"Well, well, well. Spider-Man! Love the new look, but you look as though you shrank in the wash!"
"Look who's talking. You're the puniest excuse for a Goblin I've ever seen."
"PUNY?! Why I—" The maniacal marauder's mad mutterings ceased as a narrow bolt of greenish-yellow plasma slammed into the asphalt near his abdomen, peppering him with shards of cement and knocking him unconscious.
"WHOA! Easy there, blue dude!" the kid in the black costume said. "Hero 101: we don't kill the bad guys!"
"I just wanted to shut him up," X said, his X-Buster still trained on the bomber. "I take it he's human, then? Or at least an organic lifeform?"
"Well, he is or was human," the costumed crimefighter said. "If he's like most of the other Green Goblins, he's either Norman or Harry Osborn under that mask." He looked around. "So...guessing you two are the local superheroes." He looked Sunset up and down. "You...know superheroes are supposed to wear costumes, right? Or at least a mask. That's also Hero 101."
Sunset frowned. "I'm not a superhero," she said. "I'm just a girl who happens to have magic. And...sort of caused all this."
"Spell gone wrong?"
"Weird chaos artifact."
"Ah. Been there, got zapped to another dimension. Twice." He tilted his head. "Three times now, actually. Any idea on how to zap me back? I kinda left the team in a bad place."
Sunset shook her head. "Sorry. We're working on it." She held out her hand. "Sunset Shimmer."
The black-costumed superhero's eyes widened (which gave Sunset a moment of pause, as they were part of his mask). "Wow. That's...that's some name," he said. "I think my mom would ground me until I'm twenty-one if she knew I was talking to a girl as hot as you with a name like that."
Sunset blushed. "Umm...th-thanks?" She frowned, dropping her hand. "And what's wrong with my name?"
The superhero blinked. "Seriously?" He looked at X. "Is she serious?"
X frowned. "It's a fair question. And you haven't introduced yourself yet."
"Oh. Sorry." The kid crimefighter coughed. "Name's Spider-Man. Or Kid Arachnid, I've been going by that a lot lately ever since I joined up with the original Spidey and the other Web Warriors."
Sunset raised an eyebrow. "Yyyyyyeah you look more like a 'Kid Arachnid' than a Spider-Man," she said. "How old are you?"
"Thirteen," Kid Arachnid admitted with a sigh. "And...since this is a completely different world and my superhero alter ego doesn't matter here, I guess you can just call me Miles."
"Okay, Miles," Sunset said with a reassuring smile. "Sorry about, you know...you getting dragged into this craziness."
Miles shrugged. "I'm used to it." He glanced at the Green Goblin, who was just waking up. "Excuse me a second." He extended his hands; multiple strands of spider webbing shot out with a *thwip!* sound, wrapping the Goblin from shoulder to toe in a sticky white coccoon.
Sunset tilted her head. "That's...an interesting power," she said. "And...don't spiders usually make webs out of their a—"
"Yeah yeah, I've heard that one before," Miles said. "And the webs are artificial. They're not part of my spider powers. They're just a handy tool." He took off one of his gloves, revealing a titanium armband clasped around a slim, dark brown wrist, with a pressure trigger located within reach of his fingers. He demonstrated firing a thin web line, which sailed off into the air like a streamer, then put his glove back on.
"Nice!" Sunset said. "That must come in handy." She glanced at the Green Goblin. "So what's his story?"
"Oh, the usual. Maniacal supervillain, blows stuff up, almost never manages to stay in jail or the asylum. I've dealt with bigger, meaner Goblins than him." Miles shuddered. "Usually, the Goblin from my universe is something you pray you survive fighting."
X produced a set of expanding titanium bands from...somewhere...and clasped them around Green Goblin, adding to the immobilization from Miles' webs. "We should turn him over to the authorities...right?"
Sunset frowned. "I...guess so? I mean, I don't know. He needs to be, yeah, but he's also not from this world, so we need to..." She sat down and crossed her arms. "I don't know what to do with him."
"As long as he's somewhere where he can't make trouble," Miles said. "I wouldn't count on those binders holding him forever, so we need to decide fast."
Sunset scratched her cheek. "How dangerous is he without his tech and his bombs?"
Miles shrugged. "Wouldn't turn my back on him."
"Would a dungeon guarded by combat-trained unicorns hold him?"
Miles tilted his head. "Unicorns?"
"With magic like mine," Sunset clarified.
Miles shrugged. "I guess."
Sunset nodded. "X, grab this goon. We'll go back to the school and send him through the portal. I'm hoping Princess Celestia won't mind keeping him in the dungeons in Canterlot for a while."
"Canterlot?" Miles asked.
"The capital of Equestria."
"Uhh..." Miles scratched his head. "Okay, I love a good pun as much as the next Spider-Man, but...really?"
X shook his head. "Sunset, explain things to our new friend," he said as he lifted Goblin over his shoulder in a fireman's carry. "By the way, I'd advise against trying anything," he said as an aside to his captive. "I don't like violence, but you don't want to test my patience."
"I like violence just fine, and I'll punch you in the head until you cry," Miles said.
"I can go either way," Sunset added.
Goblin sighed. "Worst. Day. Ever."
* * * * *
Sci-Twi snuck another glance at her counterpart out of the corner of her eye as the princess manipulated multiple devices, constructing a makeshift magical conductivity scanner...something.
Twilight sighed, bowed her head, then glanced at her human counterpart. "Alright, out with it," she said. "What's bothering you?"
"What? Nothing!" Sci-Twi said.
Twilight rolled her eyes. "Yeah. Right. Twilight, I do that same glance-sneaking thing, so I know something's up."
Sci-Twi sighed. "It's...it's just..." She shook her head. "I can barely deal with the idea that there's another Twilight Sparkle. Now, I'm looking at another Twilight Sparkle who isn't even human."
Twilight snorted. "Yeah? Well I'm looking at another Twilight Sparkle who isn't even a pony," she retorted. "Not to mention all the people in this world who are human versions of all my pony friends back home."
Sci-Twi blinked. "I...I hadn't even thought of that," she said softly. She frowned. "You're connecting positive to negative," she noted.
Twilight blinked and looked at the clamp she was in the process of connecting. "Oops. Sorry." She quickly reattached it to the correct terminal.
"Why are we using a car battery for this again?" Sci-Twi asked. "I mean, I could put together a power supply and plug it into the mains—"
"We don't know how the magic of the...thing will react to what I'm trying," Twilight said. "There could be feedback. If it feeds back into the device, and the device is connected to your power grid, well..." Twilight's ears folded back. "I don't know what would happen, but I'd rather not risk finding out the main power grid is manaconductive and wind up with an even bigger problem."
Sci-Twi's eyes narrowed to pinpricks. "Good point," she said. She pushed up her glasses. "Umm...do you have...a lot of experience working with things like this? Because you seem to know what you're doing..."
Twilight grinned a true mad scientist's grin. "You should've seen my old lab..."
* * * * *
Sunset watched curiously as X held one of Goblin's pumpkin bombs in his hand. His eyes flashed and flickered, and bits of his armor lit up in long, thin lines. The arm holding the bomb opened up, and the bomb disintegrated, absorbing into X's inner workings. After a moment, X changed color, the lighter parts of his armor turning golden while the darker parts turned orange. Sunset blinked. "What...?"
X formed his X-Buster and aimed it over his head, then fired a pumpkin bomb straight up. It exploded brilliantly in the air. He nodded in satisfaction, then returned to his normal blue coloration.
"Whoa," Miles said. "How did you—"
"Variable Weapon System," X said. "I wasn't sure these pumpkin bombs were advanced enough to copy, but apparently they were."
"If there's one thing I hate," Goblin grumbled, "it's a copycat."
"There you guys are!" Rainbow Dash swooped down out of the sky, landing nearby. Miles stared at her. "Did you catch the dipshit who was blowin' up—yep, looks like you got 'im alright. Yeesh." She glanced at Miles. "Who's this guy?"
"Rainbow Dash, this is Miles. Or Kid Arachnid. Whichever you prefer."
"Hey!" Miles protested. "Who are you callin' a weirdo? You're a blue chick...with rainbow hair...and wings!" He shook his head. "I mean, okay, yeah, I know some mutants who look stranger than that, but still!"
Rainbow narrowed her eyes at him, placing her hands on her hips. "You wanna say that again, little punk?"
Goblin chuckled. "You're not one for good first impressions with the ladies, are you?" he asked. Miles responded by webbing his mouth.
X coughed. "I think," he said slowly, "that Miles here may be from a world where humans are...different than they are here." He shifted Goblin's weight on his shoulder, then continued, "I was...a bit surprised myself when I met you, Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy, and Twilight. Sunset..." He frowned. "She looks 'normal' enough, maybe a little exotic. Applejack, there's no problem there. Rarity, she just looks...really pale. But where I come from, humans don't really come in as many colors."
Miles took off his mask, revealing a youthful face with brown skin and short, close-cropped black hair, and grimaced. "Yeah," he said slowly. "My bad. I should know better than to judge someone by the color of their skin." He shook his head. "Of all people, I should know better. It's just...where I come from, people with blue skin are either aliens or mutants, and outside of superhero work, they're not as common as you'd think." He chuckled. "Even inside of superhero work." He approached Rainbow and offered his hand. "My bad."
Rainbow studied him, then shrugged and took the offered hand. "No biggie."
"Now the wings, though? That you're gonna need to explain."
Rainbow laughed. "Maybe later." She gestured at the Goblin. "So, what're you gonna do with this freak?"
Sunset grimaced. "We're gonna need to get word to Princess Celestia," she said. "We're thinking of locking him up in the dungeons in Canterlot until we get things fixed here."
Rainbow blinked. "Dungeons? Wha—oh, you mean in Equestria, right?"
Sunset nodded. "Yeah. So once we get back to the school, I'll just go through the portal and—"
Twilight Sparkle appeared in a magenta burst, startling everyone. She was visibly out of breath. "Sun...set...there you...are. Good." She dropped to the ground, sitting down and panting.
Miles stared. "What the talking horse?"
Sunset rolled her eyes. "Miles Morales, Princess Twilight Sparkle. Twilight, Miles Morales."
"Hi," Twilight said distractedly. "Sunset, we've got a problem."
Sunset arched an eyebrow. "You don't say."
"The dildo's getting more powerful," she said. "It's regenerating its own magic and amplifying it. The magic it absorbed from you was just a...a jump-start, like what I did to get the portal working again. It's self-perpetuating now and..." Her ears folded down. "I...don't think we can stop it."
Miles frowned. "Wait, dildo? What—"
"You don't wanna know," Rainbow said with a grimace.
Sunset frowned. "So...what do we do?"
"Can't we just blow it up?" Rainbow asked. "Or shoot it through the portal to Equestria so you and those other princesses can deal with it there?"
Twilight shook her head. "Exposing it to Equestrian magic would accelerate the anomalies, and then both our worlds would be dealing with cross-dimensional incursions."
"And destroying it?" X asked.
Twilight grimaced. "That...would be bad."
"How bad?" Sunset asked.
"Best case scenario? The complete and total annihilation of this world and Equestria."
"That's bad," Miles said.
"And...the worst case scenario?" Rainbow asked.
Twilight shook her head. "Everything, everywhere, would cease to exist."
"That's really bad," Miles said.
"So what do we do?" Rainbow asked.
Twilight sighed. "Sci-Twi and I might—might—be able to build a device to contain it, but I'm going to need special materials that don't exist in this world. Hay, they're pretty hard to come by in Equestria. I'm going to need to make a trip to the Crystal Mountains."
Sunset's eyes widened. "Bulfecium?"
"Twilight, it could take years to mine even a saddlebag full of bulfecium! Not to mention refining it—"
"We don't have years," Twilight said grimly. "But we do have the entire Crystal Empire Royal Guard, and we have the Royal Crystaller, and his knowledge of arcane lore is even better than mine." She smiled reassuringly. "If we're lucky, I'll have everything we need in less than a month."
"A month?! Miles spluttered.
Twilight glanced at him. "I'm sorry, but if you ever want to go home and actually have a reality to return to, we have to contain the anomalies first, and in order to do that, I'm going to need time."
Miles sighed. "Yeah, I get it," he said. "I just hope Spidey, Scarlet, and the others can get by without me...and that they don't do anything stupid that makes things worse."
"Okay, Twilight," Sunset said. "Do what you need to do. But before you go back to Equestria, we need a favor." At Twilight's questioning look, Sunset gestured to the Green Goblin, who was struggling and mumbling through Miles' gag. "This guy's dangerous, and I don't feel comfortable leaving him with the police, but I have a feeling we're gonna be way too busy to keep an eye on him. Do you think Princess Celestia would object to keeping him in the dungeons in Canterlot until we can send him back where he came from?"
Twilight pursed her lips. "I'll have Spike send a letter and ask," she said. She gave Sunset a serious look. "By the way...just so you know, if you go through the portal and you turn back into a unicorn—"
"I won't turn human again when I come back," Sunset finished with a nod. "I kinda figured that out already." She shook her head. "I'm not going anywhere, they need me here, and I'm more useful as a human with magic than I would be as a unicorn." She frowned. "Besides, I...I actually kinda like this body, you know? I'm used to it. I don't think...I don't think I can go back to being a unicorn that easily." Her brow creased. "But how will I get in touch with you if I need you? The journal?"
Twilight shook her head. "I'll send my student Starlight Glimmer through the portal," she said. "She can be your liaison between here and Equestria. Spike's magic can get letters to any of the princesses instantly, and Starlight can run back and forth between the two worlds as needed, and her magic could be useful here."
"Okay," Sunset said. She smiled half-heartedly. "Good luck, Twilight."
Twilight smiled. "Thanks. You too." She tilted her head; her horn glowed, and a magenta aura surrounded the Goblin. "I might as well just take him with me," she announced. "I'm sure Celestia will send the guards for him swiftly, and it'll save time if he's already at my castle. I'll tell Starlight to join you here as soon as he's in custody."
"Thank you," Sunset said gratefully.
With a wave of a wing, Twilight disappeared, taking the Goblin with her. A silence fell over the little group.
"So," Miles said, turning to Sunset, "you're a unicorn?"
Sunset laughed sheepishly.
* * * * *
"The long nightmare is finally over."
Two people stood on a rocky outcropping, overlooking a city in ruins. One was a middle-aged woman with blue hair; a cigarette dangled from her lips. The other was a heavily muscled teenage boy with bright blue eyes and short, soft lavender hair which stirred in a gentle breeze. His skin was tanned and weathered, his eyebrows drawn down in a near-permanent frown that was equal parts heritage and years of suffering. Above them, the sky shone bright, blue, and clear; somewhere nearby, birds tweeted merrily as they built nests in the trees growing from the side of a mountain.
The woman sighed. "And now, we have to rebuild." She took a long drag on her cigarette. "That's gonna be tough," she said. "The Jinzouningen killed a lot of people, and I damn sure can't do it alone."
"I think I can handle some construction work," the boy said with a smile. "After everything I've just been through, rebuilding West City almost sounds like fun."
"And the rest of the world?"
He shook his head. "That depends on how many people are left." He sighed. "If only we could use the Dragonba—"
And just like that, he was gone. No flash of light. No explosion. No rush of wind. In mid-word, he simply vanished.
The cigarette fell out of the blue-haired woman's mouth.
"Torankusu? TORANKUSU?! DOKO NI IRU NO?! TORANKUSU...!!"