The group had waited around while the two Twilights changed clothes. "Looks like I'm gonna need some fake glasses," Princess Twilight, now wearing a Crystal Prep uniform, muttered. She looked down at herself, then up at her counterpart. "You think anybody will care if I don't put my hair up like that? Sorry, it's just..." She grimaced. "I'm not really a fan of your hairstyle."
Twilight, who had changed into jeans, sneakers, and a grey hoodie, frowned, reaching up to touch her bun. "What's wrong with my hair?" she asked.
"Well, it's just..." Princess Twilight ran her fingers through her own hair. "Did you ever think of wearing it loose, or maybe up in a ponytail? Anything that isn't..." She sighed. "Look, I don't wanna tell you how to live your life or anything, but you're kind of a hot mess."
"Gee, thanks," Twilight said sourly.
"I'm sorry!" Princess Twilight said. "It's just...you're really pretty, you should take more pride in your appearance!"
"Wow," Sunset drawled with a smirk, "That is the most vain compliment I've ever heard." She shook her head. "She's got a point though. About the hair, I mean. You should try a different style. Might make you feel like a whole new you!"
Kim fished around in her pockets and dug out some hairbands and a brush. "Here, let me," she said. She undid Twilight's bun, straightened her hair out, then put it up in a ponytail. She dug out her makeup compact and showed Twilight her reflection.
Twilight blinked, tilting her head. "Huh," she said. "I...do you really think it's me?"
"Definitely," Ron said.
"Mm-hmm, A+," Rufus chimed in from Ron's pocket.
Princess Twilight smiled. "You look great, Twilight," she said. She looked down at herself. "Better than I do, anyway. Your uniform is...it's kinda baggy around my chest." She plucked at the fabric.
"That's because she's got bigger tits than you!" Sonata said cheerfully. Twilight blushed and covered her chest; Sunset smirked.
Kim tilted her head. "How does that even work?" she wondered. "I mean, you're both Twilight Sparkle, shouldn't you be...identical?"
"If anything, the pony princess should be like, bigger and taller," Ron said. "Since she had the whole super-pony thing going on back in Horseland."
Princess Twilight frowned. "Well...that's something we can look into when this is all over," she decided.
"Yeah, it's...not important," Twilight agreed. She adjusted her glasses. "By the way, I have two spare pairs of glasses in my desk. Give one to Dean Cadance, she can get some fake lenses made for you."
"Or you could just say you got contacts," Sunset offered.
Twilight shook her head. "That won't get past my parents," she said.
Princess Twilight frowned. "Okay, so what do I do about them until I can get fake glasses made?"
Twilight shrugged. "I go home with bad eyestrain a lot. Just walk around squinting and pinching the bridge of your nose and pretend you can barely see two feet in front of you and you'll be fine."
"Got it," Princess Twilight said.
They went to Twilight's lab, a solid third of which was taken up by a giant machine that looked like a wind turbine on steroids. Twilight walked over to her work table and went through the contents of a backpack sitting there. Satisfied, she slung it over her shoulders and adjusted the straps. One item she'd taken out of the backpack, she hung around her neck; it looked like a birth control pill case, but with soft violet LEDs slowly cycling around the face, and a pale pink glowing six-pointed star in the center. "What's that?" Kim asked curiously.
"Spectrometer," Twilight said. "It'll let us track these spheres you're searching for as well as pick up any anomalous sources of magical energy." She adjusted her glasses. "Speaking of which, I need the two of you to take turns standing between those two electrodes over in the corner..."
The rest of the group watched from a safe distance as Twilight slowly, methodically extracted the anomalous magic from Kim and Ron. By the time she was done, a device connected to the electrodes was glowing a bright pink-white and beeping insistently. "Uhh, Twilight?" Kim asked nervously as she stepped out of the electrode field. "What is that?"
"The magic I siphoned off of you two," Twilight said absently, checking some readings. "And it's unstable now that it's no longer being applied to a directed effect, so we need to get rid of it." She flicked several switches and pulled two large, heavy levers. The glowing device hummed loudly; a green meter on one side drained out, turning red, then going dark as the device's glow faded. Twilight let out a sigh of relief. "There we go."
"Umm...what did you do with it?" Princess Twilight asked.
"Drained it into the school's emergency backup power," Twilight said. "Principal Cinch has this weird hangup about keeping the backup power at 85% capacity. Once I found out about that, I set up a bleed from my lab. Any power surges or feedbacks or whatever I have here in the lab, I bleed them into the backup power, then kill the mains when nobody's around to burn off the excess so Cinch doesn't notice."
Everyone stared at her. "What?" Sunset asked in disbelief.
"I didn't follow any of that," Ron said, "but something tells me we're talking about mad science here. Are we talking about mad science here?"
Princess Twilight raised a finger. "I—" She paused, then lowered her hand. "Have absolutely no room to talk because I've done some pretty questionable stuff myself, so..." She shook her head. "Did you stop to think about what dumping magic into an electrical power source might do?"
Twilight grimaced. "I don't have enough data to know what the risks are, but it's the only way I could get rid of it," she said. "Hopefully nothing bad will happen. Hopefully." She clapped her hands together briskly. "So! Are you all ready to get going?"
The group looked around at each other. "Yeah, I guess we'd better get moving," Kim said. "Ron and I have rations and water, Sonata's got some extra supplies we might need. We have no idea what we're gonna run into, but I think with the ponies' help, we're prepared for just about anything."
"Cool," Twilight said, fishing the remote for her dimensional portal out of her pocket. "Well...I guess we'd better get going," she said. "Oh! Umm...I wrote my schedule and stuff down in the notebook on my desk," she said to Princess Twilight. "Anything I could think of that you need to know to pretend to be me is in there."
"Thanks," Princess Twilight said. "Take care of yourself."
Twilight nodded, then turned to the other three adventurers. They looked at each other and nodded with determination. "Well...here's hoping I'll see you again soon," Twilight said. And with that, she opened the portal. As the roaring wind of the interdimensional wormhole filled the lab, Twilight, Kim, Ron, and Sonata stepped into the portal and vanished. It closed with a sonic boom, and stillness returned to the lab.
"Well," Princess Twilight said, "there they go." She turned to Sunset. "I guess...you should be getting back to Equestria now."
"Yeah," Sunset said. She reached into her backpack and pulled out the magic journal with Celestia's Cutie Mark on it. "Here," she said. "Keep us posted on how things are going here. We'll keep in touch from Equestria with the other journal."
Princess Twilight nodded, accepting the journal. She took a deep breath. "Take care," she said. "Don't let Spike eat too much ice cream."
"Everything will be fine," Sunset said. "I...I can manage castle-sitting for you for however long this takes. Yeah." She chuckled wryly. "Always did want to be a Princess..." She smiled. "Good luck, Twilight."
"You too, Princess Sunset," Twilight said. She looked around the lab, which had been thoroughly tossed and tumbled by the wormhole. "Yeesh, what a mess..."
A plaintive whine caught the girls' attention. A small purple dog crawled out from under a thick blanket, stretching and shaking out his floppy ears. He looked from one girl to the other, then let out an inquisitive bark.
Twilight giggled. "Well, this must be Spike," she said. She knelt down and reached out a hand. Spike sniffed her, then whined softly, his brow furrowing in confusion.
"You must smell different from his Twilight," Sunset said. As if in agreement, Spike whined again.
Twilight sighed. "I'm sorry, Spike," she said. "Your Twilight went on a little trip. She left me here to take care of you." She looked around the lab, then spotted a bag of dog treats. Fishing one out, she offered it to Spike, who accepted it with a happy bark. Giggling, she scratched behind his ears.
Sunset smiled. "Well...I guess I'll leave you to get settled in," she said. "See you soon!"
"Yeah...see you soon," Twilight said, looking up at Sunset. After a last lingering gaze, Sunset left, closing the door behind her.
Twilight sat down heavily, looking around the strange lab full of strange machines and strange things she didn't understand. She sighed. "I can do this," she said. "I can pretend to be human, just for a little while...I've done it before, I can do it again...
"Without my friends...without my Spike...
"All by myself..."
Twilight sighed again, flopping to the floor and rolling over onto her back. Spike padded over to her and licked her ear, whimpering.
* * * * *
The party emerged from the portal into a darkened city street. A shimmering full moon hung low overhead, and the sky glowed with the reflected neon lights of the city around them. As they looked around, a landmark stood out: a massive, tapering tower, covered from foot to top in bright lights.
Ron stared up at the tower. "Is that the Eiffel Tower? Are we in Paris?"
Kim shook her head. "No, Ron, that's Tokyo Tower." She looked around at the various storefronts, whose signage was written mostly in Japanese.
"We're in Japan."