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Crystal Insanity

By Garda
Created: 31st December 2020 10:52:04 AM
Modified: 1st March 2021 03:51:35 AM

  1. >"Aim!"
  2. >"Make ready!"
  3. >Four ponies in uniform were in a hurry loading a big bronze tube of strange shape mounted on two wheels.
  4. >A round metal ball goes into the tube, then a pony lights up a piece of cloth tied to a stick and touches the other side of the tube. Everypony covers their ears.
  5. >"FIRE!"
  6. >BOOM!
  7. >Loud explosion is heard, heads are ringing, and a cannonball is sent into a pile of changelings advancing half a mile away.
  8. >"Prepare!"
  9. >You are Anon Y. Mous, the inspector of the Crystal Imperial Army. When you arrived here, the Empire was struggling under another bugs' attack.
  10. >Everyone expects to arrive with full mechanical knowledge, but it doesn't always work. The only thing you've remembered is the black gunpowder recipe and construction of old-style cannons.
  11. >Battles now look oddly like the ones in Thirty Years' War, but it's pretty enough to deal some damage.
  12. >You are now near the Bearplain, commanding the artillery together with Prince Shining Armor.
  13. >He's been taking interest in all military reforms, so you've become pretty close friends now.
  14. >Rows and rows of blue-coated crystal ponies march into battle amidst the roar of dozens of cannons covering the whole field with thick white smoke.
  15. >"Now ain't that a sure victory, 'non?"
  16. "It is, I guess. See - their right flank is falling apart." You pass on the spotting scope.
  17. >He takes a look around all the artillery positions, stationed on the hills to provide bettter sight.
  18. >"Hey, they're moving that cannon pretty fast! Gotta find that crew and award them."
  19. "Yeah, ponies are pretty fast learning. I guess we could design some improvements for these cannons - there's always room for more."
  20. >"How's Cadance now, I wonder?"
  21. "Waiting for you to return. We've gotta to finish that fast if you don't want her to worry!"
  22. >You two smirk almost simultaneously.
  23. >"There are some bugs at our left, I think."
  24. >Shining calls the assistant and tells him to move one infantry company to the left flank.
  25. "Why do you think so? I don't see anypony other than ours."
  26. >"I suppose these gunners see them."
  27. "What gunners?"
  28. >"Of that crew. They're rotating their cannon to the left."
  29. "Hmmm, that's strange."
  30. "The company will dispose of them quickly."
  31. >Two minutes pass. You decide to take the scope once again and glance upon the battlefield. Changelings are fleeing.
  32. >You point the scope to the artillery battery and see that the cannon from earlier is pointed almost precisely at you.
  33. >Small "boom" is heard, and a cloud of white smoke escapes the cannon's barrel.
  34. "DAMN!"
  35. "SHINING, TAKE COVER!"
  36. >"Eh, wha..."
  37. "COVER!" you cry, jumping on the ground and covering your head with hands.
  38. >KA-BOOM!
  39. >Seconds later, whole top of the hill disperses into hundreds of small dirt pieces sent flying into the sky.
  40. >Cannonball's fragments are flying though the air - you can hear them whistling.
  41. >Your head hurts, there's an unbearable pain in your right shoulder and left leg, and probably your coat is torn apart.
  42. >These duck-and-cover trainings you've taken are not in vain, though. You're at least alive.
  43. >Sight's blurred and there's something warm flowing down your forehead. A small fragment may have hit you.
  44. >You crawl to the place where Shining stood. He is...he is in a BAD condition.
  45. >Left hind leg has...disappeared, and his snow white fur is covered in wounds and bruises.
  46. "Shining, you alive?"
  47. >"Uh..."
  48. >A mumble escapes his lips.
  49. "Don't worry, we'll get you...patched up...AAAH!"
  50. >Another burst of pain bolts through your leg, forcing you to scream.
  51. >But it's in place. Probably a penetrating wound - if a fragment is still in here it'd be very bad.
  52. >"Yeah, An...Anon."
  53. "This will end soon. We're...winning."
  54. >"But why? W-w-why did they fire?"
  55. "Sssh."
  56. "Speaking too much will, aaaah, drain your energy. Stay still."
  57. >A horrified gasp is heard - probably this is the assistant.
  58. "Get the medic! Now! Prince's badly wounded!"
  59. "Send your best pegasus to the Castle!"
  60. >"Yes, Your Excellence!"
  61. >Assistant runs away.
  62. >"What...what is...happening?"
  63. "Stay calm, stay calm. Don't move. Victory is - AH!"
  64. >Pain pulsates through your shoulder, but damn, it can wait.
  65. "...we're winning."
  66. "Help's on the way."
  67. >Changelings attacked the Empire two days before the royal wedding, forcing prince to go to lead the troops.
  68. >He is brave and daring, but a bad strategist at best. You aren't better than him, but at least the technological advancements were able to turn the tide.
  69. >Three years without a break, without even returning to the Castle - it must've been hard for him and for princess.
  70. "You'll get better. We'll haul you to the Castle."
  71. >"I didn't even...met Cadance...after the day three years earlier."
  72. >"Heh."
  73. "Don't talk much. You'll be exhausted."
  74. >"O...okay, 'non."
  75. >"Victory is ours, that's all that matters."
  76. >...
  77. >"Here!"
  78. >Two mares in white uniforms and with large red crosses arrive, carrying bags of medical equipment.
  79. >"Your Excellency?" one of them asks, looking at you.
  80. "No, I'm...at least I have all my parts. Check the Prince."
  81. >"Yes, Your Excellency."
  82. >They start bandaging the...thing that's left of his leg, trying to stop the blood with lots of cloth. At least it's sterile.
  83. >"Sir, your wound..."
  84. >"Let me bandage it."
  85. "Thanks, thanks. Is it a penetration or this hunk of metal is still inside?"
  86. >Your leg gets enveloped in a small cloud of magic.
  87. >"No, sir, it was penetrated through."
  88. "Great. Thank you."
  89. "How are you, Shining?"
  90. >"U-u-uhhh..."
  91. >He's falling asleep. You have to hope that he'll be transported to the hospital safely.
  92. >Suddenly, his left eye opens a bit.
  93. >"Uh, 'non..."
  94. >"Take care of..."
  95. >He collapses once again.
  96.  
  97. >White.
  98. >White color covers everything.
  99. >It's...hospital? Probably.
  100. >Strong smell of chlorine bleach fills the air - probably the clean-up is underway.
  101. >Small unicorn nurse in snow-white uniform stands next to you with a worried look.
  102. >"Oh, Your Excellency, you're awake!"
  103. "Yeah, yeah. I guess."
  104. >"We bandaged your wounds, it's all okay now."
  105. >"Two days and it'll recover."
  106. "Thank you very much. What is with prince?"
  107. >"Oh, he's...worse than you, Your Excellency."
  108. >"His Highness is in coma due to excessive blood loss."
  109. >"Doctor Whitehoof said to tell you this once you're awake."
  110. "Thank you again. Call the doctor Whitehoof, please."
  111. >"As you wish."
  112. >After several minutes, an old unicorn stallion with greyish mane walks in.
  113. "So, what's with His Highness?"
  114. >Whitehoof shakes his head.
  115. >"Very bad. Multiple metal fragments remain inside - it's very hard to pull them out, so we had to apply anesthesia."
  116. >"His Highness, as the nurse said, is in coma. There is a acute infection that is rapidly spreading, despite our efforts to sterilise the wound."
  117. >"I don't have a prognosis."
  118. >"We also called Her Highness princess Cadance, she'll arrive in, probably, two days."
  119. "Thank you, doctor."
  120. >"And now to you, sir. Two penetration wounds - no severe damage, no bones, veins or big arteries damaged."
  121. >"You'll recover shortly."
  122. >"Anything else?"
  123. "No, no...nothing."
  124. "I'd better..."
  125. >You can't finish the phrase. Your eyelids become as heavy as cannonballs, and within thirty seconds you are already sleeping.
  126.  
  127. >"...you...wake up..."
  128. >What?
  129. >Anyway.
  130. >You open your right eye only to see a pink-colored alicorn standing next to you.
  131. >Her mane is more of a gray-ish pink, and she's probably in a terrible condition.
  132. >"...oh, you're awake. At least you."
  133. >She sobs a few times.
  134. "Always protecting and serving, Your Majesty."
  135. >"Why, why did that happen? Can you explain?!"
  136. >She's almost shouting out loud.
  137. "Um, Your Majesty, yes."
  138. "Me and His Highness were observing the battle, when a field cannon's crew suddenly turned to the left and fired...fired a shell."
  139. >This is the longest sentence you've been able to say for all the time after the wound.
  140. "I noticed that...that and shouted to His Highness to duck and cover, but it was too late."
  141. >"Horrible! Shining was...Shining was everything for me!"
  142. >"First, those bugs take him away from me two days before the wedding!"
  143. >"Second!"
  144. >She starts to cry again.
  145. "Um, Y-"
  146. >You cut your phrase at the second word. Disturbing her by asking questions about Shining's condition is definitely not the best thing that you can do.
  147. >You can't do anything, really.
  148. >Who knew that a usual battle that you two were dozens of through would turn out to be such a catastrophe?
  149. >Country certainly won't collapse, but the spirits will be low. And that really sucks.
  150. >Princess stops sobbing for a little bit.
  151. >"A-Anyway, inspector..."
  152. >"...thank you for your service and your a-attempt."
  153. >"I t-truly believe that it was the most that you could do."
  154. >What is THAT supposed to mean? Your retirement?!
  155. >She slowly turns away and walks out of the hospital room. You don't have any choice but to go to sleep again.
  156.  
  157. >About a week had passed.
  158. >No major fights on the frontline have been reported, so you've gladly returned to the capital to rest.
  159. >Another sunny morning, not that much interesting. You get dressed (in civilian clothes, of course - don't wanna get the coat dirty) and descend into your little living room.
  160. >There's already a pile of books on anatomy you've ordered - teleported to you from the royal library straight away.
  161. >You're working on a new project that could increase average firepower of an army - some kind of hoof-held cannon.
  162. >Yeah, yeah, the rifle.
  163. >But it will be smoothbore and it will use black powder, so it would probably resemble 17th century-era muskets.
  164. >You dump a small pile of clean paper and a pencil on the table to make some notes.
  165. >Then, a small knock is heard.
  166. "Who could this be? I guess I've dealt with folks from HQ yesterday!"
  167. >You're definitely pissed off now, because you'll have to get up from your favourite soft chair and walk to the door.
  168. >Anyway, it has to be done.
  169. >You grab the handle and pull the door towards you...just to see a princess Cadance behind it.
  170. >And she looks bad. Definitely not better than she was a week ago at the hospital.
  171. "Your Majesty?"
  172. >"G-good morning, inspector."
  173. "Y-yeah, what's the matter?"
  174. >"Just wanted to see you. I'm--"
  175. >"I'm so lonely...without him..."
  176. >Damn.
  177. >Probably you're supposed to comfort her, but you aren't a usual white knight AND didn't have any prior experience.
  178. "Will you come in, Your Majesty? It's October already, pretty cold out there."
  179. >"Thank you."
  180. >After you two are seated in the living room behind mugs full of steaming tea, princess starts to look slightly better. Why is that? You only have to guess.
  181. >"So, ins...sorry."
  182. >"I-I guess we've become pretty close recently. Can I call you just Anon?"
  183. >The. What.
  184. >Celestia knows what she'll think if you'll refuse, so there's only one choice.
  185. "Um, if you want so, Your Majesty."
  186. >"Just Cadance."
  187. "Okay."
  188. >"So, Anon, how was your work going recently?"
  189. >Why is she asking that?!
  190. >There is a possibility that she's been fairly bucking at you since the whole accident, so maybe she is just waiting for you to say or do something wrong and voilà - you're accused of incompetence or state treason and thrown into a prison.
  191. >Treason - prison...maybe you should just leave the service and become a bucking poet?
  192. "Nothing new. Changelings have shown little to no activity on the frontline, but we can't take advantage of this situation because our forces have been weakened too.
  193. "I've also been writing to Twilight Sparkle about anatomy for my new p-"
  194. >"Why are you writing to her?"
  195. >The. What. (x2)
  196. "I don't get it..."
  197. >"I highly doubt that she could be of help."
  198. "Oh, maybe-"
  199. >"I recommend you to cease this."
  200. "If you order so, Your Ma..."
  201. >"Cadance."
  202. >You got lucky on this one. She didn't accuse you of treason or leaking of state secrets or something - this is definitely a good start.
  203. >"What is this project you're w-working on?"
  204. >Why does she have to be so goddamn curious? She never was into the military stuff you've been constructing.
  205. >But Cadance is a head of state, after all, so you have to share the information with her. And make it sound simple.
  206. "Basically it's the thing that will improve infantry's firepower. An individually-carried cannon."
  207. "Humans have them in various forms for at least 550 years now, but I'm no arms maker and we'll just have to stick with basic design. See here."
  208. >You show her your drawing.
  209. "A small metal tube closed from one end and a hole right there. Near the hole there is a small metal hook - I decided to call it "a serpentine" because of its shape."
  210. "On this side of the hook there is a specially-made fuse that can slowly smolder. Before the battle starts, a soldier lights up the fuse and when it's time to fire..."
  211. "...well, he or she inserts a load of gunpowder and a lead bullet from the muzzle, then presses a hook's other end with telekinesis, fuse connects with gunpowder and boom."
  212. >"It's definitely very interesting."
  213. >"Your project is impressive on its own and I certainly think that you shouldn't consult with...this purple pony...anymore."
  214. >You'll run out of "the what"s soon, that's for sure. But there's no other option but to agree with her.
  215. "As you wish, Cadance."
  216. >She is...smiling? Why?!
  217. >"I'm taking these actions to ensure the victory of our country. Who knows, maybe changelings are not our only enemies...?"
  218. >Uh...she's referring to...griffons maybe?
  219. >Who knows.
  220. >"Anyway, tell me about this new weapon's... capabilities. I'm very interested in any project that you're working on, Anon."
  221. "Uh, okay."
  222. "I expect this gun to shoot a round lead bullet with 3/4 of an inch diameter and a weight of rougly two ounces to about 200 feet. It may depend on weather though."
  223. "It should be powerful enough to knock down a changeling."
  224. >"Well, and how are they used? I-in battle, I mean."
  225. "Oh, that's easy. A line of soldiers, 50 to 70 of them, shoots at once, then they reload. It will take 40 to 60 seconds, probably."
  226. >"This is a great idea. Definitely!"
  227. >"You're playing a main role in our defense, inspector general."
  228. "Um, inspector ge-"
  229. >"Yes! From now on you're appointed as an inspector general with all credentials of a commander-in-chief."
  230. >"Thank you for your service."
  231. >She stands up from a sofa she's been lying on and comes closer.
  232. >"Thank you" she whispers before leaning in. She starts to sob a little bit.
  233. >"Y-you're the one who is supporting me all the way..."
  234. >"I bet that S-Shining would be proud of you, inspector general."
  235. >What is happening?! Is she having some sort of seizure?
  236. >But you have to respond in kind.
  237. "I'm serving you and the Empire, Your Majesty."
  238. >"Ca-dan-ce!"
  239. "Okay, okay."
  240. >She comes even closer, so you don't have a choice but to wrap her in a hug.
  241. >Her pink coat, having fully returned to its glorious color, feels softer than the best pillow you've been able to get.
  242. >You can feel almost non-distinguishable scent of roses surrounding her - maybe some fine cologne.
  243. >And her muzzle is pressed against your neck.
  244. "Cadance, uh..."
  245. >Princess doesn't respond.
  246. >Three minutes later, a knocking is heard.
  247. >Damn! Your LEAST desire now is to get caught hugging a royal widow and get hammered by the princesses in Canterlot.
  248. >Hearing this, Cadance swiftly stands up - luckily.
  249. "Come in, door isn't locked!"
  250. >"Aye!"
  251. >A pegasus mailmare in green uniform walks in, carrying a small saddlebag.
  252. >"Greetings, si- oh, Your Majesty!"
  253. >"No need to be worried, my dear. What's the matter?"
  254. >Adorable little mare seemed to calm down.
  255. >"This is the package from the Ministry of Stability and here are the letters for you, inspector, sir! From Equestria!"
  256. "Thanks."
  257. >She unloads her bag onto the table, pouring several letters and a paper wrapping.
  258. >"Have a good day, sir! Have a good day, Your Majesty!"
  259. "Of course I will. Good luck to you." You chuckle.
  260. >And then you notice that princess is pouting.
  261. >Damn.
  262. >"I can see that many mares have taken a liking to you. Twilight, this mailmare, some of the others...I can literally -see- it."
  263. "You're overestimating this, Yo- I mean Cadance."
  264. >"N-no, I'm not!"
  265. >She is crying again?! What the hell is with that attitude?!
  266. >"T-there is no one to support me, and even my favourite inspector is being taken by the others..."
  267. "Calm down, please. It won't affect my service."
  268. >"So only the service matters!"
  269. >She jumps onto the sofa and starts sobbing a little, burying her face in a pillow.
  270. >You unwrap the package and see a bunch of small copies of agitation posters that Ministry will issue. They're consulting with you on these and honestly you've submitted most of the ideas.
  271. >They're certainly of good quality.
  272. >The first one your eyesight catches displays a row of ponies in army uniform and an empty place in the middle of this row.
  273. >"This line isn't full" says the first line of text, located near the top.
  274. >"Without YOU!" the second line (at the bottom) continues.
  275. >This all ends with a "Enlist today to ensure the victory over the bugs! Apply to the nearest recruiting point".
  276. >You notice a paper sheet alongside the posters. It has a spreadsheet printed with two columns: name of a poster and a "SUITABLE/UNSUITABLE".
  277. >You quickly find a line with the poster you've just "reviewed" and write "SUITABLE" in big letters right near it.
  278. >Twenty more to go, heh.
  279. >...
  280. >...
  281. >"Inspector?"
  282. "Yes, Princess Cadance?"
  283. >Well, she prohibits "your majesty", but you can't force yourself to be too familiar, so this will be a middle ground.
  284. >"Pri...uh."
  285. >"I-I have a request."
  286. "I'll fulfill your wish, Princess. What do you need?"
  287. >Who knows what she'll think when you'll start talking like you did before. Strictly obeying the etiquette is the only way out of this pile of dung that her behaviour is now.
  288. >"I'd l-l-like for you to stay here!"
  289. "But, Princess Cadance, my presence is needed in the field. The harvest season is about to start, so we need to protect the farmlands in the west."
  290. >"I think that generals will handle this!"
  291. >She's heavily blushing.
  292. >Is she thinking that you may be gathering an army far west to overthrow her in a small but stylish coup d'etat? This is definitely a charming perspective, but c'mon. How can you fight a bucking alicorn?
  293. "If you wish so, Princess. Also I have a proposal for you."
  294. >"P-p-proposal?!"
  295. >She screams out, and you HAVE to close your ears.
  296. "Yes. I propose..."
  297. >"YES, I AG-"
  298. >She suddenly interrupts at the middle of the sentence with a squeal, muzzle coloured red, and covers herself with a sofa cushion.
  299. >The. What. (Again)
  300. "I propose that a monument to honor His Majesty, Prince Shining Armor, be constructed. I have a sketch here."
  301. >You pull out a sheet of paper and show her the project. The monument will depict a big shield that resembles his cutie mark and a cannonball hitting it.
  302. >The sign beneath it will read "TO THE ONE THAT SACRIFICED HIMSELF TO SAVE THOUSANDS. HIS MAJESTY PRINCE SHINING ARMOR - WE SHALT REMEMBER THOU"
  303. >Too much of a drama and lots of pathos, yeah, but can't you honor the prince with a great monument?
  304. >Princess seems to be thinking about it...then, after a minute, she speaks up.
  305. >"...n-no."
  306. >No?! Why the buck?!
  307. >"I think that we mustn't...hurry. Yes, we mustn't hurry with this."
  308. >If she says so...
  309. >"Maybe we can build another monument instead?"
  310. "What do you mean, Princess?"
  311. >She brightens up and raises her head, smiling triumphantly.
  312. >"A great, magnificient monument devoted to your decisive victory at Trotterbeck, inspector general!"
  313. "Uh, sorry, Princess, I don't get it. This is merely a small clash, only four battalions were involved."
  314. >"No, no!"
  315. >"You will prepare a project and we'll make a monument, a museum and one of those little battlefields Shi- you really liked!"
  316. >Did she just try to say "Shining" and stopped in mid-air? God damn it.
  317. "You mean a diorama, Princess?"
  318. >"Yes, a diorama!"
  319. >"This complex, built to honor your great mind, will attract ponies from all over Equus!"
  320. >You try to interrupt her, but this is almost impossible.
  321. >Finally she stops this outbreak of hers and you're finally able to speak.
  322. "Princess, please. You're completely overrating my capabilities..."
  323. >Then you come up with a great idea to stop her.
  324. "...compared to Prince. He definitely IS the one who spearheaded us to victories."
  325. >She thinks for a moment...and your plan is ruined.
  326. >"I won't say anything about Shining, inspector general. You've been working in two different spheres of interest. You truly have transformed the bunch of guards that - hmph! - I used to borrow from those princesses of Equestria into an efficient mechanism. Don't underestimate yourself."
  327. >You can't deal with this behaviour. If she wants to think of you as a military genius then so be it...it may bring some benefits as well.
  328. >"I'm imposing an order for you to stay here, inside the Crystal City, until I allow you to leave. It's dangerous for our survival to lose the last hope we have."
  329. "O-o-okay, m-maybe..."
  330. >"Please report the situation, inspector general. You have to know more than I do."
  331. "Uhm. So."
  332. >You pull out the strategic map you've been using for two years. It's filled with dozens of symbols, marking frontlines, battles and unit movements; you take a pencil and point to the part where markings are relatively new.
  333. "There have been reports of changeling recon patrols approaching the border, but nothing more significant. Here, at North Tailville, a large group of bugs tried to attack a border checkpoint, but they were dispersed with grapeshot."
  334. "Counterintelligence didn't report of any suspected changeling spies."
  335. >"Hm, good."
  336. >"Also...well, I have another proposal."
  337. >She smiles as she pronounces the last word, obviously enjoying the moment.
  338. "Yes, Princess?"
  339. >"You've been spending too much time planning everything - alone!"
  340. >"How this group of high officers is called that y-you used to talk about?"
  341. >So this is what she's going to do, huh. "Keep friends close, but enemies - closer"
  342. "You're talking about the general staff? Yeah, I've been thinking about establishing one but it's not necessary..."
  343. >"It definitely is! You mustn't work up to 16 hours a day on such high position!"
  344. "But I only work up to eig-"
  345. >"Ne-ver-the-less!"
  346. >"I'll gather 16 high-rank officers as a staff and you're appointed to lead it. I'll even, mm..."
  347. >Her smile turns into a grin with eyes directly focused on you. Why the hell is she so happy?
  348. >"...locate the staff in the Eastern Hall of the Crystal Palace."
  349. >Woah.
  350. "As you please, Princess."
  351. >"Why won't we take a stroll around the city together? It's not very healthy to stay indoors all the time."
  352. >Are you hearing things or she really pronounced "together" somehow different?
  353.  
  354. "Maybe I'll, well, go later...?"
  355. >"No, I insist."
  356. "Your wish is my command, Your Majesty."
  357. >"No-no-no! 'tis an order for you to call me 'Cadance'...Anon."
  358. >THE. WHAT.
  359. >She suddenly blushes.
  360. >"Did I-I...really...say that?"
  361. "You definitely did, Princess."
  362. "But..."
  363. >This won't hurt, c'mon.
  364. "...I'm not opposing it."
  365. >Well, she looks relieved.
  366. >"Shall we?" princess says, standing up from the sofa.
  367. "Probably."
  368. >You get up from the chair and walk into the hallway, opening a medium-sized staircase and putting your old overcoat on.
  369. >You still haven't sent it to the atelier to be repaired after that rain of shrapnel, so it's still covered in holes of all shapes and sizes.
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