• Published 10th Dec 2020
  • 3,706 Views, 368 Comments

No Longer Alone - NoLongerSober

Sass, science, and surviving shipping! Postage paid! The gruff captain put a certain pegasus professor to the test and learned that she just couldn’t quit. Now come the hard parts: an actual relationship and maybe a villain or two.

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Chapter 14 - But Pawns

“Excuse me, what!?” Tail’s voice went up two octaves that day—though, technically, it was still nighttime. The pegasus swung her hind legs off the edge of her mattress, sending her blanket and sheets tumbling to the floor. “What do you mean I can’t call you a pony? And what does going”—she made air quotes with her forehooves—“full Twilight Sparkle entail? Does it have something to do with not being able to call you a pony? Or maybe it’s something completely unrelated?”

Trigger sighed, lifting his foreleg to give a lackadaisical roll of his hoof before explaining. “Going full Twilight Sparkle is when overly curious bookworms ask a mountain of useless questions without carin’ to wait for a reply. You two might be perfect for one another at this rate.”

Suddenly flushed, Tail loosed a sheepish laugh. She shifted her hips, settling atop her bed while she absentmindedly combed her wild mane with a forehoof. “Sorry, Trigger, I’ll keep quiet now. Please continue.”

“Maybe there’s hope after all,” Trigger snickered, glancing at Amora while he gently bounced Peebles in his magical hold. His aura spiraled around the young foal’s ears. “Twilight would never shut the hell up, so I sent her straight to Celestia’s bedroom one night. I don’t think she’s lived it down yet, so congratulations for getting the message in one take.

“And ya can’t really call me a pony ‘cause I ain’t one. I’m sure ya understand this better than most. There’s more to the world than meets the eye, and there’s more to how things work than what they teach ya in school. Celestia moves the sun. Luna moves the moon. Cadance moves emotions, so what do ya think moves all that energy ya dream up in the night?”

Tail’s focus darted about like a child hitting a candy store for the first time. Unintelligible mumblings dripped from her muzzle, and her ears and namesake flicked to a beat that only sampled the track her memories were compiling. “Starswirl… Haycartes… Neigh…”

Maintaining a low volume, Tail kept listing off the famous ponies of science until she realized that Trigger had not spoken another word. She fidgeted, briefly pondering if her rambling counted as full-Twilighting or if he had genuinely offered her the question. When he met her stare with a smug grin, she knew that she was still in the clear. “Uh, the only thing I’m really aware of is Luna’s abilities as a dreamwalker.”

Trigger retorted with a curt shake of his head. “It’s a popular term, but it’s kinda wrong. Luna doesn’t really dreamwalk. She more or less floats and guards the shore. Living things dream. Some cause elation. Some cause harm. All that turmoil needs a place to go, so what happens to that shitload of energy? The Universe becomes the most imaginative bitch in the room and packs it someplace. That’s where I’m from, Flicker. I’m a creature of reverie, and my talent is protecting aspirations.”

The pegasus slowly turned towards the open doorway. She found Amora still standing there, leaning against the frame as a grimace twisted her countenance. Tail pursed her lips and held her attention on her roommate through a few seconds of silence before she lifted both of her forehooves and slapped her cheeks.

“Ow!” she exclaimed, drawing curiosity-laden glimpses from both her roommate and the silver-haired guest. She swiveled in response, throwing both of them looks before sighing. “I thought I fell asleep again, but I guess not.”

A gritty grunt crawled from Trigger’s throat. “You’re awake, and what I told ya is real. There’s a whole mess of stuff out there that ya don’t know. Just going to have to accept—”

“Your mom,” Tail interrupted before taking a short pause, “she’s the one who does the moving, isn’t she?”

“Wow, looks like I was right. Droppin’ the puzzle pieces quick. And only cut me off once to boot. Miracles do happen.” The stallion chuckled, and one of his ears pivoted towards the door. “She’s got many titles, all of which are boring and not worth the time. What’s important is that she clearly isn’t bored with you.”

“Sir Trigger!” Luna’s Royal Canterlot voice carried from the living room. The noise immediately caused the other mares to jerk at their posts, though Trigger simply rolled his shoulders. “That is hardly the proper way to introduce the Grand Matriarch, Thestral of Reverie, to the uninitiated. An ambassador should know how to promote his lineage.”

“And a princess should know that eavesdropping is bad, Mes Étoiles. I already had to deal with one feisty filly tonight. Am I going to have to deal with another? I don’t think your sister is a big fan of my bartender reports. Would hate to waste her time.”

Soft chortles from the Princess of the Night flowed into the bedroom in waves. The melody persisted, prompting even Trigger to drop his deadpan defense at the behest of an inquisitive lip curl.

“I don’t think that will be necessary, Colonel.” Despite the repeated yawns that followed, it was clear that the drowsy tones drifting from Luna’s side belonged to none other than Celestia herself. “I’m already updated on the situation. True, I would normally give my little sister a scolding for such an invasion. But we’re here because someone released an enormous amount of magical energy, and we would rather put our ponies’ minds at ease.” The alicorn unleashed another dramatic yawn.

“Verily so! But my sister is so very tired when woken up before it’s time for her sunrise. Fortunately, Captain Barrier came along with us and is busy making those famous pancakes of his.”

“And coffee!” Celestia added emphatically. “Cakes and coffee.”

Tail’s cheek twitched. The muscle beneath her right eye adopted a frantic spasm, and her mane erupted into an even more unkempt mess of rising spirals and spontaneously split ends. “Barrier?” she called out with a twinge of uncertainty that sent her pitch fluttering.

“Busy night, Blanket?” The unicorn’s voice echoed from down the hall before dragging Tail’s wings through an equally sporadic set of spasms. “Seems like you’ve accumulated some unexpected company.”

“Uh, yes, you could definitely say that…” Tail answered, watching as Trigger used the brief exchange as an opportunity to stick his head out into the illuminated hallway.

“Barry, I know what my training sessions are going to cover. She didn’t detect Peebles, or two bloody alicorns, teleporting into her home. We can’t have that with our prospect, now can we?”

The stallion kept leaning farther and farther across the door frame until Tail thought that he would eventually tumble out of the room with his daughter in tow. The darkness of her bedroom and the brightness of the corridor played tricks with his coat, drawing lines of shadow and contrast that kept the decaffeinated pegasus upright long enough for her to catch the next words that left his muzzle.

“Oh, and by the way, Ms. Tail,” Trigger spoke up after conducting an abrupt about-face that yanked his head back into the darkness, “at eleven-hundred, there’ll be a crate outside your lab. Receive it promptly.”

Tail’s eyelids drooped as she trudged towards the castle. Around her, ponies skipped about through the reflected rays of the morning sun with far more passion than she could be bothered to muster. Her morning had started in the dead of night, and its events inevitably led to the two rulers of her country, a nonpony pony, said nonpony pony’s daughter, and her captain all appearing in the residence. “Mornings suck,” she grumbled, tossing a tired glance in Barrier’s direction, “but at least the view is nice.”

“Flattery won’t get you out of hitting the field at daybreak next week,” Barrier replied as he kept pace. He took in the pegasus with a meandering—and completely unsubtle—scan. “Besides, I’m not the one trotting around in that lab coat looking adorable.”

Tail planted her foreleg atop one of the cobblestones and coughed. She halted dead in her tracks and arced one of her wings to form a makeshift pointer. “My mane is a frizzled mess, and I look like a zombie. I don’t think adorable is the right word.”

Barrier just kept walking. The stallion stepped into the scientist’s path and lifted his tail to brush it against the underside of her muzzle. “You look like a hard worker who wouldn’t have been blamed for catching up on her sleep.”

The pegasus shivered from the gesture. A heated gasp escaped through her parted lips as her wings lifted from the canvas fabric of her lab coat. “I can’t,” she answered, leaning towards him before resuming her forward progress. “I now have that mysterious Trigger package to think about, and if I skew my sleep schedule, it might lead to a conflict with the pinning ceremony.”

“So what you’re saying is that, despite being tired, you’re showing off your dedication and doing so in style? Sounds adorable to me, Professor Blanket.” Smugness, in its untainted form, snatched the captain’s countenance. He kept peering over his shoulder just long enough for Tail to feel the warmth hitting her cheeks, and then his attention was back to front-face.

The pair had reached the castle’s main gate. A gradient of purple shades rose to the sky until bands of white adorned the tips of the towers. The largest spire sprouted directly above the archway, and it greeted guests with a host of balconies, slotted windows, and astronomical banners that served far more of an ornamental purpose than a military one.

Nonetheless, a pair of guards stood at the base of the stone arch. Each was adorned in a standard kit and remained in picturesque, statue formation until the duo entered what Tail could only describe as saluting distance. The burnt-orange pegasus to the right threw his hoof to his helmet in a quick snapping motion, and it wasn’t long before a slew of information poured from his mouth.

“Captain Barrier, Captain Armor would like to have a word with you as soon as you’re available. Last I heard, he was still in his office. Colonel Tail, I’ve been instructed to pass the message upon your arrival that Princess Luna wishes to spend the remainder of her morning with you. She said something about waiting for you at bedrock and that you would understand.”

“Oh…” Tail hovered on the vowel as she returned the salute to both the pegasus and the navy-blue unicorn that stood across from him. Her lips held that shape as she resumed her trot, and with a single thread of thought, she giggled. “I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t take the morning off.”

“Guess so.” The thinnest trace of embarrassment flirted with Barrier’s tone. He completed his passage through the oversized archway and turned towards the keep. “I had better see what Shining wants. After that, I can find my way to your new lab if you still want me to.”

The last word had barely leapt from Barrier’s tongue before her answer skirted the breeze. “Sweety, please. Just keep heading down. It’s literally the last thing one can find. I believe in you.” She caught up to his side and planted a peck on his cheek. “And if you can’t find it, then I’ll certainly find you.”

Barrier’s horn lit once he reached the door to Shining Armor’s office. His aura enveloped the wooden planks, and with little effort, he pushed open the entryway. Light poured through the ornate panes, sending white bands across the rich mahogany desk that served as the office centerpiece. Papers, likely the day’s roster reports, lay neatly piled at the corners, and quills were already at the ready.

The tranquil scenery did not fit the nature of the two creatures who were already present. “The incursions of Aislynn Caliber upon the woken domain cannot go unchecked,” Shining wailed, pointing an entire foreleg in Trigger’s direction. “And you cannot go around Canterlot freaking out every magic-sensitive person in the capital.”

Trigger leaned against the wall near a windowpane and sighed heavily. “Do I need to remind ya that ya had no idea the Sea of Reverie even existed until Wing brought me here? I don’t want my mom fucking around with things either. She pulls the same next-level shit that Celestia does, but don’t act like it’s a security hazard. You’ll just get your panties in a wad for no reason, and trying to get her to stop is about as useless as trying to convince a windigo to stop being a frigid asshole.”

A snort shot through Shining’s nostrils as he threw his head back. “That does not change the fact that it is Princess Luna’s job to watch the dreams of ponies. The Houses Caelum and Caliber established this arrangement over a thousand years ago—”

“And Mes Étoiles was bound to the moon for nearly that entire time. Would ya send a foal to a pool without a lifeguard, Shiny? Mother tried to let it be for so damn long. She stayed out of things in ancient times, but Luna needed a mentor. She stayed out of most events for nearly nine-hundred years after her student’s banishment. She sat there and watched as creature after creature went too deep.

“Grogar? Went too deep. Discord? Just ask your sister. Starswirl? Ya bet your shielded ass. Sombra? Took way too damn long. She even stayed out of it when Wing went too deep, but then shit got real. He summoned me. What about the foals who can’t? What about the ponies who don’t have the resolve? Point is… my mom’s crazy, and yes, it’s not her right to generate destiny, but she’s not an enemy. She never has been.”

Barrier blinked. He had gradually made it over the threshold during the course of that display, and he calmly closed the door as he was enveloped by the raucous banter. “You two need buckin’ marriage counselling.”

“Don’t give Cady ideas,” Trigger quipped back. His amber sights settled on Barrier’s frame, and those eyes sparkled with the glowing cinders of trouble. “It’s probably her biggest fetish.”

Shining’s jaw dropped. Dry heaves of air exited his throat, but there was simply no motion or effort to form actual words. Even his hoof remained unmoved from its pointed post.

“Thank fuck, I killed that conversation,” Barrier added as his tail swished with triumph. “Neither of you should worry about it. Luna’s not incompetent. She’ll settle her emotions on the matter in her own way. It’s not really our job to question that. The real question to answer is why is the spotlight on Tail, and what are we going to do to make sure she’s prepared for the role?”

Trigger adjusted his trademarked Coltston. “We’re going to make sure it doesn’t take me frazzling every pushover in Canterlot to make an entrance.”

“Should probably spend some time developing her innate abilities as well,” the alabaster unicorn commented. “It will help in dealing with magic users and would give a boost to her stamina.”

“Yeah,” Barrier muttered, lifting one of his forelegs to rub the base of his neck. “We can’t forget tactics either. She showed she had the stuff during B.C.T., but our own scenario for her final exam didn’t follow the script. If we want to mitigate the dangers that come from her own program, then we need to make sure that she can beat the best.”

“Heh,” Trigger grunted, shooting Shining a teasing smirk, “that’s why two of us are here.”

Meanwhile, Tail made her way down the steps that led to her laboratory. Despite the increased familiarity, the sensation of moving from a bustling environment to one devoid of effectively all outside contact remained a tad unsettling.

The transition from castle to cave also left something to be desired. Humidity crept into the mare’s coat, and a shiver raced along her spine as she plopped her hooves against successive stone slabs.

Waves of light and dark ebbed through the raised tufts of her fur each time she passed one of the wall torches, and every now and again, her ears would flick to the sound of falling water. Eventually, she neared the end of the spiral, as evidenced by the radiant glow that came from those massive metal doors—and the unintelligible notes of Luna’s voice that managed to reach her position.

After a few more paces, the shuffling of hooves became more distinct, as did the words coming from the Princess of the Night.

“Ooh! She approaches!”

By the time Tail concluded her descent, Princess Luna was seated perfectly square to the trajectory of arrival. The alicorn had completely ditched her formal regalia, opting instead to wear a lab coat similar to the one that currently covered the physicist. The royal sister beamed with unbridled optimism as she levitated a pair of safety goggles for an impromptu inspection.

“Greetings again, Colonel! We think this attire is appropriate for the morning’s activities. We wish… to do science.”

Author's Note:

Mmm, the fresh aroma of long-time lore finally bubbling to the surface. There have been hints to this one going back into NLD chapters. Trigger's illusion abilities? You betcha. Barrier mentioning that he needed to protect his dreams from more than just Luna? Yup. Even Aislynn has been lingering in the shadows for quite some time -- gradually maneuvering chess pieces on a board that hasn't been defined or revealed... yet. For those who love going back and picking things out. Resolve is part of the hallmark. (There's also a reason why it's in Wing's creed. So many threads of string on the wall. rofl)

Anyhoo! As always, thank you for your continued readership, time, and comments. Discord server was quite busy this past week with some interesting theories as to what Trigger is. Lots of umbrum guesses. Close, but not quite. I love reader theories btw. So much fun.

Until next time, have a great Thursday! And I'll see you next week for Chapter 15 - I Swear, If You Hug Me.

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