Sunset Shimmer's vision swam and blurred, lights dancing in her eyes after the onslaught of light and color that was the portal. Hard, unforgiving concrete scratched and scraped at her flesh after a rough, painful landing.
As her vision cleared, she stretched her arms in front of her, brow crinkling in confusion. Rather than hooves, they ended in soft, fleshy, dexterous digits. She curled her new fingers experimentally, scratching the soft tips on the pavement. With a grimace, she pushed herself up; after a moment of fumbling, she was standing on two legs, and felt her center of gravity shift. "What happened to me?" she wondered.
She slowly looked around. The sky above was a bright, clear blue, dotted with a few puffy white clouds. She stood on a circular concrete path which wrapped around the base of a statue. The path branched off in four directions; the broadest path led to a tall iron gate in one direction, and to a massive domed building in the other. The building's gleaming metal dome was painted in alternating shades of deep royal purple, sparkling amethyst, and gold, and had a broad entrance made of smooth, dark glass. The building was flanked by six tall, square metal towers capped in gleaming pyramids cut from sparkling gemstones, each in a different color. A thin, cylindrical tower painted in shimmering pastels rose from the exact center of the dome, taller than all the others. The top of this tower flared out into a squashed golden sphere with black-tinted windows. The narrow side paths led to squat, broad buildings with square bases and pyramid roofs, constructed of more simple materials. A marble wall stretched around the buildings and the grassy courtyard that fronted them.
The statue directly behind Sunset, from which she had emerged after jumping into the mirror back in Canterlot, had a highly polished brass pedestal, seven feet tall, with three perfectly smooth sides. At the top stood a gleaming steel statue of a man with upswept, spiky hair, crossed arms, and a fierce, scowling expression. The words "PRIDE AND HONOR" were engraved into the base of the statue.
Sunset examined herself in one of the polished brass faces of the pedestal. She blinked. "What...what am I?"
All she recognized as herself were her bright teal eyes and her mane of fiery red-and-gold hair, which was shaggier and spikier than the elegant waves she was used to. The creature in the mirror was tall, with hairless amber skin, a flat nose and mouth, and most distressingly, no horn. She wore a lightweight magenta shirt under a sleeveless black tunic, an orange skirt with a magenta sash cinched around her waist, fingerless elbow-length purple gloves, and black boots with purple soles, darker purple laces, and magenta cuffs. An errant breeze stirred her skirt, revealing tight black shorts underneath it. Her biceps and thighs showed firm muscle tone—not too overt, but noticeable.
Sunset ran her new hands over her body, her face, her small, round ears—at the sides of her head rather than on top—and turned this way and that, studying her reflection, the way her new body moved. She bit her lip. "What is this place?" she wondered.
"Hi!" a bright, high-pitched voice called from behind her. She turned around and stared, jaw agape, as a girl of the same species as—whatever she was now—descended from the sky, hovering in front of her for a moment before landing with a soft thump on the pavement. The girl had bright pink skin and a massive mane of long, curly pink hair, bright blue eyes, and a cheerful smile. She wore a pleated light blue skirt, a loose white top with a blue naval collar flap, a bright pink neckerchief, sky blue knee-length socks, and glossy black mary janes. She put her hands behind her back and leaned forward, her eyes shining brightly. "You must be new here, I don't think I've ever seen you before," she said cheerfully.
"Uhh...y-yeah," Sunset said, blinking. She frowned, tilting her head this way and that. *I don't see any wings...or a horn. How was she flying?!*
"I thought so," the pink girl said. "My name's Pinkie Pie!"
"I'm, uhh...Sunset," Sunset said distractedly. "Sunset Shimmer."
"Nice to meet you, Sunset Shimmer!" Pinkie Pie said. "Just FYI though? You should better hide your sentou-ryoku around here." She giggled. "Walking around at full power like that? You're gonna get challenged to fights like...a lot." She tilted her head, then pulled a small device from her pocket and hooked it over her left ear. A green lens covered her left eye; she tapped a button on the device, and it beeped, a readout lighting up on the lens. "Wow," she said. "With that spiky hair I coulda sworn you were an Uma-Saiyan, but your power level's so low..." She took the device off and pocketed it, clucking her tongue. "Yeah, you're gonna get creamed if you aren't more careful."
Sunset had no idea how to respond to any of that. None of what the pink girl was saying made any sense. The only thing she was able to make sense of was that she'd just been called weak by somebody she'd just met...which, for some reason, seriously irritated her.
"Well, anyway, welcome to Harmony High!" Pinkie Pie said, her cheerful smile returning. "And since you're new here, and I'm the first person to meet you, that means one thing! It's time for your official 'Welcome to Harmony High'—"
*Party. She's totally gonna say party.*
And before Sunset Shimmer knew what was happening, a pink fist slammed right into her face.
* * * * *
Two girls stood across a field from each other, knees bent, arms out, eyes steely. A loose crowd of onlookers watched from the bleachers. One of the girls had light blue skin and long, wild spiky hair in several colors of the rainbow, with gleaming rose-colored eyes. She wore black bike shorts, a white tank top with an emblem of a cloud and a tri-colored lightning bolt on the front, a short-sleeved blue denim jacket, a blue denim miniskirt, and knee-high laced-up blue boots. A scouter with a red lens was hooked over her left ear. The other girl wore cutoff jean shorts, cowboy boots, and a checkered green Western shirt. Unruly black spikes spilled down her back, held in a loose ponytail by a coil of thick wire; her black eyes snapped with competitive fire. Her skin was well tanned, her muscles straining with power. A green scouter sat over her left eye.
"Ready to get your butt kicked again, Applejack?"
"Hah! You an' whut army? Y'all forgettin' Ah'm th' only pure-blooded Saiyan at this here school?"
"Oh, really? Your brother and sister might have something to say about that."
Applejack rolled her eyes. "Okay, so Ah'm th' only one that matters," she amended.
"Yeah yeah. So, you wanna do this full power, or—"
Her only warning was a loud yell and a roaring rush of power as a golden aura exploded around Applejack. Her black hair turned golden, lifting on the wind of her power, and her eyes turned a glowing, ferocious green. She flew forward, a challenging roar on her lips as she crashed into her opponent in a fearsome barrage of punches and kicks, which were blocked and countered with showy ease by the rainbow-haired girl. Applejack finished her opening salvo with a massive kick to the gut that drove the other girl back several feet; when she skidded to a stop, she grinned, her eyes gleaming with anticipation.
"My turn," Rainbow Dash said, arms held out at her side, bent at the elbows. Loose debris on the ground stirred as she gathered her power...
Both girls' scouters beeped. Rainbow paused, blinking, and turned her head in the direction of the school entrance, frowning. "That's Pinkie Pie," she said. "But who's she fighting?"
"Danged if Ah know," Applejack said. "Don't recognize that power. Whoever it is sure ain't very strong." She dropped her Super Saiyan transformation and inclined her head in the direction of the fight. "Wanna go check it out?"
Rainbow shrugged. "Sure. But you're not gettin' out of a beating that easily!"
"That's mah line," Applejack said. The two girls flew off for the front of the school.
* * * * *
Sunset's head spun as she crossed her strange new arms over her face, bracing herself against the onslaught of pink fists and feet. *What's going on here? Why is this creature attacking me? Do they know where I'm from? Is she a guard? Do they know about the portal? Am I going to be thrown back through to face Celestia's judgment?*
And suddenly, the rain of blows stopped. Sunset opened one eye to see the pink girl frowning at her. "Why aren't you fighting back?" she asked.
Sunset blinked. "Huh?"
"I mean, okay, so you're not all that strong, but really? Not a single punch? You're not even using the afterimage technique to dodge?"
"Uhh..." Sunset blinked. "I...don't want to fight?" she hedged.
Pinkie Pie blinked. "Oh," she said. She pursed her lips. "Really?"
"Really," Sunset said, nodding.
"Well that's no fun," Pinkie pouted. "Why are you walking around with your power showing then? I mean, nobody does that unless—"
Two new girls dropped into view. One had tanned peach-colored skin, long spiky black hair, and black eyes, and the other had blue skin, wild rainbow hair, and red eyes. "What's up, Pinks?" the rainbow-haired girl asked. "Who's the noob?"
"Hey Rainbow Dash!" Pinkie said cheerfully. "This is Sunset Shimmer. I'm just trying to figure out what her deal is. She says she doesn't wanna fight, but..."
The other girl frowned. "Don't wanna fight? That's crazy talk," she said. "Who doesn't wanna fight? Ah mean, if you're not gonna hide yer power, you gotta wanna..." She narrowed her eyes. "Unless...you don't know how..."
Rainbow made a derisive noise. "Pssh. Who doesn't know how to hide their power? I learned that in kindergarten!"
Being talked about in such dismissive terms was beginning to annoy Sunset. Deciding a tactical bluff was in order, she crossed her arms and fixed the girls with an imperious glare. "For your information," she said archly, "I am hiding my power. If you want to find out how much I'm hiding it, just keep talking like that."
Rainbow Dash and Applejack glanced at each other, their eyes gleaming. "Is that a challenge?" Rainbow asked.
"No, it's a warning," Sunset said. She ran her fingers through her hair. "Look, I just had a really rough day, I just got here, and the only thing I want to do is go to the library and have some quiet time. I don't suppose one of you can manage to tell me where that is without me having to kick your face off?"
"Oh, is that all?" Pinkie asked. "You should've said so sooner, silly! Library's third door on your left past the main intersection," she said, pointing at the building behind her.
"Thank you," Sunset said curtly, turning on her heel and walking briskly up to the building, struggling to keep a cool, disaffected air of superiority.
And desperately hoping to be alone and unobserved before she rubbed the stinging pain out of her certain-to-be-broken arms. That pink girl's punches hurt!
* * * * *
Two women stood by one of the tinted windows in the richly decorated office at the very top of Harmony High School, watching the courtyard.
"So, the portal has opened," the taller of the two said.
"Mmm. Right on schedule," the shorter said. "Only this time, one of their kind has come here."
"Mmm." The two women lapsed into silence, watching for a time. "For an equine altered by the Supreme Kai's magic, she has a decent amount of potential."
"Indeed. So, Sister, what shall we do about her?"
"For now? Nothing. Observe, as we always do." The taller woman smiled. "Watching her try to adapt to our world's ways could prove...interesting."
The shorter woman smirked. "You have a wicked sense of humor as always, Celestia..."
* * * * *
Sunset Shimmer sat at a table in the center of the Harmony High school library, books piled high to either side of her even as she studied information flowing across a thin glowing screen anchored to the table in front of her. Upon arrival at the library, it had taken her a few minutes to figure out the screens and how they worked, and a few minutes longer to decipher the library's filing system and gather the materials she needed.
It turned out that the screens had all the basic information she needed, and the books would simply be a more in-depth study method. As Sunset researched, she began to understand the predicament she had found herself in; the more she learned, the heavier the lead weight in her belly felt.
The world she presently found herself in was called Planet Uma. According to the wealth of encyclopedias and history records she had at her new fingertips, Planet Uma was a peaceful world, but had a long history and culture centered around personal physical combat.
The Umans were a warrior race, yet one that didn't make war. Their global fighting culture had come into prominence some five hundred years into the past with the introduction of an alien colony from Planet Sadala into the population. The aliens, called Saiyans, crash-landed on the southwest continent. There had been eighty Saiyans aboard the crashed ship, all of whom had survived; while they waited for a rescue vessel, they built a village and were welcomed into the community by the Umans. At the time, the fighting arts were a venerated but isolated sector of Uman society; the Saiyans' fighting prowess brought the masters of Uman martial arts to their village, and interest spread quickly across the continent. Many of the Saiyan colonists found life on Planet Uma pleasant and chose to stay behind. The Saiyans who returned to their homeworld carried Uman herbs and craftworks with them and traded them among their own kind, which ultimately led to a thriving interplanetary exchange between Sadala and Uma. Many Saiyans who traveled to Uma for trade ended up settling permanently, marrying into the local population.
Over the next several generations, Saiyan genes permeated the Umans. Now, in the present, an estimated two-thirds of the population of Planet Uma had at least some Saiyan heritage, while pure Saiyans were increasingly rare. As the hybrid culture had evolved, Planet Uma's global culture and heritage became one of noble and honorable warriors who fought to better themselves and deepen their bond with their fellow beings and the world around them.
The rest of Sunset's research explained the entire scene in the courtyard, and told Sunset exactly how much trouble she was in if she didn't hurry and return to Equestria. Facing the music and humbling herself before Princess Celestia would be infinitely preferable to remaining on Planet Uma, she mused as she studied the patina of fresh bruises up and down her arms. The worst of the pain had faded—Sunset had realized quickly enough that the portal had transformed her into an Uma-Saiyan, which apparently made her ridiculously resistant to pain and injury—but the memory of those bone-breaking punches was fresh in her mind.
And that was a friendly greeting.
If the Umans found out she didn't belong here, if she made a wrong move and ticked off the wrong people, she could find herself in deep trouble. As in six feet under deep.
Biting her lip, Sunset closed a book, stood, and briskly left the library, walking purposefully out of the school and across the courtyard. It was completely empty now; she walked right up to the statue and pressed her hand against it. She studied her reflection for a moment, then gave the statue a firm push...
Its surface refused to yield.
Blinking, Sunset frantically circled the statue, testing each surface, pushing against the cold metal. Panic siezed her heart as she tried desperately to push through, only to fail again and again...
"No," she whispered, taking a step back. "No..."
"Excuse me," a cold voice said from behind her. Sunset turned, icy dread rising up her spine. The cold dread turned to sheer terror, surprise, and confusion as she beheld the completely alien being behind her.
Only half a head shorter than her, this being nevertheless radiated a sense of danger and cold menace. Slender but muscular, with an understated and vague feminine shape, the alien wore a short midnight blue dress tied with a black sash. Her arms and legs were banded dark blue except for her pale blue hands and three-toed, clawed feet. Her face, similarly pale blue and framed by darker blue bands, held a stern, forbidding expression and piercing dark green eyes. A helmet which seemed to be part of her body covered the rest of her head; it was made up of some sort of black cartilage or chitin, with short, sharp black horns extending to either side, and a large, perfectly round pale green pearl crest in the center, covering most of her scalp. A long, thick banded dark blue tail lashed aggressively behind her.
"You should be in class right now," she said, folding her arms.