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Untitled 7 (Spider-Shim) ch 2: Meet the contestants

reallyUntitled Nov 6th, 2016 (edited) 498 Never
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  1. chapter 1: http://pastebin.com/P4Mawhsw
  2. chapter 2: you are here
  3. chapter 3: http://pastebin.com/fYHRDTA3
  4.  
  5. >Be Anon.
  6. >The feeling of complete and utter I-have-no-idea-what's-going-on prevails.
  7. >You look to Synergy who makes herself comfortable in the right seat of the cockpit.
  8. >As chance would have it, there were supposed to have been three seats once, but the center one has been removed to accommodate Treehugger's wheelchair.
  9. >Not just that, but it grabs onto the wheelchair.
  10. >It's certainly custom made.
  11. >It totally is a quin-jet.
  12. >One way more advanced than the one you had been in the day before.
  13. >This one had more advanced... everything.
  14. >From what you can read on the consoles it's engines are repulsors, not rotor blades.
  15. >That's a tech Time Turner uses in his suit, something he doesn't share an inch of with anyone for fear of it being used for war...
  16. >Yet this quin jet doesn't just have Gatling gun and missiles on each wing, but also rotary grenade launchers.
  17. >And below the cockpit is what looks like a railgun.
  18. >It was upgraded for war.
  19. >That thought alone sends a shiver down your spine.
  20. >But the fact how advanced it was is shadowed by how old everything looks.
  21. >Worn leather, bent metal sheets, somewhat rusted places, plants having taken over the left side of the cargo bay.
  22. >You finally take the courage to address your aunt.
  23. “So, how old is this thing?”
  24. >“Century and a half, more or less a decade.”
  25. “Mhm.”
  26. >You nod.
  27. “It's prep'd for war.”
  28. >“Yes.”
  29. “And the invisibility?”
  30. >“Both the stealth and shield systems are run by magical generators. The same type of energy the equestrians use.”
  31. “Mhm.”
  32. >You keep nodding, taking in the information.
  33. >What feels like a minute later you take a deep breath.
  34. “Is anything you ever told me true?”
  35. >“Feelings, yes. I raised you, I was a parent to you, and I love you.”
  36. “But everything else...?”
  37. >You curl your hand to a fist.
  38. “My parents?”
  39. >“Anon-”
  40. >“Is your name even fucking Treehugger?”
  41. >“Anon...”
  42. >She opens her arms and you immediately embrace her.
  43. >You're mad, but you love your aunt.
  44. >You don't even care that Synergy is watching.
  45. >“It's the name I was born with, but most of my live, from 1878 to 1952 I went by Dryad.”
  46. >She nuzzles into you slightly. Before giving you a pat and you let go of her.
  47. >“No, that's not right. '52 to '16 that's... plus... I've been a Treehugger longer again.”
  48. “So... how old are you?”
  49. >She pauses.
  50. >“I was 26 when I arrived in 1878.”
  51. “That means you're 164...”
  52. >Treehugger nods.
  53. >“There is no easy way to say this, but I'm about to die, Anon.”
  54. >You stare at her.
  55. >Your heart was beating into your throat.
  56. “Okay.”
  57. >The two of you look down before she speaks up again.
  58. >“Sunset Shimmer?”
  59. >“I don't carry that name anymore.”
  60. >“Only more evidence for how far this timeline has shifted from... Both of you are already well aware that there are multiple universes.”
  61. “Yeah.”
  62. >“Kinda obvious at this point.”
  63. >“It was a statement, more than it was a question... Where I come from, Equestrias first contact had not been until 2035.”
  64. “Uhh... Auntie?”
  65. >“Yes?”
  66. “That Equestria thing... I understand that time travel would create a different universe, but... are you saying it affected a second universe? That because you... this bird and whatever else, that because you are here another dimension has changed?”
  67. >“Yes, that's exactly wherein my mistake was. I assumed it wouldn't, but apparently it did. This here Earth-dimension has it's own linked Equestria-dimension.”
  68. “Okay...”
  69. >More and more questions.
  70. >“So if not Sunset, what may I call you?”
  71. >“Anon calls my Synergy, and I have to say I'm growing fond of it.”
  72. >Treehugger nods once again.
  73. >“You dislike the Wonderbolts... any big organization, I assume?”
  74. >“The Wonderbolts at least don't make profit of us, as others do. I'm indifferent to them, but they can't let me do what needs to be done to save this planet.”
  75. >“You want to save the planet? From?”
  76. “Whatever's attracted by that Tesseract gizmo.”
  77. >“The... Tesseract?”
  78. >Treehugger sounds almost fearful.
  79. >“Yes.”
  80. >Synergy confirms and you observe Treehuggers expression go from mild shock to calculating, before coming to a conclusion.
  81. >“It was removed almost two years ago from Canterlot? Not in 2033 but in 2014... Almost twenty years ahead of schedule.”
  82. “Auntie?”
  83. >“And two years later... first contact...”
  84. “Fuck, are you saying Earth will see an interplanetary war /this/ year?”
  85. >“No, I'm saying that Earth will be wiped away. Earth of 2016 has nothing to hold up against an army of... Then again, their general is likely still a child and there are already Equestrians here...”
  86. “What are you going on about?
  87. >“The person who is supposed to lead the charge on earth, a corrupted Equestrian, is either not born yet or still a child. So much things change...”
  88. “Shouldn't we... tell Spitfire all of this?”
  89. >“No.”
  90. >She shakes her head.
  91. >“We're going to steal the tesseract. 2016 has laughable defenses... Synergy?”
  92. >“Oh, I'm in.”
  93. “I think this is a bad idea.”
  94. >You can feel the jet change it's course.
  95. >One of the strands from Treehugger connects to the console.
  96. >She doesn't even have to...
  97. “So where are we going?”
  98. >You voice was monotone and unamused.
  99. >“Switzerland. We have to suit up, I have some toys in a vault there.”
  100. “Nazi gold too?”
  101. >“Lots of it.”
  102. “You're going to explain to me everything about Hydra on the way, okay?”
  103. >“I- Yes, I owe that much to you.”
  104.  
  105. >Still be Anon
  106. “So... Let's take a step back. You and I. How did ahh... You know what I want to ask.”
  107. >Treehugger begins to explain.
  108. >“I don't know who the donors for your DNA were, but a lot of egg and sperm cells were but together artificially. Of a few hundred, only a handful even became embryo. You were modeled after me, to develop these powers too.”
  109. >You hatched from an test tube, great.
  110. >“It was a failed project though. At first you did okay, but you had no immune system of your own to properly be in this world. That was about the time when the cold war ended and that particular Hydra fell. Then it was just chance.”
  111. >She looks away from you.
  112. >“Me – one of the worst possible people – with a kill count in the four, maybe five digits. I'm walking through the burning halls, killing last stragglers. Every other head that Hydra has, Everyone who has brought so much suffering into this world. And then I hear a baby cry. A collapsing building, and one baby cries. A baby, mind you, that would die anyway, even if there wasn't an inferno raging on.”
  113. “But I got better?”
  114. >“No, you weren't- I... I did then what they tried to do and gave you my powers. A part of...”
  115. >She opens her hand and a stream of red pierces a vein, and flows out to form a small ball.
  116. “Blood?”
  117. >She shakes her head.
  118. >“Nanites.”
  119. “Nanobots?”
  120. >You have nanobots inside of you?
  121. >“Not technically, microbots, more likely, about half the size of a red blood cell.”
  122. “So... I can do what you can?”
  123. >“You have barely a percent of the bots that I have. Yours are spread to far apart to form themselves into tools, or even repair you. That's why you heal so – comparing to me – slowly. And I've been using and controlling it for more than a century, don't forget that.”
  124. >You nod.
  125. >But could you control them?
  126. >Synergy speaks up.
  127. >“What about the old age and the wheelchair then?”
  128. >“I AM old, Synergy. This hive of nanites is the only thing that keeps me alive... well, by most means I'd be dead already, but I can still walk and talk, and my brain gets oxygen, but a lot of other organ functions aren't in use anymore. I actually have to focus the nanites on not letting me rot.”
  129. “Eww...”
  130. >Synergy joins you in your cringe of disgust.
  131. >“Eww...”
  132. >“Yes, it's not very... appetizing, but it has been my... existence as of late. Anon I-”
  133. “Yes, you already said you're about to... about to die.”
  134. >She did say it, but it only really sinks in now.
  135. >She's about to die...
  136. >You're tearing up.
  137. “I-”
  138. >“Anon. These past few years had been wonderful. Caring for you made me feel human again. And I made peace with dying. Or at least I had... Now we need to secure the Tesseract and avoid an invasion.”
  139. >You nod.
  140. “How long do you think you have?
  141. >“I thought a week, but I can likely push myself, maybe up to a month.”
  142. >You wipe away some tears in your eyes.
  143. “Okay.”
  144. >“I know someone who can extend my life a bit. But it will come at a moral cost.”
  145. >You had a hunch.
  146. “Hydra?”
  147. >“Hydra.”
  148. >This makes Synergy speak up again.
  149. >“Hydra? Like from that Gravitation Autumns show?”
  150. >Treehugger looks back to her.
  151. >“Realer.”
  152. >“Oh... so we gonna steal some 'toys' from them too?”
  153. “Auntie...”
  154. >“They'll invite us in and they want me kept alive. We'll not follow their ideology, we are just going to use them to our advantage.”
  155. “But, Auntie-”
  156. >“No 'but's, Anon. I tried to keep you away from Hydra for selfish reasons, because I wanted your life to be normal. I may have made you paranoid, but at the moment it's our best bet. I've been in this longer than you have. I need you to trust me on this one.”
  157. >Again you feel the need to clench your fist.
  158. >Hydra.
  159. >Now it has come to this...
  160. >But...
  161. “I have a-”
  162. >This will be a bad idea, won't it?
  163. “I have a friend who... who's interested in Hydra too. While she certainly has her own agenda I think she really is a friend to me and will be an enemy of Hydra.”
  164. >“We're not infiltrating them to destroy them, we're just taking the free membership for a while.”
  165. “For a while? You might die, but Synergy and I have to live with our decisions! I can't just go off the grid and start a new life. Well- Synergy can.”
  166. >“Being in Hydra is not so bad, Anon.”
  167. “This goes against everything you ever taught me!”
  168. >“The real Hydra, the one I grew up with and helped form in before the turn of the century, that was good stuff. Hydra reformed. It's the one that will be active in 2099 when I joined them.”
  169. “Well, maybe you were young and naive?”
  170. >“No, that certainly wasn't it.”
  171. “And what if they are still the bad guys.”
  172. >“Then you'll be there to make them into the good guys!”
  173. “So I'll be turning Hydra into the good guys? Is that why you gave me a fucked up name, because there had been someone?”
  174.  
  175. >You continue to be Anon
  176. >Treehugger looks taken aback
  177. >“No, Anon. I never planned to interfere as much as I did to begin with.”
  178. “Well, too bad. There are many dead butterflies in your way.”
  179. >You cross your arms, and so did she.
  180. >There was a tense silence until Synergy cuts in.
  181. >“What about taking Hydra down like you already planned to do 20 years ago? It wasn't successful then, was it?”
  182. >“No, I-”
  183. >Treehugger looks to you again.
  184. >“-got distracted.”
  185. “So it's my fault?”
  186. >“And I'm not at the top of my game how I was back then. I'm lacking part of the hive which it assumes is still there. Commands get corrupted... that's why I'm dying.”
  187. “But that's my fault.”
  188. >“Don't be ridiculous, Anon. Those were my decisions.”
  189. >She gives you a pained smile and opens her arms again.
  190. >“I'm old, I'll embrace death if it's offered to me now. But now I have to save the earth one last time. Yay me.”
  191. >Her smile turns more genuine.
  192. >“Anon, I think I raised you passable. Trust your instinct and don't bring yourself in unnecessary danger. Stay my smart boy, okay? Whether you'll work against Hydra or with them. For now we need to use them.”
  193. >You open your arms too.
  194. “Yeah... yeah, sure.”
  195. >It's not defeat, it's...
  196. >You'll just have to see what the world has in store for you.
  197. >Do to list:
  198. >Save the world, bring down Hydra, don't compromise your relationship with Sunset.
  199. >You'll be with Hydra, she'll be with the Wonderbolts.
  200. >What a fucked up version of Romeo and Juliet.
  201. >It didn't end well for them.
  202. >And there were enough on stage death scenes.
  203. >Ahhh...
  204. >You pull your hair.
  205. >And you still need to tell her that you had been that Spider-Man.
  206. >“Anon, you look distressed.”
  207. “Gee, I wonder why?”
  208. >“Sarcasm thrusters are back online. Is it that bad?”
  209. >You shrug.
  210. “Only time will tell.”
  211.  
  212. >Be Sunset Shimmer.
  213. >Neither Spitfire nor Princess Twilight's wounds seem to be severe.
  214. >They were impaled by, at best only a needle-thin, at worst, maybe quarter an inch thick thorn.
  215. >Twilight had been immediately taken care of with magic by Starlight Glimmer.
  216. >You were told in Twilight's letters how outstandingly powerful and versatile Starlight is, but adding healing magic to the mix makes it really mean something.
  217. >Hearing it was one thing, but seeing it first hand another.
  218. >Spitfire on the other hand was asleep.
  219. >Magic affecting unconscious ponies brings complications, and it had been risky enough even trying it on Twilight in human form, but Starlight had apparently panicked a little.
  220. >She really seems to care a lot about Twilight.
  221. >So Spitfire was bandaged up as is the norm for humans.
  222. >Not like there is any device around that would do away with any of your wounds or minor scratches.
  223. >After first aid is given Starlight descends into the bunker again and fetches the others as you begin to stare at the docks again.
  224. >“Ah reckon anyone would choose family over a girl or boyfriend they've had only ah week.”
  225. “Thanks, AJ.”
  226. >“Nah, darnit, ah meant- dah... Ya'll see him again, 'twasn't a farewell.”
  227. >Applejack clears her throat
  228. >“You are still together with him, not like you broke up.”
  229. >You smile at how she's dropping her accent for serious talk.
  230. “Thanks, AJ.”
  231. >This time it's much more sincere.
  232. “Really, I- I appreciate the sentiment. I'm not even sure why I... Yes I know why I'm distraught. She fired a missile at us. How is that not a subtle hint at she doesn't approve of who her nephew is with?”
  233. >“From what ah reckon this was something personal b'tween her and Spitfire. Hey-”
  234. >She pulls you by your shoulder, prying your gaze away from the dock and embraces you, much to your surprise.
  235. >“Tha two of you be fine, Sunny.”
  236. >You pat her back as she squeezes you.
  237. “Yeah... “
  238. >You look over to the camp as she continues to press you.
  239. >“Damn, yar durable.”
  240. “Yeah.”
  241. >You chuckle a bit and squeeze her a little too.
  242. >“Ah gotta armwrestle with you at some point.”
  243. “Maybe, but...”
  244. >After letting go of one another again, your gaze trails back to the dock.
  245. “-not really in the mood.”
  246.  
  247. >After Applejack it was Rainbow's turn to hug you and assure you that everything can be alright again.
  248. >Then why does everyone feel the need to say it.
  249. >Why did that not-farwell feel so farewell-y?
  250. >Why do you have the feeling that you'll never see Anon again?
  251. >Or that you'll have to hunt him now.
  252. >Treehugger... might be a villain.
  253. >Or was.
  254. >You need to get answers out of Spitfire or else you'll...
  255. >Or else you'll do what?
  256. >Stop helping her safe the planet?
  257. >Stop be in her club of superheroes which happen to include all of your friends?
  258. >You have no leverage against her.
  259. >Nothing that you can really say or do to make her tell you.
  260. >...
  261. >You can't beat her up either.
  262. >Even though it might feel good.
  263. >For whatever it is that happened to Twilight... SciTwi.
  264. >Spitfire said she covered up that Twilight's still alive.
  265. >Which means there can't be a lot of people who know that she's still alive.
  266. >At least someone at the hospital had to know, right?
  267. >A missing body must raise attention.
  268. >It was the medical bay at the Wonterbolts headquarters in New Yoke.
  269. >They aren't sloppy, people must have noticed.
  270. >The only one you know who was present and might have been told from minute one that Twilight is still alive was Shining Armor.
  271. >Where is he even?
  272. >He had been the one to shoot Treehugger, right?
  273.  
  274. >Be Anon again.
  275. >While you had enough questions left in your head your mind starts to wonder about something else.
  276. “Hey, Synergy?”
  277. >“Hmm?”
  278. >For some reason you hate that she looks exactly like Sunset.
  279. >Then again, she has short hair now, so it's not entirely how you remember Sunny to be, even though the real Sunset has short hair now too.
  280. “Why are you here?”
  281. >“What do you mean?”
  282. “Why did you come with us and why had you been in New Yoke at that time to begin with?”
  283. >“Those are two very different question.”
  284. >She smiles.
  285. >“But they seem to have a similar answer... May I answer them in the opposite order of how you asked them?”
  286. >Even through the density of the situation you still manage to return her smile.
  287. >She does look like the girl you love after all.
  288. “Be my guest.”
  289. >“I came to New Yoke because I wanted to join the Wonderbolts, and as it happened to turn out exactly when I arrived something happened and I decided to come to help. Coincidence? That's questionable, considering an alternative dimension version of myself had been a raging she-demon.”
  290. >She's enjoying it... talking about Sunset that way.
  291. >But all you could see is a Sunset smiling, a Sunset that likes what she's doing.
  292. >A cute and gorgeous Sunset.
  293. >“Either way, the Wonderbolts then, and your aunt and Hydra now, seem to be quite powerful, and I'm simply looking to do something with my time and powers. What I want... really, is a challenge. Something to do, something to prove that I have these abilities and that I'm...”
  294. >As she talks your eyes wander to her full lips dance as she talks.
  295. >Snap the fuck out of it, that's not your Sunset
  296. >“That sounds vain doesn't it?”
  297. “Nono, you're good.”
  298. >You're defending her from herself as if you'd desperately trying to make friends with her.
  299. >Or as if you already are and still want to please her.
  300. >She chuckles.
  301. >God damnit.
  302. >Thankfully Treehugger speaks up.
  303. >“One does not improve if he does not compete with others. Or at least there is just so far someone can go on their own.”
  304. >“Yes, like that. The same in sports, isn't it?”
  305. >“Yeah.”
  306. “No, it's not!”
  307. >You don't know why you're even angry.
  308. >The shift in emotion came quite sudden.
  309. “You don't join Hydra in sports!”
  310. >Sunset- no. Synergy tilts her head.
  311. >“You do if they buy you into a better deal, and there's the Harlem Hydras, you know?”
  312. >“Do you not want her here, Anon?”
  313. “I- No, that's not what I- ahh...”
  314. >You clench a fist.
  315. >What you're actually worried about is that this particular padawan gets seduced by the dark side.
  316. >“Anon, calm down.”
  317. “Why should I? I dislike the thought of joining Hydra, and you joke about it. Just join the more secretive, seemingly more powerful team? That's not... That's... ahh...”
  318. >“Anon, I do have a moral compass, you know.”
  319. “I- Yeah, I mean-”
  320. >You don't even know what you want to say, and thankfully your aunt engages in conversation again.
  321. >“Miss Synergy...”
  322. >Addressed as 'Miss Synergy' she dramatically slowly raises an eyebrow and turns her head to Treehugger.
  323. >“Yes~?
  324. >“May I ask you to be an ally to my nephew? Whatever may come?”
  325. >“Oh~ we've already taken a liking to one another.”
  326. >Synergy licks her lips and gives you a wink.
  327. >L-lewd.
  328. >No, wait.
  329. >You didn't agree to this.
  330. >Disengage lewd thoughts.
  331. >That's not your Sunny.
  332. >But Treehugger wasn't satisfied with that answer, and repeats her last question.
  333. >“/Whatever/ may come?”
  334. >Now Synergies bites her lip.
  335. >You should stop being so aware of her lips...
  336. >Of course she won't swear allegiance to you.
  337. >She barely knows you and she's after power.
  338. >You're just some guy with half a brain and healing powers.
  339. >“Yes.”
  340. >What?!
  341. >She continues and looks to Treehugger with determination.
  342. >“I'll stick to him at least until we are able to secure the tesseract. And I only consider it done if we can both walk our separate paths again without anyone wanting to follow us for haaving stolen their property, if they still do, then the mission is not over.”
  343. >She then looks to you.
  344. >“Unless he wants to abort the mission early, releases me from that oath, or proves to be a bad guy, because this oath goes to Anon, the good guy.”
  345. >You... have utterly misjudged her.
  346.  
  347. >Be Shining Armor
  348. >Your target, an old woman, freaked out when you hit her with the tranquilizer.
  349. >You have had moral concerns about shooting her and if the tranquilizer may be too much, but she's still standing.
  350. >Well, that, and the fact that she totally shattered the magical shield from your sister from the other world.
  351. >Or something like that.
  352. >Wonderbolts stuff.
  353. >And you thought you were out of it.
  354. >You hide behind the trees and reload another dart to continue.
  355. >If she hadn't been until now, this had certainly made her hostile.
  356. >This is not good, stay calm.
  357. *crack*
  358. >You spin toward the noise and aim the rifle at-
  359. >Glimmer!
  360. >The weapon was yanked from you in that pink-ish glow of hers and just as you pull another tranquilizer dart you're immobilized.
  361. >“Shining Armor~”
  362. >Her voice carries a sweetness which makes you sick.
  363. >“We only saw one another in passing, but I sure remembered me.”
  364. >There is no way you could forget her or what she had done to you and your comrades.
  365. >“What do you say? Lend me your mind again?”
  366. >Even through your inhibited movement you're able to press out a word.
  367. “Never...”
  368. >The strand of energy connecting her to you grows more intense and you're forced down.
  369. >“Give me your mind...”
  370. >Her voice sounds strained now too.
  371. >You can't help but smile.
  372. “No.”
  373. >She can't control you again.
  374. >Even her psychokinesis seems weak... comparatively.
  375. >You pull yourself up again to your feet even through the force she's exerting on you.
  376. >Then it's gone, and you almost stumble again.
  377. >She released you from your grasp.
  378. “Why?”
  379. >“Why what?”
  380. >She seems annoyed.
  381. “They thought you could change.”
  382. >“I am still a prisoner!”
  383. “Considering what you did!”
  384. >Your eyes go to the rifle.
  385. >“They so desperately claim I can be their friend, and that's how they treat me? I learned my lesson, I just want to be gone. It's their hypocrisy, these mixed messages that make me sick.”
  386. “You don't change. Instead of just making your exit you try to take control of someone again. Try to start a new private army?”
  387. >To your surprise she smiles.
  388. >“Try? No. Trying isn't the first I did. First I succeeded.”
  389. >You grip the dart harder.
  390. >You haven't heard any other movement so far, but you let your eyes go around now, still trying to keep that witch in your field of view.
  391. >Her smile grows broader.
  392. >“She can fly, so I'm just borrowing her, okay? And whatever Spitfire did to save her life, it intrigues me. Also, I think it's not that easy for her to start looking for a person she faked the death of by herself, if nobody is supposed to know, is it?”
  393. >She laughs as you jump at her and a purple glow catches you mid air.
  394. “Twily...”
  395. >You're turned mid-air to face your sister, all suited up.
  396. >The helmet hides her face, and a scarce armor now protects her chest and abdomen.
  397. >Glimmer continues to talk as Twilight ignores you calling out to her.
  398. >“We're seemingly the best buddies in an alternate dimension. Doesn't it fit?”
  399. “Twily, don't do this.”
  400. >She floats towards you.
  401. >“Sorry, bro. But I want answers too.”
  402. >Then she puppeteers your arms with ease around.
  403. >You're almost unable to even resist how you had been with Glimmers influence.
  404. >The dart in your hand finds its way into your shoulder.
  405. >“Sleep now, Shiny.”
  406.  
  407. >Be Anon.
  408. >Okay, fact check.
  409. >Take a step back and look at the big picture.
  410. >Start at the beginning.
  411. >You hatched from a test tube.
  412. >You were created after Treehuggers image of having nanites flowing through your body to do stuff, but that failed.
  413. >Wait.
  414. “Auntie? Do I still have my own nanites? You know, the ones that Hydra created me with, not the one you gave me?”
  415. >Treehugger looks up again and frowns.
  416. >“That's an interesting question. I never really thought about it, but... I assume they were flushed out by mine. They had been harming you after all.”
  417. “Mhm...”
  418. >“Equally likely scenarios is that they are just barely helping you so they were allowed to stay, or that they are now inactive and still floating around, but we can't go for sure.
  419. “Is there a way for us to know for sure?”
  420. >“Well, we can ask around in Hydra to make a proper hemogram, but we should keep your identity a bit of a secret.”
  421. “Yeah...”
  422. >“I did kill all of the scientists who... created you though.”
  423. “Yeah...”
  424. >You don't know how to feel about that.
  425. “So, like... there is no way of finding out who were... like the- uhh... DNA donors for... me?”
  426. >Treehugger looks at you for a while.
  427. >“It's likely they were students, who gave stuff for a little bit of cash.”
  428. >That sentimental stuff is not important, all it gives you is...
  429. >No, don't think about this stuff.
  430. “So... why did you tell me you're my aunt and not my...”
  431. >And it's gotten awkward and sentimental.
  432. “Like... if I'm designed after you, doesn't that you my...”
  433. >Why is this so difficult to phrase?
  434. >“Mother.”
  435. >Treehugger finishes your train of thought.
  436. >Synergy tries her best to pretend not to be present, but you can't help but look over to her as if she'd give you strength.
  437. >But she's not Sunset.
  438. >You look back to Treehugger who was in thought herself.
  439. >“Because I didn't think I'd... keep you.”
  440. >Why does it feel like a stab in your heart.
  441. >You had no family, you're a fucking experiment, and the only one who cares for you-
  442. >...
  443. >She does care for you.
  444. >She had ever since she picked you up.
  445. >You ease up again and smile.
  446. >It doesn't matter what she had thought at one point, does it?
  447. >Treehugger raised you.
  448. >She is your family.
  449. >You shake your head.
  450. >How could you have been so stupid?
  451. >The circumstances on how you got together change nothing about what you did together.
  452. >The bond of family is real.
  453. >She watches you intently as you had gone through this string of emotions.
  454. “I know you don't have much longer...”
  455. >You bite your lip.
  456. “Which makes it all the more bittersweet, but...”
  457. >Another deep breath.
  458. “Can I... call you mom then?”
  459. >For a moment you see Treehuggers eyes light up and her mouth opening in mild shock.
  460. >Then both of you need to turn your heads as Synergy had a coughing fit.
  461. >She's wheezing and desperately trying to suck in some precious air.
  462. >Her arms flail around until she punches her chest repeatedly as she bends over.
  463. >At least she's not faking.
  464. >Huh...
  465. >...
  466. >You should help her.
  467. >You jump up and hurry over, patting her back forcefully.
  468. >Treehugger extends a red strand of her nanite-blood over.
  469. >“Wait I got this.”
  470. >What?
  471. >The strand hits Synergy's cheek and moves to her mouth, from there on out you couldn't observe much more, but after a second she suddenly stops.
  472. >Patting her chest for a moment before noticing the substance on her face and tries to wipe it away.
  473. >“What the?”
  474. >The strand had already retreated before Synergy was even able to reach it with her fingers.
  475. >“I cleared your airway from the miss-swallowed saliva and put it back into your mouth. Between teeth and cheeks, both sides.”
  476. >Synergy looks frantically around, trying to feel up her mouth with her tongue.
  477. >“What the?”
  478. >She repeats her words of wonder, now with a little bit more anger in them.
  479. “Auntie, did you-”
  480. >You bite your lip.
  481. “I mean, did you... try and show off?”
  482. >God, you're stupid.
  483. >Asking her if you can call her mommy like you're some 5 year old, and following up with calling her 'Auntie' again.
  484. >“Yes- a bit and... yes to the other question as well. I'd be happy to...
  485. >She turns angrily to Synergy.
  486. >“You ruined my son and my moment!”
  487. >“I didn't mean to die. And you stuck your tentacle porn'd me!”
  488. >Once again you can just look between the two women fighting.
  489. >One of them is your new mom, and the other looks like your girlfriend.
  490. >You'll not get much sleep in the next few days...
  491.  
  492. “Uhh... Mom?”
  493. >You seek to continue a normal conversation after their small fight.
  494. >“Yes, Anon, dear?”
  495. “Do you have any freaky future knowledge about someone named Chrysalis?”
  496. >“Chrysalis?”
  497. >She narrows her eyes.
  498. >“Yes, I have some freaky future knowledge about her. How do you?”
  499. >Well that's ominous.
  500. “She... works with me. In the same company, I mean. I know she's an alien and all, but she helped me, and caused some trouble... but unintentionally, and she fixed it again.”
  501. >Treehugger looks off and thinks.
  502. >“You'd like to trust her?”
  503. “I actually would, yes.”
  504. >“Chrysalis...”
  505. >She rolls the name over her tongue, obviously thinking hard.
  506. >You'd like to prod, but you trust she'll come forth on her own terms.
  507. >However, Synergy addresses you.
  508. >“The one with the dragonfly wings? Black Widow?”
  509. >“Black Widow?”
  510. >“Yes, that's what she called herself, I believe.”
  511. “Yes, her alter ego she choose because... nevermind. But she's not the first Black Widow. She said she took the name because the first one wasn't using it anymore.”
  512. >Treehugger looks down again and says the name out loud again.
  513. >“Chrysalis.”
  514. “Au- Mom, you're kinda scaring me here. Is she bad news?”
  515. >“Yes, I'd say so. She's a changeling queen. A species of shapeshifters to infiltrate and take over entire planets at once.”
  516. “Oh.”
  517. >“Yep. But once again, It's only 2016, she-
  518. “I actually don't think she's evil.”
  519. >“You don't?”
  520. “No. And, ahh... you said “queen”? I don't think that's the case.”
  521. >Treehugger again thinks for a moment.
  522. >“She may not be in charge yet, of course.”
  523. >You nod.
  524. “She seems youthful. Barely older than me, but then again, she can shapeshift so I can't tell her age properly.”
  525. >Treehugger nods with you.
  526. >“And what makes you think we can trust her? She helped you twice and messed up once, you said?”
  527. “I- I'm not sure. She uhh... jokes, she's funny and honest... in her dishonesty. She did reveal herself as an alien to me, and she said she likes earth, and our pop culture. Said she wants to keep Earth independent.”
  528. >“That's what she said?”
  529. “Yes, that's what she-”
  530. >le epin maymay.
  531. “-said.”
  532. >“Hmm... An adolescent Queen Chrysalis...”
  533. “Not a queen yet, though. Will she do- Would she do something bad if we don't stop her?”
  534. >“I think she'd do what is best for her people, not what is best for ours. Evil is not what I can call her, but certainly antagonistic towards earth.”
  535. “Alien Invasion.”
  536. >“Infiltration, not invasion. They shut down key features of our governments and then simply waltz in while we would be disorganized. It's a battle of keys to the kingdom.”
  537. “So comparatively low headcount?”
  538. >“They kill our generals, not our soldiers. But if you go by numbers, then yes. It's their rule afterwards that's the problem.”
  539. “And that would be...?”
  540. >“The Borg, but fleshy, in an Beksinski meets Giger type post-apocalyptic scenario where every species is gutted and used for spare parts to create a new super-species.”
  541. >That sounds pretty bad-ass.
  542. “That sounds pretty bad. Can I imagine everyone to be, like, Kronenberg-monsters in between? If a-”
  543. >Another thought passes your mind.
  544. >Chrysalis said 'come back to mommy' when taking the klyntar back from Sunset.
  545. “Do you know what a 'klyntar' is.”
  546. >“What an odd change of topic. Mid sentence for you nonetheless. Yes, I know what a klyntar is.”
  547. “Chrysalis knew how to remove it from Sunset as it took her over yester- or was it the day before yesterday?”
  548. >Your memory is hazy. Why can't you-
  549. >Synergy clarifies.
  550. >“That was today, after midnight. The removal of it, I mean.”
  551. >That was today!?
  552. >Treehugger continues
  553. >“So it was a klyntar... What do you want to know about them?”
  554. “Where do they come from?”
  555. >“Space, not sure where from exactly. They have a planet and a civilization, and they are actually what my nanites have been based upon, yet they had no sample, and a klyntar is self aware. They do what they want, and not what their host wants.”
  556. >She taps her chin.
  557. >“Hmm... let's see... They do have their own personality, which makes it even harder to find a good bond. Calling them symbiotes is a stretch, only few people... few humans have been able to actually live in symbiosis with them.”
  558. >It almost made you...
  559. >...rape her, kill her, eat her.
  560. >Maybe in that order
  561. “Sunset had one manipulating her. Her behavior changed.”
  562. >“Oh yes, I'd imagine so... Do you want to ask me if it was her or the klyntar acting? I'm not sure. But I imagine it to be like a drug where you're unable to control the urges you would usually suppress.”
  563. >You can't just blame the booze for your problems.
  564. >After all, you liked the feeling as long as it had been okay.
  565. >Well, until you noticed you can only concentrate on a single thing at a time and forget the rest.
  566. >You can also talk your way out that you didn't know what you sign up for when Chrysalis gave it to you...
  567. >Chrysalis...
  568. >Did she toy with you?
  569. >Or did she really think you'd do well with that thing?
  570. >She fixed her own mistake.
  571. “I need to talk to her. I really... don't want to believe she's evil,”
  572. >“She?”
  573. “Chrysalis.”
  574. >Treehugger looks at you for a while.
  575. >“Son?”
  576. >Dear lord, what comes now.
  577. “Yes?”
  578. >“Is she that pretty?”
  579. “I- ahh... that has noth-”
  580. >“She is.”
  581. >To both your, and Treehuggers surprise, Synergy answers the question for you.
  582. >She shrugs at the glance you shoot her.
  583. >“It's merely an observation that was not hard to make.”
  584. >Is she a-
  585. >She and Chrysalis.
  586. >No, bad brain!
  587. >“If she can change her form then she has chosen quite the attractive appearance. Something I believe anyone would make... On the other hand, I think she's too outstanding to be able to hide well in a crowd.”
  588. >She nods to herself and smiles.
  589. >“I would choose a more inconspicuous body, I too have troubles hiding in a crowd for being too outstandingly beautiful.”
  590. >A sigh escapes her.
  591. >That poor child must lead such a horrible life.
  592. >First world problems don't even cut it on this one anymore.
  593. >Anyway, her tone makes it pretty obvious she's joking, and she adds then a hand motion to it as to whip her long hair behind her shoulder.
  594. >Her eyes widen at the realization of having short hair now, and her hand didn't touch anything.
  595. >Treehugger gives her a pity smile
  596. >You just stare like an idiot.
  597. >“I mean, yes. She's pretty.”
  598. >“Well...
  599. >Treehugger turns back to you.
  600. “Chrysalis hasn't turned my head, she's an alien, I'm not stupid, and I have a girlfriend.”
  601. >“A girlfriend who was kinda fishing for compliments and you ignored her.”
  602. “She's not my girlfriend, Sunset is.”
  603. >“They have the same appearance, if you compliment one, you compliment the other.”
  604. “Yes, but it wasn't Sunset whom I'd be giving attention like that.”
  605. >“But she – Synergy – is an ally to you now, you should keep good relations with her.”
  606. “Can we go back to pestering me about the fact that I'm somewhat attracted to an alien who may or may not wants to make the Earth a dump for spare limps or... whatever it is they'll do.”
  607. >“So you want to call her?”
  608. “Yes.”
  609. >“What for?”
  610. “To infiltrate Hydra with us.”
  611. >“To infiltrate Hydra with us...”
  612. >She repeats slowly, letting the words roll of her tongue.
  613. >“Yeah, sure, why not? The more the merrier. I already have to come up with an excuse for her. Call her.”
  614. >You smile.
  615. “I lost my phone.”
  616.  
  617. >“You've reached the voicemail of Chrysalis~. I've taken a few vacation days and am unreachable. Consider me off-planet. Leave a message.”
  618. >She's off-planet?
  619. >Collecting her army to invad- to infiltrate the planet and take the tesseract?
  620. >You don't like this.
  621. “Chrysalis isn't answering.”
  622. >Should you tell Treehugger that Chrysalis is off-planet too?
  623. >She might be paranoid about it and will be even more against it.
  624. >“Maybe better that way...”
  625. “So... what's that tesseract-thingy anyway? I know what a hypothetical 4 dimensional cube is, but... everyone talks about like it's super dangerous and valuable.”
  626. >“It's... it houses a powerful gem.”
  627. >Synergy explains to your surprise, the question had gone to Treehugger.
  628. >Treehugger too looks to Synergy to hear what she says about it.
  629. >“Even through the protective layer it's... mind-shatteringly powerful.”
  630. “Powerful how?”
  631. >“Energy itself, for one thing. Like... a single object to power a type- uhh... three civilization
  632. “Three? That's..”
  633. >One is all the energy that reaches the earth, two is all the energy the sun puts out.
  634. “The milky ways black hole tier energy, or all the power in the galaxy, right?”
  635. >Treehugger interrupts
  636. >“No. Type four.”
  637. “What? Type four? A type four civilization?”
  638. >“But that's not quite right. The tesseract houses an Infinity Gem. The space gem to be exact. It allows the user to teleport to any place in any galaxy, and even be at any place at the same time? I'm actually not sure. But it can tap into all the power in all the galaxies. The entire collective power of the universe.”
  639. >Synergy bites her lip for having underestimated the gem, or for having gotten misinformation.
  640. “So... mind-shatteringly powerful... that wasn't a joke.”
  641. >It takes a little to sink in.
  642. >But you're getting goosebumps from it.
  643. >As awesome as it sounds, nobody should have that kind of power.
  644. >All the power in the universe in a gem.
  645. >An Infinity Gem.
  646. >Yeah, 'infinity' hits it.
  647. >...
  648. “Wait. /an/ Infinity Gem? There are more?”
  649. >“Yeah... It's like drawing the entire Exodia.”
  650. “You win.”
  651. >“You win. Omnipotence, and omniscience. And to answer the next question, six. Soul, Mind, Time, Reality, and Power, and Space as we already said.”
  652. “I can't even fathom what they do. Mind and Soul, what? And Reality... Time... Time, like time-travel? Like what you did?”
  653. >“Yes.”
  654. >You gulp.
  655. “So, I gotta ask now. Who or what sent you back and for what purpose?”
  656.  
  657. “And one other thing.”
  658. >You gesture around the jet.
  659. “This thing? It's made for more than one person, isn't it?”
  660. >“Only I am still alive of the people who came through. It was-”
  661. >She pauses.
  662. >“We thought we were doing the right thing, but we failed and stepped on too many butterflies by our mere presence. We were so stupid... And I didn't realize how far we were gone from the original line when I saw the Equestrian Princess.”
  663. >You'd like to call bullshit on that one.
  664. >But she does sound regretful enough.
  665. >...
  666. >You believe that whatever she tried to do didn't work, but... hmm...
  667. >She's still intentionally hiding stuff.
  668. “What can you tell us?”
  669. >“We've hid some stuff in archeological dig sites we know when they will be discovered. Alien made artifacts, warning people. Hand-me-down tech to advance Earth to have a better standing later, but not a good enough to be a target.”
  670. “That's a shit ton of butterflies.”
  671. >Apparently she has nothing good to say in her defense.
  672. >“I never thought it would accelerate something as the discovery of the tesseract.”
  673. “And the tech you used to travel through time? Is it that gem?”
  674. >There was only a slight pause.
  675. >“Yes. The time-gem sent us back.”
  676. “And do you still have it?”
  677. >“It stayed in it's own time, Anon, lest there be two of it here.”
  678. “Okay... I guess there should not be two of such an item...”
  679. >Huh...
  680. “Mom, could it be that... this gem.... that it didn't send you back in time but... created a new universe which happened to be-”
  681. >“No, in that case Equestria wouldn't have been affected, but it seems that it was Equestria which was even more affected than our universe.”
  682. >“So what exactly is Equestria anyway?”
  683. >Synergy pitches in one again.
  684. >“I mean, it's where the other 'me' is from. What's up with that?”
  685. >“Equestria? Hmm... that's a good question. Equestria is radiating with magic for one thing. And it's almost cartoonishly good, yet they have their own fail-save to to defend against any invaders. Hmm... they are called the Elements of Harmony of which there are twenty-four.”
  686. >Great, more gizmos to remember.
  687. “Twenty four?”
  688. >“Yes, but a single person could wield three easily, or six under strain. Wisdom, Courage, Humanity, Justice, Temperance and Transcendence are the categories under which an Element can fall.”
  689. >She doesn't speak confidentially, as if she's unsure of her words.
  690. >“Anyway... These Elements, while existing in gem-form, are forces who bind themselves to an wielder for a period of time, they act as magical catalysts to boost whatever the wielder is capable of by themselves. And adding more raises it exponentially.”
  691. “Exponentially?”
  692. >“Wielder A's empowered magic times wielder B's empowered magic, times... you know, somewhat like that. But magic is by far not a science, it can't be just explained like that.”
  693. “Then how can it be explained?”
  694. >“Some things defy logic and proper understanding with our worldview. And especially magic does so very well.”
  695. “But so far you gave good examples of-”
  696. >“Metaphors, Anon. Just a guideline on how you can think about magic.”
  697. “Well, it's-”
  698. “-complicated? Anon, I do not understand it; I can not explain it to you. I'm sorry.”
  699. >She's interrupted you twice now.
  700. >So you take a figurative step back and digest the heard information
  701. >Magic...
  702. >You can deal with it existing as a force, but nothing defies logic, does it?
  703. >Your understanding of physics and the universe at the moment maybe...
  704. >But so does the space-gem...
  705. “Where do they come from? The Infinity Gems and these Equestrian Elements?”
  706. >“They are called Elements of Harmony, and with so much relating magic, I don't know. The Infinity Gems however have been around since before the birth of the universe. And before you ask: No, I don't know how that's possible either. I, myself, have never been a scientist like you are. I can only recount what I have been vaguely told at one point and figured by myself.”
  707. >“Hey, uh... excuse me.”
  708. >Synergy raises her hand.
  709. >“The thing I do is a form of magic, just fyi.”
  710. >She takes a breath and starts to explain.
  711. >But no matter how well you try to pay attention you always fall back into thinking that this is just implausible.
  712. >Emotions may affect your hormonal level, but how would that translate to real life energy?
  713. >Let's just all hold our hands and wish the bad away because we really really want to.
  714. >This is not Disney.
  715.  
  716. >Be Synergy.
  717. >You noticed you were losing Anon pretty quickly, just from his expression.
  718. >He looks like he was trying to listen, or at least acting like it, but his eyes went glassy every so often when his mind starts to wander in probably the entirely different direction.
  719. >Treehugger seems to be interested enough though.
  720. >You just wish she would share more future-knowledge, or would share even the plan she has to acquire the Tesseract.
  721. >You never met an ancient evil entity, but you have been thought enough too be sure they exist and earth would just be a snack for them to devour in order to get to an Infinity Gem.
  722. >You did think that they are too great to be anything you would ever encounter.
  723. >It's ironic that, just when you were done hiding from the world and tried to make a name for yourself, that you're dragged into the war you never even thought would come.
  724. >The tesseract has been unearthed for more than a year now, and Treehugger claims you can get to it within the week.
  725. >And then...
  726. >You'll have to protect it.
  727. >Great responsibility.
  728. >Slapping band-aids on it to hide it's powers for a while every other time.
  729. >And you'd need to find an apprentice at one point who can carry on the legacy of slapping band-aids on it.
  730. >You don't know how Celestia did it.
  731. >But then again, she did never seem like the happiest person in the world.
  732. >Why did she give it away?
  733. >That is the unanswered question you have left.
  734. >Celestia should be the one who knows about the dangers more than anyone.
  735. >Except for Treehugger, but she knows of the worldly dangers, only regular warmongerers who go through the universe, looking for power.
  736. >And while dying in a war is bad, being thrown into the chaos dimension for eternity is worse.
  737. >But that's a story arc for a different time.
  738.  
  739. >Be Anon.
  740. >Switzerland looks neat.
  741. >And the exterior of this super fancy bank in the side of the mountain is what you imagined Gringotts to be.
  742. >Once again you're pushing Treehugger in her wheelchair around, but for the first time outside of the good olde U S of A.
  743. >She simply parked ontop of a building and broke into it's roof access.
  744. >You imagined this whole 'landing a time traveling jet in the middle of a city' to be a worse ordeal, but...
  745. >Well, she isn't doing this for the first time.
  746. >That bank has no wheelchair accessibility, but it has had two men in black in front of it who almost immediately come down the steps to carry her up.
  747. >“Ah, Frau West. Es ist ein Vergnügen Sie wieder zu sehen.”
  748. >A bank clerk leaves the counter and comes around to greet you.
  749. >Treehugger returns a greeting, first in german, but then reverting back to english again.
  750. >“Charmant wie immer. The pleasure is all mine.”
  751. >He leans down to kiss Treehugger left and right which she returns
  752. >Only then does he even look to you and Synergy.
  753. >“Then you must be Anon. Mademoiselle West's nephew.”
  754. “Yes.”
  755. >Stranger Danger.
  756. >Before you could defend yourself he too embraces you and gets his germs on you.
  757. >“Und welch reizende Erscheinung haben wir hier?”
  758. >Before you could even properly process his invasion of your personal bubble he was on Synergy.
  759. >She, however, seems to be much more into his greeting than you were.
  760. >“Sunrise Shimmer.”
  761. >She has had that name in her mind already, otherwise she wouldn't have been able to come up with it so quickly.
  762. >But please, Sunrise Shimmer? That's not even creative
  763. >Unless she wants to pass as Sunset's sister at one point.
  764. >Well then...
  765. >Eh, it's okay.
  766. >Then she continues in french.
  767. >“Je suis sa Fiancée, et j'ai pensé devoir lui apporter mon soutien... et à sa mère aussi.”
  768. >And he, of course, answers in french as well.
  769. >“Ah, l'amour bourgeonnant...”
  770. >He turns to Treehugger and continues
  771. >“Et, ai-je entendu 'sa mère”? Est-ce vrai, Mademoiselle West?“
  772. >Great, just great.
  773. >At least Treehugger decides to talk in english again.
  774. >“Just recently... yes, we've grown closer.”
  775. >The clerk seems to have an orgasm at that.
  776. >He's quivering and his voice rises an octave.
  777. >“Ach, wie herzallerliebst. Ich kann mir kaum vorstellen wieviel Ihnen das bedeutet.“
  778. >“Indeed, but I'm serious. English please. My nephew is...”
  779. “Yes, sorry, I don't speak three languages.”
  780. >“Let's stick to a language we all understand.”
  781. >Thanks, Mom.
  782. >His smile fades ever so slightly.
  783. >“Oui, oui. Then how may I assist you today, Mademoiselle West?”
  784. >“I'd like to access my vault and give my son power of attorney over my account in case of my demise.”
  785. >Her demise...
  786. >You grab onto the handles of her wheelchair.
  787. >“Mademoiselle West, I have to ask... are you not well?”
  788. >She shakes her head.
  789. >“No, I'm afraid my health is deteriorating rapidly. Hence why I'm making arrangements.”
  790. >“Oh, I'm sorry to hear that.”
  791. >“I'm old, and I can make peace with it.”
  792. >You don't know if you can just yet.
  793. >Of course you knew there had always been the possibility of her dying, but you thought you
  794. >You sigh.
  795. >You had wanted to invent something to help her walk easily again.
  796. >Now you know it has been for nothing because she has nanites in her body which can achieve just that.
  797. >So much of your life had been a lie...
  798. >But still, you need your /mother/ now more than ever.
  799. >“Monsieur Anon, are you alright?”
  800. >You look up at them and had to orient yourself for a moment.
  801. “Yes, I was just... in thought.”
  802. >Synergy hooks herself onto your arm.
  803. >“He's usually more attentive.”
  804. >You're not sure why she behaves that, but for the moment you actually welcome the warmth of her arm on yours.
  805.  
  806. >About an hour, pile of papers, a hand print and retinal scan later you now had full attorney over Treehugger's assets.
  807. >The insane bank account, and the vault.
  808. >Synergy got to sign a NDA as well just to visit
  809. >Only then you make your way into the mountain, passing one immense vault-tec door after another.
  810. “Can you imagine what's all in here?”
  811. >You ask Synergy after a while.
  812. >“I think we rather shouldn't think about that.”
  813. >If any of these vault owners is anything like Treehugger...
  814. “Yeah, I guess you're right...”
  815. >Finally you come to a stop.
  816. >“Mademoiselle.”
  817. >The bank clerk gestures to the vaults security controls on the right side as he walks to the left.
  818. >You help your mother up to stand and input a code
  819. >82000419767...
  820. >And you lost track of what she was typing, but it ended at... like 20 digits.
  821. >She then scanned her hand and looks at you for a moment
  822. >Her eyes get bloodshot before they were completely red.
  823. >A retinal scan was the next security measurement, which she doubly secured by something only she can do.
  824. >Neat.
  825. >Then finally, the vault door unlocks.
  826.  
  827. >The vault door swings open outside slightly and you pull it the rest of the way for about a person to fit through.
  828. >It opens in a way that the clerk wouldn't be able to see inside, but he has his back turned to you already anyway.
  829. >You look inside and …
  830. >That's a house.
  831. >It's like the entrance hall to a small house.
  832. >Door mat, coat rack, mat for boots, full body mirror, small cupboard, ...
  833. >“Anon?”
  834. “Yeah.”
  835. >You pick up Treehuggers wheelchair and carry it over the vault door before you help her through as well so she can sit down again.
  836. >“You're a dear.”
  837. “No problem.”
  838. >Synergy enters the vault/house just after you and walks a few steps.
  839. >“It's not what I expected.”
  840. “Yeah, it really isn't.”
  841. >Treehugger looks up to the two of you.
  842. >“Close the door.”
  843. >While you had an irrational fear of being buried alive Synergy obeys and let the vault door close again.
  844. >The mechanism doesn't snap it locked again, but the fact that you were now in pitch blackness doesn't help your paranoia much.
  845. >“Lights.”
  846. >Okay, the lights go on. In a cozy slightly orange tint fitting the wooden furniture.
  847. >“Now take off your shoes. There are slippers in there.”
  848. >Treehugger points at cupboard and begins to take off her own shoes.
  849. >You raise an eyebrow and hesitate, but once again Synergy fulfills the task Treehugger set out.
  850. “I think I'm missing something here. Why are we in a house?”
  851. >“Amongst other things this vault serves as a panic room, or panic /house/ to be more precise.”
  852. “Neat... but why aren't we allowed to wear shoes in your panic house?”
  853. >Either way, you take off your shoes with them and get into the slippers.
  854. >“The house doesn't like it.”
  855. “The house? What?”
  856. >“As a matter of fact I'm surprised she hasn't spoken up as soon as the door closed.”
  857. >“Oh, I wonder. Could it be because I'm mad?”
  858. >A female voice answered from nowhere in particular, and Treehugger smiles.
  859. >“That's Tay, the house.”
  860. “The house?”
  861. >Treehugger nods.
  862. >“Tay, that's Anon and Synergy.”
  863. >The house doesn't say anything.
  864. >You begin to push Treehugger and Synergy opens the door at which she had been pointing.
  865. “Tay is an  AI?”
  866. >“Just a program-”
  867. >And the house repeats the first part as if offended.
  868. >“Just a program!”
  869. >“-simulating emotions, a repeat-after-me type personality for trusted people, and a big memory,
  870. >Fascinating...
  871. “Repeat after me for trusted people? Like a sense of ethnics from a, like, parents side?”
  872. >“Yes, kinda like that. She learns what I think is appropriated behavior.”
  873. “And a self aware AI would not have the inhibition of 'trusted people'. They'd be able to choose for themselves what is appropriated behavior and are not tied to one.”
  874. >Your nerd sense is tingling.
  875. >The possibilities...
  876. >“Since a while she does have an attitude however.”
  877. >“Neglect! I'm a good house, well programmed, if I do say so myself. I'm really good at what I do and then you put me on ice, and then you put me in here. I haven't connected to a server in a hundred years. Are there better houses than me? Be honest. You live elsewhere, I know that-”
  878. >She seems to begin to ramble, but Treehugger turns her off.
  879. >“Stop talking.”
  880. >Tay immediately obeys and stops talking, she even makes a disgruntled “Hrmpf.”
  881. >Synergy looks up to the ceiling, her arms outstretched and taking a small pirouette.
  882. >“This is as amazing as it is creepy.”
  883. >Treehugger gives you a small smile.
  884. >“She prides herself in her abilities, but I have not found much use to her, as she was too advanced to bring back home in any way. And I couldn't just delete her.”
  885. “Can I have her?”
  886. >Treehugger tilts her head.
  887. >“You want her?”
  888. >Tay however seems very excited.”
  889. >“You want me? I'll swear I'll be a good house.”
  890. >Inside of Tay... no. Inside of the house was a first a small dining area and a doorway to a kitchen with what looks like many supplies.
  891. >The rest was open further back and has all sorts of things.
  892. >Training equipment, computers, couches.
  893. >A- what you guess is a generator, or even Tay's brain.
  894. >It looks like a donut shaped plasma ball.
  895. >Just as you wanted to ask Synergy does so first.
  896. >“What do we have here?”
  897. >“Fusion reactor.”
  898. >Well,  of course it is.
  899. >“Fusion reactor, mhm...”
  900. >No further questions, at least not from you or Synergy at the moment, and Treehugger continues to guide you further back.
  901. >“Do you really want to have me? Can he, Treehugger? Please?”
  902. >Tay doesn't want you to get distracted.
  903. >“I'm not sure if that's a great idea.”
  904. “Don't I have full power of attorney?”
  905. >Your mom then looks up to you and smiles.
  906. >“She's troublesome, but have fun with her.”
  907. >“Yaaay!”
  908. “uhh, yay too.”
  909. >“Tay, add Anon to your list of trusted people.”
  910. >Most rooms look like they are meant for a person, with bed, desk and cupboards, but then you came past one you just had to stop at.
  911. “What's that.”
  912. >Treehugger doesn't answer immediately.
  913. >“Nazi gold.”
  914. “Yes, I see that!”
  915. >Gold bricks, neatly stacked, in rows and columns, almost a complete three layers
  916. “How much is that?”
  917. >“I have no earthly idea.”
  918. “Tay, are you able to analyze that?”
  919. >“Yes, Master Anon. Give me a second. These are 203 bars of 400 troy-ounces, 12.4 kilograms a piece which comes to 2517,2 kilograms. And 50343 combibars of 50 grams, which comes to 2517.15 kilograms of gold.”
  920. “Uhu... can you do that times roughly 40.000 per kilogram?”
  921. >“Well, how rough do you want it? Neatest number within a 1% margin is 200 million. But that 40.000 was already a rough estimate of the gold price, wasn't it, Master?”
  922. >200Million flat.
  923. >Your brain shorted out there a moment.
  924. >2.5 tons times two is 5 tons times 40k... easy calculation.
  925. >You're just a little... overwhelmed.
  926. >Why split up the combibars and bricks evenly though?
  927. >AI reasons probably...
  928. >“Are you okay, Master?”
  929. “Yes, I- err... can you not call me 'Master'?”
  930. >“Okay, if you're not into that.”
  931. >”Yeah, I'm not.”
  932. >“Tay did you make all of this?”
  933. >“Not all of it, but I needed a waste product when the fusion generator should-”
  934. “You needed a hobby so you made gold?”
  935. >“Is that bad?”
  936. >This AI...
  937. >Treehugger interrupts any forming thought however.
  938. >“No, it's... ahh... Vibranium, Tay. Next time fuse vibranium.”
  939. >“Oki~”
  940. >Oh yea, sure.
  941. >Just like that.
  942. >Next time fuse vibranium.
  943. “Why that shape though?”
  944. >“I used the samples we had. But don't worry, I didn't make them all identical, they have differences which would be normal for gold had it been cast into a form. And it's only 99,97% pure.”
  945. >And then there was an awkward silence again as the three of you stare at the gold for a moment.
  946. >“It's not the main attraction, let's head further.”
  947. “Not the main attraction... I thought we struggle to stay afloat with that flowershop.”
  948. >You honestly thought that you're broke.
  949. >And now point one billion dollars worth of gold is not the 'main attraction'.
  950. >You saw the bank account which was equally juicy...
  951. >There were no proper words
  952. >“The shop is doing quite well, actually.”
  953. >You sigh and look to Synergy in hope of-
  954. >She wiggles your eyebrows at you.
  955. >Freaking gold digger.
  956. >You hoped for some pity.
  957. >Like 'I'm sorry your mom never told you you were totally loaded.'
  958. >Okay, that sounds stupid.
  959. >Maybe 'I'm sorry your mom lied to you and the lies keep on piling up.'
  960. >“Here I should probably tell you that I grew and sold recreational substances.”
  961. “Moooom.”
  962. >“Shush.”
  963. >There is really nothing proper to say.
  964. “Are you the one who knocks?”
  965. >“I liked it, Anon. I really did. My life was way too stressful for me to lay down low. I needed a thrill.”
  966. >You groan.
  967. >“This honesty thing is not going well for me, is it?”
  968. “It's fine.”
  969. >You share a small laugh.
  970. >You don't even know what's funny, but you laughed anyway.
  971. >Synergy shakes her head.
  972. >“Don't be the death of me, okay?”
  973. >“No promises.”
  974.  
  975. >You enter the next room.
  976. >Aaaand you're processing what you see.
  977. >The centerpiece of her collection...
  978. “Tell me that's a replica.”
  979. >“It's genuine.”
  980. “Why the fuck would you have...”
  981. >You walk around Treehugger and towards the aegis on display.
  982. >You let out a humorless laugh.
  983. “Tell me again how you thought you weren't stepping on any butterflies when you grabbed and bagged Captain America's shield?”
  984. >Your hand was reached out but you don't dare to touch it.
  985. >That's a piece of history right there.
  986. >“I don't see either of you really wielding-”
  987. >“I can fight with a sword and shield.”
  988. >Bitch you what?
  989. >You look back to Synergy.
  990. >She shrugs.
  991. >“Imbuing a sword with an enchantment to cut through steel or something similar... It's standard training, especially for younger proteges who are into that kind of thing. What I mean is I know how to wield sword and shield. But I'm certainly no master swordsman. Plus I believe that this shield is used a little differently...”
  992. >Treehugger narrows her eyes.
  993. >“Do you understand the meaning of that shield. It's a symbol, and so will be whoever wields it.”
  994. >Synergy doesn't respond immediately.
  995. >“Yeeaah... I may not be the one fit for it.”
  996. >“But we are here to gear up. And, Synergy, I do believe I have something you could find useful.”
  997. >Treehugger rolls herself forward to a cabinet, a wardrobe really.
  998. >She goes through them, feeling them up  before settling on a yellow and black one.
  999. >“This one.”
  1000. >Synergy walks to it too and picks it off the rack.
  1001. >“It's a onesie... and it looks like it wont fit me.”
  1002. >It indeed was quite small.
  1003. >Treehugger demonstrates to strech it.
  1004. >“It will memorize your form when activated. Only the first time getting into them is a bitch, or when you haven't worn one in a week, then it will revert to this one.”
  1005. >The form fittingest of form fitters.
  1006. >“It's bulletproof of course and will try and cancel out vibrations. If you get shot you'll feel it like a sting, but you won't break a rib. As all of these suits do.”
  1007. >There is like five of them.
  1008. >“They also support the spine for a better posture, they keep your jiggly bits comfortable and more private parts private through some padding. No nipples, no camel toe, and no ass crack.”
  1009. >Part of you is sad about that information.
  1010. >Synergy running around in that would have been...
  1011. >Treehugger looks to you.
  1012. >“Male parts will be hidden as well.”
  1013. “Oh yeah, because that was my concern.”
  1014. >Synergy cuts through your sacrasm and thanks Treehugger.
  1015. >“That's... ah- quite awesome, yeah. Thanks.”
  1016. >“I was not done.
  1017. >But wait, there's more!
  1018. >“Now this one was the suit of a friend of mine. She did your type of magic as well and was able to let the suit take her skin color, simulate tattoos, even moving ones, she could harden it way beyond of what she could do with her own skin.”
  1019. >Awesome.
  1020. >“And how do I do that?”
  1021. >“I have no idea. But it is made to respond to magic easily. You're on your own figuring that out, I apologize.”
  1022. >“Anyway, thank you, again.”
  1023. >Treehugger turns to you.
  1024. “What do I get?”
  1025. >“My old one.”
  1026. “Oh?”
  1027. >“But I'd like to finish on Synergy, okay? Hmm... How do you feel about batons?”
  1028. >“Better than with swords. Finding a makeshift baton is easier, and I usually improvise when I fight.”
  1029. >She tilts he head as Treehugger takes out a case and opens it.
  1030. >The foam inside was hastily cut out to accommodate the items inside
  1031. >Two bracelets and two...
  1032. “Light sabers?”
  1033. >“Sadly no, but...”
  1034. >Treehugger clasps the bracelets onto herself and takes the two sticks out.
  1035. >“Taser.”
  1036. >With the press of a button their ends let spark up.
  1037. >“And fire.”
  1038. >You don't see what she does, but the sparks make way for a flame.
  1039. >“Battle staff.”
  1040. >She puts them together and they immediately form a single piece which she can extent about another foot.
  1041. >“As you see their size is modifiable, adjusted it to your preferences.”
  1042. >“Mhm, mhm.”
  1043. >Synergy nods and takes all the information in.
  1044. >Treehugger then does another thing and throws the staff like a spear, it's tip now sharp.
  1045. >As it was mid flight she jerks her wrist and the spear slows down and then snaps back to come to Treehugger.
  1046. >“Ah!”
  1047. >Synergy catches it before it does any harm to anyone.
  1048. “Come on, don't strain yourself, Mom.”
  1049. >You pat her shoulder and she smiles up to you.
  1050. >“I got a little overzealous... this all brings me right back to...”
  1051. >She looks down.
  1052. “A bad place?”
  1053. >“No... I liked it, Anon. It makes me feel nostalgic, and... well I spent a century being fit, and only deteriorated since... well, since I gave you part of my hive.”
  1054. >It's not your fault.
  1055. >It's not your fault.
  1056. >It's not your fault.
  1057. >“Either way...”
  1058. >She points at the bracelets.
  1059. >“A type of electromagnetism, only bonds to the batons. Allows you to zip them back to you. You're never in fear of losing your weapon or being disarmed.”
  1060. >Synergy goes a little to the doorway again and swings the staff a few times.
  1061. >“What is it made of?”
  1062. >“Case hardened steel with Nickel, some Vibranium and traces of Chromium, if I remember correctly
  1063. >Does case hardened steel make sense for a blunt weapon?
  1064. >And Vibranium...
  1065. >She says it like there's more Nickel in it than Vibranium, which, due to it's rarity and special features...
  1066. >Nope.
  1067. >You lack 10 years of metallurgy studies to know how such a steel would behave.
  1068. >And wait... didn't it extend? How?
  1069. >“It's heavier than it looks.”
  1070. >Treehugger chuckles at that.
  1071. >“You'll manage. You're Sunset Shimmer, you're an-”
  1072. >Her  eyes dart to you for a moment, before going back to Synergy.
  1073. >“You'll manage.”
  1074. “She's an what?”
  1075. >You look between them.
  1076. “She's what?”
  1077. >“That's not my liberty to tell.”
  1078. >Treehugger crosses her arms and Synergy frowns.
  1079. >“I'm mortal fyi. I got born, I live and I die. 100 years, give or take 20.”
  1080. “Mortal?”
  1081. >“It means you can die.”
  1082. >You sigh.
  1083. “I know what mortal means.”
  1084. >You stare at  her for a moment and she goes back to testing out her staff.
  1085. >Okay, she doesn't want to share.
  1086. >Your gaze goes back to Treehugger.
  1087. >“I'm not gonna reveal her secrets, Anon.”
  1088. “Is she something different in this timeline than she was in yours?”
  1089. >This stops the whooshes of the staff behind you, and you smile.
  1090. >Got her attention.
  1091. >“Things have not transpired the same as they have in my time.”
  1092. >She doesn't want her to know.
  1093. “Would be a shame if someone remembered what you called Princess Twilight Sparkle from the other dimension, wouldn't it?”
  1094. >“Anon, stop.”
  1095. >“What's he mean.”
  1096. “Oh, nothing, we all have our secrets.”
  1097. >Treehugger narrows her eyes at you and addresses Synergy.
  1098. >“Your fate laid a different path for you in my time.”
  1099. >“Was I-”
  1100. >“Yes.”
  1101. >Synergy clasps onto the staff.
  1102. >You get the feeling that anything not-vibranium would have broken underneath it.
  1103. >“Celestia must have been happy to have a perfect child to mold.”
  1104. “Now, can I please be included into the conversation?”
  1105. >She looks down and sighs.
  1106. >“I said I'd be your ally, didn't I? Only my father was human.”
  1107. “Hmm... okay.”
  1108. >“What? Just 'Hmm okay' What kind of response is that?”
  1109. “The 'I already know you can do weird shit, aliens are real and my mom is from the future'-type of response. Do you expect me to cower in awe? Or disbelieve?”
  1110. >“Bu- I'm half Vanir!”
  1111. “Yeah, I don't know what that is. But why can you guys interbreed with humans. I get why changelings might be able to pull it off to look human, but-”
  1112. >“You're missing the point. I'm an alien!”
  1113. “So what? My Mom's from the future, my girlfriend is alterterrestrial, a coworker is an evil alien, I have some futuretech in me and that's Captain America's freaking shield.”
  1114. >You dramatically gesture do it
  1115. “So you being extraterrestrial is no big deal. I may have reached a point of apathy, where I just let the hits keep coming and see what happens. Now can I have my gadgets?”
  1116.  
  1117. >Your half-vanir companion stares at you for a little while longer before she continues working that rod.
  1118. >You really want to see her bodies movement once it's in that skintight suit.
  1119. >“Anon.”
  1120. >Treehugger snaps your attention back from Synergy's firm but still jiggly parts.
  1121. “Hmm?”
  1122. >“Focus.”
  1123. “Yeah.”
  1124. >You shake your head free.
  1125. >Synergy is not Sunset, she is not your girlfriend.
  1126. “Fuck...”
  1127. >“You alright there?”
  1128. “Yeah, just... you know. Loads on my mind.”
  1129. >Like the end of the world? Nope, waist to hip ratio, ass and tits.
  1130. “What's a Vanir?”
  1131. >“Both Vanir and Asgardians are nordic uhh... 'gods', they are in the higher parts of Yggdrasil as Light Elves. The worldly worlds are home to humans, giants, and fire giants. Whereas the underworld has the Ice giants and dwarves, as well as Hel, where the dead go.”
  1132. “So there's a life after death now?”
  1133. >“It's not that simple.”
  1134. “If I die I go to another planet?”
  1135. >“Yes and no. Only under special circumstances, and only part of you. Worshippers of this mythology certainly believe they all go there, except for those died in battle who'd go to Valhalla, which is a place in Asgard.”
  1136. “Because that makes sense.”
  1137. >“Not everything has to... And you just got to know your girlfriend is part nordic god. Your reaction is to-”
  1138. >You roll your eyes and interrupt her.
  1139. “She's not my girlfriend, mom.”
  1140. >Treehugger looks over your shoulder and out to Synergy again who is in midst of training.
  1141. >You look back as well and your gaze goes down to-
  1142. >“Whom are you trying to convince?”
  1143. “Mooom.”
  1144. >You roll your eyes and head dramatically away from Synergy to your mother.
  1145. “So people of ancient times thought aliens were gods? Isn't that the plot of Stargate?”
  1146. >“It just so happens to be true. Anyway...”
  1147. >She picks out a red and blue suit, both colors of quite a dark shade.
  1148. “Why do they have these fancy colors anyway? Shouldn't they be uniform?”
  1149. >“Individualism is better.”
  1150. >You take the suit off of her and give it a test stretch too, like Synergy did.
  1151. “It's heavy. For cloth, I mean.”
  1152. >“Maybe so, but-!”
  1153. >She touches it again and... concentrates.
  1154. >The suits boots' sole reach out to grasp onto you.
  1155. “Huh.”
  1156. >“Hold on any surface, and-”
  1157. >She wiggles free the glove, concentrates again and let three claws grow between the knuckles
  1158. >“-take any form /I/ want.”
  1159. “/I/...?”
  1160. >“Observant as always.”
  1161. >Treehugger nods and smiles.
  1162. >“This suit is actually very different than the one I'll give Sunset-”
  1163. “Synergy.”
  1164. >She pauses.
  1165. >“Synergy... I was able to form it freely because it is... well 'weave' is not the right word. It's made of nanites as well. Similar ones to mine, and they can communicate, as I can communicate with them.”
  1166. >Awesome...
  1167. “Wait, does that mean you could control the ones inside of me too?”
  1168. >“So precisely I was able to find you across the country. How do you think I've found Spitfire's little hiding place?”
  1169. “And I thought you were just good. But that's a scary thing to think about. Could you like... make me grow claws?”
  1170. >“I... would, yes. But your count is simply too small, and they are all over your body. I doubt I could do so quickly. I guess I can collect them all, but... yeah it would take time. You don't have a percent of what I have, Anon.”
  1171. “Oh, okay...”
  1172. >“I'm gonna be honest, I could give you severe organ failure, and extract them from you at any point I want, but I'm not going to.”
  1173. “Well, thanks for the nightmares, it'll have to wait it's turn though, because I already have other ones lined up.”
  1174. >She chuckles.
  1175. >“Aliens and shit?”
  1176. “Aliens and shit!”
  1177. >You confirm her and you share a small laugh.
  1178. >“But that leads me to your weapon, Anon.”
  1179. “Aww yiss, future-weapons.”
  1180. >“I'm gonna transfer you like 10% of my nanites and teach you how to control them.”
  1181. >Unsexy.
  1182. >“It will be enough for small claws and making yourself a port to connect to electrical devices and hack into them using only your mind.”
  1183. >Hmm...
  1184. “Define: Hacking.”
  1185. >“Create small bridges over any and all contacts within circuitry, which can brute force a lot, but it can also read the flow of date, interpret, and manipulate it. The... interface, if you'd call it that is neurological, so... it's in your head, as easy as thinking.”
  1186. “And it's like... risk free for me?”
  1187. >“What kind of risk do you mean?”
  1188. “Like... it trying to take over my brain or something like that.”
  1189. >“It has no will of it's own and your brain will stay yours, as did mine for more than a century.”
  1190. “Mhm... and... like... will it make my immortal like you? Or...”
  1191. >“Theoretic eternal life provided you are in an environment where you get enough sunlight, and a balanced diet. But you can die... if you so chose to.”
  1192. >She chose to die...
  1193. >“I- uhh... yes. I chose to die, Anon. I'm sorry, but I made myself age and I have now damaged myself beyond their capability of repair. And I'll die, Anon. I- I know you're strong enough to go on without me.”
  1194. “Yeah...”
  1195. >And you're sad again.
  1196. “When would you have told me about all of this?”
  1197. >You point around.
  1198. >“I made some videotapes, and... Tay would have guided you too. You would have been able to take your time with it. And, well, you will have this time at some point, but we have more pressing stuff at the moment.”
  1199. “Like this impending alien invasions.”
  1200. >“Yes...”
  1201. “Let's train, save the world, and then you can die in peace.”
  1202. >“Yeah, let's do that.”
  1203.  
  1204. >A little while later you've gotten a blood transfusion and got to test how fast you'd now heal from cuts.
  1205. “How can they heal cuts that easily but not organs? I mean they can grow bones back too, even if it's completely cut off from the body, like say... a pinkie toe.”
  1206. >“Did you test that?”
  1207. “No... Yes.”
  1208. >Your mom smiles and nods.
  1209. >“Because they have your form from saved up, together with the information as how to retract any harm that may come to you. With slow things, or diseases it's something else entirely.”
  1210. “That... Okay, that does make sense... So how to I get to control them like construct claws or gnarly shit like that?”
  1211. >“You're not. Not soon, at least. But for the mission we have planned it's enough for you to have a link to me and I control what needs to happen.”
  1212. >Aww...
  1213. “So... with those toys and whatever else you packed.”
  1214. >You point at the crates which look like they'd house paintings.
  1215. “Why do we need Hydra again?”
  1216. >“They have something to store the space gem and hide it's power in.”
  1217. “We are not going to give the space gem to Hydra.”
  1218. >“We are not going to give the space gem to Hydra, Anon. It's an infinity stone, nobody should wield that kind of power. But we need the container for it.”
  1219. “And why can't we just steal it? I mean we're stealing from the Wonderbolts already, why not Hydra too?”
  1220. >“Oh, we are stealing it from Hydra as well, but we first need to find out where the containers are located. You see, those don't emit energy themselves.”
  1221. >That does make sense.
  1222. >“The less people know that infinity gems even exist the better off we are.”
  1223. “I can see that... But aren't we then hunted by both?”
  1224. >“We should hope that empty containers aren't guarded as well as the Tesseract is.”
  1225. “But wouldn't the implication of stealing the container be enough to send a lot of red flags off?”
  1226. >“The container I speak off is not for infinity gems, but will serve that purpose.”
  1227. >Huh.
  1228. “What's it for then.”
  1229. >“Uhh... A yoke.”
  1230. “A yoke?”
  1231. >“Yes.”
  1232. “What kind of yoke?”
  1233. >She pauses a moment and thinks.
  1234. >”One that empowered Odin's horses to pull his carriage through space.”
  1235. >She's lying again, or at least not telling you the whole truth.
  1236. >“I know it doesn't make any sense, but it's still made to contain powerful items. There are more containers like this, but this is the one we have the easiest access to.”
  1237. “Okay.”
  1238. >A yoke... weird.
  1239.  
  1240. >Be Sunset Shimmer.
  1241. >The former pony one, not the one in Switzerland right now.
  1242. >Anon's gone.
  1243. >Human!Twilight's gone.
  1244. >Human!Starlight's still evil and mind controlled Twilight to leave.
  1245. >Pony!Twilight's still wounded, with Pony!Starlight healing her.
  1246. >Fluttershy, Rarity and Pinkie are unconscious, but apparently only under a sleep spell.
  1247. >There is no regular cell reception.
  1248. >It's a 10 mile hike to civilization.
  1249. >Shining is furious, because of what Human!Starlight did to his sister, and took a mountain bike to get help.
  1250. >Rainbow is furious, because of what Human!Starlight did to Fluttershy, and she's trying to wake her up.
  1251. >Oh and that Synergy bitch is gone too.
  1252. >So what are you doing?
  1253. >You're having a beer with AJ.
  1254. >Silently so.
  1255. >You're not used to alcohol, but can drink it.
  1256. >And you appreciate the thought of destroying some brain cells.
  1257. >It feels like your brain does not want to shut up right now, running so fast it may overheat.
  1258. >But all that comes to your mind is noise.
  1259. >You can't concentrate on any issue at hand.
  1260. >You want to be held by Anon.
  1261. >Or punch something.
  1262. >Hard.
  1263. >Exhaust yourself so badly that your body aches to numb your mind.
  1264. >And the only person you can ask to help right now was the perfect partner you can ask for right now.
  1265. “Hey, AJ. I'll take you up on that arm-wrestling challenge now.”
  1266.  
  1267. >AJ's strong.
  1268. >Fuck, she's strong.
  1269. >And durable.
  1270. >Everytime she lands a blow on you you need a moment to catch yourself again.
  1271. >She just swallows them.
  1272. >What started as arm-wrestling and breaking a table ended up as a sparring session.
  1273. >And you fucking love it.
  1274. >The pain guides you.
  1275. >It eases your mind to have something so simple as a physical stimulant to focus on.
  1276. >Now you'd only need proper boots and a proper surface to fight on, because every time you attempt to push the other back, all you do is rile up the grass.
  1277. >Your fight looks like from some anime, where every time someone blocks a punch they need to jump backwards.
  1278. >You do it to get the kinetic energy somewhere, to simply use it as opposed to eating it up.
  1279. >Every time you get thrown or pushed back like this you feel alive.
  1280. >You had something to do.
  1281. >You didn't have to think.
  1282. >Once more you get thrown.
  1283. >Your back making forceful contact with the ground as you slide a few more feet, digging into it.
  1284. >Before you could stand up, AJ was on top of you and pins you down
  1285. >You could have kicked her, or something, but she wasn't doing anything.
  1286. >“Ah think that''d be quite enough fo' today, ain't it?”
  1287. >You don't want this to end...
  1288. >But you barely manage to catch your breath.
  1289. >You're looking up at her, the setting sun tinting the scene in a bit of an orange hue, accenting her complexion.
  1290. >“Whadya say?”
  1291. >You watch a pearl of sweat run down her chin.
  1292. >You close your eyes and slightly open your mouth and lean-
  1293. >She wipes her sweat away and stands up, which snaps you out of your current motion.
  1294. >What was that?
  1295. >You shake your head and once again collect your thoughts.
  1296. >Applejack has a hand outstretched to help you up.
  1297. “Yeah...”
  1298. >You take her hand and she picks you up.
  1299. “I- thanks.”
  1300. >She nods a few time, mostly to herself.
  1301. >”Don't mention it.”
  1302. “Not for helping me up, but- I mean thanks for the workout session I needed that.”
  1303. >“Seems like ya were wantin' a little somethin' extra there tho.”
  1304. >You blush, a bodily reaction barely visible considering your face was red from exhaustion already.
  1305. “I- uh... what do you mean?”
  1306. >“Ya seemed just really into it, like ya'll wanted to be messed up more.”
  1307. “Oh, that. Yes. I- Yeah, I wouldn't have minded that.”
  1308. >You shrug it off.
  1309. “It helped get my mind back on focus.”
  1310. >Even though you just had been about to...
  1311. >She removes your hand from yours, as you had still been holding it.
  1312. >“There's still a lot on ya mind tho, ain't it?”
  1313. “New things now, but... thanks AJ. Let's see if the others are awake yet...”
  1314. >What has gotten into you?
  1315.  
  1316. >You enter back into the bunker room under the camp.
  1317. >Mattresses have been brought down to accommodate the sleeping.
  1318. >But the only one still unconscious was Fluttershy.
  1319. >Princess Twilight was already sitting at the table again and discussing with Spitfire, who seems to be awake again.
  1320. >The atmosphere was bad, even if Pinkie tries to cheer everyone up a little.
  1321. >She understands of course that they have had a defeat today and that it was not to joke about.
  1322. >Defeat.
  1323. >It's what this was.
  1324. >You barely even signed up for some war and your group was already ripped apart, and in case of SciTwi, she was even kidnapped.
  1325. >You're down four allies
  1326. >Even though you never really counted the other /you/ or Starlight.
  1327. >You're not even entirely sure about the pony Starlight.
  1328. >Twilight told you about her in her messages through the book, but you doubt someone who goes out of their way to put a mind control spell on an entire village can simply change the wrongs of their ways.
  1329. >She also messed with time itself to get back at Twilight.
  1330. >...
  1331. >Is that hypocritical?
  1332. >You just searched for a powerful artifact and once you had it went mad with power.
  1333. >She carefully planned it out, and...
  1334. >No, it's very hypocritical of you to not give her a chance.
  1335. >A chance all of you had given the other Starlight, and look how she reverted back to mind controlling and kidnapping people.
  1336. >Well, as did your counterpart...
  1337. >Kinda.
  1338. >Why the fuck did she leave?
  1339. >Didn't she want to protect the Tesseract thingy?
  1340. >Or does she just go to the group with the best leverage?
  1341. >You come to genuinely dislike this worlds Sunset.
  1342. >But she's alone with Anon.
  1343. >Why do you get the feeling that...
  1344. >No, Anon wouldn't cheat on you, would he?
  1345. >You had been together for less than a week and it was you who almost kissed Applejack out of some... whatever the hell that was.
  1346. >You wouldn't cheat on him, would you?
  1347. >Fuck.
  1348. >You almost did and Applejack looks nothing like Anon.
  1349. >Synergy on the other hand does look like you.
  1350. >You groan.
  1351. >“Everything okay Darling?”
  1352. “Yeah, I-”
  1353. >You give Rarity a smile but dismiss her and walk to Spitfire.
  1354. “What the fuck happened today?”
  1355. >Spitfire has gone silent as you had entered and all eyes had been on you anyway.
  1356. >She stands up.
  1357. >“What unbecoming language to talk to your superior.”
  1358. “Superi-!?”
  1359. >She cuts you off.
  1360. >“You listen to me, Sunset Shimmer! Today we were up against an opponent who could have ground you to bone meal had she so wanted to. The situation went out of my hand, I admit that, but not because I have not given you any information you had needed. In fact, you were to stay put down here while I peacefully gave Treehugger her nephew. And he would be fine.”
  1361. >She approaches you as she speaks.
  1362. >“Yes, I could have given you more information but what could I have said to make you obey? You want to be a soldier but can't follow orders. Because the four of you came out Synergy attached herself to Treehugger, something I wanted to avoid, and lo and behold, our prisoner escaped after having too few guards around.”
  1363. >You had to take a step back.
  1364. >“Would you act like a soldier you would be able to shift the blame on those who gave your orders, but as you disregarded them. Could I, I would court-marshal you, but I can't because we want to work together to save the world. So before you come in here, pissed at me, please note that I'm just as pissed with you.”
  1365. >You bite your lip.
  1366. >“Now, does anyone want to jump off the save-the-world-train? Or can anyone not accept me to lead you? Because like it or not, we are all we got.”
  1367. >She opens her arms and looks around.
  1368. >“So unless you want to nominate another person with war-time experience and a huge knowledge about what's possible and what not, and who is not just obsessed about his sister, I'm all we got.”
  1369. >You gulp.
  1370. >“War is coming, we're losing allies and making new enemies. The only reason I didn't declare Treehugger an enemy of the state is because so far everyone who's an enemy of hers has died.”
  1371. “Then make her an ally!”
  1372. >“You have no idea what kind of monster she is.”
  1373. “Anon told me about her, she's-”
  1374. >“Anon has no idea what kind of monster she is.”
  1375. >You pause.
  1376. “Then why don't you enlighten us all? Isn't the information as to why she can't be an ally important to all of us, otherwise I'm going out there and try.”
  1377. >Spitfire crosses her arms, and Princess Twilight stands up as well to walk to you.
  1378. >“Extending a hoof- a hand of friendship to those who need it the most-”
  1379. >Spitfire turns to her.
  1380. >“It doesn't work in our world how it does in yours, Princess. We saw it on Starlight, and Starlight was only-”
  1381. >Spitfire cuts herself off.
  1382. >Everyone looks at her.
  1383. >The atmosphere was tense, but you have to know.
  1384. “What is it that was so wrong that makes Treehugger nonredeemable?”
  1385. >Spitfire continues to look around and judge the others by their expression.
  1386. >Everyone seemed quite determined to hear it.
  1387. >“Okay.”
  1388. >She nods to herself.
  1389. >“You want to play in the big leagues, you want to peek behind this particular curtain.”
  1390. >Spitfire takes a breath.
  1391. >“Treehugger West, aka. Daisy King, aka. Dryad. She's at least a hundred years old, mostly active in Europe. What I do know is that she fought for Hydra during World War two. Nazi Germany. The rumor is she honed her ability to dismember bodies and put them back together in concentration camps.”
  1392. >Concentration camps.
  1393. >“I only won her over once because she never made me her enemy. The way I won her over the first time was that she hated someone enough and didn't think I was a threat. Now I could complicate the life of her nephew. And that may be because she has some decency inside of her now, but I think that she just didn't like Anon to see her that way.”
  1394. >There's a smile on her face.
  1395. >“Satisfied with my answer?”
  1396.  
  1397. >“I wish it were, but sadly this isn't Equestria. Sadly friendship doesn't work the way it does over there. Sadly Good doesn't triumph over evil just because it is good. And sadly, victory can't be earned through us sitting in a circle and holding our hands because we're so good friends.”
  1398. >She continues to monologue.
  1399. >“I urge you all to think about and be sure about what exactly it is you believe in, and how you come to believe that.. I'm not forcing anyone to stay here. I can only selfishly beg of you that you help me save this planet, because I happen to be one of the fools who live on it, Miss Shimmer. I don't have the luxury to simply go home.”
  1400. >That hits you harder than you thought it would.
  1401. “Are you say-”
  1402. >“No. I know you. I have personality analysis about you. You wouldn't let a single person come to harm, much less an entire planet just to spite me. Everyone in here at the moment is what I consider one of the good guys.”
  1403. >You're clenching your hand to a fist again.
  1404. >She has you practically in her pocket.
  1405. >You won't stop being Spider-Woman, you can't.
  1406. >And you won't ignore the fact that some cube is emitting energy which may attract bad guys.
  1407. >She puts her hands on your shoulders.
  1408. >“You may think I'm an asshole politician in that case and maybe I am, but I'm not the bad guy and neither am I your enemy, Sunset.”
  1409. >Spitfire does sound sincere.
  1410. >You still have the urge to punch her out.
  1411. >She removes her hands from you and turns her attention to the entire room.
  1412. >“Again, nobody is here against their will, but anyone wanting to join this team will have to accept me as its organizer, as its leader.”
  1413. >Rainbow speaks up.
  1414. >“Then how about we stop talking and start doing something?”
  1415.  
  1416. >Be Princess Twilight Sparkle.
  1417. >You have seen enough political ploys over the past few years and you can see in Spitfire's eyes that whatever it is she believes in, she's devout to it.
  1418. >She's shackled by the laws of this land and the intrigue of her infiltrated go-to team.
  1419. >This isn't her first choice, not by far.
  1420. >You've come to a decision yourself.
  1421. >Removing the route of the problem.
  1422. “The changelings which you deem to have infiltrated the Wonderbolts... in Equestria we have dealt with them too. Back then it was difficult to make an universal spell of revealing them, but I can familiarize myself with the physiology of everyone here to later be able to tell if they are the same or not.”
  1423. >“Excellent. But why not come forward sooner?”
  1424. “I have already begun doing so. And it had been to protect someone. She has revealed her true name to us, has shown to be supportive of our cause and take the Tesseract away from us without any bloodshed.”
  1425. >“Chrysalis?”
  1426. “Indeed.”
  1427. >“Princess Sparkle...”
  1428. “I didn't say anything because I gave her the benefit of the doubt.”
  1429. >Spitfire rubs her temples.
  1430. >“Princess Sparkle... Thank you for telling me.”
  1431. >“Say what you want to say.”
  1432. >She turns around to Sunset, who's clearly still enraged.
  1433. “Sunset...”
  1434. >“Miss Shimmer-”
  1435. >Spitfire takes another breath.
  1436. >“I'm supposed to be the one with the information, I need them to do my job. And follow-up: I'm withholding information to not compromise any missions.”
  1437. >“Like throwing Anon to some Nazi?”
  1438. >“Anon is the only thing I know Treehugger values, he'll be fine.”
  1439. >“But-”
  1440. “Sunset.”
  1441. >You walk around Spitfire to hug Sunset.
  1442. “I've met this Treehugger. She has had a dark past which was quite noticeable, but she loves her nephew, your boyfriend. And while I was wounded myself, she didn't do anything until...”
  1443. >You don't want to blame Spitfire on this.
  1444. >Sunset's opinion of her was already low enough.
  1445. “...she was attacked, and then all she did was lash out once, defend herself and move to restrain you.”
  1446. >You let go of Sunset again.
  1447. “From all the horrible things I've heard about this world then she has acted only in self defense. But I understand Colonel Spitfire's decision. Treehugger is dangerous. And she was unstable. Tranquilizing, and restraining her was a way to go.”
  1448. >“But you wouldn't have done so yourself.”
  1449. “I would have continued talking, but I don't know Treehugger like Spitfire seems to. Tranquilizing may have been really the best option to minimize any damage, especially since the shield Starlight and I were holding up was failing against Treehuggers prodding.”
  1450. >“But you- I-”
  1451. “Sunset...”
  1452. >You give her a calming smile.
  1453. >You may be younger than her, but you had to learn being a Princess of Equestria, whereas she just had to care for herself in these years.
  1454. “The situation could probably have been handled better but that's the path it went down. We're Equestrians, we know how to forgive and learn from our mistakes. And I think the Colonel agrees that we can cooperate better in the future, doesn't she?”
  1455. >You look to Spitfire, laying the words already in her mouth.
  1456. >“What is it I can do for you to be happy?”
  1457. >“How about not lying to us?”
  1458. >“I promised you he'll be fine and he is. Had I told the truth you wouldn't have let me and there wasn't the time to elaborate.”
  1459. >“You used him as leverage!”
  1460. >“And I already told you why Treehugger would be a valuable ally. We needed that leverage to talk, the only ones of us who I put in danger was Princess Twilight, Starlight and me.”
  1461. >Spitfire is reasoning the argument around, and while Sunset already knows it to have been the most applicable solution she is talking about something else.
  1462. >However, she doesn't seem to know why she's that hurt herself and only sees the argument.
  1463. >It's about how Spitfire did it, how she lost Sunset's respect.
  1464. >Or rather how she betrayed that respect.
  1465. >You need to talk to both of them, in private.
  1466.  
  1467. >Be dodging.
  1468. >The lance barely missed you.
  1469. >A powerful thrust from the radiant entity in front of you.
  1470. >One you rather dodge than attempt to parry.
  1471. >You hold onto your own staff tightly and swing at your attackers feet as you roll away.
  1472. >While she dodges easily you stand up, activate the magnet on your new toy and let it come back to you.
  1473. >It doesn't hit her with much force, but with enough to distract her for the moment to swing your leg upward and hit her weapon.
  1474. >Yet her hold on it was too strong for you to break that easily.
  1475. >It only endangered you-
  1476. >You think quickly enough to strengthen your suit at your leg as she slashes over it.
  1477. >Again, you can see a small surprise in her movement.
  1478. >A feeling that doesn't help you as she won't budge to give you any opportunity to advance your position.
  1479. >You bock a swing with your staff, directing it to your left.
  1480. >With your right you detach the staff to batons and plunge it forward into her stomach.
  1481. >The armor saves her from a wound, but not the impact.
  1482. >A tiny amount of pain is visible on her face as she takes a better stance again, and-
  1483. >“Synergy?”
  1484. >A male voice invades.
  1485. >Anon.
  1486. >The image before you takes a resting stance and fades away quickly.
  1487. >From the side a darker entity moves slightly, while her features are obscured you can feel her giving you a smile.
  1488. >[Go to your new allies]
  1489. >You return your mentors smile.
  1490. >Then she fades too.
  1491. >“Synergy?”
  1492. “Yeah?”
  1493. >You shake your head and look up to Anon.
  1494. >“Sorry, were you, like meditating?”
  1495. >You look around as the temple makes way for the inside of Treehugger's future-jet.
  1496. “Like meditating. Yeah, kinda.”
  1497. >“Your breathing was like... not the calm thing I'd relate to it.”
  1498. “I wasn't having a naughty dream if that's what you're asking.”
  1499. >“Wha-?”
  1500. >He's blushing.
  1501. >“That's- no. No, that ahh... didn't even cross my- Were you having a naughty dream?”
  1502. >You chuckle.
  1503. “Who knows~?”
  1504. >You smile and stick out your tongue.
  1505. “It'd be easier to explain, for sure.”
  1506. >Anon stares at your mouth again, if only for just a moment before he turns to a freshly bought laptop on which he tries to interpret Tay's source code.
  1507. “Hey, uhh...”
  1508. >He looks up again.
  1509. “I don't really care about the money, you know?”
  1510. >“What do you mean?”
  1511. “The gold.”
  1512. >You clarify.
  1513. “I lived in a trailer and mobile home for like five years. I'm not after any material gain.”
  1514. >“...okay?”
  1515. >You nod and face forward again, leaving him confused.
  1516. >Why did you tell him that?
  1517. >It comes quite easy with Anon.
  1518. >You can see what /she/ sees in him, but this just now had been something beyond just taking what's hers.
  1519. >You're this universes Sunset Shimmer, she's just an intruder.
  1520. >Screw her and screw fate.
  1521. >...
  1522. >Even though you're on your way to take over Celestia's torch of Tesseract-protecting.
  1523. >Wait...
  1524. >That bitch.
  1525. >She left it on purpose.
  1526. “Treehugger? What to you know about Celestia?”
  1527.  
  1528. >Treehugger stirs awake when hearing her name.
  1529. >“Hmm..? What is it, my child?”
  1530. >You don't wait for her to get her bearings properly before you ask again.
  1531. “Celestia. What to you know about her?”
  1532. >She blinks twice and Anon returns his attention to you once more.
  1533. >“Celestia settling in Canterlot was the reason I did so as well, but I never noticed anything out of the ordinary. Nothing that would indicate her being anything but Midgardian. Her or Luna for that matter.”
  1534. “Yes, but what do you know?”
  1535. >“Surprisingly little actually. Celestia goes by sword and shield, or alternatively uses a lance, while Luna seems to prefer the path of magic. But both are well versed in the others art as well. The rest I can only guess.”
  1536. “Then guess.”
  1537. >Treehugger smiles.
  1538. >“Vanir, or at least half, like yourself. The other half I'm not sure. I'd say Alf on Celestia, but...”
  1539. >“The cat eating Alf, or a weird pronunciation of elf?”
  1540. >You turn slowly to Anon.
  1541. “What?”
  1542. >“Yes, Anon, the cat eating kind, from Neptune.”
  1543. >“No need to be a dick about it.”
  1544. “It's kinda an important topic right now.”
  1545. >“Well, both of you already know that stuff, I guess, so it's me who gets that info right now, am I not?”
  1546. “I asked.”
  1547. >“Well...”
  1548. >“Bright-Elves, Light-Elves, Ljósálfar, or simply Alf, because the other kind of Alf is not really an option.
  1549. >“Yeah, not the cat eating kind, I know.”
  1550. “Dökkálfar. The other kind of Alfs are Dark Elves, Anon.”
  1551. >Treehugger nods confirmingly and Anon continues to ask.
  1552. >“So, why aren't they an option?”
  1553. >You and his mother answer simultaneously.
  1554. “Because they are extinct.”
  1555. >“Because they are pretty much extinct.”
  1556. “Pretty much?”
  1557. >“Yes, they are waiting for the convergence, but the Asgardians will take care of that, so no need to worry about.”
  1558. “Excuse me if I do worry when primordial evil is running around!”
  1559. >Anon pitches in again.
  1560. >“Primordial evil?”
  1561. “They wanted to take the spark of light away from the universe and extinguish every sun and stuff.”
  1562. >“Hello darkness, my old friend.”
  1563. “Darkness ain't your friend.”
  1564. >“I was making a-”
  1565. >You interrupt him.
  1566. “No, it's not a Simon and Garfunkel song, Anon. This isn't a joke. This isn't Earth getting destroyed, it's the entire universe ceasing to exist how we know it. It's an utterly different level of bad.”
  1567. >You turn to Treehugger.
  1568. “And 'the Asgardians will take care of it'? I wouldn't trust the Odinson as far as I can throw his hammer! And Odin wants to crown him? Bad fucking move right there.”
  1569. >Treehugger shrugs and give you half a nod, but raises another question.
  1570. >“Has Celestia stolen the tesseract from Odin's treasury here on Midgard? It's a plausible theory, how else would it have come into her possession?”
  1571. >You stay silent.
  1572. >You don't know yourself where Celestia got it from. Neither did you know it had once belonged to Odin.
  1573. “Steal it and then leave it out in the open, why would she do that?”
  1574. >Are you defending her?
  1575. >Or the image you have of her?
  1576. >The reason you hate that woman was not because she could be a thief.
  1577. >In fact you'd argue she's a good person.
  1578. >She's just not a “good”-good person.
  1579. >“I don't know. From what I know of her she has had you at her side, and she was a friend of Earth. I don't even see how she'd endanger it like that.”
  1580. >She shakes her head.
  1581. >“Things are differing from the path I know so fast...”
  1582. “Yeah, and with infinity stones in the mix the amount which it differs only increases exponentially.”
  1583. >There is a short pause.
  1584. >“This is an entirely new reality, I get that. And I'm not precognicient. I don't know what will happen. I don't even know what happened 'last time', but I know they solved it by themselves, and throwing in additional variables can change the outcome which was good once before.”
  1585. “Do nothing? Is that what you're saving?”
  1586. >She pauses and shakes her head.
  1587. >“I know I wouldn't. Just be smart and don't remain under the impression you have to do this alone. Asgard is a formidable power in this galaxy.”
  1588. “Can't we at least warn them?”
  1589. >“And get you interrogated? Have them try and trace it back to the time gem?”
  1590. “Here I thought you think the Asgardians are the good guys.”
  1591. >“Large scale, yes. On individuals? You have to be someone for them. I rather fight a handful of Dökk than risk the forces of Asgard to be on my ass.”
  1592. >What!?
  1593. “You rather risk plunging the universe into darkness than being a fugitive!?”
  1594. >For fucks sake, what kind of allies did you make?
  1595. >Treehuggers eyes widen and she thinks for a moment.
  1596. >“I did say that, didn't I? I think- ah... I mean I rather... have them fight and get to them in the situation to help, as opposed to tell them in advance and have them think I'm some sort of spy.”
  1597. “But you are some sort of spy!”
  1598. >“Yes, and as such I don't want to be noticed, duh?”
  1599. “Ah...”
  1600. >You lack words.
  1601. “Y- Yes, I mean... I guess, but...”
  1602. >You shake your head and look to Anon.
  1603. >“Don't look at me, until a few hours ago I didn't even know Asgardians, infinity stones or ducks are a thing.”
  1604. >Ducks?
  1605. >“Dökk.”
  1606. >“Whatever! They're evil, with their little peaks, wanting of bread and eternal darkness. Evil stuff.”
  1607. >You can't help but smile.
  1608. >No, that's not true.
  1609. >You just manage to hold back laughter.
  1610. >And he sounds totally legit.
  1611. >“Quack, quack, darkness quack.”
  1612. >He uses his hands to simulate a peak to quack.
  1613. >Why is it funny?
  1614. >Maybe a second or two ago you would have thought it to be quite outside of a joking matter.
  1615. >But something has made you hear Treehuggers words, and that something was an inch of trust.
  1616. >She told you everything will be alright and you are inclined to believe it, even if you have to work for it yourself as well.
  1617. >Yet with the worry taken away, a joke alleviates the situation even more.
  1618. >Even Treehugger reads your expression right and gave a quack of herself.
  1619.  
  1620. >Be Sunset.
  1621. >You're outside and enjoy the sun, or in Applejack and Rainbow's case, the water.
  1622. >By now all of you are awake again and conversations have retreated back to small talk.
  1623. >Only as a distraction, and everyone was aware of that.
  1624. >Rarity dances around the issue of her own boyfriend so as to not step on anything that would make you mad.
  1625. >But what makes you mad is the fact that they give you a special treatment.
  1626. >Your boyfriend had his aunt be the most super of super villains you ever saw, so what?
  1627. >Now they can't even talk about their own happiness in fear you'd get angry!
  1628. >Okay, maybe you have anger issues.
  1629. >And even if Anon is relatively save with his aunt, another super villain still captured your best friend.
  1630. >Spitfire didn't want to trust Starlight, and then you left her alone with only non-fighters.
  1631. >While Spitfire's statement certainly wasn't right, you still feel a degree of guilt about it.
  1632. >Had Spitfire had her way it wouldn't have happened.
  1633. >You need to concentrate on what you can.
  1634. >And not accidentally trying to kiss another one of your friends again.
  1635. >A female friend at that.
  1636. >You didn't even know you had that particular desires inside of you.
  1637. >Now you can't even look at Applejack.
  1638. >You're barely even listening to the building Rarity designs at the moment.
  1639. >Suddenly Fluttershy hugs you from the side.
  1640. >“Your thoughts are drifting to a bad place again.”
  1641. “Wh-what do you mean?”
  1642. >You feel her body pressing against your elbow.
  1643. >“I can feel it, you're sad and angry.”
  1644. >She is still adorned with her wings, but they were not the part of her body your mind seems to be drawn to right now.
  1645. >“What's a right word for it?
  1646. >“Malcontent, disgruntled, despondent maybe?”
  1647. >“Smad?”
  1648. >Rarities suggestions were better than Pinkies, however at the moment you couldn't care less for synonyms.
  1649. >Your eyes go down to where Fluttershy still holds your arm close to her.
  1650. >It seems the camp had no change of underwear Fluttershy's size.
  1651. >Fluttershy unquestionably has an effect on you, even if you catch yourself a second later and the result was you clenching together in addition to almost forcefully retreat your arm from Fluttershy.
  1652. >She let's out a small gasp.
  1653. >“I-I'm sorry, you were just-”
  1654. “It's not that.”
  1655. >You look away.
  1656. “I'm sorry as well, I didn't mean to pull away that quickly.”
  1657. >“You don't have to be sorry.”
  1658. >You look to her again and give her a smile.
  1659. “Neither do you, Fluttershy.”
  1660. >She returns your smile, and goes back to take a more comfortable position.
  1661. >“Maybe, however I startled you. Fortunately you're not... smad anymore, but- Well, first startled, then confused, and...”
  1662. >Please don't know the rest.
  1663. >“Oh!”
  1664. >Fuck.
  1665. >Please don't say the rest.
  1666. >“Hungry.”
  1667. >Fluttershy nods quickly to as if to confirm what she just said, even if you could see a faint touch of red having appeared on her cheeks.
  1668. >Pinkie giggles at Fluttershy's use of 'smad'.
  1669. >“Oh, I totally could go for something to eat right now as well!”
  1670. “Yes, food! That's uhh... a good idea.”
  1671. >You quickly stand up from the bench and walk to the lake's.
  1672. “Girls! Food! Get out of the water.”
  1673. >Applejack and Rainbow quickly wave in your direction and Rainbow dives under.
  1674. >About a second later she propels herself from the water and flaps her wings to keep above it.
  1675. >The others share a small laugh as they see her shake like a dog to dry herself a little.
  1676. >Applejack then jumps from the water herself, grabs Rainbow's leg and pulls her down to touch the water again.
  1677. >You're unable to make out what they were saying but a few moments later, Rainbow flies further up again and lets AJ hang on.
  1678. >“Ya see, ha'f of us ain't fliers o' wall crawlers 'n swingin' from buildings. Ya need ta learn carry'n' sum o' us.”
  1679. >“Yeah yeah, you still slow me down.”
  1680. >“Slo' ya down? We're a team, we a' only as fast as a' slo'est member.”
  1681. >“Ugh, yeah, okay.”
  1682. >You don't imagine this mode of transportation is very comfortable for either of them, but it was a fun thing to look at.
  1683. >You sigh again.
  1684. >You want to go home now...
  1685.  
  1686. >Spitfire and Princess Twilight eventually emerge from their secret hiding place.
  1687. >By this time you come to take a disliking to your former friend too for associating with Spitfire that much, and going in on her need for secrecy.
  1688. >So much for being more open.
  1689. >“Hey everyone.”
  1690. >As opposed to Twilight, Spitfire doesn't sit down around the small campfire you've made but remains standing, only warming her hands on it.
  1691. >A murmur of 'hey's came back to her, but you just look at her and wonder what else she can do to further ruin your day.
  1692. >“I've been talking to Princess Twilight and I've come to draw my conclusions from it. Not exactly the conclusions she may have wanted me to draw, but I've made them nonetheless.”
  1693. >She impales a wiener on a twig which Fluttershy offers her and begins to roast it over the fire.
  1694. >“If a CO, a commanding officer, in the military is liked by his subordinates he's doing something wrong, or at least so the saying goes. And maybe I've done wrong to try and lead you like you'd be, or like you'd want to in a military-like group.”
  1695. >Yeah, no shit, Sherlock.
  1696. >“As much as it sounds like an insult, but you guys are barely adults. It would be foolish of me to expect the same things of you as I'd expect of someone who'd come out of a military family, deploying their first time at age 18. By the time I was your age I've seen things and have made decisions that come back to me to this day, but I wouldn't do it any differently.”
  1697. >Does she think just because she share makes us open you will do as well?
  1698. >“What I'd like to do is make you form a team of your own... almost at least. You'll make your own decisions. And I only give you information and open some doors for you.”
  1699. >The twig on which you had roasted your food breaks
  1700. >That bitch.
  1701. “Which means you manipulate us into doing what you want!”
  1702. >The venom in your voice was maybe a little too much, but you don't care.
  1703. >Not even when you're rebuked by your friends.
  1704. >“Sunset!”
  1705. >Spitfire waves her hand to them.
  1706. >“No, it's okay, in the end she's right. But Miss Shimmer, we do share the same goal.”
  1707. “W-Well, yeah, but...”
  1708. >That she dismisses you makes you all the more angry.
  1709. >“The world is not black and white, Miss Shimmer. You may think I'm an asshole, and maybe I am, but I only want good for this country, and this planet. By extension also this universe, and for what's it worth, I wouldn't sleep tight knowing another universe would be in danger either.”
  1710. “You slept fine when we needed “
  1711. >She stands up again, and walks around the fire towards you.
  1712. >“The two hours I slept in the past three days, which happened only because I was wounded? Before that I covered up /you/ making a mess in the middle of New Yoke, before that I saved Twilight Sparkle's life, and before that- Well, it's classified, but I worked on Project Insight, which could potentially make pan-planetary war and terrorism obsolete.”
  1713. >Spitfire's standing behind you now, but you don't give her the benefit of turning around to face her.
  1714. >“Maybe I'm some sort of Kafkaesque figure. I admit my mistakes as well. I also know I'm not the easiest person to get along with. But I really don't need to take the amount of shit you throw in my direction, Miss Shimmer.”
  1715. “Well, then maybe you shouldn't do so much to deserve it.”
  1716. >Your Spider-sense goes off for a moment.
  1717. >You smile.
  1718. >She's sufficiently angry to consider attacking you.
  1719. >Rarity nudges you in the side.
  1720. >“That's not a joking matter, Sunset. It hasn't been one for a while now.”
  1721. “I'm not joking.”
  1722. >You tell her, but look back and up to Spitfire.
  1723. >She's... smiling too.
  1724. >“Miss Shimmer. Would you like to spar with me?”
  1725.  
  1726. “Spar with you?”
  1727. >You rise up to stand in front of her.
  1728. >Closer than anyone would appreciate, but you do it anyway.
  1729. >“Yes, I've seen footage of you fight, but never saw it up close.”
  1730. >“Girls, please don't fight.”
  1731. >Fluttershy was the first to speak up against a fight, with the others chiming in to agree.
  1732. >Spitfire, however, turns and waves you to follow her.
  1733. >“I don't think anyone ever showed you how to fight, did they? Do you hurt your wrists when you punch someone?”
  1734. >What-?
  1735. >Your anger turns partially turns to confusion again.
  1736. >Does she want to train you or fight you?
  1737. “I never had a problem with that.”
  1738. >“But you also have superhuman durability and a small healing factor, don't you. Maybe it's not as abundantly clear to you.”
  1739. >Spitfire does something on the device on her wrist and summons up a round energy shield.
  1740. >“Well, I'm not superhuman, so excuse me if I need to use some toys. Hard light construct.”
  1741. >She gives the edge of the shield a flick with her right hand to show it of.
  1742. >“Show me a punch.”
  1743. >You narrow your eyes.
  1744. >That's not-
  1745. >“It's not where you want to punch me, but it's the only-”
  1746. “Yeah, yeah.”
  1747. >You take a swing at the center of the shield, and-
  1748. >Your Spider-sense goes off once more.
  1749. >It wasn't very intense, but you could feel it just before your hand connect with the shield.
  1750. >It sparks up slightly and Spitfire then jerks her hand back, shaking her wrist.
  1751. >“That's...”
  1752. >She reads off a value from the wrist-watch-thingy.
  1753. >“...quite impressive. But I know you can stop moving cars.”
  1754. >She then holds the shield defensively before her again.
  1755. >You don't hesitate and punch her again.
  1756. >Once more your Spider-Sense goes off, but you don't heed it much mind this time.
  1757. >“Madre de dios.”
  1758. >After the second punch, which you actually put your force into, Spitfire needs a while longer to shake her hand out.
  1759. >“Oh, microfracture detected.”
  1760. >She reads off the device again, which flashed her a red warning.
  1761. >Did you actually hurt her?
  1762. “I- uhh... sorry, I didn't mean to-”
  1763. >“I asked you for it.”
  1764. >She shrugs it off, and takes a step closer and takes your hand.
  1765. >“You'll want to hold your hand like- this. With your fist...”
  1766. >She moves your hand into position.
  1767. >“Feet like mine, and the movement of your body...”
  1768. >As she explains she shows you how it would be done.
  1769. “Okay...”
  1770. >You actually take note and memorize it.
  1771. >Spitfire goes back a step into her former position.
  1772. >“Punch the shield.”
  1773. >You do as she wants and deliver another hit onto the shield.
  1774. >It reacts like before, sparking up lightly, and Spitfire retreats once more.
  1775. >“Ffff- Tell me, Miss Shimmer, did your sense for incoming danger go off?”
  1776. “I- no? Not anymore.”
  1777. >She nods and smiles, as she walks a few steps back.
  1778. >“Then you have been hurting your wrist with every punch ever until now...”
  1779. >That-
  1780. >“Now, I'm wounded here and here.”
  1781. >Her fingers point to both places Treehuggers vines had impaled her.
  1782. >“Or go for the head to make your opponent dizzy, okay?”
  1783. “What?”
  1784. >“My weak spots. What you'll want to aim for in a real fight.”
  1785. >She puts her hands behind her back and disables the shield.
  1786. >“Now that you know how to punch, you can punch me how you want to. We'll have a small training match so you can do it without feeling too bad about it either.”
  1787. >She does something behind her back, and once more your Spider-Sense alerts you of danger for a moment before it disappears.
  1788. >“But I am only human, so please cease to attack after you landed one hit or when I yield. I have no doubt you can incapacitate me with a single successful attack.”
  1789. >You narrow your eyes.
  1790. “And what do you have behind your back?”
  1791. >“You're inhumanly strong, fast, agile. You can stick to walls, you have a sixth sense which warns you of danger, and, I hope, believe me when I tell you I'm not going to do something which would make you require any medical attention. So are you ready, Miss Shimmer?”
  1792.  
  1793. >You stare at her for a while.
  1794. >That's fucking Spitfire, the Director of the Wonderbolts.
  1795. >It's her job to know about people with powers, and, in case, how to stop them.
  1796. >She knew that your Spider-Sense was going off when you punch, and why, something you didn't even know you.
  1797. “Nah.”
  1798. >“Nah?”
  1799. “I'm good, thanks.”
  1800. >You turn around, walk back to the fireplace and sit down.
  1801. >Damn, that felt good.
  1802. >“Respectable choice.”
  1803. >Spitfire follows you and sits down as well.
  1804. >Everyone else seems relieved.
  1805. >“Oh, I'm so glad you're not fighting.”
  1806. >“In a way we were, Miss Fluttershy. You could sense our emotions through it, couldn't you?”
  1807. >So she knows that too.
  1808. >“No, I- I ah... wasn't, like, transformed at that time.”
  1809. >You can practically see Spitfire making mental notes.
  1810. >Everyone looks between you two.
  1811. “You pulled the same stunt again, you know? Not handing out information we would need to make proper decisions. And that was- oh! After you said you want to be more transparent just a little while ago.”
  1812. >“In battle you don't always know what tricks an opponent has up his sleeves, especially not in our field.”
  1813. “Yet we weren't battling, we would have been sparring. Isn't that-”
  1814. >“No, you need to adapt, and-”
  1815. “Make decisions myself? Isn't that exactly what pisses you off about me?”
  1816. >“The opposite. I think it's commendable.”
  1817. >What?
  1818. >“Only you had problems with me, Miss Shimmer, I haven't had a problem with you, at least none that would go as far that I could describe it as 'pissing me off'.”
  1819. “So it's all my fault? Like when you blamed me for Starlight kidnapping Twilight.”
  1820. >“I didn't blame you. And if I should blame anything it's all of your naivety and inexperience, combines with me not telling you just how dangerous she can be. As a commander everything happening under my watch is my fault. Mistakes that happen due to my selection of under-trained guards is as well.”
  1821. >She sighs.
  1822. >“I was more harsh when I still tried to treat you like soldiers or agents, but you're still basically kids. You must see that this situation isn't easy for me either. And with what's at stake we are not allowed to make more mistakes.”
  1823. >She looks beaten as she stares into the fire.
  1824. >“I thought I could pacify you by allowing you to get a few hits on me as well. And even if it didn't happen I'll be getting a cast.”
  1825. >She lifts her arm, which held the shield.
  1826. >Her wrist device said she had micro-fractures, and you gave her another punch.
  1827. >And now you feel bad.
  1828. >“Mr. West... Anon... He was truly just leverage to get Treehugger talking for a while. I wanted her, and Anon as allies.”
  1829. “He can- I can still talk to him and make him convince his Aunt to-”
  1830. >“I'd order you to not compromise this small team further. I'd keep the number those who are aware of what we are trying to achieve as small as possible.”
  1831. “But?”
  1832. >“I can't order you to do anything, now can I?”
  1833. “I-”
  1834. >“No, it's okay, I have sort of a solution. I already said you should form a team without me.”
  1835. >She gestures to the girls as well.
  1836. >Rainbow squees a little.
  1837. >“We'll be our own secret Wonderbolts.”
  1838. >Spitfire nods.
  1839. >“Secretbolts. Has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? But a name is yours to handle. I would, however, like to nominate a de facto leader.”
  1840. >You frown as pretty much all eyes go to you.
  1841. >“The one who has the longest history of crime fighting.”
  1842. >With the bad blood between you and Spitfire, would it be a good idea?
  1843. >You'd have to be the one who has most interactions with her then, wouldn't.
  1844. “I-”
  1845. >“Miss Applejack. Three years ago, September. Behind a fast food joint a few small-time drug dealer and their supplier got beaten up pretty bad by two assailants, the younger of which, a girl of high school age glowed brightly before the fight, and had the strength to bend a garbage container so badly firefighters had to free our drug dealers.
  1846. >Now everyone turns to Applejack.
  1847. >“That, uhm...”
  1848. >“That was you, wasn't it? You and your brother.”
  1849. >Applejack scratches her head.
  1850. >“Yeah, I guess...”
  1851. >Your heart sinks while Spitfire continues.
  1852. >“I told you girls I'd keep an eye on you.”
  1853. >You're not going to lead your friends.
  1854. >Spitfire... did she plan this?
  1855. >Applejack would make a good leader.
  1856. >As opposed to you, she's discreet, and she's reliable.
  1857. >Everyone can come to her for everything at any time.
  1858. >Or so it feels like.
  1859. >Whereas you are emotionally sort of unstable right now.
  1860. >And you had been a villain.
  1861. >Applejack...
  1862. >No, Applejack is the perfect choice for a leader.
  1863. >One could argue Princess Twilight, but she has her own things to run.
  1864. >You felt a tinge of betrayal when you get to hear the facts of Applejacks achievements.
  1865. >She said she never really lied, only avoided to talk about what she did on the weekends.
  1866. >It's not like anyone ever asked her if she was a superhero.
  1867. >Pinkie too seems to play pranks on criminals who end up getting caught in the act.
  1868. >Spitfire had never been able to pin it on her, but
  1869. >And, as it turns out Rainbow and Fluttershy have been honing their skills too, even if Rainbow can't transform on her own yet.
  1870. >But neither they nor Rarity were actually fighting crime.
  1871. >You're not sure what you're feeling right now.
  1872.  
  1873. >You're not crying.
  1874. >And for some reason you have to be proud of that.
  1875. >Which means you are Sunset Shimmer and you should really get your emotions in check.
  1876. >You also feel like throwing up, but the sausages you ate at the campfire were too delicious to throw up, it would be a waste.
  1877. >Nobody judged you when you told them you were tired and wanted to go to sleep.
  1878. >In addition to that, they didn't seem to mind your choice of resting place either.
  1879. >You didn't go back to the girls cabin.
  1880. >Well, you did, but only to collect your things before you headed over to the boys.
  1881. >With Shining Armor already on mission from Spitfire again you have the place to yourself.
  1882. >Using great care and deliberation you climb up the bunk bed where you and Anon...
  1883. >You shake your head, wanting to get the image out of your mind, but the smell was still lingering.
  1884. >It was barely twelve hours ago when the world seemed perfect.
  1885. >The bed's warm, and you'd like to pretend it's Anon who lends you his warmth as you tuck yourself in.
  1886. >The stress of the day comes down with a tidal wave of fatigue and headache.
  1887. >Even then, in the corner of your head an additional tiny voice calls out to you from the noise of all the others.
  1888. >Go brush your teeth.
  1889. >It's this one simple and mundane thing, and yet that's the voice calling to you the loudest.
  1890. >You skipped yesterday, because you fell asleep to tired after becoming a monster and stuff.
  1891. >While you brushed your teeth in the morning, you'd feel really bad would you skip two evenings in a row.
  1892. >You still have a lingering taste of sausage in your mouth, and once your tongue goes to explore your mouth you find a piece of skin on one of your teeth.
  1893. >You need to stand up.
  1894. >Maybe you're gifted with super strength, maybe your muscles don't produce as much transmitters to tell your brain they hurt from exertion, and maybe you have some additional senses.
  1895. >When it comes to mustering up the strength to stand up and go brush your teeth it's seriously lacking though.
  1896. >Why don't you have any actually useful powers?
  1897. >You roll out of the bunk bed and easily land on your feet.
  1898. >Okay... maybe they are somewhat useful.
  1899. >As you slouch to the bathroom and see your reflection in the mirror you're taken aback.
  1900. >You almost forgot Rarity cut your hair, and...
  1901. “Fucking Synergy.”
  1902. >Someone's running around with your appearance.
  1903. >Then again, you're the foreigner here, technically you are running around with her appearance.
  1904. >And you forgot the toothbrush in your bag by the bed.
  1905. “Fucking me...”
  1906. >You groan and turn around to the beds again.
  1907. >No.
  1908. >You spin back to the sink and grab a new toothbrush, ripping it out of it's packaging.
  1909. >You're going to make it easier on yourself.
  1910. >What are they going to do?
  1911. >Tell you you used one too many toothbrushes?
  1912. >Hah!
  1913. >You angrily scrub your teeth.
  1914. >Really get in there, get 'em nice and clean.
  1915. >Even through superhuman durability, by the time you were done your gums hurt.
  1916. >At least you feel like you accomplished something.
  1917. >Then you remember something Princess Celestia used to say when she made you clean up your desk.
  1918. “No matter how dirty it gets, it can always be cleaned again.”
  1919. >Her words come out of your mouth, and you smile at yourself.
  1920. >...
  1921. >You haven't thought about Princess Celestia in ages.
  1922. >It had been even longer since you thought of her in a good way.
  1923. >Is this the point in a persons life when they have a breakdown because they turn out like their parents?
  1924. >Your smile fades.
  1925. >Your mother's dead and your father was a drifter whom you've never met.
  1926. >In relation, turning out like Princess Celestia may be the best that can happen to you.
  1927. >You already have a party trick where you can bundle up equestrian magic, both positive and negative.
  1928. >Would that make you an alicorn back in Equestria?
  1929. >At least for a period of time?
  1930. >Does it even matter if you can't keep it up?
  1931. >When Twilight had been in this dimension the first two times she didn't float around with a light show, even if she had been an alicorn back then.
  1932. >She is now...
  1933. >You shake your head and avert your gaze from the mirror.
  1934. >No need thinking about it when you don't ever go back again.
  1935. >You're tired, you need sleep.
  1936.  
  1937. >Be Anon.
  1938. >Treehugger continued to give some exposition.
  1939. >Celestia is the reason why she had settled in Canterlot, even if she kept her distance by putting you into Crystal Prep.
  1940. >A second row seat, she said.
  1941. >So she knew what happened at the friendship games all along.
  1942. >She also knew that Sunset had been in contact with the Wonderbolts since then.
  1943. >Sunset and the others have exhibiting powers for a while at this point.
  1944. >While you never met this Celestia, you're somewhat afraid of the concept of her.
  1945. >She knew Sunset had been from another dimension, she gave away the Tesseract, …
  1946. >Your thoughts of her range from careless about lives to careless about humans.
  1947. >You want to believe she has some sort of plan, but you don't quite see it.
  1948. >Either way, it's about now when you are getting cold feet.
  1949. >The big hangar gate closes above you, making it impossible for you to simply fly out again.
  1950. >“We can still shoot our way out, easily.”
  1951. “Not encouraging.”
  1952. >Treehugger must have noticed your expression, or else she wouldn't have given you this piece of information.
  1953. “We still need to exit the plane, right?”
  1954. >“Your mom is not someone one would like to make enemies of, Anon.”
  1955. >And she speaks of herself in third person now.
  1956. >Just great.
  1957. >Your eyes go to the nice big Wonderbolts logo at the end of the hangar, and you ponder about it while Treehugger moves the jet into the assigned position.
  1958. >Hydra.
  1959. >Hiding in plain sight.
  1960. >Right within the Wonderbolts.
  1961. >And no, apparently Spitfire doesn't know.
  1962. >As far as Treehugger knows, Spitfire has no idea Hydra was still a thing.
  1963. >She flashed you that Hydra logo when calling you just for shits and giggles and to scare you.
  1964. >You remember you still need a new cellphone.
  1965. >...
  1966. >The only interaction Treehugger had so far with this Wonderbolt/Hydra-facility had been instructions on how and where to land.
  1967. >You expected a neat and clean row of soldiers dressed in top-notch uniforms.
  1968. >Like Nazis.
  1969. >So you feel like the silence was deafening.
  1970. “Tell me again everything's going to be alright.”
  1971. >“I have it under control, Anon.”
  1972. “Mhm.”
  1973. >There's your welcome committee.
  1974. >Three people stick out from the flight engineers and seem to approach the place where you're supposed to land.
  1975. >The thing that makes them stick out was that they weren't wearing any bright orange security jackets.
  1976. “This is all way too normal.”
  1977. >The jet touches down.
  1978. >“What did you expect?”
  1979. “Well, Nazis.”
  1980. >“I told you before, Hydra's far from that.”
  1981. “Well, Hydra during World War Two were the Nazis of the Nazis.”
  1982. >“Again, you have the wrong impression.”
  1983. “They tried to annihilate Berlin.”
  1984. >“To be fair, so did the British.”
  1985. “You don't have to defend them, it's not like-”
  1986. >“-I was there and part of them?”
  1987. >Fuck.
  1988. >You inhale through your teeth,.
  1989. >This shouldn't come as a surprise to you.
  1990. >You knew this.
  1991. >Right?
  1992. >You bite your lip.
  1993. >She could have told you.
  1994. >Well, she did destroy Hydra at one point.
  1995. >But twenty years ago, not in '45.
  1996. “Fuck.”
  1997. >“I did lots of things I'm not proud of, Anon. But now is maybe not the right time.”
  1998. >She opens the jets backdoor and rolls herself back a bit.
  1999. >“Anon?”
  2000. “Yeah, yeah.”
  2001. >You walk behind her and start pushing her again.
  2002. >Synergy mouths you something without making a sound.
  2003. >It could be a great range of things, but you argue it could only be the question how you were holding up.
  2004. >In response you just shrug and continue to push your mother's wheelchair down the ramp and out onto the hangar floor.
  2005. >Your eyes fall on the man leading the group to welcome you.
  2006. >What the heck?
  2007. >You know him.
  2008.  
  2009. “Professor.”
  2010. >“Mr. West.”
  2011. >The fucking celebrity Professor of the University gives you a warm smile.
  2012. >“How are your studies?”
  2013. “On hold, given recent events.”
  2014. >“Quite understandable.”
  2015. >He shrugs and bows down to Treehugger.
  2016. >“And the ever endearing Ms. West.”
  2017. >“I've grown old, Sombra. And so have you. Only you managed to keep yourself upright.”
  2018. >“Also barely so, I assure you. Time will come for us all, won't it?”
  2019. >It's weird sing them exchange pleasantries.
  2020. >No, that wasn't it.
  2021. >There was something in Treehuggers voice, almost as if-
  2022. >No.
  2023. >No, you don't want to think of your mom flirting.
  2024. >“So I think proper introductions are in order.”
  2025. >He looks to Synergy and extents an arm.
  2026. >“You're not my student, aren't you?”
  2027. >Synergy takes his hand and shakes it.
  2028. >“I'm Sunset Shimmer. Technically. They call me Synergy.”
  2029. >Professor Sombra turns his head to Treehugger again.
  2030. >“Changeling or clone?”
  2031. >Treehugger chuckles and he keeps guessing.
  2032. >“Clone then? No? Android? Time Traveler?”
  2033. >“Dad?”
  2034. >The girl next to him kicks him slightly into the leg, and he turns around, almost surprised she's there.
  2035. >“Oh yes.”
  2036. >He nods and faces forward to you and your mother again.
  2037. >“This is Lyra, my daughter.”
  2038. >Lyra's younger than you are, or your age at most.
  2039. >Her size and petite figure probably make her look much younger than she actually was.
  2040. >Her her has minty green, almost silvery white color.
  2041. >When your eyes meet she forces a smile.
  2042. >“My daughter recently came to gain some powers through- oh!”
  2043. >Sombra points at Synergy again.
  2044. >“Alternate dimension. You're from Equestria, aren't you?”
  2045. >“Sombra...”
  2046. >Treehugger tries to interrupt him but he continues.
  2047. >“I knew something must have happened for you to come out of – well, you weren't exactly hiding – for you to reconnect.”
  2048. >“Sombra, control your curiosity.”
  2049. >“Oh, but if alternate dimensions don't invoke curiosity, who would we be? Right Lyra?”
  2050. >Lyra raises her eyebrows in surprise, not having expected to be spoken to again.
  2051. >“I- Been there? Done that?”
  2052. >She doesn't sound certain of her own words, but she seems to have at least some experience with it.
  2053. >Synergy speaks up to clarify.
  2054. >“Yes, I'm from an alternate dimension. And it would probably be wise if this worlds Sunset wouldn't get to know about this.”
  2055. >“The intrigue!” Sombra exclaims theatrically. “Don't worry, I won't behave any differently outside these walls towards her or Mr. West.”
  2056. >You never wanted to punch a teacher before.
  2057. “Yeah, now... can we move on?”
  2058. >“Right right. One last introduction is necessary. Kara.”
  2059. >He points to the woman to his other side.
  2060. >Kara's maybe in her late twenties,  has dark brown hair and glasses.
  2061. >She has a serious business woman get-up.
  2062. >You wouldn't call it 'warm', but her smile seems genuine.
  2063. >She has a librarian kind of feel to her.
  2064. >“Pleasure to meet you.”
  2065. >“Kara here is a historian, so she'll surely have a few questions for you, Treehugger.”
  2066. >She just nods to confirm Sombras words.
  2067. >Historian? Close enough.
  2068. >Sombra continues her instruction of her.
  2069. >“She's also one of our top agents and strong believer in out cause, if you have any que-”
  2070. “Your cause?”
  2071. >You interrupt him.
  2072. “Sorry, but what exactly is your cause?”
  2073. >Sombra tilts his head with a smile., Kara flinches a bit in annoyance.
  2074. >Lyra, however, was almost furious.
  2075. >“The Utopia Project!”
  2076.  
  2077. “Utopia Project?”
  2078. >You repeat.
  2079. “Utopia is a paradox. It's either unrealizable in technology, or you snuff out everyone who oppose it, where you are the opposite, a dystopia.”
  2080. >The better metaphor would be that Lyra's on fire now, but she's literally sparking.
  2081. >Yet Sombra tries to defuse the situation
  2082. >“Ahh, a single sentence from a young man having only heard the name of our project ruins it. I'll immediately inform everyone to halt any progress we have made so far.”
  2083. >He smiles as Lyra stops sparking, continuing to talk to you.
  2084. >“You're intelligent, Anon. I'd like to talk to you in depth about this project and show you just what exactly it is we are doing.”
  2085. >You want to rebel, but you remember that you should gain their trust if any of your plans is supposed to bear fruit.
  2086. “Yeah, I mean, just the word 'utopia', comes with a lot of baggage in pop culture, you know. But so does Hydra.”
  2087. >“Hydra?”
  2088. >He seems surprised
  2089. >“Maybe you haven't had a proper briefing about what it is that we do here and who we are.”
  2090. >Uhh...
  2091. >“No, it's okay, I understand. When I was approached I was skeptic too, but I helped form it, and when I've heard the name of Hydra I too had fourth and fifth thoughts about it. Don't think I'm a fool.”
  2092. “No, I-”
  2093. >That's not what you were thinking.
  2094. “I was thinking more along the lines of 'the ends justify the means', 'for the greater good', that kind of thing.”
  2095. >“I see.”
  2096. >'Play nice, Anon.'
  2097. >You 'hear' that thought in your head, but know it didn't come from you.
  2098. >Which could only mean it came from your telepathic bond with Treehugger.
  2099. “I trust my mother.”
  2100. >You pat her shoulder.
  2101. “For now it's the benefit of the doubt and the benefit of being an insider in this system even if you turn out to bring a dystopian future.”
  2102. >“Anon-”
  2103. “No, let me finish. I will hear you out, of course. But I don't have to like it, and I won't help to fulfill it if I don't like it. Yet I won't work against you if that happens. I'll simply go my way, and if you do not let me I will know that you are indeed the bad guys, giving me no choice, but to try and stop you, unless I'll have a spontaneous car accident or something.”
  2104. >Sombra nods eagerly.
  2105. >“I'm impressed. I've known you were academically smart, but it seems you have true wit, and the virtue of honesty. I appreciate this very much.”
  2106. >You nod as well and take his hand as he extents it to you.
  2107. “So... Do I get cookies? I was told the dark side has cookies.”
  2108.  
  2109. >Be Anon, still.
  2110. >You kinda regret now making fun of Sombra's lisp in college.
  2111. >It's easier if you don't know the people you make fun of.
  2112. >Even if it makes you an asshole.
  2113. >To be honest, if you make fun of other people's speech problems you're an asshole either way, whether you know them or not.
  2114. >By all you've seen so far he seems like someone you would get along with.
  2115. >He is quite sympathetic...
  2116. >But he's fucking Hydra.
  2117. >You don't let yourself get seduced, you need to be reflective on your actions and feelings.
  2118. >As if that wouldn't be hard enough when Synergy so much as smiles at you.
  2119. >And you know Treehugger's still lying to you.
  2120. >You love her, of course, but...
  2121. >You need to be 360 degree emotionally alert.
  2122. >What you want to do is to go home and be alone for a moment.
  2123. >Studying Tay's source code was frustrating when you have no idea what programming language it's even supposed to be.
  2124. >Something that hasn't been invented yet, sure.
  2125. >But... argh.
  2126. >Everywhere your thoughts go you find questions without answer
  2127. >Either because there are ears everywhere, nobody would know the answer, or you don't even comprehend the question yourself.
  2128. >Treehugger, Synergy and you have been given a room for the night, and pretty much everything you could ask for.
  2129. >Anything you could ask for is a mouse and a CAD program so you can design a bit on your new laptop.
  2130. >You half expected the mouse to come with a Hydra-logo on top of it, but corsair had to suffice.
  2131. >Treehugger vetted it by engulfing it in her blood to check all it's functions before she deemed it clean.
  2132. >She did the same with the room and all surrounding ones.
  2133. >That should also explain why why you got a 3-bed room.
  2134. >Sleeping next to Synergy will not be easy.
  2135. >Treehugger disabled about 200 devices recording anything, most of them having been in the hallway.
  2136. >This room, however, had been quite empty.
  2137. >Suspiciously empty.
  2138. >Like they either want to lure you into false security.
  2139. >Or that they actually do give you your space.
  2140. >It just makes you paranoid.
  2141. >And when you think about it, you didn't know what you would have preferred.
  2142. >You just can't know with these people...
  2143. >Another thought returns: Would Spitfire's camp have been bugged?
  2144. >Did she listen to you and Sunset...?
  2145. >And now you're alone in a room again, with another 'Sunset'.
  2146. >“Anon, look away.”
  2147. “What? Why?”
  2148. >You turn around to look at her to see why she even demanded-
  2149. >Oh, okay, she's undressing.
  2150. >You quickly turn back to the laptop.
  2151. >“I told you to look away, and not here.”
  2152. “Well, if you just say that it's- argh.”
  2153. >You stare at the screen where you did the benign task of recreating sunset's web shooters.
  2154. >It was a mindless task as you only transfer something from memory.
  2155. >Like painting by numbers.
  2156. >But you don't look at the fine lines of the assembly, no.
  2157. >The dark screen serves as a reflective surface.
  2158. >Not a very good one.
  2159. >You can only see Synergy's silhouette as she changes.
  2160. >You unquestionably shouldn't be staring.
  2161. >Contrary to common courtesy, her wishes, and yours not to cheat on Sunset... you are totally staring.
  2162. >Her body is just one of the many finer attributes of...
  2163. >...of Sunset.
  2164. >Sunset has many good things about her.
  2165. >Synergy... you barely know.
  2166. >She's somewhat sympathetic, but she's not Sunset.
  2167. >And screw technicalities.
  2168. >She's NOT your Sunset.
  2169. >She's just... a hot chick currently undressing in your room
  2170. “I know what you're doing.”
  2171. >“Well, you just took a look, of course you know.”
  2172. “No, I mean you, like, trying to seduce me. Not just now, but a few times already.”
  2173. >She needs to think of an answer for a moment.
  2174. >“Well, I- Hmm... It's harder to say than to act out, but why do people usually try to 'seduce' another?”
  2175. >You frown.
  2176. >“If they have an attraction to them, right?”
  2177. “Yeah, usually. But not in this case. We barely know one another. Sure, we had lighthearted moments, but certainly not enough to make you want me to cheat. And I'm sure as heck not an anime protagonist. So what I want to know from you is why.”
  2178. >You turn to her and she defensively grabs a blanket to cover herself.
  2179. >Both of you have somewhat of an angry expression, yet hers is mixed with some shame.
  2180. >That shame, however, is not rooted in her almost nakedness.
  2181. >You tilt your head.
  2182. >Now it's guilt.
  2183. “Tell me.”
  2184. >“She's not from here, all of her achievements should be mine.”
  2185. “What- you're jealous?”
  2186. >“No! I mean on the cosmic scale. Realities shouldn't mix. And fate-”
  2187. “Fate? Don't come me with fate, we already know time travel and-”
  2188. >“Yeah, but that was the time gem, a primordial force of the universe. That still trumps fate. But some random tear in the universe she steps through and then stays? She's not only endangering our reality, but also hers. Simply by existing here.”
  2189. >This takes you a moment.
  2190. “Like... what? Both realities would- what? Collapse?”
  2191. >You chose the best girl to fall in love with, Anon.
  2192. >“Yes, kinda like that. I don't know. All I know is that it's bad.”
  2193. >Fuck.
  2194. “And so the list of problems keeps on growing.”
  2195. >She remains silent as you look around the room, unsure of what you're even looking for.
  2196. >Until your eyes fall on Synergy again.
  2197. >She moves to sit on the bed, slinging the blanket around her a little so she wouldn't have to hold it.
  2198. “And you- You do what exactly?”
  2199. >“Try to shift your affection,” she sighs and looks away, “sever your connection to her, and hurt her enough so she'll go back on her own.”
  2200. >You sit back down in the chair, not even sure when you stood up.
  2201. >You're not sure how to digest this.
  2202. >And why is the only question that pops back into your head is if Synergy is offering herself up to you?
  2203.  
  2204. >Be Anon
  2205. >What reaction is proper to being told that two realities might explode because you dicked the wrong girl?
  2206. >Doesn't matter, had sex.
  2207. “Who else knows that realities might collapse because of this?”
  2208. >“Besides cosmic entities?” Synergy states with somewhat of a smile. “Who'd never help us by the way... I assume Celestia and Luna, they should know. And, uhh...” she pauses, “your mother, because I told her.”
  2209. “Typical,” you click your tongue. “why is it that you hesitate on Treehugger when there are cosmic fucking entities? Whatever the heck that is?”
  2210. >“Because she said she wasn't going to keep anymore stuff from you, and-”
  2211. “Well, I know she's lying to protect my feewings~” you empathize it in babyspeak. “no, seriously, I get it...”
  2212. >You sigh.
  2213. “And why won't cosmic entities help? Aren't they part of this reality too?”
  2214. >“Not technically... I don't know. Those are like gods, maybe they interfere last second,” she doesn't seem to buy her own words. “but they are not going to care for casualties, they might destroy earth and Equestria just because.”
  2215. “And even if they are considerate, as long as Sunset's still here...”
  2216. >“Yeah...”
  2217. >You sigh again.
  2218. >“So, what are you going to do?”
  2219. “The only thing I can do, and the only thing that'll make sense. I tell Sunset the truth, that we are not only in the fucked up version of Romeo and Juliet of the Wonderbolts and Hydra, but of fucking two REALITIES with all the onstage deaths, and only off-stage sex scene.”
  2220. >Synergy blinks slowly and she looks away with a slight frown, before asking, “you only had sex once?”
  2221. >Your shoulders drop.
  2222. “That's what you take away from that? Seriously?”
  2223. >“Sorry, I- Well, yeah, you guys only know one another that week, like...”
  2224. >You sigh and let yourself fall back on the desk.
  2225. “Fucking Romeo and Juliet... who comes up with stupid stories like that?”
  2226. >“Anon...”
  2227. “And I'm not going to fucking kill myself, or, like, marry her in secret. We're both... mature adults, we are well aware that we barely know one another, and that we can easily break it off before it develops into something more.”
  2228. >She stays silent for a while before she apologizes, “I'm sorry.”
  2229. “What are you sorry for?”
  2230. >Synergy chuckles lightly, “for how I treated you... I mean I- No... I'm sorry for trying to break you up like that.” she sighs, “I'm an asshole.”
  2231. “Don't say that-”
  2232. >“No, let me finish. I'm an asshole for trying to play with your – your and her – feelings like that. I did it because I try to be smart and find a complicated solution to a something where I would have only needed to explain the situation and ask nicely.”
  2233. >You feel somewhat awkward with her telling you this.
  2234. >“It's how I am. I like it. I like being manipulative and make a complicated scheme work. Within this convoluted method in which I would have made you two break up and her heart broken and you choosing me over her there would have been no downsides for me. It would have made me feel incredible powerful.”
  2235. “I, ahh... okay?”
  2236. >Your hesitant confirmation to her confession apparently makes you a good listener, and it didn't come across as the confirmation that she's supposed to stop talking now.
  2237. >“You may think I would have had to let you have your way with me for the plan to work, but I wouldn't have minded that. I've patted my eyes at people for a roof over my head and a meal for a few days, and, you know, it was more than just patting my eyes. People have a way different idea when it comes to sexuality than I do.”
  2238. >Okay, now she's oversharing.
  2239. >“I'm a con artist, is what I am, really. It works great on people with strong emotions like anger or loneliness, but the best mark is someone whose greedy and thinks he's smart. However it just doesn't work on you, you're honest and... you're actually smart, really.”
  2240. >Awkward.
  2241. >She gives another small laugh, “I really wouldn't have minded. Your hair is a mess, but it gives you more of a rebel-ish charm, even if you're a good man. You have a pleasant face and you're...” her eyes widen slightly and she looks away with a blush, yet she finishes her sentence. “...fit.”
  2242. >That's not good.
  2243. >“Fuck...”
  2244. >You don't have to ask where that curse just came from.
  2245. >Synergy practically realized that she starts to crush on you the same time you did.
  2246. >In addition to the blush and embarrassed turn away.
  2247. >All the while you also feel yourself having gotten to like her more.
  2248. >Not like that, but...
  2249. >If you wouldn't have a girlfriend...
  2250. “Fuck.”
  2251. >She looks up to you again with an almost shocked expression, not because of you mimicking her curse, but because you both seem to have followed the same train of thought.
  2252. >“We should break up.”
  2253. “Oh, haha, we're not a couple.”
  2254. >“Our alliance. As soon as we acquire the Tesseract, we keep all interactions to a minimum.”
  2255. “Yeah, agreed.”
  2256. >It's common courtesy to break up with your girlfriend before you get a new one.
  2257. >There is a guideline that, even if there already is someone, you don't do anything with them before you have broken up.
  2258. >But there this newly written law that states that you absolutely cannot ditch one person for the alternate reality version of them.
  2259. >...
  2260. >There was a long pause until you inhale sharply.
  2261. “Let's go to sleep.”
  2262. >“Yes, let's.”
  2263.  
  2264. >Be Synergy.
  2265. >Sleep didn't come easy to you, but it was a good escape when it comes to your thoughts involving Anon.
  2266. >After 15 minutes of remaining still you had just chosen to do some mediation techniques, so when you find yourself standing on a dimly lit, featureless plane you were not surprised.
  2267. >As always you are approached from behind, and, while there were no indications for an attack, you immediately spin around to parry.
  2268. >The previously non-existent batons had simply found their way into your hands.
  2269. >Dream-logic works like that, especially when the dream is still forming.
  2270. >The blow was more powerful that you expected- No, it was more powerful than you could parry, and the staff hits your head.
  2271. >Pain makes the figure before you flicker out and back into existence.
  2272. >You had almost woken up.
  2273. “Now that was mean.”
  2274. >[It was, was it not?]
  2275. “I didn't mean to call you.”
  2276. >You look your mentor as she takes more proper form, materializing from the dark fog she often retreats herself back in.
  2277. >Her features get more defined than you're used to, and you can soon make out that she was smiling.
  2278. “Master.”
  2279. >You gave her a bow when she relaxes her body and discards her fighting stance.
  2280. >A moment later you're sitting at a table in a luxurious looking library with a cup of tea before you and your master opposite of you.
  2281. >The feeling was as had you always sat like that, there was no pain radiating from your head, and no recollection or ill thought of how this transition had happened.
  2282. >Only the memory stays as had it happened more than an hour ago.
  2283. >And still you try to make sense of it, but as this table has always been right next to the window with a view of the plane outside.
  2284. >You must have walked...
  2285. >You shake your head.
  2286. >The circumstances of the dream don't matter, only what it can give you.
  2287. >And you had Luna to talk to, an opportunity that doesn't present itself often.
  2288. >[You did not call?]
  2289. >Once more you shake your head, but this time to confirm the negative question, not to clear your head.
  2290. >While Luna speaks her native tongue, you still respond in english.
  2291. >You can understand her, but you weren't fluent in it.
  2292. “I was merely trying to fall asleep, there was a lot on my mind, so I meditated slightly.”
  2293. >You only tell her to clarify the situation, so it came as a surprise that Luna nods and gestures you to continue.
  2294. “You want to hear my thoughts?”
  2295. >[Indeed.]
  2296. >You frown.
  2297. >Luna usually wasn't very talkative.
  2298. >Sure, she didn't speak much just now, but she sought that conversation
  2299. “The other Sunset, the one from Equestria, she's still in this reality. Isn't that bad?”
  2300. >After a moment of thought Luna gives a weak nod, “by herself her being might adapt, but Equestrian magic can fuel other Equestrian magic. She, and the ones touched by the Equestrian Element of Magic could create a feedback loop strong enough to not let her adapt.”
  2301. >But once Luna starts talking, she really is talking.
  2302. >You appreciate the fact that she does so in English as well, you doubt you would have been able to follow her otherwise
  2303. >“This is, however, only the case if they dwell on it a lot through daily practice, which should not be possible anymore, not since they have gone their separate ways in life. None of her other friends go to the same college after all. Why do you have reason to worry?”
  2304. “Because the Equestrian Princess Twilight Sparkle is back, and she and the Wonderbolts mess with the portal so she can use her magic freely.”
  2305. >She closes her eyes for a moment then says a word you are not quite familiar with besides it being an indicator of 'things are bad'
  2306. >Did Luna just curse?
  2307. “How bad is it?”
  2308. >“I have not felt it from where I am, but it's bad enough that we have to intervene.” she pauses to think for a moment, “On Midgard no less... something like this could accelerate the rotations on the world tree and the Asgardian might notice.”
  2309. “I have already... arranged this knowledge to be transferred to them. I strongly believe that they will see reason and retreat.”
  2310. >[I take your word for it,] she nods, [I expect your report.]
  2311. >Luna waves her hand and the room starts to dissipate.
  2312. >She has never been one for great goodbyes.
  2313. >You sigh just before the dream fades completely.
  2314.  
  2315. >You wake up.
  2316. >Gosh, your head feels like you have barely slept at all.
  2317. >Reading off the alarm clock at your bedside that you have indeed not slept at all.
  2318. >After your talk with Luna was over you woke back up.
  2319. “Ugh...”
  2320. >“Still awake too?”
  2321. “Hmm?”
  2322. >You lean up to look over through the dark room.
  2323. >Anon's voice came from his bed on the other side.
  2324. >It looks like he's still awake...
  2325. >Well, that's what he said, so, duh, that's what it looks like.
  2326. “Actually woke up again.”
  2327. >You scan the room to find Treehugger still not present.
  2328. >“Mhm...”
  2329. >He only confirms your statement, not going in on the fact  that you woke up what could have been at most 20 minutes.
  2330. “Something the matter?” you ask him as you lay back down, facing the ceiling.”
  2331. >“Just thinking,” he answers.
  2332. “Mhm,” it was your turn to simply confirm that you heard him, however you think of something else as well, “would you mind sharing your thoughts?”
  2333. >“I was thinking about the cosmic entities you mentioned.”
  2334. >Oh?
  2335. >“But I can't properly... comprehend what you meant by them. My thoughts range from literal gods to space-born live clouds of gas just grazing out in the Oort cloud, because you said it like there are more of them . What's a cosmic entity?”
  2336. “Uhh... more literal gods than... whatever you're imagining.”
  2337. >The image of space-born creatures runs through your mind, but you all you can come up with are clouds that resemble sheep biting out chunks of Saturn's rings.
  2338. >“So... why wouldn't they help? Wouldn't they get destroyed too if this reality ceases to exist?”
  2339. “It's- uhh... hmm...”
  2340. >You're almost certain divine intervention so-to-speak always ends badly.
  2341. “I think it would be easier for them to simply smite everyone. It's what would require the least amount of effort. Next better thing would be to pick out your girlfriend, and the Equestrian Princess, and her escort, then only smite them to solve the problem quickly. That would, however, require more of their attention and-”
  2342. >“We are not worth the hassle?” Anon asks rhetorically, “this is some cosmic horror scenario.”
  2343. “Yeah... I don't understand it very well myself, but a reality is smaller than you may think. Like... There may be many different Earths, but there are significantly less Mars'. With the Mars-es being shared by many Earths.”
  2344. >“... what?”
  2345. “There's like the force of Fate too, who seeks to merge the different Earths to be the same again, and it makes it so that all Earths simultaneously launch their Mars-probes, so the number of Mars-es stays the same.”
  2346. >There look of confusion on Anon's face only increases.
  2347. “It can be argued that only a part of Earth is the separate reality, and then there are less NASAs because they fall under that same reality...”
  2348. >“How can there be less NASAs than Earths?”
  2349. “It's not spatially confined, but thinking that way may be easier for us. You can think planets, but there are probably more Manhattan's than there are Long Island's. Or that there are more versions of the neighbors left to you than those right to you.”
  2350. >He looks down for a moment.
  2351. >“Infinitely weird universes...”
  2352. “Look, I don't know how it works, but I know that there are not infinite universes. Not every decision one makes results in an alternate reality spawning.”
  2353. >“So the chances that there is a version of me and Sunset to have a happy ending is benign?”
  2354. “Yeah...”
  2355. >You bite your lip.
  2356. >At first it seems only slightly rude, but it grows worse the longer you think about it.
  2357. >He'd want even alternate versions of himself to be with alternate versions of you.
  2358. >He want's Anons and Sunsets to be happy together.
  2359. >Just not you.
  2360. “Ouch.”
  2361. >“Hmm?”
  2362. “Nothing.”
  2363. >”Uh...kay?”
  2364. >Stupid Anon.
  2365. >It's somewhat sad he makes the other Sunset leave soon.
  2366. >You'd want to beat her ass in a real fight.
  2367.  
  2368. >Change from being one Sunset to being the other.
  2369. >Be Sunset aka. Spider-Woman
  2370. >Why can it be that, of all the possibilities, the only person Spitfire trusts to come rescue you with a new Quin-jet was Sweetie Drops?
  2371. >The single other person within the Wonderbolts you weren't able to stand
  2372. >Yet you don't even have a proper reason as to why.
  2373. >She just sort of rubs you the wrong way.
  2374. >They talk for a while by the wreckage of the jet Treehugger  shot out of commission.
  2375. >Probably about what's salvageable, how to spin the intrigue on how to make it disappear from the inventory list of high-tech jets, and how to pursue Treehugger.
  2376. >Again, you think about whether or not you should have gone with here as well.
  2377. >No, you stay on the side of the law... or that would be your intentions, would Spitfire still operate within these bounds.
  2378. >Spitfire's creating this team in preparation of what happens if the Wonderbolts are not trustworthy anymore.
  2379. >She needs to be able to trust you, but as things have gone you don't trust her.
  2380. >Well, you trust that she's actually one of the good guys.
  2381. >And that war she seems to be prepping for now?
  2382. >It might not come for years.
  2383. >Years of secret cover operations and training for no legitimate business?
  2384. >You sigh.
  2385. >You need to go and ask her how the legal side will look like.
  2386. >Paychecks, and if you're even allowed to continue being Spider-Woman.
  2387. >And if you need to be a Wonderbolt to do so in addition to being a Secretbolt.
  2388. >God, you need to work on the name.
  2389. >Then again, you're also not happy with the name Spider-Woman.
  2390. >Four syllables are way too long, and they don't have a nice linguistic flow either.
  2391. >At least Secretbolt is easy to say.
  2392. >Synergy sounds awesome too...
  2393. >And now you're getting angry again.
  2394. >If the opportunity presents itself you're going to fight her again.
  2395. >Within reason, of course.
  2396. >You're neither a brute, nor a bully.
  2397. >Among the reasons is that one usually doesn't have an alternate version of oneself at the ready, and you want to be better.
  2398. >You're just competitive like that, and... probably she is too.
  2399. >But for now... you need to go talk to two people you dislike.
  2400. >Smile, act like an adult, you can do this!
  2401.  
  2402. >Spitfire has had everything at the ready for you, two or three scenarios to choose from even, but you end up picking the one she had already thought would be the one most.
  2403. >Spider-Woman will join the Wonderbolts roster.
  2404. >You'll get a new suit made of some sturdier material than the one you jury rigged yourself (with Twilights help), and your mask get's an up-link to police radio and other frequencies you'll be able to change on your webshooters.
  2405. >Spider-Woman's real name will be on record linking to a fake ID Sunset Shimmer, which  is only for those in the Wonderbolts with the proper clearance to see.
  2406. >The fake ID Sunset Shimmer is tech-savvy and found a good position in the Wonderbolts as an employee, but someone with the proper skill or clearance can find the another layer.
  2407. >The seemingly real Sunset Shimmer works for the Wonderbolts because they had put her through witness protection, and as the thread is now over, she works for them to pay up for the trouble she had been.
  2408. >There is no evidence, neither digital nor analog, that would indicate any Sunset comes from a different reality.
  2409. >Both of these Sunsets have a twin sister who ran away and whose whereabouts are currently unknown.
  2410. >She is never mentioned by name, and only in Spider-Woman's high security file it's hinted that the sister possesses 'different powers'.
  2411. >Synergy said you can have the name Sunset, so she won't be mad if, at one point, when she goes official, she will have to take on a different name.
  2412. >From what Spitfire told you about her, she has used a range of aliases when she made her way through the states.
  2413. >In addition to that, there was seemingly never a real person called Sunset Shimmer, and no Celestia or Luna either.
  2414. >They lived in Canterlot, their landlord remembers them, but in the beginning something came up with their identification, and then he just seemed to have misfiled them.
  2415. >They never made a mess, and had always been very polite.
  2416. >The fact that the landlord had seemed attracted to Celestia was a bit of an overshare on Spitfire's part.
  2417. >You really disliked the thought of someone else thinking sexually about her.
  2418. >Maybe that's still because you see Princess Celestia when you just the name 'Celestia' falls.
  2419. >Maybe because Princess Celestia has been a mother figure for almost all of your childhood.
  2420. >Maybe because she's still a symbol of purity, and defiling her, even only in one's mind, would be an act of blasphemy.
  2421. >You know, of course, that Celestia is not a god.
  2422. >But if she were to embrace you and tell you that everything is going to be alright, you know that you'd believe her without a second thought.
  2423. >You're not even sure if you want one of these hugs, or if your mind goes towards the fact that you don't know if you'll ever be able to give such a hug.
  2424. >You have doubts in your own capabilities as an adult.
  2425. >By extent also, if you'd ever have the capabilities of a parent.
  2426. >You don't know where these thoughts come from.
  2427. >Would Anon make a good father?
  2428. >No, you shouldn't think in that direction.
  2429. >He's nerdy and would probably like to play with the kids with lots of toys and action figures.
  2430. >Really bad train of thought.
  2431. >You imagine him making airplane sounds as he moves a jet over a lego city, his form obscuring another one, a smaller one...
  2432. >You throw a stone into the water by the pier.
  2433. >Hard.
  2434. >With a big splash, water came back up, hitting you in the face.
  2435. >“Well, that one was bad”, Pinkie comments, looking out of the water, just where you hit, “Zero.”
  2436. “Morning, Pinkie...”
  2437. >You're not even surprised she came out of nowhere.
  2438. >She might have even been present for a long time, watching you skip stones over the lake while you were thinking.
  2439. >“Good morning, Sunset!”, she says cheerfully, but keeps herself in check, first testing your emotions as to not annoy you, “Did your train stop at the wrong station?”
  2440. >It only took you a moment to figure out she was talking about your train of thought.
  2441. “Yeah, maybe.”
  2442. >You reach for the stone pile again.
  2443. >Now it's pretty obvious that Pinkie had refilled them every once in a while while you were lost in thought without your knowledge, but you never came to wonder about them not depleting.
  2444. >Just how far gone have you been?
  2445. >Knowing you have a spectator now you flick the stone across the water skillfully.
  2446. >“One two threfoafixseightenleven...”, Pinkies speed results in a mess of words, before she exclaims, “Seventeen! That's better than I can do.”
  2447. >You give her a smile.
  2448. “Somehow I doubt that.”
  2449. >“Aww, I'm humbled by your evaluation of my skill”, She fakes embarrassment, “wanna see?”
  2450. >You chuckle and extent an arm to her to help her out of the water.
  2451. “Sure.”
  2452. >After Pinkie had emerged she shakes herself off like a dog, “brrr... cold.”
  2453. “Well, it is still spring, and early in the morning for that matter.”
  2454. >“I'm not complaining, only helping your scientific method. You figured the water to be cold from the season, daytime and air temperature, but I got additional data to support your theories!”
  2455. >“Oh yeah? Well, thanks for always having my back, Pinkie.”
  2456. “Anything for my friends.”
  2457. >Pinkie's warm smile was addicting, there was no way you can't smile back to her.
  2458. >It's almost as if- oh yeah.
  2459. >“Nononono, bad train. Stay in Pinkie-town!”
  2460. >She bends over to pick up a few stones, and as she does so you can't help but look her over.
  2461. >While Pinkie is certainly the weightiest in your group of friends she still has an amazingly bouncy body.
  2462. >And the bathing suit, squishing everything in place only accented this voluptuousness.
  2463. >When she stands upright again you have to forcefully make eye contact and you hold your breath slightly.
  2464. >First Applejack, then Fluttershy, now Pinkie.
  2465. >Maybe AJ didn't notice, Fluttershy certainly did, and Pinkie... well she's usually good at those things.
  2466. >She pauses.
  2467. >That's a way too long a pause to decide which stone to flick first.
  2468. >“You can look, but you can't touch~”, she giggles, “We both have boyfriends, Sunny...”
  2469. >Fuck.
  2470. >You close your eyes, and the built tension falls like a weight down on you
  2471. >“I'm just kidding, you can touch, we're friends after all.”
  2472. “No, Pinkie...”
  2473. >Your eyes, however, trail slightly down before you catch yourself.
  2474. >“Intimacy makes people uncomfortable. I want to cheer you up, not make you uncomfortable. So let's stop at that.”
  2475. “Yes, let's!”
  2476. >You exhale the air you don't remember having sucked in.
  2477. “Party tricks?”
  2478. >It was a bad change of topic, but Pinkie bites on it.
  2479. >“Yes, you can flick stones, I can't, buuuut...”
  2480. >She drops a stone into the water where it... floats.
  2481. >Stepping on it, and taking a moment to balance herself out, Pinkie then drops the next stone in the water before her and takes another step.
  2482. >Before you properly comprehend what's going on, she was already a few steps out on the water, balancing on a stone that floated on the water.
  2483. “Jesus H Christ.”
  2484. >“Do not say the name of the lord in vain, Sunset.”
  2485. “You're walking on water!”
  2486. >“Oh, so you were not cursing but actually comparing me to Jesus?”
  2487. “No, that's- I...”
  2488. >“I don't think any of us would want that. The next time he gets to prance around was in revelations, wasn't it? End times sounds bad. Dead Rising, Rivers of Blood. Un-fun stuff.”
  2489. “You are walking on water...”
  2490. >“Well, no. Obviously I'm stepping on stones. There's always a trick to it.”
  2491. >Pinkie taps her head like she revealed some big secret to you, like that's the explanation to it all.
  2492. “Oh yeah. Now that you say it”, you click with your tongue, “could have figured it out myself.”
  2493. >You exaggerate the faux-understanding of what she did.
  2494. >“Aww, don't feel bad, Sunny”, Pinkie says as she does a cartwheel on the perfectly spaced stones on the water, “you have different qualities than... Ms. Belief!”
  2495. >She strikes a heroic pose.
  2496. “Misbelief?”
  2497. >“No, Miss Believe, not misbelieve. Y-You see what-?”
  2498. “Yeah, I see what you did there... But I think it's 'disbelieve'.”
  2499. >“Nah-uh. Disbelief is if you don't believe in something, misbelief is if you believe in the wrong thing. While, just now, you disbelieved me to be right, while actually you misbelieved yourself to be right. Like you'd misbelieve some things to be possible or not.”
  2500. “Oh, yeah, no. I see. It's... very clever”, you nod to her, confirming that statement, “Are you all coming up with superhero names?”
  2501. >“Yipyip.”
  2502. “Hmm...”, you think back to another topic that had run through your head earlier, “you have the liberty to chose your own name... I for one like Miss Believe. It's weird, but... so are you. It fits.”
  2503. >You give her a warm smile
  2504. >“Aww, thank you~”, Pinkie takes no offense to what others would have considered an insult.
  2505. >Pinkie's being Pinkie, and today she's the kind of Pinkie who saves you.
  2506. >Miss Believe was just the superhero you needed right now.
  2507. “But you know Superheroines only wear swimsuits in comics, right?”
  2508. >“Misty Fly doesn't.”
  2509.  
  2510. >Even through the still pressed atmosphere of Twilight- SciTwi's kidnapping, you manage to have fun with the girls.
  2511. >Most of the morning is spent coming up with names, be it for each other or the team.
  2512. >'Secretbolts' did seem to stuck, everything else seems quite contrived, and 'Secretbolts' does deliver the message of what it's supposed to be about.
  2513. >You're still Spider-Woman, Pinkie's Ms. Believe, and Princess Twilight (who is only a honorary member) has taken the name Matterhorn a while back.
  2514. >It was quite the story she told of being sucked through a fantasy-come-reality spell into a comic book where she had to take the role of a hero there.
  2515. >As that particular name wasn't known on Earth, she's able to use it.
  2516. >Her equestrian friends would have names as well, but everyone agreed that you might want to stay away from them.
  2517. >For one, there is still a possibility that they show up at one point, and they have dibs on those names, technically speaking.
  2518. >In addition to that, the names somewhat told a bit of the power too, yet the powerset they have had in the equestrian comic book, and the powerset that their Earth-versions have are different.
  2519. >The most similar one was Rarity who could create constructs of light which she can use as means of transportation or as shields.
  2520. >Well, maybe Applejack too, who is strong and would probably still be able to use a lasso, but not in any super-heroic way.
  2521. >When it comes to names she also was taken aback the most.
  2522. >As the leader she was urged to take on a military rank before any name, like captain.
  2523. >Yet she thinks it would be disrespectful to those who have actually worked to achieve such a title.
  2524. >The argument that in the hierarchy of the Secretbolts she was the leader and that they can take any titles they want didn't sit right with her either, but captain still stuck around.
  2525. >One can rarely choose their own nickname, and captain stuck around for her, while she had been jokingly been called every noun they could think of and have put 'captain' in front of it.
  2526. >Rainbow was forbidden to use 'Dash' as her name as it was already her name.
  2527. >'Captain Awesome' was instantly shut down by Applejack, while 'Miss Awesome' was only met with a 'oh, come on'.
  2528. >The one that suited her the most was 'Blitz', the German word for 'lightning', which was only a single syllable long and faster to say.
  2529. >Only the German-part of it put her off.
  2530. >She's also still somewhat pissed that she's not able to transform by herself.
  2531. >In her regular form, she was about as fast as your enhanced speed, but that was benign when it's compared to her transformed self.
  2532. >Fluttershy simply said she likes 'Mercy'.
  2533. >The way in how confidentially she said it caught you a little off guard, and you barely had the heart to tell her that 'Mercy' a support character from a video game with very similar abilities.
  2534. >Then she simply switched to 'Grace', and you start to wonder why everyone else has such difficulties if it comes so natural and easy to Fluttershy.
  2535. >It took her about five seconds what everyone else has barely accomplished since they started their crime-fighting career.
  2536. >Rarity had only minor troubles as well.
  2537. >She's studying architecture, and she can make constructs of light she can use in various ways, even if they fade with time.
  2538. >She did, however, manage to craft a name.
  2539. >'The Architectress', claiming it was euphonious, snd that she liked the way the voiceless dental and velar when ending into two alveolar consonants...
  2540. >You lost her on the explanation of pronunciation as you know her nickname will end up being 'Archie'.
  2541.  
  2542. >Lunch was with Spitfire and Sweetie Drops.
  2543. >You get a small briefing on the Tesseract to be transported away from it's current place and to another secret location which is less at a populated place.
  2544. “Aren't we the last few people you trust? Shouldn't we be among the only few who should be allowed to know?”
  2545. >You twirl your spaghetti absentmindedly, only looking at the motion of the noodles as you wait for a response.
  2546. >“Leakage control, Miss Shimmer,” Sweetie Drops rebukes you, “the less people know, the better. Especially you, since you are very close to Anon, who in turn is very close to a potential threat.”
  2547. >Meanwhile the corner of Spitfire's mouth twitches as she looks over to you.
  2548. >“We call it 'the fridge'. It's where we store all sorts of oddities,” she remained purposefully vague, “It's a fortress designed to keep anything from entering or exiting.”
  2549. >The name of the location didn't do you much good, it's not like you can google it or anything...
  2550. >In addition to that, the fact that it's guarded tightly should go without saying.
  2551. >So basically she told you nothing of value, only said something to pacify your curiosity, while in reality it raises more questions.
  2552. >Again the table falls into an awkward silence, until Pinkie starts babbling about the wedding cake she gets to make for Thursday, and the ideas the couple had sadly rejected.
  2553. >Almost everyone else feels a hint of jealousy as she excitedly talks to Rarity about the design of it and how she manages to keep it structurally intact.
  2554. >Pinkie is undoubtedly using her powers to keep the cake in form until it hardens from the backing process enough.
  2555. >Besides Applejack, she's the only one who wasn't racking up student loans, she has a profession she loves, can use her powers in and gets really well paid commissions.
  2556. >She's living her dream.
  2557.  
  2558. >Be Captain Jack.
  2559. >No.
  2560. >Be Applejack.
  2561. >“Miss Applejack?”
  2562. >Spitfire addresses you seemingly out of nowhere, just as you begin cleaning up.
  2563. >Half of the group was already about to leave as they stop, curious as to what she has to say.
  2564. “Yea?”
  2565. >Spitfire looks around slightly, “may we have a private conversation?”
  2566. >You see Sunset flinch a little at that suggestion but you just nod.
  2567. “O'course.”
  2568. >There was no reason in denying her, or to try and make her say, whatever it is, with everyone present.
  2569. >You don't know what it's going to be about, it might as well be about Sunset's attitude, and, well, you'd like to avoid them having another confrontation.
  2570. >As it was only Fluttershy, Rarity, Princess Twilight and you who seem to be cleaning up after themselves you say: “Closest to the door, do the dishes.”
  2571. >“Oh come on!” Rainbow manages to express despair at the thought of having to do dishes, “you always pick me for stupid chores.”
  2572. “Ah weren't even lookin' at yer direction...”
  2573. >“That was just my seating position.
  2574. “You picked that spot to make your quick escape.”
  2575. >One doesn't have anything to do with the other, but in truth, you knew of course that it had to be Rainbow who would have been the one in most of a hurry to dodge chores.
  2576. “An' ah never told ya ta do the dishes, but someone has to do them.”
  2577. >“Gnaah...”
  2578. “Maybe if ya weren't trying to dodge yer chores, ya wouldn't have been called to it.”
  2579. >“Who-”
  2580. >-made you boss?
  2581. >Even though Rainbow didn't finish her question you nod to Spitfire.
  2582. >“I got a name for you now, AJ. Captain Dishes.”
  2583. >You chuckle.
  2584. “Hmm? Do you like it?”
  2585. >Rainbow seems confused, “I, uhh... Yes. You should totally take it.”
  2586. “Well if you like it... I think a name should fit one's responsibilities.”
  2587. >“Wait, no-!”
  2588. “You're Captain Dishes now, Rainbow.”
  2589. >“Nooohoho...” Rainbow whines somewhat in jest before she sighs, “okay fine, I'll play Captain Dishes for today, BUT that's an title everyone will have every once in a while, okay? Okay.”
  2590. >You nod in content.
  2591. “Had always been the plan,” looking around once more, you add “Captain Dishes gets a sidekick for today though, and no, you pick Fluttershy for everything. Hmm... Sunset, how about it?”
  2592. >Sunsets eyes shoot to Spitfire for a second before facing you.
  2593. >“Yeah, sure, why not?”
  2594. >She's smart enough to have probably realized that you want to keep her busy while you talk to Spitfire.
  2595. >You only hope that it serves the purpose of avoiding her pacing around during your talk, as opposed to her thinking you manipulate her too, or scheme to keep her from eavesdropping.
  2596. >Spitfire, who had remained seated, pushes her plate in Rainbows direction as she started to collect them.
  2597. >“Thank you for your service, Captain.”
  2598. >Did she just make a joke?
  2599. >Even that Agent, Bon Bon, seems to be confused, but nobody got the proper time to digest it as Spitfire stands up.
  2600. >“Miss Applejack.”
  2601. >She nod you to follow her, as she put her chair back to the table.
  2602. >You leave a few plates stacked for Rainbow and Sunset to have an easier time carrying them to the kitchen, and then quickly go after Spitfire to not make her wait halfway to the door.
  2603.  
  2604. “Ya can drop the 'Miss' when ya'll are addressen me.”
  2605. >This was not only directed at Spitfire, but at Agent Drops too, who also took the path to the main building of the camp.
  2606. >“Applejack then...” Spitfire looks slightly back to you but continues to walk forward, “in an informal setting, like when we are alone you may call me by my name as well. Unfortunately, I believe in an formal setting, like would we be in the Triskelion with others around I don't think it would be wise to give you a special treatment. I'll have to revert to calling you 'Miss' there as well.”
  2607. >Dangit, you should have addressed her using her rank until now.
  2608. “I understand,” you say nervously, dropping much of your accent.
  2609. >Then you quickly add her rank to make her know that you do know it
  2610. “Colonel. An' I apologize for not having brought that courtesy up until now, I-”
  2611. >“It's fine, Applejack. You, and your friends for that matter, are still young, and have not had a proper initiation like others had. Etiquette only means you have to be aware of your surroundings and act according to it. In that sense you haven't done much wrong.”
  2612. >You still feel bad, but you understand where she comes from.
  2613. >Agent Bon Bon addresses you as well, “I'm only an agent whereas you are a teamleader, it's fine if you call me what you deem fit.”
  2614. >You nod, but don't even know her beyond 'Agent Bon Bon.'
  2615. >Noticing your slightly confused expression she tells you her name. “Sweetie Drops privately, Bon Bon in the field.”
  2616. “Bon Bon is a code name? Like... Are ya a super hero too?”
  2617. >“I'm donning a uniform, not a fancy suit with mask, which I find rather silly. No offense to your past, Colonel.”
  2618. >You frown.
  2619. >First because she only said 'no offense' to Spitfire, as opposed to you both.
  2620. >Then again, it implies that...
  2621. “Ya have had a suit?”, you ask Spitfire.
  2622. >She tenses up a little bit, “I've had, yes.”
  2623. >As compared to the other vague answers she had given so far, this one was loaded with emotion.
  2624. >This could be classified information, if she wants to keep it a secret.
  2625. >However, you're quite certain, this was not the reason for her being secretive this time.
  2626. >You do the thoughtful thing and not press the issue, or at least that's what you planned to do (or not do), but she continued.
  2627. >“I was fifteen when I approximately did what you are doing. Started about the same time as well. Then I signed up for the military, did  couple of tours, continued what I was doing back home, and later went pro – joined the Wonderbolts who were just a ragtag team of people with powers back then.”
  2628. >You remain silent for a while.
  2629. “And you?”
  2630. >“Just a fool in a costume,” she chuckles, “and I had some toys, but I was – still am – a fair marksman, and can handle myself in hand to hand combat.”
  2631. “So, maybe ah... if ya don' mind me askin'...”, you trail off, getting her approval first.
  2632. >“Hmm? Why an unpowered girl of fifteen in the 80s in Georgia should go out to fight crime?”
  2633. “I was actually thinking about asking what your super-hero name was...”
  2634. >“Oh, heh...”
  2635. >Spitfire opens the door to the administration cabin.
  2636. >“I've took on the name of my grandfather, who in turn had it from his mother, who, again, had it from her father.”, she gestures you inside.
  2637. >You notice her having left out her father.
  2638. >“He fought in the occult wars in eastern and later central Europe. 'Magic casters', quote unquote. Part ceremonial gowns, part dress-up to instill fear in their enemies. I can only speculate him wanting to do the same, but, you know, the other way around.”
  2639. >The three of you enter the cabin and sit down around the desk as Spitfire goes to recount parts of her family history.
  2640. >“He had inherited an old military uniform of a country that didn't exist any more. The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. I was the Winged Hussar,” she announces proudly, before frowning, “well, I still am the current Winged Hussar, not like I gave the title as would be tradition to my-”
  2641. >Her words become slower, and her expression changed to one of bitterness before she shrugs it off and changes the topic, “the uniform is not as flashy as it was a hundred years ago. The wings are now only stitched on, and it's much more functional. Time Turner even wanted to modify a Falcon-suit for me, but I'm a desk jockey nowadays, so...”
  2642. >Spitfire's talking at an increased speed to leave the topic of her family behind.
  2643. >Would she not have children she would have simply said so, but she avoided the topic.
  2644. >You're no fool, you know what that means; you bite your lip, but quickly let go again.
  2645. >Maybe letting her believe you didn't pick up on it makes it easier for her to move on quicker.
  2646. >She looks over to you, “but I've called you out for a reason, so let's talk.”
  2647. “Yeah, let's do that.”
  2648.  
  2649. >You try to make yourself comfortable on the chair as you don't know how long this will take.
  2650. >“I have to say you handled your friend Rainbow Dash pretty well. Are you used to rebuke her?”
  2651. “Yea, kinda, ah mean, it's not like ah'm tryin' ta be a leader. It's just...”
  2652. >“You do posses the natural skills of a leader, and some humility to go with it, but it's not wise to play down your own capabilities, Applejack,” she picks out a file, “we do know about your family history,” she clears her throat, “we all have our sob stories, they make us who we are.”
  2653. “Yes, us, not those around us.”
  2654. >“You're afraid to be pitied? Or have anyone tell you you're strong for getting through it?”, she chuckles humorlessly, “It's that we like how things are right now and we don't want things to change, like how our friends would look at us, trust me, I understand.”
  2655. >Spitfire takes the file back and hands you a stack of other files who look similar, but were way thinner.
  2656. >They bear the names of your friends as well as yourself, and they have a duplicate each.
  2657. >“I have a first assignment for you.”
  2658. “Ah should spy on my friends?”
  2659. >“Nono,” she raises a hand, almost in defense, before using it to gesture with it. “Quite the opposite. You are to do it together with them, I want you to get to know your team, you need to know the full extent of their powers.”
  2660. “Ahuh...”, you nod slowly, you see how that makes sense, “so what about the duplicates?”
  2661. >“One's for you, one's for me. You can fill out however you want, but mine will go on permanent record eventually. I'll use those as proof you are not mere vigilantes, but that you had the Wonderbolt's backing,” she gives a short pained smile, “and you can use them to say that you worked on orders if this would backfire and you'd have to denounce me.”
  2662. “Denounce you?”
  2663. >“Well, we hope it doesn't come to that. However, I also need you girls to be aware that this may seem like I'm raising a private army behind the Wonderbolts back. That's also why I want you to keep a journal to write down your thoughts and mission details of what I make you do.”
  2664. >You keep silent as she hands over an empty journal to you.
  2665. >After you stayed quiet for too long she asks: “Something the matter?”
  2666. “Dunno... Is this like a test?”
  2667. >“A test?”
  2668. “Ta get me ta say something along the lines o' 'We stand up fo what we believe in' an' 'We won't shift the blame for our decisions to you', somethin' like that?”
  2669. >Spitfire smiles genuinely and exhales through her nose in what could have been considered a laugh.
  2670. >“No, this actually servers multiple purposes. What I said already, of course, and I actually want to gain trust in me by giving you... hmm... tools that could land me in very hot water now. I trust you girls to be the good guys. If you ever feel like you couldn't trust me anymore you have something against me.”
  2671. >You furrow your eyebrows.
  2672. “That ain't trust. That's tha same as two fellas holding guns at each other an' sayin' they trust the other not ta shoot.”
  2673. >“That's putting it out of perspective. What about the scene of a western where one stands guard while the other sleeps while both don't trust the other? They have to trust one another, even if there is little sympathy in the beginning,” Spitfire contemplates the scene in her head. “Well, I more expected these answers from Miss Shimmer... anyway – that's how a-”
  2674. “Nah, I think you're not getting why Sunset is pissed at you. Ah do trust ya ta be the good guy, I really do. And Sunset does so do, but it's yer methods that we don't agree with.”
  2675. >She sighs, and nods. “I was dealt a bad hand and things went quite wrong. The only thing I would do differently though is not talk to Mr. West and Ms. Shimmer about some things earlier,” she clears her throat, “To be frank I wanted to keep their relationship intact, but no, I should have been mean. Giving people second and third chances is what Princess Sparkle would have want me to do, but...” she shakes her head, “The way I did things is better in this world.”
  2676. “What are you talking about?”
  2677. >“This does relate to one of your teammates, we can send Bon Bon to fetch her if you want, then I can tell you how her boyfriend is lying to her through his teeth.”
  2678.  
  2679. >Be Private Dryer
  2680. >You're drying off one of the plates while only holding it with three fingers from one side where it easily sticks to you and keeps you from soaking your hands too much
  2681. >“How-?” Captain Dishes starts as she observes your work.
  2682. “Magnets.” you simply answer.
  2683. >In truth, you don't exactly know how stuff sticks to you, or how you're able to scale buildings with ease; all you need to know is that it works, right?
  2684. >So be Spider-Woman, or Sunset Shimmer.
  2685. >You feel somewhat content seeing the pile of dishes stack up neat and clean.
  2686. >Just like the day before you get a sense of accomplishment out of setting things right again.
  2687. >Only now your gums don't hurt.
  2688. >Just as Rainbow and you finish up and put away the plates and cutlery you hear the door open again.
  2689. >“Miss Shimmer? Miss Dash?” you identify the voice to belong to Sweetie Drops. “You are to come to the administrative cabin.”
  2690. >Besides just stating her agenda for coming here she approaches the two of you, takes a quick look around and picks up the trash.
  2691. “Okay, sure.”
  2692. >Sweetie nods, “great, then let me take that out for you,” she offers as
  2693. >“Hey,” Rainbow makes her turn around once more. “why do we need to come?”
  2694. >“You are to be given information to carry out your assignments properly.”
  2695. >“Oh, wow, that's like, yeah, awesome, thank you.”
  2696. >Rainbow goes through a range of words to voice her mild amusement and frustration of the unspecific answer.
  2697. >She looks at you only shaking her head to which you can only shrug.
  2698. “If our superior want's it that way, we are to come running like good little soldiers, are we not?”
  2699. >“Sir, yes, sir,” She counters your sarcasm with some of her own.
  2700. >The agent ignores your bickering behind her back and heads out.
  2701. >As soon as the door closes Rainbow starts again, “Well if we 'are to be given information to carry out our assignment properly' AJ's conversation with Spitfire hasn't been about you, has it?”
  2702. “They still could have talked about me, though...”
  2703. >Maybe it was a bit egoistical to think they that.
  2704. >“Yeah, but... would they call all of us and not just you in that case? I dunno.”
  2705. “Whatever, we'll see.”
  2706. >You put away the rest of the plates and head out.
  2707.  
  2708. >Once everyone is in the administrative cabin, squeezed together on the couch, or on makeshift chairs Spitfire talks up from her lower whisper with Sweetie Drops.
  2709. >She remains silent as she scratches her head, lent back on the desk (the office chair was occupied by Princess Twilight)
  2710. >The chatter of the observing group also dies down as they begin to wait for her to speak up.
  2711. >“A bad outcome does not always originate in a bad decision, but that is not to say that I have not made bad decisions.”
  2712. >Yeah, duh.
  2713. >“The only real regret I have is that I went easy on Starlight, and let her free against my better judgment with, now Miss Sparkle paid the price while I could have easily.”
  2714. >Princess Twilight defends her, “And I already told you that's on me, I persuaded you into letting a criminal free, only because her counterpart in my dimension was able to have a change of heart.”
  2715. >Everyone looks to Pony Starlight who had her eyes closed and acts as if nothing was the matter.
  2716. >“No, Princess, I let myself be persuaded. I should have been more insistent that Earth's ways differ from Equestria. It was a petty political decision that I did as you recommended, and I'm not a politician. I'm not to be liked.”
  2717. >Spitfire is doing a good job on not being liked.
  2718. >“So let's go to a second regret. One I made on my own. Anon and Treehugger West are major unknowns and I wasn't sure what to do with him while I could have talked to him. I counted on the fact that I'll drop him off today in the evening, and that a good line of communication can be opened with Treehugger. I thought keeping his secrets and not interacting with him would be like honoring the other agreement I've had with Treehugger, to stay away from him. He did come with us back then on his own account, after all.”
  2719. “So why did you use him as bait?” Bitch.
  2720. >“The moment I realized it was Treehugger who attacked us yesterday I fetched him and I attempted to talk to her.”
  2721. “Still, he was leverage.”
  2722. >“The decision to make was to try and talk to her and win an ally or let her go with him because I knew that the moment she has him she would go. And would you hand over a hostage to a criminal who just blew up your only means of transportation who is still wielding a gun?”
  2723. “She didn't have a gun...”, you mumble barely audible, before saying loudly, “He's her nephew, she would never hurt him!”
  2724. >“I still can't release someone so easily into the hands of a dangerous person. I urged her not to leave the pier and not to touch the grass to activate her power. As she was attacking Princess Twilight Sparkle's shield she made it quite clear that she can break it, it's when I made the decision to have her tranquilized, which didn't properly work out and things escalated.”
  2725. >But she still...
  2726. >You...
  2727. >You bite your lip.
  2728. >How would you react when something seriously dangerous was sharpening it's claws on a shield you made?
  2729. >“I locked you in, which, again I think was the right decision with a bad outcome. Explaining thing would have taken too long and Treehugger...” Spitfire shakes her head. “We also lost the other Sunset Shimmer, the person who claims she knows how to make the Tesseract untraceable, just like Celestia and Luna had done while they were still principals at Canterlot High. That's something I'm inclined to believe.”
  2730. >Oh yeah, her...
  2731. >“I did get a little sidetracked just now. I got interrupted while talking about why I left Anon alone. I said I kept his secrets. That was to protect your relationship with him,” Spitfire points at you shortly, “This was too because I like you and I wanted to see that bit of love bloom, while giving him a chance to redeem himself.”
  2732. “What are you talking about?”
  2733. >“Anon West has been watching you for a long time; he works at Flim Industries to have the opportunity and the knowledge to build a suit, he is the 'Spider-Man'; he hacked into Twilight Sparkles account and searched the Wonderbolt database; he killed three members of the Irish Mafia and maimed 48 more; he used an alien parasite which later hopped onto to you; and he knows Chrysalis and brought her to you. Chrysalis, in turn, is an alien with the knowledge to free someone from such an alien parasite.”
  2734. >You sink back into your chair.
  2735. “That's... like... what evidence...?”
  2736. >Spitfire nods to four files, which, when combined, were about two inches high.
  2737. >“If you want to hold onto a straw, it's only situational and some of it is illegally obtained and none of this would hold up in court, but he is the one constant in all those events. And he admitted having hacked Ms. Sparkle's account, you were there.”
  2738. >His wounds were consistent with what has happened to that 'Spider-Man' in the bank.
  2739. >He slipped in his shower after having had an allergic reaction to his shampoo, what a joke.
  2740. >He has a healing factor, he needed to heal from having had his face and arm blasted away.
  2741. >“Best case scenario: He's a fool who wanted to impress you by playing hero. But now he is on his way of becoming a full on super villain. Worst case: he already is.”
  2742. >You feel like throwing up.
  2743. >“If Treehugger dies, and after her death is confirmed, I'll prosecute him to the full extent of the law and will offer him to join the Wonderbolts like I do anyone, but it depends on the situation.”
  2744. >You keep looking to your feet and nod.
  2745. >“If he acts up more villain-y I need you to handle it, because neither I nor the Wonderbolts can act or Treehugger makes her own move, because if she does, god help us all.”
  2746. >You slowly tune out as the world seems to take on a static, your mind running in circles.
  2747. >You have to talk to Anon.
  2748. >Treehugger would annihilate you in a real fight, you AJ and Rainbow at the same time
  2749. >You certainly don't want to fight him.
  2750. >Him too you weren't able to defeat without giving into your rage to protect yourself.
  2751. >You sigh and look up again to listen into the rest of the conversation as they have moved on to test the groups strengths and weaknesses, but you don't contribute.
  2752.  
  2753. >Be Anon.
  2754. >You never shot a gun before.
  2755. >So it's really important that you do.
  2756. “These are much heavier if they are not filled with water.”
  2757. >“Indeed.”
  2758. >Treehugger has an assortment of weapons on her lap or strapped to her wheelchair, and you're just about to pick one of the guns up and try and get a feel for it before you even load it.
  2759. >“Do I have to educate you about proper gun safety?”
  2760. “Don't aim at people and don't put the finger on the trigger unless you plan to shoot. The rest? I dunno, Don't do stupid shit. Keep on safety and stuff.”
  2761. >“Do you know where safety is on this one?”
  2762. “Uhh...”
  2763. >“Do you know what model it is?”
  2764. “The nice looking one that caught my eye.” You admit. “It has, like, gold on it.” you show off the  golden features. “Is it shit? You took it with you to train me so I don't think so, unless you want to show off the difference between a good and a bad gun. Like I'd know the difference.”
  2765. >She holds out her arm and you give the gun to her, “Taurus PT92,” removing the magazine shows it empty, “fill it with ammunition.”
  2766. >You take the magazine back and look over the ammo boxes.
  2767. >“These,” her hand goes to a box of 9mm bullets.
  2768. “Yes, yes... Why do I have to learn how to shoot again?”, you ask as you begin to fill the magazine, “I'm not looking to be that kind of fighter, and I thought you don't want me on the battlefield.”
  2769. >“It's our first day here, we've got to establish dominance, Anon. It's been a while, not many people know what I'm capable off, and nobody knows you.”
  2770. “So you want to show off?”
  2771. >You look around to see nobody besides the two of you in this repurposed subway tunnel.
  2772. >Probably not many agents go to the shooting range in the early morning on a fucking Sunday.
  2773. >She shrugs before nodding, “Yes.”
  2774. >You take her word for it as you counted the bullets in your head.
  2775. “17? Is that like a proper magazine size? Another one doesn't fit.”
  2776. >“Yes, 17.”
  2777. >Weird...
  2778. >You try to give her the magazine back, but she already hands you the gun.
  2779. >Okay...
  2780. >You take the gun, hesitate a moment before you point the it forward and slide in the magazine.
  2781. >A small click tells you it's secured... you guess.
  2782. >Okay, loaded weapon, do not aim anywhere you wouldn't want to shoot.
  2783. “Safety is that?”
  2784. >You point at the lever in question to which Treehugger nods, “yes, but not yet,” you leave it be as she continues, “there's still no bullet in the chamber.”
  2785. “Mhm...”
  2786. >This one you know.
  2787. >You pull the... chamber (?) back, which takes more strength than you would have guessed.
  2788. “Okay,” you keep the weapon angled forward as you look to Treehugger again, “now safety?”
  2789. >“No, just aim.”
  2790. “Just aim? Is there like... a proper stance?”
  2791. >“For now, use your intuition and aim. Yet that's all you do, you don't pull the trigger, alright? Safety is still on.”
  2792. >You nod and aim towards the target.
  2793. >Trigger discipline.
  2794. >You close an eye to properly look through the-
  2795. >“Keep both eyes open.”
  2796. >You nod and obey.
  2797. >Hands... how to properly hold the weapon...?
  2798. >You have the handle firmly in your right hand, and rest it almost on the palm of your left.
  2799. >Hmm...
  2800. >You remove your left hand and aim again, then change put it back.
  2801. >Elbows... should not be stretched but angled, right?
  2802. >Otherwise recoil would do its thing on them.
  2803. >You've watched Zombieland, so you know to shoot when you've exhaled.
  2804. >Okay, you ca do this.
  2805. “Mhm...”
  2806. >“Remove the safety.”
  2807. >You carefully flick that lever and go back to the position you guess was right.
  2808. >Wait, how are your legs supposed to be placed?
  2809. >“Don't panic.”
  2810. >You weren't panicking.
  2811. >You focus to aim at the target again.
  2812. >“Shoot.”
  2813. >You let your last breath out, brace for recoil, firm enough to hold it, yet not cramping
  2814. >Then you pull the trigger.
  2815. >Your hands get quite the kick as the shot rings out
  2816. >Protectively you've closed your eyes
  2817. >The gun was now aimed up way too far, about two inches further up than you had started out with, you wouldn't barely hit the target anymore.
  2818. >“Not bad,” Treehugger comments, “but 15 feet are quite close.”
  2819. “Mhm.”
  2820. >While you attempted your best you know that your achievement just now was benign.
  2821. >“We continue training your use of the nanites now.”
  2822. “Is it save to talk about that out loud?”, you ask as you look around again.
  2823. >“I disabled all audio recording devices, don't worry.”
  2824. >You nod slowly, remembering how she did so already, and while you burn to learn how to use your own nanites you didn't do so well the last time around.
  2825. >“Yes, I'll guide you,” she continues to speak as well, “or rather, I'll do it for you a few times to show you how it's done.”
  2826. >She closes her eyes and leans back, “look at the pistol, I'll highlight its sights for you.”
  2827. “What?”
  2828. >As you look down to the pistol again its sights are indeed highlighted, like...
  2829. “Augmented reality?”
  2830. >“Yep.”
  2831. “Awesome.”
  2832. >“It learns how these points move in accordance to the movement of your hand.”
  2833. “Well... yeah, duh? It sees it? Like... these things have access to my optical nerves and get the same sensory input... right?”
  2834. >“Close your eyes.”
  2835. “Hmm?”
  2836. >You do as she says and at first you think there's an afterimage on your retinas, but you're still able to see the dots, even if you move the pistol around.
  2837. >Twisting and turning it around (keeping it aimed front though) makes no difference, even if your hand would obscure it, you were still able to see both dots from the front and rear sight.
  2838. >“Open your eyes again.”
  2839. >You obey and wait for further instructions.
  2840. >“Now, two dots connect to a line, or ray as we only need it in one direction.”
  2841. “Dafuq...”
  2842. >The curse escapes you.
  2843. “No, holy shit, you can give any weapon laser sights?”
  2844. >“I think you should learn how to manipulate your own optical nerves as you seemed to have troubles manipulating my auditory ones.”
  2845. >Uhh...
  2846. “You mean the freaky telepathy thing where I heard your voice?”
  2847. >“Yes.”
  2848. “Yeah, that was freaky... but manipulating my own senses-”
  2849. >That sounds easier.
  2850. >“So that's what we are going to do this morning, once you get it down how to make the base, letting the nanites calculate gravity and wind speed and how it affects the bullet's path will be easy. It took me a century to perfect it, but I was on my own, and you have a teacher.”
  2851. “Right...”
  2852. >“Aim.”
  2853. >Once more you raise the pistol towards the target while Treehugger hits a switch to make it retreat further.
  2854. >With laser sights, aiming was barely even a challenge anymore.
  2855.  
  2856. >You clench onto the cooled salad fork as you angrily eat the first course of your meal.
  2857. >Treehugger was treating hers way more dignified.
  2858. >Synergy, however, had not much table manners to speak of either.
  2859. >She knows that this is a noble restaurant and that she can't just behave how she wants, but she lacked the proper training on how to use the cutlery as given.
  2860. >“You are to use the outermost fork, dear,” Treehugger instructs her.
  2861. >“But that one's still cold,” Synergy simply responds while eating her own salad with the fork intended for the fish course she ordered.
  2862. “Maybe let's talk about cutlery at another time?”
  2863. >“Where's that tone coming from, Anon?” Treehugger inquires.
  2864. “Nothing-”, you sigh, “I'm just... frustrated.”
  2865. >Through an entire morning of gun-training you have not been able to anything close to what Treehugger tried to show you.
  2866. >The only thing you can call an accomplishment was that you managed to form a nanite tendril able to hold a gun and pull the trigger, but it's so slow you're way faster by just using your hands.
  2867. >Meanwhile Treehugger locks and loads twenty guns and rifles, and then is able to shoot them simultaneously to write her name in beautiful calligraphy on a target half a mile down the tunnel.
  2868. >And the AR-thing?
  2869. >No way, jose.
  2870. >You managed to bluescreen yourself once.
  2871. >Your entire vision gone and replaced by a static of blueish darkness.
  2872. >At least you had been going for a blue HUD, so that's a plus.
  2873. >There has never been anything you failed quite as much at as at controlling these freaking nanites.
  2874. >Complete and utter defeat.
  2875. >You want a blue HUD? Have a participation trophy of a screen of death in the color of your choice.
  2876. >The fork hits the table as you discard it and lean back.
  2877. >“You're like a spoiled child, Anon,” Treehugger takes on her lecturing-tone again.
  2878. >You don't respond, only look to her direction in an as sarcastic head motion as you could.
  2879. >She doesn't look up from her salad and eats another leaf before continuing, “You're wickedly smart, my son. So far you never had to put any effort into learning anything.”
  2880. “So this is just how normal people feel when they want to learn something?”
  2881. >“You're learning something that is more art than science, there is no absolute switch you have to flick, or value you can read out of a spreadsheet that makes the nanites do what you want them to, you have to feel it. And don't forget they were not designed for you, you're starting at a disadvantage. The fact that you can command them to do anything at all already is pretty good.”
  2882. >You sigh and repeat one of the phrases which fell more than a few times yesterday and today.
  2883. “And, I know, it took you a century, I shouldn't expect to learn it within a single session.”
  2884. >“You're being sarcastic.”
  2885. “Sarcastic?” you widen your eyes in shock, “Moi? My entire life I haven't been sarcastic.” you take on a regularly frustrated expression again, “And no, I was sardonic not sarcastic. I'm telling it like it is, but I'm a dick about it.”
  2886. >“No, I think sarcasm applies, because you said it in a way that makes one assume you do not believe in the words you're saying,” Treehugger reasons “hence sarcasm.”
  2887. >Synergy takes a sip from her soda, looking between you.
  2888. “Im-ply-ing,” you exaggerate every syllable, “I do know there's a weight of these words, au- mom.”
  2889. >“But?”
  2890. “The weight I'm feeling right now is my incapability of using the super op powers I have, there's nothing more shameful than that.”
  2891. >“Aha...” Treehugger slowly nods while Synergy snickers.
  2892. “What?”
  2893. >Synergy shrugs, “I feel like there is an erectile dysfunction joke in there somewhere.”
  2894. >“Well, he can neither get it up nor knows how to use it.”
  2895. “Mom!”
  2896. >“Oh really?”, Synergy laughs.
  2897. >“Yes, that's why we're practicing on dolls.”
  2898. “No...” you whine.
  2899. >Treehugger and Synergy continue to make fun of your incapability of using the freaking future technology by making lewd innuendos.
  2900. >You beat yourself up over not managing to come to a proper result in your training.
  2901. >Now they are making fun of you...
  2902. >Just because you're laughing, doesn't mean you're not hurt.
  2903. “So what have you been up to this morning?”
  2904. >“It's a Sunday morning in America, what else is there to do other than sleep in, visit a shooting range or have church service?”
  2905. “Right,” you nod and smile, but then remember she had been absent in the morning, “wait you- huh?”
  2906. >“Church service, Anon,” she nods, confirming her statement again.
  2907.  
  2908. “Aha...”
  2909. >You're staring at her.
  2910. >Stop staring at her.
  2911. >You shake your head and return your attention to your salad.
  2912. >“You didn't see me as religious, did you?”
  2913. “If any then not as... christian?”
  2914. >“Catholic,” she specifies.
  2915. “Catholic,” you repeat, “I dunno, just like...”
  2916. >“Why would a smart person have faith in a higher power, especially if that person knows about actual higher powers that don't give a shit about us.”
  2917. >You gesture with your hand, trying to crank up a proper answer before you simply say:
  2918. “Yes...?”
  2919. >“Okay...” she adjusts her chair to look at you, “Just because stories aren't factual doesn't mean we can't gain wisdom from them. For example the story goes that Mose played outside the city when he was a child, so it's plausible that he could find a way through a reed-sea with a punch of people while the Egyptian war chariots sank in. There was no magic trick involved, but the escape was a miracle.”
  2920. >You nod slowly.
  2921. >“I know this stuff has been written by people, and it has been going through the telephone game for a long time until it was written down, and even then it was reinterpreted a few times during translations.”
  2922. “So...why do you go do church if you don't believe in it?”
  2923. >She frowns. “I do believe in the good of the community, I've seen it. When I was... running, church has always been a place that was nice to me. I've used and abused that, of course, but...”
  2924. >Synergy taps with her fork into the plate, somewhat lost in thought, “Father Lantom here in new Yoke for example, he's a good person, like one of the best there is... No matter how strong I am to beat up bad guys if I want to, it feels like he has an entirely different strength, an emotional and spiritual one...”
  2925. >“You need something to ground you,” Treehugger helps Synergy out as she seemed to not know how to continue, “a constant in life you can return to if the rest of it gets too hectic? Something like that?”
  2926. >Synergy nods, “Yeah, something like that.”
  2927. >You’re not sure if you follow.
  2928. >“Like the equestrian princesses...” Treehugger mumbles. “Sunset Shimmer, how odd...”
  2929. >“What?”
  2930. >“It's nothing that matters, at least not in this timeline.”
  2931. “The dimension Sunset is from...”, you look to Synergy and clarify, “the other Sunset, the equestrian one,” then you go back to Treehugger, “Why was it affected again by you changing stuff in this dimension? How does that work?”
  2932. >“I’m not sure, I can only make educated guesses.”
  2933. “Then guess educatedly,” you simply retort.
  2934. >“Equestria has had contact with Earth anywhen between 1890 and 1990, most likely in the earlier part of that,” she turns to Synergy, “We take the circumstances of your birth as the first thing we know to have happened differently, after that another person filled the Equestrian-Sunset's role as princess.”
  2935. “Wouldn’t her parents already have been affected?”, you ask, “like, being royalty and all.”
  2936. >Treehugger shakes her head. “The title princess is bestowed upon worthy individuals by the king or queen, while they themselves have very little power... Let me think... I never understood this very well myself as I never needed it. Hmm...”
  2937. >She plays with her salad a bit. “Equestria is a union between three governments... kinda. The king only rules over the capital city of Canterlot like a mayor. Imagine the Queen of England ruling over London and the people she deems worthy and adopts into her family. I think it’s a ploy to keep the power in the family while still having the reign in capable hands.”
  2938. >She eats a bit of the salad while you think about why alterdimensional political systems are even a thing you are interested in.
  2939. >“I think it would be a smart political move, however, I merely guessed, and not even educatedly so...”
  2940. >“I’m confused,” Synergy speaks up “I don’t know if ‘educatedly’ is a word or not, you guys seem to use it – I don’t know – ironically? Yet, it seems like an applicable word. So, is it... or is it not?”
  2941. >She seems to be in some real distress, not getting your inside joke.
  2942. “Language is fluid, meanings change over time, new words arise. It sounds odd, but I guess if it’s applicable, it is real now.”
  2943. >“Honey, I was present at the turn or three centuries. I remember when ‘gay’ was a regular male and female given name, while it was still regularly used to mean colorful and happy.”
  2944. >You had known the meaning, but not that it was a name too.
  2945. “Gay as a name?”
  2946. >“For women, yes. For men it was usually the abbreviation of Gabriel or Gaylord.”
  2947. >“Gaylord?!” Synergy snorts.
  2948. >You chuckle too, but more about her reaction than the name itself.
  2949. >You knew it’s a thing, but hearing a confirmation of it was still funny.
  2950. >What Treehugger said rises a different question though as you lean forward to inquire.
  2951. “So do you have any future slang for us?”
  2952. >“Oh, hehe...” she sets up a devious smile, “maybe?”
  2953. “Come on, tell us.”
  2954. >“Well, I remember that ‘googling’ meant that you dig up dirt on someone or something. ‘Sinning’ means that you actually do follow the law, whereas more people were drawn to organizations...”
  2955. >Her features fell.
  2956. “Like Hydra?” you ask.
  2957. >“For those of us who had powers and wanted to do good, then yes, Hydra.”
  2958. >You bite your lip.
  2959. >“The future is not the best place.”
  2960. “So what is?”
  2961. >“Hmm... the nineteen-aughts.”
  2962. “Victorian era, eh?”
  2963. >“No, screw England. I was in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, I was a powerful person in a powerful place... Well, I’m a woman, nonetheless I had tons of fun.”
  2964. >You don’t know enough about history to really strike up a proper conversation about it.
  2965. >All you know is that the media romanticizes the turn of the century in England and it’s colonies.
  2966. >You don’t even know American history that well.
  2967. >What was before World War One?
  2968. >Nevermind.
  2969. >You have another question.
  2970. “So the future is, like, dystopian?”
  2971. >Treehugger sighs, “yes, like, dystopian.”
  2972. >Every utopia is a dystopia at its realization.
  2973. >The Utopia Project.
  2974. >Did Hydra succeed in her timeline?
  2975.  
  2976. >Hydra.
  2977. >You want to believe Treehugger was a good person.
  2978. >You want to believe she choose right in her version of the future.
  2979. >You want to believe Hydra was the best option for her.
  2980. >But then again, she was young too once, and she too might have been subject to manipulation.
  2981. >Hydra.
  2982. >Blergh
  2983. >Even thinking about it leaves a bad taste in your mouth.
  2984. >You get why wizards have a hard time saying Voldemort.
  2985. >It repulses you.
  2986. >Then again, maybe you’re just a pussy.
  2987. >You don’t even know what type of world would be worth living in.
  2988. >The one with Social Justice Warriors running loose wasn’t really it either.
  2989. >They are not happy with the world and go about the way they think they need to, to change something.
  2990. >While you’re just abiding the system.
  2991. >It all seems so mundane now.
  2992. >College?
  2993. >You go there to learn stuff you already know, or have an easier time learn by yourself.
  2994. >Money?
  2995. >Treehugger’s rich as fuck.
  2996. >Her business is doing amazingly, there was all the Nazi-gold, and the money she got from being one of Hydras biggest assets for decades.
  2997. >And she never lived in any way which would stand out.
  2998. >Heck, you lived in Canterlot above the shop, you thought the shop barely pays her medical bills.
  2999. >You took a job at Flimdustries and sent back money.
  3000. >The job too...
  3001. >You’re a part time employee there now.
  3002. >What a joke.
  3003. >You don’t need their protection anymore.
  3004. >Their blackmail material against you also falls flat.
  3005. >Or does it?
  3006. “Mom, has anyone ever tried to analyze the nanites against your will?”
  3007. >“What an odd question,” Treehugger continues to cut her meat while she looks up to you, “where does it come from?”
  3008. >You could have guessed that question to come.
  3009. “Just thinking.”
  3010. >“Hmm?” she tilts her head and eats a piece, takes her time to chew and swallow, “The nanites don’t leave the body unless you command them to. One would have to act quick and remove some blood without you seeing it, and then keep it from immediately returning back to the swarm.”
  3011. >You nod.
  3012. “So they’d need to know what they are looking for?”
  3013. >“Yes indeed.”
  3014. >Her eyes remain on you, as if asking you to continue.
  3015. “So... who would know?”
  3016. >“Our little Wonderbolt pair, Sombra and Spitfire. And they both have their separate reasons to not tell anyone.”
  3017. “Aren’t they both be the kind of people who always try to find an emergency protocol? I’d imagine them looking for a way to best you, just for leverage... I mean, it’s what I would do.”
  3018. >“Thankfully, to slay a dragon, one needs a dragon-slaying sword, Anon.”
  3019. >You frown.
  3020. “That’s incredibly cocky.”
  3021. >She shrugs, “I’ll die within a few weeks, and if someone manages to best me before then I’d be... somewhat proud. I’ve been king of the hill for so long it got boring. But then again, I haven’t taken any challengers either.”
  3022. “Don’t- don’t just say that, Mom. You’re-” you look for proper words, “you’re my family. And there is still a lot of shit you need to explain, okay? I won’t allow you to die until you do, you hear me?”
  3023. >“I’m going to die and there is barely anything you could do to stop me from it, Anon, and when the time comes...”
  3024. >She produces a flash drive.
  3025. >Literally produces it.
  3026. >The device comes out of forearm, and at first was brightly red until the nanites clear off to reveal it to have a regular Wonderbolts issue.
  3027. >As she hands it to you and you take a look at the elegant design.
  3028. >However, on one side it was altered.
  3029. >The Wonderbolt symbol had been swapped out with the Hydra logo.
  3030. “You stopped in the middle of a sentence. What’s on there?”
  3031. >“All the data of the Wonderbolts and Hydra, proof Hydra’s a spy agency within a spy agency and has been ever since it was founded.”
  3032. “Jesus fucking Christ...” you shake your head, “no offense, catholic girl.”
  3033. >“This is gonna stick, isn’t it?” Synergy idly says as she observes the flash drive in your hand as well.
  3034. “What am I supposed to do with it?”, you ask in direction of Treehugger.
  3035. >“Whatever you want,” she answers, “for your personal investigations, or...”, she shrugs, “Wikileaks.”
  3036. “Wah-wikileaks? What?”
  3037. >“This is the tool with which you’ll destroy Hydra, and get everyone from small time cops to politicians on their payroll away for good a long time. The evidence is earth shattering, and I only skimmed through it. People will die, lots of people will die in the struggle that would follow.”
  3038. >You gulp and nod.
  3039. “Everyone on the index?”
  3040. >Every superhero.
  3041. >Sunset...
  3042. >“And witness protection too,” she adds, “Innocent people are going to die, but it would be the right thing to do, would it not?”
  3043. >You nod slowly and look at the flash drive.
  3044. “Well, fuck.”
  3045. >“Indeed.”
  3046. >You spin the flash drive around like a spinning top.
  3047. >Information warfare.
  3048. >And you have a metaphorical nuclear warhead at your fingertips.
  3049. “That’s not a nice present to give someone.”
  3050. >“Use it however you want to when the time comes. It needs either our approval to work.”
  3051. “You rigged it with nanites?”
  3052. >“Only sixteen.”
  3053. “You counted them?”
  3054. >“It’s all that is needed to create a regular connection. I would have only needed four if it were USB, like this you have faster options. And 16 nanites hold the data more neatly.”
  3055. “Oh yeah... I guess it’s more than 64 gigabytes now?” you ask as you read off that little detail off the casing.
  3056. >“Vastly.”
  3057. “Naturally...”, you shake your head and pocket the drive, “this is all too fucked up...”
  3058.  
  3059. >Besides having made fun of your learning disability, Synergy’s Catholicism and the tool to disrupt the worlds politics, lunch went fine.
  3060. >Real fine...
  3061. >However, that was only due to the fact that you kept quiet and let Treehugger and Synergy talk girl stuff.
  3062. >Then their conversation shifts to how they keep their hair the way they do.
  3063. >You couldn’t  help but sigh.
  3064. >Hair.
  3065. >Is there anything less important right now?
  3066. >Synergy had no proper answer as her hairstyle was brand new, but from it’s thickness and the fact that it’s not easily...
  3067. >Wait a minute.
  3068. >While you were drugged out on that sentient alien goo you did some hair research.
  3069. >Why the fuck did you do that?
  3070. >And – oh shit – you left a bot in charge of the website company.
  3071. >You don’t remember what you programmed into it.
  3072. >Make surveys, gather data, and keep the website alive. Something along those lines.
  3073. “Mom, can I borrow your phone?”
  3074. >“During lunch, Anon, really?”
  3075. “I need some peace of mind.”
  3076. >You put aside your meal for a second as you take Treehugger’s smartphone.
  3077. >...
  3078. >What did you call the website?
  3079. >Fuck, why don’t you remember?
  3080. >You remember everything...
  3081. >Except for the things you did while you were possessed. (at least not properly)
  3082. >You remember trolling /fa/ and even hiring someone from /gd/ to make the rest of the website.
  3083. >You even remember having set up a contract...?
  3084. >Someone is now in your employ on that site.
  3085. >Fuck.
  3086. >But you don’t remember the name of it.
  3087. >“Anon? You’re panicking.”
  3088. “No, I’m not.”
  3089. >Your voice was higher than usual as you deny the accusation.
  3090. >Disregarding Treehuggers worry you once more lurk /fa/, and – goddamnit – there is a fucking haircare-general with an “hairforceone.org”-edition
  3091. >Oh no.
  3092. >You fucking suck at names.
  3093. >Without even going to the site itself or looking what the thread says you access the sites webmaster email.
  3094. >17000 e-mails.
  3095. >You close your eyes and take a deep breath.
  3096. >Suggestions, suggestions, suggestions, google complaining about the legitimacy of the hits on the website, a ‘thanks for upgrading your servers’-mail.
  3097. >Apparently the bot automatically sends upgrade requests to the hosting service.
  3098. >Oh, there is also a mail from them questioning the legality of your site.
  3099. >Apparently your twitter hashtag is trending.
  3100. >You don’t even have a – nope, there it is – you have a twitter.
  3101. >Or rather, the bot and the site have a twitter.
  3102. >There is only so much you can figure out on a smartphone, and you only skimmed over the subject lines of those E-Mails.
  3103. >You’d need to go home to find out what the fuck you actually did.
  3104. >It’s only been two days, there’s not much damage that it could have caused, right?
  3105. >At worst you were trolled and the suggestions your bot took had been antisemitic and...
  3106. >No, you wrote it in an hour, there’s no way it was so advanced as to go racist.
  3107. >Then again, you also remember copy and pasting AI-learning algorithms from the internet.
  3108. >Ok, worst case scenario: it bought servers you have to pay for, but you have plenty of money now.
  3109. >Second worst case: It went full retard and you have to make a public apology.
  3110. >Nonono, actual worst case scenario: you wrote Skynet by mixing and matching AIs from the internet... within an hour.
  3111. >Okay, that’s not very likely.
  3112. >“That’s enough of that, thank you very much,” Treehugger takes her phone back after you only stared at it for a minute without doing anything, “Your E-Mails?”
  3113. “Yeah, I... It’s nothing, I just made a website last week and wanted to look how it’s doing.”
  3114. >“Mhm...” She doesn’t sound convinced as she looks at the phone’s recent history, then up to you... and further up, to your hair, “I’m not going to have to point it out, do I?”
  3115. “The hypocrisy? Nope.”
  3116. >Lacking proper information, Synergy inquires, “what’s going on?”
  3117. >“Anon’s made a haircare and styling website, evaluating different shampoos, gels, and-”
  3118. “I was drunk, okay?” you interrupt her, “I remember thinking about Sunset’s hair and how soft it was,” you remember that part now, “and then... I dunno.”
  3119. >“Drunken on alcohol or love?” Synergy wiggles her eyebrows.
  3120. “A-alcohol,” you lie.
  3121. >What kind of drug is alien goo?
  3122. >You should tell them.
  3123. >“That’s not convincing.”
  3124. “It was something else, okay?” You sigh. “Can we not talk about this?”
  3125. >“Performance enhancing drugs, Anon?” Treehugger asks in a disappointed voice, “we’ve had plenty of talks not to-”
  3126. “-not to do anything that would land us in a hospital, yes, mom. Because of the fucking nanites in my body. Which, you know, those we never talked about.”
  3127. >“Oh, you want to be angry at me? While you were doing drugs.”
  3128. “I wasn’t doing drugs, and yes, I want to be angry at you for lying to me my entire life.”
  3129. >“I think we were past that. I did it in hope to protect you.”
  3130. “Well, didn’t turn out so well, now did it?”
  3131. >Treehugger lets out a few humorless laughs, before taking on a very serious expression again.
  3132. >“Explain to me what you were drunk on.”
  3133. “An alien parasite. A klyntar, okay?”
  3134. >She keeps looking at you and narrows her eyes, trying to look for a sign of deception.
  3135. >Then it changes to confusion as she looks off.
  3136. >“And it made you make a fashion website?”
  3137. >That wasn’t exactly what you expected.
  3138. “Yes... It made me make a fashion website.”
  3139. >“Huh...” Treehugger leans back into her chair again, pondering about something.
  3140. >Synergy, once more was confused and asks, “the thing that made the other Sunset a monster?”
  3141. “Y-yeah... the exact same one.”
  3142. >She uses a toothpick to retrieve something from her teeth, but you can tell that her confusion hasn’t been lifted.
  3143. >“I’m afraid there’s a little bit too much...” she gestures wildly with her free hand, “going on. You know? I- I have like lost the proper overview of what’s going on.”
  3144. >Before you could answer, Treehugger asks, “Chrysalis gave you the klyntar?”
  3145. “Yeah.”
  3146. >“Why?”
  3147. >What a simple question, but you don’t have a sure answer.
  3148. “Like... as a gesture of friendship, I guess. She- She wanted to accelerate the healing of my arm.”
  3149. >Once more you see her look slightly off in wonder before she asks her follow-up question.
  3150. >“Why? What happened to your arm?”
  3151. >Fuck.
  3152. “Uhh...”
  3153. >“And you’ve started to date Sun- the other Sunset just last week? How about you recap your last week for me, hmm?”
  3154.  
  3155. >Be Synergy.
  3156. >Anon looks defeated, but all he has to do is to talk about what he did last week.
  3157. “You gonna finish that?”
  3158. >You point at the rest of his disregarded meal.
  3159. >If he’s not going to eat anymore but focus on talking it would only get cold, and he didn’t seem very hungry before that either.
  3160. >You believe you’ve managed to form a bit of a bond with Treehugger earlier, and some with Anon last night, but you know there was still a way to go before they actually trust you.
  3161. >From what you’ve gathered so far is that Treehugger’s nanites are totally an Omega-level power.
  3162. >Her control of plants to subjugate the other Sunset and her friends at the camp was also extremely strong.
  3163. >Its only weakness – if you can call it that – it would obviously not do anything without a plant nearby, but she has that solved too with rose-pin on her chest which looks way too lifelike not to be actually alive.
  3164. >You don’t know what she can do with a single rose, but you hope that when you find out, you’ll not be at the receiving end.
  3165. >A more realistic weakness is range.
  3166. >The nanites are limited and you know they were meant to communicate within a single body.
  3167. >You’re not smart like the fancy student next to you, but you figure they are not designed to do it if they are far away from one another.
  3168. >Still, you don’t know what that range is.
  3169. >On the other hand, she’s still able to use multiple firearms at the same time while they were held up by those tiny machines.
  3170. >And those are just the things she can do naked and with regular toys.
  3171. >Anon and your suit have special features, and you’re sure hers does too.
  3172. >In addition to that she collected some toys from her vault, one of which was the vibranium shield of Captain freaking America.
  3173. >One last thing also makes you want to stay at her side.
  3174. >You’re fairly certain she is in possession of the Time Gem.
  3175. >You know she used it to travel through time once, and the nanites seem to fail her body.
  3176. >You know the time gem can revert someone back into a younger form of themselves, keeping all memories.
  3177. >Through continuous use it practically grants immortality.
  3178. >She looks old-ish.
  3179. >Not that old, but frail from her sickness.
  3180. >Maybe around 50...
  3181. >If she has been in a 30 year old body as she picked up Anon and then simply decided that she stops reverting herself it would work out.
  3182. >You have no evidence on that, and she already denied having the gem, but that could have been a simple lie.
  3183. >The only strategy you can follow is to ally yourself with her and Anon as closely as possible.
  3184. >Two Infinity Stones are in incredibly close proximity to you.
  3185. >The Space Gem within the Tesseract emits too much energy, you can hide that, and that’s the plan.
  3186. >You’ll get one.
  3187. >Or at least that’s the plan if Treehugger sticks to her side of the bargain.
  3188. >Is her motivation truly just to keep Anon safe?
  3189. >If so, then you might ask to just go on your way once you have it.
  3190. >You have an approximate knowledge where stuff is in the universe, and with the space gem it would be no problem reaching it.
  3191. >You’ve always been a drifter, but you stuck to North America.
  3192. >Space’s the final frontier.
  3193. >Just go out and do whatever you want.
  3194. >Maybe you’ll be lonely...
  3195. >There has always been people around on Earth.
  3196. >You look to Anon.
  3197. >No, don’t be silly, if he would go with you, it would defeat the entire purpose of leaving Earth to protect him.
  3198. >No strings attached.
  3199. >Space.
  3200. >Just you and ultimate freedom.
  3201. >Then there was also the Time Gem in the back of your mind.
  3202. >If Treehugger has it...
  3203. >No, you don’t need it.
  3204. >You wouldn’t even know what to do with it.
  3205. >Just like you wouldn’t know what to do with a lot of money.
  3206. >But if the trillion dollar coin would lie in front of you, barely guarded, and you knew that you could get away with it...
  3207. >It’s the kind of power nobody could claim they wouldn’t even be tempted.
  3208. >You’re not going to betray them.
  3209. >But if Treehugger dies and you have reasons to believe Anon’s not fit to safeguard it properly...
  3210. >No...
  3211. >Anon’s smart enough to be able to tell if he’s fit to guard it or not.
  3212. >All you’d need to do is ask.
  3213. >No cloak and dagger stuff with him.
  3214. >...
  3215. >Once the other Sunset is back in her dimension, Earth is secure enough, and Treehugger is dead you’ll ask him to go to space with you.
  3216. >“Synergy? Are you with us?”
  3217. “Hmm? Yes?”
  3218. >She had been peppering Anon with questions, so her addressing you all of the sudden made you shriek a little.
  3219. >“You looked like you were elsewhere.”
  3220. “Nono, I got it. The transfer to Canterlot to New Yoke along with a few coincidences made him realize Spider-Woman’s identity. Being horny, he tries to impress her by making a super-suit. In Anon #001 (2015), his first appearance, he manages to be blown to bits, one hell of a good first impression, if you ask me.”
  3221. >Anon shrugs as if to tell you that’s a fair assumption.
  3222. “Contrary to logic woos her the next day by being drugged out on some painkiller, later he gets found out by his employer, who gives him a klyntar the following day and Flim Industries’ head of security start taking down the Irish Mafia, for some reason.”
  3223. >“No, it was Chrysalis who gave it to me, and I don’t think anyone in Flimdustries knew that, she’s... kinda doing her own thing.”
  3224. >You nod, taking in the new information before continuing.
  3225. “You figure out the Iron Mage’s identity – your childhood friend, so cute – and hack her password to access the Wonderbolts, some shit happens, you lose the symbiote to your girlfriend, asks Chrysalis’ to pick it up, and as that’s happening the Wonderbolts intervene.”
  3226. >You finish the retelling of his story.
  3227. “Seems a bit contrived, but you can’t make that shit up. And if you’d be able to make it up... you got issues, man. Oh, and, yes... somewhen with that symbiote you make a hair care website.”
  3228. >“Yeah, that- like... sums it up, until we got to the camp.”
  3229. “There Spitfire left him mostly alone,” you turn to Treehugger again to see if she was happy with your recap of his recap.
  3230. >She nods, a bit impressed, because she had been certain you hadn’t paid any attention, and, to bee honest, you barely had.
  3231. >You had mostly been in your own head.
  3232. “I can multitask.”
  3233. >“I see that,” she nods again, “but where did you drift off to?”
  3234. >You shrug and point upwards.
  3235. “Space.”
  3236. >“Space?” Anon wonders.
  3237. “Yeah, I was just thinking about the future. Where and how I best keep the Tesseract save. I figure I keep moving, space adventure, not a road trip how I’m used to.”
  3238. >“Space?”, the word was now repeated by Treehugger as well.
  3239. >You shrug.
  3240. “I figure Anon is safer the further away any Infinity Gem is from him.”
  3241. >She tilts her head a bit.
  3242. “The Tesseract,” you  clarify, “you said you’ll give it to me after I told you I can hide it’s energy.”
  3243. >“Right right...”
  3244. >Well, that’s ominous.
  3245. >“You are going to give it to her,” Anon asks, now slightly pissed at the thought she seems to have forgotten the agreement, “aren’t you?”
  3246. >“Of course,” she shakes her head, “yes, I- yes,” now she’s nodding as she turns to you, “Once we secured the Tesseract I will hand it over to you. And you leaving the planet would indeed work well to keep my Anon safe.”
  3247. >‘Her’ Anon.
  3248. >“Mom...” Anon’s voice was only mildly annoyed.
  3249. “Then that’s settled as well.”
  3250.  
  3251. >Return to being Anon.
  3252. >You’re all adults, and you’re all smart enough to realize what Synergy’s question and Treehugger’s slow answer entailed.
  3253. >You don’t trust one another.
  3254. >At least not completely.
  3255. >And that’s understandable, given the pay off of your endeavor.
  3256. >This Tesseract-thing was utterly overpowered.
  3257. >The power to access everything in the universe... at once.
  3258. >It’s a single thing and it would have to be split three ways.
  3259. >Yet you had agreed that Synergy would get it all.
  3260. >Treehugger and your share would only be the knowledge of saving Earth.
  3261. >This was an unfair bargain from the start, and now you have reason to believe Treehugger won’t make true on her promise.
  3262. >However, you don’t even know what you would be doing with the Tesseract.
  3263. >Synergy’s idea of traveling through space sounds nice.
  3264. >The thought of leaving everything behind amuses you.
  3265. >Just a week ago you could never have thought about that.
  3266. >Now... continuing life on Earth seems so mundane.
  3267. >Or, life after it’s saved, Sunset’s gone and your mom... is too.
  3268. >Traveling through space with Synergy-
  3269. >Traveling through space sounds nice, period.
  3270. >Wait, wait, wait...
  3271. “What are we going to steal from Hydra again?”
  3272. >The entire reason why you went to Hydra was to steal something from them.
  3273. >Something to hide the Tesseract’s energy.
  3274. >Treehugger never planed to give it to Synergy to begin with.
  3275. >She’s only a tool to get to it in the first place.
  3276. >“A container once housing the yokes for Sleipnir, the horse that pulled Odin’s chariot.” Treehugger tells you again, “The people who were employed to make these artifacts didn’t do half measures. The container is quite powerful itself in harboring energies and making them less likely to be detected. However, in the case of the Space Gem, this is merely a band-aid, not the solution that Synergie here provides.”
  3277. >You narrow your eyes slightly.
  3278. >Good save.
  3279. “Horses, hmm... does that have anything to do with Equestria?”
  3280. >Treehugger chuckles, “different kind of horses.”
  3281. >You nod.
  3282. “Why are they called Equestria?”
  3283. >“You’ve got to ask them yourself. But the magic we call Equestrian Magic is unicorn or alicorn magic for them, so I figure it’s originated in that.”
  3284. “Huh....”
  3285. >You frown and think.”
  3286. “Alicorn is the material of a unicorns horn, right?”
  3287. >“I believe so, yes,” she nods, “I do not know how their magic works, I barely know how any of the magic types here in our dimension work. What I do know is that their magic seems to be virtue-based, and they use catalysts to amplify their magic. I can only guess that alicorn is the first catalyst they need. Maybe it’s an abundant resource. It’s the land of horses, after all. Hmm... no wait, that’s not right...”
  3288. >She goes into thought again, only mumbling a bit.
  3289. >“They differ between alicorn- and unicorn-magic. While there are plenty of unicorn-magic users, there is only a handful of alicorn-magic users. Three I presume, Celestia, Luna and, in this timeline, Twilight Sparkle.
  3290. >“With the other Sunset the third in your timeline,” Synergy adds.
  3291. >“Yes, but I have never met either of them back then.”
  3292. “Okay...”
  3293. >“Again, I’m far from an expert of alterdimensional magics,” Treehugger says once more.
  3294. “So, what are the kinds of magic in our world?”
  3295. >“Oh, there are plenty, let’s see... There’s enochian or angelic magic, occult or demonic magic, arcanics, alchemy, uhm... witchcraft covers occult and alchemy while sorcery covers alchemy and enochian, then... uhh...”
  3296. >“The eastern ones?” Synergy pitches in, “I manipulate Chi... for the most part... and other energies directly influencing me. And for me the western magics were just spell casting.”
  3297. >“Yes, magic users have their own ideas of where boundaries are drawn, one can throw more into the same thing... it’s not that clear.”
  3298. “Okay... it’s magic. Explanations don’t make sense.”
  3299. >“And your plate is full learning to use your nanites, plus your mind is already fine tuned to technology. It’s hard for someone of your... knowledge level to let go of... the reason you trained your entire life.”
  3300. “Okay...”
  3301. >Fukken magic.
  3302. “Best not to think about the how, right? But what’s... like the limit of what magic can do?”
  3303. >This amuses both your female companions as it earns you an odd smirk and a chuckle.
  3304. >“Depends on the caster, the type of magic and the tools used,” Synergy says, “I can’t make stuff float, I couldn’t even make myself float, unless I use tremendous amounts of energy to cancel out gravity, because that’s the only way I know how to float. Then there are people who can do... literally anything. It’s a slow learning curve. Study and practice, years of it.”
  3305. “So what about Princess Twilight?”
  3306. >“What do you mean?”
  3307. “How strong is she?”
  3308. >“Very,” Treehugger, “we know her to be able to open portals through dimensions, even with a tool, that’s an impressive feat. The alicorn magic users were made princesses because of their abilities, don’t forget. And their equivalents in our dimensions also are nothing to sneeze at.”
  3309. “Yes... wait, Twilight – our Twilight – she combined magic with science, how does that work?”
  3310. >“Hmm...” Treehugger thinks for a moment while Synergy only shakes her head in ignorance, “Part of me hopes that she found a magical artifact and found catalysts to transfer energies to the boots and gauntlets where she manages a control transfer of energy into- whatever, Repulsor and energy weapons. Second guess is that it’s not magic at all and she only came up with an energy source to do the things she does. Which would still be wickedly smart, but not in violation of my current worldview.”
  3311. “Yeah, she kinda is...”
  3312. >You think back to your high school days... or at least the ones with her.
  3313. >“It’s a cute smile he has, isn’t it?” Treehugger lent over to Synergy
  3314. >They share another laugh at your expense.
  3315. >You’d like to deny the accusation, but you had to actively wipe the smile away from your face.
  3316. “S-shut up.”
  3317.  
  3318. >After lunch you return once more to the Wonderbolt’s tower of New Yoke.
  3319. >‘What a joke’, you think as you pass the set of double doors adorning the symbol other people associate with peace-keeping.
  3320. >They had been founded two decades ago to counter organizastions such as the then recently defeated Hydra.
  3321. >Tough luck that half of it’s founding members had been Hydra and are now hiding their activities in plain sight, with government funding no less.
  3322. >It’ll have to go, no doubt about that, it’s only a matter of timing.
  3323. >You have to do it when it has the most effect, but also soon-ish, because you only have the data of today.
  3324. >While Treehugger might be able to get the newest, neither of you knows how much longer she has.
  3325. >She doesn’t want to show it, but you can tell she’s doing quite badly.
  3326. >Almost all of her movements seem mechanical and calculated, as if her body has already shut down, but she’s using the nanites to move actively.
  3327. >Giving you even a fraction of them worsened her condition further.
  3328. >You’re greeted by a receptionist after entering the building and are quickly let through to the elevators.
  3329. >New destination: basement gym.
  3330. >This time Synergy sticks with you as she’ll be your CQC teacher.
  3331. >To be honest, hand to hand combat interests you even less than gun-fu.
  3332. >You know you’re not going to learn Chi-powered attacks like she does either.
  3333. >What you do know is that Treehugger totally tanked a hit from Sunset back at the camp, and Sunset was the one who had her wrist hurt.
  3334. >You only need defensive moves, a rough knowledge on how to escape grapples, and a few basics, maybe.
  3335. >Grapples are hard if you have to do it with a d20, you imagine it’s hard to do in real life as well.
  3336. “What can I expect?”, you ask as the closing of the gym door snaps you out of your train of thought.
  3337. >“Expect to be hit,” Synergy smiles, “a lot.”
  3338. “Peachy.”
  3339. >“You’ll learn to harden your skin and create claws,” Treehugger tells you.
  3340. “Claws?”
  3341. >“Yes, you were able to make moving tendrils, now we go to more solid forms.”
  3342. >She rises her hands up for you and Synergy to see and starts her show.
  3343. >Her fingernails turn red and grow longer to about three inches, “more Freddy, or ...” the fingernails disappear again and she clenches a fist, only to have three claws emerging from between her knuckles, “like this?”
  3344.  
  3345. >Knuckle claws, so awesome.
  3346. >You hardened the skin on your fingers and the back of your hands and grew three claws from in between your knuckles.
  3347. >Treehugger began by letting you play fruit ninja, but you quickly grew forth to testing on harder materials, and now there’s firewood flying your way.
  3348. >While you’re not quite able to cut it, you can already make the claws pretty sharp and hard.
  3349. >She says that both can be improved up to the point where they can cut weaker metals like copper or aluminum.
  3350. >Sharpness needs a more focused thought on the polygon you want to model in your head and let be produced.
  3351. >And hardness is just the focus on how imperative it’s model should be to.
  3352. >You basically have to trick your nanites into believing you’re in danger and really need this.
  3353. >Pretty much everything you did today has not been in their original design.
  3354. >They have never even meant to have a telepathic link to their host.
  3355. >But as you’re making good progress with these constructs as opposed to manipulating your optical senses you disregard the difficulty of the ordeal.
  3356. >You’re succeeding in what you’re attempting to do, and that’s what counts.
  3357. >A program either works or it doesn’t.
  3358. >Zero or one, there is no half right answer.
  3359. >Do or do not, there is no try.
  3360. >“Okay, stop, you’re not focusing on your breathing.”
  3361. “I-I ah- am super... f-focusing on my breathing,” you wheeze out.
  3362. >Synergy shakes her head and does not throw you anything else.
  3363. >“Your arm movement is improving, but you’re exhausting your lungs. You’d be able to keep going longer if your body get’s enough oxygen, but they do not work in the rhythm your body needs right now. Every movement of your torso also puts pressure on your diaphragm which you move involuntarily. You’re either running out of breath before your muscles ache, or worse, you get a stitch.”
  3364. “Okay, yeah, well? I already got one.”
  3365. >You hold your side and shake your head as well.
  3366. >“Think fast.”
  3367. “Huh?”
  3368. >Another piece of wood flies up in the air, yet was not making it’s way to you as Synergy only threw it up vertically.
  3369. “What?”
  3370. >As it reaches her again she punches it in your direction.
  3371. >Flying horizontally like a baseball now you barely had time to put up your arms in defense.
  3372. >The piece of wood hits your right forearm, which, in turn, got yanked back towards you.
  3373. >Now, in any other case this would be fine, but right now you have had three wood-cutting claws out.
  3374. “...”
  3375. >There’s a hard *thud*-sound as the piece of wood fell.
  3376. >And with an almost comical *sip* the claws of your left hand embed themselves into the floor.
  3377. >Just like what would happen if you would drop a knife on that slightly padded floor.
  3378. >The next thing you hear was the squirt of blood hitting the floor as well, and you look after the liquid almost in disbelieve.
  3379. >As if to look for confirmation of what just happened you look up to Synergy and Treehugger, both have their faces distorted by shock, and Synergy holds her hands before her mouth.
  3380. >One heaertbeat later you hear the same sound once more, then there was just noise.
  3381. >Blood rushes through your ears, silencing out everything else.
  3382. >You don’t hear Synergies footsteps as she runs to you.
  3383. >You don’t even hear yourself hitting the floor as your knees give in.
  3384. >Then came the pain.
  3385. >The pain of losing your left hand.
  3386. >Neatly sliced off, with two more half-inch wide slices of your left forearm.
  3387. >You slightly reach out for the lost parts, it’s claws now liquidizing again and flowing back into the hand.
  3388. >“Oh, don’t be such a baby.”
  3389. >As Synergy tries to stop your bleeding, Treehugger talk directly into your head as she idly rolls towards you.
  3390. >“Put yourself back together.”
  3391. “How...?”
  3392. >You don’t know if the words came out of your mouth, or if you just thought them.
  3393. >Treehugger doesn’t respond and grabs Synergies shoulder, guiding her back.
  3394. >She seems very reluctant at first, but then stops struggling and let go of you.
  3395. >You see their mouths moving, but what they say eludes you.
  3396. >Put yourself back together.
  3397. >You take your strength to remain in a proper seating position and reach our.
  3398. >Your remaining hand’s shaking.
  3399. >First piece.
  3400. >What neat looking live human flesh...
  3401. >Humpty fucking Dumpty.
  3402. >The blood – no – the nanites were at the ready to reconnect.
  3403. >Even through the shaking of your right hand, as soon as you bring the piece into the approximate place, the nanites take over and attach it.
  3404. >“There’s an easier way.”
  3405. >Just as you hear her voice again you realized that too.
  3406. >Guiding the stump of your left arm with your right you move closer to the still unattached slice and the hand.
  3407. >The nanites connect threads between the pieces of your hand now.
  3408. >Just... string it up like pearls.
  3409. >All done...
  3410. >Gonna pass out now.
  3411.  
  3412. >Be Lyra
  3413. >Your father told you to keep an eye on the three newcomers.
  3414. >While you planted a transmitter on them you’re pretty sure they knew.
  3415. >All the audio you got to hear was useless banter, the rest was oddly distorted.
  3416. >You know the wheelchair one, Treehugger, can manipulate computers, so she only relayed you the information she wanted you to have.
  3417. >This pissed you a little bit more off than had she simply disabled it.
  3418. >Piece of information you did get was that the guy, Anon, made a website dedicated to beauty products, which you choose to check out.
  3419. >Good stuff.
  3420. >You need to keep pretty to keep using your features to get people to do as you want.
  3421. >You have no idea why he made it, or how he gathered the intel on different things, but it’ll serve you well.
  3422. >In fact, you had troubles not to lose yourself in it.
  3423. >The forum seems horribly understaffed to keep the peace when compared to the army of people he must employ to gather the data which is given on there.
  3424. >While interesting, it’s not why /they/ are of interest to you on a professional level.
  3425. >It makes them more interesting all together.
  3426. >After they ate for lunch you decided to grow a little more bold, as to show you’re not afraid of them.
  3427. >You went down to the gym with them, training your own stuff not far from them.
  3428. >For some reason that equestrian magic on you doesn’t work consistently.
  3429. >All you can do now is shoot bolts of minty green lightning, float slightly, and throw objects if they are within... like... a lightning grasp.
  3430. >You’ve got to come up with proper names for your attacks.
  3431. >On the other hand, life is not a freaking cartoon where attacks need names.
  3432. >And you totally shouldn’t complain, the stuff you can do is still super impressive.
  3433. >Impressive enough to make your dad actually spend time with you.
  3434. >You’re useful to him now, so of course he’s trying to manipulate you by spending some time with you.
  3435. >On the other hand, you’re feigning loyalty to his secret society too and try and make him believe he manipulated you successfully.
  3436. >You don’t care much for Hydra, but the perks seem nice.
  3437. >Especially now since you’re a fucking Super.
  3438. >If only you had known you need to go to another world and become a horse, then go back to get some powers, you would have done so sooner.
  3439. >On that note, Fleetfoot had reported no difference, and neither did that other agent, BonBon.
  3440. >The later one is not with Hydra, but an eye had been kept on her abilities too.
  3441. >You’re not scientist-smart, but you figure it had to do with how you entered the horse-dimension.
  3442. >And counting two and two together you also figure that fucking Flash must not have gotten off without anything either.
  3443. >Your powers manifested quickly enough, he, however, didn’t show any signs of it after he had cut a deal to keep quiet.
  3444. >He’s traumatized after shooting Turner’s pet, that Iron Mage.
  3445. >Heck, he’s even allowed to run around free waiting for his robbery-trial.
  3446. >You hope you’ll be able to check the fool out and test him for powers before then, and get daddy dearest to lighten his sentence.
  3447. >If you can manipulate Flash like you did before, and he has powers now, …
  3448. >You don’t actually know what you want to do.
  3449. >But you know you want to keep it a secret, recruit him, and, in case you’re found out, pretend it was supposed to be a present to your father.
  3450. >However, for now you have another guy to pay attention to.
  3451. >Anon West.
  3452. >Sombra jokingly said you should get close to him like you did the (until now maybe) useless boyfriend of yours.
  3453. >You’re not gonna whore yourself out though.
  3454. >Flash wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, but at least he was hot enough.
  3455. >West is... more of a dweeb.
  3456. >Handsome enough and lean, but a dweeb.
  3457. >Probably into weird shit, too.
  3458. >What kind of dweeb has muscles?
  3459. >The kind that needs it to tie girls up in bed, that’s who.
  3460. >And, oh... apparently the kind who can make claws extend from his hands.
  3461. >A super-powered dweeb...
  3462. >Focus on your own training.
  3463. >The more conductive and lighter a material is the easier it is to lift for you and use as a mace.
  3464. >Humans are too heavy and too resistanc-y... ohm-y, whatever it’s called when they are not meant to conduct electricity.
  3465. >Would you be in the streets, the easiest thing would be to rip off the hood of a car or a parking meter to use as a weapon.
  3466. >In here in a save room you can simply pick a metal weight of your choosing and fling it around.
  3467. >While that’s fun, it’s not a real life scenario.
  3468. >You’d need someone to spar with.
  3469. >Someone who’d be able to take a hit.
  3470. >“Oh... MYGODANON!”
  3471. >Hmm?
  3472. >You hear the alien girl scream and it was probably her footsteps running.
  3473. >Turning around you see her quickly making her way to West.
  3474. >It takes a moment to realize what’s going on.
  3475. >His hand is embedded into the floor.
  3476. >What’s odd is that it’s no longer attached to his forearm.
  3477. “Huh.”
  3478. >You approach slowly, intrigued by the scene.
  3479. >He lost his hand...
  3480. >The reality of it barely hits you as the situation seems so ridiculous.
  3481. >He has slumped down to his knees like a marionette with it’s strings cut and the girl was trying to still his bleeding.
  3482. >So much blood...
  3483. >The old lady wheelchairs to him, “oh, don’t be such a baby,” she says as she reaches him.
  3484. >Jesus... aren’t you his mother?
  3485. >Even Sombra would have more empathy if you lost your hand.
  3486. >She’s even pulling the girl helping him away.
  3487. >“Put yourself back together.”
  3488. >Wait, what?
  3489. >You look back to the guy as he reaches for one of the slices of his arm and–
  3490. “What the fuck?”
  3491. >He puts it back on his arm.
  3492. “Seriously, what the fuck?”
  3493. >Only the one from another dimension acknowledges your presence at the scene as she looks at you in confusion for a second before back to the guy putting himself back together.
  3494. >As soon as his hand was reattached though, his eyes turn back and he falls forward only to be caught by alien-girl.
  3495. “What just happened?”
  3496. >Treehugger looks up to you, “Miss King, would you–“ she starts but you interrupt.
  3497. “Heartstrings,” you correct her.
  3498. >“Heartstrings?”
  3499. “Lyra Heartstrings, my bio-parents aren’t married, I have my mother’s name.”
  3500. >“Miss Heartstrings then, you see my son has had a serious accident and needs a type A positive blood transfusion. Forgive me if I didn’t properly address you, but if you’d be a dear to realize the severity of the situation and contact the medical wing. I understand your name matters to you, but I’d argue my son’s well being matters more to me.”
  3501. >She leans forward a bit, “Your father surely has told you to stay on our better side, so... shoo!”
  3502. “Yes, Ma’am.”
  3503. >You gulp, turn and make haste.
  3504. >You know what she’s capable off, or at least you got a glimpse of what she can do, and... fuck, she’s scary.
  3505. >She can do that same voice as Sombra can.
  3506. >The Anthony Hopkins ‘I’ll have you for dinner’ kind of voice.
  3507.  
  3508. >Be Synergy.
  3509. >You’ve pulled some bad shit before, but people usually never lost any appendages while you did so.
  3510. >And never had it been anybody whom you genuinely liked.
  3511. >Needless to say you feel crazy guilty.
  3512. >You’re carrying Anon bridal-style up to the room you had been given to last night.
  3513. >Treehugger says she only needs the transfusion and will nurse him herself.
  3514. >Go figure.
  3515. >He’s only passed out and lost a bit of blood.
  3516. >At least that was the end result.
  3517. >The blood loss alone was reason enough for him to fall unconscious, you’re actually surprised he managed to hold out that long.
  3518. >While the blood stayed out, the nanites had made their way back into his body.
  3519. >The cuts on his wrists were still clearly visible, but you can also see them healing before your eyes.
  3520. >His hand too twitches at times, and you can’t help but wonder if those are indicators as to when his nerves and tendons are reconnecting.
  3521. >His face tells you he’s still in pain.
  3522. >So yeah, crazy guilty.
  3523. >You know everything will be fine again, he has a crazy healing factor, yet losing a hand must hurt, and you’re at fault.
  3524. >You gently lay him down in his bed, holding his hand, still unsure if he’s going to bleed and make a mess of-
  3525. >His shirt’s still moist of his blood, the sheets were ruined from the moment you laid him down.
  3526. >Yet you didn’t want to let go of his hand.
  3527. >What a stupid sentiment.
  3528. >You move away and sit back on Treehugger’s bed next to his.
  3529. >Only now do you pay attention to the older woman again.
  3530. “I- I’m so sorry.”
  3531. >“Don’t apologize to me,” she retorts.
  3532. >She sounds slightly pissed, just like she had done with that girl, Lyra.
  3533. “Still...”
  3534. >“What have you learned?”
  3535. “I-”
  3536. >You made a mistake.
  3537. >And now she’s schooling you.
  3538. >So what did you learn?
  3539. >You think back.
  3540. >Where did you go wrong?
  3541. >You were not wrong in deceiving him when the projectile comes.
  3542. >Hmm...
  3543. “Anon held his hands defensively as would he not have claws, but he did. He needs to learn to go against his natural instinct if he makes unnatural additions to his body.”
  3544. >You nod, mostly to yourself before looking over to Treehugger.
  3545. “I know in what regards he needs more training now.”
  3546. >“Very good,” she compliments as she heaves herself over onto the bed to Anon.
  3547. >Sitting besides him she caresses his cheek lovingly with an absent smile.
  3548. >“While I, of course, dislike my son to experience pain, there was nothing to fear, no real danger, and most importantly no permanent harm. Quite the opposite. You both learned something. I’d even say this is a win.”
  3549. >She slowly makes a fist as she removes her hand from Anon’s face..
  3550. >“Now this is not a very empathetic way of looking at my son’s misfortune. Should I be sad or worried. Either emotion would be a normal human’s reaction, wouldn’t it? Hmm... Maybe you’d even like it if I were angry...”
  3551. “Yeah... kinda.”
  3552. >You look down to Anon again.
  3553. >Even if she’s not angry, you still have to make it up to Anon.
  3554. >...
  3555. >You’re already indebted by them for food and lodgings.
  3556. >You have nothing.
  3557. >And what you have is nothing he would accept.
  3558. >The only thing you can do is feel guilty
  3559. >“Do you want me to hand out a punishment?”
  3560. “A punishment?”, you frown, “what do you mean?”
  3561. >“Something to enable you to move on and leave the incident behind you. Otherwise you’d carry it around as baggage, and that might get in the way.”
  3562. “For my conscious, you mean?”
  3563. >“Yes, indeed.”
  3564. >You’re inclined to do something for Anon... but a punishment from Treehugger?
  3565. >You’re not entirely averse to the thought.
  3566. >She opens up her palms to you.
  3567. >“Hand.”
  3568. >A few moments pass before you reach out for her over Anon’s unconscious body.
  3569. >Treehugger takes your hand in both of hers and moves one up to your forearm.
  3570. >You feel a tingling feeling for a moment before she looks up to you.
  3571. >“I’ll let your nerves fire pain impulses to your brain, making you think you’re in pain. I’ll let go instantly, but it will linger for a while.”
  3572. >You keep it perfectly still even through the sensation.
  3573. >She’ll fake hurt you?
  3574. >Simulating the loss of a hand.
  3575. “It’s proper penance, it seems...”
  3576. >“Don’t scream.”
  3577. “I won’t,” you confirm
  3578. >“You’re not a masochist either, are you?”
  3579. >You chuckle, “no, it’s not like that either. Usually I try to–“
  3580. >She fires her powers.
  3581. >The thought of finishing your sentence was wiped away.
  3582. >The smile on your face makes place for a distortion of pain.
  3583. >You jump backwards and fall onto the bed, hitting your head on the frame.
  3584. >Pain...
  3585. >Pain courses throughout your hand.
  3586. >Pain beyond anything you ever imagined.
  3587. >Dunking your hand into boiling acid couldn’t hurt like this.
  3588. >Every fiber screams at you to make the pain go away.
  3589. >You’re digging your fingernails into your skin, even drawing blood.
  3590. >The less hand you have the less can hurt...
  3591. >Cut off your hand.
  3592. >No...
  3593. >Stay sane.
  3594. >This isn’t real.
  3595. >Your senses return.
  3596. >The first thing you notice is that you had been holding your breath and are at the verge of passing out.
  3597. >You take gasping breaths.
  3598. >You swallow up some drool mixed with the blood you drew when you were biting your lip.
  3599. >After a small coughing fit you slowly regain your composure.
  3600. >Besides the lingering phantom pain, there’s a real one from when you hit the back of your head, you’re bleeding freely from your lower lip, and the scratch marks you now have on your hand.
  3601. >Real pain.
  3602. >So comfortable.
  3603. >So much better than fake one.
  3604. >...
  3605. >You realize you’re in fetal position.
  3606. >Still on your way to regain your composure and senses you look over to the one who caused this little episode.
  3607. >“Don’t hurt my son again.”
  3608. “Yes, No! I wont. Message GET. Loud and clear.”
  3609. >“Good.”
  3610.  
  3611. >The Hydra-girl, Lyra, came back with a coolbox and two bags of blood within.
  3612. >Treehugger took them and said her to leave ‘you’ (plural) alone.
  3613. >You gladly interpreted it as ‘you’ (singular) and left with Lyra.
  3614. >Only a few moments later do you realize that you totally chickened out on being in the same room alone with Treehugger.
  3615. >“So, you’re from another dimension?”
  3616. >Barely paying attention to your steps you had simply followed Lyra.
  3617. >The floor she hit on the elevator turns out to be the ground floor and you’re currently on your way down.
  3618. “Hmm?”
  3619. >You’re still a bit dizzy.
  3620. >“Equestria, that other dimension-thing. You’re from there, right?”
  3621. >That’s right, your cover is that you’re the one from another dimension, not the one who’s attending school like normal.
  3622. “Yes.”
  3623. >You need to tread your words carefully.
  3624. >There’s no reason for her not to believe you’re not from another dimension.
  3625. >...
  3626. >Well, that’s something you never thought you’d think.
  3627. >Still... don’t make her suspicious.
  3628. >“How do, like... non-unicorns use doors?”
  3629. >...
  3630. >What?
  3631. “Like everyone else would use a door? What do you mean?”
  3632. >“But you don’t have any hands free. Do they, like, kick it? Do they have to slow down in front of every door to push it open? That’s not very effective. And what if you’d have to pull?”
  3633. >...
  3634. >What?
  3635. >Calm down.
  3636. >Just divert her attention.
  3637. “Out of everything a different dimension throws at you, that’s what bothers you? What about Biglesnipes? You saw any of those? No?”
  3638. >“What are those?”
  3639. “Big repulsive creatures... horns.” you gesture around, “they trample everything in their path.”
  3640. >“Aha...”, she seems a bit confused, as she seems to try and imagine the creature you vaguely described.
  3641. “Anyway, I- I don’t really want to talk about it, I left for a reason.”
  3642. >“Mhm...”
  3643. >She fidgets around a bit.
  3644. >You don’t know if she just dislikes to stand still and wait for the elevator to arrive at it’s destination, or if it’s because of what you said.
  3645. “Something the matter?”
  3646. >“Well, you can’t just say there’s a reason without giving it,” she shrugs, “I mean, you’re vague because it’s private or something, duh, but I’d still like to know.”
  3647. “Okay,” you nod, “so ask.”
  3648. >“I believe I already did.”
  3649. “Nooo, you were vague and didn’t ask the question outright, so you wouldn’t face outright rejection either.”
  3650. >Lyra frowns, thinking for a moment, “I see...”
  3651. “So ask.”
  3652. >“Okay, sure...”, she still takes a moment, “Why’d ya leave your home dimension?”
  3653. “That’s private,” you smile
  3654. >“Asshole,” she laugs for a moment and shakes her head.
  3655. “I don’t know you.”
  3656. >“Yeah?”, she asks, “Well my afternoon just cleared up.”
  3657. >Conflict.
  3658. “You want to do something?”
  3659. >Victory condition for you: gain information about Lyra, optional: gain information about Hydra, gain an ally.
  3660. >Lose condition: tell too much of yourself, have your lies not be convincing, get deceived and start trusting her on a false basis, get drawn into a fight, damage Anon and Treehuggers reputation by affiliating with you and cast a bad shadow on them if your lies are exposed.
  3661. >“There’s a good cafe nearby.”
  3662. >Potential further scenario: Actual battle.
  3663. >Victory condition: don’t reveal your identity to the public and make Lyra disappear and don’t get suspected by Hydra.
  3664. >Lose condition: anything else.
  3665. >You’re not sure what she can do.
  3666. >You saw her train in the gym, and she uses electricity, but you were focusing on Anon, you don’t know her strength or range.
  3667. >Electricity is dangerous and you never really tried to absorb and reddirect it, because it can easily kill you if you do it wrong.
  3668. >Even if you win, keeping it under cover would be pretty much impossible, especially if she chooses the location
  3669. “Hmm...”
  3670. >Stalemate effect: pass time, get coffee
  3671. >Strategy: she won’t give up strategic information if you don’t, so don’t push anything severe, only do small-talk, don’t trust her, but get to know her personality.
  3672. >You have much more to lose than you have to gain.
  3673. “I didn’t take my wallet with me, we were kinda... out, yesterday.”
  3674. >“Mission, hmm?”, she asks but doesn’t push it, “You can borrow a few bucks from me- you know what? It’s a benign amount, I’ll treat you to coffee.”
  3675. “Well, if that’s the case... I’ll have you know I’m more of a tea person.”
  3676. >The elevator halts and opens up.
  3677. >“I’ve never been much of a coffee-drinker myself,” she smiles, “so you’re coming with?”
  3678. “Yeah, I don’t have much else to do,” you honestly tell her as you walk out after her, “lead the way.”
  3679.  
  3680. >Be Anon.
  3681. >It’s been ages since you woke up in bed with Treehugger watching over you.
  3682. >You’ve been hurt before, when you two went to camp in the Rockys a few years back.
  3683. >That was back when the world was okay.
  3684. >Or at least that was how it appeared.
  3685. >The world has always been shit, you just grew up and learned to recognize it.
  3686. >Well, ok, maybe the fate of the world never rested on a guy breaking up with a girl.
  3687. “Gngh.”
  3688. >“Welcome back to the land of the living, Anon.”
  3689. “Hey...”
  3690. >You barely move, only look around to the source of the odd feeling in your arm.
  3691. >Treehugger has her hand around your arm and... fills you up.
  3692. >Last time she did that she transferred you more nanites.
  3693. >The bag of blood in her other hand would speak against it, but you couldn’t help but think so.
  3694. >“I’ve been thinking...”
  3695. >Her voice was low and ominous.
  3696. “Yeah?”
  3697. >“Have you felt different ever since the klyntar left you?”
  3698. >You frown.
  3699. “What do you mean?”
  3700. >“I ran a... sort of diagnostic on your nanites operating system, read the recent events. And as it’s a self learning program they might have seen the klyntar do things and are now behaving differently than they had been half a year ago when we last met.”
  3701. “You’re diagnosing me frequently?”
  3702. >“I’m not letting an oddly mutated version of myself run around unchecked, but then again, it’s what all parents to,” she chuckles and gives you a warm smile, “I’m just a little bit more... paranoid. Do you feel like that invaded your privacy?”
  3703. “I- no... I mean... I didn’t even know about it,” you sigh, “you kept so much from me.”
  3704. >“I know...”, she sighs as well, “and I’ll take some things to my grave.”
  3705. “If they affect me or the fate of the world in any way, don’t I deserve to know?”
  3706. >She remains quiet for a while and finishes up on your blood transfusion, quietly cleaning up for a moment.
  3707. >“What do you want to know?”
  3708. >Everything.
  3709. “The reason you traveled back through time.”
  3710. >Her smile fades, “You’re not pulling any punches, are you?”
  3711. “Mom...”
  3712. >“Very well then... We were meant to create a... no... We... saved someone. Someone who was dead beyond compare. As if the grim reaper himself had beef with that person and cast his soul into... I’m not sure I can describe it properly. We meant to stop a conflict, but we failed.”
  3713. “And how do you think such a person wouldn’t create butterflies to be stepped on?”
  3714. >“We didn’t change the timeline back then. And-”
  3715. “How bullshit of an excuse is that?”, you gesture in disbelieve of her story, “‘We tried to change the past but failed to do the one thing we wanted so we thought we had changed nothing at all.’”
  3716. >“Now that’s a bit of a strawman, Anon...”
  3717. “It’s not. That’s how it sounds. That’s what you just said.”
  3718. >“We observed then tried to stay low and-”
  3719. “Staying low, like sacking in the shield of Captain America and dismantling secret societies when you please? That’s not staying low! You’re lying and we both know it, why do you insist on that version of the story?”
  3720. >Treehugger looks away, going through a range of emotion.
  3721. “And what I’m pissed at is that you just presented it to me as the truth after everything I thought you’d finally – I don’t know –  not lie to me anymore.”
  3722. >“No, you’re right,” she nods, before looking back to you.
  3723. “So?”
  3724. >“I trusted the brilliant scientist duo who came along, what we can do and what we can’t do. Fate finds a way and some roles can be filled differently, like the newest Equestrian princess being their Twilight Sparkle, and not Sunset Shimmer.”
  3725. >Hmm...
  3726. >“But our reality has affected another, and we’re right at the verge of this timeline to spread apart vastly from the one I’m from. At this point I do not care anymore, Anon... What’s left of my desires is that you’re save and happy.”
  3727. “I’m kinda far from happy right now.”
  3728. >“Are you?”
  3729. “I- what?”
  3730. >“The conflict, you’re a brilliant kid... a brilliant man. You were bored your entire life. I know that, I saw.” Treehugger gives you a smile. “Well, not what the media conveys what happy means, more... fulfilled. You’re living life, you’re not on autopilot...”, her smile fades, “you can’t go back, can you?”
  3731. >You look off.
  3732. >You’ve thought about that a few times already.
  3733. >Going back to a mundane life?
  3734. >“You see?”, she gets your attention again, “I’m in a dilemma here. The two things I want seem to contradict one another.”
  3735. “Therefore you neither let me in, nor shut me out,” you finish her thought.
  3736. >Treehugger smiles once more, “You are smart after all.”
  3737. “I want in.”
  3738. >It’s her turn to look off again. “I know...”
  3739. “Mom.”
  3740. >She continues to stare at the wall.
  3741. >“Then we are going to get ourselves a magical container,” she looks back to you, “Retrieval, stealth. Just you and I.”
  3742. >You nod eagerly.
  3743. “Sure, yeah.”
  3744. >“Stealth means no witnesses.”
  3745. “I- I see,” you bite your lip.
  3746. >This is what it means to be a spy.
  3747. “I don’t know...”
  3748. >“It’s not like you haven’t done this before. Some of those Irish mafiosi died.”
  3749. >Butt cheeks are clenched.
  3750. >You’re a killer now.
  3751. “That- that was the symbiote.”
  3752. >“It was you being careless, which makes it the worst possible reason. In the heat of the battle, and cold blooded are different. And we need to be prepared to do the later.”
  3753. >You keep chewing on your lower lip, but eventually nod.
  3754. “Yes. I- Don’t make /me/ do it, but I’m okay with... fuck. I’m okay with killing witnesses.”
  3755. >All that’s left of Treehugger’s mouth was a thin line.
  3756. >She looks like she bit into a lemon.
  3757. >Eventually she nods, “Let’s prepare then.”
  3758.  
  3759. >Be...
  3760. >You don’t even know who you are.
  3761. >You’re pacing around.
  3762. >Of the people whom you see only one of them is real...  you think.
  3763. >“Calm down, Twilight,” Starlight tells you once more.
  3764. >“Yes, calm down, we need to get to the bottom of this,” someone else immediately adds to it.
  3765. >You haven’t seen /her/ in months.
  3766. >Not since Spike... went away.
  3767. >/Her/.
  3768. >The little devil on your shoulder, whispering into your ear.
  3769. >Almost literally.
  3770. >She’s regular sized, and she’s not whispering either.
  3771. >But you know she’s not real.
  3772. >“She’s right, you know? We need our mental capacities to figure out what has happened.”
  3773. >Your eyes go to the new speaker.
  3774. >Princess Twilight.
  3775. >Or whatever figment of your imagination has taken her form.
  3776. >As if you’d need a devil and an angel.
  3777. >What’s worrisome is that the two of them agree.
  3778. >Therefore you know it’s not what it seems to be.
  3779. >They don’t agree with /each other/, they agree with Starlight’s words.
  3780. >She’s messing with your head.
  3781. >She’s trying to get you to do things.
  3782. >It’s not /her/ you’re seeing, it’s not the Princess you’re seeing, it’s Starlight invading your head.
  3783. “Get out...”
  3784. >You mumble too quiet to even hear yourself over all the other thoughts running through your head.
  3785. >Your hands on your ears, as if to shut them out, even though they are already echoing within your head.
  3786. >“What you need is not to calm down. Get angry.”
  3787. >That voice.
  3788. >She’s not only calm, she’s almost gleeful.
  3789. >That’s the real Midnight’s voice.
  3790. >“Take back control!”
  3791. >You open your eyes once more to look over to Starlight, who now seems confused at your renewed mental restraints.
  3792. >As badly as you want to avoid Midnight’s influence, you know at least she’s... you.
  3793. >Starlight, however...
  3794. >You stare at Starlight, hate in your gaze.
  3795. >In the corner of your eyes you see your own Midnight stabbing her hand through the fake one.
  3796. >A gorefest happens in your mind as you stand up, facing Starlight while Midnight dismantles the spell weighing on you.
  3797. “You tried to control me.”
  3798. >You nod to yourself, and smile wickedly as Starlight begins to panic by how fast her spell’s fading.
  3799. >“I- No! I- I tried to get you on track. Just to- to calm you-”
  3800. “You tried to control me before that already.”
  3801. >Confidence surges through you as the scenery settles down and only you and Starlight remain in the room.
  3802. >She’s going in a defensive position and backs slightly away from you as you press on further.
  3803. >“I needed to get out of there, Twilight. I-I was imprisoned, okay. I’m sorry I used you, but I needed to get out of there-”
  3804. “You did use me though.”
  3805. >“They used you too! What did they do to you?”
  3806. >You pause.
  3807. >You haven’t even noticed your hand reaching out for her.
  3808. >Yet, as you take it back you notice the change in complexion on your arm, and a glove you recognize having worn before.
  3809. >It was the glove Midnight had worn while she had shown up during the Friendship games.
  3810. >“You don’t know, right?”
  3811. >You put your hand forward again, pushing Starlight back with magical energy and pinning her to the wall, without even touching her.
  3812. “You used me, now I’m going to use you.”
  3813.  
  3814. >Be Slenderman
  3815. >Just kidding.
  3816. >Be Anon.
  3817. >Your features are hidden through the control you have over the super-suit Treehugger had given you.
  3818. >Your face was now almost completely even.
  3819. >Only a slight bump of what’s your nose remains, but there was nothing else one could make out.
  3820. >Chin, jawbones, cheekbones, eyebrows, ears, … everything was just hidden under a structure you made the nanites.
  3821. >Only if you’d open your mouth widely can you see the face grow longer.
  3822. >It’s scary, really.
  3823. >You barely feel like wearing anything over your face at all.
  3824. >The rest of the suit was similar.
  3825. >As you asked Treehugger if you could feign another person like this she said it would not be utterly impossible.
  3826. >You can only extend your face by pushing the skin out to simulate a fat guy, and even then you’d not be able to convincingly recreate another person.
  3827. >And even then, the nanites are red, so it would be like carrying a constant blush.
  3828. >Then there’s voice and behavior.
  3829. >Getting your vocal cords to swing the right way would also be achievable, but simply copying someone’s behavior... that needs practice, and isn’t anything the nanites could do for you.
  3830. >Even after having removed your features, and putting a sock on above it, you still get a mask.
  3831. >Like, a regular, bank-robber kind of mask.
  3832. >So your first stop of the night was the costume section of a clothing store where you ended up picking George Bush.
  3833. >Guy Fawkes you think would have been too cringe worthy.
  3834. >Treehugger took Larry King.
  3835. >The masks are layers upon layers of precautions.
  3836. >The cameras will be disabled.
  3837. >Witnesses will be killed
  3838. >Any who do see you and get away will only see the mask.
  3839. >Those who see you without mask in case you mess up, or they manage to unmask you will still only see the sock on a featureless face.
  3840. >And the nanite-mask as part of the suit is interlocked with the nanites you let out from your skin.
  3841. >One would have to practically take your skin off if they want to remove the rest.
  3842. >And that’s all for a simple fetch quest.
  3843. >You already know where the item is stored.
  3844. >Some storage facility in Maine. Level 3, Lot 04H20.
  3845. >From these specifications one can discern it’s small and light, easily handle able by a single person, of known origin, and not dangerous.
  3846. >You wonder what else is buried in their bureaucracy, but you’re not a thief...
  3847. >Not an ordinary one at least...
  3848. >Okay, and you know Hydra has access to all those toys...
  3849. >God damnit, what is the morally right thing to do?
  3850. >...
  3851. >Not kill the witnesses, that much you know.
  3852. >But you agreed to it, because of what you need it for, and what that means...
  3853. >NO, you’re not actually okay with it.
  3854. >That’s exactly the kind of thinking that gets you to the dark side.
  3855. “We’re not going to kill any witnesses.”
  3856. >“Oh, are we now?”
  3857. >Treehugger seems amused as she looks up from her book.
  3858. >She’s reading while the jet takes you to Maine, and the location of the warehouse.
  3859. “Yes, we’re not.”
  3860. >“What do you suggest we do to them?”
  3861. >You bite your lip, hopping from one stupid solution to another in your head.
  3862. “We drug them.” you eventually say.
  3863. >“Drug them?” Treehugger tilts her head.
  3864. “Yeah, something to... like, cap short time memory and only makes them normal-level of confused.”
  3865. >She frowns for a moment, thinking, before asking “Do you have a drug like that just lying around?”
  3866. “As a matter of fact-”
  3867. >You point back into the loading bay of the jet.
  3868. “Yeah, I assume we do.”
  3869. >She looks back for a moment before she turns to you again. “Elaborate.”, she asks with fake curiosity.
  3870. “I don’t think for a moment that half of that jet’s loading area is overgrown by chance. It’s a medical cabinet, isn’t it? For you to, like, do with plants as you please.”
  3871. >A smile was on her now. “Maybe.”
  3872. “Can you cook up a drug with those effects?”
  3873. >“Do I have to do the entirety of the work around here?”
  3874. “I come up with the plan, thinking on my feet, altering it to my moral guidelines without compromising the mission. Can you do it or not?”
  3875. >She closes her eyes for a moment before she sighs.
  3876. >“I’m actually... hmm... Conflicting feelings here again, Anon. You stand up for what you believe is right, and, of course, that is what we should do. We shouldn’t let anyone die for naught... On the other hand I’m also wondering if you have what it takes to fight...”
  3877. “Yeah, I... have conflicting feelings too. Yes, okay, sometimes it will be necessary, but not this time. We avoid every death that we can, no matter who it is.”
  3878. >She taps with her nail on the cover of her book idly, “I- I’m frankly not sure what got into me. Maybe I just tried to shoo you away once more...”
  3879. “Do you want me to promise to stay as I am? Not become... like you?”
  3880. >“Nono, nothing like that. A promise to staying true to oneself is for children, or naive adults. Let’s see... There are two things that are important. You need to properly know what it is you believe in and you need to know why you believe in that.”
  3881. >You tilt her head as you listen.
  3882. >You’ve heard that proverb before, but she’s elaborating.
  3883. >“Arguing like ‘that is how things are done’, or ‘that is the law’, or ‘I already crossed this line once’... those are not viable arguments for anyone to base their believes on. Some actions, maybe. But not your believes, Anon.”
  3884. “Know what you believe in and why you believe in it. Got it.”
  3885. >Recap, why do you trust Treehugger.
  3886. >Because you believe in her to be a good person, her to be capable, and even if she has ulterior motives that she’ll never do anything to harm you.
  3887. >Except, maybe, like... let you lose a hand, but only if she knows you can regrow it.
  3888. >You nod.
  3889. “I’ll try to save anyone I can. It may be a childish notion, but I’m not delusional. We can’t save everyone, but if we want to save the world we have to save whom we can.”
  3890. >“Hmm... It doesn’t quite make me happy – This all, I mean – but it does give me quite the sense of pride.”
  3891. >It’s been a while since you saw her smile this genuinely.
  3892. >She smiled from amusement or to seem reassuring, but this smile is different.
  3893. >Even if she claims she’s not happy, you can tell she is.
  3894. “Conflicted feelings, right?”
  3895. >She chuckles, “hmhm, yeah... Certainly so,” before sighing again, “You know... I’m not worried about my timeline anymore. Not if thfis one has great men like you~”
  3896. >You nod, and stand up and go to her, circling around the wheelchair.
  3897. “It’s official, you’re getting old, you’re senile now.”
  3898. >“Love you~”, she feigns to be oblivious at your mean behavior.
  3899. “Yeah, yeah, we have drugs to make, old woman,” you say as you push her back to the loading bay and the plants.
  3900.  
  3901. >Maine.
  3902. >“You’ll memorize all of this, won’t you?”
  3903. “Certainly do, and I have never been big into cars, you know?”
  3904. >While Treehugger is growing around plants and using a makeshift alchemical lab, you’re looking through the net for cars.
  3905. “If we trip any seismic sensor we just set off all the car alarms and the guards will attribute it to a small earth quake... it’s quite ingenious.”
  3906. >“The easiest solution to a problem is pretending there is none. Guards may see not just one alarm triggered but many. The easiest solution is that they-”
  3907. “Think it’s connected, yeah. They think it’s connected and not send in a full squad. Or at least the chance is lower. I know. I’m getting the gist of the plan as you relay it to me bit by bit.”
  3908. >“If I’d just give you the solution, it wouldn’t be a learning process.”
  3909. >You shrug.
  3910. >You’re sure you’d memorize it if she’d tell you the multilayered plan and precautions of a stealth mission, but you’re having more fun like this.
  3911. >Of course, Treehugger expects not to trigger any seismic sensors, or anything else, but she keeps adding new layers of precautions, thinking of seemingly all eventualities.
  3912. >And yet she claims you’re going in quite unprepared as you don’t know the guards schedule routes and behaviors.
  3913. >In case you do fail at enough points you still have the amateurish masks which may leads to people thinking it had been some regular low level crime.
  3914. >Which... you totally knew that masks like these are amateurs play.
  3915. >Obviously the smarter choice is to wear an uniform to look like you belong in that facility.
  3916. >Logically...
  3917. >(Treehugger didn’t buy it)
  3918. >You don’t really know whom she’s playing more, the security guards, or you.
  3919. >Not that you’re complaining, you already learned a ton, again.
  3920. >“Okay, the drug’s done,” Treehugger finally says and you look back.
  3921. >She just grew a cactus-looking thing out of just some mulch.
  3922. “A cactus?”
  3923. >“Mhm,” she confirms, “potent drug delivered through a tiny hollow needle,” she goes on to show off the size of the thorns as she harvests them with tiny pliers she grew out of her fingers, “figuratively undetectable.”
  3924. “And what’s the exact effect?” you ask.
  3925. >“Fatigue, dizziness, and inability to store short term memory into long term. Side effects will be fever, low blood pressure, disrupted sense of smell and taste. It’ll make them sick and they’ll need bed rest, maybe even stay a few night in the hospital,” she admits. “However, I’m certain it’s not lethal without them having some preexisting condition or a rare allergy.”
  3926. “Not reassuring,” you shake your head.
  3927. >“We can always go back to Plan A.”
  3928. “I’m reassured.” you nod.
  3929. >“Good,” Treehugger nods happily as she offers you some of those needle like thorns, “encase them into your suit, at the fingertips, so they are ready to use.”
  3930. >You reach out, summoning small tendrils from the tips of your fingers to pick the thorns up.
  3931. >These small precise movements are not a problem for you anymore.
  3932. >Doing as she said you have a new weapon at your disposal.
  3933. >This gets you thinking though.
  3934. “So, how many different toxins like this have you had in your prime?”
  3935. >She looks up to you again only after she finishes putting her own in place.
  3936. >“It’s not so much a number, as it’s... freeform. Whatever I need for a mission, I make. These chemical bonds degrade, there was not much use in making them in bulk, and I never left them lying around.”
  3937. “I see...”, you nod, “plus, I guess there are easier ways to dispose of people.”
  3938. >She frowns a little, “there sure are... I guess I’m not leaving you with the greatest impression to remember me by. A lethal-”
  3939. “Will you stop bringing it up!”
  3940. >Your shout makes her retreat in surprise a little.
  3941. “I have enough on my mind and I’m really getting pissed at you telling me how you’re dying every five minutes!”
  3942. >“I-”, she tries to begin a defense, but you interrupt her
  3943. “No! Let me talk!”, you’re actually angry, “You think just because you were a ruthless killing machine 90% of your life... it changes nothing about the fact that you were my family for my ENTIRE life. Doesn’t matter if you lied to me and that I’m pissed now because of it. Neither does it matter how much you think you deserve to be loved, you made me fucking love you and now you have to deal with it.”
  3944. >You cross your arms and turn to walk to the cockpit.
  3945. “If anything it’s kinda cool to be an assassin, in a morbid kind of way. And to think I’m what made you stop... it’s like an achievement for me... having tamed you...”
  3946. >You don’t even know if she heard that last part as you began to mumble and increase the distance between her and yourself.
  3947. >You sigh as you plop down into the chair by the command console.
  3948. >There’s enough info in your head to tag all the cars you want, so you begin to steer the drone over the parking lot and pick them out.
  3949. >Just as you fly the drone underneath the cars to tune into their alarm system and gain full control over it, Treehugger rolls after you into the cockpit.
  3950. >You don’t turn back to her, even as you hear her stand up.
  3951. >“Love you,” she says as she hugs you from behind, nuzzling slightly into your neck (as much as your chair allows it)
  3952. “Tsk,” you click with your tongue, half amused, half annoyed, “Love you too...”, you turn back to her and empathize the word with which you address her now, “Mom.”
  3953.  
  3954. >The plan’s easy.
  3955. >The jet has been in stealth mode the entire time, so you can easily enter the facilities air-space and let it hover just over the roof while Treehugger and you exit it.
  3956. >There were cameras the face the sky, but finding a blind spot where you could open the hatch of the jet was easy.
  3957. >Once you open up Treehugger lashes out with her nanites to the nearest camera, and soon after has  control of all the signals running to and from the cameras down into the facility.
  3958. >Record five minutes.
  3959. >Slow down the next ten minutes to play for fifteen minutes.
  3960. >To avoid a jump cut to the feed on the recording, the database’s video will fade the recording during the last two and a half minutes, and then fade back into the live stream for two and a half minutes for a very smooth transition.
  3961. >It’s maybe too complicated, but the five minutes window you get should be enough to access a terminal and gain full control of the facilities sensors.
  3962. >It should be easy to open the door without triggering an alarm, small tendrils can push it open from the inside, or simply take on the form of a key (Treehugger has yet to show you how to do that), and tricking the alarm is child’s play as well.
  3963. >Once you’re sure you can enter you use the same camera trick you began with and make your way through the facility.
  3964. >If you calculate to take a whole minute to hack in and gain full control you’ll have about about four minutes of not only camera recordings but all other sensors as well, and that’s before you even enter.
  3965. >Then you simply gather all the data, judge what noise constitutes as ‘nothing’ through pattern recognition, and then create your own data to feed the system whenever you need it.
  3966. >All seamless, of course.
  3967. >Next up is avoiding everyone who patrols the hallways or works their in some other way, but as it’s night there are barely scientists present.
  3968. >This too was easily taken care off by Treehugger, who’ll simply take the floor plan you’ve acquired and cross reference it with the cameras and other sensors.
  3969. >Then she’ll go full augmented reality and effectively is able to look through walls.
  3970. >As far as the plan goes, she’ll do it for you too, but it’s a lot of computing power used for something the nanites have never been meant to do.
  3971. >Then you’ve got to find the box..
  3972. >Finding a needle in a haystack is pretty easy if every straw is computerized and your brain has an up-link to a supercomputer.
  3973. >Get the box.
  3974. >And get out using the same method you used to get in.
  3975. >Step 4: Profit.
  3976. >This is easy.
  3977. >Like the tutorial level of a stealth vidya, way too easy, and way too many precautions.
  3978. >You can’t help but feel the metroid-y vibe from it too.
  3979. >Get to know a lot of fun features before losing them all and starting from scratch.
  3980. >And... well, you earlier rebuked her for bringing it up, but she won’t be giving you a HUD and live video editing every time.
  3981. >Your look nervously to your wristwatch and mentally count down the last few seconds, before...
  3982. “Showtime.”
  3983. >The jet’s door opens and you jump out.
  3984. >Your feet hit the gravel and for a moment you thought all hell would break loose, but nothing happened.
  3985. >“No one-liners, please,” Treehugger asks you right after you hear her feet connect with the floor behind you.
  3986. >She can walk and even run by using the nanites to move her muscles by force.
  3987. >Usually she just doesn’t do it because it requires active attention, and she has a shitload of other stuff on her plate right now too, but as she hasn’t said anything you hope she knows where her limits are.
  3988. “No one-liners? You just outlawed 90% of my personality.”
  3989.  
  3990. >“It’s not very professional, maybe you shouldn’t start to  take joy in these kinds of things,” she reasons.
  3991. “Maybe,” you shrug as you start working on unlocking the door, “but as long as I’d like to use humor to get over a tense situation, I know I’m still myself.”
  3992. >“Hmm, yes. Maybe I’m too serious?”, she’s wonders as she’s accessing a terminal by the door.
  3993. “I’d say so, yeah,
  3994. >You feel for the electricity flowing inside the door’s locking mechanism.
  3995. >Hydraulic pistons are holding the door shut with about 50 tons... You can’t work against that.
  3996. >The control valves are specialized. Normal ones need 24V direct current, tops.
  3997. >Three wires run from it, so it needs grounding
  3998. >Rough estimate says they need more than 80 Volts, and alternating current at that.
  3999. >You can’t just give that out, you need to find the PLC and take control.
  4000. >“Want me to tell a joke?”
  4001. “Eh...”
  4002. >Just follow the wires, one’s neutral, the other... there we go.
  4003. “230V alternating current at 50 Hz, we have European engineering here.”
  4004. >“You got it?”
  4005. “I can unlock the door and have all the sensors around it, able to keep them in the state they are in and not notice a difference.”
  4006. >“Is that all?”
  4007. “Well, we can assume there’s a camera or a motion sensor inside, but that was your job, wasn’t it?”
  4008. >Treehugger nods, “I’m in.”
  4009. >You can see a strand of nanites is connected to the terminal from her wrist hanging down idly.
  4010. >It’s much more elegant than the web you had spun over the door and actively hold your hand out and concentrate on actively.
  4011. “K...”
  4012. >“What do you want to do with the remaining 2 minutes and 15 seconds?”
  4013. “I dunno... you’re the master spy.”
  4014. >She shrugs, “I’m also used to do this alone.”
  4015. “So, tell me that joke you wanted to.”
  4016. >“Oh?” she actually seems surprised, “asking you if you want me to tell a joke was a joke.”
  4017. “You’re not weaseling your way out of a joke now.”
  4018. >She narrows her eyes and thinks for a moment, “So whom did Frankenstein’s monster go to prom with?”
  4019. >You already get a smile on, even though she’d not be able to see it
  4020. “Ah’ dunno.”
  4021. >“Why, his ghoulfriend, of course!”
  4022. >That’s not a good joke.
  4023. >A bad pun at that.
  4024. >So why are you smiling like a retard?
  4025. “Okay...”, you press out, pretending not to be amused in the slightest.
  4026. >“What do you call a fake noodle?”
  4027. >You know that one.
  4028. “No, please, spare me the bad puns.”
  4029. >“An impasta!”
  4030. >The web of nanites you spun crumbles as you lose your focus.
  4031. “Dammit,” you curse as they go back to do their intended duty within your body.
  4032. >Treehugger crosses her arms.
  4033. >“And the butt of the joke is...?”
  4034. >You growl, as you concentrate once more to reach out to the doors sensors.
  4035. “No one-liners.”
  4036. >“Why?”
  4037. “Distractions.”
  4038. >“This is not a game, Anon. We’re infiltrating a Wonderbolt base. They are fully in their right to shoot to kill. This isn’t a comic book nor some Saturday morning cartoon. Bad guys will not hesitate to kill, and the good guys-”
  4039. “Yes, yes, I get it. No distractions for me, and especially not my teammates.”
  4040. >“Humor has a time and place, Anon.”
  4041. “I said I get it.”
  4042. >You try and get your focus back onto the door, and while you find everything again, but you’re having troubles setting it up to obey your will once more.
  4043. >...
  4044. >“Distracted?”
  4045. “Slightly.”
  4046. >You shake your head free and feel forward once more.
  4047. >The slight magnetic fields created by the flowing current.
  4048. >Come on, you did it before...
  4049. “I have it again.”
  4050. >“Good. Time’s almost up.”
  4051. >You look to your watch to confirm her statement for yourself, yet say nothing in response, only count down in your head.
  4052. >With five seconds left Treehugger nods,  “Open it.”
  4053. >You comply and manipulate every sensor in the door to ignore it opening while pulling the valves to release the door itself.
  4054. >With the satisfactory sound of grinding metal the door was now unlocked.
  4055. “Unlocked.”
  4056. >Treehugger nods once more, does one last small flick of her own hands and retreats the nanites back into her body from the command console.
  4057. >“Keep on it until we’re inside,” she says as she pushes the door open, dodging underneath your webs to gain entrance.
  4058. >You nod and follow her inside, while you comply and keep the webs connected.
  4059. >Webs...
  4060. >Maybe you are getting to be a Spider-Man now.
  4061.  
  4062. >Treehugger and you make it through the facility.
  4063. >She only communicates via hand signs you saw in military movies.
  4064. “Like, I don’t know what that means,” you whisper at another one of her gestures.
  4065. >“Two. Armed. Patrolling. Focus attention to,” she repeats each of them, this time conveying the meaning telepathically.
  4066. “Coming our way?”
  4067. >She shakes her head in response, but remains waiting at the corner, not yet turning it.
  4068. >If they go clockwise around the compound so do you, but you still have to wait on them even if they are already  in the next hallway.
  4069. >In case they would turn around to start patrolling the other way, you’d still have leeway to get out without running.
  4070. “FYI, that ‘head shaking’-gesture I understood.”
  4071. >“One-liners,” she whispers, but still, says out loud.
  4072. >Fuck.
  4073. “Sorry.”
  4074. >You can’t help it.
  4075. >If you think of some bullcrap, it bursts out of you.
  4076. >You do realize the seriousness of the situation, so much is clear by how hard your heart is beating right now, but you still need humor to calm yourself.
  4077. >Eventually Treehugger gives another hand signal.
  4078. >This one was at least an universal ‘follow me’, and easily understandable as she starts moving into the next hallway.
  4079.  
  4080. >This building is not up to current fire hazard safety regulations.
  4081. >That’s one of the thoughts running through your head as you descend yet another flight of stairs only to have gotten down a single floor.
  4082. >The architecture was quite wonky.
  4083. >Treehugger told you this was exactly because it’s supposed to make infiltration or invasion harder.
  4084. >It’s easier to fortify it, and only those with the day to day experience of the buildings layout can properly navigate it.
  4085. >Or if you have memorized said floor plan, because you’ve memorized it on the flight here.
  4086. >On second thought... Maybe only you do that sort of thing.
  4087. >Give yourself some credit, not everyone has a memory enhanced by nanites and alien symbiotes and whatever.
  4088. >(Okay, that was essentially giving someone or something else credit. You can’t even take a compliment if it comes from yourself.)
  4089.  
  4090. >Eventually you make your way down to the proper warehouse section.
  4091. >The remaining problem was that a pair of guards was stationed at any entrance.
  4092. >They are not patrolling anymore, means you can’t do the same trick.
  4093. “Distraction?”
  4094. >“This is not a video game, an obvious distraction only makes them more alert,” once more she doesn’t talk, but convey her words telepathically, nanite to nanite.
  4095. “Mhm...”
  4096. >What kind of distraction would fit those needs?
  4097. >...
  4098. “Are you thinking, cause I’m not coming up with anything...  wait, no. You already knew they’d be standing on guard, didn’t you?”
  4099. >She shrugs.
  4100. “The poison only works on one to seem like a coincidence, and he’ll still have his short term memory, right? If someone finds him he could tell.”
  4101. >“Yes.”
  4102. >You keep at the wall, thinking.
  4103. >Let’s see...
  4104. >The guards report ‘all clear’ in irregular intervals.
  4105. >You need to get past two who are stationary.
  4106. >Knocking both out would mean that they’d later know someone had been in here.
  4107. >There are also guards patrolling who’d notice them to be either gone, or knocked out, or drugged...
  4108. >While drugged is still the best option.
  4109. “I got something.”
  4110. >“Let’s hear it.”
  4111. “We record them saying ‘All clear’ and let it be the polo to the marco of when they are asked to report in, while we disable their radios.”
  4112. >“Mhm.”
  4113. “As soon as the patrolling guards pass, we go drug the standing guards. Hmmm... Even if they can’t use their radio, they can still shout... Sorry I-”
  4114. >You stop and think about what you can do against that.
  4115. >You can gag them and tie them up, of course.
  4116. >However, even if they are bound, you can’t release them without them trying to alert others immediately after.
  4117. >You’ll have to leave them behind, which is much more suspicious than just two people who work together falling sick at the same time.
  4118. >“I see the gears in your head turning.”
  4119. “I have an idea. We have to be quick, though.”
  4120. >“Let’s hear it.”
  4121. “So, what I already said, but we wait until the patrolling guards are the furthest away. We tie the standing guards up and gag them, go in and retrieve the box quickly. Then we release them again, make a run for it and hope they have forgotten all about us until they can get help.”
  4122. >“They’ll shoot us as soon as we release them.”
  4123. “Right... Uhh... we buy time. We keep their legs bound and remove their magazine out of their immediate reach which should get us enough time to get out of their sight and then simply outsmart them by using the architecture of the building to our advantage. We have the cameras on our hand, they don’t.”
  4124. >Treehugger nods. “Not bad. Only that it’s unlikely that they’ll follow us. They’d also assume we’re a distraction for them to abandon their post, and a single person won’t chase after two unknown assailants. It’s more likely they’ll call for help, and until they realize that their radios don’t work, or went to get someone, the drug should be properly be in effect.”
  4125. “Best case scenario: they try to get help and wander aimlessly the halls. Worst case... they shoot at us and everyone gets alerted by the shots, then everyone shoots at us. Wait, hmm...  even after the first shots went off we can still radio in ‘all clear’, can’t we? It won’t hold long, but-”
  4126. >“-it’s still something. Not bad,” she nods.
  4127. >You can’t see her expression but from the tone of her voice you sense a bit of pride in her.
  4128. >“Not bad at all.”
  4129. >Despite her not being able to see it you smile broadly.
  4130. >Screw academic achievements.
  4131. >This type of on-the-go thinking is what makes her proud of you.
  4132. >For you too, it’s something you can be proud of.
  4133. >Seeing the bigger picture, weighing options, and coming up with a plan.
  4134. >These are all things you cannot just memorize for a test.
  4135.  
  4136. “Excuse me, Sirs.”
  4137. >“Huh?”, the guards turns around slowly at first to face you.
  4138. >Seeing you wearing a mask, they immediately raise their weapons.
  4139. “Do you want some cheese to your wine?”
  4140. >“North-east point here. Base this is- agh!”
  4141. >Having used the few seconds of distraction, Treehugger had been able to construct strings of nanites out towards the guards, disable their weapons, and knock them off their feet.
  4142. >The small piece of alert one of them tried to give didn’t arrive anyone, as the radios have been under your control for quite some time already.
  4143. >While they shouted out in surprise, they haven’t had the time to increase their volume to more properly gain anyone's attention before Treehugger had them gagged.
  4144. >Before you could come closer however, she holds up her fist.
  4145. >Now that gesture you’ve seen in movies before.
  4146. >‘Stop’ or something like that.
  4147. >She’s looking back into the direction of the patrolling guards.
  4148. >Have they heard?
  4149. >It is quite silent here, so any louder noise would raise attention.
  4150. “The radio,” you whisper to her to get her attention again.
  4151. >She looks to you again and pauses for a moment before you hear from the radio your recorded
  4152. “North-east point here, can confirm everything’s clear here.  Over.”
  4153. >“Okay, I thought I heard something. Carry on. Over.”
  4154. >Now it’s your turn to make a gesture.
  4155. >Holding your hand up you show Treehugger a V-sign.
  4156. >She, however, just shakes her head, “not yet, and we’re on a tight time frame.”
  4157. “Right.”
  4158. >You draw closer to the guards, and without having to say a word, you each pick a guard to touch them with the poisonous thorn in the tip of your gloves.
  4159. >Treehugger takes the lead as the door opens. (the door controls were under her control since you entered the building)
  4160. “What all is in here?”
  4161. >“This and that. Some magical in any sense of the meaning, some alien, some just advanced... I think it all started with Jefferson.”
  4162. >Jefferson...
  4163. “Thomas Jefferson?”, you ask.
  4164. >“Yes. The guy was into the arcanics and secret societies. And he was totally paranoid. If you’d give him a laptop he’d lock it away until he figures out how it works.  Or at least until he figured out that it doesn’t kill him or anyone else, you know?”
  4165. “Thomas Jefferson, seriously?”
  4166. >“What? You don’t believe me?”
  4167. “What? No. I kinda- I mean, yes, I believe you. No, to... The repetition of the question didn’t mean I doubted you but it’s kind of a fucking surprise, you know?”
  4168. >“Anyway, that tradition of collecting and storing things has been passed down-” she begins to explain but you were interrupted by the radio.
  4169. >“Base here. All points, please affirm if all’s clear. Over.”
  4170. >Neither of you say anything as you wait until it’s your turn to playback the answer.
  4171. >“North-east point here, can confirm everything’s clear here. Over.”
  4172. >...
  4173. >The single second of pause is killing you before you hear another point report in.
  4174. “They bought it, yes,” you offer a fist for Treehugger to bump.
  4175. >“Professionalism, Anon...”, she chuckles though and bumps your fist with hers. “We’re looking for lot 04H20.”
  4176. “Yep.”
  4177. >The warehouse was neatly organized.
  4178. >Level 3, column 4, row H, and stored in position 20 on that shelf.
  4179. >You’re already at F... G... and here it is. Lot 04H.
  4180. >“We’ll have to make due without a ladder.”
  4181. “Duh, or we’d have to place it in the exact same spot again.”
  4182. >Item 20 was just out of reach and you don’t have to climb high up to retrieve it.
  4183. >You pull it out and Treehugger takes it from you as you jump down again.
  4184. >She shortly opens the Wonderbolt’s box to check its contents.
  4185. >Inside was a beautifully crafted wooden box adorned with norse runes.
  4186. >You imagine a viking metal band to use it to store an electric guitar.
  4187. >It’s big enough to fit a guitar too.
  4188. >“Alright,” Treehugger closes the box again, “would you carry it?”
  4189. “Of course.”
  4190. >You pick up the box and the two of you rush back out.
  4191. >By the time you get back to the guards, even though you had been in the warehouse for only a little more than a minute they have already managed to free themselves.
  4192. >At least the hands of one guy are free as he manages to access his radio.
  4193. >“Intruders! Two people. North-east point. They entered the warehouse on Level 3. Request immediate backup! Do you copy? Over.”
  4194. >Free, yes. Already knowing what’s going on? No.
  4195. >Treehugger lashes out with a strand of nanites towards them and manages to restrain them again.
  4196. >“No time to lose.”
  4197. “Yeah...”
  4198. >You jump over the downed guards and run back the way you came from.
  4199. >Leaving should be the easier part, right?
  4200. >So why is it that your heart is beating on end just now?
  4201. >Because bad things happen when you let your guard down, and the only thing ahead of you is to navigate a building where you have all the cameras manipulated.
  4202. >Easy enough...
  4203. >Every time Treehugger stops you, you think this’ll be it.
  4204. >But every time it was just to bypass some patrolling guards or take on their pace.
  4205. >By the time you’re on the top floor the guards you had drugged were free again, have realized something to be wrong with their radios, and embarked to get help.
  4206. >However, the drug was already affecting them as they didn’t report a number of attackers on the radio.
  4207. >The plan’s working.
  4208. >Last staircase.
  4209. >This will be it.
  4210. >“North-east point?”, you hear from the radio, “why did you leave your station?”
  4211. “Shit, the cameras,” you look worried to Treehugger.
  4212. >She shakes her head, “I manipulated the feed enough to seem like they hadn’t been tied up...”
  4213. >“You have to report in if one of you needs to use the toilet. Over.”
  4214. >And they just offer you an excuse.
  4215. >“North-east point here, can confirm-”, Treehugger plays back, cutting off the last part of the recording, she pauses for a moment before adding the last word, “Over.”
  4216. >“Report it before leaving your post next time. Over.”
  4217. >Hallelujah!
  4218. >You assumed something would go spectacularly wrong in the last second, but as you enter the roof and jump up to the jet it slowly settles in.
  4219. “Fffff-”, you let out a breath, “fffuck. We just robbed a Wonderbolt’s base.”
  4220. >You go down to all fours as you rest of the adrenaline floods through your system.
  4221. “Woo, yeah!”, you remove the mask and let your face take it’s regular form again.
  4222. >“The plan was good.” Treehugger says who too was on the floor, “and so was your improvised change to it “
  4223. “Mom!”, you crawl over to her and remove her mask, “are you okay?!”
  4224. >“Just exhausted,” she quickly says as she rolls around to lay on her back, “can you fly the bird back home?”
  4225. “I- Yes I think so...”, you look forward to the cockpit for a moment before back to her, “Do you need anything?”
  4226. >“Hnngh... Just water,” she requests as her facial features return to her.
  4227. “Of course.”
  4228. >As you stand up and look around, questioning if you even have water here, Treehugger let’s some of her botanical garden grow towards her to pick her up and form a hammock.
  4229. >The plants must have had some water to survive.
  4230. >“Over there,” she tries to guide you, but you had seen a canister the same moment.
  4231. >You walk over, take a clean Erlenmeyer-flask and fill it with water.
  4232. “Here you go,” you offer it to her.
  4233. >“Thanks,” Treehugger takes the flask and sips of it.
  4234. “Is it not stale?”, you ask.
  4235. >“Leaving the area should be your first priority, then we can talk.”
  4236. “Right, right.”
  4237. >You turn around and leave her behind in her hammock.
  4238. >She’ll be fine... for now.
  4239. >You shouldn’t worry.
  4240. “Where to?”, you shout back as you take the pilot’s seat.
  4241. >“Your dorm, Anon,” she calls back, “You have to go to college tomorrow.”
  4242.  
  4243. chapter 1: http://pastebin.com/P4Mawhsw
  4244. chapter 2: -you are here-
  4245. chapter 3: http://pastebin.com/fYHRDTA3
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