Paradise Lost
IC date: Autumn 27, 1007 A.N.
OOC date: October 16, 2012
PCs: Jellybean, Sadaka, Winter-Solstice, Heartsong, Kludge, Magpie, Ruby-Blossom
NPCs: Professor Redmane, Pinkie Pie, Foal Horde
GM: Gamble

There's a ring of foals to one side in the main sleeping room of the hive. Most of them are wrapped in blankets against the chill (or ghostly fears), but every one of them has their gaze fixed on the piebald filly in the middle of the group, waving her hooves excitedly as she tells them about sunshine and summer and the warm, green world she knows.

Over by the main entrance to the room, Kludge is standing vigil. Okay, so "standing" might be a mis-statement; he's sitting and listening to Magpie's storytelling. Every so often he glances at his sketch pad and adds a few lines to one design or another, but mostly he's just keeping watch.

A tuft of curly pink hair slowly rises behind Kludge's shoulder - followed by more pink then Ruby red eyes - of course no pony notices as they're all far to busy. Suddenly Ruby springs out from behind Kludge "Hello everypony~" Pinkie-Pie's voice filling the room the pink pony bounds into the room - only this pony isn't Pinkie it's Ruby! The only thing not quite right is the Ruby colored eyes! "Oh wow! Is it a party? I am invited? Of course I'm invited, everypony always invites friends! Oh Sunshine! I love Sunshine - I mean, I would if I ever saw it. But sometimes if imagine really hard it's like I'm really there!" lowering her front to wiggle her tail before pouncing into the middle of the circle to tackle-hug Maggie - hoisting the foal into the air to ensure Maggie gets a good look at her eyes - clearly not Pinkie but she's playing make believe for everypony's entertainment.

Magpie blinkblinks at Rupinkie. "Uh… I thought your eyes were— never mind." She ums. "Hi." She squeezes the pink mare while the other kids start chattering about the Legend of the Summerlands and the beautiful white princess.

Kludge blinks at the odd arrival, but noticing that it's Ruby explains a lot. He watches with amusement, not interrupting what Ruby is doing. While he is not too surprised by the fact that Ruby is skilled at disguise (after all, her infamous alias looks quite different from her "civilian" guise), he can't say he was expecting this.

Ruby-Blossom sticks her tongue out at Magpie in a playful manner before cheerfully chirping "You silly goose." playfully tossing Maggie upwards before catching the mare then setting her back down. She playfully springs towards some of the other foals who find this filly to be quite silly - as she's clearly not the real Pinkie; fits of giggles ensue as Ruby bounds after the foals - getting everypony all worked up. "Roar! I'm clearly a monster!" she teases - difficult to take such a pink thing so serious. She bounds over to Kludge and staares up at him! Before bounding past and right out the door!

With a chuckle, Kludge stands up. "Okay everypony, let's go get her! I hear you can get her to surrender if you tickle her enough," he calls out. Hey, if Ruby's feeling feisty and playful, then why not join in and let the Foal Horde have a bit of fun?

Ruby-Blossom hears Kludge's battle cry just as she had decided to retreat and remove her 'costume'; a playful little squeek ensues as she dashes into one of the ajoining chambers to hide. Perhaps she can take them out one by one - if she's lucky.

With horde of foals in pursuit, Kludge follows after Ruby. He knows the mare went down this corridor, but he's not quite sure which room she ducked into. "Search each room in groups! If you see her, swarm her together and make lots of noise!"

The stallion has managed to whip the foals into a frenzy - the hoofs clip-clopping everywhich direction as foals stream in and out of chamers - one foal find herself in Ruby's room and is swiftly caught by Ruby who whispers "You're caught!" a playful hug ensues "Now capture more foals for me!" turning this into some form of game without any clear rules.

Well, this has turned into quite the playful little riot. Ruby's little "convert" starts hugging and "capturing" more of the foals, while a third group decides that forming their own team would be fun, and so on. Pretty soon it's a chaotic horde of running, hugging, and the occasional tickling, with Kludge in the middle to break things up if they get too rough.

Magpie peeks out of a hiding space — a corner under a little comb overhang that's /surely/ too small for a foal her size. "Is it safe?" she asks rhetorically, then wiggles out.

Kludge sidesteps over to where Magpie is, a few of the less active foals sitting on his back to stay out of the fray. "For certain values of 'safe'," he agrees as he makes sure he's not in the line of traffic.

Jellybean looks up from a blanket-nest he seems to have constructed for himself (he misses having a cloud to nap on) and waves to Magpie. "Uhm… as safe as it has been?"

Magpie climbs up one comb, then throws her hooves up and hauls herself up to dangle form the lip of the "upper bunk" Jelly occupies. "I just meant safe from the crazy foals," she explains. "They're, uh… what's that word…? Sounds like sheep?"

Magpie says "…rambunctious."

Jellybean thinks. "I like sheep," he decides. "They're nice. And fluffy."

Magpie blinks. "Um… okay." She thinks. "I met a sheep once."

…she stole his hat.

The game of whatever appears to be calming down into a more orderly chaos and is spreading out further across the hive. It's almost like multi-way hide-and-seek crossed with soccer crossed with whatever else seems good at the time. Oddly enough, the area where the Harborites are at seems to be one of the less active locations. Kludge still keeps his ears open for trouble, though.

Jellybean glides over and lands next to Magpie, who gets a little poke. "C'mon, you wanna play?"

Magpie ums. "Play what?" she asks suspiciously.

Jellybean tilts his head in the direction of the other foals. "Come on, doesn't it look a /little/ fun?"

Magpie weeeeeeell… she holds her hoof an inch off the ground. Only she was holding herself up that way so now she swings sideways, dangles, then drops.

Jellybean cheers and starts chasing Magpie around the hive, giggling happily. "Yay!"

Kludge smiles. Nice to see the Harborites enjoying themselves

Magpie shrieks and flees, runing around Kludge on the way to the outside where everyone else is playing and fighting.

Lots of folks playing and fighting and running around and scoring lots of meaningless points or goals or whatever else their particular facet of the directionless Game are up top. So is Winter, or as she likes to call herself, Firebase Bravo. This is because she's filling in for a snow fortress at the moment, lying prone in a snowy field, several foals huddling behind her for shelter as they have a snowball fight with several other foals twenty feet away. The other team are solidly entrenched behind a snow fort of traditional make, and you might consider that a disadvantage to their side, at least until Winter tilts her head to block an incoming shot, or lifts a hoof every now and then. She grins and laughs every time she gets a faceful of snow, even if her nose is pink and her mane is soaked and she has to tilt her head to dump some snow out of her ears every now and then.

Jellybean follows Magpie outside and sees the two groups of snowball-fighting foals and gets a remarkably innocent-looking smile: he lands behind a bush, waves Magpie over and starts making some snowballs.

Kludge follows the foals outside. *Someone* has to be standing guard, right? Might as well be him

Magpie gives Jelly a suspicious look, but allows herself to be called over. "What?" she asks, ready to spring back in a moment if he tries to have a go at her.

Winter-Solstice turns to look and see who's emerging from the hive tunnels, and perks up to see that it's people she knows! Which means they are her GOOD FRIENDS. She waves cheerfully at Jelly and Magpie, even if, in doing so, it means she lets her guard down and a snowball slips through to bean one of her charges. Winter gasps and turns towards the foal. "Autumn Dust! NOOOOOO!" She drags the filly close. "YOU WERE THE CHOSEN OOOONNnne oh wait, you're okay. Get back in there, slugger." Winter legs the squirming filly go and plonks right back down where she was, and then notices Kludge. Again, she moves to wave, and is about to shout something across to him when she gets a snowball in the mouthfghkfgbhcough agh

We interrupt this Game to bring you a special news bulletin. Here's our reporter on the scene, Pinkie Pie!

Not just Pinkie Pie! Oh no. Professor Redmane too. The pair burst through the small opening leading into the clearing, Pinkie looking determined, Professor looking…panicked!

"Kids! KIDS! Everypony! Gather around! Ga… Ahhhh…!" Out of breath, the Professor nearly skids to a halt in the snow, just in time to get pelted from multiple angles, the poor old pony getting buried under a small pile of snow! He holds a hoof up in surrender!

Pinkie, meanwhile, zooms /right past/ Kludge, "Sorrygottagetthefoalsandpackupquickbye!" she shouts on the way by, a pink and white streak, the sounds of things crashing about rising quick from the closer rooms of the hive. Followed by a rush of whatever foals were left that hadn't been outside playing in the snow, and a couple quickly-packed backpacks.

Jellybean is about to explain the importance of a third side in this Snowball War when Pinkie comes hurtling by. "…did anypony catch what she sid?"

Heartsong jolts awake as they're all toppled out of the hive, flailing a bit as she's caught up in the rush. "What's going on? Wh-where're we g-going? What h-happened?"

Magpie 's eyes widen. "Wait, what? Did she say we have to leave?" She doesn't have her snowsuit! Or her favorite blanket!

Kludge watches Pinkie go with a "you have GOT to be kidding me" expression on his face. "If I'm reading the mood correctly, Jellybean… we have not-niceties heading this direction, and we have to get the foals to safety." Taking a deep breath, he bellows "WINNY! GET THE SLED READY, NOW!" and rushes to help load up the sled. Supplies, foals, whatever's needed for the trek out of here.

Sadaka peeks out of the hive once the main rush has passed by, frowning. "…What's going on? Are… are we going somewhere?"

Winter-Solstice has snow in her ears, so when she sees Pinkie running by, and hears Pinkie shouting something, she has no idea what's going on! She grins and waves to Pinkie. "Get in the hole and pack a pigsty? Oh, Pinkie Pie, you DO go on." She settles back in until the rapid dissolution of the cheerful mood finally sinks in. She shakes the snow out of her ears just in time to hear Kludge shout his command, and although she make take issues with how he thinks just because he has a beard he gets to be in charge, which is NOT how it goes, thank you very much, that can wait. "BOTH TEAMS WIN GOOD GAME GUYS GOT TO GO" she belts, hoppping to her feet, whirling about, and romping across to the other side of the field, where waits THE SLED.

The supplies on it were brought inside a while ago, but the sled is there, waiting for the next time the HIve Express takes off for a few more loops around the structure. Winter nabs it and throws one rope over her shoulder as she drags it over to the hive entrances, moving quickly because A) there is nothing on it and B) oh my gosh hurry you guys. Okay, that first bit isn't true, since a foal immediately hops on board and throws his hooves in the air with a 'whee.' Winter reflexively shouts "WHEEE." in response, although she isn't smiling. Instead, she's heading towards the Professor. "Professor! What's going on?"

The Professor climbs out of his snowpile, digging snow out of his ears, some of the foals realizing there's a problem and circling around the older pony. There's, of course, questioning murmurs and wide eyes and everything. He finds his glasses, adjusts them carefully, coughs into a hoof, and then…

"We have to /leave/ now." he responds to the various questions of 'what', hopping out of the snowpile to start checking the sled of supplies. "There is a horde of monsters heading this way. …Well, more like shuffling. They're slow. But they'll be here within the hour, and I don't feel like giving them Pony to snack on."

Pinkie Pie pushes a /huge/ pile of more supplies out from the hive. Probably the rest of The Stuff, and then wriggles underneath the mountain. Apparently fully intent on carrying it all herself! She's got her snowsuit and mask and everything on already. "It can't be helped! This was a great hiding place until now. But I'm /positive/ those creepy things are what I'm feeling! We'll just have to move in with you guys instead."

Jellybean starts helping ponies putting things on the sled as fast as he can. He's fast, but they're small trips. "But are you going to be safe at the base?" he asks.

Magpie says "W-wait. Wait. Shuffling? Creepy?" There's only one creepy thing that shuffles, right? "Z-z-z-zombie ponies?" she whispers."

Winter-Solstice stares at the Professor for a moment, expression falling. "Monsters… coming here?" She looks back over her shoulder. Behind her, the Sled is being loaded. She releases the single rope she's holding and moves towards the hive a few steps, ready to start helping with the loading effort. "How? Did we… did WE lead them here? Were we too loud?" She looks back over her shoulder at the Professor, her expression genuinely distraught. "Did we have too much fun? Did that bitter berry of a queen go 'oh! fun senses tingling! better go stomp it all out!' I bet she did!" She frowns and turns back towards the hive, just in time to see a filly- Autumn Dust, defeated in the great snowball war of 1007, she took a snowball to the face for our freedom- staring up at her with wide eyes. Winter shuffles. "Er, er. Don't talk like I do, kid." She reaches up and pats the filly on the head. "Stay in school." And with that, she tromps into a tunnel to assist with bringing salvageable goods out.

"Unfriendlies coming, have to move to main base, got it," acknowledges Kludge as he loads the sled. He does try to set up the load so the foals can ride in (relative) comfort, and he does pause long enough to put his own snowsuit on, but mostly it's a matter of piling the goods onto the sled.

Heartsong blinks over at the Professor. "They're coming… here? Now? But… but it's early! Isn't… isn't it early?"

Sadaka blinks and tilts an ear, frowning. "…W-wait! What… wh-what about the… the p-ponies, in the H-hive, last night… they t-told us about this, we… we can't just leave 'em here if we're all leaving…"
Jellybean stifles a wail when zombie ponies are mentioned and tries to keep his head down. "We need to finish packing and go. We can talk about what's coming later. Err, can we?"

Magpie grabs a jacket and pants and starts wiggling into them, suddenly frantic and rushing. This is crazy this is crazy this world stinks

"Safer than here!" Pinkie chirps, more cheerfully than she has any right to be. "It won't be so bad. I know there's not a /ton/ of space for a bunch of foals to stay there, but we'll figure something out. We always do! It's our survival instinct!"

The Professor is doing what he can to not look grim about the whole situation. Space management was tricky enough! Maybe if they remodel some of the cafeteria… …Hm. His ears perk up, the old coot peering through his glasses at Magpie. "Zombies is…somewhat accurate. I'll be happy to explain once we're on the road." Then he, too, helps get supplies loaded, and tied down.

"I don't know what's /drawing/ them here. I just know that they've suddenly decided this place is a great place to hang out." Redmane grumps. "Okay! Foals! Line up and get ready for a long walk!"

Pinkie PIe zips over to the clearing's exit, poking her head out. "…Okay! Let's go while the getting's good! Everybody got their things? Good!"
Magpie starts helping chivvy the smaller foals into a line. Come on, come on, hurry!

Winter-Solstice finishes loading what she can, then takes a moment to strap herself up. "Kludge, stay close and help shore this thing up if it needs it, okay? This is a lot more than we've loaded it up with so far and I dunno if she can handle it!" She leans forward into the harness with a grunt. The snow around the entrance to the hive is thin and pounded flat; the old runners of the old sled are reluctant to go very far without a nice powder to ease their way. Winter bites her lower lip and strains before the Sled gradually begins to scoot forward. "Uuuff! I've given 'er all she's goot, cap'n!" she pants as she works into a steady trot. "She cannae take much more a'this!" Behind the sled, Autumn Dust helps push, reaching up every few feet to give a little shove against the back end.

"Go ahead and get started; I'll do a final check and catch up," volunteers Kludge. He trots through the hive, giving all of the rooms a once-over to make sure nothing important is being left behind.

His main goal, though, is the honey room. As he enters that cavern, he knocks on the arch of the entrance. "Hey you three, there's some nasty things approaching. Do you want to come with us back to the main base?" After all, it's only polite to offer friendly ponies an invitation to your place when they've been reasonable hosts… even if they are ghosts.

Sadaka blinks and perks up slightly, scrambling along after Kludge. At least /somepony/ listened to her! …Or had the same thought on his own, more likely, but the result is the same, so she's gonna pretend he listened to her. She peeks into the honey room, ears back shyly. "Hello? Are you still in here? …W-we don't wanna leave you b-behind…"

Once the Professor realizes Winter's plight, he alters course a little. "Ah… Kids! We're going to do a little train experiment now! You lot." he points a hoof at some of the older, almost-not-foals, "Please help our dear supermare with the sled, would you? The rest of you, watch for anything that drops, pick it up if you can. If you can't, leave it, it's not worth risking a life over!"

Night Light and a few others Professor pointed at hop behind Autumn Dust, lending their weight to getting things moving!

Pinkie looks back at the sled, then out past the entrance again, "Uh… Uh! Hurry up please! First uninvited party guest is shambling up! H..he must have gotten up early..!"

Meanwhile, inside the hive, Kludge and Sadaka are met with…silence. And then a trio of gasps. "What?" "You came back for us..?" "But… We're ghosts!"
Magpie puts her forehooves on the back of the sled and pushes hard. It's like pushing on a wall, and it feels utterly pointless…
Jellybean runs up next to Magpie and starts helping her push. "Come on, everypony!"

Heartsong hurries over to help with the sled, wings fluttering nervously as she tries to push.

"So?" shrugs Kludge. "You're still nice ponies, you're still our friends, and you did mention that these approaching things are going to eat you. Why wouldn't we offer to help? And on that note, anything we can do to help you get to safety?" This is mentioned in about the same matter-of-fact tone as "snow is cold" or "Pinkie is bouncy".

"Wha wha whoop whoop whoop!" says Winter with surprise, as the unexpected boost of power helps the ricket old Sled accelerate a bit more quickly. She doesn't waste an ounce of the added momentum, redoubling her efforts, broad hooves digging deep into the snow, lean legs pushing hard to carry the sled forward. The assistance of the foals (and tweens) pays off, and soon the whole thing is moving at a brisk clip… towards the entrance of the grove, which the Sled barely fit through on its way in. Winter narrows her eyes and doesn't slow down. "Full power to the forward shields! ALL HANDS, BRACE FOR IMPACT!" The crowd following behind falls back, making way, some watching eagerly, others wincing in anticipation. Autumn Dust clambers to the top of the tall stack of supplies and watches with wide eyes, soon ducking down. The trees loom near! The sled doesn't slow!

With an awful creak and a muffled crash, the sled half-wedges itself between the trees, half-slams through them. Most of it, including the structure, manages to carry on through, but a good heap of supplies are sheared off the pile- boxes of clothes tumbling into the snow, a bushel of Delicious Blue Leaves breaking open and scattering like… uh… like leaves. One of the Sled's runners is left bent inward at the back, at a funny angle, and the whole stack teeters precariously for a moment. Thankfully, Autumn Dust grips tightly and leans in the opposite direction, providing ample counterweight to keep the stack upright until it's steady once more. And Winter plows on, calling back over her shoulder. "Cover our tracks as best you can! We can't let them follow a trail of junk back to the base if we can help it!"

She grits her teeth as she continues to canter along, the harness stretched tight around the muppet print of her hodgepodge snowsuit. "And if they get close… I'd like to see them TRY to stop us!"

Jellybean starts flying once the sled is moving, the better to keep both tracks and weight down. He's kiiiinda freaking out right now, but there you are.

Sadaka blushes and scuffs a hoof. "W-well… that's not /your/ fault," she states with a sheepish shrug. "B-besides… you helped us. Now we w-wanna help you! It wouldn't be fair if you got eaten."

Magpie winces at Winter's last comment. "Don't say stuff like that!" she groans.

Magpie grabs a couple random things and whatever her magic can carry and hurries on after the sled.

"We just don't want to be alone anymore…" one of the ghosts murmurs. "We'll come with you…" the second says, all three fading into existance in front of Kludge and Sadaka. Poor little ponies. With their ghostly eyes and faded bodies. "Can we ride with you..?" the third one, smallest one of the bunch, asks Sadaka.

Outside foals are cheering! And running! And trying to pick up the junk falling off the sled! The Professor is hanging back to make sure all the foals get out, Winter pretty much leading the pack at this point, with Pinkie appearing right beside her! "Woohoo! You pull that sled! If anything ugly gets in the way, plow through'em! That'll teach'em to party crash!"

There are ponies missing… Professor Redmane grits his teeth and pokes his head back into the hive. A couple ponies did go back in there, right? "Anyone still in there? I don't want to leave anyone behind, but it's either go or get eaten!"

Kludge smiles at the ghosts. "All aboard," he says with a gentle voice, kneeling to offer a ride to the ghosts. Upon hearing the Professor, he calls back with "Almost on our way; give us a moment."

Sadaka blinks and blushes, but smiles, nodding. "Sure, okay…" She blinks and perks her ears at the Professor's shout. "We'd better go now, though. Papa Blackbird won't be happy if I get eaten." …Even she's surprised at how casually she managed to say that.

Magpie and several other foals are forming a sort of bizarre game out of it. Grab something that fell in the snow, run up to the sled, put it on, run back to grab something that fell off while you were putting something back on.

Beyond the borders of the grove, the snow is deeper, and even in their battered state the Sled's runners have an easier time… running. It makes it easier for Winter Solstice to maintain momentum- and course-correct as necessary, as the drifts and trees alter the course ahead. "Pinkie! Do me a favor and scout ahead, make sure it's clear where to go. I can't exactly do quick course-corrections with this thing!" Nor can she spend much time to help scoop up fallen items, or fallen foals, or anything to help anybody that falls behind, so she really really hopes it doesn't come to that. She glances back over her shoulder every couple dozen of feet, trying to get a feel for whether the whole crew is in tow- because even as she was plowing her way out of the grove, she could hear voices trailing off behind her, no doubt an indication of lollygaggers. Oh, man, she's gonna feel SUPER awful if she could have stayed and helped someone but didn't because she was in too much of a hurry to get a wagon full of old hats and ugly pants out of there in a hurry.

During one of these glances back, she catches Magpie, helping to cycle materiel back onto the top of the heap. "Maggie! Did we leave anyone behind?" she calls back. She then glances up. Look! It's Jelly. "'Bean! Fly up a bit, see if anybody's getting left behind back there. Let me know if I need to slow down!"

Jellybean is staying airborne, trying to keep an eye out on their surroundings and maybe catch whatever's chasing them. But then Winter gives him orders. "Yes Miss Solstice!" Pew! Jellybean off and away, back towards the stragglers!

Magpie calls back, "Uh… I don't think so!" But it's such an absolute gaggle of foals that… well… who can tell?

The three ghosts look…happy? There's something of a smile on ghostly faces, the trio of spooks seeming to fade a bit, their features growing fuzzy, distorted. All three of them seem to soak right /into/ Sadaka! If there was ever anything to compare the cold of the Wastelands to, having ghosts invade your personal bubble is high on that list! Like taking an ice cold shower from the inside out. "Thank you!" the three voices chime, seeming to radiate from inside the poor little zebra filly!

Professor Redmane paces. He doesn't want to leave anypony behind at all! But… Really. /Really/. His grumpy-old-pony voice comes out, the Professor's head sticking back into the hive. "Great galloping geezers, get a goldanged move on!"

It may already be too late… Winter, Jelly, and Magpie may notice during a glance-back that there are several somethings gathering around the opening of that once-safe clearing. They don't seem so interested in the fleeing sled, though one moss-covered /something/ does leap out and take a swipe at a foal passing by with a small box of leaves on his head! The foal leaps, bucking the box at the creature, dashing ahead to catch up with the rest of the group!

Pinkie salutes Winter. "I'm on it! Just keep following my tracks lady!" She zooms off, the pink dart tracing the path she knows all too well through this creepy forest. Hopefully there aren't too many uglies ready to jump in the way!

Well, that wasn't quite what Kludge was expecting, but he can't really say he was surprised, either. Instead, he throws Sadaka onto his back and heads for the exit. "We're moving, we're moving," he hollers ahead at the Professor. With a slight shake of his head, Kludge slides his hat back from over the top of his forehead. His head is still fairly covered by the snowsuit, but at least he's in better shape to use his surprise if need be.

Jellybean buzzes passed the stragglers. "Come on, we need to hurry! There are things coming!"

Sadaka squeaks in surprise, giving a startled little yipe! /That/ feels unusual indeed. She gives herself a slight shake. "Uh, y-you're welcome?" And then she's scooped up and they're running! Which is probably a good idea, 'cause she might not be all that fast until she shakes off that chill.

Magpie yelps as she sees a foal nearly get taken by the — things. She starts scooping up snow with her horn, hurling it back at the monsters — even if it's not much, a snowball to the face has to slow a body down, doesn't it? "Keep going!" she shouts to the foals, staying only long enough to get most of them past before she rejoins the retreat.

Winter-Solstice catches a brief glimpse of the encounter between the Shambler and the brave, box-wielding filly at the glade's entrance, just in time to see her escape, before a bend in the road obscures the view behind a tree. On one hand, she is SO PROUD that some of these kids took her lessons from the past few days- "If evil gets up on your face, kick EVIL in EVIL'S FACE"- to heart. Even if the box had to be a kick proxy. On the other hand, -oh my god there are shambling monsters attacking foals.- Winter looks back ahead with an agonized grimace, since even if things are working out, every bone in her body is telling her she needs to go back there and be a better protector. Clearly the answer is to get back to the base even faster, so she can turn around and come back and start smiting evil, so she tucks back into her Sled-pulling with all the more gusto, legs now churning at a full gallop, the snow flying up in a cloud as the trailing edge of the overburdened Sled digs into the powder between the runners.

On the good side of things, Pinkie's route through the forest really is a pretty short route all things considered! The trees thin pretty quick after the clearing is out of sight, Winter's sled catching up to Pinkie at the edge of the forest in record breaking time! A veritable army of foals, most of them out of breath and carrying random pieces of equipment, junk, or snowballs, falls in a loose pile around the sled, many groaning voices rising. "Ohhhh man…" "Never ran so fast ever…"

Pinkie's already on the job of counting, of the same mindset as Winter, but it looks like all the foals made it! …Well except for a certain trio of big stragglers. "Hey! Where's the Professor? And the striped foal? Um…"

MEANWHILE, Professor Redmane is running! With Kludge and Sadaka now! The Ugly Thing in front of the clearing entrance was met with a fierce buck from the old pony, showing that he's still got some spunk in these old bones yet, clearing the math momentarily so the three can get moving. "Follow the tracks!" he shouts, as several more /horribly/ stinky, and potentially decaying /things/ rise in the shadows all around, converging on that once place of hiding.

No need to tell Kludge twice! He barrels down the path fast enough to make up the distance, yet slow enough that Sadaka is less likely to fall off. Following a blazed trail like this does make things noticeably easier, and he's able to maintain a respectable pace at least long enough to catch up with the sled and the ponies around it. "Sorry we're late," he remarks as he slows down to a walk. "Just had to make sure that everyone was safely out of the cave."

Magpie scowls at Kludge. "We got everypony!" she scolds. "You coulda got yourself hurt for no good reason! And that'd make Ruby sad!"

"What? We're slowing down? Are we stopping?" asks Winter. It's getting hard to tell what she's saying, though, because of the whole distance thing. "can the monsters not leave the forest? we still have to get to safety you guys." The towering heap on the Sled means she stands out clearly, even against the surrounding grey murk of the Wastes. SHe's still running, and she's soon shouting, because man, funny how growing distances interfere with conversation. "look guys if we can slow down someone let me know so i" The wind picks up and carries the rest of her chatter away.

"Whoa, wait up!" Pinkie shouts, prancing on hooves, "Oh my… Kids! After that sled! Don't let it out of your sight until we get to our new home!" The army of foals promptly scamper off down the trail Winter's blazing. …This is going to be quite the mess of hoofprints to clean up. Luckily Heatsink left that weird not-sled behind to help!

The Professor catches up to Kludge and co about the same time Pinkie finishes strapping herself to that snow-churning thing, both of the ponies nodding to each other. "Back to running then!" Redmane shouts, charging off after the foal squad, the fleeing sled, and everything. This may be the shortest base run in history!

Left behind, Pinkie heaves a soft sigh. "…Oh well. I guess somepony's always got to stay behind to clean up after the party's over…" She's not going to be moving quite /as/ fast as the others, what with that thing she's dragging helping cover tracks. Hopefully it's enough to keep any passing horrible things from catching their trail!