"Hey, that looks kinda like you, Kim!" Sonata said.
"That's because it is me," Kim said. She looked up at Ron, blinking owlishly. "We're...home?!"
"Whoa," Jade said. "Not bad."
"So...your quest has reached its end after all?" Yoshi asked.
"I don't think so," Ron said, pointing to the date on the article. "See the date, Kim?"
"Well, yeah," Kim said. "That's the day that happened. It's hard to forget."
Ron shook his head. "KP, this newspaper came out two days ago," he said. He handed a copy of the article to Yoshi, who nodded.
"Yes, this happened just this week," he said.
Kim gasped. "But...!" She sat down, eyes cloudy. "We're home...but in the past?"
"Ooh, time travel, nuh-uh," Rufus chittered, diving into Ron's pocket.
Everyone looked around. "So...what does this mean?" Jade asked. "Does it mean we're done? I mean, this is where you guys were headed, right?"
"Give or take about five years," Ron said sourly.
"Five years is not so terrible a wait to return to your lives," Yoshi said. "Hard as it is for me to believe in such things as aliens and time travel, it would seem that if you time your return to your homes to the time you departed—"
"We'd be five years older," Kim said, shaking her head. "That'd be really weird to explain to everyone back home."
"Plus we'd have to stay totally off the grid to not screw up history and I know KP can't pull that off," Ron added.
"Besides, we can't just sit around for five years when Jade needs to get home. Her family's worried sick about her," Kim finished.
"Yeah, I'm not sure I can figure out how to work time travel into everything else," Twilight said as she read the article. "Wow, you defeated a laser security system with just your cheerleading skills? When you were in middle school?"
"Oh, it was no big," Kim said with a shrug.
"But this has gotta be some kind of sick joke, right?" Ron said. "I mean, we're so close to being home, but it's home in the past and we can't stay?"
"Yeah, this totally blows," Kim huffed, blowing on her bangs. Her face paled suddenly. "What if...what if all this dimension-jumping...are we just randomly bouncing around in time and space?" Dread crept into her expression. "If that's the case, then we might—"
"Kim," Ron said seriously, taking her hands. "We'll get through this. Don't worry."
"Yeah, I think our pass through your home dimension could be a coincidence," Twilight said, adjusting her glasses. "I mean, before everything went...bad, the tracker registered this world as the Great Rat."
"Heyoooo," Rufus said, taking a bow.
"But the Zodiac energy reading...thing...which I still can't explain, it was focused here. As in, right where we're standing. Japan, Tokyo, the Hamato Dojo."
"Aww, phooey," Rufus pouted.
"So...what does that even mean?" Jade asked.
"I know of no legends connecting our clan with the sign of the Rat," Yoshi said. "Do you, Father?"
"No, I don't," Yuuta said. "But I am intrigued by the concept that entire universes are aligned to the Chinese Zodiac in such an intricate way." He shook his head. "But that is irrelevant at the moment. More importantly, how does this affect your quest?"
"I wish I knew," Kim said, staring at the photo of her younger self again. "It's majorly wiggy, at the very least." She shook her head. "Twilight, how's your vortex manipulator coming?"
Twilight frowned. "Well, I've almost completely reassembled the timer and rip trigger from memory, not that there's any certain way to test it, but there is a problem, and it's a pretty big one."
"What's the problem?" Kim asked.
"Well...in order to calibrate a vortex manipulator, we need a vortex," Twilight said. "Also, we need to find my vortex. I just...don't have the equipment to do that here." She shrugged. "I'm not even sure it exists here. I mean, for starters I'd need some kind of..." She shrugged. "Dimensional vortex...trigger...thingie."
Ron's eyes lit up. "Like, maybe, a pan-dimensional vortex inducer?" he said slowly.
Twilight blinked. "Yeah, that...sounds about right," she hedged. "Why?"
Kim stared at Ron. "No way," she said.
"Way," Ron said grimly. "Funny how things work out sometimes, huh?"
"What are you two on about?" Yoshi asked curiously.
"Well...we kinda maybe know where to find a pan-dimensional vortex inducer," Kim said. "At least, if they've invented it yet." She brushed a hand through her hair. "There's...just one little problem."
"Oh? And what would that be?" Yuuta asked politely.
Kim grimaced. "We'd have to steal it."
Rufus winced. "Hoo, irony."