Out of His League

by TheTwientist

Chapter 1: A Special Assignment

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A Guardspony's life must never become routine, for one should never relax when a nation is resting on his shoulders.
-Guardspony's Handbook, Page 10, Line 33

The sun's rays filtered down through the window. Shining Armor swallowed the urge to kill Celestia that was shared by all ponies of Equestria for one minute a day. Then he rolled out of bed.

Below him, the streets of Equestria were slowly waking up. There was a distant (but annoyingly loud) clatter of wagons and carts in the streets. Ponies were getting up and heading to work. And so, regrettably, was Shining Armor.

Not that Shining hated his job, of course. He was very passionate about it. But he was still certain that it wouldn't be such a bad thing if he didn't have to come into work until noon.

Rubbing the sleep from his eyes, he brushed his hair and washed his face. A guardspony must always look respectable, rang the venerable words of the Guardspony's Handbook, page 127, line 16. The idea that Guards were thick-headed was laughably false. With all the memorization in the training academy, Shining would be lucky to forget half of it in his lifetime.

Well, at least the view's nice, he thought to himself. That much was true. The Guards' apartments were arranged near the castle on the east side of the city. In fact, they were so far east that they were literally on the edge of Canterlot itself. As Shining looked out the window, he could see all of Equestria laid out before the sunrise. It was a nice, if slightly blinding, touch.

He could even make out a tiny little town not too far from Canterlot. Ponyville. His mind instictively drifted to Twilight. She'd made friends, he'd heard, and was having the time of her life.They hadn't talked, or even corresponded, for ages. He missed her.

I bet she doesn't have to get up so early, growled his brain, before his conscience mentally swatted him.

With a sigh, he turned back from the window and glanced at the clock. 7:54! He was going to be late!

A guardspony is always at his post on time. To be late is to show disrespect to his post, his superiors, and Equestria. Page 12, line 17. Grabbing an apple from the cabinet, he bounded out the door.

"Excuse me! Excuse me!" he shouted to the steadily-growing throng outside. No one seemed to care. He desperately dodged and weaved amongst the ponies, still eating his apple.

This was the quandary of a guardspony; he needed his uniform to pass through large crowds easily, but in order to get to work (and get his uniform) he needed to pass through large crowds. It was a failure of logic that only guards ever noticed, but one that haunted them every day.

"Hey, Shiny, wait up!" called a familiar voice. Shining Armor turned around to see his partner wading through the crowd towards him.

Handcuffs had been Shining's best friend since they met in Guard School. Being somewhat shorter than Shining, he was having a harder time getting through the crowd, but at last the two were walking side by side. Shining glanced at the bell tower. Three minutes left.

"What's up?" asked Handcuffs.

"Not much, seeing as I just woke up," said Shining Armor as pressed forward.

"Geez, slow down!" said Handcuffs, brushing his dark blue mane out of his face. "You're gonna leave me behind!"

"We're going to be late," replied Shining. "And while you might mind that, I would start my day with my eardrums intact."

"You worry too much," said Handcuffs, prodding Shining with his front leg. "Sarge won't mind if we're a few minutes behind."

"Have you met him?" replied Shining dubiously.

"Doesn't matter anyway," said Handcuffs. "We're already here."

The stone citadel that was the Guard's Headquarters loomed up above them. Shining felt a rush of pride as he stood before it; how many could say they worked in something like this?

Like most buildings in Canterlot, it was countless centuries old, and had merely been updated over the years. It could have been a castle unto itself; the windows were all barred, and the battlements were full of watchful eyes. There was even a portcullis in the door, although it hadn't been lowered in decades. Already the building was a hive of activity, as members of the Day Guard filed out to their posts.

A purple, bat-winged pony bustled past Shining and Handcuffs as they climbed the stone steps. Handcuffs shivered. "What's with those guys? They were already weird enough before Luna gave them those wings."

"Come on," said Shining. "You know they don't actually look like that. It's just their uniform."

Handcuffs rolled his eyes. As they entered the main hall, Shining looked up at the well-worn golden clock over the front desks. One minute left.

"Let's move!" said Shining, yanking Handcuffs into the elevator. The doors rattled shut, and with a clanking of chains, they started to rise. Shining tapped his hoof impatiently. Handcuffs snickered at him.

After what seemed like hours, they reached the top floor. Shining was out of the elevator the instant the doors opened. "Morning, Pen!" he called.

"Morning, fellows," called a red-maned unicorn mare. "Sarge wants to see you."

"Of course he does," groaned Shining. "Come on, Cuffs, let's get suited up."

They grabbed their helmets off the rack and placed them firmly atop their heads, then buckled on their armor. A Guard's helmet and armor are more than protection. They are a symbol of his power, and his responsibility for his fellow citizens. Page 95, Line 2.

One of the things that has always struck tourists about the Royal Guard is that they all look identical. White coat and blue mane/tail or black coat and white mane/tail. How was this possible? Were only ponies with that coloration allowed into the Guard? Did Celestia have a secret supply of magically-engineered Guardsponies hidden under Canterlot Castle?

The truth was, as most truth is, somewhat less glamorous. The armor has a simple illusion spell cast upon it, which changes the wearer's appearance to one of the two Guard color schemes. Once the armor was removed, the guards changed back. Shining was one of the few ponies who naturally resembled a guard. Handcuff's coat, for example, was actually a pale blue.

The purpose had originally been to create a powerful image of unity and strength that ponies could put their faith in. This wasn't really neccesary any more, of course, but it was tradition by this point.

Shining hurriedly finished suiting up. Mighty Pen glancing meaningfully at Sarge's office. Shining and Handcuffs hurried to the door. Shining gulped and knocked once.

"Come in," came a gruff voice immediately. "Relax, you haven't done anything wrong," it added. "Yet."

Somewhat relieved, the two stallion filed in to the office. Sitting at a spartan (and no doubt ancient) desk was a grizzled old unicorn stallion in Captain's uniform, shuffling through paperwork. "Morning," he said without looking up.

Shining and Handcuffs glanced at each other anxiously.

At last, he put down the papers and stared up at them. "I've got an assignment for you. A unicorn mare was spotted snooping around the archives last night. She escaped, but we've tracked her down."

He turned to look directly at Shining, who flinched involuntarily. "You've been doing some good work lately. I'm going to let you lead this one. You two go get the location from Pen and bring this mare in for questioning. Take the Twins with you, in case there's any trouble."

"Y-y-yes Sir!" Shining stammered out. The Sarge went back to his paperwork, and the two showed themselves out.

"Can you believe it?" said Shining. "He trusts me, I mean, us enough to let us do something like this! This is huge!"

"For the ten millionth time, yes, I can believe it," grumbled Handcuffs. "And if you don't shut up, I think the Twins and I are going to gang up on you and leave you knocked out in an alley while we handle this ourselves."

The two massive stallions nodded. Shining quickly shut up. The Twins were a pair of extremely brawny pegasi. Shining had never heard them talk beyond phrases like "Halt" or "No one gets to see the Princess". However, he had no desire to in any way provoke them to say something, for fear of extreme pain.

"Where'd Pen say this mare was?" he asked, after a while.

"Her wagon's down by the corner of Cobble and Saddle. She's some kind of street magician. Pen also asked us not to do anything that require undue amounts of paperwork on her part. I made no promises."

Shining grinned a little.

"There it is," said Handcuffs. There, by the side of the road, stood a very shoddy covered wagon with a crescent moon painted on its side.

Shining went up and knocked on the door. The wagon wobbled like it mgiht fall down, but thankfully did not.

"What do you want?" called a complaining voice. The door opened, and a blue unicorn mare poked her head out. Her eyes widened as she took in the fact that four armored Royal Guards were standing outside her door.

"Trixie didn't do it!" she shouted immediately.

"Ma'am, you were seen snooping around outside the Canterlot Royal Archives last night. We're going to have to bring you in for questioning," said Shining Armor.

"Trixie didn't do it!" repeated the mare. "Trixie is innocent! It was an imposter!"

"A likely story," scoffed Handcuffs.

"Trixie was attacked last night! Somepony hit her over the head! And as she fell to the ground, she saw Trixie running away!"

"How could you have run away if you had been hit on the head?" said Handcuffs suspiciously.

"Trixie was knocked out!" said Trixie emphatically. "But there was another Trixie!"

Shining tilted his head. "How could there be two of you?"

"Trixie doesn't know? But the Trixie that was at the Archives is not the Trixie that is here now! Trixie is the real Trixie, not that Trixie!"

"Please stop, you're making my head hurt," said Handcuffs.

"Ma'am, we'll be very interested in what you have to say if you just come down to Headquarters with us," said Shining. "Or will we have to force you to come with us?"

Trixie's eyes glanced from Shining, to Handcuffs, to the Twins. "Trixie will come quietly," she whispered.

"Thank you," said Shining.

"Any luck?" Shining asked Mighty Pen as they waited outside the interrogation room.

Pen shook her head. "She keeps insisting something about multiple Trixies. It's frankly rather confusing. But seeing as she didn't actually commit a crime beyond trespassing, we're going to have to let her off with a warning."

Shining sighed. "Well, I don't think she'll do it again, at least." He brightened a bit. "And I brought her in without trouble, that's good for something, right?"

Pen laughed sarcastically. "Yes, I'm sure you'll be Captain by the end of the week."

Next Chapter: Personal Issues Estimated time remaining: 12 Minutes
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