Emerald Gleaner: Retired Monster

by Legionary

Chapter 7: Dark Deeds

“I never really liked my life at home. The instant I was given the choice to become Celestia's student I took it and never looked back.”

“I could never imagine doing that,” Twilight replied. “I mean never looking back. I was so excited to be given the chance as well, but I always came home to visit my parents.”

“Must have been nice to have the option...”

Twilight and Sunset Shimmer were currently sitting together at the kitchen table simply talking and sharing stories of their past. Somewhat censored versions anyway. The reason for the censoring being the fact they weren't in their apartment and the owner of this apartment was only sitting a dozen feet away. Navi had found out that Jared was a friend of Emerald's and not only lived just down the hall but liked to play games in his free time as well. With just these two facts she became utterly determined to meet him. Emerald had gone out earlier so Twilight had been more than a little panicked when she noticed Navi had disappeared from the apartment. It was twenty minutes of frantic searching and turning the apartment upside down when she started looking for her outside the apartment and found her fairly quickly. Navi soon proved a bit reluctant towards the idea of leaving after mostly being stuck in an apartment for the better part of a month, and the retrieval soon turned into an impromptu visiting of Emerald's friend because honestly Twilight was feeling stir crazy as well. It wasn't exactly leaving the apartment complex itself but a small change of scenery made the difference. Spike was here as well, sitting with Navi and Jared on the couch and playing a game with him.

“Well... in retrospect, yes,” Twilight nodded. “I never really took advantage of the fact as often as I maybe should have. I was always so eager to learn and study.”

“Same here,” Sunset said with a small smile. “I loved to study in the library. Every time I aced a test, every time I mastered a new skill, it was just the most exhilarating feeling ever. The best years of my life were spent in that place...”

Twilight smiled at that. She could definitely agree with the sentiment. In fact, the more she thought about it the more she realized how much she and Sunset Shimmer had in common with one another. She was about to consider the possibility the two of them could have been good friends if the two of them had been the same age back then, but all too soon she realized that sharing those same qualities would have likely made them hated rivals rather than friends. She was even reminded of several study buddies she had shared a bit of time with before she had been sent out to learn about friendship. From what she could remember she had never put the slightest effort into that relationship. Yes, she and Sunset would have been rivals more than anything else before Twilight had been sent out to learn about friendship.

'Speaking of leaving Canterlot...' Twilight thought. 'I wonder what Sunset's specific reasons were for her running away? I know what the Princess told me, but... what is it that Sunset tells herself?'


“Yes?” Sunset looked questioningly towards the former alicorn.

“Why exactly did you leave Canterlot?” Twilight asked.

“...What did Celestia say my reasons were?” Sunset asked after a moment, turning her face away towards the others in the living room.

“She said...” Twilight began a little hesitantly. “She said that when you didn't get what you wanted as fast as you wished, you turned cruel and soon left.”

“...” Sunset Shimmer grimaced and grit her teeth in anger for a long, quiet moment before suddenly the anger was gone, replaced by grief and regret. “I guess she was right then. All I wanted was to get power faster and was willing to do anything for it... even if it meant... hurting others to do it...”

“...” Twilight frowned at Sunset's words. For a long moment she hesitated to say anything more, before finally her expression hardened and she gazed neutrally at Sunset.

“Sunset Shimmer, that wasn't what I asked,” Twilight said firmly and got a sharp look from the former unicorn. “I asked you what your reasons were for leaving the way you did.”

“I...” Sunset looked down towards her unfeeling legs and pursed her lips into a thin line. “I felt like I was ready for anything, like I was destined for greatness. No matter what lesson was put in front of me, I aced it fairly quick enough. I soaked up knowledge like a sponge and could put theory into practice readily enough. What I'm getting at, I guess, is that I felt like I should have advanced quicker... that I knew and was better than everyone. I was Celestia's Student, how could I not be ready for anything? I wanted to make my destiny come to me instead of waiting for it...”

“And what good did that confidence do me?” Sunset continued, gesturing to her lower half. “Nothing, whereas look at you. You listened, you did as you were told, you ultimately succeeded where I failed. All I have now is my regrets...”

“You're not the only one with regrets, Sunset,” Twilight replied, memories flashing in her mind of Emerald's hurt, betrayed expression as she turned to stone.

“Maybe...” Sunset said and was quiet for a long time before she reached down and undid the brake on her chair. “I'm going to go join them.”

Twilight watched Sunset Shimmer roll away in her wheelchair. Her eyes were drawn to the wheelchair and she couldn't help but stare as Sunset rolled into the next room and asked for a controller. She felt a surge of sympathy followed by guilt. All this time Sunset Shimmer had to adjust to being crippled while Emerald had the power to fix her and Twilight hadn't said anything. And it wasn't exactly like she had a good explanation for why she hadn't said anything. Her only excuse was that she had been distracted... in more ways than one.

'Well no more,' Twilight thought firmly. 'Sunset deserves her legs back for good behavior at the very least. I'm going to talk to Emerald as soon as she comes back.'

There was knock at the door briefly before the sound of footsteps reached their ears. Jared always did have a habit of leaving the door open when he was home. Emerald Gleaner appeared from around the corner followed by a rather attractive woman Twilight hadn't met but had definitely heard about.

“I already know who to blame about this,” Emerald stated and came to a stop behind the couch, specifically behind Navi. She reached down with both hands and started tickling Navi. “I bet you just barged right in, didn't you?”

“Ah! I wanna meet Mama's friends!” Navi protested between squeals of laughter.

“If it helps, I don't mind the company,” Jared stated with an amused smile at the two.

“Of course he doesn't,” Trisha said teasingly with a wide grin as she crossed her arms beneath her breasts. “Not when he's surrounded by all these pretty girls. Am I right, huh?”


“Could you not do that?” Sunset Shimmer said with clear irritation as she pointedly focused. “You're distracting him from the game.”

“One of them even has her sights set on him,” Trisha said as she leaned on the back of the couch and elbowed Jared. “Lucky guy.”

Jared just chuckled in amusement as he focused back on the game while Sunset's face turned red in apparent anger. Spike for his part was getting distracted and dying a lot looking at Navi, who was still being tickled while twisting and turning in place, still managing to play a good game.

“Hello, you must be Trisha,” Twilight said after walking over from the kitchen. “I'm Twilight Sparkle.”

“Ha! Yeah, I'm Trisha. Nice to meet you, Twilight,” Trisha said after a burst of laughter and forced her laughs down to a few snorts.

“Why does everyone find my name so strange?” Twilight said with a curious frown.

“It's just so cutesy sounding, like something you'd hear off some kid's show,” Trisha said with a grin before getting a curious look on her face. “Hey Emerald, is that place you found some kind of hidden Cult town? Like those weird enclosed communities you hear about now and again?”

“Well...” Emerald said as she finally stopped “punishing” Navi. “They do worship the lady who runs the place as a goddess...”

“I knew it!”

“Don't worry though, I haven't bought into the whole being worshipping thing myself,” Emerald said as she walked over to stand beside Trisha. “I mean I only adopted their naming conventions, nothing else.”

“I'll try not to think of you as secretly being a loony cultist then,” Trisha replied with a toothy grin.

“... Emerald, I need to talk to you alone for a few minutes,” Twilight said with a serious look.

“Okay, let's head back to the apartment.” Emerald nodded before turning to Trisha. “We'll be right back, Trisha.”

“Sure!” Trisha said and loudly added. “I certainly won't attempt to seduce a certain someone.”

“Would you quit that!” came Sunset's shout.

“Try not to bother her too much,” Emerald said as she and Twilight walked out the apartment. “We have to live with her.”

“No promises,” Trisha said, waggling her eyebrows.

Well within a minute later, Emerald was closing the door behind them as she and Twilight entered their apartment.

“So what's wrong?” Emerald asked as the two of them walked into the kitchen proper.

“It's about Sunset Shimmer,” Twilight began.

“Has she been upsetting you with something?” Emerald asked with an angry frown already forming.

“No! Well... yes, but it's not her fault,” Twilight quickly replied. “Emerald, I want her to have the ability to walk again.”

“Hmm... okay, sure,” Emerald said with a thoughtful look.

“Really?” Twilight said in some surprise. “That was easy...”

“I'll just give her a kill virus like I gave Whisper Wind,” Emerald continued. “If she doesn't keep taking a suppressant I'll be giving her, it'll activate and kill her or something along those lines... probably have to rework it a bit to make it work more effectively in our current situation.”

“Ugh... of course,” Twilight said with a sigh. “Emerald no. I want her legs fixed, no strings attached.”

“And how do we know if she won't just run away the moment she gets healed?” Emerald frowned at Twilight. “I can't very easily track her down as before and this time she might just go straight for Blackwatch instead of running around. I doubt they'd believe a lot of what she could tell them about us but in the very least she can say we kept her hostage and that much would be true.”

“Other than what else would she gain out of it?” Twilight asked. “Sure she can cause us harm that way, but what then? She would have to deal with this world as it is, with all its imperfections and darkness along with the light. She would have to stay here, never use her magic ever again and try to find a way of making a life worth living here. And Emerald... I don't think she can do that or even wants to try.”

“It's not like this world is some dark pit,” Emerald retorted.

“I know this world isn't as dark as it seems, but I doubt in Sunset's eyes the light manages to pierce through the dark she has experienced and witnessed,” Twilight said firmly. “She saw all she wanted to see and now... now she wants to come home, Emerald.”

“Surprising considering how she left it the first time and didn't come back after all that time,” Emerald pointed out, expression still firm and unyielding.

“All she had was the palace and Princess Celestia. All she cared about was her opinion,” Twilight said. “And when that opinion became something other than praise for her progress and prodigal magic, she felt betrayed. But it wasn't that... when you put it out so cut and dryly it seems so supremely selfish, but-”

“She was just a kid...” Emerald said, turning away and sitting on the kitchen table. “A dumb teenager making dumb decisions because she thought she knew it all, and then next thing you know reality smashes you in the face like a ton of bricks...”

“Emerald?” Twilight said questioningly.

“...” After a long moment the virus gave an aggravated sigh. “Christ... I must be getting soft...”

“There is nothing weak about being merciful, Emerald,” Twilight stated, placing a hand on Emerald's shoulder.

“...Fuck it, fine,” Emerald said and stood up. “Let's go get her fixed.”

“Thank you, Emerald,” Twilight said, giving her girlfriend a tight hug.

“I just hope we aren't making a mistake,” Emerald replied, returning the hug.

“I have faith this won't be a mistake,” Twilight said determinedly.

“Such a hero,” Emerald said with a small smile. “How did someone like you ever end up with someone like me?”

“You're a no good dirty lowdown rogue who stole my heart, that’s how,” Twilight retorted lightly. “Of course I wouldn't want it back after you got your grubby fingers all over it.”

Emerald just gave a short chuckle as they separated and made to leave the apartment. Opening the door they were met with the sight of Trisha standing in the hallway looking deeply curious. Upon seeing them leaving the apartment, she didn't attempt to hide her expression or the fact she had clearly been attempting to listen in but quickly approached the two with an eager expression.

“How did you soundproof your apartment like that?” Trisha asked excitedly. “I couldn't make out anything!”

“Trying to listen in on a private conversation, Trisha?” Emerald asked with a raised brow.

“Kinda sorta,” Trisha replied with a shrug and overly coy expression. “I mean I couldn't help but notice how despite the fact I can hear a guy getting a BJ from his girlfriend two floors down and several rooms away, I couldn't make out anything clear from your room. So how did you do it? Do you realize how convenient it would be for homes in Cursor town to have that kind of sound insulation?”

“Fine, I'll tell you...” Emerald said with a put upon huff. “Magic.”

“Fine, keep your engineering secrets,” Trisha huffed. “But do you know how hard it is to keep anything private in Cursor town? You literally have to be several blocks away if you want any sort of real privacy.”

“Enough with the attempted guilt trip,” Emerald said and walked back towards Jared's apartment. “I've got a back to fix.”

Trisha's brow raised to their highest extent as she watched Emerald walk past. She turned towards Twilight.

“Does that mean what I think it means?” Trisha asked.

“I think it does,” Twilight replied.

Emerald reentered Jared's apartment, soon followed by Twilight and Trisha. She walked over to the couch where everyone was still sitting on and came to a stop to watch the four play for a bit, playing a game of Magicka 2 on Jared's PS4. As expected, Navi was the strongest player in the group but this oddly led to everyone deciding to mess around and have fun while Navi handled the heavy lifting when needed.

“Sunset, you blew me up!” Spike shouted in some anger. “Again!”

“I was aiming for Jared, you just got in the way,” Sunset retorted with a smirk. “Again.”

“That's all I needed to know,” Jared stated and rapidly hit the buttons on his controller.

“Wha-HAY!” Sunset shouted as her character got squashed by a meteor.

“Oh come on!” Spike shook his controller. “I just got rezzed!”

“Sorry to interrupt but I need you to pause the game for a bit,” Emerald said and Navi instantly complied. “Sunset?”

“Uh yeah?” Sunset Shimmer said and squirmed in place under Emerald's gaze “What's wrong? U-ummm, just so you know I haven't done anything wrong ever since you caught me so uhh, yeah...”

“Caught you-” Jared began with a frown.

“She's a thief and primary reason why I came to this city in the first place,” Emerald answered without looking away from Sunset. “And no, I am not the reason why her back got broken. She has only herself to blame for that.”

“I wasn't assuming anything,” Jared said raising his hands reassuringly.

“Now as to what's wrong,” Emerald continued moving to stand in front of Sunset Shimmer. “Sunset, you are right saying you haven't done anything wrong since I caught you. From what I remember of your time here with us and Twilight's own words, you've been on your best behavior. You were hurt when I first caught you but the only thing I hadn't healed was your back. It's time I got around to it.”

“W-what!?” Sunset exclaimed with wide eyes. “You'll fix my back?!”

“Yes,” Emerald stated simply with crossed arms.

“...Is there some kind of catch?” Sunset asked with some suspicion.

Emerald simply stared and shook her head.

“Well... okay, how do we go about doing this? Do I have to-Eeek!” Sunset began nervously before suddenly flinching back and raising her arms protectively.

Emerald had brought her arm back and swung it forward as it split forth into a wave of a dozen probing tendrils. They quickly wrapped around Sunset's midsection before going down and winding around both of her legs. Sunset Shimmer squirmed anxiously as she was lifted off the couch and held up in the air. For a moment nothing happened, but suddenly she started feeling a strong sensation of pins and needles... coming from her legs. She stared down at her legs in amazement as feeling rapidly returned to her legs and before she knew it she was being lowered to the floor. As soon as her feet were fully touching the floor, the tendrils rapidly unwrapped themselves from her and she was standing unassisted for the first time in weeks.

“Whoa!” Sunset waved her arms about in an attempt to regain balance when she started feeling herself lean forward almost uncontrollably. She was on the brink of either losing her balance completely or regaining it when Emerald reached out and held her shoulder, steadying her.

“Sunset Shimmer, what you did got me really upset with you to say the least,” Emerald stated seriously, making the other girl avert her eyes. “But I'm going to trust that you aren't going to do something like that again. As long as you do nothing else to hurt or endanger us, you can consider this the airing out of the bad blood between us.”

“...Thank you... for that and fixing my legs,” Sunset said, meeting Emerald's gaze with a smile that was slowly becoming less hesitant.

“Sunset Shimmer, I promise you that one day I'll bring you and the others home safely and far away from here,” Emerald said and held out a hand.

“I hope so...” Sunset replied and grasped the offered hand. “There is someone back home I have to apologize to.”

Everyone was smiling at the scene in the middle of the living room, but Jared's expression was more approaching awe. His mouth was hanging a little agape as he took in the sight of the formerly crippled girl standing with only a little support. He kept staring until he felt someone poke his shoulder and turned to see Trisha smiling down at him.

“It's amazing what Cursors can do, isn't it,” Trisha said and looked back at Emerald and Sunset. “All it would take is a bit of trust and cooperation and we could make this a better world.”

Jared looked back at Emerald and Sunset. Yeah, he could really believe it.


Emerald stood atop the roof of a building, surfing Blackwatch's crime report archives while straining her ears for active crimes in progress.

It was night and Emerald was again out as Batman. Honestly, things had become a bit of a routine ever since the first night of donning the cape and cowl. It turned out that without a very active and insanely talented rogue gallery of super villains to keep her busy and on her toes, things became almost mundane in a way. Sure she was Batman, she had a Swiss army utility belt full of “bat gadgets” along with many “detective skills” to track criminals, but the people she was actively hunting were still normal people. The status of criminal didn't suddenly make anyone a cold blooded, battle hardened crook. Hell, after the rumor of Batman running around cracking skulls become truth her normal encounters become one of two things: the crook in question surrendering instantly or running like hell. It was only when she went in to bust some gang HQ or operation somewhere in the city that it became something of a fight.

Emerald tilted her head as she heard the sounds of a scuffle a block or so away. She rapidly ran towards the sounds of the fight, sprinting across roof tops and using the grapple to cross street gaps. She silently came to a stop on the ledge of a building and looked down. There were two men grappling with one another and struggling. One of the men had a kitchen knife in his hands but even though he was swinging, it was also clear to anyone watching he was trying not to hit the other man.

Giving herself a once over to make sure she looked alright, she took a step forward off the roof. She fell through the air before landing on the ground in a three point landing with a thump. The two men started as she rose up to her full height.

“Oh shit!” the man with the knife said in a panicky voice. He quickly dropped the knife and raised his arms in the air. “Oh fuck!”

Emerald glared down the former knife wielder before glancing at the other man who was still standing in place, looking like he was having some difficulty believing this was happening.

“Get somewhere safe,” Emerald told the other man in Kevin Conroy's voice.

“R-right... right!” the man said hesitantly and quickly ran away, turning around briefly to give a shout. “Beat his ass, Batman!”

“C-come on man, I-I was just trying a bit of money is all!” the crook protested and Emerald quickly advanced on him. “Come on, man!”

“Look me in the eyes when you talk!” Emerald growled, grabbing his head with one hand and firmly but not painfully pressed him against the brick wall behind him.

“O-okay, okay!” the thug said, raising his hands placatingly and swallowed. “I ain't got no money. I tried going to soup kitchens. But the lines are a mile long and they always run out by the time I get a turn. I'm just trying to not go hungry for once!”

Emerald narrowed her eyes at him for show but she knew he was telling the truth. Her mind reading spell had been getting a lot of usage lately and she had grown skillful enough to get pretty much everything she could need in only a few seconds, or she could get it all at once in an instant at the cost of burning the brain out. Long story short, she knew he was telling the truth because she could see it in his mind.

“...Don't let me catch you doing this again,” Emerald growled at the reluctant crook and let him go.

“O-Okay I won't, I'll-” the man said, moving to run away.

“Wait,” Emerald said and reached down to her utility belt to get something out. “You'll be needing this in order to keep that promise.”

“Money?!” the crook said at the sight of what was in Emerald's armored hand. He gingerly took the small roll of money and saw they were all hundred dollar bills.

“Go home, wait till day and go grocery shopping,” Emerald all but commanded and turned away, bringing her grappling hook out.

'It isn't exactly the Thomas and Martha Wayne Foundation, but it's better than nothing,' Emerald thought as she ascended back to the roof tops as the man shouted his thanks behind her. 'And it's not like I don't have plenty to spare nowadays.'

What just happened was another example of an issue she was having, namely the humanity of her targets. It was really hard to justify going in fists flying and bones breaking when the criminals she was going after tended to be just desperate people more often than not. It was getting to the point where Emerald was seriously considering just finding another hobby or at the very least dialing back her nights out as Batman back a bit.

'What should I do?' Emerald thought. 'Should I call it an early night or should I... go this way?'

Emerald frowned as she felt an odd sensation triggering her senses, something that was rather oddly felt like it was well within her sensory range and yet at the edge of them. She felt a... a need? A desire? A want? She didn't know what it was but there was a direction she felt she had to go towards.

'This way?' Emerald thought questioningly as she rapidly traversed roof tops but the thought grew more certain as she traveled. 'Yes, this way... something's wrong...'

It was hard to describe the sensation Emerald was feeling right now. It was a kind of a compulsion, yet Emerald knew if she truly wanted she could walk away. But she also knew she'd be angry at herself for not doing something about it, whatever that meant. It was also a sense of urgency, not unlike what one might feel at seeing a small child near a dangerous ledge.

'This is wrong... you aren't allowed to do this...' Emerald thought, her eyes starting to go wild as she leapt rooftops faster and faster. 'I won't allow this, you won't get away.'

A sort of haze set over Emerald's mind as she finally came to a stop on a building and started glaring at the one next door. She gained what one might call tunnel vision as she focused on the task before her, whatever it was, and blocked out all distractions, even thoughts. She used all of her senses to map out the building but more importantly mentally “tag” people she knew somehow to be targets to be taken out. And that was all the time she took to make any sort of preparations whatsoever before she was off for the front door.

The braced steel door didn't stand a chance. She threw herself at it with a flying kick and it was ripped from its hinges and sunk partly into the opposite wall. The room had a table with chairs, but that's all the detail she cared to take in because there were three men sitting at the table. They had given startled shouts at the door suddenly bursting open and were rising from their seats, pulling out guns. That was as far as Emerald allowed them.

'You deserve to die for this,' Emerald thought angrily as she shattered arms and sent two men flying before smashing the last through the table. 'Don't kill them.'

As soon as the three men were incapacitated, she turned for the door leading deeper into the building where she heard shouting and running footsteps coming from it. She quickly dashed into it and found herself in a thin hallway lined with open doors It was wide enough that two opposing people could pass easily if they turned sideways but that was it. There was a group of men running down in a line towards her with pistols drawn.

'I should rip you open and make you die choking on your own organs,' Emerald thought with a growl as she set off a flash bang and charged down the hall. She chucked gas grenades into each open room she passed as she charged and rammed into the line of men. 'Don't kill anyone.'

Emerald slowed down her charge just enough that when she and the men ran into the opposing wall, the men were merely badly injured instead of dead and dying. Emerald spared the injured pile of men enough time to drop a gas grenade atop them before running away down another hall. This hall was a bit wider and didn't have as many doors with another steel door at the end. The door was open for only a moment before a panicked looking man slammed it shut and slid a door brace into place behind it.

'You can't stop this, you are the victim now,' Emerald mentally snarled, charging down the hall but turned into a room beside the door. 'No killing.'

The room Emerald entered was a public bathroom with several stalls. It was quite messy but Emerald paid that detail no mind. She moved towards the line of urinals and brought out a spray gun. She laid out a line of gel, only sparing enough thought to make it in the shape of a bat before giving the mental trigger.

The gel exploded and the wall burst forwards in a cloud of debris and dust. It impaired the thugs in the room but not Emerald. Her senses were on the edge of a razor at the moment. She burst forward in an explosion of movement. There were two men near the braced door who went down hard with broken arms and ribs. She ducked as bullets went flying and sent out three batarangs. They hit their targets, the receivers of the assault rifles the crooks were wielding. The thugs tried to fire again. Two of the rifles failed to fire while another exploded and badly injured its wielder. Emerald chucked another gas grenade at the remaining crooks and moved towards another door in the room. The door was still unlocked and Emerald found herself at the top of a staircase, which she practically threw herself down. There was another steel door at the bottom and someone had run to it to close it, but she was too quick. She rammed into the closing door with her shoulder. The door went flying open, sending the man who attempted to close it flying with a broken sternum.

There was one other man in the room. He had someone pinned against him as a human shield with one arm while the other held a magnum revolver. Emerald reacted instantly and shot out her batclaw, the hook latching onto the man's wrist as she tugged the wire. The man and his shield went sprawling  forward onto the floor, the man losing grip of his pistol at the same time. Emerald quickly stalked forward and gripped the man by his neck as the human shield quickly crawled away. She stomped over to a wall and slammed him against it before beginning to throttle him.

'You deserve to die for this!' Emerald roared in her mind. 'Don't kill him. Why the hell not?! Because it would be out of character.'

And just like that the haze had lifted from Emerald's mind. The tunnel vision faded and Emerald was fully aware of her surroundings and the finer details. The man she was in the middle of strangling to death had rather fine, expensive looking clothing and an equally expensive looking haircut; he was also turning an unsightly shade of blue. Emerald dropped him to the floor where he took in an explosive gasp of air and proceeded to dry heave every breath on the floor. She looked around. The room was bare with plain brick walls and had two ways out. One way was the way she came in but the other was clearly a dug tunnel. Along with this, half of the room was blocked off with steel bars. Within this half of the room resided many women and children.

Emerald walked over to a get a closer look and ignored how many of the woman actively pulled from her towards the very back of the cell, pulling the children with them protectively. The cell had a bunch of dirty mattresses piled on one side while the other side had a large hole drilled into the floor, likely the communal toilet.

Emerald turns around with a scowl at the clear gang leader. She stalked over to him with half a mind to just brutally murder him, but didn't. She had to preserve the sanctity of the character of Batman after all.

'Yeah, really beginning to see why Batman is a comic character,' Emerald thought angrily as she cuffed the gang leader and walked over to the other injured crook to cuff him as well. 'How can anyone look at something like this and not want to maim and horribly mutilate those responsible? Wait... duh, he's Batman, that's how.'

With that done, she was currently thinking of how to handle this. Should she simply fake call it in like the others? Simple enough, but it would only bring in a small patrol of Blackwatch grunts when clearly this required a bit of a response force. She couldn't exactly get that with a fake call in without going into detail.

'Well there is one other straightforward method,' Emerald thought as she started connecting a call and readying her Batman voice. 'Might as well give it a shot.'

“Hello?” came the voice of Dana Mercer in Emerald's earpiece. “Who the hell is this and how did you get my number?”

“Secretary Mercer,” Emerald stated. “I have a serious situation to report to you.”

“What?” Dana said in an annoyed voice. “I'm not hearing an answer to my ques-wait, I remember that voice... is this Batman?”

“Correct, I've-” Emerald began.

“Look buddy,” Dana interrupted with an amused tone to her voice. “I'm not your 'Commissioner Gordon' or your 'Oracle'. I don't have the badass trench coat for one or the broken back for the other, so you-”

“Secretary Mercer!” Emerald broke in firmly. “I've incapacitated a gang of human traffickers and have a captive group of scared young women and children here. I need a Blackwatch response force here to secure the criminals and bring the civilians to safety. Will you or will you not do this for me?”

“I can get a response force en route on the double,” Dana said seriously. “I just need the address and details.”

“I'm forwarding you a data packet right now,” Emerald replied. “Thank you, Secretary. Batman, out.”

Emerald ended the call there and moved towards the downed gang leader to drag him out of the room along with the crook. She figured from their reaction towards her, the women and children in the cell wouldn't want anything more to do with her. That thought lasted up till a young voice called out to her.

“Batman!” Emerald heard and turned to look at the cell.

It was a little girl standing at the door. She was a bit dirty looking but she was fairly clean looking enough that it was clear she hadn't been here long. She had a barbie brand t-shirt on along with pinkish purple jeans, and her greasy blond hair was pulled back in a ponytail. She was holding onto the bars of the cell and staring up at Emerald with a wide grin.

“Get us out of here, Batman!” the girl cried out. That seemed to break the tension for most of the other children who quickly flooded the front of the cell to call out to her.

“Back away from the door,” Emerald said and stalked towards the cell door with a batarang out, just managing to keep the smile she felt from showing. She jammed the batarang's pointed wing into the lock of the door and gave a twist. With a snap, the inner workings of the lock was ruined and Emerald simply pulled the door open.

“Thank you, Batman!” the girl shouted as she quickly darted out of the cell, followed by all the other children.

“You saved us, Batman!”

“You...” Emerald began and paused briefly as one of the children suddenly hugged her leg. “Won't be hurt by them again, I promise you.”

“S-so...” one of the women in the cell said nervously, the adults making their way out as well but were clearly more wary of “Batman” than the children were. “Guess you're the real deal, huh?”

“You're safe now,” Emerald replied simply before extracting herself from the crowd of children. “I will make sure you stay that way until Blackwatch arrives.”

“I remember when you had to get the fuck outta dodge when you heard Blackwatch was coming,” one of the women said as Emerald walked towards the tunnel. “Anyone else remember that?”

Leaning down a little to gaze into the darkness of the tunnel, she was able to make out a dug out passage that went on and on, supported by wooden beams. It was possible this was a the first in a long network of smuggling tunnels. Emerald decided to leave investigating that further to Blackwatch. She took out her gel gun and sprayed some explosive gel along the wall and backed away. A moment later, she triggered the gel.

'There, now to collect the crooks.' Emerald thought as she turned away from the now collapsed tunnel. Despite appearing so, the explosion hadn't actually collapsed the tunnel. It was a bit too sturdy for that, but it did mask her using her earth channeling abilities to do so.

“There is only one way into this room now,” Emerald stated as she slung the mob boss over her shoulder and walked towards the other one. “Keep the door braced, no one should be trying to get down here except Blackwatch so bunker down until they come. I will make sure you remain safe until they arrive.”

Slapping a pair of cuffs around the wrists of the other crook she grabbed him by the chain of the cuffs and started dragging. She started making her way up the stairs, the feet of the crook banging on each step. Behind her came the sound of the metal door clanging shut and something sliding into place.

Emerald then proceeded to gather together everyone she had incapacitated into a group… well, not everyone. It turns out many of those side rooms had been bunk rooms, some of which had people in them, one man and one woman. No points for guessing what had been going on in those rooms. She had left the woman alone, though she had also made sure to preserve their decency when they were finally recovered by putting clothes back on them.

The crooks had only just been gathered together and cuffed when the sound of helicopter blades filled the air. Emerald looked up and expanded her senses. She “saw” the approach of two Blackwatch stealth choppers and trailing behind on the ground was a convoy of APCs roaring down the road. Emerald wasn't concerned about being detected. She had tested her stealth capabilities quite a bit against several Blackwatch patrols and she had never been detected by their equipment. Still though, Emerald didn't want to be here when soldiers were running into the building. She gave one last look over the crooks to make sure they were restrained before teleporting away.

On a roof a few blocks away, Emerald watched as several Blackwatch troopers rappelled down from the choppers and started securing the area before a squad cautiously entered the building. Only a few minutes later, the APCs arrived and poured forth a platoon's worth of soldiers all over the site. The APCs weren't the only arrivals either, as following them were several ambulances full of EMTs and paramedics. Emerald watched the soldiers drag out several restrained crooks, the injured ones only spared a bit of gentleness in that matter while unconscious women were carefully carried out, followed by the recovered women and children from the basement. Seeing the people she saved were fine, she turned away and left.

'Well I still don't like the idea of letting people like that get away with only broken bones, but saving people does make it worth it,' Emerald thought as she strode across the roof before frowning and looking down at her hand. 'But what the hell was that earlier? I just suddenly felt like there was something I had to do or I would regret not doing it really badly... I have no idea at all what in the world that was...'

Still incredibly confused, Emerald took out her grappling hook and crossed a street.


“On to more local news, we've recently got word from our sources in Blackwatch that with absolute certainty that the rumor of Batman in New York is no longer a rumor, spoke a news anchor. “We go now to our reporter on the scene, Jessica Brindley. Jessica?”

“Thank you Mark, now behind me is a building like any other,spoke a blond haired woman wearing a purple dress suit. “But this building held a dark secret inside, the first in a long line of human smuggling outposts leading out of the NYZ. How did this smuggling ring come to ligh? Was it the work of informants? Police investigators? A patrol stumbling across it? No, it was the work of a vigilante, the one and only Batman. But how did a comic book hero end up on the streets of New York so far away from Gotham? No one really knows. While Blackwatch states that the vigilante is likely a Cursor bringing the famous persona to life, the fact is that crime scenes he's busted has never proven positive for a Cursor presence. So who is Batman? A skilled Cursor bringing the comic book hero to life? Or a normal human being somehow doing the same? Back to you, Mark.”

'Well it's nice the news seems neutral about the whole Batman thing,' Emerald thought before she changed the channel. 'Back to finding something good to watch. I really should get back to catching up on some movies.'

It had been little under a day since Emerald's last escapade as Batman. Personally the only response she had seen so far was the news report just now, but there were plenty of people online going crazy about it. Apparently more than a few people were talking about getting a pass into the NYZ to try to see if they could meet Batman, though there was also more than a few people who were furious some “germ” was being Batman. Surprisingly, or perhaps unsurprisingly, there was few people who were more concerned about the vigilante aspect of the whole thing.

“Emerald,” Emerald heard Twilight say behind her. “How do I look?”

Emerald turned to look over her shoulder but the instant she did she shifted her position so that she was fully facing Twilight with her knees on the couch cushion. Twilight was dressed up differently today. Her hair had several curls in it and reminded Emerald of the time she went to Grand Galloping Gala. She was wearing a dark purple miniskirt that ended about the middle of her thighs and a pinkish purple blouse with a short, dark purple overcoat. Finally, she wore a pair of black, shiny shoes.

“You are such a beautiful nerd, Twilight,” Emerald replied, one arm on the back of the couch with the other propping up her head as she mimed a dreamy expression. “You don't even know.”

“Well... it's always nice to be reminded!” Twilight smiled, her cheeks flushed and happy at Emerald's reaction. “Shouldn't you get dressed, too? Trisha should be here soon.”

“Might as well.” Emerald shrugged, got off the couch and stood up. A wave of black tendrils surged over her body and she was done.

Emerald's outfit now consisted of a pair of slip on shoes like Twilight's but white and with a bit more of a heel to it. Her pants were switched out with a white leather miniskirt and her blue t-shirt changed shape to a crop top that left a bit of a midriff. Her white vest had expanded out into an open cropped white leather jacket. Her hair was now undone and was a bit straighter than usual, only becoming curly near the ends. Her face was picture perfect as usual, but she did have a light pink, glossy lipstick applied now.

“So how do I look?” Emerald asked as she pocketed her crocheted hat and took a pose.

“Uhhh...” Twilight stared for a moment with flushed cheeks.

“Now now, no need to be shy,” Emerald grinned smiled slyly as she walked over with a sashaying movement to her hips. “I'm your girlfriend, that means you can look and touch.”

With those words Twilight's expression turned utterly crimson. Emerald laughed and couldn't help but imagine steam venting from her ears as well like a cartoon. Thankfully, for Twilight's sake, Trisha chose that moment to finally arrive with a knock at the door.

“It's open!” Emerald called out, briefly interacting with the runic defenses to unseal the door.

“Hello girls!” Trisha cheerfully called out as she walked into the living room. “Look at the both you! All ready for a relaxing night out?”

Trisha was dressed for a night out as well, though her outfit was basically the one Emerald saw her wearing when they first met minus the combat gear and wearing a black leather coat as well.

“Well that's what I am sincerely hoping this will be,” Twilight replied with a worried frown. “This place doesn't seem all that conductive towards having a fun night out with friends.”

“Well I admit most of the NYZ is pretty dangerous at night,” Trisha nodded. “And the kind of ‘fun’ you'd find in most places around here aren’t the kind of things you'd enjoy. But that's why you have me! I know just where to go. It's a nice, quiet, casual little bar in the Green Zone. Most people there are friendly regulars.”

“Well I'll trust you to know best, I guess...” Twilight said, still a little unsure.

“Look at it this way,” Emerald said, comfortingly wrapping an arm around her girlfriend's waist. “Both Trisha and I are more than capable of protecting you from anyone that wants to mess with you.”

“I know, but that happening would kind of ruin the night, wouldn't it?” Twilight said with a strained smile.

“Come on, Twilight,” Trisha said with an encouraging grin. “You can't let fear of what may happen paralyze you! You'll probably have a great time out on the town! And then you'll be asking when we'll be going out next.”

“Let's head out,” Emerald said, squeezing Twilight one more time before letting her go and looking down the hall. “Spike, we'll be back in a few hours! Take care of Navi, okay?”

“No problem!” came Spike's answering call.

“It was nice of you to get them their own TV,” Twilight commented as the three of them made for the door. “I kind of miss all of us spending time together in the living room, however.”

“Simple enough to schedule a game night for everyone,” Emerald replied as she opened the door. “Let's just go check up on Sunset first before leaving the building. See how her date is going.”

“Emerald, you shouldn't tease Sunset for visiting a male friend,” Twilight lectured. “Despite the tension between the two of you, I think she's beginning to like you.”



Emerald, Twilight and Trisha walked through the front door to the bar and found themselves immersed in the building's atmosphere.

Trisha's description of the bar as a casual, friendly, quiet place felt spot on. There was music playing but it was only loud enough for everyone to hear clearly so you didn't have to shout to talk to one another. It wasn’t very crowded, either. Most of the people were either in booths or gathered towards a small stage to the side of the bar. The bar itself only had a small group of three people talking and drinking together.

“So how about we have some drinks to start off?” Trisha said as they walked towards the bar.

“Umm... what kind of drinks?” Twilight asked.

“Twilight's a teetotaler,” Emerald explained. “She tried a light beer before and coughed out a lung. We'll need to find something even weaker for her.”

“Oh that's no problem,” Trisha said as the three sat on some stools. “I know the bartender, he likes to mix drinks.”

“Hello Trisha, brought some friends tonight I see!” a fairly large man greeted cheerfully behind the bar. He gave off a rather grandfatherly air with short, parted white hair and a thick, curly mustache, a pair of circular glasses sitting on his nose. “What will you all be having?”

“My friend and I will just be having a bottle of whatever is your strongest right now,” Trisha said, motioning to Emerald. “But my other friend here needs a bit of a special touch. She hasn't really drunk anything before.”

“I'm fairly certain she doesn't have much of an alcoholic resistance,” Emerald added. “I think your best bet would be to make her something you would give say a child of twelve years old if you were going to give them anything.”

“Hmmm...” The bartender hummed as he pondered Twilight. “I hope you don't mind juice?”

“Not in the least,” Twilight replied with a smile.

“Good, now let's see what we can make...” he muttered before turning around and opening fridges beneath the counter. He planted two bottles of vodka before Emerald and Trisha before gathering a handful of ingredients. “What kind of juice do you like best?”

“Apple,” Twilight answered.

“Hmm... a homemade cider then...” the man muttered as he brought up a carton of apple juice along with bottle of alcohol. He got out five glasses and poured them all mostly full of juice with barely noticeable differences between them. He then added a shot of alcohol to each, right to left, most to least.

“Right, give them a try,” he said after mixing the drinks, waving to the one with the least alcoholic content.

“O-okay,” Twilight said a little nervously, memories of the last time she tried an alcoholic drink fresh in her mind. She grabbed the glass and took a sip. “This... this tastes like apple juice with an odd flavor.”

“Too weak then,” the man said and removed the glass. “Try the others.”

Twilight tried the next in line, getting a thoughtful look on her face after taking a sip and setting it aside. She took the middle drink and raised her brows in surprise after taking a sip. She set that one aside too. She took a drink of the second to last drink and frowned this time, looking a little unsure. With a hesitant motion, she then took the last drink and sipped it, immediately grimacing and giving a cough.

“I think we have a winner!” Trisha smiled , taking a gulp of her bottle.

“This is surprisingly good...” Twilight muttered as she considered the contents of the middle drink. “I didn't think alcohol of all things would have that kind of effect on a drink.”

“Well it can be a bit of an acquired taste at times,” Emerald admitted as some new people entered the bar.

“Oh, it's karaoke night!” Trisha exclaimed with a squeal as a voice started singing somewhat decently from the stage area. “Come on, we should go put on a show!”

“What, me?” Emerald said with some incredulity. “You want me up there singing with you?”

“Yeah, come on, it will be fun!” Trisha said and got off her stool. She walked over to Emerald's seat and started giving her sleeve an insistent tug. “Come on!”

“Aghhh...” Emerald sighed and took a big gulp of her bottle, then looked towards Twilight. “You going to be okay here?”

“Go on!” Twilight smiled at Emerald’s encouraging, her cheeks already turning red. “Go sing! It'll be nice to drink to your voice.”

“...I'll be keeping an eye on you from the stage,” Emerald promised and went with Trisha at yet another insistent tug, though making sure to take her bottle along as she did so.

Emerald and Trisha walked towards the stage. The last singer had just finished his song when some people noticed their approach. Considering the both of them were rather attractive girls the men in the crowd were rather eager to see them up on stage so the both of them got a free pass to the front of the queue.

“So what are we going to sing?” Emerald asked as she held a microphone. Instead of answering, Trisha just gave a cheeky grin over her shoulder at Emerald as she picked a song. Emerald waited a moment for the song's tune to start and near instantly recognized just what song it was. “Seriously?”

“Hehehe.” Trisha gave Emerald another cheeky grin before she started dancing in place to a bunch of whistling and cheering. Eventually the lines of the song started to scroll across the karaoke machine's screen. “This was never the way I planned~ Not my intention~ I got so brave, drink in hand~ Lost my discretion~

It's not what, I'm used to~ Just wanna try you on~ I'm curious for you~ Caught my attention~” Emerald gave a small sigh before adding her voice to the song, and suddenly Trisha elbowed her. She glanced over to the other girl who was still dancing while giving her an encouraging grin.

“Dance!” Trisha said quickly between lines before going back to singing. “I kissed a girl and I liked it~ The taste of her cherry chapstick~ I kissed a girl just to try it~ I hope my boyfriend don't mind it~

“Agh...” Emerald sighed before quickly downing most of her bottle. After that she began to dance as well to everyone's audible enjoyment. “It felt so wrong~ It felt so right~ Don't mean I'm in love tonight~ I kissed a girl and I liked it~ I liked it~

Back at the bar, Twilight was still enjoying her drink, nursing every last drop. A sleepy looking man had taken up a seat next to her but was focused on his drink. Her head was bobbing to the beat of the music and Emerald's singing. Her head was a bit clouded. She never thought such a condition could be enjoyable, but it certainly was here. After almost finishing her drink, she noticed another person had joined her.

“Hey, names Jeffery.” He grinned at her.

“Hi!” Twilight smiled back at him, waving her glass at him. “I'm Twilight!”

“Ah... you must like books,” he said with a neutral tone. “Maybe a certain romance series?”

“Huh?” Twilight blinked. “I do like books but I'm not too much into romance novels. I like history and adventure books in general.”

“Oh, that's great,” Jeffery said with a pleasantly surprised expression. “What books have you been reading recently?”

“Well I've been reading a lot about World War II,” Twilight replied. “I finished most of my reading into that so I've started getting into a lot of fantasy stuff, like Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Oh! And I've just started reading Harry Potter and...”

As she was talking, Twilight set her drink down gingerly to avoid spilling a single drop so she could give Jeffery her full attention, as well as flail her arms with excited abandon some more. When she did so, however, the sleepy man next to her suddenly looked fully alert. Making sure she wasn't looking towards him, he quickly reached out with a hand and opened it over her drink, a tiny object falling into it with a near silent plunk.

“So far I've gotten up to book five and I really hate Umbridge. She is one of the worst- huh?” Twilight tilted her head and noticed a sudden lack of singing. “Oh, are they done already?”

“Who's done?” Jeffery asked and looked over his shoulder, only to see Emerald suddenly standing there.

“Mind if I finish this for you?” Emerald asked and quickly grabbed up Twilight's glass.

“Be my guest!” Twilight said with a smile and turned back to the bar to wave down the bartender. “I'll just get myself some more.”

“Uhhhh...” Jeffery said and couldn't help but look towards the formerly sleepy looking man who could only shrug back at him helplessly. He watched Emerald down the glass, swallowing the contents, and then grew alarmed as she started moving her jaw around like she was holding something in her mouth.

“There are many things that can be added to a drink to make it taste better,” Emerald stated loudly over the music of the bar. “Rohypnol is not one of them.”

“Who the fuck are you accusing of-” Jeffery began angrily. Emerald turned her head to stare down at him coolly.

The instant her attention was on Jeffery, the other man jumped up from his stool and ran at her, intending to clothesline her and make a beeline for the door. Emerald simply leaned back out of the way of his arm. She reached out with an arm and her leg, tripping him up and pushing him forwards, face first into the floor.

Jeffery shot up from his seat and took a swing at Emerald who spun out of the way. She grabbed the wrist of his extended arm and placed another hand at his waist, pushing and pulling with both so that he was instantly off balance and struggling to regain it by waving his other arm. Emerald quickly undid his belt and pulled it away and then let him go so that he stumbled forward and fell.

The other man was up again and turning back towards her. She responded via using the belt as a impromptu flail, smacking him directly on the nose with the buckle. As he covered his face with both hands, she darted in and quickly undid his belt as well before spinning around, delivering a backwards kick with same motion to his groin and crumpling him.

Jeffery was almost back on his feet when a belt buckle smashed into his groin and he bent over in agony. Another buckle came flying to the side of his head and he fell to the floor. Emerald darted over and quickly used one of her belts to hogtie him before turning to the other man on the floor and doing the same. After that was done she took a step back and cleaned off her hands.

Other than the music, silence filled the bar for a long moment.

“Holy shit...” one of the patrons said finally.

The fight didn't even last twenty seconds.

“Wow,” Trisha said as she walked over. “I expected you to do a number on them.”

Emerald raised her brows and looked down at the two men groaning in pain.

“Psssh! You didn't break a single bone,” Trisha waved off. “This is pretty damn restrained, all things considered.”

“Well I remember you telling me you believed I could show the world I'm not evil,” Emerald said. “Figure one of the best ways I can go about it is not horribly mutilating anyone who messes with me... within reason anyway.”

“Well that's one way to go about it...”

Emerald turned back towards the bar. The bartender was currently on the phone, likely talking to Blackwatch dispatch. Twilight... she was facing the bar and happily drinking her new glass of alcoholic apple juice.

“You okay, Twilight?” Emerald asked, placing a hand on her girlfriend's shoulder.

“Never better!” Twilight said with a smile, definitely sounding tipsy now.

“Hmm... well the most important participant of our night out is perfectly happy,” Trisha said with a wry smile, crossing her arms. “Guess we don't have to cut things short?”

“Guess not,” Emerald agreed with a nod. “I should be furious right now, but then again I got to beat them up so I guess I'm good. I'll just drag these two to the corner and we can continue our night.”

Past the crowd of people gawking at what was going on sat a man alone in one of the booths. He wasn't giving what was going on any mind, giving a very believable act of being more concerned with his beer and iPhone. Unbeknownst to even Trisha, this man was actually Sophie.

'Reacted instantly, she's very protective of her,' Sophie noted. 'That's good to know for future reference.'

What just happened was also the result of Sophie's influence. The vengeful Cursor had taken on the appearance of friend to the two men and talked them into attempting to drugging a girl, purely to see how Emerald would react. Sophie felt no remorse for what happened to them. Any man who could be talked into attempting to date rape a girl by someone who was supposed to be a friend deserved whatever punishment he got and more. Overall it was good to know Emerald's caring wasn't faked and if a trap needed bait there was one readily available. Sophie also couldn't help but wonder how much of that care was due to Twilight's appearance.

Focusing her attention on her iPhone, Sophie sent a text that was purely a few attached pictures. Shen then began tapping out a message.

[Got the pictures you wanted] Sophie texted. She didn't have to wait long for a answer.

[Thank you for your cooperation and discretion in this matter] came the reply. [You'll find payment at the agreed upon dead drop]

[I don't care about money. You're after Emerald, right?] Sophie texted, and when she didn't get signs of a reply after a moment, added, [I didn't lose anyone to Blackwatch, the only loss I've experienced was done to me by another Cursor. Emerald. If she is all you are after, I'm willing to do more]

[…] Sophie stared intently for several moments as the 'Typing reply' symbol appeared and disappeared for well over a minute until finally... [Instructions and further contact details shall be included in the payment. This number is a burner, do not attempt to contact it further beyond this point]

[Looking forward to it] Sophie typed back.


Sitting on a bench, Emerald was nervously wringing her hands in the dark.

She was currently sitting in the backstage of the studio where the Daily Show was filmed. Comedy Central had been rather quick to reply to her message, giving her a date for the interview that was surprisingly soon. Emerald figured a number of factors played into the quickness of the date. The fact Jon Stewart was retiring this year, the fact they were the first people to interview her and not some major news network as some choice examples. They didn't even have time to properly advertise the interview, instead relying upon word of mouth on the internet. It turned out to be just as good if not better. The announcement had been retweeted on Twitter and shared on Facebook to oblivion within the hour. Goes to show there was no better way to get something known than to post it online. Course it also had to be interesting enough as well for this method to work.

'They're doing this live and made sure to set aside an especially long time slot to catch everything,' Emerald thought. 'I'm a leader of a nation back home and this treatment is making me feel more like a big deal here than in Equestria.'

It was rather odd. Back in Equis she was someone who changed the political landscape forever thanks to her meat fruit. While carnivore nations did have ties with one another due to their shared need of meat, they were rather flimsy. Meat was always a heavily demanded, vital resource but not one any one nation could gather in great amounts. Competition for this resource got in the way of closer ties and alliances. It was her sudden appearance on the world stage that practically caused a unified faction to form over night, her ability to supply a surplus of meat serving as the high grade glue that held everyone together. And yet despite this it was a TV network giving her preferential treatment, changing up their time slots on short notice that was making her feel like a VIP.

'Guess it goes to show I never completely left this world behind, huh?' Emerald thought with a hum.

“Psst!” Emerald looked up a saw a stage technician waving her over. Clearly her signal to come on stage was soon. She got up off her bench and walked over to the spot where she was just out of view of the cameras. Before her lied the fully lit stage with Jon Stewart himself sitting at his desk.

“Now before we get to the main event of tonight's show, I'd just like to take this opportunity to talk to everyone watching at home right now,” Jon Stewart said, a bit of cheer leaving his voice to make way for seriousness. “The past three years have been rough for the country. They've been hard for everybody. We've seen the return to power of several groups that can be charitably called assholes, we've seen an across the board sharp increase to crime and homelessness for the entire country. And on top of all this, we've still got a whole race, a different species of people, not even on our doorstep but within the house. You might say 'Well Jon, we've already decided how to handle them three years ago, it's old news now.' Well let me be the first to say uh, no, walling up a bunch of people isn't handling the situation.”

Emerald tilted her head as she listened to Jon speak. Sure he was a host for a comedy show, but he was also very intelligent with a mind as sharp as any razor. There was a reason why this man was rated the most trustworthy man in America. And Emerald could tell from the sound of his voice that this was going to be one of those times when he was completely serious and upfront about something.

“Not only that, but we're currently in the middle of the most turbulent time of our nation's history since probably the Civil War,” Jon continued solemnly. “The people we trusted to run the country, to keep safe the livelihoods of ourselves, our friends and our families. They broke that trust and committed acts of outright evil we thought were left behind by the first world over seventy years ago. Now this is treading old ground yet again for the Daily Show, I know, but let me just close off everything I just said with this. No problem ever got solved by doing nothing, and society doesn't get better by applying violence to it. One day, and hopefully one day soon, we all have to sit down and seriously think about how exactly we are going to all live together without one group trying to shove the other in the broom closet under the stairs, saying 'That's your home, live with it.' Because if history has taught us anything, it's this. Normal people just want peace and are willing to put up with a lot to ensure peace, but people will always strive for something better for themselves. The broom closet can do for now, but eventually - eventually - people are going to wonder what it's like to stay in the rest of the house too.”

'Rather good analogy,' Emerald nodded in agreement. 'Broom closet, the NYZ quarantine can't even stop normal people from sneaking in and out let alone someone who can shape shift and can tear apart tanks with their bare hands. But no need to remind people specifically that in the hands of a Cursor they are wet putty.'

“Now I took up enough of your time, please welcome tonight's big guest on the show!” Jon said, waving towards her.

Emerald walked out to some cheering and clapping, notably little compared to the norm. This was quite telling considering the fact studio audiences were paid to applaud and cheer on command. Course it could also be the fact that people were so eager to hear her side of the story they were frozen with anticipation. Unlikely, but possible.

“Emerald Gleaner,” Jon stated with a welcoming smile as she took her seat next to his desk. “This is your first public appearance in five years. How do you feel?”

“Honestly?” Emerald said, forcing herself to stop wringing her hands. “More than a little nervous. I'm not used to being the center of attention for so many people.”

“I can imagine. You were the stealth specialist after all,” Jon stated and Emerald nodded. “Now I'm already saying things way ahead of the 'script' as it were, ahem... let's start from the beginning. Your origins and childhood. From what we here at the studio were able to dig up, you were the sole child of an immigrant from Sweden.”

“Yes, my mother was an immigrant who was able to finance her move over to America from a baking competition she won,” Emerald explained. “From what she had told me it was a fairly big thing back home and had greased the wheels of a number of bureaucratic tape holders in the immigration office. After some packing and preparation, she made the move over. It wasn't long after that she became pregnant with me.”

“Did you know your father in any way?”

“I saw the man once and only once,” Emerald replied. “The way my mother had me was... well you know how it goes. You're in a new place, you don't know anyone, suddenly there is this guy who's super friendly and charming, he says the right things... there was no storybook ending there. Just a bed missing its other occupant and an unexpected little bundle of joy nine months later.”

“Well the reason I asked, and you may or may not know about this, but the very man in question had attempted to claim royalties on several documentaries and other media made about you,” Jon stated, briefly closing his eyes to think on what he knew. “Now by this point the man hunts for you were massive and people were getting really worked up the longer you weren't found. When he came out and announced himself as your father to claim royalty rights to various media featuring you, a lot of people starting claiming he knew where you were. He was kidnapped practically within the day and nearly killed after he ‘refused’ to tell his kidnappers where you were hiding.”

“Tch, typical.” Emerald shook her head. “Course the only time he wants to have anything to do with me is when money is involved. Money for him, anyway. You see the one time I met him was when I was a small child helping out at the front of my mom's bakery. Apparently my mother wasn't the only woman he sneaked out on in the morning. Neither was she the only one who had gotten pregnant. He was having issues with child support and came to my mom to charm some money out of her. When my mom pointed me out as his child he immediately called her a liar and started saying how she wasn't getting a single penny from him. Course mom didn't like that, she punched him and he fell unconscious for a couple minutes before running off.”

“Sounds like she was rather protective of you,” Jon commented.

“Mom... she was the best,” Emerald said, growing melancholy. “She honestly didn't feel any resent towards the man who was supposed to be my father. She felt that by having me she had gotten more out of the one night than he ever did.”

“I have some more information about him if you want to know?” Jon said, waving to some papers on his desk.

“I don't care about him.” Emerald said with a shake of her head. “As far as I'm concerned, I only had one parent. What's your next question?”

“So, the first outbreak,” Jon said. “From what little documentation there was, you spent a short amount of time in a refugee hospital before disappearing.”

“The first outbreak... mom and I nearly managed to spend the entire thing safely tucked away in the second floor of the bakery,” Emerald said as she recalled memories. “Then a firefight broke out in the street outside and forced us to leave. We got caught in the middle of a battle between the marines and the infected. I survived but my mom didn't. I spent a couple days ducking into buildings carrying my mother's own corpse looking for somewhere to bury her before finally managing it. I wandered aimlessly for a while before managing to find the main marine base and being taken in. As for why I disappeared soon after? Well I started noticing some people were being taken away for treatment but would never appear again. I decided I didn't survive my own mother's death only to just get disappeared by some shady doctors, so I ran away.”

“Not a lot of info about things on Manhattan in general after the first outbreak,” Jon stated. “But from what is said, I can imagine surviving in Manhattan wasn't easy for a teenager.”

“I spent most of my time squatting in abandoned apartments, eating cold canned food and getting water from what little water piping still worked,” Emerald stated. “It was a survivable but unpleasant experience. It was only when winter arrived that I nearly died. I spent most of winter bundled up in as many blankets and clothes as possible and sitting on canned food to keep them from freezing. I spent the next year finding somewhere to spent the next winter, then collecting enough food for winter, then enough water. I can't express the sheer fear in my heart when I saw the leaves start to turn orange in fall...”

“This is where we're getting back into things we have info about again, but I have to say,” Jon said with a somber, sympathetic expression. “You went through so much before even meeting Alex Mercer.”

“It doesn't excuse a thing.” Emerald simply stated.

“Excuse, probably not,” Jon nodded. “But it does explain some things. Now moving on. Thanks to James Heller, we actually know a lot about Alex Mercer's day to day operations. But what I'm interested in here is getting some details about certain things cleared up.”

“Okay,” Emerald said, frowning and sitting up in her seat straight.

“Now from what we know, Alex Mercer had purposefully gone out of his way to recruit psychopaths as his enforcers,” Jon said. “And that out of all of them, you were the only one that wasn't actually personally chosen by him to enter the Cadre. You had actually been eaten by one of the Cadre members but had somehow turned the tables around on that member and killed him. Alex Mercer in a bit of a combination of respect for surviving and spite for killing one of his elites, then started sending you out on missions straight away.”

“Okay, so this is about the missions?” Emerald asked, pursing her lips into thin line. “What did you want to know?”

“Nothing specific, don't you worry about that,” Jon said placatingly. “I've just been noticing something interesting. Compared to whenever one of the other Cadre went on a mission, yours always lacked any sort of body count. Why is that?”

“The other Cadre... they were psychos, they loved the power their new bodies gave them and loved how easily normal humans seemed to come apart in their hands,” Emerald said, lowering her eyes. “I never saw the point. What was the point in not only going after everyone around your target but in causing as much destruction as possible? I mean sure Mercer controlled Blackwatch basically but surely things would be easier in general if we kept body counts low? But nope, I was always the minority in this. Eventually my tendency to just do my mission and nothing else ended up getting me more and more important work. I was the one that handled all the important stuff, the one that could be counted on to not tear apart an entire building in the process of getting after one single person. In a way I think I was just as bad as the others despite this tendency to keep death rates low. The others killed out of passion, they enjoyed every moment of carnage. I didn't care... I didn't care who I was after, I just did as I was told. I did my job, went back, got a target, rinse and repeat.”

“I think you are selling yourself a bit short there,” Jon said seriously.

“What?” Emerald said a bit incredulously. “You mean the fact that out of a group of viscious killers, I was the only one who killed least and didn't take any pleasure in it? Yep, I was the least murderous alright... yay...”

“Okay, it still sounds really, incredibly bad,” Jon nodded but continued. “But let me ask you this. If, say, at some point during all that your conscious became a little too loud and you listened to it and refused to do a mission, what would have happened?”

“Well... I...” Emerald began a little hesitantly. “I would have been killed, no ifs or buts there. But the mission would still have needed to be done and in my place another Cadre would have been sent.”

“And I think we both know how that would have turned out,” Jon said and raised a hand when Emerald opened her mouth to speak. “I know, it doesn't excuse anything. But it does explain some things.”

“Hn, your next question?” Emerald huffed lightly but moved on.

“So from Gabriel's testimony, we know that in the end you turned on Alex Mercer,” Jon stated. “You knew about their plans to betray him but agreed to keep it a secret provided Alex Mercer died in the end. Was there anything else you had done to sabotage Alex Mercer without his knowing?”

“Just one other thing,” Emerald answered. “I had actually found out pretty early on that James Heller had turned on him just after entering the Green Zone. I could have gone to Mercer right away with this info, but I didn't. Instead I volunteered to reestablish control in the Yellow Zone after Heller tore through it. By the time Mercer found out Heller wasn't on his side anymore, Heller was too strong to kill on the spot anymore.”

“So ultimately it was thanks to you that Alex Mercer was stopped in the first place,” Jon said in surprise.

“Maybe. Possibly James Heller could have managed to survive long enough to reach the same result,” Emerald shrugged. “He was fairly strong compared to the others right from the beginning. Plus he never needed to be handed powers and abilities. I like to believe that I merely made an eventual outcome easier to achieve.”

“And after that outcome you followed through on your agreement with Gabriel,” Jon stated. “What happened next is the big question that everyone got so worked up. Where did you go?”

“Well as much as I'd like to go into detail on that, I can't,” Emerald replied and leaned back. “It's less that I have something to hide and more I have a whole lot to protect now.”

“I can imagine a lot of people would be more than willing to blame the community you found a home in for sheltering you,” Jon said with a nod. “Even if it was done so unknowingly.”

“Yeah, though honestly even if I told you exactly where it was I'd think it would still be rather safe,” Emerald stated. “It's a bit awkward to enter and leave to say the least. Not much in the way of modern tech either.”

“So is there anything at all you are willing to share about your life back home?”

“Well for one... I'm just going to be honest here and say I never really intended to settle down the way I ended up doing,” Emerald said with a sigh. “The place was just a long term hideout to me. I even had some plans in place to disrupt the lives of those around me to make it easier to hide.”

“But in the end you did settle down,” Jon pointed out. “You have a girlfriend and from the looks of things, several children in your care.”

“Yeah, quite the family I ended up having, huh?” Emerald couldn't help but smile genuinely and brightly at that. “So, life in Ponyville. It wasn't as quiet as I thought it would be. I mean you'd be shocked at how much weirdness the town attracted on a daily bases, not to mention the drama. But at the same time it was a fairly simple life. Everyone knew everyone and all our food was grown locally. I ended getting several very close friends, one of whom became my girlfriend.”

“What about Navi and Spike?” Jon asked. “How did you end up taking care of them?”

“Spike was basically Twilight's adopted brother,” Emerald answered. “He was there before I was, but Navi? I don't really... it's hard to explain but I was there the day Navi was born, the very minute. And then I found myself being her caretaker. Despite how heartless it may sound, I never really cared too much for her initially. For me, looking after her... she was only a few steps above a needy pet in my eyes. But as time went on, as the days passed, she just grew on me. I found myself caring about her emotional well being as well as physical. The next thing I knew, she was calling me mama and... it felt so right even though some part of me couldn't believe it. Me? A child's parent? But there it was, and I wouldn't have it any other way.”

“Yeah, a family can really change you, can’t it?” Jon said, fondly thinking of his own family before shaking his head. “So, continuing with the interview. Eventually you left your home with family in tow to chase down a thief who had stolen something valuable.”

“Yeah. I kind of regret bringing them along now, but if I couldn't keep them safe, who could?” Emerald said with a sigh before her expression brightened. “I did eventually track down the thief, though.”

“You did?” Jon said in some surprise. “How did that go?”

“Surprisingly well,” Emerald said. “She had gotten into a bit of trouble when I tracked her down. I brought her back to the apartment and after some tension we put bad blood behind us, she's staying with us now.”

“Speaking of which, how is the family taking being out in the world?”

“Everything is new to them but also rather frightening,” Emerald said honestly. “When you come from a society where the worst you have to deal with are animals and the occasional thief, the grim reality of things can be a bit much. They all want to go home, but that can't really happen now can it, since I'm explicitly told to remain behind the quarantine walls.”

“I imagine you could work something out with Blackwatch,” Jon suggested. “Maybe tell them where Ponyville is and they set up a small outpost of some sort so people know they are keeping an eye on things.”

“It's an idea,” Emerald just shrugged. “Hopefully it doesn't come to that.”

“Now, moving to more lighthearted topics,” Jon said and brought up some papers he quickly straightened out and looked over. “Batman in the NYZ! What do you think about having the caped crusader himself in the city?”

“A guy dresses up like a bat?” Emerald said with a raised brow. “Clearly has issues.”

Jon opened his mouth to respond and paused a moment, tilting his head at Emerald before grinning and giving a little chuckle.

“I'll take that as your complete opinion on the matter.” Jon chuckled and continued on. “Movie references aside...”

Emerald leaned back and crossed her legs, relaxing as Jon Stewart moved on to more non-serious topics far apart from questions on her past. She honestly didn't think she'd ever come to find herself enjoying an interview, but clearly Jon Stewart was the man for the job. She was definitely going to get his autograph when this was over.


Emerald kneeled down upon the surface of a roof. She was looking down at a modified iPad browsing Blackwatch's criminal reports.

It had been a whole day since the interview and like anything at all involving her, the online response was more than a little explosive. A surprising amount of people were taking the interview rather positively, though Emerald honestly found the blatant pity of some them insulting, and had decided they were going to treat Emerald like any other person. Just as many people however were still very guarded and suspicious of her, a sentiment she could honestly understand and tolerate, with a very loud minority proclaiming how she was pulling the wool over everyone's eyes. It was at that point that Emerald had naively followed a random link and found porn of herself someone was sharing, so she had called it a day and decided to do other things, like her hobby for instance.

Yeah, Emerald was still going out as Batman but the virus had decided she couldn't spend the time going after normal, near harmless crooks. Sure they were still causing harm but her leaping out of the shadows breaking all the limbs of people pushed to desperation would only make a bad situation worse. So she had resolved to just hunt down the actual “predators” as it were. Murderers, rapists, kidnappers and the like. She would still not kill anyone, though. Had to remain in character after all... as much as it irritated her.

Emerald's musings came to a pause as a new report was suddenly added to the crime database. She was reading through several details, type of vehicle the kidnappers used, details of the kidnappers themselves. She was calmly going through all of this when the picture of the victim in question was posted to the file. Suddenly she froze for several moments before she teleported away quite abruptly.

An instant later, Emerald arrived at a location that was as close as possible to the scene of the crime which was in the Green Zone. She quickly ascended back to the rooftops and started bounding across them to reach her destination. She had barely bothered to maintain a believable pace and was at the scene within a minute. Offhandedly she noticed a Blackwatch patrol car parked outside an upscale looking townhouse before she leaped down onto the street.

Emerald set to work immediately. She started going through scent trails, all of which were still fairly strong. The kidnappers had been described as all male so it was easy to pick out the one scent that belonged to a female. However the scent then got fairly weak soon after, a mark of the fact the victim had been pulled into a van. She could still follow it, that was absolutely certain, but she'd be a bit slower at it then she'd like. That was unacceptable to Emerald currently, and she began going through her other options. After considering a few ideas briefly, she came to a conclusion she did have one sense that could potentially allow her to follow the kidnappers' trail at high speeds.

The virus tapped into her Changelings senses. She was briefly awash with emotions but quickly refined her senses down to a smaller area. She felt a great deal of nervousness and anxiety in the air, but the way these came from up the street before going down clearly marked them as the kidnappers' emotions. Digging through the miasma of negative emotions for something else, she soon found it. A tightly wound wire of shock, anger and fear. It was the one, she knew it.

It was then that Emerald realized that she had been so intent upon picking up the trail she failed to notice two people leaving the townhouse and standing nearby. One of the people was a Blackwatch soldier without his helmet, the other was a woman. The woman had fair skin, a head of thick, long blond hair that easily reached past her shoulders and bright blue eyes. She was wearing a casual outfit that was still rather formal looking.

“You're going to go look for her, right?” the woman said stiffly, a look of intense worry clear in her eyes.

“I have her trail,” Emerald answered in her batman voice and turned towards the woman to look her in the eyes. “I will bring her home.”

“I...” The woman seemed  to stumble mentally for a moment at the sheer intensity of Emerald's eyes and the certainty in her voice. “Thank you, just... please bring her home as soon as possible.”

“...” Emerald nodded silently and looked to the Blackwatch soldier who was looking rather bemused at the moment. “Call headquarters, tell them to be ready. I'll be forwarding the location of the hideout to them as soon as I find it. I will handle extracting the hostage.”

“Now just a-” the soldier began, pulling out an iPhone looking device when he was suddenly frozen in place by Emerald's glare at him not instantly obeying. “Right, right! Gotcha, messaging HQ now...”

Emerald pulled out her grapple and ascended back to the rooftops, the voice of the grunt drifting after her.

“Yep, he definitely has the act down to a fine art...”

Emerald spent the next several minutes following the trail. She didn't expect to be following the thin wire of alarmed emotions for long. All the water traffic was strictly controlled by Blackwatch so smuggling a kidnapped girl wouldn't be something done on the spot. She guessed kidnappers had a safe house on the island. It was only after crossing over a parking lot where the van had clearly been dumped and following the trail further that her assumption was proven correct.

There weren't that many abandoned buildings in the Green Zone since it was an upper class area of the NYZ. However, the presence of the quarantine walls killed pretty much all industry in the NYZ. The industrial buildings in the Green Zone were the sole victims of the quarantine while the others struggled but persisted. The building she had tracked the kidnappers to was an office building belonging to a greater industrial complex full of rusting containers. The building had no obvious signs of habitation, the doors were closed tight and the windows dark.

The virus reached out with her senses. She could see six people gathered in the inner rooms of the office building. Four of them were together while two others were apart from the group somewhat. Considering one was obviously tied up on the floor and the other was standing guard outside their room, it was clear who these two were.

Emerald took a moment to send a data packet off to Blackwatch with the hideout's location before planning her incursion. She was inclined to simply take out the guard and quickly ambush the other men in the group but what she dearly wanted was to rescue the prisoner. Starting a fight near her and putting her in danger was repulsive, even if realistically the chance of that happening was extremely unlikely.

'Smash and grab, then,' Emerald thought and glided down towards several broken windows. 'I'll set up an escape route and get her out.'

Emerald softly moved through the darkened hallways. She found a patch of bare, thin walls and placed a line of explosive gel on it. She did this for one other patch of wall just on the other side of the first before sneakily making her way to the room the girl was held in. As she did this she could hear the group of men gathered together whispering to one another.

“God damn it...” one said with barely restrained frustration.

“What is it?” asked another.

“I managed to find the girl we picked up,” the first one muttered.

“She loaded like the boss man said?” asked the second.

“No! Well kinda, but her folks sure as hell can't afford what we're asking for,” answered the first. “Hell, their facebook page has them showing off the house they're getting outside the NYZ. It's like half the damn size of the one they got in the Green Zone.”

“Fuuuuuuuck...” said a new voice, panic clear in their voice. “God fucking damn it, man! If we ain't getting big money, there's no point man!”

“He's got a point,” the second voice said. “We ain't got no colored girl tied up back there. This is a pretty white girl. Family she from might not be rich, but they still have a house on Staten.”

“I'm going to talk to the boss,” the first voice said. “It's still early. We can just dump her out on the street somewhere and lie low for a while.”

As Emerald reached the final wall between the girl and her, she frowned as she saw the man walking away through her senses. The layout of the area through Emerald's sense showed the other men sitting in a break room. The room the girl was held in was well within eyesight being just down the hall from it with the guard standing in the door frame. But the man hadn't gone towards the one other kidnapper away from the group, the guard in the door. Instead, he walked towards a room, an empty room.

'Did the boss pull a runner?' Emerald thought with a frown as she placed the final line of gel, just out of sight from the men. 'Hmm... it doesn't matter, let's get her out of here.'

Emerald crouched near the wall corner and studied the position of each man in the building. When she heard a door open, followed moments later by incredulous cursing she moved. Darting around the corner she quickly leapt for the man in the doorway, he was looking away from her and towards the break room so he didn't see her coming when she smashed his face into the opposing frame of the door. Gripping hold of his arm, she began to make an over the shoulder toss but at the same time activated a smoke bomb and placed it inside his jacket. She sent him flying down the hall at the alarmed kidnappers where he crashed into their table and was soon obscured by a sudden cloud of smoke.

The virus darted into the room, dove at the form of a tied up girl on the floor and gathered her up in her arms. Turning away from the tagged wall she made sure the girl was properly shielded before triggering the explosives. There were several loud booms, the rush of air and heat and flying debris impacting her back. Emerald made sure to wait just long enough for the worst to pass before quickly sprinting into the dust clouds. By the time the kidnappers collected themselves to run for the room their captive had been in, Emerald had already leapt through the window and grappled to the nearest roof.

As the shape of Batman shooting through the air via a grapple briefly appeared, in the far distance in the shadows of a window two eyes glittered in the dark for a moment before a face was dimly illuminated by a phone screen.

Emerald and the now former captive finally came to a stop on a rooftop several blocks away from the kidnappers' hideout. In the distance, the sound of chopper blades filled the air as helicopters began swarming towards the site. She quickly set the girl down and rapidly undid the ropes around her hands and feet.

“Puah!” the girl gasped out as she ripped the tape off from around her mouth the instant her hands were free.

She was wearing a pair of sneakers along with tight jeans and a large black hoodie with a Jurassic Park like icon on the front but with some dragon like image instead of a skeleton on the front, along with the words “useless reptile”. She had fairly pale skin and long, straight black hair that easily reached to the middle of her back. Finally and most importantly...

She looked exactly like Twilight...

“Y-you know, as awesome as it is to get saved by Batman and all,” she said as she began to stand up, brushing herself off as she did so. “I really would have preferred it if it was The Doc-”

“Coffee Girl.”

The girl suddenly stood up straight and turned to face Emerald with wide, surprised eyes, taking in Emerald now standing in her human form, his true human form to be exact.

“Doughnut Boy?” she muttered quietly.


Luxury calmly went about lighting several of her scented candles in preparation for the arrival of her guest.

She was in her personal study at the moment, the light of a homely fireplace filling the space. It was quite the decadent space. The floor was hardwood stained oak, the walls were covered in an expensive ruby red woven wallpaper covered in intricate designs. In the corners of the room were bookcases completely filled in many hard cover novels, giving the room itself an octagonal shape. Dominating the center of the room was a pair of armchairs and between them a loveseat. In all honestly, Luxury was hoping that seat would very much be living up to it's name.

'Is it unladylike to pursue instead of being pursued?' Luxury thought to herself. 'I find myself uncaring if that is the case. I know what I want and I shall try for it with all of my heart and soul.'

“Hello!” called a voice. “Luxury, are you home?

“I'm in the study, darling!” Luxury called back before quickly getting the tea in order and straightening out her fluffy pink housecoat.

Luxury's heart skipped a beat when her guest entered the study. It was rather odd in a way, since they were close friends and so comfortable around one another yet Luxury's secret intentions for her friend made her nervous of her. Said friend was called Rough Diamonds, Roo to her friends, a unicorn mare with a coat white as snow, rich gold blonde hair with a light pink streak in it and light blue eyes. She was also covered in scars with one prominent one crossed over one of her beautiful eyes. This fact about Roo caused a bit of strife in Luxury. She used to think scars only made one thuggish and ugly in looks, yet Roo was covered in them and Luxury could not help but be... captivated. What story could be told with each scar? That such a beautiful and cheerful mare could bare all her marks to the world with nary a care?

“What?” Roo said and briefly went cross eyed as she attempted to examine herself. “Do I have something on my face?

“Oh there is nothing wrong with your face darling, nothing at all,” Luxury said and patted the seat next to her. “Come, join me.”

“I do like hanging out with you, Luxury,” Roo said happily as she settled into her seat. “I feel so classy around you, even though I'm not.”

“While it is true you are outwardly out of place in an upscale crowd, you have more going for you than you give yourself credit, darling,” Luxury said, smiling softly at Roo. “So much more...”

“Oh, that means so much coming from you, Luxury,” Roo said, looking down towards the floor in some slight shame. “I mean I know how I look. I probably would be lucky to be compared to a broken vase glued back together.”

“Don't you call yourself that!” Luxury said in an affronted tone suddenly, finding herself lunging at Roo and placing her hooves on the others shoulders and bringing her face close to hers. “You are the most beautiful, exotic mare I've ever seen, Roo.”

“W-what?” Roo said with wide eyes at Luxury's words.

Luxury almost quailed at the forwardness of her actions but also realized if she was going to show her emotions to the other mare, there was one singular perfect way to do so right now. She closed her eyes and slowly closed the distance between her face and Roo's. Roo gave a great gasp of surprise at Luxury's actions but to the classy mare's delight she didn't try to pull away. Inch by inch Luxury neared the other mare. To her the seconds seemed to stretch into minutes before finally they met.

A small, light kiss on the lips and they quickly parted.

Luxury opened her eyes and her heart soared at the expression on the other mare's face; a blush and a growing, shy smile. Taking advantage of the mood and her great experience in romance from reading her many romantic novels, Luxury quickly got out her hoof written love poems and began to-

Moonlight Dancer, with a deep exhale, placed the papers she was reading back down.

“So...” Diane said nervously. “How was it?”

“It's very... salacious,” Moondancer said with blushing cheeks.

“But is it good?” Diane asked urgently. “Is it nice to read?”

“It's...” Dancer began hesitantly, feeling embarrassed. “Well... yes...”

“Oh yay!” Diane said happily, hopping in place excitedly.

Unbeknownst to the two, Diane's cutiemark changed yet again but also what would be for the final time. The three paintings merged together into one larger one and within that large picture frame was the image of an unfurled parchment. Beside the parchment was also a quill and an ink well, ready to be used.

Within the depths of the Hub in one of the many training chambers of the Warhounds stood a group of over a hundred Direwolves, wearing their new armor adjusted to their new bodies. They stood stock still and standing at attention as Belvedere the Regent Boss of the Enclave stalked back and forth in front of them.

“The day of the portal reopening will soon be upon us,” Belvedere stated. “I fully expect by now that Emerald Gleaner has fully taken advantage of this time to ensure she can make it back this time. However, there is no harm in ensuring her return.”

“When the portal opens, all of you shall enter the portal yourselves,” Belvedere continued, coming to a sudden stop and staring evenly at each Direwolf. “If all goes well, then you should come face to face with Emerald on the other side. If not, however... then you are hereby given leave to act as you see fit. Your sole objective is the return of Emerald Gleaner. How this happens is completely up to your discretion. Am I clear?”

“Yes, Boss!” the Direwolves barked out as one.

“Good, continue your training. Dismissed.”