• Published 19th May 2018
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When We Break - CommissarAJ



Tempest vowed she would never again be left to the mercies of a cold, uncaring world. And then she met Twilight Sparkle...

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Chapter 1

It all happened so fast.

One second, Twilight Sparkle was minding her own business on a pleasant afternoon stroll through the streets of Canterlot, and the next moment, her life was almost flashing before her eyes.

It was supposed to be just a brisk walk through the city’s oldtown to find a hole-in-the-wall bookstore that she had read about in the local newspaper. Sure, oldtown had a reputation for being a seedier part of the city, but those were just exaggerations that grown-ups liked to throw around to scare kids, weren’t they? Having been grabbed by the collar and pulled into a dark and narrow alley, Twilight was now discovering that there was some truth to the stories.

Twilight barely even had time to realize what was going before she was thrown into the nearby wall, her back slamming against an old drain pipe that clattered like a dinner bell announcing it was feeding time. Before her stood her assailant, an older teenager of a deep orchid complexion who loomed over her with a hungry, predatory glare. However, the size didn’t matter much as Twilight’s gaze remained fixated on the switchblade pointed squarely at her neck. Though mere inches away, she swore she could feel its tip teasing at her skin.

Every ounce of her wished that she could close her eyes and upon opening them once more, she’d find herself in bed with Spike curled up at her side and the safe tranquility of her bedroom all around. There would be no such mercy, however, as the jackhammering of her heart was proof enough that this all was very much real. A shiver ran up her spine as the flat of the blade pressed up against her chin, and slowly tilted her eyes upward until her gaze met with the other girl’s. Piercing green eyes glared back at her, a vicious glint that left no doubt in Twilight’s mind that this girl meant business. As she tried to look away, her focus instead settled on the lengthy scar her assailant had over one eye.

“Here’s the deal, kid, I want your phone and all of your valuables,” the assailant spoke up, her voice dripping with collected but playful malevolence. “Give them up nicely, if you don’t mind, and you get to keep that pretty little face of yours.” And just to emphasize her point, she turned the blade just enough so that the edge now rested against Twilight’s chin.

Any words Twilight might’ve had before, either pleas for mercy or fleeting protest, were nowhere to be found; they had long since fled for safety, leaving her alone to deal with this threat. She held up her backpack, or at least as best she could as her hands were trembling so badly that she had trouble just keeping a grip on it.

“Smart move, kid.”

When her assailant reached up to take the bag, Twilight noticed something else about the other girl. Instead of a free hand snatching away her possessions, there was just a stump, ending about halfway up the girl’s forearm and covered up by the coat’s rolled-up and pinned sleeve. That would explain why the mugger had been holding the knife in her left hand the entire time.

Unfortunately, Twilight’s change in focus did not go unnoticed. The flat of the blade tapped against her cheek in an incessant and impatient manner.

“Hey, eyes up,” the mugger warned. “The knife is what you need to be worried about, okay?”

“S-sorry,” Twilight squeaked, driven by instinct and fear more than anything else. “W-why are you doing this?”

The assailant withdrew her blade, freeing up her hand so that she could rummage through the bag in order to take a quick assessment. Everything Twilight had with her was in there: her phone, her purse, her schoolwork. Everything. The other girl helped herself to what seemed valuable and tucked them away into her coat, which was an old surplus military jacket that had clearly seen better days.

“Because some of us need to eat, and your patronage is greatly appreciated,” the girl quipped as she tossed the bag back to Twilight. Just as she was about to leave, though, her eyes caught sight of one last treasure: a purple geode affixed to the pink ribbon Twilight wore. “I’ll be taking that, too!” she said before snatching the brooch off the other girl.

“Hey! You can’t—”

Twilight’s words came to an abrupt and forceful halt when her assailant slammed into her. Despite the mugger only having two-thirds of an arm, it was still able to pin her up against the alleyway wall, the forearm pressing up into Twilight’s neck. It didn’t quite cut off her airway, but it was just enough to let her know that it was only because of some twisted sense of mercy.

“You must be new to this,” mused the amused and malicious voice, “so I’ll be gentle with you.”

There were many words Twilight could’ve used to describe how the last few minutes had gone, and gentle was definitely not one of them. Terrifying, sadistic, or barbaric, yes, but not gentle. Nor would it describe how she felt when the other girl suddenly drove her fist right into Twilight’s gut. The air shot out of her faster than out of a popped balloon, and she similarly crumpled to the ground in a wheezing heap.

“Now, be a good little girl, and stay down.”

Not that Twilight was in any condition to contest that, even if she wanted to. The pain was almost unimaginable, and it was taking every ounce of willpower she had just to force her lungs to cooperate with her. All she could do was lay there in that filth-ridden alley, clutching at her stomach as she trembled in agony and struggled for every breath, each of which felt like trying to inhale fire.

It took several minutes before the pain finally ebbed away enough for her to claw her way back onto her feet. With a groan and a whimper, she pawed at the nearby drain pipe, then used it to slowly climb up until she was finally upright again. After leaning on the pipe for a few moments to regain balance, she set about gathering what remained of her belongings. Her mind was still reeling from everything that happened, uncertain of how to feel or think. She felt almost numb, as if she just shut down all emotion until she knew it was safe again to feel.

One thing, however, did stick to her mind, even more than the look on that girl’s face when she pressed the knife to her chin.

“I… I know her.”


The next day saw Twilight Sparkle in the school library bright and early, more so than usual in order to give herself enough time to work. She sat at one of the library computers with her eyes fixated on the screen as picture after picture scrolled across it, each accompanied by a subtle click of the mouse, the only noise to punctuate an otherwise silent environment.

Click.

A picture of Twilight Sparkle alongside Dean Cadance, both of whom stood on opposite sides of a large golden trophy. It was her first win at the school’s science fair during her first year at Crystal Prep Academy. She still remembered how proud her parents were that day, and how nervous she felt having to get onto a stage in front of so many of her classmates. It had almost been enough to make her throw up in front of Principal Cinch.

Click.

Next up a picture of two girls on stage in Crystal Prep’s auditorium. It was Sugarcoat and some other girl whose name escaped her at the moment. The caption below said it was the first meeting of the school debate club. She remembered that Sugarcoat managed to set a school record for fastest time to make an opponent break down in tears.

Suddenly, a hand fell upon Twilight’s shoulder, followed by a cheerful, “There you are! I’ve been looking all over for you.”

In an instant, she was no longer sitting in the school library, but instead back in that alleyway, staring down the edge of a knife held by a deranged woman. She shrieked and pulled away as a tidal wave of fear and panic overcame her, almost falling out of her chair in the process. It was only after she caught herself did the rational part of her mind take hold again, and realized that the person standing next to her was a worried-looking Sunset Shimmer.

“Are you okay, Twilight?” her friend asked.

“I-I’m fine,” Twilight said as she took a moment to settle her nerves and readjust her glasses. “You just, uh… startled me there.”

“Sorry about that. I was just wondering where you were since I didn’t see you out front where we usually meet, and you weren’t answering any of my texts,” Sunset explained. Her eyes then drifted over to the computer screen, looking to fill in the details that she lacked. “What’s all this about? You taking a walk down memory lane?”

“Actually, I’m trying to look up somebody,” Twilight explained. With her momentary panic subsided, she turned back to the computer in order to resume her work. “I sort of… ran into somebody yesterday, and I’m certain I’ve seen them before.”

“And you think they went to Crystal Prep with you?”

Twilight nodded as she cycled to the next image. “It’s the most logical explanation since this would’ve been before I met you or the other girls. Crystal Prep is the most likely place I would’ve been around somebody long enough to vaguely remember them.”

Growing more curious, Sunset pulled up a chair and sat down to watch her friend work, scrolling through picture after picture. Crystal Prep appeared to keep meticulous photo records of their accomplishments, which were numerous; in fact, it seemed like one didn’t get their picture taken unless they had won something.

After several minutes of repeated clicking and mumbled nopes, Twilight’s eyes widened, accompanied by an elated, “There she is!”

The photo contained about a dozen Crystal Prep students, all in matching black and purple uniforms and several of whom held baseball bats, and the title read ‘Crystal Prep Junior Girls Softball Divisional Champions’. Amongst them stood the orchid-toned teen that Twilight met the day before, standing a few inches taller than all of the other girls with a calm, but confident posture, like the notion of ‘divisional champions’ had been an expected conclusion. The girl in the picture looked much more pleasant than that of the day before, as well as lacking the disfigurements.

“Nice mohawk,” Sunset commented, noting the girl’s rather peculiar hair style. She leaned in closer to read the bottom caption, finding the girl’s name after a moment. “Fizzlepop Berrytwist. Did you know her very well?”

“No, though I think I had a few run-ins with her,” Twilight said, pausing to tap upon her cheek in thought. “She was in the year ahead of me, and she was into a lot of sports. We never really ran in the same social circles—not that I really ran in any back then. If I remember correctly, one day she just stopped showing up at school. I’ve never really thought about it up until now.”

“Did she remember you?” Sunset asked, still blissfully unaware of what events led Twilight to this investigation.

Twilight shook her again, though she didn’t answer at first as she was deep in thought, delving through her memories for everything she could recollect about Fizzlepop. “She was… different than I remember,” she eventually answered. “Something must’ve happened. I wonder what.”

Before Sunset could say anything further, the school bell began to chime, beckoning the students to make haste before classes began. She rose from her seat and patted her friend on the shoulder. “Well I’d say don’t worry too much about it, but knowing you, you’ll be stuck thinking about it all day,” Sunset said in a playful tease. “Maybe you should go find this girl and ask. Now come on, before we’re late for homeroom.”

Twilight nodded and logged off the library computer. Her friend made an interesting suggestion, though she knew if Sunset had all of the details, she would’ve insisted never going within a hundred yards of Fizzlepop again. Still, her curiosity was piqued, and something inside her told her that she couldn’t just ignore this.


Crystal Prep Academy

Three years ago

“Hey, watch where you’re going!”

Despite how angry the other girl sounded, Twilight came out of the accidental collision far worse than her. The first-year, spectacled student, long before she learned of magic or friendship, was still sprawled across the ground as her fellow Crystal Prep classmate chastised her. She scrambled to try and gather up her books which had been left strewn across the floor about her, all whilst muttering out hurried apologies.

“I-I’m sorry, I-I didn’t see you there…”

For Twilight Sparkle, still only a few months into her time at the prestigious academy, keeping her head down and unnoticed was her best strategy for survival amongst a student body known for its intense, competitive nature. On this particular morning, however, a moment of inattentiveness has caused her to run afoul of one of those students.

A quick apology and a quicker retreat was all she needed: minimize the interactions, minimize the problems. As she reached for the last of her books, however, the other girl scooped it up just a second before her.

“What’s this you got here?” the student mused as she examined the book. “Calculus, huh? A little bit advanced for somebody your age, don’t you think?”

“I-I was just… I mean, I wasn’t—” Soft-spoken and utterly terrified of the stronger, more confident student, Twilight’s words began tumbling out of her mouth like dropped change.

The other student casually flipped through the pages, though the fact that she kept her eyes focused on Twilight betrayed what her real aims were. “I think I might just have to hold onto this. Can’t let you get ahead of the rest of us,” she said before snapping the book shut.

“What? No, that’s mine!” an aghast Twilight exclaimed. In desperation, she lunged for the book, but the other student had been counting on that and twisted out of the way. A ridiculing laugh echoed through the hall as Twilight stumbled about, making repeated efforts to reclaim her book, only to be led about on a fruitless and humiliating chase.

“Come on, if you want it back, just take it!” the student continued the relentless taunting.

Little did the student know, just behind loomed the towering, mohawked young Fizzlepop, and the expression on her face broadcasted a sentiment of restrained annoyance, like a parent enduring their tantrum-throwing toddler. With the thief’s attention still on Twilight, Fizzle snatched the book from her grasp.

“Hey! What’s the big ide—” The other student’s words came to an abrupt halt when she spun around and saw who it was. Her face froze into an expression normally reserved for face-to-face meetings with hungry, wild animals, and whatever bravado she may have felt earlier was a forlong memory now. “H-hey Fizzle. I… I didn’t see you there. I was just—”

Once again, her words were interrupted, this time by Fizzle tapping the book against her head, not enough to hurt, but firm enough to get her attention.

“Knock it off!” Fizzlepop warned.

“Come on, Fizz, I was just joking!”

There was another loud ‘thump’ as the book came down upon the student’s head.

“I don’t care! You know the coach is cracking down on troublemakers; if he catches you like this, he’ll have you on the bench in a heartbeat. The divisional tournament is next week, and we’re not losing our title because our second-best hitter decided to act out.”

“S-sorry, Fizz.”

“Don’t be sorry, just don’t do it again.” She lifted the book up as if she were about to smack the misbehaving student again, but seeing the other girl wince in anticipation gave her pause. Eventually, she just sighed and pushed the girl aside, using the book to physically guide her away. “Practice is in fifteen: go get the equipment from storage.”

Without another word, the girl hurried on her way, the look of desperate relief on her face conveying how she felt about this encounter. That left just Fizzlepop and Twilight standing in the hallway, with the latter still staring nervously at the ground in the hopes that she’d be able to get her book back without having to draw too much attention to herself, just in case there was still some ire remaining.

“You shouldn’t keep staring at the ground like that, otherwise, you’ll just keep running into people,” Fizzlepop said as she held the book out. “If that girl gives you trouble again, just let me know.”


This was a bad idea; every fiber in Twilight’s body was telling her that, and yet despite it all, she pressed on in her trek through the old downtown core. In retrospect, she should’ve brought Sunset Shimmer along, or maybe Applejack or Rainbow Dash, but it was too late for her to back down now after having come so far. Though it was the same sidewalks she had traversed so confidently just a few days earlier, everything felt so much more sinister now. As far as her mind was concerned, every alley was hiding another mugger, every person walking past her had an air of malice about them, and every noise was that final step just before somebody grabs her from behind.

“Come on, Twilight, just keep it together,” she silently reminded herself. She gripped tighter onto the brown paper bag she carried with her, holding it close like a protective charm.

Retracing her steps from before, she wasn’t surprised that she saw no sign of her assailant. She stopped briefly just at the entrance of the alleyway where she had been mugged: it was empty now, save for the usual assortment of trash cans and a dumpster. It was just an alley, she reminded herself, but she couldn’t help but remember that she was maybe an inch away from having that alley be her final resting place.

It was a sobering thought, one that left a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach, and prompted her to continue her search.

Unfortunately, as time passed, it seemed the only thing she discovered was that the downtown infrastructure was in desperate need of a face lift. It was one dingy alley and crumbling sidewalk after the next with trash strewn about the ground and a pervasive odour of rot and despair that followed her wherever she went. Maybe it was just the memories of the incident colouring her perspective, but everything around her felt colder and more ominous than before.

Twilight was just about to give up on her mission, which now seemed more like a wild goose chase, but then she overheard a voice coming from a nearby parking lot.

“What do you think you’re trying to do? This isn’t the deal we had!”

It was the same voice from the mugging.

“Calm down, Tempest, we’re just having a little trouble moving merchandise right now, so I’ve had to change my prices to compensate,” a second voice replied, one that sounded like somebody had given a voice to a tub of grease.

Despite every rational fiber telling her to walk away, Twilight crept towards the source. She spotted Fizzlepop, or Tempest as she had just been called, in the back corner of the parking lot, partially obscured by the surrounding vehicles, along with a stocky-looking fellow with unkempt hair and a sweaty, pockmarked complexion that made Twilight’s skin crawl. Using the cars for cover, she closed the distance so she could better hear what was going on.

“You can’t even change your pants in two hours, Grubber, let alone your prices. You quoted me a price, and I expect you to keep it!”

Twilight peaked over the flatbed of an old pickup truck and watched as the heated and one-sided debate continued. The stocky fellow looked increasingly nervous, most likely due to Tempest’s growing ire. She could recall in vivid detail how scared she had been a few days ago, and there wasn’t even any anger involved, so she could only imagine how this ‘Grubber’ felt.

“Come on, you can’t expect me to stay in business selling at a loss, do you?”

Tempest suddenly grabbed the other man by the collar, pulling him up onto the tips of his toes. “You should be more concerned with how you’ll stay in business with a broken jaw.”

Whoever this other guy was, he didn’t hold up to threats of violence well either. He promptly threw up his hands in defeat, the panic written across his face. “H-hey now, let’s not do anything hasty. I-I think I can honour our deal without hurting my bottom line too badly.”

“That’s better.”

With that, the irate teenager’s expression returned to one of calm composure, save for a pleased little smirk across her lips.

Once released, her cohort rummaged through his coat pocket and then handed something that looked like a wad of cash over to Tempest, to which she gave him a small bag filled with god knows what.

“I can’t guarantee the prices will stay the same next time, though,” the man warned before he scurried on his way, grumbling all the while.

With the deal concluded, the mohawked teen stuffed the money into her coat and headed on her way as well. Twilight had already ducked behind the truck in order to keep out of sight, though she really wished she had never come there in the first place. She may have been a bit of a sheltered teenager, but she knew that Tempest wasn’t talking about a deal for a subscription to ‘Popular Science Monthly’. It was just like something out of those crime dramas she’d watch with her mother—the kind that started episodes with detectives standing over a dead girl while making pithy one-liners with callous disregard to the sanctity of life.

She just had to keep her head down and wait for Tempest to leave, and then she could go home and forget about all of this forever.

“You again!”

So much for that plan…

“I didn’t see anything!” Twilight shrieked as she was hoisted back to her feet and slammed against the truck. At least she was used to this kind of rough-handling from the other girl, but that didn’t make the door handle pressing into her back any less painful.

“What are you doing here?” Tempest demanded, her patience already at its limits. “Who sent you? You wired or something?”

She didn’t wait for an answer before she began patting down the terrified Twilight. Between the short sleeves and skirt, there weren’t many places to hide a recording device, so the sense of being violated didn’t last long. However, that alone didn’t ease the other girl’s paranoia, and she could see Tempest’s eyes darting from side to side, scanning her surroundings for anything out of the ordinary.

“Nobody sent me,” Twilight insisted. “N-nobody even knows what happened the last time.”

Tempest fell silent for a moment, though whether by surprise or skepticism was anybody’s guess. After a few more moments of looking about, she appeared satisfied that there weren’t any cops lying in ambush for her. That didn’t mean she let down her guard completely, but there was little need to be wary of a timid schoolgirl.

“Then what the hell are you doing here?” Tempest leaned into her victim, almost flattening Twilight out completely against the truck. “Either you’re some kind of idiot or you’ve got a real death wish.”

The rational part of Twilight’s mind had to fight back a million years of evolution-driven fight-or-flight instincts in that moment. Part of her wanted to scream, another part wanted to run, and there was even a small part that thought dropping to the ground and playing dead might be a viable solution.

“Because I remember you,” Twilight blurted out before self-preservation instincts left her too paralyzed to speak.

The scar on Tempest’s face stretched and distorted as she cocked an eyebrow. “You’re going to start making sense before I lose my patience.”

“From Crystal Prep Academy—you were in the year ahead of me and you used to be on the girl’s softball team,” Twilight explained in a hasty ramble, lest the other girl lose her temper. “Y-you are Fizzlepop Berrytwist, right?”

Whatever satisfaction she might’ve felt from being right was snuffed out quickly when Tempest exploded in anger. In an instant, her hand was around Twilight’s throat, gripping with such unfettered rage that the younger girl’s face turned red as she flailed and struggled for breath.

“Don’t you ever say that name again!” Tempest snarled as her fingernails dug into flesh. “That girl is dead! My name is Tempest Shadow, got it?”

If she were expecting a proper answer, all she got were some gargles and whimpers, which at least prompted her to finally let go.

Twilight fell to her knees with a hand shielding her throat, coughing madly as she fought for every wheezing breath she could.

Oddly enough, the downward view seemed to jog Tempest’s memory. “The girl who kept looking at the ground,” she muttered to herself. Whatever thoughts of sympathy might’ve crossed her mind, they lasted no longer than the next few breaths. “This is no place for a bookworm like you! There’s people out here that’d gut you just for laughs. And for what? Curiosity? Some weird fixation?”

As she was still wrestling just to get enough air to think straight, all Twilight could offer as an answer at the moment was to hold up the paper bag she had been carrying with her.

That did little to satisfy Tempest, and she was just about to voice her displeasure when she caught scent of a faint aroma coming from the bag: something hot and savory. “What’s in the bag?”

“It’s… it’s some tortellini, and… and a few cannoli on the side,” Twilight’s weakened voice peeped up, still strained by the tightness in her throat. “W-when I remembered who you were, I was worried… because you said you had to steal just to eat…”

“Oh my god, that was just a figure of speech,” Tempest said with a throaty groan. She pinched the bridge of her nose and let out a lengthy sigh, followed by quiet murmurings about how it was fitting that she got saddled with the ‘idiot girl scouts’ of the world. “Did you really think you were going to change anything just by handing over a bag of leftovers?”

“Wh—no, I just—”

“Get lost, you little twerp, before I throw you into a dumpster!”

With that, Tempest hauled the other girl back to her feet and shoved her away, hoping that the girl would get the hint. Flustered and embarrassed, Twilight resigned herself to defeat and hurried to scamper away before things got worse. However, she didn’t make it more than a few meters away before she was called out to.

“Wait!”

Twilight froze on the spot like a cornered rodent. She didn’t even dare to turn around, not unless she was ordered to.

“Leave the cannoli.”

It wasn’t much, but Twilight took the request as a small victory and afforded herself a quick smile before leaving the food on the hood of a nearby car. She then hurried off, not wanting to push her luck with even a brief glance back.

Tempest snatched the paper bag and took a quick peek inside. “At least this won’t be a complete waste,” she muttered to herself. Sure enough, inside the bag was a couple of tupperware containers with everything that Twilight had described. The sight of the golden brown pastries wrapped around fingers of sweat cream gave her a moment of pause.

“Fizzy, dear, it’s time to come in! I made your favourite!”

“Nice! Raspberry cannoli! Thanks, mom.”