• Published 18th Mar 2017
  • 4,752 Views, 348 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 20.2 "Intersecting Mayhem"

Intersecting Mayhem

"It's absolutely dreadful what they put on television these days," Mayhem snickered. While one tendril launched a remote against a nearby wall. Two others grabbed the closest camera and swung it to face her.

Behind her lay a scene befitting her name; splintered desks, all kinds of debris, walls riddled with bullet holes, floors peppered with bodies and splattered with blood. Mayhem’s grin threatened to tear her face in half.

"Now don't any of you tune out, boys and girls! Not that any of you could, thanks to the little maniac wave I've got broadcasting city wide!" she laughed. "Most of you have been under its spell long enough that you're about to go mad from resisting...or already gave in to your inner...Mayhem!" The final word set off another laughing fit before the camera itself flipped a few times. The lens cracked as it landed on it’s side but continued to broadcast. The city watched as Mayhem’s tendrils formed a seat for her watch over them from one of the studio’s new windows.

But just as Mayhem’s glee was about to boil over, the wave of madness stopped.

"Eh?" she tilted her head towards Purgatory Tower as a tentacle lifted a walkie talkie to her mouth. "What's the problem? Where's the pulse gone!"

A flash of lightning lit up the distant sky over Purgatory. Mayhem stared in shock, her jaw dropped in disbelief before snapping into a scowl. Growling from her throat, her tentacle nearly crushed the radio as she yelled into it, “Who’s messing with my signal?!” Her hair snapped and whipped around the room like a nest of mad vipers, destroying everything in their path.

Her answer came swiftly as the wall behind her imploded. Her tentacles wove together, shielding her from massive chunks of concrete and rebar. She coughed out dust while a raspy voice called out from the cloud, "Consider yourself cancelled, Mayhem!"

Shadowstrike emerged, spinning her metal staff and bringing it to a defensive stance. Behind her, Impervia fanned the cloud away. Splitsecond skidded to a stop from nowhere. Andrea swooped in and perched on the floor with folded wings.

"Don't be so sure, all sorts of shows live on through grass root movements!" Mayhem chortled out, dozens of orange tendrils lashing at the four heroes.

Shadowstrike skillfully dodged and deflected each lethally-aimed strike. Taking cover behind the remnants of the anchor desk, she took in her sonar to take in her surroundings.

Impervia shot herself in front of the group, taking the brunt of as many tendrils as possible and slapping away two others. Her brick-wall of a body and the force of her strikes snapped each attack on impact, drawing pain-filled shrieks and a head-clutching retreat from Mayhem. Impervia wasted no time in advancing for the finish. Only to be met with inhuman cackling and more spikes swinging wildly for her. Impervia rolled with each strike, grabbing a lock of hair as she turned and pulling down. A lifetime of lasso-tying had the strands knotted before Mayhem knew she’d been grabbed, and she futilely struggled against the heroine’s might.

“That’s one awful tangle ya got there,” Impervia taunted. “Let me fix it for ya!” she quipped while bringing the ridge of her hand down on the tangled mass, snapping it jaggedly and sending Mayhem to the ground writhing and shrieking uncontrollably.

"I think we did hair puns the last time!" Splitsecond shouted as she ran past Impervia.

A super-speed kick to Mayhem’s face drew blood but brought her senses back into the fight. Every vine of hair speared towards the speedster, who leisurely weaved herself in a circle. Splitsecond tricked every strand into tying itself into a heavy knot. Splitsecond came to a stop next to the tangle and poked it with a finger.

"But yeah this is a bit messy. Total spa day needed."

"Leave it for the coroner!" Andrea hissed as she leapt from the rafters. Mayhem shoved up her forearm to guard, only to have it grabbed with a talon. Mayhem yanked her torso away just in time to be grazed by the bat’s next kick and her hair to smash a camera over Andrea’s head.

"Flu-Ndrea!" Splitsecond shouted as she rushed to her friend.

Cackling wildly, Mayhem untangled her hair and swung the camera again. “FORE!” she shouted as she struck Andrea from the ground, launching her into Splitsecond. Andrea was able to right herself just before they crashed through the opposite wall, and she dug her claws into the floor to stop.

Gunning for the villain, Impervia chambered her strongest punch and let fly. Mayhem’s tentacles were waiting for her, wrapping around Impervia’s arm as Mayhem ducked. Impervia’s momentum was yanked forwards while another tentacle tripped her, swinging her over Mayhem’s head and smashing her into the floor. Impervia dodged another spike coming for her face only to have the follicles wrap around her neck and constrict.

Another strand came up to bat away an airborne studio light. But the block created an opening for Shadowstrike to thrust her staff into Mayhem’s stomach. She brought the staff back up in time to block a counter from Mayhem’s tentacle. But it wrapped around the staff and yanked Shadowstrike to the floor.

Mayhem brought another spike to bare on Shadowstrike just as Impervia managed to pivot under the chokehold. Gripping the strands that held her and Shadowstrike, Impervia kicked Mayhem across the room, snapping the hair off at the same time.

Everyone stumbled back to their feet and readied themselves. Mayhem pulled herself up by her hair, dirtied, clothes torn, blood spilling from her arm and several tentacles limp or broken. Mayhem yelled and stumbled back, several of her tentacles limp from breaks. She clutched her bloody arm. "You really are murder on hair, ya little bumpkin!"

"Y’all give up and you can save some for the prison stylist," Impervia shouted back, bringing her fists up to guard. "I don't wanna hurt ya!"

One of Mayhem’s eyes twitched.

"Yeah, I don’t think she’s listening to reason," Shadowstrike said before rushing forward.

Mayhem immediately went back on the attack, aiming all she had at Shadowstrike. Shadowstrike spun her staff and swatted all of the tentacles to the ground. In the same motion, she vaulted off her staff towards the ceiling.

“Andrea, catch me!” Shadowstrike shouted, hooking her ankles into the lighting grid and swinging up.

Andrea took flight, covering herself from Mayhem’s counter attacks and grabbing Shadowstrike’s as she swung from the grid. A pull sent Shadowstrike soaring past Mayhem’s defenses, flipping forward and bringing her staff down full force onto her hairy spine. Mayhem shrieked, wailed and laughed as she crumpled to her knees. Her body shook while pupils shrank to pinpricks and her shrill laugh gave way to rapid half-choked breathing.

"What in tarnation?" Impervia rushed over to Shadowstrike. “What’d ya do?”

"Looks like strands of many had a single weak point after all," Shadowstrike grinned. "I noticed it when you all were talking." She pointed, poking at the pulsating root running down Mayhem’s back. Obscured by natural hair, the root had many tendrils that had punched through the back of her costume. The root still vibrated visibly as Strike continued. "Learned a while back that a lot of these whack jobs have some sorta weak point. You just need to find it."

Splitsecond zipped up to the group, dropping gumballs from her hair as she stopped. "Well that's just...gross."

An exaggerated scoff brought everyone’s attention to the ceiling, where Andrea was hanging from the lighting grid. "You all talk too much!" the bat said before dropping and landing over Mayhem. Grabbing a clawed handful of orange hair and licking her lips, she yanked up Mayhem’s head. "Time to end this monster!"

The girls looked puzzled towards each other until they saw Andrea aim her deadly claws for Mayhem’s neck.

"No!" they shouted together before pouncing on her.

Andrea managed to throw off Shadowstrike and Splitsecond before being pinned by Impervia. "What are you doing!?" She growled.

"Now you look here." Impervia scolded. "We may have come here to stop this monster but we ain't aiming to stoop to her level. Got it?"

Chilling laughter rang through the room, snapping everyone’s attention up.

Mayhem was standing, albeit shakily, and holding the tendrils she’d lost against the back of her head. "How remarkably noble yet tragically exploitable!" she mused while her tendrils squirmed with new life. Before anyone realized what was happening, her hair had grabbed each of the heroines and launched them out of the building.

Only Impervia managed to hold her ground while the others sailed out. When Mayhem grabbed her with more hair, Impervia ran into the momentum and shoved her foot into Mayehm’s ribs, snapping the tendrils off again.

“Impervia, help!” Andrea screeched.

Impervia looked outside to see Andrea with Shadowstrike in her talons, flapping hard to fall slowly, but Splitsecond plummeting further out.

"Aw heck!" Impervia scolded herself, ditching Mayhem and leaping out to catch her friend.

Panting, and bleeding everywhere, Mayhem barely got to her feet. To support her broken arm meant aggravating what she was certain were broken ribs. Chuckling weakly, she held up a limp tendril only to let it fall back down.

"How do you like...them apples!?" Mayhem spat and tried to laugh, only to wince. "Ngh! I think I've actually busted a gut...I need more help…"

Either wafting over the pain or caused by the pain, she wasn’t sure, but a moment of clarity struck Mayhem and she beamed, “I know just where to get some,” before the smile faded. Her remaining tentacles carried her out of the studio. Glancing briefly at the light show from Purgatory in the distance, she then turned herself and crawled towards No Man's Land.

Makeswell was on his way home, the retired orange-skinned physician dodging fights, cars and other random chaos. He passed a sign he knew well, which meant he was almost home. The sign was for Spare Ribs’ Dinner Theater, which advertised ‘Dinner with a side of Mayhem’. He had never gone there, because the prices were out of his range, and there was never a show he liked playing.

As he looked at the sign, it suddenly bowed, then blew apart from behind. The villainess known as Mayhem came flying through, her hair forming tentacles that moved her body, of which over half were limp and broken. She gathered herself and made another stupendous leap through the air, soon passing from Makeswell’s sight. He then saw four female figures flying through the air in hot pursuit, two carrying two more.

Makeswell blinked once, twice, three times, then went home, which was on the next block. There, he sought out a bottle of rum that was very old, very potent, and hardly touched in forty years. That night, as Equestrian City erupted in violence, the retired doctor quietly drank himself into a stupor.

Oh this is bad. Spike thought. With Twilight unconscious inside the Matterhorn and the terabytes of his conscience in a frenzy of calculations, the best he could manage was to play possum until he could find a solution through the external cameras.

"Yes, thanks to your little act of defiance, all of this is locking into place," Malcontent smirked, staring at Sunset through the red geode in his grip. "You wouldn't believe the things I had time to watch in a millennium of isolation."

Dropping the gem into his palm, he gave a flourish with his wrist and opened his hand again - revealing five more various-colored gems with it. "These six gems were supposed to be the next stepping stones in your friendships." His expression darkened and smoke leaked from his eyes. "Completely cliche and horrifically dull."

He started forward, his heels and toes ringing the catwalk with each deliberate step. "But thanks to you, they were never discovered until after the magical surge that struck this world. They were found, not by a group of teenage tropes, but a salvage team, brought in and never entirely understood for their worth. Put on display as nothing more than a testament to the new owner and his greed."

"The Elements of Harmony. This world's elements." Sunset narrowed her eyes. "You bring those through with you and you'll have more power then anyone has ever dreamed."

"We." Malcontent corrected with a tempting tone. "We could have unlimited power. Back home." He smiled, kneeling to her level.

"That's insane. Why would you think I'd even consider that?"

"Because despite all the disappointing choices I've watched you make, I still hold out hope for you, dear Sunset." His tone and face softened again as he delicately cupped her chin. "I watched the world of Equestria from the cell Celestia put me in for nearly a thousand years." Glancing back at the monitor briefly, his eyes had a bright purple glow about them as he returned his gaze to Sunset. "I’ve never seen anyone quite like you."

"You keep saying that…" Sunset looked past him for a moment and then back towards his new eyes. "How were you able to see anything in an isolation spell?"

Malcontent smiled wide. "Don't you remember your lessons?" Sunset glared into his eyes, holding as he stood back up. "You really don't, do you? Let me refresh your memory of your dear Princess." He took a breath and folded his hands behind his back. "Magic fades, much like memories, over time. And over that time, the blockade starts to allow for transparency." Malcontent began to slowly circle her. "Are you following me so far?"

Sunset frowned, keeping her eyes on him. "Let's try an analogy you can understand, hmm?" his smile slowly returned as he spoke. "There once was a very intelligent student who desired, thirsted, hungered for knowledge and answers. Her teacher...let's call her Celestia, held that student back. The student grew angry and to give her selfish teacher the middle finger, went through such a dimensional door."

Malcontent stood in front of her and narrowed his eyes. "The walls between dimensions can be thinned and allow for seeing the things beyond. Even when you patch the wall, its stability is less than what it used to be."

Sunset locked her eyes in his and subtly tested her wrists. The ice still held firm and the metal under her creaked as she shifted. Ignoring that, she refocused and let his words churn in her head. She pondered visibly. "But you going through there will cause a second wave this world won’t survive," she broke eye contact for a split second to check on Twilight, still locked in her metal casket.

"Doubtful. Even if it does, no one is going to think twice about blaming you,” he chuckled and shook his head. "That's gratitude for you. All your work and sleepless nights and for what? They call you such awful things." Malcontent added. "The same girl being at the same place twice for two explosions? No court in the world is going to hesitate convicting you."

Sunset felt her stomach drop as his words struck her head, dropping her wide-eyed gaze to the floor as she searched desperately for falsehood or loopholes.

"No one would blame you for running back home," he looped back around to her. Holding up a hand, ice crystals formed in his palm. "And I can assure you if anyone tried, the power I give you would let you make an example of them so badly that no one would dare again.” Malcontent snapped his fist shut, shattering the ice. “You would have the greatness we both know you deserve,” he growled, but his voice carried compassionate undertones. "Come with me Sunset...join me...and be my queen."

A snap from Malcontent’s fingers shattered Sunset’s icy restraints. Sunset gasped and fell forward. Catching herself, she looked up at the leather glove extended to her.

"I know what it's like to be an outcast," he whispered, his voice teetering on sadness. "The pain, the isolation, to be surrounded by a sheer metropolis of people and yet still...be utterly and entirely alone. To try relentlessly to make a difference in the world around you for the better of everyone. Only to have your actions misunderstood. Rejected. Demonized!" he growled, before pausing to recompose himself. "The numbness, the emptiness that grows inside! I know it well."

Mal stretched out his hand to a guarded Sunset, who eyed him trepidatiously with a raised brow. "Take my hand,” he pleaded through glowing purple eyes. “Let me show you there's another way."

All at once, Malcontent’s world crumpled into a mass of screeching metal, orange hair, dirt and insane laughter. It wasn’t until they hit the ground that he realized he was tangled up with Mayhem and his rage instantly boiled over.

"Get off of me, you tentacled dimwit!" Malcontent barked before blasting her off with his magic. With Sunset caught in the crossfire, he made a quick note of where she landed before stomping over to Mayhem. Stalagmites of ice jutted out around his feet with each step.

"Sorry to just drop in!" Mayhem laughed. As her tendrils lifted her up, Malcontent scoured at her tattered and broken form, punctuated by a mortar-filled cough. "I've run into a bit of a problem. Could use a smidge of help, boss,” she begged while measuring with a thumb and index finger.

"You couldn’t handle a few simple-" a harsh realization struck and his face dropped. "Wait, did you bring them with you?" he growled, levitating himself and forming an icy armor around his shoulders.

Mayhem balked. "What? Do you think I'm insane!?" she yelled.

"Yes!" Mal shouted as he dove in and grabbed her neck. "You hair-brained has-been! I needed you to do two things!” Holding up two fingers, he counted, “Create enough mayhem to keep everyone busy and most importantly…" he trailed off, turning to check his back.

Gathered there were the last people he wanted to see in two of Equestrian City’s heroines. The confidence and determination they carried were quickly overpowering the sadness and doubt he had painstakingly collected in the area.

"...keep them away from here," he droned as his own fear made itself known. Forcing himself to focus, he dropped Mayhem and relaxed his shoulders, causing the armor to evaporate.

"So you must be this Malcontent we keep hearing about," Shadowstrike called, extending her staff with a spin.

"Ain’t too neighborly to be skulking around our world for so long," Impervia shook her head and tightened her bracers.

"And shall I assume you’re the welcome wagon?" Malcontent smirked as he surveyed each of the metas.

A pink-and-yellow trail of energy announced Splitsecond’s arrival with an armful of Wubcakes. "Don’t worry about that. I took care of the party goodies!"

Andrea hovered down into view, wings flapping softly. "I'm just here to have fun," she shrugged.

A smile flashed across Malcontent’s face. "See, I like that one," he said, folding his arms and gesturing towards Andrea. "That's not who I thought it was going to be. I like twists." His smile held for another second before disappearing entirely. "Kill them this time," he uttered at Mayhem.

"I've been trying my damndest but it's not working out so hot, boss. Why don’t we try a different approach? Maybe I could do the tech stuff and you could be the front man this time?" Mayhem shrugged, holding a limp tendril to testify to her lack of readiness.

Malcontent growled and raised his fist just in time for his console to beckon him. He lowered his hand.

"No such time. I have to get to that computer. Keep them busy!" His telekinesis shoved Mayhem towards the heroes as he ran towards his console. I can’t let anyone get in the way! Not when I’m this close to the end!

Mayhem yelped and stumbled. Tripping over her own hair, the sinister seamstress coughed as she tried to raise her defenses, only for her to collapse to the ground. One tentacle barely managed to rise in front of her body.

"Pathetic," Malcontent growled icily as he reached his console. Cold crystals coated his body as he reached for a box on his table and reached inside.

“Do you think we should stop him?” Splitsecond asked a second too late as a thick syringe of glowing liquid cut through the air, piercing into Mayhem’s spine. The villain cried out and the now-empty vial clattered to the ground, its label becoming visible: Faustatrine.

Mayhem collapsed, wailing on the ground as the chemical assaulted her body once again. The heroines could only watch in horror as Mayhem clawed at the ground and new tentacles writhed into existence from her back.

Malcontent glowered with a toothy grin. "I said I didn't have time for this, and I meant it."

Turning his attention back to the console, Malcontent examined the readouts. Satisfied, he reached forward and unlocked the controls with the fob from his pocket. A second later, targeting coordinates scrolled across the screen. Each one showing ‘READY TO FIRE’.

The apparatus whined to life. Its joints moaned while the siphoning prongs lowered and aimed towards the shattered remains of the once-proud Wondercolt statue. The remains of the base began flickering with activity. Orbs of energy, small and flickering at first, grew in size as they multiplied and swirled around each other.

Sunset leapt from behind the villain. Grabbing a pole on the machine’s foundation, she swung her full weight into her legs and caught Malcontent in his side, breaking some ice off of his body and launching him back. Taking the key from the device, she dangled it mockingly towards him, eliciting a growl from her enemy. Sunset shot her flames down and propelled herself atop the portal generator. Less than a moment later and much sooner than she’d hoped, an icy breeze announced Malcontent’s joining her on his machine.

Well, that's got him mad. She smiled to herself as he barreled desperately towards her. With a nimble vault over his shoulders, she kick-flipped off of his back and landed behind him. Any satisfaction was cut short by the sharp-ice filled haymaker she took to the face. Rolling with the punch, she managed to block his follow-up and then weave under the next wild swing.

The portal generator creaked under the weight of their fight and they both stumbled for balance. Sunset’s blood warmed her face as it dripped from the stinging cut. Pressing a hand to her face produced a pain that threatened to take her focus off of Mal.

"You sure have a funny way of showing affection,” She spat with a smirk. “Most guys start with flowers.” Glancing to confirm she still had the key, she held it up again and taunted Mal. "All this planning and it comes down to a little itty bitty key. Kinda funny."

Gripping it tightly, Sunset shoved the key into her side pocket and got back on guard.

"Alright,” Malcontent groaned, gripping the bridge of his nose. “Clearly you have no intention of giving me that without a fight, am I right?”

"Not a chance. Not digging your come on lines either," She snickered back, sneaking a glance down to her friends fighting Mayhem.

Malcontent didn't take time to mince words. Out of options and patience, the Windigo threw his arms out. An arctic wind whipped up instantly and grew stronger by the second. Wisps of purple magic poured from his eyes, forming jagged cracks around his face. Hulking gauntlets of ice crystallized around his arms. He breathed, releasing an unearthly howl and charged Sunset.

Sunset summoned all of her flames and matched his technique. Fiery and freezing fists met at their apex, dissipating each other instantly into a shockwave of shards and steam and sending both combatants careening to either side. They barely managed to regain their footing while the portal generator threatened to collapse from under them.

Wasting no time, they got to their feet and began a long-range boxing match. Both fighters dodged and weaved each ball of fire and razor-sharp icicle. One cold spike found its way through and gashed Sunset’s jacket. Retreating, Sunset windmilled her arms defensively and created a blazing field around her. She managed to melt the next wave of ice before it could reach her.

Sensing an opening, Sunset focused her shield into a flaming wall and pushed forward. Malcontent responded in kind, freezing all of the air in front of him until their battlefield was thick with humidity and her flames had been dissipated.

Malcontent scoffed, throwing his hands to the side. "Well, if we keep this up we won't get anywhere,” he spat as he stepped through the steam.

Desperately keeping her breath steady, Sunset smiled at his frustration. She just needed a little more time. Balling her fists up by her chin, one hand opened to beckon Malcontent. "You want it? You want me?" she asked with a sly grin. "Let's see if you got it in you, boy."

Malcontent’s magic flared up again and Sunset launched herself forward.

Several tree trunk sized tendrils slammed to the ground, each sending plumes of debris into the air as well as the remaining girls scattering for cover.

"Oh good! I thought we had been cut for time!" Splitsecond shouted, a single pink trail behind her speedy retreat. Coming to a rest next to Shadowstrike, she eyed the location of Impervia and Andrea, both of whom were in no immediate danger either.

"Wow, that's a lot of hair." Shadowstrike commented, taking in the vast amount of mutated mass of hair that Mayhem had become.

“Stop gawking and let's get to trimming them killer tangles!” Impervia shouted before leaping into action. “Can’t give her any time to lock a bead on us!”

“Ha! Lock. I get that,” Andrea chuckled as she flew after Impervia.

The two advanced at breakneck speed, Andrea swiftly dodging the strikes from Mayhem’s deadly hair while Impervia ran along the tendrils, knocking giant locks of hair aside as they came in.

Barrel-rolling around an attack, Andrea caught an undercurrent and swooped around to Mayhem’s flank. A swipe of her claw drew blood from Mayhem’s chin. The psycho yelped in pain and the distraction allowed Andrea to land several more hits before finally having to dodge a response from her deadly hair.

Impervia mightily punched away several attacks as she moved in, each one causing Mayhem to flinch with pain. Her body became increasingly obscured in the massive web of hairy vines. Weaving around a tree-trunk which tried to stab her from above, Impervia wound back and slammed her fist into what was left of Mayehm’s torso, launching her back into a kneeling position.

Impervia gave her no chance to recover. Ignoring the villain’s shrieks as even more tentacles sprouted from her back to attack, Impervia lunged forwards and back-handed each of Mayhem’s defenses. When the tree-trunk came down again, Impervia grabbed it. Swinging around the follicles like a pole, she slammed both feet into Mayhem and sent her flying with a sound of cracking thunder.

Mayhem’s hair caught herself on instinct. It was all that could hold her up at this point while she coughed blood onto the ground. Whatever vines could be spared were coiled like snakes ready to strike.

Shadowstrike and Splitsecond joined the fight and got to work knotting up as much of the hair as they could. Each using their agility to trick the tentacles into tangling themselves up. They scaled and vaulted over each log and vine. That’s when Andrea and Impervia took the distraction to attack the other half of Mayhem’s hair. Each girl doing their work to disarm the enemy and secure the opening they desperately needed.

“STOP! Get off me you- ARGH!” was all the madwoman could get out before the madness from her second mutation took control again.

“We got her good and mad now!” Impervia called out, holding an armful of hair to her chest and pushing down on Mayhem’s head. A quick glance up showed Andrea and Shadowstrike doing the same, but struggling greatly. “Get’er Splitsecond!” Impervia shouted. “Cuz we can’t keep this up forever!”

Splitsecond zoomed up to the exposed, pulsating weak spot on Mayhem’s spine. Swallowing her disgust, she began pummelling it with hundreds of punches per second. Mayhem writhed with blood-curdling cries of pain on each strike.

“Lady, just give up,” she pleaded, dodging whatever strikes that her fellow heroes couldn’t stop for her. Her assault never lessened. “You’ve got so much going against you right now!” Splitsecond ducked around another counterattack. “Plus you’re making a mess!”

“I don’t think she can hear you anymore!” Shadowstrike called out, dodging spikes and desperately wrestling the strands she had. “This ain’t working fast enough either.”

“What do we do?!” Splitsecond asked, jumping back as several strikes came at her all at once.

“Impervia, we need a heavy hit on the spine!” Shadowstrike shouted.

Turning to the call, Impervia let go of her load to deliver the final strike. Only to be slapped by a loose tentacle and sent flying through the high school ruins and denting the concrete with each skip of her landing.

“AJ!” Shadowstrike shouted. As she lost focus, another tentacle knocked her to the ground.

"Vault zero one, sit rep." Director Drops finished fitting a surgical mask over her face as she let go of the earpiece switch.

"Vault zero one, all clear, back up generators holding. Give ya a call if that changes," a female voice radioed back followed by a brief static burst.

"Least crazy eyes is secured," Lyra said, securing her own mask. She followed her superior through a set of seafoam green doors into a deserted medical exam room. Tiles of the same green tone held barely together by loose grout and a distant sound of leaking water greeted them. In the center of the room was a single exam table covered in a white sheet.

"That's the one thing that's going right so far," Drops said, snapping a face shield over her forehead and bringing it down. "She's craftier than she looks."

"She's crazier than she looks too. Different dimensions, alternate versions of herself, a world without noise? It's clear her party cannon isn't using a full fuse." Lyra added, adjusting her own faceplate. "Diane isn't even her real name she claims. Says she's named Dickie?"

Drops paused and looked up to the agent, her curiosity vanishing with a frustrated look. "Pinkie. She claims her name is Pinkie. I oughta know, I've been interviewing her over and over for years."

Turning the page on her clipboard, Drops turned to a bug-like humanoid in another cell. "You say this thing was pretending to be Coco?"

"I'm guessing so. Didn't have time to talk to it. Turned into that when I zapped it,” Lyra stated flatly while gesturing towards it.

Drops adjusted the overhead light and squinted her good eye. The light reflected off the black sheen of the carapace shell-like flesh with hole riddled limbs protruding out of the tattered remains of Coco’s outfit. Lyra shivered as the light caused its round, cyan colored eyes to dimly glow. "Well you did good. Support is defusing the bomb nearby. Now I'm really hoping you didn't completely off this thing."

Picking up a nearby scanner, Drops traced the creature’s chitin. “I got a few questions for it.” Drops put the scanner down and scrunched her face at a pungent smell emanating off of the body. Shaking her head to ignore it, she picked up another metal instrument and began prodding at the body.

"Seen this before?" Lyra asked, adjusting her surgical mask and wincing at the creature’s rotten stench.

"No," Drops answered shortly, firmly poking a chink between two of the chitin plates on the bug’s arms. Making a mental note of it, she found a similar chink in the plating on the neck and began prodding that as well.

“Sorry for using too much force.” Lyra explained, leaning over to peek at Drops exploratory probe.

"Don’t worry. You’re not the first agent to use too much force,” Drops mumbled with barely a second thought. Setting down the probe, she then picked up a set of electric prongs and sunk them into the creature’s soft membrane.

"Well what is it?"

Drops responded by pulling the trigger on the prongs. An electrical impulse shot into the creature’s neck, causing it to burst into green flames. Startled, both agents jumped back. Drops’ with a hand on her sidearm and Lyra shrieking, but taking a fighting stance all the same.

As fast as the flames appeared, they dissipated, leaving the unconscious form of Coco Pommel in the bug’s place. The flames were followed by nervous twitches all over the creature’s body, gradually shifting its features until a copy of Lyra was laying on the floor. More twitches and small bursts of flame brought a copy of Drops into the room. The creature flamed up into Coco Pommel one more time before shifting back to its natural form as the prongs dropped from its neck.

Lyra looked to her boss, wide-eyed and agape, mouthing “What?” Drop’s expression had fallen from shock to concern, as she struggled to force herself to relax. Looking at Lyra, Drops took a breath and released it. “A whole new level of trouble.”

Author's Note:

As we move to the inevitable culmination of many intersecting stories, I want to reach out and thank Ali whose been with me for quite a while trying to make heads or tails of this crap as I write it, and everyone else on the Metaverse Studios team whose come and gone over the years. 

Rest assured I have learned alot from this entire experience in terms of how to handle many of the unexpected hiccups in writing I came across. 

Thankfully I had a wonderful pack of friends who have been with me and continue to travel with me during the process! 

New discord server is invite only so throw me a DM for an invite n.n 

Stay tuned for the final showdown!