Spectacular Seven

by The Albinocorn


5. The Science of Magic


The first test was simple, and consisted only of seeing whether or not the other girls could, as they now officially dubbed it, ‘pony up’ like Rainbow. Wednesday after school, the Spectacular Seven occupied the music room with all of their instruments. Fluttershy had decided on playing the tambourine, though Sunset and Twilight doubted it would produce any satisfactory results.

Twilight had with her a clipboard and a spectrometer to measure any energy readings. Sunset had tried to tell her that it wouldn’t be able to pick up the thaumetic energy Rainbow released, but Twilight was obstinate in trying anyway. Sunset let her be, since she had already told Twilight any data collected here was strictly confidential and would not be shared with anyone.

That caveat had put a major damper on Twilight’s mood during the day, but as everyone got set up, she bounced back to her peppy, sciency self. “Even if I can’t share it with the scientific community, at least I get to learn something,” she told Sunset.

With sound checks out of the way, they began with Rainbow. “Just play like you did yesterday,” Twilight instructed.

“Easy-peasy,” Rainbow said. She launched into her song, appropriately named ‘Awesome As I Wanna Be.’ She got past the chorus and started her set of wild guitar moves, getting more into the song as time passed. The blue glow returned and in a few seconds, Rainbow’s pony features burst into existence with a flash of light. She finished with one last power cord and slid across the bandstand on her knees.

“Show off,” Applejack muttered.

Twilight ran over, stethoscope around her neck and a mini flashlight in her gloved hand. “Sunset, did you start the timer?”

Sunset sat atop the piano. “Yep.” She shook the stopwatch being used to measure how long Rainbow’s form lasted.

Twilight first ran a hand through the aura surrounding Rainbow. “Note: magical aura can be felt. It’s warm and kinda tingly.” It faded away, but Rainbow kept her pony enhancements. Twilight checked the spectrometer, frowning and knitting her brow. “It tried to pick up on something, but now it’s just giving me an error sign.” She set it down with a disappointed sigh, and held out the cold silver disk of the stethoscope to Rainbow. “Could you, um, put this over your heart for me?”

Rainbow smirked as she took it and slid it down her shirt. “Pretty sure doctors don’t have their patients measure their own heartbeat.”

“You’re not a patient, you’re a test subject,” Sunset said.

“Okay, quiet, I’m trying to listen.” Twilight put the plugs in her ears and hummed. “It seems to have accelerated, but that could just be adrenaline.” She had Rainbow hand the stethoscope back, then shone the flashlight in her eye. “Nothing out of the ordinary,” she murmured. “How do you feel?”

Rainbow shrugged. “Magical, I guess? A little warm, but like, the happy, sappy kind of warm on the inside, you know? Plus, I can feel the wings on my back, and these cool ears.”

Twilight moved up to the ears next, gently pulling and pushing them. “Fascinating. Has your hearing improved?”

“Not that I can tell.”

“Write that down, Sunset.”

Sunset complied, jotting notes down on the clipboard Twilight had provided.

Twilight moved to Rainbow’s wings, running her fingers through the primary feathers. “I can’t believe it. They’re really real.” She ran her finger along the carpal joint.

Rainbow shuddered, taking in a deep breath, then swatted Twilight’s hand away. “Don’t do that.”

“Wings are sensitive to touch,” Twilight said, barely fazed by Rainbow’s quick attack. “Write that down, Sunset.”

Sunset paused mid-sentence and pursed her lips. Why does this seem familiar?

Twilight quickly tugged off a feather, making Rainbow jump. “Oi! Be careful!” But Twilight was already on the other side of the room, stowing the feather in a ziplock bag.

“I’ll have to examine that more closely when I get home.” She turned toward Pinkie, Rainbow’s glare going completely unnoticed. “Okay, that’s it for Rainbow’s preliminary test. Now let’s see if we can reproduce these effects with the rest of you. You first, Pinkie.”

“Yes!” Pinkie punched a hand to the air. “Canterlot High, are you ready to rock? Because Pinkamena Diane Pie is in the house!” She tapped her drumsticks together three times before banging them against the drums in a furious rhythm. It was loud and fast, but managed to carry a good beat. Twenty seconds in, Pinkie glowed pink and floated out of her seat. Her poofy hair produced a ponytail, and she grew a set of ears to match Rainbow’s. She dropped back into her chair and threw her arms up. “Woohoo, look at me! I’m magicy!”

Twilight frowned. “Why doesn’t she have wings though?”

Sunset tapped the pen against her lip. “My guess would be because her pony counterpart is an earth-pony, while Rainbow’s is a pegasus.”

“Acceptable explanation. Though, now I want to know just how deep this link is between us and our pony counterparts. Questions for later.” Twilight took to work looking over Pinkie. “So, how do you feel?”

“Hyper and bubbly, super happy, a little hungry—”

“Anything new?”

“Oh, well, I feel all warm and tingly like Dashie.”

Sunset continued to scribe, watching Twilight flex Pinkie’s arm. Going off just Rainbow and Pinkie’s data, if Sunset had to hazard a guess, she’d say that the warm and tingly sensation was friendship magic. Since it originated in Equestria, it gave them Equestrian characteristics.

Still, why music? Does anything else trigger it? Sunset made sure to keep a record of her personal thoughts for Twilight.

Rarity’s turn came next, and Sunset moved to the other side of the room, getting cozy in the corner. When she sat down, Rainbow’s magic timed out, and she returned to normal. Sunset stopped the timer and called, “Five forty-three.”

“Thank you,” Twilight said. “All right, Rarity, your turn.”

Rarity flexed her fingers. “I hope I can do this right. One day’s practice certainly didn’t clear all the cobwebs.” She ran her fingers over the keys, lightly tapping each one. She faltered in a few spots, but never quit. Soon, she closed her eyes and the melody came much smoother and refined than at the start. After a minute, Rarity took on a purple hue and underwent the same transformation Pinkie and Rainbow had.

Her hair extended into a ponytail and gained a lustrous shine. Instead of gaining wings, a white horn appeared on her forehead.

“Huh, so Rarity’s a unicorn,” Sunset said. “Not surprising when I think about it.”

Twilight immediately began poking it and running her finger along the grooves. “Interesting, it has the same texture as your nails but is the color of your skin.”

Rarity smacked Twilight’s hand away. “Twilight, I know this is for research, but you need to ask before you violate my personal space.”

“Hehe, sorry,” Twilight said, sheepishly.

Rarity opened her compact and examined her horn in the mirror. “Hmm. I wonder if I can make accessories for this?”

“Rarity, you ain’t supposed to be walkin’ around school with a horn on your head,” Applejack said. “Students would flip.”

“Well, they took Sunset turning into a demon and the princess with wings pretty well.” Rarity’s cheeks turned pink as she looked at Sunset. “No offense, dear.”

Sunset gripped the clipboard, using all her will to not break it in half. “All right, new rule,” she said through gritted teeth. “The next person to mention the Fall Formal, and then follow up with ‘no offense’, gets a fist to the face.”

There was an awkward murmur of agreement before the testing continued.

Rarity tried to use magic with her new horn, but even with Sunset’s instructions, she failed basic levitation, leaving them to wonder if the horn was just for show. They moved onto Applejack and her banjo. Sunset had to keep her face pressed into the back of the clipboard to stop from saying anything. After five minutes of torturous country strumming, Applejack ponied up. It didn’t come as a shock that she was an earth pony.

Finally, it was Fluttershy’s turn. Rainbow helped by giving her a rhythm to shake her tambourine to. Fluttershy’s took the longest, but with some encouragement from the girls, her wings and ponytail appeared in a slow flash instead of a burst like the others.

“Hmm,” Twilight pondered aloud. “Perhaps cheering from comfort sources can serve as a substitute for musical passion or ability in relation to the transformation.”

Pinkie scratched her head with a drumstick. “Wha?”

“She said friendship might trigger the pony ups instead of just how well you play,” Sunset said, writing Twilight’s version.

Twilight remembered to be gentle when looking over Fluttershy. Unlike with Rainbow, Twilight gently wiggled one of Fluttershy’s feathers loose before stowing it in another ziplock bag. She checked Fluttershy’s pulse, flexibility, and coordination, making sure Sunset took down every note.

“All right, that concludes our preliminary tests,” Twilight said, clapping her hands.

“You mean there’s more?” Rainbow whined.

“Of course! There’s not nearly sufficient enough data with just this, especially with the spectrometer acting on the fritz.”

“I tried to tell you,” Sunset said.

Twilight ignored her and pulled a list from her pocket. “Next, I want to see what happens when you all play as a group. You all seem to emit some sort of energy when you play individually, so what would happen if you coordinated your music?”

Rainbow perked up. “Play together? Like, as a band? That sounds awesome!”

“A rather odd sort of instruments though,” Rarity said, looking from her piano, to Applejack’s banjo, to Fluttershy’s tambourine. “Can we really play a song and have it sound good?”

Sunset shrugged. “Aside from A.J.’s banjo—”

“Hey!”

“—as long as you guys are in time with each other, any arrangement should sound all right.”

“We can try playing ‘Awesome as I Wanna Be,” Rainbow said with an eager smile.

Applejack rolled her eyes. “Or, we could play somethin’ that doesn’t revolve around your ego.”

Fluttershy gave her tambourine a little shake. “What about ‘Shine Like Rainbows’?”

Sunset gave her an encouraging nod. “That could work. Fluttershy did write the original composition. I’m sure she could think of an arrangement for you guys.”

“Maybe,” Rainbow said. “But the only time we actually heard the song was at the Winter Ball.”

“And the only time we heard your song was yesterday,” Sunset argued.

“Yeah, so it should be fresh in your minds.”

“All right then,” Applejack said, “let’s put it to a vote. All in favor of playin’ ‘Shine Like Rainbows’, say I.”

“I!” six voices cheered.

“The I’s have it.”

Rainbow threw her arms up. “You didn’t even ask if anyone wanted to play my song.”

Applejack sighed. “Anybody want to play ‘Awesome as I Wanna Be?” She let the silence speak for itself before smirking at Rainbow. “Happy now?”

Rainbow just grumbled and started tuning her guitar. The corner of Fluttershy’s lips turned upwards, but Rainbow’s sour attitude seemed to keep her from enjoying her moment. Fluttershy gave the basic composition for the song, giving details to Rainbow and Pinkie, but letting everyone else, herself included, improvise.

“It doesn’t need to sound perfect,” Twilight said, “just enough to make magic.” She giggled with a hint of hysteria. “I’m studying magic. Yep, that’s still a thing that’s happening.”

Sunset tucked herself back into the corner since the others scattered themselves around the room with their instruments. She knew she was probably being paranoid at this point, but it paid to be prepared.

The girls waited until they had all powered down before playing again. It was a shaky first attempt with Rarity, Applejack and Fluttershy trying to find their place in the song. While rough, Sunset could still feel the emotion put into it.

Once… upon a time,” Applejack sang, “you came into my world and made the stars align.”

Rarity followed. “Now, I can see the signs.

“You pick me up when I get down so I can shine.”

Everyone joined in on the chorus. “Shine like rainbows, ohohoh.

“We shine like rainbows, ohohoh.”

All at once, the five of them glowed, their separate colors coming together to form a brilliant white light. Their pony features popped back into existence, and with them, a light shockwave that expanded across the room.

Sunset watched it rush toward her, mouth open in a silent scream. She clenched her eyes shut and raised the clipboard as a feeble shield. The light wave washed over her, and a scream echoed somewhere in her mind.

Sunset raised an arm at the six girls floating before her, bathed in heavenly light. It burned and blinded her, even with the distance between them. How could this be happening? She had the Element of Harmony—the only source of magic in this world! How did Princess Twilight continue to defy her?

A lavender beam shot from Twilight’s forehead and connected with the crown atop Sunset. Another force began clawing its way into her mind. She was already in enough pain! She didn’t need anymore!

“The crown may be upon your head, Sunset Shimmer,” Twilight said, her voice strong and fearless, “but you cannot wield it, because you do not possess the most powerful magic of all: the magic of friendship!” The beam between them broke, but in its place, a rainbow rose up from the six girls, poised to strike Sunset.

Sunset screamed, raising her hands to defend herself, but it proved absolutely powerless against this magic. The rainbow spun around her, locking her in. “No! What is happening?” The vortex grew closer and closer, burning her skin, trying to burn away the darkness in her soul. Sunset’s scream rose to a roar of agony.

Then, she floated in a white void.

“Sunset?”

Sunset snapped her eyes open, seeing the checkered tiles of the floor. Her arms were thrown over her head, and something wet snaked down her cheeks. Several shadows loomed over her, and she turned up to find all her friends staring with concern, Twilight at the forefront.

“Sunset, what happened?” Twilight put a hand on her shoulder.

“Nothing,” Sunset said quickly, wiping her tears away.

Applejack straightened up and crossed her arms. “That wasn’t nothin’, sugarcube. Ya squealed like a pig, then tucked yourself into that corner.”

“It’s like you were having a nightmare,” Fluttershy said. “You were shaking like a leaf.”

Sunset stood up and dusted her jacket off. “I’m fine, okay?” she said tersely. “I overreacted, that’s it.” Even as she said it, she could still feel her core trembling. No one said anything, they just kept looking at Sunset with pleading eyes. She turned her back to them and let out an irritable sigh. “I told you, it’s nothing. I just… I just had a flashback, okay? Of when I got hit by the rainbow.” Her voice softened and she bowed her head. “It burned. It burned everywhere. And then, I was just floating in a void. I thought I was dead. And I was still angry. After all of that, I was only mad that I had lost.”

She held a hand over her face. “I just freaked out for a second, okay? I thought maybe the Elements changed their mind and thought I hadn’t learned my lesson yet. It’s stupid.”

Her friends didn’t say anything. Instead, a pair of arms wrapped themselves around her waist. Sunset made a noncommittal grunt at Twilight’s hug. Twilight wasn’t alone, however. Five more arms wrapped around Sunset, followed by their respective bodies.

Sunset squirmed, her face turning red. “What are you doing? Who said you all could hug me?”

“This is what friends do, duh,” Rainbow said.

“You know I hate this!”

“No,” Rarity said, winking at her, “we know you pretend to hate this. We’re showing you our support, darling. You’ve got nothing to fear.”

Sunset relaxed her arms and surrendered to the hug. “Thanks, girls.”

Pinkie beamed at her. “See? I knew you liked group hugs!”

“I never said that.” She wiggled her arms until her friends got the hint and let go. “I know the Elements aren’t out to get me. It’s just…” She didn’t know how to finish that sentence.

Twilight took her hand, gently running her finger against Sunset’s palm. “We can stop if you’re uncomfortable.”

Sunset shook her head. “I’m not going to let my stupid paranoia ruin your fun.”

“It’s not stupid—”

“The point is, I’ll be fine.” She took a slow relaxing breath, then gave everyone her most convincing smile. “See? I’m good.”

Twilight picked up the clipboard forgotten on the ground. “Well, either way, I think that’s enough for today. I’ve got plenty of data to analyze, and I need to prepare the next round of tests.”

“Which are…?” Rainbow asked.

“Don’t worry, it won’t be anything too intrusive. I just want to take a closer look at any biological effects this magic has on you, and try converting your magical output into readable data..”

Rainbow laid her guitar in its case. “Well, like I said, as long as you don’t go mad scientist on us, I’m down for whatever.”

The Seven tidied up and headed out, the school hallways completely desolate. They could hear the basketball team practicing in the gym, the only signs of life on campus. Outside, puffy clouds filled the orange sky, pushed by a frigid wind.

They parted ways, with Sunset and Twilight heading for the parking lot. “Guess we should work on our chemistry homework, huh?” Twilight asked. “Unless you want to call it a day.”

Sunset gave her a sideways look. “I know you want to look at your samples the second you get home.”

Twilight twiddled her fingers. “I mean, yeah, but not if it makes you uncomfortable.”

They stopped in front of Sunset’s motorcycle. “Twilight, I told you, I’m fine. It was just a little leftover anxiety. I’ll get over it.” She pulled their helmets out and tossed Twilight hers.

“Are you sure? We can talk about this, you know?”

“Oh, so you’re a scientist and a therapist now?”

Twilight puffed her cheeks. “I’m trying to help you.”

Sunset placed a hand under Twilight’s chin. “I know, and I appreciate it completely.” She gave her a kiss. “But I’ve already told you everything. I just have to get over it.”

Twilight narrowed her eyes, trying her best to be intimidating. Some of the effect was lost with her having to look up at Sunset. Eventually, she gave up and said, “Fine, if you say so.” Her eyes softened. “But you know you can talk to me—to any of us, right?”

“Don’t worry, that’s been firmly established.” Sunset mounted her bike and patted the seat behind her. I just don’t want to talk about it. 

*******

Unfortunately for Twilight, the samples she had gotten from Rainbow and Fluttershy had vanished by the time she got home. Come lunch on Thursday, she was still put out, moodily eating her sandwich.

“Twily, tell me what’s wrong?” Moondancer cooed, leaning on Twilight’s shoulder. “I can’t stand to see your precious face so glum.”

“It’s nothing. Just a science experiment that didn’t go so well.”

While Sunset took no pleasure in seeing her girlfriend upset, she had to fight to keep the smirk off her face. She quickly shoved some salad into her mouth and smiled with her eyes. I know something you don’t know! I know something you don’t know! she mentally taunted Moondancer. This is incredibly childish but I don’t care!

Moondancer stroked Twilight’s hair. “There’s no reason to be blue. Being the genius that you are, I know you’ll be able to figure it out.”

Sunset sense of superiority faded, and she gave Moondancer a searing glare. Touching clause!

Moondancer met her eyes, gave Twilight one last long stroke, then moved her hands away. “Why don’t I take you to get something sweet after school? Just like old times?”

Twilight smiled but didn’t meet Moondancer’s eyes. “I’d love to, but, uhhh, I s-still have more of my science experiment to work on today. How about tomorrow?” She looked in Sunset’s direction.

Sunset rolled her eyes and gave a subtle nod. She saw the cheshire grin Moondancer flashed, and went back to chanting, I know something you don’t know!

Lunch came and went, pushing Sunset into her Advanced Trigonometry class with Twilight. Like usual, they had finished their class work early, leaving Twilight to fiddle with her notes. She had drawn up diagrams and charts, though they held many blank spaces.

“Sunset, how does magic work in your world?” Twilight whispered, looking over her shoulder to make sure no one was paying attention to them.

“Well, there’s different schools of magic, like thaumaturgy, abjuration, transfiguration, etcetera, and each of them have their own principles, rules, and theories.” She saw Twilight’s starry-eyed interest and continued. “So, thaumaturgy is the manipulation of elemental energy, like fire or water or wind. It’s the basis for most combat magic and was one of my specialties,” Sunset said, letting a hint of pride ooze out.

“It’s kind of hard to explain, but the best way to think about it is like the transformation of energy in this world, only with shortcuts.” Sunset tapped her fingers together. “Like, if I wanted to make fire, I essentially just generate enough friction in the molecules in front of me until they ignite.”

“Fascinating,” Twilight breathed. “So, you wrote down that you think this is ‘friendship magic’?” She gestured to the rather poor sketch she made of Rainbow’s pony form and the notes Sunset had made.

“That’s my first guess.”

“How does it work?”

Sunset gave Twilight a deadpan stare. “You’re asking me how friendship magic works?”

Twilight looked down at her paper. “Sorry.”

Sunset leaned back in her chair, kicking her boots up onto the desk and stretching her arms behind her head. “Right now, your notes are all we have to go on.” Ms. Vector glared at Sunset from her desk. Sunset just smiled and pointed to her completed work.

“Do you think the princess knows how it works?” Twilight asked, her head still bowed.

“Well…” Sunset chose her words carefully. “Even if she did, she’s not here, so it’s up to us to figure it out. More importantly, it’s up to you.” She ruffled Twilight’s bun. “And you’re smarter than she is, so you’ll figure it out no problem.”

With a blush and a giggle, Twilight said, “Thanks.”

 *******

“Twilight… I think this falls under ‘mad scientist.”

Rainbow stared wide-eyed with the other girls as they joined Twilight in one of the science labs where a large machine was set up. A helmet with wires and a dial connected to its side. Twilight finished plugging the machine in and whirled around, a white lab coat draped over her shoulders.

“This isn’t ‘mad science’, this is perfectly normal science.” She gestured to the machine. “It’s just a bigger spectrometer. I’m going to measure any energy output you release from your music and record it. As well as any deeper readings in your biochemistry.”

“Ah didn't even know we had a machine like this,” Applejack said. “What do they normally use this for?”

Sunset shrugged. Like Twilight, she was also adorned in a white lab coat. “Who knows?” She lifted the helmet up. “So, who wants to go first?”

Everyone save for Fluttershy took a step back.

“Fluttershy, thank you for volunteering!” Twilight said.

Fluttershy looked behind her, realizing she had been sold down the river. She made a whimper and clutched her tambourine to her chest.

Sunset fitted the helmet onto Fluttershy’s head. It looked more like an upside down colander than a scientific device. “It’s not going to hurt, ‘Shy,” Sunset said, putting a hand on Fluttershy’s shaking shoulder. “Just play like you did yesterday.”

With some help from Rainbow, Fluttershy found a rhythm to shake her tambourine to. It didn’t take as long for her to pony up. Sunset watched the monitor over Twilight’s shoulder, observing the wavelengths change from flowing lines… into butterflies.

Twilight cocked her head. “What?” The ceiling lights flickered for a moment before becoming stable again. Twilight and Sunset turned back to Fluttershy, who had stopped playing and was looking at a pink butterfly fluttering around her.

“Where did that come from?” Sunset asked.

“I don’t know,” Fluttershy said, her eyes and voice full of whimsical wonder. “It just appeared when I was playing.”

Twilight stalked toward it, hunched forward with her hands outstretched. She made a lunge for it, but the butterfly floated higher, leaving Twilight to trip and fall face first onto the floor. It then floated over and landed on Sunset’s nose, where it lingered for a moment, then vanished in a puff of pink wisps.

Sunset blinked. “Okay, so that was weird.”

“Write it down!” Twilight said from her place on the floor.

They repeated the process with Applejack, Sunset strapping the helmet over her head while Twilight prepared the monitor. Applejack strummed her banjo, producing noise that made Sunset want to break the unholy instrument in half. After a minute of playing, Applejack ponied up in a yellow light, and looking at the monitor, Sunset saw the wavelengths now looked like an apple.

Twilight threw her hands up. “These readings don’t make any sense!”

“Maybe—” Something hard collided with her skull, and the next thing Sunset knew, she was looking up at the ceiling. “What happened?”

Applejack leaned into her view. “Sorry, Sunset! My banjo just shot out an apple.”

“... What?”

Applejack pulled her to her feet and pointed to Twilight. “See?” Twilight held a glowing apple in her hand, examining it from all sides and holding it up to the light.

“Thanks for the help, babe,” Sunset said, rubbing a small welt on her head.

“Sorry, Sunset.” It sounded genuine, but Twilight still had her eyes on the apple. “I’m just trying to make sense of this apple. It was produced from thin air! It’s not a hologram! I think it’s a real apple just conjured up by magic.”

Sunset walked over, snatched the apple, much to Twilight’s objection, and continued on to a table. She pulled out one of the dissection knives and cut the apple in half, showing the insides to the others. Both halves consisted of only a white void.

“Arcanus’ Second Law of Transfigurative Properties: ‘food cannot be created or conjured from nothing.’” Sunset watched the apple disappear the same way Fluttershy’s butterfly had. “Glad to see at least that makes sense here.”

Applejack chuckled disappointedly. “There goes mah idea of ending world hunger.”

They planned to move onto Rarity next, but ran into a large complication upon realizing the grand piano could not be moved from the music room. Rarity examined the doorway with a determined squint.

“Maybe if we turned it on its side…”

“Rarity, it ain’t gonna fit,” Applejack said. “Plus, we don’t have the muscle to move it.”

“Well, what else am I supposed to play?”

Rainbow came out of the storage room, a retro looking device in her hands. It looked like a guitar, only it had piano keys instead of strings. “Here, play this.”

Rarity cringed and held her arms up, like Rainbow had offered her a snake. “Please, Rainbow, that’s so…. synthetic pop.”

“Pssh, like you don’t listen to synthpop.”

“As a matter of fact—”

Applejack groaned. “Rares, just play the dang keytar so we can get this over with.”

Rarity wrinkled her nose, but reached for the keytar, gingerly taking the instrument like it might bite her at any moment. “But I don’t even know how to play this.”

Sunset waved a hand. “So? Fluttershy’s never played a tambourine before. Besides, it’s just like a piano, only portable, right?”

Rarity mumbled something about the tambourine not being hard to learn as they headed back to the science room. Twilight lit up upon their return.

“Oh good, you found a substitute! This’ll be a good time to see if the magic effects are only specific to the first instrument you play. I really hope they aren’t, otherwise, this’ll make even less sense, and I don’t know if I can handle that.” She untangled a bunch of wires with suction cups on the ends. “Also, I found these!”

Looking slightly paler than usual, Rarity asked, “What are those, exactly?”

Twilight walked over and stuck one on Rarity’s forehead. “Don’t worry, they’re just going to help get a better reading on your biochemistry.” She stuck several more on Rarity’s arms and legs.

“I feel violated.” Shoulders hunched, she tested out her new keytar, pressing the keys and fiddling with the knobs. While it sounded very little like a piano, the sound it produced was not unpleasant. It was enough to make Rarity smile again. “Maybe this isn’t so bad after all.”

She started playing in earnest, letting the notes and chords come naturally. Her smile turned into a giggle, which then moved up into inspired laughter. Her purple aura blazed, and she floated into the air, horn, ears, and ponytail bursting forth.

“Oh goodness!” she said, taking a break. “I didn’t think this could be so much fun! I’m feeling so inspired now! Perhaps it’s time for an 80’s comeback!”

A purple aura appeared around Sunset as she took notes and slowly lifted her off the ground. The weightlessness settled over her, knocking her off balance. Sunset fell back, only to flip around in Rarity’s magical grip. “Rarity?”

“I’m thinking big, bold colors! Something attention grabbing, but not obnoxiously loud,” Rarity continued, throwing her arms out.

Sunset jerked to the side. “Umm, Rarity?”

“Oooh, I can see sequence working well into some of my designs! Maybe rine encrusted boots. And pleats! Hmm, maybe not pleats. Then again—”

“Rarity!” the entire room shouted.

“What?” She clapped her hands over her mouth. “Oh my… Sunset, am I doing that?”

Sunset glared at her from her upside-down position, arms crossed. “Yes. Now, would you kindly put me down?”

Rarity tugged at her collar. “Ahaha… err, sure thing. Just a second.” She squeezed her eyes shut and produced a few sparks from her horn.

The magic around Sunset wavered, then shot Sunset up toward the ceiling before dispelling. With a loud, “Eeep!” Sunset dropped back to the ground, landing on her stomach.

This time, Twilight ran to her aid. “Sunset! Are you okay?”

Sunset coughed and rolled over. “I forgot how much magic hurts.” They took a quick break to ensure none of Sunset’s ribs were broken, with Rarity apologizing profusely the entire time.

When Pinkie’s turn came up, Sunset made sure to stand on the other side of the room, though she was pretty sure Pinkie wouldn’t produce anything harmful, or be able to telekinetically lift things.

“Pinkie Pie, second encore!” Pinkie shouted before banging away on her drums. She was the fastest to pony up, and continued to play after her transformation finished. She and her drumset lit up the room, and a light humming noise joined her percussion.

Balloons exploded out from her drums and rocketed forth on a direct collision course with Sunset. She had no time to acknowledge, let alone move out of their way, and in a few scant seconds, found herself sticking to the wall. Her hair was a frazzled mess with leftover balloons sticking to it, and residual discharge danced across her body.

“Sorry, Sunset!” Pinkie shouted.

Sunset merely sighed. “This is karma for something. I’m just not sure what.”

*******

Rainbow was last, and to ensure that nothing bad would happen, Sunset chose to observe the last test from the safety of the monitoring booth. It was convenient since Rainbow’s guitar could be plugged into the recording devices inside. Sunset gave a thumbs up while keeping an eye on the music guages. She wasn’t sure what she was looking for, but if something magic popped up, she’d know it when she saw it.

Outside, Rainbow started shredding on her guitar. She forewent singing her new theme song, opting to just play. Once she was into it, her wings appeared, and she started performing tricks in the air. Unnoticed to both Rainbow and Sunset, a rainbow snaked its way down the connection cord and into the booth.

Sunset stared at the readings on the computer screen. “Huh, it’s picking up some sort of energy reading. Maybe it thinks it’s joules? Or volts.” The readings climbed higher, and electricity crackled across the screen. Sunset leaned back. “That can’t be good.”

Boom!

Splat!

Fury, revulsion, sadistic mirth, and sadness all raced through Sunset in one moment. Mostly revulsion. She brought a hand over her eyes, wiping up some of the rainbow goop that had somehow exploded out from the monitor and covered her face.

Someone tapped frantically on the glass. “Sunset, are you okay?”

Sunset spit out some of the rainbow clinging to her lips. She walked over to the door, and pulled it open, hearing her friends gasp as one when she stepped out. She opened her eyes and glared at them.

“One word from any of you… and I will murder you in your sleep,” she said, voice drained of emotion.

Rarity eased a finger into the air. “But, Sunset—”

“In your sleep!”

*******

Twilight and Sunset sat in Sunset’s room, after she had thoroughly cleaned herself of Rainbow’s rainbow residue. She had come dangerously close to choking Rainbow after the latter had burst into gales of laughter. Thankfully, Applejack was strong enough to hold Sunset back.

Between Sunset and Twilight sat pages and pages of notes, hypothesis, observations, and wild guesses. Sunset had explained thaums, the unit of magical measurement, but they had a hard time figuring out a conversion between thaums and an earth equivalent to remeasure the collected data.

Sunset flopped back on her bed, prompting Spot to settle on her stomach. “I don’t know why you’re focused on the ‘how.’ You should be focused on the ‘why.’ Why do they have magic again? And why music?”

Twilight sat up from her place on the floor, leaving her calculations alone. She rolled out a crick in her neck. “I’m getting to that. I want to know the ‘how’ first. How does magic work in this world? How do they get all those ears and tails and wings? How do I explain this with science?” she shouted.

Sunset reached over and patted her head. “There are some things you can’t explain with science. Maybe this is one of them.”

“Impossible.” Twilight wildly shook her head. “You even said there’s rules and laws to magic. There has to be some reason behind this, and I’m going to find it!” She held a determined fist in the air, then went rigid. “Sunset… isn’t Artemis supposed to be a magician?”

“Yeah.”

Twilight flipped over, gripping the side of Sunset’s bed. “Why don’t we ask him for help? He has to know how magic in this world works! Maybe he’s the link we need!”

Sunset ran her hand across Spot’s back. “Huh, yeah, we could ask him,” she said casually.

There was an impatient pause. “So?” Twilight asked, bobbing up and down.

“I really don’t want to feed his ego.”

“Sunset!”

“All right, fine, geez.” She picked Spot up and set him down on her pillow. “But if he goes off on a tangent about his wild adventures, don’t blame me.”