Every muscle and fiber of Fizzlepop Berrytwist ached as she stood beneath the hot water pouring down from the overhead shower. She leaned into the flow, letting the water run down her suffering body and the heat soothe her stretched sinews. The hot-and-cold mixer taps that had been added to Canterlot Castle's Night Guard barracks only a few weeks before she had joined hadn't been the best part about transferring from the Army, but they certainly ranked highly. She did not miss the cold water showers of the Army, not after a workout like she'd just put herself through.
Her breathing was still coming out heavily, and she closed her eyes and tried to get that under control even as she also fought to stop the trembling through legs that didn't want to keep standing. After several minutes, Fizzlepop had just about succeeded when she felt another pony’s flank bump her own. The touch was gentle, a playful attempt at grabbing her attention, but it was sudden and unexpected, and when she tried to re-balance her hooves one came down on a bar of soap and went flying.
“Whoa!” a voice from beside her called. Fizzlepop felt hooves on her back to steady her, and wingbeats from the hooves’ owner to steady herself as she got her legs back under her where they belonged. Glancing, Fizzlepop found herself looking at Nocturne, one of her fellow squad mates, a pegasus with a deep blue coat and feathers and bright purplish-pink mane.
“Easy, rookie,” Nocturne said. “Didn’t meant to almost trip you.”
Fizzlepop took in a long breath. “How much longer until I stop being called ‘rookie’?” She asked. “I’ve been in the squad for two years now.”
Nocturne shrugged as she turned on her own showerhead, prompting Fizzlepop to step away and back against the far wall until the water heated up, though it didn't bother the pegasus. “When you’re not the newest member anymore.” The older mare answered, and smiled over at Fizzlepop. “And when you stop acting like it.”
Fizzlepop couldn’t stop herself from grinning as she got back under her own shower. Thoroughly soaked now, she turned her attention to actually washing herself, grabbing soap and a brush in her hooves. “I trotted fifteen miles in an hour today. Personal record. None of the other unicorns made that…left some pegasi behind, too.”
The other mare started to put a hoof to her eyes, but stopped herself when she remembered the soap that she also held. “Rookie, it’s real hard to not ever bring up your horn when you make everything about your horn.”
Fizzlepop couldn’t stop herself from flinching at Nocturne’s words. She turned to glare at the pegasus as a tiny, familiar sting traveled up the length of her horn – or what should have been the length of her horn. Phantom pain caused by anger compelling her to instinctively light up a horn that wasn’t there save for a broken stump. Instead of a glow, small sparks shot from her, latching onto and dancing up the length of the water that cascaded down overhead.
Nocturne regarded Fizzlepop with half-lidded eyes. “You gonna blast me?”
“I’m thinking about it,” Fizzlepop answered. After a moment, though, she closed her eyes and turned away, quelling her broken horn and getting back to washing herself. She couldn’t even focus for a second before turning back to Nocturne, jabbing a hoof at her. “I just have one rule, Nocturne. Don’t bring up the horn. It’s not asking much, is it?”
Nocturne leaned one front hoof on the shower wall and gestured with the other. “Rookie…Fizzlepop…look, this is gonna sound awful, but the three tribes aren’t all equal in every way. I can stand on clouds, you can’t. You can shoot lightning out of your forehead, I can’t. And neither of us is ever going to be able to keep up with an earth pony in the Guard. There’s a reason why there’s different fitness standards for the three tribes, and the earth pony standards would break most pegasi and ninety-nine percent of unicorns in half.”
Fizzlepop rolled her eyes. “I think you just made an argument for a ‘separate but equal’ society. Planning on moving to Zaldia?”
“You’ve met my husband, did you see wings or a horn on him?” Nocturne asked. “You know how they treat earth ponies in Zaldia. I wouldn’t wish that place on anypony.” She shook her head again. “I’m not saying that anypony is better or worse as a pony. All I’m saying is that it’s a statistical fact that if you put an average earth pony into a ring or onto a track with an average pegasus or unicorn, and switch off the magic or bind the wings, the smart money’s on the earth pony every time.”
Fizzlepop couldn’t stop herself from stomping a hoof against the shower wall. It was with enough force that a tiny crack appeared in the tile, though it sent a jolt of pain up her already aching foreleg. “I’m not an average unicorn.”
“No,” Nocturne said, hooves in her mane as she washed it. “But you think that the earth ponies in the Night Guard are average earth ponies?” She closed her eyes as she dunked her head under the water, rinsing herself, then turned her attention to her tail. “Look, I’m not saying you shouldn’t push yourself, find your limits, try to get past them, build yourself up as a pony. That’s what life is all about. And hey, if in the process of doing that it turns out you’re one in a million and you can run an earth pony into the ground? Great.” She looked pointedly at Fizzlepop. “But this isn’t about self-improvement, not really. You and I both know it isn’t.”
Fizzlepop opened her mouth, but then the shower’s door opened again and a white unicorn stuck his head in. “Hey – ”
“Gah!” Nocturne called out, making a show of covering herself with her hooves. “Commander, we’re not decent!”
Commander Shining Armor fixed Nocturne with a bemused smile – the distraction provided by Nocturne giving Fizzlepop a chance to close her eyes and try and wipe the anger from her face. “You’re never decent, Nocturne.”
Nocturne stuck her tongue out at that, getting back to washing her tail and keeping the commander's focus on her. “Why is it that you’re supposed to make a thing out of it when you’re in the bath or shower and somepony else sees, anyway?” She wondered, keeping the focus on her since Fizzlepop still needed a few more seconds to calm down. “Like, where did that joke start?”
Shining only shrugged. His own coat glistened from having been freshly cleaned itself after the morning exercise routine the squad had gone through. “I’m sure that the answer to that is kept somewhere next to why the sky is blue.” He turned to look at Fizzlepop. “Hurry up in here, rookie. Your review is complete, so you’ll be joining me with meeting the Captain in twenty minutes.”
“Sir,” Fizzlepop confirmed with a nod, though she couldn’t keep her voice from cracking a little as she did at the mention of the review. If Shining noticed, he didn’t say anything, instead only returning the nod and then ducking out of the shower stall. Fizzlepop immediately returned to cleaning herself in earnest this time, hesitating slightly when she had to wash her forehead – and her horn. Or what was left of it.
Nocturne noticed, and her wings sagged and ears drooped. “Fizzy,” she said softly, “in seriousness…I don’t think you’ve been doing yourself any favors recently, but I can’t think of a pony I’d rather have in the Guard. So good luck.”
Fizzlepop took in a deep breath and held it for a solid twenty seconds before letting it out, trying to exhale all her concern with it. It didn’t work in the slightest, but she smiled for Nocturne’s benefit. “Thanks,” she said, and couldn’t help mentally adding, I think I need it.
The Night Guard of Luna wore silver-blue armor that featured a spine stylized to look like a draconic fin. Each of the suits of armor were also enchanted so that the pony wearing it would appear to have a gray coat, yellow eyes slit like a dragon’s, and a mouth full of fangs. The wings of pegasi were additionally made to look like those of a dragon or bat, while for unicorns, the illusion caused their horns to look slightly curved and sharp. The intent behind the armor was to be terrifying – the slit eyes and fangs in particular intended to provoke the flight side of fight-or-flight responses on whoever was on the receiving end of them.
It worked more often than not, something Fizzlepop knew from personal experience when she had needed to interpose herself between the odd too-eager reporter or ornery taxpayer who hadn’t learned that Princesses were for looking, not touching. That being said, however, it also always left Fizzlepop feeling like a foal dressed up for Nightmare Night. She’d heard that Luna had personally designed the armor and its glamor herself, and could only assume that the Princess had been going through a phase at the time.
It also didn’t help that, since the point was uniformity of appearance, the glamor made her appear to still have an intact horn. When she’d first seen that in a mirror, she’d had a moment of happiness – but only a moment before reality came back and reminded her that it was only an illusion.
Still, it was the armor both she and Commander Shining Armor wore as they made their way from the barracks of Canterlot Castle over to the offices of the Captain of the Royal Guard, the commander of both the Night Guard and the Canterlot Castle Guard. As they trotted, Fizzlepop couldn’t keep her head held as high as was entirely proper while in uniform, nor lift her legs as high.
Shining Armor noticed, of course. “Fifteen miles in an hour,” he commented nonchalantly as they entered the castle proper. One of the other reasons Fizzlepop had never been a big fan of the glamor laid over the Night Guard armor was because of the incongruity between the fearsome appearance it bestowed and the casual conversations that could happen while in uniform. “I’ve never trotted that fast for that long.”
“No, sir,” Fizzlepop acknowledged, holding her head a little higher and hoping that the conversation wouldn’t go the way she knew it was going to.
“Of course, I’ve never tried,” Shining continued, dashing her hopes. He looked her over. “I might, the next time I’ve got a good stretch of being off-duty to recover afterwards. As it stands…say a dragon showed up in Canterlot, doesn’t matter how.” He lifted a hoof and pushed against Fizzlepop’s shoulder slightly as they trotted. She braced herself and stopped herself from stumbling, but she knew the point he was trying to make. “You up to doing your duty today, rookie?”
Fizzlepop’s first instinct was to lie, but she wouldn’t – not to Shining Armor, even leaving aside that he’d see through it instantly. “I don’t think so, sir,” she was forced to admit, still aware of a dull ache through her body, and a primal part of her hindbrain telling her to crawl back to her bunk and go to sleep.
“And this isn’t the first time you’ve done this,” Shining Armor noted. “Not by a long shot.”
Shining sighed, looking away. The helmet of the Night Guard made room for ears, and Shining’s were drooped down. “The Captain is going to bring that up, Fizzy. Just keep that in mind.”
“I will, sir.”
The two proceeded in silence for the rest of the trip, passing through halls of Canterlot Castle bustling with pages, Castle Guard, nobles, two ambassadors, and even a tour group. At length, they reached the doors of the Captain’s office, or rather offices, as proceeding through the door brought the two before a secretary rather than the Captain herself. It was only a moment after that before the two were brought in to the office.
Commanding officers weren’t supposed to necessarily be liked by their subordinates, just obeyed. Nevertheless, Fizzlepop had never much cared for Captain Opal Armet. An earth pony with a silvery coat and black mane, she was getting on in years, but was still fit, and her Captain’s uniform – a blue jacket with a silver sash, this one not projecting any kind of glamor over the pony who wore it – was always neat and pressed, its lines sharp enough to cut.
“Commander Shining Armor and Officer Fizzlepop Berrytwist, reporting as ordered, ma’am,” Shining Armor announced as he and Fizzlepop entered the office, both standing tall and saluting as they did.
Armet didn’t rise from the desk she sat behind, though she did look up from the paperwork that was in front of her, setting down the pen she’d held in her mouth. “At ease,” she said, “helms off, let’s do this face-to-face.”
Fizzlepop started to use her hooves to obey the order, but noticed Shining Armor’s horn lighting up and sliding his own helmet off. He hadn’t meant anything by it – it was a literally thoughtless gesture. Most unicorns just stopped using their hooves for anything but walking as their magic developed…a luxury that hadn’t been afforded Fizzlepop.
Which was part of why she was here – or rather, why she felt so much dread being here at her annual review. Holding back a grimace, she lit up what was left of her horn, ignoring the sting with practiced ease as she wrapped magic around her helmet and pulled it off. She acted quickly enough, and the task was simple enough, that she was able to do so with only a few stray, harmless sparks flying from her horn as she took her helmet into her hooves, even as her body took on its normal coloration and appearance once more.
Nothing had gone wrong, the helm came off just fine…and yet out of the corner of her eye, she saw Shining Armor, similarly free of glamor, glancing at her with a look of mild disappointment. Opal Armet’s own eyes, meanwhile, had immediately gone to the broken stump on Fizzlepop’s head. They always did. It was another reason Fizzlepop didn’t care much for the captain.
The moment didn’t last, at least, as Armet gestured to in front of her desk. “Take a seat, officer,” she instructed. Fizzlepop came forward and did so, while Shining remained at the door. By the time she was seated, Armet had her hooves pressed together before her as she regarded Fizzlepop over them. “Officer Berrytwist, you are here to hear the results of your annual review concerning your physical, mental, and emotional ability to continue serving in the Night Guard of Princess Luna.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Fizzlepop replied when Armet was silent just long enough.
Armet closed over the folder she’d had on her desk. It had Fizzlepop’s name and cutie mark – a mug overflowing with fizzy foam and berries, earned during a very different part of Fizzlepop’s life. Armet placed both her hooves on the folder as she regarded Fizzlepop. “We all know why we’re here and what this review is going to center on. So first, let’s cover the good. You continue to score well on mental aptitude tests. Your commanding officer reports no disciplinary action has been necessary for you. You have been observed to be friendly with your squad mates while respecting seniority and the chain of command. While on-duty you have served well and kept the Princess from harm.”
“Thank you, ma’am.”
“Which brings us to the negative,” Armet said, and her eyes couldn’t help but dart to Fizzlepop’s horn. The unicorn managed to keep a glare from her eyes. “Your injury.”
Fizzlepop kept her mouth tightly shut as Armet opened the folder before her, looking down to it. “A unicorn in the Guard is required to be able to lift three hundred pounds with his or her telekinesis and sustain that lift for ten seconds. He or she is required to be able to perform five repetitions of this per minute, for five minutes.” Armet looked back to Fizzlepop. “But to be blunt, you are not capable of reliably holding even your helmet aloft for ten seconds. The power is there but not the control, your magic will simply give out at random intervals. Correct?”
“Yes, ma’am.” Fizzlepop was forced to admit.
“An exception was made,” Armet continued, “when you joined the Royal Army due to the power of the one spell you are capable of casting. A fireworks spell, I believe. Explosive, with a side of electrical discharge, or the magical equivalent thereof.”
“By unicorn standards your physical abilities are not in question. An argument was made based on your desire to serve, mental aptitude, and the obvious military use of your fireworks that despite not meeting the Royal Army’s magical standards – which are lower than the Guard’s – you should still be allowed to join and serve your country and your Princess provided you could consistently meet the basic physical standards required of the pegasus tribe, aside from flight speed.”
“Two years ago, after reaching the officer rank of first lieutenant in the Royal Army, you applied to and transferred to the Night Guard. My predecessor allowed the transfer based on a character reference from then-Officer Shining Armor.” Armet looked over to the commander, still standing at attention by the door. “Who I believe also paid for your commission as an officer in the Royal Army in the first place.”
Shining Armor stood a little straighter at being mentioned. “I had met Fizzlepop Berrytwist not long after joining the Guard myself, ma’am,” he said. “I believed she had talent, but she was not financially able to pay for officer training. I offered to help.”
Armet nodded, once again pressing her hooves together before her face as she looked between the two other ponies in the room. “Looking at this situation from the outside without full context, you understand the optics of the situation, Commander Armor, do you not?”
Fizzlepop was struggling to keep her horn from lighting up and sparking at the implication that she was only here because of Shining Armor. He didn’t deserve that, and certainly not in a review about her. She tried to ignore the small voice in her mind that wondered, though, if Armet had a point.
“Very good.” Armet turned her attention back to Fizzlepop. “Officer Berrytwist, your commission in the Army was dependent on your ability to keep to the standards of the pegasus tribe, and a similar requirement was placed on you when you joined the Night Guard.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Fizzlepop said. “I exceed the standards, ma’am.”
“Do you?” Armet wondered. “Let’s look at running and endurance. A pegasus in the Guard is required to be able to trot twelve miles in one hour. It is understood, Berrytwist, that this does not mean trot twelve miles and then collapse from exhaustion, but rather still be able to perform his or her duties at the end of it.” She waved a hoof at a window into the office. “If I picked a random pegasus civilian off the streets of Canterlot and ran behind them with a whip, I could get them to trot that. And then they’d collapse from the next stiff breeze.”
Fizzlepop grit her teeth. She exhaled slowly through her nostrils. “Yes, ma’am.”
Armet gestured with one hoof even as she once more looked at Fizzlepop’s folder. “At present, Berrytwist, you exceed every physical standard for the pegasus tribe. But at the same time, I have noticed a slight tremor in your body since you entered the room. According to the doctors, your heart rate is also higher than is entirely healthy for a unicorn – even one with as impressive a physical build as yours.” Her eyes once again looked to Fizzlepop’s broken horn. “And while your fireworks spell has obvious military uses, I have to admit that I am somewhat less able to imagine circumstances where it will be useful as a bodyguard for Her Majesty the Princess. Niche opportunities to use it, yes…but they are just that: niche.”
Armet closed the folder over. “So. From the outside, you look like a political appointee who had a wealthy patron buy her way into first the Army, then the Guard – and I am not saying that is what happened, but it’s how it looks. You fail to meet the basic magical requirements of the unicorn tribe. The one spell you can cast is not useful to the Night Guard. And you appear to be damaging yourself attempting to make up for your shortcomings.”
“Permission to speak, ma’am?” Fizzlepop asked. She kept the crack from her voice.
Armet considered a moment before nodding. “Granted, officer.”
Fizzlepop took a moment to compose herself, glancing down at her helmet as she did. In its reflection, she could see Shining Armor. “Ma’am, nopony is more aware of…the limitations imposed on me by my horn than I am. And it is true that I owe a lot to Commander Armor. Over the past two years, since joining the Guard, I have been pushing myself to be worthy of the chance that he gave me.” She looked to Armet, trying to remember what Nocturne had been trying to tell her about setting goals and reaching them. “My goal has been to reach the physical standards of the earth pony tribe. If you’ll only give me a chance…”
Fizzlepop heard a pointed, annoyed exhale from behind her. Captain Armet didn’t look any happier than Shining Armor sounded. “To do that,” Armet said, “You’d have to more than double your current physical lifting capacity. And you’d have to be able to trot sixteen miles in an hour. Officer, considering the state you’re in just trying to meet pegasus standards – ”
“No, I – ” Fizzlepop interrupted before she could stop herself. She bit her lip. “I apologize, ma’am.”
Armet at least didn’t let the silence linger. “Accepted. Continue, officer.”
Fizzlepop glanced at Shining’s reflecting in her helmet once more, and saw he was, almost imperceptibly, shaking his head. She was going about this the wrong way, phrasing things wrong. But how was she supposed to do it? She could meet the pegasus standards with only a little more effort than an actual pegasus. But Armet was right, she did utterly fail the magical standards of the unicorn tribe, and the one major asset that had allowed her to join the Army, the fireworks spell she could cast, really was less than useful as a bodyguard. Maybe if she could control it better…but she couldn’t. It was an explosion or nothing at all. But without the fireworks – without unicorn magic that was worth anything – and without wings – then she had to make the earth pony standards, didn’t she?
Fizzlepop opened her mouth to begin to speak, but there was a sound, a surprised yelp, from outside the office door, then a few muffled voices. Shining Armor, closest to the door and able to hear more clearly what was on the other side of it, had his eyes widen as he stepped away from it and opened the door, then sank to one knee.
Which could only mean one thing, really. Fizzlepop copied the motion, as did Captain Armet as soon as she came out from behind her desk. A moment later, Princess Luna Equestris strode into the office. Even with two years of becoming more accustomed to the presence of the Princess, she still cut an imposing figure to Fizzlepop. She was taller than most stallions, even Shining Armor, with a long horn, powerful wings, and fur that barely hid the taut, strong muscles that could bend iron bars on a whim.
“Your majesty,” Opal Armet said from where she knelt. “To what do we owe the pleasure?”
Luna regarded the three ponies with an arch look before she gestured with her wings, giving them leave to stand. They did so. “I am sending my apprentice Trixie into Canterlot,” she said, “and thought it only polite to notify my Captain of the Guard so that an escort could be arranged. I understand that this is extremely last-minute…”
Fizzlepop’s ears twitched at the pronunciation of that last word. She glanced to Shining, who nodded slightly – he’d heard it too.
“We live to serve, your majesty,” Armet said, though she frowned at the mention of Trixie, a young unicorn Luna had taken on as an apprentice several years ago who was rapidly developing a…reputation…around the Castle. Her frown deepened further after a moment. “If I may ask, your Majesty, where are officers Smiles and Meadowlark? I believe they were supposed to guard your person this shift.” She came up alongside Fizzlepop and glanced at her, and the unicorn nodded.
Luna looked surprised for a moment, glancing to either side of her and then out into the hall. “Hmm, I seem to have lost them…how irksome. In any event, I must be going now. Have an officer meet Trixie at the castle gates in half an hour sharp. Oh, and do see to it that Smiles and Meadowlark are suitably disciplined.”
Shining, Fizzlepop, and Captain Armet looked between each other, then back to the “alicorn”. “Commander Armor, you’re closest.”
The tone of voice caused “Luna’s” eyes to widen in shock, moreso when Shining reached out to her with one hoof. “Un moment! It’s treason to strike the Princess!” She tried to backpedal, but was caught too much by surprise as Shining’s hoof reached to her, through her like she wasn’t even there, and grabbed something within the “alicorn” and pulled.
He produced a blue unicorn who came up to his withers, not quite a filly but not really a mare yet either, horn glowing pinkish-blue. She tried to scamper away, and the illusion of Luna started swatting at Shining with its hooves – harmlessly due to only being a trick of light – but Shining held on tight as his other hoof lightly flicked her horn. Instantly, the illusion of Luna burst apart into pinkish-blue smoke, and a moment later even that was gone.
“Pas juste…” Trixie Lulamoon groused in Prench. She looked up at Shining, and grinned widely. “What gave me away?” Her Equestrian still carried a fair bit of an accent in it, reflecting the city of Neigh Orleans where she had grown up, though it wasn’t nearly as thick as it had once been, where her broken pidgin had been barely intelligible to much of the castle staff.
“You pronounced minute like in Prench,” Armet said. “The voice was generally off as well.”
“Princess Luna would never consider losing track of two members of the Night Guard merely ‘irksome’,” Fizzlepop Berrytwist added.
“Also the illusion was too tall, the wings were too long, it didn’t really move right, and the hooves didn’t make any sound when walking,” Shining finished.
Trixie huffed. “Mais, Ah’m still working on castin’ glamors an’ ghost sounds at the same time. Guess mah Luna still looks like what Ah imagine her like instead a’ what she is like. Fooled ya for un moment, though.”
“Trixie, what are you doing here?” Shining Armor demanded, releasing the young unicorn. “You’re interrupting something very important.”
Trixie waved a hoof nonchalantly. “Oui, sure, very important. Mais, Ah really am here for a guard so Ah can go into Canterlot, Ah just didn’t want to wait.” She frowned. “Ah think Ah should be able to go into Canterlot by mahself, Ah’m old enough, but Luna don’t want me by mahself after what happened in the Elkheim Embassy.”
“The embassy you burned down?”
Trixie glared at Shining. “Choooh! Ah didn’t burn down nothin’! The fire was put out ‘fore too long, an’ it wasn’t just me, there was this deer too, an’ we was playin’ and there were ice worms…okay, there weren’t real ice worms…” She crossed her hooves. “Look, Ah’m on a schedule. Last showin’ a’ Don Rocinante is tonight an’ Ah need a guard now so’s Ah don’t miss it. Ah got permission from Luna, y’all can check.” She looked at Shining Armor, then Armet, then Fizzlepop, and smiled as she pointed at her. “She’ll do. She looks tough.”
Fizzlepop and Armet both rolled their eyes. “Officer Fizzlepop Berrytwist – ”
“Quoi?” Trixie interrupted at the name. “Mais, does Luna pick y’all based on how weird your name sound considerin’ your jobs? That’s like a cake store owner bein’ named Bloody Harvest or – ”
“Trixie!” Armet interrupted, shouting. Trixie let out yelp of fright, stumbling backwards – and behind Shining Armor, who couldn’t stop himself from reflexively stepping to shield the frightened filly more. “I don’t. Have time. For your games. And after what you just pulled I’m absolutely certain that Luna will see fit to cancel your little trip into Canterlot.”
Trixie’s eyes widened as she came out from behind Shining. “Non…” she intoned. “But…it was only a joke! Ah didn’ mean nothin’ by it! An’ this is the last showin’ an’ Ah ain’t managed to get t’ any of the others an’ it won’t be comin’ back for years an’ years – ”
Armet, if anything, looked even more furious. Shining stood up a little straighter. “Captain, if I may…I believe the point that Officer Berrytwist was trying to make before we were interrupted,” he flicked at one of Trixie’s ears with a hoof, “merits some consideration. You said yourself that she is exceeding most unicorn and even pegasus standards and has been a model officer in the Guard.” He looked down to Trixie. “Also after this interruption I think all of our trains of thought are shot. We should probably pick up where we left off tomorrow, ma’am.”
Trixie opened her mouth to add her opinion, but Shining’s horn glowed pink and encased her in a shield bubble, cancelling the sound. The young unicorn glared at Shining, her eyes actually taking on a pinkish-blue glow as she did so.
Armet, meanwhile, looked to Shining. “You sticking your neck out for her doesn’t help with the perception of her being an appointee of yours,” she noted.
“I’d do the same for any of the officers under my command, ma’am,” Shining said. “When I first met Officer Berrytwist, she was in a bad place. Her time in the Army and the Night Guard has improved her as a pony considerably. I think she could go much further if given the chance. That is ultimately up to you, ma’am, but that’s my opinion.”
Armet looked at Shining Armor, then Fizzlepop. She let out a long sigh, putting a hoof to her eyes. “Well, if nothing else, commander, you’re right about our trains of thought being thoroughly derailed. Officer Berrytwist, escort Trixie…wherever it is she was going, after double-checking that Luna really is letting the little reprobate out of the castle. We’ll continue this tomorrow.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Fizzlepop looked down at Trixie, not sure if she should be grateful for the reprieve or annoyed at having to play baby-sitter. Trixie, for her part, just smiled brightly back.