• Published 2nd Dec 2017
  • 4,967 Views, 313 Comments

Twilight In Plain Sight - Mitch H



Twilight and her orphaned niece are starting a new life in a new town, as far from Flurry Heart's monster of a grandfather as they can get. But as far as you might run, you can't run away from you. Especially when magic's involved.

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Remember, Your Name is Skyla!

As her classic little Bug rolled further and further from Memphis, the tightness in Twilight Sparkle's chest loosened more and more. It was as if the moment they crossed the great bridge over the Mississippi, her brother's father-in-law's lidless gaze had finally been drawn away from the two of them. Perhaps the old book had been right about running water and their effect upon remote-viewing magic!

Not that Twilight Sparkle believed in magic. She'd had enough of all that, enough for a lifetime, and more.

But Shining Armor had insisted on marrying into that horrible, mad family, and sometimes Twilight could swear that crazy was catching. Harmony knows she'd seen enough inexplicable things in the last six years to last a lifetime!

Or two.

Flurry Heart was waking up again. She'd been so good at the sentencing hearing, solemn and quiet, like a good Sparkle. Twilight looked at her again out of the corner of her eye, and she could see nothing of the mad Crystals in her beautiful little niece. Flurry was the best parts of her late mother and father, and Twilight wouldn't have traded this moment for anything in the world.

Nothing that she could afford, anyways. And 'King' Sombra's conviction and life sentence was demonstration enough of what came of bargaining with lives for 'dark magic' and its wicked promises.

The two of them had spent almost a year in Fort Worth, pretending to be some other purple-haired young woman and her 'daughter'. Twilight was more than glad to leave 'Midnight Glimmer' and 'Fussykins' behind, along with that series of ugly, miserable back-road motels that WitSec had stored them in like a pair of mis-matched shoes in a bus terminal locker.

Flurry was already almost a year behind in her schooling. She really should be going to grade school in a couple days, not simply kindergarten. But Twilight had to acknowledge the logic of the deputy marshals. They had to fudge the details of their new lives and personas as much as the painfully obvious facts could allow.

As they passed the exit for Jackson, Twilight thought about pulling over for lunch, but Flurry was already asleep again, and she didn't want her niece cranky and disagreeable for the rest of the trip. At the highway speeds her old Bug could maintain, they still had almost seven hours before they would even be nearby the new place that the deputy marshals had supposedly found for them.

Twilight hoped that they had done what they said they could, and she would be able to use her training at a nice school. She'd kept up on her classwork, despite the miserable conditions in Fort Worth, and had passed her final exams remotely, over an off-the-shelf video-conferencing piece of rentware the marshals had gotten for her somewhere. Her college had been very, very understanding, and so had been the teaching college in Dallas that they'd let her use for her last batch of exams, sitting before the camera of an anonymous laptop in an empty classroom.

Even if Twilight had recognized a face reflected in a window behind the exam-proctor in the last exam she had taken, lurking in the video background. Twilight had almost not aced that one, especially after she lip-read the threats that disciple had made while she struggled through the social-science methods exam, barely keeping the doubled-mentality required to regurgitate the current dogma they were insisting upon that semester.

Technically, Twilight was short a semester of student teaching, but the marshals hadn't been willing to put her in a classroom full of grade-schoolers while using her paper-thin Fort Worth cover. They were just going to… 'waive' that part of her degree. By which, Twilight believed, they meant 'forge'.

If only Cadance's father had waited another year before he went and murdered half the family and most of his neighbors. He could have taken my pedagogical coursework into account, damn it!

This was not as insane a regret as it appears, from Twilight's perspective. 'King' Sombra had always taken a weirdly paternal interest in his daughter's sister-in-law, and Twilight had spent more time with the old lunatic than she was really proud of these days.

The Wit-Sec marshals had repeatedly emphasized that the witness protection program was primarily concerned with, and constructed around, the criminal class. They had been extremely suspicious of Twilight's claims that she was blameless and innocent of any crimes associated with Sombra's mad spree.

Even though this was totally true.

Really!

Twilight had broken no laws of man, and any laws of God – well. She may have bent a few, some as far as they would go, but she'd killed no-one, materially harmed no-one, and damaged – well, almost nothing.

Nothing she had cared to testify in court about, anyways.

Twilight looked up in the rear-view mirror, and eyed the modified dreamcatchers hanging on both sides of the rear window of her Bug. The one on the left was a little scorched, but she couldn't tell if it was more scorched than it had been before the bridge over the Mississippi west of Memphis. She hadn't smelled any more burning hemp, though, so it was possible they'd lost the haints that had kept after them, even after the end of the hearing in Tulsa. Twilight had re-woven the special 'catchers according to her own grandfather's recipe while Flurry had slept in yet another hotel room outside of Tulsa, deputy marshals laying in wait in rooms on either side of them.

Not that the poor hapless marshals would have been able to stop a death-hex if one had come their way. Twilight had been careful to leave specially woven lint-tags on every deputy marshal she came into contact with – it had become a part of her greeting ritual with new faces in the program – grab their hand during the shake, grab them on their free arm, then while they recoiled at the overly-handsy young woman's dubious grasp of personal space, flick the protective tag into their pockets or against a belt.

Twilight had never seen one of her little charms fall off of its own accord, but more than one had gone up in nasty green-black flame during one of the Crystal cult's various ambushes and manufactured 'confrontations'.

OK, a concession must be made. Twilight did her best to not believe in magic, but magic had a distressing insistent tendency to believe in Twilight. And Twilight certainly believed in self-defense. It was just a matter of – well. The Second Amendment was a thing. And the federal government didn't believe in registering dark magic practitioners, no matter how good of an idea it might be.

Mostly because the federal government didn't believe in dark magic - and Twilight sympathized, she so desperately wanted to not believe in dark magic, too! - but the point remains.

Twilight pulled off of I-40 east of Nashville, and found a famously carnivorous fast food joint for a late lunch. Flurry was being Fussykins again, so it was just in time. Twilight fed her niece a pair of sliders, and enjoyed a leisurely French dip, letting Flurry dip her curly fries in the leftover sauce-bowl, while Twilight went through her messages on the phone the 'program' had given her.

They were going to be confiscating the phone when she met her new handler in Dashville. And giving her a new one. This would be the fifth phone she'd had in the last fifteen months. Even if she'd wanted to retain any contacts with her old life, this constant juggling of disposable phones had managed to get her contact-lists hopelessly deranged, and then, finally, lost.

The only people Twilight and Flurry knew anymore were deputy marshals. It was as if their entire world had shrunk until Twilight could only see two rings of acquaintances – the marshals that protected her and little Flurry, and those shadowy cultists who were determined to murder them.

Twilight got Flurry packed out of that mecca for meat-loving obsessives, and back in her Bug for the last leg of their trip eastwards. They followed that great interstate up into the Smokey Mountains, and Flurry bounced in her seat in delight at the view. Their time in Texas and Oklahoma had been more than a little depressing for Flurry, and Twilight suspected that she associated the flat and featureless plains with their enforced loneliness and isolation.

Twilight found an oldies country station on the radio, and the two of them sang along with John Denver and Willie Nelson and others she didn't quite recognize. She hadn't really been a country-western fan in her old life, but she'd had a friend who had been, and it was a bit nostalgic, remembering…

They made a game of chasing country music across the dial as the old Bug labored eastwards and upwards, and tiny little low-wattage stations came and went.

About an hour out of Knoxville, Twilight's phone rang.

"Flurry, honey, can you answer that? Auntie doesn't have her hands free."

"'Kay!" The little girl picked up the smartphone, and swiped at it a bit, until she got the phone feature to activate. "Hey-llo. This is my aunt's phone. May I innn-quire who is calling? Uh-huh. Uh-huh."

Flurry turned to face Twilight, and chirped, cheerfully – "Agent Seed says we're supposed to meet her at the next exit beyond the state line! And that the safe-word is 'chitlins'."

"She called herself an agent, Flurry?"

"Naw, but I think they ought to call themselves that, right Agent Seed? OK, bye-bye." Flurry ended the call.

"Wait, no- dang it, Flurry, I wanted to find out what our new names would be, first."

"We're gonna meet her in Virginia, ain't we?"

"Aren't we, Flurry, and the sooner we get the new names, the easier they will be to remember. I don't want you calling me by one of our old names, or introducing yourself for that matter. We need to what?"

"PRACTICE!"

"Good girl. Now what about this Seed person?"

"AGENT Seed! 'Cause she's a secret, agent man! Secret, agent man!"

Twilight regretted letting Flurry listen to that song so often, but their music selections had been so limited… "They gave him a number, and took away his name…"

Twilight would only be able to sing along with her little niece for so long, before she got older and too sullen for car-trip singalongs.

***

They pulled into the rest area just beyond the Tennessee-Virginia state line just as twilight gave way to true night, the glaring lights along the interstate fighting away the encroaching darkness. Flurry was asleep again, having conked out after one last chorus of her favorite song. But at least she'd told Twilight what 'Agent Seed''s vehicle would look like – a 'big blue Ford pickup!' Which was…

Four out of two dozen vehicles on the 'cars' side of the rest stop.

Southerners!

Twilight got out of her Bug, and looked around for any motion in the vicinity. As usual, there were families milling about, and people quick-stepping towards the rest-rooms, or ambling slowly back to their cars.

The dome light on a late-model blue F250 lit up not too many stalls away from where Twilight was standing, and the truck's driver-side door opened up, discharging a tall blonde woman wearing sunglasses.

At night, wonderful.

Twilight stepped forward, tentatively. She looked over her shoulder to make sure that nobody else was approaching her car with her sleeping niece inside while her back was turned. Then she tried her best to focus on the person actually in front of her.

And Twilight blushed because she had come to the realization that she was behaving like a crazy person.

"Hello there! I hope you're Deputy Marshal Seed, because if you're not, then I'm so very screwed. Tell me you're who I think you are?"

"Yeah, you're exactly like they said you are. Hello, honey, I'm Poppy Seed. Uh, 'chitlins', I suppose. I'll be your handler while you're living in your new home. Just to be sure – where are you going?"

"I'm going to some town I've never heard of, called Dashville. I guess it's a city somewhere further down the highway?"

"Yeah, another twenty-five minutes from here, assuming that ludicrous antique you're driving will make it that far. Do you think you could have found a more distinctive car? Did you try?"

"What's wrong with my VW? I love that car. My late parents gave me that car."

"Looking at the age of it, I wouldn't be surprised if your grandparents gave your parents that car. It's going to stick out like a damn hammered thumb here in the sticks."

"If I sold it, the title trail would just lead right back to me. And I have… attachment issues when it comes to this car."

I can't tell her I've got it counter-hexed five ways from the Sabbath and so layered in protections that most traffic cops don't even see it on the road.

"Can- can we change the subject? Do I have a job? Do we have an apartment? Do we have names?"

The tall blonde finally took off her sunglasses, and looked down at Twilight.

She makes me feel like a pygmy. Where did they find this woman, Themyscira?

"In order, yes, yes, and we've got paperwork for you as Dusk Shine and, wait a tick-" Deputy Seed looked down and rummaged around in a fanny pack she had strapped behind her, pulling out couple pieces of paper, and fumbling for the right one, squinting in the indifferent glare of the lights far overhead. "Skyla. Skyla? Really? Were her parents supposed to be hippies? What kind of a name is 'Skyla'?"

"No… no, that's fine. We can live with that. Her grandfather would never in a million years think to look for a Skyla." Twilight – no, Dusk Shine thought a bit, trying to find her place in the conversation. "Wait, you named me Dusk Shine? Isn't that a bit on the nose?"

"Pfft. Do you have any idea how many time-of-day names there are in Virginia phone-books? Anybody who goes looking will find themselves at least fifteen Dusk Glimmers, Dusk Shimmers, or Dust Twinkles to bother before they get to you. Relax, we've got you covered, Miss Shine. Oh, by the way, congratulations, you're a mother."

"Oh, no – no no no no, Flurry – ugh! Skyla will not understand that one, not at all! She knows who mommy is, and I am definitely not her! She'll break cover inside of a day, I know it!"

"Not my problem, Miss Shine. A purple-haired young teacher with an orphaned niece will attract the wrong sort of attention. You have no idea how much the goddamn internet has complicated my job in the last ten years. Enough to drive you crazy."

Dusk Shine looked up at her new WitSec handler, and thought that if she had been working as a deputy marshal ten years ago, then they must be recruiting them out of middle school these days.

"Fine! Can you get me directions to the new apartment, and any paperwork I'll need for tomorrow? And they said you'd have a new phone for me?"

"Yeah, here you go. We'll need the old one. Hey, Bill! Come over here!"

Another blue F-250 disgorged another deputy marshal, who sauntered over to where the two women had been talking on the sidewalk.

"Give Lading Bill here your phone. He's going to drive it up into the North East somewhere, let anyone tracking your phone see if they can't go looking for you in Connecticut or the Hudson Valley. Get going, Bill, thanks."

The silent deputy saluted Seed, and ambled back to his pickup, getting in and barely letting the engine start before he squealed out of the parking lot and headed back out onto the superhighway.

"Your directions are on that phone, it's temporarily unlocked. Put a passcode or something on that before you forget, you know how important security is. I'll meet you at your new place, and we can go over your new papers and so on, there."

Twi- no, damnit, Dusk Shine stepped closer to her new deputy-handler-whatever-they-wanted to call themselves, and grabbed her by what looked like her non-dominant hand, and flicked one of her last prepared charms against the deputy-marshal's belt-buckle. "Nice to meet you, Poppy. My parents always taught me to start a new friendship off on the right foot. My apologies, I almost forgot my manners."

Poppy Seed stared down at her charge, and then snorted, smiling a little bit. "Huh, my mistake. I think maybe you'll settle in here just fine, you've got the reflexes for Southern living. But try not to be so grabby, the hillfolk can be touchy about their personal space, Miss Shine."

After settling a few other details, Dusk Shine returned to her VW Bug, where a little girl had awoken from her nap, and was now rubbing her eyes and staring at what she no doubt still thought of as her aunt. Dusk Shine stepped around to the driver's side, and got back into the car.

"Hey, there, sweetheart. Have a good nap? I've got your new name, and directions to our new place. We're getting an apartment, one we can decorate the way we want, won't that be nice?"

"Uh-huh. Name. OK. Wait, will there be hills?"

"I don't know, sweetie. Maybe? I hope so, but I can't be sure, I haven't seen it yet. Your name, sweetie – you're going to be Skyla from now on." Dusk Shine looked anxiously down at her- her-

Agh! I cannot possibly think of Skyla as my daughter! This is preposterous!

"Sky-la? It's kinda short, isn't it? What's it even mean?"

"That's something we're going to have to figure out between the two of us. And that's not the only thing. Skyla, they kind of… arbitrarily changed our relationship in the paperwork. It's going to be something new! We're going to get to play a new game!"

"What's arbitrarily mean?"

"Uh, for no good reason, Skyla. They just decided it, without asking me or anything. And I wish they hadn't done it, because-"

"What'd they change, Aunt – uh, weren't you supposed to get a name too?"

"Here's the thing, sweetie, I'm not going to be your Aunt anymore. Say-"

Oh, shit, might as well just rip the band-aid right off, right?

"Hello, Skyla, I'm your mother, Dusk Shine. Nice to meet you."

Author's Note:

This was an accidental prompt yesterday, the artwork by Racoon-kun was making the rounds, and I ended up generating an embarrassingly dark story from what is really a quite innocent and impossibly cute piece of art. Thanks to Racoon-kun and the actual commissioner of the artwork, Axelstripe, for letting me use it on this story.

And, as usual, thanks for editing and pre-reading help to Oliver, Shrink Laureate and the general Company.