• 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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Episode 17 "Misinterpretations"

"Misinterpretations"
By
DarkMalcontent
Proofs by Alisia and the Pony Think Tank (Alden, Kyle, Floof)
Special Guest Co-Author: Alden
Edits by Brawny Buck

***

"Welcome to Bucking View, where we kick lies to the curb! I'm your host Buck, and today's topic is as prevalent as it is concerning: Meta Humans. Do they pose as much of a risk today as they did before we knew about them? What can we do to help keep the good people of Equestrian City safer from the menace from beyond our dimension? My guests today are on two sides of the issue. The first is a member of the Humans Against Rogue Metas, a non profit company that seeks to help those affected by the actions of Metas. In addition he is a writer for the Equestrian City Tribune, please welcome Sour Salt."

Sunset Shimmer heard the applause of the television, paying it little mind as she worked on drying her hair. Glancing over her body, the scars of battle gave her a moment's pause. She didn't mind the sight of any particular one, but the number of them was concerning. “Not like I've got time to sun tan any way,” she thought offhandedly. Discarding the towel around her chest, she stood nude in front of a full length mirror. The cracks and blemishes of the looking glass matched her inner image of herself as she examined her body, the curves that were once so alien to her now simply a passing curiosity. Stepping out of the towel on the floor, her toes caught the edge and flipped it up to her hand as the other held the one on her head in place.

A triumphant smile from the small feat of feet faded as she assessed the damage to her outfit. Nude against the dull lighting in the bathroom, she narrowed her eyes as each small tear became apparent. Most of the damage was to her pants, much to her relief. The material she needed to patch the flame retardant in the weave were not as hard to find or fund. "That's one good thing at least,” she said softly and examined her boots for damage as the television droned on.

"As the statistics show us, violent crime of a meta nature is rising every quarter. The ECPD is unable to combat the spike with any real effect. The only sensible solution is to register the Metas, thus making discipline and policing much easier."

“Sounds like a dangerous step towards segregation,” she thought to herself, stepping over a discarded carton of cookies in the bedroom.

"Sensible measures indeed, Mr. Salt. However my other guest may disagree with your sensible ideas with his own equally radical ideas. Doctor Wave Rider, a Ph.D. robotics engineer currently employed at Diamond Labs as Assistant Project Engineer for Project Wonderbolt."

"Now as this will be an unbiased and civilized debate, we’ve decided that Sour will go first on each question by coin toss earlier. Sour and I tossed the coin before you arrived, Mr. Wave. First up. Metas: Your view in a nutshell. GO!"

Raising an eyebrow, Sunset shook her head and silently stepped back into the bathroom, getting ready to return to the Rarity Building. “So that’s Twilight’s assistant,” she thought. “She never said he was in a wheelchair. Good looking, even so.”

“Metas. Even the very name supports the fact that they are different, given abilities the rest of us could only dream about, and the misuse and damage that results from their power mad tendencies to lord it over the rest of us!”

"Well that’s certainly not fear mongering or pandering," Sunset muttered to herself as she shook her head, her eyes rolling slightly as the green towel dropped from her hair. Checking its dampness, she grunted in disapproval, grabbing a hair dryer sitting on the bathroom counter. Cursing at the broken prong on the plug, she stared at the mirror, musing an idea silently as the television droned on.

“You, Wave Rider, once worked at Tiara Technologies, as assistant project head of the Terminator Armor division, which would have put us normal humans on an equal footing with the metas, teaching them to mind their place in life! Why would you quit such a position?”

"News travels fast these days. Twilight and Rarity barely finished presenting that project." Sunset mumbled, her hands rising above her damp hair. Concentrating, her eyes narrowed at her image, the heat in her hands starting to dry her hair quicker then any hair dryer. "Ha! Guess I shouldn't even bother buying a new one."

Poking around a nearby stack of laundry, she shook her head in disapproval and simply picked up her old outfit. Shutting the door partially, the television droned on as she dressed.

“I left the job, Mister Salt, because I developed a philosophical objection to the direction Diamond Tiara wanted to take the project. Her choice boiled down to ‘shoot them all, and if they survive, shoot them again.’ If you recall, we as a people left the Eastern Empire to escape violence as the first and only solution, yes?

“I do not accuse you of being Pro-Sombra, Mister Salt. I’m just pointing out the similarities,”

Arguing filled Sunset's bedroom, the occasional crackle from the speakers reminding her she really should find a new one. She paid the rest of the argument no mind as the spandex/kevlar blend slipped over her frame. The occasional crack and groan of her body was all that filled the silence of the bathroom as she continued to dress, fumbling for her last set of glasses.

“Now, our next question is what should we do about the metas who harm others? Mister Salt, you first.”

Sunset flipped the knob on the television, cutting them off. "That’s enough of that." She said softly, moving to pick up the ID card from the coffee table. Looking over the emblem casually, she quickly put it in a pocket of her jacket.

The words she heard during the talk show rattled around in her head as she put on her short gloves. Fastening them with velcro and a snap on the wrist band, they persisted. So much anger because someone is different, she thought to herself, fixing the other glove. But only because they're using their magic for their own gain. I'm doing what I can to fix my mess. She frowned gently, the realizations hitting her as they always did. Reason giving way to emotion as it tended to do, she turned and stared at the cracked mirror in the living room area. She stared at herself. "I'm doing this for the right reasons…"

“Right?,” the question echoed in her mind. The fire stirring in her began to ignite, but not a physical one as so often happens with her. This one was a self chastising fueled remorse that had burned inside her for the better part of a decade or so.

Turning off lights in the bathroom, she checked to make sure her door was locked, the deadbolt secure and the chain in place. Satisfied, she turned sharply, the embers of her regret stirred again, each moment growing hotter.

Opening her window, she glanced around quickly, and then leapt into the air, hands lit up in balls of fire. The ignition was dim enough to keep her concealed at night; at least until she made it to the skyline.

She took a quick survey of her surroundings and reoriented herself towards the Rarity Building. The light-headedness from before was gone, now replaced with determination, seeing the faces of those that had died, hearing the cries of the injured and frightened from that fateful night at The Battle of the Bands. Fire growing more intense, her speed increased as she left twin trails of exhaust and fire behind her.

***

“If a meta uses their powers to hurt a normal person, then of course the most severe punishment the law allows should apply. We at H.A.R.M. are working to get the laws changed for metas to allow more severe punishment."

Babs Seed busied herself in the back room, the television left on played as she rummaged. Pushing the body of the sole overnight guard out of her chair, the dead thud giving her no pause. Scrounging through the company safe, she pocketed several items of interest, along with bundles of cash.

"I said the green wires splices to the green, can't you tell colors?!" the shrill voice made Babs cringe slightly. Turning to walk back in, another, deeper female voice responded.

"Aah can tell colors, ya underripe banana!" was the reply, making Babs smirk as she walked in.

"You two gots that wired up yet?" Babs demanded, zipping up her jacket to conceal her swag from the other two. "Boss wants dem all to go off at the same time or dis won't work! I ain't gonna be the one she goes after if you screw up, Calli."

"Aren't you the one she goes after anyway?" Calli, the other, lifted her head up to stare back at Babs, the pale yellow skin tone contrasted her hazel colored eyes and light mustard hair. "Seems like she's always asking you back to her room, 'Babsy'," the shrill tone she had shifting octaves as she goaded her.

Two lookouts at the door to the building chuckled in the distance, though it quickly died off as they resumed their duties. Each poised with a pistol, their eyes darting back and forth, on the lookout for police or heroes. The larger of the two, a male, shouted back at them. "Cops, duck!"

The two at the door huddled in, and the other two with Babs dove behind objects of the warehouse. An eerie silence filled the room as the sound of police cruisers with their lights and sirens full bore approached, passed, and then faded in the distance.

"Clear,” he said, pushing his orange hair out from the front of his eyes, their blue hue catching the moonlight that peeked in from the windows.

"That was close,” the huskier voiced girl said, resuming her work on a round metal capsule Calli was kneeling near. "We gotta get out of here. Ah ain't going back to prison."

"Shut up and keep wiring the detonator, Daisy." Calli grumbled as she did the same.

"Ah'm just saying, they treat you worse in there if you don't have powers." Daisy Duke snapped back, fumbling with two more sets of colored pairs.

"What?" Calli asked absently.

"Purgatory. The cops put you there if there's overflow in the county lockup, and there's always overflow." Daisy's tone shifted as she snipped.

"Got it. That's the last one." Calli stood up and stretched. "Wasn't really a challenge though. I wired up crap worse than this when I was working for smaller gangs."

Babs checked her watch, pulling her sleeve just enough to expose a set of scars, typical of a knife or razor, further up. Pushing it back down, she flipped her head towards the door, her hair whipping out of her eyes again. "Everyone out."

The two front goons exited quickly, followed by Daisy. Babs watched as Calli picked up her tools and started towards the door. "Calli. Get your butt in here and help me with the cash."

"Cash? This was a burn not a grab I thought." Calli quirked an eyebrow, a glint of greed in her expression.

"It can be all sorts of things." Babs said, a blunt tone of seduction escaping her, the smallest shake of her rear vanishing as she entered the back room.

Calli raises the other eyebrow, but then narrowed her gaze as she took the invitation. She followed Babs into the room, unfazed by the apparent corpse of the security guard. "This isn't very inviting,” she said flatly, the slightest hint of television dialogue playing in the background.

“Why single out metas for more severe punishments than regular people like ourselves? What is the difference between say, Shadow Strike knocking someone out in a battle and the assassins who tried to turn me into a piece of swiss cheese? Shadow Strike, for all anyone knows, is a meta working to PROTECT Equestrian City and its citizens from those who want to steal from others because they can. Or, for that matter, Splitsecond running into someone on her way to stop someone else from getting injured from debris thrown by Mistress Mayhem?”

Babs began rummaging in the pockets of the dead guard, carefully poking through to keep her leather gloves from catching. She noticed out of the side of her eye that Calli was distracted by the television, and kept at it. "Boss wanted me to make sure you knew how this is all supposed to go down."

"Simple and quick. All these firebombs are connected to the detonator. Once we flip this switch," Calli pulled out a small black box from her pocket, a toggle lock on the side, "they all go off, followed by another timer that goes to the big boy sitting in the truck parked outside City Hall." She let the release go and smiled. "Now why don't you tell me why you really wanted me to yourself?" Calli set the box down on the desk, slinking forward awkwardly, trying to be as alluring as possible.

"Couple reasons, I want you to reassure me that you were the only one who knows what is going to happen. Boss don’t want no loose lips." Babs smiled and stayed focused in her search.

"I'm not one to blab before a surprise." Calli folded her arms, a look of offense taking to her face.

"Yeah. I kinda thought that too." Babs gave a small smile as she found what she was looking for. "Ah ha!"

"What are you looking for, Babsy?"

“This.” Babs turned and laid down on the corpse, quickly pulling the guards sidearm and emptying five rounds into Calli’s chest and shoulder. She watched as she doubled over, falling backwards, eyes lit up in pain and fear, knocking over a pile of empty wubcake cartons.

"I couldn't very well use mine. What if someone was to find what was left of youse?" Babs smirked, putting the pistol in the dead guards hand, she dusted her jacket off.

Babs’ shadow eclipsed the twisted form of Calli, her life bleeding out as she desperately tried to regain focus, to no avail. Looking down at her, Babs reached over and picked up the detonator, putting it into her jacket pocket. "Sorry toots, I did try to convince da boss, but you know how she can get." She stepped over her, "I sure as hell ain't gonna piss her off." She shut the door behind her, locking it from the outside, Babs hurled the keys to the door into a dark corner, shutting the main doors as she left. The only thing left in the room was the faint ticking of an explosive device and the fainter sound of Calli gasping for air. That and the television, which no one had shut off.

“Take away a gunman’s gun and he is harmless. A meta’s weapons cannot be taken away from them easily, and how can anyone trust them to be sensible? You wouldn't catch normal people doing half the atrocities these Metas are doing!”

***
This would be kinda fun if I wasn't trying to not be seen. Pinkie thought, leaving the faintest of a wake behind her, crouching behind a set of dumpsters. The alley she hid in absent of any life, she peeked around the corners and took off with another burst of speed. Normally when I'm this exposed there's some level of fun involved! she thought, the world around her ticking by at a snails pace. She jumped over a downed trash bin and spin back to face forward again. What little fabric she had left did nothing to conceal her modesty as she took a final detour and ran down another aide street.

"Can you imagine how hard it will be to draw this!?" she said casually, though to whom was not entirely apparent. She came to a stop just inside the back room of her party store. Several packs of balloons and inflatable gerbils dropped onto her head as she slammed the door.

Rubbing her head softly, she locked the back door and began moving several crates marked 'instant fun' from the far corner. The final crate revealed a footlocker with a single combination lock on it. Tapping her chin for a moment, her blue eyes lit up as her memory jogged and the numbers slid into her mind.

"Not literally thankfully,” she snickered and dialed the combination, unlocking the top and rummaging. Taking a moment to remove the rest of her damaged suit, the cold air hit her more sensitive parts, sending a shiver through her body. Tossing the fabric aside she began her search anew.

Several pairs of socks and mismatched pairs of shoes flew over her shoulder. Unsatisfied at any outfit she found, she chose a powder blue long sleeve shirt with a kitten holding balloons on it. She gave a small grunt of approval to herself and froze a moment when the front door gave a small jingle. The heck?! she thought.

"Hey, who’s back there?!" a voice like Pinkie’s called out, pitch and all.

Crap! Silverstream is in today! I totally forgot! she thought as she covered her mouth, stifling a gasp.

"You better come out or I'll..." the voice said before pausing. "Or I'll do something!" Silverstream finished in her best intimidating tones, which wasn’t saying much.

"Silver, it’s me!" Pinkie popped up from behind a display of decorative pigs. She waved and then jumped in panic as each pig started oinking a happy party theme in unison.

"Pinkie?!" Silver squinted through the darkness, covering one ear as the pigs began to grow in volume. "What are you doing back there?!" she asked, peering harder, the symphony of the oinking getting unbearable. "And why are you naked!?”

Pinkie winced as the pig music grew even louder. She shouted over the farm noises, “SORRY! I NEEDED A NEW--"

"WHAT?" Silverstream clamped an eye shut in pain as another row of mechanical pigs were triggered by the first, their song coming to an end just as the second row began.

"I SAID I’M SORRY I SCARED YOU I JUST STOPPED BY FOR A CHANGE OF CLOTHES!" Pinkie shouted louder, waving the shirt in her hand, failing to notice when the pigs had stopped singing. Silverstream held her ears, ringing from Pinkie's screaming.

"Oops." Pinkie sheepishly grinned, putting on her top quickly. "Sorry." She chuckled and pulled a pair of blue jeans on, locking the footlocker. "Erm. Did you get the orders for the week I emailed you?"

"I did, but I need to talk to you." Silverstream wiggled a finger in her ear, the ringing slowly dying down. "When you hired me, I thought I'd be taking care of a few details. But you barely come in." She crossed her arms, sighing. "And usually naked."

"Yeah. About that. I'm sorry. Life’s been reeeal...real...whacky lately." She rubbed the back of her head. "But I'll be back to help as soon as I'm done with this special project!"

"Another one?" Silverstream asked, widening her eyes. "Are you sure we’re splitting the profits evenly? That's five special parties this month!"

"Right! Five it is! In fact…" Pinkie panicked a moment before pulling a wad of money from her pocket. "I was about to give you your cut today! Thanks for keeping the store going while I do these secret parties. It really keeps us in business!" she smiled, hiding the grimace she felt as she gave away her rent money desperately trying to keep her co-worker and friend happy.

Silverstream took the mass of money and that brightened her smile. "Wow! You can keep the parties going like this! We could open another store and hire that one girl who keeps bothering us!" she mused.

"Oh! Oh no! No. No." Pinkie gave a half panicked half jovial laugh. "I think we have….quite enough on our party platter presently!" she nodded. "But! I've got to go and meet with some folks about a reunion party so...keep up the great work!" she waved, slowly but surely backing up to the door she had come in, stepping on a stuffed gerbil, which let out a discreet squeak.

"All...right." Silver hesitantly agreed, watching her ever absent employer back pedal and back step until the door behind her opened.

"Alright! Sound great. I will totally...totally call you!" Pinkie nodded quickly and opened and closed the door, exiting quickly. "Byebye!"

Silverstream pursed her lips in doubt, but then examined the money and shrugged, going back up front in the store.

Pinkie held her chest, her breathing slowing down. I hate lying. But it's for her own good, she thought, eyeing the front and back of the alley. Finding herself alone, she took off at meta human speed, vanishing from the alley and leaving a trail that headed towards the Rarity building.

***

Fluttershy shifted, her hands going to support her aching neck as she sat up. Goodness, what happened? she thought, gritting her teeth in pain.

"Took you long enough," Andrea's voice came from nowhere and everywhere at the same moment.

Oh no. Did we lose? she thought back, turning her head carefully to gauge damage, her eyes opened and squinted as daylight struck them. Shielding herself with her hands, she turned away out of instinct, alerting her to many more pains in her body. One in particular was in the base of her spine.

"We didn't lose." A bright red orb of translucent energy exploded in front of Fluttershy, leaving wisps of energy behind that disappeared quickly, Fluttershy found herself staring at an astral manifestation of Andrea. "We didn't win either." She heard a twinge of blame in her tone, but chose to ignore it, more focused on Andrea sitting down in a chair nearby. "Your friends were useful at least. They brought us here. Applejohn saved the whole lot of you."

"Who’s Applejohn?" She frowned in confusion, sitting up slowly, fully upright now, a hand at the base of her spine. "Ow. What happened to my back?"

"Our back." Andrea corrected her, crossing her legs out of habit as her ghostly form settled in the chair. "That crazy haired skank snapped our spine."

"Oh dear." Fluttershy's eyes widened at the sound of a serious injury, forgetting herself a moment she realized she had said that out loud.

"There you are." Spike popped up on a nearby screen, his dog avatar face arriving with a smile. "I was wondering when you'd wake up."

Fluttershy startled at the sudden pop up of the AI, leaning away and in the process yelping in pain as she found new injuries and scars complain to her. "Oh!" She nearly fell over, staring back at the screen as she heard Andrea chuckle. "Spike...is that ...but you're…"

"Yeah. No. I'm not Spike, per se." He gave a sheepish grin, rolling his eyes in frustration. "It would be a lot easier if everyone was around when I explained this.”

"Explained what?" Fluttershy tilted her head, peering closer.

"Okay," Spike sighed. "I think I got this abbreviated by now." The screen zoomed out and several visual representations appeared. "I'm an eight-petabyte state of the art artificial intelligence. I'm housed in the mainframe here at the Rarity Building. Twilight made me to help her with a project she was working on. The subsystems of the power armor were too complex to leave it to a single person to multitask, so she found a very old discarded concept in the old research files." Spike’s screen changed as he spoke, more references flew by. "Why the thing was never implemented I don't know, but when she built up around the base program, she needed to give it a personality." The screen blacked out a moment as Spike appeared in his dragon form.

"I see." Fluttershy said slowly, some of the jargon going over her head.

"She programmed me with what she could from her time with me…" he paused and corrected himself. "With the 'real' Spike I mean." A few flashes of error code appeared on screen and disappeared just as quickly. "And here I am."

"Well that's incredible indeed." Fluttershy ignored Andrea as she made a lewd motion. "I have quite the story too,” she said, holding up her bracelet to show Spike.

"Really? I'd love to hear it!" Spike sat in a small chair that popped onto his desktop.

"So would I." Twilight said, walking in from the main doorway behind Fluttershy. She gave a hesitant smile, standing unknowingly next to the astral projection of Andrea. "How are you, Fluttershy?" she asked, the familiarity of saying it washing over her and bringing a sense of safety and homesick sadness all in one.

"Twilight! How are--" she practically jumped up and at the same moment fell forward as two or three new aches now in her legs fired off. "Oww!" was all she got out, nearly going cross eyed as the aches turned to stabbing darts in the back of her thighs.

Twilight caught her friend mid-fall but nearly tumbled over herself. Steadily, she stood back up, letting her pink haired friend lean on her. "Easy now. Let's get you down again. You took quite a beating,” she mentioned, sitting Fluttershy down again. "In fact, quite frankly, you shouldn't be alive right now," she mentioned as she took a seat next to her. Several internal scans of Fluttershy popped up on flat screens next to them, a muddle of red circles and highlighted organs appearing. "You have," she said before she corrected herself as she examined the readout. "Make that had, so many broken bones I wasn't sure you would be able to stand. Though it looks like this isn't your first--"

"Rodeo?" Applejack finished with a smile, walking in the same door Twilight had. Dressed in a fresher version of her superhero garb, she was finishing putting her hair up in a ponytail as the door closed. "Sorry, couldn't resist."

"Applejack?" Fluttershy seemed overwhelmed again, Andrea seemingly the opposite as she walked through AJ and leaned on a nearby wall, a muddled expression on her face.

"We can get to that in a moment. Let's just say the band’s back together." Twilight smiled and took Fluttershy's hand, examining the bracelet. "I'm very interested in what this is."

"Well." Fluttershy exhaled. "It all started when I took guardianship of Andrea,” she nodded to the astral projection. Andrea growled in frustration, unable to interact with the other two.

"All right, and who or what is Andrea?" Applejack asked, sitting down next to them, looking on intently.

"I'm still learning that myself. She isn’t the most forthcoming, but I've been slowly talking details out of her." Fluttershy nodded. "The best I can say is that she is a spirit."

"I am not a ghost!" Andrea yelled, her arms thrown up in frustration. "How many times do we need to go over this!"

Fluttershy winced, leaning back as she held the ear closest to Andrea. "She is not a ghost. She wants me to express that."

Both the other girls looked around, bewildered at the silence that seemed to hurt Fluttershy. Twilight keenly eyed the bracelet and its glowing runes. "Is she talking to you now?" She blinked, then scanned around the room again slowly. "Is she here with us?"

Fluttershy nodded. "Only I can hear her and see her. Until she takes over."

"Do you control that?" Twilight asked, a tone of uncertainty in her question.

"For the most part," Fluttershy said as she held her arm up, the bracelet glowing faintly still. "It’s not like she holds me hostage if that's what you think." She winced as another wave of nerve pain shot through her back. "As a matter of fact, without her I wouldn't be talking to you right now."

"So she comes from that bracelet?" AJ asked, pointing to the glowing runes. "Where did you come about that?"

"That’s kind of a long story, but let’s just say we've been joined for a while." Fluttershy brushed her bangs from her eyes with a meek tone. "I just haven't been advertising what I'm doing. A lot of folks don't seem to like when metas do anything to draw attention."

"That may be less of a problem. Spikey, pull up E-Span!" Rarity said as she walked into the room, all the flat screens in the room turning to the cable feed.

"--a landmark vote, where the deciding vote came from Equestrian City, shifting the stalemate in Congress and passing Bill COH-7. The so called "Super Group" Bill now goes to the desk of the Celestial, where she will no doubt sign it into law." The television audio came on from all angles. "Mayor Mare cast her vote in accordance to majority vote of all her city's districts. According to submitted data all but one district voted to support the bill. Equestrian City is perhaps the most appropriate deciding vote due to its proximity to the Canterlot Disaster that began the so called 'Meta Crime Wave' and it's unique civil code that allows for full fledged vigilantes to take to the streets. This is no doubt a win for everyone there." An overview shot played on screen of Equestrian City. "However, not all Cities reported to be in favor of the bill, according to--"

"Mute." Rarity said finally, lighting another long slender cigarette and leaning on a nearby end table. "So you see, Fluttershy, the world is changing."

"I think it's a bit premature to--" Twilight began, taking notice of a glass of scotch Rarity was hiding in her other hand.

"It is never premature to plan ahead, dear Twilight." Rarity interrupted, slurring ever so slightly. "While everyone here has been changing their underoos, I've had Spikey, my precious Spikey,” she wiggled her hand towards the closest screen, the dragon avatar's eyes filled with hearts. "Has been helping me piece together more of Malcontent's eeeevil plan." She giggled slightly, and stood, the room's occupants staring at her for a moment.

"What Rarity means to say," Spike interrupted, diverting attention away from Rarity and back to his main monitor, “is that we've got enough respirators manufactured. We just need everyone here,” he nervously chuckled. "As a matter of fact, I think I see Sunset in the distance."

"Good. The sooner the better." Twilight’s expression gave more to concern as she watched Rarity stumble about. As the seamstress turned billionaire giggled to herself, Twilight adjusted her lab coat, paper rustling in the inside pocket.

***

Mid evening had come and gone as Sunset flew across the skyline, the Rarity Building in her sights. Dipping under an elevated train track, she focused harder, sending more fire from her hands. Levitating up and back on course, a commotion caught her ear, slowing her down and then stopping her mid air to find its source.

Listening carefully, displaced hot air rippled under her body as she hovered, leaving a few third story windows with a good view of her. The sound came again, this time she was able to pinpoint it to the rooftop of an apartment building to her right. Focusing, she saw two women engaged in some sort of scuffle. A half second later the smaller of the two gained the upper hand, knocking her down. She then pulled back a wrench to land a blow on the other.

Reorienting her body, Sunset shot straight up and arched down with her momentum. The quickness of her arrival startled the pair, the girl with the wrench gasping. A quick set of palm strikes and a shot to the wrist sent the tool flying behind Sunset.

"They say to fix any problem you need the right tool for the job." Sunset extinguished her hand flames and send the small one to the ground with a backhand. Gravel crunched as the small teal colored girl grunted in pain. "I doubt that was the--"

Sunset didn't finish her quip before the world brightened and her hearing went dull in her head. Bringing her hands to the back of her head as she stumbled forward, the flame wielding vigilante turned and threw a fireball out of desperation.

The scream of her assailant died off as the fire quickly vanished before it could do any major damage. The wrench dropping to the ground was the first clear thing Sunset heard as the world spun, her stance down to one knee.

Vision clearing, she looked at the charred clothing of the blue toned girl she had just seemingly rescued. Rushing to the blue girl was the smaller teal woman, calling out for help.

"Help! Someone help!" she cried louder, the rooftop door access flying open as two more girls ran out and over to the cries.

"What happened!?" the first asked, as Sunset stumbled and stood up, looking behind her as the four girls gathered around each other and began to focus on her. A faint stream of news came from an open window below:

“Metas cannot be trusted, Buck! Look at all the damage that has been done to Equestrian City in the past ten years, first from housing all the Canterlot refugees to now, bearing the brunt of meta-powered crime!

"We came up to fix the pipe on the air conditioner panel again. Super won’t fix it so we had to." The large girl fought back tears. "Suzie was still arguing and I turned to talk to her and this," she motioned at Sunset with her head, a death grip on the fallen girl. "This freak meta came out of the shadows and knocked me down. When Suzie tried to help me, she torched her,” the glare from the teal girl locked on Sunset. "She got one good whack on the bitch before she set her on fire!"

"It looked like," Sunset began to explain, her words pained and her balance off still, a hand at the back of her skull. "I was trying to stop you from hurting her."

"What, by beating us and robbing us?" she responded back, the mild anger building with each word.

"Even if it was an argument what business is it of yours?" one of the new arrivals asked, pulling out her phone and holding it up to film the scene. "Do you think it's your place to tell us how to act?" she asked, the distant window still open below them:

“Yes, there is meta activity reported all over the Commonwealth, but Equestrian City has ten times the amount of meta crime than the next two cities, Fillytown and Northport, combined! How can we keep the population of Equestrian City and the Canterlot Commonwealth safe from their depredations?”

"No. I just wanted to help" Sunset responded, noticing the phone halfway through her response. "Turn that off."

"Why? You got something to hide? This girl just beat my friends and said it was her way of helping them. Look!" The third girl shouted, her filming moving rapidly back to the fallen couple and Sunset. "Hey aren’t you The Phoenix?! Yeah!"

"I've heard of her. She’s known for her excessive use of force." The fourth said. "With the bill passing today it all but guarantees she'll be able to do what she just did more and more to anyone."

"Do you plan on beating random strangers at will now, Phoenix?" the filming girl asked, her light turning on in her face.

Sunset squinted and pulled up a gloved hand to block the close up. "Turn that off! It's in my eyes!" She stepped back. "I told you it looked like--"

"I'll tell you what it looks like,” the fourth popped in from the side. "It looks like someone finally called The Phoenix on her bull! We should submit this!"

Sunset growled at the mounting frustration and confusion, inadvertently allowing her hand to ignite near the camera.

"Look out!" The camera girl stumbled back and fell with her phone. "No please don’t! Help! Someone help!"

Sunset felt a stream of bottles and tools whizz by her as the entire set of girls started to seemingly defend themselves. One or two connected, knocking her backwards from the sudden pain.

"Alright screw this!” she thought, firing up her hands and shooting straight up and out of range of the debris. "I am so out of here!"

"Yeah just mug and run, ya freak! That's why you can’t work a decent job!" one screamed as Sunset soared off.

"Stay out of this neighborhood if ya know what's good for ya! We don't need or want your freaky help ya mutation!"

Sunset fired fast and got out of earshot, sailing down into the streets and up again to lose any prying eyes. Locking her sight on The Rarity Building, she felt tears of anger and confusion welling up inside her, but gritted her teeth. I will not let them have the satisfaction, she thought, soaring up along the edge of the building and landing at the heliport.

"Hey, Phoenix." Spike chimed in at the elevator as it opened. "Say, are you alright, you look--"

"I'm fine. Shut the doors and get me the hell away from the world." Sunset bit back, lifting her goggles and rubbing at her tear ducts, the smallest hint of tears appearing on her gloves as the doors closed.

***

Pushing the bridge of his glasses up, Malcontent froze as a realization hit him. I don't even need these. He scowled, yanking them from his head and tossing them to the wall. The glass in them shattered and fell to the ground, disappearing into a smoldering pool of magic. The pool zipped back towards him, its blue and white mix of magic absorbing back into his shoulder.

A half second later the glasses reformed on his face, reassuring the shape he had chosen. As much as I dispose these creatures I'm starting to act like them. He thought, a frown barely registering on his face. It's bad enough I have to look as unassuming as this. He glanced in a monitors reflection, tilting his head to stare at his human form. But without it, maneuvering would be more difficult.

Typing a few more commands, the scowl left his face as he envisioned the future. All worth it, once I get the last parts delivered and a few more loose ends tied up. He grinned to himself. This form, and the world it represents will be gone forever. Replaced with my old body. No puny pony posturing or human limbs.

Flipping a series of small hard toggles on the control board in front of him, the machine he had so feverishly been trying to perfect spun to life. Partly inspired in design by the spectrometer he had Aria test, the round base gave way to wires and piping above it. The infrastructure of the machine hung like a malignant tumor of wires and sheet metal in the ruins of Canterlot High School.

"Power supply levels nominal. Standby for system checks,” the machine spoke in a drone like monotone.

"Oh good." Aria's tone dropped with sarcasm per usual. "Can we finally go then?" she asked, spinning a soul fire in the form of Adagio on her index finger. Leaning on a half blown out wall, the last siren conjured up Sonata, who giggled and swirled around the tormented Adagio.

“Getting closer with every minute that passes," Malcontent didn't move from his work, speaking down at the controls as he adjusted them. The screen in particular he was interested in, read 'Targeting' in a pale purple font. He looked up and forward, examining wire harnesses. "Provided you delivered what I told you."

"She got it." Aria grabbed Adagio in her fist and the soulfire gave a gentle puff as it was dismissed. "Don't know what it was but she got it." She finished, back handing Sonata’s soulfire, it landing with a puff and vanished in a pile of bleached bones.

"Good. No doubt she will be along shortly then." He tilted his eyes down, then back to the wires. "No doubt with help," he sneered, annoyance filling his tone as his hands turned two dials slowly and methodically. Crosshairs lined up on screen and the focus changed as he worked to lock it in.

"You want to blow that up?!" Aria asked with zeal and a hint of astonishment. Tracing a smile across her face slowly, she wrapped her arms around Malcontent’s waist from behind and leaned against him. Her warm body pressed firmly as her breasts squished softly. "That's so wicked. I love it!"

"I have no doubt you do, dear Aria." He smiled, hitting a final toggle and locking the crosshairs in place. He unwrapped her disingenuous embrace from him and shoved her back. "But we do have company coming. I'd hate for them to catch us with our pants down." He smirked. "Metaphorically speaking."

Aria laughed as she played into her keeper’s will and ego. "I hope it's soon. I can’t wait to see what gets unleashed."

"Soon enough. We need but to wait for the next pieces to arrive," he said, crossing his arms, staring back at her now. "Mayhem is nearly ready I understand. She’s borderline at the moment." He widened his smile. "Soon enough she’ll cross that border."

"Then it’s back home." Aria hugged herself. "All the negative energy I can, or should I say, we can eat?" She corrected herself. "Any other surprises?"

"Just a couple of more." He cupped her chin in his hand, staring down at her. "Trust me when I say you won’t see it coming." He laughed and released her, walking back to his machine controls as their laughter filled the small burnt our lobby.

***end of episode***

Author's Note:

Thanks to all our beta readers on discord and the input!

Stay tuned as we work towards this season's finale! :D

-DarkMalcontent

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