• Published 10th Dec 2020
  • 3,880 Views, 372 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 21 - M.E.T.H.O.D.

Tail sighed as she trotted through Canterlot in the pre-dawn hours. Light from the rows of streetlamps bounced off Sally’s sleek metal curves, but that bouncing failed to match the exuberance with which Sincerity Chain darted around his armor-clad sister.

The physicist had managed to navigate through the first night of Sincy’s visit. She had endured the banter between brother and boyfriend that would make most mares tug their manes out—at least that’s what she believed. He had even gotten through his meeting with the princess on the following day without pulling her through some ridiculous sibling adventure. Unfortunately, she was paying off the interest now.

“Taiiiiiiilllll,” he squealed through a prolonged, flamboyant whisper as he dragged his foreleg over Tail’s covered spine. Sincy jumped in front of the pegasus and snapped his head to show the appreciative, inspired sparkle that danced around his irides. “You look so cool. I still can’t believe you didn’t tell me any of this. You’re lit A.F., carrying that armor like it’s nothing. How heavy is it? Can I try it on? Do you think I should incorporate some guard stuff in the show tonight?”

“Sally wasn’t exactly built to fit a tall boy, so I don’t think attempting to squeeze into my armor would be a good idea. And I think you’ll give poor Barley a heart attack if you make changes to the routine the morning of the show.”

“What about the helmet?” the colt asked, pursing his lips to shape a juvenile pout. “That shouldn’t be much of a problem, right? It’s all glimmering and pretty, and the gold color will go well with SincyStar. I could do a tribute on stage! The fans will lose themselves in the”—he paused his stride to sweep his foreleg across the heavens—“experience.”

“Yeah, yeah, Casanova. And you might want to keep it down unless you want a swarm of waking fangirls to drape themselves all over your experience.”

In an instant, the aviator shades had returned to their spots upon Sincy’s muzzle. “Do I have much to fear when I have the best guard escort Canterlot has to offer? I’m sure my big sis will do everything she can to keep me safe from any trouble, and for the record, my fans are understanding when it comes to boundaries. I don’t really expect problems with them—unlike my sister, who won’t let me try on her armor.”

“It’s too small for you, and the helmet doesn’t even have a horn hole.” She flashed a devilish grin at her brother. “But maybe if you manage to be good today, I’ll try to convince Barrier to let you try on his kit instead.”

Maintaining the smug expression, Tail took a few steps to pull up to Sincy’s side. Behind the tint of his spectacles, she could tell that he was beaming at the mere idea of getting his hooves on Barrier’s armor. However, his contentment to bask in the glow of optimism lasted for about the time it took them to traverse another block, and then, it was back to sibling business as usual.

“I bet I could slip into one of your gauntlets,” Sincy slid into the conversation with the grace of a tumbling boulder.

“Not happening. Once I get to the yard, it’s on Barrier’s time. I can’t be messing around with my kit. I can’t even imagine what you told him for him to let you come.” Tail hesitated. Her teasing demeanor vanished as she fashioned a grimace and sternly stared at her brother. “Sincy, this is easily the most serious thing I’ve ever done. I’ve been worn out and injured during training. I’ve been deployed at the head of a squad. I can’t take any of this lightly.”

“Got that right, Flicker.” Tail’s body stiffened and her coat bristled once the weight of Trigger’s foreleg settled over her withers. His other foreleg awkwardly hovered in the air over the spot where Sincerity had been, but the singer had loosed a squawk and bolted down the street in a scrambled mess that made the creature of reverie chuckle. “The fuck did I just watch?”

“Creative muse in action,” the pegasus deadpanned, casting her blank gaze down the road towards her sibling. “If this was supposed to be some sort of test, wouldn’t it have been better to wait until after I receive some instruction? Seems kind of pointless to demonstrate that I still have no ability to sense your incoming presence…”

Trigger set his hooves back onto the ground and shrugged. “I might find it fun, to be honest, but nah, I’m not here for that crap. Shit’s gettin’ interesting in the yard, so I decided to pick ya up myself. Though, given that your brother didn’t sense me coming either, now I know it runs in the family. We’ll have to do something different—”

Sincy was in Tail’s and Trigger’s faces in a flash. The swag shades were redeployed, and the sibling showboat smile was shining brighter than Luna’s silvery moon. “You know this guy too, Tail? And he knows I’m your brother? How mysterious...” The blue unicorn tipped his head so his pupils drifted above the frame of the aviators.

“You’re being weird ag—” Tail huffed when her little brother booped her muzzle, and a scowl set in just in time to greet the sparkling, impish expression that crept along Sincy’s countenance.

“Your story keeps revealing an incredible cast of characters, Sis. I thought this renegade cowcolt might have been a deranged stalker, one of those terrifying shadow ponies, or maybe a typical noir-film villain, but no! These sweet argent locks and burning amber eyes belong to a friend who hasn’t been introduced, and yet, somehow, someway, he sees that we’re related with a perception that speaks to the level of the soul.”

“Heh, I know who ya are too, Mr. One-Half-of-Sync-and-Barley,” Trigger replied in a quiet, gritty timbre.

The statement made Sincy’s ear noticeably flick. A fermata was inserted into the score, one which Tail happily used to push her brother back a good foreleg length before his shades returned to the ether.

“It’s more like one-twentieth, actually,” the unicorn continued in a more reserved demeanor. “A few others join in on the music side, and we have a solid crew of techs to help with setting up shows. Pretty sure Tail qualifies as an honorary member of the band, seeing as how she got me started and keeps performing maintenance jobs on our stuff.”

Tipping his trademarked Coltston, Trigger nodded before a knowing smirk stretched across his muzzle. “Oh, I’m sure I’ll see it all tonight. Got tickets after all. Got a wife and a daughter who are huge fans. Little one falls asleep to Beautiful Barley or Big Bam Boom almost every night.”

An enthusiastic gasp rushed into Sincy’s lungs to produce a whooping echo that rang off the Canterlot houses. Trigger had punched his way straight into the stallion’s soft spot. Tail knew young fans had always been high on her brother’s list, and she had to stifle a giggle as she watched him prance in place. “Details! Favorite song? Picture? Should I sign something? Quill! I need a quill.”

“Do I have a picture?” Trigger snorted through an air of mock offense. He reached under his hat and held out a small photograph of Platinum Blaze.

Tail could already anticipate the onslaught of pleasantries her brother would forge. Oh, your filly is so cute! She’s beautiful! You must be such a proud dad!—to name a few. She closed her eyes and waited as a gentle smile took shape, but those expected words never came.

Instead, Sincy peered at the picture in silence for a few seconds as he blinked and combed his mane. Eventually, his eyes widened, betraying a sense of disbelief, and he finally answered, “Whoa! She’s real? I swear I’ve seen this filly in my jam-session dreams. That is nuts.” He leaned closer. “Like, she looks exactly the same. Unforgettable stare, you know?”

“Eh,” Tail replied sheepishly after glancing at both her mesmerized brother and the cheek-twitching Trigs. “Probably just a coincidence, or maybe you got a piece of inspirational fan mail.”

“Mm.” Sincy puffed some air around his mouth and looked skyward. “It’s possible. Barley is pretty thorough when it comes to making sure letters from the younger fans get prioritized. In that case, I’ve definitely received a letter from your adorable filly, Mr. My-Sister-Still-Hasn’t-Intro—”

Groaning, the physicist promptly jabbed her brother in the shoulder. The strike had been bittersweet in nature—driving the unicorn to rub the impact site with his free limb while forcing the pegasus to cave to her brother’s blunt demand. “Sincerity Chain, this is Colonel Trigger, proud proprietor of the best bar in the city. Trigger, you know who he is.”

“That hurt, ya know?” Sincy grumbled, still rubbing the stinging spot. “Strong mare…”

Trigger unloaded a deep, rumbling laugh that surprised the siblings. “Ya haven’t seen anything yet, Kiddo,” he remarked to the colt of the duo before adjusting his hat. Beneath the brim, the glow of Trigger’s magic seeped to the outside world. Black and amber swirls swept around the group, separating the ponies from the familiar sight of cobblestone streets and alabaster homes. “Just wait until you see the main event, and that was some slick shit, Flicker.”

Barrier winced and shook his head. Driven by the sudden oscillation, the hairs at the nape of his neck splayed beneath a mental weight that forced his eyes to close and his lungs to draw breath. “Coax it,” he whispered as his cheeks and lips contorted. Like a mouse in a maze, the stallion was searching for something that only one other pony in attendance could understand, and each minute shift in the unicorn’s expression revealed another discovered obstacle that demanded an adjustment. “Every other swing.”

Tail’s advice hung upon the wind in a gentle hiss. It reverberated, joining the gentle cascade of an anomalous cobalt hue that rippled over Barrier’s horn. Far above, the bright crescent of the moon wobbled slightly in acknowledgment of the stallion’s efforts. And with each passing second, the celestial object crawled towards the horizon.

Having joined Barrier in the center of the training yard, Luna stood to his left and quietly watched the captain. Her sights danced over the jagged, familiar contours of his ancient armor before her attention returned to her heavenly companion. “You’ve come a long way, Barrier,” Luna spoke as her horn flared. “In another few years, you might be able to do this on your own, but we’ll leave it there for now.”

Barrier glanced at the Princess of the Night. She wore a confident smile that did nothing to conceal her motivations for adding her power to the pre-dawn festivities. With the alicorn’s magic entering the mix, the moon’s descent became a far less taxing activity for Magic Barrier—and a far quicker one at that.

“What?” Luna asked, adding an inflection of completely feigned innocence. “We can’t possibly have you wear yourself out. There are more amusing plans that merit a degree of regal study.”

“Hm, I understand,” Barrier answered, lifting his helm from the ground before placing it upon his head. He put a few more paces between himself and the lunar diarch, planted his hooves, and stretched his spine through a satisfied groan.

As the first hints of sunlight cast their reddish hues across the dim sky, glimmering sands began to coil around Luna. The amorphous storm hardened to form vibrant plates of steel that snatched those skybound rosy bands and laced them across the metal surfaces. An armor kit that hadn’t been seen since the Griffonian Wars settled on the princess’s powerful frame, and Luna’s mischievous gaze sparkled like the billions of stars that dotted her domain.

Spells ripped from their horns. The bluish arcs shattered the temporary tranquility that had settled over the pitch, for each time the mighty sprays of magical beams collided, cracks and pops echoed off the castle walls.

Princess Luna was the first to annihilate the distance between herself and her target. Her gauntlet-covered forehoof smashed into one of Barrier’s defensive casts with enough force to produce fissure lines in the shield.

A pulse of light shot up the spiral of the captain’s horn. Instantly, the single shield divided into a hexagonal array that diverted Luna’s punch away from the stallion’s body. A buzz roared as the aura around Barrier’s magical appendage shifted to form a jagged pillar of energy, and a dagger-like bolt rocketed towards the royal’s neck.

Luna huffed and met the assault with a shield of her own. The bright purple field curved into an appropriate crescent shape that floated about a hoof’s width away from the alicorn’s coat. There, it efficiently snagged the captain’s attack and afforded enough time for the mare to regain her balance and counter.

Rapid teleports set a cadence of swirling eddies that whooped around the grounds as the fighting wielders tried to gain control by ambushing the other’s rear. Beams continued to miss their marks as constructed shields or raw speed led to patches of grass and dirt getting blown away.

Snares joined the percussive fray once a dance of kicks, blocks, and jabs brought armored plates into grinding contact. Grunts and snorts accompanied the clanging bangs while the pair duked it out through physical blows for about a minute.

Eventually, Barrier and Luna leapt away from one another and landed on the grass with bassy thuds. Their kits rattled along with their heaving chests, and both ponies wore smiles etched by the impromptu entertainment.

“Full throttle right out of the gate, Captain,” Luna chimed. “We’d say you’re ready to train the next executor, but something is missing. We want to see something new—a spark of inspiration that can stoke those to come.”

“Heh,” Barrier snickered, “whatever you say.” A slug of brilliant blue magic jolted from the unicorn and headed directly for Luna’s muzzle. Racing over the field, the spell quickly collided with one of the alicorn’s protective casts. Instead of dissipating or deflecting, however, the shining packet of the captain’s aura clung to the princess’s shield.

Barrier’s gaze narrowed. He homed in on the bolt, concentrating while the color of the sorcery shifted from his lighter blue to that of Luna’s. Gradually, the attack slipped through the defenses, emerging from the interior surface of the shield before it gently tapped against the alicorn’s snoot and evaporated with a quiet pop.

Luna scrunched her muzzle and blinked. Her shield dissolved after she tilted her head, and she silently stared at Barrier while her wings sheepishly flapped. There might have been a question buried in her mind that had struggled to make it to the surface, but if that had been the case, no one would know. The Princess of the Night was thoroughly outmatched by a far more flamboyant group.

“So bucking cool!” Tail and Sincerity shouted in unison from their spots on the sidelines.

The latter had hurled his sparkling gaze upon Luna’s frame. He quivered as his attention darted over the various pieces of armor, and he repeatedly cooed before his brain forged the words. “Princess Luna looks absolutely stunning! Look at how majestic she is! I didn’t even know the princesses did combat!” He briefly snapped his head in Tail’s direction to ask, “Did you know? Look at those colors! Look at the beauty! Like the stars she represents, a galaxy of possibilities.”

Tail started walking out onto the pitch. Her eyes simmered with a fire that joined her knowing smirk. “Are you kidding me?” she squealed in delight. “You frequency shifted at range and exploited a phase lock! What? That is absolutely out of this world! And you didn’t tell me you could do that?” She briefly snapped her head towards Sincy. “He didn’t tell me he could do that!”

Both siblings flailed their forehooves, drawing laughs from Barrier and Luna—though the latter appeared far more flushed.

“I got the idea from you, Blanket,” Barrier admitted after his laughter died down. “You’re the one who taught me the concept. Just hadn’t had the opportunity to put it into practice.”

Still parked by one of the archway’s columns, Trigger hummed and pivoted his muzzle skyward to show off a smug grin. “It’s almost like it was a good idea that someone went to grab a certain physicist so she could see one of the byproducts of her shared expertise. Who could have ever dreamt up that?”

“It ended too soon,” came the unexpected commentary from Bonecrusher, who casually leaned against the stone pillar adjacent to Trigger. The interruption drew the attention of the others, who all peered at the earth pony with various degrees of confusion. “What? I like a good fight,” she continued, flashing a salute to the officers. “I’m also here on official business. Princess Cadance asked me to inform you that Captain Armor will be running a bit behind schedule. He ran into Major Amora, and the two started rambling about Civvy’s nutrition.”

Tail stretched her limbs and resumed her stride towards Barrier. “Well,” she purred, “that sounds a bit fortuitous to me. After seeing that demonstration, the student is feeling motivated by her teacher’s innovation. How about giving me a warm-up, Captain?”

Meanwhile, Sincy’s focus had been stolen by the new arrival. He lifted his aviators onto his forehead and allowed his brown eyes to drift until he had quietly observed Bonecrusher’s guardly figure. “Oh hello,” he uttered in an atypically serene fashion.

Bonecrusher dropped onto all four hooves. She craned her neck, taking a moment to blatantly stare at the interlocking eighth notes stamped onto Sincy’s flank. Seconds later, her pupils shrank, her back arched like that of a cat, and her saddlebag dropped onto the grass. “Holy crap, it is you.”

The popstar rubbed the back of his head with a meandering hoof. “Well, I’d hope I’m still me,” he answered. “What I’m really interested in knowing is who you might be, Ms… ?”

“Bonecrusher,” she replied swiftly, snatching a sleeved 45 vinyl out of her saddlebag with blistering speed. She held the record, a quill, and a small jar of ink out towards Sincy. “Would you sign this for me?”

Happiness claimed Sincerity’s countenance. He put his magic to work and corralled the items in a field of levitation. “Oooh, a Triple-B single,” he remarked upon glancing at the cover. It was dotted in graffiti-style art and depicted black and white images of himself and Barley Blues. “I haven’t seen one of these in a long time. This one was a limited-edition run, I think.”

The mare simply nodded. Her amethyst sights remained affixed upon the stallion’s eyes as he met her gaze with a thoughtful one.

Finally, he inked the quill and dragged it over the sleeve. “To Bonecrusher,” he narrated as he wrote. “A feisty name for a feisty mare. Keep me safe, guardpon. Love, Sync.” The colt’s chocolate aura wrapped around the record a few times before the items floated back into Bonecrusher’s possession. “Extra spell to protect the sleeve. Ink runs are downers.”

Again, Bonecrusher nodded. “Er, thanks. Guess it’s a good thing I ran into Princess Cadance before my shift.”

“Random things are fun. I mean, I think it’s a good thing I got to tag along with my sis today. Got to see amazing ponies in amazing looking armor outfits, yourself included. It’s really pumping me up for the concert tonight. Speaking of that, I hope you’re coming too. Tail and Barrier are going to be there. Mr. Spooky will be there too, and I know the princesses will be in attendance.”

Bonecrusher’s eye twitched while her muzzle flushed. Slowly, her forehoof lifted from the ground and extended towards Tail. “Wait! Are you telling me, out of all the Tails in Equestria, Civvy Tail is your bucking Tail!?”

Sincy momentarily chewed on his cheek. “Well, I wouldn’t say that that Tail is my Tail. I think Barrier has more of a claim in that department now, but she’s my sis—”

“Shit,” the corporal mumbled before Trigger could no longer contain his laughter.

“Might want to watch out, Sync,” the stallion of reverie added. “One could easily say that Tail and Bonecrusher are rivals.”

Author's Note:

Happy Tuesday everyone! Hope folks are doing fine in this final week of April 2021. We are, IMO amazingly, still six months away from the final chapter, but for now more scenes with my favorite new character. If you haven't figured out who Sync & Barley happen to be based on yet, chances are you'll know by the next chapter. Mmm, I do love writing some Sincy.

As always, thank you for your continued readership, comments, time, etc.. and may your next week be even greater (or better if this week wasn't all that great for you). See you next time for Chapter 22 - a chapter which has math. DUN DUN DUN!

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