Kneeling down to get a closer look at the body of the late Dr. Sprinkles, Nightwatch drew back the white sheet that covered her body. Wincing slightly, he wasn’t sure of the weapon used but he was entirely sure it wasn’t anything conventional. As the area was roped off by one of the on scene officers, he stood back up and turned to hear the soft sound of rock music entering his ears. Turning towards the source, he heard the music shut off and a CSI technician in a lab coat walk through the yellow tape with a suitcase in her left hand.
“Zest. You got here fast.” Nightwatch said before turning to look down at the body, the flashing of police lights flickering into the alley on occasion. “This one’s unusual.”
Hanging her headphones around her neck, Lemon Zest knelt down near the body, setting her case next to her and pulling on rubber gloves. “Most of the time, unusual is the new norm.” She said with her voice being a bit raspy. While looking over the body and pulling the sheet back, she showed little emotion to the state of the cadaver. “What do we have here, Captain isn’t it now?” she turned her head to look up at Nightwatch. “Heard you're in line to be some sort of Hero slash Cop.”
“Don’t remind me.” He sighed while rubbing his orange toned hair back in frustration. “What can you tell me about our unfortunate hero?” he folded his arms, looking down with her.
“Well,” Lemon put on a pair of safety glasses and began to look closer at the chest wounds. “She’s dead.” She said in a deadpan voice.
“That's why we love CSI, always the break we need.” Nightwatch rubbed his temple. “What killed her? Gang member take advantage of the chaos? We didn’t even notice her until we started cleaning up the area.”
Lemon remained silent as she worked despite his question, finally shaking her head and motioning him to kneel down. She pointed to the chest with a small laser pointer and circled around the massive wounds. “Nope. These aren’t standard ballistics exit wounds no matter how you cut it…” she paused briefly then continued. “These are magic based blunt force trauma exit wounds. Nasty ones too.” She took out a small camera and took a picture of the body and various highlighted areas she’d be noting. “If I had to guess, which I am, I’d say this is a meta on meta death.” She finished. “Based on what I saw in the street, these don’t match immediately to anything we saw there.”
Nightwatch stood back up. “Neither one of the players in the street did this then.” He repeated while nodding to her. “Match any one we know?”
“Take a while to run pattern and sample traces. I’ll let you know.” Zest turned back to her work. “Not bad for your first day as Hero Cop. A fruitcake of a villain and one dead hero.” She snickered and kept working.
“Yeah, tell me about it. Just copy me on the report.” Night said frustrated as he walked off, ducking under the caution tape and to the main street. He motioned off to the attending officers to move in and complete their sweep of the area. He checked his watch and a few more glances around told him if this area was secure enough, he could go find a bite to eat while the lab worked on the area.
Pinkie Pie walked in from the modest kitchen of her cramped apartment, her hands filled with a precariously balanced tower of snack foods of several varieties. Snack cakes, bags of chips, a tin of cupcakes with pink frosting and a plate with a large slice of chocolate cake finished her stockpile of goodies. Almost losing them all, she recovered and sat down quickly at her couch, her TV blaring as a new commercial came on.
“Don’t forget to come on down to the Equestrian City Museum of Wonder this week. Why? Because for only two more weeks the Everfree Collection is on display! Discovered during an excavation of the now defunct mountain mines of the Everfree Forest, the crown jewels of the collection, The Seven Gems of Wealth! They will take your breath away!“
“Ugh, boring!” Pinkie said before taking a rather generous bite out of her cake and chewing rapidly. “Where’s my show?!” a few stray crumbs fell from her mouth, only to be caught by her free hand and scooped into her mouth at a fast pace. Picking up her smartphone she pulled up a social feed, “Twitcher” and logged into her account. “Ugh. Too many...commercials. Need more hashtag...Total Wasteland...and send!!”
As she sent her update, the laptop that was sitting on her coffee table popped to life, as if on a timer, and loaded a video chat program with three other windows opening and trying to connect. The first to pop open was one labeled “Minnie” and was lit up with a small green light at the bottom, followed by the image of a darker blue female. Her bubbly smile matched Pinkie’s own as she adjusted the web camera and spoke.
“Oh. Em. Gee! Pinkie, are you totally excited for this week’s episode or what?” Minuette asked, an almost uncanny grin spread across her face.
Pinkie nodded rapidly and swallowed a huge chunk of cake. “Are you kidding?! I totally can’t wait to find out if Raven’s pregnant! Chris totally needs to get over Sally and get with an actual real life person and not some synth!” Pinkie sprouted off as two more pictures popped up on the screen. The first was labeled “NotSoSugary”, with an image of Sugarcoat appearing.
“That's completely not possible as his inability to get over the loss of his previous life is the driving force behind the entire drama of the show, the resulting loss would leave the current watchers upset.” She said with a deadpan tone in her voice as per usual. “Hi.” She added with a small wave to the camera.
“Hi!” Pinkie waved back with the last window fizzling. “Ah bummer, just us tonight, but that's more than enough! Ok, so I totally watched the last episode like two hours ago, and I’m totally blown away! Not only is Raven like, knocked up, but Sally’s latest body burned out midway through their heart to heart! Her CPU just up and kabloom! Where’s he going to get a replacement? The Institute said no more resources for at least a year!”
Before any of them could answer, the TV fizzled and a news caster appeared on screen. “We interupt Total Wasteland for an important city update. A meta human warning has been issued for the following sections of the city. If you are in these areas and notice a disturbance, notify E.C.P.D. immediately and seek shelter in a fortified structure until the all clear is issued. J.U.S.T.I.C.E and E.C.P.D. are on sight attempting to pacify the situation!”
“Aw, I hope everyone’s ok.” Minuette said with concern overtaking her happy expression.
“Where’s it at this time?” Sugarcoat asked with little if no emotion as always.
“Looks like, 12th and Buttercup. That's way out there.” Minuette said, typing in the background. “Looks like E.C.P.D. and...some...new mecha girl were on the scene. Ohh...she’s flashy looking.” She peered at another screen off to her left. “Should be over soon.”
Pinkie was quiet, listening to the information and nodding before looking to the window, then back to the television, and then to the computer. She nodded at her friends and smiled.
“So there was this awful thread on the boards I just had to chime in on! They were saying that since Total Wasteland started out as a fanfiction based on a roleplay set in a different show, the entire concept was tainted.” Minuette started typing as she spoke. “You know, because fanfiction almost always is just wish fulfilment on the part of the writer.“
“It started out as an alternate universe tag, duh!” Pinkie responded, cracking open a soda. “It wasn't meant as canon.”
“It still doesn't look good for the foundation if the fanfiction was tagged as AU. Mainly because that tag is used by writers who simply want wish fulfilment and have no real intent to further the story or message of the original show.” Sugarcoat responded, adjusting her glasses. “Most of the time in those fanfictions, a chapter is spent explaining the world and then they introduce a fan made character that hooks up with whomever they are attracted to based solely on their limited portrayal.”
“Yeah but it's entirely possible to have an alternative timeline and make the world that much more rich. Remember the show before was limited by its time slot and perceived audience being mainly aimed towards younger males, 16 to 25.” Minuette retorted while tilting her head cheerily.
“Guys, guys! It’s starting!” Pinkie interupted them, turning to the television screen in front of her and moving the computer screen askew from her vision. The back of her mind rattled a bit as she wanted to skip out and see just what was going on with the meta problem. But then another more aggressive part of her thoughts wanted to see if Chris was going to be able to determine what was wrong with the last round of pregnancies on her show.
She deserved a day off every now and then too. What's the worst that could happen?
Twilight’s eyes glanced left and right, desperately looking for a landing site as her reserve power meter ticked dangerously low. Several alarms and blinking icons on her HUD along with Spike’s warnings weren’t making it any easier to concentrate. The top of a nearby building became her only refuge. Locked into her flight path, Spike disappeared from her HUD as power saving modes kicked in.
“Oh this isn’t going to be fun!” she shouted with her hands coming up as she sailed headfirst into a brick wall, shattering it effortlessly. Grunting from the rough landing, she heard the sounds of pottery cracking and windows breaking while dust was kicked up into her field of vision. Twilight rolled herself onto her back, causing the metal on her suit to scuff and echo off the concrete roof.
“Twilight!” Spike said, his voice crackling in her earpiece. “I’ve lost uplink, are you ok?!”
Twilight coughed inside her suit, sitting up slowly and checking herself over with the power reserve warning still blinking in her field of vision. “I’m almost out of power, Spike. Where am I? I can’t be found like this.” She finished saying with her words heard only inside her mask thanks to the privacy filter. While standing up she felt the ache and pain of such a rough landing setting in. “And I’m pretty sure I may have broke…something.”
“What?! I can send help...” Spike began.
“Just find me a path out of here before I’m inside a metal suitcase, Spike. We can worry about that later.” She responded while scanning the sky for landmarks. “I think I’m almost back to the building, the skyline looks familiar and I see…” she peered out for a moment in her helmet. “There...I see the main building. I’m going to calculate a flight path. I need you to double check it.”
Several statistics flashed across her HUD, the flight plan organizing quickly. Taking into account all the obstacles and possible wind directional issues, the arching arrow in her field of vision flickered and another power warning came across the screen. “Actually, hold that thought Spike, just figure out a way for me to get back into the building from Rarity’s helipad unseen. No time or power to double check.”
Twilight braced herself, her body aiming itself into the direction her flight computer gave her. A final warning about her power cells was dismissed as she fired the repulsors in her boots, the lift being almost instant. Before she could be noticed by many at all, her experimental armor took to the sky again with her arms to her sides to prevent as much drag as possible. Turning and spinning, the main headquarters of Rare Innovations came into her eyesight. As the stylish diamond symbol and the fancy uppercase “R” growing in size, a smile started to appear on her face. Quickly it faded to a surprised expression as the power cells gave out and her entire HUD went dark. The jets in her boots finally cut out after two sputters, coughing like an exhausted mule. The horizon began to tilt slightly and then rapidly as she realized she was essentially a dead stick and falling towards the helipad on the building’s south side.
“Oh...noooo!” she shouted inside her helmet, muffled and in vain, her arms and legs flailing as the ground approached faster and faster. The fear washed through her and quickly her thoughts focused on never seeing home again. She called out Celestia’s name for help and then as her intellect stabilized, she formulated a plan. Twilight’s mind raced as the giant icon of Rarity’s vanity closed in on her vision. The type of material she built the suit out of, the stress tests of the metal, everything was rushing through her mind. She suddenly narrowed her eyes and came to a conclusion. Repositioning herself to fall into a three-point stance which connected with a loud metallic ‘thud’, cracking the concrete of the helipad as all her kinetic energy transferred properly.
“Whew. Thankfully I didn’t use the cheap stuff.” She said to herself. Standing up her body reminded her that she was still in pain from the beating from the villain in the street. Wobbling a bit she made her way to the elevator on the roof, the unassisted suit was now more of a burden than anything as she did. “Oh this is not graceful without power.” She mumbled to herself before falling forward into the wall shortly before the elevator doors opened next to her with a silent chime.
Twilight turned to look inside, worried a security guard had heard her and half wondering why no one was assigned to the roof to begin with. She blinked and noticed it was empty. Spike’s icon appearing on the LCD panel of the elevator, though no sound meant all he could do was let her know he was responsible for it all. Looking to the floor she sighed in relief and picked up a spare power cell. She popped open one of the three compartments, pulled out the spent energy cell, and loaded in the replacement before closing the compartment. “Thanks Spike.” She said with her systems rebooting rapidly and the battery indicator reading “20 percent” in the upper right corner.
“I sent the guards on a wild goose chase for the moment, no need to worry about being seen.” A text message came across her HUD, Spike’s digital icon at the end of it.
“Thanks again.” She said quietly to herself. “I forgot how much I missed you.”
“I live to serve.” Spike said in her earpiece, the communications relinking her along with everything else. “Well, technically I’m not alive anymore but hey, it’s the thought that counts, right?”
Twilight smiled to herself as she walked into the elevator, holding the depleted power cell and nodding while looking at it. There was a level of familiarity he brought to her, something she hadn’t felt in a long time since she had been stranded in this dimension. It was comforting, since he was really the only link she had to her old life. Well, one of two, but the other one had vanished. “It sure does, Spike. It sure does.” The doors closed and began to bring her down to the lab.
Sunset Shimmer nearly tripped as she rounded the corner, her work shoes not giving her the traction her costume’s did. Rounding another corner, she lept over a trash can that had been overturned and slowed herself down, smoothing out her apron and adjusting her nametag. Stopping just short of the entrance, she took a deep breath and slowed down her breathing altogether to compose herself. Pushing open the door, she calmly entered to the small jingle of a bell sounding above her.
“Sorry I’m late, traffic.” She said while waving towards Daisy who was not very happy at how tardy her relief was.
“I’m sure. Place is empty so I’ve been here for an hour waiting for you, Becky.” She said with a sigh as her pale lime green hair was frazzled, indicating it clearly had been a long night. “But it’s all yours, Earl’s having a smoke out back. Later.” She handed her order pad to Sunset before putting her jacket on as she finished. “There’s been another meta human problem on the news, expect your little friend to come in, Nightwish, no doubt.”
The door chimed and Daisy left Sunset alone as she straightened her hair a bit. Walking behind the counter and turning the television on, she kept it low. “Nightwatch, his name is Nightwatch.” She leaned back on the counter and stretched, her back arching as her hands grabbed the small of it. “Oh wow, I need to dodge faster.” She said softly while cracking her neck a bit before turning to the television. Watching the video of the latest massive attack, she frowned when the footage showed several explosions. She winced several times when she saw the impacts and explosions filling the screen again, not needing the audio to realise what was happening.
Staring intently at the carnage, she narrowed her eyes as she thought back to the day when everything went haywire in life. Her time at Canterlot High had been hard enough after she had tried to fit in after the first disturbance she had caused. Twilight had come back to deal with the Sirens, who were more than a handful for her and her new friends. Closing her eyes she took a deep inhale to center herself, although her memories flooded into her mind just the same.
The sounds of hard impacts of fists meeting flesh filled her ears as the memories became more dominant in her head. She remembered how Adagio had kept watch as Aria and Sonata took turns beating her in the same dark hallway, the same hallway she had confronted Twilight in before the Fall Formal. Had it not been for the injuries she was given, she’d have found the entire irony funny. Twitching with each impact in her mind, her eyes winced as the finale in her mind played.
In her mind, Sunset saw Adagio walk over to her and pick up her slumped form from the base of a locker, with a fistful of her shirt in Adagio’s left hand which was holding her up now. She smelled her awful perfume and wanted to make a comment on it, but her ribs hurt too much at the time. She had the perfect comeback line now of course, but she was surprised she wasn’t coughing up a lung at the time. Looking up at Adagio, she remembered watching the leader pull her balled fist back to strike her, before saying her final words on the matter.
“If it's any consolation, no one is going to remember you at all by the time we're done!” she laughed and sent her fist into Sunset’s face.
Out of instinct, Sunset countered the punch from her years of training taking hold, unfortunately it was just as she heard Earl shout at her. She quickly came out of her memories and realized she had her cook in a compromising position, one he had got in from trying to wake her up from what was a dream like state. He gave a grunt of discomfort from his bent over backwards position and she immediately let go of his arm.
“Sorry, sorry Earl, are you ok?” Sunset asked while trying to help him back up, a spatula falling to the floor as the large round man was panting in fear from her now. “I...I must have been thinking too deeply, you surprised me. I’m sorry.” She said, dusting his apron off and handing him his spatula.
“Geez, Becky, you need to lay off the caffeine. I was just going to say I’m back.” He rubbed his shoulder, the awkward position of her arm lock on him setting in. “But maybe I should have just let you be.” He took the spatula and put his chef’s hat on. “How'd you learn to do that?”
“Um…” Sunset searched her mind for a moment. “Self defense. This is a dangerous city after all!” she piped back, nodding.
“Right…” he said slowly before turning back to the kitchen and walking away, disappearing from sight as he checked on the stock for the night.
Sunset let out a sigh of relief. Turning back to the counter she started to check the salt and pepper shakers, keeping her mind busy in some other way instead of living in the past. She turned the television up a bit as the reports of the chaos were dying down. The back of her mind kept nagging at her however, reminding her that none of this chaos would have been happening had she just kept herself calm and centered back then.
The sounds of sirens screeching by the diner caught her attention, making her look up for a moment before realizing she couldn’t do anything about whatever it was, at least for now.
Malcontent’s stare remained locked on his massive chess board of the city, pieces and shapes all inside and along the outskirts of it. Purple magic flaring from the sides of his eyes. He remained still with his fingertips steepled in his black leather gloves, avoiding the bother of any unnecessary physical contact. The crackle of the fireplace seemed hypnotic, putting him at ease or as much as he could be anyway. His species wasn’t entirely at home when there was harmony and peace filling the air, but he had found ways to relax here anyway. Aria being one of them but she hadn’t returned yet and his thoughts turned inward again. The many centuries he had been imprisoned in Tartarus weighed on him, and as such he had found inward thought had kept him sane. Breathing slower and slower the past came back to him, and like a time traveler almost, he found himself back in the memories of his own mind.
He remembered that after centuries of imprisonment in Tartarus, everyone, including Princess Celestia, had all but forgotten him. Her spell had made his first few hundred years unbearable. Forcing him to watch the ‘magic of friendship’ for several generations worth before he noticed the grip of the enchantment she had placed was starting to grow weak. It was then he found he could manipulate his prison to let him see through other portals, others dimensions. Finally, as the most recent generation of Celestia’s Equestria came to fruition, he had found the perfect world when one of Celestia’s students left. The student found a new world, full of humans, that she was going to use to return and conquer Equestria. Watching with amusement, he was impressed with her ability to manipulate an entire community to do her bidding.
Things became more interesting when he realized, given enough time to concentrate, he could subtly manipulate the world he was watching through the power of mental suggestion. Experimentation showed him it worked on only a few, the rest of the world seemed to dismiss it or were too strong willed to take hold of across the dimensional rifts. Years went by and he became far more interested in the world that Sunset Shimmer had discovered than the girl herself anymore. As he had realized through trial and error, she was too mentally fortified to be of any use to his powers. Her complete prideful and overconfident attitude was blocking his every attempt, so he took to studying the world she was using.
No, he needed someone both ambitious and not entirely sure of themselves to get out of his prison. Someone to partner with and use to get what he wanted.
The door to the main chambers slammed shut, the sound of Aria’s boots hitting the marble entered his ears and brought him from his memories.
“This little gun of yours is rather useful. I think it killed a meta in four seconds flat.” Aria spun the gun in her hands cheerfully, her usual apathetic attitude gone for the moment.
Malcontent took the gun from her hands with a gesture from of his own, telekinetic abilities among his forte. He looked it over and adjusted his glasses. “Wonderful to hear and judging from the television reports, Mayhem was in the streets?”
Aria unzipped her jacket, leaving her in her usual halter top and exposing the gem embedded in her chest to the flickering light of the fireplace. Sitting down near the fire, she warmed her hands before turning back to him. An alluring stare overtook her face, clearly insincere, but enticing nonetheless. “Oh she was having quite the time. If it’s a distraction you wanted, you certainly got it. I doubt they’ll connect the body to anything but the chaos she was causing. No one will suspect it wasn’t collateral damage.”
Malcontent didn’t turn his stare to her, he was examining the inside of the device, smiling to himself. “By the time anyone notices and puts anything together, as you put it, it will be too late.“ His eyes turned completely purple and opaque for a moment as his powers flared at the presence of such deceptions and negative emotions. “You’ve done well my dear…” he turned his head up to look at her finally, the usual sensual tones and movements she used to get her way from others not entirely effective on him.
He stood up and set the device on the workbench, turning it off and redirected his attention to her. His gloved hands taking her by the waist and smiling down at her. “You truly are the perfect partner for me to have.”
Aria smiled back at him, linking her arms around his neck and staring into his eyes. The look she had gave hundreds of times to unsuspecting prey to entice them in had little effect on him, but she knew that even he wasn’t immune to the more basics of wants. “I take it I’m to be rewarded then?” she broke from his hands and walked towards the main bedroom.
Malcontent watched her walk away and he smiled at her, taking the moment as she got out of sight to reach to the device and take a small chip from the handle. The canister on the microchip glowing for a moment before fizzling. He pulled a drawer open and set it in, locking it out of sight, just as he intended. “Oh don’t you worry, Aria, you’ll get exactly what you deserve.”
He finished his words as he walked after her, the temperature of the room dropping a few degrees as he entered it.
“This episode is so weak!” Pinkie said while flailing her arms at the laptop and then the screen. “All they’re doing is showing us what happened in the past and occasionally showing us bits of plot. I hate clip shows.” She slumped in her seat, looking at her friend's camera feed.
“Clip shows use previous footage to make up for things like a writer strike or a failing of budget readiness. This episode is more like character development then lazy storytelling.” Sugarcoat retorted. “Studies show that if you inform the audience of the motivations of characters more often than not, they are found more appealing in the long run when the issues come up again in later episodes.”
“Yeah I totally agree, this is rather informative.” Minuette chimed in, smiling largely. “Besides, I can’t help but think this is all leading up to something bigger. You know the whole flashback about the villain’s past showing us the present in a way.”
“Ugh. But anyone who reads the web comic will know all this information! This is almost punishing those of us who track everything!” Pinkie responded, opening up another soda.
“But you have to take into account the more you inform your audience, the better the chances they’ll go seek out the comic and the novels!” Minuette responded. “Besides, it’s never bad to give a backstory. I personally liked how we found out he and his wife were married in a fallout shelter.”
“That was rather insightful on why he hasn’t moved her body from the cryopod in the shelter.” Sugarcoat added, eating a potato chip emotionlessly.
“Today’s Total Wasteland is brought to you by Wubcakes. Wubcakes, Taste the Magic!” the television spouted a commercial at them suddenly.
“Oh, oh! It’s back! Hey...now I’m hungry for a Wubcake. I wonder if I’ve got any?” Pinkie rummaged through a large sack of goodies as the show came back on.
Twilight let the water sooth her bruised body, cascading off her back as the steam rose in her shower. With her eyes closed, she winced every now and then when she shifted her body to clear her back of soap. Despite her discomfort, she arched her back in a sudden move to check for more than internal pain. She felt along the small of her back, across to her left side before trailing up and across her midsection. Her hand traced over to feel the small of her back on the right and repeated this same action. She did wince upon her fingers carefully dancing across her ribcage on both sides.
“I need to work on shock absorbers more, the falls did more damage then that freaky lady.” She quietly commented to herself before turning and facing the stream, washing her face and then turning again to rinse her hair. After a few more minutes she turned off the water and opened the frosted glass door. A wet hand reached out and took hold of a fluffy soft towel. The soft fabric felt nice against her battered body that would likely begin showing bruising later.
She stepped out of the shower onto the soft floor mat, preventing her from slipping on the linoleum. Looking down at her parted toes, she moved each one with longingness reflecting in her eyes. These feet were second nature in using but she missed the simple days of having hooves, the simple days where she didn't need to worry about stubbing one digit or being laid up should one or more be broken.
On the bright side she wasn't falling down at least, unlike when she first was learning how to use her new form. Yet, even a decade of time can never erase that longing inside for her birthplace of Equestria. She took a deep breath with her eyes closing and released it with the lowering of her head. The soft drips from the turned off showerhead and the drips from her wet hair echoed in her ears. Maybe this was a mistake. It could have been much worse had things went differently with that freakshow. Twilight glumly thought to herself before starting to towel off in the sauna feeling like room.
Walking out, the door slid open and closed softly, her footsteps slightly slapping the tile floor of the lab she had called home since beginning her work for Rarity. The lights turned up slightly as Spike sensed her walking into the room, monitors powering up and command prompts blinking.
“Feel better?” Spike asked with his avatar appearing on the screen closest to her, his familiar dragon guise blinking back at her.
“A bit, but the bruises haven’t started to appear yet. Based on what I’m feeling still, they’re bound to be doozies.” She pushed her hair back into a ponytail, the towel coming untied for a moment and slipping. She caught it and refastened it to herself, snugger this time. “But that’s not the issue at the moment. Have you completed analyzing any of the data from our first field test?”
“I’ve been able to start compiling the issues, we’ll have something to look at in a few hours. Maybe you should get some sleep?” Spike said, his avatar changing to wearing a labcoat, a small pointer in his claws. “I’ve got all sorts of things to keep reading up on.”
Twilight smiled as he changed his look, giggling and walking to a small wardrobe in the corner by her cot. Opening it she pulled a few articles of clothing out, setting them on the bed. “Where did you leave off?” she asked lazily, taking her towel off and letting it drop to the floor.
“Just beginning the Sombra Empire. Memory serves, and it should, Sombra wasn’t such a nice guy in our world. In fact, I have some recollection about...me defeating him?” Spike asked as several large question marks began appearing over his head on the screen. “That can’t be right.”
Twilight smiled, remembering their adventures together back in Equestria and the Crystal Empire where Sombra had tried to return. “Well...it’s a bit more complicated than that, Spike. But for all intents and purposes, you are the hero of the Crystal Empire.” She pulled a small nightshirt on as she finished saying that, wincing in her pain again.
“Based on what articles and entries I’m reading here though, Sombra’s empire is terrifying.“ Spike’s icon changed to him reading a stack of books.
“Tell me what you’ve learned, Spike.” She asked as she pulled on some pink socks, sitting back on her cot. “It’ll help you compile properly.”
“Heh. Usually it was you reading me to sleep. A nice change of pace.” He smiled with the icon gaining a sleeping cap. “The Sombra Empire is a modified monarchy located 3,892 miles from Equestrian City. Founded centuries ago by the First King Sombra, who ruled by threat of force as well as force itself to enslave his people. A strong economy based on textile and other forms of manual labor, the most profitable being manufactured goods. Exports to both the Commonwealth and the Dominion fuel their economy for the most part, enabling them to stockpile their massive magical armaments.” The icon turned the page of his small book in his claws. “Though at odds with the Commonwealth, since settlers from there founded Equestrian City and eventually the Canterlot Commonwealth, they still trade with the other. An uneasy ceasefire was recently broken earlier this year when Imperialist troopers were caught trying to sabotage a power plant in Gem City.”
“Mmhmm…” Twilight said, her tone very somber as she stretched out on the cot, pulling a small blanket over herself and closing her eyes. Picking up a book on programming and opening it up to a bookmark, she tried to wake herself up a bit but failed utterly as she closed her eyes again.
“Goodnight, Twilight.” He finally said, hearing her breathing slow down and checking her vitals.
“Goodnight, Spike.” She whispered back, drifting off as he recited a few more entries for the Sombra Empire.
Spike stopped after his sensors showed Twilight was in REM stage, her eyes moving under her lids as sleep had overtaken her. All the monitors turned to screensaver mode, one displaying him in an office chair surrounded by books. Dimming the lights and refocusing his processors on compiling the fight data, he rapidly composed several changes to the armor he’d recommend when she awoke.
Rainbow Dash, or as she was known to the thugs on Southside Equestrian City, Shadow Strike, perched herself on a nearby rooftop. Her echo locational powers she had grown to use with ease over the ten years since she lost her sight, pinged out several times, zeroing in on a brown delivery van speeding towards the center of the city. Her natural athletic build gave her an edge regardless of her powers as she ran from rooftop to rooftop, moving to intercept it.
The fabric of her suit helped as well, made of a tough durable kevlar weave, it was sewn to her exact body dimensions, cutting down on wind resistance. It was one of the many perks of having a fairly decent amount of money and even more discreet friends who didn’t ask questions which provided her that, and her titanium retractable staff clipped to her side. Coupled with her hyper awareness of the area completely around her thanks to her sonar like vision, she was unstoppable for the most part when in pursuit.
Sliding under a low hanging set of ductwork and flipping across a gap between two rooftops, she turned sharply to her left. Running with precision across the edge of the building she was on, she took a flying leap forward fearlessly in her efforts with a confident smile on her face.
It was a smile that quickly faded as something that had barely registered on her vision moments before impacted her hard from the left.
Sailing down with her assailant, Shadow Strike turned in midair and contorted her body to send the attacker into the plate glass window of an electronics store on the ground level. Televisions and cell phones scattered as both bodies came to a recovered stance, each down on a knee as they sized the other up.
“Had to admit, didn’t think you’d shift in mid-air…” the figure said to Shadow Strike. Stepping up from her knee, she was dressed in a green and yellow outfit with lightening bolts on each side. The mask covered most of her head but not the face, her eyes, nose and mouth exposed to the general view of the public. Spinning two metal tonfas in her hands, she smiled as both of them let off small shots of electrical energy, causing two televisions to explode on contact with the charges. “...I can’t tell you how happy I am to meet you.”
“Who the heck are you?.” Shadow Strike spun her staff to life, it’s metallic locking sounds echoing as it extended into full size. “Not that it’s going to matter in a few minutes.” She smiled, taking a defensive stance as her vision scanned the room.
“Name’s Lightning Dust.” The girl answered back, spinning a tonfa and throwing a bolt of electricity at Shadow Strike with remarkable accuracy. “You’ve become a problem to some people, and I’m the solution!”
Shadow Strike barely dodged in time, not used to this level of precision from common thugs while side flipping behind a wall and running around to the other side of it, ducking under another shot from Dust. “A mercenary? Ha, I’ve got so many of you under my belt it’s not even fun anymore.” She said, leaning to the right as another shot sailed past, missing it’s mark and shattering a neon display of phones behind her. With the target in her sights, Dash swung and with the same surprise as before, she missed.
Lightning Dust laughed and connected with two consecutive hits to Shadow Strike, moving faster than a normal person had any business moving. She landed a third in the back of her opponent followed by a final uppercut with her tonfa, electrifying and sending her flying backwards. Landing with a thud onto broken sheetrock from their entrance, Shadow Strike barely moved in time to escape a death blow from the mercenary’s other tonfa, the pointed ends of it now apparent as it stuck into the ground.
“..and I prefer the term ‘Freelance Heavy’, thank you very much!” Dust said while struggling for a moment to pull herself free. She grunted a moment before she swung back and away, ‘trying to hit her target before is escaped too far’ only to connect into another cheaply made wall.
“You’re pretty fast, but you’ve got no style!” Shadow Strike shouted back, the business end of her staff connecting to the back of Dust’s head, then another upward swing taking her legs out from under her.
Dust grunted in pain from the first hit, but before gravity entirely took over from the second hit, she corrected her body mid fall and pushed off Shadow Strike’s staff with both feet, sending them flying away from each other. Both of the girls athletic prowess became apparent to the other as they performed almost identical recovery tumbles, looking at each other and sizing the other up again with their weapons poised.
“The great Shadow Strike and her amazing agility. I’m happy to hear the stories are true!” Dust said while spinning her weapons like a snake ready to strike. With eyes locked on Shadow Strike’s stance, she smiled wider. “I can see I’m more than what you can handle. If you give up now, promise I won’t let it go to my head.” She laughed again. “You’ve got no idea what you're dealing with here.”
“Let me guess: survived the explosion, decided to use your powers for personal gain, became a thug. Heard it. Bored.” Shadow Strike retorted back, her staff flourishing once then twice. She stalled the best she could, looking over the store and entire area for anything in her favor.
“Something like that, only a lot more epic…” Dust answered, smiling back at her.
As soon as she finished saying that, Dust heard the wind pick up around her, just enough to distract her from her main focus. Her own enhanced awareness saved her as she dodged a super fast punch, then another and another. Dealing with Shadow Strike had kept her from being ready for the other threat that seemed to creep up on her in the form of some super speedster.
Pink streaks filled the vision of Lightning Dust, who narrowly dodged using her own reflexes to compensate for the swings. Dodging at a furiously fast pace, she moved out of the way of a series of hits before finally getting out of the reach of her attacker, only to have a large spherical ball of electricity hurled at her for once! Instinct kicked in and Dust pulled her conductive tonfas in front of her in time to absorb and redirect it to the ceiling, shorting out the lightning in the entire room. Only lit by the streetlights outside, Dust grunted in frustration as the lack of light made her lose her target.
“Can’t deal with a little one on one, Shadow Strike? Need to bring in a ringer?” Dust said, throwing several wild shots of electricity, none of which hit the pink blur.
Splitsecond rounded the store one more time, working on a trick she had learned by accident when she had run too fast and far once. Enough static energy gathered by her in a fast enough time period and she had accidentally knocked out the transformer to her apartment one evening. Quickly learning how to channel it, she began using it as a weapon once she had mastered her aim. A smile on her face as she came to an abrupt halt in front of Lightning Dust, the energy kept going with a massive cluster of electricity in the form of an orb hurling at her.
Crossing her metal tonfas in front of her, the mercenary’s conductive weapons pulled in the energy, absorbing it in seconds with a smug laugh. “Nice try, Cotton Candy, electricity isn’t the best weapon to hit me with. You may be fast, but your not too smart.”
Shadow Strike struck the back of Lightning Dust with a full swing to the back of the head, sending her to the ground. Metal tonfas clattered as she grunted out and cursing with a dull thud.
“You’re not so bright yourself, Dust.” Shadow Strike said with a smile across her face, looking up at the pink speedster. “Just in the neighborhood again?”
“Eh, I was out for a run.” Pinkie Pie, or in this guise, Splitsecond, smiled back while adjusting her yellow tinted safety glasses. “Ooo, who's your friend?!”
“Calls herself ‘Lightning Dust’, hired heavy to distract me from a shipment I was tracking.” Shadow Strike said while snapping her staff into a compact size again. “I had her handled, but I appreciate the enthusiasm.” Dash’s ego seeped through, despite all the years having made her wiser. Some habits she had found never went away.
“Must have been some shipment if they send a heavy hitter after you.” Splitsecond said, rubbing her chin a moment, thinking visibly. “What was so important?” she raised an eyebrow.
“Shipment of military grade hardware and firmware.” A third voice caught them both off guard, much to Shadow Strike’s surprise. Turning towards it, they saw a toned female form dressed in black, flame patterns accenting her outfit. She had been known by many names, the first being Sunset Shimmer, but no one knew her by that now. Now she was being called ‘The Phoenix’. “While you two were dealing with her, I found out the truck was a decoy. Nothing but old newspapers in the shipping containers.” She walked in slowly while keeping an eye on them both as the glass crunched under her boots. Keeping her hands visible, but not letting her guard down, she looked at them both.
“The driver was tagged by me, where’s he at?” Shadow Strike asked, folding her arms.
“He’s being processed by the E.C.P.D., Captain Nightwatch’s team took him in for further questioning.” Sunset said, looking over to Splitsecond. “Same place you busted Trixie, the docks. Shipments tend to disappear there recently.”
“Hey, if you’re thinking it’s me or her, you’ve got another thing coming, bacon hair.” Pinkie said, folding her own arms now.
“No, nothing like that. Those shipments were going to disappear no matter who was tracking them. Not easily either.” Sunset responded in her usual dead tone as best as possible. “Someone’s misdirecting these on a level that's not your common thieves methods.”
“How do you know that?” Shadow Strike asked, still skeptical. Phoenix wasn’t exactly a team player in town and more than a few times there had been allegations of an excessive use of force. She had been somewhat branded by the collective heroes as bad news, but Dash knew one thing: She was usually right. Focusing her echolocation on her, she tried to read subtle body language and cues to determine if she was.
“I’ve been able to do my own digging on several incidents around the city the last few years. Each one by itself isn’t anything to worry about, but when you start to put them together,” she paused then continued. “They start to look familiar in execution and motive.”
“So someone’s shopping, it’s probably another super death laser. We’ll stop it, we always do!” Dash said smugly, “No one’s going to get anything past--”
A flashbang went off, two of them in fact, from Lightning Dust’s hands. During the time the three had been talking, they had all been too distracted to notice the mercenary’s move of desperation. A cackle of glee escaped from the room, the three recovering at different rates as she fled.
Sunset had seen the move but was too late to stop Dust from firing her grenades, but not too late to turn partially defusing the blast of light from affecting her as much as the others. Turning towards the green and yellow clad villain, she reached inside her jacket and pulled out a silver hockey puck shaped device and quickly hurled it in one fluid motion, landing it just in time on Dust’s back. A split second later a concussive charge in it sent the villain to the ground with a yelp, knocking her out again.
Turning back to the other two, Sunset smiled. “Clearly you’ve got this.” She said before moving over and handcuffing Dust this time to prevent further issues, looking up to the sound of sirens closing in. “You two let them know what I told you, I’ve got more leads to check out.”
Shadow Strike and Splitsecond turned to each other then back to Sunset but before either could make protest, a flame shot out from both of Sunset’s hands. Her magic levitated her far into the sky, out of the area and towards the center of Equestrian City.
Aria ducked behind the stage, her outfit clinging to her thanks to the heat they had generated by their dance number. She had been against the routine herself as she had found that this world’s men could be swayed by much more base desires, and the right routine wouldn’t have been as draining to their powers as this one had been. But Adagio was in charge and ignored her ideas.
Adagio was always in charge. Always overbearing. So sure of herself.
Aria smiled, relishing the look on her and Sonata’s face when she took their gems and shoved them into the magical wave to save herself.
“She didn’t see that coming, that's for sure.” She laughed but broke her celebration short as she saw the magical wave coming towards the stage. People dove out of the way and ran in all directions, sometimes over each other to get away. Had she not been in mortal danger herself, she’d have been entirely enjoying this scene.
But the wave was heading towards her and because of the force of nature it was, it didn’t care who it was destroying. She had to find a way to either outrun it or get out of it’s way. Neither seemed too good as options at the moment. As wonderful as her victory was, it would be short lived it would seem. After turning towards the wave, she grimaced.
“Well, this is gonna suck.” She uttered, accepting her fate.
A bright flash behind her caught her attention, blinding her for a moment as she turned away from it but as the flashes in her eyes disappeared, she saw a portal open next to her, like the one her sisters and herself arrived in so long ago. For a moment, she thought it was the great beyond coming after her until she saw a figure emerge from it: Malcontent.
“Ahh.” He said, seemingly detached from the chaos and horror around him while stretching his arms up. “Much better than four legs, that’s for sure.” He smiled, looking around a moment before focusing on Aria with a look that clearly stated he was there with a purpose.
“Who are you?” she asked.
“I’m like you, Aria. I see an opportunity and take it when the time is right.” He said, his tone relaxed despite the explosions and waves of raw magic firing in all directions. He extended a hand down to her, his leather gloves shining from the approaching wave of energy. “So I offer you a choice in a seemingly winless scenario: Escape with me or die like these lesser beings!”
Aria glanced at his hand, then back to the oncoming death. She was hesitant to say the least in taking his offer but wasn’t thrilled with the thought of magical death either. Before she could make any other thoughts on the matter, an explosion next to her snapped her attention towards it just as shards of glass, concrete and wood began peppering her location. Holding up her arms in front of her out of instinct and turning away from the debris, she felt the sting of the glass cut through her otherwise flawless skin with the explosion knocking her backwards and onto her back. Opening her eyes, she winced in pain and turned to look at her only real sane choice.
Malcontent smiled down at her. “Come my dear…” he reached down. “It is the only way.”
Survival overtook her and she reached up, taking his hand into hers and accepting his offer.
Aria’s eyes snapped open with one hand grabbing at her chest as the other pushed away at some imaginary foe in front of her. She blinked a few times, her breathing becoming rapid with sweat having collected on her fuschia toned body. She looked around quickly, then reality sunk into her mind again, pulling her from her deep thoughts of the past. Surrounding her were several lit scented candles with dim lighting above her which elegantly cast her seemingly nude form in modest shadows. Legs in a lotus position still, she remembered that after she and her partner had their evening meal, she had retired to some peace and quiet as he had left her to her own devices.
“Bad dreams again, Aria?” Adagio’s condescending demeanor echoing in her head, followed by Sonata’s giggling again. “They say that traumatic events have a way of sticking with you, no matter how hard you try and block them out. Guilt, maybe?”
Aria closed her eyes, frowning. “Go. Away.” She said finally with her fists and toes clenching. In fact her whole body began to contort as she concentrated and focused, the gem in her chest lighting up bright.
“She’s going to end up popping a blood vessel if she keeps this up!” Sonata laughed, her voice overlapping Adagio’s inside her mind.
“Shove us away as often as you want, dear little Aria, it won’t change the truth.” Adagio laughed at her sister’s efforts. Sweat continued to gather on Aria’s brow and she sat up further, finally moving to be standing firm and her muscles flexing, the tendrils around her gem moved slightly.
“What I did…” Aria’s eyes remained shut, teeth bared now. “Was take what was rightfully mine! You did nothing but keep me down! I’m in charge now!”
“In charge now? Is that what your Master tells you?” Adagio responded quickly, the hold on her sister getting more powerful despite her efforts. She even began to manifest as a small floating orb with a reasonable facsimile of her old self in front of her now. “You’re no more in charge now than you’ve ever been, the only difference is you’re alone now!”
Sonata started to generate an avatar for herself as well, a more silly looking soulsphere as it joined Adagio. “Duh! At least with us, you were among your own kind! He isn’t even your species and now he holds you on a leash like some sort of dog! I bet she eve--”
Aria growled and extended her arms, the magical energy in her gem turning into a spherical orb around her, knocking over the candles and what little pleasure she had been finding in the solitude. “Quiet!” she growled loudly.
Like that, the voices were gone and she could think again, but her powers felt drained from the exertion of them. She’d need to recharge them sooner than last time.
Shivering a bit, she rubbed her bare arms and body a moment, closing her eyes and generating her usual outfit she had fallen into wearing. Along with the single ponytail she seemed to prefer now, it was the only thing that she found comfortable no matter what anymore. Taking a look at herself in the mirror by the door to the meditation room she was in, she sighed and rubbed her chest where the gem was attached absently. Walking out the door, she turned right and towards the main room of the complex. Malcontent was busy at the work table from earlier, perched over and soldering silently on a large board.
“How are your sisters doing, my dear Aria?” He asked, not looking up from his work, a sly hint of satisfaction in his tone. His eyes glinted behind his glasses as the emotions she shed were feeding him for a brief moment, the fire nearby crackling louder for a moment.
“As happy as ever…” Aria retorted, not allowing his emotional jab to show any effect on her before she rubbed down the back of his shirt, causing his hands to twitch a moment. Mostly she did this to mess with his concentration but half of it was actually in fun. Most of the time. “Darling.” her words dripped of sarcasm. “How about you? Any real progress or are you just tinkering with your rod?”
Looking up from the workbench, he let the small metal rod he was working on drop gently, setting the tools aside. He clearly became annoyed as she got the full attention of his gaze. Tapping into his store reserve of power, his eyes turned a bright cyan-white as a glow of the same aura wrapped around the gem in Aria’s chest. Standing straight up and arching her back, he pulled at it like one would a leash, her discomfort bringing a smile to his face. “My tinkering is coming along fine, my dear Aria, but I do need something from you again.”
She gritted her teeth but held her composure, the hold he had on her was one of her own choosing after all. The power she possessed and wielded came at several costs, one of which was it’s inability to maintain itself and requiring refueling of the most devious nature. Another was what allowed his hold on her now and just like her sisters mentioned many times, she often wondered if it was worth all the trouble. Tendrils of white wispy energy wrapped around her body from the ground up, her skin starting to get goosebumps as the chill from it caught up with her which caused shivers to start running through her. Still, Aria remained composed as one could be, it was all a dance. A game. A sick twisted partnership that both got what they wanted at no real cost to the other.
“I have been known to crave excitement, darling.” She finally uttered, bringing a smile to his face at last.
“Then this won’t disappoint you.” His grip on her released and she regained her balance. “I need you to meet with our chaotic little friend and let her know that I need...WE..need more chaos, but not immediately. Tell her to get ready and when the time is right, we’ll let her know.” He turned to the workbench, pulling an envelope from the drawer. “And give this to Trixie. I’m making arrangements for her to be freed, whether she knows it or not, it’ll be a...Speedy...release.” He snickered, resuming his work on the much larger version of the gun he had Aria test, the schematic in front of him depicting an even larger scale of the design.
Aria took the note and pocketed it, ruffling his hair to make it messy and cackling. She turned and walked past his main map of the city, which she noticed was now expanded to include the disaster site. She frowned at the change, stopping a moment and looked over the map as it now had new additions to when she first saw the ruins. In the front of the old high school was a large red X with two circles on both sides of it, making a triangle formation with the X as the top point. The words “Ground Zero” were stenciled across the entire map and a representation of the fence the government had put up around the entire area finished the layout.
The image quickly switched off as Malcontent turned back to look at her, noticing she had stopped. “Don’t dawdle, Aria. Time is very important. After all, the sooner you can get this ready, the sooner we can all get what we deserve.” He smiled before turning back to his work, waving her off.
Aria frowned again but then resumed her bored look, her heels clicking on the marble floor until she left with the doors closing behind her.
End of Episode!