• Published 2nd Nov 2013
  • 7,549 Views, 342 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.

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Saturation

Haste can make for mistakes, and the more dangerous the situation the more devastating a mistake can be. I had expected to have a lot more time to plan, to work out every step in the process and every conceivable contingency before making my move. As it was, I had the groundwork for everything, but none of the specifics put in place. This attack is a perfect example of that. I had found out places where black crystal dealers and addicts congregated, worked out the numbers of ponies I might run into and the potential of each to deal substantive damage to the distribution network if I took it down. I had even worked out who would be the target most likely to know about the next level up in the production of black crystal.

What I hadn’t worked out was exactly how I would accomplish this. I had my costume, I had a place to go, but no clue as to what I would do once I got there. I had been researching spells that might help me get what I needed: mind reading, clairvoyance, compulsions, etcetera. The ones that would have been most useful were, unfortunately, in the region of complexity that made them impossible for me to cast. I could cast a spell that gave me a general sense of whether a pony was telling the truth or not, but very little in the way of magic that could compel them to talk.

I hate being caught unprepared. It frustrates me, a frustration that can quickly morph into anger, and you’ve already heard about how clearly I think while angry. But there was no help for it. I had to disrupt the black crystal now, before the addicts got in a war with the Guard and made everything a thousand times more difficult. So I swallowed my frustration, threw the few sketchy and unfinished plans I had to the wind, and fell back on the easiest, most reliable method for getting information from a recalcitrant pony that I knew.

I approached the warehouse in the open, walking down the street in my costume. Anypony who cared to look could see me, and that was exactly what I wanted. The moon was high, but clouds scudded by, partially obscuring it and lending a ghostly feel to its light. I stepped through light and shadow, my hooves covered in soft shoes that masked their sound against the cobblestones. I kept my head down, the hood throwing all but the tip of my muzzle into darkness, the jacket falling low enough to almost scrape the ground.

There were guards on the door to the warehouse. They looked just like ponies idling in a sheltered spot, smoking and chatting amiably. I knew them for what they were, though. I’d seen both act as couriers for various drug deals over the past few days. They spotted me as I approached, watching quietly at first, unsure of what to make of me. When it was clear that I was heading straight for them they stood, setting themselves in a threatening pose.

I stopped, watching to see what they would do. They looked at each other, silently asking the question of what to do next. The moment their eyes were off of me I teleported, making the effort to ensure the magic didn’t have its usual characteristic flash. I was beside them in an instant, and they reared up, shocked and fearful. I let them be surprised for a moment before I reached out with my magic and smashed them both up against the door.

The door buckled, but held. The guards reeled from the impact, too stunned to even cry out. Not one to be denied, I rammed them into the door again, this time smashing the heavy wooden portal off its frame and into the warehouse beyond. Blood flew as the impacts broke bone and tore skin. The guards cried out this time, and I threw them aside, striding into the warehouse with purpose.

The interior had three separate sections to it. The first, where I entered, was a loading and unloading area, where carts, trailers and trucks could park fully inside the building. This area was mostly clear and offered very little in the way of cover. A table had been set up in the middle of the floor there, covered in bits and black crystal packets and half-eaten food. A half-dozen ponies sat around the table, a few already reaching for weapons but most staring at me in surprise. A quick look told me that none of them were the pony I knew would have information, the one Shady had named.

Beyond the loading area were stacks of boxes and shelves arranged in aisles that stretched most of the length of the warehouse. These were half-empty, the use of the place as a drug-terminal superseding its purpose of storing goods. I could see bedding and personal effects scattered around those aisles, a place for dealers and addicts to sleep where they wouldn’t be bothered by the Guard or any other nosy pony who might want to know why their eyes were trailing shadows.

The third section was also the smallest: a series of offices that were clustered in one corner of the warehouse. I surmised that those offices were the place I would find my quarry. First, however, I’d have to deal with the ponies out here.

They were all moving by the time I had turned my attention back to them. They were drawing weapons, knives, clubs and one axe. No bows that I saw, which was a good thing, since I wasn’t entirely sure the protections I’d put on the jacket were up to stopping a projectile I wasn’t aware of yet. I quickly assessed how many of them would be a problem.

There were a pair of pegasus mares, their eyes hard but not showing the trailing shadows of black crystal use. Each had a dagger in their mouths, and were just spreading their wings to leap at me. A large earth-pony stallion dragged a heavy-looking wooden club up from the ground beside him. It looked like it had been studded with badly hammered nails, some of which were stained a brown-red color. Pleasant. Two other earth ponies were getting out of their chairs, not holding any weapons but looking menacing. The last pony at the table was a unicorn stallion floating an honest-to-Celestia battleaxe next to him. His eyes were darkened with black magic. He would be the most difficult of them to deal with.

Before they could get into motion I grabbed the table with my telekinesis and gave it a couple good spins. The table was too flimsy to make a good weapon, sadly, but it made for an excellent disruption. The two smaller earth ponies and the unicorn were struck and thrown back, sprawling. The pegasi both jumped out of the way, too quick to be caught. The larger earth pony let the table hit him and it shattered to flinders, with no appreciable effect on him. Drugs and money went flying, scattering all over the loading bay.

“Who the heck are you!?” one of the pegasi called out. I didn’t bother to answer. Instead I grabbed a bunch of the splintered pieces of table and threw them at her as a field of flechettes. Her eyes went wide as the wooden spikes went for her, trying to dive to the side but finding the attack covered too wide an area to dodge. I turned my attention to the others as she fell to the ground, screaming and bleeding.

The big pony roared and charged me. I tracked him in my peripheral vision, focusing on the other pegasus who was already in the air, swooping around to come at me from the side. The two were moving in concert, aiming to hit me at the same time so I couldn’t defend for both at once. They had obviously worked together before and knew how to use their strengths to compliment the other’s. I might have grinned.

I waited as the big pony reached me and the pegasus began her dive. I held myself still as the stallion raised his blood-stained bludgeon and the mare set herself to strafe by and slice at my hamstrings. Then, just as they both were committed to their attacks, I teleported away, allowing the flash this time to blind them for just a moment.

I reappeared above them, watching in satisfaction as the stallion swung his club directly into the place where I wasn’t anymore, overreaching enough that he instead caught his companion full in the face as she was sweeping by. There was a brutal crunching noise, and a second pegasus fell to the floor, her momentum rolling her hard up against the wall, where she curled her forelegs around her face and screamed.

The stallion was so dumbfounded that he didn’t see me until I had almost landed. Far too late to react. My lead hoof hit his head with a wonderfully solid feeling. He made sound, somewhere between a swallow and a yelp. I curled forward, rolling down his back and stretching a telekinetic field around him as I went. With a deft flip of magic I continued my roll and took him with me, lifting him above my head as I came upright, and then hurling him into the standing aisles of shelves. He crashed into a steel support beam, snapping it and sending the shelves attached to it tumbling down on top of him as he fell. Three down.

Some instinct that I wasn’t fully aware of told me to duck, and I didn’t question it. The battleaxe swished through the air right where my head had just been, spinning so fast it looked like a solid disc of sharp metal. I rolled to my side, coming upright again to see the unicorn addict snarling something quietly incoherent at me, his horn bubbling with black power. I reached out to grab him with my magic, but his horn flared and my telekinesis melted away, unable to get a grip.

“You dare?” he said, bringing the axe back to his side where it spun threateningly. He took a step to the side, and I was obliged to match him to keep him from flanking me. “Who are you to walk into this place as if you have a right? Who are you to challenge me?”

His eyes flared with shadows, as if his words weren’t enough to tell me how far gone he was into the dark power. I had to take care of him quickly. Without saying a word I charged him. He sent the battleaxe spinning towards me, ready to change its direction if I tried to duck or dodge. I teleported up, but he was ready for that, a blast of dark magic firing towards me. I twisted in midair, bringing my jacket in the path of the beam. The dark spell hit the leather and erupted into coarse lightning, tendrils of it shocking at my exposed skin and dancing across the jacket. It hurt, but the protections held, preventing the bulk of the spell from finding purchase.

I continued towards the unicorn, my jacket flaring behind me as I used some of the enchantment I’d laid into it to direct my fall. The unicorn watched me with wide eyes, looking shocked. But I saw the small smirk that trembled on the edges of his lips, and I knew there was something up. I didn’t complete my fall, teleporting to the ground right behind the unicorn, looking back. The battleaxe had been whirling to intercept me, ready to cut me in half just before I had reached my target. It would have killed me.

I didn’t make a conscious decision to escalate, but I felt a sudden surge of anger at the thought that he would try to kill me. I hadn’t killed the others I’d dropped, only hurt them. Yet here he was, trying to flat-out end my life. Can you imagine? Can you even fathom the pure temerity of that move? The others might be saved, but this one? He had given up his right to exist. I know you agree.

Calling on what Twilight had seen of Applejack on her farm, I delivered a vicious two-legged kick to the unicorn. I’m not nearly as strong as Applejack, but I’m no weakling either, and my kick sent him flying into his own spinning weapon. With how fast the axe had been spinning, I had expected a noise like a buzzsaw, high-pitched and whining. Instead all there was, was a dull thunk and a sharp crack as the axe sunk in. Blood splattered all around me, and I was delighted to see that the protections on my coat actually kept the spray from hitting me, allowing me to stand dry and dark in a field of wet red. Four down.

The other two ponies stared at me, fear stark in their eyes. At some ephemeral cue they took off for the door together. I grabbed them both before they had made it halfway, slamming them into each other and floating the pair a few feet off the ground to prevent them from getting any leverage against my spell. I considered what to do with them, but hadn’t made it very far when the door to one of the offices burst open and another shadow-eyed pony glared out.

He was a cornflower-blue earth pony, but his coat had a strange shine to it, catching the light and throwing it back in a manner that made him seem almost transparent. I could have mistaken him for a crystal pony if not for the fact that Twilight had met many crystal ponies, and he did not look like they looked. He looked sick. His cutie mark stood out like an infection on his flank, the coat around it matted, showing red and puffy skin beneath. His mane and tail were patchy, twitching in places they shouldn’t have been able to, encrusted with little black spots that slid like oil along the hairs but didn’t drip or ever move as you would expect them to. Worst of all was his head. Black crystals had actually burst from the skin between his eyes, forming a horrific pseudo-horn.

This was something I hadn’t expected. I knew that the crystals would stay resident in an addict, I had told Vinyl and Octavia that they would eventually form a critical mass in a pony, become self-sustaining, feeding both into and from the dark emotions of their host. I had never imagined it would look anything like this.

“Who are you?” the sick pony asked. His voice was quiet, barely more than a whisper, but it carried clearly across the whole warehouse. I could feel the residual magic in that sound, the compulsive power that pushed at my mind. It wasn’t terribly fair, that he could get that kind of magic just from eating evil crystals and I couldn’t use similar magic despite my special talent being magic.

I sublimated my annoyance with a vicious grin. “The last pony to ask me that is over there,” I said, indicating the body of the unicorn. “Perhaps you should ask a different question?”

His eyes narrowed at me, and the crystals on his head pulsed with a dark aura. I was suddenly very sure I had underestimated what I was up against. In a blink he had crossed the space between us. No, not exactly the whole distance, he had pulled me to him just as he was moving forward. In a burst of dark power he had somehow circumvented every protection against hostile magic I had laid on myself and my costume.

I couldn’t suppress a squeak of surprise as he suddenly loomed before me, glaring with malevolent power. I tried to teleport, but the magic didn’t take me as far as it should have, dumping me only a dozen feet away when I should have been clear across the warehouse. I could feel my spell being weakened even as it was cast, the black crystal that had suffused him drawing my magic in to empower him.

He stalked forward and I panicked, grabbing the entire set of shelves next to him and tearing it down on top of him. I needed the information he had, but I needed to survive more. He didn’t dodge, didn’t even flinch as the falling metal caught him. His skin tore, but he didn’t bleed, and I saw the muscle underneath his coat was glittering with obsidian, protected. He tore his way out of the pile of debris, showing off that he also had enhanced strength.

I scrambled away as he approached, trying a stunning spell that simply bounced off of him, then a complex binding spell that disintegrated as soon as it touched him. Twilight’s memory presented me options that I couldn’t even use because I’m not the mage she was.

“You cost me a lieutenant,” he said. He didn’t even sound angry. He moved suddenly, and then he was on me, grabbing my jacket and hauling me up to slam me against the shelves with one foreleg, making the whole structure shiver. My jacket protected me from most of the impact, but the slow pressure he was applying wasn’t what the defenses were designed to withstand, and their attempts to do so were only draining my magic faster. “What did you hope to accomplish? You aren’t a Guard, so what petty motivation could possibly have you assault me alone? Some misguided nobility? Greed? Revenge? Jealousy?”

“Information,” I said, and I knew it was because his power was compelling me to answer. I wasn’t even able to fight him off in my own mind. It was… infuriating. “I want… to know… who is making the black crystal.”

He frowned at me, the motion pulling at the skin around his pseudo-horn, letting little beads of black liquid drip out that quickly solidified into small buds of crystal. “Truly? And you thought I knew?” He chuckled, and I felt my rage rise as he sounded so casual about all of this. He wasn’t taking me seriously at all. “I wish I did, because then I could kill them and take the source of the crystal for myself. But they are too canny for that, they know all too well what it is they are giving out so cheaply. Ah, well my little hero, it was a good try, but you’d have to be Twilight Sparkle herself if you wanted to challenge the power I’ve gained.”

Something inside me snapped at that. The fury surged through me, hot and brutal and seeking only his blood. I let it have free reign, and power poured through my horn. Dark bubbles of power burst from me, and I could see the surprise on his face. A haze fell over my vision, not obscuring it but muting the colors and making the textures and edges stand out more clearly. I couldn’t see it, but I knew my eyes had begun shedding shadows of their own. He fell back, and with a laugh I realized his weakness. The crystals in him had become self-sustaining, saturated completely with dark magic. They could absorb normal magic like a sponge, converting it into energy for their host to use, but he had no natural way of expelling the dark power from his body. It just built up until he was overflowing, and once that happened he couldn’t absorb more of it. He was vulnerable to the very thing that made him strong.

I blasted him with a ray of dark magic, the shadows blooming around me as my power drove the light away. He went tumbling end over end, crashing through more shelves that collapsed in his wake. I sent power into my jacket and it flared into a pair of wings, a single flap taking me up and over the debris, diving down at him. I let the shadows flare around me, a shroud of darkness that he would see as a demonic shape of coiling tentacles and reaching, grasping talons.

His eyes widened in fear, and I could see him fighting the magic inside him. It was no use, he’d gone too far. The black crystals gave power, yes, but they also left their host at the mercy of the emotions that powered their magic. Arrogance, confidence, anger, lust, these were all hallmarks of black magic. But there was a flipside, the low that follows the high: depression, loneliness, paranoia and fear. I had given him reason to fear me, and he wasn’t angry enough to override it.

He cowered as I came to a stop, floating above him. The wings of my jacket sparked and glowed with their own bubbles of black magic as I channeled all my hate and rage into a spell that formed a ball of absolute darkness at the tip of my horn.

“What are you?” he squeaked. “An Alicorn? A fourth Alicorn?”

“You should be so lucky,” I snarled. “Who is creating the black crystal?”

“I don’t know!”

“Who does?”

“I don’t know!”

“Then you’re of no use to me,” I said. I let the black ball detach from my horn and begin drifting in his direction.

“No! Please! I will serve you, I will do whatever you want!” he pleaded. I ignored him, pushing the dark spell closer. “They have a backer!” I paused the spell, waiting for more. “It can’t be cheap to make this stuff, it’s too powerful, but they’re practically giving it away to distributors like me. We set the prices, but they only ask for a fraction of our take. Not even as much as I pay one of my guys.”

“Where do you get it?”

“There’s a drop. We get a case and we leave the money. We never see anypony.”

I snarled in annoyance. “How are you contacted?”

“A case just appeared one day,” he said. “Instructions were inside.”

“And you just started selling it? Without knowing what it was?”

“No,” he said. “It was already on the market, but not widespread. I knew what it was.”

That was something I could use. If there was black crystal on the market before distributors like this guy had gotten ahold of it, that meant that whoever was making it had at least contacted someone to sell it first before they came upon their current distribution method. It meant my first target hadn’t been the right one, but it told me that there probably was a right one out there. I could work with that. I grinned at the cowering addict. “There you go. Was that so hard? That’s all I wanted.” He relaxed, his fear abating as he thought he was safe. I dropped the spell into him.

He convulsed a few times as my magic burrowed into his body, spreading along the channels the black crystal had carved into him. It filled him up, touching every cell and facet of his body, before reducing it all to fine ash.

...I couldn’t let him live. He was far too dangerous, far too powerful. Creatures like what he had become had no hope of returning to normal, of overcoming their addiction. There was no saving them. Perhaps the Elements of Harmony could accomplish it, but I certainly couldn’t. Had I left him alive, his fear would have vanished and been replaced with anger, rage. No. I couldn’t let him live. I couldn’t.

I gathered all the black crystal packets together and burned them to dust. I didn’t want anypony getting exposed to them when I could have prevented it here. Then I burned a message into the wall and left, using teleportation, rooftops and dark alleys to hide my travel as I made my way back to Vinyl’s apartment.

When I arrived she was pacing nervously, ignoring Octavia’s exhortations to sit down and try to stay calm. They both jumped again when I appeared, but I could see the worry fall away like unwanted clothing.

“Twilight!” Vinyl cried out, making me wince. “You look kinda… dusty. How’d it go?”

“As well as can be expected,” I replied.

“So you found what you wanted to?” Octavia asked.

I shook my head. “No, but I found something that will get me closer. And there’s one less black crystal dealer on the streets.”

“Did you…” Octavia trailed off, but her meaning was clear.

“I did what I had to do,” I said, and that settled that.

“So what’s the next step?” Vinyl asked, eager in her relief.

“I get some sleep,” I said, stifling a yawn. “Then I figure out what dealer to hit next. It’ll be different next time. They’ll know I’m coming.”

“They will? Why?”

I grinned. “Because I left a message,” I said. “They will know I’m coming, and they will be frightened. I learned something tonight, girls. I learned that they can be made to fear, and that the only way I’m going to win this is if they’re more afraid of me than I am of them.” I met each of their gazes in turn, letting them see the strength of my will, assuring them of how afraid I wasn’t. I chuckled as I thought about the way the crystal-saturated pony had cringed away from me. “I intend to make them very, very afraid.”

They may have pulled back from me then, fear standing out clearly in their own eyes. They might have. I wasn’t particularly paying attention. I was too busy looking forward to my next attack. The hunt was on, and I was determined to catch my prey, no matter what it took.

Author's Note:

True word count: 53,551. NaNoWriMo completed. Celebration.

The story is not done, of course. Updates will, however, be slower in coming. I will be trying to keep to a schedule of at least one a week.