• Published 2nd Nov 2013
  • 7,660 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.

  • ...
21
 342
 7,660

Sidekicks

The Everfree Forest is probably a lot more dangerous than we give it credit for, and that's saying something considering most ponies are terrified of the place. It's unnatural, in the truest sense of the word. Left without supervision by ponykind, it has become the emblem of the world beyond pony civilization. There are things in that wood that could trample armies and crush our fragile cities beneath star-strewn claws.

Which didn't mean that Twilight and her friends wouldn't traipse through it whenever something gave them the slightest of cause to. Ever since that first long night, when they became friends and defeated Nightmare Moon, the Everfree doesn't hold the same fear for them as it does for the rest of Ponyville's citizens. Which means that it holds even less fear for me.

Deep in the forest lies the ancient, forgotten castle of the Royal Pony Sisters. Neither I nor Twilight have looked too deeply into the origins or abandonment of that castle, or why it's in the middle of the Everfree, but I figure that it had something to do with Luna's fall to darkness. That theory makes sense, at least. There's a lot of dark power bound up in the forest, a lot of hidden, bitter malice. The castle itself is strangely free from that dark energy, perhaps the after-effects of having once held the Elements of Harmony for a thousand years.

Since practically nopony goes into the forest, and certainly not to the castle, it served as the perfect place to set up my teleportation circle. The path to the castle was a couple hours long normally, but with a judicious use of teleportation and I could be there from the library in ten minutes. This would become my primary base to study black crystal and refine my techniques to fight it. A 'secret lair' as Vinyl would come to refer to it.

At this point all I did was drop off the materials to make the circle and the core before returning to Ponyville. I would come back later that night to really begin my work.

I made it to the hospital before Dash did, thankfully. It might have raised questions I was certainly not ready for if I hadn't. Not that those questions didn't come up eventually anyway, but they would have been much more disastrous to my efforts then.

My wounds were seen to. The doctors were still wary of me, but professional enough, and I had no reason to be angry with them this time. It turned out that some of the weather ponies were hurt much worse than I was. The lightning the cloud had initially been attacking with hadn't hurt them much, but the tentacles of the sky-kraken had left burns and nerve damage in their wake. Three of them would be out of commission for weeks, one was even in danger of losing a leg.

The more I thought about it, the more it seemed that the sky-kraken form of the cloud was its true function. It was an engine of destruction, probably set to go off when it reached Ponyville, and my interference activated it early. I didn't know for sure until I examined the core, but it made sense then, and my later investigations confirmed the hypothesis. I set myself to the task of thinking out why somepony would create and loose such a thing while I waited to be released from the hospital.

The conclusion I reached at the time was that it was a test. The cloud could have been a prototype weapon, something that needed refinement. It was sent to Ponyville to see it in action because, honestly, nopony would notice yet another bizarre disaster befalling the town.

This turned out to not be entirely accurate, but at the time it was the best I could come up with.

I saw Spike before I left, making sure he was healing comfortably. He wanted to hear all about what I had done in Canterlot, but I was eager to return to the castle and complete my link to Canterlot, so I brushed off the request. A little rude, perhaps, but considering he didn't mention it later I don't think he was too hurt.

Dash was harder to get by. She kept trying to corner me, but I didn't want to talk to her. No, that's not entirely accurate. I didn't want to talk to her, and that difference was where I was having problems. I didn't want to expose Dash to that side of myself. It was too close to the violence, too wrapped up in the predator within. I had promised to be as much Twilight as I could be for them, and the things I wanted to do were very much un-Twilight. With the vestiges of dark magic in my system, I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to stop myself.

I guess, eventually, I couldn't.

Regardless, when Dash wants to talk to you, there are very few ways to avoid her. She managed to catch me as I came out of Spike's room, prepared to just teleport out. That wasn't something Twilight would do to her friend, though. So I grudgingly allowed the conversation to happen.

"What the hay was that back there?" she demanded.

I winced. "Look, that thing was full of black magic," I explained as fast as I could talk. "It kinda got into me and there was some weird interactions and I didn't mean to kiss you but I'm not really responsible for what happened and you should probably just forget it because I know that's what I'm going to do! Yup! Just forget it!"

"What?" Dash gave me a frozen look of perplexion before shaking herself. "Okay, whatever. I'm talking about that cloud. You sure looked like you knew some stuff about it, and I want to know what the hay was up with it."

I blinked, heat rising to my cheeks at my presumption. "Oh. Right. That. Um, well, it was acting really weird."

"No duh, Twilight. You said it was full of black magic, right? So how’d that happen?"

I took a deep breath. "I don't know," I lied. "I was able to figure out how to shut it down with my magic, but until I do some research I'm as in the dark as you are on this one. Sorry."

Her shoulders slumped. "Aw, man. I was hoping you'd know. The weather patrol doesn't have the numbers or the budget to fight something like that every day. I hope it was the only one."

"Me too."

"And what the heck was with you kissing me?" I could have smacked her. Hard. "I know I'm awesome and had just saved your life and all, but you kinda looked freaked out about it."

"Black magic," I said in a flat deadpan. "Makes you loopy."

She nodded as if she understood. "Kay. Look, I gotta fly, we're way behind on today's weather. Take care of yourself, Twilight. And, uh, try not to get into any more black magic stuff, okay? Especially around ponies who don't know you."

"Will do," I said with a roll of my eyes. She was off without a backwards glance. I did, however, manage to catch her smile as she was turning away, which made it clear she had been needling me the entire time. I had no doubts that this little incident would be making the rounds with the rest of the girls, and I would be lucky if all I got were a few hidden giggles when they saw me.

I returned to the ancient castle as quickly as I could without raising suspicions. The work to create a proper teleportation circle isn’t actually all that hard, but it does require precision and attention over a long period of time, so it is tiring. By the time I was done it the moon was rising and I was feeling the strain. Yet I was also eager to get to work, so I wasted no time in activating my circle and sending myself straight to Canterlot.

Teleporting this way is very different from doing it normally. There's a kind of hang time between disappearing one place and reappearing another, a span of bodiless stasis where your mind is still active, but lacking any of the usual physical inputs that define our existence. It doesn't last long, objectively, but from within the effect it can stretch for as long as you care to want.

I'd experienced this before. Or, rather, Twilight had during her training with Celestia. She found the experience peaceful, almost satisfying. I found it unnerving, aggravating. It was an enforced state of uselessness, and I craved the ability to act. In retrospect, it could have been a good opportunity to examine my thoughts and motivations without the distractions of my baser instincts and carnal needs.

No, on second thought it would have been a mistake. The physical is heavily intertwined with my psyche, attempting to remove it as a factor would have resulted in a deeply flawed analysis.

I popped back into the world exactly where I expected to, in the little apartment that was the second half of my secret lair. I held still for several long, tense minutes as I waited to see if my attempt to overcome the detection wards laid around the city had been similarly successful. Eventually I was sure that I had arrived unnoticed, and I set to work.

The apartment was all but bare of furnishings, only a cot in the corner and a small table without a chair adorning it. My costume hung up on one wall and a few supplies in case I needed a quick snack or some water were left in the kitchen. The sparseness suited me just fine. This was a place for focus, a place to work, not a home to be comfortable in.

I donned the costume quickly, running my magic into the purpose-grown crystals that studded the leather. Immediately I felt different, more confident, more in control. The power of dressing up.

I left with a quick teleport and made my way to Vinyl's apartment. I found Octavia there, practicing with her cello.

She jumped as I arrived, letting out a high-pitched shriek. I waited for her to calm down before speaking. "Where's Vinyl?"

"At one of her shows," Octavia answered, shooting me an annoyed look. "You could have warned me you would be by tonight."

"Not without leaving a trail," I replied. It wasn't exactly true, I could think of three different options to get a message to her without it being traceable, but I didn't particularly want to go through the effort just to salve Octavia's temper. "Has anything new been discovered?"

Octavia shook her head. "You've done quite a lot of damage to the black crystal trade. Vinyl says they're running scared of you."

I smiled at that. "Good."

"Satisfying, perhaps," Octavia said, but I could tell she found it distasteful. "But it's forced them to go to ground. All the sources of information Vinyl generally relies on for this sort of thing have dried up. And I'm not going to let her dig any deeper than is safe for her."

I mumbled an acknowledgement, already considering what I could do. "They have an agenda," I said, thinking out loud. "Not just making money, no. They're going about things too strangely for that. I've disrupted that agenda, but they won't just abandon it entirely because of the interference of one mare. So, what will they do next?"

"That depends on their goal, doesn't it?" Octavia said. I looked at her, almost having forgotten she was in the room. "If it's not money, then what? At their most refined, ponies only do things for a few reasons: survival, love, luxury and–"

"Power," I finished for her. "Yes. It's about power. It's always been about power. Dark power, dominance. Control the populace through addiction, translate that into control of the government. They want to stage a coup."

Octavia shuddered at that. "If that is the case, then what would be the thing to do to get them closer to staging that coup?"

I fell silent, frowning as I thought about it. "They'd need more than just a popular revolt. They'd need a way to neutralize the ponies who don't get addicted. Not only them, but the Guard as well. They're already on to the spread of black crystal, they'll be watching to ensure none of their own are addicted, so they won't be betrayed from the inside. No. They can't do it all with addicts. They need an actual fighting force to counter the military."

"Even if they have that, there's still the Elements of Harmony," Octavia said.

I snorted at the thought. "Blocking them will be easier than you think," I told her, still naive in so many ways.

"What about the Princesses?"

I sighed. "That's the big one. What would they do about the Princesses? They can be defeated, but you'd need overwhelming power to accomplish it."

"How would you do it?"

"I wouldn't," I said, my pride stinging even while I found myself unable to deny the truth. "I couldn't. But if I were crazy enough to try..." I trailed off.

"If you were, then what?"

I shook my head. "I don't know. Everything I can think of right now would leave the power in the hooves of somepony else, and that's not going to be the goal of the black crystal's masters. I'll have to think about it."

"Well, once you find out, then you should have a better idea of what to do to stop it," Octavia said. "And maybe leave Vinyl and I out of it," she continued under her breath. I almost didn't catch it, but my ears had been pointed in her direction and she hadn't been as quiet about it as she could have. Perhaps she was baiting me, trying to goad me into either arguing with her or agreeing and leaving them alone. It didn't matter, I wasn't going to do that. I needed them for a while yet, and I wasn't going to let that advantage go because she was getting squeamish about the danger.

I didn’t say anything about it, acted like I hadn’t heard. “They’re going to be trying something else. Something they can aim at the upper echelons of power.”

“Like you.”

“Exactly.”

She let out a delicate snort and turned away from me. “I think perhaps you’ve had your sights set too low.”

“What do you mean?”

She walked over to the turntable, laying a hoof gently on it as she turned her head to look at me again. “You’ve been working at this level so far, correct? Going around to all the clubs with Vinyl and tackling the drug from the street.”

“Yes.” I could already see where she was going, and she was right. It just wasn’t news to me.

“That’s all well and good, but if this is a conspiracy as grand as you say, with the goal you say it has, then, well, you might try turning your eyes towards the more refined atmospheres of the moneyed class.” She crossed the room to stand beside her cello. “If they are manufacturing this drug without worrying about the costs, then it stands to reason that they already have all the financial backing they’ll need for their venture. That means that whoever is behind this, the money, is at this level.”

I nodded. I had thought of this angle soon after my first attack on the addicts. The manufacturer was barely making any money on their wares, and what they did make seemed like a token. A nod to the way things were ‘supposed’ to be done so as not to create too much paranoia. The problem with investigating it was that I had no idea where to start. As Octavia was now reminding me, though, that’s why heroes had sidekicks.

“Octavia, that’s brilliant!” I tried to put as much legitimate compliment into that as possible. I may not have been entirely successful. “You’re absolutely right! We need to start looking at this from a new perspective. I’ll need you to dig up anything you can find on any strange activity from anypony with enough bits to put together something like this in the past three months.”

“I… wait. You want me to–?”

“Who else?” I gave her my most sincere expression. “I can’t investigate openly, so you’re the best mare I know for dealing with the upper class.”

She glared at me, but her shoulders slumped in defeat. “I… fine. I’ll see what I can do.”

“Thank you,” I smiled. It was a genuine smile, if not for all the reasons I wanted her to think it was for, and it seemed to put her at ease. “So, what else for tonight? Vinyl won’t be back until well after midnight. Do you think you’ll head back to Ponyville?”

It was tempting. I was tired and hurt and wanted nothing more than a good night’s sleep. I shook my head, though. “I have them scared, but I have to keep them scared. They need to know I’m still out here, waiting, watching. Waiting in every alley, hiding in every shadow. It will slow the street-level advance, maybe make them slip up elsewhere so you can spot it.”

“But you don’t know where any of their bases are,” she pointed out. “What are you going to do?”

I grinned. “Find some trouble.” Then I was gone.

I love a good exit.