No Longer Displaced

by NoLongerSober

Chapter 21 - The Executor's Will

Barrier had carefully balanced himself on Tail’s chair before he wheeled her out of the chariot and onto the smooth stone that composed the Canterlot runway.

The pegasus had passed out within minutes of their departure, and she had barely stirred on the return flight. In fact, she remained thoroughly ensnared by the bournes of sleep even while the stallion pushed her across the castle grounds towards the infirmary.

“You probably needed it,” Barrier commented idly as he turned to glance upon one of the castle’s spires. The gleam of Celestia’s mark still reflected off the golden structure, adding to the ambiance that the late afternoon sun cast upon the walkway. “But that trip was definitely worth the energy and time…”

“You’re late,” Amora pointed out the instant Barrier carted Tail across the threshold of her final destination. The snow-colored unicorn flashed the stallion a stern scowl before she stepped up to the sleeping mare. “How long has she been out?”

“Whole way back,” Barrier answered while keeping a lock-tight grasp on the handlebars. “She slept the whole way there too.”

“I see…” The rising inflection of Amora’s voice abruptly brought a surprising degree of warmth to her tone. It drove Barrier to tilt his head in confusion. What was likely to be a confrontation suddenly appeared to be nothing like the anticipated battlefield. “Some grip you’ve got there,” the mare snickered, setting the stallion on the path to examine his own hoof placement.

Giggles emerged in reaction to Barrier’s hasty retreat. With widened eyes, he jerked away from the chair in a dramatic flailing motion that not only woke Tail from her slumber, but brought a grin to the medic’s muzzle as well. “Real slick there, Captain,” Amora commented flatly before returning her attention to her roommate. “Hey there, sleepy head. You were three minutes late getting back to me.”

The tired pegasus groaned and blinked a few times, fighting to shrug off the grogginess that seemed to linger whenever she unexpectedly dozed off. It took about twenty seconds of staring into Amora’s cobalt-rimmed pupils for Tail’s brain to finally click on. You were three minutes late. “We were three minutes late!” she squeaked, jolting upright before her head swung around to locate Barrier. “Ams, it is—”

Catching her roommate’s muzzle with a well-placed hoof, Amora bequeathed Tail the cheekiest of smiles. “I’ll have no protests from you, Cadet.” The unicorn mare shifted her position and started a careful and thorough check of Tail’s wings. “Hmm, very interesting. Care to explain to me why you were late, Captain? I don’t see any rings to match your passion for holding onto her wheelchair.”

Strangely, Barrier’s demeanor relaxed in response to Amora’s latest challenge. He stood taller, and a smug curl replaced the grimace that had accompanied his awkward retreat. “I tried to elope with her, but she’d have none of it without her best friend at her side.”

Amora’s gaze narrowed upon Tail’s still-held snout after a squeak rumbled against her hoof. She restrained her breath for several seconds as the subsequent silence left plenty of time for redness to rise all the way up to the tips of the cadet’s ears. Eventually, the laughter came, spilling from Amora in spurts and snorts that did very little to quell the heat plastered upon Tail’s face. “That is so like her,” Ams squealed out in delight. “Oh, Hun, gosh I love you. Don’t scare this one off. He’s a gem.”

Tail scrunched up. Her lips puckered, and she fashioned a flustered pout that only fueled Amora’s rising laughter. “I can’t believe you,” she whispered harshly, all the while failing to shake the flush from her head.

“As much as this gem would like to stick around and chat,” Barrier began with a playful tenor, “I really need to go speak with Princess Luna. She and I need to have a very important discussion. Take care of my pegasus, Major. She’s accumulated a lot of laps, and it would be a shame to keep her from them for longer than what’s necessary.”

Tail twisted around as the sounds of his pivoting body tugged at her ears. “Captain, I still wanted to talk to you about—”

Barrier briefly turned to peer upon Tail with a warmth that left the pegasus as quiet as a mouse. “I know I owe you a story, and you’ll get it. The stuff with you is much higher priority than that. You’re way more important.”

The lavender mare merely watched her captain depart. She sank back down into the confines of her chair and only then noticed that her foreleg had, at some point, lifted—probably for a farewell wave. She bit her lower lip as the image of his kind smile sat etched in the recesses of her mind. He defended you, she pondered in a calm, contented internal voice. He believes in you. She gradually exhaled while her bitten smile spread. “I chose the right captain. I really like him.”

Tail’s enchanted state shut down as the cadence of Amora’s giggles brought the pegasus straight to the present. “I knew that one already, Hun. His magical aura is all over you. Are you going to clue me in on that, or am I just going to have to extract it out of you later?”

“He—he just used levitation to make things easier for me!” the pegasus stammered, earning a completely justified half-scowl from the unicorn.

“Mmhmm, I’m sure,” Amora countered, an eye roll joining her sarcasm-drenched melody. “Why would he have to levitate you anyway, my little filly? And even if he needed to, the strength is enough for me to catch it without an active scan—same with the scent of that electrical spark of yours.” She smirked, watching Tail practically squirm in her seat. “That’s what I thought. You can thank Captain Barrier for taking good care of you. That’s the only reason why you’re getting out of a lecture, this time.”

Remnants of Luna’s tired yawn still drifted throughout her office before she realized Barrier had let himself into the quiet sanctuary. The princess’s wings ruffled slightly as she took in the captain’s deadpanned expression. “Given that look, I’d say she showed you—”

Barrier rapidly lifted his forehoof to silence the alicorn. “You should have told me immediately, Luna. She needs way more than just basic training.” The princess grimaced upon settling into her chair. Though, she did not interrupt. “It’s no wonder bastards like Proud are lurking about given what I saw.”

“Colonel Tail is probing the fundamentals of magic, and she is exceptionally good at it. It is as I said to you before. Her story is hers to tell. That was part of our compromise. The decision of trust rested with her, and she gave it to you.”

“She is dealing with the same crap as Sombra, Luna! What if something goes wrong? What if somepony goes after her? Those aren’t burdens that a couple months of B.C.T. are going to cover.” He planted his hooves onto the rich brown timber of her desk and reared up. “She cracked your wall with a single shot.”

Luna’s ears swiveled and splayed. “She cracked my wall?” The question gradually seeped past the mare’s lips.

“Yeah, something about science that went way over my head. I’m not going to bullshit and pretend I get it all, but the demonstration was more than enough. What kind of barrier did you put on her lab?” The stallion held his gaze upon Luna’s shrinking pupils and tightened muzzle. The building anxiety set his own tail flicking to the beat of some hidden song, and after a while, the delay spurred him forward. “Luna?”

One of her silver hoof-guards tapped the floor with an aggressive cadence that did little to assuage the captain’s concern. “Alicorn-grade, Magic. It would take the power of either my sister or myself to crack those defenses.” Her teal eyes lifted in time to track the signs of Barrier’s subsequent gulp. “If it’s true, then she’s already surpassed Sombra on the research front. What are your recommendations?”

The unicorn huffed. “I want to up the ante. Me putting the pins on her uniform isn’t going to mean much if I don’t prepare her for bearing it all. She needs to be taught how to be a military officer too. Tail will pass my course on time, but I want to introduce new material, command material, and I want her around after that for one-on-one stuff.”

Barrier’s brow descended at the short-lived smirk that he believed had flashed upon Luna’s countenance. “Are you saying that you wish to train Ms. Tail beyond the duration of your contract, Captain Barrier?”

“You asked for my recommendation. That is my recommendation. How else do you expect her to fend off not only the likes of Proud, but actual enemies of the state?”

Projecting her royal responsibility, the alicorn held an even tone and maintained a neutral expression. “I’ll have to speak with my sister about the allocation of funding for expanding the program. As you stated weeks ago, you are charging us—”

He lifted his hoof from the desk and promptly drove it back into contact with the hardwood, producing a thunderous rumble that muted the princess. “It’s not about the damned bits! It’s about doing what’s right. It’s about not letting history repeat itself.”

Luna crossed her forehooves while her teal sights never wavered from the stallion’s frame. “I’m listening.”

“She needs to know the truth.” Barrier’s flask-retrieving horn momentarily lit before he thought the better of it and took a deep breath instead. “I’ve had some time to think about it. What Sombra did, and who he was. She needs to hear, and she also needs to hear what happened to me. I’m not going to sit idly and watch it all happen again. I’m not going to lose my best cadet the way I lost my mentor, and I’m Faust-not going to lose her like I lost Ember.

“Her broken wing will keep her out of physical stuff until that pancake witch medic of hers works her magic. I plan to hit her officer skills hard during the recovery. Shining’s presence would probably be good for help navigating the brass. I can cover tactics, and Trigger would probably help as well. Once she’s healed up, combat training resumes. Maybe team affairs and lopsided engagements come into play as well. I do think she should get some guard command duty in while we’re at it. Managing a squad during the Summer Sun thing would be a good benchmark before I issue her final B.C.T. report.”

A furrowed brow crept upon Luna’s expression as she observed Captain Barrier’s mannerisms. Winces had worked through his limbs at the mentions of Sombra, Ember, and the Summer Sun Celebration. Guilt drove a quivering sigh through her opened muzzle, and Luna instinctively gulped amidst her showing anxiety.

“After she graduates,” he continued, “I plan on giving her the Executor Trials.” It was here that the stallion chose to wait for Luna. Her fidgeting was making him tense, and he was already having enough trouble keeping his nerves in line.

“If you are certain that is the path you wish to take…” The alicorn’s appearance softened, though her sullen stare betrayed the sadness that lingered within the history of their nightmare. “You have my full support, of course. I just… Barrier, are you sure? I know that you have a very personal attachment to that title. It’s drenched in the very blasphemy we seek to avert. Is this a piece of yourself that you’re ready to share with Tail?”

A subtle spark appeared in the captain’s icy iris. He stepped down from his perch upon the desk’s edge and flattened out any telling quirk that might have dared to settle upon his muzzle. “I’m positive. I was positive about my best cadet a thousand years ago, and I’m positive about my best cadet now. The only thing I’m not sure about is how I’m going to wipe the damn smirk off your face when you let it loose.

“I know when you’re bullshitting me, Luna. I didn’t spend a millennium with you and not learn a thing about you. You’ve been grooming her to deal with things that few can deal with, haven’t you? Well, no one wants to deal with those things, and playing tactical games to get ponies there is exactly what led to all the others. I’m done with games. Not with me, and Tartarus not with her. You should have just let me know from the start, and we could have avoided a mess of foalish shit. So yes, I am positive. Tail will get her support on my terms.”

Princess Luna stretched her forelegs over the desktop, and for what felt like a minute, she did not respond. Instead, she peered into Barrier’s eyes to observe that glow. The predicted smirk sprouted eventually, and it buried the sorrow that had accompanied her loaded set of questions. “If I had done that, you wouldn’t have defended her as much as you are now. You may have spent a lot of time with me, but I’m still lifetimes older.

“A flower doesn’t begin with its blossom, Captain. You love a flower more when you plant the seed yourself and watch it grow. While—yes, you are correct—Tail’s knowledge can greatly help Equestria, it’s about more than just the flower this time around. A certain gardener had also lost his fire, but if you’re willing to go this far for our little lavender physicist, then I might just start thinking that you’ve got it back. I might also start believing that a certain captain has come to really like our future colonel.”

“Faust above, you are an insufferable brat.” A correct, insufferable brat.