• Published 2nd Nov 2013
  • 8,289 Views, 346 Comments

Alienation - Longtooth

I am not Twilight Sparkle. We share one body, one past, but not our souls. I do not know why I am here, or why I have done these terrible things. This is my story.

  • ...

Experience Zone

Saving the world isn’t a journey one generally embarks upon intentionally. Oh, you’ll set out with a vague idea of helping, maybe even a concrete goal in the making things better department. But to consciously, wilfully set out to save the entire world? Not the standard hero M.O. Even Twilight Sparkle, twice saviour of the world itself, was playing a reactive role when she did her thing. The danger was imminent, the path to victory dangerous, but clear. She merely had to follow the trail that had been set out for her, and not lose heart when things seemed darkest. When I decided to save the world? I did it deliberately, and I had to forge that trail for myself.

I was exhausted from my long night, but I couldn’t sleep. Too much had happened, too much was still running through my head for me to relax that far. I paced and mumbled and talked to myself until well after the sun was up. I was working out what I had seen, the possibilities, the potential. I was building a map of a catastrophe.

The black crystal was evil. That was certain. It was also powerful, much more so than its form would suggest. I knew practically nothing about magical drugs, so I would need to find out more on them, see if black crystal something that had appeared before. I doubted it, but I needed confirmation. I needed information in general. I had an idea of what I was up against, but without access to more knowledge I wouldn’t be able to fight it. I knew nothing, or next to it, about how the underworld distributed their illegal substances. I would need to seek out that information as well.

I was, however, certain about the potential for disaster. Black crystal was a magical drug that actually gave its users the power to influence others. Including influencing them to take the drug themselves. It also affected radical personality shifts, and even physical deformation. If there was enough of it, if it could be produced and distributed fast enough, it would become a plague. That was what I had to stop, the potential for the drug to become an epidemic.

I couldn’t do it by myself. The information wouldn’t be in any library, and I had no idea how to get it own my own. I could theoretically gain access to the Guard records and police files, they would give me a better picture, but not the one I needed. No. I had to go to somepony who would be willing to talk to me, would know their way around the underworld but wouldn’t be too corrupted by it.

The only pony I knew that fit the bill was Vinyl Scratch.

Canterlot was wide awake and well into its day by the time I left my rooms and headed to Vinyl’s apartment, remembering the address that she had given me in a moment of lucidity. I felt like there were a thousand eyes on me as I walked through he streets. I would like to think it was a guilty conscience, but I know the truth is more likely that it was the after-effects of the bubble, and the fact that there were a lot of ponies in fact looking at me. Except they weren't looking at me with any interest, their eyes passing over, empty of intent. They saw me but didn't notice me, and I felt like they should have.

My knocking on Vinyl's door was somewhat insistent, and when she opened with bleary eyes and a mane even more wild than her usual style, I just walked right in.

"Uh, morning?" Vinyl said, watching me pass by her in a rush, but not making any move to stop me.

"Vinyl, I need your help," I said, cutting straight to the heart of it. Whichs was, probably, a pretty poor thing to do to a mare who had been up the entire night, and was probably worried about me until just then.

"You in trouble?"

"Yes. No. Yes, but not in a personal sense."

Vinyl started blearily in my direction, then slammed the door shut. "Want some coffee?"

"By Celestia's golden shoes, yes," I replied.

She went to make the coffee in the kitchen and I took the opportunity to look around her apartment. It was a place of contrasts. She clearly had a roommate, possibly more than one, as evidenced by the eclectic collection of furniture and decorations that cluttered the place. A music stand stood in one corner, the score to a piece of chamber music lying open on it. A turntable was shoved up against the wall opposite the music stand, stacks of records piled in a seemingly haphazard arrangement next to and around it. Posters and playbills were tacked up on every available wall space, some advertising clubs and events, others for symphony performances and musicals.

I recognized Fluttershy from one of the posters, a remnant of her brief but extremely successful modelling career. It left a strange sense of incongruity with me. She looked so stern in that poster, aloof. Completely unlike her. I wonder if she had felt then what I was feeling now: like a stranger living somepony else's life. I wish I had taken the time to ask her, maybe she would have understood.

Most likely she wouldn't have, though. Most likely there's no one who could ever understand, really. The best I can ever hope for is acceptance, and that's probably well out of reach now.

Vinyl came back with two cups of sweet caffeine and set them down on the low coffee table that took up some space between the magazine-covered couch and the empty fireplace. With no free chairs she just lay on the floor next to the table, and I followed suit.

Vinyl took a long drink from her mug, clearly savouring it, before looking back to me. "So. Trouble."

"Trouble," I said.

"What kind?"

"Fate of the world."

Her eyes widened and she let out an incredulous laugh. "Wow. Okay, not what I was expecting."

"What were you expecting?" I asked, too curious to leave it alone.

"Well, you take off after a clearly stoned girl heading into the bad side of the river? I kinda expected you to get yourself robbed or tossed in jail for the night."

"Ah," I nodded. "Reasonable."

"But 'fate of the world'? Yeah, a little out of my experience zone, you get me?"

"I don't think it's in anyone's, uh, 'experience zone'," I said, then thought about it for a moment. "Well, except mine, I guess. And my friends'. And the Princesses', of course."

"Of course."

"Look, I don't expect you to save the world or anything," I said shifting uncomfortably as I realized I had no idea how I was going to ask what I needed to ask. "It's just... I ran into something last night that's got doomsday potential written all over it. I need to stop it, and to do that I need your help."

"Well, okay!" Vinyl said, then took another long drink, draining her mug. "How am I supposed to do that?"

"I need you to tell me everything about black crystal," I said.

She let out a low whistle. "Not good stuff. Black crystal will really mess a pony up."

"I know," I said, remembering all I had seen. "What do you know?"

"Well, I don't touch the stuff, and I don't really want to. I've seen what it does, though." She closed her eyes, laying her head on her folded forelegs. "I knew this guy in the scene. He wasn't as well known as I am, but he could spin a good set and knew how to work the crowd right up to the line, keep 'em there until they were begging him to just drop the bass and let 'em riot."

"You liked him?"

"As a DJ, yeah. As a pony? Not really. He had problems with keeping his nose out of whatever was being passed around. It made him kinda sloppy sometimes, but he was more into the scene than the music, you know?"

"An addict."

"A socialiser. He'd do whatever came around. Wasn't much of a personality, wasn't much of a standout. As I said, good enough behind the table, but never really memorable. Well, one time what was coming around was black crystal."

"When was this?"

Vinyl shrugged. "A couple months ago. Black crystal's new, you know? One of those designer drugs that hits the streets, makes a big splash and then vanishes."

"Black crystal isn't going to vanish that easily," I said, forming a timeline in my head. It fit with what I already suspected about the drug.

"You think? Yeah that would be a shame," Vinyl sighed. "Anywho, this guy, right, he takes a hit of this stuff, and it's like he's an entirely different pony."

I tensed up at that, but force myself to relax. "What do you mean?"

"Well, he started acting crazy, and not just doped-up crazy. I mean laughing and ranting and demanding everyone do what he wanted. A real pushy jerk. Worst part was, he didn't like it when anypony stood up to him, got kinda violent. We all knew it was the crystal, but we couldn't get him off of it. His buddies, the good ones, they tried, but, well, I guess they weren't so good after all."

"They started doing it too, didn't they?" I asked.

Vinyl nodded. "Became total whack-jobs. I knew bad news when I saw it, so I got away from them. I wasn't good friends, but it still spooked me, seeing them change like that. He stopped being a good DJ too, it really sucked."

"You were lucky," I said. "Have you seen ponies on black crystal doing anything, um, bizarre?"

"I did just mention the ranting and stuff, right?"

"No, I mean magically bizarre."

Vinyl was silent for a long moment. "Yeah," she said eventually, her voice gone very quiet.

I didn’t press her for details. “So it’s consistent,” I said, more to myself than her. “Do you know who started distributing it?”

“Nah, man. I’m down for getting my buzz on, but I know a bad trip when I see one. I didn’t go looking, and I don’t want to.”

“Too bad,” I said, again more to myself than to her. “A known origin point would have made tracking it easier.”

“So, let me get this straight,” Vinyl said, opening her eyes again. “You think this black crystal stuff is ‘fate of the world’ worthy, and you’re going to… what? Take down the drug trade?”

“Not exactly,” I said. “I don’t even know what I’m going to do yet. I need to know more before I make any plans. I need to know distributions, timelines. I need to study the effect more to be sure.”

“And you think I know all of this stuff?”

I shrugged. “You’re the only pony I know who might be able to.”

“You could ask Pinkie Pie, you know,” Vinyl said. I quirked an eyebrow at her, silently questioning. “She could probably tell you.”

“Are we thinking of the same Pinkie Pie here?” I had to ask. “Way too pink? Frizzed-up mane? Manic obsession with parties?”

“That’s the one,” Vinyl confirmed, smirking at the look I was giving her. “Look, like you said, Pinkie’s all about parties, right?” I nodded along. “So she knows everything that’s anything about what goes on at them. That includes every kind of recreational substance under the sun or moon.”

“But… drugs?” I shook my head. “Unless it’s the massive amounts of sugar or caffeine she has to ingest every day to stay that perky, I don’t think she’d know anything.”

“She doesn’t let any of that stuff get into her parties, but trust me, she knows all about them.”

I thought about that for a moment. It made sense, in a strange way. Put like Vinyl had, it was obvious that Pinkie would at least know about the things that would be passed around, if only so she knew what to look for in order to put a stop to it. Of course, considering the idea of asking Pinkie also showed me exactly why I wasn’t going to. “No,” I said. “I don’t want her involved. I don’t want any of them involved.”

“If this is saving-the-world stuff, they’re kinda the only team with experience,” Vinyl pointed out.

I shook my head. “Not the same thing. I’m not dumb, I don’t think something like this can be solved by firing a friendship rainbow at it.”

“Whoa, wait. You actually do that?”

“I don’t want them getting mixed up in this. It’s not something they know how to handle.”

“And you do?”

“I…” I paused, mouth hanging open. I was about to say that I did, but I had to stop myself and really look at that thought. What made me think I could pull this off? Why was I so confident that I could do something alone that Twilight’s friends couldn’t handle? Was it just another thing I was doing to distance myself from Twilight Sparkle?

The truth came to me with a sound. The brittle snap of bone. The thud of a lifeless body against the cobblestones. So fresh in my memory, but somehow so distant as well. An event of monumental importance that I had simply filed away as just another ordinary occurrence.

“I think I do,” I said, and found myself smiling and confident. “I just don’t know where to start.”

Vinyl rolled onto her side and gave me a thoughtful look. “Well, I don’t really know any of the stuff you want.”

“I understand,” I said, but she held up a hoof to cut me off.

I don’t know. But I might know somepony who does.”

My smile widened into a grin. Vinyl stared at me with an unreadable expression, a mix of curiosity and something else that defied my ability to parse. “Excellent,” I said. “When can I meet them?”

“I know where he’s gonna be tonight,” Vinyl said. “But the place he’ll be at is, uh, kinda specific in its clients.”

“So I’ll need to get a dress?”

Vinyl’s blank expression broke as she smirked at me. It did not bode well. “Something like that.”

Author's Note:

True word count: 34,628. Days 1-23 covered. Days missed: Lots. Chance of succeeding at NaNoWriMo: Little to none.