• Published 1st Jan 2018
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Between Arstotzka and Equestria: Papers, Please - A_Storyteller



The border between Arstotzka and Equestria opens. Will these two words be able to coexist? And...How much can the events be influenced by the decisions of a simple checkpoint's Inspector? - A crossover between "Papers, Please" and MLP

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Actions and Consequences

31 October, 1983 - H 05:30 - 07:00

31 October, 1983

The Truth of Arstotzka

Missing Equestrian Found; Culprit Arrested

The case that worried both Equestria and Arstotzka has finally come to an end. Thanks to the combined efforts of the Equestrian public security and of the expert Arstotzkan intel agency, it was possible to track the whereabouts of Miss Flitter, the Equestrian citizen who disappeared days ago.

The Ministry of Information assured with a bulletin that she is actually safe and that she’ll go back to Equestria as soon as the questioning regarding what happened has finished.

It appears that an Arstotzkan citizen named Dari Ludum kidnapped her to make her work in one of his illegal brothels, against her will, breaking Arstotzkan laws regarding prostitution.

The only available news regarding the successful rescue is that she was saved thanks to a secret operation carried forward by agents of both worlds, something that confirms how Equestria and Arstotzka are tightening their good relations.

Glory to Arstotzka

“If it was for the government, she would still be in that bastard’s hands.” Hektor spoke loudly while folding back the newspaper before throwing it in the trash bin near his table “And not a word about Ian and Flash Sentry, who were the ones that saved her.”

Katia gave a glance to her son-in-law before, already tired of his annoyed behaviour that was making the morning already heavy “People will never know the truth, you know that.” A moment of silence, in which she took her time to look at the still half full plate of Nirsk soup in front of the bald man “Besides, maybe it’s better...your friends will avoid problems that friends of this Dari Ludum could cause.”

“But they deserve credit for what they have done...I can’t imagine what they had to do this night to find her, what kind of dangers they had to face.” The disappointment on Hektor’s face was clear; he had to find back his calm to resume eating what was left of his breakfast.

“Credit for going against both Arstotzkan and Equestrian rules?” Suddenly the old woman rose up from her chair, slamming both of her hands on the table and making a sound that scared Hektor for a moment “Do you know that if your idea was wrong they could find themselves in deep trouble? And that YOU could find yourself in deep trouble?” The last sentence came with a worried tone that surprised the man.

“The most important thing is that she’s safe; the rest is meaningless.”

Katia shook her head, breathing hard, with an irritated expression on her face; before she could reply, an unexpected and loud knocking came from the entrance door. The focus of both those present in the room was brought to the source of the disturbance.

Hektor stood up after taking another spoon of soup “Who is disturbing us so early? I hope it’s not our neighbor that wants to ask for the hundredth times to lend something that we don’t have.”

He rushed to the door, annoyed from the constant banging that could wake up all the building. When he reached the door, he did not have the time to ask who was annoying them so much.

“We’re from the Ministry of Admissions. We’re looking for Mister Hektor Popov.” Whoever was speaking from the other side of the door had a tone that let the Inspector understand that there were serious issues to face.

“It’s me.” The reply came while the door was unlocked, revealing to Hektor two persons in high uniform followed by four armed guards with a threatening expression on his face.

“We’re here to bring you to the M.O.A. offices for questioning...now.” It was clear that there was no room for replies or objections.

A brief moment of silence followed that request. Hektor gave a quick look to each member of the group that he was facing. He could only oblige.

“I’m already dressed, so we can go already.” There was just the time to give a quick look to Katia, whose serious yet worried face was self explanatory, and to put in one of his pockets a yellow sheet of paper, on which was written some sort of dessert recipes before walking out from the room. After closing the room behind his shoulder he walked towards the middle of the group, in which he looked like more like a prisoner than like someone that was escorted with pleasure.

*****

The employees of the Ministry of Admission stared at the Inspector with a less welcoming look than usual, as he was unwelcome. There was no clue that could allow Hektor to understand that kind of attitude; what he could do was just walk in silence, looking around him trying to figure out what was happening.

All of his questions to the members of the group were left without answers; if he did something bad, it had to be serious.

<<Maybe it concerns Miss Flitter’s situation.>> That was the only thing he was able to think during the travel from his house to the M.O.A. main building; it was the only explanation that came to his mind. All of the hypotheses that came to his mind were going to be dismissed or confirmed soon, as the known door of Mister Vonel was drawing near.

When the destination was reached, one of the soldiers knocked with caution at the door “Mister Vonel, we have him.”

“Let him in.” The brief answer was the command that the two soldier behind Hektor were waiting for; with their own rifles, they pushed without courtesy the man toward the door, which was opened shortly before by one of the officers. Hektor was pushed inside the office in a harsh way that irritated and puzzled him at the same time.

“We’ll wait for your orders outside.” One of the officers said before closing the door behind the Inspector, leaving him in the company of disquieting Vonel who was standing still near one of the office corners emotionless.

The tension could be cut with a knife; in the strange silence that was filling the office, Hektor walked towards the wooden and simple chair Vonel showed him with his free hand and sat while looking at the M.O.A. officer that, in the meantime, was smoking his cigarette with a less relaxed behaviour than usual. His eyes were fixed on the Inspector, focusing on his clueless expression. After a few other moments of silence, he breathed deeply and opened a drawer, from which he took a yellow folder.

Hektor felt chills on his back when he read his own name on that folder.

“I’ll be honest with you, Mister Popov: I didn’t think you could put us in a so uncertain situation.” The blonde officer put out the cigarette butt in a strangely energetic way; it was clear that inside he wasn’t calm at all, despite what he was trying to show with his composed attitude “And I thought I clear regarding your duties, your obligations, your role.”

It was hard for Hektor to keep some sort of self control; both Varusov and Vonel did not have friendly attitude. The M.O.I. agent in particular, who was silent till that moment, had a indescribable threatening expression; it was sufficient for him to stare at who was facing him to put fear in the soul.

“If it is something regarding the disappeared Equestrian, I want to-”

“There is no room for explanations or justifications, Mister Popov.” The blonde officer slammed his hands on his elegant desk, staring at the man in front of him in a cold and menacing way “With your actions, you disrespected the command order, not to mention that you abused your powers and, above all, you involved an Equestrian soldier in a shadowing operation decided by you!” The slim gloved finger of the M.O.A. officer was pointed toward Hektor, who was struggling with himself to not crumble under the accusation made against him “An operation started without proof regarding the involvement of Mister Dari Ludum in the affair and without advising your superiors, which were the ones that eventually had to make such a kind of decision.”

“Your position is not easy, Inspector.” The cold and flat voice of Vonel was completely opposite to the intense and loud one heard from Varusov till that moment. They were facing the situation in two completely different ways; the only common thing was the man they were standing against: Hektor.

“It was impossible to wait for orders regarding the matter.” He tried to build up some kind of defence; he had to try. “It was necessary to act fast to-”

“Maybe you haven’t yet understood the problem, Inspector.” The black agent interrupted him, taking some slow steps forward while adjusting his rounded glasses on his nose “I’ll try to explain it better.”

“The decisions you took yesterday are irrelevant, even if they are surely questionable...Nor the results reached, in this case the freedom of Miss Flitter and the arrest of Mister Dari Ludum, are unimportant.”

“The issue here is that you acted without calling your superiors to share your ideas and to ask directions...and by saying that such a kind of way of acting would lead to losing time and to risk of losing track of the suspect means that your opinion regarding our intel is low.” The last part of the sentence was spoken with a deeper tone of voice, as he wanted to underline it.

“For such kind of behaviour, the penalty is forced labour.”

The words that came from Varusov’s mouth froze Hektor; not only for their meaning, but for the way they came out: with a normal tone, as if it was something common for him to say.

But that kind of consideration was irrelevant; there was something more important: the fact that he was screwed. Drops of sweat came down from the head covered by his shapka and both of his hands closed tightly, as they were the only available way for his frustration to came out.

In the brief silence that followed thousands of thoughts came in his mind: <<What would be the fate of Katia without him? Where will they send me? Why did they this to me? I wanted just to do the rig->>

“But…” His flow of thoughts was suddenly stop by Vonel who, in that moment distanced from the Inspector by just few feet, bowed his head to give a better look to his interlocutor “We displayed all the documents regarding your life and your work. It seems that overall you serve of Arstotzka is good, despite some minor accidents...and mistakes during your Inspector duties.”

“Taking into account all the aspects of the matter.” Varusov came into the conversation while distractly looking at the opened folder in front of him “We decided to let you leave with a warning, BUT…” The blonde officer stood up from his elegant and comfortable chair, which was totally the opposite of the one Hektor was sitting, as to remark the difference between those who had power and those that have to submit to it, the difference between hammer and anvil “...any other action or sign of insubordination will not be tolerated, under any circumstances.”

The bald Inspector had no words left in his throat; he was barely able to nod at that sentence; his brain was just able to think about one thing; to go out from that office as soon as he could.

A smile, more creepy than comforting, made its way on the Vonel’s face consumed by the weather, the work and the life “We expect from you greater cooperation and loyalty to Arstotzka, mister Inspector.” He waited another sign of approval from the downcast Inspector before continuing “You can go now, Inspector. Remember to work hard and to do your best to serve your country well.”

With hesitation, Hektor rose up and, trying to cover from the other two in the room the fact that he was still trembling a little, he put a fist on his chest, saying loud the mantra of the nation he was living in: “Glory to Arstotzka.”

After hearing the same kind of sentence from the two officers, Hektor adjusted the shapka on his head and walked out from the office, closing the door in a significantly rushed way while asking himself how he went out from there with still his freedom and his head on his shoulders.

Vonel and Varusov exchanged a silent glance while the report regarding the Inspector was put back in its drawer. The blonde officer lighted up another cigarette while looking at the black M.O.I. agent “Should we have said something to him regarding today?” He asked shortly before taking a deep breath to better feel the smoke inside his lungs.

“It’s better for him to know nothing, especially after the last events.” For an unknown reason, Vonel smiled again in a more creepy way than before “Besides...it will be a good way to really test his skills.”

Varusov simply nodded at those words, before closing his eyes to better taste his cigarette in the deep and strange silence that followed.

*****

It was the third cigarette in half an hour; it would probably not be the last before crossing the portal to Equestria. Smoking was the only way that came in his mind to kill, or at least stun, all the thoughts that came after the conversation he had in the M.O.A. office. <<I could drink a whole bottle of Orvech Vodka too, but I would not be able to work.>> Such consideration led him to abandon that idea, leading him to focus on his almost finished package of cigarettes.

When he reached the entrance of the Arstotzkan checkpoint booth he looked all around himself, realizing after few seconds that there was something different from the daily routine he get used to during the previous days.

To be precise, it wasn’t a matter of something different, but of somebody missing:

<<Where are Ian and Flash Sentry? They should be here by now.>>

The answer came from a group of Arstotzkan guards that, still tired by the early wake up, were asked from him about the matter.

“Last time we saw him was yesterday, mister Inspector.” A young slim man with a too big jacket with a white camouflage pattern spoke to the Inspector with a pleasing tone of respect “He walked away with an Equestrian guard after he whispered something to him. I know nothing more.” The other member of the group nodded to those words without saying anything else, as they intended to say that they had no other news regarding the blonde soldiers whereabout, too.

The news darkened Hektor’s expression a little <<Maybe M.O.I. agents are questioning him about the happenings. I hope they will not->>

“Hektor Popov?”

A grave and masculine voice coming from behind him grasped the Inspector’s attention, who was neither able to finish his thought or thank the young guard that was speaking with him. When he turned towards the source of that call, he found two white guards in front of him, taller than him and with faces that boded serious business. A look at the golden armor they were wearing and at the long lance in their right hand let him immediately understand with whom he was speaking.

“It’s me.” He simply answered with a hint of a smile on his face.

“We came here to escort you to your working station in Equestria.” There was no kind of courtesy in his voice, something that reminded Hektor of Arstotzkan soldiers in a strange way “Here is the anti-magic necklace.” The Equestrian soldier added while harshly passing him the mentioned object.

<<Equestria sent other soldiers here instead of Flash Sentry...maybe he’s in trouble, too.>> Hektor became evidently more worried while wearing his trustworthy pendant, giving a nod at the two that were standing in front of him when he was ready. Without other words spoken, the three walked into the checkpoint control booth, leaving the open field to walk their way towards the portal for Equestria.

Another day of work was about to begin.

*****

It was strange to have not company on the way between the portal and the Equestrian checkpoint booth; both the guards limited to escort him to the exit point of the entrance area, leaving him alone to fulfill other kinds of duties. With his hands tight behind his back, he walked slowly near the wall, looking at the sky which, for unknown reasons, always looked brighter and cleaner than the Arstotzkan one. It was something that had struck Hektor since his first day in Equestria: how the sky was so beautiful there and so different to the one he saw everyday of his life.

<<Even the air feels more fresh, more pleasant to breathe...maybe it depends on that magic stuff they always talk about.>> The words in his brain flowed calm as that morning near the border; birds were peacefully chirping and there were sporadic low laughs coming from the Equestrian border guards that, in small groups, were happily speaking between themselves.

What looked like the most peaceful scenario possible changed suddenly in Hektor’s mind when he came close enough to the checkpoint booth to hear an angry voice coming from the inside; a voice that sounded familiar to him.

The more he walked close to the door, the more it became clear that there was some kind of discussion in progress inside the building; after waiting for a moment of silence from the inside he knocked at the door, knowing that he would attract the focus of whoever was standing in, interrupting everything they were doing.

“It’s me, Hektor Popov...the Arstotzkan border Inspector.”

“Please come in, Inspector.” Princess Twilight’s voice was easily recognizable; there was something in it that was different; it was a mix of different emotions, but it was unclear which ones. The only thing to do was open the door and to understand what was happening.

In front of him were standing three Equestrians: he already knew that there was Princess Twilight, but he didn’t expect to see Flash Sentry, too; a smile grew on his face, seeing that the soldier was fine after all, despite the fact that the mortified expression on his muzzle could only mean trouble. The Inspector’s attention then fell on the third mare present in the booth, whose magnificence immediately hit the human. Not only was she almost as tall as him, but the white horn on her forehead and her wings were bigger than the ones he saw during all those days in Equestria.

Hektor’s face completely changed when, after a quick glance, he connected the white Alicorn that was standing in front of him with images he read on the book about Equestria given to him by Twilight; he had no doubt about it: he was standing in front of Princess Celestia herself, one of the rulers of Equestria and, as spelled in the book, raiser of the sun.

Without further waiting, he put his right hand on his chest and silently bowed his head, showing his respect for the two rulers that were standing inside the room.

A sincere smile grew on the white mare’s muzzle and, with grace and elegance, she raised her right hoof and bowed her head in response, an act that caught the human completely by surprise “It’s an honor to finally meet you in person, mister Inspector.” The respectful tone of the voice of the Alicorn changed swiftly, as there was serious business to attend to “I wish it would happen in a more calm situation. As you surely understand, we’re discussing important matters.”

Hektor rose his head, giving a nod of understanding “If you need privacy, I can leave you until you’ve-”

“Please stay here and close the door, Inspector.” A less than usual calm Twilight interrupted with a serious tone of voice “We’re speaking of matters regarding something that involves you too. I would you like to ask you a question, if possible.”

Hektor looked at the purple Alicorn for a long moment <<It’s clear that it’s something regarding Miss Flitter’s rescue.>> He focused his look on her, looking at how the calm face he learnt to know in the previous days was a demonstration of how she was irritated and serious in that moment. <<I could just say that she can’t question me regarding the matter, as I’m not under her jurisdiction, but...>> He hesitated a little, thinking about how she behaved with him since his first day in Equestria; then, after a quick nod, he followed the request she asked him.

“Flash Sentry told me everything regarding how you persuaded him to follow the course of action you all took to investigate Flitter’s disappearance.”

“He didn’t persuade me. We agreed on that plan together.” The orange guard spoke almost out of instinct, receiving a nod of agreement from the human that underlined the truth of his statement.

“Still, you decided to follow your plan.” Twilight underlined the last words in a more irritated way “Without telling anything to the other guards, or officers...or to me.”

While the conversation was going on, Hektor couldn’t not focus on two things that looked curious to him: first, Princess Celestia was remaining silent, without participating herself in a conversation that looked important; it was as if she was letting Twilight do everything, looking at how things were proceeding like a teacher looks at how a student is applying what is learnt during the lessons. It was a sensation complicated to explain.

What hit him the most was the second point; how the purple Alicorn was facing what clearly was a disciplinary procedure against Flash Sentry; she didn’t appear just angry or frustrated by the soldier’s action...there was a taste of sorrow in all her behaviour as she wasn’t enjoying that moment, different from Vonel and Varusov that toyed with his emotions.

“So, Inspector.” Twilight mentioning him brought him back to reality “Why didn’t you inform me? I wrote you in the past assuring that you could write to me everything you wanted.” She took some steps in his direction, looking at him with eyes that looked at the human more pleading than angry.

“It’s like this, Princess Twilight.” He answered slowly, looking in his mind for the proper words to spoke “You gave me no reasons to not trust you. Both I and Flash Sentry took in consideration the option of informing you...he was the first to propose it.” The blue maned stallion looked at the Princess, confirming everything with a nod.

“But the fear of losing the only opportunity of tracking down Miss Flitters led us to act without telling anything to anybody. We knew the time to act would be too long and maybe Mister Dari Ludum would sense the danger and take precautions.”

Twilight closed her eyes, as if she was meditating; a strange silence fell in the booth for a moment before she looked first at the Inspector and then at the Equestrian guard with a more determined expression.

“Both of you acted without following rules and hierarchies. Despite the final results, your actions could lead to great disaster and to diplomatic problems...and that’s intolerable.”

Both Flash Sentry and Hektor had no way to retort; it was true, both of them know that. While Flash Sentry bowed his head and lowered his ears, Hektor wasn’t able to remove his eyes from the purple Princess. She spoke similar words to the ones he heard back in Arstotzka but, as shortly before, her attitude was different from the ones his two accusers had towards him.

“I can’t decide anything regarding your position, Mister Inspector.” Twilight’s words distracted him from his flow of thoughts “But I want to let you know that I’m...disappointed.” The last word came with a sense of sadness that was completely out of context, something that hit Hektor’s mind and, apparently, took the attention of the silent Princess Celestia.

Twilight’s wings opened a little while pointing with her right hoof at the displeased orange guard “Regarding you Flash Sentry...I’ll decide which kind of decision to take later. In the meantime.” She stopped for a moment, looking the blue maned stallion in the eyes “You’re suspended for today.”

A deep silence fell in the booth. A puzzled Hektor looked at the Equestrian soldier that, despite his expectations, had no kind of reaction to the decision, as if he was expecting it.

“I’ll accept every kind of decision you’ll make, Princess.” Flash Sentry looked defeated and sad; his closed eyes and the bowed head were a difficult sight for the human to see. He felt guilty for the consequences the guard had to face.

“But I want to let you know that I would make the same decision again.” Flash added while giving a glance to the guard, smiling warmly at him as if to a good old friend, a smile that was immediately reciprocated by the Arstotzkan.

The purple Alicorn looked at the scene without saying anything; she looked serious yet, in a strange way, it looked like she was keeping to cover what she was really feeling in that moment.

<<Maybe it’s just my impression.>> Hektor thought while looking at the three Equestrians that were going to go out from the booth.

“Now we’ll leave to allow you to prepare for your day of work, Inspector.” Princess Celestia spoke again with her calm and soft voice, giving a sense of quiet to the Inspector “I hope that what you saw will not distract your mind from your duty. Everybody counts on you.” Hektor simply nodded to those words before giving a quick look to the other two Equestrians in the room, especially at Twilight, whose face wasn’t fitting the behaviour she kept until that moment.

“I wish you a good day, mister Inspector...please look at the rule book, as there is something important you have to read.” Celestia’s last words came with a wink impossible to understand.

<<New laws to apply too...a nice way to begin a new day.>> Frustration mixed in him mind, making a shake difficult to digest.

Without breaking the silence he barricaded himself in, he reached his beloved chair and gave a respectful bow to each of the three Equestrians that walked in front of him toward the door to Ponyville. A look of understanding and a last smile from Flash Sentry were the last thing he received before remaining alone in the room.

Hektor literally fell onto the chair, allowing all of his emotions to flow out of him; a liberating deep breath relaxed him and freed his mind for a moment from all the concerns that were occupying it...concerns that returned shortly after his look went to the Equestrian rule book.

After a clearly frustrated moan, he opened it as slow as possible, as if he intended to postpone the pain of memorizing new rules to apply; to his surprise, he found an hidden white envelope with a symbol he immediately recognized...a symbol he already saw before.

<<This is the symbol of the envelopes Princess Celestia sent me in the past.>>

Without any plausible idea regarding its content, the bald human opened it with a care he didn’t expect from himself; after taking the folded paper inside the envelope, he suited himself on the chair, reading its content with extreme attention.

Dear Inspector,

It was my decision to write you this letter without letting my faithful student Twilight know about it. So, as a promise, I kindly ask you to not talk about it with her; I don’t want to hurt her feelings by letting her know that I wrote about something regarding her without asking her permission.

I took such a decision because I think is right to let you know something important for the friendly relations you established with her; in case you’re wondering, she already spoke about her writing exchange with you and your meeting and I want to let you know that she has a high consideration of you.

I already digressed too much. Let’s pass to the main reason of this letter.

I’m sure you’ll be present when both I and Twilight will face our subject, Flash Sentry, for the Flitter disappearance case.

By the way, despite everything, I wish to deeply thank you for the efforts you made to help one of my ponies; even if your course of action were debatable, I’ll never forget what you did for her.

This told, I deeply want to let you know that the behaviour you’ll see from Twilight will not express her true feelings.

When she knew about the Flitter rescue, her first instinct was to find you, Flash Sentry and the other Arstotzkan soldier that helped to express all of her gratitude. I had to stop her. I had to tell her that she had to keep steady and that she had to keep a completely different attitude.

At the end of the day, you all broke the law; it’s something Twilight had to let Flash Sentry understand. It was difficult for me to persuade her, but in the end she couldn’t tell me no.

Maybe it’s difficult to understand, but both I and Twilight represent the power of Equestria. As rulers, we have to be the keepers of order for the sake of Equestria; that means that sometimes we have to make difficult choices to reach this goal, even if we are clearly against them. In this specific case: making clear that rules have to be respected for everybody’s sake.

I beg you to believe me when I say that my beloved Twilight felt really bad when she accepted to ground Flash Sentry for his behaviour. I sincerely hope that she will be able to keep the promise she made to me by following what are her royal duties.

I hope that she was able to learn something from this experience; she’s my faithful student after all, somepony I really care about.

I’m sharing these thoughts with you because, as Flash Sentry and Twilight already did, I decided to give you my trust Inspector...and I know I’m making the right choice.

I hope you’ll be able to become more close to Twilight once this event falls behind everypony’s back. She really wants to better know things of your world by the way, something with which I hope you’ll be able to help.

Yours truly,

Princess Celestia

While folding back the letter, Hektor felt a lot of different emotions flowing inside his mind. Was he really acting so good to gain the trust of so many Equestrians? Why were they putting their faith in him?

<<Will I be able to sustain such weight?>> The Inspector raised his head, looking at all the instruments placed on his desk, at the lines on the wall in front of him, at the two doors in the booth. He had to distract his mind somehow.

He turned the hourglass for the last time before work, meaning that there was still an entire hour to spend. His thoughts focused on what he experienced so early: it was strange to see how the rulers of Equestria used to call Flash Sentry, a common guard, without using titles or ranks...as families did, as Equestrian rulers considered their own citizens as part of a whole, huge family.

All of these nice thoughts were overshadowed by all the considerations he read in the letter about the power, about the meaning of having a ruling role and all the responsibilities of such a kind of position.

Hektor shook his head, breathing deep while giving another look to the folder that was containing Princess Celestia’s letter before putting it in a pocket of his jacket. He opened the rule book, deciding to give it another look before work time.

<<Power.>> His mind went back at that concept for a moment <<I’ll never be able to understand how it works.>>

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