• 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

Escalation

I wonder, sometimes, about the way danger excites me. It isn’t sexual, no. I know that particular feeling well enough to recognize it. It’s distinct from other forms of excitement, too. I remember all the things Twilight would get that special rush over. New avenues of research, doing well on a test, literally every time Celestia would compliment her… yes. Those things I remember well. There’s the anticipatory excitement of waiting to see one of Rarity’s new designs, or a new trick Dash had perfected. There’s the confused excitement of one of Pinkie’s escapades. The wondrous excitement of trying a spell for the first time. All of these are unique, each a feast of sensation all its own.

And there is fear. The pulsing blood, the taste of adrenaline in the back of your throat, the sensation of being on the ragged edge of control and the desperate need to assert your will. I remember this. An excitement all its own. Enticing, in a way. Twilight rarely felt more alive than those moments where her life was threatened. But it was not what I feel. I do feel fear, but that kind of existential terror is something only Celestia has managed to bring out in me.

I’m not afraid of fighting. I don’t feel that terror, that loss of control. Just the opposite. In fact, even when my life is legitimately in danger the fear I feel is subdued. It’s more frustration than anything else. Anger. No. I feel in control when in danger. When flesh, steel and magic are flashing all around me, trying to cut, bash or burn me down.

Is it the violence, perhaps? I don’t think so. I do not flinch from violence, but neither do I enjoy it for its own sake. I feel satisfaction at an opponent dispatched, at a threat removed, but to chain somepony up and whip them like a submissive at The Ranch? No. That would not entice me. So it’s not merely the violence.

Perhaps it is the danger itself, the threat of harm. It makes sense, you know. Dash would understand, her daredevil impulses are plain for the world to see. I may not fear it, but it does heighten the contrasts of life and death, highlighting the very fact of my existence to painful sharpness.

Yes. I think that comes closest to how I feel. I relish those moments of blood and danger because they are the times I feel most… myself.

When I’m fighting I don’t have the nagging thoughts of another mare clamoring for attention. I don’t examine every choice for the tangled strands of its origins, tracing everything to see if it leads back to Twilight Sparkle or is truly, wholly of my own making. I just act and react, caught in the moment, riding the power.

Whatever the origins of my enjoyment, from the moment the first kick was made I was fighting for my life, and loving it.

There were something on the order of thirty ponies in Jack Trade’s that night. Three were staff, handing out drinks to the thugs and trying to stay out of the way. They scattered as soon as the weapons came out, ducking behind the bar or scurrying for the back rooms. Eight were the gang leaders and underworld luminaries holding their summit. Each of those eight had brought along two guards, in case somepony decided to break the peace. Somepony like me.

Alley Cat was there as a representative of the black crystal manufacturer. I didn’t know her connection to them at the time, but the name she had called me as soon as she saw me was a pretty good hint. She had brought with her two of her own guards, though I couldn’t have picked them out from the rest of the crowd if you held a sword to my throat.

All of them moved in a disorganized unison at my appearance. Some were confused by me, others alarmed. There were probably a few who didn’t see what kind of threat I could be, and others who had heard of what I’d done and were overestimating my prowess. Still others had no idea what was going on and were just moving because everypony else was. Apparently the various gangs of Canterlot didn’t get along with each other –shocking, I know– and were already on edge from being in the same room for so long.

All this is to say that while a few of them managed to direct their aggression more or less appropriately at me, most of the others were caught in a chaotic tangle of inter-gang grievances, escape attempts and confused indecision. The result was a melee of all-versus-all, where ally and enemy blurred into a whirling incomprehensible universe of ‘attacking’ and ‘being attacked’.

A good, old-fashioned bar-brawl, in other words.

I ducked the first attack aimed at me essentially by instinct, my attention still locked on Alley Cat. A moment later my view of the unicorn was blocked by an earth pony thug trying very hard to smash my head in. I shifted to the side just enough to let his hoof pass me by, the impact splintering the floorboards as it struck ground. He flinched as the wood chips flew, and I used the distraction to slide up beside him. Then I lashed my coat out, flipping him over the bar and into the shelves full of liquor bottles and glasses.

I couldn’t pause to admire my work, though, as three other ponies descended on me at once. I spun in place, whipping my coat out at them to distract while I charged my horn with a concussive spell. One of them managed to dodge the flailing wings and attacked with a chain. The defenses of my costume flared, creating an angled pane of magic that deflected the chain into the knees of another of my assailants. The struck pony swore, staggering back and clutching his bruised limb.

My spell went off with a sound like a bomb exploding. Which, technically, it kind of was. A blast of undirected kinetic energy flashed out from my horn, slamming into my attackers and tossing them into the struggling crowd. It also knocked several of that crowd down, a position where they were quickly trampled by the other combatants.

I tried to get a view of the situation, but my display of power only drew the attentions of those with decent threat-assessment skills and I very suddenly had to fend off a pair of unicorns firing spells at me. My costume’s defenses activated, but were only able to take so much before they buckled. I reached out with my magic, tracing the attacks back to their sources. One of them realized what I was doing before I got to him and he cut his magic off. The other, though, wasn’t so bright.

I sent a surge of magic back along the path of her spell, grounding the energy into her horn, filling it to so far beyond capacity that it flared like burning magnesium. The unicorn mare attached to that horn screamed, I can only imagine the pain she was experiencing. I felt a burst of satisfied glee at her pain. I sent another blast of magic to her, and her horn exploded sending white-hot shards of magical bone into the ponies surrounding her.

“Brutal,” a voice whispered from my shoulder. I spun in surprise, horn flaring with a wave of telekinetic force, only to find that there was nopony there. My attack ripped through a supporting pillar, sending even more debris flying into the melee. “And touchy, I see.”

I spun again, head lowered and on guard. I found myself facing Alley Cat, who was crouching on the bar and grinning at me like her cheshire namesake. There was no fear in how she was looking at me, only an eager excitement that disturbs me more in reflection than it ever did in the heat of the moment. I was about to respond. I don’t quite remember what I was going to say. Something quippy, I hope. Instead I was tackled by a pegasus who had managed to get enough room to charge me.

We went down together, tumbling up against the wall. He kicked and battered me with his wings, the flurry of blows so quick that I didn’t have time to counter or retaliate between them. All I could do was try to protect myself as best as possible and wait for an opening, so I wrapped my coat around myself and curled into a ball. Another thug took the opportunity to come over and start laying into me. This was an earth pony, which meant that my magically hardened leather costume was much less effective against his attacks. I gasped and bit back on a cry as one of his kicks landed solidly on my ribs, breaking two of them.

It was suddenly very, very hard to breathe. There is a particular panic that comes from being unable to draw breath, a frantic need that pushes all other thought aside. Twilight has felt this panic before, and therefore so have I. In a normal fight, with a normal pony, this would be the point where the mare on the floor is doomed. An earth pony might have weathered the pain, a pegasus could use their uncanny speed to escape on instinct alone. A unicorn, however, doesn’t have those physical advantages. As coherent thought goes, so does magic. A normal unicorn would have been stomped into the hospital, at the very least.

I am not a normal unicorn.

As I said before, I don’t fear injury or danger, and when my lungs were paralysed by the injury to my ribs I didn’t feel the panic that would have been the end of another pony. Instead all I felt was a vicious rage that boiled away the pain and focused my mind into a laser of retributive anger. My horn flared and I cast three spells in quick succession. The first was a protective bubble around my horn itself. It wouldn’t do to have my recovery cut short by one of my attackers getting smart and kicking me there. The second spell was an anaesthetic spell that freed my body from the freezing grip of the pain in my chest. The third was a strong telekinetic hold that I used to grab the two ponies kicking me.

I dragged them off of me, hoisting them up to the ceiling as I rose from the floor. The anger still seethed in me, demanding action. I wasn’t about to deny myself. No, not for them. I didn’t know who they were, but their tattoos and rough look told me all I needed to about their place in society. Their families might miss them, but nopony else would bother.

I fed power into my magic, turning my one telekinetic spell into two, then three, then a dozen. The spell took the shape of a sphere surrounding the two ponies, sectioned into twelve different parts like longitude lines on a globe. Then I set those sections rotating in alternating directions. There was resistance at first, the ponies trapped in the spell struggling against the tearing motions of it. Those struggles didn’t last long.

I watched all the way through. It was fascinating, in a detached, medical-studies sort of way. I don’t even know where the idea for that particular application of magic came from. Perhaps I had been working on it subconsciously for a while. I’d been looking for new weapons, after all, and I could see the potential applications of this immediately. It was relatively cheap, power-wise, and while it took some mental gymnastics to make it work, that wasn’t something I had any particular difficulty with. Fairly merciful, too. The subjects do not suffer much. They don’t have time to.

Oh, and then there’s the intimidation factor. Very little can cause a pony to fear you quite as quickly as watching you literally tear another pony apart in front of them. So there is that, too.

There was a sudden and complete silence in Jack Trade’s. I let my spell lapse and my costume’s defenses kept the resulting mess from touching me. Which I am still quite happy about, by the way. I had seriously not planned that in, it just worked out that way.

“Wow,” Alley Cat said from the bar. She’d poured herself a drink while I had been taking care of my assailants and was sipping from it while looking on with rapt interest. “How did you do that? That was incredible!”

“You,” I hissed at her, narrowing my eyes. It was then that I noticed the shadows leaking from them, I hadn’t even realized that I was calling upon dark magic. It had come so fluidly, so naturally it barely registered. I didn’t spare a thought for that at the time, too focused on my quarry. “I have questions for you.”

“I bet you do,” she replied, unconcerned.

“She’s a whisperer!” one of the thugs said. I curtailed my confused reaction. It was a bit of slang I hadn’t heard before, but the context made it pretty clear that he was referring to me as a black crystal addict. I turned my attention to the gathered gangsters, and found that the general melee had stopped and every eye in the bar was focused on me.

“Cat,” said a scarred unicorn dressed in clothes that would have been passably respectable in the better parts of the city. “Is this one of yours?”

“No, she’s not,” Alley Cat said. “She’s the Shadow Slayer.” There were murmurs of shock and fear from those who hadn’t already figured out who I was.

“She killed–” a pony called out, but was silenced by the scarred unicorn raising his hoof. That gesture, and the way it was obeyed immediately, made me focus on him.

“You’ve made trouble for us, filly,” he growled at me. “But you’ve shown us what you can do, what you’re willing to do. So, in the interests of letting everypony here go home tonight, I want to try and talk first. See if we can’t work out something mutually beneficial. So? What do you want?”

I considered him for a long moment, then swept my eyes across the rest of the room. There were still sixteen of them up and able to fight, not counting Alley Cat smirking off to the side. I didn’t know their capabilities and I hadn’t come prepared for a mass fight in any case. My ribs felt wrong and my breathing was labored even through the anaesthetic spell. I knew that I could fight them and win, but it would require me to kill most of them. I didn’t want to do that. As far as I knew most of these ponies were just local toughs and petty criminals, not the threat to Equestria the black crystal addicts could be. They didn’t deserve to die.

I shouldn’t have stayed. I had other options, of course. I could have left. Teleported somewhere else and limped my way back to Octavia. I could have… I don’t know. There are so many ‘could haves’ and ‘should haves’. I dwell enough on other mistakes, I shouldn’t give so much thought to this one. It isn’t even one of the worst. Still, they didn’t deserve to die.

“I want black crystal gone,” I said, keeping my voice low and even as I charged my horn and began sending tendrils of magic through the room. Quiet and slow, not even a proper spell. Just threads of power to the key points I had decided on.

“Not happening,” Alley Cat said.

“Come on, filly,” the scarred unicorn said, ignoring Alley Cat. “Ponies are going to do what they want, and some of them want to stuff themselves with dark magic. Nothing me or my associates here can do about that. Even if we stopped all black crystal trade, it’d be a day before somepony else was filling the market.”

I gave him a steady look. “I don’t care,” I said. “If you sell or buy black crystal, you are my enemy.”

He snarled at me, shaking his head. “Listen, you jumped up little filly! You. Can’t. Stop. It. Neither can we, and neither could Princess Celestia herself. It’s out there, there’s a market for it, a big one! You want a cut? You want us to avoid your neighborhood? We can do that. But you come after us, and we’ll come after you right back. And trust me, filly, you do not want us coming after you.” I opened my mouth to retort, but he pressed on, cutting me off. “And what’s more? Even if you can win against us, even if you’ve got the power and the luck to pull that miracle off, there’ll be others. Ponies who’ll see how we went down, and decide they don’t have to be as nice as we are. Understand? I’m talking escalation. The papers are talking about a gang war now, but they haven’t seen anything yet. You’ve taken it up a level with what you’ve done here, but it doesn’t need to go any further. We can end this right here, right now.”

I paused, considering what he had said. It was true. I didn’t want this to actually escalate into open warfare in the streets. Too many innocents could be hurt. Of course, if I let black crystal continue to flood the city, innocents would be hurt then as well. Possibly worse. My gaze tracked to where Alley Cat was still watching me.

“We’re all waiting,” she said, her voice pitched so that it was barely audible to me. “How strong is your conviction?”

I knew whatever choice I made would end with ponies hurt. But… but it didn’t matter. Black crystal was a threat to all of Equestria. I had made it my purpose to stop that threat, to protect my home. It was one part of me that I could truly call my own. I wasn’t going to give up on it, not even a little bit. Not for anything. I think my current situation is proof positive that when I say that, I mean it.

“No,” I said. “If you don’t stop dealing black crystal, I will end you.”

The scarred unicorn’s shoulders slumped and he shook his head again. “Sorry, filly. I tried.” Then he gestured towards me and turned away. There was a screaming war cry, and suddenly the entire room was surging at me.

I sent power through the threads of magic I had woven through the room, igniting them into full-fledged spell status. I didn’t target the ponies with this spell, they would have felt it and some of them could have countered it if I had. Instead I directed all of my energy at the supporting pillars that dotted the room, and with a burst of power I snapped them.

The fun thing about Jack Trade’s is that, like all of the places along the Sky Promenade, it is a hanging building. That is, the pillars weren't supporting the ceiling, they were holding up the floor.

There was a moment of confusion as the surging wave of ponies suddenly sank down a foot and a half as the floor sagged. The scarred unicorn whipped his head around to look at me, horror in his eyes. I smirked back, I couldn’t help it. He’d thought mere threats would deter me, and now I was showing him what those threats were worth.

Then the floor gave way and they fell. Pegasi spread their wings, some flying away, others diving for friends and allies. But there were far too many for the few pegasi to save them all. I saw the scarred unicorn get caught, and he was out of my sight in an instant. Most of the others, though…

I stood on the remains of the floor, a path a few feet wide that extended around the walls of the room. A few lucky ponies were hanging off that lip, whinnying in terror and scrambling to stable ground. The floor had a strange give to it, now. Like walking on a thick trampoline. I ignored it, more than capable of dealing with the unsteady floor and unconcerned with the potential fall if it gave way.

Alley Cat burst out in laughter, staring down the hole. The bar had survived, its connection to the stable ceiling having been reinforced to account for its greater weight. She stood on the counter-top and giggled like a school-filly as she watched ponies plummet to their deaths. “You really are something else,” she said, turning my way. “Are you taking students? Because I would love to learn how you did all that.”

“Keep paying attention, then,” I said, flaring my coat and igniting my horn into brilliant light. “Because you’re next.”