The Order of the Stick: Utterly Dwarfed
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    Default Celestia's Finest: Stroll Patrol (Side Thread)

    A small tan and white bird flies around a gully, an eye examining the creatures and structures hidden away from most others. The sun is high in the sky. The heat is oppressive. The majority of animals have already sought shelter for a short while. An irresistible buzzing draws the bird farther toward the camp until it swoops on its bug prey. A crunch, a taste of metal, and choking send the bird on its way.

    The engine parts they so desired are being worked near their bird. Love’s eyes shift from that to the medical tent. Her vision soon becoming lost to something not inside her gaze. She doesn’t notice the movement at the entrance at first. After some time, she snaps out of it when she notices Scope and starts to approach him. She says, rather blandly, “Good afternoon.”, alongside a small nod of acknowledgment.
    Last edited by Elbeyon; 2018-01-27 at 04:27 PM.

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    Default Re: Celestia's Finest: Stroll Patrol (Side Thread)

    Had it not been for Red Tape indirectly reminding him of his propaganda plans, Sniper was sure he'd have lost his tenuous grip on sanity. The writing project was a blessing. It was also approaching the mind-numbing stage. Which meant that it was time for a break. The quiet, unchanging surroundings of the medical tent were starting to get to him. He needed to move around.

    It made him wonder how Blank was coping with what basically amounted to solitary confinement. Maybe he should move into the little hacker's room for a few hours. Blank wouldn't talk to him, but his presence might do some good.

    Sniper shook those thoughts free and decided to take a walk. Check on the others and go from there. It didn't take him long to run across the first member of the posse: Love.

    He returned the greeting and then added: "How's the repair work going?"

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    Default Re: Celestia's Finest: Stroll Patrol (Side Thread)

    "We think we got all the parts we need. The ship should be able to fly again before the end of the day." She shakes her head. "Everything is going great on that front. I'm taking a break is all."

    He'll surely say something positive. It's hardly worth asking. It'll simply annoy him. "How are you doing?" She'll slide past the question for him. "It's good to see you walking again. You out for a walk?" She steps off to the side so she's not blocking the tent entrance.

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    Default Re: Celestia's Finest: Stroll Patrol (Side Thread)

    "Overall, I'm doing better; aside from a few scars, there shouldn't be any lasting damage. Since Rose has cleared me to be up and about, I figured that I should get some exercise in before the day is done."

    Sniper nodded to the side slowly. It was an invitation for Love to join him on his little exercise binge.

    "I never doubted that you'd get the 'bird airborne again." He measured a hint of a smile. "You're good at what you do."

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    Default Re: Celestia's Finest: Stroll Patrol (Side Thread)

    "Yeah... scars. No lasting damage is about the best result possible." She lies, "You saved my life." She goaded him into a response.

    Love walks side by side with him. A hair's breath behind, so she can adjust her speed without overtaking him if he slows down.

    "Rose really pulled a magic trick out of her hat. She saved your life, a couple others, and you're already walking." She'd go on, but she's sure she doesn't need to tell him about Rose's treatment.

    She teases, "Really, no doubt at all?" Her voice normalizes. "I had doubts. There wasn't much that I could do. Without that billion bit salvage pile we weren't going anywhere fast. A mechanic is hard pressed to fix something without parts, and I didn't exactly bring a factory with me. Besides, I'm not the only mechanic here. Star could have fixed her up if I wasn't here."
    Last edited by Elbeyon; 2018-01-27 at 06:36 PM.

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    Default Re: Celestia's Finest: Stroll Patrol (Side Thread)

    "No. I knew you'd get it airborne somehow." Sniper replied. "It might not have been pretty, but you'd have figured out a way. You're a miracle worker. Just like Rose.

    "It's part of why Polaris is so afraid of you."

    He kept up a leisurely pace. He wasn't supposed to push himself, so he wouldn't. Yet.

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    Default Re: Celestia's Finest: Stroll Patrol (Side Thread)

    "Ha. You put too much confidence in me. I'm only as good as my tools, and I didn't have any. I can't actually pull off miracles."

    She shakes her head. "Polaris doesn't have a need to fear me. You ponies are the ones with all the guns. I'm helping him more than hurting. I think Rose is mad at me because so many ponies got hurt under my watch." She doesn't name any pony to avoid focusing on Scope. "I lead a bad mission that almost got the entire squad killed. I should have been on sensors the first day and prevented us from getting into this whole mess to start. It's been failure after failure. Today might be the first day of this mission something bad doesn't happen."
    Last edited by Elbeyon; 2018-01-27 at 08:34 PM.

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    Default Re: Celestia's Finest: Stroll Patrol (Side Thread)

    "Heh." His brief smile was genuine this time. "This old argument again: skill versus tools. When was the last time we got into it? That bar before the Tartarus mission, right?"

    Sniper contemplated her statements for a moment before dismissing them.

    "If Lars wasn't afraid of you, why did he set up Blank to kill you? Don't make any mistake, Love, that entire situation was designed to take you off the board. Lars wanted you out of the way. Like it or not, you're making life hard for him."

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    Default Re: Celestia's Finest: Stroll Patrol (Side Thread)

    She chuckles. "Sweet Peaches, yeah. It has been a while. I think I've re-centered toward the middle nowadays. It takes both skill and equipment to do what we do. More skill than equipment... maybe..."

    "Blank says he's been cooking for four years. I don't know if he's wrong or lying though. That's longer than the EDF has been around. I was a Royal Guard at that point. Heck, I still had my horn! Blank's connection to me might be a happy accident turned into a plan by Lars and Dr. Thought. They stole my brain to use against Equestria without..." Love seems to lose her train of thought, or she found another more interesting one.

    "You might be right. I hope your wrong though. I have a lot of weak points to exploit. There are too many for me to cover them all. My life could become a living nightmare. These guys don't play by the rules of decency. Blank, Ruby, and the ponies aboard the airship are sign enough of that. Blank... wants to kill me, you know?"

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    Default Re: Celestia's Finest: Stroll Patrol (Side Thread)

    "We'll get that fixed. They can do a lot to unwind that sort of thing at the Crystal Empire. If it can be done, they'll do it.

    "We all have weak points. You and I have existential crises, Rose struggles with her self esteem and Brazen, well, somepony needs to neuter that stallion so that he gets off Seafire's flank and back into the EDF." He was joking about that last one... Maybe. "Point is, we cover for each other. None of us can make it on our own, but if we watch each other's backs, we'll make it."

    Sniper let the conversation hang for a moment. Then he decided there wasn't any point in hiding from it any longer. He looked at Love questioningly.

    "You keep bringing up last night. What are you after?"

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    Default Re: Celestia's Finest: Stroll Patrol (Side Thread)

    "I'm not sure about Blank and my relationship. I don't even think he hates me. He seems neutral, indifferent, which might be worse."

    Love smiles at the mention of Seafire and Brazen. "I'm worried about all the ponies' backs I'm not guarding. The fox has a hen house full of targets to get to me. I'm emotionally invested in a lot of ponies he could hurt. There are a lot that can't defend themselves like us. I know we have each others backs. I know we'll survive"

    Love puts a hoof to her chin in response to his question. "I'm mostly venting my frustration. You're my rock solid wall. I'm not expecting you to be my cure all. I'm simply happy to share my fears and worries with a friend. I guess, if I was angling for something... Nah, It's not important. The last two days have been rough, but I don't think I'll have any lasting injuries." She snaps on a smile.
    Last edited by Elbeyon; 2018-01-27 at 10:29 PM.

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    Default Re: Celestia's Finest: Stroll Patrol (Side Thread)

    Internally, Sniper was about from a rock solid wall as you could get. But he understood what Love was getting at with her comments. He could accept that.

    He refusal to tell him what she really wanted was troubling. Experience was a rough teacher, but a teacher nonetheless.

    "Love, we've been down this road before. You can tell me what's going on. Otherwise it'll just fester and make things worse later..." Sniper took a deep breath. This was going to be interesting. "So how about we trade secrets? You tell me what's really bothering you and I'll give you a straight, honest answer to anything you want to know."

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    Default Re: Celestia's Finest: Stroll Patrol (Side Thread)

    Love chuckles. Her hoof clasps her mouth shut, but it continues for a bit more before she regains control over herself. She gives him a big old smile. "I don't want your secrets, not like that, not anymore. I'll ask, and if you want to answer me, answer me. If you don't, I'll accept your choice as gracefully as my clubbed hooves can manage. Let's give that a try, hm?"

    She clears her throat. "As a member of the EDF, and a member of the military I'll commend your bravery. Your efforts and sacrifices are an inspiration to us all! But, as a friend I'm troubled by a nagging feeling that's difficult for me to place. I do believe that your life is your own to do with what you please. Your body is your own. So, I'm having trouble myself figuring out why this is bugging me so badly... So, here's the questions: In the moment from your point of view, what is the percentage chance that I'd die from that explosion, and how much did that percentage change by you getting behind me?"

    Love holds up a hoof. "Before you answer, let me say that I believe my thoughts are mostly settled on an answer that makes me happy. I'm telling myself: Enough. It's your life. It's your thoughts. I'm not sure if I could live with myself if you made the ultimate sacrifice, and I was too pigheaded to accept your wishes. So, let me say that I accept your choice. It may be my dead body covering your flank one day, and I hope that you'll be able to accept that too."
    Last edited by Elbeyon; 2018-01-27 at 11:15 PM.

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    Default Re: Celestia's Finest: Stroll Patrol (Side Thread)

    Love turning down a chance to learn a secret? Maybe this really was the end of the world.

    The answer to her question, at least, was simple enough.

    Sniper said: "To be honest with you... I don't know. I can calculate all of the factors that go into taking a long range shot and know my chances of success. Explosions. Power Armor. Those are well outside my area of expertise. I didn't know how much danger there was to you.

    "What I knew was that, on a tactical level, eliminating you was a condition of Polaris'/Blank's victory. Their victory had to be prevented at all costs. Therefore I had to do everything in my power to maximize your chances of survival.

    "On a personal level, you're a friend. Losing you isn't acceptable to me and if I have the means to prevent your death or minimize the chances of it, then I will.

    "Long story short, I didn't know exactly how much danger you were in. But I knew I could do something to lessen that danger. So I did. As to how much impact I made." Sniper shrugged. "I took that shrapnel instead of you. How much difference that made, I don't exactly know, but it made you safer."
    Last edited by D.KnightSpider; 2018-01-28 at 08:16 AM.

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    Default Re: Celestia's Finest: Stroll Patrol (Side Thread)

    Love smiles at the answer. "Ha. That's about what I figured. It was enough. I've had a couple insights as of late."

    "Hey, Scope. How do I say this? On our first mission and even during our training, I was physical with you. It's very obvious now that you have a distaste for unnecessary physical affection, more so in the past. I caused you a great deal of discomfort, and that discomfort could very easily, realistically, be interrupted as purposeful and ill-intended. I'm not sure how much you think of the past, so this all might already be water under the bridge now. I might just be embarrassing myself here. I wanted you to know that I've never purposefully tried to hurt you."

    "Now! If you think differently, that's fine. Maybe, we could talk it out more and reach a better understanding together. I'm not trying to force you to accept an apology! Dang it, I hope this isn't coming off as insincere. I've done a lot of bad crap to you. I think I can understand any resentment." Love looks to him to see if any of this is making any sense.

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    Default Re: Celestia's Finest: Stroll Patrol (Side Thread)

    There was a customary moment of silence as Sniper processed this. His expectation was centered move around his lack of sexual interest, not this old history.

    "There were a few times when I thought you were trying to torment me. Obviously, I don't think that now. I had issues back then. And... I'm slowly working on resolving them.

    "As far as I'm concerned, it's done and over. I don't worry about it. We're good."

    If he went much farther into his explanation, then they'd be here all week.

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    Default Re: Celestia's Finest: Stroll Patrol (Side Thread)

    Love nods along.

    "I understand."

    "Well, let's wrap that history up with a nice bow! Scope, I'm sorry for tormenting you. I'm sorry for hurting you. And, I'm sorry for any damage that I did to you."

    Let the rounds continue!

    "And, I'm sorry for forcing you to confess to Rose." She keeps her focus on him. "I underestimated your courage and feelings. I do have to thank you too. My relationship with Star may not be as strong as it is now without your intervention. Mistakes that could have been made, might have been avoided."

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    Default Re: Celestia's Finest: Stroll Patrol (Side Thread)

    "It was a messy situation. There was too much tension on the team and Polaris was looking to exploit that. The guy seems to understand pony emotion all too well. It's an intriguing aspect of him.

    "Which, er, is a fancy way of stalling." Sniper admitted. His words had been a bit too fast to be entirely natural or comfortable. He took a deep breath. "Apology accepted. I know that I've been difficult to work with as well. Overly sensitive and fragile. I'm, ah, not used to being myself yet.

    "In many ways, I died on Tartarus Station. The mask that I'd worm for so long, that I was comfortable in, was taken away. Every pony knew who I was and I didn't know what to make of that. Processing all of the new emotions and inputs was... difficult... It still is. I'm sure that was a pain."

    He'd been meaning to say this for a while. Now was a good a time as any.

    "I also owe you an apology for bailing on you at the Crystal Hooves buffet. No matter how chaotic it was, that was no excuse for abandoning a friend."

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    Default Re: Celestia's Finest: Stroll Patrol (Side Thread)

    Love smirks at his apology. "Apology accepted. I wasn't offended by Rose and you simply changing tables. It's not like you left us behind in the restaurant or avoided us. We were being too rude(?) for your tastes. I hardly noticed. We joined at the new table when we were done without any delay. It was a trivial matter."

    Her mind starts to race, but she tries not to show it, simply nodding. "I can see that.", she vaguely comments. "I've been truer to you than most any other pony that I know. I want to help you, support you. We'll find the true you together. We'll need to brush and polish to reveal it. Heh. You already have your cutie mark so that's step one done. If you're afraid of your cutie mark, we can handle that together. I'm strong! I have a strong heart! You saw that. I can handle other ponies problems much easier than my own. A cold heart! I know this is probably all too much for you, but I'm here for you." Love purposefully turns way to give him as much privacy as possible as she walks near him.

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    Default Re: Celestia's Finest: Stroll Patrol (Side Thread)

    The reply wasn't immediately forthcoming. Sniper had to process the implications of her statement and figure out the best response. Well, more like how much to admit.

    "I used to be afraid of my talent. I used to hate it." Sniper admitted. "But having met the Elements and seeing their struggles, I can't blame destiny or the Elements for it any more. It's, er, an extension of who I am. I don't necessarily like it, but I can't deny it or it's implications either.

    "Just be careful what you wish for." Sniper eyeballed the sky. "The real me may not be worth knowing."

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    Love turns back to him. "They are a pretty sorry lot. They're not so different from us." She chuckles. "They're ponies dealing with pony problems. Beautiful, special ponies with problems"

    "I'll make my wish again! The true you is worth knowing as much as any other pony. Scope, I'm a curious creature. I'd burn my own hoof to know if something was hot."

    "The real me... is a huge hassle. I grew up in a trash heap. I didn't develop properly at all. My emotions are stunted, my empathy is in the trash can, and my survival instincts are hyperactive, etc. It's like drawing blood from a stone, but I'm trying to develop a better sense of my emotions. They are in there, deep down, and I only need to remove all the callous to make them more sensitive. I can be stupidly dense when it comes to other ponies, and I'm trying to get everypony to be super frank with me until I improve. My paranoia is a blessing and a curse, but I'm trying to ease the side that will only get in the way of the good things in life. I'm working to be a different pony, but I sort of know what I am right now."

    "I'm very self absorbed too, if you hadn't noticed." She gives him a smirk.

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    Default Re: Celestia's Finest: Stroll Patrol (Side Thread)

    "Only on occasion." Sniper deadpanned.

    "I think we've all come a long way in the past few months. It's a bit strange if you think about it. Wildcat's elite, military squad began as a bunch of misfit screw ups." He hesitated a moment and then continued. "It almost makes me wonder if our original companies shipped us to the EDF to get rid of us."

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    Default Re: Celestia's Finest: Stroll Patrol (Side Thread)

    She busts out a laugh.

    "I wouldn't go that far." Love gives him a big old smile. "Few ponies would want to give up their perfect followers. We might not have been perfect, but I don't think we were so bad to be labeled as misfit screw ups."

    "Scope, you're hardly the most murderous pony that I know. There are ponies around that have killed many more than you. One of my friends is a thousand year old vampire that feeds off the life of other creatures. He's also been magical afflicted with paranoia. Though he is making a recovery. The paranoia part, not the blood eating. Side note, I taste very good, btw. I'm friends with ponies that pull wings off pegasus for fun."

    "I know you'll balk at me! This is true. You're a good pony, Scope. I know you might not feel that way, but your actions say otherwise. You've saved so many lives."

    "I can't even imagine how much you've struggled with your talent. How you must have felt. The... Well. I'm glad you're accepting your whole self. I like you, all of you. I hope one day you do too. Don't deny yourself. I want you to be yourself around me."

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    Default Re: Celestia's Finest: Stroll Patrol (Side Thread)

    Love had no idea what she was saying. This crazy notion of hers to make him 'be himself' was a death wish. If he didn't hold himself back, then Love would be dead. Many others would be dead.

    The was a lot of evidence about which Love was unaware. Cadence's hatred, his own bloodlust, the high he felt on a successful kill... About the only point in his favor was that he wasn't a sadist. At least there was that.

    "I'll take your word for it." Sniper said in a tone that meant he clearly didn't.

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    Default Re: Celestia's Finest: Stroll Patrol (Side Thread)

    Love puts a little ball of stress in her cheek. "Well, I can only guess so much. I'm not always the best at reading ponies. If I'm wrong, why don't you help a friend out? I want to understand your situation. Alright, maybe, I misspoke. I want to learn my mistakes."

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    Default Re: Celestia's Finest: Stroll Patrol (Side Thread)

    The silence saw longer than normal. Sniper continued trotting along with his gaze straight and his expression dead.

    Finally, he spoke again. "... When we get back to Equestria after this mission, I'll show you. If you'll set up a safe room where no pony will get hurt... I'll get drunk and show you how far gone I really am."

    It was probably the best way to do this.

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    "I - I'm not sure I understand. Are you saying if you get drunk you'll try to kill or attack me?"

    "I mean, sure, I'll agree to your proposal. We can slap you in an observation room or something."

    "I know you're really pushing yourself right now. So, thank you for that. If you need a break, we can slow down and give you time to sort yourself. I'd like to press forward if that's alright with you."

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    Default Re: Celestia's Finest: Stroll Patrol (Side Thread)

    Of course it wasn't alright with him. He'd gone about as far down this line of conversation as he wanted. However, this was Love. She wasn't going to give up until she 'fixed' him. Doing anything else but rolling with it would just result in another argument.

    "Inhibition." Sniper explained. "Self-control. They're what keep me in check. If I get drunk, then I lose my self-control and all the darkness comes out. I get violent. So much so that there's no talking to me, I'll kill you just for being present.

    "That impulse is always there. Even now. If I let myself go, you'd have to put me down like a rabid dog.

    "If you really want to see that, then you can when we get back."

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    There wasn't a delay there. He must be fine to continue she thinks to herself.

    It's her turn to pause and process things. "Darkness? Do you mean anger?" She goes slow. Let him speak. It's his turn.

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    Default Re: Celestia's Finest: Stroll Patrol (Side Thread)

    "Anger's a tool. A cheap tool to trigger the loss of self-control needed for me to kill. It gives me a target for my impulses and keeps me pointed in the right direction so that I don't kill indiscriminately." That was an easy answer, at least.

    "It's hard to describe. There is a darkness inside of me. Something primitive-- maybe almost feral-- that is capable of some very ugly things. It's always been there. Rip... Rip has the excuse of nurture for why she struggles with her murderous impulses. It's nature to me."

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