Spike dug through the drawers and cabinets behind the librarian’s desk, its wood still cold in the few waking hours before the Canterlot Library’s opening. His search was proving fruitless and garnered little more than a few books and desk supplies, which quickly found themselves tossed onto the floor behind him.
“Come on,” Spike grumbled to himself, staring at a small paperweight before tossing it over his shoulder. “She always keeps it here. Maybe it’s just in the— Ah-hah!” Spike pulled his quarry from its home; it was a small radio, with its lengthy cord snaking into the depths of the desk. He placed the radio on the top of the desk and clicked it on with the twist of a dial, immediately filling the silent library with deafening static.
Spike scrambled to turn the volume down while twisting the frequency knob sporadically, and was soon offered a respite from the static’s blare. Nervously, he looked up at a corner of the library and a small doorway that led to another of the library’s massive rooms, sure that Twilight would emerge at any moment to lecture his head off again.
After a few moments, Spike sighed in relief and turned his attention back to the radio. He turned the volume up slowly before fiddling with the tuner. There were a few signals amidst the sea of static, but he continued searching for something in particular, and with each failed guess his frown deepened.
“... and the weather for today in Canterlot will include a few scattered showers, so pack those umbr—”
“... leaving two ponies stranded from the accident for several hours—”
“... Viva! Viva! Las Neighga—”
“Aaaaaaaand good morning Canterlot! This is Red Checkers, as always, with my co-host and partner in information Equilibrium. We’re here for another cutting-edge morning here on ‘Checks and Balances’.”
Spike’s frown shifted into a smile as he let go of the knob, checking the frequency. “Huh, it’s the same. Guess some things never change.” He turned back to the mess he’d left on the floor, and with a few grumbled comments about the librarian’s poor organization, began to put the scattered supplies and knickknacks back in their proper place.
“Today on the show we have a special treat everypony. As you know, the ‘infamous’ Technomagic Act is reaching the end of its seventy-five year trial period today. Our treat should be a rather enlightening interview on the subject, right E.Q.?”
“You betcha, Checkers. We have with us in the studio a personal role model of mine, and several unicorns I’m sure, professor in Magic Application at the Royal Canterlot University: Doctor Bevel Gears.”
Spike had finished cleaning up his mess, making sure to leave a space in the cabinet he’d found the radio in just large enough to slide it back in unnoticed. He stood back up to take a seat behind the desk, and came face to face with Twilight. Her silent, or at least quiet, arrival sent him jumping backwards in shock. She lit her horn, spinning the volume knob down as she shook her head.
“Spike, I told you to stay quiet.” Twilight turned her attention to a nearby bookcase. She pulled a few books out, scanning their contents one by one before placing them back in their homes.
Spike pulled himself off of the floor, rubbing his elbow. “But Twilight, there’s no one here right now. The library isn’t even open.” He sat back up on the stool, craning his neck to peer over the desk.
Twilight looked over to a few filing cabinets that made up the library’s card catalog. She opened a drawer covering scientific subjects, and began to scan through its contents. “But there are plenty of ponies still awake right now, Spike. We can’t risk any of them noticing us.” She looked at several of the cards before finding one labeled Technomagic Theory and Application. With a smile, she placed the others back into the drawer. “Now stay quiet, I have to go find this book.”
Twilight trotted over to another door, leaving it open as she ventured deeper into the library. Spike watched the doorway for a few moments before he carefully turned the volume up, making sure to keep it quiet.
“...the point being that this was not some... omnipotent decision made by the princess. This was a logical, considered, and group consensus of the citizens of Equestria, and I think ponies today do not understand how important this was, and is, to keep in place.”
“That’s all well and good doctor, but time and time again, activists against this provision being renewed have mentioned this is only an obstacle to progress. Who are we as citizens to keep that in place? For that matter, is there really any danger at all?”
“Mr. Checkers, you may be correct in the assumption of it being an obstacle, but the danger is more present than you might imagine. We all know that science, the same as magic, is a series of building blocks. Every advancement is made upon the shoulders of those which preceded it. Imagine, for example, two buildings, side by side, and each one growing on its own. The foundations are already laid, and building more poses so little a threat. However, when you take these towering giants, and place one atop the other, you have no idea how unstable it can be.”
Spike quickly flipped the radio off just as Twilight’s hoofsteps began to reach his ears. He stuffed the radio back into its home before hopping in front of the desk to meet her. “Did you find it, Twilight?”
Twilight closed the door behind her, nodding to Spike. “Yes, hopefully I— she’ll find it.” She shook her head as she rubbed a hoof against her forehead. “This never stops being confusing. I just hope she’s as curious as I would be. Let’s go Spike, the princess will be waiting on us, and I don’t want ‘him’ to get suspicious.” Twilight pulled a small device out of her saddlebags that resembled a remote. It was covered with a few knobs and switches, and had four dials on its face that read “Days,” “Hours,” “Minutes,” and “Seconds”. At its top was a small gem that pulsed with a blue glow.
“Good, just about thirty seconds to spare.” Twilight walked to an open part of the library floor. She turned to Spike as she held up the device, pointing it in front of her. “You didn’t leave anything, right?”
“Nope! I mean, it wouldn’t matter, right? Nopony will know we were here anyway,” Spike said as he crossed his arms, tapping his foot impatiently.
“You can never be too sure, Spike.” As Twilight finished speaking, the timer reached zero, and the device started to beep loudly. The gem’s glow brightened for several seconds before it shot a beam of light forward. The beam stopped after traveling a few feet, and then burst into a circle of light with a whirlpool of blue and white at its center. A gentle breeze filled the room, carrying the faint scent of ozone that accompanied the crackle of electricity arcing off the vortex.
Twilight placed the device back in her saddlebags and looked at Spike. “Ready to head home?”
Spike held his claws together and whispered under his breath, “Please be a soft landing. Please be a soft landing.” He stepped back and took a deep breath before running forward at full-sprint. Just a foot before the whirlpool, he jumped, disappearing from sight as he passed the vortex’s edge.
Twilight looked back at the librarian’s desk for a moment. Her eyes went wide, and she quickly shuffled through her saddlebags before pulling out the card she had taken from the catalog. The whirlpool began to shrink, and Twilight acted quickly to place the card back in its home before running at the vortex and jumping inside. Just as she vanished from sight, the vortex closed in upon itself, pulling a few loose papers from a nearby table and leaving them strewn about on the floor.
Spike yawned and stretched in his chair, watching Twilight as she entered with another stack of books hovering alongside her. He could hear the gentle squeak of wheels as the carriage outside pulled away, signifying that this load of books was the last she had sent for from Canterlot. While holding his hand over his mouth to suppress another yawn, he slid out of the chair. His legs were shaky from a mixture of fatigue and lack of use.
“A-are you sure you don’t need my help, Twilight?” Spike asked, stretching. “I’m really not that tired, honest.” He tried his best to stifle the yawn that followed.
Twilight giggled as she set down the stack of books next to five other towering pillars on the floor. “Spike, I’ll be fine. I just need to catalog these before it gets too late, but I promise” – Twilight turned around to face Spike – “tomorrow, you can help me out all you want.”
Spike groaned, practically dragging himself towards the stairs. “Why is all this so important anyway?” His ascent slowed halfway to the top where he laid down on one of the steps.
“The Technomagic Act is really important, Spike. If this doesn’t get renewed, we could see some of the most amazing advancements in magic or science since, well, almost forever!” Twilight placed several books onto a podium, scanning through their contents one at a time before sorting them into piles on the other side of the room. All the while, she had a large smile on her face. “I know Princess Celestia said I shouldn’t worry, but it’s important to keep up to date on these things. It could revolutionize how we work, or play, or stu—”
Twilight stopped as she heard Spike’s snoring drifting down the staircase. She sighed and shook her head before trotting up behind him. Her horn lit up with a faint glimmer, and she lifted Spike gently off the stairs and up to the bedroom. After taking the time to tuck him in, she turned to head back downstairs. “Sleep tight, Spike.”
Twilight continued her sorting, setting each book into a pile based on its subject and how it was related to the law; history, theory, legislation, debates, there was no shortage of books on the topic, for or against it. Before long, Twilight only had a few books left to sort. She picked up another, reading its title aloud before she began to page through it. “Technomagic Theory and Application... It just looks like a lot of theory and ideas, but nothing concrete to back it up. Not surprising since actual research wasn’t allowed. I’ll probably just—”
Twilight stopped. A little over halfway through the book, she stumbled onto a folded piece of parchment. She tilted her head, lifting it gently from the book, and after placing the book to her side, unfolded the parchment and set it down on the podium. Her eyes were wide as she scanned the contents. It was a mixture of engineering blueprints, equations, and spells that blended together into a design more complex than anything Twilight had seen before.
“This is incredible,” Twilight muttered to herself, her hoof tracing across the paper. She tapped her hoof near a few arcane runes and spell instructions, taking a few moments to examine them closely. “That’s... a power spell. And that’s a permanency spell. And a transmutation spell, for energy manipulation. Some of these spells aren’t that old, and they couldn’t have come from when this book was written.” Twilight lit her horn, sending several books flying over to the podium from around the library. She scanned through three or four of them at a time, pinpointing each spell reference she could find from the parchment, and sending any poor leads into a pile near the center of the library.
“Whatever this is for, it needs a lot of power, and a lot of small parts too.” Twilight looked down at the parchment, engrossing herself in the plethora of information it held. Before she knew it, the distant crow of a rooster filled the air, accompanied by the faint scent of morning dew, and the sound of footsteps coming down the staircase.
Spike yawned and stretched as he walked down the stairs. He stopped halfway down, looking back upstairs for a moment before running down to Twilight’s side. “T-Twilight? Why weren’t you in bed?” he asked, his eyes opening wide after he reached the base of the stairs. The library was covered in books, spanning nearly every subject Spike could imagine, and some he probably couldn’t. “Ummm, Twilight?” Spike asked, carefully wading through the mess.
Twilight’s head jolted up from the podium, turning to face Spike. Her hair was frazzled, and her eyes sagged with fatigue. She lifted up a checklist with her magic, and Spike felt himself pulled through the air before being seated on her haunches. “Oh, you’re up Spike! Good, because we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
“Huh buh what?” Spike shook his head, trying to remove the sleep from his eyes as he clung to Twilight for support. “What were you even doing all night?”
“I found something amazing, Spike!” Twilight said, hovering the design in front of Spike for him to grab. “I don’t know what it is exactly, but it’s the pinnacle of the technomagic field. It’s an actual design, using scientific formulae and spells, that might have been made just before the bill went into effect.” She pulled the design from Spike’s claws gently, which was easy enough with his sleepy grip. It was replaced by the checklist, which was at least twice as long as Spike was tall, and trailed on the ground next to her hooves.
“Just keep that in hand, Spike. We’re gonna need a lot of parts, most of them from the clock shop, with how small this thing is supposed to be. But don’t worry. After getting them all, I should be able to get it working in about a day or two,” Twilight said as she walked out of the door, placing her saddlebags on just behind Spike.
“But, umm, Twilight? What does it, you know, do?” Spike asked, rolling up the checklist carefully.
“Well, it’s a little vague, but there’s a lot of moving gears and dials. It looked like some of them were for time. You know: days, hours, minutes, seconds.” Twilight stopped to greet a few ponies passing by on their morning routine, but was careful not to get distracted. “As far as I can tell, it’s some kind of timer, but it could do anything. There’s even a few gems in the design, so it might focus some of the energy that it’s taking in from the power spells.”
“Ummm, right. So, does that mean I don’t have to do my chores today?” Spike asked, rubbing his still tired eyes. “I mean, you did make that mess and all, right?”
Twilight sighed, rolling her eyes. She did her best to hold back a yawn before she said, “Yes, Spike, just as long as you help me with this. I’ll probably need you to put some of these parts together while I’m working on the spells.”
“But I don’t know the first thing about this stuff. It all just looked like a buncha... squiggly lines and junk.” Spike looked at the checklist again. “And shouldn’t you be getting some sleep before you go practicing spells you’ve never used?” Spike held his stomach as it started to growl. “Not to mention some food.”
Twilight stopped in place, finally feeling the emptiness in her stomach and the sleep on her eyelids. She chuckled nervously before looking around. “Right. Food first, and then maybe a little nap.”
Twilight looked over the blueprints on the podium once again. The unfinished device hovered in front of her in several pieces; its insides were a mesh of gears, wiring, and gems, held together with adhesive, bolts, or spells. Twilight pulled one of the smaller gems out and focused on it with her magic. The gem began to pulse with a dim blue light which grew brighter by the second. After nearly a minute, it shined like a bright bulb and let out a steady, low hum. With care and precision, Twilight placed it back into its home and began to piece the device together, securing its cover in with a few screws.
“There!” Twilight shouted with a smile, greeted by a few beeps coming from the device. She turned to face Spike, who had just finished cleaning up most of the mess she had created on the first night. “I told you it would only take a day or two, Spike.” Twilight yawned, shaking her head to stop her eyelids from sagging low.
Spike sighed after placing the last book back in its home. “Because you practically stayed up this entire time, Twilight.” Spike wiped the dust from his claws as he walked over to her. He took a seat near the podium, and leaned forward to pull a few screws out of his scales and drop them on the podium. “So, do you know what it does yet?”
Twilight fiddled with a few tuners on the side of the device, each one changing one of the four time displays she had labeled with a quill. She had to squint to read the labels, struggling to keep her eyes open. “No, but sometimes the best way is through experimenting, Spike,” Twilight said, setting the timer for fifteen minutes. “Though I want to be careful with how much power is in it.” She proceeded to twist a few knobs near the top of the device, causing the gem at the top to glow brighter.
“Maybe it uses the gem to focus the power. It could even be for powering other devices, like some kind of mini-generator,” Twilight said, pacing back and forth.
“I just wanna take a nap now. Can’t we wait until tomorrow, Twi?” Spike asked, holding back a yawn.
“I’m just gonna do a few simple tests, Spike. I'll take some notes and—” Twilight stopped as the timer began to beep, the gem at its top glowing brighter before blinding her vision. A beam of light shot out in front of the device, expanding into a whirlpool of light and energy. A gust of wind blew through the library before the vortex began to suck in everything close to it.
“Spike!” Twilight felt herself being tugged towards the portal. She tried to cling to a nearby bookcase as the pull became stronger, pulling several loose papers and books into the vortex. Spike tried to help keep her grounded, but before he could even find his footing, both he and Twilight were sent hurtling through the air, straight into the whirlpool.
It opened into a tunnel that twisted and turned in every direction. Its walls were a shining mixture of colors that blinded Twilight's vision and looked similar to the whirlpool at its entrance. She was disoriented, sailing through the tunnel with Spike and changing direction every few seconds. She tried to hold on, fighting against the force of the tunnel and her stomach, but one fight was useless. She felt Spike’s grip leave her hooves, just before the tunnel opened into sunlight.
Twilight felt a calm breeze in the air for only a moment before she went crashing into the soft grass a few feet underneath her. Her body ached from the crash, and it was worsened when she felt Spike plummet onto her haunches. She managed to look back over her shoulder and saw the same whirlpool floating several feet above the ground before it vanished from sight. Several of the books from her library lay strewn around them on the ground, and the timer was a few feet in front of her, luckily still intact.
Twilight pulled herself onto her hooves, looking around at her new surroundings. It was day time, just as it had been outside the library, but the forest around them was breathtaking to say the least. The trees towered overhead, echoing the soft song of birds between one another. The faint scent of wildflowers wafted through the air, coming upwind of the gentle breeze. She could feel Spike lifting himself up on her back, letting out a groan of pain.
“W-what was that, Twilight?” Spike asked, sliding off of Twilight’s back and trying to gather up the books and papers.
“I don’t know...” Twilight said as she rubbed her forehead. She trotted up to the timer, lifting it off of the grass. It had started to tick down, with only thirteen minutes and change left on the dials, and the gem continued to glow a faint blue, humming quietly. She hovered it towards Spike, just out of his reach. “Just hold onto this, Spike,” Twilight said, dropping it into his claws. “The books aren’t... as important.”
Twilight trotted past several of the trees, the scent carried by the breeze growing stronger. Spike did his best to keep up with her, and within minutes they arrived at a break in the treeline. The forest opened out onto a small cliff that sloped down gently for a few feet. As far as her eyes could see was flat land, an endless plain stretching into the horizon. The sky above was clear, carrying a few sparse clouds of white amidst the shining sea of blue. In the distance were a few mountains, capped by crowns of snow.
The plain below was darted with nearly every color imaginable. The breeze caused the grass and flowers to sway back and forth like waves in the ocean. Twilight looked over the sight, trying to take it all in. “This... this is incredible,” she said, looking back at Spike.
“Maybe we’re in some... forest somewhere?” Spike asked, looking at the timer, but careful not to fiddle with it.
“It could be some kind of a teleportation device, but why would anyone make something like this when you can use a spell?” Twilight asked, looking over Spike’s shoulder at the timer. “Whatever it’s for, there’s only another minute left on this timer.” She lit her horn, pulling it carefully from Spike’s grip. The gem had begun to glow brighter, pulsing with energy. Twilight carefully watched for any changes as the final seconds began to tick away, and the gem began to blink with every second’s passing.
When the timer hit zero, it's low hum was replaced by a steady beep. The beam of light shot out once again, forming the same vortex of light. However, the whirlpool was not sucking them in like before. Twilight walked past it, but rather than the deep funnel it appeared to be from the front, it was razor thin. From behind it she could still see Spike and the forest, but they were distorted by ripples of light.
“That’s... this doesn’t make any sense,” Twilight muttered to herself as she trotted back in front of it. She hovered the timer back over to Spike. “Well, no sense in staying somewhere we don’t know.” Twilight took a deep breath before running at full gallop into the whirlpool and jumping into the portal. Spike followed shortly afterwards, and the two went sliding through the tunnel once again.
When the tunnel ended, Twilight found herself welcomed by the hard earth once again. She heard Spike slide across the ground next to her, but he quickly stood up, wiping the dirt from his scales. Twilight stood on her hooves, shaking her head as she heard the whirlpool vanish behind her. “Do you still have the timer, Spike?” she asked, looking back at Ponyville. The sun was still high in the sky, and several ponies were walking through the streets in the distance.
“Uh huh,” Spike said, waving it back and forth with his claw. He went to turn one of the tuners on the side, but Twilight had already taken it from his grip. He sighed, crossing his arms.
“Good, let’s get back home. I can’t wait to show this to the girls!”