• Published 8th Oct 2017
  • 1,019 Views, 37 Comments

"You Do NOT Pass!" - Pennington Inkwell



Tempest Shadow is no stranger to struggling in life. But the one thing hardest for her to win is trust. Can she convince even one pony of her changed heart?

  • ...
3
 37
 1,019

The Mare in the Moon...stone

"Tempest! Hey, Tempest!"

Tempest's second day started almost identically to the first, except that this time, she was even more tired, and recollection of the previous day had also left her feeling somewhat depressed.

"If it's eleven PM again, I'm going to kill you..."

And frustrated.

"You're going to have to catch me, fir- Woah!"

In a single, split-second motion, Tempest snatched Moonstone and pulled her into a spine-crushing headlock.

"O-okay... you're faster than Quill..." Moonstone choked out the words.

Tempest sighed. Waking up was unavoidable, and she'd prefer something better than lukewarm oatmeal to start off her day. She grudgingly released Moonstone from the crook of her foreleg, letting the dragon take a deep swallow of air as she rose up into a sitting position.

"So, I'm guessing you have another schedule I'm supposed to follow?" She yawned, rubbing at her eyes.

"That I do! Now, I know you seemed pretty upset about missing your training session with Quick Strike yesterday, so... I managed to convince the higher-ups to double its length today!"

Tempest blinked, looking down at the little wyvern in surprise. She hadn't expected anyone in this place to make any kind of special concessions for her, so this had come completely out of left field.

"On the condition that you do it earlier, before breakfast!"

And there was the cruelty to counterbalance the kindness.

"So... exactly what time is it?"

"Oh, don't worry, I got you up in time! If we hurry, we might even beat Quick Strike to the dojo! Being punctual is always important in these military bases-"

"What time is it?" Tempest asked, this time demanding an answer as she rolled herself out of bed. Turning her back to Moonstone, she opened up one of the doors in the desk, where she'd neatly folded and put away her "uniform."

"Umm... well, I MAY have taken it upon myself to wake you up at... nine-thirty?"

Tempest managed to remain calm as she finished donning her New Lunar Republic shirt, if only to save it from any errant sparks from her horn.

"Moonstone?"

"...Yes?"

"Run."

"Really should have seen that one coming..." Moonstone muttered. Tempest heard the skittering of small claws across the floor, the creaking of door hinges, and finally the slam of the door to their room.

While she may have wanted to give Moonstone a good zap of magical electricity for waking her up this early, Tempest had to admit that she WAS only trying to help, and that was more consideration than any pony other than Quick Strike had given her. In fact, considering they hadn't seen each other the previous day, it was entirely possible this could be considered more consideration than Quick Strike.

Tempest took a deep breath to steady herself before leaving the room. She'd made as many mental notes as she could about the layout of the facility the day before, but it still took nearly half an hour of walking before she managed to find the dojo.

As she approached, however, she could make out the sound of two familiar voices coming from beyond the entrance. Positioning herself just behind the doorframe, she listened closely.

"Listen- OOF! Quick Strike, I was talki- GUH!"

"You used to be able to keep up a conversation and fight at the same time! Come on, you're not allowed to come onto this base with rusty skills and expect to leave with them!"

"Fine! How about this- WOAH!"

Scorching Quill came unceremoniously flying out of the entrance to the dojo, obviously flung with great force. Tempest's eyes widened as she realized that she had been hearing the sounds of Scorching and Quick Strike having their own sparring match. To her uttermost surprise, the supposed psycologist twisted himself in the air, managing to land on his hooves and come skittering to a stop on the tile floor. He started to run back towards the dojo, only to catch a glimpse of Tempest before she could find a new hiding spot. He drew up short, and for a moment, Tempest caught a glimpse of the truth in his expression:

Anger. Disgust. Hatred. Every hash stare or hateful glance she'd felt on her back in Canterlot was right there. Quill despised her, and in that moment, she could see that there was nothing that could change his mind.

"Look, I get what you're saying, Penny, but you really can't just judge her based on-" Quick Strike's sentence was cut off as she stepped out of the dojo, following his gaze over to Tempest. "Oh, hey! Speak of the devil, and here she is! Sorry, Tempest, I'll wrap this up and be right with you!"

"Forget it, Quick Strike. You made your point..." Quill rolled his shoulders, then turned to walk away. "I suppose I'll see you in a few hours, Fizzlepop..."

"Hey! We're done when I SAY we're... done..." Quick Strike's eyes narrowed as Quill disappeared around the corner. "Oh, I am SO going to give it to him later!" She sighed and craned her neck from side to side. "I didn't even work up a good sweat..."

"It seems I interrupted something." Tempest and Quick Strike gave one another a ceremonial bow before she made her way back up onto the floor of the dojo. "I suppose that you heard about what happened yesterday?"

"Yesterday? I didn't even SEE you yesterday! Moonstone said something about you oversleeping." Quick Strike chuckled to herself. "Don't worry, two or three days and your body will adjust! All rookies go through the transition to being nocturnal!"

"As much as I appreciate the assurance, I meant my horrible evaluation with Scorching. I didn't think you'd pick a fight with him over it, though!"

"Oh, I'll pick a fight with a pony over just about anything, but this was just him trying to blow off some steam!"

Tempest drew up short. "Wait, that pencil-pusher came to you LOOKING to fight?"

"PFFT!" Quick Strike snorted, clapping her hoof over her mouth to hold back her laughter, only to fail and burst into guffaws of laughter. "HA HA HA HA HA! You- You lumped in QUILL with the accountants? HAAA HA HA HA!"

Tempest had to admit that she was taken aback a bit at Quick Strike's reaction.

"Judging by your reaction, I'm guessing he's not just a psychiatrist?" She sighed, rubbing at her temple. "You know, laughing at me when I was coming here to unwind isn't really helping."

Quick Strike's laughter finally died away as she wiped a tear from her eye. "S-sorry, Tempest... I just couldn't help but picture him with a pair of nerd glasses, sitting behind a desk and tallying up the latest tax breaks!" She sighed and shook her head, reaching up to wipe away another joyous tear. "I haven't laughed that hard in too long..."

"So, if he's not just here to call me crazy and make me look bad, then what is his role at the New Lunar Republic?" Tempest frowned. So far, it was looking as if Quick Strike was the only person she'd met who was just what she claimed to be and nothing more.

"A field agent, and a darned good one! Probably one of the best! He may just be a reservist for the NLR, now, but there was a time when he answered directly to Princess Luna, herself! He goes on wild adventures, barely makes it out alive, then writes them as books for a few quick bits! One of my best students, too!" She gave Tempest a quick wink. "Although first impressions say you could definitely surpass him!"

Tempest could hardly believe her ears.

"You're joking, right? You're pulling some kind of prank on me."

Quick Strike raised an eyebrow, obviously curious about her response.

"He keeps an ornamental sword on his wall to look intimidating-"

"Real, actually! Enchanted to Tartarus and back, but real!"

"He takes everything I say out of context and twists it to make me sound like an awful pony-"

"Yeah, that sounds about right for an author."

"And he acts like he made up his mind about me before we even met!"

"He's kinda stupid that way." Quick Strike smiled and tapped her hoof against her chest, motioning for Tempest to attack her. "You said you came here to unwind, right? Come on, let it all out."

It was an offer Tempest was happy to take her up on. She sprinted forward, unleashing a flurry of punches and kicks at Quick Strike.

Jab, jab, hook.

"He's pretentious..."

Hook, jab, hook.

"Egotistical..."

Jab, jab, jab, turn and buck.

"Closed-minded..."

Left kick, right, left, left, right.

"Manipulative and PEDANTIC!"

Tempest bucked both hooves with all of her might, imagining plowing them into the chest of the smug red unicorn. So far, Quick Strike had managed to block most of her attacks, but Tempest had still landed several blows to her torso. When she bucked, Quick Strike had reared up onto her hind legs and blocked with both of her forelegs together. The impact had carried her up into the air, but and expertly performed backflip had resulted in her landing back on her hooves.

Tempest was panting with exertion, beads of sweat beginning to run down from her forehead. In a moment of clarity, she realized that the entirety of the carpet around her was riddled with scorch marks and burned-though holes. She'd been letting off magical power without even realizing it.

Quick Strike let out a low whistle as she walked her way back over to Tempest, staring at the carpet. Tempest felt a small twinge of fear in her chest. Quick Strike was her only friend, and now she'd ruined the dojo she loved so much.

"I'm sorry, I-"

"Eh, this carpet's been here just as long as the facility! I've been dying to get it replaced, but requisitions wouldn't give me a new one as long as the old one was intact!" Quick Strike flashed her a grin and clapped her on the back. "Don't worry about it, no harm, no foul!" Her goofy-looking grin turned more sincere as she reached up and gave Tempest's shoulder a gentle squeeze. "Anything else you need to get off your chest?"

"I just..." Tempest felt like she had to think through each word carefully for the truth to come out correctly, and she was grateful for Quick Strike's patience with her. "I thought I could just deal with ponies hating me for what I did... That it couldn't hurt me so long as I didn't care what others thought of me. But now, it looks like I'm not going to be able to get a fresh start because of what another pony thinks of me! When he saw me waiting outside, I could tell: he LOATHES me, and there's nothing I can do to change that... and I HATE how helpless that makes me feel! I don't expect life to be fair, but it's dangling my second chance in front of me like a carrot on a stick and it's- it's..." Tempest could feel a lump beginning to form in her throat and her eyes beginning to burn. All of the stress of the past days was crashing down on her as she realized just how badly she was at the mercy of a total stranger.

"It's not fair." Quick Strike finished her sentence. She paused for a moment, unsure of what to say until her eyes wandered to the entrance to the dojo.

"Well, Quill IS stubborn as a mule, I can tell you that. But I can think of at least TWO friends you've made here, already! And we're both going to help you see this through to the end, no matter what!"

"Two?" Tempest followed her gaze to the door of the dojo. There was Moonstone, carefully holding a plate of flapjacks in her hands and a half-eaten bagel topped with crushed rubies in her mouth. With a quick twist of her neck upwards, she tossed the bagel into the air and consumed the entire thing in one bite before entering the room.

"Figured you shouldn't nearly miss breakfast two days in a row!" She quipped, setting the plate on a bench at the edge of the room. "You've got a long night ahead of you!"

Quick Strike gave Tempest a reassuring pat on the back.

"Two."

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Tempest had to admit, starting off the night by sparring with Quick Strike had left her body tired, but her mind much more invigorated by the endorphin rush. Combined with the hearty breakfast Moonstone had brought for her, staying awake in the day's classes was a breeze. It was almost comical watching other students nodding off in their seats. She was grateful to be awake, however, because this was the day their curriculum started in earnest.

Over the course of two hours, Tempest learned that the New Lunar Republic had existed in one form or another for more than a thousand years. Nightmare Moon had gained many followers and even worshipers during and after her attempted coup. These followers and admirers all banded together to form a group known as the Children of the Mourning Star. After years of studying and attempting to dismantle the spell keeping Nightmare banished from Equestria, they had focused their efforts upon forcefully removing Princess Celestia, becoming the terrorist organization known as Blood Moon. Tempest had broken her concentration for a short moment to crack open the textbook inside of the desk to the section about Blood Moon. This was a part of Equestria's history she had never learned about as a filly, a dark side to Celestia's supposedly perfect reign. The textbook was woefully inadequate, but what information it had seemed to indicate that Blood Moon shared that trait. A few underwhelming shows of force, a few poorly executed scare tactics, and a hoofful of attempted assassinations that she knew even SHE could do better alone.

By the time she had focused back on what the teacher was saying, they had reached a point three hundred years later. Blood Moon's cult had escalated from petty terrorism to full-on infiltration, with agents making their way up to the highest levels of government. It was at this point that they had seemed to learn subtlety and finesse, calling for governmental reform. Rather than threatening violence, they had even formed their own political party: the first Lunar Republic. It was at this point that they had nearly succeeded in removing Celestia from power and making her a pure figurehead, claiming that her monarchy was allowing her to make changes to laws and rewrite history over decades in order to suit her own purposes.

The idea that their beloved ruler could be manipulating her "dear" subjects over the course of centuries to place herself in a position of absolute power had turned out to be a much more effective scare tactic than any previous campaign on the part of the Lunar Republic. This led to a temporary removal of Celestia from the throne as a flock of lawyers all carefully examined the entirety of her decrees and laws from the past three hundred years in order to spot any malicious trends.

Of course, they had found nothing more than a few clauses showing leniency towards bakers and confectioners in the Royal Court, which had hardly been cause for alarm. Not to mention that the team of unicorns raising the sun and the moon were all growing extremely tired.

The damage had been done, however. While Celestia remained the ruler of Equestria and had the final say on most matters, much of her individual governing power was removed and divided among Equestria's new courts and old nobles, creating the constitutional monarchy that ruled Equestria to the present day.

When several key members of the Lunar Republic party were discovered participating in a secret ritual to weaken Nightmare Moon's prison, however, the political party was disbanded and their records seized in a mass culling of their group from Equestrian Parliament. However, in a show of graciousness and (theorized) guilt for her sister's imprisonment, Celestia had made an offer to the organization: to join the Equestrian government as a shadow organization, dedicated to fighting the many dangers that sought out Luna's night as refuge. Their experience in espionage and infiltration made them invaluable allies in finding domestic threats and foreign spies, as well.

It was at this point that the Lunar Republic had fractured into two pieces: the Old and the New. The Old Lunar Republic had turned away Celestia's offer, cursing her name and retreating into places unknown along and outside Equestria's borders. The New Lunar Republic, however, had finally recognized that Equestria needed not only themselves, but balance between the forces of day and night, and had formed their first base of operations inside of the mountain upon which Canterlot was built, watching and guarding from the darkness below.

And so the New Lunar Republic had been established, keeping Equestria safe from subterfuge and the domestic threats of their former brothers and sisters of the Old Lunar Republic.

As stories go, I suppose it isn't bad...

Tempest was one of the last ponies to leave the classroom, still glossing over the sections about Blood Moon and the Children of the Mourning Star. The fact that Equestria had played host to terrorist and splinter groups in the past offered a darker side to the supposedly perfect land of Equestria, and it reminded her that she wasn't completely wrong when she claimed the world could be a cruel place.

"Hey!"

Tempest looked up from the book to see a pair of ponies standing in front of her desk, both scowling at her. One was a rust-colored earth pony stallion, and the other was a sky-blue unicorn mare. They both looked angry with her, and their body language indicated they were ready for a fight.

"Can I help you?" Tempest asked, quietly slipping the textbook back inside the desk. She knew she could take both of them easily, but it would look better for her if they started it.

"You've got some nerve, showing up here after what you did!" The stallion hissed, placing his hoof on he desk and leaning forward until his muzzle was inches from hers. Tempest didn't blink.

"My sister was in Canterlot when you attacked!" The mare growled. "You put her in chains! And now you think you can show up here and be one of us?

Tempest sighed. She'd anticipated some misconceptions about herself, but this was just stupid.

"The ponies in Canterlot were enslaved at my request so that the Storm King wouldn't consider them a liability. The last item he considered a liability was crushed in his bare hands. What I did in leading him here was terrible, and I'm trying to make it right, but if I hadn't been there, it could have been much worse." She rose up and stepped away from her desk, only to be cut off by the stallion standing in her way.

"But I don't want to be 'one of you.' I just want to try to find a place here in Equestria. If you don't like me being here, you don't have to."

"You see, that's the problem..." The stallion whispered, glancing around the room. Tempest's eyes snapped from side to side. A quick glance revealed that they were the only ponies in the room, meaning that whatever was about to happen wouldn't go beyond the three of them. And it was at that moment that Tempest realized the problem with the situation and the trouble she was in.

"We don't have to like you being here, but we here at the NLR are ponies of action."

They were the only ponies here, the only ponies who would know the truth of what went down. She had a bad reputation and was alone here. If these ponies started a fight, any investigation would come down to testimonials and word of mouth. There was no possible way that her word would be taken over theirs, and they could claim that she started the fight. She was far out of their league in terms of fighting prowess, so their injuries would only add to their story. If she counted on her own durability to carry her through, they could claim that she had still attacked her and won through their superior numbers. At that point, she would be both slandered and humiliated.

She had been outmaneuvered in hostile territory and placed into a no-win scenario.

But she'd stand at the gates of Tartarus before she went down without a fight.

The stallion reared back his hoof, obviously aiming to punch her in the face. Her positioning was awkward behind the desk, but she could already see herself slipping beneath the attack, out from behind the desk, and into a counter.

To her surprise, however, the punch never came. Instead, a lilac-colored blur jumped up from behind him, attaching itself to his arm.

"OW! WHAT THE-" the stallion shook his foreleg, shaking off Moonstone and landing her in a heap beside Tempest.

"What was THAT for, you liddle- why canth ah feel mah thoung?" In a matter of seconds, the pony collapsed to the floor, the only signs of life being his shallow breathing and the occasional involuntary twitch.

"Clay! Wha- what did you do to him?" The mare asked, stepping back in fear as Moonstone rose to her feet and dusted herself off.

"Just a little wyvern venom!" Moonstone cheerfully replied. "Just guessing at his weight and now long I was biting him, he should be paralyzed for about... three hours!"

"Y-you can't do that! That's not fair!"

"Oh?" Moonstone may not have been very large compared to the ponies, but she held herself with a confidence that felt almost threatening. "What are you going to do about it, rookie?"

"We're going to report this! You can't just-"

"Oh! Yes! I suppose you'll need to go over the incident with a superior officer!" Moonstone turned to Tempest, giving her a smug grin. "Would you excuse me for a moment?"

All things considered, Tempest wanted to see where she was going with this.

"Certainly."

Moonstone gave a cordial bow, flew over their heads to the other side of the room, and out the door. After less than a second, however, she walked back in. Feigning shock, the glanced over the scene, ran over to them, and stared down the unicorn.

"You there, rookie! I want you to tell me what happened!"

"You're not a-"

Moonstone reached between her scales and retrieved a small identification badge, which she promptly shoved into the unicorn's face.

"Read 'em and weep, newbie."

All of the color drained from the pony's face as Moonstone placed the badge back where she'd taken it from.

"Now, I am giving you a direct order to take your friend here back to his room, tuck him into bed, and read him bedtime stories until lights out! If I even hear somepony WHISPER that you were anywhere else, you're going to be making our hay cakes and quartz quiche by TOMORROW MORNING! And if I catch word that either of you..." she took a moment to lean down and look the paralyzed pony in the eye, "Try to start any more trouble, you're going to be on the first bus back to Equestria, riding in the LUGGAGE RACKS!"

She glanced back up at the terrified unicorn expectantly.

"Well? YOU HAVE ORDERS, ROOKIE!"

"MA'AM, YES MA'AM!" The unicorn gave a quick salute before wrapping up her friend in her magic and rushing out of the room.

There was a brief moment of silence as Tempest and Moonstone were left alone again. Finally, Moonstone sighed and slumped over, wiping a bead of sweat from her brow.

"I REALLY hate having to do the whole 'drill sargeant' act, but some rookies need to be taught a few lessons before they can move forward..." Straightening her back with a series of loud pops, she retrieved her usual scroll and checked over their schedule.

"Well, ready to take a second swing at passing Quill's examination?"

"You know, you could really move up in any kind of military with your attitude... Exactly what IS your rank?" Tempest asked. The pallor that had overcome the unicorn had been nothing short of ghostly. Suddenly, her unassuming spy of a roommate was looking much more intiguing.

"Don't worry about it, I shouldn't ever have to pull rank on a friend like you. You've actually got a good head on your shoulders." Moonstone waved away the question as she walked towards the exit.

Tempest sighed, rolling her eyes at the obvious misdirection. Part of her pride was definitely hurt at Moonstone jumping in to "save" her from a bad situation, but she had to admit that she hadn't had a way out on her own.

I guess I can let her unwanted help slide this time... she thought as she trotted to catch up with Moonstone.

"So... I have a question."

"I told you not to worry about it."

"No, no, purely hypothetical."

"Shoot."

"If I had accepted your offer of advice about Quill yesterday, what would you have told me? Hypothetically speaking."

Moonstone glanced up at her, and the two shared a mutual smirk.

"Well, hypothetically speaking...

Author's Note:

Sorry these chapters have been taking so long, everyone! I'm currently working on an original work for National Novel Writing Month, so Fimfiction is taking a back seat as my place to unwind, for the moment! I will keep working on it as I need breaks from my other piece, though!

Join our Patreon to remove these adverts!
Join our Patreon to remove these adverts!