1340/Understanding Isn't So Easy

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Understanding Isn't So Easy
Date of Scene: 15 January 2015
Location: Divided Equestria <DE>
Synopsis: Visitors show up to Pinkie's safehouse to talk. The clown does not smile.
Cast of Characters: Staren, 411, Mortimer Balman, 470
Tinyplot: Crying Clowns

Pinkie (470) has posed:
    Pinkie Pie has not been hiding since the Everfree fiasco. Oh she's moved silently several times, but let some others keep tabs on her.
    Not Twilight though, because alliances of desperation do not necessarily equate to trust.
    However, after moving from Winter Withers' old home to a much more secure safehouse, the pink party pony is preparing. The safehouse is practically a mess. While strewn with a mix of party favors, deflated balloons, and bright and gay accoutrements, there are also wads of bunched up and crumpled notes; a corkboard decorated with pictures, pins, tape, marker lines, connecting names and locations. A large table is festooned in maps; many of them hand drawn, many of them very old, depicting a labyrinthing set of catacomb tunnels under Baltimare, and there are many sections left ominously blank and perhaps even unknown and unexplored.
    Pinkie and the twins are her, and judging from the look of bloodshot green eyes through the slats of her mask, she hasn't had much rest amid all the planning.
    Pumpkin brings her a whole urn of coffee to sip from.

Staren has posed:
    Staren makes his way to the safehouse -- he's not wearing his combat armor, in fact he seems to be wearing normal clothes -- except for a simple blue jacket instead of the rather out-of-place lab coat. "Pinkie?" He hisses and knocks on the door, waiting for a response. Barging into people's safehouses could be... dangerous. There might be booby traps!

Pinkie (470) has posed:
    With a shuffle, the slat on the door opens, allowing Pound to look out. "What's the-" "Password?" Pumpkin finishes his sentance before Pinkie gives a 'knock it off!' wave. This seems to be good enough for the brass-mask wearing twins as they open the door.
    Sipping coffee through a straw poked into the mouth-slat of her mask, she pores over the map a moment longer before looking up. With a jerk of her thumb, Pumpkin slides aside. Before returning with a mug of coffee and a cupcake offered to Staren.
    "Liiiiittle busy. What's up?"

Staren has posed:
    What's the Password? Staren considers this. "Party? Pinkie invited me..." The door's opened and he walks in, glancing around. And sees Pinkie drinking. "So that's how you drink with the mask on." Beat. He takes the offered items, setting the coffee down to taste the cupcake. "Good!" He smiles briefly, then looks at Pinkie more seriously. "You said you had a good reason, and you haven't given it. However... my allies have told me disturbing things about this world's Twilight. That the ponies she was experimenting on weren't volunteers. Is there more I should know about... you, her, this world, the other Bearers, anything?"

Pinkie (470) has posed:
    Straws are pretty handy, evidence made as clear as day as she drains the urn more and more with each sip. For the record; if they weren't highly trained assassin cultists, the two fifteen year old twins would be world class bakers, when it comes to those cupcakes. Pinkie spends a moment longer poring over the maps again, rubbing at the smooth chin of her mask in thought.
    The takes a pink marker to a few sections before sucking on her teeth with a soft 'tsk.
    "Oh you didn't find out until now? I thought it was all in the open air. Huh~. So where should I start?"

Twilight Sparkle (411) has posed:
     Twilight has come along with Staren, but with the position and infamy of her counterpart here, she has decided to come in disguise. Well...sort of. It's a cloak she borrowed from Zecora. A long brown thing with a hood that covers just about everything except her hooves and her nose. When Pinkie lets them inside the safehouse, Twilight makes sure the door is closed before she lowers the hood. "Perhaps with what happened that caused this world to take such a drastic turn away from harmony and friendship." Twilight says.

Staren has posed:
    Staren considers this for a few moments. Twilight comes in and he smiles and motions with his cupcake for her to join them at the table, then takes another bite of it and chews before looking back to Pinkie. "Well... it seems through ignorance or optimism, I may not know about all /sorts/ of things. But remember," he waves the cupcake at Pinkie for emphasis, "The same optimism that helped me believe in your Twilight has also helped me believe in you. Now as far as /I/ know... Fifteen years ago, Celestia and Luna vanished. Twilight thought an Alicorn was needed to rule the people, but her attempt to make one killed you. I've only just heard that some of the other Bearers were harmed in that incident too. So, they all split up, and Twilight continued her experiments. At some point, these changed from creating alicorns to enhancing ponies' abilities by changing them -- thus, her new personal guards. But now she has a new project, one which will help all of unicornkind. And, she told me, the other pony races, if they'd only volunteer to help her collect data so the process can be altered to work on them. At the time, I figured that would be a difficult but not impossible sell. Now... it sounds like she should know full well the rest of the ponies hate magic and would never let her help them. Who knows what was true? She told me she was only experimenting on volunteers, people who wanted to help the cause of all their fellows. When I first arrived here, I worried that she was, like, some kind of evil overlord or something... but she's not in charge, Shining and Cadance--" he stops, and looks at Twilight, then back at Pinkie. Oops, spoilers? "...The King and Queen are. I mean, she's Important, sure, but she seems to be far more interested in working on... on transequine experiments than running a country."

Staren has posed:
    Staren has a sudden thought. "Wait... when she tried to create another alicorn... who was it going to be, anyway? I figured... I figured she must have been planning to change all the Bearers, but when the process killed you, she didn't try it on anypony else."

Pinkie (470) has posed:
    Twilight's voice seems to cause a visible alarm in the twins, when the librarian pony speaks up. Oh they know that voice. And though Pound snatches up his trusty baseball bat, the two take refuge behind Pinkie immediately. Though she seems to assuage their instant terror with a gentle pat on Pumpkin's head and a light ruffle of Pound's wings. This soothes them enough to start relaxing again, and there is a glance between them before they venture an answer.
    "When the sisters left our world fell apart." Pound murmurs. "Pony against pony." Pumpkin adds.
    "Friend against friend."
    They hush up however as Staren exposits what he knows thus far, and Pinkie lightly taps at the smooth chin of her mask. "Oh yes that's what she tried. She wanted to turn the Six into alicorns and split the rule. But not everypony was with the idea. Applejack and Fluttershy were hesitant. I was scared." The clown says in a soft, level tone, eyes going a bit distant.
    "Oh her experiments NOW are on volunteers. Back then though? I didn't volunteer. She twisted my arm. Said if I didn't do it, order would come crashing down and it would be all my fault."
    This she lets sink in, before slumping into her seat, planting elbows on the planning table and propping her chin up. "Weeeeeeell. It didn't work. Death and maiming was the result, and after what happened to Rarity and Rainbow Dash, Applejack and Fluttershy were wholly against anything further." She says spreading palms. "And you know the rest of the story from there."

Twilight Sparkle (411) has posed:
     Twilight eeps softly in surprise as the twins react to her. She shuffles her hooves nervously until they calm down, then offers them a cautious smile. Twilight listens to this story, her ears pinning back. "That...that doesn't sound like me. I would never force my friends into something they did not want to do." she says, then she pauses. "Well...there was the time with Discord, but that was a special circumstance. They were not themselves." she adds, then her ears lower again. "What...what happened to Rarity and Rainbow Dash?" she asks, a bit of fear in her voice. "And...if you are dead...how are you here? I mean, with a physical body, and not simply as a spirit?"

Staren has posed:
    Staren glares at Pound for picking up the baseball bat, but when he retreats instead of advancing, the visitor stops glaring. After Pinkie's story, he looks to Twilight for insight into her alternate future self's actions. Nodding a little. Twilight asks a question. "Well, I'm hearing they may not even be on volunteers now. But if you think she's stopped forcing people, why do you want her dead? I mean... You didn't seem like the type for revenge. If you want her dead, you must have reasons that it will benefit everypony, right?"

    And then, a question for Twilight. "...If the Queens vanished, and you /hadn't/ already heard of what happened here... what would you do?"

Mortimer Balman has posed:
     A moment after Pinkie's statement, a familiar grunt comes from one of the other ways into the safehouse. A brass mask similar to Pumpkin and Pound's catches some light, and then it is gently set on the table. Hey, it's Mortimer! In.. Pony form! Oddly enough. Wearing a drab, tattered old cloak to conceal his body. He looks like a beggar more than a jester, though. "If you believe they're all 'volunteers'. But then I question everything in this place, now." He'd grunt and plop his butt onto the ground. "Rainbow Dash is the Force Commander Supreme of her own little splinter faction, Twilit. And so is Applejack. The more I eavesdroop on folks, the more I learn, the more this place seems like a bad dream made real.."

     Nettle giggled a bit and materialized onto Staren's head, settling there calmly. "<Ah but the horrors are so /delicious/, Master.>" An irritable grunt was her only reply. "<Ah.. Forgive me, Master. I have been a bit more gluttonous than usual, it went to my head. Won't happen again.>" Odd, she seemed somewhat /afraid/ of Mort judging by that statement. But moving on.

     Mort rolls his eyes a bit at Twilight's inquiry. "C'mon, Twilit.. Yer smarter'n that. She's just undead, is all. I mean even in our Equestria we have /rumors/ of creatures in Pinkie's current state, either of their own accord or not. Granted, unsubstantiated, but it is quite clear that she has risen from the grave and is largely still herself.." The frustration in his voice was almost tangible, but it trailed off as he looked over at Pinkie and the twins. "Ugh. Kids, could you do ol' Morty a favor, bring me some coffee too?" He'd lean his head onto a hoof. Judging by the look on his face and his agitated state, he either hadn't been getting much sleep or this place was REALLY starting to get to him something fierce. "I've been listening around a wee bit when I can, Pinks. We should have a mostly clear road to Baltimare should we pass through the Whitetail Woods. Bit of a walk but less chance of anyone giving us trouble along the way." He'd start looking over the maps, tapping his other hoof on one. "It'd be faster if we just cut through Manehattan but I don't think we'd be awful welcome sights."

Pinkie (470) has posed:
    The question of what happened to Rarity and Rainbow Dash stills Pinkie for a long moment. If anything it causes the clown to drop her cheer for a beat, fingers rubbing at her temples as she looks down at the map. But then shakes her head at Mort's suggestion. She taps right on Manehattan, "No, that's right out of the question. Rarity's turned it into 'Fortress City Manehattan'. It'd be easier to just see if we can pull a favor with... Twilight and leave from Star Harbor or Port Town by boat, if we want to avoid the mercenary camps and Whitegold's gem mines."
    Changing the topic for a moment seems to allow her to recover as she gets up and trots to the corkboard on the wall where she rips off two pictures and throws them onto the table for the others to see.
    Rainbow Dash, regal and resplendant in black and golden centurion-style armor. ... Horrible scarred across half of her body, blind in one glassy eye.
    The other, she holds onto for a beat. Pausing to look at it herself for a long moment before letting it float onto the map table. Rarity, smiling with wicked glee, more than half her body covered in cancerous crystal growth.
    "Celestia and Luna leaving were 'special circumstances'. The sun and moon go riiiiight on moving without them. In no time people started to think they were a sham. Twilight still believed but. We wanted to let it go and try to be happy anyway, pretty sure that's what the Sisters would have wanted. She didn't." Now one finger points RIGHT at the purple pony. "Is that special enough for ya?" As per how she's here... Back from the dead...
    "My lawyer has advised me to not speak any further on the matter of my potential dead-undead status in light of these current trying times of rife undead suspicion and persecution."

Twilight Sparkle (411) has posed:
     Twilight listens to all of this, then shakes her head. "Undead...of course." she says, though the idea is a bit unsettling. "Still, that doesn't make sense. If the sun and moon kept going...then it would prove that alicorns were not needed to keep the world running, and so there would be no reason to make another. There must be something else..." she says before considering Staren's question.

     "I'm not sure...I couldn't say what I would do if I didn't know about this world. I do know about this world. I would like to say that I would search for the Queens, but I would still carry on with my studies and my friendships. Even if their abilities over the stars was revealed to be a sham, they have still ruled us fairly and with kindness..."

Staren has posed:
    "Like I care if you're undead. You're intelligent. You talk. You're a /person/. You're different from the zombies that are attacking innocent ponies. We care because we're curious how you came back to life, not because we want to discriminate against undead intelligences." Staren states. "Mort? You're here too?" Mort's even a pony! Maybe Staren should have swapped to that robot pony body... Staren looks to Pinkie, "Is anyone else coming?"

    He listens to Twilight's explanation. "Mmm. Yes, there might be something else affecting this Twilight's decision. She's had different adventures. Maybe she knows something... or something happened to her."

    He looks to Pinkie. "There was another world where Celestia and Luna were goddesses, with no physical form on Equestria. It's certainly conceivable that in this world, they were much /less/ powerful, and the sun and moon take care of themselves... Or there are other possibilities, too."

    Staren looks over the pictures. "...We might be able to fix this. Heal them, if they wanted to. But, I guess they'd never trust me, or /either/ Twilight." He sighs.

    "So what's your end goal here, Pinkie? Why does Twilight -- the future one -- have to die, and what happens to Equestria after? How are you gonna bring happiness back to everypony, or do you have a different goal? It's not /just/ revenge, is it?"

Mortimer Balman has posed:
     Mortimer waves a hoof dismissively. "Most of that doesn't matter." Pause, look at the twins. Back to the others. "The variances are not important /at this stage/. What IS important is finding Maud and keeping more harm from being done. Those 'Grinning Worm' things and that 'Pillar of Joy' could wreak real havoc if they start running around in groups and there is no reason to believe she cannot get /more/ of them. Goddesses knows what else they could bring out. If Maud feels cornered- which I'm damned certain she does- there's no telling what else can be brought out. /And then/ the important thing after /that/ is what happens if the Cult of Laughter is crippled. Will tensions escalate between the major factions resulting in all out war, or can we apply diplomacy to ease those?"

     He'd rub his forehead, hard enough he might break his horn off. "Ugh. Anything relating to the /past/ is something we can worry about later- ideally after we've gotten some brownie points by assisting Empty with her little Cult problem. She'll be more inclined to give us the time of day if we do that." He'd hold up a hoof at Staren and Twilit. "One thing a time, kids. One thing at a time. Otherwise we'll get bogged down in all the hows and whats and whys and anything we DO accomplish will have to be done by the skin of our teeth." A pause to look at the twins again. "...Okay, I'll get it myself.." Nettle floats over to look at the maps while Mortimer goes to get himself a cuppa.

     "<Is it wise of us to ask 'Empty' as the Master calls her, for a favor? She still is reluctant to believe you are even you, Pinkie dear. I do like the idea of a ship, but would it not be safer for us all to perhaps instead commandeer a vessel under cover of night rather than hope she will not see the situation as an opportunity to harm or otherwise impede our persons? A few simple spells and a bit of rope and the children and I could have us a small vessel within minutes, I suspect.>"

Pinkie (470) has posed:
    "Rulers don't exaaaactly equate to much if they're in absentia." Pinkie does note.
    Now she has that deck of cards in hand again, beginning to lazy shuffle as green eyes roll. "You don't seem to get it. What happened to her was -time-." The party pony says harshly. "Time changed her for the worse. Just like it did the others. You think you can HEAL them?"
    If anything... This seems to incense Pinkie, eyes narrowing visibly through the slats in her mask. Pound and Pumpkin look to one another uncertainly, ofr a brief moment.
    "Rainbow Dash is firmly set in the beliefs of Pegasus Supremacy. Fluttershy is an unstoppable ragemonster. Rarity was driven INSANE." A slow breath and she settles herself however. "Time changed her for the worse. Just like it did to them. Just like it did to me. You need to understand. It's been fifteen years of nonstop all out war."
    Pinkie's end goal though... A sigh. Her shoulder's raise. "Regardless of who's the face of which group, the Element Bearers each have the most power. If they were to all... Disappear. That power would be gone. Less domination and control, the factions they hold together would break apart and maybe peace would eventually start to take over again. Especially if the Elements found new hosts for a new generation. The ones that still remain anyway."
    Shrug. "Maud is the top of my list right now. And as much as I don't trust Twilight, she knows I'm needed if we want to get under Baltimare to actually deal with the Laughing Dead. So she won't have a choice but to not double cross us. At least until Maud is handled anyway~." Boats should be safe. Maybe.

Staren has posed:
    Staren blinks. "I meant heal physically. If... if it'd help them come to their senses. If not..." he shakes his head, listening to Pinkie's explanation. Finally nodding somberly. "I suppose. Maybe it's time for new Bearers to be found. It sounds like they don't represent the Elements anymore. Although... there might be one other thing we can try." He looks to Twilight. "I didn't mean healing them the way she thought I did, but that's an idea. What do you think would happen, if we used the Elements of Harmony from /our/ Equestria, to purify the Bearers of /this/ one?"

Twilight Sparkle (411) has posed:
     Twilight seems genuinely confused when Pinkie becomes upset about them suggesting that the others could be healed. "How are the Element bearers still controlling their elements? It sounds as though they have all abandoned the aspects which define them." she says to Pinkie before blinking at Staren. "I...I don't know. The elements of harmony can purify elements of chaos and corruption, but...unless there is some magical aspect that is interfering with them, I don't think our elements would have any effect, except perhaps making them remember what it was to be the Elements of Harmony."

     Twilight ponders a moment. "If they did lose their connection to the elements, we would be able to weaken them by finding those who currently embody the spirits of the elements."

Mortimer Balman has posed:
     Nettle nods a bit, then floats over to settle on Twilight Sparkle's back, poking her head around the side of the purple pony. "<If you think that is best, Pinkie, we'll follow along.>" Mortimer finally comes back with a cup of coffee in one hoof, and plops back down at the table. "More important problem than 'whether or not the Elements can undo this.' How do you GET them all in one place at once? They're all dead set /against each other/. Everyone against everyone else. Pinkie here is about the only one who'd even consider it- we'd have to either somehow kidnap them and drag them in chains, or concoct a scenario where all five of the other girls are leading their armies from the front so that we can nail them at once. The likelihood of this happening is about equal to my chances of a hot date with Celestia and Luna at the same time- not outside the realm of possibility, but pretty damned unlikely." He'd slug back half of his cup and grunt, staring down at the maps.

     "Another problem," he continues, "Is that if we did "remove" them as Bearers- presuming they do even bear their Elements anymore- we'd have to remove them all simultaneously, Staren. All at once. Or, barring that, in very damned quick succession. A power vacuum which could be filled by any one of them would be damned horrible for /everyone/. Rainbow Dash is a damned pegasi supremacist, I've heard stories to the effect of Applejack being so anti-magic that unicorns get their horns sawn off- granted that could be rumors, but again, this place is so horrible I can believe it- and Empty's corner of Equestria seems to be one where unicorns hold all the cards. Goddesses only know what the hell runs through Rarity and Fluttershys' heads, if they've both gone off their rockers. About the only thing here REMOTELY sane is /Pinkie/. Let /that/ sink in for a minute." He'd finish off his cup.

Pinkie (470) has posed:
    Pinkie heaves a sigh. Long, low, slow, and then she slumps back in her seat. Pumpkin starts rubbing her shoulders while Pound sets another cupcake in front of her.
    It is at this point that the clown throws a card at Twilight. It floats face up on the table to reveal the Two of Swords, upright. And the clown shrugs. "The board needs to be wiped clean." She says. "For now I'm focusing on getting rid of Maud Pie, but once that's done and I have the Cult under control again, I still have my own agenda." She pauses.
    "I know what goes through Rarity's head. I wish I didn't." Added in a mournful afterthought before she rises and starts gathering the maps. "I wouldn't dare call down a whole five armies at full power just to get at their leaders anyway, that's a suicidal idea. Why do you think I spent so long learning how to be a shadow?"

Staren has posed:
    Staren rubs his chin. "I was thinking we could take them one at a time, but... Then we'd have to fight through their armies each time to get to them, wouldn't we..." he shakes his head.

Twilight Sparkle (411) has posed:
     Twilight shakes her head. "Are you guys intending to...kill them?" she asks, looking between the three of them. She is from the still peaceful Equestria, so she would most likely never approve of such a plan. "Finding the new elements would be much more effective."

Staren has posed:
    Staren looks to Twilight. "You think if we find new elements, their current armies and citizens will leave... the old Bearers?"

Mortimer Balman has posed:
     Mortimer reaches under the table to pull out his pipe and light it up, touching his horn to the tip and puffing on it furiously. It looks like it's been half chewed apart. "..Unless something can be done to resolve the current situation, Twilit.. Then killing them is probably the only option. Between the out and out racism which has led to Goddesses only know how much death, the blatant insanities, and the constant atmosphere of fear, mistrust, and hatred.. If they can't be healed, or fixed, or /whatever/- even one by one- then the only way this world can get better is if they.. ..If.. They die.." He has a hard time spitting that out, and looks rather upset at saying it. Not at Twilight or Staren specifically, he's not even looking at them. His eyes are fixed on the floor. "How do you even find new Elements?" Then he'd look at Staren. "How will they do that? You think the old Bearers would /let/ them go?"

Staren has posed:
    Staren rolls his eyes at Mort. "That's what I'm saying."

Pinkie (470) has posed:
    "There are no NEW Elements. They still have the old ones." Pinkie snaps over her shoulder. Before her tone softens. "I never allow the twins to kill. I, on the other hoof... Well. I'm going to put a smile on eaxh of their faces."

Twilight Sparkle (411) has posed:
     Twilight looks down as well when Mortimer says what she was trying to avoid. "I'm not sure, but...the Queens lost their connections to the elements in our world, which is why they needed the six of us to take over for them. If we find ponies in this world that embody the elements, the elements of harmony might realign with them, considering how far the six of this world have fallen. But..." She sighs. "..I have no proof of that theory. Just observations from my own world."

     Pinkie's stern response catches Twilight by surprise, then she hmphs softly. "We can't know that for sure! It has been 15 years here. That is plenty of time for a new set of bearers to rise."

Mortimer Balman has posed:
     Mortimer frowns. "Staren I love you like family, but I think you're grasping at straws hoping to find something that sticks. I can't blame you for that but.." He'd sigh and shake his head. An ear flicks at Pinkie's statement. He puts a hoof to his chin. "If they still /have/ their Elements.. They should still have a connection to it. ...Shouldn't they?"