Harmony's Warriors: Captain Equestria

by Avenging-Hobbits

Act II - 08 - You Are Who You Choose to Be

Act II:
"The Journey Begins"

Chapter Eight:
"You Are Who You Choose to Be"

“I GOT A CUTIE MARK! I GOT A CUTIE MARK! I GOT A CUTIE MARK!” Apple Bloom cheered, hopping up and down around Shining, before stopping mid hop with her eyes and grin broadening. “I gotta tell Applejack!”

Before Shining had a chance to respond, the filly had already started towards the door.

“Wait, Apple Bloom! Come back!” Shining called out, rushing out after her and ignoring the mutual, confused looks among the other stallions.

Shining scampered after Apple Bloom, now finally understanding why his mom had been so strident about him going to track met every Thursday back in college. He now regretted having ignored his mother’s requests. The little yellow filly was surprisingly fast, as she dodged and weaved through the scattered groups of personnel and soldiers.

“Apple Bloom! Wait up!” he called out, and Apple Bloom finally began to slow down, looking over her shoulder as she ran.

The excited filly seemingly noticed Shining’s desperate efforts to keep up, as she began to slow down slightly.

“What’s wrong, Mister Armor?” she asked, raising an eyebrow as Shining finally caught up with her.

Shining held up a hand, as he took several deep breaths to regain his lost air.

“Mister Armor, are ya’ alright?” Apple Bloom pressed, her expression showing a growing concern and her voice repeating the same emotion. “Ya havin’ an attack er something?”

Shining shook his head, finally having gained enough air to speak again. “No, no,” he rubbed the back of his neck as he often did when nervous. “I don’t have asthma. I’m okay. I’m okay, I’m just...” his eyes drew back to the young filly’s cutie mark, recreating the previous moment’s anxiety.

“Then why were ya’ yellin’ at me to stop? I gotta tell my sister ‘bout mah cutie mark!”

“Yes, I know I was just about to talk to you about that.” Shining responded, putting a hoof on Apple Bloom’s shoulder.

Apple Bloom gave him a confused look. “But why? What’s to talk ‘bout?”

Shining sighed. “Well, it’s just,” he rubbed his face, fighting an incoming anxiety attack. “I don’t think you’re sister is exactly going to be happy to hear I let you play around with guns, and then there’s...” he found himself glaring at her new mark. “That.”

“But I wasn’t playin’! I was just tryin’ to figure out the problem!” Apple Bloom replied, before pausing and furrowing her brow slightly. “Or..at least that’s what it felt like I was doin’. I kinda zoned out there for a lil’ bit.”

Shining tilted his head slightly. “‘Zoned out’?” he raised one eyebrow. “What do you mean ‘zoned out’? Zoned out how?”

“I mean I just looked at the gun, and it was kinda like a bunch of drawin’s popped up in my brain,” Apple Bloom replied, pointing to her head as she spoke. “An’ it was like a lightbulb turned on and I just knew exactly how to fix it.”

“And that’s never happened before?” Shining asked, and Apple Bloom shook her head. “At all?”

“Nope. Never before. I mean, I always had a knack fer cleanin’ the family rifle whenever I was told to, but right now?” she answered, her expression baffled. She looked down at her cutie mark, it was a rifle and a hammer, directly in the center of a crosshairs combo standing out in contrast to her previously naked flank. “ It just kind of clicked, you know? And I got no idea why the rifle and hammer are next to each other or the circle thing, any ideas?”

“That circle thing is a crosshair. They’re in rifle scopes to help you aim better but the rest...I don’t know,” Shining he sighed, letting his shoulders sag. “I really don’t. This really is something we’d ask my dad. He’s an expert in that.”

“Yer dad’s an expert in scopes?” Apple Bloom replied, her eyebrows rising slightly.

Shining shook his head. “Um, no, he’s actually an expert in cutie mark symbolism and sociology... You know, stuff like what a cutie mark means, and what it means for society and all. He wrote a paper on it. Which is weird because his doctorate in theoretical physics, magic, and chemistry, but I guess we all have our hobbies, right?”

Apple Bloom looked away, nodding slightly. “I guess.”

Shining blinked. “So do you want to ask him?”

Apple Bloom tilted her head. “Ask him what?”

“What your cutie mark means,” he replied, his voice beginning to have a definite tinge of irritation in it. “I mean, that’s what you want to know right? So you can use your special skill properly right?”

Apple Bloom’s expression was quick to become excited. “Ya think he’ll really tell me?”

Shining nodded. “Don’t see why he wouldn’t. Come on, I’ll take you there.” he scooped her up and plopped her on his back, trotting off towards the area of the camp that held the offices, the need to inform Applejack having totally slipped his mind.


The tall, almost bear like unicorn stallion puffed his chest out, taking a deep breath before eying the line of recruits in front of him with an almost virile disdain. “WELCOME TO CAMP OKEFENOKEE YA FILTHY SIMPERING FU--”

“Language, Sergeant Stonewall,” came another voice, this one from a shorter, albeit more authoritative and restrained looking pegasus dressed in the ornate, gold and red uniform of the Equestrian Military. The first stallion quickly saluted, nodding his head tersely.

“YES SIR, GENERAL WING, SIR!” he responded with a near deafening shout.

The pegasus nodded slightly, giving the larger unicorn a thin smile. “Thank you, Sergeant Stonewall. But please lower your volume. None of us are deaf.” He added, and the unicorn nodded, and the pegasus turned to the line of recruits. “Good morning everypony, I am General Stalwart Wing, and this is Sergeant Stonewall. He will be your drill instructor during your time here. Now, you're probably all wondering why you've been called to our humble military camp.”

He paused, eying the recruits again as he began to walk in front of them, seemingly inspecting them carefully.

"Well, I'll tell you," continued the General, keeping his tone even. "You are here for the purpose of helping this nation defeat its greatest threat. And how are going to do that? Well, it is often said that war is fought with weapons but won by soldiers. And I can say with the greatest confidence that we have the best..."

He faltered, coming to a stop in front of Applejack, who attempted to stand as nobly and confidently as possible, but still couldn't hide her pencil-thin frame. The general's expression grew visibly uncomfortable, and he looked over his shoulder to catch the eye of the easygoing griffon standing a couple paces away. The Professor merely smiled, before looking away, seemingly taking on an enhanced interest on the clouds overhead. The general looked back at Applejack before bracing himself.

"...And that the best can only get better." He finished before continuing to walk. "Much, much better."

Applejack could sense his brief, half-hearted glance in her direction.

"Now, this base is dedicated to Operation Rebirth, which is a joint-effort between Equestria and the greatest minds in the free world," said General Wing. "Our goal is to create the greatest army on the face of the globe. But, alas, an army can only begin with one, single soldier. And, by the end of this week, we will choose that soldier, and they, whomever they may, will be the first in a new breed of super-soldiers. And then, when the time is right, that super-soldier will personally escort Red Skull to the very gates of Hell."

He finished his speech with a harsh stomp of his hoof on the dirt. He then turned towards Sergeant Stonewall.

"They're all yours, Sergeant." He said, spinning on his heels and trotting back towards the griffon. The massive unicorn nodded, stomping over towards the line of recruits.

"ALRIGHT, YOU DISGUSTING SCUMBAGS, GET YOUR SORRY FLANKS IN LINE AND MARCH!" he roared, and Applejack was nearly trampled by the sudden shift of ponies around her as the group hurried to line up and begin marching.

Meanwhile, a few paces away, General Stalwart Wing trotted past Professor Schultz, shaking his head.

"I want you in my office right now, feather face," he grumbled, motioning for the griffon to follow him.

The griffon, seemingly unfazed by the insult, turned and followed after the pegasus.


Meanwhile, in the general’s office, were a trio of simple chairs, which sat directly in front of the large, wooden desk. In the chair to the left, slouching and looking as if he held the world around him in general derision and cynicism, was a lanky, off-white unicorn with a balding grey mane. His foreleg was held in a leg brace and his cutie mark was a complex series of mathematical formula.

Across from him, in the chair to the right, was a blue unicorn with a navy blue mane and a crescent moon cutie mark. His personality seemed to be one of overall optimism and eagerness. He was a little shorter than the white stallion, and at least five years his junior.

“I wonder where General Wing is?” the blue unicorn asked aloud, looking around the office and towards the other unicorn.

The white unicorn scoffed, shifting in his seat and hunching his shoulders. “Probably giving some sort of speech to those dragoons outside,” he grumbled while he scanned the office with little to no interest of what he was seeing.

The blue unicorn gave the white unicorn a curious look. “Probably. But don’t be so glum, Silver Belle. You act as if he’s somehow wasting our time.”

Silver Belle simply responded with a derisive snort. “I’ve been up since four this morning, Dr. Light. I’ll act however I feel like.”

Night Light shook his head. “Silver Belle, I understand that time is important to you, but--”

“But nothing,” interrupted Silver Belle, his voice remaining completely monotone, rapping his cane on the floor sharply. “My work on the Enigma machine takes priority, and failure to finish results in the senseless loss of resources and soldiers. I should also remind you remind you that you’ve got your bomb project as well. That should be your priority, not hanging around with some griffon.”

Night Light shifted in his chair, shooting Dr. Belle an angry glare. “First off, Silver, my work on the bomb is my business, and mine alone, and second of all, don’t be so prejudiced. Dr. Schultz has done more to help our cause than any other scientist in the Project, and is a fine, upstanding, and above all, loyal citizen of this nation.”

Dr. Belle grumbled. “So he’s loyal. But what about his idea? You can’t just inject magic into a pony and expect the results you want. There are too many variables to consider.”

“Well, we all know how much you love variables…”

“And on top of that,” Dr. Belle ignored the quip at his expense. “We don’t even know if this will work. No common threads or denominators asides from the fact that all but one are earth ponies. That’s it. Nothing special or nothing unique out of any of them.”

“I’m glad I’m not the only one feeling a lack of confidence in the Professor’s methods,” said General Wing from behind, causing Silver Belle to stop his rant.

Both unicorns stood up and saluted, but the General merely motioned for them to sit down. Behind him, carrying himself with confidence, was Professor Schultz. Silver Belle immediately shot him a grumpy look, to which the Professor simply responded with a cordial tip of the head and a smile. Night Light, by contrast, gave the Professor a much more respectful smile, and extended a hand in greeting. A quick shake was exchanged and the Professor sat in the vacant chair, shifting slightly to fit himself into a chair designed for a creature that was, by nature, smaller than a griffin.

General Wing, meanwhile, settled into his chair, looking over the three scientists for a moment, before taking a breath and beginning to address them.

“Alright then, gentlecolts, we have quite a bit to discuss,” he began, leaning forward and steepling his hooves. “And I am going to start with our good friend, Professor Schultz.”

The General motioned towards the griffin, who simply nodded, and for that, he gave the griffin a thin grin before continuing.

“Professor Schultz, I have to ask you one very important question,” he said.

Professor Schultz nodded again, still calm and smiling. “Of course, I am quite willing to answer any questions you might have concerning the Project, General Wing. Please, ask away.”

General Wing gave the Professor a brief narrowing of the eyes, seemingly put off by the Professor’s near-supernatural ability to take criticism with the sweetness of sugar and goodies.

The General shifted in his chair, apparently preparing himself for the question. “Alright then…” he began, steepling his hooves. “What, in Luna’s luscious Equestria, is that scrawny little mare doing with my recruits?”

The Professor blinked, seemingly not expecting the emphatic response from the General.

”Well,” he began, leaning back in his chair slightly and tapping his talons on his lap. “Common sense would suggest that, being in a ‘boot camp’, she means to join the army, Allgemeinen. Really, I would have thought it was quite--”

“Don’t you give me that crap!” snapped the general. “You know full well that you were supposed to get me candidates for a super soldier, not some half starved scarecrow of a mare. What am I supposed to do with her? Give her a medal for participation?”

The griffin shook his head. “Well, I think you should trust me on this. I have good reason for considering Miss Apple. She is a kind, gentle mare, who only wants what’s best for her family.”

Dr. Belle scoffed. “Good is only decided by who’s in charge, Doctor. Might makes right, not the other way around. ”

“And who has more might than that kind? It takes more strength to continue to show kindness to one who has shown you none then it does to show cruelty, I think,” he retorted to the cynical unicorn, adjusting his glasses. "If you return cruelty with cruelty, you become no better than the one tormenting you. Simple as that."

“You don’t have a real reason based in logic, do you?” Silver Belle asked.

“Do you wish for me to be analytical?” Professor Schultz asked, his voice taking on a tired tone, as if he’d been asked this question a thousand times before in the past. When Dr. Belle nodded, Professor Schultz sighed. “Alright, I shall attempt to placate your desire for a purely scientific explanation for my decision. The simple fact is that, my serum, when combined with the naturally mana rich biology of your average pony, will cause the aforementioned mana to be greatly enhanced. Four hundred percent to be exact. So, I feel it would be best to be on the side of caution, and start with a test subject with the lowest overall mana levels, lest we incur a catastrophic mana overload, and cause death in the subject.”

Dr. Belle visibly seemed to be made content, but still he asked. “Are you sure about this? It seems like a longshot.”

“Yes, yes of course. I did create the serum after all, so I would consider myself rather assured as to the side effects of the serum I have created. Just give Miss Apple the opportunity, and I assure you that everything will work out.”

He finished with a confident smile, only adding the last part in the very back of his mind.

I hope.


“Alright then! Listen up you no good talking lumps of dirt and feathers!” the female griffin barked, causing whatever cockiness or confidence in the group of recruits to instantly evaporate due to the sheer intensity of her voice. The griffin seemed somewhat short and stocky, and her coat was a shade of brown, which stood out in nice contrast to the white feathers that covered her from the shoulders up. Her golden eyes seemed to glare at everyone with the same, vicious sense of belittlement as the other drill sergeant had, except looking even more out of place on her surprisingly feminine features.

Applejack felt even more like a tiny twig than before as the griffin began to stalk in front of the recruits, her eyes critically scanning each of them. When she reached the end of the line, she pulled out a pair of sunglasses, flicking them up to her eyes in one smooth motion, obscuring her eyes and preventing anyone from declaring her exact expression.

“Since you’re all obviously too low on intellect to read my name tag, I feel I should introduce myself! My name is Gilda Martel, and before you ask, yes, I do share my name with a certain famed princess -- well, sorry to crush your little manic pixie dreams, but there’s a very important difference between me and her. She’s dead, and Death is scared shitless of me!” With that, she took an official looking hat from under her wing and pulled it onto her head. “The reason I’m here is really quite simple. I’m going to take your sorry excuses for bodies, and turn them into lean, mean, griffin killing machines. YOU!”

The griffin shot a talon out towards Applejack, locking her gaze on the earth pony’s spindly frame.

“What’s your name and why the fuck are you here?!” she barked.

Applejack straightened up, not about to let herself be knocked down by one griffin.

“My name is Applejack Apple, Ma’am!” she shouted back, ignoring how silly her drawl made the words sound. “An’ I’m here to earn money fer my famil-”

She was unexpectedly cut off by the griffin letting out a loud, cawing laugh.

“Well, sweet eggplant molasses on a southern honeysuckle! Sugarcube!” Gilda sneered, seemingly intentionally giving her voice the most grating and stereotypical Southern drawl Applejack had ever heard. “What rotten, dirty, mud caked inbred dirthole did you crawl out from, pard’ner?!”

Applejack steeled herself, making a point to stand as upright and proudly as possible. No beakfaced griffin was going to mock her accent. “I came from Ponyville, ma’am!” she shouted aloud, now proudly drawing. “An’ I’m mighty sorry ya missed the family reunion! We really did miss ya.”

There was a tense silence as Gilda slid her sunglasses down her beak slightly, leaning up into Applejack’s face. Applejack simply stared back, her green eyes reflecting Gilda’s golden ones.

“Dunk me in frying oil and call me chicken, your voice is just devine! Come now, sugah, sing with me tha song of the south!” Gilda suddenly cackled, still keeping the drawl on maximum.

Applejack blinked.

“What? You deef? I said sing with me, sugahcube!” Gilda barked again, this time with much more force.

Applejack blinked again, before taking a deep breath.

Oh, keep on tha sunny side, always on tha sun--

She only got about one verse in before Gilda roughly clamped a talon over her mouth. Applejack tensed up, half expecting her face to be ripped off by the obviously razor sharp claws.

“That’s enough, Billie.” Gilda said, her eyes darting towards Surprise when she noticed the white pegasus’ insufferably happy expression from her peripheral vision.

Applejack nodded slightly, Gilda’s talons dropping from her mouth.

“YOU!” Gilda practically spat as she turned to face the blond pegasus next to Applejack. “WHAT’S YOUR NAME?!”

Surprise opened her mouth wide, taking a deep breath that sounded like she was sucking all the air out of the world and left her chest puffed out, before shouting with pride: “SURPRISE KAMINSKY PIE, MA’AM!!”

Her voice exploded like a bomb and sent birds flying off and cawing with fright in the distance. Applejack’s ears rang as she pressed them against her head. She was afraid that she would go deaf due to that deafening proclamation, and if that was the case, she was most certainly going to be having some choice words with the mare.

Meanwhile, Gilda’s hat had been blown off by Surprise’s awesome voice and her sunglasses now hung crooked on her beak. Her expression initially seemed as shocked as everyone elses, but within a few blinks, her rather comical expression hardened into a scowl. A scowl that was born from such fury that it looked almost as if she were attempting to melt Surprise’s head off with heat vision. Her muscles visibly tensed up, before she took a deep, heaving breath.

“ARE YOU TRYING TO BE LOUDER THAN ME?!” Gilda screamed, surprisingly enough matching Surprise’s obnoxious level.

“ABSOLUTELY!!!!” Surprise replied with a slight laugh.

“THEN DROP AND GIVE ME THIRTY WINGUPS, YOU SARCASTIC FEATHERED PIECE OF SHIT!!!!” Gilda roared, and Surprise nodded, giving a sharp salute in response.




Surprise then dropped to the ground, pumping her wings up and down repeatedly as she pushed herself up using them. Gilda meanwhile, glared back at the line of recruits, pointing towards the large open area to the left.


She roared, stomped the ground and took flight just over the recruits' heads. The immediate result was the earth shaking as dozens of terrified ponies stampeded along the base tracks to escape the wrath of one very angry griffin.


Shining and Apple Bloom came to a stop in front of a small building at the far end of the camp. Apple Bloom’s eyebrow was raised slightly, and she looked up at Shining with curiosity.

“Um, Mister Armor? Why are we here, exactly?”

Shining looked down at her. “Like I said, my father’s an expert on cutie marks and their meanings, and we’re going to show him yours.”

Apple Bloom rolled her eyes, letting out a slight huff. “No, I mean, why are we at this buildin’? What’s in there?”

Shining blinked, his ears perking up in realization. “Oh, this is his office,”

“But this isn’t this kinda...underwhelmin’ fer an office buildin’? I mean, I thought most offices were in big cities an’ in skyscrapers?” Apple Bloom replied.

“Well..um, I guess, yeah, but this is a field office, so it’s kinda bare bones. It’d be kinda weird to have a skyscraper in the middle of a military base wouldn’t it?”

Apple Bloom paused, mentally picturing the Empire Building from Manehattan standing in where the small, humble wooden building was. “I guess it would, yeah.”

Shining smiled and started to knock on the door. There was the sound of someone standing up, along with what sounded vaguely like frustrated mutterings from inside. The door opened to reveal the cratankerious form of a middle-aged white unicorn stallion, who Apple Bloom instantly could tell seemed to look down at everyone around him.

“Ah, Armor, you’re the one who interrupted me and your father’s meeting. I might have known.” The unicorn then glared down at Apple Bloom. “And who’s this infant?”

“Infant?! I ain’t no infant! I’ma fourteen years old!” Apple Bloom shot back, stomping her hooves on the ground. “An’ we wanna talk ta’ Shinin’s dad!”

There was an awkward stretch of silence, with the two white stallions looking down at Apple Bloom, who looked at the older one with narrowed eyes and set jaw. The older unicorn opened his mouth to speak, only to be interrupted by a blue unicorn opening the door all the way.

“Did someone call me?” he asked.

The older white unicorn shook his head. “No, I was just about to tell this little filly that you and I are rather busy at the moment.”

“What? No we’re not. I mean, are we Professor Schultz?” the blue one asked, looking over his shoulder. Apple Bloom took the chance to peer between the unicorn’s legs to see the inside. The interior was small, filled mostly with a mix of what looked like science equipment, chemistry sets and a large blackboard. There was a table in the center of the room, in front of which, sitting in a chair that looked far too small for him, was the Professor from the fair.

“Howdie Professor!” she chirped, trotting through the unicorn’s legs and up to the griffin. She was quick to spin around and present her cutie mark to him. “Can ya tell me what this means?”

The older white unicorn, Dr. Belle, was quick to try to shove her away. “What are you doing? Don’t you see we’re busy?”

The Professor however, smiled and stood up. “Oh Dr. Belle, don’t be so mean. She simply wants me to see her cutie mark,” he glanced down at Apple Bloom. “Although, I’ll admit, that this isn’t really my expertise. I believe these are more of your expertise, aren’t they Dr. Night Light?” he added, looking towards the blue unicorn, apparently named Night Light

Night Light nodded. “Yes I am. You want me to tell you want it means? Why, did you just get it?”

“Yeah huh!” Apple Bloom replied excitedly, smiling at Shining. “I got it when Shinin’ left me by tha gunsmithin’ shop!”

Night Light and Dr. Belle both turned towards Shining Armor, with Night Light looking concerned.

Shining lifted his hooves. “Now let me just say that I was going to take her off base, but then the drill sergeant needed help with something, so I told her to stay where she was. By the time I turn around, she was gone. I went looking and found her in the smithing shop.”

“And what was she doing there? Playing darts?” Silver Belle asked, arching an eyebrow at Armor.

“I was fixin’ rifles fastah than anypony else!” Apple Bloom proclaimed proudly, not about to let her moment to shine pass by. She smiled broadly, puffing her chest out. “An’ then, Shinin’ came back an’ told me I had a cutie mark!”

“You let a fourteen year old fix a rifle?!” Silver Belle barked, stomping past Apple Bloom right into Shining Armor’s face. “Why did you even let her out of your sight, you simpering dolt?! Don’t you know she could have been injured or worse?!”

“Of course I know that! I came right to get her! I didn’t even wait, I just took her straight here. What do you want me to do, scream like Fay Wray?” Shining replied sternly and leaning up in Silver Belle’s face.

“Now, now, now, let’s not turn this into a gruesome katze kämpfen,” the griffin spoke, stepping between Shining and Silver Belle and gently nudging the two white unicorns apart. “There’s no point in complaining about what one could have done once the event has passed. What’s done is done. Yes, Herr Armor made a grave mistake in leaving Frau Bloom alone, but, thank Celestia, the little stutfohlen came out unharmed. Now, it’s obvious that she wishes to know the meaning of her cutie mark, or else she would have already told us what it meant. Now, allow us the pleasure of Dr. Light’s analysis, ja?”

Shining was first to nod, stepping back and extending a hand towards Dr. Belle. “I’m sorry, Dr. Belle.”

Dr. Belle merely looked down at the hand and shook it limply, before turning around and limping away, Apple Bloom noticing the brace and cane for the first time. She looked up at the griffin with a slightly raised eyebrow, still unsure of what he was doing here. He responded by looking down and smiling, waving a talon at her.

“Now, come sit,” he replied with a smile, before motioning towards a small chair. “But let us take a look at that mark now, shall we?”

“Yes, let’s.” Night Light added, stepping up to Apple Bloom as she sat down on the chair. With a shimmer of blue, the unicorn pulled out a magnifying glass and a notepad, holding the magnifying glass close to Apple Bloom’s flank.

“Hmmm...that is interesting. You said you got this repairing rifles?” he asked, and Apple Bloom nodded.

“Yessiree Bob, sir,” she replied with confidence.

Night Light nodded slightly, jotting something down on the notepad, upon which was already a sketch of her cutie mark. After a few mutterings, the unicorn stood back up and looked at the notepad.

“Well...that’s interesting.”

“What’s interestin’?” Apple Bloom asked, Shining echoing her words.

Night Light shrugged. “Well, for a cutie mark in repair, this looks awfully militaristic. Apple Bloom, mind telling me what you felt when you got your cutie mark. That often helps me define what it means.”

Apple Bloom blinked, furrowing her brow. “Uh...well...I kinda zoned out. I mean, one sec I saw a rifle that needed fixin’, an’ then it was like a bunch of fancy drawin’s popped up in front of mah face, tellin’ me tha right way ta get her done.”

“So, got any ideas on her cutie mark, Dad?” Shining Armor asked, looking concerned as he tried to get a look at the notepad.

Night Light shrugged slightly, simultaneously moving the notepad away from Shining. “My best guess is she can be a gunsmith or a repair pony or a soldier or... I don’t know."

Shining's jaw dropped as he woundered if he’d survive the week. “What do you mean you don't know!? How can you not know!?”

Night Light sighed. “Because ten minutes with a filly is hardly enough time to get a grasp on her psyche, and her mark is not exactly common. And Shining, you’re acting like somepony’s going to be angry.”

Shining moaned as he slumped against the wall with his hooves failing to cover the dread and shame plastered on his face. "Applejack is going to kill me. I’m done."

“Why is mah sista gonna kill ya?” Apple Bloom asked. “She’d love ta know that I got mah cutie mark!”

“Ja, why would Frau Apple be mad? Is not the gaining of a cutie mark a happy occasion for ponies and normally celebrated with a party?” Professor Schultz asked, tilting his head in a birdlike manner.

Shining let out a frustrated sigh. “You don't get it, Professor," he began, rubbing his forehead. "A cutie mark is supposed to be something... cute. Like flowers or sparkles or something. That is not cute!” he pointed towards Apple Bloom’s cutie mark. “I mean; rifles, hammers and sniper scopes? That’s the cutie mark for a living weapon, which I'm pretty damn sure is something Applejack does not want. Especially since she’ll know that you've been playing around with stuff that you should not have been seeing in the first place!"

Apple Bloom huffed. "What about what I want?”

“What do you mean ‘what you want’?” Silver Belle asked with bitterness. "Your cutie mark has decided your destiny. Your precious little opinion isn't relevant.”

Apple Bloom gave Silver Belle a dirty look. "It's mah cutie mark right? Don't my opinion on mah destiny mean somethin'?"

"Yes. Yes it does." Professor Schutlz said, putting a talon on her shoulder. "And Herr Armor really has no need to worry. After all, don't you use guns to protect others? And isn't a hammer used to build a new home? And so what if the mark is militaristic? Never let a single factor control your destiny. Your destiny is yours to decide."

Everyone blinked, surprised by the griffin's insight.

"Ya really think so?" Apple Bloom asked, tilting her head.

Professor Schultz nodded. "Yes. Yes I do."

"Well that's just great, but that still doesn't resolve the whole problem with telling Applejack." Shining said, shaking his head.

General Wing rolled his eyes and checked the time on the wall clock, scowling at what he was seeing.

While this happened, Night Light sighed and put a hand on his son's shoulder.

“Look, I might not know Applejack personally," began Night Light, "but from what you’ve told me about her before, she sounds like a nice, reasonable mare. Just go up to her, tell her that Apple Bloom got her cutie mark, and that’s it.”

“But, Dad--”

“I know we can’t predict her reaction, and I know I would have probably been worried if Twilight had such a cutie mark, but Schultz is right. Cutie marks and their meanings aren’t set in stone. And really, to be honest, Apple Bloom’s mark is rather ambiguous anyways. It’s not like it’s got big letters saying ‘born to kill’. Understand?”

Shining sighed, letting his shoulders sag. “I guess…I guess I’ll go tell her now.”

“If you think that’s the best thing, then go right ahead.” Night Light replied, his tone calm and fatherly.

Shining huffed slightly, looking over at Apple Bloom. “Okay, Apple Bloom, I’m going to go tell your sister about your cutie mark okay? Just stay here with Dad and the professors and wait for me to come back okay?”

Apple Bloom shrugged, secretly wishing she could tell Applejack herself, but also dreading her sister’s possible reaction in light of the recent events. On top of that, it looked like Shining needed some space. “Sure thin’, Shinin’.”

“And while you’re gone, we’ll keep the young stutfohlen occupied. Now, hurry on Shining. Best to have the task out of the way as soon as possible instead of dreading over it, ja?” Professor Schultz added, his voice encouraging.

Shining bit his lip, before nodding and leaving the room.

Once the door shut, Dr Belle let out a purely obnoxious yawn and stretched himself out on his chair. This caused everyone to look at him with mixed looks, and he returned it with a face wrinkled with pure annoyance.

"So now that 'Guiding Light' is on commercial break we can actually get down to business," he said sourly. Then he looked at Apple Bloom. "Starting with putting you in a daycare center."

"Are ya serious?" Apple Bloom asked with a tilted head and squinted eyes.


Apple Bloom slouched to the ground and folded her arms across her chest. "Phooey."


Applejack ran as fast as her scrawny legs could carry her in a desperate attempt to keep up with the rest of the troops, who, even though obviously not soldiers, were all considerably more muscled and well built then she could ever dream of being. It didn’t help either that, due to her asthma, she was having trouble getting any real air. It also did her no good to get any time to take breath because every attempt would lead to the sharp voiced griffin attacking her with a vicious, verbal assault.


Applejack nodded, quickening her pace again. She heard another pair of hoofsteps come up along side her.

“How you doing?” came a familiar voice. Applejack glanced to her left to see, of all ponies, Shining Armor, who was now dressed in simple green fatigues. His expression was one of visible concern and nervousness.

Applejack did her best to shrug as she ran.

“I’m good, I’m good,” she replied, nodding her head and giving him a quick smile. In truth, she honestly felt as if her legs were gelatin, wibbling and wobbling underneath her and making her feel as if she might collapse.

“You sure? Because I can ask Sergeant Martel to give you a break--”

“No! No, I’ll finish this mahself, iffin ya don’t mind, Shinin’. I promised tha Professor I’d do this, an’ I gots family at home rootin’ fer me. Iffin I can’t handle this little jog, then I’d be lettin’ ‘em down. An’ Apples don’t let Apples down.”

Shining Armor gave her a brief nod. “Alright then. Just so you know, I have to talk to you about Apple Bloom.”

Applejack raised her eyebrows. “Whadda mean? What’d she do now?” she asked, secretly dreading whatever the filly had done while out of her sight.

Shining’s expression seemed hard to define for a moment, as if he were hesitant, before he spoke. “Well..she kinda got her cutie mark just now an--”

“She got her cutie mark!?!” Applejack practically shouted, nearly stumbling over in surprise.

Shining was quick to prop her back up, just as the griffin flying above shot them a glare.

“Um, yeah, yeah she did," said Shining uneasily. "But I, um, promised not to tell you what it was. She wants to show her yourself.”

Applejack nodded with a smile. “Well thank Celestia’s sparklin’ mane an’ tail! I’ll be there as soon as I’m able.”

Applejack felt her energy return to her from hearing the fantastic news. For years now, the fact that Apple Bloom had been a blank flank had weighed on the family, with Apple Bloom being bullied at school, and even by some particularly distasteful members of the extended family. Applejack remembered spending some nights just rocking her sister gently back and forth, trying to help calm the emotionally wounded filly from a day’s worth of torment. But now? Now Apple Bloom had achieved a lifelong dream. Doors would open for her. The bullying would perhaps finally end, and the filly could live a normal, socially well adjusted life. It made Applejack feel just a little bit more confident.

Iffin Apple Bloom can get her mark, then I can run this course. She thought, giving Shining a nod before finally speaking.

“Well, I gotta go now! Keep an’ eye on her an’ tell her I’ma real happy!”

Shining nodded. “Will do. And remember, if you need any help, I’m here,” he said, only to have Gilda swoop in low.

“GO AWAY! WE’RE TRAINING!” the griffin barked, and Shining was quick to pull aways away, giving Applejack some space. Gilda then looked down at Applejack. “Pick up your hooves, Apple! I’m not getting any younger!”

Applejack nodded resolutely, “Sure thin’, Sarge!” she shouted back, before focusing her attention on the road before her.