Equestrian City

by Malcontent

First published

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.

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.

Prologue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Ya can’t help’er now!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But I am diligent!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Why?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hi Twilight!”

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

“Hi...Twilight…”

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

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

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

End Episode

***

Episode 1 "Pilot"

View Online

Episode 1
“Pilot"
By DarkMalcontent
Co-Author Alisia
Professor of Writing Brawny Buck

***

Two men crept down the streets of South side Equestrian City, their profiles hidden from most eyes. Between broken street lamps and abandoned cars along the side street, the two had perfect cover as their target came into sight. “There we go. Yuki Laundry and Bank Loans.” The larger of the two men nudged his partner in crime.

“You're sure about this, Louie?” Swirly, a mocha colored and rather smaller of the two, asked shakily as he glanced around.

“What did I tell you, Swirly,” Louie barked back at him, giving him a swap to the back of the head. “No names,” he grumbled as he put his hat ski mask back on. “Even if it is a weird one.”

“Sorry-sorry!” Coffee Swirl, or Swirly as he'd grown up being called, answered back. Mimicking his partners preparation. “My parents came from outside this region. Your name is as messed up to me.” He finished as he yanked his mask down.

“Just follow my lead and we'll be done and out of here with a nice score.” Louie reached into his brown windbreaker and withdrew a modest sized pry bar. He tapped it once on his gloved hands as he peered around for witnesses. “Place ain't got no alarm either.” He chuckled while he sized up the deadbolt. “Wood paneling is pretty but brittle.”

“Yeah. Pretty but brittle.” His cohort mimicked. “Let's just uh, hurry up and get gone. I ain't wanting no trouble creeping up.”

“Who? ECPD won’t be here before we're gone.” The burly man grunted back as he leveraged his tool to the wood. “Just keep an eye out for any looky-loos.”

“I'm looking, I'm looking.” Swirly stammered back, his eyes darting to the rooftops and then back down to the alley, finally scanning the street. “Ain't no cops I'm worried about. It’s..” he paused. “You know...her.”

“Her?” Louie stopped, adjusting his mask and giving his partner a gruff stare. “Oh the Southside Guardian? The one who can't be hit?” he mocked back in a spooky tone. “Shadow Tramp.” He shook his head as he returned to try a different spot on the door.

“They say she can't be shot. Dodges right out of the way.” Swirly continued. “Bristle over on 3rd Avenue ran into her on a roof after he grabbed a wallet. He's still not eating solid food.”

“No crap?” Louie laughed. “Bristle didn't have any good teeth left and sniffed model glue. Probably tripped over his own two feet.” The wood splintered and the door swung open at last. “There we go. Come on. Let's get going, patrols come through in about ten minutes.”

The two thieves scurried into the dimly lit room and began a search of high and low. Pushing aside items of little value from the laundromat side, they found the door to the other side of the business. A silent glance was all they exchanged as the door creaked open, Louie pushing through first and stepping faintly.

Leaping over the counter top, he wiped sweat from his brow and straightened his mask. Scanning quickly and carefully along the underside of the desk, he pressed a button hidden underneath. A wooden panel behind him cracked open, revealing a sturdy looking safe. “Bingo. Payday in a box.” He smiled, pulling a piece of paper from his jacket and fumbling it open. “Get this open and it's our ticket to…” he muttered to himself as his partner turned to glance back into the hallway.

“Five to ten with good behavior,” a confident female voice smoothly hit their ears from a dark corner.

The two thugs turned to the voice and Louie pulled a pistol from his jacket, cocking the hammer and pointing into the darkness the voice came from.

“I…” Swirl clutched his own crowbar while he looked towards the vague shape in the shadows. “I think it’s her Louie,” he shakily whispered as his voice cracked.

“No witnesses.” Louie said just as he fired a round. A frown appeared under his mask as he heard the wall crumble from the shot, having struck nothing vital.

“Ha! You aim like a blind man,” she taunted which drew a growl from Louie. “Tell ya what,” they both looked around as they tried to pinpoint her origin. “Give up now and you and your boyfriend will still be able to eat solid food, promise.”

Swirl’s cheeks flushed as for a split moment he stumbled on his words. “Louie and I aint-!”

“Shut up Swirly,” Louie snapped roughly before he took quick aim and fired. This time the sound of pierced metal rang out as a dryer in the next room had been struck.

“Hey! You said no names!”

“Shut up,” Louie sharply interrupted with a heated snarl. “Listen,” he ordered and looked around while he listened. The female began to giggle before making a dash to another part of the room. As Louie heard this he opened fire in that direction. The two bullets made a low muffled sound which brought him to grin. “Got’er!” he reached around into his jacket and withdrew a sticklight. He turned it on and shot its beam where he’d fired. His smile began to fall as he saw the smoldering upholstery.

Snickering and then laughter came from behind the duo. “Congratulations! You’ve killed a sofa.” She pulled out an item and the sound of metal against metal rang out before a couple items clattered to the ground. Both thugs held their hands while they hissed in pain. She stepped back and hit the ground with her metal

A quick flip of a switch and the room lit up. Both men recoiled and winced as they shielded their eyes. The woman stood unaffected by the sudden brightness and simply stood at the ready. Swirl rubbed his eyes and was the first to get his vision cleared enough while he squinted to view the female. His eyes widened in shock as he stumbled in his attempts to scoot back. “It’s-it’s the,” he shook his head to try to clear it. “She’s,” he gulped to wet his tightening throat. “It’s her!” he finally managed to squeak out.

Louie’s frown drew deeper into a snarl as his vision cleared. “Shadow Strike.”

The woman stood confidently hearing her name with a perfect grin. Her rainbow hair, which was held back by an elastic tie, contrasted with her blue toned skin and with her one piece suit. Black and deep purple composed her attire along with a couple lightning bolts on the athletic material. “Now are ya,” she adjusted her opaque yellow colored goggles. “Going to come peacefully or…” she spun her staff before giving the floor a firm whack as a warning. “Are we doing this the fun way?”

Shadow slid her staff along the ground and saw through her sonar the broad man pull an item from near one of his pockets. “Guess I shouldn’t even have to ask,” she commented as Swirl managed to get to his feet while he drew his knife uneasily. She stood still and observed with her gift while Louie moved one way and Swirl the other. This almost feels bad having such an advantage… she thought as Louie was the first to lunge at her with his blade. Heh, almost.

Shadow swiftly sidestepped the strike and simultaneously smacked the knife out of Louie’s hand. He recoiled while cursing and holding close his throbbing appendage. “You okay Louie,” Swirl asked only to receive a glare. “This is why I tried to tell you but nooo, don’t listen to Coffee.”

“Would you just get’er,” Louie barked with a swing of his injured hand. He hissed and held it close while he took a step then another away from Shadow. He didn’t get back far before Shadow swung her staff into his side then jabbed it into his gut. Swirl was already charging with his knife as Louie fell to the ground, appearing winded.

As this happened, Swirl charged with both anger and fear reflected in his eyes. Shadow turned and twisted out of the way while simultaneously she brought her staff down hard into Swirl’s back. He gave a yelp then a grunt as he struck the ground face first. His blade clattered and scrapped as it slid across the floor. “Sadly, falling for me isn’t going to get your boyfriend to pay attention,” Shadow snarked before she turned her attention to the leader that had gone on the move.

She moved forwards and smacked the knife dropped by Louie with her staff so it was sent into the air. She turned and swung, managing to strike the knife by its hilt. The blade flew through a glass window, setting off a second silent alarm while she ran after Louie. “Leaving so soon? I haven’t seen you two kiss and make up,” Shadow taunted as she bent her arm and slammed it into the back of Louie’s neck before he could get his gun. He hit the floor with a thud, laying motionless. Shadow pushed on his head with her foot to see he was out with her sonar.

She caught the rustling of fabric and took notice of the second man starting to get to his feet. They just don’t know when to quit, Shadow thought and began to follow Swirl who took up his knife. Quickly he threw it behind him at her and made a break for the door. “Where ya going?” she followed but backed off the moment she felt a sting to her face. Her hand whipped up and snagged it.

Shadow frowned and turned as she knocked her staff into a washer. After getting a layout, she suddenly smiled as she swiftly made her way to a table. The vigilante snatched a weighted item and began to calmly follow after Swirl. The tall man stumbled once over his feet in his dash for the exit. She tossed the object up and down to cause a small clink sound before she threw the roll of quarters.

Swirl neared the open door, his eyes wide with hope then dread as the sound of police sirens approached. A sharp pain struck the back of his head as he reached the doorway. The last thing he saw was two cop cars pulling up before collapsing outside the business.

Armed officers, at least four, quickly exited their squad cars with guns drawn. “Freeze! E.C.P.D.,” one officer shouted forcefully while their weapons were aimed on the knocked out man. Shadow Strike stepped over Swirl which caused the cops to turn their guns onto her.

“Ya got another inside who’s out cold too. Make sure to put’em together, ‘kay?”

“What,” a second cop questioned as his face twisted in confusion. “Repeat that,” he ordered but after he blinked once, he found himself searching the area. “Where’d she go?”

“Ugh, stupid vigilanties,” a third officer commented with a moan. “Com’on, let’s book’em.” The second cop nodded and the four approached the duo that was coming around.

From above on top of a building, Shadow Strike watched through her sonar to see the pair be cuffed and taken into the squad cars. She spun her staff while it retracted and put it away onto her belt. She turned and walked away from the ledge while she took note of the windows being opened by the curious residents. Another one bites the dust, she quietly chuckled as she paused at the other end of the roof. Or so they say.

She stretched and sighed while she brought her arms down. Guess it’s time to call it a night, she thought and readied herself to leap off the building. Shadow paused in the strong gust of wind. A noise had caught her heightened hearing. She stayed still before she recognized it as wood cracking. “Or just one more won’t hurt,” she quietly commented with an excited smile as she sent out her sonar. She made her way two blocks over to a payday loan establishment.

***
.
Across the peppered landscape of Central Equestrian City, loud sirens in pursuit disturbed the evening peace. Roaring down the quiet street was an armored truck, groaning in protest in the sharp right turn. Closing in and screaming behind it were a pair of police sirens, their tires crying out in complaint. The driver of the armored truck touched an earpiece. “Cops are gaining,” he quickly stated while he attempted to maintain some calm to his voice. A gunshot fired which caused the driver to jump. “What are we gonna do to lose’em?” his tone cracked in the rushed question.

Horns honked as vehicles screeched to a halt when they zoomed through a red light. “Trixie does not know.” She replied quietly. “Why don’t you tell me,” Trixie ordered while she closed her eyes, rubbed her temples and exhaled an annoyed breath.

“I don’t know!” he exclaimed while they passed through another red light.

“Idiot…” Trixie muttered and pulled out a portable GPS. “Turn right and left after two lights.”

“Got it boss.”

The azure skinned woman sighed and shook her head. It didn’t take long before she yelped in surprise as she was tossed to the side during a sharp turn. “Note to Trixie, hire better help,” she grumbled under her breath with her jaw tight. Looking down she quietly uttered a few curse words. “Get self wider GPS.”

“We’re a few miles from the docks. What do you want me to do? Trucks don’t do well on-”

“Silence!” she shouted. “Just drive to the drop off point and let Trixie do her job.” Trixie released the talk button and moved to the back doors, staying crouched. “You know what they always say…” she undid her bag and pulled out a pill-like device, pushing a button on the side. “If you want something done right,” her other hand pushed a button, opening a decent sized slot on the door. “Use someone else's tech.”

The officer of the first cruiser gasped and swerved as an oblong object came flying at speed towards him. Upon striking the corner of his windshield, it exploded in a flash of blinding light. “My eyes!” the skinny officer cried with wild turns left and right of the wheel while he tried to re-obtain his sight. Control was not regained and crates flew, scattering across the street leading to the docks.

“Snails!” the second officer shouted, hitting the breaks and swerving as crates were thrown up to bounce off the hood of his car. Briefly stopping to regain himself, the heavier and shorter man sped after the truck. “EC 27 down! EC 29 still pursuing! Requesting backup,” he called in over the radio.

“Backup in route, EC 29. ETA twenty minutes. Maintain visual.” The male officier’s voice firmly replied.

“I don’t think I have that long, dispatch.”

“Why?” the dispatcher questioned. Snips didn’t answer, making a hard turn down a street he nearly missed with the docks growing ever closer. “Officer Snips, come in. Why do you not have time?”

The turn ended and he jerked to the right and left, trying to avoid the fishing barrels. “Because this one’s got tricks up her sleeves!” he saw an item fly out of the truck and quickly closed his eyes, shielding them as well with one arm. It exploded in a ray of light. When the glare faded away, his arm lowered and eyes opened to realize his foot had slammed on the break. “Dang it!” he picked up the CB. “EC 27 down in route to Horseshoe Bay. EC 29 pursuit resumed.”

On the stone street of the docking area, the window of the door opened and out flew three balls. Just as Snips rose his arm to shield his eyes, they exploded in an array of light before his vision was fully obscured. He rubbed his eyes to clear them. His foot left the gas to hit the break with his vision fuzzy, but it landed in the middle, pushing more on the gas. Snips corrected this when his car began to tip and hit the break, causing it to roll and come to a screeching halt by a fish processing building.

“EC 29 report status. EC 29 report.” Snips moaned and forced his eyes open enough to see double vision of the CB radio. Reaching a hand out, he winced and passed out in his seatbelt with shattered glass scattered around. He tried to reach again, his fingers brushing against the microphone and resulting in it clattering to the ceiling. Snips finally lost consciousness with a dripping echoing quietly in the air from the front of the messed up car.

Inside the stopped truck, Trixie stepped back and sat before she pulled out a handheld radio. “How far?” she tapped the side of the device with a finger before pressing the button again. “Trixie is talking to you.”

“We’re already in position for the transfer. Be sure you are alone,” a woman smoothly replied through static. “Remember-”

“Trixie knows how to keep them distracted,” she hushly snapped. “You just be ready.” Flipping the switch off, she adjusted her thick, form fitting, brown and azure blue leather coat. She checked her stash in her satchel. Gotta restock after this. Trixie zipped it up, pulled out a pair of thick leather gloves from her coat and slipped them on. She touched the earpiece. “Why aren’t we moving?” the azure woman asked while she adjusted her gloves and sat back.

“Sorry was checking her for damage.”

“Get driving like you’re supposed to or Trixie will be late.” She huffed. “Trixie will have more than simple tricks but for now…” her head tilted back. “Trixie will make due with homemade items.”

***

Meanwhile during the chase, Pinkie returned to her van. She put an arm full of supplies into the back and closed the decorated doors with the colorful words ‘Pinkie’s Positively Perfect Parties and Promotions’ across them. “Whew!” she wiped her brow and stretched her arms above her head. “Another job done, another customer satisfied.” Pinkie praised herself chipperly, put her arms down and walked around to the drivers door. “Good thing too cuz I’m bushed. Huh?”

“All available units, route to Horseshoe Bay docks.” Pinkie stuck her puffy bubblegum pink haired head inside the downed window. “Pursuit in progress. Officers not responding. I repeat-” The man called across the radio until a ‘click’ cut him off.

A lazy smile grew on her face while she pulled her head out. “Oh well,” she shrugged and casually stepped back to the side door. Pinkie put her hand on the handle. “All in a day’s work for a superhero!” she squealed, threw open the door, dashed in and slid it shut. This didn’t last long before it opened and shut swiftly behind a form fitting, friction resistant, elastic one piece, light gray suited Pinkie. She proceeded to stretch standing then crouched down, extending her legs out to either side at opposite times. “Nothing like a good stretch to wake up the muscles!”

Pinkie began to bounce then run in place. This caused her textured, flat, thick based footwear that reached to hug snugly around her calves to blur. Lastly Pinkie shook her head with ease, despite the suit coming up around her head and side of her face. Oddly enough her poofy mess of pink stayed outside the material unhindered. “Docks here I come!” she declared determined while she adjusted with matching gloves, her yellow framed goggles which had a very pale yellow tinted lense.

She took off with a burst of wind, leaving behind a very brief yellow image with eight lightning bolts spread out on the suit. Accompanying this was a long pink trail with white zigzags splitting it down the middle. “There’s no need to fear! SplitSecond is here!”

Moments later she zipped back to her van on the quiet street, pulled out a key fob and pressed a button. “Oopsie, nearly forgot to lock up.” The van chirped, she flashed a grin to the empty street. “See you guys there!” SplitSecond called and was gone in a flash, astoundingly her bouncy hair didn’t slow her down nor was it affected by the air’s friction. “Yeah, cauz otherwise that would be a drag.” She snickered.

On her way to the docks, the world had slowed even though her speed hadn’t. The activity of others increased the closer she grew to the scene of the accidents. Their gasps sang in SplitSecond’s ears as she also took in their expressions at viewing nothing but a blur of wind. Her eyes soon snapped to crashed patrol car, ran up and opened the door, all in less than a blink of an eye. SplitSecond shook her head and unbuckled Officer Snails. “Oh man, you’re lucky your belt didn’t break.”

“Huh?” he croaked in confusion while he was lifted out of the car and sat on a nearby bench. Snails blinked a few times with the world wobbling and split in threes.

“Just stay put and rest up,” SplitSecond politely ordered while she patted his head. His vision began to focus to see the slim gray and pink woman. “Leave the fast chases to the speedsters and you stay with the slower ones, alright?” in a blink she was gone. A few bystanders came up to check on Snails, applying pressure to his head while others kept a watch for help.

Closer on the dock, smoke and small flames caught SplitSecond’s attention from the overturned cop car. “Oh what would they ever do without me?” she pondered aloud to herself. Coming to the door, she began to push and pull on the stuck piece of metal. “Aw it’s so nice your melting for me but I got some others already.” The warping metal finally broke loose with melted hinges and warped handle, being tossed back a distance to splash into the bay. She coughed with smoke pouring out and repeated the quick movement on the belt holding in Snips.

Just as it snapped, a crackling picked up with a popping sound from the engine. “Uh oh!” she pulled Snips out, turned and ran. Barely a moment later the vehicle exploded into a fireball, throwing the pair forwards. Twisting around, SplitSecond took the brunt of the fall and slide. Instantly she was up and setting him down against the wall of the opposite building from the car. “Whew, that was too close.” SplitSecond looked at the damaged fishers building. “Well now he can sell the fish as pre-cooked.”

“Nghn...my head…” Snips groaned with sirens nearing.

“Huh?” carefully she picked him up and set him down under a streetlamp. “Just relax. You’ll be all set soon enough.” SplitSecond adjusted his uniform a bit and stood again. “Now I need to split but your comrades will be here in a second. Gotta catch some bad guys, bye!” and she was gone again without a trace besides the pink trail.

“Ah ha!” SplitSecond exclaimed after a minute, spinning on a light pole. “Oh no you don’t! You can’t escape the fastest feet of the law!”

***

Trixie inside the truck held a hand sized red gemstone in her gloved hand. “Wonder what’s so special about this rock?” it shimmered, reflecting in her widening pupils eyes. “Maybe...Trixie...could...kee-eek!” Suddenly the headset she wore startling her as the driver paged her again, startling her into nearly dropping the apple sized stone. “What is it you disturb Trixie with?!” she hissed into the mic.

“Almost at the spot.” The man said through the headset after banging the wall dividing them.

She huffed 1and slipped the gem back into a special pocket in her satchel. “Good. Remember your job as the great and powerful no longer require your assistance.” Trixie made her way to the doors and pulled a wrapped, clay rectangle out from the dark left corner. “Trixie is ready.” She shifted, undid the plastic and stuck the clay to the ceiling. She pressed a button and a beep came from her pocket.

“Just remember what I said,” the seductive voice reminded with a small chuckle.

Trixie jumped, pulled it out and turned it off before it was left on the truck’s floor. “Bossy woman,” she grumbled and tightened her coat with its straps around her. As a last touch she threw on an old, tattered wizards hat. One, two, three! In one move the magicless magician threw open the doors, jumped out and rolled across the ground before she came to a rough stop with a crash into crates and mattresses.

Inside the cab he locked the steering wheel, set the accelerator and jumped out of the speeding up vehicle. He rolled to a stop at the edge of one of the docks and stood, brushing himself off. Heh, soon that’s going to make one heck of a blast in the next couple so hundred feet. The man scanned the area and began to run away from the truck. That crazy chick can defend herself. I’m outta here. Upon seeing a closing in blur he ran between buildings and jumped for the water.

“There’s no swimming here silly.” His body was yanked back and he found himself tied, sitting on the ground by some lobster crates. “Now you just hang out here and wait for the nice police men, okay? Bye!” SplitSecond ruffled his hair with both hands and ran after the vehicle, leaving him with a nice hair bow atop his head.

“Never fear! SplitSecond is-huh?!” the heroine announced after ripping open the driver door. She jumped back and checked the backdoors, being greeted by frantic beeping and a flashing red light. “Shoot!” SplitSecond hurried the truck out before being blasted back as it exploded, fiering water up like a huge fountain. The speedster landed in a pile of empty fishing crates, stood and received a free shower. “Brrr!” she shook her head and huffed. “I was going to shower tonight. You could of waited ‘til I was ready,” she huffed and wrung her hair dry. “But now to find that lawbreaker.” Like that she was off again but heading back up the way she had came.

Trixie had worked her way out of the mess and dusted herself off. “How dare these fish people not keep things tidy for Trixie.” She huffed and looked around to get her bearings. Her focus halted and her body responded as if by instinct. One hand opened and drove into the satchel as the other pulled up the fabric of her collar to cover the lower part of her face. Just as SplitSecond grew closer, Trixie threw the three balls down in a line and ran off through the colored, sparkling smokescreen.

“You won’t get away from-hey!” SplitSecond zoomed right into it and started coughing. “Whoa!” she shrieked when she exited the wide spread clouds, landing hard into wooden crates. “Owww…” looking around and standing swiftly, she flailed her arms. “What’s with all these crates?! Doesn’t anyone store anything anymore?!” the heroine looked down and shivered as the cuts to her skin mended up. “Gotta love super speed.” She praised herself and was off again.

The non-magical woman laughed behind her mask, looking behind her. “Serves her right for thinking she could one up the great and powerful-aah!” Trixie tripped over her own feet, stumbled over a barrel and fell backwards into a few large pallets and a few old mattresses. “Ooowww…” she moaned, coughed and grunted as two of the three dirty beddings fell on top of her.

The superhero stopped, looked around and sped off to continue her search for the no gooder. Moments later the pile moved and Trixie gasped, shoving herself free with a stumble upon getting her stuck foot free. “Who leaves so many mattresses out? No matter.” She turned her focus to her surroundings and walked briskly over to the back of a warehouse with a single security light above the door. Trixie retrieved the key from between the barrels, threw it away into a trashcan several feet away and stepped inside.

The room was dimly lit by a single hanging light above a lone desk and tall backed chair, which was turned around to hide the humming occupant. “Trixie is late…” the seductive woman commented with an annoyed voice, and soon resumed her alluring tune.

“Trixie got held up.”

The woman quietly laughed. “I swore that’s what you were hired to do, not the other way around.” Trixie stopped in front of the desk, folded her arms and huffed. “Now…” she held out a faintly light purple toned arm, her palm up. “Do you have the item?”

The azure woman straightened her back and placed a hand on her chest. “Trixie has her end. Do you have what Trixie wants?”

Silence filled the air thickly, broken up only by the occasional notes from the song. “Of course…” she turned and stood from the comfortable chair. “Present your end and I shall present mine.” While she slowly stepped over to a table, swaying her hips in the process, Trixie got into her satchel and produced the sparkling red gemstone. The single ponytailed, humming woman glanced back while she lifted a closed wooden box. “Good and you managed to keep it undamaged. Bravo,” the woman cooed with a pur deep in her throat with the last bit of praise.

“Yes, yes, now where’s mine?”

“You had requested the legendary bracelets of Swirlena the Powerful. That is what you desired to hold?” the woman made her way to the desk, stood in front of the chair and rested her hands on the box between them. Trixie nodded as the woman resumed humming the strange tune and she opened the box. Shining inside was a pair of golden stared bracelets.

Trixie gasped, her eyes widened. “They’re real…” the woman nodded and removed her hands from the smooth wood. “You’ve delivered to Trixie well.” She tossed the gemstone up, her eyes unmoving from her reward.

The humming woman caught the stone. “Thank you.” She stashed the prize away in a bag attached to her belt. “Our business it concluded.” Steadily she walked away, lifting a hand with her back towards the small time criminal. “Enjoy your just deserts…Trixie.” Her voice trailed off along with her heeled footsteps.

“You have Trixie’s...huh?” she looked up to see she was alone. Blinking a couple times and shaking her head, her focus returned to the box. “Oh well. Trixie has gotten what she… What?! This can’t be!” picking up one of the golden bracelets, it was no longer golden. It was a crude accessory made from starfish legs wrapped in cheap twine. “Trixie’s been had! No one crosses Trixie!”

“Ah hah! There you are!”

The magicless woman turned with a gasp. “SplitSecond?! But how did you find me?”

“That’s me and I knew you wouldn’t had gone far. You’re really not very good at magic.” SplitSecond took a few steps closer. “Are we doing this the easy way or the hard way?”

She frowned and reached into her satchel. “Trixie is anything but easy.” With the last word, she threw down a smoke bomb and broke for the nearest exit, an opened window.

SplitSecond shook her head. “Trixie, Trixie, same old Trixie. Don’t you know that doesn’t work?” she ran circles around the smoke, dispersing it into the air. “We both know you have no idea how…” the pink heroine gasped, grabbing her hair. “She’s gone?!” her shock barely lasted a minute before the clattering of trash cans caught her attention. It’s both good and sad she’s never mastered that trick, she thought with a mental sigh. With a shrug the heroine was out the door.

“Ouch. They could at least put soft stuff out here. I mean, everywhere else had something soft,” Trixie complained while she forced herself up and dusted herself off. “Ruining my flawless exit like that.” The meow of a cat caused Trixie to jump, step back, turn and run. Searching her satchel, she pulled out a silver ball and slid to a stop upon footsteps reaching her ears. Turning around, she went to run the other way but stumbled back after her head collided with a blunt object. “Ow! Hey! Ugh…” the ball fell, followed by Trixie whom fell face first into the dirt with the ball exploding into a shower of glitter.

SplitSecond rubbed her right elbow while licking that hand clean. “Mmmm…” she mused and reached up, pulling another slice of plated cake off her head. “Gotta love that Tasty Swirl’s bakery. Always so fresh and made with love!” the slice was devoured in a gulp and the paper plate was tossed into a recycling bin. “Now to get you dressed up. Your date’s coming to pick you up. But what should you wear?” SplitSecond scanned the area, left, returned and had the criminal tied up with a bow using a garden hose.

Shortly after tossing Trixie back in through the window, and entering herself, police cars arrived and the officers entered the warehouse with guns drawn. “Freeze! ECPD!” a gray toned male officer shouted, scanning the area quickly through orange tresses that had fallen into his eyes. His guns laser pointer soon came to rest on the chest of the gray clad speedster, along with his fellow law enforcers.

Her chipper expression slightly fell as her poofy hair began to slightly deflate. “Do you mind?”

“...SplitSecond?” the lead officer questioned while he slowly lowered his firearm.

“Yup,” she answered with a small nod. “Now…” her tone lowered as well as her hair. “Please stop aiming at my chest.” Quickly he waved his hand and the other officers lowered their firearms. “Thanks!” her hair poofed up and her chipper tone returned with a smile. “By the way, got’cha one diamond thief all ready to go.”

He blinked a little stunned. “Uh...thanks. By the way...would yo-”

“I also left you two men safe and sound out of harm’s way. You should have found them on your way here. I think Trixie took’em out with her smoke.”

The orange haired officer nodded. “Thank you again and yes, we did recover them and sent them off to get medical attention.” He approached while two others focused on Trixie. “Don’t suppose you’d mind coming in to make a statement, would you?” he inquired with an offered hand.

She shook her head, adjusted her goggles and dusted the ‘S’ on her chest off. “Pff, nah. You’ve got enough already, what with the other evidence and all.” SplitSecond patted his head. “Thanks though Officer Nightwatch. Always a pleasure to get an offer. Take care!” in a flash she took off, her gust of wind nearly knocking over several of the cops.

Nightwatch heaved and scratched the back of his head. “Didn’t think so.” He adjusted his hat and watched the pair lift the unconscious thief up. “Well let’s get the great and powerful to the station and in a cell.”

“Wonder how a small time crook like her was even able to pull that off.” The first officer to Trixie’s right pondered.

The second to her left shrugged as they got to the car. “Does it matter? I mean, afterall…”

“Those like her are the least of our worries,” Nightwatch finished for him.

A female officer watched by one of the squad cars. “At least our troubles are over now.” She reached inside and picked up the mic. “Criminal apprehended. Returning to station for booking.”

***

A pair of heavy doors to a secluded mansion opened outside of Equestrian City. Heeled footsteps clicked and echoed from the marble floor and off the decorated walls. Momentarily they were drowned out by another set of doors being opened and closed. The single ponytailed woman crossed the foyer with her hair swinging in time with her alluring hips. “Way too easy,” she mused while running her slender fingers through her long purple hair with a pair of blue streaks. She pushed another pair of double doors open and scanned the living room with her purple eyes.

The noise from her dark, thigh high boots became muffled on a decorative rug. The silence had been broken by the familiar hum of multiple computers. It was strange how the firelight and artificial blue light mixed well on the walls and ceiling. “Welcome back, my dear.” She adjusted her snugly fitted, dark purple crop top.

“Thank you, darling.” She replied to the back of the tall obsidian chair while she neared and stepped towards its side. “Been home long?”

The man eyed over a map printed on a chessboard where custom made figures were placed. He leaned forward and hovered a leather gloved hand over a blue piece with a wizard’s hat. “How did go with our little magician?”

She rolled her eyes and smoothed her short, black skirt. “She got what she deserved.” Aria sat on the arm of the chair, looking down at his black haired head before shifting her gaze to the board. “But…” she reached to her hip and detached the bag. “She did deliver as promised.”

He placed the piece on another location before leaning back with the firelight gleaming off his spectacles. His leather gloved hand took and opened the bag. Peering inside he smiled. “Magnificent...simply magnificent…” the man whispered and a quiet chuckle came from his throat. Closing the bag, the black haired man eyed over her scarred forearms which were divided up by three black leather bands on both arms. “It seems you also delivered your part perfectly.”

Aria rose from the chair and crossed her arms, obscuring the marks with her hands. “I do aim to please,” she growled with her eyes downcasted, glancing up to glare at him.

“That you do. That you do…” he playfully chuckled, relaxed back and eyed the sparkling red stone imbedded into her chest, held in place by pulsing fleshy tendrils. “At least for the most part you don’t disappoint.”

When he turned his attention to the board, she took a breath, exhaled and pushed her ponytail back with a hand. “Was that all you needed her for?” the siren inquired while she sat by him and ran a finger in circles on his chest.

“Not quite.” He smirked as his gaze narrowed on the board and his covered fingertips strummed together. “She should be motivated enough now for the next stage of her use.” His head tilted towards her almost lazily. “What of our speedy little friend’s status?”

“As you anticipated, she took Trixie down with relative ease and thanks to my song, Trixie nor anyone else who I spoke to has any memory of who they had dealings with.”

He brushed her hand off, pulled out the gem and began admiring it. “And what of the item I sent my faithful and reliable poodle to fetch?”

The siren rolled her eyes, shifted and pulled the circular compact off from around her neck. “Dunno what you want with it,” she dryly stated and held it out. He put away the gem and took the device.

“Perfect. Just as it was.” Softly he commented while he examined it.

“So what’s that for? Do you happen to have a gift for a certain siren?”

Quietly the black haired man chuckled. “You’ll see soon enough. Although your little mind would think, it is wrong as this is no simple bauble.” He leaned forward, retrieved a silk chainpurse and tossed it to her. “There’s your prize.”

Aria caught it and opened the metal clasp. “You better not’ve skipped out on me.” Looking inside her expression fell into disappointment and she returned her focus on him. “I think I would have preferred the piece Trixie gave me for all my trouble.” She snapped the purse shut. “What’s this for anyways?” the siren inquired while she gently shook the chainpurse.

“Trust me when I say that...despite as talented of a mouth you have...your little gifts purpose will be revealed, should I see the need.” He smiled, took her hand and kissed it with a devil's smile. Aria frowned and he leaned forward, took up a piece and set it down by a rivers western bank. “The item you so swiftly found, once belonged to a brilliant researcher from another dimension. Sadly their curiosity got the better of them and they…” he heaved and shook his head sadly, bringing Aria to roll her eyes. “Caused their own destruction.”

“Care to elaborate beyond that?” she flatly questioned with one hand motioning out, palm up as if asking for more.

“Of course I can,” the black haired man cooed to her and grinned. He removed the gem and set it next to the figurine. “I need the proper help attuning this key device for our dimension. Then, and only then, we can move onto phase two.” He opened the compact, releasing a magical glow briefly before latching it shut again.

She grumbled, slid off the chair to stand with her back against it and folded her arms. “No answer and nothing better for the last of her kind, typical.”

“Are we displeased?”

“I suppose your plan makes sense, honey.” Aria turned around and ruffled up his short dark hair with a half smirk.

He cleared his throat and fixed his hair. “If it didn’t make sense then it wouldn’t be fun nor useful.”

“It’s all coming together, isn’t it?” she inquired while she turned towards the chessboard, taking a tiny step back.

The man nodded with a glance to his right and drew her in with his arm around her bare middle. “Soon enough this world will be what I want but…” his eyes narrowed on the good sized table map. “We need to get in contact with dear Emperor Sombra.”

“What of poor Equestrian City’s fate?” she pouted with a smirk as she leaned into his chair.

“Heh…” his eyes closed. “Let’s just say…” they opened, glowing a bright purple. “Equestrian City’s problems are just beginning.”

End of Episode

***

Episode 2 - "Old Wounds, New Problems"

View Online

A pair of ankle boots clicked down the tiled floor of the Dermatology Research and development wing of Rare Innovations. The slender female with a dark blue hue attached to them walked with a steady yet determined pace. Rounding a corner her pace quickened as her grip on a letter in her hand tightened, creasing the paper. By the time she reached the end of the hall and threw open the glass doors, her anger was apparent to even the most casual observer.

Sassy Saddles turned a sharp left as she let the doors slam behind her, leaving her in a round atrium. She stormed up a set of stairs and didn't even excuse herself as she pushed past a couple workers and supervisors in casual business dress, her vision locked on her target: Pommel’s office.

The next step below Rarity herself on the corporate ladder, Coco Pommel was deep into a batch of paperwork when the frosted glass doors of her office flew open. Sassy hurriedly walked past her secretary and into the main office.

Looking up abruptly, the young looking executive adjusted her pair of glasses before letting them hang by her neck, focusing her eyes on Sassy. “Can I help you, Sassy?” she said, crossing her arms and leaning back in her chair. Sassy slammed the letter on the desk.

“Yes, Miss Pommel, you can. You can start by telling me why my department’s budget is cut by thirty percent while the Botanical department gets a forty-five percent increase!” she said in a huff to Pommel “You've crippled my research, the new line of products I'm working on will be a game changer in the hair care industry!”

“Your research shows little progress based on the reports your staff are turning in. I don't think at this time focusing on a revamp of an old product can benefit the company as a whole” she said.”You may continue your--” Pommel continued looking up at Sassy, a stern look attached to her face, only to be interrupted.

“So that's it? All the time and all effort I put into this new line, the new formulas, all the hours after I've stayed, all the sacrifices I've made mean nothing to you, do they?” Sassy asked, as she slammed her palm on the letter.

“You may continue with what we can spare for your venture. Be glad we didn't simply axe your whole team.” Pommel snapped back. “ You've cost us more then you've made us and several people are starting to--” Pommel continued, trying to remain the calm one in the discussion.

“I want to speak with Rarity!” Sassy finally demanded, Pounding a fist on the desk. “Rarity would never cut my funding! Rarity would believe in me!”

“Rarity is out of the office today. I'll mention of it to Spoon, but to be honest this decision came from both her and Rarity. “ Pommel declared, moving her glasses back to her face and returning her focus to Sassy again. “You've simply got to accept the fact that despite what past between you and Rarity exists, we are still a business. A business that does a lot of things, including your line, Sassy.”

Sassy fumed a few seconds while staring down at the desk and focusing on the letter. She'd met Rarity fairly early in her career, having latched onto her as Rarity began to expand her operations from a simple shop to several boutiques in the city. There had been some turbulence between the two when both felt threatened by the other, but she'd believed it was all in the past.

Pommel was another story.

Pommel had met Rarity even earlier and was well aware of the underhanded tactics Sassy had employed that almost ruined Rarity. She didn't plan on letting Sassy get Rarity into that position again as long as she was able. As the task master of Rarity and Silver Spoon, she was in the perfect position to keep Sassy from ever attaining the ability to hurt Rarity again.

“This isn't over. I want to talk to Rarity when she gets in. Immediately” Sassy said without any hint of civility.

Pommel scratched a few lines on a notepad next to her and looked back up to Sassy. “I will of course, pass on your request. Keep in mind Miss Rarity is a very busy person with many many important matters to oversee” Pommel said, capping her pen and setting it down. “Is that all?”

“I guess it is, isn't it?” Sassy answered, snorting in disgust. “A little kindness goes a long way you know, Pommel.” she said turning and walking off.

“You should have learned that lesson before you tried to push Rarity and I out. Maybe it'd be you instead of Spoons.” Pommel said without missing a beat and resuming her work. She smiled as Sassy’s footsteps stopped a brief moment before continuing walking.

Barging past the cock-eyed secretary, Sassy growled to herself and pushed open the doors of the office. She made her way back downstairs, ideas running through her mind. It had become clear to her she'd never get anywhere here, not with Pommel around to keep her down. Though, she was the biggest company in town.

She stopped a moment and leaned on a rail over the balcony overlooking the middle of the atrium. The sounds of the gentle splashing of water filled her ears as the fountain below trickled. She slowly smiled to herself and resumed walking.

“But not the only one in town.” she thought to herself, quickening her pace before heading back down to her department.

***

Twilight adjusted the gauntlet at the elbow, using a small socket wrench, she tightened the entire piece so it didn't slide off. Flexing her fingers she felt the tiny servo motors assist as each digit was tested. Still in awe after all her time here about the use of fingers, Twilight missed the simple life of using magic to grab things, but she had of course adapted. Much like wearing clothes, Twilight had integrated herself into society and used her exceptional mind to graduate from several programs for the gifted.

Grasping onto science as quickly as she had magic in her world, she quickly came to the notice of several universities, all of which she'd considered, but finally chose one and within three years she'd surpassed the criteria for a PhD in several fields.

Twilight reached over to a small table and gripped a soda can in her gloved hand, testing the sensitivity switches she was startled when the can was crushed in an instant. She let it fall to the table and opened a small panel on the forearm, going at the insides with a tiny tool.

“Good thing you didn't try to crack your knuckles.” S.P.I.K.E said, a small chuckle following, a nearby monitor displayed his face, the dragon she remembered, although digitized.

“Safety first, Spike” She smiled, not turning away from her work. “Did you read what I told you to?” she asked setting down and exchanging tiny tools.

“I did but I'm only up to the founding of Equestrian City as a small town several centuries ago. I want to learn more but every time I try to move faster I end up getting slower.” Spike answered a sad expression on his electronic face.

“I think a lot of that is due to hardware limitations, Spike. I don't have a lot of resources devoted to you now because of the projects I'm running.” Twilight said as she pulled open a section of the armor from the gauntlet and soldered a few areas carefully. “Once I get the Propulsion formulas compiled I should be able to give you more processing power.” A small tendrils of smoke rose from the board she was working on.

“The ECPD should be happy with what you're working on. It'll be a major upgrade to their, well, flimsy armor they have now. “ Spike transferred himself to a closer monitor and continued. “You adding the ability to lift a car over their head is just icing on the cake.”

“Mmhmm.” Twilight absently acknowledged her new electronic assistant as she closed the area she was working on.

“Hey, how did I know you were doing that…” Spike seemed puzzled “or what a car is?”

Twilight giggled and flexed her fingers in the armor again. “I loaded you with basic understanding of this world when I compiled you, Spike.”

“Oh.” he gave a sheepish look to the ceiling.

“You should feel lucky, it took me a long time to understand this world and it's technology.” She continued. “ It seems that this world embraced technology and science above magic, and turned into a completely different civilization.”

“So no Princesses?” Spike asked searching his limited databases as he asked. “Oh wait there are.”

“Not in the sense we know them. It's complicated. “ She answered with a smile as she picked up another soda can and set it down, barely denting it this time. Proud of her accomplishment she deactivated the glove and stood up to stretch, her back arching as she did and a minor crack heard. She opened her eyes in alarm but not really pain. “Geez I need a break..” she picked up a small computer tablet and put her shoes back on. “Come on, Spike let's go see if Rarity is feeling better.”

“Oh boy!” his little eyes turned into hearts. “For some reason I get a warm and fuzzy feeling when we talk about her.

“I just bet you do, Spike” She giggled.

***

Trixie Lulamoon gave a small huff of discontent as the door to her cell slammed shut behind her. The facilities orange jumpsuit made her skin itch as she looked around at her new home.

A single occupancy cell for class c meta humans, it had a few creature comforts like a shower and lavatory, a simple table and a few stock books. The bed was nothing comfortable looking, nor was the color. A dull grey cast everything in the room with a dreary look, complimented by the overhead light, which thanks to her lack of a window, was all she would be seeing for her sentence save her yard time she was allowed.

Sitting down on her new bed, she rubbed her head as she began to contemplate what she was going to do now. How to break out seemed almost impossible. Before she could really formulate a thought, a bang on the door startled her and a voice shouted. “Lights out, Trixie”

“Trixie sleeps when she wishes to!” Trixie defiantly said, crossing her arms.

The lights suddenly went out, a frustrated grunt following them.

***

Sunset Shimmer stretched her neck and shoulders, the fabric from her waitress uniform wasn't helping her aches and pains from the previous night. The diner was thankfully quiet and she'd resigned herself to tidying up the few booths to pass the time.

Checking the wall clock it read a quarter past two AM as she placed a few new bottles of ketchup on the countertop. Earl, the cook, was out back having a smoke, leaving the place quiet and to herself. The occasional car or taxi would drive past the large picture windows of the diner, the beams of their taillights fading as quickly as they'd arrived.

Slightly bored, sunset picked up a clunky looking remote and flipped on the television that sad snug in a corner of the diners far wall. It hummed to life and there was a brief period of time only sound was heard before the image came to bear.

“--numbers reflect a slightly higher return on investment. Something to keep an eye on. In local news, Central Equestrian City was alive tonight with the villain Trixie Lulamoon, apprehended by Central Ec’s star hero, SplitSecond. The daring robbery and attempted escape left two officers injured and several dock owners calling their insurance companies.”

Sunset turned her head to see a police cruiser pull up and park, nothing unusual for this time, it was lunch for the night shift. She turned back to the screen and pulled out her order pad.

“On the scene was the ever familiar face of lieutenant Nightwatch, who had this to say.” the screen cut to the grey toned male who was clearly uneasy in front of the camera. “ECPD is of course always thankful for the help of any citizen, super powered or not, when it comes to assisting in a crime. We have to again remind those of our city that are not endowed with such..abilities..not to endanger themselves. SplitSecond was quick to respond and we appreciate her help. Whomever she is. “ cameras flashed and others yelled questions.

“Is it true that the city and J.U.S.T.I.C.E are considering you for a position given your reputation for meta human crime investigations?”

A small bell rang as the diner door opened, Nightwatch sighed as he saw the television. He took off his hat and jacket and sat at the first spot at the end. “Isn't there something better on?”

Sunset smiled and turned down the set. “The usual, officer? Perhaps a hero sandwich?” she smirked.

“Don't you start too…” he rubbed his face. “I happen to be at a lot of meta issues and suddenly I'm the department’s spokesperson. I didn't ask for that. I'm just a cop”

“Just a cop right I know you always say that, officer” she poured him a cup of coffee and set down three sweeteners and a cream packet. “You know the heroes could do worse. You consider it?” Sunset put a slip in the order window and rang the bell “Earl! ORDER!” she cleared her throat and put on a pleasant face again. “So, Split-Second hmm? She's a fast one.”

“Oh yeah, fast and quick to leave. I got a villain in lock up and a small puzzle to figure out thanks to her. “ he opened his packets and poured them in one at a time. “would be nice if she'd stay and collaborate...no one does”

Sunset leaned back on the counter and folded her arms as she stared back at the grey officer. “Maybe if you took the job, they’d be more inclined to get with you. I know you’d be more connected to help get things done, I'd work with you in a second.”

Nightwatch raised an eyebrow as he sipped his coffee, his eyes wandering to her name tag and back up to her. The coffee wasn’t all that good, but he didn’t mind the company, half the reason he came there wasn’t for the food. Despite the fact she’d only worked there for a few months, he had actually grown to appreciate her rather uncharacteristic wisdom of a diner waitress.

“..IF..” she smirked and turned to get his order as it slid out the serving window. “If I was one. Order up officer.” she set down the plate and handed him a set of salt and pepper shakers. “Can I get you anything else? My shift’s almost up.”

He shook his head and begin to season his food. “No, Becky, thanks. As always you’ve...given me a lot to think about. I’ll leave you a nice tip.” he smiled and turned to the TV, the commercials ending and the news program resuming.

Sunset walked into the back and began gathering a few napkins and condiments, putting them in her apron and turning to a larger husky man who was cleaning the grill. A ragged looking chef’s hat and a apron to match, Earl was busy with his task, not noticing her gaze. A quick gesture more and she walked out the front, past the counter and began busying herself restocking the front booths as the TV played behind her.

“The city’s newest Wing in the Super Max Meta Prison, Purgatory, opened today, ahead of schedule. Viewers will remember last month’s opening was delayed by labor disputes, but Mayor Mare successfully convinced both sides to meet agreement, finishing ahead of projected time tables. Purgatory was the main re-election platform for the city’s incumbent mayor of 4 terms now, narrowly beating her opponent last year with a strong stance on Meta Human crime and Incarceration. The move towards her stance was as much a shock as the victory, as it marked a major turning point for the Mayor’s usual platform of Pro Labor.” the TV continued. “Mayor Mare gave this remark on the newest expansion of Purgatory.”

The TV flickered for a moment and the lights followed as a street car went by the diner, rattling the windows slightly. Sunset Shimmer held onto the glassware on the table she was cleaning until the brief rattling passed, continuing her work as her only customer ate his lunch.

“This newest expansion will bring us forward as a city, with the help of ECPD, JUSTICE and of course the countless men and women who take to helping fight crime thanks to the Meta Human Enforcement Act, as we continue to clean up the streets and put those who would abuse their gifts behind bars.”

“We were running out of room, is what you mean.” Sunset said as she walked behind the counter again, checking on the officer. “Plenty more room for your job though, hmm?”

Nightwatch finished a bite and nodded, his eyes moving back to her from the TV. “ I’d like to think one day we’ll have a city where we don’t have to worry too much about the issues these bad guys are giving us recently.” he took another sip of his coffee. “Seems like it’s never ending now.”

“Yeah, tell me about it…” Sunset remarked in agreement. She frowned as she stared outside through the main windows. “It’s been picking up recently…” she turned back and her expression changed to a more pleasant one. “So the TV says, more coffee?”

Nightwatch nodded and leaned back on the stool a bit. “Please. You’re not wrong though, it does seem a bit worse then it was about six months ago. I barely had one or two meta human issues a week, now it’s one every night.” he added more cream to his coffee.

“All Units All Units, 2 10-84s in Progress, 10th and Charles Avenue, Rare Hair Factory.” a sudden blare came over Nightwatch’s shoulder mic. “10-84s with possible 10-91. Repeat 10-91, proceed with Meta Human Precautions.”

Nightwatch stood up. “Or sometimes more than one a night, sorry Beck, here..” He put down a twenty and turned to put his keys from his pocket. “Keep the change, I’ll talk to you later.” He raced out the door and was in his cruiser before the bell had finished announcing his departure.

“What's his hurry?” Another waitress walked in from the back. “Oh hey, nice tip..” she noted as Sunset quickly grabbed and ran up the order, pocketing her change. “You must put something extra in the service for him hmm?”

Sunset barely registered the insinuation, taking off her apron and setting her pad down. “Rose, it’s all yours, I’ve got something that's come up. “ she pulled a duffle bag from behind the door and quickly moved to clock out in the back. “Front’s all stocked!” was all she said before dashing out the back. She didn’t have much time to change, thanks to Nightwatch, she knew two different properties had silent alarms going off downtown.

Rose shook her head as she looked out the back. “That girl’s always on the move.”

==

Sassy Saddles crept along the catwalks in the factory, the smell of the raw chemicals making her gag occasionally. She had little love for the place, but it was where Rarity stored her notes on the particular line of cosmetics she was going to steal. Liberate, would be a better term, since she was almost certain she’d thought of them herself in the first place. Her hands firmly on the rails, she saw the office just ahead, past two large vats of neon green yellow chemicals.

“Those boys better be worth their sticker price.” she thought, “ Thugs should be as disposable as a tissue, but shouldn’t cost as much as a High End Scarf.” she frowned silently, remembering the price she’d paid them. She had needed a distraction and thankfully, a local group of thugs were more then happy to be given pass codes to a nearby storage warehouse, all thanks to her. Even better she’d done it by proxy, and made sure none of it could be traced back. Hero or policeman would be too busy with the mayhem they were causing to notice a door thats been pried open next to the crime.

“Ah, there we go.” She smiled softly as she made her way to the elevated office, pulling out a small pry bar from her purse and setting it and the bag down. She put on a pair of rather expensive leather gloves and adjusted her hair in the window of the office, the inside lit dimly by a stray desktop computer screen. Picking up her prybar she jammed it unceremoniously into the door jam and leaned into it, working and grunting, cursing a few times. The wood finally cracked and the door popped open with a echoing splintering of wood.

Sassy quickly searched the desktop, opening the drawers hastily jarring the contents on each one. Scanning the tabletop near the desk, she smiled and saw her prize: a set of chemical vials. She started examining the labels, eyes darting back and forth as scanned the serial numbers. Finally she found the number she was searching for. “Ah ha! Let's see how well you do when Rarity finds out this got leaked to the competition.” She muttered, pocketing the vial. “Let's see what else you have laying around.”

Pocketing the pry bar, she walked in and quickly pulled a small picture off the wall, a safe behind it with a ten digit keypad. Thinking for a moment, she pressed in a series of numbers, only to have the safe buzz back at her, a red light blinking in response.

“Damn. Must rotate the codes.” She whispered to herself, trying another set, keeping her gloves on and receiving another series of rejects, she jumped back as the safe let out a long buzz and the keypad went dim. “No no, don’t lock me...out…” She growled, having activated the fail-safe, the entire lock was now disabled until a command from another terminal was sent.

“Working late?” a voice asked behind her, making her turn quickly. Sunset Shimmer stood in the doorway, this time fully dressed for her current guise. Two tones of gray and black covered her from top to bottom, with a few flame patterns on the chest and legs. The boots matched with accents along the bottom. Coupled with a short jacket and a set of small gloves, the outfit completed itself with a pair of wrap around glasses that had a blue hue to them, concealing any distinguishing features from casual observation.

“The Phoenix...you’re not real..” Sassy said, backing up a step but gripping her pry bar. She’d heard stories but never seen the hero in action.

“Call me what you want, last ones called me Lady Flame I think...you’re under arrest.” Sunset said, putting her hands to her hips and blocking the doorway. “Industrial Espionage is a serious crime.”

Sassy felt her world crashing around her, desperate for way out, she glanced quickly at the desk in front of her and grabbed several vials of chemicals, throwing it at Sunset. “The hell with this!”

Dodging the vials, Sunset closed the gap between the two and grabbed the back of Sassy’s collar with a firm grip. “Uh uh, not so fast.” Sunset said, before a wild swing from Sassy’s crowbar connected to the hero’s forearm, saving her face. Sending the weapon flying from Sassy’s hands with a quick wrist slap, she used her own weight to restrain her against the wall, pulling out a set of handcuffs.

Sassy cried out in pain as she felt her air get knocked out from the blow, but instinct sent a back kick into Sunset’s knee, easing the restraining hold she had and letting her out the door, the handcuffs hurdling to the floor. She made her way clumsily towards the exit, the catwalks clanking under her as she ran, the boots she wore not the best suited for a factory lattice. She rounded the corner of the platform only to see a set of ECPD running up, guns drawn. Feeling cornered, she turned on her heel and ran back the way she came, still clutching one of the chemical vials she’d grabbed from the table in a desperate attempt as a weapon.

“FREEZE! ECPD!” a voice yelled, a set of flashlight beams shining on her, making her duck out of the way behind the corner, towards Sunset Shimmer, she was partially obscured by the small mist that the vats below were generating.

“You heard the man.” Sunset remarked, startling Sassy as she backed into the hero’s figure, cloaked by the shadows. Turning to react, her designer boot heel stuck inside the catwalk and sent her reeling backwards into the railing behind her.

Sassy grabbed at anything, but her momentum was too much with her own weight being her enemy. The railing gave way behind her and sent her plummeting into the vats below, her screams cut short by the splash she made in the yellow chemicals. The vial she’d held followed her quickly and shattered on the way down, mixing with the vat and disappearing just as fast.

Sunset was visibly shocked, still reaching out to try and help Sassy, almost about ready to jump in after her. She closed her hand and looked down, not one to really one blink when it came to necessary force, but this was an entirely different matter.

Footsteps next to her caught her attention as the officers ran up, having witnessed the entire incident as well. Nightwatch walked in from the back, his sidearm drawn as the other two officers stepped aside and started checking the area for a way down.

“Well that was messy.” Nightwatch said, looking over the edge, he rubbed his forehead. “I suppose we won’t get a body out of that. What happened here?”

Sunset looked down expressionless for a moment longer and her gaze stayed locked on the chemicals. “Industrial Espionage by the looks. She was using a code she seemed to think was for the safe in the office. Put up a struggle, then ran.” Sunset reached down to pick up a set of handcuffs, replacing them as well. “Then she fell.”

Nightwatch nodded, turning to look around a bit more, then back to her. “And I suppose you’re the only witness?” He had an uneasy tone about his voice. “You’ll forgive me but your methods have sometimes been considered extreme.”

“I didn’t drop that lady, Officer. “ Sunset answered, her tone even and unemotional, still not entirely meeting his eyes, she motioned to a small security camera pointing at them. “There’s your corroboration if you need it.”

Nightwatch looked up and walked closer to it, he smiled “Well then we’ll just have to hope it’s recording. I’ll get the boys to get a copy of the footage, though I wouldn’t mind if you--” he turned back to see himself talking to no one, the skylight hanging open above them. “Damn...no one stays.” he rubbed his forehead and shook it slowly, walking back downstairs, several other officers rushing past him to help secure the scene. He opened the door to the main street level and was blinded by a set of reporters again, a small sigh escaping him as he began another round with them.

Nearby, Sunset Shimmer crouched out of sight on a nearby building, watching this unfold. She wasn’t going to let anyone else see it, but she wasn’t entirely happy with how this entire incident played out. She made a few notes on a pad and paper, namely to find out what was in the safe and the one vial Sassy was so set on keeping, and placed it back into her jacket. “I so need a DataTablet…” she said to herself, standing up and turning back towards the city, she took a running leap and with the assistance of updrafts, headed back into the downtown section to find a real threat.

***

Outside of Horseshoe Bay, a series of huge drain pipes poured out a mixture of toxic sludge and drain water into the filter ponds. Silent save the running of water and splashing of liquid, the waters rippled once. A huge dark shape began to take shape under the water and a pool of yellow chemicals formed from below. Suddenly several serpent like tendrils shot out of the water, wiggling and arching towards the sky, until more shot up, longer and thicker ones reaching towards the shore and anchoring themselves in. A female figure coated in mud and other debris emerged from the slime and coughed up water, her eyes flaring open, the tiny pupils a sharp contrast to the empty and maniac looking whites of them. Hands in fists, Sassy made her way to the shore and began to shake off her muck and grime, growling at first, falling with a grunt, she was surprised when the tendrils that were her hair solidified and caught her with a simple thought.

Sassy gasped as she saw the tendrils move and wiggle, obeying her thoughts and helping her stand up, extending well beyond her normal reach and then reverting to their normal size. Reaching forward, she grasp one, looking at it, she realized her hand was different, her skin tone had changed. Frantically trying to wipe it off, she cried out a few times when she realized she couldn’t. A quick examination and she realized she had completely turned a new shade of blue.

She began to cry for a moment, but it quickly turned to a chuckle as she began to register the new changes upon her, unable to entirely process them, laughter began cackling. Louder and louder by herself on the outskirts of the city.

Her laughter was cut short by a spot-light shining in her eyes from the far shore. She turned, her outfit in tatters, her hair coiling up to attack from her mental shock. “Who!?”

“Relax, I’m here to help you.” Aria said from shore, her tone enticing, a small tune seemed to accompany her after she said that, it seemed to calm the tendrils and Sassy herself. The music seemed almost like a lullaby. “I have an offer for you...from a friend.” she smiled, turning the light off and tossing a backpack at her, a new outfit spilling out in front of Sassy. “Get dressed fast, he doesn't like to be kept waiting.”

***

Nightwatch walked into the Main Lobby of Rare Innovations, the glass doors behind him closing gently, a glint of the early morning sunlight peeking in. The end of his shift was coming up and he had a few more details he needed for his final report on the factory incident. The front desk attendant looked up, only to have Coco Pommel walk past her and intercept him, her heels clicking on the marble flooring.

“Lieutenant Nightwatch, welcome to Rare Innovations. I’m Coco Pommel, I’m Miss Belle and Miss Spoons personal assistant. Please come this way, the express elevator is much faster.” She offered a quick handshake and turned to a quick pace for him to follow, leaving him partially bewildered but in pursuit.

Coming to a set of white doors with the Rare Innovations logo, a diamond with a large “R” over it, Pommel scanned a card from her pocket and the elevator doors parted. Stepping quickly inside, Nightwatch followed and stood a courteous distance from her as they began to climb noticeably quicker than he’d been used to. Grabbing on the side railing out of instinct, he gave a quick chuckle. “Rather fast, isn’t it?”

“That's why it’s called the ‘Express Elevator’, Lieutenant. “ she gave a polite smile back and watched as the numbers on the display above them quickly lit up and darkened as they ascended, the Penthouse their destination. Less than a minute later, the doors opened and she escorted him past a large empty waiting room, all done in white marble and blue accents along the wall, leading to another set of chestnut colored doors. Opening those led to another room that had an empty receptionist desk, behind which a set of white porcelain colored doors stood, the same logo from the elevator adorned them.

“I’ll announce you, please give me just a moment, Lieutenant.” Pommel slide another card from her pocket and opened the doors quickly, closing them just as fast.

Silver Spoon sat in large overstuffed white chair in Rarity’s office, the entire space open and intimidating. A glass desk and leather chair with a tall back to it stood empty to her left. Looking up, Spoon noticed Pommel walk in and seemed a bit relieved, standing and adjusting her business attire, her skirt a tad too ruffled for her taste. “The police are here I take it?”

Pommel gave a nod to Rarity’s business partner, Silver Spoon, and looked around, noticing the chair was vacant behind the desk, she turned back puzzled. “I thought Rarity would be in by now?”

“She is.” Spoon said weakly sighing, motioning her head to the other side of the room, a white figure moved behind a fully stocked bar, the sound of ice clanking filling the air.

Pommel closed her eyes for a moment and inhaled softly, letting it out she walked over to her long time friend, pushing one of the bottles on the bar aside. “Rarity?”

“Hmm? Yes? Oh Pommel!” Rarity startled and turned around, a glass of amber liquid in her hand with fresh ice in it. “How are you,darling? Can I get you something?” she said, smiling and motioning behind her. “I just had it entirely restocked.” her body language drifted slightly, indicating the drink in her hand wasn’t the first of the day.

“No, Rarity, the police are here.” Pommel said with a tone of importance, pausing as Rarity registered the statement and seemed lost in her thoughts for a moment. “The break in last night, I texted you about it.”

Rarity stood stupefied for another half moment before shaking her head, a suddenly brilliance overtook her face and nodded. “Of course, I remember, the break in. the break in at the….place I own.” she motioned with the drink in her hand. “Whatever do they want?”

Pommel cleared her throat, patient as she’d always been with her friend and her problem. “They wanted to speak with you and Miss Spoon about Sassy Saddles. Apparently she was the one who broke in and was killed by a hero trying to stop her.”

“Actually the hero didn’t kill her.” Nightwatch said, walking in. “Sorry, I do hate being kept waiting.” He waved at them all. “There’s a button that opens the door behind the receptionist desk that really should be sealed if no one’s there.”

An awkward silence filled the room for a moment and then Rarity was the first to pipe up. “Not a problem at all, officer. Please, sit, I understand we may have information that could be of some assistance?” she said, covering up her state of intoxication like a professional. “Officer…?”

“Nightwatch, Lieutenant.” He set his hat down on an end table as he sat in three of the chairs in front of the glass desk. “I know you must be busy, this won’t take long.” he eyed her drink, then back to Pommel and Silver Spoon. “Miss Spoon I know you by reputation only, Miss Belle seems to be the public face of the company.”

“As well she should be, Lieutenant, I like my privacy.” Spoon gave a nod back, sitting down and crossing her legs. “I’ve never been one to really be in the spotlight, even when I was in school it seemed I was always in the background. It served me well as you can tell. Now, how may we assist you?”

“Well, as Miss Pommel informed you, there was a break in at a facility your company owns. Normally I’d go through lower departments to get what I need, but this has a few interesting circumstances I’d like answered from the horse's’ mouth, if you excuse the phrase.” He pulled out a small DataTablet and typed a few commands, bringing up the case. “One ‘Sassy Saddles’, was a high ranking employee here, am I correct?”

“Sassy? Oh yes, though I haven’t spoken with her in ages. She was one of my first employees. “ Rarity sat in the leather chair behind her desk. “When I opened my first store in town, she was the manager there. Why do you ask?”

“Well, she’s the one who broke in and subsequently died last night, Miss Belle.” Nightwatch answered back, looking up at her from his tablet. “I’m sorry to have to tell you that.”

Rarity was taken back a moment as it sunk in, taking another drink, she set the glass down. “Well, she and I had a falling out, we weren’t what you’d call friends. Though, it does pain me to hear she’d make such an insidious move against me. Stealing from the company she helped build.”

“Did Sassy show any sign of unhappiness with the company, any notion of ill will. “ Nightwatch continued on.

Pommel cleared her throat. “Miss Saddles had been in to see Rarity the day before last, but she wasn’t taking visitors at the time. She had expressed a certain…” she paused. “ Displeasure at the recent budget decision for her department.”

Rarity eyed up Pommel, but didn’t break from her pleasant demeanor. “Yes, she was placed in charge of our skin care line after we had our little disagreement. She seemed content. The budget was a recent development, I’m certain I could have helped sort things out, had I been able to see her that day.” she punctuated the end of her statement by looking at Pommel, whose gaze dropped to the floor.

“She was demoted? “ Nightwatch asked. “You don’t suppose that was a reason for her...unpleasant...attitude of late?”

“Miss Saddles attempted to undermine several business elements during her time with us in management, Officer. “ Spoon interjected, pushing her glasses up as she did. “The fact she was given any place after that was due to the generosity of Rarity. She knew she was lucky.”

“I see.” Nightwatch tapped in a few more items. “The tape I got from your security firm shows she didn’t try to crack the safe, but seemed to think she knew the code. Is that something she’d have access to?”

“What safe was this again?” Rarity asked, pulling out a silver cigarette case and lighting one up, tapping it into a diamond shaped ashtray. “You must forgive me, I have so many business ties now.”

“Yes I understand you started as a dressmaker and expanded quickly when you moved to the city. Part of the Canterlot Incident Relocation?” Nightwatch asked, looking back up. “You weren’t lucky enough to get any powers now were you?”

Rarity took a drag from her smoke and seemed to narrow her eyes at him. “Not all of us came away smelling of roses from that day, officer.” she knocked ashes off again. “But no, to answer your question, I got to watch my little sister die in front of me. No ‘Super powers’ to speak of.”

He cleared his throat. “My apologies. The safe was located at your ‘Rare Hair’ factory in downtown.” he quickly changed the subject, sensing the tension.

“That would be under Dermatology's files, yes. No doubt she took the codes from the computers that day.” Pommel jumped in to answer. “Thankfully the codes had been rotated that afternoon, as per our procedure. We’re just lucky she didn’t get away with anything.”

“Well not exactly, on the tape we noticed several unsecured vials of chemicals. She seems to have one in her hand when she’s leaving the office.” Nightwatch turned his datatablet to Rarity. “Can you tell me what that is?” an image of a green chemical vial in Sassy’s hands pulled up on the screen.

Rarity pulled out her glasses and adjusted them on her nose, staring at the picture. “Could be a number of things, that office is where they store the formulas and the secret ingredients to our products. I can’t tell you what's in it for sure. The inventory list for the office can no doubt tell you, Pommel will get you a copy if you wish?”

“That would be most helpful.” Nightwatch nodded, turning the tablet back and standing up. “Thats everything I had for the moment, but we may call on you lovely ladies again, if that's alright?” he put his hand under his arm.

“Any assistance we can give you, we’d like this taken care of quickly and quietly.” Spoon said from behind the other two, standing to walk him out with them.

As she and Pommel made their way to the door, Rarity took another drink as they left, watching them leave. All of them stopped when the doors opened by themselves, and Twilight Sparkle walked in.

“Twilight, Rarity’s a little pressed for--” Pommel began to say, quickly cut off by Rarity’s glass hitting the counter loudly enough to make her stop, a look from her telling her to let her in.

“Darling, do come in, this is Officer Nightwatch. He was just leaving, officer this is Twilight.” Rarity began to explain.

“Sparkle, yes. I’m familiar with you, ma’am. You and another girl are stuck here after the explosion, if I recall the story correctly.” he nodded, smiling. “Though I wasn’t aware you worked here, both of you seemed to disappear off the grid after the attention died down.”

Twilight smiled uneasily. “Yes, well, I did have quite a bit of learning to do about your world here, officer. You can’t blame a girl for wanting to study her new home thrust upon her.” she finished. “As for Sunset, I’m not quite sure where she went. We all lost touch after your media lost interest in us.” she fired back, smiling still.

“Of course. Well thank you all again, I’ll be in touch if need be.” Nightwatch said, walking out, leaving Twilight with Rarity, the doors closing quietly behind them.

Twilight walked over to her fiend and pulled out her tablet, S.P.I.K.E. popping up on the screen. “Well that was awkward.” he said, his voice making Rarity’s ears perk.

“Is that...Spike?” she asked, standing up and nearly tripping over her heels to get closer. “I can’t believe it!”

Twilight steadied Rarity as she nearly fell, the morning brandy not helping. “Yes. He’s a prototype still but I think I got him up and running. Say hello” she handed the tablet to her, taking the glass from Rarity in a slick move at the same time. As Rarity began to converse with the digital reproduction of their old friend, Twilight took the moment to slink over to the sink and pour the drink out, turning the glass upside down and quickly rejoining them.

“...and then, Twilight turned me into this apparently. I guess I died?” the AI said, a sad face on the screen as Rarity held the device.

“Yes. but that doesn't matter now, you’re back. This is wonderful. You programmed this all from memory?” Rarity said, sitting down on a couch nearby and looking back up at Twilight. “Can you do this with anyone?”

Twilight gave an uneasy smile. “Well, it’s a prototype. He doesn't have all of his memories, I had to program a lot from memory. Some of it was able to be pulled from DNA I found in his old collar but, memories are very...tricky.” Twilight sat across from her. “I don’t think I’ll be recreating anyone else, anytime soon. Not until I can get him up and fully running. Remember, this was for the ECPD project.”

“The..project yes.” Rarity swallowed, keeping from tearing up. “How…” she cleared her throat. “ How is that going, dear?” she wiped her eyes, complacent to the fact she may never see her sister again.

“That's even better news. The projections I have indicate we can have a working suit for use in less than six months. I already have a beta version of it nearly ready, though it’s fitted for me, I didn’t have any other bodies to use. “ she took the pad from her and pulled up another file, a wireframe of the armor she’d been working on displayed. “The suit can withstand conventional weapons fire and several direct hits from heavy weapons. JUSTICE was very particular about durability. So I had to reinforced the body suit with a kevlar weave harness to help dissipate the blows. Oh! The armor is also sectional and can be broken down quickly and reassembled if need be. Power isn’t a problem anymore, I tweaked a few things and it works perfectly.” Twilight rambled on, noticing she was losing Rarity by the glazed look in her eyes, though she couldn’t tell if it was the tech speak of the morning booze.

“Propulsion is almost ready as well. It should be entirely mobile and ready for testing in a few days. I just have to upload SPIKE into it and I can start running simulations.” she finished.

Rarity nodded, standing up and stretching. “Twilight, dear, the contract with JUSTICE stipulates they want a working prototype in three months. Can you deliver that with just simulations? Now I have no doubt you can do this, but the time is a factor here. Tiara would love to get that contract…” she looked sad for a moment and sad back down.

“Well, I, don’t have any real field testers for this I mean, I guess I could do it myself.” Twilight seemed uneasy about the entire concept. “We can’t ask for an extension?”

Rarity shook her head. “I’ve already extended it. They will not wait any longer. The mayor wants the ECPD outfitted and ready to take on the super crime and they can’t do it without this technology. Now I’ve seen the designs for Tiara’s Research firm and they are, how shall we say, a bit more crude, but they will work. “ Rarity took her friend’s hands into her’s. “They are also far more weaponized then our concepts. We want to save lives here, not cause more death, for anyone if we can stop it. Your Non-lethal approach is what will do that...but...I..” she paused. “We..need to beat her to the punch, or the city will be much more dangerous than it already is, do you understand?” her demeanor seemingly desperate as well as hungover. “I just don’t want anyone else going through...loss.”

Twilight nodded and squeezed her hand back. “I know, Rarity. I know.” she smiled assuredly. “Tell you what, I’ll figure something out to beat the time crunch, SPIKE’s ability to help me streamline now will probably knock us over the timeline anyway. So don’t you worry. I’ll get you the data to show to the ECPD in no time.” Twilight stood up. “Now, you promised me you’d take it easy on the bar. Have you been?”

There was a pause as Rarity’s eyes shifted back and forth a moment. “Oh yes, of course, dear. I was just having the first one of the day, didn’t even finish it as you see. Now don’t you worry about me, I’m far too busy to get completely hammered up here from brandy.” she smiled and stood. “Don’t let me keep you, and do stop by more often, I miss talking with you.”

Twilight looked as if she were going to take a firmer stance on the drinking, but she didn’t and merely smiled, standing and pocketing the tablet. She gave her a hug, longer than usual as her concern overcame her again, but broke it and turned to walk out. She couldn’t help but notice as she closed the door that Rarity was heading in the direction of the wet bar again.

Heels clicking on the floor, Twilight walked back to the elevator when SPIKE popped in. “Wow. She, uh, she likes to have a drink now and then huh?” he asked, as awkward of a tone as possible from the tiny tablet.

“Don’t blame her too much. Access her sister’s file. She watched that happen.” Twilight said in a hushed tone. “I can’t tell her what to do with her life, I can just be there to offer help if she wants it, SPIKE. If my brief time as the Princess of Friendship told me anything, its that the only thing that can change a person, is themselves.” she sighed and the elevator doors opened. “Besides, she’s gotten better she says, and honestly, it seemed like she was telling the truth.” the doors began to close “Or she believed she was.”

***

Sassy stood in the middle of a dark warehouse, a single light over her head, the tendrils that were now her hair hissing and snapping out randomly. The outfit she’d been given wasn’t entirely flattering but it did fit. Purple for the most part with gold accents finished off with black boots. She ran her gloved hands over the fabric, unsure of it’s material.

“It’s a polymer.” Aria’s voice broke the silence, her voice unknown. “He gives it to us all. Fire resistant, but not explosive proof. Repels water and small arms fire for a brief period.” she stepped from the shadows, a light over her head now, a short distance from her. She crossed her arms, the gem embedded in her chest shining in the light, small fleshy tendrils holding it in place, they occassional moved. “It’s rather handy. Doesn’t breath well in the summer though.”

“You keep referring to someone, who?” Sassy asked, the occasional giggle coming from her. She’d been unable to control it, finding herself still amused by the situation that had befallen her. “I’d love to meet this fashion king!”

“More like a 'god'” a deep male voice said from above her. A light turning on above the source and allowing her to see his figure, but little else about him. “Welcome, Sassy. I understand you had a bit of an accident.”

“Who might you be? I only just came into myself, though your little girlfriend here was quick to arrive with an open hand.” The tendrils on her head moved frantically, extending to the ground and lifting her up towards the voice. “Maybe I should just bite the hand that tries to feed me? Hmm?”

A pair of purple eyes lit up on the figure, and at the same moment an invisible force pushed the recently mutated super villain to the floor. “Don’t. You’ll find it quite unhealthy to do so.” his tone remained level and unemotional. “I didn’t ask you here to just kill you. Though I could. I need someone like you.”

“I don’t even know who I am, how can you?” she chuckled at the thought, her hair flailing under his telekinetic hold, the fabric contorting as if a giant hand was pushing on her.

“I know you’d do anything to get back at Rarity. Even in your current mental state you must remember, how much you hated her.” his eyes dimmed and disappeared, letting her fall with a thud.

Sassy stopped short of trying to attack again when he mentioned Rarity, the memories of what was in her broken mind coming together again. The hatred for her old employer and former friend rekindled in her and her expression turned to a scowl. “You’d win that bet.”

“Yes. Yes I would.” he sounded delighted at her new anger. “Now I can help you get her, but you need to do me some favors too.” his tone changed again. “Unless it’s not worth it, going after Rarity?”
Hate filled her again, imagining the thought of losing her revenge. The tendrils on her head snapped straight and then curled around her head in anger as she seethed. At the same time, the eyes from the shadow began to glow a steel blue, bright like a star, accompanied by Arai’s gem lighting up red, both taking in the anger and hatred she was producing.

“Good. I sense we have a deal then?” he chuckled. “Now, Sassy Saddles wouldn’t be able to do much before the police put two and two together. They’d figure out your motive instantly, but now if…” he thought for a moment. “Mistress Mayhem, were to cause havoc on the city. Now, Rarity would never know it was you until you decide to let her know.” he appealed to her fragmented mind with twisted logic, manipulating the cogs in her broken brain.

“Mistress Mayhem. I like that.” she laughed again, more maniacally this time, the damage from the chemicals slowly destroying her mental state. She watched as the figure moved to the ground with a simple leap, landing in front of her, she still couldn’t see his face, but noticed he was wearing a purple dress shirt and slacks, a gloved hand extended from the shadows, the steel blue eyes staring down at her still.

“Do we have a deal?” was all he asked, Aria seemed somewhat amused at this moment, shaking her head slowly.

Mayhem looked at the hand and extended her own, finally connecting with his and shaking. “I think we do.” she grinned wide, a small wisp of cold air hitting her from behind, circling her arm and her hand, flowing towards him before disappearing. She payed it no mind, as she was already planning what to do with Rarity once she had her.

“Good. Now, Aria will handle the details, get you set up with all the lovely toys and henchmen a growing villain needs. Go through her. If I require you, I’ll contact you directly.” he turned and walked off, a trail of cold air behind him.

“Don’t you need my number?” She snickered. “Been so long since someone asked me for it..” she laughed again.

“I’ll know where you are no matter the time. Now go.” he vanished from view, leaving a smirking Aria standing next to her.

“Your boss is a real spooky guy!” Mayhem said, smiling at Aria.

“He means business. So do I.” she said, seemingly bored now with the entire exchange. She fished a set of keys out of her pocket and tossed them to her. “ Here. Warehouse is yours, used to be a shampoo factory. I’d start checking the gangs nearby, they’ll be eager to get in with a new meta boss.” she turned and walked off. “I’ll be by later, check up on you, make sure you’re behaving.”

“Oooo scary!” Mayhem laughed, the last bit of Sassy drowning in insanity as she grabbed the keys and used her newfound abilities to climb the walls and catwalk, making her way to the skylight and out the top, arching her back and walking to the edge of the roof. She looked over the unsuspecting citizens of Equestrian City and the night was pierced by her loud maniacal laughing.

***

End of Episode

Episode 3 - "Discoveries"

View Online

Muffled music caught the ears of Pinkie Pie, the last of the party supplies for her client were packed up and she nearly missed the sound had she not bent over to pick up the last box. She gave the music a brief moment and then started to move her body to the muffled beat, a smile on her face. Walking out of the smaller office, she closed the door and dug in her pockets for her keys, almost dropping her box, and found them, a keychain with a set of three multicolored balloons on it now between her teeth. Readjusting the box she leaned her ear up and listened again, the familiarity of the music sinking in.

Walking down the hallway, she passed a door marked “Studio A” as the music got louder, pausing for a moment to listen. She walked on by then stopped again as a sudden realization hit her, having forgot her appointment book, she turned and walked back past the door, the last of the words barely recognizable as she disappeared around the corner.


Catch my breath, no one can hold me back, I ain't got time for that
Catch my breath, won't let them get me down, it's all so so simple now!


Rainbow Dash pulled off her headphones, rubbing her temples a bit due to the pressure of having them on all day. The music playing stopped and she stood up from the chair in the soundbooth.

“Thats a wrap I take it?” a male voice came over the speaker to her.

“Yup, that's about as awesome as I wanta be today, Ted. We’ll pick it up tomorrow maybe.” Dash said, smiling, her eyes distinctly white with the faintest of color in their center. She pulled a small white cane to her hand, it had been sitting nearby, and started checking the floor for obstacles, softly tapping about the floor.

“Need a hand?” the voice chirped in again, the sound of a chair moving.

“Naw, I got this.” She smiled, her stare blankly forward. “Kinda’ used to this by now. Thanks though.” she opened the door and walked out remarkably quickly, while putting out a phone from her pocket, she pressed a few buttons and the display lit up. “I need pick up at Sure Hits Studio.” the phone blipped once and confirmed her request.

She walked along the hallway and towards the lobby, the distinct tapping of her cane indicating to anyone unaware she was blind. Coming to the elevator doors, she pressed the call button after a moment of fumbling along the panel. As she stood there, she took in the sounds of the cables and gears of the elevator coming alive to her request. Dash tilted her head, noting the elevator needed to be serviced soon by the sound the gearbox was making.

“Rainbow Dash!” a perky voice popped up behind her suddenly, startling her. “It’s me, Pinkie!” A sudden hug almost threw off balance as suddenly as she seemingly appeared out of nowhere.

“Pinkie! Hey...can’t..breath.” Dash choked out a bit, steadying herself on the wall as her friend let up on her embrace. “I didn’t even see you there, where’d you come from?”

“Well of course you didn’t see me silly. You’re blind, remember?” Pinkie smiled and waved a hand in front of her own eyes to illustrate despite the fact Dash wouldn’t have been able to see it. “Oh, there’s a party on the third floor, I’m just picking up the final parts. They went with a forest theme, it’s kinda hard to make trees festive unless it’s winter.”

Dash smiled, making sure not to make any indications of her ability to actually see Pinkie thanks to her meta powers. “Well if anyone can, it’s you, Pinkie.” the elevator door chimed and they both turned to it. “Hey, you heading down too right?” she motioned towards the door, though Pinkie didn’t seem to notice as she walked in holding the door for Dash.

“Sure am, here, let me help!” Pinkie’s perkiness was ever present as she grabbed her friend's arm and nearly jerked it out of it’s socket. “There we go.”

“Pinkie, I’m blind, not disabled.” Dash laughed a bit but steadied herself on the rail on the wall. “So, tell me, how ya’ been?” she pressed the lobby button. “I haven’t really seen you since they had that story on all of us from Canterlot a few years ago.”

The elevator doors closed as Pinkie turned to her, a small cardboard box in her hands. “Duh, you didn’t see me then either, silly! But yeah, that was the last time. Hmmm. Well, I’m running the party store still, a lot of clients still. Not a whole bunch, just a lot. Keeps me busy, I sometimes feel like I’m always running.” she answered, talking in the fast paced tone she’d always had. “What about you? Did you make another album? Oooh! Can I get one?”

“No no, I’m just remastering some songs today. We’re cutting a greatest hits album, but yeah, I’ll totally hook you up. Do you have a card?” Dash said, reaching out towards her pink friend. “I can have the studio send over a few.”

“Oh sure hang on!” she handed Rainbow Dash the box to her surprise and began to search her many pockets. The sound of change and candy clattering together filled Dash’s ears, a quick ping from her echo location gave her an image of Pinkie pulling a card out of her left pocket finally. “Here you go!”

Dash took it without another word, making Pinkie raise her eyebrow a bit. “Hey...how’d you do that?” she took back the box and blinked a few times. “Ooo! Do your other senses tell you more since you lost one? Like, where I am with wind and stuff! That’s awesome!”

Dash gave an internal sigh as she laughed at the last part. “Well I am pretty awesome.” the doors chimed and they exited, Dash walking a bit slower then Pinkie, who kept step out of respect. “I’ve learned a few tricks to keep myself up and mobile, like the doctors said, I can’t let the fact I’m blind discourage me from being who I wanta be.”

Pinkie nodded and looked out the front doors. “Are you expecting a ride?” the lobby itself was filled with movement, people coming and going, signing in at the front desk and deliveries abound. Pinkie again took her friend's hand and took her to a bench where they both sat down. “Can I give you a ride? My van is nearby!”

“No need, Pinkie. I’ve got a cab coming. “ She smiled, patting Pinkie’s hand. “But thanks.” she pocketed the card Pinkie gave her and turned slightly to her. She’d learned a while back most people became uncomfortable if they didn’t feel like you were looking at them, even if you couldn’t see them, when you spoke with them. “It’s not here yet, from what my phone tells me. Have you heard from anyone else?”

Pinkie thought for a moment, her eyes rolling to the left as she did. “Hmm. No. Oh! I did see Fluttershy! She’s running a pet store in East EC. I had to find like 30 hamsters for a party I was throwing over at the college.” she rubbed her chin. “Though I never did find out why those guys needed that many hamsters, but hey, their check cleared and they didn’t even want me there to supervise!” she gave a grin. “Easy job. Oh yeah! I ran into Applejack at a supermarket in Western EC. She’s doing good, still working on the farm with her sister’s help!”

“That's actually pretty good to hear, I know AJ’s happier on the farm, though it’s not Sweet Apple Acres. She needed to keep busy I think.” Dash nodded.

“Yeah, once Granny Smith passed, and Big Mac, well, you know, she bought that starter farm and hasn’t looked back yet. Though I don’t know why she would look back, cuz then she’d--”

“Fluttershy’s doing good? I think she was the only one who didn’t get really rattled by the explosion. Lucky her.” Dash interrupted. “I’m glad. I’ll have to look in on her sometime. But it’s so busy for me a lot of the time. “

“I bet! All that music doesn't record itself. Well, I guess it kinda’ does. But still!” Pinkie said, rubbing her temple as she thought.

Dash’s phone chirped, her powers told her the cab was there a second or two beforehand, not to mention one of the secretaries was stealing office supplies behind them. “Oh, hey there’s my ride. Here.” Dash fished a card out of her jeans and handed it to Pinkie. “Give me a call sometime.”

“Hey! Thanks, I haven’t had a famous singer’s number before!” Pinkie looked over the card as Dash stood up and extended her cane again. She stood up as well and gave her another hug. “I’ll call when I can, I’m...pretty busy sometimes too. But, I will! Take care!”

“You too, Pinkie Pie.” she smiled and tapped her way through the lobby traffic, pushing open the doors of the building and heading for the cab, it’s door already open by the driver. Getting in she collapsed her cane and closed the door, waving at Pinkie Pie again.

Pinkie waved back, then realized how useless the gesture was and stopped. She picked up her box and tucked Dash’s card in her hair, walking out the front doors and turning left, heading towards her van. As she opened the door, she felt her ear twitch involuntarily, turning towards her left, she knew enough from growing up she had a bit of a sixth sense for odd events, and this was no exception.

An alarm went off at the store on the corner, a jewelry shop. She blinked once, and put the box into the back of the van and hopped into the driver’s seat. Popping the van into reverse, she hit the curb slightly as she swung it 90 degrees and into the side alley out of sight. Putting on the parking brake, she lept into the back and began changing into her outfit in a flash, snapping on her goggles and her gloves last. “Hero time.” she smirked to herself and opened and closed the back door, racing out of the alley and towards the store.

The world itself slowed down around her when she used her powers, people were almost standing still for the most part. Opening the front door she saw the employees on the floor, glass shattered around them, and four thugs dressed in leather jackets and wearing distinct skull motif masks. Each was scooping up whatever wasn’t nailed down and one was already drawing a weapon, apparently noticing her.

“Oh, hey you boys came packing more than lunches it seems.” she said, blitzing at the one with the pistol, she moved out of the way of the first burst of automatic fire, throwing an elbow into his mask and then a flurry of punches, nothing enough to break anything, but enough to disorient him. She hit him in the crook of the elbow and the wrist, disarming him, only to turn to the other three a split second before a fist hit her in the face, sending her off balance and over a counter.

“Got her!” one yelled. “Bet she thought she was the only one with powers!”

Pinkie shook her head a few times and hopped up, racing towards the one that hit her, he matched her speed for a moment. He was untempered, maybe new to his powers she thought. She’d still have an advantage, as she’d been honing her skills since she went for pizza one day and ended up in Equalicity. Dodging his first two swings, she heard the distinct sound of a shotgun cocking behind her. She’d underestimated the recovery time of the other thug, and he’d drawn a sawed off behind her.

She heard a loud crack as something connected with the top of his skull from behind, sending him to the ground in a heap, the shotgun sailing into one of the displays.

Pinkie dodged the last swing from the meta thud and kneed him right in the stomach, taking him out for a moment at best. That was all she needed as she turned to see what fortune had saved her life possibly. Another hero was making short work of the other two, wearing a black and purple outfit and wielding a metal staff, she dodged a bullet thw first one shot and swept the other’s legs out, sending him into his partner.

“Whoa, looks like these guys are packing more than a lunch!” Shadow Strike said, the bullet lodging in the wall behind her.

“Hey, that was--” Pinkie started to say, dodging another punch and sending a hard chop to the back of her opponent's neck, followed by one to the throat, knocking him out and to the floor. “--my line from earlier!”

“I doubt it.” Shadow Strike said, spinning out of the way of one of the thugs’ lunge and the bullet the other shot. Spinning her staff at the same moment the metal contacted with the back of the jumper’s head, followed by a quick flourish and quick three strike hit on the other’s head, arm and hand, disarming him. A hard upward swing sent the business end of her staff into his chin like an uppercut, sending him into a destroyed display case. She turned to the other hero and leaned on one of the unsmashed counters. “Good thing I was here to save you, which one are you? Lickity Split?”

Pinkie gave a small huff, but crossed her arms. “Splitsecond. I recognize you, Shadow Strike.” she picked up the bag that one of the thugs had and started pouring the jewels back into one of the undestroyed cases.

Shadow Strike did the same thing with another bag, but then turned quickly, just as she noticed Pinkie was turning as well. Shadowstrike threw her staff as Pinkie threw a large designer watch at opposite directions, each moving out of the way of the other’s object, a card falling out of Pinkie’s hair and one out of Shadow Strike’s suit. The objects hit their intended targets, the two recovering thugs were knocked out cold before they could arm themselves again.

Each looked at the other for a moment, realizing the other had just saved the other, and they both gave the other a smile with a collective “Thanks” from both.

“Hey, nice hair! I have a friend who actually has something just like that!” Pinkie rubbed her chin. She squinted one eye and looked at the other hero, before the rainbow haired girl turned her back, the yellow opaque coating on her mask’s eyes quickly disappearing.

“Popular look, I’m sure.” Shadowstrike said as she turned.

Pinkie knelt down and picked up the card, putting it back in her hair, just as the other hero did the same, pocketing it. The sound of sirens and tires squealing came from the front of the store, and each hero looked at the other and shrugged.

“Not my thing, you?” Shadow Strike said, retracting her staff into a smaller version with a flip of her wrist, clicking it onto her belt.

“Nah. They know the hard part's over. I’m outie, thanks for the assist!” Pinkie said before disappearing in a split-second, leaving a small trail of electrical disturbance behind her. Shadow Strike didn’t take another moment before she made a hasty exit behind the building, scaling the side and over the tops of the buildings as the police charged in, just missing them both.

Pinkie was back in her van before anyone could register her movement and changed back into her civilian clothing. She set down the card out of her hair and put her watch back on, finally picking it back up and staring at it casually. Then something caught her eye: a parking ticket on her windshield!

“Wow. Really?!” she exclaimed, pulling it off and reading it, giving a small sigh she tossed it into the passenger seat and glanced back at the card, only to give it a similar expression.

It wasn’t Rainbow Dash’s card.

It was her own.

***

Twilight sat cross legged in her office chair, sliding across to the main computer desk and opening a set of equations. Her lavender sweater sleeves pushed up slightly, she adjusted the keyboard and peered at the screen, SPIKE popped up on the screen next to her, his usual digitized dragon avatar.

“No that's not right.” she said to herself softly, typing two or three commands into the computer, pressing the ‘compile’ button, she leaned back and stretched. “That should do it. “

“Trouble?” SPIKE asked finally.

“No, nothing really, Spike. I just needed to adjust a few of the propulsion formulas, if I’d left them the way they were, the turbines would overheat after ten hours of use. Well give or take.” she kicked her shoes off and rubbed her feet through her socks, groaning a bit. “I swear, I’ll never get used to having these, even after a decade..”

“Yeah, but at least you aren’t freaking out like you did when you found out you didn’t have a muzzle.” SPIKE chuckled. “You walked face first into that door.”

Twilight grimaced and then smiled. “It’s nice to have someone to talk to again.” she read over a few notes on the left screen, her chair squeaking softly as she turned and began to read the data stream.

“So, I’ve been accessing more of the data. What happened to Sunset Shimmer? There’s not much in there after the explosion.” SPIKE asked, a series of articles popping up on his display, newspaper clippings mostly. “In fact, there’s nothing.”

Twilight paused and stopped typing for a moment, but then looked back to SPIKE’s screen. “Well, officially, she’s been declared dead for all intents and purposes. They never found her after the explosion.” she turned back to the screen. “But I know she’s alive. I saw her.”

“Saw her?” SPIKE asked, a question mark appearing above his avatar’s head.

“Just after the explosion, my head was still ringing but I was able to get back up and look around. I was trying to help Rarity and the others back up. That's when I looked over and saw her, near the road.” Twilight responded, pulling up schematics and other little formulas in front of her. “She…” she paused again. “She looked awful. Who could blame her, we’d all just seen and had the worst thing possible happened to all of us. Rarity watched her sister die, Rainbow Dash went blind. Pinkie got hit by some freak lightning bolt. Her hair was still smoking...I can still smell it. Like burnt cotton candy.” she stopped again, looking down at the keyboard silently.

“That sounds awful. Was...I there?” SPIKE asked, a bit unsure if he wanted the answer. “Well the, living me?”

“You’d huddled down with me just as the wave hit us, but you were lucky. Nothing hurt you I thought.” she continued. “Anyway, Sunset just stared at the carnage in front of her, and then she turned and ran. I tried to call out to her, but so many people..were..screaming it.” she winced as the memories seemed to trigger physical pain. “It was just too loud. I didn’t see her again. When the police questioned everyone, they kept naming her as a possible cause for it all. To be honest, I can’t really remember what happened before I woke back up and saw her. I think the wave hit us pretty hard.” she perked up as the screen in front of her chirped and read the propulsion test was ready. “Eventually, all the reports blamed her in one way or another.”

“Yeah, seems like all the newspapers I’ve read blame the entire thing on some sort of natural gas explosion?” SPIKE said, several headlines popping up on his screen.

Twilight stood and cracked her back softly, stretching and twisting a bit. “Yeah. That's the story most were given. It wasn’t until the magic that was sent out began to manifest that authorities put two and two together. Though they won’t admit it officially.” she adjusted her sweater and her slacks, walking over to one of the manufacturing stations, staring into it through the plexiglass protection. Several automated arms began moving rapidly, assembling the latest version of the boots the propulsion was to go into, each piece being placed perfectly with blinding speed. “I...don’t mean to sound rude, but can we talk about something else? I...don’t like going back to those memories much, Spike.”

“Sure, Twilight. I’m sorry.” he said, popping up on a monitor that hung in front of her, part of the assembly station.

“It’s alright, Spike. It’s nice to have you to talk to again.” she smiled up at the monitor. “I may be trapped here, but at least I’ve got my trusty assistant back.”

“Yeah, it’s a good thing you don’t need me to send any scrolls though. A bit hard being, in here.” he chuckled.

Twilight looked back at the window with a smile still, folding her arms in front of her and watching the assembly continue. The silver metal frame slowly began to take shape, each part of the jets and propulsion system quickly covered up by the next layer of metal. The smile left her face and she turned, sitting back down at her tools, she picked up the gauntlet she’d been working on and put her hand into it, the two plates that made up the bulk of it sliding together and locking tight, ending at her elbow. Flexing her fingers, she opened her palm and the ring in the glove lit up, the center cover irising open, then closed.

“So, wait, you don’t have any ammunition storage or energy rounds, what fires out of that?” SPIKE asked, popping up as a small holographic version of himself in front of her, a tiny emitter on the table. “Huh, how did I know that?”

“Your background processes are learning about the architecture of the suit I’m making, Spike.” she turned to him, looking him over and seemingly satisfied with the representation, turned back to her gauntlet. She pressed a button on the underside and the plates opened up and she slid it off, opening it a bit more as if to show it to SPIKE. “See, there’s a set of contacts in the forearm and based on muscle motion, you can access all the weaponry that ECPD may want. Mainly air bursts, stun fields and riot control.” she put it back on, the locking sound of the gears clicking closed. “Right now there’s nothing connected to it so I can just--”

A discharge of energy escaped the front of the glove, hitting the nearby wall and pushing Twilight off her chair. She gave a startled squeak as she landed, quickly pulling the device off and setting it down, she stood up and looked at the wall.

“Twilight! Are you ok?!” SPIKE asked frantically, his avatar jumping up and down trying to see down at her. “I thought you said it wasn’t loaded!”

Twilight walked over to the wall and with a wide eyed expression, examined it. “It wasn’t Spike. That shouldn’t have happened. There was nothing touching the contacts but, well my skin.” she reached forward and touched the wall, pulling her hand back and shaking it.

“What? What? Is it hot?” SPIKE asked, popping up on a screen in front of her, a concerned expression.

“No, it’s..it’s cold. Very cold.” she said, walking back over to the bench and sitting down, adjusting her hair back a bit. “That can’t be possible.” she said to herself, putting the gauntlet back on and locking it in place. She took aim again, this time careful not to hit anything remotely important, and winced, expecting the worst. Nothing happened.

“Huh. Misfire?” SPIKE said, pulling up a series of schematics on his screen, the gauntlet disassembling and reassembling in front of him. “Everything looks on spec, Twilight.”

“It is. But, wait…” she said, working the problem out in her head. “I was sitting here. Showing you the firing mechanism. Opened my hand. “ she walked through the troubleshooting process aloud, focusing on recreating the result. “Then I told you it wasn’t armed, and then I started to think about my magic I used to be able to make from my horn.”

The gauntlet fired again, this time, a purple beam hit the wall, burning a small chunk loose. She quickly closed her hand and looked at it, then the wall, walking over and examining it. Twilight frowned again, and aimed again, closing her eyes a moment and concentrating. A burst of concussive force knocking a fire extinguisher nearby off the wall and crashing to the ground. A moment later, the canister exploded, sending shrapnel in all directions. Twilight quickly and instinctively held up her arms to shield herself. Opening her eyes she was met with a purple hue around her in the shape of a force field, emitting from her gauntlet.

“Twilight, stop!” SPIKE shouted, transferring to another monitor as the one he was on shattered from the minor explosion. “Take it off!”

Twilight lowered her arm and then examined it again, looking at it in astonishment. “Spike, I think, I need to do some more testing.” she pulled it off and set it on the table, pulling out a set of diagnostic tools and rolling up her sleeves again. She separated the two main connection parts and began to comb through the internal wiring with a small tool, checking the harness inside.

“That's an understatement.” SPIKE said sarcastically, transferring to the table again and pulling up the schematics in a 3D wireframe in front of her. “How’s that able to fire without any weaponry onboard? Whats sending all those different types of energy out?”

Twilight joined the gauntlet together again and closed her eyes, reaching out towards a glass sitting on her main desk. A small field of purple formed around it as she opened her eyes, bringing the object towards her. “I think…” she took the glass in her hand as it got close enough. “I am, Spike.”

“You? But how’s that possible?” he asked, the schematic disappearing and his avatar popping back up.

“I don’t know yet. But all of these are the basic spells I learned as a unicorn. Ice.” she pointed to the wall. “Energy. Both forms of telekinesis.” she motioned to the wall and the glass. “And a shielding spell.” she flexed her fingers. “It can’t be a coincidence. Those are all novice class spells.”

“But magic doesn't work here, at least yours doesn’t.” SPIKE reminded her, a picture of a unicorn Twilight popping up next to him and a large red X appearing over the horn. “We found that out when you first came here.”

Twilight pulled the gauntlet off and set it down. “Whatever the reason, it does now.” she waved her hand at the wall, to not affect. “But it only seems to work with the gauntlets. I don’t know why. Yet.” she sat down again and stared at the armor she was slowly making, the pondering expression Spike was all too familiar with covering her face. “I need to run further tests. Not to mention find out if this works on anyone else but me.”

She turned and put her hair back a bit, walking over to the display case in the back of the lab. Inside was the prototypes she'd had built, including the propulsion boots that were finishing, two sets of automated arms and tools inside putting together the final bolts and frame. A dull paint primer covered them all as the final pieces locked into place, the entire armor now awaiting final inspection.

“You're not going to try it yourself are you? “ Spike asked, a worried look on his digital face behind her.

“I'm going to have to, Spike. There's no time to get volunteers cleared for this type of project as soon as Rarity needs it” she said looking concerned a moment and turning to the monitor on the side of the display, inputting her authorization code and pulling up a schematic of the armor. “and if we don't get it cleared in time, the city will be forced to use more lethal means, which I don't want.”

Pulling up a small painting program on the display she worked a few moments on the palette in front of her, then began selecting areas to color on the armor. “It's now or never. Besides, Spike” She turned and let the automated process begin. “ I'm sure all my work is relatively safe.”

“Relatively?” Spike asked, concern in his voice.

“Absolutely, almost 100% positive” she looked away as she gave a false assurance, turning back to watch the arms start to spray paint and color the armor, typing in the code name for the armor she thought a moment and shrugged to herself.

She typed in “Matterhorn Armor Model 1” and hit save.

***

Nightwatch walked into the locker room of the ECPD HQ, the door closing behind him as he walked along the lockers, each holding the name of an officer in the department. Finally he stopped at his, the lettering worn a bit from the years, and started to spin the dial on the lock. The combination’s last number locked into place and he opened the door, the hinges creaking, barely hiding the sound of the main entry door opening behind him, more officers coming in.

He started to unbutton his uniform shirt and took it off, setting it on the bench next to him, the dim lighting above his locker illuminating just a hint of the few scars he’d gotten from the line of duty. Along his grey toned chest, two bullet wounds and a two inch long knife wound along the left side were quickly hidden when he put on a vest, tightening the straps on it for fit. A nameplate on the back of it read ‘Gem Shield’ and under it in smaller letters ‘Diamond Innovations’, the plating in the vest designed to stop limited small arms fire. He silently redressed and listened to the locker room banter that seemed to always fill the room a few moments after the previous shift began to filter in. He tried for the most part to ignore it, and closed his locker, heading out to go find out what new and exciting crime awaited him, when the main door opened again, a larger and slightly overweight officer suddenly blocking his way.

“Hey, Night. Chief wants to talk to you. She’s in her office.” the man said, eating the last of a small donut. “Hey, they wanting to put you in JUSTICE?”

Nightwatch shrugged. “Who knows? Thanks, Warren.” he slid past him and into the main set of offices past the front desk, the sound of phones ringing and overlapping talking filling his ears as he did. Making his way to the back of the station, he dodged the occasional officer walking past him and greeted a few detectives who were on lunch. “Working hard?”

“Hardly working. Hey, JUSTICE really eyeing you up? Saw it on the news.” one of them asked as he gave the same shrug as before and turned, facing a door marked “Chief D’Angelo’, knocking on it’s frosted glass.

“In!” a single response came from behind it, the stern female voice behind it in a state of discontent.

Nightwatch opened the door and stepped in, the smell of freshly brewed coffee hitting his nostrils as he did. Closing the door behind him he turned to see the chief's desk stacked with paperwork per usual, and several empty and discarded cups of coffee sitting around the various tables in the room. Behind the desk was a brunette, her uniform a bit wrinkled, her hair shoulder length and her right hand clenching yet another coffee cup.

“He wasn’t trying to hit the elephants. No. Well I don’t know, shouldn’t they have gotten out of the way?” Chief D’Angelo motioned to Nightwatch to sit down, still on a phone call, the receiver in her other hand, gesturing with her coffee cup. “Well then if they’re alright, why are we talking? Discipline?! If it wasn’t for my guys you’d still be rounding up kangaroos right now. Look. I’ll see if I can send some help in the morning. I have to go. Thanks.” she said, hanging up the phone.

“You wanted to see me, chief?” he asked sitting down in one of the chairs in front of her desk.

“Yeah, Night. Good news. Trixie is in a holding cell in Purgatory thanks to you and your pink speedster.” Beverly said, waving a small folder with papers in it. “The video evidence at the museum as well as CCTV are more than enough. The district attorney is going to go ahead and push for the repeat offender conviction. Good work.”

Night nodded and smiled. “Appreciate it, but it was really all Splitseconds’ --”

“Ah. No. YOU arrested her. The citizen speedster simply assisted. If the entire city heard us now, they’d be more support for disbanding us in favor of a meta force. So ixnay on that.” she waved a finger at him.

“Got something else for you.” she searched through the stacks of papers on her desk and finally pulled out a packet of papers.”As a duly appointed representative of the ECPD, I, Chief D’Angelo hereby notify..ya know what screw this. Mayor wants an official face for the Meta heroes we got cropping up everywhere. You know, how they're helping us, most of the guys don't wanta’ touch the stuff.”

Nightwatch blinked and smiled. “Well, I mean, what would I be doing differently, Bev? I already seem to get every call in the precinct” he said shifting in his chair a bit. “am I just a mouth-piece for the department now when it comes to hero business?”

D'Angelo took a drink of her coffee and set it down, looking through a stack of papers. “Well, now it's official, your additional title is now…” she picked up a piece of paper and squinted at the print for a moment. “‘Meta Human Departmental Ambassador’, and now you, and this again, I'd like to stress, is coming from Luna, are to respond to meta human calls only.” she set the paper down and leaned back in her chair, a small squeak coming from the springs. “additionally, The Commissioner would like you to try and make nice with the heroes, get them to work with us instead of getting in each other's way. Most of the time you interact with ‘em, it's on a friendly basis.“

“They're getting the job done, for the most part, I can't really complain. The bill that the city passed allows them to work and bring in guys if they allow themselves the same due process we go through. We can't really turn down the help, we're getting our grills kicked in by the gangs, adding superpowers was just another punch in the gut.” Nightwatch shrugged and rested his head on his hand, lazily looking through the window behind the chief, the city skyline becoming more dark as night set in.

“I get that. Believe me. I remember the first time I dealt with a so called hero. Turned awful fast before we could sort things out, turned out she was just trying to help. “ she stood up and stretched, turning off her desk lamp and shuffling a set of papers. “Also, they want me to make you a captain. Much as it pains me.” she gave a small smile, opening a desk drawer and pulling out a new badge. “said it seemed more official, so here. Congratulations, Captain Nightwatch. “ she tossed the badge at him.

He caught it and stared at it in awe for a moment. “All this for coming into work today?” he gave a half smile and exchanged his old badge to her, standing up. “So, I get a raise then?”

“You get some new insignia from the quartermaster and get back out there and patrol. I'll have dispatch know your new orders. Press and reporters and all that junk is yours to deal with but don't, and I mean don't, make the city or me, look bad.”

“Gotcha. Anything else?” he saluted briefly and then watched as she turned another lamp in the corner off and grabbed her jacket.

“Yeah, get the hell out of my office, I'm going home.” she answered, walking past him and turning the final light off, the new captain soon following behind her as the door closed.

***

The fabrication arms locked into their standby position, S.P.I.K.E. switching his attention to the armies specs, running several checks and diagnostics. “Twilight, it's finished!”

Twilight walked out from her bathroom, the lab had pretty much all she needed to be self sustained for weeks at a time. Dressed in a full body hugging one piece bodysuit, she looked herself over in a mirror by her workstation. She quickly scoffed at her efforts, wishing Rarity was there in the back of her mind as she put the finishing touches on the body hugging material. Clothing wasn't exactly her specialty, but she had made due with what she was able to do herself. The violet and powder blue fabric was stretchy to a degree as she tested it's ruggedness. Peppered along the seams at strategic places she's attached diodes to link to the suits feedback sensors.

“It's very, er, form fitting!” S.P.I.K.E. said finally, his face appearing on the monitor closest to her, a bit of uneasiness in his tone. “You, sure you made it tight enough?”

“It has to be, Spike, otherwise the suit won't be able to monitor my vitals and feedback. Well I should said you won't be able to.” she corrected herself, wiggling her toes a bit to get the seams straight on the materials footing.

“Yeah about that. I uploaded myself into the suit but it's still on standby mode. We'll need to boot it up and calibrate quite a few things.” her digital assistant said, the monitor next to the fabrication chamber displaying his face.

“Oh of course, I just need to…” she paused looking over her hands and flexing her fingers.”...get into it. Right.” she sighed and looked at the armor through the glass, pressing a hand to it and staring blankly at it.

“You sure about this? We can always do more simulations.” Spike asked uneasily, a frown on his avatar. “if you're not feeling up to it.”

“No, Spike, I have to do this. Even if it seems a bit risky.” She answered, nodding her head and sighing softly. “I just need the helmet.” she turned to see the second bay of fabricators still shifting about and adding layers onto the last part of the armor.

“It’s almost done. We should check your heads up.” Spike said, his face shifting to a nearby monitor, in front of it a pair of goggles with a black head harness attached to it. The entire rig looked like it was meant for a secure fit no matter the user's movement.

Twilight picked up the pair of goggles and adjusted the head straps a bit, making a guestimate about the fit, finally putting it on over her head, pulling the back of her hair through it and letting it hang from her neck. Adjusting a few more straps she fussed with her hair a bit more until finally she got it out of the way, allowing her to bring the glasses over her eyes, securing them with a final tightening of the straps and the snaps that secured them. Pressing a small toggle on the side of the lenses, they emitted a high pitch whine as they started up, a flurry of diagnostic and boot up commands flashing in front of her eyes.

“Ok, booting now, Spike” she said, turning her head a bit and tilting up and down as she calibrated the device for her movement. A series of long equations filled her vision and then Spike’s face suddenly appeared in the upper right of her sight. “Are you linked in?”

“Online. Importing interface from mainframe in the lab, one sec…” he said, another long line of code filled the area around Spike’s avatar and a small hourglass appeared a few times before finally disappearing. “Alright, all linked in. Now you just need to hook the rest of the armor in.

Twilight nodded and walked over to the secondary bay that held the now finished helmet, taking it into her hands and looking it over once before finally putting it on over her hair, annoyed how it was still in the way, she flipped her head forward and loaded her hair through the top and then settled the headpiece on snugly, a faint click of metal on metal as it fastened to the goggle and the housing. Checking her vision and the weight, she seemed happy with the helmet and walked towards the main bay, the arms pulling away the main sections and opening up the chest panels for entry.

Stepping into the bay, Twilight looked over the pieces and gave them another visual inspection before stepping up onto the prep area, carefully slipping her feet into the designated spots for encasement.

“Ok, ready or not, here we go.” she sighed, closing her eyes and opening them a second later, braving the unknown. “Activate Matterhorn Armor, Model 1, Spike.”

A small whirring of machinery began to fill her ears, half a dozen pieces of armor moving and sliding at the same time. A dance of motion and machinery took over the room as the automation began from the legs and worked it’s way up. Assembly struts and arms worked at a steady but rather hasty pace, the fittings designed for her feet and legs locked into place, startling her with the loud metal securing plates, the waist and chest slamming forward into place just short of hitting her. A gentle nudge was all she felt as they surrounded her and rivets and industrial bolts secured the main front, their holding arms sliding out of the way as the final parts moved in, the shoulders to the gauntlets speeding in and stopping for a more easy attachment much to her relief, the arms locking the final bolts into place and retracting into place.

“Wow, that was…” Twilight swallowed. “That was a lot faster then I thought it would be. Let's worry about that later though..” she said. “Spike, are you interfaced?”

“Online and ready, Twilight. Preparing to activate primary power source and motor function assist.” Spike answered, a pair of graphics representing her power usage popped up on her HUD. “Online, lets see if you can move around, calibration for body scan in place. Give it a try.”

Twilight flexed her fingers, lifting her arm up and down, then the other one, finally both as she turned her body, hoping the servo assist didn’t snap her spin in half as she did. Thankfully, it was working as she designed it, following her turn she started walking. Clumsy at first, the legs were a bit stiff, but Spike started to compensate for it as he got feedback from her body. A few more steps and she was moving freely around the lab, testing all her joints and field of view, the targeting system acquiring different objects for her as she did. “Alright, this seems good so far.”

“Ready to power down and run a once over?” Spike asked, his face disappearing to give a greater depth of field, a small voice bar moving as his voice did in the upper right corner of her goggles.

“No, not yet. Let's get propulsion online. I want to see how that turns out first.” she said, walking towards the more open part of the room. Finally clear of most obstacles, she turned to face the center. “Ok, lets try, eh 20 percent thrust.” she nodded, the boots giving a small clicking sound as the command executed.

She was ready to go flying, but was met with less than pleasing results when the boots fired their thrusters and she barely stumbled forward.Twilight checked over the boots and looked them over quietly, scratching her head absently. “Spike, try increasing to 50 percent.” she requested, the power grid lighting up on her HUD as the thrusters fired again and lifted her up to about 18 inches off the ground. She waved her arms around trying to regain her balance, knocking over a few glass tubes as she did, finally stabilizing upright. “Thats better, thank you Spike.” she smiled, slowly learning to control her momentum and pitch as she increased power again, nearly hitting the ceiling. “Whoa! Ok, need to relax. Relax. But the power isn’t suitable, I’ll need to add more output.” She said, pushing off the ceiling as she did, cutting her thrusters and landing with a metallic clang.

“Well, that was productive.” She smiled, looking over the lab, happy it was still in tact. “Spike, run the numbers on the data.” she walked over to the far end of the lab’s freight elevator, pressing the call button.

“Wait, what are you going to do, Twilight?” Spike had an uneasy tone in his voice, the receivers in her helmet broadcasting him to her..

The elevator doors opened in front of her. “Just a little walk. Let's go see what we can do outside.” she grinned as the doors closed, heading to the parking garage slowly.

***

The sound of distant traffic filled the back alley as two figures met in the center of it, a lone light from a back doorway was the only illumination to be seen. One dressed in a heavy sweatshirt and jogging pants, the other in a pressed security uniform, each glancing around nervously as another distant car came and went.

The guard tipped her hat up slightly and motioned towards the other figure. “Come on. You gotta’ pay to play.” she gestured with her hand, opening it for a predetermined payment.

The shadowy figure stepped into the light barely lighting her face, reaching into her pants pocket and pulling out a wad of cash, all bound up in a rubber band. She tossed it to the guard, who eagerly began counting it, the bills crisp and sticking together. “You sure want whatever is in here, keep in mind you can only get about ten minutes before the patrol comes in. You need to make sure no one sees you.” she turned and opened the door, sliding her pass card through the scanner, the metal locks detaching with a small click.

“Oh that won’t be an issue.” the girl said, grabbing the guard from behind and putting her into a chokehold, immediately covering her mouth as well. A brief struggle followed by fading strength ended with the guard’s consciousness leaving her as the sleeper hold took effect. “But we can’t have someone like you guarding this company's secrets.”

Taking the guard into the hallway, she pulled her into a nearby closet and secured her to a water main with a pair of handcuffs, taking her radio and taping her mouth shut. She checked her pulse to make sure she hadn’t killed her, and shut the door quickly. The would be thug stripped off her wig and outer layer of clothing, stashing it in a small backpack she brought with her, revealing Sunset Shimmer’s true form. “Don’t worry though, the footage of you letting someone in for money will be more than enough to ensure you won’t be for long. Sleep tight.”

Shutting the closet, she adjusted her glasses and pulled out a small flashlight, aiming it down the dark hallways and checking each door nameplate. Her boots clicked softly as she rounded the corner, the beam of her flashlight finally coming to rest on a nameplate reading “Records” on the front of a walnut colored door. Turning off her light, she pulled out a small rolled up toolkit from one of the pouches on her belt, opening it up and unrolling it to reveal various sets of lockpicks. Silently giving thanks she didn’t have to hotwire a pass code, she slid two thin metal picks into the keyhole, slowly trying to trick the tumblers into letting her in. Squinting slightly, she frowned at the keyhole, until finally with a small thunk the tumblers fell into sequence and the door opened with a loud creek that echoed the hallway, making her cringe. Checking behind her a moment she slipped through the small crack the door opening had left her and turned on her flashlight again, checking over the room and her watch.

“8 minutes left.” she thought to herself, searching the file cabinet labels for what she was looking for. Coming to the center of the room, the filing cabinets seemingly went on forever, she opened the middle drawer of one and began to flip through the folders, scanning each one with determination, she came to one labeled ‘Shipping Rare Hair Manifests” and pulled it out, marking her place in the cabinet and opening the folder. Scanning over the pages inside she frowned again, searching for the proper date of Sassy’s break-in at the plant. Locating the date, she checked the deliveries for that day. “Lavender, Jasmine, some essence of jade…” she whispered to herself, reading down the list. “Chemical X, Berry coloring, Larson-10, and Fuastatrine. Wait..Faustatrine?” Sunset blinked and pulled out her DataTablet, tapping in the name and a search came up, listing the properties.

“Faustatrine. Highly reactive…” she mumbled to herself, her eyes darting back and forth as she skimmed the article. “..discovered by accident, found to have highly mutagenic properties. Banned from use except for high level controlled laboratories.” she closed the article. “Not easy to get, and harder to control. This isn’t for anything hair care related.” she pocketed her tablet. “So what was it doing on the counter of a office in a hair care product plant?” she shook her head a bit, taking the document in her hand and folding it, she stuck it in one of her many pouches on her belt and closed the file drawer. Her watch beeped twice, indicating she had little time left. “Crap.” she moved silently but quickly to the door, snapping it closed, she turned back down the hallway and heard footsteps rounding the far corridor.

“Linda, you down here? Shift change.” a male voice echoed down the hall, a flashlight coming on near it’s source.

Sunset pulled out a large envelope and secured it to the wall with a note indicating it go to the police, and she pressed the release on the back door, slipping out as the guard’s flashlight shone on the package she’d left. “Hey what's this...Linda?”

Sunset immediately concentrated, putting her arms down to her side, a brief flicker of fire erupted from her hands and send her flying up at a decent rate of speed. She grabbed the top of a nearby building ledge and swung over and behind it, out of sight and out of danger from discovery. She kept a quick pace as she leapt from rooftop to rooftop, finally disappearing into the city skyline.

***

The elevator doors opened with a gentle chime, allowing Twilight to step out into the vacant parking garage, metal footsteps echoing in the massive space as she did. The level she was on was not used as parking, but mainly storage for the building, giving her the perfect place to be alone, and free of potentially hazardous material. Turning to walk towards the center of the room, the former princess of friendship had gotten quite a handle on maneuvering in the suit she’d been slaving over these past months, almost feeling like years. Tripping on her step once or twice, she was far better now than how she had been upstairs in the lab.

“So, the colors are based on a comic book I had?” Spike asked, his voice pattern blipped into her viewscreen as he spoke. “Power Ponies? Why don’t I remember that?”

“Well, Spike, I didn’t program absolutely everything into you, I had to decide what was important and what wasn’t. But yes, you had a comic book you drug me and our friends into.” She answered, looking around to make a quick check of the area.

“Wait, drug you into?”

“Well, it turned out it was a magic comic book, we all turned into superheroes, and had to stop the evil Mane-iac from destroying Maretropolis.” she continued, happy the area was clear, making her way back to the center of the room. “The only way we could get back was playing our parts and then beating the villain. Didn’t take entirely too long, but it was fun. I, as you informed me then, took on the persona of the Masked Matterhorn. I had the power to generate all sorts of elemental powers from my horn.”

“Isn’t that what unicorns do anyway?” Spike asked immediately.

There was a pause, Twilight’s expression going blank for a moment, her eyebrows raised and fell after a moment. “Huh, you know that really didn’t come up then, but, I guess you’re right, Spike” she chuckled a bit to herself. “It was a quick little adventure, and we all learned a bit about friendship, even you.”

“Sounds kinda like a gimmick episode of a sit-com.” Spike said, a brief pause after he said that. “There I go again, how do I even know that?”

“All part of the programming, I couldn’t have you be as lost as I was when I got trapped here. Now, lets try another propulsion test. Sixty percent.” she said, putting her hands out, the in palm thruster stabilizers whirred to life, the iris cover on them opening. “Now.”

The sound of her boots and hands fired, a gust of air followed by the displacement of dust was next, lifting her body off the ground. This time she had much more grace in her elevation, loading up small programs to compensate for her body’s movement and tilt as she mastered the new challenges in front of her as she always had: quickly. Drifting to the left, she slowly watched a pillar get dangerously close, quickly moving her hand up to adjust her direction, she went spinning counter clockwise like a dancer, hitting a similar pillar behind her.

“Twilight, are you ok?!” Spike asked, his full avatar coming up on her HUD.

“I’m good, Spike. The polymer and material I made this out of took most of the hit.” she grunted and cut the power, landing on her feet with a metal thunk. “I emphasis ‘most’” she stretched her left arm back, rotating it in place in pain. “Ow. Ok, less correction, this time, I want seventy percent thrust. Ready?”

“Ready, firing.” Spike answered, the graphs in the upper right of her HUD reading the outputs to her.

Feeling a cold chill touching her upper left arm, she turned her head. “Oh great, I tore the skinsuit, my bare skin is touching the interFAAA”. Before she could finish, the input and output displays rose faster than she’d seen them, clearly taking in too much power than she’d anticipated. The thrust from her boots and gloves threw her up and into the ceiling, only the construction of the helmet saving her from a quick death. There she was stuck for a few seconds, only after cutting her power did she realize the immediate error she’d made, landing face first into the cement floor, happy for the helmet again.

“Ow.” Twilight finally said, the turbines in her boots spinning down as she stood up slowly. “Spike, what was that?” she asked, stumbling a bit and leaning on an undamaged pillar. “Spike?” she asked again, checking her HUD, she found most of it was offline. Using her optical interface, she started scanning for damages, worried she’d lost Spike somehow during the crash. She sighed in relief as she saw most of the systems shut down to prevent an overload, and rebooted her digital assistant.

“Twilight, what just happened?” Spike asked, popping back up in front of her HUD. “I...kinda just fell asleep it felt like.”

“No, Spike. I programmed your main programs with a failsafe, in case of a power surge, you shut down momentarily. Thing is, I don’t quite know what triggered that massive...er..spike.” she chuckled and stretched back, the power gauges surging again as her bare arm hit the diodes again. “Wait….” she worked the problem, like she always would. “It’s only happening when my body touches the feedback system.” she walked around in a small circle in comedic fashion, checking all other gestures she’d gone previous to that, finally moving her left arm again, the power bars topping out again.

“Huh. That’s why. “ she lowered her arm and watched the dials sink in front of her. “The same thing as before.”

“It’s reacting to physical touch?” Spike popped in, a question mark over his head. “How is that possible?”

“A reasonable question.” she said, her eyes darting across her HUD, activating the weapon systems of the gauntlets as she moved her left arm, skin touching the interfaces, the inputs surged into the red zone. Twilight took aim, several sets of cross hairs on her HUD circling a barrel at the far end of the room until they finally locked into place, confirming her target lock. She fired a burst of air, knocking it down. Before the barrel stopped moving, she lifted her other hand and fired, this time concentrating the same way she’d done when learning spells. The right palm fired, this time beam of white energy came out and hit the barrel, ice covering it instantly. Not one to stop when she was getting results, she fired again, a blast of pure purple colored energy hitting the ice and shattering it, sending shards everywhere. Holding up both hands, she concentrated on her barrier spell and the gloves did the rest, the ice and metal shards bouncing harmlessly off it and to the side. Finally, she powered them down.

“How…” Spike began to asked. “How is this possible?”

“I’m not sure, Spike. But I have a theory. We need to get back up to the lab and start running tests.” She answered, already moving towards the elevator that brought them down. “Not to mention before someone comes to investigate what all the noise is.” she pressed the call button. “But I think I know what's happening. Why it’s happening is another puzzle entirely.” she finished, stepping into the elevator, the doors closing behind her.

***

A puddle of drool slowly formed on Rarity shoulder, her consciousness had left her hours before. Laid back in the chair, the head of one of the most powerful companies in Equestrian City, or even the continent, was as miserable as she'd been since the day her sister was taken from her.

Her blouse had begun to ride up against the leather chair she had chosen to accent her glass desk. Feet propped up in a very inlay like fashion, her trademark light blue polish had been chipped and scuffed from the stumbling she'd done during her last venture to the wet bar. Hands hanging from her side, the right grasp an empty glass, the contents dropping to the floor slowly, the other wrapped across her midsection clutching a picture frame.

Most had the public view that Rarity was by all accounts a stable levelheaded president of her company. The harsh reality was anything but fabulous. Only a few close friends and partners knew of the issues that plagued the top of the power house that was Rare Innovations.

Coco Pommel was one of those trusted friends, she'd been with her from the start. From her first business venture to the diversification with Silver Spoon, the ups and downs did not falter her. She had both the loyalty and the fortitude to stay the course with Rarity. She thought over these ideals and weighed the pros and cons to them, as she did everyone she happened upon the office at night, as she'd just done now.

“Oh Rarity.” She said softly, closing the office door and walking quickly towards her friend’s slumped back figure, the glass coming free and rolling behind her chair. Coco began by picking up the fashion leader's shoes and sat them on a nearby couch. Checking the windows, she gave a quick peek at the controls. They were still set on one way, so no one had seen Rarity in this disarray. “at least you had sense of mind to do that.”

As Coco pulled the glass from Rarity’s hand, the office door opened, the lock sliding loudly as it did. She panicked for a moment, turning to the door and standing in front of Rarity to obscure her. “Who's there? Can I help you?” she blurted out awkwardly, tensing up as she did.

“It’s Twilight, Coco.” a voice said, the door closing and locking automatically. Her footsteps on the floor grew closer as Coco let out a small sigh of relief. “Is Rarity….” she stopped as she saw her answer. “Oh no.“

“Hi, Twilight. Could I get your help?” she motioned to Rarity, a small snore coming from her now. Slowly sliding from her chair as the two talked, Coco caught her. “I just need to get her to the couch. Just you and I know at the moment.”

Twilight gave a sad look at her friend’s dilapidated state. “Alright, Coco. No problem.” she said, setting her DataTablet down and joining the assistant at the chair. Each grabbed an arm, making sure to not hurt her as much as move her. The two had become familiar with how to move a passed out body for a while now, a thought that spun in their minds as they did so again, slowly getting assistance from Rarity herself, her feet trying to walk and failing.

“Thaz the wrong color, what can’t you see with pastels…” Rarity slurred awake from the movement, her ramblings half coherent. “No, no. That's zilly. Do I look like a marshmallow…?”

Twilight and Coco got her to the sofa and laid her down gently, propping her head on one of the pillows. Twilight walked over to a hidden closet in the west side of the room, pulling out a blanket and closing the door, the seams were practically invisible to the naked eye as she did. Laying the blanket on Rarity’s midsection, she slowly spread it out until she met the picture frame in the slumbering girl’s hand. Pulling at it, she realized it was Sweetie Belle and Rarity, in a much happier time when she was in high school. The two looked like they were finishing up some sort of race in the fall.

“Some sort of..sisterhood social?.” Twilight said offhandedly, taking the picture gently from Rarity’s grasp with little effort. She set it down on the coffee table, propping it up so it was facing her friend.

“I believe so.” Coco fluffed a few more pillows and propped them under Rarity and turned her on her side as a precaution. “Was she like that where you came from?”

Twilight blinked, not accustomed to hearing such a personal question from Coco. “Oh, yes, yes they were very close. She’d have done anything for Sweetie Belle.” she turned and looked at Rarity, who was mumbling something about ribbons at the time. “I think she would have been just as hurt had it happened there.” she finished, turning to Coco. “You’re not too different either. To a point.”

“Good to know that there are some constants at least.” Coco smiled, standing up and brushing herself off. “Did you need something, or were you here on a social call?”

“I came by to see Rarity, I worry about her. She said she was doing better but, I guess seeing is believing in this case.” Twilight answered, picking up her Tablet and looking at Coco. “You?”

“I come by for..” she paused. “ Similar reasons. She’s my friend. I worry. For good reason as you can see. You and I know how often she needs, taking care of, so to speak.” Coco looked at the tablet Twilight held. “How are the tests going? Rarity mentioned you were close to a working model? I hope your project is presentable soon. It should really perk Rarity up.”

Twilight hesitated for a moment, but nodded. “Yes. I was going to show Rarity something, but it can wait. I should get back to work though.” She cleared her throat, turning. “Good Night, Coco.

“Good Night, Twilight.” Coco replied, walking slightly behind Twilight, both of them heading different directions down the hallway. Coco’s heels getting further and further by the sounds she heard, Twilight stopped and looked out one of the hallway windows. The skyline of Equestrian City below her gave a gentle glow, contrasted perfectly against a full moon in the sky. She frowned and walked with haste to the elevator, hitting the call button.

Twilight rationalized a great many things in her mind as the doors began to close, finally she spoke.

“Power up the armor, Spike.”

“Wait what?!” Spike asked, the door closing and cutting off their conversation.

***

End of episode.

Episode 4 - "Field Tests"

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Aria stirred from her sleep, pulling the lavender sheets up to her chest as she glanced around the bedroom. A small fireplace lit the king size bed she laid in, flickering illumination across her face and shoulders. With her hair out of place and not in it’s usual ponytail, she pulled a hairband from the end table and began brushing her hair back before securing it, simultaneously allowing the sheets to drop. Sliding out of bed to the cold marble floor, her fuschia toned feet recoiled back a split second after contact before coming to rest comfortably on the smooth surface, having become adjusted to the temperature. Walking across the room she stepped before a full length mirror and looked at herself, her expression that of uncertainty after nearly a decade. The gentle popping and crackling of the fire was all that filled the room as she examined herself in detail.

Not much had changed since she had arrived in the world. Thanks to that meddling wizard, Starswirl the Bearded, she and her “sisters” had been banished to this world by Canterlot’s leading magical wielding unicorn after they started to cause too much trouble. They had adjusted quickly, having been left with barely enough magic to survive in this new world. Despite their alien surroundings, she and her siren sisters were able to sustain themselves by doing what they did best: stirring up arguments and feeding off the negative energy.


Her body was thin and toned, as it always had been, through it now bore the scars of her life that radically changed ten years prior. There were just two really noticeable glaring anomalies. The first of which was the largest and on her chest in the form of the magic gem she and her sisters had used to provoke people. It was slightly larger than the ones they had arrived with, and it no longer hung from her neck by a ribbon. It was embedded in her skin with several large tendrils of flesh wrapped around it and holding it in place on the sides. She felt conflicted about it the most as it was a bit of an eyesore on her previously flawless body, but it gave her the powers of her sisters and her own just ten fold. The embedding process was painful but, as her missing bed partner had claimed, the price was well worth the power.


She had doubts at times, despite the power being as described.


The second was her forearms and those bothered her the most. The series of jagged scars up and down them both was ever present in most of her outfits she’d choose. The blast at the concert had been life changing for everyone: it either killed you, hurt you or, in her case, gave you powers. A brief thought to that day reminded her that she had been inches from death when her new found partner appeared out of nowhere, and made her an offer she quite honestly couldn’t refuse: Escape or death.


The hesitation she did have towards accepting the offer was what gave her the scars on her arms, as an explosion nearby had sent shards of glass and scrap hurdling towards her. Instinct saved her face from disfigurement but at the cost of her forearms, which she had pulled up to shield herself. The pain from it was motivation enough to take his offer and escape with him.


She played the scene of the explosion in her head again, watching the wave of raw magic roll over people left and right, as well as the moment Adagio and Sonata had realized they were all in trouble. The moment she finally found a way to be rid of her two lesser sisters. She allowed these memories to dance across her mind while she stared at the image of herself.


“Well, well, look who's up and contemplating. What's wrong, Aria? You look like you’re regretting things.” A voice in her head echoed, its tone was instantly recognizable: Adagio.


“She’s not contemplating. She’s thinking hard!” Sonata’s voice piped in, a small giggle following it.


Almost free of her sisters, she meant.


“Poor, poor Aria. The price of ultimate power too much for you to bear?”


“She’s got no problem ‘bearing’ to her new boyfriend.”


“Yes, lets not forget we’re always in your head now, watching. The things you do to keep your so called--”


Aria clenched her eyes shut and balled her fists, willing the voices away as her gem glimmered for a time, using the power she so rightfully deserved to make them silent.


The fire was the only sound again as she opened her eyes, staring back at herself again. She smiled at herself this time, confident in her choices and opened her hands. Green magic shot from her gem and into her palms, collecting in a small orb of energy in each. Lifting them above her head, she slowly brought them down in front of her and across her body, leaving a glowing trail of glittering energy in it’s path. As the glow faded from her body, from head to toe, she closed her eyes and concentrated, starting to manifest the clothing she wanted for herself with sheer mental projection.


The clothing settled onto her body, a dark plum colored midriff top with a sleeveless short jacket started her off. A pair of dark indigo colored jeans with a pair of black biker boots followed. Lastly a set of three banded leather arm wraps with buckles to match finished her off as she spun slowly in front of the mirror.


“I..AM...irresistible.” She said out loud, giving her rear end a small tap before laughing wickedly and walking to the door. Opening it, the brass handle turned softly and the door swung open into the room, exposing the hallway it was part of. The charcoal carpeting was silent under her boots as she made her way down the hallway to the only other source of light besides the room she had been in.


Seldom if ever was her partner there when she woke up. At times she often wondered why but most of the time she didn’t care. They both got what they wanted from this arrangement, why make it more difficult? Part of her couldn’t help but feel somewhat offended at not having the person she shared a bed with next to her after a night of--


“Aria, my dear. I trust you slept well?” Malcontent, or Mal as she called him, had a voice that made almost anyone snap to attention. She wasn’t one of them. Standing in the doorway to the main room he liked to brood in, she walked in with a sense of ownership as she was not one to cower to him like the fodder he was used to.


The main room was a mixture between medieval and modern minimalist architecture. Most of the pillars and support were black marble, while the walls bespoke of granite and old stone. The center of the room was peppered with pieces of technology, such as monitors and data banks. They were positioned in the shape of a horseshoe so they all were surrounding a tall angular black chair. Near the fireplace, which was much larger than the one in the bedroom, sat a similar chair and in front of it was a large obsidian table. On this table was etched a map of Equestrian City with a chess like grid on it.


At the chess table sat Malcontent, dressed in a dark purple turtleneck and black slacks. A black set of gloves covered his hands as he picked up a chess piece in the shape of a small exclamation point and set it on the outskirts of the city. A pair of glasses rested on his nose, black like his short kempt hair, as a tinge of purple magic was evident as small wisps of energy that left his eyes on occasion. He picked up another piece to examine while not passing her a glance. This one was in the shape of Mistress Mayhem, setting it in the downtown area.


“Well enough, I had a very decent night cap.” She smiled while swaying her hips as she closed the distance. She had found that playing to his ego, like most men, was the key to keeping him under her control. “How's the game going?”


He paused as she neared him as her hips were at his eye level, yet he didn’t appear to fully take notice. Staring at the pieces across the city, he gave a half cocked smile. “All according to plan.” He linked an arm around her waist as she stroked his hair, both motions dripping with false affection.


“As a matter of fact, I think the next conflict is going to reveal quite a bit about our newest pawn.” He said before pushing his glasses up with his index finger.


“Bad hair day with a side order of crazy?” Aria asked, smiling down at the small peice he set down.


“Precisely. Mayhem is going to be on her maiden voyage of anarchy tonight. The prey that moves in will be most revealing about the state of things.” He let go of her and stood up, walking to a workbench that was at the far end of the room. It was a long wooden table that looked to have seen better days with various tools strewn about it. In the center of the mess was the object Malcontent received from Aria earlier in the month, scuff marks and lead wires hung from the inside of its partially disassembled shell.


Picking up a pair of small pliers, he began to pull the wires out of the device with each letting a small spark off as he did. He paid little attention to Aria as she walked behind him and peered onto the device.


“So the plan is to get her to cause enough negativity so we can feast for days? “ she asked, clearly curious at the device more than her question let on.


“In the short run, certainly. “ He said lowly while grunting as he finished stripping the device’s wires and, at the same moment, cracking open the top of the device. Inside was a mesh of small circuits and wiring that looked less than professional. A few purple hairs popped out of the aide, no doubt from the last user. “The larger goal is much more marvellous.” He picked up a pair of extraction tools and set the cracked object down in front of him, peering into a small magnifying lens that hung from the wall. Positioning the tiny tools just so, he started to disconnect the central circuit board from the main chassis.


“So...” Aria swallowed the next word. “Dear,” she smiled and rubbed his hips. “What exactly is that thing going to do for us? The guy who gave it to me mentioned it was found in an dig site in the southern continent, and didn't seem too broken up over losing it.”


“He obviously didn't know what he had. Nor contained the ability to use it properly.” Malcontent said flatly moving away from her hand, focusing again on his work. He squinted a bit more, carefully severing another set of wires. “As you, I and at least two other people know without a doubt, there are alternate dimensions, world’s, timelines, and each one can cross into the other given the right circumstances.”


“Right, that's how I got here and how you claimed you--”


“Correct. Now, in the other worlds, there are people near my intellect and of course closer to yours, that figured this out also.” He continued his work, disregarding the offense Aria clearly took. “This was the work of one such student. It inevitably became her undoing. So naturally, afraid of the unknown, the residents there discarded it into a portal where it landed here many, many decades ago.” He set down the tools and pulled a four pronged extractor out from a drawer.


“How exactly do you know so much about it?” Aria asked, crossing her arms and quite taken by the story, despite the insult.


“I told you the story of Celestia, Tartarus, and that so called “rehabilitation” she tried? As time went by and they forgot of me, the spell started to lose cohesion and I was allowed to see a great many things across the multiverse.” He grunted and pulled at the chip, finally hearing a small click as it was freed.


“So, what happened to that world?” Aria bobbed her head to see the small chip.


“It was eventually destroyed by the energy the young student had unwittingly let loose on the world. It consumed her, then her friends, then the small town and so on and so forth.” He held the chip up to his magnifying lens and looked it over for damage. “A very final lesson I guess you would say.” He smiled at the prize he had extracted. “But all is not lost. For on the shoulders of that tragedy, I will be able to send you and I home at last.”


Aria grinned at that statement, throwing her arms up in glee. “Now that's more like it. When do we leave?”


“Patience.” Malcontent said, securing the chip in a socket on a much larger board. He began to solder it into place. “One must learn to walk, before they try to run.” He closed the cover on the device, picking up an small data tablet shaped unit. “We need a field test first.” He flipped a small switch on the side and a high pitch whine sounded from it.


“I still don't understand...what does it do?” Aria grunted in frustration.


“I'll explain that in a moment but first, why don't you go change into something more travel worthy? You’re going to observe our new friend, and see exactly how many guinea pigs she can scrounge up.” He set the device on the workbench and smiled, running a hand across her chin. “I'll even make sure you get a meal, but again, go change...” he made a small dismissive wave to her before turning back to his chessboard and picking up a small piece painted like Mistress Mayhem, placing it in the main city map.


***


“Propulsion is still a bit under performing to what I’d like. We’ll need to adjust the power supply when we get back, Spike.” Twilight said, adjusting her heading to land on one of the larger skyscraper roofs of the city. The glow of the city lights reflected off her armor, the fresh paint job of the Matterhorn pattern contrasting her barely visible skin tone. The boot thrusters cut prematurely and she stumbled on the landing, nearly tumbling over a rooftop garden before regaining her balance.


“Careful, you’re still adjusting to the extra weight and center of gravity, Twilight.” Spike’s voice pattern moved up and down as he spoke. “I’ve made a note of the propulsion. I think we should head back.”


Twilight’s eyes darted back and forth, the HUD in her goggles executing several commands and bringing her targeting systems back online. The metal irises on her palms opened quickly and there was a distinct whine that came from them. “Not yet, I want to get more. If we can get a massive amount of field testing in, we can set the, well, set YOU to cook them overnight to process.” She smiled, catching herself in the mistake.


“You’re the boss but I think we should be careful. After all, I’m in here too. You get toasted, I do too!” Spike said, a frowning dragon emote appearing in her upper right vision.


Twilight giggled. “Spike, you’re mainframe is back at the lab, you’re just here by proxy. But…” she executed a few more commands, selecting a calibrating program and taking aim at a few empty planter pots. “I appreciate the concern...and I promise to be careful, but remember the reason we’re doing this. That is to beat Tiara to the punch. Not to mention it’ll probably help Rarity focus on something else besides…” she paused.


“Booze?” Spike asked with a somewhat somber tone.


She fired her right gauntlet, shattering the potter. “Yeah.”


“Nice shot.”


“Thank you.” She said proudly.


Twilight turned and the hand projectors closed as she faced the direction of the western part of the city. A few commands on her display flickered by as she booted up the receiver and transmitter system, coding it into the police band. Static filled her ears for a brief moment and she winced, tilting her head instinctively.


“Is the helmet modification working well?” Spike asked, muting the static and autotuning the frequency to be less annoying. “I noticed it kind of resembles, well, pony ears. You realize you may not be entirely secure from weapons fire with that the way it is, don’tcha?”


“It’s fine, Spike. As long as I can project a barrier spell should I need to.” She answered, turning the volume on her earpiece up with a sharp look left on the HUD. She wasn’t entirely sure she’d be safe but all the risks had to pay off, something she didn’t want to worry her assistant with, digital or not.


“--require immediate assistance on the corner of Buttercup and 12th. Suspects numbering 4, discharging high power weaponry in Tombestoner’s Guns Guns Guns and onto 12th street. Units on site already engaged and in need of immediate reinforcements.” The scanner spoke into her ear as Spike pulled up a nearby mini map in the lower right of her vision.


“Ok. Sounds like it’s now or never.” Twilight said, still a bit of uncertainty in her voice but less than before. “Spike, plot me a course.”


“Plotting now, if you’re sure.” Spike answered, a projected flight path appearing on her center vision. “Locked.”


Taking a step forward towards the edge of the building’s roof, the former Princess of Equestria fired her thrusters, pulling in power from the energy cylinders embedded in the back of the suit. She took care not to drain them immediately, as they powered just about everything inside the armor, she felt the lift from the propulsion system take over. The shattering of more potted plants being knocked over, the rustling of newspaper and the clattering of various other debris scattering reached her ears as she quickly accelerated above the nearby buildings. Glancing towards the direction Spike had put on her guidence system, a waypoint appeared and locked into place with a small chirp.


“Here goes nothing.” Twilight said softly.


***


Sitting at the furthest booth in the diner she worked at, Sunset Shimmer took her break not with food but with data. Huddled up with a notepad and her data tablet, Sunset kept an eye on the door out of habit as she searched online for clues. Chewing on the end of her pencil, the former apprentice of Princess Celestia knew a few hard facts and none of them added up.


She knew that the girl who fell was an employee of Rarity’s company. She knew that the chemicals that she fell into were most likely lethal. She also knew that the vial she had that broke and mixed with the chemicals was not supposed to be there. Narrowing down the list taken from the inventory she had “borrowed” sent her down another path of puzzling revelations.


Swiping left and up a few times on her tablet, she was on the trail of the last clue she had. The list of additives and chemicals that Sassy could have had in her hand was down to one last possibility: Faustatrine. Based on what she found about it, it seemed the most likely to be the one chemical that shouldn’t have been there. It had no application for civilian use. It was a fairly unstable mutagenic compound that was discovered quite by accident by scientists working on a cure for depression. When added to almost any organic subject, the subject would mutate rapidly, almost forcing an evolution based on the surroundings at the time. It was banned from civilian applications for that reason and quietly locked away in government vaults.


Swiping left again, Sunset frowned and scribbled a few more notes as she checked her time, making sure not to go over on her break. She still had a few more minutes and she took a draw from a cup of coffee she had been nursing for the entire break. Pulling out the folded inventory sheet, she checked the tracking numbers and history of the item against known suppliers, all of which came up as unknown or fake.


“This thing literally appeared out of nowhere.” She whispered to herself, making another note. Normally a opportunist like this Sassy Saddles wouldn’t really show up on Sunset’s radar, but the more recent happenings in the city had begun to form a problem in her head. Based on all the smaller bits of information she had gathered, someone or something was setting a lot of people up for various crimes to be committed. Pulling strings like some sort of mastermin--


The door opened, causing Sunset’s eyes to snap up and her to close the tablet before stashing the paper into her apron pocket. Taking the cup of coffee with her, she set it down behind the counter and pulled out her pad for ordering, smiling quietly at the customers as they sat down at the front counter.


“Today marks the third time Canterlot Commonwealth forces have repelled an attack on friendly territory from members of the Eastern Empire. Despite the fact an ocean separates us, the Eastern Empire has been engaged with Canterlot Commonwealth forces for some time now. Canterlot Commonwealth's All Encompassing Government Intelligence Services, or A.E.G.I.S., issued a statement today condemning the acts.” The television droned on as Sunset took the orders, sighing softly as the door brought two more people in.


“Not since the first aggressive moves from the Sombra Empire of the East have we been as shocked as we are today. This city and furthermore the entire Canterlot Commonwealth, stands ready to do it’s part against any further hostile actions from them.” The Mayor said on screen, slamming her fist on a podium. “As the Mayor, I have sworn to do all within my power to protect the capital of the Canterlot Commonwealth, and I will do just that. I will continue to ensure this is a place not where we are ruled by fear, but are driven by the purpose that Equestrian City was founded on so many centuries ago: to build a better world away from the Imperialist Empire that now threatens us! Be it a fight here on the streets with super villains, regular criminals, or even Imperial agents, we will show the world that the Commonwealth of Canterlot is a peace loving society. But, at the same time, we will not be intimidated!”


Sunset threw the slips up on the order window and turned the television down a small bit, yelling for the short order cook. She watched the mayor finish her speech and then the main news come back on.


“Today lawmakers from all sections of Equestrian City met to work on two of the more controversial bills in Congress today. Bill COH-7, which allows the formation of privately funded militia, or “supergroups” has begun to pick up support after the increase in super crime. A vote is expected soon, though several sources indicate there are several hurdles to overcome in the fine print.” The newscaster cleared his throat. “The other is Bill MCU--16, that would unify both J.U.S.T.I.C.E., ECPD, and all other civil services under control of A.E.G.I.S. in the event of a state of emergency is met with a majority against it. Citing the bill’s intent, while pure, could easily be misused unless further fine print is added.”


Sunset leaned against the counter and began to fill more condiments as she waited on her orders. She had tried her best to stay out of the political scene, but some of the issues were starting to concern her. The democracy here was fairly new to her when she first arrived. Equestria was governed by a vastly different form then she was in now. Over the years she had been in the human world, she had learned this city was not only the capital of the kingdom, or Commonwealth in this case, but was formed by settlers fleeing persecution for their urge to be free from the totalitarianism of the Sombra Empire. The fact that Sombra was here, let alone alive still, was a shock to her. Sombra was not a very liked figure in Equestrian history and she had found the same was true here, save a few more differences. This Sombra had amassed a great kingdom, one he passed on to each successor who took on the mantle and name “King Sombra” as they took the throne, hand picked by their predecessor. Magic was also heavily saturated in the Eastern Empire, and after ten years, they had learned quite a bit more on harnessing it for somewhat evil purposes. While the Commonwealth was still in it’s infancy with magic, having denied the existence of it for fear of panic, the Eastern Empire had embraced it as a tool to be utilized.


“Order up!” the voice snapped Sunset out of her thoughts. Reaching over and picking up the plates, she began to deliver them to the proper owners. Thanking them, she retired to the front of the diner, cleaning up the tables quickly.


“Tonight’s Focus On features part 2 of Diamond Tiara. Heir to the Rich fortune, she was one of the many victims of the Canterlot Disaster. This episode focuses on her sudden disappearance from the public eye after healing in the private health facility her parents sent her to. Join us as we try to chip away at the enigma of Diamond Tiara!”


Sunset flipped off the channel and scoffed. “I’d rather not.” She smirked, tucking her pencil behind her ear and walking over to tally up the checks.



***


With a determined look on her face, eyes squinted half way and focusing on the direction the flight computer had plotted, Twilight increased the thrust while moving with controlled momentum over the roofs, the streets below her peppered with the citizens pointing up at her as she flew by. A few more stable seconds gave Twilight the confidence she needed and she tilted forward, the basic principles of flight running through her thoughts as she did, angling towards the destination. Wobbling a moment, she corrected her hand thrusts and looked forward once more. Satisfied with her kinetic value, Twilight opened the thrusters up to a ten percent power focus and shot forward at a surprising amount of speed, causing a small yelp from her.


“Twilight, you’re going to fast!”


“I know, I know!” she hollered back with the buildings rushing past her as she tilted left and right to avoid several collisions in the air, dodging another flying heroine almost too close for comfort. Rolling to her left she clipped a flagpole and sent herself on a random vector, spiralling as she did.


“Twilight, you overshot the waypoint!” Spike chirped in her ear as the world spun around and around.


“I KNOW!” she answered in frustration, countering the spin with correction thrusts until she leveled out and took a sharp climb to avoid sailing into a skyscraper. Several windows shook and one or two cracked as she soared up the side, desperately trying to regain complete control. Shooting past the roof of the building, she turned down the thrust and corrected again, turning in midair and shooting back down like a human missile. Taking care to eyeball her direction, she watched as the flight computer recalculated her path and adjusted her estimated time to arrive. Fully in control again, she couldn’t help but smile. The thrill of the armor actually working right began overtaking her for a moment. She quickly snapped out of it before moving down to near street level and coming within a block of the shoot out.


“Approaching destination. Looks like three are still up and firing at the ECPD.” Spike commented, a thermographic overlay displaying on her goggles now. “Standard non-armor piercing rounds, automatic rifles and one sub machine gun are in play. How do I even know what--”


“Spike, we really need to focus now.” Twilight said, taking a moment to survey both possible landing points that came up on her goggles. Two of the shooters were female, both using the rifles and peppering the two police cruisers about half a block away, a third car was actually on fire already. The last was a male crouched down behind a car, reloading his submachine gun.


Choosing the closest landing zone, she shifted her body weight with the momentum and went in faster than she anticipated. Her boots hit the pavement with a metallic thud, startling the nearest thug.


“What da hell is dat?” the girl asked in a thick urban accent as her two toned amaranth hair twirled out of the way towards Twilight’s impact. The worn leather jacket flashing open to show her white shirt under it, a collection of stains all over it. A matching set of freckles on her cheeks accented her rather large silver hoop earrings.


The other girl snapped her head towards the sound, her blonde hair short and unkempt swinging around her face briefly. “Don’t care, SHOOT ‘EM!” she shouted, turning her sights on the new player on the field and opening fire seconds before her accomplice did the same.


Twilight barely had the time to throw her hands up and focus on a barrier spell, causing a half hemisphere of purple energy to appear in front of her. The bullets bounced off as they made contact, ricocheting in all directions. Wincing from the bullets out of instinct, she quickly redoubled her efforts, essentially at a standoff. “Ok, this may be more then I was ready for.”


The male thug cocked his gun and turned from his crouching position towards Twilight’s side, pulling up the peep sight to his eyeline and opening fire. Spike’s awareness systems alerted her in time as she moved her left hand towards the incoming barrage, resulting in the shield she was making to enlarge itself at the cost of vital power. Both attacks were now being deflected from her projected force field. The one seemingly in charge cursed at Twilight and pulled out her empty magazine from her firearm, throwing it in disgust and at the same time pulling a small revolver from her belt. Ducking down she returned fire at the pincher like attack that was pinning them down.


“This is screwed up, Babs! You said we’d be fine without a heavy, and now--”
the other girl said while pulling a fresh magazine from her belt and loading it, chambering the first round loudly. “--here we are wishing we had one!”


“You really need to shut up...” the red haired, freckled faced girl answered back while emptying two rounds towards the ECPD from her handgun. “Just keep that freak busy, I gotta’ think!”


A flashbang landed in from the ECPD side, landing between the leader and the male. “Lenny! Look out!!” the leader yelled, turning her eyes from it as it ignited and blinded the only man in their seemingly three person gang.


Twilight quickly closed her eyes and thanks to her armor the concussive force wasn’t anything to worry about. Her optical sensors compensated and refocused on the battle. The one man was down but the other two girls were reloading, with the one called Babs having taken the fallen man’s firearm.


“Screw this!” Babs said while pulling open a backpack she had been wearing and reaching inside, fishing around inside before pulling out a few objects.


“Twilight that's a fragmentation grenade!” Spike said as her targeting system locked onto it.


“Can’t do anything about that now, Spike. It’s taking all the power I have to keep from being overwhelmed.” Twilight said, her voice only heard by Spike thanks to her ability to cut off her external speakers. “I’m going to chance it in a moment, their aim seems pretty bad at targeting my vulnerable zones.”


Babs pulled the pin and hurled the orb towards the ECPD cruisers. It rolled towards the center of the two intersecting bumpers.


“Grenade!” Snips yelled before diving behind a mailbox as Snails did the same, taking cover behind a phone booth. The explosive discharged and both cruisers went up in a small mushroom cloud of fire and smoke, covering the area in debris and fragments of shrapnel. Car alarms and store security systems blared loudly as glass fell from the sky, and a license plate twirled to the ground.


“How come we get all the really crappy calls?!” Snips yelled in frustration, his partners were busy calling in a situation. His training kicked in and he started yelling for civilians to leave and seek shelter immediately, to those that had decided to stay and observe.


“Repeat, Meta Human on the field, unknown identity. Request immediate assistance!” Snails hollered into his mic on his shoulder while dodging the occasional burst of gunfire from Babs.


“That nearly killed them, I need to chance it. Now, Spike, convert power from barrier to ice!” she shouted with the barrier dropping a split second later and two quick blasts of frozen magic firing at the two girls. The impact startled them both, their guns dropping and shattering into several pieces.


“What the frick was dat!?” Bab’s partner shouted, shaking her hands as the cold stung her still. Vapor trails from the pieces wafted up towards both her and Babs.


Twilight’s gauntlets clicked once and then with a single movement of her thumbs triggered a blast of purple kinetic force, propelling two precise thin bolts hurdling towards both of the girls.


Babs moved before her accomplice, pulling the blonde towards her before another word could be uttered. The bolt meant for Babs hit the girl square in the chest, knocking the wind out of her and rendering her unconscious as the other bolt, meant for the blonde, missed entirely thanks to the selfish maneuver. “Sorry, Babe.” She said as the air left her. Babs leaped up and behind the car they were using for cover while at the same time tossing another grenade, this time directly at Twilight. “Later tin can!”


Twilight instinctively held her hand up, but then grabbed hold of the small metal orb before tossing it down a nearby ally. The explosion’s only casualty was a dumpster from the boutique across the street. Turning back to face off her last attacker, the HUD started scanning for Babs, having lost track of her.


“Surrender and I promise you fair treatment!” Twilight shouted with her true eye color hidden by her goggles opaque color to the outside observer. Her hands were poised in a ready-to-fire position as she circled around to the other side, trying to cut Babs off from escaping.


“Wow, that one’s got a lot of neat tech!” Snips said while leaning out from his hiding space behind the mailbox, his revolver poised and ready to fire at Babs. “I got a shot--GAH!” he was interrupted from his aim by a vermillion colored tendril wrapping tightly around his neck and lifting him up off his feet.


“Snips, what did--whoa!” Snails turned and fell backwards as he gazed at a towering female, her body held up by multiple tendrils that were all whipping around rapidly, knocking over cars and trash cans with the greatest of ease. “Central, super villain on the field! I repeat--” he was interrupted by a swift punch to the jaw by one of the girl’s hair tendrils impacting him like a steel girder. Sailing backwards with a huge amount of kinetic force, he impacted into a storefront security gate, knocking him completely out with his revolver and badge flying in opposite directions. Shallow breathing was all that came from his crumpled form as Snips’ body went hurdling towards the same area, hitting the gate as well and landing on his partner.


“A decent start, but this is hardly enough mayhem for me!” she giggled out, her pupils dilated and shifting back and forth before her gaze stopped on Babs in the distance, who was still dodging and keeping the line of sight between her and Twilight’s blasters. Mayhem’s tendrils shot out like octopus arms and grabbed nearby items, one of them being a yellow taxi, with ease. Hurling it forward with a mental command, she laughed with delight as it went spinning towards the two in front of her. Babs was the first one to see it and duck out of the way.


“Twilight, look--” Spike didn’t have enough time to warn her as the midsized car impacted Twilight’s chest plating. A loud dull impact sounding as she went flying backwards and into an abandoned brick building, creating a crater in it as dust and debris went flying in the aftermath. Twilight’s senses were still in chaos as she tried to stand, only to hear the distinct sound of another grenade landing nearby. “Oh cra-” the explosion cut off her curse as she pulled up her barrier spell barely in time, sending her backwards again through an interior wall, the ceiling giving away in some areas and the floor above collapsing on her. The barrier held but she found herself disoriented again, her power systems reporting miscalibration due to the three successive hits she had taken. “Stabilizer has trouble compensating kinetic impact, gotta fix that.”


Mayhem’s cackle echoed in the now deserted but completely devastated street, the sounds of various alarms ringing from cars and stores alike from the shattering impacts she had made moments ago. “Now that's more like it, but hardly proper anarchy!” she snickered while her appendages grabbing random items again, most of them explosive in one way or another, and started hurling them in random directions. Each impact starting a new fire that burned unattended as rescue crews were not able to move in.


A larger tendril picked up the two unconscious officers, lifting them by their legs and hanging them in front of her, a mischievous grin on her face as she contemplated what to do with them. “What shall we do with Equestrian City’s fFinest, hmmm?” several more smaller tendrils shot from her head like serpents and solidified to a razor sharp point as she shifted them in her grip. She gained an iron grip on each’s throat, cutting off their air just as they stirred awake from the trauma, resulting in their arms flailing and trying to pull at their necks for precious air. Pulling them closer to her vision, the sheer panic in their eyes fueled her motivation as the spikes she had formed drew back like a scorpion’s tail, aiming at each’s head. “Officers…” she smiled widely. “You seem to be having trouble breathing…” she laughed loudly. “Why don’t we see if a few new holes can fix that!”


A flurry of bright impacts hit the Mistress of Mayhem from behind, the glow taking her by surprise and causing her tendrils to go limp as she lost concentration. The two officers dropped unceremoniously to the concrete as did she, the two officers coughing and gasping for breath.


“Stop, villain! You are no match for..” a female voice shouted from behind her with the figure coming into focus as Mayhem’s vision cleared up and her tendrils resumed their operation, snaking out at the voice. Dressed in what appeared to be surgeon's scrubs and a mask was a taller female figure, in her hand was a handful of gravel from the broken concrete. “Doctor Sprinkles!”


There was a moment of silence, save for the sound of the fires burning, Mayhem’s tendrils picked herself up and she towered over the would-be hero. Adjusting her outfit with three of her appendages, she snickered and folded her arms in front of her. “Really? That's your name...Doctor Sprinkles? Was every other name registered?” she asked while her back tendrils roughly uprooted a decorative tree each with a concrete hold, throwing one with alarming speed at the new entry on the street. “Physician, KILL THYSELF!” she shouted with the other two trees flying soon after the first one.


The figure didn’t seem surprised and shook the gravel pellets in her hand, and threw them in an arc in front of her. Each one coming in contact with the trees and exploding upon impact in a fantastic lightshow, blinding Mayhem and the recovering officers. Snips and Snails moved to the alley out of the way as the explosions died down, trying to let the meta humans take each other out as they were clearly out classed without proper assistance from Central, or J.U.S.T.I.C.E.


Mayhem lowered her hands from shielding her face and took the hero by surprise as she closed the distance quickly, her hair slashing out at the figure and grabbing hold of her by the wrists and legs. “You can’t begin to understand the awful week I’ve been having, so I’ll spare you the details and just get down to the fun of it.” The hero tried to break free, only to lose against the iron grip of each strand of hair that grew in size and layer, like a giant boa constrictor starting to entangle her. “There, there, just try and relax.”


Twilight shot two full powered bolts from her hands and they struck with such concussive force that Mayhem’s grip loosened on the hero, growling in pain and annoyance.


“You’re the one who needs to take a breather...er...Ma’am.” Twilight said, trying her best to maintain some level of confidence despite the fact she was clearly making up her tactics as she went along. “Now surrender!”


“What a polite little brat you are!” Mayhem politely returned the tone, turning to Twilight and at the same moment sending Dr. Sprinkles sailing into a further alleyway, landing with enough force to knock her out cold. “Tell me, what hospital do you want to be sent to!?” she yelled with strands shooting out at all directions and grabbing at the armored hero. Twilight’s thrusters kicked in and she dodged the salvo of psycho hair. A series of fire based blasts shot out from her gauntlets and singed Mayhem’s main weapons, causing her to recoil in fear and pain as several locks dropped off and seemed to squeal in death tones as they fell to the pavement.


“You’ll pay for that!” the multitasking villain gained volume in both voice and hair as she narrowed her eyes while a collection of random objects started flying towards Twilight. Locking onto the incoming trajectories, Twilight evaded the salvo of death, nearly being struck by a set of hubcaps and ducking under a broken telephone pole as it sailed by.


***


In the alleyway, the hero known as Dr. Sprinkles groaned while holding her head before pulling her scrub cap and mask down, revealing a purple set of hair and a green toned skin color. She barely felt like moving let alone standing when she thought she heard footsteps getting closer, the ambient noise from the street making it hard to focus on anything directly.


Aria Blaze gave a gentle gesture with her hands while at the same time the gem embedded in her chest twinkled. Lifting the fallen hero up and to her feet was nothing for the power she had gained by teaming up with Malcontent. Despite the favors he required, she had never felt more powerful as the beaten hero hovered in front of her, paralyzed and unable to move. Two orbs shot out from behind Aria and circled her. One was a bright blue and the other a dull orange, and then focused on the hero.


The two souls of her sisters, Sonata and Adagio, let out different sounds: Adagio was clearly in some sort of torment based on her wails while Sonata seemed to be having fun being incorporeal. Holding out her right hand, Aria commanded them both and held the hero in place while keeping her from screaming as the two soulfires began to orbit Dr. Sprinkles quickly, all the while Aria’s painfully embedded gem sparkled in the alleyway.


“Dr. Sprinkles...I’ve heard of you. Everything you touch and then throw explodes doesn't it?” Aria scoffed, her tone expressing her somewhat bored mood. Reaching behind her back with her left hand, she pulled out the pistol shaped device Malcontent had given her, turning it on. “Ugh, whatever, that's like one of the worst super powers I’ve ever heard of.” She aimed the pistol at the helpless hero, a small whining noise coming from it as something spun to life inside. “That's like something a cartoon would think of at the last minute. Don’t worry, I’ll put you out of your misery.” She gave a half cocked smile, the soulfire orbs coming to a stop and retreating behind Aria’s back again as she pulled the trigger on it.


The heroine felt a mild tingle at first, almost like someone tickled her whole body. Then it got worse as the device spun up faster and faster in it’s casing, causing a mellow blue aura to form around the girl and slip towards the gun, as if spiraling down a drain into the barrel. As the feelings increased, the heroine shook and barely was able to cry out as she felt all her powers drain from her and leave her body, the last bit of dull blue aura disappearing into the device.


“Huh. Guess he was right.” Aria dropped her hold on Dr. Sprinkles as she fell in a heap onto a pile of old pizza boxes and gas cans, holding her stomach.


“What...what did you do to me...?” she weakly asked, unable to catch her breath. None of the power she had before was present, it was an empty feeling, like despair was expanding inside her.


“Don’t you worry about that…” Aria pocketed the device and cracked her back, clearly not stimulated enough to care about the fight in the street in front of them. The fact they were in an alley kept them hidden from the explosions and banter from the two meta humans fighting. “Just know it worked perfectly.” She smirked before letting her expression go blank again, she rolled her eyes as she remembered something. “Oh that’s right.”


“W...what?” the heroine asked, nearly able to stand as she braced herself on the brick wall of the alleyway, panting now due to being out of breath.


Aria snapped her right arm forward so her open palm faced her victim, the gem lighting up on her chest started illuminating her darkened features as the only light in the area popped from the surge of energy she let out. The two soulfires of Adagio and Sonata sprang to life again, materializing behind her and hovering around Aria’s head for a moment. “‘No one can tell the tale just yet,’ he said.” She gave a wide smile, her index finger and thumb forming a gun like grip in front of her. At the same time the two souls of her siren sisters shot forward and both impacted into the scrubs of the former hero, creating two gaping hole in the chest of Dr. Sprinkles. Her body going rigid for a moment then collapsing to a heap on the ground in front of Aria.


The souls materialized from the body of the hero and two streams of red energy floated up, one from each of the startling unnatural holes they had made. As quickly as that occurred, the distorted faces of her sisters appeared in the glowing orbs with razor like teeth and sinister eyes unlike before, followed by the frightening sound of a pair of savage creatures devouring their meal. The very soul of the deceased hero was quickly consumed, rejuvenating them and in turn, revitalizing Aria. The entire scene ended in seconds, the hollow shell was all that was left as a reminder to Aria that her new powers required a terrible price to maintain.


The orbs vanished and she turned around, walking down the alley towards the dead end while singing softly in a single voice that was both lonely and enchanting, until she simply vanished as she stepped into the shadows of the dead end.


***


“Twilight, we can’t keep this up!” Spike hollered into her earpiece, the distinct sound of metal hitting metal when another car door collided with her. Twilight was doing her best and even with Spikes automated assistance she was having to take a defensive posture against Mistress Mayhem. Another salvo of random objects flew from down the devastated street towards the lavender princess of Equestria, sending her flying to the left and right to dodge it all. As a fire hydrant flew past her right shoulder, Twilight was all but convinced she had overestimated the armor she was field testing now.


“You know this might have been a mistake...” Twilight said to herself, thankfully her speakers were shut off. “Spike plot me a course out of here.”


“Working on it now. You need to keep her busy, I’m having trouble compensating all the incoming dat--DUMPTRUCK!” he suddenly shouted, the armor moving to take less of a hit as it was clipped on the right side. Twilight’s systems flickered a moment and her boots went dead, dropping her to the pavement.


“Oh my, that did the trick!” Mayhem said as her tendrils pulled up several parking meters and the last of the decorative trees on the sidewalk. The barren look of the street was getting worse each salvo, but the only good part Twilight could note was that Mayhem was getting close to running out of ammo to throw. “Now I don’t have a proper can opener, but this will do in a pinch!” she grinned and her hair smashed the meters to the ground, each coming back into view with deadly jagged ends to them. “Time to play ‘Who's inside’!”.


Twilight’s eyes widened as the crazed villain closed the distance at a frightening speed, giving her little to no time to react so she pulled her hands up and fired wildly. Each kinetic blast launched one after another, two hitting their mark but not with nearly enough force to entirely disarm her assailant. It did buy her enough time to move out of the way. Her firmware on the thrusters having fully rebooted, she flew up and out of the reach of Mayhem’s wild swings and strikes which missed her by inches as she put distance between the two, landing with another loud clang as the boots hit the cracked pavement at the far end of the street.


Sassy turned in time to see her target leave a trail of vapor behind her, but the sound of tires screeching to her right distracted her. Several E.C.P.D. cruisers had closed down the side streets to the one she was on and several J.U.S.T.I.C.E. vans were behind them. Darting her eyes back and forth between the new armored hero and the veteran officers, she turned her immediate attention to the cars and officers taking cover behind them. Hurling what she had left from her last grab, she turned to face one set to the south, only to have the team behind her open fire with shotguns and pistols with the rounds deflecting off her new outfit. Flinching for a moment, she grinned wide. “Well...damn...this is handy stuff!” she laughed while throwing her head back and extending her arms outward as more rounds bounced off her, her hair snapping in random directions and grabbing at the officers.


Some were able to move out of the way in time while others lost their firearms to the invading tentacles from Mayhem’s sudden burst of confidence. Behind the main officers on the first team to open fire from the north was a squad in full J.U.S.T.I.C.E. armor. They hastily began constructing some sort of larger canon they had brought with them, and had their sights set on Mayhem herself.


Twilight’s systems recalibrated finally as she popped up into the air and fired several rounds from her gauntlets, both from the palms and several from the gauntlets themselves. Round after round impacted on Mayhem’s armor and hair, a collection of elemental damage types began to erupt from the targets Twilight hit. Fire, ice and all manner in between lit up the villains shiney new outfit, burning at it and shredding it with her tendrils retracting to shield herself from the assault. “Try that on for size, Mane-iac!” she said, seemingly forgetting who her opponent was and recalling the adventure she once had in her world of similar circumstances.


“Mane-iac?!” Sassy growled, unamused at the mislabel. “Get it right, sister, it’s MISTRESS MAYHEM!” her hair shot out like a striking snake and wrapped around Twilight’s limbs again, pulling at her with surprising force. Her maneuvering thrusters were trying to compensate but failing due to the sudden shock to her kinetic value. She went sailing to the ground and then, without a seconds notice, up again and down into the pavement, cracking it again and digging deeper each time. Two more strikes and Twilight’s systems started to sound alarms in her ear and on her HUD.


“Twilight, you’re really getting bucked up!” Spike said, his voice distorted as the assault wrecked havoc on him too.


“Language!” Twilight yelled but was interrupted midway with a third smash, resulting in parts of her arm plating coming loose and crumpling to the ground.


“Is the brat scared? I bet she is! Forget the hospital...WHAT MORGUE DO YOU WANT TO BE SENT TO?!” Mayhem screamed, her sanity shattering rather violently or what little of it there was left. More rounds deflected from her back as the E.C.P.D. moved in trying to subdue her with little effect. Suddenly from behind them, a massive thundering blast echoed and a puff of red smoke signaled a massive energy balls arrival straight into Mayhem’s back!


“ARGH!” the villainess screamed and her tendrils all went limp, the blast moving her forward and tripping her over the crumpled form of Twilight. Mayhem struggled to get her balance as her hair returned to it’s original shape with her concentration gone. She began to hold her back, the material had finally given way thanks to the shot from J.U.S.T.I.C.E. Exposed to the casual onlooker finally, the apparent source of the tendrils wasn’t just her hair but seemed to originate from a mutated spinal column, the tendrils retracting back in and the slit sealing up behind them. As she regained her footing, she growled and turned towards the shot’s origin.


“HIT HER AGAIN!” a raspy voice yelled, the spotlights from J.U.S.T.I.C.E. all tracking Mayhem and a thundering blast sounded with a ball of red energy impacting her again, sending her backwards and laying her flat onto the pavement on her left side after a brief growl came from her again.


Nightwatch coordinated the onsite E.C.P.D. to help block off the area from onlookers and the news reporters who had moved in. Arriving during the first assault by the two teams, he had quickly taken to his training, despite being the go-between for J.U.S.T.I.C.E. and E.C.P.D., he was still a public servant and he needed to protect them. Satisfied for the moment, he turned back as the second blast fired from the onsite commander’s squad from J.U.S.T.I.C.E. “Holy crap!” he said, rubbing his forehead as he walked towards them while keeping a low cover in case any other surprises came their way.


“Prep it again!” Commander Spitfire barked to her team, the weapon starting a build up sequence again after she said that. Dressed in combat armor with the J.U.S.T.I.C.E. logo on it, a pair of dark sunglasses hanging low on her nose despite the time of day, several medals on her chest and a nameplate that bore her name, all of the attire tactical in design and almost military in color scheme.


“Ma’am, Meta is down, another shot may not be--” one of her troops said while lifting her own faceplate, the helmet black in color with the rest of the armor.


“If I’m out here in this unthinkable hour, I’m not going to be out here long, now get ready on my mark!” Spitfire countered back, the device nearing full charge again as on the side of the canon read “Meta Armed Enforcement Tactical Canon.” She turned back to the street, noting Twilight was getting up finally but so was the new villain. “I don’t know who either of these are, but the damage speaks for itself...READY!”


Twilight’s systems all went into backup mode, Spike wasn’t able to even speak to her due to the lack of power. Looking to the J.U.S.T.I.C.E. M.E.A.T. canon, she turned back to Mayhem who was about to get up again, and aimed her left hand at her. A small puff of smoke came from it to her disappointment, making her comically look at her own weapon in dismay. She tried the other and it let out a spark. A quick system check revealed she had enough thrust to leave the ground, if she was wise about it.


Nightwatch pulled up a bullhorn and shouted down the street at Twilight. “We got this...CLEAR!” he shouted while signalling to the armored hero.


Twilight couldn’t do anything but fire her emergency power into the thrusters and leave the line of sight, the cannon firing a third ball of red energy at Mayhem’s location. The impact fell short of it’s target as Mayhem moved but the hit still knocked the fight out of her however as she landed near the first set of cars that had started this entire night, a distant groan coming from her slumped body.


“Thats better. Move in. Apprehend.” Spitfire said, motioning to her team. “See, that's how you take down a Meta.” She smiled, proud of the handywork as the weaponry powered down. “Takes quite a bit of tax dollars each shot, but it’s effective.”


“I wouldn’t argue that, Ma’am. Course, it did cause a bit more collateral damage each shot. How would you justify that to the media?” Nightwatch asked, holstering his sidearm. The reporters moved in slowly as the scene was secured thanks to the E.C.P.D. Snips and Snails were being evacuated to a nearby ambulance as the main flood of news cameras came towards Spitfire and Nightwatch.


“Oh that's your issue, I’m going home.” Spitfire said, walking back to her van as the mob got to Nightwatch, a gentle sigh coming from him.


A team of armored J.U.S.T.I.C.E. troopers moved in to secure the meta. Mayhem’s breathing was shallow and ragged, scraps across her exposed flesh and her torn suit were evident in the glow casted by the nearby fires. Emergency services themselves were slowly crushing the fires out along the street as the team arrived, shotguns pointed towards her form.


“Jonesy, get her.” One of the troopers said, male by the tone of his command. “We'll cover you.”


“On it, sir.” Jonesy responded, female in tone as she slung her shotgun and pulled out a pair of rather large handcuffs, almost comical in thickness. “What about her other powers? We may need to worry about those before we get her to the van.”


Jonesy rolled her over in time to see Mayhem was laying on the remaining explosives Babs had left, the sound of pins being pulled from the grenades hitting everyone’s ears. “GRENADES!”


Mayhem cackled loudly as her hair snapped sharply to the nearby building and alley, slingshotting her away as the team ran for cover. Officers and troopers dove over the cars and behind the rather sturdy mailbox that still stood as a massive explosion rocked the already ravaged street.


***


Sitting back in his larger chair, the architect of the most explosive event in Equestrian City of recent date, clasp his hands together. Happy with the television reports of the evening pouring in, the marble doors at the far end of the room opened and Malcontent’s eyes narrowed as the clicking of Aria’s heels sounded in the hall. Wisps of purple and black magical energy escaped from his eyes for a moment as he turned, the chair gliding on it’s base with ease.


“Honey, I’m home.” Aria said, a complete lack of sincerity in her tone as she pulled the device she had used on Dr. Sprinkles from her pocket. Examining the device, she had a curiosity on her face, her footsteps slowing as she heard the television broadcasts. “Looks like your newest toy did it’s job.” She smiled while crossing her arms as she stood in front of him, images of Mistress Mayhem’s destructive tirade flooding the various screens behind him. “Not to mention this little device.” She added, the insinuation and almost jealous tone dripping from her.


A half cocked smile formed on his lips as he pushed his glasses back up, his leather gloves returning to a half pyramid in front of him. He, like his partner, was able to feed off the negative energy she was emitting, his eyes flickering with power and magic as it seeped into him. Aria felt the drain herself, though had learned not to protest and not to make overt actions. He enjoyed a more subtle approach at anything, save a select few instances. The ten years they had been using each other had given the other insight that rang true: Don’t give in to intimidation or you lose. A lesson she learned early on in her attempts to dominate him as she did with so many others in her time in Equestria, and the silly humans of this world. She quickly learned that he wasn’t just another man to be led around by his--


“How did the test go, dear Aria?” he interrupted her thoughts, his narrowing gaze lowering from her eyes before stalling at her chest and to the device itself in her right hand. He motioned towards the gun and tilted his head slightly, a gesture of dominance in itself.


“Rather interesting. It drained that poor hero in no time. But my question is…” she tossed it back and forth in her hands, toying with it as she tried to with him. “Why did you want me to leave no witnesses, not that it wasn’t fun.” She grinned, moving the gun from his grasp as he gently reached for it while still closing the gap as her boots clicked one last time before the carpet, now under her, shielded the sounds. Aria noticed a twinge of unhappiness in his face, and took that as a point in the game they constantly played with each other. Despite her hating the fact that she was the last siren, she hated the fact more that anyone, let alone a man, had gotten the better of her. Yet, she found him rather intriguing just not in a really attractive matter physically as she had seen better.


They both craved disharmony, hatred, disloyalty, and all manner of feelings that typically weren’t exactly cherished in Equestria. The fact they were both banished from there to this world also contributed to her fascination with him. She knew there weren’t any male sirens but still, she couldn’t help feeling a somewhat kindred spirit in him.


“This was just a test run. The full use of this technology…” he began to explain, tilting his head back the other way as she got dangerously close to him with the barrel of the weapon pointing up to his chin casually. She pushed his gloves aside and sat on his lap abruptly, and without any consideration for him: a show of defiance. His cheek twitched at the sudden shift of perceived power between the two, but he continued all the while stroking her back affectionately. “...is something I can’t have anyone concluding, until it’s too late.” He smiled calmly as her eyes widened at his words and perhaps his next actions as well.

Suddenly, when his hand tugged her single ponytail harder than she had ever had him do in any setting, her mouth opened. “Now...don’t tease…” he finished as she dropped the gun into his hand. “...‘Princess’,” he took it and stood up, shoving her from his lap and walking to the workbench.


Aria rubbed the back of her head before straightening up her outfit from the abrupt shove from Malcontent. “Well, ‘darling’, I’d love to know what ‘we’re’ planning.” She said as she walked behind him slowly and carefully after the display he just put on. Despite all that, she was both interested in the device and still in his actions as, for the most part, they always provided her with sustenance.


“You don’t ‘love’ anything. Your species can’t.” He smiled to himself, setting the gun down and examining the side of it with a few smaller tools. A long silence occurred as she didn’t quite know what to say to that statement, and he focused on the smaller unit in front of him. Sensing a tense moment, he sighed and turned back to her after setting the tools down gently. “Though neither can mine for that matter.” He smiled finally and felt a bit better after she did too.


“It’s a good thing we have each other then, isn’t it?” Aria asked, linking her arms around him from behind and started toying with his hair a moment. She stepped back after he shrugged her off, kept off balance by his guarded emotional states.


Malcontent stared down at the device another moment and looked back up at her, the televisions blaring about a sudden explosion as the villain seemed to escape. “Yes. We both have our use for each other, don’t we?” he said blankly, watching the camera feed cut out. “Why don’t you be a dear and go find us something to snack on? After all, our bodies still need upkeep…among other activities.” He glanced her over as he said the final part, half interested in the outfit she was wearing.


Aria grinned a moment, only to have her mood fade again as he finished his words. “I’ll find something you’ll enjoy, trust me.” She said before turning and leaving, doing her best to make her body curve as she left the room.


He turned back before she even left, cracking open the side of the device and opening a small cylinder on the inside. The contents lit up with a magical glow, the bright blue color contrasting the purple in his eyes. A smile covered his face slowly but surely, as the energy from it swirled up and formed a sphere of sorts before halting in front of him, and the center of it slowly parting. Gazing into the opening it made first appeared empty but as he looked closer, he saw it was far from empty. Inside was a brighter blue hue, almost to the point where he felt a need to shield his eyes as he winced at the sudden light. Finally his eyes adjusted and he lowered his hand. In the spiraling mist and sparkles he glimpsed a beautiful blue sky. Peering harder, he saw before him a weathered stone face as its features became apparent to him after a moment of focus. A griffon, a King, or perhaps a statue of one but it was in horrible disrepair, almost as if those around had all but forgotten it or its meaning.


Just as quickly as it had appeared, the image and sphere disappeared in a blink. The energy and the vision it brought with it was gone as the aura swirled and rushed towards his eyes, mixing with the purple he already was displaying and intensifying the color of them for a brief moment. But he had what he needed and the smile stayed on his face as stood up. He laughed softly before closing the gun and preparing it again.


“Field test successful.” He said quietly, lifting the gun up to eye level as the next step in his plans were starting to take shape.


***


End of Episode

Episode 5 - "Memories"

View Online

Kneeling down to get a closer look at the body of the late Dr. Sprinkles, Nightwatch drew back the white sheet that covered her body. Wincing slightly, he wasn’t sure of the weapon used but he was entirely sure it wasn’t anything conventional. As the area was roped off by one of the on scene officers, he stood back up and turned to hear the soft sound of rock music entering his ears. Turning towards the source, he heard the music shut off and a CSI technician in a lab coat walk through the yellow tape with a suitcase in her left hand.

“Zest. You got here fast.” Nightwatch said before turning to look down at the body, the flashing of police lights flickering into the alley on occasion. “This one’s unusual.”

Hanging her headphones around her neck, Lemon Zest knelt down near the body, setting her case next to her and pulling on rubber gloves. “Most of the time, unusual is the new norm.” She said with her voice being a bit raspy. While looking over the body and pulling the sheet back, she showed little emotion to the state of the cadaver. “What do we have here, Captain isn’t it now?” she turned her head to look up at Nightwatch. “Heard you're in line to be some sort of Hero slash Cop.”

“Don’t remind me.” He sighed while rubbing his orange toned hair back in frustration. “What can you tell me about our unfortunate hero?” he folded his arms, looking down with her.

“Well,” Lemon put on a pair of safety glasses and began to look closer at the chest wounds. “She’s dead.” She said in a deadpan voice.

“That's why we love CSI, always the break we need.” Nightwatch rubbed his temple. “What killed her? Gang member take advantage of the chaos? We didn’t even notice her until we started cleaning up the area.”

Lemon remained silent as she worked despite his question, finally shaking her head and motioning him to kneel down. She pointed to the chest with a small laser pointer and circled around the massive wounds. “Nope. These aren’t standard ballistics exit wounds no matter how you cut it…” she paused briefly then continued. “These are magic based blunt force trauma exit wounds. Nasty ones too.” She took out a small camera and took a picture of the body and various highlighted areas she’d be noting. “If I had to guess, which I am, I’d say this is a meta on meta death.” She finished. “Based on what I saw in the street, these don’t match immediately to anything we saw there.”

Nightwatch stood back up. “Neither one of the players in the street did this then.” He repeated while nodding to her. “Match any one we know?”

“Take a while to run pattern and sample traces. I’ll let you know.” Zest turned back to her work. “Not bad for your first day as Hero Cop. A fruitcake of a villain and one dead hero.” She snickered and kept working.

“Yeah, tell me about it. Just copy me on the report.” Night said frustrated as he walked off, ducking under the caution tape and to the main street. He motioned off to the attending officers to move in and complete their sweep of the area. He checked his watch and a few more glances around told him if this area was secure enough, he could go find a bite to eat while the lab worked on the area.

***

Pinkie Pie walked in from the modest kitchen of her cramped apartment, her hands filled with a precariously balanced tower of snack foods of several varieties. Snack cakes, bags of chips, a tin of cupcakes with pink frosting and a plate with a large slice of chocolate cake finished her stockpile of goodies. Almost losing them all, she recovered and sat down quickly at her couch, her TV blaring as a new commercial came on.

“Don’t forget to come on down to the Equestrian City Museum of Wonder this week. Why? Because for only two more weeks the Everfree Collection is on display! Discovered during an excavation of the now defunct mountain mines of the Everfree Forest, the crown jewels of the collection, The Seven Gems of Wealth! They will take your breath away!“

“Ugh, boring!” Pinkie said before taking a rather generous bite out of her cake and chewing rapidly. “Where’s my show?!” a few stray crumbs fell from her mouth, only to be caught by her free hand and scooped into her mouth at a fast pace. Picking up her smartphone she pulled up a social feed, “Twitcher” and logged into her account. “Ugh. Too many...commercials. Need more hashtag...Total Wasteland...and send!!”

As she sent her update, the laptop that was sitting on her coffee table popped to life, as if on a timer, and loaded a video chat program with three other windows opening and trying to connect. The first to pop open was one labeled “Minnie” and was lit up with a small green light at the bottom, followed by the image of a darker blue female. Her bubbly smile matched Pinkie’s own as she adjusted the web camera and spoke.

“Oh. Em. Gee! Pinkie, are you totally excited for this week’s episode or what?” Minuette asked, an almost uncanny grin spread across her face.

Pinkie nodded rapidly and swallowed a huge chunk of cake. “Are you kidding?! I totally can’t wait to find out if Raven’s pregnant! Chris totally needs to get over Sally and get with an actual real life person and not some synth!” Pinkie sprouted off as two more pictures popped up on the screen. The first was labeled “NotSoSugary”, with an image of Sugarcoat appearing.

“That's completely not possible as his inability to get over the loss of his previous life is the driving force behind the entire drama of the show, the resulting loss would leave the current watchers upset.” She said with a deadpan tone in her voice as per usual. “Hi.” She added with a small wave to the camera.

“Hi!” Pinkie waved back with the last window fizzling. “Ah bummer, just us tonight, but that's more than enough! Ok, so I totally watched the last episode like two hours ago, and I’m totally blown away! Not only is Raven like, knocked up, but Sally’s latest body burned out midway through their heart to heart! Her CPU just up and kabloom! Where’s he going to get a replacement? The Institute said no more resources for at least a year!”

Before any of them could answer, the TV fizzled and a news caster appeared on screen. “We interupt Total Wasteland for an important city update. A meta human warning has been issued for the following sections of the city. If you are in these areas and notice a disturbance, notify E.C.P.D. immediately and seek shelter in a fortified structure until the all clear is issued. J.U.S.T.I.C.E and E.C.P.D. are on sight attempting to pacify the situation!”

“Aw, I hope everyone’s ok.” Minuette said with concern overtaking her happy expression.

“Where’s it at this time?” Sugarcoat asked with little if no emotion as always.

“Looks like, 12th and Buttercup. That's way out there.” Minuette said, typing in the background. “Looks like E.C.P.D. and...some...new mecha girl were on the scene. Ohh...she’s flashy looking.” She peered at another screen off to her left. “Should be over soon.”

Pinkie was quiet, listening to the information and nodding before looking to the window, then back to the television, and then to the computer. She nodded at her friends and smiled.

“So there was this awful thread on the boards I just had to chime in on! They were saying that since Total Wasteland started out as a fanfiction based on a roleplay set in a different show, the entire concept was tainted.” Minuette started typing as she spoke. “You know, because fanfiction almost always is just wish fulfilment on the part of the writer.“

“It started out as an alternate universe tag, duh!” Pinkie responded, cracking open a soda. “It wasn't meant as canon.”

“It still doesn't look good for the foundation if the fanfiction was tagged as AU. Mainly because that tag is used by writers who simply want wish fulfilment and have no real intent to further the story or message of the original show.” Sugarcoat responded, adjusting her glasses. “Most of the time in those fanfictions, a chapter is spent explaining the world and then they introduce a fan made character that hooks up with whomever they are attracted to based solely on their limited portrayal.”

“Yeah but it's entirely possible to have an alternative timeline and make the world that much more rich. Remember the show before was limited by its time slot and perceived audience being mainly aimed towards younger males, 16 to 25.” Minuette retorted while tilting her head cheerily.

“Guys, guys! It’s starting!” Pinkie interupted them, turning to the television screen in front of her and moving the computer screen askew from her vision. The back of her mind rattled a bit as she wanted to skip out and see just what was going on with the meta problem. But then another more aggressive part of her thoughts wanted to see if Chris was going to be able to determine what was wrong with the last round of pregnancies on her show.

She deserved a day off every now and then too. What's the worst that could happen?

****

Twilight’s eyes glanced left and right, desperately looking for a landing site as her reserve power meter ticked dangerously low. Several alarms and blinking icons on her HUD along with Spike’s warnings weren’t making it any easier to concentrate. The top of a nearby building became her only refuge. Locked into her flight path, Spike disappeared from her HUD as power saving modes kicked in.

“Oh this isn’t going to be fun!” she shouted with her hands coming up as she sailed headfirst into a brick wall, shattering it effortlessly. Grunting from the rough landing, she heard the sounds of pottery cracking and windows breaking while dust was kicked up into her field of vision. Twilight rolled herself onto her back, causing the metal on her suit to scuff and echo off the concrete roof.

“Twilight!” Spike said, his voice crackling in her earpiece. “I’ve lost uplink, are you ok?!”

Twilight coughed inside her suit, sitting up slowly and checking herself over with the power reserve warning still blinking in her field of vision. “I’m almost out of power, Spike. Where am I? I can’t be found like this.” She finished saying with her words heard only inside her mask thanks to the privacy filter. While standing up she felt the ache and pain of such a rough landing setting in. “And I’m pretty sure I may have broke…something.”

“What?! I can send help...” Spike began.

“Just find me a path out of here before I’m inside a metal suitcase, Spike. We can worry about that later.” She responded while scanning the sky for landmarks. “I think I’m almost back to the building, the skyline looks familiar and I see…” she peered out for a moment in her helmet. “There...I see the main building. I’m going to calculate a flight path. I need you to double check it.”

Several statistics flashed across her HUD, the flight plan organizing quickly. Taking into account all the obstacles and possible wind directional issues, the arching arrow in her field of vision flickered and another power warning came across the screen. “Actually, hold that thought Spike, just figure out a way for me to get back into the building from Rarity’s helipad unseen. No time or power to double check.”

Twilight braced herself, her body aiming itself into the direction her flight computer gave her. A final warning about her power cells was dismissed as she fired the repulsors in her boots, the lift being almost instant. Before she could be noticed by many at all, her experimental armor took to the sky again with her arms to her sides to prevent as much drag as possible. Turning and spinning, the main headquarters of Rare Innovations came into her eyesight. As the stylish diamond symbol and the fancy uppercase “R” growing in size, a smile started to appear on her face. Quickly it faded to a surprised expression as the power cells gave out and her entire HUD went dark. The jets in her boots finally cut out after two sputters, coughing like an exhausted mule. The horizon began to tilt slightly and then rapidly as she realized she was essentially a dead stick and falling towards the helipad on the building’s south side.

“Oh...noooo!” she shouted inside her helmet, muffled and in vain, her arms and legs flailing as the ground approached faster and faster. The fear washed through her and quickly her thoughts focused on never seeing home again. She called out Celestia’s name for help and then as her intellect stabilized, she formulated a plan. Twilight’s mind raced as the giant icon of Rarity’s vanity closed in on her vision. The type of material she built the suit out of, the stress tests of the metal, everything was rushing through her mind. She suddenly narrowed her eyes and came to a conclusion. Repositioning herself to fall into a three-point stance which connected with a loud metallic ‘thud’, cracking the concrete of the helipad as all her kinetic energy transferred properly.

“Whew. Thankfully I didn’t use the cheap stuff.” She said to herself. Standing up her body reminded her that she was still in pain from the beating from the villain in the street. Wobbling a bit she made her way to the elevator on the roof, the unassisted suit was now more of a burden than anything as she did. “Oh this is not graceful without power.” She mumbled to herself before falling forward into the wall shortly before the elevator doors opened next to her with a silent chime.

Twilight turned to look inside, worried a security guard had heard her and half wondering why no one was assigned to the roof to begin with. She blinked and noticed it was empty. Spike’s icon appearing on the LCD panel of the elevator, though no sound meant all he could do was let her know he was responsible for it all. Looking to the floor she sighed in relief and picked up a spare power cell. She popped open one of the three compartments, pulled out the spent energy cell, and loaded in the replacement before closing the compartment. “Thanks Spike.” She said with her systems rebooting rapidly and the battery indicator reading “20 percent” in the upper right corner.

“I sent the guards on a wild goose chase for the moment, no need to worry about being seen.” A text message came across her HUD, Spike’s digital icon at the end of it.

“Thanks again.” She said quietly to herself. “I forgot how much I missed you.”

“I live to serve.” Spike said in her earpiece, the communications relinking her along with everything else. “Well, technically I’m not alive anymore but hey, it’s the thought that counts, right?”

Twilight smiled to herself as she walked into the elevator, holding the depleted power cell and nodding while looking at it. There was a level of familiarity he brought to her, something she hadn’t felt in a long time since she had been stranded in this dimension. It was comforting, since he was really the only link she had to her old life. Well, one of two, but the other one had vanished. “It sure does, Spike. It sure does.” The doors closed and began to bring her down to the lab.


***

Sunset Shimmer nearly tripped as she rounded the corner, her work shoes not giving her the traction her costume’s did. Rounding another corner, she lept over a trash can that had been overturned and slowed herself down, smoothing out her apron and adjusting her nametag. Stopping just short of the entrance, she took a deep breath and slowed down her breathing altogether to compose herself. Pushing open the door, she calmly entered to the small jingle of a bell sounding above her.

“Sorry I’m late, traffic.” She said while waving towards Daisy who was not very happy at how tardy her relief was.

“I’m sure. Place is empty so I’ve been here for an hour waiting for you, Becky.” She said with a sigh as her pale lime green hair was frazzled, indicating it clearly had been a long night. “But it’s all yours, Earl’s having a smoke out back. Later.” She handed her order pad to Sunset before putting her jacket on as she finished. “There’s been another meta human problem on the news, expect your little friend to come in, Nightwish, no doubt.”

The door chimed and Daisy left Sunset alone as she straightened her hair a bit. Walking behind the counter and turning the television on, she kept it low. “Nightwatch, his name is Nightwatch.” She leaned back on the counter and stretched, her back arching as her hands grabbed the small of it. “Oh wow, I need to dodge faster.” She said softly while cracking her neck a bit before turning to the television. Watching the video of the latest massive attack, she frowned when the footage showed several explosions. She winced several times when she saw the impacts and explosions filling the screen again, not needing the audio to realise what was happening.

Staring intently at the carnage, she narrowed her eyes as she thought back to the day when everything went haywire in life. Her time at Canterlot High had been hard enough after she had tried to fit in after the first disturbance she had caused. Twilight had come back to deal with the Sirens, who were more than a handful for her and her new friends. Closing her eyes she took a deep inhale to center herself, although her memories flooded into her mind just the same.

The sounds of hard impacts of fists meeting flesh filled her ears as the memories became more dominant in her head. She remembered how Adagio had kept watch as Aria and Sonata took turns beating her in the same dark hallway, the same hallway she had confronted Twilight in before the Fall Formal. Had it not been for the injuries she was given, she’d have found the entire irony funny. Twitching with each impact in her mind, her eyes winced as the finale in her mind played.

In her mind, Sunset saw Adagio walk over to her and pick up her slumped form from the base of a locker, with a fistful of her shirt in Adagio’s left hand which was holding her up now. She smelled her awful perfume and wanted to make a comment on it, but her ribs hurt too much at the time. She had the perfect comeback line now of course, but she was surprised she wasn’t coughing up a lung at the time. Looking up at Adagio, she remembered watching the leader pull her balled fist back to strike her, before saying her final words on the matter.

“If it's any consolation, no one is going to remember you at all by the time we're done!” she laughed and sent her fist into Sunset’s face.

Out of instinct, Sunset countered the punch from her years of training taking hold, unfortunately it was just as she heard Earl shout at her. She quickly came out of her memories and realized she had her cook in a compromising position, one he had got in from trying to wake her up from what was a dream like state. He gave a grunt of discomfort from his bent over backwards position and she immediately let go of his arm.

“Sorry, sorry Earl, are you ok?” Sunset asked while trying to help him back up, a spatula falling to the floor as the large round man was panting in fear from her now. “I...I must have been thinking too deeply, you surprised me. I’m sorry.” She said, dusting his apron off and handing him his spatula.

“Geez, Becky, you need to lay off the caffeine. I was just going to say I’m back.” He rubbed his shoulder, the awkward position of her arm lock on him setting in. “But maybe I should have just let you be.” He took the spatula and put his chef’s hat on. “How'd you learn to do that?”

“Um…” Sunset searched her mind for a moment. “Self defense. This is a dangerous city after all!” she piped back, nodding.

“Right…” he said slowly before turning back to the kitchen and walking away, disappearing from sight as he checked on the stock for the night.

Sunset let out a sigh of relief. Turning back to the counter she started to check the salt and pepper shakers, keeping her mind busy in some other way instead of living in the past. She turned the television up a bit as the reports of the chaos were dying down. The back of her mind kept nagging at her however, reminding her that none of this chaos would have been happening had she just kept herself calm and centered back then.

The sounds of sirens screeching by the diner caught her attention, making her look up for a moment before realizing she couldn’t do anything about whatever it was, at least for now.

***

Malcontent’s stare remained locked on his massive chess board of the city, pieces and shapes all inside and along the outskirts of it. Purple magic flaring from the sides of his eyes. He remained still with his fingertips steepled in his black leather gloves, avoiding the bother of any unnecessary physical contact. The crackle of the fireplace seemed hypnotic, putting him at ease or as much as he could be anyway. His species wasn’t entirely at home when there was harmony and peace filling the air, but he had found ways to relax here anyway. Aria being one of them but she hadn’t returned yet and his thoughts turned inward again. The many centuries he had been imprisoned in Tartarus weighed on him, and as such he had found inward thought had kept him sane. Breathing slower and slower the past came back to him, and like a time traveler almost, he found himself back in the memories of his own mind.

He remembered that after centuries of imprisonment in Tartarus, everyone, including Princess Celestia, had all but forgotten him. Her spell had made his first few hundred years unbearable. Forcing him to watch the ‘magic of friendship’ for several generations worth before he noticed the grip of the enchantment she had placed was starting to grow weak. It was then he found he could manipulate his prison to let him see through other portals, others dimensions. Finally, as the most recent generation of Celestia’s Equestria came to fruition, he had found the perfect world when one of Celestia’s students left. The student found a new world, full of humans, that she was going to use to return and conquer Equestria. Watching with amusement, he was impressed with her ability to manipulate an entire community to do her bidding.

Things became more interesting when he realized, given enough time to concentrate, he could subtly manipulate the world he was watching through the power of mental suggestion. Experimentation showed him it worked on only a few, the rest of the world seemed to dismiss it or were too strong willed to take hold of across the dimensional rifts. Years went by and he became far more interested in the world that Sunset Shimmer had discovered than the girl herself anymore. As he had realized through trial and error, she was too mentally fortified to be of any use to his powers. Her complete prideful and overconfident attitude was blocking his every attempt, so he took to studying the world she was using.

No, he needed someone both ambitious and not entirely sure of themselves to get out of his prison. Someone to partner with and use to get what he wanted.

The door to the main chambers slammed shut, the sound of Aria’s boots hitting the marble entered his ears and brought him from his memories.

“This little gun of yours is rather useful. I think it killed a meta in four seconds flat.” Aria spun the gun in her hands cheerfully, her usual apathetic attitude gone for the moment.

Malcontent took the gun from her hands with a gesture from of his own, telekinetic abilities among his forte. He looked it over and adjusted his glasses. “Wonderful to hear and judging from the television reports, Mayhem was in the streets?”

Aria unzipped her jacket, leaving her in her usual halter top and exposing the gem embedded in her chest to the flickering light of the fireplace. Sitting down near the fire, she warmed her hands before turning back to him. An alluring stare overtook her face, clearly insincere, but enticing nonetheless. “Oh she was having quite the time. If it’s a distraction you wanted, you certainly got it. I doubt they’ll connect the body to anything but the chaos she was causing. No one will suspect it wasn’t collateral damage.”

Malcontent didn’t turn his stare to her, he was examining the inside of the device, smiling to himself. “By the time anyone notices and puts anything together, as you put it, it will be too late.“ His eyes turned completely purple and opaque for a moment as his powers flared at the presence of such deceptions and negative emotions. “You’ve done well my dear…” he turned his head up to look at her finally, the usual sensual tones and movements she used to get her way from others not entirely effective on him.

He stood up and set the device on the workbench, turning it off and redirected his attention to her. His gloved hands taking her by the waist and smiling down at her. “You truly are the perfect partner for me to have.”

Aria smiled back at him, linking her arms around his neck and staring into his eyes. The look she had gave hundreds of times to unsuspecting prey to entice them in had little effect on him, but she knew that even he wasn’t immune to the more basics of wants. “I take it I’m to be rewarded then?” she broke from his hands and walked towards the main bedroom.

Malcontent watched her walk away and he smiled at her, taking the moment as she got out of sight to reach to the device and take a small chip from the handle. The canister on the microchip glowing for a moment before fizzling. He pulled a drawer open and set it in, locking it out of sight, just as he intended. “Oh don’t you worry, Aria, you’ll get exactly what you deserve.”

He finished his words as he walked after her, the temperature of the room dropping a few degrees as he entered it.

***

“This episode is so weak!” Pinkie said while flailing her arms at the laptop and then the screen. “All they’re doing is showing us what happened in the past and occasionally showing us bits of plot. I hate clip shows.” She slumped in her seat, looking at her friend's camera feed.

“Clip shows use previous footage to make up for things like a writer strike or a failing of budget readiness. This episode is more like character development then lazy storytelling.” Sugarcoat retorted. “Studies show that if you inform the audience of the motivations of characters more often than not, they are found more appealing in the long run when the issues come up again in later episodes.”

“Yeah I totally agree, this is rather informative.” Minuette chimed in, smiling largely. “Besides, I can’t help but think this is all leading up to something bigger. You know the whole flashback about the villain’s past showing us the present in a way.”

“Ugh. But anyone who reads the web comic will know all this information! This is almost punishing those of us who track everything!” Pinkie responded, opening up another soda.

“But you have to take into account the more you inform your audience, the better the chances they’ll go seek out the comic and the novels!” Minuette responded. “Besides, it’s never bad to give a backstory. I personally liked how we found out he and his wife were married in a fallout shelter.”

“That was rather insightful on why he hasn’t moved her body from the cryopod in the shelter.” Sugarcoat added, eating a potato chip emotionlessly.

“Today’s Total Wasteland is brought to you by Wubcakes. Wubcakes, Taste the Magic!” the television spouted a commercial at them suddenly.

“Oh, oh! It’s back! Hey...now I’m hungry for a Wubcake. I wonder if I’ve got any?” Pinkie rummaged through a large sack of goodies as the show came back on.

***

Twilight let the water sooth her bruised body, cascading off her back as the steam rose in her shower. With her eyes closed, she winced every now and then when she shifted her body to clear her back of soap. Despite her discomfort, she arched her back in a sudden move to check for more than internal pain. She felt along the small of her back, across to her left side before trailing up and across her midsection. Her hand traced over to feel the small of her back on the right and repeated this same action. She did wince upon her fingers carefully dancing across her ribcage on both sides.

“I need to work on shock absorbers more, the falls did more damage then that freaky lady.” She quietly commented to herself before turning and facing the stream, washing her face and then turning again to rinse her hair. After a few more minutes she turned off the water and opened the frosted glass door. A wet hand reached out and took hold of a fluffy soft towel. The soft fabric felt nice against her battered body that would likely begin showing bruising later.

She stepped out of the shower onto the soft floor mat, preventing her from slipping on the linoleum. Looking down at her parted toes, she moved each one with longingness reflecting in her eyes. These feet were second nature in using but she missed the simple days of having hooves, the simple days where she didn't need to worry about stubbing one digit or being laid up should one or more be broken.

On the bright side she wasn't falling down at least, unlike when she first was learning how to use her new form. Yet, even a decade of time can never erase that longing inside for her birthplace of Equestria. She took a deep breath with her eyes closing and released it with the lowering of her head. The soft drips from the turned off showerhead and the drips from her wet hair echoed in her ears. Maybe this was a mistake. It could have been much worse had things went differently with that freakshow. Twilight glumly thought to herself before starting to towel off in the sauna feeling like room.

Walking out, the door slid open and closed softly, her footsteps slightly slapping the tile floor of the lab she had called home since beginning her work for Rarity. The lights turned up slightly as Spike sensed her walking into the room, monitors powering up and command prompts blinking.

“Feel better?” Spike asked with his avatar appearing on the screen closest to her, his familiar dragon guise blinking back at her.

“A bit, but the bruises haven’t started to appear yet. Based on what I’m feeling still, they’re bound to be doozies.” She pushed her hair back into a ponytail, the towel coming untied for a moment and slipping. She caught it and refastened it to herself, snugger this time. “But that’s not the issue at the moment. Have you completed analyzing any of the data from our first field test?”

“I’ve been able to start compiling the issues, we’ll have something to look at in a few hours. Maybe you should get some sleep?” Spike said, his avatar changing to wearing a labcoat, a small pointer in his claws. “I’ve got all sorts of things to keep reading up on.”

Twilight smiled as he changed his look, giggling and walking to a small wardrobe in the corner by her cot. Opening it she pulled a few articles of clothing out, setting them on the bed. “Where did you leave off?” she asked lazily, taking her towel off and letting it drop to the floor.

“Just beginning the Sombra Empire. Memory serves, and it should, Sombra wasn’t such a nice guy in our world. In fact, I have some recollection about...me defeating him?” Spike asked as several large question marks began appearing over his head on the screen. “That can’t be right.”

Twilight smiled, remembering their adventures together back in Equestria and the Crystal Empire where Sombra had tried to return. “Well...it’s a bit more complicated than that, Spike. But for all intents and purposes, you are the hero of the Crystal Empire.” She pulled a small nightshirt on as she finished saying that, wincing in her pain again.

“Based on what articles and entries I’m reading here though, Sombra’s empire is terrifying.“ Spike’s icon changed to him reading a stack of books.

“Tell me what you’ve learned, Spike.” She asked as she pulled on some pink socks, sitting back on her cot. “It’ll help you compile properly.”

“Heh. Usually it was you reading me to sleep. A nice change of pace.” He smiled with the icon gaining a sleeping cap. “The Sombra Empire is a modified monarchy located 3,892 miles from Equestrian City. Founded centuries ago by the First King Sombra, who ruled by threat of force as well as force itself to enslave his people. A strong economy based on textile and other forms of manual labor, the most profitable being manufactured goods. Exports to both the Commonwealth and the Dominion fuel their economy for the most part, enabling them to stockpile their massive magical armaments.” The icon turned the page of his small book in his claws. “Though at odds with the Commonwealth, since settlers from there founded Equestrian City and eventually the Canterlot Commonwealth, they still trade with the other. An uneasy ceasefire was recently broken earlier this year when Imperialist troopers were caught trying to sabotage a power plant in Gem City.”

“Mmhmm…” Twilight said, her tone very somber as she stretched out on the cot, pulling a small blanket over herself and closing her eyes. Picking up a book on programming and opening it up to a bookmark, she tried to wake herself up a bit but failed utterly as she closed her eyes again.

“Goodnight, Twilight.” He finally said, hearing her breathing slow down and checking her vitals.

“Goodnight, Spike.” She whispered back, drifting off as he recited a few more entries for the Sombra Empire.

Spike stopped after his sensors showed Twilight was in REM stage, her eyes moving under her lids as sleep had overtaken her. All the monitors turned to screensaver mode, one displaying him in an office chair surrounded by books. Dimming the lights and refocusing his processors on compiling the fight data, he rapidly composed several changes to the armor he’d recommend when she awoke.

***

Rainbow Dash, or as she was known to the thugs on Southside Equestrian City, Shadow Strike, perched herself on a nearby rooftop. Her echo locational powers she had grown to use with ease over the ten years since she lost her sight, pinged out several times, zeroing in on a brown delivery van speeding towards the center of the city. Her natural athletic build gave her an edge regardless of her powers as she ran from rooftop to rooftop, moving to intercept it.

The fabric of her suit helped as well, made of a tough durable kevlar weave, it was sewn to her exact body dimensions, cutting down on wind resistance. It was one of the many perks of having a fairly decent amount of money and even more discreet friends who didn’t ask questions which provided her that, and her titanium retractable staff clipped to her side. Coupled with her hyper awareness of the area completely around her thanks to her sonar like vision, she was unstoppable for the most part when in pursuit.

Sliding under a low hanging set of ductwork and flipping across a gap between two rooftops, she turned sharply to her left. Running with precision across the edge of the building she was on, she took a flying leap forward fearlessly in her efforts with a confident smile on her face.

It was a smile that quickly faded as something that had barely registered on her vision moments before impacted her hard from the left.

Sailing down with her assailant, Shadow Strike turned in midair and contorted her body to send the attacker into the plate glass window of an electronics store on the ground level. Televisions and cell phones scattered as both bodies came to a recovered stance, each down on a knee as they sized the other up.

“Had to admit, didn’t think you’d shift in mid-air…” the figure said to Shadow Strike. Stepping up from her knee, she was dressed in a green and yellow outfit with lightening bolts on each side. The mask covered most of her head but not the face, her eyes, nose and mouth exposed to the general view of the public. Spinning two metal tonfas in her hands, she smiled as both of them let off small shots of electrical energy, causing two televisions to explode on contact with the charges. “...I can’t tell you how happy I am to meet you.”

“Who the heck are you?.” Shadow Strike spun her staff to life, it’s metallic locking sounds echoing as it extended into full size. “Not that it’s going to matter in a few minutes.” She smiled, taking a defensive stance as her vision scanned the room.

“Name’s Lightning Dust.” The girl answered back, spinning a tonfa and throwing a bolt of electricity at Shadow Strike with remarkable accuracy. “You’ve become a problem to some people, and I’m the solution!”

Shadow Strike barely dodged in time, not used to this level of precision from common thugs while side flipping behind a wall and running around to the other side of it, ducking under another shot from Dust. “A mercenary? Ha, I’ve got so many of you under my belt it’s not even fun anymore.” She said, leaning to the right as another shot sailed past, missing it’s mark and shattering a neon display of phones behind her. With the target in her sights, Dash swung and with the same surprise as before, she missed.

Lightning Dust laughed and connected with two consecutive hits to Shadow Strike, moving faster than a normal person had any business moving. She landed a third in the back of her opponent followed by a final uppercut with her tonfa, electrifying and sending her flying backwards. Landing with a thud onto broken sheetrock from their entrance, Shadow Strike barely moved in time to escape a death blow from the mercenary’s other tonfa, the pointed ends of it now apparent as it stuck into the ground.

“..and I prefer the term ‘Freelance Heavy’, thank you very much!” Dust said while struggling for a moment to pull herself free. She grunted a moment before she swung back and away, ‘trying to hit her target before is escaped too far’ only to connect into another cheaply made wall.

“You’re pretty fast, but you’ve got no style!” Shadow Strike shouted back, the business end of her staff connecting to the back of Dust’s head, then another upward swing taking her legs out from under her.

Dust grunted in pain from the first hit, but before gravity entirely took over from the second hit, she corrected her body mid fall and pushed off Shadow Strike’s staff with both feet, sending them flying away from each other. Both of the girls athletic prowess became apparent to the other as they performed almost identical recovery tumbles, looking at each other and sizing the other up again with their weapons poised.

“The great Shadow Strike and her amazing agility. I’m happy to hear the stories are true!” Dust said while spinning her weapons like a snake ready to strike. With eyes locked on Shadow Strike’s stance, she smiled wider. “I can see I’m more than what you can handle. If you give up now, promise I won’t let it go to my head.” She laughed again. “You’ve got no idea what you're dealing with here.”

“Let me guess: survived the explosion, decided to use your powers for personal gain, became a thug. Heard it. Bored.” Shadow Strike retorted back, her staff flourishing once then twice. She stalled the best she could, looking over the store and entire area for anything in her favor.

“Something like that, only a lot more epic…” Dust answered, smiling back at her.

As soon as she finished saying that, Dust heard the wind pick up around her, just enough to distract her from her main focus. Her own enhanced awareness saved her as she dodged a super fast punch, then another and another. Dealing with Shadow Strike had kept her from being ready for the other threat that seemed to creep up on her in the form of some super speedster.

Pink streaks filled the vision of Lightning Dust, who narrowly dodged using her own reflexes to compensate for the swings. Dodging at a furiously fast pace, she moved out of the way of a series of hits before finally getting out of the reach of her attacker, only to have a large spherical ball of electricity hurled at her for once! Instinct kicked in and Dust pulled her conductive tonfas in front of her in time to absorb and redirect it to the ceiling, shorting out the lightning in the entire room. Only lit by the streetlights outside, Dust grunted in frustration as the lack of light made her lose her target.

“Can’t deal with a little one on one, Shadow Strike? Need to bring in a ringer?” Dust said, throwing several wild shots of electricity, none of which hit the pink blur.

Splitsecond rounded the store one more time, working on a trick she had learned by accident when she had run too fast and far once. Enough static energy gathered by her in a fast enough time period and she had accidentally knocked out the transformer to her apartment one evening. Quickly learning how to channel it, she began using it as a weapon once she had mastered her aim. A smile on her face as she came to an abrupt halt in front of Lightning Dust, the energy kept going with a massive cluster of electricity in the form of an orb hurling at her.

Crossing her metal tonfas in front of her, the mercenary’s conductive weapons pulled in the energy, absorbing it in seconds with a smug laugh. “Nice try, Cotton Candy, electricity isn’t the best weapon to hit me with. You may be fast, but your not too smart.”

Shadow Strike struck the back of Lightning Dust with a full swing to the back of the head, sending her to the ground. Metal tonfas clattered as she grunted out and cursing with a dull thud.

“You’re not so bright yourself, Dust.” Shadow Strike said with a smile across her face, looking up at the pink speedster. “Just in the neighborhood again?”

“Eh, I was out for a run.” Pinkie Pie, or in this guise, Splitsecond, smiled back while adjusting her yellow tinted safety glasses. “Ooo, who's your friend?!”

“Calls herself ‘Lightning Dust’, hired heavy to distract me from a shipment I was tracking.” Shadow Strike said while snapping her staff into a compact size again. “I had her handled, but I appreciate the enthusiasm.” Dash’s ego seeped through, despite all the years having made her wiser. Some habits she had found never went away.

“Must have been some shipment if they send a heavy hitter after you.” Splitsecond said, rubbing her chin a moment, thinking visibly. “What was so important?” she raised an eyebrow.

“Shipment of military grade hardware and firmware.” A third voice caught them both off guard, much to Shadow Strike’s surprise. Turning towards it, they saw a toned female form dressed in black, flame patterns accenting her outfit. She had been known by many names, the first being Sunset Shimmer, but no one knew her by that now. Now she was being called ‘The Phoenix’. “While you two were dealing with her, I found out the truck was a decoy. Nothing but old newspapers in the shipping containers.” She walked in slowly while keeping an eye on them both as the glass crunched under her boots. Keeping her hands visible, but not letting her guard down, she looked at them both.

“The driver was tagged by me, where’s he at?” Shadow Strike asked, folding her arms.

“He’s being processed by the E.C.P.D., Captain Nightwatch’s team took him in for further questioning.” Sunset said, looking over to Splitsecond. “Same place you busted Trixie, the docks. Shipments tend to disappear there recently.”

“Hey, if you’re thinking it’s me or her, you’ve got another thing coming, bacon hair.” Pinkie said, folding her own arms now.

“No, nothing like that. Those shipments were going to disappear no matter who was tracking them. Not easily either.” Sunset responded in her usual dead tone as best as possible. “Someone’s misdirecting these on a level that's not your common thieves methods.”

“How do you know that?” Shadow Strike asked, still skeptical. Phoenix wasn’t exactly a team player in town and more than a few times there had been allegations of an excessive use of force. She had been somewhat branded by the collective heroes as bad news, but Dash knew one thing: She was usually right. Focusing her echolocation on her, she tried to read subtle body language and cues to determine if she was.

“I’ve been able to do my own digging on several incidents around the city the last few years. Each one by itself isn’t anything to worry about, but when you start to put them together,” she paused then continued. “They start to look familiar in execution and motive.”

“So someone’s shopping, it’s probably another super death laser. We’ll stop it, we always do!” Dash said smugly, “No one’s going to get anything past--”

A flashbang went off, two of them in fact, from Lightning Dust’s hands. During the time the three had been talking, they had all been too distracted to notice the mercenary’s move of desperation. A cackle of glee escaped from the room, the three recovering at different rates as she fled.

Sunset had seen the move but was too late to stop Dust from firing her grenades, but not too late to turn partially defusing the blast of light from affecting her as much as the others. Turning towards the green and yellow clad villain, she reached inside her jacket and pulled out a silver hockey puck shaped device and quickly hurled it in one fluid motion, landing it just in time on Dust’s back. A split second later a concussive charge in it sent the villain to the ground with a yelp, knocking her out again.

Turning back to the other two, Sunset smiled. “Clearly you’ve got this.” She said before moving over and handcuffing Dust this time to prevent further issues, looking up to the sound of sirens closing in. “You two let them know what I told you, I’ve got more leads to check out.”

Shadow Strike and Splitsecond turned to each other then back to Sunset but before either could make protest, a flame shot out from both of Sunset’s hands. Her magic levitated her far into the sky, out of the area and towards the center of Equestrian City.

***

Aria ducked behind the stage, her outfit clinging to her thanks to the heat they had generated by their dance number. She had been against the routine herself as she had found that this world’s men could be swayed by much more base desires, and the right routine wouldn’t have been as draining to their powers as this one had been. But Adagio was in charge and ignored her ideas.

Adagio was always in charge. Always overbearing. So sure of herself.

Aria smiled, relishing the look on her and Sonata’s face when she took their gems and shoved them into the magical wave to save herself.

“She didn’t see that coming, that's for sure.” She laughed but broke her celebration short as she saw the magical wave coming towards the stage. People dove out of the way and ran in all directions, sometimes over each other to get away. Had she not been in mortal danger herself, she’d have been entirely enjoying this scene.

But the wave was heading towards her and because of the force of nature it was, it didn’t care who it was destroying. She had to find a way to either outrun it or get out of it’s way. Neither seemed too good as options at the moment. As wonderful as her victory was, it would be short lived it would seem. After turning towards the wave, she grimaced.

“Well, this is gonna suck.” She uttered, accepting her fate.

A bright flash behind her caught her attention, blinding her for a moment as she turned away from it but as the flashes in her eyes disappeared, she saw a portal open next to her, like the one her sisters and herself arrived in so long ago. For a moment, she thought it was the great beyond coming after her until she saw a figure emerge from it: Malcontent.

“Ahh.” He said, seemingly detached from the chaos and horror around him while stretching his arms up. “Much better than four legs, that’s for sure.” He smiled, looking around a moment before focusing on Aria with a look that clearly stated he was there with a purpose.

“Who are you?” she asked.

“I’m like you, Aria. I see an opportunity and take it when the time is right.” He said, his tone relaxed despite the explosions and waves of raw magic firing in all directions. He extended a hand down to her, his leather gloves shining from the approaching wave of energy. “So I offer you a choice in a seemingly winless scenario: Escape with me or die like these lesser beings!”

Aria glanced at his hand, then back to the oncoming death. She was hesitant to say the least in taking his offer but wasn’t thrilled with the thought of magical death either. Before she could make any other thoughts on the matter, an explosion next to her snapped her attention towards it just as shards of glass, concrete and wood began peppering her location. Holding up her arms in front of her out of instinct and turning away from the debris, she felt the sting of the glass cut through her otherwise flawless skin with the explosion knocking her backwards and onto her back. Opening her eyes, she winced in pain and turned to look at her only real sane choice.

Malcontent smiled down at her. “Come my dear…” he reached down. “It is the only way.”

Survival overtook her and she reached up, taking his hand into hers and accepting his offer.

Aria’s eyes snapped open with one hand grabbing at her chest as the other pushed away at some imaginary foe in front of her. She blinked a few times, her breathing becoming rapid with sweat having collected on her fuschia toned body. She looked around quickly, then reality sunk into her mind again, pulling her from her deep thoughts of the past. Surrounding her were several lit scented candles with dim lighting above her which elegantly cast her seemingly nude form in modest shadows. Legs in a lotus position still, she remembered that after she and her partner had their evening meal, she had retired to some peace and quiet as he had left her to her own devices.

“Bad dreams again, Aria?” Adagio’s condescending demeanor echoing in her head, followed by Sonata’s giggling again. “They say that traumatic events have a way of sticking with you, no matter how hard you try and block them out. Guilt, maybe?”

Aria closed her eyes, frowning. “Go. Away.” She said finally with her fists and toes clenching. In fact her whole body began to contort as she concentrated and focused, the gem in her chest lighting up bright.

“She’s going to end up popping a blood vessel if she keeps this up!” Sonata laughed, her voice overlapping Adagio’s inside her mind.

“Shove us away as often as you want, dear little Aria, it won’t change the truth.” Adagio laughed at her sister’s efforts. Sweat continued to gather on Aria’s brow and she sat up further, finally moving to be standing firm and her muscles flexing, the tendrils around her gem moved slightly.

“What I did…” Aria’s eyes remained shut, teeth bared now. “Was take what was rightfully mine! You did nothing but keep me down! I’m in charge now!”

“In charge now? Is that what your Master tells you?” Adagio responded quickly, the hold on her sister getting more powerful despite her efforts. She even began to manifest as a small floating orb with a reasonable facsimile of her old self in front of her now. “You’re no more in charge now than you’ve ever been, the only difference is you’re alone now!”

Sonata started to generate an avatar for herself as well, a more silly looking soulsphere as it joined Adagio. “Duh! At least with us, you were among your own kind! He isn’t even your species and now he holds you on a leash like some sort of dog! I bet she eve--”

Aria growled and extended her arms, the magical energy in her gem turning into a spherical orb around her, knocking over the candles and what little pleasure she had been finding in the solitude. “Quiet!” she growled loudly.

Like that, the voices were gone and she could think again, but her powers felt drained from the exertion of them. She’d need to recharge them sooner than last time.

Shivering a bit, she rubbed her bare arms and body a moment, closing her eyes and generating her usual outfit she had fallen into wearing. Along with the single ponytail she seemed to prefer now, it was the only thing that she found comfortable no matter what anymore. Taking a look at herself in the mirror by the door to the meditation room she was in, she sighed and rubbed her chest where the gem was attached absently. Walking out the door, she turned right and towards the main room of the complex. Malcontent was busy at the work table from earlier, perched over and soldering silently on a large board.

“How are your sisters doing, my dear Aria?” He asked, not looking up from his work, a sly hint of satisfaction in his tone. His eyes glinted behind his glasses as the emotions she shed were feeding him for a brief moment, the fire nearby crackling louder for a moment.

“As happy as ever…” Aria retorted, not allowing his emotional jab to show any effect on her before she rubbed down the back of his shirt, causing his hands to twitch a moment. Mostly she did this to mess with his concentration but half of it was actually in fun. Most of the time. “Darling.” her words dripped of sarcasm. “How about you? Any real progress or are you just tinkering with your rod?”

Looking up from the workbench, he let the small metal rod he was working on drop gently, setting the tools aside. He clearly became annoyed as she got the full attention of his gaze. Tapping into his store reserve of power, his eyes turned a bright cyan-white as a glow of the same aura wrapped around the gem in Aria’s chest. Standing straight up and arching her back, he pulled at it like one would a leash, her discomfort bringing a smile to his face. “My tinkering is coming along fine, my dear Aria, but I do need something from you again.”

She gritted her teeth but held her composure, the hold he had on her was one of her own choosing after all. The power she possessed and wielded came at several costs, one of which was it’s inability to maintain itself and requiring refueling of the most devious nature. Another was what allowed his hold on her now and just like her sisters mentioned many times, she often wondered if it was worth all the trouble. Tendrils of white wispy energy wrapped around her body from the ground up, her skin starting to get goosebumps as the chill from it caught up with her which caused shivers to start running through her. Still, Aria remained composed as one could be, it was all a dance. A game. A sick twisted partnership that both got what they wanted at no real cost to the other.

“I have been known to crave excitement, darling.” She finally uttered, bringing a smile to his face at last.

“Then this won’t disappoint you.” His grip on her released and she regained her balance. “I need you to meet with our chaotic little friend and let her know that I need...WE..need more chaos, but not immediately. Tell her to get ready and when the time is right, we’ll let her know.” He turned to the workbench, pulling an envelope from the drawer. “And give this to Trixie. I’m making arrangements for her to be freed, whether she knows it or not, it’ll be a...Speedy...release.” He snickered, resuming his work on the much larger version of the gun he had Aria test, the schematic in front of him depicting an even larger scale of the design.

Aria took the note and pocketed it, ruffling his hair to make it messy and cackling. She turned and walked past his main map of the city, which she noticed was now expanded to include the disaster site. She frowned at the change, stopping a moment and looked over the map as it now had new additions to when she first saw the ruins. In the front of the old high school was a large red X with two circles on both sides of it, making a triangle formation with the X as the top point. The words “Ground Zero” were stenciled across the entire map and a representation of the fence the government had put up around the entire area finished the layout.

The image quickly switched off as Malcontent turned back to look at her, noticing she had stopped. “Don’t dawdle, Aria. Time is very important. After all, the sooner you can get this ready, the sooner we can all get what we deserve.” He smiled before turning back to his work, waving her off.

Aria frowned again but then resumed her bored look, her heels clicking on the marble floor until she left with the doors closing behind her.


End of Episode!
***

Xmas Interlude

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The bells on the diner door jingled softly, indicating to Sunset Shimmer there was a new customer. Turning, she reached for her pen and pad, walking over towards the sound of the door closing. Smiling out of habit, her face turned to surprise as she noticed who it was: Nightwatch.


“Good morning, Becky.” The police officer said to her, taking his formal hat off his head and placing it under his arm. “Hope I’m not too early.”


“Nightwatch, no I’m just about done. My till is counted down, just need to tidy up before Rose gets in.” She glanced at her watch, noting the sun would be up in an hour or so from the dim glow of morning barely visible over the overcast sky of Equestrian City. The slight dusting of snow from the early morning had given the street and the roads a slight gleam. Taking off her apron she turned and looked back at the newly promoted Captain of Meta Human Relations for the E.C.P.D. and quickly turned her gaze elsewhere.


Sunset, or as he knew her as Rebecca, had done her best to lay low out of the public eye. In fact, save for the interactions she had with the officer in particular, she had succeeded in being as much of a wallflower as she could. No one would suspect the waitress around the corner at the diner as being The Phoenix, especially as frumpy as she tried to look.


The first few times he had offered to swing by and make sure she got home safely, she had found an excuse handy to decline. This last time however, her quick mind hadn’t formulated a way to sidestep his offer without raising suspicion. The area of town she lived in had gotten a bit more dangerous during the early morning hours, and to the best of his knowledge, she didn’t even have a can of mace, let alone the massive martial arts training and pyrokinetics actually at her disposal.


“Got a few minutes? It’s chilly out there, got any coffee?” Nightwatch said, taking off his thin policeman gloves and stuffing them into the pockets of his jacket. He shivered for a moment after he did that, finally sitting on the stool at the counter and turning to look at her again.


“Sure, let me get you a cup. Shift’s not over anyway.” Sunset nervously answered before turning and pouring a cup for her only customer, the television in the corner blaring on in the background. She set it down and gave him some sweetener and cream like he preferred. “You know you don’t have to walk me home. It’s not that far in the grand scheme of things. I can’t imagine I’m the most important thing to the new head of the Meta Relations unit?”


“Oh not at all. You know that statistically, a crime will happen to you within 25 miles of where you live.” He spouted off a random fact, nervously adding his cream and stirring it in.


“Wow. Makes you wonder why I don’t just move huh?” She made a quick joke, trying to keep things light. Leaning on the counter and smiling as she finished, a slight grin on her face.


It took Night a moment to register she was making a joke, but he looked down as he chuckled. “That's not bad. Not bad at all.” He sipped his coffee, careful not to burn himself.


“Let me get my bag and punch out.” She stood up, adjusting her name tag absently and walked into the back of the diner, past the television.


“A record low for this time of year again, in fact the last decade we’ve slowly been making new records. The National Weather Department is at a loss for the reason, but assures the public that even though it’s a bit chillier than last year, there’s nothing to worry about. Snow in the forecast for later this morning, with accumulation of up to four inches.” The weatherman recited, the television barely loud enough to hear.


Sipping his coffee again, Nightwatch stared at the back, waiting for his favorite waitress, glancing back at the television as it gave the weekend forecast. He felt some tension leave his chest as she walked out the back. He had faced down unspeakable metahuman criminals and dodged death more than a few times, but the effort he was making now terrified him.


Since the day he first started noticing her, he had been quite taken by the waitress known as Rebecca Strong. Not as fickle or snide as most of the early morning employees he was used to, she was far more than just another employee. The only thing that was constant was her, and for that he was grateful. No matter how bad the day had been, he could count on her being there for him, a cup of coffee, a hearty breakfast, and a remarkably sharp intellect, despite how she tried to hide it.


There were even a few times he had come in on his day off, in uniform, just to talk with her. For being a collage drop out, she had a wisdom about her that was much more expressed then some grad students he had talked with in his job. He couldn’t quite place it, but to him, she had always seemed like she had, had far more diverse life experiences then she’d let on.

“Laying it on kind of thick aren’t we?” Sunset asked, walking out of the back with a small duffel bag and putting a light blue jacket on.


Nightwatch blinked as she asked that. “Pardon me?”


“The weatherman always seems to make things sound worse than they are. Little snow never hurt anyone.” She motioned to the television, putting a small hat on her head and tucking most of her hair under it.


“Oh! Yeah, well, you can’t really make it sound more exciting then it already is, suppose they have to at least try.” He said, finishing his cup and standing up. “Ready?”


“Ready as I’ll ever be.” She smiled hesitantly, hoisting her bag on her back and making sure it was zipped shut, keeping his or anyone else's’ prying eyes from her costume inside.


They exited the diner. He held the door open and the bell jingled softly again as they walked down the street, their footsteps crunching the snow on the scattered areas not shoveled clear by store owners or the city workers. Nightwatch put his hat and gloves on, walking diligently next to her. Keeping an eye out for any trouble, he was happy there wasn’t any to be seen.


“Bit more than I was expecting so far.” Nightwatch finally said, a nervous silence between them broken.


“What?” Sunset asked back, turning her gaze slightly.


“The snow. Even back home this is a bit much for this time of year.” Night responded, turning the corner with her.

“You’re not from here?”


“Nope. I started out working far up north, small little town. Moved to the big city to study for Medicine.” He tilted his hat to a police cruiser coasting by, they waved back. “Eventually saw I enjoyed the rapid response to emergencies, and then fell into the police line of work instead.”


“See I never knew that about you. You always seemed like you were cut out for the police life.” Sunset eyed down an alley next to them, her senses noticing they were for the most part, in no apparent danger. She was happy since she didn’t exactly know how she was going to keep her identity concealed if any problems came up. Another reason she tried her best to avoid being escorted home, no matter how much good intent was behind it all.


“Oh no, not at all. My parents actually wanted me to be a doctor. They were…less than thrilled when I told them I was changing my major.” He rubbed the back of his neck as he finished the sentence. “Mom was a doctor, and she had been quite open about her expectations of me. She said it felt like I had failed her in a way by going into a line of work that promoted death instead of life.”


“That seems a bit short sighted, if you don't mind me saying.” Sunset seemed troubled by the story as he told it. “Police work is generally about preserving life, promoting peace. Your mother didn’t see that?”


“She does now. She was upset I guess.” He turned another corner with her, walking at a slower pace, though he didn’t really want to think about who was the one slowing it down. He was happy it was taking longer than he thought. “I don’t know if you can know what it's like to feel like you failed someone like that. She always said she had great expectations for me.”


Sunset was quiet for a few steps, looking down and thinking. “No. I can sort of understand that. I…failed a mentor once myself.” she finally said.


“Oh? Someone at college?” he inquired, dusting off some snow from her bag.


“She was a huge part of my education, yes.” She said hesitantly. “But, it’s neither here nor there. It’s good that your mother came around and realized her mistake before it drove a wedge between you two.” She redirected the conversation. “Was your father supportive?”


“Oh he wanted me to be happy first and foremost. He’d always kinda, well, you know, been more quiet about his thoughts on the matter. But I know he loved me. Just like I know she does.” He nodded, shrugging his shoulders a bit.


“It’s good you know that. So few people know exactly what they want in life. A Lot of times they end up doing...the wrong thing...even if they think it’s right in their mind.” Sunset looked towards him a moment.


“See thats why I like you. You’re not like most people our age. Most of them are still out trying to party or make some sort of impact for themselves. You? You’re working at a diner, enjoy it, and don’t berate others for their choices. You just don’t see that in many people these days.”


“I’m not perfect. It took me awhile to understand that. Now I just do what I can to --” she paused. “Did you say you liked me?”


There was an awkward silence as they stopped and he suddenly pulled her by the bag strap, a step further and she’d have gone right into traffic. “Careful now!”


“Whoa!” she exclaimed, astounded she had lost focus for moment.


“Lets not go too far too soon.” he said, leaving his meaning ambiguous to her.


“Oh no, let’s be clear, this is as far as we go.” Sunset responded a split second later, his face turning a slight paler gray tone.


“Pardon?” he stammered out, panic setting in.


She smiled, a sly tone in her voice. “You heard me. We can’t go any further then this right now.” She pointed to a doorstep. “I’m home.”


There was another pause and both of them laughed, looking away shyly for a moment.


“I guess I lost track of where we were. My apologies.” He bowed slightly. “But...I’m glad I could finally get you home safely. I worry you know.” He tipped his hat up a bit as she walked up the few steps.


“Well, thank you for walking me home, officer. I still feel bad for taking up your time.” She smiled down at him, snow fluttering down a bit more insistent now. “Though I can’t recall a time I’ve felt more safe.”


“Not at all. The pleasure was all mine, Ms. Strong.” He nodded. “It was nice to talk with you. Makes you a bit more real in a way.”


She smiled, a fake smile as the reality that he didn’t know the real her set in.


“...and if you don’t mind, maybe we could do this again sometime?” he added hesitantly.


“Oh, you’ll see plenty of me, I’m sure of that.” She responded, half lidded eyes at him.


He seemed to perk up a bit. “Oh?”


“A cop needs his coffee and breakfast doesn't he?” she added, making it difficult to gauge her meaning in the manner. She smiled a bit wider and waved at him, unlocking her door to her apartment building and letting him watch silently, bewildered still.

Episode 6 - "Transitions and Acquisitions"

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Equestrian City - Episode 6 "Transitions and Acquisitions”
By DarkMalcontent
Co-author and Proofreading by AlisiaLanet

“Okay, that woman said to remember to breath and to focus my mind.” A young man with light blue skin, teal blue and white short hair, and blue eyes whispered as he looked down to a package in his hands. He looked up and down the hall towards another part of the normal prisoner’s wing of Purgatory. He made his way down to a wall leading outside and hid the bomb in a corner hiding place. “Hope this here works.” He muttered as he set the wireless detonator to active so he could activate it later when needed.

He made his way into a room where he closed the door and pulled out a small travel bag. He pulled out a wig and police outfit. He adjusted his clothing and got into his disguise as a female guard. Speedy hid the bag on his person by using it as extra padding around his chest under the uniform. He adjusted it with a small smirk. “Who says I can’t look good?” he commented to himself before remembering what he had to do. Quickly he left the room to begin blending in with the patrol. He glanced down and adjusted a false I.D. badge on his person that luckily was in the system.

He walked around while helping to monitor inmates, break up any fights and ensure no one was trying to break out. He had to stop himself from racing up to her when he spotted Trixie in her prison suit. He felt his heart jump in seeing the one he adored. She’s alive. I’m so glad that woman was right on that part. He silently thought with relief.

After all had finished eating, he looked over as a voice came over the speaker system. “Alright, time for you orange guys to get some exercise and interact with your fellow inmates in a nice way. That doesn’t mean anyone gets to pound anyone, and yes I’m talking to you Berry Punch.” The speaker cut off as a woman with two toned hair huffed and rolled her eyes, sporting a fading black eye as the inmates were taken out into the activity area.

Trixie grumbled while pacing around the activity center where exercising with hand weights, basketball and other interactive activities were available. “Ugh! None of these childish games are worthy of the great and powerful Trrrrrixie!” she exclaimed strongly with a fisted hand shooting up into the air.

One of the female guards looked over with a small sigh. “Trixie, just try and be semi-behaved and less egotistical? It won’t kill you and you might even be bearable.”

Trixie quickly turned to her, folding her arms with a huff before placing the back of one hand on her cocked hip. “You expect Trixie to interact with common lowlifes who are below her?” she began messing with her hair to fix it. “Trixie will not diminish her reputation.”

“What reputation, phony?” a female sharply asked from her checkerboard, her two colored hair pulled back into a rough ponytail.

Trixie wasted no time in turning to glare at the woman, her hands balled into fists with her eyes narrowed and one even twitching. “Phony?!” she repeated with her voice rising and cracking. “You must take that back!” she straightened her back and placed a hand on her chest. “I am the great and powerful Trixie, master criminal and has faced down the pitiful pink menace Splitsecond.”

The woman named BonBon began laughing and nearly fell off her chair as others began to also find this humorous. “You got caught by her, not escaped her.”

“Shut up BonBon!” Trixie ordered as she stormed over and up to her.

BonBon stood up and locked eyes with the failed magician. “Or you’ll what if I don’t?” she sternly questioned. Trixie didn’t answer but did push BonBon back. She stumbled back a step then returned to her spot while pulling back and throwing a punch. Trixie gave a short shriek as she ducked and scurried away just as two female guards came over.

“Cut it out you two.” One ordered that had purple hair.

“She started it!” Trixie snapped with an accusing finger pointing to BonBon.

BonBon gasped. “I did not!” she pointed her own finger at Trixie. “It was you and your boasting. You aren’t any better than us.”

“I beg your pardon!” Trixie snapped, taking a step towards BonBon but was pulled back by the arm by the second female guard with neon green hair.

“Com’on you, we don’t need any fights breaking out.” She grunted pulling Trixie with her out of the activity area.

In a hallway heading back to the cells, Trixie followed reluctantly. “Trixie doesn’t understand why you decided to pull Trixie away from something she could easily have won.”

The female guard continued silently then smirked as she slowed down and turned to look at Trixie. “Because you are needed by someone else.”

“What are you talking about?”

The guard pulled off her hat, also removing the wig and she took off thin lenses that had been resting on his nose. “I have orders to bust you out. You’ve been paroled.” Trixie blinked looking almost dumbfounded by this information as she couldn’t come up with any names for who could or would have sent another to come get her. He reached out and took hold of Trixie’s wrist. “Hold on tight. Stay close and try to be quiet as we go.”
“Why? Hey!” she protested as he pulled her with him down the hall, making his way towards a set of stairs.

Now to put this into motion. Speedy thought as he would later come to a stop and watch the doors leading out, spying the two guards on duty there. He moved to the side around a corner and put his fingers to his lips.

Trixie glared at him, not the least bit pleased. “Trixie does not enjoy being treated like this.” She hissed annoyedly at him. “And just who the heck are you?”

“I’m a friend who knows you and is very glad you’re alive.” Speedy replied softly and looked around the corner. They’re roughly ten feet away, give or take so I should be able to reach them. He took a breath and released it as he focused his mind before pulling a blunt knuckle band from his pocket. He readied himself, figuring out how he was going to do this before suddenly his body vanished.

Speedy reappeared behind the two guards. He moved and quickly punched one then the other in the head and neck. He stood tall as he watched them both collapse. Speedy looked up and waved Trixie over. She hesitated but did proceed to make her way quickly over. “How in the world did you just do that?!” she questioned with her voice rising and slightly cracking from her shock.

“It may sound not so weird, but magic.” Speedy answered and got on the computer to get the door opened.

“Where did you get magic?”

Speedy pulled out a small device after putting away the knuckle band. “A time ago and just recently learned how to use them...thanks to a new friend I just met also recently.”

Trixie looked at the doors then around before looking at the cell phone like device. “What are you gonna do with that?” she now held a curious yet rude tone to her words.

Speedy smirked and pressed a button. “Just a little distraction.” Simultaneously he pressed a button on the keyboard and watched the doors open before retaking Trixie’s hand. He looked at her with a small blush and smile. “Come on, the outside world awaits!” he lead the way in a run with Trixie staying close.

She looked down at her prison garb and groaned. “Trixie looks horrid in this…”

“Don’t worry Trixie! I was prepared and you can change before we meet her.”

“Meet who?” she questioned curiously but he didn’t answer.

They stopped at a set of trees and bushes where a bag waited Trixie. Inside was a new set of clothes. She hid behind the foliage and got changed before coming out, leaving the suit behind. Once they were a short distance away from the jail, a couple explosions in another part went off, freeing a few other prisoners that were a higher level threat than Trixie. Speedy stopped and looked back, smirking and teleported them again while not giving Trixie time to question anything.

Aria looked to the envelope for some moments before looking to her gemstone. She gently touched it and winced. “...They’re wrong...I have more freedom now than then…” she softly whispered reassuringly to herself. She would take a breath, close her eyes and exhale slowly before her ears caught the sound of talking. Her eyes opened from her lurking spot and turned into the pair that had arrived.

They would stop later some miles outside the city. A panting Trixie glared at the panting man and jerked her arm free. “Just what are you wanting with Trixie?” she hissed hotly.

Speedy went to answer but another voice spoke up from the side. “Don’t worry your little head, Trixie. Our employer has seen you worthy for a gift.”

Trixie looked over and watched Aria step out, pulling something from a hidden pocket on her. “And what is this gift?” she folded her arms, an eyebrow cocked. “Wait I don’t have an employer.”

Aria held out the envelope. “Here, everything inside is for you.” She smoothly stated as she held the white paper creation. Trixie reached out and took the envelope, opening it and starred with a few blinks of confusion at what she found. She pulled out a necklace of black, with a dark metal shape with a pair of wings and a red gem in the center of it.

“It looks pretty, kinda gothic though, but what is it?”

“Let’s just say it’ll give you exactly what you deserve.” Aria calmly said and watched as Trixie put the necklace on. Once it was on, the latch faded, melting into one piece and the stone gave a brief glow which reflected in Trixie’s eyes. Aria gained a small smile as she watched and observed Trixie extend a hand, magic surrounding that hand and lifting a nearby bush out of the ground before dropping it as the magic aura faded.

“What did I just do?! Magic?!” Trixie shrieked with some fright at the sight of what she had just done with such ease.

Aria nodded gently. “Of course, consider it a gift from our..benefactor.” She cocked a hip and began to check out her nails on one hand. “Though I’ll never know why, he believes you deserve it.”

Trixie reached up and couldn’t find the clasp. “Where’d the clasp go? I can’t take it off!” she exclaimed in fright.

“Just relax.” Aria sighed with a roll of her eyes. “You are already set up to get lessons in the Eastern Empire where magic is embraced over being feared.”

The small time crook thought while watching the necklace. “So this can do anything?” she looked up to see the siren nod. “Did you set up transport for the great and powerful?” Aria gave another nod. “...When does Trixie leave?”

“In a few minutes. Speedy will see you there.” She waved as Trixie left with the athletic teleporter. “Have fun.” she softly sang with a smirk but soon that smirk fell and she gently wrapped her arms around herself, her sister's words echoing in her head. She took a breath and a step, taking her leave to look around as she thought about the prizes her and Malcontent would take part in sharing.

***

The Eastern Empire was a mighty city with many towering buildings. The atmosphere wasn’t the most cheerful and had an intimidating feeling lingering in it. The people all had a similar dressing style yet also had their own differences. Another interesting detail could be seen in the streetlamps. They were alight with a floating flame, a flame of magic which changed color based on the hour. At midnight the flames were set to turn purple, at three-o’clock in the morning it would turn red, at six-o’clock in the morning it would turn green, and during the times sunlight would touch the light would become more faded to almost a clear look.

When six-o’clock in the evening came, the light would turn orange, at nine-o’clock at night it would turn a rich almost golden yellow and it would repeat this cycle. Many products were powered by magic harnessed from that fateful day ten years ago. Some products, such as cars, were powered by a fuel and magic since to run them used too much magic when used alone. The strong Eastern Empire was ruled by a strong man with dark toned skin, black hair and favored the use of crystals in the fashioning of his city. His mansion was nothing to scoff at given its grandeur and care put into its design.

The master creator of all this was a young woman who resembled Twilight but had a difference, she needed glasses to see anything and she had an unhealthy desire to merge magic and machine. Emperor Sombra provided her what she needed so long as she furthered their knowledge of magic, its uses and its limits. Over the years of her time there, she’d come under the nickname of Professor Midnight.

Currently Midnight’s project was creating immortality by way of using both magic and machine. Her test subject? Her dog Spike. She had tried previously with birds such as a parrot and a parakeet with both resulting in horrible failures. She also tried with squirrels, chipmunks, mice, foxes and even a couple criminals. All resulted in failures with the need for her to call in the cleanup crew.

One could say Spike got lucky since his master had previous data to go off of. The metallic structure on four legs stood steady and still as a statue. “Just a little more I think...and…” the three tone of purple haired woman said to herself while she worked, observing through goggles snugly held by an elastic band around her head. Her tongue stuck out a little to one corner of her mouth as she adjusted a few things inside the mechanical mind that was to work alongside the magically preserved soul.

Once she had finished her adjustments she went over to a table which had a jar looking item on it that held a glowing orb inside. The glowing orb floated around, flickering white, purple and green colors. The jar was labeled ‘Spikes Soul’ so she wouldn’t forget. She continued to tinker and work away at the mechanical dog before it coming to the point of adding the soul. She took a breath and picked up the jar, approaching the lifeless husk of metal made for company but also defense.

The soul was attached and sealed inside the machine. She pressed a switch and wiped her brow as things began to power up, the screen for the eyes lighting up and soon stabilized into showing two digital eyes. They blinked and the dog opened its mouth. “Yes! I’ve done it!” she cheered with excitement and joy. “Huh?” she looked and gave a screech as the dog let out a brief blast of fire from its flamethrower inside its mouth.

Midnight gasped as she snapped awake, her eyes shooting open as she stared at her dimly lit ceiling. She caught her breath and sat up, putting her glasses on before running a hand through her messy three toned purple hair. “At least it did work.” She whispered and looked down to see the mechanical dog walk up with a tray that held a pitcher of water and empty glass on it. “Thank you.”

“You are welcome.” The mechanical voice responded as she picked up the items, poured herself a glass and drank. “Today you have to present the data to King Sombra.” He informed.

She finished drinking and nodded, setting the items back on the tray. “Very good.” She smiled and stretched which caused her elbows and back to all crack. She sighed as her arms came down and she pushed up off the bed, giving one last stretch before stepping over to a chair to a workstation of computers and tools.

A knock came before the door opened without any order that it was fine to enter. A young woman entered with purple short hair styled back, almost punkish in its look. She came up with her coppery skin tone and violet eyes. “Hey, you’re awake. I was tweaking with the arm you made me and I think I got it to work better!” Scootaloo said excitedly as she flexed her mechanical right arm.

“Uh huh.” Midnight answered flatly as she focused on the data records from theory tests ran by machine during her rest.

Scootaloo took no offense to this as she was used to it after working with The Professor for a few short years after the devastation. She held her arm out and a light on the palm began to glow as it charged up. Scoots also had earplugs in her ears, a wrap going overtop and behind like a wireless headphone one would use for music. A wind began to form before exploding out from her palm and rushed past the back of her head.

Midnight didn’t flinch as the wind flew by and broke apart against the metal and crystal wall on the other side of the room. “What’cha think? I adjusted the settings and I think it moves and fires easier than before.”

“Progress is never bad.” Professor Midnight said proudly as she turned in her chair to face the young adult. “Have you seen about acquiring the metal and pieces I need for the chest plate shield generator?”

Scootaloo nodded as her palm was powering down. “Yes, they will arrive tomorrow.


“Thank you, so while we wait…” Sci Twi looked over a multi-page list of jobs left to do. “Why don’t you find out if we have any test subjects left.” she smiled for once in genuine anticipation. “The new munitions need testing.”

***

Rarity was at her desk and looking over some paperwork for materials needed as well as ideas to keep on top. She held her head in one hand, resulting in her neatly fixed hair to be bunched up some. Her eyes were half open as she stared at the papers scattered across her desk. Her head was throbbing and wouldn’t stop pounding from her hangover.

“Ugh,” she moaned as she lowered her head down with her arms that worked as a pillow. She mumbled before slowly turning her head to look at her alcohol cabinet as she stood up, her hand inadvertently clicked the remote on the television.

“--have been put on high alert since the intrusion was detected. In other news, City Hall released its monthly report from the Department of Research and Analytical Logistics on the Canterlot Disaster Site. Highlights include the output of so called “Magical Ripples” radiating from the center of Ground Zero have decreased by seven percent since last year. Additionally, since the beginning of the scientific outpost established on the edge of the No Man’s Land boundaries, advancement in understanding the fallout of the explosion has accelerated.” The television droned on as Rarity stumbled towards her minibar in the corner of the office. She rubbed her head again with her left hand and began pouring a glass with her other.

“Since the outpost was established, some resistance has been received from various sections of the city. Many citing what they believe to be excessive amounts of material and equipment being sent into the Canterlot Disaster site as a waste of taxpayer money. Money that could be better served in more needy programs, like the so-called Meals for the Needy and other such ones. Supporters of course reject such thoughts, saying the sooner we know everything we can about magic, the better.”

While listening, she finished pouring the beverage and went for the cubed ice compartment. It took her three tries due sharp throbs from her head causing her vision to blur some. She cured under her breath as one cube missed but the next two went in. “One report on the explosion has gave details of “magic”,” the reporter snickered briefly before clearing his throat. “Appear to suggest it was a mixing of multiple “Magical Ripples” happened at once, something like a wave as one scientist described. Another source says that the ripples came from two origin points, but if you ask this guy then I say it was a freak act of nature.”

Rarity stared sadly at her drink as he chuckled on camera. “Too bad it isn’t all a horrible nightmare…” she spoke flatly with tones of sadness in her voice before she took a sip, staying near her minibar. She let out a sigh as she stared at her drink once more before looking over as she heard a knock. “Come in.”

During this outside Rarity’s office. “Did you remember to make sure we got her a good spread?” Twilight asked with her digital tablet in hand.

Spike popped up on the screen to give a nod of his digital purple and green head. “Yup! It’s all ready and waiting on a tray.” He said proudly as he continued. “There should be scrambled eggs, toast with butter and jelly on the side, bacon and mixed fruit with a side onion and broccoli dip.”

“Mmm sounds delicious!” Twilight praised while they made their way into the kitchen. There she saw the silver metal tray as nothing could be less than elegant to fit in. “So this is what you wanted the arm extensions for.” The little digital dragon gave a chuckle with a blush coming onto his icon’s cheeks as he rubbed the back of head. Twilight smiled and giggled. “I’m sure Rarity is going to love having breakfast with some company.”

Twilight picked up the tray and put the tablet to the side with a napkin under it. She grabbed two glasses and a pitcher of water last before starting to head for the elevator to head up to Rarity’s office. “Do...you suppose she’s had a...uh...’eye opener’ yet?” Spike asked with some hesitation. .

Twilight shook her head. “I’m hoping she’s starting to get a handle on it, Spike. But she’s the only one who can help herself, remember.”

“Do you think it would help her if she had a digital Sweetie Belle to be her assistant?”

“Maybe but Rarity has to learn how to cope without her sister and move through the grieving process first.” She stated then continued. “That being said, I had a considerable amount of difficulty just making you...er...Spikey enough to remind me of you. I don’t think I can do that just yet with a more complex personality like Sweetie.”

The elevator dinged as it reached the desired floor and the doors opened. She stepped off the transport and entered the reception area where Silver Spoon was speaking with Coco at her desk, going through the system to help ensure nothing was going off schedule. “Hello Twilight,” Spoons greeted without looking away from her screen. Twilight began to open her mouth but held her question as Coco began to speak. “Yes, Rarity is in her office so go on in.”

Twilight nodded, “Thank you.” She went up to the door and knocked. She waited until she heard Rarity respond before opening the door and stepping through with it closing behind her. “Morning Rarity! How are you?” she noticed the glass in Rarity’s hand but didn’t say a word about it, not yet anyways.

Rarity looked over. “Oh, good morning Twilight. How are you?”

“I’m good, a little sore, but that’s to be expected.” Twilight answered carefully, making sure the door was locked behind her. “...and I brought you a wholesome breakfast!”

“Wonderful darling.” Rarity said when behind her desk as Twilight joined her, setting the tray down and sitting on the edge of the wooden structure. Her overall attention seemed somewhat scattered as she looked over files and various emails, all the while taking the occasional drink from her glass.

Twilight wandered over and set the tray down, pulling out her own data tablet and setting it down next to the tray. “I have some good news to go with it.” She smiled, glad Rarity’s attention was diverted to her when she said that.

“Oh? I love good news. Tell me, darling.” She smiled, picking up a fork and poking at the food items casually.

“I’ll do better, I’ll show you.” Twilight pressed a button on her screen and the night’s entire data, in a more readable and understandable format, begin to splash across her screen. “Here let me get you some juice.” She added, taking the liquor from Rarity in the same moment the purple haired seamstress began to be completely amazed.

“Goodness. This is quite impressive!” she said, her eyes wide for once as the details began to stream across the screen, a small digital avatar of Spike popping up. “Oh, hello Spikey!”

“Hi there! What can I do to help you understand all these numbers, Rarity?” Spike said, his little dog avatar his current guise. “Here’s some internal camera footage of the tests we ran out in the field.”

Twilight was happy Spike distracted her as she took the half finished scotch and poured it down the sink of the wet bar. She washed the glass and kept her motions somewhat small and silent. She had found that trying to be forceful on the matter triggered Rarity’s stubborn side. However, when properly distracted, she quickly forgot about her vices when given something she had a passion for.

“You really did go out and about…” Rarity began to say, half engrossed in the footage and numbers that scrolled past her on the data pad. Several explosions fired on screen and some of Twilight’s audio with Spike played softly. “Oh my! “

Twilight in the meanwhile returned with a glass of sparkling water, setting it next to Rarity. “Yes, we did have a few...discoveries...setbacks...but that happens in the field.”

“Ha! A few? Try more like 324 different improvements needed. She almost bought it landing on the roof, in fact if she hadn’t used the metals she did to make the outer--”

“Spike, let's not focus on the bad.” Twilight interrupted before clearing her throat, noticing the worry on Rarity’s face as Spike rattled off his recount of the night.

Rarity watched silently as the footage of Twilight losing power high in the air and appearing to be coming crashing down, before recovering just in time and landing safely. She leaned back and took a sip of her sparkling water, grimacing at the lack of an alcoholic bite, but not complaining. Closing her eyes, she took a deep breath and opened them, staring back at Twilight.

“Dear Twilight, I….” she swallowed. “I am thrilled you got this much data this fast, but you can’t forget to be careful out there. I can’t have you getting hurt all on account of this project. Don’t get me wrong, we need this contract...” she took another drink and leaned back in her chair. “I--”

“I know you’re worried, Rarity. I don’t blame you, I was worried half way into this entire test, but...” Twilight fidgeted a moment with her hair. “But...I now know what I’m capable of...what the armor is capable of...and with the data we’ve already begun to crunch…” she tried to make her feel better, stumbling on each sentence.

“What she means is that all those improvements...” Spike interrupted, the screen in front of Rarity swapping with a new wireframe of the armor, which slowly morphed as each improvement was implemented in design. “She’s going to be 189% safer than she originally was! New helmet, more armor plating, less bulky boots and arms.” He rifled off the improvements as the blueprints adjusted.

“Right! Absolutely. You see with everything in place...the next time...” Twilight inhaled. “And there will be a next time…” she turned and looked at Rarity. “I’ll know both what to look out for and be more prepared than ever!” she smiled assuredly.

Rarity nodded slowly as both of them assured her several times. She set her water down before rubbing her temples slowly, a headache coming on which was half from stress and half from drinking. She began to show the faintest of tears as she started to speak. “I just don’t want either of you...in harms way. If I lost you to...these problems...that we’re trying to stop...I...” she stopped, choking a bit on her words and turning in her chair to look away from them, silence filling the room.

Twilight looked down for a moment then walked around the desk and stopped by Rarity’s chair. She put a hand on her shoulder for comfort. “I know, Rarity. I know.” She simply said.

“...I close my eyes...and see her...all the time...and I can’t lose someone like that again.” Rarity whispered with tears flowing down her cheeks, running her mascara.

“You won’t.” Twilight said confidently. “I promise.”

Rarity didn’t reply but her breathing kept getting more shallow and she heaved a bit, the sadness overtaking her a bit more.

Twilight took a silent inhale and closed her own eyes, taking a moment to gather her own courage and finally broke the silence. “Rarity...Sweetie Belle...wouldn’t want you to feel like this. She’d want you to be happy…”

“She wouldn’t have to want anything if I hadn’t let her die!” Rarity suddenly shouted, tossing her hand off her shoulder haphazardly. Her sudden change in emotional state shocked Twilight. Her eyes widened as Rarity stood up and hugged her shoulders a minute, staring out her window. A split second later she was holding her head again, wincing in pain. “I need a drink...”

Twilight shook her head. “I think that's the last thing you need at this point, Rarity.” She said confidently. “You’ll never learn to grieve properly unless you stop trying to hide in a bottle of alcohol.” She added, crossing her arms in front of her.

“How dare you!” she turned suddenly to Twilight, barely registering the shocked look on Spike’s screen. She took a step towards her friend, hands balled up in fists. “I run a multi-million dollar corporation! I’m in charge of thousands of people, dozens of divisions and hundreds of projects. I think I’m entitled to a little sip now and again!”
“A little wouldn’t be a problem. What you drink is not ‘a little’. If you had a ‘little sip’ now and again you wouldn’t have a full wet bar in your office.” Twilight responded with a similar tone.

“I am a successful woman, Twilight. Every executive has a wet bar!” she replied quickly, waving her hand in dismissal.

“You are the only one in this entire complex that has one.” Twilight snapped her finger in the wet bar’s direction.

“I’m...” Rarity paused, her face going blank for a moment before returning to it’s almost snobbish appearance. “I’m the most successful!”

A silence came over the room as Twilight gave Rarity a frown, her hands on her hips. The mogal returned the look, turning her head towards her but the rest of her body was defiant with arms crossed. A half moment later, she noticed she was looking at the bottle behind Twilight and in a moment of clarity, she turned completely away.

“I think you should leave, Twilight. I look forward to hearing from you on the next rounds of testing.” Rarity turned and her gaze fell to the floor, staring at her shoes. She noticed that they were different colors, though only a fashion lover like herself would notice onyx versus black.

Twilight gathered up her tablet and turned towards the door slowly, walking silently as an expression of sadness and frustration wore on her face.

“Twilight…” Rarity said with her head raising up but her gaze still fell away. Her friend stopped, turning towards the multi-million dollar CEO. “Be careful...when you’re out and about on your testing. Just...” she stifled a few tears. “Spike, I’m trusting you to make sure she does so.” She tilted her head down before walking over to her glass desk and sat down in the chair, looking at her nails.

“I will, Rarity. I promise.” Spike popped up on Rarity’ desktop computer screen. “Annnd...I can keep you company here too! If...if you want that is.” He added, his avatar turning into a sheep version of his regular self and hiding behind a box on her screen.

Twilight gave a small laugh as did Rarity, breaking the tension finally. “I’ll talk to you later, Rarity.” She finally said while leaving her friend with Spike, hoping his distraction would be a good deterrent to her vices. She suspected Spike may have had the same idea.

***

The slamming of a set of reinforced metal doors echoed down a similarly metal walled hallway as overhead lights flickered in their caged recesses. The noise startled a shaky camerawoman, her blonde hair and grey skin peeking from behind the eyepiece of her equipment. Refocusing her shot, she turned the lens to finetune the image of a light blue reporter who was still being done up in her makeup. The girl applying the dusting of blush was a brunette with slightly yellow toned skin, a pair of glasses resting on her nose and a baseball cap on her head pointed backwards. Fussing over the last bits, she didn’t say much as the reporter read over her note cards.

Finally, the audio girl gave a thumbs up and the makeup girl backed up and out of the shot, then the camera girl counted her down from three and gave her a go signal. The reporter’s blue eyes and short loose brown hair radiated under the lighting as she began her report.

“Purgatory. A place or state of suffering inhabited by the souls of sinners,” she began with her stare at the camera locked in a serious tone. “The namesake of Equestrian City’s Meta Prison is not the only intimidating element it holds. Here we are on location, just outside the maximum security section of Purgatory. Where the penal systems final stage begins: the sentences served by the meta human criminals in this wing are never short, and seldom are they let outside save for a brief yard time before being locked back up behind the safety of these cells.” She knocked on the door of the nearest cell behind her with a hollow echo sounding. “This one is still waiting for it’s occupant, no doubt a dangerous criminal, to arrive. Later this evening we’ll see the actual processing of a convicted meta human, as part of the on going series to help the city understand just what goes on behind Equestrian City’s first and most secure Meta Human Prison. I’m Alisia Lusine, ECN.” She smiled and the light shining on her went out.

“We’re clear.” The camera woman said. “We need to pack up and re-setup over in processing for the next shot.” She began to let the heavy camera down and packed it into an equally large suitcase. “Take us maybe an hour or more, the warden wants a quick talk with you too when you get a second.”

“Sounds good, Bubbles. I’ll go talk with her now.” Alisia handed her mic to the derpy looking camera girl and walked down the hallway, past the security checkpoints and held her visitor pass up as they asked for it.

“Ok, I’ll get this taken care of...say...where’d the makeup girl go? Whats her name? Tara?” Bubbles asked the sound girl, looking around curiously.

“She said she wasn’t feeling well. Went to find a restroom.” The audio girl answered, waving her hand in a direction indicating the restrooms. “Don’t know her name, she’s a temp.”

Shrugging, Bubbles turned and resumed her packing, rolling up cable and packing away large amounts of equipment.

***

Pulling off her heels, Sunset’s bare feet slapped the tiled floor of the last stall of the restroom with the last of her clothing coming off. As quickly as she had disrobed, she pulled off her wig and stored it in her bag in a small zippered pocket. Sitting down, she pulled on her outfit more commonly worn as her persona The Phoenix, assembling it with haste and skill that came with her half decade of quick changes in tight situations. Black form fitting fabric was easy to hide her in the shadows but more importantly it hid the traces of the kevlar she had woven into the padding on it. As pleasing to the eye as her outfit was, nothing about it went without purpose. The kevlar material itself had been hard to come by but it was well worth it in the times she had been less than graceful in dodging incoming small arms fire.

Snapping her belt around her waist, she stood up and pulled her boots on that had the grip and tread specially designed to her night time activities. They had a near airtight seal around the mid calf to keep them on sturdy, protecting her pedicure under steel toe inserts as the clear coating was notwithstanding of much abuse so they did their job well. Her gloves had a similar hold around her wrists, keeping her fingerprints to herself and coated with a fire resistant material to keep her flight powers from burning them off. Zipping up her bag and stashing it behind a sink, she pulled out her goggles from a side pocket and secured them on. They nicely kept her eye colors hidden, her overall features obscured and her vision unobscured.

After a quick check in the mirror and ensuring the door was locked, Sunset looked up and scaled the side of the wall near the air vent while making a mental note to find out why they always made them the right size to crawl through. She secured the hatch behind her and crawled along through the metal with haste. The sooner she could get done with her objective, the better. Sneaking in with the television crew was easy, but the time it would take to get away and back without arousing suspicion was the ticking clock she had working against her. With her memorized map of the duct system flipping through her head, she took a left at an intersection and looked down through various security grates. None had seemed to notice her as she moved through with grace, her goggles holding a set of pen lights to illuminate the way.

Approaching the end of a duct, she peered down into it with her lights going off simultaneously and looked around inside. Sunset took notice of the sole occupant that was asleep in his cot, his brown messy hair short and unkempt. A soft snoring came from the pillow he was using as the name ‘Mitchelson’ on the chest of his jumpsuit, in consistent and steady motion was rising and lowering. Reaching to her belt Sunset pulled out a small tool kit and began to work on the security frame around the vent, quickly unscrewing the security system around the fixture. She detached the casing and put it aside in the duct before swinging herself into the cell and down to the floor silently. She stood up from her crouched landing and moved to shake the cell’s sole occupant awake.

“...eh?” he snorted awake with his freckled face jiggling a moment as he came to his senses. He quickly noticed who was staring beside him with her emotionless eyes locked to his. A hand quickly clasped over his mouth before he could make another sound.

“Hello, Mitch. Let's have a chat.” She said in a lower octave compared to her usual voice, the crime fighting persona fully taking hold. “Your friends rolled over on you and the fact you’re in solitary tells me you aren’t exactly up for good behavior.”

“What's your point?” Mitch finally got out as she moved her hand away. He sat up only to be pushed back down. “Hey!”

“Point is, you could use all the help you can get and I might be able to arrange for the Warden to know how cooperative you were in helping with a case I’m on. Interested?” she asked while looking down at him, crossing her arms in front of her.

“Depends on if I know anything.”

“Someone contracted you to move goods through a warehouse system that were not what they seemed.” Sunset began to explain, keeping an ear out for the guards.

“Not surprising, I’m good at what I do.”

“But this shipment of goods didn’t even make it to your supposed drop point. Someone out smuggled you.” She finished before leaning back into the shadows, her eyes highlighted through her glasses by thin strips of light coming from the single door eye slit. “Now a lot of work went into doing that and I don’t expect you to know who did it. But I do know you can point me in the right direction. So tell me, the shipment heading for the docks this evening, who set it up?”

Mitch thought for a moment then smiled as he remembered what he knew, crossing his own arms in bed. “Maybe I want more than a hero’s good word.”

“I’m not interested in debating what you may or may not get. I’ve made my offer, one that’s gone after I leave this room.” She stood beneath the grate she came in through and opened her hands, palms down and small flames began to erupt from them.

“Alright, don’t get all bent out of shape, Bird Girl.” He sighed and leaned back on his small cot. “Beats being in here alone anyway, suppose there’s a place in the yard I haven’t been jumped yet. The girl you’re looking for goes by the name of Cotton Candy. She works out of Eastern EC, runs with a decent sized gang and recently started working with my...trade.” He chuckled. “She set up the job.”

“What else can you tell me about her?”

“That's it. Never met her, ran into one of her boys though. Gang’s called Purists, some sorta anti meta group, they’ll love you.” He laughed while leaning back and turning his head to the sound of the hallway doors unlocking for bed check. “Now why don’t you--”

Before Mitch could finish, the sound of the grate resealing was all he heard. She was gone without another word.

“That's kinda rude.” He said to himself before his cell door rattled as a nightstick banged on it. “Yeah, yeah, I’m in here.”

***

Evening gave way into night in Equestrian City and one of the tallest structures in the middle of it lit up as it’s exterior light sensors fired off, illuminating the logo on the skyscraper. The logo was that of Tiara Technologies, reading clear and bright in the skyline. Nearby, the Rare Innovations’ logo did the same as did the rest of the major business skyscrapers.

The top floors of the skyscraper named Tiara Tower, were covered in one way glass panels and off limits to all except to a select few. Those few were the most elite of the executive world. The security systems, which were all automated, kept unwanted eyes from the elevators from seeing into the head office, much like the glass did from the outside.

Inside this secured office was a long obsidian desk which sat in a overly empty room with a lone, small figure sitting behind it. The room itself was decorated with dark tones of brown and yellow, with splashes of red here and there. The lone figure sat on what appeared to be an elevated leather chair with the back higher than the occupant by a foot. The office lighting caught a pair of cornflower blue eyes. Their size denoted youth but their gaze reflected a much older age, with a very ragged filled tone behind such innocent appearances.

Diamond Tiara, the only daughter of business tycoon Filthy Rich, peered over progress reports from the many ventures her company was undertaking. Charged with maintaining business and profit in Equestrian City, her father had, partially due to sympathy for her condition, given her free reign over her own conglomerate called Tiara Technologies. Filthy Rich was, for the most part, out of the day-to-day operations of his companies for years now. He retired with her mother to the northern Canterlot Cmonwealth and only visited on holidays, if that.

Tiara liked it just fine this way. Her youth was anything but normal and the reclusive nature she had adopted was partially due to a falling out she had with her only real friend, Silver Spoon. Coupled with the side effects of the magic wave on her, she was completely content to never see the light of day.

Tiara had been affected differently than those that were atomized or given super powers. Where others got super speed or teleportation, she was given quite a different condition. She had stopped growing.

Some would say that it was her immaturity that caused her condition. That it was some sort of cruel joke given to her by fate. None of it was ever said to her face however, but in whispers behind her back.

The condition came with complications as most other meta powers did. In her case she had continue to age but her body would always be that of a thirteen year old girl, the same age she was when she had been at the Battle of the Bands.

It took a while before she even realized there was a problem. Eventually as time passed, and the growth spurt doctors had promised never came, her father poured resources into trying to fix the condition but to no avail. Every specialists, new treatments, studies and serums all failed to make her grow, but she had showed signs of aging internally. Mentally she developed as a young women would with interests in parties, boys and make up. Interest that, despite her eager and vigorous attempts, could not be fulfilled no matter how much she tried. She was trapped in a body of a child with the needs and thoughts of a near middle aged woman, and there wasn't a thing she could do for herself about it.

Second only to the humiliation of being what she was in her eyes, was how others treated her. Her inner circle of servants and assistants treated her well to her face, but the nagging insecurity that never went away always ate at the heiress of Money Corp. After long years of self loathing, she began to turn her anger and hatred of herself into a driving force that was Tiara Technologies. Weapons, Bioscience, counter-metahuman research and experimentation landed her government contracts her R&D filled eagerly.

She was a success. She was feared and respected. She was rich. The only opposition ever to bring her trouble was Rarity and her businesses, all of which tended to compete with her consumer products.

Tiara closed the folder in front of her and hopped down to the floor while her tiny hands moved, clasping behind her back as she turned to stare out at the magnificent view of Equestrian City. Her eyes narrowed as thoughts and problems filled her head. She stared and the more her thoughts continued, her shoulders began to tighten before she turned to her desk sharply. She pressed a few call buttons and a video communication system erupted to life. The screen rose from her desk and the words “M.Dancer” blinked as it rang on the other end.

A very groggy looking woman answered the call with her hair a mess and her glasses crooked. Behind her was a mess of wires and half assembled armored suits. Her dark purple eyes widened as she saw who it was. Her light gray skin tone flush for a moment as she woke up more. While pushing her amaranth hair out of her eyes, she cleared her throat. “Yes, ma’am?”

Diamond Tiara smiled at the fear she saw and replaced the one hand with its mate out of sight. This caused her small tailored suit to part slightly. “Moondancer. Hope it’s not too late?”

“...No not at all, ma’am. Never too busy to help you.” Moondancer’s tone was full of hesitation and uncertainty.

“Good.” Tiara said in the voice of a woman to reflect her true age, not the visible age of a thirteen year old girl. The smile she was maintaining brought Moondancer to shift uncomfortably in her seat. “Then perhaps you can tell me...” her smile fell immediately as she brought one hand forwards, pressing a button on one of the control panels in front of her. Moondancer saw an image from the news coverage pop up on her own screen. It was Twilight’s armored fight with the Maniac which played silently, showing the explosions and weaponry she displayed. “...what that is. Because it looks to me like it’s a similar design to the plans we had smuggled out of Rarity’s Tech lab!” Tiara snapped as her voice rose in frustration.

“Remarkable.” Moondancer began while adjusting her glasses. “We’re not even in the prototype stage. I don’t see how hers can be field testing already…” she said out loud, mainly trying to convince herself that she was just as good as Twilight. She paused and stammered a bit as she realized the anger in Tiara’s voice at the end. “We-uh I-I mean my staff and I are working as hard as we can, but the specifications the E.C.P.D. demand are somewhat...taxing. We’re used to making lethal armaments like the contracts for the military, ma’am. We-we simply can’t--”

“I pay you a considerable sum to get things done!” Tiara snapped, cutting her off while slamming both hands on the desk. “For the most part, you’re adequate.” Tiara stood straight, took a breath and once more folded her hands behind her back while regaining her composure. “However, the contract with E.C.P.D. will cement my hold on all civil activities. As such, it will also ensure a higher percentile when the time for a new mayor comes...a percentile I’ll need if I’m going to unseat our current mayor.” She finished before turning her back to Moondancer and began staring out the windows.

“Yes, ma’am.” Moondancer replied with a tone that held a degree of uninterest on the plans laid out.

Tiara inhaled slowly and turned back around. “I want a working model in three days and field tests performed in a week. Anything else may result in you having to write up your resume for someone else.” Tiara leaned forward and rested her hands on her desk while her eyes lock on Moondancer’s image, a cold glare burning back at the engineer.

There was a long pause before Moondancer mustered up the ability to answer. “I understand, ma’am. I’ll wake everyone else up and we’ll start again.”

“See that you do.” She switched off the screen and turned back to stare out across the
city. Silence filled the room and she closed her eyes with a hand lifted, rubbing the bridge of her nose with her thumb and first two fingers. Some frustration still reflected on her crinkled brow as she began to calculate the next moves she needed. Her focus was broken by the buzz from the intercom on her desk. “Yes?” she questioned after turning and pressing the button to speak.

“Mr. Higgins and Cody are on the line as you requested, m’kay?” a voice on the other end responded.

“Patch it through, Suri, and get me lunch.” Tiara said firmly while sitting back at her desk and picking up the phone. Her chair wobbled gently as she turned to face her window again.

***

“Doctor Eggleston!” a young intern running across a room shouted, the entire place snickering at the words. The girl shouted again and waved a clipboard in the air, leaping down a set of three steps from a platform. Her lab coat fluttered behind her as she took a corner around a few countertops.

The room she traversed was filled with like-dressed peers. The experiments they were working on all seemed based on their respective countertops, but all were seemingly surrounding a huge holding tank in the center of the room. It was a huge containment wall of glass around another layer of metal casing with a single window letting a green dull glow through to observers, one observer near it was inside an ABC suit.

The young blonde haired girl caught up to a taller looking researcher who sat at a far large table. Her purple skin tone turning flush from her jaunt across the room. “Doctor Eggleston!”

“It’s Eccleston!” the researcher barked while he turned, causing his lab coat, which held a badge indicating his rank, to rustle. “What is it, Jane?”

“It’s Sara, doctor...” she corrected him.“I just ran a second round of tests on…” she looked around and hushed her tone. “On project Meltaway.” She cleared her throat. “The results speak for themselves, sir!” she thrust the clipboard in her supervisor’s face.

“The results didn’t seem too worrisome, we increased the shielding around it to prevent --” he looked at the clipboard, cutting his words short as several lines got his attention. “Wait…” he started frantically scanning them now, flipping pages back and forth. He pulled a pair of glasses from his chest pocket and put them on, sitting down under a desk lamp and looking again. “This...can’t be right. If we left the mixture like this--”

“I know sir, and unless we correct the mixture, the device would be--” she started replying before jumping, startled as an alarm sounded and several red lights began flashing.

“What in the name of --” a loud thumping came from the entrance to the room, being two silver doors that appeared to be reinforced by several locking cylinders, causing them to vibrate. Cutting off the professor’s question was a second and more powerful knocking. His glasses were knocked off his face by the third hit, the doors buckled ever so slightly as he picked up a red telephone on his desk. “Security, this is Eccleston, what's going on up there?! Hello?” he hit the receiver reset several times but no one answered.

The entire room full of researchers backed away from the only exit as a fourth knock hit the door and they parted ever so slightly. A bright orange tendril slid into the crack and formed into two hooks quickly. The tendril began to push the doors apart. Slowly but surely, every few millimeters, another shot in and added to the prying motion.

“Good lord...” Eccleston began shuffling through his pockets for a set of keys, which he unceremoniously dropped. Picking them up he opened a drawer on his desk and pulled out a small snub nose pistol and loaded it.

“Run!” someone yelled in the crowd as more tendrils broke through until the door finally gave way off it’s final locking cylinder in the center, causing the doors to swing open with a terrifying throom-like sound. This gave way to the darkness of the hallway behind the invader. A single dark figure stood there and was illuminated by several malfunctioning ceiling lights behind her.

“...and they say science is boring!” Mayhem laughed as she lifted herself up on her tendrils, walking in and grabbing hold of several of the scientists with her living appendages, and started choking them ever so slightly as she lifted them up. “This place has been laughs all over! Those security guards especially!” she threw the four employees she had towards another group, taking them out of the picture. “Now...I’m looking for a Doctor...” her pupils dilated even more for a moment as she brought a finger to her lips, thinking. She then pulled a card from her pocket and read it. “Eccleston?” she tore the card in half and threw it. “Who’s in charge!?”

Several gunshots rang out towards her from her left, making her eyes dart over towards the source as her tendrils shot up to block the bullets with metal chairs in their grip. The sound of empty chambers being struck by a hammer sounded seconds later, and the chairs went flying towards the lead researcher with the snub nose. “Ah, ah ah. That's not very civilized is it?” she chuckled and grabbed the remaining researcher, Sara, and lifted the terrified woman up by the waist to her eye level. “Shall I finish off the rest of your staff, or are you going to cooperate? It’ll save us so much Time!”

Eccleston threw his pistol aside and put his hands spread to his sides, surrendering half heartedly. “Alright. Stupid of me.”

“It’s a wise man who admits his faults freely, Doctor.” Mayhem threw the female to the ground gently, grabbing at him now and lifting him up in a similar fashion but lower to allow her to peer down at him with her insane eyes. “Now...a little birdy...well more of a skank...told me there’s a wonderful device down here. But I need you to open the containment doors for me.” She smiled wide, her grin as unsettling as any other expression she gave.

“You don't want the bomb. You can’t have it! We just found out our calculations were off. If you set that off, it’ll send out a shockwave of such massive proportions--” he responded swiftly, panic in his eyes with his heartbeat accelerating.

“--that it will cause mayhem the likes that the city has never seen!” Sassy finished his sentence excited, her eyes widening at the concept presented. “You’re mistaken, Doctor. I do want the device, more than anything. I understand the project has been underway for a while, with some eight other researchers before you took over? “ the tendrils squeezed around his chest, cutting air off. “Now I could pry my way in but if you could save me the time it takes, I’d be beholding it in a way, and I’d be happy to release both you and your little assistant. Doesn't that sound like a wonderful deal?”

He inhaled and flailed a bit in her grip, the tendrils wrapping around more of him and ruffling his hair, her psychotic grip making the world grow dim around him rapidly. He agreed by nodding his head, gasping for air as she dropped him.

“A sensible man, I like that.” She crossed her arms and her tentacles picked up the female scientist, holding her in it’s curled grasp. “Hurry up now.”

The doctor walked over towards the super enforced containment and pecked at the
keypad. His hands shaking from his near death experience. Soon the sirens silenced and the doors on the interior of the unit began opening with slow precision. Inside was a capsule about the size of a football, held in place with three control arms. He slid a pass card on the keypad and the exterior doors started hissing and opening wide, giving access as the green glow dimmed with the device field spinning down. “There. Now go.”

Mayhem laughed and walked over in front of the unit, tentacles sliding in, grabbing hold of the device, pulling it free and cradling it carefully. “Thank you, dear Doctor, you are a most cooperative hostage. Now, as promised, I shall release you both--” she grinned, a deliberate move by squeezing the life out of Sara like the snuffing of a candle. “..from this life!”

“You treacherous--” was all Eccleston got out before her tendrils wrapped around him and brought him level to her eyes, despite all his struggling in anger and loss.

“Betrayed? So was I. You get over it.” Mayhem responded to his struggles with several spiky tentacles snapping taunt and preparing to strike like a scorpion’s tail. “What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Just look at me!” she laughed as she saw his eyes widen, then nearly bulge as she sent her lethal weapons into his chest.

He went limp as she threw his seemingly lifeless body into the reactor that held the device he had been working on with a dull impact. She laughed again as she turned and walked out the doors she had broken through. “So much for a doctor being a problem.” She said to herself with her head leaning back, laughing as he appendages did the walking for her.

As the sirens and lights still flashed in her absence, the reactor doors closed on an automated timer, locking the exterior doors as well. The inside began to glow brighter and intensely with a yellow celestial like color as if an explosion just went off inside it’s walls.


END OF EPISODE!

Episode 7 "Surface Tensions"

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“Surface Tensions”
By DarkMalcontent
Co-Author AlisiaLanet




Sunset Shimmer sat down at her modest desk in her apartment. She was barely able to fit at the desk which was squeezed into the side area meant for it, resulting in a comical scene of her trying to sit at it.


Dear Celestia,

It's been awhile since I wrote to you, things have been busy like you would not believe.

The new problems I was telling you about have become more prominent, and I’m pretty sure that someone is sending materials under the guise of research supplies into the Canterlot No Man’s Land. Why they’re doing it and why they’re taking such steps to hide their tracks is the real mystery.

I may need to break my pledge of working alone.

The way this case is turning out is making it very hard to pay the rent AND make any progress. At least we aren’t running out of thugs any time soon. I've been putting away quite a few of them. I was even in the news!

Oh, I think the media finally decided to call the mysterious fire wielding hero “The Phoenix.”

A policeman, Nightwatch, walked me home the other day. He was trying to be a gentleman I think. I was more worried about having to protect him if we ran into any trouble. I doubt it’ll go anywhere. He’s become the head of the meta human department and...I’m...well...

I’m me.

I can’t let anything distract me. I barely have time to serve pancakes, let alone date anyone.

Listen to me, I made this world a mess and now I’m thinking about myself, again. You’d think I’d have realized by now thinking of myself is what got me to where I am now.

My past mistakes make me who I am today. They define me. There's no getting around that.

I may need help though, like I said. I’m going to investigate Ground Zero today, see if I can find any of this hidden equipment.

I’ll know more soon. I’ll write when I can. Not that these ever get to you. I lost the original book in the explosion. Why I’m doing this? I don’t know. Sometimes it feels better to just write it down. Just in case.

Your failure of a student,
Sunset Shimmer.

She leaned back and looked at the page before taking a deep breath as she signed the final part. Half of her didn’t want to keep a journal around but the other half did, and she never really understood why she was so conflicted. Clicking her pen closed, she set it down and leaned forward on the desk, placing her head in her hands before running them through her messy hair from the night’s activities on the street.

“Alright...start with what you know.” She quietly said to herself. Her hair was a fluffy mess but she didn’t care about that at the current juncture. Taking off her boots and loosening her belt, she leaned back in the small office chair. Glancing over to her left she eyed a small cork board with articles and newspaper clippings. Each had a line drawn to it connecting it to another, in a circular pattern that led back to the center: a question mark. “Military grade hardware began going missing…” she said while tapping the first newspaper article with the back of her pen.

She took off her jacket and set it aside, slightly aiding in her spandex top and bottom riding up a bit. She grunted as she straightened them out before turning back to her layout on the board. “A mutation agent, not for anything in the industry of hair care, was found and subsequently lost in a shampoo factory. The reason it was there? No traceable purchase or work order, so it either materialized from thin air or the person who put it there hid their tracks.”

Looking at several other clippings, she drew more lines next to the existing ones, making little progress until she came to the end of the furthest piece of paper. The slip read: Dock Smuggler. She pulled out a piece of material, a headband, and placed it on the board with a push pin. “Thugs down on the docks wouldn’t give up their boss, but they were forthcoming about…” she turned her head and put the pen in her mouth while starting to pull her spandex down from around her waist, undressing as she spoke to herself. “Where they heard the shipments were being gathered in the No Man’s Land.” She finished, taking the pen out of her mouth and circling a part of the map of the region. It was dead center in the Ground Zero zone of the old Canterlot High School.

“Inside where it all started.” She said softly before taking her top off and sliding it over her head. “Suppose it’ll have to wait until after my shift.” She stood up and closed the door to the little room she was using as a study. She picked up her uniform from the diner and a few fluffy pink towels before walking into the bathroom.

***

Twilight rolled back to her computer desk from across the room, nearly tripping her wheels over the shoe’s she had left in the way. Grabbing hold of the console and the edge of the desk, she caught herself and slid into place. Typing a few keys, the wireframe of her armor came up on the multiple screens along with Spike’s avatar popping up on the left screen. “Hey there, how was your nap?”

“Hello, Spike. Not too bad, could have done without the PTSD but life’s far from perfect.” She said the last part under her breath with the trackball in her hand spinning as she brought up a list. “Oh I see you’ve been busy. That’s a lot of adjustments you’ve made.”

“Technically you made them, since you programmed me, but thank you!” Spike’s avatar bowed, his dragon tail flopping behind him as he sat on a digital chair. “We got such a massive data dump from your test, it was hard not to improve on all the flaws!”

“Thank you...” she wrinkled her nose a moment. “I think...alright, so what does the Model 2 do...let’s...see...” she said slowly, the list in front of her sliding past her eyes as she read the suggestions. The previous model of her armor was pulled up next to the new wireframe, the changes listed next to it as well. Twilight squinted and nodded as the notes scrolled by, absently taking a bite from a bag of chips that had been sitting there since she slept. “Oh these are very thorough, I like the thruster adjustments and the wings are a nice touch. Compact but more useful in the urban setting.”

“It also keeps your power consumption down. The original thrusters seemed to be the main power drain last test.” Spike popped in front of her as she read, then just disappeared as quickly. “Which I might add is still an issue.” A close up of the energy cell compartment on the back of the suit pulled up and rotated on her right screen, with several key notations registering. “Despite the fact we reduced the drain by at least twenty-one percent, we still can’t meet the time requirements for the E.C.P.D.’s specifications.”

“That's not good. What's the major draw points?” Twilight asked before taking another bite and turning her head to the propulson breakdown. “Nothing here, this is all normal. We can’t change the laws of physics…” she said softly, turning to the opposite screen and pulling up the weapons systems. “What about losing the shoulder and head outputs. Those aren’t really useful, unless I increased its output which takes more from our current allocated power for mobility.” She added while typing several keystrokes and watching power levels on the screen shift.

“That makes up some of the loss but still we need corners cut. If the armor cuts out from use before the end of the police shift, it’s no good to them.” Spike’s avatar shifted to now be standing in front of a little blackboard with chalk on the upper right part of her screen, with several mathematical equations on it. “You’d need to lose, say the ability to head into outer space. I don’t think they’ll need that.”

“Thats a good idea, Spike. Cut that and see what the balance is.” She nodded before leaning back and crossing her arms while watching the output. The levels juggled on the screen several times as it compiled the adjustments. Finally they balanced and were green across the board. “I think that does it. But, let’s go through it by the numbers to be safe.”

“Of course.” Spike pulled a small clipboard out of nowhere. Slowly they began reciting a checklist to each other, finally winding down as they reached the end.

“Thruster power requirements, city wide.” She said.

“Check.”

“Armor resistant to small arms fire rating 6 or higher.”

“Check.”

“Compatible with city communication grid, night vision and air filters.”

“Check.”

“Weapon systems compatible with E.C.P.D.”

“Check.”

“Ok, that's everything.” She smiled and stretched in her chair, grunting as she did. She turned to her center screen and began typing a few commands. A schematic opened up in front of her marked “Model 3” and looked far more advanced. “Let’s see about the next upgrade then.”

“Wait, we’re not done?” Spike asked, a question mark appearing over his head.

“Of course we are, Spike. E.C.P.D.’s model is ready for inspection, which reminds me, please send Rarity an email and have Coco make an appointment for Commander--”

“Spitfire?” he finished her sentence.

“Yes. Spitfire.” She nodded. “It’s strange, she and Rainbow Dash worked together back in our world, but they don’t even know each other here.”

“You know what they say…’Everything's confusing when it seems so new’,” he said, “‘but ya look a little closer and it starts to feel familiar too.’” Spike finished.

“Very funny, Spike.” She smirked, remembering how in awe she was of this strange new world when she first arrived.

“I do try.” His avatar put on a pair of comical glasses.

Twilight giggled and smiled before turning to the monitor next to her with keystrokes firing off as she pulled up another file, combining the schematics and making adjustments to the Model 3.

***

Sunset Shimmer snapped her goggles into place, finishing her transformation from civilian to meta human enforcer The Phoenix, before adjusting the strap snuggly. The cover of the forest around Ground Zero kept any prying eyes from discovering her identity as she stashed her clothes in a pile of brush. Searchlights scanned the parameter, casting shadows through the chain link fence that surrounded the suburbs formerly housing the Canterlot High School, with the occasional soldier walking along the inside of the fencing. The outer parameter was typical of any military installation to the untrained eye, but past that was another layer of security, another fence lined with higher tech equipment.

Keeping her footfalls quiet, thanks to the years of training she had gotten from her time spent in hiding, she snuck closer to the outer layer of the zone, watching for the soldiers on their patrol paths. As she ducked and dodged to another set of rocks and debris, she saw the inner layer within sight. The small sparks of the tesla like coils along the top of the fence just within a few meters marked the inner wall of fencing.

She took a gander at the patrol as it passed her finally and hurdled over the rocks, dodging a searchlight and coming to a crawl along the chain link fence, sinking her fingers through the holes and quickly concentrating. Keeping her ears open for trouble, she mustered up her pyrokinetic energy and her hands slowly cut through the links of the fence, leaving her a small enough hole to scurry through. Ducking through, she set the peice back into place by repeating the process on a few links to keep up appearances that it was still intact.

Turning quickly, she smiled to herself as no one seemed to be alert to her intrusion, just as she was hoping. Beating up thugs was one thing, these folks were just military, doing their job. The zone itself was sealed off due to issues with looting, sightseeing and occasionally protests. Through some digging on her part found the real reason for the heavy guard and fencing was far from anything as simple as gathering without a permit. The area was thick with raw magic, and since the explosion had been a breeding ground for all sorts of unpleasant events, most of which led to those exposed suffering from differing levels of insanity or mental issues. So much so that, aside from the science teams studying the inside who were outfitted with protective rebreathers and suits, no one dared go inside for too long lest The Madness bring them down.

Ducking behind a few barrels of water stored near a shed, Sunset watched the patterns of the sentries and quickly skipped by the inner patrols. Making her way to the second fence, she saw this one was made of some sort of transparent plexiglass that was topped with the tesla like coils she had seen earlier from afar. No one was at the entrance of the gates, though with insanity as a side effect she couldn’t blame them. She didn’t have time to secure a special suit, nor did she believe she needed one in the short amount of time she was going to be here. Sunset planned to spend the least amount of time possible around the ruins of her failure, so going into the zone itself was out of the question. She could only hope the effects of minimal exposure on the outskirts took longer to occur. She pulled her phone out and set a timer just in case.

A pair of suited scientists walked out of a trailer, almost startling her as she ducked behind a pillar holding up a makeshift roof.

“I’m telling you, I heard Cindy from Accounting. I know that voice.” One of the girls said with her face obscured by her mask and respirator.

“You’ve been at it too long, we were alone that whole time. Just you, me and Candlewax.” The other girl said, shaking her head.

“Candlewax?” the first replied, stopping. “Cherry, there was just two of us. There always has been.”

They both stopped and stared at each other.

“Maybe we both better get to detox. We may have been on duty too long. Madness doesn't take long to eat you alive. Come on.” The second said while motioning to her partner.

“I hear that..” the other answered while moving quickly and out of sight.

Sunset stood up and checked the windows inside the trailer to ensure no one else was there. Satisfied, she slinked inside and began looking around, keeping her eyes open for movement as she scanned the files laying about. Each was basic data about the magic that was being collected though most of it was useless to her at the moment. She was fascinated that after a decade no one really had all the answers, despite having poured so many resources into wrangling magic and it’s scientific uses. But she wasn’t entirely surprised. A world that hadn’t been raised with magic as much as hers had would still be struggling to catch up.

Riffling through a filing cabinet she struck out again, finding only invoices for standard equipment and rations. Frowning at the amount of sugary treats that seemed to be sent in, she shrugged and closed that drawer before opening a lower one, and began flipping through invoices before finally coming to something interesting.

“There we go.” She whispered before turning her head to check again for trouble. Hearing and seeing none, she then resumed reading.

She found a set of invoices, duplicates in each and every detail but the tracking numbers were entirely different. Pulling the files, she set them out on the desk nearby and worked fast, pulling out her phone and starting to photograph each and every element of them. Sunset’s phone clicked each time it saved a picture and she rapidly turned pages and flipped them next to each other, trying to be thorough but quick as time was against her in several aspects. Each of the files were prepared by the same employee number, leading her to believe that was her next step: find the clerk at the shipping company.

Finishing the snapping of pictures, she filed the folder and tucked her phone back into one of her belt pockets before snapping it in securely. A half second later she pulled the file folder out again and doubled checked the docking information before nodding to herself as she re-filed it again.

“Bay 12.” She mumbled to herself just before opening the door to the trailer quietly and peering out, stepping and closing it just as quickly before disappearing towards the inner partermet of the zone. It was dangerously close to the ruins of Ground Zero. With a pair of collapsible binoculars in her hands, she pulled them to her eyes and began focusing them across to the various cargo bays along the zone. Their numbers were painted in white boring font as she slowly moved right with her gaze. “9...10…”

She skipped over large chunks of equipment which the tarps on them were flapping in the magical wind being kicked up by the unstable ruins, brimming with magical energy. Swirls of green, red, black and all others of the spectrum blew by her sight occasional. “11…” she said softly before looking behind her again, and then refocusing as her hip vibrated.

Whoever that was would have to wait.

“12….12..” she frowned into the eye pieces. “No 12…” she lowered the spy glasses and looked with her own eyes now, still finding no additional storage. “What the hell...” she said while squinting to look through again, but this time her eyes widened at the sight of two figures engaged in some sort of battle.

Looking back again, she stored her binoculars and took a few steps back while making sure no one was nearby to see her next movements. She ran forward and fired her flames from her hands, giving her enough boost to clear the fence and it’s toppers allowing her clear landing on the barren ground, dust kicking up as she did.

“HELP!” a girl screamed from the direction of the two fighting.

Instinct kicked in and Sunset Shimmer broke into a run, breaking left to try and clear a fissure in the ground that was spouting up magical sparkles as she raced by. She tucked her head down under a piece of equipment and pushed the tarp out of her vision just in time to come to a screeching halt.

Before her was a sight she was still having trouble registering as it unfolded. A young girl, no not a young girl, HER. Sunset Shimmer saw herself, only dressed as she was the night of the explosion. Wounded on the ground, looking up at the magnificent creature that had seemingly pinned her down with two orbs of magic from it’s hands.

Then she recognized the creature. More commonly referred to as the She Demon she had turned into on the night of the Fall Formal. It was that form only far more evolved looking with magic spewing from its body and more snarling features as it’s wings flapped, keeping it hovering above her prey.

“HELP! This can’t be happening!” the image of Sunset screamed while shielding herself from the demon.

“Oh but it is.” She Demon said before turning to the real Sunset as the image of her younger self began disappearing just as quickly. “This is where it all began, isn’t it?” she snarled with her voice reverberating and a cruel grin across her face.

Her phone vibrated again.

Leave a message already... she thought to herself as her hands fired up into fireballs, poised and ready. “Who are you?!” she asked aloud.

“Oh you know who I am, Sunset. Who’d know me better than you...?” the demon asked with the grin disappearing. “No one I suppose. You’ve either killed or shut everyone out these last ten years. Makes you nostalgic for the old times doesn't it?” it threw two rotating balls of cyan colored energy at her as it finished it’s question.

Sunset flew quickly to the left and then right before spinning out of the way of the two shots and threw her own combined fireball at her target, only to have it pass through her.

“Oh, thats not going to work. You can’t just shut me off like that. We’re the same you and I..” another salvo of energy balls flew at her, three this time as one more had generated from the demons horns.

Sunset ducked, weaved and barely missed the final shot by backflipping from its impact. She grabbed ahold of the stray piping from a structure near them, bringing herself atop of it and poised herself to move again with another round of fire in her fists. “I know what you look like, but you aren’t what you seem. You can’t be.”

“Oh, is the poor little redeemed student too afraid to admit the obvious? You’re never rid of something like me. I’m you...you’re me...and that's the way it will always be!” it cackled and fired a solid wide beam of cyan colored energy at the base of Sunset’s perch, sending it to the ground and Sunset flying into the air flailing.

Sunset twisted in the air and used her flames to land with relative ease before turning to her opponent. “No. I don’t believe it!” she threw several fireballs, each of which landed in front of the demon but none of which fazed her. She took a step back in surprise then threw several more with the same result. “You can’t be…”

Her phone vibrated again.

Alarm! she thought to herself and pulled the phone out to look at it. The alarm was long overdue and alerting her to the time she had been exposed to the zone’s madness potential.

The demon laughed and smiled down at Sunset. “Overstayed your welcome have you? Think what you want but you can never escape what I am. Fight me all you want, throw all the fireballs and barricades in front of me.” It landed and walked closer to the startled Sunset, who took another step back, confused still as her contamination set in.

Sunset threw a final wall of fire in front of her as a last resort being disoriented as the magic ate away at her mental state, but she began to re-center her mind. “Not real...” she whispered.

The demon walked through the flames in an almost theatrical performance and moved with frightening speed, picking Sunset up by the throat and hoisting her up with her wings starting to flap. “I’m as real as your guilt. You did all this!” she threw her other hand behind her, showing Sunset the ruins of Canterlot High School in the distance. “No matter how much you try, how many faces you beat into a pulp in alleys. THIS...will always be here!”

Sunset was visible frighten now, kicking her legs in the air as she was choked with her mind spinning. She suddenly closed her eyes and stopped her struggles, going still. Her eyes snapped open and stared at the old demonic version of herself. “No. None of this is happening.”

The grip released and Sunset realized she was on the ground with seeing as none of it having happened. Save for the fireballs she had thrown, nothing was upturned and her demonic version was gone with no traces of her assault.

She inhaled deeply and held her head then realized her phone was in her hand still. She concentrated and cleared her mind of the problems and magic that was attempting to penetrate her willpower. She bought herself enough time to start moving out of the zone with the guilt and the other emotions remaining in check as she fled. Keeping her wits about her, she made it through her fence exit and ran like a shot into the woods before diving into the brush, holding her phone to her chest like a sort of security blanket.

Panting, she finally opened her eyes and sat up, sweat pouring from her forehead as she put her phone away. Wiping her forehead, she looked around and found she was clear of any patrols and relaxed more.

“Should have went to the trouble of getting a respirator.” She said finally before grabbing her clothing.

***

Nightwatch ducked under the crime scene barrier tape while carefully clearing around the rubble and other various mess that was in the lab, being mindful to not disturb the scene. Several CSI personnel were gathering photographic evidence as he turned towards Lemon Zest. She was looking over the body of a female scientist. Soft rock music was playing through her earphones as she adjusted her safety glasses that began to slip from her face. They had almost fallen as she worked before turning her head to notice the grey toned captain.

“Watch your step.” She said while motioning to a blood splatter near him which he skillfully dodged. “We got at least a dozen in here and most of them are...well...everywhere.” She shrugged and looked back down at the body she was working on recording. “Reports say meta human and it’s obviously true. Everyone in here has had a number done on them.”

“Bad day to be an egghead.” Nightwatch said, snapping on a pair of latex gloves and kneeling down next to Zest. “What got this girl?”

Lemon didn’t answer immediately, looking over the puncture wounds and splatter patterns nearby. She then traced along the victim’s entry wound lightly. She turned her head to look at him on her left. “Something big and nasty. Puncture wounds are rather clean. Manufactured weaponry or meta human insertion of some sort. The inside of it is too smooth.” She answered before poking at the wound’s side. “Well relatively speaking. Knife wounds would--”

“Not be this clean, right.” He stood back up and scanned the room. “No idea on a perpetrator?” he turned and looked down at her.

“Well seeing as you’re here, I’m guessing it’s a meta human issue.” She smiled and resumed her work, unamused. “But from what I can gather, there’s video of the intruder. Maxine is working on securing it. We’ll have it in a bit. That is IF she can deal with the suit that’s given us a hard time since we responded to this call.” Lemon Zest motioned behind her to a smaller framed girl speaking with an even more larger heavy set women in a burgundy skirt and blouse. Pale orchid skin complimented by a grayish violet hair done up into a bun. She seemed, even from the distance, somewhat pompous.

“Ms. Tiara has been more than generous with allowing you access to one of our top secret facilities. Need I remind you that everything in this room is property of Tiara Technologies and cannot be removed without express written permission, m’kay?” the woman in burgundy turned her nose up ever so slightly to the officer she was speaking with.

“Excuse me a moment.” Nightwatch turned towards the two, leaving Lemon to her work.

“Take no prisoners.” She snickered without looking back, the music on her headphones changing tracks to a light electronic beat.

Nightwatch walked over quickly, stepping over another splatter and clearing his throat. This interrupted the next rant that the suited woman was about to go on. “Pardon me. I’m Captain Nightwatch, I’ll handle this Maxine, thanks.” He nodded to the officer who gave a relieved but subtle look before turning and walking to help another one stringing tape up.

“Captain Nightwatch! I’ve seen you on the news. Tiara Technologies looks forward to helping any and all elements of the E.C.P.D. in it’s contract for Meta Human combat. If there’s anything I can do for you, let me know, ‘kay?” she put on a transparently fake smile.

“I’m sorry miss...er..” he gestured to her.

“Polomare. Suri. Polomare.” She kept her facade up.

“Ms. Polomare, I’m sorry but--”

“Please, call me Suri, I insist.” She tilted her head slightly, grinning.

“Suri.” He finally said somewhat annoyed even more than when he arrived. “I’m sorry but I have no part in choosing who gets the contract for that. Now, Suri can--”

“Ms. Polomare, please.” Suri corrected him again, her face returning to her original expression once his inability to advance her companies goals was presented. “Now as I was trying to tell your little secretary over there--”

“MS. Polomare. Your cooperation so far is admirable, but I need to remind you this is a crime scene. Several people are dead. This is NOT going to be wrapped up in a few hours. The more you and your company cooperate with us, the more likely it is we won’t have to be here any longer than ANY OF US..” he lowered his voice, realizing he had raised it. “Any of us want. Furthermore, I’d appreciate it if you gave me and the rest of the officers on site the respect they deserve. M’kay?”

Suri widened her eyes midway through his statement then returned to her business face as he finished up. Looking around a moment, she blinked her eyes exceptionally slow and returned her gaze to him. “‘Kay.” She turned and walked off, heels clicking and for a moment she slid on a blood splatter before catching herself and walking under the tape then out the door.

Nightwatch exhaled slowly as she left. Turning and walking over to Maxine, he noticed that about four of the crew were gathered around the main holding chamber, trying to get it open. Walking and side stepping various debris, he got to them and noticed one of them typing in numbers on the keypad.

“Trouble?” he asked while looking at Maxine.

“No, we’re pretty sure we got at least one more victim in there, trying to get this open.” Maxine responded while motioning towards the big chamber.

“Is that...entirely safe?” he asked while motioning himself to the chamber. “Did we get the all clear that there’s nothing toxic in there?”

“Oh yeah, hazmat checked this whole place before we set up camp to work.”

“Alright then, here, lets get in there.” Nightwatch stood behind one of the crew on the left side and helped pull, timing their movements together. “And...NOW!”

A chorus of groans and grunts followed with the sounds of strained steel and gears following. Moments later, the efforts they put forward were rewarded as the mechanisms gave way and the chamber doors slid quickly and effortlessly. Several of the officers fell to the ground as did Nightwatch, catching himself too late and bringing a tray of tools onto his head from the counter near them.

“OW!” He yelped while rubbing his temple before waving off Maxine. “I’m ok, I’m ok...” he stood up. “That was a stupid idea but I’m ok.”

“Captain, you may want to see this.” The front officer yelled back to them, looking directly into the chamber as he coughed from the smoke that was trailing out into the room.

“Hey, get back from there we don’t know--” Nightwatch grabbed the shoulder of the officer only to look into the chamber as well, stopping mid-sentence. “Whoa...” was all he could muster up.

***

Twilight rubbed her eyes and took a break from the monitor in front of her, stretching and cracking her neck softly. She had been working on approving all the new additions to the Model 3 Matterhorn, and her mind was slowly winding down as Spike’s avatar popped up on an idle screen to her left.

“That’s all of them, Twilight.” He said, his small dragon form putting a clipboard behind his back in classic cartoon fashion. “All that’s left is for you to say the word!”

She yawned and nodded midway through, covering her mouth. “Sorry, sorry, Spike. Begin construction. Put the energy cells at the top of the list and fire the fabricators up.” She stood and held the small of her back while stretching left and right slowly. “Wow, I need to take more breaks…”

“No time like the present. This new project will take a while to finish. Why not take a load off, catch some shut eye?” Spike asked with his dragon form suddenly appearing with a sleeping cap on.

“That's a good idea, Spike. Wake me if there's any problems.” She said with a sleepy tone, arms stretching wide as she stifled another yawn. While pushing open a side door to a makeshift bedroom, she flipped a light switch off with the machinery in the room starting to hum softly as it kicked into full automation mode.

Spike turned off the various monitors in the room through a quick series of commands and he himself vanished from the last screen that was mounted by the door Twilight had gone out of, leaving the latest armor to be constructed overnight.

As the final light dimmed and Spike went into standby mode, the overhead vent to the exhaust of the room rattled ever so slightly. A second later it did so again until it fell from its hinges. A pair of gloved hands catching it mid fall and pulling it back up into the ceiling. Half a second later the familiar form of The Phoenix dropped into room with the stealth of a cat landing from a higher ledge, disturbing next to nothing as she did.

Pulling out a small flashlight from her belt pouch, she turned it on and scanned the room slowly, her eye line following the beam as it searched high and low. Moving through the cluttered lab, Sunset paused and looked at the Matterhorn Armor model 1. Twilight had wisely kept it locked behind security glass. Looking it up and down out of curiosity, she gave a small nod and pursed her bottom lip, clearly impressed. The distraction took her time for only a half a minute before she resumed her search, diving the occasional scanning beam from the security system in the room. She remained hidden from it as her hands rummaged through a small stack of papers. Scoffing softly she clearly wasn't finding what she was looking for and turned to a large cabinet at the other side of the room.

Her boots leaving little to no footfall, Sunset stuck the light to the side of her goggles and opened the cabinet. Opening the second set of drawers in it, she kept a stern and determined expression yet still not finding her objective.

A sudden series of rapid clicks and switches firing alerted her to her discovery. Turning towards the other end of the room she saw the lights come on around her and several metal plates securing the doors and windows. Twilight stood at the far door, a metal plate sliding into its locking position behind her.

“Security system heard you about five minutes ago as you were stumbling in the air vents.” Twilight said with her arms crossed. “Can I help you find something? Clearly you're not here for the armor or to sabotage it.”

Sunset adjusted her glasses and took the flashlight from the side, turning it off with a small click to the bottom of it. Remaining calm, she kept her avenues of movement open as she finally answered, as usual keeping her tone flat and lower than usual. “I need a respirator to access the Canterlot site.”

“So you decided to steal it?” Twilight asked sternly, though as the hero’s face and hair came into focus, her expression lightened slightly. “What do you need to get into the site for?”

Sunset stepped back and to the left, into a darker section of the room after noticing Twilight’s expression had change. For the most part of her life, she had not had to deal with anyone who may have known her before the explosion. Anyone from the school wasn’t usually crossing paths with her when she was in costume and her hair was more familiar. “I can’t entirely disclose that, but I can tell you it’s very important and people may be in danger. I can’t save them without it.”

“Your reputation isn’t the most reassuring, if I’m remembering...you...correctly...” Twilight squinted as she looked at her visitor closer. “Don’t...have we met?” she asked, taking another step and settling next to one of the fabrication chambers with the insides whirling away as the new model assembled.

“Twilight!” Spike popped up next to her on one of the flat screen monitors.

“Spike?” both Sunset and Twilight asked at the same time, both surprised for different reasons.

“Get away from the--” Spike began to shout as the arms near Twilight were starting to move faster and faster with a sickening crunch beginning to resonate.

“Look out!” Sunset shouted, charging forward and knocking her only connection to her world out of the way of a set of razor sharp assembly arms. Glass shattered and the gear assembly flew out at a frightening speed. A rapid cascade failure of the system took place, the final element resulting in several large gears jamming together and the combined pressure creating an explosion that Sunset caught on the side of the face and back. The force sent them both towards the ground, knocking the wind out of them.

Sunset coughed with her eyes shut and her lungs having trouble catching any real sense of oxygen. Her vision slowly returning, she snapped her eyes open as she realized she was alone and Twilight was nowhere to be seen. Instead she noticed a taller woman at one of the tables, seated and staring at a wall in the far corner of the room.

“Twilight?” she asked of the figure before adjusting her glasses and jacket. “Are you ok?”

No response came from the tall woman, instead she remained silent and her features turned away from the light for the most part.

Walking closer, Sunset felt uneasy with her vision obscured by what she assumed was dust though when she waved it away, it sparkled slightly. Grabbing at a handful of it, she caught nothing but a few shards of the sparkling substance before it disappeared from her sight.

“Sunset Shimmer.” A voice that sent a chill down the lone hero’s spine. It was Celestia. Not the one from this world, the tone was by far different. The one that had always scorned her for asking about mirrors when she should have been studying.

The chair snapped around and in it sat a rather large Alicorn Princess, her wings unfurling and her body becoming apparent as she stood up. It was Celestia from her own world but how she was there was still in question. The world seemed to grow smaller around her with the lights dimming save for the one around Sunset and Celestia. Two bright spots in the darkness was all that was left.

“I had hoped you’d simply leave and settle down quietly in a new world. Maybe find a nice male and even have a child of your own.” Princess Celestia continued, her regalia protected hooves clopping on the tile as she approached Sunset. “Maybe IT would have had more use to the world then you turned out to have.”

“Princess Celestia, that's not fair.” Sunset began to protest, taking a step back. “I…”

“You’ve made a mess of things several times over is what you’ve done. First you let your foolish pride send you on a flight of fancy. I had hoped you’d return once you’d learned how wrong you were, but instead, you hid like a child. A spoiled child who didn’t have the sense to understand the magic of friendship…” Celestia’s shadow overtook her former student. “...even when it was practically spoon fed to you like a foal by my brightest student! What did I ever see in you?” she shook her head slowly.

Sunset’s eyes widened more and she began to feel tears welling up but she fought them back, not letting her former teacher see her weakness. Her hands clenched into fists while small amounts of smoke wafted from them as her powers slowly but surely started manifesting.

“Then to make matters worse, which is an accomplishment I must say, you try to take ON three far superior foes ALONE...and again you failed!” Celestia’s voice boomed loudly as Sunset had read in her studies it was capable of doing in times of anger. “You allowed a massive destructive wave to hurt an entire world and instead of owning your mistake...” Celestia circled her now. “AGAIN...you RUN!”

Sunsets gaze was fixed to the ground now, her eyes clenching closed occasionally during the lecture. Smoke rising from her fists still at her side as Celestia's words rang in her head.

“Now the poor failure of a student I'm ashamed once was under my wing wants to correct the world because she feels bad.” Celestia sarcastic and condescending tone made Sunsets eyes open a bit, something not quite sitting right suddenly.

“No doubt wanting to fail again, the failure of a pupil who wishes to prove herself to a teacher whom doesn't care to see that she's going at it alone. A selfish act meant to reinvigorate the pride she felt when she was Celestia's student.”

Flames slowly lit in the palm of Sunsets hands and gloves.

“Still a pathetic, academically challenged and reclusive shut in that even Twilight Sparkle would feel--"

Sunset turned to the larger alicorn and leapt, taking her by surprise and latching her hands around the larger throat of her former mentor. She screamed a primal throaty cry as all the guilt, all the sorrow, all the pent up emotions of the last few minutes released from her along with the flames firing out from the gloves around her teacher's neck. Rattling and throttling they tumbled to the ground and out of the light, with beakers and monitors smashing as they fought. The illumination from her flames was the only thing helping her see.

Rolling back into the light and on top of Celestia, Sunset pulled her fist back to strike another blow and possibly crush her mentors windpipe. What she saw stopped her: instead of Celestia, she saw on the ground herself in the same outfit she had gone to her first day of school in.

The doppelganger laughed, the lethal looking wounds not giving her any pause as she stood up on her forearms that were behind her. Her cackling continued as she looked directly into Sunset’s eyes and spoke finally, the tone filled with different versions of her voice, all echoing and reverbing off the others. “Always so quick to violence.” It smiled. “What has it gotten you? Power? It rules you. Friends?”

Sunset stood up, bumping into something as she did and turning towards it with a startle. She gasped but didn’t cry out, closing her mouth and snapping her emotions down the best she could given the circumstances.

Surrounding her in a full circle were hundreds maybe thousands of caskets, all with brass plated names on the tops. Turning to back away from them, she bumped into another, then another and another. The entire room was filled with them and her doppleganger, who was sitting on one near the center of the room, was smiling.

“...all dead.” It said, the smile never once leaving its face.

She closed her eyes and shook her head, hands around her temples and clenching. “No. NO!” NO!” opening her eyes, she started to protest again as the world had switched again. She was suddenly confronted with so many familiar faces from Canterlot High, all in various states of distress from the explosion. They all reached forward and grabbed towards her, sending her stumbling backwards flat against a wall. Cries of terror came from Sunset with her hands flying up in front of her to shield herself. All she could see was the lights going away as the crowd of zombie like students closed in on her, their accusations echoing in her ears!

Sunset screamed while lunging forward with her hands outstretched, flames spewing forward in front of her.

“WHOA!” Twilight screamed while holding her hands up in front of her. The gauntlets she was wearing swiftly activated, generating a purple hue force field and deflecting the fire as it reached her. “Sunset! It’s me! You’re safe!”

The flames stopped as suddenly as they had started with Sunset gasping and clenching her fists to halt the output. As quickly as she did that, she reached up and found her glasses were gone, in fact most of her outfit was off of her. She glanced around and then back to Twilight, whom was wearing her normal outfit save for the gauntlets from the new armor. The magic was dissipating as she let her hands down as well.

“Twilight! Sunset’s awake!” Spike said with his avatar popping up on a screen next to the lavender scientist. “Oh…” he gave a sheepish grin. “Nevermind.”

“Spike?” Sunset furrowed her brow. “I mean...who are…” Sunset sighed, realizing it wasn’t worth the effort anymore and returned to her normal tone. “I guess it’s silly to keep up the facade.” She sat up on the cot she had been passed out on, grunting and holding her right shoulder. “Ow…”

“Careful. You took a heck of a hit.” Spike popped up next to Sunset on a very small LCD screen dressed in a nurses outfit, which he noticed and quickly changed to a doctor’s outfit with a blink of an eye.

“Spike, what happened to you?” Sunset asked while touching the monitor. “Where are you?” she leaned forward and swung her legs around to the side of the cot, looking at Twilight.

“Technically I’m dead.” Spike said, wearing a grim reaper outfit now as he switched to a new monitor. “Twilight programmed me into this however, so I guess I’m alive. In a way. It’s complicated.”

“I bet.” Sunset smirked while rubbing her shoulder with her gloved hand, then moving them to her temples. “Speaking of which…”

“Speaking of dead...you’re supposed to be.” Twilight raised an eyebrow. “For all I knew you were.” She sounded very cross with her friend, the gauntlets powering down finally as she took them off with several snapping and metal couplings sounding.

“Yeah about that…” the former student of Celestia rubbed her shoulder again while rotating it slowly. “I’m not. Clearly. But could we not go diving into that just now? I’m really in a bad place right now, mentally. Let’s start over for now?” she gave a pleading look to Twilight.

“It’s a little hard to do that after I catch you trying to steal from me and Rarity.” Twilight shook her head slowly.

“I wasn’t lying when I told you I needed them for a good reason. It’s true.” Sunset tried to stand but didn’t quite make it with her joints aching and sending her back to a seated position. “Oh geez...WHAT hit me?”

“Fabrication unit. I was trying to tell Twilight we were about to have an overload.” Spike said, wearing a hard hat and holding a pipe wrench. “Small miscalculation on exactly how hard we could push the assembly plant. It’s corrected now.” He nodded to Twilight. “Back on track.”

“Thank you, Spike.” Twilight nodded back before sitting on a rolling stool she had pulled up next to Sunset slowly. “Now, I’m willing to listen but you have to tell me everything from--”

“Twilight, I heard an explosion and I--” Rarity busted in with her security card in one hand and a half full glass of what appeared to be whiskey in the other. Being barefoot, her stockings slid on the floor as she tried to come to a halt as well as to save her footing and her drink. “Whooa!”

“Rarity!” Spike shouted, his processes switching from monitor to monitor and at the same time a pair of mechanical arms from a nearby fabrication chamber breaking through their glass case and catching the business women before she hit the floor. The momentum she was going was a bit too fast to stop abruptly so he had compensated for the fall with her back bent over slightly as he finished the save. A small monitor popped out of the hinges of the arms with Spike’s face on it. “Are you alright?” he asked while looking down at her.

“My hero…” she giggled and slowly passed out while leaning back into the arms of the device he controlled. The glass fell and shattered. Spike’s expression was a bit desperate as the monitor turned to the other two former unicorns, both of which were in a state of surprise for several reasons of their own.

Sunset blinked as she looked at Rarity’s state of inebriation and Spike’s classic medieval hold on her as if from the cover of a romance novel, and then at the state of her own costume which had several large tears and scorches on it. Silently she turned back to Twilight.

“It seems we both have some catching up to do.” Twilight gave half a smile and rubbed the back of her head.

***

“You will cease and desist all your hostile actions immediately and return to Canterlot with me for judgement of your crimes.”
“You must be the ‘Princess’ I keep hearing about. You’re taller than I thought you’d be.”
“You...are more than you seem.”
“I’m not from around here, true enough, your highness.”

Malcontent’s eyes shot open, his mind lost in memories left him uncharacteristically exposed, a feeling he disliked greatly. Swirls of cobalt colored magic smoldered from his eyes before the trails vanished into thin air, the last of his focused thoughts gone now. The doors at the far end of the hall slammed shut followed by the telltale sounds of Aria’s boots. Leaning back in his chair, his gloved hands came together in front of him while turning to his accomplice, the fireplace light giving him limited exposure to the naked eye.

“Aria, my dear, what news do you bring?” he asked finally, his eyes flickering with a few last sparks of his species’ powers. Crossing his leg across the knee of the other, he waited to hear from his lover, his siren, his finely honed tool he had sharpened over the years. He was quite proud of himself.

Aria stood by the gothic looking fireplace and crossed her arms, the edge of boredom setting into her mood hinting across her expression. The tendrils that wrapped around her gem pulsed a few times as she stepped closer to her partner. She used that term loosely. “Your pet pitbull has the bomb. She took out the entire facility and left no one alive. The E.C.P.D. is still trying to pick up the pieces and to make any sense of it.” Aria shivered as she got closer to him, pulling her tiny jacket around her.

“Your contact assures you of this?” he stood up, clasping his hands behind his back. The tie and shirt he wore ruffled slightly as he turned towards his massive chess table of the city. Walking slowly towards it, he smiled, giving her a small gesture to open her jacket. “Cupcake wasn’t it?”

Aria didn’t flinch, remaining stoic as she could while she continued. “She’s got a few friends on the force and she’s rather good at extracting information subtly with her talents.” She walked behind him carefully, opening her jacket as he made his gesture, exposing more of the gem embedded in her sternum.

Malcontent picked up several pawns on the board and placed them along different streets, finally picking up a larger one that comically looked like Mistress Mayhem. He brought it to eye level and smiled at it. Setting it down at the center of a large interaction in Central Equestrian City, he picked up a side piece and looked it over, this one bearing the warning symbol for radiation. “Then the pieces are slowly landing where they need to. Good work as always my lovely Siren.” He placed it next to Mayhem.

“Something one of the eggheads said has me curious...dear.” She shivered again but fought against her instinct to cover up. “Before I wiped the memories they had of me there, the lead scientist was mentioning something about the bomb being...too big. It was going to be TOO good at it’s job.”

“And?” Malcontent didn’t look up from his board, picking up another few pawns and setting them around Mayhem’s. “You worry too much. IF our crazy little hair hack gets to even set the timer on that device, we’ll be so far into the final leg of my plan it won’t make a difference.” He finished while turning back to her and adjusting his glasses. “I’ll be…” he stopped and chuckled. “We’ll be long gone by the time it goes off, so it won’t bother us one bit.”

Aria frowned as he corrected himself. “WE...are leaving together aren’t we?”

There was a long pause, the crackling of the fire and the flames from it flickering off Mal’s glasses. A slow smile came across his face.

“My dear, you’ve been listening to those has been sisters of yours again haven’t you?” he wagged his finger at her slowly.

Aria raised her eyebrows in surprise to the question. “I…”

“Don’t listen to a thing they say. I told you...” he brought his hands around her bare waist and linked them behind her back. Staring down at her or her gem, it was hard to tell, he grinned wider. “I love you.”

She blinked, hearing it again in her head while she stared back, a slow smile on her face forming.

“Let's face it, you love me.” He said presumptuously before letting go of her and cupping her chin to look at him. “As much as either one of our species can love another.” He let the last part sink in before letting go. “Now you must be tired. All that memory wiping and singing has to take a toll on you. Why don’t you go rest.” He walked by her unceremoniously. “I’ll join you in a bit.”

Giving him an uneasy by complying look, Aria turned and shrugged off her jacket, tossing it to a sofa. The jacket itself turned to magical tendrils as it left her proximity, the magic she had used to conjure it losing range on her. Taking a right out of the room they were in, she closed a set of doors behind her with their closure echoing through the hallway.

Malcontent turned back to his work station to the far end of the room and walked over towards it, quickly losing his pleasant expression. Pushing a few tools aside he looked at the plans under it. Labeled as part of the Department of City Planning, it was the last known layout of Canterlot High School prior to it’s explosion. Focusing on the courtyard he pulled out a red pen and started making small markings on the map.

“In fact by the time ANYONE realizes what's going on, it will be entirely too late.” He whispered to himself, making a few calculations on the side of the paper as his half cocked smile grew more apparent.

***

END OF CHAPTER

Episode 8 - "Interjections"

View Online

“Interjections”

By DarkMalcontent
Co-Author Alisia

Lynn Chardonnay flipped through her phone’s messages while she pushed stray blonde hairs out of her view as she walked down the white marble floors of the Equestrian City Hall. Onyx colored heels clicked and echoed as she slipped her phone into the small handbag hanging off her right shoulder. Lynn turned left and walked up a quick set of steps to her office. As she pushed past the wooden doors she waved to her assistant, a plum colored girl in her twenties, who then waved back and held out a few handwritten messages from her desk.

“Several requests came in while you were at lunch, Ma’am,” her assistant said while standing up to greet her from her modest desk. “Several requests for comments on Bill COH-7 and one asking if you were interested in a house in Eastern EC.”

“That same realtor," she asked with a heavy sigh. "Tell him I’m not interested.” Lynn took the messages and thumbed through them casually by the desk. After a moment, she walked into her office as she pushed passed another set of oak doors. “He is kinda cute though," she commented with a sly smirk pulling onto her lips, "but..." she made her way to her desk and paused, "you can’t mix business with pleasure.”

“Yes Ma’am,” her assistant said as she followed with a notepad.

Lynn pulled the shoulder bag off, sat it on top of her desk and released the handle. This allowed the few metal links composing the strap to clatter as they dropped into two small piles. She set the messages down, pulled out her chair, smoothed the back of her skirt and sat on the leather cushion which caused it to squeak as it exhaled. Lynn pulled up her keyboard, logged in and several seconds later a flurry of emails started to come in. “Seems more than a few people needed to catch me before I left,” she sighed and skimmed through the emails, “you had the easy part it seems, Tiffany.”

“Shall I send the standard responses to the conventional messages, Ma’am,” Tiffany asked as she picked up the set Lynn had laid down.

“Please do,” she nodded as her eyes scanned various subject lines of the multiple correspondence emails. “Most of these are standard responses, though...wait…” she drifted off as she became lost in one of the emails. “This one...sounds sorta important," Lynn quietly stated with her brow wrinkling, "though why is...this forwarded to me," she asked as she leaned back in her chair.

"What is it Ma'am," Tiffany questioned as she started over to see the screen.

"This should be in the Mayor’s box,” the Vice Mayor stated and Tiffany stopped as Lynn turned her flat screen monitor to her.

“I’ll send it over to her secretary immediately, Ma’am." Tiffany began to take down a note, "I’m not sure why so many of them are making their way to you," she commented somewhat slowly as she wrote. "It’s only supposed to do that if the Mayor doesn't respond at all," she looked up from her notepad, "as a fail safe.”

Lynn leaned forward, turned the monitor back towards her and relaxed back in her chair. “It's been happening a lot, that's for sure.”

“She’s been very busy with the upcoming vote. The Supergroup Bill has been gaining a lot of support,” Tiffany said.

“...And with it a lot of opposition," she idly commented, "sadly," she pushed her chair back, "it's the rules of the game.” Lynn stood, turned and looked out the window at Equestrian City’s northern skyscape and highways busy at work. “The more support something gets, the more opposition it’ll generate,” her blue eyes locked on a nearby window washer across the street with her stern words. A brief moment of silence filled the room as Tiffany made notes and waited for her next task. Eventually Lynn shook her mind from its trailing thoughts and turned her head back towards Tiffany, “what are the projections on the district’s voting for COH-7?”

Tiffany looked down and flipped over a couple pages. “All indications say the public is very much in support of a more structured system for the heroes, Ma’am. And as such," she flipped through to another page, “each district is all but falling in line to vote for it." She looked up from her notepad, "though there is a few hold outs. Representative Dale and Craig are holding strong against it, despite their communities being for the bill.”

“Always has to be something,” Lynn said as she sat down at her desk again. “See if I can get a meeting with Dale and Strong.”

The assistant looked unsure and took a breath, “it's um Craig...Ma'am,” she politely corrected.

“What?”

“It's Representative Craig. Strong is the realtor you didn't want to talk to,” Tiffany explained and set her pad on a side table before she walked over to a cabinet on the far wall.

“Right and what's coming up,” she questioned as she seemed and sounded distracted. The Vice Mayor was pushing items around on her desk in search of something. She stopped and looked up as Tiffany cleared her throat, turned and held up a pack of chewing gum. The assistant smiled and returned to her boss's desk as Lynn released a semi calmed breath.

“A.E.G.I.S. representatives. They're here to discuss more details on proposition M.C.U.," she said as she handed her boss the gum and took a step back.

“Alliance of Emergency Government Intervention Services...that’s quite a mouthful,” Lynn answered, took a piece of gum and tossed the wrapper into the trash on the left of her desk.

"Yes it is," Tiffany nodded.

Chewing it quickly, Lynn pulled out, opened and scanned over documents from a folder in front of her. “Looks like the bill is still caught up by complaints over too much control lost on our part in the event of an emergency,” she closed the folder. “Send them in.”

Tiffany nodded, turned, picked up her notepad on her way to the doors and opened them. In the waiting room stood a slender suited figure, "Director Drops," she called and they turned towards her, “Vice Mayor Chardonnay will see you now.”

"Thank you," they said with a nod and advanced forward. Tiffany held the door open as she stood aside. Once Director Drops was inside, she allowed the door to close as she returned to her desk.

***

Meanwhile elsewhere, Lemon Zest switched positions on her small cushioned stool as the music from her headphones, being her only real companion in the empty E.C.P.D. Forensic lab, switched tunes. With the last of her co-workers gone for the day, she decided to stay to keep working on the many new problems that had come in since the start of the week. Pushing her green hair out of the way of her eyes, she glanced back and forth at the several computer screens with results pouring in slowly.

Flipping open a folder in front of her, she scanned over the lab work that had come in from the murder of Dr. Sprinkles. Andrea Ashley...I bet you had a lot going for you...until you got in over your head, she thought in a somber tone with her gaze on the attached photograph. She stared at the report as her hand idly grabbed a pen and began to tap it along with her music. After almost a full month with most of the toxicology in, we still haven't received the final Meta Matching, she thought as a disappointed sigh escaped her parted lips and she pulled her headphones from her ears. Lemon slid the wireless music device down to let them hang around her neck.

“Bad news?” Nightwatch asked as he walked into the lab from the main entryway with the evening hours of twilight peaking in as the doors closed behind him. Adjusting his badge, his uniform was more relaxed thanks to his promotion. It now consisted of a light blue dress shirt and a standard issue long coat from the department. He looked more like a detective as he slowly tried to adjust to his new role in the department.

Lemon didn’t turn, being focused on the last of the paperwork in the file. She flipped the last page back and forth a few times to compare lines, “only if you’re here to ask who killed Dr. Sprinkles,” she responded in a distracted tone. As he stepped closer, she turned her gaze up and smiled. “Most people at least buzz before they come in.”

“You were listening to music, didn’t want to ruin the moment,” he said casually as he arrived beside her, looked down, began poking at an evidence bag and looked back up at her. “You know..." he listened for a moment to the sounds coming through the headphones, "you don’t strike me as a hard rock or metal fan.”

“Oh you should have seen me in high school.” She leaned back, folded her arms and looked him over in concern as he bothered the bag. “Well," she began as her eyes returned to him, "don’t you look nice.” Lemon unfolded her arms as she returned her attention to her work. She picked up and folded the papers neatly, then tossed them to the counter. “Bucking up our image?”

Nightwatch smirked and walked up four steps to now stand beside her. “I suppose it’s inevitable," he commented as he eyed over her work, "being tasked by Commissioner Luna to be the face of Hero/E.C.P.D. relations requires a..." he stepped back and briefly flared his coat with a small halfhearted smirk, "certain amount of style.” He pulled out a small rolled up handbook and whacked it against his other palm, “or so this handy instruction guide they made me take this morning tells me,” he explained with a bit of glumness yet acceptance in his tone.

Lemon watched and tried not to giggle as he showed off and explained. She gave a quiet nod. "Well you certainly do give off that air," she remarked with a smirk pulled onto her face.

He took a breath and sighed while he put it away. “Now," he stepped up to her once more, "I need to figure out if I want to put a tie with this.”

The pink toned girl smiled and shook her head a bit before she turned to her computer screen. “You do look like quite the dick,” she said with amusement in her tone as she clicked the mouse a few times and moved a few items on the screen.

“Pardon?”

“Detective," she laughed, "you look like quite the detective,” she added quickly with her tone unchanged, even as she did calm down her now turned giggles at his furrowed brow. “What can I help you with or..." she turned her unyielding smile towards him, "did you come down to see all the pretty chemicals,” Lemon asked as he closed his eyes and cleared his throat a bit.

Nightwatch inhaled and put his hands in his pockets simultaneously with an exhale. "Ignoring your grin and tone," he opened his eyes and stepped away to a shelving unit that caught his attention. "You do bring up a reasonable point," he began as Lemon went back to her computer. He leaned over to a shelf which had various vials resting on the metal surface. Pulling one hand from his pocket, Nightwatch began tapping the glass container of one softly. "This place is filled with all manner of pretty things,” he peered at another one curiously.

"Yup and I wouldn't break any of those if I was you," she warned without removing her eyes off the glowing screen.

"Why? It's not like you actually keep the real deadly stuff here...right," he asked with a brief look to her before looking up. “Having a skylight put in might help bring out the colors.”

“A skylight in a Crime Lab," she asked and shook her head. "That's a bad idea," she turned, got down, pulled her stool over and hopped back on as she placed an inch thick glass sheet under a microscope. "One good bolt of lightning," she looked through at the piece, "and who knows what could happen.”

“Super powers,” Night asked with a shrug as he poked another one.

“More likely you’d die of third degree burns and..." she adjusted the zoom on the micro sized organism, "so many other unpleasant things those chemicals can do."

Nightwatch was quiet, pondering this before giving a nod, "fair enough point." He went to poke another vial.

"Don’t poke that,” she quickly and sternly warned without looking up from her work.

“Eh..." he blinked then stepped back, "got it." He cleared his throat and walked back over to her. She didn't even flinch as he cleared his throat again but louder.

"You may want to get that checked out, could turn bad," she idly informed.

An almost annoyed expression scrunched his face but it faded as he took a deep breath. “I read you were expecting some results," he began as calmly as he could to be civil with another breath, "thought I’d find out from the horse’s mouth...so to speak,” he finished as a hand came to mess with his bare collar. Maybe I will get a tie to go with this, he thought as his colored orbs glanced down at his dress shirt.

“Well, so far we’ve got in the toxicology on Andrea Ashley’s death."

"And the results?"

"No apparent known means of death aside from, well, the fact she died from massive trauma but we knew that,” Lemon said as she turned to face him and folded her arms. “Meta Match for the power residue is coming up with nothing in the entire database." She took a breath then sighed while she lowered her head a bit and closed her eyes, "it DOES match a few other unsolved murders from over the last decade, but since they’re unknown--” she trailed off, opened her eyes and looked upon him once more.

“We don’t know who did this or why,” Nightwatch finished her sentence as he stepped over and sat in an office chair across from her. “What about our discovery in the lab?”

“Most of the tests are still cooking, but...” she spun back around and opened a folder on her computer. "All the victims," several photos from the crime scene came up, “were either crushed or stabbed by some sort of Meta means,” she explained as she tapped a few keys and several graphs came up. “The residue doesn't match anything on our hot sheets but on a hunch," her words slowed down as she scanned the screen, "after seeing what Snips and Snails had done to them that...evening in...the alley by that," Lemon clicked an icon before tapping another couple keys, "crazy orange haired girl…” she pressed a few more keys and a final graph came up.

Nightwatch's eyes widened at the sight. “They match,” he whispered while he leaned forwards and rolled his chair closer. "So..." he eyed the results over a moment longer, "whoever the new player in town is," he turned his gaze to Lemon. "She's behind the robbery at the lab."

"Huh, seems you are pretty quick." Nightwatch frowned as Lemon grinned and stuck her tongue playfully out at him before she drew it back in.

He smiled as her playful attitude hit him. "Good work," he leaned back and rolled back a bit.

“Maybe."

"Maybe? What do you mean?"

"I’m running more tests and keep in mind you're not the only cases in this city," Lemon reminded him with her eyes locked on his. "It doesn't work like television," she stretched her arms above her head, "you don’t get answers," she dropped her arms, "in twenty minutes,” she finished with a heavy exhale as she looked back to her computer.

Nightwatch stood and casually stepped closer, "too bad. That would be pretty useful to get cases done faster."

She turned and noticed how close he was. Lemon frowned and cleared her throat as she lightly glared him down. "As for the pile of clothing and ash we found in the reactor," she began as he took a safe two steps back. "I’m stumped at that as it does not match any known elements they were working on at the time." She motioned to a moving icon, "I’m running a massive search on it though.”

“We’re still missing the head doctor...um...Egglston,” Nightwatch asked as he folded his arms, took hold of his chin with one hand and tapped his face with a finger. "Eccleston," he questioned and met her gaze. Lemon raised an eyebrow and he released a light nervous laugh as he rubbed the back of his neck, his cheeks flushed from his embarrassment.

“Riiiiight,“ Lemon said slowly. “No doubt that dirt's him but I’m trying to sift through the unknowns to find the DNA to give to his next of kin, if there is any.” She stood up and twisted gently to crack her back, “so there’s your massive report," she winced as a loud pop rang out before she released a relieved breath and returned her attention to Nightwatch. “What else can I get you, Captain?”

“The info they gave me on the bomb that was taken seems a bit over my head,“ he said without much pause to think as it was troubling him. “You know anything about Applied Neutron Physics? Or anyone who does,” Nightwatch asked and waited as she looked down at the floor. Minutes passed and he started down the steps, “I didn't think you'd know so I'll just see myself out,“ he stated as he made his way towards the door.

He paused as static came from his radio attached to his hip before it cleared up, “any available units, minor explosion at Rare Innovations. Any units available respond, be armed and ready,“ came the male voice softly from his volume being low.

“An explosions,“ Nightwatch quietly questioned under his breath with his gaze on his now quiet device. “...Wonder if it's a vigilante or Meta-Human...“

“Not a clue,“ Lemon disappointingly stated as she opened her eyes and looked over to him, “check with the company themselves. They have to have some expert...or someone who knows something.”

“Okay, I will,“ he answered and she gave a nod before her headphones were back on her head. She waved and soon was turned to face her computer with her back towards him. The green haired woman adjusted her coat and pressed play on her media player attached to her belt.

“Thanks Zest,” Nightwatch waved back even though she didn't notice. He let out a soft sigh as he opened the door and stepped out. The new detective made his way down the halls and stepped out into the cool night air. Looking up at the lit sky above, I wonder what could possibly happen to us tonight, he thought and went on his way with his hands inside his pockets.

***

Rainbow Dash tapped her gray metal cane back and forth on the sidewalk, her facade as being entirely blind intact as she almost stumbled at times.

"Are you okay? Do you need help," a concerned passerby asked as he reached out to catch her.

Rainbow steadied herself on a nearby brick wall, "I'm good, thank you though," she said as she gave a grateful smile for his offer.

"Okay, just take it easy and take your time." He stepped away to go about his day.

"I will," she responded and dusted her usual tone of casual wear off before she continued. Rainbow's stare was kept forward, an element she learned to maintain to keep the image of full blindness going.

The thing is, it hadn’t always been a trick. She’d been genuinely blind for a good while before the manifestation of her powers. The doctors had told her that, no matter what treatment they had tried, her cataracts were entirely resistant to repair. Sadly it wasn’t long until she had entirely blind. However, Dash wasn’t one to give up too easily and with the help of the hospitals and other aid groups for the disabled, she grew accustomed to her new way of life. Just like everything else in her life, learning to use her other senses became a competition. Her strive to be the best at what she did had never diminished and this was no different from any other obstacle.

After a year into her new life, she suddenly started to get glimpses of things around her whenever something moved a great deal and shook the ground. Dash quickly learned it was similar to a radar ping she had seen in military movies. Like most things, it didn’t take long for her to start understanding how to use it and with the settlement she had gotten from the explosion, she found herself slightly bored with retired life.

Rainbow pulled out her phone and pressed the power button. "It is six in the evening. Dusk is now setting," the computerized female voice stated. "Tell me what you want to do or know."

"How far until Pinkie Pie's apartment?"

The phone thought with a swirling icon before it gave a soft beep. "You are approximately one block away. When you arrive it will be to your left."

Not much farther, she thought and put her phone into sleep mode, slipped it into her pocket and continued on her way. As she walked, she focused her mind to maintain the images she gained from the cars to the people to the strong breezing passing by. She learned to keep her focus which allowed her to see with sonar but it also ensured her body language was exact for a common, normal blind person. If she lost her focus then she was plunged back into complete darkness.

A few minutes later, Dash walked up to the door and doorbell panel of Pinkie’s apartment complex. She reached out and ran her fingers over the panel's braille beside each buzzer. She already knew which buzzer but had to act out finding Pinkie's apartment button. After locating it, her blue toned fingers paused and a small nagging feeling started to twist in her stomach. I wonder what Pinkie wanted to talk about that couldn’t wait and had her sounding so anxious... Dash thought with unease, I mean...Pinkie's always been weird ever since elementary school but she's never been weird enough to make me nervous.

She slowly lifted her finger an inch off the bumpy text, maybe I shouldn't go in. Something doesn't feel right...but... she took a breath and exhaled, Pinkie's been my friend and everyone else's, especially in high school, for years. There's no way she would do something to hurt me and besides... Dash pressed the button and waited nervously. She's always so perky so if she tries to do anything I'll just use my senses to outwit her. How hard could it be to get away from someone who sucks at stealth anyways?

***

“What I totally don’t get is all this backlash about Sybil and Raven not getting enough screen time,” Pinkie frustratingly said into her headset in a video call while simultaneously she threw one hand above her head in emphasis.

“People like who they like and want what they like more,” Sugarcoat’s camera feed flickered as she responded. “Can’t blame someone for liking one character over another. It’s called preference.”

“I know-I know,” she groaned as she lowered her hand to rest beside her, “but they don’t need to get so pushy about it!” Pinkie shrugged and tried to take on a more nonchalant demeanor, “Total Wasteland is about an entire ensemble, cast in a massive world. You can’t not NOT show pieces of the world that are going on.” She picked up one of her snack cakes, “it’s not realistic,” she snapped and took a rough bite out of a Wubcake, a frustrated growl like sound coming from her throat as she chewed.

“Equally you can’t just throw your narrative around either,” Sugarcoat responded and took a bite out of a cookie. “A show like Total Wasteland may take place in a large environment, but you'll lose your audience if you spread it out too thin. The fanfiction community has that problem.”

“Oh the fanfiction writers for Wasteland aren’t writing in the main canon of the story, they can afford to lose readers if they write to a certain type of fan. Like those AWFUL slash fictions where they --” Pinkie stopped and looked towards her door as she heard the doorbell ring.

“Expecting someone,” Sugarcoat asked dryly.

“Oh shoot! Yeah,” Pinkie explained as she looked to the computer clock. “We have to discuss a few things. Well, I do, she doesn't know it yet, well she might.”

“We have hours of more footage to look over,” Sugarcoat in an annoyed tone pointed out as she narrowed her eyes in the camera feed. “It's almost sunset. Who would be coming over now?”

“It's a friend from school,” Pinkie stood up and started to disconnect from the chat, not giving Sugarcoat time to argue. “I’ll catch you later!” as soon as the camera clicked offline, Pinkie snapped into action and began a SplitSecond speed cleaning of the apartment. Towels, pillows, snacks, trash, laundry and all other manner of items found their places quickly as she moved at breakneck speed.

Finishing her cleaning spree, she set a plate of cupcakes on the kitchenette counter and wiped her brow. “Whew,” she smiled to herself, made her way to her front door and pressed the small buzzer on her door panel. “Yes?”

“Pinkie Pie, it’s Dash,” the static filled box on the wall replied inside Pinkie's place. “I got here as fast as I could.”

“Oh hey Dashy, come on up!” she pressed the unlock button and opened her door to look down the hall as the main entrance opened.

Outside Rainbow frowned at Pinkie's 'forgetting' she had asked her over. Taking a breath to calm her irritation, it's just Pinkie, just roll with it, Dash thought, pulled the door open and stepped inside.

Inside she saw her rainbow haired friend making her way slowly and clumsily along the hall. The usually quiet hallway was interrupted by the tapping of Rainbow's cane knocking the wall or hitting an abandoned can. “Down here Dash! A little further..." Pinkie twisted her face in pondering before her eyes widened as a smile appeared from her current idea to be helpful. "Follow. My. Voice,” she said slowly to see if it would help communicate easier to Dash of where her apartment door was.

Rainbow Dash on the other hand wasn’t amused. She frowned a bit from how Pinkie was talking to her, “Pinkie, you don’t need to talk slow, it doesn't help.”

A few seconds later, Dash entered, "so...what did you want to talk about," she asked with a turn of her head as Pinkie shut the door and locked it. "Uh Pinkie? Why'd you lock the door," she questioned nervously and took a step away from her pink toned friend.

“Go on and have a seat. Oh and a cupcake if you want!” Pinkie cheerily remarked as she pointed to the plate.

“No thanks Pinkie Pie. I had...er...lunch already, wouldn’t want to overdo it,” Rainbow Dash replied quickly to try and hide her hesitation to try the cupcakes. At the way things were going, she wasn’t too sure about anything at the moment. Dash began to concentrate and use her powers to get a slow feel for the room, all while she pretended to awkwardly tap her cane around the floor. “Pretty cramped in here, eh?”

Pinkie locked the deadbolt and turned to her friend. “It’s cozy, not too bad,” she picked up a cupcake from the plate and looked it over a moment. “Hope you found the place alright.”

“Wasn’t too hard. My phone can send me GPS directions through an earpiece I can use,” Dash made a motion to her left ear while still facing and tapping away. "So..." she said slowly as she got a better lay of the room. The rainbow haired woman concentrated on the areas in front of her while she let the back one hundred-eighty of her vision dim slowly, "what's this all about, Pinkie Pie." Dash asked before she refocused all around her again. This shortened the viewing distance as a result.

“I’m glad you asked. I wanted to show you something!” Pinkie’s tone changed as she suddenly pulled a silver orb from under the counter at super speed and threw it at the back of Dash’s head.

***

Dusk had begun to settle in at the outskirts of Equestrian City’s western properties. With the last beams of sunshine slowly vanishing over the horizon, a patchwork of farmland and light industrial fields could be seen. One of these many standing structures still had its lights on. It was that of AppleTrends, a small work force usually scurried about the many rows of apple trees. Night now had set in and nearly everyone had gone home for the day except for a lone figure that walked through the rows.

A tall blonde woman leisurely strode through the rows of apple trees to look them up and down for a careful visual inspection. Her hair was tied back in a ponytail to keep it out of her green eyes that lit up an otherwise tan complexion. Wearing a green plaid shirt tied in a knot to expose her midriff, she accented it with a brown leather vest and matching work gloves. She came to a halt and looked one tree up then down before carefully kicking the trunk with one of her cowboy boots. Staying steady, she gave a nod then continued on which caused the pair of custom apple shaped buckles on them to lightly jingle.

She adjusted her hat while kicking up some dust gently before coming to a stop, and looking at one rather sturdy looking tree. Tipping her cowboy hat back, Applejack stared up into its branches and squinted in the further changing light to spy several apples not harvested. She put a hand on the hip of her worn blue jeans, which stood out against her otherwise earthy toned accessories, and shook her head at the tree.

“Them boys couldn’t have finished one last tree before quitin’ time,” she said softly before glancing around. “So hard to find good help,” she sighed, pulled out a small notepad and scribbled the location for the morning crew.

“Sis?” a younger voice questioned from behind Applejack, whose eyes widened a moment but she didn’t turn around as she continued her work. Applebloom stood a tree away from her big sister with hands on her hips. “What are ya’ll doing?”

“Last shift got lazy. Aah gotta make notes for Lime and her crew in the morning to pick up the slack,” Applejack answered, still not looking back. “Ya’ll should be inside the house. Ain’t any reason to fuss over me." She looked up at the tree to scan for any more missed produce. "Just need to make sure we get the most outta this here cycle.”

“Aah was just curious, no need to bite mah head off,” Applebloom replied with a shiver and began to rub her bare arms. Now a part of her wished she had grabbed a light jacket since the t-shirt she wore was not enough to stave off the night air.

“Never had this problem when we did this ourselves. Can’t seem to find anyone that can work as well as…” Applejack stopped herself and looked down for a moment then pocketed her notepad. “...as when we were on the other farm," she quickly covered. "Guess ya could say all the problems started with this one,” she said flatly while clenching her fists, causing the leather to start squeaking softly in protest.

“Sis,” Applebloom asked concerned as she took one step then another towards her, "you all right?"

“Go on in...see about some food,” Applejack said as she kept her head turned away from Applebloom.

"But...what'a 'bout-"

“Mind me now,” Applejack interrupted kind yet firmly.

A few moments passed before a relenting sigh entered the air, "okay but ya better come in too," and after that last word, Applebloom did as requested. She swiftly walked off, nearly jogging due to the cold, and made it past a large storage building with the AppleTrends logo on it. The tattered sign was a combination of a pair of apples against an argyle pattern. Sadly though it had seen better days.

Waiting patiently until Applebloom was out of sight and earshot, Applejack clenched her eyes shut and her breathing became less stable. Gosh darn it, why? Why can't aah face'er yet, she thought in an upset tone as the cracking of the leather became louder as she leaned on the tree she’d been looking at. She rested her head against the trunk while she tried to bring her grief under control. It's all her fault. It's her fault aah can't even stand the city no more, her fists tightened which caused the leather to squeal for mercy.

Applejack slowly opened her eyes partially, Rarity got us this here nicer farm...Rarity's... her tone darkened as she leaned back, the reason he left us. Her head lowered and her jaw tightened as she fought to keep in her tears. Rarity, one arm began to slide back, is the reason... her muscles tensed as it began to tremble. She took a deep breath and the reared back hand slid across her midriff to come and rest near the opposite shoulder.

Aj didn't move for a moment before, HE DIED, her thoughts screamed in outrage simultaneously with her giving the tree a strong fisted backhand. Her eyes were closed tightly as her frustrations were released in this one strike. She nearly forgot herself until the loud crack of the tree snapped her eyes open and brought her mind back to the present.

Looking at the utterly destroyed appletree, she stared in both shock and awe. She’d been so careful since she found out she was stronger since the disaster. Swiftly she looked around for any witnesses to her display of super strength. Soon after she was sure, she released a relieved sigh. Thank goodness no ones up. Applejack took another long look at the tree that had been toppled over, broken and jagged at the trunk.

She groaned and hung her head as her shoulders slumped a bit with the realization of the implications behind her outburst. “Consarnit,” she rubbed her forehead as she tried to think of how to either fix it before dawn or explain what happened to the morning workers, should they ask.

***

The sound of tight latex gloves being snapped echoed in the laboratory along with Professor Midnight’s footsteps following suit. Lined full of both modern and antiquated types of tools, the room she stood in was filled with the hum of machinery. The machines and readout displays around her ticked away. In the distance an old dot matrix style printer hummed to life as she turned it on. Being a cross between a modern Frankenstein's Laboratory and a College Research Lab, it was quite the masterpiece of terror to anyone held in it.

One such captive lay restrained to an examination table, slowly rolling her head back and forth, a dazed look in her eyes as reality slowly came rushing back to her. Dressed in little more than the bare essentials for modesty, the girl’s light green skin tone was riddled with scars, both indicative of her life before and after as a subject of the Professor.

“Recording.” Professor Midnight said, a microphone on the lapel of her jacket picking it up and a small analog recorder on her belt whirring to life. “Specimen 626, ready for experiment 513-C: Forceful Extraction Measures.” Midnight pulled a silver tray of instruments next to the table and tilted the girl back at the same time. “Previous attempts to pull out Meta Energy and store it results in immediate death of incubator. I hope to perfect a way to harvest the energy and then stimulate regeneration of it. Success will allow for..”she noticed her subject starting to come around. “..unlimited resources for my other projects.” she finished her report with a smile, bringing up a scalpel to her eyeline.

The chrome glint from the instrument brought the girl to her senses but the muzzle like device she found around her head kept her silent and immobile. This didn’t keep her from struggling however, the muscles of her body straining against the metal links around her ankles and wrists.

“Specimen is a former terrorist captured by the Empire. Crimes include destruction of government property, inciting a riot, and murder of public servants. Displays Meta-Human ability akin to empathy. Prolonged physical touch allows subject to see fragments of memories of the other person.” Midnight continued, paying no attention to the continued muffled protests. “I’m told she’s quite the legend of the so called resistance. If this helps shut them up, I can’t help but be smile. Their interruptions stifle my work. Subject known as Tree Hugger previous to number assignment. Note for Department of Records, do not specify manner of death, list as Missing.” she clicked the side of her recorder off and took off her glasses and placing them on a counter nearby.

Snapping on a pair of goggles, she turned around to the examination table, adjusting her thick rubber gloves, flexing the fingers to make sure she got a sure grip. “You know, I actually had a different name then what you know me as. Professor Midnight is something I picked up at Everton. I bet you didn’t know that.” she spoke cordially to her victim, putting the scalpel down on the cart and pulling out a pair of serrated blades and one old fashioned chest cutter. “They say I’d always ‘burn the midnight oil’ and after a while, I let the name stick. After all, names aren’t really important in the grand scheme as much as what we accomplish in life, don’t you agree?” she turned away and picked up a bottle of sterilizing alcohol. “I know you’d know the name Twilight Sparkle. The name of a girl who came here from another world and got trapped with that other girl?”

The machines she’d turned on previous fired to life, electricity humming loudly as the readings came in fast across the screens. At the same time she pulled out a rather large looking syringe, filled with yellow liquid, spraying a bit out of the end. The needle brought new struggling from her victim.

“Now don’t wiggle, this is happening, you must learn to accept your role.” Midnight said, plunging the needle into the side of Tree Hugger’s heck and sending the liquid into her. The struggled began to fade. “THIS..is a paralyzing agent. It works better for both of us. So where was I?” Twilight rubbed her chin with her free hand. “Oh yes, after I heard about that other girl, I decided to let the nickname REALLY take hold, as people started to get so interested in my results from Magical Research. That's how I ended up here.” she pulled the needle free and snapped her fingers in front of the wide eyed captive. “Ah good.”

Turning again, Midnight pulled a rotary bone saw into her victims view, but frowned as it didn’t come to life. She looked down and sighed, kneeling and plugging in the three pronged plug into an outlet. She stood back up and the saw gave a high pitch activation as she pulled the trigger. Midnight leaned down to Tree Hugger with a smile. “Normally I don’t open up this much, but I think we both know you’re not going to tell anyone.” she grinned wider and closed her eyes a moment.”Besides, it’s good to have a friend now and then..”

The saw fired up and Professor Midnight brought it level with her captives chest. “If ever so fleeting.”

“Boss!” Scootaloo shouted from across the room over the sounds of machinery. Soon the sound of the saw and a disappointed Midnight filled the air all at once. At the same moment Scootaloo neared, a massive bipedal creature emerged from the shadows. It had been present this entire time and stepped in front of Scootaloo. It resembled a dog in the vaguest sense with a collar riveted around its neck with the words 'Spike 2.0' on it.

Two black eye holes lit up with the red eyes inside them erupting to life. The massive jaw of the creature opened and a set of spinning teeth sprang to life. Scootaloo crossed her arms and stared up at the massive mechanical guard dog. “Easy boy, it’s just me,” she smiled as she reached out with her mechanical hand and gave it a small pet. The snarling monster seemed to calm down a bit as she did this and it’s barbed tail began wagging.

“I’m busy, what is it,” Midnight snapped in an annoyed voice with a matching expression as she turned, and threw the saw down in a fit. “This had better be important.”

“Our Emperor demands a favor,” Scootaloo stated and bowed ever so slightly to her. “A girl from the Commonwealth has come into possession of what appears to be a very ancient and powerful artifact," she explained as she returned upright. "The Emperor has seen fit to have you study the artifact for use.”

Midnight walked away from the table, leaving the paralyzed girl and the tools where they lay. She snapped her goggles up, pulled her regular glasses onto her lavender face and adjusted them slightly. “Very well. Have the girl disposed of and bring her artifact to me."

“His majesty would like the girl and the artifact kept intact,” Scootaloo said, noting Midnight’s annoyed sigh at this instruction. “He wishes you to extend every courtesy to her...as the artifact is considerably powerful, and since it seems attuned to her already--"

“Yes, yes we’ll make her part of the weapons research. Where is she,” Midnight asked as she picked up a mirror and looked herself over. Clinging to the mirror's frame was a half burned picture of her brother, Shining Armor. After adjusting her bun slightly, she pulled off her work gloves and undid her lab jacket. Now left in her dress uniform top and skirt, she dismissed further fuss over her looks and put on a pair of dress leather gloves before she stepped towards Scootaloo. “Let me meet this overly important girl.”

“Yes Ma'am,” Scootaloo nodded as she bowed her head when her boss walked past.

"Does this girl go by any particular name?"

“Her name is Trixie.”

“What an awful name,” Midnight scoffed and snapped her fingers towards the massive towering guard dog. “Spike, make sure 626 doesn't get into trouble.” She smiled and ran a hand along her former dogs shell. Spikes tail began to wag as he gave her a nod of understanding. “Good boy.”

Walking out the main doors, the two conversed casually. "Ma'am, might I ask you a question," Scootaloo began.

"If you must."

"How do you hurt and kill helpless people without being affected by it later?"

Midnight sighed as she looked to Scootaloo then ahead. "In this field of research, it's important to remember that compassion is the enemy." Scootaloo was about to speak but held her tongue. "This is based solely on outdated instincts. It can hold us back and keep us from learning ALL we can."

"Is there…” Scootaloo paused a moment, “ever a time when these things aren't justified?”

Midnight rolled her eyes, "highly unlikely."

Back inside the lab, Tree Hugger watched in terror as the huge beast walked over with thundering steps. He snarled down at her but she wasn't able to cower in fear as Spike’s head lowered and he teasingly snapped his serrated teeth at her. Becoming bored after a moment, he simply sat down and curled up to enter standby mode. The thunderous metal clang of the doors slamming shut and locking echoed throughout the lab, leaving the green tone girl alone in the dark.

***

End of episode

Episode 9 - "Lethal Revelations"

View Online

Episode 9
“Forced Revelations”

By DarkMalcontent
Co-author Alisia
Proofreads by Alisia and Zap4th

Rarity slept on her back with her chest slowly rising and falling as she slumbered. Surprisingly her outfit was only a bit of a mess given she was only missing her shoes, allowing her stocking covered feet to poke out from under the covers. Occasionally incoherent mumbling escaped her lips as she twisted in bed. She was more accustomed to her king sized bed than her small queen sized mattress at the office which was for “emergency” situations such as this. Two shadowy figures stood at the foot of her bed for a moment before slowly walking away and closing the door to the small bedroom quietly. This left them both in Rarity’s main office.

“I still can’t believe she’s been boozing this whole time,” Sunset Shimmer said softly to Twilight as they quietly walked. “She puts on such a decent face for the public. Her life seemed perfect.”

Twilight shook her head slightly. “She’s never really been over Sweetie Belle dying,” they continued towards the main doors of the office, “from what I read it’s called being a ‘functional alcoholic’. They’re able to operate perfectly during the day or work hours but then...” she trailed off and her steps paused as did a concerned looking Sunsets.

“...Then they “fall off the wagon” each night,” Spike said with his face popping up on a nearby computer screen. Both women turned to watch as he took his dragon guise. They resumed walking and he walked across the screens, keeping pace with the two girls, “she’s been that way for a long time based on what Twilight tells me.”

Sunset was wide eyed, showing how taken she was by all the new information as she tried to sort it all out. "So," she began while she pulled out the only spare goggles she had and put them on out of habit. “Spike died you said...but he’s here,” she asked while she motioned to the monitor. “No offense.”

“None taken.”

“Right. I programmed Spike’s personality into an A.I program I found collecting dust in the old Research and Development files," Twilight explained as one hand idly moved through the air a bit. "No idea why it was scrapped but I did a bit of tweaking and slowly re-created my trusty assistant,” Twilight gave a small shrug before she smiled at the nearest screen at him. “He’s quite the fast learner too! He’s practically running the whole building already.”

“I do try to be useful.” Spike smiled while hopping across to another screen as they exited the main office and entered the private halls.

“...And you’ve been working here this whole time,” Sunset asked as the hallways filled and echoed with the sound of their voices and footfalls.

“Yes. After I was allowed to be a citizen of this world, I entered into Equestrian City University and began trying to figure out how technology worked here.” The lavender colored girl adjusted her hair a bit, “after it became apparent I wasn’t going to find a way home...I started over again,” she answered with a bit of a somber tone.

“I figured that if I could become a prize winning student once, I could do it again.” She rubbed the back of her head and half smiled, “I took several professors by surprise and entered into accelerated courses. I got my PH.D in a couple of fields," Twilight explained with a light blush and lowered her hand. "Rarity was looking for a new head of R&D and things sort of fell into place from there.”

Sunset nodded as she finished her story. “I guess it’s my turn then.” She took a deep breath as they entered the lab and exhaled as the doors were secured behind them.

Twilight took a seat in her office chair with Spike popping up behind her on the monitor banks. “Before I can even think about helping you," she adjusted her seat, "I need to know what happened. Where have you been?” she asked and took her shoes off as she looked to Sunset.

Sunset sighed and took a deep breath for a second time while she leaned against the wall closest to the freshly closed doors. While running a hand through her hair, she looked down at the floor and tried to sort out everything she needed or wanted to tell her friend. “It’s a long story," she kept her gaze down before glancing up to Twilight. "Basically after the explosion, I ran. I kept running for a few years." She sighed and took hold of one arm, "...all over..." Sunset lowered her orbs to stare at the floor beside her, "nearly went to the Eastern Empire but I stopped.”

“Why did you run? We could have helped you.” Twilight crossed her arms in her chair with a look of uncertainty on her face.

“I’d just made a mess of everything. I was pretty sure none of you wanted anything to do with me...so I panicked." Sunset looked up sadly, "I didn’t say it was right,” Sunset locked eyes with Twilight. “I finally came to terms with it after a while. That's why I came back...but," she took a breath, "I couldn’t come back as Sunset Shimmer," she sighed. "The city already blames me for what happened to their loved ones…” she said sternly, "and..." her tone began to soften as she finished, "they're right." Sunset lowered her head to watch the floor once more as she allowed the room to fall into silence.

Spike gave a sad expression and popped up next to Sunset’s head on an LCD screen. “Hey now, that’s no way to talk.”

“It’s true, Spike,” she turned to the digital assistant. “Everything that's going on in this city, the world, the powers people got..." her tone grew tense, "the people that just vaporized...the people they left behind...” Sunset turned her gaze back to the ground, pulled her goggles off and wiping her eyes. "It's all my fault..." she sniffed and saw her tears had stained her leather gloves. “It’s all my fault. Everyone who died, everyone who has died because of people misusing magic...it all falls back on me.”

Twilight stood quietly, walked over and placed a hand on her shoulder. “Sunset…”

“That's why I’m back now," Sunset sniffed and looked to meet Twilight's eyes once more. "I’ve been working for at least five years to try and clean up this awful mess.” Sunset put her goggles back on and with it, "one person at a time if need be. But," a small smile pulled on her face with a newfound sense of priorities seemed to echo in her voice, "I need a bit of help getting into the No Man’s Land.”

“I still haven’t decided if I should help you. Your reputation as The Phoenix has been questionable in regards to your brutality.” Twilight walked away only to stop and stare at her computer screens.

“Anything that was done, I did for the betterment of the city,” Sunset responded while standing and walking towards her lavender toned friend. “I need your help on this.”

A long silence filled the room as Spike glanced back and forth between the two nervously. Twilight began walking further away from Sunset while rubbing her chin softly and looking over readouts on the screens. “I’ll help you on two conditions.”

“Twilight, I--”

“Two conditions. Or no help.”

“Alright what are they,” Sunset asked as she gave a disapproving grunt.

“One, you need to tell me EVERYTHING that led you to the No Man’s Land," Twilight ordered as her eyes scanned the glowing screen. "Why you’re going, how you got to that point...” she turned to face her, "everything."

“Deal. What else?” Sunset seemed happy that the first demand wasn’t awful.

“Second,” Twilight turned and tapped a few keys on a panel behind her which caused the glass to turn clear. Inside was a flurry of assembly arms placing servo and joints together on a shell of power armor. The readout above the project read 'Matterhorn Mark 2'. Twilight turned now to face Sunset. "I get to go with you," she said with a smile.

***

Rainbow Dash lightly winced from the slight sting in the palm of her held up hand that had caught the silver ball. “Pinkie what the heck?!” Dash questioned sharply as she turned her head. She was still facing away from the pink toned girl who still had her hand in the throwing position at the kitchen counter.

“Ah ha! I knew it!” the bubbly girl responded, putting her hands on her hips. The gambit had paid off. “You aren't blind!”

There was a moment of silence and Dash dropped the ball. It landed at her feet with a hollow sound before cracking open with a harmless explosion of confetti and candy. Turning to her old friend, the rainbow haired girl shook her head. “No Pinkie. I am blind.”

“Sure you are. That's why you could catch my confetti ball without even turning.” She shook her head.

“Your what?” Dash raised an eyebrow out of habit.

“Oh! That's a confetti ball I use them at all my parties," Pinkie giggled. "You see, it's full of confetti and with a small pop it explodes like a water balloon and…” she picked one up, threw it on the ground and the same small confetti explosion occurred. “Tada. Instant party decor!”

“Oh that.That's just how...I...uh," Dash's mind scrambled for an answer while trying to keep her rising nervousness subtle. Sadly her knowing she messed up had slipped into her words, despite her trying to sound confident, "compensate for my senses! Like you said!”

“It's ok Dashie! When I picked up my card from the jewelry store and realized it was the one I handed you, I thought about how that happened and then it hit me!” she explained in her usual quickly paced way with a fun, lightheartedness still remaining in her tone. “I figured you were Shadow Strike, the seemingly unhittable super heroine whose been keeping thugs busy on the south side!”

“Pinkie, I don't think you should--"

“Then I realized wait, how come Shadow Strike didn't want to stick around? Maybe she had a cab waiting for her and she still had to change!" Pinkie exclaimed as she pointed at a random direction as she stood in a pose similar to a popular video game character. "Speaking of which," she put one hand inside her flexible hair to start feeling around, "I got a ticket for parking the van in the alley. I wonder what I did with it..." she pondered as she pulled her hand out empty and looked briefly around her place. "Oh well doesn't matter!” Pinkie shrugged it off as her ramble concluded.

“Wait, the jewelry store? That means…”

“Right! I'm the other hero who totally saved your blue behind in the store!”

“Now wait you didn't-" Dash started before sighing as Pinkie cut her off.

“Just so we're even…” Pinkie suddenly sped out of the room and into the tiny bedroom to the right. Dash tracked her friend the best she could but at the rate she moved at made it hard for even her to lock onto the pink blur. Turning her head quickly out of reflex, she saw Pinkie zip back into the room and double check all the blinds before coming to an abrupt halt in front of Dash. Dressed in her Splitsecond gear, minus the mask and goggles, Pinkie smiled and gave her friend a huge hug. “See! It's me too!”

Rainbow Dash was completely taken back by the rapid visual exposition and movement of her friend. She was speechless for a minute but then shook her head and smiled. “Alright, Pinkie, I'm Shadow Strike.” She finally admitted.

“Woohoo! I'm right!” Pinkie seemed relieved.

“But, I am still blind.” Dash added, tapping the floor with her cane and taking off her glasses.

“Huh?” Pinkie gave her a puzzled look and waved a hand in front of Dash's faded eyes.

“Let's sit down at least. I actually am kind of hungry now.” Dash smiled, feeling at ease with her friend as the odd behavior was now making sense. They both had felt they were going out on a limb to different degrees trust wise. With the secrets gone they both felt like teenagers again despite how the world had changed itself, and them, over the last decade.

“Sure I can get us a pizza in like no time!” Pinkie chirped snapping on her headgear.

“That would be totally awesome,” Dash said, sitting on the couch and relaxing. “When can you--"

Pinkie dashed out the door, unlocking her deadbolt and closing it before her friend could finish her question. A few seconds of silence and Dash jumped, startled as Pinkie arrived and set a large pizza on the coffee table. “Pizza is served!”

“Wow. That was fast, didn't take more then--"

“A Splitsecond?” Pinkie finished, smirking.

Both the friends burst into a round of snickering and laughter.

***

A gentle gust of air brought with it the scent of fresh croissants to Rarity’s nose. She sniffed the air briefly and adjusted her sunhat as the distant sound of a jetliner flying over the skyline of Equestrian City hit her ears. The patio of the Rarity Building, one of the few things she allowed herself as a vanity item, was one of her many hiding spots she had. Sitting across from her was a larger man. His short but well kept blond hair accented his freckles and blue eyes. There was a distant look in his gaze which was fixed past Rarity on a skyscraper behind her.

“I do wish Tiara would stop trying to outdo me at every turn. It’s clear to me she has taken this personally and this is no longer just business,” Rarity said and watched as an attendant walked onto the patio and brought in breakfast. “Dear, breakfast,” she happily called with a smile and took a drink from a glass of amber liquid. “Just in time too. I don’t know about you, but I’m starving.”

“Eyup,” her husband, Big Mac, responded quickly with his gaze now fixed on the food as it came in. After taking a small sip of his morning beverage as well, he set it back down. It didn’t take the keenest of eyes to notice their taste in beverages for breakfast was different. Orange juice versus liquor. It was like comparing Apples to Oranges.

“After 7 years of marriage, you’re still as well mannered and conservative as when I fell in love with you, dear.” Rarity mused, taking a small butter knife, sliced off a little of the softened butter and placing some on her croissant.

“Eyup,” he responded, looking over his breakfast which consisted of a larger helping of eggs and toast.

Rarity frowned for a moment with the feeling of unease building in her. Looking around, nothing seemed out of the ordinary yet something still felt off. Paying it no more mind, she took a drink and set her glass down next to five empty ones. “You know...a lot of people didn’t think we’d really be a match. With you being as mild mannered and me being, well," Rarity brushed out dramatically some of her hair while striking a pose in her seat. "Fabulous,” she said and smirked at herself, not looking at him. “Little did they know, a bit of bubbly and we both found out how similar we really were when it comes right down to it,” she said as she relaxed her fashionable pose.

“Eyup,” he answered with a bit of food left in his mouth before he resumed his meal. Rarity looked over, gaining a concerned expression upon seeing he was eating as if he hadn’t ate in years. She felt another shiver run through her as the door to the patio opened and another attendant arrived. Silently the new arrival handed her a telegram and walked out just as quickly as he had came.

Opening the telegram, she reached a hand out and pushed aside nine empty glasses and two empty bottles before she set another empty glass down. Taking up another full glass, she begin to take a sip but slowed her actions as she read the message. “Oh...my...gracious!” she gasp. “It’s…” she tried to set her glass down but ended up knocking five empty bottles over to the ground, amazingly not shattering a single one. However the clattering didn’t seem to bother her breakfast companion. “It’s my sister, Sweetie Belle. She’s...dead..”

“Eyup.”

“I...I wasn’t there for her,” Rarity said in shock as the reality hit her like a train. The shattering of six bottles of brandy to the floor was ignored by both of them as she read further into the telegram. Not sure she read it right, Rarity read it again to be sure. “I’ve only got you now, my love.” The business woman looked up and dropped the telegram, her face falling and eyes widening with a hand grabbing her chest in fright.

In front of her wasn’t her husband but a facade. Continuing to eat unfazed, half of his clothing had been torn off which had left him looking ragged. Rarity's gaze looked Big Mac up and down, finding the rest of him wasn’t much to look at either. Big Mac stayed put while he enjoyed a seemingly endless plate of food, uncaring of the dirt, grime and blood that seemed to cover all parts of him.

Rarity's face twisted in confusion from his missing flesh. Namely this was around his mouth where food fell from, yet he seemed to behave as if nothing was amiss. Finally he stopped and with an eerie silence looked up, now with half his jaw missing. Unfortunately her vision became obstructed by the absurd growing number of empty bottles appearing, and overflowing, from the table. The bottles of high end whiskey and other booze fell and shattered with their labels in full display for all to see.

“Eeyup,” Big Mac said with a monotone demeanor as he kept staring at her unblinkingly.

Rarity stood with a startled shriek as she swiftly backed up and twisted around. She made a rush for the exit but didn’t make it as her designer heels got caught up in several of the empty fallen glasses. As she tumbled to the ground the bottles and glasses oddly did not shatter. Looking back her eyes widened in fear as she scrambled to her feet with the empty alcoholic vessels multiplying well beyond what she recalled drinking. Almost swimming through the clear containers, Rarity struggled to reach the door handle without needing to shove aside some empty bottles. What is going on?! she thought as she knocked more and more bottles away, only for the amount present to grow each time and become more cumbersome.

Finally reaching the handle, Rarity opened and slammed the door shut behind her. "Coco?! I need you!" she cried into the dimly lit hall. The ceiling lights grew brighter, causing her to squint until her eyes had adjusted to see her surroundings. "Where..." Rarity bit her tongue as she took in the unfamiliar interior. Taking slow steps her ears began ringing with the dead silence that was filling the room. She looked around while advancing and, the further she advanced, the more her stomach twisted and her palms began sweating. It didn't take long before she began to step back and reached out to the wall behind her. Rarity found the wall but as she her hand slid over the smooth surface, it found nothing. Turning around her face fell and twisted. Glass, she thought confused.

Rarity twisted around as her eyes scanned wildly the frosted prison. Starting to feel with both hands, a clink caught her ears. Turning her focus to one hand she gasped, tossed the half bottle of whiskey briskly to the smooth ground and began pounding on the wall. Rarity frantically moved about the space as her breathing grew harder. Why am I in my glass? What's going on?! Suddenly tears slipped into her eyes as her breathing grew harder. After a few more moments of searching, slowly Rarity sank down a wall and threw from her hands with force two newly appeared glasses of brandy. Just as they shattered, a familiar sound reached her ears as a drop of something landed on her head. Looking up she saw nothing and stood as she wiped her eyes. The sound happened again. What, the business woman thought and looked down with a gasp to see amber colored beverage filling up around her. Rarity sniffed while keeping herself afloat and her eyes widened again. "This is my high end brandy," she exclaimed in shock as she kept rising with the pouring liquid.

She swam and reached one of the walls as the brandy began to swell and swirl around her. A short scream escaped her as she was tossed towards another wall and caught view of a new location. Why am I in my office?! Her mind tried to grasp what was going on as the alcohol began to grow once more, lifting her closer to the lip of the glass. Rarity swam to another wall and pounded on it as the liquid stopped just short of the brim, leaving it just out of reach. Is-is this h-how I d-die?! her thoughts trembled as fresh tears began to appear in her eyes where alcohol soaked her hair and colored her untouched skin. The rustle of fabric drew her focus with a caught breath at the one she saw looming overhead. I'm there but...I'm here...! she thought with her jaw dropped, at a loss for words and thoughts on what to do in order to try saving herself.

The larger her relaxed back in her chair, casually sipped her morning choice for an eye opener while she attempted to read the morning newspaper. Larger Rarity exhaled as she leaned her head back and slightly tilted the sunhat back to make her face visible. Releasing a wide yawn, she set down then picked up her numbing drink before taking another swig.

Smaller Rarity pounded and yelled but now, as she looked around, found the filling vessel to be a closed bottle and she was nearing its cork. "Help!" she screamed but her larger self didn't even turn around to look where the bottles stood all lined up. Desperately she continued to try and get free despite her nearing demise. Looking up her face fell with fear as she placed her hands above her, trying to push free the cork. It didn't budge. The liquid kissed her chin, then her cheeks and soon her nose. Rarity choked and gasped, trying to keep her head above the never ending fluid.

She took a gasp of air as the drink soon enclosed around her. She floated inside the bottle where she kicked and punched the thick glass. Her lungs began to burn and her eyes closed tight before her mouth burst open. The air Rarity had held onto escaped in a fury of bubbles. Her eyes widened as she desperately tried to breath but darkness closed around her with a chilling touch of death.

Rarity shot up, gasping for air and grabbing in front of her. Her fearful expression fell with the crash of reality striking her senses, slowing her breathing with relief. She looked down to herself to see the chill was her soaked clothing. Touching her head, Rarity removed her hand to see droplets of sweat. Taking a deep breath, Rarity released it slowly and closed her eyes while trying to relax her shoulders. Just a nightmare...thank goodness, she thought, still a little shaken with her mind still recalling pieces of the details.

Scooting to the edge of her bed, she began to scan her surroundings to see it was her emergency pass out room in her office. Rarity ran a hand through her hair as she stood with some wobbling before taking a step to the open bedside cabinet. She pulled out a few delicate towels marked with her logo and began to wipe dry her sweat soaked body. As the soft Egyptian material wiped away the moisture from her brow, the hazy memory of her nightmare remained fresh in the front of her thoughts. Slowly she stepped back and sat on the edge of the bed. Exhaling a trembling breath, Rarity reached for the nightstand. She took up a bottle and glass, pouring herself half a glass of port before stopping. Her tired and drained eyes stared at the paused action. Silence filled the room for moments which felt like minutes as her mind began to grasp what it had started doing. "..." Her eyes closed halfway as her hand holding the bottle began to tremble with a mix of swirling emotions and thoughts. Carefully as she could, Rarity eventually set the bottle and glass back into their spots on the bedside furniture.

Rarity looked down to her trembling hands, turning them palm up. Time seemed to slow down and melt away as her sad and scared gaze stayed on her appendages. Eventually her blue orbs trailed over to the stand before she took and lifted the half filled glass. She brought it to eye level and stared at it for a long couple of minutes. Images of her inside the frosted prison washed over her mind like waves on a beach. Ever so slowly she set the glass back down yet her gaze remained unbroken on the settling liquid. Moments later her hand reached for the glass but hesitated halfway. The hesitation didn't last long before a deep inhale, her hand securing the glass, bringing it up and she took a single sip.

Stiffly she extended her arm out, set the glass down and jerkily each finger removed itself from the smooth surface. Forcing her body up, she made her way over to a small, walk-in wardrobe in the next room. In the doorway Rarity hesitated and started to turn her head to look back. Her head jerked forwards as her stiff movements entered the room. She closed the door behind her, took a breath, turned on the lights and began to pick out a dry outfit.

****

Back at the mansion, leather gloves softly squeaked with the curling of a hand into a balled fist. Malcontent narrowed his locked gaze on the chessboard of Equestrian City. Scanning the grid he took note of each chess piece before him. He took his right hand and danced his leather covered fingers over a few pieces that held simple symbols for the person they represented. His hand trailed over another few which held the faces of those they represented. "Hmm..." Malcontent leaned back from hovering over the board and eyed Rarity's building where two pieces stood. Shifting his gaze he narrowed his sight on the location with Mistress Mayhem's piece. How to best utilize her next, he pondered.

Softly the main doors opened and closed, allowing for muffled footsteps from a familiar pair of boots to softly announce the entrance of a visitor. The last Siren made her way to the main doors to the living room and smoothed her usual outfit. This should please him as it's supposedly his favorite, she thought with a smirk on her lips. Pushing open the doors and closing them behind her, Aria made her way across the red carpeting as the crackling fireplace filled the silent room. A hand rose to push a few strands of hair back away from the gem which danced with the firelight. He can't be resistant to my advances much longer can he? I mean... she took her time, almost exploring the room as her steps were deliberate with the swing of her hips. How stubborn can one man be? Aria eyed over to the back of his chair with a frown. Not as if he's given anything up for me. Yet I have given much up for his goals and errands, she thought with a bit of venom in her thoughts. Aria glanced down to the gem as her eyes closed half way with some pondering. ...Not as if I could tell the difference between good and bad anymore... The Siren turned her focus towards the back of his seat. ...What if...it wasn't just coincidence he showed up right at that moment and helped me...?

“I can hear you thinking, my dear Aria,” Malcontent commented calmly as he stood and shifted a few pawns. He took a small gathering of papers from under the box of unmarked pieces, set the box down on the opposite side of the map and made his way closer to the fireplace with his eyes set on the map, specifically on ground zero.

"Oh? What pray tell did you hear," Aria inquired. She made her way over and eyed him in his buttoned up, royal purple dress shirt and black tie which was in a Windsor knot. He could at least read some magazines on how to dress better, she thought with a brief crinkling of her nose.

Malcontent's attention remained on the map as his hands began to shuffle the papers. A slow smile crept onto his face. "Something must be rattling around in that useful head of yours," he inquired smugly as she for a moment frowned before regaining a pleasant expression.

Alright, we'll keep playing it your way. I'm not losing this fencing match. Aria neared and sat on the arm of a chair with her side to the fire. "My mole inside the police tells me something interesting."

“Do tell,” he flatly stated as a frown slipped onto his face and his brow wrinkled with a slight tightening of his jaw before he took a breath, and finally turned his attention to her.

Aria momentarily was silent, taken by the expression. Huh...wonder what the rare occasion is. She soon shook herself out of her thoughts to give him an answer. Aria smiled more with a fresh wave of confidence flowing through her. Crossing her arms, she focused her magic and began to levitate herself just so she was slightly above him. "I thought," she began as she looked down on Malcontent with a bit of a thrill in her eyes. "That might get your attention."

He seemed less than amused as the glow from his eyes flickered between the deep purple and cobalt blue colors. “Things are reaching a critical stage," Malcontent sternly stated. "Of course I…” he cleared his throat, took a hand and placed it on her left shapely thigh. "Of course WE..." the black haired man corrected himself as he pushed her back to the floor firmly. "Don't want any wrenches in the gears," he finished with his eyes locked with hers as his smile had returned. "Now," Malcontent removed his hand, "what is this interesting news?"

“My little pet at the station," she began as she stretched her arms behind her back. "Saw several reports of an intruder alert in No Man’s Land.” Aria rested one hand on her hip as the other began to comb her slender fingers through her ponytail. "Seems it matches the description of The Phoenix," she said as she turned her full attention now on him. "You know, that one you seemed to almost approve of," the Siren asked with a layer of jealousy lacing her seemingly relaxed toned.

“She has a certain...lethality to her that is amusing.” Malcontent almost chuckled as he crossed his arms and brought a hand out to motion to her. “Go on,” he said as he tucked the hand away and locked a defiant gaze with hers chillingly.

She held back a chill from his eyes. “She was seen heading towards…” Aria turned to the map so her back was fully to the fire and moved her right hand towards it. “...That area,” she finished as she pointed to a certain spot.

Her lover followed her hand and his eyes widened upon the area she indicated. “You don’t say...” Malcontent said quietly with a light stunned tone in his voice. What would she had wanted around the supplies and storage... he pondered as a hand slipped up and curled his fingers around his chin. His brow crunched up and his eyes narrowed as his expression fell into a stern seriousness. What could she had been hunting for?

“I only mention this...” she turned, leaned back seductively against the hip high table and looked at him. “Because you seem rather focused on this area instead of...other areas you’re usually very attentive too.” Aria gave a coy, manipulative smile as her nature began shining through. However she did take notice of the room’s drop in temperature as he started to access his powers. Gradually a gentle wind began to blow but as time passed, it started turning sterner.

Malcontent didn’t pay her much attention despite her attempts she had pulled on other men. Instead he pushed her gently aside without removing his cold orbs from his homemade playing field. His frown deepened into a scowl. How could I have messed up?! It took painstakingly forever in tartarus to plan out every detail! Malcontent snorted as the fire began to dim from the growing cold airflow before it gradually started to cease. Soon his eyes widened and slowly his scowl twisted into a grin as the chilling wind causing Aria goosebumps began to warm with a growing fire. "...Or that could...hehe, yes," he said with a growing confidence gleaming in his sharp eyes.

"Or what," Aria asked curiously but played it as nonchalant as she could.

Malcontent didn't answer right away as he scooted around a few pieces. "Just a little shift in certain gears in our plan." Aria raised an eyebrow as he continued. "I've taken too much care in storing all the needed materials to let some proclaimed hero interfere. Even if she has stumbled onto something..." he switched another few pieces around. "She no doubt has no idea what she actually has and putting all the pieces together will be nearly impossible for anyone at this point."

"Are you sure about that? She might be smarter than she seems."

"You give them too much credit," Malcontent stated confidently as he rose from his hovering over the map. A few side steps are nothing so long as I get what I want, he thought as he stepped back, turned and began walking away towards a set of doors. He snaked his arms behind his back, laced his fingers together and stretched which caused the leather to briefly sing quietly.

Aria narrowed her eyes on his departing form as her amused expression fell and a small snort left her nose in a puff. It didn't take long before her glare ceased and she released a breath while pushing off the table. She looked the map over closely at the changes for a moment before following after. "So..." Aria watched the doors be pushed open effortlessly. "You're not worried then," the Siren asked in a dull tone of boredom.

Malcontent made his way through the small room and onto the open balcony. "Why should I be worried?"

Aria stepped forwards onto the balcony to gaze out at the ruins of Canterlot High School, its suburban homes and No Man's Land with the busy lights of Equestrian City as well as the busy Horseshoe Bay. "Because a single woman showed your security sucks."

"You forget," he looked around towards four pillars with runes etched into them with a pleased smile staying. "The odds are slim this hero will be a problem. But..." he turned his focus to Aria who was busy overlooking the land deemed unlivable due to Magic Madness by authorities. He cleared his throat and she turned her attention to her lover. "I should move up the time table," he said with a serious tone despite the confidence still reflected in his eyes. "I trust you told our hair brained friend to start her fun," Malcontent asked with a hand lifting and motioning towards Aria.

Aria folded her arms and leaned back, nearly sitting on, the railing. "Oh she's already well into her plans," she said with a small eye roll. "The neutron bomb she stole has her full and undivided attention."

“Good. Then there’s nothing left to do but wait until the fireworks begin," Malcontent stated as he stepped closer to the Siren. "Then," he relaxed his arms, laced one around her waist and pulled her close with his eyes locked with hers. "We can move,” the mastermind whispered with a grin befitting the devil himself. Malcontent brought his lips near hers, whispering, "of course we can find some way to amuse ourselves in the meantime."

Aria felt her breath get stuck in her throat before her own smile spread. She moved closer with one hand lifting, resting on his shoulder before trailing down and tracing his chest. Just as she went to continue, he chuckled and slipped himself free of her. Aria frowned as she watched Malcontent walk away from her, heading back inside. The quiet danced in her ears as she simply stared down the pair of opened doors. Do I follow immediately or...do I give it time then saunter in? Or... Aria turned her attention back to gaze at the city lights with half open eyes. Moments turned minutes would pass in silence before the Siren would break herself from her trance and make her way inside, closing the doors quietly behind her.

***

Back in the city, Shadow Strike lept from one rooftop to another, rolling and moving with precision as she tried not to lose any momentum. Her sonar kept track of a familiar pink streak below. She leapt over a set of lawn chairs, flipped and pushed off the ledge of the last building. Wonder what they were watchin', Shadow thought as she spun to come down in a perfect three-point landing on the next building. She adjusted her mask slightly as the right side of her face mask had a tiny bulge inside it. “These headsets aren’t really made to fit under masks, Pin...er...Split,” Dash said as she quickly corrected herself, despite being on a secure channel, to uphold their agreement on names while on duty. “Where you at?”

“Almost a block away from the warehouse. Hurry up slowpoke!” A perky voice crackled back over the earpiece.

“So this show you're into, what's it about,” Strike asked while hoping to distract and possibly win the race against her new partner.

“Oh! ‘Total Wasteland’ is all about a buncha folks who are trying to make a post apocalyptic wasteland into a suitable home!”

“Sounds kinda boring,” Strike stated unimpressed as she made a jump to another roof off a balcony.

“Not at all! See there’s a buncha girls and one guy.”

“Uh huh.”

“And he’s one of the last males not irradiated to the point of being feral!” Split excitedly explained as she dodged under a ledge and stepped through traffic with ease.

“Wait...and this is some kinda kiddie show?”

“No, no it's totally the opposite," Split said with a snorting laugh. "It's easy to just think of it as some sorta shallow show, but if you watch it and rewatch the episodes you totally get a whole new way of looking at the episodes!”

“Isn't this show mainly for younger boys,” Strike asked with the rising of an eyebrow.

“That's so not the point," Split said with a huff. "It may have started out as a show for kids but then it took a totally different direction when the studio noticed that its viewers were much older and not just men!”

“So it IS still just a little boys show about--"

“We can talk about it later. I've got all the seasons on demand!" Split excitedly proclaimed with a small giggle that ended with a snort. "Hurry up or all the bad guys will be out cold by the time you get there, Strike!”

“Ha!” Shadow Strike answered as she neared the edge of her current building. She searched the area, mapping around the obstacles and took her pole from her belt. A grin pulled onto her face as she leapt off the structure. "You'll be lucky if I don't take out more than you," she exclaimed confidently as she tucked and rolled across a rugged looking roof, before springing up and resuming her pace. Once Strike made it halfway, she made a quick gesture with her staff. The metal pole shot out to its full length and cut through the air with a sharp whistle before being interrupted by the singing of metal clattering.

The trashcan fell and rolled a bit as Strike got another blip of her surroundings. Just a half second later the staff was thrust down and pushed. She fluidly pole vaulted across a gap and up to the balcony of the nearby billboard. Without missing a beat Strike landed, twisted the pole to the ground as she ran and propelled herself to another billboard. This continued until she landed low in front of a boarded up storefront at the end of the block and marked the starting of the warehouse district.

Splitsecond ran up to Strike, her hair still as poofy and springy as ever despite the kinetic value that should be applied to it. Snapping to a stop next to the acrobatic hero, she adjusted her goggles and looked over to Strike. “Well, took you long enough! Ready?”

“I still don’t know why we couldn’t just eat the pizza THEN go to this call,” the blind hero grumbled, spun her staff to its smaller size and locked it back onto her belt. "I haven't had anything to eat today."

“Oh don’t worry, we’ll pick another one up after this,” Pinkie responded while turning towards the warehouse district. "Now," she began while slowly scanning the area. "Thanks to my handy dandy police scanner, the call was for a report of possible animal abuse." Split kept her focus on the identical building fronts, resulting in her words to sound offhanded.

Strike gave a frustrated sigh and held her head with one hand. “We’re out here for THAT?”

“No silly, there’s like a huge animal smuggling ring that’s been bouncing from warehouse to warehouse." Splitsecond turned to briefly look at Shadow Strike as she scanned the area. "I was actually going to check them out tomorrow, but thankfully they’re impatient and moving their stuff today!” Split tried to contain her emotions as she turned her focus to another area of the district, squinting. “The complaint was for noises that shouldn’t be coming from..." she trailed off as Shadow raised a curious eyebrow leaning in then jumped back a little. "AH HA!” Split exclaimed with surprising restraint and pointed. “There!”

Before any question could be raised, Splitsecond took off like a shot and left behind her signature illuminated trail. As she took off, Strike tried to grab the speedster's shoulder. "Ugh," she groaned and chased after. "Hey, wait," Strike shouted as she tried to not lose sight of her speedy companion.

Strike continued as she used her sonar to hurdle over the randomly placed crates and other various objects. Kicking over a barrel, Strike gained a renewed clear view of her surroundings as well as where Splitsecond was going. She soon ducks behind some covered crates and waits, taps the ground with her foot and sees nothing out of the ordinary. Hmm... The quiet pondering didn't last long as moments later the pink blur zipped behind and knelt behind Strike, out of sight. "What'd you find?"

"Well-"

"Chickens? Birds," Strike asked impatiently as she didn't bother to even give her friend a head turned glance. "Sheep?"

“Nope, just bunnies and ducks,” Pinkie whispered as a duck feather floated down from out of her hair. “But that's good!”

“It’s good? Why,” Strike asked puzzled.

“Because that means they’re here," Split answered with a small eye roll. "The smugglers are moving their main cargo out by boats and under the radar."

"You can't mean that they fight bunnies and ducks...can you?"

Split snorted with a small scoff. "No, they knock out the larger ones like the lions and tigers and bears first but,” Split sighed before continuing. “They still need to get them food for the long boat ride.”

“What?!” Strike exclaimed while an eyebrow rose under her mask. “Then what are the small one’s for?”

“Duh,” Split said simply as she tightened her gloves. “There’s about three guards keeping an eye out along the building. Don’t know how many are inside."

Shadow Strike was silent, lifting then hitting her heel on the ground. “Four outside, you missed one,” Strike explained while she tapped the side of her head.

"Oh right. That's useful."

“But that's okay.“ Strike stood and stretched out her arms. “I’ll take the front, you zip around to the back,” she instructed as she unclicked the compacted staff and smiled with confidence. “They’ll never know what hit them.”

At that moment both the girls jumped and turned as the sound of a massive man crashing out the front of the warehouse echoed in their ears. Strike had her staff extended and ready for use as Split had pulled out a homemade bomb, ready to throw. Strike was about to speak but closed her mouth as another two thugs went flying like pebbles. Shadow was at a loss for words as quietness began to settle over them. "Wow...you were right," Split said with a shrug as she turned her focus on her partner. "We're so good even WE don't know what hit them!" a small giggle escaped the pink hero.

Strike released a small groan. "Come on," she said in a tone which matched the rolling of her eyes. "Let's see," the rainbow haired hero stepped forwards. "Who's taking our collar!" Strike took a few quick steps forward before leaping onto the walkway. She turned her head back towards Split who gave a nod and followed Strike's lead up to the warehouse.

***
Babs Seed adjusted her jacket and wiped her bangs back before folding her arms and cocking a hip. She stared at the rest of the gang. The remaining seven of the little hooligans. Ah back when times were simpler, she thought as memories from their early years swept by her mind's eye. The group stared back in disbelief from the growing silence.

"So..." a large orange colored man began as he stepped forward. "You just left Trish," he asked as he came to a stop in front of the group. "I sent you out on a simple grab mission. You lost everyone and you came back empty handed?!" he snapped with a simmering irritation.

"Bobby," Babs began fearlessly with her eyes locked with his. "It was them or me and I wasn't going to go to Purgatory, heck or even city lock up just because your girlfriend wanted a new stereo," she snapped back with a strong bite, standing her ground. "Man..." she leaned back and pushed some hair back. "Some would-be leader shouldn't be leading anyways..."

"What was that," Bobby asked with a growl as he took a step closer and tilted his head to gaze down upon her with narrowed eyes. "You gotta problem with me because I'm a guy?"

Babs eyed Bobby up and down silently, puffing her lower lip out slightly as if in thought before she shifted her weight to switch which hip was cocked. "Yea, yea I do actually. It's a well known fact that men can't lead all that well." Bobby ground his teeth as his jaw tightened while she shrugged her shoulders. "I mean..." she looked past him to the group. "They're always thinking with their..." Babs trailed off as the man raised an eyebrow, his gaze daring her to try something. "...Muscles," she finished with a smirk as she placed a hand on her out popped hip. Their gazes were locked, his with anger and hers with clear defiance.

The others in the group gulped quietly and backed up as the tension in the air began growing between the pair.

“It really is quite beautiful, isn’t it,” Mistress Mayhem asked abruptly which caused the group of undetermined total members to look up. Within the beamed ceiling of their warehouse rested a shadowed figure which appeared to be a large arachnid.

“What the hell is that,” Bobby questioned gruffly as he squinted into the shadows.

Paying little attention below, Mistress Mayhem stroked the smooth and cool metal with an unsettling smile on her face. “My darling baby will make everything more fun,” she purred with giggles of excitement creeping in at times.

“We don’t have giant bugs now...do we,” a boy asked as he hid behind Babs who scoffed with a jerk of her head, throwing her bangs out of her eyes.

“Of course we don’t you idiot. We have mutants.” Babs took a couple steps forward as her arms folded in front of her chest. “Hey! Freakshow!”

“Hmm?” Mayhem blinked and looked down curiously. “Who wants to interrupt my time with something of absolute beauty?”

Bobby shoved Babs back and pointed to himself with a thumb. “That’d be me, mutant witch.”

“Oh?” her hair adjusted and lowered her out of the shadows. Her wild eyes scanned the man over as she folded her arms and took hold of her chin. “Hmm well you do look like you could be fun...maybe. Do you think you’ll last longer than my other toys?”

Bobby reached into his pocket and drew a handgun. “I ain’t no freaks toy, let alone some object to a filthy hoe. Now,” he cocked the weapon before the metal device was aimed at her. “Get a little lower and show me some respect or get the hell outta ‘ere.” Mistress Mayhem looked at the weapon silent and began to giggle. This giggling grew into loud and eerie laughter. “Somethin’ funny to ya or you swallow a tickle me toy on your free time?”

Mayhem held the bomb closer as slowly her laughter began to subside. “You’re funnier than those two cops and miss tincan,” she commented and handed the bomb off to one thick lock of hair to hold. “I’m going to see how durable you are!”

“Like hell you are!” he opened fire.

The meta-human woman laughed as a thick strand of hair wove back and forth. When it finished with the sounds of clicks from the gun, a second strand shot out and grabbed Bobby by the neck. The man dropped his weapon as his hands began grasping and pulling against the constricting appendage. Mayhem lifted him off his feet and more hair came to secure his waist, arms and legs. A few frightened members cried in unison as this unfolded.

“A good leader is both firm and flexible they say,” she giggled as the hair on his right arm began to tighten and pull, turning his arm with it. He gasped, winced and began to cry out in pain as the appendage twisted farther than it should have. Cracking slowly began to trail the air along with another, moist sound. Sweat slipped down his face as the hair was pulling out on his arm until a painful pop hit the air. Members turned away as others hid their faces in their hands, some held onto one another for comfort or a very few slowly began for the door.

The right arm resumed its twisting as soon a tearing noise joined his strained cries and those of mixed emotions from below. The fabric tore slowly as soon a new tearing joined in the sound. Bobby's cries of pain from his dislocated shoulder warped from the new pain racking his body. He gasped as the few seconds felt like minutes into hours as the appendage at the joint released from his torso as easy as tearing paper. “Ooo! That may leave a mark!” she exclaimed breathlessly and began to repeat this on his left arm but applied more pressure. “Let's see what a big strong man like you is REALLY made of!!” she narrowed her eyes in a maniac appearance which matched her grin, giggling up a storm.

“Stop! I’ll do anything, just stop!” Bobby painfully shouted, peppered with growing tones of pure pain.

“Anything? It's been awhile since a man offered to do anything I wanted!” she smiled thoughtfully as a tendril stroked his cheek. “I tell ya what, tiger...let's see how much of a tough guy you really are,” Mayhem purred before pulling him up into the ceiling rafters with broken giggling as she continued with the torture. A few members of the gang started to inch to the door only to jump back as a set of tendrils shot from the darkness above and blocked their way. “Nobody leaves!” Mayhem shouted down from the shadows.

After a few minutes of screaming, and a bit of blood dripping every now and then from the darkness, Bobby’s body dropped from the ceiling. Hitting what seemed to be every rafter with a sickening thud every time, his disfigured, bloody and lifeless remains began to enter the light. When he finally landed on the ground his empty eyes were locked in wide horror.

“You monster!” one member screamed while they charged with a bat and swung at one of the tentacle hairs holding her up.

“I'm not a monster! I'm an artist!” she gave a quick look of mock offense as she impaled the gang member. Mistress Mayhem tossed the body off and wasted little time dismantling most of them with either impalement, beheading or crushing. By the time she was finished, it looked like a bloody battle zone with only a few survivors all hidden near Babs.

Babs poked her head out from where she’d hidden and looked at the woman who now was hugging her bomb again. Damn she’s crazier than a psycho! But...maybe that could work in our advantage, she thought before stepping slowly out. “Hey, how about we start over ma’am?”

“Oh...a little enterprising thug are we?” Mayhem laughed and leaned back as her tendrils solidified and formed a chair behind her to sit on. Staring down at the few leftovers of the gang.

“Name’s Babs and...let me just say...Boss...” Babs offered a hand, “how can I be of service?” Babs maintained strong eye contact with the killer, ignoring any sounds from the remaining survivors. Her body was still as Mayhem's own shifted into one of pondering. After a minute, Babs cocked a hip as a small smirk slipped on her lips. Come on already, she thought annoyed with a hint of nervousness that she kept out of reflecting in her unbroken gaze. "Well?"

Mayhem was quiet then softly laughed. “You..I like you. You have a promising career in front of you, Babs,” she gleefully exclaimed as a few tentacles shot out and grabbed the survivors. Those snatched up struggled and protested in fear. Another strand came and scooped up Babs as well. “We’re all going to be such good friends! I have it on reasonable authority that there's a certain magic about taking on new friends.” A few gulped as they fell quiet and Mayhem began to ponder as a tendril tapped her chin. “Or was it taking apart new friends?” the meta-human sent a mental signal to her spine and one of the survivors in her grip screamed softly before the tendril choked the life from her body, tore her cleanly in two, and unceremoniously tossed the remains with the rest.

“Nope both seem fun! I'll just have to do both!” Mistress Mayhem started slowly to giggle that turned into a trademark cackle as her newest gang members future seemed unclear to everyone, even to their captor.

***

Soaring through the night skyline of Equestrian City, both Sunset and Twilight’s choice of propulsion left distinct trails. Sunset’s self projecting flame left a wispy trail of fire whereas Twilight’s jet boots left an air disturbance that contrasted Sunset’s means, as well as being a shy bit more well plotted out.

“You ok over there?” Twilight radioed over the headset link as she turned her head to look around. While she did the illumination from the HUD, which displayed her surroundings as well as everything from the weather to the level of her energy cells, caused her eyes to appear to be glowing.

“Long term flight isn’t a common thing for me,” Sunset responded into the headset Twilight gave her which was equipped with noise cancelation. “Besides, I can’t keep this up indefinitely. Unlike you, I’m tapping into a limited resource when I do this.”

Twilight’s eyes looked left and down to her internal screens. “Trust me, this isn’t as indefinite as I’d like. I’m still on finite power despite all the power usage optimization Spike has running in the background.” She turned her head and her shoulders slightly, dodging a crane and it’s cargo that lay sitting in the night skyline. “That construction site’s on the edge of the No Man’s Land, we’re getting close. We can go lower and land in a bit.”

Tucking and rolling with a graceful landing, Sunset came to a crouched position near an unmanned area of the fencing surrounding her former home. Looking back, she saw Twilight land nearby. An impressive metallic clang echoed as Twilight’s Matterhorn armor took the brunt of her kinetic impact. The landing sent her flying forwards and some of the ground thrown up a puff of dirt and dust. Once she came to a halt, Twilight was clumsy in a three point stance. “Whoa!”

“You need to work on your landings,” Sunset mentioned with a helpful tone as she pulled out the respirator and toggled on it’s battery pack. “Any idea what the precise time it takes for the magic to seep through?”

“Not precisely. By the time anyone knew what was going on with exposure to this area, they were more interested in digging a moat and throwing a wall up than researching it.”

“Before we go in, we need to remember why we’re here. Any questions on what I told you?” Sunset adjusted the strap to her respirator. The entire contraption resembled a mask best used for a fighter pilot than a superhero. This was mainly due to the power cables running to a battery pack on her belt. “Why does it need batteries by the way?”

“Crystals in the filter need an electrical charge to make small force fields in your breathing tubes. It doesn't last entirely too long either, never could figure out why but it seems the magic is so saturated in here that it adapts to the filters.” Twilight turned her head to her friend and looked slightly down, as the armor gave her a few inches clearance on Sunset.

“Based on the different magic that’s in there, I’m not surprised. Dark, regular, illusion, who knows what it’s had time to do while it sat in there all these years.” Sunset stared back across the horizon through the fencing. “It must have been so much worse though, at least it’s dissipating.”

“That's not exactly true,” Twilight remarked while her sensors took what readings she could. “As far as questions, I think I have it right: You came into some shipping mistakes that led you down a long path of invoices and work orders. Ultimately leading you to this place, where you hope to find all the industrial equipment and misappropriated goods,” She quickly recapped. “Though why we don’t just let the police--”

“Because this is bigger than just some shipping mistakes. I told you...all these things, the girl at the chemical plant, the bomb that was just stolen, it all seems to have a common thread: This place.” Sunset sighed and closed her eyes. “I need to figure out who is doing this...why and what they plan to do with all of these things,” she opened her eyes and lept over the fence with a quick backflip, landing and starting a timer on her phone again. “Because nothing I can see being made with these components they’ve stolen turns out good. Let’s go.”

Twilight followed suit and landed a bit more graceful than last time. She straightened up and looked around the dim, red hue of the entire area. “Spike, can we get some light?”

“Coming up,” Spike’s voice pattern responded on her HUD as two hidden square spotlights rose from her shoulders and gave light to a path.

“Very nice.” Twilight smiled while tailing her friend. “Give me a timer on the screen for her and myself, please.”

“All over it,” Spike responded with a small digital dragon popping up on her HUD and setting two timers in the shape of old fashioned pocket watches.

***

Malcontent watched from the balcony as two metas seemingly walked in unannounced and his gloved hands began slowly clenching in annoyance. “Well that's unexpected,” he said to himself before turning to Aria behind him.

Aria’s smirk went away when she noticed his mood, standing up from her leaning position against the doorframe. “Worried, dearest,” she asked half serious.

“Annoyed.” He turned while he clasped his hands behind him and took in the view again. A more serious tone overtook his face and his eyes turned from glowing purple to a cold blue steel. “Find out who they are...then kill them.”

Aria smiled briefly, nodded and stepped aside as he wandered back in. “At last, some excitement.” Malcontent didn’t respond, walking a bit more hurried to his workbench with his mind focused on a larger black box. Aria shrugged and leapt over the edge of the balcony. As she did her outfit changed instantly and the two soulfires of her sisters generated just as quick.

***

Twilight and Sunset walked along the broken streets and burnt out cars of the destroyed suburb with the soft whispers of magic as their only companions. Pushing aside broken signs and debris, Twilight gave a grunt as her suit’s servos groaned due to getting stuck on a well embedded sign for a cola product. “Anything,” Sunset asked while leaping over debris and looking back.

“Nothing useful,” Twilight responded while she tossed the sign aside. “Though ‘Total Wasteland’ should consider filming here for all the apocalyptic scrap and metal we have here.” She jumped to the top of a crumbling single story building.

“Not likely. The entire cast and crew would be dead before a single episode would be done,” Sunset retorted while she pulled out and turned on a small flashlight, approached a building and began to check inside the burned out storefront. “Not a fan of the show myself.”

“Me neither. Seems a bit over the top if you ask me.” Twilight pushed aside a chard metal beam and is holding on concrete. “They took a fun concept and turned it into a way too serious show about drama and then added some sex appeal for the younger viewers,” she complained as she turned to shine her spotlight for a new sturdy place to step. “I mean if you’re going to take an existing IP and make some sort of twisted alternate reality out of it, you might as well just make your own idea instead. It’s totally--”

“Hey, found something,” Sunset interrupted and motioned towards the crumbling intersection she was standing in. “These tracks lead into the school parking lot.” Sunset pointed forward, “they must have hauled something in here. The tracks are new.” Twilight’s scanners took this in and as she opened her mouth to answer, “let’s go,” Sunset said quickly as she took the lead in following the trail.

The two moved quickly, only to have Spike pipe up quickly. “Ladies, the magic is getting denser in here. The respirators won’t work as long as they should be under this much pressure,” he pointed out with a chart showing the increasing levels. “The timers might as well be off by now too.” The HUD flickered and they with the charts disappeared from Twilight’s sight.

“Thanks, Spike. We’ll be careful.” Twilight smiled and turned to the broken ruins of the school. “Wow, I forgot how much of a hit it really took. I’m surprised it’s still standing,” she commented and turned, noticing Sunset was silent. Staring at the main doors to the charred remains of the High School, Sunset’s gaze betrayed her usually stoic nature in her hero guise. Sadness and despair crept onto her expression and appeared to be threatening to engulf her entirely. “Hey,” Twilight asked as she put a hand on her friend’s shoulder. “You alright?”

Sunset didn’t move from her position but nodded slowly towards the building. “Yeah. Yeah let’s go,” she said softly with her regular voice seeping through for a moment.

Twilight tilted her head a moment, then pulled Sunset to her chest and hugged her. “LOOK OUT!” she suddenly hollered and moved her armored back to where her friend had just been standing. A massive ear rattling explosion sounded as a wave of energy struck where they were, uprooting the ground and sending them flying in two directions.

Holding her head, Sunset groaned slightly as she stood and checked to her left to look for Twilight. That was a massive sound based blast, she thought to herself, grunting as she dusted herself off. “Tw..er..Matterhorn?” Sunset asked unsure as she corrected herself mid sentence.

“I’m here. For the most part,” Twilight answered as her filtered voice came from the speakers on the side of her helmet. She let out a few similar groans of pain as she tossed several chunks of rubble off her and turned to her friend. “What the heck was that?”

“Massive sonic disruption of some sort, unable to give you a real source,” Spike answered in her ear with his voice transmitting to Sunset’s headset as well. “Give me a minute and I can pinpoint it.” Spike remarked and a series of scans firing from the back of the array built into Twilight’s helmet.

Sunset tightened her goggles to make sure they were secure, her gaze fixed past Twilight and into the air slightly. “Don’t bother. It’s from there,” she said with her lower octave of a voice kicking back in as she pointed behind her friend.

“Huh,” Twilight asked while turning and instantly prepping her front gauntlets with a snapping of her palms to an open position. “Whoa nelly!”

Standing, or rather floating several feet above the ground, was Aria Blaze with her arms crossed in a defiant stance as she glared down at them. Her hair was flowing with the unnatural winds of the No Man’s Land. She was dressed in the battle garb Malcontent had decree she wear: A full bodysuit made of the same latex like material she’d given Mistress Mayhem as protection but outfitted with an additional waist cape of the same material. She’d had some say over the outfit after some...negotiations. The top was a cleaner cut and less form fitting. It left the long sleeves off and gave it an almost casual top look, the V-neck revealing the gem embedded in her chest and her bare arms displaying the three buckled, leather straps on her forearms. Circling her in a slow methodical pattern were the two souls of her sister sirens, Sonata giggling loudly in her usual carefree manner with Adagio being more haunting in her sounds.

“Well, what a lovely surprise,” Aria said finally while looking down her nose at the two invaders. “Two heroes come to die. That is if their guilty consciences don’t kill them first,” she laughed and dropped her arms to her side, balling her fists as white ribbons of energy manifested in them with her gem glowing in tune with the power. “I’m supposed to find out who you are before I kill you...hurry up and tell me so we can get on with this!”

“I am the Masked Matterhorn!” Twilight struck a pose that seemed two parts hammy and one part cliche. “No...no that doesn't sound good at all. Call me Matterhorn!” she nodded to herself and then to Aria with emitters in her palm primed and ready.

“Never heard of ya,” Aria said and turned her head towards Sunset. “And you?” she blinked, “what?” the siren looked around and growled with her shoulders tensing. “Oh nevermind! GET’EM!” Aria threw her hands forward, aiming at Twilight as a series of energy ribbons shot out along with her sister’s souls.

“Incoming!” Spike shouted just as Twilight’s boosters fired and moved her out of the impact site. The blast hit the ground and sent a concussion wave upward which sent the mecha suited hero flying in a random direction. The two soul balls tracked and corrected their course as they pursued Twilight with one part glee and the other part begrudging obedience. “Twilight they’re coming after us!” Spike shouted in her ear piece, making her wince. “Attempting to outmaneuver!” the boot’s booster ports fired hotter and tried to outpace the magic missiles. Each time they corrected, the souls did just the same and gained speed.

Before Aria could try and find the missing hero, a series of rather small but quick fireballs fired from behind her. She moved barely in time, the fire singeing her cape tails before the material fluttered as she whipped around and threw a series of magic energy reflexively.

Sunset had moved and the shots from Aria hit nothing but rubble, kicking up a storm of dust as they impacted. Moving silently but quickly Sunset scaled the side of a pile of rubble, gaining enough momentum and threw herself towards Aria. Noticing she would come up short, she manifested her fire in her hands and unleashed it, boosting herself faster and harder as she torpedoed the siren in the gut, sending them both to the ground.

“Oof!” Aria grunted and sent her elbow into Sunset’s back several times, as well as taking her own several strikes to the face and body, as they scrambled to gain the upper hand in close quarters combat. Neither won the scuffle as a combination of fire and raw magical energy blew them apart to a standstill, each staring the other down. “You’re not like the normal ones I kill,” she smiled and flared her hands open, drawing energy from her gem. “You might actually be exciting.”

Sunset didn’t bother to respond as she analyzed her foe’s powers or for any apparent weaknesses. She smirked and pulled out a small vial from the inside of her jacket pockets. Throwing it in front of her and adding a fireball to the household chemicals resulted in a massive smoke screen, giving her some needed cover. “Cute,” Aria frowned and threw forward a series of raw magic attacks. This caused the tendrils on her gem to start straining in their position as she sacrificed more of herself to create her blasts. “It’s a shame I’ll have to--”

Sunset connected with a massive roundhouse to the siren’s lumbar region, sending the villian off balance momentarily as she spun to try and throw a counter attack. Aria’s eyes began to glow the same purple her gem did and was able to anticipate the next set of melee shots, blocking two punches and grabbing a mid kick. She threw Sunset to the side and into another pile of rubble. “Please, I’ve been doing this for a while.” Aria laughed and poised her hands to throw more energy.

Sunset rolled with her landing and came to a crouched position to face her foe. In the same moment she pulled another vial from her jacket and threw it straight at Aria’s wrist, hitting it square on target with a fireball striking just as quickly. The mixture of the two powders inside made a adhesive that bonded to Aria’s other hand when she reflexively grabbed at the pain her wrist gave. Effectively cutting off her foe’s ability to cast magic, Sunset stood up and smirked. “Could’ve fooled me.”

Aria struggled with her bound hands and growled in frustration. “Never did tell me your name!” she shouted back as Sunset closed the distance between them at a brisk pace.

“I’m more interested in what you’re doing out here. Once I get you to the ECPD you’ll sing like a bird,” Sunset responded gruffly, reaching in her jacket for another device and began to pull out a pair of restraining cuffs. Before she could finish bringing them out however, Aria let loose a high pitched scream which the visible sound waves it generated blew the hero back and to the ground. The cuffs went flying further than Sunset did and they seemingly disintegrated from the sonic scream. Sunset stayed down in a crouched position, the wind knocked out of her and her clothing still fluttering from the siren’s newly displayed power.

“I have been known to sing from time to time,” Aria grinned while levitating up as a discharge of magic from her gem broke her bonds on her wrist.

Sunset grunted and tried to stand, her eyes opening to stare at her attacker. It took her less then a second to realise her goggles had been literally shattered into a thousand small pieces from Aria’s sonic scream. Grr I don't have time for this! Sunset thought frustrated and tried to adjust her footing to stay up. At least the respirator doesn't appear broken but it only allows us so much time to get out of here.

“Well, now this is a surprise.” Aria laughed with a surprised look on her face. “It’s the little scared girl running from her consequences. Hello…” she gave a wider grin. “Sunset Shimmer.”

End of Episode

Episode 10 "First Encounters"

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Episode 10
“First Encounters”

By DarkMalcontent
Co author alisia
Proofreading and Power Consultation by Zap4th

“Twilight, whatever these are they’re gaining on you!” Spike shouted into her ear as his voice pattern squiggled in the upper right corner of her HUD. The terrain around her shifted and changed rapidly as she flew in a zigzag pattern while desperately trying to lose the two colorful energy balls following her.

Mental note: install better ventilation system, Twilight thought as sweat formed on her forehead. That is...gah! Should I survive this. She focused out of her thoughts as the armored hero veered left before she began to climb higher. Unfortunately she had to recalibrate her direction after her boot clipped the debris of a wall belonging to a half destroyed building. Was that-? Twilight shook her head. “It couldn’t have been Sugarcube Corners,” she mumbled to herself.

“What are these things and why aren’t they respecting physics!” Twilight shouted in frustration loud enough to make her voice echo inside her helmet as she made a sharp turn with the pair licking at her heels jet trails.

“On it!” several energy scans of the two colored orbs came across her HUD along with a chibi dragon popping up next to the data. He looked to the information and shrugged quickly as a series of animated question marks appeared above his head. “It seems to be an unknown type of magic,” Spike answered with growing worry. “There’s nothing we’ve seen like it in any of my data banks!” the panicking dragon shouted as he began to try and help with a new maneuver or two. “Attempting counter measures! I swear one of them is laughing!”

Several sleek flaps rose to reveal compact barrels before swiftly a set of flares were fired from her back. A second set shot out as the first passed through the two soul orbs whose energy seemed unaffected. Quickly the orange and blue flames overcame Twilight’s speed and slammed into the machinery, vanishing from radar. Simultaneously as this happened, the screen went black and filled with several error codes popping up at a frightening pace. “Spike? Spike! Reboot!” Twilight ordered panicked as she felt her thrusters start to give out. A relieved sigh escaped as they quickly returned to normal operation. “Thank goodness. Spike I don’t have a visual.”

A test pattern popped onto Twilight’s main HUD, but it was filled with strange objects and two faces that made her eyes widened in horror. “It can’t be them. They died at the Battle of the Bands…” she whispered in fright and disbelief.

“Don’t adjust your set!” Sonata’s floating head giggled.

“Yes, we control…” Adagio smiled hauntingly, “well...everything!”

“Spike!” Twilight cried as she gasped and her eyes opened wider as the suit began to move on its own, sending her spinning towards the ground.

“So nice to see you again, Twilight,” Adagio’s voice dripped with delightful hatred as the horizon spun out of control in the main screen. “You must let us buy you a drink!” she finished joyfully as the suit went sailing into the remains of a billboard advertising coffee. Twilight flinched as her metal protection shattered the remains of the paper and wood. “Wow! You built this rather well,” the once lead siren stated as she almost sounded genuinely impressed. That was before a twisted grin came into view. “Let’s see how much abuse you can take!”

“Wheee!” Sonata’s voice exclaimed with her trademark giggle fit as her avatar wiggled around on the screen.

Twilight stared helplessly as her visual display twisted and the world flipped upside down while she was sent sailing into a steep climb alongside a broken brick wall. “Spike! SPIKE!” the once pony princess shouted louder and tried to move her body in a desperate attempt to regain control. The two souls of the sirens laughed mercilessly. As their cackling filled her ears, her purple orbs watched the cracked and destroyed asphalt come rushing at her. Roughly jerking her body around with a small cry, Twilight managed to bring her legs forward just enough to angle her tigectory. Her small sigh of relief was short lived as the horrible sound of metal screeching on pavement rang deafening in her ears, sparks flying every which way. "Hehehe! We made her into a skipping rock!" Sonnta cheered as her avatar bounced around like a bouncy ball. Twilight grunted and groaned as she closed her eyes tightly and tried again to break free. "Aw she's trying to ruin the fun," the blue spirit whined.

"Let's fix that then, sister."

Twilight opened her eyes as her suit began to work against her. "What are you," she questioned shocked and fearful as both Adagio and Sonata's eyes glowing a very distinctive purple hue.

The orange soul gave a devious deep laugh. “Please assume crash positions!” Adagio ordered as if it were an announcement as she smiled widely., her eyes crackling with the corrupted magic that Twilight had seen from Aria’s gem minutes before.

“Oh no, wah!” Twilight screamed as the suit began to readjust again. She looked up, starred then gasped. They’re-! Her thoughts were interrupted by a rough jerk. Twilight turned her attention forwards and her face fell. “Oh I should have put in air bags!” she exclaimed with a sturdy looking wall coming to forcefully greet her at high speed.

***

"Aria," Sunset said as she maintained her composure while standing and dusting her jacket off. A confident glint to her eyes as she folded her arms. "You're supposed to be dead."

Aria floated down and gracefully landed on the ground with her coattails fluttering in the wind. "Funny," she began to lift a hand, "I was about to say the same thing about you," the siren commented as she held her chin. "According to the news, you died in the explosion..." Aria extended her arms to indicate the devastation around them as her voice gained a stronger confidence. "THIS...explosion actually. How did you ever survive?”

“You first. After all you’ve been here so much longer than me,” Sunset said as she gave an insincere grin while her eyes scanned over the siren, sizing her up much as Aria’s own orbs were shifting while locked on Sunset. The redhead narrowed her eyes on Aria’s glowing gem which seemed to be pulsing with magic.

“Left speechless? How unoriginal.”

Sunset wrinkled her nose a little behind the mask from the muggy stench of the growing magic starting to seep through. Not good! She took a breath did her best facade while keeping the timer in the back of her mind. “I do like the ponytail, looks like your sister’s.”

“Oh, Sonata, yes,” Aria replied as she ran a hand through her hair in an almost vain manner. “She and Adagio are making short work of whomever your little friend was. Featherhorn wasn’t it?” she flipped her head back gently and the hair fall back into place.

“Oh yea, that’s right. I was going to say Adagio but you’re right,” Sunset started with a small low chuckle. “You’re much more on Sonata’s level of moxi.”

“Ok bored again!” the siren exclaimed in anger as she threw her arms out. Sunset swiftly leapt out of the way as a series of purple energy ribbons grabbed and slammed into the ground at her. Another set of ribbons flew out which caused Sunset to leap and backflip out of the way. A third set shot forwards as she was landing.

Sunset hissed through gritted teeth as flames instantly ignited and shot into the ground, throwing her midair body left where she landed on the remains of a car. The siren wasted little time as she shot ribbons out at Sunsets feet. The redhead jumped back and pushed left with a stumble from a patch of loose ground as the car was crushed. Upon landing Sunset’s gloved hand rose quickly and ignited to give her strained face an eerie shadowing. Sunset huffed with a throaty grunt as she shot off three fireballs at Aria.

The siren’s chest pulsed brighter as she levitated with ease out of the way of the attack and chuckled as each shot struck the remains of the high school doors. Aria folded her arms behind her back as her gaze stayed locked on Sunset, remaining calm as a trio of explosions caused her hair and tailcoat to briefly whip around wildly. “You might need to work on your aim. Of course you’ve never been one to really think that far ahead have you?” she taunted smugly with her head lifted, fingertips on her chest and eyes closed in an over confident air. “Hn…?” an eye opened as a new sound reached her ears. Aria’s eyes widened as she tried to move but grunted from pain while losing some altitude.

“Seems my aim isn’t half bad but yours might need some work,” Sunset commented and blew her smoking glove off as the siren snarled, gritting her teeth. As Aria charged, the broken metal piece of a flagpole that had been propelled like a rocket had crashed back to the ground. Sunset shifted her stance, latched her hands with her foe and fell back. Briskly she pushed herself up with a strong kick to Aria’s stomach, executing a forceful flip kick.

Using the momentum, Sunset propelled herself up and over to land on top of Aria. This brief moment didn’t last as the siren forced the fire user over and the pair began to scuffle. Neither paid mind with their grunts of force to the small cuts and puncture wounds they were receiving from the rocky and metal littered earth.

Sunset’s gaze briefly shifted off Aria’s during their rolling to where now she rested under the siren. Her gaze set on the unique pulsing pattern on the red surface. ...I don’t remember that from before… grunting, Sunset shoved Aria over and managed to pin her against the ground as sweat formed on her brow. But why would she go against her nature? What degree of power was she offered, Sunset questioned mentally as she couldn’t rip her eyes away from the grotesque and painful looking power source.

“Aren’t you the little fighter now. I remember a different Sunset Shimmer,” Aria grunted as she took advantage of Sunset’s lack of focus, rolling so she now was on top. “So sure she’d turned over a new leaf and her so-called friends trusted her,” she mocked while she shifted up as she forced one of Sunset’s arms down, pinning it against the redhead’s side using her strong legs. “Where were those friends when we beat the everloving crap out of you in that hallway,” Aria asked awhile she drew her free hand back and curled her fingers into a tight fist. “Hmm?!”

The fist flew down, striking ground and wincing with a hiss while allowing Sunset with her tilted away head to get a nice close up of Aria’s scars under the leather straps. Sunset tightened her jaw and quickly charged flames into both palms. Unleashing the fire in a whirlwind, she threw herself up, slammed her head into the siren’s and threw her off balance. Not dawdling, the redhead threw her freed arms forward and blasted the purple haired woman back a short distance. “Word of advice…” Sunset stood with a grunt and brushed the dirt off her shoulders. “Don’t be such a hothead,” she smiled pleased with herself as the siren hit the debris with a bounce.

Aria snarled as she stumbled to her feet with singed hair and slumped shoulders. Loosely the siren threw her burning limbs towards Sunset and with a strained grunt, tried to send her ribbons to attack. The gem flickered a dimmer light as the tendrils sank and dug deeper into her flesh. Aria’s body went rigid as her eyes widened and her lips parted in a silent sound. “Performance problems? I thought only men got those...oh wait,” Sunset commented with her maintained air of being fine, despite her own exhaustion. Her confident expression slightly fell into concern as Aria shakily moved a hand then the other towards the dimming gemstone. Seems she does have her limits, Sunset thought as she kept her eyes locked on the struggling siren.

Tapping too much power, Aria thought strained as she struggled to inhale as well as stay standing. Her right leg suddenly collapsed which caused her to stumble. Somehow she remained off the ground but her thigh high boots were creaking and looking worse for wear. “You know…” she crooked heavily as she took a step but collapsed onto her right knee while holding her side. “You actually have grown some guts since high school…” the siren panted as she forced her head up to lock her sights on her foe.

Sunset tensed as she kept her stern gaze carefully scanning over the seemingly exhausted Aria. “It’s too bad…” the siren quietly began as she tightened her jaw, closing her eyes gently before they began to tighten. Simultaneously Aria snapped her eyes opened, forced her arms out in front of her and shot out energy whip like tendril, “I’ll have to spill them!” she shouted in a raspy and desperate voice.

Swiftly the redhead reared back with her rising left arm to be snatched. She pulled against them but nearly face planted as Aria started to push herself up while yanking the hero towards her. Sunset growled with gritted teeth as she managed a steady front-back stance. Aria pulled harder which forcefully drew the black leather clad arm to extend forwards, straining on the shoulder joint which resulted in a small hiss and the closing of one eye.

Shifting her gaze, Sunset reached around into her pocket with her free right hand and pulled out a small pellet. Gripping it she sunk heat into it, threw the homemade creation hard to the ground between them and closed her eyes tight. “What?!” Aria yelled in surprise while releasing Sunset and shielding her shut tight eyes as the pellet exploded in a bright white light with a sharp noise. The redhead pushed off and charged while she squinted through the light. She lifted a leg and slammed her knee square into Aria’s jaw just as the gemstone lost its shimmering glow. Aria flew back as as the energy whips vanished into dust.

===== * * * =====

“Crash test dummy twilight coming in for a...what?!” Adagio’s face fell in shock just as Sonata’s icon gasped and vanished from sight. “What’s going...oooonn!?” she shrieked in terror as her icon began to shatter into many polygons simultaneous with Spikes avatar rising. He sat upon a digital horse, dressed in noble armor and carrying a large jousting lance which had impaled the two sirens. They both vanished in a pixelated explosion and the main system began to reboot. It took no time at all before all the systems came back online and without a second thought, Twilight jerked her body around, closed her eyes tightly and opened them moments after coming to a halt. Before her sight was the wall, merely a few inches away.

“Maybe not the most graceful of flight landings but it’s still a landing,” Twilight said proud of herself. “I don’t think this suit could have taken that last impact.”

“Hah yea, but that’s implying you were graceful before when flying,” Spike laughed behind a claw.

“Hey I-oh thank goodness!” Twilight sighed in relief as she turned her attention to his little icon. “Spike, are they gone,” she asked while she hovered a few inches off the ground before finally cutting her boots thrusters, gently landing and relaxed her stance to release the burning adrenaline and tension throughout her body.

“I think so. Still don’t know what they were…” Spike stated as his little avatar dusted himself off after dismounting his steed. His weapon vanished, turning into a broom to sweep up the floor but in seeing no mess, he shrugged then tossed it away and observed as several lines of code began to run across the screen. “Hmm…” there was a silence before the little dragon knight nodded.

“Well?”

“Why they left? I don’t know Twilight.” He turned his pixel gaze up. “The energy they were projecting just fizzled out and it looks like it wasn’t their choice.”

“I wonder what caused them to do that then…” Spike shrugged just as Twilight shifted her gaze down. Moments passed before her attention returned to the screen. “We’d better get back to…” she began and trailed off upon turning around to view the wasteland had vanished. Twilight’s jaw fell with a gasp. “It can’t be...but…” before her stood the pristine walls of Canterlot Castle. Turning around there hung the tapestries and built in stain glass windows she had seen everyday with Celestia as a filly. “But...how? This wasn’t here before.”

“It certainly took you long enough,” Luna said which startled Twilight. The former purple alicorn turned and looked down. Her eyes widened and mouth fell open in silent shock as she began to slowly open and close her armorless hands.

“I’m so sorry it took me so long to return,” she began while turning her focus back to Luna with a smile on her exposed face. “But I don’t...know...how…” Twilight trailed off along with her smile fading. Carefully she took in Luna’s gaze and began to follow it with her body turning around, only for it to freeze and shock to enter her eyes at the new presence.

“I realize that, sister but I couldn’t just shove her through the portal,” Celestia stated as she approached with her back straight, shoulders back and everything from her air to her poise spoke to her regality. The taller equine continued her advance. “They have to want to leave for whatever reason,” the white alicorn responded while appearing to be unaware of Twilight staring with her mouth agape. “Or they just come back eventually,” she laughed.

“Much like her predecessor, Sunset, you disposed of Twilight in a way I wouldn’t have thought, dear sister.”

Twilight gasped she stepped back and quickly hid behind a pillar. She held her mouth during this and shook her head slightly to push back questions on Luna not hearing her speak previously. That can be pondered later! We have to focus on this right now, the purple haired female thought and peeked out from behind the smooth piece of stonework, listening closer.

“Yes. Now the only one we have to really worry about is Cadance who, might I say, is shaping along nicely.” Celestia stretched her wings. “I really think that’s my doing.”

“Not a doubt.” Luna sounded and appeared content while she sat next to her sister’s throne, despite the contrary of annoyance tugging at her muzzle. “Though,” she closed her eyes momentarily and straightened her upright posture. “Let’s hope her brother, Shining Armor, plays his part properly.”

Celestia sat down and snickered softly. “Yes, lest we have to come up with a reason to send him to “rescue” Twilight,” she laughed after making the air quote motion with her hooves. “Not that I’d tune the mirror to anything but an uninhabitable deserted world.” The two laughed simultaneous with their wings flaring out in victory. Even the two guards present in the throne room joined in the laughter.

“Oh no…” Twilight whispered pained under her breath. “That’s why they sent me there. I wasn’t good enough…” she choked softly with her breathing growing sharper. “I wasn’t meeting her expectations!” Twilight clutched her chest as her heartbeat increased, body began to sweat, ears began to ring with sounds becoming muffled and tunnel vision began to restrict her sight. I failed...I couldn’t have failed but...I failed… her thoughts repeated with her breathing becoming all that much harder.

“It would seem a certain rat is unable to remain “busy”,” Celestia dryly remarked, stood and stomped a gold clad hoof. The echo caused Twilight to jump and attempt to run. Twilight looked down to see her legs running in place with a yellow, glittering glow under them and around her entire body. She began to gasp for breath, trying to breath as she was brought into view of her approaching former mentor. “Well, what have we here,” Celestia asked in a regal voice as she continued taking her time. Twilight opened her mouth to try speaking but continued to struggle to simply catch her breath. “Can’t speak little rat? How sad,” she mocked with a pouty tone at the end.

Struggling to answer and breath, Twilight swung her hands out for Celestia’s horn desperately as her vision began to dim.

“Twilight,” an echo of a voice called quietly.

The purple haired woman continued to struggle with her actions becoming more and more frantic with silent gasping.

“Twilight,” the voice echoed louder.

Suddenly Twilight felt air rush into her burning throat and lungs. Air?! How?! Her eyes widened in horrified shock while she took in the sweet sightless life preserver. What was that voice, Twilight faintly thought.

“TWILIGHT!” Spike shouted with several alarms ringing on her HUD.

Almost instantly her world came rushing back like an overwhelming wave of water. Twilight stared ahead blankly with wide eyes until finally blinking and closing her eyes tightly. A rough series of coughs erupted with her body hunching over. Am I…? Twilight’s hands rose for her neck but were halted with the distinct clank of metal. I am, she thought relieved.

“Twilight? Can you hear me,” the little dragon asked worried while his scans took a record of her vitals.

“Oh boy,” she finally said with a heavy sigh. “Spike, I had the worst--”

“The timer from before has expired,” he pointed out before slightly muttering in a lower tone, “not that it mattered based on how thick the magic is in this area.” Spike’s attitude quickly changed as he continued. “We need to get you out of her now before you go into another trance!” he shouted with his digital body jumping up and down while waving his hands in front of her to try and ensure she was focused.

Twilight looked around only to have the world dissolve and reform around her several times as her senses were assaulted by the raw, unrefined magic. To her dismay the hard to see residue continued to try and drive her insane. “Uuughhh,” she groaned with a stumble from her body almost falling over. “Spike…” Twilight panted and began holding her head while her eyes began to close. “Engage Emergency Extraction Protocol...authorization…” her voice began to trail off, “Twilight Nine-Seven-Alpha-Beta,” she just barely finished as she collapsed forwards onto her hands and knees.

“E.E.P. engaged,” Spike confirmed before his personality turned oddly serious and his systems executed a series of automated scripts and commands. Then the suit took flight. “Extraction of subject Phoenix, added to task list.”

“Thanks...Spi...ke….” Twilight replied quietly before losing consciousness as the growing saturation began trying to overtake her senses again.

***

Meanwhile during the combat exchanges, Malcontent watched from the ledge of one of the few intact buildings left in the No Mans Land that appeared to had been once a part of Canterlot High School. He folded his hands behind his back while his gaze focused outward onto the battlefield. Namely on the two heroes engaged with Aria across the barren wasteland. “Mmmm…” the chess player pondered as he watched as one flew off and the other stayed to fight Aria in close quarters.

“Quite a sight isn't it,” a familiar sultry voice asked behind him.

Guess the deviless has appeared, he thought in a surprised tone with an unchanged expression and unwavering focus before him.

“Of course,” she began while taking a step then another closer. “Had you given me a chance…” he turned his head slightly as he listened. “I’d have shown you a much better time…” she purred as her steps barely sounded before, “such...a better time,” was whispered into his ear.

He didn't flinch nor did his expression change. “I wouldn’t doubt you’d have tried.” A hand slipped into his pocket and withdrew a round device. Malcontent’s focus returned to the battle and watched as the mecha girl was trying to lose the two soulfires. His hand began to flip and fumble with the small machine as lights began moving circular on its top.

“Are you admitting to something,” she questioned with a quiet and pleased chuckle.

“You may very well have been better to take,” he answered with a smile speaking towards the double entendre of his words coming to his face. “But you were far too clever to be trusted. Your other sister was far too stupid to be of any use to us.”

The blond haired spectre gasped with an almost offended expression before it fell and she folded her arms. “Sonata may be simple but she has her specific uses.”

“Just like she does,” Malcontent stated as his eyes focused on Aria who was firing more energy out of her gem at the fire wielder. She brushed off her outfit she had originally worn before that fateful night at the Battle of the Bands. “Though this one is far easier to control,” he answered before Adagio could comment. “You’d have been too wild to tame. Though why I’m tellin you this, I don’t know.”

“Maybe you’re just guilty of what you could have gotten and are missing out on,” she purred as the magic composing her spiritual body flickered with her striking a pose, arms raised behind her and hips cocked to one side with an expression meant to draw in the target.

He chuckled chillfully as he pressed on the device. “Cute how you think that.” The item whirled to life as the spectre Adagio began to fade as her body was pulled into the machine."I don’t have regret so nothing that appears here...bothers me.” He looked down to his creation that was in standby mode, the lights moving in their sequenced circular pattern. Malcontent lowered the device and turned his attention back. “I'm too close for a setback now.” He gripped the item and clenched his fist before turning and levitating down to his work site.

***

Sunset shook her head a bit from the disorientation of exposure taking effect. Not this time, she thought and pulled out a pair of slim handcuffs from the inside of her upper jacket sleeve. She took a step then another, whoa! Sunset stumbled but recovered and steadied herself with her arms out to her sides. Lifting her vision from the ground, the redhead looked to Aria’s figure that began to blur a bit. Not now! Sunset thought quickly as er empty hand held her head. Glancing down to her respirator display, she frowned and released a frustrated sigh. Of course I’m over. I’m always over.

“You never knew how to accept your limits,” a calm yet strong feminine voice said just outside Sunset’s vision.

Sunset turned to the source with her eyebrows raising as she glimpsed the regal shimmering mane of Celestia. The large equine build of the ruler of her homeland stood tall and still on a hill of debris and bricks, staring down at her. “I told you to leave the mirror alone but you didn’t listen.” Celestia stepped down, her wings flared gently as she came to a stop and stood on even ground with the ex-student. “You can’t seem to understand there are things out of your realm of control or understanding. There always will be,” the monarch firmly stated while she looked down her nose at Sunset disapprovingly. “That makes you weak. That's why I chose to keep information from--”

Sunset threw a fireball with the remainder of her strength and closed her eyes tight. Thankfully the resulting explosion and impact was making her mind focus on reality. “Not there,” she said through gritted teeth.

Celestia was gone when she looked back but appeared on the opposite pile of ashes. “You can run away all you want but that doesn't --”

Sunset clenched her eyes shut, dropping the cuffs to the ground as she stumbled backwards. She took another deep breath through gritted teeth, sounding like a backwards hissing snake. “Not. There.” During this, Aria’s body stirred and she let out a pained groan, complaining softly about Sonata turning the heat up too high.

“I can’t do this...not after this much exposure,” Sunset muttered in a struggling voice. I know where she’s at. She’s been hiding here. I… Sunset thought while she focused again, turned and stumbled backwards, tripping and sending the respirator flying as she went face first into the dirt. Lifting herself up, she heard the distinct sound of Twilight’s Matterhorn armor boots getting louder. She barely had time to look up when Spike’s monotone voice came over her earpiece.

“Prepare for emergency extraction,” was all he said before scooping Sunset up and climbing again, leaving a trail of air distortion behind them as the armor made a direct flight path towards Rarity’s Tower.

***

Rainbow Dash dove over a pile of boxes and with a quick hip dodge she arrived at the hole in the warehouse wall. The two thugs that had been thrown through the wall were both out like a light and thankfully not dead. Tipping her head and concentrating, she gave out a series of more detailed radar waves that showed her the inside of the warehouse.

Three more bodies lay still on the floors, the entire area littered with hamster pellets and other various small animal knickknacks. In the back of the warehouse she saw a small female figure surrounded by much larger masculine looking figures, each with a baseball bat or a handgun but all seemingly hesitating to move in on the much weaker looking girl. Pinkie peeked around the top of Rainbow Dash’s head and noticed the same thing. “Why don’t they just jump her,” she asked in a whisper to her longtime friend and recent partner.

Dash didn’t have time to answer before the mysterious figure pulled her right sleeve up and revealed a large golden bracelet with engravings and jewels adoring it. The few gems in the setting of it began to pulse with magical energy and gently a wind blew as it worked, making the girl’s drawn hood flutter slightly. “We should run,” one man said as he and the other men took a step back except for the one with the firearm, whom then opened fire before another word could be uttered.

Pinkie gasp but was relieved when she saw the female figure move with great agility, easily dodging the shot and closing the distance between the two with a brief outline of a cheetah rising from the bracelets gems before vanishing. “Holy cow!”

“Actually I think that's a cougar,” Dash corrected her.

The two watched stupefied as the petite woman moved with grace and agility, only to have an image of an elephant light up on the runes which brought her agility to a stop next to the gunman. At the same moment she sent a punch to his chest, knocking him back and through the same hole the other two had gone through. His screams ended as his head hit the dock and he groaned softly before passing out.

“Ok this is so not worth it!” one of the last remaining thugs threw down his bat and ran out a side door.

Before the girl could pursue, she grunted as the last thug’s bat hit her in the back of the head. This sadly had little to no effect, save for making her upset. She held the back of her head and pulled the hood down, revealing her yellow toned skin and tied back pink hair. “Dashie! I mean Shadowstrike! That’s..” Pinkie started to say.

“That’s hardly a way to treat a lady,” Fluttershy said with her voice far from the mousey, timid tone either of the girls were used to hearing. The tone was different and even her word usage wasn’t the same as it was in high school. It sounded far more sultry and dominating. They both watched in disbelief as the woman grabbed the thug’s throat with her right hand and picked him up with unbelievable strength.

The black sweatshirt and pants she was wearing gave off little to the eye to see as the rest of her outfit seemed more practical than flashy. She looked more like a midnight jogger then a magic using vigilante. “Though lucky for you, that little love tap you just gave me brought the more fiesty of the two of us in here out,” Fluttershy grinned, revealing a set of razor sharp fangs to the terrified thug. “I think it’s time for a midnight snack.”

Before either of the girls could leap or run to the rescue, Fluttershy threw the thug into a pile of caged mice, destroying and letting loose a small army of pitter pattering feet across the warehouse floor. Out like a light, the thug didn’t see the sudden internal struggle of his attacker. Holding her head with her left hand, she shook her head as if in some sort of mental fight. “No...NO….we can’t,” Fluttershy's more demure tone and inflection took over and she gritted her teeth. The fangs retracted and her eyes changed from the red they were, back to their regular iris color. She swooned and dodged the mice below her, more worried about them then her landing on something harmful.

Rainbow Dash finally ran in while retracting her staff and clipping it to her belt, before motioning to Pinkie to go after the runner. “I’ve got her, get that last chump,” she said with her voice an octave lower, a trick she’d learned to keep people guessing her identity. As she saw Pinkie run off behind her, her spherical like vision kept focus on the falling girl. Diving forward and timing her impact just so, she was able to both catch her and fall gracefully into a crate of packing peanuts. The soft gentle fluff of the impact sent small white puffs into the air as she held onto her friend. “Gotcha.”

Pinkie dodged several boxes she noted marked “Wubcakes” and made a mental note to pick some up on the way home. Closing in on the thug who ran, he was moving in slow motion compared to her pace. The pink and white trail she left closed in and scooped him up in a less than enduring manner, before turning around and carrying him back to the crime scene. Dropping him unceremoniously to the dock, she brought his unconcious friends to him and tied them up in a nice neat bow with a nearby firehose. “Normally I’d have a good one liner but I need to deal with something unexpected,” Pinkie shrugged to seemingly no one. “ Bye!” she ran the length of the warehouse to her partner and newly discovered friend.

“Wow, that was entirely unexpected,” Pinkie said as she came to a stop in front of Dash. Her friend was helping the wobbly Fluttershy back to her feet, as it appeared the fight or whatever magic she was using had taken a toll on her. “Who would have thought Flutt--er...” Pinkie caught herself and glanced back at the thugs, who were still relatively within earshot. “Hang on.” She grabbed them both and, without hearing any protest, raced off towards the central part of the city with Rainbow Dash's surprised squeal echoing in the wake of her speed.

***

Slowly walking down the marble lined floors of the hallway, Rarity shivered a bit with the cold chill soaking through her stocking feet. She advanced with a hand on one of the walls to hold her steady due to being mildly dehydrated from the nightmare she had experienced, and the small bit of anything she had to drink was hardly rejuvinating to her body. Stumbling along, she sighed in frustration as her bewildered state of semi clarity kept nagging at her.

“I should ask for my money back from that damn shrink,” she mumbled before running a hand over her face to try and clear the confusion that hazed her thoughts. “I’m supposed to be the top of the city's fashion empire and here I am…” the purple haired fashionista stopped and started looking at the four-way hallway she was in, looking left then right and then left again. “Oh for pity’s sake. I’m NOT lost in my own building,” Rarity tried to convince herself before taking a step right and later turning left, then back to the right again. “No I certainly am not.”

Hobbling along she grunted and hiked her blouse down a bit as it was riding up with each step, looking up to view her destination clear at the other end of the hallway. “Twilight’s always up this late, I need her expertise. She’ll know what to do,” Rarity thought out loud while pushing some of her hair out of her eyesight. “Half eaten faces and booze you drowned in. So much for ‘professional’ help,” she huffed, passing by several locked doors as she limped along.

Once beyond by the final set of doors, her eyes glanced the sign on the closests: Chemical Theory. Rarity used the door handle on it to steady herself although she barely needed it as she started to regain most of her upward composure, stopping just before the end doors labeled “Diamond Labs”. Grunting as she tried the handle, she frowned and tapped on the door gently. “Twilight, darling, it’s me.”

Silence greeted her. “Twilight?” Rarity knocked again and listened closer before the screen next to the door popped on and Spike’s dog avatar appeared. “Oh thank goodness, Spikey WIkey, let me in. I need to speak with Twilight immediately.”

Spike’s avatar gave a sad face. “Sorry Rarity, but I can’t let you in.”

“I beg your pardon?” Rarity seemed confused at the answer she got. “Why not?”

“Twilight can’t see you now.” Spike’s avatar had a small sweatdrop on the side of it’s forehead. “She’s….” he paused and an hourglass came up next to his head for a brief moment. “She’s unavailable!”

“Spike this is all very amusing but this IS my building and you will unlock this door.” Rarity put her foot down, though with no shoes on it had a lesser effect then she had intended. Spike’s avatar gave a small set of glances left and right, as if waiting on something to happen. “Oh for heaven’s sake.” Rarity fished into a pocket on her blouse and pulled out a credit card sized item. The onyx sheen coating reflecting off the overhead lighting had caught Spike’s eye and caused several exclamation points to arise off the dragon’s digital representation. “I’ve no time for this silliness,” she said while waving the master pass key near the monitor’s sensor.

“Rarity, that--” Spike stopped mid sentence as the screen went offline and the words “BYPASS” appeared in red letters, resulting in the door locks to disengage.

“Honestly.” Rarity said, slipping the card back into its pocket and walking in confidently now. “Twilight, dear?” she craned her head around to see the machines and computers running automated tasks with not a single sign of life in the room. The purple haired woman glanced to the cot she knew Twilight kept for naps, ...hmm that’s strange. She’s usually there after overworking herself. “Twilight?” she cocked her head left and walked to the small bathroom and kitchen area she’d installed for her a time back, finding no one there either.

“Twilight isn't here right now,” Spike said as his avatar of a sheep formed on a nearby screen. He seemed to inch behind a garbage can icon.

“Where is she?” the clarity and crankiness of sober thinking began to wash over Rarity’s mind. Smells and sights began to hit her harder also as she huffed.

“Ok. Promise you wont be mad,” Spike asked and trotted out from behind the icon.

“Of course I wont be mad.”

“She’s testing the mark 2 in No Mans Land,” he finally said after a pause.

“What?!”

“But she’ll be back any minute!” Spike hastily reassured her. “She passed out and toggled on the automated return!”

“She what?! Is she alive?”

“She’s fine, I promise. Sunset Shimmer was with her!”

“Sunset...is alive?” Rarity rubbed her forehead in disbelief. The booze had no doubt left doubts on what she'd been dreaming and what she'd remembered.

“Oh boy,” Spike said as an mechanical arm pulled a chair out for her. “Sit down and let's talk.”

***

The soft hum of power filled Malcontent’s ears as the power conduit he was working on was pulsing with energy. With a wrench in hand, he pushed his glasses up with an index finger and tightened a few more fittings. Tapping the sides of the metal casings on his project with the tool, the piping came to life with a bright glowing aura and began casting a blue hue across his glasses. He listened to the quiet noise from the machine and smiled, tossed his wrench aside and stood.

Catching the sound of an uneven landing, Malcontent turned and jumped over the messily strung fixtures attached to his project. “They ran off. I dealt with them the best I could…” Aria limped in holding her right arm in pain. She glared in irritation as he didn’t even look to her, simply making his way over to a control terminal for his machinery, before she spat on the uneven ruins of the school. “...dearest love,” the siren finished with a glance down to see the lightest amount of blood in the white expectorate.

Malcontent opened the cover on the humming machine in front of them to reveal a keyboard. “You gave them enough of a thrashing to keep them mending for awhile,” he inquired with a steady tone wype he typed in a few commands. “Aria?” he finished and placed his hands on the screen, resulting in a few statistics to appear:

Magic reserves at 57%
Minimum threshold required: 80%
Power to Siphoning Pillars Nominal

Aria leaned on a ruined wall of the high school gymnasium they seemed to be in. Scrapes and cuts adorned her outfit which left some of her modesty all but gone to the casual observer. She rolled her eyes with a slight frown as he resumed typing. Could at least look at who you’re talking to, geez. “I'm pretty sure they won't be bothering us for a while,” she panted and wiped her forehead. “I'm fine by the way.”

Malcontent stopped typing as her tone caught his ear, looked up slowly and silently stared forward. A moment passed before a few more keystrokes echoed in the tense air and he turned around to finally face her. “Then the damage to my plans at this point is minimal.” His irises began to emit a cold blue glow while they changed to an opaque and deep purple color. This change as his hand rose to face his opened palm towards Aria. Steadily the air around them began to drop in temperature simultaneously with him accessing his powers.

At the same time, Aria’s chest gem lit up the same color and she grabbed at it with her uninjured arm. The rapid heartbeat she was accustomed to filled her ears while what seemed like every nerve in her body fired off in pain. She fell to the dirt and leaned back trying to breath. Malcontent smiled and walked slowly over, letting her writhe in pain. “The next time I tell you to kill someone...” he began with the gem pulling towards him as one of the tendrils severed and hung loose. “...you'd better kill them…” his dark smile grew wider. “...dear Aria.” She wasn't able to speak but nodded her head rapidly.

He released his grip and turned back to his work at the control panel on the strange device. A coldness clambered about him as the air around them both nipped with an unnatural chill. With his eyes returning to normal he began typing in several more commands and paid his lover no more mind. Aria caught her breath and stood up with the instinct to lunge at him growing every time she did. “The more my species feels hatred, the stronger we become,” Malcontent casually said while looking at a set of wires near the console. “Relax, I've told you several times your just reward will be coming very soon.”

Aria’s rapid breathing subsided as did her anger. No sense getting cold feet now, she thought with a brief mental review of their history and concluding she was too far involved.

“Why don't you run along for now,” he stated and turned his head to look her over with a displeased expression. “Bathe,” Malcontent commanded as he scanned every part of her but her face. “I'm sure I'll find some use for you later,” he chuckled and went back to his work. Aria cleared her mind and began limping back to their headquarters without saying another word. Although instead of looking where she was going, she was staring down at the gem in her chest the whole way back in contemplating silence.

Malcontent smiled to himself as he worked on another junction. “Don't worry, Aria. You won't have to worry about feeling pain soon enough.” He laughed a bit louder as the center of the machines circular lights started illuminating. Their counter clockwise pattern began increasing slowly in speed.

END OF EPISODE

Episode 11 "Intersections"

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Episode 11
“Intersections"
By DarkMalcontent
Proofread by alisia

“Let me make sure I’ve got all the pieces so far,” Rarity said while she reclined in her office chair with a cup of freshly brewed coffee in her hands, the off-white china contrasting with her teal colored nail polish. “Just so we’re all on the same page,” she finished in a tone reflecting that of a concerned friend, but had the undertones of a dissatisfied employer.

“I’ll stop you if you get anything wrong,” Spike said in a helpful tone.

“Twilight is out with Sunset, whom is not only not dead but is in fact The Phoenix,” she said moderately slow before taking a drag and blowing out the smoke. “She's testing the mark 2 model we’re making for the ECPD project live in the field.” Rarity knocked some ashes off her cigarette into a diamond shaped ashtray as Spike nodded his little digital head. “You're...actually there with them now...while you're talking to me?”

“So far so good. Twilight activated an automatic protocol to recall the suit in case of incapacitation.” Rarity’s eyes widened from his calm answer while her body swiftly shot up and he quickly continued. “That's what’s flying them both home now. They're alive but suffering from heavy RAW magic exposure,” the little digital dragon answered, a couple sweat drops sliding down the back of his head and a small mushroom briefly appeared with his sigh as she seemed to go back to her previous state.

Rarity ran a hand through her hair, the disheveled look on her face matching the state of the rest of her. Sitting down in her large chair the leather squeaked softly as she stared across the city lights from her office window. “How long until they get back,” Rarity asked finally, standing up calmly this time and walking to a bookshelf. She pressed in a section of the books and it opened to reveal a modest sized closet filled with outfits for all occasions.

“Seven minutes at the most,” Spike answered and his avatar turned towards the office door as it opened abruptly.

Coco Pommel pushed her way in without knocking and walked past several screens that held a surprised expression from Spike. “Rarity we need to talk.”

“Hello Miss Pommel,” he greeted before shifting focus. “Rarity, your assistant is here,” Spikes avatar seemed more than annoyed. He began running a process to investigate how she'd made it in without his knowledge.

“Oh good, Coco, I need your help.” Rarity turned to spike on her desk. “Er...Spikey darling can you...turn yourself off?” she made a gesture towards him as if to pull down a window shade. “A lady must have some privacy if she changes.”

“Oh sure, sorry!” Spike blushed and walked off screen, though he peeked back once more before the monitors turned off.

Rarity sighed and pulled her stockings off, her plush carpeting by the closet keeping her feet warm for the most part. Looking down at her toenails she cringed. “I need to get these attended to desperately in the morning. Make a note of that,” she said to Coco while turning towards her as she continued to undress.

Her personal assistant and friend of many years pulled out an electronic data tablet and made the calendar adjustments. “Will do. Blue?”

“Teal this time darling. Can't be too in a rut now.” Rarity unbuttoned her blouse and took it off, leaving her in a light powder blue bra and skirt. A quick pull from the side of the closet revealed a privacy screen that hid her from the windows and any observers from the neck down. “Do tell me what the issue is, Coco. It's not that I'm not happy to see you but my head hurts and I'm needing to meet an old friend soon.”

“There's a snag on some of the issues we last spoke on. You asked me to dig into the corporate end of the so-called ‘supergroup’ law.” Coco pulled up a file on her tablet, “turns out only twenty percent of any used revenue is tax deductible. Meaning for the first five years we’re running at a loss even if we go minimalist,” she sighed while scrolling through the data. “If we go with sponsors it gets better but then you have the added issues of sponsors demanding certain...perks.”

“Yes well I’ve had quite enough of those kind of issues,” Rarity’s naked body cast a shadow from behind the screen as she spoke. “I’ve given more than enough when it comes to the needs of some of those--”

“Not those kind of perks, Rarity.” Coco stopped her from reliving the past. “They’d want special treatment. Say, looking past certain things that would be in their best interests and not the publics.”

Rarity stepped into a new set of delicates and stopped as Coco finished her sentence, staring back over her bare shoulders. “Well, that’s certainly not going to happen.” She finished putting on a new top and then browsed through her limited selection of wardrobe. “Clearly we’re going to need to go this on our own. Five years isn’t so bad.” Coco didn’t seem to have an immediate answer, but her expression seemed skeptical.

“Oh don’t think like that, after all,” Rarity continued while she pulled a pair of slacks and a darker blue shirt from the hangers. Eyeballing them for a moment she shook her head and grabbed a small mustard colored top. “We’re not struggling to keep the lights on after all, like when we first started.”

“Come again, Ma’am,” Coco asked with her brow furrowing.

“When we first started. The lights.” Rarity turned and cocked her head to her friend. “Surely you recall selling dresses in the dark for an afternoon?” raising an eyebrow, she gave a small smirk.

“Oh...oh yes,” Coco chuckled. “I suppose I tried to forget some of the rough patches.” She looked down at her tablet.

Rarity stepped out of the privacy screen and pushed the closet closed, a pair of simply flats in hand as she walked to her friend and raised Coco’s chin with her hand. “We had quite the interesting times, didn’t we?” she smiled down at her. “Who’d have thought we’d be this far up, running so many companies?” Rarity shrugged and smiled, making her way to her desk with her feet making a soft slapping noise against the marble flooring. “Oh I so need to get this floor heated. Make a note.”

“Of course, Rarity.”

“Now, if that’s it, I have--” Rarity sat down and began to put her shoes on.

“Actually, if I may be candid,” Coco asked, pulling her tablet to her side and walking to her friend’s desk before leaning forward on it. “I think this entire supergroup idea is a bad investment. We may not go broke, but it’s not really a revenue generating endeavour.”

Rarity leaned back in her chair, lit another cigarette, took a long draw on it and began staring at her assistant as she slowly exhaled smoke. A long pause filled the room. “I thank you for your input but this is something I’m very firm on, Coco. The state of this city, not to mention the world, demands a more organized response,” Rarity firmly and calmly stated. “It’ll boost our public image and give back to the community that helped put me where I’m at.”

Coco paused and listened but stood up as she finished. “Very well,” Coco began while straightening her outfit slightly, “but I’d like it known I feel you’re being far too generous.”

Rarity stood up and reached for a drink, then realized she hadn’t poured one. For half a moment she considered it but clenched her cigarette case in her hand and walked towards the exit instead. “That's a trait I was told I had back in high school. Old habits die hard I suppose,” she finished while turning halfway out the door. “That will be all for now. I have personal business to take care of with Twilight and an old friend.” Rarity set a stern gaze on her friend, an expression firm which befitted a business woman at the top. “I’ll find you when I’m done, dear.” Rarity stepped out wordlessly as the doors closed behind her, leaving Coco standing in the empty office. A stern look covered Ms. Pommel’s face as the doors smoothly latched with her gaze trailing over to start staring down at the glass desk.

****
“There we go. Privacy,” Pinkie said and dusted her gloved hands off.

“That was freaky. Let me know next time you’re going to do that, please,” Rainbow Dash groaned and held her head, the radar bouncing several times to reverify her surroundings. She noticed Fluttershy coming to slowly and helped sit her up on the roof against a wall.

“Fluttershy! Can. You. Hear. Me!” Pinkie said semi-loudly directly into the groggy girl’s face.

“Huh...” Fluttershy asked, squinting and looking at Pinkie's goggles and outfit. “Who...what?”

Pinkie quickly pulled her goggles down. “It’s me. Pinkie and Dash!”

“Pinkie!” Dash shouted in shock.

“Oh it’s not like this narrative is going anywhere fast anyway!” Pinkie huffed with a turn to Dash and waved her arms in frustration.

“Wait...what,” Dash asked and quirked her eyebrow but before Pinkie could answer, Fluttershy’s expression changed again.

As Fluttershy blinked, Pinkie noticed their friend’s eyes changed from her normal color to a more reptile like slit with a red hue about them. At the same time the bracelet she was wearing began emitting a soft red glow around it. Fluttershy flipped her head back softly to move her hair out of her eyes and stared at Pinkie. “Not that I don’t mind a good kidnapping as much as the next girl, but who are you two and why --” the voice was that of Fluttershy but her speech patterns clearly indicated it was someone else talking, even to the most casual observer. “Wait...she knows you...this isn’t good. We may have to deal with you.” The bracelet began to shine brighter as magic enveloped Fluttershy’s body and formed the rough transparent shape of a gorilla.

“Fluttershy, what are you--” Rainbow Dash deftly dodged a swing from her old friend. Not needing to turn her head, she had seen it coming before it connected and now watched as the wide swing dented a small dumpster on the rooftop, a loud bang echoed as she hit it. “Holy cow! What did--”

Pinkie sped towards Dash and pulled her out of the way of the next swing. Fluttershy’s animal like power missed its mark again and cracked the bricks at the edge of the roof. “Look out!” The speedster doubled back and grabbed at Fluttershy's arm, trying to restrain it behind her back. “Let's all calm down n--" before she could finish the small girls impressive power took Pinkie by surprise, and with a single upward motion sent her flying into one of the dented dumpsters.

“Ow...” was all Pinkie could say, seemingly finishing her previous statement as a banana peel landed on her hair and a second later seemed to disappear into it. As the pale gold body skin tone became apparent to Pinkie, she tried to stand up and quickly move out of the way. At the same time the banana peel that seemed to disappear into pocket space a moment earlier, appeared from her hair and dropped in front of the speedster sending her to the ground.

Raising her arms to deliver a seemingly lethal strike, the girl stopped and clutched her head, her fingers gripping her light rose colored locks tightly. Clenching her eyes shut she stumbled back and away from Pinkie, simultaneously the bracelets glow faded to a softer tone.

“No...these are my friends...stop!” Fluttershy’s meek voice alternated back and forth as she spoke aloud to herself.

The previous personality took over with her head snapping to the side, “They'll expose us and try to kill me. They can’t be allowed to...”

Pinkie stood up slowly, watching the argument continue and held a hand up to signal Dash to stay back. I think I got this...I hope, she thought, trying to assure herself she was better suited for this sensitive task.“We don't want to hurt anyone. We just want to talk with Fluttershy.”

“Pinkie what are you--" Dash stopped mid sentence as Pinkie waved her down again while making her way closer to their friend.

“They're my friends...you wont hurt them!” Fluttershy stomped her foot as she dug her fingers into her scalp and the bracelets power dimmed more.

“Fine. You win for now,” the other her growled. “You'll need me again. Don't think you won't,” the voice snarled heatedly. “When you do...we do things my way,” the other personality snapped her head towards Pinkie.”I've got my eyes on you two.”

A shiver and a stiff jolt surged through her body as the glow vanished from the bracelet and Fluttershy leaned back in exhaustion onto a brick wall. “Oh...goodness...” she panted and ran a hand through her hair as it dropped lazily in front of her eyes.

“Fluttershy...” Dash asked with a tone displaying she was almost afraid of the answer.

“It’s me for now.” Fluttershy looked up at her two hero garbed friends. “Well we all seem to have quite a bit to talk about dont we?” the familiar eyes and smile of the gold colored girl made the other two settle down with a collective sigh.

“Yeah this totally calls for a cut away.” Pinkie nodded, only to have Dash joined by Fluttershy on expressions of confusion.

***

“You really should let me carry you for now, Sunset,” Twilight’s voice came over her secure channel.

Sunset shook her head and her flying took a sharp wobble to the left as she deftly missed a flagpole on a building. “No, I’m fine Matterhorn,” Sunset answered back, her eyes squinting and the rest of her body showing apparent sweating from the night’s activities. “I’m the one used to all this rough stuff, you’re the one I should be worried about.”

“Well that would normally be true but Spike shot me up with a minor dose of Risperidone,” Twilight’s voice came across Sunset’s ears again from the armor next to her flying in a stable pattern compared to her partner.

“I assume that's good,” Sunset asked with the flames she generated from her hands maintaining a stable, although much louder, flight ability. Their wake left distinct patterns, with her’s being flickers of flames behind her and Twilight’s being a steady, nearly transparent disturbance.

“It’s a mild anti-hallucinogen used in the elderly.” Spike popped in Sunset’s other ear, giving the illusion he was next to her. “In this case it’s to combat the magic exposure and keep Twilight lucid enough to fly back. You on the other hand are still suffering the after effects. You should really let--”

“I’m fine Spike. I’ve had,” Sunset shook her head as she interrupted him. “I’ve had much worse. We’re nearly there anyway. “

Twilight and Spike remained quiet as they neared the helipad on the Rarity building, on which the lights flickering on the entire landing area formed not a typical H but an “R” instead. No exterior lights came on, though this was on purpose to not draw any more attention then needed. “Coming in now,” Twilight finally said, her hope for a decent landing diminishing as the ground grew closer. Typical of most of her attempts, Twilight didn’t hit with much finesse but again hit a three point stance with the usual reverberation of metal filling the area around them. However, at least I didn’t smash into anything this time. Getting better, she thought with a sigh and tone of victory for not stumbling too badly or gasping in fear.

“Not bad. Gettin’ better,” Spike said, popping up with a tiny clipboard in his hands on her HUD. “Ya lost points for flinching though,” he pointed out and smirked before tossing the clipboard into nothingness behind him.

“Thank you, Spike. I’m getting the hang of this super hero thing after all.” Twilight said just as her exterior speakers came on and turned towards an approaching Sunset.

Sunset on the other hand during this landed with grace and with almost no sound, taking a step forward and walking towards the elevator upon completing her landing. “There’s a lot more to it then landing right, Matterhorn,” she bragged and adjusted her jacket, pressing the call button and turning around to her friend. “Let's get going and back to the lab.”

Twilight’s suit clanged along, though softer than her first version, and she joined her friend at the elevator. “Well I thought it wasn’t too shabby.” She gave a small snort of contempt and crossed her arms in mock defiance.

Sunset gave the smallest of smirks but didn’t turn to her armored friend, but crossed her arms as well. “I’ve seen worse,” the fire caster said just as the elevator opened, allowing them entry and they stepped on.

“Thank you,” Twilight said with a feeling of small satisfaction coming over her and the plating that made her helmet retracted into the collar of her armor, letting Twilight look directly at her friend. She stretched her neck and pressed her floor’s button, ah this feels much better, Twilight thought happily with the fresh cool air hitting her skin.

“Not many though,” Sunset added, just as the doors closed and Twilight turned to respond.

***

Several tendrils coiled around the Neutron Device, its shiney chrome casing reflecting the crazed eyes of Mistress Mayhem. Looking into it like an eager girl prepping for her first date, Mayhem’s degrading mental state was nearing the bottom of it’s spiral. Another set of tendrils flipped through a manual for the device casually, holding the casing and pages next to each other. Quickly the super villain became frustrated and tossed the device to the side.

“Whoa, boss!” Babs said, swiftly catching the small casing but grunting under its weight. “Let’s...let's not throw the nuclear device around. I know you love a good party,” she said and set the heavy bomb down gently on it’s side near a wall. “But this might cause the party to get started just a bit too soon.”

“The party will start when I say it does, Babsy,” Mayhem said sternly with several of her tentacles wrapping around the newly anointed underboss of her new gang. They snapped tight and brought the young girl to her eye level.

“Oh! Oh sure, absolutely boss,” Babs answered nervously. “I only meant sucha...sucha...shame if the party favor went off,” she swallowed loudly as the threat of death hovered over her. “Ya know, bombs can be shoddy and all. Wasn't this a test bomb anyway,” the young woman asked quickly with the first thought for any excuse to pull the focus off her.

Sassy tapped her chin and let her lieutenant down without a second thought, and the freckled girl landed with a thud to the concrete. “It was a prototype. This much is true"

“How did you find out about this gizmo anyway boss,” Babs inquired while she brushed herself off and adjusted her clothing slightly.

Mayhem’s eyes widened then narrowed at the question as she clearly began to think. “I…” she winced and several tendrils wrapped at her forehead in pain. The more she tried to remember, the harder the headache became. “I can't remember exactly. I keep seeing little images like a broke slideshow.” Sassy growled in frustration, “and that annoying yet haunting song…” her eyes went slack after a bit of thinking. “It matters not! Once I set this off there will be so much fallout, Rarity will be ruined,” she announced with fists trembling. “People will blame her and her so-called “perfect” image will be destroyed. Then...then I'll let her know it’s me who tore her down!”

“You...and miss Rarity know each other,” Babs asked curiously.

“Knew little Babsy...we knew each other.” Mayhem stroked Babs hair softly with her actual hand as her tentacles brought her down from her high position. “Oh so long ago we were even...friends...” she smiled for half a moment as she said that. “But no more. She made me the way I am today and I'll make sure she gets exactly what she deserves.” The woman smacked the back of Babs head softly.

“Sure thing boss."

“Don't worry you and the girls will be well compensated as promised.” Mayhem smiled, reached for the device and manual again and brought them to her eyes. The crazed look left her slightly and she began to study more.

***

“Spikey darling, make a transfer from my personal account of twenty thousand as a charitable donation,” Rarity requested, stood and lit another cigarette before walking across the laboratory. Wonder why I don’t come in and visit Twilight more often in here, she thought and looked around the room she wasn’t entirely familiar with. Rarity briefly paused as a thought crossed her mind. Oh...right...I’m surprised she didn’t leave. It couldn’t have been fun with a drunk coming in randomly… the fashionista sadly thought while continuing to slowly step around the room. “I don't like these colors. They clash with the desks,” she muttered to herself and took a drag, blowing a smoke cloud that faintly looked like three diamonds put together.

“Transfer ready. Who's the lucky company, Rarity,” Spike asked, his avatar popping up beside her on a screen and a small sack with a money symbol on it in his claws.

“AppleTrends, dear. Quick now, we want to make it before the banks route their morning money transfers.” Rarity stopped, partially folded her arms and stood still, looking over the sets of armor Twilight had been busy designing, all in various states of combining parts. Knocking off ashes from her long cigarette holder, Spike quickly sent out a nearby assembly arm with a cup in its claw and caught the ashes mid-drop. She seems to be making great progress to help us close that deal with the ECPD, Rarity thought, none the wiser to her nearly dropping filth on Twilight’s clean lab floor.

“Easy, Rarity,” he said and popped up next to her on a smaller screen with a close up shot of his face. “Maybe you should sit down. You still seem a bit unhinged,” Spike stated with the last word coming out carefully but sounding like a question.

“Nonsense,” she declared confidently. “I'm perfectly capable of inspecting this project,” Rarity explained with a quick pose to Spike who lightly rolled his eyes once she had turned away. “As soon as Twilight returns I'll expect a full rundown. The deadline is closing in darling spike.” The designer pushed back her hair and shifted her weight from one hip to the other, a determined smile on her face. “We can't lose this contract to Moondancer and her militaristic designs,” Rarity said firmly while adjusting her hair gently.

“You sure are...er...motivated...Rarity,” Spike said cautiously. He didn't want to make mention that she seemed far more focused now that she hadn’t had a drink in twelve or so hours.

“Rarity's always been easily inspired, Spike," Twilight said as she walked in with the main door closing behind her and Sunset, who carefully walked just a few steps in to stay behind Twilight. “That's why she was the element of inspiration,” she finished with a smile. “And she was always very generous...ba-” Twilight caught herself mid-thought and cleared her throat quickly. “Not that you aren’t now,” the former alicorn swiftly tried to clarify. “I was talking about my Rarity. Well you are my Rarity...now. That is to say--”

“Maybe you better stop while you're ahead.” Spike popped in next to her on a screen.

“Don’t worry dear, I know what you mean.” Rarity knocked ashes off into a nearby makeshift ashtray. “Though I still can’t fathom having any version of me wearing the same necklace for years, element or not.” She shook her head with a gentle smile. “And…” her blue orbs shifted to gaze past Twilight to the redhead looking down, “I see we’re back from the dead, Sunset?”

There was a awkward silence for several long moments, feeling like minutes. “I guess?” Sunset finally answered with a slow and equality aquardward tone.

“Well, you look good for dead, Sunset,” Rarity complimented as she pushed past the awkwardness like she was prone to do in all social settings, or the best she could anyway. “Now I understand you two had a very busy evening of testing?”

“Wait you aren’t even going to ask where I’ve been or why I’m alive,” Sunset asked curiously with a light huff and wrinkling her brow a bit.

“Well, no,” Rarity stated almost bluntly and quirked an eyebrow. “Spikey has given me a full rundown of what happened, and honestly, now isn't the best time to catch up on our past. Based on what he’s been telling me you two are busy conducting an investigation?”

Sunset gave a half pursed lip expression and nodded. “Fair enough, you two are the only--”

“Three.” Spike popped in.

“Right Spike, you THREE are the only ones who know I’m alive and me.” Sunset leaned against the wall and crossed her arms with her outfit clearly worse for wear. “I’d like it to stay that way, if possible. I’ve got an apartment and a job that doesn’t--oh my gosh!” Sunset’s eyes opened wide and her face fell in horror. “My job! I’m late!” she stood abruptly and started for the door. “I have to go!”

“Wait, Sunset! We just--” Twilight turned to her friend.

“I can’t stay Twilight. I promise I’ll come back but I need to go, NOW.” Sunset pushed the doors to the main hallway open and ran down the corridor. Just as she neared, the elevator doors opened like welcoming arms for her and closed slowly after she boarded it.

Rarity and Twilight turned to each other as the main lab doors closed, a moment of silence filled the room again. “Well, at least we know she’s coming back this time,” Rarity commented and put her cigarette out in a dainty manner. “Last time we assumed she was dead.” She smirked, “now...tell me more about the test runs, dear Twilight. We have a presentation to make after all and I need to be fully briefed.”

***

A gentle wisp of air displacement filled a brightly lit room of mirror lined walls. Another displacement filled the air as the steel glistened from the double pronged spear. The unseen foe in the air was once more sliced in two. The wielder of this weapon, a woman in her late thirties, briefly ran forwards while spinning to cut apart the air currents. A tiny frown came to her lighter gray toned face with the silence restating its dominance in her ears. Twirling her bare body and weapon, she knelt with the spear resting across her shoulders behind her neck.

She tightened her grip on the handle, remaining still aside from her steady breathing. Suddenly she shot up, twirling around and swinging the metal construct up and out. Her purple and highlighted ponytail flew up with the metal before coming around to lightly stroke her face. During this, her sharp eyes watched every muscle possible in her fit body move and her posture. Upon landing the young woman stared at her flawless reflection, then moved a strand of hair back into place. “Almost perfect,” she muttered annoyedly at her hair.

Looking to the spear, Starlight Glimmer spun it in one hand, behind her back and to the other before spinning in place with the killing device pointed out. She tightened her grip once more and tiny sparks trailed the length of the pole, ending with what appeared to be discolored sparkles trailing off the end of the weapon.

This lone training continued with her jumping and coming down with the spear extending. She back flipped and whirled her arms around while she knelt to stab the tiled floor, the pole shrunk in length to come closer to the length of a dagger. Starlight stood, spun the weapon in one hand while it extended back to its normal length and struck the base into the floor. Just like before. I haven’t lost it nor have you my dear, she thought proudly.

She turned around and moved her arms behind her back. Both hands took hold of the spear as Starlight stretched, pressing the steel against her back. “Just like the beautiful Symmetry Dominion,” the woman grunted in the stretch before releasing a breath simultaneously with the post workout act ending.

The only other occupant in the room, a seemingly uninterested man about her age, pushed his soft colored glasses up his brilliant mustard colored nose with a gloved finger and sighed. Again? How many times must she keep indulging, he questioned mentally with a bored tone as his cyan colored eyes took in her admiring her reflection. The oranged haired man cleared his throat into his closed hand before stroking a short goatee-like forming beard.

“Hn?” she finally shifted her moderately persian blue eyes off her athletic form and to the other pale figure in the spotless glass. “Sunburst,” Starlight said with a drawout on his name in a somewhat unamused tone. “You haven’t said anything since breakfast. Are you ok,” Starlight asked in a now playful tone while she shifted her body to tease. When he didn’t respond the way she wished, a frown crossed her lips. “You’re too apathetic and it’s annoying.”her demeanor rather playful with him, quite different then his radiating apathy.

Sunburst shook his head before rubbing the back of it. “Why do you always want me here? I could be doing other things,” he pointed out with an underlying tone of sadness.

“I’ve told you…” Starlight stepped closer and stroked his cheek. “Because I need my childhood friend by my side at all times~”

He leaned his head back a little with an uneasy look reflecting in his eyes. “I-I remember but-”

A knock on the doors to the room echoed before he could finish his answer and annoyed her more than anything. “Enter,” she said firmly and slamming her spear hard into the tile floor, not bothering to cover herself while stepping in line with the door.

A smaller man dressed in a military uniform entered, quickly turning his head down to look at the floor. “Empress Elect, I bring word from our intelligence ministry that requires your immediate attention. I apologize for interrupting your time together,” he presented a sealed envelope with a symbol embossed on it.

Starlight sighed with a roll of her eyes, plucked the letter out of the officers hand and seamlessly she sliced open the envelope and began to peer over the information. A moment later she looked up at the officer. “Leave.” He bowed and swiftly exited the room, closing the door as Starlight calmly stepped over towards her childhood friend with her face in the parchment. Silently she read while the floor echoed her bare footsteps, the sound slowing down as her reading grew in intensity and she passed the young man.

“You could have thanked him,” Sunburst finally said with a wave of dissatisfaction filling his tone while staring blankly across the room.

“Don't be a silly goose,” Starlight gently chuckled. “He’s meant to serve. The action itself is thanks enough,” she answered, putting the letter down on a nearby table, leaning the spear against the wall and picking up a silk robe. Sliding on the garment she tied it in a firm bow and picked the letter back up. Starlight retrieved the weapon, shrunk it down and slide it into her robe pocket. “Come on then, we've got to make some rounds.”

Sunburst turned and looked unsurely at his friend before he slowly dropped his eyes. Why did I have to leave that day? Maybe...maybe if I had stayed then she wouldn’t had changed, he thought sadly while starting to turn towards the door, his mind replaying how he had been sent to a school for those magically endowed without a chance to say goodbye. Later when he failed to show the magical prowess they expected, they released him into the general population so the state would no longer need to waste money on something useless.

“Hello,” Starlight questioned with a poke to his cheek as he had ceased moving.

If I had stayed then maybe she wouldn’t had lost the playfulness and gratitude I last remember her having in her eyes. Now...because of my abandoning her...all I can see-see is resentment and anger… Sunburst thoughts trailed off, a small burning kissing the corner of his eyes. Starlight frowned and narrowed her eyes. I knew her parents were in charge but I don’t even know what they did to her to make her be- Barely a second later, he jumped. “Hey!” Sunburst rubbed his side at his ribs as her hand with two fingers together moved away.

“Wake up. Time to go,” Starlight ordered before she gave him a small and sweet chuckle, starting for the door.

Sunburst shook his head and stretched out his arms behind his back. “You could have asked nicely,” he mumbled quietly under his breath and followed at her side. I wonder to this day if I’m kept at her side because of her wanting to reconnect and rekindle what we lost as children when I was made to leave, or if I’m just a toy to her she lost that day and she doesn’t want anyone else having it. Either way… the ginger glanced towards her. I wonder more about what made her so cold and closed off to harm anyone who didn’t obey her wishes to the letter, his thoughts questioned as his hand slipped back to the sore ribs she had poked.

Turning his attention forwards the young man let a soft breath escape his lips. Be nice if she could treat me like a friend once in a while. ...Wonder if this is what a trophy wife feels like or a bracelet...doesn’t feel very good. ‘I wish my friend would come back,’ Sunburst silently mouthed with his head downturned. “What’s the big deal now?” he muttered quietly loud enough for her to hear him.

“Oh it’s going to be great!” she clapped her hands together and laced her fingers with a smile on her face.

Please tell me you aren’t going to finish your show of being a tyrant by also murdering your mother, he thought with a pleading tone. “O-oh? I-it is?” Sunburst stammered a little.

“Spies are reporting a new issue in the Canterlot Commonwealth, namely Equestrian City and my mother wants to speak about it,” Starlight said enthusiastic. “And as my personal advisor, I want you with me!”

Sunburst tried to give a smile of confidence for her before stepping back and she stopped. “Of course you do,” he said, trying to disguise the despair stabbing his chest while he flipped off the lights and closed the door to the mirror room. Returning to her side they continued. “I-I bet it’s something wonderful indeed.”

End chapter.

***

Episode 12 "Brewing and Simmering"

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Episode 12
“Brewing and Simmering”
By DarkMalcontent
Co-Author Alisia
Proofreads by Zap


Sunset skidded on her supposed to be non skid shoes in through the back door of the diner, putting on her hat haphazardly and slipped on then adjusted her apron. She ran past the time clock and past the lockers, straight into the chest of her boss, Ed whom was a portly man with a brown skin tone. Needless to say, he was less than happy to see her.

“I know I'm late...b-but there's such a good re-reason,” she stammered a bit, uncharacteristically unprepared for her boss. Sunset grabbed an order tablet and started to prepare to go to work. Pushing past the doors of the kitchen she looked around in dismay as Rose was nearly asleep, no doubt covering for her.

Captain Nightwatch was enjoying a cup of coffee and startled as she burst in. “Well there you are. I was worried about you.” He raised an eyebrow, “they said you just didn't show up.”

“I know, I know but there was a …” Sunset stopped herself momentarily with a quick glance down. “A fire...in my house...apartment...that needed to be put out.” She mentally cringed at her lame excuse, I really should have had a reasonable one but the entire time I spent with Twilight on our mission...took a toll on me. Mentally and nearing physical exhaustion, she stood in front of Nightwatch. “So what will it be?”

“I've...got something already. Rose took care of me,” he said while raising his coffee and donut. “You look terrible...and for you that's hard to do…are you alright?”

“No she's not. She's about to be unemployed,” Ed said as he stepped in from the kitchen. “I had Rose take your shifts, Becky. This is five times now. I got all sorts of people who want a job and will show up on time,” he said firmly. “Clean your locker out and I'll see you Friday for your last check.” Ed turned and walked back into the kitchen as the doors flipped behind him.

Sunset gripped her pencil and snapped it, unintentionally startling Rose who was simply going back to her duties. She slumped on the counter and put her head in her hands. “What am I going to do…” she asked softly and muffled.

Nightwatch sipped his coffee and set it down next to her hand, at the same time he placed his hand on her’s. “Don’t worry, Becky, you-” Before he could finish, Sunset instinctively put him in a wrist lock, only to have him counter it with a similar move until they were both at a standstill.

“Oh my gosh, I’m sorry,” Sunset said quickly, swiftly letting go and covering her mouth in shock. “I’ve been so on edge recently.”

“On edge is one thing. You just countered me with a military style reversal.” He looked over to make sure Rose was out of earshot. “Why don’t you let me give you a ride home, or at least walk you there and you can calm down. You’re clearly stressed,” he said calmly, grabbing his hat and coat.

She stared at him for a bit, his intentions were clearly good though she couldn’t help but consider he was still trying to get past her friendly exterior. Although at that moment, she didn’t really have anything left to worry about as she was jobless and nearing passing out from the workout she’d had that evening. Taking off her apron and setting it on the countertop, she had simply had enough of the day and shrugged. “Alright, sure. Let me get my things,” she answered, turning and walking into the back.

“I was beginning to wonder if you’d ever get past the front door.” Rose smirked as she wiped down a table nearby. “Just make sure you don’t get mistaken for a intruder and get shot,” she snickered as Nightwatch stared back in shock.

“I have nothing but pure intentions, ma’am.” He tipped his hat, taking on a gentle smile. “Though I’m a fool to think she doesn't have someone already lined up, both professionally and personally.” He shrugged “maybe I can get in on a waiting list?”

“I don’t think that’ll be a problem, officer.” Rose moved to another booth and began to work. “She’s pretty much always working. Here at night you’re the only one who really comes in on a consistent basis, otherwise she works alone.” She stood up and brought some mustard back to the counter and leaned on it, staring at him. “That leaves sleeping and honestly, the way she talks, she does that alone to--”

“Rose.” Sunset walked in wearing a pair of jeans and a pink top, her leather jacket slung over her back. “I just want to say I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for you to end up having to cover for me. I got in over my head on something and the time just got away and--”

“Don’t worry about it, I’ve had worse,” Rose said, nodding back. “Give Ed some time. He’ll get desperate enough after he goes through six or seven college kids who can’t work like you did. In the meantime, why don’t you take some time for yourself. Meet someone nice and close.” She crossed her arms. “Both of you work too hard,” she shook her head and wandered off into the back.

Silence filled the air as the doors to the kitchen closed and flapped back and forth to a standstill, leaving the two alone again. Clearing his throat, Night turned to Sunset and nodded. “Well, Miss Strong, can I walk you home,” he asked finally, offering an arm.”It’s dangerous to go without an escort.”

Sunset gave him a peculiar look, half unsure and half amuse but for the moment, as the world was crashing down around her civilian persona, she didn’t have as many inhibitions as she had before. Taking him by the arm ever so gently, she walked out of the diner with him. “I suppose I could protect you this one time,” she smiled as the door closed behind them, muffling his response, if any.

***
Lynn Chardonnay checked her watch as she walked up a set of steps, the doors creaking softly as she entered City Hall. The early morning rush wasn’t even in place and the skeleton crew from graveyard’s security watch waved her in at the front desk after checking her badge. Clipping the badge to the upper left front area of her black blazer, she slung her purse over her right shoulder with her heels clicking on the marble floor as she walked quickly across the large main room. Stepping across the great seal of the city on the floor of the lobby, she waved at a security guard at the far end of the reception area.

Adjusting her hair and pulling it free from the back of her collar, the elevator she was on played a distant tune from her childhood. Opening a compact from her purse, checking her complection for just a split second, she realized how vain she felt doing so and put it away. The main elevator’s sound system blared a distinctive chime as it hit the top floor and the chestnut doors opened.

Walking out, Lynn noticed no one at the main welcoming center but paid it no mind as she fished a set of keys out of her purse. Finding the right one, she silently let it slide into the lock of the door and opening the way into the main Mayor’s office waiting room, startling herself as she found she was not alone. Face to face with Coco Pommel, Lynn clutched her chest in fright, panting softly. “Miss Pommel, you gave me a scare...what are you doing here,” she asked, quirking an eyebrow.

Coco Pommel stared back unfazed by the seemingly sudden and unplanned encounter. “Lynn. I’m here by appointment,” she answered, smiling slowly and adjusting her own outfit slightly.

“This early,” Lynn asked, still skeptical.

“I asked her in, Lynn,” a voice from far in the office in a darkened corner, the morning sun beams slowly cutting through and revealing a pair of reading glasses. Leaning forward, the female came into full view of both room occupants. Her light amber skin tone complimenting her dark blue eyes but was made complete by her silver hair she had in a formal looking, shoulder length cut. In a dark brown suit and skirt matching her formal skinny tie against her white blouse, she walked forward towards them both. “I believe it’s still my office as well, isn’t it?”

“It seems a bit early, isn’t it May,” Lynn asked back and crossing her arms slightly, trying to keep it light but serious.

“Miss Pommel and I had a meeting about a few minor issues Rarity has with COH-7,” May said, smiling back to her running partner and Vice Mayor. “All taken care of and she knew how busy our schedule was. It wasn’t an emergency...more of a favor.” She put her hands behind her in a formal fashion. “Rarity was a large campaign contributor.”

“I recall, yes.” The Vice Mayor nodded back. “I hope the office of the Mayor was able to help Rarity with whatever the issue may have been?”

Coco smiled politely and nodded. “Considerably. That piece of business we spoke of, Mayor? I appreciate the help and will keep you informed on the issue you presented to me, ma’am.” She turned and walked out abruptly, closing the door behind her.

A silence filled the room as Lynn turned and watched her leave, finally spinning back on her heel to look at the Mayor. “So...anything I can help with?”

“I appreciate the offer, Lynn, but I’ve taken care of it.” The Mayor turned and walked past several panes of semi translucent green glass, stopping behind one. “I need to get ready for my AM briefing. Anything you need?”

“No I...” Lynn frowned slightly. “I think I’ve got everything I need this morning.”

“Suit yourself.” The Mayor’s silhouette moved clear of the glass and into her own office, locking the doors behind her.

***
“Do you suppose Rarity still hates you,” the young apple sister asked. The question took Applejack out of her book keeping and she tipped her hat up to look across the kitchen table. She spied her little sister, Applebloom, barely out of her 20’s, staring back at her from just behind a box of cereal.

“Now where in blazes did ya come up with that question,” Applejack asked, leaning back and looking her sister in the eye, her own green irises staring back to Applebloom’s red ones.

Silence filled the kitchen despite the muffled sound of machines working on the orchards and the occasional shouting of a foreman penetrating the soundproof insulation of their worksite home. Applebloom shrugged and resumed chewing her rather noisy cereal, looking down and swirling the green colored circles. “Aah don’t know, just seems you and Uncle Trend never talk on the phone anymore. He and Rarity used to be together.” She took a spoonful of crunchy oats and chewed. “Now you two don’t talk to each other, over a guy who seems to be out of both your lives.” She swallowed, looking back down.

Applejack stared back, wide eyed at the rather mature summarization of her early married life. “Who all said you could talk to your big sister this way?” she finally blurted out, a bit offended but half laughing at the bluntness of it.

Applebloom stared back, taking another bite and shrugging. “Y'all never talk. Even you don’t talk about it. What's the big secret,” she asked while the spoon clanged gently as she took another scoop, not appearing bothered by bringing up a clearly delicate subject about and to Applejack.

Applejack was still frozen in shock. She never really thought Applebloom would ask about the details, though she’d learned a while ago to be prepared for surprises. In fact, how she and her estranged husband did meet was by complete surprise, one of the reasons she disliked them. Applejack had been minding her own business, quite literally as she’d become head of Sweet Apple Acres II with the death of Granny Smith, when he came up to her. Trenderhoof, the man that would go on to be her husband.

Estranged husband, but husband nonetheless.

Trenderhoof had been going with Rarity for almost a year when suddenly he became entirely obsessed with impressing her. Over and over he would try to get close to her, despite her clear attempts to show him she had no interest in someone who didn’t know the difference between a green apple and a red one. She even ditched him at a society dance she’d been roped into attending with him and still he persisted. She even had to tell her brother, Big Mac, not to send him a more physical message, before finally telling him she’d take care of it herself.

It was then she finally saw the extent Trenderhoof was willing to go to court her. When he showed her, not to mention most of the farm hands at the time, how far he was willing to go by pulling out a guitar. The moment she saw that, she almost wanted to roundhouse kick him into the barn to stop him. Still, she didn’t and she was glad she didn’t. The song was played at their wedding, much to everyone’s unhappy ears. Still, they were happy for a time. Then he had to go and get inspired by his work.

Applejack rubbed her forehead with her callused hand and gave a frustrated look, trying to figure out how to answer her little sister’s inquiry. “Look, you know how you and that Tender Tap fella’ were all about each other for a bit?”

Applebloom blushed slightly and looked back down. “Yeah.”

“But then ya both realized it wasn’t for you? Dancing and Farmin’?” Applejack finished, finally feeling she was gaining ground. “It was like that for me and Rarity. But we weren’t a couple. Or in love. Or dating,” she winced, feeling her point slipping away along with Applebloom’s attention. “Look, sometimes people fall in love…..and then they fall out of love just as easy.” She leaned forward and stood up, stretching, trying to evade further interaction.

“In the end, didn’t he cost you a friendship that was longer than your marriage?” her little sister asked.

“Now just a minute, my marriage is NOT--” Applejack heard a loud alert tone come across her phone. She gave an internal sigh of relief as it saved her from completing the sentence she wasn’t quite sure was true to begin with. Pulling out her work phone, she swiped through several screens with her eyebrow cocking slightly, then higher still as she rechecked several screens. “What in tarnation…”

“What is it, sis?” Applebloom looked up, concerned.

“Seems aah may have an answer for your first question soon enough.” Applejack grabbed a set of car keys from the table and walked towards the door. A look of determination on her face, she adjusted her hat and put on her work gloves, the leather flexing softly. “Stay here and don’t let them work hand’s comments get to ya if you go outside. They used to whistle the same at me ‘til I planted one of ‘em into the ground like a sapling.”

“Where are ya going?” Applebloom turned in her chair, curiosity overtaking her concern now.

“Gotta go see an old friend,” was all the blonde said, letting the door slam shut.

***
“Sounds to me like it was less of a whacky dream and more of a subliminal message from yourself.”

Rarity took a sip from her cup of coffee, wincing at how hot it was on her tongue. The sunlight had just begun to peak into the windows of her office and Twilight was still briefing her on the last details of the ECPD armor. “Yes well it certainly was a vivid dream,” Rarity answered back, stood and walked across the office with her coffee.

“I'm sorta of happy about it.” Twilight stumbled on her words, “not the half eaten face of Big Mac. Well this Big Mac. Not that he's any less being yours and not mine…” she waved her hands in front of her trying to clear up her meaning.

Rarity gave a stifled chuckle. “Yes Twilight, I know what you mean.” She stood by her small wet bar and searched behind the shelves slowly, absently looking up and down. “Rest assured my late husband notwithstanding…” the CEO pulled a bottle of darker colored liquor from the far reaches of the shelves and blew dust from it. “...the dream still had quite an impact. I am cutting down.” Twilight raised her eyebrow in disbelief as she saw her friend pour the liquor into the coffee. Only silence filled the room, the quiet sloshing of the liquid the only relief from it all.

Rarity looked up and capped the bottle. “What? I said I was cutting down not stopping cold turkey,” she shrugged and put the bottle back. The business woman noticed the worry on her friends face and walked over quickly. “Don't you worry about a thing. I won't be drowning in booze any time soon.” She took a sip, walked back to her large desk and rummaged through a folder briefly. “Now, a few last things. You'll be going over the technical specs with the ECPD Senior...something or other...” she waved her hand as she spoke.

“Senior Technical Advisor,” Spike popped up wearing a lab coat over his dragon guise. “His name is Trick Port.” He began flipping through papers on his clipboard before a set of question marks formed over his head. “Not much on him. Top of his class in Applied Magic and Robotics. Hired by the ECPD out of high school. No gambling debts...hmmm...” lines of code scrolled past Spikes eyes as he accessed files through the city. Abruptly the data stream cracked in two and tumbled into pieces in front of him, followed by a loud buzzer and the breaking of his clipboard.

“Spike I told you to watch the multitasking.” Twilight shook a pencil at her digital sidekick. “You aren't powerful enough to run the building, the suit and tap into the main city databases and NOT trigger a general protection fault.”

Rarity blinked and adjusted her glasses, looking at the folder. “I'm going to assume that was nothing awful?”

“Well he's been pushing himself too hard.” Twilight huffed, “his processing algorithms are not designed for all he's trying to do.”

“I think I’m doing a great job on the Rarity building,” Spike said with a bit of pride. “I held a full conversation with Rarity while you were out cold from your trip.”

“He does make a damn fine cup of coffee, darling,” Rarity said absently as she closed the folder.

“That he does. But we cant keep using him without an increase in either of his processors...which is not feasible at the moment.” Twilight gathered up a few stray folders laying around. “Or we'll have to dial back his building access. He’ll suffer a cascading system crash if he keeps this up.”

“A what?” Rarity turned as if Twilight had spoke a foreign language to her, tilting her red rimmed glasses down.

“It's….not good but we can discuss that later. Right now we need to get to the teleconference room if we’re going to make our meeting.” Twilight motioned towards her friend to follow her.

“Oh cheese and rice!” Rarity looked down as she pseudo cursed. Her gaze looked at her open toed heels. “I was supposed to get my feet done before this.” She sighed and blinked a few times. “Could have sworn I had Coco make an appointment. Wonder where she--"

“Your feet look fine and they aren't even going to be looking at them! We’ll be at a table!” Twilight gave a huffy tone to Rarity, “not that they'll see us if we're late.”

“Yes-yes darling. Here we are. Let's not keep the police or Tiara waiting.” Rarity finally gathered her smokes and her coffee, walking with purpose and passing her friend before another word could be spoken.

Twilight followed quickly and the door to the office clicked shut, leaving Spike alone and pondering the question Rarity had not finished. A second later he transferred to another terminal and followed them.

***

Babs Seed looked over her bare torso in the mirror. Nothing stood out to her, though it wasn’t for lack of staring. She’d always been sensitive about her figure ever since she had begun to develop. The other girls would tease her, mercilessly so, until finally Babs was pushed too far. The day she started fighting back with both her fists and her mouth was the day she realized what sort of true power she had within her. The girls at school that day stopped picking on her. Never again did she worry about sneers in the locker room or comments in the hallways.

Running a hand up the side of her breast, she winced as the wounds hadn’t healed entirely. Staring at the underside of her arm and abdomen, she peered past the freckles she’d grown up with and the knife scar from a boy who’d thought he’d teach her about her smart mouth. She thought back to it and reflected, fresh out of dropping out of high school. “He never knew what hit him,” she smirked, remembering the whimpers he gave as he held his crotch. “He’d never worry about fathering a kid either.” Babs put her arm down and turned to the dresser.

She stood there silent again, considering how she’d got to the point she was. A lot of life hadn't been fair to her, but she’d figured it out in the end. Eat or be eaten. Survival of the fittest. Don’t trust yourself to anyone but don’t try to bite off more than you can chew. It was the only thing she’d known. Her mom had always said they wished she could have spent some time in the more rural life, maybe that wouldn’t have hardened her so much. But the disaster changed all that. Changed it for everyone. No going back now.

Sifting through a small assortment of outfits, she pulled out a red t-shirt and slipped it on. Never one to wear any undergarments, she slipped it over her small bosom and sat down to pull her jeans back on. “Least she didn’t toss me out of bed like a rag--” Babs startled as the door flew open, gasping and pulling a nearby pistol from the table. Cocking the hammer she had the sights raised to her eye line. She lowered it as she saw Cindy standing there, hands up as if to surrender.

“Geez. You jumpy much,” Cindy asked, smiling and keeping her hands up. “Figured you’d be up by now.”

“That's a good way to get shot, Cind.” She put the safety back on and tossed it to the bed next to her. Finishing dressing she pulled socks onto her bare feet and then her shoes, tying them just as fast.

“What? You think someone one’s going to come in and man handle you?” she laughed, then noticed Babs wasn’t laughing back. “What...that didn’t happen did it?”

“What do you need, Cind?” Babs continued to stare at the ground, finishing up her shoes and avoiding the question.

“Boss wanted me to hang with you today she said, make sure everything was alright. I got a costume and everything.” Cindy stood and cocked her hips.

“What, she don’t trust me?”

“Naw it ain’t all that. But I didn’t ask questions. Not after what happened to Tina.” Cindy shivered a bit. “So we’re going in as Pizza Delivery girls?”

“Costumes, cripes Cind they’re called disguises.” Babs ran a hand through her hair and stood up, pulling a brush out from a drawer and fixing herself up gently. “...and yes...we’re going in as delivery. No one cares about delivery girls.” She turned and grabbed her jacket from a hook on the dingy wall. “Like the cleaning ladies, no one ever notices them. Think about it.”

Cindy nodded, a look of approval on her face. “I like it. So, we change at the old Paper Mill and then when we’re done, we hit there and split up?”

“Nope.” Babs hoisted a duffle bag up and onto her shoulders, checking the zippers. “Boss wants us to hold there, no one leaves, no one comes in.” She nodded her head to the door of the room. “Let’s go.”

“So...I’m all about social disorder and chaos but...” Cindy hesitated. “Why are we attacking and holding a third rate clothing maker’s offices? I thought Boss was all about Rarity?” she walked with Babs, keeping up with her despite how fast she was moving down the riggity stairs and hallways of the building.

“Didn't you just say questions weren’t a wise idea,” Babs asked, smiling back as she rounded another set of stairs. “Boss wants the place held until she gets there. Boss gets what she wants.” She ran a hand over the banister and turned another set of stairs. “Besides, you’re getting paid very well. What's it to you?”

“Nothing I guess, just sorta…” she shrugged as she followed. “Sorta didn’t make sense.”

“Sense. Thats a good one.” Babs snickered and stepped over a missing floorboard, hopping over a missing step and finally hitting the ground floor. “Just stick with me and if Boss wanted you on this, she trusted you. Means you should trust her.” She assured her friend. “Or else,” she muttered softly.

“What was that?” Cindy asked fearfully.

“Nothing, nothing. Come on, we gotta cut across 4th street and we gotta beat the trains.” Babs pushed open a door from the apartment buildings, the streets no better looking than the inside of their flop house. Not bothering to even close the door, Babs hopped over a bum in the street and started her trek across the back alley trip that would take them to her destination.

***

“In closing, Major Spitfire, the Tiara Technologies Termination Armor is by far the superior of the two bidding companies,” Moondancer’s voice echoed in the conference room, doing little to help Rarity’s headache. She stared across at the monitor banks, each holding the camera feed of the meeting participants: Major Spitfire, her technical advisor Trick Port, Tiara Technologies representatives Technical lead Moondancer, and her boss Diamond Tiara. Diamond Tiara’s camera feed was mostly obscured in shadow, only allowing the camera to see her face for the most part.

Spitfire adjusted her sunglasses and leaned back in her chair, a smile on her face. “I’m certainly impressed with the output ability. However, this is a preliminary showcase and Diamond Labs out of Rare Innovations, has the floor next.” Spitfire nodded, her expression returning to as neutral as possible.

“Thank you, Major,” Rarity nodded to the monitor. “Congratulations on your recent promotion.” She pulled a small remote up from her pocket and pressed a large green button. “We at Rare Innovations believe you don’t need to be a walking weapons platform to be effective.” Several shots of the Matterhorn armor Mark 1 popped up on the screens. The paint job reflected the ECPD’s colors as did most of the logo placements.

“Cutting edge patented armor plating is the backbone of the entire set up. Light and mobile, the Wonderbolt armor Mark 1 as we’re calling it, is the key to leveling the playing field in the war on super crime.” Rarity flourished her hair a bit and hit another button. Several screens flipped and highlighted areas of the armor’s weapon loadouts. “Working with the ECPD’s current selection of non-lethal weaponry, Wonderbolt is suited for any and all possible meta human and high risk civilian operations.”

Twilight sat quietly as her friend seemed in her element, working the room in a way she knew she never could. A smile came over her face as she heard the presentation, mainly because Spike had popped up on a small corner of her laptop dressed as Rarity and was mimicking her.

“From the hard streets of Eastern Equestrian City to the posh stylings of the center of town, the Wonderbolt armor is the solution to all your needs. Flight capable and run by an onboard Virtual Intelligence system, the user has full control over it’s firing solutions, payload and communication array built into the armor itself.” Rarity walked to the other side of the room, almost feeling as if she was in a fashion show remonicent of her early work. “Modular and easily deployed with either an automated application system, sold separately, or by a small team of rigging experts, Project Wonderbolt is the brainchild of Diamond Lab’s chief of R&D, Twilight Sparkle.”

The room’s lighting changed a bit and highlighted the nervous lavender girl, who was giggling at Spike too much to immediately realize her cue was up.

“Twilight!” Rarity whispered nervously. “You’re up!” she motioned frantically out of camera range.

“Oh!” Twilight adjusted her lab coat and cleared her throat. “Given the directive of both enhanced protection, mobility and emphasis on non-lethal means of incapacitation, Diamond Labs and myself, Twilight Sparkle, lead researcher..” she seemed lost in her words for a moment. “Have constructed a custom built VI, something our competition doesn't have…” she smiled at looked at Moondancer’s screen. “...to ensure absolute control of the situation and minimizing both collateral damage from...how shall we say overzealous use of munitions other models may use.” She cleared her throat at Tiara’s screen. “And the energy issues of prolonged use sub par models may be running into.” She crossed her arms and walked over to Rarity, posing a bit.

“In closing, if style, substance, mobility and rapid deployment is what you need against Meta Crime, then you’re looking for Wonderbolt!” Rarity flipped her hair and pressed the remote’s final button, the final slides staying up.

Spitfire’s expression was a cross between a quirked eyebrow and half a smile, but she quickly lost the look, trying to remain objective. “Very impressive indeed. On behalf of myself, the ECPD..” a clearing throat sound came from behind her. “...and Trick Port…” she turned back and stared at the camera. “I think I can easily say you both presented interesting if not directly opposing ideas for direction of the ECPD’s Meta Crime Unit.”

“Thank you, Major, and may I say--” Rarity began.

“That being said, after my technician team has looked at the field test data both companies are sending now, we’ll have a final decision.” Spitfire stacked a set of papers in front of her neatly. “We’ll be in touch.”

As the monitors switched off, Tiara gave a scornful look at Rarity and Twilight but said nothing as her and Moondancer’s feeds terminated. Silence filled the room but soon Spike walked across the combined monitors and sat down on a digital stool. “Well...that went well?”

“I think it did, Spike,” Twilight answered with a nod towards the monitors.

“Yes darling, didn’t you see Spitfire’s face? We had her eating out of the palm of our hand, or my hand,” Rarity lightly laughed.

“Yea but ultimately it is up to how they want to proceed. She could change her mind based on what Trick Port tells her,” Twilight said with a small tone of worry.

“Oh don’t fret over it Twi, you got this. You both did great!” Spike encouraged, throwing his digital arms up with some confetti. “Besides, your model is amazing thanks to yours truly.” He grinned.

“Everything’s better with my little Spikey.”

“Dwaww Rarity.” Spike rubbed the back of his head blushing.

Silence entered the air again for some moments until Rarity spoke up. “It’ll be awhile before they’ve made their choice, so shall we go get something to eat?”

Twilight nodded. “Sounds good and maybe we can go look at an exhibit,” she suggested, trying to think of another way to help quiet her worrying about if she had provided enough data to ensure their success.

“I guess we could do that,” Rarity stated and the duo began to walk off with Spike jumping to Twilight’s tablet.

“You aren’t leaving me behind.” He grinned and began walking along a path in a nice outfit for a walk with them.

***

Rainbow Dash knelt on the edge of a decorative gargoyle using her radar vision, keeping an eye on the entire block around her and her friends. With hair fluttering in the wind, she listened behind her as Pinkie and Fluttershy continued to talk. “--and thats what happened to me and Rainbow Dash!” Pinkie said proudly, nodding as she put her hands to her side. “Er Shadowstrike and me!”

“Oh my goodness that is quite the story,” Fluttershy said, sitting on a folding chair someone had left on the rooftop. “I’m afraid my story isn’t as interesting as that.”

“Yeah, what happened? Last I heard you were running a pet shop!” Pinkie rubbed her chin, adjusting her goggles and tilting her head out of curiosity.

“Oh I still am, well when I’m not out...er...busting bad guys,” Fluttershy meekly answered with a nod. “We’re having a sale on hamsters by the way. Did your college party clients need them again?”

“Nah, everytime I call them they seem to pretend they don’t know me, so I dropped them from my contact list.” Pinkie shrugged.

“Enough about hamsters!” Rainbow Dash turned, throwing her arms out in front of her in frustration. “When did you get all super strong or whatever...and who was that other girl we were talking to?”

“Oh that...” Fluttershy looked down. “It all started when I was delivering a shipment of pet food to the nearby animal shelter,” she continued.

“Ooo! Was it a dark and stormy night?!” Pinkie asked, rushing up and pushing her face closer to Fluttershy’s in anticipation. “Were you bit by a radioactive critter?!”

“Oh no, nothing like that,” the lighter pink haired girl answered back, wide eyed at the concepts Pinkie threw at her. “I was on the way back from the delivery when something startled me! It was some sort of object crashing and smashing into the alley I was just about to leave.” She stood and stretched her back. “Goodness, they never tell you how many aches and pains you get from all this--” her face shifted and her tone changed to the other girl. “Get to the point!”

Rainbow Dash smirked. “I’m beginning to like that one.”

The pale gold colored girl shook her head a bit and looked down. “Sorry...” she cleared her throat. “The poor girl I met in that alley was in such horrible shape. She asked me to help her and I tried my best,” she rubbed several strands of hair nervously with her fingertips. “I never found out her name, but I did get this bracelet from her. She asked me to take..” she sat back down and rubbed her wrist. “Guardianship...of it.”

“Guardianship,” Rainbow Dash asked, raising an eyebrow, although it was difficult to tell with her mask in place. “Why would a bracelet need guarding?”

“Well I didn’t quite understand it at the time but I did later,” she continued. “The girl sadly...didn’t make it,” she said sadly.

“What did she die of,” Pinkie asked equally sorry.

“She was in pretty bad shape already,” Fluttershy answered. “But I think it was the bullet that hit her in the head.”

“What?!” Dash snapped her head back to look at them.

“Mmmhmm,” she replied back, remarkably withdrawn from the reality of the moment. “I was just about to call for help when three girls dressed in black arrived and shot the entire phone out of my hand...and her in the head.” She looked down.

“What happened!? Did you die?” Pinkie gasped. “Are you a ghost!?”

“No Pinkie, but I did run,” Fluttershy giggled a bit as she resumed her story. “Running around the corner, I realized I needed my keys to get back into the van but I needed both hands free. So I slapped the bracelet on.” She cleared her throat. “It was then I realized what the girl meant when she said guardianship.”

“What did she mean?” Dash asked, sitting herself down on the ledge of the rooftop, growing more interested.

“Well--”

“GUYS!” Pinkie perked up, holding the right side of her cheek. “The scanner says there’s a break in down the street!”

“Pink--er--Split I don’t think we--” Dash began to protest.

“Come on!” Pinkie shouted excitedly, and before either of the other two could protest louder, they both let out a surprised squeal as the speedster grabbed them both and soared down the side of the building and to the street.

The world slowed down for Pinkie as it always did when she ran and, save for the yelling of her passengers, it was all part of the life she’d become accustomed to. The honking of car horns, the barking of dogs and the sound of distant gunfire all blended together in her ear. Taking a sharp turn right, she adjusted her balance to make sure she didn’t take Fluttershy’s head off on a light pole. It was that small adjustment that distracted her enough not to realize the wall of the closest building was slowly but steadily exploding towards her.

“WHOA!” Pinkie shouted and stopped her run, the kinetic value of her passengers pulling her forward and head over heels right into the exploding concrete and mortar. The world resumed its regular speed and the sound of her companions complaining become a jumbled mess in her head. Tumbling down and banging her head, the world dimmed and came back to focus, then went blurry again as the concussion she received took over. Opening and closing her eyes, Pinkie barely registered the orange tentacles that ensnared her. As the pressure across her limbs increased, the world jolted again as she was picked up easily and shook about.

Mistress Mayhem laughed as she looked at the upside down and partially unconscious speedster. She cackled a bit louder as her tentacles tightness popped a painful yell out of Pinkie. “Well now...what have we here?!”

The world went dark as Pinkie’s lack of oxygen took over, the sinister laugh echoing in her mind.

End of Episode

Episode 13 - "Puzzles and Pieces"

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Episode 13
“Puzzles and Pieces”
by DarkMalcontent
Co-Author and Proofreader Alisia
Proofreader and Power Consultant by Zap
Editing Consultation by Brawny Buck


Fluttershy opened her mind’s eye, finding her vision obscured by the incorporeal liquid within her consciousness. Bracing herself, she moved forward without resistance, taking a few steps to readjust to the sensation of being surrounded by water but walking normally. It was only a matter of time before Andrea showed up for another one of their frequent sparring sessions. Thanking goodness they wouldn’t have to fight for control of her body her mind’s space, Fluttershy relaxed and squared up her shoulders.

A distant sparkle of activity caught Fluttershys eye and she peered towards it. Coming in fast, it was a red in hue, reflective, semi-transparent sphere. It slammed into the ground around her and a perky blonde woman now stood before her.

“Well, well, hello little scaredy bug. Seems we’re both in a bit of a situation. I told you you'd need me again. You can't suppress me.” Andrea’s crimson feline eyes and wicked smirk pierced Fluttershy like a spear.

Andrea’s arrival, as always, was signaled by a growing dark red blur that coalesced into a blurry older blonde woman before flashing brightly and fading to normalcy. Leaving Andrea smirking deviously at Fluttershy with crossed arms and cocked hips.

“Oh dear, I don’t want to suppress you, Miss Andrea. I only think we shouldn’t hurt anyone if we can help it.”

“That sort of thinking is going to get you killed.” The she-demon levitated above Fluttershy slightly. “Cowardice or Ineptitude, whatever your reason,” she lifted a hand, snapped her fingers and a small window to the real world opened. “It seems it’s about to cost your friends lives.”

Fluttershy gasped as she gazed at the world outside her mind: A crazy eyed woman had Pinkie in her clutched tentacles, several wrapped around her and several served as support, lifting the villains body from the ground. Fluttershy pounded on the magical window. Her eyes widened upon Pinkies hand beginning to fall limp, and her strikes became frantic. “No! Pinkie!” Fluttershy gasped sharply, eyes wide with panic, her mouth upturned in terror .

Andrea snickered. “Pinkie. What strange names your kind have,” she commented before she snapped her fingers again and the window widened to show another set of tentacles wrapping around Rainbow Dash’s legs and arms, the poor girl still out cold. “Such a shame you insisted in taking the wheel. I'd be more than able to drop that bitch where she stood.”

“Please! You have to help them!” Fluttershy begged with a desperate look towards Andrea. “I don’t want them taken away!”

Andreea chuckled,. “Seems your speedy friend was too worried about you to notice an explosion. Despite her best attempts, the explosion took her and your friends by surprise.” Andrea giggled. “They seem at a disadvantage and now they’re about to die.”

“No!” Fluttershy looked to the scene and pounded the window again.

“As for helping them...why should I? All they want to do is separate us eventually. No doubt they were planning it even as they tumbled into the debris.” Andrea adjusted her hair with a motion that dripped with indifference.. “I much rather we just leave them to their fate. That creature didn’t notice how far your body went flying, so we’ll be safe,” she said and crossed her arms in satisfaction.

“Help them, please.” Fluttershy turned to the spirit with collapsed hands as she begged.. “Can’t you just help them and NOT hurt anyone?”

“Sorry, little bug, your friends would only separate us if I saved them.” She shook her head. “This is why I said we don’t need--” Andrea cut herself off and her face twisted some, at the same time as Fluttershy’s did as well. Andrea’s eyes snapped wider as the realization hit her: her host was trying to overpower her mental hold on her limbs in the corporeal world!. “No, stop that!” she yelled, her tone growling towards the end of her words, balling her fists up in frustration.

Fluttershy’s body barely moved in the real world but as she won against Andrea’s protests, Andrea’s enhanced strength began to move the rubble with ease.She caught the attention of Mistress Mayhem as the largest chunk vaulted to the side, resulting in another set of tendrils to fire towards the pale yellow girl’s body. “There. If that's how you want to be,” Fluttershy said with the world around her wiggling and starting to disappear. “You’ll help or you and I will die, just like my friends.”

Andrea gave an angry but defeated growl as the world faded out for them both with a final echoing word. “So be it...for now.”

***

Mayhem strutted towards her bounty, grinning maniacally at the thought of what she would do to the fallen heroes afterwards. But a snap and a sudden shock of intense pain jolted her from her evil euphoria. Turning to face the source of the shock, she focused on a yellow toned girl hefting a heavy chunk of rubble aside with her free hand. Mayhem’s pained expression morphed into a frightening grin as she sized up the new girl and pleasure began growing from the pain.

“Oh? Seems I missed a little worm in the beautiful explosive fun of my exit. Maybe I need to start stabbing rubble more.” Another tendril shot out and restrained the girl. “Too bad for you, you didn’t have the sense to run or die,” An unsettling grin pulled itself onto her face. “But that just means more fun for me.”

“They say to truly laugh you must take your pain and play with it.” Andrea smiled as she tossed the two dead tips aside. “And lady, you've clearly been playing with it too long. You're insane.”

“A scholar and a brute. You’d have been one of my first picks back at the office dating pool.” Mayhem tossed her two captives into the destroyed building wall, freeing her appendages. “Too bad I’m no longer on the market.” She grinned and shot several tendrils like spears at the girl.

The meek girl dusted herself off and stepped forward, all as her appearance began to change fluidly: Her features morphed with ears elongating into rough points and a menacing grin,complete with a set of razor sharp vampire fangs.

“How cute! You’re a rodent,” Mistress laughed and swung one tendril at the red eyed girl. Andrea ducked and stepped back into the open street, jumping and dodging left and right with a display of practiced finesse while Mayhem repeatedly stabbed a couple more tentacles at her.

Andrea leaned back, smirking. “Oh just look at the split en-” Cut off by the sudden impalement from a third tendril. A blunt force hit to Fluttershy’s chest sent her flying back and up with considerable speed. Correcting herself before she lost complete control, she twisted midair and landed gracefully on the awning of a nearby store.

“Awww are we touchy on something?”

Another tendril swung down and destroyed the awning but missed Andrea, whom had bounced up and now was squatted on a rooftop perch hissing like an angered cat.

“No one likes a showoff dearie.” Mayhem laughed as she neared with her four free tendrils grasping hold of any object they could and hurling it. A storm of objects, including a couple barrels, two dumpsters, three cars, two mailboxes and even a lamppost was snatched and thrown at the vampire like creature.

The yellow girl calmly opened a hand and shoved the first barrel up, the wind as it flew overhead caused her hair to whip around her face. She locked her sights on the next item, the first mailbox. Jumping up, Andrea took hold of the steel dome, slammed the metal post into the stone ledge and pushed off to get more altitude. She came down and slammed her fist into a second barrel, shattering it into pieces and swiftly sending the mailbox into the two rings. The pink haired girl landed, leaning back and dodging an airborne lamppost.

Andrea came up and her eyes widened before they narrowed with her grip tightened on the mailbox post. Jumping back with a couple flips, the girl ran forward, jumped off the ledge and landed on the blue postal box. This was brief as she continued on and used the mailbox as a pole vault higher. Andrea released the postal box, landing on the hood of the first car. Dashing forward, Andrea’s supernatural speed fired off as she parkoured through the other cars in mid-air. Wasting little time, Andrea darted and pushed off the edge of the trunk of the final car, aiming to the left.

Grabbing a stray car door, the pink haired girl swung to the back and kicked loose one corner of the bumper. Keeping momentum, Andrea grabbed the bumper, coming up in a twist and pushed off the back of the vehicle, unleashing another obstacle style mid-air display over the obstacles. Andrea’s motive became apparent as she lept off a flying dumpster as she used the bumper as javelin.

“And here I thought you loved a good show!” Andrea snarled in a rough voice. She slashed into the attacking tendrils with the bumper in her hands. Tossing it aside, she threw out her clawed hand, hitting her target square as she wrapped her fingers around Mayhem’s throat. Andrea snarled, baring her fangs while digging her razor sharp nails into her prey’s flesh.

“Ooo!” Mayhem chortled as her tentacles flailed out in front of her. “Such a quick and strong little girl!” she excitedly exclaimed in a rough almost whispered breath. The wide eyed woman’s grin grew as her thoughts focused for a minute on being slowly choked. Fluttershy’s face remained stern before it fell with her glare, eyes widened with pain that was reflected in a cry from her dropped mouth. The six pointed extensions were had solid grounding, right into both sides of Fluttershy’s exposed ribcage.

“Alas, you’re fast, not too bright though.” Mayhem laughed and threw the poor girl off to the side, square into a bus stop and shattering the plexiglass windows along with bending the metal structure.

Mayhem turned her back on the glass covered heroine as her tendrils began to recover the stolen goods. Behind the insane woman a yellow hand punched through the rubble that had buried her with considerably surprising strength. Mayhem halted her gathering and glanced back, only to be greeted by a forcefully thrown metal support beam to the face.

A deep growl emanated from Fluttershy’s throat but began to shift into somewhat of a chuckle.
“What’s the matter, scissor’s got your tongue?” Fluttershty inquired while she brushed the remaining debris off and out of her hair. Mayhem starred in shocked surprise while she sized up her foes durability. A small smirk appeared cocked on the yellow girl’s face as she met her opponents gaze. Fluttershy stood firm and confident, the rips and tears of her flesh closing as if seen back up by invisible stitches. Leaving nothing but the torn fabric as the only sign anything had occurred. “Don’t you just love having a regenerating toy?” Andrea’s voice had become a mixture of her host and her own, echoing into the ears of her foe in an unworldly tone. This expression matched the reddening glint that had entered her eyes.

Mayhem’s dismayed expression changed after a couple moments watching the girl gracefully retrieve the bumper, to an equally wide smile that nearly mirrored Fluttershy’s. “And here I thought this evening was going to be boring!” she shouted while throwing a bicycle, three trash cans and other loose items her appendages could find. Andrea leapt with her quickened lighter-than-air steps, dodging and seeming to dance around the projectiles.

Andrea swung closer to the orange haired woman, aiming to land a kick to the head only for a tendril to ensnare the bumper and pull her off the ground. She didn’t dangle long before quickly swinging off and slashing at Mayhem with her claws. This came up short as another appendage took the strike. “You’re quite the gymnast, aren’t you?” Mayhem asked while simultaneously a couple other thick tendrils rose above the yellow girl and struck her down into the ground like a fly. The villainess lifted herself higher using the tendril’s out her back. “Let’s see if you can keep up!” she briskly began to climb the wall of a nearby building.

***

A soft glow of a television screen illuminated two bodies laying next to each other. The word ‘paused’ was centered on the screen, overlaying an in mid jump cartoon character with a silly grin that was about to miss a platform. Draped lazily over Nightwatch was a green fuzzy blanket, resulting in his form being hard to make out under it. Sunset was sitting next to him, her head laying fully back against the sofa they both had passed out on. Haphazardly in her hands was a wireless game controller with the low battery light on it flashing gently.

Nightwatch’s phone snapped him awake as he fell to the floor off the sofa with an unceremonious thud. The high frequency buzz of the company cell phone gnawed away at his ears, destroying any hope of sleep resuming. Fumbling around his uniform pockets he searched for the elusive buzzing, determined to cease its noise.

Sunset at the same time immediately snapped her head up and looked around defensively. Reaching for a utility belt that wasn’t there, she came up with a handful of her dull white tank top while exposing the butt of her denim shorts and midriff. After noticing Nightwatch, her reality came rushing back to her and the sense of danger fell from her mind. Must have fallen asleep, she thought and shivered as she sat up a bit more and wiped drool from the right corner of her mouth. She stared down at her exposed legs and feet, covering them up instinctively again with the blanket. Half out of fear her scars would be questioned and half out of need for warmth, she giggled as Nightwatch fell over from her movements as he grunted on impact.

Nightwatch pulled the phone from his shirt pocket and snapped it open finally, bringing it to his ear. “Nightwatch,” he said groggily. “Yeah?” he replied, standing up and searching for his shoes, the only article of clothing he was actually missing. “Same one from the other night?” he noticed Sunset was looking at him and casually walked away to keep the conversation as private as possible.

Sunset quickly got up and checked the clock on the end table. She glanced at it twice. Ugh we were only supposed to play a few rounds… she thought with a quiet groan. Standing up she hurried to the bathroom and shut the door. Turning the water on as a distraction she tried to reassess what was going on. Staring down at the water collecting in the basin she quickly straightened up and took her top partially off, revealing her breasts. Checking them over she ran her hands over her neck.

“Er...um...Becky?” Nightwatch’s voice said from the other side of the door. “Sorry to do this but there’s a call from work I have to respond to.”

Sunset pulled her top back down and unbuttoned her shorts, letting them slide down a bit. “Oh! Oh that’s ok.” She said back feigning her search for any sign of how far things may have gone before she passed out. “I must have been more tired than I thought. Course when was the last time anyone got that far with me.” she thought back to how long the two had played games.

“I had a great time..” he continued.

“Oh me too. I'm just..trying to..” she trailed off softly as she examined her body a bit more, finally pulling her shorts back up right and running her tongue around the inside of her mouth. “..figure out how much of a great time we had.” She said too soft to hear over the water.

“What was that?” he asked back.

Satisfied nothing too serious must have happened, she pulled a pair of white ankle socks on and turned the water off. Sunset opened the door and smiled. “I said me too maybe we can do it again sometime.” She finished, realizing now that one sock didn't match. “Oh..”

Nightwatch raised an eyebrow but smiled back. “Really? I wouldn't mind that either.” He smiled. “Told you I could take you.”

“What?!” Sunset suddenly turned, her expression nearing that of being offended.

“Whoa! Whoa! Your high score in Legend of Puzzle Brothers.” He pointed to the screen as he sat down, pulling his boots closer to him.

“Oh…” she relaxed her stance. “Oh no way that was a fair fight.” She shook her head. “I was tired.” She smiled slowly. “But I wouldn’t be against giving you a rematch.”

“Sounds like a date to me.” Putting his patrol boots on, lacing them quickly. “But I gotta’ run, duty calls, you know how it is.” He stood up and grabbed his coat. “But...I guess we should exchange numbers,” he slowed down his movements, fishing his personal phone and opening the contact window.

Sunset nodded and stepped over mounds of dirty clothing she had strung about, kicking one of the pieces of her costume to the underside of the sofa. “Oh absolutely,” she added to distract him, she picked up her own and pointed it to him.

A moment later their devices touched back to back in their hands and a series of digital handshakes later, their numbers were stored in each others device. A comical kissing sound came from both of their speakers, making Nightwatch somewhat blush. “I thought I turned that off.”

“Don’t worry about it, Night. Just go on, save the day.” Sunset turned him around by the shoulder and helped him to the door. “Girl needs to take a shower in privacy anyway.”

Hurried out the door he stumbled a bit as she shoved him out into the hallway, a bit bewildered and jarred, but then he looked down at his phone and looked at the new number stored notification. A gentle smile came over his face and he pocketed the device, taking on a quick pace to the stairwells of the building to get to the ground floor.

***

Sunset landed with grace and near silence on the top of the Rarity Building, the helipad spotlights turning to target her as she walked across the metal plating. The roof was deserted and the night air was cool compared to the heat she’d been used to from flying with her powers. Adjusting her goggles, she looked up at two more spotlights that focused on her, several seconds passed and the four on her turned off and went back to their starting positions. She smiled as she realized why. “Hello, Spike.”

“Hey there Sun--” Spike’s voice came across the front panel of the elevator control panel speakers. “Phoenix. Rarity and Twilight are waiting for you. Follow the illuminated strips on the walls to guide you to the labs.” The doors to the elevator opened as Spike finished his instructions. “Good to see you again.”

Sunset stepped in and nodded as the doors closed. “Feeling’s mutual.” Sunset smirked. “It’s not often two dead people get to talk with each other after so long is it?”

“I suppose it’s not.” Spike’s avatar popped up on the inside monitor as the elevator’s cables engaged and brought it’s occupant to the requested floor. Stepping clear as the doors parted, Sunset walked in the direction of the flashing strips of light Spike had spoken of. Taking note of several doors that wore different department labels, she took a left at an intersection.

“This place is massive,” she whispered out loud, taking in the marble decor and closed doors. Each had the name of the occupant etched in brass plating on the side, names under them, all topped off by the Rare Innovation logo she’d come to know. The logo was all around the city and it was almost impossible to miss it on some item you used during your day.

“It's actually quite compact once you have a bigger perspective. But from your point of view I can sympathize.” Spikes voice answered her, his face popping on a nearby monitor.

Slightly jarred by the seemingly ever present A.I., Sunset kept her composure and smiled politely. Following to the set of doors labeled ‘Diamond Labs’. They parted with a gentle hiss revealing the lab and Twilight and Rarity speaking. “I honestly think we'll no doubt be hearing from Spitfire soon. I think our presentation knocked it out of the proverbial park.” Rarity blew a puff of smoke as she turned to Sunset. “Ah, here she is now. Welcome back, Sunset.”

“Thanks, Rarity. How did your presentation go?” Sunset replied, crossing her arms and leaning on the wall closest to the door. “I understand you and Tiara are neck and neck in the race.”

“Not anymore, darling. Today, with Twilight at my side, I all but cemented our contract and the future of civility in the city.” Rarity answered, knocking ashes off into an ashtray Spike moved in time to catch them. “I've been trying to make the time pass with Twilight while we waited for you to return. We've been trying to brainstorm on the new color scheme for the police pattern.”

“Wait you've been up and running since I left? Don't you sleep?” Sunset raised an eyebrow, surprised at the energy level of the businesswomen.

“Oh no. I haven’t slept. Been far too busy to find a bed partner today.” Rarity walked past the silent Twilight, who made her way towards Sunset after. “Now I was thinking, Spike, where are you Spike.”

“Here I am, Rarity!” Spike’s face appeared on a set of 9 monitors on the wall.

“Ah good, I need you to do something for me.” Sunset watched Rarity begin, the rest of the request drown out as Twilight approached Sunset.

“Sorry I took so long. I had to deal with what qualifies as a secret identity.” Sunset apologized to Twilight.

“I was beginning to wonder. But Rarity has kept me busy. It's been very, very rapid fire around here.” Twilight replied quietly.

“That and I had to get a guy out of my apartment before I could fly down here.” Sunset blew her own hair out of her eyes. She turned notice her lavender toned friend give her a half smirk combined with a embarrassed blush. She immediately shook her head at Twilight. “Oh no. Not like that. He was just there when I woke up,” she tried to correct herself. “That sounds wrong. He and I know each other from work. Well my now ex-work.” Sunset stumbled on her words. “It's complicated. So…” Sunset coughed, changing the subject. “She's been up this whole time? I thought she slept a lot.”

“Seems once we cut the alcohol out she's back to being a workaholic.” Spike whispered next to them on a small panel on the wall. “She's talking with me so fast I had to shift some resources just to talk here.” Spike chuckled. “I like this version of her better.”

“She quit drinking completely?” Sunset asked. “That's going to be tough cold turkey.”

“Cold Turkey?” Spike inquired, a series of datalines passing across the front of his screen. “Oh. Wow this world has so many phrases.”

“Imagine arriving here naked and trying to learn phrases like ‘toes’ and ‘feet’ let alone what they were.” Sunset smirked. “So what's the-”

“Sunset.” Rarity interrupted her as she lit another smoke. “I think I found something you may want to look at.”

Sunset raised both her eyebrows at the sudden breakthrough but walked over to the display she was working with. Spike stood on the upper right of the configuration in a old detectives outfit with a magnifying glass in claw.

“This would be so much easier if I knew were Coco went,” she grunted and adjusted her reading glasses. “The information you found was just the start of the issues, dear.” Rarity lit up another smoke and inhaled deeply, then blew her smoke upwards in a vaguely diamond shaped cloud. Turning to Sunset, she motioned towards the main screen, several invoices and copies of fax and purchase orders flipping across the screens.

“What did you find, Rarity?” Sunset’s body language shifting to a more relaxed and less tense position. The leather of her jacket gave the slightest squeak as she came to rest on the nearby wall. “It looks like a series of invoices like the one I found, but none of them have the same name on them.” She shook her head. “We wouldn’t have any way to tell which one of these hundred signatures belongs to someone who works for the mastermind behind all those reroutes.”

“Ah, but thats where you’re wrong, Sunset.” Rarity smiled knowingly. “Thanks to my brilliant mind, and of course Spikey’s super quick processors, I’ve been able to extrapolate a very unpleasant fact.”

“What is it, Rarity?” Twilight stepped in behind the other two, looking over the screens.

“For all the different names and routes the goods that have been misappropriated,” Rarity sighed, letting her reading glasses hang from her neck, the thin silver chain holding them from falling. “The one thing each of these documents holds common, sadly.”

Sunset squinted and scanned across all the documents, each stating their destinations, their cargo and finally their approval. Her eyes jumped between several and then opened with a semi shocked look. “They’re all your signature.”

“Rarity’s? That can’t be right.” Twilight squinted too, shaking her head. “She couldn’t have done all this. I mean why would she tell us this if it was her doing?” she turned to Sunset, then back to Rarity.

Sunset had an uneasy feeling coming over her as Twilight’s statement ended, a silence coming over them both as they stared at their now recovering alcoholic friend. Making note of all the exits to the room, as well as Rarity’s hands, she have expected the fashion empress to make a break for it.

“No. Rarity didn’t do any of this.” Spike said, his avatar pulled up several invoice images and zoomed into the signature on the authorization. Each document zipped past the screen, snapshots of each signature line staying as they left. Several dozen images of Rarity’s name lined up next to each other and then, superimposed on top of each other, revealing each was identical in loops and motion. “This isn’t a signature, no one signs the same way twice, there’s always--”

“Always small imperfections. Thats a stamp.” Sunset nodded, completing Spike’s assessment. “So now we need to know who has--”

“Only one person has my signature authority by stamp.” Rarity walked past them both and sat in her chair. The fabric slid under her softly as she held her head with her free hand, rubbing her temple.

A silence filled the room again.

“Well who?!” Sunset shrugged, frustrated to a degree.

“Coco Pommel.” Rarity finally said, snapping her eyes up to her friends, a look of betrayal mixed with sadness.

***

Despite the occasional necessity of it, Malcontent disliked having to leave the peace and quiet of his headquarters. The noise and crowd of the city he lived in had him yearning for his days imprisoned in Tartarus, where there weren’t cars honking and speeding past with broken mufflers, or people bumping into his shoulders and gossiping or asking for money. Maybe he could bring Aria there? She sometimes made for tolerable company.

The imprisonment he’d had after his battle with Celestia over 1000 years prior had left him drained, both mentally and physically for a very long time. Time he’d used to contemplate and heal. But most importantly, time he’d used to learn all he could from the world he’d just barely tasted before the would-be ruler of it banished him.

The soft footfalls of his polished boots echoed softly on the concrete, taking in the various exhibit advertisements for the museum ahead, half interest on his face as he adjusted his glasses. Passing by a full length mirror, he stopped and backed up a step, looking himself over. Adjusting his shirt, he straightened the sleeves and his collar ever so slightly, as if correcting an imperfection only he perceived. Checking his wrist watch, he took note of the time.

Five minutes until midnight, he thought, tightening his leather gloves and clasping them behind his back. Strolling down a darkened alleyway, he stepped over a few discarded bottles and crossed his arms in front of him, closing his eyes. “Lets see how the city is enjoying the uptick in meta problems.”

Reaching out mentally, Malcontent’s mind reached out around him, the rush of voices sorting out quickly as he listened to the thoughts around him.

“...can’t stand is how we aren’t just locking them ALL up and just throw away the key!”
“What we can’t do is let meta criminals live after we catch them.”
“I hope mom makes it through surgery.”
“Please can anyone help make the pain stop.”
“I hate metas...hero...villain they're all the same!”
“Burned at the stake!”

A soft smile formed on Mal's face as the entire city began to fuel his powers. The increase in anti-meta sentiment was already climbing before he unleashed Mistress Mayhem. Now the entire amount was rising faster then he could have hoped, and all of it was empowering him for the final stages of his long awaited return to Equestria. The door to the side alley opened, a pair of shadowy figures stood in it as Mal opened his eyes to see them.

“Thanks for the help, Lickity. Now split.” The familiar sultry tone of Aria Blaze was followed by a devious chuckle. Immediately after followed the sound of bones snapping, the security guard in her grasp falling to the floor dead. “Mmm. Now that was fun. Six of them all thought they'd be having some sort of orgy with me.”

“No doubt they got exactly what they deserved.” Malcontent walked in, stepping over the body. “Close the door and come along, dear Aria.” He disappeared into the low lit back halls of the museum.

Silently the minion picked up the body and shoved it into a broom closet, locking it and the side entrance before turning to follow. Levitating several inches off the ground, her black coattails fluttered softly as she caught up to Malcontent.

“Such wasted effort for such objects of little consequence.” Malcontent observed the exhibits around him with disinterest.” The founding of Equestrian City. Fleeing the Eastern Empire to escape persecution.” He scoffed. “Meaningless history,” he shook his head as he took a left at a intersection of marble tiles on the floor.

“Ugh. Tell me about it. All those guards talked about before I dropped in on them was how the new pieces coming in from the university were heavy.” Aria’s bored tone echoed in the hallway as she followed her keeper. “What are we looking for exactly?”

“Exhibition from the old Everfree excavation site.” Mal finally answered with a similarly annoyed tone. “Geode surveys were uncovered just a bit before they discovered what this world calls Magic Madness.”

“Magic Madness? Oh right. Over exposure to raw magic.” Aria snarkily replied. “Magic Madness sounds like a lame movie title.”

Malcontent didn't answer her, his silence was enough to remind her she wasn't there for her sparkling conversation skills. He waved her off to stand back as he approached a large glass box, several layers visibly guarding it from theft. Inside were six tear drop cut stones in different colors of the rainbow. A large poster next to the exhibit explained the history of them to any observer, on the bottom was a large company logo for Money Corp.

“Here we are.” Malcontent smiled as the purple geode he eyed up sparkled in the twilight.

“These...have Equestrian Magic in them...what are they?” Aria peered at the poster as she asked, the feeling of familiar energy near her.

“The final part of a flawless plan.” Malcontent smiled widely at the geode, his eyes lighting up a cold steel blue, their glow reflecting off the glass.

***
End Episode
***

Episode 14 "Collision Course"

View Online

Episode 14
Collision Course

By DarkMalcontent
Proof and Polish by Alisia
Power Consultation Zap
Resident Editor Brawny Buck


An explosion of debris sent Dash flying with a completely haywire sonar sense and reeling from the sudden stop. Trying to sit up, Dash felt panic run through her as she realized she was pinned.Crap, I need to get up like now! she thought with an urgent tone. Another wave of panic hit her with the sound of a dull repetitive scraping making its way towards her.

Refocusing as quickly as she could, she threw a punch as soon as she felt the rubble removed from her. Only to have her hand caught by Pinkie Pie.

“Wow!” Pinkie exclaimed as she dusted her buddy off. “Is it me or did we stay knocked out longer than you'd think?” the speedster removed Dash's remaining obstacles in a blink of an eye.

“I don’t know, Split.” Dash picked up her collapsed staff from the pile, all while noticing Pinkie had seemingly made a nice neat pile of all the bricks. Each was sorted by size and completely out of the way of passersby. “My head is killing me though. Which way did that maniac go?” Dash noticed her facemask was torn from the impacts as she rubbed her temple. “Ugh. Now I have to fix this. Great.”

“Oh hey I can fix that no problem.” Pinkie gave a quick nod after looking it over. “Oh and the crazy lady went that way!” she swiftly answered while holding her own throat with her hand and pointing upwards. “She's got a mean grip, like, twelve of them!”

“No kidding.” Dash concentrated more, sending more sonar pings out further and stronger with each tap of the collapsed pole into the hard ground. “I think I see a trail of Mayhem,” she finally said after a moment of silence. Focusing on the trail of broke ledges and windows that climbed upwards into the skyscrapers, she pointed for Pinkie’s sake.

A series of explosions sounded in the distance and staggered Dash's sonar a moment as it reached them. “I'd say that's a confirmation. Come on!” Pinkie eagerly grabbed her arm and before Dash could protest, she was moving at breakneck speeds up and over buildings.

Pinkie scooped up Rainbow Dash and the world blurred and whirled around her, before coming to an abrupt halt. Dash gave a small gasp as her inertia didn't bleed off as fast as her friends did. She tumbled forward into a somersault, coming to a halt in a kneeling position. The surroundings told her they were on a taller building rooftop. The smell of exhaust from the heating ducts was a dead giveaway to her. Reaching out with several quick pings again, she realized why they stopped: a pair of figures were standing near the edge of the roof they were on.

Dash was ready this time. Being ready for the hits was always part of any exercise, with this being no different. While watching the two figures battle it out, it became obvious the multi-limbed woman was having more fun than one would think. Cackles and snickering could be heard as more lethal strikes flew at Fluttershy's body.

“We gotta help her.” Dash snapped her staff to a ready size, the metal sounding sharply. Turning towards the two battling girls, she sized up the distance. “You ready?”

“Oh yeah!” Pinkie grinned in response, punching her own palm once. “Last one there is a rotten egg!” she spouted off, leaving a blur in Dash’s vision.

“Hey that's cheating!” Dash scoffed and took off at what felt like a snail's pace towards the action.

***

Mayhem laughed, her chortle and growing pitch echoing across the rooftops tall HVAC units. Strained metal and snapping struts sounded as she threw one of the smaller units at Andrea.The four main trunks that came out of her back planted to the ground and elevated her up above the quick vampire she’d been trading blows with.

“You are by far the most entertainment I've had this week!” she commented as another round of impaling tendrils sailed from her hair and tried desperately to hit the spinning target. “I'd say we should do this again dear, but today is one of my final performances before my big finish!”

“Big finish?” her target asked, running up and along edge of the ledge work, narrowly missed by Mayhem’s salvo. “You haven’t done anything to even impress us.” Her prey back flipped and landed, throwing several shards of broken metal from the HVAC remains.

“Ha! Now that is funny!” Sassy felt a twitch of stability rush through her already cracked mind, Andrea's insult triggering her. “I'll have you know when the world sees what I have to unveil, it'll make the Canterlot Explosion look like a car bomb!” she shouted back, pupils almost normal for a moment before reverting. “Not that anyone will be alive to bear witness!”

“Good to know you won't be needing a lawyer.” Shadowstrike shouted from above her, taking the initiative and shouting at Mayhem. “Cuz you’re definitely pleading insanity!” the hero finished with a series of strikes from her staff to Mayhem’s spearing ends.

“Oooo. It's been a while since I've been invited to a threesome!” Mayhem kept her concentration on keeping Andrea at bay with most of her swinging appendages. The few that attacked the new player missed their marks each time they struck.

“Then you're soooo not doing something right.” Splitsecond response came from out of view, the pink trail she left closing the distance and a series of quick strikes hitting Mayhems unprotected face. She drew a few tentacles back in to shield her face and knocked the staff wielding Dash to the ground in the meantime.

“I'll have you know I was on Equestrian City’s list of most desirable two years in a row!” Sassy barked back at the newest addition to the fray. Her eyes snapped open wider as she felt a main tendril root pulse with pain. Turning to see Andrea, she laughed at the misbegotten attempt to surprise her. The root in question rapidly responded and shot two more thick tendrils at Andrea’s torso. While one missed, Mayhem felt the delightful impact as the other impaled her victim.

The victory was short lived as she felt another series of stings and glanced to see the pink trail left by the speedster leaving again. Lifting up the impaled vampire Mayhem sent her flying towards the edge with all her strength. Feeling the body slide off her tendril she unleashed all of her focus on the staff wielding Shadowstrike. The remarkably nimble flat chested warrior wormed and weaved out of every swing much to her chagrin. “Nimble but lacking style. Who does your hair? You remind me of that little boy, Feather Dash? Rainbow Bangs? Can't recall his name.” Mayhem grinned as she noticed her words hitting their mark as much as her tendrils weren't.

“You’re one to talk!” Shadowstrike replied, having herself back and then forward out of the reach of each claw and spear tipped grappler. The resonating metal impact of her staff drove two more away from behind her, her sonar picking them up in time. “Talk about killer snags, lady you have some serious hair trauma!”

Mayhem grunted in frustration, pulling a ringing phone to her ear as she held the two remaining at bay. “Give me good news, Babsy,” her tone changed to an almost seductive tone despite her continuing efforts in battle.

“We got everything in place, boss.” Babs responded over the phone. “We didn’t have any--hey what's that sound?” a loud chiming sounded as Splitsecond’s body impacted a metal chimney, the lucky shot eliciting a smile from Mayhem.

“I'm having a bit of a party. Why don’t you bring some of the girls to my location.” Sassy grinned, her closer small tentacles deflecting a series of rocks thrown at super speed. “NOW!”

Mayhem clipped the phone in her hand and balled her other fist as well. Turning all her attention back to her attackers she gasp in pain as a wooden beam splintered into her back. Turning to see the source, she continued her laughter. “Here I thought you flew the coop!”

Andrea ducked under a swing and hit her dead center in the chest with a haymaker punch. “Nobody here but us chickens!”

Reeling from the sudden impact, Mistress Mayhem enjoyed a good joke, grabbing hold of Fluttershy's throat and examined the flesh as it knit back together. “Keep this up and you'll be naked before long!” she commented.

“Hey! Put down the Vampire and step away from the AC!” Dash shouted, leaping past several strikes and coming down on the villains back with her staff.

Turning to look at the short haired staff wielder, the pink trail of the speedster came to a stop next to her. “Yeah, and his name is Featherbangs!”

Mayhem felt her arm nearly break from the surprisingly strong hit Andrea gave her. The growl that sounded was followed by, what was clearly, adrenaline filled rage. The third girl went flying into the other two and all three crumpled into the final HVAC, that was somehow left standing.

“Now then. Let's see if your blood matches your skin tones!” Mayhems pupils dilated smaller and her energy spike from the near break, intensified.

***

“I just don't understand why Coco would do this. She's never shown any interest in top leadership or running things.” Rarity tapped her chin with a finger, lost in thought for a moment.

“What's even weirder is I can't find her. Her tracking application on her phone is turned off.” Spike popped up next to Rarity on a monitor. “Last known location was in her car heading towards midtown.”

“Thank you, Spikey.” Rarity replied, taking out another slender tube and lighting it. She turned to her two friends behind her, the leather in her chair creaking softly. “Then there's the whole mystery to what these items she’d been smuggling are for.”

Rarity leaned back and began looking at all the paperwork in front of her, She felt the ice pick pain of a migraine approaching, she suppressed her desire for a drink. She winced as a high pitched whine came from Sunsets direction. Looking at her recently un-deceased friend, Rarity watched her pull a phone from her jacket pocket. “I do hope that's not your ringtone, dear.”

Various flashes of light reflected off Sunsets goggles as her fingers swiped through security checks. Finally she shook her head slowly. “Nope. Meta Alert. Class S.” Sunset lifted her head to look at Rarity. “Gotta go.” She finished as she replaced the phone in her jacket, footsteps heading to the door.

“S Class. THAT’S dangerous.” Twilight interrupted her exit, standing in front of Sunset.

“Maybe. But it's my fault.” Sunset said with a tone and attitude seldom seen by Twilight. She pushed past her and walked down the vacant hallway, the friendly glint in her eyes gone. “So I'm responsible for it.”

“Ok, I get you think this is all your fault.” Twilight started after her, shoes nearly tripping her up as she picked the pace up.

“It IS my fault. If I didn't come here--” Sunset snapped around as she balled her fists. The action made Twilight abruptly stop. Yet that was all Sunset got out. Her face unchanging, she told her friend again. “I have to do this. Stay here and see what you and Rarity can come up with.”

Sunset called the elevator to her floor and waited silently. Tightening her gloves by the straps and her goggles by the fastener, she walked through the parting doors.

As the elevator began to rise, Spike popped onto the screen near her. “Have you ever considered you might not be able to do this alone?” Spike morphed to his dragon guise.

“I can handle myself fine, Spike.” Sunset remained stoic, her gaze not meeting the A.I. at all. “This isn't my first dance.”

“That I can see. My point, and the point Twilight was trying to make before you stormed off was--”

“I don't have to do this alone anymore...” Sunset finished for him. “I get that, really I do. But you're both wrong, ok?” finally turning to the screen as the elevator rose silently. “If I didn't come here, if I hadn't been so--”

“Bullheaded?”

“Headstrong,” Sunset offered a different word. “None of these people would be dead, dying, or in danger.” She sighed with a final frustrated grunt. Running a hand through her hair a moment, the elevator slowed. “It's my mess, Spike. When you make a mess you have to clean it up. That's responsibility. Princess Celestia taught me that much.” She said as the doors opened, revealing the rooftop helipad. A misstep from the elevator car send her forward to her knees, cursing softly. A shadow over her caught her attention, fire igniting from her palm in defense.

“She also taught that a burden only gets heavier...” Twilight’s voice broke the tension, the speakers on her suit clicking on as she spoke. “When it’s carried by a single person.”

Sunset starred up, a silence between the two filling their ears.

Hesitantly, she took Twilights hand and stood up. “You're going one way or another aren't you?” Sunset smiled ever so slightly. As her hands fired with magic, she lifted from the ground. After a brief tilt and correction, she disappeared in a flurry of flames heading towards the center of the city.

***
Malcontent looked upwards into the skylight above them. A large metal box had crashed through and was falling right at him chased by shards of glass. Holding up both gloved hands, he shifted the momentum of most of the debris to land on a display far to the left.

“What the hell? Is it raining air conditioners?” Aria floated up to survey the damage as Mal pushed open the display case with The Everfree Gems. “So much for subtlety?” she shrugged towards him.

“Whatever did that was very upset. Typically you don't throw HVACs on a whim.” He answered, his hands and eyes lighting up in a cold blue aura. All six gems flew into his hand and were quickly deposited in a black velvet bag.

“Sounds like a decent party starter to me.” Aria snickered.

“We need to make haste before--” he stopped and tilted his head as if to hear something. “Nevermind. Kill them.”

“Kill who?” was all Aria had time to ask him before the room lighting turned on and it became apparent whom he was talking about. Surrounding the duo in a semi circle were four armed guards, all wearing varying degrees of frowns on their faces.

“Them. I assume these are the orgy-less guards you subdued?” Malcontent remarked as he narrowed his eyes at the guards. The feelings of each began to seep through the air and into his prying mind, the jumble of emotions congealing inside him. “Oh my. You really did leave quite the impression on them,” he said with a slow but knowing smile.

“Hands up! Drop the gems!” a female guard barked towards the pair of villains, the telling sound of their pistol cocking punctuating her command.

“That one in particular,” Malcontent continued his commentary, his gaze shifting to a smaller guard to their left. “Was hoping for a relationship if they participated.” The guard in question began to take a step back as Malcontent’s smile cut through her confidence. He watched as the effects of his words resonated inside her, as he exposed a shameful secret to the room. “She's so lonely. She found you so pretty. She hoped you'd be the one.”

Aria’s laughter delivered another blow to the ego of the guard, the siren slowly gauging the last of the threat, two smaller sized men. “Now that IS funny!”

“Hands up! I ain't asking a third time!” the leader shouted again at them.

“Of that I have no doubt.” Malcontent finally made his move. Having fed off the negative emotions of the guards long enough, a gentle motion with his right hand was all he needed to form a wall of solid ice in front of them. The bullets from the guards uselessly became embedded in it and he walked to the side of the ensuing battle. “Finish up and don't leave any witnesses.” Malcontent motioned to Aria, his footsteps calm and even as he leaned on a marble pillar. He heard her summon her sisters soul fires and took a moment to enjoy the show in front of him.

Aria blew a strand of hair from her eyes. “With pleasure,” she replied with a bit of a purr in her tone. The siren drew her hands back behind her, gathering momentum a brief moment before throwing them forward. Adagio and Sonata left wispy trails behind them as both broke through the wall of ice and struck the two male guards square in their faces.

The two female cops gasped in horror. Their focus turned on the floating woman and their gunfire filled the room, mixed with the sounds of their male counterparts hitting the ground, revealing gaping blackened holes in their torsos. Malcontent smiled, closed his eyes and inhaled deeply, quietly exhaling with satisfaction from the rooms emotion.

Once sound ceased from the bodies, Adagio and Sonata shot out of the chilled flesh with unnerving giggles. Their wispy forms faded from sight as they drew closer to their handler. The disheartened woman’s hands trembled, her gun rattling rapidly. “Holy crap!” she exclaimed as Aria turned towards her. Traumatized by what she just saw, she couldn’t even squeeze her trigger. Giving up, she threw her gun to the ground with a stammered, “I-I’m ou-outta h-here!” and ran away in one fluid movement.

Aria giggled, throwing her right hand out. “Aw, going so soon? Why not stick around?” the fleeing woman halted abruptly in her tracks, gasping and choking for air while her hands were clawing at the energy ribbon freshly wrapped around her neck.

“No! Lemon!” the leader screamed and rushed to reload. When she fumbled the clip a couple of times, the siren took notice. After sighing heavily, Aria inhaled deeply. Right as the guard fired on Aria, she released a banshee screech, dropping the bullets out of the air and knocking the woman back. As her body slid to a stop, she began to convulse blood dripped from her ears, “Sorry dear, but sadly a deals a deal.” Aria quietly commented and turned her focus to the remaining female.

Lifting her right hand a bit, the ribbon brought the dangling Lemon closer, turning the officer to face her. Aria’s gem shimmered to life and the ribbon vanished back into her palm, leaving behind a purple ring of magic around the half dead woman’s neck.“Now then, if it makes you feel better, I was flattered..” Softly stroking her clammy skin, the siren cupped Lemon’s cheek, pulled her closer and locked their lips. Lemon’s eyes widened in confusion and panic but gradually, her eyes relaxed and eventually closed as she began to embrace the alluring warmth.

Malcontent cocked an eyebrow after the scene held for a minute. As he lifted a hand and motioned for her to hurry up, Aria broke the kiss and snapped the woman’s neck, locking the peace on her lifeless face. “Nothing personal, cutie.” She seductively said while she ran a thumb over Lemon’s moist, cold lower lip.

Aria released her head and the corpse, watching it strike the flat tile and land in an unnatural position.

“Delicious as usual. Was it good for you?” Malcontent commented as he pushed off the pillar.

“Meals a meal.” Aria remarked with a throw of her hair back. “I suppose you enjoyed some girl on girl?”

“Only if you could actually be fulfilling for me. Now come, there is much left to do.” He proceeded the way they came. Aria landed and followed behind without a second look back at what would surely be found by either other officers or the hired janitor.

As the two stepped out the side entrance they came through, another series of falling objects hit the main street nearby.

“Sounds like Mayhem.” Aria sneered, a strange feeling of disgust and amusement washing over her. Floating several inches off the ground, the siren gazed up, levitating higher above the rooftops. Peering over the edge briefly her suspicions were confirmed as she saw the melee unfold. Eyeing with interest, she broke away for a moment to shout down to her boss. “It’s her. She's got three heroes in a bind. Soon to be dead heroes by the looks of it.” A noise caught her ear. She glanced back and her eyes went wide as another object, a metal door, flew at her. Clipping Aria in the shoulder, the door impacted into the second story window of the building and triggered an ear shattering alarm.

Aria fell to the ground with little grace, her coat tearing on the dumpster she barely missed. Landing on her side, the impact was drowned out as more alarms began to sound. She opened her eyes and sat up on her knees to stare at her keeper's less than amused stare. “Oh like I did that. Tell your crazy bitch to--” Aria choked on her words as her air was shut off, her chest feeling like it was in a tightening vice.

Malcontent stared back silently at his gasping minion, his grip on her life force crushing in time with the slow closure of his fist. The red glow of Arias chest gem reflecting red off his glasses, while he picked up her crumpled form with a gesture of his hand. “Less commentary, more evacuation.” He dropped her on her feet, the siren stumbling and grabbing at the nearby wall to steady herself from his actions. “Perhaps you need a review in discipline before this world en-”

“Hey, pal, back up.” A voice cut off Malcontent, followed by the distinctive cocking of a handgun. “Let's let the lady decide if she wants to leave with you.”

Mal turned, slowly sizing up a man holding a six round revolver in his hands. Messy blonde hair and a lair of brown eyes stared at the villain. The man wore the casual outfit of a civilian out on the town. Pulling what emotions he could from him, he felt less useful ones like righteousness, but creeping up behind that, was more to savor from this savior. Burning hatred for his treatment of Aria seemed to be igniting. As delightful as it would be to make the conversation turn amusing, the alarm was his main concern. “You should walk away from your betters, boy.” Malcontent stared back as his cobalt energy ignited in his own eyes.

“Mister, there's nothing about you that's better than me.” He snapped back. “I don't have to beat someone to show how powerful I am.” The samaritan centered the iron sights on Mal, moving to help Aria.

Aria in the meantime began to stand up straight as her breath returned to normal. She stared at her would be hero and then back to her contract owner. A look of inner conflict dropped from her face a split second later and she walked over towards Mal, linking an arm around his waist. She gave the samaritan an almost apologetic look.

“You're hopelessly deluded.” Mal narrowed his eyes in disgust. “A person is measured by their power over others.” At that moment he lifted his leather gloved hand, snapping his finger in mid lift. The shot rang out but the ice that encased the outmatched civilian stopped the projectile more inches out of the barrel. The shock of the sudden temperature change bugged out the man's eyes as he became a frozen statue.

Malcontent and Aria walked towards the man as the ice continued to form up and past the victims neck. “I leave you to your final moments to consider had you just minded your own business you'd be alive five minutes from now.” Aria and her keeper walked around the doomed samaritan, relinking as they both chuckled.

“Sad how some people never realize the truth until death is inches from them.” Aria commented. “Fool probably wanted to claim me as his own. As if.” She laughed at the premise and threw her hand back, an energy whip snapping the head off the frozen statue.

Before the lethal pair could get to the end of alley, four distinct explosions flashed around them and formed an energy cage around the would-be thieves. Blocked in by the brick walls on two sides and a laser grid on three others, they stopped in their tracks.

“Must we kill everyone tonight?” Mal groaned, pushing his glasses up on his nose. Turning to hear the loud echo of metal hitting the concrete, he came face to face with Matterhorn on the other side of the makeshift prison.

“You're done killing, for good.” Twilight said, her voice echoing in the alley from her speakers. The iris covers on her palms opening and glowing with purple magic, her helmets horn joining the light show.

“I have yet to finish my evening's activities. I doubt you can stop me alone,” Mal turned entirely, hands clasped behind his back in a show of arrogance. Staring down the armored hero he gave the smallest smile. “Twilight Sparkle.”

End of Episode

***


.

Episode 15 - 'Convergence"'

View Online

Episode 15
“Convergence”
By DarkMalcontent
Co-Author Alisia
Professor of Writing Brawny Buck

***
Twilight took a step back as the mysterious stranger and Aria chuckled. The chill of uncertainty and compromise sent tingles through her stomach. A growing sense of dread she soon shook off as her stance became more aggressive again. She refocused on the moment as Spike trained several more reticle on them both.

“I think she’s in shock.” Twilight heard Aria muse, walking from her place at Malcontents side and standing directly in Spikes targeting grid. “She's at a loss for words? Some princess.”

The stoic face she wore betrayed her growing doubt as Twilight steadied herself mentally. The palm canons she primed now began glowing a deep purple. “Come quietly or there will be,” she paused and tried to sound stern. “Heck to pay.” She finished. The helmet and speakers partially protected her identity and thankfully hid her embarrassment at her awkward words. The fact the two in front of her began laughing didn't help a bit.

“I do believe she means to kill us with laughter.” Malcontent chuckled. “Maim but do not kill her. I'd like her intact.” He said, clutching the sack of stolen Everfree Gems close to his side. “But be quick. This has surely alerted more bothersome heroes.”

“Tonight’s just full of fun.” Aria responded to her keeper, levitating again as energy whips snapped free from the nothingness they resided in. “Let's open up this pitiful cage first!” she shouted as she gave a guttural groan in time with her sisters souls flowing out of her gem. The two soulfires twirled and spun in glee and despair as they flew through all the barrier emitters, passing through each one as they short circuited. The barrier dropped and they spun back to behind their sister, with all three sirens staring at Twilight now. “Now then, Muddlefoot was it?”

“Matterhorn!” Sunset shouted as she landed behind Aria. Summoning all her magical powers at once, Sunset levitated to match Aria and her entire body enveloped in flames. Before Aria could turn to respond the flames exploded out in all directions, sending the soulfires back and into the brick walls on either side.

The explosion knocked the siren forward and drove Malcontent backwards at the same moment. Aria took the brunt of the damage as her cohort froze an ice shield in front of him. The steam from the collision covered the entire alley for a brief second, giving Aria time to recover.

“Her name is Matterhorn.” Sunset finished, the blast apparently taking as much out of her as it did Aria, since she stumbled a brief moment. Recovering and standing tall again, she tightened her gloves at the wrist and sized up the siren for round two. “Ready for another go, second string?”

“Been aching to shut you up for good, bitch.” Aria sailed at Sunset and the two grappled at each others shoulders. Using her momentum, she threw Sunset into a brick wall, narrowly missing a recovering Adagio soulfire that popped out of a dumpster. “Come on!”

The minor lead was short lived as Sunset ducked under Aria's whips, tackling into the floating girl and pulling back in time to land a perfectly placed uppercut to her chin. The strike to the face brought Aria to growl in a mixture of pain and annoyance, retaliating out of instinct with a right hook that missed its mark. As her target leaned back from the dodge, Aria’s energy whip landed and wrapped around Sunset’s right forearm.

Ready this time, the siren took off to the sky and brought Sunset with her to the rooftops. Slamming her like the end of a mace into a billboard for Wubcakes cereal, splinters littered the ground below them as the fight continued.

Malcontent tucked the bag of gems into his belt as he watched his guard dog go to work on the city's most lethal hero. Smiling at the sound of wood shattering, he turned his attention back to Twilight, walking towards her at an unsettlingly calm pace. “Now then,” Malcontent began with a smug smile as shards of glass and wood shifted from hitting him. Glints of ice and wind pushing them away as he walked to the Princess of Friendship. “Why don't you and I have a talk?”

“I don't think we have anything to talk about.” Twilight firmly replied and fired two purple kinetic blasts for good measure.

The blasts hit him square in the shoulder and chest, making him stumble a moment in shock. Clutching his chest in amazement and amusement, he chuckled as he examined the hole in his shirt. “You seem to have tapped into your magic without a real horn...” he quietly observed before snapping his eyes towards her suddenly. “How invigorating! Does it give you a sense of normalcy now that you can rely on magic for everything again?”

“Magic is a tool, not a crutch. My teacher taught me that the first day.” Her audio came across the speakers on her helmet.

“Yes, but tools can be so useful at doing the most mundane of tasks,” he continued, his head tilting ever so slightly. “Or horrible things. It's all in how you use them. Now that you’ve got the ability to use your magic again, what will you do about the rest of the world?” Malcontent raised an eyebrow. “Once the world realizes the girl who's responsible for the Canterlot Disaster has magic back, you won’t be safe. Nor will anyone you care for.” A half smile slowly formed on his face as his words hit her. “They’ll tear you apart if you stay.”

Twilight took a step back, her hands drifting down ever so slightly as his words sank in.

“This world isn't as forgiving as Equestria or Ponytown, or even Harmony Falls.” Malcontent added as his eyes began to glow ever so slightly.

“Ponytown…?” Twilight didn't recognize that name, her own head tilting in curiosity. The interest passed as her aggressor was only mere feet away now. “Stop. I won't ask you again.”

“No. You won't.” Twilight felt the same unnerving chill run through her as before, his half smile dripped of assurance. Partially exposing his teeth as he did, he began to resemble less of a geek and more of a frightening psychopath.

A distant scream jolted Twilight into turning to find the source behind her, just in time to see several crumpled cars roll by. Crunched together like balls of aluminum foil, she instinctively shielded her face for half a second from the resulting explosion. Glancing back, she found Malcontent gone from sight.

Before she could begin to question his disappearance, her vision lit up with proximity alarms. “Twilight, look out!” Spike warned her. Turning to her right, she spied Malcontent make a simple gesture with his right hand, a flick of his wrist with gloved fingers open. At the same instant she saw the wispy telltale signs of ice magic casting above her, a combination of wind and cracking ice sounding a split second later. Snapping both hands up, the palm blasters fired and shattered the sudden ice conjure into tiny bits and pieces all around her.

Relieved, she felt a puncture in the right side of her suit, just as Spike alerted her on screen of a seal rupture. Cocking her head as her body screamed in pain, Twilight realized the ice was a distraction. One that gave Malcontent time to close the distance and jam a purple glowing projection into her armor, which shifted into biting ice.

“You're as predictable as your pathetic teacher, Twilight.” He remarked as his spear turned from ice to a glowing purple. The energy blade in his hand sliced through her ice and armor with surprisingly little effort. The bundle of exposed wires and sudden shock of the impact drove her backwards a few steps.

“Don't you dare speak that way about Princess Celestia!” Twilight shouted, bringing her right gauntlet up into his chin, staggering him. She had little time to recover as he spun counter clockwise, the energy bladed knuckle he’d manifested cutting another chunk of her plating as he did. The metal fell cleanly and echoed in the alley, leaving Twilight holding her right arm, now a mess of exposed circuits and metal bars.

“You, my dear, are falling apart without your magic of friendship.” Malcontent laughed at her, his blue glow turning to a deep purple with the manifestation he was using.

Twilight’s breathing quickened, despite all her years of training, even as a pony it took far more effort to cast magic then she saw him use. The possibilities of what he could be doing to augment his powers or even where he got them from swam through her head rapidly.

“Twilight, you need to calm down and concentrate, your blood pressure is sky high!” Spike popped in from the corner of her vision, a small heart monitor in his hand. “Whatever this guy’s doing is on a scale I haven’t even seen here!” a data read out popped up in her center vision for a brief moment. “You need to stay focused!”

At that moment her eyes shifted and a targeting reticle snapped to life on her HUD, targeting Malcontent’s hand again. The readouts spiking again as the familiar readouts lit up in front of her, warning her of her foe’s power levels. She wished for a brief moment she had her real horn, feeling helpless as he levitated her, an aura of purple magic surrounding her.

The familiar glow made Twilight feel home sick for half a moment before a pair of canisters ejected from her shoulders.

“Attempting countermeasures!” Spike shouted, taking control briefly as Twilight seemed lost in a blanket of terror and confusion. The sounds broke her free of it as the clang sounded.

The metal clatter she heard followed by a small explosive charge that released a smoke screen, fully snapped her back to reality. She capitalized on his confusion as her targeting went to the UV spectrum, finding a target lock of his figure in the smoke.

“Spike, divert all power to the horn.” She quickly ordered with the glow at the tip of her helmet gathering in intensity for a brief moment. The horn fired a solid bright beam of lavender magic that hit her target square on the chest, toppling him over and sending the bag of gems flying up and ripping open.

She landed with a gentle thud on her stripped side, moving to regain her footing. Her palm emitters whined to life as the smoke disappeared. “Spike, I need my palms online.” She said after switching the speakers off.

“Sorry Twilight, we lost most of our charge with that blast.” Spike appeared in the upper right of her HUD, appearing as a dragon in an engineering outfit with a pipe wrench. “We're lucky you aren't dead in the water now. You need to--” Spike stopped mid sentence and disappeared as more systems began to shut down. Twilight felt the weight of the suit pull her down to a knee, right into the middle of the split gems. She heard Malcontent grunt as he regained his composure.

“This isn't good.” Twilight muttered as the entire support systems shut down and her muscles buckled under the dead weight of all the armor. She fell with an unceremonious crunch as her exposed arm hit the orange and red gems. She winced in pain as the geodes dug into her exposed flesh. “Ow!” she rolled to the side onto another set of them, the embedded ones harmlessly falling to the pavement.

“Well it seems the Magic of Hugs and Kisses isn't going to pull a surprise comeback after all.” Malcontent chuckled, dusting debris off his tailored shirt and straightening his tie. She heard his energy blade fire back to life and the spikes shot from his gloved hand in unison. “I'll send your regards to Celestia when I get back!” she heard him say as the glow of his weapon shone down on her.

***

Sunset felt the world spin as Aria threw her into the billboard. The world corrected itself quickly as she flipped in midair and landed hard on a set of wooden pallets on the warehouse. She barely evaded the whip sent at her head, rolling and coming to a halt far left of the tendril. Pulling a pellet from her belt pocket, Sunset hurled it at Aria with a trailing fireball. The smoke cloud it created bought her enough time, rounding behind a sturdy looking set of cement blocks laid lazily nearby. I cant keep her at bay long... she thought. That explosion trick took a lot more than I wanted to, Sunset silently admitted while holding her chest as exhaustion fought its way to overcome her body.

“You really don't have many talents do you?” Aria laughed, floating through the white smoke towards Sunsets cover. “Too bad you don't have more toys.” Sunset ducked as an energy whip cut a cinder block in half just above her head.

“Who's your boyfriend?” Sunset ducked behind a stack of cinderblocks, “Doesn't look like much.” She rummaged through her inside jacket pocket. Feeling the tell-tale notches in each capsule and pellet until she found the right one. “That all you could land?”

Aria smirked a moment but her scowl returned. “He ain't much to look at I'll give ya that. But he's my ticket out of here.”

Sunset rolled from her cover, barely dodging a deadly snap of her opponents whips. In the same fluid motion she threw the pellet at Aria with her left hand, a flick of her right sending ignition. Before the two items met, Arias energy whips snuffed the flame out from behind it, letting the pellet fall behind the siren.

“Ha! No super glue or smoke this time!” Sunset heard her say while moving to a safe spot. A half second later the pellet exploded, sending Aria flying forward in surprise.

“Nothing as fancy.” Sunset stood over the crumpled girl. Flames flickered from her hands and danced across as reflections on her goggles. “But it does the trick.”

Aria threw herself forward from her crouched position, a right hook missing its mark as Sunset stepped back. “You little redheaded--” was all she heard before she sent Aria face first into a pile of cinder blocks, shattering them with the force.

As Aria bounced from the impact, Sunset’s eyes focused on her old foe and her chest gem. Seems that's less bright then when we started, she thought. She's running out of gas! a brief smirk came and vanished just as quick. “Better press forward since I have her on the ropes.” She concluded, dashing towards the half toppled siren.

Aria leaned back against the broken blocks with her hair flopping out of its ponytail as she did. Barely registering Sunset through her obscured vision, she went wide eyed.

Sunset landed a right cross directly into Aria’s cheek, jolting the girls head back and to the right. Two follow up strikes hit their mark in her sternum, with the final left jab landing on a cinderblock as the siren evaded, her last punch hitting solid wall.

Sunset winced in pain and froze at the strike on the blocks, staggering while holding her chin as Aria countered finally. The sound of grunting and impact sounds filled the entire rooftop as they both returned to close quarters battle that ended just as quick as each retreated a small distance.

“This town is so afraid of you. I have to admit it's inspiring!” Aria bantered with her old enemy. “You have this reputation for being so lethal!” she spit some blood to her opponents feet. “But so far I can't say our fight has been anything but BOR-ring!” she said as Sunset threw another series of punches. The two were both running out of energy, it was clear to each. The usual banter was slowing down and the use of magic was nearly all but gone.

The rooftop erupted in a sudden crash of metal and asphalt, sending both girls for cover. Sunset spied several abnormally large metal balls, like crumpled tin foil, rain down a second time. Those are..cars! she thought, watching several roll off the roof to the street below. What's throwing crumpled cars?!

The answer became apparent as Splitsecond and Shadowstrike both came flying past Sunset, neither on their own power. The two other heroes landed with a grunt, trying to recover as quickly as possible from the impacts. The last set of debris and cars sailed past the rooftop and to the streets below, exploding on impact.

Ok this is getting more complicated. Sunset thought with a groan. In turning to the two new arrivals, she noticed Aria had fled. “Figures...” she sighed as she ran to check on the new pair.

***

Twilight fell flat on her back with a metallic thud. “You can kill me. But it won’t make any difference...” her words almost sounding as if she believed them. “Whoever you are!” she snapped while crawling backwards the best she could, her movement stopped as she felt a final puncture in her elbow. Looking down at it, it was two of the gems he’d stolen: the purple one and the red one.

“You’re half right there.” Malcontent smiled at her. “As for who I am, I’ve been known by many names. This lovely stint I’m known as...” he began manifesting a fiery like purple orb in his palm. “Malcontent.”

At the same moment, Spike and all the systems booted back up at lightning speed, the readouts all registering maximum power.

“Palm online, Twilight.” Spike’s voice pattern popped up on her HUD.

Twilight raised her one remaining weaponry and fired the entire payload her energy reserves would allow. The act of desperation turned on and her face shifted to shock at the sheer amount of power she had. A solid lavender glow of kinetic energy left her palm, unstable flickers and trails surrounding it as it soared at Malcontent.

The impact sound was what shocked her first. Normally she’d be familiar with her shots, but this was far more powerful than she even thought would be sent out. The hit sent him spinning and flying backwards into a pile of piled up garbage cans, the impact sending them sailing further than him. A guttural growl filled her ears as the shock wore off and turned the palm barrel to look it over. “Spike, what happened?!”

“I don’t know, Twilight.” Her AI pulled different schematics up on the side, rapidly examining theories and weapon blueprints. “I think whatever powered the suit back up may have been more than suitable for the power cells. In fact it seemed to overcharge them, with the blast you let out just now being well over 400% of what it should be.” Spike popped up as a small icon in her visor. “I don’t even know how you did it, but whatever it is solved the power consumption issues we’ve been having.”

Twilight’s visor registered a target, she quickly glanced in the direction she’d blown Malcontent back into. She got to her feet, her hydraulics kicking back in and echoing her metal boots slamming to the concrete. Another growl sounded, a mixture of pain and frustration, as he came into full view. Twilight almost took a step back as he did.

Before her was the same rough frame of the man she’d hit, but now clutching at his face, his gloved hand torn as well. Behind the glove was the real surprise to her: atypical to someone who had half their face blown off, there was no gory mess, but blackness. The hollow shell she had shattered crunched on the sides a bit as her foe gripped harder in apparent pain.

“What in the name of--” Twilight began to ask, taking one step forward towards her foe.

Wispy steel blue trails of energy and magic escaped between Mal’s gloved fingers, the entity inside the dark void peering out at her. It’s trails began to combine and form a more stable shape, though semi transparent. The eye that formed stared back at her, blinking once more, the sound of shattered pottery echoing in the alley. Unable to place where she’d seen a form like it before, she paused.

“You...” Malcontent began, his voice shattered as much as his face, an eerie mixture of several voices at once. “...are almost more trouble than you’re worth!” he growled, a powerful ball of purple energy leaving his unharmed hand rapidly. The impact sent the Princess of Friendship flying backwards into the brick wall of the museum, knocking a considerable amount of the masonary work down.

Struggling to stand back up, her visual systems came back online, most of her back up systems trying to boot up. “Spike, how bad was that hit?”

“Wasn’t good. We’re almost in as bad of shape we were before. It’s not lack of energy this time. Hardware’s damaged.” Spike blinked on and off of her screen. “We need to get back fast. You aren’t going to be able to take much more of this.”

“I think he’s in as bad of shape as I am.” She stood up, holding her arm, noticing the pain from before was gone. “Hey, where did he go?” she scanned left and right. “And the gems he stole are gone.”

***

Aria fell down to the street level, knocking her shoulder on a catwalk on the way down and landing with a curse. She stood up and checked for Sunset, or anyone else for that matter, and found nothing. She glanced down at her gem. “Almost out again, need to find Mal...” she admitted reluctantly, the dim glow pulsing slowly.

“Look and you shall find.” She spun around, shocked as her keeper stood in the shadows behind her. “You seem worse for wear. That Phoenix give you trouble?”

“Your voice...” Aria answered back, taking a step towards him as he did the same. She raised an eyebrow for a moment as his face came into sight. “You look pretty roughed up yourself ‘babe,’” she smiled, spitting some blood to the side.

“Seems the gems have an unintended side effect to certain meta humans.” Mal answered, one of his eyes glowing a deep purple in contrast to his exposed wispy eye. She watched as the human flesh reformed around it, the gentle blue aura closing around the hollow hole Twilight had made. Leaving behind freshly knitted skin, the magic left behind the tiniest sound similar to ice or glass being shuffled as it finished up. “No matter. I got what I needed.” He smiled, the final aura leaving behind a pair of fresh glasses on his face. “You need a recharge I take it?”

“I could use a bit of boost.” Aria smirked, eyeing up the velvet bag he pulled out. “Got the gems. What’s next?”

“We need to get ready for the final push.” Malcontent opened the bag in front of her and checked each of the seven gems, replacing them just as quickly. “And leave Mayhem to keep these costumed pests busy, just as I planned.” He turned to her and stroked her chin. “Come, let’s get you a proper meal.” Mal laughed, slapping her cheek softly as he let go.

Aria winced as he did, walking two steps behind her keeper as she pulled out a small black box. She opened it silently and stared at the silver ring inside for a moment, her expression distant and undecided as she closed it back up and hid it away again. “Your generosity fills me to the brim.” She said flatly.

“Not yet it doesn't. Let's save that for back home.” He smiled to himself as he and Aria stepped into a shadow, vanishing from sight and teleporting back as he used the last of his energy.


***

Rainbow Dash groggily groaned, her world a mixture of white flashes and odd shapes. Feeling her temple she winced in pain. “Ok I’m getting reeeal tired of being tossed into buildings.” She grunted, trying to stand and form a solid picture of the world around her.

“You two ok?” a voice asked, making her reach for her now non-existent staff on her belt. “Hey, you ok?” the figure formed solidly in front of her.

Pinkie popped up next to Dash and Sunset, her hands covering the blind heroes face aggressively. “Hey, no peeking!”

“It’s alright, I know how to keep a secret.” Sunset said, helping Dash up. “That ripped mask isn’t going to help you keep it long though. You two should get out of here.”

“We can’t just leave.” Dash said, looking around for her weapon. “We have a friend in trouble.”

Pinkie gasped, looking around. “Dash is right! Where’s--”

“Pinkie! No names!” Dash scolded her, only to cover her own mouth, silence falling between the two as they looked at each other, Dash more out of habit.

Raising an eyebrow to them both, the redhead took a breath. “Look, get out of here. My partner and I have this--”

“Partner?” Dash tilted an eyebrow herself. “When did Phoenix get a partner?”

Twilight landed with a metal clunk, proud of her lack of stumbling. “I prefer the term ‘friend’.” She said, her suit very damaged but still intact. “You ok up here?” she asked as half of her helmet simply gave up and fell to the ground, revealing her identity.

“Twilight?” Dash questioned curiously with a tilt of her head.

“Dash?! Pinkie!” Twilight asked in amazement.

“Er..who?” Pinkie covered her hair.

“Pinkie?” Sunset asked in amazement.

“No mistaking that voice, Sunset.” Twilight covered her mouth.

“Sunset?!” Pinkie gasp.

“Twilight!” Sunset grumbled.

“Sunset?” Dash asked, peering at her.

“That's incredible! The only one were missing is Applejack and--”

“Fluttershy!” Pinkie shouted, pointing to the sky behind the group of girls. The distinct sound of a body flying at them pierced the air as the battered body of Fluttershy with Andrea at the helm, crashed into Pinkies arms. The impact sent them both into a crumbling chimney and rolling to a halt.

The group of reunited friends all turned to see the source: Mistress Mayhem and her tendrils filled with her own thugs landed on the roof gracefully.

“Well, what a fine gathering of dead people.” Mayhem smiled, tapping her chin curiously.

“Well.” Sunset turned to face the huge villain. “She's a big one.” She winced as she ignited a flame on her hand, fatigue making it go out.

“You look a bit out of sorts, dearie.” Mayhem mentioned as Babs and her foot soldiers dropped from her hair. The sound of cocking weapons hitting the air as half a dozen girls aimed at the handful of heroes.

“Shes right. I'm almost out of tricks.” Sunset whispered back to her newly found friends. “How about the rest of you?” she carefully asked.

“My suit just fell apart.” Twilight answered and tapped a few manual controls on her wrist. “Got a few reserve shots left.”

“That ain't gunna knock her down, she just tossed a regenerating vampire out like it was Sunday garbage.” Dash whispered back, still unable to find her staff.

“The three of us can't do this. We need an escape plan.” Sunset took a step back.

“We can't leave Fluttershy and Pinkie.” Twilight answered back as her back up power kicked on.

“It looks like this batch is all used up. Babsy, let's finish up here and go prepare for the party.” Mayhem flicked her wrist dismissively.

A distinct whistle pierced the air, growing louder as both sides searched the sky for it’s source. Babs was the first to shout and point up, retreating behind a large pipe sticking from the roof. Mayhem’s eyes widened a moment before she saw a body drop out of the sky and onto the rooftop, landing between her goons and the heroes. The impact sent a ripple through the air, along with gravel that lined the roof, in all directions. The heroes and villains alike shielded their eyes, turning back to the impact point as their vision returned to them. The epicenter of the disturbance cleared of dust quickly, revealing a single figure.

A taller girl in her mid 30’s stood up from her landing, brushing dust off the black thigh high boots. Adjusting her belt buckle that resembled a jeweled apple, her metal bracers glinted the moonlight. She adjusted her green and black mixed top and tightened her diamond style mask strap behind her blond hair. Her peach skin tone contrasted her few visible freckles on her cheeks with her green eyes staring across at the thugs.

“Who the buck?!” Babs asked, waving dust and debris out of the way.

The girl gave a serious expression. “Name's Impervia.” She answered, cracking her knuckles in preparation. “And if I'm being honest,” she smiled sharply. “Y'all should just give up now.”

End of episode

***

Episode 16 "Coincidental Reunions"

View Online

“Coincidental Reunions”
By DarkMalcontent
Co author and proof by Alisia
Wingless Editor Brawny Buck

***

Applejack narrowed her eyes. The crazy wild haired lady was her main concern, her thugs were already taking a step or two back from her position, a look of uncertainty across their faces.

“I'll say this, she has a much better fashion sense then most.” Mayhem chuckled. “Do try to keep her outfit intact. I want it and her head on my wall.”

“Bleh! Who hangs heads on their walls?!” Dash chimed in, sticking her tongue out in minor disgust.

“Aw man this is getting boring. Waste’em!” Babs finally shouted, the gunfire from the rifles each had echoing across the rooftop.

Applejack shielded herself as bullets struck around her, sending gravel flying. The magazines ran dry, the dust settling around her, revealing her miraculously unharmed figure. A slow smile formed on her face, breaking only for a moment as she felt her new outfit ride up on her in several areas. Tugging at the material of her unitard subtly, the expression snapped back in place with her crossing her arms defiantly.

“Now then...” Applejack finally broke the silence. “Y'all get a final chance. Leave. Or I'm fixin’ to throw ya off this roof the hard way.”

Two of the girls stepped back trembling with fallen faces. Swiftly they both threw their rifles down, turned and dashed. Mayhem snarled, baring her teeth. “No deserters.” Two razor sharp tendrils flew out and impaled through the fabric and flesh of the two females. Neither had time to scream as the sickening sound of blood and organs being punctured filled the air. Each had their backs burst open in a spectacle of red rain. The other members still standing stared in horror. Although having seen this before, it wasn’t any easier for some, whom were covering their mouths and trying to hold down their dinner.

Mayhem brought one girl closer, grabbed her hair roughly and violently threw her off the tendril. Before the body could even touch the ground, it was sliced in two then one more to remove the head. Other members moved away as the heroes behind AJ stared wide eyed and speechless. AJ’s face had fallen at the sight and lowered her head, her mouth covered with a hot sensation in her throat. The second body was thrown up into the air and impaled sixe more times with one going through the forehead, which expelled shreds of brain tissue. Upon the blood soaked body’s conclusion to the ground, the skull cracked and seeped what remained of the blood.

The villainess chuckled in her throat with a crazed grin and wide, excited eyes at the sight. Soon she looked up and frowned at her minions staring in horror. “GET HER!” she bellowed fiercely and leaned back with her tendrils repositioning to support her while the others charged to engage the new heroine.

Applejack brought her fists up and chin down as she focused on the girl charging her with a hammer. Applejack slipped under the clumsy swing, that left the girl wide open for a backhand that knocked her straight to the ground. Within the same motion, Applejack blocked the second thug’s baseball bat with her left bracer, which proved as a distraction as she was tackled around the waist by a third thug.

Bracing herself in time, AJ's body didn't budge as the girl made contact. Crumpling up on the ground, she saw the thug roll weakly to the side in obvious pain. Glancing back up, AJ saw the last two girls close distance in hope's of overwhelming her.

Their swings stopped as Applejack caught each makeshift club with a hand. Both items flew over the edge of the roof as her super strength sent them out of reach. A howl of pain was all one of the girls got from their desperate punch to AJ's stomach. The girl clutched her hand as she joined the crumpled foe from before on the ground. Finishing off the last girl with two quick kicks, sweeping her off balance and then flinging her back several feet with a crane kick to the chest.

“I warned y’all.” She shrugged to the pile of groaning girls under her. Barely registering the final gang member, her smile returned with the few steps backwards the thug took.

Suddenly a loud metallic thud behind her broke her concentration. “Eh?” was all she had time to utter. Babs took aim at the propane tank as a final desperate attempt by the last girl hit her. Three quick strikes hit Applejack in the chest, bringing her focus to her last foe. The girl hurled herself forward in a powerful tackle to AJ. Unphased and unamused, Applejack punctuated her mood by picking the girl up with a single hand, lifting her high and staring up at her. “Now that’s just dirty pool.” She smirked as she grabbed hold with both hands and suplexed her to the rooftop gravel.

Applejack ducked as a gunshot rang out, turning in time to see Babs smile before a concussion wave overtook the hero. Flames and a loud ring from the propane tank rupturing followed quickly. Desperate for purchase, AJ grabbed and caught piping that nearly buckled just as quick. The wave and heat had vanished, letting her check on her friends to make sure she was the only one who took the hit. The last of the smoke and dust cleared, leaving Sunset and Twilight's amazed expressions.“Ya need to vamoose. I’ll keep these two busy, ECPD and JUSTICE is en route.”

The confused look registered with her from both of them, while Dash merely stared blankly ahead. Applejack smirked. “It’s alright. You can trust me,” she pulled half her mask down for the two girls. “Honest.” She smiled as she replaced it and turned back.

“Wait. Not all of us are in shape to move...” Sunset shouted. “Impervia.” She corrected herself before AJ's name came out thankfully.

“Then get gathered up and I'll carry.” She shouted back as she ran back through the smoke.

“Babsy,” Mistress Mayhem tapped her chin as Applejack returned to view. “This one seems more than capable. Why don't you run along? Finish up the party plans.” A twisted smile came over her face. “Perhaps this one will last longer than our rodent!”

This was not what I expected for my first hero outing. Applejack pushed the doubt from her mind the best she could. Steeling herself, her eyes locked on Mayhem. “You fixin’ to come down or should I come up there?”

“Oh I've been on my feet all day,” Mayhem shrugged casually. “Why don't you meet me halfway?!” she finished as she sent a salvo of her spear tipped tendrils at the hero.

Applejack nimbly ducked the first two as another stabbed at her. She flipped forward, leaping off a tentacle as a springboard with a veer to the right. Almost taking a full hit from another set of spear tips, her bracers gave a dull metal clang as they deflected. Gaining ground, AJ shot herself forward, her impressive legs tensing and flexing off the roof towards her foe. Barely feeling the last set of spears deflect, she felt the last one tear into her costume. Sending her tight fist forward, she missed its mark of Mayhem's face again. Plummeting to the roof, Applejack left a small imprint on the gravel, coughing from the impact. Eyes widening she felt the world spin, the impact of a brick wall dazing her. Ok, I am NOT ready for someone of this level! Her mind barely registered, focused more on recovery and standing herself up.

A few stray bricks broke loose and hit AJ on the head, a soft frustrated grunt coaxing it's way out as they did. Applejack stood up, not wanting the monster to have an easy target. Bracing against the breaking wall, several more bricks shattered as the hero pushed off again, sailing towards Mayhem. Each deflection on her bracers came faster and faster as the distance closed. The final set of tentacles redirected as she got within shouting range. “Ma’am, you have some serious issues!” Applejack finally said, her right fist hitting home this time and connecting in a near perfect right cross to Mayhem's surprised face.

The impact thundered on the rooftop, shoving the insane woman back about a foot with her tendrils digging into the rooftop to keep her upright.

“Guess that takes care of tha-” she was cut off while dusting her hands off by a swift tight coiled grip around her arms and chest. She looked down to see the hard as steel hold was one of Mayhems tendrils. Applejack grunted with a fruitless squirm, causing Mayhem to laugh at the sight. Mayhem drew back several pointed tentacles, aiming them as precisely as arrows at the heroine. “Not to mention some nasty split ends!”

“I’ll show you split ends!” Mayhem laughed and stabbed her spears at Applejack’s head. Her laughter turned into shrieks as her tentacles retracted, crumpled up and broken, throbbing like a steady metronome. With a furious roar, Mayhem threw Applejack across three rooftops and burst into laughter when the heroine slammed into a billboard advertising ‘The Bucking View with Brawny!'.

Applejack moaned as she fell and hit the cement face first. Shaking her head she stood and looked up behind her. “Never cared for that show anyway.” She shook her arms out, flexed her legs and took a breath with her eyes locked on the hair menace. Applejack rose and lowered herself repeatedly before pushing off into a massive jump, ready to get back into the fray.

***

“That was Applejack.” Sunset said, turning to Twilight and then glancing at Dash. “This day just keeps getting weirder.” Turning to check on Pinkie, she hurdled over debris to her resting spot.

“Hey, you alright?” Sunset shuffled wood and bricks aside, Twilight and Dash joining her rescue efforts.

“Okay.” Pinkie sat up, several clouds of dust coming with her. “You are WAY heavier than you look.” She finished as a coughing fit started, ending as she hit her own chest and a rock flew out of her mouth. “Fluttershy?” she shook her friends body, her hand recoiling in shock as Sunset and the others arrived.

“Fluttershy?” Sunset raised another eyebrow, less surprised at that point. “OK, we need to get out of here before we start twenty questions.” She put her hand to Pinkie's shoulder. “Are you able to stand? AJ is holding off Crazy Hair until we can regroup.”

“Oh! That's Mistress Mayhem.” Pinkie corrected her, dusting her torn costume and tearing more off as she did more damage then cleaning. Several parts tore off around her midriff and just under her breasts, revealing her lack of even a bra. “Applejack's here? Sweet that's everyone!” Pinkie squealed in delight.

“Say you might want to cover up.” Sunset and Twilight both averted their eyes out of courtesy.

Dash smiled and shook her head. “Wow. Doesn't that chauf?”

“Huh?” Pinkie asked, a bewildered look for a moment before noticing her costume. She laughed. “OH! Naw. After a while it started to feel kinda good…”

“Let's get our friend out of here.” Sunset motioned to the unconscious vampire laying in front of them. “Then we can talk about fetishes later.”

“Spike is offline.” Twilight tapped her manual control panel, part of it broken off on her left forearm plating. “But I'm pretty sure I can get propulsion working to fly me out of here.” She shook her head. “Just me though. How are we getting the rest away?”

“Where are we going?” Dash shrugged, watching these Applejack and Mayhem ducked it out behind her. She gasped as Applejack was sent flying into a billboard across the rooftops.

“Oh no...” Twilight’s wide eyed expression tipped off Sunset as well. Turning to see Mayhem heading towards them. Flipping a panel on her right shoulder, several small canisters popped free and into her unarmored hand. “I can distract her for a few seconds while you girls--”

“Hold that thought.” Dash smiled as her sonar pinged once and she saw Applejack slam into Mayhem from behind. The jump gave enough impact to topple the villain over to the edge of the building. The hair went limp and fell as Mayhem lost consciousness.

“That ain't gunna keep her down for long.” Applejack said as she landed with a small thud. Turning to her friends, she tightened her mask and jogged over towards the ragged looking group. “Ya’all ready to jump for it?”

“We can't just let her go!” Twilight gestures with the flash bangs in her hand. “She may cause more..more..”

“Mayhem?” Sunset shrugged.

“I was trying for a different word.” Twilight slumped and nodded.

Sunset put two fingers to the side of her ear, the faint sound of radio traffic playing. “That's not an issue. Night and his capture team are about to arrive.” She motioned to Fluttershy. “And we need to get her to a hospital or at least back to the tower.”

“Ooo you have a tower!?” Pinkie smiled widely.

“Yeah Phoenix is right.” Twilight said, the metallic clanking of her canister locking into their holsters again. Her boots sputtered to life and levitated her into the air. “Follow us and keep up!”

Applejack grabbed Dash and Pinkie who still held onto Fluttershy and slung them onto her back, a massive display of strength as her legs sent her flying after Twilight.

Sunset concentrated and shot up after her, the entire group of newly united friends skimming off rooftops and trailing across the skyline, all heading towards the largest building: The Rarity Building.

***

Malcontent adjusted his tie in the mirror, a satisfied smile on his face. Giving the Windsor knot a final adjustment, Aria popped up in the background from the blankets. The flickering fireplace catching her gem, now glowing brightly, the siren looked at him from afar. Narrowing his eyes at her briefly, he tilted his head to adjust his collar. The mirror cast a different image of him than he knew others saw. His eyes were not human, but more wispy filled orbs giving off hints of purple and blue.

“Seems we both get what we wanted.” He turned to face her, the smile still across his face. Walking over towards her he looked over his shredded gloves and tossed them in the fire unceremoniously. Watching the leather be consumed by the flames, he suddenly turned back to look at her naked form on the bed. He adjusted his glasses and stared down at her. He waited until she broke the gaze, staring down to the floor. “Now that you had your refill, get dressed and meet me in the main hall. I've got all the pieces I need save for one.”

He lost his smile as he turned to the door, grabbing the steel handle with his hand. As he left, faint trails of ice stuck to it as he let go of it. Boots echoing down the hallway, he stopped at his chess table and picked up two blank pieces, and brought them to eye level.

“The game nears its end. Yet not all the pieces were apparent.” He quietly said aloud to himself, his tone slightly distant during his focus. While his eyes and hand glowed, blank pieces were wrapped in his blue magic for a moment before being released, revealing their new shapes. Setting them down, they smoldered briefly and visible: one was Twilight Sparkle's cutie mark and the other Sunset Shimmer's. “A different approach may be in order.” His smile returned, picking up Sunset’s piece and staring at it. “I may just be able to have my cake and eat it too.”

“Cake? I like cake. I miss cake.” Aria wandered in, pulling her hair into a ponytail as he turned to face her. “This whole eating one thing gets old after ten years.”

He smiled and patted her shoulder, his hand moving to her neck obsessively. The instinctive twitch she had to move away always amused him. Faint frost was formed on her collar, but her exposed neck wasn’t even showing goosebumps. “Now, now. We made a deal. You agreed to serve me, in all ways.” Malcontent leaned in, stared down at her for a moment before he gently shoved her back. He turned and rummaged through a wooden box under the table. “And you get a ticket home, all the power you desired, and the company of a kindred soul like myself.”

“She sure does serve him in all ways!” A giggling voice filled Arias head, as hard to drown out as a guilty conscious.

“Oh we see everything in here, sister…” Adagios voice broke over Sonata's. “Need some mouthwash?”

Aria clenched her eyes and willed away the thoughts and sounds of her trapped sisters. At the same moment Malcontent turned back and took notice of her clenched hands. “Sibling rivalry?”

“Its fine. What's the last part you need me to do?” Arias tone changed as she finished. “Darling?”

Malcontent seemed to approve of her word, though for only a measurable moment. He handed her an envelope with Twilight Sparkle's cutie mark on it. As she looked to try and open it, he slapped her hand.

“Ah ah. That's not for you. See that this gets to Twilight, Matterhorn, and see that she alone gets it.” He adjusted his glasses as he stepped back. “Make sure she knows no one else is to know its contents, then make your way back here.” He waved her off with a gentle gesture.

“Then we're going home?” Aria asked uneasily. “Right?”

“I promised you everything you deserve and more. Now, get going.” He turned away and sat at his chair, staring across the map of the city. A gentle curling smile came over his face as he steepled his fingers, staring intently at Sunset Shimmers cutie mark.

***

“Well that's just creepy.” Applejack said, pulling her mask off while she walked into a room filled with her friends. All of them were in worse shape than she was with Fluttershy still being unconscious. “All of us got superpowers but didn’t talk none about it?”

“Eyup.” Pinkie replied, her legs dangling off a sofa as she lay spread eagle. Her tattered remains of her costume left her not in much modesty, but she was apparently more bored than concerned. Blowing her fluffy hair out of her face repeatedly, she responded. “Seems that way.”

Rarity's heels clicked on the floor, causing most to turn to see her grace the sanctuary they had been given. “Not all of us, darling.” Flicking ashes from a lit cigarette, the fashionista made her way to a large desk in the room.

Twilight walked in from a side door, the Rarity buildings top floors were clear of prying eyes to her relief. Pulling off the rest of her destroyed armor, she set the salvageable items on a nearby table, the echo of each filling the penthouse sized living room they all resided in. “It seems we've got a lot to catch up on.”

Dash sat with Fluttershy, who was still out from her sustained fight with Mayhem. Checking her pulse, the blind girl sat back, satisfied by the result. “Still alive.”

“She seems to be recovering, her vitals have slowly risen since she got here.” Spike popped onto a vertical screen behind Fluttershy’s body, dressed in a doctor's lab coat and holding a clipboard. “She took quite a beating. Her clothing took more damage then she did.” Spike mentioned, a nearby cabinet opening by Twilight, several fluffy multi colored robes revealed. “Maaaybe...we should get her and Pinkie some more covering?”

“Good thinking, Spike.” Twilight gave a quick nod, her hands grabbing a robe in each and flinging one towards Pinkie. “I know you don’t seem to be bothered Pinkie, but some of us are more…”

“Repressed?” Pinkie smirked and began to cover herself.

“...Conservative was the word I'd use. Thank you.” Twilight smiled, having missed Pinkie's persistent positive perspective.

Twilight walked over to Fluttershy and helped Dash cover her up the best they could on the couch. Turning back to look at Pinkie, she noticed she was staring at Spike on screen, slowly moving to poke at the software dragon.

“Um..” Spike smiled and waved back at her. “Hi, Pinkie Pie?”

“That's just too weird.” Pinkie said, peering at Spike. “I remember sending a Happy Death Basket to Twilight when you...” she paused. “Are you really, Spike?”

“No.” Spike answered frankly. “Twilight's Spike died approximately eight years ago.” He pulled up a long string of code on his screen. “I am a self aware Artificial Intelligence that holds all that Twilight could program in by hand.” A series of pictures of Spike as a puppy, then a dog, then a sculpture of him as a dragon popped up on screen. “For all intents and purposes, I'm --”

“Of course he's Spike.” Twilight interrupted. “But now we need to focus on getting healed up, between Pinkies costume, Fluttershy and her wounds and Sunset's-”

“Hey, where is Sunset?” Applejack asked, walking around the corner and peeking.

As if on cue, Sunset walked in, her boots in one hand and her jacket in the other. “Here. I'm here. Sorry. I needed to get out of some of this.” She took a seat in an overstuffed chair. “Sounds like Night and the Meta Human team have Mayhem on the run.” She rubbed her neck, taking off her gloves and scratching her head a bit. Taking off her goggles, she leaned forward, putting her hands together as she stared down at the floor. “I should have stayed.”

“Problem like that won’t stay hidden long.” AJ out a hand on Sunset's shoulder in comfort. “Meanwhile, we, and I mean all of us, need to start catching up fast. Details can wait but we need the basics of what the heck is going on.”

“Applejack's right.” Twilight nodded, the bodysuit she was in tearing as she stepped forward. “Oh great.” She grumbled. “Let me go find something decent. I'll be right back.” She hid her body with her hands, sidestepping quickly and comically out the door.

“Well. While she deals with a wardrobe malfunction, I'll go first.” Rarity stood up, taking a slender smoke from her case and lighting it up.

“Not much to catch up on there.” Dash smirked, leaning back next to Fluttershy. “You made it. You're loaded. You own most of the businesses. You're pretty happy I take it.”

A puff of smoke left Rarity's mouth. “Actually, there's a bit more to it than that, Rainbow Dash.” Her heels clicked gently as she stopped short of the center of the room. At the same moment all the monitors around them lit up with the Rare Innovation logo.

“Whoa. Snazzy.” Pinkie poked at the closest one.

“Some time ago, I became…” Rarity paused, staring down a brief second. “Distracted by several emotional ailments. I fixed it with work at first but then turned quickly to alcohol and therapy.” Tilting her eyes up, she was happy to see no apparent judgement among her old friends. “It seems that during that time, my assistant, Coco Pommel, began abusing my trust...I was too generous with my liberties I gave her.” She took a drag from her cigarette, the screens shifting to show hundreds of invoices. “She used her authority to not only run the day to day operations, but work on shifting large amounts of resources through dummy accounts. A sum of some several million dollars.” The figures began adding up on screen, the sound of a cash register sounding. “She has now disappeared. Her phone is off and Spike cannot locate any movement of her.”

“Ouch.” Dash said, drumming her fingers as she shifted.

“Yes.” Rarity merely answered, the invoices popping up again. “It would be bad at that, but the more Spike and I dug, it became clear something else besides mere embezzling was going on.” Several spinning images of Equestrian City and the Canterlot Commonwealth displayed on screen. “Not only did she steal money, she allowed a back door for someone else to exploit a shipping log error. The error itself is unimportant, but what it allowed was whomever found this exploit also took great care to hide themselves. Sunset found a few traces of the error, which helped Spikey and myself while you were all out rough housing.”

“Hide and take what though?” Twilight asked, peering at the manifests. “Wait…” she squinted at several entries. “These are familiar.”

“What they do when combined I can't begin to tell you.” Rarity adjusted her reading glasses, staring down at a DataTablet in her hand. “But the manifests we have unmasked are the following.”

Several long lists of items began to scatter across the screen. Each one stacking on top of the other as Rarity continued. “Several tons of lead lined building material. Discarded by the Purgatory project as useless. Several miles of high capacity power cable and assorted electronics. Twelve shipments of rivets and welding material.”

Twilight raised an eyebrow as she saw the lower part of the list Rarity was reading. “Alot of these items I used when fixing the mirror up.” A hand went to her chin as she ponder. “ They all can be assembled to do a few things so I wouldn't assume its magic related.”

“On the contrary, Twilight, we should.” Rarity responded as a map over No Man's Land appeared. “All of the items are being shipped, in around about way, to the science outposts on the outskirts of Canterlot High School.”

“The same place Twilight and I fought Aria and her sisters at.” Sunset added, standing up to peer closer. Tapping a spot on the map screen. “There.”

“Makes sense. There's a service road that goes through that entire back area.” Spike popped up on the layout and poked with a claw. “Since we know Aria and presumably her male friend--”

“Malcontent.” Twilight interrupted. “He told me his name in the alley. Didn't seem too worried if I knew. Course he was about to kill me.”

“That's another thing, based on what scans I took, he was giving off an energy signature that was more like the kind you and Sunset give off.” Spike pulled a window shade down on screen, showing off a stream of data superimposed over Sunset and Twilights basic figures.

“My hips can't be that big.” Sunset stared down at her body a brief second, feeling rather uncomfortable with herself. “Wait, that geek gave off our signature?”

“Wait-wait-wait.” Dash raised a hand. “Could someone explain this to those of us who can't see flat screen monitors?” She waved a hand in front of her own eyes.

“Spike’s saying that it looks this Mal guy is just like them.” Pinkie chimed in as she dropped to a standing position from the sofa.

“So he...came from your world? How? The portal was destroyed.” Rainbow Dash shrugged.

“He must have another portal.” Sunset rubbed her own chin now. “Or he was already here.”

“I'm not sure which of those ideas is more unsettling.” Twilight raised an eyebrow as her gaze turned to Sunset. “But whatever those two are up to, it's clear that it focuses inside the No Man's Land.”

“We need some more respirators for sure.” Sunset's demeanor changed to a more focused tone. Her eyes looked over the map and returned to her friend. “How soon can you get two more ready?”

“Whoa-whoa-whoa. Two? You forget how to count? “ Dash snapped to an upright posture, her mask coming completely off as she did. The room lighting reflected off her eyes.

“Look, Rainbow Dash, I appreciate you want to help.” Sunset shook her head. “But this is dangerous. We barely made it out alive last time. The things that place makes you see…” she paused as images of her own guilt popped into her head. “Just...trust me when I say it's not something you want to experience.”

“No problem.” Dash was quick to respond. “I can't see anyway. Not normally.” She smiled. “Besides, what sort of friend would I be if I didn’t help you all?”

Sunset sighed and shook her head with a frustrated smirk. “Alright. I can't win with Twilight, I sure as heck can't win against all six. So let's let our think team here work on what this Malcontent is making.” She stood up, having slipped her boots back on. “I assume you all have spare costumes?”

Twilight jumped, startled as a table top opened near her and a small handful of identification cards appeared.

“Sorry, Twilight.” Spike chuckled and rubbed the back of his head. “Rarity had me print these up.”

“Thank you, Spikey.” Rarity plucked the batch of cards up in a simple gesture and shuffled them in her hands idly. “My tower is secure, and it has some amenities you may find useful. I'm not sure who has what at their disposal but I can offer basic shower facilities and a safe place from prying eyes.” She moved with grace, easily flipping all the cards into a center table. “These will get you all back into the tower.” She took a drag from her cigarette and exhaled a puff of smoke. “As the sun is nearly rising, I assume at least some of you have other responsibilities, or at the least, as Sunset suggested, need to change into a spare set of clothes.”

The girls all picked up the white proximity cards carefully, each examining them, save Dash who simply pocketed it.

“Alright. Meet back here when you all get yourself in a more presentable state. Twilight and I will tend to our dear sleeping Sybil.” Rarity motioned to the unconscious Fluttershy.

“Not to mention we have a meeting with Spitfire today.” Twilight mentioned offhand.

“Quite right.” Rarity smiled at her old friends. “So I'll see you all this evening, or sooner. Twilight and Spike can show you all a discrete exit location.”

The girls all stood up, save Fluttershy who was still out on the sofa, leaving the room with chatter and discussion. Rarity smiled, arms still crossed as she stuck the half gone cigarette to her lips and walked across the office to a bookshelf. A cursory glance of the books and she revealed a small wet bar behind it all.

She paused and looked at all the fine spirits she had hidden. Glancing back to make sure she was all alone, she cataloged the items more closely. Clanking glass and ice cubes filled the otherwise silent room, followed by the sound of a fine scotch being poured into the glass.

Walking over to her desk, the shelves closed behind her and she sat down, setting the prepared drink without sipping it. Leaning back, the sound of her shoes clanking to the floor echoed. Rubbing her feet, she was happy she didn’t have stockings to worry about, the ache from the day coming out as she did. Glancing down at her nails she scoffed, polish was chipping off, leaving her feeling naked almost.

Feet propped up on her desk, the fashionista leaned back, her eyes locked on the drink she had made for herself. The drink she kept pushing back from her mind as she woke that day. The same drink that she almost lost focus because of during a phone interview earlier. The same drink that crept into her mind even after she was reunited with her long lost friends.

She stared at the drink. The ice in it shifted, as if to indicate to her it was staring back.

A long silence filled the room as she reached towards the drink, hesitated and pulled back.

Squinting at it, she turned and began looking over her tablet to pull up data from the day, the glass just in her line of vision.

Finally she reached for it and took a long drink from it, closing her eyes and letting a smile run over her face. Leaning back further, she forgot the numbers on the screen and began to let the warm rush of the liquor take over.

Just one won’t hurt. She thought as she took another gulp.

***
End of episode
***

Episode 17 "Misinterpretations"

View Online

"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***

Episode 18 "Distractions"

View Online

"Distractions"
By
Dark Malcontent
Co-Author and Proofreads by Ali
UnCranky Editor Brawny Buck
Creative Writing Team (Pony Think Tank) includes Alden, Spencer, Ali, & Floof)

***

Sitting cross legged, Twilight heard a faint crack of her knee as she shifted. A fainter grunt left her throat while her focus on the servo joint occupied her thoughts. A look of determination grew with a lackadaisical gesture of a limp tongue hanging out. Finally the final pins she needed to connect to the interface locked in with a swift chirp. "Whew."

Shifting again, she leaned back to pick up a small soldering iron from the floor, her elbow unmuting the television on the distant wall:

“If Twilight Sparkle is working on something to enable Doctor Rider to walk again, all power to her, and him for wanting to walk. I had forgotten about his surfing championships, and he appears to keep himself in very good condition for being crippled like he is.

“But that is a very small plus against the very big minus of her and that other one, I forget her name, who started this whole magic meta mess in the first place!”

“The other one does have a name, Mister Salt. Sunset Shimmer, if I recall right."

She tilted her head as the main door to the workshop slid open, spying the black boots of Sunset Shimmer walking in.

"Twilight?" she heard her call out, though her tone lacked the usual confidence she had grown accustomed to. Leaning out from under the armor, she adjusted herself to be seen.

"Over here, Sunset." She called back, the soldering iron still in her hand. "Just putting a few adjustments to--" she stopped mid sentence as she saw Sunset's tears. "Are you alright?!" she scrambled to stand, knees cracking a bit more as she softly cursed to herself.

Standing upright, she ran to her friends side, only to be waved off by her just as quick.

"I'm fine. I'm ok." She heard Sunset answer, the few remaining contacts from her old life sitting down on a loveseat. She remained silent as she stared down for a long minute.

"Funny, you don't look fine." Twilight sat next to her, a comforting hand on her shoulder. "Now why don't you tell me what's really bothering you?"

Sunset sighed heavily and ran her gloved hands through her hair in frustration. "I'm worn out, is all. Too much to do and not enough time."

"I guess I don't understand exactly, can you be more specific?" Twilight tilted her head slightly in confusion.

"Everything. Nothing." Sunset answered quickly, shrugging her shoulders. "I've been doing this for I can't remember how long now." She leaned back on the love seat, crossing her arms across her chest. "I don't...I don’t think its making any difference."

Twilight nodded slowly, the television droning on in the background. Picking up a small remote, she muted it, the two people arguing silently now. "I think you might be trying to move mountains alone." Twilight set a wrench aside that was pressing into her back.

"One of the things Princess Celestia tried to teach me was being a princess meant being responsible." Sunset stared blankly at the wall in front of them. Taking her glasses off, she cleaned them with a tissue she plucked from a box sitting next to them. "I was too young and arrogant then to really pay attention to her lessons. I thought I knew better." Tossing the tissue aside with a sigh, she positioned them back on her face. "But look at the mess I've made."

"That nights a blur for everyone. What you may or may not have done can’t be changed." Twilight began, hesitation creeping in as she continued. “What's most important is that you've been trying to fix things the best you can. That sounds pretty responsible to me." A warm smile met Sunsets gaze.

"Thanks, Twilight." Sunset tilted her head slightly. "I know you're trying to cheer me up but."

"Princess Celestia once told me that 'success is not measured by where you are in life’." Twilight put a hand on her shoulder. "‘But what obstacles you have overcome.’ You've overcome a great deal of obstacles on your own." She smiled as she stood up, turning to return the wrench to the tool chest. In the same motion she flipped a switch on a keyboard casually.

"The strange part is the city seems to be taking a turn for the worse. A pair of folks I tried to help turned nasty on me on the way here. I would never have had them turn on me back when I first started." She blew her hair out of her eyeliner towards the muted television. "I swear half the reason the city is changing is due to that Bucker."

Twilight cringed as she heard the term.

"Oh, sorry, isn't that his name? I don’t get to watch a lot. Crime and all." Sunset smirked and shrugged.

"Buck." Twilight corrected. "I won’t disagree, as fair and balanced as he claims to be. There’s a lot of anti meta sentiment lately. Most of it has to be because of the new super bill."

Twilight turned around to face her friend, a look of worry on her face.

"You look like you've got more on your mind than you're letting on." Sunset quirked an eyebrow. "Wanna reverse roles and tell me what the problem is?”

Twilight sighed with a nod. "Well...I was delivered a note, it's brief, and not very specific but..." Twilight bit her lower lip, took a breath and sighed. "I think it might be a way for us to get home. Back to Equestria since the portal was destroyed on that night."

Sunset stared at Twilight in shock and confusion starting to twist her face. "Twilight...I'm already home. I’ve called this world home now for a while. Sure I'd love to go back to Equestria and see what's changed since I left it. But I've spent so much time here. Even you've spent a good time here, not nearly as much time as you had in Equestria but-" Sunset took her own breath to collect her thoughts which tried to run away with her. "Are you sure you'd want to pursue it? What if it's a lie? Or worse, a trap?"

"I don't know, but I've been worried about my friends and Princess Celestia back home. I don't know how they're doing since they wouldn't have anyone to wield the Element of Magic." Silence draped over the room for a few long moments. "Will you come with me?"

Sunset remained silent, eyeing Twilight before looking down to her fidgeting hands. "...Alright, but we're telling our friends. You guys have made it clear we're a team, and team members communicate."

***

Dear Sunset and Twilight
I’ll keep this brief. I know you’re both foreign to this world. If you wish to return to the world you left, then allow me the pleasure of a meeting in No Man’s Land. You’ll know when to meet me there.

Malcontent

Twilight lowered the letter and looked up. Everyone looked like they wanted to say something, but no one was speaking up. Even Spike was at a loss for words, a little buffering icon visible as he thought.

Rainbow finally broke the silence. “You know this is a trap, right?”

Applejack sighed. “I was tryin’ to find a better way to word it, but aah agree. This has trap written all over it.”

“You’re not actually thinking of going, darling, are you?”

“We should all go and drop a beatdown on that manipulative-” Fluttershy clamped her hand over her mouth, then lowered her head and transitioned to pinching the bridge of her nose. “Andrea, that’s not helpful.”

“Hold on, Fluttershy.” Sunset looked like she had an idea. “Andrea might be onto something. Spike, can you run any tactics simulations?”

“Sure.” Spike pulled a map of No Man’s Land and began making little chalk diagrams. “Does the letter specify where to meet them?”

“There’s still the issue of all that Raw Magic to deal with,” Rainbow reminded them. “Spike, do you have anyth-”

“Uh,” Pinkie’s interruption made everyone jump slightly as she peeked into the conversation with a burst of super speed. She motioned toward Twilight. “Can we stop with planning an ambush for two seconds and check on Twilight?”

Rarity shot a glare at Sunset and Spike, then turned to glare at Rainbow before remembering she couldn’t see it. She turned to Twilight. “Sorry about that, darling. We should hear your thoughts about it first.”

Twilight took a deep breath before speaking. “It’s alright. Trust me, I had almost the same thought process when I first read it. Sunset and I already discussed it earlier, and I am planning on going. The issue being, of course, how obvious it is that it’s a trap.”

“Somethin’ else is botherin’ me about it, sugarcube.” Applejack crossed her arms and raised an eyebrow. “What does this Malcontent mean by ‘You’ll know when to meet me there’?”

“That was bothering me too,” Rainbow chimed in. “I mean, every time I hear that in any story it’s usually an indication that something big is about to go down, and that would be what the cue is. Given everything that’s been going on lately, how will we know what the cue is compared to any other attack of the day?”

A thundering rumble sounded from outside. Though muffled by the layers of insulation the building had, it still shook several pictures on the wall.

"What the buck?" Spike popped up on a nearby screen, his wide eyed dragon form turning hollow as news feeds and information filled him up. Searching over data streams, several monitors sprung to life with different news reporters, each talking over the other.

"Language!" Twilight quickly reminded him, a rap to the closest monitor shaking the bracket that held it. "Wait what did happen Spike?"

"Hard to tell. Multiple explosions reported." Spike ran back and forth across the screens as data gathered. "Several reports of a gas main rupture. At least 10 different epicenters of explosions." The avatar kept shifting to different sections of the monitors as he spoke. "It’s coming in across the police bands too quickly to verify all claims."

“Oh dear.” Fluttershy exclaimed, her eyes shifting as Andrea piped in. “Better them than us.”

“That's really getting creepy.” Dash said, tilting her head towards Fluttershy. “You know your entire body posture changes when she takes over? Totally creepy.”

"Hey, I thought you two had to tag out to talk?" Pinkie rubbed her chin curiously.

“I wonder if this has anything to do with Malcontent’s note?” Twilight turned her head towards Sunset. Before she could answer the televisions screens behind them turned to static. A half second later the image of Mistress Mayhem’s disturbing grin and dilated eyes filled them all.

“Hello, Equestrian City.” Mistress Mayhem’s frightening calm demeanor began. “Don’t adjust your sets!” she began to laugh maniacally, the camera view pulled back sloppily.

The room filled with a gasp as the scene at the newsroom became apparent: several staff appeared to be in various states of dismemberment or death. Laying across desks, cameras, or sprawled on the floor, no movement came from any of them. The only thing moving was the tendrils of Mistress Mayhem as she sent two of them to adjust the camera back to her. “Now that I have your full and undivided attention, I have two important messages!” a set of her tentacles picked up a paintbrush and dangled it in front of the camera, then towards the weather map behind her.

The bristles flicked about in a flurry of motion, the final result a single word on the map painted in blood read: NOW

Tossing the paintbrush aside, the shot of the word stayed in frame as Mayhem resumed her broadcast. “Sponsor’s wishes aside, my lovely city, I’m here to let you know that wake up call you just got is just the start!”

“I’d say that’s a yes.” Sunset finally broke the stunned silence, fastening her glasses to her head and sliding them into position. “Seems Malcontent didn’t want any confusion on the signal.”

“That means he’s behind our city’s first super villain sized problem as well.” Rarity narrowed her eyes.

“We need to get down there and stop her. Where is that, Spike?” Applejack asked, cracking her knuckles as a look of determination filled her eyes.

“Tracing signals, there’s a lot of news rooms in town active at this hour.” Spike said, a map of the city behind him as his avatar sported a pair of binoculars.

"No doubt the authorities and anyone else with half a brain will ask," she continued, the stream flickering a few more times. "What could be worth all this mess and fuss?" Mayhem gave a toothy grin as she tilted her head back and a tendril tapped her chin in contemplation. A series of snaps erupted from off camera and several tendrils brought a hostage that was still alive into view. Dangling by her neck, the poor employee still had her headset on, but most of her clothing was bloodstained. "What sort of maniac would go to these lengths for something?" she continued, the subtle sound of rope constricting as the girl flailed helpless, her hands grabbing at her neck in a futile attempt for air. "I'll tell you who!" the snap of the girls neck sounded, limbs going stiff and then sickeningly limp. "Someone who loves a little Mayhem!"

The sound of the body dropping made several of the girls watching wince once more. Twilight was busy in the background, the sliding and interlocking metal of her mark 3 suit softly sounding behind the girls. Sunset was the only other one not frozen for the moment as she returned with a box labeled "borrowed" and began rummaging through it.

"Now I know I'm not the only ones out there who want to bring the city down a few pegs." Mayhem continued, her rant becoming more coherent. "I've already detonated the first round of explosive party favors. The moment I did that another timer started." A green led font popped up on the screen under her. "Thank you Babsy!" she smiled wider. "The moment this timer hits zero, a much larger explosive will go off! What kind?! Perhaps you've been keeping up with the latest in robberies?" the screen flickered and a schematic of the stolen neutron bomb filled the space. "This sexy little number has been modified and will atomize most everything in the city and leave anyone alive with a permanent radioactive tan!"

Spike watched and looked to Twilight whose right eye began to twitch. “Twilight?” when she didn’t respond, he quickly closed her helmet. Twilight blinked and shook her head a bit. “Twilight, are you okay?”

“Huh? Yeah. What just happened? I felt like my head was elsewhere.”

“Dunno but glad you’re back.” Spike began to display some research data in front of her. “Here’s what I’ve been able to find out on what she has. Her’s doesn’t seem to be standard.”

“Thanks Spike. You’re still my number one assistant.” Spike blushed and turned himself into a sheep on her screen before vanishing to jump back to one of the main screens in the room, back to his default dragon form. Twilight took a breath and looked at the TV through her visor screen and her friends. “Based on what I see,” Twilight spoke aloud through the speaker system, resulting in her voice to be modulated. This broke her friend’s concentrations on the TV set to look at her. “She may be insane but she isn’t lying.” Her armor sealed around her with her boots making a heavy, dull ‘thud’ sound. Her faceplate with visor retracted, allowing her normal voice to now come out. “If those are real, that thing can render this entire area uninhabitable and kill everyone in the process. The immediate deaths would be instant but the later ones would be slow and painful.”

“Then you girls have to get there now.” Rarity slammed her empty glass down as a semi sober look washed over her face. She turned to one of the screens. “Spike, get ahold of ECPD and tell them where that signal is coming from.”

Spike nodded and gave a salute. “Right away!”

Rarity turned to look Twilight and then Sunset. “Twilight and Sunset--”

“Now hold your horses.” Applejack waved her hand in front of her fashion minded friend, cutting in.

Twilight and Sunset both raised an eyebrow at Applejack’s interruption. Sunset moved to speak, only to wince in pain for a moment, one eye slamming shut as a hand lifted to both cover it and hold her head. Fluttershy also winced and slunk back. “Don’t worry. I got this. Trust me.” Andrea said in Fluttershy’s mind before taking over. The pain stopped and she took a seat, leaned back with a smirk and enjoyed the show that was just beginning. What just happened? My head isn’t hurting now, Fluttershy thought. Only to get no answer from Andrea, or not yet.

“We can’t just go charging in like a bull in a china shop.” Applejack continued. Sunset tried to speak and move but as she did, another sharp pain struck her head and returned her to her previous position.

Rainbow Dash before now had lowered her head to try and get the ringing to stop in her ears. Catching the vocal tones of an argument about to break out, she lifted her head and hissed with a recoil back, her hands covering her ears now as it got worse and now sounded more like nails on a chalkboard than ringing. “Girls…” she tried to call out but it instead came in a whisper.

Pinkie gripped a fist tightly as it felt as if birds were pecking at her head. To be rid of this, as it happened on occasion when they would try to get any food she had stored in her hair out, she sped her body up. This caused her to flicker and become hard to see.

Twilight’s eye began to twitch as the sharp pain struck her head like a pulsing heartbeat. “Twilight? Can you hear me?” Spike questioned when her breathing became a little quicker at times.

Twilight stiffly managed a silent nod, a twitchy grin tugging at the corners of her lips like someone trying to keep it together.

Spike watched concerned and was about to speak when… “Spike… Twilight...something ain’t right,” Dash whispered, wincing and gripped her head tighter, starting to pant a bit in pain.

Spike turned his attention over and moved to another screen closer to Dash. “What?”

“Sound...new sound.” She gritted her teeth, curling some into a ball then forcing herself to stand straight only to fall back on the sofa cushions. “All around. Can’t focus.” she got out and heavily exhaled with another hiss of pain in her ears and head.

Spike frowned and leaped back, changing to having a janitor-like suit with a proton pack on his back, a screen in hand with multiple colored lines waving from all the sounds. He frowned and tapped one line and shook his head, tapping an ‘x’ by it. Spike repeated this with a second, third and fourth line of audio waves until his eyes widened on the last one. “Say...Dash is right, Twilight.” He turned to see his surrogate mother take a stiff step forwards, fists clenched and one lifting before rearing back, eyes on Sunset. “Twilight!” he shouted at her as Andrea laughed from her chair at the unfolding scene.

“Me of all people?” Applejack clenched her fists at her sides and took a step towards Rarity. “What’s that supposed to mean?!”

Spike quickly popped up on a screen between Rarity and Applejack, looking to one then the other. “Girls…” he began calmly and quickly. Meanwhile Dash reached over to try and find her stick but a new sharp wave struck and she fell over on the sofa, her hand hitting the arm and knocking the cane down to the floor with a clatter. Quickly she covered her ear again with a weak whine of pain.

Pinkie gasped and stopped her vibrating. Upon doing so resulted in her wincing in pain and feeling a twitch in the back of her head. Quickly she returned to vibrating as she had been, making the sensation and pain end.

“It means that while you wait and don’t get going, someone else’s sister might die!” Rarity shouted, slamming her fist on the table.

Twilight winced and turned her focus onto the arguing pair. Her reared back fist turned to face them and her fingers uncurled. Her palm began to start gaining illumination of a glowing magical blast.

“Twilight! No!” he jumped to her HUD and quickly closed up her helmet in full, disrupting the charging attack. “Speak to me!” he desperately requested. Twilight didn’t answer but did stumble back, holding her head.

“Rarity what--” Applejack stared down, trying to determine the source.

“You know very well what!” Rarity threw a brandy snifter at her blonde friend. Missing its mark, it sailed into a corner and rolled to a stop at Matterhonr’s boots. “I hope your sister dies just before you do!” Rarity shouted as she reached out and now threw a vase, missing Applejack again as a crazed look became evident over her face.

As it shattered, Dash flinched and started to curl up as best she could. Sunset also winced and stumbled back against a wall. “Girls...please…” she painfully groaned quietly.

“Girls I think we--” Spike began again, trying to interrupt them.

“I don’t know what’s gotten into you but you need to cool it before I-” Applejack scolded back, her fists now level for a fight.

Spike quickly gave up on plan A and returned to Twilight’s HUD. He summoned for a panel of dials and began to turn them, looking towards Twilight. “Come on Twilight, snap out of it.” He quietly said to himself as he worked and said her name at each change in frequency.

“You haven’t got the apples to hit me you twenty-gallon-hat-wearing-cow-poke! How did you pay your farm hands before I bailed you out? Did they line up outside your bedroom?” Rarity bit back verbally with a cruel smile complimenting her dilated pupils.

“You fashion focused floozy! I aim to shut that mouth of yours if you keep- -!” Applejack’s eyes matched Rarity’s. Dash tried to stand and hit the sofa arm again for attention got her nothing, except a throbbing palm from the painful smack on the upholstery. Dash also staggered back onto the sofa, almost sliding off in her impared state.

“Or maybe you went and worked for Cherry Jubilee?” Rarity strongly questioned.

Spike worked faster, sweat beads sliding down his scales as he tried more frequencies with little change in results, with a couple ending in Twilight giving a yelp of pain.

Applejack swung without further words, narrowly missing Rarity with a deadly haymaker that hit the monitor with the newscast on it. Sparks flew, the monitor shattered into pieces as she tried to hit Rarity with a left hook now.

“Ugh...Spike? Yes, yes I hear you. What happened?” Twilight finally groaned and hissed in pain.”

“I’m so glad you’re alright! There was a weird sound Dash pointed out. I isolated it and managed to block it using a different frequency.” Spike explained and looked out from another screen and jumped back in. “Now to help the others like I did you.” Swiftly he went to work, opening another floating panel, pressing buttons and turning a couple dials. Soon he winced with a small cry and a red ‘x’ with an ‘error’ flashing over one eye. “Why couldn’t I-?” he softly pondered.

Twilight shook her fog off and saw this with Spike. “Don’t worry, I’ll tell you when and you can do it. Trust me.”

Spike nodded and had his claws at the ready. “Just give the word.”

“STOP!” Twilight shouted with her augmented voice upon charging in between Applejack and Rarity, throwing her hands out towards both of them. “Spike! Send the same counter frequency through this room and seal it from getting back in here!”

Soon he sighed with relief as an invisible wave of sound swept through the room. Each girl reacted differently as it counteracted the effects of the television signal.

The pressure in the room released and shakily Dash sat upright on the sofa. “Owww…” she moaned. Sunset groaned, opening her eyes and carefully took in what was happening around her.

At that moment, Pinkie appeared now beside Dash. “You okay Dashie?”

“Ugh, yeah, I think so.” She answered, shaking off the remaining crummy feeling from her head.

The last two to come around was Applejack and Rarity, a fist halting in a punch from Applejack. Both blinked with confusion twisting their faces upon seeing Rarity with her fists up and Applejack’s stopped mid-air fist that was aimed at Rarity. “Uh, what just happened?” Applejack questioned.

“I...I don’t have a clue darling.”

Andrea laughed again from the chair where she had crossed her legs and draped an arm over the back. “Oh I’m sorry but that was amusing. None of you realized what was happening.” She stifled another laugh into a snorted snicker with a hand coming to rest on her chest.

“Thanks Spike.” Dash said and felt around over the arm of the sofa.

“Looking for this?” Pinkie asked, picking up and holding out Dash’s cane.

Tapping then gripping the handle, Dash nodded. “Yeah, thanks Pinkie.” She set it beside her leg to keep it closer. “So glad that’s done. All I was able to see between that screeching pain were motion waves that made no sense.” Dash explained with a rub of the back of her head.

"Felt like someone was drilling into my head." Sunset remarked, resuming her belt loading from the bag. "Madness spell?" she asked Twilight.

“At least something similar. Spike said it was a sound wave and by what Dash just said and what we witnessed, it can either disable us or bring us to attack each other on a personal level.” Twilight answered, her helmet opening so her normal voice came through.

"All I could do was vibrate myself fast enough to evade it." Pinkie blew a tuft of hair out of her eyes. "But that meant I couldn't talk or stop you guys." She shrugged.

"I was ready to knock your block off." Applejack stared into Rarity's eyes, letting her go and straightening her own crumpled outfit.

"I was too." Rarity commented, walking to her desk and sitting down. "What exactly was that?"

Andrea stood and stretched. “Clearly it was some sort of maniac frequency. Don’t either of you ever listen?” she said as she arched her back.

"She's right." Spike pulled a shot of the news program, Mayhem was going on about something and killing another reporter. "Sound is countered this time." He said, a spectrometer pulling up the sound waves from the broadcast. "These are designed to activate the more savage and angry centers of the brain." He continued, appearing with a pair of earmuffs on. "The room shields you all from it and I don’t really have a brain to effect as I'm not real." He shrugged.

Twilight gave somber look at her AI but then continued. "I think we can rig something up with our earpieces to broadcast a counter wave around us." She picked up one and fiddled with it. "Spike let's get these rigged up. Everyone else be sure you have all you need.”

"You certainly said a few nasty things." Applejack said, walking up behind Rarity as she looked out the window. She put a hand on her shoulder.

"Applejack let's not talk about this right now. We have a city to worry about." Rarity said distantly, still staring out the window.

“Ok we don’t have time to get hung up on whose in charge or whose angry at whom.” Sunset stood up, coming between them as she attached a few more devices onto her belt. “Rarity, you stay here and coordinate with Spike. Twilight and I will head to No Man’s Land, the rest of you need to head to wherever Spike finds--”

“3rd and McCarthy, Studio D.” Spike interjected.

“The rest of you need to head to 3rd and McCarthy and stop Mayhem.” Sunset finished, the room bursting with motion instantly. The center table opening up to reveal matching earpieces.

“These can keep us in contact and shield us all. Sunset and I have one already, these ones are more secure and compact then civilian models.” Twilight pointed out as each of the girls picked one up and walked to the exit. “Spike, keep an eye on the police band for other issues.”

“You got it, Twilight.” Spike saluted her on a screen near Rarity, the doors closing behind them.

***

Lyra pushed open the rooftop access door, barely disturbing the gravel of the rooftop as she crouched down. Sneaking across the over exposed perch, the only sound she made was that of the arrows in her quiver giving a small rattle. Knelt low on the edge of the roof, the archer pulled a set of slim binoculars from a side pouch and peered through them, focusing on the street level below.

“Rooftop surveillance commencing.” Lyra whispered, a throat mic catching her words as her binoculars focused further down. “City Hall seems secure, no movement, squad car just patrolled by.”

“Wouldn’t be parked on a street where it could be towed.” Sweetie Drops radioed back, her voice hitting Lyra’s earpiece.

“Wouldn’t risk it being towed.” She continued to scan, moving her head ever so slightly right to the entrance to a parking garage. “Parking garage seems likely. No need to worry about being towed there.”

“You’re forgetting the payload, rookie.” Sweetie replied. “Device is giving off high levels of radiation. Our sweeps found other, so that means one thing.”

“Shielded. Lead.” Lyra concluded. “Lead’s heavy. Too heavy for a regular vehicle.Would seem out of place to bring a dump truck to park in City Hall’s garage.” Lyra scanned left, near the Reading Tree Library. “Wait."

“Report.” Sweetie Drops immediately asked.

“Ma’am what time is this sector’s garbage pick up?” Lyra asked, focusing her vision on an idling garbage truck backed up to the Library.

“Two days from now. During the day.” Director Drops radioed back. “Why?”

“Well either the civil services in the section love their jobs a little too much,” Lyra squinted and saw a group of overall dressed women near the truck. “Or I think I know where that lead lined cargo transport is.” She finished, putting away her spy glasses as she stood up. “I’m pretty sure I can--”

A series of explosions rocked the street several blocks from her, followed by a closer one that shook the building she was standing on. Lyra tried to focus past the heat waves and the distortion as they washed by her, only to have another rumble knock her over the edge.

A split second of panic vanished as Lyra fell towards the street below, her training kicking in as she quickly aimed her right hand upwards. A compartment on her forearm opened up a small grappling hook fired swiftly, catching a passing ledge.

A grunt expelled from her chest as the rope tightened and stopped her from certain doom, her body swaying with kinetic value still.

“Report, Rookie.” The earpiece blasted at her. “You didn’t fall did you?”

“What? No, no of course--” she grunted as she hit the brick wall. “Not ma’am.” Lyra peered off towards the explosion, several of which had already spawned a fire. “But I think we have another more immediate problem.”

“I’m getting reports of explosions across the city grid.” Drops radioed to her.

“Yeah I’ll go ahead and confirm that.” Lyra grunted as she hit the wall again, this time able to gain purchase with her boots as she climbed up to the ledge she had hooked to. “I’m near one now, I’m hearing weapons fire in all directions, and multiple fires underground and structural. Please advise.”

“Get to the roof again and I’ll have a move for you to make.” Sweetie radioed back, holding her ear in a moment of pain. “Knocked our main power offline for a minute so the computers need a second or two.”

Lyra paused, looking around for an apparent camera or drone, she found none visible, nonetheless she gave a small sigh in defeat. “Yes ma’am.”

***

"She certainly didn't leave any room for doubt." Aria said, the slightest eyebrow raised interrupting her bored expression. The wind fluttering her waistcoat, she levitated down, passing broken walls and lockers of the devastated high school.

"She's served her purpose." Mal answered back, typing away at a cobbled together keyboard. The series of code flashing across monitors just as Aria landed behind him. "I don't keep things around that don't have a purpose." He pressed his glasses up with a smile, turning his gaze back to the last siren.

"No doubt Twilight and Sunset are on their way here. I suppose we had better get ready for them." A hint of anticipation entered his tone while he tightened his leather gloves. "You'll need a more combined approach this time."

"What are you talking about?" Aria barely had time to ask before she doubled over in pain. The tendrils on her embedded gem sunk deeper into her sternum without warning. She glanced to Mal, his figure standing over her as he cast some sort of spell. A volatile mixture of purple and green magic swirled in his hand, firing into her gem finally as he violated her on a metaphysical level.

Burning coupled with the feeling of her chest in a pair of vice grips shot through Aria. Falling to her knees, she thrust her chest out and tendrils of magic, two distinct ones, shot free and manifested on either side of her. The initial pain gone, she opened her eyes to see translucent forms compiling in the magic.

"Ahh. I see you finally came to your senses."

"Woohoo! Hands and feet again!"

"Oh great." Aria lamented, standing up as she powered through the pain. Trying to cement herself, she barely pulled off a defiant stare to the full astral manifestations of her sisters, Adagio and Sonata. "What did you do that for?!" Aria growled as she floated towards him, arms crossed in discontent. "I handled them both fine without--"

Malcontent smiled at her anger, silencing her with a finger outward as if he were teaching a dog obedience.

"Yes, sister. Don't anger your owner." Adagio laughed. "Lest he find a new pet." She floated freely towards Malcontent. "Perhaps one that could not only show him a very good time...but one who appreciates...such a large and powerful...brain."

Malcontents brief smile from Adagios veiled attempt at flattery vanished just as quickly. A fling of his wrist and the eldest sister shattered into dozens of spiritual fragments and reformed next to Sonata. "My contracts are iron clad, remind your sisters, Aria." He turned back to her. "As far as what you need this time, I want no possible mistakes. So you and your previously corporeal siblings will be tasked with knocking Twilight down." He continued. "But no harm is to come to her. I need them both alive."

"You're the boss." Sonata smiled and floated up, followed by Adagio.

"For now anyway." Adagio added.

"Shut up you two." Aria shot up between them, staring down Adagio. An energy whip wrapped around her sister and pulled the eldest close. "And follow my lead." She grinned down at the captive siren.

***

"Dispatch, Captain Nightwatch arriving with team to the corner of 3rd and Mcarthy." Night radioed, a squawk coming from the mic in his hand. Still seated in the driver’s seat of his squad car, he was flanked by several more vehicles full of armed police officers.

“Copy.” A slightly garbled voice responded through the radio. “Proceed as fit, Captain. Keep casualties to a minimum.”

“Copy that, over and out.” Captain Nightwatch unbuckled his seatbelt and got out of his car, turning to the rest of his squad taking position to defend. Several cocking guns and commands to freeze filled the air while Night turned to face the station entrance. A constant ringing in his ear distracted for but a moment as he drew his own sidearm to bear.

A gathering mob armed with all manner of weapons from small arms and shotguns to crude sticks and pipes had taken to gather around the entrance. The chanting and the angry yelling dying off as they turned their gaze to the police, none seemed too intimidated.

Night squinted at the mob, not new to riots, this one felt different. "Alright people, disperse!" He shouted through a bullhorn. "Return to your homes and let us do our job. We don't need anything…" he trailed off as the ringing in his ears made him grab the side of his temple. Biting through the pain he brought the mic to his mouth again. "Crazy to happen."

As he finished, he saw the front doors to the broadcast studio burst open, a pack of assault weapon wielding thugs opening fire into the air.

That was all the mob needed to ignite, as Night watched the mob and the thugs charge the parameter his squad had set up.

Nightwatch gave the order to open fire.

***
End of episode

Episode 19 "Cry Havoc"

View Online

"Cry Havoc"
By
DarkMalcontent
Co-author and Primary Proof Reads by Ali
Apron Wearing Editor in Chief Brawny Buck
Ideas and Brainstorming by The Pony Think Tank.


The quietness of Spitfire’s bedroom was peppered with the white noise of suburban life. Crickets complimented the occasional dogs having arguments in the distance. She laid on her stomach, slumbering soundly as the symphony of the night kept her in dreamland until an emergency alert hit her like a hammer to the head. Spitfire awoke with a jolt, sending her black sheets flying away from her yellow skin tone of her legs. She shot up, grabbed her work phone, fumbling to silence the ear piercing alarm that broke the wonderful silence of her room.

The darkness of her room vanishing with the bedside lamp flickering to life. Adjusting her lace bra, she sighed as the drowsy vision washed away slower than she hoped.

Consciousness carried in waves of alarming text messages that popped in front of her eyes. A startled yelp was the reward of the phones sudden incoming call, the face of Commissioner Luna appearing on screen. Tapping the green accept button she turned it to speaker mode as she stood up, setting it to the table.

"Yes, ma'am." She said, dancing about the floor to assemble her uniform.

"Spitfire, what do you know so far?" Luna’s voice broke the silence. "I've got a veritable storm of confusion coming across the wire now."

"I'm getting reports of a series of explosions, Commissioner, and even as we speak I'm-" she began to hop on one leg, her bare foot holding her up as the other slipped into a sock. "-hopping to respond rapidly."

"I'm going to set up a crisis center at Central HQ. Meet me there." Luna replied back. "This looks like it's going to get much worse before it gets better. We have reports of a news studio being taken over by rioters." There was a crackle on the phone. "Nevermind reports, I've got the news from that studio now. Looks bad. Sargent turn that volume up."

"Alright I'm on the way. Twenty minutes or less." Spitfire nearly fell over as she tried to put her pants on. "Knight is on duty at HQ. I'll have him call in the girls and hell even the men. We can use all the help we can get it sounds like."

"What the hell is that sound?!" the phone made a loud thud, followed by muffled screaming and grunting. "I'll show you whose over the hill!" the phone went dead suddenly.

As Spitfire stared at her night table, the abrupt end leaving the Commander wide eyed for a brief moment. She shook off the feeling of dread and focused, taking the phone in hand and bursting out of the bedroom half dressed, determined to finish before she made it to the car.


The world resumed regular speed as Splitsecond slowed down, a brisk jog compared to the breakneck pace she was carrying Shadowstrike at. The crowd before both of them failed to take notice of them, too intent to engage the ECPD as numbers on both sides swelled.

Sliding to a swift stop, Splitsecond set Shadowstrike down. “Looks like we got here in time.” Splitsecond commented, readying herself between the ECPD ranks and the swelling mob. A brief earthquake announced the landings of Impervia and Andrea, the latter of whom scowled while brushing off the dirt they had kicked up.

"That is one heck of a mob." Impervia said, feeling somewhat naked without her hat, she tightened her mask and gloves.

"We can't just start cutting them down, most of them don't know they're being controlled." Fluttershy’s voice broke in from Andrea.

"The signal is coming from several areas." Spike came across the earpieces. "The closest one is at the studio. Take it out and they should return to normal."

"Not a problem. Let's get inside before that loony witch gets wise to-'' Shadowstrike ducked before she finished her words, a flurry of bullets missing her and Splitsecond as each dodged in time.

Impervia winced as she felt the impacts, several deflecting from her bracers but none hurting her as she lived up to her namesake.

Andrea turned in time to stagger back into a lamppost, the sudden onslaught of bullets riddling her torso. Each dull impact followed the brief squish of flesh as it ripped into her body. Enough trauma to kill a normal person, it put Andrea on her back followed by a trail of rather colorful words. The sound of her wounds knitting as the supernatural energy in her went to work, several slugs popped out of their holes as she healed.

Glancing at the entrance, the three remaining took count of at least a dozen armed girls and two larger males behind them. Moving the big ones up front, several thugs were reloading and moving to advance.

"Check that. I'm pretty sure she knows we're here." Shadowstrike spun her staff with a quick half circle, the metal locking into place as she took a defensive posture.

"Ok." Andrea stood back up, several rounds of ammunition popping out of her body as it regenerated. The gentle chime of metal on concrete rang as a bone in her arm snapped back into place as well. "That was such a cheap shot." A look of disdain filled her face, followed by an animal like hiss. Her fangs elongated, her ears became more pointed and longer to be bat-like, thicker fur covered her ankles, wrists and collar. Her hair became more wild looking, her pupils became narrowed slits, her eye color sharpened, webbed wings shot out of her back with her fingers and toes becoming pointed into sharp claws and talons, which gripped where she stood with pride.

Impervia advanced, barely flinching as another round of gunfire either missed or struck her directly. “Y’all gotta stop this now!” she ordered, shaking off the volley as she stopped, raising her arms to absorb more gunfire as a fresh round broke through the tense air. She narrowed her gaze on their target building, taking a slow, deep breath. Her skin hardened further as she exhaled, the bullets falling off her skin more than they penetrated it.

"Oooo we got ourselves some Grade-A heroes." Babs shouted from far behind the gang. She cocked her assault rifle, almost using the sound as a way to put emphasis on the next words to leave her mouth. "Let's give ’em a proper burial."

"Not so fast." A woman announced, her body blurred as she zipped out to the front of the crowd. She abruptly halted, spinning a pair of sparking tonfas. The spiky haired Lightning Dust grinned while she looked over the heroines. “I get the cocky one.” A lightning spark flew down, zapping the ground. Babs opened her mouth to speak but closed it with Lightning charging forwards. She swung one tonfa then the other at Shadowstrike who leaned back and flipped, avoiding the strikes that cut and heated the air near her face each time. With Shadowstrike busy, some of the gang members took aim and resumed fire upon the remaining three.

"Eh. They say never look a gift horse in the mouth." Babs shrugged to the bewildered thugs next to her. "One less to kill."

Impervia turned to look at the gang leader, recognizing her for a moment but had little time to contemplate as Cherry Spice barreled into her from the side, knocking her into a bakery wall and off the street.

"You girls keep ’em busy and I'll stop the wild haired wily one!" Splitsecond shouted, off like a flash.

"Split, wait for-" Shadowstrike ducked as another electrical charged swing nearly took her head off, singeing her hair slightly as she blocked with her staff.

Andrea flew down swiftly, spinning out of the way as bullets whizzed by. Shifting her position resulted in a few shots striking her stomach. They didn’t linger long before being pushed out and her flesh mended itself. This didn’t slow her down, much to the thugs dismay, as she clotheslined two into the ground as they attempted to run. A third rose her rifle, aiming the butt at her. Like a gymnast Andrea shoved off the ground, arching her back in her backflip over the falling forwards woman. Continuing her flip, she twisted and slammed her taloned feet into her back, sending her to the ground with a few tears on her leather jacket.

She landed and turned her head to look over to the nearing other gang members. Andrea cracked her knuckles. “Alright, if you insist.” She grinned, twisting around and charged, slamming a right hook under a woman’s chin and her elbow into another’s chest before knocking her to the side with a swift sideways kick.

During this, Splitsecond sped by Babs with little to no warning. Babs barely turned her head before a forceful blow struck her in the back of the head. Splitsecond watched as the young woman fell face first to the cement curb with a tiny wince. Quickly getting next to Babs, she lifted her head, examined the dazed expression and took off for, then passed the television station. As Splitsecond returned, the four guards tried their best to defend their spot but each shot missed. The speeding heroine sprinted circles around them, stopping and dusting her hands off to observe her work. The four guards struggled against the long ribbon keeping them back-to-back and side-to-side.

Giving a wide confident smile, her back straightened to stand taller, she dashed off in through the television station doors. All that was left behind was her signature grey and pink blur but that soon faded from sight.

"Boss." Babs coughed, pulling a black walkie talkie from under her belt. "One made it in."

"And the others?" Mayhem radioed back, the slightest hint of static following.

"Three down here are handled. You were right about needing two heavies." Babs eyed Cherry holding Impervia at bay, a series of pies and bread flying back and forth in the distance.

"Of course I was, Babsy." Mayhem laughed. "Just keep the masses at bay until the real target gets here."

"Er..." Babs let the button go a moment then pressed the switch again. "Gotcha boss." She turned to see Shadowstrike and Dust clashing in the street, each moving in unison to the others stance. "I doubt these ones will be a problem. Very wet behind the ears."

"Now to take care of the straggler." Mayhem cut transmission abruptly.

"Better you than me." Babs said, taking cover behind a pillar of the elevated train tracks. "Come on, let's pour more on that yellow girl!" she shouted, motioning to another batch of girls behind her.


Splitsecond watched as several rounds of ammunition passed by her head, each whizzed with a dull metallic “clack” sound. Moving at the speed she was the regular goons didn't have much chance. As she passed up the stairs and rounded each floor, she pulled the magazines from their rifles and carried them with her.

Finally at the top she had a few dozen banana shaped magazines and one flashbang grenade to her surprise. It took her less than a second to realize the pin and handle were gone, her eyes widening as she flung it desperately away from her.

The dull echo of the casing hitting a single stair sounded as she turned to run, met only with the heat and wave of force from the explosion. Thrown off her feet, the world went back into normal speed for her, sailing through a door and across the carpeted floor she was on. Flipping half a dozen times, she came to a halt face up, the stars clearing from her vision to reveal several rifles and pistols aimed and ready to fire.

"Crap." She narrowed her eyes in defeat.


"Where did Split head?" Impervia questioned with a grunt, her eyes locked with Cherry Spice, much like their arms to the others body. Throwing her opponent into a car, the alarm it rang died a quick death as Cherry threw the car at Impervia.

"She ran in. I think she was going to try and stop Mayhem herself.” Shadowstrike said, wincing with one tonfa after the other swinging with impressive speed into her metal staff. Sparks flew, her fingers twitched with each counter. Dust closed in, swung down only for Shadow to strike up. The second strike hitting Shadow in the side, making her briefly cry. The two spun and struck, some attacks landing as others missing and rainbow ends being lightly burnt. Shadow finally hit, spun but Dust spun the opposite way, striking low into Shadow’s leg with a tonfa. Shadow began to fall only to be punched in the chest and kicked in the side of the stomach.

"You got more things to worry about than some friend, lady." Dust laughed as Shadowstrike regained her stance, charging. She moved her tonfas to the side like a matador cape and effortlessly dodged Shadowstrike's frontal swing. Leaving the faintest of blurs behind her the green clad mercenary responded with a flurry of strikes.

Not fully enhanced by magic it seemed, Dust was keeping her on the ropes. Each twin and spin of the two metal bars in her hand connected and deflected at almost blinding speed. Ducking from a shotgun blast, Shadowstrike back flipped, catching her opponent in the chin as she moved from harm's way.

"Running? Seems about your speed!" Shadowstrike heard her say, pushing off a pile of rubble to gain higher ground. Landing with grace, her boots barely disturbed the dust on the rooftop, the faintest of it kicking up during her flourishing of her staff.

"More like giving you a break." Shadowstrike laughed back, left arm up in a defensive posture. "Who are you again? Green Mist?"

Lightning charged and jumped, soaring forwards and landing in front of Shadowstrike. She straightened her posture with a grin like a proud gymnast standing on the new rooftop. Shadowstrike held her weapon at the ready while more electrical sparks trailed the two metal sticks, arcing and crackling as they grew. Shadowstrike stepped back, her shoulders tense. Finally Lightning dashed forwards, smacking her weapons together with a clang. The electrical charge grew quickly and Shadowstrike jumped back as the crackling weapons slammed into the concrete. Gravel and dirt flew up from the impact and charge. “Dust. LIGHTNING DUST!” she growled fiercely, pushing off the gravel with her weapons ripping out before spinning. One tonfa slammed with a deafening ring from the connection.

Shadowstrike hissed and grunted while she leaned back to absorb the impact, her vision blurring from the echoing noise in her ears. She shifted her stance to hold up against the lightning numbing her arms and spinning her head was doing as she tried to clear her view of the world. An odd blurr moved, her head leaned back causing the second tonfa to miss her head but to burn her bangs. “You know I outta send you a bill for my hair!” she growled, ripping her weight to one side and sending Dust forward, shifting her center of gravity. Smacking her opponent to the ground, Shadowstrike stood and desperately moved back away from the tonfas, getting an image of the back of Dust’s head hitting the ground.

Dust gave a frustrated growl and threw a massive electrical charge behind her, nailing Shadowstrike straight in the back. The momentum sent her staff flying one way and her body the other. She came to a dazed halt, half propped against a brick wall as both girls moved to recover.


Malcontent typed a few more keystrokes before looking up to the machine in front of him. The crackling of small fires around him echoed around the shattered gymnasium he stood in. Looking back down, several alerts popped on the screen, silencing as he hit keys to acknowledge them.

From above, Adagio watched, frowning and folding her arms. She turned her glare on Aria who stood at the ready, at the head of her and Sonata, who was just enjoying she had hands again like an entertained child. This better be damn worth it. Adagio thought, her mind recalling their deal.

Adagio stepped up on the catwalk behind Malcontent, wrapping her arms from behind him. “How do you even plan to accomplish this plan all alone?” she questioned, her lips pouting.

“Didn’t I tell you to be up there waiting?” Malcontent questioned as he adjusted some settings, shrugging her off.

Adagio adjusted her hair, cocking a hip and soon stepped around in front of him. “Yes, you did but I have an offer for someone so brilliant and handsome.” Malcontent briefly eyed her as she sat, floating just above an electrical board. She crossed one leg over the other, leaning forwards. “You and I team up. Two brilliant minds working as one voice to take down our enemies.”

Malcontent slowed his typing in codes but his gaze stayed on the glowing screen. “Work together you say?” she nodded confidently. "I've given you a body. One which is mine to claim anytime I wish." He leaned his head up slowly, eyeing up her slowly swaying leg in front of him. "Why should I keep you when I've got your far more capable sister at my disposal?" he crossed his arms, sensing Aria in the shadows.

"Aria." Adagio slowly uncrossed and recrossed her legs in front of his eyes. "May be very good for the heavy lifting, handsome." She tilted her head and arched her breasts forward. "But experience is never to be downplayed. I am the eldest after all." She gave a slow stroke of her full thigh she exposed. "Just think of all the things I could do for you she doesn't even have a clue about."

"I've got a few of them running through my head at the moment." He said with annoyance, spreading her legs aside as she obscured his computer screen. He felt the shock and disbelief wash over her, followed by an uncertainty he loved from his victims. "You may have been able to sleep your way through little villages back home but you'll find the foundation I'm made on is much more firm." He added. "And rigid."

He pondered a few moments as he worked and a wicked grin tugged across his lips despite it all. Locking his gaze along her toned and muscled leg, he followed it up to meet her eyes, alluring and wide, staring down at him. She reached a hand to stroke his hair softly. "Though the more I think about it, Aria can be a bit dull in some areas. Perhaps a fresh hand is needed." He ran his gloved hand across her knee.

"Among other limbs." Adagio laughed. ‘There you go. Like any man you can't help but think with your loins in the end.’ She thought to herself.

"Then it's agreed." He stood up and his glasses glinted a moment across their surface as he did. Cocking his head to the side, his hair drifted out from his line of vision to stare at her. "I will grant you power on par with Aria." He dusted his glove softly on his pants. "In exchange for helping me in my interests, I promise to take you with me." He added, leaning forward with an extended hand, tinted swirls of ice magic intermingled with black and purple dark magic surrounding his wrist. He extended the glove closer, watching her reaction.

"Do we have a deal?" a single eyebrow cocked as he asked again.

Adagio stared behind him for a brief moment, spying Aria's shadow. She gave a wider grin at the satisfaction of one upping her traitorous sister. Without another thought she locked eyes back with a grin that mirrored his own. "Deal, lover." She added, hoping to add insult to injury as she quickly took his hand without a second thought.

“Good.” Malcontent said with glee as purple magic swirled from his hand into Adagio’s body. She began to cry but the sudden burning in her throat brought those pained cries to an almost complete end. Seeping out of her flesh of her throat was a red gemstone, smaller than Aria’s but the same red color. Growing outward, tendrils wrapped themselves fully around her neck, four on both sides of the gem, forming an almost choker like design for the stone.

Once it was done, he released her and she fell from her floating pose, coughing and gasping while gripping at her throat. “What did you do?!” she choked horsley with a horrible pain searing her throat with each forced word.

"What I always do." He turned and began to type again, the smile on his face quick to disappear. "I give people what they bargain for." He answered calmly and held his hand out. The purple magic formed in his palm and a collar with spikes surrounded her neck. A magical loop formed on the back with a transparent chain. He lifted his hand, lifting the chain and Adagio. “Now, my new poodle, be a good girl and return to your sisters, and wait for your cue to strike.”

Adagio gave a silent nod, lowering her eyes and floating away to the main courtyard.

Adagio took a deep breath and exhaled with a hand touching the collar. This better be worth it. She thought and glared once more at Aria who locked eyes with her. The betrayed look each gave the other silent but lethal as the distant explosions from across the bay sounded.

Back below, a wireframe map pulled up on the screen, rotating and tilting to show the island Purgatory was located on. A pair of cross hairs focused on the facility a second later and at the same time a series of targeting coordinates flickered to life. He smiled to himself, pressing the final keystroke, the timer began to count down as the devices cobbled in front of him spun to life. He barely acknowledged the sound of Twilight and Sunset arriving behind him.

"You do take your time." Malcontent commented, his calm exterior unshaken by their arrival. He typed a few more commands and turned, clasping his hands behind his back and greeting them. "I assume you both are here to take me up on my offer?" he smiled down at them from the catwalk.

"Actually we had some questions for you." Sunset answered, her fists beginning to glow with fire.

"Namely how you intend to open a portal if there’s no focusing spell or relics." Twilight commented, her heads up display scanning the devices around him. "No doubt the police will have a lot more questions regarding this stolen hardware too."

"I got this funny feeling we aren't going to see this guy get booked." Sunset narrowed her eyes.

"Ever inquisitive." Malcontent looked down his nose to Twilight. "You are correct that I'll need a focusing device to dial home." He smiled. "I intend to siphon all the power that was let loose during the first explosion and focus it into the array behind me."

"That's impossible." Twilight responded. "You'd need some means of capturing magic and no one in this world can do that yet. Not on the scale you would need."

"Right again." He laughed, his focus on Sunset. "I admit the more I watched Twilight the more conflicted I became about my feelings for you, dear Sunset." Slowly bringing his arms from behind, smoldering purple and green magic rested in his palms. "But I finally came to a conclusion."

"Conclusion?" Sunset tried to keep him talking, circling around to flank him as Twilight stayed near their landing zone.

"Yes. But we can talk about that later back home." He nodded to her slowly. "Things aren't entirely ready dear, so I've arranged for some entertainment." He released the energy in his hands as his final word rang out. "ARIA!"

Before either girl could react, Aria sailed from the overhead catwalks with her sisters behind her. Landing softly, she motioned to them both to attack Sunset and Twilight. The dark magic wave Malcontent had thrown knocked Sunset off balance and took Twilight back a step, giving the sirens he commanded time for a preemptive strike on them.

Sonata and Adagio laughed with glee as their full bodies became solid in front of Twilight, her sensors scanning them as she sized them up. Sonata seemed less corporeal then Adagio but she was the most normal of the three fashion wise. Even after ten odd years, Twilight remembered Sonata’s clothing from that night and it had not changed a bit. Adagio was a different story, as was Aria. Similar to Arias new look and ally, Adagio seemed to be the least covered of the sirens. Her outfit was closer to the slave grabs of the early Eastern Empire than Aria's tight full length battle coat. Adagio had gotten a crisscrossed fabric top that left her little modesty below her breasts. A thin strip of the same fabric served as a loincloth and slimmer crisscrossed fabrics went down her bare legs, with no socks or shoes to speak of, the other cover was a thicker cut of fabric around her forearms. A very out of place spiked collar finished her outfit, and the faintest of ethereal leashes pulled at the back of it, though it vanished into nothingness a few inches from the ring that held it at the neck.

The ability to levitate like their middle sister was theirs as well, Adagios hair and loose fabric straps fluttered from the breeze that had picked up. Twilight took notice that Sonata wasn’t affected by the wind, just in the nick of time, she was able to dodge out of the way of a new threat. Adagio’s mouth was open, releasing a horrible wail, frightening and holding pain as Aria’s screams had. Coming out of her mouth were many thin thread-like tendrils. They glowed red with magic and heat. Upon the tendril’s webbing together and landing on bricks behind Twilight, they melted under the intense heat.

"What the buck came out of her mouth?!" Spike appeared as a wide-eyed dragon in a holographic display. Small and out of the main HUD, he scanned the melting bricks.

"Langua-!" Twilight started to scold but was yanked off her balance by her ankles. Aria’s energy whips, their source protruding from her wrists like veins, wrapped around quickly. Twilight fired her bootjets, the distance they gave her stopped abruptly as Aria dug in her heels and pivoted herself, the magic tendrils on Twilight making her snap back like a metal yo yo. "Whoa!"

Aria snapped the whips free and rolled under the recoiling power armor as it connected to a burned out van in the street. Coming to her feet quickly, she barked at Sonata. "Get inside her now!"

"Ooo role reversal!" the blue sister laughed with careless glee. Soaring in her astral form, she aimed at the downed power armor and turned translucent. "This time you're the tac-OW!" she cried out as the subsystems in the Matterhorn ejected the invading siren. Spewing backwards and richoting like a broken firework, Sonata landed in a heap of astral goo at the foot of a broken building yards away.

"Yeah that whole virus thing ain't happening again." Spike smiled, holding a cattle prod in his digital hands proudly on screen.

"Not bad. Might actually have to break a sweat for once." Aria snapped her vein whips free, sound shattering around them as she did. Grinning down at Twilight, she reengaged with her sisters at her side.


Locking the screen with an encryption key, Malcontent tamper-proofed the device with a smile. Pocketing the key fob, he took note of the time remaining on the timer. Listening to the approaching footfalls on the ramp behind him, he evaded Sunsets opening salvo of swings with ease.

Leaping up without a thought, he soared to the next level of catwalks that lined the area. The metal strained but held fast as the two areas under his shoes began to freeze. He felt the heat from her arrival, the rickety bolts holding it in place as she landed a few feet behind him.

"Graceful even under fire." Malcontent commented, shifting his weight and letting a fireball sail past. Rolling forward at the same moment, a rough grunt came from her as he made contact with her abs, the frostbite like nip making her recoil two steps. "You know I've been waiting for this moment for a while now."

"Have you now?" Sunset asked, her high kick missing its mark and the follow up roundhouse kick meeting a deflection from his hands, shattering the ice he generated as a shield. The shards of ice sprinkled below them as she kept her offensive up, pushing him back with her fiery melee. "You a fan?" she spun hard and quick, a blazing backhand hitting him in the face. "’Cause ya look like a stereotypical fan boy."

Spinning in the air from her hit, Malcontent corrected his spin and landed on the ground below in a three point stance. Wiping the back of his glove to his bleeding lip, he laughed. "I'm what you'd call a long time admirer." He acted quickly, the sheer magic he pulled in from her anger and self loathing fueling him. Faster than she could react, he soared and met her jump down with an uppercut. Changing her momentum, he flew over her crumpled form as she landed back on the previous catwalk. Landing past her, he didn't give her a second look before leaping back up another level. "If you're going to come with me you'll need to get to know me better." He taunted her as he disappeared up another level. "Come to the rooftop little Sunset, let's let your friend play with my sirens." He laughed, his words dripping with amusement as he disappeared from sight.

Sunset grunted as she pulled herself up, spitting blood from his uppercut. Ok. He's got more going for him than brains. Cold. Maybe telekinesis too. She thought, leaping up and firing her palms with flames to give chase. Following his trail of cold, she landed just on the edge of the Highschool rooftop. Jagged metal and massive holes greeted her as she looked around the area, reminding her of just what the building used to be.

"There. I much prefer the quieter setting this gives us."

"It gets old after a while. I got locked up here once." Sunset mentioned, keeping her guard up but moving to close the distance she crept like a cat. "So you never did answer Twilight's question."

"How am I going to open a broken portal up?" Malcontent smiled, he gave a tilt of his head to keep an eye on her movement. Hands clasped behind his back, he gave a wicked smile. "Well for one thing you’re both forgetting that the magic that caused this great destruction around us didn't just vanish." He extended a gloved hand to the debris around them both.

"The magic that did this is gone." She narrowed her eyes. "It killed everyone it touched or fused with them."

"The raw magic that was unleashed can be reclaimed." He spoke, a swift push on the bridge of his glasses punctuated his turn towards her. "It merely needed the proper gathering device."

"I suppose you made one?" she kept stalling, taking in the terrain with each step and turn she made. Sizing up the battlefield, she was only mildly interested in his answers.

"I acquired one with the help of my little helpers." Malcontent focused his attention on her movements, the tracking of his head matching her body placement. "But you’re not entirely interested in that are you?" he smiled as the sound of his ice magic ignited in his hands, trails of white magic channeling both at the wrist.

"Not so much, no." She finally cracked a smile mid throw of a fireball, hitting the wall behind him and sending debris flying. The cloud of dust and concrete particles concealed them both a moment. Desperately trying to find her target, she turned too late as she felt two heavy hits strike her in the shoulder and chest. The last hit landed square in her chest, knocking the wind out of her as she crumpled to the ground gasping.

"Always so quick to act first and think later." His laughter echoed in the broken room. "Never looking at the big picture."

Sunset barely had the instinct to move from another downward strike meant to knock her completely out. The ice coated fist shattered as it hit brick and rubble, sending her opponent back with an injured hand. She took his confusion and pain and capitalized, knocking his leg with a quick sweep that sent him further backwards into a batch of broken lockers.

"So nimble. So impulsive." Malcontent complimented her, leaving his fallen area with a frighteningly fast leap into the air, landing on a toppled wall with ease. "That's why I chose you." He widened his grin. "The way you just knew you were better than everyone else." He continued his words, delightfully unconcerned as the fireballs she threw missed their mark.

Malcontent’s eyes pulsed with dark magic as Sunset grunted in frustration, the movements he made only increased in speed. Closing distance faster than her eyes could register, he appeared in front of her as she felt a hand to her throat pick her up. "Now I'm here to offer you a chance to truly prove that you were right all along!"

Flailing at the lack of air, she felt her glasses slip off as she stated down at her opponents bright eyes. "But first I need to show you how serious I am about you." He added.

Something’s…empowering him. The more I throw at him...gotta...think. She barely had time to think as she went sailing a floor down, breaking the crumbling floor and landing in a heap in the old cafeteria. "Gotta think fast too...or I'm dead." She choked quietly out.


Twilight clenched an eye shut for a moment as her filters shut Adagio’s wail out of her ears. Raising her hands up to fire two purple blasts at her assailant, Twilight sent the elder siren back into an old mailbox in front of the school. She barely had time to turn and bring a protective arm in front of her as Aria's energy whips wrapped around Twilight's forearm.

Sending a series of kinetic energy blasts from her free palm, Twilight yanked back hard on the whips, the two actions catching Aria off balance and falling forward into the dirt. The whips faded as she lost concentration, a growl of frustration following.

"Stay down. I don't want to hurt you anymore than I have." Twilight broke the silence between the two, her shoulder plates opening to reveal auxiliary emitters primed with more magic.

"Twilight look out!" Spike took control and raised a shield to her right side. The projection deflected the hot spider webbing Adagio blew at her, the unworldly howls of pain and torment following it.

Aria capitalized on the moment and drew in a long deep breath, balling her fists up and arching back. Letting out a dreadful wail, it reverberated past Spikes blocking software as her banshee like scream heightened. Armor plating cracked and chipped away bit by bit as Twilight held her ears out of instinct, dropping to her knees in pain and disorientation, blacking out seconds later.

"Twilight!" Spike shouted over the scream, shifting resources to control the suit, he cut everyone else off from himself and focused on keeping his surrogate mother alive. Desperately projecting a shield that faded each moment the sound continued, Spike felt desperation and fear sink in. "Twilight you have to wake up! Please!"


The stalemate between Impervia and Cherry Spice kept going through walls and into the street. Bullets bounced off Impervia as Cherry shrugged off explosions behind her.

Shifting her weight, Cherry threw Impervia off her feet and towards the mob ECPD was trying to quell. The less than graceful impact of Impervia hitting a SWAT van made her smile. Determined to finish her off, the brute of a woman knocked her way through stragglers of the mob and shoulder checked the van. Crumpling metal sounded as she stood up, pulling open the collapsed doors on the vehicle to finish Impervia off.

She was met with a successful kick to her face, stunning her long enough for Impervia to land two more kicks, the final drop kick sending Cherry head over heels to the ground.

Impervia felt a sharp sting of buckshot hit her thighs and shoulders. Wincing, she turned to find the source was the leader from earlier. Bracing for the impacts, Impervia walked up to Babs and grabbed the barrel, bending it down.

"Well that ain't fair." Babs uttered, shocked at the sheer strength Impervia had displayed.

"Y'all didn't really think a shotgun was going to stop me did ya?" Impervia smiled confidently, staring down at Babs. A moment of hesitation hit her as she almost recognized the girl in front of her.

"Not really. But I needed to buy time to get Cherry a second wind." Babs smiled up.

"Ya what?" Impervia barely had time to ask before a vision rattling haymaker hit her in the back of the head. She stumbled as she clutched her neck, turning to kick only to miss.

Before the exchange of one-liners could continue, three distinct metal canisters hit the ground between all of them. A half moment later the flashbangs exploded, sending them stumbling for balance.

"ECPD! Down on the ground!" Nightwatch yelled, his jacket worse for wear, he aimed a large sleek weapon about the size of a shotgun at all three.

"Now wait I'm the good guy here!" Impervia yelled, putting her hands up despite protest.

"I'm not." Cherry smiled, turning to face the police officer, she underestimated his weaponry as the one step she got spelled her fate.

Night pulled the trigger on his pacification device, two large clunking sounds filled Cherry’s ears as quickly as the feeling of the metal manacles around her wrists did. A huge electrical charge sent the brute flailing on the ground like a fish out of water, surging until she lost consciousness.

Babs capitalized on the moment, leaving the fray and heading back towards the main entrance. She made it further than Cherry had but fell face first as a garbage lid struck her in the back of the head with considerable momentum behind it.

Impervia put her hands back up as Nightwatch cocked the gun and drew his sights on her. "Hey, I could have just ran."

Night squinted at the scene, assessing the situation as best he could with what he was sure was a concussion from the first mob fights. Easing off the trigger he shouldered the rifle and ran a hand through his hair. Looking over at Babs, he walked over carefully and knelt down to look her over. "She's alive." He said, looking back to Impervia. "Nice shot. You got a name?"

"Impervia, officer." She answered politely.

"Nightwatch." He stood back up, "I'll get these two in a van if I have any left." He rubbed his head, eyeing up the one Impervia had sailed into.

"Yeah, sorry." Impervia grinned sheepishly, but quickly snapped to attention with the distant sound of breaking glass above her.

Sailing away from them both was a white and pink clad girl, more specifically, Splitsecond. The laughter of Mistress Mayhem followed soon after, tendrils swirling out the broken window. Body limp, she went rag doll as her descent continued towards the center of the block.

"Oh applesauce!" Impervia shouted, squatting down and straightening her well toned legs to launch herself to intercept her falling friend.


Sunset felt the cold numbness of frost biting at her body. Halfway about to stand, she faltered and fell to a knee, a clattering of old lunch trays echoing in her ears. Mustering another attempt, she stood up to face her foe. Her clothing worse for wear, she didn't give Malcontent time to strike. She dug deep inside herself, hands igniting in flame as she lunged at him.

"Still?" Malcontent sounded surprised. "You have incredible stamina. I like that." He chuckled, deflecting her strikes using the ice encased fists from before. A counter strike caused her to stumble and he finished the trip by sending her face first into an overturned table. "Have a seat. You look exhausted."

Sunset threw her body back at him, leaping off the table with a front flip. Pushing with all she had left, she let loose the flames in her hand to propel her. Landing a right cross to Malcontent’s jaw, he grunted with surprise, staggering back. She kept her momentum going with a flurry of hits and finished it with an uppercut that lit the room up with flames. Malcontent soared backwards like a ragdoll, tossing up dust as he hit the ground.

"You aren't," Sunset panted, "...looking so frosty yourself." She finished, smiling softly as the last of her magic faded.


Lyra noticed the lack of smell coming from the seemingly full garbage truck first. The next thing she noticed was the expired tags. The clencher was the ticking from her scanner she had set to pick up neutron radiation.

The mystery was who was already inspecting it: a lone girl no older than herself. Dressed in casual business attire, she was out of place working on a weapon of mass destruction.

"Ma'am." Lyra tapped her headset, speaking in a whisper.

"Go, rookie. Tell me you got something." Drops radioed back loudly, Lyra covering her ear to muffle the tone.

"I have what appears to be the device." She narrowed her eyes. "But you're never going to believe who's already there working on it."

"How many?"

"Just one. I can easily take her out." Lyra knocked an arrow in her bow, taking aim.

"We need answers not bodies." Drops reminded her. "Incapacitate. Lethal force only if absolutely needed."

"Understood." Lyra felt the world go silent around her, the focus she had honed in years of weapon training taking over.

"You are clear to engage." Drops finally said.

Lyra let her arrow sail, the head on giving the faintest of clicks as the stun charge inside it went live. The silence vanished as the wind sounded in her ear, taking the arrow as she had compensated, edging to the right in flight.

Perfect shot. She thought to herself.

Her eyes went wide when a hand snatched it in flight, snapping it in two. The girl turned around at the same moment, her eyes flickering green in the slightest of hues as she did.

Lyra swore softly as she leapt from her perch, landing with grace to a kneeling stance. Another arrow half ready by then, she took aim and fired another one. The girl easily dodged as she closed the distance, kicking off her heels and running barefoot towards her.

"Ok that's weird." She muttered, a third and fourth arrow missing its mark as well. Pulling out a riot baton, Lyra snapped it to full extension, missing her first swing and connecting to the girl's shoulder with little effect.

Backhanded, Lyra felt the girl grab hold of her by the shoulders, the world shaking as she hit the brick wall with her back. Trying to take a defensive posture, she locked herself into a grapple with her assailant and spun her to the wall. An animalistic grunt came from her as they exchanged half turns down the wall, finally ending with Lyra winning the struggle, slamming the girl hard. As she did the streetlight revealed the identity of her foe clearly, making her pause again.

"Coco Pommel?!" Lyra asked, only to have the administrative assistant headbutt her, the impact making her stumble backwards.

Coco didn't answer, the shoulder check she gave a clear response. It sent Lyra backwards into the street, several arrows clattering to the concrete nearby. Pinning her to the ground, Coco reared back to deliver a fatal strike on the archer.

Lyra glanced next to her, sheer desperation sinking in. Reaching to the pile of arrows, she hoped she hadn't grabbed the glue bolt as she slammed the tip to the ground and closed her eyes. A flashbang fired to her relief and Coco shrieked in pain, the sensory overload knocking her completely out.

Opening her eyes, the archer let the white flash bleed off from her vision. She gave a shout of surprise at the sight. The girl was still sitting upright on her, but that wasn't what startled her.

The flawless skin of the famous assistant was gone, in fact there was no trace of her at all in what sat on her. She threw the creature aside, its body landing with a hollow thud. The glossy ebony exterior of it sizzled ever so slightly as it twitched on the ground next to Lyra.

"What the hell is that?" she whispered to herself, poking at the creature with her gloved hand.


Taking a sharp left onto the back alley to ECPD HQ, Spitfire dodged debris and flaming rubble more than she had on the main highway. She came to an abrupt stop at the back garage entrance, throwing the car into park as she practically poured out of her car with haste.

The clatter of her three medals on her uniform was drowned out by several commands being shouted at her. The cocking of pistols and a shotgun followed loudly enough to make her duck behind the car door.

"Hold your fire! It's Spitfire!" she yelled, waving open palmed in the air.

"Stand down, it's the boss." The girl with the shotgun ordered, lifting the sights from her eyeline.

"But is she crazy?" one shouted behind her, a laser sight trembling on Spitfire's forehead.

"I've been called a lot of things but crazy ain't one of them. Stand down or I'll have you busted to meter maid!" Spitfire glared across the hood of her car.

"Sounds alright to me." The Sergeant with the shotgun laughed, a look of relief in her eyes.

"Funny way of showing it." Spitfire shouted, slamming her car door and walking towards the main back doors. "What the hell is going on tonight, Misty?" she finally asked the girl with the shotgun.

"It's a mess ma'am. We got meta activity all over the districts, explosions rocked several key areas and that triggered looting as the power went down on the South side." Misty Fly shouldered her scatter gun and ducked under a low ceiling as she escorted the commander in.

"Where we are at with fire and rescue? If this isn't contained by morning Luna is going to have my as-" she stopped as she passed a stack of monitors displaying news reports across the city. The different angles gave grim views of the fires and looting, all peppered with meta fights breaking out. "Well that doesn't look promising. Get a tanker out to the Craigston Transformer, that thing needs to be back online or Purgatory may go on low power."

"That's the problem, well one of them, ma'am." Misty replied, following her commander as they stopped by the monitors. As Spitfire pulled out her pistol and loaded a magazine into the handle, another explosion outside rocked the building. "City Hall and Dispatch are both reporting about sixty percent of our staff is engaged already with fires and looters." She steadied herself on a support beam of the station. "The rest are under some sort of meta influence. "

"Influence?" Spitfire chambered a round and holstered it to her right side.

"We have reports that a sound wave of some sort is the cause of it. It's making people turn crazy. They won't listen to reason. All they want to do is cause mayhem."

Spitfire narrowed her eyes at one of the monitors displaying a repeat of Mistress Mayhems broadcast. "Seems appropriate." She replied. "Well we need all the big guns we can muster then, where’s Soarin?"

Misty shook her head. "We haven't been able to call him in. Most secondary staff are unreachable, one of the explosions was at a repeater station for our radios so communication is spotty at best from here to the East side."

"What's the status on bad hair day?" Spitfire asked as she riffled through her inner jacket pocket. "That crazy tentacle girl seems to have free reign of the air waves at the moment. Didn't we send Night down there?"

"His team is engaging a large riot that has his girls tied up. The ones that haven't succumbed to the mayhem wave." Misty responded, a look of confusion on her face as she watched her superior walk to a large metal door at the back of the station. Punching a quick keycode in, her commander slid the card across the reader.

Three rapid metal locks sounded behind the door, opening to a small elevator. Spitfire turned and slid the card into another card reader on the inside.

"Ma'am, what are you going down to armory for?" Misty asked. "All of it was brought up already."

"No, Misty." Spitfire's eyes narrowed in the bright fluorescent glare inside the chrome plated elevator. She winced and pulled a pair of sunglasses from her pocket and slapped them on. "Not all of it." She finished as the doors closed, the locks reengaging.


Sunset snapped her eyes open at the sounds around her. Laughter and metal clattering against catwalks cleared way for the low industrial hum of Malcontent's machine. She realized as her arms and legs didn't move that the chill from the air wasn't the source of her shivering. Bound in chunks of ice at her wrists, she noticed under the sheen was a pair of handcuffs, her hands linked around a pillar support of the platform the monstrous device sat on.

Turning her eyes to the laughter, she kept as quiet as she could, spying the Sirens picking up Twilight, having been taken out of her armor, and binding her hands and feet. Aria and Adagio shoved the shell of the armor to the side of the wall, leaving it in a heap.

Aria flipped her frazzled ponytail back with a twist of her head and dusted her hands off. "One down."

"Ah good, you're awake." Malcontent’s voice bit through the air like a bitter wind as Sunset looked up at him. "I was hoping you would wake up soon. I wanted to show you all of this." He typed a few commands as he pulled the fob from his pocket and looked back at the screen. "I dont have anyone else who would appreciate this."

"Well someone's chopped liver." Adagio laughed at Aria upon hearing that.

Aria sneered back silently, a startled look on her face as Sonata disappeared into a soulfire form and back into Aria's chest gem. "Hey, I didn't do that."

Malcontent typed away a few more keystrokes as he heard Aria. "No. You didn't." He smiled. "As you said one down one more to go."

Aria narrowed an eye at her keeper, folding her arms in front of her and levitating to his eyeline. "Shall I string sunshine up? Or would you like the honors?"

Sunset struggled in her dual bonds with a host of frustration. Concentrating as hard as she could, she felt nothing but a fizzle from her fire magic. He wanted me to spend it all on our fight. I'm powerless! she thought.

Malcontent turned and clasped his hands behind his back, staring back at his attack dog. "No. I'll take care of the second one. A few loose ends to wrap up though." He gestured with his right hand towards Adagio. A flash of light later all that remained was a howling scream of agony and a frowning soulfire that was sucked into Aria’s chest gem again.

Aria felt a surge of power as both her sisters' souls infused inside her again. A euphoria washed over her nerves and she drifted in the air like a balloon without a string. Tilting and turning ever so slowly as the pleasure washed over her, she laughed slowly. "Ahh. Now that's better." She stretched, arching her back. "Let's finish this….your machine's ready after decades...I want what's mine."

Malcontent pulled from his impressive inner stockpile of hatred and threw a ball of energy at her back. The impact and speed knocked Aria to the ground with little more than a yelp, leaving her sizzling body motionless.

Turning to look down at Sunset, his gloved hands smoldered from the discharge.

"A villain who double crosses his own." Sunset gave a cynical smile. "Imagine that."

"Believe it or not, I'm a man of my word." Malcontent was quick to answer, leaping down to Aria's body and picking it up with ease as he used a telekinesis spell. Holding a hand behind his back in a pose of arrogance, he smiled at his only conscious captive. "I promised her she would get what was coming to her, that she would get exactly what she deserved." He added, walking to another pole near Twilight, quickly tying her to it.

Malcontent laughed as he jumped back to the console, wrapping his hand around a knife switch. "And speaking of just rewards." He tilted his head towards Sunset, pulling the switch down. "Here comes mine."

An eruption of electricity and pulsing lights lit up in front of him as the switch made contact. The massive center spinning to life like a great beast awakening, the turbine in its guts slowly turning until its blades turned to a blur to the naked eye. Gathering up momentum the device began to hum at a much louder frequency as tendrils of different colored energy began to collect near the top, finally congealing into a white, almost blinding pinpoint.

Sunset squinted and instinctively ducked as an explosive sound filled the air around them and wind began to pick up, sucking in debris from the area towards them gently. She watched as the energy shot up and into an arc towards the distant island that housed Purgatory, the impact of the shot sending a pulse from the ground back along the beam. The volley of magic he began to siphon started slow at first, then like the heartbeat of a hummingbird, it turned into a horrifying cacophony of dreadful percussions.

Pulling with renewed effort, she heard the distant sounds of explosions.

The only other sound she could make out was Malcontent, laughing in triumph.


End of episode