Silence hung in the air as the four ponies looked at each other. At that moment, Twilight became hyper-aware of herself and her surroundings. Her heart raced, beating at her chest like syncopated drums. Her breathing was just as frantic. She looked to Sunset, who only returned a resigned look.
Sombra chuckled. It was a low, gravelly sound that seemed to shake the ash beneath him. He glanced over to Aeon, who was still wrapped in chains, and smiled. With a flick of his hoof, he tightened the magic bindings.
“Let her go,” Twilight asserted, her voice nowhere near confident enough to be authoritative. Instead it wavered, almost cracking at the sheer amount of sudden stress.
“Why should I?” Sombra tightened the chains even more, and a pained squeal escaped Aeon’s mouth. "She trespassed and tried to attack me. It's only fair that I retaliate."
"She's just doing her job. We can make sure this never happens again." Twilight gritted her teeth before looking to Aeon for confirmation. “We can isolate this universe, right, Aeon? Nopony else would be able to come back here then. Then no one could come in and bother Sombra again, right?”
Aeon wheezed, the chains constricting her breathing. “No. If we could, why wouldn’t we have isolated shut every universe?”
“Bureaucracy?” Sunset asked. The remark was dead on arrival.
Aeon shook her head. “It’s impossible. In both theory and practice. There’s just too many. We tried once, and another, unisolated universe appeared right after. There's an alternate universe for everything.”
Twilight racked her brain as sweat dripped down her forehead. “Then—Then, we’ll just disappear! We won’t come back, and you’ll be on your own again. It's the next best thing.”
Sombra growled. “You think I want to be alone?” He snarled, and his eyes glowed with a dark energy. He stamped his hooves on the ground, which erupted into a cloud of ash. “I can’t tell if the ashes by my hooves are those of a forest or the remnants of my army. I’ve spent eons alone. This is my hell. This is my legacy.” Sombra's voice fell as he lowered his head into the ground. "Only ash remains."
The alicorn swallowed the lump in her throat. Any wrong word and Sombra would most likely kill Aeon. Even then, what’s to stop him from moving on to her or even Sunset? No. She had to keep everyone alive. She had to keep Sunset safe. “Then… I’ll stay with you.”
“Twilight!” Sunset shrieked. It was instinctual, coming out like a primal screech of pain.
“Let the others go, and I’ll be with you for as long as I live.” Twilight slowly made her way towards Sombra. “Besides, would you rather spend eternity with the Princess of Equestria, or some stuffy bureaucrat?”
This time there was no hesitation. Only selfless bravado.
Sombra snarled. “What keeps me from killing her, and keeping you prisoner?”
“Nothing.” Twilight nearly choked on her own breath. It was true, as much as she didn’t want to admit it. She had no other cards to play. “Nothing keeps us alive either. Whether you kill us or if we do it ourselves, you’ll still be alone forever.”
After a few seconds of ear splitting silence, a metallic clink followed, releasing Aeon. The same chains captured Twilight not a second longer. She let out a scream before immediately holding it back, attempting to put on a brave face. She could feel the dark energy burning at her skin.
“Go,” Sombra ordered, his voice low. “Before I change my mind.”
Aeon nodded, gasping for breath before scrambling away from Sombra. She crawled on the ground, her newfound pony legs failing her for a moment. She frantically punched buttons on her own dimensional teleporter.
Sunset, however, made her way closer to Twilight. She paid no attention to Sombra nor Aeon. She needed to talk some sense into Twilight.
“Twilight,” Sunset sighed. “Please, don’t do this.”
The alicorn shook her head. “I have to. It’s the only thing that keeps Aeon alive and you safe. Just promise me, take the TPT and get as far away as you can. Don’t let Aeon find you and don’t come back for me.”
Sunset nuzzled her friend’s face, holding back a choked sob. “It’s a Talisman.”
Twilight let out a weak laugh. “Always defiant.”
Sunset nodded. “I’m coming back for you, too.”
Without another word, Sunset activated the Talisman and disappeared into the portal. Aeon immediately followed in a portal of her own.
Sunset found herself on the side of a cliff, staring off into the distance as the sun began to rest on the horizon. A purple glow filled the sky, and the stars began to wake from their slumber. The wind blew at her hair, and she could smell the ocean not too far away.
Twilight would have loved this, she thought.
Not too long after, another portal appeared with Aeon stepping out.
“Sunset Shimmer of Dimension C-45-H, you are under arrest by order of the Accord for several counts of illegal multiversal travel, resisting arrest, and assaulting an officer of the Accord.”
“I don’t care.”
Aeon stepped closer, her boots softly patting against the lush grass. “Do not attempt to resist. I am authorized to use lethal force if necessary. It’s over.”
“I don’t care.” Sunset sat down cross legged. She pulled at a long blade of grass and folded it between her fingers. “Just let me look at the sky for just a little longer. It’s the least you can do after Twilight gave herself up for you.”
“Get up,” Aeon ordered. Then the device on her arm began to whine again. The power had restored. She held up her hand, and a radiant red glow began to emanate. “I won’t ask again.”
Sunset kept staring off at the horizon.
Aeon forced Sunset back up into a standing position. She pried away the still-charging Talisman and stuffed it in her own jacket. And without a word, she slapped a pair of handcuffs onto Sunset and jerked her backwards towards the cliff.
Sunset couldn’t even say anything about the loss of the Talisman. All she could think of was Twilight’s face just before she stepped through the portal.
With a few clicks of her own teleporter, another portal opened. Wasting no time, Aeon shoved Sunset into the wormhole and followed.
Sunset could smell coffee. She looked around the room. It was gray, stuffy. The sound of shuffling paperwork stung her ears like aural paper cuts. She watched as many interdimensional police officers hurried around the station. They all paid her no attention. After all this talk of breaking laws and Aeon’s ruthless chase, she was just another prisoner on a busy workday.
Sighing, she held her head back and looked up at the ceiling. She counted the tiles. Then she counted them again. She counted the amount of complete squares the tiles made, 164, and then watched a man unsuccessfully flirt with his coworker around the watercooler. This was all she could do at the moment. She was completely powerless, not to mention that Twilight needed her help.
This was her hell.
A familiar sound of clicking boots made Sunset whip her head towards the source. Aeon walked around the corner, carrying a paper cup of water. She was clean again, wearing a clean version of her outfit and a brand new pair of glasses. Aside from the soot-stained boots, there was no evidence that Aeon had been writhing in the ashes of the dimension where they ran into Sombra.
And that smirk. It made Sunset want to leap out from her chair and punch Aeon in the face.
“You’ve broken a lot of laws,” Aeon said. Her voice was cold. Sunset didn’t say anything back, instead choosing to stare at the ground and count the floor tiles. Aeon crossed her arms. “The Accord director wants you for questioning. You should be honored. She almost never deals with miscreants like you.”
Sunset balled her fists.
“Here,” Aeon said, holding the cup of water to Sunset’s mouth. “You’re dehydrated.”
“What does it matter?” Sunset spat. “You’re gonna kill me anyway.”
Aeon shook her head. “We still have your trial, which could take weeks to determine a date, and then the court has to decide when to carry out your inevitable sentence.”
Sunset nudged the cup away with her nose. “And what about Twilight? Are you just going to leave her there?”
Aeon nodded dropping eye contact for the first time in the conversation. “There’s nothing I can do. We’re forbidden entry to that dimension. I wasn’t aware it was banned until I came back and found it in the Hostile Universe Files. She’s gone.”
“I’m going to save her,” Sunset said with an air of confidence. “And there’s nothing you can do to stop me.”
“Why do you care for her so much?” Aeon asked. She sat down next to Sunset. “There’s a million different versions of her.”
“Not her. She’s different,” Sunset said. “She’s mine.”