• Published 13th Dec 2012
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Skyfall - Dusk Quill

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Chapter 4: The Best Laid Plans

The bright midday sun shone down on Canterlot, bathing the city in warm, golden light. The city was noisy with the bustling traffic of ponies in the streets. It looked like every other day in the capital in the early afternoon. Shops and restaurants were busy with their lunch clientele, and the entire metropolis was alive and well.

Nopony would have suspected the danger that was lurking in the shadows, nor the defenders hiding in it as well.

Fleethoof sat alone outside a café on one of the busiest street corners. Sunglasses blocked his eyes as he reclined in his chair, watching the ponies that passed by. More specifically, the ponies that passed close by the postbox on the sidewalk. From his position, the headset placed over his ear was unseen to the public.

Guards stood on the opposite end of the street at their usual post, minding their own business, as they did every day. So far, the morning had passed without incident. It was just another normal day.

“Captain, I’ve got eyes on the mailbox outside the castle, the library, and several down Main Street,” Sharp Shot’s voice spoke over the earpiece.

“Got anything yet?” Fleethoof asked casually, surveying the ponies around him some more.

“Negative, nothing yet. Standby.”

“All ponies check in,” the captain commanded, his voice barely above a normal conversation tone.

“Valiant here. All good in the marketplace.”

“Is quiet over by the train station,” Cupcake reported.

“Blue Shield, all green downtown so far.”

“I’ve got nothing by the city gates,” Lightning came through.

“Keep your eyes open, everypony. Remember, check every letter that goes into a box. We can’t risk our target getting away.”

“Everything good so far?”

Fleethoof glanced up at the spoken question. Shining Armor stood beside him, levitating two cups of coffee above his head.

“So far, so good,” said Fleethoof in calm reply, dropping his hooves from the second chair at the table so his friend could sit. He graciously took one of the cups from Shining. “All your guards are still in position, right?”

“Mm-hmm,” Shining Armor mumbled between a sip of his beverage. “They’re stationed at every mailbox all day, told to check every single piece of post and to report to me if they find anything.”

Fleethoof nodded. “Good.”

Their plan wasn’t the tightest net of security, but it was the best they could come up with in such a short time period. He was glad Shining Armor had been so amicable to work with, especially with the pressure he was under. He could see the dark rings under the Captain of the Guard’s eyes. He hadn’t been sleeping.

“It’s good to see you again, Shining.”

“Likewise,” Shining replied, finishing his drink in a deep draft. “I’m sorry I haven’t been in touch, I’ve just been really busy.”

“Oh, I understand,” Fleethoof said with a low chuckle. “I’ve heard all about it. It's one hell of a first assignment. Talk about a full plate.”

Shining Armor chuckled as well. “Tell me about it... And I still need to think about restructuring the Guard after this. You look good though. You’re well off, huh?”

“New job, new tasks, new life,” Fleethoos said, sipping at his drink casually.

“This is the secret job I don’t get to know about?”

Fleethoof spat out a mouthful of the strong, dark liquid and choked slightly. His sunglasses fell gracelessly from his face as he tried to compose himself again, turning to the pony beside him in surprise.

“How did you—?”

“Cadance.”

Fleethoof rolled his eyes and groaned in frustration. Of course it was Cadance. Well, it wasn’t that big of a headache. She didn’t know anymore than Shining Armor did.

“Yes, this is the secret job,” he said, then slowly added, “But you’re the Captain of the Guard, so you should know. I’m leading a specialized group of ponies for the explicitly dangerous and controversial missions.”

Shining Armor was quiet for a moment. “Do I want to know what you’re doing?”

“Probably not.”

He nodded, and let the topic drop. There wasn’t much more that needed to be said on the subject. “Well, whatever makes you happy. You’re my friend, Fleethoof. I’m sure whatever you’re doing, it’s for the best for everypony.”

“I like to think so.”

A pony walked by the mailbox suddenly, dropping a letter inside it. Both ponies righted up almost immediately. From across the street, the two soldiers took notice as well. Shining Armor motioned with a wave of his hoof. A guard dressed as a mailmare trotted nonchalantly up to the box, opening it to retrieve the letter.

Fleethoof kept his eyes on the pony as she made her way down the street while the ‘mailmare’ opened the letter, reading it quickly. His body tensed up, ready to spring at the signal. The mare looked up, her eyes meeting Shining’s.

She slowly shook her head in the negative.

Fleethoof sighed heavily and sank back into his chair. The past few hours had been this way. It was maddening. But they had to endure. They had no other option.

“So how do you know Cadance?”

Shining Armor’s question took Fleethoof off-guard momentarily. That was a peculiar topic to shift to all of a sudden.

“My squad saved her from Skyfall, where she was being held captive,” said Fleethoof, hedging the story down to its most rudimentary elements. “I got her out of hostile territory and back to Equestria safely. We talked a lot along the way, and we formed some sort of weird friendship. She… really helped me out of a dark place. She’s a great pony.”

“Yeah, she really is… She always has been,” Shining agreed, noting the captain’s confused look. “Oh, you remember my sister? She was her foalsitter, years ago. We knew each other growing up.”

Fleethoof raised his brow and nodded in understanding. It made sense that they knew one another. They both resided in Canterlot their entire lives. It could only have been a matter of time.

Time passed by slowly in the form of idle chit-chat and bad jokes. Another pony walked up to the mailbox, dropping a letter quickly inside and cantering away leisurely. Fleethoof leaned against the table and propped his head up. This was going to be another false alarm, he could feel it. Shining Armor gave the signal, the pony collected the letter, the letter was opened, and…

The mailmare’s eyes widened. She was reading the letter faster now before clutching the paper tight to her chest. She looked anxiously over to the two officers. Shining leaned forward and Fleethoof sat up, suddenly feeling a tension inside of him. Time seemed to stand still.

And then the mare nodded slowly.

“Let’s go,” Shining Armor said hastily, nearly knocking the table over a she rose to his hooves.

“Skyfall Team, we have eyes on the target heading down Main Street,” Fleethoof reported, keeping his eyes on the pony as he and Shining took to pursuit, the guards bringing up the rear. “Dark blue unicorn, teal mane. Can’t make out the cutie mark.”

“I’ve got eyes on the target,” Sharp Shot replied, “I have a clear shot. Green light to engage?”

“Negative! We need him alive. Repeat, we need him alive.”

“Copy that, I’m on my way over,” said Valiant through the radio.

The ponies followed closely behind their target, maintaining a steady distance so as not to draw any suspicions. The pony took a turn down another street, moving with the flow of traffic. It made it difficult for Fleethoof to keep sight on him from time to time. It was a struggle to pursue in the thick of the midday crowd.

The pony glanced back over his shoulder quickly. Fleethoof and Shining both ducked their heads a little, looking indifferent, trying to blend in with the crowd. The pony eventually faced forward again, picking up speed as he wandered the streets.

“Do you think he saw us?” Shining Armor asked hesitantly.

“Doesn’t matter if he did or not, we can’t lose him.”

Sharp Shot’s sigh came through the radio in a burst of static. “I lost sight of him.”

“We’ve still got him,” Fleethoof reassured the sniper. “Maintain your position. We’ll keep you posted.”

The pony ducked down a quieter road. The two soldiers lingered by the corner for a few moments, risking glances down the mostly empty street. If they weren’t careful, they would be spotted easily here. Their quarry was still in sight, a good distance ahead of them. When they felt it was safe, they continued after them, Fleethoof quietly relaying their position to the rest of Fireteam Skyfall.

The dark blue pony jogged up the front porch of a building, opening the door and slipping inside. Both stallions approached the building, giving it a once over. The place looked to be in a state of disrepair and otherwise unoccupied. The paint was chipping off the wall, the door looked weathered and beaten, and some of the windows were boarded up. It looked like it hadn't seen residents in some time.

“We’ve got him in a house. 130 Trotting Terrace,” Fleethoof reported through his headset, then turned to Shining Armor. “You armed?”

“Pistol,” the Captain of the Guard said, patting the holster on the side of his armor. “You?”

“Same.” The ponies drew their weapons. “You take the front. I’ll go around back.”

Shining Armor nodded, and slowly slunk up the front porch. Fleethoof ducked down the alleyway alongside the house, slipping into the small backyard. He tried the back door, and wasn’t surprised to find it unlocked. Sidling as silently as possible into the structure, he looked around his new surroundings.

The house was dark and dusty. It didn’t look like anypony had lived here in some time. He switched his tac light on, flooding the small hallway he’d stepped into in light. He could hear hoofsteps slowly going up the stairs to the next floor. It must have been Shining.

He slowly worked his way round the small flat. It was as if the building was condemned with the way it looked. What little furniture remained was decaying and falling apart. But there was no sign of the pony they’d followed in here. He was checking the front parlor when the front door opened again. He spun quickly, and pointed his gun right at Valiant, the pony aiming his rifle at Fleethoof.

“Captain,” Valiant breathed in relief, dropping his guard.

Fleethoof pressed a hoof to his lips, signaling for silence, then pointed upward, whispering, “Upstairs.”

The two ponies began their slow ascent up the creaky old stairs, when the sound of scuffling and bumping was heard nearby. They exchanged worried looks and booked it up the stairs to a small hall. A couple doors were all that lay in sight. Fleethoof cautiously opened the first, revealing a dark, empty room.

Valiant had moved down to the second, waiting for his officer. Fleethoof moved to the doorframe, getting a nod from his teammate. He took a deep breath, and then the plunge. The door burst open, and bright light blinded him. A large window made up the far wall, sunlight pouring into the dank room.

He heard a cry of surprise from in front of him, and once his vision adjusted, he saw what the noise before had been. The pony was blinking his eyes rapidly, blinded by the tac lights on the ponies’ guns. He stood behind Shining Armor, grasping the Captain of the Guard like a shield, pressing the soldier's own gun to his head.

“Drop it! Drop the gun now!” Fleethoof commanded, drawing down on the renegade pony as Valiant did the same.

“How about you drop yours or the Captain of the Guard dies?” the pony said in challenge, jamming the barrel harder into Shining’s forehead.

Downstairs, the sound of wood breaking was heard, and moments later, Cupcake and Lightning Flash came rushing in, with a couple of the Guard in tow. They took aim as well while the soldiers readied their guns.

“There’s no getting out of this,” Fleethoof said slowly, his voice full of authority. “Drop the gun and let Captain Armor go, or we will shoot you. We just want to talk to you.”

“I know what you want. You toy soldiers, pawns of the princesses,” the rebel spat in disgust. “You make me sick. You destroyed a nation at the behest of those monsters without a single individual thought or question why. You’re puppets, every one of you!”

“I’m not asking again, put the gun down, NOW!”

“It’s time… Time for retribution to come to Equestria. No longer can the alicorns police the world,” the delusional foe continued, glaring at the captain in particular. “Equestria must come to realize the truth. The ponies must have their eyes opened.”

“What truth?” Fleethoof asked.

“Would you please just shoot him?” asked Shining Armor. “He’s insane. He’s not making any sense.”

Valiant looked to Fleethoof. “Captain—”

“What truth?”

“That the alicorns are not gods. They are tricksters, manipulating the course of time to their own benefit,” he rambled on, grinning widely. “Too long have they had their will done, bereft of consequence or concern for others.”

“You are liar!” Cupcake shouted angrily, braving a step forward. “Princess Celestia and Luna are most benevolent rulers. They keep Equestria safe and peaceful.”

“With the blood of other ponies!”

“Enough!” Fleethoof's shout echoed through the empty house. “Drop the captain now, or I will kill you!”

“You can kill me, but you can’t stop it from coming for them, Captain Fleethoof,” the pony jeered.

Fleethoof’s eyes opened wide, and his resolve faltered for a moment. “You know me?”

“We know much, Captain.”

“What is coming?”

“Oh, you’ll see,” the pony sang, his voice happy and crazy. “You won’t be able to miss it.”

“What is coming?”

The pony pulled the gun away from Shining Armor’s head, firing behind him at the window a couple of times. The glass shattered, and a gust of fresh air filled the stuffy room. Everypony tensed up, keeping their aim on the maniacal pony.

“Stay where you are,” ordered Fleethoof. “It’s over.”

“No, Captain—it’s not over… not yet!”

The pony smacked the butt of the gun against Shining Armor’s head, stunning the stallion before pushing him into the crowd of soldiers. The ponies moved to catch the captain as the renegade ran and dove out the broken window.

“No!” Fleethoof cried out, running for the window.

But there was no body down below. There was a shed roof right below the window, and to the right, Fleethoof could see the pony fleeing across the rooftops.

“Great. Now what do we do?” Valiant asked.

“Get Shining Armor up and pursue on the ground,” Fleethoof said.

“Wait, what are you—”

But Fleethoof had jumped out of the window already before Valiant could finish his sentence. He rushed to the window, looking out in shock to see him chasing the pony across the roofs. The hunt was back on.

“Cupcake, take the soldiers and keep to the streets!” Valiant said. “I’m going after him.”

Valiant leapt out the window and took to the skies in hot pursuit. The pony glanced behind him and laughed when he saw the captain chasing right behind him. He ran towards a higher rooftop, leaping and vaulting up the edge of the roof. Fleethoof stared in awe at the pony’s athletic skill, then glared and took to the air, landing on the rooftop just behind the unicorn.

Down below, Cupcake charged through the streets, a small band of soldiers with him. They glanced up to the roofs, following the three ponies down roads and alleys. It was difficult, but with each Guard they passed, their numbers grew.

Fleethoof was so close now. He could feel the sweat dripping off the pony hitting him in the face. Just a little further… He reached out, ready to grab the pony’s tail in his jaw.

And then the pony slid down a roof, leaping across a small side road onto an adjacent block of flats. Fleethoof growled in frustration and took to the air again, landing in front of the unicorn. He braced himself, ready for impact—but no collision came. Instead, a bright burst of yellow magic surrounded the pony, and then he was behind Fleethoof.

“Celestia dammit!” he swore. The unicorn could teleport.

Overhead, Valiant soared past Fleethoof, dive-bombing towards the rebel. He missed, and collided with the roof, tumbling about before falling off the edge. Fleethoof winced as he watched his teammate fall, and then sighed when he saw him take to the air again.

“I see the target again. Rooftops, about— I see the Captain too.”

Sharp Shot’s voice startled Fleethoof for a moment. He had forgotten the sniper was set up, waiting for instructions. He could give him the fire order at any moment. Sharp Shot was a pinpoint accurate shot. Surely he could take out the pony's legs and just end the chase. It wouldn’t kill him right?

As he debated this in his mind, the pony dove down through an open skylight. Valiant looked around in shock. Fleethoof grit his teeth, and slid down into the skylight as well. A couple cried out in surprise as he landed beside them. He was in a long corridor of what looked like a hotel.

Taking off down the hall, Fleethoof saw the pony running across a sky bridge over Main Street. A couple of Guards stood at the other end. Fleethoof raced across the enclosed bridge just as the unicorn pushed through the soldiers, knocking them aside and climbing out an open window.

“Stop that pony!” Fleethoof yelled out, jumping through the window, wings extended.

He flew to the roof while the soldiers began to scramble their way up too. Down below, ponies were beginning to take notice to the chase occurring above their heads. They had to end this fast, before they drew too much attention.

Fleethoof dove down at the pony, the unicorn ducking just before he could take him down. Fleethoof skidded against the tiled roofs, getting a footing and resuming the chase. The pony glared back at him, and leapt across another wide gap, barely grasping to the edge of the roof and pulling himself up.

Unfortunately, Fleethoof had been too close, and ended up aiming too low. He winced as he dove through a solid plate glass window, feeling the shards scraping and cutting against his skin, and then again as he dove back through the window on the opposite side, now outside once again. He landed on the roof, making after the pony.

“I still have eyes on the target. Requesting permission to fire. Repeat, I have a clean shot,” Sharp Shot repeated, his voice anxious and agitated.

“We need him alive,” Valiant remarked over the air.

“I know. I have a shot on his legs.”

This pursuit had to end, now.

“Take the shot!” Fleethoof ordered.

A split second passed before the unicorn ahead suddenly jerked backwards as a shingle exploded in a spray of terracotta chips in front of his hooves. Quarter Master’s suppressors worked like a charm, completely muffling the sniper's shot. Nopony in Canterlot noticed a thing, and it gave him the opening he needed. His target now staggered, Fleethoof grunted and lunged forward, wrapping his hooves around the fallen pony’s torso as they tumbled off the edge of the roof.

The pony cried out in defeat as they fell, an awning breaking their fall before they crashed into a pile of crates. Fleethoof groaned as his body ached and wing throbbed in pain, and, getting up, pressed a hoof to the pony’s back. He drew his pistol and shoved it hard into the back of his skull.

“Don’t you move…” he said, words growled and ferocious. “Don’t you fucking move.”

The pony struggled for a few moments, but the Guard arrived quickly. They subdued the prisoner, cuffing his hooves and placing an anti-magic band around his horn to prevent his teleportation.

“This isn’t over!” the pony screamed out as he was dragged down the streets, attracting the curious stares of passers-by. “They shall suffer! They shall pay for their crimes!”

Behind him, Fleethoof heard somepony land. He turned and nodded to Valiant, seeing the rest of Skyfall Team and Shining Armor running up on them. Valiant winced a little as he looked at his leader.

“Captain, that looked like it hurt,” he said.

Fleethoof pressed a hoof to his face, feeling the wet blood from the dozens of tiny cuts across him and the aching in his bad wing. “I’ve had worse…”

“What are we going to do with him?” asked Valiant, looking towards the struggling prisoner as he was led towards Canterlot Castle.

“We’ll interrogate him, see what he knows.” Shining Armor’s words were adamant. “I’m sure Princess Celestia would like to have a word with him.”

Fleethoof nodded. “Princess Luna will as well.”

The two ponies looked to one another, exchanging slow smiles. Fleethoof was glad he had gotten to work alongside his friend again. He always felt unstoppable with Shining Armor at his side. And together, they’d taken a huge step towards securing Canterlot.

“Come on, let’s head back,” Shining Armor said, starting off down the road alongside his friend. “I don’t wanna miss the start of this.”

Mad laughter echoed through the musty stone corridors of the prison. Fleethoof did not even realize Canterlot had a prison, but apparently it did. The ponies of the past must have used it once upon a time. Canterlot was old, after all—very old. The cells were all empty, devoid of any prisoners. Prior to recent events, Canterlot had no need to use them. Severe crime was nonexistent in the city, and everypony was happy and content.

Now, however, they seemed to serve their purpose once again.

Skyfall Team rounded a corner at the end of the cellblock. A group of guards stood at a cell near the end. The princesses and Shining Armor were there as well. The ponies approached, the guards saluting them as they passed. Inside his cage, the unicorn was rolling about on the floor, laughing to himself. He was still cuffed. They hadn’t been trusting enough to free him. Fleethoof shook his head slowly, slipping a pill quietly into his mouth.

“So this is what The Double-Edged Sword looks like…” Celestia pondered quietly, looking with pity at the writhing creature inside the cell.

“They have lost all sanity and reason, sister,” Luna said, reflecting the same sadness Celestia displayed. “If they are all like this poor being, they are far beyond redemption.”

Celestia nodded sadly, then looked to the soldier at the gate. “Let us in now.”

“Your majesty, I really must protest—” Shining Armor’s words were cut off by a quick look from the princess.

“Thank you for your concern, Shining Armor, but he is no threat now. We will be fine.”

With a nod to the guard again, the cell was opened, and the alicorns stepped inside. When they were locked inside, the pony stopped tossing about on the floor and looked up at his visitors, his eyes wide with excitement and bliss.

“The princesses have come!” he cried out in joy, quickly scurrying back to an upright position. “Oh happy day! Welcome to my new home, your majesties! I would have tidied up a bit if I knew you were coming, but I'm a bit tied up.”

“Night Shade, what has happened to you?” asked Celestia dolefully.

The pony looked genuinely surprised, ruby eyes wide. “Y-You know my name…?”

“I know the name of all of my little ponies,” she said, sounding like a mother trying to comfort a disturbed child. “Dear Night Shade… What could have turned you against us so?”

“You honestly don’t remember… do you?”

The two princesses exchanged confused looks. Night Shade’s eyes narrowed. He was getting very angry, and fast.

“You don’t remember who I am, do you?!” he snapped, raising his voice to aggressive levels. “Let me refresh your memory, my princess… The tenth of Winter, five years ago… The Frozen North Offensive…”

Luna looked as lost as ever, but Celestia’s rose eyes widened in horror. Her mouth dropped open in shock. Fleethoof felt a jolt go through him. He recognized that name. Phalanx had mentioned it in the past, before the war.

“Oh, you remember now,” said Night Shade furiously, grinning a wicked little smile. “I knew you were heartless, Celestia… How dare you ever forget a miserable tragedy like that? How dare you? You really don’t care for the ponies who die at your bidding.”

“That is not true, Night. I care for everypony, and my heart goes out to every life lost.”

“Then why did you leave them there?! Their bodies are out there, frozen under the snow because you didn’t care enough!” The enraged pony had lost all control, pacing as best he could against the far wall of his cell. “We fought those dragons tooth and nail, for YOU! And how do you repay us? You strand us in the icy wastelands for days to die! We perished, Celestia, because of you!

“I’ll never forget it. There were only four of us left when the fighting was over. We were cold, hungry, tired… We waited for YOU! And when we needed our benevolent princess the most, what does she do? She completely ignores us! She leaves us to find our own way home and to die in that forsaken place!”

“The blizzard was getting worse, Night Shade,” Celestia tried to reason with the fuming pony, her eyes sad, desperately pleading with him. “Any help would have been lost as well. I am very sorry, there was nothing I could do.”

“You could have tried!” he yelled, his voice so sharp it hurt his vocal cords. Fleethoof had never seen a pony so bitterly angry before. “You could have tried! If you cared, you would have tried, but you didn’t! You left us for dead! We struggled through the snow for days. I watched my friends fall one by one and never get up again, and all I could think was ‘Celestia will save us. She’s coming. She wouldn’t leave us to suffer like this.’

“But you did! You did! Oh yes, you did… You let every last one of us die and be buried beneath the ice. And I died that day too, my princess. My faith and loyalty in you withered away, and I saw you for the monster you truly are. You don’t care for the ponies that serve you. They’re puppets for you to use to your advantage, and throw away when you’re done with them.”

Princess Celestia looked visibly ill. “Night Shade—”

“I hid in Hoofington all this time. All this time, and you thought we were all dead. You thought you could just move on without any consequences. Everything was back to the happy-go-lucky normal way of life!”

“Night Shade—”

“And then I heard about the Griffon War! I saw it in the newspaper, and all I could think was ‘Here she goes again! Sacrificing hundreds of lives to keep her own reign safe. She doesn’t care about any of them!’. And I got mad. So very, very mad, Princess. I vowed I would make you pay for the lives you have ruined. I would keep you from abusing your power any more. I would protect the ponies from the one who hurts them the most!”

Night Shade!

Princess Celestia’s booming voice echoed around the cell as she silenced the ranting pony. She loomed over him, intimidating him enough to keep him quiet before softening her expression. She sighed, and lowered her head to his level.

“Night Shade, please, forgive me,” she apologized, dipping her head in remorseful humility. “It was beyond my control. Even the Cloudsdale Weather Team couldn’t control the blizzard you were trapped in. It broke my heart, but all my captains agreed that it would be too risky to endanger even more ponies. I am so sorry for what happened to you.

“But I do care, Night Shade. I always care for my little ponies. I detest violence, especially when it brings harm to anypony. I am sorry I damaged your trust in me. Is there anything I can do to redeem myself in your eyes, and put this anger and violence aside?”

For a long time, both ponies were silent. Even outside the cell, nopony spoke a word. The tension was palpable in the air. Fleethoof swallowed hard, anxiously watching the scene before him.

Night Shade studied Celestia's face closely for a moment, scrutinizing every expression in her eyes. He looked down at the stone floor, the look in his red eyes showing the gears turning in his broken mind. Finally, he looked up at Celestia, an unreadable look in his eyes as a dark, demented grin spread across his face.

“You can die,” he said, sickeningly pleasantly. “In seven days’ time. Then you may have my forgiveness.”

The tension broke, and Fleethoof let out a long, drawn out exhale. Diplomacy had failed—again. Celestia rose up again, her look despondent as she turned and made for the door.

“It was lovely to talk to you again, your majesty!” Night called after her as she left, flipping his mane out of his smoldering eyes and grinning hugely. “Stop by anytime! I’ll be seeing you again soon!”

The door was locked, and the pony began to laugh again, a high-pitched cackle that sent chills down Fleethoof’s spine.

“Keep him under constant watch,” Celestia ordered the guards. “If he says anything regarding his group, notify me immediately.”

The group of ponies made their way back out of the prison, and towards the castle proper. Celestia was silent the entire way, walking quickly and with purpose. She was clearly deeply distressed by the madpony in her custody.

“What are we going to do with him?” Shining Armor asked aloud to nopony in particular.

“We must continue to interrogate him,” replied Luna. “He is our only lead to The Sword’s hideout. Without him, we are back to square one with no trail to follow.”

“He’s deranged. There’s no way he’s going to tell us anything,” Sharp Shot said.

Fleethoof closed his eyes, his face scrunching as he fought back a headache. He felt like he was stuck in a hopeless endgame of a situation. They had nothing to do, no clues to go on, and no idea what they could do to progress. They were stuck, and they were running short of time.

Seven days. They only had seven days before the anniversary of the armistice, and before time was up.

“We have no choice,” Fleethoof muttered as the ponies walked into the foyer. “Luna’s right. He’s the only link we still have to the terrorist cell. We have to push him until he breaks.”

“You mean torture him?” Shining Armor gasped, looking at his friend in shock and horror.

“No—not that that’s completely out of the question though,” he corrected himself. “We question him, nonstop, for as long as we can. We wear his defenses down until we get him to crack, and then we can move to strike against The Sword.”

Luna nodded to the ponies. “That is not a bad plan. Go, commence the interrogations. I will tend to my sister.”

Fleethoof nodded, then nodded again to his team, and the ponies began to head back towards the prison.

“And Captain, be wary of this pony. Do not let his venomous words infect your soul.”

“Yes, your majesty,” he replied with a quick salute, silently dreading heading back to that maniac.

It was going to be a long week…