• Published 10th Mar 2014
  • 3,310 Views, 101 Comments

Old Habits - Viking ZX

It's Nova's first official day off, and he's decided to spend it in one place he knows he can relax: the Canterlot Bazaar. But when he has an unexpected encounter with a face from his past, can he face the pony he once was?

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The First Last Job

“Thanks for lunch,” Nova said as he followed Vinyl out the door, rolling his eyes at Jam Roll’s titanic and over-dramatic “farewell” from behind them. “I’m going to have to remember this place.” He paused in front of the door and glanced up at the sign.

“Hey, it was my pleasure,” Vinyl said, giving him a grin. “It’s not every day you get to eat lunch with someone who’s got so many interesting stories. Drop by the club sometime and we’ll do it again.”

“You know what? I’d like that,” he said, smiling. “Although next time I’ll pay.”

“Really?” She cocked her head to one side and grinned. “How about next time, we see who can chug the most Shock at once without freaking out. Winner pays.”

“Sounds like a deal,” Nova said with a smile. “See you then?” He held out his hoof.

“You bet,” Vinyl said, tapping her hoof against his own. “Anywho, I need to get back. I’m already twenty minutes late. See ya!” She reared back and spun on her hind hooves before galloping off through the crowd, dodging around shoppers with a gleeful abandon.

Well, that was definitely not what I expected to do today, he thought as he watched her go. Turned out pretty fun though. Sky Bolt and Sabra were right, she is pretty cool. I’ll have to see if I can get her to sign the rest of her albums for me.

He trotted out into the square, his eyes scanning the vendor's stalls for anything that looked interesting. The square was even more heavily packed now, filled with so many ponies that he was forced to slow to a gradual shuffle as he approached the central fountain. The minotaur was back again, shouting out about some “self-esteem” seminar, and another group of ponies had slowed to a halt in front of him. The place was definitely getting busy.

The perfect time to be out looking for good marks, he thought as he hopped up on the edge of the fountain. I hope the Guard are paying attention. His eyes caught sight of a pair of winged sentries standing near one of the entrances to the square, looking bored in their gold armor. Then again, they’re probably baking in that stuff. I know I would be. Crud, he thought as he pulled his eyes back towards the various stalls, I’d be making excuses to guard the fountain.

As if on cue the fountain sputtered again, showering the ponies closest to it with a spray of water. Nova suppressed a shiver as the heavy droplets rolled down his coat like wet beads. I wonder when they turn that off, he thought as he scanned his eyes across the square, pausing on the occasional sign that seemed interesting. Do they wait until somepony complains or…

He paused as a familiar sound entered his ear, a rushing cadence of near-uncontrolled, high-pitched hoofbeats. His ears twisted, swiveling as he tried to identify the source of the noise.

It’s the same thing I heard earlier, he thought as the hoofbeats reached a fever-pitch. Right before that colt—there!

Fifteen feet away a pegasus pony stumbled, her rear legs giving out as something—or someone—slammed into them. Nearby ponies gasped and pulled back, splitting around the pegasus as her wings flared out reflexively. Nova reared back, balancing on his rear legs as he tried to get a better look. The crowd was thick enough and the accident far enough away that—no, there! There, picking himself up from the ground and apologizing profusely, was the same red unicorn colt he’d seen earlier that day. The same one that had “accidently” almost run into his own saddlebag.

Nova’s eyes narrowed as the colt leapt to his hooves, shouting out apologies before darting off into the crowd. Nova watched, following the colt’s movements by the flashes of red coat and the startled exclamations of the nearby shoppers. It took roughly ten seconds for the colt to stop running.

Either that kid and the other one I saw earlier are having some sort of contest to see how many shoppers they can head-butt or… He jumped off of the fountain-wall and began to pick his way through the crowd, old instincts taking over as he moved towards the teal-blue pegasus. He stuck to the fringes of the crowd as she picked herself up, moving slowly but making sure to show the appropriate amount of concern as she dusted herself off, muttering something about “crazy colts” under her breath and then chuckling.

The crowd moved back in, and he moved with it, coming up alongside the mare as she moved forward once more. The ponies to the right of his target were all looking elsewhere, their attention on bags, shopping lists, or the signs above them. His target shifted direction, stepping into one of the open pathways between the various booths, and he followed, keeping just behind her and to the left.

The actual action was smooth, so practiced he barely had to think about it. He stepped out with his rear, right hoof, making it look as if he was stepping around something on the cobblestones but actually twisting his body so that none of the ponies behind him could see what he was doing. His right foreleg came up, just as if the same action that had caused him to step to the right had thrown him slightly off-balance, and then—he twisted his hoof, flipping it into and then back out of the mare’s saddlebags, right through the distinctive bulging space where her bit-bag had been.

Had been. His hoof came out empty, dropped along with the rest of his foreleg, and he shifted back, the entire motion looking like nothing more than a pony who had stepped to the side and then realized he would be bumping into somepony else. Except that there should have been another step to it, the step where he would have cupped the bit-bag between his foreleg or his chest until he could roll it someplace safer. Not that he would have done that anyway. The moment his hoof would have made contact with the bit-bag he would have pulled away. That wasn’t the problem.

The problem was that the bit-bag hadn’t been there at all, when it should have been. His hoof should have tapped it, recoiled, and pulled away. Instead, it had gone right past were the distention of the fabric had said the bag would be. Which meant one of two things. Either the pegasus in question had decided to stash her bits somewhere else for some reason … or somepony had just swiped them.

And if it was the latter, he had a pretty good idea of who the guilty party had been. Nova turned back towards the fountain, first pulling away from the mare he’d been tailing and then cutting a sharp left across the flow of the crowd.

If I’m right, and I’m putting the pieces together here properly, in the next few minutes I’ll see that same mare backtracking across the square before heading over to one of those Guard to—that didn’t take as long as I thought. He could already make out the distinctly teal-blue silhouette of the pegasus mare as she took wing, flapping back along the path she’d been walking moments earlier. Nova settled on the edge of the fountain, doing his best to look like somepony who was relaxing in the afternoon sun rather than eyeing the crowd looking for a mark as the mare began explaining her situation to the Guard.

They’re watching the crowd, Nova thought as the pair began to circle the square, but they’re not looking for the right thing. He kept up his own observations, his eyes scanning back and forth, but fixing on signs, businesses, or interesting sights that would catch most ponies eyes. Staring right at something? That was a dead giveaway. But watching from the corner of your eye? There was no way to tell.

It was another eight minutes by his count when his ears picked up the sound of another near-collapse gallop. Nova smiled as another mark—this one an older earth pony—stumbled as somepony ran into his legs from behind.

Right near the fountain, so he—no, she— he corrected as he caught sight of the young pegasus filly, —can follow the curve of the crowd and get as far away as possible without raising suspicion. The earth pony climbed back to his hooves, the filly already racing away as he yelled something after her. Once again, the filly ran for about ten seconds before slowing down to a more sedate—but not by much—trot.

Hmph, Nova thought as he pushed himself off of the fountain wall and began to make his way towards the oblivious filly. You’re smooth, but now it’s my turn. He turned as the filly began to head for one of the square exits. Just like the red colt from earlier, he could see a small, pink saddlebag the same color as her coat secured along her back.

No pony your age comes up with something like this, as bland as it is, Nova thought as he followed the filly out of the square, staying a good twenty feet or more back, not that she ever checked for pursuit. Nor did he see any signs of other fillies, colts, or adults keeping an obvious eye on her as she made her way down the street, away from the more populated areas of Canterlot.

Somepony put you up to this, Nova thought as he followed her further into the city, and I’m going to find out who.

* * *

“You got another one?” Thundercloud asked as she leaned forward across her desk. The pink filly grinned as she pulled a rather large bit-bag from her saddlebag, her stubby wings flapping with excitement as she hopped up high enough to drop the bag on the end of Thundercloud’s desk.

“Yeah! I did!” the filly—Sunset, that was her name—said with a smile of pride. “Just like the last one!” Her wings gave another little flutter of excitement, lifting her hooves from the floor of the wagon. “That makes—makes three today!” The little filly’s face beamed as she looked up at Thundercloud.

“Yes it does,” Thundercloud said as she cupped her hoof around the bit-bag and pulled it towards her. She could feel the heavy coins, maybe even a few bars, clink against one another as the bag slid across the table.

Oh, this is a good haul. You’re pulling down all the bits today, little filly. The bag came to a stop in front of her and she hesitated. The little pegasus was still looking at her expectantly.

“Do you want something, Sunset?” she asked, pulling up the filly’s name from memory.

“Um,” the pink pegasus said, suddenly looking a little less sure of herself. “I—uh—was just wondering if that was enough for the day? We’ve been at this for a long time, and—” her eyes darted downwards as the filly began twisting her front hoof against the floor, her ears falling slightly, “—maybe we could go play for a little while?”

Thundercloud let out a long sigh and the filly’s face fell. Don’t lose your temper, Thunder, she reminded herself as she started to shake her head. She’s just a dumb kid being a dumb kid. Still, for this to work…

“Well,” Thundersaid, leaning back and resting her head on one hoof as if she was really thinking about it. “I suppose you could, if you really wanted to—” Sunset’s face lit up, her wings fluttering out, “—but if you did, we probably woudn’t have enough to send you to that flight camp you wanted to go to, right?” Thundercloud tried not to smile as the filly’s face fell, but it was hard not to. So young, so trusting, she thought as Sunset’s shoulders slumped, her wings falling to the ground.

“Well, I guess...” the filly said, her head drooping. Then she looked back up with a hopeful smile. “But we’re almost there, aren’t we?”

“We are!” Thundercloud said with a smile. “Just a few more, and I think we’ll be able to do it. So get back out there and help!”

Sunset let out a little cheer as she darted around the small chair on the far side of the desk and out the door, her stubby wings buzzing. Thundercloud smiled to herself as she rose from her desk and turned around, watching through the large window as the pink-coated filly shot off towards the bazaar.

Keep running towards the carrot, you little gutter-orphan, she thought as the filly ducked out of sight. As long as you keep running, I won’t have to use the stick. Much. The image of a moss-green unicorn colt leapt to mind. Her first attempt at the project, and the one she’d left behind in Las Pegasus when the dumb little brat had gotten too uppity with her. She’d made sure to thoroughly terrify the ungrateful little rat beforehand though, he wasn’t going to dare tell anypony about her little operation. And she’d at least been kind enough to dump him on the steps of one of the local orphanages before leaving town.

I should have thought of this years ago. She watched the backstreets for a few moments more, smiling as she mentally tabulated how many bits she’d made so far. Couple of orphan kids, a little sleight-of-hoof training and bam! Instant profit. And speaking of profit… Her mind turned towards the heavy bit bag sitting on her desk. I wonder how much I just made, she thought as she turned. From the weight, there’s at least two-hundred— “YEEAG!”

The last part came out as a strangled scream as she jumped back, her wings snapping out in shock as she took in the purple unicorn sitting across the desk from her, watching her silently. How long had he been there? Where had he come from?

For a moment the inside of the wagon was completely silent save for the faint rustling her feathers made as she smoothed her wings down. She continued to stare at the pony, who was looking back at her with a gaze that looked somewhat hostile; although he hadn’t moved yet. Besides, there was always the small thundercloud she kept in the drawer of her desk. A single kick would be all she’d need to send a bolt of lightning his way if he tried anything funny.

There was something familiar about him though, she couldn’t quite place it. She sat down, forcing herself to look calm and rational despite her pounding heart. Purple coat, fire-red mane, unicorn… she thought as she catalogued the unicorn’s appearance. Muscled—make that really well muscled. Still there was something about those eyes, the way they seemed to stare right at her, boring into her like they saw her every secret. Then the corner of the unicorn’s mouth teased upward ever so slightly, his expression taking on a familiar sardonic look and Thundercloud let out a gasp of surprise as everything connected. The look, the coat color—it couldn’t be, it had been years! But no, she saw it, was almost certain of it…

“Nova Beam?” she asked hesitantly. The unicorn’s half-grin widened and he nodded.

“Hello, Thundercloud,” he said. “Been a long time. How’s Misty?”

“Mistwalker is back in Las Pegasus, and she still hates that nickname,” she said, shaking her head but not taking her eyes off of Nova. She’d heard at the farm that he’d quit. Vanished. But if that was true, what was he doing in her wagon? “She gave up the business after we got off the farm.”

“Smart choice,” Nova said, leaning forward slightly. “You should have done that.”

“Well, what can I say?” she said, letting out a nervous chuckle. “When you’re as good as I am—”

“You were never ‘good,’ Thundercloud,” Nova said, his level tone cutting her off. “You were only passable at best.”

“Yeah, well maybe I’ve gotten better since the farm!” she shot back. Her rebuttal did little to ease the sting. What a jerk, she thought as Nova leaned back in the seat, his expression still unreadable save for that stupid half-grin. Breaking into her wagon, and he still hadn’t told her why. Unless…

“Wait a second,” she said, moving her right leg towards the hidden thundercloud in her desk. “Am I on your turf?” She let out a silent curse as he nodded. Of course that would just be her luck. Crime had to be kept under a level in Canterlot, in any city, and each group had their own turf they worked. She’d done the work, asked the various crews when she’d arrived if the bazaar was free territory, been amazed when it was. Of course it belonged to Nova. Even if the jerk didn’t use it, he could still lay claim to it, even without a crew. Who would say no to him?

Lousy sun-cursed thieves, she thought as she pulled her leg back from the thundercloud. They’re probably laughing their plots off back at the den, all happy that they got me to poach Nova’s turf. Jerks.

“Alright, my bad,” she said, smiling and holding up both of her hooves. Best not to cross him. Last time you did that you ended up getting in way over your head and stuck in the farm to boot. “I’ll move to one of the other markets or something. Not a big deal.”

He was shaking his head. Dang it! Why was he shaking his head!?

“The kids you have working for you?” he asked, his tone flat. “Where’d you find them?”

“Who, them?” Thundercloud asked, her coat standing up on the back of her neck. Just play it cool. “They’re just gutter trash. Worthless orphans I can pick up at any orphanage in Equestria and cut loose when … the job’s …. done.” Her words slowed as Nova’s face darkened, switching from the more familiar half-grin to a dark glower that almost made her breath catch in her throat.

“You’re done.” It was a flat statement. No inflection. Thundercloud felt a faint sweat start to sweep across her back. Was he threatening her?

“I’m sorry?” she asked, trying to keep her voice steady. Come on, you’re better now. You’re not the same pegasus who spent four years pushing dirt on a farm. She felt a faint hint of confidence and grabbed onto it.

“Here’s the deal,” Nova said, leaning forward and setting both his hooves on the table. “As of today, this is your last day. You’re going to take those kids back to whatever orphanage you found them at and you’re going to return them. Then, you’re going to get out of Canterlot and quit thieving altogether.

“Whoa!” Thundercloud said, folding her ears flat. “That’s a little intense, don’t you think? My system’s working fine. I’ll just get off your turf and we can call it—”

“The whole city is my turf, Thunder,” Nova said, cutting her off.

“What?” she asked, confused. “But—”

“You’re going to return these kids, and then you’re going to go back to the den. I want you to take them a message. Tell them that I’m back. I’m done hiding. And this city? Canterlot? It’s my turf now.” She gaped at him as he continued. “Tell them they’ve got a week to get everything in order. They want to run small stuff, that’s fine. Pickpocket occasionally? I’m not going to look. It’ll happen. But something like this? It’s done. I’ll know.”

“But ... the whole city? You can’t possibly claim the whole city!” she said, her voice sputtering. “You’d need a huge crew to work it! And—and—you work alone!”

“Not anymore,” Nova said, the half-grin coming back to his face. “You might have heard that I’d quit. And they’re right. I did quit. Now? I’m doing what I should have always been doing.”

She could feel sweat pouring from her pits now. What was he doing? Was he trying to actually build a criminal empire? Something that could even take on the Guard? Was he nuts!? How could he expect anypony to—

“I’m rolling with a crew for the first time in forever,” he said. His half-grin shifted to a full smile and Thundercloud almost felt her jaw drop. “Although that’s not exactly what we call it. I guess ‘team’ would be more accurate. You might have heard of them,” he continued, his voice taking on an edge as he leaned forward, his eyes narrowing. “We’re called the Dusk Guard.”

This time Thundercloud’s jaw did drop. Celestia’s Royal Plot! she cussed silently as she slammed herself back in her seat, her wings coming out as her rear hoof connected solidly with the thundercloud under the desk. He flipped! There was a sharp crack as the front of her desk exploded outward, a jagged bolt of lightning arcing through the air straight towards the unicorn.

Then there was a bright flash, and for the briefest moment there was something silvery-white, a sharp crescent that split the air between her and Nova. Then a sharp pain bloomed across her chest as her own thunderbolt reflected into her, shoving her back. Her body crashed into the wall of the wagon, wings spasming as the heavy electric current coursed through her body. She was struck by a clear, rational thought as her body crumpled to the floor, the breath exploding from her chest as she slammed into the wood. At least I didn’t go through the window.

She tried to push her head up but her limbs weren’t obeying her commands anymore. How much power had she packed into that cloud? She’d had it down there for weeks, but…

Some feeling was coming back into her legs now. She was a pegasus, she’d been born to shrug off lightning strikes. She just need to get up, get out, get away, before—

Her desk, wrapped in yellow glow, slammed into her side, shoving her back and pinning her against the wall with her wings spread wide. Her hooves slid uselessly across the desktop as she tried to push it away, and the heavy wood jabbed in again, digging into her ribs and pushing what little breath she had from her lungs.

“So…” Nova said as he stepped up to the splintered front of the desk, his horn glowing a bright, vivid yellow. “Are you done trying to escape?” Thundercloud gave the desk one final shove, only for it to push even harder against her, the last bit of air leaving her lungs with a gasp. She tried to suck in a breath, but the pressure on her chest wouldn’t give, and she started to panic, her legs frantically kicking as she tried for anything, anything to get air into her body. Then the desk pulled away and she dropped to the ground, gasping for air, her chest heaving as she pulled in breath after breath of sweet, blessed oxygen.

“Done trying to run?” Nova asked, and she nodded as she pushed herself up on trembling front legs.

“Good,” he said, shoving the desk aside with a bright flash of his horn. There was a splintering sound as it broke apart somewhere up near the front of the wagon, bits spilling out of the shattered drawers and onto the floor. “You really shouldn’t have gone for that thunderbolt, but then again, you should’ve bolted that desk down too.” He bent down next to her, his voice infuriatingly calm. Or what would have been infuriatingly calm if she’d had enough energy left to be furious. Which she didn’t.

“So, this is my message to you, Thundercloud, and to every other crew in Canterlot. I know who you are. I know how you operate. And if I see any signs of big crime, jobs like this one in this city from now on? I’ll come down on you. You guys can do your little pickpocketing from time to time, the same old basic stuff, and I’ll leave it to the Royal Guard. That’s their job. But you do something bigger? You wrap orphans into your scheme? You start showing signs of some serious organization? Then it’s my game, and I’ll come looking for you, and I’ll bring my friends. And you’ll all end up on the farm, because we’ll catch you. Trust me when I say it,” he said, shaking his head, “we’ll definitely catch you.”

“So,” he said, rising and looking around inside the wagon. “You want my advice, you’ll go back to Las Pegasus, give all this up, and focus on something that’s really important. Your sister’s probably worried that you’re going to wind up on the farm again, and if I catch you doing something like this again, you will. And I won’t feel bad for you either. I was one of those ‘gutter-trash orphans,’ Thundercloud,” he said, his voice taking on a slightly angry tone. “You messed up big. So take them home, and then go find your own.” His eyes moved towards the crumpled remains of the desk and then back towards her. “Maybe you should try weather school. You’ve got a talent for it. So...” He gave her a shrug. “Are we clear?”

“You’re…” she managed to gasp, her chest still fighting to get the wind back into her. “You’re—a jerk.”

“Well, I could just arrest you now,” he said, shrugging. “Or even go grab the Royal Guard. I get the feeling they’ve been looking for you for a few hours now.”


Nova nodded. “That’s what I thought.” He turned around once, his eyes darting all around the inside of her wagon. “So, you’ve got the warning. Let the rest of the crews know.”

“And—and if they don’t want to?” she said, her question ending with a cough. Her chest felt like she’d been bucked by an earth pony. Maybe more than once.

“Then in a week or two the Guard will be able to arrest them,” Nova said with a small shrug. “They can go small, or go home. But they can’t stay the way they are. Got it?”

“Got it,” she wheezed, and he nodded at her. She mustered up enough energy to scowl at him as he pushed the back door open and stepped out onto the the street, but she didn’t think he noticed. Or that he cared. He was Nova, the most famous thief she’d ever known.

And now he was a Guard.

Thundercloud let out a groan of pain as she pushed herself to her hooves. She was going to be sore for a day or two, but she’d survive. As badly as the bolt to her chest had hurt, it had been her bolt. Technically, the most he’d done was pin her to the wall with her own desk, which given what she’d done, wasn’t exactly something she could fully hold against him.

But it was a clear warning. She stumbled, her wings flaring out as she caught herself. Any moment now, one of those kids would be back with another bit-bag for her.

And she had to be ready when they arrived. She had a lot to do, and only a day to do it.

And she wanted to be out of Canterlot before that day was up.

* * *

“Hey!” Hunter called. Nova grinned as he stepped into the common room, returning Hunter’s wave with one of his own. “How was your day off?"

“Fairly uneventful,” Nova said, hopping over the back of a couch and crashing down on the cushions with a bounce. “I enjoyed it. Just doing some paperwork?”

“Yeah,” Hunter said, nodding down at the spread of papers covering the common room table. “I was about to crack a fruity sitting in my office. Needed a change.”

“Anything interesting?”

“Not likely,” Hunter said with a shake of his head. “Just the usual stuff. No worries. Do anything while you were out-and-about?”

“Made a new friend, had lunch at an island restaurant,” Nova said, digging himself into the cushions slightly.

“Nice,” Hunter said, his attention drifting back down towards his work. “See anything interesting?”

“A couple of kids playing a being pickpockets,” Nova said, grinning as Hunter looked up in surprise. “I gave the ringleader a bit of a talking to. They won’t be doing it again."

“Really? You’re not giving me a beat up?”

Nova shook his head, still grinning. “Nope. Straight truth. Or uh, dinkum, as you put it.”

“Well,” Hunter said, leaning back. “Call me gobsmacked. And on your day off?”

“Well, what else can I say, Hunter?” Nova said, his grin widening as he leaned back into the couch. “There’s no rest for the wicked.”

Author's Note:

"Old Habits" ... underwent a lot of extra work. I actually rewrote the entire thing, scrapping the original story (although a lot of elements, such as Shock and Vinyl, stayed the same) and making a lot of changes. In the end though, I'm a lot happier with what came out (and you guys definitely are, trust me).

This story also marked the second time I commissioned an art piece for the cover, which came out looking pretty much exactly like I wanted it to. So much so, in fact, that not only did I have the cover version of it made, but a full-out background title card as well, which you might have noticed above! Nova Beam, in all his glory, with that little catchphrase that ended up making up so much of his character. Grab it here! Or alternatively, it should also be available at the artist's page here.

But now that "Old Habits" is complete, I'm feeling pretty optimistic about what lies ahead, both for Nova and the rest of the team. One part I've really enjoyed about these side stories is getting even further into the heads of the characters and seeing some of the sides to them that the rest of the team didn't (or doesn't) get to see, especially as "Rise" really was only from three core viewpoints with two major arcs (which was plenty, given its length).

Anyway, this also marks the official halfway point of published side stories. Only three more to go! The next one is coming soon, guys! Until then, thanks for reading!

Comments ( 37 )

I can see these stories are only going to get better and better. Don't slow down now!

I really liked this story, especially his message. It shows that Nova isn't some idealistic hero, especially not with his past, that's going to 'end all crime'. He realizes that trying to enforce a total shutdown of crime would end badly, as it would encourage them to escalate in retaliation. Thundercloud is a bit dense though. Didn't realize that the crime itself that bothered Nova, it was using the kids and calling them trash, especially with what we know of his backstory. Now to see if there are any underlying groups that are willing to go against the Dusk Guard, even after the warning. Possibly assisted by Mint and her numerous hidden assets stored around Equestria. Wonder where the griffin merc fr-. Well, now I think I know where the next story (hopefully) is headed.

Awesome. Greatly enjoyed it. :)

This was excellent, though I expected nothing less.

And now I feel like playing some borderlands 2, still have a couple of DLC's to shoot up!

Have I said already that Nova is a badass? Because he's become quite a badass :rainbowdetermined2:

Also, NovaScratch! *ShippingGoggles*

Awesome :pinkiehappy:

I can't help but notice that you mixed in Thunderhead instead of Thundercloud a few times, other than that, can't wait for what's next.:pinkiehappy:

This was a fun romp. I can't wait for Hunter's side story.

I must admit, it isn't the first time it's been done (so I can't lay claim to the idea at all), but I felt it really helped for the story. Glad you liked it.

Even in a desert. Throw an exam table into the sun, it'll hit the core cold.

Doing what I can! Glad you're having fun with them!

I ... can say nothing. Except that I think you're going to be very, very surprised. :pinkiehappy:


Yay! And BL2 is awesome.

Yeah, he is. Along with the whole team. When they get pointed at you, your best option is to surrender. :rainbowlaugh:


I think that was shades of Nova calling her that which didn't get edited out. Thanks for the catch! Fixed!

It's coming. Of course, there's a bit of a wibbly-wobbly adventure with Steel coming first, at least if I'm reading this little gadget with the bright light correctly...

Dammit man, stop making yourself my favorite author.

Awww ... are you sure? :pinkiesad2: I guess I could right sumthing teribbled.

Glad you liked it! Vinyl's blindness is a unique factor (and, come to think of it, probably one reason she warmed up to Sabra so quickly), and I was really pleased with how well it fit into everything. Rest assured, there will be more side-story happenings with Nova and Vinyl. He's grown, as you can tell. Although what will come of it ... darn, we really need a maniacal laugh emoticon!

I think you guys are going to like it.

Oh, and we'll see if Nova stays on top after this next story. I'm going to do some touch-up on it tomorrow (I actually wrote it nine months ago, and it's been waiting all this time...), and then it's OFF to the Alpha readers!

Thank you! Yahoo! I'm glad you liked it, btw! :pinkiehappy:

You're very welcome :twilightsmile:

Wickedly awesome story. Nova's got a thing going on with Vinyl and at the same time he's being a badass. I mean the bit with Thundercloud was brilliant. He was just so calm and collected while he scared the crap out of one of his old cohorts. I look forward to more.

I wonder how many remember that thundercloud and thunderhead are the twins from that one story nova told sky bolt

Also the farm I assume is like a correctional facility, I imagine it looks a lot like the pie rock farm

Thanks! And as far as Nova+Scratch, we'll see! :pinkiehappy:

Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it! I had a lot of fun writing it (Nova's a blast to work with), and I look forward to the adventures to come with him.

Emoticon will be coming along soon, so keep an eye out! :pinkiehappy:

You actually are the FIRST to at least point that out! Congrats on the sharp eyes and memory! I was wondering how long it would take someone to make that connection!

And yeah, the farm is (fairly accurate) slang for Equestria's correctional facilities. There are several of them around the country, but all are literal farms. You're put to work growing food that feeds you and the rest of the prisoners, as well as the rest of Equestria (priority is given with this food to places like orphanages and hospitals, to help with budgeting), as well as doing upkeep on the farm itself. You labor on the farm to repay a literal "debt" charged to you for your crimes, and along the way have an opportunity to pick up new skills, gain a work ethic, and learn how to function. Granted, they can't do this with really dangerous prisoners, but those hardly ever occur. For most, being sent to the farm once or twice will usually be enough to get a reformation.

4314484 Thanks for responding by the way I love the cover art

One thing I want to see is that poor little orphan filly that wanted to go to flight camp to be able to go

As long as you elude to that happening I'm going to be a happy reader

Karibu na asante! Don't forget to pay the original artist a visit!

This idea ... I like it. Hmm...

And the loyalty shield returns!

Nova's ultimatum was awesome, no buts about it.

...And then I ran out of Dusk Guard stories to read... FOR NOW. Thankfully I have plenty of reading and other things to fill my time until then. Thanks for writing!

Goes to show that even a slice of life can have a bombastic ending. :pinkiehappy:

M'kay, my guess for the nicely-timed griffon skeleton is that little "anga tone" note in Carry On.

Blade is most certainly not acting honorably. I get the feeling that she's mad. Angry. Frustrated. It wasn't fair that she lost to a pony Blademaster. It doesn't count. How dare he presume to call himself a blademaster? She is possibly not quite thinking straight, which puts a bit of a strain on Hunter, too.

It was fun seeing one of the nigh-legendary pegasus twins in action! :rainbowwild:

The details you put into the bazaar alternately had me laughing, like Iron Will's seminar and Jam Roll's "hamming up the accent," and intrigued, like that horse who stood out from the crowd like a sore... hoof.

I've really enjoyed seeing Nova grow throughout the story, and it feels like this really sums up his development thus far. His edge doesn't come out very often, but when it does, boy howdy.

And hey, I have a soft spot for sarcastic characters.

"Old Habits" ... underwent a lot of extra work. I actually rewrote the entire thing, scrapping the original story (although a lot of elements, such as Shock and Vinyl, stayed the same) and making a lot of changes. In the end though, I'm a lot happier with what came out (and you guys definitely are, trust me).

Now you've got me curious as to how it originally went down.

hmm another suddenly swing. from vynil to oliver twist.
I havr to say I have enjoyed the story and now I like Nova"s character more. I hopr toread more about him soon.
About the writing: the pickpocketing description are superb

4357265 4376029
I have no idea what that tastes like, but I'm with you guys on the wanting to try it. Shock is one of those moments where I just looked at reality and went "Dang, you're disappointing me."

:pinkiehappy: Yes, we'll see more of that shield in the future, and perhaps not just from Nova!

You're welcome!


Blade is most certainly not acting honorably. I get the feeling that she's mad. Angry. Frustrated. It wasn't fair that she lost to a pony Blademaster. It doesn't count. How dare he presume to call himself a blademaster? She is possibly not quite thinking straight, which puts a bit of a strain on Hunter, too.

Hmm ... I wonder...

Glad you liked all the details of the bazaar as well as the two sides of the story!

Now you've got me curious as to how it originally went down.

Similar, but with a single, dull pickpocket and Vinyl just bumping into him in the crowd. The restaurant was different too. But thinking about where I wanted things to go brought some changes and a lot more life into the story.

Thanks! I'm glad you like the action as well as the character moments! This story was a lot of fun to write.


There seems to be a few cries for "NovaScratch." I wonder...

I wonder if Shock has any relation to Scratch (the drink)...
If so, it went up from me 'wanting to try it' to 'Someone find a way to make this happen, NOW!'

The ending theme is rather fitting, more so than any I've seen in a while. Very nice.

Besides, there was always the small thundercloud she kept in the drawer of her desk. A single kick would be all she’d need to send a bolt of lightning his way if he tried anything funny.

equestrian equivalent of a derringer, eh? :ajsmug:

and the more i think about it, more this shock drink sounds.. electrifying. ...no? ok, ill stop.

but this definitely made me like nova more. so, i rate this as :yay: :rainbowkiss: :rainbowkiss: :rainbowkiss: :moustache: :moustache: 8.2/10

and on a side note... 148 to 0? ppl like this story.

could we have similar art on sky bolt and sabra? please? :applecry:


... It's literally a glass of lightning. It probably feels like being struck by lightning.

Nova Beam gives an ultimatum to Canterlot crime gangs.
After a few who dare to question his authority get dealt with, the rest unwillingly accepts to keep themselves to low profile jobs.
The Canterlot Guard is highly praised for the surprise drop in crime rates to previously unseen levels.
The criminal gangs soon find out that their reduced levels of income does not let them operate profitably, so many move to other cities.
Several major cities experience a huge influx of organized crime, shortly saturating all available "markets".
Feuds between crime gangs start to escalate in size and ferocity all around Equestria, except in Canterlot, where crime rates still are around zero.
Guard forces ask for and receive assistance from the Canterlot Guard, the well-known professionals in abolishing crime. Consultings and trainings are held, to no avail (since the Canterlot Guard had nothing to do with the successes attributed to them).
Citizens weary of crime in nearly all major towns desire to migrate to Canterlot, but few are able to do so in face of sharply rising prices in housing.
Canterlot becomes even more so the home of the wealthy, attracting even more interest from the banished pickpockets.
New crime rings emerge from the lengthy and violent gang wars, forged in blood and corruption, ready to take Canterlot back from the hold of the Dusk Guard with money, skill, ruthlessness and a scorching lust for vengeance.

Will the Dusk Guard be ready to take on a battle against this many enemies at once, fighting on the streets and in the courtrooms?

This sounds like an excellent idea. Viking ZX, any chance of this becoming a thing?

An awesome story, to say the least. I love the way that you flesh out your characters, and Nova in particular is really starting to grow on me. Definitely deserving of a like and fave!

I love the Borderlands style artwork you chose.

I just looked at this because the art had a borderlands 2 feel to it

Only 1 problem celestia wouldn't let it get this bad

One of the downsides to not wearing pants, much larger mess to clean up when someone drops a line like Nova did.

Very nice little story, thoroughly enjoyed it.

Anytime I read this I can't help but imagine the end like it's from an action tv show and see the title card slap on to the screen beside Nova's openly smirking face, and then ain't no rest for the wicked starts blaring in my head and doesn't stop for the rest of the day. You made a story, a short story at that, that is on par with some of the most highly budgeted tv shows in writing, and, somehow, visuals. Well done.

can't believe no ones done this yet

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