• Published 18th Mar 2017
  • 2,990 Views, 303 Comments

Equestrian City - Malcontent



It's been almost a decade since the Battle of the Bands and Sunset Shimmer has been trying to clean up the mess she made. After series of unrelated crimes, Sunset, now known as The Phoenix, may need to finally ask for help.

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Prologue

Prologue
“Pilot Act I”
By DarkMalcontent
Co-Author Alisia
Professor of Writing Brawny Buck

Night had settled in on the coastal town of Equestrian City. The glow of the street lights powering up was only faintly visible to the naked eye. The first surviving metropolitan area left unscathed by The Canterlot Disaster, the city itself swelled in population in the aftermath, making its already bloated cityscape even more so. Displaced residents surviving the explosion of magic that changed the world traveled to all ends of the country, though most settled into the welcoming arms of the largest city in the Canterlot Commonwealth.

The Canterlot Disaster, which originated from the suburbs of the same name, had changed the world forever. Some were killed instantly, some were stricken with magically altered conditions that were untreatable by modern medical science, and some were spared any real impact.

“The final set of those afflicted by the magic that had manifested, be it suddenly or gradually, would become known to contain "meta powers". This is akin to superhero abilities such as super strength all the way to flight, or psionic metal control flipped all the way to simply controlling butter that happened to be within ten meters of themselves. These people began to develop these powers, abilities the world had never seen before or not seen for the most part. The growing number of people misusing their powers became a growing epidemic.” A TV somewhere droned on in a store’s display window.

A bulky gloved fist punched through the television screen, shattering it and the glass of the display case it was in through the bars of the store window. Pulling back the fist was a girl of average build and a garage skin tone.

“Cherry!” a smaller framed girl yelled towards the storefront. “What the heck was that for? That'll get the cops here for sure!” the girl turned back to a pair of bodies she was kneeling over, rummaging through their belongings. “Dammit. If they'd have just handed over their money...now we get cops...”

“Relax. If the cops come that's what you got me for,” Cherry Spices smiled back, shaking off the glass from her gloves. “Ya don't pay a heavy like me for their good looks.”

“I'd want a discount then,” the final member of the group said, his voice a bit lower in time then the first two girls. Sporting a mohawk haircut with twin matching fins on the side, he turned to the other girl “Nancy, let's get going. If that didn't get the ECPD--"

“Then this will...” Cherry picked up a mailbox with ease, the bolts snapping like peanut brittle as she displayed her meta powers.

“Allen, where the heck did you get this girl,” Nancy asked, motioning for him to come closer. “And what kind of name is Cherry anyway?”

“What kind of name is Nancy?” Cherry yelled back and threw the mailbox into an abandoned car on the street. “I came from the Canterlot Relocation Project. What's your excuse?”

“I grew up here.” Nancy stood up and started counting the money they'd stolen.

“There's your answer, different regions, different names. Cherry is as common as John is here.” Cherry smirked and dusted her gloves. “Ok kids, we done? I want my cut, got some bills to pay.”

“Help...me," the faintest of male voices stuttered from one of the victims.

“Oops. No witnesses.” Cherry picked up a piece of rebar from the side of the closest building and held it high in one hand. Drawing back for a strike, she smiled. “Nothing personal.”

Before anyone could react, a sudden burst of fire nailed Cherry in the throat and sent her flailing to a knee. The rebar she once held flying backwards, cluttering to the ground. “The frak?!” Nancy turned as did her accomplice, towards the pitch dark alleyway the projectile had come from.

A pair of twin flames manifested, lighting up the faint image of a yellow toned girl dressed in a black flame motif jacket and matching pants. Barely lit and dramatically so were the features on her face, a pair of secured goggles hiding her true iris color from prying eyes. Hair a mixture of red and yellow swirled together and her expression reflected one of both disdain and amusement.

“Nancy, let’s run. That's her, that's the lady flame girl!” Allen hid behind the smaller girl and pointed, looking around frantically and then finally at their hired goon. “Hey wake up!”

“Attempted murder, robbery and now fleeing the scene of a crime?” Sunset Shimmer gave a smile as she stepped in front of the two victims, both still down, a pair of flames burning from her fists like a demon from Hell. “You three are in for quite a run in Purgatory City Prison.”

“Yeah right, that's if you can catch us!” Nancy shouted back, clearly showing more courage than her partner. “Cherry!” she shouted, turning to the recovering heavy.

Sunset turned her attention to the smaller framed woman, not giving her a second look, she turned back to the other two. “You really...” she smiled wider. “Need to reconsider this.”

“I don’t think so!” Nancy smiled as Cherry sailed past her towards the vigilante.

Cherry Spice threw an opening right cross that Sunset easily dodged, landing a gut punch to the girl and using her momentum to spin around and nail an elbow to the back of her head. Neither seemed to phase the heavy, who shrugged it off and tried to grab at the red and yellow hair of the hero. “No good, lady,” Cherry shouted, her left hook punch missing it’s mark and denting a light pole, the overhead illumination flickering. “I haven’t felt a thing for ten years.”

Sunset moved back and out of the way of the heavy’s reach, backhanding Allen and sending him to the ground unconscious. Half dodging a pipe Nancy had gotten hold of, she sent a side kick into her stomach, catapulting her back onto the curb and the pipe clattering to the ground. Cherry turned to face her opponent and growled in frustration. “Those were my meal tickets for the night, fire head.” She cracked her knuckles and tossed her own leather jacket to the ground, leaving her wearing only a sports tank top on. Her skin was free of blemishes, despite her occupation.

“Guess being invulnerable has its perks...no blackheads or pimples?” Sunset circled her opponent, keeping pace and a defensive posture, the light above them flickering still. “Doesn't seem to keep you trim though.” The heavy enforcer flew at her with a louder grunt of anger, throwing a right cross again, her brute force methods contrasting Sunset’s evasive strike and move techniques. Each hit missed its mark and Sunset pushed off the brutish woman with a front kick and gained distance from her reach with a boost from her hand flames. Landing gracefully and with almost no sound, she put her hands to her side. “All power, no finesse.” She stood there, her very posture taunting Cherry.

The other two non-meta had recovered and both had makeshift weapons. The group gathered and walked towards the hero, her gaze locking on the victims behind them, she didn't make mention as they both slicked away to safety. Instead Sunset narrowed her eyes and gave a confident smile. “Give it up, burn out,” Cherry said, pulling her gloves tight again. “Ya can’t hurt me.”

“Shut up and get her!” Nancy yelled as all three attacked her at once.

Sunset dodged the first swing from Cherry, using her own weight to send her into a dumpster off balance. A swing and a miss from Allen's baseball bat hit the other brick wall in the alley. Closing the distance to prevent another swing she grabbed his wrists and swung his body around into the last girl, knocking her into the brute and making her even more angry.

The sound of a revolver cocking caught Sunsets ears and she turned towards Nancy who had taken aim at her. Igniting both her fists in flames, Sunset used the intense light as a distraction to buy her time, closing the distance and knocking Nancy's gun arm up, a shot ringing out. Landing several gut and chest blows in rapid succession, Sunsets fire burned and disoriented the thugs as they came at her again. The two non powered humans were no match for the intense burning and martial arts that Sunset was brandishing, a more harmful technique she had no issue bringing with her to a fight if her advisories wanted to escalate to deadly weaponry.

Two distinct thuds hit the ground followed by groans of pain. Sunset looked back at the two crooks, their clothing smoking from contact with her. She didn't have long to breath as she leapt over a dumpster being thrown at her, one she easily climbed over mid flight and landed a drop kick on the troublesome heavy. Grabbed by the arm, Sunset felt the brute throw her into a brick wall, the world rattling around her for a moment.

Still in peak form despite the blows, Sunset knew she wasn't a match for the girl on even footing. Each successfully dodge and punch, knocking more of the wall she’d been thrown into down, Cherry taunting her the whole time about her invulnerability and her superiority. A final shot to the bricks above and Sunset ducked and rolled out of the way. The entire wall of the building came down on the heavy.

A few stray bricks clanked down after the main wall fell and the groaning of Cherry was drowned out by the approaching sounds of the ECPD cruisers closing in. Firing up her hands, Sunset soared up and onto a set of nearby roofs, leaping from each one in silence before making a stop to ensure they were all down for the count. Looking over the pile of rubble, she smirked. “Bet’cha felt that.” She ran stealthily and took off towards the center of the city by rooftop disappearing into the shadows.

***

“Sweetie?! Where are you?!” Rarity screamed while frantically scanning the chaos. “Sweetie Belle?!”

"Rarity stay put!" Applejack commanded as loudly as she could over the mixed screams from the injured and dying. Simultaneously she reached out, firmly grabbed her friends wrist and pulled her back down behind Vinyl Scratch's car.

"But-but Sweetie!" the fashionista's voice cracked during her complaint.

"It's too dangerous to go out there!"

"I don't care. I have to find her!" Rarity shouted and simultaneously ripped her arm free and ran down the hill towards the center of what appeared to be an active war zone.

"Wait!" Applejack shouted while she scrambled to her feet and raced after the purple haired girl. Magic flew everywhere, making the ground quake from the repeated random magical discharge strikes. The blond nearly fell from the strong tremors while trying to catch Rarity. "This is madness!"

"Rarity?!" Sweetie Belle squeaked with a terrified shriek while ducking falling debris. The teenager's wide green eyes trying to find any signs of guaranteed aid.

“Sweetie Belle?” Rarity searched then, “Sweetie!” she said with a sharp inhale. “Over here darling!” the fashionista began making a b-line for her sister. “Gak-!” she turned to see Applejack had a hold on her wrist. “Let go!” Rarity demanded while she tried to stand up from behind the remainder of the wall.

“Nothin’ doing. It’s too dangerous,” Applejack warned sternly.

“But-but Aj-I…” Rarity tried to counter with tears in her wide eyes.

“We can’t lose both of you! I’m sorry,” the blond sadly confessed, still keeping a firm grasp of her pale friend’s appendage.

“Rarity?!” Sweetie Belle squeaked. “Where’d you go?”

Rarity turned her focus on the teenager. “I’m coming!” she yelled while standing and taking only a couple steps before the ground began to quake again. “Wha-?!”

“Rarity!” Applejack grabbed the back of her dress and yanked her back down behind the structure.

“No!!” Rarity shrieked and struggled violently against the blond, paying no mind to a passed out and injured Applebloom grasped firmly by Applejack’s other arm. Sweetie Belle screamed as the earth gave another violent tremble and unleashed a horrible, loud cracking sound. Rarity turned to look and tears swelled in her eyes and voice. “Sweetie!” she screamed, pulling against Applejack as she witnessed the ground open up and swallow her sister.

“You have to stay here!” Applejack grunted from her struggling to keep a firm hold on Rarity, who was trying to run towards the opened earth.

The crying girl whipped her head around. “You have Applebloom! I need Sweetie!”

“Ya can’t help’er now!”

The ground gave a horrible shake and at the same time a voice which sounded to be that of a dying Sweetie Belle screamed. The earth forced itself up and threw the Apple sisters away from Rarity. She tried to grab her friend but missed as the ground rose higher and formed a faceless mouth. “You let me die!” the dark soil bellowed and lunged down upon Rarity.

Rarity shot up like a bolt, wheezing while grasping at air for a few moments before stopping with her arm remaining suspended. Her blue eyes slowly began to relax as her racing thoughts started to slow down and recognize her surroundings. Gradually she lowered her hand with a small tremble to her silk sheets, which still covered her lower half. She slowly blinked and turned her gaze down to her damp bedding. Rarity closed her eyes as small tears began stinging the corners of her eyes. It never ends… she thought. She raised a hand to her face and her fingers slipped into her messy purple locks as she closed her eyes again.

After a few silent moments, her hand dropped and reached for her nightstand, if not a bit clumsy, searching for a specific item. Scooted aside was a wristwatch, a digital clock, a bottle of pills and other small various knicknacks. She cursed quietly before her fingers curled around her target: a short clear glass. Rarity brought it around and took a long drink, finishing off the scotch in a very unlady like manner. She brought her head up with an exhale, passed the glass into her other hand and Rarity’s attention returned to the nightstand. Fishing for a moment around the small clutter, her free hand came back with the expensive wristwatch.

Her half opened eyes stared emptily at the time: 2 AM. Slightly she narrowed her eyes, half from frustration and half from annoyance. I might as well get up. Two hours isn't so bad. I used to work late all too often when I first opened the second shop. I should be used to it by now, she thought lazily as her mind began to wonder despite her efforts. ...Was easier before I was so successful. Whenever I couldn't sleep, she and I...would have a snack and...talk about… she tried to hold back a sniffled whine as tears tried to creep to her eyes. With a shake of her head, the business woman threw the watch back onto the nightstand. Determined not to just fall apart again, Rarity snatched up a lighter from the furniture, pushed back the sheets and swung her legs over the edge to find solid flooring.

Releasing a sigh a moment after, she leaned back and began to search around the same disheveled mess, retrieving a silver cigarette case. Rarity set the drinkware aside, popped the metal casing open and pulled out one of her coping devices. “Four years of therapy and I still have issues,” she grumbled dryly while she now tapped the cigarette on the case as it clicked closed. “Just wonderful…” she trailed off as she brought the filter to her lips. Lighting the end, the pale woman took a drag before she removed and held it beside her with class between two fingers. Leaning back again, she looked up to the ceiling while she blew the smoke upwards.

“I’d be better off just burning the money.” She took another drag and blew the white smoke in a ring towards the elaborately etch plated ceiling. Her eyes lazily watched the smoke float up and vanish into nothing. There’s nothing wrong with me having classy things, right? I mean...the only reason I’m so successful is because I never dropped my love of dressmaking, she thought while idly taking another smoke. It was thanks to her that I never gave up. Every Saturday Swee- Rarity’s thoughts halted as the tears grew and slipped down the sides of her face. Successful and rich...and famous...and I’m absolutely miserable, she thought with a somber tone.

As smoke wafted from the glowing orange tip, a small tremble in her hand began to appear. Quickly she ended it by closing her eyes tightly and concentrating a moment. Finally, sitting upright and bringing her smoking hand to rest on her leg, Rarity took a deep breath and exhaled roughly with a whispered curse. “Damn it.” Standing briskly in defeat, she scooped up the glass and made her way to a cabinet.

She opened the doors and a tray slid out. Setting down the glass, the fashionista pulled out a bottle of high end scotch. While starting to pour, she took a puff before stopping with her glass half filled. Rarity stared a moment before she added to top it off, set the bottle down, picked up her glass and returned to her bed while she enjoyed the plush carpet under her bare feet.

Rarity slipped into bed with her prize, settling back in. She placed her drink carefully into her cigarette hand and reached over, grabbed the TV remote and turned on the flatscreen. “Authorities are still unsure,” began the audio of a man before the image slowly began to fade in. “What to make of the recent increase in armed robberies in the Industrial Sector. Officials have released no details on what goods were or were not stolen, citing an ongoing investigation.”

The middle aged man cleared his throat as he adjusted his papers and turned to face a different camera. “Three suspects are in custody this evening after turning themselves in to ECPD officers that were on break at a local dinner. Police state the suspects were practically beating down the door while begging to be arrested.” Rarity idly took a drink while she boredly stared at the screen as he continued. “All confessed to a nearby armed assault and to a number of other petty crimes. All three appeared to had suffered massive blunt force trauma as well as both first and second degree burns.”

Rarity listened while she took another drink. The voice of the anchor began to trail into a dull drone as her sense of the world started to cloud over. “When questioned,” the man continued, “on their sudden change of heart, one suspect claimed it was a female vigilante who most gangs of the area have been calling ‘The Flame’ or ‘Lady Blaze’, but most are commonly calling ‘The Phoenix’.”

Rarity looked down to her chilly nightgown as the television droned on. She placed her cigarette on the edge of a diamond shaped ashtray, swung her legs around and stood with a single motion, walking around the large bed to her wardrobe. Rarity opened the doors carefully with her drink still in her hand, taking a look over the similar looking nightwear. The news anchor’s chuckle barely registered in her head. “I guess she’s been putting in some overtime recently.” He cleared his throat and continued while Rarity took another sip, considering which color she wanted to change into. “Authorities indicate this is the ninth time a group has begged to be arrested this week.”

She pulled out a light green nightgown and draped it over the footboard. The fashionista slipped off her damp clothing without releasing or spilling a drop of her scotch. Happy with her small victory, she took another sip. “There have been no reports of serious property damage in relation to these suspects being convinced to turn themselves in,” he continued, Rarity’s shadow popping up in front of the television while she slipped the fresh gown off the hanger and slid it on over her head with ease.

“This reporter is impressed with her work ethic. Maybe the ECPD should look into recruiting her,” he asked and stacked his paperwork in front of him as he gave another chuckle. The tired woman made her way back to the bed after she threw the discarded gown into the hamper. She sat and buzzedly observed the footage captured by an old side store security camera.

“Now there’s someone who’s making a difference,” Rarity quietly commented before taking a sip, her words slightly slurring. “She doesn’t have to worry about whatever Coco wants signed…” she reached over, retrieved her smoke, took a drag and set it back on the ashtray. “Or what Spoons wants to talk about,” a heavy sigh kissed the cool air while her eyes began to droop and her body started to slouch. “She’s got it right…” Rarity took another drink from her alcohol which brought the world to further fade. “Maybe...just a little nap,” she asked herself.

“In other more somber news,” the reporter began which caught Rarity’s attention. “This Friday marks ten years since the catastrophe of The Canterlot Disaster.” Rarity froze at the statement.

“It seems it was only yesterday when we had welcomed the survivors of those suburbs into our dear Equestrian City,” he reported with both sadness and happiness in his tone. “Investigators ruled the cause of the massive explosion on a ruptured gas main, which its safety had failed under the high school.” Rarity watched and listened as attentively as she could. He sadly shook his head as he read the next part. “As we all remember it had tragically happened during an evening of celebration. A fun event enjoyed by students and parents alike in the form of a musical competition.”

Rarity’s eyes widened in fear. Flashing across the screen were stilled photos, rescuers camera footage and footage from reporters after they got on the scene. All the devastation with the surrounding buildings in ruin and on fire, a sinkhole opened here and there, and the emergency responders with cadaver dogs hunting for bodies. It was everything that continued to plague her. As audio from the videos rang in her ears, her heartbeat began to pound harder and faster against her chest.

“After hundreds were left dead or injured,” he began explaining from behind the media from that day. “The explosion will be marked by a moment of silence. This will be to honor the students and parents we lost to show they are never forgotten.” Rarity’s breathing gradually changed from being long and deep to short and quick. “You can see coverage of the memorial site being set up for people to gather later today.”

The anchor cleared his throat and looked into a new camera. “Let’s switch to something more positive. In the world of business today,” this was enough of a muffled sound to bring Rarity to reach and fumble for the remote while downing the rest of her scotch. “Tiara Technologies lost a bid to acquire a majority shareholding in-” Rarity coughed from the burning in her throat while she silenced him. With her head down and breathing coming in pants, her moistening eyes stared towards her lap as the remote dropped from her jittery hand onto the bed.

Swiftly she left the bed with a stumble as she made her way to her cabinet. She roughly set her glass down and poured herself some more scotch. Rarity set the bottle down uneasily and downed half the glass right there. Releasing a hard breath, her head fell forwards with one palm resting on the furniture. Small whimpers entered the air of the room before soon being joined by the distant and occasional car horn.

Minutes ticked by as Rarity stood still as stone. Finally she pushed off the cabinet and made her way back to the bed with a few stumbles. She sniffled as she got into bed and grabbed the medicine bottle. The glass was set onto her palm carefully while shaking out one pill. It was labeled as a medication for depression. Rarity set the opened bottle down, popped the white tablet into her mouth and quickly washed it down with the rest of her scotch.

She released a breath, closed the bottle up and set down her empty glass. She took one last long drag on the cigarette before stamping it out. While twisting around she began to scoot and soon got her half buzzed self situated. As she slid down under the covers, she ignored the soft clunk from the remote as her head rested on the pillow. Her eyes drifted shut with hope the nightmares would stay away and allow her some simbolince of rest.

***

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the city, the tapping of steady footfalls echoed in an alleyway of Central Equestrian City. Sunset in her black outfit with flames on it narrowed her eyes as she came to a dead end. Her gloved hands balled into fists before they became ignited in flames and fire shot down, propelling her over the stone wall. She landed quietly and continued on with further use of her fire to conquer obstacles.

Later she came between two brick buildings, one being windowless as the other held a few windows. Scanning the windowed structure through her tinted goggles brought a small smile. No lights were on the lower floors and those still aglow on the upper floors were facing the street. The young woman took a deep breath and exhaled while her body relaxed a bit. Sunset took another breath before she dashed at and up the windowless wall. Then, once her footing felt secure, she pushed off into a jump across the alley. She landed on and pushed off of the windowed structure to return to the windowless face. Her confidence reflected in her steady rhythm as she advanced higher.

Her red hair with yellow streaks swayed in her fluid movements. When she reached the top she used her flames on the wall with her kick off, flipped through the air and landed with the use of her fire to cushion her mass. It also quieted her stumbled impact on the flat roof. She released a breath of relief, glad she hadn’t fallen on her face. She proceeded towards her unlocked window and slipped inside.

Carefully Sunset stepped off the window bench and winced as her hand came to grab her left side. “Damn,” she hissed while her hand curiously prodded her side only to wince again. “Five years of training and punks still get a lucky shot now and then.” Sunset removed both flame resistant gloves and tossed them on the sofa while she stepped over to the coffee table. She picked up the remote, turned the TV on and dropped it back to the table. Without further injury she made her way over to a walled switch and flipped it on. This gave her abode a gracious bath of soft yellow light.

“-ologies lost a bid to acquire,” the imageless male anchor explained as she slipped her dark jacket off with a hiss. “A majority shareholding in Diamond Labs this week,” the man’s image faded into existence while Sunset grunted in the removal of two layers of form fitting spandex. “Both Tiara Technologies and Rare Invitations have been in a heated bidding war as of late.” Sunset tugged on the elastic of her sports bra and gritted her teeth when the strap did not want to dislocate from her skin.

I have got to invest some money into better lightweight armor, she thought while twisting her head and pulling her left shoulder forwards to see the colors of red, yellow and blue. Just perfect, she mentally grumbled and began to unlatch her boots.

“Tiara Technologies looks to have been losing in the bidding war for a grant from the city. This grant is to give one company the authority, and funding, to help the ECPD advance their technology.” Sunset barely listened to the anchor as she slipped her feet free of the footwear. She stood on the end of one sock, pulling it off and did the same for the other foot. “The technology is meant to upgrade their meta-human crime task force, Ju.S.T.I.C.E.” Sunset made her way into her small bathroom that was lined with cool green tile. “For anyone who has forgotten, as this anchor has done, Ju.S.T.I.C.E. was created three years ago by Commissioner Luna to battle against the rise in super powered crimes. And on that note, we’ll be right back.”

While advertisements began to air, Sunset lifted herself up on her toes and grimaced. There was a bruising gash trailing from between her shoulder blades down towards her left side, just below her ribs. “This...is gunna hurt,” she groaned before opening the medicine cabinet.

“Welcome back. Continuing with our story, earlier today Commander Spitfire, which is head of the unit division,” he began as she removed a few items and closed the door. “Was quoted as saying ‘I don’t really care who wins because if we don’t start getting our people on par with the enhanced criminals, we all lose’. Isn’t that the truth,” he shook his head and switched to a new paper while turning to a different camera. During these reports her moans and groans of pain were thankfully muffled by the thick wooden door.

“Diamond Tiara, the CEO of Tiara Technologies,” he began before lowering his tone, “not like anyone can forget.” He cleared his throat a little and continued with a normal volume. “Was unavailable today for comment but Rare Innovations spokesperson, Coco Pommel, released a statement condemning the underhanded tactic to simply buy out their competition.” The bathroom door opened and Sunset stepped out as she made her way to a kitchen drawer, her upper body wrapped by a white elastic material. It encircled under her breasts, around the right of her neck and under then around her left shoulder. It was looped a couple times and was secured by its velcro under the center of her bust.

She retrieved a box and took out a pack of two gel pain killers. “Ms. Pommel cited ‘money can’t make all your problems go away’ and they ‘won’t be intimidated’.” Sunset opened a cabinet door, retrieved a glass and went to the sink. She filled it and turned to pay attention now while she popped open the foil backing. She dropped one pill into her mouth and swallowed it with a few gulps of water.

“Sure sounds like it,” Sunset remarked before she placed the second pill into her mouth and drank it down.

“Unfortunately Rare Innovations CEO, Rarity Belle, was not reachable for comment. We were informed she would be away on a business related outing at the time of this broadcast.”

Sunset made her way to a dresser, opened a drawer and slipped on a fresh bra carefully. “Now there’s someone who’s got it good,” she commented quietly with her face twisting in discomfort. “Never having to worry about where her next rent is coming from...” she made her way over to the sofa and started to slide her spandex pants off. “Never needing to worry about where her next meal is coming from…” she grunted and sat to finish the removal of the black fabric with a flame design on it. “She’s got the perfect life,” disappointment lined her words as she stood and made her way over to an open closet. “No thanks to me,” she finished softly as she did.

She pulled a can out of a box and stepped back before starting to spray her hair. The canister depicted lush brunette hair along with instructions. One was about using heat to set it and another was about it being easy to wash out. Sunset kept her eyes closed while she sprayed what was left of the can. “And we’re back. In other job news, it has been reported that Mr. Taps is planning to open a second dance studio later this year,” the anchor announced as the can hissed only air. “With this he said he plans to hire up to six instructors for different types of dance.” Sunset stopped and looked at the can as she shook it to hear an empty rattle. “He informed our reporter he would add more should the second building do well and need more instructors to keep up with the number of students.”

Sunset tossed the can at the trashcan and smiled as she saw it go in. “Score!” she giggled and lifted her hands up alongside her head. Inhaling deeply and exhaling slowly, she lit calm flames around her bare hands. Delicately she held the flames just close enough to allow the heat to set the dye. Gradually she moved her hands down then back up before she brought them around to get the front and back. “One student of Mr. Taps stated ‘Tender Taps is the best teacher I’ve had! He’s such a great instructor, especially in tap dancing’.” The anchor sighed with a smile. “Ah, to be young and able to actually have that kind of tallant.”

Once finished, she shook her hands off while extinguishing the flames. “In the world of music, Countess Coloratura and Feather Bangs will be coming to our city during their Double Diva tour. Tickets will go on sale next month so be ready for a real light show!”

Sunset whistled a tune from one of the Countess’s songs as she slipped on her waitress dress. The pinks and whites were nice and gleeful. “Heh, at least something can be cheerful in this place.” She looked to the closet and spied she had two cans left. “Gotta remember to pick up some more.” Sunset reminded herself while the anchor continued to speak before the outro music played and advertisements began airing again.

She plucked her name tag off the shelf beside the hair dye, attached it to her outfit and adjusted it so the name ‘Becky’ was straight. After closing the door and making her way to a mirror, she began to fix her hair before opening a drawer to retrieve fresh socks. Sunset moved over to the sofa, sat and gritted her teeth as she got them pulled on. Once done, the redhead leaned back with soft breaths and her eyes closed. This little rest didn’t last long as she forced herself up, made her way to the table where she grabbed her purse and went towards the door.

She paused briefly at the table, plucked the remote up and pressed a couple buttons before it was laid back down. Sunset continued after she pulled her comfortable shoes out and slipped them on. After looking her place over once more and was satisfied nothing was left to do, she opened the door, flipped off the lights and slipped out simultaneously. The jingle of keys echoed quietly in the apartment through the door before a click confirmed it was locked. She put away the keys and swiftly proceeded on her way, going downstairs to head out for work.

***

“Oh no! I can’t believe I’m late!” Twilight cried with her hooves hurriedly slamming against the castle ground.

“Hey! Watch where you’re going,” one guard then another snapped after being bumped by her suddenly floating books.

“Sorry about that,” she shouted back before she looked ahead with confusion. “When did I gain books,” she softly asked herself while her horn shimmered its purple magical aura which also surrounded the four books. She shook her head. “No time for that. I can’t believe I didn’t hear Spike wake me for the Princess’s summon,” she scolded herself as she entered the palace doors.

Twilight’s hooffalls began to slow as the bright colorfulness of the castle halls began to grow dim into shadows. “What in Equestria is going on?” Twilight questioned as she continued cautiously further into the castle.

As she neared closer to the throne room doors, she gasped and dropped the books with the sudden cutoff of her magic. “What in Celestia’s name!?” she exclaimed in shock while her hooves stumbled back with her eyes wide in fright. Stuck in dark crystals, appearing to be unconscious, were two royal guards on their respected pillars. “Those look like-like Sombra’s crystals...but-but we defeated him…” her breathing began to increase as her mind had started to race and her ears folded back in fear.

“Gah-ah,” a painful scream echoed through the throne room doors.

Twilight jumped, shook her head and charged. “Princess Celestia!” the doors flew open as the young Alicorn raced in. Lifting her head she was greeted by looming shadows and a great sense of unease. “P-Princess?” she gulped with her ears lowered against her head. “Anypony?”

There appeared to be no one around and the room seemed to had gotten bigger than she last recalled. She looked left, right and straight only this time... “huh?” ahead of her she saw the throne with five ponies that had formed a circle at its base. “Are those…” Twilight squinted to see through the dim lighting. “They are!” she rushed to them. Her mind was so focused on her friends, she didn’t take notice of her body phasing through Rainbow Dash.

“Oh am I ever so happy to see you girls! Something really weird is going on and I need your help to find out what it is.” None of the ponies there answered nor turned their gaze to meet hers. “Girls?” she nervously questioned after a few moments of awkward silence.

“You did this to us Twilight,” Pinkie spoke up flatly behind the Alicorn. Twilight spun around to now see the pink Earth pony in a simple black cloak with the hood drawn.

“What? Did what,” Twilight confusedly inquired while taking a step up to the mare. “Why are you dressed so glumly? What happened here?” she lifted a hoof to push the hood back. She jumped back a little from startlement when seeing Pinkie’s mane was straight. “What happened to you?”

“You happened to us Twilight,” Rarity spoke up in an equally as dead tone while removing her hood. Twilight turned to lock eyes with her saddened looking friend.

“You caused all of this here devastation,” Aj chimed in with the removal of her hood. This drew Twilight’s attention before she could question Rarity.

“Can any pony tell me what happened here so we can solve it like we always do,” the purple pony asked while looking to Fluttershy and then Rainbow Dash.

“Do you think we believe an egghead like you doesn’t know what you did,” Rainbow Dash sharply questioned before throwing her hood back with a snap of her head.

Twilight shook her head, “I really don’t know.” She turned to face the silent yellow Pegasus. “Fluttershy, please, you need to tell me what happened while I was gone.” Fluttershy lowered her head and turned away from the Princess of Friendship. “Fluttershy?”

“You shattered her heart...don’t you remember,” Rarity spoke up which drew Twilight’s attention.

Now her friends coats appeared to had gained a gray saturation. “What’s going on?” she softly asked herself before stepping back. Her hoof softly hit something and she turned to look. What she saw she wished she hadn’t. Laying with her crown on the floor was a motionless Celestia. “This can’t be happening!” the mare exclaimed in fright as she blinked and now saw injuries covering the white Alicorn’s body.

“Oh isn’t it,” Fluttershy asked almost snidely in a low tone. She removed her hood to show her gray tinted coat.

Twilight took her sight off Celestia to stare in shock at Fluttershy. “Why are you sounding so cruel?”

“Maybe,” an older voice spoke now with a rustling noise. “It is because you caused this by being such a failure of a student of mine.”

Twilight whipped around to view a gray toned Celestia glaring down upon her. “But Princess! I didn’t fail-I mean-I-I just-”

“You just slacked off and kept me away from my Spikey-wiky!” Rarity snapped, cutting Twilight off.

“But I didn’t mean to...” Twilight weakly countered as she looked to Rarity with tears in the corners of her eyes.

“Where have you been anyways?! Prancing around away from home, away from us,” Rainbow Dash rudely commented before she took to the air, beginning to circle Twilight.

“You never called, you never wrote. What gives?” Applejack questioned without giving Twilight time to answer Rainbow Dash while also starting to join in the circling act. “We aren’t worth your time after ten years?!”

Pinkie rolled her eyes. “Of course not! Why would an Alicorn give a cupcake about her friends after a full decade?!” she joined in by following behind Aj.

“Yes she is such a diligent friend and student that she didn’t even bother to find a way home,” Fluttershy added as she flew over to follow behind Pinkie.

“But I am diligent!”

“Some proof of it. You probably haven’t even cared for dear Spike...probably was so foolhardy as to lose him,” Rarity snapped before she followed after Fluttershy.

“It wasn’t my fault! There’s no magic over there so I couldn’t easily fix the portal…” Twilight cried while she took a step back only to hear a crunch. “What…?” she looked down confused to see the shimmer of glass now under her hooves.

Celestia joined into the widening circle. “I thought you were a prized and brilliant student. You always had the highest marks but it seems I was mistaken,” the Princess judgingly remarked while looking down her nose at Twilight. “I should have expected it from someone who failed simple tasks I placed her on. So brilliant yet so embarrassing for a student of mine to be unable to fix a simple mirror.”

Twilight turned around to keep track of her friends and teacher while she winced under her Princess’s snide tone. “But Princess, I have tried! You have to believe me,” she pleaded desperately. “And it was more than just a mirror, it was a dimensional portal!” the purple Alicorn snapped as she felt tears creeping slowly up in the corners of her eyes. “Did you forget?”

“And why should we trust somepony that abandoned us?” Rainbow asked roughly as she gave Twilight no time to get her answer.

They stopped circling and Celestia marched up to Twilight. “We think it is time We erase such a failure of a student from the annals of Equestria.” The white Alicorns horn began to charge with yellow magic... “to ensure the name ‘Twilight Sparkle’ is never spoken again!” Celestia exclaimed as the magic shot from her horn.

“No,” Twilight screamed as her body lowered to the floor and her wings unfolded to shield her face. Everything went silent and she slowly removed her wings to look around. “Why...am I in a cemetery,” she asked and scanned the area while taking slow careful steps. “Hello,” she nervously called out her inquiry.

“Why?”

“Huh,” Twilight jumped and quickly looked left and right.

The sound of shifting dirt drew her attention. “Why did you kill me?” Spike shrieked in a warped voice simultaneous with his body having pushed out of the ground. Twilight yelled in fright as her elongated body fell back onto her haunches. “You killed me! Why didn’t you love me enough to save me,” the decomposing of Spike’s dog body questioned roughly while he attempted to pull himself out of the grave plot.

“I didn’t want you to die! I swear!” tears slipped from Twilight’s eyes, “Please forgive me,” she pleaded while she scooted backwards.

“How could you fail ME Twilight? I was always there for YOU!”

Twilight gasped and screeched as the ground opened under her. She fell some feet to hit something hard. “Oww…” she moaned with her eyes closed as a thud sounded above her. Her eyes snapped open and quickly she struck at the wood above her. “Help! Let me out!” she banged against the lid and stared in frightened shock to see bloody hands. “Anyone help me,” she screamed at the top of her lungs.

“No-no...no-help please...anyone! Hel-wha!” Twilight twisted and turned in her blankets before she fell onto the floor from her low cot. “Owwww…” she dryly groaned from the new pain in her back. Her eyes cracked open to gaze cross eyed at the dimly lit ceiling. After a moment she sat up and rubbed the back of her head. “Well that’s not going in my dream journal,” Twilight crooked and stood with a small wobble.

Once steady, she leaned back with her hands pressed on the small of her back. In the cool quiet room filled with the different hums of machines, a painful crack sounded briefly. She sighed while she brought her body upright. “I should probably stretch more,” Twilight quietly commented with her exhale. She extended an arm and twisted her body to the side with the other arm bent around the outstretched appendage. She repeated this for her otherside before starting to get scattered notes picked up from the floor.

Twilight straightened and took a couple steps before she plopped into the computer chair. She released a breath and wheeled over to her main console. She set the papers to the side and tapped a key twice which caused the main screen to light up. She adjusted her angled keyboard, typed in the password, struck enter and watched as it with two other floating screens displayed item information.

The glow from the screens illuminated the busy research lab. Books about technology, computers, programing and other such topics were either on shelves or stacked nearby. More papers were also semi scattered around in spots from all her note taking. Twilight released a wide yawn then stretched her arms above her head. Finally a ‘bloop’ sound alerted her to option boxes which had popped up on the left and right screens. Glowing on a side wall was a sign in elegant font which read ‘Diamond Labs: Research & Development’.

Twilight adjusted the left screens position on its arm as she squinted to read the information. The title was listed as ‘Propulsion’ while under it was spelled out, ‘Stage two complete at sixty-seven percent. Next?’. Twilight clicked the word ‘Details’ and proceeded to look over the graph along with other information. “Hmm...ah that’s good. Seems it finally got the mixtures worked out,” Twilight quietly commented before she closed the box and used the rollball on the mouse to move the arrow. The first option read ‘Reconfigure’, the second option read ‘Compile’ and the third option read ‘Cancel’.

The mouse arrow moved and rested over the button ‘Compile’. ...Just one more check… she thought and pushed aside some papers to pull up a couple sheets. She brought the details back and compared the notes. Once satisfied, she clicked and spun the rollball quickly which caused the arrow to leap over to the right positional armed screen.

The Alicorn turned human rubbed her eyes while she suppressed a yawn and read over the new title, ‘Polymer Armor’. There under it was a percentage of eighty-one percent completion for stage three and was ready for input for stage four. Twilight leaned in while squinting her eyes as she clicked for details. “Finally got the structure materials balanced out.” She leaned back with a stretch and a sigh as she brought her arms down. “Alright,” she took the mouse and rolled the arrow over the word ‘Re-adjust’, then over ‘Cancel’ and clicked ‘Continue’.

Another box appeared, ‘Begin Crafting Prototype?’ with the options ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ underneath it. Twilight opened the details by the choice box, moved the ball and examined the wire frame of the armor. She tapped a couple keys and reviewed the information on what had changed and remained the same to have balance. The woman pondered it over for a few moments before she clicked ‘Yes’.

Machines roared to life under her, an indication of the started process of chemical injections and mold formation to construct the armor. Twilight leaned back in her chair, pinched then rubbed the bridge of her nose simultaneously as her eyes closed. It didn’t take long before the sounds below her feet began to numb her ears. Swinging forwards, a pair of headphones were swept up and placed on her head. The large accessory was just what she needed as the cushioned padding helped to muffle the noise. “Now, time to finish this while that works.”

Her attention focused on her center screen as she rolled the ball to bring over the arrow. Placing it over a program, she double clicked and opened it. She eyed over the programing file before a window popped up and she logged in. Once the enter key was hit, a voice pattern program opened, ready for editing. She brought up dials and clicked a sideways arrow. “Hi Twilight.”

“Hmm…” she scrunched her face as she adjusted a few dials for speed and pitch before she clicked the play icon again.

“Hi-Twi-light.” The voice repeated but a bit jumpy.

Twilight sighed and adjusted again. “Almost...got it…”

“Hi Twilight!”

“Ack!” she jumped in her seat and nearly threw her headphones off. The voice had played at a too high of a pitch. She shook her head and took a breath. “Closer but nope,” Twilight sighed and carefully began to move a few dials up and down.

“Hi...Twilight…”

She frowned as it played back similar to a slow speaking bullfrog and set the voice on repeat. Carefully for hours she worked on adjusting the different dials, using the rollball at times with her keyboard. “Maybe…” she muttered quietly under her breath. “Almost…” the purple toned woman whispered as she leaned closer to the screen. “So close…” Twilight ventured on late into the night before letting out a satisfied sigh. “Finally,” she smiled and tiredly typed a name for the voice. ‘Strategic, Predictional, Interactive, Kernel’ was typed in for its full name. In the nickname slot she typed ‘S.P.I.Ke.’ and clicked save.

Twilight relaxed back in her chair with the headphones still on. A pleased smile rested contently on her face as she stared at the glowing screen. “That was harder than…” she widely yawned, “I first read...that it would be…” she groggily finished while the barely awake woman managed to remove her headphones. Twilight began to doze off in her chair but her eyes cracked opened when a very quiet sound hit the floor. Her head lazily turned and her hand reached down to gently pick up an empty wrapper.

Looking with blurred vision at its name, she stared in silence with slow blinking. When did I eat a peanut butter praline bar? Twilight groaned questioningly and threw the scrap away under her desk into the trash. She relaxed back and dozed off into slumber as the systems sang her a soft lullaby.

End Episode

***

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