The Sparkle Census

by Skyward Shoe


Chapter 2 - Paperwork

One hour later, Twilight was staring listlessly around the room. In that hour she had learned many important things. Firstly, she had learned that the green-and-white striped wall paper actually had little books and hearts embossed on it if one looked closely enough. She had also learned that the inkwells in the nearby cabinets were self-refilling, and that tipping one out onto the floor could have disastrous consequences. Immediately after that she had learned where to find a mop. Most importantly however, Twilight Sparkle had learned that there existed written words that even she, the veritable ‘Princess of Books’ herself, could not enjoying reading. The forms she was supposed to be filling out sat abandoned at her side, and the young mare was trying desperately to focus on anything else.

Twilight slumped her head down on her hoof with a sigh and took to watching the other inhabitants of the waiting room. The scene before her would have been exceedingly mundane if not for the fact that roughly half of the chairs in the room were occupied by the exact same purple pony. Most of the occupants sported the same look of frustration and tedium that the deflated princess bore, though a few of the new arrivals looked rather perplexed by the bizarre nature of the situation. Twilight had watched five or six more Sparkles wander in through the door since she had arrived, each one eventually settling down to work on the forms she had brought with her.

Shifting her gaze to the far end of the room, Twilight stared once more at the receptionist’s desk, where sat a content looking copy of herself with a little silver badge pinned to her shoulder. Every so often, another Twilight would stand up and hand her clipboard over to the secretary before proceeding around the desk and down the far hallway. Twilight had gotten up at one point and had begun to walk around the desk, but the stern look she received from the receptionist was enough to send her back to her chair with her head held low. She wondered if this was how Spike felt whenever she reprimanded him? Teleportation had come to mind as a possible way out of this predicament, but before she could try it a harried and wild-eyed Sparkle had appeared in a flash of light, asking what day it was before passing out in the corner. This had driven all thought of escape out of her weary mind, leaving only one option: completing the paperwork.

Twilight willed herself to return to the task at hand. Certainly it hadn’t been all bad so far; filling out her address, height, weight, and other facts about herself had all been easy enough. The short summary of her life had even been quite enjoyable to recount. Upon reaching the preferences section however, progress had ground to a halt.

“What is your favorite color?” The aggravated mare grumbled to herself, quietly enough so that no other pony in the room whom she might consider ‘herself’ could hear. The subjectivity of the question exasperated her to no end. She had spent the past 15 minutes or so (it was hard to be sure, as there were no clocks in the room and no guarantee that time worked the same way in this pocket of reality) trying to come up with an objective argument for one color over another, but try as she might she could not come to a logical conclusion. She had briefly considered taking a peek at the form that the next Twilight over was filling out, but the very thought of cheating on a test made her sick to her stomach, even if it was technically from ‘her’ own paper. With a resounding sigh, the young alicorn finally submitted and picked a color. Bringing her quill tip to rest along the page she scratched out a single-word answer:

“Purple.” She mumbled.

Feeling distinctly uncreative, she flipped over the page and continued onward through the muddy waters of subjectivity.

As she progressed through the list, Twilight began to have misgivings about the intelligence of her alternate universe counterparts. After finally coming to a conclusion on the section detailing per capita defeat of major and/ or minor villains, she was now required to give an estimate on her total magical output over the last six months. For an alicorn who used magic for everything from major battles with otherworldly foes to lifting a teacup while out to lunch with friends, this was an impossible statistic to track from memory. Steaming from the ears and deciding that this was more than enough frustration for a Thursday morning, Twilight approached the receptionist’s desk and cleared her throat.

“Have you finished your registration forms ma’am?” The look-alike receptionist asked, a chipper note to her voice.

“Actually, I had a few concerns regarding question 27-B sub-section 3,” Twilight began, her voice dripping with the formality and presumption of an academic veteran, “You see, due to the inconsistent nature of thaumic drain while manipulating objects via telekinesis, it is impossible to make an accurate assessment of my total magical output without having spent the past several months actively tracking the fluctuations. This question, then, simply cannot be accurately answered at this time, wouldn’t you agree?” She raised one eyebrow for good measure, hoping to have adequately flustered her smarmy doppelgänger.

The lavender mare’s expression stayed perfectly calm as she replied, “That’s fine dear, we’re not expecting an exact measurement. Just an estimate.”

Annoyance kicked in once more. “Yes of course, but without any form of tracking how am I to begin answering this? To get even a ballpark figure I’d need several weeks of data to parse through!”

“Just do your best ma’am.” The receptionist replied in a chipper tone.

“But I…”

“Just do your best.”

Twilight stared daggers at her mirror image. The amicable façade, forged in the fires of a thousand exasperated pony princesses, showed nary a crack. She decided to change her approach.

“Is there somepony else I could talk to about this?” she asked with as much authority as she could muster.

“No.” The receptionist stated with an element of finality.

After a moment of consideration, it occurred to Twilight that phrasing was going to be important in her immediate future.

“Is there some-Twilight else I could talk to about this?” she tried again.

“Yes. I can arrange a meeting for you with the head of the registration committee if you are interested?”

“That would be perfect, thank you miss…”

“Sparkle.” The receptionist deadpanned.

“Right.” Twilight waited as her twin penned a short memo, which she dropped into a small chute labelled ‘Out-Spike.’

“The committee member will be available to see you in her office in about an hour. Now, if there is nothing else please return to your seat.”

Twilight sat down with a triumphant grin spreading across her muzzle, confident that she would be able to find an answer during her meeting. Looking about the room, she noticed that several of the ponies who had arrived before her were staring her way. One of them was even giggling into her hoof. Looking back down at her paper and then back towards the receptionist, it dawned on her that unless she quickly finished the form she would not be able to leave for the scheduled meeting, running the risk of being…

“Tardy.” Twilight whispered shrilly, a chill running down her spine. The giggling duplicate caught her eye, and Twilight saw that she now had a broad smirk on her face.

“She got another Sparkle with that one just a few minutes before you showed up. Better get cracking, Smarty-Pants.” She said in a sing-song voice, vaguely reminiscent of a certain pink pony.

Feeling a mixture of panic at the possibility of being unpunctual and irritation at her alternate self’s levity, she jotted down short answers for the remaining few questions. Replacing her ink and quill, she approached the desk for a third time. The Twilight who had passed out in the corner stirred as she crossed the room, mumbling something under her breath that sounded disturbingly like “Quesadillas.” Quickening her pace, Twilight dropped off her clipboard and was finally allowed to pass the desk and into the hallway.

At the far end of the hall she passed through another door into the smallest room so far, this one circular and hardly 3 meters in diameter. She spied a set of large oaken doors in front of her, but before she could investigate the door behind her shut with a click, locking her inside. Looking around the small space, Twilight noticed that the tiling in the center of the floor had been set in the starburst shape of her cutie mark. A plaque at her hooves directed her to stand on it until the ‘Tagging’ process was complete. Hesitantly, she stepped out onto the center of the floor and waited.

A few moments passed in silence before Twilight felt it: a powerful magical aura was forming from below, keeping her hooves locked to the ground. She struggled at her bonds to no avail as the aura grew stronger, threatening to overwhelm her senses. The entire world seemed to shake as powerful waves of energy passed through her body. Reaching its crescendo, Twilight gasped as she felt an incredible magical-emotional surge wrack her body, as if the power surrounding her was writing upon her very soul. As quickly as it started it was over, leaving the lavender mare feeling woozy, off-balance, and undeniably, unmistakably certain that her designation was MR-4T^W. She had no idea where this string of symbols had come from or why they applied to her, but it was as clear to her as Celestia’s blue sky that this was the case.

Hearing the lock click open in front of her, Twilight staggered forward out the great oaken doors. The bright light disoriented her for a moment, obscuring her view. Putting a foreleg above her eyes, she let out a gasp at the sight sprawling out before her. After sitting in a room with a dozen of herself for the better part of the morning, Twilight had felt prepared for anything she might see. Amongst her feelings of astonishment and wonder was a tinge of annoyance at being wrong about that.

A veritable sea of purple and indigo washed through the grand hall before her, as Twilight Sparkles trotted and flapped in every direction. An archway reared above her, with a single word etched onto its marble surface: 'Atrium'. Awed at the size of the spacious room and overwhelmed by the vast herds of herself, one very important question swam to the surface of the poor mare’s befuddled brain:

“Where am I going to find a little filly’s room in all of this?”