Trunks looked around, mind whirling and senses on full alert.
Overhead, a calm, cloudless blue sky.
On the wind, birds chirping merrily. A dog barking. The sound of traffic.
He looked around and saw whole, undamaged buildings, tall and short, all decidedly square in design—not a single domed roof to be found anywhere. As his gaze swept over the sidewalk, he spotted a teenage girl with medium-length blond hair, grey skin, and unfocused golden eyes wearing a blue blouse, yellow necktie, green skirt, knee socks, and green sandals. She spotted him, smiled and waved, then continued on her way.
Trunks blinked and looked around.
There were people. Lots of people.
Strange-looking people, to be sure—he was used to cat people and dog people and the like, but humans with green or purple or gray or lemon yellow or blue skin weren't exactly common on Chikyuu—and yet they were unmistakeably human, going about their normal human lives, talking on some sort of mobile phones, walking their pets, carrying shopping bags, talking and laughing.
People. Living peaceful, normal lives. In a completely undamaged city.
*Ittai...doko desu ka?*
Trunks spent several minutes wandering aimlessly, reaching out with his ki, trying to get a sense of the world. Some distance away, he could feel strong power—not exactly ki, but something very unusual and very noticeable. There were a few different sources, all grouped fairly closely together.
The strongest power source dwarfed the others, was intensifying rapidly, and felt...not necessarily evil or malevolent, but certainly dangerous. Trunks frowned, his brow furrowing.
Slipping into an alleyway and looking around to make sure he wasn't noticed, Trunks rose into the air, landing on the roof of a building. With several quick movements, he crossed ten city blocks without being noticed, drawing nearer to the source of that dangerous power. As he drew nearer, the availability of suitable high rooftops grew scarcer, eventually becoming neat rows of small, square one- and two-story buildings with larger crowds on the street. Trunks slowed to a stop and dropped to the ground behind a purple building, walking around the side and folding himself into the pedestrian traffic. A few people shot him strange looks; a woman saw his sword and took tighter hold of her son's hand, hurrying him along as she glared reproachfully at Trunks.
"I guess they're not used to seeing people walking around armed here," Trunks muttered to himself, suddenly feeling conspicuous. As he walked along the sidewalk, he noticed something else strange: the streets and sidewalks were becoming increasingly littered with debris that looked as though it had come from some fairly advanced robots; traffic cones blocked off the larger sections of strewn debris, and workers in uniforms were busily clearing it.
*I wonder what happened here...?*
A pressure bore down on Trunks' senses; he tensed, placing his hand on the hilt of his sword as his sharp blue eyes scanned his surroundings.
The air itself seemed to turn black and press down on him for but an instant; nobody else in the vicinity seemed to notice, but he himself was drawing a few odd stares for looking as though he was ready to draw his sword. "Tch," he grunted; with one leap that was too fast for normal human eyes to follow, he stood atop a broad two-story brick building.
The air around Trunks warped again, and a floating figure appeared. He was wrapped in a tattered brown cloak and wore a black helmet with broad, segmented, gold-lined fins and a blue four-pointed star on the brow. The only visible portion of his face were burning red eyes.
Trunks narrowed his eyes. "Who are you?"
"The strong need no words. The strong need only their power. Now...show me yours!"
A white-gloved hand extended from within the cloak, burning with a purple aura.
"I have no desire to fight you!" Trunks said.
"What you desire does not interest me."
For the briefest of moments, the cloak parted, revealing a black bodysuit, gold shoulderpads, boots with heavy golden greaves, and a diagonal white scar across a round black chest emblem. Then a massive ball of plasma slammed into Trunks, driving him a full meter backwards.
In the streets below, people screamed and started running.
Trunks growled and reached for his sword. "Kisama...!"
* * * * *
Twilight approached the base of the shattered horse statue with a sigh of trepidation. "I hope Celestia doesn't get mad at me for this..." She turned to examine the Goblin. Held immobile in her magic, he was only able to watch helplessly as several things happened at once:
His bag of tricks vanished in a burst of magenta light. The titanium bands that X had snapped around him disappeared, reappearing a few feet away. The webbing ensnaring him melted away, including the gag over his mouth.
Twilight fixed him with a stern glare. "I don't know who or what you are," she said, "but if you try to cause any trouble when we go to Equestria, I promise you'll regret it."
The Goblin leered at her. "I've never been scared of cute little horses, and I'm not about to start now."
"We'll see about that," Twilight said with a smirk as she spread her wings wide. She strode through the portal, dragging the Goblin behind her in her magic.
The world turned into a kaleidoscope, and things
as the Goblin felt his body...
With a final, bright flash of white light, he found himself tumbling across a smooth glass floor. When the world stopped spinning, he looked up, and the light all around him felt too harsh, too bright.
"Hey Twilight, is everything oka—why is there a batpony with you?"
"Huh. Wasn't expecting that," Twilight said.
Goblin shook his head as he struggled to pick himself up. His entire body felt...wrong. Once he managed to right himself and turn around, he caught his reflection in one of the glass—no, crystal—walls and saw why.
"What...what have you done to me?!"
What stared back at him was not a man in a Goblin costume, but a horse with a dark green coat, long, tufted ears, prominent fangs, slit-pupiled yellow eyes, a long royal purple mane and tail styled in strange, scalloped and veined waves...
...and a leathery pair of dark purple bat wings.
For some reason, he also wore metallic purple horseshoes, an armored purple saddle, and a shiny purple aventail that covered his forehead and most of his neck, parting only to let his odd-looking mane flow free.
He immediately found himself face-to-face with Twilight again. "It's the magic of the mirror portal," she said quickly. "When you pass through it, it changes your physical form into whatever best suits the world you find yourself in. Going through it to the world we just left usually turns you into a human, but for some reason that's broken right now, and coming here from there turns you into—or back into, if you're from here in the first place—a pony."
Goblin snarled at her. "CHANGE ME BACK!" he seethed, his leathery wings flaring in anger.
Twilight shrugged sheepishly. "Sorry, it doesn't work that way," she said. "And anyway, you're a prisoner, so you're not really in any position to make demands."
The other pony in the room—the one Goblin had barely noticed—trotted up. "A prisoner?"
Twilight nodded. "I didn't get all the details, but apparently he was causing a great deal of destruction in Sunset's world. Sunset and some new friends apprehended him and asked if I could send him to Canterlot so Celestia could secure him in the dungeons there until we can fix reality and find a way to put everybody back where they belong."
The other pony blinked. "Whoa. Wanna run that by me again?"
Twilight shook her head. "No time. SPIKE!"
A tiny purple lizard...dragon?...trotted into the room. "What's up, Twilight? Did you solve Sunset's problem already?"
"Not so much," Twilight said. "I need you to take a letter. Oh, and Starlight? I'm sending you to the human world to assist Sunset Shimmer as soon as our guest here is taken into custody. I have a long journey to the Crystal Mountains ahead of me and I'm going to be gone a while, so I need to round everypony up and get them up to speed. Spike's going to stay here to look after the castle and pass messages back and forth, and you'll be my go-between with Sunset Shimmer." She placed a hoof on the pinkish-purple pony's shoulder. "The fate of all of reality is resting on this, so I'm counting on you."
The other pony gulped. "S-sure, right. No pressure." She frowned. "Are you...are you sure you don't need me with you for whatever you're—"
"Dangerous things are showing up in Sunset's world, and Sunset and my counterpart there may need your powerful magic. I mean, Sunset's no slouch and she's as good with magic as I was when I was a unicorn, but she's also been human for a long time and isn't used to having her magic back yet, and I don't think she's as good at combat magic as you are. Also, Sci-Twi may need your help in the lab in case the, umm...thing that caused all this goes haywire." She smiled. "Don't worry! Between me, my brother, the Crystal Guard, and Sunburst, we can take care of mining the bulfecium I need to build a containment device."
Starlight blinked. "Bulfecium?" She grimaced. "Yeah, I think I'll leave that to you. Heavy snow and cold crystal mines aren't really my thing."
"So things are...pretty bad, huh?" Spike asked.
Twilight grimaced. "Yeah, it's...it's not good. But we can fix it. I know we can. Now, about that letter..."
* * * * *
When Sunset, Rainbow, X, and Miles arrived at the school, they found several picnic tables set up outside. Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy were setting out several pizza boxes, Applejack was hauling a cooler full of ice out of the school, and the other girls, as well as Principal Celestia and Vice-Principal Luna, were carrying drinks, paper plates, and napkins.
"Hey Sunset, you're just in time!" Pinkie said, waving enthusiastically. "We got pizza for every—oh hey, you found a new friend!" She zoomed over, grabbed Miles' hand, and pumped it enthusiastically. "Hi! I'm Pinkie Pie! Who are you? Are you from another dimension?"
Miles blinked at her. "Uhh...yes, yes I am. I'm Miles."
"Hi, Miles! Nice to meet you! Are you a superhero?"
"So, we're havin' a pizza party?" Rainbow asked.
"Everyone's been working hard for quite a while without a break," Celestia said. "We thought it would be a good idea to rest and relax, have some food, compare notes...decide how to proceed from here."
"We're closing the school until this crisis is resolved," Luna said as she sat down. "We have no choice. We can't risk exposing the students to that...thing."
Sunset frowned. "Couldn't we just move it?"
"Shh!" Rainbow said. "Vacation from school, don't ruin it!"
"We can't move it," Sci-Twi said. "It's too risky. It needs to stay where it is. Besides, the closer it is to the portal, the better. We want it to be someplace where the other Twilight can get to it quickly with the materials she's bringing from Equestria."
"Right," Sunset said. "Besides, she's sending her student through to help out, so...we do sort of need to keep CHS as a home base."
Celestia nodded. "I thought you might say that, especially after talking to Princess Twilight. I would prefer to limit everyone's exposure to the strange magic being generated by the...thing, but you, the two Twilights, and anyone else directly involved in dealing with this..."
"Still, it would be preferable if you all limit the time you spend near the object," Luna said. "Celestia and I will take turns being here. She will be here during the day, and I will be here at night. If at any time you need to access the school, call whichever of us is standing watch."
Sunset nodded. "That makes sense." She helped herself to some pizza; Miles did likewise after an encouraging nod from Pinkie Pie.
The mood was still somewhat tense, but Sunset introduced everyone to Miles, who for his part looked flummoxed to suddenly be surrounded by very cute older teenage girls.
"So, you're a superhero," Rarity asked with a dazzling smile. "Tell us all about that, it must be rather exciting!"
"W-well," Miles said hesitantly, his cheeks burning faintly, "when I was eight, I was bitten by a chemically enhanced radioactive spider, and—"
The sky lit up with a second sun, and a tremendous sonic shockwave made the entire city jump.
* * * * *
Trunks pushed back another of his opponent's plasma attacks, grunting as his heels dug furrows in the roof. He leapt high into the air, forming several ki orbs which he hurled at the cloaked fighter. The cloaked fighter's body pulsed with a flickering golden shell of light which absorbed everything Trunks threw at it. Trunks had already memorized the timing of this shield from the first three times he'd used it; with a burst of speed, he blurred behind his enemy, nailing him in the back with a kick that sent him flying into the air. Another burst of speed, and Trunks hovered just below him, hair stirring with the wind generated by his power as he crossed his hands, palms facing forward, in front of his forehead. Crackling energy began to gather around his hands, yellow and white sparks dancing around a rapidly-swelling point of raw energy.
Trunks' power surged forth, catching his opponent in a tremendous explosion that lit up the sky like a second sun. Shredded pieces of the tattered brown cloak fluttered away from the epicenter, burning away to black ash.
When the blinding light faded, the dark fighter hovered in the air, blue sparks dancing across his body; his gold shoulderguards were slightly damaged, and one of the fins on his helmet was cracked. The scar across his chest let out one long, snapping arc of white electricity as his red eyes burned into Trunks, who glared defiantly at him.
"I am Trunks! Son of Vegeta, Prince of the Saiyajin! I have trained and fought alongside the mightiest warriors in the universe! This battle is one you cannot win!"
The dark fighter disappeared, reappearing behind Trunks. Trunks had but a moment's warning before dozens of plasma balls slammed into his back, sending him crashing to the street, which cratered under his body.
Heavy boots landed at the edge of the crater, crunching gravel into dust.
"I am power. I am strength. I am Forte. You are worthy to die by my hand."
* * * * *
Every head at the table snapped around. X's eyes began to flicker and glow, then widened in shock. "Masaka... I'm detecting two massive power sources two point four kilometers north-northwest of here. One of them has a bioelectrical component..." He frowned, then shook his head. "The other doesn't register as any known energy pattern, but the output is off the scale!"
"Ah crap, what now?" Rainbow Dash moaned.
Sci-Twi pulled out a portable scanning device and pointed it in the direction X indicated. It let out one long, shrill beep, then exploded in her hand. "Gwah!"
"Are you okay, Twilight?" Fluttershy asked.
Sci-Twi shook out her hand, hissing and blowing on her fingertips. "Yeah," she muttered. "Geez, it'll take me a whole day to rebuild that!"
Another flash lit up the sky, followed by a dust cloud which billowed into the air. In the vacuum of silence that followed, sirens screamed in the distance.
Miles sighed and put his mask back on. "Break's over," he said. "Time to get back to work."
Sunset grimaced. "X, come with me. Everyone else, stay here. I've got a bad feeling about this."
"Yeah, you three can handle this one without us," Rainbow said, nodding rapidly. "We'll save you some pizza."
Sunset nodded to X, who returned the nod as he stood, his X-Buster already forming. A bright teal aura surrounded them briefly; they disappeared in a flash.
"H-hey! Wait for me!" Miles cried, shooting a web line up to the nearest corner of the school and swinging away.
A silence fell over the group.
Pinkie turned to Sci-Twi. "Sooo...think you can cook up a radioactive spider? Because I so wanna be able to do that."
* * * * *
Trunks clutched at his left shoulder, bangs blowing across his eyes as he glared at Forte. "This...is your last warning," he hissed. "Back away now, or I will destroy you."
"Hn. Your power...it is not as great as I thought. Still, very few opponents have damaged me."
He raised one white hand; a swelling ball of purple plasma formed, crackling with blue-white arcs of electricity.
"Do you believe in a life after death, human? Do you worship the imaginary gods your kind dream up to explain the world around them? I will grant you a moment to make peace with them, if so."
Trunks snarled. "I warned you..." Loose debris began to swirl and levitate around his feet as a sudden swirling wind picked at his clothes and hair.
And then an orange bomb struck Forte in the chest, exploding with tremendous force and knocking him backwards.
A figure in gold and orange armor landed beside Trunks; the armor changed color, becoming two shades of blue. "Are you alright?"
The floating debris at Trunks' feet began to settle. He stared at the armored newcomer with startled eyes. "Ah," he grunted. "Who—"
"Your power...it shines..."
Forte stood in a wary stance, clutching his shoulder as he faced the newcomer.
"You are not the Navi slave of the Hikari brat...yet something about you reminds me of him..."
A red-haired girl ran up beside the armored newcomer; a boy in a spiderweb-patterned black costume landed on Trunks' other side. "Whoa. It looks like the Hulk ran through here."
The armored newcomer's green eyes widened in disbelief. "Masaka...! I...I know you! From Dr. Light's database files! You're...!" He shook his head, then whispered, "Forte..."
Forte narrowed his eyes.
"You know of me...yet I do not recognize you..."
"I know you're dangerous!" The newcomer raised his arm, which ended in a dark blue cannon; a piercing hum filled the air as plasma and electricity crackled around the barrel.
Forte closed his eyes and smirked.
"Hn. Things are more interesting here than I thought."
Shimmering blue lines covered his body, forming wireframe polygons over most of his battle damage. With a bright white flash, he completely regenerated every wound inflicted by Trunks. Even his tattered cloak regenerated; he swept it around himself, covering the lower half of his face.
"We will meet again."
With that, he faded from view in a black pulse.
The newcomer powered down his cannon, which transformed into a hand. Trunks looked around at the trio gathered around him, then tensed at the sirens drawing near. "We should get out of here," he said. "Do you mind if I tag along with you? You seem to know what this place is and what's going on here, and I need answers."
The redhead nodded. "Miles, can you carry him back to the school? I can only teleport one other person besides myself, and I have to carry X."
Trunks frowned and rose off the ground. "I can get there under my own power," he said.
The girl stared at him, mouth slack. "Umm...okay." She shook her head. "I'm Sunset Shimmer, this is X, and this is Miles. Who are you?"
"My name is Trunks."
Sunset blinked at that. "Okay. Trunks. Just follow Miles, he knows the way." With that, a teal nimbus surrounded herself and X, and they disappeared in a bright flash.
Trunks blinked. "Shunkan Idou...?"
"C'mon, underwear dude," Miles said, shooting a long, thick web from his hand at a nearby building. "Let's bail before the cops show."
Trunks nodded hesitantly, then followed the surprisingly fast webslinger south.
*Just what kind of place is this...?*
* * * * *
Goblin had been bound with iron shackles and loaded into the back of a chariot by two white pegasi in gold armor. As the chariot ascended toward a tall mountain with a massive, shining city built onto the side of it near the peak, Goblin smirked and shattered his shackles. Before the two armored pegasi knew what had happened, he had drop-kicked both of them with enough force to send them and their chariot crashing to the ground below.
He cackled. "Yes...! Even in this bizarre flying horse body, the Green Goblin remains superior!" He looked around. "But until I understand this body and this world, I'm going to need to lie low...aha!" He cackled as he espied a sprawling forest of dark, gnarled trees. "Perfect."
Spreading his leathery wings wide, he glided into the dense, dark forest.