• Published 2nd Nov 2013
  • 8,290 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.

  • ...

Job Interview

“Took you long enough,” I said, stepping aside. “Come in. Don’t be too loud, my assistant is sleeping and I don’t want him hearing any of this.”

He walked into the library. “I can’t believe I’m doing this,” he muttered.

“Unbelievable things are par for the course in Ponyville,” I replied. “I assume you've done your homework. So tell me, what do you know?"

He stopped for a moment, looking around the library before turning back to me. "I know that you're Twilight Sparkle, Celestia's favourite student and wielder of the Element of Magic." I suppressed a shudder at that mention, the events of earlier in the day too raw to be ignored yet. "You saved the world from Nightmare Moon and Discord, your brother married Princess Cadance and you helped free the Crystal Empire, which they now rule. I know that you're also the Canterlot Vigilante, the one the whisperers are calling Shadow Slayer. You've killed a lot of ponies, crippled others."

"All true," I said, not wanting to confuse him with quibbles about my identity and actual history. "But that's not the important part."

"Really? Because I think it's really damn important," he retorted.

"If that was all of it, you'd have gone to the Guard and I'd be having a different conversation with a different soldier," I said, as casually as I could manage. I was fairly certain he hadn't sold me out, but it was clear he needed more convincing. Or, rather, he needed to finish convincing himself. "Keep going."

He snorted. "I know you've been killing black crystal dealers and I know... I know you were right. They are bad news. Really bad news. I still have friends in the Guard, and they say that Princess Celestia's all but put them on a war footing to deal with it. That it's scary black magic that has been spreading like a plague, and that what you've done has made the biggest dent in it, that everything the Guard has tried isn't working."

"They have to obey the laws they enforce," I said, stepping closer to him. He tensed, his wings stretching slightly, ready to take flight. He was afraid of me. Good, very good. "I can go beyond those laws. I can fight the addicts in a way that actually deals with the problem, instead of stop-gap measures that will fail to stem the coming tide."

"Does the Princess know what you're doing?"

I shook my head, deciding to be honest on this point. With him, at least. "She would have to become somepony other than who she is to sanction this."

"Somepony more like you, you mean?"

I shrugged. Somepony with my outlook on necessary and unnecessary morality, certainly, but 'like me' was debateable. "Celestia doesn't know, and I'm hoping to keep it that way."

He held his ground as I came closer, but I could see the way his body wanted to run, to fight. "And you just want to get rid of black crystal? No taking over Equestria or something like that?"

"I want to protect Equestria," I said, stopping just in front of him. "From anything that would threaten it. You said you were in, do you mean it?" He swallowed, but nodded. "Then what else do you know?"

"I don't know what you want me to say!"

"Yes you do," I said, keeping my voice cold and level, making no threatening move, but not backing off either. "You wouldn't be here otherwise, and I wouldn't have made the offer if I didn't think you were smart enough to figure out what I want. What I need. I don’t think you’re about to disappoint me."

He stared at me, working his mouth for a moment as if it had suddenly gone very dry. "I know... I know ponies in the Canterlot underground. Thugs, bookies, dealers, thieves."

"Good. Keep going."

"I know all the major players, and I know the ponies who have been approached to deal black crystal to replace the ones you've killed. I... I know how to find their hideouts. I know ponies in the Guard. I know their tactics, I know how to avoid them or draw them off. I know how to set up an assault on a fortified position. I know I can help you."

I smiled a little, relishing the sweating terror of the stallion. I hadn't made a threatening move, hadn't lit my horn, hadn't so much as frowned. And here he was, practically shaking from my mere presence. It should have been the highlight of the day, but the Elements still weighed on me too much. As it was, it was still a nice pick-me-up. "That is something I can use. Thank you, Gale Force, welcome to the team."

He relaxed a little at that, his limbs drawing in from their flight-or-fight tension and settling into a practiced military rest. "Okay, what do you want me to do, ma'am?"

I quickly formed a mental checklist for him, listing off the points as I was able to determine their priority. "First, I'm going to need a list of all those ponies you know, as well as their connections to the underworld. I need to know what we have to work with before I can direct you where to start looking. The new dealers are important too, as are the locations of their hangouts. Once you have that down, I want you to put your ear to the ground in Canterlot, stay out of trouble yourself, but start feeling out your contacts, see if anypony is getting ready for something really major, something out of line for what's going on there. Whoever is behind black crystal is building up to make their move, and I think they'll do it sooner rather than later. Best case scenario, I stop them before they can do that."

"What's the worst case?"

I paused, thinking about how far I should take the hyperbole. "Open warfare, a revolution against Celestia spreading throughout all of Equestria, blood running like rivers in the streets, tens of thousands of ponies dead. It probably won't get any worse than that."

"There's worse?" Gale Force swallowed hard.

"There's always worse," I said, walking away from him and towards a stack of books to give him some room to relax. I didn't tell him that I considered the situation I described as something of a step in the right direction. It would at least force the Guard to act in a more permanently decisive manner. It would also make it much easier to find out who was backing the black crystal dealers, which nobles were working against their own Princess. The worst case scenario, the real worst case scenario, involved me getting infected by the black crystal to the point where I couldn't escape from the addiction, becoming one of their 'shadows'. It wasn't likely to happen, but it was a possibility I had to accept and account for.

"Okay," he said, though he didn't sound like he fully meant it. "I can do all of that. What happens if I find something out? I can't keep commuting to Ponyville every day."

"I'll come to you, set up a secure drop for any information."

"So you'll be commuting?" I gave him a sly smile. "Right, you're Twilight Sparkle. Of course you can do that."

While I was less than pleased by his reference to Twilight, I managed to keep that displeasure from showing. "I'm also going to need your skills while I'm destroying addict hideouts," I said. "I don't expect you to jump into the thick of the fighting with me, but I'm going to need some external support. At the very least I need a lookout to tell me if they're bringing reinforcements or if the Guard is on its way."

"I can do that."

"Good. We’ll work out tactics later. You'll need something to conceal your identity. Your size will make that an issue, but I'm sure we can come up with something that will work. It will have to be armored and spell-linked to me so I can find you immediately if I need you.”

“I have an old suit of Guard armor,” he said, but I waved that off.

“No. Too heavy, too distinctive. They’d figure you out without even trying hard. You need something light, something that will let you be quick in a getaway.” I smirked as a thought came to me. “How do you feel about leather?” The look of disgust on his face was more than enough to convince me that it was the way to go. “Good. I’ll set it up.” I grabbed a clipboard and a pen, simultaneously running a simple scan over him to get his measurements.

His discomfort only intensified as the searching light of my magic washed over him. “What’s your endgame in all of this?”

“End the black crystal trade at its source,” I said, making a few notes.

“And then?”

I paused, looking up at him with a slight frown. “I’m not sure,” I admitted. “Take on the next threat to Equestria, I suppose.”

“And you’re just going to keep doing that? Fighting anything you see as a threat over and over again?”

My frown deepened. “Why are you asking?”

“I want to know what I’ve gotten myself into,” he said.

I shrugged, going back to my notes. “Well, to answer your question, I’m hoping to be effective enough that I won’t have to repeat myself too many times.”

“If you don’t mind, ma’am,” he began. It looked like he was going to continue whether or not I actually minded, so I didn’t bother to stop him. “There’s a saying they teach the Guard: violence only breeds violence. If you keep killing ponies like this, it’s only going make whatever comes after worse.”

I nodded at that, as if I agreed with the sentiment. “I’ve thought about it,” I told him, quite honestly. “Escalation is always a problem, and I’ve already seen it happening in Canterlot. The thing is, I didn’t start this. I’m not the active force pushing this escalation, I’m part of the response to it. Things were going to get bloody eventually, I’m just a little ahead of the curve. Hopefully, I’m ahead enough to stop it before everypony else gets there.”

We spent the next dozen minutes going over what his training was, figuring out the best place to put a secure drop box and other minor details of how we were going to interact. I let him know that I could teleport between Canterlot and Ponyville with ease, and made it clear that while he was not the only member of the team, he would not be meeting the others. I was beginning to think of Vinyl and Octavia as the support side of my efforts, and I wanted Gale Force to be on the operations end. Isolating them from each other also protected them from revealing identities if one got captured or turned, and let me control the information each gained. For instance, I didn’t want Octavia finding out I wasn’t doing this with Celestia’s blessing. That would… complicate things.

In the course of our discussion Gale Force somehow got onto the subject of gathering more allies. I was, understandably, against the idea, though it did have merit. The substance of most of the discussion is unimportant, except for one very important part.

“Maybe you can talk to the Captain when he gets to Canterlot?” he suggested. “If you can convince me to help you, you could absolutely convince him.”

I shook my head. “I asked you to help because you were already working on the dark side of things. You had already made the decision to dirty your hooves. My team is exclusive for a very good reason, and I’m not going to just ask anypony to join.”

“Right,” he said, looking down. “I knew that. It’s just…”

“Go on,” I prompted when he stayed silent.”

“Some of the things they’re saying about the whisperers, about the ones who’ve started… changing.” Gale Force shivered. “They scare me, ma’am.”

I couldn’t blame him. “They should,” I said. “If you spot one of them, you run. You aren’t equipped to fight them. I am.”

“That’s what I mean, ma’am,” he said. “I’d feel a lot better if there were two like you fighting with me instead of just one.”

I snorted at the thought. “If only. There aren’t many ponies who can even come close to matching me…” I trailed off as a thought clamored for attention. “Gale Force, when you say ‘Captain’, who do you mean?”

“Captain, sorry, Prince Shining Armor, of course,” he replied.

“The Crystal Empire is a lot farther away than Canterlot,” I said. “I can’t just teleport there.”

“You don’t know?” he asked. Clearly he was a pony who has not thought through that question, and never will. If I knew, I wouldn’t be confused about it, now would I?

I controlled my irritation, however, keeping it down to a low growl. “What should I know?”

“Princess Celestia called Prince Shining Armor back to Canterlot,” he said, smiling with the earnest happiness of somepony who thinks this is a good thing. “He’s going to take over the guard to deal with the gang war. He’s supposed to be coming in the next day or two, but the guards I talked to said he was probably going to stop off here in Ponyville to see, uh, you.”

“Oh,” I said. Then, because it didn’t seem that this was sufficient to capture my full emotional reaction, I felt compelled to include an addendum: “Crap.”