Shop Mobile More Submit  Join Login
×

:iconalexwarlorn: More from alexwarlorn


Featured in Collections

Writing by PsychoDemonFox

PonyPOV by ardashir

In Progress by L-D-Sayo


More from DeviantArt



Details

Submitted on
August 4, 2013
File Size
60.3 KB
Link
Thumb

Stats

Views
980
Favourites
9 (who?)
Comments
73
×
Pony POV Series
My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic
Shining Armor 14 Part 1
semiT malC-Calm Times
By LZ and Kendell2
Editted by Alexwarlorn and Louis


It was after lunch. We'd once again boarded the ships, and were awaiting the hour we'd leave Zebrawa. Myself, Commander Shepard, Lance-Corporal Audience, and Minuette, were to explain a few things to the bulk of the civilians, after I shared concerns with the Commander that the security detail ahead needed to be taken seriously. The troopers and hoofmaidens had already been informed the night before.

Cadence had felt I was being paranoid again.

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): Was she correct?)

...No comment.

I cast a look over the rest of the civilians assembled in the hangar, Cadence's entourage of nearly forty.

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Forty? Wow...Why does she get that many when Celestia normally only gets like six guards to pull her chariot?)

One, Celestia's over a thousand years old, so I guess she's a little old school (Cadence is the only ‘contemporary Alicorn', after all). And two, because this was a diplomatic party, so people wanted to tag along, I think Sunset became a Hoofmaiden for that reason.

Plus half were civil servants: accountants, news aggregators, data aggregators, secretaries, even a couple of lawyers. That group was largely autonomous, and Minuette and Sunset were the ones mainly delivering their work to the Princess. I'd kept forgetting to ask to get whatever newspaper clippings from home they prepared.

The rest were two cooks, a group of personal trainers, a group of laundry workers, the dressmaker and her assistants, the pet care specialist without any pets, a masseuse, a pair of personal shoppers, two farriers, an armorer (the Air Navy had snagged him), and the remainder were odd-jobs ponies meant to cover anything else that might crop up. Virtually all of them had been in the background. But I'd wanted to see how they'd been doing and make sure they knew what was happening ahead, as did Commander Shepard.

"Zebrawa was a little tighter for security than we'd hoped but we've not heard any problems reported by you or other civilians on the trip. That said, Triana is at least in theory less secure. Technically, it's still at war with the South. However, there's a large multinational contingent. Columbians, Ponsians, Neighponese, Germanes, Prench. They're all soldiers and largely keep to themselves. The locals however might see foreigners like us as easy marks, so we're going to have to make sure anypony leaving the embassy has their destinations planned and troops accompany them," I said.

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): And let me guess, you were going to make sure Cadence saw any destination plans of yours?)

Yes. Most definitely.

"The good news is though, ironically enough the more secure docks mean we don't need to spare as many Air Naval Cavalry to watch the ship. We can have more troops covering you when you go out shopping or on the tourist trail. Technically at war or not, it's a nice city," Shepard added.

Minuette then consulted her notes. Her reaction to finding out more detailed schedules were needed was akin to Twiley when she found out she needed to make an extra large checklist. Seriously, how did those two not know each other?

"Yes, the city has a fair few tourist sites and some museums, mostly filled with things they've dug from the desert. There's no real large parks, mostly just city squares and markets. There's a zoo, and the Grand Bazaar is probably one of the better marketplaces to visit for local flavor. A fair few other nightspots are aimed at the foreign troops, as well as the researchers and contractors coming to do archaeological stuff in the desert..."

"Archaeological stuff?" Somepony asked. Audience spoke up.

"There's a large number of digs in the desert, though many of them are pretty close to the border. As a result a lot of survey teams hire private security firms to protect against raiders. The raids never get too far from the border and they're rarely a real danger, just meant to harass the defenders more than anything. It wasn't that bad when I was there a few years ago."

He hadn't added his mother was probably in the desert at a dig right now, or that by saying so he'd accidentally convinced Cadence and the Hoofmaidens to disregard the 'border raiders' and plan to visit the Equestrian archaeological digs. He'd apologized as soon as they were out of earshot. Still, we'd get to say hello to Doctor Audience hopefully. I hadn't seen her for a while.

"Yes, though I don't think we'll all be going to the digs. Maybe a few... is anypony here maybe interested right now? We'll probably ask nearer the time..."

Despite my still present paranoia, I couldn't help imagining Twiley's reaction had she been present.

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): Oh! Like this? Yesyesyesyesyesyesyes....)

Hehe, yeah, exactly like that, you're pretty good at it.

"What kind of border raiders are we talking about?"  one of the civilians asked.

"Just small groups that come in and cause a ruckus or try to steal things. Nothing serious," I lied.

Bond had told me that was the official line we were to stick to. However, it was an open secret amongst everypony else that some of the raids and groups were Spetsnaz and mercenaries scouting out for a possible conflict. Apparently, things like this happened every few years when the Southern government wanted to distract their citizens from some internal troubles. I had no doubts the Hooviets would play some sort of game while Cadence was here. And I probably would have been even if I wasn't paranoid about Makarov.

Still, the civilians didn't seem as enthusiastic as Cadence about visiting the digs. Though Minuette seemed to be excited about it for some reason.

"Okay, so, a few last things. There's actually a Little Italiponia district here, the Italiponians did most of their Zebrafrican trade here during the Merchanteering Era, so if you speak Italiponian you've got good odds of being understood if they don't know Equestrian. Roughly a third of the population here is actually Donkeys, and finally the food prices, especially fresh or imported stuff, are usually pretty high for tourists," Minuette finished.

"On that last note, by the way, I'd like to add this is a last chance for anypony feeling homesick to head back early. We're unlikely to run into any ships heading back home in the coming months, and there's a supply ship from the Royal Fleet Auxilliary delivering here soon. It'll also be the last chance for those of us staying to stock up on creature comforts from home in decent numbers."

I'd already made sure the ship's loadmasters and galley quartermasters were to be well stocked with teas I liked rather than trying to prepare a stash. Unfortunately, cow's milk wouldn't last long even with the preserving spells - we'd be buying local by Zebrabwe, and most cows in Zebrafrica could command a high price. Maybe I'd need to make a stash of creamer packets, I had thought at the time.

"Anypony have any questions?" Shepard asked.

None were forthcoming.

"All right, then. If you want to order something specific from the RFA ship, there's a couple of Ensigns will be at an information desk at the library, just go there to make requests. "

The crowd began to disperse and head for their cabins.  I made sure to catch Audience's attention.

"Lance-Corporal, can you find Corporal Apple and both of you come to my quarters? I need to discuss something with you."

He nodded in reply, only for Minuette to then speak.

"Actually, Captain, can I quickly check something? Princess Cadenza wanted me to make sure you're feeling okay, she thought you seemed jumpier than usua... jumpy at breakfast."

"...Please tell Her Highness there's nothing to be concerned about," I lied.

I had considered adding something like 'pleased to note her concern' but I worried it would come across as sarcastic...

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): I can't imagine why.)

..., or cause Minny and the Hoofmaidens to release a new single.  Oh, who was I kidding, they'd probably have done that no matter what I'd said replying to that.

Anyway, I went to my room, and it was a few moments later my junior NCOs knocked at the door.

"Ellis, Captive, thanks for coming so quickly. I just need to ask how you two have both been doing the past few weeks after Columbia..."

"Ah'm okay, Sir. Ah did have a couple'a nightmares but they were back in Colombia, should be on record ah think."

"I'm fine as well, Sir. I'd had one odd dream but we think it was unrelated..."

"What was the dream?"

"Well, there was a giant monster stomping through Manehattan and I was in charge of the Guard force there. I was about to come up with a plan when a Neighponese Shinobi from the Special Copyright and Piracy Squad showed up and told me I couldn't refer to it as a kaiju because they'd trademarked the term."

"...And?"

"I had to replan it to work around the trademarks. I have no idea why I dreamt that, Gag assures me it's a generic term and that you can't really enforce any trademark on it at this point, especially not in an international context."

"Oookay."

What a crazy dream, everyone knows Guard protocol for a giant monster attack specifically calls for aid from the Princesses, he wouldn't have been in charge of the defense anyway.

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Wait...what? You're serious?!)

Yeah, Article 1954. We live in Equestria, which has Hydra and at least one Ursa Major (we're not sure how many actually exist) among other things. And unfortunately, there are still uncommon occasions of Equestria threatening events besides ones that require my sister and her friends. And yes, we do guard the Princesses, but we're not about to pretend they're not goddesses. They are the big guns from time to time and protocol lists what qualifies as needing their intervention and what Guards are supposed to engage on their own (for the record, the Mayor of Ponyville was violating protocol, since Nightmare Moon was classified as an Equestria threatening event, as I said before, the correct order was ‘fall back and regroup', and then send a letter to Canterlot reporting an Equestria threatening event).

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): For the record, Mayor Mare had just witnessed an old mare's tale come to pass, it wasn't exactly easy to make a rational decision at a time like that, especially when everyone expects you to make some kind of choice.)

...I can sympathize with that...

"Uh, sorry if this is outta line, Sir, but, uh, Ah'm wondering how you've been doin'? With respect you've seemed kinda... jumpy, lately," Ellis said, with the honesty his clan is almost as famous for as their apples.

"No, I've had no problems, but thanks for asking," I lied again.

Interviewer's Notes: Pegasus: (How'd you fit your muzzle through the door with all the lies you were telling?)


Hey, I know it looks bad but we didn't want the civilians to freak out knowing our old buddy Makarov was involved.




"Shiney, I've said it since the Academy, but you need to learn to relax a little more," Ace noted, seeing my barely hidden apprehension at the scene before us.

"I can relax just fine, Ace, it's just..."

"...You're worried about stories from pubs in Caledonia? Relax, it's a nice enough place. Look, see, ‘it has been five days since somepony smashed a bottle over somepony's head'! I've seen worse in Canterlot..."

Caledonia? When was I there with Ace?

"It's a joke, ye ken," Somepony nearby said.

"Yeah, but the unicorn doesn't know that," Ace faux-whispered to the bar patron.

"I'm aware it's a joke," I sighed, as we made our way over to the bar itself. The strong smell of salt and alcohol in the air didn't do wonders for my apprehension.

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): Oh, so it wuz just a normal bar, not a pole-dancing place?)

Pardon? Did you just say...?!

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): It looked fun when Flut-)

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): Dear, remember what you Pinkie Promised.)

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): Oops...Sorry!)

...I'm going to pretend that didn't happen...

"Anyway, what're you having, Sparks?"

"I'm not sure... Salt and Lime?"

The Barpony gave me a steely glare. "We don't do cocktails."

I tried not to sigh, but he burst out laughing and covered it.

"Just kidding ye on, mate.  We've actually got a very good range of them. Wide range of soft cocktails, we're proud of our Vodka specialities... But a Salt and Lime, you say?"

Ace ordered something with a long instruction list that probably had half a salad and a little paper umbrella involved at some stage. The Bartender got to work.

"So, how are things on the ground?" Rimmer asked.

"Going fine, I guess. Got a decent team under my command, even if Reinolds keeps dropping the darned stun grenades at the doorway instead of throwing them in the rooms..."

"Heh, gotta watch out for them. There's always one on every entry team fumbles the grenades."

...When was I on an entry team?

"I wish there wasn't, I'm a bad shot as it is, hard to stun-spell something if I can't see or hear."

I blinked as the bartender appeared to be readying a miniature chainsaw to prepare Rimmer's drink, but was then distracted by some loud applause from other bar patrons. There were a group of Deer and Ponies. One unicorn was on his hind legs, a cutie mark of a golden ape-skull, like an actor... like Makarov... or something. He'd just finished a song, and from the sound of it he was being congratulated ‘on another fine performance'.

"Roedinian expats, spring equinox. They celebrate..."

"Mother Deer bringing new life to the land, yes," I said absent-minded...ly...

"It's why we've got so mony vodka options. Plenty o' refugees who ran fae the Iron Antlers crackin' live in these parts. The wan singin' is an actor actually, famous for Shakespony and the like."

The Bartender sighed.

"Mind you, the wan time he did play a Roedinian character fur some reason he used a local accent. Fur a Cervanian-born ship's Captain...."

"...That play about the submarines?" Ace said, clearly better versed in theatre than I.

The Bartender nodded, and passed the now-prepared drink over. As expected there was an umbrella.

"So, what is it you're up to right now in the Air Navy?" I asked, looking around the bar, noting an awful lot of Deer....

"Just testing the new light airships, those Ordnance Carriers. Not rated for any live fire yet, and the boffins still have teething troubles with those things they think could be used to stun Dragons, but they're brilliant machines. Not as fast or nimble as the old mark one featherlimbs, but Earth Pony engineering and Unicorn magic have combined to build a darn good flying machine. Now if only we could channel Pegasus Kinesis into it, then it'd be perfect."

"Thought they were... Griffin built..."

We only just started testing them... this was a year ago, we didn't have those then...

"Nah, airships are pony made, Sparks. These ones were just Griffins using the same ideas."

"Certainly safer than helicopters..." Someone commented as they neared.

"Amen to that! And it's good to see you, Dima. Sit with us,"

I turned to see the Deer who had spoken, and that Ace had invited to join us. He was a Roe deer, and I felt I'd seen him before now I think about it....

"Er, know much about helicopters..." I said to him...

"My mom flew one in the war. As you can tell she was lucky enough to survive it, but she hated the cursed things even when she flew them."

"Oh, introductions. Dima, First Lieutenant Shining Armor Sparkle. Sparks, Second Lieutenant Dimitiri Maka-




There was a loud banging, and it took me a startled few seconds to realize somepony was knocking on the door. I felt strangely cold and unsettled, and I realized I seemed to already be halfway out of bed before I'd heard the noise properly...Ugh, just once I'd like to wake up in a perfectly normal fashion...

"Y-yes?" I tried not to stammer, but failed.

"Captain? You wanted to be informed if we arrived ahead of schedule? We should be docking within the hour."

I could barely hear him for the banging noise, and it took awhile for me to realise it was my heart pounding. The Air Naval Cavalrypony at the door seemed to be aware I was half awake, but he didn't seem too inclined to drop the grim expression he had.

"I... I see, thank you, Petty Officer..."

"No problem, Sir. I've already informed the Princess' hoofmaidens on the way here. They didn't seem too pleased..."

I didn't see a trace of humor in his eyes. They just looked pretty harsh, really. The scar he had above one didn't help...

"Yes, I, uh, I can imagine."

"I'll let you get to it then, shall I, sir?"

He left, and a moment later I was wide awake as I turned the shower on full blast with the cold tap...




Unfortunately for anypony expecting a long story about antics and shenanigans in Triplneigh... Well, it was rather quiet.

Buisnessponies here, Government hoofshakes there, dinners over there, what the heck was that oh it's a cat somepony help Gag please, okay that was a barking parrot?

"Parakeet, Sir," Garnet corrected.

In fact, it was honestly that quiet I thought I had died and not noticed.

"...Er, I think the fact you're asking me to check your pulse kind of confirms your not-deadness..."

"He could be a zombie," Thunderchild noted.

"I hope not, if he has to eat brains he'd starve around here," Cadence sighed.

"...Ladies and Gentlecolts, I think we just suffered a royal burn. Garnet, put the ointment away, it was metaphorical."

"Sorry, Sarge."


(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Surely SOMETHING interesting happened in Triplneigh!)

...Well, there was the time Cadence had me sneak out to Little Bitaly with her...

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Wait, really?!)

...and the Hoofmaidens and the rest of my squad because there was a free evening and she had nothing better to do but spy on Sunset and Ranger dating.

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Oh. Wait, you went along with it?)

Look, I was kidding when I said ‘snuck out'. She consulted me and the ambassador on the ‘put a disguise on and travel the evening incognito' bit and though I noted misgivings I had to concede the area was very secure. I wasn't initially told about the ‘spy on two lovebirds' bit though. Plus, it was either we do this or endure Gag doing stand up comedy at a local nightclub.

Anyway, for some reason, Gag and Garnet were needed. I was a little worried why the princess and hoofmaidens wanted Garnet along, but the look they gave each other and me made it clear I was missing something, of the sort that pressing the matter would just result in ridicule. And possibly an extra verse to the song sang behind my back at some point.

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Did you figure it out why?)

Nope. Just in case I had Ellis come along too.

...Hey, don't you three start!

"Look on the plus side, Shining, you're not in the luggage bay again," Cadence noted as we walked our way down to the seafront.

The whole area overlooked the bay, the shapes of the various Allied ships hanging low in the sky or nestled into the docks. Cadence had put on a pink unicorn disguise and hid her wings below the hoody this time. I managed to avoid the dreaded penguin suit, and convince everypony that us all wearing sunglasses was a bit obvious. Even if it'd look badflank.

"Gag, tell me Ranger listened to somepony sensible about advice," I had to quickly say as we neared and passed a number of decent-looking places. "And somepony told him trying to get advice from The Lord Flashheart was a bad idea after having his memory erased."

"They might have been directed to a nice place by the Circus ponies back in Zamunda. They eat out a lot in the places they visit, they're probably know a lot of good places."..." Minuette quickly reassured.

"...Hopefully not too expensive, Privates don't get paid much," Gag muttered.

"Tch, stallions! Never realize that price is no object to true love, right, Garnet?"

"It's nice if the stallion can afford it I suppose, but I'd rather get a nice regular ruby over a shaft-closer Fire Ruby."

"...Shaft-closer?" I wondered.

"It's a Fire Ruby so big the whole mine shuts down for the week because selling it covers the wages for the whole holiday. You see, only dragons can really grow Fire Rubies, so any natural one is worth a lot. So big ones are really valuable."

"...Those are valuable? Dragon-grown ones?"

"Well, yes, but if a dragon grows it to eat it, it's really not worth much...."

"Phew..."

"...Only about ten thousand or so by the time they do eat it, not that Dragons think about selling one of their gems," Garnet finished.

"Agh!"

"Shining, I really don't think Twilight would let Spike sell one instead of eat it anyway, you know how much he loves them," Cadence reminded me.

"...You're right, she'd think it'd be worth it to let him enjoy it even if they were valued at a million bits."

"And your family is already nobility, Shining."

"...Point taken."

Anyway, Cadence soon halted us. I took the opportunity to look over my shoulders, just to be safe.

"This is the place. Now, here's the plan. Garnet, Gag, this place doesn't have reservations so you two go in and get a table. They spot you? It's just a coincidence. The rest of us? They do takeout, so one by one we all go in!"

"...Uh, beg pardon, Prin... Your High...  What are we meant to call ya, ma'am?"

Cadence opened her mouth to say something...then promptly facehoofed.

"...I forgot to think up a codename didn't I? Um, how about, Decoy... Squirrel?"

"Uh, Rhapsody..., that's a bit obvious," I tried my hoof.

Twinkle Shine and Minuette made an odd gasp.

"...How about Sing Song?" Cadence then asked.

They made an odd reverse gasp.

"Ah like it," Ellis noted.

"...Hang on, wait, who pays for that table, I'm pretty sure we said something about not earning much money earlier..."

"Uh, Garnet, they do takeout, I don't imagine it's that expensive..."

"Then it's settled! And I was going to pay for everyone, I'm a princess!"

Somepony passing gave her a look.

"...So Daddy says."

Technically that was true, I guess.

"Anyway, let's get on with it."

That meant that we five wound up waiting and looking over the bay, one of us going in occasionally. I felt a little alarmed as Cadence took her turn, but everything seemed okay. Not even a parrot barking....

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): Parakeet.)

Species doesn't matter! That thing would've been creepy even if I wasn't paranoid!

"...So why are all these ships here anyway?" Minuette wondered.

It took me a few minutes to remember we'd left Audience at the Embassy.

"It's part of how the war was fought. The Hooviets had backed the south to try and win, but the war with the Dragons weakened them. With Hooviet influences gone, Ponsia and Neighpon moved in to try and stop the war. They managed to get a ceasefire, but the Hooviets came back ten years later and propped the South up when their regime looked unstable. So everyone else made sure to keep the North safe and stop the war restarting," Cadence tried.

"And we play a part too, sending supplies and aid, don't we?" Twinkle Shine mused.

"Yup. In fact, ya know that really big ship over there? Take a close look at the top deck..." Ellis grinned.

"...Is that a farm on the deck of a ship?!"

"Shore is! Royal Fleet Auxiliary food farm ship. Some of mah cousins work on the RFA Apple. Yeah, Ah know, imagine that, relatives o' mine on a floating farm called Apple, shocking, yeah?"

That got a few chuckles.

"Good way to deliver supplies, take a whole farm crewed by Earth Ponies along. And a nice way to restock during long voyages when land is still awhile away," I mused.

"There's rock farm ships as well. Mah cousins the Oranges have been ponderin' trying to have commercial floating farms on sea-ships, go around the Equestrian coast selling oranges and running a sort of cruise...  Point is, when ya got Earth ponies and Pegasi, all yah need is some good soil and some seeds to grow crops fast. Surprisin' thing is, it took so long fer somepony to realize it Ah guess."

Of course, they'd still have problems staying in places like this for long, apparently. But the hope is, ships like them might someday be able to take farms away from the drought areas and grow at sea before coming home for a harvest. I know Earth Ponies were proud of them too, it was a good way to prove to stubborn ponies who said they didn't have magic that they did, since without it, the ships would be completely impractical, if not impossible, and it was hard to prove otherwise.

But yes, our little spy mission was remarkably not noticed. Even when Cadence and the other two hoofmaidens squeed and were moments from a song as Ranger gave Sunset a brief but affectionate nuzzle...

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony, Pegasus, Unicorn): Aw....)

Don't you three start!




Dang, and I thought Zebrawa had been hot and dry! Well, considering we were in a desert, I suppose that's to be expected.

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): Technically, a desert doesn't need to be hot, in fact the north and south poles are deserts.)

Point is; we were in the desert, it was hot, and I wasn't a camel, so I wasn't enjoying it.

We were finally getting around to visiting the digs, and I noticed several artifacts that strangely resembled cheese...

"Now where is...oh, there she is," called Audience, waving to a somewhat older blue-furred mare with a brown mane. Her Cutie Mark seemed to be eyes either a disapproving glare or a motherly gaze, hard to tell.

She wiped sweat off her brow and galloped over. Dr. Patient Audience was always pretty physically fit, even in her old age. She naturally bowed to Cadence.

"Hello, Princess Cadence," she stated, then looked over to Captive and gave a small wave.

"Hello, Dr. Audience. How is the dig going?" Cadence replied, giving a small smile.

"We've made a lot of interesting discoveries...most of which strangely involve cheese."

I blinked.

"Wait...what? But...that doesn't make any sense..." I'd thought I was just seeing things from the heat!

"Oh, it makes a good bit of sense. The tribe in this area had an intense fear of elephants as they largely had genes that caused Dwarfism, so they used the cheese to repel them, though it was actually the mice they attracted that scared the elephants off," said Minuette suddenly.

"...Dr. Audience, is that right?"

Dr. Audience gave an annoyed look at her son.

"Actually, that's correct from what we've found...how did you know that, Miss..."

"Minuette..." Minuette suddenly looked quite confused. "I...don't know..."

And then there was an awkward silence. Dr. Audience cleared her throat.

"They're also rather fiercely protective of their artifacts."

"How so, Dr. Audience?"

"Captive, if you call me that one more time I'm renting your room out to your cousin Critical Audience."

The Lance-Corporal eeped. "Yes mom..."

"As for your question, we found a warning reading ‘A note to my successors: Don't pull the switch near the chasm. It causes everything past it to die from magma.'"

"Uh...Is there a volcano nearby?" I blinked in confusion.

"No, and that's why it's odd. It possibly explains all the elephant fossils in volcanic rock at the valley bed three miles north. But I've learned you should take ancient warnings seriously."

"Sounds like a bad Daring Doo book..." Gag commented.

"Good books, I was consulted on them. Sadly real archaeology is nothing like Daring-Do, I'm afraid...unless you're a post-graduate."

Before you ask, no, she wouldn't divulge the author's name...I wanted to know too...

Dr. Audience gave a sigh. "Though you wouldn't know it, given what happened with Professor Elemental's finds..."

"You heard about that?" asked Cadence. I had a similar reaction...and a mild dose of paranoia.

"Yes, I feel bad for the poor stallion, but it's actually not that uncommon lately, unfortunately," the mare replied, giving a sad sigh.

"What do you mean?" My eyes darted around in rampant paranoia.

"A lot of strange finds have been disappearing lately. Mostly theft but a couple of disappearances seemed to be arson."

"...Commander Bond, did you hear that?"

Bond trotted up and gave a nod. "Yes...Dr. Audience, may I talk to you about this? I've been looking into Professor Elemental's case, it might be of use."

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): What was Bond doing on a leisure visit?)

Cadence invited him to try and give him a break from his investigation...yeah, that didn't work out.

"Well, I could get you a list of the victims' names, but other than that, there's not much..." Dr.Audience rubbed her chin.

So while an aide got Bond the names, Dr. Audience took us looking around at the ruins. I noticed two things. One, the private security roaming around.

"Yes, as you know, the Guard can't legally supply any cover to protect us outside Equestria and local security has more on their plate. So we hired an, ah, private firm... Many of them are... former Guards though, so they should be up to standards," Dr. Audience explained.

"...Isn't that those two guys that showed up with that group in Columbia?" Twinkle Shine wondered.

"...Nope," I lied.

"Definitely not," Cadence helped us play along with Baseplate and Price's terrible disguises.

I don't think Minuette fell for it though, that's the problem with trying to wear a disguise around someone with an eye for detail...

And two, that Running Gag was staring at the wall writing.

"Something wrong, Gag?"

"Oh, no sir, I was just wondering why they recommend cheese dipped corn on the cob..."

"What?" Patient blinked, looking back at us.

"Right there, it talks about dipping corn on the cob in cheese... weird..." Gag pointed at the wall.

"Are you even trying to joke anymore?" I face hoofed.

"Actually, that's not a joke, it's exactly what it says. How'd you know?" Said Patient, blinking.

"I can learn any language, it's my special talent," Gag chuckled.

Patient actually looked interested.

"Really? Well, can you read this part here? We've had trouble translating it."

"Alright, I can take a look." Gag trotted over to the inscription in question.

"It says ‘On every second year, we celebrate Pandemonium for inspiring us to drive off the dreaded Elephants from our land using cheese. Let her be praised..."

"...Pandemonium?" My eyes went wide.

Dr. Audience scratched her chin. "According to what we've found, she's some sort of imagination goddess they worshiped..."

I looked at a picture above the inscription resembling some kind of snake-shaped creature. "Pandemonium..."




So yeah, Triana was relatively uneventful minus the possible mention of an ancient imagination goddess who may be connected to my archenemy.

We had the normal farewell dinner and that was it really...

Though one thing to note did happen on the way to Sangala.

"Shining, mind listening to this letter?" Cadence asked during a quiet moment.

The Hoofmaidens had their typical reaction.

"Why?"

"It's to my aunt about Twilight saving the world."

And there they go disappointed.

"Sure, if it's about Twiley I guess I can proofread it."

Cadence cleared her throat. "'Dear Aunt Celestia; Zebrafica is lovely this time of year, the diplomatic mission is going well. Thank you for sending Shining Armor to be my bodyguard, it's nice to have a very dear somepony here with me. He's been strangely looking over his shoulder lately but won't tell me why. Do you know?"

"Continue..." I gave a small glare as she chuckled.

"I hear Twilight is staying in Ponyville, that you've given her an assignment studying friendship. To think, that little filly saved the entire world, I'm so proud of her...Twilight studying friendship, are you sure she needs to study it? When I was little, when I didn't have anyone I really connected to except you and my parents...She was the first one I really clicked with. That I really came to think of as my friend. I think she was the one who taught me an important lesson; how it feels to actually form a real friendship...And that's a lesson I use a lot out here on this trips, forming friendships between Equestria and these other places...I owe Twilight a lot...

Love, Princess Cadence'."

"...Other than the ‘me looking over my shoulder part,' it's perfect," I replied, somewhere between ‘I'm so proud of my sister' and annoyed.

"Is it a lie?"

"...No..."

"Then I'm not taking it out," she said, rolling up the letter. "Shining, we just went through what is technically a war zone without any complications, and you're still paranoid."

"I've got a psychotic deer who can brainwash ponies with his presence who tried to murder me with a small army, I think I have a perfectly rational reason to be paranoid."

"Then save it for the Hooviet allied territories, have fun while you can!"

As much as I hate to admit it, she had a point...unfortunately it was somewhat invalidated by the fact I was ALSO being hunted by some wolf thing and that psychotic deer was actually an imagination demon probably trying to eat my very existence...and also I was a paranoid, and since when is that rational?




We were in the air, heading for Sangala, and I was awoken by a horrified scream. It sounded like...

"Cadence?!"

I was out of my bed and to her room in under three seconds! I burst in...

"Princess, what's happened?! What's wrong?

...And I was greeted by three bemused hoofmaidens, too stupefied to even be startled at my entry. Two guardsponies were also inside, probably for the same reason I had entered. Cadence was looking in horror at a newspaper, the Canterlot Times

"Shining, it.. It's terrible, we...."

"What?! Has there been a train crash back home? An airship crash? Building collapse in Manehattan? A train crashed into a building and collapsed it onto an airship? Some disaster?!"

Then I realized I could see the front page. It said that the Prime Minister had caused a scandal by calling an opposition MP a ‘derp'. But the point was, the main story was facing me. She was reading the back page. The pages where...

"A complete disaster! The worst possible thing!"

"Oh no... Oh, no, NO, NO! IT CAN'T BE TRUE!"

"It is!" She burst into tears.

"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! HOW COULD WE HAVE LOST TO PAISNEIGH BUDDIES?!"

"It was 2-2! They won on away goals!" Cadence sobbed.

It was horrible. We'd won 1-0 in Caledonia. They'd won 2-1 in Canterlot, the second leg of the tie. Because of the away goals rule, each goal scored away counted double to decide who won: so they effectively had four, we had three. 2-2 draw, but the rules gave them the win. We'd lost to a team that played out of an eight-thousand capacity stadium in a town barely bigger than Hoofington... Sure, Caledonia was still in Equestria, and it was the second-largest of the five Equestrian hoofball association areas, but it's like saying the tortoise is the second largest out of a lion, a hamster, a mouse, and an ant.

At this point, one of the Guardsponies burst out laughing.

"MACTAVISH! THIS ISN'T FUNNY... Oh... Oh Celestia, no, you're Caledonian, don't tell me..."

"S-Sorry, sir, ma'am, I... I actually support Mayre United and Clydesdale HC, but it's... Uh, well, sorry..."

"...It's just a game of Hoofball, it's not the end of the world." Minuette eventually said.

She received deadly glares from three Guardsponies and one Princess.

"Just a game?! We're out of the Equropa League already! That was the second leg of a qualifying match! And we lost to a team that has a stadium a tenth the size of ours!"

"And in terms of Equropean hoofball for the next year it IS the end of the world! Oh, Auntie, what if Trottenham win it?!"

I gave a brief filly-like scream of horror at the mere idea! Nightmare...

"I'm going to have to praise them for a special recognition aren't I? My birthday speech is the next speech, and them winning is a big event, for Hoofball up there and for their team. I can't not praise them..."




I waited outside, mourning our horrific loss in the most dignified fashion I could while also keeping up my now favorite pastime

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Looking all over in blind paranoia?)

Yep.

I heard the door open and turned to see Cadence emerge. I was a bit stunned, to say the least. "Wow...doing something new with your hair?"

Cadence's mane was now braided, something I hadn't seen since she was in high school. It also had several Zebrafican local hair pieces I didn't quite know the names for strewn about.

"See, told yah he'd go wild for it!" I heard Twinkle Shine say under her breath.

"Yes...Twinkle Shine had the wonderful idea that I should perhaps do my mane up in a local style to show my support and respect of the culture."

Twinkle Shine nodded. "Yeah, I wanted to start in Zebrawa, but it didn't work out..."

Cadence nodded. "We had agreed the mohawk hadn't worked. It looked okay on Zebra and Mactavish, but not so much on Princesses..."

I wasn't sure whether or not to fight the urge to imagine Cadence with a mohawk.

"And Triana's only real style is just basically a mohawk with the hair loose instead of spiked..." Minuette cut in.

"How about I give you a new look too, Captain? You and the Princess would look like a good with matching manes!" Twinkle Shine chuckled, producing her styling tools.

Not even Cadence's pink fur defended her from the blushing that created.

"No thank you..."




When we arrived in Sangala, all pony hell completely failed to break loose. Unless you count the temperature. Fortunately the hangars could be air-conditioned for when we held one of those weekly birthday parties, though we just found it easier to host it at the embassy this time.

Really, there's only a few things I can really say about the place: they built a lot of structures mostly underground to keep cool (the tallest building was a whopping five floors high off the ground, and about ten below it), and the whole country seemed to have a lingering smell of Dragonwine on the wind. And other than the fact there was an oil field upwind of the embassy clanking away that took a little getting used to, the place was calm.

I did find something an oil worker said alarming though.

We'd gone out to see the largest field, and I was at first a little surprised to see they seemed to be using old tanks as transport and cargo haulers in the desert - I guess it made sense to stop ponies and dogs overheating as well as provide something with shade and magic inside to keep cool. It was also a lot easier than walking over sand apparently. We were standing on the roof of one below a tent-canopy as it drove towards the oil fields.

"Okay, Your Highness, let's look at it this way. You have four legs. You weigh under eighty kilograms. That's four pressure points. Your hooves aren't all that big, so your weight is spread out over those four points. That means you exert more pressure with each hoof into soft surfaces. A track spreads it out, that's why tanks are able to handle rough terrains wheels, and hooves can't. So walking basically means that for your size, you're putting more pressure on a smaller area compared to the tracks on the cargo hauler," Audience explained, once more going into that mode that reminded me why he was about the only one I considered a good match for Twiley.

"So, I'm lighter than a tank, but more of my weight sinks in?"

"Yes. It's about surface area really. More surface, better spread of weight and force. A lead pipe can weight the same as a sword and be swung with the same force, but the pipe spreads the impact out more. A sword focuses it onto the pointy bits, so the force is concentrated into a smaller area. It's why arrowheads that are pointy are a bit better than rounded ones, apart from better ballistics. Even then, the ballistics are helped by that too: they do have to go through air, after all..."

"Speaking of air, why didn't we just assume the Princess would fly if she started sinking into the sand?" Sunset pondered.

"...It's hypothetical."

"Actually, that reminds me, one time, my buddy Heath decided she wanted to try building a machine that walked, yah know, somethin' like a pony, and so she looked at all these giant robot stories and manega and stuff fer inspiration..." Ellis began.

"...It crashed and she suffered a serious injury?" Minuette sighed.

"Uh, no, she realized the concept was pretty much incompatible with the limits of modern engineering so she just went back to buildin' carts."

"Maybe she should speak to some Hooviets..." I muttered, knowing that only Cadence seemed to even remember what I was meaning.

"Ah, so think mysterious stories of tripod machines are Hooviet, Captain?" The Diamond Dog driving our transport noted.

"...Tripod machines? Where did you hear about them?"

"There stories from all around continent of odd goings on. Ponies and Zebras find interesting things, and those things... or those ponies .. vanish.  There stories of big walking metal machine roaming the forests in South Triana, Buranada, Nambutu... Stories of odd things in the sky, high above where even Pegasis can fly..."

"Odd things like what? Strange clouds?" Minuette wondered, seeming oddly flustered by the idea.

"Black triangles, that magic says not there..."

Actually, I just remembered, he was kind of strange and he was probably making it up. And it's kind of hard to understand a Diamond Dog speaking Equestrian anyway, since their native language doesn't translate well; for one it has no pronouns, so they have no concept of pronouns and...

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Get on with it!)

"...Ponies say black triangle seemed to be high, over the flight ceiling sometimes, and any time black triangle was down low, would zoom away up high and fast... "

"That's impossible, the air is too thin and cold up there to get that high... and the jumbajets are meant to lurk at thirteen thousand meters so some ponies are afraid of even trying to go that high," Gag noted.

"...Jumbajets?"

"Pegasus myth, they're meant to be monsters that try to eat you. It's a bit like the Boogeymane for foals with feathers except there's no wigs dancing to disco music involved," Thunderchild explained.

"I think whoever saw it was making something up to try make money or something," Twinkle Shine declared.

"Seen five different places nine times?"




After that I'd asked around while Bond took a look into things. The next night, he told me that all the sightings were remarkably consistent. Some in Sangala near the Trianan border. Some in Zebrinia near the border. Some from Kundu. One from a ship north of Djelibeybi. But the bit of information he found that stopped me feeling as worried was a little note he'd been able to get his hooves on from spies somewhere.

"...Makarov has no idea what they are?"

"Seems not. Reports indicate that the Hooviet rank and file see them as a bad omen, the officers are trying to keep a lid on it, and Makarov wants to think it's some alicorn trick," Bond noted.

"..Is it?"

"Probably not. Usually things like this are just oddities in the manastream or someone playing around. And the way the manastreams and ley lines cross in the areas of sightings, could just be extra activity from the mana. Things seem to be a bit active what with recent magic surges..."

"And unofficially?"

"Princess Celestia has personally looked into it and assures us we've nothing to worry about as far as UFO sightings are concerned. There are no unidentified objects."

"...So the objects aren't really there and it's like a sort of group hallucination?"

"Something like that, or just mirages. They're mostly harmless. Princess Celestia says so herself."

"Alright, so nothing to worry about."

"Seems so. One down, four hundred and seventeen to go, Captain?"

"Why does everypony think I'm paranoid about that many things?"

"I'm paranoid about a lot of things myself, Shining. Maybe even more than you are," Bond noted

I'd managed to go to sleep that night feeling a little content for once.

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): So when did you notice all the sightings were in or very near to Hooviet-allied lands?)

...It took me a while.




"...and this arctic civilization was said to have vanished mysteriously a thousand years ago when a unicorn king with a heart of black magic took power..."

Ugh...Ok, I know Twiley would find this interesting, but to me it's just kind of dull. I was on guard duty at the School for Gifted Earth Ponies in Manehatten. It wasn't well known by most, but Pegasi and Earth Ponies both had their own schools for ponies with skill in their types of magic. Some ponies claimed they were just for show, but seeing as a foal had just used Earth Pony magic to make a flower go from a bud to a bloom as I stood here to give to their fillyfriend and the entrance exam is making supposedly infertile seeds sprout (not sure if that's a test of character or not), those ponies had clearly never actually been there.

But as much as I like Dr. Patient Audience, I don't really care for ancient history and myths. Yes, I know just how ironic that is.

So I was basically just standing there, not really needing to try at the whole ‘stoic guard stares into the distance' thing, boredom was doing a perfect job of that!

Captive Audience was there too, but having a much funner time than I was having. Then again, I guess he's used to hearing his mother giving lectures. Plus he was on leave from training instead of on guard duty, so unlike me he probably wanted to be there.

"Lieutenant Shining Armor?"

I looked over to see an older pony in guard armor standing next to Captive.

"Oh, hello, Brigadier," I replied, greeting Brigadier General Observant Audience, otherwise known as Captive's dad. He looked to his wife.

"So, how you liking Dr. Audience's lecture?"

"Uh...it's kind of interesting...what with the arctic ponies and all..." I said, trying to appear observant and interested instead of bored stiff.

"Not sure about it myself. Especially the whole unicorn king part, how could one pony conquer a whole kingdom by themselves?"

"Yeah, it is kind of hard to believe, but stranger things have happened..." I said, barely remembering any mention of said king. "We have Article 1954 for a reason."

"Yeah, but we haven't had one of them in years. They don't happen that often."

"Thank the Princesses," I replied, remembering reading about that Griffon who'd got his claws on a magical amulet that turned him into a cosmic energy powered monster about 20 years ago. Didn't help he thought Griffonkind and Ponykind being at peace was a disgrace to Griffonkind and prove Griffons were warriors by wiping out Ponykind...Thank the goddesses that didn't pan out and he got subdued by the Guard after being defeated by Celestia before he even got to Canterlot...

"So, how are things at work?"

"Uh..."

"Oh, right, I'm your boss...How are your parents? Wait, no, I met them last week. Blast. You should get into Cricket, I can talk about that."

"Uh...ok, sir...How are you doing, sir?"

"Pretty good, all things considered," said General Audience, rubbing his chin. "Had to deal with some robbers trying to break into the treasury, again, planned a birthday party for my brother Tough Audience, and had to help a friend of my investigate a unicorn messing around with forbidden time travel spells...."

I blinked. "Wait...what was that last one?"

"Classified."

"Right..."

"Anyway, Dr. Audience said-"

"Ahem," came said mare from directly behind him. Apparently we'd missed her concluding her lecture.

"Dr. Wife?"

"...Good enough..."




"I see where others stumble blind, to seek a Truth they never find..."

I blinked, taking a few moments to realize I needed to shut off my clock. Which for once actually read the time I'd set it to the previous night.

I didn't know which shocked me more, the fact I'd dreamt about a memory I actually understood perfectly, or the fact I'd been wakened by my alarm in my own bed for once.




Things were then calm. I'd began to relax.

We were a little surprised by discovering there was actually a wine-tasting festival for Dragons underway in Zebrabwe when we got there, apparently sampling the Sangalan blend in more temperate conditions. Apparently this season was particularly sweet crude or something. I'm afraid Spike is too young to drink the stuff so I have no idea about it. Nor did I want to be close to the festival in the event some dragons got drunk. Still, I somehow imagined it would have spooked off any Hooviet nastyness.

Wolfy nastiness, not so much. I kept close to the Princess when I could.

Twinkle Shine managed to cause a little bit of a ruckus getting into an argument when she heard what the Government were doing to the Catoblepas population. Namely, bombing the hay out of them. Despite my dislike of creatures like that, I couldn't help but agree the Government's attempts to cull dangerous forest animals to protect the rubber industry did go overboard given they'd dedicated their entire artillery corps to the task.

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): Um, but rubber comes from trees, if they blew up the trees to get the monsters...)

Yeaaaah, that's what I thought. Turned out the President hadn't agreed with such force either but Parliament had overruled him. Rather complex thing where if the vote wasn't two thirds of the Senators in favour, he could veto, but it was a popular vote and he was pretty much forced to go along with it.

Then it turned trying to bomb an area populated with fully grown rubber trees is a BAD IDEA since the shells and bombs have a chance of BOUNCING OFF! Making things unpredictable and making it near impossible to actually hit what they were aiming at. They REALLY didn't think this one through. Though I guess when they do explode on impact, the shrapnel spreading out would be more effective, but that's probably just going to give the animal rights groups more ammo, and they could be more trouble to deal with than the Catoblepas.

At least they weren't using cannon balls, the trees had a habit of bouncing those right back! Which made them surprisingly popular as ship masts in the old days.

Leboa-Seko was calm too. Hard not to be, even if the Leboans as a whole seemed to be on a sugar rush the whole time. Seriously, the entire nation seemed to be bouncing with energy.

Some claimed a legendary pegasus from the age of myths, Whizzer, had settled in their land and inspired their lifestyle. The funny thing is, Audience said that the myth made no sense that they'd have a PEGASUS in a zebra native country as such a central figure.

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Maybe that means it's true.)

Don't be silly.

It was almost a relief the Sekoans were a little more shy and introverted. It was technically two countries in one.

The nation's federal capital was really more for administrative purposes than a real seat of government. The state parliaments were in Genosha and T'Challa, meaning we actually had larger consulates in those cities than our main embassy - which was actually just an office. Technically, we met three heads of state - First Ministers of Leboa and Seko, and the Chief Minister of the Federation.  

As a result we pretty much toured both islands staying on the ships overnight.

Of course, the main attractions at those islands were really the Lightning Birds. It was actually mating season, and much like their Phoenix cousins, they put on displays of their elemental power to try and attract mates. Pretty much everypony spent dusk on the decks of the airships watching the shows as night fell. Made me wonder if Princess Luna had one as a pet, she seemed to like lightning and her sister has a Phoenix.

In fact, the only sour point in Leboa-Seko was a dream I had about my ex...

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): ...Ex? As in ex-marefriend?)

Yes... I've tried my hoof at dating a bit when I was younger.




I don't mind Vinyl Scratch's music, but I'm not particularly fond of it either. But eh, it was her choice where we went...

Her name was Rising Star. And she was your typical pretty unicorn mare, perfect white fur, yellow star cutie mark, beautiful blue mane and pink eyes...but the conversation?

"...so then I said that's my ex-boyfriend! What were you thinking?!"

"Uh, that's not exactly the best thing to tell your dat-"

"...but then she says ‘keyword is ‘ex' Rising!' Ugh, seriously, can you believe that?!"

"Uh, no..."

I looked over to the DJ, wondering which was more annoying, listening to my date talk about her ex-boyfriend or the dubtrot that was steadily becoming more repetitive as far as my ears were concerned...

"Are you even listening to me?!"

I blinked, looking to Rising. Even without the screeching of the base being broken or whatever it is they say, she was a little hard to listen to at this point.

"Yeah, ex-boyfriend dating your best friend, right?"

"No! He's dating my TWIN SISTER now! Now pay attention! It gets weirder!"

You'd think that would be an entertaining story...it wasn't...In fact if I had to choose between reading mom's novel or rehearing that conversation again...I'd hear the conversation again, but it's close!

Unfortunately for me, the only two things I had to listen to was her or dubtrot, neither of which interested me at all...and I was so bored I may have fallen asleep on my hooves...girls don't like it when you do that.

"Shining!"

"Huh?! What?" I asked, looking around, then finding Rising Star staring daggers at me.

"...So, you were saying?"

I found myself in her telekinesis and lifted off the ground. "Whoa! Hang on!"

And she threw me face first into the punchbowl. "Ugh...well...I expected something worse than-AGH!"

"Jerk!" She yelled, as I crumpled to the ground in agony from a very unpleasant buck and the music just kept playing.




The other clubbers seemed more interested in the ‘wubs' than the fact I'd just been kicked in... Well, you know. At least she wasn't an Earth Pony.

And that's why I hate dubtrot. Why Cherry Coke tried to set me up with her, I've no idea.

...Please believe me, she was the worst by far. The other two, there just wasn't anything and we broke up by mutual agreement after a few dates.

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Other two? Wow, you are inexperienced... That's not a good sign.)

...What's that meant to mean?

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): Er, let's move on, please, Shining...)

Moving onwards, Kembezi presented a small problem though. After Cadence mentioned my name, the President seemed to recognize me...

"...You are the brother of Twilight Sparkle, yes?"

"Yes, President Zalika... Wait... Uh oh. You were..."

"The Ambassador to the Solar Court some twelve years ago, yes."

"I-in her defence, she was rather young at the time..."

Most of what I recall there, apart from the fact I'd met the Zebra who Twiley had thought had painted-on stripes again, was that we started holding the five-a-side hoofball tournament we'd planned (Team Misfit Actual lost in the quarter finals, Team Hoofmaiden was out in the knockout rounds. Scientists from Enterprise won it.). They seemed to play a lot of music in Kembezi too, mostly local sung poetry. Cadence claimed the nation's folk songs had been a precursor to Hip-Hop, and almost everyone seemed to speak Equestrian passably - albeit all in rhyme. The hoofmaidens were in heaven.



The next stop on the tour was Bulungi. They seemed to have a major Parasprite outbreak underway, with music being played all over the place to lure them away. The locals seemed convinced Cadence's presence was boosting the power of their music. Personally, I think they were just feeling inspired...

...One citizen however decided to help show that fate has a sense of humor.

"...So you failed to notice he'd already painted the stripes until he asked you to take your barding off so he could finish?"

"...Yes, Sir," Pike did his best impersonation of a half-zebra, half-pony, half-sheep.

"Okay, well, maybe Twinkle Shine or somepony can help wash it off. But how on earth did he manage to start painting your stripes ‘back on'?"

"He was a fairly young colt, Sir..."

"I mean how'd you not notice? Clearly he thought you were just a stripeless Zebra and wanted to help, but how'd you not notice?"

"...Orders were to stand at the post and not move for anything but an emergency, I thought it was flies or someone playing the ‘get the Guard to move' game or something."

"Good grief, Pike, when somepony starts painting you, you can move! Look, never mind, just try get it washed out..."


And then we went onto Mazuri. Things were calm. I'd began to relax.

And then The Doctor showed up.
STORY ARC WRITTEN BY LZ0291!!!!! lz0291.deviantart.com/

Chapter written by Kendell2 and LZ0291

And since the story is posted on my account and not his, he feels he's not being given credit for his hard work! SO ABOUT YOU TELL 'EM THAT YOU DO LIKE THIS STORY!!!!? lz0291.deviantart.com/

Shining Armor is given a two year tour of the world to be the captain of Princess Cadence's body guard. Yeah. That's all. That's everything Yep. Nothing what so ever else. *AJ's Liar face*

"Time is an ocean in a storm."

This storyline runs PARALLEL to the events in the Dark World storyline narrative wise.

Previous Chapter: alexwarlorn.deviantart.com/art…

Next Chapter: alexwarlorn.deviantart.com/art…

First Chapter: alexwarlorn.deviantart.com/art…


MLP: FiM is copyright of Hasbro


LZ's Soundtrack suggestions:
Soundtrack Recommendations
Black Triangles
X-Files Theme, Mark Snow, The X-Files
Disastrous Date
The Most Annoying Sound In The World, Jim Carey, Dumb and Dumber
Shining's Alarm
I Am The Doctor, Jon Pertwee, Doctor Who.

2013 August 24th Edted by ItsFromPeople
Add a Comment:
 
:iconitsfrompeople:
The chapter begins with the usual preparations for security before the rather large group around Cadence is ready for the next location. By now the Alicorn did notice that Shining is acting paranoid but so far she didn’t seem to have figured out that he is completely justified about that. Considering that she knows about Makarov’s attempt on his life, the imposters of Shining and his sister and the really strange event about his meeting with the Hooviet informant, she should be able to understand this feeling even if she doesn’t know all the other bizarre and strange events that he is haunted with. They do take their security very serious after all there are more threats on the world then “just” the Hooviets while Shining tries his best to let Cadence always know where he will be. Minuette is absolutely loving her work with her schedules but there is a very easy explanation why despite their similarities she and Twilight haven’t formed any deeper bond before: Both like organisation so much that it does take time away that they could have used to make friends and Twilight was mostly an anti-social brick until she meet her friends in Ponyville.

There are a few local highlights, mostly connected with the archaeological work in the desert. Unfortunately Audience downplays the danger of raiders and so Cadence and her Hoofmaidens make plans to visit the Equestrian archaeological digs. He soon apologises for needlessly endangering the Princess. On the other side they might run into Audience’s mother there as well. Twilight would have loved the idea of making this visit as well and the earth pony interviewer imitates her excitement flawlessly. There is a reason for that. But now Shining has to downplay the danger of the raiders as well even while he knows that some of the raids have political motivations and the Hooviets are involved as well. He knows that it would be a very easy opportunity for Makarov to use these raids to hide another attack on Shining. Finally Minuette gives more exposition about the Little Italiponia district, the rather large population of donkeys and the high prices for food. Here is also the final chance to quickly leave back towards Equestria and to gather the kind of supplies that they are used to. Shining did already think about that, showing that Twilight didn’t get all the organisation skills of this family.

Cadence was apparently getting worried enough about Shining to send Minuette to ask if he is feeling okay. Again he denies that anything is wrong but surprisingly the Hoofmaiden doesn’t burst into song about the endless love between the Princess and him. Soon enough Shining shows his own concern for his troops by asking how Ellis and Audience are doing after the traumatic events in Columbia. They seem mostly fine, having a couple of nightmares and a very weird dream about copyrights and kaiju. Shining is also quick to point out that by protocol if a giant monster attacks, you have to call for the Princess (now Princesses) instead. It is nice that they DO realise that their ruler is the Sun Goddess and can take care of these dangers much more effective and with less bloodshed then the army could. They likely have the right tools to kill a Hydra but how many soldiers would lose their lives fighting against it? The Mayor of Ponyville did make the wrong decision when she ordered normal soldiers to attack the immortal Nightmare Moon but to be fair not only was she under a lot of stress and in panic, the episode did hint very clearly that Nightmare Moon had already defeated Princess Celestia at this point (she was supposed to be at the celebration in person after all).

Besides that his friends did notice Shining’s obvious paranoia as well. But again he does deny that anything is wrong. Then again they also know the same Cadence knows, so this reaction should be understandable from their perspective. Another flashback dream scene follows that gives Shining more backstory. Not only as a tool for character building but it also seems that in-story more added to his history. This dream is about his time with Ace Rimmer at a bar in Caledonia and Shining is far from being relaxed or happy. In fact the little earth pony interviewer is sure that he would be more cheerful in a pole-dancing place where Fluttercruel seemed to have a lot of fun dancing around. It shows again that the interviewers work on a different plane of time, after all not only are they interviewing Shining in his flashback dream, they do know about events that didn’t even take place at the time when Shining was having this dream. The events with Fluttercruel do happen after Discord’s defeat by Twilight and her friends when he wasn’t even unsealed for that confrontation at this point of the story. For now Shining orders a simple cocktail while Ace asks for something more complex and exotic. In fact Shining himself learns that he was once on an entry team that had a few problems with stun grenades (likely a reference to a certain Let’s Play of Spoony).

There is also another group with several deer here with one deer being in the center of attention and his cutie mark is very similar to Makarov’s, just a bit less over the top. The bartender explains that many deer try to escape the iron grip of the Hooviets and this one is actually a famous actor. The airships that Ace is talking about also seem out of place and way too technologically advanced for the time this flashback is supposed to take place. Then the dream takes an even weirder turn as it seems that Ace introduces Shining to a younger Makarov. It would be very ironic if Shining’s backstory actually said that he knows Makarov but the unicorn didn’t get the memo at the time when he met the deer in Columbia. After all it really seems like Shining was only added later in the story but the question would remain why his backstory is so hard to update correctly. With Sweetie Belle’s backstory it was very easy, the wolf did it in one swift move. Then again there surely is a good reason that the wolf wants Shining dead instead of corrected.

Shining is awakened by another soldier but again he is not really sleeping but standing in the middle of the room. Triplneigh was rather calm with the usual antics and routine. The unicorn is almost bored to death. Be careful about wishing for something more exiting to happen. Well there was the one time where Cadence wanted to go out incognito as it turns out to spy on Sunset’s and Ranger’s date. Shining didn’t know about her intention but it still beats having to listen to Gag’s comedy and it means being close to Cadence. Gag and Garnet are also brought along, maybe so they can have their own date. Cadence puts on another disguise, ironic considering that she will encounter a master of disguise later on, and the unicorn is able to convince them to not draw attention to the group by making them all wear sunglasses. He might not be the smartest person that serves in the military but he has more common sense then a few others.

The discussion between them quickly moves into the money territory and Garnet admits that to her ultra-expensive presents aren’t anything. After all normal jewels are obviously a lot less worth considering how freely ponies use these in their clothes. Then there are special jewels that are still worth a fortune like Fire Rubies. Dragons are the only ones able to grow these and since they usually eat them right away, they are quite rare and therefore expensive. Twilight could never bring herself to ask Spike to sell one of those gems, considering how much he loves them. Which is a pity since if they would use that money for charity, they could do a lot of good. But dragons are greedy by nature. Then again Spike was able to give Rarity a Fire Ruby because he loved her more then he desired to eat the ruby.

The plan turns out to be sending Gag and Garnet into the same place their two targets are and to share a table. The entire operation is not that well prepared however and Cadence hadn’t even prepared a fake name for herself. After some less convincing ones, she settles for Sing Song. Then she almost gives herself away to bystanders by declaring herself a princess. As they slowly move in, Shining exposits how the Hooviets supported the war while other nations pooled their efforts to stop it. Equestria did send supplies for example the floating food farm fleet ship also known as the Apple. It is a clever way to combine earth pony and pegasi magic with technology. The Oranges are also thinking about creating a business out of this idea. Even more remarkable is that their spy game isn’t found out even as Cadence and the other two hoofmaidens sqee about Ranger and Sunset getting closer.

Eventually the group gets closer to their destination: The digging site. There they find a lot of cheese (keep reading, it will make sense) and Audience’s mother whose cutie mark might have a double meaning. Dr. Patient Audience soon admits that yes they really found cheese. The local tribe was rather small (not their number, their height) so they used cheese to repel the elephants by attracting mice with it. And while she has the word “patient” in her name, she won’t stand for her son calling her with her title. She wants to be called mom. The locals were also paranoid enough about elephants to have a “kill everything with magma” switch but added a warning to it. Apparently that did turn out pretty well because there are a lot of elephant fossils in volcanic rock in a nearby valley. Dr. Audience certainly doesn’t feel like testing the lever now. Apparently she also was consulted about giving advice to the writer of Daring Doo books but doesn’t reveal who it is. She also reveals that a lot of strange finds kept disappearing lately either stolen or burned.

This quickly gets Bond’s attention but all that he learns for now are the names of the victims. But that is the only thing they do learn about that for now. The security of this site is provided by a private firm, mostly consisting of former Guards. Baseplate and Price are there as well. Running Gag is quick to decipher a wall writing which turns out to be a recipe. So Dr. Audience is quick to take advantage of that ability and gets him to translate something else for her. It turns out to be a celebration of Pandora who showed the locals to think outside the box to drive off the elephants with cheese. Ironic that somebody like her might have created what eventually became Makarov. Then again she did realise that it was dangerous and sealed it away until the experiment of the Hooviets did unleash it.

Soon this part of the journey is over and they head for the next location. While on their way Cadence asks Shining to proofread a letter to Celestia, which turns out to be exactly the letter Twilight was told about in the chapter that introduced Cadence into the Pony POV story. Not only does it contain a caring declaration of her friendship to Twilight but also the note that Shining seems somewhat paranoid lately. Cadence does think she understands why he is paranoid and advices him to not let Makarov ruin his life with fear and paranoia. And normally she would be right but she only knows one third of complete story. She knows nothing about Makarov’s real nature or about the wolf that is trying to erase Shining completely.

Next he is awakened by Cadence’s scream and rushes to her aid. The Princess channels both Rarity and the Flower Trio in a reaction of utter shock and over the top despair. It turns out their favourite team did get a tie in the latest match, which does mean that they are kicked out of the Equropa League. NO! After all this build-up, it is hilarious. Minuette seems to be the only one who doesn’t get know world-ending horrible this is. But even this shock is not enough to distract Shining from his paranoia for long. Maybe Cadence’s new haircut will be able to distract him longer. It turns out that Twinkle Shine did finally try out giving the Princess a local haircut. Thankfully they decided against giving her a Mohawk but Shining could get a matching style to the Princess if he wanted to. The very idea is enough to embarrass both of them.

Even in the next location everything remains quiet, too quiet. While Sangala is unbearable hot, the locals did build more underground then over it to counter that. Overall it is nice to see the many pragmatic solutions that zebras, ponies etc. have to come up with to be able to live under more extreme situations. There are also several oil fields, one of them is their next target. They apparently use tanks for transportation which according to Audience’s exposition doesn’t sink into the sand because the weight is spread out more evenly. It still seems a bit strange since tanks are usually pretty heavy and don’t have much room to store anything within them. You would think there would also be much more effective cargo haulers. The discussion moves to robot walkers next but for now engineering doesn’t seem advanced enough to create something like this. Then again the question is not just IF you can create something but if you would really WANT to create something. The Hooviet walkers didn’t perform that well against trained military personal and considering how expensive they must have been and how many unicorn horns were needed to create them, this technology might be a complete dead end. On the other side the same goes for most robot walkers in fiction. The Metal Gear robots were often enough defeated by a single cigarette-smoking man with a rocket launcher. Not very impressive considering how expensive they looked. And here these robot walkers exist in a world right next to magical ponies which are MUCH less expensive, have powerful natural abilities and are highly manoeuvrable.

Then suddenly the Diamond Dog driving their transport reveals that next to the vanishing artefacts and scientists, there are also strange robots and black triangles in the sky in various countries. Shining doesn’t completely understand him (the language doesn’t really translate well) but these triangles are no pegasi myth. That would be the Jumbajets who sound like so much like Jumbo Jets that they might be a heritage from the time the human world had a connection to this one. According to Bond the sightings are reliable and even the Hooviets and Makarov don’t seem to know what they exactly are. They might be related to mana streams and leylines and even Princess Celestia said that these are no real objects and instead are more like mirages. For once it seems that a mystery is solved quite quickly until Shining realises that the locations of all the sightings are in or near Hooviet-allied countries.

Next the unicorn is slightly bored by a lesson about how the crystal empire vanished while under the rule of an evil unicorn king (obviously King Sombra). It is another flashback dream and this one takes place at a school in Manehatten. He is actually impressed by the earth pony magic that he sees here. Dr. Patient Audience is here as well and she is the one giving this lesson. Shining is MUCH more bored then Captive but his Guard role makes it easy to hide that feeling. Captive’s father Observant Audience is here as well and just like his son he also calls his wife by her title in a very formal manner. They do think it is a bit strange that a single unicorn could conquer an entire empire but then again the empire is just one city. Not to mention that Shining sees stranger things before breakfast. Even recent history had very destructive single individuals like a griffin that was able to transform himself into a cosmic energy powered monster with the aid of an amulet. He wanted to wipe out all of Ponykind but thankfully Celestia and her army did defeat him before he could start his genocide. And they continue to talk, completely missing the history lecture. As he awakens Shining is pleasantly surprised how normal this flashback dream was and that he does reawaken in his bed for once.

In Zebrabwe they encounter a wine-tasting festival for Dragons but the idea of drunken dragons was enough to keep Shining away from it. It also turns out that the locals became so desperate about the Catoblepas plague that they decided to carpet bomb them. This is the very incarnation of taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut. Sometimes even democracies can make some very stupid choices, the majority isn’t always right. And it turns out that NOT listening to common sense was a bad choice since not only did they loose a lot of rubber trees (which they wanted to protect) but the rubber also caused their bombs to spread in unpredictable patterns. Leboa-Seko is pretty relaxing as well, in the sense that no wolf is trying to erase and no Hooviet is trying to kill Shining. Half of the nation itself really has some energy to it, rumoured to be inspired by the pegasus Whizzer. Considering that most myths were true so far, for example the mare in the moon, there is little doubt about this one. The other half is more timid and shy. Almost like Fluttercruel and Fluttershy as nations. They basically have two capitals and a third official (and rather small) one. Even more interesting are the local birds, Lightning Birds, elements birds of electricity. They put up quite a light show and now all that is missing is a bird based around the element of ice but maybe Luna’s Windigo does count as an Ice Elemental already.

It reminds Shining of another flashback dream about a failed date. Rising Star did look good but had all the personality of a broken record. Her music choice Shining might have be able to tolerate but she keeps talking and talking and talking about her ex-boyfriend and who he is dating now. So Shining’s attention completely fades away, almost wishing that he would be reading his mother’s novel instead, almost. Eventually his date does figure out that he is bored to death by her so she throws him across the room and kicks him into his weakpoint. I doubt that she got arrested for assault for it. The good old double standard, it would be a lot less funny if Shining had done this to her. There were two other failed relationships but at least they didn’t try to injure him. It also means that he at least knows the basics of relationships: At least try to fake attention or your partner will hurt you. Considering what was said about his previous girlfriends, it is clear that he and Cadence have much more in common and might be able to form a closer bond if they would be on a romantic date or in a battle for life and death together.

Kembezi was a small problem because the President turns out to be the zebra who Twilight once thought had only stripes painted on. She can be happy that she was so adorable back then or he might be holding a grudge now. The hoofball tournament takes a surprising turn with neither Team Misfit Actual nor Team Hoofmaiden but the scientists from the Enterprise winning it. Cadence and the hoofmaidens also get to enjoy the local music. Bulungi turns out to be infested by parasprites but the locals know what they are doing and use music to lure them away. And having the goddess of music nearby has to have some advantages in this situation. Now it turns out there is some form of payback for the old stripe incident. One soldier gets the opposite treatment, a small child thinks that he lost his stripes and paints them “back” on. This soldier took his orders to stand still VERY seriously. The next step Mazuri seems calm as well but then the Doctor shows up.

Overall it was another enjoyable chapter but so far there seems to be no end to the mysteries around Shining but he really can’t focus his full attention on them. He has his duty to protect Cadence from harm and literally can’t leave her side. Or he will be erased. And as his duties prevent him from concentrating his full attention on learning more about these mysteries, more and more unanswered questions arise. If this continues it will become harder and harder to keep track of them. Maybe the Doctor can help him to solve at least one or two of them.
What do you think?
The Artist thought this was FAIR
6 out of 6 deviants thought this was fair.

The Artist has requested Critique on this Artwork

Please sign up or login to post a critique.

:iconallanpike:
Allanpike Featured By Owner Feb 25, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Well... that little flashback is odd... Mother Deer, not Father Deer?

The bits in italics is when it changed, isn't it?

... Uh oh. THe Petty Officer is the imposter, isn't he?

I like Dr. Audience. XD

Huh, wonder what the SAS are doing there...

Oh look, Pandemonium is true after all.

The hoofball thing is highly amusing.

Tripods and triangles? Not good.

Markarov has no idea what they are? Uh oh....

Oh hey, Crystal Empire.

XD. Dr. Audience really doesn't like to be refered to as such, does she?

The Doctor? Oh boy... OH. BOY.
Reply
:iconkurseofkings:
KurseofKings Featured By Owner Oct 17, 2013
"Yeah, it is kind of hard to believe, but stranger things have happened..." I said, barely remembering any mention of said king. "We have Article 1954 for a reason." ...What is Article 1954 again?
Reply
:iconkurseofkings:
KurseofKings Featured By Owner Oct 16, 2013
"(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): Oh, so it wuz just a normal bar, not a pole-dancing place?)" That's not the disturbing part, Shining Armor. The disturbing part is that I'm pre-tty sure that the earth pony interviewer is a child.
Reply
:iconyoshiegg64:
yoshiegg64 Featured By Owner Sep 7, 2013
:iconshiningarmorplz::iconsaysplz: There is no way our team could have lost unless....Makarov!!! He must be behind this. 

:iconmlpcolgateplz::iconsaysplz: Captain, you are being paranoid, Why in world would he do that?

:iconshiningarmorplz::iconsaysplz: Don't you see, by causing our team to lose he is demoralizing our entire country before they attack us. 

Mactavish::iconsaysplz: Well, I wouldn't say the ENTIRE country.

:iconshiningarmorplz::iconsaysplz: That fiend he crossed the line. You can kick me in the privates, endanger my squad, and even destroy a city but when you mess with my hoof ball team, then you mess with me!

:iconmlpcolgateplz::iconsaysplz: Oh brother...Princess maybe you can talk some sense into....

:iconcadencesrslyplz::iconsaysplz: (Canerlot voice) I WILL TEAR HIM LIMB BY LIMB!!!

:iconmlpcolgateplz::iconsaysplz: ...nevermind.



Join us next time as Shining Armor becomes The Doctor's newest companion, finally get a fez hat and go back in time to prevent his favorite team from ever losing. 



P.S. I would laugh so hard if Makarov was really behind that. That guy would do anything to hurt Shining Armor.
Reply
:iconalexwarlorn:
alexwarlorn Featured By Owner Sep 25, 2013
Be sure to share this one with LZ and Kendell2.

THAT WAS FUNNY!!!!!!! 
Reply
:iconyoshiegg64:
yoshiegg64 Featured By Owner Sep 25, 2013
Thanks and I am glad you thought it was funny. I always let LZ know what I think about his series. But it seems I forgot about Kendell2. From now I will make sure to let him know as well.
Reply
:iconalexwarlorn:
alexwarlorn Featured By Owner Sep 25, 2013
Since he's now writing it too . . .
Reply
:iconyoshiegg64:
yoshiegg64 Featured By Owner Sep 26, 2013
I realized that now.
Reply
:iconyoshiegg64:
yoshiegg64 Featured By Owner Sep 7, 2013
Loved this part!!! Nice to see things move at a quicker pace and this was easily one of the more light-hearted chapters. Spying on lovers, discovery cheese relics and that hoof ball loss? This was probably the funniest part yet.

I wonder how Discord feels about his sister Pandora being remember for cheese while he ruled for 1000 years yet no one knew anything about him? Heck present ponies remember King Sombra. Celestia really did do a great job of erasing his rule from history!!!


Reply
:iconalexwarlorn:
alexwarlorn Featured By Owner Sep 25, 2013
Be sure to share these thoughts with LZ and Kendell2.

And I'm happy for a quicker pace to things myself too. 

And I'm happy that the light hearted stuff entertained you.

And yes, Celestia WENT MORE THAN out of her way to deny Discord any kind of legacy. 
Reply
Add a Comment: