Sunset Shimmer sat down at her modest desk in her apartment. She was barely able to fit at the desk which was squeezed into the side area meant for it, resulting in a comical scene of her trying to sit at it.
It's been awhile since I wrote to you, things have been busy like you would not believe.
The new problems I was telling you about have become more prominent, and I’m pretty sure that someone is sending materials under the guise of research supplies into the Canterlot No Man’s Land. Why they’re doing it and why they’re taking such steps to hide their tracks is the real mystery.
I may need to break my pledge of working alone.
The way this case is turning out is making it very hard to pay the rent AND make any progress. At least we aren’t running out of thugs any time soon. I've been putting away quite a few of them. I was even in the news!
Oh, I think the media finally decided to call the mysterious fire wielding hero “The Phoenix.”
A policeman, Nightwatch, walked me home the other day. He was trying to be a gentleman I think. I was more worried about having to protect him if we ran into any trouble. I doubt it’ll go anywhere. He’s become the head of the meta human department and...I’m...well...
I can’t let anything distract me. I barely have time to serve pancakes, let alone date anyone.
Listen to me, I made this world a mess and now I’m thinking about myself, again. You’d think I’d have realized by now thinking of myself is what got me to where I am now.
My past mistakes make me who I am today. They define me. There's no getting around that.
I may need help though, like I said. I’m going to investigate Ground Zero today, see if I can find any of this hidden equipment.
I’ll know more soon. I’ll write when I can. Not that these ever get to you. I lost the original book in the explosion. Why I’m doing this? I don’t know. Sometimes it feels better to just write it down. Just in case.
Your failure of a student,
She leaned back and looked at the page before taking a deep breath as she signed the final part. Half of her didn’t want to keep a journal around but the other half did, and she never really understood why she was so conflicted. Clicking her pen closed, she set it down and leaned forward on the desk, placing her head in her hands before running them through her messy hair from the night’s activities on the street.
“Alright...start with what you know.” She quietly said to herself. Her hair was a fluffy mess but she didn’t care about that at the current juncture. Taking off her boots and loosening her belt, she leaned back in the small office chair. Glancing over to her left she eyed a small cork board with articles and newspaper clippings. Each had a line drawn to it connecting it to another, in a circular pattern that led back to the center: a question mark. “Military grade hardware began going missing…” she said while tapping the first newspaper article with the back of her pen.
She took off her jacket and set it aside, slightly aiding in her spandex top and bottom riding up a bit. She grunted as she straightened them out before turning back to her layout on the board. “A mutation agent, not for anything in the industry of hair care, was found and subsequently lost in a shampoo factory. The reason it was there? No traceable purchase or work order, so it either materialized from thin air or the person who put it there hid their tracks.”
Looking at several other clippings, she drew more lines next to the existing ones, making little progress until she came to the end of the furthest piece of paper. The slip read: Dock Smuggler. She pulled out a piece of material, a headband, and placed it on the board with a push pin. “Thugs down on the docks wouldn’t give up their boss, but they were forthcoming about…” she turned her head and put the pen in her mouth while starting to pull her spandex down from around her waist, undressing as she spoke to herself. “Where they heard the shipments were being gathered in the No Man’s Land.” She finished, taking the pen out of her mouth and circling a part of the map of the region. It was dead center in the Ground Zero zone of the old Canterlot High School.
“Inside where it all started.” She said softly before taking her top off and sliding it over her head. “Suppose it’ll have to wait until after my shift.” She stood up and closed the door to the little room she was using as a study. She picked up her uniform from the diner and a few fluffy pink towels before walking into the bathroom.
Twilight rolled back to her computer desk from across the room, nearly tripping her wheels over the shoe’s she had left in the way. Grabbing hold of the console and the edge of the desk, she caught herself and slid into place. Typing a few keys, the wireframe of her armor came up on the multiple screens along with Spike’s avatar popping up on the left screen. “Hey there, how was your nap?”
“Hello, Spike. Not too bad, could have done without the PTSD but life’s far from perfect.” She said the last part under her breath with the trackball in her hand spinning as she brought up a list. “Oh I see you’ve been busy. That’s a lot of adjustments you’ve made.”
“Technically you made them, since you programmed me, but thank you!” Spike’s avatar bowed, his dragon tail flopping behind him as he sat on a digital chair. “We got such a massive data dump from your test, it was hard not to improve on all the flaws!”
“Thank you...” she wrinkled her nose a moment. “I think...alright, so what does the Model 2 do...let’s...see...” she said slowly, the list in front of her sliding past her eyes as she read the suggestions. The previous model of her armor was pulled up next to the new wireframe, the changes listed next to it as well. Twilight squinted and nodded as the notes scrolled by, absently taking a bite from a bag of chips that had been sitting there since she slept. “Oh these are very thorough, I like the thruster adjustments and the wings are a nice touch. Compact but more useful in the urban setting.”
“It also keeps your power consumption down. The original thrusters seemed to be the main power drain last test.” Spike popped in front of her as she read, then just disappeared as quickly. “Which I might add is still an issue.” A close up of the energy cell compartment on the back of the suit pulled up and rotated on her right screen, with several key notations registering. “Despite the fact we reduced the drain by at least twenty-one percent, we still can’t meet the time requirements for the E.C.P.D.’s specifications.”
“That's not good. What's the major draw points?” Twilight asked before taking another bite and turning her head to the propulson breakdown. “Nothing here, this is all normal. We can’t change the laws of physics…” she said softly, turning to the opposite screen and pulling up the weapons systems. “What about losing the shoulder and head outputs. Those aren’t really useful, unless I increased its output which takes more from our current allocated power for mobility.” She added while typing several keystrokes and watching power levels on the screen shift.
“That makes up some of the loss but still we need corners cut. If the armor cuts out from use before the end of the police shift, it’s no good to them.” Spike’s avatar shifted to now be standing in front of a little blackboard with chalk on the upper right part of her screen, with several mathematical equations on it. “You’d need to lose, say the ability to head into outer space. I don’t think they’ll need that.”
“Thats a good idea, Spike. Cut that and see what the balance is.” She nodded before leaning back and crossing her arms while watching the output. The levels juggled on the screen several times as it compiled the adjustments. Finally they balanced and were green across the board. “I think that does it. But, let’s go through it by the numbers to be safe.”
“Of course.” Spike pulled a small clipboard out of nowhere. Slowly they began reciting a checklist to each other, finally winding down as they reached the end.
“Thruster power requirements, city wide.” She said.
“Armor resistant to small arms fire rating 6 or higher.”
“Compatible with city communication grid, night vision and air filters.”
“Weapon systems compatible with E.C.P.D.”
“Ok, that's everything.” She smiled and stretched in her chair, grunting as she did. She turned to her center screen and began typing a few commands. A schematic opened up in front of her marked “Model 3” and looked far more advanced. “Let’s see about the next upgrade then.”
“Wait, we’re not done?” Spike asked, a question mark appearing over his head.
“Of course we are, Spike. E.C.P.D.’s model is ready for inspection, which reminds me, please send Rarity an email and have Coco make an appointment for Commander--”
“Spitfire?” he finished her sentence.
“Yes. Spitfire.” She nodded. “It’s strange, she and Rainbow Dash worked together back in our world, but they don’t even know each other here.”
“You know what they say…’Everything's confusing when it seems so new’,” he said, “‘but ya look a little closer and it starts to feel familiar too.’” Spike finished.
“Very funny, Spike.” She smirked, remembering how in awe she was of this strange new world when she first arrived.
“I do try.” His avatar put on a pair of comical glasses.
Twilight giggled and smiled before turning to the monitor next to her with keystrokes firing off as she pulled up another file, combining the schematics and making adjustments to the Model 3.
Sunset Shimmer snapped her goggles into place, finishing her transformation from civilian to meta human enforcer The Phoenix, before adjusting the strap snuggly. The cover of the forest around Ground Zero kept any prying eyes from discovering her identity as she stashed her clothes in a pile of brush. Searchlights scanned the parameter, casting shadows through the chain link fence that surrounded the suburbs formerly housing the Canterlot High School, with the occasional soldier walking along the inside of the fencing. The outer parameter was typical of any military installation to the untrained eye, but past that was another layer of security, another fence lined with higher tech equipment.
Keeping her footfalls quiet, thanks to the years of training she had gotten from her time spent in hiding, she snuck closer to the outer layer of the zone, watching for the soldiers on their patrol paths. As she ducked and dodged to another set of rocks and debris, she saw the inner layer within sight. The small sparks of the tesla like coils along the top of the fence just within a few meters marked the inner wall of fencing.
She took a gander at the patrol as it passed her finally and hurdled over the rocks, dodging a searchlight and coming to a crawl along the chain link fence, sinking her fingers through the holes and quickly concentrating. Keeping her ears open for trouble, she mustered up her pyrokinetic energy and her hands slowly cut through the links of the fence, leaving her a small enough hole to scurry through. Ducking through, she set the peice back into place by repeating the process on a few links to keep up appearances that it was still intact.
Turning quickly, she smiled to herself as no one seemed to be alert to her intrusion, just as she was hoping. Beating up thugs was one thing, these folks were just military, doing their job. The zone itself was sealed off due to issues with looting, sightseeing and occasionally protests. Through some digging on her part found the real reason for the heavy guard and fencing was far from anything as simple as gathering without a permit. The area was thick with raw magic, and since the explosion had been a breeding ground for all sorts of unpleasant events, most of which led to those exposed suffering from differing levels of insanity or mental issues. So much so that, aside from the science teams studying the inside who were outfitted with protective rebreathers and suits, no one dared go inside for too long lest The Madness bring them down.
Ducking behind a few barrels of water stored near a shed, Sunset watched the patterns of the sentries and quickly skipped by the inner patrols. Making her way to the second fence, she saw this one was made of some sort of transparent plexiglass that was topped with the tesla like coils she had seen earlier from afar. No one was at the entrance of the gates, though with insanity as a side effect she couldn’t blame them. She didn’t have time to secure a special suit, nor did she believe she needed one in the short amount of time she was going to be here. Sunset planned to spend the least amount of time possible around the ruins of her failure, so going into the zone itself was out of the question. She could only hope the effects of minimal exposure on the outskirts took longer to occur. She pulled her phone out and set a timer just in case.
A pair of suited scientists walked out of a trailer, almost startling her as she ducked behind a pillar holding up a makeshift roof.
“I’m telling you, I heard Cindy from Accounting. I know that voice.” One of the girls said with her face obscured by her mask and respirator.
“You’ve been at it too long, we were alone that whole time. Just you, me and Candlewax.” The other girl said, shaking her head.
“Candlewax?” the first replied, stopping. “Cherry, there was just two of us. There always has been.”
They both stopped and stared at each other.
“Maybe we both better get to detox. We may have been on duty too long. Madness doesn't take long to eat you alive. Come on.” The second said while motioning to her partner.
“I hear that..” the other answered while moving quickly and out of sight.
Sunset stood up and checked the windows inside the trailer to ensure no one else was there. Satisfied, she slinked inside and began looking around, keeping her eyes open for movement as she scanned the files laying about. Each was basic data about the magic that was being collected though most of it was useless to her at the moment. She was fascinated that after a decade no one really had all the answers, despite having poured so many resources into wrangling magic and it’s scientific uses. But she wasn’t entirely surprised. A world that hadn’t been raised with magic as much as hers had would still be struggling to catch up.
Riffling through a filing cabinet she struck out again, finding only invoices for standard equipment and rations. Frowning at the amount of sugary treats that seemed to be sent in, she shrugged and closed that drawer before opening a lower one, and began flipping through invoices before finally coming to something interesting.
“There we go.” She whispered before turning her head to check again for trouble. Hearing and seeing none, she then resumed reading.
She found a set of invoices, duplicates in each and every detail but the tracking numbers were entirely different. Pulling the files, she set them out on the desk nearby and worked fast, pulling out her phone and starting to photograph each and every element of them. Sunset’s phone clicked each time it saved a picture and she rapidly turned pages and flipped them next to each other, trying to be thorough but quick as time was against her in several aspects. Each of the files were prepared by the same employee number, leading her to believe that was her next step: find the clerk at the shipping company.
Finishing the snapping of pictures, she filed the folder and tucked her phone back into one of her belt pockets before snapping it in securely. A half second later she pulled the file folder out again and doubled checked the docking information before nodding to herself as she re-filed it again.
“Bay 12.” She mumbled to herself just before opening the door to the trailer quietly and peering out, stepping and closing it just as quickly before disappearing towards the inner partermet of the zone. It was dangerously close to the ruins of Ground Zero. With a pair of collapsible binoculars in her hands, she pulled them to her eyes and began focusing them across to the various cargo bays along the zone. Their numbers were painted in white boring font as she slowly moved right with her gaze. “9...10…”
She skipped over large chunks of equipment which the tarps on them were flapping in the magical wind being kicked up by the unstable ruins, brimming with magical energy. Swirls of green, red, black and all others of the spectrum blew by her sight occasional. “11…” she said softly before looking behind her again, and then refocusing as her hip vibrated.
Whoever that was would have to wait.
“12….12..” she frowned into the eye pieces. “No 12…” she lowered the spy glasses and looked with her own eyes now, still finding no additional storage. “What the hell...” she said while squinting to look through again, but this time her eyes widened at the sight of two figures engaged in some sort of battle.
Looking back again, she stored her binoculars and took a few steps back while making sure no one was nearby to see her next movements. She ran forward and fired her flames from her hands, giving her enough boost to clear the fence and it’s toppers allowing her clear landing on the barren ground, dust kicking up as she did.
“HELP!” a girl screamed from the direction of the two fighting.
Instinct kicked in and Sunset Shimmer broke into a run, breaking left to try and clear a fissure in the ground that was spouting up magical sparkles as she raced by. She tucked her head down under a piece of equipment and pushed the tarp out of her vision just in time to come to a screeching halt.
Before her was a sight she was still having trouble registering as it unfolded. A young girl, no not a young girl, HER. Sunset Shimmer saw herself, only dressed as she was the night of the explosion. Wounded on the ground, looking up at the magnificent creature that had seemingly pinned her down with two orbs of magic from it’s hands.
Then she recognized the creature. More commonly referred to as the She Demon she had turned into on the night of the Fall Formal. It was that form only far more evolved looking with magic spewing from its body and more snarling features as it’s wings flapped, keeping it hovering above her prey.
“HELP! This can’t be happening!” the image of Sunset screamed while shielding herself from the demon.
“Oh but it is.” She Demon said before turning to the real Sunset as the image of her younger self began disappearing just as quickly. “This is where it all began, isn’t it?” she snarled with her voice reverberating and a cruel grin across her face.
Her phone vibrated again.
Leave a message already... she thought to herself as her hands fired up into fireballs, poised and ready. “Who are you?!” she asked aloud.
“Oh you know who I am, Sunset. Who’d know me better than you...?” the demon asked with the grin disappearing. “No one I suppose. You’ve either killed or shut everyone out these last ten years. Makes you nostalgic for the old times doesn't it?” it threw two rotating balls of cyan colored energy at her as it finished it’s question.
Sunset flew quickly to the left and then right before spinning out of the way of the two shots and threw her own combined fireball at her target, only to have it pass through her.
“Oh, thats not going to work. You can’t just shut me off like that. We’re the same you and I..” another salvo of energy balls flew at her, three this time as one more had generated from the demons horns.
Sunset ducked, weaved and barely missed the final shot by backflipping from its impact. She grabbed ahold of the stray piping from a structure near them, bringing herself atop of it and poised herself to move again with another round of fire in her fists. “I know what you look like, but you aren’t what you seem. You can’t be.”
“Oh, is the poor little redeemed student too afraid to admit the obvious? You’re never rid of something like me. I’m you...you’re me...and that's the way it will always be!” it cackled and fired a solid wide beam of cyan colored energy at the base of Sunset’s perch, sending it to the ground and Sunset flying into the air flailing.
Sunset twisted in the air and used her flames to land with relative ease before turning to her opponent. “No. I don’t believe it!” she threw several fireballs, each of which landed in front of the demon but none of which fazed her. She took a step back in surprise then threw several more with the same result. “You can’t be…”
Her phone vibrated again.
Alarm! she thought to herself and pulled the phone out to look at it. The alarm was long overdue and alerting her to the time she had been exposed to the zone’s madness potential.
The demon laughed and smiled down at Sunset. “Overstayed your welcome have you? Think what you want but you can never escape what I am. Fight me all you want, throw all the fireballs and barricades in front of me.” It landed and walked closer to the startled Sunset, who took another step back, confused still as her contamination set in.
Sunset threw a final wall of fire in front of her as a last resort being disoriented as the magic ate away at her mental state, but she began to re-center her mind. “Not real...” she whispered.
The demon walked through the flames in an almost theatrical performance and moved with frightening speed, picking Sunset up by the throat and hoisting her up with her wings starting to flap. “I’m as real as your guilt. You did all this!” she threw her other hand behind her, showing Sunset the ruins of Canterlot High School in the distance. “No matter how much you try, how many faces you beat into a pulp in alleys. THIS...will always be here!”
Sunset was visible frighten now, kicking her legs in the air as she was choked with her mind spinning. She suddenly closed her eyes and stopped her struggles, going still. Her eyes snapped open and stared at the old demonic version of herself. “No. None of this is happening.”
The grip released and Sunset realized she was on the ground with seeing as none of it having happened. Save for the fireballs she had thrown, nothing was upturned and her demonic version was gone with no traces of her assault.
She inhaled deeply and held her head then realized her phone was in her hand still. She concentrated and cleared her mind of the problems and magic that was attempting to penetrate her willpower. She bought herself enough time to start moving out of the zone with the guilt and the other emotions remaining in check as she fled. Keeping her wits about her, she made it through her fence exit and ran like a shot into the woods before diving into the brush, holding her phone to her chest like a sort of security blanket.
Panting, she finally opened her eyes and sat up, sweat pouring from her forehead as she put her phone away. Wiping her forehead, she looked around and found she was clear of any patrols and relaxed more.
“Should have went to the trouble of getting a respirator.” She said finally before grabbing her clothing.
Nightwatch ducked under the crime scene barrier tape while carefully clearing around the rubble and other various mess that was in the lab, being mindful to not disturb the scene. Several CSI personnel were gathering photographic evidence as he turned towards Lemon Zest. She was looking over the body of a female scientist. Soft rock music was playing through her earphones as she adjusted her safety glasses that began to slip from her face. They had almost fallen as she worked before turning her head to notice the grey toned captain.
“Watch your step.” She said while motioning to a blood splatter near him which he skillfully dodged. “We got at least a dozen in here and most of them are...well...everywhere.” She shrugged and looked back down at the body she was working on recording. “Reports say meta human and it’s obviously true. Everyone in here has had a number done on them.”
“Bad day to be an egghead.” Nightwatch said, snapping on a pair of latex gloves and kneeling down next to Zest. “What got this girl?”
Lemon didn’t answer immediately, looking over the puncture wounds and splatter patterns nearby. She then traced along the victim’s entry wound lightly. She turned her head to look at him on her left. “Something big and nasty. Puncture wounds are rather clean. Manufactured weaponry or meta human insertion of some sort. The inside of it is too smooth.” She answered before poking at the wound’s side. “Well relatively speaking. Knife wounds would--”
“Not be this clean, right.” He stood back up and scanned the room. “No idea on a perpetrator?” he turned and looked down at her.
“Well seeing as you’re here, I’m guessing it’s a meta human issue.” She smiled and resumed her work, unamused. “But from what I can gather, there’s video of the intruder. Maxine is working on securing it. We’ll have it in a bit. That is IF she can deal with the suit that’s given us a hard time since we responded to this call.” Lemon Zest motioned behind her to a smaller framed girl speaking with an even more larger heavy set women in a burgundy skirt and blouse. Pale orchid skin complimented by a grayish violet hair done up into a bun. She seemed, even from the distance, somewhat pompous.
“Ms. Tiara has been more than generous with allowing you access to one of our top secret facilities. Need I remind you that everything in this room is property of Tiara Technologies and cannot be removed without express written permission, m’kay?” the woman in burgundy turned her nose up ever so slightly to the officer she was speaking with.
“Excuse me a moment.” Nightwatch turned towards the two, leaving Lemon to her work.
“Take no prisoners.” She snickered without looking back, the music on her headphones changing tracks to a light electronic beat.
Nightwatch walked over quickly, stepping over another splatter and clearing his throat. This interrupted the next rant that the suited woman was about to go on. “Pardon me. I’m Captain Nightwatch, I’ll handle this Maxine, thanks.” He nodded to the officer who gave a relieved but subtle look before turning and walking to help another one stringing tape up.
“Captain Nightwatch! I’ve seen you on the news. Tiara Technologies looks forward to helping any and all elements of the E.C.P.D. in it’s contract for Meta Human combat. If there’s anything I can do for you, let me know, ‘kay?” she put on a transparently fake smile.
“I’m sorry miss...er..” he gestured to her.
“Polomare. Suri. Polomare.” She kept her facade up.
“Ms. Polomare, I’m sorry but--”
“Please, call me Suri, I insist.” She tilted her head slightly, grinning.
“Suri.” He finally said somewhat annoyed even more than when he arrived. “I’m sorry but I have no part in choosing who gets the contract for that. Now, Suri can--”
“Ms. Polomare, please.” Suri corrected him again, her face returning to her original expression once his inability to advance her companies goals was presented. “Now as I was trying to tell your little secretary over there--”
“MS. Polomare. Your cooperation so far is admirable, but I need to remind you this is a crime scene. Several people are dead. This is NOT going to be wrapped up in a few hours. The more you and your company cooperate with us, the more likely it is we won’t have to be here any longer than ANY OF US..” he lowered his voice, realizing he had raised it. “Any of us want. Furthermore, I’d appreciate it if you gave me and the rest of the officers on site the respect they deserve. M’kay?”
Suri widened her eyes midway through his statement then returned to her business face as he finished up. Looking around a moment, she blinked her eyes exceptionally slow and returned her gaze to him. “‘Kay.” She turned and walked off, heels clicking and for a moment she slid on a blood splatter before catching herself and walking under the tape then out the door.
Nightwatch exhaled slowly as she left. Turning and walking over to Maxine, he noticed that about four of the crew were gathered around the main holding chamber, trying to get it open. Walking and side stepping various debris, he got to them and noticed one of them typing in numbers on the keypad.
“Trouble?” he asked while looking at Maxine.
“No, we’re pretty sure we got at least one more victim in there, trying to get this open.” Maxine responded while motioning towards the big chamber.
“Is that...entirely safe?” he asked while motioning himself to the chamber. “Did we get the all clear that there’s nothing toxic in there?”
“Oh yeah, hazmat checked this whole place before we set up camp to work.”
“Alright then, here, lets get in there.” Nightwatch stood behind one of the crew on the left side and helped pull, timing their movements together. “And...NOW!”
A chorus of groans and grunts followed with the sounds of strained steel and gears following. Moments later, the efforts they put forward were rewarded as the mechanisms gave way and the chamber doors slid quickly and effortlessly. Several of the officers fell to the ground as did Nightwatch, catching himself too late and bringing a tray of tools onto his head from the counter near them.
“OW!” He yelped while rubbing his temple before waving off Maxine. “I’m ok, I’m ok...” he stood up. “That was a stupid idea but I’m ok.”
“Captain, you may want to see this.” The front officer yelled back to them, looking directly into the chamber as he coughed from the smoke that was trailing out into the room.
“Hey, get back from there we don’t know--” Nightwatch grabbed the shoulder of the officer only to look into the chamber as well, stopping mid-sentence. “Whoa...” was all he could muster up.
Twilight rubbed her eyes and took a break from the monitor in front of her, stretching and cracking her neck softly. She had been working on approving all the new additions to the Model 3 Matterhorn, and her mind was slowly winding down as Spike’s avatar popped up on an idle screen to her left.
“That’s all of them, Twilight.” He said, his small dragon form putting a clipboard behind his back in classic cartoon fashion. “All that’s left is for you to say the word!”
She yawned and nodded midway through, covering her mouth. “Sorry, sorry, Spike. Begin construction. Put the energy cells at the top of the list and fire the fabricators up.” She stood and held the small of her back while stretching left and right slowly. “Wow, I need to take more breaks…”
“No time like the present. This new project will take a while to finish. Why not take a load off, catch some shut eye?” Spike asked with his dragon form suddenly appearing with a sleeping cap on.
“That's a good idea, Spike. Wake me if there's any problems.” She said with a sleepy tone, arms stretching wide as she stifled another yawn. While pushing open a side door to a makeshift bedroom, she flipped a light switch off with the machinery in the room starting to hum softly as it kicked into full automation mode.
Spike turned off the various monitors in the room through a quick series of commands and he himself vanished from the last screen that was mounted by the door Twilight had gone out of, leaving the latest armor to be constructed overnight.
As the final light dimmed and Spike went into standby mode, the overhead vent to the exhaust of the room rattled ever so slightly. A second later it did so again until it fell from its hinges. A pair of gloved hands catching it mid fall and pulling it back up into the ceiling. Half a second later the familiar form of The Phoenix dropped into room with the stealth of a cat landing from a higher ledge, disturbing next to nothing as she did.
Pulling out a small flashlight from her belt pouch, she turned it on and scanned the room slowly, her eye line following the beam as it searched high and low. Moving through the cluttered lab, Sunset paused and looked at the Matterhorn Armor model 1. Twilight had wisely kept it locked behind security glass. Looking it up and down out of curiosity, she gave a small nod and pursed her bottom lip, clearly impressed. The distraction took her time for only a half a minute before she resumed her search, diving the occasional scanning beam from the security system in the room. She remained hidden from it as her hands rummaged through a small stack of papers. Scoffing softly she clearly wasn't finding what she was looking for and turned to a large cabinet at the other side of the room.
Her boots leaving little to no footfall, Sunset stuck the light to the side of her goggles and opened the cabinet. Opening the second set of drawers in it, she kept a stern and determined expression yet still not finding her objective.
A sudden series of rapid clicks and switches firing alerted her to her discovery. Turning towards the other end of the room she saw the lights come on around her and several metal plates securing the doors and windows. Twilight stood at the far door, a metal plate sliding into its locking position behind her.
“Security system heard you about five minutes ago as you were stumbling in the air vents.” Twilight said with her arms crossed. “Can I help you find something? Clearly you're not here for the armor or to sabotage it.”
Sunset adjusted her glasses and took the flashlight from the side, turning it off with a small click to the bottom of it. Remaining calm, she kept her avenues of movement open as she finally answered, as usual keeping her tone flat and lower than usual. “I need a respirator to access the Canterlot site.”
“So you decided to steal it?” Twilight asked sternly, though as the hero’s face and hair came into focus, her expression lightened slightly. “What do you need to get into the site for?”
Sunset stepped back and to the left, into a darker section of the room after noticing Twilight’s expression had change. For the most part of her life, she had not had to deal with anyone who may have known her before the explosion. Anyone from the school wasn’t usually crossing paths with her when she was in costume and her hair was more familiar. “I can’t entirely disclose that, but I can tell you it’s very important and people may be in danger. I can’t save them without it.”
“Your reputation isn’t the most reassuring, if I’m remembering...you...correctly...” Twilight squinted as she looked at her visitor closer. “Don’t...have we met?” she asked, taking another step and settling next to one of the fabrication chambers with the insides whirling away as the new model assembled.
“Twilight!” Spike popped up next to her on one of the flat screen monitors.
“Spike?” both Sunset and Twilight asked at the same time, both surprised for different reasons.
“Get away from the--” Spike began to shout as the arms near Twilight were starting to move faster and faster with a sickening crunch beginning to resonate.
“Look out!” Sunset shouted, charging forward and knocking her only connection to her world out of the way of a set of razor sharp assembly arms. Glass shattered and the gear assembly flew out at a frightening speed. A rapid cascade failure of the system took place, the final element resulting in several large gears jamming together and the combined pressure creating an explosion that Sunset caught on the side of the face and back. The force sent them both towards the ground, knocking the wind out of them.
Sunset coughed with her eyes shut and her lungs having trouble catching any real sense of oxygen. Her vision slowly returning, she snapped her eyes open as she realized she was alone and Twilight was nowhere to be seen. Instead she noticed a taller woman at one of the tables, seated and staring at a wall in the far corner of the room.
“Twilight?” she asked of the figure before adjusting her glasses and jacket. “Are you ok?”
No response came from the tall woman, instead she remained silent and her features turned away from the light for the most part.
Walking closer, Sunset felt uneasy with her vision obscured by what she assumed was dust though when she waved it away, it sparkled slightly. Grabbing at a handful of it, she caught nothing but a few shards of the sparkling substance before it disappeared from her sight.
“Sunset Shimmer.” A voice that sent a chill down the lone hero’s spine. It was Celestia. Not the one from this world, the tone was by far different. The one that had always scorned her for asking about mirrors when she should have been studying.
The chair snapped around and in it sat a rather large Alicorn Princess, her wings unfurling and her body becoming apparent as she stood up. It was Celestia from her own world but how she was there was still in question. The world seemed to grow smaller around her with the lights dimming save for the one around Sunset and Celestia. Two bright spots in the darkness was all that was left.
“I had hoped you’d simply leave and settle down quietly in a new world. Maybe find a nice male and even have a child of your own.” Princess Celestia continued, her regalia protected hooves clopping on the tile as she approached Sunset. “Maybe IT would have had more use to the world then you turned out to have.”
“Princess Celestia, that's not fair.” Sunset began to protest, taking a step back. “I…”
“You’ve made a mess of things several times over is what you’ve done. First you let your foolish pride send you on a flight of fancy. I had hoped you’d return once you’d learned how wrong you were, but instead, you hid like a child. A spoiled child who didn’t have the sense to understand the magic of friendship…” Celestia’s shadow overtook her former student. “...even when it was practically spoon fed to you like a foal by my brightest student! What did I ever see in you?” she shook her head slowly.
Sunset’s eyes widened more and she began to feel tears welling up but she fought them back, not letting her former teacher see her weakness. Her hands clenched into fists while small amounts of smoke wafted from them as her powers slowly but surely started manifesting.
“Then to make matters worse, which is an accomplishment I must say, you try to take ON three far superior foes ALONE...and again you failed!” Celestia’s voice boomed loudly as Sunset had read in her studies it was capable of doing in times of anger. “You allowed a massive destructive wave to hurt an entire world and instead of owning your mistake...” Celestia circled her now. “AGAIN...you RUN!”
Sunsets gaze was fixed to the ground now, her eyes clenching closed occasionally during the lecture. Smoke rising from her fists still at her side as Celestia's words rang in her head.
“Now the poor failure of a student I'm ashamed once was under my wing wants to correct the world because she feels bad.” Celestia sarcastic and condescending tone made Sunsets eyes open a bit, something not quite sitting right suddenly.
“No doubt wanting to fail again, the failure of a pupil who wishes to prove herself to a teacher whom doesn't care to see that she's going at it alone. A selfish act meant to reinvigorate the pride she felt when she was Celestia's student.”
Flames slowly lit in the palm of Sunsets hands and gloves.
“Still a pathetic, academically challenged and reclusive shut in that even Twilight Sparkle would feel--"
Sunset turned to the larger alicorn and leapt, taking her by surprise and latching her hands around the larger throat of her former mentor. She screamed a primal throaty cry as all the guilt, all the sorrow, all the pent up emotions of the last few minutes released from her along with the flames firing out from the gloves around her teacher's neck. Rattling and throttling they tumbled to the ground and out of the light, with beakers and monitors smashing as they fought. The illumination from her flames was the only thing helping her see.
Rolling back into the light and on top of Celestia, Sunset pulled her fist back to strike another blow and possibly crush her mentors windpipe. What she saw stopped her: instead of Celestia, she saw on the ground herself in the same outfit she had gone to her first day of school in.
The doppelganger laughed, the lethal looking wounds not giving her any pause as she stood up on her forearms that were behind her. Her cackling continued as she looked directly into Sunset’s eyes and spoke finally, the tone filled with different versions of her voice, all echoing and reverbing off the others. “Always so quick to violence.” It smiled. “What has it gotten you? Power? It rules you. Friends?”
Sunset stood up, bumping into something as she did and turning towards it with a startle. She gasped but didn’t cry out, closing her mouth and snapping her emotions down the best she could given the circumstances.
Surrounding her in a full circle were hundreds maybe thousands of caskets, all with brass plated names on the tops. Turning to back away from them, she bumped into another, then another and another. The entire room was filled with them and her doppleganger, who was sitting on one near the center of the room, was smiling.
“...all dead.” It said, the smile never once leaving its face.
She closed her eyes and shook her head, hands around her temples and clenching. “No. NO!” NO!” opening her eyes, she started to protest again as the world had switched again. She was suddenly confronted with so many familiar faces from Canterlot High, all in various states of distress from the explosion. They all reached forward and grabbed towards her, sending her stumbling backwards flat against a wall. Cries of terror came from Sunset with her hands flying up in front of her to shield herself. All she could see was the lights going away as the crowd of zombie like students closed in on her, their accusations echoing in her ears!
Sunset screamed while lunging forward with her hands outstretched, flames spewing forward in front of her.
“WHOA!” Twilight screamed while holding her hands up in front of her. The gauntlets she was wearing swiftly activated, generating a purple hue force field and deflecting the fire as it reached her. “Sunset! It’s me! You’re safe!”
The flames stopped as suddenly as they had started with Sunset gasping and clenching her fists to halt the output. As quickly as she did that, she reached up and found her glasses were gone, in fact most of her outfit was off of her. She glanced around and then back to Twilight, whom was wearing her normal outfit save for the gauntlets from the new armor. The magic was dissipating as she let her hands down as well.
“Twilight! Sunset’s awake!” Spike said with his avatar popping up on a screen next to the lavender scientist. “Oh…” he gave a sheepish grin. “Nevermind.”
“Spike?” Sunset furrowed her brow. “I mean...who are…” Sunset sighed, realizing it wasn’t worth the effort anymore and returned to her normal tone. “I guess it’s silly to keep up the facade.” She sat up on the cot she had been passed out on, grunting and holding her right shoulder. “Ow…”
“Careful. You took a heck of a hit.” Spike popped up next to Sunset on a very small LCD screen dressed in a nurses outfit, which he noticed and quickly changed to a doctor’s outfit with a blink of an eye.
“Spike, what happened to you?” Sunset asked while touching the monitor. “Where are you?” she leaned forward and swung her legs around to the side of the cot, looking at Twilight.
“Technically I’m dead.” Spike said, wearing a grim reaper outfit now as he switched to a new monitor. “Twilight programmed me into this however, so I guess I’m alive. In a way. It’s complicated.”
“I bet.” Sunset smirked while rubbing her shoulder with her gloved hand, then moving them to her temples. “Speaking of which…”
“Speaking of dead...you’re supposed to be.” Twilight raised an eyebrow. “For all I knew you were.” She sounded very cross with her friend, the gauntlets powering down finally as she took them off with several snapping and metal couplings sounding.
“Yeah about that…” the former student of Celestia rubbed her shoulder again while rotating it slowly. “I’m not. Clearly. But could we not go diving into that just now? I’m really in a bad place right now, mentally. Let’s start over for now?” she gave a pleading look to Twilight.
“It’s a little hard to do that after I catch you trying to steal from me and Rarity.” Twilight shook her head slowly.
“I wasn’t lying when I told you I needed them for a good reason. It’s true.” Sunset tried to stand but didn’t quite make it with her joints aching and sending her back to a seated position. “Oh geez...WHAT hit me?”
“Fabrication unit. I was trying to tell Twilight we were about to have an overload.” Spike said, wearing a hard hat and holding a pipe wrench. “Small miscalculation on exactly how hard we could push the assembly plant. It’s corrected now.” He nodded to Twilight. “Back on track.”
“Thank you, Spike.” Twilight nodded back before sitting on a rolling stool she had pulled up next to Sunset slowly. “Now, I’m willing to listen but you have to tell me everything from--”
“Twilight, I heard an explosion and I--” Rarity busted in with her security card in one hand and a half full glass of what appeared to be whiskey in the other. Being barefoot, her stockings slid on the floor as she tried to come to a halt as well as to save her footing and her drink. “Whooa!”
“Rarity!” Spike shouted, his processes switching from monitor to monitor and at the same time a pair of mechanical arms from a nearby fabrication chamber breaking through their glass case and catching the business women before she hit the floor. The momentum she was going was a bit too fast to stop abruptly so he had compensated for the fall with her back bent over slightly as he finished the save. A small monitor popped out of the hinges of the arms with Spike’s face on it. “Are you alright?” he asked while looking down at her.
“My hero…” she giggled and slowly passed out while leaning back into the arms of the device he controlled. The glass fell and shattered. Spike’s expression was a bit desperate as the monitor turned to the other two former unicorns, both of which were in a state of surprise for several reasons of their own.
Sunset blinked as she looked at Rarity’s state of inebriation and Spike’s classic medieval hold on her as if from the cover of a romance novel, and then at the state of her own costume which had several large tears and scorches on it. Silently she turned back to Twilight.
“It seems we both have some catching up to do.” Twilight gave half a smile and rubbed the back of her head.
“You will cease and desist all your hostile actions immediately and return to Canterlot with me for judgement of your crimes.”
“You must be the ‘Princess’ I keep hearing about. You’re taller than I thought you’d be.”
“You...are more than you seem.”
“I’m not from around here, true enough, your highness.”
Malcontent’s eyes shot open, his mind lost in memories left him uncharacteristically exposed, a feeling he disliked greatly. Swirls of cobalt colored magic smoldered from his eyes before the trails vanished into thin air, the last of his focused thoughts gone now. The doors at the far end of the hall slammed shut followed by the telltale sounds of Aria’s boots. Leaning back in his chair, his gloved hands came together in front of him while turning to his accomplice, the fireplace light giving him limited exposure to the naked eye.
“Aria, my dear, what news do you bring?” he asked finally, his eyes flickering with a few last sparks of his species’ powers. Crossing his leg across the knee of the other, he waited to hear from his lover, his siren, his finely honed tool he had sharpened over the years. He was quite proud of himself.
Aria stood by the gothic looking fireplace and crossed her arms, the edge of boredom setting into her mood hinting across her expression. The tendrils that wrapped around her gem pulsed a few times as she stepped closer to her partner. She used that term loosely. “Your pet pitbull has the bomb. She took out the entire facility and left no one alive. The E.C.P.D. is still trying to pick up the pieces and to make any sense of it.” Aria shivered as she got closer to him, pulling her tiny jacket around her.
“Your contact assures you of this?” he stood up, clasping his hands behind his back. The tie and shirt he wore ruffled slightly as he turned towards his massive chess table of the city. Walking slowly towards it, he smiled, giving her a small gesture to open her jacket. “Cupcake wasn’t it?”
Aria didn’t flinch, remaining stoic as she could while she continued. “She’s got a few friends on the force and she’s rather good at extracting information subtly with her talents.” She walked behind him carefully, opening her jacket as he made his gesture, exposing more of the gem embedded in her sternum.
Malcontent picked up several pawns on the board and placed them along different streets, finally picking up a larger one that comically looked like Mistress Mayhem. He brought it to eye level and smiled at it. Setting it down at the center of a large interaction in Central Equestrian City, he picked up a side piece and looked it over, this one bearing the warning symbol for radiation. “Then the pieces are slowly landing where they need to. Good work as always my lovely Siren.” He placed it next to Mayhem.
“Something one of the eggheads said has me curious...dear.” She shivered again but fought against her instinct to cover up. “Before I wiped the memories they had of me there, the lead scientist was mentioning something about the bomb being...too big. It was going to be TOO good at it’s job.”
“And?” Malcontent didn’t look up from his board, picking up another few pawns and setting them around Mayhem’s. “You worry too much. IF our crazy little hair hack gets to even set the timer on that device, we’ll be so far into the final leg of my plan it won’t make a difference.” He finished while turning back to her and adjusting his glasses. “I’ll be…” he stopped and chuckled. “We’ll be long gone by the time it goes off, so it won’t bother us one bit.”
Aria frowned as he corrected himself. “WE...are leaving together aren’t we?”
There was a long pause, the crackling of the fire and the flames from it flickering off Mal’s glasses. A slow smile came across his face.
“My dear, you’ve been listening to those has been sisters of yours again haven’t you?” he wagged his finger at her slowly.
Aria raised her eyebrows in surprise to the question. “I…”
“Don’t listen to a thing they say. I told you...” he brought his hands around her bare waist and linked them behind her back. Staring down at her or her gem, it was hard to tell, he grinned wider. “I love you.”
She blinked, hearing it again in her head while she stared back, a slow smile on her face forming.
“Let's face it, you love me.” He said presumptuously before letting go of her and cupping her chin to look at him. “As much as either one of our species can love another.” He let the last part sink in before letting go. “Now you must be tired. All that memory wiping and singing has to take a toll on you. Why don’t you go rest.” He walked by her unceremoniously. “I’ll join you in a bit.”
Giving him an uneasy by complying look, Aria turned and shrugged off her jacket, tossing it to a sofa. The jacket itself turned to magical tendrils as it left her proximity, the magic she had used to conjure it losing range on her. Taking a right out of the room they were in, she closed a set of doors behind her with their closure echoing through the hallway.
Malcontent turned back to his work station to the far end of the room and walked over towards it, quickly losing his pleasant expression. Pushing a few tools aside he looked at the plans under it. Labeled as part of the Department of City Planning, it was the last known layout of Canterlot High School prior to it’s explosion. Focusing on the courtyard he pulled out a red pen and started making small markings on the map.
“In fact by the time ANYONE realizes what's going on, it will be entirely too late.” He whispered to himself, making a few calculations on the side of the paper as his half cocked smile grew more apparent.
END OF CHAPTER