• Published 8th Nov 2013
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Harmony's Warriors: X-Questrians First Class - Avenging-Hobbits



The humble beginnings of one of the most important superhero teams in all of Equestria: The X-Questrians. Set in the Harmony's Warriors Universe.

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Act II - 09 - Old Wounds

Act II:
“Break On Through to the Other Side”

Chapter Nine:
“Old Wounds”

After being fished out of the water by the agents who had boarded the yacht while Gustav escaped in his submarine, Cupcake and Carrot had instantly been bundled in thick, scratchy blankets. Then they were ushered into the lounge out of the freezing air and after assuring that they weren’t slipping into hypothermia, the agents had left them both under the eye of Fleur while they stepped outside to… do whatever secret agents did on an enemy yacht.

This music is eerie, Cupcake thought, as she glanced towards the large record player sitting in the far corner of the lounge. It was a massive and ornate machine, apparently made from mahogany. Its speaker was an enormous blooming piece of what looked like stainless steel, and bore more than a passing resemblance to a flower.

The music coiled and ebbed throughout the room, first descending, like it was being pulled into some kind of abyss, only to then slowly swell until it was erupting in Cupcake's ears, before once more sliding down into darkness again.

It reminded Cupcake of that book she often read in her childhood. Falling down a rabbit hole--so slowly yet also entirely inescapably. Like a reverse well. She pulled the scratchy wool blanket a little tighter around her body and turned her eyes towards Fleur, who was behind the lounge’s bar, removing all the wine bottles from their cabinets, pausing to read the labels with a slight squint, and then setting them aside with a satisfied smile.

“You know, to be quite honest, my main trouble with wines is finding one that won’t make me cough it back up. Now I have far too many good ones to choose from,” Fleur said with a chuckle. Cupcake simply responded with a gentle nod, focusing her attention elsewhere in the low-ceilinged room. The walls were a cool ivory, which contrasted nicely with the dark brown furniture and cobalt rug, all impeccably clean and in pristine condition. Cupcake felt out of place in such lavishness, which was certainly saying something, as she was normally used to fashionable surroundings. Perhaps it was the fact that this was all aboard a single yacht, or the fact that it belong to someone who, by all indications, was a monster.

Unsure of herself and feeling awkward, Cupcake burrowed into the couch just a little more, and bundled herself up in the blanket that Agent Sparkle had given her as best as possible.

She glanced across the room towards the other sofa, where, bundled in another blanket, was Carrot, the stallion that had dragged her out of the harbor. He hadn’t spoken a single word since they were brought on board Gustav’s yacht and he had staring at the coffee table between them the entire time, his hooves steeped against his mouth so only his eyes were visible, and they were roaring with silent fury. Cupcake wasn’t even trying to probe his mind, and yet she could feel the anger radiating from him like waves of smoke.

“Ah-ha!” Fleur exclaimed, and Cupcake turned her head to see her sister grabbing a bottle along with three glasses. With a look of satisfied confidence, Fleur came over to where Cupcake and Carrot sat, setting the bottle and glasses down on the table. With a pop, the wine bottle was open and Fleur set about filling the two glasses.

“Now, this stuff will warm you up nicely. Say what you want about this Gustav fellow, he knows his wine. The last time I had this kind was…” She paused in filling the glasses, glancing upwards in thought. She then shrugged. “Hmm. I don’t remember the last time. But I’m pretty sure it was during the Civil War.”

Cupcake glanced towards Carrot to see if his expression had changed in light of the promise of a drink, but alas, his glare was still focused on the polished wood of the table top. Cupcake was then greeted by the smell of wine exploding into her nose, and she looked down to see a glass wine floating in Fleur’s magic, directly under her nose.

Cupcake shook her head slightly. “No Fleur, I’m alright now, really--”

Fleur scoffed. “Don’t be stubborn, anypony would need wine after all this,” Fleur said, practically shoving the glass into Cupcake’s hooves. “You don’t drink enough as it is. Oh, look at your curls.” She moaned, reached and flicked at Cupcake’s mane, which now hung limply in her face. “It looked so cute before you took that saltwater to the face. Honestly Cupcake, what were you thinking, diving into a freezing ocean fully dressed? Your coat would have dragged you down if the water hadn’t paralyzed you first. It almost made me sick seeing you sink--"

Fleur shut her mouth abruptly and titled the wine bottle over the other glass so suddenly she nearly spilled it over the table. This one she set in front of Carrot before filling her own. She took a sip, a satisfied look on her face, before glancing towards the record player.

“Damn depressing. They both die,” Fleur said, glancing over her shoulder at Cupcake and Carrot. She then started going through the records piled beside the player. “Celestia, did this guy know any other composer? The lightest work this one ever did was about a Celestia-damned singing competition. I mean, really! No Beethoofen? No Marezart? Stupid crazy griff-”

Carrot suddenly shot to his hooves, grabbing the wine bottle left before him, and hurled it at the far wall. Cupcake gasped, the bottle having whizzed by so close she had heard it whistle by her ear. A blood-red stain was left on the wall and a shower of glass beneath it on the floor. Fleur stood frozen, her hooves in the midst of pulling a record from its slip.

The door burst open and Twilight Sparkle jumped in the room, her horn ablaze, crouched as if to spring and her gun at the ready. Her eyes darted about taking in the scene and she frowned.

She opened to mouth as if to speak but Fleur interrupted, crying, “That was a great year!”

Twilight Sparkle visibly relaxed, the glow around her horn ebbing away as she lowered her weapon. “Listen, whatever you think of this psycho’s taste in wine save it for the next tasting party.”

She waited for a response, critically looking between the three ponies. No one said anything, Carrot still glowering at the wine stain on the wall, Fleur shaking her head, hoof covering her face, and Cupcake bundled up in the covers, looking like a scared rabbit.

Twilight let out a sigh, turning around and walking out of the room.

Cupcake internally felt the urge to follow after Twilight, but was distracted by the now cacophonous noise coming from Carrot’s mind. All the thoughts were of the same ferocious and riotous nature, clawing around in his brain like some rabid animal trapped in a cage.

This stallion is insane.

"You know a year that good, he'd have more stashed," Fleur said and started for the door. "It's probably hidden in his room. One boyfriend of mine had his wine in a cupboard he had built into the headboard of his bed..." Her voice was cut off as the door shut behind her.

Cupcake’s eyes immediately went back to Carrot, who still stood glowering at the wine-stained wall like he meant to burn a hole through it with his eyes.

Relax. He can’t be too dangerous if Fleur left me alone with him, she thought to herself but almost immediately she thought, Fleur doesn’t know him.

As if he’d heard that last part, Carrot’s head turned and his eyes set firmly on her. Cupcake felt herself sink deeper into the chair and draw the blanket closer around her.

“So, how much did you see?” he said darkly.

“... What?” Cupcake blinked, unconsciously biting her lip.

Carrot’s eyes narrowed like he didn’t believe the confusion in her voice was genuine, but he merely said, “My mind. How much?”

Cupcake recalled the stallion who had run away from her in the bar the day before yesterday. She hesitated, her hoof slipping up to twiddle with a stray part of her mane as Carrot turned to face her completely, his face becoming stormy.

His eyebrows lowered. “That much, huh?”

Cupcake put her hooves out defensively. “It was an accident, I swear. Your mind reached out when you were drowning and I… heard you.”

Carrot’s expression shifted, still looking displeased but less venomous. At the very least he was calm enough to look her up and down, taking her in with a quick, efficient glance. “Shouldn’t you be in school rather than jumping into freezing rivers?” he asked bluntly.

Cupcake felt a strange twinge of irritation and chagrin. “Shouldn’t you?” she blurted out.

He lowered his brows. “You didn’t answer my question.”

Cupcake pursed her lips. “You didn’t answer mine.”

Carrot’s anger visibly returned and he took a menacing step towards her. “I believe you owe me the answer after robbing me of chance to catch Gustav!” he spat.

“Catch him?” Cupcake exclaimed, the ludicrousness of the statement overriding her apprehension. “You weren’t even close to catching him! His sub was moving so fast it would have broken out of your reach in a few seconds!”

“I was trying to pull myself closer when you grabbed me!” Carrot replied sharply, waiving his hoof towards the water outside.

Cupcake shook her head. “You were barely holding on! And even if you did have a better hold, you were going to drown before you could even bring yourself close enough to put a dent in its surface!”

Carrot rolled his eyes, letting out a sharp scoff. “You have no idea what I’m capable of!”

“I think I have a slight idea, seeing as I read your mind,” came Cupcake’s sharp rebuttal, which only caused Carrot to grow angrier.

“You just said all you were doing was picking up my projected thoughts!”

“A lot of those had to do with your power,” Cupcake countered. “After all, it seems to be a rather central point in your existence.”

Carrot scoffed again. “And yours isn’t? Must be pretty useful to have a power that nopony can see and call you out on, while you walk around and exploit every little flaw in their system!”

“What do you know about my powers?” Cupcake replied sharply, standing up for the first time to better be on Carrot’s level.

“What, don’t you know after your little thought highjacking? I’ve dealt with your kind before, your kind with invisible unnoticable gifts that you can flaunt around while the rest of us have to spend all our time running or hiding!” Carrot spat back, sharply poking Cupcake with a hoof.

Cupcake pushed the hoof away. “I have never ‘flaunted’ my power--” she was cut off by Carrot letting out a sarcastic snort.

“Oh, then what are you doing on a secret spy mission when you clearly have no experience or qualifications except your god-like power?” he asked, making a point of standing up taller.

“How do you know I’m not qualified, I could be… an analyst or something!” Suggesting she might be an actual spy seemed too outlandish even to her.

Carrot gave her a condescending smirk. “Sweetheart, I can tell everything about you and I don’t even need telepathy.” He glanced over her once again and smiled mockingly. “You’re some rich girl whose been handed her entire life on a platter, never worked for anything a day in your life, never knew a cold night or an empty stomach, and got a free ride in a super exciting secret adventure because you also just so happen to be blessed with the perfect power.” He paused, then added, “Your power probably helped get you into that nice college you’re attending. Must be easy getting the guys, too.”

Cupcake had never wanted to hit a pony more in her entire life, her eyes were stinging with angry tears. “So just because life was particularly kind to me I’m less of a person than you? You think suffering makes you a better person than me? You think that nopony else has ever used that excuse for their own cruelty? Furthermore, what makes you think that I exploit my powers? Is it just because mine are more stuble than yours? Does that automatically make me a heartless manipulator? You seriously believe the powers make the pony? Because to me, I’ve only experienced that in bigoted small minded ponies who’ve never left their own little worlds. Anyways, what good have you done with your powers? Have you ended world hunger? Ended poverty? Save an orphan? No. You’ve spent nine years running around killing old, depressed individuals and anypony else who gets in your way, regardless of their innocence! That dragon in Wyremland for example? What did he ever do to deserve getting a knife through his throat? Try to stop you from murdering someone? And even then, the ex-soldier you killed was already remorseful, but you didn’t even consider that. Do you think your mother would want you completely waste your life tha--”

Carrot stepped towards her so suddenly and with such a burst of malignant thoughts Cupcake fell back into her seat trying to back away. He lifted his hooves like he was either going to hit or strangle her but instead he just thrashed them like he was striking her words out of the air.

“How dare you talk about what my mother would want or not want? You didn’t even know my mother, didn’t know how she suffered or what she went through every day just to give me something resembling a normal foalhood. Do you think you can just take one glimpse into my head and suddenly know everything she ever did for me?” Carrot thundered, stalking right up to her chair and looming over Cupcake. “Did you see how she would come home from work, completely exhausted, barely able to make her own bed just so she could get me some school books? Or did you see how she was skip breakfast so that I could have a full meal? How’d she’d make some kind of an excuse even though I knew full well? Did you?”

“Stop please,” Cupcake whispered, trying to shrink into the seat but she couldn’t put anymore space between them.

“I was there, I saw it,” Carrot hissed, leaning over her, his breath fanning Cupcake’s face like the bellows of a furnace. “She was my mother and I was her boy and that monster took her from me-- did you see that, little girl, did you see how he took my mother, the only one who ever did all that for me and more every day of my life, like she was a cockroach he could just smash under his boot?”

“Please stop... please,” Cupcake pleaded, her head swamped with all the manic rage and wrath of his words.

Carrot slammed his hooves on the armrests of her chair, caging her in place. “So who do you think you are, Cupcake, to tell me I’m wrong? Tell me what you could possibly know about how it drives me, wakes me up every morning and keeps me up all night, waiting for the day I can crush that griffin’s skull between my hooves?”

“I said STOP!” Cupcake shrieked and the last word reverberated in her head like a massive bell. Carrot suddenly went staggering backwards, gripping onto his head as if it’d been hit with a baseball bat.

Cupcake could immediately feel pangs of panic and pain shooting from him and her own head felt light, as if she’d just used every last ounce of her energy with that one thought. She touched her temples gingerly and winced like she’d been slapped.

Oh Celestia did I break something in here?

The door flew open--Cupcake almost gasped, the sound of it slamming the wall was so loud--and Agent Sparkle entered once again with her horn aflame and gun at the ready, now backed by a tall purple and green dragon, Fleur and what looked like the entire strike team.

“What’s going on?” Agent Sparkle demanded, cocking the gun and pointing it towards the two of them, her eyes narrowed.

Carrot was still occupied with holding his head and didn’t seem fit to answer so Cupcake tentatively raised her hoof and opened her mouth to speak.

“Mr. Carrot and I were merely having… a discussion, and it became somewhat heated.”

Agent Sparkle stared Cupcake down with an almost supernaturally venomous expression. Cupcake could have sworn she saw flames starting to form around the edge of the agent’s mane and tail. “You are the worst liar I’ve ever seen, Miss Silverhoof. Tell me what happened right now. No pussyhoofing around.”

Cupcake swallowed. Something about Agent Sparkle’s tone of voice made her sound as if she were about to explode into a burst of flames. She gingerly swallowed again, before clearing her throat to speak.

“Agent Sparkle, Mr. Carrot and I did have a disagreement. I overstepped my bounds and he was offended. But it’s over now, it was nothing serious,” she said as flatly as she could possibly muster given the scenario.

Agent Sparkle narrowed her eyes and scanned around the room before settling on Carrot, who seemed to have recovered and was now eyeing her and the strike team surrounding the door warily.

Cupcake seemingly forgotten, Agent Sparkle stepped towards Carrot carefully, her expression intently suspicious. Her gun and horn were still at the ready, how aimed directly at him. “Mr. Carrot, I haven’t exactly had the chance to ask how exactly you ended up in the harbor at the exact same time as we did. Care to explain why Miss Silverhoof had to jump in and save you like that?”

Carrot looked at Agent Sparkle and his face hardened into an expression of burning hostility. He set his jaw and didn’t answer. Twilight’s eyebrows dropped.

“Mr. Carrot, I’ve had a long night. I’ve seen my fair share of strange and abhorrent things, but you’re abilities are certainly more worthy of investigation than most others,” Agent Sparkle said, as if not noticing his silence, her voice having lost some of its anger and now having become more calculating. “Perhaps you want to explain how the corkscrew from the lounge bar is lying on the floor next to the chair Miss Silverhoof is sitting in.”

Cupcake automatically glanced down and saw the corkscrew lying on the carpet, the screw’s tip aimed directly in her direction. She felt herself turn suddenly cold. Carrot was silent. Twilight continued speaking.

“Or how about all those other metal objects, like those screws and lamp are all pointed directly at Cupcake? Care to explain that?”

Carrot glanced at Agent Sparkle, then towards the team and then at the window across the lounge. He abruptly lifted his left hoof, and instantly all the strike team’s guns were crushed like cardboard. He raised his right hoof and the corkscrew levitated and was sent hurtling across the room into the window, which shattered with a terrible crash. With a flick of his wrists the lounge doors slammed close, shutting out the strike team, and Carrot then darted towards the now open window. He didn’t get that far however, as Agent Sparkle shot out a bolt of violet magic that slammed into him, sending him sprawling to the floor unconscious.

“Oh my Celestia, what did you do?!” Cupcake cried, jumping up out of her chair and towards Carrot. Agent Sparkle merely rolled her eyes, lighting her horn again to cause Cupcake to sit back down again.

“Sit down and relax, Miss Silverhoof. He’s alive. It’s just a sleep spell. The only reason he went sprawling like that is because he’s probably jacked up on his own adrenaline,” she walked over, placing a tie wrap around the unconscious stallion’s wrists.

Just then the door burst open and the strike team poured it, led by the tall dragon. “Twilight you okay!?” he barked, readying his pistol. Agent Sparkle nodded, motioning for the dragon to put his gun away.

“Don’t worry, I handled it. Stand down, Spike.”

The dragon, apparently named Spike, visibly relaxed, slowly lowering his gun. The other agents responded in kinds, murmuring various worried sounding words.

“Let me through! Let me through!” came Fleur’s voice, and she revealed herself pushing through the nest of agents as she made a beeline towards Cupcake, rushing towards the younger mare and grabbing her by the shoulders. “Are you okay? Did you get hit?” she asked breathlessly, her eyes flashing in panic.

Cupcake merely nodded slightly. “No, I’m fine, Fleur, just fine,” she answered, holding up a hoof as best she could in spite of her own shaking. “Really, I’m perfectly fine. Not a scratch on me.”

“You absolutely sure?” Fleur pressed and Cupcake nodded again, this time a little more resolutely.

“Yes. I’m fine,” she answered, gently nudging at Fleur to release her from the death grip.

Twilight, meanwhile, loomed over the unconscious Carrot, eyes narrowed. Without a word, she spun on her heels and turned to face Cupcake.

“In light of the recent events, I think you should accompany me to a secure location Miss Silverhoof. I want you to tell me everything you know about this sta-”

“That wasn’t the deal!” Fleur interjected in protest, her voice shrill. “We came along on your little blitzkrieg to help locate that griffin. We already did that. We don’t need to stay around any longer.”

Twilight’s gaze shifted towards the tall unicorn, her expression flat. “If you want to try to get out on a technicality, Miss Fleur, I’ll have to inform you that Gustav still escaped. Therefore, Cupcake lost the target and therefore, failed her mission. Basically, she owes me,” she crossed her arms. “But if you want, you can go home. If I remember correctly, you pressed to come along, so you’re here of your own volition. Nopony is preventing you from leaving right now. And the same goes for Miss Cupcake, if she wants,” she then shifted her eyes towards Cupcake, whose gaze was focused on the unconscious Carrot.

Cupcake wasn’t really paying attention, until the tightening of Fleur’s hoof on her shoulder caught her attention.

“Let’s go, Cupcake. We need to get home as soon as possible before they drag us into some other little adventure,” Fleur pleaded. Cupcake hesitated. She wanted to leave, to go back to her uncle’s home, maybe unwind and watch television, she really did, but something pinned her in her place.

Even though Carrot’s words had frightened her, they had affected her in another, more deep seated way. He had been right, she didn’t know what he had really experienced. What she’d said was out of line, and, as violent as his reaction was, it was the right one.

However, what she did know was that he’d known nothing but the worst and most miserable parts of life. Everything he had ever come in contact with only seemed to be there to rob him of what little hope he had left, and nopony had ever been there to defend him, to deliver him. Instead, he was forced to be alone in the cruel wilderness of this world.

He was so utterly alone..

My whole life I’ve felt isolated, but this stallion… he truly is alone. No family, no loved ones. Not even a friend. If I don’t help him, who will? How could I ask him to change his ways if nopony ever shows him there is different way? How long will it be until he destroys himself because of his own anger and rage?

Cupcake looked to Agent Sparkle and, with a deep inhale, said firmly, “I really don’t know very much, but everything I do know, I’ll tell you.”

She heard Fleur inhale sharply and Agent Sparkle smiled for the first time. “Thank you very much, Miss Silverhoof. We’ll be waiting for you down by the car.” And with that, the older mare beckoned for the other agents to follow her, carrying the unconscious body of Carrot after them.

Cupcake looked to Fleur and took her sister’s hooves in hers. “You don’t have to come if you don’t want to. This is my job now.”

Fleur looked at her wearily, shaking her head slowly. “Let’s just go home. Uncle Albert is probably worried sick. This isn’t your job. None of this is your responsibility. ”

An image of Carrot’s mother lying on the floor, the blood streaming out of her body, and the sense of utter extinguishing hopeless it provoked caused Cupcake to grip her sister’s hooves tighter. “He is now, Fleur. He is now.”

Fleur stared at her with an indecipherable expression. “Well… you’re my responsibility. And I’m coming.”

Cupcake couldn’t resist the impulse to throw her arms around her sister. As she hugged Fleur as tightly as she could, she heard Agent Sparkle say, “Well then, we should get started.”

///////////////////////////////

Carrot lay strapped to that horrible table in that frighteningly white room, his hooves utterly numb from the straps around his wrists and his head turned towards the wall where all the instruments of his torment hung like butcher knives in a slaughterhouse. He was alone but he knew that wasn’t for long.

He didn’t want to look at the instruments anymore but he couldn’t move his face away from them. What else would there be to look at anyway? The door would open and the doctors would file in; he had seen that enough times to know that it never served well to let them see the fear in his eyes so soon.

He heard the door suddenly swish open on its oiled hinges and the steps of a single pony sounded on the polished floor.

He shut his eyes. Don’t look, not yet, don’t let him see--

“Carrot?”

His eyes flew open.

“Mom!” he cried and felt tears of relief burst down his cheeks.

His mother came up beside him, laying her hoof on his forehead and smiling softly. “I’m here, Carrot. I’m here.”

“Mom help me, get me out of here!” Carrot whispered, his throat too constricted by tears to lift it any higher.

His mother’s smile faded and her eyes filled with tears. “I can’t.”

“Just untie me, I can make the doors open!”

One of her tears dripped from her cheek and landed on his mouth. It tasted like rot and salt, like the bay in San Franciscolt.

“Mom?’

“Carrot, I can’t. I can’t help you.”

“Please Mom!” he begged and felt like his chest was caving in. “Please just please untie me, just get me out of here.”

“But Carrot,” his mother said but now her voice sounded like it was breaking and her face seemed to be rippling, Carrot thought it was the tears in his eyes.

“But what?”

His mother’s eyes suddenly grew brilliantly clear and seemed to evaporate her tears. Her mouth began stretching, like it was being wound up from behind, from one jawline to the other. “Carrot, you asked for this.”

Then her face peeled off like snake skin and her voice melted away in the wake of a scraping, scalpel sharp one. Gustav’s face now stared down at Carrot, his golden eyes gleaming with cruelty.

“You asked for this one, Carrot,” he said, his voice hissing through his clenched, grinning beak.

Carrot opened his mouth to scream but instead of his voice out poured a fountain of water, salty like his mother’s tear and black like the bay. It instantly filled the room and reached over his head, so he was immersed in its pitch, icy grip.

But despite all this Gustav’s eyes still burned through the darkness and shone on him, brilliant and blinding, driving into his own like a drill. And the rushing of the water all around sounded like his laugh.

///////////////////////////////

Carrot opened his eyes and was greeted by the blinding light of a single fluorescent light bulb. He squinted and felt his cheek pressing into something solid. He lifted his head slowly--by Celestia it was heavy--and realized it was a table.

Carrot frowned and blinked, his head still swaying and weighing on his neck like it was full of water, but his eyes were finally adjusting to the light. He was in a plastic chair in a room designed to induce claustrophobia, a tight and low ceilinged room and painted entirely in an energy sapping slate gray. There was a long mirror in the wall across him that reflected his face, which was strained and haggard, and the only other things in the room: the plastic chair he sat in and the matching one across the wooden table he was seated before.

Carrot knew an interrogation room when he saw it. He groaned.

Not again. For once can’t I wake up with a headache next to a beautiful mare or something?

He went to move his hoof towards the door and found both were cold and heavy. He glanced down and saw they were tied with tie wraps and pale, like all the blood had been cut off. He sighed deeply and forced his hooves to move, straining them to spread outward.

Well, at least they weren’t stupid enough to use cuffs. And if they weren’t that stupid, that probably means there are guards watching me behind that mirror and stationed outside the door, and an interrogator will be in here in about---

The doorknob spun, the hinges screeched in complaint, and the purple unicorn stepped in.

--Now.

“Glad you see you’re awake, Mr. Cake,” the unicorn said coolly, shutting the door behind her and walking over to take a seat across the table.

How did she know my name? he thought briefly. The memory of the telepath jumped to the front of his mind, and he let out an inward snarl.

“In case your memory is a little bit hazy from your ordeal, I am Agent Sparkle,” the unicorn continued, sitting down and laying a folder on the table. “I would like to ask you a few questions about your presence in the San Franciscolt bay tonight. But first, would you like something, a glass of water perhaps?” she motioned towards the door briefly

“Vodka, if you don’t mind,” Carrot answered snidely, the edge of his lips twitching deridingly.

Agent Sparkle gave him a thin, humorless smile. “If you wanted to get drunk, maybe you shouldn’t have wasted the wine on the yacht.”

Carrot rolled his eyes; authority figures hated that. He hadn’t intended to tell her anything from the beginning, but after that little jab on her part, he was determined to be as accommodating as possible.

“Mr. Cake, if you corporate this night doesn’t have to get any worse for either of us,” Agent Sparkle said in a decidedly flat tone, steepling her hooves. “This night hasn’t gone well for me and I’m very tired. When I’m tired, I become impatient. And then proceedings can turn sour.” she emphasized her words by flexing her hooves.

Carrot smirked. “With a mare as pretty as you that can't be such a negative outcome.”

Agent Sparkle simply blinked. “With a stallion as smart as yourself that can’t be the best line you’ve got.”

Carrot gave his most suggestive smile. “It isn’t. Would you like to hear the better ones?”

“I’d rather move on to an actually stimulating subject,” Sparkle answered, her voice showing just the slightest hint of sarcasm.

Carrot didn’t have an answer for that.

Agent Sparkle then deftly opened the folder, revealing a notepad and pen. “Mr. Cake, what were you doing in the bay tonight?” she asked, readying her pen.

Carrot lifted his shoulders slightly. “Skinny dipping.”

“Actually you were wearing a swimsuit, the kind used by professional swimmers to insulate and streamline their bodies,” Agent Sparkle answered, her gaze still focused on him.

“I’m practicing for a marathon,” Carrot sighed, shifting his chair slightly.

Agent Sparkle glanced up at him under raised eyebrows. “At night?”

“Have you ever swum in the ocean at night? It’s very romantic,” Carrot answered, looking up at the ceiling briefly.

“Really? In a dirty bay full of ship propellers and anchor chains? That doesn’t exactly sound like a trip to Prance to me.”

Carrot shrugged. “Makes it a bit more exciting.”

Agent Sparkled stared at him coldly then looked down and began smoothing out her skirt. Carrot felt his brows knit together. Something about the action felt… off. He couldn’t pinpoint what, except that she had broken eye contact for the first time since she entered and before it had seemed her policy to wear him down with the almost vacuum like indifference in her gaze.

Agent Sparkle looked back up, her expression unchanged, but Carrot now felt an imbalance in the air. He didn’t feel like smiling or playing the smooth one anymore.

“Mr. Cake, what is the nature of your relationship with Gustav la Shaw?” Agent Sparkle asked, once more picking up the pen.

“Who?” he answered, knowing full well that the answer came far too quick to be truthful. He was simply buying time more than really avoiding her inquiries.

So the telepath told them my name, that I know Gustav… what else would she have known for certain?

“The griffin who murdered your mother and tortured you for five years.” Carrot might have been shocked by that blunt statement if he wasn’t immediately distracted by Agent Sparkle’s face.

Her lips were pressed together so tightly that they were almost white, the veins in her forehead were suddenly standing out, and her eyes, so perfectly detached before, were now almost glaring ahead but they didn’t seem to really be looking at him or anything in the room. It was like a thorn was being twisted into her side.

All this lasted for maybe one half of a second before the inscrutable mask fell again. But it was enough.

Carrot’s eyes flickered to the mirror and he felt a smile tickle the edge of his lips.

Of course.

“Annoying, aren’t they?” Carrot said. When Agent Sparkle merely raised an eyebrow he nodded at the mirror. “Mind fuckers. Please, don’t play innocent Agent, it doesn’t suit you at all. You expect me to believe that you have a pony of that caliber at your disposal and aren’t making good use of her?”

He set his cuffed hooves on the table and leaned forward in his seat so his entire face was aimed directly at the unicorn. “Agent Sparkle, you seem moderately intelligent so try to understand something about me: there is nothing you could think of, no matter how brutal or cruel, that hasn’t already been done to me multiple times. I don’t want to tell you anything and that’s the end of it. So lock me up if it’s what you want, but I’ve escaped worse places than this with half the skill and drive I have now. But don’t waste anymore of my time.”

Agent Sparkle’s mask of absolute indifference hadn’t so much as flickered. She simply pushed her chair back and stood up, straightened her uniform, and walked casually over to the door. She put her hoof on the doorhandle and turned back to look at Carrot.

“Since you saw fit to be so honest, it’s only fair that I return the favor. I’ve broken better one’s than you. And worse ones too. I’ve made them weep and moan, cry and scream for their mothers, their gods, and even their death. And I know for a fact that I’ll be hearing the same from you soon enough.”

Then she opened the door, stepped out, and shut it behind her.

///////////////////////////////

Cupcake was positively vibrating with anger, that much Fleur could see. She was wringing her hooves, and focusing all her attention on the two ponies inside. She must have been listening to Carrot’s interrogation, and it must not have been pretty.

What are they doing in there? Fleur thought in Cupcake’s general direction, knowing that speaking would probably just attract unwanted attention from the agents surrounding them.

Exactly what I told her NOT to do. Cupcake hissed mentally. Fleur raised an eyebrow.

Which is? She found Cupcake’s reaction to be uncharacteristically angry for a mare she knew was much more low-key than this. I’m not a psychic, you know.

Cupcake set out a metal grumble. She’s using his mother as an interrogation technique! After I explicitly told her not to do such a thing!

Fleur looked down and bit her lip slightly. Oh joy. His dead, tortured mother, whose image alone made Cup burst out into tears as she recounted Carrot’s thoughts to Agent Sparkle, was now being used as a talking point. Lovely.

Fleur knew that Cupcake had hated the concept of using live family members as bargaining chips - the product of one too many late night movies on EBC - so the very idea of using dead ones as interrogation fodder was probably pushing all of the wrong buttons in Cupcake’s mind.

Meanwhile, Cupcake continued to wring her hooves, growing increasingly frustrated by the minute. No matter how many mental pleads or messages she sent towards the agent, the mare rebuffed them, continuing her line of questioning unabated. It was pushing practically every wrong button in Cupcake’s mind, and now, she was practically seeing red. A part of her wanted to just burst in and stop Agent Sparkle in her tracks, but that would probably end with Cupcake on the floor writhing in pain while Agent Sparkle shrugged off any attack with some sort of super secret ninja move or something. After all, physical violence was something Cupcake was most certainly not experienced with, and she’d probably barely make it to the door before one of the guards tackled her.

But that didn’t stop her from still wanting to get up, barge in, and put a stop to this. Didn’t anypony else see how wrong Twilight was? How cruel it was to remind Carrot of the worst day of his life? She had to do something.

Fleur meanwhile watched her sister with deep seated concern, and hoped that the idealistic mare wouldn’t do anything stupid, like, say, try and punch Agent Sparkle. Her hopes were quickly dashed as the door opened, and Agent Sparkle walked in.

Cupcake flew from her chair so quickly that even Fleur, with reflexes honed by almost five hundred years worth of hard knocks, barely saw it coming. She jumped to her hooves, a swear formi-

A brief telepathic pulse froze all the other ponies in the room, - including Fleur, unfortunately - and let Cupcake travel unimpeded towards her target, readying the first kung-fu move she’d been able to pick up from the unguarded mind of a nearby agent.

She didn’t get far though, as Twilight merely grabbed her arm sharply and twisted it at an angle, causing Cupcake to let out a yelp and stop dead in her tracks. Before Cupcake even had a chance to properly figure out what it was Twilight had done to her now very sore arm, she found herself up against the wall.

“What are you doing?” Twilight inquired, her voice critical, like a mother who just found their child with a hoof in the cookie jar. Cupcake let out a grunt, trying her best to push herself free Twilight’s surprisingly strong grip.

“How dare you use his mother like that?!”

Twilight furrowed her brow. “Like what?”

“Like - like a bargaining chip! That’s what! Hasn’t Carrot been through enough pain already? Why do you have to drag up his past like that?” Cupcake replied angrily. She could have sworn that Twilight let out a tired sigh, as if she’d just been asked the dumbest question in the universe.

“I’m simply doing my job, Miss Cupcake. Might I ask why you just tried to attack me? That doesn’t exactly seem like the mare I was speaking with an hour ago.”

“Because you were just doing exactly what everypony else in life has been doing to him! Hurting him, torturing him! Treating him like some kind of expendable thug! Don’t you have morals?! Can’t you see what your doing is cruel and--”

“Oh spare me the sob story, Miss Cupcake. My morality is in keeping this country and everyone in it safe. You meanwhile, tried to hijack my mind like your own personal toy when I did something that you found to be slightly uncomfortable. I’m sorry to burst your bubble, Miss Silverhoof, but doing uncomfortable things is a part of my job.” Twilight replied, her voice maintaining it’s parental air.

“But this is wrong!” Cupcake countered, stomping her hoof slightly in protest.

“What’s wrong, Miss Silverhoof, is allowing you to continue to act like a toddler throwing a tantrum. You have to learn that not everypony is as optimistic as you are. Understand? Sometimes we have to get our hooves dirty to fix something, and this is an example. Now, reverse whatever it is what you did to my agents, and I’ll let this little conversation slide okay?”

Cupcake let out a grunt of protest. “Not if you promise me you won’t try to use his mother again!”

Twilight let out a frustrated sigh and rubbed her forehead with her free hoof, still managing to keep Cupcake in place. “Look, I don’t have to promise you anything. You’re my guest, which means that you follow my rules.”

“But-”

“No buts, Miss Silverhoof. I don’t want you to question my tacts again, understand, or I will personally escort you home. Now, if you wish to stay here, and continue helping us, you have to follow the rules. Understand?” Twilight’s tone was now softer, but still firm. “Now, I’m going to let you go, and I’m trusting that you’ll let my agents go. Then, you’re going to go back to your uncle’s house, drink some tea, and get a good night’s rest. I think we’ve both had a very hectic day, and need a bit of unwinding before we go any further. Does that sound good to you?”

Cupcake swallowed, before nodding slightly. Twilight could have easily done much worse than just holding her against a wall, and Cupcake was probably very lucky her arm was just sore and not broken in several places. She closed her eyes tightly for a moment, and released everyone from the freeze.

There was a burst of noise as all the agents in the room pulled out their weapons and aimed them at Cupcake, but Twilight held up her hoof and beckoned them to lower their weapons.

“It’s alright, me and Cupcake were just having a discussion about rule following,” Twilight said as she released Cupcake from the arm hold. “Am I right, Miss SIlverhoof.”

Cupcake nodded silently. “Yes, Agent Sparkle. I’ll be going now,” she answered meekly, straightening out her clothes and motioning for Fleur to follow. “Come on Fleur, let’s go.”

Fleur’s worried expression lightened somewhat, and she was quick to rush over to Cupcake and put a reassuring hoof on her shoulder. “Alright then Cupcake. Do you want me to drive?”

“No. Agents Marker and Acorn will drive you.” Twilight answered, motioning for the two stallions to escort Fleur and Cupcake. “They’re also going to be security. Just in case.” as she said this, she looked at Cupcake firmly, who simply nodded again.

The two stallions walked over, opening the door for Cupcake and Fleur and motioning towards the hallway. “Car’s this way, ladies,” one said, and with that, the two mares left the room, Cupcake rueing over the events of the day.

Author's Note:

Well here we are!

Also, The Doors get their first quote. Huzzah!

Anyways, Phoenix Avalon wrote about 90% of this chapter, with the exception of the end scene, which was drafted up by JZ1 and then tweaked by yours truly. Turned out that Phoenix's original draft ended up making everybody involved considerably less sympathetic then indented. But the core of the scene (the idea of Cupcake objecting to Twilight's methods), was kept. So yeah. Thanks JZ1 for helping out.

Everything else is Phoenix's, just because she's got a knack for this kind of stuff.

Also, that dream sequence is basically David Lynch meets David Cronenberg and that is why it's so stupidly awesome.

The dark music mentioned at the beginning of the chapter is the overture to Wagner's opera Tristan und Isolde, which is about two lovers who fall madly in love and then die. Joyous.

But yeah, there you guys go! Hope ya'll enjoy it.

Also, who are those 8 people who disliked this? Not that I've got a thing against down votes, but it would be really great if you explained exactly why you down voted, so I can hopefully improve the story. Just a suggestion for future people reading this.

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