Spectacular Seven

by The Albinocorn


9. Overture

Sleep did not come for Sunset that night. No one in the house slept. She listened to Selena and Trixie weep, then went into the kitchen and warmed up soup for both of them. The family appreciated the gesture, but the soup went untouched.

Sunset didn’t cry, but her stomach heaved and her heart hammered at double-speed. She had been moments away from turning out her light and falling asleep when Selena’s scream paralyzed her. Sunset had raced behind Trixie back to the study to find the crystal ball had gone dark, Selena shaking it with desperation, her face soaked with tears.

Artemis wasn’t dead. Sunset refused to believe that. Selena and Trixie held onto that hope as well. But it didn’t stop the creeping dread nor the air of distress that now permeated every corner of the house. It created a cold, deeper and more bitter than the late winter chill.

The three of them took residence in the living room. Sunset sat in an armchair, knees up to her chin. Selena and Trixie sat curled together on the couch, the forming stroking her daughter’s hair.

“Mom… what do we do now?” Trixie croaked.

The heavy pause spoke for itself. Sunset could see it in Selena’s puffy eyes, the urge to walk out and confront the Sirens herself. “I don’t know. But we’ll think of something.” She looked at the clock over the fireplace. “It’s almost five. You should both try to get some sleep. I’ll call the school and tell them you’ll be absent.”

Sunset shook her head. “No. I’ll go.” She certainly wasn’t up for social interaction or mental stimulation, but she needed to tell her friends. The Sirens had just made things personal.

“Are you sure, Sunset?”

“Yeah.” She let her legs down, feeling her knees pop and the blood circulate freely. “Guess I’ll get ready now.” She stood and stumbled a few steps, muscles tingling at the sudden reuse. Spot remained on Trixie’s lap, reaching up to lick her tears on occasion.

Sunset took an hour long shower, though the chill persisted. Warm and clean outside, cold and sick inside, Sunset almost decided to lay down and go to sleep instead of trudging her way to school. Still, she forced herself to get dressed, then sat on her bed, watching the clock slowly eat up the hour she had left.

“What do we do now?” Princess Twilight repeated Trixie’s question.

“Not sure.” Sunset rubbed at her heavy eyelids. “But… I think a place to start is at the concert.”

“That sounds dangerous.”

“Probably is. But it’s where the Dazzlings are going to be. Maybe there’s a clue somewhere about Artemis or how they’re going to take the Crystal Heart.”

“But you don’t have a ticket.”

Sunset tugged at her collar anxiously. “No. But I know where I can get one from.”

*******

“No.”

“But, Twilight—”

“I said no.”

In their first shared class of the day, Sunset had picked the farthest lab station from unwanted ears. She had expected some trepidation from Twilight, not outright refusal. But Twilight firmly stared at the textbook in front of her, scowl plain as day while Sunset pleaded her case.

“I don’t think you understand—”

“What I understand is that you want me to extort a ticket from my friend and give it to you, then lie to my friend again so you can go to a concert you just told me I couldn’t and shouldn’t go to.”

“That’s because it’s dangerous!” Sunset said in a heated whisper.

“So? You’re trying to go.”

“Someone has to!”

Twilight looked up, violet eyes hard. “And that someone has to be you?”

“Who else is going to do it?”

Twilight removed a latex glove and rubbed at her eyes. “You just told me Artemis was kidnapped by them. On top of extorting and lying, why would I agree to let you get anywhere near them?”

Sunset paused, tapping a knuckle against her chin. “You know, you’re really cute when you’re protective.”

“Don’t try to change the subject! I’m mad at you!” Twilight snapped.

“I’m not changing the subject. The subject of this part of the conversation…” Sunset snapped her mouth shut as Twilight’s icy stare became sub-zero. “Right. I’m sorry, Twilight, but I need to do something to help.”

“And I love that you do,” Twilight said warmly. The cold edge creeped back into her voice. “The part that makes me mad is the hypocrisy behind it. The concert’s too dangerous for me to go but not for you?”

Sunset held a beaker up to keep an appearance of productivity. Mr. Doodle had given them a few too many side glances. “I told you: I don’t know if the spell will hold up if you’re right in front of them.”

“What about you? What if your magic shield thing doesn’t hold up? What then?”

“Then the girls hit me with another rainbow and I learn friendship all over again.” She set the beaker down and shuddered. “I see your point. But the magic around me isn’t from this world. The source of your magic was Artemis, and now that he’s…” A lump rose up in Sunset’s throat. It proved difficult in pushing back down, but Sunset managed. “Now that he’s indisposed, there’s no guarantee the spell’s active anymore.”

Twilight took the beaker and started adding chemicals to it. “Then aren’t I in danger regardless?”

Sunset bit her tongue. She hadn’t considered that. “M-maybe. But that’s no reason to go charging into the dragon’s mouth.”

“Like what you’re about to do?”

“Stop that!”

Twilight gave a resentful shake of her head and flipped to the next page in her book. “I’ll get the ticket for you, but only because I’m worried about Artemis.”

Sunset stopped herself from cheering. “You’re the best, Sparky!”

“Don’t call me Sparky, I’m still mad.”

“And I swear, I will make this up to you. We’ll do anything you want for Valentine’s Day.”

Twilight made a noncommittal grunt and returned to her chemicals. The remaining class time was lukewarm at best. Twilight gave terse responses to anything Sunset said. Still, at the end after they washed their hands and packed up their belongings, Twilight slipped her hand into Sunset’s and gave it a light squeeze.

*******

Lunch proved no better than the class periods, only instead of tense, the atmosphere around the table was grim. Twilight had gone with Moondancer to have lunch with the theater kids in the drama room, Moondancer’s normal hangout when she wasn’t hovering over Twilight’s shoulder. Everyone else sat gripped to Sunset’s recount of the previous night.

“That’s horrifying,” Rarity said, pushing her full tray of food back. “I can’t imagine what Trixie is going through.”

“Can’t the police do somethin’?” Applejack asked.

Sunset scoffed. “No. First, we’d have to explain why Artemis was on the roof of The Castle in the first place. And second, even if they did investigate, the Sirens could probably spin a story painting them as innocent even without their magic.”

Fluttershy wiped a tear away. “So then, what are you going to do?”

“I’m going to the concert to look for clues. Anything to help the Lulamoons out.”

“By yourself?”

Sunset gave a guilty shrug. “It’s not like I have a lot of options.”

Rarity, Applejack, and Rainbow exchanged a similar look of guilt. “Well, darling...” Rarity said. She leaned forward, eyes flickering to the table where Sweetie Belle and her friends sat. “You don’t necessarily have to go alone.”

“What do you mean?”

“You see, after you told us about the Sirens, Rainbow, Applejack, and myself learned that our sisters had obtained tickets to the concert.”

Applejack rubbed the back of her neck. “We snatched them up as quick as we could. Luckily, we had the excuse of tellin’ them they couldn’t go because of the riotin’ and such.”

Rainbow tagged in. “But, judging from their expressions—” she pointed a thumb at Applejack and Rarity “—they were like me and didn’t actually get rid of the tickets.”

Sunset sat straight in her seat. “So, you girls could go with me?”

“Technically, yes, we could.” Rarity twiddled her thumbs. “I just feel… dirty about it. I told Sweetie she couldn’t go and now I’m going.”

“Yeah, that seems to be a common theme today,” Sunset muttered. “Listen, I appreciate the gesture, but if it makes you feel guilty, you don’t have to go.”

“What, and leave you there by yourself?” Rainbow asked with personal offense. “That’s not gonna happen.”

“But…”

Applejack crossed her arms and sighed. “Yeah, it’s probably the most dishonest thing Ah’ve done. But it’s for helpin’ a friend. And potentially the world. ‘Sides, it’s not like we actually have to tell them we’re goin’ to the concert.”

Pinkie bobbed her head. “Yeah! We’ll just tell them we’re having a giant sleepover at Sunset’s house while we’re all doing super stealth missions right under the enemy’s nose.” She struck a series of what Sunset guessed were ninja poses.

We?” Rainbow asked.

Pinkie reached into her hair and pulled out two tickets. “Marble and Limestone wanted to go. But I was a responsible big sister and told them they couldn’t because the Sirens are actually evil brainwashing monsters who feed off negativity. Boy, was Limestone mad.” She dropped a ticket onto Fluttershy’s tray.

Sunset blinked. “Did we all just cheat people we care about into getting tickets for a show?”

Everyone but Fluttershy murmured and hung their heads in shamed agreement. Sunset patted Fluttershy’s hand and said, “Stay pure.”

Lunch ended and Sunset moved onto her last period, finding Twilight already seated. “Here,” she said grumpily, handing Sunset the ticket.

“Thank you, babe.” Sunset tucked the ticket into her pocket.

“Don’t ‘babe’ me.”

“When are you going to stop being mad?”

“Tomorrow, when I’m done lying to Moondancer about suddenly being sick, and you come back safely.”

Sunset sighed. “Fair enough.”

Oh-whoa-oh, oh-whoa-oh,

“You didn't know that you fell.”

Sunset’s eye twitched. She shot a venomous glare at Lemon Hearts, walking into the classroom with her music turned up loud and wearing a Dazzling t-shirt. The realization that she would be in a stadium full of this nonsense hit her like a ton of bricks.

“Out of the fire, and into the dragon’s mouth,” she groaned.

*******

The strongest proof Sunset had that she had changed was her unwillingness to lie. Before, she could do it without batting an eye. As she paced a circle in her room, her stomach coiled and her conscience revolted. Selena had been nothing but nice, and here Sunset was, preparing to lie to her face right after Artemis had fallen into enemy claws. Yes, her intentions were noble, but that didn’t absolve the guilt. Well intentioned or not, Sunset was leaving the Lulamoons in their time of need to dive head first into danger.

“If it makes you feel any better, you’ve done worse things,” she said to herself. It didn’t help. She checked her phone. Twilight hadn’t talked to her since they parted ways after school. The rest of the girls agreed to meet up in front of Canterlot Coliseum, where the concert would be held.

Sunset threw on her jacket and a pair of fingerless black gloves. She looked in the mirror. “Soft as you’ve gotten, you still rock the bad girl look.”

“I’m disappointed in your lying, but good luck,” Princess Twilight squeaked.

Sunset rubbed her temple. “When this is over, it might be time to get professional help.” She slipped out of her room before her reflection could add anything. Downstairs, Trixie and Selena sat at the table, mugs of hot chocolate in their hands. Selena mustered a small smile at Sunset’s appearance. Trixie just stared blankly.

“Hey.” Sunset waved awkwardly. “Are you…” She shook her head. “Do you need anything?”

“No, thank you,” Selena said with a dip of her head. “How are you doing?”

“Okay, I guess. I was just…” Sunset flinched. Even if it had been the truth, it still felt like twisting a knife. “I was just going over to study with Twilight for a little bit. A distraction, you know?” Sunset wished she still had that sledge hammer to give herself a good beating with.

Selena gave a slow nod. If she was angry or disappointed, she showed no sign of it. “Don’t stay out too late, please.”

“Yeah, of course.” She stepped back out of the kitchen. Trixie’s blank stare hardened into a glare at Sunset’s retreat. Sunset couldn’t blame her.

The days had begun to lengthen again. Outside, the sun still gave the world a faint glow. The February wind still proved bitter, forcing Sunset to zip up her jacket. She started her motorcycle and let it warm up. Go to the show, see if I can’t sneak around backstage, find something useful, and leave. Easy plan.

Cars packed the highway into the city. Being a Friday evening, Sunset couldn’t say she was surprised, but she had a suspicion most cars were going to the same destination. Even with her motor skills, it proved a hassle to weave her way through traffic.

Canterlot Coliseum lay at the heart of downtown. Oblong and painted silver and gold, it held a grandiose air. Six columns of light rose to the sky and curled inward to the center, like a dying monstrosity making one last grab for the pale moon floating just overhead.

Sunset parked two blocks away and joined the foot traffic flocking to the coliseum entrance. The crowd around her consisted mostly of teens her age, but she saw many kids with their parents looking just as excited as anyone else. Shirts, hats and balloons with the Dazzlings’ faces were worn by the vast majority, but no one gave Sunset dirty looks for her lack of paraphernalia.

She broke away from the crowd and waited by the main gates. At half past six, the sun gave its final wave and disappeared behind the horizon. Sunset could faintly see her breath under the coliseum lights. Thankfully, she didn’t have to wait long before her friends showed up, still looking guilty.

“We better get something good out of this,” Rainbow said.

“Well, there’s plenty of food we can get!” Pinkie said. Her smiled faltered against her friends’ withering stares. “What? It’s a two hour concert; we’re gonna get hungry, right?”

Sunset melded back into the crowd. “Come on, let’s just get this over with.” The courtyard had two bronze statues of football players, one catching a ball and the other pushing forward with the ball tucked under arm. Memorabilia stands flanked the path to the front entrance. Inflated posters of the Dazzlings hung over the doors and ticket counters.

The lines became congested as security checked off tickets. Sunset saw several teenagers hauled off by a mob of guards.

“They’re real! I swear they’re real! Please, let us in!” they screamed. Their protest fell on deaf ears.

Fluttershy shivered. “Oh, please let out tickets be real.”

They pushed up to the check in counter, and to their relief, their tickets were indeed authentic. The burly security guard handed back their stubs. “Field standing is straight ahead.” To Sunset, he said, “Box seats are to the right. Just follow the building around until you see the red carpet. Take the stairs to the top.”

“I forgot these were box seats,” Sunset said once they had moved to the concrete corridor.

“Ah can’t believe Apple Bloom got field tickets. We’ll be right in front of the stage with these,” Applejack said, staring at her stub in wonder.

“Be careful,” Sunset warned. “If things get violent or you start to feel weird, just get out of there. I’m going to watch the concert start from the box, then see if I can sneak around.”

Rarity held her phone up. “We’ll call you if we see anything suspicious.”

“Go Spectacular Seven!” Pinkie cheered, pumping a fist in the air.

“There’s only six of us here,” Applejack said.

“Twilight’s with us in spirit!”

Sunset sighed and broke from her friends. The crowd thinned out more and more as she navigated the circumference of the building. Posters of famous football matches and other concert performances decorated the walls. Concession stands offered a variety of fried and greasy food. Finally, a crimson carpet rolled out under her boots, and she followed it up a curved staircase. It broke out to the second floor, then continued up to the third, and finally to the top where another security guard checked her stub. He moved aside and let her into the box.

There were only two rows of seats in front of the large window whose glass had been retracted. Some of the seats were already filled, and to Sunset’s dismay, she recognized the hair of one of the occupants. “Oh, ponyfeathers, it’s you.”

Moondancer turned around and scrunched her nose. She muttered something in French then said, “What on earth are you doing here?”

Sunset stepped down the aisle and hovered over an empty seat. “Since Twilight is sick, she gave me her ticket so it wouldn’t go to waste.”

“Oh, my little star.” Moondancer let out a dreamy sigh. “She’s far too kind for her own good.”

Sunset leaned close and dropped her voice to whisper. “What are you doing here? I know you know what the Dazzlings really are. Why would you want to come to their concert?”

Moondancer closed her eyes. “I find their music delightfully enchanting. I just had to hear it in person. Besides, they’ve committed no crime so far. Perhaps they’ve learned their lesson.”

“They kidnapped Artemis,” Sunset said, clenching her teeth.

What?” Moondancer’s eyes snapped open. “P-preposterous!”

“It’s the truth. They’re dangerous, Moondancer; you’ve got to believe that. They’re up to something sinister that’s going to threaten everyone.”

A drowsy expression came over Moondancer, like she was trying to wake up. “Maybe… maybe you’re right.”

One by one, the stadium lights switched off, and crowd erupted into cheers. Moondancer jumped to her feet, her sleepy expression replaced by excitement. “It’s starting!”

Sunset moved to the window and looked out over the open stadium. A stage had been set up at one end zone, and green fog drifted out from underneath it.

“Hello, Canterlot!” a voice echoed out of the sound system. “Your Dazzlings are here!” Three columns of smoke erupted on the stage, and from them, three girls strolled out.

Oh-whoa-oh, oh-whoa-oh,

“You didn't know that you fell.

“Oh-whoa-oh, oh-whoa-oh.”

The one Sunset recognized as Adagio stepped ahead of her sisters and posed with a hand on her hip.

“Now that you’re under our spell.”

Even with the deafening roar of the crowd, Sunset could hear the Sirens’ song plain as day. She looked over to Moondancer, who swayed in time to the music.

Well, she’s a lost cause. Let the records show that I at least tried. Sunset stepped away from the window and retreated up the aisle. No one seemed to notice or care.

“We’ve got the music,

“Makes you move it,

“Got the song that makes you lose it.

“We say jump, you say how high?”

“Put your hands up to the sky!”

Sunset exited the booth, receiving little attention from the security. “They really are not being subtle about this.” Downstairs, the corridors were empty. The people at the concessions stood transfixed at the video feeds of the show outside, though the music could still be heard quite well through the concrete.

“All right, if I were a dirty secret, where would I hide?” She walked at a brisk pace, but not fast enough to look suspicious. With everyone’s attention diverted, she realized it probably didn’t matter.

She moved toward the stands behind the stage that were empty and roped off. Security stood watch at the end of the hall, so Sunset slipped down an adjacent path. She found bathrooms and a blocked off staircase, but no guards.

With an easy hurdle, she got over the block. On the second floor, the lights were turned off, creating an eerie darkness.

Bzzzt!

Sunset jumped with a gasp at the buzz in her pocket. She pulled her phone out and flipped it open. “What’s up?” The ovation of the crowd echoed through the phone, nearly drowning out Rarity’s voice.

”Just checking in. The crowd is a little rowdy, but nothing unusual has happened so far.”

“That’s good.” Sunset kept her voice low. She appeared to be alone but kept her eyes peeled and looked over her shoulder every few seconds. “I met Moondancer in the box. She’s already lost to them.”

“Oh dear. Twilight is not going to be happy about that.”

Sunset hunched forward. She felt a little bad about Moondancer, but felt worse telling Twilight her best friend had joined the cult of the Sirens. “How are you girls doing?”

A cheer rose through the crowd again that Sunset could hear without her phone. “We’re doing fine. At least I think so. I don’t feel anything. Though I guess their music isn’t that bad.”

“Rarity?” Sunset arched an unseen eyebrow.

“I’m just saying from a subjective standpoint, it’s not utter garbage,” she said with a defensive tone. “I’ve heard worse.”

Sunset let it slide. Putting her grudge down for a second, she supposed she could agree that the Sirens did have good voices, magical or not. “All right. I’m making my way through the blocked off section of the coliseum. Keep me posted through text.”

“Be careful, Sunset.” The phone clicked off, though the throbbing bass and roar of the crowd remained. The absence of silence made Sunset’s trip through the dark more bearable. She broke off from the main path and turned down one of the smaller halls.  

“This is patrol six, making a sweep of second floor, east side, over,” a gruff voice came from behind Sunset. Her heart quickened, and she sped down the hall as fast as she could. At the end was a maintenance room with the door left open a crack. She slipped inside, making sure not to move the door too much lest it squeak.

Someone placed a hand over her mouth and jabbed something blunt into her back. “Don’t move,” came a familiar voice. Both stayed quiet until the footsteps faded into silence. The voice continued, quiet but harsh. “Now, you’re going to tell me—”

“Trixie, it’s me, you dunce!” Sunset hissed between Trixie’s fingers.

“Sunset?” Trixie released her and spun her around. “What are you doing back here?” Sunset could barely make out her features in the dark.

“Same thing as you, duh. I’m looking for clues.”

“Oh… Trixie thought… well…” She cleared her throat and returned to her normal, haughty tone. “Trixie accepts your assistance in looking for Trixie’s father.” She pushed Sunset to the side and peeked out the door. “The coast is clear. Come on.”

Sunset allowed Trixie to take point, despite her gut feeling telling her they were more likely to get caught. Trixie held her wand out in front of her as she creeped along. They found another set of stairs and took down to the ground floor.

“Trixie bets they’ll keep anything important close to the stage.”

“Not a bad idea, but…” They stopped behind a pillar so Sunset could point at the line of security one-hundred feet away, standing under florescent lights. “How are we going to get past them?”

“You create a diversion, while Trixie sneaks around them with her magic,” she said with a vainglorious grin.

At least she’s starting to feel better. “Okay, how about—”

“Hey!”

Both girls flinched and became still as stone. Sunset slowly peeked around the pillar, her stomach unclenching when she saw an officer run up to the three standing watch.

“We’ve got trouble in Section G. Some of the brats are starting to get real rowdy.” His walkie-talkie crackled and he brought it to his ear. “Double that, kids in J and Q are getting aggressive as well.”

Sunset’s leg vibrated, and she pulled out her phone. On screen, a text read, “Getting dangerous. Trying to get out.” Sunset cursed and put a hand on Trixie’s arm. “All right, whatever you’re gonna do, do it fast. I have a feeling cops are gonna be all over this place really soon.”

Trixie twirled her wand, fumbled it on her wrist, then quickly caught it and played it off. “Watch Trixie be brilliant. You might learn something.”

Sunset rolled her eyes and moved after the first dispatch ran down the hall. Only one guard remained, and Sunset ran at him with the best high pitch scream she could muster.

“Oh my God, the Dazzlings! I have to meet them!”

The security guard grabbed her around the middle and wrestled her away from the door. “Sorry, little lady, VIP’s only.”

Sunset struggled against the guard’s bulk. She proved forceful enough that he had to pick her up and carry her away. Over his shoulder, Sunset saw Trixie sneak forward and point her wand at the door. A puff of smoke came out and Trixie silently gagged. She tried again, and a few sparks sputtered out of wand. The door opened and Trixie slipped inside.

The guard dragged Sunset to the front entrance. “Sorry, missy. End of the show for you.” He tossed her onto the concrete, then retreated past a second group of guards manning the entrance.

She wiped the dirt off her face and looked back to the stadium walls. “All up to you, girls.”

*******

Another foot crashed onto Rarity’s toe. She cursed whatever part of her brain that told her heels were a good idea tonight. To be fair, she didn’t expect to be standing for hours. She yanked her foot out from under the boot crushing it, and stumbled back into Rainbow, who moved back into another crowd goer.

“Hey, watch it! You wanna start something?”

Rainbow rolled up a sleeve. “You know what, I—”

Rarity held her back. “So sorry about that,” she said with a nervous laugh. “It was just an accident. Crowded field and all.”

The boy glared at them, but his attention jumped back to the Sirens the second their next verse started. Rarity spun Rainbow around and wagged a finger at her. “Rainbow, you’re acting almost as hostile as they are.”

“They’ve been shoving and glaring at us all night! Excuse me if I get a little pissed off after a while!” Rainbow yelled over the music. “We’re not getting anything out of this. Sunset hasn’t found anything, and other than the fact that the lead singer is making eyes at me, we haven’t found anything either.”

“Ah hate to say it,” Applejack said, pushing her way next to Rarity, “but R.D has a point. Sure, we’ve seen first hand how these Sirens operate, and we know for sure we’re immune, but other than that, this might have been a waste of time.”

Rarity looked around at the crowd around her, a glazed look in all their eyes while they cheered and sang along. It made her spine tingle unpleasantly and reminded her of the Fall Formal, not that she’d ever tell Sunset. She conceded to Rainbow and Applejack; while everything was suspicious, it didn’t do them a lot of good.

“You’re right,” she said with disappointment. “We should get out of here now before things get dangerous.” She looked over her shoulder to the doors at the end of the field, barely visible through the horde of people. Navigating out would prove a challenge.

Applejack spoke into Rarity’s ear. “Do ya think us leavin’ is gonna look suspicious?”

She waved a dismissive hand. “Of course not. People leave concerts early all the time. Just be polite and act casual.” She held an arm out in front as she delicately pushed through the crowd. “Excuse me. Pardon us. Enjoying the show?”

Several people grunted or shot them distasteful looks, but no one impeded their progress. See? Nothing can’t be handled with a little tact and grace. They were halfway to the door when she heard a shout from behind. Another one followed it, and even over the music, Rarity heard the distinct thud of someone hitting the floor.

She teetered off balance as someone fell onto her, but Applejack’s quick reflexes stopped her from toppling over. Rarity looked back to see Fluttershy sitting on the ground looking dazed, and Rainbow drawing her fist back against another boy.

Oh dear, was the only thought Rarity could process before Rainbow’s punch connected. The boy fell over, taking several others with him to the ground, and disrupting several more. Yells of fury and furor rose around them. The tension building up since the night began finally burst open and with it, a flurry of kicking, shoving, and punching from all sides.

Rainbow swooped down and grabbed Fluttershy, then ran ahead, using her elbow to knock over anyone in her way. Rarity danced out of the way of a nearby scuffle and followed after them, making sure Applejack and Pinkie weren’t too far behind. The chaos followed them as they pushed their way back. Cheers of admiration for the Dazzlings turned into shouts of aggression toward one another. Security moved in to break up any fight they could reach, but they were quickly overwhelmed by the volume of adolescents.

Rarity breathed a sigh of relief upon reaching the corridor. She then let out a whimper at the state of her dress. The hem was torn and she could see smudges of dirt all over it. Not to mention her aching feet.

Pinkie popped in from the field last, her hair a more frizzy mess than usual. She put her hands on her hips and frowned. “You know, when I pictured a mosh pit, I thought it would be a lot funner than that.”

Rainbow dusted Fluttershy off and said, “All in favor of never doing that again, say I.”

“I,” they chorused.

“Smoke bomb!”

A wall of smoke erupted from the hall to their left. Out of the grey clouds came Trixie, running at top speed. She caught sight of them and ground her heels to a stop. “What are you…?” She shook her head. “Trixie has no time to wonder. Come on, we’re leaving!”

No one needed to be told twice. They followed Trixie past the ticket counter, through the courtyard, and out to the main gate. Sunset jumped up from her place against the wall and ran to meet them. “What happened?”

“The Dazzlings happened,” Applejack said, before she caught her breath. “We tried to get out, then lo and behold, everyone starts goin’ at each other.”

“Some jerk pushed Fluttershy to the ground just for bumping his elbow!” Rainbow yelled.

Rarity tried to straighten her dress but quickly saw the futility in it. “All in all, it wasn’t a good time. We didn’t learn anything either.”

“Not true!” Trixie said, pointing her finger to the sky. “Trixie knows they don’t have the Crystal Heart yet! And she felt it! Her father’s magic calling out to her! He’s there, somewhere under the stadium!”

“That’s some good news at least,” Sunset said. “But what do we do now?”

The others could only look back at her in equal puzzlement.

*******

Adagio could still hear her adoring crowd from her seat backstage. She breathed in the negativity: anger, irritation, frustration. She licked her lips. Simply delicious. And that hadn’t been the only thing she had tasted out there…

Her heart beat faster as the wheels in her mind turned. After two decades of torture, the universe had turned back in her favor! A vivacious smile pulled at her cheeks. Sonata could spout her dumbest nonsense yet, and she still wouldn’t be mad.

Speaking of which.

Adagio brought her head down from staring at the ceiling and looked over to the stage curtain. “What’s taking her so long?”

Aria sat across from her, looking bored as usual. “You know she takes this thing too seriously.” She sat up straight and screwed her face up into the dopiest expression she could make. “‘We have to, like, connect with our fans! Show them we care about them!’” she said in a high pitched attempt at Sonata. Finished, her face dropped back to its dour state.

“At least she’s entertained.” Fun aside, they had a schedule to keep, and Adagio would be damned if her plan was ruined tonight of all nights. She stood to fetch her sister when Sonata backed in from the curtains, giving one more wave to their fans.

She turned around, a giant smile plastered on her face. “I love signing autographs!” She wandered over to the snack table and picked up the bowl of chips before grabbing a seat.

Aria crossed her arms. “I’m surprised you know how to write your own name.”

Sonata opened her mouth to retort, but a sharp glare from Adagio stopped her cold. “None of your stupid bickering. You can do that on your way to the museum.”

“What museum?” Sonata asked.

Adagio facepalmed while Aria scowled and said, “The one with the Crystal Heart, you dunce.”

“Oh yeah. We’re doing that tonight!” She shoved a handful of chips into her mouth. “Almost forgot.”

Maybe I should go instead. Adagio looked at Aria. No, she’ll keep Sonata focused. And I’d rather talk to the press than have Sonata do it. She waved a hand. “We’ll talk about that in a minute.” She gave both of them a sharp and excited look. “Did you two feel it?”

Aria and Sonata gave each other a quizzical glance, then shrugged to Adagio. She had figured as much. “Magic!” She brought her voice to an excited whisper. “Equestrian magic!”

“Oh boy, here we go again,” Aria said with an eye roll.

Adagio clenched her fist. “I’m positive this time. Out there in that crowd was the magic I felt when we got off that wretched rock! It’s here, in this city!”

Aria continued to look unimpressed. “You said that the first time we were here, and when we looked, guess what we found.” She held her hands out. “Nothing.”

Sonata held a finger up. “We also didn’t find the Crystally Heart, but that’s here too.”

Adagio smirked. As dumb as she was, Sonata occasionally said something worthwhile. Of course, that was just basic probability. “I almost tasted that magic,” Adagio continued. “I don’t know how or why it’s here but it is.”

“Okay, fine.” Aria held her hands up. “Let’s say it is here. How do we get it, and what are we gonna do with it?”

Adagio rubbed her hands together and purred with mirth. “Well, it had to get here somehow, didn’t it? Imagine if we traced it back to the source.”

Sonata gasped. “We could go home?”

“Very good, Sonata,” Adagio said, patting her on the head. “At the very least, we could get our original forms back.”

Aria perked up, her dispassionate mask slipping. “Okay, I’ll entertain this idea if it means I don’t have to walk around looking like this anymore.”

Adagio ran a hand down the curve of her hips. “Honestly, I’ve grown to like this body. But yes, I would take our true forms over this any day.” She raised an empowered fist and grin sadistically. “With the Crystal Heart’s amplification and Equestrian magic, there won’t be a human alive who can resist us. And once we find a way back to Equestria, we’ll have two worlds to adore us!”

Sonata threw her hands in the air. “Whooo! Think of all the fans we’ll have!”

“But how are we going to find this magic, Dagi?” Aria asked, her skepticism returning.

Adagio steepled her fingers together. “Oh, I think I have an idea. I hope you girls like Canterlot. Because we’re going to be here for a while.”