• Published 26th Jan 2017
  • 11,545 Views, 763 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 4 - Kindling

Tail readied herself and hunched into her sprint position. It was the only warning Barrier had before the mare launched forward at a blinding pace. A little over a month had passed since her first day, and she had rigorously worked to synchronize the movement of her wings and hind legs. It was not the only impressive transformation. The physical training traded body fat for toned muscle, and as a result, Tail’s overall power had climbed to a new plateau.

The charge, however, was a last-ditch effort from a sore and tired pony, and unfortunately, Barrier had been the one to teach her the maneuver in the first place. Falling to the left, he threw his right foreleg hard into the mare’s shoulder. Her wings locked at the sudden shift, and her balance crumbled as she toppled to the ground in a battered and winded state.

“An admirable effort,” Barrier replied past his own hurried breaths as the mare picked herself up with a groan. “You’ve come a long way since Luna dragged your flank in.” Another day of unloading combat experience and tactical knowledge was coming to an end, and at this point, it was all they really needed, knowing how and what to do when and why.

Tail flexed the wing she had landed on and gave another groan in response to the praise.

“Damned teacher’s pet.” From her spot on the sidelines, Bonecrusher angrily muttered under her breath. Her response drew a glance and a nudge from an annoyed Indar.

“Something you want to say, Bonecrusher?” Barrier eyed the pair after their peanut gallery display yanked his attention.

“No, sir,” the mare replied through clenched teeth and an equally biting glare.

Tail shook off the ache in her wing joint and stretched the feathery appendage. For a brief moment, she rolled her eyes at what had to have been another Bonecrusher outburst. It’s not my class, she reiterated to herself, but after weeks of enduring underhooved quip after quip, buck did she wish that it was. The pegasus rolled her forelegs, collected her wits, and sighed. “Captain Barrier?”

The captain held his firm stare upon Bonecrusher’s seething gaze before he turned his focus back to the lavender pony. “What is it?”

“How do I counter it?” Tail’s namesake swished. Her wings fluttered with anticipation, and a hint of amber kissed her iris while that desire to learn practically dripped from her armored frame. “My momentum, that is. You easily disrupt it, and I’m not high enough off the ground to recover from it in time.”

Keeping a neutral expression, Barrier replied quickly, “You use your wings. Your body’s first instinct is to lock them up. It’s a natural pegasus response, and at higher altitudes, it would actually be useful. If you were up in the air, you’d drop into a freefall, gain speed, and pop into a glide. You have to make yourself aware of this reaction and get past it. When your momentum goes off-kilter, tuck a wing and go into an aileron roll as fast as you can. Preferably the inside one.”

“An aileron roll just barely off the ground?” Tail winced at the thought of failing such a maneuver. Her wing was still complaining from her earlier fall. Her head lifted towards the sky while she pondered it more, and eventually, her philosophical tones seeped from her lips. “Is that even possible?”

“Very much so,” Barrier stated matter-of-factly. “A friend of mine from years ago was able to pull it off fast enough to club me on the back with the carpal joint of her wing. Armored, of course.”

Tail tilted her head, drifting back into her attempts to visualize such a feat.

Meanwhile, Barrier merely shrugged and watched the setting sun as it began its descent below the horizon. While his cadets absolutely hated the pounding they took during their sparring sessions, the results spoke for themselves. They were taking less of a beating each time, and if he wanted to experience the continued enjoyment that came with owning the Tartarus out of his rookies, he’d have to change his style soon. “Good work today, all of you,” he commented, waving a hoof. “You’re all dismissed. Go do whatever it is you kids do these days.”

Indar nodded while Bonecrusher only huffed. The two trotted from the field, leaving the stoic Barrier and the contemplative Tail lingering in their wake. The pegasus waited until the others had disappeared into the castle before she cleared her throat. “Sir?”

Barrier’s right eye twitched just slightly. “What is it, Tail?”

She batted the ground with her hoof, fending off the noticeable irritation that laced Barrier’s expression and tone. Her sights refound the stallion through the backdrop of the twilight sky, and her eyes grasped the blaze that steeled her resolve. “Can we go through the last bit of that spar some more? I want to try the aileron roll…”

An anguished cry burst from Tail after Barrier threw her to the ground again. “Get up. Do it again,” the stallion grunted, watching as the mare rolled over and got back on her hooves. “I told you I’m not letting you out of here until you get something right. Gonna charge Luna out the ass even more for this overtime.”

Tail staggered back to her starting position and shook out the dizziness that clung to her mind. The best she had been able to do was ruffle her feathers when he struck. She just kept locking up each time, and the grassy scuffs marring her armor documented the dozens of times Barrier had put her down.

The mare sprang forward, and her sights gripped the stallion’s form as his hind legs shifted and braced for impact. “Just roll,” she whispered over and over at a quickened pace as she approached her captain.

Right when she aimed to strike, he reared and slugged her shoulder plate. Tail’s breath hitched. Her wing fluttered, but once again, it fell far short of doing anything useful.

Barrier drove her into the dirt with his follow-through, carrying enough force to draw a scream and keep her sprawled out on the impacted ground. Gasps poured from her heaving lungs, and her eyes scanned the stars, gradually sweeping over every angle that did not include his figure.

“Why can’t I do it?” she murmured quietly, barely moving while the replenished aches meandered about her muscles.

“You told me that you couldn’t quit.” Barrier’s words tugged at Tail’s ears, and his head slid into her view. He sounded atypically—and surprisingly—peaceful for a pony that was spending his spare time working, and the softened features of his expression halted the cadet’s feeble attempt at avoidance. “But you need to know when to retreat.

“There’s no way you’re going to override instincts in the span of a few hours. Though, your body is starting to get that you’re still in danger. The movement in your wing is a good sign. What’s not a good sign…” His horn jolted to life and magically pulled Tail upright. “You’ve lost the fire in your eyes, and it’s honestly pissing me off.

“It’s been the one constant thing you’ve had going. Now get the hell down the field, get it back, and charge me again. We’ll keep working on the reflex response later. By now, you should be able to anticipate when I move to strike. Execute the roll before my hoof takes the ability away, and we’ll call it a night.”

Tail warmed as the statements sunk in. I have a fire in my eyes? She wiggled in her armor and gently moved the metal plates while the embarrassed—perhaps shocked—heat continued to build. She stood there, thinking for several seconds before Barrier’s consequent shout made her twitch. “Eye fire! Yes, Captain!”

She practically scrambled across the pitch before pivoting and hopping right into her dash. Again, Barrier planted his hind legs and bucked up to catch Tail with a cross. I know the timing. I know the timing! Just roll! Her inside wing shot downward, pushing the pegasus away from the captain’s jab.

Tail brushed her other wing against Barrier’s hindquarters, which pulled an audible snicker from the unicorn. She touched down after spinning through her aileron roll, and she promptly glanced back over her armored barrel to meet the smirk plastered upon her commander’s face.

Intently, he observed and examined her excited form before his sights found their locks. Something between raw giddiness and pride had been etched upon her muzzle, but most striking of all was the absolutely piercing stare.

“An inferno,” he muttered as he reluctantly tore his gaze away, “just like hers.”

Tail groaned as she stumbled into her shared apartment. With sluggish movements, she trudged her way to the couch and eyed the cushions with some insatiable need. She no longer had the strength to even fold her wings. Rather, they just hung limply by her sides—her barely moving sides. She faceplanted upon the furniture the instant she got close enough, and a soft whimper crept from her muzzle once her armor-clad body settled into the fluffy supports.

“No armor on the sofa,” Amora’s voice filled the room before a brown-maned, blue-eyed unicorn roommate poked her head in from the kitchen. She gasped once Tail barely managed to shape her feathers into some obscene gesture but immediately shrugged it off. “You can’t keep doing this to yourself.”

The pegasus moaned into the cushion, mumbling something that her alabaster companion miraculously made out.

“I know it matters to you,” Amora replied after drawing a heavy breath, “but you’re not allowing enough time to recover. How many of these second sessions have you done?”

Tail rolled her head and puffed her cheek in protest. “I’ll have you know, Dr. Amora, that this was the first time I spent additional hours with my drill instructor.”

“Wait,” the unicorn blurted and fully stepped into the room, “what did you do that made him keep you after hours? I’ve heard some pretty interesting rumors around the medical ward about that stallion. I swear to Celestia if he ran you ragged I will start throwing charts in his face!”

A giggle bubbled from Tail’s throat. She shifted, sprawling out a little more while she stared at her friend. “It was nothing like that at all. I asked him how to counter a maneuver, and he worked me to the bone until I got something right.” A momentary silence overtook the mare, and her eyes swirled around as she ruminated. “I kind of like it, actually. I mean… I taste the dirt a lot, but I don’t know. Beneath all that hardass, I can tell he wants to make me better.”

Tendrils of magic wrapped around the pegasus while a blue glow settled upon Amora’s horn. “Well then, if you’re not dying,” she huffed and rolled her roommate off the couch, “then you should be a good little soldier and clean your armor before I tattle on you.”

“You wouldn’t!” Tail squeaked after another displeasured murmur burst from her splayed body.

“I would, could, and will if you don’t take better care of yourself. It’s a standard military rule, Hun. You do not buck with the medic.”

Bonecrusher pounded another shot from her barstool at the Phoenix Fire. She glared at Indar as he sat next to her and sipped his reprehensible glass of water. “She’s a bitch!” the mare slurred. “Always kissing his ass! Always making us look like garbage!”

“Did you even listen to what Captain Barrier said when he dismissed us?” Indar replied through a rushed sigh. “I told you that I wasn’t interested in your petty, one-sided squabble. Tail has done nothing to impede our growth, and she hasn’t responded to your continued attempts to rile her up.”

The mare slammed her empty glass down on the countertop and snapped her head towards the veteran. “Are you seriously taking the side of that wussy shit!? She didn’t do anything? Look around. We’re surrounded by fellow guards. She’s never even set a hoof in here. Nopony knows her. We busted our asses to get in, and she just shows up! It ain’t right. We look after our own, and she isn’t one of us.”

The unicorn grumbled as the bartender propped himself up before the pair. “Crusher,” the black stallion began with a gritty tenor as his hoof adjusted the Coltston hat sitting atop his head. His silvery mane peaked out from beneath the brim as a fiery scowl bore into the mare. “I’m cuttin’ ya off because you’re already acting like a dipshit. Now pipe down before I decide to remind ya dumb kids why the actives started comin’ here in the first place.”

Bonecrusher’s coat stood on end. Bristling waves cascaded along her spine, and she, once again, smashed her limbs against the finished wood. Others turned their heads at the jarring noise. Slants of varying perplexities shaped their lips, and the harmony of a few leaning groans curiously pressed the barkeep for an answer.

The midnight stallion pitched his attention to Indar. “You are going to explain to me very quickly why our little guard here is in such a hissy.” He snapped his hoof towards Crusher’s muzzle the instant she made a motion to complain.

Indar’s expression remained as stone-faced as could be while he looked into the tender’s piercing eyes. “There’s a cadet in our group, and it doesn’t seem that she’s cut from a guard’s cloth. It’s been irking Bone since the first day, but that’s not an excuse to make a scene in your establishment, Trigger. We apologize.”

“Like hell we d—” Bonecrusher was silenced by the sudden presence of Trigger’s intrusively shoved hoof upon her muzzle.

“Barrier’s training the three of you, right?” Trigger didn’t wait for a response. “If she made it to the second day, then her cloth is good enough. Don’t waste your D.I.’s time, and don’t waste your own.”

Lime-colored forelegs slid to the edge of the counter, and a scowl sliced into Bonecrusher’s visage when she pushed away from the stallion’s hoof. “Let me ask you something, Trigger. If some punkass outsider showed up in your time, if that pony took a spot from some others you found far more deserving, would you just let it slide?

“If that pony had zero combat experience and no physical training, and then spun you some ridiculous story about her purpose being a classified matter, would you buy into that trash?” She pivoted swiftly and grunted before continuing, “Maybe you’ve grown softer thanks to this gig, but I’m going to expose that bitch for the liar she is. Captain Barrier’s shat enough of his time away babysitting her through filly questions.”

Every patron watched the earth pony trot out from their usual spot. With an uneasy silence hanging over his bar, Trigger reached for a bottle of Sweet Apple Red and poured a shot that he methodically placed in front of Indar. “That’s your payment, Corporal, for delivering the message to Captain Barrier that I wish to see him.”

Indar shuddered at the reserved timbre with which the stallion spoke. “I’ll be sure to pass your message, Colonel.”

Author's Note:

Wing here, again. Today's six-squee chapter is brought to you by the editing duo of drapIry and Word Worthy. :3 In addition to the six squees, we had two beetus deaths in this chapter. Finally, Neon has died from the words, and it amuses me. For those A State of Darkness fans out there, another OC of mine has finally made his appearance. Things just got grittier. ;)

To everyone, thanks for sticking with Sober and I as we go on this lovely adventure. In case it's not obvious, I ship it so hard. ;)