"So can you shoot like, fire out of that thing?" Rainbow asked.
Sunset, Rainbow, Applejack, and Fluttershy were enjoying a light lunch of bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches. Sunset habitually kept both real bacon and tofu bacon in stock, which worked out nicely for her friends; Applejack and Rainbow were eating real bacon, while Fluttershy and Sunset were eating tofu bacon.
Sunset swallowed a bite of her sandwich, took a sip of her soda, and answered, "Basic fire spells are pretty easy, though back home they're usually discouraged."
"But you totally could like, shoot fire at a bad guy."
Sunset shrugged. "Yeah, but I'd rather use a stun spell. It's less taxing to cast and doesn't carry as much risk of collateral damage."
Rainbow snorted. "Booooring."
"Say that after you're forced to spend six hours replanting and repairing a very precious garden of rare flowers by hoof," Sunset grumbled.
Applejack raised an eyebrow.
Fluttershy tilted her head. "How do you...do things like that with hooves, anyway?"
Sunset shrugged. "Same way you do it with hands." She demonstrated by picking up first her sandwich, then her drink with her front hooves, manipulating them just as easily as with hands.
The others stared at her.
"Duuuuude," Rainbow said.
"How'n th' heck...?" Applejack wondered.
"That. Is. So. Amazing!" Fluttershy said, clasping her hands under her chin.
Sunset grinned. "You think that's something?" She aimed her horn over at her guitar, which rested against the wall. It floated over to her; she propped herself up in an awkward sitting-on-her-haunches position, took the guitar in her hooves, and shredded a short, wicked solo.
Rainbow's jaw hit the floor. "Okay BULLSHIT!" she cried. "You did NOT do that with HOOVES!"
"That...that ain't even possible," Applejack said.
Sunset teleported her guitar back over to its stand and shrugged, dropping back to all fours. "We're not like the ponies and horses you know here," she said. "All ponies have certain basic types of innate magic. Hoof magic and Cutie Mark magic, in particular. No matter which pony type you are, everypony has Cutie Mark magic and everypony has hoof magic. Hay, even donkeys and cows have hoof magic, and they're not even magical creatures."
"Hoof...magic?" Fluttershy asked.
Sunset paused, tapping her muzzle with a hoof. "Think of it like...grabby hooves, or magnetic hooves," she said. "We can grab whatever we want to grab with our hooves, manipulate fine objects..." She chuckled. "Of course, some ponies would rather use their mouths than their hooves for certain things, and there are things hooves are clumsy for." She shrugged. "Still, there isn't much you can do with your hands that ponies can't do with their hooves. For example, you know Octavia Melody?" The girls nodded. "I'm willing to bet her pony counterpart plays the cello just fine with hooves." She frowned. "IF she plays the cello, that is."
"You have cellos in Equestria?"
"Cellos, violins, banjos, guitars," Sunset rattled off with a shrug. "Pretty much the same musical instruments you have here. Well, probably not keytars or synths."
"Or anything that uses electricity, right?" Rainbow asked.
"Oh, we have electricity," Sunset said. "It's just...it's really more for hospitals and stuff. It's really more of a fad than something everypony uses."
"Weird," Rainbow muttered. "So what else can you do? With your magic, I mean."
Sunset tilted her head. "Well..." With a wicked grin, she conjured up a small grey cloud. It spat out a tiny lightning bolt which missed Rainbow Dash by inches and filled the living room with a loud crack of thunder. Fluttershy shrieked and dived behind the couch. After the thunder settled, she peered up over the back of the couch, eyes wide.
"Th-that was s-s-scary," she whimpered.
"Crap! Sorry, Fluttershy," Sunset said.
Rainbow stood up and prodded the little cloud with a finger. "Huh," she said.
"Yeah, that's a pretty weird sight," Applejack agreed. "A li'l ol' raincloud jes' floatin' inside th' house."
"It's not that," Rainbow said. She poked the cloud again; it drifted a couple of inches. Rainbow's brow furrowed. She pressed her palm flat against the cloud and shoved it.
It floated across the room, passing over Sunset's head, and coasted to a stop just above Fluttershy, who squeaked and ducked for cover.
"Hey 'Shy, try pushin' it back over here," Rainbow said.
Fluttershy timidly stood up, eyeing the little cloud warily. Trembling and averting her gaze, she hesitantly placed her hand on the cloud and gave it a feeble push.
After a second, she blinked and turned to stare at the cloud. "Wh-what?" Forgetting her own fear, she curiously poked the cloud, much as Rainbow had done earlier. Frowning, she gently seized it with both hands and moved it around in the air. The cloud obligingly went wherever she directed it, never changing shape or slipping through her fingers. She took her hands away and studied them. "H-how did...?"
Applejack chuckled. "Heh, magic cloud huh? That looks like fun, let me try." She got up and walked over to Fluttershy. "Ready for a serve, RD?"
"You bet!" Rainbow stood up, bracing herself and grinning.
Applejack drew back a hand and prepared to serve the cloud like a volleyball. She slammed her hand confidently forward...
Her hand passed right through the cloud. Caught off-guard, she pitched forward over the couch and ended up face-first on the floor. "Ow," she said. She picked herself up, giving the cloud and Sunset an annoyed glare. "Real funny."
"Wasn't me," Sunset said. She tilted her head. "Oh right, pegasus magic! Huh. Didn't think about that."
"Pegasus what now?" Rainbow asked.
"Pegasi control the weather in Equestria," Sunset said. "They have magic that lets them walk on clouds, make clouds, move clouds, shape clouds, force clouds to rain, all that good stuff." She shrugged. "You and Fluttershy are part-pegasus now, so apparently you've got cloud magic."
Fluttershy gently pushed the little cloud across the room to Rainbow while Applejack picked herself up. "Huh," Applejack said. "Well Ah'll be." She frowned. "So can Ah do any crazy pony magic stuff?"
Sunset thought about that for a moment. "Well, you're probably a lot stronger now."
Rainbow snorted. "Applejack's already pretty strong to begin with."
"Wait a second," Sunset said with a frown. "If Pinkie Pie has earth pony strength now, she needs to be warned..."
* * * * *
Pinkie Pie frowned at the stand where the handbaskets were kept at the supermarket nearest Sunset Shimmer's apartment. It was presently empty. "Crud," she muttered. With a sigh and a shrug, she walked over to the larger, wheeled carts. She started to pull out the first cart in the train...
It wouldn't budge. The next cart was determined to come out with it, and neither cart would separate from the third cart down the train.
"Grrr...!" Pinkie grabbed the handle of the second cart firmly with one hand, then jerked sharply on the cart she was trying to pull out.
With a ringing, snapping sound, the entire back of the cart came off in her hand. A surprised Pinkie tipped over, flailing her arms in midair as she crash-landed on her butt. "Ouchies!" Pinkie stared at the broken grid of steel wires in her hand, blinking stupidly. "Huh, that's—"
"Miss customer, what you do?" a short, thickly-accented man with squinty eyes in a red apron and a nametag shrieked at her, running out of the store.
"Sorry, I think this cart was kind of...really defective," Pinkie said as she stood up, gingerly swinging the piece of shopping cart between two fingers.
The man gasped sharply. "You break cart!" he cried. "You pay! I sue you!"
"Dude, it's just a shopping cart," Pinkie said. A crowd was starting to gather. "And if it fell apart just from me trying to pull it out, I just did you a favor. What if somebody had put their kid in that?"
"Cart fine before! You break cart!"
"Look..." Pinkie read the man's nametag. "Mr. Sum Ding Wong, I'm really sorry, but it was just an accident! I mean, it's obviously a faulty cart, right?" She looked around at the other customers who were gathering and whispering. "Right? Carts don't just fall apart like that, right?"
There were some nods and murmurs.
"The carts here always have stuck wheels," one woman said.
"This same little man screamed at me when a wheel snapped off a cart once!" another woman said.
"CUSTOMER ALWAYS BREAK CART!" Mr. Wong screeched.
"Maybe if you didn't have such shitty carts," a boy Pinkie recognized from school said. Several of the bystanders nodded in agreement.
Mr. Wong waved his arms at the crowd. "YOU NO BITCHING NOW!" he said. "ALWAYS CUSTOMER FAULT! YOU SHUTTING UP!" He turned to Pinkie and pointed a shaking finger at her. "YOU! THIS ALL YOUR FAULT! YOU NO SHOPPING HERE! I SEE YOU AGAIN, I CALL POLICE!"
Pinkie blew on her curly forelock in irritation. "Well fine!" she said. "Be that way! I'll take my business somewhere ELSE!" She punctuated this statement with an angry stamp of her foot.
The pavement cracked.
"AHH! NOW YOU BREAK FLOOR TOO! YOU GO AWAY! GO!"
"FINE! I'm GOING already! SHEESH!"
As Pinkie walked away from the angry little man and his store, her phone rang. She pulled it out and saw it was from Sunset Shimmer. "Hey Sunset, might be a little late getting back. Ran into a little trouble at the grocery store."
"What kind of trouble? Was it...was it your ears?"
"No, just an angry little manager throwing a temper tantrum."
"Oh. Okay. Well, anyway, I just wanted to warn you to be careful. You might have earth pony magic now, which means you might not know your own strength..."
Pinkie skidded to a stop, blinking. "NOW you tell me!" she cried. "Great, now I have to bake that really annoying screaming guy an apology cake for breaking his grocery cart and his floor!"
"Uhh...yeah...I think maybe you should just leave that one alone...just be careful, okay?"
"Okay!" Pinkie hung up, put her phone back in her purse, and sighed. "Well, at least now I know I'm like, Megagirl..." She giggled. "Hey, maybe I can get Rarity to make me a superhero outfit!"
* * * * *
Rarity groaned in frustration as she stared at the absolute mess that was her inspiration room.
If it had been the same mess she'd left the day before, that would have been one thing. Alas, it was a different mess entirely. And Rarity knew exactly who to blame.
Grumbling under her breath, Rarity began searching her upturned inspiration room, looking high and low for the things she needed. "I swear, if she took my measuring tape...or my sketchbook..." Rarity threw her head back. "WHY ME?" she screamed. "First I get turned into some magic horse girl, and now THIS? Why must you hate me so, universe!" She sank to her knees and began sobbing dramatically. "I just want my measuring ta-ha-haaape and muh-my ske-he-he-hetchbooooook..."
Her horn began to glow.
Her measuring tape and sketchbook flew out from under the drawing table and landed neatly in front of her.
She blinked. "Oh, there you are!" She swept them up in her arms and cradled them. "You naughty little things. Don't ever hide from me again!"
All smiles, all traces of her dramatic sobbing fit forgotten, Rarity skipped lightly out of the room, closing the door behind her without ever touching it.
* * * * *
"Good afternoon, Twilight," Celestia said as she entered the cavernous Aethenaeum of Starswirl the Bearded. "The guards told me you'd arrived at the castle and come straight here."
"Princess Celestia!" Twilight said without looking up. "Sorry I didn't stop by the throne room to greet you, but I'm kind of in a rush here."
"It's quite alright, Twilight. What has you so perplexed?"
Twilight looked up. "Something strange has happened to the portal. Well...not the portal itself, but..." She frowned. "Sunset Shimmer's turned back into a pony. We're not entirely sure why. I sent Spike through the portal and he didn't change into a dog. And while I was monitoring the portal, I picked up some strange readings."
"That's troubling," Celestia said. "Is...is Sunset alright?"
"She's fine, the others are looking after her," Twilight said. "She's more concerned about why this is happening. Also, she...probably can't leave her house right now. Evidently, a talking unicorn might draw the wrong kind of attention."
"In any case...I think the thaumetric pressure balance of that other world is changing," Twilight said. "There's been too much Equestrian magic over there lately."
Celestia frowned, rubbing her muzzle with a hoof. "Hmm...yes, it's usually not a good idea to expose an alternate world to too much magic from your own world. Or vice versa." She flicked an ear. "Is there anything I can do to help?"
"I need to review all of Starswirl's notes on dimensional travel and thaumetric pressure," Twilight said. She looked at the piles of books and scrolls on the reading table; her ears wilted. "There's a loooooot of notes."
Celestia nodded. "I'll clear my schedule," she said. "If Sunset Shimmer is in trouble, I won't rest until I've helped you help her."
"Thanks," Twilight said. Her brow furrowed. "I think there's one other pony we should ask for help. I'll be right back." Without further word, she disappeared in a bright magenta flash.
Celestia's ears folded back. "Sunset Shimmer...be strong, my little pony..."
* * * * *
"Wow, Moondancer!" Minuette said cheerfully as she munched on a brightly frosted cookie. "These turned out way better than the last batch!"
"Do you like them?"
"I'm glad," Moondancer said with a smile. "I've spent the entire last week studying Intermediate Baking For Prancing Pony Parties. Baking's a lot harder than it sounds!"
Twinkleshine giggled. "You can't learn to be a good baker just by reading a book, silly! You need to learn from a real baker. Somepony with experience!"
Moondancer's eyebrows drew down. "Hmm. Yes, I suppose that makes sense. Perhaps I should speak with Donut Joe, or that Pinkie Pie from Ponyville."
"If anypony can teach you how to bake perfect party cookies, it's Pinkie Pie—"
A bright burst of magenta magic lit the table, dazzling the four mares sitting there. When the light faded, a frantic-looking Twilight Sparkle hovered above them, wings gently beating.
"Oh, hey Twilight!" Moondancer said. "I just made some party cookies. Would you like to try one!"
"There isn't time, I—" Twilight paused. "Actually, yes, I think I will." She lowered herself to the ground and sampled one of the brightly-frosted, sprinkle-bedecked cookies. "Mmm," she mumbled as she munched. "Not bad!"
"I'm thinking of asking your friend Pinkie Pie for pointers," Moondancer said.
"Yeah, she'd definitely help you," Twilight said. After a second, she shook her head. "But we don't have time for cookies right now! Princess Celestia and I need your help!"
Moondancer blinked. "You need...my help?"
"What's up, Twilight?" Minuette asked.
"Is there anything we can do to help?" Twinkleshine chimed in.
"Sorry girls, but this is something only Moondancer can help with," Twilight said. "I need the best magical researcher in Canterlot, and right now, that's you, Moondancer."
Moondancer tilted her head. "You're just as good a researcher as I am. No, even better. Why—"
"Starswirl's library has over three hundred books on the subject we're researching, and time is of the essence!" Twilight said. "Celestia and I can't do this by ourselves! Moondancer, we need you!"
Moondancer's jaw dropped. "Starswirl's library? The rumored private library?"
"The one in the castle catacombs deep inside the Canterhorn, yes!" Twilight said.
Moondancer's eyes lit up. "I'm your mare!" she proudly declared. "Let's go! Sorry girls, royal duty calls!"
"Good luck, you two!" Minuette said cheerfully.
"Let us know if there's anything we can do!" Twinkleshine added.
"Be sure to tell us all about it later!" Lemonhearts chimed in.
Twilight teleported Moondancer onto her back and took off like a shot for the castle.
"So what exactly is it we're researching?" Moondancer asked once they were airborne.
"The effects of thaumic seep between alternate dimensions and a way to reverse the damage," Twilight said.
Moondancer blinked. "Wait, alternate what?"
"It's a long story..." And as they reached the castle, Twilight began to fill Moondancer in on the portal, the human world on the other side, Sunset Shimmer, and everything else. By the time she was done, Moondancer's brows had almost disappeared into her mane.
"Okay, that's...the strangest thing I've ever heard," Moondancer said. "And you're certain all this alternate dimensions stuff is real?"
"It's very real," Twilight said. "And Starswirl and Celestia have traveled to many more worlds than just the two I've seen." She grimaced. "And we may have put the world Sunset Shimmer lives in in terrible danger..."
Twilight led Moondancer down into the catacombs and into the Aethenaeum. Moondancer gasped as she looked around. "Wow," she breathed.
They soon approached the reading table where Celestia stood. The elder alicorn fixed them with a grave expression.
"Twilight," she said without preamble. "We just got a message from Sunset Shimmer." She held up the journal. "Your other friends—the human counterparts of your friends here—have developed pony magic."
Twilight's eyes widened. "Oh no," she said, ears folding back. "It's...it's exactly what I was afraid of." She swallowed heavily. "Moondancer, Celestia. Celestia, Moondancer. Let's get to work." She fixed both of them with a solemn gaze.
"A storm is coming."