Impossible Zebras and Imposter Papas
IC date: Autumn 54, 1007
OOC date: November 12, 2012
PCs: Blackbird, Sadaka, Snowfield,
NPCs: Dakari, Dakani
GM: None

Since the raid's end, Blackbird has been somewhat busy, going over supplies, looking over the base, and just generally seeming… well, busy. And quiet. He doesn't seem to be interacting with many ponies, either; mostly watching. Right now, he's trotting through the main area, surveying the room with sharp eyes, ignoring the fact that most of the base is asleep by now.

Snowfield has also been about the base at odd hours since the raid. Of course, this is not exactly out of the ordinary since she was keeping odd hours /before/ the raid as well. She's watching the surveyor as he moves through the main area, cayantine in hoof (delicious fresh fruit!) and chewing it thoughtfully. After the stallion's first couple passes through the room she asks, "Something on your mind?"

Blackbird neither jumps, nor seems surprised, instead shrugging. "Merely making the rounds," he comments, without looking back at her. "Just making sure everything is secure." He trots over to a table, looking over its contents with a grim expression: maps, notes. Nothing terribly danging, but nonetheless.

"You've been agitated since the attack on that Nightmare base," Snowfield says without skipping a beat. "I don't think I've seen you spare a word to Sadaka since we returned." She takes another bite of her spicy orange. "Hmm, we need to find out how they manage to grow fruit with no sunlight. I don't think there's an artificial light that can do the trick, but I don't taste a magical aftertaste like when unicorns force it to grow."

"I've been busy," Blackbird returns, finally looking back at her. He surveys her up and down, taking in her miniature stature and the fruit she's eating. "You should probably go to bed." He turns back, leafing through a few maps, reading a few notes. "It's late."

Snowfield's eyes narrow as she takes another bite of her delicious citrus treat. "It's not like you to be concerned about my well-being like that, either." She puts down the fruit and walks over to the stallion, putting a hoof on the maps he's leafing through to stop him from rooting around. "What's going on? The least you can do is clue me in."

"Oh. Well, consider me having a change of heart then." Blackbird eyes her a little warily, and goes back to his maps — until she stamps on it. He blinks, and sets his mouth in a line, irritation flashing through his features before it smooths out. "After the battle, I merely decided it would be better to be on the defensive in case they strike back. It's not a big deal."

Snowfield's eyes narrow as she meets Blackbird's gaze, her own expression an unreadable mask. It's a face she's long since perfected. After several long seconds she lifts her hoof off the map. "Between Bloodrage's pegasi and our own scouts, I don't think there's anything you can do that we don't already have covered. Don't you think there are better things you could be wasting your time on?"

"Another layer of safety? Surely there's no better way to spend my time." Blackbird meets her gaze back, having his own passably unreadable mask. "Why does it matter, anyway? You're not my superior." As she lifts her hoof, he goes back to rifling a little grumpily.

"I'll let that little comment slide," Snowfield says as Blackbird makes the mistake of assuming the unicorn isn't superior to him in every possible way. "And how about getting us home, hmm? Don't tell me you've gone native in this Celestia-forsaken wasteland."

"Papa?" The little zebra peeks into the main room, blinking sleep from her eyes and stifling a yawn. It wasn't morning yet! Well… it's not morning /ever/ technically. But everypony's still asleep! Except Papa Blackbird. And apparently Snowfield. "Oh… hi, Ms. Snowfield. …Is something going on?"

Blackbird squints at Snowfield for a moment. "It's not that I've gone native. I simply feel that while better-equipped ponies deal with the magic hoo-hah, I'll help with something I'm more adept at. Like defense." He pauses when that little voice speaks up, glancing around the room to see who it could be referring to. Then blinks as, since he's the only male in the room, that could only mean him. He looks back at Sadaka and blinks. "Uh…hello little zebra," he says, trying not to sound wary. "I'm just telling Miss Snowfield here that I'm helping stay on top of base defense."

Snowfield's eyes remain narrowed. She says nothing to Blackbird or Sadaka. It's her turn to watch.

Sadaka blinks and tilts her head. "Base defense? Are… are we getting attacked?" She looks faintly alarmed at the idea, standing up a bit straighter. "Sh-should I wake the others?"

"Er— no," Blackbird replies, shaking his head. "It's just in case. You understand, of course." It's not really a question. He starts to roll up the maps. "In any case, I'd best find someplace quieter, where I can study the area. Away from…distractions." He eyes the pair of them.

"You should take your daughter back to bed," Snowfield says flatly. "You know how lonely she gets, go tuck her in."

Sadaka lays her ears back, looking a bit confused. "But… Papa… everypony's sleeping. Can't you to it tomorrow?" She blushes at Snowfield's words, but doesn't deny the accusation, scuffing a hoof timidly and twitching her ears. "…The room's cold. And… and the Things aren't too much help there." They really do need to figure out names for the ghosts! It feels so weird to call them 'Things' and not mean it meanly.

Blackbird shoots an irritated look to Snowfield, then sighs, dropping the maps. "Well…fine. Let's go put you to bed." He approaches the zebra awkwardly, like he's not sure how to talk to her or deal with her, or even walk with her. He trots with his head low, grumpy. "Maybe you need a heater in there."

Snowfield stays immobile as Blackbird finally takes responsibility for Sadaka. She doesn't stay that way for very long once he's left the room, though. She intends to stay hot on his trail, just out of sight around the corners of the hallway. The clopping of his hooves on the hard floor of the base's hallways is easy enough to track him by so she doesn't need to risk revealing herself by poking her head around corners.

Sadaka trots along beside him, still looking slightly confused. Had she done something wrong? She wasn't used to Blackbird being so… short with her. She laid her ears back nervously, peeking up at him sheepishly. Maybe he was just grumpy? But he seemed to have gone and woken himself up.

Blackbird trots through the base, somewhat aimlessly. He hangs back just enough to hope that Sadaka will generally provide the right way to go, but he also tries not to be obvious with the fact that he's got zero clue where they're staying. "How are…you doing?" he asks, awkwardly, like he's not sure what else to ask.

Ancient midget ninja pony, ancient midget ninja pony, ancient midget ninja pony~

Which is to say, Snowfield keeps sneaking.

Sadaka blushes a bit. "Oh, uh… good. I guess. I'm kinda getting used to the cold. …But I still don't like it." She gives a little snort. "…I miss home, though. I wanna see Siyana and Lav and Dreamy and Ms. Rusty and Mr. Gamble and everyone."

"I'm sure they miss you," Blackbird replies gruffly, glancing around as they walk. "The cold's not so bad. You get used to it." Indeed, he seems fairly impervious, not even a little chilly, and he's not wearing any warming gear.

Sadaka sighs and glances down, nodding. "…Think we'll get back home soon?" she asks after a moment. "I know we gotta do the whole thing for Nightmare Night, but I'm still not too good with my zombie face. Three says I'm too cute, and One says it's just my face doesn't work for it."

"…Sure," Blackbird replies, glancing as they keep passing doors. C'mon kid, pick one already! He squints down at her though. "Zombie face?" he asks, incredulous and confused, before he recovers, "Er. I'm sure you'll get better at it." God, kids are exhausting.

"I hope so. There's not all that much time left to practice." Sadaka finally turns to duck into a room. "And I still gotta make a costume, I think. Do you have a costume yet?"

"I'm…going to be a ghost," Blackbird replies, thinking on his hooves, and as they reach the threshold of the door, he pauses. But with a grunt, he steps in after her. "Well, get to bed," he instructs. "I'll tuck you in." That's where you put a blanket on them, right? He's never been sure.

Sadaka nods, obediently climbing onto the bed and nestling down under the blankets. "It's not… all that bad, though, is it? I mean… we got candy now. It'll be kinda fun. Dressing up and all. Right?"

"Lots of fun. Yes." Blackbird awkwardly looks down at the blanket. It's already on her. He pokes it a little and then eyes her for a long time, before patting her awkwardly on the head. "There there, small one. You'll be fine. Now sleep." So brusque!

Sadaka blushes, laying her ears back a bit. "…Okay. Uh… g-goodnight, Papa." Even if it's not entirely fitting, it's still just what you say, right?

"Goodnight." Pat. Pat. He eyes her for a moment longer, frowning, then moves away, shaking his head. He exits the room, without even a kiss or a hug or anything! What a jerk. Now he looks around in the hallway, regaining his bearings as he mentally calculates the route back to the main area.

Snowfield is waiting outside the door when Blackbird comes out of Sadaka's room, leaning nonchalantly against the wall. "I still don't know what possessed you to have foals in the first place," the unicorn says with a shake of her head. "They're clingy little things."

Blackbird squints a little at her and shrugs. "Foals are great." Yet that sounds so awkward coming out of his mouth. He turns to trot away from her, itchy between his shoulder blades because of her strangeness. And her clinginess.

Snowfield trots after Blackbird. "If you say so. I've never liked them. At least her brother isn't anywhere near as needy." The unicorn tilts her head thoughtfully. "Really, you ought to let Mwai watch her more often. He's getting to that age that if you don't start making him feel responsible then he'll start doing reckless, rebellious things."

"Well, when I trust him to take care of her I will," Blackbird grumbles, throwing her an uncomfortable glare over his shoulder. "I'll raise my foals one way and you…" He looks her up and down again, just shaking his head, turning away to trot a little faster.

"Fair enough, fair enough," Snowfield says with a nod. She maintains her pace as Blackbird starts speeding up, letting him put a bit of distance between them.. "Look, just… you let me know if you need any help, alright? I know these last few weeks have been tough for you. They've been hard on all of us. I've got your back when you need it, though." There's still a bit of corridor left before the next turn. Just enough time for her to start putting a spell together in her head, horn just barely putting off an icy glow. "I'm a stronger mare than you give me credit for."

"I'm fine," Blackbird growls, head down as he trots a little faster. "I just want to defend the base; I'm done with this question and answer session." Prickly, and unawares apparently of her spell, he's intent on just getting away from the nosy little busybody. Geez.

"Oh, excellent!" Snowfield says with uncharacteristic cheerfulness. "Then we want the same thing!" A flash of blue light fills the hallway. At the same moment 'Blackbird' will feel a wave of force hit him from the side, trying to slam him into the wall and hold him there.

"Fin— whoa!!" Blackbird turns just in time to see the spell shoot off, and he scrambles as best he can— only to have it clip his leg and send him tumbling, slamming into the wall. "The hay is wrong with you!" he shouts.

"That is an excellent question!" Snowfield says back serenely. "I might ask you the same question. Blackbird. After all the time we've known each other, I thought you would have learned by now not to turn your back on me. Honestly, how many ponies does a mare have to kill before her reputation sticks?" She fires off another telekinetic wave, head on this time to knock Blackbird off his feet and down the hallway.

Blackbird's eyes widen, and then glare, a dangerous calm falling onto his features — and then she slams him further down the hallway. He grunts, unable to keep his feet, but he sure does his best to get back up there, if he can.

Hah! Hah! As if Snowfield would let Blackbird get his hooves under him again. Her horn flares and there's another wave of force, telekinetic pressure trying to force the earth pony against the ground. "The way I see it, there are a few things that could be going on here. You could be possessed by a malicious spirit. Celestia knows there are enough ghosts here that one of them might have gotten into somepony as weak-willed as you, Blackbird." She trots calmly forward as she speaks.

As a fight is breaking out somewhere down the hall from the room Sadaka's using for a bedroom… Three little ghostly heads peek up from the foot of the zebra's 'bed', staring with their lifeless little eyes at the zebra filly.

"Psst… You asleep yet..?" Thing One whispers.

"Didn't she just go to bed?" Thing Two wonders.

"That doesn't mean she isn't asleep already! Some ponies are fast sleepers." Thing Three chimes.

Blackbird snarls as he's slammed down, his body flattening. He glares up at Snowfield, with an uncharacteristic look of murder. Well — not wholly uncharacteristic; Snowfield /had/ seen that look once turned on Mad-Mare, but certainly not on an ally. Certainly not on her. "What do I have to do to get you to release me?" he asks, forcing himself not to speak through his teeth, though he wants to.

Sadaka blinks and twitches an ear, angling it back towards the voices. "No, I'm not asleep yet." She lifts her head, blinking down at them. "What, uh… what's up?"

Snowfield tsks. "The real Blackbird would let me finish my villainous rant. He was always a good sport about these things." Now that she has him pinned she gets up close to him and crouches low to the ground so she can look him in the eyes, quirking her head to the side slightly to try and line up their gazes a little better.

"Now where was I? Oh, yes. Either you're possessed, you're mind controlled, or you're an imposter." The little unicorn taps a hoof against the ground with each option. "I have my doubts about the first. I imagine a possessed pony would have better things to do with his time than sit around in the main hall memorizing our patrol schedules and looking through all of our intelligence."

"Should we tell her?" one ghost asks. "It would be rude not to… We can't not /not/ tell her after waking her up. Didn't you learn any manners before you died?" Another ghost mutters.

The third ghost, not partial to the inner conversation, merely floats up onto the bed. Small thing that he is, he looks giddy about something. "We found another one of us! We thought it'd be cool if she met someone not afraid of ghosts!"

Blackbird watches Snowfield silently, glaring like he could reach out and murder her with his mind. But alas, he is no unicorn. "Can't be terribly important intelligence, if it's just sitting on a table in the main area," he snorts.

Sadaka perks a bit. "You… found another ghost? In the base, or… somewhere else?" She climbs out from beneath the rather un-tucked-in blanket, stretching a bit. "Okay, um… who? Where?"

The first two ghosts sigh. "He told her…" "Yup…" The three of them float off to a corner of Sada's room, turning around with their backs to…something. "Just promise you won't be scared of her too!" the little ghost colt says, looking as earnest as a little ghost colt can.

"I never said it was important," Snowfield says chidingly. "But that doesn't make our maps any more or less classified than Redmane's personal intelligence" She pauses to watch Blackbird for a few more seconds, to see if he struggles against the telekinesis or just glares at her and bides his time. "Mind control is probably off the table as well. Unless they wiped you entirely you'd remember little things like your foal being an only child— and what her name is, for that matter. 'Little zebra', honestly." She nickers in disapproval.

Blackbird isn't struggling; there's not much an earth pony can do against a unicorn, when caught like this. Honestly, he's busy kicking himself for being so careless in the first place. But he watches her carefully, his gaze keen and wary and far less scatter-brained, his mouth drawn into a firm unhappy line.

Snowfield pushes herself up from a crouch to a proper sitting position. "So! Option three. I don't supposed you'd care to tell me where my good friend Blackbird has wandered off to, would you?"

Blackbird snorts, just staring at her.

Sadaka blinks and shrugs. "I don't think I'll be scared. You're all nice. I'm not scared of you."

"Don't be like that," Snowfield says sternly. "I'm trying to be nice about this whole thing. I'm not asking you to reveal the location of wherever your regional headquarters is. Unless that's where Blackbird happens to be, at least. He wouldn't happen to be there, would he?"

Blackbird just arches a silent brow, continuing to watch her. Not giving an inch, this one. Wottajerk.

The three ghosts look to one another, nod, and scoot out of the way. "It's okay, she won't hurt you!" "Or scream!" "Or be scared!"

Another ghostly little foal fades in from the corner. A little filly. With stripes.

In fact, one might almost mistake her as looking into a mirror. If that mirror showed what one might look like if they were a spirit.

"Uh… H..hello!" the little striped zebra ghost timidly squeaks in the same haunting tones the other ghosts talk in, waving a semi-transparent hoof..

"Playing hardball, hmm? Alright, I'll play along." She stands back up and picks up the fake Blackbird, hefting him overhead with another pull of telekinesis. "Here's how this is going to work. I'm going to frog march you outside and bury you up to the neck in the permafrost. Then I'm going to sit there and wait until you either tell me what I want to know or you die." She begins walking down the hallway with her prisoner in tow.

Blackbird doesn't seem fazed by the threat, nostrils flaring as he's hefted up again like a bad child. "This will be fun," he says dryly.

"Once again we're on the same page!" Snowfield exclaims. "Like pegasi of a feather, you and I." She walks down the hall without a care in the world. It's a good thing most ponies are asleep so there are no witnesses to this terrible abuse. "You know, I promised Blackbird that I would personally make sure that he took proper care of his foal, since he tends to miss the forest for the trees and do really stupid things. The last time I had to intervene I ended up destroying a mare's legs to prove a point."

Sadaka blinks. And stares. And stares some more. And blushes a bit. Well that's… that's a bit unnerving there, that is. Not /scary/, she's definitely not going to scream. But… well… huh. "Uh… hi!" she responds dutifully, trying not to look as startled as she felt. "I, uh… I'm Sadaka. …Do you know your name?" She vaguely hoped it didn't!

"A mare of action," Blackbird comments dryly, "I can appreciate that." Still, he doesn't seem much interested in talking about important things. "You are rather small for your age, aren't you?" At least he's more observant than the normal Blackbird?

"I wouldn't know," Snowfield responds as she pauses to poke her head around a corner and see if the coast is clear. "I haven't met anypony else as old as I am to compare against. Generally they die once they hit seventy or eighty." Upon seeing no one there she continues towards the main hall.

The little ghost zebra scuffs a hoof. Or would if ghost hooves could scuff. "Dakani…" she whispers shyly, the other three ghosts doing a quick back and forth comparison. "We thought it was weird…" Ghost one states. "Like, maybe you died or something and became a ghost like us!" Ghost Two giggles. "Not that..we would have minded.." Ghost Three chimes, doing the same sort of hoof-scuffy motion that Dakani is making. "She just showed up! Out of the blue!"

Dakani flats her ears back. "It wasn't out of the blue! I was haunting a bad guy!"

"An old mare in the body of a foal," Blackbird comments slowly. "Fascinating. I take it they don't all grow that way where you come from, then." He watches the way they're going dispassionately, green eyes memorizing hallways, rooms, ducts.

Sadaka rubs the back of her head with one hoof. "Well I don't think I'm dead." That would be awkward. But if she was dead, she'd be the ghost! Not here… talking to the ghost. Right? …Afterlife stuff is weird. "But it's nice to meet you, Dakani. You were haunting a… bad guy? Who? Someone here?" Everyone here's nice, though! Mostly. Not 'bad' anyway. Some are kinda strange.

"You could say that," Snowfield says. "You could also say I cut a deal with Death. At least one pony has said that I'm a zombie. Several more assume witchcraft of some variety. My favorite theory has got to be that I steal away foals and take their bodies as my own."

"How macabre." Blackbird glances around their continually changing surroundings, not bothering to struggle for the moment. "I suppose you could say I have similar hobbies."

"One's bad…" Dakani mumbles, her gaze going downcast. The three ghosts tilt their heads. "We haven't seen any badponies here." one chimes up, the other two nodding their agreement with ghost and living zebra alike. Which makes Dakani take a single step back, shrinking into the corner. "B..but it's true! I was m..murdered! And I'm haunting the m..murderer!" Not very well, admittedly, but haunting is haunting! "He's /here/…"

"Which one?" Snowfield asks. "The witchcraft, the flesh eating, or sticking yourself inside of foals?"

Blackbird snorts. "I like a little mystery. Why don't you choose?"

Sadaka bites her lip. "Somepony murdered you?" Yeah, that's also a little unnerving. And a concept she's unfortunately familiar with. "Somepony… here?" She looks around uncomfortably, as if there might be some evil pony lurking in the corners of the room. "But… but who would do that? Everypony we've met seems nice…"

Snowfield considers this for a moment. "Let's go with cannibalism. A bloodied muzzle and a hoofful of offal would set off your eyes spectacularly." She pauses as the pair reaches the main hall. She pokes her head in to see who is guarding the entrance at this time of night.

At this time of night, it appears to be Emerald-Dust, yawning at her sentry post but nonetheless awake. She glances over to Snowfield when her head appears, and she smiles. "Hey there, Snowfield. How's it going?"

Blackbird, meanwhile, chuckles. It's a raw, sinister chuckle. "Succulent longpony. Good choice."

Snowfield nods back to Emerald-Dust. "Oh, it goes. Say, I don't suppose you'd mind abandoning your post for a minute or two, would you? I have something I need to take outside."

Emerald-Dust arches a brow. "Something to take outside? Why would I have to abandon post for that?" She looks faintly amused.

Dakani twitches one of her ears, her eyes growing wider. "It was a white pony! A mercenary… He's /horrible/! And, and I saw him do something bad to another white pony…" She trails off, "I didn't want to watch though so I ran away. And then they found me!" she says, pointing to the ghostly trio.

"Because I'd rather rumors about me be completely unfounded than have a nugget of truth at their center?" Snowfield offers.

Emerald sighs and shakes her head. "Alright, alright. You have two minutes. I need some coffee anyway. Don't let anyone in." The green mare yawns and trots away, toward the cafeteria, leaving Snowfield her escape.

"And ponies actually trust you," Blackbird observes with disbelief. "How poorly planned of them."

Sadaka blinks and tilts her head. "White pony? Well… uh… there's Ms. Snowfield… and that pegasus, um, Heartsong I think?" She shrugged slightly. "And there's Papa Blackbird, I guess he's white. And green! But I dunno any other white ponies… everyone says weird things about Ms. Snowfield, but I don't think she's that bad. She's always been pretty nice to me."

"They have no reason to distrust me," Snowfield says simply as she trots across the empty main hall and out the door. "As of yet I haven't murdered anypony who didn't deserve it, certainly not to their knowledge."

When Sadaka mentions the green and white, Dakani nods quickly! "That's him! He was…hitting another pony that looked just like him too! Kinda like I look like you…" She trails off.

"How exciting it will be when they figure out you've killed Sadaka's father." Blackbird chuckles to himself, as he's floated across the room. Once they hit cold air, he smirks. "Brisk."

Snowfield shrugs as she opens the passage to the frigid wasteland. "Wouldn't be the first time I've had the blame for a beloved pony's gruesome and violent death pinned on me. Now, before we begin, are you /sure/ you wouldn't rather just tell me where Blackbird has gotten himself lost this time?"

Sadaka stares at Dakani for about ten seconds. "Another… white… he… hitting… AAAAHHH!" She leaps down from the bed and starts to scamper out the door, pausing halfway to whirl back around and run in an over-frantic circle. "Where?! Where were they? Where are they? /When/?" Scamperscamperscamper.

All four ghost foals blink in Sadaka's wake.

"Was it something I said..?" Dakani asks in a voice that's almost a whimper.

"Not particularly," Blackbird shrugs. "You're doing just fine on your own. Please continue. By all means." Float, float.

"I knew he wasn't acting right! I knew it! I thought he was mad at me and I didn't know what I did and I was trying to think of what it was but I didn't do anything! That's not my Papa!" Sadaka gives up on the circling and starts bouncing instead, a ball of springy energy. "He didn't say any of the right stuff an' he didn't call me the right names an'… an'… What'd he do with my Papa?!" Boingboingboing.

"Just thought I'd offer," Snowfield says. She steps out into the eternal night air. There's no wind or clouds tonight, giving the rolling white dunes an ethereal look under the light of the waxing gibbous moon. After a few experimental taps on the snow she finds a suitable place at the crest of nearby hill and shifts the snow and permafrost away to make a stallion-sized hole. "Alright, in you get," the unicorn says as she unceremoniously drops the Blackbird impersonator into the shallow grave.

Womp! Down he goes. And he just watches her impassively, brow arched slightly, as he waits to be buried.

Dakani seems to shake herself out of the surprise of having apparently scared Sadaka, after listening to all that 'Papa' stuff. "He… He knocked him out! And put him somewhere… Another room! But… I'm not sure which one. I ran scared."

Snowfield is an excellent hostess and always true to her word. The ice and soil is shifted back into place and frozen into a skintight shell around the stallion, allowing only his face and the top of his head to stay above the ground. "Comfortable?"

"Quite, thank you. Better than a cup of coffee." Blackbird settles in for a nice long staring match with her, since he has no plans on talking.

Sadaka blinks over at Dakani. "But… but he's here? In… in the base? He's still here?" He'd better be, or otherwise she's going to get /so grounded/ for going outside in the snow.

Snowfield has no plans on engaging in a staring match. As she said before, she is simply going to wait here until he either talks or dies. She pulls up some loose snow from the ground around them and freezes it into an ice block, which she then begins to carve silently.

Five minutes go by. Ten. "…Ice carving. Wouldn't have pegged you for that. Isn't that a delicate hobby? Don't you need… I don't know. Grace or finesse?"

Apparently he feels the need to chat.

"He's still here s..somewhere!" Dakani stammers nodding quickly. "Maybe we can help you find him!"

"Mostly just patience," Snowfield says as she slowly draws lines of ice out from the block, making a very pretty geometric shape out of it. "Art is a skill just like anything else. You can train yourself to get the motions right."

"And you've had at least a century to perfect it, I would assume." Blackbird watches her, eyeing the sculpture in progress up and down. "What's this sculpture going to be, then? A tiny unicorn messily goring an earth pony?"

Sadaka nods, getting in a last good boing. Or three. "W-well come on! We gotta h-hurry! He might need h-help, or…" Well she hoped there wasn't an 'or'. The base couldn't be /that/ big! And there were five of them now! They had to find him somewhere.

Then the little zebra ghost stops, tapping her chin. "…Or was it at that other base? These places all look alike." No, they really don't, but apparently this ghost isn't all that observant sometimes. The other three ghosts sigh in unison. "Which is it? Here or there or where?"

Dakani pouts. "I'm thinking! It was snowy, and there were tents, so… It must have been at that other camp thing! With all the other bad ponies! And then he came here after knocking out the other good pony!"

All four ghosts blink. "Ooooh that means we have to go outsiiiiide…" they say, blinking at Sadaka. "Can you go outside..?"

"This one is just a warm-up," Snowfield says as she finishes the geometric shape and tosses it aside. It lands with a *piff* in some loose snow near Blackbird's head. "I suppose for the next one I could carve an earth pony being violently slaughtered. I admit, my grasp of internal anatomy isn't as sharp as it once was. You'll have to correct me if I make the organs the wrong size."

"It's a deal." Blackbird yawns, and leans back in his icy prison — what little he can, which is to say, not much at all. "I assume you must be impervious to the cold somehow. Your teeth aren't even chattering." Then again, neither are his.

Yep, she's gonna get /soooo/ grounded. Because Sadaka nods pretty instantly to this. "If you know where it is! I just gotta… get one of those suits all the other ponies wear so it isn't so cold." They have those in foal size, right? All the foals came here from somewhere else, surely they've got suits somewhere.

"I have adapted," Snowfield explains as she crafts another block of ice. "It took some time, of course. The weather in this region is colder than my native land. Still, spend enough time every day outside and one acclimates just fine."

There sure are foal-sized suits! Somewhere. Probably with the rest of them. The ghosts are bouncing now too, excited with the prospect of adventure! They're still foals at unbeating heart. Dakani in particular seems happy she gets to be a help instead of a haunt, practically mirroring the same bouncy hoppy excited (though not panicked) motions. "Yeah! Let's go save your papa!" All the ghosts rush out of the room, and down the hall, and right up the exit out! They're probably waiting for her outside. And just now showing up at the sight of Snowfield talking to a head in the ground.

"…Oh wow. Are you sure it wasn't /this/ pony that's bad?" one of the ghosts whispers to the zebra-ghost. Whom just shrugs helplessly.

"Speedy adaptation," Blackbird replies with a shrug. He pauses, looking over as the ghosts appear, and his gaze hardens into steely silence. A wall crashes down, and he looks away into the aurora rippling through the night.

Sadaka scrambles off to get a snowsuit. It takes a bit of searching to find one in her size, and tug it on, and figure out how it all fits. But she's determined! And she figures it out eventually. She dashes for the door, not really pausing to think about guards and all that. She's got a reason for going outside! Really!

Snowfield glances up from her work as she hears somepony arrive on the surface. An awfully little somepony, at that! She casually brushes some snow over Blackbird's face to ineffectually hide him from view. "Aren't you supposed to be in bed?" she asks the interrupting foal.

Thhppfff. That's all Blackbird has to offer.

The quartet of spooks are busy staring… There's a white pony talking to a pony head in the snow. Really they couldn't even hope to create a much creepier scene than this.

Sadaka stares for a moment as well. Then stompstompstomps right up to the two white ponies, pointing a hoof accusingly at the snow-coated head. "You're not my Papa! Where is my Papa?!"

"Clever girl," Blackbird chuckles, shaking the snow from his hair. "I'm not sure why I should answer you, however. Give me one good reason."

"Now now, dear," Snowfield says in her best diffusing-the-situation voice, which is less diffusing as it is patronizing. "The adults are talking. Go back to bed."

The striped ghost floats right over next to her living look-alike. "You took /my/ papa away! You should give hers back to make up for it!" the ghostly Dakani says, hoof-pointing at the fake Blackbird.

The other three ghosts float curiously around the sunken head. "Wow…" "She's /good/." "We should keep this trick in mind. Heads are /always/ scary."

Sadaka gives a faint snort, whirling around and lashing out her hind hooves to kick him in the nose! She's not a very good kicker, but still, that was more than just a boop. "Because I said so that's why!" She glares at him, then up at Snowfield. "No! He has my Papa! I'm gonna get him back!"

Blackbird snorts, and wrinkles his nose, before laughing. "Spirited! Alright then. I'll tell you where he is, but /only/ you, little zebra. Tell no one, or I will order his death." He gives her a twisty little grin, still wiggling his nose a bit. This will be fun. To Snowfield, "I was already killing for the Queen when I was her age. She is probably capable of more than you expect, old mare."

"Undoubtedly," Snowfield says to the Blackbird in the ground. "I decided she wouldn't follow the same path as her forebears, however, so please try not to encourage her to murder you."

The spooks are still mostly just watching! And whispering amongst themselves. Except for Dakani. Whom is mirroring Sadaka's ticked-off look rather well. She /totally/ would have bucked that pony in the face too if she could, y'know, actually hit things. She tries anyway! Just to feel better about it! And give the fake Blackbird a rush of deathly-cold chill!

Sadaka glares sharply at him for a moment or two. "…Fine. Whatever. Tell me where he is." Truth be told she hadn't intended to tell anyone else anyway. She hadn't thought of it! She was totally just about to run off and get him /herself/, not waste time trying to wake up all the grownups. Grownups are always hard to wake up.

Blackbird flits a glance to Dakani, arching a brow like, 'really?' Then he nods his head at Sadaka, urging her closer. "C'mere. I don't want short-and-grimface over there to hear it."

Snowfield does not seem impressed by the nickname. Her face is impassive as she waits for this little game to end.

Dakani sticks her ghostly little tongue out at Blackbird. Hmph.

The three Stoogespooks float in front of Snowfield, studying her face. "…" "It's not /that/ grim…" "More gargoyleish. Gothic maybe?"

"You died before you learned tact, didn't you?" Snowfield says to the ghosts.

Sadaka hesitates a moment. Well… how much can he do? He's just a head. She edges closer slowly, looking ready to bolt should he try anything. Or, more likely, ready to kick him again.

All three blink again. "What's tact?" Spook 1 asks.

"It's when you shut your fool mouths," answers Snowfield.

"Oh…" all three ghosts say, shrinking back to join Dakani and Sadaka.

When Sadaka's close enough, he leeeeeans in and whispers, "He's in the prisoner's tent in the camp." Then he leans back and grins. "Have fun, little hero. I look forward to watching the wasteland break you."

Dakani keeps glaring for a moment longer. She's trying to be a horrific vision of killings past here! But it's apparently not working out so well, so she starts to trot-float out into the wasteland instead! "I can help! I know where the camp is! I followed him there after all!"

Sadaka blinks and lays her ears back, giving a faint snort. She backs off, shaking her head and looking over at Dakani. "Okay. How far is it? You're sure you know the right way?"

Blackbird chortles, watching her back away. "Perhaps if you die, I can add another stripey ghost to my collection. Right, Dakani?" He casts a malicious smile at the ghost. Honestly, these kind of expressions are quite disconcerting on her papa's face!

Sadaka frowns, glaring back at him. "I'm not gonna die!" Snort. "If water can't kill me an' Mad-Mare can't kill me an' the forest can't kill me an' water can't kill me," because water has tried more than once! "Then your dumb snow isn't gonna do it neither! Not until I find my Papa an' get him home!" She adds in a boing for good measure. It would have been a kick, but running all the way back there just for this evil Papa impersonator would be a waste of time! She turns to follow after Dakani, expression grimly determined.

Snowfield's horn goes aglow as she begins pulling the snow under Sadaka's hooves like a treadmill, keeping the zebra from getting very far. "Where do you think you're going?" she asks the zebra filly.

Dakani says nothing. She's a ghost. So that evil pony's words hurt. She doesn't want to see any /more/ ghosts though, so she has a job to do! She doesn't get to float too far away though, looking back to see Sadaka apparently not getting to follow behind her quite so well. "H..hey! We gotta save her papa! What are you doing?"

"Oh, goodness, yes. Water is far deadlier than any of the Queen's forces." Blackbird yawns, patting a hoof over his open mouth. "Snore. Come back transparent like your eerie lookalike, and then we'll see. By the way, I don't have a clue how any me in any universe could be a father. That's a truly miserable idea. Especially to a zebra." Grimace.

Snowfield is, once again, unimpressed. "And you intend to do that… how, exactly? Hop off into the wasteland and hope you don't die of exposure along the way? That snowsuit isn't going to help you very much if it starts storming." She tugs on the snow harder to drag Sadaka back to the entrance of the base. "Never mind what would happen if you get spotted by pretty much anything out in the tundra. Nightmare Moon's forces are under standing orders to kill any foals they see, you know." The unicorn doesn't actually know that part but knowing Moon's reputation it /sounds/ true enough.

Sadaka squeaks, trying to pick up the pace to outrun the snow's sudden decision to go /very much the wrong way thank you/. She winces a bit herself at imposter-Blackbird's words, ears flattening. "I don't care! I'm n-not scared of… of snow! An'… an' I'll be… sneaky! I can't just leave Papa out there!" Whyyyy does the ground keep going backwards that's not the way she wants to gooooo.

Dakani starts running in small circles! "Yeah! We can't just leave him out there! What if he turns into a ghost?" The striped ghost gets teary-eyed!

The three other little foal ghosts 'ahem'. "Can we talk now..?"

Blackbird just watches with a wry smirk.

"You can't be anywhere near sneaky enough," Snowfield says as she continues pulling Sadaka back. "What are you going to do if he's injured? What if he doesn't have a snowsuit to protect him from the elements when you reach him? Will you be pulling him back to the base all on your lonesome? Do you think you'll be fast enough for him to not die of exposure?"

Really, the unicorn places the blame squarely on Blackbird the real one for teaching Sadaka to be so darn impulsive and not think things through.

To the ghost foals, Snowfield adds, "You can talk if you're planning on saying something constructive."

Something constructive? They thought they had something constructive to say! Until all the variables are brought up. That makes them fall silent again and stare at the permafrost.

"We can help make her more stealthy…" one ghost notes. "But we can't help her carry anything…" another ghost sighs. "Or keep warm." the third one chimes.

Sadaka blinks and pauses - which, thanks to treadsnow, nearly sends her toppling head over hindquarters. "But… but… I can't just… if he's hurt I gotta… I can't just /leave/ him there! That's the /problem/, he might be hurt, or scared, or in trouble, we gotta go get him!"

"I can say for certain he's quite injured. He needs your help badly, little zebra. If you don't get him out soon, he'll likely die." Blackbird fails to hide the grin on his face.

"No, /you/ need to wait here for him. When he gets back to the—" Snowfield frowns down at the Blackbird in the ground and magics a mouthful of snow into his smirking maw. "When he returns to the base he'll want to see you safe and sound, and you will need to be all prepared to nurse him back to health. Yes?"

Dakani joins the other three ghost foals in looking downcast. Their grand rescue mission, stopped before it could start!

"Mmfrrf." Blackbird spits out the snow and rolls his eyes. "You treat her like a child. If she wants to rescue her father, it could be a grand moment for a foal. Let her."

See? SEE?! Boingboingboing. "I'm not staying anywhere!" Sadaka insists. "I'm helping my Papa! You can go wake everypony else an' get a sled an' supplies and come after an' help if he's hurt! But you grownups are too big to sneak in if there's bad ponies in the camp." Well… maybe not Snowfield. But the rest of them. "Besides, you said! You said the good ponies win at the end of this story. But the good guys only win if they do stuff! Not if they sit around. And all I've seen most ponies doing is sit around waiting for somepony else to figure out how to fix things! Well I'm not gonna wait!" She stamps a hoof. "We waited last time for things to get better 'cause they didn't want me hurt, and they /died/! So this time… this time I'm gonna do something!"

Snowfield frowns at the little foal. "So rather than even trying to wake the others up and ask for help, you're going to traipse off into the unknown and hope for the best? That's your plan?"

"It sounded like a good plan to me…" one of the ghost foals mutters.

Dakani blinks as Sadaka goes on a ranting tirade! She screws her little nose up and stands alongside the live zebra. "You know already! You should go wake grownups up and let Sadaka find her papa! If he /is/ hurt we can maybe keep him from getting worse until help shows up!" She stamps a hoof. "Instead of bein' mean about it!"

Sadaka shakes her head, then nods over at Dakani. "Right. I'm gonna follow Dakari, she knows where it is. You heard him, I can't tell anyone else where. I won't risk it. But you an' the others /know/ where, 'cause you were just there. So you go get 'em, and tell 'em I ran off an' what's going on, and then they can follow me and help and I didn't tell nopony nothing." She frowns over at her. "And nopony else is gonna waste time tryin' to tell me no." And if they didn't come to save her, then they probably wouldn't have come to save Blackbird anyways. "/You're/ awake. I'm asking /you/ for help."

"Oh, yes, I'm the one being mean about this. Do you know what's going to happen? I'm going to walk into that base and wake everypony up and they will say, 'Snowfield, what is wrong with you? How could you let a foal wander off to her death and not stop her?' Then they'll chase after you and drag you back kicking and screaming because adult legs cover ground far faster than small child legs." The unicorn shall not be moved by Sadaka's impassioned pleas. "This choice is yours. If you want to charge off into the wasteland that's your prerogative, but I'm not taking responsibility for you. I've already done my part."

"You've got off scot-free, kid! Run!" Blackbird laughs. "Now's your chance! Icewitch isn't gonna stop you!"

The littlest ghost foal is left scratching his head. "Why would they drag her back and not go save her papa?" he wonders. "Grownup logic doesn't make any sense!" The other two nod their agreement.

Dakani is looking increasingly nervous for a ghost. She points at the impostor! "He said we can't tell nopony where he is! So what do we do?" Stamp stamp!

Sadaka blinks and frowns. She stares up at Snowfield for a moment before giving a faint snort and whirling around to gallop for the Wastes. If Snowfield wants to be a bitter berry then let her! But she's not going to be so easily dragged back. She refuses to lose another parent to silly grownup conflicts.

Snowfield watches Sadaka make what is undoubtedly the biggest mistake ever and snorts. "Well, I hope you're pleased with yourself," she says to the buried Blackbird. "Do you kill foals because it gives you a warm and fuzzy feeling, or does Moon give you a bounty per scalp?"

"Six of one, half-dozen of the other," Blackbird smiles. "You could really go either way and it'd be just fine. So, are you going to alert the base, or are you going to let the foal go off on her own?"

All of the ghosts immediately turn and jet off after the scampering zebra! Dakani in particular is inclined to zoom ahead, to lead the way and all that. There's ponies to save!

"I'm a mare of my word, if nothing else," Snowfield says. She stomps the ground and with a burst of snow the permafrost below Blackbird shoots upward and pushes the stallion to ground level. "Which also means I won't get to watch you freeze to death in your own personal ice coffin. Such a shame."

"What a pity," Blackbird smirks, shaking himself off. "It's been a pleasure, tiny ice witch. I'm off to see the wizard." And with that, he turns to trot into the wastes, after Sadaka's retreating form.

"Have a good night," the witch says with a wave of her hoof before turning to go back into the base. She'll give him… let's say a five minute head start before alerting base security that there's been a breach.

The wastes are exceedingly cold. Terrifyingly so. The suit does help, and Sadaka won't be freezing to death, but it's … it's pretty darn cold. Still, the ghosts know the way, through the frozen wastes, and the encampment is only a couple miles out. With as flat as the surrounding area is, though, they can see it: a purple and black smear on the horizon.

The quartet of foal spooks slow down when they all get close enough to better see this 'smear' of a camp. They huddle together, crowding around their zebra friend. "Well, here we are." Dakani says, pointing. "He's in there. Somewhere…"

Sadaka peers across at it, frowning and crouching down low. "…He said the prisoner tent. I guess we gotta figure out which one that is." She lays her ears back uneasily. Lavender would be so much better at these sorts of adventure-y things. "…And we'll need their supply tent too. If… if Ms. Snowfield isn't g-gonna bring help, then we gotta get a snowsuit for him, and… and stuff for if he's hurt."

About half a mile behind trots the stranger Blackbird — and by now, he's dropped his glamor. His body is crisscrossed in scars, including a knick on his lip and a rather excessive slash across his right eye. Or what used to be his right eye, anyway; it's a deflated socket now. He follows at a distance, watching the little zebra, considering his options.

The camp, meanwhile, has a few ponies meandering around, but it's mostly quiet. Those that are up, are trying to do repair to all the damage that the rebels caused. There are three standing tents arrayed to the north, one of which bears a rather regal and more detailed Nightmare Moon banner than the ones dotted around the perimeter of camp.

"I guess it's time to go undercover…" Spook 1 giggles out. Yes, she does happen to enjoy putting what small bit of power being a ghost has to use. "Okay… It should only really take two of us at a time to keep you covered." she continues, rubbing her ghostly little hooves together. "So me'n Number Two there will go first. If one of us gets tired, Three will jump in. You…" she points a hoof at Dakani, "…can do whatever. I dunno. Find the supplies? How's that sound?"

Sadaka nods thoughtfully. "Right." She takes a deep breath. "You guys can't get hurt or nothing, right?" she asks, looking around at her companions.

"Not the last time we checked!" Two chirps, Three scuffing a hoof. "Not by anything alive anyway. Zombies can sure eat ghosts…" Dakani stares at the trio. They're so…hyper. Upbeat, even, for dead ponies. It's weird. "O..kay. Well let's do this… I'll go sneak into one of those tents." That said, Dakani promptly fades out and begins floating her way base wards. Ghosts, the ultimate scout!

Two of the remaining ghosts move in to 'hug' the living zebra. It's cold… bitingly cold. But as a certain spying scarred pony can attest to, the phantasmal hug has a definite effect on making the zebra filly fade out when the ghosts do. Naught but hoof prints in the snow and a blurry 'heat wave' sort of effect when one tries to look directly at her. Stealth mode, engage!

Sadaka nods again, letting out a breath. "Okay. If… if anything… goes bad. Try an' get Papa Blackbird out. And if you can't, somepony go back to the base and try and bring help for him." She stares after Dakani for a moment. She doesn't really want to be transparent and floaty. Not yet anyway. She gulps, creeping forward slowly. Creep creep creeeeep. Prisoner tent, prisoner tent. Do you keep prisoners in the super-fancy tent? That doesn't seem like the place. So maybe one of the other two.

The scarred pony a ways back blinks…and snorts, picking up the pace. The ponies in the camp are busy; no one notices the walking heat-wave. Still, the easiest access to the tents seems to be to creep the perimeter and sneak in that way.

"Hey, let us know if you start feeling lightheaded or nauseous or something." one of the ghosts clinging to Sadaka and her snowsuit murmurs. "We don't know how this feels to living ponies…" "I'm actually surprised it worked."

Sadaka gives another small nod, creeping slowly around towards one of the tents, eyes flitting between all the guard-ponies in case it /doesn't/ work. She might blend decently well, in the snowsuit and all, but she doubts that's enough to rely on should ghostly stealthing fail! It feels… cold. But many things in this world seem to feel cold! And she's too on-edge to mind, really.

There are guards set out in front of all three tents. The ones standing in front of the farthest tent from her, however, turn to poke their heads into the tent. When they pull back out again, they seem to be having a low conversation.

"That looks highly suspicious…" one of the ghosts whispers in Sadaka's ear. "Do you want us to distract them..?"

Sadaka frowns. "Distract them how?" she whispers back, looking the tent over. Maybe she can just sneak in the back or something! Do tents have backs? Either way there's something in there worth talking about, and that means it's worth a look!

"We're ghosts." Spook One says, like it should be obvious. "We'll scare'em…"

They've got at least three ghosts there anyway, right? Dakani is…elsewhere. But the littlest spook, Three, suddenly appears right in front of the two guards! He stretches his mouth out impossibly wide with ghostly hooves and goes. "Blahahrawrhahah!" …And then follows it up with a simple. "Boo!"

The guards jump with a yelp, rearing back in surprise. Both ponies flail at Three, then grab their weapons and level it. "Back, spirit! This is no place for you!"

"Yeah," growls the other guard. "Yeah!"

Sadaka watches the scene nervously, ears twitching. She edges closer to the tent, step by step. They're distracted! But they're not moving. It might be enough! Maybe. Though she does have to keep pausing to remind herself that those weapons can't hurt Three.

Hey that's not part of the plan! Three blinks at the guards that haven't exactly run off screaming yet. He floats…to the side, making as if to float his merry way into the tent with the fancier emblem. "Fine then, I'll go in here and make a buncha noise instead!"

"What? No! Get back here before you disturb the Queen's Eyes!" They rear and, spears in mouths, gallop after the spirit.

"Moonfire, how do you kill a spirit?" grunts one.

"Beats me, but we're sure gonna try!"

"They're leaving their post..!" One whispers in Sadaka's ear again. "Go, go!"

Sadaka gulps but manages not to hesitate too long, darting for the tent as soon as the guards are out of the way. She skids to a stop just inside, looking around nervously.

Inside is a small group of prisoners, all tied up to their own posts. There's a pair of pegasi, a ratty little unicorn foal… or what used to be a unicorn foal, before her horn was broken off, a sleeping earth pony mare, and Papa Blackbird.

Blackbird, like the other prisoners, has no snow suit on, but the tent seems to be artificially warmed — probably by the red talisman hanging from the ceiling of the tent. He's bruised, and Sadaka might recognize the wounds on his back as whip lashes; said back is turned towards her, the teacher curled up on his side in the snow and facing the wall opposite the entrance.

Sadaka blinks and squeaks, scrambling over and casting one last cautious glance around before speaking. "Papa!" She has the sense to keep her voice down, at least, hissing it out just above a whisper.

Blackbird's ears slowly crane back, and he lifts his head, peering back at her. "Oh. Faaantastic. Hallucinating." And thump, his head goes down again, a huge sigh heaving his sides with a slight grunt of pain.

"Ooooh he looks horrible…" One whispers, both of the ghosts pulling away from Sadaka to let her be fully visible again. They float back a bit, perhaps to keep an eye on the tent entrance, and to look at the other prisioners. "This whole tent looks horrible." Two notes.

Sadaka lays her ears back, edging a bit closer. "No, Papa, it's us… it's me." She shivers a bit as the ghosts pull away - it's actually kind of /warm/ in here! That's… that's weird. She bites her lip, already looking around as she tries to come up with a plan. She was expecting to rescue one pony! Not five! But you don't just leave ponies behind. That's not what the good guys do.

Blackbird flomps a hoof over one ear, muttering a little about hallucinations. Clearly, Sadaka would not be out here. The unicorn foal raises her head and looks at Sadaka a little mournfully, but doesn't say anything.

"Geez… You'd think he'd be a little more grateful to see his daughter." One mutters. Two nods. Three is…probably busy. And Four? That is, Dakani? She floats in through the back of the tent where Blackbird's facing. Somehow she knew she'd find the others here! "I found the supply tent! It's in the other not-fancy tent!" Oh hello Real Blackbird!

Sadaka nods, smiling over at Dakani. "Okay, good. I… I think we're gonna need 'em. …I think he's pretty hurt." She twitches an ear worriedly, looking over at the unicorn. "…It's gonna be okay. I'm gonna get you all out of here… s-somehow…"

The unicorn smiles hopefully, but she doesn't say anything, and she stays shackled where she is. But Blackbird finally squints back at Sadaka… then spies ghost-Sadaka. And he LEAPS to his feet. "SADAKA!" AAAA
Squeak! "Shhh, shh, Papa, it's okay! It's okay, that… that's Dakani! It's not me!" Well. It… it might be. "I'm not dead!" That's true, at least! Sadaka gives a little bounce. Look at meeeee, totally not dead over here, yep!

Dakani, meanwhile, squeaks and hovers over behind Sadaka! "I s..see you found your papa! And he isn't dead yet! That's a lot of good news, isn't it? Oh…" She looks around at the other assorted prisoners.

Blackbird looks between them, mouth open…before he shakes his head and steps toward Sadaka. But alas, his bindings keep him on a short leash, and he can't reach her. "Sweetie, what are you doing here?" he whispers, glancing around nervously. "Did…you come to rescue me?" Oh god. Please no.

Sadaka nods, frowning faintly. "Some of the other ponies from the base should be coming too." Maybe. Hopefuly. Prooobably not. Depends what Snowfield did! She looks over at Dakani. "Were there snowsuits in there? Bandages an' stuff?" She peers up at the warming talisman thing. Maybe they could take that thingie! That would be nice to have in the base.

Blackbird stares for a beat, then takes a deep breath. Huff. Sigh. "Okay. What do we do, fearless leader?" he asks in a whisper. He pauses, then adds a wave for Dakani. "And hello, Dakani. Thank you for helping Sadaka."

"You're welcome!" Dakani says, scooting out from behind Sadaka. "There were definitely things in there that might help? But… You'll have to go get them." One and Two take another peek outside. "Maybe we should… Maybe we should go get help…"