Sparks Catch

by Tale Swapper

Smoking Branches

Scootaloo wandered down the corridors of the school, moving with purpose towards a room she'd frequented many times before- and entered one last time at the end of last semester. With the rest of the school at lunch, (including the Rainbooms) the way to the music room was clear.

The open room was often used as a meeting point for various bands- or it had been, until the events of the Musical Showcase. After the "Battle of the Bands" as it had become known, other bands tended to avoid the room after school, unless it was known the Rainbooms were occupied elsewhere. As the unofficial meeting space for the band, the room was left open for the saviors of the school- with a few exceptions.

Opening the door, Scootaloo caught sight of the blank spot on the back wall- a spot which had once been occupied by a poster showing the full roster of the Rainbooms. After the events of Anon-A-Miss, the poster had been defaced by an angry student, and Rainbow had taken it down. They'd yet to replace the poster, but the empty space reminded Scootaloo about why she was visiting the room.

Rainbow Dash doesn't trust me anymore- and I know why. Staring up at the empty spot she felt her feelings twist morbidly. And she's not the only one. The whole school looks at us like they looked at Sunset five months ago- and we deserve it. But it's losing Rainbow's trust- and my parents, and Flash- that hurts the most.

I wonder if this is how Sunset felt? Before Applejack went back to her? I wonder who felt worse- her, for not deserving it, or me?

She pulled in a shuddering breath. Not why I'm here. If I could get magic- could show Rainbow Dash something new- a trick or something- maybe I can get her to talk to me again.

Looking around the room, though, Scootaloo felt her hopes sink. The room was- well, just a music room. There were no glowing runes or hovering objects, no mystical amulets or magical crown laying around. For the spot which had apparently been the sight of the largest magical surge since the Musical Showcase, the room was oddly normal.

Pulling in a deep breath, Scootaloo tried to focus, tried to reach outside herself- anything to draw magic to herself. Straining with all her will, she reached out for power, for a glimpse of the abilities she'd seen her sister figure and their friends use-

and came up empty.

Scootaloo groaned and collapsed into a chair. Nothing. I mean, I knew it was a long shot, but...

How can I face Rainbow after what I did? I thought this might help... but there's nothing here for me.

Aloud, she whispered to herself "I just want to make her proud again..." Alone, she allowed the guilt and sorrow, long held within, out in a long, choking groan.

The outpouring of emotion, however, served the purpose that her conscious efforts had not. Drawn to her unspoken invitation and desire to improve, the weave of magic probed Scootaloo as she steadied herself. Unknown to both Scootaloo and Sunset Shimmer, something had been wrong with the push of magic within each of the six girls which had been present at the first surge- something which was not present in Scootaloo's frame.

Magic reached for Scootaloo- and within moments, had flowed into her mind and soul, going dormant in mere moments. Within seconds, magic traced every vein, and centered itself within the Crusader. In doing so, learned how to truly link with simple human beings. Primal understanding flowed into the magical weave- a pattern which could open a channel within a person's mind, as opposed to thrusting itself into the flow of Equestrian magic.

Scootaloo, oblivious to the consequences of her actions, slowly stood up. She felt spent, the emotions and force of her dashed hopes enough to exhaust her emotional energy. As she gathered her wits, she heard the door open, and turned to face the worried faces of Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle.

"Scoots, are you alright? I heard something out in the hallway!" Apple Bloom said, hurrying to her friend's side.

"Yeah, I'm fine- I just thought, maybe if I got magic, Rainbow might..." Scootaloo stammered out.

"She'll talk to you again soon." Sweetie Belle promised. "Just... give her time."

Apple Bloom pulled her friend into a hug, soon joined by Sweetie Belle. "Don't worry, Scootaloo. We'll be with you until she forgives ya, right Sweetie?"

"Yeah!" Sweetie pulled her friends apart and held up her fist. "Crusaders forever!"

Apple Bloom put her fist next to her friend's, and after a few moments, Scootaloo did as well. The three girls tapped their fists together, binding themselves in friendship once again...

And, unbeknownst to them, binding magic to each of them.

Discord hummed gaily, moving back in forth in time to a music only he could hear. The janitor happily wore a smock over a tie-dyed t-shirt and a pair of mismatched pants, sweeping his mop across the floor with abandon. The back hallways of the school were abandoned, since the majority of students were either in the cafeteria or otherwise preoccupied with their lunchtime activities. Which meant it was the perfect time to mop the western corridor- the heating vents over on this side would dry the floors quickly, which meant he'd be able to get home a little sooner than usual.

And if anyone comes running down the corridor before I'm done- well! Watching Ms. Dash and her friends skidding all over the floor was an absolute treat! Such a lovely bit of chaos to brighten an otherwise dull day...

His grin turned into an introspective frown. As much as Discord appreciated disorder and confusion, he was much less amused by people getting hurt. The only reason he'd been able to laugh at that particular incident was because the girls involved had all been fine afterward. But...

That one time Ms. Fluttershy nearly sprained her ankle after slipping on one of my floors was much less amusing. Perhaps I should speed things up a bit. Speed up the Dance, as it were...

His thoughts fading away, Discord began to move his mop to the beat of the music echoing through his mind, alternatively clicking his tongue and whistling to outline the movements of the song echoing through his mind, speeding up as he did so. Barely noticeable at first, Discord's right hand lit up in a light green and his left in a bright yellow, and the magic slowly began to weave itself around the mop clutched in his grip. As he continued to move, Discord's movements slowly changed from mere mopping to a complicated pattern, dipping and weaving with the mop as his partner even as he scrubbed the floor clean.

Finally, with a flourish, Discord let go of the mop, acting as though it really was a dance partner, expecting it to return. Realizing what he'd done, Discord closed his eyes and winced, stopping- only to realize that the clatter of the mop hitting the floor wasn't present.

Opening his eyes, Discord found the mop standing upright, a sheen of yellow and green magic flowing across it. The mop remained still for a few moments as Discord watched, then began to twitch, almost- impatiently.

Frowning, Discord stared at the perplexing sight in front of him. After a few moments, he spoke aloud. "Hmm... I heard from Celly that magic might be spreading a bit... but I didn't think I'd end up ripping off Disney like this." As he watched the mop stand in place, Discord realized it seemed to be... waiting on something. Tapping his chin, he paused... then began to slowly whistle. As the thin strands of music coiled into the hallway, the mop began to move along with the reedy tune, slowly continuing its pattern dance across the floor. As Discord incresed the tempo of his whistle, the mop began to speed up, quickly exceeding Discord's normal mopping pace, even as it continued to cavort down the hall.

Discord grinned, clapping along to the reedy tune as he watched his creation go. Oh now- I think I might be able to have some fun with this...

Celestia looked up as she heard a knock on her office door. Classes had already let out for the day, and the principal knew there weren't any other individuals wanting to see her- which left one person. Waving her hand, he called out "Ms. Shimmer? Go ahead and come on in."

Sunset Shimmer cautiously entered the room, seemingly nervous. As she walked forward, Celestia noted the tense shoulders and wandering eyes on the red-haired student. Hmm. I wonder why she's nervous? She was quite confident last time I called her in here...

Giving a quick motion to the chair in front of her, Celestia watched as Sunset took a seat. Celestia waited a moment, then decided to take a gamble. "Sunset, do you know why you're here?"

Sunset frowned and shook her head. "Principal Celestia? If you want me to spill some secret- whatever you think I've done- that approach will do you no good. I mean, it'll probably work on Dash or Fluttershy, but I've been interrogated before. That's not going to work."

Celestia blinked, then shook her head. "My apologies- I forgot that you're not exactly a normal student." With a wry smile, she continued "And in truth, I don't know if you've done anything or not. However, I would appreciate if you could keep me informed on any magical... incidences or problems that might arise." Seeing Sunset freeze, she raised an eyebrow. "But that's not the reason I called you in here- or at least not the only reason."

Pulling in a deep breath, Celestia sighed. "What do you know about Crystal Prep?"

Sunset frowned. "Well... I know we've been rivals over the last... two decades, maybe? I know we've always lost against them when it came to athletics and academics. I also know that they're a private school, and that they're going to be our opponents in the upcoming Friendship Games- the fifth since our schools started to hold the games."

She looked down, and said softly "And that's where this world's Twilight Sparkle attends school."

"Indeed." Sunset and Celestia glanced up to find Luna standing before Celestia's coffeepot, pouring herself the entire contents of the pot into an oversized mug. Adding three packets of hot cocoa mix, she began to stir the head-sized coffee mug, glancing at Sunset all the while. "And it is about Ms. Sparkle- as opposed to Princess Sparkle." She took a long slurp from her mug. "Namely, that your actions- and those of the Dazzlings- may have drawn the attention of this world's Twilight."

Celestia took over from her sister. "Principal Cinch reports that one of her top students, Twilight Sparkle, has discovered a unique energy source located in Canterlot High. She... requested that her student be given access to campus to get a better read on the energy source in question."

Sunset's eyes widened. After blinking a few times, she spoke softly. "Let me guess- she's coming tomorrow, isn't she?"

Celestia paused. "We expect to see her tomorrow. What makes you think..."

Sunset slammed her head into Celestia's desk. As both the principal and the vice-principal watched, she lifted up her head, leaned back up, and glared at the ceiling. In a low voice, she muttered "Celestia's beard this is bad..."

Celestia froze, blinking a few times. Luna started snickering. "Oh? I assume the other version of my sister had a similar incident?"

Sunset looked at Luna skeptically. "What inci-"

Celestia hurriedly cut her off. "You are not sharing that story again, Luna. In any case, why are you so upset, Sunset?"

Sunset pulled in a deep breath. "Yesterday, I suffered a magical surge- one that seems to have spread magic to my friends. I don't have experience teaching new mages, and wanted an expert opinion on how to manage the new magic." She placed her head in her hands. "I asked Princess Twilight to come help teach the other Rainbooms a bit of control, and she arrives tomorrow."

Luna stared into her coffee mug. "So... tomorrow, Twilight Sparkle will come to our school, seeking a recently-accessed energy source currently imbued into six of our most popular students. Meanwhile, Princess Twilight Sparkle, who looks almost exactly like her counterpart, will be coming to help five new mages control their powers." She took a long draw from her mug, then spun towards the door to her office. "I'll go check to make certain our insurance still has that "act-of-god" clause..."

As Luna strode out of the room, Celestia stared at Sunset. "Ms. Shimmer, I thought I asked you to tell me if there were any more magical incidents." Sunset hung her head as the principal continued "I understand that the last two times I ended up being... less than helpful, but more information might allow Luna and I to prepare for the fallout of any more trouble." Celestia tapped her chin, then gave a small, wicked grin. "However, I believe I have the proper solution."

Sunset looked up, her look of confusion slowly dwindling as Celestia continued. "I think you'd be best qualified to lead Ms. Sparkle around tomorrow, correct? And maybe you can keep her from noticing the visiting royalty, magic, or other unusual features of CHS."

Sunset blanched. "You want me to try to control a Twilight's natural curiosity?"

Celestia's smile widened. "I have the utmost confidence in you, Sunset."

Sunset slammed her head into the desk again. "Great..."

Carousel Boutique was empty- the storefront shuttered and the doors closed. Inside, however, if one were to peer closely through the front windows, you could see a few dribbles of light coming from the studio in the back of the shop.

Rarity winced as she looked up at the overhead light. The boutique had been a little empty lately, as Rarity had fulfilled all her orders for the winter season several weeks ago. Even now, hours after class had ended, Rarity hadn't had anyone set up an appointment- perhaps for the best, as her headache was still pounding through her mind. Normally, she would have dragged Sunset or one of her friends in to act as models, but the revelation of her own blind spot towards her friend's needs had left her cautious about demanding her friends' time without considering their own wants.

Sunset appreciates a nice dress- but she wants something more... handsome, much of the time.

It was something she'd learned through observation. Much of Sunset's old clothing had been leftovers of her attempt to become the most popular girl in the school- short skirts and long boots among them. The only only concession to her practical side had been her leather jacket- and even there, she'd chosen a tiny one, hardly comparable to the longer coats she'd admired during Rarity's outings.

Still, that does leave me with a bit of a quandary, doesn't it?

After her revelation, Rarity had forgone simply making Sunset an apology outfit, instead focusing on getting to know the red-haired girl a little better. In the process, she'd noticed Sunset's preferences for long jackets and pants, which meant her original outfit was... less than appropriate.

Looking over the leather jacket she'd crafted, she felt a slight twinge of annoyance. Orange accents are all well and good,
but the jacket just doesn't work right considering who Sunset is. I caught a glimpse of what she is at her core yesterday- she's a Magus, a sorceress supreme. But I'm short on materials, and this jacket just isn't appropriate for someone as magical as Sunset. I mean...

Thoughts began to tumble through Rarity's mind. Wait... I know what I need to do! Her magic- scarlet red, moving through gold as she concentrates- flames rippling across the sleeves! Pulling out her sketchbook, Rarity began to draft a new coat to replace the offending garment in front of her, headache forgotten for a moment. Longer trail, maybe a flame pattern at the lower portion. Duster style? No- thigh length.

Rarity grinned as she looked over her new design, but her face fell as she glanced up at her current work. I could afford the materials out of pocket, but I'll need to sell this jacket to recoup my costs. Sometimes I hate having to be limited in what I can do with my resources. I know what I want to make. There are are always limits on what I can Create, I suppose...

Rarity blinked. Her headache seeped away, leaving her thoughts clear. Raising one hand before her eyes, Rarity watched the swirls of blue light whirl around her fingers. Eyes narrowing, she flicked her wrist outward, and watched as the hem of the leather jacket before her came undone, each string coming out perfectly, leaving unblemished leather behind.

Rarity reached forward, and traced her hands along the sleeves of the jacket, watching the orange stitching int he upper arms come loose, revealing dark leather beneath. Around her, leather scraps, heavy thread, and various dyes began to take to the air, held aloft in her magic. She grinned, her eyes glowing with blue light. Ideaaahh!!

Twilight grumbled as she watched her instruments twitch once again. Over the winter holidays, she'd run countless tests on the few energy readings she'd been able to take- and now that her enforced time of rest was over, she was getting new data practically faster than she could process it- and she still wasn't able to clean up the odd variations in the wave's pattern. Whatever this energy was, it wasn't a constantly generated source- nothing mechanical or static.

As she finished looking over the data, her eyes turned back to the small specimen bag sitting nearby. Absently, she picked up the bag and upended it near her scanners. Before I head to CHS tomorrow, I should probably figure out why my spectograph exploded. The last thing I need is for all of my equipment to detonate while I'm looking around.

Picking through the fragments of her destroyed device with a gloved hand, Twilight began taking notes on how each piece had failed. Capacitor wasn't even damaged- it wasn't an electrical surge. The battery, on the other hand, nearly ruptured. It's like the battery was changed somehow- and swelled. That compressed the heat sink, causing it-

Twilight paused. None of this makes sense. What caused the heat sink to overheat? How did the battery swell like that without causing the capacitor to kick in? Sifting through the parts, she noticed something. In the midst of the dangle of circuitry, she noticed a small crystal. That wasn't there before...

On closer examination, Twilight saw that the central electronics had fused into a small silicon crystal. Even more alarmingly, the tiny crystal was glowing slightly as she examined it in the darkened lab. Carefully extracting the crystal, Twilight hooked it to her finely tuned spectograph. Within seconds, a faint but familiar signal echoed from the crystal.

Twilight's eyes widened, and she turned on her nearby recorder. Speaking out loud, Twilight began to map her data. "The energy signature is... definitely the same as that coming from CHS. However, the signal is very faint, and lacks the variations seen in previous scans. Why the energy forced the silicon in the device into a crystalline shape- which by all rights, should act as an insulator- and was then absorbed is as of yet unknown." Reaching down, she carefully lifted the crystal in her gloved hand. Walking across her lab, Twilight examined her find closely. "This may further my research by an order of magnitude- with an active source on hand, I should be able to... ouch!"

With her attention focused solely on the shard of fused electronics in her hands, Twilight failed to notice her backpack sitting in the path of her foot. Jarred by the impact of her toe on the equipment she'd left inside the pack, Twilight's grip on the crystal slipped- and in her haste to catch it, reached up with her ungloved hand.

As soon as the crystal impacted Twilight's bare skin, everything stopped. Twilight blinked, then glanced around. The crystal sat suspended in midair- and her computer, the fan- everything was held deathly still.

Everything save the tiny, almost ethereal currents of light running across the room, bouncing through each device Twilight had tried to use to catalog the errant energy- and through Twilight herself, spinning outward from the point of impact from where the crystal had touched her skin.

As Twilight watched, the strands of colored light slowly ebbed away from her palm. Within seconds, the lines had pulled away, fading-

And behind her, she heard the tinkling as the tiny crystal shard shattered on the ground behind her.

Research Log 83: I received my clearest known data today- from what should have been an impossible source- myself. Direct contact by a minuscule source of the unknown energy appears to have had temporary, if dramatic effects on my body.

For a few seconds- I was moving so fast it seemed time had stopped. A brief physiological examination indicates that my muscles- particularly in my legs and lower back- suffered mild strain, as though they had been used in strenuous but manageable exercise repeatedly. The energy appears to have an empowering effect on biological matter- or at least, that's the best I can tell.

Unfortunately, the crystal containing this energy shattered after it fell to the floor, but examination of the crystal shows no signs of any of the previously seen energy signatures. In fact, all of the devices which had been attuned to the energy via exposure have lost their connections; I've had to reset each of them manually to pick up data. Before they gave out, however, they did catch what happened to me for a few moments; and I was able to cross correlate that data with the signals I've been picking up.

My exposure to the energy produced a... ripple in the output of energy we observed- ones that loosely correlate with the patterns one would read form an EEG. These patterns are also evident in most of the energy surges seen in the last two months.

I think I understand why the energy can't be measured properly with standard equipment- it needs a biological component to reach its full potential. I can only speculate on the effects it could have on a human being, but if my experience is any indication, it could allow for empowerment to tasks beyond normal human limits. I theorize that the energy reading have differed slightly because they've been filtered through the brains of those broadcasting them- which would also explain the mobility of the energy sources.

If I could see something fall stop in midair... what could those with greater access to this energy be capable of doing?

Principal Cinch glared at her computer monitor. She'd installed the spy drive on Twilight's computer to grant her access to her student's files; half-expecting to see proof of collaboration with, or plans to defect to CHS. Instead, all the girl had done on her encrypted desktop had been record of her research notes.

She'd been about to turn in for bed, confident of her control over her little scientist, when a new file had been added. The attached figures and analysis- as well as the blueprint of the "Mystery Energy Capture Device" Ms. Sparkle had designed- were beyond her casual comprehension- but the analysis and summary were much easier to read.

Celestia was attempting to empower her students- to shore up their weaknesses in time for the Friendship Games. If this analysis was true, then she'd only just begun her work, however- Cinch hadn't heard of any great successes at CHS, and if she were the one sitting on this great of a discovery, she would have published her findings already.

I can only hope Ms. Sparkle is able to discover the source of this energy. Cinch thought. If we're to secure my legacy-
and that of Crystal Prep- we will need to hold every advantage- and this might be the edge that could prove that our school,
and my methods, are the only one worth paying attention to.

As Cinch moved away from her laptop, she paused for one moment. Turning back to the screen, she reread the final line of the follow up questions Twilight had written, a small frown crossing her face.

Below a set of data, Twilight had written, After further analysis, the data shows that a single source- with matching brain patterns- has become the major focus of this energy- and left CHS for the first time. The question that arises is then- who, or what, is the focus of this energy?

And what will the effects of that amount of energy in one subject- be it object or person- be upon it and its environment?