63w, 1dProject ACES
Two months have passed
Princess Luna's Office
The solid thunk of a knock on her office door drives Luna from the sanctity of her fresh cup of tea, mercilessly dragging her back to the world of paperwork she's briefly escaped. A quick check of her clock however reveals that this is an expected and most welcome visit.
The recently promoted Colonel Windsheer lets himself in and calmly shuts the door behind him, coming before her desk and kneeling like a knight of the old court. Luna hid the smile from her lips, he was a great warrior, leader and friend. He deserved to be able to choose what set of etiquette he and his ponies followed. Luna rather liked the old court style any way, it reminded her of... before. The princess quickly settled her thoughts from the dark time of her banishment and returned to reality. Windsheer started a formal address and it was just too nice a spring evening for Luna to let him continue.
"Please Windsheer, it's too nice a day and you're too old a friend, rise and sit with me, please talk plainly it is only us today after all."
Windsheer inclines his head, grinning up at his princess and rising at her command.
"As you wish m'lady."
"What have you brought us this fine spring night? Please tell me you have an excuse to get me out of here and into the moonlight instead of this thrice cursed office."
Windsheer chuckles politely. Luna's hatred of being cooped up in her office but love of being cooped up in her library was legendary amongst the palace staff and what she usually meant when she professed her desire to escape into the night.
"Nothing to help you escape m'lady unless you want me to have the duty Marine platoon practice a hostage rescue."
"Hmmm we'll consider it as a last resort."
Windsheer took the heavy load of paper work and separated them into three stacks quickly and efficiently.
"The first pile is the final butcher's bill for the northern campaign and the final assault against Claw, all told the wing lost twenty dead and fifteen wounded, six of those were in critical condition but are showing excellent recovery at this phase in their treatment, four of those should be able to rejoin the unit, the other two are being given full medical discharges with honors. Mostly Marines but a smattering of pilots, three MIA, latter confirmed POW and all three were recovered despite grievous wounds sustained in captivity and during recovery. Lieutenants Flare and Zephyr have already been cleared to active duty and flight status, Tech Corporal Clanky Doo however will not be able to return to us... the loss of her left foreleg puts her past military health standards."
"No to mention her relationship with lieutenant Flare, make sure they know I expect an invitation to the wedding one day... also if they might avoid tumbling into one of my rose bushes next time they take a “walk” in the Royal gardens it would be highly appreciated.”
Windsheer coughs and blushes slightly shooting a glare at Luna, the monarch however continues as if she hadn’t said anything of the ordinary.
“Hmmm... I suppose Ms. Doo’s injury would explain your request to hire a small cadre of civilian maintainers to augment the military ones."
Windsheer does his best to look innocent.
"Well ma'am it could certainly seem that way but I assure you has nothing to do with Ms. Doo, all for the good of the squadron. Though passing up a highly qualified maintainer such as Ms. Doo, should she choose to apply for such a position would be just short of incompetence on my part."
The midnight mare nods not being taken in for a second, but accepting Windsheer's explanation.
"I suppose we can move on to slightly more positive news then Colonel?"
"Yes ma'am. Let's see beyond the large stacks of medals for your approval including Wounded Lion medals for all the injured, and POW/MIA medals for our three escapees. I have recommended Captain now Major Cloud Dancer for the air medal, as well as turned over combat command of the unit to her, it seems as you suspected that I really am getting too old for this Highness. Without the Major's actions and her fantastic combat leadership we well could have lost this entire campaign not just the final battle. I have also recommended a number of other medals for a variety of valorous actions, mostly amongst the Marines but a couple of my airponies as well. Finally I have some leave chits for your personal approval."
Luna looked up, the deaths had been weighing hard on her. Most of the ponies in Equestria found her colder and more distant then her elder sister, like the moon she controlled but she felt the death of everypony in the Royal service just as painfully as the sun goddess. Windsheer bringing something as simple as leave reports to her attention at a time like this...
"Colonel why would you bring leave chits to my attention?"
"Well you've taken an active interest in these four ponies..."
"Ah of course, our dynamic trio and Major Cloud Dancer."
"Yes ma'am, the famous trio have decided to take a break from causing me massive amounts of paperwork and are heading to Ponyville to visit Doo's family there. Cloud Dancer's taking some time off... I think she's looking for closure from her brother if that's at all possible."
"Indeed Colonel... now then back to the paperwork..."
The Next Day
It was not often the Luna turned to her scrying dish to look upon specific ponies, rarer still that she used it's mirror like liquid in the light of day, but this was a special day, and she wished to look upon her four subjects. She cast her magic upon the scrying dish, focusing on the three friends that had done so much for her and their nation, she found them flying, light hearted and almost at play.
Flare was flying close to Clanky, taking a worried glance at her now and then. For her part she seemed to be experiencing no difficulty keeping up in the air though her shining metal prosthetic leg might slow her on the ground. Luna knew just by looking at them that while the wounds were many and deep, these three were already healing from what they had suffered.
Luna turned her gaze to Cloud Dancer, another of her little ponies that she feared was far more damaged then the three friends she looked on now. A quick flick of her horn revealed that Cloud Dancer was sitting next to a grave... her brother's Luna assumed, given the fresh flowers. She was crying but they were not the tears of purest pain from before, tears of despair that froze the life of the ones crying them. These tears were simply loss, and though it flickered in her eyes for just a second, tears of release and forgiveness, for herself if no pony else.
As Cloud Dancer looked towards the skies, eyes seeking an answer to the questions she still bore in her heart in the depths of the blue. A single petal drifting on the breeze alighted on the tombstone for just a second, dragging the eyes of mare and monarch to the simple inscription upon it’s cold, smooth marble surface.
There comes a time
When war's grey clouds
Start to fade and fray
And those left behind
Must carry on without those lost
Under clear blue skies.
The task is always difficult
Those dear and lost to us
Are never far from heart
But in their honor, we must live
Err’ we never been torn apart
Under clear blue skies
A Message from the Author:
Well friends it's been one hell of a ride and personally I'm shocked it got all the way to the end. Taking on a project of this size and magnitude is common for me, I'm a writer and I love writing but the energy, dedication and drive to finish this project came from all of you. This piece has done well enough in my mind I might even try to convert it to humans and let my "normal" friends enjoy it as well. There will potentially be a Stormrider's Sequel written but it might be slow going ponies. Check out Stormriders: Dead Seas here and make sure to give that track button some love! I'll also try to start making regular blog posts which will go out to both lists of Stormriders fans, so when there is an update I will try to make sure everypony from my awesome fanbase (all like 50+ of you which blows my tiny Irish mind) knows about it!
I realize this story and any of the ones that are going to follow it, is about as far from an episode as you can possibly get with out being porn or grimdark but I think there's really only one way for me to end this particular chapter in the Stormriders story.
Dear Princess Celestia,
Over the course of the last few months I rediscovered the joys of writing, of working hard at a big goal and accomplishing it, the joys of giving entertainment and taking pleasure in one's work, of getting to share that with people who appreciate it. I also learned many times over that whatever you can accomplish, you can accomplish so much more with the help, encouragement and support of your friends.
Your faithful student,