The Sparkle Census

by Skyward Shoe


Twilight sat at her podium in the small, square room. The ceiling, made from cheap tiling and the tacky, stripped wallpaper that adorned every wall were both eyesores, and the lavender pony had grown quite tired of staring at them. The floor was lined with beige tiling and was quite nondescript. The only interesting thing in the bland room was the angry alicorn standing resolutely in its center, who was the current source of the princess’s ire.

“Ma’am, please, I just need your name and then you can move on to the next room.”

“No!” the mare shrieked, eying her suspiciously. “I know what this is: it’s another scam by those Flim-Flam brothers, trying to steal my identity. Well it’s not going to work I tell ya!”

The overworked alicorn gave a sigh of annoyance. She was supposed to get through one new entrant roughly every five minutes, and this one had taken over twenty so far. She was paranoid to a ludicrous degree, and was certain that the Census was actually a ploy to steal her rights. She had accused everyone from Sapphire Shores to Scootaloo of being involved in the conspiracy.

It was exceedingly rare that anypony called into the Census identified as anything other than Twilight Sparkle, but there had been enough edge cases for it to become mandatory to ask for a name each time. Twilight still felt that the jarring dimensional shift that occurred upon opening the letter wasn’t helping matters, but years of data showed it to be the most effective method of getting new Sparkles to show up. Gearing for another attempt, the princess put on her most diplomatic façade.

“I know this is sudden and probably quite difficult, but the sooner you give me your name the sooner you will be able to go home.”

“Yeah, right. And when I get home there will be another pony calling herself Twilight Sparkle already there, and all of my friends will believe she’s the real one. I know your game; I won’t be replaced!”

“Oh, so your name is Twilight Sparkle! Very good, please take these papers with you on your way out.”

The pony gawked for a moment before angrily grabbing the papers in her teeth. She grumbled to herself as the door opened and let her out of the room. Twilight let out a sigh of relief, glad to be through with the tricky customer. She still had several days-worth of entry duty to complete, and it was taking a toll on her patience. She wanted to get back to working in a real laboratory, or start sniffing out potential security issues with 2K. This kind of busywork drove her up the wall.

There had been much discussion amongst the numerous members of the Census over the past few weeks. Spurred by the recent breakout and the damages to the Equine atrium, the popularity of having a classified section of the Census had fallen to an all-time low. While some of the Council still felt it was too dangerous to open the Wing up to the public, they had agreed to a few reforms thus far. For example, the most dangerous projects had been moved to secure labs far away from one another in order to minimize the risk of another total catastrophe, and the prison now had a few more guards posted at all times. The turophobia lab had been made public as well in order to expedite research on a countermeasure. The former researchers had been shocked when they found that the project hadn't been scrapped after all, but most were willing to accept the sincere apology from the Grand Secretariat and their former lead. After all, most of them were Princesses of Friendship, and forgiveness is a very important part of any relationship.

Getting back to work, Twilight pulled her intercom close and said, “Next!”

The center of the room distorted as another lavender alicorn was pulled through the fabric of space and time. She landed with a small thud, her head spinning and a mug of coffee held in her hoof. At least she had a pick-me-up for later, Twilight thought. Pulling out another stack of forms from beneath her podium, Twilight looked the dazed mare in the eyes and repeated the word for what felt like the hundredth time today.