"Ugh, this is the part of the job I hate the most. Reporting! These meetings are so boring!"
These complaints might have been more effective had High Tide not heard them all before. He kept his silence, munching on a lily sandwich. Candy Cane kept railing against the unfairness of it all and how she just wanted to be doing something not sitting in these boring meetings all day and he wasn't even paying attention was he. Tide finished his bite and continued the tirade where his partner had left off.
"It's no fair, when I joined the reapers I thought it would be all this fun erasing, and no dull meetings where they don't even provide sweets."
The imitation was lost on Candy Cane. "Exactly! You see where I'm coming from! We're called reapers, so we should be out there reapering!"
"But instead we have meetings so often we may as well be called meeters!"
High Tide didn't respond, instead still enjoying his sandwich. It was a good sandwich, made all the sweeter because he wasn't the one who had bought it. His partner had obliged him by proposing another bet. In the years he had known her, Candy Cane had proposed exactly fifty-nine bets, and had lost every one to Tide. Never for anything big mind, just food stuffs, never exceeding 5 bits. This latest bet was that the sneak attack yesterday wouldn't work, and for a sandwich. Of course High Tide had never agreed to the bet, and took home the spoils when the sneak attack was even more successful than expected.
He took another bite, filtering out Candy Cane's complaining. The pair were sitting in a dim room, reminiscent of a bar. In the middle of the room, instead of the many individual tables, was a large meeting table that looked slightly out of place. Tide and Candy were the only ones present at the moment, having stayed behind after the meeting, owing to Candy's pent up anger. From experience, High Tide knew she shouldn't be out on the streets right after a meeting. The last time that had happened.... Well, Tide had never thought of erasing to be particularly painful, and after the incident he intended to give the players that mercy. Whoever had said "Hell hath no fury like a filly scorned," had never met Candy Cane post-meeting.
"It's not like we even talk about anything USEFUL when we have these things," Candy continued, ignoring her partner's silent contemplation as he ignored her non-silent ranting. "No, it's always 'The Conductor is pleased with this,' or 'The Conductor is not pleased with that,' and so on. I mean, what even was the point of today's meeting? We were told to erase all the players, I mean HELLO, that's what we DO!"
High Tide shook his head. "Clearly didn't listen," he mumbled, just loud enough for Candy Cane to be thrown off her complaints.
"Huh? What do you mean? Of course I listened!"
"No. Not erase all players. Don't erase players. Hooves off."
In hindsight, this news could have been broken more gently, and thus the table wouldn't have been broken harshly. "WHAT!?" Candy screamed, bucking the table into the wall. "Why? Why would they do this to us? How do they expect us to survive without erasing anything? It was bad enough to go thirty minutes without attacking, but an entire day?"
"Two days," corrected Tide, not having learnt his lesson from his last correction. This time it was the floor that was cracked, Candy Cane stamping in anger.
"TWO WHOLE BUCKING DAYS?!" Candy's rage was very nearly a palpable thing at this point. "WHO THOUGHT THAT WAS A GOOD IDEA?!"
Tide shrugged. "Conductor. Who else?"
This did little to assuage Candy's anger. "How does he expect us to work under these conditions?"
"We don't. That's the point."
There was a silence while Candy fumed to herself. Then, "Well can I maim one of them?"
"Well can I mutilate one of them?"
Candy sulked. "You're no fun at all."
"You erased how many?" cried the multihued ex-pegasus.
"Forty seven all up," Twilight said.
There was a stunned silence from Dash. "That's counting that big Noise as only one right?"
"Well, technically I landed the final blow on that one, so I guess she's only got forty six," Pinkamena interjected.
"Even so, that still beats Rainbow Dash's final score of thirty eight right?" responded Twilight.
Dash looked only momentarily put out. "Well, sure, but I was holding back." Behind her Applejack rolled her eyes. "I thought it would be nice to let the new pony have a taste of success. If I was going all out I would have erased like.... a thousand Noise." She gave a cocky smile. "But I guess if you can erase that many Noise you're alright. Especially since you took on that Ursa by yourself."
"With Pinkamena's help," Twilight objected. Still, she was happy with the result. Rainbow Dash was willing to admit she was alright, which was a step up from yesterday.
Today the ponies had woken up surrounded by so much grass and so many trees that Twilight had thought they were no longer in Manehatten. Rarity corrected her once she had woken, and revealed that this was in fact Manehatten's Central Park.
Twilight admitted, she had missed the feeling of grass underhoof, and appreciated the relative quiet of the park. She wasn't the only one, with Fluttershy and Applejack looking happier than they had all week. Rarity on the other hand was eying the area with some suspicion, as if at any moment the dirt might stage an assault on her.
"Anyway, moving on to more important issues than Rainbow Dash's ego," Rarity spoke up, "What kind of mission do they expect us to do here? We're walled off from the rest of the city."
"It could be a lot of things really," Pinkamena replied. "A scavenger hunt, hide and seek, a maze..."
"Those are all foal's games though," Rarity noted.
"Yup. Lots of the missions are based off things like that. You'd be surprised at how well they work."
Further speculation was cut short by the arrival of the mission mail itself. Unlike the previous days mail, today's came in an envelope, rather than a scroll. Twilight and Rarity were the first to get theirs open, benefiting from their magic. "Mission Four: Clear Central Park of ponies. You have 240 minutes. Failure will result in erasure. The Reapers." Twilight felt the familiar pain of a timer activating. There was something extra written on the note. "PS: This may be useful." Twilight fished around inside the envelope, finally levitating out a small chunk of metal. Twilight quickly recognised it as a pin, and inspected its design. A book surrounded by a violet aura. A glance over towards Rarity confirmed she had also received a pin, hers with a sewing needle surrounded by a blue aura.
Pinkamena was the first of the non-unicorns to free her mail from its prison. The note and the pin both fell to the ground. The pink pony's eyes first landed on the pin, her eyes sparkling with excitement. "Is that what I think it is? Rarity, would you mind helping me with this?" With Rarity's assistance, Pinkamena attached her latest pin to her sash. "That's better. Why didn't they give us these at the start of the game?"
"Sorry Pinkie, but just what exactly do these pins do?" Rarity asked. "Not all of us are as informed about these matters as you are."
A smile danced on Pinkamena's lips. "It's easier to show you. Although don't get your hopes up, they won't be nearly as useful for you two." With a floruish, she tapped the pin, which began to glow with a soft pink light. Moments later, the letter was surrounded by a similar glow, and floated into the air, where it danced in front of Twilight's face for a few seconds. "Can you tell what it is yet?"
Understanding dawned. "That's telekinesis isn't it?" Twilight asked, although it wasn't really a question. "But how? Only unicorns have access to magic."
"Twilight, we spend our days fighting creatures that appear from nowhere with abilities that defy explanation. Not to mention we are technically dead. Is it so hard to believe that there's a way to let us non-magical ponies use the most mundane of your talents?"
Twilight coughed. "Well, when you put it like that..."
The remaining three were still struggling with their envelopes, so Twilight, Rarity, and Pinkamena went over to help them open the letters and attach pins. Fluttershy's was a flower surrounded by yellow, Rainbow Dash's a cloud with a rainbow glow, and unsurprisingly, Applejack had an apple with an orange aura. The three started adjusting to their new ability, first trying to pick up their mission mail. They all struggled at it until eventually, Dash managed to lift her letter. Unfortunately, she lifted it too quickly, and it caught on one of the tree branches above her. Twilight stifled a giggle.
“You don’t have to do everything so quickly Rainbow,” Twilight advised. ”Try to get it down, slowly this time. Once you’ve managed that, try lifting something larger, like those sticks over there” Twilight indicated a pair of fallen branches.
"Well that's all well and good for you four, but what about poor Twilight and I?" Rarity asked, pulling Twilight’s focus back to the conversation. "We already could do all that. What benefit do we get from this?"
"Have you tried using your telekinesis in battle yet?" Both unicorns shook their heads. "That's because you can't. Or couldn't rather. But with the pin, you can lift and throw any objects lying around on the battlefield at the Noise."
"Well that's better than nothing I suppose," Twilight said. "Anyway, about this mission... How are we going to clear an entire park of ponies when the most we can do is plant vague ideas in their minds?"
"Well we could always plant the idea of leaving in their minds. That ought to do the trick," Pinkamena said.
"With a park this size?" Twilight shook her head. "By the time we found and got even half of them to leave, more would have just wandered in. We may have four hours, but even that won't be enough to stop them coming in.
"Twilight has a point. Besides, if it was that simple, why would the reapers have given us these new pins?"
"Well, how powerful is your magic? We could work together and knock down a few trees and block the entries. That would stop any ponies coming in."
Rarity glanced over at Fluttershy, who had got the hang of telekinesis now, and was floating a flower around. "I'm not sure Fluttershy would like that plan. You know what she's like about nature."
"Also how would the ponies currently in the park leave if we blocked the entrance, or from another point of view, the exits?" Twilight added. "Pinkamena, is there anything we can do as players to influence living ponies?"
"Well, there's one way, but it's not like it's really useful. What we do in battles can slightly affect ponies' perception, like if Twilight uses her fire a lot they might start to feel warmer."
Rarity's ears dropped. "You're right. That isn't useful."
"Not on it's own..." Twilight mumbled. A plan was starting to form. As the last piece clicked into place she grinned. "If we used a lot of telekinesis in battle, how would that affect the living ponies?"
Pinkamena looked confused. "I don't know. I guess they might think objects are moving on their own?"
"So if we did that, could we make them think the park was haunted?"
A light of recognition appeared in Pinkamena's eyes. "If we combined it with planting words in their heads, it could work..."
"And then they'd warn everypony they met that the park was haunted, and they'd stay away!" Twilight concluded.
Rarity looked between the two. "Well, if we must perform these foalish pranks to live, so be it. Shall we spilt up again to cover more ground?"
"Well we do have four hours, so we could probably manage without splitting up. But we'd be done faster if we did. It's up to you."
"I think splitting would be the best," Pinkamena said. "The sooner we get this done, the sooner we can get to day seven. The longer we're in this game, the smaller the chance that we'll all make it back."
Rarity nodded. "Okay then. Fluttershy and I will take one end, and Applejack and Rainbow Dash can take the other."
"Meanwhile Pinkamena and I can stay in this area and deal with the ponies here, as well as guard the entrances."
"Sounds like a plan. And tell every player you meet to do the same." Pinkamena consulted her hoof. "We should have plenty of time, so if it's a choice between hasty and safety, choose safety. Okay, let's tell the others."
There was a loud CRACK behind them. Startled all three ponies turned as one.... and saw Fluttershy cowering as Applejack and Rainbow Dash telekinetically duelled with the sticks. Twilight smiled. "Maybe we should give them a bit more time to play around..."