opportunity was just too good to pass up. She had a feeling that this 'Doctor' was more than just talk. "Y'know, that does sound pretty fun, not knowing what's gonna happen next. Been a while since I've had that kind of excitement." She looked thoughtfully at the Doctor for a moment. She'd definitely seen 'eccentric' before. "Are you some sort of scientist? You kinda remind me of the ones back at Talonopolis, the griffons who designed my new arm after I lost my old one." she explained, idly flexing the fingers on her artificial claw, the gears ticking faster to perform the motion.

Following the Doctor out the door, she noticed the strange blue box. "What is that? I've never seen anything like it! Is it... some sort of airship? It's too small to be steam-powered, and I don't see a boiler anywhere."

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(( OOC: I am entirely unmotivated to reply to this thread because of how far it has progressed without me that I am pulling Sterling from the rp and y'all are welcome to continue from here without her. For the sake of the story she is retreating to her chambers to get a bit of rest now that she has some staff to keep watch for a few hours. Y'all are welcome to message me with any questions. ))

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(( OOC, okay Trixie's player has left. That will effect the rp a bit as well so I'm wanting to know. I'm more then happy to leave this one open if a few of you want to continue your rp here and then just open another one for those that would like to just pick up fresh? Opinions? Preferences? ))

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((OOC - Well I was having a blast but I am 100% fine with a new thread and starting fresh from there, but just going with what was established, at least far as having the job. I guess in short I would love to continue interacting with the folks here and I think a fresh thread with those who want to participate would serve that perhaps just fine.

Looking at this further, it seems three characters will be lost, so at this point, a reboot in a new thread may be best.))

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(( Do you think there's any way we could split the thread into its sub-stories? There seem to be several sub-plots going on simultaneously at the Quarry right now that aren't directly interacting with one another. Like Brian, I'm having fun, but the pacing got a little out of control with so many ponies competing for "airtime." ))

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