• Published 23rd Aug 2016
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Play Stupid Games, Win Stupid Prizes - totallynotabrony



It's time for the annual Royal Guard training exercise. A ragtag crew playing bad guys has to go up against the entire rest of the Guard.

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Chapter 14

Fortunately, the red team didn’t have to spend all night in cells. Mostly because they broke themselves out. With a combination of Chalice’s knowhow and Dew’s weather magic, they engineered a solution. After repeatedly dripping water inside the cell door hinges and then freezing it, the expansion of ice drove the pins out.

After that, Mirror walked them to the barracks and checked in. The desk clerk didn’t appear to know who they were, so there was no problem booking bunks for the night and requisitioning clean uniforms.

Melon wasn’t sure the last time he had taken a shower, and knew that he needed it. Getting a chance to sleep in a bed was even better.

The next morning, they reported to a large, fancy conference center in the castle. There were a few tables in the center of the floor and raised seating at the front and on the sides.

Mirror looked around. “I think this is a court. It feels like a court.” Melon couldn’t disagree.

There was a small card identifying the red team table, and the five of them sat down. Other Guards began to filter in, taking their seats elsewhere. Just before the debrief was to begin, Colonel Jockey and Captain Light entered, sitting in the front. They didn’t look pleased.

A clerk cleared his throat. “Welcome to the Joint Academic Guard Exercise debrief. We will now review the record of events.” He gestured to two podiums at the front of the room.

A recorder with a typewriter sat off to the side, transcripting everything.

Captain Light stepped up to his podium. Lieutenant Mirror gave Melon a nod and confident grin. He got up and approached the other podium. Light locked eyes with him.

“Name and position for the record,” said the recorder.

“Captain Purifying Light, Royal Guard senior training coordinator, stationed in Canterlot.”

“Corporal Melon Rind. Uh, guard from Wash Margin.”

Melon thought he heard a few quiet snickers. He wondered if the recorder noted them.

Light picked up his notes. “We’ll start with a rundown of activities. On the morning of the second day, a note placed under a rock was discovered at the Horseshoe Bay station. It read ‘If this were a bomb, you’d be dead.’ It lacked any attribution and was very concerning to the guards there.”

“We hadn’t yet established a standard operating procedure,” Melon replied. “Other notes were properly signed.”

Light went back to his notes. “Near-simultaneously, another paper was discovered inside the barracks at Dodge Junction. It read, ‘You’ve been attacked by the Can’t Remember Faction in the middle of the night. Gotcha!’ Rather unprofessional.”

“Well, after being concerning to the guards in Horseshoe Bay, we thought we’d add a bit of levity,” Melon replied.

“I don’t believe you,” Light said flatly. “There’s no way the group that went to Dodge Junction could have learned what the group in Horseshoe Bay wrote.”

“There weren’t two groups, sir. The three ponies of my team and I placed the note by going over the wall at Horseshoe Bay on the first night while the guards were distracted by fireworks. Early the next morning, we slipped another note into the station at Dodge Junction through an open window. We did Horseshoe Bay after dark, so maybe the guards there didn’t find the note until the sun came up. After that, we hiked all night through Hayseed Swamp and did Dodge Junction just before the sun rose.”

Light didn’t look pleased, but since that was his default expression Melon couldn’t tell if his story had satisfied the Captain or not.

Light went on. “On the third day, the temporary field observation post in Ponyville received a note through the ventilation system. That post was not an active facility blue team open for attack.”

“We were not informed of that, sir.”

“You should have sought out the rules. It’s your responsibility.”

“Well, it wasn’t in the guidelines you gave to the red team, Captain Light,” said Mirror.

The recorder asked for her name and position. “Lieutenant Cracked Mirror, Wash Margin commanding officer and red team liaison to exercise planning.”

Light had taken on a sour look. “So Corporal, how did you get the note into the ventilation system? Did you break into the town hall at night?”

“No sir, we rehearsed it the night before and then quickly slipped it in that morning, right after the town hall opened. When the air conditioning came on, the note blew out. It was a rather cunning plan by Private Chalice.”

Light looked at the next item on his list. “The next morning, a message was found written on the side of a tent of a guard encampment southwest of Ponyville.”

“After doing the town hall, we went to Los Pegasus, but couldn’t find a way to attack. The security was good.” Out of the corner of his eye, Melon saw a stallion in the crowd pump his hoof. “That night, we randomly encountered the camp. Private Glisten Dewdrop conjured a storm for cover and walked right in. I expect the guards there found the message the next morning.”

“The message was, ‘Love, the Can’t Remember Faction.’” Light stared at him.

“Is it wrong to love our fellow ponies, sir?”

Mirror made a small noise that sounded like she had subtly choked on a laugh.

Light was not amused. “It’s wrong to return to Ponyville and send a note to the Colonel in charge of the observation post. As I said before, that was a non-playing facility.”

“If they weren’t playing, why did they have wanted posters up for us?” Melon asked. “They even had a poster for a Wash Margin guard who wasn’t part of the red team. Somepony found out which station had supplied the red team. Kind of unrealistic if we’re supposed to be unknown bad guys.”

“I am not privy to details from individual stations,” Light replied, enunciating carefully.

“Well then, sir, we’re supposed to be learning here. We could find out,” said Mirror.

“Perhaps if we have time later,” said Light. “The next attack came in the form of a paper airplane through the window of the Guard headquarters in Canterlot.”

“I wasn’t there for that one,” said Melon. “So I’m not privy to details.” Before Light could break in, Melon went on. “I was downtown. I’d gone to the city hall to research the castle.”

“Where you ambushed two guards on duty,” said Light.

Melon saw a guard in the crowd grin and nudge the pony sitting next to him. Melon nodded. “Yes, sir. Plus two more later that evening, at a restaurant.”

Light was quietly steaming now. “Which brings us to the final act, kidnapping an uninvolved civilian like Princess Luna in her own bedroom and scaring half to death the entire population of Equestria by lowering the sun in the middle of the day. What do you have to say for yourself?”

Melon had gotten comfortable at the podium, but now tensed. He began carefully “Well sir...the plan we attempted didn’t quite work. On the way into the castle, we encountered real criminals, a pirate named Rum and his gang, and we arrested them after a fight. Princess Celestia arrived and agreed to take the prisoners off our hooves.”

Mirror broke in. “I’d like the record to show that Corporal Rind took the initiative to deputize Princess Celestia into the Lunar Guard so that proper custody over the prisoners was maintained at all times.”

Chuckles all around the room. While he had momentum, Melon added, “It was Princess Celestia’s idea for us to continue the mission.”

He hated to throw her under the cart like that, but what kind of backlash was anypony going to give the Princess? “Being that one of our country’s highest leaders was giving orders to the country’s guard, that hardly made her and her sister uninvolved civilians. So, using Private Scootaloo’s excellent knowledge of the castle, we navigated to Princess Luna’s bedroom. After that, on Princess Luna’s own prerogative, she took the form of Nightmare Moon and lowered the sun.”

“I think we’ve heard about enough,” said Colonel Jockey, speaking for the first time. “I want the entire red team confined for their recklessness and disregard of rules.”

There were surprised murmurs around the room, but Melon barely heard them. Sure, he’d done some wrong, but it hadn’t been that bad, especially with bending the story here and there to his favor.

Actually, the important thing about that was he’d done some wrong. Melon swallowed hard. “Sir, I was in charge. Leave the others out of this.”

“Actually, sir, I was in charge,” Mirror said, louder. “Corporal Rind, would you have kidnapped the princess if I hadn’t ordered you to?”

He went with the truth. “No, ma’am.”

“I have no problem locking up your crazy ass, too,” said Jockey. “Without you squatting at Wash Margin in that hole you call a station, it can finally be closed.”

Mirror countered, “Has it really been decided to close Wash Margin or are you just saying that in front of everypony so it becomes the defacto truth even if it isn’t really? Sir.”

Melon cut his eyes side to side. Was this really happening? A shouting match in public, with dozens of guards looking on?

Light was apparently also aware. “We can formalize the verbiage later. Right now, this debrief is over.”

Mirror shook her head. “Not until we talk about the meddling in the supposedly neutral exercise planning group, both mine and yours.”

“Did you just admit guilt to breaking the rules?” Light said. “That’s insubordination!”

“I did it so I could properly address your infractions. I may be guilty of a lot of things including insubordination, jaywalking, and arson, but I am not a hypocrite."

Light shook his head. “Are you literally insane?”

“Though this be madness, there is method in it.” Mirror grinned.

Light opened his mouth, but Colonel Jockey pushed him aside. Before he could speak - scream, probably - the door opened and Princess Celestia poked her head in. Utter silence greeted her.

“All of you are being rather more deafening than expected,” she said. “Could you perhaps hold off until after breakfast?”

“I’m finished, Princess,” said a voice. “I’ll handle it.” General Shining Armor, the highest Guard in Equestria, stepped into the room. He closed the door and looked around. “I heard there was some controversy within the exercise this year.”

Everypony started talking at once, which Shining Armor silenced with a glare. “Do I have to interview each one of you individually in my office?”

Yes, as it turned out.