• Published 26th Jan 2017
  • 4,596 Views, 732 Comments

No Longer Displaced - NoLongerSober

Sass, science, and surviving basic! That seems like the perfect formula for a pegasus professor out of her element, a gruff captain 1,000 years from home, and a clever princess who has probably read too many romance novels. There are pancakes, too!

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Chapter 24 - The Pride of Knights

Luna yawned. She had survived another night of duty. Though, in retrospect, there wasn’t much for the princess to survive. Her beautiful portraits had worked their wonders when it came to putting the little ponies to sleep, and the alicorn remained energetic through the owl hours, knowing that she had rendered a gorgeous night. It was the clamor of the castle during the transition, in fact, that drove Luna to the brink of slumber. Bags formed beneath her teal eyes as the clanging of swiftly moving armor poked her ears. They were already coming. “For my sister, I presume,” she commented idly, only to be met by the emerging heads of Spitfire and Shining Armor.

“Your Highness,” he blurted, anger still drowning his timbre. “Your assumption proved correct. Proud called for the emergency session to force the invalidation of Tail’s training. Her discharge appears to be high on the priority list of our army.”

“Strike two!” Luna exclaimed in a surprisingly chipper voice as she gestured for the two captains to follow her to her office. Her sagging features tightened as a smile stretched across her muzzle, and she tossed a sidelong glance to the Captain of the Royal Guard. “Given that Captain Spitfire is not nearly as flustered, am I to assume that his attempt failed?”

“Damn right, it failed,” Spitfire quipped after her tail cracked in the sassiest of snaps. “His options are exhausted now, Princess.”

“Inside,” the diarch responded in a far more subdued nature. She opened the door to her chamber, ushered the others across the threshold, and promptly secured their privacy. “Intelligence will be keeping their eyes on his actions for some time. There are some inconsistencies in his reports regarding the activities of the 49th.”

The yellow pegasus stepped forward and affixed a stern, focused glare to the royal sister. “Any Air Force support you need is, of course, at your disposal.”

Another yawn emerged from the alicorn when she batted her foreleg in Spitfire’s direction. A sleepy smirk graced Luna as she settled into her chair. “Perhaps in the future, Spits,” she said as though she were reciting a lullaby, “but I have another assignment for you and Captain Armor.” She hesitated, giving her officers just enough time to straighten their stances. “We have a council of our own to form.

“I will confer with Barrier shortly to confirm. However, I’m certain he will agree with my suggestion. He already had plans to use the Summer Sun Celebration as a test for Ms. Tail, but I grow tired of the lingering, lurking problems. I propose that we use it to make sure that our cute cadet has a B.C.T. final exam that no pony will dare doubt.”

“I see, Princess,” Shining answered with the swift determination that had practically made him the rulers’ right-hoofed colt. “What do you need us to do?” As soon as the vivacious threads of mischief injected a bit of liveliness into Luna’s previously drained expression, he gulped.

“The five of us will be having a meeting at the start of my next shift, Captain Armor. You and Captain Spitfire are to retrieve our fifth.” She bit her lower lip at the anticipatory wince that rattled Shining’s foreleg, and she gradually leaned her barrel over her desk. “I have to correspond with Barrier before I sleep, so you’ll have to go get Trigger.”

Spitfire chuckled and threw her hoof to her snout as Shining slumped. “T—Trigger!” She snorted. “Oh, Princess, that is priceless. Thank you. I’m finally going to get to see a pair of legendary looks.”

Shining sighed while the mares giggled. “Shit.”

Tail hugged her pillow as she slept. The three books that Barrier had asked her to read during the previous day were scattered atop her blanket. Notes, marking the bournes of her progress, were scribbled upon the margins. “Captain Barr…” she whimpered in time with a click that burst from her door’s latch. Her brow furrowed and she nestled deeper into the comforts of the pillow. “Layered defenses…”

The mare’s namesake flicked to the beat of approaching hoofsteps, and after several instinct-driven swishes, Tail groaned to the rapid bombardment of consciousness. “Ams, sun’s not even up yet. Go ‘way. I’m fine.” She whined in protest once the weight of the books vanished from her quilt-pulled senses. The sound of fluttering pages dragged a grunt from the groggy pegasus. “And those books are important, so don’t wander off with them.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it,” Barrier answered before a chuckle poured through his snout. Tail scrambled upright in time to see her captain dump his saddlebag onto the floor, and her bedraggled mane flopped over her shoulders like a waterfall that had learned how to cascade for the very first time. “Someone’s been a busy pony.”

Tail puffed her cheeks. “Yes, of course I’ve been busy. You gave me an assignment, Captain, and told me not to waste time. As you can see, I already have a ton of questions.” She yawned abruptly and used her fetlock to wipe the residual sleep from her eyes. “Mm, but I think I’ll start with the basics. What is my actual assignment? If I’m in command of the squad, and we’re providing defensive support, what is the protocol if we encounter an enemy?”

“Rules of engagement, huh?” For once, Barrier openly displayed his smile. He lifted his foreleg and began tapping the underside of his chin. “I’ll be meeting with Luna to go over some finer details. Given your inexperience, the wisest thing to do would be to pin you to a single spot, but that makes for a lame evaluation. My plan is to observe your actions from afar. You should take that into account as you form your thoughts. Ideally, I’ll find a veteran officer I trust to accompany you on a patrol. That would give you some freedom to make decisions.

“That being said, unless something looks like a dire threat to equine life, report any suspicious activity to another squad. If someone needs to be protected, then you buckin’ do it.” The unicorn stepped towards the bed and plopped his plot upon the mattress. “I’ll be sure to give a more thorough briefing once I have everything sorted. Right now, I want you to tell me what you’ve learned.”

Tail snorted before she allowed her body to flop upon the bed. “The majority of the procedures are…” She sighed loudly, debating exactly how to put it without running the risk of offending her captain.

“They’re boring, modernized fanfares that would likely get a pony from my time killed in the blink of an eye,” Barrier cut in after he pitched his head towards the ceiling. Tail waited, anticipating some additional material as she watched a reminiscing glow settle over the stallion’s demeanor. “Yeah, sometimes guard work is about being visible and having a presence to make a statement, especially when it comes to calming the masses.

“Combat is about making a statement without being visible—at least that’s how it is to me—so what would you do if Canterlot got attacked and you became the highest ranking officer on the field?”

The feathers of Tail’s fully functional wing spread out. She narrowed her gaze upon her instructor. If it had been the first day, she would have been flustered by the immediate pop quiz. Thankfully, she had come to appreciate a few of Barrier’s quirks. He expected the best, so this was also expected. “Establishing my presence as commander is the highest priority. Cutting off the head is the quickest way to kill a snake.”

An affirming grunt emerged from the unicorn’s throat, and he gave a nod that prompted Tail to continue her story.

“Terrain awareness is essential. The narrow streets of the urban environment make roads ideal ambush locations. It’s better to make progress through buildings, or if pegasus units are present, try to aim for air superiority to outmaneuver said ambush. Squad composition is pretty critical to the operation as well. Pegasi have a preference for top-down offensives; earth ponies tend to prefer ground-up moves. Both have strengths, and a balanced team could probably play them off in interesting ways that I don’t really know yet.”

“Good answer,” Barrier praised his cadet while the corners of his lips fashioned a faint smile. Swirls of blue light cradled one of the books before the captain lightly deposited it against Tail’s barrel floof. “Chapters Seven through Ten cover each of the tribe strengths, weaknesses, and interplays. Focus your efforts on the squad you know, and prepare for the fourth member to be a wildcard.” The slight grin on his muzzle spread into an indisputable curve. “Now, do you have any questions that don’t pertain to your upcoming assignment?”

Both ponies flinched when the door to the room was suddenly hurled open. “Yeah, I got one—two, actually. Why in Tartarus are you sneaking into my patient’s bed outside of visiting hours? And if you were going to pull that shit, why would you not think to bribe me with pancakes?”

Tail released her frantically gulped breath with a sigh and glared at Amora. “Ams! He’s fine. A commanding officer should check on subordinates in the event of injury when able. It’s in my homework, so it must be true.” She swished her namesake a few times for the snowy mare. “And seriously, what is with you and the pancakes?”

Once his sights locked onto the major, the captain exhaled as well. After a few seconds of relative tranquility, Barrier slid off the bed and made a move for his equipment bag. “I figured you’d be one to interrupt my lessons, Doctor, so I brought enough to share with the class.” He opened the sack and retrieved a protected platter of the fabled breakfast.

Amora’s mouth watered the instant her brain recognized what had transpired, and her cobalt eyes sparkled. “Scratch what I said, you big, beautiful charcoal angel!”

Tail lifted her hoof. We need to really get her some help for her addiction, the pegasus thought as a stern scolding sat on the tip of her tongue. Then, her stomach rumbled, drawing the attention of both unicorns. “Don’t judge me. They’re really good pancakes.”

Amused, the captain quietly chuckled. His horn glowed, and he began to levitate the tray towards Tail. “I also brought this because there’s one thing that I haven’t mentioned yet, and it might warrant a hearty breakfast. There has been a minor change to the plan.” Barrier paused and peered into Tail’s attentive eyes. “I’m happy to see that you’ve been studying hard because I’ve reached the decision that, should you show exemplary leadership during your mission, I will immediately sign off on your B.C.T. It is, for all intents and purposes, your final exam.”

“So, what crawled up you and died?” Spitfire nudged Shining Armor in the side as they made their way down the streets of Canterlot. “When I heard the whispers, I thought it was a humorous situation at most. Honestly, I figured it was some weird inside joke. I never dreamed it’d be a serious issue that would put a scowl on your face the instant Princess Luna mentioned his name.”

“Nothing crawled up me. I am fine, and it isn’t serious,” Shining stated with a huff, failing to convince Spitfire.

“Mhm! Yup, you’re fine alright. If that’s what gets you to sleep at night, Captain, then to each their own.” She flapped her yellow wings and hovered in front of Armor as they took a left onto the cobblestone lane that matched their destination’s address. “But, it seems to me like you just don’t like him.”

Shining’s cheek twitched slightly, and his sights scanned the skepticism that shaped Spitfire’s cheeky smirk. “I don’t have a problem with Trigger, Spits.”

Spitfire rolled her eyes as she flicked her tail. “Right, which is exactly why the entire side of your face just convulsed before you said that.”

“I don’t have a problem with Trigger,” Shining stated again with a sigh of resignation. “I have a problem with his attitude towards me. Ever since I made Captain of the Royal Guard, he’s ridden my ass about how I got promoted. He railed on about some stuff involving my grandfather, saying that he was the reason I got my job. I don’t know if Trigger really believes it, or if he’s just pissed that he didn’t get the post himself.”

“Well, did you?” Spitfire asked, stabbing tact and subtlety to death like it was a career choice.

“No!” Shining hissed with an intensity that pushed Spitfire into a two-step retreat—one which brought her alongside the Phoenix Fire’s walls. “I worked my flank off. I was up for the promotion before my grandfather even came back, and I had to work twice as hard as anypony else because of my sister’s post.”

Spitfire steadied her trot and peered upon Shining with a gaze that bled confidence. She nodded as if she understood. “Politics can be a bitch,” she muttered. “Don’t know your specifics, but your grandpa must have been a pretty important colt if he stirred up some current-generation political drama. What’s his name?”

“His quote-unquote grandpa is Magic Barrier,” a new, gruffer voice chimed in from the threshold of Trigger’s bar. The wanted stallion himself snickered as he leaned against the doorframe. Spitfire’s jaw had dropped, and her pupils dilated as temporal reason and logic reloaded the shock. “Yes, that Magic Barrier.”

Shining stepped forward while Spitfire pushed her jaw up with a hoof and collected her wits. “Trigger,” the unicorn stated flatly—a cold stare forming to match his projected displeasure.

“Good to see ya too, Asshat,” Trigger retorted with an icy bite. His amber irides shimmered as he pushed off his perch and took a step onto the street. “And ya brought Captain Spitfire with ya! I can only imagine what sort of bullshit I need to bail Equestria out of this time if Luna sent ya to fetch me. Least she had the courtesy to give me a warning.”

“You don’t have to bail us out of anything,” Shining roared back. He inched closer to Trigger as a chilling glare etched its frost upon the captain’s iris. “Typical renegade attitude. Equestria’s operations don’t revolve around you, or maybe you’re still just bitter that you didn’t get my job.”

The midnight charger snorted. “Do ya think I wanted your buckin’ job? It’s a paper-pushing shit show.” Trigger focused on Shining’s still twitching cheek. “What? Do ya want me to spell it out for ya? You were gifted your post. Celestia served it up on a silver platter because ya got a third of Barrier’s cutie mark on your ass.

“The youngest Luna-fucked C.R.G. in written history! And ya still trot around without a care for others who did far more. Celly gave a job that demands an understanding of what it means to sacrifice to a colt who wouldn’t know what that meant if the word magically manifested and bit him in the balls.

“My stupid, fucking bar has served veterans more than your naïve, carefree shit. Ya think my attitude’s renegade and abrasive? I stared the shadows in the face and won. You’ve just played the role of mentor without ever walking the walk.”

Shining Armor slammed his forehoof against the street stone. “I can’t change that! I can’t be held to a standard the times don’t allow! Just because you, and others, wandered off into the fringes doesn’t make you greater. I worked hard. I’ve stuck by my oath, and I’ve been there for others when they needed me. Last time I checked, I was still on the line doing that job, and you”—he gestured to the bar—“were off doing this. You can call me naïve and carefree all you want, but at least I’m not a part-timer. Now are you going to answer the summons or not?”

Trigger turned around and started trotting back towards the entryway. “I don’t give a shit about Luna’s summons. Sending you was a terrible idea. I’d rather not deal with the red tape that’d come with kicking your ass.”

Throughout all of this, Spitfire’s wings nervously shook. She had never watched Shining succumb to such ferocity, and she had never experienced Trigger’s ire firsthoof. Her head rapidly swerved as Captain Armor drew another breath, and she darted forward before the colt could dare exacerbate the situation with another reply. “Hush!” she wailed, jamming her hoof into Shining’s muzzle. “And you, wait! Please…”

Trigger halted his stride at Spitfire’s behest. He didn’t turn around in that stretched second of silence, though a hoof ventured to adjust the brim of his trademarked Coltston hat. “I’m listenin’.”

“You know Ms. Tail, right? Princess Luna wants to push up the end of her B.C.T. to the Summer Sun Celebration. She and Barrier are concocting some sort of final exam, and she believes that you are essential for making that test as irrefutable as possible.”

Trigger’s silver tail lightly brushed the ground. “Why push her through a couple weeks early? What difference will fourteen days make?”

“Barrier thinks she needs more,” Shining said after he bypassed Spitfire’s hoof with a fetlock pick and a sidestep. “And given Tail’s work, Princess Luna believes her commission needs to be quickly combat certified. Their opinions are not without merit, either. We had to vote down a discharge petition brought forth by Captain Valiance earlier today. We don’t want any more delays, and Barrier knows that Tail is up to the task.”

A sidelong stare harnessed Shining’s image after Trigger snapped his head to the left. “Ya shot down Proud for Flicker, huh?” He briefly waited for the captains’ affirmative nods. “Don’t think for one second that your candy ass is in the clear just yet, but there might be hope for ya after all, Armor. I need to grab a few things. Fireball for Spits, as usual. Tell me, stallion, what’s your favorite drink?”

Author's Note:

Happy Thursday folks! As always thanks for reading, and props to Word Worthy for the edit magic.

Ahh, the Trigger-Shining interaction, how long I've waited to see you again.

Also, if you want to chill on Discord: NLDiscord

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