• Member Since 30th Jan, 2012
  • offline last seen 1 hour ago

Tumbleweed


A guy. A guy who writes stories. Stories about ponies. (And sometimes robots).

T

This story is a sequel to The Prisoner of Zebra


In volume three of the Flash Sentry Papers, the famed hero (and self-professed coward and womanizer), recounts his misadventures during the second changeling infiltration of Canterlot.

With the Princesses captured, it's up to Flash and Special Agent Golden Harvest (a.k.a. Carrot Top) to save the day ... whether Flash likes it or not.

Chapters (8)
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Comments ( 76 )

All right, more Sentry Papers! And quite the event to boot. I can only imagine how the attempted train raid is going to go wrong. Also, the Albequerque reference was perfect (and now I'm wondering if Cheese Sandwich is somehow mixed up in all of this.)

Still, there's one thing that's always bothered me about this scenario. (Well, there are a lot of things that bother me about it, but this one is especially notable.) How exactly did Celestia and Luna's dopplegangers plan on moving the sun and moon?

Indeed, there are certain schools of scholarship that conclude the 'friendships' between Princess Twilight Sparkle and entities such as Nightmare Moon or Discord are, in fact, thinly veiled allegories for the oaths of fealty Princess Twilight forced from her conquered foes.

Not quite. If anything, Discord's more loyal to Fluttershy than Twilight.

Indeed, there are certain schools of scholarship that conclude the 'friendships' between Princess Twilight Sparkle and entities such as Nightmare Moon or Discord are, in fact, thinly veiled allegories for the oaths of fealty Princess Twilight forced from her conquered foes.

This makes too much god damned sense.

8310933
I know, right? It's almost like this was written by a historian that wasn't there when any of it happened or something.

8310560 That's always been the big plot hole for me too. Maybe they figured that if an ordinary changling is powered by the love of an alicorn princess, they will have the power to move the sun and moon? Maybe the were planning to fake an illness and force some of the unicorns to do it again like they did in the old days? Or maybe Chrysalis was doing the same thing people assume she was doing in S2, letting Celestia and/or Luna out of their cocoons temporarily to move the sun and moon while holding the rest hostage to make them go back in their cocoon.

Ah ha! Nicely tied-in with the events of To Where and Back Again.

Bit of a word jumble here:

In turn, I knew that the only way I'd need help to make it out of this debacle alive.

I mean, I get what Sentry's trying to say but I think you meant to either drop or add a few more words.

if it weren't for the eminent doom and all

Are you sure you don't mean imminent?

Ah, Flash, saving equestria through cravenness, dirty fighting and pure damn dumb luck :rainbowlaugh:

Ah. Very nice explanations for what the episode never bothered to justify, to say nothing of Flash's magnificently backfiring attempt to get out of the charge. Now the question is whether there's more to this story between now and the lovesplosion.

8313774
To be fair, it was certainly very noticeable doom. :raritywink:

You know in some ways this version of Flash Sentry fits in with the show and the Mane 6 gang quite well. Think about it.

Twilight Sparkle is a neurotic OCD mess who has almost doomed Ponyville with an ill thought panic driven spell, twice.

Rainbow Dash is a complete egomaniac who once selfishly destroyed a weather factory just so she wouldn't be separated from her pet for a few months.

Rarity is vain and greedy. She once lied to and about her friends to gain social status.

Pinkie Pie has bouts of manic, careless obliviousness where she's harmed friends and strangers emotionally and still seems to not have completely understood what she did wrong those times.

Fluttershy has a nasty habit of acting without thinking through the full ramifications when animals are involved. Like the time she stole Princess Celestia's pet phoenix or the time she brought an unknown species outside of the Everfree Forest with no precautions resulting in Ponyville being devoured.

Applejack is proud and stubborn and once gave half the town food poisoning because of it.

This version of Flash Sentry is a lecherous coward who avoids real work and responsibility whenever possible. He exploited a misunderstanding to gain fame and accolades he didn't deserve.

While their flaws are diverse what all 7 have in common is that when things get bad and somepony needs to do the right thing to fix it they go and do it despite the risk and cost to themselves.

Not only is this a handy conversational distraction, but it also serves to build up my already overinflated reputation, which in turn is usually good for a free drink or two.

And you love your drinks.

There's one, however, whose origins I will never forget: the thin white line, barely visible now, that runs up the length of my right foreleg.

I got the Celestial Cross for that one.

Do tell.

Dear Lieutenant Sentry,

I humbly request your presence for lunch, at noon sharp tomorrow. Dress casually.

Princess Celestia

Ain't that terrifying.

The second (and even more terrifying) option was that Princess Celestia had heard of my exploits in Perchertania and/or the Crystal Empire, and planned to send me off on some new and awful adventure.

Knowing your luck...

In retrospect, if I'd known just what I was in for, I would've thrown that invitation in the fireplace and hopped the first train to Appleoosa. That's hindsight for you.

Yeah, hindsight's one of the few things that can match Fate in terms of being a harsh Mistress.

“No, you're not. You've killed for me.” Celestia said it flatly, as a statement of fact.

Not intentionally.

“If I had to.” It was a good thing I was already sitting down, as my knees went to water once I realized Celestia was no doubt going to send me off to someplace terrible.

Eeyup.

“It's a simple question. Do you love me?” Celestia leaned forward, and rested her chin on her front hooves. She even went so far as to give a flutter of her eyelashes.

Choose your words carefully Flash.

“Do you know how long it's been since anypony has seen me as something more than a monarch? Something more than a symbol? I never wanted to be worshiped, Sentry. I ... I just wanted to be loved.” She sniffed again, and leaned over to put one of her hooves over mine. “I thought that you would be different.”

I genuinely can't tell if this is her being serious or her screwing with him for some purpose or another.

“You ... know this pony?” Celestia said, archly.

Oh this is going to end poorly.

The sudden jolt of pain both told me that this was certainly the real Carrot Top (a.k.a. Special Agent Golden Harvest, master of hoof to hoof combat) and that I'd better go along with whatever mad scheme she had going.

Poor bastard can't catch a break, can he?

“Thank you!” Carrot Top beamed. “I'm just so lucky to have my Flash-- he's just so devoted! There's nopony in all the world he loves as much as he loves me.”

You evil, evil bitch. I love it.

“Indeed.” Celestia leaned back in her chair, effortlessly shifting from 'soft and vulnerable' to 'stern and imperious.' “Forgive me. But, I fear there are some other matters I must attend to.” She nodded, curtly, and was on her hooves before I could voice a word in protest. “It's been a pleasure, Lieutenant Sentry. The valet at the door will show you two out when you're ready.”

Ouch. Poor Flash.

“You got any glazed donuts?” Carrot Top asked.

“No, we're out of glazed donuts,” the big unicorn said.

“You got an jelly donuts?” There was the faintest tinge of ritual to Carrot Top's question.

“No, we're out of jelly donuts,” said the unicorn.

“You got any bear claws?

Was that a reference to Albuquerque by Weird Al?

“Of course. It was that business during Princess Cadance and Shining Armor's--” My heart nearly jumped out of my chest, and it was all I could do to keep the rest of my body from following. “You don't mean chang--”

Oh. So she may have saved Flash.

Myself, I stayed put and kept quiet, knowing full well that the wrong word at the wrong time would no doubt get me sent off on some awful suicide mission.

Sounds about right.

A few low chuckles rumbled through the room. Spy humor.

Of course.

“Flash Sentry.” Fancy Pants beamed as he said it. “Of everypony here, he's got the most experience fighting changelings.**”

I genuinely can't tell if he seriously thinks he did that or not.

“Enough mooning over your girlfriend, Lieutenant.” Spitfire rattled me from my daze by thumping a heavy hoof on the table, hard enough to rattle the napkin dispenser. “It's time to fly.”

Girlfriend nothing, the mare's roped him along with 2 shenanigans laced adventures already.

“Three-Delta whatnow?” I said. “I'm sorry, Commander-- I'm a Royal Guard, not a Wonderbolt. I haven't had the privilege of flying with you until now.” And then, in a glorious, glorious epiphany, it hit me. I kept myself from grinning, and even put on a grim, disappointed expression in what was probably my greatest feat of acting to that date. “And I hate to say it, but my inexperience is a liability. It'd be an honor to be your wingpony, Commander ... but the simple fact of the matter is, I'd only get in your way. I know how these things go-- one feather out of place, and the whole formation could collapse. I simply can't have your lives on my conscience, just because I wanted another go at the bugs. I'll ... I'll just have to stay behind as a rearguard. Make sure you don't get flanked.” For the piece de resistance, I smiled, but in a sort of melancholy way. “Tell Princess Celestia hello for me, will you?”

Flash Sentry you gigantic ham.

“I imagine there's a lot of things that would make both our jobs easier, Commander.” I looked out towards the train-- still some miles away, but steadily approaching nonetheless.

I don't doubt it.

“Yep.” Spitfire said. “The rest of us will form up behind you. We'll be flying so fast that our combined wingpower will push you forward. All you've got to do is keep your wings out and steer. The bugs won't know what hit 'em!” Spitfire clapped me on the shoulder, and then turned around to bark at her squad.

So much for your brilliant plan, eh Flash?

In turn, I knew that the only way I'd make it out of this debacle alive was if I had help.

lot of help.

“Throw the sun at you” kind of help.

And with your bipolar luck, you'll get it.

“She has not been captured, not yet-- that's why she can help us. I can contact her on the dream plane-- but my body shall be vulnerable while I astrally project. You must hold the changelings off for as long as you can.”

Right, I think this is before To Where and Back Again.

You know I thought that Flash was working up in the Crystal Empire as a guard up there, after all he was there when Twilight went through the portal to go after Sunset, shouldn't he have been up there too and met Thorax at sometime?

8325977
My guess? Read the prequels.

Anyways, something tells me Carrot wasn't acting as the love struck filly, if you catch my drift.

I would've started begging for my life then and there, if I thought it would do me any good.

Probably won't.

“Perfect, isn't it?” The changeling cackled, complete with a clacking of fangs and mandibles. “Your one true love shall watch you die!”

One true love is a STRONG term.

“You've got to believe me! I'll even prove it to you!” she said, desperate. “Don't you remember when we visited my parents? You drank a little too much cider and kept singing dirty army songs with my dad. And then the next day we went for a walk in the woods?”

Damn me if Carrot Top didn't wink.

“Bloody hell, it really is you.” I said, stunned.

I'm as shocked as you.

Carrot Top moved with confidence and purpose, a far cry from the shrinking damsel she'd played a moment before. Without a moment's hesitation, she grabbed the changeling's head in her front hooves-- and with a single, merciless twist, snapped its neck.

That was snappy.

“Before I became a Special Agent, I spent a year studying under Harry Hoofdini.”

“You're just full of surprises, aren't you?”

“You don't know the half of it, Sentry.”

Neither do we apparently.

“Not long after you left with the Wonderbolts, the changelings hit one of our safehouses. I was captured ... but they just thought I was Carrot Top, the lovestruck pony, not Special Agent Golden Harvest. I figured it'd be a good way to get into the palace.”

Smart.

I'm not much for architecture, but I will say Canterlot Palace's wine cellar is a place of beauty.

Of fucking course.

“Pssh. It's perfect, and you know it.” I said as I eased the cellar door shut. There wasn't a lock, so I started shoving heavy barrels of table wine in front of it as a makeshift barricade. “There are only a few ways in or out, which makes it defensible. And, that open window we left upstairs will make them think we've fled out into the city, so they won't think to search for us in the palace. And, the walls are thick enough that we won't be heard if we keep our voices down.”

“And it's filled with liquor.” Carrot Top said.

ALL the booze.

“That is a bonus, yes.” I leaned on the barrel in front of the cellar door to make sure it was securely in place, and then stepped back. “After all we've done, I'd say the both of us have earned a drink.”

Indeed.

“This,” I said, “is a Chateau de Cheval. The finest product of Equestria's finest winery. This particular bottle is older than I am, and costs about three years' worth of my salary.” I made short work of the cork, and then poured myself a glass, and another for Carrot Top. I gently set the bottle aside, and then held my goblet up to the dim light available, savoring the wine's dark-ruby color. “The way I see it, either this Starlight Glimmer filly goes and saves Equestria, thanks to all our hard work, in which case a bottle of wine is more than enough compensation. Or, if Starlight Glimmer fails, we're all doomed anyway, in which case it's our duty to drink this wine before some ungrateful changeling chugs it down.”

You've been thinking about this.

“Not bad?” I blurted. All of those times she'd nearly gotten me killed suddenly paled in comparison to such flippant treatment of a de Cheval.

Because of course.

“I'm more of a cider drinker, to tell the truth.” Carrot Top said. “Must be from all that time I spend in Ponyville.”

Neat.

“If you were any sharper, Miss Top, I could use you to shave.”

That's certainly A compliment.

“Hah. Right.” Carrot Top said. “All part of the plan.”

I think it may not be entirely faked.

“Right.” I nodded, and drained my glass. “Just in the line of duty. All a ruse. You can do better than the likes of me anyway.”

Definitely.

"Well, if that's the case, I suppose it's worth noting that I could do better than the likes of you.”

Consider your next words VERY carefully.

“It's true! I mean, sure, you're pretty enough, but there are plenty of lovely young ladies I could be associating with who won't get me killed.”

He's right you know.

But, when there quite simply isn't any opportunity to run, lie, and/or cheat, there's little for me to do than to fight like the mad hero that everypony seems to think I am.

Do or die, Flash.

“I've had worse.” I spoke mostly by reflex at that point.

And you're a soldier.

“I believe that.” I said, looking down into what I had to admit were a rather lovely pair of green eyes. And for once, neither one of us had anything snide to say to each other.

So we kissed.

We must have made quite the picture: ankle deep in spilled wine, surrounded by broken changeling corpses, snogging like there was no tomorrow. Which, to be fair, could have very well been the case, for as much as Carrot Top and I knew.

I mean, you're both somewhat drunk, exhilarated that you're alive, and you're both probably objectively attractive, might as well.

“Which should also keep you away from King Thorax long enough for the palace staff to clean all this up.” She murmured to herself.

Right, that's a thing. That's, gonna take a while to explain.

These two are in for a very interesting debriefing of a more personal nature while in the infirmary. There's only so much you can pass off as "heat of the moment," and I think they passed that threshold during their last misadventure.

Of course, for now there are the changedlings to consider. I'm definitely lookong forward to seeing how Flash describes Thorax.

So he finally is with someone who knows the true Flash Sentry. This means that, if he's anything like Ciaphas, then no more debauchery for our dear Flash. He's a proper boy that's loyal to the girl that would bet damn well follow him to the ends of the Earth and make him suffer slowly for dallying with that scamp! :raritywink:

This series is absolutely cheeky.

Hold on, I thought Flash earned his Celestial Cross in the first story, during the first battle of Canterlot. And what happened in the Crystal Empire? The story is missing. I was expecting to get that here when I started reading...

After all, mere hours before, I'd been fighting for my life, and all of a sudden I was the toast of Canterlot. Funny how these things work.

Indeed. The hero despite himself, Flash Sentry.

You are an exemplar of bravery and selflessness: Equestria would be an even better place were there were more ponies like you.”

HAH!

“You don't need to say anything, Lieutenant Sentry. Your actions speak louder than any words ever could.”

This amuses me greatly.

“Lucky for me on that last part, I imagine.”

Considering how insane Discord is, yes.

"More than decent, I'd say.” By reflex, I reached up to smooth my mane. “Though you're rather fetching yourself. Objectively speaking, that is.”

“Thank you. I think. But we both know that getting too ... attached to anypony is a recipe for disaster in our line of work.”

Will you two just fuck already?

I don't know who the Princess of Friendship's party planner was, but I imagined they must have been some sort of brilliant, calculating logistician in order to put together such a large party seemingly overnight.

She's also a complete lunatic, but yes.

“It'll be worth the wait, I promise!”

How so?

“Oh, it's simple. The Changelings have ... changed, but Princess Celestia isn't stupid. So she brings a war hero along in her entourage, just to remind King Thorax what ponies are capable of when threatened.”

Clever.

“As a gesture of friendship between the Changeling Kingdom and Equestria, I, King Thorax, first of his name, ruler and protector of the hive, do formally invite you, Lieutenant Flash Sentry of the Royal Guard, to visit our lands, observe our culture, and help us strengthen the ties of friendship between our respective peoples.”

Oh poor Flash. He just cannot win.

Another great chapter, nice to see flash back in an area where hes not just trying to survive and can actualy talk to carrot top

Flash is succeeding upwards but he must think of it as failing upwards, if it keeps putting him into these situations. I'm sure he'll figure out something fun to do with all those shapeshifters.

It occurred to me that Amberley Vail is in this fic, she's just two characters. Carrot Top is the scheming femme fatale, and Twilight is the one that has censored the histories for the sake of her reputation. The fact that this head cannon cannot be verified makes it all the sweeter.

I'll ask the question everyone wants an answer to:

when will they fuck

8342985
Offscreen. It will never be explicitly stated, but they'll be an item. And flash will rue not being able to be a womanizer anymore, but will still be faithful.

Military attaché would have been a more apt title.

So how the Buck is Flash going to get out of being the Ambassador between Equestria and the Changeling Kingdom?

Just when he thinks he's out, they pull him back in. I wonder how much of this was premeditated and how much was inspired by Twilight's projected scenarios. With Celestia, one can never be too sure.

Also, now I want to know what ponies were up against in the Fourth Battle of Canterlot.

FTL

Princess Celestia stood, even taller and more regal than the usual. “This is not the first time you have risked everything in service to Equestria-- and, given what I've been told about your character, I doubt it shall be the last, either. You are an exemplar of bravery and selflessness: Equestria would be an even better place were there were more ponies like you.”

I like to think that the Princess knows exactly what type of pony Flash is... and she still means every word she says. :trollestia:

Carrot Top materialized at my side, and foisted a glass of wine on me. “Mission accomplished. Good job, Sentry.”

“Wait.” I groaned, and drained half the wineglass in one go. “What kind of awful spy business have you dragged me into this time?”

“Not espionage. Politics.”

“That's worse.”

Yup, Flash knows that what is annoying and life threatening is nowhere near as bad as what is annoying and soul threatening. :twilightsmile:

8342946
Flash doesn't notice or realise a lot of things. Such as the fact that Thorax was probably terrified when he saw Flash's wings twitch. Poor Thorax thought he was in the presence of a first-class warrior specialised at killing Changelings—which, by the way, is kind of what Flash has become by now.

As long as Flash can bring his "girlfriend" that should be fine.

Gasp! Thank Celestia for Flash's discerning eye.

8355329
That Gasp is made all the more special by your portrait :rainbowlaugh:

Who would ever imagine being a snob drunk would save Flash's life? :pinkiegasp:

Twist: Poison was the name of her sled as a child.

Which is why, a few days later, I had little choice but to head to the airship docks.

There, there, Flash.

“Don't bother. We've got better things to worry about.” Carrot Top's bag clanked ominously as she started up the boarding ramp.

Of course. You do love being cryptic.

Carrot Top winked, coyly. “Guess I'll have to think of something else to make you feel better, then.”

You worry me.

Over the years, I've had the misfortune of being sent to some terrible places for the most contrived of reasons: Yakyakistan, Griffinstone, and even a brief (and yet entirely too long) stint in Tartarus.

How'd you manage THAT?

“I'm so glad you could make it, Flash Sentry!” He said. “We're going to have so much fun, I promise!”

You don't know how possibly sinister that sounds.

She should have gone into theatre. Would've made my life a lot easier, I tell you.

Less exciting though.

“Oh no! We actually make gorb from the saliva of a certain kind of grubworm that lives in the walls of the hive.”

“I'm not sure if that makes it better or worse.”

“But don't ponies drink the milk from other mammals sometimes? It's pretty much the same principle, isn't it?”

He has a point.

“Bonjour, mes amis!” Gnollpoleon's voice was oddly nasal, as if he had particularly nasty head infection. He swept off his hat and bowed. “It is so good to meet you! We do not see very many ponies out in the bandlands.” He thrust out a clawed hand, and I managed to shake it without acquiring any new scars.

As an offended, I am French.

If I ever had a brother who looked like Gnollpoleon, I would start asking my mum some very pointed questions.

Good line!

It didn't help that one of the changeling's favorite games was to cycle through as many illusory disguises as they could in the span of minutes.

Sounds, unnerving.

“Les horde, c'est moi.”

That's, not INaccurate to how Napoleon was.

It was close, yes-- but having drank the genuine article so recently allowed me to tell the difference like night and day.

Indeed.

“Ah, but it is impolite to drink before one's guest does! Please, enjoy, Monsieur Sentry!”

It's poison, isn't it?

I was there in an instant, catching Carrot Top before she could collapse. Her wineglass shattered on the floor, and Carrot Top stared up at me as she clutched at her throat. Tears began to well up in the corners of her eyes, and she choked out a single word, the one thing I should have realized as soon as I knew the de Cheval was fake.

“Poison!”

Called it.

Whaddya know, a wine snob who can actually spot the difference between plonk and the real thing? Or, in this case, poisoned swill.

I'm not sure if "skullduggerous" is a word, but if it isn't, it should be.

I have to imagine future swarming days will be awkward at this hive, what with the male ruler.

Huh. I figured gnolls would have a green tinge to them. Though that may just be the grassy ones.

As for the ending... Yeah, this is quite the situation. The question is how Flash will handle it with so many witnesses and potential enemy combatants.

Poison!! Dun, Dun, Duuun

Also Tartarus? That sounds like a fun story.

I suspect Carrot Top knew what was going on before she drank the wine. The way she accepted and gulped it down seemed really out of character for her, so it was likely just an act. But of course I could be wrong.

I hope the story doesn't become a war fic where the gnolls end up as generic substitutes for Orcs. That's usually so meh.

If the gnolls were planning to poison him so blatantly in public, they might as well have pulled a knife to stab him.

I suspect both Fancy Pants and Celestia know that changlings can sense love. Therefore, when Carrot Top successfully passes herself off as Flash's girlfriend to the changlings, they will realize the truth, even if Flash doesn't.

8355572
You are thinking of knolls.

8357518
That's a good point. If they'd taken Flash and Thorax to where they weren't in sight of dozens of Changelings, they could've tried to pass the whole thing off as "Flash Sentry giving in to his hatred of Changelings via murder-suicide of King Thorax". They had a bottle of Equestrian wine all ready for it, probably everyone knows Flash loves himself some wine and would have brought some along on the trip.

8357154
Well, she was playing Flash Sentry's airheaded love interest for the trip. It might be out of character for a secret agent, but not for a silly filly crushing on the big strong war hero. She probably thought Flash was being coy... or stupid.

8360646
This is Equestria we're talking about. Given the pun-based ecology, would you really be surprised if there were grassy gnolls? (What do you get when you cross a Diamond Dog with a timberwolf?)

A changeling polity with aggressive neighbors cannot last long on their own if they cannot defend themselves. They can either find a protector and sovereign or be conquered.

Princess Cadance, Crystal Empress of the Frozen North, Lady Protector of the Gemstone Changelings?

Flash is gonna lead them in, but there will be an army of ponies and powered up princesses waiting.

I bet hogger sold him the poison

If word got out that the vaunted Flash Sentry, Hero of Equestria, abandoned a distressed damsel, then my entire reputation would be ruined. On top of that, I had the sneaking suspicion Fancy Pants would say something along the lines of “once more unto the breach, Sentry!” and send me right back, just in time for a proper gnoll invasion or something equally awful.

Yes, I'm sure those are the only reasons.

In any case, I wasn't expecting this much Bond villain in Gnollpoleon. Now the question is how the ensuing n-tuple cross will resolve.

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