Play Stupid Games, Win Stupid Prizes

by totallynotabrony

Chapter 12

It wouldn’t do to show up to the restaurant too early. If nothing else, it would make them a target. Instead, the four of them headed back to the cave to digest some of the library books. Along the way, they found a dumpster behind a furniture shop and helped themselves to empty cardboard boxes for makeshift bedding.

That evening, they headed for the address they’d gotten for the smoke shop. It was closed when they arrived, but it was clearly the place. There was a whole rack of lighters in the window.

Across the street was a restaurant, so, according to Mirror’s note, it must be the place. It looked fancier than a covert meeting really merited, but Melon hadn’t been the one to select it. He decided to ask for five seats.

The waitress came over after they were seated. “Welcome to Le Très Cher. Would you like to hear our specials tonight?”

A place with specials. This might be too fancy for their rapidly shrinking budget. They declined, and ordered water, wanting to wait until Mirror showed up.

Melon looked around. There was an impressive crowd in attendance. He was mildly surprised they’d gotten seated at all. All of the other patrons seemed to be dressed in more than sweater vests.

The waitress came back with their drinks and also something else. “There’s a note for you.” Melon took the paper she gave him and read it.

Nice work today. As for your next objective, you should kidnap the princesses. It would be totally hilarious. Even more so if you did it wearing those sweater vests.

Have a nice dinner. It’s on me.

“Does she seriously expect us to kidnap the princesses?” hissed Chalice at a whisper.

“I mean, maybe they’ll go along with it,” Scootaloo replied. “They seemed cool when I met them.”

“Wait, you’ve met the princesses?” said Dew.

“Yeah, I hung out with the Elements of Harmony ponies a lot when I was a kid.”

Chalice looked around. “I wonder what’s with the note? She apparently knows we’re here, so I wonder why she isn’t meeting us face to face.”

“Maybe she’s in disguise because she didn’t want the blue team to know she was coming here,” said Melon. He, too, looked around. If Mirror had taken off her tail band, then he wouldn’t recognize her. Obviously she was a pegasus, but outside of that, he had no idea. The restaurant was crowded, and that made it more difficult. He saw a few pegasus mares around, the waitress included, but none seemed to be a likely candidate. He didn’t see anypony obviously looking their way. He didn’t see any single mares there by themselves. Would Mirror have gone to the trouble of getting a date for the evening just to help her disguise? Was she even in the room?

The waitress came to take their order. The promise of a free meal was most welcome. When she was gone again, Melon raised his glass. “We should toast.”

“To what?” Scootaloo asked.

Melon had thought as far as the act, but not the followup. “To camaraderie,” he decided.

“Kind of cheesy, boss, but it has been a pretty good operation so far,” said Chalice.

“Hear, hear,” added Dew. The four of them clinked glasses. Melon kept his up a moment longer, taking a look around the room. He still couldn’t pick out if Mirror was watching, but he hoped she was. She was as much a part of the group as any of them.

The food arrived and they dug in. Conversation had stopped, and Melon had time to think.

The next day was the final day they were allowed to run operations. The last day of the week was for wrapping up the exercise. Melon presumed the blue and red forces would come together and discuss what had been learned, so the Guard as a whole could improve. By this time tomorrow, they would either be victorious or in captivity.

He had been keeping one eye on the door. Two fit-looking unicorn stallions with short haircuts came in. Melon nudged Dew, who was sitting closest. She followed his gaze, and nudged Chalice, who nudged Scootaloo.

They may have been out of their armor, but the way they were looking around, the two new arrivals had to be Guard ponies.

“Are those guys here for us?” said Dew.

“How did they find us?” asked Scootaloo.

“I wonder if they’ve been checking every smoke shop and only just now got here,” suggested Chalice.

However they had come to be in the same restaurant left Melon’s mind as the younger of the two locked eyes with him. He tapped his partner on the shoulder and both of them made a beeline for the table. Melon wiped his mouth and got up. The Privates followed his lead.

“You think you’re clever?” spat the older stallion. A mild shock passed over Melon. Based on the voice, it was Colonel Desk Jockey.

“It’s over,” said the other. Melon realized it was Captain Purifying Light.

“You’re outnumbered, gentlecolts,” Melon reminded them.

“And nopony wants to do anything hasty in this crowded restaurant,” added Dew.

“You think you can just make it up as you go along?” said Jockey.

Melon nodded. “Yes sir, that’s what we were told to do.”

“That maniac you call a commanding officer is torpedoing your career and hers,” Light said.

“Did you like the paper airplane, sir?” said Chalice. Jockey and Light glared at her. Melon also shot her a quick look to convey that she wasn’t helping.

“This ends here,” growled Jockey. “I’m giving you an order to stand down.”

“Um,” said the waitress. “I’m sorry to interrupt, but I understand that somepony is having an anniversary?”

“What are you talking about?” Jockey snapped.

“Well, this his-and-his romantic celebration cake was sent by another customer for the two of you. Um, not that I’m judging or anything.” She showed him a pink, heart-shaped cake with two stallions kissing drawn in the frosting.

Melon and the others didn’t wait to hear the aftermath. They were out the door in record time. There was a taxi waiting outside and they piled in. Melon told the taxi pony to hurry.