“Dear Heavens, that was positively exhausting!” Rarity said while blowing away a strand of hair that had fallen in front of her eyes. She sluggishly carried herself and some cleaning supplies behind her in a floating, blue aura.
Twilight glanced in Rarity’s direction, empathizing. Even with her talent for magic, she still felt worn out. They had been at the old castle of the two sisters since this morning. It was a routine thing now. Every other month the girls would visit the castle and tidy up a bit—it was at the request of the princesses. Twilight expected it to be laboring work since one couldn’t use magic for everything but judging by the soreness of her legs and her wings, she admitted to herself that she should probably get outside more.
Once it turned late in the afternoon, they had all decided to call it a day. They packed up all their supplies and began their walk home. Although tired, Twilight still tried to pay attention to her surroundings—this was the Everfree forest after all, no one could ever be too careful.
Twilight nodded in agreement with Rarity. “Yeah, I can’t believe how dusty it gets in there. And I swear, more and more rocks seem to crumble down every time we visit! Pretty soon there won’t be much left to call it a ‘castle’ anymore.” she complained. She was startled stiff when one of the rags that were floating in her magic fell on top of her head. She blinked twice then sighed tiredly, her body sagging slightly as she put more power into her telekinesis. Cloths and feather dusters glowed faintly brighter and then trailed behind her obediently.
Pinkie bounced around on all fours happily, seemingly unaffected by the day’s hard work. “Well I thought it was FUN! Especially when I scared Dashie behind that banner! You were all like ‘AHHHH! A GHOST!!!’” She giggled at the memory of her prank.
Rainbow Dash rebounded, wholeheartedly disagreeing, as she swooped down next to her, her fore hooves crossed. “You didn’t scare me! I was just. . . startled.” she tried.
“Nope! I got you goooood Dashie! Admit it!”
“Did not!” Rainbow argued.
Twilight droned out their voices knowing that neither one of them was going to back down anytime soon. It was going to be a long trip back.
As they walked, the menacing trees began to thin and the air lightened again—the edge of Ponyville was just up ahead. Twilight smiled in relief and finally began to look forward to relax. Maybe she could read a few books, reorganize a few things and—oh! Maybe finally get a chance to look at those old star charts that Luna gave her.
However, after taking just one step in Ponyville, she realized her plans were about to change.
“. . . Where is everypony?” she asked aloud.
It was quiet and all activities had ceased. Blinds were shut and doors were locked. Not a single pony could be seen milling the streets, except for the occasional pony who would trot hurriedly and look left and right nervously before heading back inside once more.
Twilight hummed, suspicious. She squinted her eyes, scanning the vacant streets before her. “Everypony looks spooked.” she noted.
“Hey guys,” Rainbow called from her vantage point above the buildings. “Whatever happened here, I’m willing to bet it has something to do with that smoke over there.” she said while pointing with her hoof.
The girls’ eyes cast to where Rainbow pointed, and there in the distance was a thin cloud of smoke rising into the atmosphere.
Applejack turned to Twilight, concerned. “Ah don’t like the look of this, sugarcube.”
“Yeah, something’s definitely—“ Twilight stopped short. Her ears flicked up at the sudden but growing sound of fast paced trotting. It wasn’t more than a couple of seconds later when Berry Punch could be seen sticking her head around the corner of a building in front of them. She looked to her right and then her left only to flinch at seeing six ponies all standing there watching, surprised.
Her startled reaction faded as recognition formed in her eyes. She hurriedly trotted toward them, relief plain on her muzzle. “Twilight! The elements! Thank Celestia you’re all here!” she panted, then took one giant deep breath and spoke in a rush. “You just missed it! There was a bright beam of light from the sky! And it sent a giant shockwave of red energy that spread through Ponyville—which miraculously didn’t cause any harm—but that’s not the problem! A monster showed up in Ponyville again!” She practically screeched at the end. She ducked suddenly from the sound of her own voice, afraid that she had been too loud, attracting said monster’s attention.
“M-m-monster,” Fluttershy whispered, her eyes pinpricks. She plastered herself to the ground and cowered behind Pinkie Pie, shaking in place.
“Red energy. . .?” Twilight mumbled to herself.
Rainbow Dash landed on the ground with a groan. “What the hay!? We were only gone for a couple hours!”
Twilight looked at Rainbow and sighed. “Dash, at this point, we shouldn’t be surprised anymore. It doesn’t matter what time, Ponyville always ends up being the location for strange phenomena—mostly the bad kind. We end up saving Ponyville at least twice a week—be it from invasions, evil villains, rampaging monsters. . .” she trailed off.
Applejack nudged Twilight. “Looks like we’ve got ourselves a case of one ’a those,” she then muttered, “Hopefully without the rampagin’ part.”
Twilight turned to Berry Punch. “Can you to tell us everything that happened?”
Berry Punch calmed herself as best she could, composing herself. She made one last hesitant look around for the monster before speaking. “After the shockwave, a bunch of stuff appeared, all scattered like. It was. . . strange. We all went to check it out and found a bunch of weird, twisted metal and heavy rocks. Some ponies were sifting through the stuff—that’s when somepony noticed something alive was stuck under a huge metal beam—a creature we had never seen before,” She paused, trying to find the right words to describe what she saw. “It was. . . alive, but it sure didn’t look alive. There were burns all over its face and body—and blood, lots of blood.” Her coat paled a shade, as did the girls’. “We—we had to do something to help. It took a couple of minutes to get through the rubble and by the time we got the big stuff off, the creature actually got up itself.”
“What did it look like?” Twilight asked.
“It was . . . it had four limbs but it balanced on its hind legs. It also had weird hooves that had lots of digits at the ends—very much like a minotaur's—and its face was strangely flat. It was kind of hard to see any details with all the cuts and burns it had. Also," She paused, her eyes narrowed as she focused on the memory. "It actually spoke to us. At least I think it did. It was very hard to understand. Its voice was rough and scary—probably because of its injuries."
"It . . . spoke?” Twilight was surprised. "So it's an intelligent being? Maybe it can be reasoned with. Maybe we could figure out what happened and why." She was optimistic but the concern on Berry's face showed her that she didn't feel the same.
"Twilight, I don't think. . . look, what just happened was anything but reasonable. It almost . . ." Her eyes widened in fear at just thinking about the creature that had lunged at them. Eyes as wild as the Everfree itself stared back at her, and its gleaming blades flashed in her memory.
“. . . it almost,“ Twilight pressed quietly after Berry had become silent.
Berry Punch blinked harshly, dispelling the memory. She looked up at Twilight and shook her head. “Twilight it. . . it all happened so fast—one moment it spoke and the next it lashed out and almost killed Jasmine!”
They all gasped in shock. Twilight’s ears fell. Maybe reasoning with it wasn't going to be a good idea.
“That’s terrible!” Rarity spoke, aghast.
Twilight spoke quickly, “Was she hurt? Was anypony else attacked?”
“I—I don’t think so. As soon as its attack missed Jasmine everypony ran and—” She stopped abruptly then looked down at her hooves suddenly realizing something. Her eyes widened. “Oh my gosh!” Berry breathed suddenly.
Twilight’s ears straightened, alarmed. “What? What’s wrong?”
“We—we left Jasmine all alone with. . . with that monster!”
Twilight felt her heart drop. She spoke her next words calmly but with urgency. Getting everyone in a panic was not going to help anyone, especially not Jasmine. “Could you tell us where it happened?”
Berry lifted a shaky hoof and pointed. “Just across the river in that field, close to the Whitetail Woods.” She looked to the sky. “Just head towards that smoke.”
Twilight gave her a firm nod, then spoke to the group. “Let’s go then, we can’t waste any time! Rainbow I want you to fly ahead and report back to us with what you see, we’ll catch up as fast as we can.”
Rainbow saluted and was up in the air in less than a second, speeding across Ponyville.
“Also, one of us should go check Jasmine’s place first. Hopefully she escaped with the others.” Twilight added.
Berry stepped forward. “I’ll go check. Then I’ll meet you guys there.” she offered and then hurried to Jasmine’s.
The rest of the group fell into a gallop next to each other, heading for the wreckage.
They were half-way there when rainbow swooped back down and flew next to them. Her eyes were wide.
“I circled the whole place! There wasn’t a single pony there! No monsters either!”
Twilight felt the pit in her stomach grow and she prayed Jasmine was simply at home, hiding.
The field came into view soon enough and there they saw the devastation first hoof. There were large slabs of strange, flat rock in rather unnatural, rectangular shapes. And they saw thick metal beams scattered about. Some had gouged into the ground, sticking up with sharp edges. And in the center of it all was a large pile of the stuff with a mix of other strange debris. surrounded by a scorched ring of dirt and grass. Twilight watched as the thin smoke trailed into the sky.
“Horseapples,” Applejack swore. “Looks like a tornado tore through here!”
Fluttershy lifted both hooves to her face, frightened and worried. “Oh dear. . . “
“Twi, what do you think could have done this?” Applejack questioned.
“I’m . . . I’m not sure. Berry said it was unlike anything she’s ever seen and she’s lived here all her life—she’s probably seen most of the crazy stuff Ponyville has to offer already. And, to top it all off, some of this stuff is . . .” She shifted some debris with a hoof. “foreign.”
“What do you mean?” Rainbow trotted up next to Twilight.
“I mean, this stuff doesn’t look pony made.” Twilight’s horn glowed as she pried out a short steel beam that was stuck in the ground with her magic. She floated it gently over and placed it on the ground for the girls to see. “Take this metal, for example. Iv'e never seen anypony shape it in such a way before." Her horn glowed once more and the metal glowed in her aura but this time it did not move. Her eyes closed and the girls all watched as her face contorted in confusion. She opened her eyes once more after finishing the analysis. "Even stranger is what this is made of. It's like a combination of other metals and some other elements." She trailed off.
"Well," Applejack spoke. "Seeing as we're going to have to wait for Berry to come back, how about we look around for any clues that might lead us to this monster?"
Twilight nodded as she set about sifting though the pile of rubble. However, all she saw was more of the strange metal, dirt and that rather peculiar crumbling rock which was scattered about in large chunks around the whole place. Walking more towards the center, she saw where what looked like the creature may have come from. She saw some red liquid splattered on some of the metal sheets and couldn't hold back a squeamish sound from leaving her throat. She looked away for a moment and just then something shiny caught her eye. It glinted in the late afternoon sun. Curious, she leaned down, shoved aside some of the crumbling rock and lifted the item with a purple glow. It was a small pice of metal connected to a chain with a stamped message on it.
W O L V E R I N E
Twilight cocked her head, intrigued.
Wolverine? Like the animal?
She turned it in her magic a few times, looking at it from every angle with acuity. To her displeasure there was’t much to glean from it. Though she concluded obviously that it must belong to someone, and logic would say it was probably whoever showed up in this disaster in the first place, which in this case, was the monster. She hummed thoughtfully.
“Twilight!” Berry called out.
Twilight lifted her head and placed the strange necklace inside her saddle bag for later without looking. She turned and saw Berry galloping as fast as she could towards her. She looked more panicked than before and Twilight already knew what she was going to say.
The rest of the girls paused from their searching and investigating, lifting their heads to hear the news.
Berry came to an abrupt stop in front of Twilight, kicking up a cloud of dust. She panted heavily and looked distraught. She shook her head. “She wasn’t there.”
This was not good. Not good at all.
Twilight felt the reality of the situation kick in. Jasmine was missing—probably taken by this. . . this monster. Who knows if she’s even still . . . . . She ended that thought immediately. Thinking like that only made things worse. There was still a chance here, they could still save her.
Twilight’s face hardened and she looked up to see all her friends standing around her. They looked worried but there was determination there—they were waiting for action.
Twilight straightened and addressed a plan. “Okay girls, let’s split up. Four of us will go into the forest and two of us will stay in Ponyville in case this thing is still around.” She then pointed, “Rarity and Fluttershy, stay here in case this thing comes back, or if anypony else needs help. Pinkie and Applejack, you guys take the south half of the Whitetail while Rainbow and I will take the north—we’ll spread out our range and cover as much area as possible.”
Without another word, everyone claimed their duties. Twilight took to the air with Rainbow, ignoring the soreness in her wings. She wasn't sure what to expect from this point on but she kept forward.
We’re coming, Jasmine.
skitter. skitter. skitter.
. . .
Logan stood up from his crouch in the foliage and held up his prize like a shish kabob. Its brown fur had stained red, and its long floppy ears dangled lifelessly. Warm blood dripped from his claws and down his wrist. It wasn’t much but it was something.
He had been running full tilt for about twenty minutes when he couldn’t ignore it anymore. He was starving. His body craved energy, an overwhelming hunger that usually resulted after multiple serious injuries—injuries that cost his healing factor to work in over-drive, so he broke from his continuous run in favor of getting something to eat. It didn’t take him long to sniff out some stray rabbits, and even less time to catch one.
With a fresh meal, he wasted no time devouring it. Why bother cooking it? Setting a fire would create an obvious signal, and he certainly didn’t need any of those horses following him. So without hesitation he tore into the red raw meat. It disappeared quickly, disappointedly so, but his hunger did subside slightly. He felt better, but he still felt like he could raid the school’s kitchen right now. Though, considering it seemed he wasn’t exactly on Earth at the moment, that opportunity probably wasn’t going to be available anytime soon.
With his meal finished, he buried the bones and the fur in the dirt. Never hurt to be too careful.
He absently scratched at the now dried blood on his chest. He had gained quite a lot of ground already, he figured he had a couple of minutes to wash up. He could hear a small stream not too far from here. He could also smell a river farther north, one bound to have plenty of fish but it was quite a distance away. He settled with the stream for a now. There he could get a quick drink, wash up, and be on his way.
Logan moved silently through the forest. His steps were gentle but his demeanor was focused. He listened to the birds sing their melodic tunes and watched as a few stray animals scurried about lightly.
On the way, he paused to sniff at a tree, recognizing the scent of a bear and her cubs. Looks like he just missed them, which was a good thing. A mama and her cubs should not be messed with.
He reached the shallow stream in short time. It flowed almost silently and it was just deep enough to cup his hand under the water. He crouched down and leaned his head over to take a drink. It was cold and refreshing, it tasted pure—not that he could get sick from contaminated water but it was a pleasant surprise to him.
Leaning back from his drink, his eye caught the rippling refection in the water. His hair was wild, the points it came to on each side of his head frayed outwards and some pieces fell over his eyes. His skin was splattered with dried blood and dirt and over that was a light dusting of concrete powder. Other than that, there were no visible cuts or bruises. Just looking at all that dirt, though, made his skin itch like crazy.
He stuck his hands in and watched as the fresh blood on his hands mixed with the water and trailed down the stream. Not wasting any more time, he took off his jacket and tank top and set about washing off the dirt and crusted blood on his skin and body. Much of it was on his chest and arms; he had to scrub at it to loosen it up.
He also tired washing his shirt but the action was basically useless, it might as well have been a red shirt to begin with. He wanted to discard it but that would leave a trail. So instead he rung it out a few times before shrugging it back on. He wasn’t very gentle about it and as a consequence he heard a seam rip. He only grumbled at that. It was already torn to hell anyway.
Grabbing his boots he put off to the side, he laced them back on without thought. His mind wandered a bit and after all he had been through today, he couldn’t help but be reminded of his days in the northern Canadian wilderness—the time in his life he spent surviving day to day learning everything from the very beginning just after his escape from Weapon X. They weren’t exactly fond memories but he found his situation very reminiscent to that one. Just like before he was running, memories lost, seeking refuge in the woods, confused. Though, back then it was far worse.
It was pretty fuzzy but he recalled running though the snow, naked and blood slicked with no memory or anything of who or what he was. Everything was a new experience and he had to learn how to survive—the hard way. In the beginning, he learned from the wolves. They taught him how to hunt, to kill. And for a while, the only evils in life were hunger and the perpetual cold.
It was a simple existence.
Thinking back, it was a miracle he was brought back at all—he was little more than an animal then.
He had Mac and Heather to thank for that. Especially Heather.
But now, here he was again, running—running from those strange horses with no memory of how or why. It made him angry. It made him clench his fists as he felt the tips of his claws prick at his skin.
He had the fucking worst memory.
He took a deep breath, calming his growing anger. Getting frustrated wasn’t going to help him. He breathed evenly, centering himself—using a skill he couldn’t remember ever learning. The air was crisp and clean. Pure. It was the freshest air he’d ever breathed and the woods were pleasantly quiet. . . almost too quiet. That was another thing. Ever since he entered this forest there was something different about it that he couldn’t quite place. He couldn’t explain it in words but it felt. . . controlled, a little unnatural. He found that strange, but he shrugged it off.
Just then a gust came through, chilling his damp skin. He shivered automatically, but otherwise paid no attention to it. It had been worse. Much worse.
Shrugging off the cold he focused on what the wind carried. It brought him two new scents, and they were unmistakably that of the horses. And to his annoyance, they were headed in his direction.
He had been there too long already. Time to move on.
He took one last drink, having his fill, then he flicked his hands before drying them off on his jeans. He stood, planning on heading further north. The river was in that direction and there he could cosy up in a cave and figure out a game plan. Maybe rest on it for a bit and shake a few memories loose. That’s how he usually remembered things anyway.
He took one step then paused, angling his head slightly in the air. He sniffed once, then twice.
Wait, that smells. . . familiar. . .
It was a faint but it was definitely there. He frowned in recognition. It was the smell of the horse that he had almost sliced to pieces. She was following him.
He was ready to just hike out of there, she’d give up soon enough anyway—those other two would as well. If the Wolverine didn’t want to be found, he simply wasn’t found. But something made him stop, and suddenly he remembered. He recalled the bear he smelled earlier.
This kid was going to cross paths with a bear. . . and her cubs.
He hung his head and sighed. Looks like he wasn’t going to head north after all. He growled in annoyance. He didn’t know what she was thinking following him here. He thought he scared her shitless. He shook his head, then turned around, sprinting through the trees.