Being made of stone left little to do but go insane…or plan. Discord had done quite a bit of both in the previous millennia, and after finding himself once again petrified he resumed his plotting. While his more mundane senses couldn’t tell him about his surroundings, he had others to assist him. Celestia, his nemesis and companion for thousands of years, approached his frozen form along with the more muted and mundane minds of her guards. Then he was moving…somewhere. The development was unexpected so soon but not unanticipated, especially when the presence of the Elements appeared nearby. Had his face not been made of stone, Discord might have grinned. Oh Celestia, you are so easy to anticipate.
A few moments passed before the avatar of chaos felt the elements of harmony begin to crack his stone prison. As Discord broke free he screamed to the heavens for his emancipation…and followed his cry with with a fit of laughter.
“Reform me? Reform ME!?” Discord spoke between guffaws, “And who does she think can do it?” A quick glance to the yellow Pegasus was all Discord needed for confirmation. “Fluttershy?” He fell to the ground in laughter. The six elements surrounded Discord while Twilight stepped forward.
Before Twilight could speak, Discord shot upward and looked down upon her. “Oh yes, I know, I know.” His lions paw started to mimic a mouth speaking, and Twilight’s voice came from it, “Righteous indignation, threats to use the elements, blah blah blah.”
“I haven’t lived as long as I have without being able to see the writing on the wall, my dears.” Discord continued as he walked backwards. One mismatched claw pointed at the wall that appeared behind him.
“It says…fourth?” Twilight said, arching an eyebrow as she surveyed the word written there. She recoiled in surprise when Pinkie Pie’s head burst from the center of the wall.
“It doesn’t matter which wall you put up, Discord! I will break it down if you start being mean again!” Pinkie declared loudly, and the whole wall tumbled down around her.
Discord shrugged and looked over his shoulder. “I knew I shouldn’t have used that wall! Pinkie knows its fatal weakness.” Both Pinkie and Twilight started to interrupt, but Discord shushed the two of them. “This situation can only end in two ways, I’ll either become a lawn ornament again, or I’ll ‘reform’ myself. The only real wild card is how I am reformed... So, Twilight, care to make a wager?”
“You and your precious friends all know in your heart of hearts that friendship can conquer all. I am still not convinced.” Discord leaned backwards in a chair that instantly appeared behind him. His manic eyes were now hidden behind orange-shaded glasses, and his now white-gloved paws/claws were steepled before his face. “These are the terms: Convince me, irrefutably, that friendship is the strongest power in the universe, and I will willingly submit to Celestia’s authority.”
Twilight looked to the other elements before nodding and turning back to Discord. “I accept your challenge, Discord.” The avatar of chaos grinned and snapped his fingers. A cardboard cutout of Twilight fell face first onto the ground where she once stood.
“What did you do to Twilight!?” The other elements screamed in disbelief.
Discord only grinned and inspected his gloved paws, “Sent her off to win or lose our wager of course. If friendship is as powerful as she says, then she will have no problems returning here and proving me wrong.” He leaned forward and gave a grin that was all teeth. “I sent her someplace where hostility is first, second and third nature. Someplace where the unknown is an enemy to be destroyed. Someplace where friendship certainly isn’t magic...”
The screams and the sounds of fire nearby were the first indications that Twilight wasn’t in Ponyville anymore. It was a long few moments before her other senses returned to her, smoke quickly filling her lungs as she tried to take a breath. The unicorn coughed as she tried to stand. Gone was the familiar feeling of grass and soil, replaced instead with smooth stone beneath her hooves.
“Ugh, girls? What happened?” Twilight slowly opened her eyes to see just what was going on, and she could only gasp. Gone were the comforting fields of grass outside Ponyville. The ground was perfectly level and entirely stone, and the blockish buildings surrounded her on three sides were ablaze. As her senses recovered further, Twilight's analytical mind continued to take note of the details of her surroundings, including two metal boxes that she now found herself between.
Twilight’s ears perked up upon hearing voices beyond the boxes, and she cautiously peeked around the corner to see the source. On the other side of the clearing a trio of figures emerged from between the buildings. All three were bipeds, two taller ones and a smaller one clinging as tightly as it could. The largest one shouted and turned back the way it came while the other two continued to run.
Twilight tracked the pair as they ran before turning back to the first figure, just in time to see it die. Something with far too many claws and legs scuttled out from the darkness between the buildings and pounced with a welter of crimson blood. Both of the two remaining figures screamed, and in the blink of an eye the monster crossed the distance and knocked the pair down. Only one screaming voice remained now, only to be abruptly terminated in a flurry of blood and claws.
Twilight knew about death. She knew about predators and how they killed in the wild. Her studies were manifold and varied, and one of the brief subjects she had touched on was natural sciences. She could rationally understand what had just happened, and may have been able to accept it as a fact of how the world worked had she read it in a book.
But it didn’t happen in a book; three lives had just ended violently before her at the claws of something she could only describe as a monster. Her eyes dilated to pin-pricks and she began to hyperventilate loudly, which drew the attention of the murderous monster away from its latest victim. It dropped the tiny body and whirled around to advance upon Twilight with a howl.
“Stay…away. Stay away!” Twilight whispered to the thing, but it scuttled toward her on blade-like legs. Its glowing eyes fixed upon her, and a pair of claw tipped and gore stained arms reached forward as it moved with frightening speed. The unicorn’s horror transformed into mortal fear as she tapped her magic and screamed, “STAY AWAY!”
The spell she intended to cast was a telekinetic press to slow or stop the monster’s advance. Its lightest form would have felt like a wet blanket being thrown over its target, the stronger incantations being enough to bring a hearty earth stallion to the ground until it wore off. But Twilight’s talent was raw magic, and her natural abilities were enhanced by the fear of a violent death so close at hand.
A massive telekinetic force fell upon the monster, crushing it flat and spraying yellow ichor in all directions as well as cratering the stone beneath it. The crushed body, or what was left of it, twitched once before going still. Whatever hypnotic hold that held Twilight in place broke and she scrambled backwards before falling back on her flank. Her eyes remained locked on the corpse of the monster, and the same thought kept repeating through her mind: I didn’t mean to hurt it, I didn’t mean to hurt it; I didn’t mean to hurt it…
Tears began to well up in her eyes as a shadow fell over her. She had just enough time to register another biped standing behind her before the whole world went dark.
16:45, 04/02/15, Washington, D.C.
“Fowler, Harris, the last Chryssalid is down,” Corporal Matt Harris reported through the comms as he stepped over the stunned x-ray to survey what was left of the bug. He holstered the ARC thrower and pistol and brought his rifle to cover the rather thoroughly crushed Chryssalid while he looked to the corpses of the three civilians. “Signal recovery for my location, I have a live capture.”
“Copy, Harris. Excellent work,” The reply came through his helmet comms, “confirm capture type?”
The corporal turned back to the stunned and slightly twitching x-ray before shaking his head slightly, “A…unicorn, sir?”
OPERATION HAMMERHEAD: COMPLETE
ALIEN TERROR MISSION HALTED
CIVILIAN LOSSES MINIMAL
STRIKE-1 REPORTS 0 KIA, 2 WIA
RECOVERY TEAM INVENTORY:
(Documented by LT Fujikawa)
PLASMA WEAPON FRAGMENTS (15 total)
SECTOID CORPSES (5 total)
THIN MAN CORPSES (3 total)
CHRYSSALID CORPSES (3 total)
UNICORN LIVE CAPTURE
OPERATION EVALUATION: EXCELLENT