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Pony POV Series
Shining Armor Part 7
Written By lz0291
sksaM-Masks
Edited Vastly by Alex Warlorn, Kendell2, And Louis Badalament.

Somehow, despite how tired and pained I was, I remained awake during the flight back to the Embassy via the station. I kept looking over my shoulder, down at the ground. Seeing that...thing had me a bit paranoid. I don't know how to explain it, but despite what I'd seen Makarov's magic do to it, I just couldn't shake the feeling it wasn't dead.

(Interviewer (Pegasus): So you didn't automatically assume 'no one could survive that'? You're smarter than some ponies.)

(Interviewer (Earth Pony): Didja tell Cadence about the big bad wolf?)

What was I supposed to say? I ran into a ghost dog and it almost ate me? She was already worried enough about my PHYSICAL wellbeing.

The flight path took us a little closer to the riot zone, and what stuck out most was the sight of the smoldering wreck of a building marked 'Roman's Taxis' with various red and white carts around it. Dozens of rainclouds had been pushed over the flames, and numerous hoses funneled water from hydrants.

It's a common tactic for dedicated firefighters; positioning rainclouds to prevent roofs going up or down in flames, and fire spreading to adjacent structures, while attacking it from the inside with hose teams, shielded from the smoke and flames by magic and breathing apparatuses. The Royal Guard conducted firefighter training, though most cities had their own dedicated fire departments. Even in Equestria only small towns relied on just rainclouds above and a bucket chain. Small towns like Ponyville.

You might think it a little strange that I'd just escaped about half a dozen near death experiences, and my first thought upon seeing a burning structure was to recall my sister was now in a small town of the kind where odds of a fatality in a fire are three times that of a larger urban area. But stress can have strange effects on how you think. The trick is trying to make sure the effects don't go on too long. 

Remembering the picture showed Ponyville's library was a tree a few seconds later didn't help. I eventually came back to the world of the not-having-nightmare-visions-of-a-blazing-tree, as we passed a heavy police presence near a seafront amusement park. Large numbers of Griffins and Ponies in black riot gear mingled around the cart park, presumably a staging area for their response. 

"What was going on down there?" I wondered.

"Well, Shining, you were attacked by Hooviets," Price said.

"I mean the riots, Price."

"The LCPD say they're not sure who started it, but they know that nearly all the gangs went at each other, once it really got going. A Zebra tribe from the east end went for Zebras on the west end. Ponisans and Hooviets made their cold war hot for a bit. They're stumped as to why it even all began..." Thunderchild told us.

"I'd place a few bits on one suggestion myself..." Baseplate said.

"I'd take that bet," I said.

As the airships turned towards the island where the embassy and the station were, my attention turned to the rest of the squad.

"Thunderchild, where are the others?"

"They were all at the station or sent there, Sir, apart from Gag, he ought to be flying around with us somewhere. Should I radio them to check in?"

"Actually, can I borrow your chamfron and radio?" I decided.

It turned out that I had a bigger head than my Sergeant. And not just because of my horn. 

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): I'm saying nothing.)

"Misfit-Actual-Three, Misfit-Actual, come in, Lance-Corporal Apple."

Instead, I got Private Audience.
"Misfit-Actual, Misfit-Actual-Four. The Lance-Corporal isn't really available right now, he's not feeling too good. A medic wanted to check him out, over. "

It was starting.

"Alright, we'll be along shortly and take you back to the Embassy. Out."

It took a little while to get to the station, and we had to land about three hundred yards from it so there was space to fit the shuttle. LCPD carts and officers were now swarming the area, alongside a few Presidential Marshals, probably along to arrest the Hooviets. They let us past the cordon quickly enough, and we soon found our troopers.

"Alright, ride's here, fillies and colts!" Thunderchild said. 

The Griffins, I noticed, seemed to simply brohoof each other... well, talon-slap, I guess. None of them seemed remotely fazed by anything, and barely took a glance at the bloodstains and little yellow LCPD cards with numbers lying around the place to denote evidence.

My troopers, however... A few of them took glances at the blood, and at a black Coroner's Cart taking the dead Dogs away. My men all stood up and followed us back to the ships, but most of them were silent the whole flight back. Not too good a sign.

We were the Equestrian Royal Guard. We weren't trained for this kind of violence. Not all of us, at least. Bitter Apple had it worst staring off a thousand yards away at nothing, for much of the trip. He barely even reacted to the way that Pegasi and Griffins kept flying in the door to speak with Grinch, who had been chucked onto our shuttle on account of his wing injury.

Seeing my soldiers affected this way made me angrier at Makarov than every insult and attack he'd heaped on me personally.

As we neared the Embassy, Breastplate's pilots of the shuttle radioed ahead to say we were coming. This was a mistake for the co-pilot, who had the headset on.

"OW! Er, sorry, Ma'am... Yes, we'll be landing in a few minutes."

"I think the Princess' Royal Canterlot Voice is on the radio again, Sir." Gag noted. 

"Oh. Wait, where the heck did you come from?"

"Manechester, Sir. Thought you knew that, to be honest."

"No, I mean, when did you get on this airship?" I asked.

"When it landed at the station."

"Okay. Do you have any sort of joke, pun, gag, or anything that is an attempt at humor planned at all when we land?"

"Can't say I do have a plan, Sir, I'll probably just improv," Gag admitted.

"Good. Don't," I ordered. 

His wings wilted. "Yes, Sir." 

The Embassy's landing pad was only big enough for one shuttle at a time with ours first. Cadence was waiting nearby visible from the air looking worried yet also relieved. All three hoofmaidens, Sunset, Minuette and Twinkleshine, stood with her. They took their duty seriously. I noted however that Sunset seemed to be waving at a pegasus above rather than watching us land. Probably Private Ranger, given that he would have been brought back on duty with the incident earlier resolved. 

Cadence was upon me in a flash. She hadn't even teleported, but my hooves barely hit the ground before I was getting a Royal Canterlot Hug.

"Ow! Er, hello, Princess..."

"Oh my goodness, Shining, are you all right?! Are you injured?"

"Uh, looks like he's got a few bruises, couple of fractured ribs, some lacerations..." Minuette said.

"What?! Doctor Watsun, is that true?"

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): Watsun? Isn't he the one that helps that detective?)

I've no idea. Anyway, the new face looked me over.

"Yes, that seems to be correct. Do you have medical training, ma'am?" Watsun said to Minuette. Dr. Watsun before you ask was a unicorn with a surgeon's mirror cutie mark, not a griffin, cockatrice, or minotaur.

"Never mind that, he's injured!" Cadence interrupted. "Get him to the first aid room or whatever it is here!"

"We don't have one," Ambassador Greetings said.

"Princess, really, it's not that bad..." I tried to calm her down, but she was having none of it. 

"Then take him to my room or something!" She fretted.

Running Gag chuckled, "Slow down there, Princes-"

*CLANG*

"OW! Sarge, what was that for?!"

I'm thankful her Alicorn ears hadn't heard that.

I also noticed that Sunset had given Twinkleshine a not-all-that-gentle kick for a probably similar comment as I was practically dragged off by the pony I was supposed to be protecting.

"Uh, Your Highness, I'm supposed to deliver a report..."

"Do it later, you're injured! Princess' orders!"

"...I'll take over for now, will I, Sir? And can I get my chamfron back?" Thunderchild shouted as I was pulled into the embassy.

I tried to pass it back telekinetically, but I must have missed.

*CLANG*

"Why is everypony hitting me with helmets tonight?!" Gag lamented.




Fortunately, Doctor Watsun managed to convince Cadence to wait outside, and also had me taken to my own room rather than hers. Sadly, Minuette's apparent knowledge of basic medical spells and first aid meant he enlisted her as a nurse. She'd rushed off to fetch my medical records and was back in record time.

"So, Doctor... Where did you come from?" I asked hoping I wasn't forgetting ponies.

"Captain, I'm meant to be asking the questions, but for your information, I'm attached to Captain Baseplate's unit. Now, Minuette, can you remove his armor so I can examine these injuries... "

He looked me over, and listed them all my injuries aloud for Minuette to write down, also noting the magic exhaustion. None were really that major. The worst was the ache from the cracked ribs, or so I'd thought until Minuette removed my armor and promptly jostled a more unwelcome bruise I'd been given.

"You sounded like a dog yelping there, Captain. What's that injury from?" Watsun wondered.

"Erm, I had a fight with Makarov, and his antlers kind of hit me... down there, during it."

Minuette sighed. "I'm not surprised, Cadence said Makarov was that sort of guy. Anyway, it looks like his antlers didn't damage anything TOO badly…"

"Erm... how do you know?"

"Because I'm looking," she said.

"...Could you not, please?!"

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Seriously? She just...)

Yes, she did, now can we please try to move on past that?

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): I don't get it, what was the problem?)

Oh, hay no, I am not trying to explain. Moving on!

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

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus & Unicorn & Shining Armor): MOVING ON!)

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): Also, Captain, please don't write in our notebooks.)

(Interviewer's Notes (Shining Armor):  :=(   )

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn):Captain...)

Tch, fine, I'll get a nicer notebook from a Thestral and write Makarov's name in it, Ah, forget the notebook.

Minuette was amused at my reaction while Watsun confirmed that none of the injuries would be critical after a few quick spells. He let Minuette clean out my wounds while he made some notes, and checked my records. His ad-hoc nurse spoke up while dabbing a cotton bud of iodine or some other fairly nasty cleaning substance onto a cut.

"She was really worried about you, you know. She kept trying to get you on the radio again a few minutes after you spoke."

"I think we were in the tunnels by then..." I lamely said in reply.

"Okay, you've had a tetanus shot recently enough... No need for any other shots, so we shouldn't be too long. I'll let the Princess in while we work."

He opened the door, and she came in, not quite running. "How is he?" "How is he?"

"Well, Princess, it turns out Shining's been dead all along and that only a little colt that sees dead ponies can talk to him, which raises an awful lot of plot holes about the last few days," Minuette then said.

She received a few glares.

"...He's fine," Watsun then said.

"Okay. That's good... Shining, never do that to me again!" She said harshly.

"He might have to, ma'am, he IS your bodyguard," Watsun reminded her.

"But..."

"Princess, I'm fine, and I'll try my best to avoid getting into any more mini-wars with Hooviet mad-deer in the future. But I need to give you a report on what happened."

I told the story of the night. Cadence turned pale a few times, and so did Minuette. Watsun got on with his job, folding his ears a few times throughout my story.

I wish Minuette wasn't there, I'd leave out some details for her and the doc's sake but with Cadence in front of me I had promise to keep about letting my commanding officer, her, know the whole truth, minus one wolf.

When I talked about the horn powered robots, it was enough to make Minuette unconsciously touch her own horn as she shrank.

"...So, what do we do now?" Cadence asked.

I explained: "Protocol says that every trooper involved be placed off-duty for at least twenty-four hours starting now, and the officer involved is off duty too, with exceptions to conduct the first TIA... Er, that's Traumatic Incident Assessment. You'll also need to select a temporary replacement officer of lieutenant rank or higher who will also have to sit in with me during the interviews because I am one of the troopers involved, and due to having been involved in the shooting, Private Audience is subject to a Fatal Incident Inquiry that..."

"In Laypony's terms, Shining!" Cadence said, after quite a lot of confused frowning.

"Everypony who participated in 'Operation: Save-Me-From-Makarov' gets a day off so the head doctors can check whether their sanity's intact. This would include me, as well, except I've got to interview our Guards first thing in the morning. You'll need to bring another officer over from the ship to command the unit for the day because Baseplate and Price aren't officially here, and I think the same applies to Doctor Watsun even if he's not high-ranking..."

"Oh, I'm a Captain too, Captain. But you're quite right: officially, I'm 'not here.'" The doctor added.

"… And Audience is off-duty until the inquiry is conducted or he's granted probation by his Commander in Chief. That's you, Princess. Oh, and we need to report the shooting to the Ministry of Defense. His case is quite complicated..."

"Complicated? He killed somedog!" Minuette burst out, further complicating it for the moment.

"He shot a Diamond Dog that was trying to kill you, Shining!"  Cadence said.

"Well, but... was that the only option he had?" Minuette asked, but then Watsun spoke up.

"Miss, while it will be looked into, there's something few civilians know about, regarding the Royal Guard. Most recruits are given regular training, focusing on nonlethal responses to violent events such as tonight's. As a last resort, though, we're all told we may have to kill. Moreover, accidents may occur, even when trying to non-lethally restrain somepony."

"Accidents?" Minuette repeated skeptically, as though sensing a euphemism.

"Yes, my dear. Actual accidents DO happen in the military. The term 'friendly fire' exists for a REASON."

"Hmm... you'd just said 'Most recruits are given regular training.' Was Audience given different training?"

"To an extent. There's a protocol codenamed Black Thistle, one of many different protocols for when a recruit displays potential for certain specialist skills. Like a recruit who may make a good field medic, or a good engineer, or in my case a defensive specialist. And based on their cutie marks, their history, or just their psychological assessments during training, some recruits are given more extensive training in performing life-ending acts, and coping with the psychological fallout."

"You mean...?!"

I felt like something horrible was about to happen.

"Please, Minuette!" I said. "We're Equestrians. Killing is never Plan A. But it is at the bottom of the list. It MUST be, especially in real battles. Sometimes there's no outcome that won't risk more lives unless killing is used. They're not programmed to kill first and without mercy or thought, they're not turned into robots."

"Most doctors actually undergo similar training, especially in the army. Patients can fail to recover, and doctors need to be able to continue," Watsun added.

The bad feeling got worse.

"But that's different..." Minuette tried to continue.

Watsun let out a sad sigh. "Guards and Doctors aim to save life where possible but sometimes you can't save them all. Let's imagine a scenario, Minuette. Imagine your airship has been shot down in battle and you crash-land in the middle of a forest, in enemy territory. Over half the ponies aboard suffered injuries. You came out okay, Minuette, and you have your medical training to help the injured the best you can. Plus, maybe a FEW fellow medics to assist. But no ambulances. No first-rate hospital to deliver your patients to: nothing beyond what you can salvage and cobble together from nature and the wreckage of your ship."

I listened intently to Dr. Watsun, curious as to whether this scenario was actually 'imagined.'

I could see some part of Cadence wanted to order Minuette to leave or tell the doctor to stop, but for what? Because she thought her adult friend couldn't handle the facts of life and death? Cadence was struggling, but she didn't come to a resolution fast enough.

"...You'd do what you could for the most seriously injured, I'm sure, but one pony can only help out so many other ponies in a day! And then there's the question of resource management: even assuming all your medical supplies survived the crash, there's only SO MUCH to go around! What of tomorrow's injuries? Tomorrow's infections and illnesses? The most severely injured patients could die even if you put EVERYTHING into healing them. For some poor souls, it might be a mercy to help them... slip... away... peacefully... especially if your other patients die because you were too fixated on saving the un-savable!"

Minuette looked like she had been stabbed in the heart, but her expression softened with empathy. The playful teasing hoof maiden was gone. I actually felt a bit scared with how her ear folded down and she looked at us with large eyes looking ready to cry, looking so small.

What she said next nearly killed Cadence. "Are you saying the Equestria I know is a lie?"

I swear Cadence's glow flickered at those words.

"No!" I almost shouted. I then implored with her. "Minuette! I know the idea of ponies killing is bad enough. Training them to not be HURT as badly by it, might seem nothing short of evil. But we are NOT monsters. We WILL be conducting an inquiry, as will the Columbians. But I'm fairly confident it will be ruled as justifiable homicide."

Cadence hugged her hoof maiden, folding her wings around her, Minuette silently leaned her neck against the larger pony.

No one spoke up for a few minutes.

"Well, I'm done here, Princess. Captain Sparkle is back in top condition, apart from the magic exhaustion and the physical fatigue."

"Okay. Doctor, can you two leave the room? And try and have one of the Griffins that was involved sent up if they're still around." The good doctor did so. He seemed to hurry along a bit more as Cadence looked him in the eye.

She looked at the blue unicorn, and flicked a tear away with her wing, "Are you going to be okay Minuette?"

"I . . . Yes Your Majesty, Cadence, I'm... I'm going to go check on Twinkleshine and Sunset. I think they'll . . . like to know what . . . what happe-. . . how you two are."

"I promise I'm here if you need me Minuette." She really was Celestia's niece.

"Thank you, Cadence." The two nuzzled and the hoofmaiden left in a slightly drunken stupor. A part of me wanted to check on her later.

"I'm so sorry Minuette."




Basically, the next day after that, we'd find out what his point of view was at the time. He'd explain why he took the shot. Based on that, we would either absolve or charge him. If absolved, he'd be paroled and put back on duty under psychological observation for the next few weeks. If found to have breached his rules of engagement by us, the case would be submitted to the Ministry of Defense and he would be arrested. 

Either way, the case would be looked at by the MoD to decide what happens next, from two angles. One, we'd have his testimony and the views of the officers he gave the testimony to: the recommendation to be absolved and have no more investigations or to advise that investigation is needed. Two, a third party, usually another officer or the Commanding Officer of the entire regiment, could obtain further evidence to submit alongside the interview statement and recommendation of the officer. This extra evidence could easily back up or contradict the report the trooper gave, but would not be used in determining the advice the interviewing officers gave with regards to the need for inquiry.

Usually, within a week they would have a decision. It was usually faster if we paroled the trooper as often the MoD would find that meant the case was legitimate, but there was a risk the MoD would find irregularities and seek further investigations. Likewise if we had charged him but the MoD disagreed with our call, it would lead to more investigation. 

Possible outcomes: Absolved of blame and the act found to have been the only choice that seemed reasonable at the time. Investigated further to determine if a breach of conduct occurred. Or court-martial proceedings that could lead to imprisonment.

Even if the incident had been in Equestria it can be a nightmarish process. And the funny part, looking at how bewildering all that is?

Black Thistle protocols are intended to be able to let the trooper avoid the more stressful procedures on use of lethal force if they had to kill. Intended to simplify the process. Any other trooper? MoD investigation. Commanding Officers only file a report. They cannot issue parole, only the MoD can decide. If anyone else had made the kill, they'd be under arrest already and I'd be making a possible report of what I knew to the MoD. The trooper would not be interviewed by me... If a Guard kills, there's an investigation. And it could easily be a criminal one if the circumstances don't add up to absolve blame or justify the use of force. It's convoluted, it's complicated, and even though no guard has been convicted of an unlawful killing, it's seen only one trooper not retire after his investigation without a Black Thistle protocol to alter the rules a little.

True, only three investigations had been held in two hundred years, and only four times before Audience's shot that night had a guard been behind the death of a suspect. But it had ended two careers thanks to the trauma of the kill and the stress of all the court proceedings. That had led to Black Thistle being introduced, the hope being that the extra coping training along with the additional layer of legal protection would prevent the incidents causing such devastating consequences long-term for so many. Black Thistle had only ever resulted in one case of a kill before now in the hundred years the protocol had existed. It didn't even take a full day for the trooper to be absolved of blame without a trial or investigation.

As for the third investigation, the one that didn't end a career? It came pretty close, trust me. 

And as much as I disliked killing as a concept, Audience was still my subordinate, and had done the job we'd asked of him. I knew even then I would be unlikely to seek to submit to the MoD. However, at the time I'd began to worry that maybe, I couldn't trust Cadence to understand, and her orders trumped mine. The way things went didn't help soothe that concern.




While we were alone, Cadence spoke up.

"You really had me worried, Shining," To my surprise, she looked to be a step away from crying.

"Sorry, but we had to do it. For all we knew, that Dog could have been after you."

"But he was after you! And you rushed right after him into a Hooviet ambush! I could have lost you!"

I was silent as she paused.

"Shining, I've got to be honest. I had this feeling something was after you specifically. This instinctive dread gnawing at the back of my mind about you. It grew so loud and shrill, I could barely keep myself from coming unglued. Like something wanted your blood. It wasn't any of our Guards, not Sunset, not Commander Shepard, not me. It wanted you."

I managed a weak sort of laugh, though I felt more like breaking out in a cold sweat.

"Well, that's… an impressive intuition you have, Cadence. Foreseeing Makarov like that. Incredible."

Cadence just let out a long breath. "A few minutes after we'd spoke, I tried calling you back. I kept ordering you to come back, and let the dog go. But you never replied."

"I might have been in the tunnels by then..." I said again.

"It took five minutes before somepony told me you'd gone underground, then nothing. I couldn't get anyone, so I'd tried to get the flotilla to get into radio range of you. They'd been flying around and overheard Thunderchild relaying he'd seen your flare, and then they went silent too. I couldn't help but think..."

"I'm all right though. I got through it."

"You never should have been there!" She almost shouted.

"Cadence, it's what I have to do. If I'd let that dog go, Makarov would've just tried something else again."

"Who's to say he STILL won't try something else again?"

"Uh, that would be us, ma'am."

Sandgriff had walked in the room. Frost was with him, along with another griffin. The latter wore a Lieutenant General's insignia on his black beret, and a rather impressive mustache. Sandgriff and Frost were wearing sunglasses rather than masks and weapons.

"Good morning, Princess. I'm General Goldeagle Shepherd. I know you asked for Master Sergeant Fullwington, but I came along to discuss the situation. I hope you don't mind. I've also brought Sergeant Westrookery as he was on the scene with your officer." 

"Oh, er, that's quite all right..." Cadence said, a little surprised. 

The first thing that came to mind for me, oddly, was that I was thankful he was a general and a he, otherwise we could get mixed up with our Shepard.

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): How many Shepherds are there?)

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): Four thousand five hundred and seventy-six. Including a diamond dog pacifist movement leader and a Zebrafrician Zebra anti-Hooviet freedom fighter.)

Erm, maybe we should all just refer to him as General Goldeneagle.

"Thank you, Your Highness. Now, you were concerned about Makarov. I wouldn't be. We have a mutual arrangement with him, and we've let him know that anything like a repeat of tonight is going to jeopardize that arrangement."

"I see. What is this arrangement?" 

"A ceasefire, of sorts. You may not know about it but for the last ten years, the Hooviets have been putting many hooves in many pies. Ruffled a LOT of nations' feathers. Even a power-hungry sociopath like Makarov wouldn't want the Neighponese ANBU, Ponsian Immortals, and Columbian Metal Unit all uniting together to ruin him."

Cadence frowned. "Okay, so, let me get this straight. He's shown complete contempt for Princess Celestia, the sun-goddess who could quite literally bring down fire from the sky on him, and you somehow think your special forces scare him? No offense, General, but that just seems a little..."

"I'm sorry, Your Highness, but the truth is you and I both know Princess Celestia is NOT the type to declare war over one dead soldier. We, on the other hand, have made clear that if he keeps causing problems, we'll cause him BIGGER problems." The General cut in. "The least of which, and the only one I'm permitted to mention, is to have him labeled a Persona Non Grata, that is to say-"

"Persona Non Grata: meaning 'an unwelcome person.' Also a legal term used to refer to someone whom the state has decided must either be recalled to their home country or be stripped of diplomatic immunity." Cadence cut in, coldly. "I'm an ambassador."

"My mistake. My point is we could have him made one in more than just Columbia if he comes after the Captain again. With enough cookie jar pictures that they'd have no choice but to grin and bear it."

Cadence put on her poker face. "So, what happens now? He did start a battle in your city."

"We're going to ignore it. It gives us pretty good leverage. A lot of favors he'd owe us if we were to deny his little op. And since we have him by the painful parts, you needn't worry about him taking any more shots at Shining there. I came to let you know that basically, tonight never really happened."

"A cover-up," Cadence said, with barely-concealed disgust.

"Afraid so. People like us and Makarov move in the shadows, and sometimes it suits us all that no one shines a light in there. I'm sorry, but this is the best for everyone. Makarov's honor is soothed because at least he took his little potshot at Shining, (even if he failed.) It helps that, right now, Makarov's publicly appealing for those Hooviet expat hoodlums to quit rioting and calm down. He'll be a press darling by the morning. He'll quietly admit he overreacted to the insult in the Embassy. If Shining were to give a small apology himself..."

For a split moment I was reminded we were in a room with a goddess as she narrowed her eyes, a bright aura flaring around her body.

"Captain Sparkle will do no such thing. Tell Makarov apologies WERE made, both before AND DURING his attempts on Shining Armor's life." The way Cadence spoke made all of us shudder.

"We'll try to let him know that. Now, then, there's one other matter. One of your troopers killed a Diamond Dog in the tunnels?"

"Yes," I said simply as Cadence fumed a little.

"Actually, Captain, he didn't. Because the intruders escaped, and were later found dead having been caught up in gang violence in Broker, along with the others..."

"What others?" Cadence asked.

I'd assumed he'd meant the ones killed in the station. I was wrong.

"The other Diamond Dog they're dragging out of the burned remains of the taxi depot in Cisco Street. Our 'Police Dog' identified their scent from the same pack. They're known to the LCPD, hired goons for anyone with the gems to spare," the General told us.

"Someone hired the pack and planned to get rid of any of them not already at the train station..." I said, sickened. Cadence was shocked.

"That's Makarov's MO through and through. Hire something he can discard, then have plenty of backup plans," the General said flatly. "Looks like someone had a trap set for you no matter where you ended up, or just wanted them silenced."

"Of course, we'll never really know for sure who hired them. Legally speaking. After all, it can't have been Makarov," Sandgriff said. All the official papers say so.

"The two taxi ponies that were arrested this night are likely only still alive because they have no idea who hired them but a few diamond dogs who wanted a pick up at a prearranged time, then saw an Equestrian Guard chasing their pick-up and panicked."

That were two fewer creatures' deaths I had to work through. "So you wanted to speak to my soldiers about what didn't happen tonight?"

Cadence sighed. "Well, we might have to investigate Private Audience's actions. We have our own laws, even if yours are giving him a pass on it. I'm not sure if we can actually ask for you as witnesses though..."

"We can, sort of. You'd need to keep it separate and unknown to the officers interviewing him tomorrow, but you could have the extra testimony when you send it to the MoD. You merely send off what your officers say and what other information you know," I clarified. Or tried to. The important part was anything they said was supposed to not be known to the officers speaking to Audience. 

"...Doesn't that mean you can't interview him, Shining?"

"Um... Yes, good point. I can be present though, and technically, I need to be, as his officer. But I'd just stand there, I'd not say anything to him or the officers. You'll probably need Air Naval officers to do it now."

"Okay. So, that means you can stay in the room while I hear what the Griffins have to say on Audience's actions?"

"Uh... Yes."

"Good. Sergeant... Frost, was it?"

"Uh, Westrookery, ma'am, Frost is sort of a callsign or nickname..." Frost said.

I suddenly had a headache. So many NAMES to remember, so many ranks, species, callsigns... and Liberty City was still the first stop on our goodwill tour.

"Okay, so... What did you see?"

"From where I was? Your guy had no choice. I know about stun spells and other less-than-lethal takedown methods, and I don't think he could've used them safely. The Diamond Dog posed a threat to all our lives. I don't see any other option on your guy's part, thanks to the layout of the area, and I know the Dog never felt a thing."

I tried not to sigh in exasperation. Audience would be asked if he felt the target posed a threat to life, if he could see any reasonable alternative at the time, and if he ensured that once he had felt lethal force was the only choice, that he made it as painless as possible. Frost had given a suspiciously specific yes/no/yes, in order. Exactly what would be needed to say Audience was justified in taking the shot. 

"Thank you, Sergeant Frostrookery. I think that's all. General, is there anything further?"

"No, Your Highness. It was a pleasure to meet you. I only wish it could have been under better circumstances," the General replied.

"Likewise. Thank you, Gentlegriffs, and good morning."

"One last thing," I said. "I know it's secret, but about the 'power source' of Makarov's death machines..."

"What?" Sandgriff asked.

"They're powered by unicorn horns! I saw them! That sicko promised to install my horn in one!"

"What?"

The Griffins were surprised let me tell you. After a few minutes of convincing them I hadn't been seeing thing I barely believed, I gave them all the details I could.

"This is news to us. I haven't read in detail what's been found in the junkyard's wreckage yet . . . " The General said. "If . . . if we find any, remains I'll do my hardest to see they're treated respectfully and will have a proper investigation."

"Thank you," Cadence said.

They left. Cadence waited, then spoke to me.

"I hate having to go along with that. A cover-up when they tried to kill you, thinking Auntie wouldn't care if you'd been killed..."

"Cadence, can I clarify? Princess Celestia would care, but the General was right. She wouldn't go to war over me."

"But that's..."

"True," I said, regretting how that one word stunned her.

"Shining, that's absurd! You're Twilight's brother! You're my..."

I could have let her finish first, but she'd paused midsentence. And so I spoke.

"No matter what I am, I'm just one pony, Cadence. What's Equestria's population?"

"…Five hundred and three million six hundred and ninety seven thousand three hundred and ten."

I stared at her.

"What? I'm an Alicorn."

"Er, okay. But that's my point. I'm one amongst five hundred million. If I die, is it fair that we risk the lives of everyone else? I know I wouldn't want a war started to avenge me. No Guard would. If it were to come down to it I'd be an acceptable loss."

She was angry and upset as she spoke. "That's insane, Shining! Wars have been started over one person's death!"

"Never by Princess Celestia."

"You think you know my aunt better than I do?!" raged the goddess of harmony and music. "She loves all of us!"

I knelt and looked her in the eyes. "It's because she loves all of her ponies deeply. And I know you love everypony and every other Equestrian citizen just as much as she does. But Princess, I'm afraid you need to accept sooner or later we're only mortal. Fated to die, regardless. For Guards, it comes down to the fact that they devote their lives to protecting Equestria's people and her Princesses. Keep them safe or die trying. I'm no different."

"You... Shining, I don't want you to die for me! Or anypony else!"

She looked utterly horrified, and I regretted having even spoken. But being a moron, I kept going.

"...I'm sorry, but it's our job. We're Guards. It's what we are."

She looked about ready to burst into tears, and then to my surprise, laughed bitterly, instead.

"I don't believe this. You know why I was so worried about you? Really? Because, Shining, you're probably the only pony I know other than Twilight who likes me for who I am first, not what I am. Everypony else, it's the wings and the horn. I'm only loved, I'm only important, for what I am!"

"Cadence, that's ridiculous!"

"Is it? Minuette, Twinkleshine, Sunset. I'd never have met them if they hadn't been hired to work for me. They're my friends, but only because I'm a Princess. All the other Guards guard me because I'm a Princess. All the nobles, all the ambassadors and diplomats... they welcome me into their private circles, because I'm a Princess. And why am I a Princess? Because I'm an Alicorn!"

"That's not true!" I said, staring at her intently.

Cadence sighed. "I'll grant you that. Plenty of non-Alicorns have been Princesses... and Princes. But you know something? Not even Aunt Celestia would've ever bothered with me, if not for these little appendages."

"Your Aunt LOVES you!"

"And I love her back, don't get me wrong," Cadence replied. "But how differently would I've turned out, if I'd been, say, a unicorn? Even a highborn one? Would Auntie have gone through such great pains to safeguard me? Educate me? Iron out all the kinks in my personality? Trained me to be productive instead of idle? Made sure I never forgot the difference between right and wrong?"

She folded her wings sadly.

"Or would Princess Celestia have been content to leave Cadence the Unicorn to her own devices, and grow into a female cousin Blueblood?"

I had nothing to say. I could envision it all too clearly, in fact. Blueblood wasn't the only nephew or niece of Celestia who had lost touch with the real world.

"Somehow, because I'm also an Alicorn, that makes me more important than anypony else in Celestia's eyes... and thus, in the eyes of everyone else under her sun!"

It took a while before I could muster an answer. Though I spoke softly, I was surprised by the strength in my voice. "With all due respect, Cadence, I could not disagree more. There is much more to you than a horn and some wings. You're also a kind, loving, and compassionate soul. That was always in you from the beginning. Celestia just helped you refine those qualities. It was THAT which she's always treasured about you; your inherent goodness. That's what REALLY distinguishes you from the rest of your family."

We met each other's eyes. I went on.

"And, no: it wouldn't have mattered if you'd been born a unicorn. Even if you had, Celestia would've had no problems taking a cute, thoughtful, gifted, kindhearted unicorn filly like you under her wing... and into the warmest spot of her heart. If you don't believe that, Cadence, then there's a little sister of mine you ought to have a word with."

Her smile was such a beautiful thing.

"And that's what I adore about you, Shining. You're one of the few ponies I'm one-hundred-percent sure likes me for who I am. And then you turn around and call yourself an 'acceptable loss!'"

"Er, well... Cadence, it... It's just the way it is. I'm a Guard. But I might have to put my life on the line. It's what I am. And you're an Alicorn princess. And I'm sorry. I'm so sorry, but Cadence, you have to accept what each of us are..."

She was silent for a moment. She actually looked a little sick.

"...I can try. I don't have to like it though. And Shining, I am never forgetting who you are when I deal with you. So deal with it. You're my friend. The son of two great ponies. The big brother-best friend of a brilliant filly. A loyal and dedicated servant of Equestria, and a selfless and generous pony. What you're not is expendable by any means. So, thank you. But don't you dare think of dying in my name."

"If it helps, I don't plan to."

"That helps a little, Shining..."

"Besides, the odds are pretty low I'd be killed on duty anyway. On average only eight Guards die a year, and that's in training accidents, firefighting incidents, animal attacks, or other incidents, in that order of rarity. And since being assassinated is other incidents, the rarest of the lot, the odds are extremely low. So don't worry! Heck, more farmers or construction workers die per year than Guards."

And once I had finished that little fact-dropping, she stared at me with a raised brow.

"Shining... I'm going to overlook the fact that you've apparently just been possessed by some statistician's specter... in order to point out that your math's completely faulty."

"Er..."

"You seem to be forgetting the probability of being assassinated is more based on probability of there being an assassin. Which is high, because as we've already established, Makarov is kind of a pinhead."

"That's a fair point. But Cadence, I was trying to stop you worrying."

"It didn't work," She said, deadpan.

"I know that. Now I'm worrying... no, I'm kidding, I'm actually joking about being worried. Trust me."

She frowned. "...You trained him, didn't you? You actually trained Running Gag. The entire time up in the clouds yesterday at the weather factory, he kept making terrible jokes about cloud related things, puns about weather. And that was just what I could overhear!"

"I never trained him! I think he was born that way. Besides, he's off-duty tomorrow now..."

"Or later today. Before I go back to bed, do you know what happens after you're done with those interviews tomorrow?"

"...I brainstorm ideas for that novel I've always been meaning to write?" I fakely grinned.

"Wrong. You're coming with me. No uniform, just a suit or something suitably neat and non-military."

"Um, Cadence, I don't have anything like that. I just have my uniforms and a Maresenal shirt."

"This season's home shirt?"

I nodded.

"Hm..."

She honestly seemed to be considering it. Now, I'd have been pleased to do it, but it would look a bit odd. Prim and proper ponies in dresses, tiaras, suits, ties, guards in shiny armor, and then at the back, a hoofball hooligan.

"...I'd never get away with wearing mine on a diplomatic duty so I'm not going to get away with you doing it. We need to get you a suit then."

"Wait, you actually have a shirt yourself?"

"Well, yes. Of course. I kind of prefer the away one this year though. I think it's my fault it's purple, actually, I mentioned it's one of my favorite colors to a director when I was at a match last year..."

"Oh, that's right, you'd be in the VIP box..." I mused.

"...Ah, well, I know I was being a bit whiny earlier about the whole 'everypony likes me for what I am' thing but, er, it... Ahahaha, it, uh..."

"Has some bonuses?" I offered.

"Yes. Well, no. Yes. Um..."

"Alright, so.... I did say you were kind, loving, and compassionate earlier, right? And now I'm reminded you've got great taste in sports teams..."

"And this has nothing to do with the VIP box at Emareates Stadium?"

"Nothing whatsoever, but would you marry me?"

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus & Unicorn & Earth Pony): WHAT?!)

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): Impossible! You can't have...)

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): I thought when you got around to that it was much later and all romantic! Oh, you're laughing... You're joking?)

Oh, hay yes, I'm joking! That's not what I said at all after saying it had some bonuses! You should see the looks on your faces... Priceless! 

...What? Why'd you all start looking at me like that? I'm just joking around... You're looking at me like I quoted Tirek or something. And now you look surprised I know who that is. 

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): …Shining, I'm sorry, but the joke just wasn't that funny for us. So, what really happened?)

Oh, fine. Remember, 'some bonuses' was the last thing I really said.

"...Did I mention you've also got a great flank? In fact I've got like thirty pictures of it..."

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus & Unicorn & Earth Pony): SHINING!)

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): For the record, the Captain is now laughing profusely. We're starting to doubt his claims to have not trained Lance-Corporal Running Gag.)

Aw, spoilers, now they know he got promoted!

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Serves you right. Now be serious!)

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): Yeah!)

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): Besides, a private can expect to be promoted to the rank of Lance-Corporal after two years service or earlier, assuming there is a vacancy in the grade and the private is deemed fit for promotion? It's not much of a stretch to assume he would rise up a rank over time.)

Okay, okay, fair point. What really happened was this.

"It's okay, Princess, I understand how you feel. But I think you were a little wrong to think Ponies love you just for what you are. It's not just me and Twilight, you know. I think most of them might be doing both, to be honest, but the fact is, Ponies do love you, and it's because who you are is a good pony. Besides, a lot of ponies that spout those 'Alicorn conspiracy' horseapples tend to not extend it to you and you get a pretty good rep even from that hack, Sunny Day..."

"Um... Yeah, you know what, we'll go with that. I'm pretty sure I'm not actually supposed to know anyway..." She muttered.

"Eh?"

"Nothing... Um, so... We need to get you a suit or something, Shining. Maybe a bow tie."

"What about a fez?"

"You'll never forgive me when you're fully awake."

"Aw."

"We can have you go around town dressed like your sister if you want."

"But she doesn't-oh! No thank you."

"Good. Now go to bed."

"I guess we'll sort it out in the morning. Or later... Uh... Good night, Princess?"

"Ah, yes. Good night."

She simply stood there.

"...This is my room?" I reminded her.

"What? I told them to take you to mine."

"Well, I could go there instead if you want to swap or something but I'm not sure I want to risk your hairbrushes." I dodged.

She then facehoofed and groaned.
"...Sorry, Shining, I don't know what's with me. I must be more tired and stressed than I thought."

"Sorry about that..."

"So you should be, you massive pain in the flank! Goodnight, and remember we need to get you a suit tomorrow." She said with a smile.

"Okay, get me a fez, got it..."

"No fez!" She gave as a parting shot on the way out. "And I order you to never use that joke again!"

"Aw..."

I then fell asleep.

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): Uh, you got into bed first, right?)

It was hard but not impossible.

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): Okay, just checking you didn't fall over or something.)

And that ended that night.

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): Sleep tight!)
Written by LZ0291 and edited by us three.
For once under the 64K LIMIT.

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: [link]

Next Chapter: [link]

First Chapter: [link]

Written by Lz0291 and edited by three of us together. [link]

MLP FiM: Copyright Hasbro

The Pony POV Series Trope Page is feeling neglected. You can help keep it up to date! So many characters and so little description on the 'minor' ones. [link]

Check out the recursive fanfiction and fanart of the Pony POV Series! [link] Many of it approved by me as canon.

Did anyone else know about us now being on Fan Labor Wiki? This is a surprise to me.
[link] [link]

BY LZ0 ON THE INVINCIBLE FLEET
Cadence's quarters are in the embassy right now, but she has quarters on Invincible as it's the lead ship. The flotilla has four ships: Frigate HHS Invincible, Scientific Survey Corvette HHS Enterprise, Gunship Corvettes HHS Dreadnought and HHS Falcon.

Invincible is the largest ship, but there's an "entertainment and mess" deck. The hangars are each intended to carry up to eight shuttles or attack craft, but normally carry only four, and in an emergency can carry but not fly up to 32 (there's no room for them to get out under their own power with so many light airships crammed aboard)

The lower hangar is also more often used for indoor sports fields than for light airships. It's large enough to fit a five-a-side/indoor hoofball pitch, hockey rink, or tennis/badminton/basketball courts, etc. It's the only "spare" hangar in the flotilla as the other ships are smaller.

It's a jack of all trades in flotilla terms: protection, supplies, creature comforts.

Dreadnought and Falcon are mostly protection, but they've got full cargo bays. Their own airship hangars are far smaller, basically just carrying a single shuttle and attack craft. They also only have one hangar each.

Enterprise is the "entertainment" ship of sorts, carrying a larger library and having more space than the other corvettes aboard for cargo as it's not carrying as many guns and therefore has less space taken up by them. It's only got one small hangar fitting up to two shuttles, and it currently only carries one: A shuttle. It's also got more entertainmenty things or things that can be used for entertainment: It's got a large theatre-sized room intended for the scientists aboard to have lectures or conferences, but just so happens to be a handy room to use as a cinema or theatre for movies/plays. And since it's for science it also has more gizmos to play with even if they're technically supposed to be for doing calculations. Not playing Galaga like that pony. He thought we wouldn't notice, but we did...

20121104: I just realized a VERY IMPORTANT line was missing between two of Minuette's lines! Where Cadence gives her opinion on Private Audience's shooting the Diamond Dog.

20121224: r1ck3t's edits.
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:iconeric-emanwu:
From the shadow who got here first: this is almost bizarro looking back on it. On the one hand, it's possibly one of the BEST ways to show a romance develop naturally, and a great way to show the complexities of how the goddess of harmony tries to preserve harmony thought the planet. It also has some great character explorations and a few jokes that had me laughing for quite some time. And yet, it also has something of a plot tumor in it that just feels a bit distracting. But, I suppose that's a matter of preference. Anyhow, on with the review.

So, we start where we left of with Shining Armor: he's escaping from Markov, and resting on the shuttle in route back to the embassy. Also, the side note about whatever that dog is was interesting, though significant for later in the story (I'll get back to it)

We also learn about magic age firefighting techniques: use rainclouds to keep roof fires low, rather than having to solely rely on ground houses. Clever.

There's also a good degree of contrast in looking over a difference of nations in this chapter. And nowhere is this more apparent in looking at the difference between the equestrian and columbian politics/society. Perhaps the first sign of this was how the colombians, as a coping mechanism congradualate each other on a night of "success", while the rest of the equestrian team seems shocked and horrified at the death and danger they had in their fight. the apple especially took it hard with the thousand yard stare. Hearing of Shining's indignation that Markov caused this to happen was especially a good moment.

Despite the gravitas of the situation, we still manage to find a little comedic relief in Private Gag. Who says he's not funny. First with the "improv" comment in the shuttle, then about to go for the obvious sexual joke, only to be helmeted by someone who knows it's not the time. "Why does everyone keep hitting me with helmets?" Reminds me of Michelangelo of TMNT some ways.

The hug on return was actually really sweet, though it's also here we get a clever reference to Sherlock Holmes, with Dr. Watsun. It's actually really nice to remember that Watson wasn't always a dectective sidekick, but a soldier.

Then for the inquiries on who Watsun is, as a unicorn with captain brestplate (was that in the logs last chapter? I can't remember?), and then we actually get an interesting meta joke, where shining armor writes on the interviewer "notebook" for "what's the problem?" So the interviewers here communicate with a notebook, and it's probably a recollection of the time then, which is probably significant in talking about when the interview's taking place, and how it ties into A Canterlot Wedding.

Also, love the reference to The 6th sense. "Well, Princess, it turns out Shining's been dead all along and that only a little colt that sees dead ponies can talk to him, which raises an awful lot of plot holes about the last few days." Brilliant way to lighten the mood.

Then came the report, followed by a nice breakdown of what the military aftermath of this incident will be, which then leads into my one big complaint about this chapter.

While the discussion here on Thou Shalt Not Kill was a good meditation, it just felt a bit out of place where it was, particularly coming from minuette. It's interesting to be sure, with the talk on killing and fighting and prudence in the line of service, but like I said, it just feels a bit out of place, and for that, I must take a star off of the vision and technique points.

All things said though, it's not horrible, as the tough realities of real life are showing there, but well, you know my feelings.

Hmmmm, and cadence's glow flickered? It appears harmony was flickering briefly there, and the assault of equestria hurt her. It appears minuette's growing up on this excursion, maybe to become the straight man to the other hoofmaidens. But, that's for later plot to pick up.

All together, the next section on a potential investigation's pretty good, though at times, a bit tiring. Though I do appreciate that it advances the question on who was the man of the third investigation? Who was the equestrian guard who killed that shining keeps bringing up?

And then this came up: "I had this feeling something was after you specifically. This instinctive dread gnawing at the back of my mind about you. It grew so loud and shrill, I could barely keep myself from coming unglued. Like something wanted your blood. It wasn't any of our Guards, not Sunset, not Commander Shepard, not me. It wanted you." I think that Cadence sensed the wolf. I think she already knows something about it, and it's going to be a VERY significant plot point in the future.

And general shepherd eh? Call of Duty reference. I never played it mind you, but I did look it up. It appears that it's an interesting shout out, but I just hope that we don't have a repeat of Call of Duty in plotting, since authors should be more original than that.

the comment on shepherds was really funny in an ironic way. And the discussion on what happens next after the firefight. In a way, shepherd does have a point: equestria is only a guest in this land. Shining armor might be their soldier, but they're causing trouble on their territory. The whole discussion was interesting, though perhaps saddening that to prevent problems, you have to lie to the public to a degree. I don't know what the AJ's would think of that, though I suppose reharmonized AJ would understand trying to prevent more harm on one person might be more important than the truth at times, and epilogue jack might understand it as a kindness to try to keep Markov in good behavior afterwards.

However, it's by far the last part that's the most interesting to me, not only for shining's distinct understanding of international politics, but delving more deeply into the character of both these ponies destined for greatness. First, though the death of one guardsman, no matter prominant, would not be grounds to send equestria back to war, since that's something Celestia would NEVER want if possible.

Also love the reference to alicorn's impecable memory with the 503697310 ponies in all of equestria at one point.

Then came the big reveal about occupation and the like: first with shining being a guard, ready to die for people, and the the knock-out with your take on who Cadence is: she's a trained diplomat, goddess of harmony, an amnesiac powerhouse, and in her current form: crippled in fear that people only care for her because she's an alicorn. Not a totally unique take on things, since I read about a similar idea in another fic, but one that I'm sure all modern royal lines might wonder about: would anyone really care about me if I wasn't a princess?

And it actually hurts a bit that in a way, Cadence is right. Celestia does consider her slightly more important than anypony else in equestria. She's her sister from another life with amnesia. She's a physical goddess. She is considered important because of such an important connection in the eyes of some. She is in control of something VERY important: Harmony and Music. Her life being a disciplined but good one is essential to maintain those things in the universe. BUT, this isn't the whole story. Cadence is a good alicorn. She made a young friend. She's beloved among people, and it's right about here that the bonds of venus began to sprout, when Cadence smiled a "beautiful thing" and said this:

"And that's what I adore about you, Shining. You're one of the few ponies I'm one-hundred-percent sure likes me for who I am. And then you turn around and call yourself an 'acceptable loss!'"

After the heart stuff was out of the way, then came the lighter bounding, and is it just me, or did Cadence just ask HIM out on a date?

Then came the wedding joke, which I suppose is significant for some reason. I suppose it's because the wedding hasn't happened yet?

Yeah, something's definitely forming between the two of them. To quote from a good movie, "There may be something there than wasn't there before." But we'll have to wait and see where it goes.

Also, I'm almost wondering how shining's story is going to stay relatively short, if it runs parallel to a story nearing its climax. Oh well. This is the shadow, signing off.
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The chapter begins just where the last one ended with Shining still on the flight back to the Embassy. By now he is worried that the Blank Wolf might still follow him and the cynical pegasus interviewer notes that it is smart to think that it must be still alive if he isn’t 100 % sure that it is dead. The earth pony interviewer wonders if he will tell Cadence about these events involving the wolf but he is afraid that this would just cause her to be worried about his mental health. They fly past the riot zone and see “Roman's Taxis” (another GTA reference) burning. Next to normal fire fighting, the inhabitants are also able to move rainclouds above the fire and use magic to shield themselves. That all sounds incredible useful for extinguishing fires. The unicorn begins to think about how a fire would be much more dangerous in a small town like Ponyville. Shining realises that it is the stress that let him follow this train of thought in a time like this. Down on the ground a huge number of police officers are with struggling with the gang violence. Zebra tribes were fighting against each other as well as Ponisans fight against Hooviets. All of this destruction, the suffering and the deaths this must have caused, all of this just happened because of Mr. Makarov. Shining wonders where the others are and besides Running Gag they are all in the station. He borrows Thunderchild’s chamfron and radio and notices that he seems to have a bigger head than his friend. This time the cynical pegasus interviewer is able to hold back a snarky remark. He tries to reach Apple but after what he had seen, the Lance-Corporal isn’t feeling too good.

Countless LCPD officers and even a few Presidential Marshals are at the station. The griffins seem to take the carnage well and are surely just happy to have survived this insane night. Many only learn to appreciate life when they realise the possibility of death. But Shining’s troopers are shocked by what they had to see and do. The unicorn knows that silence is not a good sign. Not all of them were trained for this kind of violence and even then this preparation can only do so much. Especially Bitter Apple seems to suffer from what he had seen. For what he has done to his men Shining begins to hate Mr. Makarov even more. The pilots try to reach the Embassy by radio and instead they get Cadence using the Royal Canterlot Voice. Shining is surprised where Running Gag came from and it seems that either the unicorn was too exhausted to notice him getting onto the shuttle or he has other abilities besides his painful jokes. Shining takes the time to see if he has anything unfunny prepared for the time after their landing and Running Gag thought about improvising something. His superior immediately forbids anything like this.

Cadence is waiting for them and so are her three hoofmaidens. But it seems that Sunset is more interested in a pegasus than the landing group. Shining thinks it is Private Ranger. The Alicorn rushes at her bodyguard and gives him a “Royal Canterlot Hug.” If it is as powerful as the voice is loud, it must be quite painful. Minuette can see what kind of injuries he has (it seems many characters have more talents than you would suspect at the first glance). Doctor Watsun - unicorn with a surgeon's mirror cutie mark - agrees with her (he is surely a reference to Dr. John H. Watson from Sherlock Homes) and wonders if she had medical training. The earth pony interviewer seems to get the reference as well. And Shining makes clear that the doctor was not a griffin, cockatrice or minotaur. I somehow doubt that cockatrices would make good doctors. Strangely enough the Embassy doesn’t have a first aid room so Cadence orders them to bring Shining to her room. Running Gag can not resist making a joke about that but gets hit before he can finish it or the Alicorn would notice. Sunset also had to use a bit of violence to stop Twinkleshine from making a similar remark or bursting into song. The unicorn still thinks about delivering his report but the Princess orders him to let others take care of himself first. Thunderchild volunteers to take over for the moment and Shining tries to toss the chamfron to him but hits Running Gag by accident. And it was surely just an accident, nothing else.

Dr. Watsun takes Shining to his own room and is able to keep Cadence outside of it, while Minuette takes the role of the nurse. After explaining that he is part of Captain Baseplate's unit, the doctor orders her to remove the armor and sees the numerous injuries Shining got in the last night, including a very humiliating one. Amusingly the nurse isn’t surprised since Cadence told her that Mr. Makarov was “that sort of guy.” The unicorn is very embarrassed about the entire situation and the pegasus interviewer can hardly believe what she did. The earth pony interviewer doesn’t quite see what the problem is until Shining and the other two interviewers tell her to move on. Afterwards the unicorn interviewer reminds Twilight’s brother not to write in their notebooks. Then Shining does it again, he has a strange sense of humor. He briefly thinks about getting a notebook from a Thestral (likely a Harry Potter reference) and writing Mr. Makarov’s name into it (surely this one refers to Death Note). After a few spells and Minuette cleaning out the wounds, Shining begins to recover. The unicorn learns that Cadence desperately tried to reach to reach him over the radio but by that time his signal was blocked. Likely either by the tunnel, Mr. Makarov or maybe even by the Blank Wolf who was stalking him.

Eventually Princess Cadence is allowed inside and Minuette tells her that Shining was dead all along and only the colt who can see dead beings noticed him but didn’t notice all the plotholes this does cause if you think about it (a nice reference to the Sixth Sense). The others don’t find it funny but it could have been much worse. She could have told them the story of the aliens that tried to take over Equestria and make as many crops circles as possible but were weak to friendship and wooden doors. The Alicorn orders Shining to never do anything like that again. Dr. Watsun points out that as a bodyguard he will have to get into danger again to protect her. But Shining would rather not repeat these events and tells Cadence what happened but leaves out the wolf hunting him. He really wishes Minuette wasn’t here, especially when he talks about the nightmarish robots. For now everyone involved in this operation is allowed to take a day off to check out their sanity. They all had seen so much and since this involves Shining as well, they will need a replacement to command the unit. They also need to report the shooting to the Ministry of Defense. Especially Minuette seems to be devastated about a pony killing somebody else. Watsun tells her that the Royal Guard always tries nonlethal methods first but they also know that they might deal with deaths, both as a last resort and because accidents might happen when dealing with weapons and magic. He also talks about a program called “Black Thistle“ which gives certain recruits a training in performing life-ending acts and coping with the psychological results. It is clear that a sniper will need something like this.

Shining already knows that this way of thinking will hurt Minuette. He reminds her that while killing is never the first solution to a problem, sometimes it is the only way to save lives. Sometimes there is no other way to stop somebody from continuing to kill; sometimes there is no other way to take somebody down. Watsun tells her that doctors get a similar training since they are not able to save all of their patients and need to be able to continue saving lives, even after they have seen death. And as doctors they will see a lot of beings die. She says that this is something different but in turn he tells her a story and Shining wonders if the doctor might have experienced that tale by himself. Sometimes you can not save everybody. Imagine if a situation comes where your skills are needed but there are too many victims to save everybody. There are others that can help you but you are limited by the resources you have at hand. Shining knows what comes next, so does Cadence but she hesitates to stop the story at this moment. In this situation you can not help everybody in the limited time you have. And the resources are declining fast. Some are beyond saving no matter how many resources and effort you put into it and there are others that could still be saved. Sometimes the pain can not be healed and becomes only worse and worse. Sometimes the only kind thing would be to give euthanasia. That is one of the sadder parts of being a doctor. The unicorn can see Minuette’s innocence dying before his eyes. It is incredible sad and yet something that had to be said. How easily could have the attack of the last night ended with such a fatal injury? How easily could she have lost somebody she knew in this attack?

Minuette is absolutely devastated and wonders if everything she knew about Equestria was just a lie. Cadence is hurt horribly by what she said. But Shining wants to make it absolutely clear that allowing ponies to deal with the psychological effects of killing is not a program to turn them into emotionless monsters. Sometimes there is no simple right or wrong answer. Sometimes you can only lessen pain, not take it away completely. A world where nobody ever kills somebody else would be wonderful but mortals need to be able to cope with living in a world where murder can happen. In this case it happened in self defence. To calm her down the Alicorn hugs her friend and nobody says a word in this moment. Eventually the doctor and Minuette leave. But the Princess makes it very clear that she is there for her whenever she needs help.

Then Shining thinks about how this event would be handled officially. Private Audience would tell the story from his point of view and based on that he would either be placed back in duty under psychological observation or submitted to the Ministry of Defence (and be arrested). His own testimony, views of the officers he gave the testimony to and evidence from other troopers would be looked at before a decision is made. Depending on how long the investigation takes, the entire process might take a week. The Black Thistle protocol was added because the entire process was so long and stressful for the pony that even if he or she is found innocent afterwards, almost all of them retire anyway. Strangely Shining mentions that there were only three investigations in the last 200 years, while there were four cases in which a guard was behind the death of a suspect. Two of these investigations ended the career, while the third one came very close. And considering how the unicorn talks about it, it seems that he was the third case. Shining feels responsible for what Private Audience did under his orders and wonders if Cadence would be able to understand it.

Now when the Alicorn and her guard are all alone, she shows how much these events did hurt her as well, a few moments before this she had to be strong for Minuette. Cadence knows very well that she could have lost Shining in this ambush. Not only did he feel stalked by something, she felt it too. He tries to laugh that she sensed the Hooviet attack but considering that she is an Alicorn her feeling might be related to the unnerving wolf that hunts him. Because of this she tried to order him to come back to her and let the Diamond Dog go. Then she tried to use the flotilla to get into radio range but soon they went silent as well. It is almost like something cut off all of his connections to the world around him. He tries to calm her down but her fears are not so easily put to rest. She points out that Mr. Makarov might still try something stupid again. Then Sandgriff, Frost and General Goldeagle Shepherd (this one is likely a reference to the character from Call of Duty) walk in and want to talk about the same topic. In turn Cadence even says Celestia’s catchphrase: “That's quite all right.” The unicorn interviewer even knows the exact number of Shepherds and what each and every one does. And amusingly Shining doesn’t find this kind of power, you would only suspect in an Alicorn, suspicious at all. They have come to a mutual arrangement with Mr. Makarov. Should he repeat anything like this ever again, multiple special units will combine their efforts to take him down. In the last ten years the Hooviets managed to gain a lot of enemies and now just another foolish action could backfire horribly.

The irony is that while he basically insulted three gods (Celestia, Luna and Cadence) all of them would likely not risk a war for the life of one mortal. They would likely know how much more lives could be lost in such a conflict. Other mortals might declare him a Persona Non Grata or let snipers aim at him for causing widespread panic, destruction and death in their city. All his magic wouldn’t do him much good if he was dead. For now this entire incident is declared nonexistent and the Hooviets will have to do a lot for the crimes they have committed out of petty reasons. Understandable Cadence doesn’t like it at all how easily he will get away with everything. For now Mr. Makarov will just have to help to calm the Hooviet rioters down and the next day he will have to admit that he has overreacted at the Embassy. They ask if Shining would also play a role in the cover-up and also give a small apology. The Goddess of Harmony and Music shines with a bright light and makes it crystal clear that apologies were already made multiple times. This cover-up also includes the killing of the Diamond Dog and Private Audience will not have to face any consequences from this side. It seems that Mr. Makarov didn’t only let the Diamond Dogs they saw be killed, but annihilated the entire pack because they knew too much. Both Cadence and Shining are disgusted how Mr. Makarov treats his men and hired help. To him almost everyone is disposable and all these crimes will also be part of the cover-up. The two taxi ponies are only still alive because they know nothing.

But Private Audience will still have to face the consequences from the Equestrian side. Despite the entire event “not happening” Frost gives his perspective: Private Audience had no other choice because the Diamond Dog was positioned in such a way to make stun spells and other less-than-lethal takedown methods impossible. That was likely done by Mr. Makarov because he knew about the unwillingness of the Equestrians to kill. Also the canine was a threat to many other lives and his death was painless. Shining notices that this would exactly be the kind of argumentation Private Audience would need in this situation. They are about to leave when Shining shares what he knows about the nightmarish machines with them: They are powered by unicorn horns. Everyone is shocked and they promise to treat them with respect and investigate it.

Finally the two are alone again. Cadence tries to ensure him that Celestia would have cared for his death but he hadn’t doubted that. Shining knows that she would care but wouldn’t cause a war for it. That way only more lives would be lost. It is vey clear that his life means a lot to Cadence; he is Twilight’s brother and her…

Apparently as an Alicorn she knows exactly how many beings live in Equestria and for how many lives she is responsible. He would never want for his death to start a war and in his opinion Celestia would never start a war for one person. Cadence is clearly very emotional and angry about all of these events and that after everything Mr. Makarov did and everything he almost did, he will still get away with it. Shining is sure that Celestia wouldn’t do it because she loves everybody, yet as mortals they are destined to die and she is destined to watch them die. The Guards also try their best to protect life whenever possible. Cadence would never want him to die for her but he reminds her that this possibility is part of his job. Finally she breaks down crying and tells him why he means so much to her. She thinks that he and Twilight are the only ones who really like her for who she is and not for what she is. She believes that all others just love her because she is an Alicorn. She met everyone else just because of her status as a Princess and an Alicorn. She wonders how different her life could have been if she was born as a unicorn. Celestia wouldn’t have taken such interest in her and without her guidance she could have become a second Blueblood. And she has a point. Even Celestia herself turned into a racist when she was once raised as a mortal under such circumstances. The outside influences…

… are not everything according to Shining. He thinks she always was a kind, loving, and compassionate soul. She had a loving family and Celestia merely helped her refine these personality traits. He doesn’t see any way that she could have become as arrogant as Prince Blueblood. Shining tells her that Celestia would have loved her as a unicorn as well, just like she loves Twilight. Finally Cadence is able to smile again. She points out that he likes her for her personality but thinks that he himself could be an acceptable loss. In turn he says that this is simply part of their natures and despite everything he will always be a Guard while she will be a Princess. But just as he likes her for who she is, she will always see him for who he is: A friend, a son, a brother and a great, loyal and generous person. He will never be expendable for her. Shining assures her that he doesn’t plan to die and tries to use statistics to calm her down. This doesn’t work that well because she knows that he is in high danger of being assassinated because the insane Mr. Makarov still wants him dead. He tries to cheer her up with an unfunny joke and she begins to wonder if he trained Running Gag in the art of unfunniness. The unicorn is convinced that he simply was born that way.

Then she suddenly makes her move and invites him to do something after the interviews tomorrow are done. The Alicorn wants him to wear a suit to their date… I mean excursion. Twilight’s brother points out that he only has uniforms and a Maresenal shirt. For a moment she seems to consider this but since she isn’t allowed to wear her shirt on a diplomatic duty, neither will he. She thinks that it is purple because she mentioned it was one of her favourite colors to a director while she was inside the VIP box. Now she has to admit what great bonuses it has to be an Alicorn.

Instantly Shining asks her to marry him. And these were all the events that let up to the royal wedding. For a moment even the interviewers seem to believe him. Especially the earth pony was expecting something more romantic but considering how well everything went so far, their declaration of love could very well take place in the middle of a battle. He finds their reactions hilarious but they didn’t find it very funny. Strangely they are surprised that he knows about Tirek. Wasn’t he one of the most famous evil figures in history? Wouldn’t it be stranger NOT to know anything about him? The unicorn interviewer tells him that his joke just wasn’t funny for them and that it is time for the real story. He claims that he talked about all the pictures he has of her flank and this time they don’t believe it and begin to suspect that he really trained Running Gag in the art of bad jokes.

Actually he told her that everyone likes her for her genuinely good character. Even when she spiked the drink with the love poison she had good intentions, misguided ones but they were still good. Most conspiracies exclude her from the club of the Evil All-Controlling Alicorns. And even Sunny Day seems to like her. Then again Cadence seems to know who that really is. They talk briefly about what he should wear and as he suggests a fez, the Alicorn counters by saying he could walk around like his sister. He soon realises that Twilight doesn’t wear anything. Then she forgets that he is already in his room and it is her turn to leave. They are a really cute couple. But for now it is time for him to sleep.

Thinking about it, if the events of Shining Armor’s story and the desperate struggle against Discord in the Dark World run parallel, then either the conflict with Discord will take much longer than it seems so far or Shining Armor’s story will take up much speed in the next chapters. Why does the first option seem so much more likely to happen?

All in all this was a chapter that tackled the difficult task with how the ponies try to come in terms with the fact that one of them had killed a living, sentient being. It is very hard for them and everyone seems to react differently, depending on what they had seen and experienced so far. The story itself seems to have a non-judgmental view on the topic and is able to accept that sometimes there is no simply black and white.

And the story also develops the characters more and here Minuette grows much from the comic relief hoofmaiden she was before, but it is also clear that the price is her lost innocence. She will never see the world like she once did. Not to mention that Shining’s and Cadence’s relationship also develops further. They truly fit very well together.
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:iconallanpike:
Allanpike Featured By Owner Feb 25, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Shining Armour is such a joker, XD
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:iconkingofthecouch:
Kingofthecouch Featured By Owner May 2, 2013
i freaking love this story
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:iconalexwarlorn:
alexwarlorn Featured By Owner May 2, 2013
Be sure to tell LZ that!
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:iconkingofthecouch:
Kingofthecouch Featured By Owner Jul 9, 2013
if i knew who that was i would
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:iconalexwarlorn:
alexwarlorn Featured By Owner Jul 9, 2013
That's the guy who wrote the shining armor arc. He tends to get very depressed.
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:iconkingofthecouch:
Kingofthecouch Featured By Owner Jul 10, 2013
o
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:iconalexwarlorn:
alexwarlorn Featured By Owner Jul 10, 2013
And he's slowly become bitter that I posted the SA chapters here instead of on his own page (though there's technically nothing stopping him from posting them there too), and he's completely convinced no one gives a blank about SA's story arc.

Also this story arc was meant to be a LOT SHORTER, so things keep coming up.
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:iconkingofthecouch:
Kingofthecouch Featured By Owner Jul 11, 2013
dang
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:iconssjwolverine:
ssjwolverine Featured By Owner Mar 11, 2013
"Why is everypony hitting me with helmets tonight?!"

Hahaha! Poor Running Gag. Just trying to make a joke at the Captain's expense and gets pummeled for it. Just another day for the Royal Canterlot Guard.

Watsun has seen some gruesome crap in his life. I am convinced that that story is true.

I'll have to say, ponies take killing much more seriously than humans do. I don't know much about military protocol, but I don't think there's this much red tape needed when a human soldier kills during a battle.

"As for the third investigation, the one that didn't end a career? It came pretty close, trust me."

Shining, what aren't you telling us?

So Makarov's crimes get swept under the rug? There's justice for ya.

Now there's a question. What would it take for Princess Celestia to go to war?

I never thought Shining and Cadence had so much trouble questioning their self worth. We have Shining Armor, decorated soldier and captain of the Royal Canterlot Guard, and he views himself as another expendable soldier. And we have Princess Cadence, an alicorn who believes that if she weren't an alicorn, nopony would give her the time of day, let alone all these accolades.

Wait, Cadence is a Hoofball fan? You learn something new every day.

And finally, we have Shining screwing with the Interviewers. (Be honest, there a version of the Cutie Mark Crusaders, aren't they?)

Still, Shining Armor in a fez and bow tie? The Doctor would definitely approve.

All right, another chapter of the Shining Armor story done and over with. Next, we go back to the Dark World for part 19. See ya.
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:iconalexwarlorn:
alexwarlorn Featured By Owner Mar 19, 2013
Be sure to tell LZ all of this. He really loves to hear what people think about his stuff.

"Why is everypony hitting me with helmets tonight?!"

Hahaha! Poor Running Gag. Just trying to make a joke at the Captain's expense and gets pummeled for it. Just another day for the Royal Canterlot Guard."

LZ really went out of his way to make sure each member of SA's troop had their own personality and identity.

"Watsun has seen some gruesome crap in his life. I am convinced that that story is true."

It's very possible.

"I'll have to say, ponies take killing much more seriously than humans do. I don't know much about military protocol, but I don't think there's this much red tape needed when a human soldier kills during a battle."

You'll have to ask LZ. And the idea of killing something hard for the average pony to even GET in self defense! The parasprites were a plague of locusts and the ponies couldn't bring themselves to simply STEP ON THEM!

"As for the third investigation, the one that didn't end a career? It came pretty close, trust me."

Shining, what aren't you telling us?"

You'll see eventually. More clues will come up with some ponies he meets at a hospital.

"So Makarov's crimes get swept under the rug? There's justice for ya."

Enough to make yer blood boil isn't it?

"Now there's a question. What would it take for Princess Celestia to go to war?"

Something where there would be MORE loss of life or MORE suffering, if she -didn't.-

"I never thought Shining and Cadence had so much trouble questioning their self worth. We have Shining Armor, decorated soldier and captain of the Royal Canterlot Guard, and he views himself as another expendable soldier."

I think that might have to do with how he doesn't consider himself 'better' than his men.

"And we have Princess Cadence, an alicorn who believes that if she weren't an alicorn, nopony would give her the time of day, let alone all these accolades."

But does she have a point?

"Wait, Cadence is a Hoofball fan? You learn something new every day."

LZ has turned it into kinda a running gag.

"And finally, we have Shining screwing with the Interviewers. (Be honest, there a version of the Cutie Mark Crusaders, aren't they?)"

Is that what you think? Heh. Interesting.

"Still, Shining Armor in a fez and bow tie? The Doctor would definitely approve."

I'm sure that's where LZ got it from.

"All right, another chapter of the Shining Armor story done and over with. Next, we go back to the Dark World for part 19. See ya."

READ IT! You will NOT believe your eyes!

Be sure to tell LZ what you think.
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