• 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.

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Mistaken Reasoning

Sorry I had to leave so abruptly. I don't think we'll have any interruptions tonight, the Guard is focusing their attention on the fringe neighbourhoods tonight. I'm more than a little responsible for that, I admit. I've made sure to be seen there for the past several days. Nothing too showy, of course, but enough to focus some attention elsewhere. You know, blasting a few addicts out of their lairs, collapsing a building or two, starting a few fires.

Heh, yes. I thought you’d find that funny.

I haven't had much time to think. Events are catching up to me, I guess. Every night I come closer to the source. I’ve narrowed down their hiding places, cornered them at every opportunity. It won’t be long before I’ve found the masters of the black crystal, and then this will all be over. One way or another.

I don't know how I feel about that. I started telling you this story to kill time, to get it out. It’s become something more. I think the catharsis of getting it all out is one of the few things keeping me sane.

… Thank you for listening. No matter how little say you had in it, thank you.

Now, I had just finished talking about Shining's surprise visit, right?

***

I actually beat the train to Canterlot that night, teleporting in a good half-hour before it arrived, though I didn't find that out until later. I donned my costume quickly, letting my magic flow into the improvements I had made. My new bonded blades attached to the underside of my coat, resting against my flanks with a cool, deadly weight. The finished costume was much stronger than it had been, protections laced in and powered both by my own active magic and enchantments that would basically run themselves. My flight abilities were still, sadly, a poor imitation of a pegasus’ grace, but they were no longer as taxing on my reserves.

I spent a moment admiring myself in the mirror. The coat didn’t move like normal clothing would, instead it shifted and twitched like a living thing. A surreal umbra that revealed only tantalizing glimpses of the pony beneath. Enchantments in the hood deepened the darkness around my face, channelling the light to my eyes so that they seemed to shine with an amethyst glow. The same effect also enhanced my vision in darkness in a wonderful bit of multi-purpose magic. I grinned, wicked and bright. I looked beautiful and merciless. I felt dangerous.

It was good to be back.

Gale Force met me on the roof of the building I'd built my teleport circle in. He didn't know about that apartment, but I figured it was just easier to teleport the short distance to the roof than across the city to some other location. Much less chance of interception that way, too.

"Ponyfeathers!" Gale Force snapped as I popped in next to him. The costume absorbed most of the flash and noise of the teleport, so all the warning he would have gotten was a few guttering sparks. "Do you have to do that?"

I graced him with a sly smile and let out a derisive snort before utterly ignoring his question. "What have you learned?"

"I haven't exactly had a lot of time to work, here."

"But you have had enough time to learn something," I pointed out.

He sighed. "Yeah, and it's all bad. I’m still working on getting close to the dealers, but I know that the suppliers have upped the amount of product they want moved. They're on some kind of recruitment drive or something. I've heard stories of them grabbing ponies and forcing them to take black crystal. Big doses of the stuff, too. I heard one pony got hospitalized because of it, then went off on the nurse staff and almost killed three ponies. The Guard's getting spread too thin trying to deal with it, and on top of that they're all messed up because of the switchover to your brother's command."

One part of that jumped out immediately. "Hospitalized?" I asked.

"Yeah, so I heard. Skin rotting off and crystals growing in open wounds, they said. Creepy stuff."

I closed my eyes and thought through the implications, visualizing the scenario as I imagined the possibilities. Why give a pony enough that they ended up in a hospital? That wasn't a normal effect of black crystal, it didn't cause gross physical side effects like that until the addiction became terminal. The most likely response to an overdose, if such a thing was possible, would be a rampage. That was consistent with attacking the nurses, but actually getting such a pony to the hospital in the first place would have required such violence that he would have been in no position to ‘almost kill’ anypony. No, something else was going on.

I considered the problem from a tactical standpoint. What was there to gain by sending somepony to the hospital? A terminal addict, stuffed full of black crystal, in the middle of a place full of the weak and the sick. The vulnerable. No, not just the vulnerable, the healers. The nursing staff.

I could see it, could put together the sequence as it most likely happened. A pony comes in to the hospital, sick. Clearly suffering from an overload of dark magic. The nurses try to do what they were trained to do: bleed off the excess power. They would have to be unicorn nurses, of course. The patient becomes agitated, attacking the staff. The nurses are injured in the struggle and they’re taken elsewhere in the hospital for treatment. Somewhere outside of whatever security is watching the violent pony. Nopony tests these nurses for traces of dark magic because they were just siphoning it from a patient, of course they’d be covered in it.

The infection could have happened any number of ways during the fight. Maybe the addict had been hiding packets of black crystal on him. From the description he was clearly a terminal addict, it was entirely possible that he simply excreted the stuff into his hooves and implanted some with every kick that landed. It didn’t matter how. All that did matter was that those three nurses were now compromised.

But why infect them with black crystal? That question was tougher. Addicting three nurses was cruel, but hardly good strategy. Unless, of course, addicting them wasn’t the point. I’d already seen that black crystal could be used to house spells, and all addicts seemed to gain an affinity for mind magic. Simple instructions would be all that was necessary. Let a few ponies in through back entrances, past security. Distract others at just the right moment. A trio of nurses, their mental defenses compromised by the black magic surging inside of them, overlooked because they were injured, still with access to anywhere in the hospital they cared to go… I think you can see where this could be a problem.

I would like to say that my brilliant reasoning was completely accurate, but of course it wasn’t. I never even considered alternative explanations, and that mistake cost me. Though perhaps, in the end, it was necessary.

"How long ago was this?" I demanded.

"I don't know, a couple hours at most?"

"Damn." I flared open my coat, lifting off. "Come on! we have to get there right now!"

"What's going on?" Gale Force asked, taking wing and easily keeping up with me.

"If I'm right, black crystal addicts have taken over the hospital."

"Why would the whisperers want to do that?" he asked. I noted the use of the slang word for the addicts again, idly weighing the utility of it against my desire for technical accuracy. As you can tell, I never did get into the habit, though I have been known to use the terminology at times.

"They have no sense of honor or empathy," I replied, choosing my words carefully and watching Gale Force’s reaction to them. "To somepony like that, taking out the enemy's healers is a very, very smart move." I didn't add that I would have done the same to them had I thought they had any healers to eliminate. Gale Force’s eyes hardened at my words, and I couldn’t help a small smile at judging him correctly. For all that he’d been discharged, for all that he’d been reduced to working for criminals and vigilantes, Gale Force was still a Guardspony at heart. Honor moved him more than reason, and he would understand the simple rules of chivalry much better than the complexities of a world that valued efficiency and expediency above adhering to a code, regardless of how noble. It meant I could never share the true depths of my motivations with him, but I could use that tarnished nobility to manipulate him into actions he wouldn’t otherwise take.

"Those bastards," he growled. "The Guard will come down on them like an avalanche for something like this."

"They probably see that as a side benefit," I told him. "Anger, outrage, dark magic feeds on emotions like those. Pissing off the Guard will only make them stronger."

"You're kidding me."

"If only I was."

He shook his head. "You can't even get mad at them! How do you fight something like that?"

"You know how," I said, softly enough that it might have gotten lost in the wind. The way he looked at me, wide eyed and suddenly fearful, told me that he had heard, and understood.

We came upon the hospital to find it deceptively peaceful. I signalled for Gale Force to follow me and landed on a roof across the street. I scanned the windows of the tall building, my horn glowing as I sent probing magic out, only to have it vanish in a disturbingly familiar way as soon as it hit the wall.

"Already?" I asked, frowning. I should have been more alarmed. Had I been considering alternate possibilities to the narrative I’d already constructed, I would have been. As it was, I was just confused.

Ah, hindsight.

"Already what?" Gale Force asked

"It's worse than I thought," I said. "They must have been preparing for this for a long time."

He squinted at the hospital. "It doesn't look bad to me. Looks like nothing's going on at all."

"Look closer," I urged him. He obliged, squinting as he regarded the building before shaking his head again. "The windows," I prompted. "Every window with a light on has the curtain closed, every window that doesn't have a curtain closed doesn't have a light on."

"What does that mean?"

"Nothing by itself. It's just the most noticeable discrepancy. There's more. The ponies having a talk by the side door aren't looking at each other. They’re watching the street. The pegasus landing area on the roof isn't lit. The emergency room entrance has nopony outside it. Nopony coming, nopony going, nopony just stepping out to get some air. In fact, the entire area is very, very quiet."

"It is the dead of night," Gale Force pointed out.

"In a city the size of Canterlot the hospital is busy at all hours," I replied. "Taken together it all points to somepony trying to give the appearance of normality while denying information to anypony watching. What clinches the entire setup, however, is the way my spells are being absorbed by the walls. Hospital wards don't do that, but black crystal nodes do."

"So they're waiting for us," Gale Force said.

"For the Guard, certainly," I said.

He accepted that without comment. "So what's the plan?"

"You need to be out here," I said. "I need you to tail any escapees, hopefully they'll lead you to their home base."

"Just follow?"

I nodded. "That's all I want you to do for now. I can't let them know you're an asset for me yet. At least, not until you get your own costume."

"And if I manage to find their hideout?"

"Meet me back at the rendezvous point."

"Okay, I've got all that. What happens if they spot me?"

"You get away as quickly as you can,” I said, fixing him with my gaze to ensure he knew how serious that statement was. “Don't get too close, and do not under any circumstances engage an addict in conversation."

He nodded slowly. "Understood. What will you be doing?"

"Me?" I chuckled, looking over the quiet hospital. "I'm going to do what I always do. Stop them, save the ponies trapped inside."

"Are you sure that's wise? If they’re ready for the Guard, they’re probably ready for you too."

"Then that's their mistake,” I said, throwing him a cocky grin while my horn charged with power. “No one is ready for me." Then I teleported across the street, onto the hospital roof, and began my assault.