• Published 10th Dec 2020
  • 3,697 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 3 - Princesses, Pastries, and Poundings

The chill in Luna’s voice caused Proud Valiance’s coat to bristle. On instinct, the purple unicorn retreated a step from the pair of thrones, and an uneasy stillness subsequently swept over the court while the stallion gritted his teeth. His chest swelled through a few deep breaths before he snapped his muzzle and his gaze towards the Princess of the Night. “My actions were more than appropriate and well within my rights, Your Highness.

“Equestria is not a dictatorship. The J.C. Staff exists to ensure that the branches of service have a fair say in driving the defense of the nation they protect. Ms. Tail is your pet project, Princess. I submitted a formal request for her to be discharged for her transgressions, which Captain Barrier incinerated. This was apparently an acceptable response in your eyes. Of course it would be. You should have recused yourself from the case from the start.”

Luna ever-so-slightly pitched her nose higher. Her nostrils flared, and her eyes reflected a fiery light that made her scowl all the more piercing. “First, Captain, it is Colonel Tail, and she is far more than a pet project. Her research has strengthened our defensive capabilities in unfathomable ways—”

“An outsider shouldn’t have been trusted to dictate the course of unfathomable by herself!” Proud interrupted. His limbs visibly shook, and he craned his neck while anger tugged at the muscles upon his forehead.

“And she did nothing but prove herself over and over!” Luna quipped, dragging the focus of both Celestia and Gracious Waters with her words. “What more could you—”

“She did nothing but beat up her squadmate, and her perceived successes are nothing more than contrived fictions written by you.”

“Do not interrupt me again, Captain,” the princess sharply retorted. She inhaled slowly and repositioned her forelegs to stretch her height. “Colonel Tail’s accomplishments were the result of her hard work, initiative, and innovation. It’s not her fault that she is capable of dreaming, which is clearly something that you are incapable of doing on your own.”

Proud grunted in response. “Yes, of course, dreaming explains all of it.” He paused, rolling his eyes as he turned to face Celestia instead. “I’m not incompetent, Your Highness. The summoning of Gracious is a dead giveaway as to what this is, so I’ll just appeal to your sensibilities since you are the one who lived through it. Your sister has given the reins of the most important program in our military’s history to an unqualified mare because she simply believes in the power of dreams. You know where that got us—what it’s like when you’re one bad dream away from a nightmare.”

The lights in the hall were snuffed out by the oppressive weight of Luna’s unloaded magic. Her aura absolutely crashed upon the room, and the demonstration plastered worry upon the grimacing faces of both Gracious and Proud.

Celestia reached for her sister and gently set her regalia-adorned forehoof upon Luna’s shoulder. The dreadful magic vanished the instant the alicorn made contact with her incensed sibling, and a brief serenity settled in while a firmly pressed smile spread across Celestia’s muzzle. “Indeed, Proud, General Waters was summoned here for a reason,” the mare explained with a maternal tone that sent a ripple through Gracious’s coat. “You spoke of rights, and I am exercising mine to dissolve—”

“I resign,” Proud blurted, effectively cutting to the chase. He swiftly pivoted on one of his hind legs and concealed the harsh glare that bore into the exit. The captain trotted from the chamber without sparing a second glance for his superiors. The only thing he left them with before he departed was a whispered sentence that skirted under his breath. “One day, you’ll see…”

The door closed behind Proud, and the latch produced an echoing pop that preceded the sighs that fled Celestia’s and Luna’s slouched frames.

“That stallion is a piece of work,” Celestia spoke, maintaining a maternal cadence while her sights drifted to Gracious Waters. “General, I believe it’s time to nominate a replacement, and while I respect the Equestrian Army’s initiative to place an opinionated member in the Joint Chiefs—”

“Perhaps a douchebag should not be selected this time,” Luna interrupted. Her starry, ethereal mane flickered to accompany the anger that laced her voice. The other features of her visage remained flat and uncompromising—as though the stillness of the night itself had manifested to iron out any sign of grace and joy from her face and posture.

Gracious Waters lifted his forehoof and tapped the side of his muzzle. He took a few seconds to glance at each of the princesses, and short grunts followed his brief observations of their demeanors. “Um, yes, Your Highnesses. Unfortunately, Proud did not live up to my expectations for him in this instance, but I guess that is neither here nor there. The most qualified pony for the job is Trigger.

“Of course, we all know how that would develop. He’d do exactly what he always does when it comes to the prospect of being chained to a permanent bench assignment, or he’d just rant about his bar. His wife, though, would be an equally talented replacement, and Autumn Tea might actually be up for the task.”

Amora’s glare cut through Barrier and Tail like the proverbial hot knife through butter, and both ponies remained frozen under the medic’s scrutiny. The stallion was seated at the small, round oak table-for-four while a certain pegasus, still covered in the captain’s oversized armor, sat at his side and fed him what Amora perceived to be a large, pancake-esque pastry.

The alabaster mare’s eye twitched as her sights drifted across Barrier’s muzzle. “You are eating my cherries,” she muttered darkly before taking a heavy step in the pair’s direction. The red filling was, indeed, dripping from the captain’s mouth.

“But you wouldn’t know that. She”—Amora snapped her snout towards the jumpy Tail—“knows better, however. Don’t get me wrong. Part of me is really proud of you for all this. I have yet another reason to visit Princess Luna and regale her with details, but you took my beloved cherries and I don’t understand why.” She paused, twirled her forehoof a few times, and pointed at Tail. “After all, you have one to pluck right there, Captain.”

“Ams!” Tail chirped. The pegasus struggled to hold the sweet confection to Barrier’s mouth as her fluster manifested in a vibrant blush. “What is wrong with you?”

A grin crawled across Amora’s face as her angered facade fully crumbled. “I got bored wandering around town. This is the price you pay for stealing my cherries—and making pancakes without me! I inject discussions about your sex life in casual conversation with your coltfriend.”

Barrier gulped, swallowing his last bite, and pivoted his head towards Amora. “I’m sure in your addiction-rattled brain that seems appropriate, but we didn’t steal your cherries. In fact”—his horn illuminated and a third plate subsequently hovered in front of the unicorn mare—“I made you dinner.”

Amora’s cobalt eyes glimmered upon examination of the delicacy that floated within her reach. The dish was topped with a puffy pancake that had, thanks to the rice cooker, swelled to be even taller than the thickness of her muzzle. Powdered sugar covered the flaky treat, and the aroma of her cherries lingered.

“You sweet, beautiful angel!” Amora squealed as she all but shoved the dinner into her mouth. “Nnngh! Cherries! Pancake!” She munched and hummed in delight before exclaiming with a volume that the neighbors could probably hear, “Forget what I said! I’m not even mad! Fuck whenever you want. They’re your love lives!”

Left, rear, above… Tail’s thoughts darted about her consciousness, and her body swiftly responded to keep her out of the way of Crusher’s and Indar’s strikes. They were aiming to kick the tar out of her. Though, that was fairly standard fare for the lime mare—whose thunderous right hook Tail had, coincidentally, just avoided.

“You have to counterattack!” Barrier roared from his spot ten paces to Tail’s left. “The deck is stacked against you! Running away all day is not going to get you anywhere!”

Easier said than done. The pegasus jerked her frame to the side, dodging another shield plane that Indar had tried to ram into her face. They were like gnats, swarming with their attacks. Except, unlike gnats, they weren’t small, couldn’t be brushed off, packed a punch, and knew her well.

Each time Tail attempted to move to keep Bonecrusher in Indar’s sightline, the stallion would shift and close the gap between himself and the aggressive earth pony. Instead of gaining a brief window to jab at Crusher without worry, Tail was exposed to the constant frenzy of avoiding both physical and magical blows.

The realization actually drew a smile to the surface, even as Tail craned her neck to avoid a blitzing cast that accompanied Indar’s snipe attempt. They’ve grown just as much as you. In the weeks leading up to Tail’s B.C.T. examination, all three of them had been pushed, and the pegasus could now see the benefits of this first-hoof. Her squadmates were thinking on the fly. They had adapted to her techniques. They had excelled, and she would have to get better.

Tail ducked beneath a vicious swing from Bonecrusher. Her forelegs spread wide, digging into the pitch and tearing up the turf, and her barrel brushed against the blades of grass that reached to kiss her armor’s golden sky. The pegasus hurled her wings and spun beneath the looming Bonecrusher. Tail corkscrewed, and her hind leg rocketed out of the snapping shot right into Crusher’s muzzle.

Or so she thought. Her hoof had encountered something that felt remarkably sticky. It gripped her limb, drained the momentum from her lunge, and encouraged a wide-eyed stare the instant it clicked that the magic was decidedly not Barrier’s.

That warming embrace quickly arrived in the second that followed. “Time!” the captain wailed, freezing the trio in their tracks with a bluish glow that rippled over their coats like the surface of a rain-perturbed pond. The captain pulled his flask to his lips after the lid’s popping clink betrayed its opened state and drew the brunt of Tail’s gaze.

Barrier’s coat bristled moments after he gulped down more than the normal stallion’s share. He brushed his face with his armored pastern, and in the seconds that followed, his stare appeared to harden at the behest of his brow’s tightening muscles. “Colonel!” His gruff D.I. tone was unmistakable. “In this case, a delay is defeat. It took you way too long to strike back.

“Bonecrusher, some of your strikes are still too wild, but you and Indar paired well.” He glanced at the other stallion. “And speaking of you, congratulations for pulling off that spell, but I can tell that you’re at your limit.”

“Yes, sir,” Indar replied in an atypically raspy voice.

Tail’s ears flicked to the exhausted sounds, and she grimaced as hindsight poured its cocky edge upon her internal analysis. “Crusher kept me too busy,” she whispered before quickly pushing the lesson to the realm of next time. The scientist within her didn’t need to dwell on something that could be saved for another day. She had learned that one the hard way once before—when the burdens of doubt and failure weighed too heavily upon her mind.

An amber glow ensnared Tail’s iris as her active curiosity picked at the magic that still clung to her hind leg. This was something new to Indar’s repertoire, and the fact that her colleague had developed that while she was away made her heart race with excitement.

“Hey!” Barrier blurted, dragging the pegasus right out of the tufts of mental reverie and back to concrete reality. “I know that look. Save it. They still need to finish this course, and I’m not satisfied.” The unicorn straightened his posture, puffing out his chest while he maintained that commanding scowl. “Bonecrusher! Indar! You let this intruder run circles around you. And Colonel, I’m not going to say you bucked up by getting caught, but I know you can do better.

“In fact, you can all do better, but apparently, you collectively decided to forget. I guess that means I have three rookies in my midst all over again. Such a shame that we have to get back to the basics. Laps! Now! Run until you start wondering if this field is in the center of Tartarus!”

Author's Note:

Another Thursday, another chapter! I'm pretty sure this is the shortest one in the entire stack. 3 down, 44 to go! Squees and deaths were down in this installment, but my goodness, did Fate f-yeah a lot. Hope you're all continuing to enjoy the story, and if you're celebrating holidays, may they be awesome. We'll see you all on New Year's Eve for Chapter 4 - Chessboard of Love. Hmm, I wonder what character could make an appearance in that...

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