• Published 28th Dec 2011
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ARTICLE 2 - Muppetz



An alien crash lands in Equestria. It calls itself human.

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ARTICLE 2 Part XIV

ARTICLE 2

Part XIV

~~~~~

“You understand the severity of your actions, do you not, Commander?” Celestia asked neutrally.

“I do,” he answered without pause. No trace of regret in his voice.

“Did my sister not make it perfectly clear that the human was not to be taken through the residential wing of the castle?” her voice picked up an almost imperceptible bite.

“She did, highness.”

“And yet despite this you willingly and knowingly transported the human who is, I might add, still possibly the most closely guarded secret in Equestrian history, through an area known largely for heavy civilian traffic.”

“Yes, your highness,” he admitted after a brief pause.

Her horn glowed and a stack of yellow files dropped on the desk. “Five reports of a strange creature sighted along with a company of guards. Five! Those only the ones that actually bothered to file a report. Who knows how many actually saw you.” Celestia had an amazing way of sounding angry without ever raising her voice. She sighed and closed her eyes contemplatively, much like one would who was about to plunge themselves into something unsavory. “Commander, you have devotedly and honorably fulfilled the duties of your station for nearly twenty years. I can say without flattery or embellishment that your service has been one of the most valuable assets to my rule in living memory.” Aegis sat silently, the praise causing him more discomfort than the reprimand. Celestia continued anyway. “It is because of these reasons I am giving you this chance to explain yourself to me now privately. For what reason did you consider this an acceptable action, commander?”

Aegis stiffened himself. This wasn’t the first time he’d been chewed out in his long career, although this may be the last. He was ready for it. He chose to act. He would live with the consequences without regret. “It was the right thing to do, Princess,” he stated simply but resolutely. “The human had a right to commend his brethren to the ashes. To deny a warrior, regardless of race or species, the right to attend their dead is an insult I refuse to give.” Aegis squared his jaw at the snow white alicorn across from him.

Celestia stared back, unmoving. “You gambled the entirety of our efforts on a courtesy,” Celestia stated coldly.

“It was the right thing to do, highness,” he repeated.

Celestia sighed as she stared out the window at the night sky. “Yes, Commander. It was the right thing to do,” she said quietly before turning back to the stallion across the desk. “But it was not smart thing to do.”

“Then I am simply to ignore my conscience the moment it becomes inconvenient?” Aegis retorted somewhat icily.

“No, Commander I am not being patronizing when I say you did do the right thing. I merely wish you hadn’t.” Celestia exhaled. “Your heart is in the right place. Unfortunately our current predicament does not look favorably upon sentiment. Regardless of how well placed it may be. I have no doubt your actions earned our species incalculable brownie points with the human, and as valuable as that is, you need to understand it will all be for naught if we lose control of our public policy.” Celestia paused. “But I digress.” Her voice became softer and yet somehow noticeably colder. “I think you know I wouldn’t bother wasting both our precious time on a simple tongue lashing.” Aegis’ face turned to stone. “I need you to know if you are capable of playing this game, Commander. Because if you are not …I will find somepony who can.”

Aegis stared back into the princess’ usually warm rosy eyes. The glittering pink irises showed no sign of exaggeration. “Forgive my ...impertinence, Princess, but I can’t help but feel like you already have.”

Celestia leaned back, her idle silence more incriminating than any denial ever could be. Aegis resisted the urge to grin at his success in reading the immortal alicorn’s ministrations so readily. “Perceptive as always,” she mumbled almost sourly. “I’m not going to be as frank as possible, Aegis. Your assumptions are not incorrect. But I did not summon you here to merely save face before I strike you from the board. It may relieve you to know that it is not your job I am after. Quite the opposite.”

Aegis ground his teeth, thoroughly tired of the alicorn dancing around the conversation. “Enough games, princess. You’ve made your point. Either fire me or let me get back to work. I don’t have time for the theatrics.”

Celestia suppressed a ghost of a grin, at the stallion’s outburst. Any doubt she harbored was now gone from her mind. “You shall retain your post, Commander. I would never ask you to abandon your honor. If morals were so easily altered they would cease to be morals. It is one of the many reasons that have kept you in your position for so long. I merely needed to ensure that you were still that stallion.”

The older stallion blinked confused. His face still bore an uncertain hostility.

“It has become apparent to me, however, that perhaps I have laid too broad a task upon your shoulders.” Celestia’s long alabaster horn lit with golden magic and a small but ornate looking book appeared out of thin air. She began skimming pages as she continued to speak. “While I have no doubt in your abilities, this is hardly the type of job you are accustomed to. And I can not help but feel that when confronted by rather convoluted situations like this one you may have some difficulty making informed decisions when you have only vague orders from my sister and I, and your own sense of duty to rely on.”

Celestia paused and lifted her eyes over her small book as if expecting a response. “I suppose I can not disagree. I feel no shame in admitting that such situations are beyond my usual scope of experience.” Aegis admitted.

“I thought as such,” she returned to skimming her book, her magical influence seeking the desired page. “And so, I have formulated a possible solution.” She smiled to herself. Aegis sat and waited. Celestia had a tendency for theatricality even in conversation. Aegis just wished she would come out with it already. “I am appointing you an advisor. An assistant if you will.”

The stallion repressed a frown. “Somepony to keep me in check?”

“Somepony to ease your burden,” she euphemized. “I think an extra set of hooves will do you well. Two pairs of eyes can never see the same sunrise exactly the same way,” she mused sagely. “You acted as best you could with what limited information you had. Yet despite that it could have easily derailed weeks of careful planning.” She had finally stopped skimming pages, placing a small dog ear on one page.

“I feel like this decision has already been made,” Aegis said neutrally.

“The summons went out a few hours ago.” Celestia said finally.

“Who?” Aegis said, not exactly happily.

“Well I couldn’t pull an officer with sufficient rank from the military without drawing unnecessary attention. I also feel it may convey the wrong message.” She smiled clearly pleased with herself. “We are expanding, Commander, but to do that we will need to bring more hooves into the loop than we currently have. So I have decided to, as they say, kill two birds with one stone.” She deftly pushed the small ornate book across the desk to where the stallion sat. He made no move to open it, but she continued regardless. “I think you’ll come to appreciate the selection.” The princess got up as if to leave. She arranged her wings and gracefully began to walk toward the door. “He was one of your old cadets if memory serves.”

The princess opened the large door that led to her office, leaving Aegis alone with the book. The older stallion deftly flipped to the dog-eared page. It was a service record complete with a name and photograph.

“Huh,” he almost laughed. This was a face he hadn’t seen in awhile.


~~~~~

Thump… Thump... Thump… Thump …Thump

He had been at it for almost an hour straight. The human lay sprawled on the ground inside his cell, every few seconds pounding on the large steel door with the heel of his boot. Celestia deposited him here while she took care of some business with the Commander. More importantly, she had locked him in here while she took care of some business with the commander. The human was making his displeasure with being, once again, locked up incontestably evident by irritating his guards to no foreseeable end.

Word on the street was he had snuck out late last evening and made somewhat of a public appearance by the royal apartments. Just a rumor of course but still... it would make sense of the princess’ actions… and by extension, human’s newfound hobby.

The two guards resisted the urge to plug their ears with cotton or open the door and ask him to stop. It was probably exactly what he wanted anyway. Regardless, their salvation came in the form of a young purple unicorn.

The pounding stopped as the mechanical gears sounded with sonorous clicks as the machined pieces tumbled into place.

Twilight waited patiently for the door to open fully. Shane was on his back, cleaning his fingernails with a long black knife. Leg cocked in the air in mid kick. He perked up to look at the visitor. He smiled when he saw it was Twilight. A gesture she did not feel inclined to return.

“Thirty minutes,” she said tiredly. “I leave you alone for thirty minutes maybe an hour… and you run off, parading around the castle in broad daylight.”

Shane’s smile only widened, revealing a few teeth before it faded. “First of all it was not broad daylight. It was dark and stormy, and I had to take care of something,” he said quietly returning to his grooming.

Twilight huffed, letting her neck and shoulders sag. “I know.” She righted herself brushing an errant strand of lavender hair from her eyes. “The Princess told me,” was her answer to the human’s raised eyebrow.

“Ah,” Shane said in mock surprise. “Well then,” he pulled up his legs rolling backwards until he was on his legs again, coming to a stand, reminding Twilight somewhat of an excitable foal that just learned to successfully somersault.

Shane slid the combat knife back into the molded plastic sheath on the back of his belt. “I guess that’s why you’re here.” He stretched his arms behind his back. “What else did she tell you?”

“Nothing really,” Twilight answered. “She just asked me to come keep stay with you until she gets back from meeting with Aegis.” Shane paused for a moment after that, scratching the back of his head somewhat guiltily.

Twilight decided to cut off the silence before it could take root. “Where’d you get the knife?” She asked eyeing the newest addition to his person.

“One of the many goodies in my bag of tricks. I can’t leave home without it,” he plucked it from his belt and flipped it to offer the weapon to the unicorn, handle first.

Twilight plucked the weapon from his hand with a spell. Purple magic wrapped around the synthetic rubberized handle and drifted closer to her eyes. It was a long black partially serrated blade, ending with a short black cross guard, complete with a metal loop which must have served a separate purpose. The matte black finish was worn in places exposing the silver metal underneath. It was well-loved to be sure. There was even a small chip in the blade right above the serrations. But the double edged clip point was needle sharp, and the blade was like a razor. ‘COMBAT U.S.M.C’ was stamped in the base of one side. ‘ONTARIO KNIFE CO.’ was stamped on the other.

Shane watched Twilight expectantly. Twilight wasn’t sure what to say about the knife. “It’s …very nice?”

It must have been enough because Shane smiled happily accepting the knife back from Twilight. “Hang on,” he said sheathing the blade and digging through his bag.

After a few moments of noisy searching, he brought back a long bundle wrapped in an old cloth like a mummy from a storybook. He unwrapped it slowly revealing another blade. It was smaller than the other, but it was much more ornate. It rested in an old black leather sheath, decorated with intricate scrollwork in the shape of a large majestically posed stag. The handle was polished ebony with silver accents and a molded silver pommel.

Shane held it firmly but reverently. Twilight couldn’t help but feel like he was showing her something significant. “This,” he started, “belonged to my great granddaddy.” Shane unclasped the leather strap holding the blade in place, pulling the knife from its home and exposing the silver blade. “Almost a hundred years old. My dad gave it to me before I went on my first deployment.”

He offered Twilight the hunting knife and she gingerly accepted it. Even she had to admit it was impressive. Intricate and sleek, unlike the efficient and utilitarian combat knife, this one was the result of an artisan. The knife had two sets of engravings. “Hallowed Ground” was in the center in a script that looked oddly similar to Old Equish. SOLINGEN, GERMANY was at the base, stamped in block letters.

“Solingen, Germany?” Twilight repeated out loud.

“The City of Blades,” Shane smiled.

“It’s beautiful,” she admitted. She was telling the truth. It was truly the work of a master craftsman. But Twilight’s mind was too occupied with the insight into the reclusive human’s personal life to genuinely appreciate it. “He’s mentioned his father before. Maybe that’s all the family he has.” She wondered passing the hunting knife back to the human who gingerly wrapped it and put it away.

“It’s kinda funny if you think about it,” he mused. “For all our wondrous inventions over countless centuries… we still haven’t replaced the sharp piece of metal.”

“Well speaking of innovation… have you written anything in that notebook I gave you yet?”

“Hmm?” Shane started, as if remembering the unicorn was talking to him. “Oh. That. No. Not really.” Twilight’s eyes lost a bit of their hopefulness. “I tried,” he offered upon seeing her deflate. “I sat down to do it and just couldn’t think of where to begin. There’s so much to explain, I could fill a hundred notebooks and not put a scratch on the tip of the iceberg.”

“That’s okay. I wasn’t hoping for a comprehensive encyclopedia,” she laughed softly. “If anything, just picking an aspect at random and starting to write can help make the rest come a little easier. Think of the notebook as just a medium to get your thoughts out so you can organize them later.” Shane sat back on his too-small cot and ran his fingers through his hair. Twilight made a small circle before resting on the floor of the padded cell, crossing her forelegs. “It was a trick Princess Celestia taught me when I was just a filly.”

Shane cocked his head as he examined the small purple unicorn. “You look up to her don’t you?” It was really more of a statement than a question but Twilight answered anyway.

“Of course I do.”

Shane merely rested his elbows on his knees, as he leaned toward the lavender pony. “Why?”

Twilight blinked. It was a terribly simple question. One of the ones that’s seems so obvious and yet you find yourself bumbling for an answer. Why did she look up to Celestia? “She’s the Princess. Co-ruler of Equestria. And she’s been my mentor ever since I was little.”

“You’re not answering my question.”

Twilight frowned, still trying to find the appropriate descriptive words. “Why are you asking?”

“That’s irrelevant.”

“I disagree,” Twilight objected.

After a very brief silence he sighed. “I’ve seen the way you all look at her. It’s this disturbingly genuine cross between love and horror. I just want to know why all of you have so much blind faith in her?”

It suddenly clicked in Twilight’s mind. He was digging for information. He didn’t care if Twilight believed in Celestia, he was after a reason why HE should. It was easy to forget but the human had only been conscious a matter of days. He was still trying to piece all the players together in his head.

“She’s kind, intelligent, ancient, powerful, fair, and beloved by her subjects. But above it all? I think I look up to her because she was wise in ways nopony else was. It seemed like she always had the answers.”

Shane smiled. “Wise,” he annunciated. The human grinned as if it were an unspoken joke.

“What’s so funny?”

Shane just kept smiling. “Don’t envy the wise.” He shook his head. “Pity them.” He pulled a pack of cigarettes from his pocket and packed them against his palm. “It’s just a word that means you had a very hard life.”

“I do hope the wondrous irony of what you just said isn’t lost on you, Major,” Princess Celestia said from the open doorway.

“I really wish it was,” he mumbled as he lit a cigarette.

“Princess!” Twilight jumped in surprise. “How…How long have you been there?”

“Oh long enough to hear you call me ‘ancient’.” Celestia teased the abashed young unicorn as she plucked the smoldering cigarette from Shane’s mouth and crushing out the burning tip in a cloud of magic.

“I didn’t… I didn’t mean it like…” Twilight fumbled.

“Oh relax, Twilight. I’m only teasing. And flattered though I may be, if I did have all the answers we wouldn’t be in this mess to begin with.” She winked at her pupil, as she passed the now lifeless cigarette to Shane.

He plucked it from the magical cloud dejectedly. He sighed and let it fall onto the floor. “To what do I owe the pleasure, princess.”

“I figured you’d enjoy some time out of your cell.”

“Aren’t you the one that locked me in here not two hours ago? I thought I was being punished,” he grinned.

“Not exactly. While I am in no way ignoring your role in that little adventure I am aware that it was done with no nefarious intent and therefore I am able to overlook much of the blame. Although rest assured, Major, I am enacting several… revisions in protocol to ensure such negligence’s in judgment do not occur in the future.”

“Joy,” he said, flatly.

“Well we’re on your time now, Major,” The alicorn said, changing the subject. “Is there anything you want to do?”

“A bar is probably out of the question?”

“That’s putting it lightly,” she smiled.

“You never did give me that tour.”

“I do believe you’re right,” Celestia smiled. “The rain has finally let up. I think that’s an excellent idea.”

Shane actually brightened considerably. He rolled to his feet, nudging the lavender unicorn with his boot, encouraging her to do the same. “Come on, Sparky. We’re going for a walk.”

Twilight muttered distastefully as she rose to her hooves. It was not the first time somepony had bestowed the nickname upon her. Needless to say she was not overly fond of the title.

Shane plucked his shotgun from his cot in favor on the other weapons. Slinging it after slipping on the armored vest, the small screen in the shoulder plate read several green numbers as it registered the new occupant.

“Must you?” Twilight nodded at the large weapon.

Shane pretended to think. “Yes,” he concluded.

Celestia merely rolled her eyes before beckoning with a shrug of her wing.

~~~~~

“How do I know this isn’t fake?” the burly brown earth pony said from behind the magnifying glass.

Snapshot grinned as he slammed a folder of documents on the desk. He was clearly prepared for the accusation. “I had it confirmed by two independent film studios. It’s real. I took it to a zoologist, a veterinarian, and the office of foreign affairs,” he tapped the picture, “and THAT THING doesn’t exist.”

“So what does that mean to me?” The gruff stallion sat back, failing to keep the interest out of his voice.

“It means,” Snapshot sat back as well, “that as far as the government is concerned. This two-legged-wonder doesn’t exist.” Snap leaned forward. “So why are the Princesses waltzing around in the dark of the night with an unregistered monster of a creature? If it’s merely a newly discovered society why wouldn’t they alert the office of foreign affairs?” The gruff stallion maintained his impassive visage. “They’re keeping it secret.”

“Why?” The stallion asked finally.

“Speculation, my friend, is your job. I’m not concerned with ‘why’. What matters is this alarming and rather incriminating picture. A picture that could be your next front page story. The why, I shall leave to you.”

The gruff pony grinned. This kid was saying all the right things. “So the why isn’t your concern. Then what is?”

Smiling, the stallion reached across the desk bringing the photograph and slipping it back into a yellow folder. “The price.”

~~~~~


Celestia gracefully rose to the top of the winding staircase. Trotting into the observatory she turned expectantly awaiting the rest of her party. Twilight popped into the chamber close behind Celestia. The young mare trotted happily into the chamber eager to share the room with her new human friend.

After several moments of awkward waiting an arm finally breached the hole in the floor, grasping at the floor and dragging the attached body up over the precipice. Shane climbed above the top stair, heaving breath and beads of sweat covering his brow. Shane righted himself taking breathes in deep gasps. “…fuck… stairs,” he breathed tiredly. “Remind me to …teach you the magic of elevators.”

“Oh it wasn’t that many,” Celestia teased, making light of the near sixty some odd flights of steps.

“You have more legs than me,” Shane pointed, wiping the sweat from his brow and stretching his massive frame.

“And I’m sure all those cigarettes have nothing to do with it,” she nagged.

“I don’t need your sass, woman,” Shane warned tiredly.

“You gonna be alright?” Twilight chuckled.

“Oh sure,” Shane answered with a pained grin. “This can be my punishment for not hitting the gym lately.”

Celestia made a mental note of the comment. Some exercise wouldn’t be too bad an idea for the human’s free time. It would let him get some much needed activity and also hopefully burn some of his excess energy …Before he found some other way to entertain himself, she frowned assuming whatever it would be would make her life difficult.

Shane finally caught his breath, taking the opportunity to observe the room in earnest.

The room was dark, but the glowing half moon shone through a rectangular slit along the diameter of the dome roof. The entire structure was capable of rotating. You wouldn’t know it by looking though. The massive bearings were concealed by a large band of gold running along the baseboard of the chamber. The interior of the globular room was painted black, to imitate the night sky.

But most impressive of all were the enchanted glittering dots on the inside of the roof. They each glowed like small silver suns, made to perfectly mimic the complex of stars in the night sky. It was a poor substitute for the real thing, but it made the tasks of locating constellations a bit less tedious.

The human whistled quietly as he beheld the room’s main ornament. A positively massive telescope dominated the room, making everything else seem rather small and delicate by comparison.

“What do you think?” Twilight asked from the center of the room. She swept her hoof in an inviting gesture.

Shane walked forward slowly examining the large ocular device. “I think ya’ll got a big ass telescope,” he said eloquently.

“We do indeed,” Celestia said proudly, ignoring the language. “Although Luna should really be the one to give this part of the tour. I’m sure once she hears I brought you here she’ll insist on bringing you back so you can view her constellations properly.”

“Well then do me a favor,” Shane started prodding the telescope’s eyepiece curiously, “and let’s not tell her I was here.” He peeked through the lense. Shane pulled back with an amused grin. “Heh, I’ve actually never been in an observatory,” he commented idly.

“You have them though, do you not?” Celestia asked.

“Yeah, I just never been to one. I always liked the pictures though.” he absentmindedly chatted as he looked through the eyepiece. “I used to have an app that sent pictures to my phone from the all the satellite telescope doo-dads.”

“Satellite telescopes?” Twilight asked confusing lacing her voice.

“Yeah,” Shane pulled away from the eyepiece looking at the confused unicorn. “They got couple big powerful telescopes and shot em’ into space. Now they go around taking pictures of stuff.”

“Who’s they?”

Shane shrugged, “I dunno…. buncha smart NASA people?”

“What’s NASA?” the unicorn pressed, eyes alight.

“The National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Basically the people who are in charge of launching stuff into space… like telescopes.”

Twilight was entranced by the concept. “That’s amazing! How do they send the pictures back to the surface?”

Shane thought for a second. “…Science.”

Twilight eyed him flatly. “You don’t know, do you?”

“I do not,” he confirmed.

Twilight sighed dejectedly. “That’s disappointing.”

Shane saw the unicorn deflate. His face screwing up mock offense. “Oh I know. You wish you coulda’ got saddled with someone a bit more …scholarly.” He smiled somewhat sadly. “And here I thought you liked me for me.”

“No! I didn’t mean it like that,” Twilight assured, worried she had given the wrong impression. “I mean that’s not to say I wouldn’t like more information, it’s just that… I mean. I know it’s not your fault. I didn’t mean to-” Twilight yelped as the human stooped down and wrapped an arm around her neck, locking her head in place while he mussed up her mane with his knuckles. Much like her brother would do when they were foals.

“You need to relax, kid. I’m only messing with you. I’m not that easy to offend,” he laughed as the little unicorn attempted to break free of the human’s hold.

Celestia chuckled at the two. “I don’t know about that, Major. You’re awfully angry for someone who isn’t that easy to offend.”

Shane unceremoniously dropped the unicorn from his affectionate noogy-ing, leaving her a disheveled mess on the floor. “No no no. I’m not easy to offend. I am, however, very easy to piss off.” He corrected. “They’re different. Ya’ll piss me off about six ways from Sunday but I’m not offended.” He explained as Twilight brushed herself off. “Trust me. You’ll know when I’m offended.”

Celestia smiled, tilting her head. “Is that a threat, Major?”

“Do you want it to be?” he cocked his head in return.

“Answers never come easily from you do they?” Celestia sighed.

“You don’t ask the right questions.”

“Case and point,” Celestia concluded.

“So what do you people do for fun around here?” he asked ignoring Celestia’s comment. “I assume you all had lives before I got here. Yeah?”

“I like to read,” Twilight offered simply.

“Stop the presses,” Shane teased. “I mean fun. Not casual hobbies.”

“Reading is fun.” Twilight mumbled under her breath.

“So how about it, Sunshine?” He asked the solar alicorn.

Celestia sighed. “Oh I’m afraid I don’t get out as often as I used to. I never really had time for hobbies while Luna was gone, but I assure you the castle is equipped to satiate almost any desire you possibly dream up.”

“I don’t know about that, Princess. I got a lotta vices,” Shane smiled.

“Oh I have no doubt. I wouldn’t worry about it overly much though, Major. I’m afraid over the next few weeks we’re going to be very busy. I’m sure we’ll have no shortage of things to keep you occupied.”

The human chuckled, unfolding his arms and pushing away from the massive telescope. “You’re really gonna sit there and tell me that there isn’t a single thing you do for fun.”

“I find happiness in many things,” Celestia remanded. “I enjoy short flights before sunset, walking in my rose garden, a cup of tea-”

“Not your internet dating profile, Princess. This isn’t a press conference. You can actually be honest.” He interrupted. “Come on. FUN! What does a princess do when she decides to cut loose?” The human bobbed up and down, grinning encouragingly.

Celestia took a breath. “Sometimes I tell my advisors I have an important meeting and take an afternoon off and I sit in a bubble bath with a glass of wine and carton of ice cream,” She admitted blushing slightly. She omitted the fact that such evenings were occasionally accompanied by trashy novels. Even princesses are allowed a guilty pleasure.

The human immediately burst into a fit of delighted laughter. “There you go!” He beamed. “So there IS someone somewhere under the crown! Good shit! We’re makin’ some progress.”

Celestia couldn’t suppress her own grin. She almost never got the chance to have such casual conversations. Most everyone she knew treated her as their ruler and princess. The human on the other hand didn’t seem to care in the slightest for any of her titles or estates. Most ponies had a preconception of the princess that shaped their behavior toward her. While Shane didn’t have any prior experiences of anypony in Equestria at all. He disliked everypony equally, and Celestia found that paradoxically beautiful. She found herself oddly eager to see what future conversations could bring.

The collective laughter subsided. Twilight found herself wiping tears from her eyes. She was probably one of the few ponies alive that could boast a closeness to the Princess. Celestia had practically raised her during her fillyhood tutelage. And yet even she had never heard the alicorn admit any such vices. It was easy to forget that the Princess was in fact still a pony under all the prestige.

“Ooh I know where to go next,” Celestia chimed. “I think you’ll appreciate this next stop, Major. Long ago it was one of my favorite places in the castle.”

The human shrugged his armor into a more comfortable position, sticking a thumb into the strap of his slung shotgun and gesturing with his free hand.

“Lead the way.”


~~~~~

The nocturnal alicorn princess stamped angrily though the lower halls of the dark castle, she had a bone to pick with a certain trans-dimensional biped. It didn’t take long to follow the breadcrumbs of Celestia and the human, leading her to a large underground chamber.

The hall was roughly carved out of one of the old caverns that spider webbed the mountain beneath the city. A massive basin was cut into the floor of the chamber and lined with dark green marble. The basin was filled with water, creating a pool almost the size of a hoofball field. The soft roar of a small artificial waterfall on the far side made the cavern feel almost natural. A few centuries ago it was a bathhouse. Although such social practices had long since been abandoned, the facility still appeared to be well maintained.

Luna spotted her sister easily enough. Even in the dimly lit chamber the sunny white alicorn wasn’t exactly easy to overlook. Celestia sat next to Twilight by the edge of the large basin. Her sister was without her golden slippers as she contentedly dipping her hooves in the warm water, a relaxed smile on her face.

Twilight sat dutifully next to the alicorn although she didn’t seem as eager to get wet, satisfied instead to sit and chat with her mentor while scribbling in a little black notebook.

What Luna didn’t see was any trace of certain humans that may or may not have some explaining to do about the state of her royal bathroom wall.

She didn’t have to wait long. A head soon breached the water ever so briefly before dipping back down under the surface. This time Luna’s eyes followed the human shaped shadow under the dark water. It seems Celestia found an exercise the human could enjoy that was in a secluded place. Luna had to admire the idea, she had forgotten this room was even still here. And admittedly she just assumed the human couldn’t or didn’t like to swim. Ponykind wasn’t exactly known for their stellar aquatic abilities. It was more of a recreation involving parasols and floating rafts rather than a proper form of exercise. She had not thought to even ask the human if it held any interest.

She remembered she was supposed to be angry and quickly furrowed her brow to reflect the emotion as she stomped closer to the edge of the marble basin, waiting for the human to resurface.

“Major!” Luna echoed through the large chamber, only a few decibels shy of the Royal Canterlot Voice. The human turned to see the Lunar princess, raising an eyebrow but keeping most of his head under the waterline. “Wouldst thou like to explain who exactly is ‘Wagner’ and WHY you felt it necessary to display his explicit sexual preferences in permanent ink on our bathroom wall?”

The human immediately cracked an enormous grin and started chuckling. “Ah, That…” He began slowly making his way toward the edge by which Luna stood speaking as he lazily swam. “…is an ancient and important tradition of my people. It falls to all Marines to inscribe the sacred message on all bathrooms, restrooms, water closets, loo’s, and porta-johns, that they cross. So that all that will know…that Wanger lov-”

“THANK YOU, Major. I read it,” she interrupted, “You need not repeat it,” she assured. The human just chuckled one more time before pushing backwards, floating on his back before he twisted, righting himself, and disappeared below the dark water. The occasional underwater crystals provided just enough lighting to watch the figure snake under the water towards the deeper end of the marble basin.

Luna watched as she made her way toward Celestia and Twilight. The human was a surprisingly good swimmer from what she could tell. He passed one of the underwater lights as he went through the water. Luna finally realized his only clothing was a pair of green shorts.

“What happened to his clothes?” Luna asked her sister, somewhat alarmed. Last time she caught the human nude he threw a bit of a fit …and a boot.

“He took them off,” Celestia answered plainly. “And ‘Hello’ to you too,” Celestia added.

“What? When? In front of you?” Luna questioned, ignoring her last comment and earning a confused look from the elder alicorn.

“Yes. I was just showing him around, but he got rather excited when he saw the pool, I told him he was welcome to it, and next thing I know he was already in the water. He’s rather quick when he wants to be,” She mused, apparently just as confused by the situation as Luna. Celestia nodded toward a pile of digital clothing resting in an alcove on the wall. The armored vest propped against the wall next to his boots, where even more surprisingly he had relinquished his pistol and shotgun.

Luna huffed, annoyed at this duplicitous human standard for clothing etiquette but decided to save the issue for later nitpicking.

Twilight watched, diligently taking notes about how the creature maneuvered in the water. He appeared quite happy there. The revelation surprised the young unicorn. She had just assumed the creature was happiest on solid ground, like the majority of ponies. Not that ponies couldn’t swim. Many could, in fact. But it wasn’t exactly a graceful activity. Most were content to merely wade in the shallows. He however looked perfectly at home, even in the deeper end.

His head resurfaced by the edge where Celestia was dipping her hooves. He folded his arms on the edge and rested his chin, closing his eyes, content to float and enjoy the warm water. “I missed this,” he sighed not bothering to open his eyes.

“What’s that?” Celestia asked swirling her own hooves in the pool.

“Swimming,” he murmured, “just… doing something normal again.” He rolled his shoulders. “Feels good.”

“I’m glad you’re enjoying it,” Celestia said honestly.

“So can all humans swim?” Twilight asked eagerly, quill and paper at the ready.

“Most, yeah. Some even do it competitively. Races and diving an’ such,” he told her, his eyes still closed.

“Who taught you to swim?”

He thought for a moment. “I don’t really remember…” he murmured, “I just kinda… do it,”

“Your pretty good at it,” Twilight complimented.

“Marines are amphibious,” he smiled.

“You’re a mammal, actually,” Twilight corrected, “It’s a clade of endothermic amniotes, distinguishable from the other amniotes, birds, and reptiles by their neocortex, mammary glands, four-chambered heart, and-” Twilight yelped as she felt a hand wrap around her hoof, only having enough time to let out a distressed cry before being pulled into the water by the grinning human, effectively silencing her lecture prematurely.

With a splash and a great commotion Twilight clambered back out of the pool, now soaking wet and glaring furiously at the perpetrating human, whose boisterous chuckling was only increasing her irritation.

Her horn flared to life and as she held the human’s head under the surface for several vengeful seconds, enjoying the bubbles and surprised limb flailing much more than she should have.

He finally pushed against the wall of the pool with his feet, escaping the unicorn’s magical aura. He resurfaced a few yards away safely away from the cloud of drowning purple magic, still chuckling indignantly.

Twilight huffed, trotting away from the edge and grabbing towel off a nearby stack as she began drying herself.

The human merely floated on his back, swishing his arms through the water and propelling himself in no particular direction.

“So explain to me how it’s alright for you remove your clothing in front of Celestia and Twilight but find it necessary to throw a tantrum when it’s in front of me,” Luna complained, eager to flaunt the chip on her shoulder.

Shane grinned, opening one eye to inspect the irritated night princess. “Why are you jealous?”

“No but I’m a bit peeved that I’m the only one that gets large objects hurled at her head.”

“I was in the shower,” he said as if that were sufficient explanation.

“And now you are in a pool. I fail to see the significant distinction.”

He stopped floating planting his feet on the bottom. He was still close enough to the shallow end that the water only reached about his chest. “Yeah, but…it’s different.” He sounded genuinely confused that the alicorn did not understand the distinction.

“I don’t see how,” Luna continued to complain.

“Fine. Bring me a boot and I’ll chuck it at your sister if that will make you feel better.” He gestured with his hands toward the pile of clothes.

“What!?” Celestia cried, “What did I do?”

“Such a victory, though amusing, would not alleviate the heart of the issue,” Luna answered.

Shane just massaged his temples. “Look just memorize this rule and you’ll get along just fine. Try and stay with me here because it gets a little complicated… ‘Bathroom - Private… Pool – Public.’ You trackin?”

“Yes, and there is no need to be patronizing. It is not our fault your species has an infuriatingly convoluted set of situationally dependant social taboos,” Luna huffed.

“Well luckily for you I’m probably the first and last human you’re ever going to encounter. So in the grand scheme any insult you give will be fairly short lived.” He resumed his aimless floating. “Just knock from now on. That’ll solve just about every potential problem.”

Luna just rolled her eyes, but Celestia hid a small snicker behind one of her hooves. “Well I suppose that’s settled. Come along, Major. Let us get something to eat. You’re going to need your energy for tomorrow.”

“What happens tomorrow?” He asked slowly correcting his directionless course to drift toward the alicorns.

“I’ve arranged for a few specialists to come assist in analyzing you. We need to know as much as we can about you before we can make any sort of public announcement concerning your arrival,” Luna explained.

“You’re still going through with that huh?” Shane asked pulling himself out of the water.

“What do you think we should do?” Luna asked incredulously.

“Lie,” he said plainly, “Like a normal politician. Blame swamp gas or weather balloons, or another one of those generic cover-up nonsense stories.” He walked back toward his clothes. Twilight winced as she saw the skin on above his hip peppered with small scars.

“I’m afraid our government is just a bit more transparent than yours,” Celestia informed the human as she telekinetically plopped a towel over his dripping head.

He merely shrugged before scrubbing himself dry with the towel. “It’s your throne,” he sighed nonchalantly.

“Beside the point, there is someone new your meeting, tomorrow,” Celestia warned, “And I need you to make a good impression. They have become quite an influential figure.”

“Great,” he panned, slowly getting dressed.

“Who is it, princess?” Twilight asked, surprised. She couldn’t think of anyone in either Celestia’s or Luna’s court that might be influential in their plans this early in the game.

“Well I’d rather not ruin the surprise,” Celestia said with her trademark benevolent smile. “But suffice it to say, I think it’s somepony you’ll be quite happy to see.”

Twilight, now sufficiently dry, racked her brain of potential candidates, but try as she might she couldn’t think of a single representative, senator, or delegate with sufficient clout to actually sway any legislation serious enough for the princesses to consider them significant.

“That’s good, because I was just thinking, ‘You know what this shitty mess needs? More surprises! I was almost worried things were going too smooth lately,” Shane scoffed as he laced his boots.

“Your sarcastic input is duly noted, Major,” Celestia droned. “However it’s not just for Twilight. I also need you to make a good impression on this pony.”

“Why you gotta make it sound like I’m gonna be the one that messes it up.” He slipped his armored vest over his green skivvy shirt. “I’ll have you know I am charming as fuck when I wanna be,” Shane assured with a smile.

Luna chuckled at the claim, but Celestia just rolled her eyes. “Just stay with Luna tomorrow, and actually do what she says and you’ll be fine.”

“I’ll be fine?” he repeated cautiously. “What kind of analysis is this gonna be?”

“Relax, it’s nothing invasive,” Celestia promised, at the traces of fear in his tone.

“Yes, it’s a very small probe, you’ll hardly even notice,” Luna reassured.

For a brief moment the color drained from his face until he saw Luna suppressing the giggles. “That’s not funny,” he said seriously.

Luna failed to restrain her laughter, and she gigglsnorted a few times at the human’s expense.

“I swear to God. If anything comes near my ass, I will kill you, and everyone in this castle… slowly,” he warned, menacingly.

“Yes, yes, you’re very scary,” Luna replied in a tone normally reserved for puppies and small children.

“Simple physical and cognitive tests, Major, nothing more,” Celestia added, ignoring her sister’s un-princess-like behavior.

“I could have sworn I already demonstrated for you my distaste for medical personnel.” The human slung the massive firearm, and threw his un-donned blouse over his shoulder.

Celestia nodded in confirmation. “You never did explain why.”

Shane leaned against the rough stone wall folding his arms across his chest, choosing to simply ignore Celestia’s question.

“I’ll be there the whole time, not to worry,” Luna explained.

“Just you and me?” Shane asked, his voice colored with an emotion she couldn’t place.

“That was the idea. Is that alright?” Luna asked becoming serious for a brief moment. He was trying his best to conceal it, but a blind mare could see something about the subject was unnerving him. Maybe he was just genuinely afraid of doctors.

The human shrugged somewhat like a teenager when asked how school was that day. His eyes flicked over to Twilight so quickly a hummingbird could have easily missed it.

Luna decided it was worth investigating. Now she just had to try to be subtle with the maneuver. “On second thought,” Luna offered. “Twilight, maybe you should tag along as well.” Luna hid her smile as she caught the human’s hopeful face out of the corner of her eye.

Twilight perked up at the mention of her name. “Really? You’re sure you wouldn’t mind, Princess?” Twilight beamed.

“Of course not. In fact I would love to have a second set of notes for comparison.” Luna was telling the truth. Twilight’s insight could be enormously helpful, even if it wasn’t Luna’s true motive behind her invitation.

“It would be my pleasure, princess,” Twilight smiled.

~~~~~

The stallion snapped the latches on his luggage closed. After what seemed like hours of stuffing and struggling, the lid finally locked in place. He stepped back to admire the large brown case, pretending he didn’t hear the overstressed hinges’ groans of protest.

A shadow moved behind him. The stallion knew who it was before he turned around, but he did so anyway.

A soft pink alicorn stood in the doorway. Light from the hall behind her highlighted her silhouette. Long strands of pinks, purples, and yellows fell down her shoulders ending in natural curls by her legs. She rolled her downy wings to adjust the light blue satin robe tied loosely around her form.

The only flaw in the alicorn’s obvious beauty was her miserable expression. A few errant strands of her long mane were awry. Her worried frown and pleading eyes bored into the stallion.

Her expression mirrored his feelings. He wasn’t any fonder of leaving than she was. But he still gave her a reassuring smile. Or at least he tried to; it came out more like a humorless grin than anything.

She closed the distance between them, pressing her muzzle into his neck. He returned the gesture, pulling her closer while his free hoof gently stroked her soft mane as comfortingly as he could.

“Shiny…” she murmured apprehensively.

“Shhh,” he soothed, kissing the alicorn’s neck affectionately. “You know we’ve talked about this. I’ve had to go away before, and you survived.”

“Never like this,” she protested. “It’s never been this sudden or secretive. I know my Aunty, Shining, something is wrong.”

“You’re making assumptions.”

“She addressed you as, Captain Shining Armor… Captain.”

“…I am a captain, sweetheart.”

“You’re also her nephew now, Shiny. That wasn’t the type of summons you send your nephew. It was a military order.”

“Cadence we both knew this could happen before we got married.” The alicorn pouted slightly. Shining Armor wrapped her in his hooves. “Cady, I love you more than anything. But I made a commitment to Equestria. And I will do anything to protect you, and our subjects. Even if you don’t want me to.” He nuzzled the top of the alicorn’s head fondly.

As much as she hated the situation she couldn’t be mad at the stallion. It wasn’t really his fault. But she couldn’t shake the horrible feeling of dread surrounding the whole situation. Something was wrong in Equestria. She could feel it.

The stallion pulled his wife closer, rocking her comfortingly. “Stop worrying, Cadence. I’m going to Canterlot, not the badlands, and the sooner I get there the sooner I can help Celestia with whatever she needs and get back to you.”

Cadence smiled. “I know. It’s probably nothing. This just feels different.”

“Different isn’t always bad,” he noted optimistically, earning a light laugh from the alicorn. “There she is,” he lifted her chin with his hoof, meeting her smile with his own. “I’ll be back before you know it. Until then I’ll write you every day.”

Cadence sighed, “Well then I guess you better be off then. You have a long train ride ahead of you.”

“I’ll be there by tomorrow night. I send you a letter as soon as I get to the castle.” He released the mare. She seemed a little better. “Just promise you won’t dwell on it while I’m gone. You have enough on your plate already,” the stallion teased.

“I promise,” she sighed.

“Hay, if it turns out to be nothing maybe you’ll be able to come join me for a little bit. You can see your aunts again, see my parents. It could be a fun little vacation.”

The alicorn laughed at idea, “Only you could think a national emergency could turn into a nice little vacation.”

Shining smiled and shrugged, “You never know. In fact, I’ll bet this all nothing and she just needs me to help with some administrative nonsense. Having a Captain of the Guard so far away, I’m sure I’ve missed a bunch of things that I need to be updated on.” Shining armor’s horn began to glow a warm magenta as his luggage moved across the room to settle on a wheeled cart.

He pecked his wife on the cheek one more time. “Everything’s gonna be fine.”

~~~~~

Shane stepped out of his cell, followed by a skinny trembling pegasus stallion wearing a lab coat and a stethoscope. A small clipboard was tucked under his wing.

The stallion looked like he was walking to the gallows. He stepped awkwardly as the human watched him like a hawk.

The young physician halted in front of the night princess, still trembling. He stood there for several seconds saying nothing. Luna cocked her head at the frozen stallion.

Shane frowned, poking the stallion in the head stiffly, causing the pony to jump slightly and begin to speak.

“M-Major Doran, is a prime example of healthiness,” he recited haltingly. “As a medical professional I… I…” The stallion blanked.

“I see no reason…” Shane prompted when the stallion faltered.

“I s-s-see no reason to schedule any further medical testing, on the human,” he concluded.

Luna turned to look at Shane with half-lidded, unamused eyes. “Really?” she deadpanned.

Shane shrugged. “…was worth a shot.”

“These tests are happening whether you want them to or not.” Luna chided.

“Yeah? You and what doctor?” the human challenged haughtily.

Luna was confused for a moment turning to see that the stallion had indeed fled. Luna’s mouth hung open for a moment before she closed it. She composed herself. “I can have you chained down for the remainder of this examination. Is that what you want? I’d really rather not, but don’t think for a moment I won’t.”

“You are so cute when you’re all mad,” he said ignoring her threats and pinching the lunar diarch’s cheek affectionately.

Luna quickly swatted his hand away. “I’m going to find that poor colt. Twilight, move him to a room where I can watch him. Luna commanded as she trotted in the direction of the fleeing stallion.

Twilight turned back on the human. Shane was still grinning at his little victory over the Equestrian health care system. His smile slowly melted when he saw Twilight’s expression though.

She pointed at the ground. The human recognized the gesture. She always made him descend to her level before she yelled at him for something. He sighed and sat on his heels waiting for the verbal lashing.

It didn’t come. Or at least not in any way he recognized. The little unicorn just fixed him with a doe eyed stare. “Shane, I know you’re scared,” she started simply. “But this is serious.” He recoiled, mouth opening as if to say something in return but no words came out. Twilight laughed humorlessly. “I don’t know if you noticed this, but we’re in a bit of trouble here. You might think this is all redundant and unnecessary, or that were only doing this to irritate you. But this is important. Shane…we aren’t the only ones around. The world needs to know about you. Equestria holds a comfortable position in the theater of nations, but we aren’t untouchable. The more information we can give the world about you, the safer everyone will feel. If we go out there with nothing, not only will we will look incompetent and feel very silly, but everyone will assume that we aren’t capable of dealing with this. And they might just try and take you away.” His eyes narrowed angrily when she said it, but he stayed silent, waiting for the lavender mare to finish. “I don’t want that. I don’t think you do either. So please, please, let us do this.” She prodded him on the arm, her eyes softening a little. “If nothing else, do it for me. I think you owe me a few favors anyway.”

Shane clearly wasn’t ready for the mare to lay it all out so suddenly. He definitely wasn’t prepared for such brutal honesty. He stared at the floor shuffling awkwardly for a moment, feeling rather small next to the unicorn despite his greater size. “Cut straight for the nuts, don’cha?”

“When I have to,” she smiled a little.

“I’ll be good,” he murmured, sighing. “But you have to go with me. I don’t want to be alone with doctors,” he stipulated.

“I’ll be there every step of the way.”

“You promise?” he added a hint of tease reentering his voice.

“Pinkie promise,” she swore.

Shane looked at the mare with suspicious amusement. “Pinkie promises be powerful things where I come from,” he smiled.

“Oh it’s a pretty big deal here too,” she assured in return.

The human grinned and offered the mare his smallest finger.

Now it was Twilight’s turn to look confused. “What are you doing?”

“A pinkie promise.”

“I think something may have been lost in the translation,” she chuckled, stepping back and going through the appropriate motions. “Cross my heart and hope to fly. Stick a cupcake in my eye,” she added with a gentle poke to her (closed) eye. “That is a Pinkie Promise.”

He laughed at the ritual but make any comment about it, “I guess that’ll do.”

“Then let’s go!” a flash of violet magic yanked him to his feet and began to push him down the hall in search of a room with a window or two-way mirror. The doctor had agreed to meet them at Shane’s cell, but Twilight was sure the prison would have an interrogation room or something where Luna could keep an eye on the human and the doctor could set up shop.

It didn’t take long to find one. The directions of a watchful guard and a few hallways later Twilight sat in a plain white room with a steel table, two chairs and a large mirror in the wall. Shane made himself at home in one of the too-small chairs. He shed his armored vest, pulled the long knife from his its sheath and proceeded to clean his nails to pass the time.

Twilight wasn’t sure how long it was going to take the princess to convince the doctor to return so she sat resigning herself to wait as well. The room had an annoying musty smell, as if it hadn’t been used in a long while, so she pretended not to care when the human lit a cigarette.

~~~~~

Celestia approached her sister who was sitting on the dark side of a one way mirror, watching a beige unicorn mare wearing a pink nurse’s outfit as she attempted to perform some cursory medical tests on an uncooperative human. He had shed his vest and desert blouse and was now sitting on the edge of the table, legs kicking in a childlike fashion.

Celestia sat next to her sister and watched for a moment, waiting for Luna to finish writing something in a thick notebook. It was actually rather entertaining to watch the nurse try and run her tests while Shane was fidgeting and touching the equipment, or removing thermometers too early. The mirrored glass screen blocked any sound from passing through so she was unable to tell what exactly was being said. Shane chatted something every now and then, usually to Twilight but he occasionally said something to the nurse. Though her questions seemed to be mostly, ‘What are you doing?’ or ‘What is that?’ both of which usually preceded ‘Is this going to hurt?’.

The nurse stood next to the table with a small syringe, apparently one used to draw a blood sample. She wasn’t getting very far as the human didn’t sit still long enough for the nurse to find a vein much less stick the needle in one.

“It doesn’t look like its going …too badly,” Celestia said with very few traces of genuine optimism.

“Well he hasn’t scared this one off yet,” Luna said with tired praise. “He’s actually behaving miraculously well, compared to earlier. I think Twilight may have had something to do with it.”

She returned her attention to the room. The nurse began drawing blood. Pushing the tip of a small needle into the hollow of his elbow, dark red liquid rushed down a thin clear tube into a plastic container marked with large biohazard labels. Celestia waited and watched. She knew he didn’t want to do this, but unfortunately he was going to have to get used to it. Today was just the first steps in a series of examinations. She would find a way to make it up to him later.

~~~~~

“You know I need that stuff to live right?” Shane mumbled to the nurse as she began to fill a second blood bag.

“Last one,” the beige unicorn promised.

He huffed as the crimson fluid slowly filled the plastic bag. “Why are you doing this now? All of this would have been much easier to do while I was unconscious.”

“You weren’t exactly the picture of health while you were unconscious,” Twilight reminded, not taking her eyes from her own notebook.

“We did what we could while you were under,” the nurse continued. “Unfortunately we were afraid to take any substantial samples. You had already lost so much blood. We learned what we could from sheer observation, but we were in completely uncharted territory with you. Early on we had to make due with conjecture and theoretics. But at times we could only guess and pray. You’re very lucky to be alive.”

“So I’ve been told,” he said distractedly poking the squishy plastic blood bag as it filled. The nurse gave him a stern look and moved it out of his reach. “So you were one of my doctors then?” he continued unfazed.

“I’m a nurse practitioner. Not a doctor. But yes, I was on the medical team that got tasked with you.”

“Oh,” he paused. “Hey, did I ever hit you in the head with an oxygen tank?”

Despite the horridly blunt question, the nurse smiled. “No, that was my boss. Although I have heard we look a bit alike.”

“Yeah… Is she still alive?”

This time the nurse cocked her head smirking at the question. “Of course. Why?”

“I don’t know. I whacked her pretty fuckin hard,” he said somewhat sheepishly. “I do feel bad about that,” He assured, scratched his chin in contemplation. “I should probably send her flowers or like… a card or something.” He turned to Twilight. “Do you know any stores that sell unusually specific apology cards?”

“I don’t think your going to find a ‘Sorry for whacking you with an oxygen tank’ apology card,” Twilight shot down, over the brim of her notes.

“Not with that attitude…” he said frowning.

“Pssst,” the nurse beckoned him closer. “She likes Lilies.”

His twisted around, snapping his fingers at Twilight a few times. “Sparky, make it happen.”

“What? Why me?”

“Because I’m not allowed to walk into town to buy shit,” he said simply. “Unless you wanna convince your mom to let me out of the yard for once.”

Twilight rolled her eyes, “Princess Celestia isn’t my mom,” she informed flatly. “And she’s probably watching you now so you might want to watch what you say.” Despite the warning Twilight smiled.

“You think so?” he asked seeming oddly happy about the prospect as he glared into the mirror with a crooked grin. He raised an upturned fist toward the reflective glass curling all but his middle finger, and making contemptuous kissing face.

~~~~~

“What is the meaning of that gesture?” Luna asked quizzically peering through the portal.

“I don’t know, Luna. I seem to have left the Big Book of Human Hand Signals in my chambers,” she answered teasingly.

Luna scoffed, “Do you think it was directed at us?”

“I’m sure he knows we’re watching. I doubt the trans-dimensional being from a race of technologically advanced aliens is going to be confused by the concept of mirrored glass,” Celestia answered flatly.

“We will ask him later,” Luna dismissed continuing her scribbling. “How was your court?”

“I spent the large part of it putting out fires amongst the castle staff. They know something is up, Luna. They’re not stupid. Almost the entire guard knows by now, and I can assure you they’re lips won’t stay sealed for long. Guards gossip to the wait staff, the wait staff go home and gossip to their loved ones.” Celestia trailed off.

“We don’t need long,” Luna said, looking up from her notes purposefully. “A few more days, maybe a week and we should have collected everything we need.”

“That might not be soon enough,” Celestia warned gaining Luna’s attention. “Magneus wrote you back this morning. He was apparently quite ecstatic upon receiving your invitation. He intends to arrive in a few days time.”

“You opened my mail?”

“You were busy!” Celestia defended.

Luna contemplated the new information. She had not anticipated the Griffon’s promptness, but it would not require them to deviate from their current plan. “Although a bit unexpected it should cause no trouble for us. We shall continue on schedule.”

The moon princess returned her attention to the room opposite the mirror. The nurse wrapped a purple bandage on the hollow of the humans elbow before smiling patting him on the leg encouragingly and fishing a baggy of lollipops from her satchel. She levitated them to the human who took it, tentatively holding the baggy of sweets and looking thoroughly confused as if unsure what to do with it.

~~~~~

“Is this part of the test?” he asked looking between Twilight and the nurse, still clutching the bag of sweets.

“They’re lollipops, Major,” Twilight laughed. “A piece of candy on a stick.”

“I know what a lollipop is!” he sneered.

“Is it alright if he has one? I’m sorry. I probably should have asked first,” the nurse questioned apologetically. The human’s eyes narrowed at the fact that the nurse was going over his head to gain permission from Twilight rather than himself.

“Oh no you’re fine,” Twilight assured. “But I think he might just be a little old for that.”

He twisted to throw a betrayed glare at the purple unicorn. “Shut uuuup!” he tried to whisper before she robbed him of his chance at candy.

“Fine,” she rolled her eyes. “But only take one.”

Shane selected one with a wrapper depicting tiny watermelons. Clutching his prize and handing the baggy back to the nurse somewhat regretfully.

Twilight returned to her notes, and the nurse took advantage of the distraction to sneak the human a hoof full of candies. He covertly glanced back at Twilight before stuffing them in his cargo pocket. The nurse winked secretively and the human expressed his gratitude by affectionately scratching the nurse behind the ear, causing her to melt for a moment and her rear leg to twitch involuntarily.

She snapped back to reality the moment he stopped, blushing through her coat, and coughing embarrassedly. She muttered an apology as she started gathering up her supplies and placing them back in the satchel. Shane just smiled obliviously, preoccupied as he was with his treats.

~~~~~

“Well…” Celestia started grinning, “He warmed up to her pretty quickly.”

“I’m telling you, it’s just like when you get a new puppy and you start introducing it to strangers and you give them a biscuit to give to the dog? The same rules apply. We just need to start carrying around sweets and those little tiny bottles of liquor you get on airships and have ponies introduce themselves by offering him one. Instant good start,” Luna declared assuredly, clicking a hoof for emphasis

“I think he might start to catch on.” Celestia giggled at the idea.

“Never know until we try,” Luna grinned in return.

The beige nurse placed a stack of papers into a yellow folder, handing them to Twilight with a friendly smile. The papers were most likely the nurses own observations throughout the physical.

Luna did not really expect the folder to contain any new information, but a second opinion never hurt anypony. This whole check-up was mostly just the preamble to more in-depth exams.

The nurse said something as she picked up her satchel. The human hopped off the table happily, lollipop in mouth, and hastily grabbed his gun and tugged on his armor. Luna saw the screen on his plated pauldrons flicker to life, flashing green before he covered the screen with a flap. Luna wondered at the fact that the little machine had probably done in two brief seconds what took one of their medical professionals over an hour.

A strident tapping shook Luna from her thoughts as she noticed the human knocking against the glass, before mouthing ‘Open the door’ and pointing at the portal with his lollipop. ‘She says I’m done’, he added pointing at the nurse. He pressed his forehead against the glass, trying to block the ambient light with his hand, as he attempted to peer through the mirrored frame. His blue eyes glanced over the alicorns, but he saw only his own reflection. ‘I would like to leave here now, please,’ he mouthed, frowning impatiently. The vibrations of his voice barely carried through the glass.

Celestia looked at a clock on the wall. Before rising to her hooves and heading toward the exit. “I’m going to send Twilight to the courtyard to meet Shining Armor, if you’d like to go with her. He should be arriving from the Crystal Empire soon. I wanted to surprise her.”

“I’m sure she’ll be thrilled,” Luna said distractedly. “Once we bring the good Captain up to speed, he should be able to explain everything to Cadence. She may even want to come have a look for herself. Either way she should be able to make preparations in the Crystal Empire before we schedule any press release.”

“That was the idea,” Celestia nodded. “I wouldn’t want to spring that kind of announcement on her without any warning. If you want you can go with Twilight. I’m going to take Shane and go get some dinner. I had to skip lunch during court,” she explained unhappily, as her horn glowed and twisted the knob on the interrogation room door. “We will meet you right after.”

Shane spilled out of the room like it was running out of oxygen. He let out a long happy growling sound as he stretched in the hallway. It made Celestia giggle softly. It was the same feeling she had when she retired from her throne at night.

“See? You survived. Does it not go more smoothly when you cooperate?” Luna asked teasingly.

He fixed the lunar princess with a flat stare and bit through the lollipop in his teeth as if that were a proper response. He began walking down the hall toward his cell, still crunching on the sugary shards.

Luna didn’t bother chasing after him. He was probably just going back to his room. Even if he wasn’t the guards would keep him in the building. Twilight stepped into the hall, eyes already scanning the yellow folder.

“Anything particularly interesting, Twilight Sparkle?” Celestia asked.

“I’m afraid not princess,” she answered, her eyes still flitting back and forth through the documents. “Height, weight, general descriptions, pretty standard stuff. Not much we didn’t already know.” Twilight rattled off the a few more headings. “His blood work will be back tomorrow evening.” She paused with a confused look. “Strange,” she commented quietly. “She left the dental section blank.” Twilight flipped the paper to see if it were merely written on the back.

“It doesn’t matter,” Luna dismissed. “He has plenty more appointments with zoologists, dietitians, doctors, and the like. I am sure somepony will check his teeth.”

Twilight nodded, handing the folder to the princess, who tucked it under an indigo wing and set off down the hallway with her sister, Twilight Sparkle followed along dutifully.

Celestia frowned as they passed his cell only to discover it empty. They found him out front, sitting on the stairs and talking to the two door sentries. Cigarette in mouth, he kept flicking the silver lighter, attempting to spark a flame. And after ensuring neither of the guards ‘had a light’ he stood, reaching up to one of the torches mounted along the side of the wall. He pulled himself up with his arms sticking his face by the dancing tongue of flame, and puffing on the cigarette expectantly.

He pulled away only to find his cigarette still unlit. Celestia waited with an amused face, content to let the human figure it out for himself. Clearly confused he stuck the tip back into the flame only to receive the same result. He decided to up the ante by placing his entire face into the fire. Luna audibly smacked her hoof to her forehead, despite the human pulling his unharmed head out of the blaze.

He dropped back down to the ground, scratching his head. He noticed the alicorns standing at the entrance giving him judgmental looks. He pointed back up at the mounted torch. “…Your fire is broken,” he told them, in a still perplexed voice.

“It’s a heatless torch, Major,” Celestia explained. “Magic. Not real fire.”

“Oh,” he said quietly, unsure whether to be impressed or disappointed.

“At what point in that little journey of discovery, did you decide to test if the fire was hot, and think that the best way to do that… was with your face?” Luna asked sounding genuinely mystified by the logic.

“It was at the point roughly somewhere between shut up and I do what I want,” he responded sharply.

“Enough,” Celestia moaned tiredly. “Luna, be nice. Shane, fire is hot,” she settled quickly. “Now, Twilight, go with Luna. I’m having a chariot pick up a guest at the train station and I want you there to greet them when they arrive.” Twilight nodded obediently. “Shane, you’re coming with me. We’re getting something to eat then joining them. I’ll make introductions later.”

Luna turned to the young purple unicorn. “Come, Twilight Sparkle. It is better to be early than late.” Twilight smiled excitedly, following the lunar princess down the steps and across the courtyard.

Shane merely contemplated his lifeless cigarette, before dejectedly replacing it back in the small red box. He sighed and gestured with his arm for the alicorn to take the lead.

He followed along beside the princess as she navigated the halls of the castle. His longer legs allowed him to keep pace with her gait. She would normally have to slow herself so that ponies would not have to run to keep up. It was also quite nice not having to look down to hold a conversation for once. Being an alicorn in a world of ponies was a bit estranging at times. .As irritating as he was, she had to admit she enjoyed his company. It was oddly comforting having an unbiased party to talk to, especially one on eye level.

“This castle is a fucking nightmare,” he said frowning at the walls, and ruining the moment. “How do you get around this place? Everything looks the same.”

“I’ve been living here awhile,” she answered plainly.

“I lived in my house while too, and I still got confused by which light switch went to what,” he pointed out chuckling slightly.

~~~~~

The train car jostled slightly, stirring Shinning Armor from his sleep. He cracked his eyes, and lazily peered about the nearly empty cabin. He blinked the sleep from his eyes and massaged his neck, attempting to work the kinks out of his spine. The window of a moving train proved to be a rather uncomfortable pillow.

The sun was almost down. He squinted into the setting sun, and surely enough the tall mountain city could be seen in the distance. Still a bit away, but he should arrive in less than an hour.

He rested his head back against the glass pane, once again closing his eyes. His lips turned up into a smile. He loved the Crystal Empire with all his heart, but Canterlot would always be his home. And it felt good to be back.

~~~~~

“Bacon,” The human annunciated slowly to the perplexed servant. “Baaaacoooon... Strips of pork fried in a pan? Bacon?”

“I’m sorry, sir, but I-”

“Bay–Kuhn. Bacon,” he repeated.

“She doesn’t know what bacon is, Major,” Celestia interrupted tiredly. The solar princess hadn’t eaten all day and didn’t feel like waiting for the human to detail his carnivorous palette to the servant mare. “You’re just going to have to pick something else to eat.”

Shane huffed. He leaned down by the servant mare. “She isn’t very nice is she?”

Celestia rolled her eyes at the human who proceeded to place a seemingly simple order of eggs, toast, hash browns, and ‘the largest container of beer she could physically carry’.

Celestia allowed the order to go unchallenged. Not even bothering to question why he was ordering breakfast foods at dinner time. She eagerly placed her own request and watched as the servant scurried away to prepare their orders.

She returned her attention to the human who was unabashedly ogling the princess’s pragmatic flowing mane. She let him. It gave her a moment to think of something to talk about.

“How are you feeling, Major?”

“Hmm? Oh, I’m fine. You have pretty hair. Very hypnotic. Like watching a lava lamp.”

Celestia wasn’t sure how to take the sudden compliment, but she smiled all the same. “Thank you,” she chuckled. “But I was referring to how your examinations went today.”

He shrugged noncommittally. “Alright, I guess. I’m not going to pretend I enjoy them, but it’s not like I’ve got something better to do,” he admitted almost sadly.

“I do appreciate your help, Shane,” she said genuinely. “It may not mean much to you but this is possibly one of the biggest milestones in equine history to date.”

“Glad I can help,” he said, sounding anything but.

“Are you nervous?”

“Given that I’m going to be thrust under the microscope of a planet’s worth of scientists, I think I’m handing it fairly well.”

“Oh don’t act like it’s a death sentence.”

“No. I could handle a death sentence. Death is easy. This is a different monster entirely.”

“You’re a grim one,” she noted casually.

“The world is grim, princess. I’m just uniquely capable of embracing it for what it is.” He smiled. She couldn’t tell if he was joking or not.

She opened her mouth to respond when a low rumble from her stomach interrupted her. “I apologize,” she excused herself blushing slightly.

“Hungry?” he asked as he rested his head against a fist, smiling somewhat teasingly.

“I haven’t eaten yet today,” she explained.

“Why?” he cocked an eyebrow, grinning as if expecting her to deliver the punch line of some kind of joke.

“I was busy,” Celestia answered just as simply.

“Doing princess stuff?” he still grinned like a hyena.

“Yes, Major. Running a country is a lot of work.”

He hummed, leaning back in his chair. “I wouldn’t know. It seems like you would have people to do all the boring jobs. Delegate some shit. Isn’t that what princesses do?”

“I do have ponies for that. In fact I’ve spent a very long time ensuring Equestria’s government is capable of operating completely on its own. My advisors are able to issue orders in my stead. They then flow down through various Ministries and senates, eventually reaching local governments.” She explained the structure of government as simply as she could. “It’s actually a very effective system.”

“So if it’s so self-sufficient then what’s the point of keeping you around?”

“Luna and I act as the final and highest point in the structure. When issues arise, they work their way up the levels of government until they are solved, or routed to the proper ministry. Besides our regular duties, often specialized issues which require our input, approval, or insight, make it to our desk.”

“But they don’t really need you,” he noted with air-quotes. “Let’s say one day they come to you and are like… ‘Okay, we’re tired of the whole princesses’ thing. We want to try democracy now’.”

“Then I would happily abdicate my throne. If it were best path for my little ponies then I would be the first to suggest it. And I would do whatever I could to help it flourish.” The alicorn spoke with unquestionable honesty.

Shane regarded her with contemplative eyes for several drawn out seconds. “You’re weird,” he finally decided. He leaned back lacing his fingers behind his head and running his hands through his short hair.

“How does that make me weird?” she asked, slight self-consciousness in her tone.

“I don’t know…” he shrugged. “I just don’t get you. I don’t understand your motives. You confuse me. You’re weird.”

“I am not weird,” she huffed.

“You’re a little weird,” he insisted.

“Well luckily my self image is not dependant on your validation. I am quite satisfied with my world view.”

“Well….keep it up then,” he shrugged grinning.

“I will,” she assured.

“Good.”

“I’m glad we agree.”

“So am I.”

They each continued for several second. Neither content to let the other have the final word when they were interrupted by a servant pushing a cart laden with foods of every kind. The mere smell of which was making Celestia salivate, and from the disconcerting way the human licked his teeth, he was looking forward to the meal as well.

Celestia shifted eagerly in her seat as her food was placed before her. Only looking up when she heard the human let out a rather girlishly excited squeak when the mare placed a tankard of amber beer nearly the size of his head down.

Celestia wasted no time digging into her food. She was fairly certain the human wouldn’t mind. He wasn’t type to stand on ceremony. It was a pasta dish. Those shell shaped ones she couldn’t remember the name of, but they were filled with three kinds of cheese and covered in some type of red sauce that completely made up for her frustration at forgetting their name.

She sipped at a crystal glass of water, peering over the edge at the human who was taking an impressive go at the tankard. She set her glass down as he continued to guzzle away. “Shane,” she tried to get his attention.

He held up a finger in a ‘wait’ gesture as he continued to drink.

“Shane!”

He finally set the beverage down. “Yes, dear?”

Celestia ignored the cheek. “Slow down. You just had a sizable amount of blood drawn. You probably shouldn’t be drinking at all.”

He gave her a look that implied he found the prospect absurd beyond measure, but didn’t voice anything protests. He ate his breakfast/dinner quietly as she asked and ceasing the gulping in favor of moderate sipping. He licked his teeth after each one, smiling contentedly.

Celestia couldn’t help but chuckle lightly at his expressions. “Are you happy now?”

He nodded. “Say what you will about ponies,” he started. “Odd social practices and questionable taste in interior design aside, you have excellent booze.” He nodded appreciatively.

“Thank you.” Celestia said proudly disregarding the remark about her décor.

“What is this anyway?” he peered into the swirling amber liquid.

“I’m afraid I wouldn’t be the one to ask. I never had taste for beer. Luna would know better than I would.” She continued to nibble at her meal.

Shane scrutinized the snow white alicorn with a judgmental smile for several seconds. “Yeah. You don’t look like a beer person,” he agreed. “I’ll bet you’re a tequila girl,” he nodded to himself. “You look like a tequila girl.”

Celestia had to clasp a hoof to her mouth to keep herself from laughing. She could honestly say she had never heard that before. She swallowed, laughing aloud now that her mouth was empty.

The human grinned at the alicorn’s amusement. “See? The laughing means I’m right,” he declared confidently. “I would pay money to see you trash a margarita.” He leaned back lacing his fingers behind his head, nodding. “In another life, I totally would have taken you south of the border.”

“In another life, I may have taken you up on it.” she said wiping a tear from her eye as the last remaining chuckles subsided.

Shane went back to his food, making rather short work of his breakfast/dinner and returning to his massive tankard.

Celestia watched as she polished off her own meal. She frowned and lit her horn, a cloud of radiant solar magic pulled the beverage away from the humans lips, setting it securely back on the table. “Slow down,” the alicorn repeated sternly. “It’s not going anywhere. How can you even drink like that?”

“I’m troubled.” He frowned right back, swatting a hand at the cloud of magic, attempting to dissipate the aura and free his drink.

“And being an alcoholic alleviates that?”

He paused looking very offended. “I am not an alcoholic.”

“Oh good,” she chimed happily. “Then this shouldn’t bother you.” She tipped the tankard over, spilling the foamy amber beverage across the table.

The cry of alarm from the human was more than reward enough for Celestia. The human lunging in an attempt to save the liquid was just the icing on the cake that was her point.

Shane furrowed his brow at the pool of spilled beer. He began to shake his head disapprovingly. “Bad player,” he admonished quietly. “Bad fuckin’ player.” He reached out and reverently righted the downed tankard. “You can forget about our trip to Mexico now.”

Celestia merely smiled at having her moment. “I’ll make it up to you later. We have to go meet Twilight and my sister.” She stood, waiting for Shane to do the same.

He sat and stared at the pool of beer for a few more sad seconds before pushing away from the table. He grumpily grabbed the barrel of his shotgun, dragging the heavy weapon along as he trudged after the alicorn.

~~~~~

Twilight suppressed a yawn. Sitting and waiting for a carriage was about as exciting as it sounded. Needless to say, not very.

The unicorn looked to the princess at her side. Luna showed no outward signs of annoyance or boredom. Twilight couldn’t help but admire the dark alicorn’s patience. She shuffled in place, attempting to find a more comfortable position on the grass.

Another minute ticked by. Twilight had enough, letting out an aggravated groan. “Will you at least give me a hint?” she begged the dark princess.

“Nay,” Luna smiled knowingly.

“Well will they at least get here soon?”

“He is due any moment,” Luna promised.

“AHA! So it’s a he!” Twilight declared victoriously wiping the smirk off the alicorn’s muzzle.

“Blast,” she swore under her breath. “Enjoy it Twilight Sparkle. For you shall wrest no more from us.” Luna stuck her nose in the air. “If you insist on continuing this guessing you shall only succeed in ruining the surprise.”

Twilight was busy eliminating a fair number of the potential officials in her head.

Luna looked at the sky, squinting slightly at the setting sun. “At this rate Celestia and the Major may actually reach us before our guest arrives.”

Twilight ‘ooh’ed excitedly as a carriage approached the palace led by a pair of royal guards. “Is that it?”

Luna scrutinized the oncoming carriage. “I believe so. Yes,” she announced.

The carriage bounced up the path at a steady pace soon passing through the marble archways and into the courtyard.

The guard stallions halted the carriage an appropriately suspenseful distance. The door opening a split second later as the mystery guest disembarked.

“Shiney?!” Twilight beamed.

“Twily!” the stallion echoed back enthusiastically.

The painful obviousness of the surprise washed over her like cool water. It had been months since she had seen her brother. He and Cadence had been so busy running the Crystal Empire they hadn’t had an opportunity to visit.

Twilight raced to greet her older brother. Who trotted to meet her in the middle. Shining armor being about twice the size of his younger sibling, easily scooped the smaller unicorn into a massive bear hug, standing on his hind legs to more effectively squeeze the life out of her.

“I didn’t expect you to be here!” Shining Armor said in his stupid surfer voice.

“You didn’t expect me!?” she mimicked. “I didn’t even know you were coming! Why didn’t you write?”

“I didn’t even know I was coming myself,” he laughed, setting his sister back on the ground. “I only just got the letter last night. I’ve been on a train all day,” he excused.

“I still haven’t heard from you or Cadence in weeks,” the purple unicorn nagged, poking Shining Armor in the chest. “Are you too busy being a prince to send a letter to your own sister?”

He laughed brushing away the prodding purple hoof. “I know. I’m sorry. But running an empire takes a lot of work. Besides, you’re a big girl now Twily. You don’t need me hovering over you anymore.” He ruffled her purple mane affectionately

“I know that,” she asserted pushing her mane back into place. “It would still be nice to hear from you every now and then.”

“Aw, I missed you too, Twily. And,” he leaned closer, “you know who else missed you?”

Twilight appeared confused for only a moment before a look of terror overtook her. “Shining Armor, don’t you dare.”

The stallion jerked his head around in twisted ways, mocking several painful retching sounds despite the obvious grin on his face. “Twily, run it’s…”

“Shining Armor, I swear to Celestia. I am serious.”

“It’s..the…the…”

Twilight looked ready to bolt. “Shiney! Don’t! I am an adult!”

“TICKLE MONSTER!” The stallion launched himself at the purple mare, tackling her in a tangle of limbs.

“NOOOOO!” she screamed in protest. Some things about having older sibling never changed.

Shining held Twilight down while his horn lit with a magenta glow, causing the mare to erupt in a fit of giggles. Twilight never managed to win against her brother’s barrage of tickle attacks. She recalled them being the bane of her young existence. Shining Armor on the other hoof found it amusing to no end.

Twilight’s sides began to get sore as the tickling continued with no end in sight. Tears collected in her eyes, while the laughter erupted from her in obnoxious squeals.

A distant shouting distracted Shining Armor from his assault. He looked up just in time to see a massive figure smash something heavy into his face, pain erupting everywhere.

~~~~~

Shane padded out into the light following the alicorn closely. He seemed happy to be out in the open again. He pulled a cigarette from his box, having to shake his silver lighter vigorously before a flame finally appeared.

“You should really quit that,” Princess Celestia admonished frowning. “It’s terrible for your health.”

“Thanks, Mom,” he droned puffing on the cigarette.

Celestia rolled her eyes at the stubborn creature but did not otherwise force the matter. The solar princess eyed the skies critically as she walked. “We might actually make it before he arrives. That didn’t take as long as I’d imagined it would.”

“Probably because someone didn’t let me finish my drink,” Shane mumbled.

“What was that?”

“Oh nothing,” he assured dragging on the slender stick in his fingers.

Celestia ignored him, approaching the courtyard gates. “Now before he gets here there are some things we should go over,” she began as they passed under the marble arches. “Firstly-”

A loud obnoxious screaming interrupted the princess. She recognized her own students high pitched laughing. She smiled as she saw the siblings playing. “That’s Prince Shining Armor of the Crystal …Shane?” The alicorn noticed the patch of grass next to her was occupied only by a smoldering discarded cigarette.

She looked over to see the human stalking toward the pair of unicorns with a look of malice she rarely saw in any creature.

Celestia began to put the pieces together in her head when she saw the human pull the massive twelve gauge from his back. “MAJOR!” she called hoping to stop the human.

Shining Armor looked up just in time for the human to crack him across the face with the buttstock of the heavy weapon. Celestia winced at the sound. The human grabbed the limp stallion by the mane, and forcibly dragged him off the still dazed Twilight.

Shining Armor tried to lift his head from the ground in a vain attempt to figure out what was happening, only to have the human drive his boot heel down into the stallions cheek, forcing it back to the ground.

Celestia and Luna both moving, preparing to subdue the human. Shane racked the shotgun ominously, and pressed the barrel to the captain’s temple.

The stallion’s horn began to glow threateningly causing the human to jam the barrel into Shining Armors face.

“Unless you want me to show you what color your brains are, I suggest you shut off the horn,” he finally spoke, voice dripping with poorly contained hatred.

“STOP!” Twilight had recovered enough to realize what had happened. “Stop right now!” The human gave her a puzzled look but didn’t move. “Shane,” her tone became as soothing as she could manage under the circumstances.

Shane only looked more confused by the unicorn. He looked around, suddenly noticing no less than six spears leveled at his torso, held aloft by six angry looking royal guards, and two alicorns, horns aglow and apparently ready to do battle.

He turned back to Twilight, Shining Armor’s head still pinned under the heavy barrel of a loaded shotgun. He contemplated a moment. “…why are they all pointing those things at ME?” he asked cautiously puzzling it out.

“Because THAT is my brother,” she explained. “And you just attacked him.”

“Unprovoked I might add,” Shining said through his squished face.

“Shut up!” the human ground his heel into Shining’s cheek. “You don’t talk.”

“Major,” Celestia began slowly approaching. “Please release Shining Armor.”

Shane eyed the alicorn curiously for a few moments, clearly deciding in his head whether or not to do as she asked. He looked down at the stallion under his boot. He menacingly pointed two fingers at his eyes, then at Shining Armor. His message was pretty clear.
Shane removed his boot from the stallions face. He lowered the shotgun, and stepped away warily stepping backward toward Celestia, clearly still ready to blast the poor stallion should it become necessary.

The guards lowered their spears and Twilight approached her brother. She checked to make sure he wasn’t too seriously injured. He was going to have a few lumps on his head and maybe a black eye, but nothing too serious. “THAT’S what you get for tickle monstering me!”

“Tickle monstering?” Shane repeated slowly. “You were screaming because you were being TICKLED!?”

Twilight nodded embarrassedly.

“This whole planet is fucking stupid,” Shane decided finally.

“What they HAY is going on!?” Shining Armor demanded from where he was still laying on the ground holding his head.

“Captain,” Princess Celestia began. “This is Major Doran.” Shining Armor raised his head to get a decent view of the tall angry bipedal creature.

“He is an alien,” Luna added nonchalantly.

Shining Armor’s eyes flicked back and forth between Luna and the biped, waiting for somepony to add, ‘just kidding’. Without anything to really say he just went with the most obvious.

“….What?!”