• Published 27th Sep 2016
  • 2,627 Views, 92 Comments

Gangs and Monsters - Flynt Coal

While Twilight deals with the fallout of the Friendship Games, the notorious Fake AH Crew come to town to lay low and rebuild. Twilight soon finds herself entwined in the plots that surround them, hoping to do some good after having done so much bad.

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4 - #Stopthebullying

After arriving home that evening, Twilight Sparkle’s mother hugged her tightly for what must have been the tenth time since she and her father had arrived to pick her up from the police station.

“Mom, I’m fine, really!” Twilight insisted as the older woman with purple and gray hair held her tight. She was shaking tremendously, but at least she wasn’t sobbing like she had been when she and Twilight’s father had arrived at the precinct. “To be honest, the criminals weren’t exactly unpleasant to us.” At least, before they sent us out in front of the police dressed as them, she mentally added.

“I’m sorry, sweetie,” Twilight Velvet apologized, forcing herself to let go of her daughter. “I was just….” Velvet wiped the last of the tears away from her eyes and tried to smile for her youngest. “Nevermind. I’m okay now.”

“Vel honey, why don’t you go lie down? Take a few moments to rest,” Night Light suggested, Twilight’s father rubbing her mother’s shoulder tenderly. “I’ll prepare the dinner tonight.”

Twilight Velvet gave her husband an appreciative peck on the cheek before going upstairs to do exactly that. Night Light then proceeded towards the kitchen.

“Twily, would you mind giving Spike his dinner?” the older blue-haired man asked.

On cue, Twilight heard the jingle of a dog collar and the sound of skittering paws trying desperately to find purchase on the hardwood floor. The little purple dog appeared around the corner and came skidding to a stop, looking up at Twilight with a wagging tail. A knowing look passed between the two of them before Twilight followed her dad into the kitchen and brought the bag of kibble out from the cupboard by the fridge.

“So, is it just me or was mom overreacting just a tad?” Twilight asked as she poured some kibble into Spike’s bowl.

Night Light, who was cutting carrots on the counter over by the stove, let out a sigh. “Your mother’s just… had a rough go of it ever since your uncle died.”

Twilight remembered the man in the duster and stetson from the photos. She herself had only met him a handful of times, and then only when she was much younger.

“She’ll come around, though. Always has,” Night continued.

Twilight wanted to ask more—like what Mom and Shining Armor had been fighting about back at the police station—but the rest of her family have always been vague on the details of what happened to her uncle, and she wasn’t expecting that to change any time soon.

“So, are you guys still going to that dinner party over in Griffonstone tomorrow night?” Twilight asked, preferring a change of subject from the grim events of the day.

“Yep. Griffonstone’s a good two hour drive from here, so we’ll probably be home late if we come home tomorrow night at all,” Night paused as he realized where his daughter might have been going with this line of questioning. “Unless… you’d rather we stayed? Considering what you’ve just been through, I’m sure Godfrey would understand if you needed us….”

“No no, it’s okay. I told you, I’m fine,” Twilight said. “Wouldn’t want you and Mom to miss out on an evening with your friends on my account.”

Her father smiled. “If I didn’t know you better, I’d think you were planning a wild party while we’re gone.”

Twilight smiled back. “Yep. Don’t be surprised if you come back to a half-destroyed house!”

It was at that moment that Spike approached Twilight, having finished his supper. The little dog looked up at the girl and gave an almost imperceptible nod towards the stairs in the front hall.

“Well, if you don’t need help with the dinner, I’m gonna go to my room to do some reading,” Twilight said.

“Alright Twily, I’ll let you know when it’s ready.”

Stopping only to pick up her backpack where she’d set it down in the front hall, Twilight climbed the stairs with Spike trailing happily behind her. It was only after the door to Twilight’s bedroom was firmly shut that the little dog let out a big sigh.

“Ugh, I hate having to pretend to be just a normal dog whenever your parents are around,” Spike whined.

“I know, Spike. But I’m still trying to figure out the best way to break to them that magic is real, and it made you able to talk,” Twilight said as she sat down at her desk.

In truth, Twilight had been procrastinating on that particular reveal more due to the fact she didn’t want to try to explain what happened during the Friendship Games. Whatever. It’s clear that my parents are keeping some secrets from me. Why can’t I keep some secrets from them?

Spike hopped up onto Twilight’s lap and looked at her with big concerned eyes. “So, what happened today? You and your parents seem… tense.”

“Me and the girls had a run in with a group of criminals at the Coloratura event today. They took us hostage and made off with some money.” Seeing the look of increasing terror on the little dog’s face, Twilight added, “Rarity’s fine, Spike. As far as I can tell, so are the rest of the girls.”

Twilight felt the dog’s muscles relax and Spike’s tail started to wag slowly. “Oh good.” Spike turned around three times before lying down on Twilight’s lap, and the girl stroked his head.

“Oh, so guess who got permission today to bring her dog into school?” Twilight asked.

Spike looked up at her. “I dunno, who?” he asked, before he figured it out and his eyes widened. “Aw yessss! I’m gonna get to hang out with you and Rarity and the girls all day and if any criminals tries to get you again I’m gonna bark so much they won’t know what to do!”

Twilight giggled. “I appreciate the thought Spike, but I don’t think we’ll have to worry about seeing those guys ever again.” Twilight momentarily paused as she remembered exactly what she had found out immediately after she’d gone to the administration office. She reached into her bag to find that the miniature golden idol hiding the thumb drive was still there. The drive that had all of that information on her.

“What makes you so sure, Twilight?” Spike asked, distracting Twilight from thinking about the inevitable talk she was going to have to have with a certain strange boy tomorrow.

“Because I know that my brother and the rest of the police are going to be working overtime to catch these guys.”

Six dead, eight more seriously wounded, and a few more with only minor injuries like Shining Armor. All of the CPD precincts across Canterlot were feeling the aftermath of the incident at the music store that afternoon. Not the least of which was Shining himself, whose left shoulder still burned where the knife had dug in. It wasn’t as bad now, but every once in awhile he felt the need to rub the area around the wound. He fought that urge this time: Melati Jasmine had already warned him not to touch it, lest he rip out the stitches.

The sound of Chief Hardline clearing her throat at the front of the room drew every officers’ attention. The whole precinct was currently gathered in the briefing room, ready to receive an emergency briefing from the chief herself. Most of the officers present already had an idea of what it would be about. Rumors were circulating fast: News of Shining’s encounter in the alley had spread quickly. Shining had hoped that the briefing would help take his mind off of the pain in his shoulder, but instead found himself facing the memories of what—or who―had caused it in the first place.

“Thank you all for meeting us here,” Chief Hardline began. “I know it’s late, and many of you are staying here well after your shifts were supposed to end, but some potentially disturbing information has risen in the wake of the hostage crisis earlier today.”

Hardline paused and with the flick of a remote turned on the projector in the room. The projector sheet beside her was filled with photos of six individuals.

“There is mounting evidence to suggest that the perpetrators responsible for the incident were none other than the Fake AH Crew,” a chilling silence settled over the room. “They’re here. In Canterlot.”

Of course, the incident matched their MO perfectly. A fake fire and fake responders. Shining couldn’t believe he didn’t see it before.

“But how can we be sure it was them?” another officer fresh out of the academy asked. “They were all wearing masks, weren’t they?”

“The hostages, in addition to one of our own officers, has seen the culprits without their masks.” Although Hardline didn’t name him, most of the officers in the room knew she was referring to Shining. “We were able to get the hostages to identify them using these pictures,” Hardline continued, gesturing to the projected images beside her.

It was then that Shining’s thoughts returned to his little sister. Twilight, along with the others who had been taken hostage, had naturally been brought back to the precinct and questioned. He’d only gotten a brief moment to talk to her through all of the craziness of that evening, and was very worried about how she was handling the whole thing. By all outward appearances she was fine, but there was no telling just how scared she really was. At least she’s safe at home with Mom and Dad now, Shining thought, and tried not to think about the argument he’d had with his mother when she and his father had come to take Twilight home.

“Besides, even if we didn’t have any faces to go by, there’s just too much evidence to suggest it’s them,” Hardline said. “After all, what other criminal group do you know uses military grade hardware and has a flare for the dramatic?”

The chief went on to brief the room on each core member of the Fake AH Crew, and Shining couldn’t help but tune out a little. He already knew most of this information anyway. His eyes instead lingered on the image of the one he’d encountered in the alleyway. The picture on the projector was clearly a few years older—the man didn’t have much facepaint then. Just two black circles around his eyes—but looking at it now, Shining could definitely tell it was the same man who put the knife in him. His blue eyes were filled with the same cold malice. His smile filled with the same childish glee.

“We have people searching the whole city, but haven’t had any luck finding them,” Hardline said. “Like with all of their other heists in Los Santos, they seem to have vanished into the woodwork.”

“All due respect, but how are we supposed to deal with these guys?” asked Lieutenant Case File. He was Hardline’s right hand man and usually the first to support her decisions. “The CPD is not equipped to deal with a threat like this!”

“We’ve been talking with the LSPD and some of the spooks from FIB to figure out the best way to proceed,” Hardline answered. “It seems likely that both organisations will be sending people to assist us.”

With that, Hardline finished up the briefing by telling the gathered officers what they can expect in the days to come, and everyone started filing out of the room.

“Great,” Shining said, turning to look at Melati. “Canterlot’s about to turn into a fucking warzone, and it’s only our second day on the force!”

“Well, look on the bright side,” Melati said. She tried to smile, but Shining could tell she was scared. “You wanted to go to Los Santos to deal with crime there, but it came to you instead!” Melati’s look then turned to one of deep concern. “Just… promise me you won’t Leeroy Jenkins it again like you did today, okay? I was….” Melati turned away, for some reason no longer able to look Shining in the eye. “I was really worried about you.”

“I know, I’m sorry,” Shining said. “Trust me, I already got chewed out by Hardline for that.”

“I’d kind of like to know what happened there myself,” another voice said. Sergeant Nightstick was standing against the far wall, the big dark-skinned man evidently hoping to have a few words. “Don’t forget you were on my team when you pulled that little stunt. If anything more serious than that knife wound happened to you, I would’ve felt a little responsible.”

“I don’t know,” Shining shrugged helplessly. “I guess seeing my little sister in the line of fire like that set something off in me.”

Nightstick nodded. “Hey, I get it. Your judgement can get a little fuzzy when loved ones are involved. Trust me, I’ve been there,” he said. “But I need to know I can count on you in the future if we’re going to keep working together.” Nightstick then gave Shining Armor a look that was one part sympathetic, and another part deadly serious. “And I know you and your family has a bit of a history with the Fake AH Crew.”

Shining remembered saying as much to the sergeant the other day. “Right. Well, considering what we’re up against, I guess now’s as good a time as any to tell you about it.”

He felt a hand on his shoulder then, and looked over to see Melati giving him an encouraging smile. She had heard this story before, and knew it was a hard one for Shining to tell. So collecting himself, Shining reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone, holding the image on his lock screen to Nightstick and pointing to the man beside his mother.

“You see this guy?” The man in question wore a duster and a stetson, and wouldn’t have looked out of place in a spaghetti western.

Nightstick studied the picture and gave a humorous grin. “You mean the Lee Van Cleef clone?”

Shining ignored the comment—he didn’t know. That was exactly why they were having this conversation. “That’s my uncle,” Shining told him. “His name was Shining Badge. As you can probably guess, my parents named me after him. He was kind of the reason they got together, you see.”

Nightstick listened to Shining soberly. There was no way he could have missed the way Shining kept describing his uncle in past tense.

“He was an ace detective in Los Santos, and was damn good at his job. He must have taken part in dozens of busts. Drug operations, smuggling rings, human trafficking, you name it. And not just small time criminals, but the big gangs like the Vagos, and the Lost MC. Became known as a sort of crime-fighting superhero,” Shining chuckled fondly at the memory. “I just knew him as my ridiculously cool uncle. And he was very cool. Still found time to visit us in Canterlot as often as he could.

“And I idolized him, of course. Probably made my dad jealous, truth be told,” Shining saw Melati crack a smile. She’d met Night Light on a few occasions, and probably knew as well as he did that his father wasn’t the jealous type. “Because despite all of the amazing things he did, he was just a regular guy that wanted to do some good. He certainly didn’t believe he was any kind of hero, even though he was.”

Shining sighed. He was done telling the easy part. Now the hard part. “And then the Fake AH Crew appeared.”

Nightstick’s mouth formed an ‘o’. It seemed he’d figured out where this story was going. “After their third heist, Shining Badge got put in charge of the unit responsible for taking them down. It made sense, I guess: the Fake AH Crew had turned Los Santos into the fucking wild west, so the police needed the closest thing they could get to a real cowboy.

“He was doing pretty well at first, but it was only a matter of time before Geoff the Boss realized the threat he posed. So he sent his hitman to take him out: The man with the skull mask. The one they call the Vagabond.” Shining couldn’t help but glance again at the photo on the projector, and had to quickly look away from the smiling face of the man, like trying not to stare directly at the sun. “That psychopath abducted him from his home, made a video of himself torturing and murdering him, and sent that video to the LSPD… through his relatives.”

Nightstick’s hand raised to his mouth. “Oh God… did you…?”

Nodding, Shining said, “We didn’t think anything of it when we received the package in the mail one evening. The return address was my uncle’s after all, and we hadn’t yet heard that he’d gone missing a few days before. Mom played the DVD without even giving it a second thought. We didn’t even know what we were really watching until the man in the video, the Vagabond… got to work.” Shining sighed, forcing himself to continue. “He said… he said that anyone who opposes the Fake AH Crew will become nothing but another statistic. Forgotten by the world at large, their very identity thrown to the wind… becoming Edgar.”

“Jesus…” Nightstick muttered.

“Yeah, I don’t even fully know what it meant. The guy is a fucking lunatic! Thank God Twily wasn’t home that evening so she didn’t have to see it, but Mom….” Shining closed his eyes and tried to shake all of the images from his head. “Mom wasn’t the same after seeing that. Dad’s been a real rock for her, but it’s taking time for her to move past it, and we ended up fighting a lot. She was desperate to keep me from joining the police academy. Guess she’s afraid of losing her son the same way she lost her big brother.”

She looked up to Shining Badge much the same way Twily looks up to me, Shining realized, and tried not to think of what would happen to his little sister if he were to suffer a similar fate. “But Shining Badge was the reason I wanted to become a cop. And to not do so after that… it would go against everything he stood for.”

The Fake AH Crew had used his uncle to spread fear through the hearts of anyone on the side of justice. If Shining Armor had given up on his dream to be a police officer because of that, than that endeavor would have succeeded.

Shining finished his story with a casual shrug. “Anyway, I guess that’s my ‘tragic backstory’. Truthfully, it doesn’t bother me as much as it used to. Regardless, you can count on me to do my job.”

“Hey, I can understand the way you feel,” Nightstick said finally. “A lot of families have been broken up by the Fake AH Crew.”

“That’s also why Shiny wants to join the LSPD,” Melati Jasmine added.

It was true: Not only was Los Santos the place where Shining thought he could do the most good carrying on his uncle’s work… “Yeah, I used to have this fantasy of being the one to make the arrest on the Vagabond,” he said.

Of course, Shining didn’t mention the other fantasy he sometimes had. The one where the Vagabond refused to surrender, and chose instead to go down fighting. In that one he got to put a bullet through that skull mask. Too bad when I got the chance, I couldn’t pull the trigger.

“Anyway, I eventually decided that arresting the Vagabond personally isn’t gonna bring my uncle back, or give my mother peace of mind about my choice in career,” Shining concluded.

“Well, I’m glad to know we can count on you,” Nightstick said. “I feel like we’re going to need every last man and woman with a badge and a gun that we can get over the next few days.”

The smaller speedboat pulled up to the docking area at the back of the much larger luxury yacht, and the other half of the core crew boarded the S.S. Boner. Ryan the Vagabond was puzzled, and he hadn’t been puzzled for a very long time. That young cop who had so foolishly tried to take on Ray, Michael, and himself alone knew him. He hadn’t just seen his picture on the news or in a police file. No, the look of recognition on the boy’s face was laced with horror and a hint of something else deep and personal.

Before Ryan could ruminate on his encounter any longer, he, Ray, and Michael reached the deck of the ship where they met up with Geoff, Jack and Gavin. The latter three had arrived back to their floating hideout about an hour prior, as Lindsay had picked them up with the chopper. The bags of cash were likely already down in the hold being guarded by one of the lower ranking members of the Fake AH Crew.

“Did anyone see you come back here?” Geoff the Boss asked. He was wearing his trademark suit again, having all too eagerly ditched the obscenely yellow outfit from Gavin’s heist. Jack and Gavin had similarly changed into their normal clothes.

“Geoff, please! We’re pros,” Michael said. He wore only a black t-shirt and jeans. One of those six lucky girls got to keep his brown leather jacket as part of their diversion. If the police didn’t decide to keep it as evidence, that is. “We lost the cops well before we made it to the docks.”

“After which we dropped the motorcycles into the ocean,” Ray added. His purple sweater was likely the same place as Michael’s jacket. Ray now only wore jeans and a t-shirt that looked like the front of a tuxedo.

“Exactly, we’ve done this all before,” Michael said.

Geoff at first seemed pleased, and Michael and Ray might have been content to leave it at that, but Ryan wanted to express his concern.

“There may be a problem,” he said. “A lone police officer confronted us in the back alley while we were getting our motorcycles ready. He knew who we were. Or at the very least, he knew who I was.”

“Well, why the bloody hell didn’t you bip him as soon as you saw him?” Gavin asked.

“Because it was fun to fuck with him a bit,” Michael said. “Guy looked greener than fucking summer grass!”

“Well, did you at least kill him after you were done toying with him?” Jack asked. The brunette looked at them disapprovingly. Everyone knew that Jack believed she could run this crew better than any of them.

Michael looked at the other two with him. “Ray? Ryan? I left him to you guys to deal with.”

“Didn’t get the chance,” Ryan stated. “More cops showed up before I could finish him.”

“Ryan thought it would be fun to torture him some more before finishing it,” Ray stated, sighing.

“Look, I was questioning him. I wanted to know how he knew me!”

“Well, that’s just great!” Geoff said, his already naturally droopy eyes looking even more tired than normal. “Now the whole state probably knows we’re here!”

“Actually, that might not even matter,” Jack said, and everyone turned to look at her. “Tomorrow we’ll meet up with Dan and give him his money, then we’ll have no reason to stay here. By this time tomorrow we should be long gone.”

“Unless something else goes wrong,” Gavin said.

“Yeah, with you there’s always margin for error,” Jack said before turning to head inside the ship. With a few consternated squawks, Gavin followed her asking what she was on about.

Ryan was about to head down to the armory to clean his weapons when Ray approached him. “Hey Ryan, can I talk to you for a minute?” the Brownman asked. “I could use your help with, uh, something I’m planning. I know it’s something you have a lot of experience with.”

Nodding, Ryan wordlessly agreed to hear Ray’s proposition and together the R&R Connection went inside.

Geoff watched them go with only mild curiosity. At the very least, he wasn’t as interested in whatever it was they were doing as Michael was beside them. Geoff didn’t have time to ask him what he was thinking as another man approached them.

“Hey Geoff, a word?” Jeremy asked. Geoff wasn’t a terribly tall man, especially compared to a giant like Ryan, but Jeremy still needed to look up to talk to him.

“Sure, what is it, Lil J?” Geoff also noticed that Jeremy’s formerly grass green flat top hair was now sea blue.

After taking a quick glance around, Jeremy gestured for Geoff to lean in, and both he and Michael did so. “I’ve just now confirmed what we’ve always suspected,” Jeremy said in a low voice. “When you got Got during our raid on Humane Labs, it was because somebody sold you out. Somebody from our gang.”

Geoff exchanged a look with Michael and frowned. “Any idea who it is?” Geoff asked.

Jeremy shook his head. “No. I got this from an informant I have in the LSPD. According to him, his office had been talking to somebody in our gang in the weeks leading up to the heist, but have been keeping their identity a secret. Only the cops on the case know who he is. The name has been removed from all the case files.”

Geoff “hmmed” with concern. “You think whoever it was might also have silenced Kerry?”

The newest member of the Fake AH Crew had been with Geoff when both of them were cornered and arrested at the designated meeting point atop Mt Chilliad. It had been the young man’s first time playing a major role in a heist, and Geoff had wanted to keep him close. According to Jeremy, there had been no sign of Kerry anywhere in any police records: He’d just disappeared.

Geoff had been holding out hope that Kerry had somehow managed to escape and was hiding real well, but the more Geoff thought about it, the more he realized it was a fool’s hope. The cops who had picked up Kerry had been on the Crew’s payroll. It was far more likely that poor Kerry never even made it to the police station. And that raised an even more disturbing possibility.

“If Kerry really was killed by the cops on our payroll, that means that whoever had him killed had to be a high enough rank in the Crew to be able to give that kind of order,” he said, looking at Michael. “Only the six of us have that kind of authority.”

Michael’s loyalty to Geoff was unquestioned, rivaled only by his loyalty to his wife Lindsay. That left Jack, Gavin, Ray, and Ryan as the potential traitor.

“Jack’s always going on about how much more efficient things would be if she were running them,” Michael said.

“But Jack and I have been working together for years. We practically started the Fake AH Crew together!” Geoff cried.

“Is there anyone else you think would have a reason to sell you out?” Jeremy asked.

Although he couldn’t think of a specific reason why, Geoff could think of one very specific person who might have betrayed him. It didn’t perfectly add up yet. After all, this particular individual’s MO would be just to kill him personally. Then again, maybe he was counting on people to think that. After all, this man’s reputation preceded him. There was a reason people called him the Vagabond.

“I think it could be Ryan,” Geoff said.

“Ryan?” Michael asked, looking perplexed. “Look, I know the guy’s a creepy motherfucker and probably insane, but he never expressed any desire to overthrow you. Besides, he was one of the first who got on board to bust you out!”

The fact that some of his crew might have been hesitant to bust him out of Bolingbroke made Geoff uneasy, but then again so did the fact that one of them definitely betrayed him. But it didn’t make him as uneasy as one of his earliest memories of working with Ryan.

“I never told you guys what happened between me and Ryan after our very first heist, did I?” Geoff asked.

Michael and Jeremy shook their heads, so Geoff took a breath and started his story.

“As you know, Ryan and I made our getaway by boat. Ryan was driving…”

...Ryan was driving, and Geoff was in the seat beside him with thirty-six hundred dollars in his bag. It was a brisk night, but the chills running through Geoff’s body had nothing to do with it. His crew had just pulled off a successful heist, and Geoff had never felt so alive. Things had gotten dicy for a while, but both Bravo Team (consisting of Jack and Gavin) and Charlie Team (Ray and Michael) had reported in over the radio, having successfully lost the cops on their respective tails.

Now Alpha Team just had to take the boat around the island and up the river to the foot of Mt. Chilliad, where they would all meet up to head back to their hideout. Geoff, who being the boss was going by the codename Alpha One, leaned back in his seat, feeling content.

“Well, that was a pretty good run, Alpha Two,” Geoff said to the man next to him. “You’re looking at a solid six-hundred dollars there, buddy.”

“Yep,” Ryan, or for this heist, Alpha Two, said. Even though they were well clear of the cops, the man was still wearing his mask: A menacing gray skull. Perhaps he simply liked wearing it? “That was, uh, that was quite a take!”

“Whoo!” Geoff exclaimed, the last of the adrenaline from the earlier chase finally leaving him. “I had a feeling….”

But Geoff didn’t get to finish his thought as he noticed the sudden absence of the sound of the boat’s engines and the wake behind them. As the wind blowing through his hair and mustache became a gentle breeze.

“Why are we stopped?” Geoff asked, looking around at the miles of dark ocean on all sides.

Ryan’s only answer was to remove the keys from the ignition and stand up. “I mean…” Geoff then felt the barrel of Ryan’s assault rifle against the back of his head. “There doesn’t really have to be two of us left at this point….”

Now the chills going through Geoff’s body had an entirely different source. It had been such a simple oversight, but such a massive one. He’d allowed himself to get left alone with Ryan in the middle of nowhere with over three thousand dollars. Geoff suddenly knew he should have accounted for this. After all, Ryan’s reputation as the Vagabond preceded him.

Before he was Ryan the Vagabond, he was a gun for hire who had worked for just about every major gang and PMC imaginable. He’d earned his nickname relatively early in his career, when he’d moved between five organisations in as many months. Each and every one of the Vagabond’s former employers had met with an… unfortunate fate. Either arrested by the cops, or just simply killed. Geoff had hired the Vagabond knowing this, assuming that it was only a streak of bad luck on the man’s part, and hoping that bad luck would end with him. Now, Geoff wondered whether luck ever had anything to do with it.

There was nothing to stop the Vagabond from putting a bullet in Geoff’s head, taking the entire thirty-six hundred dollars, dumping his body into the ocean and using the boat they were currently sitting in to go anywhere on the West Coast.

But he didn’t.

Instead, Ryan the Vagabond just started laughing. He laughed like he’d just told the funniest joke in the world, and continued laughing even as he made his way to the edge of the boat.

“ALPHA TWO WINS!” he shouted as he suddenly performed a swan dive over the side of the boat and splashed into the ocean.

Geoff could only watch as he circled the boat, doing a backstroke and still cackling madly. Geoff wanted to simply take the boat away and leave Ryan stranded in the middle of the ocean as deep and black as his madness, but Ryan had the key to the ignition. It was after Ryan got over his fit of insanity and climbed back into the boat—looking as calm and stoic as always—that Geoff understood the message Ryan had given him.

I could have killed you if I wanted to. I didn’t.

But I could have.

When Twilight arrived at school that morning, her heart nearly skipped a beat when she saw the face of a wolf snarling at her from the back of a familiar brown leather jacket. It was only when she saw the head of rainbow hair just above it that Twilight realized she was in no danger of being taken hostage again. In her arms, Spike looked up at her and let out a barely audible whine, evidently sensing his master’s momentary distress.

“I can’t help if it looks so good on me that they thought it was mine!” Rainbow Dash said to the others as Twilight approached.

“Hey girls,” Twilight said when she reached them. “What’s the latest drama?”

“Rainbow Dash has elected to keep the leather jacket that belonged to one of those ruffians from the other day!” Rarity exclaimed.

Twilight remembered how herself and each of her friends had been forcibly dressed in their captors’ clothing as part of their diversion to escape. “And the police didn’t ask you to give it to them?” Twilight had given them the ridiculous yellow shirt that she had been wearing after all.

“Nope. Guess they didn’t know it was his,” Rainbow said.

“Don’t you know how irresponsible that is?” Sunset asked, clearly alarmed despite her best efforts to be diplomatic. “What if it’s crucial evidence?”

“W-what if that guy wants his jacket back and…” Fluttershy audibly swallowed. “Comes looking for it?”

Seeing that even Pinkie Pie wasn’t backing her up this time, Rainbow relented, “Fine fine, I’ll give it to the police… after school.”

Seeing that was the best they were going to get, Sunset nodded and Twilight looked around. The group of girls was currently down a member, but Twilight was searching for somebody else.

“Mornin’, gals.”

At the sound of Applejack’s tired voice, Twilight and the rest of her friends turned to see the country girl making her way down the hall towards them, wading through other students like a salmon swimming upstream. She squinted at them through tired eyes, and her friendly smile seemed strained. Twilight was glad to see her, sure enough, but was nevertheless disappointed not to see the person she was hoping for.

“Are you alright, darling?” Rarity asked when Applejack reached them. “No offense, but you look dreadful!”

“I’m alright, Rares. Jus’ didn’t get much sleep is all.”

“Considering everything that happened yesterday, I’m not surprised,” Sunset said with a concerned frown, glancing with some distaste at Rainbow Dash.

Applejack shook her head after sparing the sporty girl’s new wardrobe a glance and said, “T’ain’t jus’ that, sugarcube. Winona’s gone missin’ last night.”

“Oh yeah, I remember her,” Spike said from his place in Twilight’s arms. “She was nice enough, but wouldn’t keep her nose out of my butt.”

Twilight remembered the little border collie in question. Just the other weekend, the girls had organized a little pet playdate at the park on Fluttershy’s suggestion.

“Oh dear, I hope she’s okay,” the chiffon-haired girl in question said nervously.

“We let her out in the back wood like we always do in the evenin’ after she’s had her supper. Usually she comes back on her own after a while, but she didn’t this time,” Applejack said, rubbing her arm anxiously. “Gonna be honest with y’all, I’m real worried.”

“Have you contacted the authorities about it?” Twilight asked. She remembered her brother mentioning something about a rise in missing animal cases lately.

“Of course! But I reckon they have bigger things to worry about in light of yesterday.”

“Well, maybe at lunch we can make some flyers and after school we could put them up around the neighborhood!” Fluttershy exclaimed, giving her friend an encouraging smile.

“Ooh! I can help!” Pinkie Pie shouted. “I still have tons of glitter left over from arts and crafts!”

To demonstrate, Pinkie gave a flourish with her hands and the gathered girls received an impromptu glitter shower.

“Thanks, gals. I appreciate it,” Applejack said, smiling at them as she brushed off the errant sparkles. Her tired eyes suddenly brightened, and all of a sudden the farm girl looked much more awake. “Oh! I almost forgot, I have some good news that came outta yesterday that’s gonna blow y’all’s mind!”

Applejack looked at the others with a sly grin, playing out the moment for all it was worth. After deigning that she’d kept them in suspense for long enough, Applejack spoke up again. “Remember when Coloratura recognized me at the event yesterday?”

“You’re never gonna let us forget that, are you?” Rainbow Dash asked.

But Applejack only kept grinning. “Guess who messaged me on Facebook the other day wanting to meet and catch up?”

Twilight couldn’t help but give an amused snort when five pairs of eyes widened in unison.

“No. Way!” Rainbow exclaimed.

“Surely you’re pulling our legs right now?” Rarity asked.

“HOLY FRICK-FRACK KNICK-KNACK PADDYWHACK, APPLEJACK!” Pinkie yelled, earning a few curious stares from passing students and staff alike.

“Personally, I’m just happy to be catching up with an old friend,” Applejack said, dropping her teasing act for more natural modesty. “But I get why y’all are so excited. Anyone who wants to come along is welcome to, of course.”

“Oh, nonsense! We wouldn’t want to intrude on a reunion between old friends,” Rarity said.

“Yes we do!” Rainbow Dash exclaimed, before forcing herself into a much more calm demeanor. “I mean… we’d be happy to come along if you’re inviting us.” She then muttered, “After all, we didn’t get a chance to meet her yesterday….”

The conversation petered out as Twilight’s focus fell away from her friends and she once again found herself scanning the hallways for any sign of a short pudgy boy with orange hair. She then felt a hand on her shoulder.

“No sign of that boy, huh?” Sunset asked, looking at her sympathetically. Twilight smiled appreciatively—it seemed that the fiery-haired girl could always tell what was on her mind.

“No. He wasn’t on the bus this morning,” Twilight sighed. “What if he knows that we know? What if he’s avoiding me?”

For some reason, the thought hurt more than Twilight could rationalize. She wanted answers from him, sure enough, but the thought of Dusky Darneil actively avoiding her made Twilight’s throat close up and her heart sink in her chest. Perhaps a part of it was that Dusky’s desire for friendship with her seemed genuine, regardless of whether or not he was just trying to spy on her.

Seeing the vulnerable look on Twilight’s face, Sunset pulled her into a hug. “Hey, he’ll turn up eventually, okay? If anything, he’ll have to show up to class with us at some point.”

Any further conversation was halted by the sound of the ringing bell signifying the start of classes. After saying their goodbyes, the group of girls split up to go to their respective homerooms. As Twilight took her seat in Cheerilee’s science class next to Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy (the latter reaching over to scratch Spike’s ears affectionately), she reached into her bag to pull out her books and found herself grasping a familiar shiny yellow object. Twilight studied the tiny tower forlornly, wondering how such a small object could bring her so much distress. The final class bell rang, and there was still no sign of the tower’s elusive owner.

Ms. Cheerilee addressed the gathered students. “Alright everyone, today we’ll be continuing the lab experiment we started with the other day, so if you could all find your lab partners….”

Twilight looked up at the sound of the door opening, and found that Sunset’s earlier words to her were more right than she thought. There was Dusky, the orange-haired boy staggering into class rubbing the sleep from his eyes. Twilight couldn’t stop the heated glare from coming over her face as she realized Dusky hadn’t been avoiding her: He’d merely overslept.

Dusky looked up and for a moment the two of them locked eyes. In that moment, more than a dozen unspoken words were exchanged between the two of them, and Dusky’s sleepy face shifted to one of recognition, then terror. Twilight only realized that she was giving him a death glare while holding his secret thumbdrive in her hands at the moment Dusky turned and fled the classroom.

Well, if he didn’t know I was on to him before, he definitely knows now, Twilight thought as she raised her hand.

“Yes, Ms. Sparkle?” Ms. Cheerilee asked.

“Gotta go to the bathroom may I be excused?!” Twilight blurted out all at once, impatiently dancing in her seat.

Based on what Twilight said, Cheerilee mistook the reason for her urgency and wasted no time in excusing her. Twilight bolted out of her seat and ran after Dusky. As she left the classroom, Twilight heard Rainbow Dash mutter to Fluttershy, “Eesh, what do you think she drank this morning?”

Twilight ignored her as she stepped out into the hall. She quickly looked around and barely caught a glimpse of someone turning a corner and ran after them. When she made it around the corner, she spotted the back of Dusky’s head disappear out the front door to the school. Twilight sighed—she was already getting winded. She could have just given up and gone back to class—in fact, it was probably what she should have done.

But Twilight had spent the whole morning and the previous afternoon obsessing over this. Wondering who or what her supposed friend Dusky Darneil really was. And considering the speed with which he was now running away, Twilight doubted very much she’d ever get another chance to confront him about it. So she ran down the hall and out the door after him.

As the second bell rang (indicating that Period 1 classes had now begun), a group of three boys were hanging out on a small hill amongst a few trees by the edge of the school’s property. Known among the Canterlot High students as “the Grassy Knoll” (or just “the Knoll” for short), it was the prime hangout spot for the smokers and tokers of CHS, being just tucked away enough to be out of sight of the school faculty.

Two of the boys were indulging in some of the fine herb they had obtained the other day, but one of them was not. Curly Winds preferred to keep a clear head on days he had football practice. Instead, the blue-haired jock was merely taking drags of a cigarette and scowling at nothing in particular. In truth, Curly was not in a good mood. Naturally, his father had gotten a call from the school yesterday about the brief fight (if you could even call it that) Curly had gotten into with that new kid. Curly had gotten an earful when he’d returned home.

“I didn’t spend four years in the army fighting for God’s America to raise a no good piece of shit son who picks fights at school!” his father had roared as he held him by the collar and shook him. Curly hadn’t needed to smell the whiskey on his breath to know his father had been drinking—it was easy to tell whenever he started talking about the army and “God’s America.”

Naturally, Curly was grounded harder than a plane without wings. This in turn meant that his plans to go to his girlfriend Trixie’s place so the two of them could take advantage of her parents’ absence for the night were moot—Curly knew he would get more than just an earful of words if he disobeyed his father. Now, not only had he missed out on what would have been a night of fun (Trixie had mentioned she even bought special intimates for the occasion), he had a girlfriend who was less than happy with him.

Curly’s sour mood didn’t go unnoticed by his friends. Laces Out didn’t notice much usually—the large linebacker was slower to pick up on things than most, probably due to smoking a gram of weed every day since middle school—but even he knew to keep his mouth shut after Curly’s first glare. Calf “Crazylegs” Burns was better at acting cool around Curly, but he was clearly being careful not to say anything that might set him off.

“Guess we should get going to class soon, huh Curly?” Crazylegs said, finishing off the joint Laces Out passed him.

“In a minute,” Curly said, taking another drag. He intended to smoke this cig down to the butt. “Besides, it’s not like we’re gonna miss much in Mr. Flask’s class.”

Curly turned his gaze to the sidewalk just in time to catch a glimpse of a pudgy orange-haired boy running down the street as fast as his sandals could carry him. A hateful grin spread across Curly’s face at the sight of him.

“Well well, if it isn’t Carrot Top….” Curly turned to his friends. “Remember that kid I told you was talking shit to my girlfriend the other day?”

Laces and Crazylegs followed Curly’s gaze and managed to catch sight of Dusky Darneil round a corner and disappear.

“Huh. Where do you think he’s off to in such a hurry?” Crazylegs asked.

“Maybe he’s on a morning run?” Laces suggested.

“C’mon dude, does he look like the kind of kid who exercises regularly?”

Both Laces and Crazylegs shared a good laugh at that, but Curly ”shushed” them as he saw someone else sprinting down the road across from the Knoll.

“Oh shit! It’s her!” Laces dropped his roach and practically dove to the ground. The idiot was still afraid of the girl the school collectively knew as “the Monster.”

“Get up, moron,” Curly said as he watched the girl called Twilight Sparkle sprint by and disappear around the same corner as Dusky.

Seeing the two of them filled Curly with a fresh rage. Both of them had been involved in some way with the fight that got him grounded. Now, all of the pent up anger Curly had been carrying over the past day was combining with the overflow of hormones that—thanks in part to his grounding—had no outlet. Until now.

“C’mon, boys,” Curly said as he started making his way down the Knoll towards the street. “I wanna teach that Dusky freak some manners. Him and that Twilight bitch.”

Laces and Crazylegs exchanged uncertain looks. “But… b-but her powers…” Laces started.

“Are gone!” Curly interrupted. “Remember? That Sunset Shimmer girl did something and now whatever freaky-ass powers the Monster had aren’t around. Now, are you two pussies coming or not?”

Laces and Crazylegs continued to look uncertain, but nevertheless followed Curly down the Knoll and across the street towards where their quarry had run off to. Curly reached into his pocket and felt the small object inside. The end of which he planned would become very closely acquainted with the little red-headed freak.

A vintage Roosevelt pulled up to the curb, and a chorus of car doors opening and shutting sounded as the shady group of characters got out, turning to face the building in front of them. “The Crevice” was a bar that had been open since Canterlot was nothing more than a small harbor town, and had seen better days. A large portion of the right half of the sign had come off over the years, earning the establishment the nickname “The Crev” by those who lived in the neighborhood.

Aside from being a place to get cheap, shitty booze, it was also known in certain circles to be the prime hangout spot of the local gangs. Thus, it had been easy for the Fake AH Crew to organize a meeting at this early hour of the morning when the place was usually closed. Apparently these small time gangs had the owner of the Crev quite thoroughly under their thumb, and the Fake AH Crew were no small time gang.

“Stay here and watch the car, Lil J,” Michael ordered, and the stocky man in the cowboy hat and aviators nodded in affirmation. The rest of the Lads then proceeded into the establishment, Michael keeping a tight grip on the aluminum briefcase in his right hand.

“Team Lads” was the nickname given to the younger guys of the upper echelon of the Crew, and consisted of Michael, Gavin, and Ray. Jeremy was showing lots of promise to become an official Lad himself, but Michael didn’t think he was quite there yet. Then again, Michael wasn’t so sure about the guy they were here to meet, but Geoff was ready to make him a partner if it meant getting their empire back.

“Dan the Man!!!!!” Ray shouted excitedly. If the Puerto Rican was having similar doubts about working with the man, he was doing an excellent job hiding it.

The man in question looked up from a laptop where he was seated in a booth and nodded to the Lads, who made their way over.

“Hey B, what you lookin’ at, B?” Gavin asked, gesturing to the laptop.

“Not much, B. Trying out a local dating app called OkCadance,” Dan replied.

“Get outta town!” Michael exclaimed as he plopped down in the seat across from Dan. “Meet any cute girls?”

Dan rotated the laptop to face him. “See for yourself.”

Gavin and Ray crowded around Michael to get a good look at Dan’s screen.

“Huh. She’s certainly… a girl,” Ray said.

The laptop displayed the image of a girl’s profile with the screen name “MuffinL0ver42”. The profile prominently featured a photo of a nice enough looking girl with messy blonde hair and gold eyes smiling coyly. But something was noticeably… off about her.

“Dan, you must be takin’ the piss, because she’s even more cross-eyed than your last girlfriend!” Gavin exclaimed, looking up from the picture of the girl apparently named “Derpy Hooves” according to her profile to gauge Dan’s response.

“Wot? No, no she’s not,” Dan protested.

“She is!” Gavin said, turning to the other two Lads. “Dan will never admit it, but he is super into cross-eyed girls.”

“I’m not!”

Ray laughed, “Hahaha, wonder if there’s a fetish site for that?”

“Jeremy probably has a website pun for it or something,” Gavin mused.

Dan’s online girlfriend was alarming to Michael for an entirely different reason. “She looks young, dude. Like… too young, know what I mean?”

“She told me she’s twenty-one,” Dan said. “What am I supposed to do? Ask her to show me her ID? Besides, she’s way too smart to be some random high school kid. We were chatting just the other day and she told me all about how she helped some friends of hers hack into some encrypted harddrive or something.”

“Alright man, but if you get sent to prison for this, don’t expect us to come busting you out! We’re not doing that shit again.”

“Whatever, can we just get to business please and thank you?”

Suddenly remembering the entire reason they were here, Michael forced himself to adopt a more business-like demeanor and presented the aluminum briefcase. Gavin handed him a small key, which he used to open the case and reveal to Dan the incredibly large sum of money inside.

“That’s two-hundred thousand right there, the rest is being wired to your usual account as we speak,” Michael said.

Dan pulled the briefcase full of money closer and gave it a once over. After briefly counting to see that it was all there, the man gave a satisfied nod and closed the case, putting it under the table by his feet.

“Everything seems in order,” Dan said before leaning forward and giving Michael a serious look. “But don’t think I don’t know where you got it from. I saw the little incident at that music store on the Canterlot News last night. I know your handiwork when I see it. If we’re going to be full time partners, I want to make sure I can count on your boss not to do anything reckless that’ll get us all in deep kack, yeah?”

“Don’t worry, B, we’ve got it all handled,” Gavin said. “Now that we’ve sorted this out, we’ll be leaving Canterlot today. If you’re still in, we’ll need you to meet us at the docks at 18:00 tonight.”

“Right, just wanted to make sure now that my arse is on the line too,” Dan said, before reaching for his laptop navigating away from OkCadance with a few clicks. “As a token of goodwill towards our new partnership, I thought I’d bring along a new toy of mine. Feel free to use it in whatever manner you see fit.”

Dan rotated the laptop so it was once again facing all of the Lads. Displayed on the screen was the website for Warstock Cache & Carry, the page currently displaying a product that immediately lit up the faces of the three Lads. Michael imagined that wasn’t all it was capable of lighting up. Not even close.

“Holy shit that’s badass!” Ray exclaimed.

“Could you imagine if we had this during the Prison Job?” Michael asked.

“Would’ve made your part of it more fun, innit?” Gavin said.

“I thought you boys might like it,” Dan said, giving the Lads a grin. “It’s the perfect mix of style and firepower that I know you appreciate.”

Panting, Dusky Darneil leaned against the brick wall of the building, believing himself safe behind the dumpster in the alleyway one block away. The worst possible case scenario had happened. Somehow, another student at the school had found his secret drive. Worse still, it hadn’t just been any student. It had been Twilight Sparkle: the one girl in his young life to show him kindness. His first real friend.

His phone vibrated at that moment, and a quick check confirmed he had received a text from an unknown number.

On our way to you. Be ready” it said.

Dusky couldn’t help but give a sad laugh. If anything, their timing was perfect. For all he knew his cover was blown. It was just as well he’d be moving on. Still, he wished he could have had more time with the girl that had been his friend.

The phrase “be careful what you wish for” came to Dusky’s mind as he turned to leave the alley and came face to face with a pair of familiar magenta eyes brimming with fury.

“Gah!” Dusky shrieked, stumbling back into side of the dumpster.

Twilight Sparkle was panting even more heavily than he was—clearly the girl didn’t get much exercise—but nevertheless, here she was having left class to chase him down. He could honestly say he never would have expected such a thing from such an academically concerned girl. Of course, he imagined she was concerned about a lot more at the moment.

Twilight held up the golden tower again, putting it inches from Dusky’s face to make sure he could see it.

“Dusky… what is this?!” she asked. “Why do you have a thumb drive with top secret government research on it?!”

“Right, okay… I know this looks bad, but as much as I’d like to, I can’t tell you anything...” Dusky said, but Twilight kept going, her lip quivering.

“I thought you were my friend… I really, really thought y-you were my friend….”

Something wasn’t right. Sure, Dusky hadn’t been entirely honest with Twilight about who he really was, but the look on her face at that moment…. There were tears in her eyes, and her voice was breaking. Dusky couldn’t help but imagine that tiny gold tower as a knife she’d just pulled out of her heart.

“Twilight, I am your friend!” Dusky exclaimed. “I know there’s a lot about myself I haven’t told you, but why are you so upset?”

Why am I so upset?!” Twilight said, wiping her eyes. “How about the fact you’ve been spying on me?!”

Dusky tilted his head. “Wait… what?”

Twilight gestured to the drive. “It’s all on here. You’ve been studying the magical phenomena at this school for months, haven’t you? What are you? FIB? IAA?”


“When you asked about what happened at the Friendship Games, I thought you really didn’t know.” Twilight just kept going. The proverbial knife had indeed cut her, and she was uncontrollably bleeding words. “But you knew all along, didn’t you? About what I did… what I became. You were only asking because you wanted….”

Desperate to quell the girl’s clear hysteria, Dusky did something more bold than he would have ordinarily considered. He grabbed her by the shoulders, looked her in the eyes and said firmly, “Twilight, slow down, okay? I have no idea what you’re talking about!”

That statement managed to silence the hysterical girl, and she stared at Dusky in silent disbelief. Dusky, in turn, took the brief respite to try to make sense of everything she’d been saying.

“Now, why do you think I’m spying on you?” he asked, looking at her with genuine confusion. “Is something about you… on this drive?”

Twilight studied his face for a moment, appearing just as confused as Dusky felt. “Do you mean to tell me you don’t know what’s on it?”

“Yes, I couldn’t get past the encryption!”

After studying him a moment longer, Twilight’s eyes finally fell to the ground. “Why should I believe you? As far as I know, Dusky Darneil isn’t even your real name.”

Her voice sounded so broken that something inside of Dusky broke as well, and against his better judgement, he told her, “It’s Dusky Shawcross.”

Twilight looked back up at him, the look in her eyes urging Dusky to continue. “I probably shouldn’t have told you that. Telling you my real name kinda ruins the point of being in Witness Protection.

“You see, I tipped off the LSPD about a big heist in San Chianski outside of Los Santos. They never made my name public, but some higher up in the department thought it would be prudent to put me and my family in Witness Protection anyway.”

“Why’s that?” Twilight asked.

“Because the Fake AH Crew has enough people in the LSPD that they could have figured out it was me.”

Twilight looked at him, wide-eyed. “So the tip that got Geoff the Boss caught… that was you?”

Dusky nodded, and Twilight took a moment to consider all this new information. “So, what does all that have to do with what’s on this drive?”

Gesturing to the shiny hidden drive in Twilight’s hand, Dusky said, “You’re looking at the take from the very heist Geoff got busted on—the raid on Humane Labs. Apparently some research corporation is willing to pay lots of money for the contents of that drive.”

A dozen questions raced through Twilight’s mind, not the least of which was “Why do you still have it?” It was only as the horror dawned on Twilight when she realized the implications for her if what Dusky said was true that her thoughts were interrupted.

“Hey there, Carrot Top!”

Twilight jumped, the sudden hostility of the new-yet-familiar voice not lessened by her dark thoughts. She and Dusky both turned to see Curly Winds and two other big jocks standing at the mouth of the alleyway.

We’re cornered, Twilight realized with growing dread.

“Oh back off, guys,” Dusky warned, trying but not quite succeeding at sounding brave. “We’re in the middle of something and don’t have time for your bullshit right now!”

“Aw, are you two having a moment?” Curly asked mockingly.

“Do scrawny girls with world-ending powers do it for you, Carrot Top?” the boy to Curly’s right asked. The other, much bigger boy to Curly’s left just stood there, quietly cracking his knuckles.

To make his point, the boy jabbed Twilight with a finger, and the irate girl smacked it away. The group of boys all “oohed” and chuckled darkly.

“Careful, Crazylegs. She might zap you to another dimension or something!” the larger boy to Curly’s left exclaimed.

“Shut up,” Twilight said icily, having just about had it with being antagonized over the “Midnight Sparkle incident”.

“Oh yeah? Why don’t you make us, Monster girl?” the boy “Crazylegs” said, nudging her again. “C’mon, why don’t ya unleash the magic again? Do it, I dare ya! Do it!”

Do it.

For a brief moment Twilight heard another voice not belonging to any of the boys present. It was dark and deeply familiar, and seemed to come from within herself.

Do it.

But before she could do anything else, Crazylegs was shoved back by Dusky.

“Just fuck off, guys!” he shouted. “Seriously, what the hell are you even talking about? ‘Unleash the magic?’ What does that even mean?”

“You actually don’t know?” Curly asked, looking genuinely surprised. “You’ve been hanging out with this monster for however long and you have no idea?”

“She turned into some kinda demon and almost tore apart the very fabric of reality!” the bigger boy said, his well-spoken explanation surprising Twilight, Dusky, and even Curly and Crazylegs.

“Um… I still don’t understand, is that a metaphor for something?” Dusky asked. “How could she turn into a literal demon? That's crazy!”

“And it’s true,” Twilight said at barely a whisper, but all eyes nevertheless turned to her. With a defeated sigh, Twilight continued. “I was studying a strange energy force that turned out to be actual magic, and it kinda… got out of my control. I nearly destroyed the world with it… and what’s more, apparently that very moment was recorded on that thumbdrive of yours. You can see for yourself if you want.”

Twilight tried to keep it together as Dusky looked at her with utter confusion and, more importantly, newfound trepidation. The look on his face was too similar to those of her peers on that fateful night.

“To be honest, I don’t really give a shit about that anymore,” Curly said, reminding the two that they were still in for a world of hurt. “What I do care about is that you disrespected my girlfriend. And when you disrespect my girl you disrespect me!”

With her secret now out to Dusky, Twilight found she no longer wanted to hide. No longer wanted to roll over and let everyone step all over her. So with nothing short of pure venom, she glared at Curly and said, “I hate to break it to you, but your girlfriend’s a bitch!

Twilight’s cheek suddenly exploded in pain as the back of Curly’s hand swiftly swept across it. That was when Dusky had his own moment of deciding he’d had enough from them. With an angry cry, he flew at Curly with fists flying. Taken completely by surprise, Curly tried to raise his hands to block the flurry of punches but Dusky was wild and surprisingly precise. The way he circumvented Curly’s defenses and pushed him back with punch after punch made Twilight realize: He had been in fights before.

For one brief moment Twilight thought they might actually get out of this relatively unscathed, but she had forgotten all about the other two boys... and apparently, so had Dusky. The bigger boy grabbed Dusky and his last punch swung wide, missing Curly completely. Dusky then cried out in pain as the big boy twisted his arm behind his back.

Stop it! Let him go!” Twilight shouted, leaping into action and attacking the bigger boy with her own punches. Unfortunately, Twilight weighed 125 pounds soaking wet, and her attacks glanced harmlessly off of the large football player until Crazylegs came over, grabbed her and threw her to the ground in a painful heap.

Twilight looked up to see that Curly had recovered from Dusky’s assault with little more than a bloodied nose, and was so angry he looked red in the face. Curly punched Dusky in the stomach a few times in a fit of anger. Dusky tried to crumple over in pain, but the bigger boy continued to hold him up.

“Looks like you need to be taught a little lesson about not disrespecting me, huh Carrot Top?” Curly said after catching his breath. Then to Twilight’s horror, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a small object Twilight realized was a switchblade.

“Hold him still,” Curly told his bigger friend. “I’m gonna write a little message on him so he won’t forget!”

Crazylegs and the boy holding Dusky exchanged an uncertain look—It seemed neither of them were expecting things to go so far.

“I said hold him!” Curly shouted, lifting Dusky’s shirt to expose his soft round belly.

Regardless of whether Curly’s friends wanted to go through with it, it seemed they weren’t going to disobey him.

Then the strangest thing happened: The sound of the most unusual car horn Twilight had ever heard filled the air around them. It sounded like the first several notes of Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. Just like that the horrible scene unfolding in front of her froze, becoming a twisted tableau. Then a car pulled up along the sidewalk and a loud male voice called out.


Twilight’s eyes widened and her heart stopped when she looked at the vintage old car to see a familiar man with fiery red hair leaning out the passenger side window.

“Michael?” Dusky asked, and Twilight realized all at once how he had been able to tip the police off about the Fake AH Crew’s heist. “W-what are you doing here?”

“I was gonna ask you the same thing,” Michael said, “Everybody thinks you’re dead!”

“Well, I’m clearly alive.” Dusky—or “Kerry” as the man Michael had called him—looked over at Curly, who was still holding the knife as he stared at the new arrivals with significant confusion. “For now, anyway….”

“Well shit man, get on over here. We’ve got a lot to catch up on!”

Curly, who seemed to be fighting an internal battle with the decision of whether or not to say something, finally came to a decision that he would later that day come to regret deeply.

“Hey, I don’t know who you assholes are but you’d better fuck off before somebody other than Carrot Top here gets hurt!”

Michael stared at Curly in shock for a couple of seconds: Not intimidated shock, but genuine surprise.


Twilight could see the angry look on Curly’s face change to one of worry as a chorus of furious “What”s came from the car and suddenly the sounds of car doors opening sounded as Michael and three more men stepped out. Twilight recognized the blue-haired British one—Gavin—and the man in the tuxedo t-shirt—Ray, but she didn’t know who the shorter man with the white cowboy hat dressed in purple and orange was.

Being football jockeys, Curly and his friends were pretty big as far as high schoolers went. But they were still only three kids now face to face with four adults. Michael and the members of his crew all pulled out an assortment of weapons: A crowbar, a baseball bat, a golf club and—oddly enough—a bright pink flare gun.

“The fuck you just say to me, son?” Michael asked, his Jersey Temper boiling beneath the surface.

Curly’s mouth opened and closed like a drowning fish for a few seconds before he croaked forth, “Fuck… off?”

Evidently it was the wrong answer, as both of Curly’s friends took off running down the sidewalk at speeds neither of them had run in all their years playing high school football.

“Ooh I’m gonna go mental with a golf club!” Gavin exclaimed as the short man beside him tapped his baseball bat into his open palm.

“Get him! Fuck him up!” Michael shouted, and that was all Curly needed to hear before he too took off running.

"Hap hap HAP!" the short man shouted as he, Gavin and Ray took off after him, ready to put their baseball bat, golf club and flare gun to good use.

“NICE FOOTBALL JERSEY, LOSER! WE GET IT: YOU’RE STRAIGHT!” Ray shouted as they ran after him.

“Fuckin’ bustas…” Michael said as he watched them disappear around a corner, putting his crowbar away.

Without thinking, Twilight went to Dusky on her hands and knees to make sure he was okay as soon as they were gone, not caring that Michael was watching.

“You get a girlfriend while you were here, Kerry?” Michael asked.

Dusky… or Kerry’s face turned beet red. “What? No… Twilight’s… a friend.”

“Twilight, huh?” Michael said, studying her closely. Twilight wilted under his gaze: The last time they met, Michael had been one of the criminals holding her hostage. That and she may have tried to insult him with a math joke.

The man’s arm shot towards her and Twilight flinched, shutting her eyes… but no blow came. “Nice to meet you, Twilight. You can call me Michael!”

Opening her eyes, Twilight saw that he had only extended his hand to shake. Does he... not remember me?

“N-nice to meet you, heh heh…” Twilight laughed nervously as she shook his hand, and gave a startled yelp as he pulled her to her feet.

“Well, any friend of Kerry’s is a friend of mine,” Michael said amicably, patting her roughly on the shoulder. “Now, why don’t you both come along with me? The rest of the Lads have some… business to resolve with those other kids, so I could use the company!”

“Oh, I’d love to Michael, but Twilight and I should really get to class,” Kerry said.

At this Michael said, “Pfft, what’s school gonna teach you that you can’t learn from us?” Michael put an arm around him, “Besides, you and I have some things to talk about, Kerry my man!” Twilight tried not to stiffen as Michael then put his other arm around her. “And I’d hate to exclude your friend here….”

A cold pit of fear entered Twilight as she and Kerry were led to the car. The golden tower that hid a thumb drive was still in her hand, and it was a minor miracle that Michael hadn’t noticed it yet. She was thankful that they were no longer at the mercy of Curly and his friends, but Twilight couldn’t shake the feeling that she and Kerry had been rescued from the frying pan only to end up in the open flame.

Author's Note:

Shoutout to BradtheBrony for his good work editing!