Applejack looked apprehensively at the clockwork contraption in front of her. "What'd you say this here thing was for, again?" she asked.
"It's an automated matter teleportation device," Twilight replied, practically buzzing with excitement. "I was doing some research with Starlight and found a way to embed a spell into a crystalline matrix, so it can be cast by a machine instead of a unicorn. I decided to try using a teleportation spell; it'll revolutionize the way ponies and products are moved around Equestria! Think of it, AJ, fresh Sweet Apple Acres apples available to ponies around the world right on apple-bucking day, or visiting your cousin in Appleoosa and getting home in time for dinner! We'll be living in the future, just like in the Star Trot novels!"
"Well shoot, that's mighty clever, Twi. How's it work?"
Twilight took an apple out of the basket she had asked her friend to bring, and unlocked the door to the contraption. "Simply place the item or pony you want to send into this magical resonance chamber, turn this dial to select the destination, and then press this button." She acted out her instructions with the apple as she spoke, setting the destination to "Twilight's Castle" and cheerfully pressing the button marked "GO".
The machine blinked and whirred. Arcs of electricity coursed through the exposed crystals arrayed around the outside of the device. With a sudden flash, the machine spat sparks at the two mares before it let off a shuddering, descending whine, like a turbine being powered down. There was the faint smell of baked apples, and Applejack thought for sure she heard a peal of thunder in the distance over the racket in front of her.
Twilight's pleased expression faltered for a moment. The blinking and the whirring and even the sparking were all to be expected - after all, it was only a prototype, but the flash and the scent of baked goods were not. Doing her best to look unconcerned in front of her friend, she cracked open the door and looked inside. To her surprise, the apple was still there.
"Hmm," she muttered.
"Well, how'd it go?" Applejack asked.
Twilight let out a nervous laugh and closed the door quickly. She turned back to her friend with a smile that she thought said "everything is fine," but in fact said "EVERYTHING IS FINE," which Applejack had enough experience to know was not the same thing. The farmer silently raised an eyebrow at her purple companion as Twilight pried open an access panel labeled "warranty void if removed" and began fiddling with some of the dials and switches behind it. AJ did her best to suppress a chuckle. She'd known Twilight for years, and even now she still fussed over her experiments like a filly at a science fair.
After a few minutes of adjustments and muttered exhortations to Celestia, Twilight slammed the panel shut and returned to the front of the device. "Okay, there were some minor technical difficulties, but I think I've got it worked out now." With that, she pressed the GO button again and watched the machine spring to life once more. As it had the first time, it sputtered and blinked while magic coursed through the crystals studding the chamber. And, as before, there was a flash, the smell of baked apples, and a whimpering, descending whine.
Twilight popped the door open and was frustrated to see the apple still sitting there. If she didn't know any better, she'd think it was mocking her. She closed the door again, a bit more forcefully this time, and eyed the GO button with suspicion. She had checked, rechecked, and triple-checked her figures several times. There was no reason this shouldn't be working. Out of desperation, she mashed the GO button several times.
In a formerly empty room in Twilight's castle, the companion machine sprang to life once again. After a moment, the machine made a prim "ding!", and then the door burst open, hundreds of apples pouring out of it. Spike shouted as the wave of apples swept him out of the room and into Starlight.
"Spike! Are you okay? Did Twilight overfill the pantry again?" she asked, scooping the little dragon out of the tide of fresh produce. "I was just on my way to get a snack, but I thought the kitchen was downstairs. Oh, I'm never going to get the hang of this castle..."
"No, it's not the pantry this time," Spike replied. "Twilight's testing that teleport-o-matic she thought up, but I don't think it's working so well. I knew I never should have gotten her into Star Trot..."
"Who knew Princess Luna was such an accomplished fiction writer," Starlight mused absently,a distant look in her eyes. She blinked and brought herself back to the present. "We need to let Twilight know her experiment isn't working. Why aren't you with her?"
"I was supposed to stay here and send the apple back after it showed up, but she was only supposed to send one! I was writing a note to send back when all of a sudden the whole room got flooded with 'em and that's when you showed up."
"Well, we'd better stop her before she fills up the whole castle. Hop on, Spike, I'll take you there the old-fashioned way."
"But she's all the way over in Sweet Apple Acres. Are you sure you can run that fast?"
Starlight laughed. "Run? Hah, don't be silly, Spike. I'm still a unicorn." She put the dragon on her back and then her horn flared with magic. With a flash, the pair disappeared. Moments later, a flood of baskets poured out of the machine.
"I just don't get it, AJ. There's no reason why this shouldn't be working! And why did it still smell like baked apples when we tried to send the basket? It makes no sense!" Twilight's hair was starting to crimp and curl, and Applejack had taken a couple more steps back from the frazzled mare and her troublesome contraption. She'd seen enough of her friend's behavior to know where this was likely to end up.
"Now, Twi, I'm sure there's a good reason for why it ain't workin' right now, but gettin' yerself all worked up won't help you none either. Why don't you take a break. Big Mac just finished pressin' some cider, how's about I go get us a couple mugs?"
Twilight sighed. "You're right, as usual. It's probably something obvious that I'm overlooking. Let's get that driAUGH!" Her comment was cut short by Starlight and Spike materializing right in front of her.
"TWILIGHTSTOPYOU'REFLOODINGTHECASTLE!" The dragon shouted.
Twilight blinked, nonplussed. "What? How can I be flooding the castle? I'm sending apples, not water, and even that's not working!"
"It is working," Starlight replied. "There are apples pouring out of that room. Look!" Spike held up an apple from the receiving end as proof.
"But—" Twilight began.
"Wait, are you tellin' us that this here doohickey is a duplicator, not a teleporter?" Applejack interrupted.
"Yes, and it's making a lot more than just one copy. Twilight, where did you even get the idea for this?" Starlight asked.
"It was when we were cataloging all of those old spellbooks in the backup secondary reserve wing of the upstairs library," Twilight said. "There was a book called 'On the Reproduction and Transportation of Matter'. It had the schematics for this machine, I just replaced the spell that powers it."
"The Reproduction and Transportation— Twilight, was that the book you said had been miscategorized as fiction?"
"Yes, it was."
Starlight put a hoof to her face. "Twilight, that book was by Carbon Copy, one of the Mare d'Evil period's most fanciful - not to mention prolific - futurists. He was accused of cribbing notes from Leoneighrdo as an apprentice and using them to concoct all kinds of kooky, nonsensical contraptions. You mean to tell me you actually built one?"
"Well, yes. It seemed like a sound enough concept, once I made a few adjustments. How was I supposed to know he was a fraud?"
Starlight just shook her head and smiled. Of course Twilight had believed what Carbon Copy had written was real. She was always so trusting and optimistic.
"On the bright side," Applejack said, "you might not have cracked teleportation, but I can still send apples all over Equestria, and we won't even need to plant any new trees to make up for demand!" The farmer plucked the apple from Spike's claws and took a bite. The fruit exploded in a puff of inky black powder in her mouth.
"Bleaugh! Or not…" she said. All three friends couldn't help but laugh.