Wrong Place Night Time
IC date: Summer 83
OOC date: September 11
Location: NICE Factory
PCs: Magpie Tale-Chaser

The Crimson Crusader, her coat dark gray, her cloak… well, crimson I guess? Anyway, she's at the appointed place at the appointed time, waiting at the outskirts of Tinker Town, the part of town where all the weird machines are kept with the crazy ponies that make them. She lurks in the shadows, which is slightly less effective on account of A) wearing a bright red cloak and hat, and B) it's night, so everything is kinda one big shadow anyway. So she lurks in the moonshadow with a cat which is possibly named Stevens.

As far as good ideas go, following the instructions of mysterious notes left by unknown parties for unclear reasons rates pretty low. Tale Chaser, however, while perfectly capable of doing things that are *smart,* has never really been the type to do what is *wise.*

Nevertheless, he's not sure exactly what motivated him to meet at the appointed place at the appointed time. He keeps his head low as he pokes his way down the road to tinker town, glancing this way and that. What's he on the lookout for? This CC character. He was told to 'come prepared,' and he is, with bookbags at the ready. He's got blank paper, two sharpened pencils (plus his pencil sharpener), some granola bars and a little baggy of trail mix (note: seapony trail mix is mostly dried seaweed), and a few handy manuals on things like identifying mammals and navigating by starlight. There aren't many ponies out at this time, and the ones he does see he tends to stare at for a bit, trying to determine if they're who he's looking for, until he realizes that, no, they're not, and he looks away with an embarassed blush.

The Crusader almost facehoofs when she sees Tale Chaser being as obvious as possible. Finally she takes pity on him and steps out, cloak shining in the streetlight for a moment before she slinks back into darkness. "Psst."

Tale Chaser jumps at that sight of red. "Oh! Oh, that's- okay, I guess that makes sense, that being what CC stands for…" he says. He then blinks, glancing about. "Oh, uh, oops." The colt hastens to join her in her hidey-spot, and once he does, prances about on his hooves. "So, er, how's… how's it going…?"

The Crimson Crusader (YES that's what CC stands for I thought you were SMART) grins in the dark. "Ready to fight some crime?" she mumbles in a low rasp. "I got a good one this time."

"N- yes," blurts Tale Chaser. He then suffers a bit of internal conflict about lying about being ready to fight anything. "What's the crime…?" He looks down at his bag. "I didn't bring any brass knuckles. I don't… actually… own any, though…"

"That's okay. We're just sneaking in and pokin' around for now. And I brought you an outfit!" The Crusader presents with a flourish a black cloak and matching hat with a long white feather stuck in the band. Tale Chaser might just recognize that he's seen it once before — when Sunshine gave it to Magpie at her birthday…

Quite honestly, Tale Chaser was so worried about his own gift to Magpie that he barely remembers what else she got that day. The cloak and hat don't ring any bells. "Oh…" He reaches out and accepts them, first reaching up to don the hat, and smiles lopsidedly. "How's it look…?" he asks, adjusting it, then tugging the cape on and tying it carefully. "What do I call myself?"

The Crusader hmmms. She grins. "Oh! I almost forgot!" Her horn glows, and she lifts a domino mask just like her own, and plops it on Tale Chaser's face. "Gotta hide your identity," explains the master of disguise, as she forgets to disguise her voice.

Between being so overwhelmed by everything and being so used to hearing Magpie's voice that he doesn't really register it consciously, the slip goes unnoticed. Tale Chaser carefully removes his glasses, then ties the mask on, then reapplies his spectacles over them. "I could be, um…" He pauses and stares into the distance. "… the Manta Ray? That's… kind of spooky." He sits down and thinks for a bit, frowning at the ground. "Jellyfish Lad? No… er… Night…. Nightfin… wait, orcas have black on 'em. I could be the Orca- no… er… hey, do you want a granola bar?"

The Crusader says "…"

Tale-Chaser rustles about in his saddlebag. "No…? I brought extras."

The Crusader suggests, "Shadow Stalker!"

The Crusader says, "Oh! No, no! DarkFire!"

"As in I… I stalk in the shadows, or I stalk shadows themselves…?" asks Tale Chaser. He stares, then shakes his head. "Anyway, what's this crime we're gonna fight, anyway?"

"Oh. Right. Right." Hem. The Crusader waves a hoof towards the NiceCo factory. "THEM." There ought to be a dramatic crash of thunder, or a brass ensemble to play DUN DUUUUUN.

Off in the distance, a steam whistle blows as a ship pulls out of the factory's big bay doors. Does that count?

Tale Chaser turns to look up at the factory, pulling the brim of his hat up to do it. He watches for a moment, then looks back to Magpie. "Yeah? What'd they do?"

The Crusader heads off towards the factory at a determined pace. "I don't know yet," she growls. "But I'm gonna /find out/!"

Tale Chaser hastens to catch up, and follows behind, trotting along. He surges ahead for a moment, then slows up, then repeats the process, trying to make his cape billow out behind him. "Oh, okay. Crime fighter's hunch, right? Sort of like The Shadowhoof's Detective Sense(tm). He can smell wrongdoing, you know. Can you? Is this what this is like?"

For the most part, the factory is dark. That ship that sailed was apparently the last one for the evening, and all the other workers have gone home. All that leaves are a couple security-type ponies in plain sight, one roaming around the outside perimeter, and one glimpsed through the front doors shining a light outside before wandering back in.

The factory looks downright spooky at night. So many dark, blocky, metallic shapes everywhere!

The Crusader pauses at the fence, rubs her chin. "Hmm. Guards." She points at the nearest patroling guard and looks at Tale Chaser. "Can you go knock him out?"

"Can I knock-" blurts Tale Chaser in alarm, looking to the Crusader. He then sets his jaw and shakes his head. "No, I- that's not something I can do at all. I can't… er… oh!"

He roots around in his saddlebag, fishes out a granola bar, and hefts it in his hoof. He then sits up, winding up, and FLINGS the granola bar over the fence, over the guard's head, and into some bushes at a distance. The colt then hunkers back down and watches. "-Distraction snack!-"

Bushes rustling! WHAT! The guard's head snaps to attention, eyes narrowed and horn aglow, sending a spotlight that way. Nothing immediately obvious prompts further investigating, the guard trotting over to get a closer look! (maybe it was just a snowbunny)

The Crusader is about to say something when …. huh. Okay. "I guess that works." She grabs the bottom of the fence and bends it up as much as she can. "OK, crawl under. DON'T rip your cape," she says with a serious scowling eye.

Tale Chaser is on his belly and wiggling through. He is surprisingly adept at this. It's a seapony thing, you see. He pops up on the other side and reaches out to help keep the fenceh pulled up and out of the way. "Okay, your turn." He pauses. "Don't rip your cape either."

The Crusader clearly has some experience with wiggling through tight spaces herself — she slips under and, with a quick glance at the guards, trots silently towards the main building.

Tale Chaser scurries along. He keeps low to the ground and shuffles a bit. It's kind of a forward crab walk.

The Crusader mashes up against the NiceCo building. She peers at Tale Chaser. "Okay. This is a sneaking mission. Stealth will be required. Stay close and quiet. Uh… unless you see somethin' important. Then tell me." She starts to sneak along towards the dock area…

Tale Chaser looks up at the building and frowns, then smooshes his way up against the building as demonstrated, back and shoulders pressed to the wall, hooves slung out at his sides. He inches his way alog after the Crusader, stopping frequently to glance about. "I hear that if they catch trespassers here, they give 'em a job application and a pencil with their logo on it," he hisses after her.

Rustle, rustle, rustle. "AHA!" More rustling, of granola bar wrapper, and then… Munch. Munch.

Just past the front doors, into the lobby, there's the second guard sitting at the receptionist desk, his horn-light shining onto the desktop, into a book. He's reading on the job!

Around the building though, there's even less light. Any lingering light from the moon or the Harbor gets blocked out by the bulk of the NICE Co. building itself, leaving plenty of dark to walk through until one gets to the dock-side. The makeshift dock they've built out to handle the NICE Co. barges has a light shining just bright enough to illuminate the docks and where the back entrances are. There are several shuttered gates, probably leading to the factory floor where the products are pumped out, and one door that reads 'Service Entrance, Employees Only'. Closed, of course, but at least there don't appear to be any guards right here. It's locked with a simple padlock on the outside.

The Crusader blinks. "What? Why? … don't do it anyway," she mutters, poking TC in the ribs. "Don't join the evil corporation." Presumably evil, anyway.

The Crusader pauses at the employee entrance. "Keep an eye out." The purpose of the wide-brimmed hat is more obvious as she lights her horn, letting her hat block the glow as she lifts her rainbow-colored lockpicks (seriously WHO made these?!) and starts tinkering with that padlock.

"I don't think I meet their minimum age requirements, anyway," says Tale Chaser, rubbing his poked ribs. "That an' I have a degree so I can prolly apply for something besides- oh, ah…" He falls quiet and turns to keep an eye out. He doesn't notice the lockpicks, too busy making sure the eyes he's keeping out -stay- out. Though at one point he turns to grab the Crusader by the shoulders! "Aack! Hide! It's-" Pause. He sheepishly draws back. "Oh, sorry. That's, um. A bush. It looked like it was movin'…"

It takes some fidgeting with the lock (apparently it wasn't as simple as first thought), but the stubborn thing eventually gives a satisfying *snick* of sound, snapping open to Magpie's skillful picking. The door is unlocked! The mysteries of metal and mayhem that is this factory will soon be unveiled to the Crimson Crusader and her faithful sidekick whosthatpony!

The Crusader almost yelps and does drop her picks. She scowls. And starts over. Finally after another minute the lock goes "chik" (or possibly "snick") and she slips it off the door, laying it carefully in the dirt beside. "Come on, Jumpy. Let's see what they're hiding." She slowly cracks the door, then opens it and slides inside.

"M'not jumpy," says Tale Chaser guiltily. This is not true and he realizes it. He gathersh is cloak about himself, hooked over one leg and held before his face, and tucks his head low and slinks in behind the Crusader. He's not especially skilled at slinking, though, especially with one leg devoted to Surreptitiousing, so he's got sort of a slow-motion quasimoto lope going on. "Well, er, probably the factory floor," he says. "Though you could see that anyway when they were doing tours…"

The Crusader does head towards the factory floor. "Yeah? Not all of it though. Didn't wanna say much about that creepy green fire, did they." Words like "thermodynamics" don't mean anything to Magpie, but she knows "You don't get something for nothing" all too well, and "It's magic" doesn't seem sufficient.

Tale Chaser sits up and looks about, trying to spot the reactor. "What, the power generator? You, er, is that what we're here for? Do you think it's- it's illegal?" He frowns. "Maybe it, er, violates certain… environmental standards… though that's…" His voice falters. "not to question your, er, how you do your superhero thing, but that's not… really the most exciting… kind of crime to, um… fight…"

The interior of the factory is pretty dark at night, as expected. The dark shapes of still machines loom large across the entire factory floor. Conveyor belts and catwalks cast shadows where the moonlight can sneak in through the few skylights and windows there are in the building. There is a light on the second floor, where a pony shadow paces back and forth. Bellows, most likely. And another light in the office across the factory, where a pony involved in record-keeping might be finishing up their job.

Of course if the 'reactor' is the target, it looms over towards another wall of the facility. There is no fire in it right now, silent as a tomb and just as imposing.

The Crusader glances at Tale Chaser. "Keep an eye out for kidnapped batpony foals while you're at it," she says, "Or orphans being forced to work in the mines… or, uh… assembly lines? I dunno. Anything looks weird, okay?" She pokes around the reactor. It's gotta have, like… doors and stuff. Maybe Tale Chaser should be doing this.

"There's an asasembly line," says Tale Chaser, pointing immediately to his left. "Oh, er…"

He bustles over to the reactor and starts looking it over. Like a great, sleeping beast, it lurks in one corner of the broad factory floor, cold and quiet. The grill from which the green fire glowed before is dark and empty and grinning.

The colt reaches up and taps a hoof on it. Clunk clunk. "It smells a bit like pine needles," he says.

The Crusader frowns. "Yeah…" She rubs her head. "Burning pine?" That doesn't make sense, unless— "So… does it really run everything in here?" She peeks nervously up at where there was movement before. "Maybe it's a fake, just a big fireplace?"

The reactor… It's a confusing mass of pipes and gauges, stretching in almost tree-like fashion from the floor to the roof. Pipes lead to all of the machines in the factory. The biggest pipe, where that grill grins out at the world, looms upstairs to a small room that's likely to be the control room. It's currently dark, too.

Tale Chaser sits back, looking up. Between the cloak and the broad-brimmed hat, he presents a pretty black proifile from certain angles. "You wanna try and open it up?" he asks. "Or maybe go see where the controls go?"

The Crusader shrugs. "I 'unno. That's why I brought the smart guy. You tell me." Maybe she should've gone to investigate the orphanage instead? …but Whistlestop works there… he wouldn't be involved in anything bad! …not hard to trick him, maybe…

Tale Chaser squirms slightly. He's not sure what they're looking for, or even if there's something to be found. How should he know where it will end up being at? He stares at the reactor for a moment. "Here, I think I see a latch into the furnace," he says, pointing up to a claps on one side of the grinning black grill. "Lemme boost you up an' you can see if you can open it."

A little grin in the darkness, a playful bump. "You just wanna look at my rump," she accuses playfully, then trots over to await her boosties.
It's a good thing Tale Chaser has a dark outfit and poor lighting conditions to hide his blush. "No I don't," he says, defensively. And it's true, that wasn't really why he suggested the idea. But now that she's brought it up, he can't stop thinking about it.

As such, he's shaking a bit as he slips closer to the reactor and hunkers down, then gestures back to his shoulders. "Here, climb up…"

The Crusader hops up on TC and stretches up. "Okay, what am I doing?" she asks, giggling a little at the cute colt's discomfiture.

Tale-Chaser shifts about such that the Crusader can balance on his shoulders as he struggles to stand upright. With his front hooves braced on the side of the reactor, it's not too difficult, and he slowly ratchets himself upright, lending his height to Magpie's own. "See that latch? Pop it open…"

On the side of the grill, there's a big ol' metal latch, cinching it shut. It's juuust out of Magpie's reach. Opening it would presumably allow the grill to swing open on the hinges on the other side, h owever, and allow access to the inside of the reactor/furnace/pipe monstrosity.

Welp, the smart guy said! The Crusader gives the latch a slow, careful pull and nudges the door… "Are we getting inside?" she asks.

The latch is big and heavy and stubborn. It doesn't want to open without a bit of ooomph behind it.

"I dunno. I don't know how this thing works at all," says Tale Chaser. "It's a- it's a-"

It's a LeyLux Unidrive(tm) Energarium, at least if the big fancy text painted across the top is any indication.

Tale Chaser swats a hoof up at the words. "It's one of those things. That's about all I know about it…"

The Crusader grunts and gives the latch a really good push. "SOunds… made-up… to me…"

"You… know a lot about, umph- magic-driven energy… drive… thingamabobbers…?" asks Tale Chaser. "Is that what you do when you're… not fighting crime? mmph!" He struggles to keep his balance as Magpie's pushin' shifts her balance and sets the colt to wobbling beneath her. It doesn't help when the latch goes POP and releases suddenly.

The sound of the metal clasp clunking open rings across the silent, echoing factory floor. There's a flash of light as someone with a lamp shines it in the direction of the furnace, trying to determine what it was. Tale Chaser sucks in his breath and falls silently, glancing back over his shoulder (and seeing nothing but Crusaderhoof).

The Crusader drops to the ground, grabs TC, and drags him forcibly around the side of the reactor. Hunkers there. Quiet, quiet, wait…

Tale Chaser flops about at the end of Magpie's hoof as he's dragged to a shadowy spot. He's not especially useful, but at least he's quietly useless.

The light flashes about once more, sweeping across the furnace, its branching pipes, the floor nearby. Looks like it's a guard on the walkway up above, the one that runs around the circumference of the factory floor. he's approaching, shining a flashlight held in his teeth down below, but doesn't seem to have seen exactly where the noise came from.

In the fashion of guards everywhere, he talks to himself with a clarity proportional to the number of hiding ponies that can overhear him. "Huh… musta been something falling on the floor…" he says. "Back to patrollin', I guess." He shines the light at the furnace once more, but doesn't look closely enough at the strong shadows cast by his light to tell there's anything back there, then turns around to go back to his patrol on the other side.

Tale Chaser slowly lets out the breath he was holding, in a soft squeak like a deflating pool toy.

The Crusader lets out her breath in a 'whew' and plants a kiss on Tale Chaser's nose. "Let's go see that thing now. or, uh. Actually I don't know anything about magiwhatits. D'you wanna have a look?"

Tale-Chaser wiggles his nose, then slaps a hoof over it. He's back to blushing. "Uhunno," he says. What with the guard, the kisses, and the rumps, he's feeling a little overwhelmed at the moment. "Can you get it open now…?" After a few moments of huddling in the corner he realizes that maybe she hasn't suddenly gotten tall enough to reach the grate herself, and slips out from behind to resume his perch position. "Okay, climb up there, grab the edge and open it…"

The Crusader can do it! She tugtugs to open the vent… thingy, and sticks her head inside.

The grill is heavy, but it swings open silently on new, well-oiled hinges.

Inside it is big and empty and dark and smells like pine needles. There is no green fire. It's hard to see much of anything, in fact.

"So?" asks tale Chaser, expectantly.

The Crusader conscientiously unclips her cape and drops her hat on TC's head. "Hold this," she says, then hauls herself up and slithers halfway into the opening. SHe paws around a little where the flame was before.

No, really, there really isn't much of anything in there. It's like the inside of a big empty pot, freshly washed and ready for stew to be cooked in. There's no soot, no residue on the walls. There's no green flame and there's nothing to indicate there's anything other than metal walls and a grill over the top.

There is a hole at the bottom- a narrow, drain-like aperture leading downward. There's a mesh grating covering it. A few, smaller holes are in the top, leading into the branching pipes that fan out from th e top of the furnace.

Tale Chaser hangs onto the cape and hat. He carefully settles the cape over his cape and the hat atop his hat, then looks up at the Crusader, or at least her back half, as it dangles from the edge of the opening.

He tries not to look at her backside.

The Crusader's legs flail a bit as she pokes around, then she slides out of the hole again. She peers at her partner. "I dunno, I kinda figured there'd be more stuff inside," she says. "It just looks like… I dunno… a nothin'." She takes her hat back, and her cape. One must dress appropriately. "What's next? Figure out what makes the machines go? Or try to find a book that says 'muahaha, here's all the evil stuff we're doing'?"

Tale Chaser helps the Crusader back down to the floor, and shrugs. "I don't know… there wasn't anything at all inside? Really? Not even, like…" He shakes his head. "Well, they, uh, it is supposed to be a really clean power source… but it does seem a little TOO clean." He rubs his head. "We, er, we use a lot of- a lot of magical engines and stuff back in the Starlight Kingdom. Maybe it's… it's one of those? But this is a lot different. I don't see how all the pipes would help with that."

The colt turns away and looks up. Various stairways lead up to the walkway, and the walkway leads to the offices and other such rooms above the factory floor's eastern end, suspended, structurally, from the ceiling. "Maybe they use real lead in their pencils instead if graphite. That'd be mean… we could find their pencil stash…?"

The Crusader gives TC a long look. Then slowly pulls him towards the assembly line. "Come on. Let's find something actually evil."

Tale Chaser falls into line behind the Crusader. "Okay, um…"

There are twelve assembly lines, arranged side by side, equidistant from one another, running from the east to the west. Conveyor belts of assorted specialized nature connect the looming profiles of big ol' machines. Presently, it's all quiet and dark, giving it the appearance of an exotic, alien orchard. But what sinister fruit does it bear?

Well, the nearest assembly line is covered in half-finished eggbeaters. Tale Chaser picks one up and stares at it, then turns and waves it at the Crusader. "Heh, um." Wave wave. "I was gonna make a joke about this, but… er… I can't… i can't think of one" He puts it back.

The Crusader says "Oh. Good job, uh… Thinkin' about bein' clever, I guess?" She doesn't know machines much better than generators, but she's willing to give it a shot. How hard could it be? Look for the thing that turns the other things. There's gotta be a first thing."

Tale Chaser stares. "Wha?" He turns and looks up at the closest machine on the assembly line. "Wait, what are you trying to do? Turn this on?"

The Crusader says "No, I just wanna know, y'know… what makes it go. The big green fire looks like a big green nothin' to me, so they must be hiding what really does make it all go. Because it's EVIL."

Tale Chaser ohs. "I see, um…" He stares at the machine for a moment longer, then looks around. He's soon hunkering low, looking underneath the raised conveyor belt, at the floor. "They're interchangeable, an' they kind of plug into… into a thing on the floor, like… oh!" He reaches out and thunks a big thick pipe jutting up from the ground that the big machine is plugged into. "I think this might be it."

The Crusader taps at the pipe. "Um…? Okay. What makes that go?"

"I don't know," says Tale Chaser. "But if it's externally powered, I don't see any other way for it to get its juice…" He taps a hoof on the pipe, then shrugs up at Magpie as he pushes upright once more.

The Crusader says "…I don't know what those words mean."

Tale Chaser scratches the back of his head. "Er… it means the power source… comes from outside the machine. As opposed to it having its own internal battery…" His broad black hat gets pushed down over his face and he pauses to adjust it. Then fix his glasses.

Meanwhile, there's a flicker of light. The guard patrolling the walkway up above is coming back this way, lazily scanning the shop floor down below. The machines and belts provide a wealth of hiding places, at least.

The Crusader ughs. "Whatever. Show me." She pushes up against the conveyor, then makes her way towards the guard, hoping to get under him..

Tale Chaser looks about with alarm as the light shines nearby, then squirms to hide underneath the conveyor belt. He looks out at the Crusader's hooves. "I… I don't know?" he says. "I don't know how they work, really! It must be something under the floor, that's all I can tell!"

The Crusader sighs. "Wellll. I was hopin' for more, but … I guess that'll do… let's get outta here before we have to fill out applications."

Tale Chaser picks his way out carefully. "If… if you say so…"

The guard doesn't seem to be paying too much attention. There's never really anything going on down below. Now, getting up onto the walkway without getting noticed,t hat might be tricky, but making their way back to the door on the western side of the factory floor and outside shouldn't be too difficult.

The Crusader peeks around before she actually goes outside, and once TC is with her, she sneaks the lock back into place and clicks it shut. There. Nopony will ever be the wiser.

Tale Chaser is back to hiding his face behind the cape as he waits for the lock to get shut. "Maybe we shoulda exited through the gift shop…" he says. "We don't really have any, uh… souvenirs…"

"Well, maybe we'll come back sometime soon." The Crusader winks. Then, with an eye out for the guards, makes her way to the fence and freedom!

The guards are easy enough to avoid with a few more applications of DISTRACTION SNACKS. Tale Chaser almost gets his cloak snagged on the fence, but catches it at the last moment before a hole can be torn in it. "I hope they don't figure out someone was inside…" he says. "Do you… do you want the costume back…?"

The Crusader ums. "Well… It was kinda a gift," she admits, blushing. "I mean it's not like I don't want you to have it or something, only somepony might notice it's missing..?"

Tale-Chaser removes his hat and holds it before him as he reaches up and ruffles his mane. He then blinks. "Wait, did you pinch it from somepony?!"

The Crusader says "What? No! It was a gift to me and that means I can do whatever I want with it. INCLUDING giving it to a cute colt if I wanna."

"Oh…." says Tale Chaser, calming down. He looks down at the hat, then blinks. "Wait, cute?" He squirms about. "Er- th-thank you, then…" His nose suddenly feels hot where it got smooched earlier.

The Crusader grins. "Naturally." She bumps the colt, leaving a sooty smudge on his flank, then runs off into the streets of Horseshoe Harbor.

Tale Chaser watches her go. Does he follow? Does he call after her? He shakes his head. No- where she goes, he cannot. She walks a dangerous road- the thin line of red justice between madness and order. The fluttering edge of the shadow that hides the ugly truth of society from its citizens. The winding pathway that leads further and further into the dark recesses of the soul. She goes there so ponies like him don't have to. Thank you, Crimson Crusader. The citizens of Horseshoe Harbor may not realize it, but they owe you a great d-

"Nice hat," says a passerby, to Tale Chaser, who is standing in the middle of the street and staring off into the distance. He startles. "Um, uh, thank you," he meeps, before turning and romping home, cape aflutter.