• Published 25th Jul 2012
  • 8,295 Views, 512 Comments

Under A Luminous Sky - Jake The Army Guy



Twilight and an investigator from Canterlot must catch a killer

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Deleted Chapter 6.5- Play My Game

Author's Note:

Ever wonder how Shining Armor got his information on Bentgrass?

No?

Exactly why I tossed this chapter. I originally wrote it for a couple reasons. I wanted to write Top Notch more, I really wanted Shining Armor in the story more than he was, and I thought at the time that it was a logical progression for the story to take. My editor at the time, the incredibly talented and sorely missed Guesswork, pointed out that A) it painted Shining Armor in a pretty negative light, making him seem ineffectual and whiny, B) it took us away from the action in Ponyville just as things were getting complicated, and C) overall added nothing that would improve the story. This was the very first time I had to "kill my baby," as it were. Still, I really liked it, and after revisiting it, I still do. Also, this was back when I thought having other people's OC's cameo in my story was a really cool thing, and not confusing and distracting as fuck. Here, you meet my boy Cloudhammer's OC... Cloudhammer, from his incredible stories In Duty's Name and The Conversion Bureau: The First Year.

Anywho, here you go. A full five years after writing it, Under A Luminous Sky: The Lost Chapter!

Hoofbeats echoed softly on the polished marble floor as Top Notch made his way towards his office. A steaming mug of coffee hovered next to him, surrounded by a cocoa-colored aura. He took a sip as he nudged open the door to his receptionist's office. Almost immediately, the piping hot liquid brought a fire to his veins that made him stand up a little straighter.

A young, light blue earth pony sat behind a tidy desk along the wall, a stack of papers arranged near the edge. “Good morning, Director.”

“And to you, Mrs. Beam,” he said with a grin. The look faded when he saw the imposing stack of paper, a loud groan escaping his lips. “Oh, in the name of the Princesses, please don’t tell me that’s all for me.”

She shrugged. “Sorry, sir. The Department of Education forgot to file their ETF-4856 this year and they're going to need an audit. Also, the operation report from Hoofston just came back for your review.”

Top eyed the stack and sighed. “Very well.” The papers floated towards him as he opened the door to his office. “Have I told you lately how much I loathe paperwork?”

“Every day, sir.”

“Back when I was a field agent, after action reports were a page long, and that’s if the mission took longer than a week! Why, I once saved the mayor of Trottingham from an assassination plot and only had to sign my name once!”

The secretary grinned. “Yes, sir. Then you walked fifteen miles uphill in the snow and killed a manticore with a spoon.”

Top shot her a scathing glare. The secretary just smiled back at him. Top turned back to his office. “Going to need a lot more coffee...”

“I’ll contact the kitchen, sir.”

A grumble was all Top offered before shutting the door behind him. Moon Beam was an amazing secretary. Her organizational skills were all that kept Top from being buried in paperwork. But that filly has a tongue like a griffon, and a sense of humor to match.

He sat behind his desk, setting down his mug and the heavy pile of papers. Mountains of fine-print dotted the first page, and he counted at least seven places that needed his signature. He took a long pull from his coffee mug, feeling the slight jitter of his nerves. I’m going to get a serious horn cramp by the end of th—

A loud crash suddenly came from the reception area, causing Top to jump. A few drops of near-boiling coffee landed on his foreleg. Top let out a loud yelp, frantically wiping the spot. He heard Moon Beam’s angry shout beyond the door as he set the mug back down.

“I’m sorry, General, but you can’t just waltz in there! You need an appo—”

Get out of my way!”

Top sighed, instantly recognizing the angry voice. Well, that didn’t take long.

He barely had time to set down his mug and put on a cheery grin when the door slammed open. A large white unicorn with a blue, highlighted mane stormed in, dressed in full military regalia. A blue haze surrounded the door and it slammed shut, the force rattling the glass pane with Top’s name written on it.

“General Armor! What can I do for you today?”

Shining stomped his hoof. “Save it, Notch! Why is the R.I.S. dragging my sister into a murder investigation?”

Top’s eyebrows quirked, his head cocked to the side. “Why General, I’m afraid I don’t know what yo—”

“Spare me the shadow games crap!” He reached into his chest plate and produced a scroll, slamming it down on the desk. Top calmly floated the scroll to his face, unfurled it, and began to read. “Answer me!”

After a few moments, Top set the scroll down, sighing and rubbing his eyes with a hoof. “And I told him to keep a low profile.” He looked back up at the raging unicorn. “General Armor, I’m sorry, but I am unable to share specific details about an ongoing investigation. Now, if you would like—”

“Stop!” Shining slammed his hoof on the desk again, knocking over a picture of Top’s wife. “Stop lying to me.”

The genial shine in Top’s eyes fell away immediately, replaced by a cold, calculating glare. Shining’s eyes remained as fierce as ever.

“Look, Notch. I sit in on the same briefings as you. I know what it is you do here. Division Six only gets involved when there are major threats to public safety.” His eyes narrowed, boring a hole into Top. “And now one of your agents is dragging my baby sister around, getting her caught up in Celestia-knows-what! Now, you are going to tell me exactly what is going on, or so help me I’ll—”

“You’ll what, exactly, General? At this he rose to his hind legs, slamming his forelegs on the desk. The General winced at the sudden movement. While he wasn’t nearly as tall as Shining, the deadly glare in his eyes made Shining blink, but not back down.

“Now, you listen to me, General.” His tone was ice cold. “I did not become the head of this agency because I am easily pushed around. Don’t think that because you sit next to me at a few meetings that it means you are on the same level as me. And don’t you dare walk into my office and threaten me! Much better stallions and mares than you have tried over the years, and every one of them has sorely regretted doing so.” Shining glared back at him, though some of the fire was gone from his eyes. “Now, this is an official investigation, and I will not divulge specifics to you. There are only two ponies in this world that I take orders from, and since you don’t have wings, you’re not one of them.”

“Spare me the canned speech, Top.” Shining leaned in closer, resting most of his considerable bulk on the old desk. “That may work on your little tax monkeys down here, but you don’t scare me.”

Top leaned in towards him. “Then perhaps you’re not looking hard enough.”

A low chuckle escaped Shining. “Cute. You know, you’re not the only one who knows ponies in this town." His eyes narrowed. "I could make life very difficult for you if you don't start talking."

Top let out a sharp laugh. "Oh, who are you going to tell? Your pet alicorn?"

At this, Shining shot forward, bringing his face inches from Top, his eyes wide and dripping venom and his horn crackling with energy. Though he would never admit it, Top found himself somewhat intimidated by the muscular unicorn as he spoke in a hushed tone. "Mention my wife again, please."

"Oh, you going to put me in a bubble?"

"I'll put you—"

"Gentlecolts!"

Both stallions squinted at the brilliant flash of light, and cringed from the sudden wave of ice cold wind. When they recovered, thy both looked to see Princess Luna standing in the doorway, her mane pulsating like a distant star, a deep scowl etched on her face.

Simultaneously, Top fell in a deep bow and Shining's hooves clicked as he jumped to Attention. Nopony spoke for a moment, neither stallion daring to look at her.

After a few very tense moments, Top clearer his throat. "Uh, Y-Your Majesty! To what d—"

"I was passing through, in my way to the Prime Minister's office." Her tone was calm, very detached from the frown on her face. "Although now, I may have to take a detour to the Royal Clinic."

"Your Grace, the General an—"

"You see, I fear I may be under some sort of fever. I could have sworn I just saw two of the highest ranking ponies in the Equestrian Government arguing like a couple of foals on the playground."

Shining Armor stepped forward. "Princess, I was just trying to—"

"Force Director Notch to divulge information about an ongoing investigation?" Luna looked at the general with cool eyes. "Something which—as the head of all clandestine operations both in and outside this nation—he is under no obligation to do, for you or anyone, short my sister and I."

"But Your Highness, his agent dragged my sister into it!" Some of the fire built back up in Shining's eyes, and his voice. "She may have saved the nation several times, but she is still a civilian, who has no place in a murder investigation! Top Notch had no right to—"

"Watch, your, tone, General," Luna hissed, her mane writhing and twisting.

For all his training and experience, Shining cowed away from the fuming alicorn. "Y-yes, Princess." He gathered himself and stood back to rigid attention. "I apologize for letting my emotions get the better of me."

Luna regarded him for a moment as her astral mane calmed. "I believe I am not the one you should be saying that to, Shining. Director Notch has served Equestria dutifully for over fifty years. And while I have only known him for nine of those, I have learned him to be nothing short of impeccably skilled, competent and purposeful. If his agent is involving Twilight Sparkle in the investigation, I for one am confident it is for the sake of both her and the investigation."

"Precisely what I tried to tell the General, Your Grace," Notch said, relaxing his stance and rounding on Shining. "Unfortunately, he decided to—"

"Show genuine concern for a family member in the face of decorum, damning the chain of command to protect someone he loved?" Top Notch stiffened. "I would think you of all ponies would understand that, Director." Her eyes softened upon seeing the unicorn start to shake. "Director, General Armor is the third highest ranking member of the Equestrian military, and the Prince Consort of an entire nation-state. He should be afforded some respect, and consideration."

The office was still as death for a moment, until Luna relaxed her aggressive stance and leaned back from the two unicorns. "Now, if the two of you are done washing the walls with testosterone, perhaps you can see that both of you are speaking from a place of duty and concern?"

"Yes, Ma'am."

"Yes, Your Highness."

"Good," she said with a nod. "And since that means there will be no more bickering or grandstanding, I shall take my leave."

"Yes, Your Highness."

"Of course, Your Grace."

With that, Luna nodded to the stallions and stepped back into the hallway, disappearing from view moments later. The room was once more deathly silent save the ticking of the grandfather clock in the corner. Finally, Shining Armor turned to face Top. His mouth twitched as if to speak, but Top cut him off. "I believe that will be all, General."

Shining glared at him, jaw trembling in anger, he before he turned and marched towards the door.

As he left, Top’s eye wandered to the picture frame. The warm, loving eyes of his wife stared back at him. Top, that wasn’t very nice, he could almost hear her voice. Sighing he turned back to the retreating Shining. “General, wait.”

Slowly, he turned back to face Top. His eyes still burned with anger, but they cooled a little when he saw the genuine look in the old pony’s eyes. The two stallions regarded each other for a moment before Top finally spoke.

“That’s my little brother, Quick,” he said, pointing his hoof towards a picture on the top of the shelf along the left wall. Shining looked and saw a pegasus with a similar patchwork coat to Top smiling widely at him. “Round about the same age difference between us as you and Ms. Twilight, I imagine.”

Shining looked at the picture for another moment before turning back to Top. Though his anger was still clearly visible, it was no longer boiling over. “And?”

Top closed his eyes briefly, ignoring the urge to snap at him. “He died during the Changeling Invasion.”

Shining’s ears flicked upon hearing this. Top noticed and continued. “He ran an archery shop, down on Trotsburg Avenue.” He chuckled quietly. “Always gave me grief for not going into the family business like he did. When the Invasion hit, I had to stay here. ‘Develop a response,’ and figure out just what in bloody Tartarus was going on. But once the full extent of what was happening hit, I... I did something that I've not done in half a century of service." He gulped. "I left my post."

Shining's ear flicked at that, and he finally looked at the older unicorn. "Why?"

"Why do you think," Top said, nodding at the picture. "His shop was only a few blocks away, and he was my little brother. Sadly, by the time I got there, he was already dead. A crossbow in his hoof, and a pile of pin cushioned Changelings around him.” He laughed. “Bastard went down fighting. May the Parents rest his soul.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be. It wasn’t your fault." Shining opened his mouth, most likely to disagree, but Top silenced him with a hoof. "You forget that I wrote the intelligence follow-up report. It was a threat we didn't even know existed. There was no logical precaution you could have taken. Anyway, after all was said and done, Princess Luna nearly forced me to resign. Were it not for the grace and firm words from Princess Celestia, I'd likely be on the street." He turned slowly to face Shining, whose ire had faded slightly. “Look, General, the point is that I know what it’s like to have somepony you care for be in danger and not be able to help. That feeling of uselessness, that you should be doing something but not being able to. Look, my son and his family moved to Ponyville from Trottingham a few years back. I have just as much invested in the town’s safety as you do.

“The agent I’ve got down there is the absolute best in the agency. He’s never let me down before, and though I can’t claim to understand his methods entirely, I know that if he’s doing something with your sister, it’s for a good reason.”

Top reached over and placed a hoof on his broad shoulders. “Look, and I tell you this not as a servant of the Crown, but as one brother to another. General... Shining, your sister is safe with my agent.”

Shining shrugged off his hoof, but made no other movement. The two stallions stood there, each deep in their own thoughts. Then Top sighed and walked back to his chair. He truly wished he could say something more. “General Armor, I suggest you just go back to your office and continue your day. Your sister is quite resourceful, from what I hear. I’m sure she’ll be fine.”

As Top sat back down, Shining turned towards the door. His magic surrounded the knob and it opened, but he stopped in the doorway. “If anything happens to Twilight,” he said cooly, not even looking back, “I’ll be coming for you.”

“I would expect nothing less.”

With that, the door slammed shut, the random knick-knacks on Top’s desk trembling from the impact. He heard a few words from Moon Beam, but the only answer was another slamming door. Top leaned forward and put his head in his hooves, massaging his temples.

“Moon Beam! Where’s that coffee?”

* * *

It was a long trot from the R.I.S. office back to the Royal Guard wing, but it did little to help Shining Armor’s mood. He walked past the unicorn and pegasus guards, returning their crisp salutes, and pushed through the heavy wooden doors bearing the Seal of The Royal Sisters. The thick hinges screamed in protest, drawing an annoyed grunt from him. How long has that work order been in place, and they still haven’t fixed it?

A large, round room spanned out before him. The main chamber of the Royal Guard Wing, where every aspect of national defense in Equestria was handled. Bright rays of sunlight filtered down from an ornate glass dome above the room. Doors lined the walls all the way around the room, leading to the offices of the numerous commanders and Sergeants Major charged with keeping the country safe . In the middle of the room, painted with loving care over the polished marble, was the Equestrian Seal: the Two Sisters depicted chasing their respective celestial bodies, surrounded by an azure field with forty-one stars, one for each of the standing provinces. Beneath it, written in Old Equestrian, the Royal Guard motto: Pro Solem, Lunam, et Patria. Ponies of all three races were moving back and forth carrying out their duties, their armor making them all but identical to the untrained eye.

Near the back of the room stood a desk shaped like a crescent moon, where two guards, one each from the Day and Night Divisions, stood reading some papers. The flitter of pegasi flying overhead further annoyed Shining as he marched to the desk. I told Cloudhammer to make them use the stairs like everypony else!

“Private!”

A wiry mare wearing armor that seemed two sizes too big for her shuffled up to him. “Y-yes, sir?”

He glared at her. “How long has that blasted work order been in about those hinges?”

“Um, w-well I’m not sure, sir.” Her leathery bat-like wings were slowly unfurling despite herself. “Maybe I could che—”

“Don’t bother!” he roared. “Three weeks. I know, I’m the one who called it in!” He took another step forward, causing the terrified mare to shrink further into her armor. “Tell me, what’s the point of being a General if I can’t even get oil for door hinges?”

Around them, ponies would cast a quick eye at the scene before lowering their heads and pretending not to notice. Something all guards learned on day one in Basic: if somepony is getting their flank chewed by an officer, look away, lest you get involved.

The quivering pegasus opened her mouth to speak when the earth pony beside her stepped forward. “You’re absolutely right, sir. It’s probably some paperwork snafu. I’ll look into it personally right now.” He turned to the shaking pegasus. “Watch the desk for a few minutes while I go get some oil?” She quickly nodded her head.

Shining glared at them both. “Carry on.” He turned to walk away, not returning their salutes. Behind him, he could hear the earth pony speaking soft words of encouragement to the pegasus.

He stomped towards the stairwell, climbing up to the third floor. He reached the far side of the rotunda, where there was a door painted with a picture of a unicorn bowing to two alicorns. The wooden floors were polished almost as brightly as the marble outside. Several posters hung from the walls. Some bore pictures of beautiful scenery with small motivational phrases beneath them. One in the corner showed a caricature of a Changeling digging through a trash bin, the words, "Your trash, their treasure" written underneath it.

A young unicorn in highly polished armor stood from behind a desk and walked up to Shining. “General Armor, sir. I have your itinerary for the day. You have a—”

“It can wait,” Shining grunted, waving a hoof at the young lieutenant. “No appointments this morning.” The mare just stood there as Shining walked to the far door and closed it behind him.

Shining sighed and plopped down behind his desk. Several piles of paperwork laid in wait, but he floated them into a drawer, not wanting to deal with bureaucracy at the moment. No matter what he did, thoughts of Twilight in danger danced through his head. Top was right, Twilight was very resourceful. If there was anypony he’d want by his side in a crisis, it was her. Still, whenever he thought about her getting mixed up with the more shadowy part of Equestrian government, he could only see the little filly he’d once known.

He looked down to a picture frame on his desk and chuckled quietly. It was from a carnival they had gone to years ago, before Twilight had gone to study with the Princess. Two bits in a photo booth had granted him one of his favorite memories of his little sister. She sat in his lap, both of them looking at the camera with crossed eyes, her cheeks bulged out and his tongue sticking out the side of his mouth. Underneath, in crayon complete with backwards “e’s” and “r’s”, Twilight had written “Broderp and Sisderp.”

The sound of his door opening shook him from his reverie. Annoyed, he rubbed his forehead with a hoof. “I thought I said no appointments!”

“Well, that’s a Hay of a way to greet a superior officer!”

Eyes wide, Shining looked up and saw a wall of pegasus walking towards him. His armor was exquisitely polished, to the point that Shining could see his reflection in it from across the room. To any other pony, the soldier might have looked like just another pegasus guard. The only difference was his helmet: not the usual crest that marked every other member of the Royal Guard, including Shining himself, but a razor-sharp blade, shaped into a crescent, which only added to his intimidating look. His very step exuded confidence.

“You know, I’m a General now, too, Cloudhammer.”

General Cloudhammer balked. “Yes, but I’ve got about thirty years seniority on you, so how about you at least stand up?”

Shining offered a dry chuckled and stood up. “Yes, sir, general, sir. What brings you to the magic side of the house?”

“Oh, just checking on a few things.” He strode towards the desk and sat down on one of the cushions across from Shining. “Like why one of my pegasi is almost having a nervous breakdown over some oil.”

Shining’s huffed and sat back down. “That work order has been in for almost a month. She’s at the duty desk, so it’s her responsibility to check on that sort of thing. She shouldn’t be freaking out over something so frivolous anyway.”

“True, but how many times have I told you you have to know your troops?” He leaned forward placing a foreleg on the desk. “Private Crisp just came off of medical leave from her Night Guard enchantment procedure. What those ponies have to go through is rough. It’s expected they’d be a little... flighty.”

His words hit home, but Shining just leaned back in his chair. “Aren’t you the one who’s always saying soldiers should be strong under stress?”

Cloudhammer huffed. “Stress is supposed to come from hard training and rigid standards, not crazy generals yelling about door hinges!”

Both ponies sat for a moment. Finally, Shining’s ears drooped and a loud sigh escaped him. “I know, I know. I’ve just... got a lot on my mind right now.”

“Shining, you’re a General now. You’re supposed to have a lot on your mind.”

He’s right. It’s not fair to take out my stress on the soldiers. He sighed once again, slouching further into his chair. Silence descended in the large office, the two officers looking at each other.

“Cloudhammer,” Shining said after a moment's pause, “what do you know about Top Notch?”

“Don’t like him.”

Shining raised an eyebrow. “That simple, huh?”

The old General huffed, leaning back into the cushion. “I’ve known Top Notch for over twenty years, and in that time he’s never given me a straight answer on anything.” He shook his head curtly. “Don’t trust anypony who lies for a living.”

“Oh, come on. You’ve been in the service almost longer than I’ve been alive! You have to know something I can use against him.”

Use?” He leaned forward, looking Shining dead in the eye. “Shining, do you know how I’ve lasted as long as I have in the military?”

“Brass balls and an iron will?”

That, and knowing what battles are worth fighting.” He sat up straight, placing a foreleg on the desk. “Look, I don’t trust Notch any further than I could throw the Princess, but I’ll give him this: he’s dangerous. You can’t beat him at his own game.”

Shining hit the desk with a hoof. “There has to be something I can do!”

“Like what? Drag him before Parliament?” Cloudhammer snorted. “They think he’s a glorified accountant. Plus, he’s got that whole, ‘genial grandpa’ thing going. They’d be putty in his hooves.”

Shining grunted and stood up, walking away from the desk. He stopped in front of a large window, overlooking Canterlot. Below him, well-dressed ponies walked among the shops that lined the street. A small group of children were playing a game of hoofball in a field to the left of the castle. Under a tree near the edge of the field, he could see a tiny pony reading a book. A pang of sadness struck him.

He turned back to Cloudhammer. “I could take it out in the open. Try him in the court of public opinion.”

“Try him?” Cloudhammer stood up and paced towards the window. “Shining, he hasn’t done anything wrong!” He pushed past Shining and gazed out the window. “But sure, you could do that.” He turned to Shining. “And destabilize a vital part of Equestrian defense, putting Luna knows how many ponies in danger, and breaking about 7 different Royal edicts in the process.”

“Well I have to do something!” He stomped a hoof, the sound echoing in the large room.

Cloudhammer was unfazed by the outburst. “Have you ever stopped to think that maybe she doesn’t need your help? She’s a grown mare. Probably wouldn’t like it too much if her big brother threw away his career to come and check up on her.” He turned back to Shining. “And besides that, she’s the Element of Magic, for Celestia’s sake! She’s saved this country more times than you!

A clock in the corner ticked loudly as Shining chewed on his words. Finally, he sighed, his ears flush against his head. “I just hate it,” he said, turning back to the window. “Twilight’s running around with this strange stallion she knows nothing about, chasing a murderer, and you think I shouldn’t do anything.”

“I didn’t say that.”

Shining’s ears perked. He turned his head to face Cloudhammer. The old general stood where he had been before, an unreadable look in his eyes.

“I may know somepony who can help.” He started walking to the door. “Follow me.”

* * *

General Cloudhammer was a stallion of few words even on the best days, but as the two walked around the rotunda, Shining couldn’t help but feel an awkward tension. In his peripheral vision he could see the glint of Cloudhammer’s armor. Looking down, Shining saw a small scuff on his own chest plate. He blew a quiet breath on it, doing his best to buff it out with a hoof and not stumble. Cloudhammer seemed not to notice, staring straight ahead.

He shook his head and looked around him, trying to find something to busy his thoughts. Below them, the main floor still bristled with activity. A Royal courier, marked by the splash of red on her helmet, was arguing with a Night Guard unicorn next to the main door, apparently trying to gain entrance to the great hall. Shinning chuckled quietly when he saw a bat-winged pegasus slathering thick grease on the door’s hinges.

A loud cough snapped him back to reality. “Anytime you’re ready, General.” Cloudhammer stood next to him, looking at him impatiently. Before him stood a metal door with the words, Restricted Access, Authorized Ponies Only. Cloudhammer’s hoof was pressed into a smooth gemstone set into the wall, the gem glowing a faint red. He nodded his head towards a small conical depression on the opposite side of the door. Grinning sheepishly, Shining leaned his head down and slid the tip of his horn into notch. Immediately, he felt the tingling sensation of magic pass through his horn. A gentle tone came from the door, and the gem beneath Cloudhammer’s hoof turned green. With a quiet mechanical hiss, the door slid open and the two ponies stepped inside.

On the other side of the door, a long hallway stretched out before them. The floor was made of dull metal, the only light provided came from small incandescent bulbs overhead. Additional doors lines both sides, each with labels next to them. Cloudhammer lead the way to a door on the right side, pressing a hoof on a large panel next to it.

The room was just as utilitarian as the hallway, muted silver floors and walls and naked light bulbs overhead. The only furnishing was a small wooden table set in the back. Shining walked up to it and saw a small wooden box, about three hoof-lengths long. Cloudhammer appeared next to him and touched a hoof to the top. With a slight click, the lid split down the middle, the two halves flipping upwards while a third panel popped up from the inside. Small, brightly-glowing gems were set into the inside, and small, arcing lines connected them. Shining let out a quiet gasp as he recognized the design. “Long-distance communication gems? I thought these were just theoretical.”

“They are,” Cloudhammer said, a deadpan expression on his face. “And don’t ask me how they work.” He began touching several of the gems, and a soft hum sounded.

As Shining watched with wide eyes, the seven gems lit up even brighter and bright lances of magical power shot up from them. The beams connected just above the box, and in a small shower of sparks a large projection appeared, about the size of Shining’s head. White static fuzzed for a few minutes. Cloudhammer tapped his hoof on the ground. “Come on, come on. I know you’re there.”

The static suddenly disappeared. As the picture cleared, a dark outline of a pony came into focus. Shining could vaguely make out a unicorn’s horn, but the rest of the face was cast in deep shadow. Nopony moved for a moment. Finally, the figure floating before them spoke.

“Ah, Cloudy! A pleasure as always.” The voice was that of a mare, her head turning slightly to look at Shining. “Oh, a new face?” She leaned forward slightly, still obscured in darkness. “Ah-ha. General Shining Armor! Always nice to met a new cog in the machine.”

Shining offered a weak smile. “Uh, hi.”

“As friendly as ever, eh, Shadow? And I asked you not to call me that.”

“Aw, come on, Cloudy. Loosen up a bit!”

Shining inclined his head slightly towards Cloudhammer. “Cloudy?”

“Stow it.” Cloudhammer turned back to the mare. “I’d introduce you two, but apparently you already know General Armor.”

The mare chuckled. “Cloudy, knowing things is what I do. That is why you keep me in your address book, right?”

Shining tapped a hoof on the ground. “Cloudhammer, who is this?”

“Yes, yes, who am I?” the mare said, a disturbing mirth in her voice. “I, my dear General, am one who knows too much, and yet knows not enough. I can see what others can’t, because I am determined to find truth where others are content with lies.”

Cloudhammer snorted. “You’re a conspiracy theorist nut job who thinks the Changeling Invasion was an inside job and that the government puts mind-control agents in the water!”

“And yet, you come to me for information.” She leaned in once more. "Tell me, my dear general, who is the bigger fool: the fool, or he who comes to the fool for information?"

Cloudhammer took a deep breath and opened his mouth to yell, but the mare cut him off. “But I digress, and this channel has been open for too long already. What do you want?”

Exhaling slowly, his eyes shut tight, Cloudhammer spoke quietly. “We need information on an R.I.S. agent.”

The mare’s ears perked up. “Ooh, a challenge! I like it! What’s his name?”

“Bentgrass," Shining said, "or at least that’s what he says. White coat, blonde mane, and a freaky right eye. He's currently in Ponyville on an investigation.”

A few moments of silence, then the mare let out a gasp. “That albino stallion that’s been running around with Twilight Sparkle? He’s R.I.S.?” She sat back in her chair, turning slightly to the side. “How did I miss that?”

“Don’t know, don’t care,” Cloudhammer said. “Can you get the info or not?”

The mare tapped her hoof to her chin for a moment. “I’ll get back to you.” She leaned forward and reached for something beneath the screen. Shining could barely make out a mint-green hoof. In another small shower of sparks, the screen vanished and the gems went dark.

The room was silent for a few minutes as Shining tried to process what he’d just heard. A faint smell of ozone hit him as Cloudhammer closed the box.

Finally, Shining turned to Cloudhammer. “Who in the hoof was that?”

The old pegasus merely smiled. “Top Notch isn’t the only one who can gather intelligence.” He turned and walked out of the room, Shining quickly following. “Don’t worry. Shadow may be nuttier than squirrel fewmets, but she’s very resourceful when it comes to finding out things. If there’s any information to be found on the Bentgrass character, she’ll find it.”

The metal door closed behind them. The two stallions stood for a moment, looking down upon the main rotunda of the Guard wing. Shining put his hooves on the railing. “Being a General gets pretty complicated, doesn’t it?’

Cloudhammer let out a quiet laugh, looking over the railing. “Colt, you have no idea.”

“Oh, hey. I told you to tell your pegasi to stop flying around in the hall. Have them use the stairs like everypony else.”

A derisive snort answered him. “Sure, once you tell your unicorns to stop using magic to open doors and use their hooves.” He turned to face Shining with a small smile. “Like everpony else.”

The two smiled at each other. Cloudhammer put a quick hoof on Shining’s shoulder, nodded, and turned to trot away.

“General Cloudhammer!” Shining called out.

Cloudhammer stopped in his tracks.

“Thank you.”

Without looking back, he waved a hoof and trotted away. “Don’t thank me, thank your recruiter.”

Shining shook his head and turned back to the main hall, resting his head on his hooves.

Just hold on, Twiley. Big brother will come through.

Comments ( 19 )

Fascinating read. It does mean that I'll have to reread the story sometime soon, though...

7858582 It is in the feature box.

7872396 lol, don't apologize. It just made me realize that I want to read the story again! It's been too long.

“Tell me, what’s the point of being a General if I can’t even get oil for door hinges?”

You're a general, not a general contractor!

Spot on for Mr. Grumpypants... I mean General Cloudhammer :rainbowlaugh:

7874185

Thank you! I'm glad I did him justice. I figured this was before his little reconciliation in First Year, so he'd be a little douchey.

7874834
Yeah, he still yells at the neighborhood foals, but at least he stopped setting up ambushes for them.

Also, I swear I'm showing that profile pic to my buds :rainbowlaugh:

I almost died to see this update omg XD

I can see why your editor had this cut out, I think it was a wise move. Not to say it was complete crap, though, just that it would have distracted from the main thrust of the story.

Top Notch seems a bit too hot headed for the head of a shadowy government organization with zero transparency and accountability. You'd think he'd just hold his tongue, roll his eyes, and let Shining Armor splutter on innefectually, secure in the fact that he can't be touched. At least until Shining Armor hit the right nerve. Maybe have Shining suggest that he knows nothing of familial love so there's a smoother segue into his dead family backstory.

You'd think he'd just hold his tongue, roll his eyes, and let Shining Armor splutter on innefectually,

That was the original version. It REALLY hand Shining portrayed as a whiny royal in way over his head. I just liked the idea that both of these guys are very powerful, just in different ways.

As Visiden said, I can see why you cut this chapter. If it had been put into the main story, it would have definently been a speedbump to the takes momentum.

However, I can see that you put a lot of good work into it, and I am glad you gave us a chance to read it. :moustache:

8084135

Thank you very much for the kind words! I'm glad you enjoyed it. :pinkiehappy:

8092814

You'll come to see that Bentgrass cares little for first impressions. :scootangel:

I came across this by accident and let me tell you that I've never, in over 1500 read stories on this site, have I felt for rainbow dash as I did at the end.
This story was great and I look forward to reading more!

If the main OCs in this story had voice actors, what would they sound like?

Taken me a little while to get to you my good fellow.

Enjoy my blithering:pinkiecrazy:

Ah, this was a really good story! Thanks for writing it!

I have to say, I do so love murder mysteries, and I'm definitely looking forward to reading the sequel you wrote.

I actually read this as an audiobook. I have a bit of a hobby of turning fanfictions into audiobooks. It's Text-To-Speech, but I add a lot of nice features. Some spelling and grammar, I make sure new words are pronounced right, pauses where appropriate, slowed down emphasized text, and MOST importantly, differentiate narration and dialogue with a pitch change! Anyway, after I was done listening to it I put it up on youtube to share with others - Think of it as a thank you and a token of my gratitude for writing it! I hope more people read your story.

10428702

Wow, thank you for the kind words, and the audio version! I'm always floored and humbled when someone tells me they liked one of my stories, especially this first one I ever wrote. Sadly, the "true" sequel, Eye of the Beholder, was cancelled because I could never really figure out the plot beats. However, my story Finding Your Place follows Twilight and Spike in the events following this one.

Hope you enjoy it, and either way, I'm glad you liked this one! :pinkiehappy:

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