• Published 2nd Nov 2013
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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.

  • ...

Finding Trouble

Trouble, as it turns out, is not that hard to find once you go looking for it. I didn't have any good leads on anypony who might know more about the manufacturers of black crystal, but I did know where a few more drug dens were, and I figured keeping my presence felt could only be a positive for Canterlot.

The Guard were out in force, armored pegasi patrolling the skies while squads of unicorns and earth ponies searched the streets. They were good at their jobs, and very wary, but their presence only made it marginally more difficult for me to get around. I can only imagine that they were having a similarly minor impact on the locals, who knew the sleazy side of the city far better than I did.

I hit the first place I came to at a run, teleporting into the midst of a circle of ponies passing a smoking bowl around. A quick flash of diagnostic magic only revealed two black crystal addicts. The rest were addicts too, perhaps, but of a much more benign sort. I took the two who interested me, lifting them up with my magic and teleporting all of us into an alley I had scoped out earlier.

I slammed them into separate walls, quickly casting a warding spell that would keep the sounds from carrying far. They struggled in my telekinetic grip, but were clearly not up to the challenge. I spent a moment studying them, gauging how far their addictions had progressed. Neither of them were terminal addicts, thankfully, and only one had really begun the downward spiral to that sorry state. The other was the equivalent of a casual user, he'd probably been doing it for no more than two weeks, probably less.

"Who sold you the black crystal?" I demanded, keeping my voice low and dangerous.

They both stared at me with wide, fear-filled eyes. "I don't know what you're talking about," the less addicted one babbled. "I've never heard of black crystal! Why do you think I would know anything? I didn't do anything! Let me go!"

I forced his mouth shut, making him bite off the tip of his tongue. He let out a muffled screech as blood began to leak out between his clenched teeth. "Do not think that I will believe a lie," I told the other one. "Again, who?"

"I got it from Alley Cat," he said, going very still.


"Last night," he said, swallowing hard.

I nodded at that, it was good information. Yesterday meant it wasn't one of the distributors I had already taken out. I doubted this 'Alley Cat' would have any important information themselves, but thought that any way I could hit the network was good. Ah, hindsight.

"Where is Alley Cat?"

"She usually hangs out around Jack Trade's," he gasped. I realized that I had been unconsciously squeezing both addicts and let up enough to let them both suck in deep breaths. I recognized the name of the place from the first time I had met Vinyl, she had called it a notorious black crystal hang out even then.

"Describe her."

"Orange unicorn, peach mane, cat's-eye cutie mark–"

"Enough," I shut his mouth like I had the other, only he was quick enough to avoid any damage to his tongue. I ran my magic over them, pulling out two packets of black crystal. I held them up to their faces. "These are killing you," I said, knowing they wouldn't care. "Keep using them and I will accelerate that process." I could see the understanding in their eyes. "For now you get to live." I dropped the sound ward, hearing the tell-tale clip-clop of approaching Guards. "When you get to the hospital tell them about your addiction, they might be able to help." The fear turned to confusion. This they didn't understand.

I snapped their rear legs, breaking them clean in two places each. They screamed, attracting the attention of the approaching patrol. I released them from my hold and teleported away, I didn't care to stick around and see what the guard would do with them. It didn't matter. I had a start for the night.

Jack Trade's was a dark place nestled into one of those strange features of a city built on the side of a mountain. It was called the Sky Promenade, and took the form of a kind of wide, long balcony that stretched out along the hanging edge of the city, open to air on one side and containing a row of shops and other attractions on the other. The Promenade was actually completely suspended, set over the long fall with glass strips in the street that ponies could walk on top of and admire the way they didn't plunge to their deaths. A particular draw for those who wanted to know what life was like for the pegasi, in the day it was a favourite destination of lovers, poets and tourists. At night most of the shops closed down and it was haunted by different sort of thrill-seeker.

Thus Jack Trade's was a club that, like me, lived a double life. By day it was a breezy tourist eatery, decked out in an eclectic assortment of decor from around the world ostensibly gathered by the eponymous Jack in his equally eponymous trades. By night the shutters closed on the windows and it morphed into a den of vice built around the idea that everything and anything was for sale, and prices were rarely set in bits.

Ha! Now that's a fancy bit of pathos. To liken myself to a place like Jack Trade's. Well, it says a lot about me, doesn't it? Putting forward a respectable front for the people who it doesn't really care for, pretending as hard as it can to be something it's not. Then, as soon as the eyes are off it, it reveals the degenerate truth.

In a place like Jack Trade's you can have a lot more fun after dark. You can also get a lot more dead. It's the danger that makes it exciting, the violence just under the surface. Running like poisoned blood, tainting everything it touches.

You can see why I make the comparison. I can only hope that it's not as apt as it appears on the surface.

There weren't any alleys along the Promenade, necessitating an open approach to my destination. That risked scaring away my quarry, but for the moment impact was more important than efficiency, so I forwent any sort of concealment or disguise for the brutally direct approach.

Like any shady bar, Jack Trade's had a burly bouncer watching over the door. Unlike most others, this bouncer was a pegasus. Where they had come up with a pony that thick from the avian tribe I do not know. I've seen large pegasi before in Ponyville, but that was obviously the result of some, ah, extra-natural enhancements. This pony didn't have that kind of disproportionate bulk, his wings were just as massive as the rest of him. He eyed the star-lit street with rough red eyes and waited like a guardian golem, nearly motionless.

I had no doubt that this bouncer was a pony to be reckoned with, his size providing strength, his pegasus magic providing speed. If he was anything other than dumb as a post, he was wasted guarding doors.

He saw me coming and I could see his enormous muscles tensing. The critical work-over wasn't the usual thuggish dismissal, though. I'd seen similar looks in the eyes of the Guard. He looked like he had some training.

He held up a hoof to stop me as I got close to the door. "Sorry, bar's closed for the night."

I tilted my head, as if confused about his statement. "Alley Cat," I said. "Is she inside?"

He gave no reaction, nothing I could use to infer a yes or no to my question. Definitely wasted guarding doors. "I'm sorry, ma'am," he said again, with just the right touches of authority and deference. "I'll have to ask you to move along."

"Now why would you do that?" I mused, more to myself than to him. "Jack Trade's is certainly open, or you wouldn't be here, but you're denying me entrance. What could it mean?"

"Ma'am, if you don't leave I will be forced to call the Guard."

"No you won't," I said. He blinked at this, the first real reaction I had got out of him. "So, what's happening in there that I'm not supposed to see?"

"Ma'am, I have--"

"Let me rephrase." I grabbed him in my magic, lifting him from the ground and constricting the telekinetic field like a vise. "Tell me what's going on inside."

He struggled for a few moments, long enough for him to realize that for all his bulk he was not going to get anywhere against my power. Then he went slack, conserving energy. "You're the vigilante."

"Astute, but not an answer to my question," I said. "Please to not make me add a threat to it. I assure you, it will not be as empty as your bluff about calling the Guard."

"I don't know," he said, remaining calm, though I could see the fear spark in his eyes. "I was hired to watch the door and keep everypony away for the next hour. I'm not involved with whatever's going on inside."

"Did you see any of the ponies inside?"

"A few."

"Orange unicorn mare? Cat's eye cutie mark?"


I smiled, pleased, though from the shadows of my hood he probably only saw a predatory grin. "Thank you. Do not struggle or you will lose a limb." I wrapped a binding spell around him, n elastic thing that would allow him to breath and shift position a little, but would constrict quickly and messily if he put too much effort into moving. "Sit tight, I'll be back." I told him as I set him to the side of the door and walked into Jack Trade's.

Okay, you are going to love this next bit. Remember, I didn't have a plan this night. I wasn't after a particular target, had no real idea of where I could strike to seriously hamper my quarry. I was injured, tired, and just looking to scare a dealer and blow off some steam from a long day of pretending to still be Twilight Sparkle. So when I stepped into Jack Trade's I had no idea what I was in for.

Inside was what I later learned was a full-on war meeting of the gang leaders of Canterlot. I hadn't even been aware that there were organized gangs. Not in the Manehattan street-thug sense, at least. But there were, and they all had a representative in Jack Trade's when I walked in looking for trouble. They were seated at several tables, glaring at each other while the big names in the underworld sat around one large, round table and hashed out what they were going to do about the Guard crackdown and, for an extra burst of amusement, me.

Among those ponies, sitting quietly and innocuously among the ranks of enforcers and lieutenants, was Alley Cat.

Alley Cat. What can I say about her? She is a piece of work. Well, for starters she's a terminally addicted black crystal user, but she doesn't look like one at all. She's one of the extra dangerous ones, one of those who has learned how to control the levels of dark magic in her body to keep from the downward slide that had claimed so many others. She runs on a permanent high that she can pull on to increase her already significant powers and simultaneously keep her addiction from becoming deadly. She's smart, manipulative, and, most surprising, fully in control of the emotions and impulses the black crystal instilled in her.

Dangerous. Oh, yes. Very dangerous.

Heads turned and eyes bulged as the gathered underworld of Canterlot took me in. There was a moment of shocked silence, and it slowly dawned on me that I was terribly, horrifically outnumbered and quite possibly overmatched. I should have run. I should have teleported out that instant and escaped before the mayhem could begin. But I didn't. Instead, a smile crept onto my face, the grin of a predator eager for the sudden challenge, ready to take on all comers. A wild energy coiled in my stomach, and I wanted to laugh.

"Shadow Slayer," Alley Cat breathed, an answering smile forming on her own lips.

As the weapons came out and the first shouts of combat broke the silence, I had only one thought going through my head: This was going to be fun.