“Twilight, I don’t think this is a good idea.”
“You’re right. It’s a great idea.”
Sunset Shimmer rolled her eyes as the alicorn tinkered on the large workshop table in front of the inactive portal to Canterlot High. Twilight—Princess Twilight—stuck out her tongue as she fiddled with her counterpart’s strange little device. She’d been playing with it all morning.
“You do realize that thing stole all our magic?” Sunset pointed out. “Ripped it right out of us! It even took the magic of the portal!”
“That’s the whole point!” Twilight squealed without looking up. “After you wrote to me about her creation, I had to see it for myself! Do you understand the implications of this? If we can harness the power of this device, we could revolutionize transportation throughout Equestria—assuming we can lock it into a single dimensional plane. At the very least, the two of us could generate a portal to see each other at the press of a button!”
Sunset shook her head, but she couldn’t help but smile at Twilight’s antics.
So similar to the Twilight on the other side… yet so different. Their geek-outs and freak-outs are the stuff of legend.
Then again, so are mine.
Sunset blushed as she watched the princess work.
It also doesn’t hurt she’s the one who saved me from my worst freak-out of all time. At least this Twilight’s freak-outs don’t involve becoming a raging she-demon.
Though Sunset had finally forced herself to come back to Equestria, she still hadn’t mustered the courage to face Princess Celestia, even after the new revelations at Camp Everfree. Despite assurances from everypony—and everybody—involved, she just wasn’t ready for that.
On the other hoof, she knew she didn’t have anything to prove to Twilight. Not anymore. Twilight had made that abundantly clear when Sunset had stepped back into Equestria.
The look on the alicorn’s face when Sunset brought the other Twilight’s amulet through the portal had made her feel more wobbly than being back on four hooves. The other Twilight—Princess Twilight had decided to call her Sci-Twi for some incomprehensible reason—had been glad to be rid of the thing. Despite coming to terms with her own magical abilities, the amulet was a reminder of what ‘Sci-Twi’ had become. She didn’t want anything to do with that part of herself ever again.
Princess Twilight had been more than happy to take it off of her hands.
“Okay!” Twilight chirped. She looked up with a bright grin, leaped into the air and placed the modified amulet on a small pedestal in front of the inactive portal. “I think we’re ready to energize the system.”
“And you’re sure it won’t rip the magic right out of Princess Celestia’s copy of the journal?” Sunset glared suspiciously at the amulet.
Twilight shook her head. “This is me, Sunset. Magical theory is my specialty. Just like another unicorn I happen to know.”
Sunset shrugged sheepishly. “That was a long time ago.”
“You were in Equestria for less than five minutes before you got all your spells back.” Twilight cocked an eyebrow. “Anyway, the wards I’ve placed around the book will make sure the amulet doesn’t take too much. We’ve both studied this mirror and Starswirl’s research into alternate realities. We’re ready for this. I’ve been planning for it ever since you first mentioned the device!”
“Okay, okay, fine!” Sunset laughed. “You win!”
“Wonderful!” Twilight clapped her hooves together as she hovered in the air. “Initiating the first empowerment test of the Transdimensional Portal Talisman!”
She moved to throw the lever.
“Can we shorten that to the ‘Talisman?’”
“Fine,” Twilight muttered. “Spoilsport.”
Sunset smirked. Twilight threw the lever.
The bizarre Equestrian technology surrounding the portal began to glow with magical energy. Princess Celestia’s copy of the journal floated in midair for a few seconds before bolts of pink magic lashed down into the strange contraption. Moments later, the energy reached the emitters. Normally designed to refocus the magic of the journal into the portal, now they fired directly into the Talisman.
A shockwave of pink light erupted from the Talisman, throwing Sunset back a few feet. When her vision cleared, Twilight was sprawled against a bookshelf on the far side of the room, groaning as a few more books landed on her head. Sunset stifled a giggle before trotting up to the gently glowing Talisman. Moments later, Twilight joined her.
Sunset levitated the device to Twilight for inspection, since Twilight had more experience with dimensional magic. Her brow furrowed as she cast a comprehensive analysis spell. The alicorn frowned and watched the Talisman with a critical eye for a few moments before she burst into a grin.
“I think we have it!” Twilight crowed. “Oh, this will get me published in Equestrian Journal of Magical Theory! Again! And you’ll be my co-author!”
With a squeal of glee, Twilight threw her hooves around Sunset and squeezed her with a ferocity that rivaled Pinkie Pie. Then, before Sunset realized what was happening, Twilight kissed her cheek.
Sunset instantly went red.
“What… what was that for?” Sunset blinked a few times.
Twilight’s ears went back as she blushed. “Just a… thank you?”
Well… that was unexpected. Not… that I mind… I think…
“Now… uh… let’s try this thing out!” Twilight said in a voice that was far too loud.
Sunset was more than happy for the change of subject.
“Wait, don’t you want some of your friends to come along? Or maybe Spike?”
Twilight shook her head. “I’ve calibrated it to handle just the two of us. Putting more ponies through the portal could have… unexpected side effects.”
Sunset raised an eyebrow.
“Oh, please, let me press the button already!” Twilight begged, jumping up and down like a filly on Hearth’s Warming Day. “Please! Please!”
“Oh, okay!” Sunset laughed. “Just do it already.”
Twilight’s hoof tweaked the dimensional tuner, currently set to a location near Canterlot High. The dial sat just above a small digital reader that showed the Talisman’s current charge level. Sunset herself had been the one with the idea to use ambient magical energy to recharge the device. In Equestria, it would charge in a less than an hour. In the other world, it would probably take a couple hours, half a day at most.
“And here we go!”
Twilight pressed the activation button and immediately a burst of violet and amber energy erupted from the Talisman. A few seconds later, it coalesced into a pulsing, shimmering circular gateway in space and time.
“We did it! We did it! We did it!” Twilight squealed, bouncing around Sunset. “It’s the same magic as Starswirl’s mirror! The basic spellwork matrix is identical!” She hesitated. “Well, almost. I’m sure the few arcane irregularities I’m sensing are just because of the portal’s wonderful new portability!”
Sunset tried to keep her expression to a smirk, but a giggle slipped out before she could stop it.
“Okay!” Twilight said. “Let’s hop on through, say hi to our friends and then hop back. Just a quick jaunt around the ol’ dimensional block for an initial test!”
She has to be excited if she just used ‘ol’’ in a sentence, Sunset thought with a smile. And I have to admit… I really want to try this now.
Sunset nodded. “Together?”
Twilight grinned. "Together."
“One… two… three!”
Without hesitation, Sunset and Twilight leaped through the portal.
The swirl of light and sound was a little different than usual, but it lasted only seconds.
Immediately, they came crashing down onto a cold, thrumming metal deck. Sunset looked up and her eyes went wide.
“Uh… Twilight? This doesn’t look like Canterlot High.”
Twilight looked up. She gasped and her wings flared.
They were on the bow of a great airship as it descended upon a coastal city. Pegasi in steam-powered armor dove in formation as klaxons blared out across the deck. The sky exploded in blasts of magical fire from the harbor guns below.
"This is Captain Stormbreak to all hands! Initiate Operation Sunlight! All cannons open fire!” a voice called out over the speaker system.
The ship’s hull boomed as Sunset and Twilight scrambled to the railing to look down. Massive turrets spat magical energy toward the city below as enemy aircraft—gyrocopters piloted by earth ponies—and griffons leaped up to meet the massive airship and her escorts. Any enemy caught in a blast was instantly knocked unconscious and left floating in midair in a strange little bubble.
"For Queen Twilight and Queen Sunset!” Captain Stormbreak called out as two more enormous airships descended from the clouds, each flying banners emblazoned with the intertwined cutie marks of Sunset and Twilight. “For the Republic of Magic!”
“Twilight?” Sunset asked as she turned to stare at the alicorn.
Twilight’s eyes were huge.
“Um… maybe it needs some… calibrations?”
“Calibrations?” Sunset shouted. “Are you kidding me?”
“Hey! I’m doing my best here!” Twilight snapped back.
Her ears flattened as a nearby airship took a massive hit to its port side, sending steam, brass and debris crashing down into the raging battle below. A gyrocopter was knocked out of the sky by a runaway propeller blade.
“Where are we?” Sunset demanded as the great airship accelerated and began its descent toward the city, its cannons booming every few seconds as it unleashed magical fury in beams of amber light.
A pair of harbor guns swiveled and returned fire.
Sunset threw herself over Twilight as a cannon blast nearly took their heads off, instead impacting on the airship’s balloon. From Twilight’s position under Sunset, she marveled at the shield that shimmered into existence before the blast could strike the envelope.
“This is not where I expected to be today,” Sunset muttered as a gyrocopter soared just over the bow, pursued by a pair of armored pegasi.
“Uh… Sunset?” Twilight repeated, going red.
“What?” she snapped and looked down at Twilight.
They were nearly muzzle-to-muzzle. Sunset paled and her eyes shrank. Her horn ignited and she teleported back to her hooves.
“Um… sorry,” she said as she reached out a hoof to help Twilight back up.
“Don’t mention it,” Twilight murmured. “But… let’s… um… focus on the—”
The airship bucked beneath them, sending the Talisman out of Twilight’s magic. Only a quick grab by Sunset prevented it from sailing over the railing into the chaos in the sky.
“Repair teams to Deck Six!” Captain Stormbreak shouted over the intercom. “Firing teams, I want those guns torn apart! The Shimmering Dawn isn’t about to fall to some rebel shippers!”
Despite themselves, they couldn’t pull back from the railing. What they saw over the side of the bow was just… beyond description. The two other airships had fully engaged the enemy air support. Gyrocopters flittered all over the place with armored griffons and steam-powered pegasi flying in tight formations. Energy blasts like lightning flew across the warzone as the three ships descended upon their target.
Twilight forced her attention back to the Transdimensional Portal Talisman and flared her magic. In an instant, a floating holographic diagram the arcane circuity appeared above the device. Twilight’s eyes darted through the schematic, trying to determine the fault.
“There!” Sunset pointed a hoof at a small relay near the center of the original anomaly containment unit at the core of the device. Her hoof went through it for a moment when the Shimmering Dawn took another hit. “That can’t be right. It looks like it’s still configured to absorb magical energy… but at only a fraction of what it used to.”
“Good eye,” Twilight said as she studied the relay. She didn’t have the tools for this! She didn’t have the time! And she couldn't do it in the middle of a war for pony’s sake!
Then it came to her.
“Oh ponyfeathers. That means it was never locked to Canterlot High in the first place! That means… I think we’re in some alternate reality! How did I miss that?”
“I don’t think you did,” Sunset braced herself against another impact. “I think it may have been hardcod—”
“Attention all hands, gyro wing coming around for another pass! Short-range turrets fire at will!”
Sunset froze and stared behind Twilight, going pale. However, Twilight suspected the reason she went pale was not embarrassment this time.
Twilight turned and felt her blood go cold.
Six gyrocopters—strange whirling mechanical contraptions with more moving parts than seemed possible—were bearing down on the bow of the Shimmering Dawn. They were painted in a strangely familiar pink and blue color scheme. And each of them carried massive crackling energy cylinders that could only be weapons.
The first three opened fire.
Sunset dove to the side and Twilight immediately flared her best shield spell. It absorbed the first three hits, but the drain on her magic was intense. She growled with the effort.
Sunset was already striking back. Beams of teal fire erupted across the hissing bow of the airship, slicing through the rotors of one of the ships. It exploded instantly, leaving behind an unconscious pilot in a bubble of magic. Moments later, pegasi in Sunset and Twilight’s colors were there, blasting away at the gyrocopters with beams of brilliant violet electricity.
The remaining gyrocopters unleashed the full might of their arsenal just before another went down. However, they hadn’t fired at Twilight or Sunset.
They had targeted the deck.
The deck below their hooves erupted in a blaze of steam and fire. Twilight was thrown overboard, but managed to catch herself with her wings to see the gyrocopters fully engage the pegasi.
She glanced around for Sunset.
Her heart plummeted with Sunset.
Well, this has been a swell day, Sunset thought as she fell to what was probably her doom. At least I got a kiss from—
She shoved that little detail out of her head and focused her magic on a mass-effect spell, shifting her density to make her heavier. After all, if she didn’t catch the Talisman falling toward the ocean surface, they would be stuck in this crazy world with no chance to get back to Equestria.
Pegasi spun in the air around her. Flak cannons tore at the sky. Gyrocopters erupted in magical fire. Griffons screeched in anger. Sunset pushed it all away, focusing on the little purple trinket… but it was out of reach.
“Oh, I am so going to regret this.” Sunset ignited her horn and teleported… straight down.
Instantly, she snatched the thing in her hooves and breathed a sigh of relief.
Then she realized she was still plummeting to her doom.
There was a flash of purple magic and she crashed into something warm, soft and lavender.
Sunset fought back the sigh of relief as she looked Twilight in the eye even as she was cradled in the alicorn’s hooves.
“What took you so long?”
Twilight rolled her eyes. “I took the scenic route.”
Sunset froze as nine pegasi suddenly swooped up to them.
“Oh come on!” Sunset growled.
“Shimmering Dawn,” shouted one of them into some sort of headpiece. “We have confirmation of Queens on-site. Repeat. Queens on-site! We’re bringing them in now!”
“That voice…” Twilight muttered.
The lead pegasi pulled off her helmet to reveal the pony with a yellow coat and a matted mane of yellow and gold.
“Your Majesties!” Spitfire cried. “This area isn’t secure yet! We need to get you back on the flagship, ASAP!”
“Roll with it,” Sunset muttered in Twilight’s ear. Twilight nodded.
“Very well,” Twilight said in her most imperious tone. “Lead the way.”
Sunset didn’t let go of Twilight once as the pegasi escorted them through the battle back to the great airship.
“It was an honor, ma’ams. The captain sends his regards, but as he’s commanding this battle, he won’t be able to speak with you until the rebels have been quelled.”
“Thank you.” Twilight nodded. “You performed excellently.”
Spitfire saluted smartly. “It is an honor to serve the cause, Your Majesties. The captain’s attache, Sunlight Fan #10,000,204, will be with you shortly. You’ll find she’s quite fervent in her devotion. Almost… too fervent.”
“What do you mean… ‘too fervent’?” Sunset asked.
Spitfire fluffed her wings awkwardly. “It’s not for me to judge, Your Majesties, but 204 tends to probably too much time in the more… fanciful tales of your exploits.”
“Thank you,” Twilight repeated. “That will be all.”
Spitfire saluted once more, did a smart about-face and departed from the small conference room. The second the door was open, Twilight brought out the Talisman again with the holographic diagram.
“Sunset, I’ve been thinking about this…” Twilight bit her lip. “I don’t have the tools to fix this properly. I think I can aim us in the general direction of home… but who knows how long it’ll take it get back there?”
Sunset put a hoof on her shoulder. “Twilight, it’s okay. We both missed it and you shouldn’t beat yourself up about it. Who knows? This might end up actually being fun. Seeing alternate timelines? Whole different worlds? Sounds pretty cool to me.”
Twilight chuckled at that.
“You know… it doesn’t sound all that bad when you say it like that. It’s been a little while since I’ve had a good adventure. I don’t think I’ve ever had one just…” Twilight coughed slightly, “…with you.”
Twilight was sure she didn’t see a faint blush on Sunset’s cheeks. That would have been silly. Ridiculous even.
“Yeah!” Sunset said in a voice far too loud. “Exploring the multiverse, just you and me. Sounds like a great time.”
Twilight nodded. “As long as we’re together.”
Sunset smirked. “Together.”
The door opened a moment later and admitted another pegasus. A very familiar looking one at that.
“Fluttershy?” Twilight and Sunset cried—appropriately—together.
Twilight Sparkle awkwardly adjusted the tea cup currently clenched in her aura, her irises focusing on the rather timid pony that sat to her front. Sunset Shimmer merely sniffled, the cold air around her tingling her nostrils.
Today was one of those days.
Those days when you traveled to another dimension, ended up being the queens of same universe, and even somehow manage to come across one of your best friends—well, in a way.
“Soo, umm,” Fluttershy—otherwise known as Sunlight Fan #10,000,204 in this universe—slightly twitched around in her wooden seat. A pair of goggles perched on her forehead were completely steamed up, and a mechanical rabbit proceeded to repeatedly stamp its foot on the ground. “I, umm, I'm sorry. I really didn't expect you both to show up.”
“Oh, no need to apologize!” Sunset assured, equally as uncomfortable as her comrade. “We umm, didn't really expect to show up either!” Twilight nodded in agreement, an uneasy grin forming on her lips.
“R-really?” #10,000,204 questioned. “Oh, of course! You two are very important ponies, after all! And you do have that issue with the PinkieDash nation!”
“Excuse me?” questioned Twilight, “but did you just say PinkieDash nation?” Fluttershy gave a quick nod, only adding more coal to the fire of confusion Twilight and Sunset were currently building.
“You know, lead by Queen Rainbow and Pinkamena Diane?” reminded the pegasus. “You do remember, right? I wouldn't want to make you feel even more awkward than you already may be!”
Twilight and Sunset were both quiet for a minute— maybe two. Their eyes met, and their situation had taken a turn towards Weirdville. Or maybe even further, considering that in a world where you were the rulers, you would've been past Weirdville hours ago. Nevertheless, the two did their best to stay calm.
That is, until Sunset Shimmer spat out her tea on the carpet and a bit of her orange, fluffy fur. And at that moment, ‘tried’ truly was the most appropriate word to use.
“Oh, are you okay!?” #10,000,204 exclaimed, oblivious to the now sparking rabbit that was flipping around on the floor. She quickly stood up, grabbing a spare handkerchief from her apron pocket, and handing it over to the unicorn. “I really didn't mean to cause you any distress! Please just don't kill me!”
“Kill you?” Twilight said, trying her best to contain the small giggle in her throat, and making its way up to her cheeks. “Why in all of Equestria would we do that?”
Fluttershy blinked. “Equestria?” She grimaced. “Is that some new ship? Between Questria and… Ecc? Oh, I'm sorry I don't know, my majestic, wonderful queens!”
Sunset— finished wiping off the small portion of tea from her body, and now reaching towards the carpet where most of the damage was done— guffawed at the statement. “Who now? And what exactly is a ship? I mean, I'm assuming you aren't talking about the boat.”
“Oh, don't tell me you're running some kind of fever, Almighty-weeny-kawaii Sunset?!” Fluttershy said. Sunset and Twilight shared an eye roll. These names were getting more and more ridiculous as the conversation went on. “Why, a ship is the whole meaning of life!”
The mare grinned. “Why! I'll sing a song about it right now!”
Twilight raised an eyebrow, “Oh! You really don't have to—”
“PinkieDash, Rarijack, Dislestia, Equestria, these ships, oh yes they're so fine!” She began, twirling around like a ballerina on the stage. “Add in some clop—”
“We're done,” Sunset quickly interrupted. “Thank you for the visit but—”
And then, the mechanical rabbit that had been helplessly sparking on the carpet, set on fire, and took the carpet alongside it.
Which, thankfully, just so happened to be the exact moment that Twilight and Sunset's little device decided to activate once more.
Fluttershy frowned and quickly flew up from her chair that was currently burning, and into the air. The smoke alarm in her cabin turned on. Her eyes filled with tears.
“This happens every time!”
“… what the heck?”
Sunset and Twilight found their eyes focused on two human figures— one blue and the other pink— standing in front them, and staring down as if they were an alien of some sort. And oddly, Twilight could almost swear there was some kind of magical shield between the two, as well.
“Ooh, ooh! Can we try this one?”
“… sure? I guess?.”
“Come on, Dashie! These are stuffed animals we're talking about! Stuffed animals! Oh, I've always wanted a pony stuffed animal!”
Trying to open her mouth, Sunset found herself panicking at the realization that she couldn't. Almost as if her lips were stitched together.
If Sunset's eyes could've widened at that moment, they would've been the size of tires. And the big claw heading towards her and Twilight wasn't helping the situation.
“Let's get this thing started!” the female voice—which by her high-pitched voice and energy Twilight and Sunset immediately recognized as Pinkie—exclaimed. Invisible sweat trailed down Twilight's forehead.
“Merry Christmas to me!” And then, the claw tightened around Twilight's right hind leg.
Merry Christmas indeed.
Twilight gritted her proverbial teeth as she felt the crane's metal claws dig into her non-proverbial leg. She immediately entwined her front legs with Sunset's, not wanting to get separated. Clinging together, they were both drawn up into the air.
Pinkie Pie's face loomed huge on the other side of the barrier. “Sweet! It's a two-fer!” Her face screwed up in concentration, tongue protruding slightly from the corner of her mouth, in an expression that would've been adorable had it been properly sized. Pinkie Pie's hands worked a set of control levers with an engineer's precision, and the crane's motor whined, whisking the two plush ponies through the air. Twilight stared down at Sunset, wishing she could say something to calm the alarmed look in her friend's inexplicably plastic eyes.
The crane whirred to a stop above a cavernous square hole. With a snap of metal, Twilight and Sunset fell into blackness. They didn't fall far, landing on a hard, flat surface a second later. Twilight barely had time to wonder if her new body actually had any bones to break before a panel opened up above them, and two gargantuan pink hands reached down to grab them.
“Woohoo! I got both the ponies! Told you I'm the best at these things!”
“Yeah, yeah.” An equally enormous Rainbow Dash crossed her arms across her chest. “I can still beat you in skeeball, though.”
Twilight took stock of her surroundings as best she could. More towering figures passed by behind Pinkie and Rainbow, wandering through a surreal realm of flashing lights and beeping machinery. The smell of greasy, deep-fried foods hung heavy in the air, and the ground was covered in a dark maroon carpeting. Twilight tried not to think about where the stains came from.
“But you gotta get like a bajillion skeeball tickets before you can cash in for the good prizes. And look what I got for just a quarter!” She bounced Twilight and Sunset through the air in the vaguest approximation of an equine gallop. “Whee! Horsies!” She paused, and glanced up at her friend. “Aw, don't pout, Rainbow! Here, you can have one if you want. Take your pick!” She thrust both plushified ponies forward.
“Nah, I'm good. I don't really do stuffed animals. Only things I got on my shelves are trophies, y'know?”
“Aw, c'mon Dashie! Your trophies are nice and shiny and all, but what happens when you get older and start doing other stuff and realize that nobody really cares that you were the MVP of your third grade soccer team and that hanging onto little tokens of meaningless accomplishments just comes off as kind of freaky and sad?”
“Wait, what?” Rainbow Dash stared at her friend.
Twilight, meanwhile, found herself following Pinkie Pie's line of thought—which would've been alarming even if she hadn't been inexplicably transmogrified into a stuffed animal.
“I've been reading Kierkegaard for philosophy class!” Pinkie Pie beamed. “Absurdism is fun! Once you get past the inherent meaninglessness of existence and all.”
“Oh. Kay?” Rainbow Dash scratched the back of her head. A brief, heavy silence hung in between the two, until Rainbow finally added on. “Wanna get some pizza?”
“Do I!” Pinkie Pie beamed. “Just lemme put these two ponies away and we can go!”
And again, before Twilight could react, she found herself crammed down into the darkness of Pinkie Pie's sugary-smelling backpack, with Sunset's stuffed form crammed down on top of her. For the first time, Twilight found herself thankful she couldn't speak in this new form, as that made the situation slightly less awkward.
“We're hoooo-ome!” Pinkie Pie's sing-song voice declared, after a short eternity of jumbling and jostling. The zipper to her backpack zipped, and Pinkie pulled the pair of plush ponies out, putting them in place upon a shelf with perfect precision.
Pinkie Pie patted Sunset and Twilight both on the head, and giggled. “Oh-kay! I bet you two like it a lot better here than inside that smelly carny game, don'tcha!” She giggled—and then blinked when a buzzing sound began to fill the room. She pulled a vibrating rectangular device from a pocket and peered at it.
“Oh!” Pinkie said. “Almost forgot! It's time to feed Gummy!” And with that, she disappeared in a blur.
Once Pinkie left, Twilight felt her paralysis lift from her strange new body. She turned her head from one side to the other, surveying the strange new world she was in. She'd been shelved in a bedroom-- the sort of pink chaos she'd expect from her friend, no matter what the dimension. The poster of a long-haired man with a bloody nose above the words “I GET WET” was a little out of place, however.
Sunset nudged Twilight's shoulder, drawing her attention. Twilight followed Sunset's pointing hoof—or, well, the soft cloth nub that should've been a hoof—to further down the shelf. Most of them were more plush, cloth creatures—though there were a few exceptions, such as a tall—for a toy, at least—blonde woman of rather artificial proportions, and a small soldier made entirely of green plastic.
“New recruits!” the green man barked out.
“Sarge, be nice,” the woman said, “You know how traumatizing unboxing is..”
“Yes sir!” Sarge snapped off a quick salute, only to sputter a moment later. “I mean, er… Yes Ma'am!”
“And how many times do I have to tell you? Just call me Barb.”
“Yes sir Barb ma'am sir!”
Barb rolled her eyes and strutted—as there was no other way to move in the sort of heels she wore—over to Twilight and Sunset. The other toys crowded in behind her, soon surrounding the pair.
“Sorry if they're a little… enthusiastic,” Barb said. “We don't get new toys very often around here. What're your names?”
Twilight Sparkle tried to introduce herself, by reflex—only to find the stitches along her lips to be entirely unyielding. Rarity would've been proud. She held a hoof up to her mouth, and looked over at Sunset, who was similarly speechless.
“Oh!” Barb gasped. “I'm sorry, I didn't know you were, uh… stitched.”
“Permission to check labels, Sir ma'am Barb sir!” The little man darted between Twilight's legs, making a beeline for a little tag on her rear right ankle.
“You should be asking them, Sarge,” Barb said coolly. Her expression and tone warmed as she looked back at Twilight and Sunset. “I'd like to apologize for him, by the way. Nobody's sure how he wound up here—getting separated from his playset has made him a little… kooky.”
The little green man didn't miss a beat. “Permission to check labels, weird horse thing sir ma'am sir!”
Twilight cringed away a little, finding the examination of her tag oddly personal—but she finally nodded, allowing the soldier to read away.
“Says here they're My Little Ponies, Barb! Machine washable!”
A murmur spread through the various dolls and stuffed animals.
“My Little Ponies?” Barb blinked, and tilted her head to the side. “They must make you… differently, now. Hm.” She rubbed her chin. “We haven't seen any My Little Ponies around here since Applejack.”
Twilight and Sunset shared a silent look with each other at the mention of their friend's name. Sunset nodded, and then Twilight turned a pleading look onto Barb.
“You know Applejack?” Barb said.
“Sounds like they're M.I.A.!” Sarge barked out, and jogged back over to Barb's ankle. “We'd better get them back to the rest of their unit!”
Twilight nodded again, more frantic, this time. She could deal with dimensional-hopping, as could Sunset Shimmer, but how would the stubborn, tradition-loving cowpony deal with such a drastic change?
“Are you sure?” said Barb. “Nobody's talked to Applejack in years. She mostly keeps to herself.”
An anxious twist gripped Twilight's heart. Was time displacement somehow involved? Things must have been worse than she thought. She nodded yet again, as resolutely as she could manage with her new fluff-packed body.
“Alright.” Barb smoothed out her fluffy petticoats. “Sarge and I can take you to Applejack. It won't be easy, though. She's down in…” Barb's words choked off, until she took a long, steadying breath to calm herself before making a grave declaration.
“Applejack's in the basement.”
“Here we are.” Barb pointed up at the door towering over them. “Applejack’s been down here for a long time.”
“Usually it’s only ponies that Pinkie brings down here,” Sarge continued. “And she never brings them back.” Twilight and Sunset gulped. Suddenly, the handle of the door began to turn. Sarge gasped. “Assume the position!” He snapped to an immobile pose of an officer giving orders with his hand held out. Barb rent rigid in place as well. Unsure what to do, Twilight and Sunset held still.
The basement door swung open and Pinkie looked down. “Aw, look, Gummy!” She reached down and picked up Twilight and Sunset. “Your new friends are eager to see you!” She looked at Sarge and Bard and shook her finger. “Bad toys, you don’t get to come to Gummy’s party!” She slammed the basement door and skipped down the stairs.
Pop music blared from a speaker in the corner of a brightly lit room, colorful streamers and balloons everywhere. At a large table in the center of the room was an assortment of stuffed pony toys with party hats on, as well as a baby alligator in the center table surrounded by the remains of what may have been a cake.
“Gummy’s birthday party has been going for a record one thousand, six hundred and ninety-two days, and we’re not stopping yet!” Pinkie placed Sunset and Twilight on the table and produced two party hats from nowhere to slip over their heads. “We’re gonna keep this going all night long!” Pinkie began to dance across the room towards the boombox playing the music.
Twilight saw a familiar glow out of the corner of her eye and leaned over the table. Below she saw the portal device activate and a glowing blue portal opened. Twilight pulled her hat off and put a hoof over Sunset to get her attention. She nodded at the portal below. Sunset saw it, nodded, and pulled off her own hat.
Pinkie turned, saw the portal, and gasped. “Wait! You can’t do that, you need to be an trained Aperture Science Testing Associate to use those!”
The two ignored Pinkie’s ramblings and jumped into the portal.
The portal opened and the two popped out and flopped to the ground. Twilight groaned. “At least we can talk in this world.” She took a look at herself.
“And are ponies,” Sunset added. The two climbed to their hooves and looked about. Twilight soon recognized the familiar throne room of Canterlot around them. Her eyes tracked to the thrones in the room and she froze. “Uh, Sunset?” Twilight poked her friend. Sunset turned and shared in Twilight’s staring.
Staring back from the twin thrones of the room were two alicorns. One of them had a pale lavender coat with silver-blue regalia adorned with a six-pointed pink star, and her mane was a flowing stream of dark blue and purple with stars. The other was bright orange with golden regalia bearing a red and yellow sun, and her mane was a wave of shimmering fire.
Twilight realized with dawning awe the two alicorns looked far too familiar. She leaned over to Sunset to whisper. “Do you see—”
“Yeah.” Sunset leaned back. “Do you think these ones rule a kingdom of robots, too?”
The lavender alicorn tilted her head and leaned towards the orange alicorn. “Dear, these ponies seem suspiciously familiar, don’t they?”
The orange one pursed her lips and leaned forward. “I see a passing resemblance. But her mane does not shimmer like the night sky like yours, nor does yours have that purple streak. And the other has a less lustrous coat in a far less appealing shade of orange.”
“Hey!” Sunset climbed to her hooves and glared.
The purple alicorn chuckled and raised a hoof to her mouth. “Apologies, she was making jest.”
“No I wasn’t.”
“Allow me to introduce ourselves.” The purple alicorn bowed her head. “I am Princess Twilight. This is Princess Sunset. We are the rulers of Equestria.”
Twilight gulped and stepped forward. “I’m… Twilight Sparkle. And this is my friend, Sunset Shimmer.”
“I see.” Princess Twilight raised her eyebrows. “Those names cannot be coincidence. Quite curious.”
“It’s rather easy to explain actually.” Twilight looked sheepish.
Sunset cut in before Twilight could start. “Short version, we’re from an alternate universe.”
Princess Twilight nodded. “Very well. And why have you come to this one?”
“Random chance, mostly.” Twilight shrugged. “Though, I am curious about something. In my world, Equestria is ruled by the two sisters, Celestia and Luna. Does this mean you two are sisters in this world?”
The two princesses looked at each other and burst out laughing. Princess Sunset shook her head and grinned. “No, no, not at all. That would make all this rather uncomfortable, if that were so.”
“Uncomfortable?” Sunset stepped up beside Twilight. “What do… you…” She trailed off and the two stared as Princess Twilight leaned in to nuzzle Princess Sunset’s cheek.
“Sunset?” Twilight groaned. “Tell me they aren’t—”
“Probably not, they may just be good friends.” As Sunset spoke, Princess Sunset turned from the muzzle and pursed her lips against Princess Twilight’s cheek. “Nope, nevermind, they totally are.”
“Forgive my public display of affection.” Princess Sunset’s expression darkened. “I owe my life and my freedom to the love and courage of the alicorn at my side.”
Sunset gulped. “What do you mean?”
Princess Twilight turned and swept a hoof into the air. Twilight and Sunset looked to the stained glass windows in the throne room. One of them depicted an orange and purple alicorn circling each other in unity. “It was over a thousand years ago. My brother, Shining Armor the Bearded, devoted himself to magical studies after the death of my parents. We loved each other dearly, but I wished to meet another alicorn like myself.”
Princess Twilight beamed happily at Princess Sunset. “Do you remember that day?”
“Of course I do.” Princess Sunset’s eyes shimmered. “I was drinking from the river at midday, the sun glistening on the water. The animals around me looked up as they heard somepony approach…”
“Gag me,” Sunset muttered.
Princess Sunset ignored her. “And then you stepped from the bushes. I was in such shock. I thought I must have been hallucinating or dreaming, to not only find another alicorn at last, but one so stunningly beautiful…”
“My thoughts were much the same.”
Twilight scrunched her face.
Princess Twilight turned her attention back to the pair. “My brother had been studying the sun and moon now that the winter storms of the Windigos have been dispelled. He postulated that our cutie marks and stronger magic could mean we were attuned to those celestial bodies. With practice we soon mastered our control and could move the sun and moon. We built a castle in the woods, not far from where we met, and began to hold court as ponies flocked to see us, the alicorns that could control the heavens.”
“Okay.” Twilight raised a hoof to her mouth. “I’m following so far. But, how did you save Sunset’s—er, Princess Sunset’s—life?”
Princess Sunset hung her head and sighed. Princess Twilight leaned into her again and draped a wing over her. “I was born into a loving family and had a dear brother. Sunset here was an orphan whose parents perished in a timberwolf attack. She grew up fending for herself in the wilds of the forest. So when it came time for us to become rulers, she had…”
“I was asocial,” Princess Sunset cut in. “I had always shunned the company of other ponies; they had either feared my powers or hated me for being unique. Twilight basked in their attentions and cultivated loyalty. I spurned their worship and invoked indifference.” Her expression flared. “I grew jealous. We were equals in power and standing, yet they loved her so much more than me. Why? Did I not raise the sun that nourished their crops, lit their lands, warmed their coats?” She closed her eyes and breathed deep.
“In my weakness I allowed my jealousy to turn to hate and anger. I was consumed by my darkness, and transformed into a wicked mare of evil… Vesper Radiance.” With the final two words, Princess Sunset flung her hoof towards another window. The image of a dark red alicorn with black regalia and a flaming mane stretching into the air looked down from the image of a blazing sun. “As Vesper Radiance, I attacked Twilight, to overthrow her and take both her and Equestria for myself. She was forced to subdue me.”
“Using the Elements of Harmony!” Twilight declared.
Princess Sunset frowned. “Quite, yes. She cast me into the sun in a banishment of a millennium. Then I was freed only a few years ago and returned to Equestria.”
“And the Elements of Harmony cleansed you into your true form?”
Princess Sunset glared. “This story would be told much better if you stopped interrupting it.”
“Yeah,” Sunset chimed in.
“As I was saying, no. The Elements of Harmony were sealed, my darling’s student had been chosen for the task of wielding them but was too ignorant of friendship to be worthy.”
“Trixie always did have a problem with her ego,” Princess Twilight mused. Twilight's jaw dropped but her counterpart didn't seem to notice.
Princess Sunset turned and smiled warmly at Princess Twilight. “You stood up to me. Begged me to stand down, to repent. You shouted how much you missed me, how much you wanted me by your side again.” Princess Sunset sniffed, her eyes watering. “I’d never known you cared about me so much… if only I had the courage to approach you about how I felt all those years ago.”
“Shush, my love.” Princess Twilight leaned up to kiss Princess Sunset’s forehead. “The time for regrets is passed. We are together now, forever.”
“Indeed.” Princess Sunset returned the gesture. “None shall part us ever again and woe to they that may try.”
“Stop doing that!”
The two looked over at the ponies in the corner of the room, Twilight making a confused face. “Doing what?” Princess Twilight asked.
Twilight shuddered. “Kissing each other! It’s weird!”
“You hardly have authority to tell us how to express our love,” Princess Sunset snapped.
Princess Twilight giggled and nudged her. “Do you remember the night after your return?”
“No.” Princess Sunset giggled back. “It’s mostly a blur. I had no idea what wonderful uses for Aqua Eructo you’d come up with in a thousand years.”
“Okay, enough with this world.” Sunset repeatedly slapped her hoof on the portal device’s button. “Let’s get out of here before they tell us what they do with their horns.”
“Darling, we never thought of that!”
“Indeed, my mind is already—”
The two Princesses stopped as a portal consumed Twilight, Sunset, and their device.
The exit portal dumped them unceremoniously in a pile—limbs, tails, and wings all tangled together.
“Uhg... Twilight, your hoof is in my eye…” Sunset grunted, trying to tug herself free.
“Well, your tail… pthp!... was in my mouth!”
It took a minute or two to get straightened out and back on their hooves. While Twilight shook out her feathers, Sunset took a look around at their surroundings. They’d landed in an immense, but otherwise featureless square chamber. There were no windows, but lighting was provided by huge chandeliers that hung from the high ceiling. The only notable thing was a large passage that lead off from one of the walls.
“So... wherever we are... it’s boring.”
Twilight frowned at the stone walls. “Yeah, I’d agree with that assessment. Want to just go ahead and use the TPT again?”
“The Transdimensional Portal Talisman.” Twilight rolled her eyes, levitating the device up to eye level. The amulet-sized contraption rotated slowly in her grip, its ready light blinking.
“Weren’t we going with just ‘Talisman’ for short?”
“Why stop there?” Twilight grinned manically. “When we can make an acronym! Sounds a lot more science-y that way.”
Sunset shook her head and sighed. “You know, Twilight, sometimes you are so much like Sci-Twi, it’s a little disturbing.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment!” Twilight giggled and dramatically hit the activation button.
She pushed it again. Nothing. Twilight’s grin started to fade as she tried the button again and again. Despite the little blinking light, the machine continued to not do anything. “Um...I think we might have a technical issue.”
“Maybe it needs a recharge period?”
“Er…” Twilight swallowed hard, “I hope so.”
“I guess we might as well look around a bit.” Sunset shrugged, trotting towards the hallway. It proved equally as interesting with more drab grey stone, no windows, and the occasional pool of illumination.
“Why is this place so big…” Sunset faded out, her ears flicking forward as she came to a standstill. She flashed her companion a look. “Did you hear that?”
Twilight squinted and nodded her horn into the distance. Ahead of them was another pool of light, and beyond it was a opening in the endless stone walls. “Somepony said something... I’m sure of it.”
The branching hall was just as big and featureless as everything else, with only a faint blue-tinted light at the end of the tunnel. The voice, now obvious, was unrecognizable. Like someone mumbling to themselves rather than a conversation.
“I don’t like the look of this.”
“Yeah, creepy tunnels with mumbling at the other end is never a good sign.”
Twilight shook her head and nodded upwards. “I meant that, actually.”
Sunset followed Twilight’s gaze. Above the intersection was a sign that read simply ‘Special Containment.’
“That’s... not a good sign either.”
Twilight pulled the Talisman out again and gave it an experimental push. Nothing continued to happen. She shrugged at Sunset. “Well, we’re still not going anywhere yet. We either go forward, or back. Both options aren’t very appealing... but we did this to test out the device and we need better lighting to run a diagnostic in the field.”
Sunset set her jaw, frowning before she nodded and the duo pushed onward. The blue light got brighter as they walked, and the mumbling louder, but no more distinct. The hallway emptied out into another huge room, but this one was filled with empty cages of all sizes.
They looked around for the source of the mumbling and spotted a small cage in one corner. Inside was a wizened old thing the size of a pony with four black hooves, two wrinkled red claws for hands and a shaggy beard under sickly yellow eyes. When they spotted it, he smiled back at them with sharp, misaligned teeth.
“Tirek?” Twilight squeaked out the name. “But you were in Tartarus!”
“And here I still am, Princess.” Tirek griped the bars of his cage with bony fingers. “Welcome.”
Twilight jammed the device’s activation button, but it didn’t respond. “We can’t be here! We have to get out of here, Sunset!”
“Wait... you mean we’re in actual Tartarus?” Sunset whistled. “I saw the gates once, in Equestria... guarded by a three headed dog.”
“Yeah, Cerberus. I took him back once, after he slipped his chain.” Twilight rattled off the story mechanically as she opened the Talisman’s casing to look at the inner workings.
Tirek smiled again. “It looks like I have two new roommates to waste away for eternity with.”
“Twi... isn’t Tartarus supposed to be a prison plane?” Sunset’s eyes narrowed at Tirek. “Like... no one escapes from it. Ever.”
“Except for him.” Twilight groaned. “We have a problem, Sunset. The TPT is working. But this is Tartarus! The plane’s very makeup is keeping it from doing that!”
Tirek leaned against the bars of his cage, chuckling to himself. “Gone and trapped yourself here, Princess? Heh heh... what a laugh! I can’t wait to see what sort of noble sacrifice you will make to save yourself this time, hmm?”
“Shut up!” Sunset stomped her hoof, putting herself between the cage and her friend. “Twilight will figure this out! We’ll be gone soon enough.”
“Oh, I doubt that.” Tirek eyed the device. “Tartarus isn’t just a prison. It is the prison. All others are but poor copies. No one escapes it... unless you know how to break the system.”
“What are you talking about?”
“As she said, I escaped. I... manufactured... a situation that eventually led Cerberus to wander off like a pup, throwing off the tight balance of the aetheric weave that keeps billions of twisted souls contained. So as you can see, I’m something of an expert on the subject of jailbreaks.” Tirek’s smile widened. “Understanding and bypassing something like Tartarus’ inescapable net needs experience.”
“So... you’re offering to help?” Sunset glanced back at Twilight frantically poking and prodding at the Talisman’s odd mixture of circuitry and arcane fetishes. She looked back at the decrepit centaur. “Why?”
“Something to do.” Tirek shrugged noncommittally. “It does get tiresome down here with no one to talk to or subjugate. Let me have a look and I’m sure I could give you some pointers at the very least.”
Twilight shook her head, her hair already starting to look a little frazzled. “I don’t trust Tirek, Sunset. But... he’s right. Maybe if we had centuries to study the way Tartarus works, we could figure it out, but right now... we’re stuck.”
“Unless we take him up on the offer?” Sunset raised an eyebrow. “I don’t like it, Twi.”
“If it makes you feel any better, my little ponies, I am still trapped in this cage. I cannot drain your magics... no matter how much I may wish to do so. You lose nothing by accepting my help.” Tirek chuckled again.
“Ugh... fine.” Sunset huffed, ready to move if Tirek tried anything.
Twilight brought the Transdimensional Portal Talisman up to the cage, turning it in her aura so Tirek could examine it. The centaur giggled like a foal, starting to do calculations out loud, intermixed with pointed questions about specific components. Despite his ancient and unnerving nature, Tirek nonetheless proved himself extensively knowledgeable in the arcane and nature of planar cosmology.
With a few deceptively simple tweaks, he instructed Twilight how the device could be made to slip Tartarus’ binds. After that, the work went quickly and in a matter of minutes, she was closing the Talisman’s outer shell. This time, when she pressed the button, a portal ripped itself into existence in front of them.
Sunset whooped at the top of her lungs, grabbing the alicorn in her hooves and spinning them both around.
While the ponies laughed together, Tirek reached his spindly arms through the bars. “What, no hug for me?”
“Ew! No.” Sunset stuck out her tongue. “Thanks... I guess. I hope we alleviated some of your boredom.”
“You’ve done more than that.”
Sunset shivered at the look on Tirek’s face. The sooner they were away from the awful little goblin, the better. “Whatever. I’m ready to see where this takes us next. C’mon, Twi!”
With that, Sunset squared herself, lined up with the portal and jumped through. Twilight lined herself up when the old centaur held up his hand for her attention.
“One moment, Princess. I want to give you something. A little piece of knowledge that may or may not come in handy some day.”
“What is it?” Twilight glanced back and forth between the portal and the cage.
“I have a perfect memory when it comes to magical matrices and systems.” Tirek whispered conspiratorially, his twisted smile going wide again.
Twilight pursed her lips, brow knitting in confusion. “Wh-why are you telling me that?”
“Knowledge given for knowledge received.” Tirek sank back into the depths of his cell, away from Twilight and the portal. “Be seeing you.”
Sunset hit water. Her lungs fought back and she held her breath. Her hooves hit submerged sand and Sunset spring boarded off it, shooting to the surface. She broke the water, gasping for air.
She saw blue skies filled with large, idle cumulonimbi. A look around revealed herself in a horseshoe cove within some small island. Trees just beyond the shoreline blanketed the slopes, giving the land a smooth feel. A large wall of bare rock separated the cove into two halves.
Twilight surfaced right beside her and, after taking in the scenery, the two swam toward the shore.
They emerged, dripping wet. The both of them shook themselves dry, inadvertently flicking water onto each other in the process and sharing giggles in the aftermath. The beach sand ebbed under their hooves, especially when Twilight sighed and took a seat.
Sunset, meanwhile, took a moment to crack her neck muscles. She glanced around, tracking seagulls circling through the skies. Their caws echoed in the cape.
"Perfect memory?” Sunset asked at length.
Twilight shook her head, lifting the Talisman from around her neck and setting it in the sand. “I’m trying to figure out exactly what that was about.”
"I mean… it made sense.”
"But why say that? I mean…” Her face went pale and she drew circles in the sand. “We… might have just given him a way out. But it was just that Tirek. He was bad…”
Sunset frowned. “We were toys. So I honestly don’t care.”
Twilight giggled, poking the Talisman. “Well, okay. You’re not wrong there. This is all pretty weird.” She paused, humming thoughtfully. “But then again, you go to school in some reality where everypony is human. That’s ‘weird.’”
Sunset cracked one last muscle and then flopped down in the sand herself, smiling. “Yeah. That’s true. And look at all those other realities.”
Twilight giggled. “They had ship wars, apparently, in that one reality we went to.”
Sunset laughed. “Look at that other reality where we were lovers.”
Twilight’s face grew red and she froze like she had crashed. Tentatively, she averted her gaze.
Sunset grew red in the face as well and dug her hooves into the sand. “I mean, um… we were princesses together.” She started fiddling with her hair.
Twilight wasn’t even facing Sunset at this point. And, thus, Sunset did not see the slight grin on Twilight’s muzzle.
More seagull caws rang through the cove as ocean waves splattered against the shore and the wall of rock nearby. Water particles took to the air, which the wind and scattered to all directions. None that reached either of them, but the occasional large wave swept its way a reasonable distance toward them.
“Still,” Sunset said, levitating the Talisman in front of Twilight’s face, “I’m thinking. A Tirek inside Tartarus got us out. A Tirek outside Tartarus might get us home,” Sunset replied.
Twilight’s muzzle twitched thoughtfully. “Well, maybe. But I’d rather not have to rely on him if we can help it. Hopefully, we’ll come across something else.”
Sunset raised an eyebrow. “And what if that doesn’t get us home?”
Twilight took the Talisman from Sunset’s magic, eyeing it closely. “Well… we’ll see.”
At that, the two set their sights on the ocean far beyond the edges of the cove. The horizon joined the sky to the sea at a neat line. The blues almost coalesced together even.
“To be completely honest, I thought I’d be a little more upset about all this,” Twilight said.
Sunset considered the sky, nodding vacantly. “You know, me too.”
Twilight looked up at the sky, noting the clouds far too dense for anything pony-made. The flora behind them, a mixture of leafy palmettos and reasonably tall oaks, actually weren’t either but resembled them to a decent degree. Even the sand didn’t feel like sand. “I have no idea where we are.”
Sunset nestled herself deeper into the sand, feeling it for herself. “Yeah. We must be really far away from home, in some… infinitely big multiverse. Makes you wonder if we’ll ever make it back.”
Twilight smiled, a twinkle in her eye. “I guess… With you here with me… it isn’t so bad.”
Sunset giggled. “Yeah.”
"I know I shouldn’t really wish this on another pony. But… I don’t think there’s anypony else I’d rather be stuck with through all this.”
At that, the both of them met eyes, locking stares. With each passing moment, their smiles grew wider and wider before they finally looked away, each giggling.
Sunset sighed with content and lay her head in the sand. “Twilight… let’s take a break for a while. I could…”—she yawned—“just sleep here for a while.”
Twilight set the Talisman in the sand and lay her head down as well, glancing out toward the horizon. Her eyes watched the waves creep up the shoreline. “Sure. Maybe… while the TDT rechar—”
“Talisman,” Sunset cut in.
Twilight chuckled, shaking her head. “…Talisman recharges, maybe we should… recharge too. Some rest will do us good.” She yawned as well, letting her eyes shut.
Sunset moaned contently, letting a heaviness close her eyes for her. There, on the beach, amidst the whistles of wind and thuds of crashing waves, they slept.
The sound of laughter jolted Sunset out of a light sleep. She blinked several times, looking over at Twilight. Had Twilight laughed? Sunset frowned, rubbing some moisture out of her eyes, clearing her vision.
The laughter rose up again and only then did Sunset realize it was coming from the other side of the rock wall. She heard the type of laugh that came out loud, the type which carried. The one that came after something especially funny.
And Sunset shuddered. The laughter sounded like her own.
Sunset leaped to her hooves, kicking sand up as she went. Sunset focused some energy into her horn just in time for Twilight to stir, just before Sunset’s world folded together.
Her teleport spit her out on top of the rock, and Sunset glanced around. Now she definitely heard voices. They were a ways off, sure, and still within the treeline from the looks of it. But the voices sounded like her own, plus another.
She listened. They were faint, but the other sounded like Twilight Sparkle.
“What’s going on, Sunset?” Twilight groggily slurred, touching down right beside her. The Talisman hung around her neck.
Sunset kept her eyes peeled for her supposed counterparts. “I just heard some voices. I think they might be this reality’s version of us.”
Twilight blinked, wiping the tired out of her eyes. “You think so?”
Twilight glanced around at the surrounding island. “Huh. I wonder what they’re doing all the way out here?”
Some brush some ways down the beach shifted and then two ponies—the exact two ponies the both of them expected—came into view. Sunset and Twilight watched as their counterparts trotted down toward the shore, exchanging some words that neither of them could make out.
The doppelgangers stopped just short of the water, staring out across the water. Some moments passed by. Twilight and Sunset watched in silence. The waves crashed on the shore. The seagulls that had once circled the skies congregated in silence even further down the beach.
And then, the other Twilight pulled out a purple, circular object, hanging from a string.
Twilight blinked. “What is that?” she whispered, pointing.
The object in their double’s grasp shot a violet and amber beam, which then swirled into an opening in front of them. The aperture shimmered, sitting right at the water’s edge.
Sunset jumped. “Oh! Hayseed! The Talisman! They have the Talisman!”
Twilight went white as a sheet. “No way.”
"Twilight! They… They have it! How—?” She turned to Twilight and then paused.
Twilight, her mouth hanging agape, reached down and stroked the Talisman hanging around her own neck. The design on its lid pulsated, telling of internal energies. It was the real deal.
Their eyes met, then they whipped back around toward their counterparts down the beach now stepping through their own portal. Their own portal, which looked exactly like the ones that Twilight and Sunset had been making themselves.
And then the portal shut tight behind them, leaving no traces that a portal had ever existed in the first place.
And both Sunset and Twilight stared at the spot with globed eyes. A shudder ran down both of their spines, their throats ran dry, and their hearts beat like mad.
And then, finally, a single thought flashed across Sunset’s mind, and with that thought, she truly trembled.
We aren’t the only ones.
The duo landed in the middle of a polar desert with snow and ice in every direction you look.
“T-T-Twilight, w-where are w-we?”
“I-I d-d-don’t kn-know, S-Sunset.”
“C-C-Can we g-go b-back?”
“N-Not until the T-T-TBT –” “The T-Talisman.” “N-Not now! – recharged.”
“T-Twilight, I’m c-cold.”
“Me t-too... W-We c-c-could c-cuddle t-to share b-body heat.”
If any of them was blushing, you couldn’t see it anyways.
“A-Alright, T-Twilight.” The two proceeded to embrace each other. “B-But if you t-try anything with your horn…”
After falling through the portal again, Twilight recognized the familiar, crystalline walls right away. “We are back in my castle!”
“Wait, so after unspeakable horrors, probably helping Tirek escape Tartarus and finding out we are not alone, we’re back home just so? Talk about anticlimactic. I mean, if this would be an anime, now would be a good time for a comedic filler arc.”
Twilight gave her a confused look.
“There’s still much I have to teach you, young padawan.”
Twilight gave her an even more confused look
The alicorn suddenly spotted five familiar faces in a room at the end of the hallway and decided to immediately run up to them without thinking. “Girls, you won’t believe what happened!”
“Wait, Twilight, we don’t know if they...", Sunset tried to call after her. "...are really our friends.”
Twilight reached the room and tackled the other ponies into a tight hug. “I created a portal with Sunset and we traveled to other worlds and there were talking toys and beautiful islands and a frozen wasteland…”
“T-Tara? What are you doing?”, replied the orange earth-pony.
“And what are you talking about? It’s nowhere in the script,” came from the white unicorn.
“What do you mean ’in the script’?” Twilight asked.
Meanwhile Sunset trotted up behind her lavender-furred friend and looked around. Her gaze fell on the equipment and several cameras standing on the sides. “Oh no, please don’t tell me…”
A purple dragon stood up from his folding chair and walked annoyed to the ponies.
“What was that supposed to be, Tara? We have a tight schedule and your little joke will only make us more problems.”
Twilight stood there like a pony in the headlights. “What’s going on, Spike? What are you all talking about? My name is Twilight. This is my castle. You are my friends and we went through many adventures together. And why do you all keep calling me Tara?”
Now everyone else looked concerned at her.
“Hey Lydia, I think she finally lost it.” the blue pegasus whispered to the orange earth-pony.
“Not the right time, Ashleigh.”
The white unicorn put a hoof on Twilight’s head. “Are you alright, Tara? It’s me, Tabitha. Did you hit your head somewhere? Andrea, be a dear and get her something to drink.”
While the yellow pegasus went to do that, the dragon approached Twilight. He started to speak slow and careful.
“Let me clear that up for you. My name is Spike and I’m scriptwriter, director and play a character with the same name. Your name is Tara and you are the lead actress of ‘My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic’, a famous TV-show about the fictional life of Princess Twilight and her friends. All of us usually get along pretty well, but you know how I can get if I’m under stress. So please tell me you didn’t have a mental breakdown.”
Despite being one of the biggest minds in Equestria, Twilight only now seemed to slowly realize her situation.
Which is why Sunset decided to take matter into her own hooves.
“Hahaha, that’s enough, Tara. You can drop the act now.”
Spike’s expression went from concerned to annoyed again in an instant.
“Really? You’re on thin ice, Rebecca.” He pointed a claw at her. “Don’t forget, that we let you join the main cast mostly because of fan demand… especially after the bad response we got with Starlight last season.”
“If you’d let me appear in more episodes–”
“Shut up and go back into your corner, Kelly!”
“Uhm… Sorry?” Sunset offered weakly. “Tara was just showing me around here and bragged about being a great actress, so I dared her to act like she’d think she’s really Twilight.”
“Wasn’t Jennifer supposed to show you around last week?”
“Oopsie. Maybe I kiiiinda forgot,” responded the pink mare.
Twilight finally caught on. “Oh, yes, sorry. We just tried to… lighten up the mood, hehe.”
“Alright, apology accepted.” Spike released a breath. “And you are right. This stress is getting to all of us and maybe we really needed a quick distraction. But... didn’t you call in sick today, Tara? And didn’t you take a day off to spend it with your family, Rebecca?”
“I-I suddenly felt much better and decided to help anyways.”
“And I hate my family.”
“Well, now that you two are here you can actually help us.”, Spike then addressed everyone present. “Short break while I look up the schedule!”
The group of ponies dispersed and they started chatting among themselves.
“I can’t believe she did that.”
“Can I come out of the corner?”
“She really got me.”
“No, Ashleigh, we won’t make a spin-off called ‘My Little Dash: Rainbow is Awesome’.”
When they were out of earshot, Sunset and Twilight released the breaths they had been holding. The latter hung her head in shame.
“Sweet Celestia, thanks for saving our flanks, Sunset. I don’t know what went into me. I completely forgot we were hopping through dimensions for a moment.”
Sunset put her foreleg around her friend’s shoulders. “Don’t worry, Twi. I’m missing them, too. We’ll see them again soon, I’m sure.”
“Yeah, we’ll see them again. But what do we do now? We can hardly open a portal in the middle of the set, where everyone is watching us. What if somepony follows us?”
“I said don’t worry. I’ve seen something like this on TV. We’ll just pretend to be actors for the day, maybe snag something from the buffet, and when we get a moment alone, we’re gone. Easy. You can act, right Tara?” Sunset asked with a grin.
“I should inform you, Rebecca, that I played ‘Clover the Clever’ in the Canterlot Hearth’s Warming play.” Twilight announced proudly. “I also just happen to have an eidetic memory. You're right. What could possibly go wrong?”
Suddenly Spike spoke up. “Alright, everypony, slight change of plans. Now that Tara and Rebecca are here, we’re going to do the big kissing-scene.”
Everypony was excited… except Twilight and Sunset, who looked horrified.
“Why did you say that, Twi?”
“K-Kissing scene?” Twilight asked, looking horrified. She turned to Sunset. “Is that in the script?”
Sunset turned to Spike, nodding like a bobble head.
Spike sighed. “I guess you guys haven't gone over the script in a while, so let me fill you in.” he said, putting a claw to his forehead. “Tara, you're going to be in the castle reading, taking a quiet moment to yourself when Rebecca comes in, saying she's got a dare from Rainbow Dash to kiss you. Got it?”
Twilight got it. She just didn't think she could do it. “Er, yes sir. Just for reference though, could we maybe do a run-through with the scripts?”
Spike nodded. “Sure. Why not?” He handed the two mares their scripts and went to sit down in his director's chair, which was pretty large for a dragon so small. “And, action!” He called.
“Hey Twilight,” Sunset said, walking up to Twilight casually. Or at least attempting to. She had briefly skimmed over the script and she knew this wasn't going to be easy for her or Twilight. She really hoped that a portal would open soon. She didn't think she could handle the awkward conversation after this.
Twilight looked up from the book she had been pretending to be reading. “Hey, Sunset! I'm so glad you're here!”
Even though Twilight was simply acting, the adorkable smile on her face calmed Sunset’s nerves a little, and she couldn't help but smile back.
“Why's that?” she asked in response.
Twilight's eyes grazed the script again. “Because there's this scientific research paper I wanted you to help me with and-”
Sunset put a hoof to Twilight's muzzle, effectively shushing her. The blush that rose to both of their faces could have heated up a room. “I have some scientific research we can do together...” She said, leaning in to kiss Twilight. Her heart was pounding so hard she could hear it in her ears.
Just as they were about to kiss, Spike yelled, “Cut, cut!” He stepped on to set holding a phone to his ear. “Change of plans. The big guys think the kiss scene is too risky. It'll take a while but we need to revise the script.”
Both Sunset and Twilight breathed sighs of relief.
“Thank Celestia that's over,” Twilight mumbled.
“Do you think Celestia is even a God here? Or is she just an actor too?” Sunset pondered. “Wait, if she's an actor too, who actually rules this world? And do they move the sun?” She groaned. “My brain hurts.”
Twilight rolled her eyes. “Whatever the case, we have to get out of here. I don't know how much more of this I can take.”
Sunset nodded. “You're right. Let's blow this popsicle stand.”
The amulet around Twilight's neck glowed and, before they knew it, the girls were once again traveling through space and time.
When they landed, they were shocked to see that they had touched down in front of Canterlot High.
“Wait, what?” Sunset asked. “We're back in the human world?” She looked down and saw that she was back in her regular body. No horn, which meant that this wasn't anywhere near Equestria.
Twilight squinted. “Don't think so. Remember, in the last universe we were in, everyone was an actor. This world could be just like that.”
Sunset shrugged. “Well, we were toys at one time in this journey, so honestly nothing is going to surprise me at this point.” She helped Twilight up, and they both walked into the seemingly normal high school.
Everything looked pretty much the same, from the walls, to the lockers, even the students. Nothing was out of place. Except for the fact that everyone was staring at them.
“Uh....” Twilight said, clinging on to Sunset. “Why are they all staring at us like that?”
Sunset didn't have the faintest clue either. “Unless we have a whole head of cabbage stuck in our teeth, I'd say there's a very weird reason.” She scanned the crowd of students and found Rainbow Dash at the head, and called to her. “Dash!” She said, putting both hands on the girl’s shoulders. “What's going on?”
“Whatever do you mean, darling?” Rainbow asked.
“Huh?” Sunset sputtered. “Darling?” She then looked down to what the other girl was wearing. She had on a bright flowery dress. One that would have suited Rarity rather than her. But Rainbow was wearing the dress, not Rarity.
Rarity was standing in the crowd too, just a few people behind Rainbow. Her outfit was even more bizarre. It looked like she was in a soccer uniform. A dirty one at that. Something Rarity wouldn't ever be caught in.
Then there was Pinkie Pie, who looked like she would rather be anywhere else but in a crowded hallway. Her usually loud outfit was replaced with something soft and subdued.
Fluttershy, on the other hand, was almost thrilled to be around this many people. She also looked like she had about a pound of sugar for breakfast this morning.
And Applejack? Applejack was still... well Applejack.
“Wow, I guess Applejack is the same in any dimension,” Twilight said.
“What the heck is going on here?” Sunset asked. “Why are you wearing a dress?” She asked Rainbow.
“Why, Rainbow Dash always dresses in style, darling,” Rainbow chuckled. “You know that I've always had a flare for fashion.”
Sunset couldn't respond to that one.
“Why is everyone staring at us?” Twilight demanded.
“You really don't know?” Someone in the crowd asked. “It's because the school bully and the school nerd showed up to school together!”
“I'm better now I swear! You all know this!” Sunset said, pleading.
“No not you,” Trixie responded, shaking her head. “Her!” She said, pointing to Twilight.
“Me?” Twilight asked. “I'm the bully?”
Sunset glanced over to her purple friend, her body frozen as she processed the information that was given to her. She laughed nervously, while she frantically waved her hand is dismissal. “There must be some sort of mistake! I’m not that kind of person—”
Baffled, Trixie narrowed her eyes and glared at Twilight.
“Are you sure about that, Sparkle? Trixie does not think so,” asked Trixie.
Amidst the crowd of students, a few of them laughed hysterically. Trixie shook her head abruptly and reached out for Pinkie Pie.
"Didn’t you remember punching poor Diane Pie here, yesterday?" She slowly pulled Pinkie’s right sleeve, revealing a massive bruise that covered most of her hand. Pinkie turned away with a sorrowful expression and returned to Rarity’s side.
"B-But I didn’t do that; it must be someone else!" Twilight quickly retorted, staring at Pinkie looking confused. She yelped, and hid behind Rarity’s back.
Again, Trixie shook her head. "Tsk, tsk, tsk, Sparkle. It was obviously you. Purple hair with neon-pink streak on it, broad shoulders, and rather large breasts—"
"Shut up!" cried Twilight. "I’m telling you the truth, I didn’t do it!"
Trixie glanced over her own shoulders and smiled smugly. "You’re gathering quite a crowd, Sparkle. Must be because you’re so funny!" She shoved Twilight against the many lockers that decorated the hallway.
Trixie cracked her knuckles, and beamed a menacing grin at the helpless girl on front of her. "Goodbye, Sparkle—"
She rose her fist into the air, only for it to be stopped by Sunset. Sunset, with all her might, threw Trixie to the ground and puffed slightly. "Don’t ever do that again."
Trixie nodded as fast as she could and dispersed into the crowd.
"What just happened?"
"Why did she do that? Doesn’t Twilight despise Sunset?"
"Why would she even help Twilight after all the harassment and harm she had given to her?"
"Shut up!” Sunset cried angrily, her hands gripping her own hair tightly. The crowd took a step back, confused and frightened.
"J-Just go away, please. Twilight didn’t do anything wrong—I swear!" She pleaded repeatedly until the crowd eventually faded away into obscurity in the minds of both Twilight and Sunset.
Twilight crawled over to Sunset and hugged her tightly. She pulled away from the hug and stared at Sunset’s watery eyes.
“Are you alright?” she asked softly, only to be interrupted by her companion.
Sunset, infuriated, shot a glare at her. “Does it look like I'm alright!?”
Twilight took a step back away from Sunset, hurt from her friend's sudden outburst. Sunset, clearly worried, approached Twilight softly and hugged her. “I-I’m sorry, I didn't mean it—”
“No, no, it's alright,” answered Twilight.
“No, it's not alright, Twilight. The fact that I shouted at you like that is not alright,” Sunset stated. “It's just that all this reminds me too much about my time as the school's bully. I hate it, and I hate seeing other people being bullied. I wish I could've helped you earlier, but my body says otherwise; I just froze there, watching my friend being accused of something she didn't do.”
Tears began to form up in Sunset's eyes as she looked away from Twilight, disappointed at herself. Slowly, Twilight embraced Sunset and closed her eyes, content.
“Hush, Sunset,” she whispered. “Everything is going to be okay. They're gone now, aren't they?”
Sunset nodded. “Yeah, I guess so—”
“Oi, who the hell are you!?”
Slowly, Sunset turned around and notices the looming figure that was walking towards them. Twilight Sparkle; but not the one she knew. She approached the pair and smiled smugly.
“Well, well, well, Sunset,” the alternate Twilight sneered. “You finally made a new friend?”
She looked over the person that was hugging her victim. However, something felt off about her, as if she knew her or something.
Twilight softly whispered towards Sunset's ear. “I am going to activate the Talisman in five seconds. Say something witty or something—”
Before she could finish her sentence, Sunset shifted towards the right, revealing other Twilight the identity of this newcomer: herself.
“What the fu—”
And with a flash, both Twilight and Sunset blinked out of existence.
Sunset caught herself, her fingers scraping against dirt and gravel.
A blast of hot air washed over her, filled with soot and dust and the overwhelming stench of smoke.
Twilight sounded off by launching into a coughing and sneezing fit.
“Careful.” Sunset couldn't help but smile as she helped Twilight to her feet.
“Ugh. I want to recalibrate for a smoother landing. This is starting to get obnoxious.” Twilight cleared her throat one more time and wiped at her nose. “So, where are we this time?”
Sunset finally took a good look at their surroundings. A quiet suburb. Or at least what was left of one. Rubble filled the streets, and only about half of the buildings still stood. Smoke formed a haze in the sky, backlit by the red-orange glow of a roaring fire. Distant booms sounded like thunder, but were almost certainly something far worse. Sunset licked her lips. “Nowhere good.”
Twilight nodded. “You're right. This looks dangerous. The smart thing to do would be to sit here, not touch anything, and wait until the portal recharges.”
“Solid plan.” Sunset took a few idle steps, and felt something crunch under her feet. A robotic arm peeked out from beneath some rubble, with bulky mechanical joints, and loose wires sticking out of scorched holes. “But what if someone out there is hurt?”
They both glanced at each other, holding eye contact until Twilight chuckled. “Can't argue with that. Just be careful.”
They made their way forward, staying close and carefully watching every step. No signs of life seemed to stir around them.
“There you are, Sunset! About time. I was getting bored,” the voice of Twilight Sparkle called out from behind them. Another Twilight Sparkle, human. Pinned under some twisted mass of steel girders.
“Hold on!” Sunset rushed over. “I'm sure we can get you out of there somehow. Twilight, go find something that can be used as a prybar!”
The pinned Twilight blinked several times. “Prybar? What are you talking about? Just use your magic to…” Her eyes flicked between the pair, and she sighed. “Oh. You’re Voyagers. I'm from X37-B. Wherever you’re from, I could really use an assist right now. There should be a pouch right near that pile of rubble where you're standing, Twilight. In it should be a clear vial with metal flakes in it. Bring it to me.”
Sunset glanced at Twilight. They both shrugged. “What do you mean by Voyagers?”
“Sliders, Travellers, Dimension Hoppers, Loopers. There's always outliers, but eighty percent of the other Twilights I've come in contact with have a clear preference for the term Voyagers.” She pursed her lips. “Sunsets are only seventy-three percent sure, though.”
The pinned Twilight smacked herself in the forehead with her one free hand. “Goddess above, you're both total newbies at this, aren't you? Alright, for starters, call me Sparkle. It'll make things easier. Also, hurry up with that vial, this is mildly uncomfortable.”
“Sorry.” Twilight knelt beside her counterpart and handed her a vial filled with a clear liquid. Metallic flakes floated inside, jostled by the movement. “So that's where we are, then? This is dimension X-whatever?”
Sparkle laughed. “Of course not. I'm far away from home, just like you two. Very far.” She pulled the cork out with her teeth, then downed the liquid in a single gulp. Almost immediately, her complexion brightened. She grunted, and steel shook around her until the mass of it hurled into the air, as if thrown by an invisible giant.
Sparkle stood up, stretching, her bones popping audibly. She seemed older than Twilight, maybe middle-aged, but her face was completely smooth, lacking any wrinkles or imperfections. It gave her a sort of timeless beauty that defied numbers. She wore a hole-ridden lab coat, stained with dark red around the edges. Unblemished skin showed underneath.
“Thanks.” Sparkle pulled a pair of unbroken glasses from her pocket and slipped them onto her face. “I get overconfident sometimes. Wasted the last of my power regenerating, couldn't get the girders off.” She waved a hand, and flashes of light flickered across her glasses. “Alright, so you're both from dimension C-45-H. Pretty far off the dimensional track.”
“You can regenerate?” Twilight asked at the same time Sunset asked, “Can you get us home?”
Sparkle chuckled. “When all of the multiverse is your plaything, you can pick up a lot of neat tricks. Magic from one world, technology from another...” Her eyes grew a distant, and an odd smirk crossed her face. “Let's just say there's a reason a lot of people think Sunset and I are gods whenever we enter the scene.”
Silence hung between them, just long enough to be uncomfortable, before Sparkle coughed. “Anyway, I might be able to help. My own portal isn't on me at the moment, and I don’t have time to grab it. Here, let me see yours.”
Twilight proffered their Talisman, and a purple aura snatched it out of the air. Almost immediately it exploded, separating into several dozen smaller parts.
“Hey!” Sunset took a step forward. “What are you—”
Sparkle raised a finger. All of the parts spun around in midair, soon joined by parts that floated from Sparkle’s bag and out of her pockets. In moments, the device had completely reassembled itself in a whirlwind of engineering. “Here,” she said, tossing it back to Twilight. “That should do the trick.”
Twilight fumbled with it awkwardly for a few moments. “It feels… different, somehow. This will take us home? Just like that?”
“Not quite. Your device is good, but it's still incredibly primitive. I've locked it onto your home dimension, but it can't make the entire journey in one trip. Ten or twenty more hops should do it.”
“Wait, how does that even work?” Twilight tilted her head to the side. “There's a function of distance that matters when dimension hopping?”
“No, of course not. It's…” Sparkle scowled, and crossed her arms over her chest. “What do you want me to do, sit here and explain the entire theory of multidimensional waylines to you?”
“Right, of course I would say that.” Sparkle sighed, then reached into her pocket and pulled out a small metallic cube. She closed her eyes, and it erupted with violet electricity for a few seconds. “There. Several petabytes of theory. I wrote most of it. Good luck finding something that can actually read it.”
Twilight took the device, her hands shaking with barely contained glee.
A loud boom rumbled in the distance. Sparkle glanced over her shoulder. “Well, I have a war to be getting back to. Do you kids need anything else?”
“Um…” Twilight glanced at Sunset, and bit her lip. “How long have you been doing this? The Voyager thing?” Do you have any advice for us?”
Sparkle barked a short laugh, hollow, and full of unimaginable bitterness. “I don't know how long it's been anymore.” She took a step forward, firelight reflecting off of her glasses. “First advice when it comes to Voyaging? Don't. It all seems like fun and games at first. But when you can do anything and go anywhere, nothing means anything anymore. No matter how powerful you get, there will always be actions you can't undo. Friends you can't save. Choices that have to be made.”
She stepped even closer, eyes burning with intensity, and gripped Twilight's shoulders until the younger girl cried out in pain. “Second piece of advice.” Her head whipped to the side, and locked eyes with Sunset. “Hold on to her. In the entire multiverse, the only constant I've found is Twilight Sparkle and Sunset Shimmer. Always, and forever.” Sparkle took a deep breath, her voice little more than a ragged whisper. “She's the only thing in all of existence that matters.”
A shiver ran up Sunset’s spine. “Your Sunset. Is she…”
Sparkle pulled back, her haunted expression replaced with the same arrogant smirk from earlier. “Sunset? She's busy, that's all.”
Twilight rubbed her shoulder. “Busy doing what?”
As if on cue, a distant pillar of light pierced the heavens, shattering the cloud cover and revealing a green sky.
Sparkle raised a hand and a luminescent barrier fitted around them just as a terrible wind rushed past, strong enough to flatten what buildings remained. They watched it pass, safely inside.
Eventually the torment around them died down, and Sparkle lowered the shield. “You kids have fun now. I've got to go give her a hand.” Without waiting for a response, Sparkle leapt into the into the air, carried by an unknown power, and quickly vanished into the smoke and dust.
They stared at each other in silence for what felt like an eternity. The Talisman dinged. They could move on.
Twilight looked away. “I don't want to become her.”
Sunset took a deep breath, then took Twilight's hand in her own and rested the other on the portal device. “I won't let that happen. We're going to get home. I promise.”
“Twilight, I think we should get out of here, before the other me decides to do any more, uh, ‘winning’.”
“Me too,” agreed Twilight. “Hopefully the next dimension will be one less… exciting.” Another series of explosions echoed in the distance. Twilight and Sunset instinctively pressed together. They looked into each other’s eyes, and then glanced away, blushing. “Yup, definitely time to go!” Twilight quickly said. Still hand in hand, the two girls pressed on the Talisman. The swirling energies it spat out coalesced into the familiar tear in spacetime.
“Ready?” Twilight asked. Sunset just shot her friend a stupid grin. “Wait, I need to tie my shoes.”
Twilight just shook her head and gave an exasperated sigh. They both broke into giggles at the dumb joke.
“Seriously though, we should go,” Sunset finally got out. She squeezed Twi’s hand and together they stepped through the portal.
Once more, the other side of the portal dumped the two girls in a heap. Sunset groaned, and began to push herself up to her hands and knees.
“Ugh, Twilight, you really should get started on those… cali… brations…” Her current situation caused her voice to trail off and her face to heat up. Twilight was lying on her back on the carpeted floor, limbs splayed. Sunset’s hands were firmly gripping two very prominent protrusions on Twilight’s chest, while her knee was sitting between Twi’s legs, pushing her purple skirt up. The realization set in, her turquoise eyes widening, her breath hitching in her throat. Her hands involuntarily—possibly voluntarily, she wasn’t sure—squeezed. Twilight’s face grimaced, her eyes fluttering open.
“Oof… yes, I should get on those cali… brations…” Twilight’s voice also decided to trail off when she noticed Sunset on top of her. “Um, Sunset Shimmer? Why are you on top of me? And why are you grabbing my…?”
Sunset’s hands twitched again. Twi’s face instantly flushed.
“Gah!” Sunset’s hands jerked away. “Sorry, sorry!” she kept repeating as she stood up and helped Twilight to her feet.
“It’s fine, Sunset, you didn’t hurt me,” Twi said as she smoothed her skirt, blush returning to a more manageable level. “It just means that I need to work on the TPT sooner, rather than later.”
“Talisman,” Sunset retorted, her face also cooling down. “Now, where are we?”
The two looked around for the first time since arriving. The first thing they noticed was a large heart-shaped bed in the corner of the room. It had obnoxiously pink pillows and a comfortable-looking red velvet blanket. Sunset and Twilight just blinked at it. In fact, the whole room seemed to be themed pink and red. Exploring further, behind a door they found a rather lavish bathroom with a shower big enough for two. Twilight and Sunset just blinked at that as well. Backtracking to the main room, they opened the other door and found a small kitchen, though it did have plenty of food. Twin growls suddenly came from the room’s two occupants. They looked at each other and broke into giggles.
“Sweet Celestia, I’m starving!” said Twilight. “How long has it been since we’ve eaten anything?” She found bread, peanut butter, and bananas, and began making some sandwiches.
“I think it was when we were on that ship, and Sunlight Fan #10,000,204 made us some tea. I hope she managed to put out that fire,” Sunset said thoughtfully.
“Wow… it feels like that happened weeks ago.”
“Yeah, I know what you mean. So much has happened since then.” Sunset made her way to the refrigerator and found tons of whipped cream and strawberries inside. She just chuckled and facepalmed. “Well, I’m pretty sure I know where we are now.”
“Weawy? Wheaw aw ee?” Twilight asked with a mouthful of peanut butter- banana sandwich.
“Well…” Sunset began with some trepidation, “I’m fairly certain that this is a love hotel.”
“I think we should eat and clean ourselves up while we’re here. No offense Twi, but you really stink.”
“Fhey-“ Twilight finally swallowed. “Hey, come on, it’s not my fault! We were on a tropical island, in two separate wars, and we were even in Tartarus for Luna’s sake! Not to mention that time we almost k-k-ki… aaand besides! You don’t smell any better, Miss Bacon-Hair!”
Sunset held her hands up in a placating manner and chuckled. “Alright, Twilight, you have a point. Tell you what, you eat some more and I’ll go take a shower. Then we can switch, and then get some sleep. OK?”
“Alright, sorry for snapping at you… I guess I’m just frazzled. It’s not every day you’re accused of bullying one of your best friends… even if it was an alternate universe version of her,” Twilight said glumly.
Sunset quickly walked over and gave her friend a hug, and with warming cheeks, also gave her a quick peck on the cheek.
“What was that for?” Twi said, with hot cheeks of her own.
“Just… letting you know I’m always here for you. And… as thanks for always being a good friend to me.” Sunset pulled away and quickly said,”Well, I’m going to go take that shower now.”
As Sunset walked away, Twilight’s eyes lingered on the retreating figure’s hips. She snapped out of it quickly, though.
“Come on, Sparkle, you can’t think about her that way,” she said to herself. “There’s no way she feels the same way.” She dug back into her sandwiches, ravenously eating. Her mind drifted back to Sunset and she wondered what it would be like to really kiss her…
Sunset finished washing and stepped out of the shower, wrapping herself in a handy towel. She had hardly taken a step toward the hair dryer when the bathroom door suddenly opened, revealing Twilight, similarly garbed… except for a large amount of cleavage showing.
“Twilight? What are you doing, I’m not done in here yet!” said a startled Sunset.
“Awww, you’re already done with the shower, Honey Buns? I wanted to get in with you!” said Twilight. She had a dopey look on her face and spoke in a tone that could only be described as love-struck. “I guess I’ll just have to settle for that sexy mouth of yours!” And with that Twilight practically launched herself at Sunset’s still dripping body. She wrapped her arms tightly around Sunset’s ribs.
“Honey Buns? Whoa, Twi! What’s gotten into y-mmmpf!” Sunset was cut off as an eager set of purple lips locked with hers. Sunset’s eyes widened and she flinched as a purple hand snaked down her back and grabbed one of Sunset’s honey buns through the towel.
The VERY forward Twilight pulled away from her siege on Fort Sunnylips and slyly said, “What? You grabbed some soft things of mine earlier; I’m just returning the favor. Besides, it’s your fault for being so bucking sexy all the time.” Then with renewed vigor she once more passionately attacked Sunset’s mouth.
The scientific side of Sunset’s mind was racing. The emotional side was pretty much dead weight at this point.
What in the world could have caused this crazy change in Twi?! I’m not acting madly in love towards her, so there must be an outside factor! she thought desperately.
Casting around for a possible culprit, it hit her like falling backwards onto the bathroom floor.
Which, incidentally, had just happened. Twilight was on her hands and knees over Sunset, with that dopey grin still etched on her face.
The food! Twilight was the only one who ate.
Twilight began to bring her face down to Sunset’s for another kissing spree, when Sunset shot her arms up to grip Twilight’s shoulders.
“Twilight, listen to me!” Sunset begged. “We’re in a love hotel. The food probably has aphrodisiacs in it! You need to snap out of it!”
Twilight stopped. She blinked. And blinked again. Slowly, a look of horror came over her face. She brought her hands up to cover her beet-red face. Sunset scooted out from under her.
“Hey, Twilight. Look at me,” Sunset murmured. She reached over and took Twilight’s hands in her own. There were tears forming in the corners of Twilight’s eyes.
“I’m sorry… I’m so sorry Sunset.”
“It’s OK, Twi. I’m not hurt. Well, I guess my, erm, ‘honey buns’ are a bit sore from us falling over.”
Twilight gave a dry snort at that.
Sunset took a thumb and wiped the corners of her friend’s eyes. “So don’t cry. You couldn’t have known. Come on…” She stood and helped Twi up. They exited the bathroom and walked to the big heart-shaped bed. “We’ve both been on an emotional roller coaster since we slept on that beach. Let’s get some sleep, alright?”
Twilight quietly nodded. She crawled under the blanket.
“I still need to dry off. I’ll be back in a few minutes. But, you know…” Sunset paused, “If you wanted to kiss me so badly, you could’ve just asked.”
Twilight just groaned.
"Sunset, are you asleep?"
Sunset Shimmer stared at the wall, still curled up in the bed "Not really..."
"I can't sleep either..." Twilight murmured. Sunset heard and felt her shift on the bed. Much to their surprise, they'd discovered that it was a water bed, and every little motion sent ripples everywhere.
But that wasn't why Sunset couldn't sleep. As exhausted as she was, her mind couldn't stop going a million miles an hour, going over everything they'd seen. "Can't stop thinking?"
Twilight giggled quietly. "Yeah. You?"
Sunset shifted as well, turning to face Twilight. They'd set a pillow between them to give each other a little privacy, but Twilight was currently hugging it, staring at Sunset. "After all we saw? It'd be weird if I wasn't." Sunset rolled her eyes and groaned in frustration as her stomach growled.
"You really should eat something..." Twilight said, frowning.
"Not here. Everything's probably laced with those aphrodisiacs." She smirked as Twilight's cheeks reddened. "One of us needs to stay in control."
Twilight nodded into the pillow, her eyes peeking above it as she tried to hide her cheeks.
"We can always find a diner or something in the morning." Sunset shrugged.
"But we don't have any money! I think? I didn't actually check our pockets. Do you think the portal magic would give us money? Does it actually think that far?" Twilight gasped. "Does it think at all? It might have some sort of consciousness! Do you-"
"Twilight!" Sunset interrupted, halting her friend in her tracks. "I think we need to get back home first before we start on that." She grinned as Twilight nodded sheepishly. "If worst comes to worst, we can just wait until the Talisman is ready, go eat, then portal out. It would be the best eat and run ever!"
"Sunset!" Twilight frowned. "That's awful! And it’s the TPT!"
"Hey, I did say if worst comes to worst. I'd rather pay, but if we can't, I'd rather eat before we jump again."
Twilight was still frowning, but she slowly nodded. She hugged the pillow tighter, her eyes drifting to the side in thought.
Sunset knew Twilight well enough to tell she was holding back. "That's not what's really bugging you, is it?" Twilight's eyes snapped back towards Sunset. "Come on, Princess. Spill."
"You know you don't need to call me that..." Twilight murmured. Sunset's response was simply to raise an eyebrow. Twilight sighed. "It's what that Voyager Twilight said."
"Us being constants, you mean?"
"No-well, yes, but..."
"She said to not do it. She talked about choices. She talked about being gods." Twilight hugged the pillow even tighter, her eyes shimmering with unshed tears. "Being a Princess is one thing, but a god...?"
"You don't like being a Princess?" Sunset asked, shifting closer to Twilight.
Twilight shook her head. "I do, I wouldn't change it for the world. I do miss how easy-going my life while I was still a student, but..." She shrugged. "No, I love being the Princess of Friendship. But a god? Of multiverses? I just..."
"Feel like you'd lose something of yourself?"
Twilight's eyes stared into Sunset's. "...yes. Exactly."
Sunset took Twilight's hands into her own, squeezing them tightly. “I told you before. I won’t let that happen.”
Twilight stared at their hands, then back at Sunset’s eyes. “I believe you.” She whispered, smiling.
Sunset smiled back, but quickly turned it into a smirk. “Now, I think we should try sleeping for real.” She raised an eyebrow as Twilight nodded slowly, her cheeks reddening. “Twilight?”
“Can you… um…”
“Can I what?”
“Can… can you hold me?”
Sunset blinked, staring at her friend who could apparently no longer look her in the eye. She looked at her hands, still holding Twilight’s. Sunset smiled. “Sure.”
Twilight’s face brightened. She quickly turned around, and scooted closer to Sunset until her back was against Sunset’s chest. With only a slight hesitation, Sunset wrapped her arms around Twilight’s waist, both getting as comfortable as they could.
Sunset murmured as they both relaxed, sleep overtaking them quicker than they’d expected. “I think I like being the big spoon…” She felt Twilight giggle quietly.
“I’ll return the favor later.”
“Okay…” Sunset yawned, her eyes fluttering closed. A last thought bobbed to the surface of her mind before she drifted off.
… Return the favor?
Sunset glanced down the corridor, looking for anyone else. Even if they were strangers in a strange land... Or universe, as the case might have been, there was always the risk of running into someone they knew. It was better if they were seen by the least people possible. Except for the diner patrons, but she was too hungry to care about anyone there.
“Coast is clear. You ready?”
“TPT is ready.”
Sunset rolled her eyes. “Okay, let’s go.” She stepped out of the bedroom, Twilight quickly following her out. As she pushed the door shut, she froze as the door opposite their room opened, followed by two quick intakes of breath.
Oh Celestia damnit…
As she and Twilight turned around, Applejack and Rainbow Dash stared back. Sunset grinned sheepishly. “Hey guys.” Her grin turned to a mortified smile as her stomach rumbled with the fury of a caged beast. “...you two hungry?”
Applejack snapped out of her stupor first. “I could eat, sure. I thought you guys were checkin’ out Everton though? What are you doin’ here? In a love hotel?”
“We came back!” Twilight blurted, her eyes wide in panic.
“But you called us from there this mornin’, and it’s a two day trip.”
“And what happened to your hair?” Rainbow asked, pointing at Sunset. “Last time I saw you you had a pixie cut. Even I know hair doesn’t grow that fast!”
Sunset stared at Twilight, who stared back at her. Or above her. Sunset fought a grin, figuring she could picture exactly what Twilight was thinking about now. But before she could say anything. Her stomach growled again, even louder than before. “It’s a long story. Buy us lunch and we’ll tell you all about it.”
Applejack and Rainbow glanced at each other, unspoken words passing between them before they turned back to Sunset. Applejack nodded. “Deal. C’mon, I know a place.” She said, grabbing Rainbow’s hand.
Twilight fell in with Sunset as they followed the pair, shaking her head. Sunset grinned, leaning closer to Twilight to whisper. “Look at them.”
Twilight giggled. “Just like at home.”
Sunset’s grin grew wider. “Equestria too?”
“They’re still trying to hide it. I think Dash just doesn’t want to look mushy.” Twilight laughed.
“We’re all just waiting for them to ask each other out at CHS.” Sunset shook her head. “I think we found another universal constant.” She said, earning a snort from Twilight.
“Hey, you two comin’?” Applejack said, turning to face them.
Rainbow grinned, waggling her eyebrows. “I bet they did last night~!”
“Rainbow!” Applejack glared. “Sorry ‘bout that one.” She said as Rainbow laughed, shrugging helplessly . “You know how she is. “C’mon. Breakfast is my treat. Tell us everythin’ there.”
“In every dirty detail-”
Rainbow and Applejack sat there, eyes wide and mouths agape in shock as Sunset and Twilight recounted their journey with the Talisman. After a moment, their plates of pancakes arrived, which Sunset and Twilight began to eat almost immediately. It felt like it had been forever since they had eaten anything and the pancakes with the warm syrup tasted so good.
“You know, I’ve never really done pancakes any other time than breakfast, but I have to admit they’re just as good at lunch,” Twilight said as she munched away.
As they ate, Sunset glanced up at Rainbow and Applejack, who still hadn’t started on their food. “Look, I know that’s a lot to take in, but you guys asked for the whole story. It may not have been every detail, but it was close enough.”
Applejack’s mouth slowly closed as she gave her head a small shake. “Right. O’course. That sounds like one humdinger of an adventure y’all have been takin’.”
“I mean, that sounds so crazy, but so awesome at the same time! You’re traveling to a bunch of alternate universes, meeting yourselves, different versions of all of us, and you’re doing it with someone you care about!” Rainbow exclaimed as she snapped out of her own stupor and began eating.
Twilight and Sunset looked at one another with a smile.
“Yeah, I guess it is pretty awesome,” Twilight said, twirling a lock of hair in her finger. “Spending this time with Sunset has been nice…”
Rainbow nudged Applejack with her elbow and chuckled. “I don’t think they’ve crossed into relationship territory yet.”
Sunset coughed as she heard Rainbow say this, but as she was about to speak, a portal opened up near them. Out of the portal stepped a rather tall woman dressed in black. She had her jet black hair slicked back and tied into a high ponytail, and she was wearing what looked like sunglasses faintly glowing with an odd red light.
Applejack and Rainbow looked at the oddly dressed woman, then looked to Twilight and Sunset.
“Friend of yours?” Rainbow asked.
Twilight and Sunset turned at this point to look at the woman. Whoever she was, she had a somewhat intimidating air about her. She wasn’t something they’d encountered yet, but they both knew it probably wasn’t good.
“Twilight Sparkle and Sunset Shimmer. You’ve violated the laws of multiversal travel. You are hereby required to come with me for summary judgement and punishment.”
Sunset looked over to Twilight whose eyes were wide in what could only be described as horror. With a sigh, Sunset stood up and squared off against this person. “What kind of punishment are you talking about?”
Sunset narrowed her eyes. “We’re just trying to get home. We don’t mean to keep popping up in random places. We just can’t seem to find the right place. Give us a chance.”
“Unacceptable. You’ve been causing disruptions in several other worlds. These disruptions will have profound effects on the futures of those universes. You will comply or I will make you comply,” the woman said.
“Sunset...I-I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean for anything like this to happen…” Twilight said as a tear fell down her cheek.
Sunset clenched her fists as she continued to stare down the woman. “Who are you? Who do you work for?”
“My name isn’t important, but if you must know, it’s Aeon. I’m part of a task force dedicated to catching those who travel the multiverse with no regard or care for what they do or who they might affect,” Aeon said.
“Can’t you just lead us home? This doesn’t need to come to anything as drastic as death,” Sunset said.
Aeon sighed. “No. I’m afraid that isn’t possible. Now, enough stalling. Come quietly or I will force to come with me.”
“Sunset...Let’s just go with her. We don’t have much of a choice,” Twilight said, grasping at the Talisman which was laying on the table.
“No!” Sunset said angrily. “We’ve been through too much to let this person take us and kill us. I won’t let her.”
“Then you’re a fool,” Aeon said as she raised her hand. A blast of red energy shot forth from her hand and slammed into Sunset, sending her into wall at the far end of the diner.
“Sunset!” Twilight exclaimed, standing up out of the booth and running to her. “Are you okay?”
Sunset managed to get up to one knee and glared at Aeon. “She isn’t taking us Twilight. I won’t let her. Is the Talisman ready?”
Twilight nodded. “Yeah. It’s ready to go.”
“Good. Be ready to use it when I say,” Sunset said. When Twilight nodded in acknowledgement, Sunset got to her feet and dashed forward at Aeon.
Aeon laughed as she easily sidestepped Sunset’s charge, and followed up with another blast of red energy. Now she turned her attention to Twilight and began walking toward her. “Give me your device and come with me. No one else needs to get hurt.”
“Hey! You can’t hurt our friends like that!” Rainbow said, lobbing a syrup-coated pancake at Aeon.
Aeon whipped around as she felt the pancake smack sloppily against her back. “Your insolence is unacceptable. However, my dealings are not with you two. You will wait outside,” she said as she raised a hand and blasted both Rainbow and Applejack through the diner window.
“Now, Twilight!” Sunset called.
Twilight activated the Talisman, and a portal opened up behind Aeon.
Aeon turned her attention back to Twilight. “What are you doing? Do you think to escape me? I’ll find you—”
“Shut up and leave us alone!” Sunset called, pushing Aeon through the portal, which promptly closed.
Twilight looked up at Sunset. “I’m not sure how that’s going to help us… If she can travel the multiverse without getting lost, she’ll find us again. I’m not even sure if we can leave here now. The TPT may be out of energy again.”
Sunset held her hand out for Twilight, who took it and was pulled to her feet. “It doesn’t matter. If she has anything similar, we’ll at least have a chance to leave the diner. Now let’s go check on AJ and Rainbow. I hope they aren’t hurt…”
As the two ran outside, they saw Rainbow Dash helping Applejack to her feet. Both had a few minor cuts, but otherwise they seemed to be okay.
“What in tarnation was that? Y’all didn’t tell us about some superpowered multiverse cop,” Applejack said, pulling a piece of glass out of her hair.
“We haven’t run into her before and something tells me it won’t be the last time we do. Are you guys okay? I mean... she did throw you both through a window.”
Rainbow and Applejack exchanged a glance.
“We’ve done worse,” Rainbow said with a snigger.
“Well, Twilight and I might-” Sunset was cut off by a sobbing sound from behind her. When she turned around, she saw Twilight kneeling on the ground. “Twilight?”
“This is all my fault. Aeon was right to want to take us back with her. What would have happened in this world if AJ and Rainbow had been killed when she pushed them through the window? What if we aren’t just affecting alternate realities, but the time streams in those realities as well?” Twilight said, rambling somewhat.
Sunset pulled Twilight to her feet and placed a hand on her cheek. “We’re going to find a way back home. If it takes us altering a few timelines, so what? I’m not letting Aeon take us when she finds us again.”
Twilight wasn’t very comforted by that, but she managed to force a smile. “Okay. Then I guess we should start planning for what to do when Aeon inevitably shows up again.” Twilight looked at the Talisman now and tried activating it. When the portal didn’t open up, she sighed. “We’re stuck here until it recharges. Let’s hope Aeon doesn’t show back up before it recharges.”
It was a hope that proved to be in vain.
No sooner had Twilight uttered the words, than another portal opened up mere feet away from the group, depositing a rather annoyed looking Aeon.
“Absolutely unacceptable!” she bellowed, her icy glare directed squarely at Sunset and Twilight. She raised her hand again, a threatening red glow enveloping it down to the wrist.
“Whilst my superiors would prefer for me to take you two back with me, I have no compunction over meting out your punishment where you stand! Make your choice!”
The scene had garnered a lot of attention and the crowd that had gathered started to murmur. The soft whine of… whatever it was that powered the field enveloping Aeon’s hand was the only other sound to reach Twilight’s ears, reminding her of the magical fields surrounding unicorn horns back in Equestria. Her hand reached up and clutched the TPT.
If only there was some way to manipulate the natural magic field into charging the device faster, they could escape this madwoman and get one step closer to home, maybe even lose her. Twilight spared a glance down at the Talisman, tilting it up to face her.
A sudden surge would work. A magical beam attack, or a bolt, or a—
A bolt! That’s it!
Twilight’s heart thumped in her chest as she leaned in and whispered to Sunset. “I think I can get us out of here, but we need to get her to shoot that bolt attack at me again.”
Sunset’s head whirled around.
“Are you crazy?!” she whispered back, harshly. “You could get hurt, or worse!”
“I think her bolts are charged by magic,” Twilight explained, still whispering. “If so, I might be able to use one to charge the TPT.”
Sunset gave the little box in Twilight’s hand an appraising look.
“You really think the Talisman can stand up to that?”
“Would you rather go with her?” Twilight countered.
“Then let’s do this.” Sunset nodded and turned back to face Aeon.
Twilight felt a sudden surge of confidence, completely antithetical to her breakdown of a few moments ago. She didn’t know where it came from, but she suddenly felt sure that she could do this, especially with Sunset and her two friends at her side.
She looked over at Rainbow and Applejack, who were casting their own, slightly nervous, glances between Aeon and the pair of interdimensional friends.
“What’s the plan, sugarcube?” Applejack called out.
Before Twilight could answer, Aeon’s voice barked down the street at them.
“There is no plan! You two will come with me and face your fate with dignity, or you will die in the street right here!”
“Hey!” Rainbow Dash yelled back. “You can’t talk to them like that!”
“Stay out of this, girl! Or do I have to throw you through another window to cool you off?”
Rainbow made to charge down the street at Aeon, but was held back by an orange-skinned arm around her waist.
“Whoa there, nelly!”
Sunset and Twilight walked past the struggling duo, drawing closer to Aeon. As they did so, Sunset said over her shoulder,
“You two just stay back. There’s no sense in either of you getting hurt any further.”
Rainbow ceased her fruitless efforts in escaping her lover’s grasp, her jaw slack in surprise.
“Huh?! But-but… we-you can’t-” she spluttered.
“I think we just gotta let them handle this themselves, Rainbow,” Applejack said, watching the two girls line up in front of the older woman. “I don’t think this is our fight.”
“But they’re our friends!”
“And sometimes you gotta let your friends work out their problems by themselves… even if that problem threw you through a window first.”
Rainbow grumbled but relented, relaxing enough that Applejack released her.
Twilight turned her attention from her friends to fully focus on Aeon. The woman still had her hand raised, the red glow reflecting off of her glasses. Her expression was one of tightly controlled rage, her lips pursed and her eyes narrow.
“Follow my lead and be ready,” Sunset said to Twilight, apparently standing up from a crouch. A slight turn of the head was the only indication she was talking to the Equestrian princess.
Twilight watched as the other girl stepped forward between her and Aeon.
“You don’t have to do this, Aeon,” Sunset called out, addressing the older woman by name. “We just want to go home. We’re not trying to cause any trouble.”
“Well, too bad!” came the angry response. “You’ve broken countless interdimensional laws, not to mention assaulted an officer of the Accord! You will answer for your actions!”
“We’ve never even heard of this ‘Accord!’” Sunset shouted back. “How can we obey laws we’ve never even heard of?”
“Ignorance is no excuse! Submit or be executed where you stand! This is your final warning!”
“Is there really no other way?” Sunset asked, her voice shaky but her stance firm.
“No.” Aeon practically spat the word.
The sudden resoluteness in Sunset’s voice caught Twilight’s attention, but she had no time to think about it as the other girl quickly cocked back her arm and threw something. Twilight caught a brief glint of light as a piece of glass hurtled through the air before Aeon suddenly stumbled back, a shout of pain escaping her mouth and her free hand grasping her face.
When the woman straightened up again, she removed her hand and stared at it in shock briefly, before her expression turned to one of pure, incandescent fury. A streak of blood ran down her cheek, already reaching her neck and soaking into her collar.
“You… little… witch!”
The intensity of the field around her hand surged, the colour becoming richer and the glow brighter.
The red bolt leapt from Aeon’s hand. As it did, Sunset ducked.
Twilight quickly darted in front of Sunset, straight into the path of the oncoming bolt, thrusting the Talisman out in front of her as she did so. As the bolt made contact, Twilight winced, but felt nothing but a small vibration in her hands as the little box took the full brunt of the blast and stored the energy.
Turning the device over in her hands, she saw the ready indicator was lit. It had worked!
“Wait… what?” Aeon spluttered incredulously. “What did you do?!”
Without answering, Twilight pushed the button on the Talisman. A portal opened in front of the smashed window of the diner, but immediately, Twilight could tell something was wrong.
The other portals had all looked the same, with clearly defined edges and a solid look to them. This one was different. It looked… unstable, swirling, with crackling edges that flickered like the flames of a log fire.
Twilight didn’t have time to reflect on this, however, as another shout from Aeon drew her attention.
“Stop! Now!” Another bolt careened towards Twilight, missing her by mere inches. She felt someone grab her hand and looked over to see Sunset, just as the other girl began dragging her towards the portal. Applejack and Rainbow Dash flashed past the pair, charging at Aeon.
“Go! We got her!” the farm girl yelled as they ran past.
Twilight bumped into Sunset as she suddenly stopped in front of the portal, giving it a concerned look.
“Is it safe?” Sunset asked.
“I don’t know, but we don’t really have the time to find out!” Twilight replied, hurriedly.
Sunset nodded. The pair jumped. The world turned to twisting colours and cacophonous sounds. Twilight was vaguely aware of her body shifting back into her more familiar alicorn form.
Then her vision went black.
And suddenly, everything was pain.
The portal spat them out into immense heat, the very air seeming to sear Twilight’s throat and lungs, burning her inside as it did outside. Underneath was a rough stone platform. Above, an orange, smoky sky roiling with fire. Through tears of pain, Twilight could just make out the forms of impossibly tall mountains everywhere, sharp and jagged against the angry sky. Coughing furiously against the foul and scorching air, she looked up as she felt something approach. Something big.
It was huge. Bigger than huge. Much bigger than any creature had any right to be. Something, possibly horns, stuck out of the side of its head and curved downwards. It stood silhouetted against the unnatural sky, its features hidden, but clearly looking at her and her companion.
And then the creature spoke.
“Twilight Sparkle and Sunset Shimmer?” Its voice was surprisingly cultured, if somewhat booming. “You two aren’t supposed to be here.”
The creature abruptly turned to smoke, swirling down to assume the form of a tall, dark and handsome male unicorn, his eyes glowing a deep crimson.
“Tell me,” the unicorn continued smoothly, walking slowly towards Twilight. “What brings you two to Hell?”
It was the eyes that kept both ponies rooted to the floor. They both felt pain and their vision get darker until they both realized that they were holding their breath due to fear. It was a sensation that both had felt many times in the past, but never in a dose like this and it was one more thing to add to their little adventure across worlds.
The eyes were old, older than Princess Celestia’s eyes whenever she showed her wisdom and experience. They showed wisdom, but more than anything they were hard and cold, almost like a steel sword that pierced both ponies where they stood.
“We-we… we were, I mean-“ The vision of such creature made Twilight Sparkle stutter with no control after seeing the creature disappear and reappear in a cloud of black smoke, almost like…
“Wait… King Sombra?!” At the mention of the name the unicorn smiled. It was a small little sad one, as if he had remembered something.
“I haven’t heard that name in such a long time, it sounds weird on the mouth of a pony one more time,” he said turning his sight to both ponies in front of him. “But I asked you something, what are Sunset Shimmer and Twilight Sparkle doing here? On this barren world devoid of life?” The unicorn showed such degree of eloquence and intelligence that made it possible for both unicorn and alicorn separate this Sombra to the one Twilight had fought back home.
“We are… lost,” The Princess said as Sombra’s eyes noticed the Talisman around Twilight’s neck and he began to laugh, the volume ringing and echoing among the tall, sharp stone spires that were once mountains and hills.
“Once more you find your way upon my world. It is truly remarkable. Even with an unlimited number of universes, you both find your way back to my doomed kingdom. Well, maybe not the same pair, but ones that look and even act like you. How truly remarkable.” Sombra said.
Sunset began to cough as the air made her throat burn, as if the only thing she was breathing was ash.
“Ah, yes, I do forget you mortals need oxygen to breathe, you’ll forgive me for not being able to help you in that regard,” the unicorn said looking at the eternal pyres burning in the distance while ash floated down like every day.
“What happened here? Is this Tartarus?”
“Oh hell no, we already did that one,” the redhead said, recovering from her coughing fit.
“Tartarus? Oh no, this is no Tartarus. That place would be better than this, or maybe that’s what this world turned into. No, Twilight Sparkle, this is my home, my kingdom. Welcome both to Equestria… or what is left of it,” he said. With a grand gesture of his hoof he pointed at a spire not too far away. The two Voyagers looked on the direction he pointed, and their mouths fell in fear and shock. They both had seen the tower. They had even spent most of their youth inside, watching the stars and talking with the alicorn that shaped the ponies they would be in the future.
“It-it can’t be.”
“I’m afraid, Twilight Sparkle, that it can. Welcome to what’s left of Equestria,” Sombra said with what could pass for laughter, but there was no mirth in his tone. Only sadness and hollowness.
“How did this happen?”
“Not your dimension, and you still worry about the world around you. It was long ago, each and every one of Equestria’s enemies joined in an attack against Celestia and her ponies. Let’s just say that things went downhill way too fast. So fast that nopony could stop the cascade effect of the war’s weapons and spells.”
Sombra watched the pyres, his mind going back into the dark days when everything collapsed.
“Seems that being an Umbrum makes you immune to the changes in the world. Now, here I am, the only survivor of the last Great Equestrian War, forever doomed to walk this fetid land,” he said.
Sunset couldn’t contain her anger and was ready to pounce upon the dark unicorn but the magic aura of Twilight stopped her in midair.
“Quite brave, Sunset. Sadly, nothing you can do would be able to hurt me. Believe me, if you could cease my existence I would be grateful, but alas, this is my penance. This is my own hell. Enough of me. Why are you two in this world, and why do you look so roughed up?”
“Someone is hunting us down. Apparently we broke someone’s rules on multiversal travel, and we were sentenced to death,” Twilight said as she still tried to process the hellish look of Equestria.
Sombra snorted at the words.
“Oh, those ponies… people… never quite got what exactly they were, I was too busy dealing with them. Oh, don’t look at me that way, of course I know about those idiots,” Sombra said just as another gate was opened not too far away from them. From it came another pony. Even though she had become a unicorn, the uniform and the completely mad look on her face signaled only one possibility about the pony’s identity.
“Enough! Not only have you been doing whatever you want with your device, you attacked an officer, resisted arrest and violated multiple laws. You will cease this moment and will receive punishment as the law dictates!”
“Oh yes, all according to the laws and power a bunch of little fillies and colts gave to themselves. So childish and immature; we found out we could travel, so, instead of researching it, we will become the ultimate private club. Or at least that’s what I understood, the last time you and your friends tried to judge me. What was it? Oh yes, ‘a danger to the multiverse, one that had to be disposed of.’”
As Sombra continued talking, Aeon’s face, which had only shown confidence and anger, now showed fear and terror.
“You-you-you are Sombra of world 78/sigma/4!” Aeon said as she raised her foreleg, ready to fire her energy blast at Sombra.
“Well, that is new. The last time I saw you, your friends only screamed my name as they tried to kill me. Pity, I never get good visitors. If it helps you, I can show you their mass grave. I made it just for them.”
As he spoke, Aeon tried to shoot him. Instead of a red energy line, nothing came out this time. Sombra—for the first time since Twilight and Sunset arrived—showed a smile that send shivers down their spines.
“Oh yes, did I forget to tell you? Most devices don’t work on this world. A last little gift left behind by Canterlot ponies.” With this, dark energy chains erupted from the ground and coiled around the body of Aeon.
As the chains began to tighten around Aeon a voice pierced the sounds of pain and enchanted metal.
“Stop!” Twilight screamed, not knowing exactly why she wanted to help Aeon.
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.”
“Charges: One count of illegal construction of space-altering devices,” a voice, both stern yet jaded said. She clearly had been through this routine many times.
Sunset just stared at the silver disk she stood upon. She could hear Twilight’s frustrated groans and cries of jubilation during the time they spent creating their portal Talisman.
“Thirteen counts of illegal interdimensional travel.”
And every world had been its own level of bizarre. So many places. So many people. So many sights. And Twilight had been with her through all of it.
A universal constant.
“Assaulting an officer.”
She started it, Sunset thought bitterly.
Yes, their journey had been dangerous at points, but she and Twilight had been completely fine until Aeon showed up. They were almost home, too. A few more jumps. Now, Twilight sat chained in a hell that used to be sweet Equestria, while Sunset stood here, waiting to be told she would die.
Aeon hadn’t entered the Director’s room with Sunset. She stood alone in an office that finally lived up to her expectations of interdimensional police officers. It curved outward like a crescent moon. Chrome paint with odd symbols covered the wall that stretched behind Sunset. A large, glass window made up the wall in front of her, giving a stunning view of space. Thousands upon thousands of stars glittered in front of her, shimmering dust thrown onto a black canvas. Twilight would have loved this too.
“Assisting a known universal criminal.”
Okay, she lost me now. Sunset had enough sense to hold her tongue. Or perhaps, she had moved beyond the point of caring. What did it matter? The Director’s room had reverted her back to her equine form, yet her front hooves remained bound, and an inhibitor ring around her horn locked her magic. The Talisman was who-knew-where by now. She had only emptiness. A void left behind by Twilight that ate at her, feasting on whatever passion and drive had once motivated her. This was it: her journey’s end.
“And finally, unauthorized access to restricted dimensions.”
Sunset repressed her urge to scream out the last of her rage, anger, and vitriol before she died. Instead, she glared up defiantly at the desk floating on a second silver disk just up in front of her. Jet black with gold trimming and nothing on top save for a gold name plate that read ‘Stella Nova.’ Its occupant sat in an equally black chair, back still turned to Sunset as she read off the crimes.
“All things considered, it’s not the worst I’ve seen from you,” Stella Nova said. She turned her chair around, revealing the bizarrest creature Sunset had seen yet. Stella’s skin was milk white on her right half and pitch black on the left with criss-crossed lipstick. Her grey hair was pulled up into a neat bun. Above it floated a metal halo that flickered different colors every few seconds. She leaned her head into her right hand and looked at Sunset with lidded, grey eyes. “So, how do you plead, Sunset Shimmer?”
Did she choose now to make a last stand? Argue her point? That she and Twilight had not been aware these dimensional laws even existed and that they just wanted to go home? It hadn’t worked on Aeon, and if Sunset had to guess, this woman would be even stricter.
Sunset slackened her shoulders and sighed. “Guilty. We didn’t mean to cause any harm. We just wanted to explore the multiverse. Then, we wanted to go home.” Her throat caught and tears stung her eyes. She would die before ever seeing home again, and Twilight would languish in Hell.
Stella seemed to scribble on the paper with her finger. “Ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking it, blah, blah blah, I’m sure Aeon’s already told you that one.”
Sunset took a second look at Stella’s face. While it looked flawless, upon closer inspection, Sunset could see the bags under her eyes. Either this woman was very bored, very tired, or both.
She turned her chair to the side and looked out at the stars. “Sunset Shimmer, when a world discovers the power to break through the barriers between worlds, they usually only do it with one world, giving us ample time to go in and meet with them. We offer them a chance to join our task force, or destroy their machines and tell them not to do it again.” She swiveled her chair back to Sunset, eyes wide with aggravation. “But you two. One little device, and you go galloping through the multiverse like it’s a carnival! Every time!”
Sunset cocked her head. “Every time?”
Stella leaned back in her chair and massaged her temple. “Do you know how many Sunsets and/or Twilight Sparkles have stood in my office?”
“One-hundred and seventy, including you. Sometimes quivering, sometimes defiant, sometimes dying, sometimes as heroes. But every time there was one of you… there was always another somewhere around.”
Universal constants. Sunset’s heart fluttered for a moment, then died again. Whatever she felt for Twilight was in vain. They would not be together now. Sunset hated herself for not saying something sooner. All of the signs had been there—they had always been there, ever since Twilight had reached a hand out to pull Sunset from her darkest moment. As much as she tried to push it away, Sunset knew they couldn’t be just friends.
But out there somewhere was another Twilight and Sunset. Maybe that Sunset wouldn’t make the same mistake.
Stella grumbled. “I used to believe that universal constants were a myth. Hundreds of millions of universes, all made by different choices, all heading in different directions. Of course some things would overlap, but every time there is a Sunset Shimmer, there is a Twilight Sparkle. So maybe, just maybe… constants do exist.”
The soft tone in her voice sparked something in Sunset’s dying heart. Did she dare to hope?
Stella straightened up and folded her hands. “Frankly, Miss Shimmer, I grow tired of this game. Sending someone to hunt you two down whenever a version of you makes that blasted portal device. I’m going to have to find a way to cut it at the source. In the meantime, I also grow tired of seeing you in my courtroom and having to send you to be executed. While you’re both pains in my rear end…” A ghost of a smile passed her lips. “You’re both brilliant and almost always trying to do the right thing.” She leaned forward. “So I’m going to cut you a deal.”
Hope roared to life in Sunset. She straightened her back and met Stella with a look of rekindled determination. If it meant saving Twilight, she’d do anything.
The ghost smile traced Stella’s lips again. “I will let you go and provide you with the means to return to Hell and save your beloved, as well as drop all charges against both of you under two conditions.” She held up a white finger. “One, you two must stop and/or apprehend the prisoner you helped release.”
“What priso—” Sunset’s blood ran ice cold, stalling the fire within her. “Tirek,” she whispered.
Stella gave a grim nod. “Thanks to your meddling, he created his own device and is now gallivanting across worlds, stealing all the magic he can before hopping somewhere else. My men can hardly keep up. So, since you released him, you’ll put him back. Or kill him. I don’t care which at this point.”
Sunset swallowed her rising fear. “And the second condition?”
“Upon returning to your world, you will destroy your portal device and all related portal materials and research, including the prototype mirror linking Equestria Prime to Earth Beta Five. Limited access or not, it’s getting on my nerves.”
A wave of despair drowned out the flickering fire of hope. No more connection between Equestria and the human world? She and Twilight would have to pick one world and stay there forever. Twilight would most certainly choose Equestria. But what about Sunset? Which world could she settle down in?
She shook her head, and the fire rose again. Twilight was the only thing that mattered right now. Giving up a world would sting, maybe even break her heart. But to save Twilight—her Twilight—the girl who had given her a new life… Sunset would sacrifice anything. “Deal,” she said firmly.
Stella rolled her eyes. “Of course.” She snapped her black hand, and the restraints on Sunset’s hooves fell off.
She gingerly rubbed them together. “You don’t expect me to survive, do you?”
“I’m sending you to Hell and after a magic sucking demon. Of course not. Even if you do, I will be there to personally ensure your devices are destroyed. Either way, I’ll have one less pair to deal with.” Stella turned her chair to the window and waved her hand. “Now get out of my sight. As always, your hair offends me.”
Sunset stood in the middle of what seemed like a training ground, outside of the Accord headquarters. Several guards were around her as well as Stella Nova, having apparently decided to see Sunset off. Whether it was to just make sure she leaves or because actually wanted to make sure Sunset was prepared was something Sunset could only guess. In Stella’s hand was a teleporter, similar to the one Aeon used, though it seemed much more simplified, only having three buttons on it. After fiddling with it for a couple moments, Stella walked up to Sunset and handed her the teleporter.
“Here, this is one of our training teleporters. It’s been configured to access only to three dimensions. I’ve set it up so the leftmost button goes to Hell, the middle button will take you to whatever universe Tirek happens to be in, and the rightmost button returns you here. I expect you to either return here with Tirek or not at all. Don’t disappoint.”
“Nice inspirational speech,” Sunset said with a roll of her eyes. She didn’t need Stella to remind her of the stakes, she knew how statistically it was going to end. Though Twilight and her did have a habit of beating the odds. She glanced back at Stella as she answered, waving off the sassiness with her hand.
“If you want inspirational, Sunset, read a poem. Just don’t ruin the chance I’ve given you.”
With that Stella walked off, leaving Sunset with the guards. Taking this as her cue, Sunset took a deep breath as she prepared herself. She hit the leftmost button and watched as the portal opened in front of her. She let go of the breath and walked through.
Sunset walked out of the portal, one of the few times she wasn’t just dumped on the ground, one of the perks of using a tested and calibrated device. She looked down at the ash by her hooves before looking up at her surroundings. In the distance, she could see the burning remains of what had to be Canterlot Mountain. It did still seem to have some structures on it, however, though it seemed miles off, maybe even half a day’s travel. She just hoped she wasn’t too tired by the time she got there, as she was sure there was going to be a fight.
Just as she was about to set off towards the mountain she hears a pair of voices, laughing, from behind her. One of the two voices was the same deep, booming, voice that Sombra possessed, while the other one was the same lighthearted and cute voice that Twilight possessed.
Sunset raised an eyebrow and started to head in the direction of their laughs. She went around a rock and saw a most unusual sight considering what this universe was considered. Out in front of her was Sombra and Twilight, lying down on a picnic blanket, having a conversation while they drank what looked to be wine and munched on sandwiches. They looked like they were having a wonderful time in the middle of Hell. Sunset had to shake her head to make sure she was seeing this right.
“… and he said, ‘Armor? I thought you said amore!’” Sombra ended what appeared to be a joke, as both him and Twilight burst out laughing.
“Wait, wait, wait, he got you how many magazines?” Twilight asked, still trying to recover from her laughing fit.
“Okay, what the buck is going on?” Sunset finally spoke up. Neither Sombra nor Twilight were really surprised she was there. Twilight just looked towards her while wiping away a tear from her eye.
“Oh, hey Sunny, when did you get here? Sombra was just telling me some stories from this Equestria.”
“That’s all you have to say to me? I come here to save you, expecting a fight, cheating death yet again, and all I get is a ‘Hey, Sunny’?” Sunset raised her voice slightly, even though she didn’t really mean to. She just didn’t expect Twilight to react in such a nonchalant way.
Twilight frowned and her ears went flat against her head.
“I’m sorry, Sunset. I didn’t mean it like that. It’s just like you said when you left, you were coming back for me. I knew you would. You always find a way, Sunset. It doesn’t mean I’m not grateful for you coming back for me, or anything, I just knew you were smart and stubborn enough to find a way,” Twilight ended her little explanation with a hug. Sunset groaned.
“You’re so hard to be mad at when you always know the exact right things to say.”
“That’s sweet and all, but you two know that she can’t leave, she made a deal,” Sombra chimed in, having let them have their conversation before speaking.
“Sombra,” Sunset started, “I know you two made a deal, but is there any way Twilight and I could leave? You know we don’t belong here.”
Sombra’s eyes glowed with black magic as he stomped his hoof on the ground, causing ash and dust to fly about, as well as knocking the two mares off their feet.
“No,” He said in a commanding and booming voice, “A deal has been made in my domain, it shall be honored. I shall not be left alone to memories and legend.”
“Twilight, have any ideas?” Sunset asked, shaking slightly next to Twilight. Sombra’s voice sounded like it could kill in and of itself. She looked to Twilight just in time to see her mouth the word ‘legends’ before her eyes widened.
“I think I’ve got it, if we’re lucky that is,” She stated to Sunset before she stepped forward and spoke to Sombra. “Sombra, I think I might have a solution. What if I could provide you with hundreds, if not thousands of Sunsets and Twilights?”
Both Sunset and Sombra tilted their heads at her.
“What do you mean, Twilight Sparkle? I know not of any sort of duplication magic.”
“Twilight, you better not mean…”
“Yes, Sunset. I mean the legend of the Mirror Pool.”
“Twilight, you know how dangerous that could be!” Sunset exclaimed, though Sombra seemed intrigued at the prospect.
“So this ‘Mirror Pool’ can create duplicates of you two, and then I can keep them?”
Twilight nodded, “Yes, you’ll never be alone ever again.”
Sombra took a moment to ponder the deal, before nodding slightly, “Alright Twilight Sparkle, I accept your deal.”
Sunset leaned in close to Twilight, “Are you sure about this? What if we get separated, and we don’t know which Sunset or Twilight is which?”
“Don’t worry, I have that covered, remember the name ‘Tom.’”
Twilight turned back to Sombra, leaving Sunset’s question unanswered. “Okay, Sombra. I just need you to lead me to where Ponyville used to meet the Everfree Forest.”
“Hmm. If I remember correctly, we’re in that spot, actually. As I said, not a lot survived the war, not even the magic of the Everfree.”
Twilight nodded and turned, trotting off, with Sombra and Sunset in tow. With all the destruction, it was almost impossible to tell the landmarks Twilight might have taken to get to the Mirror Pool in their home universe, though it did help that Twilight memorized the directions to most things in the Everfree. After about a mile of walking, Twilight found a boulder that seemed to be covering a hole. Though the only way that she could tell there was a hole was the slight smell of plant life. With the help of Sombra, she lifted the boulder and descended into the plant covered cavern below.
“This is amazing,” Sombra stood in surprise. “I had no clue anything like this still existed in this world.”
“Thankfully, it still does. Now come on, Sunset, let’s do the ritual and get out of here.”
Twilight and Sunset walked up to the small pond in the middle of the cavern, they both looked into the perfectly mirror like water.
“Should we do it together or one after the other.”
“I think the latter, just to make sure nothing bad happens.”
“Alright. You can go first, as I don’t have that rhyme memorized.”
Twilight nodded and started: “And into her own reflection she stared, yearning for one whose reflection she shared, and solemnly sweared not to be scared at the prospect of being doubly mared.”
Suddenly, another Twilight emerged from the pond, as if she was down there the whole time. This was followed soon by Sunset’s clone, having done the ritual after Twilight finished hers. Standing all together it was impossible to tell who was the real Sunset and Twilight.
That’s why Twilight came up with the code phrase.
“Okay, reality check, what was Rarity’s boulder called?”
Unfortunately, she got three responses with the exact same answer, “Tom!”
Twilight sighed heavily and put her hoof to her face, “Sweet Celestia, can’t it ever be simple?”
Sunset’s mind kicked into overdrive as she regained consciousness, and she let out a shriek as she sat up straight. She flailed her arms about, feeling her human clothes, the cool soil beneath her—she only calmed when she realized she was on solid ground, safe and away from Sombra.
“You’re awake!” chirped Twilight from behind her. Sunset turned just in time to receive a crushing hug from Twilight. She groaned in pain at the embrace, but didn’t move away. “How are you feeling? Did you get caught in Sombra’s blast at all?”
“I’m fine,” Sunset said. “Just a little rattled. But what is this place?”
The two looked around. The teleporter had thrown them into some sort of forest, its massive purple-leaved trees rustling in the warm wind. Only a minute awake, and already Sunset could feel the humidity seeping into her skin, calling forth a sheen of sweat.
“What should we do now?” Twilight asked. “Just wait for the TPT to recharge?”
“Actually,” said Sunset, pulling the new device out from her pocket, “it’s not the TPT. Or even the Talisman.”
“Sunset… what is that?”
“Aeon’s boss called it a ‘training teleporter.’ This is how we’re supposed to stop… or at least find Tirek. In fact, the last jump should have taken us to him… but there’s no one here. I get the feeling he’s kinda hard to miss. Ugh. I don’t know. Maybe the Mirror Pool caused this thing to malfunction?”
“Tirek broke out?” Twilight asked. “Oh, goodness...”
“Yeah. So we either go nail him or turn ourselves into the cops. And I’m pretty sure that won’t end well.” Sunset put the training teleporter away. “Let’s walk and talk until this thing’s recharged—I can fill you in on everything that’s happened. Who knows, maybe we’ll even run into someone on the way?” She offered Twilight a hand, pulled her up, and the two headed off.
The forest stretched out endlessly in all directions, but luckily the ground was flat enough that they could shoot through acres in mere minutes. While they hiked, Sunset recounted her confrontation with Aeon, the loss of their Talisman, Tirek’s escape, and all about the training teleporter. Twilight just grimaced at each new piece of info.
Yet, by the time an hour had passed—with civilization nowhere in sight—neither girl could keep from marveling at the universe they had fallen into. Unfamiliar birds sang overhead and alien insects scurried underfoot, teasing the scientist inside Sunset like glints of gold in a riverbed. And although purple dominated the landscape, tiny patches of blue and red flowers grew all around, lining the ancient tree roots.
“These are beautiful,” Twilight said, drawing close to sniff a blue flower.
Sunset nodded. “Y’know, this little journey of ours hasn’t been all bad. We’ve gotten to see some pretty baller stuff.”
Twilight shot her a furrow-browed glance.
“Cool stuff,” Sunset corrected. She stooped down to examine a discarded brown feather leaning against a tree. It had to be as long as her arm.
“Agreed.” Twilight leaned down, pushed her nose between some petals, and took a long whiff. “Like these—eek!”
Sunset whipped her head around just in time to see Twilight stumbling backwards, shimmering green vapor floating about her head. Twilight fell to her rear, and Sunset ran to help her.
“Whoa, what happened?” Sunset asked. “Are you alright?”
Twilight rubbed at her eyes, then looked up at Sunset. Her pupils had become as wide as suns. “Alright...? Who are you?”
Sunset waited for the smile, the laugh—but it didn’t come. “I’m Sunset Shimmer,” she said as Twilight stared. “I’m your friend, remember?”
“I don’t have any—what’s wrong with my body?” Twilight cried, staring down at her human form. She rose to her feet, wobbling about ungracefully. “And where am I? What’s going on?!”
“Twi,” said Sunset, forcing her voice to stay steady. She tapped into her memory-searching powers and reached out. “Calm down. Take a deep breath and—”
“Get away from me,” Twilight said, jumping back. When Sunset tried to grab her again, Twilight scrambled away. “Leave me alone!”
Sunset shouted out her name, but within seconds Twilight had disappeared into the purple foliage. Cursing, Sunset ran after her.
Sunset climbed up and over a massive log. She squinted to see in the dim light, scanning every inch of forest she could—but found no one.
She hadn’t cursed this much since middle school. Where could Twilight be? This forest was huge; how would Sunset ever have a chance of finding her?
Sunset collapsed against a tree. Her throat burned, her feet ached, sweat rolled down every inch of skin—she needed a break, even if for just a second. She closed her eyes and let the sounds of the forest swallow her.
Then, in the distance: weeping.
Sunset hated that sound.
Minutes later, Sunset stepped into a wide clearing, dirt forest floor replaced by a sweeping stone plateau. Those feathers Sunset had noticed before littered the ground. And at the other end, slumped against a fallen branch: Twilight, sobbing.
Twilight flinched when she noticed Sunset drawing close. “Go away!”
“Please,” said Sunset, “don’t be afraid, Twilight. Let me help you.”
“I—” Twilight sniffled. “Don’t hurt me. I just want to go home.”
“Yeah.” Sunset nodded. “Me too.”
Twilight sat up a bit straighter. “Are you from Canterlot?”
“You know it.” Sunset sat down. “Went to PCSGU, too. Kelpie House. Studied elemental magic. You?”
“Magical applications,” replied Twilight. She took a long breath. “None of this makes sense. One minute I was in the middle of a lesson, and now I’m here. What happened?”
“It’s a long story. Like, at least twenty chapters.”
“Well, how do we get back?”
Sunset raised her palms, each one surrounded by a shining gold aura. “Just relax. Just—”
Twilight screamed and toppled over to her side. Sunset rolled her eyes and prepared another cuss—but stopped when she noticed the massive shadow enveloping them, even darker than nightfall.
Praying for a trick of the moonlight, Sunset forced herself to turn around. All the breath left her lungs.
Leaves and discarded feathers skittered about as a massive roc descended into the clearing, its vomit-green eyes boring straight into Sunset’s. A bloody porcine carcass hung from its talons, but soon hit the ground with a thump as the bird focused its attention on the two very alive, very meat-filled girls standing before it. It stood as tall as a house, with a wingspan rivaling an airliner.
Sunset couldn’t shout, couldn’t talk, could barely breathe.
The roc advanced, pinning the duo against a tree. It regarded them with a sort of bemusement, tilting its head this way and that.
Twilight quaked. “What—what do we do?”
Forcing her mind to keep running, Sunset whispered, “On the count of three, run. One—”
With a screech, the roc thrusted its beak straight at Sunset’s head.
Both girls barely threw themselves out of the way before the roc’s beak hit the tree behind them, tearing through the wood like a power drill.
“Holy Celestia—” was all Sunset could spit out before she was lifted off the ground and thrown through the air. She spun in freefall before landing on her side. Her chest felt like it might cave in as she rolled across the rocky ground. Yet, she could only muster one thought: Where’s Twilight?
Sunset opened her eyes and managed a smile when she saw the bird coming towards her again. Twilight stood far off, knees trembling, hands wringing.
Plan, need a plan, Sunset’s thoughts shouted as the roc approached. It let out another screech, and this time dodging wasn’t enough. The bird’s beak caught the edge of her jacket and lifted her into the air again. She flailed and kicked, but all it earned her was another toss through the air.
She landed hard on her ass and let out a pained cry. Her rear had absorbed most of the impact, but something sharp in her pocket had dug into her skin. Collapsing, she pulled out the object.
The training teleporter!
The roc reared up over Sunset, spreading its wings out to their full length—then squawked and flew to the other side of the clearing, smoke trailing from its side. In its place now stood Twilight, holding a pair of flaming sticks.
“Thermal energy wins again!” Twilight said, holding up her weapons. She scurried to Sunset and helped her off the ground. “Can you walk?”
“Yeah, I just need a few minutes”—Sunset took in a breath, and nearly shouted at the sudden pain—”or hours.”
“I don’t think we have that long,” said Twilight. Across the clearing, the roc was tearing out its burnt feathers. They didn’t have much time before it would be on the attack again, even angrier than before. And it took time for the training teleporter to activate...
Sunset pressed the device into Twilight’s hands. “You need to leave. I’ll distract the bird. You just get to a safe distance, press this button here, hold it, and wait—you’ll find some cops, and they’ll help you.” I hope.
Twilight stared. “But what about you?”
The roc roared.
“Run!” Sunset shouted.
Clutching the teleporter tight, Twilight ran off into the forest.
Sunset groaned as she rose to her feet. The bird returned and let out a horrifying shriek, louder than any before.
“C’mon,” Sunset said, closing her eyes. “Gimme your best shot.”
Get home safe, Twilight.
Sunset dove to her right, barely avoiding another attack from the roc. She pushed herself back up, eyes locked onto the towering avian in front of her. Her legs burned and her lungs strained for air.
The roc whipped itself around to face Sunset, its enormous wings sending forth a large gust of wind. Sunset dug her feet into the dirt, raising her arms to shield her face from the flying leaves and twigs. She heard another deafening screech and upon lowering her hands, she spotted the roc launching itself at her claws first.
Sunset didn’t have time to think. Instinctively, she dived left. She could feel a strong wind soaring past her body, then her thighs.
And suddenly, pain.
Sunset landed in the grass screaming. Looking down, she saw that the creature’s sharp claws had managed to make a long cut up her right leg. The wound had started to drip blood onto the grass below, sending a wave of panic through her. She attempted to stand but a sudden sharp pain sent her tumbling back down onto the ground with a yell. She spun her attention back to the roc and to her horror, the creature was approaching her one step at a time.
No, no, no, no! Sunset dug her fingers into the dirt and attempted to crawl away. Her mind raced to think of a solution. A way out. Maybe she could use fire like Twilight did? Or maybe there was another item she was holding on to? As the seconds ticked by, a grim realization dawned on Sunset. She attempted to push it away, but as the roc neared her, she knew it was the truth.
There was no way out.
Sunset slowly turned back around, locking her gaze onto the fierce, remorseless green pupils of the roc’s. She hung her head and closed her eyes.
Our luck had to run out sooner or later, huh? She could hear Twilight’s laughter. The joy on her face as she tweaked a screw on the TPT. Just a few hours ago they couldn’t wait to press the button to venture out to worlds unknown. And now she wished they never did. Just stay safe. And don’t make the same mistakes I did. She begged in her mind. I’ll miss you.
The roc gave a deafening screech and Sunset shut her eyes as tight as she could. She awaited her end, hoping that the roc would have the mercy to make it quick. However, as the seconds ticked by, Sunset heard nothing. She shot her eyes open and the sight in front of her caused her jaw to drop.
Twilight was standing in front of her with one arm outstretched, the roc’s razor sharp beak mere centimeters from her palm. It darted its furious gaze between both girls, sending a chill down Sunset’s spine.
“T-Twilight?” Sunset called out in a nervous voice, but Twilight didn’t reply. Suddenly, the roc reared back, its head piercing the canopy of purple leaves. “T-Twilight…” Sunset spoke again. But now, the nervousness had been replaced with terror.
The roc whipped its head forward, cutting through the air with its beak. Upon spotting who the attack was aimed at, Sunset felt her blood go cold and her heart freeze in fear. She yelled as loud as she could, tears forming at her eyes as the creature landed its attack.
A shockwave exploded from Twilight’s position, shattering the nearby trees into splinters and wiping every blade of grass from view. Sunset stared in awe as a translucent ripple flowed from where the attack landed to all the way around her and Twilight, forming a sphere. Darting her head forward, she spotted the beak no more than an inch from Twilight’s hand.
“My advice, if you ever try to hurt her again,” Twilight spoke in a grave tone. “Don’t.” She pulled her arm back an inch before slamming it into the roc’s chest, sending it careening through the trees with a shockwave.
Sunset watched as the roc tumbled through the forest like it was made of paper, felling every tree it collided with. When it finally stopped, it quickly regained its footing before flying up into the skies above and into the mountains.
Sunset returned her gaze back to Twilight, a mixture of shock and fear slowly creeping up her body. “T-Twilight?”
Twilight spun back around, immediately rushing over to Sunset. “Sunset! I’m sorry. I-I’m so sorry.” Twilight attempted to move her friend but a pained groan quickly stopped her efforts. She glanced down, noticing the bleeding slice on Sunset’s right leg. “I shouldn’t have smelled that flower. I shouldn’t have left you. Please just … hang on. I’ll fix this.”
“W-wait, Twilight, you remember?”
Twilight nodded. She slung Sunset’s arm over her shoulder, lifting her up and escorting her towards the base of a tree.
“How?” Sunset asked through strained breaths.
“Aeon?” Sunset felt her anger building just from the mere mention of that name. She slumped against the trunk, a feeling of exhaustion rapidly overtaking her.
“Aeon found me. She put a bitter-smelling bag to my nose and all my memories came rushing back. And…” Twilight paused, drawing a confused stare from Sunset.
“And she gave me two of these.” Twilight reached into her pocket, pulling out a small vial filled with a clear liquid. However, what truly caught Sunset’s eye was the tiny metal flakes suspended within.
Twilight nodded, placing the vial squarely in Sunset’s palm. Sunset lifted it to her eyes, watching the metal pieces glitter from the sun’s shining light.
“Why would she help us?”
“She said she owes us. Well, more accurately, me. My best guess is from that incident with Sombra,” Twilight explained. She spotted Sunset twisting the vial in several angles as if she was looking for something. “Drink it.”
“No offense Twi, but I don’t exactly trust her.”
Twilight thought for a moment before reaching down and grasping Sunset’s other hand. “Then trust me.”
Sunset looked up, locking her gaze with Twilight’s. Twilight was wearing a smile and even though the expression was small, Sunset knew the meaning behind it was anything but. For a few seconds, there wasn’t a word muttered between the two. The only sounds she could hear were the rustling of the leaves and chirping from the birds.
Sunset gave Twilight a quick smile of her own before turning her attention back onto the vial in her hand. She drew a deep breath, holding it for a second before exhaling. Popping the cork at the top, she lifted the vial to her lips and tilted it back.
Sunset swirled the liquid around in her mouth for a second and she was swiftly hit by a torrent of sweetness. Her face contorted into a disgusted expression, drawing a giggle from Twilight. She swallowed it as quickly as she could, shaking her head once it was down.
At first, Sunset felt nothing. However, without warning, an intense surge of energy course through her veins. She gasped loudly and shot her eyes open as wide as they could go. What in Celestia’s name… Sunset pushed herself onto her feet. She expected to be greeted with a crippling pain but instead, she felt nothing. Glancing down at her leg, she caught sight of the wound swiftly closing upon itself.
“Twilight I feel… feel...” Sunset stammered, attempting to think of the proper word to describe the sensation flowing through her body.
Sunset took several steps forward and a confident smile appeared on her face. She glanced back at Twilight, nodding. “Alive.”
With the training teleporter in her hand, Twilight strolled up to Sunset, a worried look on her face. “What do we do?”
Sunset stared at the device in Twilight’s hands for a second, but the answer was clear to her.
“We end that dimension destroying being once and for all.”
Sunset reached for the middle button on the teleporter. She hovered her finger over it for a couple of seconds before retracting it altogether.
Sunset looked to her with a smile. “You wanted to press the button back when we started. I don’t want to rob you of that joy.” She winked.
Twilight gave an elated laugh. “Alright. Initiating dimension hop with the Talisman.” Sunset’s ears perked up upon hearing the word. She took a glance at Twilight and a quick wink told Sunset that she knew exactly what she had said.
Twilight tapped the middle button and instantly, a portal fizzled to life in front of them. “Let’s go, Sunset. We can end this.” Twilight was about to step in, when she felt Sunset reach down and grab her hand. She faced Sunset, her eyes wide and her mouth agape.
“Together, this time.”
The words sent a red hot blush through Twilight’s cheeks. She tightened the grip on Sunset’s hand and stepped through the crackling blue light. All the while, one word repeated constantly in her mind.
As they stepped through the portal, one thing was clear: the training teleporter they'd acquired from Aeon and Stella wasn't acting as it should. Either it had been damaged during their dip into the Mirror Pool, or…
… Or something, Sunset thought. Let's not point fingers. Hooves. Whatever.
Instead of whisking them immediately to their destination, they'd entered a tunnel of light. After a moment's adjustment to the glare, she saw that they were traveling rapidly above a vista resplendent with pale blue lines connecting pulsing violet orbs. These hung in a rich indigo night.
She bit her lower lip, thinking. Weighing cause and effect, possible schemes, moments ahead, the impending battle with Tirek…
Stella said it was a suicide mission. If they can't manage this, what are two nerds gonna do, “constants” or not?
Without taking lessons from Sparkle back there, I don’t know that we can.
Give up ourselves to save everything. How very Celestian.
“Oh, my gosh! Sunset, look! Isn't it amazing?!”
Twilight was staring at their surroundings. The blues and purples glittered in her eyes like precious gems.
Sunset glanced up, and lingered longer than she’d meant to. “… Yeah. What are they?”
Twilight fidgeted with the theory cube Sparkle had given her as she leaned closer to them, thinking.
Sunset chewed her lower lip, and tried not to think about the ratio of skirt to leg Twilight’s human form favored. Instead, she focused on the upcoming battle, tallying up advantages and hindrances.
Zero sum, no matter how I look at it.
“I think…” Twilight started.
Sunset quickly looked away from her mental math, and back into the splendor shooting past them.
“… I think they’re other dimensions and the lines are conduits for other Voyagers. Stands to reason, given where we are. I wonder how many of them are us.”
The back of Sunset's neck suddenly itched. She rubbed it gently, looked away and laughed.
It sounded strained, even to herself.
“Where to begin?” Sunset said, staring out at the ocean of lights. “Sentenced to death for simple experimental rigor by hypocritical law enforcement, sent to find and stop a villain so powerful said hypocritical cops tell me it’s a suicide mission—”
She stopped, her rant cut short by a pair of lavender arms around her waist.
“We'll handle it, Sunny,” Twilight said, her voice muffled slightly by Sunset's hair. Her breath close against Sunset's neck. “He’s never really met you, and I don't know anypo— anybody I'd rather face him with. You're always so strong and confident, when you let yourself be.”
“You handled that roc, while I… While I wasn’t home. You rescued me from Sombra.” She squeezed Sunset's waist. “When you actually allow yourself to shine, you’re brilliant.”
Sunset’s cheeks burned so intensely that she was certain her face could be seen from one of the orbs below, had they the ability to see.
“Wh-what’s wrong with a little rationality, huh?” She fought to keep the butterflies in her belly calm. They suddenly wanted to try out for the Wonderbolts. “Just being real, Twilight. Princess.”
Twilight shrugged her title aside, and nestled closer to Sunset. “No, you're not. You're tensing up and preparing to come up short, just like at the Battle of the Bands.”
Sunset tried not to think about the warm pressure against her shoulder blades as she slid around to face Twilight. Twilight's hands rested on the small of her back. With a little trepidation, she folded her arms around Twilight's shoulders. Twilight pulled herself into Sunset's chest, and sighed contentedly as she rested her head on Sunset’s shoulder.
Sunset spoke gently, trying not to spook Twilight. Or herself. “We defeated the Dazzlings with a lot of help from our friends, Twi. I don't know if you noticed, it's just us.”
Twilight looked into her eyes. In the velvet light, Sunset realized Twi’s face as was as incandescent as her own.
“Right. It's just us.” Twilight glided closer, and leaned up towards Sunset, eyes lit by the blue of the tunnel. “Just us, in the quiet before the storm. If we are constants… well, if we are, I’m glad it’s with you. I might not be the best at saying it, but I’ve always wanted—”
Sunset cut her off, pulling her into a tight embrace and kissing her deeply. Their bodies moved together, channeling the electric passion as they drank in each other.
Sunset pulled away. “Twi, I’m sorry! What if this is just like back at that hotel—”
“Hush. That was then, and you knew to stop. This is now.” Twilight pulled her back into another. This one long, languid, and a release of everything they'd not said to each other. Instead, they expressed all those lost moments in this one kiss.
It was the culmination of a friendship. It was validation of restored empathy. It was a perfect balance. It was an affirmation.
It was a beginning.
It was magic.
It was a long time before either one of them recognized the pulsing lights hadn't come from either of them ponying up. After one that shone brighter and longer than the others, Twilight broke the kiss.
Sunset opened her eyes, her butterflies thrumming through her body. “Hoo…” she sighed. “We should've done that a lot sooner.”
Twilight didn’t respond. She was staring out at the multicolored lights sailing past them with a look of equal parts curiosity and horror.
Sunset’s butterflies petrified, landing with a heavy thud in her belly. “What is it?”
Another flare of light lit up Twilight’s face. She winced in pain as Sunset turned to see what was happening.
The orbs near them were winking out in flares of scarlet light, one by one.
“… They're dying. I can feel them, all that magic…” Twilight whispered.
As they watched, another violet orb expanded slightly, only to shrink violently into nothingness. The pale blue lines linking it with the others shattered in a silent detonation.
From the indigo void, a crimson beam shot ahead of them. This time, they felt their passage adjusting course slightly.
“That can't be—” Twilight sputtered.
“—Tirek. That's Tirek.” Sunset felt the burning sensation of magic rushing along her veins as she called on the strange contents of the vial Twilight had given her.
Whatever had been inside didn't behave like what Sparkle had done so long ago. Sunset wasn't sure what it was, but she was now ablaze with power. She pressed forward, flapping her powerful wings, and—
—Wings? Oh, don't tell me…
She glanced down at herself, unable to see her bat-like demon wings under all the cream-colored robes and…
… oh. Thank the Sun.
Daydream Shimmer channeled her substantial magic into her wings and felt her aura brush against the edges of the dimensional conduit. The blue of the tunnel darkened to purple, and she shot forward in a red-and-yellow streak.
A burst of rainbows flew past her as Twilight appeared in a shower of magic. Her hair now held streaks of yellow and gold. Her normal blue shirt and purple skirt had been replaced by a wide sapphire blue gown with glittering violet and rose streaks of chiffon, Her own wings soared. A brilliant golden energy spire stood proudly on her forehead.
Dancing within her horn, spinning in Twilight’s magic, was Sparkle’s theory cube.
Like an oncoming dawn, they sailed after the retreating form of Tirek.
Infinite possibility flashed in Twilight’s mind as she held the theory cube in her magic. Ideas beyond number or understanding assaulted her mind’s eye in an unending battery of data and theory. The complexity of each fragment boggled her mind, each too intricate for Twilight to even begin to comprehend before the next appeared. She furrowed her brow against the sensory overload and attempted the magical equivalent of Applejack’s classic apple-in-the-mouth technique.
A little better.
A few more tries at stemming the tide of information and life became eminently more livable in Twilight’s brain, but more interesting still, the previously-disorganized cascade of thought had coalesced into a single nexus of sound.
No, not just sound. A voice.
“Hello, Twilight.” the voice said dryly. “I see you finally figured out just what was in that cube I gave you.”
“Sparkle?” Twilight said aloud. Sunset looked over at her, confused.
“X-37-B. The very same,” the voice came back. “And you don’t need to speak with your mouth for us to communicate. Skies above, you two really are fresh meat.”
“I thought you said this cube contained your complete multiversal theories?” Twilight said. “Why do I have your voice in my head?”
“Well, you didn’t exactly give me much time to come up with a reference,” Sparkle replied cooly. “So I made the next best thing: a perfect replica of my consciousness, just waiting for an emulator to run in. Which, surprise! That emulator is your brain. I’m ready to answer any questions you may have.”
Twilight tried to glare at her antagonizer, but found the task a difficult one. “I’ll debate the ethics of perfect cloning with you later,” she said. “For now, I guess we do need your help. I can only assume you’ve met Tirek?”
“Met him! Ha!” Sparkle replied. “I’ve sent too many versions of that loud-mouthed centaur packing to count. Sometimes he’s in awe of Sunset and me, sometimes he thinks he can stand up to us, but he’s hilariously incompetent no matter what conclusions he draws. Is there seriously a Tirek giving you trouble?”
“We accidentally set him loose from Tartarus, and the Accord has ordered—”
“The Accord? Those buffoons? This gets better and better with every moment. I’ve met countless Twilights and Sunsets, but you two do seem to have a special knack for getting tangled up in the most trivial of problems,” Sparkle said, practically cackling.
Twilight frowned, and Sunset, who had been studying her, asked her a question. Twilight didn’t catch it.
“Sunset said they’ve executed countless versions of us,” Twilight retorted.
“Be that as it may, “ Sparkle replied, “they’re no less foolish for trying to regulate a multiverse of literally infinite size and potential. I don’t even remember the last time I saw one of their agents, and I can only assume I’ve broken near every ‘law’ they’ve ever enacted.”
Twilight focused herself and spoke sharply. “Whatever your opinion of the Accord, if Sunset and I can’t beat Tirek and take him to them, they’ll—”
“They’ll what? They’ll kill you? If you don’t beat Tirek, you’re dead anyway. They aren’t going to interfere in your home dimension—too worried about their rules, I’m sure—so it isn’t like anyone you care about is in danger...aside from Sunset, of course. You have all the power in this situation, Twilight. Here, watch this.”
Twilight saw her manifested horn blaze with a thick layer of overglow, and suddenly she and Sunset landed.
Not on any of the orbs floating in the between-space, no. Whatever spell Sparkle had wrought—and with Twilight’s magic, no less, which was more than a little alarming—had plucked the two of them from the stream of light they were travelling in and put them down in the middle of a field of grass.
“Twilight? What’s happening?” Sunset exclaimed.
“I’m—the theory cube—I’m sorry, Sunset, give me a moment,” Twilight said, before turning her focus inward again. Trying to pay attention to the outside world made it hard to keep up all the spells damping the output of the theory cube, let alone converse with Sparkle.
Turning her metaphysical back on her friend, Twilight directed herself at Sparkle once more. “What did you do?” Twilight demanded.
“I’ve disengaged us from the natural forces that pull matter out of the space between dimensions,” Sparkle replied.
“Why? Why in Equestria would you do that?” Twilight said.
“Because you two need time to think, and when you don’t have space, you don’t have time, either,” Sparkle replied. “We can stay here for as long as we like. Not to mention it is very beautiful—and that’s coming from someone who’s seen far more than you could ever imagine right now.”
Twilight considered this. “I suppose that is quite useful, actually, but could you please refrain from using my magic without asking? It feels even more like an invasion of privacy than having you in my head does. And speaking of having you in here, any quick notes on how to make this cube of yours slightly more magically bearable?”
Twilight felt like she could almost see Sparkle smirking. “Permission to use magic? I can tweak your wards for you.”
“Ugh, fine. Granted,” Twilight replied. Her horn glowed again, and suddenly the weight on her conscious was lifted, and she could hear Sunset talking to her. No, shouting to her. No, crying to her.
“Twilight! Twilight, are you okay?” Sunset was saying, her voice awash with worry. Twilight turned to her friend—she realized they were both on the ground—and did the first thing that made sense.
As she broke the kiss—our third! Twilight realized. Our third kiss!—she wrapped Sunset in a tight hug. “I’m so sorry,” she said. “I’ve been trying to figure out the theory cube ever since Sparkle gave it to me, and I guess these powers from the potions Aeon gave us were the last piece.”
Sunset looked at her, and a grin broke out on her face. “Well? What’d you find out?”
Twilight frowned. “Unfortunately, Sparkle took the easy way out when she enchanted the cube. I have her voice in my head now.”
“She’s using telepathy? Across dimensions?” Sunset asked, looking almost impressed.
“Worse,” Twilight said. “It’s a copy of her consciousness. That’s what the magic I used that put us here was. She can apparently access all of my magic, in addition to being an insufferable voice in my head.”
Sunset’s crossed mouth mirrored Twilight’s own. “Well, what does she want?”
“To help.” They both jumped as Sparkle’s voice emanated from nowhere. “Sorry, Twilight, made one additional change. I figured it would be easier if I could talk to Sunset directly.”
“Well, oh, well—what do you mean, help?” Twilight said, her teeth grinding just a touch.
“Don’t do that; tooth regeneration magic is painful,” Sparkle noted. “I mean I know how you’re going to beat Tirek and deal with the Accord while we’re at it. It’s simple, really.”
Sunset smirked at Twilight. “You weren’t kidding when you called her insufferable.”
Twilight smiled back at her.
“The beginning of our relationship is always so cute,” Sparkle said. “Anyway, the plan is this: we banish Tirek to some particularly inhospitable dimension, you two get your hands back on your Talisman—that’s what you’re still calling it, right? So childish— and head back home, and then we make a few simple alterations to the fabric of reality and lock interdimensional travel forever.”
Twilight and Sunset’s eyes bulged. Nearly in unison they cried, “We do what?”
Sparkle sighed, and when she spoke next, she sounded almost wistful. “Sunset and I have had some good times, but I meant what I said to you both. Voyaging breaks your mind. I didn’t even realize just how true that was until I woke up in here with Twilight. I thought I’d burned every last shred of sentimentality out of myself a few hundred years ago, but I should’ve known seeing the world through younger eyes would...well, no matter.”
“But...what about all the Sunsets and Twilights that are still stranded away from their home dimensions?” Sunset asked. “We don’t have the right.”
“I don’t want to become her,” Twilight murmured. Is this what it means to be a god? Not to have powers, but to have the power to make decisions like this? Sunset’s right; there’s no way we can decide the fates of so many of ourselves, not to mention anypony else who’s away from home.
But at the same time, if the multiverse really is infinite, doesn’t that mean we’re also stopping an infinity of suffering by preventing travel by other monsters like Tirek?
“Trying to do the math on the ethics won’t help you now, Twilight,” Sparkle said. “Trust me. This is what we have to do. The prime version of us will probably figure that out in a few hundred more years anyway, and it won’t matter in the slightest what you do now. We weren’t meant to Voyage.
“Let’s end this now.”
Peaceful. The temptation to simply stay here with Twilight for the rest of eternity was beyond appealing. Just the two of them, together, forever.
But that wasn’t in the cards. Traversing time and space was a fun and incredible experience, even if setting loose interdimensional beings of ultimate destruction was a small hiccup in their journey. Turning her attention back to Twilight, she pulled her in for what just might be their last kiss. A few moments later, Sunset stepped back while still holding onto Twilight’s waist letting out a soft, passionate sigh.
“This is it, huh?” Sunset asked as she stared into those big violet eyes of hers.
Twilight nodded as she replied. “To quote one of my best friends: ‘Eeyep’.”
Both girls giggled at Twilight’s bad imitation of Applejack before returning to the silence of the grassy field, neither one of them really saying what needed to be said.
Taking a deep breath, Sunset moved to stand next to Twilight and gave her a slight nod signaling that she was ready. Using the same spell Sparkle used to pull them from space-time both girls found themselves back in it, moving rapidly forward as if time itself were frozen and waiting for them to return.
“There!” Twilight shouted as she spotted the crimson beam of light slamming into one of the violet orbs. The girls looked at each other, before immediately following after him. Landing in what seemed to be an exact replica of the grassy field they were just in, both girls had to take a moment to look around, wondering if Sparkle once more used Twilight’s magic to remove them from space-time.
“So, it’s come down to this,” a deep voice called out to them as heavy hooffalls shook the ground underneath them. Quickly turning her attention behind them, Sunset spotted their prey. She glared up at him, a slight growl growing in her throat. “Twilight Sparkle and Sunset Shimmer,” Tirek gave a slight chuckle as he stepped forward looming over the girls like a menacing mountain, a look of hunger in his eyes.
“You’re going back to Tartarus where you belong!” Twilight stated as she took a step forward. Reaching back she felt for Sunset’s hand and pulled her up next to her, interlocking their fingers together.
“You know how many times I’ve heard that by now?” Tirek laughed as he looked down at the two girls, his tongue passing over his lips. “Oh, I do very much enjoy the magic you two give me.” Sunset’s hand shook slightly and she felt Twilight’s grip tighter around it, reassuring her.
Together. Sunset closed her eyes momentarily and thought before a smile creased her lips.
Looking back up at the monstrosity that Tirek had become, she repeated Twilight’s statement in a loud, confident voice. “You’re going back, and we’re going to stop you once and for all!”
“You are certainly welcome to try,” he said. He slammed a hoof into the ground, cracking the very earth beneath them and sending the girls off balance.
Sunset and Twilight took to the air on their empowered wings, still holding hands as they rose. Tirek’s eyes followed their motion. A single glance was all that was needed and the girls shot off in different directions and away from the surprised Tirek.
“Not this time!” He only had time to react to one and apparently, he chose Twilight. Sunset watched his eyes narrow on the small object before her. All that stolen magic had given him more speed than Sunset could have imagined. There was a blur and materialized in front of Twilight, forcing her to pull back. Before she could react, a golden bubble popped into existence around Twilight before she could react. He smiled and pulled the cube away from her.
“What’s this?” he asked as he held the tiny object between his large digits. “Probably something to help you capture me. It shall be consumed nonethe—”
A beam of pure magic from behind cut off Tirek. Distracted by the cube and his intent to get revenge on Twilight, Tirek had apparently forgotten about Sunset. Still, he shrugged it off and with refocused attention on her. Tirek just smiled as she prepared another blast of magic.
“Silly girl... I am beyond such attacks,” he stated as the beam from Sunset unleashed her magic at him. He caught it one hand and simply closed his fist, obliterating it as if were nothing more than scrap. He bellowed with laughter as he approached Sunset, each step making the ground shake.
“I will consume you first as Twilight watches. The look on her face never gets old.”
For a moment, Sunset felt a jab of fear and panic. All she could do was watch as Tirek crushed the cube into dust. Before she could react, he unleashed his own magical fire. The blast hit Sunset squarely in the chest, knocking her to the ground. After a few painful rolls on the soft grass, Sunset came to a stop on her back, her vision blurred as the large shadowy figure of Tirek loomed over her. She blinked a few times and her eyes drifted to Twilight on the other side of the field.
“Sunset!” Twilight cried out as she tried to rip apart her prison with magic, but each attempt simply made the bubble around her stronger. Her eyes glistened, tears threatening to burst forth. Sunset could see her mind racing and for some reason, that made her smile.
Sunset rolled over and slowly got up, her right hand holding the left side of her body as each breath brought forth a sharp pain.
Not as bad as that roc, but I know he’s just toying with me. Think, Sunset, think…
Her eyes darted all around her. As Tirek moved closer, she knew there was nowhere to hide. Not like that would matter to a being like Tirek.
One thought came to her as she took to the air once more: The teleporter!
Sunset’s reflexes were still slow from that blast and she had only a fraction of a second to brace herself against a suddenly looming shadow. The giant hand of Tirek slammed into her left side sending her flying through the air, once more rolling across the grassy field coming to a stop only feet away from Twilight’s prison.
“Sunset...no…” All Twilight could do was watch as Tirek toyed with Sunset like an animal might with its food. Twilight knelt down in the golden bubble, and reached out to Sunset. Tirek’s laughter carried through the heavens like an approaching thunderstorm.
Pushing aside the pain, Sunset raised her head up to look at Twilight. She tried to reach for her. Sunset could taste the blood as she managed to gasp two words through the pain.
With that, her eyes closed, and she fell limp where she lay.
Tears fell down Twilight’s cheeks as she pulled the device from her pocket. To her surprise, it was fully charged and ready. As she stood in her magic prison, Twilight only saw one thing.
Using the information that Sparkle gave her in conjunction with her own magic, Twilight pressed the button designed to track Tirek’s current location. Instantly, two portals opened: one within the bubble and another behind the approaching hulk of Tirek.
She stepped through the portal. Twilight’s magic flared with an intensity unknown to her. The magic flowed all around as she felt all the rage and pain inside her increase it dramatically. Clutching at her emotions, she focused her entire being on the one who threatened Sunset.
Her eyes glowed with a vibrant violet light.
“Tirek! It’s time to finish this, now!”
Power and fury burned through Twilight’s veins. Magic pulsed through the air, an infinite maelstrom of power. Stolen from every corner of the multiverse, all centered on the centaur before her. It radiated off of him in great waves, leaking the excess all around this demiplane even as his consumption continued.
Twilight grabbed ahold of it, drew in every scrap of strength she could muster. She focused it in front of her, the energy white-hot, ready to turn Tirek into a lump of slag.
Tirek met her eyes and grinned.
Twilight nearly dropped the ball of energy. “Sparkle? I, what? He destroyed the cube, you should be—”
“—a ghost of an imprint left behind on your consciousness. I won’t last long, especially not with what I’m about to do.”
“What are you—”
The world slowed down around her, and color drained away until every spark around them seemed frozen in place. Twilight hung there, panting, the magic still burning at her fingertips, itching to be used.
“Do you really think you can win with brute force?”
Twilight grit her teeth. “Sunset… I have to protect her. We’ve come too far, and there’s still so much farther I want to go. With her! I can’t lose here. Not now.”
Sparkle’s voice let out an audible sigh, followed by a strange pressure that somehow conveyed an eyeroll. “Do you remember the first time you fought Tirek? All of your magical might could only bring him to a standstill, and that was only one world. How did you end up beating him?”
“That…” She had a point. “It took the powers of the Tree of Harmony to expel the magic he had stolen and return it whence it came. But that took all six of us… and it’s just me and Sunset here. Maybe the Magic of Friendship gets a boost when…” Twilight licked her lips. “When you’re in love, but is that really enough?”
“Then what I am I supposed to—”
“Think smart, Twilight Sparkle. It’s what we do best. Look at his power. Really look at it.”
Twilight took a deep breath. She turned her attention to the magic radiating from Tirek, tried to parse the threads and weaves. Just trying felt like someone running her over with a wagon. The radiance threatened to blind her, overwhelm and consume her, just like every other scrap Tirek had already devoured.
“Don’t close your eyes! I’m already accelerating the speed of your thoughts so we can have this conversation—You’re going to have hell’s own migraine when this is over, by the way, if you don’t just die from an aneurysm—But you need to look! Look with your eyes, your ears, your heart, your soul. Look for your friends!”
Twilight stared into the sun, and screamed. Tears streamed down her cheeks. But there, in the light, she could make something out. A whole lot of somethings.
Then, it all fell into place.
It wasn’t a chaotic vortex of power. Each was a thread tracing its way back to its home dimension, feeding Tirek’s gluttony. But that thread still existed, binding him to each dimension. She could feel them in there, faintly. The magic of strangers. Her friends. Herself. Of Sunset. Countless different versions of them, They all wanted out, to be free.
All Twilight had to do was provide a way for them to get home.
Time resumed. Twilight raised her hand, the one containing the training teleporter. She channeled every scrap of power she had into the device. The device twitched in her hand… and transformed.
Its form shifted and changed color, rounding out, a bright purple. It was her TPT! Whatever illusion the Accord had placed on it, the multiverse was hers to command once again. She pressed the button.
A portal opened up behind Tirek. Then another, and another, as fast as Twilight could mash the button. Each portal led to a world Tirek had drained, severing his connection to that world and allowing the magic to flow back into it.
Tirek took a shuddering step forward, then his eyes went wide. “What are you doing? Stop that!”
Faster and faster. The Talisman burned white hot, searing agony in Twilight’s hand, far too much for such a simple device to handle. But as long as it held, Twilight wouldn’t give up either, no matter how much she wanted to scream, to cry, to give up and go home and curl up in her bed and wish she’d never even thought of another dimension.
Tirek began to shrink and wither. He lunged forward, murder in his eyes, hands outstretched to wring the life from Twilight Sparkle.
Sunset rose like a phoenix, her fist connecting with his jaw and sending the now far less physically imposing demon sprawling. She wiped at her mouth and spit out blood. “I don’t go down that easy.”
Twilight smiled through the pain. There wasn’t even a button left on the Talisman, just a molten lump of metal, but still the portals kept opening. A great dome of other worlds filled the sky, a hundred thousand visions of possibility stretched out before them.
She looked down at the withered form of Tirek, once again just a pathetic, pale old man. She hurled the remains of the Talisman at his feet. In a burning flash of light, the last portal it would ever open sent Tirek back to Tartarus where he belonged.
Twilight floated in the air, panting. She held up her hand, and stared numbly at a blackened, shriveled husk. She’d probably have to confront the reality of that any second now.
“Now’s your chance,” Sparkle whispered. “Remember what I said earlier? There’s enough portals here, and enough magic. You can do it. Seal off dimensional travel. Save all of those countless fools wandering where they don’t belong. Stop monsters like Tirek from ever rampaging again. Stop the relentless tyranny of the Accord.
There was a pause.
“And keep someone like you from ever becoming someone like me.”
“I…” Twilight glanced down at Sunset, who stared up at her with worry. What would she think, of having to make a decision like this? Something told her she didn’t have the luxury to sit around all day debating pros and cons.
Movement caught her eye. In one of the portals, a Sunset knelt over an unconscious Twilight, shaking her, pleading for her to wake up. That Twilight’s eyes fluttered open, and the two embraced, then shared a passionate kiss, tears streaming down their cheeks.
Twilight made up her mind.
“I won’t do it. You’re right. There’s a lot of suffering out there in the multiverse. Ponies will stumble where they don’t belong, and get hurt. Monsters will rampage. Ponies will try to control an uncontrollable system. But there’s beauty in it all too. Hope. They’ll learn new things, see amazing wonders, live lives filled with joy. Meet new friends. Fall in love. I don’t have the right to take that chance away from them.”
“You sure about that?” Sparkle sounded amused. “It might just happen later on anyway, no matter what you decide.”
“I’m sure.” Twilight felt the power in her, a growing warmth spreading through her whole body. She focused on that feeling, thinking back to the first trip through the portal, back beyond even that, when her first trip to Canterlot High had led her to cross paths with Sunset in the first place. She filled that power with all of her love, her joy, her hope, her sorrow. Her friendship. “Maybe I can give them something better.”
Twilight let the energy pour forth from her, and it flowed back into every portal, coursing through the multiverse, touching every person it came across with a hint of what Twilight wanted to convey. The portals sealed up one by one, and Twilight hoped that somewhere out there, someone who really needed the magic of friendship would hear her message.
Her vision darkened, and Twilight slipped from the sky. Before she blacked out entirely, she saw Sparkle’s face, smiling down at her and fading away.
“You’re a better me than I ever was.”
Sunset held out her arms, and Twilight drifted into them like an angel descending from the heavens. She hung there limply, almost as light as a feather.
“You idiot,” Sunset muttered. “You should have left some more of the hero-ing to me.” She glanced down at Twilight’s ruined hand, and winced. If she’d been stronger, maybe it wouldn’t have come to this.
The peaceful contentment on Twilight’s face as her chest rose and fell banished any self-flagellating for the moment.
One last portal still hung in the air. She could see the map room in Twilight’s castle through it.
Home at last.
Sunset took a step forward. A glint of light caught her eye. She’d missed a second portal, father off. She recognized the dull gray walls of the Accord HQ. So close. She could take two steps forward, and never have to hear the word ‘Accord’ again.
But maybe there was still one last thing left to do. Unfinished business to resolve. Maybe Twilight wasn’t the only one who could change things for the better.
Sunset didn’t get much time to ponder her choice of action. From the Accords’ portal marched out a line of officers, Aeon being one of them. At the rear of the procession came Stella, dressed in a grey gown and missing her mechanical halo. Away from her desk, she stood an impressive seven feet tall.
The officers fanned out around Sunset and Twilight, boxing them in until the only way forward was toward home. Stella waved her hand, and the portal they had come through compressed down into a small ring—her halo—and returned over her head.
She folded her arms behind her back. “Well, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t impressed. Though you two do have a tendency to beat the odds.” She gave a modest dip of her head. “Congratulations.”
Sunset opened her mouth to say ‘thank you’ but couldn’t. Twilight had won that fight. Sunset had just survived, though against Tirek, she supposed that counted for something. She slowly sank to her knees and rested Twilight’s head on her lap. Even after everything she had gone through, Twilight slept with a look of peace, her lips curved in the slightest hint of a smile. Sunset stroked a stray hair from in front of her face, then looked back up at the Accord officers surrounding them. “Tirek’s back in Tartarus,” she said.
Stella nodded. “And you’re both still alive. Happy miracles all around.” Her voice had not lost its dispassionate tone. Sunset wondered what it took for her to actually smile. Stella stepped to the side and gestured to the last portal remaining. “Now, there was one more stipulation to our deal.”
Go home and cut us off from every other universe. Including Canterlot High. Sunset looked back at Twilight. Yes, she would choose Equestria, and Sunset would go with her. But Sunset couldn’t just let go of the other world—her second home, the place where she had been given a second chance, where she had learned to be a better person. Where her best friends resided.
Sunset squared her shoulders. Not without a fight at least.
“Don’t push your luck, Miss Shimmer,” Stella said, gesturing to her enforcers with her other hand. “You beat Tirek by the skin of your teeth; don’t think you can run from us again. We had a deal. I expect you to have enough sense to honor it.”
Sunset clenched a fist. “This isn’t fair.”
“Oh?” Stella raised her chin. “Please explain how me allowing you to go home instead of executing you is unfair? Would you rather have me go back on our bargain?”
“We beat Tirek! Something you guys couldn’t do on your own!”
“After you set him free to wreak havoc on countless dimensions!” Stella took a measured breath and returned to her controlled voice. “This is why we exist, Sunset Shimmer. To ensure children like you don’t go teleporting off to places they don’t belong in. You put all of existence at risk and I’m letting you go home with a slap on the wrist. I suggest you take my generosity before it expires.”
Sunset remained quiet and kept her focus on Twilight, feeling that if she looked up, she might say or do something regretful. You’re a lot better at diplomacy than me. Her eyes found Twilight’s burnt hand again. I wish I had taken that for you. I should be the one lying unconscious. Sunset let out a soft laugh. Fine, leave me with the hard work.
“Well, Miss Shimmer? What is your answer?”
Sunset laughed. “You’re all stupid.”
Stella narrowed her eyes. “Excuse you?”
“Your organization. Your job. It’s all pointless.” Sunset cast her gaze around the circle, looking at the various weapons each of the officers had. Maybe she shouldn’t have led with calling them all stupid. Oh well, in too deep now. “You even said it yourself: we’ve been in your office one-hundred and seventy times. What is cutting off one pair going to do for you in the long run? Two, three, five, ten more will take our place. And then what?” she asked, cutting Stella off. “You send more officers after us, saying we broke laws we had no idea existed? And that’s just the two of us. What about anyone else who learns how to travel through dimensions? You spend your entire life trying to control something that can’t be controlled.”
“Someone has to do it!” Stella said, her calm mask finally cracking. “There must be some order in the multiverse, otherwise, problems like this arise! Can we stop beings from Voyaging altogether? No. But we can reduce the probability of one of them doing something that destroys the universe.”
“By punishing them for their curiosity? The universe is infinite; there’s always going to be something threatening it, whether from someone going somewhere dangerous or some random megalomaniac getting too much power.” Sunset softened her voice, not wanting to disturb Twilight. “But there’s so much beauty out there. So many mysteries, so many possibilities. I’ve learned so much from this journey. Yeah, maybe we screwed up once or twice, but we learned from those mistakes.” She recalled what Twilight had muttered to herself, no doubt talking to Voyager Sparkle. “People will stumble where they don’t belong. Monsters will rampage. And people like you will try to control an uncontrollable system. But they’ll all keep voyaging, no matter what you do. They’ll see the worst and best the universe has to offer.”
She set her eyes on Stella, feeling the fire within them. “And you have no right to take that away. From anyone.”
A soft wind blew over the field in the silence that followed. Every head turned toward Stella, lips pressed tight, eyes narrowed. She moved forward, gliding across the grass until her shadow fell over Twilight and Sunset. For a moment, Sunset thought she might have pushed too far, and that her and Twilight’s journey would end in death after all. Instead, Stella stooped over and whispered, “And what would you have me do instead? Turn my back and ignore everything? I am a being of Order, Miss Shimmer. This chaotic universe must have balance.”
Sunset looked down to see Twilight’s eyes fluttering open. Her weak smile grew as she looked up into Sunset’s beaming face. Sunset ran a hand along her cheek. “Hey, Sparky.”
Twilight sat up, wincing as she moved her singed hand to get comfortable by Sunset’s side. “Instead of punishing them, teach them. Show them how dangerous dimension hopping can be, where they shouldn’t go. Then trust they’ll make the right decisions.”
“Trust?” Stella said, affronted. “You simply want me to hope and trust these naive children won’t go to forbidden dimensions or meddle in the affairs of another civilization?”
“Yes.” Twilight yawned and slumped against Sunset. “Not everyone will listen of course. But if you show them trust, if you come to them as friends instead of enemies… they’ll reciprocate that.”
Stella stepped back, moving her shadow off the pair. She pressed a hand to her temple. “Idealistic simpletons.” The world was quiet again, this time for several long minutes. Some of the officers fidgeted uncomfortably, looking from their leader to the defiant girls kneeling in the grass. Finally, Stella reached up and tapped her halo. It floated out in front of her and expanded, then generated a portal back to the Accords’ Hall.
She folded her arms behind her back. “Your proposal will be considered. If only so I never have to see you universal constants again,” she spat. She stalked toward the portal. “Go home. And may we never cross paths after this.”
“Wait,” Twilight called before Stella could step through. “You gave us our Talisman back, but told Sunset it was one of yours. Why?”
“I did give Sunset a modified teleporter. So I don’t…” Stella tipped her head toward Aeon. “Is this your doing?”
Aeon looked away. “They saved my life. I was just returning the favor: a balance of karma. I switched the training one for their original when I found her without her memories.”
Stella scoffed and stepped through the portal, pointing to Aeon. “This is going on your record.” She looked back at Sunset. “And for the love of all, get a haircut.”
Sunset ran a hand through her hair, feeling the need to grow it further out of spite. She smiled and dipped her head to Aeon. Despite the hell she had put them through, Sunset couldn’t ignore a genuine gesture. “Thank you.”
Aeon nodded perfunctorily, then followed Stella through the portal. One by one, the officers marched through until only Twilight and Sunset remained. The halo compacted on itself once more, then blinked out of existence.
Just one portal remained. Sunset climbed to her feet and held a hand down to Twilight. “Come on. Let’s go home.”
Twilight winced as Sunset pulled her up. She leaned on her only constant through all this as she caught her breath. The world spun a little and her hand decided to notify her nervous system about just how unhappy it was with recent events.
“How’s your hand?” Sunset bit her lip and winced at the blackened and twisted appendage.
“It’s been better,” Twilight admitted. “Doesn’t hurt as much as the piano did, though.”
Sunset snorted, amusement tinged with concern. Twilight joined in. After everything they’d endured, the shared laughter in a field beneath a blue sky…
It was—for lack of a better term—magical.
Just being alive.
“Come on, Sparky. Think you can make it to the portal?”
“We’ve made it this far. I can take a few more feet.”
“That’s my girl.”
Twilight blushed, pulling gently away from Sunset’s supporting arm. It didn’t feel right. After a moment’s thought, she intertwined her undamaged hand with Sunset’s own.
Now that felt right.
Twilight smiled faintly. We survive all this madness… and all I want is to hold her hand.
Even across the infinite possibilities of what could be, she knew this was what should be.
“Any chance they’ll listen?” Sunset asked. Twilight couldn’t help but notice how tightly Sunset gripped her hand.
“I don’t know. I hope so. For their sake… and everypony else’s.”
Sunset nodded again, lost in thought. Twilight stared into her teal eyes glittering in the afternoon sunlight.
Her eyes are pretty when she’s thinking…
“I’m sure about one thing, though.” Twilight smiled. “Even if we didn’t get through to Stella… Aeon’s going to see things differently now. Getting even one of them to see the bigger picture… I’m sure it’ll help.”
“Twilight… she arrested me, even after you sacrificed yourself to save her. She tried to kill us.”
Twilight couldn’t help it. Maybe it was the emotional rollercoaster. Maybe it was just the surreal nature of the last few days. But she laughed again and sidled up to Sunset.
“I seem to recall someone else who once tried to kill me… and look how she turned out.”
Sunset froze for a moment and tried to pull away. Twilight didn’t let her go. Instead, she spun Sunset and gazed into the eyes.
“Don’t,” Twilight whispered. “Don’t go back there, Sunset. You’re a good person—a good pony—who made mistakes. You’ve seen what you could become. You came back. I’ve seen what I could become, and I turned my back on her.” Twilight clenched her jaw, remembering Sparkle’s words.
“I only learned about friendship because Celestia made me. You learned what friendship meant after destroying it.”
“I’m not finished.” Twilight cut her off with a squeeze of her hand. “You’ve come so much farther than me. Harmony itself accepted you. You became the person you were always meant to be. The person you always were inside. You were willing to die for me even when I didn’t know your name. And you know what, Sunset Shimmer?”
Sunset’s eyes sparkled with tears. She swallowed, barely able to hold Twilight’s gaze.
“That’s who I fell in love with.”
Only a few feet from the portal, Twilight kissed Sunset again. It was a gentle thing. Filled with forgiveness, with kindness, with empathy. Sunset hesitated at first and then responded in force, nearly crushing Twilight in her embrace.
Further words weren’t needed. Everything Twilight needed to say was in that kiss. Sunset’s complete and total acceptance was in that kiss.
It was a lot of things for one kiss.
After a lifetime and a second, they pulled apart.
Sunset’s eyes were wet with tears. She sniffled slightly as she wiped them away. Twilight used her good hand to get one she missed. Then, she offered her hand one more time. Sunset took it in an instant.
“Together?” Twilight asked.
“Together.” Sunset nodded.
They leaped through the portal.
As they landed, Twilight stumbled and let out a cry of pain. In an instant, Sunset was at her side, helping her keep her weight off of the damaged limb.
“Well, it’s about damn time you two showed up. Keeping that portal active wasn’t a cakewalk, you know,” said a familiar voice.
Sunset and Twilight jerked and looked up as the portal winked out behind them.
A pony sat lounging in Twilight’s chair around the Map of Harmony. She wore a singed black duster and a pair of flickering glasses. She also had a horn, an amber coat and two familiar teal eyes.
The wings threw Sunset off, though.
“Yeah, I could have hidden the wings, but there’s something to be said for style,” said the other Sunset Shimmer.
“Who are you?” Sunset demanded. “Where are our friends?”
“Oh, your friends don’t even know you’re back yet. I’ve locked this room in a temporal bubble just long enough for a little chat. Last time, Twi got to have a nice tea party with you newbies while I was doing all the winning.”
Twilight made the connection first.
“You’re… you’re Voyager Shimmer,” she whispered, taking a step backward. “What… what are you doing here? Is this some astral plane again or—”
Shimmer waved a hoof with a laugh. “Oh, no. Don’t worry. Twi told me what happened when you connected with the cube. You’re home in Equestria. Safe and sound.”
“So why are you here?” Sunset snapped. “We’re done! Our Talisman—”
“TPT” Twilight interjected.
“It’s still more science-y,” Twilight insisted.
“Whatever!” Sunset groaned. “It’s destroyed! The only other world we can access is Canterlot High!”
Shimmer’s laugh made both Sunset and Twilight jump.
“Oh, she was right! You two are adorable!”
Shimmer leaped into the air, did a somersault and landed with almost unnatural grace. “That’s why I’m here.”
“I don’t understand.” Twilight wrapped a protective wing around Sunset and almost fell over.
Shimmer glanced at Twilight’s wounded foreleg and tsked.
“Aren’t much for healing magic, are you?”
Her horn flashed and Twilight yelped in surprise. Then, she lowered her perfectly whole leg back to the ground, eyes wide with wonder.
“Moving on. Your little stunt?” Shimmer cocked an eyebrow. “That little friendship flare you sent out to the multiverse? It did a lot. For most, it was a nudge.”
Shimmer smirked… and then the smirk brightened into something more genuine. Despite that, Sunset’s counterpart looked… tired.
“For most. But to the Twilights and Sunsets? I can’t speak for all of them. Just me and… what’d she say to call her? Sparkle?” Shimmer licked her lips. “You reminded us of what we were. Why we were. More importantly… who we were.”
“And who are you?” Sunset narrowed her eyes. “You’re not gods—despite the wings.”
“I forgot how touchy I can get about wings. Look, it’s a side effect of ascending too many times.” Shimmer shrugged. “I’m Sunset Shimmer. And she’s Twilight Sparkle. Even after everything…”
“Uh… yeah?” Twilight’s brow furrowed. “Who else would you be?”
“A god. A destroyer. A savior. But it’s not about names or titles. It’s about identity.”
Shimmer turned and fired her horn at the Map of Harmony. In an instant, it changed to show a picture of Twilight and Sunset as ponies.
“In some universes, I end up with the Twilight from Equestria.”
The picture changed again.
“In others, the human one and I hook up.”
It changed as Shimmer listed them off.
“Sometimes human Sunset finds one of the Twilights.”
“I’ve seen universes where Sunset never jumped through the portal and she still ends up beside Twilight. In others, Twilight rules Equestria with her beloved student, Sunset. Sometimes, Twi loses me as a child, only to find me again as an adult.”
Shimmer’s smile widened as she restored the map.
“But in every one… it’s still us. Sometimes we fall in love. Sometimes we’re mentor and student. Sometimes we’re best friends. But the connection is always there. It’s always us.”
“Universal constants,” Sunset murmured.
“Universal constants,” Shimmer nodded. “You reminded us what that meant. So… we’re going to take some time off. Find a nice quiet corner of the multiverse. Maybe harass a few other ‘universal constants.’ Goddess knows we deserve a vacation…”
“Why tell us this?” Sunset asked. “Why come back for this?”
“To say… you made a difference. I don’t know what the Accord will do. I don’t care. But what you did mattered. Thought you should know.”
With that, Shimmer’s horn ignited. A portal of amber and violet energy shimmered into existence. On the other side stood Sparkle in her singed labcoat and glasses, smirking at the two ponies. But her eyes were softer now. Gentler.
They looked much more like the Twilight Sunset knew… and loved.
“Oh, yeah. Almost forgot.” Shimmer tossed something to Sunset and Twilight. Sunset caught it in her magic and stared.
It was the Talisman.
“But it was—”
“It’s ours,” Shimmer said with a little smirk. “Our original. We haven’t needed it in a long time. Since you lost yours… well, it seemed a fitting thanks.”
“But Sparkle told us the first thing about Voyaging is not to!” Twilight protested.
Sparkle’s expression warmed to an actual smile.
“You know it’s not all fun and games. But sometimes it can be worth it. We wanted to give you the choice.”
Shimmer made to step through the portal and paused.
“By the way, Sunset… why’d you go for the Princess?”
Sunset stammered, searching for an answer. “I… I dunno. She saved me?”
“Huh.” Shimmer shrugged. “I always liked the dorky one better.”
Shimmer rolled her eyes. “Sci-Twi, you twit. Seriously?”
Chuckling, Shimmer stepped through the portal and transformed into her human form. Just like Sparkle, she was in her mid-thirties, yet still somehow seemed ageless. Her worn leather duster trailed on the ground, and a violet ribbon bound her hair back out of her face. She looked just as likely to laugh as to pull a weapon. Sunset stared at the sheer confidence in her stride as she walked up to Sparkle. The portal stayed open long enough for them to see a laughing Sparkle playfully punch Shimmer on the shoulder. Shimmer held her Sparkle around her waist as the portal closed.
The magic in the room shifted as the time stop spell wound down.
Sunset turned to Twilight.
Twilight turned to Sunset.
And they both laughed until the tears came.
“And that’s how we fell in love,” Twilight concluded with a grand sweep of her hoof and a subtle flare of her wings for dramatic effect. Draped under one of said wings still, Sunset huffed and nuzzled into Twilight’s neck gently, and the purple alicorn sheepishly got the wordless hint and settled down so it covered her comfortably again. “More or less. I may have simplified some things.
In the silence that followed that statement, anypony in the room could have heard a pin drop. Their captive audience didn’t immediately respond, probably because she was stunned into silence and didn’t know what to say in response to everything she had just been told.
“… Everything that happens to you is weird,” Starlight Glimmer said at last.
Sunset snickered. “You think that’s weird, come over to my world sometime. We have pretty crazy stuff going on there too.”
“Speaking of, I need to get you home.” Twilight gave Sunset a light squeeze with her wing. “And we’re using the book this time, not the TPT.”
“Talisman,” Sunset corrected, almost on instinct now.
“I still think TPT sounds more scientific, calling it the Talisman is just so—“
“Okay, you know what.” Starlight held up a hoof, silencing her mentor. “I have to go help Spike with something in the library, I was just passing by when you told me all of this, and it is… a lot to process, so. I’m going to go do that now. Do you need help setting up this book or something before I go?”
Twilight smiled warmly. “Thank you, Starlight, but we should be fine. You can go and help Spike, I’m sorry we took up your time. I just needed to talk, I guess.”
“It does make a pretty good story,” Sunset admitted.
“Right. Um… have fun, lovebirds. If you plan to spend the night in your fillyfriend’s world, Twilight, just let me know so I know to settle things down in the castle.”
Starlight left—more like fled—immediately after saying those words, clearly needing time and distance to process everything she had just been told. Twilight frowned as she watched her student leave, her ears flicking back slightly. “Why would Starlight offer that? I guess she was just trying to be friendly, but I don’t have any plans to—“
Sunset nuzzled against her ear, her breath warm, and Twilight’s thoughts immediately went fuzzy and her words trailed off into silence. It was a small miracle she didn’t start stammering right on the spot.
Then she felt teeth against her ear as Sunset nibbled teasingly, and she had to swallow back the urge to moan.
“I have plans,” Sunset practically purred, and the tone of her voice as she delivered those words should have been considered criminal in every world they’d traveled to during their adventure and some that they would never find.
Twilight did moan then at the implication, and she blushed deeply as Sunset laughed huskily in response. She swallowed again, trying to find her voice, and only just barely managing.
“W-Well, then… I suppose I’ll take advantage of Starlight’s kind offer.”
The moment they got through the portal safely and their feet touched ground again, Twilight didn’t hesitate to grab Sunset’s hand in hers, lacing their fingers together. It was funny, really, how quickly she had taken to the idea; it was a purely human gesture of affection, but the more she did it the more she liked it. It would be hard to go without it once she was back in Equestria.
That was something they would need to talk about at some point; they both knew it. Universal constants was all well and good, and seeing their… other selves—would calling them their alternate selves be more accurate?—confirmed that regardless of the challenges that faced them they would find a way to be together. They would still need to decide how to get to that point, since for the time being returning to Equestria and potentially facing Celestia again was something Sunset didn’t seem willing to consider.
It was something they would need to talk about, but after everything they had gone through it wasn’t exactly a priority. And as tempting as it was to go right to wherever Sunset lived and make good on Starlight’s promise to manage things for the night—which made Twilight blush again just thinking about it, and made the redhead smirk because she knew exactly what the purple girl was thinking about—there was one more thing they needed to settle before they could fully relax.
There was always something.
“Are you sure letting me keep this is a good idea?” Sunset reached into her pocket, where the portal had seen fit to transport the Talisman to once they had crossed over from Twilight’s castle to Canterlot High. She fished the device out and carefully held it in the palm of her hand, and fought back a vague sense of unease. This wasn’t even their device anymore. She had no idea what this could do or how it would work.
Twilight squeezed Sunset’s hand. “I really think it is. I know you’re worried, and I don’t blame you. Sparkle said this is like our device, but…. well, we’ll know for sure once we run some tests on it. Until then, the human world seems like the safest place for it. There still isn’t as much magic here as there is in Equestria, and there are fewer potential threats who would try to steal it.”
“…Well, when you put it like that.” Sunset carefully slid the device back into her pocket. “Okay, Princess. I’m still not crazy about it, but it works until we can figure out what else to do with it.”
Twilight breathed out quietly and nodded. “Thank you. Do you know of anywhere we can put it? I’d rather not have someone stumble on it and walk away with it, even if they couldn’t use it like we could.”
“My place is probably the safest bet. Come on, we can walk.” Sunset paused, then grinned. “That way you don’t have to let go of my hand.”
Twilight tried to scowl, but it didn’t quite work. “You like it too.”
“Oh, I do.” Sunset lifted Twilight’s fingers to her lips, pressing a light kiss to them. “I just also like to get my cheap shots where I can.”
“… You’re lucky I love you.”
“I know I am. And I love you too.”
“Start walking, Sunset.”
Sunset laughed and gave Twilight a gentle tug, a reminder that the princess had no idea of where they were going and her partner would have to lead the way. Twilight held on tightly to Sunset’s hand, and took a moment to simply enjoy the quiet of it all. After how everything had been going for them, a part of her had wondered if they would ever be like this again. Just…. together.
Now that they were, it almost felt like a dream.
“So,” Sunset began after they had walked a ways in silence. “‘Universal constants,’ huh?”
Twilight winced. “I was kind of hoping we could relax a little bit longer before we had this talk, to be completely honest.”
That made her—fillyfriend, girlfriend, Twilight would have to get comfortable with using both terms to describe the young woman next to her, laugh. “Twilight, after everything we just went through, I think the two of us figuring out how things are going to work with you and Equestria and me here in the human world is going to be easy.”
“… Point.” Twilight glanced at Sunset. “You still aren’t ready to face Celestia yet?”
It was Sunset’s turn to wince, now, and her grip on her fellow Equestrian’s hand tightened slightly. “I-I will be one day, I think. Maybe. Not right now, but—“
“Sunset.” Twilight tugged them to a halt, turning her around to face her and resting a hand on her cheek. “It’s okay. You can take as long as you need. I know the two of you didn’t exactly part on the best of terms.”
Sunset snorted, nuzzling into Twilight’s palm despite herself. “That’s a mild way of putting it.”
“She regrets it as much as you do, believe me. I’m only asking so I have some idea of what we’ll be doing for now.” The princess smiled. “And honestly? Like you said, after everything else we’ve been through to get to this point, this will feel easy either way.”
It was strange to say that when she had been the one so hesitant about this discussion in the first place, but she truly believed it. They had survived traveling different worlds, defeating Tirek, and had even managed to convince the Accord to spare them and let them continue on their way. She had mostly just wanted a moment to relax and breathe after everything, but maybe hashing this out now was the best idea.
Especially since Twilight suspected that once she and Sunset reached the place she called home, neither of them would really be in the mood to talk.
“So,” she continued without missing a beat, “what so you have in mind, considering that?”
Sunset was quiet for a moment, then turned into Twilight’s palm to press her lips there lightly before pulling away and digging into her pocket to fish out the Talisman. Twilight tried to fight back the sorrow she felt at the loss of warmth, until she remembered the wonderful fact that humans had two arms. She hesitated a moment, before taking a quiet breath and stepping forward, closing the distance between them and tugging Sunset into a hug, arms coming around her neck.
Sunset clearly hadn’t been expecting it, Twilight could tell from the startled exhale that escaped her and the way that she briefly went tense at the unexpected intimacy. She relaxed quickly, though, and while she still fished the Talisman out of her pocket with one hand she settled her other one on the other girl’s hip, gently bumping their foreheads together with a small smile. “Hey there.”
Twilight giggled and leaned in the short distance for a kiss—she didn’t think she was ever going to get tired of kissing Sunset, and they’d only just started doing it. “Hi.”
“To answer your question…” Sunset brought the Talisman up between them so they could both see it, without needing to break their embrace. “We have our portal, and we can only wait now and see what the Accord chooses to do with what we said. We don’t need to use the Talisman…”
“We don’t need to use the Talisman to travel between my world and your world. We’ll… think very carefully about what Sparkle said and what we’re going to do with this. I say we just keep doing what we’ve been doing until I feel more confident and graduate high school, because honestly, I want to finish my education there, and then… well, we’ll see.”
“Mm, that sounds good to me too. We’ll both see what happens, and in the meantime, we’ll still be together no matter what.” Twilight smiled warmly, reaching out and taking the device from Sunset’s hand and gently tucking it back into her pocket. That freed up her hand, which promptly settled on her other hip, and pulled Twilight ever so subtly closer.
Sunset, it turned out, was very good at getting wordless hints.
“… So, um.” Twilight blushed faintly, nuzzling their noses together and making Sunset giggle. “This is probably really stupid of me to ask since we’ve come this far, but were you serious about having plans with me tonight? Just, you know, double checking. I don’t want to assume or anything.”
That made Sunset laugh outright, and she tugged Twilight in for another kiss—something that started out warm and soft and chaste, and then she felt her tongue press against her lips and the kiss got warm and deep and left Twilight breathless.
“Yes, Twilight,” Sunset purred, “I was serious.”
Twilight was suddenly very, very thankful for Starlight’s kind offer. With that tone of voice, she wouldn’t be back in Equestria until at least late in the morning.
She couldn’t wait to see what plans Sunset had in mind… and maybe along the way, she’d come up with some plans of her own. The night was long, after all.
Twilight Sparkle adjusted her glasses and sighed, noticing that she was almost near the end of the book she had been reading. She couldn’t reach over and adjust her lamp; she’d done that earlier, and the light was perfect. Her parents were out on a date night, and Shining was working a late shift at work, so she had the house all to herself save Spike. There was nothing for her to do, except enjoy the rest of her night in some other way after finishing her book.
Which she would be finishing. Soon.
She grimaced, then bookmarked her place and set aside the story with a deep sigh, rubbing her eyes. She was bored. She’d had nothing worthwhile to do since Princess Twilight Sparkle and Sunset had taken away her pendant, and they wouldn’t even let her help with whatever they had in mind. Which was totally fine! It was! She just kind of wished they’d needed her help so she wouldn’t be like this; at home in her room with nothing to do but finish a book she’d read a million times, if she was honest with herself.
Well. She had some school assignments she needed to get ahead on anyway. She could get started on that at least, make a good impression on her new teachers at Canterlot High.
Mind made up, Twilight nodded to herself and climbed out of bed, invigorated and eager for the task ahead of her—and then the portal tore its way into her room. This wasn’t a gentle parting of air to form a stable gate between worlds; the blast of energy knocked the girl back against her dresser with a yelp, her glasses crashing to the ground. Bright light blinded her, and as the portal closed as abruptly as it had opened Twilight briefly saw white, blinking several times to try and clear her vision. She groaned, patting around until she found her glasses, and shakily put them on.
And then, she stared at the girl who had appeared in her bedroom.
Blood dripped from shaking fingers, stained through clothes on the right side of her body; she’d pressed her hand against the wound to try and stem the bleeding, but it clearly wasn’t helping much. She staggered on her feet, the pendant around her neck appearing to be the twin to the one Twilight had designed herself—if she could ignore the cracks that webbed their way along deep into the object, occasionally sending off small sparks of wild magic.
But what truly made Twilight stare was that beyond the wound, beyond the unstable pendant and the different clothes, beyond even the fact that this girl’s hair was a pixie cut and not long enough to fall down her back like it did in this world—what made Twilight stare was that the girl was Sunset Shimmer.
Teal eyes met violet. For a moment, the entire world seemed to stand still.
“Help,” the other Sunset gasped, and the spell was broken.
That single pained word spurred the purple girl forward, and she surged up to catch the redhead as she passed out from blood loss and collapsed into her arms. Twilight swore violently, gingerly setting her down on her bedroom floor and ripping a sheet off of her bed to try and stem the bleeding before she tore out of her room, yelling for Spike to find the first aid kit.
Because that was the fun thing about universal constants, you see—a Twilight and a Sunset would always meet, and always end up together in some fashion. It was never specified who they would be, or how this would happen; it would just happen.
And so as a story came to a close for one pair, a story began for another pair. Because that was the beauty of universal constants—there was always a new story to be told, a new adventure to be had. What would happen to this pair, to this Sunset Shimmer and Twilight Sparkle, was still unknown.
But whatever happened, they would go through it together. As countless pairs before them had done, and as countless pairs after them would do.
And so a new story, and a new chance to shine sunlight into darkness, began.