SeaUrchin

Moblight [Complete]

May 16th, 2016
2,713
Never
Not a member of Pastebin yet? Sign Up, it unlocks many cool features!
  1. >So there you are, sitting at your desk.
  2. >You were working on some very important papers.
  3. >It was some very sensitive information.
  4. >You know, bank reports, leases, conversations, certain photographs, that sort of thing.
  5. >Then wouldn't you know it? Your door burst open.
  6. >In walked Rainbow Dash, waving her arms around like some crazy ants crawled their way into her sock drawer this morning.
  7. >"He's back at it again!"
  8. "Rainbow Dash, what have I told you about barging in on me in this way?"
  9. >She stopped dead in her tracks and gave a huff.
  10. >"Really, Twilight? What am I going to walk in on you doing?"
  11. "It's a matter of principle," you reminded the blue woman. "Now do it again."
  12. >She rolled her eyes and left your office, closing the large oak doors behind her.
  13. >A few seconds later, a knock reverberated throughout the room, bouncing off your Corinthian leather sofas.
  14. "You may enter."
  15. >The doors swung open and slamed into the walls.
  16. "Ah, Rainbow Dash. How are you today?"
  17. >"Are you going to make small talk or are you going to do something about Adam?" she asked angrily.
  18. >You see, Adam--good kid, you've known him for a while--he had been causing some trouble lately.
  19. >Word on the streets was he was been pressing on your turf.
  20. >You tried to be the bigger person and let him off with some simple warnings, but he just wouldn't listen.
  21. >No, not Big Atom Adam.
  22. >That basketball looking tub of something disrespected you once. He disrespected you again.
  23. >"Twilight!"
  24. >You held your fingers up and shut her mouth.
  25. >Oh, Adam. What to do? What to do?
  26. >You took out a cigarette and lit it up.
  27. >One puff later and you were turning the once white spot of your ceiling yellow.
  28. >You kind of liked how it looked. It was like a spotlight, you know?
  29. >Shining down on you.
  30. "Adam just wants to help out his family. I can understand that. I'm a family gal."
  31. >"But Twi, you've lost three blocks to this shmootz. Are you going to roll over for him?"
  32. >You took another puff, this time taking out half the cigarette.
  33. "Send his family a care package."
  34. >Your cyan compatriot smiled at last.
  35. >"Express delivery?"
  36. "You know me well."
  37. >Rainbow Dash left, closing your doors gently.
  38. >That was the last you heard from Big Atom Adam.
  39. >He got out of town real fast after that.
  40. >Too bad, too. You were going to invite him to your ball.
  41.  
  42. >You like your balls.
  43. >That is, balls in the dancing sense.
  44. >Not in the sweaty, hairy sense.
  45. >You've been holding them once every fall for, what, six years now?
  46. >They're pretty big.
  47. >Anybody who's anybody shows up.
  48. >Anybody who wants to be somebody shows up.
  49. >Anybody you want there shows up, whether they like it or not.
  50. >They make their donations like clockwork.
  51. >Twilight's Taxi.
  52. >That's the name of your business.
  53. >So why would the mayor of Canterlot take time out of her busy, busy day to come visit some low life, small time business taxi girl?
  54. >Partly because you have enough dirt on her to bury this town about as far as Adam's uncle.
  55. >Another part because you're old friends.
  56. >Sunset Shimmer's her name.
  57. >Leading the petty public's her game.
  58. >Gee, that girl sure can talk.
  59. >One time in 2019, she came to you with a little proposal.
  60. >It went something like this.
  61.  
  62. >"I love what you've done with your, erm, office."
  63. "Sunset, please. I know that look on your face."
  64. >"No, I mean it! It has a sort of," she pauses, picking her words carefully. "Charm."
  65. "It's 'rustic'?" you play.
  66. >"Rustic! Yes, that's it."
  67. >At the time, your joint was just some dingy little plot outside the Badlands.
  68. >You remember those days fondly.
  69. >So she walks around for a bit, trying to get used to the stale air you suppose.
  70. >Finally, Mayor Shimmer takes a seat.
  71. "You wanted to talk."
  72. >"Yes. About us."
  73. "About us?"
  74. >"Well, about what we can do for each other."
  75. "Do tell. What can we do for each other, Mayor Shimmer?" you ask abruptly.
  76. >She fidgets in her seat.
  77. >You're being a little icy, sure, but this girl hasn't seen you in years.
  78. >Too busy climbing the ladder.
  79. >You know, between all her speeches and parties back in high school, you figured she would be the kind of gal that'd stick it through with you for life.
  80. >Instead, she loses your number and slinks off to who knows where, doing who knows what.
  81. >"Well, you know how I work."
  82. "Boy, do I."
  83. >"I'm efficient. I know how to talk."
  84. "And I'm Twilight Sparkle. What's your point?"
  85. >"Well, I'm sure you know the responsibilities that come with being mayor."
  86. "Far from it. I just run a taxi chain."
  87. >"Oh, Twilight. Don't sell yourself short. You're very smart for someone in your position."
  88. "In my position?"
  89. >"I mean, well--"
  90. "Enlighten me. What is my position, as you put it?"
  91. >"Come on. You graduated top of your class, had all the scholarships you could want, and yet you still ended up here. Your position, as I put it, is not a good one."
  92. "And you plan to remedy that?"
  93. >"Like I said. You know how I work. I know how you work. We've made a good team in the past, Twilight. As for teams, I've found myself with a few new teammates myself. We sometimes need things moved. Discretely, of course."
  94. "Goodness, what could the mayor need to do in discretion? Wasn't your whole platform based on honesty and integrity?"
  95.  
  96. >"And you," she says, gritting her teeth, "Have the know-how and the means of how to do just that."
  97. "So you want me to move your dirty drawers around town, under the radar and all that?"
  98. >"For compensation, of course. I come to you proposing a deal, not asking for a favor."
  99. >You had to laugh.
  100. >What?
  101. >It was funny, ok?
  102. >Sure it wasn't very professional of you to bust a gut in the middle of a meeting, but she's just such a riot.
  103. >A deal? A favor?
  104. >The only deal making there was that day was you dealing out some punishment to her.
  105. >The broad expects to just walk back into your life, smiling and paling around like nothing happened?
  106. >Like she hadn't tossed you off like some used rubber?
  107. >No, that doesn't fly.
  108. >Twilight doesn't do well with disrespect.
  109. >You opened your desk drawer and pulled out a small folder.
  110. "You know what I have right here?"
  111. >"No."
  112. "Memories from high school."
  113. >She smiles.
  114. >"I'm glad you remember it as fondly as I do."
  115. "Yeah, I really miss those days."
  116. >You passed the folder to her.
  117. "Here, take a look."
  118. >She opened it up.
  119. >Her eyes widened.
  120. >"I thought we all agreed no photographs."
  121. "Well, I technically never agreed to anything. You just assumed I did, like you assumed I would roll over and let you use my taxis for your dirty dealings."
  122. >"Twilight, do you know what these photos could do to me?"
  123. "I have a good idea. Can you picture the headlines?" You framed her between your index fingers and thumbs. "Mayor Shimmer, Witch Among Us."
  124. >She slammed the folder down, knocking over the neat little desk lamp you found at a yard sale down on 5th.
  125. >"Forget it. I don't need you! There are a million other slime balls I could snatch up! I just thought maybe you'd like to reconnect with an old friend."
  126. "I have a friend. Her name is Rainbow Dash. Maybe you know her?"
  127. >"Fuck you. I'm leaving, and I'm taking these with me."
  128. >She turned to leave, her fiery hair waving around in the same frenzied manner she was.
  129. "Go ahead. I have more."
  130.  
  131. >Whoop. That got her.
  132. "Come on. Big shot politician and you still don't know to keep copies of everything?"
  133. >She turned, slowly, calmly, a polar opposite of just a few seconds ago.
  134. >"Twilight. Friend of mine. Ole' buddy ole' pal."
  135. >The biggest smile stretched across her face.
  136. >It was so fake it turned her face right to plastic.
  137. >"I didn't mean what I said earlier. You know I value your friendship."
  138. "Is that what this is called? This between us? Because I call this empty air."
  139. >"We've been through a lot together."
  140. "You're right. We were. I haven't seen you outside the papers in three years though."
  141. >"Communication is a two way street, you know. You could have called."
  142. "I did."
  143. >"Not often enough, apparently."
  144. "Every day for a month. Twice on Sundays."
  145. >"Do you know how hard it is getting a political career running? Especially when you're right out of high school."
  146. "I can only imagine."
  147. >"Are you really going to hold some little radio silence against me? Come on, I'm trying to reconnect with you here."
  148. "Oh? Because it looks to me like you're just squeezing me because I have something you want."
  149. >"Your friendship!"
  150. "All out of that. Sorry."
  151. >She growled.
  152. >Can you believe that?
  153. >The girl actually growled at you, like some sort of animal in the zoo.
  154. >What a putz.
  155. >So she holds the folder up to your face and rips it right in half.
  156. >A few of the pictures, the ones she happened to miss in the tearing, fell out onto your desk.
  157. >"Don't play with me, Twilight. I can crush you and your stupid little taxi business. I just have to say the word and I can get this whole rotten place condemned!"
  158. "You can buy all the politicians and businesses you want, Sunset, but you can't buy the public. What will the public think when they see their grand old mayor practicing magic? Think they might connect the dots?"
  159. >You stood up slowly, careful not to knock your chair over and ruin the moment.
  160. >Her eyes locked with yours as you moved around the desk, coming face to face with her.
  161. "2010. A girl named Sunset Shimmer appears out of thin air and enrolls in high school. 2012. Half the school is ripped followed by a huge rainbow in the sky. One week later, three giant horses appear in the sky, followed by another rainbow explosion. One year later. Half of Canterlot falls apart in a series of mysterious earthquakes that all seem to center from Canterlot High. Two months later. One month later. Three months later. One year later. Right up to graduation, when that mysterious, out-of-thin-air girl, takes to the political scene. Suddenly everything stops. It seems a little convenient, don't you think?"
  162. >"That's all heresay."
  163. "And with pictures? It becomes enough for the public to put a few nasty labels on you. You know what they used to do to witches?"
  164. >Sunset bumped into the wall of your tiny, brown office.
  165. >You'd been stepping closer to her through that all, and she matched your step back each time.
  166. "But I'm a nice girl, and I don't really like public burnings. I'll let you slide."
  167. >"Tw-twilight?"
  168. "But you work for me from now on, got it?"
  169. >She was speechless.
  170. >You had to emphasize the point with a little slap on the cheek.
  171. "I asked you a question."
  172. >"Yes. I understand."
  173. "Good girl."
  174. >You walked off and sat back down at your desk. She merely slid down the wall and sat on the floor.
  175. "Staying? Then make yourself useful. My feet could use a little massage. Be a dear."
  176. >So she crawled over and, with the most delicious look of shame and sadness you'd ever seen a person wear, removed your shoe and got to work.
  177.  
  178. >And just like that, Sunset Shimmer became your very own pin in Canterlot's political scene.
  179. >She was your in-girl.
  180. >Your ear in every deal across the city.
  181. >Your eyes on all the crime they let go on.
  182. >But it wasn't then that the city really became yours.
  183. >You'd been biding your time.
  184. >It's like Sunny said. With your know-how, you could have expanded like a tumor.
  185. >Nobody likes a tumor though.
  186. >During the day, Twilight's Taxi and its fleet of six cars transported the good people of Canterlot from end to end.
  187. >During the night, it took on a new name: The Statue.
  188. >The Statue--so named as a callback to the portal you and Sunset would always mess with back in high school, sort of to remind her of why she worked for you--was a cancerous delivery service that swallowed up all the other competition in town, eventually only leaving yourself and a few other small competitors to throw some snoopers off your trail.
  189. >It was also the name that showed up whenever Sunset needed something transported.
  190. >By Sunset, you mean you.
  191. >She made the deals, but only the ones you told her to, and never in her own self interest.
  192. >Everything went to a Mr. Somber, some rich jerk off in Crystal Meadows.
  193. >Mr. Somber was as fictitious as The Statue.
  194. >His accounts bounced around the globe enough times to throw a digital bloodhound for a loop, but it all lead back to you.
  195. >By 2022, he was worth as much as Bill Gates' cuff links.
  196. >The money he donated to charity was noteworthy.
  197. >His hands held stakes in every major crime organization in Canterlot.
  198. >Some of the bigger families didn't like this.
  199. >Sunset, the good dog that she is, always kept you up to date whenever a new contract was put out on him.
  200. >You smiled and brushed it off every time.
  201. >Yeah, like some two-bit gun off Ponyville Ave is going to track down your ghost.
  202. >You're way too smart for that.
  203. >It was the following year that you let everything go.
  204. >You held your first ball.
  205.  
  206. >"Are you sure this is a good idea?" Sunset asked, holding onto the sleeve of your dress.
  207. >You gave her a nice pat on the head to assure her.
  208. "Don't worry. The only surprises tonight are going to be my own. I've thought of everything."
  209. >"I just mean--"
  210. "Sunset, be a good girl and go get some punch. Mix and mingle a little. It is a ball, after all."
  211. >So she fucked off to the other end of the room and left you to get to know the other guests a little better.
  212. >First guy in your sights must have been in his early forties.
  213. >Big guy. He must have had a good two feet on you.
  214. >Approaching him, you began to feel uneasy.
  215. >It wasn't that he scared you. What put you off was his fashion choice.
  216. >You knew he was...eccentric, but you didn't expect that.
  217. >The guy actually showed up to a ball hosting Canterlot's dignitaries in some patchwork suit of green, brown, yellow, and other colors reminiscent of the less flavorful bodily fluids.
  218. >Suddenly, he turned around and threw his cup at you.
  219. >A, and you'll admit it, girlish squeal escaped your lips.
  220. >You were in one hell of a dress that night. A five hundred dollar midnight purple gown with gloves that went up to your shoulders.
  221. >Man, and this guy tries to spill his shit on you.
  222. >Before you know it, he's laughing at the top of his lungs.
  223. >You looked down, expecting to see some horrible mess all over your dress, but instead, it's just one big brown lump sitting in a pile of broken glass.
  224. >"Oh, the look on your face was priceless. Priceless!"
  225. >Yeah, just you wait, buster.
  226. >He holds his calloused hand out to you.
  227. >The nails were so long you could call them talons and not be too far off.
  228. >"The name's Discord. And who are you?"
  229. "Happy that wasn't real milk," you said as you took his hand.
  230. >"Oh don't worry. It's just a neat gag. Want to see how it works? So what you do is you take an ordinary glass, and you heat it to about--"
  231. "So tell me, Discord. Why are you here?"
  232. >"Why am I here? Why, the same as everyone else, I suppose. I'd like to get a look at our mysterious Mr. Somber."
  233. >You could feel his beady, yellow eyes scan your body.
  234. >He was looking over you, into you, through you, examining your very essence.
  235. >"He's a bit shorter than I thought he'd be."
  236. "You've seen him, then?"
  237. >The giant man laughed and let go of your hand.
  238. >"No, of course not. Everybody is shorter than me, I guess. You get into the habit of wanting them to be taller."
  239. >What a freak.
  240. >Nice guy, though. As far as Sunset said, he's the only guy who hadn't put a hit out on Somber.
  241. >"So when do you think he'll show up?"
  242. "Pretty soon, I'd say."
  243. >"Oh, I'm getting giddy just thinking about it."
  244. "Do you have a crush on him or something?"
  245. >"Let me ask you something. You have a cup filled with water and oil. There's a lot of water in this cup, but even it struggles to support the layer of filth on top of it. What happens when you drop a stone into the cup?"
  246. "I feel like you're going to tell me."
  247. >He smiles crookedly, one jagged tooth shooting out of his mouth.
  248. >"I think Mr. Somber is going to shake up our happy little cup. I think it's going to be beautiful."
  249.  
  250. >So you walked around, mixing and mingling. That sort of stuff.
  251. >Your mind kept tracking back to Discord, though.
  252. >Everyone here spoke in such ugly ways.
  253. >They were snide, sarcastic, and so god damn full of themselves their pants could burst.
  254. >Your reputation as head of a “small time” taxi company earned you a few slights as well.
  255. >Discord was probably the only pleasant conversation you had that night.
  256. >He was so open. Almost unsettlingly so.
  257. >He was an honest guy. A real straight jack.
  258. >The man, at the cost of his own jacket, even saved your dress from a flying drink.
  259. >Given the snickers a few yards away, you could tell it was aimed for you.
  260.  
  261. >At around nine o’clock, you thought enough was enough.
  262. >These bozos had had their fun. Now it was time for yours.
  263. >Up you walked the marble stairs of the event hall.
  264. >Up and up and up, to a balcony looking over the checkered floor filled with mobsters and other assorted lowlifes.
  265. >All eyes were glued to you.
  266. >”Would you look at that? The taxi girl wants to get a view.”
  267. >”First time you ever been so high, eh, girlie?”
  268. >”If you get scared, I got a nice spot on my lap you can relax on!”
  269. “Be quiet, you loathsome troglodytes.”
  270. >Your voice, loud and strong, echoed through the event hall.
  271. >”The fuck did you just say to me?”
  272. >”Was that a swear?”
  273. “You’ve all had your fun. Now it’s time to listen to me.”
  274. >”And why should we listen to you, girlie?”
  275. “Because I have everyone in here by the balls. If you refuse to cooperate, I’ll squeeze.”
  276. >”The hell is this slut saying?”
  277. “I believe the lot of you are familiar with a certain Mr. Somber.”
  278. >The ball erupts in chaos.
  279. >”You know where that Jimmy is?”
  280. >”I’ll fuckin’ skin him alive!”
  281. >”That guy’s got his hand all over my turf. It’s really pissin’ me off!”
  282. “He has more than just your turf. He has pictures--pictures of all of you. He has a string leading to every shut closet door, and with one little tug, he could rip it open and send all the skeletons you’re hiding tumbling out into the light. He has bank records, documents tracing your accounts, and to some, the deeds to your goddamn houses.”
  283. >”How do you know all of this?”
  284. “And he’ll share it all with the town. With every town. There won’t be one slum in Equestria you could go where the local police don’t know your names. And given what he could do to you financially, rest assured a slum would be your new home.”
  285. >”Zut!”
  286. >”You’re bluffing! You don’t know shit!”
  287. >A wry grin stretched across your face.
  288. “I know everything. I am Mr. Somber.”
  289.  
  290. >”Don’t joke with us, girlie. You better start talking about where this guy is, or I swear I’ll come up there and I’ll put something else in your mouth.”
  291. “Nice threat. I’d offer my own, but then, I already did. Remember when I told you about squeezing?”
  292. >You took your phone out of your purse and wave it in front of the crowd.
  293. >”Ooh, you gonna text us to death?”
  294. >An amazing invention, really.
  295. >Talk, text, email, internet, cameras, all that cool stuff.
  296. >So, on it, you mess around for a bit.
  297. >By the time you’re finished with your task, a rather obtuse man had ascended the stairs with the intention of removing you.
  298. >”Time to go, you little shit.”
  299. >Holding your finger up to pause him, you complete the last few actions and set the phone away.
  300. “To the fellow who wanted to put something in my mouth, I would like to personally thank you for your generous donation to the Homeless Eagle Foundation. Let’s give him a round of applause, everyone!”
  301. >As you clapped to yourself, he gave you the most confused look.
  302. >”I didn’t donate shit, you freak!”
  303. >You like to imagine what happened next was that some small gerbil in a tiny, dusty little corner of a vast and nearly empty room suddenly woke up and dashed for the exercise wheel.
  304. >The man’s eyes nearly popped out of his head.
  305. >His phone, as fast as that gerbil you were talking about, flew from his pocket.
  306. >The next minute was spent with him angrily yelling at “Larry” about his funds.
  307. >Lo and behold, every account from the Cayman Islands to some fictitious little man from Fillydelphia, was empty. Bone dry.
  308. >He had as much money to his name as Candy Carl, the homeless man who panhandles down on 9th.
  309. >The phone slowly lowered from his ear.
  310. >His eyes seemed to have sunken deep back into his skull.
  311. >His face, once dark blue, had become a pale grey.
  312. >”It’s all gone,” he said in not even a whisper.
  313. >”What’d you say?”
  314. >”It’s all gone. Everything. All that time, all that...it’s all gone.”
  315. >A heavy silence fell over the room.
  316. >You looked over to the insistent man to your side.
  317. >The second your eyes met, he shrunk back and held his hands up in defense.
  318. >”H-hey now, I didn’t mean nothing by it.”
  319. “What’s your name?”
  320. >”Me? I’m Speedy Tracks, Miss.”
  321. “Well, Speedy, go escort that sobbing mess out of here. And do come back. I’m sure you’ll want to be present for my announcement.”
  322. >”S-sure thing.”
  323. >THAT was when the city became yours.
  324.  
  325. >You know, for all your brains, you’re still not 100% sure why you did that.
  326. >You had plenty of money. Enough that, if you so desired, you could have packed it up and flown off to some faraway land.
  327. >Live out the rest of your days on a warm, sunny beach.
  328. >Perhaps in the tranquility of the woods. Deep inside the forest with your own little cabin…
  329. >Yeah, that sounds nice.
  330. >Who would come for you then? Who would hunt you down looking for their money?
  331. >Nobody, because Mr. Somber was untraceable. Twilight Sparkle was a nobody--a forgettable side character in her own story.
  332. >After that night, Mr. Somber had a face and it was Twilight Sparkle.
  333. >Any hope you had of escape was shattered.
  334. >So why do it?
  335.  
  336. >Well, it might have ended there. You might have had the city’s crime lords by their balls, but no.
  337. >Soon enough, you started to itch.
  338. >One day you woke up, and knowing you owned the city suddenly seemed so meaningless.
  339. >So the lords of Canterlot were yours to manipulate?
  340. >That’s nothing.
  341. >In 2024, The Caravan had legally dissolved into Twilight’s Taxi.
  342. >Every car in your dark fleet got a new lavender spray tan and a fancy bumper sticker.
  343. >The streets were brimming with your vehicles.
  344. >The people of Canterlot moved with your taxis, from building you owned to building someone else owned. From job to job. From hobby to hobby.
  345. >In 2025, you began to sweep up territory.
  346. >All you had to do was make one little phone call and you could have ended their careers for good.
  347. >That wasn’t enough for you, though.
  348. >You wanted something bigger. Something more fantastic.
  349. >Mr. Somber drained someone’s account. Even if he is you, it was still him.
  350. >Twilight needed to do something. Something that people would remember her for.
  351. >It was a hot day in August when you made your move.
  352. >You called in a few favors.
  353. >By sunset, eight entire blocks of the city had been sectioned off. It was for a big construction project.
  354. >On paper.
  355. >In reality, you made a wall.
  356. >Think of one big square made of nine little ones.
  357. >Color in the eight squares on the border and what do you have left?
  358. >The loneliest box in the world.
  359. >One blank, empty, worthless white speck in an ocean of pitch.
  360. >What did you do?
  361. >Well, you colored it in.
  362. >Red.
  363.  
  364. >”Twilight, why?” cried the orange woman at your feet.
  365. >Her usually slicked back hair was just a frizzy mess that stunk of smoke and sweat.
  366. “Get off of me.”
  367. >She did not.
  368. >Her grip on your skirt tightened, and she used that to pull herself up.
  369. >Now on her knees, she sobbed, likely hoping to elicit some response equating remorse.
  370. “Spitfire, really now. This isn’t a good look for you.”
  371. >”You think I care about what I look like? You...Twilight, do you even know what you did?”
  372. >You smiled and pet her gently, hiding the immense disgust you felt when you touched her filthy mane.
  373. “Why, of course. I cleared out a rotten section of the city for gentrification.”
  374. >”I had millions of dollars worth of cars there! Property! Assets!”
  375. “It’s for the better. Really.”
  376. >”How? How could you do it? How could you just burn it all down? People...people lived there. You destroyed their homes too, Twilight. You destroyed their lives! My life!”
  377. >You knelt down and cupped her chin in your hand.
  378. “I could spend the next hour lecturing you on the properties of gasoline that make it such great fuel for fire, but I think we’d both get bored very fast. I’ll tell you a story instead. Do you like stories?”
  379. >Her eyes, wide and wet, filled with horror, scanned your face for a crack she could burrow into. Some dark little place she could hide from you.
  380. “Once upon a time, there was a beautiful woman named Spitfire. She controlled an underground racing circuit that spanned half the city. One day, someone else appeared.”
  381. >”Twilight…”
  382. “Yes, Twilight! Good job! So, Twilight took a match and she burnt a little piece of it to the ground. Do you know what happened next?”
  383. >”No.”
  384. “Spitfire was upset. She was so upset that she tried to fight back. She did a good job at first too. It almost looked like Twilight would lose. Then, something wonderful happened. The Wonderbolts were caught cheating. All their trophies from all their victories were suddenly revoked. Spitfire’s mother, who lived in a very, very old house, died in her sleep from carbon monoxide poisoning. The full force of the Canterlot Police Department weighed down on her business and snuffed out Spit’s fire. All her associates, up to and including herself, thrown in a hole.”
  385. >You pushed, knocking her onto the ground.
  386. >She sprawled out and frantically crawled away from you.
  387. “Get out of town, Spitfire.”
  388. >That was the last you heard from her.
  389. >The speedsters of Canterlot now enjoy racing under your supervision.
  390.  
  391. >Being boss isn’t all fun and games, you know.
  392. >Sometimes you have to actually have fun and games.
  393. >Odd, right?
  394. >One of the many things you learned growing up is that anyone can make you fear them.
  395. >Fear is temporary though.
  396. >In fact, sometimes it does more to create opposition than it does to silence it.
  397. >A few weeks after you took over Spitfire’s business, people started breathing down your neck.
  398. >Paranoid schizophrenics shouting about how you were a madwoman and were going to destroy the city.
  399. >Sunset even got to telling you about some new contracts out on your head.
  400. >That’s when you came to the decision to show those lowlifes that you’re not just some psychotic firefly.
  401. >You care about this city and everyone in it.
  402. >You spun around in your chair to face your blue bodyguard stationed beside the door to your now quite spacious office.
  403. “Rainbow Dash, take a letter.”
  404. >”To?” responded your trusted companion.
  405. “Everyone.”
  406. >”Everyone as in…”
  407. “Who do you think?”
  408. >”Right, sorry.”
  409. >She pulled out a tablet of your own invention.
  410. >What? It’s cost effective.
  411. >”Alright. What do you want to say?”
  412. >You looked outside your window on the white city.
  413. >Snow steadily fell from the sky and blanketed the streets.
  414. >Plows moving bby could keep up, but only barely.
  415. >What better way to escape the snow than to dive right in?
  416.  
  417. >It was around mid December when everything had been squared away.
  418. >You and Canterlot’s finest were to take a trip to Mt. Windy for a little ski trip.
  419. >Well, for Rainbow Dash’s ski trip.
  420. >You don’t ski yourself, and given the rest of your partners--and you use that term loosely--were all old, fat, or both, they wouldn’t be doing much either.
  421. >In reality, it would just be a weekend in some stuffy old lodge sharing coco by a fire.
  422. >Not so bad, actually.
  423. >It briefly occurred to you to stage a power outage in order to bring you all closer together.
  424. >Then you realized that was a stupid idea and to waste any more brain power on it would be an insult to yourself.
  425. >That sort of thing only works in movies.
  426. >”All set, boss?”
  427. >You nodded and followed Rainbow Dash out to your car.
  428. >It was a big van stocked with food and drink. All of it junk.
  429. >Rainbow Dash insisted on doing this “road trip style”.
  430. >Personally, all you needed was a bag with a few changes of clothes.
  431. >It’s not like you’d have to eat much on the way there.
  432. >You were never much of a snacker.
  433. >She opened up the door and quickly jerked her leg up, just catching a case of soda from falling out.
  434. “Good catch.”
  435. >”They don’t call me Dash for nothing.”
  436. “Probably because it’s your name.”
  437. >”Whatever, egghead.”
  438. >You smirked and tossed your bag in.
  439. >She loaded in two huge suitcases which had been perched up on her shoulders.
  440. >”I’m good to go.”
  441. ”Let’s hurry then. I wouldn’t want to be last to my own event.”
  442. >You got in the passenger seat.
  443. >Though you own a taxi company, you don’t like to drive much.
  444. >It always seemed more instinct based, and you prefer to think.
  445. >Besides, Rainbow Dash would have insisted on driving anyway. Another part of that road trip experience she kept going on about.
  446.  
  447. >Six hours into the drive.
  448. >Six hours into classic rock tunes “for the road”.
  449. >Six hours into wrappers and cans piling up in your back seat.
  450. >It was disgusting.
  451. >It was revolting.
  452. >It was...fun.
  453. >Soon, you found yourself holding a Twinkie.
  454. >You opened the wrapper. A horribly sweet smell wafted into your nose.
  455. “How many chemicals are in this thing?”
  456. >”As many as it takes.”
  457. “That sounds unhealthy.”
  458. >”Just try it.”
  459. >Rainbow Dash grabbed your wrist and jerked it up, shoving the long, cream filled cake into your mouth.
  460. >It erupted with flavor.
  461. >Your entire world turned upside down, and for the first time in seventy-eight miles, you were sure it wasn’t Rainbow Dash’s driving.
  462. >In that instant, you were euphoric.
  463. >”Yeah? Not so bad, eh, egghead?”
  464. >After wiping away the cream from your mouth, you reached into the back and grabbed yourself a soda.
  465. >”You know what goes best with soda and road trips?”
  466. >You shook your head.
  467. >Can’t have an answer for everything, you suppose.
  468. >”Some Bon Poni!”
  469. >She fiddled with the controls on the dash.
  470. >The voices in the radio disappeared in the middle of a laser hair removal ad and were replaced with static.
  471. >After a bit of tuning, going in and out of focus, she landed on something.
  472. >”Alright! This is some road trip music!”
  473. >You raised an eyebrow.
  474. “It sounds the same as all the other music you’ve played.”
  475. >”Well it’s not. Come on, sing along! Shot through the heart, and you’re to blame. Darlin’ you give love a bad name!”
  476. “Shot through the heart…”
  477. >”And you’re to blame!”
  478. “Darling you give love…”
  479. >”A bad name!”
  480. “A bad name!”
  481. >”See? You’re getting it!”
  482. “Rainbow Dash, the road!”
  483. >”Oh shit!”
  484. “Left! Left!”
  485. >That was a good road trip.
  486. >Even with everything going on today, thinking about it makes you smile.
  487.  
  488. >You arrived at the lodge two days later.
  489. >Two cars were out front.
  490. >One was a black Lincoln. An older model, not the ugly new ones that look like very other car on the road.
  491. >The other was a huge van. It looked like it could be filled with hundreds of dollars worth of, say, construction tools.
  492. >Well, it WOULD have looked like that if not for the hackjob paint and the decals.
  493. >It looked like something out of a fever dream.
  494. >”Guess Discord’s here.”
  495. “I guess so.”
  496. >”Who’s the other guy?”
  497. “Probably Snowy Bridges. You know he loves the oldies.”
  498. >”In more ways than one.”
  499. “What he does behind closed doors is no business of mine.”
  500. >”Come on, you know you’re freaked out by it too,” she said with a jab to your ribs.
  501. “Whatever. Let’s just get inside.
  502. >You grabbed your bag and got out of the car.
  503. >Rainbow Dash got her own things and sped ahead of you.
  504. >”I’ll go in first. Just in case.”
  505. “Right.”
  506. >The two of you trudged through the snow until coming to the door of the lodge.
  507. >It was a small door with a little bronze colored handle.
  508. >Rainbow Dash set her cases down and moved her hand to a bulge on her hip.
  509. >Opening the door slowly, she revealed a brightly lit, completely wooden room with one simple red carpet in the middle.
  510. >Only two men stood inside. Discord, who dressed in a puffier winter-ready version of his other patchwork suits, and a young looking fellow in an ill fitting white suit.
  511. >”Gentlemen.”
  512. >”Rainbow Dash.”
  513. >She stood there for a minute.
  514. >You could practically hear the gears in her head turning as she evaluated the situation.
  515. >After long enough, she stepped in and aside to make room for you.
  516. “Good afternoon.”
  517. >”Twilight! I was wondering when you’d arrive,” shouted the giant man.
  518. >”She organized the whole thing, you dunce,” said Snowy, who gave him a slap.
  519. “I didn’t invite you here just to tear each other apart.”
  520. >”Well excuse me, princess. I forgot. You want us to kiss and make nice, right? So we’ll stop thinking you’re some insane kid getting high off power?”
  521. “Exactly.”
  522. >”Good luck, sweet cheeks.”
  523. >Rainbow Dash came forward and grabbed your shoulder.
  524. >”Let me beat this guy up, egghead. It’ll be quick, I promise.”
  525. “No.”
  526. >”Come on. Just a leg?”
  527. “No, Rainbow Dash. Go unpack our things.”
  528. >She complied. Reluctantly, but she complied.
  529.  
  530. >The signature laugh which you’d grown to know over the years.
  531. >”That’s why I like you, Twilight. You don’t pull any punches.”
  532. >He took off his polka dot beanie hat and threw it into the flames.
  533. >It lit up instantly. Holes formed where the dots once were and spread out, consuming the whole thing.
  534. >A mass of black and white hair fell down, covering Discord’s face.
  535. >With one motion of his arm, he slicked back the shoulder length mane, leaving only a few strands to hang in front of his sunken, pale yellow eyes.
  536. >”But then, neither do I.”
  537. >You set down your book and gave him your full attention.
  538. “What are you trying to say.”
  539. >He smirked, showing a singular overly large canine.
  540. >Then, in a low, serious tone that, despite the enormous hat-fueled fire only feet away, sent chills running down your spine, he said, ”That I’m going to destroy you in chess later.”
  541. >Chess.
  542. >He must take his rook game very seriously.
  543. >You made sure to keep a straight face, but on the inside, you were laughing.
  544. >In only a few seconds, his entire demeanor changed.
  545. >He wrapped his arms around your shoulders and pressed his face against yours.
  546. >”Oh, I brought enough boards for everybody! We’re going to have so much fun once the other guests arrive! I can’t wait. Can’t wait!”
  547. >Good thing Discord’s back acted like a protective wall.
  548. >You could practically feel the daggers Snowy Bridges was staring at you.
  549. >You’d have to have Rainbow Dash keep an eye on him.
  550. >You may have said both eyes were it not for the fact that the cabin would have at least ten people in it by tomorrow night and you needed as many eyes as possible.
  551. >The eleventh being--and you say “being” because you don’t really count her as a person--would be Sunset Shimmer.
  552. >Between Rainbow Dash, Sunset Shimmer, and yourself, that would be six eyes.
  553. >Enough to lower your chances of being killed by sixty percent.
  554. >You had it in your gut that Discord wouldn’t hurt you, so you felt confident that in total, you only had a thirty percent chance of dying during that vacation.
  555. >Not the best odds, but you’d faced worse.
  556.  
  557. >Later that night, three more people had arrived.
  558. >Silver Blossom, who controlled an underground diamond trade that lived in what may as well be broad daylight by bribing the police commissioner with all fine cuts of diamonds.
  559. >The criminal duo Anonymous and Innominate, who took care of illegal prize fighting operations for everything from humans to dogs. They also supplied the chemical cocktails used to bring said fighters to their prime battling conditions.
  560. >You greeted them as warmly as you could. You’ll admit that it could have been nicer, but hey. Sunset Shimmer is the one who wears the fake smile.
  561. >You prefer to be business like.
  562. >Despite your cold tidings, Silver Blossom seemed at least somewhat happy to be there.
  563. >She shook your hand first, giving a small smile.
  564. >”I was shocked to hear what you did to Spitfire. I hope we can move on as friends so that doesn’t happen to either of us.”
  565. “Likewise.”
  566. >Then, she reached into her pocket.
  567. >Rainbow Dash, who had been standing like a guard dog a foot behind you, lunged forward and grabbed her arm.
  568. >”Ow! Hey, relax! It’s not a gun or anything!”
  569. >”A knife then, eh?”
  570. “Leave her be, Rainbow Dash.”
  571. >Silver Blossom yanked her arm out of Rainbow Dash’s grasp and fished whatever was in her pocket out.
  572. >It was a small black pouch that she opened and turned upside down into her hand.
  573. >It produced two earrings.
  574. >She took them gently into her fingers and held them up at either side of your head.
  575. >”Yeah, these look good. I was a little worried yellow wouldn’t be your color, but they look good.”
  576. >You took them from her hands and examined them both.
  577. >A canary diamond was held onto by what looked like a silver claw. Said claw disappeared into a pearl chain exactly three pieces long, each with decreasing size until it came to the hook.
  578. >Not an inexpensive pair, you should say.
  579. “Thank you.”
  580. >She nodded and walked off, leaving you with the couple of crooks.
  581. “Anonymous. Innominate.”
  582. >”Twilight,” they said in unison.
  583. >The woman, Innominate, took off her glasses and rubbed them against her shirt.
  584. >”It’s too cold up here.”
  585. “You came.”
  586. >”At your behest.”
  587. “Which was a good decision.”
  588. >”You’re awful mouthy for a girl who’s going to spend the next few days surrounded by people who hate her.”
  589. >You could hear Rainbow Dash growl from behind you.
  590. >That was when Anonymous, a towering brick wall of a man, stepped forward and past you.
  591. >He got close enough to Rainbow Dash that they could hold a magazine between them.
  592. >”You better leash your dog before I throw it in the pits,” he bellowed.
  593. >He wasn’t trying to yell. He was simply so large that every sound he made became such.
  594. >”What’d you call me?”
  595. >”A dog. Looks like I was wrong though.”
  596. >”Yeah, that’s what I thoug--”
  597. >”They hear better.”
  598. >”Alright, you son of a bitch! You want to fight?”
  599. >You missed Bon Poni.
  600.  
  601. >Before an atom split between Anonymous and Rainbow Dash, Discord wormed his way between them, pushing them both apart.
  602. >Rather, pushing himself and Rainbow Dash away from Anonymous, who stayed firmly planted in his place.
  603. >”Now, now. Let’s all try not to tear each other to pieces until the dinner scene. That’s the part where things usually fall to ruin!”
  604. >Exactly!
  605. >Discord was on top of the ball.
  606. >Dinner time was always the worst with crowds.
  607. >A little TV dinner by yourself was relaxing. Get Father involved and suddenly the hands start flying.
  608. >Make it a family function, provide dinnerware, and you have a recipie for disaster.
  609. >That’s why you made special preparations for that trip.
  610. >Among the supplies you and Rainbow Dash had brought up were packs and packs of plastic utensils, paper plates, and paper napkins.
  611. >Nothing to stab with, nothing to shatter and break, and nothing to strangle with.
  612. >The worst thing you had to worry about was a fist fight. With Rainbow Dash on your side, even that wasn’t much to sniff at.
  613. “I’d have us do one better and refrain from fighting at all. We are civilized people, after all.”
  614. >The green giant shot a sharp look at you.
  615. >”Come on, honey,” purred Innominate as she looped herself around his arm. “This lot isn’t worth it. Let’s find a room, shall we?”
  616. >He huffed and followed her away. They disappeared up the stairs without another word.
  617. >Rainbow Dash, laughing quietly, made a slight at them.
  618. >“Short leash, eh, egghead?”
  619. “What time is it?” You asked wistfully.
  620. >”About half past seven,” she answered.
  621. >You sighed and looked out the window.
  622. >Five cars which you could make out only by the light of the cabin shining on their edges were slowly being tucked into bed by a blanket of snow.
  623. “Nobody else is coming tonight. Let’s get dinner started.”
  624. >”Oh, what’s the menu?” asked Discord.
  625. “All the big meals would take too long. Besides, I’d rather save those for when we have more guests. Tonight, we’ll have steak.”
  626. >”Steak? In a secluded cabin atop a snowy mountain?”
  627. “I brought you on vacation, not a camping trip. What, did you think we’d roast s’mores by the fire?”
  628. >”Fair enough.”
  629.  
  630. >So dinner time rolled around.
  631. >Based on the events of the day, you arranged yourself at the far end of the table with Rainbow Dash and Discord on either side of you.
  632. >Snow Bridges sat next to Discord, as the two had been alone in the cabin before you arrived and had no problems.
  633. >Silver Blossom sat next to Rainbow Dash, and beside her, Anonymous.
  634. >Silver was the least likely to cause trouble.
  635. >You could have added another buffer between Rainbow Dash and Anonymous by putting Innominate in there, but she and Silver likely wouldn’t have gotten along well either.
  636. >Speaking of Innominate, she sat at the end of the table opposite you.
  637. >It was a fine arrangement, you thought.
  638. >Chances of fighting were down at least eighty three percent this way.
  639. >At least, that was your initial calculation.
  640. >What you didn’t take into account was someone stirring the pot.
  641. >”So, Anonymous, what’s the married life like?” asked Discord.
  642. >The green monster continued to feast on his steak, completely ignoring Discord.
  643. >”Not feeling chatty? Come on, we’re men. No need to be so put away.”
  644. >”Can’t you see he doesn’t want to talk to you?” interjected Innominate.
  645. >”Hm? Oh, hold on.”
  646. >He fished around in his pockets, removing a stopwatch, a rather large wallet, a long comb, three switch blades, and a rubber band ball, before coming upon a cheap pair of reading glasses with the “+2.5” tag still attached.
  647. >”I’m blind as a bat without these.”
  648. >After putting them on, he leaned halfway across the table and squinted hard at Anonymous.
  649. >”You’re right! He really doesn’t! Well, I’m not one to pry.”
  650. >He returned to his seat, picked up the utensils, and began eating again.
  651. >Once more, the table was quiet.
  652. >For a moment there, you were worried something would erupt.
  653. >His demonstration earlier that day affirmed all the stories you’d heard of Anonymous having a hair trigger.
  654. >Discord, of all people, pressing his buttons would be awful.
  655. >And, well…
  656. >”So, Snowy, how’s the sex life?”
  657. >”Excuse me?”
  658. >”The sex life. You know. The salami story? The uh, what is it the kids are saying these days? Your ‘teetwer feed’?”
  659. “Twitter, and that’s something else entirely.”
  660. >”What’s it to you?”
  661. >”I need to immerse myself in stories. I don’t know if you could tell, but I don’t have many interesting things going on in my life. Woefully boring, I’m afraid. I figured at least you would have something.”
  662. >Snowy’s lips curled up ever so slightly, rearranging all the wrinkles on his ancient face.
  663. >”Well, if you must know, I’ve been going at this hot young number for a while now.”
  664. >”Really? Do tell.”
  665. >”Bitch likes to talk a lot, but it’s all fine if you can just block her out. It’s worth it for the sex though. Buddy, you should see my back. Hoh boy! I never would have guessed a principal could move like that.”
  666. >”A principal? Gasp! You couldn’t mean that nice young woman who ran Twilight’s old school, could you? What was her name? Principal Celestia?”
  667. >You could feel the temperature in the room drop twenty degrees.
  668.  
  669. >”Did you say Celestia?”
  670. >The question came from Anonymous.
  671. >”Yeah. Why, you know her?”
  672. >”Stay away from her.”
  673. >Suddenly, the smile on Snowy’s face disappeared.
  674. >His mouth dropped in shock, and he pushed his seat back, nearly knocking it over, in order to stand.
  675. >”Let’s you and I get one thing straight, buddy. I don’t take orders from nobody. Especially not some retard freak with a pile of extra chromosomes where his brain should be!”
  676. “You do take orders, Snowy, and you take them from me. Now sit down.”
  677. >”Or what? What are you going to do? Burn down the city again? Drain my accounts? You know, I’m starting to think you don’t even know what you’re doing!”
  678. >Now Rainbow Dash got into the mix.
  679. >”What are you going to do, old man? Take on a whole room just to get to Twilight?”
  680. >”It’s not a whole room. I can tell a few people would be on my side. Right, Innominate? You must hate this purple bitch. Come on, let’s take her out!”
  681. “Stop it!”
  682. >”I’m thinking you might be right, Snowy. Come on, Anon. Let’s finish her off.”
  683. >Things were getting out of hand.
  684. >You looked to Rainbow Dash, who had her gun cocked and ready in case anyone jumped.
  685. >Discord was several feet away from the table. He was leaning back in his chair, eating from a tub of popcorn.
  686. >”Enough!”
  687. >Anonymous’ voice was loud enough to give you a headache.
  688. >He got up and reached over the table, grabbing Snowy Bridges by his jacket.
  689. >”Let go of me!”
  690. >He did. Anonymous picked him up and threw him.
  691. >The old man flew across the table and skidded across the floor into the next room.
  692. >You stared in awe as the green giant marched over, grabbed Snowy’s beard, and left.
  693. >Not left the room. Left the cabin.
  694. >They disappeared into the storm together.
  695. >That door would not open for another three hours.
  696. >When it did, it was Anonymous who came back, and only Anonymous.
  697. >By then, dinner had dispersed and everyone was asleep except for yourself and Discord, who were reading by the light of the fire.
  698. >”I’m sorry about the interruption,” he said quietly.
  699. “We’re Snowy?”
  700. >”Don’t worry about it.”
  701. >And you never had to.
  702. >Snowy Bridges was never seen or heard of for all the ten years until the point at which you began writing.
  703. >The next day, three more people arrived.
  704. >Dr. Redheart, Rose Luck, and Sunset Shimmer.
  705. >They weren’t known for being rowdy, so you expected things to start looking up for the trip.
  706.  
  707. >Rose Luck entered the cabin and set down a small duffle bag.
  708. >She looked around melancholically.
  709. >”There’s no flowers up here.”
  710. “I’m sorry about that,” you said while extending your hand to her.
  711. >Rather than shaking, she grabbed it.
  712. >She produced a flower from between her ear and hair and placed it in your palm.
  713. >”Here. To liven up your room.”
  714. >Having never been a fan of flowers yourself, you were rather unimpressed with her gift.
  715. >You forced a smile nonetheless.
  716. >It’s like mother always said. Nobody has to get you anything. Be gracious when they do.
  717. “Thank you.”
  718. >”You’re welcome. And don’t worry, it’s not drugged.”
  719. >Drugs, by the way, was her business.
  720. >Rose Luck, using her vast knowledge of plants, botany experience, and small chain of flower stores, crafted fine drugs that rivaled opioids in their power.
  721. >Their existence led to a close relationship between herself and Dr. Redheart.
  722. >Why?
  723. >Well, Dr. Redheart happened to be the head of several homeless shelters and halfway houses across the region.
  724. >There’s a reason addicts never get better in Canterlot.
  725. “Dr. Redheart, it’s nice to see you.”
  726. >”I suppose,” she answered you, peering around the room.
  727. >”Come on, Red. Don’t be so mean,” whispered Rose Luck.
  728. >The doctor rolled her eyes and turned to you.
  729. >”The pleasure is all mine, Twilight.”
  730. >What was before you was a different woman than the smiling, caring one you’d seen in the papers.
  731. >Figured. Nobody is ever what they public makes them out to be.
  732. >You should know that better than anyone.
  733. “If you go up those stairs, you’ll be met with a row of rooms. You’re free to whichever aren’t currently occupied.”
  734. >”Thanks, Twi,” Rose Luck beamed and picked up her bag.
  735. >She headed off towards the stairs.
  736. >Dr. Redheart turned her attention out the window.
  737. >Outside, Anonymous was chopping wood for the fireplace.
  738. >He had a nice pile made with enough for the next few days.
  739. >A few feet away, sitting under a snowy tree with a book, was his woman.
  740. >”Sure I can’t bunk with him?”
  741. “I wouldn’t advise it.”
  742. >”Whatever.”
  743. >She huffed and meandered over to the fireplace.
  744. >A small fire was going. Nothing big, but enough to keep the room cozy.
  745. >”So, when are the festivities?”
  746. “If you’re referring to the team building exercises I mentioned in the invitation, those will take place after all the other guests have arrived. For now, we’re just relaxing.”
  747. >”Do we relax during dinner too?”
  748. “Yes. Dinner was at eight o’clock last night, but we’ll likely hold it sooner today. Expect it in the neighborhood of six.”
  749.  
  750. >Deeming the conversation over and done with, you finally motioned for Sunset Shimmer to enter.
  751. >She came in through the door and knelt down at your feet.
  752. “Up.”
  753. >The mayor stood and smiled at you expectantly.
  754. “Speak.”
  755. >”Oh, Twilight, I’m so happy you invited me too.”
  756. “Of course I would. A good set of eyes and a loyal follower. Why wouldn’t I take you with me?”
  757. >Her face fell slightly.
  758. >”Right. Why wouldn’t you take your loyal follower?”
  759. >You led her up to your room and closed the door.
  760. >Even after making sure nobody was around and nothing was bugged, you still spoke in a hushed tone to her.
  761. “I’ve already worked out the details. Anonymous doesn’t do much thinking. He’ll usually follow whatever Innominate says, so he’s no risk. Instead, Rainbow Dash will watch Innominate. As for myself, I’ll be watching Silver Blossom and Rose Luck. They seem nice enough, but sometimes the prettiest flowers are the deadliest.”
  762. >”And what will I do?”
  763. “You keep an eye on Dr. Redheart. You know what to look for.”
  764. >She nodded.
  765. “Plans may change as the other guests arrive.”
  766. >”What about Snowy Bridges? I saw his car out front, but you didn’t mention him.”
  767. “Don’t worry about it. Your world is as large as I dictate. Understand? Did I instruct you to think about Snowy Bridges?”
  768. >She lowered her head and stared at the floor.
  769. >”No.”
  770. “Then why did he cross your mind?”
  771. >”I’m sorry. I didn’t mean anything by it.”
  772. “Get to work.”
  773. >”Yes, Twilight.”
  774. >Sunset left the room with her tail between her legs.
  775. >You decided you’d have to punish her later for speaking out of turn.
  776. >In the meantime, you had nothing to do until the final two guests arrived.
  777. >You made the executive decision to finish your book.
  778.  
  779. >One hour passed as you sat on the couch.
  780. >As you turned the page to the final chapter of your book, the cabin door opened up.
  781. >You whipped your head around to see which of the final two arrived, only to be met with Innominate and Anonymous.
  782. >The man had an enormous pile of logs in his arms that must have weighed as much as you did.
  783. >As Innominate sat down on your right, he casually walked over to the fireplace and lowered himself to the floor.
  784. >Then, carefully, as if he were delivering a child, he let it go.
  785. >The logs lightly fell to the floor, making about as much noise as a gentle breeze.
  786. >You realized you were in the middle of the couch and scooched over to one end, giving them room to sit together.
  787. >Anonymous plopped down on the couch. Immediately following that, his wife nuzzled up to him, using him like a stone pillow.
  788. >He wrapped an arm around her and lowered his head to hers.
  789. >Interesting, you thought.
  790. >At that moment, you couldn’t have pictured him harming one single fly, when just yesterday you imagined him tearing the entire cabin to shreds in a fit.
  791. >”Oh poo,” came a familiar voice from behind.
  792. >”I suppose I came too late,” shrugged Discord, coming into view.
  793. >He squatted down next to the fireplace and threw a few logs in, sending sparks flying up the chimney.
  794. >”By the way, I just got a message. Did you know we get reception up here? The technology of today is simply amazing. When I was your age, we never would have been able to get calls up here. In fact, phones didn’t even exist. If you wanted to talk to somebody, you did it face to face or you took the time to write them a letter. No drunk texting, no embarrassing pictures left for the whole world to see, no nothing. It really was too boring.”
  795. >He sniffed his hand and grimaced.
  796. >”What were you chopping out there? Cottonwood?”
  797. >”No it’s not fucking cotton, you crazy old fart,” snaps Innominate. “Cotton is a bush or something, not a tree.”
  798. >”Cotton is a bush. Cottonwood is a tree.”
  799. >”That’s crap.”
  800. >”He’s right,” said Anonymous. “Cottonwood is a type of tree. It doesn’t grow in this area though. That’s pine.”
  801. >”Either way,” Discord said impatiently whilst wiping his hand on the mantle, “I got a message. A sort of news report. Some rangers driving around the mountains found a car crashed in a ditch on the side of a road. It was half buried in the snow. Apparently, some time in the night, the driver swerved off the road and fell into the one ditch without a soft snowy pillow to break their fall. One boulder to the windshield later and they were gone.”
  802. “How terrible,” you muttered, completely uninterested in his story.
  803. >”Care to venture who it was?”
  804. >”Some tourist driving where they didn’t belong?” asked the woman.
  805. >”Wrong! Nice try, but wrong. Sunset Crown, driver, Candy Lightning, passenger, and several cans of beer, all perished in that vehicle.”
  806. >Sunset Crown and Candy Lightning.
  807. >Your final two guests.
  808. >”Alcohol, man. That’s why I stick to milk. Nobody ever got ticketed driving under the influence of dairy.”
  809. >”I saw you with a six pack just last night.”
  810. >”Yes, well, let’s not dwell on the past.”
  811. >And just like that, the cabin was full.
  812. >You shut your book and stood up.
  813. “Let the games begin.”
  814.  
  815. >”Ooh, I do love a good game. What will it be? A rousing match of checkers? Chutes and Ladders? I warn you, my Candy Land game is nothing to sniff at.”
  816. “Nothing like that. I’d be happy to tell you all about it once everyone is here.”
  817. >You waved to Rainbow Dash who, until that point, had been sitting in the back corner of the room near the window.
  818. >She got up and went around to search for the rest of your guests.
  819. >Two minutes later, everyone was collected around the fireplace.
  820. >You stood in front of it, just far enough away that the flames couldn’t scorch you.
  821. “For those who don’t know, Sunset Crown and Candy Lightning perished last night on the way here. That means everyone who is coming is already here.”
  822. >”So we have a full house. What’s so special about that?” Dr. Redheart asked.
  823. “Well, that brings us to the reason I asked you all here in the first place. For as long as Canterlot can remember, the heads of the underground have worked separately. They merely tolerated each other’s presence.”
  824. >”Until you came along,” voiced Innominate.
  825. “Not true. Even when I stepped into the light, I didn’t make an effort to work with anyone past taking their money or territory. That’s what I call a parasitic relationship. I think life would be a lot easier for all of us if we engaged in something more symbiotic.”
  826. >”Symbi-what?”
  827. “Symbiotic. It’s where both parties benefit from the other’s presence. For example, a tapeworm will eat your food and not give anything in return. The birds that hang around in the mouths of crocodiles will eat its food, but at the same time, clean its teeth. Both of them benefit.”
  828. >”You want us to clean your teeth now? You’re fucking crazy.”
  829. >You sighed and shook your head.
  830. >”Honey,” Anonymous placed his hand on her leg. “Let Twilight talk.”
  831. “Thank you. Now, in order to encourage a healthy working relationship, I’ve taken the liberty of designing several trust exercises for us all.”
  832. >”Excuse me?”
  833. >”Exercise?”
  834. >”These colors don’t run.”
  835. >”It’s ok, Twilight.”
  836. >Discord got up from his seat and walked over, circling you like a buzzard.
  837. >”I, for one, welcome these games. After all, who doesn’t love making friends?”
  838. “That’s the attitude I want to see. Come on, everyone. Get up. We start now.”
  839. >Dr. Redheart groaned as Rose Luck hoisted her up off the couch.
  840. >”Come on, Red! This’ll be fun!”
  841. >”About as fun as a triple bypass, yeah.”
  842.  
  843. >Anonymous looked down at his wife.
  844. >”Honey?”
  845. >She rolled her eyes and threw his hand off her leg. ”Yeah, yeah. Whatever.”
  846. >Standing up, she took his elbow and pulled him to his feet, which you must admit is an incredible feat given their relative sizes.
  847. >”Come on, you big lug.”
  848. >Silver Blossom remained seated.
  849. >She fondled a few shiny bracelets on her wrists and started at you questioningly.
  850. >”And what do you expect to accomplish with this all?”
  851. “As I said. I want to encourage a healthy working relationship.”
  852. >”Yes, we all heard that. But how will any of this change our ‘working relationships’? Alright, so we trust each other a little more. Yay? Well, it’s not like I’m going to step back and let Dr. Doolittle over there start messing around with my business. This won’t change how we work at all.”
  853. “I’m not suggesting you hand each other the keys to your house. I’m just saying we need to have a little more faith in each other.”
  854. >”And why’s that? Things have worked out well enough so far.”
  855. “Things are different now.”
  856. >”Why?”
  857. “Because I said so,” you snapped.
  858. >The nerve of some people.
  859. >You had half a mind to to stir up half of her mind with an ice pick. That would have defeated the purpose of your entire exercise though.
  860. >You were also wearing your favorite shirt and were in no mood to get it covered in blood.
  861. >She snarled at you.
  862. >Relenting, she rose from the couch and joined the rest of the group.
  863. >”So what’s first? Chess? I told you I brought boards, didn’t I?”
  864. “First we catch each other.”
  865. >”I’m pretty good, so I’ll let you take first move.”
  866. “No, we’re not playing chess.”
  867. >”Not yet, you mean.”
  868. >If you were religious, you would have been praying right then.
  869.  
  870. >The first of your activities went...well enough.
  871. >Essentially, you had half the room fall backwards from a certain height and the other half of the room had to catch them.
  872. >On the first go, everyone caught their partners.
  873. >When they switched…
  874. >Dr. Redheart let Silver Blossom fly past her. She did make sure to snag a diamond bracelet off her first. They fought over it.
  875. >Rose Luck only caught Sunset, so it’s not like it’s any sort of accomplishment.
  876. >Rainbow Dash tried to catch Anonymous. She was a strong girl, but even you should have been able to guess that she wouldn’t have been able to take a two hundred and seventy pound brick wall falling on top of her.
  877. >Innominate acted like she would catch Discord, but the second he was airborne, she jumped back several feet and let him hit the floor. Her excuse was there was something on her glasses.
  878. >”I ache,” said the mobster. “Can we play chess now?”
  879. “Nice effort, team one. Team two, you could use some work. A lot of work, actually.”
  880. >”I’m trying here!” shouted Rainbow Dash as Anonymous climbed off of her.
  881. >”Sorry.”
  882. >”You’re a lot heavier than you look.”
  883. >”I’m big boned.”
  884. >”I’ll show you big boned, you son of a bitch.”
  885. >”Back off my man, you dyke!”
  886. >”What’d you just fucking call me?”
  887. >”A dyke!”
  888. >”Alright, get over here! Hey, let me go! Let me go right now!”
  889. >”Let me at her!”
  890. >Anonymous stood up, holding Rainbow Dash over his shoulder like a child and keeping Innominate away with his free hand.
  891. >”Please stop.”
  892. >At least someone in this room was taking the exercise seriously.
  893. >You made a note to reward him later for his effort.
  894.  
  895. “Nobody is getting out of here until we do this right, so unless you’re comfortable with spending the rest of your lives in this cabin, I suggest you stop bickering and start putting some real effort into this.”
  896. >Dr. Redheart and Silver Blossom stopped their fighting.
  897. >Innominate huffed and returned to Discord’s side.
  898. >Anonymous took Rainbow Dash off his shoulder and gently lowered her to the floor as if she were a delicate flower.
  899. “From the top, everyone.”
  900. >Sunset hopped up on the table right away.
  901. >The other mobsters were a little less enthusiastic, but with the exception of Anonymous, they all got up.
  902. “Anonymous. On the table. Now.”
  903. >He shook his head at you.
  904. >”Dash over here tried to catch me last time. I’m just a bit too big for her. She did put the effort in, so I believe she should be exempt from this exercise.”
  905. >You little…
  906. >”I also don’t want to hit the floor again.”
  907. >For the longest time, you couldn’t read that guy.
  908. >He was all over the map.
  909. >Even when you received a guide to his personality, you could never predict how he’d react to something.
  910. >It was so infuriating. There you were, Twilight Sparkle. The woman who single handedly outsmarted Canterlot’s best and brightest for years, and in one fell swoop, put them all under your control.
  911. >Yet for all your brains and expertise, there was one man who would still elude you.
  912. >You know, looking back, that was actually kind of nice.
  913. >A friend you couldn’t predict.
  914. >Well, there was also Discord, you suppose.
  915. >You never really considered him a friend though.
  916. >A close acquaintance, sure, but not a friend.
  917. >Besides, you could tell his actions from a mile away.
  918. >He was so unpredictable that he became predictable.
  919. >You never knew what he was doing, but you always knew it would be something unexpected.
  920. >Does that make sense?
  921.  
  922. >You sighed and waved him off.
  923. “Alright, fine. You two are free. The rest of you, do it again.”
  924. >And so they did.
  925. >Again.
  926. >And again.
  927. >And again.
  928. >And again, until they were so tired of repeating it, they finally complied and did it right.
  929. >After that, it was onto the next exercise.
  930. >You’re pretty proud of that one.
  931. >So what you did was you split the room up into two groups.
  932. >Rainbow Dash, Innominate, Silver Blossom, and Dr. RedHeart on one side. Anonymous, Discord, Rose Luck, Sunset, and yourself on the other side.
  933. >Each team had a large sheet of paper and some markers.
  934. >”What is this, kindergarten?”
  935. >”I don’t know, I kind of like it.”
  936. >”Figures you would.”
  937. >”What’s the order, Captain?”
  938. “Well, what we’re going to do is--”
  939. >Did you already mention praying?
  940. >When your eyes fell on Discord, you considered it.
  941. “Discord, why?”
  942. >”What?”
  943. >His face was covered in marker. He looked like something pulled out of an ancient Aztec ritual.
  944. >”Is there something on my face?”
  945. “Forget it. Look, what we’re going to do is create an imaginary person. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, this person is going to be made up of everyone in your group. What I want you all to do is take the best attributes of everyone in your group and use them to make this person. Give them a name, draw them, and then write a short story describing them and how they can use these strengths to interact with the world.”
  946. >”This is fucking kindergarten.”
  947. >”Will we have to share these with the class, Ms. Sparkle?”
  948. “Yes. You have twenty minutes. Get to work.”
  949.  
  950. >That one went swimmingly.
  951. >It was slow at first.
  952. >It began with a lot of “let’s just use my strengths” and that sort of thing.
  953. >Selfish.
  954. >After shooting down several attempts, they got the hang of it.
  955. >”Anonymous is pretty strong.”
  956. >”Discord is a quick thinker.”
  957. >”I really really like Rose Luck’s hair.”
  958. >”Aw, thank you!”
  959. “I think we might utilize her intelligence too. It must take some brainpower coming up with those drugs.”
  960. >She shook her head and put a hand on your shoulder.
  961. >”If we’re using anyone’s brain, it’s going to be yours,” she said with a smile.
  962. >You were taken aback.
  963. >You didn’t really expect anyone to use your strengths.
  964. >It was nice.
  965. >In no time at all, twenty minutes was up and it was time to present.
  966. >Rainbow Dash’s group went first.
  967. >She picked up their sheet and held up a pleasant looking drawing resembling something you’d find in an anatomy textbook.
  968. >Gee, wonder who drew that.
  969. >”Our chick’s name is Innomilver RainbowHeart.”
  970. >You couldn’t help but chuckle at that.
  971. >”So basically she’s got Innominate’s tits and Silver’s fashion sense. After that, we’ve got my rad bod and athletic skill. She’s also a doctor and helps the homeless. It’s pretty sick.”
  972. “That’s wonderful. Now tell us your story.”
  973. >”Yeah, I already read. Somebody else do the story.”
  974. >”I got it,” answered Innominate.
  975. >The two women exchanged the paper without any nasty looks, sudden moves, or breaking into a fight.
  976. >Progress.
  977.  
  978. >”So, RainbowHeart likes to jog around town a lot and find homeless people bleeding out on the street. She patches them up and carries them to the hospital or something. She has to pick her clothes carefully and make sure they have plenty of support because otherwise her breasts would flop around too much.”
  979. >“A real do gooder, huh?”
  980. “Yes. Interesting choice of profession given all of yours. Good job, though.”
  981. >”Guess it’s our turn,” chirped Rose Luck as she grabbed the paper and stood.
  982. >”Our guy’s name is Rektogar the Unstoppable.”
  983. >Thank you for the name, Discord.
  984. >On your paper was a crudely drawn stick figure with circles around the arms and legs.
  985. >”So he’s super strong like Anonymous and smart like Twilight. Full package, right? Well there’s more. He also really loves flowers and picks them to make scented shampoo for his luscious beard. Anybody want to read the story?”
  986. >”Oh! Oh, me! Let me! I’m right here! Come on, pick me!”
  987. >”Um, well, I guess Discord wants to read.”
  988. >”Yes!”
  989. >He hopped up off the floor and snatched the paper away.
  990. >”Now listen well, kiddies. I’m about to recite the tale of Rektogar the Unstoppable.”
  991. >What ensued was a twenty or thirty minute story involving drugs, girls, explosions, government corruption, good vs evil, and no small amount of philosophical brain teasers such as what it means to have free will, the meaning of love and how it has affected modern literature, and the mystery of death.
  992. >You were tempted to stop him after the first minute was up, but nobody had complained yet, so you let it keep going.
  993. >By the five minute mark, everyone had formed a circle around Discord, who had at that point stepped up onto a table.
  994. >They seemed so enraptured by the story that you decided to let him finish.
  995. >”The end.”
  996. >”Dude, that was the sickest shit.”
  997. >”Very good!”
  998. >”I liked the part where he saved the president.”
  999. >The rest of the day went on similarly until you called it quits for dinner.
  1000.  
  1001. >Dinner was a ham you had thrown in the oven between games some time ago.
  1002. >The scent of it had permeated throughout the cabin.
  1003. >Honey and pork invaded every crevice of the cabin.
  1004. >When you opened the oven door, the scent exploded out.
  1005. >You’re supposed to let it sit, but that didn’t really happen.
  1006. >Everyone got their plates and sat down at the table and all without one insult or one punch thrown.
  1007. >All but Anonymous, that is, who took his plate and left to eat outside in the snow storm.
  1008. “Hey, is there a reason he’s out there all alone?” you ask Innominate as you slice up your ham.
  1009. >”He hates noise. After last night’s dinner and today’s games, he said he felt kind of drained,” she answers.
  1010. >”Well he picked a hell of a profession then.”
  1011. >She shrugged.
  1012. >”That’s the job. Don’t worry, he gets his quiet at home.”
  1013. “Being quiet all the time doesn’t bother you?”
  1014. >”Life is made of sacrifices. When you love someone, making them suddenly becomes easier because imagining your life without that person hurts more than whatever else you’re putting up with.”
  1015. >She speared her ham and absentmindedly waved it around in the air, tracking it with her eyes.
  1016. >”I wanted to pursue this, so he went along with it. In return, I let him unwind and relax at home. It all evens out. We’re happy.”
  1017. >”Wow! This is some great ham!”
  1018. >Yeah, it was.
  1019. >Not to toot your own horn, but you’re a pretty good cook.
  1020. >Cooking up food, cooking up science, cooking in general.
  1021. >It’s a simple skill one acquires in life, but if you can develop it, it becomes something great.
  1022. >”Hey,” shouted Rose Luck, interrupting your internal monologue. “Why don’t we all pitch in tomorrow? Red makes the best mashed potatoes.”
  1023. >”Rosey, that was our secret!”
  1024. >”Oops, sorry.”
  1025. >Her suggestion was met with a fair amount of disapproval from the group.
  1026. >Among the complaints were nobody wanted to be poisoned, this person can’t cook, that person shouldn’t cook, and so on.
  1027. >After a few minutes of deliberation, the task had been hot potatoed back to you.
  1028. >What a pointless argument, you thought.
  1029.  
  1030. >In fact, most dinner had been pointless.
  1031. >It was just talking and eating; nothing major happened.
  1032. >The only things worth noting were Anonymous’ absence and Discord’s uncharacteristic quietness.
  1033. >At the time, you assumed he was merely upset you hadn’t gotten to chess that day.
  1034. >Nor would you ever get to chess.
  1035. >He just had to put up with it.
  1036. >So, dinner concluded and everyone went their separate ways up to bed.
  1037. >Sunset was the only one who stayed behind, as per your order.
  1038. >You made her wash the dishes.
  1039. >After that, she followed you up to your bedroom.
  1040. >Now, you hadn’t planned on having to punish her over the trip, so you didn’t have your chains.
  1041. >What you did have was plenty of rope as a little insurance if any of the mobsters got rowdy.
  1042. “Inside,” you instructed Sunset.
  1043. >She entered your room, you following soon after, and closed the door.
  1044. >You opened your drawer and fished out that rope. There was fifty feet of it there.
  1045. >Next, you tied her wrists together, and from there, to the banister of your bed.
  1046. >Her eyes were glued to the bed, unable to connect with yours.
  1047. >The shame spilling from her was palpable.
  1048. “Do you know what you did?” you asked coldly.
  1049. >She nodded.
  1050. >Grabbing her chin, you lifted her head up and wormed a few fingers into her mouth.
  1051. >You pinched her tongue and pulled it out, wiggling it around slightly.
  1052. “Did I give you permission to use this this morning?”
  1053. >What came out of her mouth was the most pitiful “no” you’d ever heard.
  1054. >It earned a slap. The hardest you could muster.
  1055. >It turned her orange cheek red and probably woke up some sleeping mobsters.
  1056. “And did I give you permission to use it just now?”
  1057. >She shook her head weakly.
  1058. “What was that?”
  1059. >Shaking again, this time with more fervor, she launched a few tears from her eyes onto your bed.
  1060.  
  1061. “That’s right. Damn it, Sunset. You’d think after all these years, you would have learned your lesson by now. What am I going to do with you?”
  1062. >She looked up at you with wide eyes and a quivering mouth.
  1063. “Speak.”
  1064. >”I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it.”
  1065. “Don’t lie to me. You know you meant it.”
  1066. >”I’m sorry.”
  1067. “Are you?”
  1068. >”Yes, I am. I’m very sorry. Please forgive me.”
  1069. “I want to, Sunset. I really do. You just make it so hard when you keep messing up. Today it was speaking out of turn. Last week it was making an important decision on your own. Last month you opened my mail. You opened my fucking mail, Sunset. Who does that?”
  1070. >Her voice comes out shaking and quiet.
  1071. >”I’m sorry. I was just trying to be helpful.”
  1072. “But I never asked you to be helpful. If I want you to do something, I’ll tell you to. Got it?”
  1073. >”Yes, Twilight.”
  1074. “You said that last time. Now look where we are. Do you actually understand this or am I just talking to a wall?”
  1075. >”I understand. Really, I do.”
  1076. “I don’t know. I just don’t know.”
  1077. >You grabbed her shirt and pulled it up, revealing her perky breasts held in a tight pink bra.
  1078. “How often do you look at these?”
  1079. >”Often.”
  1080. “How often?”
  1081. >”Every morning, Twilight.”
  1082. “Just in the morning?”
  1083. >”No, at night too.”
  1084. “Then you you should have said night,” you said in tandem with a firm squeeze.
  1085. >She reeled back in pain.
  1086. >What, did you think this was sexual? No, this is punishment.
  1087. >You squeezed down hard.
  1088.  
  1089. >”I’m sorry! Every morning and every night! Sometimes in the afternoon!”
  1090. “In the afternoon? Why do you have your shirt off in the afternoon?”
  1091. >She opened her mouth to answer, but you cut her off.
  1092. “You know, you have a lot of space on these things.”
  1093. >”S-space?”
  1094. “Ah! Did I ask you a question?”
  1095. >”No.”
  1096. “Then shut up. Anyway, I was thinking. Since you look at them so often, and they seem so barren, why don’t we hit two birds with one stone over here?”
  1097. >You let go of her and walked over to your dresser.
  1098. >On it was a big mirror.
  1099. >After turning it towards the bed, you headed back over and got on behind Sunset.
  1100. >Nuzzling your face next to hers, you pulled up her shirt again and put her breasts right in view of the mirror.
  1101. “So here’s what I was thinking. When we get out of here, I’ll have a special little brand made just for you. It could have my face on it. My name. Hell, maybe just my star. You know, something you can look at every morning, night, and sometimes in the afternoon. So you remember me. How’s that sound?”
  1102. >Her eyes widened. So much so that they almost popped out of her head.
  1103. >”No, no please! Please, Twilight! I’ll be good! I promise! Please don’t do that!”
  1104. “You’ve promised me a lot of things.”
  1105. >She continued to beg, and beg rather loudly too.
  1106. >For sound reasons, you covered her mouth with your hand.
  1107. >She began to shake like an autumn leaf in a stiff breeze, hanging on just barely to a tree branch.
  1108. “Prove yourself on this trip, Sunset. If you’re extra good, I’ll consider letting you off the hook. One more mistake, though…”
  1109. >You slapped her breast hard enough to leave another red mark.
  1110. >She squealed and pushed back against you, straining in her binds.
  1111. “And it’s the iron for you. Are we clear?”
  1112. >You removed your hand from her mouth.
  1113. >”Yes, Twilight,” she said.
  1114. >And that concluded your night.
  1115.  
  1116. >Several hours later, the clock struck an ungodly hour.
  1117. >In the darkness of your room, you had forgotten to close your blinds before you went to sleep.
  1118. >Thus, the following morning, Helios stormed your room.
  1119. >He ripped your eyes open and mercilessly bombarded them with his light.
  1120. >You groaned and sat up, rubbing the sleep away from yourself.
  1121. >Leaning over to the bedside table, you picked up your watch and took a gander at the time.
  1122. >It was six in the morning, the earliest you had been up in seven years.
  1123. >You figured nobody would be up at such an unreasonable time and resolved to take a walk.
  1124. >It looked rather nice outside. The storm had cleared up, the sun was shining, the birds were chirping.
  1125. >There was no real technology around to drown yourself in either. That may have been the main factor, actually.
  1126. >If there were a computer around to tweak and have fun with, that day would have gone differently.
  1127. >You dressed in your warmest clothes, still fearful of the chill, and headed outside.
  1128. >Now, when you opened the door, what surprised you most wasn’t the wall of blisteringly cold air that hit you.
  1129. >It was to see Anonymous near the same old tree, chopping up wood like it was the most normal thing in the world.
  1130. “Hello,” you called.
  1131. >His ax sliced through a log, sending the two halves flying away from each other.
  1132. >”Hi.”
  1133. >That was all he said.
  1134. >Right back to chopping.
  1135. >Who were you to intrude?
  1136. >You shrugged and moved along, leaving the cabin and everything else behind.
  1137.  
  1138. >Moseying along some untrodden path wasn’t very scary at all.
  1139. >It wasn’t like you could get lost, what with your footprints in the snow leaving a trail.
  1140. >Even with that, you resolved not to spend too much time outside. In a few hours, the sun would be high overhead and the glare off the snow would be liable to blind you.
  1141. >As it was at that moment, it was quite beautiful.
  1142. >The sun wasn’t obtrusively bright and only fractions of it penetrated the thick cover of trees.
  1143. >The result was isolated islands of white among the dark, made glittering by the golden sunshine.
  1144. >The beauty of nature. It was enough to almost make you regret never going camping as a child.
  1145. >Almost.
  1146. >Now, you’re not trying to advocate nature hikes over here.
  1147. >Nothing beats sitting inside with a nice book or a soldering iron working on your machines.
  1148. >Your trigger finger was itching.
  1149. >It had been running up on a week since you left civilization behind. No tools, no computers, no phones, and only three books which you had foolishly thought would be enough.
  1150. “Stupid, stupid, stupid.”
  1151. >Well, nothing you could do to change the past.
  1152. >You got over it after a minute and sighed.
  1153. >There’s nothing wrong with rereading a book.
  1154. >As you contemplated which you would most like to open again, you came into a small clearing.
  1155. >The sun beat harshly down on it and the person within.
  1156. >You squinted, trying to get a better look at them.
  1157. >You knew that salt and pepper hair. You knew that long beard. You knew that patchwork jacket.
  1158. >What was Discord doing out there?
  1159. >You moved a little closer.
  1160. >He had a shovel in his hands and was standing next to a large pile of mixed snow and dirt.
  1161.  
  1162. >You could see a hole in front of him.
  1163. >With all the mass next to him, it had to be at least six feet deep.
  1164. >He was burying something.
  1165. >He stuck his hand into his pocket and pulled out three shiny objects.
  1166. >The glare made you close your eyes.
  1167. >When the light went away, you opened them and saw him facing you, leaning on the shovel like a wall.
  1168. >”And good morning to you, my little spy.”
  1169. “Discord, what are you doing out here?”
  1170. >”That depends entirely on how long you were following me.”
  1171. “Since you left.”
  1172. >He smirked and held the objects up again.
  1173. >”Just burying some pawns. Here, catch,” he said, tossing them to you.
  1174. >You held your hands out and caught them.
  1175. >You found them to be two beautifully crafted marble chess pieces--specifically pawns.
  1176. “Why are you burying chess pieces?”
  1177. >”Because they were eliminated. Why else?”
  1178. “Shouldn’t you be saving them in case someone gets a pawn to your side?”
  1179. >He laughed at that, almost falling off the precariously balanced shovel.
  1180. >”You don’t bring these types of pawns back.”
  1181. >Discord held up his hand expectantly.
  1182. >You tossed the pieces back to him, and from him, they went into the hole.
  1183. >He turned away from you and began to push the dirt back in.
  1184. >It briefly occurred to you to ask why he had such a big hole for two tiny chess pieces, but you chalked it up to it just being Discord.
  1185. >There was one thing you wanted to know, though.
  1186. “Who’s your opponent?”
  1187. >”Why, you, of course.”
  1188. “Since when? You haven’t even shown me the board yet.”
  1189. >”Oh, Twilight. Those are children’s games. The real match has already begun.”
  1190.  
  1191. “What do you mean?”
  1192. >You stood there, waiting for an answer that never came.
  1193. “Discord, what do you mean?”
  1194. >He kept his back to you and continued to fill the hole.
  1195. “Answer me.”
  1196. >”I was before nothing, and am after all.”
  1197. “Excuse me?”
  1198. >”I am everywhere, but you will never touch me.”
  1199. >Ah, a riddle.
  1200. >”I am the law, and the end of law. What am I?”
  1201. >What are you?
  1202. >You imagined that whatever the answer to his riddle was would be the answer to your previous question.
  1203. >You knew you wouldn’t get anything else out of him for the time being, so you left him alone in the clearing and went back to the cabin.
  1204. >When you got there, you saw a pile of chopped wood as tall as yourself and just as wide.
  1205. >You were gone for less than an hour.
  1206. >Before entering the cabin, you stomped the snow off your boots.
  1207. >The boots that had made footprints in the snow.
  1208. >The footprints that left a trail from the cabin to the clearing.
  1209. >The footprints you made in untrodden snow.
  1210. >Light dawns on marblehead.
  1211. >How did Discord make it all the way out there without leaving any footprints?
  1212. “Is that part of his riddle as well?”
  1213.  
  1214. >What could he be?
  1215. >He was before, and will be after.
  1216. >Before and after what?
  1217. “He did mention the law. Perhaps he means civilization.”
  1218. >But what comes before and after civilization?
  1219. >Nature.
  1220. >But nature can also exist within civilization, evidenced by the Everfree National Park.
  1221. >Before you delved too deep into it, the door opened up.
  1222. >Dr. RedHeart stood before you.
  1223. >”Out hiking?”
  1224. “What are you doing up?”
  1225. >”I’m always up this early.”
  1226. >That would explain her grumpy attitude, you thought.
  1227. >”Are you coming in or what?” she asked, clearly annoyed by the cold breeze blowing in her face.
  1228. >You nodded and stepped in, removing your own coat and hanging it up.
  1229. >”And here I was hoping you’d get lost out there so I wouldn’t have to play any more of your dumb games.”
  1230. “You seemed to be having fun yesterday.”
  1231. >”’Fun’ is a strong word.”
  1232. “Not as strong as your attitude.”
  1233. >”What was that?”
  1234. “Try to enjoy yourself a little more. You might like the results.”
  1235. >”I can enjoy myself just fine, thank you very much.”
  1236. >She stormed off, the words “fucking crime princess” rolling off her tongue.
  1237. >Princess Twilight. Oh, Dr. RedHeart, you don’t know the half of it.
  1238.  
  1239. >Tick, tock, tick, tock, tick, tock, tick, tock.
  1240. >One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight.
  1241. >Time is the slowest river of all, and your boat casually floated along.
  1242. >The hours drained away from the clock as the day went on.
  1243. >By nine o’clock, the rest of the mobsters had awoken.
  1244. >By ten, they had finished their morning rituals, whatever they were, and meandered around the downstairs.
  1245. >By eleven, you were all playing more games with each other.
  1246. >You tried to include a larger variety that day than the previous one.
  1247. >Your original plan was to start with very simple exercises to help people get to know each other.
  1248. >Following that, you would work on building actual relationships.
  1249. >Lastly, you would forge actual trust building.
  1250. >That last part would get a bit more...involved.
  1251. >Nothing to worry about. You had everything planned out.
  1252. >Just a few guns, a bomb, and a yeti scare. Simple mind games.
  1253. >You know, to bring everyone together.
  1254. >Now, you could go through and explain what happened on that day, but honestly you’ve been on the cabin trip long enough and you doubt you have much time now.
  1255. >Your door should be down within the hour, so let’s move on, shall we?
  1256. >Just to glaze over the details, Dr. RedHeart never opened up. In fact, after that little bomb trick, she became quite enraged with you and pulled out a gun.
  1257. >Lucky for you, two guardian angels came to save the day.
  1258. >Anonymous leapt in front of you and hugged you, using his body as a shield for bullets that never came.
  1259. >Rainbow Dash assailed the corrupt doctor and gave her a such a beating that it required hospitalization.
  1260. >Rose Luck had to leave early to get Dr. RedHeart to the hospital. Silver Blossom had gone with them, worried that in her absence, someone had broken into one of her jewelry stores.
  1261. >As for everyone else, things went fine.
  1262. >You really felt like the mobsters trusted each other. You knew they could work together now as one unit rather than several entities tolerating each other.
  1263.  
  1264. >On your way back home, Rainbow Dash was extra excited.
  1265. >She was so worked up in fact that when she needed to take a rest, you assumed it was she had tired herself out with her “road trip fun” nonsense.
  1266. >As you would later find out, it was because she had only gotten a few hours of sleep during that whole trip.
  1267. >She stayed up through the bulk of the night making sure nobody made a surprise visit to your room.
  1268. >As thanks, you got her front row tickets to every Wonderbolt event for the next year.
  1269. >An offer she couldn’t refuse.
  1270. >In the time you were gone, nothing much happened in Canterlot.
  1271. >Silver Blossom contacted you, saying that in fact she had been robbed.
  1272. >You set the police on the case by waving some green in the right direction.
  1273. >One week later, the stolen jewels were found on the black market and returned to their owner.
  1274. >She was so thankful that she invited you over for dinner.
  1275. >You ultimately had to refuse, as you had much work to catch up on.
  1276. >Yes, you were that far behind.
  1277. >It’s a lot of work being a crime lord.
  1278. >She was sad to hear, but understanding.
  1279. >She was insistent on making it up to you though.
  1280. >You were taken aback at how much each gem meant to her.
  1281. >Even with a whole empire, the loss of three individual necklaces was debilitating.
  1282. >You set up lunch for the next week.
  1283. >Dorceas. Her treat.
  1284.  
  1285. >You had finally caught up on work and finished lunch with Silver Blossom.
  1286. >As another bit of good news, Dr. RedHeart was finally released from the ICU. She would be up on her feet in one or two months.
  1287. >You might have been worried, but from what you knew of her character, she wouldn’t have the balls to make another move for you after what Rainbow Dash put her through.
  1288. >Actually, let’s get to your first meeting.
  1289. >It was two months after the cabin trip that Dr. RedHeart reached out to you.
  1290. >She wasn’t out of the hospital yet, so you paid her a visit.
  1291. >The nurses were kind enough to direct you to her room.
  1292. >A good sign, you thought, since those women were likely good friends of hers and wouldn’t have let you through for anything if given the order. That meant Dr. RedHeart had no ill will toward you.
  1293. >Or rather, not much.
  1294. >You entered her room.
  1295. >She was covered with two blankets. The normal thin cloth one provided to all patients, and a much comfier looking yellow wool one.
  1296. >Her face was covered in bandages. You could tell because each one was outlined by large black and yellow spots that mottled her porcelain flesh.
  1297. >She turned her gaze from the television in the upper corner of the room to you.
  1298. >Then they widened so fast and so much that they nearly popped out of her head.
  1299. >”No! No, get her out of here! Get her out! Out!”
  1300. >You raised an eyebrow and stepped into the room.
  1301. >”Out! Get out! Nurse! Guards! Somebody get her out!”
  1302. >The room was filled before you knew it.
  1303. >Two large men grabbed your arms, only to be beaten off by your shadow.
  1304. >”Not the purple one! The blue one! Get her out!” screamed Dr. RedHeart.
  1305. >It all made sense to you.
  1306. >You held your hand up to Rainbow Dash, ending her beating of the guards.
  1307. “Rainbow Dash, if you would.”
  1308. >”But, Twi, what if she pulls something?”
  1309. >”Do I look like I could pull anything?!”
  1310. “She makes a strong argument.”
  1311. >Your companion huffed and dropped the bloodied man.
  1312. >”If you need me, just, you know, yell.”
  1313. >With that, she left.
  1314. >Dr. RedHeart breathed a sigh of relief.
  1315.  
  1316. >You were satisfied with her seemingly relaxed self, but before you could open your mouth, that all went away.
  1317. >”Jesus, what were you thinking bringing her here?” she snapped. “The one person I’m least likely to want to see and you drag her along for the ride. Aren’t you supposed to be the smart one?”
  1318. “Nice to see you, Dr. RedHeart. Gee, pleasure to see you too, Twilight. Thanks for taking time out of your busy day to visit me.”
  1319. >”Go choke on a cock.”
  1320. “Why must you make things difficult?”
  1321. >You took a seat by her bed and pulled up close to it.
  1322. >She scowled and turned from you back to the television.
  1323. >On it was some soap opera. From what you could make out, Jonathan's evil twin, Ramone, made love to his wife six months ago. When Jonathan discovered the child wasn’t his, he killed his twin, and now the wife is suing him for the loss of her child’s father.
  1324. >You remember hearing about something like that once. A fetish.
  1325. >You can’t quite remember what it was called, but it was pretty dumb if you remember correctly.
  1326. >But then, most fetishes are.
  1327. >So, you picked your hand up and rested it on one of her bandages.
  1328. >The woman yanked her head away from you.
  1329. >She stared at you with eyes like daggers.
  1330. >”What the fuck are you even doing here? Haven’t you done enough?”
  1331. “You haven’t kicked me out yet. That counts for something.”
  1332. >”We can change that. Guards!”
  1333. “I’m sorry.”
  1334. >”Gua--” she stopped dead in her tracks.
  1335. >There was a long moment of silence.
  1336. >”What did you say?”
  1337. “I said I’m sorry. What happened to you shouldn’t have happened.”
  1338. >”You’re sorry?”
  1339. “Yes. I’m out there living my life normally while you’re cooped up in here. It isn’t right. I’m sorry for what’s happened to you, and I hope that you can find it in your heart to forgive me.”
  1340. >”You’re sorry?”
  1341. >Her lips curled up into a smile.
  1342. >”You’re sorry. Hey, everyone here that? She’s sorry.”
  1343. “Dr. RedHeart?”
  1344.  
  1345. >She picked up the remote from the bed and whipped it at the television, shattering the remote into pieces and putting a crack in the glass of the screen.
  1346. >”She’s fucking sorry! Wow, gee, thanks, Twilight! Your apology means so fucking much to me! Here, let me put it with all the other ‘sorry’s right under my cast! No, not that cast, the other one! No, the other other one! Thanks for all the fucking sorries!”
  1347. “Oh come now. I’m trying to be the bigger person here.”
  1348. >”You can only take pride in being the bigger person if you had anything to lose in the first place, you purple fuck. Get the fuck out of my room! I don’t want your sorry and I don’t want you!”
  1349. >You couldn’t move.
  1350. >You were shocked to say the least.
  1351. >Up to that point, saying you’re sorry had always worked.
  1352. >Granted, you hadn’t needed to say it since high school, and that was a much different environment.
  1353. >When you wouldn’t budge, she grabbed your collar and shoved you out of the chair.
  1354. >”Out! You get out!”
  1355. >Getting up off the floor, you dusted off your skirt and crossed your arms.
  1356. “Dr. RedHeart, let’s be civil about this.”
  1357. >”Civil? You want to be civil? You tricked us into thinking we were going to blow up! Then you have your dyke jock put me in the fucking hospital! I was civil enough going out of my way to humor you in that goddamn cabin, but not anymore! Fuck you and fuck civility!”
  1358. >You sighed and began to walk out.
  1359. >”And don’t come back! I never want to see your four eyed face again, you hear me?”
  1360. >She’d come around eventually.
  1361. >It would take a while, but she would.
  1362. >Nobody can be mad forever.
  1363. >You know. You tried.
  1364.  
  1365. >You opened your eyes to pitch darkness.
  1366. >Your world was cold and bleak.
  1367. >A harsh wind ripped across your flesh.
  1368. >So, you removed the midnight lavender sleep mask and brought light into your world.
  1369. >You realized that in the night, the covers had come off your bed and exposed you to the chilling breeze coming in through an open window.
  1370. >How quaint.
  1371. >Shivering, you got up from bed and went over to the window to close it.
  1372. >It was three days after your visit to Dr. RedHeart where she had thrown your apology in your face.
  1373. >Autumn was in full swing then, with gold and crimson leaves fluttering through the air.
  1374. >It felt a lot like you did inside.
  1375. >Yeah yeah, the darkness thing earlier was a joke, but you really did feel some sort of emptiness.
  1376. >All throughout your life, apologies had worked. Hell, they were practically the currency back in high school.
  1377. >Feeling bad about someone not accepting your apology is so childish and stupid.
  1378. >Especially given how much low your opinion is of your high school days, you would think that you’d be so ready to give all of it up.
  1379. >Putting away childish things is harder than Corinthians made it seem.
  1380. >You sighed and got to your morning routine of late.
  1381. >It consisted of body maintenance such as showering. The steam from the water, which you always kept very hot, opened up your pores.
  1382. >You also had a heater on in the bathroom to keep the mirror from fogging. Because of that, you were able to jump over to it right away, check for any blemishes, and remove them while your face was still primed.
  1383. >After that, you used some pomegranate scented facial scrub you found in the back of Ulta. It was supposed to be a water-activated deep penetrating gel cleanser to exfoliate your skin and prevent acne, but in reality, you just liked the smell. It lingered.
  1384. >Then you brushed your teeth, flossed, and vigorously swished some mouthwash around.
  1385.  
  1386. >Once you felt clean enough to be considered human, you would put your hair up in a bun--which you will still contend is the most practical and efficient hairstyle for women--and throw on a soft bathrobe.
  1387. >Now, the bathrobe was a recent edition.
  1388. >You remember in Wigglespeare’s masterpiece, Porklet, the mad prince walked the hallowed halls of his castle in long black robes to mourn the death of his father.
  1389. >Your own robe helped you connect to that and feel slightly less pathetic about it all. If a smooth and sophisticated prince like Porklet could do it, then so could you.
  1390. >So, like the mad prince, you shuffled through the halls of your oversized mansion and took in the sights.
  1391. >Looking back on those days now depresses you. To think you acted so lowly.
  1392. >It’s like when an adult opens up their middle school yearbook and sees themselves with that dreadful haircut or that thick eyeliner and they remember how awful they were running down the hallway with their arms flailing behind their back.
  1393. >”Die, die, the person I used to be.”
  1394. >That line sums this situation up quite well.
  1395. >You arrived in the library and went over all the books you could read that day.
  1396. >One of them was about a king in a faraway land who promised to wed the ruler of a nation his people had once fought with. She turned on him, and he her, so he declared war on the entire world.
  1397. >Another one was about two unlikely friends getting themselves dragged into political drama in order to clear their criminal history.
  1398. >There was also something about a man who one day realized his own mortality in a world where everything was young and spent the next many years of his life searching for some version of immortality.
  1399. >You would have picked that one, but just as you reached for it, you felt a tap on your shoulder.
  1400.  
  1401. >When you turned to see who it was, there was nobody.
  1402. >Figuring it was Rainbow Dash calling back to earlier years of play to lift your mood, you threw your elbow back.
  1403. >She could have caught it if she was there.
  1404. >Instead, it sunk into someone’s gut.
  1405. >You turned around in shock to find Discord slumped over, gripping his stomach.
  1406. >”If I knew this is how you greet people, I would have sent a letter instead.”
  1407. “Discord, what are you doing here?”
  1408. >”Regretting this, mostly.”
  1409. >He sighed and stood back up, slicking back his hair and scratching the back of his head.
  1410. >”Did you notice my haircut?”
  1411. >It did look shorter.
  1412. >You nodded in affirmation.
  1413. “Now answer my question. What are you doing here?”
  1414. >With that, he let go of the back of his head and let his long locks fall to his shoulders.
  1415. >The loose strands sprung back up and hung over his face in their usual manner, outlining the ancient lines that carved through his flesh.
  1416. >”That’s funny. I don’t seem to have gotten a haircut. You were so sure of it though.”
  1417. “What was the point of that?”
  1418. >He smiled and tapped your nose with his thumb.
  1419. >”You pay too much attention to detail. Sometimes you have to feel.”
  1420.  
  1421. >Between your earlier failure, Discord’s sudden appearance, and the new criticism, you were quite annoyed.
  1422. “Look here. I want an explanation out of you right now, and I don’t want any games.”
  1423. >”That’s the first step to losing.”
  1424. “Would you stop speaking in riddles?” you shouted at him.
  1425. >He laughed and wrapped an arm around your shoulder.
  1426. >He began to walk. When you tried to stop you, he ended up simply dragging you along.
  1427. >”Oh, Twilight, you really are adorable. Do you know that? Riddles. What a laugh!”
  1428. “Then what would you call all of this?”
  1429. >”Helpful hints! Tell me, what am I feeling right now?”
  1430. >His gleeful expression was all you needed. He also struck you as a sadist, so you knew your obvious discomfort was pleasing him.
  1431. “You’re happy.”
  1432. >”Completely and utterly false. I mean, well, not completely false. I am happy. That’s not what I’m trying to say though. I am a little happy, but mostly sad.”
  1433. “And now you’re lying on top of wasting my time.”
  1434. >You tried to shake yourself out of his grasp, but his grip on you was strong. Uncomfortably strong, in fact.
  1435. >”No, really. Why, here I am trying to help a dear old friend and all they can do is yell at me. I could sure use an apology.”
  1436. ”I’m sorry,” you said shortly.
  1437. >”I don’t believe you.”
  1438. “That seems to be a trend.”
  1439. >You put your hands on him and grunted, pushing yourself away with all your might.
  1440. >It did nothing. He sunk his fingers into your shoulder, ensnaring you further.
  1441. “Let go of me.”
  1442. >”I’m sad, and the only words you can offer me are ‘I’m sorry’. How do you expect such superficial bandages to heal such deep wounds?”
  1443. >You stopped in your tracks.
  1444. >Rather, you stopped struggling in your tracks.
  1445. >Discord led you to a window.
  1446. >It overlooked a large field with a little hedge maze you had put in after watching The Glowing.
  1447. >Stephen Bishop was a genius filmmaker in his day, for all you young readers.
  1448.  
  1449. >”Perhaps if you showed me you were sorry, things would be different.”
  1450. >Something clicked in your head right then. You looked up at him with wide eyes.
  1451. >Suddenly you weren’t so upset being in his hold.
  1452. >He wasn’t an annoying home invader.
  1453. >He was warm. A teacher, almost.
  1454. “How can I do that?”
  1455. >”I don’t even know how to dress myself and you expect me to know how you should show true remorse? Come on, cut me some slack here.”
  1456. >You opened your mouth to speak again, but he hushed you with a gloved finger to your lips.
  1457. >”I already told you. You have to feel. External details can be deceiving. If you truly know someone, and you know how they feel, you’ll know how to make it up to them because you’ll feel it too, and you’ll know what to do to help yourself.”
  1458. “So empathy.”
  1459. >”I don’t know what that means.”
  1460. “Well basically, it’s when you can understand someone--”
  1461. >”Shut up, Twilight. You’re ruining the moment.”
  1462. >Discord gestured to the window again, forcing you to turn.
  1463. >The sky was a grey blue, which gave a cold, bitter feeling to the sky.
  1464. >It was contrasted by the bright colors of the leaves blanketing the ground with their crispy corpses.
  1465. >Honestly nothing special.
  1466. >You would have told him that if he was there, but when you looked to him, he was gone without a trace.
  1467. >You didn’t even notice his grip on your shoulder had faded until he was gone.
  1468. >That was unsettling.
  1469. >You resolved to figure out how he kept doing that.
  1470. >In the meantime, something else seemed more important to you.
  1471. >You walked over to a small white panel on the dark oak walls of your library.
  1472. >On it was a button next to a speaker. You pressed it, sending static throughout your mansion.
  1473. “Rainbow Dash, get dressed. I have some studying to do.”
  1474.  
  1475. >Oh, you were so excited.
  1476. >A new lesson to learn--and all thanks to Discord.
  1477. >What to do pressed on your mind as you dressed yourself.
  1478. >How does one learn empathy?
  1479. >You thought you might go to the library to find some books on it.
  1480. >As you pulled out your library card, Discord’s voice rang in your mind.
  1481. >”You have to feel. External details can be deceiving.”
  1482. >Books--at least those you were thinking of at the time--happened to be non-feeling and consist solely of details.
  1483. >So, you put your library card away and reracked your reading clothes.
  1484. >What could somebody do to learn empathy? Empathize.
  1485. >You had to throw yourself into a horrible situation and try to understand the plight of everyone involved.
  1486. >The mall came to mind. It was a horrible, loud, busy place with smelly poor people and overweight police officers, sans the police.
  1487. >But you already had your feelings set in place about that whole subject, didn’t you? There was nothing you could do to change it about that situation, so it was useless to try and empathize with the mall goers.
  1488. >After that, you thought you might go to the zoo.
  1489. >Animal rights activists are always telling people to “think of the animals”.
  1490. >Spike was the only animal you ever cared about though, so that was a no go.
  1491. >”Where are we going, egg head?” asked your bodyguard as she entered.
  1492. >Her leather jacket squeaked as she leaned against the door.
  1493. >”Nowhere, I guess. Unless you’re a nudist now.”
  1494. “I’m trying to think of where we could go,” you replied.
  1495. >”Why?”
  1496. >You threw down a spotted minx fur coat in frustration of her ignorance.
  1497. “So I can learn how to empathize with people and repair my relationship with Dr. RedHeart. Isn’t it obvious?”
  1498. >”Yeah nah mate. All I see around here is some crumpled clothes and separated shoes.”
  1499. >She bent down and started to tidy up the mess.
  1500. “Don’t do that. It helps the creative flow.”
  1501. >”You’re crazy.”
  1502. >Rainbow Dash looked around the room for a second before grabbing a short skirt and a long jacket.
  1503. “Really? The weather says this is supposed to be the coldest day in a decade.”
  1504. >She threw them at you, knocking your glasses off. Luckily they fell into a pile of jeans.
  1505. >”Get dressed. We’re going for a walk. I know just where to take you.”
  1506. “Where?”
  1507. >”Exactly where I’m thinking.”
  1508. “No, what place is it?”
  1509. >”It’s the place I’m thinking of. Hurry up.”
  1510.  
  1511.  
  1512. >You reluctantly dressed yourself.
  1513. >While you were upset she wouldn’t tell you where she had in mind, the mystery was also sort of exciting.
  1514. >She brought you out to the car, opened your door for you, closed it, and got into her own seat on the driver’s side.
  1515. >It kicked into motion and sped away from the safety of your mansion, bound for a strange new land.
  1516. >She drove by the mall. She drove by the library. She drove by the hospital, which to be honest, you would have done too.
  1517. >Then you got to downtown Canterlot.
  1518. >You figured she would be taking the pike out to another town, but she missed the turn.
  1519. >Clearly she wasn’t going east. Perhaps she wanted to get on the interstate and head west, you thought.
  1520. >She missed that turn too.
  1521. >Eventually, she pulled into some huge empty parking lot with enough cracks and holes that it would make the plot to the Dark Rook Rises look coherent.
  1522. >Then she threw the car into park, turned it off, and got out.
  1523. >Well, that couldn’t be right.
  1524. >There was no way she would want to show you downtown Canterlot, right?
  1525. >That was where all the poor people lived, not people who could help you learn empathy.
  1526. “Why are we stopped here?”
  1527. >”This is it.”
  1528. “That’s funny.”
  1529. >”I’m not joking. This is it.”
  1530. “You know, it’s quite cruel to play with me like this while I’m still trying to get the handle on humor.”
  1531. >”I’m not playing with you, egghead. Jeez, for someone so smart, you’re slow on the draw sometimes.”
  1532. >You turned away from Rainbow Dash and looked out the window at the city.
  1533. >The once pristine red bricks were dark, covered in dirt and grime and god knows what else.
  1534. >The walls fortunate enough to avoid such filth seemed to have crumbled away years ago, leaving either holes in walls or holes in walls that had been boarded up.
  1535. >You opened the car door and got out.
  1536. >A horrendous smell threatened to knock you over when it hit.
  1537. >Your heels crushed the cold dirt beneath you as you gingerly walked away from the car.
  1538. >A sudden hand on your shoulder brought a fright to you, and you jumped, and instantly reached for a bottle of pepper spray in your pocket.
  1539. >”Chill, dude!” shouted Rainbow Dash.
  1540. >You breathed a sigh of relief and gave her a snarl.
  1541. “Not very wise, given our current location.”
  1542.  
  1543.  
  1544.  
  1545. >”Look, egghead. You see that over there?”
  1546. >She pointed off in the distance.
  1547. >You squinted, trying to get a better look at whatever it was.
  1548. >”It’s shut up and let’s go.”
  1549. >With a slap on your back prompting you, you begin to walk.
  1550. “I don’t like this.”
  1551. >”Yeah well I wanted to do some ollies off that ugly statue in your courtyard. Guess neither of us win today.”
  1552. >You replied with a grunt and left it at that, discontent to argue any further with the woman who would likely save your life on multiple occasions throughout the day.
  1553. >After five minutes, the parking lot was a long ways behind the two of you.
  1554. >You hadn’t been mugged yet, so that was a good sign.
  1555. >It was still unsettling, though, being around all those poor people.
  1556. >Poor people had no self control. They were aggressive and dirty and conniving and ill mannered and all sorts of nasty things.
  1557. >You should know. Your father told you a lot about the poor people suffocating Canterlot.
  1558. >You also had some direct experience with the poor. Running the city of Canterlot taught you a lot about how leechy those people were.
  1559. “I don’t like this place.”
  1560. >”Nobody does.”
  1561. “I want to go home. The lesson is over.”
  1562. >”Oh, it’s only just starting, egghead!”
  1563. >Cold!
  1564. >Your jacket is torn away from you, leaving you shivering there in a short skirt and a button down.
  1565. “Rainbow Dash!”
  1566. >”Smell ya later!”
  1567. >You whipped around to try and yank your jacket back, but she was already half a block away.
  1568. >A gust of icy wind ripped across your flesh.
  1569. >Your knees buckled together, closing the gap your skirt left.
  1570. “Get back here! Rainbow Dash, you jerk!”
  1571. >She was a blue dot on the horizon when it all went blurry.
  1572. >You brought a hand up to your eyes and wiped away a tear.
  1573. “You big jerk,” you mumbled.
  1574. >Another gale forced your arms to your sides.
  1575. >You hugged yourself tightly in an effort to conserve heat.
  1576. >Great. Now what?
  1577. >You looked around nervously. Around any corner, there could have been someone waiting to pounce on you.
  1578. >Take advantage of you.
  1579. >You were fragile. Small. Weak.
  1580. >Alone.
  1581.  
  1582. >You started down the street back to your car.
  1583. >Staying on the edge of the sidewalk was top priority. You didn’t want to be anywhere near the plethora of drug valleys between those rundown buildings.
  1584. >On the bright side, it was still morning, so you could see relatively clearly into the alleyways.
  1585. >Nobody looked like they were ready to rape you.
  1586. >You breathed a sigh of relief as the empty parking lot came into view.
  1587. >All you had to do was find your car and then realize your car wasn’t there anymore.
  1588. >Where was your car?
  1589. >Oh no.
  1590. >No, no, no.
  1591. “Rainbow Dash! You’re fired!”
  1592. >Your eyes angrily scanned the area for something to destroy.
  1593. >Aha, a tin can.
  1594. >You marched over to it, intent to kick it half way to kingdom come, but tripped on it instead.
  1595. >The pavement slammed against your tailbone when you fell down, sending waves of pain through your bottom.
  1596. >On the bright side, the pain warmed you up a bit.
  1597. >After a minute of sitting there with your body contorted in pain, you eased up enough to start moving again.
  1598. >Well, you knew the way back home. You could walk there.
  1599. >As you stood up, another brisk wind rushed by.
  1600. >It set your hairs on end and knocked the glasses right off your face.
  1601. >You could hear a little crack when they hit the ground.
  1602. >A sense of dread filled you as you dropped down and frantically felt around for your eyes.
  1603. >Your fingertips brushed against the frigid plastic and brought the pair back up to your eyes.
  1604. >Vision returned to you...mostly.
  1605. >The left lense had three large cracks starting in the bottom corner that ran the span of it.
  1606. >Well, on the bright side, you had four lenses now.
  1607. >And that was good because you could...
  1608. “Oh, who am I kidding?”
  1609. >You hung your head and began walking.
  1610. >It was a long way back home.
  1611.  
  1612. >Your jaw stiffened up after about five minutes.
  1613. >You curled your lips, trying to bring some flexibility back to it.
  1614. >Trying to control your mouth brought attention to how violently your teeth were chattering.
  1615. >It became painfully obvious to you that you wouldn’t make it home in your condition.
  1616. >You needed something warm. A jacket. A heavy blanket.
  1617. >Hell, you would have settled for some stockings at that point.
  1618. >Anything to help against the cold.
  1619. >Craning your neck, you looked for some nice clothes you could put on.
  1620. >The closest thing you found was a tattered wool jacket lying in a pile of wet leaves.
  1621. >You picked it up. It lifted like a sheet of cardboard it was so stiff.
  1622. “Right. I guess clothing is off the table.”
  1623. >The next best thing was finding a warm place to rest for a while before the feeling returned to your fingers and you could head out again.
  1624. >Now, that wouldn’t have been so hard if your criteria was a little looser.
  1625. >There were plenty of alleys around, and even more boarded up buildings with the flickering lights of fires inside them.
  1626. >The thing is, they were all full of people.
  1627. >Poor people from downtown Canterlot were not what you wanted to interact with.
  1628. >You resolved to tough it out until a nice private room became available.
  1629. >Until that point, some pleasant conversation was welcomed.
  1630. “If I killed myself, they’d have to move my body deep enough below the surface that the heat from the mantle would keep me warm. Although that wouldn’t really help me too much all things considered. If I killed somebody else, I could crawl in with them and enjoy warmth that way. Or maybe I could just dig the hole myself. Yeah, I’ll build a shovel and dig right through all this hard concrete and frozen dirt. Great idea, you idiot.”
  1631.  
  1632. >You sighed, then instantly cursed at yourself for wasting that precious hot breath on the air instead of your hands.
  1633. >Bringing your arms up from your side, you cupped them in front of your mouth and exhaled.
  1634. >You rubbed the heat into them and brought them back to your sides where they could keep your chest warm.
  1635. >At some point, you looked down at your watch.
  1636. >It was probably noon, but it could have been 1:00. Hell, could have been 3:00 for all you knew.
  1637. >Time seemed to flow one hundred times slower every minute you spent out there. Eventually, it just gets too difficult to keep track of.
  1638. “Hey, I know that sign,” you said, coming up to the giant green billboard indicating you’d be under the Canterlot Pass bridge in about half of a mile.
  1639. >Well, you said something close enough to that, at least.
  1640. >The chittering sounds you made with your teeth could form those words if run through a speech analyzer.
  1641. >One half of a mile.
  1642. >You could do that. That was perfectly doable.
  1643. >Underneath it there was sure to be some protection from the cold.
  1644. >Some dark crevice you could climb into and curl up in.
  1645. >Some...something.
  1646. >You could walk there and warm up, and then keep on on your way home.
  1647. >You could do that.
  1648. >You just needed to rest.
  1649. >Slowly, you made your way over to the stone steps of a fairly large apartment building.
  1650. >The door was large. It survived its years of neglect fairly well.
  1651. >On it was a golden plaque with “Canterlot Gardens” engraved in it.
  1652.  
  1653. >You heard stories about it when you were a little girl.
  1654. >Your old principal, Celestia, used to live there. She said it had over two thousand apartments.
  1655. >You ran the numbers on those front steps.
  1656. >There was a .007% chance that every room was filled.
  1657. >With probability figures like those, who needs friends?
  1658. >No? Not funny?
  1659. >With a grumble, you pushed the door open with your baby blue hands and walked in.
  1660. >It was at least three degrees warmer inside than out there, so that was a plus.
  1661. >The average homeless person would want to grab whatever room they could as quickly as they could, which meant the first few floors would most likely be full and not worth your time.
  1662. >That, along with the fact that heat rises, meant your destination was up.
  1663. >Seven floors should do the trick, you thought.
  1664. >Now, what actually happened was you made it halfway up the first flight before the energy left your legs.
  1665. >You sat down and curled up in a ball, shivering more than a leaf on the autumn wind.
  1666. >By the way, fuck autumn.
  1667.  
  1668. >You groaned as you pried your tired eyes open.
  1669. “Did I fall asleep?”
  1670. >A quick check with your watch told you that somehow six hours had passed without your noticing.
  1671. >Perhaps you had fallen asleep on that staircase.
  1672. >If you did though, you wouldn’t be alive.
  1673. >It was in that pondering that you noticed you were actually fairly warm.
  1674. >What a shocking development. You needed more information.
  1675. >There was an old, smelly, tattered coat draped over you.
  1676. >An extra pair of thick socks had covered your thin stockings too, keeping your little toes nice and toasty.
  1677. >Even your head had a little beanie on it.
  1678. >You looked around.
  1679. >The place you were in seemed to be an apartment. Perhaps the Canterlot Gardens.
  1680. >There was a nice hole in the ceiling above you which led up to another room.
  1681. >And to the left, and the right, forming a circle that surrounded a small space heater, were poor people.
  1682. >You shrieked and scuttled back, hitting your back against the wall.
  1683. >”Guess you’re awake.”
  1684. “Where am I?” you stammered out. “Who are you people?”
  1685. >The man from your right stood up.
  1686. >You noticed that despite the cold in the room even around the heater, he was wearing nothing but a long sleeve shirt and some jeans. No jacket, no hat, not even socks.
  1687. >”I’m John Smith. This little fire cracker over here is...Little Fire Cracker. And that’s uh,” his voice trailed off.
  1688. >He scratched his head.
  1689. >”You’re...oh, this one is Crackle, and that’s Garble, and this is Ember.”
  1690.  
  1691. “Where am I? What am I doing here?”
  1692. >The blue woman, Ember, who was sitting directly across from you sneered.
  1693. >”Gee, you sure are grateful.”
  1694. >At that moment, the space heater failed.
  1695. >She slammed it with her boot, prompting it to function again.
  1696. >You’ll never understand how that works.
  1697. >”Well,” began John, “I was on my way home when I found you passed out on the staircase, so I figured, hey, maybe she’d make a nice doorstop. Turns out you weren’t fully frozen yet, so we had to settle for keeping you alive.”
  1698. “So you took me back to your dungeon?”
  1699. >”Hey, dungeons don’t get skylights.”
  1700. >He pointed up to the hole in the ceiling.
  1701. >”You see this? That’s quality architecture.”
  1702. >Clearly the look on your face was being a little more colorful with its words than you were.
  1703. >The man sighed and lowered himself to his knees.
  1704. >”Hey, come on. You’re safe.”
  1705. “What’d you do to me?”
  1706. >”What?”
  1707. “When I was asleep. What did you people do to me?”
  1708. >”Who the fuck do you think we are?” shouted some red fellow.
  1709. >”Shut the fuck up, Garble.”
  1710. >”No! We save this bitch’s life and she has the fuckin’ nerve to call us rapists?”
  1711. >”You wanted to!”
  1712. >”But I didn’t go through with it!”
  1713. >You cowered against the wall, shaking even more, though out of fear now instead of the cold.
  1714. >John reached forward.
  1715. >Throwing the jacket off of yourself and onto him, you slapped him hard across the face.
  1716. “Get away from me! I have bodyguards! If you hurt me, they’ll--”
  1717. >He put the jacket back on you.
  1718. >”Nobody is touching anything. You’re safe here. Isn’t that right, Garble?”
  1719. >”I didn’t fuckin’ do anything! God, you guys are such pricks!”
  1720.  
  1721. >Ember gave him a firm smack on the back of the head.
  1722. “You’re not going to,” you paused, looking for the right words to not anger them. “You’re not going to steal from me?”
  1723. >John shook his head.
  1724. “Or sell me?”
  1725. >”Of course not. What kind of people do you take us for?”
  1726. >You shot a glance at Garble, who was nursing a sore spot on his head.
  1727. >”He’s barely people.”
  1728. >”I heard that!”
  1729. >”That’s nice.”
  1730. “Why?”
  1731. >”Why what?”
  1732. “Why did you help me? Really? Because if you’re trying to make me owe you one, it won’t work. I don’t do debt.”
  1733. >”Nothing like that. Look, why don’t you just come enjoy the heat for a bit? You were freezing before.”
  1734. >The man held his hand out to you.
  1735. >You scanned it. It was a rough hand. What wasn’t calloused was either scabbed up or bleeding.
  1736. >Nevertheless, you didn’t want them to attack you for refusing the gesture, so you gingerly took it.
  1737. >The thing was a block of ice when you grabbed it. It forced you to pull back.
  1738. >He seemed downcast at your reaction.
  1739. >”Right. Well, whenever you’re ready, I guess.”
  1740. >He turned his back to you and went over to the small circle, sitting down right close to the space heater.
  1741. >For the next, according to your watch, hour, there was silence.
  1742. >It was occasionally broken up by the heater shutting down, only to be brought to life by Ember.
  1743. >By then, the sun had started to go down.
  1744. >It painted the sky purples and pinks and oranges, and all the wonderful colors it usually does.
  1745. >”Welp, anyone up for beans?”
  1746. >”I guess.”
  1747. >”I’m fuckin’ starving!”
  1748. >The green woman to your left didn’t answer.
  1749. >With a groan, John got up and hobbled over to a dark corner of the room.
  1750. >You could hear the rustling of plastic.
  1751. >When he returned, it was with a small white bag.
  1752. >He ripped the plastic open and pulled our four cans of beans.
  1753. >”Let’s see what we got. It’s beans and beef, red beans, beans in thick sauce, and something in chinese. Looks pretty safe though.”
  1754. >Ember was the first to answer.
  1755. >”Give me the beef.”
  1756. >”I’ll take the reds.”
  1757.  
  1758. >He passed them out, then gave the chinese can to the green woman.
  1759. “She didn’t ask for that.”
  1760. >”She doesn’t do much of anything,” spit out Garble while scooping the beans out of the can with his grubby fingers. “She’s kind of a dead weight.”
  1761. >”You’re a dead weight.”
  1762. >”At least I can eat on my own.”
  1763. >You raised an eyebrow and looked back at the green one.
  1764. >She was now covered in beans and sauce, and splashed around in her own puddle with the dumbest smile on her face.
  1765. >”I said ditch her, but nobody wanted to play that card.”
  1766. >”Because she’s one of us, asshole. Once a dragon, always a dragon.”
  1767. >”Whatever.”
  1768. >Your eyes widened.
  1769. “Dragon? As in the Canterlot Dragons?”
  1770. >”Yeah. What of it?”
  1771. “You guys were--” another sentence of yours cut off.
  1772. >You reeled back as a cold can of beans was pressed against your face.
  1773. >”Come on now. Eat up.”
  1774. “Isn’t this yours?”
  1775. >John smiled and rubbed his stomach.
  1776. >”I already ate today.”
  1777. >Your stomach growled as he nudged towards you again.
  1778. >Taking the can in surrender, you popped the top and tipped it back, drinking down the sauce before you spilled any on yourself.
  1779. >Before you knew it, the whole can was gone.
  1780. >You gave a satisfied burp and set it down beside you.
  1781. “Thank you.”
  1782. >That felt weird.
  1783. >Thank you.
  1784. >Two words you never thought you’d say to a poor person.
  1785. >Hell, this whole experience was nothing like what you expected it to be.
  1786. >These people were kind.
  1787. >Well, with the exception of Garble and Crackle, who you assumed lack the capacity for much of anything.
  1788.  
  1789. >The sun had finally set, leaving Canterlot shrouded in darkness.
  1790. >Even out in downtown, the lights from the rest of the city were enough to drown out the stars.
  1791. >All that was lighting the room was the orange light on the front of the space heater, signaling it was on.
  1792. >Of course, that was obvious from the warmth and the rumbling it was making.
  1793. >You heard another sound though, on top of the heater. It shocked you.
  1794. >You could hear a stomach growling.
  1795. >Turning your gaze to John, you found his dimly lit form hunched over as close to the heater as he could get.
  1796. >He was shivering something awful.
  1797. >It clicked for you right then.
  1798. >You’re not proud to admit it took you that long, but the day was busy, alright?
  1799. >You took off the jacket to return it to him.
  1800. >The second it was off you, it was replaced with a bitter chill.
  1801. >You’re also not proud to admit that you laid it back down over you, more worried about your own comfort than your savior’s.
  1802. >Well, he was so giving up to that point anyway.
  1803. >Surely he wouldn’t have been upset if you wanted to keep it a little longer.
  1804. >It did raise a question for you though.
  1805. >These people had practically nothing yet there you were, wearing their clothes, eating their food, sharing their space.
  1806. >Why were they being so nice to you?
  1807. >You decided to learn more.
  1808. “So what’s the story here?”
  1809. >”Excuse me?”
  1810. “What’s the story? How did you all get here?”
  1811. >Smooth.
  1812.  
  1813. >”None of your business, princess,” spits Garble. “Now if you don’t mind, I’m hitting the hay.”
  1814. >”Whatever.”
  1815. >Ember sighed.
  1816. >”Look, it’s complicated, alright?”
  1817. “I’m a pretty smart girl.”
  1818. >”And I’m pretty not going to tell you. So why don’t you pipe down and go to sleep too?”
  1819. >You could hear shuffling in the darkness.
  1820. >She and Garble likely laid down to get some shuteye.
  1821. >Another sound came to you.
  1822. >John scooted closer, now sitting right next to you against the wall.
  1823. >The chattering of his teeth sounded deafening now.
  1824. >”You really want to know?”
  1825. “Yes.”
  1826. >He chuckled.
  1827. “What’s funny?”
  1828. >”You already do. It’s the same story as almost everyone who ends up out here.”
  1829. “Poor financing ability?”
  1830. >”No. Well, yes. But I mean drugs. You see Crackle over there?”
  1831. >You turned to the green woman, who was at that moment rolling around on the floor, slapping her feet together.
  1832. >”She used to be an accountant.”
  1833. “Really?”
  1834. >”Yep. She had quite the financing ability. She took care of all the dough for everyone in the Canterlot Dragons. Then one day, a new strain of Nectar took to the streets. That was the end of Crackle. Without their money, the Dragons fell apart. And without the Dragons propping up downtown, it fell too.”
  1835. “That’s horrible.”
  1836. >”Not that they cared. They were too high to even notice until it was too late.”
  1837. “All of them?”
  1838. >”Everyone in this room has had their run in with Nectar. Hell, look outside. Half the people you see stumbling around are probably on it right now. It’s a poison, you hear me? It’s like a rot, and it destroyed this city.”
  1839. “The police would have stopped something like that.”
  1840. >”The police were bought out. They got their share of the profits and they turned a blind eye while everyone here wasted away. Would you believe this shithole of an apartment used to bring in twelve hundred a month just fifteen years ago?”
  1841.  
  1842. >You cast your eyes down to your feet.
  1843. >You tried to listen to him, but there was something nagging in your mind too.
  1844. >A thought. A memory.
  1845. >Something about this story sounded familiar.
  1846. “Wait, you said everyone here. Even you?”
  1847. >He chuckled again.
  1848. >”I did three tours back in World War III. What I did, what I saw...when those kinds of bodies pile up on your conscience, it gets a bit hard to live. Nectar was an escape. One day the money ran dry, and I realized I was sitting in a dumpster eating someone’s shoe.”
  1849. >Come on, what’s bugging you?
  1850. >”So yeah, we’ve been here a while. I keep our bellies full as best I can with what I win in the Pits.”
  1851. >The Pits. That underground fighting circuit Anonymous and Innominate run.
  1852. >Anonymous, Innominate...Dr. RedHeart and Rose Luck!
  1853. >Yes, that’s why it was familiar!
  1854. >Nectar. It’s the specialty drug those two whip up and distribute.
  1855. >You suddenly felt cold.
  1856. >No, not that kind of cold. This was internal. It was a sense of dread washing over you.
  1857. >You knew what was going on. You knew Dr. RedHeart was distributing some kind of drug, but you never would have imagined the scale of devastation.
  1858. “Why are you sharing all this with me?” you asked meekly.
  1859. >”You just look like one of those people. Someone to trust.”
  1860. >You could feel him shivering against you.
  1861. >”Now, I should probably be getting to sleep too.”
  1862. >He moved away to the heater, but you grabbed his sleeve.
  1863. “No, stay.”
  1864. >He sat back down next to you, and you spread the coat out over you both.
  1865. >”Thanks.”
  1866. “Hey, I know what it’s like to be cold.”
  1867. >”I’m sure you do,” he says with a yawn.
  1868. >”Say, what’s your name?”
  1869. “Twilight Sparkle.”
  1870. >His jittering seemed to calm down as your body heat spread to him.
  1871. >”Twilight Sparkle. I’ll remember that.”
  1872.  
  1873. >When you next open your eyes, the room was brightly lit.
  1874. >It was also significantly warmer. You judged it at around sixty.
  1875. >What a step up from the previous day’s zero.
  1876. >You stretched out and gave a little yawn.
  1877. >Normally you would have sat there for a bit, getting your mind in order, but the situation didn’t call for that.
  1878. >You got up, knocking the jacket onto the floor.
  1879. >Looking around, you spotted John Smith kneeling down in front of the heater.
  1880. “What are you doing?”
  1881. >”Doing a little repair.”
  1882. >He set down a screwdriver and pushed himself up onto his feet, followed closely by several smaller cracks from his legs.
  1883. >”She was off when I woke up. Figured I could bring her back for a bit while I went out for a new one.”
  1884. >With a kick, the space heater roared to life and began to warm up the room once more.
  1885. >”Atta girl.”
  1886. >Suddenly he clapped his hands, causing you to jump back.
  1887. >”Righto! I have to head off to the Pits today. What we have won’t be enough for a new heater.”
  1888. >He walked over to you and picked up his jacket from your feet.
  1889. >”Why don’t you come with me? There’s plenty of rich folk there betting on who gets their asses kicked the hardest. One of them is bound to be your friends, right? They’ll get you home.”
  1890. >Fancy that. You did have friends there.
  1891. >You nodded.
  1892. >John smiled and walked over to Ember.
  1893. >With a firm kick, he woke her up.
  1894. >She snarled and slapped his foot away.
  1895. >”What do you want, asshole?”
  1896. >”Just letting you know I’ll be out today. Try not to burn the place down, alright?”
  1897. >”Go fuck yourself.”
  1898. >He came back over to you and held out his elbow.
  1899. >”She’s game. Let’s go.”
  1900. >You giggled and looped your arm around his.
  1901. >Without prompt, he led you out.
  1902.  
  1903. >It was actually a fairly quick walk.
  1904. >The Pits were located in the warehouse behind Pause & Shop, which was in the middle of downtown.
  1905. >It was an enormous building about the size of your garage. It actually looked fairly similar.
  1906. >There were several large bay doors, one of which was open.
  1907. >You went through there.
  1908. >In the back of the warehouse, there was a door. On each side of it were men in suits who you could only assume were armed.
  1909. >”Don’t mind them. They almost never shoot.”
  1910. “Almost, being the key word.”
  1911. >”Just be cool.”
  1912. >You approached them.
  1913. >Twenty yards.
  1914. >Ten yards.
  1915. >Five yards.
  1916. >Ten feet.
  1917. >Five feet.
  1918. >Suddenly…
  1919. >”Be cool, Twilight!” screamed John into your ear.
  1920. >You nearly leapt out of your own skin.
  1921. >The sound you made was even more embarrassing than that.
  1922. >After his laughter died down, John wiped a tear from his eye and pat one of the guards on the chest.
  1923. >”What’s up, Bulk? Aw shit, that was good. See you later, buddy.”
  1924. “Not cool.”
  1925. >”Not for you. I had a good time though.”
  1926. >With a huff, you unlooped yourself from him and descended the long staircase ahead of you.
  1927. >At the end of it was a light.
  1928. >Past the light was, well, the Pit.
  1929. >You were welcomed with a large, brightly lit, hollowed out section of the Earth, about half the size of the warehouse upstairs.
  1930. >In the center of that room was a small fence surrounded by dozens of cheering men and women.
  1931. >Further back against the walls were bleachers. They must have housed one, maybe two hundred people.
  1932. >You neared the fence in the center of the room and saw that it encircled a large hole in the floor that went down fifteen feet.
  1933. >Inside it were two people bashing each other’s heads in with bats.
  1934. >”Oh shit, is that Larry? Kick his ass! Go for the eyes! Come on!”
  1935. >Your companion winced.
  1936. >”Walk it off, Larry! Oh. Oooh shit. Yeah, that’s going to hurt in the morning.”
  1937.  
  1938. “John, I’m going to go look for my friends.”
  1939. >He nodded.
  1940. >”Alright. Hey, good luck out there. Keep your head up.”
  1941. “Will do. Goodbye, John.”
  1942. >”Catch you later, kiddo.”
  1943. >Leaving him at the edge of the pit, you headed off to search for Anonymous and Innominate.
  1944. >The journey didn’t last long. They were in box seats overlooking the Pit.
  1945. >The only bit of resistance you met was at the front of the staircase leading up to them.
  1946. >When you told the guards your name, they let you pass by without issue.
  1947. “Innominate,” you called out when she came into view.
  1948. >The woman looked back at you in surprise.
  1949. >”Twilight? What are you doing here?”
  1950. >She threw on her glasses and got up.
  1951. “I was in town. Could I pawn a ride home off you?”
  1952. >”Of course.”
  1953. >She walked over and gave you a onceover.
  1954. >You imagine your scent wasn’t too pleasing, what with having spent the night where you did.
  1955. >”What happened to you? You look terrible.”
  1956. “How kind.”
  1957. >”What, do you want me to brush your ego? You look like you spent the night in a heap of dirt.”
  1958. “I may as well have.”
  1959. >”That’s terrible!”
  1960. >You shrugged.
  1961. “It wasn’t so bad.”
  1962. >”And the winner is Larry!” spouted the intercom.
  1963. >The pit below roared in applause and cheer.
  1964. “Is it usually like this?”
  1965. >”Today’s kind of slow.”
  1966. >”Next up,” started the intercom, “John ‘Old Soldier’ Smith vs the Crystallions!”
  1967. >”How about we get you that ride now?”
  1968. “Actually,” you said as you walked by to get a view of the pit, “I kind of want to see this.”
  1969. >Anonymous had a fine seat, so you sat beside him.
  1970. >With a perfect view into the concrete pit, you could clearly make out John and three other men dressed in black.
  1971. >The one in the center wore a red cape that was proportionally as long as his jet black mullet.
  1972. >”The weapon clock has been set for three minutes. Go!”
  1973. >And off they went.
  1974.  
  1975. >John lowered his head and charged at the caped crusader.
  1976. >He rammed himself into the man’s chest, sending him flying back several feet.
  1977. >Instantly, he was flanked by the other two.
  1978. >The on on his right threw a jab.
  1979. >John twisted to block it, only for the person on his left to kick his knee in.
  1980. >He fell down.
  1981. >Still keeping his wits about him, he caught another kick and threw the assailant back.
  1982. >Every time he changed focus, the other attacker would take a cheap shot at him.
  1983. “This isn’t very fair at all. What kind of operation are you running?”
  1984. >”The kind where you make more money the more you fight,” answered Innominate.
  1985. >”That’s Sombra and the Crystallions. They’re pretty high ranked. Taking out one of them would bring in some money, but all three at once triples that.”
  1986. “But he’s only one man. There have to be rules against this sort of thing.”
  1987. >She shook her head.
  1988. >”The only official rule in the Pit is no killing.”
  1989. “Official?”
  1990. >”Well, fighters who have sponsors will have to abide by their own set of rules.”
  1991. “I see.”
  1992. >When you started paying attention again, Sombra was back on his feet.
  1993. >The three of them were pushing John back.
  1994. >He was purely on the defensive.
  1995. >Hell, he could barely do that right.
  1996. >Every other attack landed.
  1997. >It was all starting to take its toll on him.
  1998. >Aside from the blood covering his face and his filthy shirt, he was getting more sluggish.
  1999. >The two cronies knocked both his hands down to his side, leaving a perfect open for that Sombra character to slam John square in the face.
  2000. >He toppled down on the floor and was instantly covered by the three.
  2001. >When it looked like it was all over, a buzzer rang, and lights flashed.
  2002. >You spotted a large clock over the center of the ring, with 00:00 blinking on the face.
  2003. >”The weapon timer is up! Let’s arm these assholes!”
  2004.  
  2005. >Scantily clad women approached the ring and threw all sorts of toys into the Pit.
  2006. >You saw bats and hammers, even a bo staff made its way in there.
  2007. >John threw them off of him all at once and scrambled to his feet.
  2008. >He crawled like a frantic child over to that staff and took it in his hands.
  2009. >Shakily, he rose up to his feet, using the weapon as support.
  2010. >Sombra took the hammer, and his cohorts armed themselves with the bats.
  2011. >”You know him,” said Anonymous.
  2012. “Huh?”
  2013. >”John Smith. You know him.”
  2014. >You raised an eyebrow.
  2015. “How did you know?”
  2016. >”You hate fighting, yet you stayed to watch. It would have to be for a friend. John fights bravely and it speaks to his character. His type of people seem to attract you.”
  2017. “Yes, I know him. We met yesterday. He saved my life.”
  2018. >Anonymous nodded.
  2019. >”When he loses, I’ll reward him regardless.”
  2020. “What do you mean when?”
  2021. >”Twilight, you’d have to be a fool to think he could win this.”
  2022. >You growled and turned back to the fight.
  2023. >You were sure he could do it.
  2024. >John was quite skilled with that staff.
  2025. >He seemed to have the edge at that point, as he was the one pushing them back.
  2026. >He even landed a few hits.
  2027. >Even so, three on one began to look more and more like three on one.
  2028. >His energy left him.
  2029. >Sombra swung his hammer down, and John raised the staff to block it.
  2030. >With his guard down, one of the men at his sides took their bat and swung it into his knee.
  2031. >John went down.
  2032. >You could hear his scream echo inside your own mind.
  2033. >You felt it inside of you, bouncing off the walls of your head, wrapping around your heart and squeezing it tight.
  2034. >The staff fell out of his hands.
  2035. >When it was gone, the match was completely and utterly lost.
  2036. >He was beat again and again, barely keeping his hands up to defend his face.
  2037. >Thankfully, Sombra had abandoned that dreadful hammer and settled for kicking him in the gut.
  2038.  
  2039. >You watched in horror as the bats went down and came up and went down and came up, getting bloodier and bloodier every time.
  2040. >You couldn’t even hear him yelling anymore.
  2041. >All there was was the cheering of the crowd and the sound of wood slamming on flesh.
  2042. >You didn’t think you could take much more of it when he finally tapped out.
  2043. >The floor came alive with applause.
  2044. >”Sombra! Sombra! Sombra!”
  2045. >”And the winners are the Crystallions! Everyone give it up for them!” buzzed the intercom.
  2046. >You jumped out of your seat and ran down the stairs to see him.
  2047. >John dragged himself up his own flight of stairs, aided by one of those scantily clad women.
  2048. >He saw you, and his face lit up.
  2049. >His ugly, mangled, bruised, and bloodied face.
  2050. >”Twilight! I thought you’d be gone,” he said with slurred words.
  2051. >He pushed the girl away and limped over to you, almost falling several times.
  2052. >You caught him before he could embarrass himself further.
  2053. “I’m right here.”
  2054. >”Well would you look at that? John Bitch finally found a whore to take pity on him!”
  2055. >You looked over John’s shoulder to see Sombra and his friends laughing.
  2056. >”How much did he pay you for this? Oh wait, he didn’t. Fucker can’t win any money here! What a fucking joke!”
  2057. >”Hey honey, why don’t you ditch that star loser and come home with us?”
  2058. >”I’ll give you the fuck of your life.”
  2059. “Where do you live?”
  2060. >”Ha! Knew you’d like it.”
  2061. >”I know a slut when I see one.”
  2062. “I asked you where you lived.”
  2063. >”32 Main Street. Just off Canter Ave.”
  2064. >You sent some boys to their house three days later to “show them a good time”.
  2065.  
  2066. >You took John to the infirmary.
  2067. >How odd, you thought, that a fighting pit in the middle of the lawless downtown Canterlot, run by mobsters, would have an infirmary.
  2068. >Either way, he got stitched up, recieved an ice pack and some pain killers, and was allowed to rest there for a while.
  2069. >The nurse was such a kind lady.
  2070. >It brought your mind back to Dr. RedHeart and how she destroyed this section of the city, forcing people like John and the Dragons to live in filth.
  2071. >It stirred you up inside to think about.
  2072. >You left your friend to go see Innominate about transport back home.
  2073. >When you arrived back at her box seat, you saw she was with company.
  2074. >Aside from Anonymous, there were six other people in the room.
  2075. >A woman who looked like she was trying too hard to be the cool kid from the fifties and five mooks all dolled up in their own mix of leather and jean.
  2076. >”Look, Gilda, we’ve told you before. You’re done. This is our territory,” said Innominate flatly.
  2077. >”And I told you, princess. I’m not playing your games anymore. I’ve tried to do this democratically, but you’re just so stubborn, aren’t you?”
  2078. >”You’re one to talk.”
  2079. >Gilda, as she was named, waved her hand.
  2080. >Those goons from behind her all raised their guns.
  2081. >”I have more guns than you.”
  2082. “Perhaps I came at a bad time,” you mumbled to yourself.
  2083. >”Oh please,” your friend laughed. “Anonymous, smash.”
  2084. >The beast of a man got up out of his seat and walked over to the group.
  2085. >They opened fire on him, but it didn’t seem to do much.
  2086. >In fact, from what you could see, they had only gotten him once in the shoulder before the lot of them was on the ground and disarmed.
  2087. >”You have more guns, but mine’s bigger than yours.”
  2088. >Or perhaps Gilda needs to find henchmen with better aim.
  2089. >You examined the room and found holes dotting the walls.
  2090. >Tracing the paths they would have had to take, you noted that they were nowhere near Anonymous.
  2091. >The one that hit his shoulder was a lucky shot at best.
  2092. >It was kind of funny, actually.
  2093.  
  2094. >”You fucking idiots! You blew it!”
  2095. >”How now, my fine feathered friend. Perhaps we can come to some sort of agreement.”
  2096. >Gilda sneered.
  2097. >”Yeah? How one-sided is it?”
  2098. >”Well, I’m not too big on murder, so I’m going to have to let you out of here. I also know you’re just going to come back later with even more guys to try and steal this territory. So, let’s settle it right here and right now.”
  2099. >”What are you talking about? We just tried that.”
  2100. >”Are these your best fighters?”
  2101. >”No.”
  2102. >”Gilda.”
  2103. >”Yes,” she admitted grudgingly.
  2104. >Innominate smirked and grabbed Gilda’s shoulder.
  2105. >She escorted her to the edge of the box seats so they could look out into the Pit.
  2106. >”How about you take your five best guys, and anyone else you can find on your way out to the Pit, and you put them up against my best guy? Winner takes all.”
  2107. >”Are you for real? You’d stake your whole operation on one fight?”
  2108. >”Hell, I’ll even give you the recipe for our power juice.”
  2109. >Gilda’s eyes widened.
  2110. >”No way.”
  2111. >”Yes way. What do you say?”
  2112. >”Hell yeah. You got it, you glorious mother fucker!”
  2113. >They shook on it.
  2114. >Gilda rushed over to her men and helped them up, shouting about how they’re about to be rich and they need to get ready.
  2115. >They all rushed past you into the stairwell, headed for the pits.
  2116. >All that was left in the room consisted of you, Innominate, and Anonymous.
  2117. >The woman was laughing hysterically.
  2118. “What’s funny?”
  2119. >”Huh? Oh, hey, Twilight. I didn’t see you there.”
  2120. >She gestured for you to come closer.
  2121. >You did so and got wrapped into a hug.
  2122. >”Oh I’m so happy. We’re finally going to get these bozos off our backs.”
  2123. >You were unsure.
  2124. >Five men, plus however many more Gilda could find?
  2125. >After the beating John took against just three, you had your doubts.
  2126. >Not even that, but the three were only “high ranking”, according to Innominate. Not “the best”.
  2127.  
  2128. >”You don’t seem as excited,” she said.
  2129. “I just don’t see how one man can take those odds.”
  2130. >”Oh please. Did you see how scrawny those kids were? My man won’t have any trouble. Isn’t that right, honey?”
  2131. >You looked over to Anonymous, who was rubbing instead of dabbing the red stain on his shoulder with a paper towel.
  2132. >He gave a thumbs up.
  2133. “Wait, you’re sending him out? Isn’t that a bit dangerous considering he helps run this place?”
  2134. >”We’ve got nothing to worry about. Anon, why don’t you make your way down?”
  2135. >”My shirt is dirty.”
  2136. >”Then take it off.”
  2137. >”I like this shirt.”
  2138. >”I’ll wash it when we get home.”
  2139. >He sighs and unbuttoned it, tossing it to the side when he was done.
  2140. >”It’s ripped anyway,” he said downcast.
  2141. >He walked over to a cabinet in the corner of the room and removed from it five red syringes.
  2142. >Your blood ran cold at the sight of them.
  2143. “Is that Nectar?” you asked in a low voice.
  2144. >”Nectar? You mean that shit Red sells? Hell no. We only deal in quality substance here.”
  2145. >”It’s power juice,” Anonymous answered. “Specifically designed to increase blood flow, stimulate energy output to muscles, and inhibit pain.”
  2146. >”We dole this out to high payers who want an edge in their fight.”
  2147. “That’s a tad dishonest.”
  2148. >”Hey, you consent to go down in that ring knowing you’re going to get your shit kicked in. Nobody should be complaining just because their opponent took a shot beforehand.”
  2149. >”She’s right,” said Anonymous as he passed by the two of you. “It’s completely dishonest.”
  2150. >With that, he disappeared down the stairs.
  2151.  
  2152. >You and Innominate went over and took your seats.
  2153. >”So? What’s new?”
  2154. “Well, I recently made a new acquisition on--”
  2155. >”No, stupid,” she cut you off. “I mean how are you? What’s been going on?”
  2156. “Oh. I’ve been good, I suppose.”
  2157. >”That’s nice. Make up with Red yet?”
  2158. “No,” you said abruptly.
  2159. >”Jeez. Alright, I’ll leave that alone.”
  2160. >A booming cheer unlike the others you’d heard before erupted from the crowd.
  2161. >”AWOO! AWOO! AWOO!”
  2162. >”You’re in for a treat now, ladies and gentlemen!” sounded the intercom.
  2163. >Anonymous descended into the Pit where five people sat in wait for him.
  2164. >”King Anonymous vs the Bahhston Bangers, courtesy of Gilda Griffon!”
  2165. >”AWOO! AWOO! AWOO!”
  2166. “He has a reputation.”
  2167. >”How did you know?”
  2168. >Then you saw Anonymous toss the syringes at his opponents. All five of them.
  2169. “What’s he doing?”
  2170. >”Giving them the power juice.”
  2171. “Why? Won’t that only hurt him?”
  2172. >”He has this stick up his ass about keeping things fair. Something about having pride in your own abilities and respect for your opponents. A bunch of bullcrap I’ll never get.”
  2173. >The men quickly injected themselves.
  2174. >It had a visible effect on them.
  2175. >Even from your seat, you could see the veins pulsing out of their flesh, pumping energy throughout their bodies.
  2176. >”The weapons clock has been set for three minutes. Begin!”
  2177. >And off they went.
  2178.  
  2179. >Innominate yawned.
  2180. >”I’m bored. Come on, let’s go get a bite.”
  2181. “Don’t you want to see the fight?”
  2182. >”I already know how it’s going to end. There’s no point.”
  2183. ”Well, I suppose I could use something to eat.”
  2184. >She took your hand and led you out.
  2185. >When you arrived at a cafeteria, the intercom sounded.
  2186. >”The weapon timer is up! Give these assholes some toys!”
  2187. >You grimaced, remembering the beating John took when the weapons came out.
  2188. >His tangled, greasy hair changing from black to red as blood spattered onto it.
  2189. >His face puffing up like a balloon as they laid into it.
  2190. >But then you stopped to think about all of that as it occurred to you that you were in a cafeteria.
  2191. >You looked around, surprised at how closely it fit any old highschool room.
  2192. >From the plain floors to the blue and white tiled walls, even the ceiling fans that spun but didn’t actually circulate the air.
  2193. >It was all there.
  2194. >And so out of place.
  2195. >”What? People get hungry after a good fight.”
  2196. “So you built a cafeteria?”
  2197. >”It’s extra revenue.”
  2198. >At the food racks, she took a couple slices of pizza.
  2199. >”You like pepperoni? You look like a pepperoni kind of girl.”
  2200. “Cheese is fine, thank you.”
  2201. >”Whatever.”
  2202. >She shrugged and handed you two slices of cheese pizza and a small soda.
  2203. >She and the cashier nodded to each other.
  2204. >Once sat, you started to eat.
  2205. >”So,” she said immediately, pushing her plate to the side. “Tell me about that boy you came in with.”
  2206. “That boy is old enough to be my father.”
  2207. >”So you’re into age difference.”
  2208. “What?”
  2209. >”I didn’t peg you for that kind of girl.”
  2210. “What’s going on here?”
  2211. >”Come on. I saw the passion in that hug.”
  2212. >You set your pizza down gently.
  2213. >You looked her square in the eyes.
  2214. >They were half closed, accenting her smug grin.
  2215. “Hold on, do you actually think that he and I are a thing?”
  2216. >”Well?”
  2217.  
  2218. “No,” you shouted. “No, of course not. Ew, why would you even think that?”
  2219. >”Poor men can be quite the ride. I didn’t know if you were experimenting or something.”
  2220. “God no. Jeez, Innominate. I have work to think about. I would never--especially with a friend--get involved like that.”
  2221. >She laughed at your claims.
  2222. >”Really? Wow, you’re uppity.”
  2223. >You frowned and pushed your plate away.
  2224. “I’ve lost my appetite.”
  2225. >”No, come on,” she said, pushing it back in front of you.
  2226. >”Look, I’m sorry. I just thought my little Twilie was finally getting some action. Guess I was wrong.”
  2227. >Pulling her own plate in front of her, she picked up a slice and bit into it.
  2228. >”Yo,” shouted someone from the entrance of the cafe. “They’re going fucking medieval out there! They got swords and axes and shit! Come check it out!”
  2229. >Several eager young people dashed out.
  2230. >About half the cafeteria was gone.
  2231. >It was even quieter, which was fine for you.
  2232. >”So if you’re not fucking him,” she began to ask, but for once, you cut someone off.
  2233. “Can we please not talk about this while I’m eating?”
  2234. >”Oh, sure. All you had to do was ask.”
  2235. >You ate in silence for about ten seconds.
  2236. >Then, she spoke up again.
  2237. >”What’s up with your hair? Trying a new trash chic look?”
  2238. “I had a rough day yesterday.”
  2239. >”What happened?”
  2240. “It’s a long story. Let’s just say Rainbow Dash did it.”
  2241. >Innominate smiled.
  2242. >”Yeah, figures.”
  2243. >The intercom came on.
  2244. >”Hey, you can’t be in here!”
  2245. >”Move, fattie!”
  2246. >That was Gilda’s voice.
  2247. >”Twenty grand to whoever can knock the jolly green giant on his jolly green ass!”
  2248. >”Guards! Someone get this lady out of here!”
  2249. >”Don’t touch me, motherfucker!”
  2250. “Anyway, I guess I have to thank her when I get home.”
  2251. >”Why’s that?”
  2252. “I think I finally figured something out. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without her.”
  2253.  
  2254. “What about you? How have you been, Innominate?”
  2255. >”Oh, you know.”
  2256. >She took a bite of pizza.
  2257. >And chewed.
  2258. >And, well, that was it.
  2259. “Well, anything else?”
  2260. >”Oh, you know.”
  2261. “Come on.”
  2262. >”Shit, Twilight. What would be new with me?”
  2263. >You raised an eyebrow.
  2264. >”I’m a grown woman. I have a steady job and a loving husband. My life isn’t full of much adventure. The most interesting thing that’s happened to me in a while is our little cabin trip.”
  2265. “Oh. I’m sorry to hear that.”
  2266. >”No, don’t be.”
  2267. >She sighed and set her pizza down.
  2268. >”I’m happy. Really, I am. I grew up in the slums of Fillydelphia, but here I am now. I couldn’t ask for a better life than what I got.”
  2269. “You don’t sound so enthusiastic.”
  2270. >”It’s just,” she trailed off.
  2271. “Well?”
  2272. >”It’s just, you know. I wish things were a bit more exciting.”
  2273. “This isn’t exciting for you? It’s so busy and loud here.”
  2274. >”I know, and I love it. But it’s not exciting. I’m used to it. I’m used to this routine. Sometimes I wish Anon would just sweep me off my feet and we’d ride off into the sunset on horseback or some equally sappy shit. I don’t know, just something different.”
  2275. >You heard about this before.
  2276. >A midlife crisis.
  2277. >You read a book on it once.
  2278. “Buy an expensive car.”
  2279. >”Excuse me?”
  2280. “Trust me.”
  2281. >”And the winner is Anonymous! Give it up for the jolly green giant whose jolly green ass remains unknocked!”
  2282. >”I’ll fucking knock you, you lardy piece of shit!”
  2283. >”Guards!”
  2284. “I guess you were right.”
  2285. >”Of course I was. I’m always right. Now come on, I want to see the look on Gilda’s face.”
  2286.  
  2287. >You knew you were getting close to the pit when the chants became loud enough that you couldn’t hear yourself think.
  2288. >”AWOO! AWOO! AWOO!”
  2289. >”AWOO! AWOO! AWOO!”
  2290. >”AWOO! AWOO! AWOO!”
  2291. >Anonymous stepped out of the staircase.
  2292. >He had seen better days.
  2293. >His pants were torn to ribbons and his body was just as ripped up.
  2294. >His green flesh was caked in blood, and what was visible was beginning to bruise.
  2295. >Still though, he walked out of that Pit alone.
  2296. >Innominate ran up to him.
  2297. >He grabbed her by the shoulders and spun her around.
  2298. >He dipped her down, and leaned in close to her.
  2299. >”Hail to the king, baby.”
  2300. >They began to kiss, but you were more interested in the Pit.
  2301. >When you walked over to the fence, you were shocked at what you saw.
  2302. >There must have been fifteen, maybe sixteen unconscious people down there.
  2303. >They were lying in heaps on each other, surrounded by axes and swords, whole and broken alike.
  2304. “Unbelieveable.”
  2305. >”Let go of me! I said let go!”
  2306. >Gilda’s raspy voice snapped your attention away from the Pit.
  2307. >She was being held by two armed men. The ones from the entrance.
  2308. “Hey, Bulk.”
  2309. >”So,” said Innominate as she sashayed up to the captured woman. “Looks like you lost the game.”
  2310. >”Fuck you! You’re coming awful close to being a dead woman!”
  2311. >”Gilda, you take your five guys, and you take the rest of your men, and you get out of Dodge.”
  2312. >The guards threw her loose.
  2313. >She looked down into the Pit with anger, hate, resentment, all painted on her face.
  2314. >”Whatever. This place is lame.”
  2315. >She stormed off, screaming her head off about a bunch of losers and how she wouldn’t want this Pit if it were the last ring on Earth.
  2316. >That went well.
  2317. >”How about we get you home now?” Innominate asked you.
  2318. “I’d like that.”
  2319.  
  2320. >You arrived home at about 2:00 that afternoon.
  2321. >After thanking Innominate, you two parted ways.
  2322. >When you got to the door, you noticed something odd.
  2323. >Rainbow Dash always parked in front of the rose bush to the left of the door.
  2324. >You would tell her to move it to the garage, and she would reluctantly do so.
  2325. >However, the car was not there.
  2326. >You knew a servant didn’t move it because they were all afraid of Rainbow Dash.
  2327. “If she put it in the garage this time, I’m going to be so proud of her.”
  2328. >So you hopped off the porch and began to walk around back, when you heard another car pull up.
  2329. “Visitors? I don’t have any scheduled until tomorrow.”
  2330. >When you turned around, you saw your nice beautiful car parked right there in front of the rose bush to the left of the door.
  2331. >Rainbow Dash popped out of it.
  2332. >”What’s up, egghead?”
  2333. “Well, look who decided to show up.”
  2334. >You walked over to her with crossed arms and the most disinterested face you could muster.
  2335. “I didn’t think I’d ever see you again based on how fast you left me to rot downtown.”
  2336. >”Hey, come on. It’s not like that.”
  2337. “Really now? Because what it looks like to me is that you stole my jacket, stole my car, and sped off to do God knows what with my money while I fended for myself in the cold. That’s what it looks like.”
  2338. >”Wow, ease up, man. I didn’t run off with anything. I was behind you the whole time.”
  2339. “You were what?”
  2340. >”I moved the car one parking lot over and spent the whole time tailing you on foot.”
  2341. >You were just pretending to be upset with her a few seconds ago. You knew she was only trying to help you learn a lesson.
  2342. >This new information really set you off though.
  2343. “You were following me the whole time and you let me freeze half to death in some rundown apartment building?”
  2344. >”What? Hell no. I was going to go in and help you out, but then I saw that weird guy give you his jacket. I figured hey, might as well let it play out.”
  2345.  
  2346. “What if he was a rapist?”
  2347. >”He wasn’t though.”
  2348. “But what if he was?”
  2349. >”Then I would have shot him. No harm no foul.”
  2350. >What a thought out response.
  2351. >You wanted to be mad with her, you really did.
  2352. >When you thought through everything though, she really did nothing wrong.
  2353. >Well, she did, but it was understandable.
  2354. >You wanted to learn a lesson and she put you in a situation where you were forced to learn it.
  2355. >More than that, she stuck with you the whole way.
  2356. >There’s a reason her counterpart is the element of loyalty.
  2357. >”Hey, come on, Twi. You know I wouldn’t let anything happen to you.”
  2358. >She grabbed your shoulder reassuringly.
  2359. >”Right?”
  2360. >You huffed and shook her off.
  2361. “Whatever. Put the car in the garage and see me in my study.”
  2362. >”Righto, boss lady.”
  2363. >You disappeared into your happy place and pulled out a chair to sit down.
  2364. >You stopped just short of the seat, having suddenly remembered that you hadn’t showered in two days and spent the night sleeping in a disease ridden apartment in downtown Canterlot.
  2365. “I’ll shower first.”
  2366. >Rainbow Dash popped into your study after a minute and tossed your jacket onto your desk.
  2367. >”You should keep better track of this thing. It’s worth a lot of money.”
  2368. “Do you know what else is worth a lot of money?”
  2369. >”Hookers?”
  2370. “That depends on how good you are. Anyway, no.”
  2371. >”That sick new amp system from Rock Ware that you’re totally going to buy me for Christmas?”
  2372. “Highly debateable. Also, no.”
  2373. >”I’m lost then.”
  2374. >Some things you really did have to spell out for this woman.
  2375. >You went over to your bookshelf and pulled out a little number.
  2376. >”Mein Kampf?”
  2377. “Ignore that.”
  2378. >You popped open the book to a hollowed out section.
  2379. >Inside it was a small plastic bag filled with,
  2380. “Heroin. Heroin costs money.”
  2381. >Oh, you totally never used heroin.
  2382. >That was for your guests.
  2383. >The ones who liked to party.
  2384. >You’re getting off track here.
  2385.  
  2386. “Drugs cost money, Rainbow Dash. A lot of money. Put them in the wrong place at the wrong time and they can topple an economy.”
  2387. >”What of it? You’re not an addict.”
  2388. “I’m not, no. But I’ve seen the what a little bit of happy powder can do. It needs to be stopped. All of it.”
  2389. >”I don’t get what this has to do with me.”
  2390. “Nectar destroyed downtown Canterlot and it took many people with it. If I were to tell our little Rose Luck and Dr. RedHeart to stop distributing it, they would revolt.”
  2391. >”I don’t know. Rosey seems pretty chill.”
  2392. “She is highly malleable. That’s precisely why Dr. RedHeart has done business with her for so long. I’m sure you know the type of fabric the good Doctor is cut from.”
  2393. >She nodded.
  2394. ”Nectar is her livelihood. We shut her down, and she convinces Rose Luck to stand up next to her. Now we have the entire drug ring against us. That’s profits down the tube right off the bat. In the longer term, we may see a civil war of sorts.”
  2395. >”Still lost here.”
  2396. “We have to nip this in the bud, so to speak. End the distribution of Nectar whilst showing the drug ring that standing up to us isn’t a wise decision.”
  2397. >You could see a little smile spreading across her face.
  2398. >She knew what you were getting at.
  2399. “I want you to kill Rose Luck and Dr. RedHeart.”
  2400. >”Score!”
  2401. “But don’t just end them. End them rightly.”
  2402. >”What’s that mean?”
  2403. “Oh, would that be in modern terms? I guess it would be ‘really fuck them up’. Make an example out of them. Basically just make sure that nobody in their drug addled mind would make the mistake to make a move against us.”
  2404. >”Oh man, I’ve meaning to get at that bitch. Don’t worry, egghead. I won’t let you down!”
  2405.  
  2406. >Well, Rainbow Dash did what you asked.
  2407. >Exactly what you asked, actually. The example she set that night was sure to keep everyone off your back, you thought.
  2408. >You’re not going to waste six pages describing the scene though.
  2409. >If anyone wants to read up on what Rainbow Dash did, they could look for it in the news.
  2410. >Anyway, three months had passed since then.
  2411. >By that point, things in Canterlot had seen some changes.
  2412. >As Twilight’s Taxi branched out, you needed more drivers.
  2413. >You found them in downtown, starting with John Smith and the Dragons.
  2414. >Well, except for Crackle.
  2415. >She didn’t do much.
  2416. >You were proud of your efforts at first, but you soon realized that getting jobs for a few people wouldn’t solve any problems.
  2417. >So, you had a nice long sit down with some books and coffee and really went over what you could do to help other people.
  2418. >Redistribution of wealth. Take money from the rich and give it to the poor.
  2419. >Well, that clearly wouldn’t work. As a history buff yourself, you write a volume of books on all the flaws with socialism and the bloodshed caused by it.
  2420. >Besides, the only realistic way to enact policies like that would be on a higher level than local, and you weren’t looking to run for any office.
  2421. >You could have had Sunset do it, but you didn’t want her gaining any power either. She had a tendency to let it go to her head.
  2422. >With that out of the way, you figured if you can’t steal money and labor from others, you could bare the brunt of it yourself.
  2423. >You certainly had enough money to rebuild downtown by yourself.
  2424. >The jobs that would create would have also done wonders for the local economy.
  2425. >It would also bleed your bank accounts dry and raise a lot of eyebrows.
  2426. >Hell, you were pushing things with the mansion. How would you explain an upstart taxi service suddenly having enough money to support a project like that?
  2427.  
  2428. >Eventually, you landed on charity work.
  2429. >You would take donations from people and use that revenue from that to fuel public events to gentrify the city.
  2430. >Community barbecues, picnics, block parties, and all that jazz.
  2431. >Come by, get a bite to eat, renovate a house, go home.
  2432. >There was a problem with that idea too.
  2433. >It relied completely on the goodwill of others. That was a viable strategy in high school, but in the real world? In Canterlot?
  2434. >It was a longshot, but it was the best solution you had.
  2435.  
  2436. >It took about a week to plan, and another month after that for everything to be set up.
  2437. >You put a lot of money into advertising for the event.
  2438. >People had to know about it. They had to see that it would help.
  2439. >Most of all, they had to know that it would be something they could post on social media and virtue signal so everybody would think they were good people.
  2440. >Well, the day came.
  2441. >How many people went?
  2442. >Well, according to the Canterlot Times, six thousand people.
  2443. >Quite the turnout, if you do say so yourself.
  2444. >The grillmasters were so overworked that you had to pick up a spatula yourself just to lighten the load on them.
  2445. >Silver Blossom came by and handed out bead necklaces to all the children who worked extra hard. One of them ended up around your own neck, though you’re not sure if she was just trying to be cute or if she was making a comment on your childish appearance.
  2446. >The volunteers were so productive you managed to rebuild an entire block that day.
  2447. >It was heartwarming to say the least.
  2448. >It even restored a little of your faith in humanity, which had, for the most part, been lost.
  2449. >All in all, that was a good day.
  2450. >You hosted many more like it over the following five years
  2451. >They were very spaced out. They had to be.
  2452. >Events like that had feel special. If there was one every month, then people would stop going, because it would be something everyone was doing, and thus not be a good source for ego stroking anymore.
  2453. >You would also go broke.
  2454. >About two thirds of downtown had been fully rebuilt.
  2455. >People were weary to move back in, what with that last third still being what it was.
  2456. >You had Sunset Shimmer increase the police presence of that area to help deter crime.
  2457. >John Smith also headed a civilian watch, accompanied by Ember and the Dragons.
  2458. >They were, as someone might have guessed, not as gentle with criminals they found as the police were required to be.
  2459.  
  2460. >Speaking of Sunset Shimmer, you were having lunch with her one fine spring day.
  2461. >The birds were singing, the sun was shining, and the cicadas were going at it.
  2462. >You were sitting at a picnic table in your backyard, near the ivy wall.
  2463. >”So then I said to him ‘I’d buy that for a dollar’.”
  2464. >You burst into laughter.
  2465. >Oh, that was a good one.
  2466. >So basically, what happened was...you couldn’t explain it the same way.
  2467. >Just trust that it was funny.
  2468. “Oh, Sunset. I’m so glad I gave you speaking privileges today.”
  2469. >”So am I. You know, it’s great to sit down and talk. Just like in the old days, right? Maybe we could be like that again?” she asked sheepishly.
  2470. “Don’t push it.”
  2471. >”It was worth a try.”
  2472. >Your mind sorted through potential conversation topics.
  2473. >Before you could land on one, a certain someone popped his head up over your wall.
  2474. >”Twilight!”
  2475. >He climbed up on top of it and adjusted his patchwork jacket.
  2476. “Discord, what are you doing here?”
  2477. >He smirked and bent down to climb off the wall, but his foot caught on one of the vines, and he toppled forward.
  2478. >You could practically feel the crack as his head smashed against the stone brick.
  2479. >He rolled over and tumbled several feet in your direction, landing on his stomach.
  2480. >”Just dropping in,” he groaned and began to get up.
  2481. >Sunset hung her head and went back to eating her sandwich.
  2482. “Why were you climbing over my wall?”
  2483. >You’re not sure why you asked that.
  2484. >That was just the kind of thing Discord did.
  2485. >He would just appear out of nowhere, say his piece, and vanish just as quickly.
  2486. >An odd fellow, but you really did enjoy having him around.
  2487.  
  2488. >”Well, I would have come through the front, but my car is out of gas.”
  2489. “And you can’t fill it up?”
  2490. >”I mean, I would, but do you know how expensive gas is? It’s almost five dollars per gallon now. I can’t pocket that kind of dough.”
  2491. “You’re a millionaire.”
  2492. >”And we millionaires stay that way by being cheap. Jeez, imagine if I were poor. I’d probably be drowning in debt right now. Between gas for the car and energy for the home, how would I pay for anything?”
  2493. >He stopped to catch a breath.
  2494. >When he did so, he caught Sunset in his eyes.
  2495. >”Well hello, my dear. I don’t believe I’ve seen you in quite a while. When was it? I believe the last ball. You were wearing the blue gown, weren’t you? Ah, yes, what a spectacle that was. Feel free to jump in any time, by the way. Conversation is a two way street.”
  2496. “Actually, she’s not allowed to talk to others when I’m around.”
  2497. >Okay, you know that sounds bad, but you had a good reason for it when you came up with that rule.
  2498. >It wasn’t you being possessive.
  2499. >”And who came up with that rule?”
  2500. “Me.”
  2501. >”Why that’s preposterous. Speaking is how we propagate ideas. It’s the weapon of the intellectuals. It’s the foundation of society. It’s, it’s--:
  2502. “Alright, alright. Sunset, talk to the old man. I’m going inside for a bit.”
  2503. >”Thank you, Ms. Twilight,” she responded.
  2504. >”Wonderful! We’re going to have so much fun out here, aren’t we, Sunset?”
  2505. >”I suppose so.”
  2506. >Fun. Yeah.
  2507. >You went off inside do do whatever it is you do inside.
  2508. >Most likely sit in your air conditioned library and read a quick book before heading back out.
  2509. >At that time, you were really into ancient Greek poems.
  2510. >Homer especially caught your eye. Not that you hadn’t already read him several time before.
  2511. >When you got inside, you wiped a few beads of sweat from your forehead.
  2512. “It sure is warm out there.”
  2513.  
  2514. >Warm. That’s right, you had the air conditioner on. You didn’t have to worry about it.
  2515. >And in the winter, when the temperatures were reversed, you could heat your entire mansion without an issue.
  2516. >It cost a lot in gas, but not any more than the gas you fuel your private collection, or your entire taxi fleet with.
  2517. >Discord had a point, you thought.
  2518. >Millionaires like yourself don’t have to worry so much about money. If you were poor, though?
  2519. >It would be awful out there.
  2520. >What good would rebuilding downtown do if the people there couldn’t afford their lifestyle? It’d just fall right back into shambles, wouldn’t it?
  2521. >That got you thinking.
  2522. >You could help. You could do more than organizing all these community fix-er-up events.
  2523. >You were a scientist!
  2524. >Popping your head back outside, you shouted to Sunset that she was free to leave if she wanted. You wouldn’t be going back out.
  2525. >What you instead did was retreat into your lab where you began what would become your greatest creation.
  2526. >And given your track record, that’s quite the title.
  2527.  
  2528. >Things went, well, not how you would have wanted them to go.
  2529. >You knew what you wanted to do right off the bat.
  2530. >The problem was, you didn’t know how to do it.
  2531. >A clean, self sustaining, free source of energy.
  2532. >It had to be self sustaining because if one ounce of work had to go into producing this energy, there would be business moguls all over it waiting to charge out the tailpipe.
  2533. >Water wheels had been done away with centuries ago for a reason.
  2534. >Wind energy could was more wasteful than it was helpful.
  2535. >Solar panels would never produce enough energy to do what you needed them too.
  2536. >That got you thinking.
  2537. >The sun produces a lot of energy. It’s its own self sustaining ball of plasma.
  2538. “Eureka!”
  2539. >And off you went.
  2540. >You grabbed a sheet of paper and began jotting down a few idea.
  2541. >Suddenly, you heard a knocking on your door.
  2542. >”Yo, egghead. The Malones are here,” called Rainbow Dash from behind the steel.
  2543. “They’re not supposed to be here until tomorrow.”
  2544. >”It is tomorrow.”
  2545. >What?
  2546. >You looked around your lab.
  2547. >It was a complete mess.
  2548. >Papers all over the place, pencils worn down to the erasers, waste bins filled with crumpled files.
  2549. >Why, it looked as if a whole day had gone by.
  2550. >Which, with a quick check of your watch, you confirmed HAD gone by.
  2551. >Time flies when you’re doing science.
  2552. >You weren’t done though.
  2553. >You still didn’t even have an idea on how to build what you were looking for.
  2554. “You take care of them.”
  2555. >”How do we mean ‘take care of’?”
  2556. “In the traditional sense. Tend to their needs, run the meeting, and see them out. I’m busy.”
  2557. >”You sure?”
  2558. “That I’m busy? Yes. Now leave me.”
  2559.  
  2560. >Things went on like that for another day or two before Rainbow Dash forced herself into your lab.
  2561. >You were messing with some halogen light bulbs, trying to see what made them tick.
  2562. >”Alright, this is crazy.”
  2563. “This is science.”
  2564. >”You need to eat something.”
  2565. “I will in a minute.”
  2566. >”You said that yesterday.”
  2567. “And I’ll say it tomorrow too. I’m on the verge of something great here, Rainbow Dash. My work could change the course of history. I can’t be distracted right now.”
  2568. >”Do you have any idea how bad you smell?”
  2569. “Rude.”
  2570. >”She grabbed you by the arms and dragged you away from your setup.
  2571. “No! Five more minutes! I’ll eat, I swear!”
  2572. >”No go, Twi. You need to perform some maintenance.”
  2573. “At least let me record the results!”
  2574. >Ah, good ole’ Rainbow Dash.
  2575. >She always knew just when to ignore you.
  2576. >You were forced to take a shower.
  2577. >You did. For about a minute.
  2578. >Then you hopped right back out.
  2579. >”Uh uh. I don’t smell soap.”
  2580. “Oh come on.”
  2581. >”Get your purple ass back in there.”
  2582. >You grumbled and obeyed.
  2583. >When you got out a few minutes later, all soaped up and hair rinsed, there was a clean set of clothes and a sandwich waiting for you.
  2584. >How sweet.
  2585. >The sandwich went down much faster than you thought it would.
  2586. >It also seemed to open a floodgate.
  2587. >Now that it knew food was available, your body craved it.
  2588. >It refused to do anything until you go some more.
  2589. >A little annoyed, you got dressed and went to the kitchen for a snack.
  2590. >What ended up happening was you taking a large grocery bag, filling it with less than healthy food items, and retreating back to your lab.
  2591. >The best of both worlds.
  2592.  
  2593. >Two years passed.
  2594. >You’d made such progress in that time.
  2595. >Well, not on your machine.
  2596. >You had made absolutely no progress on your machine in that time.
  2597. >In fact, there was still nothing to it but the idea.
  2598. >No, what you did accomplish was make yourself an expert on theoretical and quantum physics.
  2599. >You could teach a college course on the stuff by now.
  2600. >Not that you’d ever get within a mile of a university, but that’s not the point of the story right now.
  2601. >Anyway with all your acquired knowledge, you had some new ideas, and you resolved to work on them after you got some feedback from your friends.
  2602. >They knew nothing about science, which is why they were the perfect people to ask.
  2603. >They were your window into the common man’s mind.
  2604. >Science is important, but it won’t happen if you can’t get the support of the common man behind you.
  2605. >Just look at all the roadblocks it had because society wasn’t ready for what great minds had to offer at the time.
  2606. >You arranged for dinner. It was spring time. April, to be specific. You know what they say about April showers.
  2607. >Everybody was to come to your mansion Friday night.
  2608. >To prep for it, you hired the best chef in Canterlot.
  2609. >So Friday night came and your friends filed in.
  2610. >First to show up was Sunset Shimmer, who made a habit of arriving at the precise second you ordered.
  2611. >After that was Anonymous and Innominate, followed by Discord.
  2612. “Welcome, everybody.”
  2613. >”Thank you for inviting us,” said Sunset as she moved to the living room.
  2614. >Oh, she had speaking privileges for the night.
  2615. >Everyone collected on the couches to chat and break bread before the meal.
  2616. >A nasty storm started to pick up outside. The sky lit up like day, and thunder cracked, alerting all cats and dogs for miles that they had to be on the lookout.
  2617.  
  2618. >”So what’s the deal, Twi? We’ve known you for years and this is the first time you’ve had us over.” said Innominate.
  2619. >”Does the reason matter? We’ve been offered free food. That’s good enough for me,” replied Discord.
  2620. “I actually wanted your opinions on something, but that can wait until dinner.”
  2621. >”Sure, sure.”
  2622. >”Anyway, Twi, how’s the sex life?”
  2623. >Your purple face turned crimson.
  2624. >”Dude, come on.”
  2625. >Your sex life.
  2626. >Wow, you hadn’t even thought about that.
  2627. “Oh, you know. I get around.”
  2628. >A bold faced lie.
  2629. >Jesus, Twilight. You’ve never even held someone’s hand before.
  2630. >”Spicy! Who’s on the menu this week?”
  2631. >”Alright,” said Anonymous as he stood up, leaving Innominate to lean on the couch alone. “I don’t need to hear about this. Twilight, where’s the bathroom?”
  2632. >You practically leapt from your seat.
  2633. “Oh, you know, it’s a big mansion. I’ll take you there myself!”
  2634. >”Aren’t you busy?”
  2635. “We have plenty of time to talk about all that. Rainbow Dash, entertain our guests.”
  2636. >”You guys want to see my halfpipe?”
  2637. >You grabbed Anonymous’ arm and led him down the hallway at a moderate pace.
  2638. >When you were far enough away from the guests, and your blush had died down, you let him go.
  2639. “Sorry about that.”
  2640. >”Don’t worry about it.”
  2641. >You looked up at him.
  2642. >He walked behind you at a slow pace, forcing you to slow down as well.
  2643. >His face was blank, as always. The only hint of expression you could see was in his dark, sunken eyes.
  2644. >How odd, you thought, that a person like him whose only emotion is calmness, could be capable of such violence like what you saw in the pits.
  2645. >”You don’t get around, do you?”
  2646. “What?”
  2647. >There was the blush again.
  2648. >”You don’t get around. You’re a virgin.”
  2649. “How could you tell?” you stuttered out.
  2650.  
  2651. >He extended his hand and rest it on your head.
  2652. >You froze.
  2653. >”It’s not the end of the world. You have nothing to prove by giving yourself away. The right person will come along some day.”
  2654. >After that, he saw a door with “Bathroom” written across it.
  2655. >What? There are a lot of doors in a mansion. Labeling them is only practical.
  2656. >”I don’t need an escort for this part. Go have fun with your friends.”
  2657. >You nodded and left.
  2658. >What more could you say to that?
  2659. >What you got back to was an empty living room.
  2660. >Apparently Rainbow Dash really did take everyone into the basement to show them all her absurd tricks and stunts.
  2661. “That woman is going to hurt herself some day.”
  2662. >You waited there until they came back about ten minutes later.
  2663. >By then, dinner had been prepared, and you all moved into the dining room.
  2664. >All but one, that is.
  2665. >Sunset Shimmer had told you she got a call from her mother, and that she needed to go right away.
  2666. >You allowed this.
  2667. >The trays were brought out as everyone sat down.
  2668. >Rain beat down on the windows, and the wind really started to pick up.
  2669. >None of that mattered though.
  2670. >Your brightly lit, temperature controlled dining room was absolutely weather proof.
  2671. >The maids came around and took the lids off the trays, revealing a feast.
  2672. >There was chicken, and turkey, and roast beef, and potatoes, and carrots, and corn, and anything and everything that someone could want to eat.
  2673. >You didn’t have a good idea of what they liked, so you told the chef to go crazy.
  2674. >A man worth his salt. If anyone wants a good chef, they should look up Steel Conviction. He’s the head at Dorsia, last time you checked.
  2675.  
  2676. >Anyway, people filled their plates up and dug in.
  2677. >You wait the respectable five minutes before bringing up why you really invited everyone here.
  2678. “So, if everyone is ready, I’d like to speak to you about my idea.”
  2679. >”Huh? Oh, yeah, go head.”
  2680. >”Shoot.”
  2681. “I’m sure you’re all aware of how expensive energy is.”
  2682. >”It’s up there.”
  2683. “It’s very up there. Imagine how hard it would be to pay for all of that when you’re an average joe. Worse still, if you’re poor.”
  2684. >”It’d be hard.”
  2685. >”Energy is expensive. We get it. What’s your point?”
  2686. “Well, I have a dream that one day people can get all the energy they need. It will be clean, self sustaining, and most of all, completely free.”
  2687. >Someone spit out their food.
  2688. >”You’re kidding, right?”
  2689. ”I plan to take solar energy to the next level. I’m going to cut out the middle man and put a sun right here in our backyard.”
  2690. >”I don’t know how I feel about that.”
  2691. >”I do. It’s absurd. Why would you want a sun on Earth? They’re, you know, hot! Really hot!”
  2692. >”I don’t know, I think it’s a wonderful idea! No more night time! Do you know what this means? I don’t have to sleep ever again!”
  2693. “That’s a good point, Innominate. Stars are very hot. In fact, they’re so hot it wouldn’t be feasible to have one anywhere near Earth, lest we risk igniting the atmosphere. That’s the next part of my idea.”
  2694. >You briefly thought about using magnets to contain the heat, but you came to the conclusion that for the amount of energy you’re looking for, the plasma ball would have to be large enough that magnets simply couldn’t contain it all.
  2695. >So, something needed to be there to sap away the heat.
  2696. “Dark energy.”
  2697. >”What?”
  2698.  
  2699. “Dark energy. It’s theoretically a nonluminous, completely undetectable particle responsible for the acceleration of expansion of the universe.”
  2700. >”Does anybody else know what she’s saying?”
  2701. >”She’ll explain it if you keep quiet.”
  2702. “Thank you Anonymous.”
  2703. >”Wait, you said theoretical.”
  2704. “Well it technically hasn’t been discovered yet.”
  2705. >”Then what’s the point of all of this?”
  2706. “Because I can discover it. I know I can. And when I do, I can create an engine that will produce it in concentrated amounts.”
  2707. >”What for?”
  2708. >You picked up your napkin and punched a hole in it.
  2709. >Holding it up over the flame, you aimed the hole so that the fire would pass through it without burning the napkin.
  2710. “I punch a hole through spacetime and create a tunnel for the heat to safely pass through, far away from Earth.”
  2711. >”That seems incredibly dangerous.”
  2712. >”Not at all!” shouted Discord.
  2713. >He got out of his seat and walked over to you.
  2714. >Grabbing your shoulders and giving them a rough shake, he proclaimed his support.
  2715. >”This is a wonderful idea! So creative! So innovative! So new! It’s thoughts like this that move society forward! Imagine if the Wright Brothers never built their airplane because closed minds feared God’s sky! I for one, welcome our new star overlords. Twilight Sparkle, if you ever need anything for this project, you can come to me.”
  2716. >That was exactly what you wanted to hear. Word for word, even.
  2717. >That kind of reassurance is what set you on the path.
  2718. >You smiled and pet his hand.
  2719. >”I don’t know. It still seems crazy,” mumbled Rainbow Dash.
  2720. >”Are you sure you can do this all safely? If you mess up, I can only imagine the destruction you’d bring.” asked Anonymous.
  2721. “Yes. I can do it.”
  2722. >”Then you have my support.”
  2723. >”If he’s with you, then so am I,” said his wife.
  2724. >”Well I’m not going to be the only one left out here. Count me in, egghead.”
  2725. >It warmed your heart to hear all that approval.
  2726. >Discord had come to save the day again.
  2727.  
  2728. >Right then, the power went out.
  2729. >How fitting, you thought.
  2730. >”The storm must have knocked down the lines.”
  2731. >Rainbow Dash stood up and walked over to the window.
  2732. >”No, I don’t see them anywhere. Something else is up.”
  2733. “Check the breakers.”
  2734. >She stayed there, gazing out at the yard.
  2735. >Lightning struck, illuminating the whole city for a split second.
  2736. >You could see her tense up in that moment.
  2737. >”You go check the breakers. I’m going up to the roof.”
  2738. >”It’s dangerous up there.”
  2739. >”Do you know who you’re talking to? I’m Danger Dash! Don’t sweat it.”
  2740. “I don’t like this idea either.”
  2741. >”Aw hell, egghead. I’ll be right back. Ok?”
  2742. >Begrudgingly, you let her go.
  2743. >She was acrobatic. She’d probably be fine.
  2744. >So, she left.
  2745. >You stayed behind, wanting to stay in case she called for help.
  2746. >At least the candles were still burning.
  2747. >Your guests began to chit chat again. Discord joined them, sitting down in Rainbow Dash’s seat.
  2748. >”So then I told him ‘I’d buy that for a dollar!’”
  2749. >Oh, the laughs you had.
  2750. >You could have laughed for an eternity if you weren’t so worried.
  2751. >Five minutes passed since she left.
  2752. >You walked over to the window.
  2753. >She saw something out there. Something that had her worried.
  2754. >But what?
  2755. >You squinted, trying to see in the darkness.
  2756. >You couldn’t make anything out except some vague shapes of trees and a table.
  2757. >And then...
  2758. >It was a blur.
  2759. >Right in front of you, like a lightning bolt itself.
  2760. >There was a thud.
  2761. “What the hell was that?”
  2762. >You leaned into the window.
  2763. >Had a branch fallen? Did Rainbow Dash fix it?
  2764. >The lightning struck.
  2765. >Canterlot was lit up once again.
  2766. >Your whole yard was bright like day time.
  2767. >On the ground, right in front of the window, was…
  2768. “Rainbow Dash!”
  2769.  
  2770. >You had rushed her to Canterlot General Hospital, the best in the whole country, the second you saw her lying there.
  2771. >It had become a habit to throw large amounts of money at the hospital so you would get the best treatment they could offer if anything ever came up.
  2772. >Well that night, it should have paid off. Instead, all you got was several hours of waiting and herds of men in white coats coming in and out with the same blank faces.
  2773. >You sat there, staring at the double doors, wondering what was going on.
  2774. >Even when the light indicating the operation was over went off, you were still left without word.
  2775. >By the time the sun started to come up, someone had finally come to talk.
  2776. >You nearly jumped out of your seat and rushed up to him, hands clutching your chest.
  2777. “How is she?”
  2778. >”I’m Dr. Thompson. Are you family?”
  2779. “I’m the closest thing she’s got. Twilight Sparkle.”
  2780. >”Well,” he started, “She’s stable.”
  2781. >Lord above.
  2782. >The weight that was lifted off your shoulders that moment would have crushed Atlas.
  2783. >”She’s lucky to be alive. I don’t know how she survived a fall as long as you described.”
  2784. “She’s extraordinary.”
  2785. >”I’ll say. Why, I haven’t ever seen a heart like that outside of a racehorse.”
  2786. “But, doctor, tell me. How is she? She’s alive, but how is she? Can I go see her?”
  2787. >”Why don’t we discuss this in my office? You’ve been waiting here long, haven’t you? Get some coffee.”
  2788. “What’s wrong? Tell me what’s wrong.”
  2789. >”Maybe you should sit down for this.”
  2790. >You grabbed his hand and pulled him along, throwing him into the stiff, blue foam seat next to yours.
  2791. >Leaning on the arm of the chair, you got as close to him as you could without invading the bubble of personal space.
  2792. >”Like I said, she’s lucky to be alive after a fall like that. By all accounts, she should be dead. Quite frankly, it’s a miracle”
  2793. “Get on with it.”
  2794. >”Even if it’s a miracle, we’re not gods. We did the best we could in there, but there was irreparable damage done to her spine.”
  2795.  
  2796. >Your grip tightened on the plastic arm of the chair.
  2797. >”There are many things still up in the air, but we can be sure that she’ll never walk again.”
  2798. “No,” you muttered. “No, that can’t be.”
  2799. >”I’m sorry, Ms. Sparkle.”
  2800. “When will she be up?” you asked quietly. “When can I go see her?”
  2801. >”Well, that’s the thing. She won’t be waking up for a while.”
  2802. “What kind of drugs do you have her on?”
  2803. >”She’s in a coma.”
  2804. >Your face felt hot.
  2805. >Not like you were angry or turned on. No, this was a different kind of heat.
  2806. >It was heavy. It was sick. It spread through your cheeks and made your eyes burn until they welled up with tears.
  2807. >”I understand if you need a minute. She’ll be moved to another room shortly. You can visit her there when you’re ready.”
  2808. >He stood up and put a firm hand on your shoulder.
  2809. >”You did a good thing bringing her in when you did. Any longer and not even a miracle could have helped.”
  2810. >His hand disappeared, and with it, so did the whole world.
  2811. >You couldn’t see anything, for the tears in your eyes had blinded you.
  2812. >You couldn’t feel anything, for the heat coursing through your veins had fried your nerves.
  2813. >You couldn’t hear anything except for all the voices in your head telling you over and over and over again how you failed.
  2814. >You shouldn’t have let her go.
  2815. >You should have been there with her.
  2816. >You should have gotten here sooner.
  2817. >You should have done something more.
  2818. >Something, anything.
  2819. >You made a mistake. No, a bunch of mistakes. A great deal of them.
  2820. >So many terrible mistakes, and they practically cost Rainbow Dash her life.
  2821. >It’s your fault. It’s all your fault.
  2822. >You did it, Twilight Sparkle.
  2823. >You killed Rainbow Dash.
  2824.  
  2825. >By lunch that day, she had been moved to another room and situated so that visitors could come in.
  2826. >You mostly floated through the brightly lit white tiled hallway, brushing past all the people bustling by.
  2827. >Her door was huge and made of wood, though it may as well have been lead for how heavy it felt as you struggled to push it open.
  2828. >When it moved and opened up her room, you were shocked to find out your heart could sink any lower into your chest.
  2829. >She was dressed up in a pale blue gown that almost matched her skin if it weren’t for the little flowers dotted all over it.
  2830. >She was covered in wires and tubes all linking her to an array of electronics and IV drips.
  2831. >You would have known what they all were, but for that time, all your knowledge had left you.
  2832. >Everything you ever learned, ever studied, ever absorbed, was all gone.
  2833. >All that was there in your giant mind was guilt and sadness.
  2834. >It clouded your thoughts like a heavy fog.
  2835. >You pulled a chair over next to her bed and sat down, taking her hand into your own.
  2836. “Hello, Rainbow Dash. It’s me, Twilight Sparkle. You know, egghead.”
  2837. >For the first time in your whole life, the words just spilled out of you without any forethought.
  2838. “I know you’re a little out of it right now. That’s ok. You’ve earned a break. I really push you, don’t I?”
  2839. >No response.
  2840. “I know I can be a real slave driver, but you still stick with me. You’re good, Rainbow Dash. I don’t know why, but you just are. You’re wonderful and kind and funny and brave and…”
  2841. >Her breathing and the beeping of the machines filled the room.
  2842. >It was so loud, like a thunderstorm, and yet it was also the quietest room you had ever been in.
  2843. “And I want you to come back. Please, Rainbow Dash. Wake up.”
  2844. >You lowered your head to her hand.
  2845. >Her skin was warm just like always.
  2846. “Please.”
  2847.  
  2848. >You sat in that chair for the next two days, just staring at her, or talking to her.
  2849. >At some points you shook her quite violently in a vain attempt to wake her up.
  2850. >It didn’t work. Of course it didn’t. You knew it wouldn’t.
  2851. >But you had to do something--something besides sitting there, being useless just like you were when she needed you most.
  2852. >It must have been, oh, four o’clock on Tuesday, your third or fourth consecutive day in the hospital depending on how you time it, when someone else showed up.
  2853. >You didn’t hear the door open because you were lost in your own thought.
  2854. >What jostled you out of it was someone shaking your shoulder.
  2855. >Instantly alert, you spun around and latched onto the coat of the visitor.
  2856. “Doctor, do you have any ne--”
  2857. >Who stood there was no doctor.
  2858. >Who lowered themselves to their knees was no doctor.
  2859. >Who wrapped you in their arms and held you against their chest was no doctor.
  2860. “Discord, what are you doing here?”
  2861. >”Oh, Twilight, I’m so sorry for what’s happened. You must be feeling terrible.”
  2862. “Me? I’m not the one who…”
  2863. >You couldn’t finish the sentence.
  2864. >He waited for you. For probably the first time since you met him seven years prior, he waited for you to finish a sentence.
  2865. “What are you doing here?”
  2866. >He let you go.
  2867. >Standing up, he opened his patchwork jacket and pulled a bouquet of flowers out of it.
  2868. >”I brought these for her. She likes lilacs, right?”
  2869. “Lilies.”
  2870. >”What’s the difference?”
  2871. “Nothing. Thank you for the thought.”
  2872. >You took the flowers from him and set them in a vase on her table, replacing the withering roses that had been sitting there since before you arrived.
  2873. >While you did that, he pulled over a chair from the other end of the room and sat himself down in it.
  2874. >”You look like a mess.”
  2875. “I don’t care.”
  2876. >He nodded.
  2877. >”I can respect a little disorder.”
  2878.  
  2879. >Five o’clock rolled around.
  2880. >He was quiet that whole time, letting you stew in your own misery just like you wanted.
  2881. >When he finally spoke again, it was in a low, serious tone.
  2882. >”I promise, Twilight, I’m going to find who did this. I’m going to make them pay for it.”
  2883. “What are you talking about? She fell. Nobody did that. If you want to punish someone, punish the one who let her go up there.”
  2884. >”Twilight, I’ve been on your roof before. I’ve snuck into your house through it many times.”
  2885. “You what?”
  2886. >”You might not realize this, but it’s very sturdy. There are many footholds on it, and many things to grab on to. A girl like Rainbow Dash, as athletic as she is, she wouldn’t have been knocked down by some gust of wind.”
  2887. “What are you saying?”
  2888. >”You know exactly what I’m saying. Someone pushed her.”
  2889. “Who? Who would do something like that? Who would want to hurt Rainbow Dash? She’s never done anything wrong!”
  2890. >”I don’t know. I don’t know yet. I think it’d be wise to start in the drug ring, considering what happened all those years ago. I’m going to strip them down to the bones until I find out who did this.”
  2891. >Someone pushed Rainbow Dash off the roof of your mansion.
  2892. >Someone would have had to have planned that. It wasn’t sheer luck the two of them were on the roof at the same time.
  2893. >Discord put his hand on your leg and gave it a squeeze.
  2894. >You could feel yourself getting hot again, but not out of sadness.
  2895. >Someone hurt Rainbow Dash.
  2896. >Someone hurt your Rainbow Dash.
  2897. >They came onto your property, they messed with your house, they pushed your friend off the roof, and they snuck off into the night like a coward.
  2898. >The thought burned your heart.
  2899. >You ground your teeth and balled your fists up until your knuckles turned white.
  2900. >Right then, you made up your mind.
  2901. >Heaven and Hell could conspire against you, but you would find whoever did this, and you make them long for a fate as kind as Rainbow Dash’s.
  2902. >You got up out of your chair and looked down at the comatose woman.
  2903. “I’ll get them,” you said to yourself.
  2904. >With that, you turned to walk out.
  2905. >”Twilight,” Discord called.
  2906. “What?”
  2907. >”Do you believe in multiverse theory?”
  2908. “What are you talking about?”
  2909. >”I think we could at least take solace in the idea that somewhere out there, our Rainbow Dash is awake and happy. Hell, maybe she’s even a princess.”
  2910. >You scoffed.
  2911. “She would hate that.”
  2912.  
  2913. >You arrived home not much later.
  2914. >Everything was the same. Nothing had been moved.
  2915. >All the lights were on. At some point, the power must have come on, and all the appliances that were running before the shutdown came to life.
  2916. >None of that mattered though.
  2917. >The basement was your destination.
  2918. >More specifically, the security room.
  2919. >In it was a wall of computer screens all hooked up to cameras surrounding your mansion.
  2920. >The computers would have been shut down during the power outage, but the cameras functioned on a separate energy source from your mansion.
  2921. >With luck, the computers would have stored the footage from that night when they came back online.
  2922. >The cameras could only hold so many hours of footage before it was erased, so with fingers crossed, you began to search through the files.
  2923. >After finding the right day, you opened all the files from the three previous days as well, just in case it was a long con sort of thing.
  2924. >What? You were paranoid.
  2925. >You sat there and watched ninety six hours of footage from six different sections of the mansion. Sped up, of course.
  2926. >In total, it took you about ten hours.
  2927. >Nothing interesting happened at any point until the party.
  2928. >Everyone showed up, just as they were supposed to.
  2929. >The doors were closed for a while as your guests mixed and mingled.
  2930. >Sunset left to go visit her mother.
  2931. >She hopped in her buick and left into the storm.
  2932. >Ten minutes later, something odd happened.
  2933. >She showed up back in your yard.
  2934. >Funny, you thought, considering how she didn’t go back to the party.
  2935. >Perhaps she forgot something and came back to get it, only to decide it wasn’t important enough and left again.
  2936. >Or perhaps she decided to crawl up the side of your mansion using the ivy and disappear onto the roof.
  2937. >Your eyes widened.
  2938. >You replayed that scene.
  2939. >You replayed it again.
  2940. >And again.
  2941. >And again.
  2942. >And again.
  2943. >And again.
  2944. >And again.
  2945. >Every time was just as unbelievable as the last.
  2946.  
  2947. >You scoured the computer for footage of the roof, but alas, your cameras didn’t reach that far up.
  2948. >Rainbow Dash fell. You ran out. Everyone helped you get her to the car and you sped off.
  2949. >Your guests filed out slowly.
  2950. >One hour later, the lights turn on, and Sunset climbs down the walls, sneaking away without a trace.
  2951. >You were forced to come to the conclusion that she had done it.
  2952. >That bitch.
  2953. >That stupid, ungrateful, conniving, vengeful, vile, slimy, vapid, whore.
  2954. >That human filth.
  2955. >That excuse of an organism.
  2956. >That...that…
  2957. >You may have not liked her that much, but she and Rainbow Dash were friends.
  2958. >How could she do that?
  2959. >It eluded you, but made you angrier all the more.
  2960. >You shut off the computers and walked upstairs to the large, empty kitchen.
  2961. >The phone was there, sitting on the blinking receiver.
  2962. >Upon picking it up, it told you you had six new messages.
  2963. >All of which you ignored.
  2964. >After dialing the number, you waited for Innominate to pick up.
  2965. >”Twilight? Is that you?”
  2966. “I need some power juice.”
  2967.  
  2968. >You went by Innominate’s place--a small house, almost a cabin, on the far end of town nestled in about three acres of field and forest.
  2969. >Anonymous was out at the grocery store, so it was just you and her. Better for the occasion, she told you.
  2970. >She had a personal store of the stuff ready at all times on the off chance she needed any for personal defense.
  2971. >It was kept in a small silver box, which had a large padlock on it, and was hidden under the floorboards.
  2972. >You thought that was a terrible place to put it. After all, why keep something for defense if you had to go through all the trouble of unlocking it and getting it ready? It would be much easier to just have it on hand.
  2973. >For someone to wait that long in a home invasion, they’d either have to be terrible crooks or the most merciful men alive.
  2974. >When you questioned her about all the security, she told you that it was to be an absolute last resort. It had to be so difficult to reach that she would have to be 100% sure it was the only option before she went for it.
  2975. “You’re treating this like a schedule one.”
  2976. >”Oh no, nothing like that. I designed this with a clean come down. There are no lasting side effects. Although, there are a few worries I want to inform you about before you walk off with this.”
  2977. >She closed the hole in the floor with the false boards and laid a carpet over it, making the center of her living room seem normal again.
  2978. >Then, she pulled over a rather comfy looking pink chair from the corner of the room and offered it to you.
  2979. “Thank you.”
  2980. >She sat herself down across from you, with her back to the window and a cold fireplace to the left.
  2981. >”Well, I should start by saying I didn’t really ‘design’ power juice in the traditional sense. The foundation was already built for me.”
  2982. “What do you mean? Who made it?”
  2983. >”Anonymous did, in a sense.”
  2984. >You raised an eyebrow.
  2985.  
  2986. >Her statement seemed absurd.
  2987. >You didn’t want to call him stupid, but to be honest, he always seemed like there wasn’t much going on up there.
  2988. >”Crazy, right? Well, it goes back a while.”
  2989. >She unlocked the silver box in her lap and opened it up, revealing a row of five crimson syringes stuffed in smooth black padding.
  2990. >”Let’s see. Oh, it was about fifteen years ago, a few months after the war ended. I was working as a nurse out of my house.”
  2991. “I thought you were poor growing up.”
  2992. >”I didn’t say it was a nice house. Shut up, yeah? I’m trying to explain.”
  2993. >She began to go into detail about how she and he had met.
  2994. >He went to her seeking help. For what, he wouldn’t explain.
  2995. >He was very agitated all the time. One slip of the tongue on her end would send him into a rage.
  2996. >She shoo’d him away several times, but he always came back, demanding to see her.
  2997. >”’I can’t talk to anyone else about this. Please,’ he’d tell me.”
  2998. >And when he didn’t get his way…
  2999. >”OPEN THIS FUCKING DOOR BEFORE I BREAK IT DOWN MYSELF!”
  3000. >Oh, lovely. The start of a beautiful abusive relationship.
  3001. >To be honest, you didn’t believe a word she said for the following few minutes.
  3002. >She said that she had done some tests on him, and that there was a chemical cocktail in his veins the likes of which she had never seen. She took samples, and tried to concentrate them.
  3003. “Why did he have all that in his system, again?”
  3004. >She sighed.
  3005. >”I don’t know. He never told me. I asked him a few times, and, well, let’s say it was a mistake to press the issue.”
  3006. “Why?”
  3007. >”He got so angry with me that day. He destroyed everything. I honestly didn’t think I was going to make it out of there alive.”
  3008. “What happened?”
  3009. >”Well, I guess he just got so angry, it fried him. All that rage just drained away, and he’s been like this ever since.”
  3010. >Well, the story was nice and all, but what you really wanted was that power juice.
  3011. >She must have known you were getting antsy, because she changed gears quickly afterwards.
  3012.  
  3013. >”Anyway, the reason I told you all that is because what’s in these syringes is essentially a watered down version of what’s in his blood. Along with the obvious strength boost, it comes with a powerful rage. Most of the fighters that inject say they can’t even remember their fights--only the anger.”
  3014. >She held a single syringe out to you.
  3015. >Light from the window shined through it, making it glow like some kind of holy relic.
  3016. >”I don’t know why you want this. I trust that it’s for a good reason. Just be careful, Twilight. I know you’re a smart girl, but I’ve seen what this stuff can do. I’ve FELT what it can do. It doesn’t matter how reasonable you are. Once you inject this into yourself, you won’t be able to control yourself until it wears off.”
  3017. >You snatched the syringe from her and tucked it into your pocket.
  3018. >Of course you knew what you were doing.
  3019. >Besides, it’s not like you could be any more mad at Sunset.
  3020. >Innominate’s little fairy tale wouldn’t dissuade you.
  3021. “Thank you for your cooperation.”
  3022. >You got up to leave, but she grabbed your hand before you made it too far.
  3023. >”Just be careful, ok?”
  3024. >Jerking back from her, you scoffed.
  3025. “I’m not the one you should be worrying for.”
  3026. >No, not you.
  3027. >By tonight, Sunset Shimmer would need all the prayers in the world and the power of God himself to save herself from you.
  3028. >You retreated to your car and called the woman in question up.
  3029. >”Hello. Mayor Shimmer speaking.”
  3030. “Sunset.”
  3031. >”O-oh, hello, Ms. Twilight,” she sputtered out.
  3032. >You could feel your face getting hot.
  3033. >How dare she try to act like everything was normal.
  3034. “I want to see you. Be at my house by seven o’clock tonight.”
  3035. >”Yes ma’am. Can I ask why?”
  3036. “We’re going to get physical.”
  3037.  
  3038. >You got back to your mansion and sat down in your study.
  3039. >The syringe was tucked safely away in your pocket.
  3040. >The tight pants you had on pressed it into your leg, reminding you every second that it was there, but more so, what you were going to do.
  3041. >Time ticked on, and the sun began to set, shrouding your bookshelves in a mix of darkness and fiery red light depending on which end of the room they were on.
  3042. >A creak sounded throughout your mansion at precisely seven, signaling that she had just entered through the front door that you always say you’ll oil but the never do.
  3043. >She had been trained to arrive not one second earlier or later than when you requested.
  3044. >Failure to arrive at your appointed times was punishable.
  3045. >You were always so strict with her.
  3046. >You were sure you had drained all the rebellion from her years ago.
  3047. >She stepped into your study and squinted, waiting for her eyes to adjust to the light.
  3048. “Hello, Sunset.”
  3049. >”Hello, Ms. Twilight.”
  3050. “Sit down.”
  3051. >”Thank you, Ms. Twilight.”
  3052. >Sunset took her seat in front of your desk.
  3053. >You studied her, looking for any signs of nervousness.
  3054. >She looked the same as ever to you.
  3055. >No, she either had no idea that you were onto her, or she saw nothing wrong with it.
  3056. “How is your mother?”
  3057. >”My mother?”
  3058. “You said she was sick.”
  3059. >”Oh, yes. She’s better now. Thank you for allowing me to leave early the other night, Ms. Twilight.”
  3060. “I know she’s not really your mother, but even so, people sure can feel like family, can’t they?”
  3061. >”Yes.”
  3062. “And I hate to see my family suffer.”
  3063. >”So do I, Ms. Twilight.”
  3064. “You see, I know you’re saying that, but I don’t entirely believe you.”
  3065. >”What do you mean?”
  3066. “I mean I think you’re a liar. I think you’re the biggest liar I’ve ever had the displeasure of meeting.”
  3067. >She sighed and relaxed in her chair, resting her head on the side of it.
  3068. >”So, I guess you found out. It was the cameras, wasn’t it?”
  3069. >You nodded.
  3070.  
  3071. >”Damn. I was hoping they’d shut off too but I wasn’t entirely sure.”
  3072. “You seem rather calm.”
  3073. >”Do I?”
  3074. “Sunset, you know what I did to you for speaking out of turn. What do you think I’ll do for pushing my best friend off a roof?”
  3075. >She adjusted herself and pulled her shirt up to her neck, revealing her perky orange breasts.
  3076. >Branded into one of them was your star insignia.
  3077. >”Gee, Twilight. I guess I don’t really know, but whatever it is, it’s not going to be worse than waking up every morning and seeing this.”
  3078. “Put your shirt down.”
  3079. >”Is that an order?”
  3080. “I’m done giving you orders.”
  3081. >”Then how about I remind you of these?”
  3082. >She stood up out of her seat and turned around, revealing the small of her back, which was covered in small scars from various punishments you’d given her.
  3083. >”Yeah? You like these? This one right here still stings. What was that for again? I lost track.”
  3084. “You shouldn’t have been so disobedient.”
  3085. >”Maybe you should have been more human!”
  3086. >She whipped around and slammed her hands down on the desk.
  3087. >Sunset got close, almost touching your nose, and screamed into your face.
  3088. >”You treated me like an animal for seven years! Seven fucking years! I’ve seen dogs get more respect than what you showed me! I was your friend, Twilight! Your friend!”
  3089. “You deserted me!”
  3090. >”And slavery is your idea of revenge?!”
  3091. “I needed you, and you deserted me! Everyone deserted me! You, Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie, Rarity, Applejack, even my own fucking brother! You all left me behind!”
  3092. >”Maybe because you’re fucking crazy!”
  3093. “Rome wasn’t built in a day!”
  3094. >”Is this Rome? Is this what the glorious empire has become? Some lonely purple freak sitting in her big empty mansion? No wonder it fell!”
  3095. “It wasn’t empty until you took her from me!”
  3096. >”I did Dashie a favor! Everyone around you suffers! You’re alone for a reason, Twilight, and it’s not because you’re too fucking autistic to go get a boyfriend!”
  3097.  
  3098. >You jumped out of your seat and slapped her hard across the face, sending her flying.
  3099. >”You royal bitch!”
  3100. >Sunset recovered quickly and climbed over the desk, grabbing onto your hair and pulling at it with all her might.
  3101. >You latched onto her jacket and stepped aside, dragging her across the desk top and onto the floor.
  3102. >”I should have done this years ago! I never should have let you rule my life!”
  3103. “It took you seven years to decide to rebel! You’re no good at decisions, Sunset! You’re better suited at being my dog!”
  3104. >”Better late than never!”
  3105. >She kicked you in the gut.
  3106. >You let go of her jacket and reeled back in pain.
  3107. >Those heels sure pack a punch.
  3108. >Before you knew what was happening, she was off the floor and on her feet, and had a firm grip on your shirt collar.
  3109. >”Look at you. One kick and you’re like a wounded rabbit trying to escape a fox. I can’t believe I ever feared you.”
  3110. “Rabbits bite, bitch.”
  3111. >Grabbing her wrist, you pulled her hand up to your mouth and sunk your teeth into it.
  3112. >”Ow! Let go, you crazy purple cunt!”
  3113. >She started smacking your head, trying to get you off, but you wouldn’t go.
  3114. >She had to grab your ear and pull you away before you let up on her hand.
  3115. >”What the fuck is wrong with you?”
  3116. “You’re going to ask me that? Really? After what you’ve done to your own friends?”
  3117. >”And I’d do it all again too!”
  3118. >You placed your hands on her breasts and pushed with all your might.
  3119. >She flew back and landed in a chair.
  3120. >Before she could get up, you had taken the syringe out of your pocket and shoved the needle into your shoulder.
  3121. “I’m going to kill you, and then I’m going to kill your family. You won’t see it, so just have faith.”
  3122. >And down it went.
  3123. >You pressed your thumb down, forcing the sanguine fluid into your body.
  3124. >”You’re not doing shit, Twilight. Your time is up. It’s been up for seven years.”
  3125. >Now, Innominate said that stuff was fast acting.
  3126. >You didn’t know it was instant acting.
  3127. >That very second, your entire worldview shifted.
  3128.  
  3129. >You could suddenly feel everything.
  3130. >Every gentle breeze, every particle of dust that landed on your skin, every individual beam of light that lit your flesh, was suddenly a part of you.
  3131. >You could smell everything, hear everything, see everything.
  3132. >And then…
  3133. >She lunged and through a punch for your nose.
  3134. >In a split instant, you grabbed her wrist and pulled her off her feet.
  3135. >You threw her like a ragdoll clear across the room, smashing her against the bookcase.
  3136. >She fell and hit the floor with a thud.
  3137. >Everything was numb.
  3138. >No, it was hot.
  3139. >The heat made you feel numb.
  3140. >The heat was all you could comprehend.
  3141. >It built up inside of you.
  3142. >It was anger, but...not. This was another level.
  3143. >It’s like the difference between happiness and ecstasy, only in this case, absolute rage would be the lower end of the spectrum.
  3144. >Your vision was black. The only thing that existed in your world was Sunset Shimmer, and the only thing that you could vaguely understand was the intense desire to kill her.
  3145. >Not just kill her, but to maim her. To dismember her. To rip her apart limb by limb with your own two hands.
  3146. >You can only remember bits and pieces of what happened next.
  3147. >Trying to think back on the event is difficult. It’s like someone poured a bucket of lava into your veins, and the fire that coursed through them totally fried your memory.
  3148. >You know that you marched across the room, throwing furniture out of the way.
  3149. >She had her hands up to stop you, but that didn’t work.
  3150. >You picked her up and did something.
  3151. >It must have hurt from how she screamed. You can still remember her screaming.
  3152. >She tried to fight back.
  3153. >It was a valiant effort, you’ll admit.
  3154. >When you came down from the juice, you had scratches and bruises all over you.
  3155. >There was also a knife shoved into your leg.
  3156. >You definitely didn’t have knives hidden in your study, so the fight must have made it out to the kitchen.
  3157. >You can only imagine that she had slipped out of her jacket and ran off, and you chased her.
  3158.  
  3159. >The granite countertop was completely shattered.
  3160. >You punched through it. You’re sure of that much, given how much your hand hurt.
  3161. >There was something else. You think the fight had gotten outside at some point.
  3162. >Perhaps after you punched through the countertop, she took the opportunity to run.
  3163. >You brought her back inside though.
  3164. >No, you through here. That’s it.
  3165. >Yes, she ran out the door and made it halfway down the front steps before you grabbed her and tossed her back inside.
  3166. >And then, well, it’s just blank to you.
  3167. >When you eventually came to, you realized that you weren’t angry anymore. Not just not AS angry, but not at all.
  3168. >It was a total calmness that you hadn’t ever really felt before.
  3169. >Suddenly, Innominate’s story seemed a little more real.
  3170. >You shuddered at the thought before the pain all over your body brought you to reality.
  3171. >Your hand was on fire.
  3172. >Your head throbbed.
  3173. >There was a fucking knife sticking out of your leg.
  3174. >You looked around.
  3175. >It was night time now, and you were in your study, leaning against a bookshelf.
  3176. >To your right was Sunset Shimmer’s mangled form.
  3177. >She was more purple than orange, and more red than that.
  3178. >Her face had inflated to twice its normal size, squeezing her shiny eyes shut.
  3179. >Her mouth, which was open and taking in very faint breaths of air, was bloody and missing several teeth.
  3180. >She had a piece of wood, about two feet long, sticking out of her gut. It wasn’t any sharp piece either, so for it to have gone through her, you imagine it must have taken quite a bit of force.
  3181. “What the hell happened?”
  3182. >You tried to stand, but the pain all over your body prevented you from following through.
  3183. >Sunset laughed. It was weak, but it was a laugh.
  3184. >”Back to your old self, huh?” she whispered, barely loud enough for you to hear.
  3185. “Won’t you just die already?”
  3186. >”Not before,” she paused to wheeze and cough up a generous amount of blood. “Not before you know.”
  3187. “Know what?”
  3188. >”I had help.”
  3189. >You tensed up.
  3190. >”Your friend...he helped me…”
  3191. “My friend?”
  3192. >”Watch your back, Twilight. There’s another me around every corner.”
  3193. >She began to laugh again.
  3194. >”I guess I win after all.”
  3195. >She took one more breath, and that was the end of Sunset Shimmer.
  3196.  
  3197. >Boy, it was a long day.
  3198. >You killed a person.
  3199. >You stabbed them in the chest with a piece of wood.
  3200. >Sunset Shimmer’s cooling body laid next to you in a heap.
  3201. >You might have settled in for a nap yourself if you didn’t have your own wounds to tend to.
  3202. >The hospital would be nice, but they’d probably ask you a few things about the shape your body is in, let alone why you had a knife in your thigh.
  3203. >Also it really hurt and you didn’t want to wait for an ambulance to show up, because Lord knows you weren’t in any shape to drive yourself there.
  3204. >Now, at first glance, the wound looked pretty deep.
  3205. >You removed your jacket and the piece of wood from Sunset’s abdomen.
  3206. >After looping the jacket around your leg, you tied the sleeves to the ends of the plank and began to twist it.
  3207. >The jacket tightened up, cutting off circulation to your leg.
  3208. >Next step was making your way to the bathroom.
  3209. >Lucky for you, there was one in your study.
  3210. >You dragged yourself over to it, careful not to disturb the knife or the bootleg tourniquet.
  3211. >The pain in your body raised a sense of anger and disappointment that some of the lingering effects of power juice did not include numbness.
  3212. >Those emotions alerted you to the fact that Innominate’s previously mentioned “clean come down” was almost complete. In a short while, the blissful calmness you were feeling would be gone, and the gravity of the situation would set in.
  3213. >You really wanted to get your leg patched up before you became a trembling mess, so you put the pedal to the metal and hauled your ass in there.
  3214.  
  3215. >On top of the sink was the medicine cabinet.
  3216. >The cabinet that was all the way up there, several feet away from you.
  3217. >Could you get up?
  3218. >You looked down at your purple and red leg and came to the conclusion that no, you could not get up.
  3219. >Instead, you grabbed the toilet sponge and pulled it over.
  3220. >The stick sat in a nice porcelain container.
  3221. >You took the stick out and laid it neatly on the toilet so as not to dirty the floor.
  3222. >Then you threw the porcelain container up at the medicine cabinet, shattering the mirror and sending glass flying everywhere.
  3223. >Fuck.
  3224. >You did knock a few things off the shelf though.
  3225. >They fell into the sink, which you could reach from the floor.
  3226. >All such items were the ones you needed to take care of yourself.
  3227. >It never hurts to be prepared, you know.
  3228. >So you patched up your leg as best you could and slowly removed the tourniquet.
  3229. >By the time you were done with that, the power juice had fully worn off.
  3230. >You could feel a full range of emotions, yet you weren’t feeling what you thought you would.
  3231. >There was no guilt over what you had done.
  3232. >No nagging feeling in your mind about how you had just killed someone.
  3233. >Whenever you had Rainbow Dash tie up loose ends, you always felt at least a little bad about it.
  3234. >Maybe their family got a fruit basket, or maybe you funded the funeral.
  3235. >At least you had the decency to mourn.
  3236. >At that moment though, you only felt disgust for the woman and pride in your act.
  3237. >Maybe all the years you’ve spent in the business were finally taking their toll on your psyche.
  3238. >Whatever it was, it wasn’t worth losing sleep over.
  3239. >You crawled over to Sunset and laid your head across her, using her body as a pillow.
  3240. >What? The bed was all the way upstairs.
  3241.  
  3242. >When you awoke, the sun was bright and the birds were chirping.
  3243. >There was a knocking at your door, which is likely what had woken you up.
  3244. “Oh fuck,” you whispered and examined the stiff corpse beside you. “If someone comes in and sees this, I’m done for.”
  3245. >”Twilight!” a manly voice shouted. “Oh Twilight! I have a present for you!”
  3246. >Oh, it was Discord.
  3247. >You almost told him to come in, but you stopped yourself.
  3248. >Sunset’s final words about your friend helping her stuck with you.
  3249. >Specifically, she had said “he”.
  3250. >You had only three significant male friends at the time, and Discord was one of them.
  3251. >Could he be the traitor?
  3252. >No, it couldn’t be.
  3253. >He was insane, but he was kind.
  3254. >He was always there for you, through thick and thin.
  3255. >Hell, half of your inventions were inspired by him, including your current dedication.
  3256. >Still though, if the chance was there, you wanted to keep your distance from him.
  3257. >You opted to stay quiet, hoping he would think you weren’t home and just walk away.
  3258. >”Alright, I’ll just come in! Now where is that spare house key? Jerry, look for a rock.”
  3259. “No, I’m not dressed!”
  3260. >”I found a rock! No key though…”
  3261. “I’m busy! Stay out!”
  3262. >You heard shattering glass from your from door.
  3263. >”It’s ok, I made a key! Come on, Jerry. Put your back into it.”
  3264. “Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck!”
  3265. >Jerry? Who was that?
  3266. >Some hired muscle to pound your brains in?
  3267. >You needed something.
  3268. >A weapon.
  3269. >Oh hey, you know where there was a nice knife lying around.
  3270. >You scrambled to get up, but a sharp stabbing pain in your thigh sent you right back for the ground.
  3271. “Sunset, you whore,” you cursed while pulling yourself along to the floor to the bathroom.
  3272. >”Twilight! Look what I have!”
  3273. >You turned around to see three men in the door to your study.
  3274.  
  3275. >Discord stood there in his typical patchwork suit and cane, only his hair looked messier than usual.
  3276. >Beside him was a short man with a pot belly. He seemed quite nervous and was sweating profusely, evidenced by the wet spots on his shirt.
  3277. >In his hand was another man, tied up in a ball and blindfolded.
  3278. >This one was screaming, though his cries were muffled by a sock and some duct tape.
  3279. >The smile of your supposed friend waned as he looked around your room and finally at Sunset.
  3280. >”Oh. It seems you’ve murdered someone. Is this a bad time? Jerry, let’s go. We’ll come back later.”
  3281. “What do you want, Discord?” you asked without thinking.
  3282. >”Hm? Yes, well Jerry here had some important information to share with me. I thought it was very nice information, so I told him to swing by and we’d share it with you too. Go on, Jerry. Tell her what you told me.”
  3283. >”Come on, Discord. Can’t we just give him up and move on?”
  3284. >”No we can’t just give him up and move on. Now tell the nice woman what you told me or you’re not getting any money.”
  3285. >The man, Jerry, sighed and began to retell the tale of how he was walking by your mansion the night of the incident and saw the bound person running away. He didn’t put two and two together until he saw Discord’s bounty and realized that the person had done something horrible.
  3286. “What are you trying to tell me?”
  3287. >”We got him! We got the guy that pushed Rainbow Dash!”
  3288. “No you didn’t.”
  3289. >”Bullshit we didn’t. I spent a lot of money getting this information. Tell her how much I’m paying you, Jerry.”
  3290. >”Discord, please…”
  3291. >”It’s a disgusting amount. What do you buy with all that? Food?”
  3292. >He slapped Jerry’s fat belly and began laughing.
  3293. >”Get a load of this guy. What a card. I love you, Jerry. Seriously though, you need to lay off the fries. This is a big health risk for a man your age.”
  3294. >”It’s a thyroid problem.”
  3295. >”Sure it is. Anyway, this is the guy.”
  3296. “No it isn’t.”
  3297. >”Twilight, come on.”
  3298.  
  3299. “I know it isn’t the guy, because I have video footage and a confession telling em Sunset is the pusher.”
  3300. >”No shit. Really?”
  3301. >You nodded.
  3302. >Discord raised an eyebrow and looked back down at Sunset.
  3303. >”This Sunset? Sunset Shimmer? My chess buddy?”
  3304. >You nodded again.
  3305. >”Wow. I guess you never really know a guy,” his voice trailed off.
  3306. >You glared at him.
  3307. >This whole thing with Jerry had to be a trick.
  3308. >He was covering for Sunset.
  3309. >Too bad for him, you already had the answer.
  3310. >”Jerry,” he said and turned back to the portly fellow. “I don’t know how to break this to you, but she’s a lot smarter than you are.”
  3311. >Jerry now looked to be a human representation of Niagara Falls with how bad he was sweating.
  3312. >”And if she says Sunset Shimmer did it, then I have cause to believe that Sunset Shimmer did it. Now, that either means that you’re just really dumb or you’re lying to me.”
  3313. >”D-discord, come on. I swear I saw the guy! She’s faking it!”
  3314. >”And now you’re insulting my friends. Jerry, baby, I had such high hopes for you.”
  3315. >Discord reached behind his back and pulled out a gun.
  3316. >”Discord, no!” Jerry screamed as his head was blown off.
  3317. >You flinched at the noise, and then promptly felt sick with yourself that it was the noise that bothered you.
  3318. >”Jesus fucking Christ, did you see the splatter on that? Wow. Maybe he really was smarter than you.”
  3319. >With only two men left in the room, you felt the odds of your survival increase significantly.
  3320. >Whatever sick joke he was playing wouldn’t work on you. You continued to sneak back to the bathroom to grab that knife.
  3321. >”Now that just leaves you. You...I don’t actually know your name. You look like a Tyler though.”
  3322. >He pointed the gun at the tied up man and without any hesitation, pulled the trigger, sending a jet of blood out of the side of his head.
  3323. >You watched in some sort of sick awe as Discord wiped the goop off his pistol and reholstered it.
  3324. >He clapped his hands together and beamed a smile at you just as large at the one he had one when he first arrived.
  3325. >”Well that’s all done. Let’s get milkshakes.”
  3326.  
  3327. “Get...milkshakes?”
  3328. >”Yes. You know, milkshakes. The cool drinkable dairy product. Is it milk? Is it ice cream? Nobody knows.”
  3329. >Your eyes darted about the bodies lying on your floor.
  3330. >Your study had become a bonafide graveyard.
  3331. >You were inches from the bathroom now.
  3332. >The knife should have been in front of the sink, about a foot from the frame.
  3333. >If he could stay put for another few seconds, you’d be golden.
  3334. >”Is that a no to the shakes?
  3335. >He sighed and took a few steps towards you, to which you replied: “Don’t you come any closer!”
  3336. >”Hm? Is something the matter?”
  3337. “Not as long as you stay over there.”
  3338. >”Is this a game? Oh, I love games.”
  3339. “Yeah, it’s twenty questions.”
  3340. >”I’m great at that one! Ask me about my taxes!”
  3341. “What?”
  3342. >”You’ll never know! At least that’s what I tell the IRS.”
  3343. >You snarled and latched onto the knife, hiding it behind the doorframe and out of his sight.
  3344. “Where were you Thursday night?”
  3345. >”At home.”
  3346. “Doing?”
  3347. >”Plotting and scheming.”
  3348. “About?”
  3349. >”What next move to make.”
  3350. ”In regards to?”
  3351. >”Our game, my dear. You know, chess.”
  3352. “Chess?”
  3353. >”I don’t know the history of chess.”
  3354. “Why would you need to?”
  3355. >”Didn’t you just ask me what chess was?”
  3356. “No. Are you crazy?”
  3357. >”Is that a question too? I’m getting confused.”
  3358. “I don’t even play chess with you.”
  3359. >”I know. I’m still waiting for you to move your piece. But once you do, oh watch you, Twilight! I’ll be ready!”
  3360. “It’s been seven years since you made that offer. Why are you holding onto it so tightly?”
  3361. >”Because I like chess. Is that a crime?”
  3362. “I’m asking the questions here.”
  3363. >”You have twelve left.”
  3364.  
  3365. “What do you want?”
  3366. >”Milkshakes, but that clearly isn’t going to happen.”
  3367. ”I mean with me. What do you want with me?”
  3368. >”Is this going where I think it is? Twilight, I’m married. I mean, I was married. I’m sure I still am in another universe, just not this one. Either way, I’m off the table. Besides, I’m like twice your age.”
  3369. “Are you serious right now?”
  3370. >”I’m pure. Jesus Christ is my nigga.”
  3371. “Are you playing with me?”
  3372. >”Does that mean it’s chess time?”
  3373. >You were getting nowhere.
  3374. >He was either toying with you, was actually innocent, or was exceptionally stupid.
  3375. >You had to trip him up somehow. Get him to go back on his story.
  3376. “What was your relationship with Sunset Shimmer?”
  3377. >”Why, she was my chess buddy. We’d play every Sunday. She was quite good actually. Damn shame she had to go and be such a bitch though.”
  3378. “Did she give you any hints that she was going to do what she did?”
  3379. >”In regards to pushing Dashie?”
  3380. “Yes.”
  3381. >”None at all.”
  3382. “Because you were giving her hints, right?”
  3383. >”Right. Wait, what?”
  3384. >Ha! Got him.
  3385. >”That was sneaky, Twilight. Very sneaky. Keep this up and your first move will be great.”
  3386. >You tightened your grip on the knife.
  3387. >He inched closer to you with his hands behind his back.
  3388. >Five steps, and you would stab him.
  3389. >Four steps. Right in the gut.
  3390. >Three steps. You could sink it in, maybe twist it a bit.
  3391. >Two steps. Pull the knife out real fast and let him exsanguinate.
  3392. >He stopped short of one foot.
  3393. >Come on, you thought. Just a little closer.
  3394. >In one fluid motion, he pulled a black and white checkered board from behind his back.
  3395. >You yanked the knife out from behind the frame and lunged for him.
  3396. >The tip pierced his vest, but you stopped the blade from going any further when you realized he wasn’t holding a gun.
  3397.  
  3398. “Is that...a chessboard?”
  3399. >”Yep.”
  3400. “You carry chess boards around with you?”
  3401. >”Rightarooni.”
  3402. “What do you expect me to do with this?”
  3403. >”Make a move, silly. Go on, try. I don’t have any pieces because there just aren’t enough pockets to fit them all, but you can point to a square and I’ll know what you mean.”
  3404. >He was insane. You were sure of it.
  3405. >Absolutely, positively, beyond the shadow of a doubt, insane.
  3406. >He was so far off the bend that there was no possible way he could have plotted against you.
  3407. >Discord was just a senile old man with an unhealthy, slightly off putting obsession with chess, looking for some fun.
  3408. >His eyes trailed down past the board and to the knife you had poking into his gut.
  3409. >”Ok I know you want to be the one asking the questions here, so I’m not going to ask anything. Just know I’m deeply concerned with your positioning of that knife.”
  3410. “Discord--”
  3411. >”I also may have just peed myself.”
  3412. >You pulled the knife away and set it down.
  3413. “Use the bathroom,” you sighed.
  3414. >He tossed the board across the room and hopped over you.
  3415. >You achingly pulled yourself out of the way of the door and let him close it shut.
  3416. >So, Discord wasn’t the culprit.
  3417. >That left two men in your life that could be suspect.
  3418. >John Smith, and Anonymous.
  3419. >”Your friend...he helped me.”
  3420. >”There’s another me around every corner.”
  3421. >”I guess I win after all.”
  3422. “It’s not over until the fat lady sings, Sunset. You haven’t won yet.”
  3423.  
  3424. >Discord comes out of your bathroom wearing a rather large frown and an equally large bulge in his pants where a wet spot lies.
  3425. >”Terribly sorry, Twilight, but I must retreat home. Apparently the one day I opt not to wear my diaper is the one day you decide to try and stab me, and I don’t really want to go get milkshakes with a big old pee stain.”
  3426. “You wear diapers?”
  3427. >”I’m seventy one. Give me a break. These pipes don’t work like they used to.”
  3428. >You nodded and scooched to the side, giving him a path out of the bathroom and out of your house.
  3429. >So what did you do for the rest of the day? It was still morning.
  3430. >Well, you thought. You thought long and hard.
  3431. >Each of your friends had helped you on numerous occasions.
  3432. >Each had saved your life at least once.
  3433. >For one of them to turn on you...it was unthinkable. Yet it happened.
  3434. >Someone helped Sunset Shimmer.
  3435. >Someone hated you enough to try and hurt you like that.
  3436. >You read about something like this in a book once.
  3437. > Crocodiles are easy. They will try to kill you and eat you. People are harder. Sometimes they pretend to be your friends first.
  3438. >Speaking of Sunset, you still had to find a way to explain that she would no longer be in a position to run Canterlot.
  3439. >It would need a new mayor, and that person would have to be someone in your pocket.
  3440. >Of course, thanks to Sunset's new information, there wasn't really anyone who fit that bill. Not that you knew of, anyway.
  3441. >If John Smith was rotten, then so we're the Dragons.
  3442. >If Anonymous was rotten, then so was Innominate.
  3443. >Discord was too unhinged to even consider putting in the job, so at least you didn't have to worry too much about that.
  3444. >With Rainbow Dash in a coma, there was nobody you could trust.
  3445. >Nobody but yourself.
  3446. >A feeling washed over you.
  3447.  
  3448. >It wasn't sadness, nor was it anger or grief.
  3449. >It was a mix of nostalgia and loneliness.
  3450. >Your mind momentarily drifted back to your formative years.
  3451. >In those days, you would spend all your time alone in a home laboratory.
  3452. >Funny, you thought. After all these years, you're still a lonely little girl in her big empty lab.
  3453. “Let's see, Twilight. You have to build an infinitely renewable energy source, unravel the mystery of which one of your closest friends is a traitor, and run for mayor.”
  3454. >And you thought your life was busy before.
  3455. >After another two days of tending to your leg and making sure things were healing up nicely, you felt confident in putting weight on it and walking around.
  3456. >The first stop was the hospital.
  3457. >Rainbow Dash was still unconscious. There was no sign of her waking up any time soon.
  3458. >Still, you found comfort in talking to her.
  3459. >You were sure to inform her that Sunset had pushed her and was now dead.
  3460. >Everything else you kept to yourself. You didn't want to give her bad dreams if that could even happen.
  3461. >Before you knew it, the whole day had passed.
  3462. >That was somewhat upsetting because there were things you wanted to do that day, but it wasn't really a bad way to spend your time anyway.
  3463. >You took Rainbow Dash’s hand in yours, gave it a tight squeeze, and thanked her for her time.
  3464. >After departing, you went back to your mansion and grabbed Sunset's body
  3465. >Driving around Canterlot for a while, you found a nice spot to dump her.
  3466. >It was in the middle of Canterlot Park. The place had no traffic during the night but was probably the second busiest spot in the city during the day.
  3467.  
  3468. >With the help of some ropes, branches, and a little creativity, you managed to get her up to the top of the flagpole and drop her into it.
  3469. >The metal slid easily through the already gaping, slime covered hole in her torso.
  3470. >She slid down the flagpole and hit the ground with a disturbing squilch.
  3471. >Perfect, you thought. In about twelve hours when the park got busy, people would happen across the mayor's body and it would be time for a new election.
  3472. >Then you could swoop in, claim the throne, and mark one thing off your to do list.
  3473. >Of course things went exactly as you predicted. Newspaper headlines for the following week were all about Sunset and the ongoing investigation into her murder which had until that point gone nowhere.
  3474. >It would continue to go nowhere until one month later when you organized a setup and got the chief of police arrested for it.
  3475. >He had always been a little abrasive towards you, so to see him go and replaced with a young boy you had wrapped around your finger for the last two years was heartwarming.
  3476. >He endorsed you in the running, as did several other high powers around the city that you, for lack of a better word, persuaded.
  3477. >Soon, your name started appearing in the papers. That is, more than usual.
  3478. >After the latest update of the Shimmer Chronicles, and right before a little article about the generous and wonderful Twilight who made it her personal mission to bring downtown Canterlot out of poverty, was a nice little piece on the future Mayor Twilight Sparkle.
  3479. >On the topic of poverty, you expected to get a lot of support from those who you helped out of the slums.
  3480. >That didn't happen though. Their support went to one of their own.
  3481. >Apparently, someone from the corpse of downtown Canterlot decided to run against you.
  3482. >A veteran by the name of John Smith.
  3483.  
  3484. >You needed to talk to him.
  3485. >Deciding the topic of the conversation would be better suited for a face-to-face meeting rather than over the phone, you resolved to meet him at his house.
  3486. >He still lived in downtown Canterlot.
  3487. >In fact, he had a house in the very first block that had been gentrified.
  3488. >He and the three Dragons.
  3489. >It was a quaint little abode nestled in between a gas station and the convenient store at which he was currently employed.
  3490. >The money he brought in was enough to handle the mortgage of the house. Ember had found a job that paid enough to cover the cost of food for four people.
  3491. >In a better part of the city, both those items would be covered by one job, but downtown was still growing. Baby steps.
  3492. >You walked up the short dirt path to the house and knocked on the front door.
  3493. >After waiting for about thirty seconds, you leaned forward and pressed your ear against the door.
  3494. >There was yelling. Loud yelling.
  3495. >From what you could make out, somebody was upset about the scheduling of bath time.
  3496. >”I spent twelve years living in that fucking trash heap and I’m going to take a bath whenever I goddamn want!”
  3497. >”That’s fine, but you can’t keep emptying the tub and filling it back up! It’s not in the budget!”
  3498. >”Then make room for it!”
  3499. >”I can’t! Maybe you should learn to take a fucking shower like a normal person!”
  3500. >”I am perfectly normal!”
  3501. >”You know, sometimes I think you really are a scaly fucking monster disguised as a girl!”
  3502. >Bang.
  3503. “What on Earth is going on in there?”
  3504. >It was silent for a few seconds, and then you heard the doorknob jiggling.
  3505. >Jumping back a few feet, you stood at attention, hoping nobody would think you were snooping.
  3506.  
  3507. >The door swung open, revealing a very angry Ember.
  3508. >”Move, faggot,” she grunted and pushed by you.
  3509. >She marched down the walkway and headed down the sidewalk out of sight.
  3510. >Popping your head inside, you took a quick look around the place to see what was up.
  3511. >There was no body or puddle of blood, so you were pretty sure nobody had been murdered.
  3512. >It was probably safe enough, so you let yourself in and made way for the kitchen.
  3513. >John was there, hunched over the table and nursing his head with a bag of ice.
  3514. “John?”
  3515. >He turned his head to you. There was blood running down the side of his face.
  3516. >”Oh, hey, Twi. I uh...I fell.”
  3517. >Your eyes landed on a small pot at his foot, which also had a small amount of blood on it.
  3518. >”Cooking accident.”
  3519. “You’re a terrible liar.”
  3520. >”Sue me.”
  3521. >He pulled out two chairs and gestured to one of them as he sat in the other.
  3522. >You accepted the offer and took a seat.
  3523. >John leaned against the table, propping his head up on the hand with the ice pack.
  3524. “You should get that looked at.”
  3525. >”I should do a lot of things.”
  3526. “Like?”
  3527. >Like set you up for a fall?
  3528. >”Like be a better friend. I’m guessing you heard all that.”
  3529. “Only a bit. What was that all about?”
  3530. >”She’s just upset. And rightfully so, I suppose. I haven’t exactly been holding up my end of the bargain.”
  3531. “So you’re no stranger to letting down friends?”
  3532. >”Twilight...what the hell?”
  3533. “Sorry. I’m just trying to get to the bottom of your issues.”
  3534. >”The problem is I’m at the bottom of my wallet. I’m in a losing game of Seven Card Screwed and all the pennies I have left are going toward this campaign.”
  3535. >You eyed him intently.
  3536. >He was shaking, and his eyes were red.
  3537. >There was nothing you could find to indicate that he was lying.
  3538. >Perhaps he was being honest. But even so, honesty doesn’t prove innocence.
  3539.  
  3540. “What was your relationship with Sunset Shimmer?”
  3541. >”The old mayor?”
  3542. “Yes. Did you talk often?”
  3543. >”Hell, I guess I said hi to her once or twice. Why do you ask?”
  3544. “Only once? I’m pretty sure I saw you sharing a coffee with her a few times.”
  3545. >”I mean, I could have. I don’t know. I’m a little fuzzy right now. What does Sunset Glimmer--”
  3546. “Shimmer.”
  3547. >”Whatever. What does she have to do with any of this?”
  3548. >You shrugged.
  3549. >John sighed and moved his arm, causing you to tense up in anticipation for an attack.
  3550. >He merely laid his head down on the table, using the ice pack as a pillow.
  3551. >The more evidence you collected, the more it seemed that he was oblivious to the situation.
  3552. >Still though, you didn’t want to rule him out yet.
  3553. >After all, he’s a crafty fellow. One of the smartest men you’ve ever met in his own way.
  3554. >With his training on top of that, you didn’t want to become easy prey if he decided to jump.
  3555. >For those reasons, you inched your chair away from him.
  3556. >”What? Afraid I’ll bite?”
  3557. “You can never be too careful, right?”
  3558. >He chuckled.
  3559. >”You’d make a good soldier with that attitude.”
  3560. “No,” you said with a shake of your head. “I’m not cut out for it.”
  3561. >”Nobody really is. Some people are good at following orders. Some people have a good back and can really carry some gear. I’ve even seen some real crack shots in my day. I don’t think anybody is really cut out for that though. You just have to keep your head on and march forward.”
  3562. “What are you good at?”
  3563. >”Me? Shit, I guess I’m real good at getting my ass beat.”
  3564. “Would you say subterfuge is one of your talents?”
  3565. >”Small words, please.”
  3566. “Lying.”
  3567. >”I’m real good at lying down, I guess. In fact, I should probably do it right now.”
  3568. >He stood up from his chair.
  3569. >You jumped out of yours in response and got into a fighting stance.
  3570. >”Twilight, I’m all game for talking to you, but I think I should head off to bed.”
  3571.  
  3572. >He took the ice pack off his face and replaced it with a towel, wincing as the fabric touched his wound.
  3573. >In the split second you saw it, you could tell that was a nasty gash. It would leave a nice scar if it healed.
  3574. >When he finished wiping up the blood, he put the ice pack back on and turned to leave.
  3575. >”Close the door, will you?”
  3576. “John?”
  3577. >”Huh?”
  3578. “Would you ever lie to me?”
  3579. >”Come on, Twi. You know I wouldn’t.”
  3580. >Easy words for a liar to say.
  3581. >But still, he did seem...sincere.
  3582. >With that wound, he must have been disoriented, so if he was lying, it should have been easy to spot.
  3583. >You didn’t want to cross him off the list just yet, but when he was gone, you did feel the chances of him being the traitor were significantly slimmer.
  3584. >”Content” would be the wrong word to describe how you felt about that day.
  3585. >Probably somewhat happy you hadn’t died yet, but also more upset with how far you had gotten into your investigation.
  3586. “Perhaps it’s time I got a little more creative,” you said as you closed the door to John’s house shut behind you.
  3587. >You’re a scientist. No problem on this Earth could elude you for long.
  3588. >Speaking of science, it was about time you got back to your lab and worked on that energy source.
  3589. >There was still so much that had to be done with it.
  3590. >Harnessing a completely theoretical form of matter would be hard enough. Even assuming it fit all your calculations, there was still no telling absolutely how it would function.
  3591. >Then there was the issue of the sun generator not going out of control and making a full sized version.
  3592. >That would be easy in comparison to the dark matter, at least.
  3593. >You briefly thought back to your other self in the pony universe. How was she fairing?
  3594. >Better than you, you assumed.
  3595.  
  3596. >When you got back to your mansion, there were two cars out front.
  3597. >From the gaudy colors, you could tell who it was.
  3598. >Malone and O’Connor, two upstarts who had been a real thorn in your side lately.
  3599. >There was an intense inner debate going on within you.
  3600. >You could go work on your machine, but that would mean talking to them.
  3601. >On the other hand, you could go get a milkshake, which had no downsides.
  3602. >Curse your great intellect.
  3603. >With a sigh, you parked in front of the door and got out.
  3604. >The two boys were yelling at each other when Malone noticed you.
  3605. >He jerked his head, throwing his greased back hair off.
  3606. >After combing it back into place, he opened his mouth to speak.
  3607. >”Ayyy, Twilight! Dis putz ova here, he’s a tryina move in on my turf again!”
  3608. >O’Connor jumped in with just as much fire and just as little coherence as his compatriot.
  3609. >”I’ve told ye once and I’ll tell ye again. That factory be mine! Me paps, rest his soul, worked his wee arse off puttin’ food in me mouth as a lad. It belongs to me family!”
  3610. >”Oi, you boy fondlin’ piece a spaghetti, get it troo ya tick boney skull. Dat factory is mine, capische? It’s on dis here paper wit YOUR name on it.”
  3611. >”I was forced to sign it!”
  3612. >”I don’t tink I give two craps, yeah? Twilight, tell this jabroni he betta keep his wee Irish ass on his stupid little tater farm before we kick him back there. Yeah, right, Twi? She’s on my side.”
  3613. >”The good lady is with me! I can’t think of one lass with less than a pint in her that would give a whole two looks at ye sorry shape.”
  3614. >”Are you callin’ me fat?”
  3615. >”I’m saying ye soft.”
  3616. >Sweet lord above.
  3617. >Every fucking month with this stupid factory crap.
  3618. >It was just a license plate manufacturing plant, but those two fought over it tooth and nail every month on the dot.
  3619. “You both signed a treaty. Malone gets the factory and O’Connor gets the bay. What is there to argue about?”
  3620. >”Tell dat to dis meatball!”
  3621. >”It was a raw deal and ye know it!”
  3622. >You had a wonderful idea to get them both off your back for good.
  3623. “O’Connor, do you have a gun?”
  3624. >”I have it right here with me, ma’am.”
  3625. “And you, Malone?”
  3626. >”Ayyy I got my piece right here, toots.”
  3627. “Then settle it yourselves,” you said and shoved past them into your mansion.
  3628. >The sound of gunfire accompanied you to your lab.
  3629. “Fucking jackasses.”
  3630. >Crime is serious business.
  3631.  
  3632. >You reached your lab and took the protective blanket off your invention.
  3633. >So far, it had a base.
  3634. >A very pretty base, actually.
  3635. >You liked to have it on display when you were working. It made you feel less bad about having made almost no progress on the rest of it.
  3636. >To be honest, it was a completely useless trinket.
  3637. >How large the actual finished machine would be was unknown, so the base could have been vastly undersized or even oversized.
  3638. >Staring at the structure, you couldn’t help but let your mind drift back to Rainbow Dash.
  3639. >The night she fell was so clear in your mind, as if you were still right there watching it happen.
  3640. >You could remember the smells of the room, the temperature, the shirt tag brushing against your neck, and most of all, the booming thunder that shook your bones and the lightning assaulting your eyes.
  3641. >She fell through the air so quickly you couldn’t even see it--but you could hear it.
  3642. >You could hear the crunch of the impact when she hit the ground.
  3643. >You could…
  3644. >Could…
  3645. “Wait a minute.”
  3646. >Impact. Could that be what was eluding you all along?
  3647. >You scrambled for a journal and began writing down stream of consciousness notes as all the new ideas came into your head.
  3648. >What if the vacuum of space wasn’t a vacuum at all?
  3649. >What if the universe wasn’t infinite?
  3650. >What if the universe was limited to how much matter there was within it?
  3651. >An ocean is an ocean because there is water. Its size is limited by how much water there is.
  3652. >The universe then might have been limited in the same way.
  3653. “This is crazy.”
  3654. >Of course it was, but what if you were right?
  3655. “I’m not.”
  3656. >There’s nothing to lose by following the idea.
  3657. “My credibility as a scientist.”
  3658. >Nothing great ever happened that didn’t follow a risk.
  3659. >Impacts. Atomic particles colliding with each other. The fundamentals of reality.
  3660. >What if THOSE create dark energy?
  3661. >When two hydrogen atoms collide, could they produce a small amount of dark energy and expand the universe a little bit more?
  3662.  
  3663. >Perhaps when Rainbow Dash hit the ground, she added her own little bit to the size of the universe.
  3664. >Your writing at that moment could have been accelerating the expansion of the universe even more.
  3665. >It also made sense, you thought, since the universe was expanding exponentially rather than linearly. If dark energy was created whenever matter collided, and dark energy would have to impact on itself as well, then as more of it was created, there would be more to knock heads with. That would mean an exponential increase in matter and as such exponential expansion.
  3666. >But that completely ignored the most basic laws of physics. Matter can neither be created nor destroyed, so there’s no way that dark energy could be created on collision.
  3667. >Or...could it?
  3668. >Those laws are based on normal matter, the things we can see and measure.
  3669. >Dark energy has yet to be seen, measured, or anything of the sort. It’s theoretical.
  3670. >Could such laws really be placed on it then?
  3671. >Besides, you’re the human counterpart of a pony princess from a mirror universe filled with magic.
  3672. >This isn’t so crazy in comparison.
  3673. >You needed to go down this road and see where it led.
  3674. >It could revolutionize the scientific fields.
  3675. >It could open new doors, new universes of thought.
  3676. >Most of all, you may finally have more than that stupid base that’s been collecting dust on your lab bench.
  3677. >You threw the journal away and got right to work.
  3678.  
  3679. >The next thing you knew, the sirens of your proximity alarms were blaring.
  3680. >In an instant, you grabbed the shotgun from under your bench and aimed it at the door.
  3681. >You backed up slowly to a large array of monitors and, after making sure nobody was coming through the door, looked at the screens.
  3682. >It was Anonymous and John Smith.
  3683. >You scowled when you saw their faces. The two people you least wanted to see.
  3684. >Then you saw something even more surprising.
  3685. >The date on the monitor told you it had been six days since you visited John Smith last.
  3686. >Your eyes widened, and you looked around the lab.
  3687. >It was a complete mess.
  3688. >There was a layer of papers at least an inch thick covering the floor.
  3689. >The areas of your desks that weren’t covered by wires and chips had empty and half empty cups of coffee placed on them. Some even without coasters.
  3690. “No way,” you said and were immediately shocked at how dry your voice sounded.
  3691. >Jeez, it had been a while since you talked.
  3692. >You must have been so busy working that time just...got away from you.
  3693. >Six days since your last visit to John Smith would also mean a missed press conference for your mayoral campaign.
  3694. “Fuck me!”
  3695. >You put the shotgun down and shuffled through all the crumpled papers to your lab door.
  3696. >What with all the important stuff in there, you made sure to lock it--all four locks--and switch on the security systems.
  3697. >The next door you rushed to was your front door.
  3698. >You reached for the doorknob, but stopped just short of it.
  3699.  
  3700. >Anonymous and John Smith. They were the two men you were still unsure of.
  3701. >It wouldn’t have been such a stretch to assume they were both sour.
  3702. >More than a little concerned for your safety, you pressed your foot down on a small nail that was sticking up out of the floor to the right of the door.
  3703. >There was a click, and several of the floorboards peeled away to reveal an assortment of pistols.
  3704. >A 1911 would stop John for sure, but you’ve seen Anonymous shrug off bullets several times.
  3705. >A .50 caliber Desert Eagle would be a little more his speed, you thought. It would also put a quick end to John, should it be he and not Anonymous, who attacked you.
  3706. >You bent down and grabbed the gun, then pressed down another nail that had risen out of the floor.
  3707. >After another click, the panels slid seamlessly back into their rightful place.
  3708. >You tucked the pistol into the back of your pants and opened the door.
  3709. >”Twilight,” shouted John as he leapt for you and wrapped you into a hug.
  3710. >Your hand flew to the gun and wrapped around the grip.
  3711. >”I’m glad you’re ok,” he sighed and pulled back. “We thought something might have happened.”
  3712. >”You’ve been out of contact for six days,” stated Anonymous.
  3713. “Yes, well, I’ve been busy.”
  3714. >”Clearly. You look like you’ve been through the wringer a few times.”
  3715. >John nodded and gestured to your sweat and coffee stained clothes.
  3716. >”When’s the last time you cleaned up?”
  3717. “Like I said. I’ve been busy.”
  3718. >”Can we come in?”
  3719. “NO!”
  3720. >John reeled back with wide eyes.
  3721. “I mean...no. It’s dirty in here. I fired the maids.”
  3722. >”Why?” questioned the green giant.
  3723. “They didn’t clean it well enough.”
  3724. >”And now you’re not cleaning it at all?”
  3725. “Hiring help is a process. One I haven’t had time for since, like I said, I’ve been busy.”
  3726. >”With what?”
  3727. “That’s classified.”
  3728. >”Why?”
  3729. “Because I said so. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go get washed up.”
  3730.  
  3731. >You closed the door, but not all the way.
  3732. >John put his foot in the way and pushed it open again.
  3733. >”Hey now, what’s going on with you? You can’t just drop off the grid like that and not give us anything. Are you alright?”
  3734. “I said I’m fine,” you grunted, trying harder to force the door closed.
  3735. >”Are you really so busy you couldn’t come to that press conference? The voters need to see you if they’re going to support you.”
  3736. “Wouldn’t you rather your opponent not show up?”
  3737. >”What? Of course not. I don’t want to win by default. Besides, you’re my friend. If something is wrong, I want to know. Let us in, Twilight. We can help you.”
  3738. >Their help was the last thing you wanted.
  3739. >Maybe if Rainbow Dash was there, things would be different.
  3740. >After much struggling, you finally almost had the door shut.
  3741. >Anonymous had other plans though.
  3742. >He pressed his hand on the door and without any effort at all, shoved it all the way open and knocking you back onto the ground.
  3743. >You landed on the gun. It slammed into your tailbone and sent a paralyzing pain throughout your lower area.
  3744. >”Stop playing games,” he said firmly.
  3745. >He stepped into your mansion and was followed by a nervous looking John.
  3746. >Despite your discomfort, you stood up and held your hands behind your back, keeping one of them on the gun.
  3747. “Please, come right in.”
  3748. >”It’s been two weeks since this place was last cleaned. John, grab a bag.”
  3749. >To stuff you in?
  3750. “What are you planning?”
  3751. >”To tidy this place up. And after that, I’m taking you--”
  3752. “Like hell you are,” you interrupted and pulled the gun out of your pants.
  3753. >”To see my wife.”
  3754. >You paused just before revealing the weapon.
  3755. >”Whatever is going on here is clearly an issue with yourself or someone else. You need to talk, and she’s the best talker I know. Let her help you, Twilight.”
  3756. “I don’t want your help. I want you to leave.”
  3757. >”It’s good to want,” he said and took a trashbag from John.
  3758.  
  3759. >They squatted down and began to pick up assorted articles of trash.
  3760. >You backed away slowly, careful not to show them your weapon.
  3761. >They seemed to be sincere about wanting to help you, but believing lies is what got you into this mess in the first place.
  3762. >Sunset and one of those two men lied through their teeth to you for who knows how many years.
  3763. >You were as sure of that as you were that if you let your guard down for one split second, you were a dead woman.
  3764. >Anonymous wanted to take you to Innominate.
  3765. >Maybe that wasn’t such a bad idea.
  3766. >You could clean up and find some clothes better suited for storing weapons than what you were wearing at that moment.
  3767. >It could also give some insight into Anonymous’ standing in your relationship. Whether she was in bed with him or not, she would certainly be easier to pull information out of.
  3768. >You retreated up the stairs, keeping an eye on the bottom of the case just to be sure, and made way for the bathroom.
  3769. >The door looked like mahogany, but it was actually a two inch thick steel wall covered in wooden panels.
  3770. >Slamming it shut, you utilized all the locks on it and secured your location.
  3771. >A heavy sigh of relief escaped you and you practically fell down onto the toilet seat.
  3772. >The lab was safe, and you were safe.
  3773. >For the moment, that is.
  3774. >You buried your head in your hands, dropping the gun at your feet.
  3775. >The shower was still on your to do list, but you just needed a minute.
  3776. >You really just needed a minute to collect yourself.
  3777. “Look at you, Twilight. Scared out of your skin in your own goddamn home. You were supposed to be the big tough mob boss, not some pathetic little girl hiding in her bathroom.”
  3778. >You chuckled.
  3779. “Dad would be so proud, huh?”
  3780.  
  3781. >Enough of that.
  3782. >No time to feel sorry for yourself.
  3783. >Things had to be done and you couldn’t do them pissing and moaning about how miserable your life had become in the recent weeks.
  3784. >As you undressed, you couldn’t help but aim a critical eye at your body in the mirror.
  3785. >You were very thin and very frail. You always had been, but what was staring back at you in the mirror then was disturbing.
  3786. >Then you tried to think back to your last good meal.
  3787. >It was about two weeks prior--the day before Rainbow Dash had her fall.
  3788. >Since then, if you ate at all, it was only small snacks to quiet the growling of your stomach.
  3789. >You don’t remember much about the previous six days you spent in your lab, but from all the coffee and lack of crumbs, you can assume there wasn’t much in the way of nourishment.
  3790. >Your arms had almost no muscle on them. If you fired that Desert Eagle, it was liable to rip your hand clean off your wrist.
  3791. >Shooting the shotgun wouldn’t be much better.
  3792. >As it was, you were so weak that even with all your safety measures, you were still defenseless.
  3793. “Looks like I need to add a home gym to the shopping list,” you muttered and undid the messy bun in your hair.
  3794. >Your greasy locks fell to the sides of your head, still holding some of their shape, and made you look like a less kempt version of Wolverine.
  3795. “Eugh.”
  3796. >You removed your glasses and stepped into the shower.
  3797. >Never one for the mild waters, you turned the faucet right up to hot and let the scalding water wash away the grime that layered itself onto you.
  3798. >It felt...good.
  3799. >You couldn’t remember a time in the last two weeks when you felt so warm and at ease.
  3800. >Especially given the circumstances, it wa nice to let go in the shower.
  3801.  
  3802. >After cleaning yourself up, it was time to get dressed.
  3803. >On the wall, just out of reach of the shower, was a towel rack.
  3804. >You pressed hard on it until it sunk into the wall.
  3805. >A large section of the wall pushed forward and hissed as pressurized air escaped the new seams.
  3806. >It slid away slowly, revealing a small glass cabinet with some essential personal defense items.
  3807. >After donning your undergarments, you opened the cabinet and pulled out a light bullet resistant vest.
  3808. >It was small enough that it could fit under your clothing rather convincingly.
  3809. >Speaking of clothing, you put on a roomy blouse and a tight purple vest with padding in all the right places to give some shape to your form.
  3810. >It also left room to store weapons underneath a loose coat.
  3811. >You found yourself a summer jacket reminiscent of Sunset Shimmer’s leather, only infinitely more tasteful.
  3812. >There were several pockets inside that you stuffed with knives, having deemed them less detrimental to your health than a Desert Eagle.
  3813. >Of course, you didn’t want to be completely without a projectile.
  3814. >You pulled out a small little number you crafted in your spare time.
  3815. >It was about the size of a beretta and had virtually no kick. That’s because it didn’t fire bullets.
  3816. >It was loaded with small metal pellets that, over time, were charged with ambient electricity from the air.
  3817. >They would be launched out of the barrel by a pressurized air and, upon contact with someone, hit with the force of a BB pellet and deliver a shock equivalent to sticking a fork in a power outlet.
  3818. >You stuffed that one into your pocket so it was more readily accessible and left to see the boys.
  3819.  
  3820. >When you reached them, you saw that they had done a very good job of tidying up half of one room.
  3821. >At least the thought was there.
  3822. >They tore themselves away from work and looked to you.
  3823. “Well? Let’s get going,” you said impatiently.
  3824. >”Very well,” replied Anonymous.
  3825. >”I should probably be getting back home,” admitted John. “Crackle has a fever so Ember and I are watching her.”
  3826. “Have fun.”
  3827. >”’Fun’ is a strong word.”
  3828. >He walked over and gave you another hug.
  3829. >”Promise you’ll come by some time?”
  3830. “Yep.”
  3831. >He sighed, let go, and walked for the door.
  3832. >”Well, bye guys.”
  3833. >And then there were two.
  3834. >”Your car or mine?”
  3835. “I’ll take my own, if it’s all the same to you.”
  3836. >”Fine by me. Let’s go.”
  3837. >His super calm demeanor had never seemed so annoying to you before, but at that moment it was getting on your nerves.
  3838. >It was hard to read a man with no tells.
  3839. >You were sure Innominate would be more of an open book, at least.
  3840. >Innominate, the dear that she is, spent the next four hours trying to psychoanalyze you.
  3841. >Of course you’re not dumb enough to fall into any traps or reveal pertinent information. You danced around her community college degree the whole time and even managed to get her talking about a few things.
  3842. >It proved to be mostly fruitless. The most useful piece of information you pulled out of her was that Anon had been more quiet than usual as of late.
  3843. >It was a one shred of evidence against him--enough to place him above John in your suspicions, but not far enough for you to point a gun at him yet.
  3844. >You were growing impatient.
  3845. >It was several weeks into your investigation and there were still no leads.
  3846. “Come on, Twilight,” you seethed as you marched into your mansion. “How can you, the most brilliant scientist on Earth, not figure out something as simple as this? There’s something you’re missing. There has to be!”
  3847. >Sunset’s final words wouldn’t stop ringing in your head.
  3848. >There’s another her around every corner.
  3849. >One of your friends helped her.
  3850. >Liar!
  3851. >She lied to you for God knows how long! She sneaked and plotted right in front of your eyes!
  3852. >Why should you believe anything she said?
  3853. >Because she might have been right.
  3854. >She could have been lying, but what if she wasn’t?
  3855. >You weren’t willing to stake your life on the chance that she was trying to get under your skin.
  3856. >The last thing you wanted was to live your life worry free and wake up one day with a knife in your back because you trusted the wrong people.
  3857. >It has happened far too many times in your life.
  3858. >You needed to figure this whole mess out and pronto.
  3859. >But more than that, you needed a drink.
  3860. >You made your way to the kitchen and opened up a small cabinet above the stove.
  3861.  
  3862. “Welcome to Twilight’s Bar, where every little drink leaves your liver with a scar,” came out in more of a sing-songy tune than you initially intended.
  3863. >There were many choices. Rainbow Dash quite enjoyed her drinks, so she often came home with a bag full of booze. Any bottles she didn’t finish ended up in the cabinet.
  3864. >There was bourbon, scotch, whiskey, vodka, tequila, ingredients for making other drinks, and even a six pack of beer that was surely warmer than your skin at that point.
  3865. “It’s a whiskey kind of night.”
  3866. >You took the bottle and a glass off their respective shelves and sat down at the kitchen island.
  3867. >After pouring yourself a shot, you stared hard at the glass, then pushed it aside and brought the bottle to your lips.
  3868. >Tipping your head back, you guzzled down a generous amount of whiskey despite the horrific taste and the burning it left in your throat.
  3869. >Eventually you pulled the bottle away and coughed violently, spitting up some of the last drops to go down your throat.
  3870. >Your stomach was furious with you and threatened to evict the alcohol, but you held it down.
  3871. “What foul creatures brewed this poison?”
  3872. >Dizzily, you turned the bottle around and tried to make out the label’s increasingly fuzzy letters.
  3873. “The Irish. Figures. Rainbow Dash, you should try this...stuff…”
  3874. >Oh, right.
  3875. >No Rainbow Dash.
  3876. >Just you, Twilight.
  3877. “Well it’s not so bad. I have everything a girl could ever want.”
  3878. “I have a nice big house. I have a stable job. I have tons of friends. I’m everything I wanted back in high school!”
  3879. >Then why did it feel so empty?
  3880. >Because you didn’t have enough booze in you, clearly.
  3881. >You took another swig of whiskey laid your head down on the granite top.
  3882.  
  3883. >How much time passed between then and when you got up out of the chair, stumbled a bit, and made way for the living room is unknown to you.
  3884. >All you know is it was the room that Anonymous and John had sort of cleaned. And there was a nice, clean sofa in the center of it.
  3885. >After a series of steps and trips, you landed face first onto it.
  3886. “Comfy,” you spoke into the pillow and brought the bottle up for another drink.
  3887. >Too bad for you, your face was smothered in the pillow, so the bottle completely missed your mouth and poured onto the back of your head.
  3888. “Hey!”
  3889. >You pushed yourself up off the couch and looked around the room.
  3890. “Who just spilled that?”
  3891. >Nobody was there.
  3892. “You dumb asshole. Don’t you know it’s not polite to fucking...you know…”
  3893. >You looked down at the bottle in your hands and squinted, trying to get a better look at the blur it had become.
  3894. “What the fuck is in this?”
  3895. >You didn’t know, but you wanted more, and you were more than prepared to make the effort to get some.
  3896. >With all your energy, you stood up off the couch and fell flat onto the floor.
  3897. >It was bedtime anyway.
  3898. >You had a dream that night. A very strange dream indeed.
  3899. >You were on a boat. It was a great big boat with tall masts that caught the wind and propelled you forward.
  3900. >They were black as tar and contrasted with the burning reds and oranges of the sky.
  3901. >The sun was setting. You traced it to the bow of the ship and saw so many people standing there.
  3902. >Rainbow Dash, Anonymous, Innominate, Discord, Sunset, John Smith, Ember, Crackle, and everyone else--every single person you had met in the previous seven years--all smiled and waved to you.
  3903. >How wonderful.
  3904. >You were genuinely warmed to feel so surrounded by friends.
  3905.  
  3906. >Your feet made no sound as you ran so achingly slow to them.
  3907. >It was as if the world was stretching to keep you from them, but you wouldn’t be stopped.
  3908. >All your soul went into that run.
  3909. >You clawed at the air, trying to get any grip to pull yourself closer to all your friends.
  3910. >There the were, ten yards away.
  3911. >Five yards away.
  3912. >One yard away.
  3913. >When you’re just within arm’s reach, one of them brandishes a knife. You don’t know who, but you know the next thing you saw was red.
  3914. >”TWILIGHT!”
  3915. >The voice rang out from all directions at once.
  3916. >Suddenly you were no longer on a boat.
  3917. >It was a cage with iron bars that stretched up to the sky and beyond.
  3918. >The water it was floating on captured the colors of the sky and glowed like fire as they slapped against the floor.
  3919. >Every time a wave struck, the cage sunk deeper and deeper into the ocean.
  3920. >Soon enough, it was up to your head.
  3921. >You tried to scream for help. You tried with all your might.
  3922. >No matter how wide you opened your mouth or how hard you pushed, no voice came.
  3923. >You were mute. The whole world was silent except for the waves crashing against your face, but even that sound was gone too when your head dipped below the water.
  3924. >The water was dark. It was so dark that to call it black would be an insult.
  3925. >You sunk deeper and deeper until the pressure of the water threatened to pop your skull right open and spill your brains into the blackness.
  3926. >You closed your eyes, not that it would have made a difference.
  3927. >When they opened next, there was something other than nothingness.
  3928. >There was you.
  3929. >A lot of you.
  3930. >There were Twilights as far as they eye could see.
  3931. >Some were purple, some were white, some were brown, and some weren’t even human.
  3932. >”Don’t trust him.
  3933. >”Get away.”
  3934. >”You can’t finish it.”
  3935. >”Don’t trust him.”
  3936. >”RUN!”
  3937.  
  3938. >You shot up off the floor, drenched in sweat.
  3939. >A real floor in your real mansion.
  3940. >The harsh light of the morning broke in through your windows and stung your eyes.
  3941. >They hurt almost as much as the insane pounding in your head
  3942. “Holy shit I’m never drinking again,” you groaned.
  3943. >Well if one useful thing came out of that abortion of a dream, you thought, it was that you may have finally had an idea on how to weed out the traitor.
  3944. >It involved boats.
  3945. >First things first, you needed a long shower. After that, it was time to plot.
  3946. >In the next two weeks, you made sure to do several things.
  3947. >You changed your diet and clung to it strictly.
  3948. >One gram of protein per pound of body.
  3949. >For you, that was ninety.
  3950. >You also made sure to get a healthy amount of fat and carbs, as well as all the essential vitamins.
  3951. >A home gym had been acquired which you used every day except for rest days. Rest days were very important because your muscles needed time to repair themselves. Overtraining leads to, in the best case, no gains, and, in the worst case, a loss of strength.
  3952. >By the end of those two weeks, you had made little progress, but you felt great.
  3953. >Your bench press went up from thirty five pounds to fifty five pounds. That was more than you could do in high school, at least.
  3954. >Another thing you managed to do was keep in regular contact with your so called friends.
  3955. >You acted like everything was fine and dandy when in reality you were setting them up for a fall.
  3956. >Well, one of them, that is. Which one, you didn’t know.
  3957. >Lastly, you procured a boat.
  3958. >See, you had everything all figured out.
  3959. >You would never find out who was the traitor by talking to them one on one.
  3960. >What you needed was a melting pot to throw everyone in and see who butted heads.
  3961.  
  3962. >The traitor would feel claustrophobic around so many of your friends.
  3963. >That’s why at the end of those two weeks, you invited everyone on a private boat ride with “just the two of you”.
  3964. >The traitor, whoever they were, would not be able to refuse. You two alone in the middle of the ocean? A perfect chance to kill you.
  3965. >Your friends, whoever they were, would love the idea of a relaxing sea voyage and jump at the chance.
  3966. >When you eventually found who the traitor was, and you mean when, you would have your friends there to help protect you since you would have proved them innocent.
  3967. >It was a flawless plan.
  3968. >At the end of the two weeks, you felt ready to make the calls.
  3969. >John Smith, Innominate, and Anonymous were all invited to Canterlot Harbour for a pleasant day on the water in your newly bought yacht.
  3970. >You also took Discord along. You knew he was a friend, so his company would put you at ease.
  3971. >”I don’t know. Anon isn’t really fond of water.”
  3972. >”Is that Twilight on the line?”
  3973. >”Yeah. She says she wants to go on a boat ride with us.”
  3974. >”I can get over it for one day.”
  3975. >”I guess we’re in then.”
  3976. >Very eager of him.
  3977. >”I don’t know. I’m pretty busy. Well, let me check with Ember and see if she can watch Crackle. I might be able to make it out there for a bit.”
  3978. >A little hesitant, but he could just be playing hard to get.
  3979. >”A boat ride? Oh, wonderful! I love boats! Did you know I used to be a captain? Yep, and a damn good one too. I took the U.S.S. Deliverance out to the Gulf of Tonkin. Of course I’ll come out. Oh, I can teach you to sail and we can be ocean buddies! I’ll go pack my diapers right now. You know how wet the ocean can get!”
  3980. >All four targets acquired.
  3981. >Everything was falling into place just as you had planned.
  3982. >The very next day, everyone came by.
  3983. >You had instructed them to come at different times so that nobody saw each other. The illusion had to remain until you were away from shore.
  3984.  
  3985. >John Smith arrived first, at about eight in the morning, relieved that he could make it out.
  3986. >He looked upon your yacht critically, and then nodded his head.
  3987. >”Looks like a nice rig.”
  3988. “It’s the best on the market. I spared no expenses for this trip.”
  3989. >”You never do. You know, you amaze me, Twilight. You took one little taxi and turned it into such a big business that you can afford everything you have. You’re a lot smarter than I first gave you credit for.”
  3990. “Well, fortune favors the bold.”
  3991. >”Hey, you mind if I check out the engine? I spent some time on a boat back in the war. I want to see how this one stacks up to what I saw out there.”
  3992. >Anonymous and Innominate would show up in about a half of an hour.
  3993. >He had time if he was quick about it.
  3994. “Sure,” you said. “Go ahead. I’ll be on the poop deck.”
  3995. >He smiled and went off to do his thing.
  3996. >You stood guard just in case the other guests decided to show up out of turn.
  3997. >It was about fifteen minutes later that you were getting more than a little nervous about his timing.
  3998. >He eventually came out looking very upset and admitted to you: “Jeez, Twilight. I just got a call from Ember. Crackle got into the dish soap again and we have to go get her stomach pumped. I can’t do this today.”
  3999. “I see. Well, that sure does stink.”
  4000. >You internally “Hm”’d.
  4001. >Perhaps John wasn’t the traitor. He should have been eager to get on that boat with you if it was him.
  4002. >”I’ll see you later though. Maybe we can do this another time.”
  4003. “Definitely. Goodbye, John.”
  4004.  
  4005. >Fifteen minutes later, right on cue like Anonymous loved to do, he and his wife showed up.
  4006. >”Twilight! It’s so good to see you,” squealed Innominate as she jogged over and wrapped you into a hug.
  4007. >Nervously, you returned it.
  4008. >After a few seconds and another squeeze, she let go of you.
  4009. >Anonymous finally caught up to her.
  4010. >He gazed down at you with his blank face and, when the moment stretched out too long, held out his hand.
  4011. >You shook it, squeezing as hard as you could.
  4012. >”You’ve been working out.”
  4013. “I’m glad you noticed. I was worried it wouldn’t show.”
  4014. >”It does.”
  4015. >”Oh, I can’t wait to get out on the waves. I need to work on my tan.”
  4016. >The jolly green giant turned his stone face out towards the ocean.
  4017. >Something showed in his eyes for a fraction of a second.
  4018. >For the first time in seven years, you saw not just an emotion, but fear.
  4019. >For it to show, even for that short of time, it must have been a gripping, almost paralyzing emotion.
  4020. >Yet there he was, determined to get on a boat with you and sail out to the middle of nowhere.
  4021. >More and more evidence was stacking against Anonymous.
  4022. You were eager to get on the boat with them.
  4023. >The sooner this chapter of your life was closed, the better.
  4024. >And hey, if it turned out not to be him, then you would at least know it was John.
  4025. >After taking them on a quick tour around the yacht, you instructed them to wait in their rooms while you got things ready.
  4026. >They did as you asked, and you had five minutes to wait for Discord.
  4027.  
  4028. >He showed up five minutes and covered in sweat.
  4029. >When his heavy breathing subsided, he leaned on your shoulder for support and regaled you with the tale of how he was looking for his old uniform only to find it didn’t fit anymore and then realized that he was running late so he needed to run to the harbour as fast as he could.
  4030. “Why didn’t you just call a taxi?”
  4031. >”A what?”
  4032. “A taxi. Or, you know, have one of your butlers drive you here.”
  4033. >”Oh shit! I could have done that!”
  4034. >You chuckled and wrapped an arm around his waist.
  4035. “You crazy old man. Come on, I’ll show you around the boat.”
  4036. >”Ah ah. I’ll show YOU around the boat. Look at me. I’m the captain now.”
  4037. “Do you know where the bathrooms are?”
  4038. >”Over the side of every railing, skipper.”
  4039. “Alright, alright. Show me around my boat that you’ve never been on before.”
  4040. >He nodded and led you to the bow.
  4041. >”This is the lounge area.”
  4042. >Following that, you went to the kitchen.
  4043. >”This is also a lounge area.”
  4044. >Next was the boiler room.
  4045. >”This is a secret lounge area. The men don’t check for you here.”
  4046. “I see.”
  4047. >In the next lounge area, which was actually the lounge area for once, there was a clock.
  4048. >You saw that it was time to go, so you told him to sit and stay while you undid the boat from the docks and castoff.
  4049. >”Aye aye, Cap--I mean, wait, shouldn’t I be giving the orders?”
  4050. “Discord. Stay.”
  4051. >He plotted himself down on a lawn chair while you went off to do as you said.
  4052.  
  4053. >In no time at all, Twilight’s Water Taxi was out and on the waves.
  4054. >The intercom for the boat came in handy, allowing you to call everyone to the lounge area.
  4055. >You ran there to arrive before Innominate and Anonymous, hoping to have words with them before Discord could spoil everything.
  4056. >Luckily, you did so.
  4057. >They got there about a two minutes after you did.
  4058. >”Discord? What are you doing here?” asked Innominate.
  4059. >”Well, Twilight in--”
  4060. “He snuck on before we undocked. Isn’t that right, Discord?”
  4061. >”I did?”
  4062. >You shot him a look.
  4063. >”Oh, yes. I did that. I snuck on board. Yessiree.”
  4064. >”Why?” spoke Anonymous next.
  4065. >Was that annoyance you sensed?
  4066. >Upset he couldn’t have you to himself, maybe?
  4067. >”Oh well I...Twilight, why did I sneak on? She tells the story much better than I do.”
  4068. “He likes the ocean.”
  4069. >”That’s not why. Tell them about the drugs and the little monkey.”
  4070. >”Drugs?”
  4071. >”Monkey?”
  4072. >”I named him Boots.”
  4073. “It’s a long story. We’ll share it later.”
  4074.  
  4075. >So, the following day was mostly uneventful.
  4076. >You mostly sat in the lounge area.
  4077. >When it was lunchtime, Discord insisted on making tilapia for everyone.
  4078. >He ended up setting the kitchen on fire.
  4079. >When you and Innominate put it out, Anonymous took control of the grill and fried up some hamburgers.
  4080. >Land food, he called it, and claimed that it was superior to seafood in every way.
  4081. >After that, Innominat got all gussied up in a swimsuit which, given her age, she pulled off very well.
  4082. >It made you a little jealous, actually.
  4083. >She lathered on some oil and sat herself in a shadeless spot, finally getting to work on that tan she wanted.
  4084. >Anonymous was content to stay right in the middle of the lounge area, far away from the railings, and read a book.
  4085. >You tried to strike up conversation with him several times in hopes of getting him to spill the beans, but he refused several times.
  4086. >On the occasions he did speak with you, he seemed normal, if a little on edge from the water.
  4087. >At some point, you asked him why he was so afraid of it, to which he replied that during his last swim, he’d seen things he’d rather forget.
  4088. >You shrugged and left it alone.
  4089. >The more time went on, the more you were convinced of his innocence.
  4090. >He was alone with you more than enough times for any killer to make a move.
  4091. >You were near the railing.
  4092. >If he got over his fear for one second, he could have pushed you overboard.
  4093. >He could have dashed your brains against the metal.
  4094. >He could have stabbed you.
  4095. >He could have strangled you.
  4096. >Instead, he read his book all day until the sun began to set.
  4097. >The sky was alive with reds and oranges, and you decided it was time to go back.
  4098.  
  4099. >When you got to the bridge, Discord, who had so adamantly insisted that he do the steering, was looking none too happy about it.
  4100. “What’s wrong?” you questioned and sauntered up, placing a reassuring hand on his back.
  4101. >”Well, I don’t know what’s wrong.”
  4102. >You raised an eyebrow.
  4103. “Come on, something is upsetting you.”
  4104. >”Oh, I know exactly what’s upsetting me. I don’t know what’s wrong.”
  4105. “That doesn’t make sense.”
  4106. >He pointed to the dashboard.
  4107. >”You see those dials?”
  4108. >You nodded.
  4109. >”Well, according to them, the engine is about to explode. I can’t figure out why though. You said this thing was new, right?”
  4110. “What do you mean the engine is about to explode?”
  4111. >”What do you think I mean? I think that’s a pretty straightforward way of putting it. I mean, what else could I say? The engine is going to funsplode? The engine is about to unleash its fury? Oh, oh, the engine is going to let it R.I.P.! Get it? Letting it rip like letting something go, but I said R.I.P. because we’re all dead.”
  4112. “What the hell?”
  4113. >”I thought it was funny.”
  4114. >You stepped away from him.
  4115. “And you’re sure about this?”
  4116. >”Twilight, would I ever steer you wrong?”
  4117. “I’m pretty sure, yeah.”
  4118. >”Ok, I’ll give you that one. I have been on enough exploding ships to know what the signs are though.”
  4119. >The yacht, like he said, was brand new.
  4120. >The engine should have been in peak condition.
  4121. >Someone must have tampered with it, but nobody was near it all day.
  4122. >Nobody except…
  4123. >God damn it. God damn it!
  4124. >You idiot! You fucking...how could you let him go?! Why didn’t you think about that?!
  4125. >You pushed Discord out of the way and turned on the intercom.
  4126. “Anonymous! Innominate! We need to go now! Get to the lifeboats! The ship is about to--”
  4127.  
  4128. >Have you ever done something and then, as you were doing it, fully understand it was a bad idea, but you’re already invested in the action and the nerves have already fired so all you can do is watch as everything goes to Hell?
  4129. >Well, that’s what the boat was like.
  4130. >Everything had already been said and done. The action would be completed, and all you could do was watch.
  4131. >And feel.
  4132. >And hear.
  4133. >There was an awful, horrible sound, like a giant steel monster’s final roars as it perished by the hero’s sword.
  4134. >The floor beneath your feet jostled.
  4135. >The wooden planks bent up and out of shape, rolling like the waves thirty feet away.
  4136. >It was ripped apart, every plank snapping into hundreds of pieces, as a hole straight down to the engine room opened up.
  4137. >Metal struck metal.
  4138. >All the parts of the engine went wild, battling each other as the thing erupted into a ball of flames.
  4139. >You could see a fireball rising out of the floor, speeding for you, threatening to turn you into a piece of charcoal.
  4140. >Before the flames could envelope you, you were swept off your feet.
  4141. >Discord had recovered from your shove and latched onto your shirt.
  4142. >He pulled you out of the path of the explosion and, with you in his arms, jumped out the window onto the deck.
  4143. >Your fall was cushioned by him as he landed on his back.
  4144. >Up above, the rest of the glass shattered into millions of shimmering shards following another explosion.
  4145. >Torrents of flame shot out of the bridge.
  4146. >They sprayed their heat about and coated the ship in fire that spread like a plague, devouring everything in sight.
  4147. >You rolled off of Discord and helped him up.
  4148. >”Did you see that? That was amazing! Oh my god! Wow, what a show! Twilight, I have to go back! Those were free explosions! No tickets needed!”
  4149. “No, we need to get out of here right now,” you shouted and frantically looked for the lifeboats.
  4150.  
  4151. >Just then, your other two companions came into view
  4152. >Innominate had her arms up, covering her head as she ran over.
  4153. >”The life boats are toast,” she cried.
  4154. >”The fire got to them before we could.”
  4155. “We have to get off this thing!”
  4156. >Anonymous made way for the burning tower that once housed the bridge.
  4157. >Its white paint was peeling up, revealing the particle board underneath, despite you having specifically paid for plywood.
  4158. “Those cheap bastards!”
  4159. >After attempting to open it by the knob and realizing that it was both hot and locked, the jolly green giant balled up his fist and punched straight through the wall to the right of the door.
  4160. >Tiny ropes of fire spilled out of the hole where his arm couldn’t plug it.
  4161. >He repeated the process just above door.
  4162. >Next, he heaved and ripped the thing right out of the wall, fully intact and only mostly on fire.
  4163. >Anonymous dragged it over to the railing and threw it overboard.
  4164. >”Get on,” he said.
  4165. >Innominate rushed to him and jumped over the railing.
  4166. >The roaring fire that grew around you completely drowned out the splash of water she made, but from Anonymous’ nod and urging for the next person to come over, you assumed she was safe.
  4167. >”You know, I’ve reconsidered sticking around, I think it really would be best to go,” said Discord anxiously as he removed his patchwork jacket, which had suddenly caught fire from a hungry flame dancing too close to it.
  4168. >The old man hopped to Anonymous and leapt over the railing.
  4169. >Anonymous gave another nod and gestured for you.
  4170. >You weren’t exactly eager to stick around on the boat, so you obeyed and made way for him.
  4171. >A jet of fire shot out in front of you. The heat forced you back, and you fell over onto a patch of fire.
  4172.  
  4173. >Instantly, your sundress caught. You lit up like a match.
  4174. >You screamed and tried to pat the fire out as the burning sensation became overpowering.
  4175. >When that didn’t work, you prepared to simply tear it right off, but before you could do so, Anonymous took hold of you and hoisted you over his head.
  4176. >With a swing of his arms, you were airborne.
  4177. >Soaring above the flames of the boat below, you were soon out over the ocean and plunged into the water.
  4178. >The cold liquid doused the flames of your dress and soothed your scorched flesh.
  4179. >You clawed your way to the surface and emerged, gasping for air.
  4180. >The waves were strong though, too strong for you, and they pulled you back underneath.
  4181. >No, not like this, you thought.
  4182. >Again, you tried to reach the surface.
  4183. >The water spilled away from your glasses and air poured into your lungs as you kicked for dear life.
  4184. >After battling the ocean for another few seconds, you finally got your bearings and spotted the door floating about twenty feet from the boat.
  4185. >You weren’t to far from it.
  4186. >You splashed in the water like a child, desperately trying to reach it.
  4187. >Innominate extended her arm to you when you came close.
  4188. >When you grabbed onto it, your wet hand slipped, and you went back underneath the water.
  4189. >It was Discord who latched onto your hair with his long and surprisingly strong fingers.
  4190. >Your head began to hurt as the strain on each follicle threatened to pull a strand out.
  4191. >Of course you were thankful to have your head above the water though.
  4192. >Innominate grabbed at your dress this time and pulled you onto the door with her.
  4193. “Thanks guys,” you wheezed.
  4194. >Anonymous jumped down next, splashing into the water a foot away from you and sending the door drifting.
  4195. >He grabbed onto the edge of it and began to kick his legs, propelling you all away from the floating fireball.
  4196.  
  4197. >You craned your neck, trying to find some part of the harbour to get a bearing on your location and steer Anonymous.
  4198. >To your dismay, there were no such landmarks.
  4199. >You couldn’t see a boat, a dock, or anything.
  4200. >Even Canterlot Tower, which was visible from every corner of the city, was gone.
  4201. >All there was was some trees in the distance which made your heart sink.
  4202. >You had closely studied the geography of the coastlines before you left on the boat for just such an occasion that you got lost.
  4203. >For hundreds of miles north or south of Canterlot, there were no trees on the coastline.
  4204. “Anonymous, go for the tr--”
  4205. >”The pictures!”
  4206. >Innominate jumped off the door and into the water, only to be captured by Anonymous and thrown back on.
  4207. >”What are you talking about?” he asked.
  4208. >She lunged again, pointing at the boat.
  4209. >”My trunk! Our wedding pictures! Anon, I can’t leave those behind! I have to go get them!”
  4210. “Are you kidding me? Leave the damn pictures. Your life is more important.”
  4211. >”You don’t understand, Twilight! They’re special!”
  4212. >You grabbed her shoulder and pulled her back.
  4213. >She turned to you, and you gave her a firm slap across the cheek.
  4214. “Enough! We’re not going back for a few stupid photos! Can’t you see the boat? They’re probably all gone anyway!”
  4215. >”No, you don’t understand! You don’t get it! Let me go!”
  4216. >”Uh, guys, did our engine run away?
  4217. “Nothing can be so important you’d go swim to your death for it!”
  4218. >”You’ve never had anyone to love like I have! Those pictures are special! They represent everything worth living for!”
  4219. >”GUYS!”
  4220. “WHAT?”
  4221. >”Anonymous is gone.”
  4222.  
  4223. >You whipped your head to the direction of the boat and surely enough, there he was, scaling the southern half of the yacht.
  4224. >Fast swimmer, that guy.
  4225. “Anonymous! Get back here right now! Leave the fucking pictures! You can take more later!”
  4226. >He either couldn’t hear you or he wasn’t listening.
  4227. >The green man hopped over the railing of the ship and disappeared into the fire.
  4228. “Anonymous! Anonymous, come back!”
  4229. >You gritted your teeth as the frantic woman next to you shouted directions as to where her God forsaken trunk was.
  4230. >Discord too joined in the fun, although his screams were limited to a repetition of “USA! USA! USA!”
  4231. “Anonymous, get your green ass back here! I swear to God, if I have to paddle this thing to that island, I’m going to eviscerate you! I’m giving you to the count of three!”
  4232. >He did not reply. The flames crackled on, eating away at the sides of the boat.
  4233. “One!”
  4234. >There was another sound, fainter than when you first heard it, of metal clashing with metal.
  4235. “Two!”
  4236. >The hull began to bend out of shape, like some massive orb was growing inside of it.
  4237. “Three!”
  4238. >Another explosion.
  4239. >The entire southern half of the boat was blown to smithereens.
  4240. >Flames shot out of the gaping hole for dozens of feet and lit up the water like day time.
  4241. >The sheer force of it knocked you back, and heat blistered your face.
  4242. >”ANON!”
  4243. >You pushed yourself up and cupped your face.
  4244. >Through cracks in your fingers, you could see the boat was no more.
  4245. >It had been thoroughly ripped apart, and the remains were being consumed by fire.
  4246. >There was but one section that survived, but it quickly filled with water and was pulled below the surface of the ocean like you were so many times.
  4247. >You stared at the sight in disbelief.
  4248.  
  4249. >The boat...Anonymous…
  4250. >No, he was fine. He had to be.
  4251. >You’d seen him shot before and he walked it off.
  4252. >He defeated an entire room of armed, juiced up combatants.
  4253. >He was the strongest man you had ever known in both body and will.
  4254. >He was a number of impossibilities wrapped up into one impossible man.
  4255. >One little explosion couldn’t kill him.
  4256. >He would pop up out of the water any second.
  4257. >Any second…
  4258. “Come on, buddy,” you whispered.
  4259. >”ANOOOOON!”
  4260. >Innominate clawed for the edge of the door, trying to send herself into the ocean, but Discord had a firm grip on her.
  4261. >”You’re stronger than you look,” he grunted.
  4262. >Come on, Anonymous.
  4263. >You knew he could do it.
  4264. >He could.
  4265. >Any second.
  4266. >One minute passed and there was no sign of him.
  4267. >One minute became two, and that became three, and then four, and suddenly five minutes had gone by.
  4268. >Anonymous was nowhere to be seen.
  4269. >That’s it, you thought.
  4270. >He was gone.
  4271. >Another friend dead, and once again, Twilight, it was all your fault.
  4272. >You hung your head in shame and sorrow and began to cry.
  4273. >Innominate had already begun doing that.
  4274. >She was laid out flat on the door, bawling her eyes out, as Discord slinked into the water and began to paddle everyone toward shore.
  4275.  
  4276. >By the time the door touched down on sand, it was night time.
  4277. >The stars illuminated the tiny island you had found yourself on just enough for you to tell that you were in about the same climate zone as Canterlot.
  4278. >A small part of you didn’t care.
  4279. >That Twilight wanted to just curl up and die.
  4280. >She had let everyone down too many times. Maybe if she were dead, things would be better.
  4281. >But a larger, more powerful part, wanted revenge.
  4282. >John Smith turned Sunset against you.
  4283. >John Smith got her to push Rainbow Dash off the roof.
  4284. >John Smith turned Canterlot against you.
  4285. >John Smith rigged your boat to explode.
  4286. >John Smith.
  4287. >John Smith.
  4288. >John Smith.
  4289. >He had to die.
  4290. >Heaven and Hell could conspire against you, but you would find your way back to Canterlot and make him pay.
  4291. >First things first, you needed to know where you were. The captain should know that.
  4292. >Or, so you thought.
  4293. “Discord, where are we?”
  4294. >”Hell if I know,” he muttered, looking disapprovingly down at his sand caked pants.
  4295. >What?
  4296. >That’s funny, you thought you just heard he didn’t know where you were.
  4297. “Weren’t you steering the boat?”
  4298. >”Yes.”
  4299. “So you know where we are.”
  4300. >”Not at all.”
  4301. “What do you mean you don’t know?”
  4302. >”Oh, Twilight, I don’t know how to steer a boat,” he chuckled.
  4303. “You were a captain!”
  4304. >”Yes, well, I may have fibbed a little. I may have gotten everything I know about boats off a few Youtube videos before I arrived at the harbour. I also may have accidentally steered us to an uncharted island.”
  4305. “DISCORD!”
  4306. >”Oops.”
  4307. “What the hell is wrong with you?!”
  4308. >”Erectile dysfunction, mostly. It is a long list though. Should I begin with the A’s or do you want to skip to the C’s? That’s where the fun stuff starts. Have you ever heard of chronal dislocation?”
  4309. “God damn it!”
  4310. >”That’s what I said when the doctors told me I’d never have sex again.”
  4311. “Fuck you!”
  4312. >”Don’t tease me.”
  4313.  
  4314. >You kicked at the cold sand beneath your feet in frustration.
  4315. “Discord, you stupid asshole! You spent all day steering us towards nowhere! You should have said something!”
  4316. >”I wanted you to think I was cool,” he pouted.
  4317. “I do! Did! I DID think you were cool before you spent six hours aiming us to this shithole of an island!”
  4318. >Again, you kicked the sand, but this time saw that you were kicking it onto Innominate.
  4319. >She was still weeping. Her eyes were beet red, and her sobs had become quiet after so long.
  4320. >You felt your rage leave you at the sight of her.
  4321. >Yeah, you had a tough time, but to her, she had just lost everything.
  4322. >You scowled at Discord, causing him to jump, and went over to console your friend.
  4323. >Squatting down beside her, you gently placed a hand on her bare shoulder.
  4324. >She clung onto your legs and buried her face between your feet, using them as supports as she cried.
  4325. “Innominate, I…”
  4326. >You moved to sit down and grabbed her armpits.
  4327. >She followed your pull up to your stomach, where she placed her head down and let her tears fall onto your already sullied dress.
  4328. >The bun that always sat on the back of her head had come undone, and her pitch black locks were hanging around her face.
  4329. >You ran your fingers through her hair, organizing the strands to clean her up some, but also to calm yourself down.
  4330. “I’m sorry,” you whispered to her.
  4331.  
  4332. >The two of you sat like that until she eventually went fell into a slumber.
  4333. >You wanted to doze off as well.
  4334. >God knows you were tired.
  4335. >Sleep refused to embrace you. Your mind was too busy.
  4336. >Between everything that had happened and everything that needed to happen, of course it would be.
  4337. >Nope. You were forced to wait until the sun came up and Innominate awoke.
  4338. >She pulled her head off your lap and sat up, keeping her eyes downcast.
  4339. “Innominate, how are you holding up?”
  4340. >No response. You figured as much.
  4341. >Perhaps Discord would be better conversation?
  4342. >If you weren’t still furious at him, yes.
  4343. “Looks like I’m on my own,” you sighed and looked around the beach.
  4344. >You weren’t sure about Innominate, but YOU very much so wanted to live and make it back to Canterlot.
  4345. >That meant finding or building shelter first of all.
  4346. >If the island were a little more tropical, that would have been easy. All you could see were big sturdy northern trees though.
  4347. >With a groan, you disappeared into the woods in hopes of finding a sapling to tear down.
  4348. >After ten minutes of searching, which felt more like an hour, you spotted several growing near a creek.
  4349. >You acquired two rocks--a flat one and a bulbous one-- and wet them, then began to scrape the edge of the flat rock against the larger one.
  4350. >When you had a nice sharp tip, you took it to the saplings and began to to slice away at their bases.
  4351. >All said and done, you had eleven miniature trees to work with.
  4352. >Now, you were still very early into your fitness routine, so to say you had muscle would be a stretch.
  4353. >Because of that, the process of dragging them all back to the beach was long and tiring.
  4354. >At least when it was done, Discord had awoken.
  4355. >You managed to put aside your anger in favor of survival and gave him very detailed instructions on what to do to make sure he couldn’t screw it up.
  4356.  
  4357. >After you had removed all the bark off the saplings, he was to remove the branches.
  4358. >With your nice little pile, you began to split the bark apart in half, then into fourths, then eighths, then sixteenths, and soon enough into thousandths. Their little fibrous strands turned into nice rope when strung together.
  4359. >Discord, having followed another order you gave him, stuck the remaining bodies of the saplings into the sand all leaning toward each other with one leaning across the top.
  4360. >Using the fibrous rope you crafted, you tied them all together and then covered the sides with the branches he had removed.
  4361. >The end result was a quaint little tent that could house the three of you if you squished together.
  4362. >There was even some rope left over, which you used in conjunction with a large number of twigs to make a fish trap.
  4363. “Well, Twilight, you’ve secured survival,” you said triumphantly, looking upon your creations.
  4364. >Well, survival for those left.
  4365. “Way to ruin your own mood.”
  4366. >The necessities were done with and it was only sunset.
  4367. >That gave you plenty of time to think about how to get out of this situation.
  4368. >You could build a radio.
  4369. >No you couldn’t.
  4370. >Well, there was always a boat.
  4371. >Sailing from an uncharted island and hoping to hit land would be an enormous mistake.
  4372. >You could wait to be rescued.
  4373. >Leaving your fate in the hands of others had never gone well.
  4374. >Every idea you had was shot down.
  4375. >It started to make you feel really stupid.
  4376.  
  4377. >Your stomach began to growl, as did Discord’s and Innominate’s.
  4378. >”Got any grub,” asked the man as he pumped the drill up and down on a small pile of kindling.
  4379. “Shut up.”
  4380. >”Now now, I think you’re being a little obtuse about this.”
  4381. “I hate you.”
  4382. >”Twilight.”
  4383. >You huffed and turned around in the sand, putting your back to him and the small stone fire ring.
  4384. >”Tell you what. I’ll go hunt us some food and when I come back, we can discuss why you’re so mad at me over dinner.”
  4385. “Did you learn to hunt from youtube too?”
  4386. >”As a matter of fact, I did.”
  4387. “God help us all then.”
  4388. >”Silly Twilight,” he giggled. “There is no God.”
  4389. >He dropped the drill and scampered off into the forest.
  4390. “Asshole,” you growled and took to starting the fire yourself.
  4391. >You grabbed the horizontal branches of the drill and pressed down, pulling the cord that looped around a vertical twig and spun it violently.
  4392. >The kindling sparked and began to burn after about twenty seconds of doing that.
  4393. >Those little flames brought your mind back to the boat.
  4394. >As the vegetation glowed and shrunk into little black strands, you could only picture Anonymous.
  4395. >How did he feel in his last moments?
  4396. >Was it painless?
  4397. >Could he feel his flesh melt off his body?
  4398. >Perhaps he died before the explosion, crushed by a falling piece of firewood.
  4399. >As you thought about all that, the kindling burned out.
  4400. >You cursed yourself and gathered more into the ring, hoping to get a blaze going soon.
  4401. >By the time Discord came back--empty handed, you might add--there was a nice little fire going in the ring.
  4402. “What happened to dinner?”
  4403. >”To what?”
  4404. “Dinner. You know, food. The thing you were going to catch.”
  4405. >”Oh yeah! I forgot about that as soon as I left. Jeez, how young do you think I am?”
  4406. >You expected nothing and still you were let down.
  4407. >Whatever. Time for sleep.
  4408. >You went into the tent, which Innominate had been sitting under for the last two hours, and pushed her to the side to make some room for yourself.
  4409. >You laid down and decided the next order of business was some flooring since sleeping on the sand was beyond uncomfortable.
  4410.  
  4411. >The next day started with screaming.
  4412. >You rushed out of the shelter to find Discord thrashing around in the ocean shouting his head off.
  4413. >”Twilight! I got the big one! And my parents always said I’d never amount to anything! Look at me now, Dad! Look at me now!”
  4414. >Interested as to what he had “caught”, you walked over to the shoreline with a sharp stick in hand.
  4415. >Your eyes widened when you saw just what was going on.
  4416. >Discord had somehow tied some rope to a large rock and got it stuck in a shark’s mouth.
  4417. >He was sitting on its back, pulling on the makeshift reins, and fighting with it to stay put.
  4418. >The absolute madman.
  4419. >”I’m going to name him Bobby!”
  4420. >He held his hand out to you expectantly.
  4421. >”Twilight, give me the stick so I can kill Bobby!”
  4422. >A shark.
  4423. >You…
  4424. >He caught a shark. He caught a shark and he named it Bobby.
  4425. >Nope.
  4426. >You were done.
  4427. >You tossed the stick at him and it landed in the water about five feet away.
  4428. >”No, that’s not my hand! Twilight, come on, this is getting difficult! Come back here! Hey! Bobby, no! Not the rope! HELP! I’VE MADE A HUGE MISTAKE!”
  4429. “What was I going to do? Oh, right. Flooring.”
  4430. >A brush floor would be the easiest, but that would be uncomfortable.
  4431. >Perhaps if you found some clay by the creek, you could make a hardened mud floor.
  4432. >Well, it was worth a shot.
  4433. >You made way into the forest again and got looking for that creek.
  4434. >It was faster than the first time you ventured into the woods since you weren’t looking for saplings.
  4435. >After examining the creek closely, you found a great clay deposit just beyond it.
  4436. >You could make a bowl out of clay to carry it all. Of course, to make a bowl out of clay, you would need a kiln. A kiln would also need clay though.
  4437. “Yeah, fuck you too, clay.”
  4438. >You were forced to make a small pouch with the bottom of your sundress and gather as much as you could carry back to camp.
  4439. >The deposit wouldn’t move, so you would be able to find it again later.
  4440.  
  4441. >You arrived back at camp and threw the pile of clay down, disgusted with it already.
  4442. >The fire had long since gone out, so you moved the remaining chunks of carbon and began to dig deep into the sand, placing more rocks down to make a wall, and filling the gaps with clay.
  4443. >While you did that, Discord ran back and forth in the water, swinging the stick around like an autistic chimp that got its peas mixed with its mashed potatoes.
  4444. >”I’m sorry! It was just a joke! We don’t have to use the reins! AHH! Fuck off, Bobby!”
  4445. >A small part of you hoped he would get eaten, but you knew he’d come out fine. He had a habit of defying death.
  4446. >Eventually, he got in a good hit and pierced the shark’s head right through the eye with the pointy end of the stick.
  4447. >He laughed maniacally and went on a long rant that you only half paid attention to about man’s superiority to nature.
  4448. >Discord dragged the massive creature as close to shore as he could get it, but he just didn’t have the strength to take it onto the sand.
  4449. >He wiped his soaking forehead dry and walked over to you as you waited for the clay to dry up.
  4450. >”Thanks for all your help. I couldn’t have done it without you.”
  4451. “I didn’t do anything.”
  4452. >”You were there in spirit.”
  4453. “Whatever floats your boat.”
  4454. >”Yeesh. Poor choice of words, Twilight.”
  4455. >You grabbed a handful of sand and threw it at him.
  4456. >With a yelp, he ran off.
  4457. “Royal prick,” you muttered and went back to work.
  4458. >While the new kiln was drying, you could get to making the other products.
  4459. >First came the bowl.
  4460. >That was followed by several large plates, just large enough to fit into the kiln. Six of them would be enough to completely cover the floor of the tent.
  4461. >Well, the fire ring was clearly in use, so you had to build another one a yard away while Discord cut Bobby into manageable pieces with your sharp stone.
  4462.  
  4463. >That night, the fire roared and you gorged yourself on tiger shark.
  4464. >It was a mostly satisfying meal.
  4465. >It definitely filled your belly, but no full stomach could stop you from seeing the burning yacht in the little flames of the fire ring.
  4466. >Innominate could see it too. You were sure of it.
  4467. >The way she stared at the flames was chilling in its own way.
  4468. >If that look fell upon another man, he should drop dead from it.
  4469. >”You know, I was really worried this wouldn’t taste good, but Bobby makes a great steak. Very tender.”
  4470. “That’s because you beat it with a stick for an hour.”
  4471. >”I have pent up aggression against large scaled creatures.”
  4472. >You rolled your eyes.
  4473. >When the meals were done, Bobby’s carcass was moved far away from camp in case any animals decided to pay it a visit.
  4474. >Everyone went to sleep. Everyone but you.
  4475. >You stared at the fire.
  4476. >Its tongues whipped at the air furiously.
  4477. >It was an angry thing. Fire was full of hate.
  4478. >Suddenly, you heard a cracking twig.
  4479. >Had an animal come by to feast on Bobby, or was it the wind?
  4480. >One crack was followed by another, and then another, and then there was a shuffling sound on the sand.
  4481. >You shook your two companions awake.
  4482. >”Twilight, it’s three in the morning,” groaned Discord, rubbing his eyes.
  4483. “Shut up. We might have a visitor,” you whispered.
  4484. >You slowly reached for the pointy stick that had slain Bobby and readied yourself to strike.
  4485. >The shuffling became louder as whatever the thing was drew nearer.
  4486. >You could make out several distinct sounds from it.
  4487. >There was feet, and oddly enough, a hollow wooden sound.
  4488. >You raised an eyebrow and crawled out of the tent.
  4489. >After a minute, the creature that had been making the noise came into the light of the fire.
  4490. “Oh my God.”
  4491.  
  4492. >It…
  4493. >It was him.
  4494. >The orange light of the fire bounced off his emerald skin, wet with sweat.
  4495. >He limped towards you, as the foot he was dragging behind him was bent at a disgusting angle.
  4496. >His body was half covered in angry, screaming blisters that oozed with pus and blood.
  4497. >He was mangled, but he was Anonymous.
  4498. >”I don’t believe it,” muttered Innominate, who for the first time in two days, moved out of the tent. “Honey?”
  4499. >Anonymous grunted and took another step forward.
  4500. >You could see his knee shaking as it struggled to support his entire body.
  4501. >”Well I’ll be damned. You actually pulled through, didn’t you, big guy? Impressive,” said Discord with a nod.
  4502. >The green man twisted his body and brought another thing into view of the fire.
  4503. >It was charred and black, and many holes in it actively leaked water.
  4504. >”The...trunk…” he wheezed.
  4505. >With those words, his strength left his body and he toppled to the ground at last.
  4506. >His face buried itself in the sand.
  4507. >”Anon!”
  4508. >Innominate rushed over and pushed on his shoulder, trying to turn him over.
  4509. >You snapped out of your shock and went to help her.
  4510. >It took the two of you to turn him onto his back, and when you did, he went into a coughing fit.
  4511. >Innominate cupped his cheek in her hand and leaned down.
  4512. >”You came back.”
  4513. >”Of course…. I made...a promise.”
  4514. >”Yes?”
  4515. >”Til death...do we part…. I ain’t dead yet.”
  4516. >”Well maybe not yet, but you’ve sure got both legs in the coffin there, bucko,” chided Discord. “Don’t worry though. I’m a doctor and I specialize in burns.”
  4517. “Did you learn that from youtube too?”
  4518. >”I want to say no.”
  4519.  
  4520. >Discord spent a few minutes trying to convince you that he knew what he was doing.
  4521. >You asked him why you shouldn’t be the one tending to Anonymous’ wounds, and the answer was simple.
  4522. >You didn’t know how.
  4523. “I beg your pardon?”
  4524. >”That came out wrong. I’m sure you know,” he went on “But you don’t...know how. You know how as in you know what to do, but you don’t know the steps to take in order to make it to the first step.”
  4525. “Say I don’t know something one more time and I’ll show you I know how much force is required to fit my foot up your ass.”
  4526. >”Careful now. I killed a shark.”
  4527. “On accident.”
  4528. >”Look sweetie, just get me the ingredients I need and I can make sure those burns don’t kill him. Isn’t his life more important than your pride?”
  4529. >You growled.
  4530. “Yes.”
  4531. >”Good girl. Now get me thirty seven coconuts, a jar of sugar maple sap--but pine will do as well--three petals from a rare blue crickataw flower, and some gum.”
  4532. “We have literally none of that on this island.”
  4533. >”Not even the gum?”
  4534. “Do I look like I have gum?”
  4535. >”Just bring me some fruit then. I’ll figure something out.”
  4536. “You’re insane.”
  4537. >”I’m a scientist.”
  4538. >Is that what you sound like to people?
  4539. >You made a mental note right then to choose your words more carefully when you went on rants.
  4540.  
  4541. >Against your better judgement, you did in fact go into the woods to find some fruit.
  4542. >Luckily, there was an abundance of apples around. You also found some grapes and small berries.
  4543. >You made a small pouch with the bottom of your dress and carried what you had found back to camp.
  4544. >Discord was quite pleased with your findings.
  4545. >He took them all from you and ran away to the shoreline to “tinker” as he called it.
  4546. >While he did that, you sat with Innominate by her husband.
  4547. >She held his hand and rubbed it while whispering to him, retelling stories of their past.
  4548. >The man did not reply.
  4549. >He seemed to be asleep. Well, mentally at least.
  4550. >From his sweating and shaking, there was a war going on inside of his body.
  4551. >You shuddered to imagine what number of bacteria were invading him, infesting his vile burns.
  4552. >He was right, you thought. Discord.
  4553. >You knew how to take care of burns when you had the proper tools.
  4554. >On that island though? You were lost.
  4555. >You couldn’t even bring him water.
  4556. >After ten or so minutes of stillness, the excitement of the situation wore off enough that the tiredness in your bones began to force you back to sleep.
  4557. >”Oh, Twilight,” called Discord.
  4558. “Huh?”
  4559. >”Do we have newts on this island?”
  4560. “I saw some, yes.”
  4561. >”I need one.”
  4562. “Why?”
  4563. >”It’s better if you don’t ask.”
  4564. “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. What are you planning?”
  4565. >”Get me the damned lizard.”
  4566. >Whatever.
  4567. >Slowly, you stood up.
  4568. >Shaking the grogginess away, you went back into the forest.
  4569.  
  4570. “He better have a damn good reason for getting all this crap,” you groaned.
  4571. >It must have been thirty minutes of turning over rocks and logs until you found one.
  4572. >You grabbed at it, but the darn thing was too quick and crawled away.
  4573. “Yeah, fuck you too.”
  4574. >A little more searching, Twilight. Just a little more.
  4575. >Ah ha!
  4576. >You found one resting in the crook between two fallen trees.
  4577. >Very slowly and carefully, you snuck up and snatched it away.
  4578. >Victoriously, you returned to camp.
  4579. >Discord was still down by the shoreline. When you got to him, your eyes widened.
  4580. >Before him was a small pit dug into the sand.
  4581. >It was filled with some glowing blue paste like something out a scifi film.
  4582. >”Do you have the newt?”
  4583. “What the hell is that?”
  4584. >”Right now it’s a biohazard. Give me the newt and I’ll see what I can do.”
  4585. >You knelt down and reached a fingertip out for it, but he slapped your hand away.
  4586. >”Don’t touch that! Do you want cancer?”
  4587. “What on earth is this?”
  4588. >”Didn’t we just go over it?”
  4589. “Is it from the fruit?”
  4590. >He nodded.
  4591. “Where did you learn to do this?”
  4592. >”I’ve been alive a long time and I’ve met a lot of smart people. You pick up a few things. Now, if you don’t mind…”
  4593. >He held out his hand to you.
  4594. >You gave him the newt and watched as he dropped it in whole.
  4595. >The glow died down and left behind an ugly looking substance that resembled blue excrement.
  4596. >”Perfect,” he muttered and grabbed as much of it in his hands as he could. “Well? Don’t just stand there. Help me out.”
  4597. >You picked some up too and were quite disgusted by the feeling of it.
  4598. >It was cold and wet and, despite its appearance, very strong in its structure.
  4599. >Discord skipped over to Anonymous and bent down.
  4600. >He began to rub the paste all over the wounds, spreading it thin across the skin to cover the greatest area.
  4601. >You followed his lead.
  4602. >Soon enough, The entirety of his burns were covered in the goop.
  4603. >”What is that?” asked Innominate.
  4604. >”Science.”
  4605. >”Science?”
  4606. “So he says.”
  4607.  
  4608. >Time would tell.
  4609. >You said your goodnights and went to sleep.
  4610. >No dreams that night.
  4611. >One second it was dark, and the next, it was light.
  4612. >When you cracked your eyes open, the first thing you saw, apart from the vast expanse of the ocean, was Anonymous.
  4613. >He was sitting upright and was slapping himself.
  4614. “What the hell are you doing?”
  4615. >You scrambled out of the tent to get him to stop.
  4616. >Your main worry was that he would irritate his burns and cause an even worse infection than what was already guaranteed.
  4617. >When you got closer to him, you noticed there were in fact no burns on him.
  4618. >His skin was, for the most part, flawless.
  4619. >Of course his leg was still broken.
  4620. >From the ankle up to the knee was puffy and as purple as your own skin.
  4621. >”Oh, hey, Twilight,” he said.
  4622. “Anonymous, what happened to you?”
  4623. >He pointed to Discord who was teaching Innominate how to fish at that moment.
  4624. >”He said something about newts.”
  4625. “Son of a bitch. It really worked.”
  4626. >You were filled with curiosity.
  4627. >How did he make that?
  4628. >How did he know how to make it?
  4629. >Why did it even work?
  4630. >Why was the newt important?
  4631. >And...where did the newt go, actually?
  4632. >You had to ask him about it.
  4633. >In the meantime, you were very concerned about that leg.
  4634. “Anonymous, let me get a look at that.”
  4635. >”Don’t bother.”
  4636. >Ignoring him, you got down next to it and leaned in to get a closer look.
  4637. “Not bothering is what leads to amputations. Jeez, what did you even do to this thing?”
  4638. >”Like I said, don’t bother. It will heal on its own.”
  4639. “If it doesn’t get infected, it’s going to heal all fucked like and, in the best case, you’ll lose function of the leg.”
  4640. >”Twilight, it’s fine. I’ve taken worse than this.”
  4641.  
  4642. >You raised an eyebrow.
  4643. “Worse than this? Anonymous, your toes are pointing towards your ass.”
  4644. >”Yeah?”
  4645. >He grabbed his leg and felt around it.
  4646. >After a few seconds of groping himself, he latched onto the foot and twisted.
  4647. >You could hear segments of bone snapping as they ground against each other.
  4648. >He gave a shout when he did it. Your reaction was more of disgust and shock.
  4649. >”Th-there. All better.”
  4650. >Well, you can’t argue with results.
  4651. >You could certainly feel sick to your stomach by them.
  4652. >You covered a distant tree in vomit and, after making sure nothing else would come up, returned to him.
  4653. “I truly don’t understand you. How can you do the things you do?”
  4654. >”I didn’t understand myself for the longest time. It all took some getting used to.”
  4655. “I know what you mean. I had it hard in high school too,” you said, putting a hand on his back.
  4656. >”That’s not exactly what I meant.”
  4657. >He gave a heavy sigh and looked out onto the ocean.
  4658. >It waved and rolled and crashed onto the shore, indifferent to his gaze.
  4659. >”We’re going to die out here, aren’t we?”
  4660. “No. I’ll get us back to Canterlot, somehow.”
  4661. >”You better. I don’t want to kick the bucket on some island. Let me die on the mainland.”
  4662. “Why do you hate the water so much?” you asked suddenly.
  4663. >”I…”
  4664. >He hesitated. You could see the gears turning in his head as he thought about his response.
  4665. >”I have some bad memories of the water. Do they teach you about the war in school?”
  4666. >You nodded. “Yeah. We have a whole unit dedicated to it in History.”
  4667. >”Then you’d know the failure that was the Battle of Sochi.”
  4668. >Your eyes widened.
  4669. “No. You don’t mean…”
  4670. >”Ten thousand men shot before they could even get off the boats. I looked around me and saw people using each other as shields from the bullet sprays. Brothers forcing brothers into fire to save their own skin. Some of us jumped over the sides, and others pressed on. Another eight thousand drowned out there, dragged to the bottom of the ocean by their gear.”
  4671.  
  4672. >“I swam to the beach, and in some parts of the water, I could actually walk from all the bodies piling up. When I crawled up on the shore, I looked down at my belt. There was someone hanging onto it. They had grabbed onto me in the water and died there. They only kept grip because it was so cold their muscles locked up.”
  4673. >You were speechless.
  4674. >You wanted to rub his back or give him a hug or do SOMETHING, but it just didn’t feel right.
  4675. >Not after what you just heard.
  4676. >”So yeah. I don’t like water.”
  4677. >He pointed at the ocean, drawing your attention to it.
  4678. >”By the way, you bought a shitty boat. Even mine didn’t explode.”
  4679. “Yes, well, yours weren’t sabotaged.”
  4680. >”Is that what they teach you?”
  4681. “What do you mean?”
  4682. >”Another day, Twilight. Another day.”
  4683. >He put his hands behind his head and laid back on the sand.
  4684. >”For now, I’m tired. Come on, take a load off.”
  4685. “I can’t. I have to get to work on some tools.”
  4686. >”Right. You do that.”
  4687.  
  4688. >You arrived to find your clay wares had properly dried and shrunk. All there was to do was to fire them.
  4689. >Managing that required a little creativity.
  4690. >In the end, the next day, you had your kiln, a large bowl, and your floor plates.
  4691. >The plates would have to wait to go in the tent though, as that needed to be enlarged for Anonymous.
  4692. >With Discord’s help, you increase the size of tent three times over.
  4693. >There was plenty of room for everyone now, and all that was needed was eighteen more floor plates.
  4694. >With your large bowl in hand, you went to get some more clay for that project.
  4695. >On your way there, you tried to figure once again just where you were in the world.
  4696. >The yacht, if you remembered right, had a top speed of forty-two knots. That was about forty-eight miles per hour.
  4697. >The boat was on the water for a total of ten hours before it exploded.
  4698. >Discord could have sailed in any direction at any time, but assuming he went in a straight line for his six hours at the wheel, and even adding the last four hours as safety room, the farthest you could have traveled in any given direction was four hundred and eighty miles.
  4699. >That meant that, mincing numbers, you could be anywhere within a three hundred and sixty two thousand square mile area of the shoreline.
  4700. “Well shit, I guess that means we’re somewhere in the ocean! Great detective work.”
  4701. >In your pity party, you failed to watch where you were going and tripped on a small rock as you approached the creek.
  4702. >The bowl flew from your hands.
  4703. >You watched in abject horror as it flew threw the air.
  4704. >It would fall on the ground and shatter. Then you’d have to start ALL over again.
  4705. >Instead, it landed in the water.
  4706. “Oh, thank God,” you sighed in relief.
  4707.  
  4708. >The bowl bobbed as it righted itself and began to float along with the current.
  4709. >You got up and dusted yourself off, though it didn’t really matter much since half of your dress’ weight was filth of assorted types at that point.
  4710. >As you approached the bowl to remove it from the water, you noticed how much it seemed like a boat in that moment.
  4711. >Damn thing. A boat is what got you into the whole mess.
  4712. >Then it hit you.
  4713. >A boat. Yes, that could do it.
  4714. >What had started the problem could also be the solution.
  4715. >No, not as in being rescued by a boat.
  4716. >Three hundred and sixty two thousand square miles was a lot of area to cover. The chances of another ship stumbling across you were slim, and you didn’t very much want to wait five years to be rescued either.
  4717. >You could build a boat!
  4718. “But the ocean is so vast. How could one small boat form an island find its way back home?” you muttered and picked the bowl out of the water.
  4719. >Well, it’s not like you’d have to sail blindly.
  4720. >You got off the east coast, which means you would have had to sail east, lest your voyage would have been by car.
  4721. >All you would have to do to get back to shore was sail true west.
  4722. >A compass is pretty easy to build. All it takes is some water, a leaf, and a needle.
  4723. >Innominate had her trunk back. There was bound to be a small needle in there you could use.
  4724. >If not, making one wouldn’t be so difficult either.
  4725. >Of course, there was the problem of actually moving the boat.
  4726. >You could have possibly been four hundred and eighty miles away from the mainland. A simple raft would not suffice for that distance, and as much as you trusted in Anonymous’ strength, even he couldn’t paddle that far.
  4727. >You needed an engine, and lucky for you, you’re just the kind of genius to make one.
  4728. “It’s settled then. I’ll build an Arc.”
  4729.  
  4730. >You gathered some clay from the deposit the bowl had once been a part of and went back to camp.
  4731. >At dinner that night, which was another tiger shark Discord had caught by using Bobby’s corpse as bait, you told your idea to everyone.
  4732. >”You want another boat in our lives?” asked Anonymous.
  4733. >”I don’t know about him, but I love boats! Can this one blow up too?”
  4734. >”Shut up, Discord,” chided Innominate.
  4735. “No,” you answered. “There will be zero risk of this one blowing up.”
  4736. >”You know, last time I bit the bullet and went on a boat for you, I ended up regretting it.”
  4737. “I know, Anonymous. I’m sorry. But hey, we’d all be dead right now if it weren’t for your quick thinking. It’s a good thing you were there for us.”
  4738. >He shrugged.
  4739. >”What kind of friend would I be if I let mine die?”
  4740. >”You wouldn’t be a friend at all. But hey, not everyone's friend material. I used to be best friends with this lovely girl before she stabbed me in the back and...well, I’ll tell that story later,” said the old man with a mouth full of food.
  4741. >”Oh come on. You can’t tease us like that. What happened?” asked Innominate.
  4742. >”No, no. It’s really not that important.”
  4743. “It sounds like she really hurt you.
  4744. >You put a hand on his back and started to rub.
  4745. >”She did. I guess you could say she sort of ruined my life. Oh well, things happen. You move on, you find new hobbies, and you learn to enjoy things again. I quite love my hobby.”
  4746. “What do you do?”
  4747. >”I hunt.”
  4748. >”Anything big?”
  4749. >”Oh yeah. The biggest, toughest prey of them all.”
  4750. >Anonymous nodded.
  4751. >”Good for you, Discord.”
  4752. >”I’m quite proud of myself, actually. I’ve got ninety nine of them so far. One hundred is on the way.”
  4753. >He wrapped his arm around your shoulder and pulled you close against him.
  4754. >His clothes had stiffened over the course of your stay on the island. They rubbed against your bare arms uncomfortably.
  4755. >”And I want you to be there when I catch it! All of you! Well, except for you, Innominate. Your bun kind of creeps me out.”
  4756. >”Hey!”
  4757.  
  4758. >The next day, after the plates had fully dried out, you set six of them in the kiln and got to work on planning the boat.
  4759. >The trip would likely take a while, so you needed food and water to last four people however long it would take.
  4760. >The fuller you wanted people’s stomachs, the more room had to be on the boat for everything.
  4761. >Once it got too big, it wouldn’t be feasible to move it with any engine you could create from island scraps.
  4762. >Perhaps you wouldn’t need much food at all. If everyone stuffed themselves every day until departure, they would be fat enough that they could likely live off that alone, leaving more space for water and making the whole boat lighter.
  4763. “Good luck getting Innominate fat,” you scoffed.
  4764. >Best to stick with food stores on the boat.
  4765. >After accounting for minimal nutritional needs, you found a suitable size for the boat.
  4766. >Then it was time to come up with an engine.
  4767. >That would be...harder. Not too hard for you, though.
  4768. >Hell, if you can develop a dark energy-based fusion machine, you can sure as hell make a boat engine from whatever you could find on an island.
  4769. >As you went about that, drawing figures with a stick in the sand, Anonymous walked over to you.
  4770. >You looked at him in shock and urged him to sit down and take some the weight off his leg.
  4771. >Pointing to it to show him how terrible it looked, you saw that it was looking fairly good, as far as broken legs go.
  4772. >It had shrunken down back to normal size, and the coloration had mostly faded.
  4773. >”I told you it’d heal fine. What’s going on in the sand over here?”
  4774. “They’re plans for the boat. I’m sorry, how did your leg heal that fast?”
  4775. >”Come on, Twilight. You know I’m a quick healer.”
  4776. >You frowned and slapped his leg with the stick.
  4777. >He winced and pulled it back from you.
  4778. >”Hey, I never said it didn’t hurt.”
  4779. “Anonymous, come on. If you don't tell me what’s going on, I’m just going to dissect you later.”
  4780. >He sighed and plopped down next to you.
  4781.  
  4782. >”Not right now. Why don’t you tell me more about this boat? Maybe I could help.”
  4783. “Not right now? It’s been seven years, Anonymous.”
  4784. >”I don’t want to talk about it.”
  4785. “Then you shouldn’t have come over here and tempted me like this. You should have known what I would ask.”
  4786. >”You women are all the same. At least Innominate learned to drop it.”
  4787. “Drop what?”
  4788. >”This!”
  4789. >Your eyes went wide.
  4790. “W-what?”
  4791. >Unbelievable.
  4792. >You didn’t think it was possible.
  4793. >Your entire worldview just shattered.
  4794. >Anonymous, the stone faced, monotone, universal constant just raised his voice at you.
  4795. >It seemed to shock him as well.
  4796. >He responded similarly to you, though more watered down.
  4797. >”Twilight, I’m sorry. I don’t know...I don’t know what that was.”
  4798. “Anonymous, what are you guarding?” you asked softly.
  4799. >He stared at you long and hard.
  4800. >When he looked into your eyes, you could see that he was searching inside himself more than you.
  4801. >After a long silence, he turned away and looked off at the ocean.
  4802. >”You win,” he muttered.
  4803. “So? What’s up with you?”
  4804. >”Innominate told you about power juice, right? And how it originally came from my blood?”
  4805. >You nodded.
  4806. >”That’s a lie. It lives in my blood, but it was originally from a jar. It wasn’t just me, either. There were ten of us, handpicked for our ability to operate under stress and follow orders.”
  4807. “Is this about the war?”
  4808. >He nodded.
  4809. >”The Axis was proving to be a stronger opponent than the government originally thought. They began pouring billions of dollars into new weapon development before some nutjob convinced them that the key to winning wasn’t better weapons, but better soldiers.”
  4810. “You and those nine others.”
  4811. >”The Enhanced Warrior Program, they called it. We weren’t warriors though. We weren’t even the final product. We were just the dogs they used to get their real ideas from. What worked with us moved onto the next part of the plan. If some chemical proved detrimental to our health, well, what’s one man worth against the entire free world?”
  4812. “That’s horrible.”
  4813.  
  4814. >”It was necessary. I knew that. Well, at first, anyway. I wanted to help them. I really wanted to make a difference, but the serums and the treatments...it started to eat away at me. One day they injected me with something. I could feel the heat run through my veins and begin to cloud my mind. It was supposed to be temporary--something a soldier could take before battle to heighten performance, only with me, it didn’t wear off.”
  4815. ”Innominate said that you were always angry when you saw her.”
  4816. >”I was broken. I rebelled, and as punishment, they threw me in with the forces at Sochi. They wanted me to die with everyone else in that sacrifice play. I didn’t go down though. No, I wouldn’t give them the pleasure of finally succeeding.”
  4817. “What’d you do next?”
  4818. >”Well, it’s simple. I showed them just what their Frankenstein’s Monster could do. Those scientists and their next generation super soldiers didn’t know what hit them.”
  4819. >You waited for him to continue, but it seemed he was done with his tale.
  4820. “Anonymous, I don’t know what to say.”
  4821. >”Don’t say anything. That chapter of my life is done. Right now, I just want to do what I can to get off this island. How can I help you?”
  4822. >You gestured to your drawing in the sand.
  4823. “Well, I need some wood. Why don’t I build you an axe and let you get chopping?”
  4824. >”Alright.”
  4825.  
  4826. >With no metal--or rather, no accessible metal--on the island, the axe would have to be made of stone.
  4827. >Tracking down a rock was no problem.
  4828. >Tracking down the RIGHT rock was a bit of a challenge.
  4829. >You wanted something that was close to the shape of an axe head already. Most of everything that fit the description was far too small to use.
  4830. >Once you ventured further from the beach and deeper into the woods, you found a rather nice piece that you felt could work.
  4831. >You grabbed that and transported it back to camp, along with a larger flat stone and a smaller hand sized one.
  4832. >For you, that was quite the workout.
  4833. >It was disgusting how weak you were.
  4834. >You had been doing so well in the two weeks before the boat trip. Now look at you.
  4835. >You needed to continue your work.
  4836. >A modified bodyweight routine would be enough to get your strength up if you had a large enough protein intake.
  4837. >Finding enough meat to build muscle would be harder than just surviving, but what the hell? You never shied away from a project before.
  4838. >After setting all the rocks down, you sat in the indent you had created in the sand.
  4839. >It occurred to you that between the “tools” you had been making, the schematics in the sand, your butt indent, and the addition of the work stones, you had made yourself your own little lab on the beach.
  4840. “You can take the scientist out of the lab, but I guess you can’t take the lab out of the scientist.”
  4841. >The rest of the day was spent hammering away at the axe head with your hand stone, shaping it until it was near enough that you could begin to grind it to an edge.
  4842. >With a bowl of water next to you, you wet the work stone and ground the axe head against it until it fully formed.
  4843.  
  4844. >By then, it was dinner time.
  4845. >You opted out, as there was work to be done.
  4846. >The axe handle needed to be found and shaped, then you had to finish with your tools, then you needed to exercise, then you needed to figure out the engine, then you needed to--
  4847. >”Twilight, honey, you need to shut up,” said Innominate as she shoved the remains of Larry, Discord’s shark from the previous night, against your chest. “You survived an exploding boat. Don’t work yourself to death on this dingy island.”
  4848. “We won’t be here long if I can just get everything done.”
  4849. >”Yeah, well you’re not getting everything done tonight. Eat, drink, and be merry,” she replied, wrapping her arm around Anonymous’ hip.
  4850. “Anonymous, help me out here.”
  4851. >”Sorry, but I want to sleep in the tent tonight.”
  4852. >You grunted and angrily bit into the shark.
  4853. >Funny. That’s something you never thought you’d write.
  4854. >Twilight, devourer of sharks.
  4855. >Is tiger shark even safe to eat?
  4856. >You lived. That’s good enough.
  4857. >Once your piece of Larry was done, you went back to work.
  4858. >This time, you took to the woods to find a proper handle for the axe.
  4859. >Innominate insisted on going with you, discontent to let you walk around the woods at night all alone.
  4860. >”This is so boring,” she muttered at the five minute mark.
  4861. “Shouldn’t you be more used to boringness? You do live with the human equivalent of xanax.”
  4862. >”Of course I’m used to it with him. You’re usually a bit more fun though. Hey, remember that time we paid a visit to that Sentry loser?”
  4863. “Fondly. Man, you really let him have it. I didn’t even know you could swing bats like that.”
  4864. >”It’s all in the wrist.”
  4865. “Well keep an eye out for some wood--a tree trunk or a branch--about the size of a bat. That’s what we’re here for.”
  4866. >”Can do.”
  4867.  
  4868. >”Hey, Twi, why’d you want to go for a boat ride anyway?”
  4869. “Oh, you know…”
  4870. >Because you suspected her husband of being a back stabber.
  4871. >You thought she and he were in league against you and you wanted to see if they needed to be killed or not.
  4872. “I like boats.”
  4873. >”Funny, you never mentioned it to me.”
  4874. “It’s a new hobby of mine. I only recently got into boating.”
  4875. >”Fair enough. I’m sorry your first trip on the water had to end like this.”
  4876. “Well, what can you do?”
  4877. >What? It’s not like you’re going to tell your friend you were ready to shoot her.
  4878. >She was obviously innocent. No need in concerning her any further.
  4879. >After five or ten more minutes of walking in the dark, you spotted a small tree that fit all your needs.
  4880. “Help me take this thing down.”
  4881. >The two of you, with some time and effort, chopped down the miniature tree and hauled it off back to camp.
  4882. >By the time you got back, it had been night time for quite a while and you were getting very tired.
  4883. >You set the tree down at your beach lab, did a quick workout just to get yourself back into the swing of things, and went to bed.
  4884.  
  4885. >When the sun rose, you did so with it.
  4886. >The first thing you did was check the fish trap to see if anything had been caught.
  4887. >Well, if anything had been caught, it was gone when you saw it.
  4888. >The trap was completely destroyed, likely by hungry sharks that smelled the captured food.
  4889. >Damn animals.
  4890. >After that, you went for a quick jog.
  4891. >Quick as in after three minutes, you were winded and could not continue.
  4892. “We’ll try for four tomorrow,” you wheezed.
  4893. >Well, that was all wonderful. You sure did love failing at everything.
  4894. “Hopefully the axe will go a little better than all this.”
  4895. >You went to your lab and got to work on the handle.
  4896. >After cutting the trunk to a proper length, you carved out a hole near the top of it which the head would fit into.
  4897. >Discord had gotten a fire going in order to cook some breakfast, but he’d completely forgotten about it and left the pit roaring.
  4898. >Whatever. No skin off your bones.
  4899. >You used some twigs to remove a burning coal from the pit and place it into the hole of the handle.
  4900. >As you blew on it, it glowed and scorched the wood.
  4901. >It ate away at the handle, making the hole bigger and sturdier.
  4902. >When that was done, you took another stick and began to smooth the edges out.
  4903. >All that was left was to carve a full grip out of the trunk piece, which you did with the hand stone, and to insert the axe head.
  4904. >You hammered it in and presented it to Anonymous.
  4905. >”I’m impressed. Good job, Twilight.”
  4906. “Thank you. Now, what I need you to do is find similarly sized trees and cut them down. They need to be small enough that we can manage them easily. Got it?”
  4907. >”Sure thing.”
  4908. “Oh, and if you find saplings out there, bring those to me.”
  4909. >He nodded and disappeared into the forest.
  4910. >The sound of stone banging against wood told you that he had found one to chop down.
  4911. >Good.
  4912.  
  4913. >Next up was the engine.
  4914. >You kept coming up with new ideas and had to scrap them all since they were essentially perpetual motion machines. You can’t get something from nothing.
  4915. >But you had nothing! There was no way to make fuel on that damned island!
  4916. >But wait, Twilight. If you can’t make fuel, why not just use nature’s fuel?
  4917. >The wind!
  4918. >Sails worked for a reason.
  4919. >You could design something that utilized wind power to move a paddle.
  4920. >But what?
  4921. >A sail? Too simple. Also, you had no idea how to sail a boat.
  4922. >You were also sure nobody else did either considering Anonymous was a soldier and not a seaman, Innominate grew up in the city, and Discord openly admitted to not knowing how to work a boat.
  4923. >Now, what you could do was create a sort of windmill that would transfer power to a paddle through a gearbox.
  4924. >With your trusty pointed stick in hand, you began to draw out what it would look like in the sand.
  4925. >Crude, you thought, but doable. Definitely doable.
  4926. >It would also have to be able to pivot in case the wind or the current knocked the raft off course.
  4927. >After several hours of chopping, Anonymous returned to you.
  4928. >He had the axe in one hand and, nestled in the crooks of both his arms, a very large amount of saplings.
  4929. >You thanked him profusely as he set them down.
  4930. >”It’s no problem. I’m going to go get the other trees I cut down. Holler if you need anything.”
  4931. “Will do,” you said as you got down and began to strip them of their bark.
  4932. >When you were finished fully removing and splitting the bark into strands, the sun had begun to set.
  4933. >Innominate tried to get you to eat again, but you told her your current work was time sensitive, and food would have to wait.
  4934.  
  4935. >”You’re a real piece of work,” she groaned and sat down beside you. “What is this anyway?”
  4936. “It’s currently strands of bark. It’s going to be rope once I’m done winding it together.
  4937. >She took three strands up from the ground and tried to mimic your hand movements.
  4938. >”Like this?”
  4939. “Yes, like that. What are you doing?”
  4940. >”Helping you.”
  4941. “Why? Don’t you want to eat?”
  4942. >”Yeah, but I want you to eat too. The sooner we get this done, the sooner that happens.”
  4943. “Thank you.”
  4944. >”Just doing my part.”
  4945. >Once again, the two of you had worked long into the night.
  4946. >At least the fruits of your labor were more apparent than the last time.
  4947. >When all was said and done, there was at least a hundred feet of rope for you to work with.
  4948. >With Anonymous’ talent for finding you saplings, that would likely be added to in the following days.
  4949. >”Now come on. I’m fucking starving!”
  4950. “Me too. Anything good tonight?”
  4951. >”The same thing as every night.”
  4952. “We’re going to get scurvy on this diet.”
  4953. >”Hey, didn’t you bring Discord a bunch of fruit the other night?”
  4954. “That’s right. I should collect some more for camp.”
  4955. >She shook her head.
  4956. >”You’re busy enough, kid. I’ll do the gathering around here.”
  4957. “You sure?”
  4958. >”Honestly, Twi. What else am I doing around here? It’s really the least I can do.”
  4959. “Alright then.”
  4960. >Between bites, you gave her a list of fruits you had found in the woods and where, and also which ones would be most worth her time gathering.
  4961. >She said she would head out at first light and return with a bounty.
  4962. >Well, not exactly in those words, but something to that effect.
  4963. >After finishing your meals, you both huddled up in the tent and went to sleep.
  4964. >When you awoke, she was already gone, as were two large bowls you had crafted.
  4965.  
  4966. >Speaking of crafting, you took some of the rope and a rather malleable branch and made a bow.
  4967. >Of course, this was after a jog which lasted four minutes, though at the three minute mark you wanted to die more than you wanted to take another step.
  4968. >With the help of another one of Discord’s made and forgotten breakfast fires, you made a few arrows for that bow.
  4969. >They wouldn’t fire too well without the feathers, but you could fix that.
  4970. >Bobby, who had, for the last week, been rotting in the water and ravaged by tiger sharks about one hundred yards from camp, served as bait.
  4971. >You dragged him out of the ocean and onto the beach.
  4972. >Then you planted yourself thirty yards away and waited for the seagulls to flock to him.
  4973. >It all happened rather quickly.
  4974. >When there was a large enough collection of the birds that you were sure you couldn’t miss, you notched an arrow and fired at them.
  4975. >By God’s grace, you stuck one in the neck.
  4976. >It died right there and gave you both a nice lunch and plenty of feathers for your arrows.
  4977. “Armed and dangerous,” you gloated as you admired your collection.
  4978. >”Not too shabby,” said Anonymous, coming back from the woods with a person sized tree scraping along the ground behind him.
  4979. “Thanks. This baby fires five arrows per minute with minimum accuracy. It’s the deadliest weapon ever devised by man.”
  4980. >”With a bit of practice, you could bump those numbers up. How about I train you some time.”
  4981. “You mean it?”
  4982. >”I could hit the red star on a helmet from one thousand meters. I’m pretty sure I can teach you how to shoot a bow and arrow.”
  4983. “I’d love that. Thank you.”
  4984. >”Don’t mention it. Where do you want this, by the way?”
  4985. “Oh, just put it down near my lab. I’ll figure out what we’re doing with it.”
  4986. >”Alright.”
  4987. >Twilight Sparkle, expert marksman. You liked the sound of that.
  4988. >Still though, when you killed John Smith, you didn’t want it to be from a distance.
  4989. >You wanted to be right in his face so you could watch the life drain from his eyes.
  4990. “I’m coming for you, John. Just you wait.”
  4991.  
  4992. >Over the course of the week, Anonymous spent much of his time balancing his duties of chopping trees and hunting for food.
  4993. >His first night out proved fruitless, but after the second night, he returned with two pigs slung over his shoulder.
  4994. >”The forest is lousy with them about halfway through.”
  4995. >He went on to explain how there seemed to be some odd dividing line on the island between barren and teeming with animals.
  4996. >While the pig roasted, you kept up with designing that engine.
  4997. >You knew what you wanted. You just needed a way to make it happen.
  4998. >Would stone or wood be better for the gears? Stone would take longer, but it would also last longer and be less likely to fail.
  4999. >Then again, how long did it need to last?
  5000. >Furthermore, you needed to figure out how to transfer that power to a paddle on a swivel.
  5001. >Most of all, how big did it need to be?
  5002. >The larger it was, the larger the boat would need to be. The larger the boat was, the larger the engine would have to be.
  5003. >”Twilight, come get some food.”
  5004. “I’m busy.”
  5005. >”Now.”
  5006. “Sometimes I think you people hate science.”
  5007. >You took a stick and wrote out your current train of thought to get right back to it when dinner was over.
  5008. >You didn’t even sit down before the sky tore open and let loose rain.
  5009. >You were instantly drenched, as was everyone else. The fire went out and began to leak black water from the gaps in the stone ring surrounding the coal bed.
  5010. >It covered the food and made at least the bottom portion of your meal, as far as you were concerned, inedible.
  5011. >”Ack! In the tent!” shouted Innominate.
  5012. >She held her arms above her head and dashed inside. Discord slowly followed, mumbling about the sky having no problems letting it go but he has to take ten minutes for his drops.
  5013. >It was then that you realized all your plans in the sand would be destroyed.
  5014. >You kicked yourself for not thinking ahead in that respect.
  5015. >The first thing that needed to happen tomorrow was creating a canopy for your lab area.
  5016.  
  5017. >You huffed and puffed and went into your grass house, hoping it wouldn’t blow down from the wind that had started to pick up.
  5018. >Anonymous had stood up, but he had not moved from the firepit.
  5019. >He looked up at the dark sky, right into the rain as it poured down.
  5020. >”Anon, get in here!” shouted his wife.
  5021. >”Why? I think it’s nice.”
  5022. >”That’s because you’re insulated! All I’ve got is a bikini!”
  5023. >”I’m not complaining,” he said and shot her a wry smile.
  5024. >A smile.
  5025. >”Honey, did you just…”
  5026. >He waved for you all to come outside.
  5027. >”Come on, guys. A little rain never killed nobody.”
  5028. >Discord was the first out.
  5029. >He exploded out of the tent buck naked, thankfully save for his underpants.
  5030. >”I like the cut of your jib, Anon! WOO!”
  5031. >Innominate went after, choosing to embrace her husband over running around like a headless chicken.
  5032. >”Well? Get out here, Twi,” she cheered.
  5033. “I’m fine, thank you. I’ll just stay in here with my sanity.”
  5034. >”Suit yourself.”
  5035. >It rained for ten hours that night. You counted.
  5036. >After everyone had gone to sleep, you stayed up to watch the beach and make sure the rain didn’t ruin the camp in some unforeseeable way.
  5037. >When everyone awoke, the rain had ended long since ended.
  5038. >You, as usual, went for a morning jog which lasted four minutes and thirty seconds.
  5039. >While proud of your accomplishment, you also felt very drained and took a nap in the damp sand.
  5040. >When you awoke, it was to another tree added to your collection.
  5041. >That made ten trees.
  5042. >You got to thinking that the engine should be made entirely of wood. There was definitely an abundance of the substance and it was light enough to store on a boat so that if something wore out on the trip, you could have spares on hand to replace it.
  5043.  
  5044. >”Twilight! Twilight, come look what I’ve done!” shouted Discord.
  5045. >You hurried over to him, worried he might have broken something, but it was quite the opposite.
  5046. >He had finally remembered his cooking fire and had got to making some breakfast.
  5047. >He had apples and bananas roasting in an iron skillet.
  5048. “Where did you get that?”
  5049. >”From Innominate’s trunk. Where else?”
  5050. >”What’s this about my trunk?” asked the woman as she came out of the forest holding another bowl filled with fruit.
  5051. >Her eyes went wide when she saw what Discord was up to.
  5052. >”You went through my shit?!”
  5053. >”I like to think of it as community shit.”
  5054. >”You can’t just go into my trunk like that.”
  5055. >”I mean, well, obviously I can. You should get a lock for that.”
  5056. >He jostled the pan and threw the food into the air.
  5057. >It flew a little off course, so he had to lunge for it to catch the food, just narrowly missing diving into the fire pit.
  5058. >”Be careful with that! It’s old!”
  5059. >”I’m old!”
  5060. >”Fuck it. Just give it back,” she said and walked over to get it.
  5061. >”Back off, woman. Can’t you see I’m busy?”
  5062. >”Come here!”
  5063. >”Help! Elder abuse! Rape! RAAAAAPE!”
  5064. >”Oh don’t flatter yourself!”
  5065. >”Twilight, go long!”
  5066. >”Don’t you dare fucking throw that!”
  5067. “I’m not involved in this.”
  5068. >”Don’t leave me! Man down! Man down! Oh shit, it’s Bobby all over again! Quick, get me the killing stick!”
  5069. >”Ow! Watch it, that’s hot!”
  5070. >”Away with you!”
  5071. >”That’s it!”
  5072. >”Not the beard! REEEEEEEEEEEEE!”
  5073. >You looked on at them with immense disappointment.
  5074. “How am I the most mature person here?”
  5075.  
  5076.  
  5077. >One month later, things were going very well for you.
  5078. >For everyone, actually.
  5079. >Anonymous had really started to open up.
  5080. >It was becoming a common occurrence to see a smile on his face.
  5081. >He often spoke with passion and heart, something you had never seen before.
  5082. >Innominate was enamored by it.
  5083. >She described the experience as being allowed to fall in love with someone all over again.
  5084. >You were interested in what could be causing the shift in his personality.
  5085. >Perhaps the effects of his treatments had finally begun to wear off?
  5086. >Could it be that his new diet was interacting with the chemicals in odd ways?
  5087. >No. It was simple, you thought.
  5088. >Away from the hustle and bustle of the city and the responsibilities of bills and managing an underground fighting ring, he was able to finally live.
  5089. >He was free to live. Live with the ones he loved. Live for joy.
  5090. >It must have awakened something inside him that had fallen asleep a long time ago.
  5091. >Not to take away from his leaps and bounds in the personality department, but you had made some great progress in various fields yourself.
  5092. >You could run for fifteen minutes straight and cover an entire mile in that time.
  5093. >Pushups? No problem. You could do forty of them.
  5094. >Your entire body began to fill out, defining each muscle.
  5095. >Of course, to maintain a healthy bodyfat percentage for a girl your age, you needed to start eating more, which you made sure to do.
  5096. >Your abs disappeared, but you still felt great.
  5097. >In fact, you felt better than you had in your entire life. You looked pretty great too, if you do say so yourself.
  5098. >Being a scientist, you weren’t content to advance in only one field.
  5099. >With Anonymous’ help, you had trained with the bow and became quite the shot.
  5100. >With a steady hand and low wind, you could take out a pig from fifty yards.
  5101. >”Not bad, kid. You’re making good progress for someone who never even held a bow before.”
  5102. “I learned from the best.”
  5103. >”Keep it up and you might be the best some day.”
  5104. >He slapped your back and gave you a smile.
  5105.  
  5106. >At camp, things had changed as well.
  5107. >Your lab had expanded and was protected by several canopies.
  5108. >The fire pit was nearly a full kitchen with comfortable seating areas thanks to some logs.
  5109. >Most of all, the boat had begun construction.
  5110. >You had crafted a very rough sawmill using some crudely cut logs and a stone blade.
  5111. >Said blade was powered by an array of wooden gears that were turned by a crank which Anonymous, in all his brute glory, would operate for you.
  5112. >With all of that, you were able to turn the trees into lumber.
  5113. >You had finally settled on a design for the boat that would fit your needs as well as the needs of the future engine.
  5114. >Now, you don’t want to get into logistics just yet, but understand that it would be a grand project.
  5115. >When you had cut an entire tree into workable lumber, you set it up to dry and went to relax for the day.
  5116. >Yes, that’s right. Relax.
  5117. >You learned how to do that on the island.
  5118. >With an apple in hand, you sprawled out on the sand and watched the ocean rock back and forth.
  5119. >At one point, you grabbed your bow and an arrow and fired off into the sea just to see how far it would go.
  5120. >Maybe you even hit something out there. A poor fish swimming too close to the surface?
  5121. >Man, that would have to be some extraordinarily bad luck.
  5122. >”Holy shit, look what I found,” exclaimed Discord, interrupting your relaxation.
  5123. “Is it important?”
  5124. >”Of course it is! Everything I tell you is important, Twilight. Haven’t you learned that by now?”
  5125. >You sighed and got up.
  5126. >Everyone flocked to him near the shoreline.
  5127. >He pointed at the water to a tiny purple ball of spikes, his hand shaking with excitement.
  5128.  
  5129. >”Just look at it. It washed up a little while ago.”
  5130. >”What is it?”
  5131. “It’s a sea urchin.”
  5132. >”A sea urchin?”
  5133. “Yes. Do you see those spines? If you step on it, they’ll break off and lodge into your skin. Step on the wrong one and it will also inject you with venom.”
  5134. >”Don’t fuck with sea urchins.”
  5135. >”What a majestic creature.”
  5136. >”Can I touch it?”
  5137. “Didn’t you hear a word I just said?”
  5138. >”I’m going to touch it.”
  5139. >”That’s a bad idea.”
  5140. >”Shut up, mom.”
  5141. >Discord reached for it and grabbed the wonder of nature in his hand.
  5142. >He lifted it out of the water and held it close to his chest.
  5143. >Amazingly, he didn’t begin screaming in pain.
  5144. >”It’s not hurting him.”
  5145. >”I think it likes me.”
  5146. >”It’s clearly not a good judge of character.”
  5147. “Maybe it sees something in Discord none of us can.”
  5148. >”Such a wise and insightful creature.”
  5149. >”Man, I love sea urchins.”
  5150. ”Sea urchins are great. Definitely the best oceanic creature.”
  5151. >”I’m going to name him Snowball and he’s going to be my best friend,” said Discord with a smile.
  5152. >Innominate cooked Snowball for dinner. Discord had no idea and spent the rest of his time on the island wondering why it “ran away”.
  5153.  
  5154. >In the following weeks, Innominate had begun to complain about getting the chills.
  5155. >It was understandable, you thought, given that she was doomed to wear nothing but the one green bikini.
  5156. >You’re still not entirely sure why she went for a bikini anyway. It’s not like she needed to add anything to her figure.
  5157. >Despite her age, her skin looked very good. It kept everything, and you mean everything, pulled up right where it should be.
  5158. >She probably didn’t even need the bra.
  5159. >Well, you still wanted to help out.
  5160. >With her permission, you dipped into her trunk and took a metal sewing needle.
  5161. >You began to save patches of skin from the pigs that you and Anonymous hunted.
  5162. >In enough time, you had some leather that you could craft clothes with.
  5163. >She was so excited when you introduced her to pants and coats.
  5164. >They were a bit baggy and, well, ugly, but they were only your first try and you didn’t have her measurements.
  5165. >In the coming months, you had more or less perfected the skill and could sew together beautiful clothes from leather.
  5166. >It was mostly thanks to your model who was more than willing to take time out of her day to let you play with her body to see what fit.
  5167. >”Maybe you should go into the fashion business,” she suggested as you pulled a strap of leather over her breasts.
  5168. “I had a friend into fashion once. She was an uptight bitch.”
  5169. >”I hope you don’t think everyone is like that.”
  5170. “Not everyone, but enough that it’s not something I want to get into.”
  5171. >She laughed and rubbed your hair.
  5172. >”Oh, Twilight. If you wanted to avoid assholes, I think you got into the wrong business.”
  5173. >You shook your head.
  5174. “There’s been a few bumps, but I’ve been pretty lucky with who I’ve met so far.”
  5175. >”Aren’t you sweet.”
  5176.  
  5177. >She winced as you pulled back a little more.
  5178. >”Hey, not so tight.”
  5179. “I’m trying to see how snug I can make something without causing pain. How would you rate this feeling on a scale of one to ten?”
  5180. >”Four?”
  5181. >You pulled it back tighter.
  5182. >”Seven. Tone it down a bit, will ya?”
  5183. >You let it go just a bit.
  5184. “And now?”
  5185. >”Maybe five.”
  5186. “Perfect.”
  5187. >You marked on the leather where you had pulled it to and let go, releasing her chest.
  5188. >She huffed and pulled her bra back on, taking some extra time to rub the areas you had squeezed.
  5189. >”Mind telling me what you’re making with that?”
  5190. “This,” you asked, holding up the four inch wide strap.
  5191. >”Yeah.”
  5192. “Oh, I’m not making anything with this. It’s going to be a ruler of sorts. You’re going to try on some shirts later.”
  5193. >”Oh God.”
  5194. “Don’t worry, it’ll be fun.”
  5195.  
  5196. >Fast forward four months.
  5197. >The tree which you had been carving into day by day to mark the passing of each sun was covered in notches.
  5198. >You had to move onto a new one in order to keep things neat.
  5199. >Now, while one could be upset that they had spent five months on a deserted island, nobody there was visibly angered by it. Not even you could say you were angry. Upset, sure, but not angry.
  5200. >Anonymous was happier than you’d ever seen him, namely because you had never seen him with any emotion.
  5201. >He also said that you were the best huntress he had ever seen.
  5202. >You could take the wings off a fly from two hundred yards out with a sleek arrow.
  5203. >You also took some of your knowledge from leather crafting with Innominate and put it towards your own use.
  5204. >You had become quite fond of the freedom that minimal clothing gave you.
  5205. >Your dress had torn away ago, and with your new love for hunting, you decided it was better like that.
  5206. >With some rope, you secured the remaining pieces of your dress in place to make a bra and a skirt.
  5207. >The introduction of leather only made your clothing sturdier.
  5208. >You had also devoted some to a new bow string. The next generation bow, which you had named Dasher in a moment of weakness, was a powerful killing machine.
  5209. >As for Discord, he preferred his old clothes.
  5210. >They were smelly, filthy, and stiff everywhere but the joints, but he refused to trade them in.
  5211. “These will be much comfier,” you tried to convince him.
  5212. >”That’s nice, dear,” he replied every time.
  5213. >Oh well.
  5214.  
  5215. >As for the boat, it had been fully constructed.
  5216. >It was as large as a small house and had three engines.
  5217. >That is, three paddles were set up on the back of the boat.
  5218. >Each one was, through a system of gears and cranks, connected to several wind turbines at the top of the boat.
  5219. >Each blade was crafted with sticks and leather and was positioned in a way so that no matter which way the wind blew, they would catch it and spin.
  5220. >While that meant the wind couldn’t blow you off course, it did nothing about the tides.
  5221. >In case a stray wave slapped the boat in the wrong direction, the paddles were all on pivots and connected by a long stick so that they could be turned in unison.
  5222. >The brig was loaded up with as much supplies as you could fit.
  5223. >There was fruit, fruit juice, plenty of meat, and at least forty gallons of water.
  5224. >You expected the foods to go bad rather quickly, but they could be thrown overboard when they turned.
  5225. >The important thing was to eat as much as you could for as long as you could to avoid having to rely solely on the sea when it ran out.
  5226. >Personally, you could eat tons of meat before it went sour. You had some gains to protect.
  5227. >You were incredibly fit at that point and you weren’t too keen on the idea of losing all your progress because of what could be anywhere from a week to a month of starvation.
  5228. >Now, the boat had been completed in the evening, so Discord suggested that you have a party that night as a last hurrah.
  5229. >Your other friends agreed.
  5230. >While they set everything up, you took out the metal sewing needle you had used to craft the leather clothes.
  5231. >With that in hand, you rubbed it a few times on your dress and set it on a leaf in a bowl of water.
  5232. >The needle spun around a few times before landing on a location to your right.
  5233. >You turned to see if the tip would stay there and luckily it did.
  5234. “So north is to my right. That would mean that west is dead ahead.”
  5235. >You looked at the position of the boat.
  5236. >It was on the correct side of the island, though it would have to be turned around.
  5237. >You smiled. Everything was going perfectly and it all thanks to both your genius and the help of your friends.
  5238. >You really were blessed.
  5239.  
  5240. >The party lasted all night long.
  5241. >Songs were sung, drinks were had, games were played, and stories were told.
  5242. >”And that’s when I told him ‘I’d buy that for a dollar!’”
  5243. >Oh, Discord, you jester you.
  5244. >What a card.
  5245. >”He didn’t believe me at first, but then I showed him the pictures. Poor fucker pissed his pants. Well, after that I threatened to release them unless he complied. And that’s how I got my degree in psychology,” said Innominate, finishing her epic about her college years.
  5246. >You always wondered how she got that extra degree, what with her being a nurse and all.
  5247. >How enlightening.
  5248. >”So Kowalski grabs the gun and he starts shouting at the sergeant. We thought he was going to kill the him, but it was just a water pistol. Crazy fucker got us all a hundred laps. Man, what a guy. It really sucked when we found his body the next day.”
  5249. “Thanks for ruining the mood, Anonymous.”
  5250. >”Well the water gun part was funny.”
  5251. >”I think the whole thing was hilarious,” said Discord reassuringly.
  5252. >”Well, Twi? Anything you’ve got to share?”
  5253. >You? Why, you spent quite a while studying the intricacies of comedy.
  5254. >You would have absolutely no problem spinning a tall tale and getting a few laughs.
  5255. >Well, that’s what you started doing.
  5256. >After a while, it got a little more real.
  5257. “So that’s when I decided to just bottle everything up and not let them know they were tearing me apart. Man, wasn’t high school great?”
  5258. >”Jesus Christ.”
  5259. >”And you said I ruined the mood.”
  5260. >”Did you ever see them again?”
  5261. “Well not really, but I did frame them for embezzlement when I got my business up and running. Those ones still have, oh, three years left on their sentences.”
  5262. >”This is significantly less entertaining now. I suggest we dip into Innominate’s trunk and use some of that bourbon she poured into the mouthwash bottle.”
  5263. >”You went through my shit again?!”
  5264. >”I’ve been going through your shit for the last five months.”
  5265. >Innominate grabbed one of the unburnt sticks from the firepit and started swinging at him.
  5266.  
  5267. >”It was a joke! I’ve only been at it for three months! Hey, put the stick away!”
  5268. >”I’ll put it away three feet inside your ass!”
  5269. >They were gone for the next five minutes.
  5270. >While alone, you asked Anonymous just how true the story with Kowalski was.
  5271. >He sighed and put another log on the fire.
  5272. >”Well, it was pretty much all true. I sugarcoated a few parts though.”
  5273. “As in?”
  5274. >”The serums drove him crazy. He broke into the weapons vault and opened fire on the personnel. We found his body afterwards and they made us do a couple hundred laps. So yeah, mostly true.”
  5275. “I’m sorry.”
  5276. >”Hey, what can you do? The past is the past. I’ve learned that by now.”
  5277. >When Discord and Innominate came back, they seemed to be much calmer.
  5278. >She sat down next to Anonymous and leaned against him, wearing a the widest shit eating grin you had seen since Rainbow Dash.
  5279. >Discord did not sit down. He stood up straight as an arrow, looking very uncomfortable the whole time.
  5280. >You shuddered to think about what went on in those woods.
  5281. >Even now, the thought of it makes this passage hard to write.
  5282.  
  5283. >When the sun came up, it was time to go.
  5284. >Anonymous helped you load on the final supplies, which mostly consisted of changes of clothes and some fishing devices you jerry rigged.
  5285. >After that, he waded into the water, pressed his hands against the hull, and pushed on it.
  5286. >He maneuvered the boat along the shore until it was pointing true west, right where you needed it to.
  5287. >When that was done, Innominate hopped onboard.
  5288. >You followed her her up and made a big show of giving her a tour around the deck.
  5289. “And this is the sitting area. Over here, you’ll find the sitting area. To your left--and I think you’ll like this one--we have a sitting area,” you explained.
  5290. >”How innovative.”
  5291. “Call me Stephanie Jobs.”
  5292. >The boat shifted as the enormous green man climbed up.
  5293. >It’s funny. You had to work hard and eat not only plenty, but healthily, to create your body.
  5294. >Nobody could dispute that Anonymous was a hard worker, but his diet was atrocious.
  5295. >He seemed to be able to eat anything in any amount, yet his body hadn’t changed since the day you met him.
  5296. >You chalked it up to effects of all the chemicals they pumped into him.
  5297. >If you could get a closer look at his DNA, you could probably find the cure for cancer in there.
  5298. >”All accounted for?”
  5299. >”Not everyone. Look over there,” said Innominate, pointing back to camp.
  5300. >You turned your gaze to it. Discord was down to just his skivvies.
  5301. >Not a pretty sight.
  5302. >He had his clothes tied around a long stick and held it over the fire pit.
  5303. >They caught like a match.
  5304. “Discord, what the hell are you doing?”
  5305. >”Playing with fire,” he shouted back. “What’s it look like?”
  5306.  
  5307. >He turned to the tent and tossed the burning fabric onto it.
  5308. >The dried grass snap, crackled, and popped as an intense fire ripped through it all.
  5309. >The flames rose ten feet into the air, blurring the woods behind it.
  5310. >You could see Discord’s hair blowing from the waves of heat that radiated off the blaze.
  5311. >He gave a satisfied nod and started to the boat.
  5312. >When he climbed up over the edge of the boat, the angle made it seem like he was rising out of the fire.
  5313. >”I like to leave something in flames when I’m done with it.”
  5314. “I’ve never seen you do that before.”
  5315. >”It’s not often I finish something. Maybe once every decade or so.”
  5316. “You time it?”
  5317. >”Closely.”
  5318. >”Weird.”
  5319. >He shrugged and gave a quick look around the boat.
  5320. >”So, how about those clothes you went on and on about? I’ll catch a death of cold out here.”
  5321. “Yes, right. Come with me,” you told him and led him to the brig.
  5322. >In it, there was an open top box stuffed with clothes ranging from small for you to giant for Anonymous.
  5323. “I never got a chance to measure you, but I’m sure something in here will fit.”
  5324. >”Are you telling me I have to wear girl’s clothes?”
  5325. “It depends on how you look at it.”
  5326. >”Good lord. I think I’d rather go naked.”
  5327. >You gave him a pat on the back.
  5328. “I don’t think anyone here will mind which gender of leather pants you wear.”
  5329. >”Is it too late to drown myself?”
  5330. “Technically speaking, no.”
  5331. >”Let’s do it. Suicide pact.”
  5332. “Thanks, but I have to live a little longer. I have someone waiting for me back home.”
  5333. >”Bah, you’re no fun.”
  5334. >You left him to pick his new clothes and went up to the deck.
  5335. >In the middle of it were three tall poles, each with their own wind turbine up top.
  5336. >The turbines would spin, which would turn the poles and move some gears down at the bottom.
  5337. >Those gears transferred that power along a system similar to that which would transfer power from an car engine to its wheels.
  5338.  
  5339. >At the back, right where they were supposed to begin moving the paddles, there was a pin keeping everything in place.
  5340. >Once you pulled that, the turbines spun at the mercy of the wind and delivered their strength to the paddles.
  5341. >The boat lurched forward as it began its journey.
  5342. “Canterlot, here we come.”
  5343.  
  5344. >Nothing very interesting happened on the ride there.
  5345. >Well, except for that one time.
  5346. >About a month into the trip, Discord went crazy.
  5347. >That is, crazier than usual.
  5348. >He shouted about how you were never going to get home and that you would be on the sea forever.
  5349. >”That’s it! Fuck the suicide pact! I’m jumping!”
  5350. >You tried to stop him, but he was too quick.
  5351. >He really did move quite well for a seventy one year old man.
  5352. >Discord leapt off the edge of the boat and slammed into the water.
  5353. >You dashed over to the gear array and stuck the pin back in them to halt the boat.
  5354. >In the meantime, Anonymous had dived into the ocean.
  5355. >He grabbed onto Discord by the collar of the very nice jacket you had spent several nights working on.
  5356. >With a heave, he threw Discord out of the water and all the way back up onto the boat.
  5357. >Once Anonymous was up as well, you checked the compass to see if you were still moving true west and undid the pin.
  5358. >”We’re done! We’re never getting home! I’m going to die out here and I never even said goodbye to Snowball!”
  5359. “Snap out of it,” you shrieked and slapped him across the cheek.
  5360. >He yelped and shot you a dirty look.
  5361. >”Hey, no need to be so rough. I’m just playing around.”
  5362. >You raised an eyebrow.
  5363. >”Attempted suicide is your idea of playing around?” asked Innominate.
  5364. >”Oh come on. It’s been a month. All Twilight does is pushups while you and your hubby neck. I’m just trying to spice things up a little.”
  5365. “I do more than pushups.”
  5366. >”Oh, I’m sorry. You do chinups sometimes too.”
  5367. >He clapped his hands and ran over to the edge of the boat again.
  5368. >”Now let’s take it from the top. I’ll try to kill myself, and this time, nobody stop me. I bet that’ll spice things up!”
  5369. >See? Insane.
  5370.  
  5371. >Oh, then there was also the time when Innominate took an unscheduled trip to the brig and caught you taking care of some...personal matters.
  5372. >Her beige cheeks had never been redder.
  5373. >She dropped her glasses but seemed entirely uninterested in picking them back up.
  5374. >After some stuttering on both your parts, she made her way back up to the deck.
  5375. >You two didn’t talk for the rest of the day.
  5376. >You’re not too proud of that moment.
  5377. >At least your embarrassment was short lived.
  5378. >Discord tried to go fishing the next morning, as you had just thrown the last of your meat overboard after finding some fuzz on it.
  5379. >His attempts left something to be desired.
  5380. >You’re not quite sure how he managed it, but he managed to get four fishing hooks stuck in his hand.
  5381. >He wrestled with them, flailing around, until his legs became tangled in the rope and he fell off the edge.
  5382. >Luckily, Anonymous reacted quickly enough to grab the rope and stop him from falling into the water.
  5383. >The poor man hung inches above the sea, suspended only by the four hooks.
  5384. >”PULL ME UP! PULL ME UP! OH GOD, THE PAIN! OOOOH LORD ALMIGHTY!”
  5385. >Taking care of the wounds was easy.
  5386. >His skin amazingly didn’t tear from the ordeal, so all there was to worry about was the punctures.
  5387. >One bandage later and he was on his way to healing.
  5388.  
  5389. >Oh, and then there was the time when, about seven weeks into the cruise, Innominate started having bad dreams.
  5390. >She would retell them in great detail in the morning.
  5391. >Everyone looked forward to the next morning when she would add to the ever growing story of her time as a soldier in another world populated by fantasy creatures.
  5392. >The best of the best, she claimed to be.
  5393. >As far as you were concerned, those sounded like great dreams.
  5394. >You would have loved to have them.
  5395. >What made them bad for her was all the death.
  5396. >You were confused by that.
  5397. >She had seen plenty of violence--and you assume death--in her line of work. Why should dreams be so bad?
  5398. >She told you that she had no problems with violence. It was death that turned her off.
  5399. >Innominate never liked the idea of seeing the life drain from someone.
  5400. >That’s probably why Anonymous never told her about his time in the war, you thought.
  5401. >Well, about a week after her stories began, they abruptly ended.
  5402. >She refused to share why, only that the final installment would have to stay unpublished.
  5403. >And, well, that’s all that really happened.
  5404. >It was ten weeks of sailing the vast ocean and not much else.
  5405. >Not such a bad turn of events, all things considered.
  5406. >It could have been much worse.
  5407. >You did narrowly miss a few storms that churned the water.
  5408. >From the power of them, you reckon they could have taken out our turbines at the least. Capsize you in the worst case.
  5409. >Anyway, after those ten weeks, you arrived on shore.
  5410. >It was another forest which, after five months surrounded by them, you were none too happy to see.
  5411. >”Are we back at the island?”
  5412. >”It’s like Lost all over again.”
  5413. >You checked the compass.
  5414. >The needle was still pointing to your right, so you knew that you had gone west.
  5415. “No,” you said. “We’re back on the mainland. Judging from the fauna, I’m going to say we’re not too far out of the region either. We might be a couple miles from Canterlot right now.”
  5416.  
  5417. >Unsure of where you were, you thought it best to head north.
  5418. >Of course, it ended up being that Canterlot was south of you, so you had to make another trek down the coast to make it back to the city.
  5419. >The whole thing took about eleven hours to do, so it was near midnight when you finally made it back home.
  5420. >That was for the best too since you didn’t want to be seen until you were ready to be seen.
  5421. >Anonymous and Innominate were very eager to make it back to downtown to see what had become of their arena while they were gone.
  5422. >Discord too went his own way.
  5423. >You very much wanted to go to the hospital to see Rainbow Dash, but they would want your name, and then all of Canterlot would know that Twilight Sparkle had returned.
  5424. >Instead, you went back to your mansion to prepare a few things.
  5425. >Now, you’re no dummy.
  5426. >You absolutely hated the idea of being in debt, so you bought the mansion for full price rather than taking out a loan.
  5427. >You also, under the impression that your title and position would put your life in significant risk, had the mansion put under Rainbow Dash’s name.
  5428. >No bank could reclaim the property and, as long as Rainbow Dash was alive, it was safe from demolition.
  5429. >After all, who wants to be the mayor to tear down the house of a comatose woman and leave her nothing for when she woke up?
  5430. >You weren’t sure if anyone else had taken the precautions you did to ensure the security of your property, but that didn’t matter to you at that time.
  5431. >What mattered was revenge.
  5432. >As you came to the gates, you saw the remains of police tape that had blocked the gate a long time ago.
  5433. “So, they did do some investigating.”
  5434. >You entered the house and went straight for the lab, not even taking a second glance at the chalk outlines and evidence flags.
  5435. >After turning off the security systems, you entered your lab to see it had not changed since you left seven months ago.
  5436. >Right away, you got to making some very special toys to suit your new hobby.
  5437. >Hunting.
  5438.  
  5439. >As you finished getting your gear ready, the sun began to rise.
  5440. “I should go to sleep,” you muttered.
  5441. >Should, sure. But would?
  5442. >Unsatisfied with the time frame, you opted instead to take a few caffeine pills to wake yourself up.
  5443. >Those really got your blood pumping.
  5444. >It also gave you the awareness to move on with your plan.
  5445. >You moved slowly, quietly, and stuck to the shadows.
  5446. >Absolutely nobody could see you.
  5447. >One little whistle blow and everything could be ruined.
  5448. >Because of the extra time you had to take, it wasn’t until late in the day that you were fully set up.
  5449. >It was only four o’clock, but it the sun had begun to set.
  5450. >Winter was in full swing, but you didn’t feel cold.
  5451. >Even in your new sleek, skin-tight attire, you were the hottest you’d ever been.
  5452. >You were alive.
  5453. >And soon…
  5454. >As you scaled the side of a building, images of trees flashed in your mind.
  5455. >It was just like on the island, only the tree branches had been replaced with ugly, rusted metal and garbage had taken the place of bushes.
  5456. >When you got to the top, about ten stories up, you took your newly made bow off your back.
  5457. >It was loosely modeled after the english longbow. Of course, to match your frame, it needed to be smaller.
  5458. >It still had the same draw weight though. That is, one hundred pounds.
  5459. >Only one block away was town hall.
  5460. >The mayor’s office was on the top floor and was visible thanks to a huge wall of windows.
  5461. >Just passed them, in the room, were three men and a woman.
  5462. >Thanks to some new glasses with a handy zoom feature, you could clearly make them out.
  5463. >Two armed guards standing in front of the door, a certain blue woman in a suit, and…
  5464. “Hello, John. Did you miss me?”
  5465. >From your quiver, you drew three arrows.
  5466. >Notching them all at once, you held the bow up and took careful aim at your targets.
  5467.  
  5468. >Your targets weren’t in the mayor’s office.
  5469. >They were the three guards standing just in front of town hall.
  5470. >It wasn’t entirely necessary to kill them right then. You could have done it at any time.
  5471. >Still, it would add to the shock factor. Isn’t that really what revenge is all about? Shocking the person. Making them scared out of their mind right before they die. Right before they realize they fucked with the wrong person.
  5472. >You drew the arrows and fired.
  5473. >As they whizzed through the air, you drew another arrow and fired that one, aiming for the mayor’s office.
  5474. >Now, that one was a special arrow.
  5475. >A second after the three regulars went through those guards’ heads, the special one shattered John’s glass wall and, upon impact with the floor, began releasing a smoke cloud.
  5476. >It was a light irritant. It was nothing fatal or disabling, but it was powerful enough to make someone think it was deadly.
  5477. >You could see the shadows of those in the room moving around crazily, searching for the exit.
  5478. >They eventually found it pried it open.
  5479. >Before everyone could make it out, you drew a regular arrow and fired it at one of John’s guards, killing him before he could leave the room.
  5480. >John tried to carry him away but, after asserting that the man had passed, dropped him and left.
  5481. “That’s right. Run away, little piggy. Run right into the slaughter house.”
  5482. >After one minute, John, the last guard, and Ember, appeared in front of town hall.
  5483. >The looks on their faces when they saw those three dead guards was definitely worth the extra bodies.
  5484. >What was John thinking, you wondered?
  5485. >Did he think some competition had moved to take him out?
  5486. >Perhaps he saw them and understood you had returned.
  5487. >Or maybe, and this was the more likely scenario, he was too scared out of his wits to even understand what was going on.
  5488.  
  5489. >Well, guard number two had lived long enough.
  5490. >You notched another arrow, pulled the string back, and fired it.
  5491. >The man was pulling on John, trying to lead him away, but “fell” short of the task.
  5492. >As in he died and fell down.
  5493. >Ember took over for him.
  5494. >She looped her arms around John’s and led him off.
  5495. >They ran down the street, keeping their arms over their heads, and arrived at a parking garage where they met up with another three guards.
  5496. >They were going to run for the black SUV in the back left corner of the garage.
  5497. >You know because you had designed the entire escape plan while Sunset was in office. It was all to keep her safe.
  5498. >Now it was to doom him.
  5499. >You took a small remote out of your pocket as the group disappeared into the garage.
  5500. “Moving at a standard running speed of eight miles per hour, he should reach the car in eight, seven, six, five, four…”
  5501. >You pressed the top button on the remote.
  5502. >There was a loud boom, and you could see fire erupt out of the side of the building.
  5503. >It was only sensible to blow it up before John reached it. You didn’t want him dead yet.
  5504. >After putting the remote away, you drew another regular arrow and fired it at the entrance.
  5505. >Just as it arrived, one of the three new guards ran out in front of it.
  5506. >The steel ripped through his...no, her, neck.
  5507. >Female guards? How progressive.
  5508. >Blood sprayed out from her jugular onto John’s suit as she collapsed onto him.
  5509. >He threw the body off and kept on running, surrounded by the other two.
  5510. >In the case of SUV failure, the next course of action was to move through the back alleys to a safe house two blocks away.
  5511. >You leapt across the rooftops, keeping pace with them the whole way.
  5512. >You could feel the wind rushing through your hair.
  5513. >The cold air nipped at your face.
  5514. >Despite the biting chill, you smiled.
  5515. >The world could freeze over, but you’d still be one step closer to killing the man who ruined everything.
  5516.  
  5517. >They arrived at the safehouse.
  5518. >It was an enormous grey building that seemed to be abandoned, but you knew better.
  5519. >So did John.
  5520. >One hundred feet underneath that building was a room lined with two-foot thick lead walls and enough food and oxygen to last a month.
  5521. >There were only two entrances. The large open bay door and a small person sized one.
  5522. >You took out a special arrow and aimed for the bay door.
  5523. >When you fired, it took one and a half seconds to reach its target due to the extra bulk of the head.
  5524. >It collided with the door and exploded.
  5525. >John and company jumped back as the huge steel plates slid down and slammed into the ground, blocking the path.
  5526. >One of the guards scrambled to their feet and fumbled with some keys.
  5527. ”You’re taking too long,” you said boredly and fired an arrow at him.
  5528. >It went through the back of his skull and pierced the door.
  5529. >He went limp and dangled there, pinned in place.
  5530. “And you better hurry up.”
  5531. >Taking out another regular arrow, you aimed at the final guard.
  5532. >He grabbed the keys out of the hand of his dead companion and, finding the right one quickly enough to satisfy you, opened the door.
  5533. >You jumped off the roof and landed on a soft pad you had place there.
  5534. >Your time on the island turned you into quite the runner.
  5535. >You zoomed through the alleys, moving swiftly like the breeze, and arrived at the safehouse in no time at all.
  5536. >John should have been at the big elevator by then, so you took out your remote and pressed the second button, disabling it.
  5537. >”FUCK!”
  5538. >You giggled.
  5539. >Hiding just outside the door, you took out one more gas arrow and fired it into the center of the room.
  5540. >It erupted and filled a large area with the irritating smoke.
  5541. >Not that it bothered you though. You were smart enough to bring a gas mask.
  5542. “Should have thought A HEAD, John.”
  5543. >With another arrow, you took out the final guard.
  5544. “Get it? A head?”
  5545. >Well, you thought it was funny.
  5546. >”Who’s there?! Show yourself!”
  5547. >”What do you want?!”
  5548. >Not you, Ember.
  5549.  
  5550. >You darted for the back of the room, staying in the cloud so nobody could see you.
  5551. >When it dissipated, John and Ember were plainly visible.
  5552. >He was standing in front of her, shielding her with his arms.
  5553. >You drew back an arrow, a very thin one, and aimed at John.
  5554. >Well, sort of John.
  5555. >When you fired, it flew and slid through his shoulder without an issue.
  5556. >It also went through Ember’s throat, but at such an angle that it missed her spine.
  5557. >She fell back and started gasping for air.
  5558. >John collapsed at her side and tried to help.
  5559. >He screamed for you to stop, saying that he’d do anything.
  5560. “That’s right, you’d do anything,” you whispered.
  5561. >Lie to you.
  5562. >Turn your friends against you.
  5563. >Isolate you.
  5564. >Kill you.
  5565. >John Smith would do anything to get what he wanted.
  5566. “And so will I,” you muttered and took out the remote again.
  5567. >Pressing the third and final button, the pulley system that worked the elevator exploded into flames.
  5568. >The force threw John back five feet.
  5569. >Ember wasn’t so lucky. She had caught fire.
  5570. >John rushed to her side and removed his jacket.
  5571. >He threw it on top of her and patted the fire out.
  5572. >From the look on his face, he knew she was dead.
  5573. >He sat there for a short while, mulling things over.
  5574. >Then it must have occurred to him that one of the guards must have a gun.
  5575. >John got up and sprinted for one of them, but he didn’t make it far.
  5576. >You took out one arrow and sent it through his ankle.
  5577. >Another went through his knee.
  5578. >One more, just to be sure, found home in his good shoulder.
  5579. >The man, tired, crawled towards a wall and sat himself up against it.
  5580. >He knew what was coming. He knew he had lost.
  5581. >Wonderful, you thought. Simply wonderful.
  5582. >John Smith, the stoic, taken down by a girl.
  5583. >You broke out into laughter.
  5584.  
  5585. >”Who is it?”
  5586. >His voice was weakening.
  5587. >You emerged from your hiding spot and marched towards him.
  5588. >When you were close enough to see, the old man’s eyes widened, nearly popping out of his head.
  5589. >”T-twilight? But...how? I-I-I thought that you were…”
  5590. “Dead? Almost, but I guess it didn’t stick. Sucks, huh? You almost got away with it too.”
  5591. >You took one last arrow out of your quiver and notched it.
  5592. >”How...how are you…I thought you died out there...”
  5593. “You know, it really is a funny story. I’m busy though, so I’ll have to tell you about it later--when we meet up in Hell.”
  5594. >He could barely speak.
  5595. >Hell, he could probably barely think.
  5596. >Twilight Sparkle, back from the dead and back with a vengeance.
  5597. >When you got to him, he looked around.
  5598. >His eyes landed on the guard just four feet away.
  5599. >With a groan, he leaned and tipped himself over.
  5600. >John used his chin and dragged himself along the floor, inch by inch, moving for the holstered gun.
  5601. >You pressed your heel into his neck and forced him down.
  5602. >He squealed as you kicked his side and flipped him over onto his back.
  5603. >His eyes locked onto yours.
  5604. “I found you in the slums and I helped you into power."
  5605. >You placed the tip of the arrow against his forehead and drew back.
  5606. “Twilight giveth, and Twilight taketh away. Good night, John Smith.”
  5607. >And fire.
  5608.  
  5609. >You stood there for a while, watching the blood drain from his skull.
  5610. >Your arrow had gone all the way through and cracks the concrete floor, pinning him there.
  5611. >The sheer joy you felt was overshadowed only by a profound sense of loneliness that made your chest feel hollow.
  5612. >You had just done it. You killed John Smith, the traitor, the mastermind, the terror.
  5613. >Who could you share the victory with?
  5614. >The friends whom you were ready to murder in cold blood?
  5615. >Your dearest companion locked in a coma?
  5616. >Maybe you could visit the pet cemetery and talk to Spike.
  5617. >That used to make you feel better.
  5618. >It wasn’t until the sound of police sirens and fire trucks blaring their horns that you thought it time to leave.
  5619. >You escaped through a window near the roof and disappeared into the night, homeward bound.
  5620. >When you arrived back at your mansion, you quickly moved your bed from the upstairs into your lab.
  5621. >You decided that it would look a little suspicious if Twilight, John’s competition for mayor, showed back up in town a day after he died.
  5622. >A good amount of time for you to wait would be one month, but you would do two just to be sure.
  5623. >You had never told anyone of your plans to voyage out with Anonymous and Innominate, so unless John knew and spread the information, it would be fine to let them run around while you stayed in hiding.
  5624. >Besides, there some things one could learn from the shadows that would make coming back into the light a little easier.
  5625. >For example, who tried to run your shit while you were gone?
  5626.  
  5627. >You sat down at the computer desk and flipped the machine on.
  5628. >It whirred to life in a second and loaded up your previous session.
  5629. >It was funny.
  5630. >For you, seven months had passed. As far as the machine was concerned, you hadn’t left for a single second.
  5631. >Just goes to show that some things really don’t matter. You could have died on the island and the computer wouldn’t know for one thousand years and another thousand after.
  5632. >You started thinking about Discord’s jokes about the multiverse.
  5633. “Maybe there’s a universe out there where I did die on the island. I wonder, then, would Rainbow Dash even notice? Would she care when she woke up?”
  5634. >Thoughts like those raced through your mind as you began to surf the web in your pitch dark lab, illuminated only by the monitor.
  5635. >Seven months ago, about one week after your accident, articles popped up speculating a kidnapping.
  5636. >Some of them involved John.
  5637. “If only those had followed through,” you sighed. “I would have been fine killing him in prison too.”
  5638. >After one month, the next Clean Up Canterlot rally, which was supposed to fix up the old theater district in downtown, was canceled.
  5639. >Apparently the city folk cared less about the place than you did.
  5640. >Oh, wonderful. Twilight’s Taxi was seized after five months.
  5641. >Well that meant bad news for you.
  5642.  
  5643. >You still had the criminal underground under your control, so a fresh supply of money was no problem.
  5644. >The issue was, without a successful business, you had no way to explain all your revenue and the lifestyle you lived.
  5645. >What Flormart store clerk has a thirteen bedroom house with a three acre back yard?
  5646. >One being investigated by the IRS.
  5647. >You needed to get another business up and running.
  5648. >Or perhaps…
  5649. >You turned your head to guts of the energy device that was sitting on your lab bench.
  5650. >Maybe what you needed was more of the same.
  5651. >You’re a scientist.
  5652. >You had more inventions lying around your kitchen than anything Pomegranate and Jumbohard can put out in a decade.
  5653. >If you picked your buyers carefully, you could make a few shiny pennies off selling your creations.
  5654. >It would certainly be more than what you gained through Twilight’s Taxi.
  5655. “I’ll put that on the back burner for now,” you mused and returned to research.
  5656. >No news on Rainbow Dash, so you assumed she was still in the hospital.
  5657. >Also, in his third month as mayor, John had really cracked down on crime.
  5658. “Oh.”
  5659. >Luckily, none of your associates had been brought in since, in your earlier years, you had spent a great deal of time arranging evidence and leaving false trails so that only you would have the ability to ruin them.
  5660. >Still, with the numbers you were seeing, productivity in the underground would have gone down fifty to sixty percent.
  5661. “There goes a nice chunk of my income.”
  5662. >At the rate everything was coming at you, you’d have no choice but to become an honest working woman taking double shifts at Nebuladollars.
  5663. >Absolutely disgusting.
  5664. >Well well well, Twilight. It seems as if you have some things to get doing.
  5665. >Crime needed a controlled boost back into its prime, you needed to work on selling your inventions, and the energy device needed finishing.
  5666. >And you just so happened to have two months to accomplish it.
  5667.  
  5668. >When you looked at the clock next, you saw that it was already ten in the morning.
  5669. >That would put you at two days with no sleep and only minimal exercise.
  5670. >Not the ideal conditions for a healthy body.
  5671. >You took some sleeping pills you had whipped up a few years ago and popped them into your mouth.
  5672. >Within a few seconds, the effects were very noticeable.
  5673. >You barely made it to your bed in the corner of the lab before you fell asleep for the next twenty four hours.
  5674. >When you awoke--and you did so achily and with a horrendous taste in your mouth--you checked the clock.
  5675. “Jeez, I didn’t think they’d be that effective. I might have to cut that back a little.”
  5676. >Then, after a little thought, you determined it would be better to keep them at the same strength and sell them to some drug company looking for the next hit sleep aid.
  5677. >Nykwil would probably like to get their hands on the recipe.
  5678. >You had missed your early morning jog, but it was still morning which for many people was early in itself.
  5679. “No harm in a quick run.”
  5680. >After pulling your treadmill into the increasingly cluttered lab, you jumped on it and ran four miles in twenty eight minutes.
  5681. >For the rest of the morning, you hit the iron and had a delightfully filling breakfast packed with all the food you couldn’t have on the island.
  5682. >It probably wasn’t very nourishing considering you downed three boxes of twinkies, assorted breakfast snacks, Rainbow Dash’s candy stash, and half a loaf of bread.
  5683. >And you didn’t regret a single thing.
  5684. >At least not until midday when the bathroom...well, let’s just leave that part out.
  5685.  
  5686. >In your lab, you hacked into town records and saw just what had been going on with crime.
  5687. >Apparently that adorable little boy you had placed as police chief had been replaced for his repeated failures in locking down crime.
  5688. >He was replaced with someone who actually wanted to stop crime in Canterlot. A certain man by the name of Timber Spruce.
  5689. >You looked over his resume.
  5690. >Raised in a catholic home, spent every summer in a camp either helping or being helped, volunteer firefighter for six years before joining the police academy, top of his class, yadda yadda yadda.
  5691. >A regular Saint.
  5692. >He and John worked closely together to form a--and this one made you laugh--a secret police.
  5693. >Officers who walked along the thin blue line, tethered to each side, to ensure the most efficient removal of crime.
  5694. >With their aid, larceny, grand theft auto, and piracy, as in the actual pirates, all went down seventy points.
  5695. >Effective.
  5696. >Funnily enough, there was no mention of underground fighting.
  5697. >Well, at least John knew his roots.
  5698. >There were four hours until nightfall and ten hours until the city slowed down, which you split between refreshing your memory on the workings of the energy device and crafting some more special arrows.
  5699. >At eleven o’clock, you took to the streets to run a few errands.
  5700. >The first stop? Timber Spruce.
  5701.  
  5702. >He lived in one of the renovated houses in downtown.
  5703. >It was a humble little home which he he stylized to resemble a cabin.
  5704. >Wow, what a loser.
  5705. >You scaled the side of the house and snuck in through the second floor window into what appeared to be his bedroom.
  5706. >No sign of him.
  5707. >Treading carefully, you made it to the door without making much noise.
  5708. >It was already a crack open, so you pushed it gently, causing a loud squeaking.
  5709. >You stopped right there.
  5710. >A man like Timber would likely not take kindly to strange noises in his house.
  5711. >You took out a special arrow, one you had filled with a friction reducing liquid for various purposes, and poured it over the hinges.
  5712. >The door then slid open as quietly as your footsteps into the hallway.
  5713. >You kept an ear open to get an idea of where he was.
  5714. >The only obvious sounds were those of a television, and it didn’t sound too far away.
  5715. >At the end of the hall was the staircase.
  5716. >When you looked down it, you saw the lights downstairs were off, save for some flickering, constantly changing colorful lights.
  5717. >That was enough for you to assume he was on the couch relaxing after a long day at work.
  5718. >You crept down the stairs.
  5719. >The living room was right there. Timber was alone on the couch.
  5720. >”I’d buy that for a dollar,” said the television.
  5721. >You’re thankful that Timber had such a powerful, dominating laugh.
  5722. >It was loud enough that it drowned out your own, keeping your presence hidden.
  5723. >While the television droned on, you did a quick check around the house to make sure he was fully alone and not hiding some hot young number in the kitchen.
  5724. >As far as you could tell, nobody was there.
  5725. >Just the police chief sitting alone in his cabin-shaped house watching sitcoms at eleven at night.
  5726. >Typical stuff.
  5727.  
  5728. >You moved back into the living room, behind the couch and Timber, and took two arrows into your hand.
  5729. >Notching one of them, you drew back and fired it into the television screen, putting the room into almost total darkness.
  5730. >In an instant, before he even had time to react, the arrow in your hand was notched and drawn back, and you pressed the tip into his neck.
  5731. “This bow has a one hundred and twenty pound draw weight. I’m doing my best to keep it still right now, but if you make any sudden moves, I may be tempted to let it go. Just keep that in mind.
  5732. >”Cool it cool it cool it cool it cool it cool it!”
  5733. >He threw his hands up over his head.
  5734. >You pressed the tip deeper into his neck, causing him to groan.
  5735. “Get those greasy mitts away from me. Hold them out ahead of you.”
  5736. >He obeyed.
  5737. >”What do you want,” he asked.
  5738. “A moment of your time. Is that so much to ask?”
  5739. >”You could have used the door.”
  5740. “This was more fun. Now, I understand you’ve been a very good boy lately, haven’t you?”
  5741. >”What do you mean?”
  5742. “You know what I mean. You’ve been performing your civic duties. Keeping down crime, returning the city to the little guy, all that fun stuff.”
  5743. >He nodded.
  5744. “It’s been a great success too. You see, the problem is you’re cutting into my business and, while I’m happy for you, I just can’t have that.”
  5745. >”Maybe you should have picked a better profession.”
  5746. “Can the sass. I’d rather handle this with some civility, but I’m not wholly opposed to sending this arrow through your neck.”
  5747. >”Well,” he went on, “Could I at least have your name?”
  5748. “Call me Somber. Now tell me, Timber, what is it you want most in the world?”
  5749. >”That’s kind of a broad question.”
  5750. “It’s the simplest question there is. Why do you wake up every morning? What dream do you chase? Everyone has a reason to live. Everyone has a want.”
  5751. >”What’s yours?”
  5752. “That’s not the question.”
  5753. >He sighed and shrugged.
  5754. >The movement put you on edge.
  5755. >”I guess I just want there to be peace.”
  5756. “And there wasn’t before?”
  5757. >”Of course not. Murder, theft, and corruption poisoned the city.”
  5758. “But was there no peace?”
  5759. >”I suppose in small amounts.”
  5760. “Then you’re blind.”
  5761.  
  5762. >”Why do you say that?”
  5763. “I once read a nice play by Sartre. Despite not believing in any higher power, this play he wrote took place in Hell. Three sinners were placed in a room with each other, doomed to annoy each other for all eternity. One of them, a man, pleaded with Satan for release from that room. He said he would take any other punishment as long as he could leave. The devil opened the door for him, but he decided to stay anyway. Tell me, why do you think that is?”
  5764. >”Was he stupid?”
  5765. >You shook your head, not that Timber could see.
  5766. “What do you think was behind that door? What would tortures awaited him if he chose to step through it?”
  5767. >”I don’t know.”
  5768. “Exactly. You don’t know. The world of crime you’ve been working to destroy in Canterlot is a controlled variety. Every criminal here follows a strict set of rules. The criminal world I created is much like the original room. It can be troublesome at times, but it’s a better alternative than walking straight into the unknown. I don’t think you very much like that idea though, so let me fill you in on just what’s behind that door.”
  5769. >You put the arrow down and grabbed Timber by his hair.
  5770. >”Hey, watch it!”
  5771. “Shut up and follow me.”
  5772. >You walked around the couch, making sure to keep his head aimed dead ahead, and dragged him to the window.
  5773. ”Look out there. It’s a beautiful street, isn’t it?”
  5774. >”Except for the house across the street. Did you know a little old woman was murdered there three nights ago? She was just sleeping, and then boom. Someone breaks into her house, blows her brains out, and takes some china. Nice rules you got there.”
  5775.  
  5776. “Funny you should mention that, because I had downtown Canterlot designated as a crime free zone, save for Fridays and Saturdays for burglaries of less than five thousand dollars. Did you notice how this was a zero crime area until you started messing with things?”
  5777. >”It’s still low crime.”
  5778. “And soon it will be medium crime, and then high crime, and then within the next two years it will look just like it did before Nectar was taken off the streets. Criminals don’t follow the rules as closely anymore.”
  5779. >He started laughing.
  5780. >You yanked on his hair to shut him up.
  5781. >”Jeez, you must think I’m really dumb. If you came to me, it’s because you’re nervous. You can see that crime is taking a dive. I’m doing the right thing, here. It’s working. You’re scared, aren’t you?”
  5782. “A calm before the storm.”
  5783. >”Look,” he said and put his arms down. “I’m the chief of police and you seem pretty high up on the ladder yourself. Why don’t you come with me and give up all your buddies? I’ll cut you a nice deal.”
  5784. “You take down the Canterlot criminal network and you open the door for international crime syndicates to ravage this town and let me tell you, Timber Spruce, they don’t care how much drugs are pumped through this city or how many innocent people are murdered in armed robberies. You’re police. You’re supposed to protect and serve. Protect this city by serving me, or rest assured that this little dip in crime will be the precursor to a tsunami.”
  5785. >”Is that a threat?”
  5786. “I’ve already threatened you. This is a promise.”
  5787.  
  5788. >”Did you give Mayor Smith this opportunity? To serve you?”
  5789. >You stayed silent.
  5790. >”You killed him, didn’t you? You killed all those people.”
  5791. “He deserved it.”
  5792. >”He was a good man.”
  5793. “He was a liar.”
  5794. >”He was my friend.”
  5795. “He was mine too.”
  5796. >”One more thing before I give my answer.”
  5797. ”What’s that?”
  5798. >”You dropped your guard.”
  5799. >Before you could register what he said, your world became pain.
  5800. >His elbow had somehow found its way up to your nose.
  5801. >You let go of him and stumbled back, clutching your schnoz.
  5802. >The attack disoriented you and left you vulnerable to a heavy right hook.
  5803. >The one really hurt.
  5804. >It sent you sprawling onto the floor.
  5805. >Timber jumped on top of you and grabbed your neck.
  5806. >”Now, let’s see who I’m arresting tonight!”
  5807. >The lights flicked on, stinging your eyes as your mind still tried to make sense of everything.
  5808. >”Twilight Sparkle? I thought you were dead.”
  5809. >His grip tightened on your throat.
  5810. >”I used to look up to you. Brave Ms. Sparkle, spearheading the movement to save Canterlot from itself. I guess you were just using us the whole time.”
  5811. >There was another punch, this time in your jaw.
  5812. >Your vision went white.
  5813. >You couldn’t hear anything but a ringing in your ears and the jingling of chains.
  5814. >What was happening with your arms?
  5815. >You were moving, that was for sure.
  5816. >Slowly, the world started to focus in again.
  5817. >You were up on your feet.
  5818. >No, you were being held up.
  5819. >Timber had you by the shoulders and was dragging you to the door.
  5820. >The chain sounds? Those were handcuffs.
  5821. >You wanted to tell him to stop. All that came out was a groan.
  5822. >”Ymm hfn guffin. Shm hobino.”
  5823. >That’s probably not what he actually said, but that’s all you could pull out of his stream of words.
  5824.  
  5825. >The door opened.
  5826. >He led you outside.
  5827. >The brisk air was a shock to your system. It served to wake you up just a little bit more.
  5828. >”You’re going away for a long time,” he muttered.
  5829. >You tried to wrestle with him, but in your daze, you couldn’t do much but shake.
  5830. >Another punch from him took even that from you.
  5831. >You fell into his arms, limp.
  5832. >What happened next is just a series of flashes in your mind as you slipped in and out of consciousness.
  5833. >The garage door opened.
  5834. >The car door opened.
  5835. >You went inside.
  5836. >There was another click.
  5837. >One door closed, one opened.
  5838. >He turned on the car.
  5839. >The car started to back out of the garage.
  5840. >It suddenly hit you like a freight train that it was finally happening.
  5841. >You were being arrested.
  5842. >You were going to jail.
  5843. >No, there was still something you needed to do.
  5844. >You sat up, pulled away from the door you were leaning against, and found you had been cuffed to it.
  5845. >”Awake now?”
  5846. “Timber, don’t do this…”
  5847. >”It should have been done two police chiefs ago. I’m not going to be the third in this line of mistakes.”
  5848. “Stop…”
  5849. >”We’re going to seize your property. Every dirty secret you’ve been hiding for the mob is about to come into the light.”
  5850. >Every dirty secret.
  5851. >That would include the evidence on Rainbow Dash.
  5852. >She would be found a criminal.
  5853. >They would hang her for everything she’s done in your name.
  5854. >You couldn’t let that happen.
  5855. >You had to do something.
  5856. >You pulled harder, in vain, trying to budge the door somehow.
  5857. >It wouldn’t give.
  5858. >Your strength was returning to you, but for all the pushups you could do, it was proving useless in that time.
  5859. >With your wits about you, you looked for some way to stop him.
  5860. >You twisted around in the seat until your back was against the door and you were facing Timber across the seat gap.
  5861.  
  5862. “You’re wrong. You’ve already made a mistake.”
  5863. >You picked your legs up and, with every ounce of strength you could muster, sent your heels flying for his face.
  5864. >You could practically hear the crack of his bones.
  5865. >His head flew to the side and smashed against the window, shattering it to pieces.
  5866. >The car swerved for a second, but he had his wits about him faster than you would have expected and righted it.
  5867. >You kicked again, but only with one foot.
  5868. >The other snaked past him and looped itself into the steering wheel.
  5869. >It turned, throwing the car off track and slamming into some guard rails.
  5870. >You played with it a bit more, sending the car all over the road until you eventually got lucky and found a patch of road with no guardrails.
  5871. >The car went off and sailed down a hill.
  5872. >It crashed, flipped over twice, and finally landed upright on the ground.
  5873. >The both of you were quite dizzy after that.
  5874. >Timber, amazingly, still had some fight in him.
  5875. >He groaned and went for his seatbelt which he just didn’t seem to have the coordination to unbuckle.
  5876. “Jesus, just fucking die,” you hissed.
  5877. >Still holding onto the door, you raised your legs and looped them around his neck.
  5878. >His head popped out just above your thighs.
  5879. >The orange of his face was mostly purple and red by then. You bet you could make it blue.
  5880. >You squeezed your legs together, constricting his airways.
  5881. >The man struggled.
  5882. >He put his hands up and tried to pry your legs open, but you wouldn’t give.
  5883. >Timber gasped for air.
  5884. >His eyes widened. They got bigger and bigger until they nearly popped out of his head.
  5885. >Grunting, you put more pressure onto his neck.
  5886. >He slowed down, growing weaker.
  5887. >His eyes which were locked onto yours slowly drifted past you, looking off into the distance, and glossed over.
  5888.  
  5889. >Not good enough, you thought. He was clearly a fighter. You didn’t want to undo your legs and have him jump at you.
  5890. >You hooked one foot around the other for support and in a quick fashion, pushed your thigh up into his chin, forcing his head back and snapping his neck.
  5891. >The crack is what did it for you.
  5892. >Assured of his passing, you let go of him and turned attention to your own plight.
  5893. >The cuffs were nice. They were also looped around the door handle which seemed to be a steel bar coated in plastic.
  5894. “Well, shit…”
  5895. >After a half of an hour and some creative thinking, you found your way out of the mess and stumbled away from the vehicle.
  5896. >You looked back at it and saw Timber’s corpse leaning over the passenger seat, still buckled in.
  5897. “Male drivers. What can you do?”
  5898. >Well, it wasn’t the exact way you wanted the night to go, but hey, you were one step closer to un-cleaning up the city.
  5899. >You retrieved your bow and quiver from Timber’s house and went back home to rest.
  5900.  
  5901. >The following morning, you went about your routine as normal.
  5902. >When you checked the news, it was riddled with reporters trying to cause mass hysteria.
  5903. >”Gang Wars Tear City Apart!”
  5904. >”Mayor and Police Chief Dead! Who is Next?”
  5905. >”Mysterious Archer Brings Death Upon the City!”
  5906. >”Mayor Smith and Chief Spruce--Deaths Linked?”
  5907. >Wow, they sure jumped on that fast. You only killed Spruce, what, twelve hours before that?
  5908. >Other articles that caught your eye were about noise complaints from downtown Canterlot reminiscent of gunfire.
  5909. >You checked the locations of the complains and, sure enough, it was around the area the fighting pit was.
  5910. >You leaned closer to the screen as you read on.
  5911. >For several nights, residents had been hearing a series of loud pops and yelling.
  5912. >Perhaps your companions had found some trouble when they got back.
  5913. >You checked the time on the clock. It was only noon, so you couldn’t go out and check on them.
  5914. >In fact, even when you swung by their place that night, you couldn’t find them.
  5915. >The didn’t turn up for another week.
  5916. >When you next saw them, they had tales to tell you of how Gilda had returned and taken over the pit in their absence.
  5917. >They--and by “they”, they mean Anonymous--gave them a real fight and kicked them out.
  5918. >With the pit in Canterlot secured, they traveled to Gilda’s town and spent some time kicking her around to make sure she wouldn’t forget her place.
  5919. “Ballsy,” you told them.
  5920. >Innominate huffed.
  5921. >”She’s been getting on our nerves for a while. This has been a long time coming.”
  5922. >Her husband agreed.
  5923.  
  5924. >Let’s see. Oh, yes. You spent many nights running around trying to get the underworld back under control.
  5925. >Certain criminals had to be...dealt with.
  5926. >There were murderers on the street that the police hadn’t been able to apprehend.
  5927. >You, on the other hand, didn’t have the same restrictions as the police, and you were certainly more efficient on your own than that secret squad of theirs.
  5928. >With the help of some sharp arrows, you took those thugs off the streets.
  5929. >As for the other crooks, there were several newbies who hadn’t found their niche yet and were just generally causing havoc.
  5930. >You took some time to find them new homes and teach them the rules of the game.
  5931. >Those who agreed got to continue their controlled crime sprees.
  5932. >Those who didn’t ended up at the police station.
  5933. >And, while everyone is on the topic of the secret police, it turns out they were just hired guns that used to work for Discord.
  5934. >He straightened them out right quick when you told him that.
  5935. >”No loyalty among thieves,” he sighed.
  5936. >That all took about six weeks, which gave you one more week until your return to society.
  5937. >In that time, you became very intimate with your machine.
  5938. >You made some great progress on it before the accident seven months ago, and you seemed to be steadily moving along upon return.
  5939. >At last, you thought you had finally worked out a stable way to harness the dark energy.
  5940. >Right before you flipped the machine on, you stopped yourself and really thought about what you going to do.
  5941. >Turning on that machine with just the hopes that everything worked out would be a bad idea considering the sheer scale of power it was meant to produce.
  5942.  
  5943. >At your computer, you quickly threw together a simulated universe with altered laws of physics to match the technology you were working on.
  5944. >Then you punched in the numbers, turned on the in-universe machine, and watched what happened.
  5945. >Aaaand it blew up.
  5946. >It blew up bad.
  5947. >As in taking out a moon-sized chunk of the earth bad.
  5948. “Well, maybe if I just change this variable.”
  5949. >And that one made a black hole that swallowed the sun in eleven minutes.
  5950. “This one?”
  5951. >Goodbye, Milky Way.
  5952. “Well maybe if I alter this piece.”
  5953. >Now you’re just punching holes through dimensions.
  5954. >With a heavy sigh, you closed the program.
  5955. >You looked to the machine longingly.
  5956. “Right. I mean, the simulation could be wrong…”
  5957. >And it very well could have been. After all, it was only a computer based on your flawed understanding of the universe.
  5958. >Still though, if it was right, you didn’t want to be the one responsible for ending the human race.
  5959. >Back to the drawing board for you.
  5960. >There must have been something you were missing.
  5961. >It was something you were sure you could find if you kept at it.
  5962. >One week later, you weren’t any closer to a breakthrough.
  5963. >The secret, whatever it was, kept escaping you at every turn.
  5964. >In a fit, you picked up the guts of the energy device and threw it at a wall, bending it out of shape and sending bolts flying out of it.
  5965. “Stupid hunk of metal,” you spat and stormed out of your lab.
  5966.  
  5967. >Annoyed with that, you decided that, since a week had passed, it was time to get moving with your reintegration back into society.
  5968. >You went up to your room to find some nice clothes and proceeded to rip them to shreds.
  5969. >It was a delicate process, actually.
  5970. >Every rip was carefully placed to make it seem like it had torn naturally over a greay deal of time.
  5971. >After that, you took them outside and rubbed them vigorously on the concrete to wear out several spots and fray the fabric.
  5972. >When that was done, you put it all on and rolled around in the dirt for about forty five minutes.
  5973. >You were amazingly dirty by then, but not as dirty as you needed to be.
  5974. >After all, Twilight Sparkle was lost from civilization for nine months. She needed to be absolutely filthy.
  5975. >You went into the kitchen and poured some olive oil in your hair to really grease it up.
  5976. >You were dirty and greasy, but you smelled like lady soap and olives. Not exactly a “lost at sea” feel.
  5977. >In your lab, you whipped up some Stink-In-A-Can, which you were sure some toy company would love to buy later, and doused yourself with it.
  5978. >There. One shipwrecked Twilight ready for action.
  5979. >You snuck out when the sun had set at around four and made your way for town square which, at that time of the night, should have still been very busy.
  5980. >You shivered, not quite used to so much of your skin being exposed to the bitter air.
  5981. >As you hugged yourself and bumped into people, they started to notice you.
  5982. >Finally, one of them--someone you recognized from one of the first Fix Up Canterlot rallies--pointed you out.
  5983. >He grabbed you by the shoulders and proclaimed he thought you were dead.
  5984. >Other people nearby heard his shouts and began to pay attention.
  5985. >Within two minutes, the entire square was swarmed around you clamoring for explanations and praises.
  5986. >With some dramatic flair, you gasped and collapsed in the man’s arms, feigning unconsciousness.
  5987.  
  5988. >Newspaper headlines the next morning brought a chuckle to your insides.
  5989. >”Twilight Sparkle Back in Town! Canterlot Saved!”
  5990. >”Canterlot’s Favorite Daughter Safe and Sound!”
  5991. >”The Prodigal Daughter Returns! Easter Starts Early!”
  5992. >”A Modern Odyssey--Ms. Sparkle’s Adventure at Sea!”
  5993. >You were put in a hospital to deal with your injuries, among which were self induced dehydration, starvation, and some nasty splinters.
  5994. >Well, not that they knew it was all self induced.
  5995. >What? You had to make it seem convincing.
  5996. >Your room was constantly filled with reporters until the nurses forced them out to give you time to rest.
  5997. >You must have spoken a novel’s worth in that few hour gap.
  5998. >Later that day, you got a visit from your friends.
  5999. >Discord rushed over to your bed and gave you the tightest hug you’ve ever gotten.
  6000. >”Oh, Twilight! I missed you! I’m so glad you made it home safe and sound,” he cried.
  6001. “Down boy,” you grunted and pushed him off.
  6002. >”They’re calling you the Odysseus of the twenty first century,” said Innominate.
  6003. “I like to think of myself more as Hugh Glass. You know, betrayed by a co worker, survived a tragedy, traveled the world, and took revenge.”
  6004. >”I hear that,” added Discord. “Nothing like some good revenge. I oughta tell you some of my revenge stories some time. I’m sure you’ll get a real kick out of them!”
  6005. “Maybe, but not now.”
  6006. >”Yeah. I’m sure she’s tired after nine months at sea,” joked Anonymous.
  6007. >”Alright, fine. How’s one year from now?”
  6008. “A bit far off, but I’m sure I can manage that.”
  6009. >”Wonderful! I’ll prep the sandwiches! Should we make it a picnic? No, that’d be dumb.”
  6010. “So, Innominate, how’d everything go with Gilda? Is she leaving you alone n--”
  6011. >”Know what? It will be a picnic.”
  6012. “Sure, a picnic is fine. So, is Gilda leaving you alone after your little visit?”
  6013. >Innominate nodded.
  6014. >”She learned her lesson now. We totally dismantled her arena. Tell her, honey.”
  6015. >”She’s fucked,” said Anonymous plainly.
  6016. >”Pretty much.”
  6017. “Nice.”
  6018.  
  6019. >So after that, you were left alone to recuperate, surely exhausted from your arduous journey.
  6020. >A modern Odysseus. Ha!
  6021. >You chuckled to yourself and crawled out of bed.
  6022. >Several nurses insisted you get your rest, but you assured them you were feeling much better thanks to the amazing care of the hospital.
  6023. >Besides, there was something you had to do.
  6024. >Like a gust of wind, you blew through the bleached white tile hallways and appeared in front of the vinyled oak door of a certain Rainbow Dash’s room.
  6025. >Pulling the handle down, you opened it up and slowly pushed your way into the room.
  6026. >You were overcome with both joy and sadness at the sight of her.
  6027. >It had been so long since you’d laid eyes on her. To finally see her again was euphoric.
  6028. >Of course, she was still in a coma, so there was that to be upset about.
  6029. >She also lost a lot of weight. They could pump as much food into her as they wanted, but she hadn’t moved an inch in almost a year. The loss of muscle mass was obvious.
  6030. >If...when she woke up, she was going to be real pissed off she couldn’t skateboard.
  6031. >You pulled over a chair from the corner of the room and sat down on her right.
  6032. “Hey, Rainbow Dash,” you whispered. “It’s me again. It’s been a while, huh?”
  6033. >And so began another one of your one-sided conversations.
  6034. >You told her all about your adventure at sea, how you finally got John Smith for her, and then filled her in on general news from the outside world.
  6035. “Oh, and Tony Falcon has a new game coming out: Tony Falcon Pro Skater Golden Edition. You always liked those games, right? I’ll bring you a copy when it comes out.”
  6036. >Rainbow Dash would shut herself in her room for days whenever one of those was released.
  6037. >She played and played and played. You practically had to drag her out by her hair when it was dinner time.
  6038.  
  6039. >What else went on?
  6040. >Oh, you read an excerpt from a new Daring Do novel.
  6041. >It came out about two months after your accident, so she obviously hadn’t had a chance to read it.
  6042. >It probably failed spectacularly, but you tried to read each line with the same emphasis you thought she would have put on it.
  6043. >If she could hear you, she probably would have been laughing.
  6044. >Or cringing. You know, one of those.
  6045. >While you were reading, a lock of her rainbow hair, which had grown wildly, fell into her face.
  6046. >You brushed it away and took the clip out of your hair bun to hold it back for her.
  6047. >A little giggle escaped your lips.
  6048. >She always hated hair clips. Something about being the antithesis to awesome.
  6049. >Well, not in those exact words. Clearly “antithesis” was not apart of her vocabulary.
  6050. >At some point, a nurse came in to tell you that visiting hours were done a while ago and it was time for you to leave her.
  6051. >You pleaded for some extra time, but apparently you had been given as much as they could already.
  6052. “Fine. I’ll come back tomorrow, ok? It’s a promise, Rainbow Dash.”
  6053. >With teary eyes, you squeezed Rainbow Dash’s hand and leaned over to give her a peck on the cheek.
  6054.  
  6055. >The next day, you returned with the full copy of the new Daring Do novel.
  6056. “Buckle your seatbelt, Rainbow Dash, because this is about to get crazy!”
  6057. >She’d be pumping her fists in the air if she could.
  6058. >Now, Daring Do was never really your series, but you can admit that book was quite interesting.
  6059. >It was pretty happy in the start. Daring Do fought some cheesy villains, found her artifact, and went about normal life.
  6060. >Even when the real plot started to show itself, nothing too horrible happened.
  6061. >It was in the third act that things really started to fall apart for Daring.
  6062. >Everything that had been piling up came blasting back at her.
  6063. >The sudden tonal shift tempted you to stop reading since you didn’t want to upset Dash with tales of woe and misery, but you figured that she would have kept reading anyway, so you pressed on.
  6064. >There was the equivalent of a boss battle which the protagonist obviously won.
  6065. >After that, she had to solve a mystery that had been building up the whole story.
  6066. >Well, mystery is a strong word. The answer was obvious to anyone who had been paying attention.
  6067. >Anyway, she solved it, escaped the temple, and made it back home safe and sound.
  6068. >Not a bad read, you thought.
  6069. >Rainbow Dash seemed to like it. At least she didn’t stop you.
  6070. >Ha ha...ha…
  6071. >Now you’ve made yourself sad.
  6072. >Reading that monster of a book took the whole day, and when you looked out the window next, it was pitch dark out.
  6073. >You set it down on her bedside table and spent the rest of your time until the nurses came to escort you out just looking at her.
  6074. “Goodbye, Rainbow Dash. I’ll come back tomorrow, ok?”
  6075.  
  6076. >And you did.
  6077. >You went back day after day, hoping to see a change that never came.
  6078. >After a week of this, it began to hurt too much to stare at her limp body every day.
  6079. >You decided instead to dive back into your work and keep visits to Rainbow Dash on the weekends.
  6080. >Speaking of work, you didn’t need Twilight’s Taxi after all.
  6081. >The genius of your inventions, when connected with your household name, drew in a large sum of money when you started selling them off.
  6082. >You had made the entirety of Twilight’s Taxi’s income for three years in a matter of days.
  6083. >A great deal of that money went towards furthering the development of the energy device.
  6084. >You were two billion dollars into the damn thing and were still no closer to solving the problem than the day you got back home from the island.
  6085. >There was something you couldn’t see.
  6086. >It was a missing link.
  6087. >Like all missing links, it refused to show itself no matter how large of a magnifying glass you brought out.
  6088. “Now I know how archeologists feel,” you muttered, fed up with your fifth failed day in a row.
  6089. >Well, it wasn’t a total failure.
  6090. >You secured the harbor of the next town over, Fillydelphia, for your own harbor crew.
  6091. >Steven Magnet was anxious for more ports. He had a thing for water.
  6092. >What a freak.
  6093.  
  6094. >Six months later, you got a letter in the mail from Anonymous and Innominate.
  6095. >Odd that they wouldn’t just call you, but whatever.
  6096. >You opened it up and read aloud its contents.
  6097. >”Are ya sure you should be reading that there letter infront’a me, lass,” asked O’Brien who was sitting across from you for a number of reasons, none of which were good.
  6098. “You’re not going to tell anyone about it, will you?”
  6099. >”Not a chance! Me paps taught me better’n that.”
  6100. “Then there’s nothing to worry about. Now where was I? Dear Twilight Sparkle, you are cordially invited to attend the renewal of our marriage vows on the occasion of our twenty fifth anniversary in one week’s time. We hope to see you there.”
  6101. >”Congratulations! I’ll have me lads whip up some corned beef for ye friends!”
  6102. “I think you better have them whip up an explanation as to why profits have dropped thirty percent first.”
  6103. >”O-oh, yes. Ya see, about that…”
  6104. >As he described the hard times his family had fallen upon, you did your very best to keep a stone face, but it was very difficult at times.
  6105. >You were just so excited.
  6106. >Renewing marriage vows.
  6107. >It was every girl’s dream to be a bridesmaid, and you were about to become the next best thing.
  6108. >”So ya see, without the potatoes, me family just can’t support the factory.”
  6109. “Did you try growing more?”
  6110. >”Jumpin’ leprechauns! Twilight, yer a genius ahead’a yer own time! I’ll tell me family right away!”
  6111. “And O’Brien, don’t forget. I want those numbers back in the green by next month. Got it?”
  6112. >”It’s a sure thing! Oh, thank ye for the time, lassie. Me family’s in yer debt!”
  6113. “Deep into my debt, actually.”
  6114. >He smiled, tipped his hat, and ran off.
  6115. >When you heard your door slam shut, you let out a joyous scream and nearly fell out of your chair.
  6116.  
  6117. >One week. You had to prepare. You needed to find the best dress on Earth.
  6118. >Did you even have to wear a dress?
  6119. >Whatever, you would anyway.
  6120. >You would buy exotic flowers and boxes of chocolates and after the party you would all have a little campfire and you would roast s’mores and everything would be wonderful and-and-and-
  6121. >Calm down, Twilight.
  6122. >It was still a week off. You had plenty of time to prepare.
  6123. >Pretty much all of that time was spent bouncing between dress stores, florist shops, and the hospital to tell Rainbow Dash all about it.
  6124. >You promised that when she finally woke up and found love for herself, you would be sitting right in the front row, cheering her on the whole time.
  6125. >Before you knew it, the week had come and gone, and it was time for the big show.
  6126. >You rushed to the church early in the morning.
  6127. >As the first one there, you greeted the couple when they arrived and ran up to Innominate who was wearing a long silky white gown and had her hair done up in its usual bun, but glossier and more voluminous than any other time.
  6128. >You two jumped into each other’s arms and squealed.
  6129. >“Oh my god, I can’t believe this is happening!”
  6130. “I know! I’m so happy for you two!”
  6131. >Anonymous laughed and gave you a pat on the head, then walked inside, mumbling something about typical women.
  6132. >When he was gone, Innominate leaned in, pressing her forehead and nose against yours.
  6133. >In a low voice she whispered to you, “Twilight, I’m so nervous. Our wedding didn’t go so well the first time and this is practically a wedding all over again. And Anonymous...oh, he’s wonderful. He’s a new man after the island. But...he’s also a new man. Won’t it be weird? I mean, you only get married once. Well, you SHOULD only get married once.”
  6134.  
  6135. “Innominate, hush. You love him, right?”
  6136. >She nodded vigorously, banging your heads together.
  6137. “Then you’ll be fine. Follow your heart,” you said and pressed a hand to her chest.
  6138. >She took a deep breath and pulled away, composing herself.
  6139. >”I can do this. It’s just renewing our vows. Piece of cake, right?”
  6140. “Piece of cake.”
  6141. >You followed her into the church and took your seat right in the front pew.
  6142. >Over the next hour, people started to fill in.
  6143. >Most of them were friends of the two of them, and others were business associates who wanted to show their support.
  6144. >Long story short, the church was pretty packed.
  6145. >It also lacked electrical lighting, so everything was illuminated by candles.
  6146. >There were several surrounding Anonymous and Innominate in a crescent up in the front.
  6147. >The dancing flames went well with the atmosphere of the church.
  6148. >You’re usually one for progress, but sometimes the basics can be nice too.
  6149. >It was kind of funny to see the sheer difference in size between them.
  6150. >Anonymous had maybe two feet on her. Compared to her small frame and pearly white dress, he was a wall of black and green.
  6151. >When the priest showed up, the show got on the road.
  6152. >Anonymous went first, explaining his vows to her in a way she hadn’t heard the first time around.
  6153. >It brought tears to her eyes. Thankfully she chose some water proof makeup and fog proof glasses.
  6154. >After him, it was her turn to speak in her own shaky voice.
  6155. >The ceremony was finished, and the priest closed his bible.
  6156. >Anonymous turned to the crowd and bellowed out: “Now I’m going to do something I should have done a long time ago.”
  6157. >He bent over, put his arms around her back and knees, and swept her off her feet.
  6158. >Your mind went back to when she first opened up to you. That was her one true desire from their relationship.
  6159. >You were so happy for them. You could see on their faces that anything you could have felt was overshadowed ten, fifteen--no, twenty fold.
  6160. >They looked away from the crowd and stared into each other’s eyes.
  6161.  
  6162. >What happened next is...hard for you to explain.
  6163. >It...it’s…
  6164. >There was the...you could hear glass shatter from behind you.
  6165. >Something whizzed by your face.
  6166. >You could feel the heat of it. You could feel it displace the air around you and blow your hair to the side.
  6167. >She…
  6168. >Innominate just…
  6169. >Oh jeez, it’s getting hard for you to write this.
  6170. >Her chest just exploded.
  6171. >One, two, three times, something impacted her and shook her body in his arms.
  6172. >Blood sprayed out from her and drenched Anonymous.
  6173. >People around you started screaming, and you could hear them running around, many making it outside and driving away.
  6174. >You were frozen in shock.
  6175. >What just happened?
  6176. >What was that noise?
  6177. >What...oh no. Oh god no.
  6178. >Things began to add up as your mind slowly regained function.
  6179. >It seemed to sync up with Anonymous’ as well.
  6180. >His smile faded.
  6181. >As he began to understand the gravity of the situation, his face contorted in horror and sadness.
  6182. >The mighty man’s knees quivered, and he fell down, clutching her.
  6183. >”I-Innominate? Innominate...Innominate, hey...c-come on…”
  6184. >He took his hand out from behind her knees and cupped her cheek which had been splattered with blood.
  6185. >”Honey? No...no no no no no....”
  6186. >He looked over her body, at her chest which was soaked with sanguine fluid that stained her once pristine dress.
  6187. >”No, please...please…”
  6188. >For the first time in nine and a half years, you saw him cry.
  6189. >The tears streamed down his cheeks, not that they were visible for long.
  6190. >He buried his face in her chest and screamed, long and hard.
  6191. >It was powerful and chilling.
  6192. >Your bones shook with his wails.
  6193. >You could feel his pain.
  6194. >It echoed in your chest, grabbed your heart, and squeezed until it popped.
  6195. >You wanted to go over there and hug her, hug him, to be there...but you just couldn’t move.
  6196. >All you could do was look on as her limp body drained itself of blood onto his previously black suit.
  6197. >It was a cold day.
  6198.  
  6199. >You didn’t really know how to handle that.
  6200. >It was like Rainbow Dash falling off the roof again, but she was still fine. Relatively speaking, of course.
  6201. >Innominate...there would be no coma for her. There would be no expert surgeon. There would be no bitter sweet ending, no grey zone, no room for hope, no nothing.
  6202. >Not even a goodbye.
  6203. >Someone called the cops from outside since about fifteen minutes later--very fast response time, honestly--sirens blared and boots marched into the church.
  6204. >They began asking you questions that you couldn’t hear or answer.
  6205. >When that failed, someone gently grabbed your shoulders and pulled you up from the pew.
  6206. >Still in shock, you didn’t fight them.
  6207. >You were escorted out of the building and sat outside where they left you to stew.
  6208. >The rest of the day is a blur.
  6209. >Truthfully, you wish all of it was a blur.
  6210. >You wish you had never seen her in that gown.
  6211. >It would be fine to read in the papers that she died smiling in the arms of her husband, but to see it...to be there and to FEEL it as everything played out…
  6212. >It’s an image you struggle with even today.
  6213. >You can only imagine how Anonymous must have felt.
  6214. >In fact, you were unsure if he would even show up for the service or if he would hide himself away.
  6215. >Although he did opt not to hold a wake, he did arrange a funeral and was present for it.
  6216.  
  6217. >When the seasons were just starting to change from winter to spring, it took place.
  6218. >You showed up on the early side, wading through the slush and the mud of the cemetery until you came upon a little hill, outlined by a few barren trees.
  6219. >Anonymous was perched atop it, and behind him, a grand casket that shined in the dim light.
  6220. >There were three stone stairs you had to climb to get to the area.
  6221. >As you approached him, you noticed something familiar, yet also somehow new to his face.
  6222. >He was wearing the same neutral mask he always had, but this time, you could tell it was a mask.
  6223. >Like all halloween products, it couldn’t hide what was in his eyes.
  6224. “Hello, Anonymous,” you said.
  6225. >”Hello.”
  6226. >You moved closer to give him a hug, but he jumped back.
  6227. >He gestured to the two long rows of white chairs to his left.
  6228. >”Please take a seat while we wait.”
  6229. >With a nod, you went over and sat down.
  6230. >Neither of you spoke.
  6231. >Well, that’s not to say you didn’t try.
  6232. >It’s more that he didn’t respond.
  6233. >Anonymous was a statue that only moved to shake hands and thank people for coming.
  6234. >As more chairs were taken up, you recognized their faces as people that had been from the church.
  6235. >Of course, it was a smaller crowd.
  6236. >Discord arrived too and sat down next to you, giving you a pat on the leg.
  6237. >He was wearing something other than that hideous patchwork suit of his.
  6238. >In fact, he would have looked professional if it wasn’t for his hair and that one fang that always stuck out of his mouth.
  6239. >”It’s good of you to show up,” he said.
  6240. “I owe it to her.”
  6241. >Discord closed his eyes and shook his head.
  6242. >”You don’t owe her anything. You’ve done nothing but be a good friend to her, even now when there’s nothing left to do. This is just you doing the right thing.”
  6243. “You and I must see things differently.”
  6244. >”I suppose so.”
  6245.  
  6246. >After everyone appeared, there were another few minutes of absent chatting.
  6247. >Finally, Anonymous began to speak.
  6248. >”Thank you all for coming to honor Innominate,” he said, quieting everyone down.
  6249. >All eyes went to him.
  6250. >”I’m sure she would have liked to have said goodbye to you all in person. This is the closest we can get, but I know that she wouldn’t be upset about it. As long as everyone got to say their piece, that’d be fine. She was that kind of girl. Kind, smart, funny, open...and always more than I deserved…”
  6251. >He licked his dry lips and took the opportunity to form his thoughts.
  6252. >”She had a way of touching people. There was a...a light--something inside her that brightened the days of everyone she met. Well, unless she beat you up.”
  6253. >A few people snickered behind you.
  6254. >”Innominate...she had this idea about love. She once told me that it’s natural, as humans, to be curious. In a typical relationship, you’ll be wondering to yourself what your life would be like with a different person. What if your partner was different? What if you had two partners instead of one? Some people go through their whole lives with every relationship ending over what if’s...but when you found someone, and you lose that curiosity...when you stop thinking what your life would be like without them, or rather CAN’T imagine your life without them...then you’ve found who you’re supposed to marry. I knew what she was saying on a superficial level, but I don’t think I ever truly understood it. Now that she’s...now...I understand what she meant.”
  6255. >He took a deep breath and motioned for the casket to be put into the ground.
  6256. >”Please, come say your goodbyes.”
  6257. >He threw a handful of dirt into the six foot deep hole and stepped back to give other people room.
  6258.  
  6259. >You went up to the pit and, at a relative loss for words, could only assure her that you would never forget her.
  6260. >After saying their piece and giving a goodbye to Anonymous, the guests filed out.
  6261. >It had already been confirmed there would be no get together afterward, and they had business to attend to as if a schedule couldn’t be cleared for one day.
  6262. >Anonymous, Discord, and yourself stood near the edge of the grave for quite a while, long after everyone had left and the hole had been filled.
  6263. >Night began to fall, and you tried to comfort Anonymous one last time.
  6264. >He took a handshake, but that was all.
  6265. >With your head hung, you turned and left him there to grieve in peace.
  6266. >Discord followed your example.
  6267. >He clung close to you as you made your way through the snowy goop coating the ground.
  6268. >He sighed and wrapped an arm around your shoulder.
  6269. >”I’m sorry, Twilight. You seem to be losing friends left and right and all I can do is watch. I wish I had some way to punch through time and just...change things. You deserve a better life than what you’ve been offered.”
  6270. “I’m not the one who was hurt here. I haven’t lost what they have. If anyone should benefit from a time machine, it should be them.”
  6271. >Punch a hole through time. What a preposterous idea.
  6272. >Almost as crazy as punching holes through...dimensions…
  6273. >Now doesn’t that sound familiar?
  6274. >You shoved Discord off and broke into a sprint for your car.
  6275. >”Was it something I said?”
  6276. >Yes, Discord, you beautiful bastard. It was EVERYTHING you said!
  6277. >You knew what to do! You could fix everything!
  6278.  
  6279. >You made it home, throwing your things to the side, and dashed for your lab.
  6280. >The energy device was in its usual spot, and around it on the floor, were previous models that had all failed the tests.
  6281. >Jumping into the rolling chair, you slid across the room and landed smack dab in front of the computer.
  6282. “Where is it? Where is it?”
  6283. >You scrolled through file after file of all your research and tests until you found the original simulated universe you coded months ago.
  6284. >There were several saves--all the failures that prompted you not to turn on the first prototype.
  6285. >Opening up a new one, you dubbed the universe “Energy Redesign - Time Test 1”.
  6286. >Now, someone reading this might be asking “but Twilight, how punching holes through dimensions have anything to do with time?”
  6287. >That’s simple, Watson.
  6288. >Time is a dimension. Rather, it is the fourth dimension.
  6289. >Everything that exists has a length, width, and a height. Those are the three basic dimensions. However, nothing can exist outside of time. Everything has a place on the number line, so to speak.
  6290. >In the simulation, you punched holes between dimensions in another sense. You connected two theoretical universes with each other.
  6291. >To do that, one would have to tear through the fabric of space and time and open a wormhole in that tear, connecting the two universes in the same way that a wormhole would connect, say, Earth and Mars.
  6292. >Er, theoretically.
  6293. >Now, if you could do that but keep your destruction to the time stream, then you would be able to connect two points in time and travel between them.
  6294. >Does “theoretically” even need to be said?
  6295.  
  6296. >After putting in some new variables, you set the simulation to play and watched as you obliterated the solar system.
  6297. >Damn, that didn’t work.
  6298. >One failure didn’t deter you.
  6299. >You kept at it for hours, causing irreparable damage to universe after universe.
  6300. >When you were at your wits end, about to go on a bloodthirsty rampage, you smashed the play button down.
  6301. >The screen didn’t change.
  6302. “What?”
  6303. >You hit the button again, and once more, nothing happened.
  6304. “What, is it broken? Stupid computer!”
  6305. >Like an angry IT nerd trying to work around XP, you mashed the button again and again, hoping to aggravate the seemingly frozen screen as much as it was aggravating you.
  6306. >That was when you noticed something.
  6307. >Right there, down on the simulator clock.
  6308. >The numbers were flickering.
  6309. >One became two became one became two became one became two became one became two became one became two.
  6310. >You took your finger off the button and let it play out.
  6311. >One became two became three became four…
  6312. >And with another press of the button, it clocked down to one.
  6313. >The universe had either been reset or…
  6314. “Eureka! I’m a genius! Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes!”
  6315. >You leapt out of your chair and jumped around the lab, cheering like a little girl.
  6316. >Finally! Not only was the future in your hands, but the past was within your grasp as well.
  6317. >You could undo all the wrongs in your life.
  6318. >You could stop John before he even started. You could help Rainbow Dash. You could save Innominate.
  6319. >All you had to do was build the machine to the specifications in your simulated universe.
  6320.  
  6321. >You dived into your work right away.
  6322. >Things had to be done.
  6323. >Electronics had to be soldered.
  6324. >Computers had to be built.
  6325. >Programs needed coding.
  6326. >Entirely new fields of science needed pioneering.
  6327. >Groundbreaking shit.
  6328. >Oh it must have been three days of you popping caffeine pills and running around the lab looking for various parts, crafting others, and adding to the time machine before you looked at a clock next.
  6329. >When you saw how much time had passed, your adrenaline-fueled mind calmed down just enough for some guilt to set in.
  6330. >You hadn’t contacted Anonymous in all that time. He must have been feeling awful.
  6331. >You picked up the phone to give him a call.
  6332. >Well, sure the time machine would solve the issue, but he was still your friend. You couldn’t just leave the present him to stew in his own misery.
  6333. >He didn’t answer the first, second, third, or fourth time you called.
  6334. >Concerned for his well being, you tore yourself away from your project long enough to throw on a coat and exit the mansion.
  6335. >You’re very proud of yourself that you only tried to go back one time.
  6336. >Anyway, you hopped in your car and drove down to Anonymous’ cabin, expecting your visit to go well.
  6337. >That is, about as well as a visit could go under the circumstances.
  6338. >When you arrived, you gave the door a firm knocking.
  6339. >He didn’t come for another minute, so you tried knocking again.
  6340. >Still there was no response.
  6341. “That’s odd. His car is here,” you muttered.
  6342. >After another failed knocking, you decided to simply try the knob.
  6343. >The door was unlocked and slid right open.
  6344.  
  6345. >You covered your mouth in shock at the sight.
  6346. >The whole place had been trashed. It looked like a tornado had blown through.
  6347. >Entering slowly, you took it all in.
  6348. >Flipped tables and broken chairs littered the place.
  6349. >Every wall had as many fist-sized holes in it as you had fingers on your hands. Some even had large sections that had been torn out. The remains of those battles were strewn about the floor directly in front of them.
  6350. “Anonymous?” you called. “Anonymous, are you...ok?”
  6351. >Turning a corner, you found the living room.
  6352. >It was just as mangled as the rest of the house but had the addition of empty bottles that once held some powerful liquor.
  6353. >Your eyes landed on Anonymous, who was in the center of the room, sitting on the one good furniture item: a coffee table.
  6354. >He was hunched over, still in his suit from the funeral, only it had spots of plaster and alcohol all over it.
  6355. >He also had a gun in his hand.
  6356. “Oh my god. Anonymous!”
  6357. >You ran over to him and grabbed his shoulders, hefting him up to look in his eyes.
  6358. >”Oh, hey, Twilight,” he said lowly.
  6359. “What have you done?”
  6360. >”I...remodeled. Innominate never liked the chairs… Now she can’t get mad at me for making a mess.”
  6361. >You bent down to take the gun from him, but it was locked firmly in his hand.
  6362. >That was a big gun. It looked to be a Smith & Wesson 500.
  6363. “Anonymous, don’t tell me you’re planning what I think you are.”
  6364. >”Why?”
  6365. “Because you can’t!”
  6366. >”Why?”
  6367. “Because she wouldn’t want you to kill yourself. Innominate would want you to live.”
  6368. >”Innominate is dead. The dead don’t want.”
  6369. “Even so...y-you can’t. You just can’t kill yourself. What about your friends?”
  6370. >”What friends? You? Discord? You’ve all suffered before. You’ll get along fine without me.”
  6371.  
  6372. >You shook your head vigorously.
  6373. “No, you’re wrong. Anonymous, I’ve already lost two friends… Don’t make it three.”
  6374. >”AND WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO?!”
  6375. >The sudden change in voice took you by surprise.
  6376. >He shot up off the table and started stomping around the living room.
  6377. >”LIVE HERE? YOU SEE THIS? YOU SEE ALL THIS--” He sent his fist through a wall, “SHIT?! IT’S ALL NOTHING! IT’S AN EMPTY FUCKING HOUSE!”
  6378. >Anonymous took his hand out and slammed his back against the wall, sending cracks through the sheetrock.
  6379. >He slid down and landed on his ass in a pile of dust.
  6380. “Anonymous?”
  6381. >”When I went to sleep the first night, I hoped that I would wake up in the morning and this would all be a dream…”
  6382. >You took a few ginger steps for him, but then he started playing with the gun, tossing it between his hands.
  6383. >”And then I went to sleep the second night...and I hoped I wouldn’t wake up.”
  6384. “Of course you did.”
  6385. >”Of course I did.”
  6386. “You should keep waking up. Wake up every day. There’s a lot of life to live, Anonymous.”
  6387. >”There are fates worse than death…”
  6388. “None that I can think of.”
  6389. >”Do you remember what I said at the funeral? About finding the person you’re meant to marry?”
  6390. >You nodded.
  6391. “I remember it well. It was very...touching.”
  6392. >”Yeah. She had a way with words, didn’t she?”
  6393. >He smiled briefly. Then his lip quivered, his eyes became wet.
  6394. “She loved you.”
  6395. >”I know…”
  6396. “She’d want you to live.”
  6397. >”I know…”
  6398.  
  6399. “So do it. Live, darn it. If not for yourself, than for her. Don’t you think you owe it to her?”
  6400. >He sniffed.
  6401. >”You don’t know what it’s like.”
  6402. “I do. I’ve lost a lot of people in my life.”
  6403. >”You haven’t. You’ve seen friends turn their backs on you. It’s different.”
  6404. “And Rainbow Dash? Haven’t I lost her?”
  6405. >”She’s alive. You have hope.”
  6406. “And what about Innominate?”
  6407. >No response came.
  6408. >You took another few steps toward him, thinking it was safe.
  6409. “Look, I haven’t had to...deal with what you have, but I know what it’s like to feel alone. I know what it means to hurt. Anonymous, just because you’re suffering now doesn’t mean you won’t get better. Living means you have a chance to change things. All you need is a little faith.”
  6410. >”Faith… Yeah, I had faith once…”
  6411. >He took a breath and rubbed the barrel of the pistol against his forehead.
  6412. >”When I got back from the war, I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t think I was allowed to sleep. The things I did...the people I burned… I’m going to Hell for what I’ve done, Twilight. I can still see them. They’re all just standing there in the corner of my eyes. I can hear them. The doctors say it’s tinnitus, but I know what a scream sounds like…”
  6413. “Anonymous, don’t do this.”
  6414. >”When I got back from the war, I was going crazy, .and then I...I met her. I met Innominate in her run down little house in the shittiest part of town. She helped me. I could...I could sleep again. I could function. I could be someone else. I knew it was her. I needed her. I needed to be with her.”
  6415. >Closer. Every word he spoke was another centimeter you moved.
  6416. >”I can’t imagine my life without her,” he whispered.
  6417. >He straightened his back up against the wall.
  6418. >”And I don’t want to live it anymore,” he said firmly, pressing the barrel to his temple and looping his finger around the trigger.
  6419. “ANONYMOUS, NO!”
  6420. >You leapt for him.
  6421. >Then there was a bang.
  6422.  
  6423. >Your ears almost popped out of your head from the sound. In fact, you were sure you’d go deaf in at least one of them.
  6424. >Luckily that didn’t follow through.
  6425. >When the ringing in your head faded and you could focus again, you saw the gun lying on the floor a few feet away.
  6426. >As for Anonymous, you were lying on top of him, pressing his arm against the floor.
  6427. >He had his eyes closed tight and was crying.
  6428. >”Just leave me alone.”
  6429. >Thank god.
  6430. >It took every pound of muscle you had, but somehow you found the strength to ram his arm down and stop the bullet from going through his head.
  6431. >Breathing a sigh of relief, you slid off and headed for the gun.
  6432. >You took it in your hand and removed the remaining rounds, pocketing them in case he tried to go at it again.
  6433. >Anonymous simply rolled over on his side, facing away from you, and continued to sob.
  6434. >It really struck a chord with you.
  6435. >After all, when Rainbow Dash fell, you were in...a very similar place.
  6436. >Then Discord assured you that she was pushed, and suddenly you had a new purpose.
  6437. “Look,” you said tiredly. “If you don’t want to live for yourself, for her, or for your friends, then live for revenge.”
  6438. >”Revenge? Against who? The police had five months, Twilight. Five months of dead ends and no leads. If they couldn’t find the killer, how can I?”
  6439. “I know people. I can assemble a team--a real team. I’m sure they could find out what happened.”
  6440. >You held the gun by the barrell and lobbed it out a broken window, disposing of it hopefully indefinitely.
  6441. >Then you stood up, walked over to Anonymous, and held a hand out for him.
  6442. “Come on. Sit up.”
  6443. >He looked at you through the corner of his eye which had turned beet red from the tears.
  6444. >Without taking your offer, he sat himself up and leaned against the wall.
  6445.  
  6446. “Someone hurt her, Anonymous. If there’s even a ghost of a chance that I can find out who did it, you need to stay alive. They need to pay.”
  6447. >”They need to…”
  6448. “That’s right. You can do that much, can’t you?”
  6449. >He sniffed and gave a slight nod.
  6450. >”Yeah. I can do that.”
  6451. “Do you mean it?”
  6452. >He glanced at you.
  6453. >”You find me who did it… You find them, and I kill them.”
  6454. “If I leave here, are you going to kill yourself?”
  6455. >He shook his head.
  6456. >”Not unless you don’t deliver.”
  6457. “I can live with that.”
  6458. >There was nothing else that needed to be said.
  6459. >It was an understanding between the two of you.
  6460. >You left and went back to your mansion.
  6461. >As soon as you got home, you picked up the phone and made a few calls.
  6462. >The next day, several people in grey suits arrived at your door.
  6463. >They were supposed to be the best private investigators in the country.
  6464. >Well, the best you could get for your task.
  6465. >You took them into your study and sat down behind your desk, leaving them to stand in a row before you.
  6466. >”Oi theyah love. Who’sa tahget ‘aday?” asked a short grey woman with black hair that extended down to her butt.
  6467. “First of all, don’t call me love. Second of all, I want you to get to the bottom of a murder case the police abandoned a week ago.”
  6468. >”Ah fink we lot can ‘andle it, yeah?”
  6469. >”Oh my god shut up. That’s not even your real accent.”
  6470. >You really wish you were kidding.
  6471. >The best always seem to be the weirdest.
  6472. >”Oh, rubbish. Fine, fine. No more excotic accent. What’s the deal, love? This about that poof that got shot up in the church a few months back?”
  6473. >You nodded.
  6474. “Everything we know so far is in this folder,” you said, pointing to the one in question on the end of your desk.
  6475. >”It’s a bit on the small side, yeah? I don’t believe there’s much in here but a picture and some testimonies.”
  6476. “Like I said: everything we know is in the folder.”
  6477.  
  6478. >She took it off the desk and held it in her armpit.
  6479. >”Right. Well, love, that’s all you lot know. Anything we need to be brought up on?”
  6480. “Yes. From this point on, you will report to Anonymous, the green man in a cabin on the edge of town.”
  6481. >”Any particular reason?”
  6482. “None you need to know about.”
  6483. >”All well and good. We’ll have this closed up in a jiff, love.”
  6484. “And when you do, you’ll have the money wired to your accounts.”
  6485. >The woman nodded and, with the other investigators following, left you alone.
  6486. >When they were gone, you slammed your head on the desk and gave an old heave.
  6487. “What is my life becoming?”
  6488.  
  6489. >Over the next three weeks, you worked tirelessly on the time machine.
  6490. >It was one thing to put variables into a computer. It was another to transfer those numbers into reality.
  6491. >The parts for it were really racking up some pretty dollars too.
  6492. >You must have put, oh, six or seven billion dollars into it at that point.
  6493. >Your kitchen, bathroom, and living room were drained of inventions. All of them had been sold off to bring in some more green for the machine.
  6494. >Your Cayman Island accounts were drained.
  6495. >The Swiss were breathing down your neck.
  6496. >None of that mattered, you thought.
  6497. >If you could just finish the machine, then you could go back and fix everything.
  6498. >There was a fire in your soul that couldn’t be quelled.
  6499. >Every turn of your wrench became harder and harder but drove you on more and more as you put in what you believed to be the last bolt.
  6500. >Well, that was it.
  6501. >A retrofitted time machine, which looked more like a steel plated plasma ball with a few extra lights than anything else, sat ominously on your desk, just...waiting.
  6502. >You wondered if it would even work.
  6503. >If it did, why would you even be thinking about it?
  6504. >You should have gone back in time and realized it worked, so none of this would have happened in the first place.
  6505. >But then, everything needed a FIRST time. At some point, some version of you would have had to flip the switch and go back.
  6506. >Perhaps this was that time? You would be the pioneer Twilight?
  6507. >Or since you were messing with time, the first versions wouldn’t matter, since once time was distorted, it would surely affect every version.
  6508. >Oh to Hell with it.
  6509. >You checked your watch, marked the time carefully, extended your finger, and flipped the on switch.
  6510.  
  6511. >The machine roared to life.
  6512. >Electricity started racing through the sphere atop it, heating up the glass to the point where it melted.
  6513. >Bursts of power shot through the room, finding the walls and the computers and frying them.
  6514. >Papers caught fire right away and set everything non-metal ablaze.
  6515. >You covered your eyes as the lights glowed brighter to blinding levels of intensity.
  6516. >Then it all just stopped.
  6517. >Fear ran through your body.
  6518. >It could have been playing a trick on you.
  6519. >Once you pulled your arms down, it would send a lightning bolt right through your brain.
  6520. >Well...it could have.
  6521. >You don’t know.
  6522. “Don’t be a pussy,” you muttered and ever so slowly put your arms down at your sides.
  6523. >The room was normal.
  6524. >The glass sphere was intact and shining in the light just as it was before you turned it on.
  6525. “Moment of truth.”
  6526. >You looked at your watch.
  6527. >The second hand had moved back ten spaces.
  6528. >You…
  6529. >You did it.
  6530. >You actually did it.
  6531. >You, Twilight Motherfucking Sparkle, invented time travel.
  6532. >What a momentous occasion.
  6533. >You weren’t just making history, you were REmaking history.
  6534. “I’m a genius,” you shouted at the top of your lungs. “Joey, flip your fucking coin because I’m the new Time Wizard! WOO!”
  6535. >Oh fucking lord! You needed to celebrate!
  6536. “Where’s the booze?”
  6537. >In the kitchen.
  6538. >No, wait, drinking alone is pathetic.
  6539. >You’re not pathetic, you’re a time traveller.
  6540. >That’s like the coolest thing ever.
  6541. >You don’t drink alone, you drink with friends.
  6542. >Judging by the fact that Anonymous would be a total downer, you picked up the phone and dialed Discord’s number.
  6543. >The phone rang once, then twice, and then clicked when he picked it up.
  6544. >”If this is the IRS again, I’m told you I’m not here.”
  6545. “The IRS doesn’t make house calls.”
  6546. >”They don’t? Oh… Well, I’ve made an enormous mistake then. BORIS, FREEZE THE ACCOUNTS!”
  6547. “Discord, shut up. I have to tell you something amazing.”
  6548. >”Do tell!”
  6549.  
  6550. >You opened your big purple mouth and spewed all the juicy detail about your fucking time machine.
  6551. >How you went back in time ten entire seconds, how you’re a time traveller, and how you’re basically the smartest person in the universe.
  6552. >”Wow! Do you know what this means?”
  6553. “I can fix ever--”
  6554. >”We can go see Babe Ruth call his shot in person!”
  6555. “What? No.”
  6556. >”Twilight, you have to get over here right away. We’re going to drink all damn night and then we’re going to watch baseball with a hangover.”
  6557. “That sounds like a huge waste of time.”
  6558. >”What’s it matter? You can just undo it now!”
  6559. “Discord, I like the way you think.”
  6560. >You slammed the phone down on the receiver and locked up your lab tighter than a nun’s snatch in Fort Knox.
  6561. >You found your coat and zoomed out of the house.
  6562. >It was sunset, so the sky looked to be alive with fire.
  6563. >Your eyes stayed glued to the scene until you made it to your car, hopped in, and sped off.
  6564. >On your way there, you passed a few hobos sitting on the side of the street with their dumpster fires.
  6565. >You grabbed several stacks of cash you always kept in your glove compartment and threw them out the window at the group.
  6566. >Not like you needed money from the present anymore.
  6567. >Discord’s home in question happened to be a ten story building surrounded on all sides by warehouses to give it some privacy.
  6568. >He was standing out front, waving frantically.
  6569. >You slammed the brakes and stopped the car dead in its tracks.
  6570. >After turning it off and getting out, you ran over to him and gave the man a big hug.
  6571. >”Oh, Twilight, I’m so proud of you!”
  6572. >He was warm and firm, like a father congratulating their kid on getting their first trophy for the school science fair. Well, not that you’d know what that felt like. You would like to imagine it felt like that though.
  6573.  
  6574. >He took you inside and went up to the fifth floor where his private study was.
  6575. >It was a grand room with an atrocious color scheme that did not match at all.
  6576. >One wall was zebra striped, one was polka dotted, one had sunshine and rainbows, and one was just plain white.
  6577. >Absolutely disgusting.
  6578. >Still though, the fireplace looked welcoming.
  6579. >It had a roaring blaze set up and guarded by a fire cage.
  6580. >A few feet away from that were two beanbag chairs, a plaid blanket, and a big plate of finger sandwiches.
  6581. “A picnic,” you laughed.
  6582. >”Well, the closest I could get to one on such short notice.”
  6583. “It’s perfect.”
  6584. >You both sat down in your appropriate bean bags: purple for you, and brown for him.
  6585. >”So,” he said, taking a little treat off the plate. “Tell me all about this wonderful creation of yours.”
  6586. “Well, I wouldn’t call it wonderful.”
  6587. >”Then what would you say?”
  6588. “Amazing. Groundbreaking. Revolutionary.”
  6589. >”Alright, then tell me about your groundmazingtionary machine.”
  6590. “Well,” you started. “I can only go back ten seconds so far, but I believe that to be a limit of the power. With a larger source, I bet I could go back as far as I wanted.”
  6591. >”Like to Babe Ruth?”
  6592. “Yes, like to Babe Ruth.”
  6593. >”Sweet.”
  6594.  
  6595. >So you talked as the fire went down and the sun dipped below the horizon.
  6596. >You told him all about the struggles of developing the damn thing and how much he inspired you over time.
  6597. >In fact, you thought about naming the machine after him.
  6598. >”I’m flattered, but I couldn’t accept. Name it after the creator.”
  6599. “Nope. It was your idea.”
  6600. >”You’re absolutely right it was my idea. But still, you made it.”
  6601. >He grabbed a few logs from next to the hearth and threw them in over the fire cage, giving the flames more food.
  6602. >As night descended upon the land, and the lights had yet to be turned on, the fire was the only source of light in the room.
  6603. >Its red glow illuminated Discord, accenting his sharp features.
  6604. >”So, Twilight, there’s something I wanted to talk to you about. I think it’s very important that I get this out of the way.”
  6605. “What is it?”
  6606. >”Well, I--”
  6607. >Discord was interrupted by one of his henchmen walking into the room.
  6608. >”Sir, we need to get you out of here right now!”
  6609. >”Um, excuse me?”
  6610. >”There’s some hitman making his way here! He’s already on the second floor! We need to get you to the saferoom now!”
  6611. >”Can’t you see I’m busy? Tell him to wait.”
  6612. >”I...I don’t think it works like that.”
  6613. >”Did you even try?”
  6614. >”No, sir.”
  6615. >”Weeeeell?”
  6616. >”I...I’ll go...ask him to wait.”
  6617. >You gave Discord a smack on the head.
  6618. “Discord, if there’s someone here trying to kill you, you need to go.”
  6619. >”But my story!”
  6620. “You can tell me after.”
  6621. >He gave an overly dramatic groan and pulled himself up.
  6622. >With a weak kick, he toppled the plate of sandwiches.
  6623. >”Fine. But you’re coming with me. It’s so boring up there.”
  6624. >You nodded.
  6625. “I can do that.”
  6626.  
  6627. >You followed him through the halls and up the next five floor of the building until you came to a big metal door.
  6628. >He got close to a panel of buttons and screens and opened one eye as large as it could go.
  6629. >A light shot out from the screen and went right into his eye.
  6630. >”Identified. Discord. Please enter. Have a nice day,” it spoke in a robotic tone.
  6631. >”She digs me.”
  6632. “Whatever.”
  6633. >The door creaked and slid open.
  6634. >You could really get a look at how tough it was.
  6635. >The damn thing was at least five inches thick.
  6636. “What’s this door made of?”
  6637. >”Solid steel.”
  6638. “Jesus Christ.”
  6639. >You entered after him, and once you did so, the door closed.
  6640. >The so called safe room was a very wide and spacious room with no windows.
  6641. >There were also several tables set up, covered with guns ranging from regular guns to tranq guns to even tasers.
  6642. >Up on the pale yellow wall on the right side of the room, about fifteen feet from the door, was a computer screen.
  6643. >It had a great number of little stick figures, most of which had a glowing red heart in the center of them.
  6644. “What is this?”
  6645. >”This is my minion screen. Each of those people represents one of my men.”
  6646. “Why do some of them have hearts and not others?”
  6647. >”Why do you think?”
  6648. “Oh.”
  6649. >As you said that, a few more hearts went out.
  6650. >”Damn, I liked Jimmy.”
  6651. >You furrowed your brow as more and more people died while whatever monster was rampaging up to the tenth floor.
  6652. “Discord, who would want to kill you?”
  6653. >”My mom, probably.”
  6654. “I mean enough to send a hitman.”
  6655. >”Oh. So yeah, my mom.”
  6656. “Discord!”
  6657. >”Ok, ok. Jeez, just trying to lighten the mood here.”
  6658. >You tapped your foot in aggravation as he stroked his beard, thinking of a response.
  6659. >”The russians? Or maybe the fake IRS? It could also be the vietnamese. You know those gooks hold a nasty grudge. Hmm...I suppose it might even be the Irish after I poisoned their potato farm.”
  6660. “You what?”
  6661. >”It’s a long story.”
  6662.  
  6663. >The floor shook with the sound of an explosion.
  6664. >Fifteen hearts went out.
  6665. >”Or maybe it’s...nah, it couldn’t be. Weeeeeell it might be. No, it’s not. Actually, now that I think about it--”
  6666. “Discord, who are you thinking of?”
  6667. >”You might know them, come to think of it.”
  6668. “Who?”
  6669. >”Hold on. I can’t just give you that answer without a little buildup. Why don’t you sit down over here?”
  6670. >He gestured to a set of purple arm chairs.
  6671. >After plotting himself down in one, he pat the arm of the other for you.
  6672. “This is serious.”
  6673. >”All work and no play makes Twilight a dull girl.”
  6674. >You rolled your eyes and sat down beside him.
  6675. “Now will you tell me what’s going on here?”
  6676. >”Yes. In just a minute. The springs seem to be delayed.”
  6677. “What springs?”
  6678. >With a grunt, he kicked the side of your chair.
  6679. >Instantly, from the arms came out clamps that closed around your wrists and biceps.
  6680. >On the foot of the chair, you found your legs locked in place too.
  6681. “What the hell? Discord, what’s this?”
  6682. >”Insurance.”
  6683. >You raised an eyebrow.
  6684. >”Now, how about I tell you a little story about my time in the war?”
  6685. “I thought you said you lied about that.”
  6686. >”I did say that. Anyway, it was back in World War III. Well, not exactly. Kind of. It will make sense in a bit. So anyway, I told you I was a scientist, right?”
  6687. “No.”
  6688. >”Oh. Well, I was a scientist in my early years. I had become fascinated with the idea of infinite power. Who wouldn’t be, right? So the war breaks out and I think to myself ‘Discord old chum, you’ve been at this for thirty years and you still haven’t figured it out yet’. I pack my things up and I go before the president. You know what I said? I told him I could win this war for him if I had time and money.”
  6689. “I don’t understand.”
  6690. >”Shut up. It’s storytime.”
  6691.  
  6692. >He leaned back in his chair and stroked his beard.
  6693. >”I joined the ASDD.”
  6694. “The American Scientific Defense Division?”
  6695. >”Precisely!”
  6696. “But that was shut down long before the start of World War III.”
  6697. >”I did say kind of, didn’t I? Now, like I also said, shut the fuck up. Where was I? Ah, yes. I joined the ASDD. I was given a full crew to work with and more money than I knew what to do with. I even had my own assistant. She was such a nice girl. We got along well. As the war raged on for the next ten years, we made a breakthrough. Only, well, it wasn’t the breakthrough I was hoping for.”
  6698. >You looked to the computer screen and saw that two thirds of the hearts had gone out.
  6699. >You began to sweat thinking about who could be doing that.
  6700. >”We learned something. Something...amazing. Something that would completely reshape our understanding of reality. This would have made all our greatest discoveries--all our farthest leaps in philosophy--all look like baboons playing in their own filth. It would have been the start of a brand new age, Twilight. All my work...forty years of my life were finally made worth it. I was so happy. You know how that feels, right? To do something so utterly amazing, to finally succeed where you had failed time and time again?”
  6701. >You nodded.
  6702. >”Well, my assistant chose that time to have a crisis of morality. She claimed that what we had uncovered was too great for humans to understand. I begged her to reconsider but then she BROKE IT! SHE SMASHED IT TO PIECES RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME! MY ENTIRE LIFE’S WORK! EVERYTHING I HAD BEEN BUILDING MYSELF UP TO--GONE IN A FLASH!”
  6703. >You shrunk back into the chair at the sudden change in his tone.
  6704. >He took a few seconds to collect himself.
  6705. >After clearing his throat, he stood up from the chair and took a few steps ahead of you.
  6706. >”So, do you know what I did?”
  6707. “N-no.”
  6708.  
  6709. >”I made her think everything was fine. I told her I understood what she meant and that she did the right thing. I balled up and I told the president that our work had gone nowhere and that it was all my fault. I made amends with her, and we were the best of friends for a good while.”
  6710. “Really?”
  6711. >”Yep. She was on the top of the world. Nothing could have been better. And then,” he suddenly grabbed his neck and shook, choking and coughing.
  6712. >When that little display was over, he gave a little chuckle and slicked his hair back.
  6713. >”I strangled her.”
  6714. “Discord...why?”
  6715. >”You know exactly why. You learned it when you killed John Smith. Revenge isn’t true revenge unless you really make them hurt. You made John fear. You made him understand he had no options left but death by your hand. I made her think her life was perfect before the big reveal. Imagine how that must have felt. My methods are similar, but a little different.”
  6716. >He walked to one of the tables and picked up two things: a gun and a cane.
  6717. >”So then I strangled her.”
  6718. “You already said that.”
  6719. >”No, but I did it again. And again, and again, and again, and again, and again…”
  6720. “What do you mean?”
  6721. >”Oh, Twilight, do I have to spell it out for you?”
  6722. >He whipped around, slamming the cane on the floor and putting the gun on his hip.
  6723. >”That woman, the girl who ruined my life...it was you.”
  6724.  
  6725. >Your eyes widened.
  6726. >What...what was he saying?
  6727. >”Well, sort of you. You, but not you. It was you, but just like with World War III, it was...different versions of you.”
  6728. >Different versions?
  6729. >”You remember all my jokes about multiverse theory?”
  6730. “I...yes.”
  6731. >He raised his eyebrows up and down, grinning.
  6732. “You don’t mean…”
  6733. >”Ding ding ding! We’ve got a winner! Wow, that one took you a while.”
  6734. >Your mind was racing.
  6735. >Your chest heaved as you began to breath faster.
  6736. >Discord...he was…
  6737. >”When we first completed the machine, we saw wondrous things, Twilight. Imagine the night sky, but so much closer, and so much more...vast. For every thing that happens, an infinite number of universes are created where that same thing happened an infinite number of different ways. Infinities after infinities. Do you know that old give-a-monkey-a-typewriter thing? Well, it’s kind of like that. Anything you can imagine, there’s a universe for it. There’s a universe where you and I are having this conversation except we’re three feet tall. Another one where I’m a six-headed purple dragon. There’s even one where you and I are having this very conversation, except instead of six-headed, I said seven-headed. I bet you my bottom dollar there’s a universe out there where our entire exchange is just words on paper, or maybe a computer screen. What if our entire lives are just stories on the internet? Boy, that sure sucks to think about, huh?”
  6738. >He kept talking, but you could only register every other word.
  6739. >Almost the entirety of your brainpower was devoted to combing over every conversation you ever had with him.
  6740. >Was he like this all along?
  6741. >Did he just go insane somewhere down the road?
  6742.  
  6743. >When did…
  6744. >Wait.
  6745. “Were you...were you the…”
  6746. >”Come on, Twilight. Say it. Was I the traitor? Was I the one who turned Sunset against you and blew up the boat? Why, yes. Yes I was.”
  6747. “No...no, that’s impossible. It was...it was John. I killed John Smith because he blew up the boat!”
  6748. >”Hmm, let me think about that one. Naaah, I’m pretty sure you killed an innocent man.”
  6749. “B-but he was the only one that went in the engine room!”
  6750. >”You left me alone for six hours. What did you think I was doing?”
  6751. >Your heart sunk to the very bottom of your chest.
  6752. >”You know, it’s funny. Out of all the Twilights I’ve met, you’re the only one who has had the nerve to kill someone. Not just kill, but as coldly and efficiently as myself. Props to you!”
  6753. “No! No, it was John! I didn’t kill my friend for nothing!”
  6754. >”Twilight, oh my god! I LIED! Wooooow big surprise there!”
  6755. “Stop it!”
  6756. >”Stop it! That’s what you sound like. Think real hard about this for a minute. What was his motivation? Why could he possibly want you dead?”
  6757. “I...I don’t…”
  6758. >”You don’t have an answer? Maybe that’s because there isn’t one. Damn, he really trusted you too. Imagine how he felt seeing his best friend pointing an arrow at him after destroying everything he loved. Sucks to be him.”
  6759. >You shook your head hard.
  6760. “No! No! No! This isn’t happening. This isn’t real!”
  6761. >In your motions, you caught a glimpse of the computer screen.
  6762. >The last heart had gone out.
  6763. >Suddenly, there was a bang on the door.
  6764. >Your head whipped up and locked onto it.
  6765. >The hitman was there.
  6766. >”It seems like our guest has arrived.”
  6767. >”DISCOOOOORD! IF YOU THINK THIS DOOR IS GOING TO KEEP YOU SAFE FROM ME, YOU’VE GOT ANOTHER THING COMING!”
  6768. >You knew that voice.
  6769. “Don’t tell me…”
  6770. >”Come on, what else do you expect at this point?”
  6771. “Discord, no…”
  6772.  
  6773. >The door echoed with blow after blow of rage-fueled punches.
  6774. >”Wow, would you listen to that? He’s really going at it.”
  6775. >You weren’t even shocked.
  6776. >No, you couldn’t be.
  6777. >Whatever part of your brain that registered surprise was fried.
  6778. >All there was was...disbelief.
  6779. >”Wait for it.”
  6780. >Suddenly the steel door ripped off its hinges.
  6781. >It whistled as it sailed through the room, narrowly missing Discord and crashing into the wall a few feet away.
  6782. >In the doorway stood, coated with enough blood and guts that made him seem oversized, was Anonymous.
  6783. >”Right on time,” shouted Discord gleefully.
  6784. >The once green man growled, grinding his teeth.
  6785. >”There you are, you son of a bitch…”
  6786. >”And a happy hello to you too!”
  6787. >Anonymous marched into the room, staring daggers at Discord.
  6788. >”I trusted you…”
  6789. >”Yeeeeah. Big mistake for you, huh?”
  6790. >He stopped and stood before Discord, looking down at him.
  6791. >They sized each other up.
  6792. >Discord gave a wry grin and broached the question: “So, how’s the bachelor life?”
  6793.  
  6794. >Anonymous clenched his fists and reeled back.
  6795. >His foot raised up to Discord’s chest and shot out.
  6796. >Discord swiftly moved to the right, narrowly dodging the kick.
  6797. >The momentum send Anonymous tumbling forward: an opportunity Discord used to smack the back of his head with the cane.
  6798. >He growled and twisted around, throwing his fist at Discord.
  6799. >That cane came into action again. The old man raised it and pushed it against Anonymous’ arm, sending the punch out of his way.
  6800. >Between the fall and the missed punch, his entire body was outstretched and exposed.
  6801. >In a fluid motion, Discord pulled the cane back to a guard and, with the gun in his left hand, put a bullet in Anonymous’ gut.
  6802. >The titan hit the ground and slid away, groaning.
  6803. >”I know you’re upset, but hear me out. Twilight made me do it! She’s a dirty, nasty little girl. She wanted you all for herself so she made me kill Innominate!”
  6804. “What?!”
  6805. >Anonymous grunted and picked himself up off the ground.
  6806. >”Then I’ll just have to kill her once I’m done with you,” he growled.
  6807. >”You see, Twilight? You really are all alone,” said Discord, shooting you a smile.
  6808. >Anonymous charged, taking another bullet in the shoulder before he made it close enough to Discord to do anything.
  6809. >He raised his knee and kicked down, going for Discord’s legs, but the time traveler hopped away before the blow landed.
  6810. >Anonymous swung again.
  6811. >Discord slapped his hand down with the cane and gave a series of other smacks along his back and finally the back of his knee.
  6812. >Anonymous’ leg buckled and he toppled down.
  6813. >While on the floor, Discord took aim and put another shot through the man’s left hand.
  6814. >Anonymous shouted and pushed himself up off the ground, taking pressure off the wounded hand.
  6815. >He stuffed his hand into his pocket and took out a little red syringe.
  6816.  
  6817. >”Ooh, going for the big guns now?”
  6818. >”Shut up!”
  6819. >Anonymous stabbed the syringe into his neck and pressed the plunger down.
  6820. >The serum flowed into his bloodstream.
  6821. >You could see the veins begin to bulge out of his body as new life rushed through them.
  6822. >The man’s eyes widened, and his pupils shrunk.
  6823. >His face contorted in rage and the syringe shattered into pieces as his fist closed around it.
  6824. >”Well, it looks like I might be in trouble. Lend me a hand, Twi? Ha ha! Just kidding. You sit tight, kiddo.”
  6825. >”SHUT UP!”
  6826. >That was something you could agree on.
  6827. >Every word from Discord’s mouth made your stomach churn. You just wanted him to stop talking.
  6828. >You wanted everything to be over.
  6829. >With a beastial roar, Anonymous was upon Discord again.
  6830. >He swung his fists madly.
  6831. >The power juice in his system pushed his muscles beyond their regular limits, nearly doubling his speed.
  6832. >He came close to nailing Discord several times.
  6833. >The sheer force of the wind, even from those misses, was enough to knock Discord back.
  6834. >He was no longer toying with Anonymous. He was on guard.
  6835. >”Now, Anon!”
  6836. >Talking distracted him. He almost bit it right there.
  6837. >”I can understand why you might--WOW--be upset, but come on! Let’s talk this out like civil men!”
  6838. >”TALK?!”
  6839. >Rather than punch, Anonymous lunged and grabbed Discord between his hands, trapping his arms at his sides.
  6840. >”DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT YOU DID TO ME?! DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT I LOST?!”
  6841. >”Oh come now. You still have your fortune and your business, don’t you?”
  6842. >”ALL NOTHING!”
  6843. >Anonymous raised Discord over his head and threw him across the room, smashing him against the table with all the weaponry.
  6844. >The table did nothing to help him. It splintered apart, the two halves screeching across the floor as they broke.
  6845. >Discord crashed into the wall, leaving a person-sized indent in it when he fell and hit the ground with a thud.
  6846.  
  6847. >”I DON’T CARE ABOUT ANY OF THAT! IT WAS FOR HER! SHE WAS EVERYTHING TO ME! YOU HEAR ME? EVERYTHING! AND YOU TOOK HER FROM ME!”
  6848. >He stomped towards Discord, flinging the table halves out of his way and shattering them on impact with whatever surfaces they landed on.
  6849. >Discord, still disoriented, rubbed his head with the gun.
  6850. >Anonymous grabbed it out of his hand and squeezed.
  6851. >You could hear the metal bend and creak as he compressed it with force comparable to that needed to create diamonds.
  6852. >”And now I’m going to take everything from you,” he seethed.
  6853. >”You see,” Discord called out across the room to you. “You see that? Even he knows how to take revenge!”
  6854. >Anonymous raised his foot and threw it down.
  6855. >Like the slippery snake he was, Discord slithered away just in time to avoid ending up like the demolished floor where he once sat.
  6856. >With his leg stuck ankle deep in the floor, Anonymous couldn’t move to stop Discord from grabbing one of the guns that had fallen when the table was destroyed.
  6857. >”You bastard!”
  6858. >”I’m the bastard? You just broke my floor!”
  6859. >Discord raised the gun and fired several shots, sinking them all into Anonymous’ side.
  6860. >Luckily--er, as lucky as one could be in that situation--they were a smaller caliber than the gun Discord previously had. You would guage them to be about nine millimeter.
  6861. >They didn’t seem to hurt Anonymous too much, but they did enrage him further.
  6862. >He ripped his leg out of the floor and ran for Discord who was scrambling away, firing shot after shot.
  6863. >Anonymous began to pick up speed and he readied a punch.
  6864. >With hi back against another wall, Discord lowered his aim from the chest to the legs and pulled the trigger once more, firing the last bullet.
  6865. >It whizzed through the air and ate through Anonymous’ knee.
  6866. >He screamed as it totally gave out and fell to the ground.
  6867.  
  6868. >He fell, but he didn’t stop.
  6869. >He launched the punch, but between the effects of the power juice and the pain he must have been feeling, he was woozy and missed by a few inches.
  6870. >His fist collided with the wall and sunk through the material like it was wet paper.
  6871. >He ended up nearly elbow deep in the thing.
  6872. >Discord scuttled away but did not miss the opportunity to take his cane and shove its tip into the wound of Anonymous’ knee.
  6873. “You snake!”
  6874. >”Hey, whatever works!”
  6875. >The old man leapt to his feet and grabbed a thick oak leg off the broken table.
  6876. >With all his might, he slammed it down and broke it in two over Anonymous’ head.
  6877. >The fallen titan let loose a mighty roar and twisted around, ripping a whole line out of the wall as his arm moved, and freed himself.
  6878. >”Really? Are you kidding me?”
  6879. >”Is that all you’ve got, old man?!”
  6880. >”Well, now that you mention it, I might have a few toys lying around.”
  6881. >”Use as many tools as you want. It won’t save you! I’M GOING TO RIP YOU LIMB FROM LIMB ONCE I GET MY HANDS ON YOU!”
  6882. >”Toro! Toro!”
  6883. >Anonymous ripped the cane out of his leg and stood up.
  6884. >He was wobbly at first and almost fell again, but once he took the weight off his bad leg, he seemed stable enough.
  6885. >He began to limp to Discord.
  6886. >It was obvious how much his wounds were bogging him down.
  6887. >The mass amount of blood that had been coating him when he first arrived had mostly coagulated, so you knew all the shining new sanguine fluid that formed rivulets down his body were new.
  6888. >Discord inched back towards the pile of guns on the floor and purused it.
  6889. >”Ah, that one looks fun.”
  6890. >He bent down and picked up a Remington 870 Wingmaster.
  6891. >”Now, I don’t remember if this one is loaded with shot or slugs, but I guess we’ll find out.”
  6892.  
  6893. >Anonymous forged on, dragging his lame leg behind him.
  6894. >His tired eyes were forced open with steely determination.
  6895. >Discord cocked the gun, raised it, and took aim.
  6896. >Without even a second’s thought, he pulled the trigger.
  6897. >There was a click. Nothing else.
  6898. >”Huh. I guess I didn’t load it at all. Wait one second, will you?”
  6899. >He turned away again and stuffed his hand into a box of green plastic shells.
  6900. >By that time, Anonymous had closed the gap between them.
  6901. >He reached out and grabbed Discord by the neck.
  6902. >”Mother,” wheezed the surely doomed man.
  6903. >”No mother. No mercy. Only me…”
  6904. >You could see the muscles of his forearm flex as he slowly applied pressure.
  6905. >Discord’s face blued. He began to kick his legs, looking for any ground to help relieve some of the stress on him.
  6906. >Then you looked a little higher and saw that, while Anonymous was focusing on the life draining from his eyes, Discord had been loading the shotgun.
  6907. “Anonymous, watch out!”
  6908. >He turned and glared at you, sneering, almost as to say “You’re next.”
  6909. “Not me! Discord! THE GUN!”
  6910. >It was too late.
  6911. >Discord held the Remington firmly between his arm and his hip, pressed the tip of the barrel against Anonymous’ belly button, and fired.
  6912. >Anonymous cried out in pain and threw Discord away, sending him straight for you.
  6913. >On impact, your chair completely disintegrated.
  6914. >You were finally free of your locks, but as luck would have it, you weren’t meant to help.
  6915. >As you were launched from the chair, you slammed your head right into the computer, cracking the solid glass screen.
  6916. >You fell unceremoniously the ground, dazed and confused.
  6917. >The next moments are a blur.
  6918. >You can remember fuzzy blobs of color maneuvering around an empty white space and several loud noises that shocked your system.
  6919. >When everything became more clear to you, you rubbed the sore spot on your head.
  6920. >It was wet and warm. When you pulled your hand away, you saw that it was coated in blood.
  6921. “Ow…”
  6922.  
  6923. >As for the other two…
  6924. >Anonymous was on his knees. He was slouching over with his head hung.
  6925. >The man’s body quaked with every breath.
  6926. >His body was a mess. It was riddled with holes and cuts that drained him of blood.
  6927. >Discord sauntered over, whistling a happy tune, and put one single shell into the barrel.
  6928. “No,” you groaned and struggled to your feet, still a little dizzy.
  6929. >You fell and had to lean on the computer for support.
  6930. >When he arrived, Discord used the gun to raises Anonymous’ head.
  6931. >His face--that is, the parts of it you could still see--was ghostly pale.
  6932. >”Well, isn’t this a sight? The mighty Anonymous sitting on his knees, waiting for my mercy.”
  6933. >”Fuck…” Anonymous grunted, lifting his arm, and weakly clung to Discord’s vest. “You…”
  6934. >With the butt of the gun, Discord slapped Anonymous’ arm back to his side.
  6935. >”How now, Anonymous. I’m sure you have some better last words than that.”
  6936. >He chuckled as he moved the gun up and shoved the tip into the man’s mouth.
  6937. >”How’s ‘mmfghmphm’? Yeah, that fits fine.”
  6938. “Discord, stop!”
  6939. >You dashed over and rammed your body into Discord’s as he pulled the trigger.
  6940. >The shotgun fired, and the force of it knocked the both of you back.
  6941. >You hit the ground with a thunk.
  6942. >Discord landed on top of you. His own momentum pulled you along, and you rolled on the floor until sliding to a halt.
  6943. >Your body ached in pain.
  6944. >”Ow,” muttered Discord as he righted himself.
  6945. >You picked your head up and looked to Anonymous.
  6946. >He was sprawled out across the floor, head flat, as a pool of blood collected around him.
  6947. “No...no, not you too…”
  6948. >”Sweet. How much do you think he weighs? This is hunt of the year material right here.”
  6949. “A-Anonymous…”
  6950. >You stretched your arms out and dragged yourself forward, trying to reach him, but Discord had other plans.
  6951. >He grabbed your ankle and pulled you back.
  6952. >When you were close enough, he stomped down on your spine and dug his heel in, eliciting a shriek from you.
  6953. >”Ah ah ah, no sneaking away. It’s monologue time.”
  6954.  
  6955. >Monologue time. If it were to go anything like the last few, you would be dead within the hour.
  6956. >"Now, I'm going to trust you here, Twilight. Stay right there."
  6957. >Discord took his heel off your back and walked away towards the other end of the room.
  6958. >His back was turned. He was disarmed.
  6959. >It was your chance.
  6960. >Discord was crafty though. If you tried something, there's no telling what could happen.
  6961. >Then your eyes fell on Anonymous' bleeding husk.
  6962. >As you gazed at it and began to process the fact that your friend of a decade would never speak again, never experience again, never share another laugh with you, something welled up inside of you.
  6963. >A righteous fury ignited your willpower, and despite your own fear, you got up off the ground and charged.
  6964. >Discord made an exaggerated sigh and kicked a handgun from the floor into the air.
  6965. >He caught it and sidestepped, avoiding your ram.
  6966. >"I thought I told you to stay there."
  6967. >He pointed the gun at you and pulled the trigger.
  6968. >Heated gas propelled the bullet forward and through your abdomen.
  6969. >"Now look what you made me do. This is what happens when you don't follow the rules."
  6970. >Pain radiated through you.
  6971. >You stumbled back and fell on your ass, holding the hemorrhaging wound.
  6972. >"Oh relax; it was a warning shot. I didn't hit anything important. Well, at least I think I didn't. Maybe I could have gone an inch to the left but...nah, you'll be fine."
  6973. "Discord, why? Why are you doing this?" you spoke, your voice shaking. "Your Twilight--she wasn't me. I never did anything to you. Why?"
  6974. >"Why? Well that's simple. It doesn't really matter if you're my Twilight or not, because there's at least one version of me that's going to kill you anyway. I may as well have the fun."
  6975. "What do you mean at least one version?"
  6976.  
  6977. >"Do you listen to anything I say? I expressly told you that for every single thing that happens, an infinite number of universe are created where that same thing happened an infinite number of different ways. If I decided to sit on my ass for the rest of my life, there would still be an infinite number of me's that say 'You know what? Fuck Twilight,' and go out and murder an infinite number of you's. Do you see what I'm getting at here? It doesn't matter, Twilight! It doesn't matter if I kill you or not, so I may as well enjoy the ride."
  6978. >He moved his arm and pointed the gun at his head.
  6979. >His hair parted as the barrel pressed against his scalp.
  6980. >With his finger looped around the trigger, he pulled it back and shot.
  6981. >The gun merely clicked, and he gave a satisfied nod.
  6982. >"A misfire for me, but I don't even want to think about how many Discords just got their brains splattered across the floor."
  6983. "You're insane!"
  6984. >"I'm a realist. Speaking of real, let me show you something real neat. You're going to get a kick out of this one!"
  6985. >He threw the pistol to the floor, far away from you, and jogged over to what seemed like a blank wall.
  6986. >Discord kicked it, pushing a panel of the wall in, and it slid away to reveal a cubby.
  6987. >In that space was a machine that looked eerily similar to the one sitting in your lab.
  6988. >"Ta daa! Guess what it is!"
  6989. "M-my time machine?"
  6990. >"Nope! Guess again!"
  6991. "Your time machine?"
  6992. >"No, stupid. It's not a time machine at all. Jeez, get with the program. Do you see a flux capacitor on this? No, Twilight, you don't. Holy Hell, didn't you build one like an hour ago? Shouldn't you know what a time machine looks like?"
  6993. >You didn't think you could feel much worse, but there it was.
  6994. >Yep. There it was.
  6995. >The feeling of loss, defeat, being shot, and having your intelligence spat on.
  6996. >"THIS beautiful thing is that little energy device that we've been working on. Well, we as in my Twilight and I. Yours became the time machine."
  6997.  
  6998. >You groaned and shifted yourself, trying to get as comfortable as you could all things considered.
  6999. >Discord began to talk again. As he did so, you scanned the area for anything that could help you.
  7000. >There were guns all over the place. Some near you, but some near him as well.
  7001. >He was clearly more skilled with a firearm than you. In your condition, he was probably faster too.
  7002. >If you made the wrong move at the wrong time, that would be it. You were sure he would put a bullet in your head the next time.
  7003. >"You see, this is what allows me to travel through dimensions. Your time machine is what lands me in the right timezone so that I can have my fun all over again."
  7004. >What he just said caught your attention.
  7005. "How can that transport you across dimensions? It's just an energy device."
  7006. >"EEEH wrong! It's SUPPOSED to be an energy device, but we kind of fucked up in that regard. You know how it uses dark energy and all that crap? Well, like you also know, dark energy is responsible for the expansion of the universe. This machine generates it in concentrated amounts. Basically--and I'm really boiling it down here for you, dumdum--the concentrated dark energy expands the universe so much in one singular spot that it just tears a hole right through the fabric between two dimensions. Neat, huh?"
  7007. >You shook your head.
  7008. "But that still wouldn't explain how you can travel so far back in time. I could only go back ten seconds and I was hooked up to the city grid."
  7009. >"You don't need a powerful time jump when you're moving across dimensions. When you're reversing time in one dimension, you're moving against the flow of that universe's own timeline. It's like trying to swim upstream. When you punch a hole between two dimensions, that flow is essentially gone. You can aim yourself in any point on that universe's timeline and hop right in."
  7010. "How many?"
  7011. >"I'm sorry?"
  7012. "How many Twilights have you killed using this technique?"
  7013.  
  7014. >He smiled and leaned against the wall, looking off into the distance dreamily.
  7015. >"Ninety nine so far. You'll be the big zero-zero. Now don't you feel special?"
  7016. >That number sounded familiar.
  7017. >You racked your brain trying to think of where you had heard it in any significant context before.
  7018. >It must have been back on...the island.
  7019. >Yes, that was it.
  7020. >His story about the friend who broke his heart, and how he took up hunting to cope.
  7021. >Ninety nine kills thus far.
  7022. >He wanted you and Anonymous there to see it, but specifically not Innominate.
  7023. >You hung your head in shame.
  7024. >Good God, it was right in front of you all along.
  7025. >You had every opportunity to see this coming and you failed in the most spectacular manner.
  7026. >"Oooh, it just hit you, didn't it? Yeah, you could have stopped all of this. I'm actually sort of surprised you didn't. A few Twilights had me figured out pretty early. You're just really dumb though. I mean, I've met some dumb Twilights in my time, but you are exceptionally stupid. I was beginning to think you'd never have that damn machine built! This universe is just full of diappointments though. I thought it'd be cool if Anonymous were a superhero this time around, so I came back a few decades early and started that dumb Enhanced Warriors Program. He just ended up killing everyone though. Oh well, just another mistake I have to live with."
  7027. "Fuck you!"
  7028. >"Language!"
  7029. >He burst out into laughter and slapped his knee like he was in a comedy show.
  7030. >The tears of joy dripped from his eyes, and each one of them acted like gasoline for the burning anger inside you which was quickly overpowering the guilt and sadness that was so powerful only a short while ago.
  7031.  
  7032. >"We have fun here. Anywho, that's everything important. I've explained my evil plan, I've revealed the secrets of the universe, I've crushed your spirits. That's my bad guy checklist done. Tell you what. I'll give you five minutes."
  7033. >He bent over and picked up a pistol off the floor.
  7034. >"You have five minutes to do whatever you want. Say a prayer, beg for your life, masturbate, I don't care. In five minutes, I'm going to shoot you between the eyes, and then I'm going to steal your time machine and travel to another dimension to do it all over again."
  7035. >A smile spread across his face.
  7036. >"And remember, I'm bad at counting."
  7037. >Come on, Twilight. There had to be something you could do.
  7038. >You couldn't bargain with him. That was obvious.
  7039. >You couldn't take him in a shootout.
  7040. >You couldn't even outsmart him. He had made that painfully obvious.
  7041. >"See? I've lost count already. What were we at? Four minutes thirty seconds?"
  7042. >He shrugged.
  7043. >"Fuck it. We'll call it ten seconds."
  7044. >Damn!
  7045. >Think, Twilight, think!
  7046. >"Five, four, three, two..."
  7047. >No, stop thinking. Act.
  7048. >"One!"
  7049. >You rolled away from your perch and grabbed one of the guns off the floor.
  7050. >You twisted, sending a wave of pain through your middle, and threw the gun at Discord.
  7051. >He reeled back.
  7052. >Your projectile collided with his, knocking it from his hand.
  7053. >There!
  7054. >You shot off the floor and rocketed for him.
  7055. >Taking a page from John's book, you lowered head and rammed it straight into his chest.
  7056. >Discord coughed and fell onto the wall, using it for support.
  7057. >In that time, you grabbed him by the collar and hoisted him into the air.
  7058. >"Hold on, hold on! Can't breathe!"
  7059. "Sucks, don't it?"
  7060. >You wouldn't make Anonymous's mistake and throw him away.
  7061. >Instead, you slammed him into the floor right underneath you and climbed on top of his chest.
  7062. >You raised your fist high into the air and brought it down with enough force the knock that ugly fang out of his mouth.
  7063.  
  7064. >Again and again, you pounded on him, releasing your frustrations.
  7065. >You screamed as you laid into him, at first in anger, but then in sadness.
  7066. >Your eyes burned as tears formed and rolled down your cheeks.
  7067. >Hitting him wouldn't solve anything.
  7068. >It wouldn't bring your friends back.
  7069. >It wouldn't reverse the damage that was done.
  7070. >It wouldn't make you any less of a stupid, naive little girl who got in way over her head with the wrong people.
  7071. >"Ow," he groaned and forced his puffy, purple eye open. "You sure pack a punch for a girl..."
  7072. "That's what happens when you work out," you tell him tiredly.
  7073. >"Funny thing about muscles..."
  7074. "What's that?"
  7075. >"Doesn't matter how big they are if you're shot."
  7076. >Bang.
  7077. >Your eyes widened.
  7078. >The world slowed down.
  7079. >It moved with you, swaying as you fell.
  7080. >You slid off of Discord and fell back onto the ground, propped up by your elbows.
  7081. >Right in the center of your stomach was a brand new hole that made itself known by draining your body of blood.
  7082. >You began to feel cold as even the strength in your arms faded.
  7083. >"Valiant effort," he said, and stomped his foot into your wound. "Cunt!"
  7084. >Picked his leg up and let his body weight take him down, landing squarely on your gut.
  7085. >You coughed, almost vomiting.
  7086. >"But sorry, no dice. Nothing is going to stop me, Twilight. Not you or any trick you can pull out of your hat. I'm going to go back in time, and I'm going to kill you, and I'm going to do it again and again and again forever. Once you go back in time, you're permanently separated from the time stream. I haven't aged one day in a thousand years, and I'm going to spend the rest of eternity killing you."
  7087. >He leaned forward and wrapped his hands around your neck.
  7088. >"Want to know why? Because I hate you. I lied, Twilight. It does matter. It matters to me a great deal. I hate you and every single version of you, and I won't stop until this whole goddamned multiverse collapses in on itself."
  7089.  
  7090. >He tightened his grip, completely cutting off your airflow.
  7091. >You gasped and grabbed his hands, trying to pry them off, but the strength wasn't there.
  7092. >This is it, you thought. This is the end.
  7093. >You'd die at the hands of a mass murderer due to your own stupidity.
  7094. >Your arms fell at your sides, unable to muster one ounce of resistance.
  7095. >You resigned to your fate and turned your head, not wanting to look Discord in the eyes as he suffocated you.
  7096. >That was when you saw it.
  7097. >A small red syringe rolling across the floor towards you, totally empty.
  7098. >Off in the distance, which seemed to be getting farther and farther away with every second, was the green warrior lifting himself off the ground.
  7099. >He turned his face and glared at you, showing off his mangled face.
  7100. >The entirety of his cheek had been ripped to shreds, leaving only sections of his skull showing.
  7101. >Discord had missed when he fired the shotgun.
  7102. >"You..." he growled. "You always talked to much."
  7103. >Anonymous scrambled off the floor and, despite the condition of his body, ran at you with the ferocity and fire of a raging bull.
  7104. >He plowed into Discord, ripping the man off of you.
  7105. >He didn't stop there. No, Anonymous kept going.
  7106. >He ran across the room, right to the wall, and smashed through it, revealing the night sky of ten stories up.
  7107. >They disappeared from your sight, only assuring you of their location when two loud thumps could be heard.
  7108.  
  7109. >Feeling returned to your body.
  7110. >With oxygen returning itself to your brain, you felt clarity.
  7111. >After finishing a coughing fit that sent waves of pain through your body with every convulsion, you managed to turn onto your belly and drag yourself over to the gaping hole in the wall.
  7112. >You poked your head out, looking down at the pavement, and saw their two forms.
  7113. >Discord must have landed on his head.
  7114. >His neck was bent at a ninety degree angle, and the flat spot on his skull gushed out a mixture of blood and brain, as well as through his nose, coating his face and neck in the sickening mixture.
  7115. >Anonymous laid there, broken, unmoving, but hopefully satisfied.
  7116. >In his final moments, Discord must have realized that all the time he spent killing those versions of you was wasted, and that he would never be able to do it again.
  7117. >It must have killed him a thousand time before he actually hit the ground.
  7118. >Anonymous did it. He got the revenge he wanted.
  7119.  
  7120. >You spent a long time staring at them. Half because you were too tired to do much else than sit there and half because, knowing those men, one of them may have just got up and walked it off.
  7121. >Eventually, you deemed it time to leave and, you know, go to the hospital.
  7122. >You were taken in with warm arms and moved into the OR straight away.
  7123. >When the nurses asked you about your injuries, you told them you had been mugged.
  7124. >Nobody could know what happened in that room.
  7125. >If word of it got out, then your name would be ruined.
  7126. >Rainbow Dash's too.
  7127. >Then there was the fact that mankind, like the original Twilight said, wasn't ready for that knowledge.
  7128. >In fact, you don't think it ever will be. Even in the field of science, some things are better left unknown.
  7129.  
  7130. >When you got out after a few days and with orders to rest for two weeks, you knew exactly what you needed to do.
  7131. >You went straight back to Discord's complex and took that machine he had tucked away.
  7132. >That, along with Anonymous' body, went into your car.
  7133. >You transported them home for safekeeping.
  7134. >Well, the machine anyway.
  7135. >Anonymous went into the incinerator.
  7136. >It was the closest thing to a crematory you had.
  7137. >When his body was ashes and his bones were dust, you loaded him into an urn and and went out to Innominate's grave.
  7138. >You're not proud to say you dug up the body of your best friend, but that's exactly what you do.
  7139. >You peeled her casket open, gagged at the smell and the sight, and set Anonymous' urn down in her arms.
  7140. >"Till death do you part" wouldn't have suited them.
  7141. >After reburying everything, you took off back home to get some of that rest you needed.
  7142. >Your wounds healed pretty much on schedule.
  7143. >"If you were any older, I'd say these would need a lot longer to heal," joked the nurse when she gave you your release papers.
  7144. >Yeah, funny.
  7145. >You looked into the mirror at your face, which you thought looked pretty nice for a woman your age.
  7146. >And if what Discord said was true...
  7147. "I'll look like this forever..."
  7148. >Well, jeez. That's a lot to load on someone, huh?
  7149. >What are you going to do with eternity?
  7150.  
  7151. >Luckily it didn't take eternity for you to figure out what to do with your time.
  7152. >There was something clear in your mind that needed to happen.
  7153. >There was a clear threat to everyone you loved and it needed to be stopped.
  7154. >But, first things first.
  7155. >You visited Rainbow Dash in her hospital room.
  7156. >She still hadn't woken up.
  7157. >You were really hoping she would before you left.
  7158. >Fate wouldn't have that though.
  7159. >You had to settle for talking to her sleeping form again, just like always.
  7160. "Well, Rainbow Dash, I have a few things I want to say to you. First off, I never liked it when you brought those onion chips home. They made your feet stink and I had to buy those cheap air fresheners just to fight it. You also snore when it's cold out, so I spent many Christmases wanting to just smother you with a pillow so I could sleep."
  7161. >There was a long list of grievances you listed off to her.
  7162. >If she could hear you, she might have been upset after the tenth or twelfth item.
  7163. "But," you said, grabbing her hand, "I'm glad I got to experience all of it. I'm glad I got to spend that time with you. I know I've told you this before, but...there was that period after high school when everyone started disappearing around me and...you were still there. You were always there for me. You saved me, Rainbow Dash. I can't ever thank you enough for that."
  7164. >You paused, waiting for her to spring out of bed and tell you to stop being so sappy.
  7165. >Two minutes passed and that didn't happen, so you continued on.
  7166. "I wish I could be here for you. There's something I need to do though. It's to protect you, and Anonymous, and Innominate, and everybody I care about. That's why I won't be here when you wake up. I can't explain everything here, but when you get home, look in our special place. There will be a book there for you, and it'll explain everything."
  7167. >You squeezed her hand as tight as you could.
  7168. "I'm going to miss you, Rainbow Dash."
  7169.  
  7170. >You let go of her and ran out, not wanting her last memory of you to be you crying.
  7171. >That would be the nurse's last memory of you.
  7172. >After that scene, you went home, sat down, and began to write.
  7173. >It could have just been a summary of everything that happened, but Rainbow Dash liked to read. She liked thrills. She liked adventure.
  7174. >You had to make something worthy of her time.
  7175. >Unsure of where to start at first, your tale began with scattered events.
  7176. >Once you got to the ball though, you knew exactly what to do.
  7177. >From your first meeting with Discord and on, you knew what to do.
  7178. >As of this moment, the book has finally caught up with you life.
  7179. >So, Rainbow Dash, what did you think?
  7180. >Was it a riveting read?
  7181. >Was it boring?
  7182. >There are a few things you want to get off your chest before you close the book up and stash it away for later uncovering.
  7183. >Firstly, you've already made preparations for your first interdimensional jump.
  7184. >Discord said there were infinite versions of him running across the multiverse wreaking havoc on every Twilight they could find.
  7185. >That means that, sadly, all of Twilight's friends will get caught in the crossfire.
  7186. >That means every Rainbow Dash, every Anonymous, Innominate, and every other person she befriends is in imminent danger.
  7187. >You've decided to make it your mission in life to stop this.
  7188. >You'll follow in Discord's footsteps and follow him wherever he might go in order to save the people you love.
  7189. >And as for Rainbow Dash...
  7190. >You hope, if nothing else, this book has outlined the love and respect you have for her.
  7191. >You hope that one day, if she should read it, she'll understand why you had to do this.
  7192. >Hey, if it means anything, there's at least one universe out there where everything turned out A-OK. Rainbow Dash is fine, everyone is alive, and all your friends can exist happily.
  7193. >It's just not this one.
RAW Paste Data