• 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?

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Round Two: The Grudge

Tempest strolled into Quill's office with confidence, letting the door swing back behind her with a gentle tap of her hoof.

"Hello again, Scorching."

"Miss Fizzlepop."

She didn't wait for an invitation to sit, taking her place in the seat across from him and leaning forward, attentive and alert. Quill's eyes rolled up to glance at her without moving his head as he began to already scribble down notes about her, undoubtedly foul and inaccurate.

He likes to test people... Moonstone's words echoed in her mind. If he writes something down, it's to psyche you out. If he says anything, he's talking AT you, not to you. He wants to goad you into a reaction, that's what's really revealing about you.

"You seem awfully awake compared to our session yesterday."

"Well, I had a hearty breakfast. A good start to your night is crucial when adjusting to a new schedule." Tempest flashed him a completely insincere smile. Acting this chipper and happy while staring at him was killing her inside, but it was what was necessary to pass the examination.

"Good, because we won't be ending our session today after a single question..." Quill leaned back in his chair, opening the same manila folder he'd been reading yesterday when she'd walked in.

"Ask away! Consider me an open book!" Tempest had to grit her teeth after that last comment.

He's got a real ego, being a well-known author and all. The more literary terms you can toss in, the better.

Quill leaned back in his chair, looking her over with an unfriendly eye.

"So, tell me, why do you wish to be a part of the New Lunar Republic? It's not often that an assassin turns their intention a full one hundred and eighty degrees."

Finally, a question she could answer easily. Ignoring the fact that he had called her an assassin, she cleared her throat.

"It seems like the place I'm most likely to fit it in Equestria. I spent a few days in Canterlot after the Friendship Festival and observed the Night Guard at work. They were efficient, effective, and tight-knit. I saw an opportunity to use my skills and follow Princess Twilight's advice to make friends at the same time."

"I see. So you joined to make friends and kick flank?"

"Well, that's one way of putting it."

"No other reasons whatsoever?" Quill raised a suspicious eyebrow.

"No." Tempest narrowed her eyes slightly, staring right back into his. It was an unspoken dare to challenge her. "Believe it or not, that is the truth."

Quill held her gaze for a moment, then looked back down at his notes.

"Now, let's talk about your violent tendencies..."

It was a loaded statement. Either she admitted to having violent tendencies, or she appeared to be in a state of denial.

"Would you say that they stem from your problems with anger management, or force of habit?"

Another loaded question to reinforce the first. Luckily, he'd allowed her a way out with the follow-up. If presented with two bad options, the best course of option was to create the metaphorical third door. It was both a power move and allowed her to take back control of the conversation.

"Neither. I don't have anger management problems, actually. My outburst yesterday was the culmination of several outside factors. I do apologize for that, by the way. It was entirely out of form and out of character." Tempest knew that her job here was damage control. He was trying to paint her in a bad light, and all she could do was try to make certain that her true self shone through.

"While that's a nice thing to hear, I have several pieces of evidence that state otherwise..." Quill opened the folder once again, sorting through several pages. "You displayed such tendencies in Kludgetown, as testified by several witnesses of your assault of several bystanders and civilians, Captain Celaeno and her crew's testimonies of your single-hoofedly destroying their airship mid-flight, the testimony of Capper the Abyssinian regarding your taking him prisoner and threatening him for information, and the records of several dozen eyewitnesses of your mistreatment of your subordinates during your invasion of Canterlot!" Quill raised an eyebrow and glanced back up from the folder. "Princess Twilight was quite thorough in her record gathering for your file."

Tempest was admittedly flabbergasted. Everything he'd mentioned was admittedly true, but the fact that Princess Twilight, someone she thought cared about her, had assembled all of this evidence against her, left her speechless.

"Princess... Twilight?"

"Yes, she assembled a comprehensive file of everything she could find about you, coupled with a letter of recommendation." He shook his head, quietly shutting the folder. "Given everything she found out about you, I am surprised at the fact that she still gave you a recommendation. And a glowing one, at that."

Tempest felt her feelings of betrayal subside somewhat. From her short time staying with Princess Twilight, she knew that she was, at her core, a nerd. It made sense that she would make sure whatever research was done was done right. She had still given her recommendation despite everything she knew Tempest had done. This wasn't betrayal, it was just honest protocol.

"I have to wonder if her judgement is suffering being cooped up in that castle of hers..." Quill muttered.

All of Tempest's thoughts ground to a halt.

"What?"

"Hm? Oh, nothing, just thinking about Twilight. She's doesn't get out too much since she became a princess." Quill shrugged. "I guess her mind is just just suffering now that Celestia doesn't tell her what to think, any more."

Tempest wasn't certain which came first: the seething anger in her chest or the flickering light from her horn.

"Take. That. Back." Tempest kept her words slow and measured. She couldn't afford to explode now, but what Quill was saying was not acceptable. Her former fears of betrayal were completely forgotten, and now she was focused on only one thing: protecting her friend.

Quill was taken aback for a moment, his eyes nervously flickering between meeting her gaze and staring at the magic gathering in the remains of her horn.

"Are you threatening me, Miss Fizzlepop?"

"No..." Tempest knew she had the advantage, now. Quill was intimidated by her, now. It was time for her to make a power move. "I'm ordering you. Take back what you said about Princess Twilight."

Quill took another glace at her horn, then back to meeting her eyes. His expression tightened, seemingly bracing himself.

"Or else what?"

Tempest considered her options.

"I have no desire to join an organization that would speak so poorly about my friend. Do not assume that I will not sabotage my chances here in order to defend her, Scorching Quill."

She and Quill were locked into a tense staring contest, each waiting to see who would flinch, first. Tempest knew that she was putting everything on the line by standing up to Quill like this.

Well, Twilight is the only reason I have this chance, to begin with. I suppose there's always the Day Guard-

"Your loyalty to Twilight... is admirable." Quill interrupted her thoughts, shaking his head and sitting back in his chair. "Probably the first admirable trait I've seen you display, Fizzlepop... Very well."

"Fine, I take it back. Twilight isn't losing her touch at seeing the good in ponies."

Tempest's anger began to recede, as did the explosive magic in her horn.

"I suppose, if you can feel that strongly about Twilight, there may be hope for you, after all..." Quill glanced back down at the file for a moment and slipped it into his desk.

Tempest could hardly believe her ears.

"You mean... I pass?"

"Pfft! Of course not! You just threatened a superior officer!" Quill chuckled and shook his head. "You haven't passed my examination at all!"

"Oh." Tempest felt her spirits drop again.

"However... You have proven that, against my better judgement, what I had planned on being our last meeting is not going to be such."

"Our... last meeting?"

"Oh, I was more than ready to declare you mentally unfit for duty!" Quill chuckled to himself as he strode past her and to the office door. With a quiet click, the door swung open, an obvious indicator that their session was finished. "But I suppose, given time, you might pass my evaluation."

"A-HEM!" A voice conspicuously cleared their throat from outside.

Waiting outside was Moonstone, arms folded over her chest. She raised an eyebrow, then held a clawed hand out.

"So, what you're saying is... that you're keeping her around?" Moonstone grinned smugly.

Quill blinked, then rubbed the bridge of his nose.

"Now?"

"Now, Quill..." Moonstone chuckled.

Quill walked back to his desk, pulled open a drawer and retrieved a small bag. He carried it back across the room in his mouth before spitting it into her hand. Moonstone pulled open the drawstring, checking the contents before nodding approvingly.

Did they... HAVE A BET?

"There, fifty bits..." Quill mumbled.

"Aaaand?" Moonstone's grin widened. "You still have to say my favorite words!"

Quill rolled his eyes so hard, his discomfort was almost a physical presence in the air.

"Now?"

"Now!"

After one more childish sigh, Quill finally spoke up.

"You were right. I was wrong. Happy?"

"Ecstatic!" Moonstone chirped as she nodded for Tempest to join her in the hallway. "Come on, Tempest! Dinner's on Quill!"

At this point, Tempest wasn't sure what she was feeling more: confusion, anger, or joy. Quill still wouldn't pass her, Moonstone had been wagering on her impressing him, and the two of them had made a secret wager on her success or failure on what she hadn't known was her last chance to make a good impression.

So, Tempest did what she had been doing for the past two days.

She followed Moonstone back out into the hallway.

As she was leaving, however, she knew that she had to do one more thing that would improve her chances. As she passed him, she gave Quill a grateful nod.

"Thank you, sir..."

Quill simply rolled his eyes, taking a grip on the doorknob with his hoof.

"Don't thank me, Fizzlepop. Thank me when you pass. Until then, your fate is still... up in the air..." With that, he swiftly shut the door again.

There was an awkward moment of silence as Tempest slowly came to the realization that he had just repeated the same threat she had made to Capper before taking him prisoner, obviously gleaned from his testimony in her file.

"That smug son of a-"

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"Hate Twilight?" Moonstone paused to think for a moment as she took a bite out of the large piece of topaz-encrusted carrot cake that was serving as her dessert. "I think 'hate' is a strong word for it..."

"He said, and I quote, 'I guess her mind is just just suffering now that Celestia doesn't tell her what to think, any more!'" Tempest growled as she tore another chunk out of her hay burger. "He talks as if she were some senile hermit!"

"Heh, that's rich, coming from the pony who ran away to live with the hippogriffs..." Moonstone muttered.

"What?"

Moonstone waved away Tempest's outrage as she polished off the last of her cake.

"It's a long story involving Twilight, my extended family, and a weather-controlling gauntlet. I'll tell you about it some other time."

"How can you stand working with such a hypocrite?" Tempest muttered, taking another bite of her burger. Moonstone had used the bits from her wager to buy each of them better food than the typical cafeteria menu, and Tempest had taken the time to tell her all about what had happened in the second interview. Tempest had gone for quantity over quality, simply helping herself to extra portions, while Moonstone had taken the more lavish items and requested gemstone additions. She'd been savoring bite after bite, chiming in with only a short comment here or there about Quill's behavior, while Tempest had taken out much of her anger on the food itself, unconsciously scarfing it down between descriptions of the manipulative questions presented to her.

"He's not so bad once you get to know him. He just has a pretty deep-seated grudge against Twilight, is all." Moonstone shrugged, washing down the cake with a sip of apple cider. "In fact, I'd say you two have more in common than you think!"

Tempest snorted, nearly choking on her water.

"You- you've got to be jo-"

"Despite popular opinion, I do NOT spend as much time telling jokes as you seem to think!" Moonstone pointed her fork accusingly at Tempest. For just a moment, Tempest caught a glimmer of the same authority she'd used to scare the two rookies earlier that night. "You should probably stop responding to everything with that."

Tempest nodded, sighing as the moment of clarity showed her just how tense her venting to Moonstone had made her.

"What could we possibly have in common?"

"Long stories..."

Tempest sighed, dropping her posture and leaning against the tabletop.

"Is everything about Quill a long story?"

Moonstone pondered the question for a few moments. Just as it looked like she was about to give an exception, she backpedaled, returning to a thoughtful pose. She opened her mouth again to speak, only to cut herself off before the first word. Finally giving up, she simply nodded.

"Yup."

Tempest groaned, leaning down and placing her forehead against the cool surface of the table. She was hoping that it would counteract her rapidly forming headache.

"He's got this huge file about my whole life that Princess Twilight put together, and I have nothing!"

"Well... You don't have to have nothing forever..." Moonstone whispered suggestively as she took another sip from her cider. "Everypony in the NLR has a file, you know."

Tempest snapped to attention, her eyes locked on the little dragon and only one word on her lips.

"Where?"

Author's Note:

Well, I'm back! NaNoWriMo was a bit of a flop for personal reasons, but I'm back to fimfiction!

Sorry for the short update, longer chapters will be back soon!

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