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Post in forum #1905 - An ongoing MLP Roleplay Thread, Rated PG-13.

“Captain…” Ivan said.

Tankard thought the surly griffin was Ivan and the one with the lollipop was Vlad. Not sure: didn’t seem important. He was busier keeping a map of the room in his head, like in the bad old days of his misspent youth. The ability to keep track of the ponies and obstacles in a room, updating the map with glimpses and noises behind him and pure guesswork. It really helped in a bar-room brawl. The old sizzle had come back. Knocking heads with a tankard was a skill he’d honed.

He had a big heavy pewter one in front of him.

Tankard sat with his back to the front door, in the middle of the room, where two square tables had been pushed together to make a larger one. The other tables and chairs had been moved aside to crowd the booths along the front and side walls, the bar along most of the back wall. His wife Berry Jam sat close to his left. She had a pair of shish-kebab skewers on the table in front of her. Tradewind the pegasus took up the end of the table to Tankard’s left. Captain Spindrift the unicorn sat across the table from Tankard with Kirra the sugar glider on his shoulders. To his right, Tankard’s left, sat Baz the earth pony. All four of them budged over to Tradewind’s end…or more like they kept their distance from the golden-brown-all-over pegasus police captain, Straight Arrow.

Vlad was by the front door, which had been locked and the CLOSED sign out. Tankard couldn’t see him but knew he was still there from the occasional click of a lollipop against beak. On the wall off to his right, a unicorn cop named Mithril and a pegasus cop named Pick flanked the start of the front stairwell. They also, and probably not coincidence, watched Straight Arrow’s back. Ivan stood to one side of the swinging door to the kitchen, off to Tankard’s left on the back wall, where the bar ended before the wall behind it did. Not the hinge side: smart of him. The police ponies and griffins all had non-lethal takedown equipment. Maybe more, hidden.

Something had just gone clink in the kitchen and the sizzle was back…and he discovered he’d lost his taste for it. No fun in fighting anymore. Tankard had too much to lose. Of course he’d fight if that was the only way to keep from losing those things, but it wouldn’t be fun. Fantasy and the Wandering Lute, who the cops thought was some kind of assassin, weren’t on his map. They had been upstairs earlier and Tankard hoped they were both a long way from here and getting further by the second. He and Berry had agreed to a truce with these off duty cops without needing more than a glance to agree on the plan: stall for time, let Fantasy run. Punctuality had vanished the moment griffins burst through the back door. He must have grabbed Bubbles when he teleported out, because she had vanished too. Bubbles inspired protectiveness of her in most ponies. Punchy had been snagged by it. It was good they were gone. Smart lad, not coming back.

Unless that had been his clink…but it was probably Fantasy. It was smartest for her to run. It wasn’t about smart. She wasn’t going to run away and abandon her family in a tight spot. Just wasn’t in her.

Tankard had his map, and a desperate semi-plan to use his magic and the tankard in front of him to do a little bar-brawl pinball, with skulls for bumpers. Spindrift might be relied on to back his play. He knew Berry would…but after a pause to brace herself. She just wasn’t naturally violent, bless her heart. Tradewind sure looked ready to wing-punch somepony across the room: telling the truth and not being believed might be one of the stallion’s hot-buttons. He sat there under a metaphorical storm cloud, fuming and simmering.

Outside Tankard’s racing thoughts, Straight Arrow had looked sideways toward Ivan; Spindrift had swiveled both ears upright and backward to point the same direction. Then he turned just enough to look behind him at the griffin with one eye.

My captain.” Ivan said.

“I heard it.” Straight Arrow said. “It might be her.”

“Truce!” Berry Jam said. “Let’s renew it. Please?”

The police captain raised his gravelly voice. “You in the kitchen, please join us. If you offer no violence, no violence will be offered to you. Truce. You have my word.”

Spindrift got to his hooves. He did it in a slow, deliberate way that didn’t look like he was worried about setting somepony off. In bar-brawl speak, getting up like that usually signaled somepony’s temper reaching its limit. He managed to look un-silly while covered in purple stripes and glittery gems, his dark blue jacket missing its buttons and smeared green and red with booger-bomb goo and dissolver all down one side, and an adorable sugar glider perched on his shoulders. He turned toward Straight Arrow, whose eyes could have been amber stones.

Everypony had already been tense. It got a lot worse.

Kirra took a glance around, tipped her head to one side as if thinking, then grinned. Flipping up Spindrift’s collar, she fumbled underneath, grabbed something, and hauled with all her tiny might. …thread? Tankard got a good view of the way the tails of Spindrift’s long naval-captain’s jacket started to crinkle up accordion-style. Then something went twang, almost high-pitched enough to be a twing. His whole coat flipped up as if caught by a gust of wind. Kirra gave a startled squeal and dove off the unicorn’s back, ending up under the table where her squeal shattered into cackles.

The button-less coat flipped to drape inside-out over Spindrift’s head. It left his cutie mark exposed. A solid double ring of glittery gems surrounded it, itself surrounded by a starburst of wavy purple lines. The cutie mark was a spray of green leaves with a big moth on it. A drab moth, the kind that could hover like a hummingbird. It had a skull on its back. The Death’s-Head Moth.

Tankard wasn’t sure what a cutie mark like that meant, but the sight of it made a chilly void open up in his belly. It couldn’t mean anything good. Given what his instincts already told him about how Dangerous that the unicorn was…

Baz, who had an even better…or worse, depending on your opinion…view of Spindrift’s rump, let out a long semi-bray of startled laughter. Kirra kept cackling under the table. Spindrift stood there with his coat flipped up over his head, the split of its tails leaving his horn and muzzle exposed but hiding his eyes. He stood motionless, the visible part of his face slowly deepening to crimson. Rage or shame? Both? Straight Arrow leaned a little sideways to see the unicorn’s cutie mark.

His reaction was to go slack-faced, eyes wide with huge pupils.

Recognition?

The kitchen door swung open, very nearly unnoticed. Tankard noticed in a background kind of way, eyes locked onto that cutie mark. Bubbles crept in, like a pale-lavender version of her cousin Fantasy; wide-eyed nervous and radiating that special talent of hers for making everypony like her. “Um…”

Ivan, right beside her, jumped and did a double-take.

With a deep purple-blue flash and buzzing zap, Punctuality appeared standing on the table: Tankard saw Spindrift’s cutie mark between his son’s fore and hind legs. Punctuality faced Straight Arrow with his hooves planted and a big angry grin on his face. And a koala on his back. A koala wearing rumpled formal wear and holding something balanced before him on Punctuality’s shoulders. It looked like a small wire-mesh wastepaper bin stuffed with the whirling guts of a thousand pocket watches and alive with blue static sparks.

Punctuality half-shouted, his voice cracking to squeak through the middle half: “-and I’m all outta bubble-gum!”

Deadpan monotone, Mithril spoke a single word: “What.”

“Freeze!” Pick said. He pointed something presumably non-lethal but definitely weapon-looking at Punctuality. Tankard didn’t think: he swept up the pewter mug by hoof and hurled it over Straight Arrow’s head, right at Pick.

In the corner of his eye he saw the koala’s face, eyes hidden behind shiny little spectacles, split into a sudden maniac’s grin. He made a fist and thumped something on top of the device. By the stairs, Pick ducked, cursing. Punctuality vanished with a flash and zap, taking the koala with him…

…but not the Thing, which hung motionless in midair. It gave a metallic buzz, rising in pitch and volume in an ominous way. The mug clanged off the wall and started to bounce back. The Thing made another sound, a kind of gear-grinding hiccup.

Everything froze.