Sparks Catch

by Tale Swapper

Smoldering Logs

Dawn light was just peeking above the treeline as Applejack stepped out onto the front porch. Wincing at the dawn light streaming into her head, she slowly panned her gaze across the motionless orchard. The headache which had plagued her for the last two days was still throbbing in her skull, but she moved forward regardless. Granny had mentioned that she was going to make an early breakfast- but she'd need a fresh load of apples from the cellar. Big Mac had been out at movie night last night, which meant only Applejack could handle the straw-lined crates the winter apples had been packed in.

Applejack purposely pulled herself into her own thoughts for a moment, trying to drown out the headache which pounded behind her eyes. As she walked towards the barn, her thoughts turned to her own failings over the last couple of days. Turned in early last night- haven't been pullin' my weight over the last couple'a days. It don't matter if Ah'm in a bit of pain- there's work to be done. Stepping down into the cellar, she struggled to lift one of the large wooden boxes. Heaving it up, she laboriously clunked up the stairs. S'not like the others don't have their own problems- Sunset is gonna have to wrangle the other Twilight today, and Dash and Rarity are still fightin' their own headaches.

Applejack paused halfway to the house, amidst one of the smaller groves of apple trees. Her headache made her arms tremble for a few moments, and she set the box tdown to catch her breath. Dammit, Ah can't afford to be this weak. You've fought through pain before, Jackie. Come on, girl- Toughen up!

Applejack's headache receded in an instant- something she didn't fail to notice. Looking down at her hands, she wasn't surprised to see a slight glow around her palms and fingers- although the light green color wasn't expected. Even more oddly, the magic was slowly seeping into her arms- causing her skin to darken, taking on a harder, almost woody appearance. Glancing up, Applejack compared her own arms with the bark of a nearby tree- and was surprised to see the faintest trace of green energy within the trunk of each tree around her- the same color as the energy fading into her limbs.

Reaching down, Applejack tested the crate at her feet- and discovered it felt a lot lighter. Smiling, she braced herself to heave upward-

"Hey, Applejack!"

Startled by Apple Bloom's voice, Applejack jerked upward, unconscious of the sudden shift of her strength. The crate came up to the normal lift position on her torso- and then kept going. Apple Bloom watched, eyes wide, as the crate flew from her sister's grasp , spinning up into the air, cresting in height at about forty feet. Without thinking, Applejack backed up several paces, widening her arms for the catch. It was only as the previously airborne crate was about to slam home into her arms that she realized just how much of a bad idea that was.

However, as the box of apples slammed home, Applejack felt her leg and arm muscles strain, holding her steady even as the forty pound crate slammed into her torso. Rocking backwards, Applejack finally held steady, unharmed. The crate was battered, but the whole incident- which had only taken half a minute- had left her unscathed.

Reaching up one armed, Applejack pulled her hair back so she could fix her gaze on her sister. Scowling slightly at Apple Bloom, Applejack composed herself, then said. "Apple Bloom?"

Eyes wide, the red-haired girl finally shook her head. "Sorry for bothering you, sis. But Ah got somethin' real important I need to tall yah- and Sunset." Her eyes widened, and she grinned. "That was magic, right?"

"Yeah, it was magic. But seriously- is really so important that you had to catch me out here?" Applejack's deadpan expression booked no nonsense.

Apple Bloom drew in a deep breath, then explained. "Scootaloo went into the music room yesterday to try to get magic."

Applejack paused, then swore under her breath. "Yep. That's important." Hefting the crate of apples one handed, she turned towards the farmhouse. "Come on. Let's see if we can catch Sunset before anything else happens."

Sunset listened to Apple Bloom's explanation over a cup of coffee and Granny's apple pancakes. When her little sister was through talking, she thought for a moment, then gave a small shrug. "Okay. I should probably check to see if Scootaloo has magic this afternoon. As a matter of fact, probably would be a good idea to check out most of the-"

Applejack cut her off, eyes wide. "For heaven's sake, Sunset! Ah think this is a little more of a problem than you think? What if she has magic? What'd you think will happen?"

Sunset paused, then her mouth opened with a startled "oh." "Right. I should have remembered. Applejack, you have to understand- in Equestria, everyone gets magic. An adolescent unicorn trying his older brother's homework, a pegasus child jumping off a roof, an earth pony foal trying to haul a cart or grow a plant- those things are normal." She smiled. "I know magic seems scary, Applejack- but to me, not having it was weird. Someone trying to get magic- it's nothing to be afraid of."

Applejack frowned. "Ah thought you didn't want us to go experiemtin' without you near by? And what about..."

Sunset shook her head. "You've all touched- and used- magic before- but none of you have any control or formal training. I don't think it'll be possible for a new magic user to cause much damage."

Applejack arched an eyebrow. "Didn't you say that magic here behaves differently than in your home? You sure you know what's possible?"

Sunset opened her mouth to reply- and froze. She looked startled for a moment, then her face dropped. "Oh... Yeah. This might be bad."

Apple Bloom spoke up. "Would bein' angry or upset make things worse?" As both her older sisters turned to look at her, she continued. "Cause Scoots has been really upset about Rainbow ignorin' her. She's been trying to figure out a way to talk to her- and she thought magic might do the trick."

Sunset nodded. "High emotions tend to cause higher magical reactivity in individuals, especially adolescents. As a matter of fact, most magical surges come when young unicorns get excited, resulting in..."

Applejack tuned out Sunset's magiobabble, instead turning her thoughts to her younger sister's friend. Scootaloo was always a little bit of a hellion. Wonder what she might get up to with magic?

Sunset's eyebrow rose as she walked towards the front doors of the school. The group of four people standing on the front steps was... different than she'd expected. While she had expected her friends to be waiting for her, the absence of Pinkie Pie and Rarity was baffling. Flash Sentry's presence was much less expected.

For Vice-Principal Luna to be waiting for her was downright surprising. The tall woman stood awkwardly, holding herself back. As Sunset approached, she opened her mouth to speak to Luna, only to be cut off by a firm shake of the head. All eyes were on the tall woman as she spoke. "Sunset. When you are finished here, there is something I need to discuss with you. Please report to the office before the tardy bell." She turned and strode into the building.

After a few moments, Pinkie broke the silence. "Is it just me, or was she more abrupt then usual?" Everyone turned to look at the party girl, stunned looks on their faces. Looking around, she shrugged. "You weren't looking, so I took the chance to get to school." She rolled her eyes, one clockwise, one counterclockwise. "I was waiting for half an hour for there to be no one in front of the school."

Sunset blinked, opened her mouth, then closed it. "Right. New magic. We'll adjust.... I hope." Drawing in a deep breath, she looked around nervously. "Alright, did everyone get my texts last night?"

"Yeah." Rainbow led, still massaging her brow. "Both Twilights are coming today. So if we see her, make certain it's the right Twi before we start being friendly or mean." Rainbow crossed her arms. "I just can't believe the other Twi goes to Crystal Prep! I mean, that's seriously uncool- especially compared to our Twilight!"

"Umm, I think it makes sense." Fluttershy said. "I mean- Crystal Prep has a lot of smart people- and Twilight's really smart." She turned, her eyes widening. "Sunset, do you think your-"

Grimly, Sunset shook her head. "When I first came to this world, I looked for my counterpart, Shy. Apparently, she did what I did a few months before I came here- and ran away from home. There hasn't been any sign of her since." She pulled in a shaky breath, then turned to the last member of the little group, standing off to one side. "Flash? Sorry to exclude you from all this."

"No, it's fine." He scratched his head, then spoke sheepishly. "And honestly? I'm glad you guys gave me a heads up before I made a fool of myself with Twilight- either Twilight. After what you guys and Scoots told me about the other world..." He frowned his head. "I get why dating Twilight- the Princess, I mean- probably wouldn't work out. Still doesn't make it any easier."

Applejack snickered. "Gonna try your luck with this world's Twi, then?"

Flash glared at her for a moment, then shook his head. "I'm attracted to people, AJ, not just pretty faces. I don't even know this Twilight; I'd need to actually meet her before I made some decision like that."

"Really?" rasped out Rainbow. "You came onto Twilight pretty fast..."

"Yeah, but she basically came into the school and repaired months of emotional and social damage in an afternoon." Flash retorted. "I'd say that lays bare who you are pretty fast. I knew there was something special about her- and I decided to take a chance."

Sunset smiled. "I can... understand that, at least a little. She is pretty special." She looked down, lost in thought. "We'll soon get a chance to see if both of them are special, or just the one from the other side, I suppose." Looking up at Flash, she squared her shoulders. "But, there's something I need to talk to you about, Flash. You and Rainbow both. It's about Scootaloo..."

"Hey, freak. You ready for a bit of payback?"

Aria groaned, pivoting on one foot. Gilda stood behind her, angrily tapping one foot, the two girls alone in the empty back hall. Aria huffed, and flipped her ponytail back off her shoulder. Gilda- and most of the other bullies- had kept their distance form the three sirens after their first couple of days of class. All of them had their own means of defending themselves, and after one too many of various would-be bullies had been driven off by verbal put downs or counters to fists and feet, mos had decided the Dazzlings weren't worth picking on.

Today, however, Gilda could smell blood in the water. Sonata and Adagio had opted to stay home and nurse their headaches- leaving Aria without her usual backup. Worse, Aria herself was nursing the same headache- leaving her slower than usual.

And to the white-haired girl, that meant time to recoup some of her lost prestige. Gilda strode forward, until she was a few scant feet from the purple-haired siren. "Well, bitch? Got any smart-ass comments today?"

Aria gave an unsteady smile. "Yeah, a couple." Holding up three fingers, she started counting down. "First, if you really wanna make a name for yourself, high school is a terrible place to do it. No one's important here- and everyone's gone within four years, except maybe idiots like you." She lowered one finger. "Second, if you wanna try to get us alone, I'm a terrible choice. None of us are pushovers, but you're more likely to win a physical fight against Adagio or Sonata then me. You don't have the wits to match any of us, but at least you're not dumb enough to think you can out think us." She lowered the second finger, leaving one pointing straight up, and aimed it at Gilda. "And third-"

Gilda roared, and swung a haymaker at Aria's face. Even through her headache, Aria had enough presence of mind to take a fast step backwards, leaving the fist roaring through nothing but air. Shit- didn't think that would rile her up that much. Taking another step backwards, Aria barely dodged a follow up punch. Dammit- stupid headache! Stupid school! Maybe if I left...

That thought made her pause, long enough for Gilda to knock her with an outstretched palm. Slamming into a locker, she went to one knee- but the pain cleared her head for a moment. No. I chose this. I knew it'd be difficult- but I'm not leaving yet. Just watching them these last few weeks- her thoughts turned to the Rainbooms -makes it all the more clear that there's something there. Until I know- until I figure out what what kind of power they have- here's where I Stand. As I always have.

As she pulled herself to her feet, glaring up at Gilda's triumphant grin, Aria felt her thoughts clear- and her headache snuff itself out. Suddenly, the girl felt a touch of something she felt had been lost forever. Purple light stained her vision for a moment, and for a few second, her iron resolve was replaced by shock.Magic. But- it's not siren magic...

Gilda swore, taking a step back. "What the hell are those?"

Those? Looking down, Aria felt her eyes widen. Her forearms and fingers had been cover by a pair of softly glowing gauntlets- each adorned with a small green gem mounted on the back of her hands. As she watched, the gem began to glow, licks of green fire swirling off them.

Gilda scowled. "Those little toys won't stop me! I'll..." He tirade continued, but Aria barely noticed. As Gilda's anger grew, so did the flames on the back of her hands- and so did the strength Aria felt coming from the gems. Anger. The gauntlets respond to anger- just like I used to feed off it. Maybe if I- She felt a hand grab her shirt, and casually shoved Gilda away- sending the white-haired bully careening backward down the hallway. As Gilda's fear turned to panic, Aria felt the power in the gems wane. Seconds later, the gauntlets vanished- just as the tardy bell rang.

Grabbing her backpack, Aria trotted off towards her next class, a puzzled grin on her face. Whatever this is, it's not siren magic. I like it already- but I'm gonna need to learn more before I use it more. Gotta know the limits of what this can do before I get into more trouble. Turning the corner, she saw three figures moving towards the main office. Two she recognized at first glance- but as she watched, her eyes narrowed. Wait- is that?

Rarity grumbled as she dashed towards the school. Usually, she had her mornings planned to a minute, with each moment and activity planned to maximize her time to compose herself for another day at school. Breakfast was a bowl of oatmeal or yogurt with fresh fruit, a shower five minutes long, and half an hour of prep work made certain she was absolutely stunning.

Last night, however, had interrupted this morning's regimen in more ways then one. She'd spent three hours testing out her new magic, astounded at the veritable toolkit the new power had provided. After she'd finished Sunset's new jacket, she'd found herself inspired- creating a darling hoodie for Fluttershy, a new scarf for Rainbow Dash, and other garments out of old discards she'd tucked away. However, by the time her creative drive had puttered out, she'd exhausted her time and energy both, collapsing into be as soon as she'd got home. Far worse, her phone's battery had run out overnight, meaning there hadn't been an alarm to wake her in the morning. After a rushed shower and breakfast, she'd rushed out the door, only pausing to pick up the package she wanted to give Sunset and slap her phone on her portable charger.

Still, at least the school was in sight now. Even if she was a little late, she'd still-

Rarity froze. Two figures slowly approached the school, one trudging under the weight of a heavy-looking backpack, the other carefully examining some sort of wand attached to a clunky piece of electronics. And the smaller figure looked familiar. As Rarity watched, the girl swung her head around, looking at the other figure, revealing the face of-

"Twilight!" Rarity yelped, rushing in tot give the startled girl a massive hug. "Oooh darling, its so good to see... you..." Rarity trailed off. The girl she was currently hugging was a few inches shorter than the Twilight she knew, was wearing glasses, and was staring at her with a look of shock and dismay. With a yelp, Rarity released the girl, stumbling backwards. "Wait- you're not-"

"Who are you?" Twilight Sparkle said, seemingly winded. Reaching down, she retrieved the device currently sitting in the snow, sighing with relief as she noticed the lack of damage. As Rarity began to reorganize her train of thought, the lavender girl continued "And how do you know my name?"

As Rarity reached for a response, a loud chime rang from her backpack. Pausing, Rarity reached behind her, discovering that her phone had finally charged to maximum capacity. Turning it on (ignoring the glare from the Twilight standing in front of her and the confused expression on the face of the young man following her) she quickly read through her texts, the last of which had caused her phone to go off. The last text- ignored up until this point- resolved much of her confusion, but left a sense of embarrassment in its place. Blushing, she looked up at Twilight.

"Oh, I am mortified, darling. I'm sorry, it's just- you look just like the a friend of mine. And well- it's..." Rarity paused. "It's... complicated." She pulled herself up straight. "In any case, my name is Rarity. It's a pleasure to meet you, Twilight, and I do apologize for the rude greeting. It was most uncouth of me."

She turned back to the other figure- and froze for a moment. "Officer Armor? Why, I do believe you've met a friend of mine!"

Shining Armor cocked his head, then replied. "It's just Mr. Armor, or Shining when I'm off duty, ma'am. And which friend would that be?"

"I do believe you met Sunset Shimmer a few weeks ago. Was that right?"

Shining smiled. "As a matter of fact, I did." Looking over Rarity's shoulder, he caught sight of Twilight's impatient face. "However, we really do need to get into the building. We were here to meet a guide, as my sister is trying to-"

"Say no more!" Rarity beamed, turning towards the school. "I believe you two are on your way to the main office, yes? If so, let me escort you. It's the least I can do after my faux pas."

Twilight adjusted her glasses. "It would expedite measures significantly to have a guide. Very well, lead on." Rarity set off towards the front doors,

Rarity ascended the front steps a the tardy bell rang. Allowing the two visitors to catch up, she carefully broached a question. "So, Twilight. What brought you to our fine school this morning?"

"Research. There's some sort of energy here on your campus that defies normal analysis. I'm looking to gather more detailed-" Twilight paused as Rarity came to a dead stop, before quickly turning on her heels.

"Strange energy? Was there a... spike, sometime in the last couple of days?"

"Yes!" Twilight's eyes widened, and she closed the distance between herself and Rarity at blinding speeds. "Do you know anything about it? How does the energy interface with differing biologies? What is its source, do you have any-"

"Twilight!" Shining Armor cut his sister off. "As Twilight turned back to him, Shining made a quick motion with this arm. "Slow down. Ms. Rarity can't get a word in edgewise when you talk like that."

Rarity adjusted her dress, smiling. "Don't worry, Mr. Armor. After Pinkie Pie, that sort of intrusion is hardly unusual." looking back at Twilight's eager face, Rarity chose her words carefully. "While I may know of this... energy I'm hardly an expert. There is someone here who is, though. My friend, Sunset, should be able to answer your questions."

Twilight's face creased with annoyance. "Ugh- everyone wants me to meet this Sunset Shimmer. If I did't know any better, I'd say it was some conspiracy."

As Rarity opened her mouth to respond, she heard a familiar voice speak up. "Huh... the voice is right, and the skin tone..." Aria moved forward, looking Twilight up and down. "But not the attitude, or the face." Looking back at Rarity, Aria arched an eyebrow. "She the one from this side of the gate?"

Rarity nodded, even as Shining and Twilight watched, puzzled expressions crossing both their faces. Aria scowled. "Damn, and I was hoping she might be able to help me." Turning around, she called over her shoulder. "Listen, I gotta get to class, but if you happen to see Sunset or... the other Twilight, let them know I gotta talk to them."

Rarity nodded, then turned to her perplexed compatriots. "We should keep going- I'm fairly certain your guide is waiting for you." Turning, she moved down the hall.

Twilight moved briskly after the white haired girl, but Shining stood still for a few moments more. This is the second time these girls have mentioned another Twilight- and Big Mac mentioned he "knew of" Twilight- but not in the normal way. Is there a connection? Shaking his head, he strode froward. His sister was leagues smarter than he was- she'd figure out what was going on in this school.

And if anything tried to hurt his baby sister, they would live to regret it.