Last Night A DJ Saved My Life

by 2D

First published

Train wrecks and stereotypes. The city of Manehattan remains divided, even after the Elements of Harmony brought the world back together.

This story is being put back up for archiving purposes. It was once featured, thrice rewritten, and abandoned. I don't even remember what was original draft and what was rewrite. I just think it'd be a shame to leave it.

I've also added some of the "in progress" rewrites that were planned but never published/completed.

Maybe one day I'll complete this.

Train wrecks and stereotypes. The city of Manehattan remains divided, even after the Elements of Harmony brought the world back together. Ponies of all sorts squander the resources and scraps left to them, trapped far from the beautiful light above; unwanted and sickeningly poor. Streets are cramped and flooded whilst chemical mists linger throughout. This city wasn't designed for them, it is merely the knife-edge of a crumbling empire. Caught in a train hijacking gone wrong, and on the wrong side of the law, Awry finds himself in a delicate balance of power.

The question is simple. All in... or fold?


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Last Night:



The world is feasting upon us


Gentle mist crept throughout the musky and forlorn alleyways. The soft pitter-patter of rain flopped down from overhead and skipped down the crinkled corrugated sheets, slimy trails of chemical residue slid alongside the rain slowly. Suddenly, the sound of hoofsteps fluttered around the area. Like a thunderstorm they rung out across the side passages and dingy doorways. Tiny rodents cast their heads up and scattered moments later as a tall figure galloped through their domain; his breathing laboured and determined.

The water around his hooves flared up in tiny circles as he splashed down the alleyway, settling only when he turned left on the open street. Seemingly harmless mist stung around his fetlocks whilst he hurried on his way. Whether forecasts had predicted that this morning was going to be an acid storm; not many ponies had come out yet. Stopping suddenly with a curse that could rival a sailor of old, he gazed out across the deep street before him.

Hazardous chemical dew dripped from the derelict taps and industrial pipes that intertwined alongside the doors. Small lines of lightning danced amongst misty clouds. The wild stallion's breathing quickened as he scanned the scene properly. Draping white wisps of light clung to the corners and skipped across the mid-air like leaves carried in a breeze. "I can't go this way..." he mumbled to himself while digging at the ground. "The mist would strip my skin in seconds."

"Nice deduction, kiddo," said a pegasus appearing from the shadows. He cast an intimidating shadow against the surroundings. "You wanted to earn some cred, right? Sorry but this job is mine." With a tip of his hat the stallion took off toward the target. Awry, the unicorn standing in the deserted street, couldn't help but bite his lip. That goddamn kiter knew this was his payday.

Looking this way and that in a hurry the young stallion noticed a break in the forlorn brick and dashed. He could feel the acidic puddles bit into him whilst he scampered off down the lane. Crumpled soggy newspaper and rubbish littered this ally. Age old posters and paints were scraped across the wall from a time when it was affordable. Pulling his hood down with a magical tug the risk-taking unicorn galloped up a set of barrels and over the rusty chain link fence. It couldn't even support him; collapsing as he did and shattering.

Grumbling and sliding across the paving as blood seeped from tiny wounds, Awry picked himself up slowly and staggered to standing. Rusty fence was caught in his jacket but he shook it off. Somewhere far off a siren sounded which only caused him to grit his teeth. He'd have his pull taken at this rate and that meant drop. Trotting out the back-end of the ally way and looking about the are he sized up how far the ticket was.

From his reckoning it was still about two sectors over, down in sector nineteen. He couldn't be sure though thanks to the fact that he'd lost his bearings. Stumbling slightly on the uneven paving, a pair of deep green eyes looked on down the road. Awry could see one or two ponies going about their business, not exactly a shady pair either. Sector seventeen wasn't well behaved by any means, but it was better than most others.

Pulling up a map in his visual receptor

Chapter One: Burden

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Last Night:

Chapter One: Burden


Whatever happened, Vinyl?


Almost immediately I was overcome with a feeling of defeat as a bright blue light flashed across my vision, throwing me away from the train with such force I swear it could have ripped me in half. It felt as if my head had been ripped open and sewn back up before finally getting lacerated, the screams of twisting metal and burning tinder erupting around me as my limp and feeble body was flung through the air. A high pitched buzzing attacked my senses as I was washed in the blast, my hearing muffling and my coat singeing as I eventually hit the floor.

I closed my eyes as my horn slammed against the solid concrete paving, chipping and causing me to scream in agony - blood gushing from my forehead and across the floor. In a frenzy I attempted to get up and flailed wildly, the shrapnel sticking out of me and tearing my skin slightly. I fell into one of the rotting station benches, breaking the spoiled wood and bruising me ever so slightly. I heard a loud scream and an explosion as my head hit the floor, blood covering my vision as I closed my eyes out of reflex from the blast.

My head was spinning like a merry go round when I opened my eyes again, and yet I couldn't hear any sound. A bright almost sunlight looking colour was obscuring my vision as I tried to get up, failing as I hit my jaw on the paving and yelled in pain. Looking down at my leg through blurry eyes I could only just make out blood stains, and by Celestia they were big.

I felt the icy grip of magic pull me from my spot and drag me across the harsh cracked stone, I was far too weak to resist the pull and allowed myself to be taken to wherever I was supposed to be going. The bumps in the stones gradually woke my body up and vision returned to me, I also began to feel things once again - such as the really cold rain falling onto me and the heat from the train wreck.

Wait, what train wreck?

My mind began to spin from the realization of what I'd just found, I was being pulled away from a graphic display of public transport gone to hell and back. Flames flickered and danced around the twisted steel construct as the station crumbled around it, having planted a hole straight through the building and ripping the tracks apart. Pieces of metal were strewn across the floor and each jagged piece held a different story, some painted in blood, others bathed in flame.

Placing my hooves on a small segment of what was once a wall I stabilized myself enough to stand alone, my skinny legs shaking and threatening to buckle as I began to pick my way through the debris, hoofing it aside as I limped towards the platforms exit. My back left leg gave way and sent me sprawling across the slippery cracked tiles, the rain water mixing with oil and blood to create a truly ghastly scene. I let out a smaller and more pathetic cry as I began to charge my practically weak and frail horn, sewing the skin of the wound back together, but doing nothing of the wound itself.

A faint hiss alerted me to the fact that I was in danger, and I tried to get up but decided against it when my leg buckled underneath me. The hiss turned to a mighty roar as my eyes grew brighter, reflecting the sight before me - one of the trains Lightate Engines was bursting at the seams and sending trickles of lightning oil down the tiles towards me. I immediately scrambled to my unsteady hooves as a second explosion rocked the station and blew shrapnel across all horizons, lacerating my side as I tumbled down the steps and out of the stations main section.

My face ground against the rough concrete underneath me, once again the Downzone had a way of sticking it to me. The water had thankfully made my fall easier but also worse, as my blood began to float in front of my field of vision a feeling of fear truly set into my heart. Wiping my feeble hooves through the bloody muck beneath me, I placed one forehoof above the other and pushed myself upwards - deciding to get lost before shit went down, the guard were sure to kill me on sight right now.


That voice struck a tone inside my head and bounced around my thoughts, enticing things I shan't dare list and reminding me of things I had long put behind me. Almost at once I could feel his grip taking control, tearing into my little bubble of insanity and rending me asunder, his shadow prescience weighing down on me as the world began to blur. My eyes were no longer my own, the features that once belonged to me darkening as a blood curling snarl was unleashed, spinning around despite the injuries I could no longer feel, faint blood dripping from his coat.

"You fucking bitch, you show up now of all the times in the damn world? Pathetic, I was at deaths door, a little release and you decide to come knocking?" He sneered and spat in front of the mare secluded in the shadows, but her hiding was futile, we both knew who she was. "You are truly stupid, I can imagine why your parents don't love you! Heh." Seeming satisfied with his bullying tactic, the hold on my mind was released and I collapsed to the ground before Vinyls hooves, faint streaks of blood seeping from my mouth and bubbling by my neck.

"Twisted! Oh my goodness, no no no no, please don't die... please, please just... don't..."

I could barely see through my blood covered and blurry eyes but I could see enough, enough to notice the soft torch red eyes; the beautiful flowing blue and sapphire mane forever laid in tatters; a ragged white coat with the same blotch of grey... I smirked to myself with a light chuckle, that came out as a bloody gurgle. My eyes shed a tear as I looked at her, a stupid thought coming into my head as she lifted me up in her magical grasp, eyes crossed in pain for a moment.

"She never liked it when I called her 'Blotch'..."

A small amount of blood poured from my horn and slowly trickled down my arched neck, pouring off of my mane into the dirty water logged and rubbish filled streets below. Vinyl uttered a cry as she tripped forwards on a chipped stair, our path now taking us upwards to... somewhere. She dropped me from the shock of the sudden trip, loosing her grip on the magic and letting my frail body hit the stairs, bouncing down them like a rag-doll with a small cry from Vinyl. My head bashed against the steel railings which turned at a ninety degree angle, odd, I thought to myself. I hadn't noticed these on our way up and I certainly don't remember being here...

I could feel my mind going into frenzy as both my own conscience and that of his began to fight for control, obviously having sensed my moment of weakness as an opportunity for something grander than just the occasional jest and taunt at my confidence, a causal path of destruction. Two forces prepared for a calamity and my mind burned like the fires of tartarus, I would have screamed if my body was strong enough - but I could not muster the strength to let out a hollow cry, the blood dripping from my body draining me of life by the second.

Through a red tinted viewpoint I could see that we were approaching Spire 7 with a dire haste, and ponies in Vinyl's path cleared from her way as soon as she approached - but none offered to help, no that was not how things worked down here. Water logged papers and piles of decomposing waste sloshed around in the flooded streets of the District, which one we were in I couldn't tell, and why did we even need roads? Nopony down here could afford a carriage.

I found myself in the Spire's courtyard a few moments after I last had my eyes open, water gushed down the brittle cracked steps and seeped into the cracked paving stones. The harsh rains slowly corroding the buildings of the Downzone, the chemicals being pumped down from the Upper Society and those being made by our own half made for horrific weather conditions. Galloping past wilted shrubs and rotting furniture we made our way into the lobby and out of the harsh rain, although the feeling of urgency was not lost on Vinyl as my blood made a slight pitter patter on the cracked wooden floorboards.

The stallion by the elevator didn't say a word as Vinyl trotted up to him with haste, my limp body simply floating besides her - from the corner of my eye I could see him cast his cap down over his light grey mane, waving Vinyl through with a surprisingly clean hoof. She didn't pay him any notice and decided instead to run into the elevator, flinging me onto the rusted floor and pressing a button rapidly - it was out of my view however.

All of a sudden I could feel a great force assault my inner thoughts with a surprising amount of determination, my eyesight fading into a dirty maroon as my own conscience fought back with renewed vigour. Time seemed to stop as two mighty forces collided inside the recesses of my pitiful mind. Fire and ice spurring into one another as a frozen flame sat as the prize, one fought with valour, the other with cunning and hate.

Every other sense was blurred into one feeling of background noise and concentrated within my horn, it felt as if something inside the fibres of my being was tearing itself open as the dull thud in my head became a roar of power, a challenge and trial. I found the stamina to scream in pain as my mind erupted into a full on battlefield of will, two sides colliding with equal might for a futile prize. One goosestepping it's way across the hills of insanity, the other marching in orderly fashion over the plains of l'agulla.

Wait, what the fuck was l'agulla?

The hold on my mind was snapped as everything grew a subtle shade of black, each opposing side having been shoved aside as a new clarity surfaced. 'l'agulla'? I thought to myself for a few moments, I had heard that somewhere before.. something about the term set off alarm bells in my mind - but I paid them no heed as something else gripped my attention, where in the name of Celestia was I?

Almost immediately I received my answer as my frail body was placed down gently in a pleasantly dry and rather comfortable bed with the hushed assurances of safety and healing, and in my current state I didn't do more than grunt and slide underneath the covers that had been placed over me by a pony I assumed was Vinyl, if not her who else? As the cold embrace of sleep grappled with me I wondered who else might actually have need of me at this point, I know he had many reasons and Vinyl is always after me... I wish she would leave me alone.

Drifting my slightly clearer eyes over the part of the room my fatigued body could see without moving, I squinted to see out of a large window besides the door nearly opposite me, and through it I saw something both terrifying and wonderful at the same time. through the window I could see all of the Downzone, the imperial wall stretching out from around the Spire Cortex and an arrangement of Spires set out among the hovels and favelas of the city, water gushing out across the streets - and a massive blaze on the other end of the city, something about it felt familiar, almost engaging...

"Are you trying to set a record for really stupid acts of a lunatic? You're getting there old friend, I worry for you each day that passes, you never did take my lessons into consideration did you?"

I knew who it was before he even spoke his second line, that faint voice belonged to one buck and one buck alone. Turning my eyes to the right in a gentle manner, I could see him out of the corner of my eye sitting calmly besides the bed. I grunted and rolled to face the wall, letting out a small yelp as my horn smacked against the steel plating of the Spire. He chuckled slowly and pat me on the back, sighing and leaning back in his chain - he always did this.

"Not feeling talkative today Twisted? Or did you blow your vocal chords out this time?"

He let out another low chuckle and waited, but still I gave him no response. After an immeasurable amount of time which could have been minutes I turned to face him again, his caramel cheeks and smooth features warm and inviting, letting out a sigh I flicked my eyes away from the matte buck, his brown coat flicking in my vision slightly as I turned my focus back to him.

"I didn't... blow my vocal chords out, you old... f-fuck."

He gave me a mock gasp and put a hoof over his mouth, raising his eyebrows and leaning back in his seat in a fake disgust. Pausing the act and leaning down close to my face he smiled, patting my cheek sadly. "Now that's no way to greet an old friend!" He said, flicking my ears before continuing. "No 'how have you been' or 'hey pal'? Come on now Twisted, I thought you were a nice guy."

"I am a nice guy." I mumbled, casting my glance downwards away from the old buck.

"I jest, I jest. I have an understanding that you were involved in a rather bad train accident no? I hope they catch whoever caused it, all those lives lost... and you're the only survivor. Funny how life rewards those who want a bitter pill to swallow huh Twisted?"

"Funny, yeah I guess you... could phrase it like that." Putting my hoof up to my horn, I could feel a wrapping of bandages tied loosely around my forehead, slightly confused I pointed to them and spoke up. "Uh, I don't remember getting given these earlier. Did you put these on me while I wasn't looking Sunny?"

He gave me a serious look and pointed to my chest with a sudden air of importance, "You were staring out of that window for a day and a half, Twisted. Can't you remember? It's happening faster than I expected..." Mumbling something under his breath he looked back up at me and sighed, pulling on a murky white coat, and a worn beige fedora as if they had appeared from thin air. "I need to go now Twisted, there is a lot of work to be done."

I stared at my friend slightly perplexed, "What work?" I asked, confused by the sudden change of pace. Attempting to use my magic to grab him I found myself held back by some invisible force, and nearly fainted from the whiplash of the spell. Leaning over and throwing up I nearly let Sunny out of my grasp. "Graves."

He stopped dead in his tracks, turning to me with a cold stare. "Before you say anything, yes I know she did it. She had a reason and it's about damn time you accept her, you animal. Go make some real friends, stop relying on me." Turning back and briskly walking down the hall and out of sight, his hoofsteps made no echo as he left the apartment.

Another set of lighter hoofsteps followed his but moments later, a small sweet whistling following them. Vinyl walked up besides me as I turned to face the wall, sighing from my reluctance. I could feel a cold aura brush up against me and over to the covers I was under, pulling them off the bed and then moving them off back down the hall. The whistling continued, quieter as she moved further away.

Left alone to my thoughts for a few moments, I considered what options I had and which I was willing to act upon. No doubt he had his own vile plans for how the next few days would unfold, but how was I going to handle all of this? It felt... odd to be around Vinyl, he hated her, she crippled him and made him burn and wither away. Me on the other hand... she just didn't feel right, like there was something to say or something I'm forgetting.

Putting the issue behind me for the time being I decided to try and do something, namely lift a glass of water over to myself. Focusing on the object and judging the mass of the water and glass combined I began to form an aura around it, already growing lightheaded. Taking my grasp on the smooth glass and releasing the first part of the spell, I attempted to lift it over to my lips just as the whiplash hit me.

The glass was flung from my magical grasp as my horn refused to work, my vision going blurry and making me feel sick from the exhaustion I was experiencing. The glass of water hit one of the steel walls and resulted in a loud bang, each piece of glass shattering and spreading across the floor in all directions. I pulled my head back up over the side of the bed, trying not to be sick again, and cussed my idiocy.

Just then I heard a thundering of hoofsteps down the hall and turned to face the door as Vinyl ran into the room, her mane tied back in a small bauble - perhaps to keep it out of her way while doing, some sort of housework I suspect. She mumbled something and made her way over to the mess of glass pieces, conjuring a brush and pan to sweep up the shattered glass. Turning to me as she worked, I could see a hint of fear in her eyes.

"S-sorry..." I managed to splutter out, moving my hoof over to point at the mess with great effort. "I tried to get myself some water, it didn't go so well." I looked down at the floor sheepishly as a large grimace crossed my face, corners of my mouth twisting into a vile expression as I felt a cold shudder go down my spine - it wasn't that I didn't like Vinyl... she just gave me an odd feeling, like I was forgetting something - like a rain cloud hovering over my head, dampening my mood.

She simply sighed and avoided eye contact for a few moments, there was an awkward silence as I managed the gusto to look up at her again, mane rough and trashy as always. When was the last time I'd seen her with a straightened and casually spiked mane? A very long space of time that's for sure because I certainly haven't seen her in any good shape over the past few years.

Her eyes met mine for a moment as she finished gathering the glass into her small bin, over in the corner and placed it seemed to avoid notice. Vinyl smiled bashfully for a moment as she trotted up to me silently, with a certain air about her she sat down on the end of the bed and looked at me with piercing eyes, as if in deep thought. Within the instant she had placed her icy cold grip on me, the blue aura wrapping me in a shroud and propping me upright besides her - my head reeled from the sudden movement, but otherwise I remained fine.

"What?" I hissed, "What do you want woman? I'd rather rest and be on my way, please." As I finished speaking Vinyl flinched and I realized I may have used a tad more Venom than I had originally intended, however as always the damage was already done. Fixing her eyes on my horn with a look of distaste and then down to my chipped and bloody hooves, Vinyl placed a somewhat comforting foreleg around my neck and gave me a sad smile.

"We need to talk about your magic use Twisted, have you forgotten everything we were taught in school? Come on knucklehead." She chuckled lightly, releasing her grasp as her smile grew a little wider. "I knew you were asleep half the time but this is poor, even for your standards dude."

I laughed like I'd swallow a bitter pill, choking through my ragged throat as my face eventually became lighter. "All I remember was Miss Cheerilee screaming about the whole, 'Magic is bad! You will die!' thing." I grew a hearty smile as I recalled an old memory, "Hey, remember the time those two Unicorns passed out in class from levitating pencils? Oh man, she never stopped talking about that one... man oh man..."

Suddenly a dark and omnipresent feeling gripped hold of my mind and sent a shock wave through my body, I curled over in pain and let out a hollow groan as it ripped my bones asunder with some force behind it. The feeling stopped as soon as it started and my mind suddenly felt blank as my interests from a minute ago faded into a dull lull of commotion. "Yeah, I get it Vin." I said, my voice dropping slightly as I shuddered from a spike of cold. "Don't overexert myself lest I want my soul to be ripped out of my body, yeah yeah... I know, next time I'll drink my own piss or something."

Vinyl's expression saddened somewhat as I finished my sentence almost as if she knew something was up, sighing lightly with an unusual grace she got back up and trotted away slowly. She looked back at me before shutting the door, mumbling a soft "Goodnight..." as she left. The door clicked shut as I turned to face the wall away from the door, the rusted steel plating suddenly held meaning. A solitary figure sat besides me with his hat down, watching over me eternally.

My hooves wrapped around my feeble and pathetic body, and for the first time in years, I cried myself a lullaby.

Interlude: Tribulation

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Last Night:

Interlude: Tribulation


Even the sinful remember their gods


I couldn't move myself from the spot I occupied in the dark corner of the room, damp walls seeming to encase and drown me in an ocean of sorrow. The water from my taps dripped softly against the silence and cut through to peaceful nothing like a hot knife to butter, tearing apart what little solitude was available. Scanning my eyes across the room, I could see clearly the unmade bed to the left, besides which bedside table was set - the counter of the dainty object was strewn with a mess of pills and crumpled paper.

The scattered sunlight danced amongst the dust particles in the air that hung lifelessly in my flat, the arid air feeling like a poison seeping into my lungs. The dust was a soft blanket that covered everything accept me, was it afraid? The carpet was a dirty white and the wall paper was pealing off in strips as the damp walls simply sat there. Mocking, almost. Everything around my precious corner was in ruins, because of what had occurred.

I stood up on uneven hooves as I walked over towards the ruffled bed covered in pills and spilled alcohol, an overwhelming smell of pity came to my nostrils as I peered down at the pieces of paper. I hadn't crumpled them, she had. I had only found them a few days ago, but by then it was far too late. Picking a piece of parchment in an aura gently I unfurled the sides of the paper, reading the delicate script inscribed with ink. The paper suddenly became wet, as tears streamed down my face.

Dear Su Twisted

I'm sorry that it all worked out like this and I'm so very sorry I failed you, or whatever is left of the old you. You're a shell, a weak, pathetic shell of the pony I loved - I can't bare to watch you crumble away like this. It's over. We're over. I've already packed my things and left the door, my last task was to write this. You started the fire, you stained my heart; now you need to realize what you've become.

Always yours, Vinyl.

Turning the paper within my aura to ashes as my mind burned a blur, I sent it screaming through the air and through my window as my tears became dust beneath me. I could make no sense of my situation; how long had it been since my eyes had been dry and in order, when had I last left my home and had fun? Was it purely fate that continued to screw me over, or was it my own doing?

Faint daylight fluttered through the gap I had made in my anger, and I looked out to see the sun. A warm ball of welcoming light and... beauty. But beauty didn't belong to the sun, no it was hers not its. Who dares take beauty from her? The sun? I staggered and fell over, hitting the floor and yet suddenly surfacing in a bathtub. The water glittering over me as I saw my dilated pupils and bloodshot eyes. Crying out and throwing the mirror to one side, the glass shattering across the tiles.

I seemed to drift there for an eternity as time flowed to a sudden stop, I was but one stallion amongst the million waves of an endless ocean - an ocean of regret, love and misery. The seawater was like poison as I began to drown in the sea, my lungs struggling and failing me as the water became a furious raging abyss. It was as if the empty air had become an empty existence, my whole body began to fall rather than sink as the cracks opened before my eyes.

Each crack rose up and split the black abyss before my eyes as the darkness swelled and fell within, like a plug being pulled on the embrace as I too was sucked beyond. Thrown and left tumbling as my mind snapped to attention, I was left alone with a small pedestal among the dusty bookcases of a scene familiar. Looking down I saw that the pedestal held a small red crystal in a curve, shattered at the bottom and humming in the silence. All I had to do was reach out.

I made this mistake before.

It was a sudden swirl of awareness and light that lead me back to reality, or at least what I felt was reality. The bath water was a dark grey around me, no doubt the murky air had stained my coat. Dirty, dirty dirty... filthy ponies all. I scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed but no soap could clean the blood, the blood that stained my hooves. Just like no bandage could fix the hole left gaping in my heart, no note could truly be a fair goodbye. No figment could be real.

It took only seconds of slipping back under the embrace of warm water for me to be in bed, my head reeling as time seemed to have been cut up and stuck in the wring places. The sun had left us and instead been replaced by the dirty air and metal plate roof. Yet he still watched from the corner, the stallion wearing a brown coat and fedora. His eyes were a gentle blue and his mane a pale white.He laughed and stood up, trotting over to me as I stood up to face him, clutching something in my hand.

He came up to me on face level, my rage boiling inside as his eyes seemed to glow a ghastly white, his earlier look replaced by one of anger and misery. Blood dripped from my nose as the pills took effect, my vision blurring as he let out a horrific wail, as if he was being ripped apart. Through the blur I locked eyes with him, teeming with rage I screamed, holding up a piece of paper in between us. In chorus, we both let out a blood curling scream.

"She lied to me!"

Falling down onto the ground like the pathetic animal I really am, I begin to feel that very same flooring fall around me precisely. Each part of the ground fell slowly in order as my mind slowly began to dim, memories buzzing in one by one as my subconscious mind began to rouse me. However one experience was simply too strong to resist as it became clear, and my mind sunk into its own depths. I became lost in the past as the present began to wake me up.

Wakey wakey Mr Morals, she's waiting for you.

A soft cascade of rain fell from the perpetual twilight overhead and I could faintly hear the pitter-patter of rain against concrete, colours blurred as the swarm of droplets fell upon the ground and rebound into the air for fleeting moments, before falling and resting. I swept a hoof through the water besides me and smiled as the ripples distorted the reflections around me, the buildings curved and bent before crumbling as the armies of the kept rose up.

I shivered pitifully as the cold chilled my bones and averted my eyes long enough for the vision to fade, it had been a simple daydream projected into a puddle of industrial water. It always bugged me that my dreams were of freedom, because it was something none of us talked about down here. There was a big rule, don't talk about it because then it won't hurt. Well it bloody well did hurt even when we didn't talk about it, some of us just didn't like to mention that.

I can't even remember why I moved to this decrepit shit hole and left my old town, it had been so much nicer than a segregated workhouse filled with poor workers and rich residents. Tartarus would be better than the Downzone. When I die and go to purgatory, I'll be sure to tell Mort he's missing all the fun up here on the land of the living - maybe he'll do a better job at killing the Society than we ever did.

Looking up I could see it so clearly as it bounced and shifted amongst the Spires and pipes which carried the goods, Lightning Oil and Mana, steam, whatever it was it was irreverent to me. I only saw the rain shimmer and dance in the blurred colours of the Downzone, a sight for sore eyes being as nothing else was this beautiful in the world. The one mare who'd loved me, well I ran didn't I?

Flickering my eyes to a certain splash I noticed something unique, the water showed my features in an almost crystal clear way. Tired, bloodshot eyes; cyan stubble covered in grime; a white and blue mane matted with dirt and blood; chipped hooves and a red checkered hoodie to fit the piece. The splash ricocheted off the guttering and bounces along the sheet metal above me, slowly working its way through the grooves and dripping besides me.

I feebly lifted a hoof up and put it up towards the direction of the sky, turning it around in the twilight and smiling at the colours. A scatter of hoofsteps made me leave my fun and look across the way, in time to see a familiar face sit down with me. His brown matte coat remained clean and pristine as always, his light grey mane was perfectly curved around his face and covered him like a shroud. Slipping down next to me and looking up at the spot of my interest, I leaned back to my own interests.

"We're back to this huh Twisted? I thought you were better than the rest, seems I was wrong."

The words hit me like a steel pike, a hardcore series of blows to my ego and once again he had delivered. I shifted in place but otherwise remained silent as the Earthpony eyed me curiously, his gaze was one of not disappointment, but understandings of mistake. He had the air of a buck who had seen a fair few things, his actions were slow and deliberate, his voice was smooth caramel atop a platter of chocolate covered crumbs.

Sunny chuckled and opened his mouth slowly, but was promptly cut off by my hoof. I looked over at him with bloodshot and dead eyes in a desperate struggle for mercy, using my magic to open a pocket I pulled out a small cigarette and removed my hoof. Placing the fag in my mouth I smirked and grunted in a gruff voice, my vocal chords strained from heavy over-dosage.

Sunny looked at me with a sad smile of thought, and placed a hoof on my shoulder. I was so numb I couldn't feel the contact, and continued to stare at him with desolate eyes and addict like features. He flicked his mane around slightly and turned up to look at the Upper Society, and from my point of view the rain seemed to fall straight through him.

A shallow rumble signified an incoming tram as he opened his mouth to speak, flashing his pearly whites as a train sped across an overhead rail. "Time to grow up Mr Morals, stop looking to me for guidance. After all I'm not your friend, I'm a fi-" The rest was cut off as a tram rocked back and forth violently overhead, I smirked and held a bit too Sunny, speaking in a tainted voice I patted him on the cheek.

"Gimme' a light, Sunny Graves."

Chapter Two: Occupation

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Chapter Two: Occupation


Vinyl has always been my shadow


My eyes cracked open ever so slightly and were bombarded by the piercing purple stare of the Twilight Zone, causing me to cringe and roll over in my bed. I let out a small moan of discomfort as my stinging eyes began to resonate within my head, and a sharp pain began to grow behind my horn. As I turned back the other way and attempted to wake myself, I could hear a faint voice and the sudden shrill and static reply akin to a 'telecom'. I ever so gracefully perked my ears up and pointed them towards the partly open door, deciding my pain could wait for a few moments.

"What do you mean he's being processed? He's right here! Yes... yes I understand but-- surely we could... what? No, no he wasn't. Yes I swear, he was waiting for that train, he didn't blow it up. Yes, of course High Architect. The pleasure was mine, yes, thank you." Pacing could be heard as the telecom let out a loud screech and cut the call, followed by a series of huffs and the occasional clink of something being handled too roughly.

"You were always like that... Vinyl..." I mumbled to myself as I opened my eyes further, taking in the room before me a little better as my body accepted that I needed to wake up. I noticed that the bedding atop me had been replaced with something a little less cumbersome, something to keep heat in but not a lot I guess. The little scraps of clothing I had on when we arrived were gone, replaced with a simple pair of shorts and bandages all over my torso and few around the neck.

I went to get out of bed but stumbled slightly, falling onto my face with an angry yelp. I sat like that on the floor for a while, not bothered to get back up, but then changed my mind and stood as straight as possible; dusting myself off as I looked over at the window. I trotted over to the single pane of glass and ran my hoof against it as I watched Pegasi fly past, the streamline bodies having some form of freedom within the police state of life. I went to move but suddenly felt someone leaning on me, flicking my eyes to the right I noticed Vinyl was standing next to me.

"How'd she get in so quietly?"

"I was always like what?" She asked softly as we both looked out the window into the blissfully peaceful clouds, floating above the slum districts with no intention other than to rain and ruin. I scanned my eyes over the billboards and dismal shacks built atop one another, the odd Spire poking out in between. The husks of buildings used during the riots and civil war stuck out like black against white, the burnt structures looking terrible even by our standards. "Twist'?" She asked quietly, causing me to look over at her.

I won't lie, my eyes are not the most accepting of things. They are orbs from which deadly truths and lies can form, unable to give love nor compassion... just bleak, inviting enigmas. "I meant... you always used to handle things badly when you were upset." I chuckled softly and looked into her eyes a little closer, being both unnerved and warmed by the scarlett depths. "I remember when we were younger, before the... well, back when we were in Ponyville; you got really upset and broke one of your records..."

She grimaced slightly and looked away as her features shifted from soft to guarded, creasing her brow a little as she scrunched her nose in thought. "Yeah, I seem to remember being really upset when I snapped that thing in half. If I remember correctly, I flung it across my room in anger and nearly impaled my mother as she walked in." Vinyl snickered and looked back out across the skyline as her thoughts wandered a little, eyes drifting slightly as she chewed her words. "I remember you teased me about that in school, for like what, two years?"

"It was all in good fun, Vinyl." I said gruffly, casting my eyes around the room as my stomach did loop-de-loops. "Something feels off... why, why her?" My thoughts wandered slightly as I attempted to pick the conversation up, remembering something with a genuine smile. "I got you a new one though didn't I? Went all the way to Canterlot and bought it for a pretty penny, as a way to say sorry for two years of teasing. Plus you look ugly when you cry."

She merely stayed quiet as we both looked out at the city beyond that small window, the rain beginning to pitter-patter against it smoothly. Her smile dropped a little as she looked over to me with a pair of scarlet eyes, a deep pool of mixed emotions pulling at her mouth. "I... I still need to unpack that record, I haven't touched it in years." She spoke softly as she walked back out of the room, stopping by the door and looking back over to me, before shutting it behind her and giving me some privacy. I couldn't care less about whether she stood next to me or not, something in my head was so muddled by all this... it felt like a dream that had gone horribly wrong.

Looking to my left and down to the small bin just before the bed, I found that the glass had gone. Perhaps Vinyl had cleared it? I shuddered slightly as something fought against that word, 'Vinyl', something about her set off more alarm bells than I could count. Looking back at the bed, I noticed it was made of some kind of bronze or brass; rare pickings down in the eternal scavenger hunt of the Downzone. The wall behind it was completely bare and featureless, however the wall to the left of it was not. It was technically the back wall of the room as the opposite wall was one massive window. It featured a small mirror and shelving unit, which my remaining clothes had been stacked upon.

I didn't bother to check the mirror as I slung on one of the two jackets I had on the shelf, buttoning the chequered coat and trotting over to the door. I gingerly swung it outwards and stepped through to the living room, using my hind leg to shut it behind me as I trotted into the living room proper. It was for the most part a square room with a table slapped in the middle, a few posters lay crumbling on the walls and a set of derelict DJ equipment sat in one unused corner. There were two piles of warn pillows either side of an oaken coffee table, and atop that sat a small series of plates; each with a respectable amount of food.

Vinyl sat on one of the piles with her eyes downcast as she drank from a small teacup, taking her time with the brew as she stared into its contents. I stood before her awkwardly for a few moments before deciding to take a seat opposite, sitting onto the pile with a dull 'thump'. I cast my eyes over the selection of food on display, and by that I mean three slices of toast, half an apple and some scrambled egg. I chose the toast and levitated the plate over to me, deciding to get some food into me before I had my cup of 'poor pony's tea'.

We sat in silence for what seemed like the longest time, Vinyl seeming to hide behind her flowing mane as we exchanged the occasional glance. Neither of us really wanted to acknowledge what had just occurred, technically we should hate one another or... something. We broke up years back and yet we still bump into one another, and some force always compels me to push her away. My focus was lost as my mind wandered slightly, my magic lightly igniting as my thoughts became more heavy; at which point my teacup began to dance a diddy on the table.

Vinyl looked up from her hair and teacup with a small frown, glancing at my wayward eyes and crazy teacup. "You alright, Twist?" She asked meekly as the shaking increased slightly. I stopped my train of thought and released the teacup and looked back over to her, raising an eyebrow as I took a bite of toast. "I'm asking if you feel okay, Twisted." She said a little more forcefully, trying to get her point across.

"Oh um, yes thank you Vinyl." I mumbled as I thought about what I was going to do, and the call Vinyl had received a few minutes back. "So a little birdy told me I'm being processed, how's that going to work? You get like a finders fee' for handing in the loon everypony knows?" I cracked a smile at my rather grim joke, fully aware of both the topics I was breaching there. Vinyl for the most part merely rolled her eyes and sighed, putting her tea down and looking over at me.

"You've been unemployed for almost two years now, Twist. You're under grounds for termination through processing unless you get a job within a few days." She whispered the last part as her eyes closed for a long time, letting out a short sigh as she turned away from me and over towards the window facing the city below. She took a deep breath inwards and let it back out again as she turned back to me, a sad smile on her face. "You've been sleeping on and off for about two weeks, that train wreck took a toll on you. So while you were out I decided to take your life into my hooves, for the most part. I signed you up for a few shifts over at Spire 1."

I grimaced and bit my tongue to stop a short rage I knew was on its way, she didn't need any more abuse from me after this hospitality. I looked into her eye for a moment before dodging them again, feeling uncomfortable doing so. "Thanks... Blotch." I said with a small snicker, catching a harrumph from the corner of my eye. "Once we're done here, I might as well go down there and sign the last of the papers. What shift did you get me anyway?"

Vinyl shifted uncomfortably in her place and I let out a low groan, placing my head in my hooves as she let out an innocent whistle. I looked back up at her and narrowed my eyes menacingly, making her fidget even more. "The only spot I could get you was... in the Elderlane..." Her last words died in her throat as I completely face-desked, wanting everything to end right there and then.

"The Elderlane? I'm going to get swarmed by Neo-Shifters! Or killed by rogue Lighting Oil! Or even mugged by all the damn homeless thugs around there; hell sending me to work for Joker Vocalism would have been better than this, Vinny." I groaned and lay flat against the table as I felt sorry for myself, cursing Vinyl for getting me into this mess. I straightened up to see Vinyl walking towards the door, unlocking it and throwing me a small letter before opening the door. A strong gust of industrial stench and heat rushed me as she coughed lightly.

"Whine about it all you want, you're only doing a seventy two hour shift. It won't be so bad I promise, and hey, if you do what I ask and come back in one piece I might give you a kiss for good luck." She snickered at the comment as I trotted up to the door and stood opposite her, a new job awaiting me outside. She nodded to the hallway and I shook my head lightly.

"You could give me that kiss now, you know." I said with a small grin.

"Now? We're not even friends, I just saved your life and brought you here -- no friendship, no romance." She added the last part sternly as I rolled my eyes, her having completely missed the joke.

"Now's as good a time as any to rekindle an old friendship, Vinyl."

"We'll see. Now go, you have maintenance, patrolling and not-dying to do."

"Yeah yeah... I'm going."

Spire 1 was an extremely intimidating building even from a far distance off, but up close it was like a gigantic mammoth of governmental might. It was by far the largest of all the Spires within the Downzone, arching outwards to meet the others at the base in a somewhat spider style, whilst also reaching all the way up and out of the Twilight Zone. See not all Spires ended within the Downzone, those which were large or important enough would have continued onwards into the Upper Society -- only to have their grey plating and dull interiors replaced with gold.

Above Spire 1 sat an enormous complex spanning the entire Downzone and beyond, a trump card to any hand, an achievement no matter the score. The Spire Cortex originated from atop this very Spire and had its central hub placed within, like the beating iron heart to a massive network of ark pylons and Lightning Oil pipes. The Cortex was a massive hive of workers doing different tasks for different reasons, although most worked above with the good pay, benefits and all that... some were much less lucky, and were used to keep the Elderlane under control.

There's no official maps for the Elderlane, no governmental acknowledgement that it exists or threatens the public, no implications that the 'perfect' Manehatten machine could be broken so easily. It paid well but usually meant certain death for those who picked the short straw, and nearly always ends in something very, very bad. This is why I have an extremely bad feeling standing before this building, it represents everything I oppose and acts as a gateway to certain death. If it weren't for the fact I'd be dead without a job, I wouldn't take this job.

Now all I have to do is step through the front door.

I noticed the rain pouring against my face as I took my first steps up the grand staircase towards the Spire's entrance, the chipped and cracked concrete feeling feeble under my hooves. The railing was completely ruined besides me as time had eroded it to stumps, the once lovely shrubbery dead due to a lack of sunlight and care. My heart beat a steady rhythm within my chest as I approached the front door, stopping for a moment to consider what I was about to do... and what might happen.

I pressed the small button to the side and the door slid open before me, allowing my soaking wet ass through and into the lobby. I shook off some of the water as I look at the numerous directions listed above, apparently the Security Chief was on floor U3, so I guess that's where I'm headed. Trotting over to the elevator with a small haste I can't help but notice a brown buck staring at me from a corner, his face hidden as a small smile covers his muzzle. Before I have a chance to say anything the elevator doors opened before me and I instinctively stepped in. Looking over the array of buttons listed before me I sigh and press the one labelled 'U3'.

"Underlevel 3" the lift announces to nopony in particular as it begins to slip beneath the bureaucratic bullshit and into soldier territory, but I'm no warrior or soldier, I'm just angry most days. The cheerful chime of us reaching level U1 sounds and the lift grinds to a halt, opening up slowly and letting another buck in. As he steps in he immediately throws a glance at me a smiles, deciding to keep himself to himself as he checks his gear.

I can't blame him really as the lift goes further towards a world of pain and confusion, if my guesses are right, this is going to be my partner for the shift. He obviously brought his own gear, whilst I'll be using stock. His soft blue coat and wispy maroon mane didn't really match so well, but I wouldn't pry -- that fedora though... I'll have to ask about that before we get our throats torn out. He finishes checking whatever equipment he brought with him as the lift stops on our floor, doors opening as we both prepare to walk out. They do so, and we trot out into the hall.

He merely walks over to what I'm guessing was our fabled hold against the Neo-Shifters, a damn massive door, whilst I took a left into the Chief's office. As I turned the corner and entered the room, he looked up at me and closed whatever paper he was reading. A large sneer crossed his face as he looked me up and down, throwing me a small key as he laughed. "You're what they've given me? Kid with the processing bounty right?" He laughed even harder as I nodded my head slowly, looking at the key in my magical grasp a little.

"I can't believe they gave Joker some lousy Rat Runner for backup, man this'll be a funny story to tell. Best of luck out there skimpy, I hear the Shifters have been on the move recently -- something has them all stirred up, good times huh?" He laughed again before sitting back down in his chair, flicking his dirty green mane around a little as he set his beige hooves upon the desk. "Be careful, kid. I can't afford more deaths, otherwise I'll be going out there next."

"Noted." I said bitterly as I trotted over to an armour locker and slotted the key inside, twisting it and popping the lip of the locker up. The entire case followed suit and my temp' gear was shown to me. Standard Hunter armour, a small blade and a few rations. Wonderful, fantastic, amazing even. I had enough food to last a day, I had to make it last for three. I had a blade made out of the shittiest metal around and I was supposed to kill Neo-Shifters with it... and my armour... well that stuff is pretty good, I can't complain there.

I grasped the spine conductor and floated it over to me, beginning to feel a tad tired from my magic usage. I snapped it into place with a small grunt before picking up the torso pieces, holding them to either side of the chest and activating the clamps. It locked into place with a pinch of skin and a hiss, allowing me to easily step into each of the four armoured boots; they locked in place with a tiny click and my back suddenly didn't feel as heavy. I then picked up the small helmet they had issued me for this shift, and with reluctance I placed it onto my neck and cringed as the spine conductor linked it into my nervous system.

The helm began to show me a few statistics and a small counter for the kills I'd obtained, which would add or minus from my bonus pay; it also showed my vital signs and the armours condition, which would come in handy. I waited for the internal shock to wear off as my body adjusted to the suit, and soon enough after a few moments I could feel my senses heighten in line with the sensors built within the armour. I didn't bother taking the blade, I merely slotted the rations into my pack and looked over to the Security Chief. He gave me a small nod, and twisted the key on his end to open the door. Now it was up to me and... Joker.

Trotting out of the office after throwing my locker key back, I made my way over to Joker and cast him a small look. His armour was significantly better than mine, then again Pegasi always seem to get better gear when it comes to combat; they were born for it. He took one look at my armour and laughed in an odd way, turning the key besides him with a wing and taking it from the slot. As we both turned to face the darkness that lay beyond the massive security door, he snickered and threw me a look. "I have a feeling our new found friends will adore your paper-mache armour, mate."

Chapter Three: Warrens

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Last Night:

Chapter Three: Warrens


Here lie the damned


The massive safety mechanism sealed with an agonising groan behind us, the outside pistons slowly pushing away the rust and grime which had begun to clog the numerous seals. Scraping metal against decayed concrete as the bunker door finally joined either side, twisting the large circle set between them slowly and painfully. As I looked back and listened to the wail of clashing surfaces, it sounded as if the door itself was in agony.

Slowly the massive metal disc shared by the two sides twisted until it had gone half way, the joint going from vertical to horizontal. The door remained quiet for a few sparse moments as if it were taking a breath of well needed air, cleaning out the dusty vents and inter mechanisms. There was then a soft hiss as the two metal semicircles pressed themselves together to form a seamless whole, small locks and magnetic clamps attaching and clicking.

As the massive metal door finally lay still within its concrete prison, I was about to speak before a loud siren went into overdrive and cut me off. From there a large metal slab began to descend from the concrete alcove, completely sealing the door away inch by inch. I stood agape as the noisy scraping continued and my last hopes of return were cut off, the exit was fully closed off.

The silence that followed the noisy loss of hope was soon broken by my companion's laughter, his stupid fedora nearly falling off as he cackled behind me. His annoying laughter continued as I huffed and kicked a nearby chunk of concrete, it skidded a few paces and fell off the curb. I waited for it to tap against the street below, as I had expected there to be more surrounding streets, but in this dark it was hard to tell. The only light we had right now was a small orange light from the door behind us, a thick semicircle of safety around us.

"What the fuck are we going to do now?" I hissed as my eyes struggled to adjust, the rust filled air around me making it harder to breathe and see. "Joker, why are you laughing? Those pricks just locked us out! We're trapped in a miniature war-zone!" I resisted the urge to shout as the light overhead flickered and slowly began to die, the circle of protection fading as time flew by. I waited for a response, and heard the quiet 'clack' as the concrete chunk finally hit the floor.

Joker stopped his cackling and slid his saddlebags off, flipping open one of them and placing his ratty fedora inside -- donning a sleek armoured helm. "Didn't you hear about what happened down here?" He said blankly as he leant down and picked his bags up again, slinging them back over his back with ease and a grunt. "The Elderlane hasn't been inhabited for a few years now, the last of the scummers moved out a while back. The ones who stayed died in droves after the Grey Death spewed in from the ventilation shafts."

"You... you mean everypony down here is dead?" I said quietly as my eyes scanned the dark horizon, looking down at a dead understructure. Everywhere you looked there were the faint edges of ruined buildings, ramshackle add-ons and bridges fitted in between. "Does that mean we're going to die down here?" I asked simply, regretting each breath I took of the thick grey rust.

"Nah it means you're goin' to die here, Twisted." He said snidely as a pressurised hiss sounded, and a small gas mask clamped itself onto his helmet. Standing next to his custom gear in my own Lower Guard standard, I felt a tad inferior. A feeling of self doubt curled up within my chest and blossomed, far from Vinyl, he returned via the gateway I had subconsciously provided. "Anyway, we have three days to follow route Xi-Omega." He chuckled as the massive wings on either side of him unfurled, covered in flexible metal mixture. "Or at least you do, I have business down here. I'll race you to the finish, mate."

"Wait a damn minute!" I said strongly as he took flight overhead, swooping off into the ever present darkness silently. "Where the fuck are you going, Joker?!" I yelled after his trail, letting out a shout as I threw a bolt towards him using my horn. He dodged the feeble shot as easily as I shook off the backlash, and swooped out of sight -- turning his light off and making his way from my field of view.

"This is fucking bullshit..." I whispered to myself as the light behind me finally died out, leaving me in complete darkness atop this large pillar of concrete and decay. I could feel the gentle rasp of the rust against of my lungs each time I inhaled, my fur cutting itself open as small pieces of metal lacerated me each time I moved. "Come on Twisted, better stay calm and focus on what's going on." I thought to myself as the darkness began to press in on me, something within the back of my head stirring as I charged my horn to a low setting.

I prepared myself with a short breath, and began a slow and steady Mana flow to the suit I was wearing. The on-board assistance came on line a few seconds later, with a series of bleeps and notices. I waited patiently as the painfully slow process took place, the suit adjusting its preferences for my body. It completed the check and fix with a shrill drone and locked my spell in place, causing me to stumble as a dark haze overtook my mind. The power requirements for this suit were rather high, considering its brand.

"Aboard Stalliongrad model VI online and ready to assist." Was the line I heard at the back of my head. This puzzled me greatly as I used the suits on-board lights to take a rare glance around, soon realizing what I had believed to be a flat city was in fact a ruined warzone of supports and shacks -- bombed and atop one another, as if an earthquake had come through. As for the 'voice', I hazarded a guess at how it worked. Perhaps the suit was using my horn as a two way neural transmitter? Might as well test it out.

"Xi. Omega." I thought simply, noticing a small but agitating draw on my magic as the suit protoprocessor began to work. There was a small flash on the H.U.D inside the helmet I was wearing, and two small symbols appeared next-to a tiny arrow. I could see the pair 'Ξ ω' in my vision, and I guessed this was the route I would be following. It was in fact pointing towards a small clump of walls amongst the ruins atop this desolate concrete wasteland. I trotted in that general direction, keeping an eye out for any signs of trouble.

I found none as I reached the supposed destination and its inner sanctum, a room supposedly once hidden and secret -- now blown half open and irradiated strongly. Peering down into the crater below I could spot the ruins of a once organised outpost. I suppose this may have been one of the many Cortex Uprising strongholds, positions fortified in case the CTS ever reached our boarders back in 700 STTS. Now however these fortifications were nothing more than tainted reminders of an age gone by.

Loose cabling streaked the walls and fell off entirely in some places, some miraculously surviving whatever blew this place open and hanging off the side. Blown bulbs could be seen here and there, systematically placed within the walls years and years ago -- now however, only two emergency lights were active. Three long oaken desks sat inside the fairly square room that had been exposed, half burnt and collapsed in. Burnt papers were scattered here and there, illuminated faintly by the dying light.

Metal desks and chairs were half melted puddles sealed onto the mesh floor, once more of a proud steel I bet. The resistant walls were chipped and scarred by flame and atomic fire, the words 'Reflect on your sins' were scribbled along the walls in random places; by those who remained, or those who came after I wonder? At the very centre of the crater there lay an elevator shaft going down to some place beyond view, it hung off the charred wall slightly and groaned gently as the pumped air swayed throughout the empty darkness.

A soft crunch echoed out across the seemingly lifeless city as I jumped down from a small ledge, the hue seeping from the emergency lights barely noticeable besides my inbuilt light. I looked down to see what I had landed on but immediately regretted the decision to do so, my hooves had punched a hole clean through a skeleton's rib cage. Stepping out of the broken bones I turned my head back up to gather my bearings, but even with the faint yellow glow from the few lights around the area, it was impossible to distinguish the shapes.

I carefully made my way forwards as the arrow directed me to a risky elevator I had spotted not two moments ago, surprisingly the elevator car was here. I looked up at the bent and melted support frames and wondered to myself over what used to be above this bunker of sorts, the sealed doors around me offering little answers. I pulled open the rusted and shambled elevator doors with ease, the old zig-zaged cage breaking into more dust as I pried it apart. A shallow cough filled my lungs as I fell backwards into the car. There was a loud scream as the metal snapped from the sudden usage, and I let out a yelp as the entire elevator free-fell for a few floors before grinding to a halt.

Leaping out of the elevator as it began to tremble once more, I landed with a roll and stood up carefully as I swept my torch over the room. I could hear a gentle scrape of metal but otherwise all was silent within the ancient bunker, nothing save my careful hoofsteps and breathing could be heard. This room was identical to the one a few floors up, except it was devoid of bodies and a tad more intact. I stopped for a moment and shone my light over the doors either side. One read "Armoury," the other "Reactor."

I trotted towards the supposed armoury and pressed up against the door, rattling the thing in frustration as it refused to budge. It wasn't bolted or barred, there was no lock and the broken circuits indicated that the pressure seal had died long ago. While I was here I decided to check where any potential allies were. "G.P.L." I thought blankly as I stood besides that door in the darkness. The power drain came again as the suit began to work and I heard the familiar metal scrape once again, this time far closer. While I was looking at the door I began to notice something strange, there was a thick metal coated slime covering the door completely -- dried and hardened.

Sweeping my light around in sudden fear I began to see that the entire room was covered in this thick cocoon mixture, the metal spotted with pieces of circuitry and blood, bones and bile. I nearly threw up on the spot and turned back towards the door in suspense, seeing the circuits ripped out and... chewed on. "Closest G.P.L transponder location, approximately zero meters away."

I took in a deep breath and swung my head around in suspense, a sinking feeling welling inside my gut. There was nopony around me as I examined the area, but then I heard that soft metallic scrape once more. Looking upwards slowly in terror I was met with at least twenty pairs of eyes, the one directly above me leaning down with a large snarl and a robotic hiss. Neo-Shifters, deformed Changeling warriors outfitted with experimental and dangerous tech -- the perfect assassins. As I stared up at the hunter before me, I noticed a piece of Lower Guard armour sunk between its synthetic muscles; perhaps one stallions final act of defiance and warning.

"Ark level twenty." I thought to myself as the horde above me lept down with hunger in their eyes, glowing fangs and inners exposed by holes and broken balaclavas. Time seemed to slow down as they moved towards me in some kind of chaotic yet unified pounce, and as my armour struggled with the request I had given, a subtle yet all too haunting voice came back from the grave.

"Oh Twisted my dear child, look what mess you've gotten yourself into. Here, let me help..." The hissing demon within me send a dark chill down my spine, a sudden boost of energy lighting the suit up like a Hearths-Warming Tree. Time began to flow once more like the blood pumping through my veins at the speed of sound -- a heartbeat like a melancholy toned drumbeat throughout the soul.

"Request accepted, power levels adequate. Initiating Ark reaction."

The entire horde of Neo-Shifters lept onto me as I savagely fought back, subconsciously powered by a strength far beyond my own. The on-board VI slowly firing up the miniature Ark Pylons within the armour weave, an already expanding Lightate shroud surrounding me. Fighting tooth and nail I bucked and smacked the vicious killers, skidding to a stop besides a door placed at the very back. The horde jumped me once more in a massive dog-pile of hate, blood from both sides spilling as the rusty air glowed a ghastly white from within the maul.

A loud shrill of noise ripped through my flesh and out of my horn as I screamed in agony, all of the Ark energy being focused on my horn. With a sudden boost from my possessor and a mighty roar of defiance, I opened my eyes and threw the first Neo-Shifter back. A crackling beam of power launched itself from within my horn and ripped through the first few Neo-Shifting assailants in my path, disintegrating them and thin slices of the wall beyond as I struggled to control the beam. The Ark reaction began to crackle and spiral out of my control as warning lights began to flash on my H.U.D. Yet he pumped more power into the beam as a dome of vaporization surrounded me.

The screen of my visor began to crack and then shattered entirely as everything in my view became a blinding white, loud crackling and fury filling my ears as everything around my horn began to disappear from view. I could feel my entire body screaming for release as the magical backlash began to kill off cells one by one, my ear drums popping and bleeding from the intense pressure. I screamed loudly as the ball or energy flew outwards rapidly, powered by the fiend within. My horn crackled and suddenly stopped as blood trickled down my face in a quick stream, spewing from my cracked horn.

The Ark field collapsed inwards onto my horn and detonated with a loud 'BOOM', ripping the room I was in apart as my skin was burnt to a crisp and peeled away by the rogue energy. Armour melted to my skin slightly as the intense heat fell inwards then shot outwards seconds later. The walls were ripped to pieces and the floors broke apart and fell into one another. All traces of the Neo-Shifters was gone, just like half the building.

I fell down onto the delicate concrete slabs below and punched a hole right through them, falling onto a second and rolling to the right. I then fell down onto another slab which was stable, the sound of an entire series of walls falling into one another and smashing after being partly destroyed and/or dislodged. A furious dust storm was kicked up by the falling materials and broken cables. The Ark energy still crackled on my coat as I picked myself up slowly, and limped towards an intact staircase. I trotted into the entrance just as a steel bolt fell from above and ripped through the floor a few paces behind me, and many floors below.

I began to scramble down the stairs laid out before me with a desire to live, an insane backlash ripping my insides apart as I barely managed to stay conscious. My other was sat in the back of my mind supplying me with the power to make it through this, for all his evil he was indeed good in certain times. A loud crash sounded and a shock wave rippled throughout the building, causing me to stumble and fall down the stairs. I fell for the longest time until I hit the floor below and a second shock wave came, ripping the stairwell open and creating a small chasm.

Struggling to stand but determined to live, I pumped all the might I could into my muscles and made my way up and over the chasm and split, rushing down the steps frantically. My vision began to blur as the backlash set upon the nerves inside my mind, working its way around my body bit by bit. "I... I have to..." I couldn't think straight and the steps seemed to go on forever, my feeble and charred legs barely making the next step. I scrambled out of a door which appeared before me and limped down the hallway.

A gentle chill hung in the dark passageway around me and stretching onwards, there was no breeze yet the air had a strange way of sliding across your coat, although nopony really remembered what a breeze felt like - this was a cheap Saddle Arabian knock off compared to the real deal, the upper world breeze of a mild summers day. The musky air of the hall was pungent as I scrambled into the intact section, desperately trying to escape my seemingly inescapable death. A crashing roar called out being me as the pillars beneath the ancient spire began to collapse against one another, screaming as the age-old building tore itself open.

The ever-present darkness seemed to press into me as my cracked and battered horn flickered to life slowly, casting shadows against the beaten and worn glass panels laid out in orderly fashion before me. There were crashes and loud screams of flesh and steel throughout the air, my mid hazed and unfocused as a granite block shattered a bridge above -- raining glass fragments down upon us. A light haze settled in the air before me, no doubt the Grey Death shining in the cleansing light of my simple spell - although somepony would be foolish to underestimate the power of light in the dark and cold hellhole of existence we face.

The unmoving shadows around me seemed to shimmer softly whenever I took my eyes off of them, did shadows really exist? I'd heard rumours of such things, but no phantoms of bastard creation had ever laid hoof on me, meaning I was just being a little filly about my situation. Then again, who wasn't afraid of what they didn't understand? There were many many strange things lurking in the Elderlane, and I didn't plan on finding any of them any time soon. My eyesight began to dart around, slowly at first but soon becoming more erratic and dangerous in nature; and then I saw it. Like a maelstrom to the soul I could feel the air grow thin as the building fell into itself, sliding across the torn edges slowly. Banking towards me.

I was overthinking everything as I ran forwards, the dense Grey Death slicing through my face and coat as I struggled to stay upright in the murk. It was hard to breathe in this glass corridor, and the rusted air was slicing my lungs apart rapidly. Alarm bells began to ring in my mind as a loud collective and robotic scream echoed above the loud noise of the building falling apart, even my muffled ears could hear the rage and anger.

I looked up at the pitch black 'sky' and nearly stopped in my shambled tracks, as all I could see was a wall of cyan eyes and fangs dripping neon fluids. I ran for more than my life as the light from my horn sparked once, twice, and died altogether as the hallway ended abruptly. I forced the door open with risky burst of Mana, running forwards and looking back at the split second the Neo-Shifters crashed through the glass walls. It was like a shower of death and mercy bundled into one, a ball of fury mirrored a thousand times in shattered grime.

I ran further into the next concrete spire and went to shove some debris into the hole, to stall for time, but tripped instead and landed on my flank -- throwing the debris at a few Neo-Shifters. It was then that a loud groan rang out across the entire Elderlane as the huge building connected to Spire 1 crumbled at the base, the rusted and decayed iron supports giving way as another shock wave went throughout the area. The glass hallway was ripped away from the building I was in as a chasm dove right throughout the center, cutting the room in half and throwing me down as the ground churned. A hulking mess of tangled wires and concrete fell down from the roof as the opposite spire collapsed with a mighty roar, falling downwards onto me.

I scrambled up in desperation but fell flat on my flank when an unseamed Neo-Shifter tried to rip my leg off, and I had no energy to shake it off. I felt the crackle of dark magic die and pool out of my veins, the soul within me finished well and truly. A thick black ooze poured from my mouth and wounds, surrounding my body in a thick black tar-like substance. A loud crash sounded as the ceilings above began to buckle and fall inwards upon one another, concrete raining down the sides of the building to a chorus of agonized Neo-Shifters.

Something deep rooted inside me sparked as I ignored the pain and began to run for the hole blown by the shockwaves -- knowing it was my only chance. I charged forwards with all my might and cried out in bitter-sweet pain as my leg snapped in half beneath me. The run became a hurried scramble as the supports above my head groaned and caved inwards. The last thing I saw was a brown buck with white hair sat atop a nearby building, watching; always watching.

I jumped and I fell from the spire, and then everything went black.

Chapter Four: Collapse

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Last Night:

Chapter Four: Collapse


Goodnight, sweet prince: I love you so.


There was blood.

Warning lights flashed in the corner of my vision, archaic runes describing numerous injuries, broken bones and split kidneys: as if I couldn't feel them rending me from inside out. The blue and orange messages continually flashed up in my eyes, refusing me the rest I so bitterly deserved. Sodden concrete lay around me and jutted up against me, fresh with my own blood, that of a sinner. I lay there so utterly still. Afraid. It was like few days before, save now I didn't want to die.

The room had come crashing down on me the second I leapt from its walls, toppling over as the ancient spire came down with it. It had crashed into the ground at a diagonal position, tilting to the left like a morning paper-colt's frown. The walls were painted with a dim white light which was faint in this new darkness, the air was still like a dead stallion's grip. It was a macabre melody of destruction, and I was laid in the middle of it all.

The area around me had been crushed down and raised up once more, the old bloodstained ground encasing me as I fell. It rose up around my back and over my neck, trapping me and forcing me to look upwards through the shattered skylight - up at the sparking remains of a spire, chunks of its own frame falling and disturbing the silence. There was light coming from somewhere, I couldn't tell where, it simply was. A twilight hue, painting everything in a sad shade.

The world seemed to cry for not just me, but all of the damned. Still as I looked onwards and upwards at my own doing, the warnings flashed. They made small noises of unimportance throughout the process, keeping me in this world and out of death's embrace. Was there an end to the whining? No, there was only the shrill noises. I could feel my body react with each pulse of the suits dying power, like I was tied into it.

I subconsciously paid attention to the noises that warned me of greater demise, and in turn they paid attention to me. There was a sharp crack of pain as the Ark Pylons inside the suit began to power up once more, a flash of burning heat as they bubbled and boiled into my flesh: scarring the decrepit mess of ruined blackened skin. Arcs of power crawled along the floor like tendrils of hope, yet pain, each movement draining more of my vision.

I tried to move my left hoof to the side in order to prop myself up, but there was no response. I tried the same with my right hoof, attempting to grasp a small outcropping of concrete: but failed. Whoever had lingered in the back of my head, was gone. His presence as distant as Celestia was from me and others. He simply wasn't there any more, probing my thoughts came up with nothing but emptiness.

I had to make it on my own. I placed both my hooves on either side of my charred and broken corpse, pushing against my exhaustion with all my might as I struggled to get up. I began to rise from my position slowly and surely, the battered legs managing to hold my weight with strain. There was a sharp crack and I wailed in pain, falling to my left and rolling down the small huddle of dirt kicked up from my fall. Blood from my right leg hit the floor with a sizzle, the components in the suit heating me up to a blaze.

Struggling onwards with gritted teeth and sheltered eyes, I used the nearby wall to lift myself up to standing height, propping myself against it for stability. The loose wires connected to long forgotten processes lit up as I touched the wall, causing me to open my eyes in surprise. I wasn't doing that, not purposefully at least, so what was? The suit? Him? I couldn't tell, so instead I looked over the room in the now much brighter conditions.

The once baronial and imposing room had been reduced to a sickening mess of tangled wires, bloody ashes and crumbled concrete. Its old and impressive brownstone walls had been chipped down to nothing, only the skeleton of an old age to remind of what glory was. The walls were a mess of broken floors and door-frames, and I could now see that it wasn't just the room I had been in: but the building's frame, that had come down atop me. In the back centre of the room was a location that took the spotlight, metaphorically of course. A mound of earth ripped up by a collision much more powerful than expected, crackling fire rending the ground apart. Bloody streaks ran down the sides and pieces of bone littered the epicentre of the site.

My entrance was less than graceful.

Above me and balanced on the weak and crumbling frame of this ancient building, lay the spire. It was old, so very old. It was carbuncle among the damned Elderlane, derelict and burnt-out rooms agape with black expressions: inviting death for any and all who explored its inner depths. There were cables hanging lose from the ripped walls of the building, the long gone war time structure still wired up for conflict.

Looking up at the mutilated building which I had ran from as it came down, I couldn't help but admire the construction effort. It wasn't wasted, nor unneeded or pointless: everything on that spire had a purpose. Looking back down to my current surrounds I began to search for some kind of exit, knowing that it wouldn't be the door frames, collapsed into themselves. Limping down the wall to one of the old and now lopsided staircases, I traced it along the walls and upwards silently.

It would take me up to a small jutting edge of rubble which had once been connected to the spire, a pillar that had been part of the old tip, or what was left of the shattered tower. It branched upwards to an antenna array of sorts, which had curved downwards and appeared dented. There was a huge crack travelling throughout the structure, which only just missed the array: so entering might be hard.

I grasped onto the stairwell and pulled myself up, it was a slow and painful process. Standing atop the lopsided staircase I began to climb up the labyrinthine mess of debris, each step causing pain to jut through my front right leg: the fetlock crumpling at every turn. The walls were falling apart as I crawled up the stairwell towards the shattered plateau, the twilight becoming clear as I scrambled towards the light.

As I scrambled up the ruined columns and atop the skeleton of the old age building, I looked upward towards the light in search of an answer. There were many pipes running along the metallic sky with the other concrete spires acting like supports alongside newer ones, each individual tower in a different need of repair. There was a flash as all the pipes opened their valves, spewing godforsaken Lighting Oil out in a spray of electrical impression: raw power flooding through the streets of a dead city.

I could feel the blast hit me like a train, stripping flesh and metal from me as the blow ripped through my face. I flew backwards off of the raised rubble and collided with a metal grate, flying through it and tearing my skin open with fresh wounds: breaking the old chain links. There was a large jolt as the entire platform came to life, both the ripple and the suit coursing electricity throughout.

As I lay on my back in severe amounts of pain, the Lightning Oil passing through me like a conduit, the platform began to rise with a groan. A distorted howler sounds and the decrepit metal doors shudder loudly, sparks flying off the sides as they open slowly and show a tattered, blackened, rusted landscape.

Turning my head to look at the elevator panel I groan at the missing buttons, and seeing the lights flashing as the car begins to crawl upwards. The howler cuts out and a groan sounds as the carriage suddenly shoots upward, quickly rocketing up the sides with sparks flying in and just missing my own skin. I stagger to a stand as the whole car begins to shake and the sides begin to tilt into the building, my eyes looking down into the large wasteland below.

The dangling elevator track limply hangs out the side of the fallen spire, cables and rails hanging underneath the unstable behemoth. Incredible amounts of damage had been done to this section of the building, floors reduced to rubble and left on display: the elevator track broken and unhinged in the fall. Part of the building had collided with one another further ahead, the gigantic spire went from horizontal to non existent as the crown fell apart.

Panicking as the car began to speed throughout the crackling ruins, towards the rubble. Pounding against the wall for a way out did nothing, even though the metal was rusted and bent: I was far too weak to break it. I couldn't cast a spell without fear of killing off my Starswirl gland even more, and my horn feels like it's been shoved through a shredder.

There was a violent shudder throughout the entire spire as something went down, a huge explosion sounded and a white flash blinded me for a few seconds. Then I was hit by a wave of sound and air as the blast threw the ancient elevator off the tracks and through a wall, into the room beyond. My skin bubbled and popped as the armour I was wearing seared my skin, forcing me to feebly climb my way out of the grated hole and into the ruined room.

As I fell to the floor, my first thought was about how dirty this place was. The old age army cots and tables had fallen apart, the wood becoming a soggy mess under-hoof. Something around, or above here, was dripping water into the room. The floor was littered with old newspaper clippings, decayed clothes, food residue and bones. Limping from the smouldering elevator and towards the door in the dim room, I spotted a small corpse tucked into the corner.

A foal.

It didn't feel like such a bad thing at first glance, the body seemed age old and decrepit. Shuffling my way over to loot a few supplies, to replace the ones that I lost, it didn't occur to me to check anything besides the pockets. I found a small mirror, a useless broken pocket watch and an old candy bar: little more than mold. It was when I actually checked the face that something inside me stirred, something deep and meaningful. As I turned the cheeks skyward and looked into those poor, frightened eyes, I saw that it was fresh.

I couldn't believe it, as I walked towards the door. Was that foal one of the runners we hear about? Children who live in the Elderlane with parents, surviving the grey death and scavenging? If so, why was the child alone? My uneven hooves got me over to the door in silence, the battered and scratched thing had odd pieces of wood missing. The paint was chipped and different colours in places, and the infectious grey rust had coated the bottom of the door like a plague. Nails jutted out from the frame unevenly, a truly sorry state of disrepair.

Placing a firm hoof on the handle I turned it and pulled the door towards me, the decaying lump of wood creaked like nothing before as I give it another tug. It got stuck halfway and I pulled again, and again, and again even. The door splintered halfway and I let out a small groan, moving my hoof back I slam into the door and watch the wooden shards fly about the room.

Stepping outside I shut what remains of the door behind me with a small snap, never noticing the stallion staring at me in shame. Through the chipped and split wood they did stare, staring so much stumbled down the empty and sodden hallway, blood trickling amongst the dirty water and broken bones cropping out from flesh.

I slammed my hoof against a door to my left and listened to the satisfying crunch of wood breaking from my force alone, the decaying papers shuffled around the slosh filled hallway from the sudden shudder: the old spire itself giving a low groan as it slides down slightly. Looking upwards in hope of answers I notice a large hole in the ceiling, with pipes and metal cables jutting out from inbetween the flooring.

Dirty water slinks down from the hole and falls in thin and even rows, covering the floor around me and the old papers in grime. Occasionally a piece of paper might fall down, or a few bits of rubble. But mostly it was rank water, followed by the stench of decay.

The barren grey corridor before me shudders with each passing second, every few moments there was a chunk of rubble falling or a wire snapping: the building's eerie melody of ruin. The water swirled around my hooves as I made my way towards a break in the hall and outwards, hoping to find my exit soon. Warning lights had faded and the suit had finally died, the small power it had left with now gone also. I was defenceless.

I stumbled for the exit but lost my balance midway, falling out of the hole and down to one of the support beams bellow. There was a solid crunch as the concrete block tipped the wrong way and split another in two, which in turn fell apart. Soon enough the entire spire was falling apart, the dilapidated structure becoming a heap of rubble as I slid to a halt atop a more secure building.

Taking a few tentative steps forwards and away from the crumbling death-trap behind me, I looked out across the skyline with hope. I could see a possible exit from here, the ruins of an old Lightate factory had punched a hole clean through to the Downzone: already there was water streaming down, and grey death floating upwards. The twilight was unmistakable.

For a short time I just continued onward into the illuminated abyss of the dead city, there was no real path to follow save for the wretched and mangled skeletons that had been warped by the great sweep of plague. The dusty rubble soon became much smoother and more dry against my hooves, the dusk bank ending as I reached a concrete wall spanning the width of the area out around me. There was a faint green glow coming off of an old terminal besides a set of heavy steel doors, the colossal chunks of metal barring the way to my freedom and beyond. I looked up at the huge doors with a small grin, running my eyes across the barren walls for a moment.

I groaned and tried to think of another route before deciding to examine the walls for myself, finding the symbol I was looking for on the concrete slabs. Scribbled on the walls were the last words of what seemed to be well over a hundred dying ponies all clamouring for safety from the plague. I drew in a deep breath and turned my light away from the solid concrete wall and back behind me, checking for any possible invaders in the darkness - seeing nothing but the dusty old bones of the innocent which littered the floor.

I grimaced slightly as I thought of all these ponies withering and dying within this crumbling city. Did anybody know they were here? Were they lied to about the safety of this place? Was the plague killer back then? I would have questioned more but my suit drew me from my thoughts as it fired up once more - the joints attempting to operate with a horrible noise similar to that of rusty metal being torn. It was about to try again and I began to stamp the ground in a feeble attempt to stop the process.

It stopped, barely: and I was given time to use wisely. Making my way over towards the terminal set against the wall, I peered into the console and scanned over the words. It was old, incredibly so: the encryption was less than pathetic by modern standards. The issue was that I'm not a tech kid, I grew up exploring my backyard as opposed to working on machines. The only kid I knew back then who actually worked, would be Big Macintosh... but he's an Apple, they're made to work hard.

"Now I wish I hadn't spent so much time... well, what did I do as a child?" I muttered to myself as I looked down at the console, pushing the thought out of my frail mind as a newer one came along. "Stalliongrad," I muttered to myself, attempting to bridge a connection with the suit. Nothing. Again, I tried to trace the synthetic nerves to an access point, but it seemed the VI had burnt out: it just wasn't there. The only method of getting it working again would be to take the armour off, and take a look at the circuits. Couldn't be that hard, right?

Attempting to pry off my helmet resulted in nothing but a hurt neck, trying to decouple the locks around my legs didn't do anything besides squeeze my bones. I even tried to remove the spinal lock, but that just overloaded my already dying nerves. I was lost as to why none of my armour would unlock. At first I thought that maybe it simply was fried from the Lightate flashes, the crash: but no, after looking at myself in a piece of shattered glass it all became clear.

Eyes which had seen enough blood to chill every street in the neighbourhood, lines running down the face and neck still unhealed: reminders of a vicious encounter with biologically crafted hunters. Broken bone jutting from a front leg, poking out from the skin and in-between the armour plating with a bloody trail. A mane that was torn and burnt in places, half of it missing across the blackened face. Glass shards welded to the left side of the face, alongside with the jawline and upper half of a standard helmet. Body armour that was covered in dents and holes where muscle had been torn, some armour missing entirely while the rest was welded to flesh: small tufts of dead fur clumped between. Broken teeth, a horn that was still crackling with ark energy and the face of a scared stallion.

"What... what have I..."


Suddenly out of nowhere I was pinned against the ground, my face buried into the dirt and my body screaming against the act. As teeth clamped down on my exposed and mangled flesh, something sparked. Adrenaline, pumped through my veins at the speed of death.

Launching sideways onto my foe, I lashed out with a mighty kick to whatever jaw it had. There was a loud thump as I jumped up, spinning around just in time to see the Neo-Shifter launch itself at me. I threw my hoof forwards as it came, connecting with a horrific snap as it pummelled into me.

We rolled backwards into a pile of skeletons, the dusty powdered bone filling my lungs as they screamed for clean air. Sharp chitin ripped through my armoured skin and opened a fresh wound, causing me to headbutt the hunter directly. I screamed as my inured horn impaled itself right through the beast's skull.

It merely slid back wards and ripped itself off the make-do lance, blood and blue synthetic brain spewing across me. I dodged to the left as another strike came down, jumping up and sprinting over towards a nearby wall. I jumped and grabbed hold of a ledge, just as the creature grasped my leg.

I kicked it off with enough force to break bone, using the momentum to propel myself up onto the platform. With the elevated position in the twilight, I went to run for an escape but was attacked by another two. They came for my throat, and succeeded in digging their hungry teeth into me.

I swung around wildly and sent one of them flying, running into a nearby wall and winding the other who fell off me. I tried to throw a bolt at it with my horn, but did nothing but create smoke. It used that time to get back up and kick me in the jaw, sending me flying into the ground.

They set upon me like ravens as I struggled to rise, tearing my skin off in small strips and using metallic blades to rend me open. During the unseaming they dove right into the Ark Reactor inside my suit, and kick-started the matrix. I could feel a rush of power like no other as I leaped upwards and sent their skulls into one another.

Grabbing them by their spines as I landed, I threw them into the concrete floor. One went down for the count as its neck snapped, while the second pounced with the blade bearing. I braced for an impact as it came closer, throwing a stream of ark lighting at the beast as it closed.

The blade sliced right through my right leg and split the bone completely, rending the flesh and causing me to fall onto one knee. The only thing keeping the leg from falling away was my pull and armoured links. I could feel it: the desire, the pain and anger bubbling up.

It was weird that I remembered an old saying as I kneeled there, crackling with both my own and this suits energy. "Be brave, Sunny."

"Why do I keep hearing that name?" I muttered bitterly as I sucked up my pain, taking a step forward but falling down straight after. "What does it mean? Who is he?!" I screamed to noone in particular, looking down at my own wounds as tears flooded down my cheeks: they merely burnt to nothing as they collided with the electric storm gathering around my broken body.

I looked up to the face of my best friend, and worst nightmare.

"I'm always here, Twisted. You know I can't leave after what you did, not now, not ever." He said, not looking me in the eye as his face shone against the twilight backing. "I can't answer your questions, I can't guide you and I can't give you what you need: I can only keep you safe. You need to find out those answers for yourself." There was a few moments of silence between us as my body lay still against the concrete, dying, slowly.


"I don't know. I'm sorry."

"You never know, do you?" I muttered to myself, feeling the burn of uncontrolled mana crawling up my legs as my horn began to fluctuate and the Ark energy built up. "What can I do, Sunny? Where do I even start looking? I've been around for twenty two years, and I've never found the answer. Even back in Ponyville I couldn't fi—"

"You've been around for two years, Twisted. Ponyville is nothing more than a crater the size and scope of old Canterlot, you know this better than all of us. You were there." He spoke the last words darkly as I limped to a stand, my leg trailing beside me as I looked over across the dead city.

"I don't remember any of it, Sunny. It's all a blur, my past is gone I can't... I can't remember."

"You should start by being brave, Sunny."

I looked back and he was gone, simply ran off and left me here to die. I could feel my body slowly shutting down, the magic overdose having killed off the nerves one by one. I'd have to find a way out soon, it was my only way to live past this. Limping over to the edge of the plateau I had fought upon, I looked down to see that the last Neo-Shifter had chewed his way through the wall checkpoint: leaving a blood trail for me to follow, and a kill to get. Before I set off on the dangerous trek, I decided to check if my gear was still hanging around. Forcing open the metal saddlebag and searching painfully with magic. I finished the search, only finding the letter Vinyl had given me. "Might as well... open it." I muttered as my leg gave way slightly. Flipping the seal and pulling the letter out, I saw three words in calm scripture.

Fight for me.

Prologue: Demise

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Last Night:

Prologue: Demise


The world is feasting upon us


Thin torrents of murky water ran across my window during the period of time that I trotted about my shambled and messy flat, the wooden floorboards creaked like a symphony underneath my heavy hooves, an intoxicating mixture of booze and shottle-pops lighting the world into a flurry of colours. The rain could only just be heard through the dull haze that had overtaken my mind and with each step I could feel my grip slowly loosening, the last bottle of vodka in my magic grip teetering.

It fell to the rough oak floor as I turned a corner into the lounge if I could even call it that, the tattered wall paper dripped slog onto the floor and made nearly everything in here damp. The windows that were supposed to look down on the city were blocked by cardboard and news papers which flailed around in the wind. A few specs of rain burst through on occasion, but otherwise the soggy cardboard was doing fine. The floor around the window was stained a dirty black from the hazardous weather but the rest of the room seemed okay.

On the back wall was the only piece of furniture in this room and it was my pathetic bed, made of cardboard and bedding thrown atop one another on the damp floor. The mixture of rain, shame and industry that had made the planks so sodden had a pungent smell that was enough to make most ponies vomit. However I had something stored in between the floorboards that would help... lots and lots of alcohol.

Continuing on through the shamble of a flat I turned left into my bathroom and instinctively shut the door, my hooves clinked softly against the grimy tiles as I walked over to the sink and turned the taps gently with my magic. As they spun around I recoiled horribly and flew across the room, having forgotten the effects a drug has on magic. My horn smashed up against a tile and I yelled in pain as my precious horn cracked slightly.

Getting back up slowly with my hooves firmly underneath me, I made my way over to the sink and turned off the taps manually. Placing my hooves on the edge of the sink I peered down into my own reflection, and at first glance I was a completely different buck. Blink again and it's gone, my own ragged eyes staring into one another as my face struggled to stay calm. Forcing my hand. I plunged into the sink and began to feel my breath growing sparse.

A thin trail of bubbles escaped from my lips as the somewhat murky water enveloped me in a cool embrace, time suddenly became irrelevant as my head limped underneath the water freely. All of a sudden I could feel myself surrounded by endless ocean and falling slowly to the seafloor, my mane floating around simply as my frail body was carried in the countless currents.

All of a sudden I was thrown back to my bathroom as my head came up out of the water gasping for precious air, my hooves trembling and cracking the cheap porcelain under their weight. Leaning over to the mirror to gain a better look at myself, I was all but surprised at who stared back at me. My body went pathetically limp as I held onto the basin for support.

Reflected in the cracked and dirty mirror was a pale dirty grey coloured buck, his coat long since having lost it's lovely white complexion. Bloodshot and puffy eyes rested underneath his ragged brow, the folds of skin crinkled into a small yet sad frown as he stared back at me. His once handsomely sharp face was now a wreck of azure stubble and small shredded scars. He had a bold chin and strong defined features, his mouth dipping down only just as if indicating his sadness. In front of one eye his long and mane hung low, the shaggy mess of hair matted with grime and alcohol. It was a pure azure, but the colours true beauty was lost amongst the towering spires and minimalist signs plastered around like a type of advertisement.

I turned away from my own reflection pathetically as I reeled from the truth before my tired eyes, looking back down at the water I saw another reflection - My own features looked back at me through a pair of dead black eyes, blood dripped from the corner of his mouth as black aura swirled around his horn. I closed my eyes and splashed some water on my face in an attempt to clear my head, the cold water stinging my skin as the chemicals seeped into my pores.

Looking back down into the water I only saw my usual self in the murk, however an uneasy feeling set over me as I pulled the plug and watched the water drain slowly down the plughole and into the pipes beneath the floor. I could hear them scream as the water pushed out all the air that had been stuck in there, forcing it all down into an outflow pipe no doubt near the Cortex.

Trotting over to my shower on the opposite side of the bathroom I steeped in and gingerly put a towel outside the sliding door, turning the shower head onto the cold position. Silently standing there with my forelegs against the tiles, I waited for the water to come crashing down on me. There was a groan as the water traveled from far above - no doubt near the Twilight Zone. A torrent of red and grey water came crashing down on me as the long unused pipes spewed rust and grime, but after a few seconds clear water ran through the shower head and down my back.

The smooth feeling caressed my aching limbs with the sickly coldness it possessed, snaking down my spine and through my tail with a lovely feeling of cleanliness. I looked to my left and placed my hoof on the small outcropping where I kept my soap, moving my hoof over to grasp it, it fell from my slippery hooves and I quite literally dropped the soap. Cussing and bending down to pick it back up, I left my standing position momentarily.

After retrieving the smooth bar of lovely dirt remover, I returned to my original position and began to run the bar down my back. The smooth soap easily covered my matted coat and in no time I had the white mixture matted throughout my fur, reaching down to my underside I repeated the same process and made sure to give my privates a good covering too. Once all that was said and done I took a small flannel in my hoof and wet it in the shower, then I placed it against my back and began to wipe off all of the soap which I had previously put on. In no time at all, the water falling to the drain was a murky grey rather than clear.

Moving down to my underside once more I made sure not to linger too long, swiftly swiping the slippery suds stain remover off of my coat and into the water, carrying the dirt and grime with it. After that I simply went on all fours and swiped my front hooves down for good measure, smiling as my coat became a lovely dark and clear grey instead of a manky and grime riddled light grey. Placing the flannel back into place, I looked to my right and took a bottle of shampoo.

Getting a large dollop on my hoof I began to run it through my mane and tail, coating both in a purple mixture that smelled faintly like moon rocks - apparently it put mares into a 'temporary heat', or at least that's what the aggressive sales man had told me, weird Minotaur. Letting the water run down me for a few moments as the smooth mixture made its way into my mane and tail, I reached for a second flannel and dampened it for a moment.

Feeling satisfied with the shampoo's progress down my hair I began to clean it off using the shower overhead to remove the excess foam whilst the flannel wiped through my mane, the smooth liquid caressing my scalp and making my hair smell a pleasant fragrance which was surprisingly nice. I quickly however moved to my tail and began to gently run my hoof through it, using the other to hold it in place as I cleaned out all grime that had accumulated.

As per usual by the time I was done my tail was dead straight and extremely long - stepping out of the shower and grasping the towel in my front hooves I pondered this, nearly every buck I knew had a short tail and yet here I am with one as long as Miss Sparkle herself, however mine was still distinctively male. Running the towel across and underneath my body swiftly I began to walk over to the shower once more, looking in the glass as I finished drying off my hair and it sat in its usual place.

I was now looking at a buck who I had long forgotten, one who had confidence and knew the name of every mare within two miles, a stallion who went to every bar and bought out every bottle he could see. His dark grey coat reflected the light with a subtle shade of black, a seemingly unnoticed ominous aura around his body which radiated cold. His mane was short and scraggly and curled around him slightly, the deep azure hair spiked out in certain areas yet still retaining a gentle fluff. The accompanying tail stacked out in layers behind his flank, the sparkling azure hair looked like tilted staircase on top, with layers of hair simply stepping down over and over until the tail ended. However the underside was more like a question mark and curved elegantly until a small bend, where it went straight and met the tip.

His horn was spiraled wildly unlike most unicorns in the local area and was riddled with missing lines where cracks had healed or chunks had regrown, yet his birthmark was the strangest of all. A pair of chains wrapped around two shards and surrounded in a crimson aura. One shard was a deep maroon with a ghastly black tint, whilst the other was snow white with a green glare on the side. A tiny ball of blue sat between the two, with both a shade of black and one of green.

Turning away from my own reflection I began to trot out of the bathroom, closing the door behind me for the time being with a loud bang, now making my way into the kitchen in order to grab some clothes from the airing cupboard. In the lounge I walked back out into the hallway and back the way I came, stopping momentarily too look out of my window as the rain slammed against it with fury. Through the murk I could just make out the opposite Spire, number 52 if I remember correctly. It wasn't hard to see why the air was so bad around here, large smokestacks rose from the sides of the Spire before me and pumped black fumes up towards the rain clouds high above.

Below me in the streets of the Downzone ponies scurried about their business as usual, trotting through the slog quickly as more and more rain bounced off the balconies and train lines above. I spotted some pony I recognized down below in the ruckus that was the Western district, underneath his cloak I could see a pure white mane and a soft brown coat, looking up at me as I stared down at him, he waved and ran off.

"Sunny... you madman..." I muttered as I continued back down the hallway towards my kitchen, opening the door and walking into the surprisingly furnished room. Up against the wall facing me there was a total of four counters, a cooker and a fridge. In the center of the room I had my table and chair, a small book on psychology sat on the table besides many more alcohol bottles, not surprising. In the corner to my left however there was a cupboard and I began to trot towards it with purpose.

Standing in front of the cabinet with a light smirk I opened it with a hoof and immediately saw piles of prescription drugs, looking for the box titled 'Manalifier' with great haste and determination - knocking several other packets out of the cupboard in the hurry. However soon enough I found them, opening each pill holder and swallowing them all in one go. I then began to pick up the boxes on the floor, noticing the titles like 'Viagra' and 'Neuropozyne', who needed that stuff anyway?

As I put the last box away my body flew into a fit as I fell flat on my face and my horn discharged randomly, each discharge ripping a hole in the wall the size of a golf ball. I flung myself left and knocked the table over, ripping the rotten wood in half with a single discharge. As I convulsed on the floor it suddenly became worse as my horn became a brilliant white colour and exploded outwards violently. As I opened my eyes I noticed the floor around me was scorched but the rest of the room appeared not worse than it had started.

Getting up off the floor with a light shake I tested my horn by lifting a piece of the broken table up, I felt a nauseous whiplash overcome me momentarily but otherwise I was perfectly okay, which meant the pills had worked perfectly. Smiling widely I trotted back over to the cupboard and opened it once more, Taking out a large blue checkered jacket and putting it on easily thanks to my magic. Opening one of the pockets with my magic I took a pair of dog-tags out, along with a cigarette which I placed in my mouth.

I then levitated two items from the back of the cabinet before shutting it with a hoof, examining the two in front of me before putting them on. First came the neck wrap, a pure white cover up with two bolts on either side - manufactured in the Cortex, it had costed a pretty penny. Slipping it on tight I put the second item on over my head, a pair of stylish neo-punk black and white goggles. They rested nicely on my forehead with the band going around the back close to my neck.

I then swiftly trotted back out of my kitchen with a certain air of time keeping about me, the rain growing even louder as I walked into my lounge. I could see clearly the unmade bed to the left, besides which a cardboard box acting table was set - the counter of the dainty object was strewn with a mess of pills and crumpled paper. Looking to a scratched board in front of the messy heap of sheets I had called a bed, I trotted over to it slowly and lifted it up. Underneath was a large container filled with a large amount of alcohol.

Laughing as I began to take the bottles out one by one, I could hear the voice in the back of my head egging me on with my plans. He hissed in delight as I thew three bottles into the hallway behind me, and he practically shouted in praise as I threw a further four into the bathroom. The glass shattered against the tiles and spilled the liquid across floor, it sunk into the grooves between the tiles and stayed put. The other vodka had no doubt sunk into the wood in the hallway.

I then turned to the five bottles I had before me and looked upon them with a keen eye, a pale mist beginning to seep out of my eyes as I picked the bottles up in a surprisingly dark aura. Flinging them this and that way across the room his voice spoke through my mouth, giving praise. "I like what you are doing, fool." He said, hissing delightfully. "I wonder what you plan to do, hm?"

"Don't you remember?" I mocked, walking out of the lounge and into the hallway. "I'm taking a train and departing this retched city, going someplace far far away - a better place, for sure." I was close to my front door now as I had walked swiftly through my flat, avoiding the freshly wet alcohol stains. I levitated my keys out of one of the jacket pockets and placed them in the door carefully, twisting them until the lock clicked.

As I swung the door open he spoke up again and once more using my voice as a catalyst. "Oh dear Twisted, here I was think I'd convinced you to go on another glorious rampage. Don't you remember the fun we had?" He hissed menacingly as he spoke, "The blood and guts? Have you forgotten all the good times we had, dear friend?" I stepped out of the door and turned to face my hallway, frowning and crinkling my brow.

"Shut it you abomination."

"So be it, mortal." He hissed, before returning to the recesses of my mind.

I took a small zippo from my back pocket and telekinetically lifted it to my cigarette with care, gently flicking the top open and lighting the fag first try. Inhaling the poison as I threw the useless zippo into the flat's hallway, I took the cigarette out of my mouth for a moment, before throwing it into the hallway and shutting the door. Turning to walk away as a searing heat flashed up against my back and an explosion sounded nearby, a smile crossed my lips as I entered the elevator, pressing the "5" button.

The elevator played some sort of garbage music as the floors slipped by in a whirl, groaning as it scraped down the un-oiled chains and occasionally hit the side. By the time I had reached my destination I could see a bright orange through the broken service hatch on top of the elevator, a mild heat flowing down and touching my neck softly. Using telekinesis I lifted the neck wrap up over my mouth, the full design showing a small gas-mask like vent, making me look somewhat like a Trottingham rebel. the doors opened with a light 'bing' sound, and I walked out into the lobby of Spire 52. Ponies eyed me curiously as I strolled up to the counter, leaning over to my landlord.

"Moneyshot." I said in a cold tone, placing my flat key up on the counter to get his attention. "I'm moving out, and by the All Mother I swear you better be insured." Walking away from the counter before he had time to process what I'd said, I turned to look back at him and slid my hoof across my neck slowly, smiling under the mask. "You'll get what's coming to you, Moneyshot, just you wait you corrupt bastard."

I pushed through the glass doors and out to the train platform, walking down the steps to reach street level. The rain was kept from me by a roof overhead and I was thankful for that, it was cold enough up here without acid rain pouring down my back. The steps however had water running down them which made my decent rather difficult, I suspected that there were a few lose seals in the roofing overhead, but it didn't bother me too much.

By the time I got to street level the rain had softened somewhat and wasn't as aggressive in its torrential downpour, which put me at ease as I stepped out from under the cover and began to walk left of the station to the next one three blocks away. The water ran down the sloped street which made climbing up the hill a little hard for me, grime and random newspaper clippings drifted down past my hooves along with litter and Maker knows what else.The vendors were begging to close down for the night as it went past what I suspected to be midnight.

There was no sun in the Downzone which made keeping track of time hard unless you carried a watch about with you, we were stuck in a perpetual Twilight generated by the lights of the Spire Cortex - it branched up into the 'Twilight Zone' and all the other Spires connected into it, like a giant hex pattern. The lights from up there is generated by the exposed Lightning Oil pipes, which glow a ghastly white. However with all the pollution which hangs around up there, the light becomes purple and thus sticks us in a gloomy Twilight.

Not only that but we had been abandoned by Celestia and her sister, Luna, who both reside over Canterlot and try to ignore us deprived populace stuck in the Downzone. Princess Luna occasionally visits the High Architect in the Spire Cortex, but beyond that none of the royalty even cares about the Downzone population. The rich ponies in the Society would rather see us die than help us, we're just a blight to them

In fact I bet I could count more ponies who wanted us dead than there are Ze...

"Hey, Twisted! Git' over here a moment will you?"

I was interrupted from my thoughts as a young Earthpony colt scurried up to me, shouting my name. I sighed and rolled my eyes as I began to walk towards to kid, giving him a high five before taking a bit from my pocket and throwing it his way. "What's the news?" I said in a dry tone, wanting to be done with it quickly. "I don't have all day Kicker." As I spoke my last line the boy scorned and walked closer to me.

"Word on the street is that the CTS is making a comeback and the rebels are failing in their battle to stop them, I have also made plans and will be out of the city before that happens. So this is tha' last time you'll see me Twisted." He smiled and patted me on the back, trotting off down the street and calling back to me. "I'm sure things'll work out for ya' Twisty, just you wait!"

I couldn't help but feel saddened by his optimism in this situation, the days and nights were full of horror and death yet one small child found hope in it all - pathetic. I looked across the courtyard I was in, seeing the platform was up a flight of steps across the way from me. Floating a bag of bits out of my jacket pocket I walked over to a vendor and seated myself, making sure I had enough time to waste.

A young mare with a luxurious red mane turned to face me with a sultry smile, each step she took towards me was overly exaggerated to define her more 'feminine' properties. She leaned over the counter and planted kiss on my cheek, sending a small shiver down my spine. You know what they say, women are just naturally sexy.

"What can I do for you handsome? I'll give you a discount for my 'services' if you'd like." She winked my way and I laughed, tossing my bits onto the table with a heavy clunk. Leaning a little closer to the mare I smirked and pointed to a small shot glass. I then pointed at a series of herbs and spices in the 'Zebra' section, and finally at some Vodka.

"Not today dar'll." I said, drawing out my syllables with a surprisingly easy attraction. "Perhaps another day hmm? I'm only here for a drink I'm afraid, I have a train to catch. I'll take your finest and most potent herbs with some vodka, dear." I sat back in the chair with a small chuckle, and watched the mare blush a bright red on her pale white coat. She rushed over to the drinks cabinet with a funny sort of hurry, giggling as she returned.

"I'll hold you to that one, Sweetheart." She said, mixing the drink in a flurry as each herb was dropped in one by one. At first the drink was simply pure vodka with a slight orange tint, then it began to fizz, then it foamed as well and finally it glowed a florescent hue - amplifying the drinks colour. "I'll take these here bits off your hooves and let you enjoy your drink, mr?"

I picked up the drink in my telekinetic grasp and winked at her, downing the entire shot in less than three seconds. Slamming the empty glass back down onto the rough and worn bar, I smiled. "I'm Twisted Morals, although everybody just calls me Twist." I said, sliding off the chair and beginning to trot off. "Although," I said, not looking back at the mare, "I'm sure everypony is always dying to call you, Miss Roccet~"

I quickly trotted up towards the staircase laid out before me and found it had become a running river, the now fast falling rain pounding down onto the steps and the roof above and causing a massive waterfall effect. I groaned and began to make my way up the slippery steps, the chipped and decaying concrete giving me an uneasy feeling as I trotted up to a small bridge connecting two stations. Moving to the right I continued up a smaller flight of steps towards the main platform for Designated Commerce District 17.

As I stepped up onto the main platform the first thing I noticed was the smell, a horrific mixture of Lightning Oil, puke and pollution. The checkered concrete panels which made up the station's pathing were sunk in here and there, and had large puddles of rainwater and piss caught within them. The station itself was a collection of dark bricks stacked high upon one another in a large 'L' shape - The roof was caved in slightly and the drains were blocked, the Benches were rotten and half of the arrival sign had been ripped off. Graffiti littered the walls but one large tag stood out against the rest, the words 'Reflect On Your Sins' dominated the wall, and was on a few other walls but in different text and colours.

Trotting up to the stations edge I waited patiently underneath the large roof which was barely keeping the water off of me and seriously in need of repair, but it didn't matter to me - Soon I'd be gone, free. I looked across the way and looked at the other side of the station and I saw one stallion sitting alone on a bench, he was humming the tune to the popular song 'Octave Chaser', written and performed by none other than Octavia herself.

"So, why are you doing this?" He asked in the back of my mind, "I mean surely there's more fun to be had than... this." I mumbled under my breath and tensed as I heard an oncoming train sounding it's horn, shuffling in place slightly as I pictured myself colliding with the hard piece of pure metal. It was hard to imagine just how fast they traveled and how far they could go, Lightning Oil really was an innovation.

"Because I have to." I replied bluntly.

"But I don't under-"

"Shut it."

The next few moments passed in absolute silence as time ticked on to the point where I'd forgotten it existed at all, the rain seemed to fall harder as the train passed its last bend and came into view. I chuckled and tensed my back-legs as he silently hissed in my mind, trying to wrest control from me and stop the madness that was about to occur. The rain bounced off the tiles as the train screeched around the bend and pulled a straight, about to pass the station. The ebb and flow of time suddenly picked up as the skies opened up, the Spire Cortex discharging extra Lightning Oil in what we'd call 'Lightning'.

Suddenly nothing mattered anymore, I jumped in front of the oncoming headlights and closed my eyes in pure bliss. I was finally free. He no longer had control over me and I knew the All Mother would embrace me as her own as I ascended into her realm, my sins would be forgiven and I could finally live happily.

But even in paradise, I could hear her scream.