DAY 3: 2
"Well I clearly got that detail wrong, and here I was thinking the crown would be bigger...." Rarity muttered to herself, apparently comparing the statue with the dress design she'd made last year. "Well no wonder I couldn't get any outlets here to buy it."
Fluttershy didn't have much choice but to along with Rarity. She couldn't voice any objections, although she knew either way she'd be unlikely to voice them. So while Rarity was being a fashionista first, tourist second, and player last, it was up to Fluttershy to keep an eye out for any incoming Noise. The lack of them so far had been rather worrying. It had already been ten minutes since the timer had started, and she hadn't seen even one group, even with her player pin scanning. It was quiet. Something was up.
Fluttershy tugged on Rarity's tail, getting her attention. "What is it darling? Have the noise started attacking yet?" Fluttershy shook her head, and Rarity turned back to admiring the statue. "Well be sure to let me know when they are. No sense getting my mane further ruffled until I have to." Fluttershy gave another insistent tug. "Fluttershy really, can't I have a minute of peace?" Fluttershy shook her head again, and indicated the time on her hoof. Rarity looked at her own. "Gracious, has it really already been ten minutes? But then why haven't we been attacked yet?" She began trotting off. "Come Fluttershy, something is ahoof, and I intend to find out what it is."
"Ugggh.... so bored!"
"Would you calm down already? You're making me dizzy with your pacing."
Dash stopped and looked at Applejack. "Calm down? It's been twelve minutes thirty-two seconds since the mission started, and we haven't seen ANY Noise! At this rate, that Twilight's gonna beat me!"
"I think you're freaking out about this too much Dash. After all, if we haven't seen any Noise, how do we know they have?"
"No way, she's fighting all the Noise, I just know it. I can sense it."
"And since when were you little miss psychic?"
Dash tapped the skull pin on her sash. "Since this thing. Argh, if only I had my wings again! I could do a quick fly around and find some Noise!"
"Even if you could, I'm not sure that would be a good idea. Remember Rarity's story about that other pegasus who tried to help them? He got attacked."
"Exactly! I could do a quick fly, and boom! Noise galore."
Applejack facehoofed. "That's not the point. Besides, you can't fight without my help, so unless you were willing to carry me, it wouldn't do you any good."
"Uggghhhh...." Rainbow went back to pacing. AJ sighed.
"Look, if it'll make you feel any better, we can have a look around the rest of the island. Maybe it's just something about this spot?"
"Well it's not likely to make me feel better, but at least it's better than nothing. Let's go."
"I don't like this. Not one bit."
Twilight looked over her shoulder, still scanning the area. "Neither. Fifteen minutes and no Noise attacks?"
"They're up to something. I can feel it in my bones."
"Is that one of your Pinkie senses?" Twilight asked.
"No, it's just-" Pinkamena started, then her eyes narrowed. "Wait.... how do you know about my Pinkie senses?"
Twilight cursed silently. I need to stop making those mistakes. "Oh, Rarity mentioned them in passing. I mean, it doesn't really make much sense. It's hard to believe in."
"What's not to believe? You do magic. What's the difference?" Pinkamena paused. Those were the same words she said last time we were discussing her Pinkie sense, Twilight noted. "Anyway, it seems kinda moot, what with the whole being dead and reading minds and stuff."
"I guess I can't really argue with that. Anyway, what do you think is happening? Are they just not attacking this part of the island?"
"No. They're up to something."
"Like trying to catch us of guard?"
Pinkamena thought, then shook her head. "Nah, it has to be something big."
"Well we're not going to figure out what it is just standing here. We should look around."
"Yeah, you're right. Come on, we'll head round-"
Pinkamena was interrupted by a shout from across the way. "Yoohoo! Pinkie?" The pair turned to see Rarity and Fluttershy approaching them. "Sorry to be a bother, but Fluttershy and I haven't seen hide nor hair of a Noise since we split up. We were wondering if you'd maybe had more luck than us. Or less luck as the case may be."
"No, we haven't fought any yet either," Twilight answered.
"Hah! You'll have to do better than that if you want to beat me!" Once again Twilight and Pinkamena turned, this time finding Rainbow Dash and Applejack behind them.
"Really? So did you manage to fight some Noise when I wasn't looking, or are you ecksager... eggadyer..." Applejack turned to look at Rarity." Rarity, what's the word I'm looking for?"
"Exaggerating?" Rarity hazarded.
"That's the one. Thank you." She turned back to Dash. "Are you exaggerating again Rainbow?"
"Me? Since when do I exaggerate?"
"So you've fought some Noise?" Twilight asked excitedly.
"Well... not exactly...."
"So between the six of us, we haven't seen any Noise for over fifteen minutes now," Pinkamena summed up. "Either this is the easiest mission since day one, or we're missing something here."
"Maybe it's just the six of us?" Rarity offered. "The other players could be fighting."
"Guess again," an unfamiliar voice sounded. Twilight found herself turning again, this time seeing.... two ponies she didn't know. "And you are?" Rarity however seemed to recognise them.
"Sea Breeze! Oriens! You're still in the game!"
"Heh, of course. You think I'd get erased without cashing in the favour you owed me?"
"Pardon me, but I think you'll find we're even."
"That's not how I remember it...."
The green unicorn gave a snort, and approached the group, pausing to give Fluttershy a quick hug. "Hi, sorry to interupt. I'm Sea Breeze and the argumentative one over there is Oriens Ventus, my fiancée." She indicated the pegasus, currently arguing head to head with Rarity over who owed who. "We helped Rarity and Fluttershy yesterday, and in return they saved us from some reapers. Anyway, Ori and I have been wandering since the mission began, and no-one has had any battles yet. Frankly it's kinda worrying."
"So there's been no Noise," said Applejack "And we're supposed to be worrying about that?"
"Of course! If there's no Noise, how am I going to prove I'm the best Noise hunter!" complained an indignant Dash.
"More like best noise maker," grumbled Applejack under her breath."
"Look, I'm no expert, but there's something off about this situation," Sea Breeze said. "If a mission says there will be a Noise attack, you expect there to be a Noise attack, right?"
Twilight heard Pinkamena muttering something under her breath, but dismissed it as Pinkie being Pinkie. "Right. So there has to be a catch."
"Exactly!" said Breeze. "So what I think we should do is put together a group brainstorming session, get all the players to help, and see if we can't figure this out."
"I like the way you think. It'll be a committee! Oh, but I don't have anything to make a checklist of things we need to cover."
"A checklist?" asked Applejack, confused. "Uh, Twilight, don't we only have one topic?"
"The subtleties of checklist etiquette is lost on you ponies..."
Sea Breeze coughed. "Okay, well if Breeze and I start heading around the island, getting other groups to meet here in say, five minutes, we should get all the pairs."
"Dash and I can go the opposite way, we should get every pony together sooner that way," added in Applejack.
"Perfect! And Fluttershy and Rarity can get any ponies hanging around up by the statue."
Applejack looked at her. "And what will you and Pinkie be doing while we're off rounding everypony up? Just sitting here waiting?"
"Are you kidding? There's so much I need to prepare! Where will I stand? Is my voice amplifying spell working properly?"
Applejack and Sea Breeze exchanged glances. "Those are... uh... quite interesting friends you have," said Breeze.
"I swear, I've never seen that pony before in my life."
Within five minutes, all the players on the island had been rounded up in front of the statue. There were quite a number of them, Pinkamena noted. More than she would have expected for the third day. Still, if she was right, that would change after today. She glanced at her partner, who had somehow managed to conjure a stack of lecture cards from nowhere, and was busy ensuring they were all in the right order. Finally Twilight stepped forward to address the murmuring crowd.
"Good afternoon everypony. My name is Twilight Sparkle. As I'm sure you're all aware, for today's mission we're meant to be fighting off hoards of Noise. However-"
"Hang on, who put you in charge?" cried out on pony in the crowd.
"Well, I'm not in charge per se, I'm just informing everyone about this situation," Twilight replied, not missing a beat. "Anyway, like I was saying..."
"Well if you're not in charge what are we doing here?" asked another pony.
"That's what I'm TRYING to-"
"Yeah, you interrupted the game of Tin Pin Slammer my partner and I were playing!"
"THAT'S NOT IMPORTA-" Twilight broke off. "Tin Pin Slammer? What's that?"
"Oh, its this game you play with your pins, and..."
Sea Breeze, who was standing with Twilight, gave a gentle cough. "I'm not certain that's the main issue here..."
"Oh! Right. Now, if everypony is finished interrupting me?" She paused, just to be sure. No pony spoke up. "Okay, as I was saying, there hasn't be any Noise attack in-
"PINKIE!" Twilight's response was immediate, and Pinkamena could swear she saw her mane catch fire. She smiled.
Twilight facehoofed, then turned back to the crowd to explain what they all already knew. Pinkamena looked at the crowd. As expected for Manehatten, unicorns and earth ponies made up most of the crowd, with only the occasional pegasus. She spied Rarity and Fluttershy right at the back, and Applejack and Dash off to one of the sides. They were avoiding the centre of the group, like Pinkamena had told them to. She turned her attention back to Twilight's speech just as she was wrapping up.
"...and so, we decided we should gather all the players and brainstorm what the Reapers are up to with this mission. So, any ideas?"
The crowd was silent for a few moments. Eventually one pony spoke up. "Maybe they're trying to lure us into a false sense of security?"
"But it hasn't worked," another responded. "We're all on tenterhooks waiting for this attack."
"Maybe they're lying about the mission?"
"No, impossible. It's against the rules for them to lie about the main mission, isn't it?"
Twilight turned to Pinkamena. "She's right isn't she? The Reapers can't lie about this?" She responded with a nod.
Another pony in the crowd spoke up. "Let's think about this. The Reapers tell us we're going to be attacked by Noise, and they don't send any. Why does that get them?"
"It gets them.... a group of worried players. A large group of worried players. In one place." There was a sudden silence as the words sank in. But there was no time to react. Without warning, there was snapping of jaws, and a whole swath of ponies in the centre of the group vanished, erased. In their place stood an Ursa Minor Noiseform. It let out a roar, and the remaining ponies started fleeing in terror. Right into more Noise symbols. Pinkamena looked through the remains of the crowd, and managed to spot her friends, still okay.
"Good, I was worried somepony would figure out it was a trap and warn everypony," she said. Twilight spun around, a horrified look on her face.
"You mean you knew this would happen?! Why didn't you tell us?!"
"The more players that make it to the end of the game, the smaller the chances of all five of my friends and me being resurrected. This is just tipping the odds in our favour." Twilight still had the same horrified look on her face. "The other players aren't your friends Twilight, they're your enemies. I suggest you learn that if you want to make it out of this." She spotted a group of Noise heading towards them. "Now look sharp, we've got company."
"But our... your friends! They could have been seriously hurt, or worse!"
"And that's why I told them to stay to the edges of the crowd. Look, they're okay, although I don't see why it should worry you. Now snap out of it, the Noise are almost on us."
Twilight hesitantly took up a battle stance. Pinkamena sighed as she saw Twilight wobble. "Look, focusing on the battling right now. Or on your competition with Rainbow. You won't beat her with your mind on other things."
That seemed to help, as Twilight straightened up after that. just in time for the Noise to begin their assault proper.