• Published 23rd Aug 2016
  • 1,551 Views, 67 Comments

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 15

A line of chairs had been brought in for the crowd of ponies waiting to enter General Shining Armor’s office to be interviewed - or perhaps interrogated - about their role in the exercise. It was going to take all day and require considerable skill to sort out. The General didn’t do things halfway.

Melon sat beside Mirror. She had a couple of folders in her hooves. The two of them were roughly in the middle of the line. It would be a while before either was called.

“How do you think this is going to go?” she asked.

Melon shook his head. “I don’t know, ma’am. I don’t think I did anything that would lead to jail time. I...do probably deserve some kind of disciplinary action. We didn’t exactly stick to the rules. But other circumstances might mitigate that. Maybe. I’m still the one most directly responsible.”

“I think you’ll be fine,” Mirror assured him. “They’d have to explain why the stallion who was smarter than the whole guard was getting busted.”

What about her? Mirror had been obviously insubordinate. Knowing her, she would probably answer his question if he asked, but should he? He debated it for a moment, but then lost his chance as Mirror said, “And no matter what I’m up against, I’ll take a few with me.”

She showed him the contents of one of the folders. In the brief look that he got, Melon saw that one piece of paper was titled Taking Kickbacks. Among the names listed were Colonel Jockey and Captain Light.

Mirror closed the folder. “Just a little personal project.”

That was the same thing she had said about saving Wash Margin. Melon wondered about her motives. Based on what he had seen, he had no idea what her ultimate, overarching plan was.

“Ma’am...what did we do?”

She turned to face him and raised her eyebrows.

Melon went on. “I mean, we broke all kinds of rules during the exercise. You put me in charge of the squad, but what kind of example was I setting?” He paused, but then spoke his mind. “What kind of example were you setting?”

“Not the best one,” Mirror admitted. “My behavior aside, however, I didn’t force you to do anything that you did.”

Melon looked at his hooves. “I tried to do what I thought you would have done. I wish I would have remembered sooner that I’m not you.”

Mirror agreed. “You remember the objectives I sent you? I was telling you what I wanted, not how to do it.”

“Yeah. I realized that, eventually. But I’m thinking about the half truths and mixed messages I told to the others in the meantime. What do they think of me?”

“It’s good that you’re thinking about the next link in the chain,” said Mirror. “If you take care of your ponies, they’ll take care of you, no matter what they think about you.”

Melon looked at her. “Is that your entire philosophy, ma’am?”

“Would you be here right now if you only liked me for vanquishing sea monsters?”

Melon considered it. “No ma’am, I guess not.”

“You did a good job,” she said. “But I had every confidence that you would. I put you in for Sergeant. Princess Luna signed the authorization paperwork two days ago.”

“Thank you, ma’am!” That would explain how she knew him when they kidnapped her, Melon thought.

“They’re who you should be thanking.”

Melon turned.

“Here we are,” said Dew.

Chalice eyed the line of ponies waiting for the General. “I’m glad we didn’t get called for this.”

“No kidding,” added Scootaloo.

Trixie looked around. “This is the first time Trixie has been in the castle since making the choice between jail or joining the guard.”

“What are you all doing here?” Melon asked.

“Lieutenant Mirror said there would be a surprise,” said Scootaloo. “Trixie told us about it on the way over.”

“It was only a slight modification to my schedule to be here,” said Trixie. “Sergeant is a big deal, a real leadership position.”

That was higher than Trixie had risen. Then again, she hadn’t cared about the job. But she cared about his job.

Mirror raised a hoof. “Acting with the authority of Luna, Princess of Equestria, I hereby promote Corporal Melon Rind, Lunar Guard, to Sergeant, effective immediately.”

The others politely but quietly applauded. A couple of bystanders waiting to be called for interview did too.

Trixie took out a pair of Sergeant’s chevrons and replaced Melon’s rank. She had given him his Corporal insignia, too.

“Thank you all,” said Melon. “I...couldn’t have done it without you.”

And that, he realized, might be the truest thing he had ever said.

The others finished congratulating him. Melon glanced at Mirror and then said to the others, “Go take some time to yourselves. You’ve earned it.”

The Privates were agreeable and said goodbye. Trixie gave him a smile and went with them.

The General’s aide opened the office door. “Next!”

Author's Note:

Thank you to everyone who contributed to this story's success - that includes you, reader.

Seven months ago, when this story was still a concept, I had originally envisioned Melon and crew as some kind of amphibious raiding force, sticking close to the coast around their home station. The idea of fighting a pirate made a little more sense at the time. However, I decided that for the overarching plot to be more significant, they would have to go to Canterlot. This had the side effect of challenging them with changing terrain.

The picture of Trixie with fireworks was drawn before any writing was done. It was so good that I wrote it into the story.

I wish I could have included more Mirror because she’s an interesting character, but I also reluctantly acknowledge that she’s best served in small doses in order to preserve her intrigue. Besides, having her in the field with the team would have quashed Melon’s growth as a character.

The lighter ended up being much more symbolic that I had originally intended. In discussing the story with my cohorts, we ended up writing several paragraphs of background about what the lighter meant to each character, though none of that made it into the story - conspicuously, anyway.

Comments ( 19 )
D48
D48 #1 · Sep 9th, 2016 · · ·

That was good, although I was kinda hoping to hear how things shook out after Shiny got involved.

Also, did anyone else's shipping sense go off on the Trixie/Mellon interaction, or was it just me?

7551305 Well, it wouldn't be office romance now that she was out of the guard.

D48

7551402 Yeah, that is part of why I was thinking it might be possible now.

Also, what happened to everyone after the interviews with Shining Armor?

I kinda want a epilog aftermath. Or a sequel with some more touching upon what happened to the ponies in charge of the wargames. This still feels incomplete.

Certainly does end with a low key, Melon obtaining his stripes is a nice notion, but with such heavy implication coming from the higher ups trying to pass blame for an faux enemy unit using enemy tactics, I feel a little underwhelmed that we don't have any closing pages or an epilogue. Technically with Luna going nightmare, if this is to go in accordance to the war games, it would be an ultimate win on the reds part.
The group dynamic is nice, reminds me of Ft. Campbell, but I feel that this just ends abruptly without any closure, other than a pat on the back and hey ya did well.
Nice work on the dynamics over all though.

These characters are too good just to end with this, so as Shiny's office aid said, "NEXT"
Edit- after a while (year+ of time) I cam back to this story because I forgot what it was about, but it was favorited. Now I again understand how this story only has 2 dislikes and 78 likes. 'Twas good.

A good story, but I have to agree with the other comments; too abrupt an ending. An epilogue or sequel most definitely required.

I'll third the request for an epilogue. It doesn't have to be much, or even reveal much; the main unresolved tension is from who actually ends up taking heat after Shining finishes interviewing everyone (with "does Wash Margin stay open" as an auxiliary question). A scene change and one extra paragraph in this chapter would resolve that. (Melon's back at Wash Margin, the reader is told what happened, Melon glances at his spiffy new chevrons and thinks of what he's learned, and the curtain comes down.)

That said, I've certainly enjoyed this story; you've improved your sense of pacing and tension, and you've shown Melon's character developing as he learns things during the fic. Nicely done! :twilightsmile:

please sir, I want some more.

7505598 Unfortunately it dies at the end. There's all sorts of interesting plot threads that just cut off without any closure. Pity the author didn't listen to practically every commenter and do some sort of epilogue.

Yeah, this story definitely needed to show what actually happened in the interviews/interrogations.

Otherwise, this story was pretty solid.

Yup, and epilogue is needed, especially considering Cracked Mirror's folder.

Thank you for the story! :twilightsmile:
And yes, epilogue would be nice. Right now it feels unfinished with too many loose ends. Or will there be a sequel?

Nice story, need an epilogue thought.

You ended it here? A shame. This was a fantastic read throughout, but it leaves so many questions unanswered. Still, thank you for it.

Definitively needs an Epilogue or another chapter

I agree with all the other commenters that thew interviews should have been part of the story. At least to learn what happens to Mirror, Light and Jockey. Allthough I suspect that the latter will get some punishment for those wanted posters.

I liked it. Good story.

This was a super fun story. I love stuff like this.

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