“The Intermodal Typewriter is a marvel of earth pony technology. It speeds the pace at which we can complete paperwork for our customers. Everypony here will need to master it to continue in this program,” Chief Print droned on.
I stared down at the ugly, two-paddled device in front of me. This was the third day we were hearing about how great it was. I set my hooves on the circles and started typing on the page, filling in the fields. For an earth pony or a pegasus this thing was probably useful. Not for me!
“I expect everypony to complete six files before the end of the day. All must be completed with the typewriter. That includes you, unicorns!” Print called as she paced back and forth like a caged tiger.
My left hoof pressed down on the left paddle to shift the characters on the right but it wouldn’t go down. I pressed again, harder. It still wouldn’t go down. I stood up and put all my weight on the paddle and yet nothing.
Chief Print was over immediately. She never missed anything. “Problem, Guard Azurite?”
“The left paddle won’t go down,” I replied.
“Step aside, please. Let me try,” she ordered. Before I could completely get out of her way she started jamming down on the paddle with her significantly larger hoof. It didn’t budge.
She snorted and tipped her nose. “Alright, guard. It is time to adapt and overcome. Take this down to IT support and get it fixed. You’ll have to stay late to finish your cases.”
“Yes, ma’am,” I replied quickly. Why was a broken typewriter my fault? I could have finished six cases with my horn in an eighth of the time.
I grabbed the evil device in my magic and pulled it off the desk. It immediately dipped in my magic and I had to pour more energy into it. “Whoa!”
“Yes, they’re heavier than they look. IT support is down in the basement, try not to dawdle,” Print ordered.
What an annoyance. The Royal Guard should have provided me with a working typewriter, not one that hated cute ponies. I floated the beast ahead of me and down the stairs as I trotted along behind it. It took more energy than I thought it would to keep the stupid thing aloft.
The basement had narrow halls that went off in multiple directions. “Where in Equestria is this place?” I muttered before something cheerful and yellow caught my attention.
On the wall was a sign designed to look like a honeybee. It was pointing off to the right and read ‘IT Busy Bees this way.’ “Well you sure are cute!” I told the sign before following the direction its instructions.
He wasn’t the only one either. I had to find three more before finally reaching the department. The door was open so I trotted in, the typewriter barely floating off the ground at this point.
There were eight or so cubes with ponies working in them. They all had a typewriter or two and were working diligently. At the head of the room was a long bar and a single pony sat behind it, looking down at a notebook.
He was a lanky looking, white coated stallion with silver rimmed glasses. When I dropped the typewriter on the counter in front of him he looked up at me. “Oh, hello there! How can I help you?” He asked.
“I’m in the PRO class upstairs and this typewriter won’t work,” I replied.
His head tilted and he peered at it curiously, his short brown mane flopping to the side. It was pretty mundane other than a shock of blue in the front. “I see. So do you have a ticket?”
“A ticket? No, it just broke. How do I get a ticket?” I asked.
He smiled and pointed to a typewriter on a pedestal to the left. “You just type one up there.”
My eyes narrowed and I trotted up to the counter. It was taller than I’d guessed and took some work for me to stand on my hind legs and peer over the edge at him. “I’m upstairs learning how to use one. How am I supposed to use one to type a ticket if I don’t know how to type?” I asked.
“Fair point, how about I just type one up for you?” he asked, standing up.
Whoa, he was a tall lanky thing. He was more legs than body. “Yes, please.”
“Glad to help,” he replied before going over to the ticket typewriter and quickly generating one. He then handed it to me. “Here you are. We’ll have your typewriter ready by the end of the week.”
I grabbed the ticket in my magic. “Thank you that will— wait what! No, no, no, no, no, no, sir! I’m upstairs in class right now. I have to finish cases today and I’m not allowed to do it by pencil. Please, isn’t there something you can do?”
The stallion tapped his hoof and then trotted around behind the counter. “We don’t keep a lot of typewriters in inventory. They’re expensive but I can give you this loaner.” He reached down and pulled out another machine and set it in front of me.
Instead of a shiny black finish it was dull and green. It looked like it had been used for more years than typewriters had existed.
“She doesn’t look like much but she works,” he said confidently.
A beat-up typewriter? “I’ll take it!” I replied before grabbing it in my magic. “Thank you!”
“You’re welcome,” he called after me but I was already galloping back into the hall and following the bees back to the stairs.
I slid into the classroom, dropped my new typewriter on my desk, and went back to fighting through my cases.
“Welcome back, Guard Azurite,” Prints said.
“Thank you, ma’am,” I called idly before starting to work. The paddles on this machine moved easier. They were well worn in. Finally, a break!
Chief Print stalked up and down the rows of desks, peering over our shoulders. “Misaligned. Start again,” she said to one student who pulled the paper out.
When she drew close to me I slowed down to make sure everything looked right. I knew this form like I knew every scale on Mr. Peepers. It was just about ensuring the typing lined up.
“Hmm,” I heard over my shoulder.
“Ma’am?” I asked, hiding the nerves that were suddenly filling me.
“You coded that as six alpha,” she said.
What? Where? Coded what! My eyes scanned the exposed page until I found it. I read it over quickly and then remembered why. “Yes, ma’am. In the narrative paragraph of the case it said this pony had adopted his younger brother.”
All around me I heard typing stop and eyes started to shift towards me. A few more shifted down to the case files.
Chief Print picked up my example file and flipped through it. Her lips pressed tightly together. “It doesn’t list any dependents in form six.”
That was true, but it was in the narrative. I wiggled in my chair before replying, “Yes ma’am, but I took that to mean the example had included an intentional error to test our knowledge. Ponies mistake forms all the time, right? Maybe this pony didn’t even know his adopted brother is a dependent?
“Shouldn’t I take the reality of his situation into account versus just looking at the form he filled out and blindly assuming he did it right?” I asked.
My file dropped back onto my desk and Chief Print nodded. “Yes, Guard Azurite, that is exactly right. Well done. Everypony else, we’d best hope your work took this into consideration too.”
There was a moment of silence before I heard paper being pulled out of typewriters and shuffling about. Oops. I hadn’t intended to make things harder on everypony else.
Print trotted on to the next pony, leaving me alone to continue working through my cases. Pony files were more than just documents to me. I wanted to really help them and to do that I had to know who they were. Just like Lieutenant Example Guard here.
Why had he adopted his little brother? How old was his brother now? What had happened to their parents? Those were important questions and it could make a big difference on what services they received if I did the paperwork wrong.
These were pony’s lives we were responsible for! Well, in this case, this wasn’t a real pony, but someday it would be!
Class ended a couple of hours later. I was still working due to my typewriter malfunction. Everypony else was dismissed and left.
Chief Print paused at the door and looked over at me. “You impressed me today, Azurite. Well done. Close the room when you’re done.”
“Yes, ma’am! Thank you, ma’am!” I replied as I focused on Sergeant Retiring Soon Guard’s file.
That task took another hour or so before I finally finished up. Typing was not for me. It have[LV1] been efficient for other ponies but I preferred the feeling of a pencil in my magic. Thankfully that was an option after I graduated. Typewriters weren’t mandatory.
I gathered my things, closed the classroom, and darted from safe place to safe place until I reached my apartment.
There was a special delivery letter on my floor when I opened my door. I grabbed it in my magic and read over the envelope. It was from Aurum. She’d left on Sunday to go back home and pack her things. It was odd she’d send a letter.
I pulled the strip to open the envelope and tugged the note out.Dear Cousin Azurite After dad and I arrived home and started packing I gave myself a moment to think things over. I’m concerned that in my moment of weakness you reacted in your usual kindhearted way and made an offer in haste.
“No, I didn’t!”You have your own problems to deal with and me bringing mine to you seems unfair, especially if your offer was one made in the heat of the moment to a beloved, crying cousin.
“No it wasn’t!”Perhaps we should think this over a bit more before I upend your entire life. What do you think?
I tossed the letter down and went over to my small desk. “I think you’re being silly. Isn’t she being silly Peepers?”
Mr. Peepers swam three laps around his bowl and then blew a bubble.
“Exactly.” I levitated some of my light blue stationary out of the drawer and started writing my reply.
“Dear Cousin Aurum. It was a pleasure to see you and Uncle Emerald this past weekend. You cannot begin to understand how nice that was for me.”
I looked up at Mr. Peepers. He was staring at me.
“Yes, I have to talk as I write it! If it doesn’t sound good out loud it won’t sound good when she reads it, okay?”
He blinked his big eyes and then turned his back on me to sit on his bubble chest.
“That’s what, I thought,” I said before going back to my letter.
“I’m eagerly awaiting your arrival as soon as you can manage it. Please let me know when that will be. I’d be happy to see you as early as this coming weekend if that is possible. In the evenings I’ve been cleaning out the bedroom so you can have your privacy.
“The closet is empty and I even bought new sheets for the bed. I’ve moved my wardrobe out into the living room. Mr. Peepers was not pleased with that.”
Several groups of bubbles caught my attention.
“What? You weren’t!”
He swam to the top of the bowl and blew more bubbles.
“Why shouldn’t I say that? She’s going to be living with us. It isn’t like this is private business. I’m just stating a fact.”
Mr. Peepers blew one more bubble and returned to this chest.
“As I was saying, Mr. Peepers was not pleased with that but he is excited about you joining us. I’m beyond thrilled myself. This is going to be so great Aurum. I know this is what is going to help us both. I can’t wait to show you all around Canterlot. At least the best I can.”
“With love, Cousin Azurite.”
Now I had to get the letter into her hooves immediately. That meant braving the outside in the evening. “Wednesday night shouldn’t be so bad,” I told Plant. He didn’t reply, he never did.
I gripped my letter tightly and pushed the door open. It was already dark and the chill was setting in. “I hate this time of year,” I muttered before trotting nervously out into the street.
There weren’t many ponies around. Most were likely in their homes enjoying hot chocolate and blankets. That was all the same to me.
The Royal Equestrian Mail Service office wasn’t far from my apartment. I’d been there often enough to send important letters. A pony with a case like mine had to do a lot of paperwork. Mailing it was just easier than going to the veteran’s hospital.
I buttoned my uniform coat up, took a deep breath, and darted out into the street. “Hurry, hurry, hurry,” I huffed as I half-trotted half-galloped down the block and then up a side street. When I popped out on the next avenue up I made a right and went down to the REMS office.
There was a short line inside so I got into it and waited nervously. Lines were scary. They were like social traps. Physically I could leave at any time. If I did though, ponies would think I was weird. It was a trap of my own making![KT2]
“This needs to go to my son in Baltimare,” an older stallion was saying to the pony behind the counter.
“Yes, sir. We can do that. I just need his address.”
“He lives in Baltimare,” the older stallion repeated.
“I understand that, sir. Do you have his street address?” The attendant asked.
How was this happening? It was Wednesday night in the late fall. Shouldn’t this pony be asleep already? I had to watch the two of them dance around until finally the older pony produced a letter that had a return address on it.
After two quicker customers it was my turn.
The attendant leaned over the counter to look down at me. “Hi there, how may I help you?”
I stood on my hindlegs and put my letter on the counter. “I need this to arrive at my cousin’s home tomorrow.”
“Overnight shipping? Absolutely. It’s a little pricy there. Could it go two day?” He asked.
I dug around in my saddle bag and dropped a bag of bits on the table. “Nope, she needs it tomorrow.”
“Alright, miss. Please fill out this form and I’ll get started. We do have a Royal Guard discount so that will help you out a little.”
The form was already under my hoof as I filled in the boxes. The sooner I did that the sooner I could get home. “Great news, just take what you need out of the bag,” I replied distractedly.
“Okay then,” he replied before picking up the bag and sorting through the bits inside.
I finished up all of the fields on the form and pushed it back to him. “All done.”
He nodded and took it. “Thank you. You’re all set, let me just give you a receipt.” He typed on a small typewriter that wasn’t anything like the one I had, and pulled out a slim piece of paper. “Here you go. She’ll get it tomorrow by sundown. “
“Great, thank you!” I replied before swiping my bag of bits and rushing out of the office. It was even later thanks to ‘I don’t know my son’s address’ McGuffin.
The night was scary for me still. It wasn’t the darkness so much as the memories it brought back. The Summer Sun festival had been one long event that had resulted in my partner being permanently injured.
Actually, we’d both been injured. Hers was physical. Mine was different. I’d had to do something awful to save her. Something I should have done sooner but wished I’d never had to do. Ponies shouldn’t do what I did.
I shivered and tried to push those thoughts away. Mindful Soul said thinking like this wouldn’t be fruitful. Sometimes ponies do have to… to do the thing I did. My whole body went cold other than the warmth I could still feel on my forehooves. It had never gone away.
That night, when the other guards had finally responded, I just kept washing them over and over. It never comes off. When I finally looked up I wasn’t familiar with my surroundings. This was not a part of Canterlot I knew.
“Where am I?” I whispered. This is what I happened when I got in my head while trotting.
There were a few ponies around me going about their evening. Were they nice ponies? Most ponies were nice but you just never knew.
I trotted a while longer before spotting a Royal Guard standing under a streetlight. He looked like a nice sort of stallion and his coat was a soothing, pale yellow. “Hi, excuse me,” I called to him.
He turned and then smiled. It was a little goofy. He wasn’t one of those tough as nails patrol guards. We was more like… well like me. At least in looks. Plus he was a unicorn too. “Hello there. Lovely evening isn’t it?” His eyes dropped to my uniform and then he added, “Going somewhere fancy tonight? I wasn’t aware of any functions.”
Most guards only wore their uniform for special events. Otherwise you wore your armor unless you were in a few different fields. I shook my head. “Oh, no, I mean maybe. I don’t know. I’m in warrant officer school here, that is why I’m dressed like this.”
“Ah, I see. You must be one sharp pony then. You’ll be the youngest warrant officer I’ve ever seen!” He replied.
“I’m normal age!” I babbled.
His ears perked up. “Oh, sorry about that. You look young. Either way, good for you!”
“No, it’s fine. I know I look different than most guards. On that note, and as embarrassing as this is, could you walk me home? I’m actually lost.” I admitted.
He smiled. “Oh sure! You’re here for school, why would you be embarrassed?”
Idly I twiddled my hooves. “I live here. I’m still lost though. I don’t get out much. I’m Azurite— er Guard Azurite.”
“Nice to meet you and don’t be embarrassed. This city is huge and confusing with all of the tiers, twists, and turns. Guard Honeybun, by the way, potentially on your neighborhood patrol. Now let’s get you home, alright? What’s your address?” he asked.
I rattled it off and he nodded. “I know exactly where that is. You’re not too far but I am sad to say that you have a different patrol over there. Let’s go, alright?”
“Yes, please!” I replied before we started trotting side by side.
“What kind of warrant officer are you going to be?” Honeybun asked.
“I want to be a Pony Resources Officer. Helping fellow guards is a dream of mine. Some helped me out not long ago and they were amazing. It would be great to return the favor,” I explained, finding it easy to talk to him.
Honeybun’s horn lit and shined ahead of us, lighting the street up so we could see. “Now that is a lovely sentiment. Good for you!”
“What about you? Do you want to stay in patrol for your career?” I asked.
“Absolutely! I want to do it for a few years and make sergeant. Eventually I want to mentor rookies. There was a great pony back in Baltimare that did that for me. He turned me around when I was floundering.
“That was when I knew the Royal Guard was the right place for me. They could have just let me fail and washed me out but they sent their best mentor to help.”
“It really is a great job,” I replied. The buildings around us started to look familiar. I knew where I was. I set my hoof on his foreleg. “Honeybun, I can get home from here. I don’t want to take you too far away from your patrol route. Somepony might need real help.”
He looked down at me. “Are you sure? I don’t mind.”
I shook my head. “No, seriously it is fine. Thank you for taking me this far, okay?”
“Absolutely. Drop by my route anytime, alright?”
“Alright,” I replied before waving him off and starting to head home.
After walking with him for a while the night didn’t seem so scary. There was a pony or two around but they were minding their business. It wasn’t so much Honeybun himself as his story. He was right, the guard helped its own.
No matter how long it took, they were going to help me get better. One step at a time. Tonight I’d walk myself home. Tomorrow? Perhaps a restaurant during rush hour.
“Okay, probably not tomorrow. Don’t be crazy Azurite,” I said before turning down my street for home.
[KT2]Too rational, this is Later Azurite thinking. Early Azurite should be much more irrational about this.