News - Jan 16, 2019 (2 months ago)

Thank you for coming.

It's been a long time coming now, but it's time for Twenty Percent Cooler to close down. We've had a good run and had a great time in our heyday, but the sun has set on our little website and now it's time to go. You have about a week to record, save, and archive what you would like before everything goes dark, so please make the best of this time.

Thank you for all the memories and contributions to our community in these last 8 years. We had a great time.

~ Sincerely, Princess Luna
Lead Administrator for


An ongoing MLP Roleplay Thread, Rated PG-13.

In category: Role Play and Fanfiction

Sunday, June 03 2012



RP Status:
Not accepting new Roleplayers at this time. Sorry. When space opens up, this message will change.

Due to the theme of this roleplay and the settings and storylines therein, this thread was bumped up from a G to a Pg-13 rating and made subject to all the relevant rules of its new rating. That said, I try to keep things close to G. In short, it’s more a G-Rated RP with permission to push the envelope than a full-blown Pg-13 RP.

This thread was created essentially because my instincts (which all evidence seems to indicate are good) have told me that the original G-Rated (G) Roleplay (RP) thread has reached about the ideal number of Player Characters (PCs). Too few and it would stagnate, but too many and it would become a vast confusing tangle of plotlines, plotholes (not that kind :P), continuity errors, and so forth. All else aside, it would scare off anyone who wants to RP. The original RPrs are finding their feet, not needing my assistance so much, and that is absolutely awesome. I feel somewhat like a proud papa letting go of the back of the bike and watching my child go riding away. As long as they need me and want me, I’ll be there, but I feel it’s time for a fresh start to give a handful of new would-be RPrs their chance to play. And in a swimming pool rather than a shark tank.

Edit: Friday, April 27 2012
The original G RP thread fizzled. This thread ended up being even more a shark tank than the original. My original PC, now demoted to NPC, is the biggest shark of all. If this thing is a swimming pool, it’s Steve Irwin’s. The plotlines are complex and have shown a tendency to interact. If you aren’t serious, this thread isn’t for you. Though you’re welcome to read it and hopefully enjoy the experience. There’s enough written so far that if it was submitted for publication any sane editor would chop it into thirds and print it as a full-length trilogy.

Being fan fiction, that ain’t gonna happen. :P

I have no actual authority on this site barring what people choose to give to me. I’m not an admin or a mod. Just a person who likes this site and enjoys using his talent for writing to help other people RP in a universe (pretty much) like the one Lauren Faust created with MLP:FIM. But I have no official authority, and I refuse to go whining to those admins with whom I have established a dialogue. Though if someone goes outside the clearly posted rules as set down by the admins, this is your fair warning: I’ll tell on you. Call me a nark, call me a tattler, call me a piece of $#!% for all I care, but don’t say I didn’t tell you exactly how it was going to be.

This thread has rules. You don’t have to play by them. I can’t make you. I can’t stop you from posting here. But neither can you make me play with you. You want to play with me here, you play by the rules. That’s the only threat that I can really level: I will ignore you. Hopefully I’ll have to shun an individual, and I hope that RPrs who support the rules will join me in that shunning. If worst comes to worst, I can wash my hands of this entire thread and leave it to sink or swim on its own. It’s a last resort, but if I have to, I’ll do it. I will not be responsible for smearing 20pc with the kind of filth that contaminates far too much of the internet already. I’m trying hard to be a forgiving and tolerant person. But my forgiveness and tolerance do have limits. Maybe having me ignore you is no threat at all, but I suspect my assistance is at least part of the attraction for anyone who desires to RP in this thread. Okay: I’m done making macho noises. Now that the unpleasantness has been aired, on to the rules.

1. G. First and last, now and forever, G. I hereby coin an acronym that I hope all RPrs here will ask themselves as they compose a post: WWLFD. What Would Lauren Faust Do? If it wouldn’t make it into an episode of MLP:FIM, assume it’s forbidden here. I think I have a good feel for how to play G without it being boring or sickeningly cutesy.

Edit: Friday, April 27 2012
As mentioned above, we got smacked with the Pg-13 stick. This rule doesn’t have to be honored in its letter but I’d appreciate it if anyone RPing here honors it in spirit. Let’s keep things clean, bronies, or at least only a bit grubby.

2. No Canon Characters. Not even kinda-sorta-in-a-way canon characters like Berry Punch or Pokey Pierce. If they’ve been in the show, they ain’t going here. If you want that, jump into the G1. I’m RPing most of them over there right now, but only as a Non-Player Character (NPC). Someone wants to take control of one and the admins green-light it, I’m okay with it. G2 is entirely Original Character (OC) country.

Edit: Friday, April 27 2012
The Original G-Rated thread is kaput. There’s always a chance someone might resurrect it but I’m not holding my breath. Nor will I get involved if it is. I have considerable free time but not infinite. Being de-facto GM for the G2 keeps me busy enough. The same goes for any new RP thread that gets started.

3. All the rules of G1 apply: Know them.

Edit: Friday, April 27 2012
I’d really be happier if anyone RPing or wanting to RP here keeps the above rules in mind.

4. The name of the game is action-adventure. There’s room for romance and drama and I hope there’s plenty of humor, but G2 is aiming for something (relatively) more coherent than G1. Not a plot, but a theme. Too much creative freedom makes people tend to flail about. If you can imagine a G-rated, MLP:FIM-themed version of a Harrison Ford movie (Star Wars and Indiana Jones especially), you’re close to the spirit I’m trying to catch. But no major villains, no vast quests with the fate of the world at stake, and nobody dies (unless a PC wants to bow out of the thread, then we can talk) or ends up horribly maimed. Think smaller-scale: people and their lives, their friends and enemies and problems.

Edit: Friday, April 27 2012
I have no idea how much the theme of this thing still resembles the original intent. It’s become its own thing, which is great in a lot of ways. Things keep trying to go ‘epic’ on me. Bear in mind that even if it doesn’t appear that way, I have been doing my best to prevent that or at least slow it down.

5. ‘Romance’ is defined here as the kind of thing you can do fully clothed, in public, and not be arrested. If two people have a candlelit dinner and then retire to a bedroom, I don’t care, as long as that’s the end of the post or a timeskip. (For instance: ‘and then in the morning…’) The key point is that what happens inside that space of time isn’t described: not before, during, or after. Referring to it is fine, if it’s relevant to the plot or in character to do so, but be tasteful or at least subtle enough for it to fly over the heads of anyone whose minds aren’t already in the gutter. It’s a fine old tradition in G-rated media called the Parental Bonus.

6. Here’s the stinkbomb, bronies. Instead of posting direct, I request that everyone RPing here on G2 please compose their posts elsewhere and send them to me via on-site email. Go to MAIL in your login page and put internetcatchphrase in the TO: box. The SUBJECT: can vary, but put G2 in there somewhere. I will look them over and see if there’s anything non-G [Edit 5/27/12: Pg-13 can pass, but please don’t push it] in them. If there is, I’ll send an email back pointing it out and suggest how to fix it. [Edit 5/27/12: Or just fix it and send it back to see if you like or at least can stomach the changes.] Everyone makes mistakes. Let’s try not to make them public ones.

6a. On the plus side of this arrangement, this means that anything that gets my okay when it shouldn’t becomes my mistake. It means I face the wrath of the admins, should they decide wrath is warranted. Work with me and I’ll be your guide and your shield. Decide not to get my approval before posting and I will pretend your posts don’t exist. Hopefully so will everyone who has chosen to play by these rules. I repeat: anyone who chooses to post direct in G2 does so in the knowledge that I will have nothing to do with you. Any wrath you provoke will land on your rump, not mine. Hopefully the admins will just delete your offending post/s rather than whack the whole G2 thread with the banhammer. Maybe enough direct posters will gather to pursue their own RP within the G2 thread, and I wish you all as much joy you can get from it. But if one of you goes too far and all your posts end up deleted, everyone who refused to play with you will carry on as usual, while anyone whose plot involved you will find themselves left hanging.

6b. I WILL NOT POST YOUR POSTS. Sorry for the attack of ALL CAPS but it’s important everyone understand that. You, not I, get final say. You, not I, will have the power to edit those posts after posting. [Edit 4/27/12: I’d appreciate if you give me a heads-up for anything besides typo-correction. I keep copies of all raw and edited posts archived off-site, but I can’t update my archive if I don’t know you made a change.] I’ll send the approved-for-G2 version to you in a return email, so you can simply copypaste it from there to the thread. Boom: done. I’ll point out any continuity errors and other literary whoopsies I spot. [Edit 1/26/12: It turned out people prefer it if I just fix the small stuff on my own.] Again, this means your mistakes get to stay private. I offer a free editorial service to ease the sting of this arrangement. Honestly, it would be harder for me to refrain from correcting things like spelling errors. I’ll make your posts look professional, and that will encourage more people to read them. I am prepared to do a more involved fleshing-out with permission, while always trying my best to stay true to the vision you have in your head.

Okay, those are the rules. I was tempted to put ‘have fun’ as one, but no. But if you aren’t having fun, why are you here?

We’re striking out beyond the canon material, inspired and guided by this map:

Edit: Sunday, June 03 2012
If this link stops working, please tell me.

Warning, it’s big. If you need to get an idea for the geography of this RP world, use that map. [Edit 4/27/12: There’s rather a lot of fanfiction attached to that map and its updated versions, all of which I take effort to remain ignorant about.] Down in the lower-left corner you will note the cloud city of Aura. That’s the center, our Ponyville. Let’s try not to wander too far from it. But while we build a new world, we must remember to stay true to the foundations. It’s the same world as Equestria. The same kinds of rules apply. Basically, we want to stick to things that could exist and could happen within the world of MLP:FIM. [Edit 5/27/12: Even if for rating reasons it won’t ever make it into a canon episode.] Just in a faraway land. There’s wiggle room, but let’s always ask ourselves: WWLFD?

Edit: Friday, April 27 2012
It wasn’t established at the start, but it turned out to be a good idea to limit any hope of connection to canon characters by setting this RP in The Future. About five hundred years into it. The tech has advanced, but not an enormous amount. In many ways it hasn’t advanced at all. Even in the show, candles coexist with flashlights, crank-operated phonographs with speaker-equipped turntables. Schizo Tech is itself Canon. Equestria has expanded into the Equestrian Empire, a near world-spanning organization that’s more about mutually beneficial cooperation and free trade than tyranny under the iron hooves of the Princesses. Empire Lite, as it were. There are magic-linked pairs of gemstones for wireless-telegraph-style communication, and airships. Lots of airships, with engines that run on liquid rainbow. Some non-Canon intelligent races and entities have been introduced, but between Iron Will and the Season Two Finale I feel they’re not too far-fetched.

To the current RPers: If you think of anything that is (a)important for new RPers to understand and (b)not a major spoiler to anyone who’s going to be reading through this thread, please let me know. I’ll tack it on here unless I can explain to you why it shouldn’t be added.

P1 Chapter One: Griffins and Gold

As the sun rises above from the eastern horizon, it first strikes the highest point of the tallest tower in the great cloud city of Aura, home to thousands of pegasi and griffins and lesser numbers of other races that can fly and walk on clouds. The light sweeps down the spire, turning it from soft grey to luminous white. Then other towers feel the touch of the light, the bright flags on them seeming to explode into being like silent fireworks. The sunlight falls as the sun rises, until the entire city shines with whiteness and rainbows. It is a sculpted thunderhead, a vast palace of opal and pearl, and it can be seen for miles in all directions.

Brando, a griffin, is currently in a rare mood to appreciate just how wonderful Aura looks. He tips the wheel of his airship, the Snark, with one foreclaw. The nimble little ship turns a hair to the left, aiming her prow right at the city. Behind him, closing the distance with nerve-wracking slowness, are a pair of larger airships with the distinctive black-and-white stripes of the Zavros Air Patrol. It made them easy to spot, at least. Brando shakes his head. “Zebras. In Stalliongrad, ships like that would be a bad joke. I am not laughing.” He mutters more, but nothing fit for delicate ears, and checks the periscope mounted ahead of the wheel. The far end points down, and can swivel around without the top half moving. Right now he has it pointed backwards. The airships chasing him are still getting closer.

Brando mutters some more, eyeing Aura and the ships and trying to juggle numbers in his head. Barring numbers with $-signs in front of them, math isn’t exactly his favorite pastime. The Snark could leave them eating her contrail. But doing so would reveal that she could, and once that secret was out, it was out for good. Brando settles down, trying to convince himself he can reach Aura before the Air Patrol gets close enough to fire their sticky-headed grapnels. Once within five miles of the city, they have no jurisdiction and he’s safe. Of course, Aura only shields him as long as he is a good little griffin there: so he behaves. Mostly. Nothing anyone finds out about.

In the end Brando makes it, though he has one claw resting on a red-painted lever for the last few miles. The Air Patrol airships flare their braking-sails, catching air, and he gives out a loud whoop. He punches air, laughing from the giddy rush of victory. “YEAH! Oh, sweet cirrus, I love my life.”

Not long afterwards, a calmer but still jaunty Brando pulls into his berth at the cloud docks: the one a quiet bribe makes sure is always available for the Snark. The docks hang like a great stalactite of cloud from the underside of Aura, riddled with berth-holes and almost always in shadow. Pulling out his gold-chased ebony pipe, Brando pauses to light it near a map of the dock area. He might be fireproof, but smoking on an airship is still an extremely bad idea. Brando catches his reflection in the glass overlaying the map. He’s a griffin in the prime of his life, blue at the head with grey eyes, darkening toward black. Where feathers turn to fur he goes from black to grey. He winks. “Looking good, comrade.”

Brando eyes the map, looking for changes. The docks are pretty stable: the map shows it in ascending slices of increasing width, their hearts full of corridors and rooms. Then he heads for a place that has not and never will show up on that map, though it lies square in the middle of the inverted tower. There is no sign over the door: if you don’t know what it is, you have no business going in. It has no official name, but people in the know usually call it the Dragon’s Den. It fits. The owner and bartender is a dragon named Smog: a winged dragon with pink scales and poison-green eyes. Everyone got to make one, and only one, crack about his coloring. Brando had never tried for two. He was fireproof, not bite-proof. He has never heard anyone who dared make fun of Smog’s size even once. He is a midget, but only by dragon standards.

Brando slips inside. Far from the open air, the walls long since black from absorbed smoke, only the dim lamps on the tables provide light: turning darkness to shadows. Pounding music fills the Dragon’s Den. Brando tracks it to a DJ manning a turntable on a balcony, seemingly lost in her own little world. That hadn’t been there when Brando was here last. The pegasus has a white body offset by vivid red-and-orange striped hair. The red pennant flag on the banner over her head is likely a copy of her cutie mark. The real one probably doesn’t actually have ‘DJ AL3X’ printed on it.

A rumbling bass voice rolls out from the pink dragon, pitched at what is, for Smog, a whisper. It still cuts through the music like a wing through the wind. “BRANDO. YOU SKIPPED OUT ON YOUR TAB. AGAIN.” A smile curls around the word, but no smile is in those eyes. There never is. “I ASSUME YOU HAVE THE BITS TO PAY IT, SINCE YOU CAME BACK.” The scattered griffins and pegasi present pretend Brando doesn’t exist. Except for one.

Brando tosses Smog a jingling pouch. The dragon catches it, hefts it once, and tucks it away behind the bar. Brando swaggers over. “A shot of rainbow with a cherry-juice chaser, comrade, and a salt stick.” Brando empties his pipe in a bowl already full of ashes and refills it. Smog raises an eyebrow and says nothing, in a meaningful way. Brando snorts. “What, I just settled my tab. I always do. I cannot open a new one? You are not suffering.” Brando nods at the balcony. “A unicorn-crafted turntable a non-unicorn can work? You are doing great if you can afford that.”

“HEH.” Not a laugh, exactly, but with humor. “FINE.”

Brando drinks down the concentrated liquid rainbow, suffering through the unavoidable spectrum of colors flashing over his face. Guzzles cherry juice, and then sucks on the salt to cut the sweet. “I needed that. It has been jerky and birdseed for too long. They almost got me this time. So, how is the biz?”

Smog just glances sideways. Brando does too, and sees a pegasus alone in a corner table staring at him. Bright blue body, brighter blue hair, even brighter blue eyes, but he is staring right at Brando with no attempt to hide his interest, so Brando concludes he isn’t too bright. Brando looks at Smog, who again says nothing in a meaningful way. Brando tosses some bits on the polished white wood. Smog makes them vanish and manages an actual whisper. “He turned up a week ago. Been back every day since. Buys enough not to get tossed. Never says anything much. Looks like he was waiting for you.”

“I am in a good mood.” Brando said. He had a hold full of Equestrian gems in the hidden compartment of the Snark, and the Air Patrol was going to get tired of waiting long before he ran out of money again. “Looks like it is his lucky day.”

Brando saunters over with his mug, pipe sticking from one side of his beak, salt stick from the other. The colt has a yellow lightning bolt for a cutie mark. As they went, Brando muses, it was not uncool. He plops down at the table and leans an elbow on it. “S’uuup, comrade?” The word blows smoke at the colt, who blinks but doesn’t whine. A good start.

“You’re Brando?” the pegasus said.

“No relation.” Brando said. The colt looks blank. “Never mind. I am Brando: you heard Smog say it. You are?”

“Bolt. I’m looking for a job.”

Brando snorts and drinks some juice. “A job? Too bad, kid: I’m officially unemployed. Had to skip town with an unpaid bar tab and everything, or were you not listening?”

Bolt’s eyes narrow. “You’re a smuggler.”

Brando’s good mood partly evaporates. “And by saying that out loud to me, you just proved you are an idiot. Idiots are fun, but I have to say, I know better than to work with one.” He begins to stand, turning away.

“Wait!” Bolt said. Smog gives a warning rumble.

Two ponies stand in the doorway. One is a unicorn mare. The plain silver ring on her horn let her cloud-walk, and no kind of permanent enchantment came cheap. There might not have been a dozen like it in Aura. Ash grey body, black hair, mane that looks like a strong wind has just blown it back. Her cutie mark is a fireball. The other is a grey pegasus stallion with black hair and dark green eyes. A bit bigger than most, he has a slightly short tail and his mane hangs flat. His cutie mark looks like a green guitar pick. Brando knows the first one: Mithril. In fact, she’s an old friend from way back, despite being a cop. But showing up here means she’s here on business, and showing up just after Brando hit town means she’s almost certainly here to see him.

The rest of Brando’s good mood vanishes. He scowls and settles back at the table. “Cirrus. Why can my luck never be normal? Good, bad, good, bad, never in between. Bah.”

META: Smog’s my PC. Not an NPC. He’s not going to take much of an active part in events as they unfold, but he’ll be there in the heart of the web. Just like me. I’ll frame my chapter summaries as Smog adding to his journal. Most dragons hoard gems: Smog prefers information. If anyone needs an in-universe justification for learning something, Smog’s your go-to guy. If you need to find someone with a certain skill or whatever, he can give you a name. I’ll play whatever NPCs need bringing in, and Smog’s a good way to introduce them. It’ll cost you, but probably just information in trade. Smog likes to know what everyone’s been up to, and he can smell lies. That’s a tidy way of explaining how the pink dude ends up knowing everything.

ADMINS: No booze in the bar, and I didn’t even imply what they serve causes drunkenness. In all fairness, pipes are canon to MLP:FIM. I’m almost certain. All the criminality revealed so far is white-collar: no violence. I’m going for rogue-with-a-good-heart range. Even if Smog’s only going to be calculating, not malevolent. All swearing will be euphemistic. I particularly like ‘cirrus.’ Please alert me to any problems with this thread and I will do everything in my power to make them stop being a problem.

On their way to the club, Pick went over the layout in his head. If things turned ugly or resulted in a chase, he wanted to know all the exit points and what could be used to his advantage. From what he remembered, there were 4 possible exits: 1 balcony exit, a back door, the front door and the storage room had a secret door that the police were fairly certain the Smog didn’t know they knew about. The suspect likely did.

Once they arrived at the club he stood in the doorway, his eyes going across the room: taking in everything and anything. His eyes stopped at the DJ. Pick couldn't help but notice that she wasn't a unicorn yet she was manning some turntables. His eyes then drifted to Smog: a dragon with pink scales and poison green eyes. Just as he was about to chuckle, he reminded himself that he was and adult and should be a bit more mature. After seeing where the target was, Pick and Mithril went separate directions so as to not cause attention. Pick took a seat at the end of the bar that was closet to Brando and waited there. Mithril would give him the signal to move in.

Pick relaxed where he sat and ordered a shot of 'Blue Surprise,' downing it as soon as it was poured. Pick had always been absent-minded but he found ways to use it to his advantage, such as drowning out some noise to hear the ones he needed. He listened as closely as he could to the conversation between Brando and the blue pegasus. After hearing him mention looking for a job, he knew this was his gryphon. Pick turned to face the general direction of the DJ and his partner Mithril, waiting for her to make a move.

The thought of cracking a joke about two cops walking into a bar came and went at the same moment Brando felt the tension ratchet up in the bar. A good majority of the patrons knew Mithril for sure, and if they knew her, they knew the other guy was her partner. He was actually a bit surprised more of them hadn't filtered themselves out of the bar yet, as it was painfully obvious they wanted to.

The other cop had to be fresh, he noted. From the painfully obvious 'not getting their attention' seating arrangement to the way he tensed when Bolt said 'job.' He sighed with a bit of relief, though. Regardless of what he'd done in the past, both the recent with the gems and the longer stretch of times when he'd gotten mixed up with Mithril before, they had nothing on him. All of the loot was still safe aboard his ship, though unless they found someone else to stalk, it'd be staying there for a good while.

He pondered possible reasons why they'd even want to be following him. Brando couldn't recall doing anything illicit in Aura for quite a while now, and he knew Mithril too well to even give credence to the thought that she'd be working with the zebras. Maybe someone had done something and claimed to be him. It'd be pretty obvious to prove it wasn't him, though: what with the two giant striped zeppelins being quite a good alibi. The irony of using his pursuers to save his tail wasn't lost on him.

Brando resists the urge to glance toward Mithril. "I wonder if she still smells good." he mutters to himself, then covered it up with a hacking cough when Bolt looked at him with confusion. If worst came to worst and they tried to take him down, he'd have to make sure it was done so by Mithril, though she'd probably put his face into the floor harder than her partner.

Worth it.

Red Raider was absently playing music, lost in the pounding glory of the beat. She absolutely loved that the turntable was hers: it was magnificent. A few more months working for Smog and she’d be out of debt to him. Then she could start looking for somewhere she could really jam. It was almost time for the requests, though: and of course most of them were repeats like junk from Filly Gaga, or Bruno Mares, or more commonly Justin Bucker. They were all trash to her, she was more into rock, metal, and her favorite, dubstep.

When she looked down into the crowd, she saw they were mostly just sitting around in the dark like so many vultures waiting for something to die. No one was dancing? Red Raider frowned, stung, but then she saw one grey pegasus with a guitar pick as a cutie mark staring up at her. She gives him a nod: he probably didn't see or just ignores her. She could tell he was some kind of cop, just from how everyone else refused to look at him. Red suspected something interesting was about to go down.

It was probably related to Brando. He’d just come in, after all. The griffin usually didn’t pay his tab on time. Smog had talked to her about him, among other things. The dragon hoarded information, she liked information just didn't hoard it, but valued it. Then she noticed the young stallion walk towards and sit down at the bar’s end, closest to Brando, as well as his new partner to whatever-he-was: that blue pegasus. Her suspicion became a certainty: something was about to happen. A smile spread across her face: she was ready to move.

Red Raider loved action.

META: There is room for a second plotline, one unlikely to interact much with the first. It’s for non-fliers: earth ponies, unicorns, and of course anyone interested in RPing as a zebra. People interested in joining this RP should send me an on-site email. After, of course, reading the rules posted at the top of the page.

UPDATE (8/22/11): Hooray, someone took me up on the offer. Anyone else, I recommend you look for the first post by Morhoof and familiarize yourself with the basic concept of Shadowville before you decide whether you want to jump into it.

Mithril blatantly eyes the patrons of the tavern, cocking an eyebrow at them. She makes no point to look at or avoid looking at Brando, acting as if she hasn’t noticed the griffin in the larger crowd. She walks her own way, avoiding any contact with Pick. The greenhorn, however, continues to look in her direction, and with the fact that the entire bar probably knows who she is, she knows she isn’t fooling anybody. She maintains her stoic expression, however. Hopefully her rookie partner would pick up on the attitude for the next time they grabbed a perp. She takes a seat at one of the tables and orders a Strawberry Gelato. She hears a couple snickers that are quickly hushed as she takes her time on the treat. She heard the mention of a job as well, but shows no sign that she did.

She glances over at the DJ, than at Smog, then finally at her order. No rush, after all. Brando isn’t going anywhere.
She had missed the griffin, really she had. The griffon was a good guy, and quite amusing at times. But, she was the law, and he was her suspect. She would, however, shove his face extra hard into the floor, partly to pay him back for a certain comment he’d made involving her sweets, and the results they had on her flank the last time they’d met. She would have to give the signal, but hopefully Pick could hold himself until then.

The signal, however, can wait until she finishes her Gelato.

Pick smiles at the pegasus manning the turntables when she nods to him. ‘She sure is pretty,’ he thinks to himself, quickly looking away so he doesn't look like a creep. Pick looks around the room again, seeing how tense everyone is and that there is no one was on the dance floor. ‘Well,’ he thinks, ‘I might as well try to lighten up these people’s evening. Besides, if I distract them all, Mithril can approach Brando without anyone looking or listening in. And that DJ will have a lot more fun.’

Pick smiles. Striding out to the dance floor, he looks around. "COME ON PEOPLE, IS THIS A CLUB OR A MORGUE?" He looks over at Raider, expecting her to turn up the music and maybe put something a bit more energetic on. Once she gets the hint, Pick jumps up on some of the patron’s table, yelling at them to get up. Pick’s confident they wouldn’t get angry. From doing many shows with his guitar, he knows how to please a crowd and get them moving no matter how tense or nervous they are. He jumps from table to table, yelling: "C'MON, GET ON UP! GET UP AND SHAKE YOUR FLANKS!" At one point the top of one of the tables breaks, but he spreads his wings and glides to the floor. Within two minutes almost everypony and griffin in the club is up and dancing.

After he has gotten a nice mood going, Pick flies up to the balcony the DJ is in and smiles at her. "Well, that should get things going for a while." All the while he makes sure to focus his ability to filter noise so he can hear Mithril, Bolt, and Brando while also hearing what the DJ has to say.

Smog facepalms, but takes care not to actually obstruct his ability to watch the room. Brando watches in amused disbelief as the insane police pegasus terrifies the hardened lowlifes in the Dragon’s Den into dancing. The pegasus Bolt watches in horror. Then he makes for the door, and whatever else he is, he is *fast.* Smog sighs. He had potential, but Smog's gut said Bolt wouldn’t be back.

Taking up a ledger, Smog delicately uses a tiny (for him) quill to make a note. One table, broken: charged to the Aura Police. Settling his bulk behind the bar, he decides to watch the fun, and keeps an eye out for further breakages. The police always paid.

Red Raider is impressed at the pegasi’s outgoing personality: there were few ponies that would liked to be noticed, and many who were too scared to be. She likes his style even if he is a cop, but Red is sure that Smog won't be too happy about the broken table. She looks over at Smog and sees him writing something down.

"Yeah, it should." Red said. She smiles at the pegasus. "Probably should warn ya that my boss isn't going to be to happy ‘bout you breaking that table. Since you seem so nice, any music you want on?"

She take note of the blue pegasus that was talking to Brando leaving, and in a hurry. 'Maybe it was a set up,’ she thinks, ‘to get Brando in here.' Then she smiles about what is going to happen.

Pick shrugs. “Well, I'm sure the table wasn’t too expensive.” His eyes drift down to the blue pegasus, who is quickly fleeing. He then turns his attention towards Mithril to see if she wants him to go after the fleeing pony. Still looking down towards her, he speaks to the DJ pegasus with the flame-colored hair: “Well, how about…” He draws the word out so he can think of a song on the spot. "Shut Me Up by MSI?" Pick keeps glancing at her out of the corner of his eye, which is strange because he doesn’t really intend to.

During one of his quick glances back, Pick notices that the sign above her reads ‘DJ AL3X.’ In an attempt to make small talk, he asks: “So, is Alex your actual name or just your stage name? If you don't mind me asking, that is." While waiting for her answer, reality sets in and he realizes how stupid he’s acting. ‘Well,’ he thinks, ‘it gives me a chance to talk to her, so it’s worth it.’ While he knows that things most likely aren't going to go anywhere with her, he still finds it nice to talk to her.

"Naw Alex is just my stage name, my real name is Red, my first name that is." She looked at him and smiled "And yeah I got that song." Red turned around and looked for the right album, "Ah, here it is." As the last track ended she put the song he requested on.

"Nice pick, a lot better than most. So you here for any reason in in particular or are you just hanging out?"

Please disregard this.

internet-catchphrase said:
My password won't work and someone deleted some of my posts from the start of the G1 thread. I opened this account to get an email to Princess_Luna. Then I tried the IRC. It won't let me log into it. It starts to and then says 'terminated.' If anyone sees Princess_Luna (also knows as StarCrosser) in chat, please tell her it is in her inbox, titled HELP.

**You have to try to get into IRC twice or thrice for it to work, at least for me it did**

Pick turns fully towards Red and smiles. “Well, if anyone should be able to pick out a good song, it should be me, considering my jo- My old job.” Pick keeps running over the faces and bits of conversation that he heard around the bar. It is obvious that everyone already knows what he is. “Well, Red, I am on business but I just had to help out with your crowd situation. No one on the dancefloor at a club is a much bigger crime then any I’ve seen.” Pick suddenly realizes he has forgotten to tell her his name. “Oh, my name’s Pick by the way. Nice to meet you, Red.”

“Nice to meet you too, Pick. I’m just going to assume you old job had something to do with music.” She suspects that is a touchy subject with him, so she let him a way not to feel pressured into answering. “You got that right, Pick: ironic people come in here even if they’re shy!" She looks into the crowd: the blue pony was gone, that other cop is still down there, and so is Brando. Red is waiting for something to happen and she knows Pick is too, or for a signal. She wants to see what goes down when it did. Red gets back to playing music, but keep an eager eye on the room below.

Mithril rolls her eyes a little as Pick gets up to dance. She would have to talk to him later when this was over, but for now she could work with it. She facehoofs, however, when Pick broke the table. There would be a reprimand for that, for the both of them. She decides, however, not to let that concern her. She quickly finishes her treat, silently savoring the remaining flavor on her tongue as she saunters up quietly to the Griffin.

“So, back in Aura, are we?” She keeps her tone casual as she takes a seat next to him.

Shaking his head to get himself refocused after that bit of insanity, Brando looks back at his new company. If there was one thing that could ruffle his feathers, as it were, it was her. For the moment however, he was glad. Relaxed, even. Still, he couldn't look like it, regardless of how easily she'd see through his veneer. More than she was watching. Sitting back in his chair, he cracks his neck.

"You know, I thought they screened the crazies out at the Academy. This one slip through, or is it some new program they're testing?" He chuckles, then sighs. "Really though, why are you wasting your time following me around, Mithril? Surely you have bigger fish to fry these days."

He glances toward Smog, who seemed to have no inclination whatsoever for getting him out of whatever mess he was clearly getting into, and then up to the balcony, where Mithril's partner was enjoying himself, then finally back to Mithril, pondering if there's any chance of knocking her off guard. He leans forward and grins mischievously, putting on his best bedroom eyes. "Or didja just miss me that much, sweetheart?"

“Yeah, I was a guitarist. Anyways, shy people should still come to clubs, and at least make an effort to come out of their shells.” Pick looks down towards the crowd and sees Mithril go over to Brando. For the meantime he keeps his eyes locked on them, waiting for Mithril to give him the signal to come over. “So, Red. Where exactly did you get some turntables that can be manned by a non-unicorn?”

“Oh, my employer got me a loan,” Red said, “and that’s why I’m working for him: to pay it off. Have been for a few years! But just a few more months and I’ll be free to go, or maybe if the action is still here, then you'll probably find me here." She glances toward the policemare sitting beside Brando. Whatever the cops were going to do, it was now or never.

Mithril’s sweet, inviting smile never changes as she uses the hoof caressing Brando’s head to shove it down, pinning his skull between her hoof and the table. His salt stick snaps as his beak closes, but unfortunately for Brando, the stem of his pipe is made of tougher stuff.

Brando makes a huffing, muffled laugh. “Ow.”

Mithril lowers her head so his eyes can squint up at hers. Her mouth is still smiling but she knows the glint in her stare makes it clear she is not in a playful mood. “But in all seriousness. Brando, we have sources which lead us to believe you are, in fact, smuggling illegal goods.”

“Mmmf.” Brando said. He waggles his brows in an attempt to indicate he would like to answer, if not for the hoof holding his head to the table and his beak closed. “Mm?”

“Oh, no. You be quiet and listen, you silver-tongued son of a buzzard.” Mithril has rehearsed this speech in her mind and isn’t about to let Brando interrupt. “This is not a joke. I do have bigger fish to fry, but sometimes a minnow makes big waves. Zavros is making a fuss about you. A political fuss. You’ve outrun them too many times, flying by night when griffins see well and zebras not so much. Their Air Patrol looks bad. Aura needs Zavros: all our hay and grain comes from them. My superiors are on my cutie mark about this. No more looking the other way for an old friend. I know it’s not fair.” Her tone holds no sympathy at all. “You’re just a harmless gem smuggler. Equestria doesn’t have many dragons to eat and hoard them all. Buy cheap there, sell dear here: you get rich and no one gets hurt…except everyone with money invested in gems whose savings are devalued. That’s why there’s a law against gemstone imports, birdbrain. They might not bleed but people are hurt by smugglers like you.” She watches for some glimmer of remorse.

Brando manages to force his beak open. “My fiery little babushka, in this world there is no one like me.”

Mithril shoves his head down again, but he gets the pipe’s stem out of the way first. “I bet you thought I didn’t know what that meant. I’ll ‘grandmother’ you, you--”

Brando’s eyes swivel away, making Mithril do the same, while increasing the pressure in case this is a ruse. Brando wasn’t a violent person by habit but he fought dirty in a corner. Pick, evidently deciding this head-table interaction is his signal, is flying their way.

Smog watches it all with an air of wry amusement. The DJ in the balcony is watching rather more intently, and Mithril’s instincts give her a nudge: watch that one.

Mithril looks back at Brando, who stares back. “How about you take us to your ship, hmm?” Mithril asks with a sweet smile and the eyes of a veteran policemare: the ones that make it clear it isn’t really a request. She slides a pair of wing-manacles from inside her armor in a cloud of magic. Brando goes very still. “Keep a civil tongue, comrade, and I’ll forget about the muzzle. For old time’s sake.”

The essence of this post belongs to Rapid_Sparkle. I, internetcatchphrase, have remained faithful to how he wanted the scene to go. But I extended it considerably. This is more of a rewrite than an edit, but one for which I obtained Rapid's permission.

[TheRookie’s post, expanded by internetcatchphrase.]
Pick’s focused hearing follows every word spoken between Mithril and Brando, the pounding music just an annoying background. ‘Wait,’ he thinks, ‘old friend? Wait, she knew he’s a smuggler?’ Pick frowns, but then he sees Mithril’s eyes narrow, sees the muscles bunch in the corners of her mouth, and suspects he glimpses a shimmer of orange fire-magic beginning to gather around her horn.

Pick might be greener than fresh lettuce as a cop but he knows what it looks like when someone’s mood turns ugly. It had helped him more than once in the past, spotting the people in the crowds that were most likely to throw something at the stage. This thought turns his attention to the dancers, which he had been ignoring. The atmosphere crackling throughout the little crowd makes Pick prickle all the way down his spine. His perceptions shift and he realizes this place is packed with criminals. None are likely any friend of Brando, but they are clearly even less a friend to the police. Nor did they have any respect for the law, only a grudging fear. His encouragement to dance had been seen as a threat. None of them wanted to dance and doing so put them in a bad mood. If Mithril started getting violent with Brando, things looked to get very ugly, very fast. They didn’t care about Brando, but they were looking for an excuse.

And pink or not, Smog was a dragon. He had skin tougher than Pick’s armor, claws, teeth, flame-breath, and a nasty bladed tail. He outweighed any five of the other people present. This was his place of business and he wasn’t likely to stay out of things if a riot broke out in it. Nor is Pick certain the dragon would come to the aid of the police. More convenient for him if they both just mysteriously disappear, and all these lowlifes would swear on their mother’s manes that Mithril and Pick had never been there. A few rounds of free drinks, maybe some tabs forgiven…

All this hit Pick not as a series of thoughts but in one great big mass of pure distilled oh-crap. Pick’s guts swoop and lurch as if he’d hit turbulence midair.

Pick nods to Red. “Right, that’s my cue: I’ll come talk to you later, alright?” Without waiting for an answer he flies down to Brando and Mithril.

“I’ll ‘grandmother’ you, you--” Mithril cuts off as she sees Pick swooping closer. She glances past him for a moment and something Pick can’t name flickers in her eyes, so briefly he wonders if he imagined it. Her attention returns to Brando, all pleasant smile and hard eyes. “How about you take us to your ship, hmm?” Brando’s last traces of cockiness vanish as she pulls out a pair of wing-cuffs. “Keep a civil tongue, comrade, and I’ll forget about the muzzle. For old time’s sake.”

Pick lands by the table and settles his wings with a flicking shrug. He tries hard to look calm and relaxed but the stares from the dancers crawl over his back like spiders, making his skin want to shudder. Smog’s stare is like a small stone, cool and heavy, right between his wings. A corner of Pick’s mind is whimpering. Another corner can’t stop wondering how Mithril knows Brando. She doesn’t know about Pick’s ability to eavesdrop through noise yet, so she couldn’t have meant for him to hear all that. He shoves it away. Whatever had existed between them, Mithril’s words also made it clear it is now over. He watches her cuff him and walks along with them through the dimness, skirting the dance floor where the ugly tension has begun to subside.

Avoiding the dancers, Pick focuses on Brando as if expecting him to do something, though he knows it almost certainly isn’t going to happen. Pick decides to make some small talk with him to try and lessen the tension. Pick has always believed that if situations were made less tense, under any circumstances, it would cause a better outcome for everyone involved. “So, your accent sounds familiar, Brando. Are you by any chance from the motherland?”

“Da.” Brando said. “Stalliongrad.”

Pick nods, not sure how to respond. Brando clearly has no interest in small talk. Pick’s mind turns to the day as a whole. His first arrest as an active policecolt is coming to a close and nothing bad had happened: barring the broken table. The perp had been caught without a hassle, Pick had met a new potential friend, and he had gotten a bunch of people to dance at a club, however bad an idea that had ultimately turned out to be. ‘Well,’ he thinks to himself, ‘I guess the rumor that first days usually end in disaster is false: at least in my case that is.’

[DioBrando’s post, expanded upon by internetcatchphrase.]

Brando pauses at the doorway and eyes the rookie policecolt they’ve saddled Mithril with. Half-formed plans tumble through his mind, but with an effort of will he banishes them. He always did best when he made things up as he went along. His luck is unreliable, but reliably so. It had been great, now it was horrible, and all he has to do is try and stall things until the next upswing, hopefully before he ends up somewhere no amount of luck can help him escape. Like jail. But Brando knows that luck works best when given more to work with. The wing-cuffs on his back would be especially tricky.

“Hey. Comrade. I left my pipe back at the table.”

Mithril sighs. Brando can feel her magical grip on the chain between the cuffs. “Go get it. Pawning it will probably pay for that table you broke.”

“You’re going to steal from a prisoner?” the rookie said. “But that’s--”

Mithril quells him with a glare. “You make even less than I do, Pick. That table’s coming out of our next month’s pay. Floatwood is expensive. You want to live on hay soup and dried carrots for a few weeks, you go right ahead.”

Pick goes to get the pipe, but he is clearly unhappy.

Brando follows this with interest: despite his wildness earlier, the rookie is a by-the-book fellow. Those were always useful. Brando knows the manual for police conduct better than most of the police. “Mithril, may I have one last smoke on it? To say goodbye. To calm my nerves. You know how I chatter when nervous.” Brando doesn’t look toward Pick, doesn’t bring up certain old secrets. There are rules to their careful dance. Mithril understands.

“I really should just muzzle you.” Mithril said. Pick returns. Mithril sticks the pipe in Brando’s beak, fills it, and ignites it with a flare of her fire magic. Brando tries not to think about puffing on a pipe while wearing a blindfold and leaning against a wall. He fails, but forces his memories to go to the old days, when he had been Mithril’s only friend. Being fireproof, he had been one of the few who had no fear of her clumsy magic. He briefly considers taking her down with him, telling all the secrets that are one of the reasons she had always turned a blind eye to his smuggling. But this isn’t her fault. Zavros wanted to make an example out of someone, Aura needed Zavros's favor.

Brando sighs smoke, wondering how much of the thrust into the table was Mithril's anger towards her superiors and how much at him. She’d fought long and hard to get to her position, and now they just used her as a means to an end, rather than treating her like an officer. He feels the beginning of a plan, though a very long shot. Maybe she finally felt jaded and hard-used enough to switch sides. He has offered before, but before, she had been getting respect as a policemare. She had been sustained by her pride. He studies her face, and is surprised at how guilty he feels at the thought of making her a criminal.

He has always wanted to win her, but…not like this. Not by her breaking. Much as he tries to keep it off his face, he can tell she spots it. But she misunderstands. She thinks he finally feels remorse for his naughty ways. Brando lets it stand, knowing it is another small edge between him and Zavrosi justice. He stops himself in mid-thought and chuckles, shaking his head. ‘This is just getting morose and pathetic, come on Brando, time to think. First the cuffs. New guy probably has duplicate keys right where the manual tells him. Get those if you can, if not, the lockpick hidden in my pipe will have to do. Second, get the jewels out of the Snark.’ Shaking his head again ever so slightly, Brando realizes there isn’t much chance of that. They likely already had his berth surrounded, the Snark chained down. If he got a chance to bolt, he would have to take it. He kept a cache of gold in Neighpon, enough to buy passage across the Eternal Crossing and purchase a new airship. Not much of one, but once he had it, he could work his way back up to prosperity.

Well, he could at least screw around with the newbie. Shake the tree and see what falls out. Maybe get him to make a mistake. But carefully. Mithril wasn’t joking about the muzzle. “So, comrade, what will you buy with your cut?”

“Cut of what?”

Brando weighs the odds of playing innocent to the very end and perversely decides to back the long shot. “There are no gems on my ship, but there are other valuables, owned legally by me. I want to know what your cut will buy you after they mysteriously vanish.”

“I won’t be any part of that.”

Brando takes out his pipe and jabs the stem in Pick’s direction. Replaces it, and lets a long moment pass. Pick’s eyes focus on the pipe and his ears redden. Brando gives him a nod. “Theft is theft, comrade. The only difference is the scale. Why quibble, thief?”

“You shut your beak!” Pick said.

Brando does, outwardly sullen but inwardly poised. ‘Yes,’ he thinks, ‘attack me, comrade. I will not fight back. Instead I will lift your spare keys and make you feel guilty for hitting me. Make Mithril feel guilty too, make her treat me gentler, and maybe give me chances to escape she is not even aware she offers.’

The music cuts off with an amplified scratch of a skidding needle. An amplified shout replaces it, female and outraged. “Hey!” The DJ pegasus yanks off her headset and swoops down to land beside them.

Brando’s mind fills with sulfurous cursing, but at the same time he wonders if this is an opportunity. He might bolt out the door, lose Mithril and Pick in the maze of corridors, pick the manacle locks at his leisure, and vanish. Then they give a jerk, reminding him that Mithril’s magic still has hold of them.

[META: your turn, Red Raider.]

[Thankfully edited by Internetcatchphrase]

Red watches intently as Pick leaves to join the unicorn mare. She had already pinned Brando and is talking to him, obviously a bit angry: considering she had pinned his head to the table with her hoof, it was hard to miss.

The mare wing-cuffs Brando and leads him to the exit, where he pauses to speak. Pick goes back to the table to get Brando’s pipe. Red knows Brando has a plan: according to Smog’s stories he always does, and he always gets away.

Brando and Pick talk, but then Brando says something and adds an insulting-looking gesture with his pipe stem. Pick is suddenly furious. Red knows when things are about to get violent: she's seen it enough times. If something started up the police would be done for. After all, most of the people in here were criminals themselves.

Red doesn’t like people getting beat up. She decides it’s time for a distraction and skids the record needle. It gets everyone’s attention, all right: the noise is much louder than expected. The silence after makes her shout louder still. “Hey!” Red cringes a little and yanks off the headset, with the microphone that had made her voice boom.

Red opens her wings and flies towards them. Pick has frozen mid-lunge, a hoof raised. She lands next to him and gives a nod to Brando before focusing on Pick. “Pick. Man.” She stares at him. “First of all, what you’re about to do is not cool. Second, you almost just caused a riot. You know what would happen if you did that? Everyone in here would be on you like stink on a skunk.” Red waited for their response, and then something makes her glance back at Smog.

He is staring right at her, eyes unreadable.

Smog watches his DJ swoop down to the door. He listens to what she says. For having no visible ears, dragons have superb hearing, and a trained flexing of his innate resistance to magic lets him cancel out all sounds made by that expensive turntable. It encouraged his customers to talk, confident the music assured their privacy. To Smog, the music might as well have not existed, and he rarely missed a single word. He had recouped his investment ten times over already, though he considered that irrelevant to Red Raider paying him back for the loan to buy it. She had promised to pay him back, and Smog held people to their promises. He kept his, so it is an entirely reasonable demand to his way of thinking.

Red has decent instincts and soon feels his stare. She turns to look. Smog blinks once, slowly. Red stares back, clearly realizing he is trying to send her a message, but just as clearly at a loss as to what the message is. Smog sighs to himself.

“YOUR SHIFT IS NOT OVER FOR ANOTHER HALF HOUR.” An hour after dawn is his closing time. Most of his customers used mornings for sleeping, so he scheduled his downtime appropriately. It would still be a century or so before he needed a nap. “RETURN TO YOUR MUSIC, PLEASE. WE WILL TALK ABOUT THIS THEN.”

Red does, though she is far from pleased. Smog smiles the only way he ever does: where no trace of it shows. What he has to say would likely do much to mollify her. Mithril and Pick herd Brando out the door. Smog laughs silently in his head, briefly imagining them as puppets dancing on strings that he holds in his claws. The music resumes, a slight sense of pressure on his skull and a whispering hint of throbbing bass. His customers either decide to call it a night or settle back at their tables. Smog updates a few of his journals to pass the time, and hears a few moderately interesting tidbits as he eavesdrops.

After the last customer staggers out, and the twin pegasi colts he pays to clean the Den have come and gone, Smog extends his tail where it can be seen from the balcony and crooks it twice. Red drifts down looking sullen. Smog raises one claw and speaks in the normal-for-nondragons voice he likes to pretend comes hard to him. “Don’t talk. Not yet. I have decided to be more forthcoming with you. Half-truths will only frustrate you and drive you to get involved, which could end badly.”

Red gives a nod, only slightly grudging.

“Very well.” Smog pretends to take a moment to order his thoughts. “Brando will be fine. Within a minute of him leaving his airship, a thief snuck aboard and removed the gems from his smuggler’s hole. The thief was well away before the police moved in. Brando has no idea, of course. Mithril knows him too well for him to fool her with anything but genuine astonishment and outrage. They will have to let him go. I hired that thief, as I can see you have realized. What may be less obvious is that I am also the one who made sure the police knew Brando would arrive this morning. I knew it because I had a tracking charm planted on the Snark years ago. The mechanic who did the ‘after-market enhancements’ owed me a favor. The same source told me how to open the smuggler’s hole and provided the set of duplicate keys I loaned to the thief.

“I knew Brando would come straight here simply because I know him. He had the money to pay his tab, and he knows enough to know not to cross me. I informed the police because that way, I knew exactly when they would make their move. This situation has been coming to a head for a while now. I decided to lance it in a controlled fashion before things got messy. Thus I knew when to send my little burglar. And now Brando is going to remain free. Mithril will not step outside her code of honor. Her superiors can tell the Zavrosi Air Patrol that despite appearances, Brando is not a smuggler. Merely a merchant with a very good but entirely legal reason to not be boarded and searched. My thief left some merchandise in place of the gems. To avoid crudity, let us simply call them clockwork-operated personal aids for the discreet relief of lonely female equines.”

Red turns her namesake color. Smog merely nods. “Brando will be furious but he will also, I suspect, appreciate the joke. His gemstones are gone, and he will not find this in any way amusing. He will want them back. That is unlikely to happen.” Smog deeply enjoys the private joke there. The thief had beaten Brando to the Den and come in through the secret back way. The gems had been delicious. “I have a job I want Brando to do. A time-critical job. He would not have agreed to do it if he had the profits from his gemstones. Now he finds himself in need of money and I am willing to pay him handsomely indeed, for fully legal work.” Smog spreads his claws in a there you are gesture. “Thus. Everyone benefits and it costs no one a great deal.”

The pegasus just stands there, blushing and thunderstruck.

Smog twitches an eyebrow. “You can talk now.”

Red just stares. She can’t believe Smog had arranged to put THAT on board the ship as a replacement. It did make sense though. No self-respecting griffin would want to be caught dead selling them.

“So, I presume your telling me this for a reason.” Red said. She is cautious, intimidated by him: he is a smart dragon and it doesn’t get much more dangerous than that. "As far as I know you don’t share this much information without something in return, or for a good reason.” She waits for his response, then says: “You’re pretty good at coming up with plans.”

On the whole way to Brando’s berth Pick couldn’t stop thinking about what happened at the club. Red had stopped him from doing something that might have turned out to be deadly for him if that riot had happened. He had been so engulfed with rage that he didn’t even know what he was doing, but Red had stopped him. ‘I need to thank her the very first chance I get.’ Pick thinks to himself, making a commitment to do so.

Brando keep hassling him throughout the walk there, but after what had just happened, Pick used it as a reminder to keep his cool no matter what. Once they had arrived at Brando’s berth, Pick snatches the pipe away from Brando and hands it to Mithril. “Keep my cut.” he said. “I’d rather eat garbage than take dirty money. But I won’t report you. Know this: your actions are going to catch up to you eventually, one way or another"

Mithril makes the pipe vanish, and Pick hears Brando grind his teeth. The unicorn looks at Pick, eyes weary and wary and a little guilty. Looks away. “All right.”

Pick keeps silent during the events that followed, right up until Brando lifted away the floorboards to expose the smuggler’s nest. Brando makes a strangled squawking noise as Mithril whips the tarp away to reveal…not gems. Pick feels his ears burn but shoves that aside.

“So Brando,” Pick said, “are these those personal items that you mentioned earlier? I have no idea why you thought we would ‘take a cut’ of these. Okay, ha-ha, very funny, but the joke’s over: tell us where the gems are.”

META: Heads up, all PCs: the following post contains my opportunity to do a bit of essential scene-setting for this universe. I’m nailing the coffin lid shut on even the remotest hope of any Canon characters turning up and generally distancing the G2 thread a bit more from the Canon in general. The basic rule still applies: the Canon is our foundation and guide. The distance implied is temporal, not spatial. Translation: the G2 is set in the Canon universe, but a few centuries into the future. As events unfold in the show, they can be referenced as historical events here.

DJ_AL3X said:
“So, I presume your telling me this for a reason.” Red said. She is cautious, intimidated by him: he is a smart dragon and it doesn’t get much more dangerous than that. "As far as I know you don’t share this much information without something in return, or for a good reason.” She waits for his response, then says: “You’re pretty good at coming up with plans.”

Smog gives Red Raider a small nod of acknowledgement and then studies one of his pinkie claws. “Yes, I’m good at making plans. Most of it is simply practice and experience. My size hasn’t increased in a very long time. There’s no chance that it ever will. So don’t judge me as you would other dragons, where size equals age. I hatched when the moon had the profile of a unicorn’s head upon it. I remember when it vanished. I remember the Time of Discord that came shortly afterward. Though we never came within a thousand miles of each other, I lived during the same time as Twilight Sparkle and her friends.

“Yes, it’s true: I was alive when the Age of Harmony began. However, contrary to popular belief, the Equestrian Empire only really got going after the first century or so. The invention of the Spectrum Engine was the key: that marvelous device that turns liquid rainbow into mechanical force, though with the flaw of producing an explosive gas. In the Griffin Kingdoms, Gildor von Zeppelin discovered that the gas could lift a hot-air balloon without need for heat. He turned the Spectrum Engine’s flaw into an advantage: creating the airships that bear his name. When the first airships filled with Equestrian explorers came to these southern lands, I was there to see them arrive. These very claws helped build Aura. I have lived in this great city ever since, and while I may not always respect her laws, she is my home, and I want her to thrive.”

Smog gives Red a sidelong glance and decides she has been properly awed and intimidated. Time to stop waving the stick and show her the carrot. He pours her a drink: a mug of cloud-cream with various flavored syrups, crushed diamond-ice from Silverline, and a spoonful each of liquid purple and red from prism-distilled rainbow. She has never tried it before, but he suspects the mix of flavors will please her palate. Smog sets the mug on the floatwood bar before her. She gives it a suspicious look, which Smog politely decides to ignore.

“But I digress.” he said. “You noted that I never give away information for free. This is true. The first thing I desire from you is your word not to get involved in the current business involving Brando.”


“Good. The second thing is your word to get involved with Brando when I ask it of you, and in the manner I ask of you. It will be to my profit, but yours as well. I always try to make it in people’s best interests to do what I want them to do. If they look to profit from heeding me, they’re much more likely to do it. When they do profit, they’re much more likely to heed me in the future. Betrayal is an ugly business, and always a bad choice in the long term. And I think in very long terms. So I keep my promises and do right by those who do right by me.”

Red pushes the mug an inch one way, then pushes it back. Her eyes avoid his. “How do you want me to get involved with Brando?”

“Nothing like what I suspect you may be thinking. What I had the thief leave for Brando was just my little payback for his habit of skipping out on his bar tab. I know: it was petty. I want you to go on the job with Brando. I want you to be my eyes and ears on him. When he finishes, I want you to report to me. I can smell lies, not omissions, and I can trust Brando not to tell me everything. I don’t give information away, but I give fair market value for that of others. For a full and honest report of Brando’s actions during the job, I am prepared to forgive the rest of the debt you owe me for the turntable and make you the Master DJ of the Sonic Rainboom.”

That got her attention. “But…that’s the biggest, hottest club in Aura.”

“The owners owe me some serious favors. I could easily own it outright, but why bother when I own the owners? I could get elected Governor if I wanted. I don’t want it. I’ll stay down here in my dark little hole, pulling the strings that make the mighty dance. Here’s a lesson for free, Red, because it profits me for you to understand this. Power is nothing. A thug with a club has power. An idiot with a vault full of bits has power. A fanatic with a gift for swaying crowds with fiery speeches has power. The prize is control. When great things hang in the balance, the trick is to know where and how to give a nudge and make things happen how you want. And all control begins with the self. If you can’t control your own actions, you can’t hope to control their outcomes.

“Now, do we have a deal?” Instead of answering, Red stares into her mug, watching the lazy swirls of pink and purple, the little glittering motes. “In case you were wondering, that’s a Twilight Sparkle. No, relax, this is the real deal. It’s notoriously tricky to do right, but I am the best. I should be: I invented all six drinks named after those famous mares. But I can’t make Pinkie Pies anymore, not since they were banned. It was never profitable: people just bought them for unsuspecting friends.”

Smog smiles behind his forever-unsmiling eyes. The trick to a Twilight Sparkle was to dilute the red with cloud-cream before adding it to the rest. That made it safe. No one but macho idiots liked the idea of a drink that might blow up in their face…and that was if they were lucky. Smog had only distain for the notion. The key to a successful business was repeat customers.

“So, my dear. Do we have a deal?”

“Do I get to know what kind of job it is before I agree?”

“Good question. No. You don’t. If you decline, we can discuss some other way of repaying your debt. Perhaps a few more months of working as DJ here in my establishment. Perhaps something else. I’m certain I can find something you find both agreeable and profitable. But the Master DJ position at the Rainboom? That won’t be on the table.”

Red goes back to staring into the mug. Smog settles his bulk behind the bar, content to wait as long as she needs to make up her mind. He could patiently wait for longer than she had left to live, even if she became old and grey.

META: Hah, here’s an idea: new players who can fly can introduce themselves to the Aura RP by coming to the Dragon’s Den looking for something: be it information, a person, some merchandise, or whatever. Smog will hook them up…for a price. They can trade him their back-story, which lets them get it out there, and owe him a favor. They’ll hopefully find running his little errands as profitable to themselves as to Smog. The Den could be where PCs come to meet up and hatch group plotlines. Just a thought.

They arrive at the Snark far too soon for Brando. At the berth, Brando stares up at his ship with already nostalgic eyes. Another flight and he’d be in the clear, flying fast and free to some new haven. Too late for that, now. Maybe they wouldn’t scrounge the Snark for parts, at least. Heck, they’d probably refit her for use and abuse as an interceptor. What a terrible fate for a free bird. He glances in Mithril’s direction, the flash of an ironic joke popping into his head and then fading away. Hard to make jokes at a time like this.

Still, Brando can’t help but take a deep breath as he stares at his beauty, taking her in from bow to stern, remembering all the adventure they’d shared. She was a fast ship: not very tough even for an airship, but when you’re flying circles around similarly sized vehicles that wasn’t as important. An additional pang of worry washes over him as he thinks about just how much additional trouble he'll be in if they discover any of the other less-than-legal things he has on his ship. ‘Can you get sentenced to double execution?’ He enjoys a morbid chuckle at the thought. Fortunately all of that is hidden away just as well as the smuggler’s hole: unfortunately, if someone has tipped them off to the hole, they likely tipped them off to everything else. But then if they had, surely they would’ve had at least a dozen more guards around her. At least the engine room's door had its own locking mechanisms.

Brando grinds his teeth as the new guy criticizes Mithril's decision. It takes him a moment to recall him as ‘Pick.’ He has always been terrible with names. Had her actions caught up to her she’d either be behind a desk with a fat bank account, or behind bars. He wonders how long it will take for reality to set in for her young partner. Still, Brando can't deny it’s a bit refreshing, all that boundless energy and those high and mighty beliefs about justice and karma. He hopes it'll take a good long while.

Pick studies the hatch. “Think you got enough locks?”

“They make me feel safe.” Brando said. “There are many criminal types in this world.”

Mithril snorts. “Just unlock it, Brando.”

Brando sighs and cracks his neck, walking slowly to the door. This is it: the end of the line. Just a few steps inside, then a transport to some big Zavrosi city and a nasty end. Brando takes out a small keyring and unlocks two of three individual locks in the center, then moves to the corners and takes out a separate key that matches the fourth on the keyring. Placing one in either side, he turns them both at the same time, causing a panel to slide away next to his left claw. It exposes a pad with five tiny levers. Oddly though, they seem to be mismatched from his usual reset locations. After moving them to their appropriate positions, the door latches finally snap away from one another with a series of extremely satisfying (to Brando anyway) metal clinks, clanks, and a bit of ratcheting.

As the last of the latches disengage, Brando places a claw on the heavy metal handle, and, for the last time, pulls the door open, revealing…quite a plain interior. From the way everything had been stored, the only difference in interior looks from some sporty weekend aircar that a rich being would have is the securing latches for small crates and a couple large string bags for holding ‘fruit,’ as he’d explained to officials in other, more militarized, docks. It smelled intensely of various incense, both in order to cover the smell of unwashed griffin on long journeys, as well as anything that might be being smuggled at the time: though he tried to avoid hauling things that stink.

The smuggling hold is nothing special. Unlike the outer doors, it’s simply a slide-away latch with only a simple lock that traces back to the frame of the exterior door, hidden by nothing more than the edge of the door. The latches holding down the false floor snap away. He moves toward it cautiously, heart racing a hundred miles an hour. He pulls the hatch up and away, and Mithril draws up the tarp to reveal his cache.

Then there they are, out in the open, on display to everyone.

They are certainly not gems. Several emotions overtake Brando in rapid succession. The first is immense relief: knowing there was no contraband as applicable to the warrant means his chances of leaving Aura in a striped zeppelin are suddenly much smaller. Extraordinarily relieving, that. Secondly, and this he allows to show, is fury that someone has managed to sneak in and swap his loot with these…devices, well-designed as they were. Finally, there is the slightest mix of mirth and appreciation for the skill and sense of humor the thief had. He’d have to find out who it was someday, maybe when he did he’d figure out whether to wring his neck or shake his hand.

“So Brando,” Pick said, “are these those personal items that you mentioned earlier? I have no idea why you thought we would ‘take a cut’ of these. Okay, ha-ha, very funny, but the joke’s over: tell us where the gems are.”

Brando turns back to him, a rare look of complete honesty on his face. “This is my only hidey-hole: I’ve not put in any other hidden compartments on the ship. As to why you’d take a cut, well, I just thought maybe they suited you." His face fades back into his poker face as suddenly as it had dissipated. “I told you I had nothing contraband aboard my ship. I’m a completely legitimate businessman. Please, feel free to dig through them to make sure there's nothing hiding underneath the pile. Just remember to wash your hands afterwards."

He swallows with a dry throat as Pick's attention moves from him back to the hold, and takes a moment to size up Mithril's body language. How hard were her superiors going to come down on her for this? Of course she hadn’t fouled anything up, and she’d done just as orders had stated, but if it wasn’t his head it was going to be someone else's. He knew too well you could kill someone just as easily through their career as you could with a knife. He’d have to keep tabs on her for the moment, in the unlikely event that happened. “It really is a shame,” he said, “you not finding anything. Well, if that will be all, officers, I would quite like to get back to my own business, which involves locking you two back out of my ship, pretty and inviting as she may be.” He turns to Mithril, about to demand his pipe back, but decides against it, something telling him she'd probably just pretend to not know what he was talking about. Pity, it was a fine specimen.

What to do with all of these devices? Well, they certainly wouldn’t sell as well as gems, but he’d still probably make a bit of profit off of them. Going to need gloves though. Sturdy gloves. Maybe Smog had a pair laying around, and maybe he could give him some information as to just what in the blue skies was going on around here.

And hey, at least Mithril still smelled as good as ever. Maybe his luck was coming around. Going to stretch his wings out, he felt them snap back painfully. "OW! Son of a…uh, hey, officers, you mind?" He says, pointing to his cuffed wings.

Red waits a moment to think it over Smogs offer, even though the minute she heard him mention getting to be the head DJ at the finest club in Aura, she was hooked. Maybe even a little before then. She looks him directly in the eye and smiles. Takes a long drink of the Twilight Sparkle, which hits her tongue like distilled classical music.

“I'm in.”

The shadow of Aura extended for a good few miles. Paired with the chilled winds coming from White Pass and Silverline, it made a certain pony feel comfortable. Brisk cool air. It was good for the soul. "Good to be back..."

Shadowville. What a name. He felt a little sorry for the folk who lived in the shadow of the floating metropolis above them, but wouldn't really know what it would be like to live in a shadow. He'd made a name for himself back in the day. Ponies knew him. Hay, even a dragon or two would attend his playings every so often. Who didn't love the soul-melting strings of The Wandering Lute? Those days are gone though. A name slowly forgotten through the years, as new ponies stepped up to the stage. The old stool was replaced with large speakers and flashy lights.

He took a long haul from his dart, before dropping it to the streets below to be stamped out under wood. The wooden leg took no wear over the years, it looked as pristine as the day he got it. That same gnarled oak tree that grew from shin down, darkened by age and experience. A few short glances were shot towards him as busy ponies hurried along their way: it always seemed that hoods attracted eyes. When you live in parts like these, it could be expected. "It ain’t no Neighpon...asthetically." His voice was as quiet as it had always been, but there seemed to be a blade hiding in the fur of Mr. Snuggles.

There was no specific reason for being in Aura. Maybe just some old memories, the feel and smell of that air, as well as the possibly of an old associate still kicking. Luck was with him: a young pegasus was dropping off some mail along with picking some up. ‘Delivery colts...pawns for sinister games of wealth and power.’ The thought was solid in his head, and just as heavy as you'd imagine. The drifter approached the unfortunate colt, who'd begun to hurriedly collect everything in an effort to avoid a confrontation. Too late, though. "Listen, you: I need a message sent to a place that you might not be familiar with. That's not my problem and you wont have one if you do as I ask. Up in Aura, there is a place called the Dragon's Den. Tell the Barkeep that The Lute is here, and I'll meet him on the southern outskirts of Shadowville. Preferably at the Brass Hoof. Got that?" His voice was blunt, clear, and straight to the point. The pegasus merely nodded, not bothering to make eye contact, and flew off. Hopefully to deliver his message first.