• Published 20th Aug 2016
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Stormageddon: Changeling Spy - Shakespearicles



Follow the life of Stormageddon, a changeling spy for the Royal Guard.

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The Dotted Line

We didn't stay in Ponyville. Pineapple needed to die in that fire too. If I showed up at Town Hall trying to lay claim to the property, questions would be asked. Uncomfortable questions. Questions about who I was and my official relationship to the family that I wasn't going to able to BS my way through. And Prince Shining Armor or Princess Twilight Sparkle wouldn't be able to help me without raising even more questions.

Dawn couldn't show up back in Canterlot again, either. She was a watched mare. Instead, I opted for a white pegasus stallion with a blonde mane. A grey cloud for a cutie mark. Totally ambiguous. I finished reading the material Shining had given me about the Royal Guard.

"Now look, being in the Royal Guard is no trot in the park," Shining said, sitting across from me in the train. "It's not just a job. It's a commitment."

"Yeah, yeah, I get it."

"I'm not sure if you do. Celestia's training is very vigorous," he said.

"Princess Celestia is going to be training me!?"

"No. But it's her training regiment for her Guard, by her guards."

"Oh. What about Princess Luna?" I asked.

"Hmmf." He stifled a laugh.

"What?"

"To be on the Night Guard, you need to be a bat pony."

"Well..."

"No! I already had my sister draft up documents for you. So you had better get used to this look," he motioned to me with his hoof, "and name." He passed a large envelope to me.

"Storm Cloud?" I read out loud, "I can dig it."

"I figured you'd like that better than-" he paused in somber realization, "Pineapple." I felt a sharp pang in my chest. For as much as I had hated the name before, I suddenly found myself wanting to hear it from the mouths of the ponies that gave it to me. I tried to push those thoughts from my mind. I would avenge them soon enough. I read on, trying to break the tension.

"Born in Cloudsdale... Blue Yonder Orphanage... since destroyed by a rogue tornado along with all other records... well that's convenient."

"It is," he added. I flipped through the rest of the papers. It wasn't very much. I tucked the envelope into my satchel, pulling its strap close to my body.

"Is there anything else I should know about... myself?"

"I tried to keep it as open-ended as possible. You can fill in the details as you go." He motioned to me with his hoof. "You seem like you've been pretty good at that so far." He poured himself a bit of apple juice. "The guard trainers aren't going to make it their mission to know your life story. Just do as you're told, and you'll just be another number to them."

"And after training camp?" He shrugged.

"You have a few weeks to figure that out. But you're a pretty accomplished liar thus far. You know well enough to not tell ponies more than you can keep track of."

"And what if I... get in trouble? What if I need- help?" I asked. I planned on being on my best behavior. I planned on not getting caught. But I would be a fool to not have a plan for the worst. He sighed.

"I... have a public mailing box. You can write to me when you are able, as a citizen sending mail to a prince. I'll prioritize any letter I see from Storm Cloud. Beyond that..." He trailed off, shrugging. "I can't really get directly involved without implicating myself. I'm already late getting back to the Empire. There's going to be hell for me to pay for that as it is. Both officially, and... to my family." He looked away for a moment. "I'm already in enough trouble as it is. This last train ride, and that envelope, is it from me. I hope you can appreciate the risk I'm taking, already."

"I do. Thank you," I said. He looked out the window again. A familiar skyline was growing near.

"Canterlot is coming up," he said, reminding me of our plan. "Are you sure you're alright with-" I cut him off with a wave of my hoof.

"Don't worry. It's not my first time jumping from a speeding train." I opened the door to the train car. The cabin of the train was filled with the roar of the wind rushing by.

"Storm!" he said over the noise of the wind. I turned my head back. "Good luck!"

"Luck!?" I scoffed. I readied myself to jump and spread my wings. "Luck- is NOT a factor!" I vaulted into a back-flip from the back of the train, catching the wake with my wings and gaining altitude. The train sped away beneath me as I made my own approach into the city.


I like to say that I learned how to fly from the best. It was my snarky way of saying that I was self-educated. What? You didn't think that Princess Twilight taught me, did you? Sure, as a tutor in magic, she has no equal. But when it came to flying- well... I don't want to say she was useless. She could be used as a bad example.

I glided in and kept my approach low, per his advice regarding the city's no-fly-zone restrictions near the castle. The last thing I needed was a scuffle with the very institution I had hoped to join. A block or so from the castle grounds, I touched down onto the streets. I hadn't really had the opportunity to enjoy the view of the city like this before. It as nice. It was... something I could get used to.

Maybe this wouldn't be so bad, I thought. Because I'm so good a judging these sort of things.

I approached the civilian entrance to the barracks which, from this side of the wall, served as the local police station. Inside there was a reception desk for ponies to file police reports, and the dispatcher. The walls were covered with public service announcements and 'Join the Guard' propaganda.

Sweet Leaf's portrait was among the 'Wanted' section.

"Can I help you, citizen?" the dispatcher asked. He wore the uniform of the Royal Guard. No surprise there.

"Uh, yes. I'm here to enlist," I said.

"Right through there." He pointed at the door to the side labeled 'Recruitment Office'.

"Thank you."

"Oh, no sir, thank -you-," he said with a smile that looked dangerously sinister. The door was partially open. I pushed it open and walked inside. It was less of an office, and more of a long, wide hallway. Nearest me was another guard pony, in a similar uniform, at a desk. Behind him, on either wall of the hallway were two long rows of benches, lined with ponies. None of them looked excited to be there. Many were clutching their stomachs. Probably feeling butterflies from being nervous about the 'big scary guard boot camp'. The guard at the desk didn't even look up from his paper work.

"Are you a walk-in?" he asked. I looked behind me, where I has just walked in.

"Um, like, in the literal sense?" I asked. I didn't see it at the time, but the vein in his neck bulged. He hid it well.

" 'Yes' or 'no' will do. Are you preregistered?"

"Umm," I actually wasn't sure. I grabbed my envelope of documents from my bag. He sighed in frustration.

"NAME please," he asked/ commanded. But hey, at least he said please, right?

"Storm Cloud," I answered.

"Papers." I gave him the envelope with my pertinent paperwork. He flipped through my papers, and then his own list, finding what I assumed was my name, and made a little check mark beside it. He pulled a small packet of paper, stapled together and flipped it to the last page. There was a line at the bottom for me to stamp.

"Stamp here on the dotted line, please," he said.

"Um, I feel like I should maybe, read this first."

"It's the same packet you received when you preregistered. You've had ample time to read and understand what it is you are signing up for since then," he told me.

Damn. Shining had given me a lot to read on the train ride up. Rules, regulations, things to expect, do's and don't's. I could only assume this was among it. He was clearly growing impatient with me. I dabbed my hoof on the ink pad and stamped the paper. He quickly took it back and filed it away in his desk, standing up.

"Congratulations, kid. You're officially property of the Crown." He walked around the desk, extending his hoof. I reached out to shake it.

He pulled it back at the last moment and sucker-punched me in the stomach. The other ponies in the hall winced, clutching their own stomachs as I fell to the floor. He stood over me.

"YOUR TRAINING BEGINS NOW, PRIVATE!" he shouted in my face. "Lesson one, expect anything! Trust nopony!" I gasped, having the wind knocked out of me. I struggled to get my breath and groaned.

"...Article one zero eight... dash two..." I was able to get out between gasps, "...destruction of government property..."

What can I say, I'm a fast learner. As I mentioned, I was given a lot to read on the train. And if there's one thing I'm good at, it's retaining information. Well, that and drinking. Those are my two strengths. I drink, and I know things.

"Well look what we have here. An honest-to-goodness SCHOLAR! Private Smarty Pants! On your hooves!" he barked, grabbing me by the strap of my bag, picking me up. "Go plant it on the bench!" he shouted, giving me a shove in the general direction. I took a seat on the bench, clutching my stomach like the rest of them.

Yeah. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad. The likeliest of scenarios, since thing have just been going sooo well for me lately.

"I'm still waiting on one more. I don't want to hear a peep out of you, or else you're getting another!" He waved his hoof at me menacingly. "You understand?" I kept my mouth zipped and just nodded to the affirmative. He sat back at the desk. I exchanged a few 'what did I just get myself into' glances with the other recruits. Then I just stared at the floor, contemplating my enlistment; just another, in a long line of bad decisions. After a few more minutes, another pony came trotting in.

"Are you a walk-in?" he asked the pony, just as he had asked me, in a calm, even tone. I didn't even look up.

"N-no sir. I'm preregistered."

"Name, please."

"P-pound Cake, sir."

My head popped up. Pound Cake? Sure enough, Pumpkin Cake's lanky pegasus brother was standing there, giving the guard his papers and getting ready to stamp on the dotted line.

"Congratulations, kid. You're officially property of the Crown." The guard began to rise from his seat. This time I saw everypony around me wince.

I had known Pound and his sister, Pumpkin for most of my life. I had liked Pumpkin a lot for a while. And I could tell she liked me too. But he was always in the way of us ever becoming more than friends, being the over-protective brother. I'm pretty sure he could tell how I felt about her, too. He was less than cordial to me most of the time. In fact, if you'd asked me my opinion of him five minutes earlier, I would have called him a prick. He routinely made life difficult for anypony that had the misfortune of being born a colt and who tried to be friends with his sister.

The guard extended his hoof to shake his. Maybe Pound had it coming.

"He's gonna punch you in the stomach." I said, loud enough for all to hear. The others gasped. The guard froze and did an immediate about-face.

"Who said that?" he asked. "WHO THE BUCK SAID THAT!? WHO THE BUCK JUST SIGNED THEIR OWN DEATH WARRANT!?" He shouted. It was a moot question. Everypony had their eyes glued on the floor like their life depended on it. Everypony except me. His eyes locked on mine. He quick-marched over in front of me. "WAS IT YOU? YOU LITTLE STRING-BEAN PIECE OF GARBAGE?"

"Yes. Sir," I answered, as ordered.

"ON YOUR HOOVES!" I calmly stood up, never taking my eyes off of him. We just stood and stared at eachother as the clock on the wall ticked away, each of us seemingly waiting for the other to expire. That was fine with me, he looked like he had a good twenty year head start on me.

"Private Smarty Pants, of all the recruits, you were the only one to speak up to protect your fellow squad mate. You passed the test. SQUADRON," he addressed the rest of the recruits, while still looking at me, "MEET YOUR SQUAD LEADER, PRIVATE SMARTY PANTS! Congratulations," he said, extending his hoof.

fool me once

In a flash I caught his hoof just as he was about to sucker-punch me in the stomach again. I brought my own hoof back to sock him one in the face. I stopped my hoof just a hair shy of crushing in his temple. Nothing like a few bar brawls to teach you a thing or two about hoof-to-hoof combat. My eyes never left his. His never left mine. He gave me a look that said 'Just try it. Give me a reason. I dare you.' I withdrew my hoof and pushed his away.

"My, my. Aren't we a fast learner," he purred. "SQUADRON, ON YOUR HOOVES!" Everypony stood up. "ON YOUR FACES!" Everypony got down into the push-up position. I moved to get down as well. "Oh no, not you, Squad Leader Smarty Pants," he said. I remained standing. "PUSH!" he barked. Everypony began to do push-ups. "YOU TOO LIGHTWEIGHT!" he yelled at Pound Cake, still standing by the recruiter's desk. "We love to exercise, don't we squad?"

"YES SIR!" everypony answered.

"THANK your Squad Leader for giving you this opportunity to exercise!"

"THANK YOU SQUAD LEADER!" they all answered on command, rather than from actual gratitude. He walked back over to his desk between the rows of ponies pushing the floor, giving Pound a kick to the ribs. It wasn't too hard. Just enough to knock him down. "I DIDN'T SAY YOU COULD STOP!" he shouted at him. His push-ups were sloppy and shaky. Pound clearly struggled as he tried to push through the pain and to get back up each time.

I looked around the room. Each pony pushed as they were commanded. Each were giving me a glare as they did. Except Pound. He looked like he was busy trying to just not die.

The rest of basic training went about as you would expect for me after that.


Zero Night, as it was called in the guard. It was the whole shock-and-awe show you would expect, trying to break our will. A lot of yelling and intimidation. We were all herded into the training barracks, assigned a cot to sleep in, and a box in which to store our issued equipment. Nopony spoke. We all just laid in our cots. Some slept, some wept.

I could hear other ponies crying into their pillows. In the pitch dark, you couldn't tell who was doing what, unless they were right next to you. For example, I learned that night that Pound Cake snores. Dear Diary, it has been two days since I've had a cider. By the stars, I could go for one right now. I was too tired for it to matter.

CLANG
CLANG
CLANG

"RISE AND SHINE LADIES!" Our drill sergeant shouted as he threw on the lights, banging on a soup pot with a spoon as he walked between the rows of beds. We all staggered out of bed trying to stand. My eyes struggle to focus. But from where I was standing, I could see the clock on the wall. It said 4:30. It was still dark out. "Inspection! On your hinds, hooves to the sky!"

We all stood on our hind legs, reaching for the ceiling. He walked past each of us, giving us a quick look-over. It wasn't the same Guard pony that gave us all a big, hoof-shaped bruise on our midsection. This Guard pony was a little older.

"I see sergeant Window Pain has already given you all the traditional welcome into the Guard." He took a few more steps, completing the row. "As you were!" We all dropped back down to all-fours. "I am sergeant Hard Tack, your senior Drill Instructor. By a show of hooves, who among you have accepted Princess Celestia as your divine savior?" Most ponies raised theirs hooves. A few didn't, including myself. "Well you can stow that load of horse apples right now! Princess Celestia is no goddess. And she sure as sugar ain't gonna save you now. As of this moment, I am your god, and you will obey my word as such! Do you maggots understand?"

"YES SIR!"

"Do as I say, and I will not feel the need to use physical correction as Sergeant Pain does. HOWEVER, if you do not, you will find yourself wishing for one of his 'love taps' after what I will do to you. Do you maggots understand?"

"YES SIR!"

"You have fifteen seconds to get your butts outside and formed up! MOVE!"

And out we went. Morning exercise before dawn became our routine. Then we hit the showers. Then the chow hall. Afterwards, we would trot back to the squadron building. If somepony ate too much at chow, we would find out during that run.

"BLEEAAAGGHHH!" As we ran, Pound Cake fell out of formation to retch into the bushes before resuming his place, still wearing half of his breakfast. It was a lesson quickly learned. Once we returned, we had academic military knowledge beaten into our brains. What war happened when. Who killed who, and why.

And then after, it was physical education, which was exercise, but with an obstacle course of some kind or another. Weapons training. Hoof-to-hoof combat for the earth ponies. Combat magic for the unicorns. Aerial combat, tactics and strategy for the pegasi, like myself.

Basic Training was like being in a pocket dimension. Time had no meaning anymore. Every day was the same. PT, showers, chow, class, chow, training, chow, sleep, rinse, repeat. If you were a slow learner and made mistakes, you pushed. You either got smart, or you got strong. I was a fast learner. And I was brought up on manual labor. I did my best to just stow my attitude and keep my head down. "Just do as you're told, and do your time," Shining had told me.

I didn't do bad as Squad Leader. Which isn't to say I did good either. Hell if I ever got any praise. I was mostly just the go between for the Drill and the rest of the squad. Whenever we screwed up, it fell to me to get yelled at. I imagine the idea was for me to delegate the yelling down to everypony else to take the heat off of Sergeant Hard Tack. It didn't matter what it was, PT, weapon maintenance, marching, you name it.

"DO IT AGAIN! BETTER!"

We would do it better.

"DO IT FASTER!

We did it faster, and better. At best he would just say nothing, which was as high a praise as we could hope. When he yelled at me, I just took it for the team, rather than pass it down. His yelling never scared me anyway. The way I saw it, I already died in a barn fire in Ponyville. What kind of threat are you going to offer a ghost? I could see how it would rattle most normal ponies, preparing them for the horrors of battle.

Some ponies had tiny photos of their family, or sweethearts that they would look at from time to time. I had nothing of the sort, but for my memories. As much as I would have liked a warning from Shining about the 'traditional welcome', he did give me one important piece of advice, "You are not an individual, you are a squad. You succeed or fail, as a squad."

I made sure we pulled as a team. We worked together to help the weakest links in our chain. Nopony was left behind. Nopony excelled at the cost of another. I tried to stay positive with the squad, in spite of the initial play by Pain to try to turn the squad against me. And it worked.

Six weeks later, nopony had washed out, and we all graduated well above average. As a team. We were ponies of the Royal Guard.



As members of the Pegasi Air Corp of the Royal Guard, Pound Cake and I could be tasked with patrolling the skies over Canterlot, or scouting distant territories, or even-

"Cleaning this pony-forsaken wall. AGAIN!" Pound complained beside me.

"And you better make it sparkle, Private!" our staff sergeant shouted from the ground. I contemplated 'accidentally' dropping my water bucket. But I thought better of it.

"Look, don't worry about it," I said to Pound after Sarge left. I dunked my brush and scrubbed my section of wall. "We all have to pay our dues as Blank Ranks before we earn some stripes." He huffed and scrubbed his section and we worked out way across, back and forth, working our way down. "The way I see it, as long as we're doing this, they can't make us do something else."

"I would rather do literally anything else," Pound complained.

"Hey, we could be on latrine duty," I reminded him. He shuddered.

"I know, I just-" he sighed, "I just always thought that we'd be, you know, fighting dragons or roughing up criminals or something. After all of that combat training, none of it prepared me for- this! Nothing in the brochure said anything about being a glorified janitor."

I had to agree with him. I hadn't expected life in the guard to be like this either. After all the nationalism in training, I was geared up to take on anything, praying for war. But peacetime guard served more in a police role. But with crime as low as it was, there was little need to enlist unless you needed a steady job, food, and a roof over your head. Which was why I was still baffled that Pound Cake had left his home in Ponyville. We never had much opportunity for small talk in Basic, at least, not without twenty eight other ponies listening in.

"Is that why you joined the Guard?" I asked, "To fight dragons?" He didn't answer right away.

"...No."

"So why then?"

"It's... complicated," he said. I looked at the rest of the massive wall, yet to be scrubbed.

"We've got time," I said.

"Yeah well, it's complicated, and I don't really want to talk about it."

"Okay." I didn't press the issue any further.

"What about you?" he asked.

"I wanted to fight dragons," I said, stalling.

"No, seriously. Why did you choose to join?"

"Well, it wasn't really so much a choice as it was a lack of options," I said. He raised an eyebrow, intrigued. "I never knew my parents. I was an orphan in Cloudsdale. I worked a few odd jobs, to eat, growing up. This just seemed like a steady job."

"And that's it?" he asked.

"Well... I was maybe persuaded to do this to avoid jail time," I said.

"Ha! I knew it."

"Oh?"

"I could tell. There was always something about you in Basic. The way you were always looking over your shoulder, sizing things up. You look like a pony who's afraid of getting caught for something. Like you're planning on stealing anything in the room that isn't bolted down. I know the type. You like to get into trouble."

"Oh yeah?"

"Yeah. When I worked at my parents' bakery, I could always tell when somepony was fixing to snag a cupcake from the counter when they thought nopony was looking. I always made sure to keep an eye on them until they left or paid. Especially this one guy-"

"Who?"

"There was this one colt that used to try to steal stuff on a semi-regular basis, kept trying to date my sister too. But I didn't want her associating with him, you know?"

"Heh, heh... sounds like a real jerk," I said. "What's his name?" I asked, suspecting the answer.

"Well I- I don't want to talk bad about him," he said. I looked around at the wide open space.

"Why? Afraid he'll hear?"

"No. Because he's dead. He died in a house fire in Ponyville," he said.

Oh. Right.

We kept on scrubbing the wall. Not really saying much else until lunch. Even then it wasn't much aside from the odd, lewd comment about passerby mares outside of the range of our voice.

"What about her?"

"Oh, yeah, definitely."

"Dude, she has a foal!"

"Well yeah, you know she puts out then."

"What about her?"

"Totally."

"Bruh, she looks like she's sixty!"

"Hey, there's just something about a mare with no teeth, amirite?"

"Egh!"

"What about her?"

"Uh, no."

"Dude, she's hot!"

"That's a guy."

"What?"

"Yeah. That's a guy with a long mane."

"..... dammit."

Oh yeah, classy. We were model citizens. After lunch we resumed our work until the sun started to set. I had to admit, we had done a good job getting that wall white. It shined especially bright with the reds and oranges of dusk. We both flew up to the top of the wall to collect our cleaning supplies and head back to the barracks for the night. A pony flew toward the wall to fly over, into the restricted airspace. Pound flew up to intercept her.

"No, Pound, wait!" I tried to stop him.

"Ma'am! This is restricted air space! Halt!" he commanded and put up a hoof to stop her. She stopped just outside of the wall and grinned at him.

"Hm hm ha ha ha!" She giggled. "Adorable. What are you going to do, scrub me to death?"

"Pound! She's Night Guard! Look!" I said, pointing at her uniform, before I myself saluted. It was different from the brass armor of the Day Guard. It was black and purple. The rank on her armor told me she was a lieutenant. Hence, the salute. Everything else about her told me she was a-

"Bat pony!" Pound said.

"That's Lieutenant Bat Pony to you," she said. I elbowed him in the side. He tore his eyes away from her slit eyes, and managed to fumble a salute to the ranking officer.

"Sorry, ma'am, he's new," I said. She looked at me.

"So are you, ssslick-sleeve," she said, gesturing to my blank rank. "Either that, or somepony's been very bad."

"Can't I be both?" I asked playfully, searching her face for recognition.

"Hmff," She forced, clearly bored with the exchange already. "Have fun cleaning up, boys." She fluttered past us, kicking over the bucket of filthy water, running a big black streak down the side of the wall.

"Hey!" Pound shouted. I punched him in the shoulder. She was an officer and we were of lowest ranking enlisted. If she wanted to make our lives hard, there was nothing we could do to stop her.

"Wait, what's your name?" I asked as she flew further away.

"Ask me again," she said, flying away before I even could. Damn, I knew I had recognized her. I couldn't tell right away with the helmet, but it was definitely her voice. She was the same bat pony I had met before. Now I needed to find out who she was.

"Get this stuff back to the barracks," I told Pound.

"What? No!"

"I'll buy you lunch tomorrow."

"Ugh, fine. Wait, where are you going?" he asked. I grinned.

"To get into trouble," I said, taking off after her.