• Published 9th Nov 2013
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Adjacency - Frission



Obsessed with uncovering the magic responsible for creating the portal mirror she used to recover her crown, Twilight eventually manages to create a gateway to a series of worlds one step removed from her own.

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Chapter 13: Convergence

Twilight hadn’t been having too much trouble keeping up with Rainbow and Trixie, which surprised her—then again, it wasn’t hard to keep track of them, all she had to do was follow the wails of a terrified unicorn.

’Well, Trixie’s weighing Rainbow down, so that slows her a bit. Plus she’s almost definitely struggling, so there’s that too. I swear, Dash is so reckless when she gets excited.’ She shook her head, then steadied her path when that act made her wobble a bit. ’My takeoff is getting much better though, I wish she’d been there to see that.’ she thought, her chest puffing up a bit in pride. Or exertion. No, definitely the pride, she decided.

She certainly wasn’t getting winded just following the two across one city district.

’... No more cheating on my diet. I mean it this time!’

Twilight’s thoughts faded from delicious hayburgers as she perked her ears forward, picking up Trixie’s voice ahead.

“Land! Land!

“Oh come on, we’re almost there!” countered Dash. Twilight crested a rooftop and saw them just ahead. She was almost caught up to the two now.

“I said put me doooown!” Trixie whined, her hooves flailing while Rainbow held her torso in a death grip. “If we get too close it’ll reach me up here, and if it reaches me I’ll space out, and when I space out I’m probably going to go boneless, and nopony wants that happening in mid-air!”

She saw Rainbow coast down to a landing next to a small building on the far side of a hoofball field, where Trixie started stamping her hooves and fuming at the pegasus. Twilight giggled softly and let herself glide the rest of the way over, losing herself in thought again.

’Hum, a hoofball field in the clouds? I’d hate to be the one that has to get the ball when they kick it out of bounds... Oh dear, with the propellers they couldn’t even get one back anymore could they? No wonder they put the field all the way in the middle of—’ Which is as far as that train of thought got. Then she face-planted near her friends, leaving just her hind end dangling out of the small crater she’d made in the clouds.

Rainbow sighed in exasperation. “Jeez, Twi. I thought you said you were getting better at landing? Looks like we’re back to square one.”

Meanwhile, Trixie’s irritation evaporated, replaced by a grimace while she moved closer. “Uh… Twilight, are you okay?”

Twilight’s right leg twitched.

Trixie winced. “Does that mean no?”

Rainbow snickered softly. “According to Pinkie, a twitchy leg means ‘beware of falling alicorns’ now. Bit late for that warning, Twi!”

Her leg twitched again, and after a pause she spoke. “I have verified that there is indeed a solid surface under the clouds… Ow.”

Rainbow grabbed Twi’s tail in her teeth and pulled her free, with an assist from Trixie’s levitation. Twilight wobbled and smiled awkwardly once she got back on her hooves.

“Thanks girls. So, how much further?”

Trixie leaned against the building. “Just a minute, I’m still a bit dizzy from riding the Rainbow Coaster.” She frowned and glared at Dash, getting a sheepish grin in return. “But we should be close. Our motes will probably catch up to us right about—”

A pale blue orb of smoky light chose just that moment to phase through the wall next to Trixie’s face, immediately touching and suffusing into her horn. The unicorn stopped mid-sentence, her eyes glazing over, while at the same time her irises sparkled and glowed.

“See! Interruptions left and right today. It’s like the universe is just conspiring to—oh so that’s what that looks like, I didn’t actually get to see her face last time we found a set of these. Too much running.” Twilight realized she’d just interrupted herself there when Rainbow made a face. “No the coincidence is not lost on me.”

“Isn’t the word supposed to be irony?”

Twilight deadpanned as she leveled a unamused glare at Rainbow Dash. “No. No it is not.”

She then immediately brightened and sat down at the corner of the building when a smoky, lavender speck of light drifted through the wall and past Trixie. “There’s mine! I’m not sure how long this will take. Oh, there’s an idea. Could you try timing it, Rainbow? Trixie has the hourglass in her saddlebag.”

Rainbow tilted her head and lifted her goggles out of her eyes for a moment. “I don’t see anything... Huh? Oh, yeah, sure Twi.” She shrugged and walked over to the still out-of-it Trixie, rummaging through the bag.

“Better start counting the seconds until you get it out.” She eyed the slowly moving mote as it got closer and closer to her horn. “Start now, it’s about to connec—”

The lavender mote touched her horn, causing her vision to go into a haze as the memories came. Eerily, she could hear Rainbow counting in the background, but her friend’s voice echoed in her mind like it was coming across a great distance.

A classroom faded into view in her mindscape. No, not a classroom, a school gymnasium. Up on the stage a young blue unicorn filly with a frosted white and blue mane stood in front of her peers, smiling under a wide-brimmed wizard hat.

“Wait, this isn’t my memory…” echoed her own voice. Nopony seemed to notice.

”Watch and be amazed, as the Grreat and Powerful Trrrixie performs feats never before seen by ponykind!” declared the filly. Trixie’s younger self nodded to another student who pulled a curtain aside, revealing a pony-shaped black box with several slots on it. “If Trixie could have a volunteer, please?”

A tan unicorn colt raised his hoof, and was called up onto the stage. “Please, step into the box.” Trixie opened up the doors on the box and motioned him toward it, and he complied. The doors were shut, leaving his face, legs and tail visible through holes cut in the panels.

“Notice now the ring on Trixie’s horn. As you can see, Trixie cannot use her horn to assist in this performance tonight.” She pointed up to a small band at the base of her horn. She turned the box around so it faced away from the audience, then picked up a long flat blade using her hooves. “Now avert your eyes if you are of the faint of heart, gentle ponies. But be assured, my volunteer will come to no harm!”

Before anypony could react to that, she shoved the first blade into a slot in the box, the only sound following being a ‘shhhnk’ and he clack of it hitting the wood on the other side.

Twilight heard herself gasp.

“Volunteer, tell Trixie if you feel anything.”

“Uh, okay? Is something happening yet?” he replied.

She turned to her stunned audience and winked, then slid in three more blades into similar slots in the box. “Now for the magic words… Veni, vidi, vici!”

Trixie pulled the box apart into three pieces, moving them about the stage to varied gasps from her fellow students. She even reached up and turned the section containing the volunteer’s head on its side, but left that on top of the part containing his front, before turning them all around to face the audience. The colt looked around at the awestruck student body, his eyes going somewhat wide when he saw one of the teachers faint. On the left side of the stage, his rear legs and tail shuffled, while on the right his front legs fidgeted. There in the middle his head blinked a few times. “Why’s everything sideways?”

The crowd erupted in applause, filling the filly on stage with pride. There was a sparkle and a sudden glow behind the filly, and when she turned to look, Trixie’s cutie mark had appeared on her flank at long last.

The applause doubled in intensity.

Twilight could feel Trixie’s emotions from the memory surging through herself as well. It was as though she were connected to Trixie, experiencing what she felt. Then there was the surreal sensation of her mind somehow expanding. Possibilities reawakened that hadn’t been there the day before. A piece of her magic had returned to where it belonged, and now she felt more… more.

“Hey, get out of there!” echoed Rainbow’s voice around her.

“Wait… what?” Twilight wondered aloud, and the scene faded back to reality again.

Twilight felt a tug on her flank. Something jostled her saddlebag, and Rainbow was yelling. She shook her head in an attempt to clear it, which actually helped. She looked back behind her in time to see a hooded figure lift its head out of her saddlebag. An inconvenient shadow from the hood obscured the offender’s face, but dangling from their muzzle was one of Twilight’s prized possessions.

“Smarty Pants!”

The figure took off, doll in tow, around the corner of the building. The hooded pony then cut a quick path towards a road leading to a much denser district of the city, threatening to vanish into the metropolis before they could react.

“Come on!” yelled Rainbow, shoving the hourglass back into Trixie’s pack before giving chase. Trixie followed quickly, having already recovered from her own experience.

Twilight stumbled to her hooves, but found it surprisingly easy to snap out of her daze and gallop off after the thief. The boost she’d gotten from connecting to another mote of her magic had energized her with an adrenaline rush. Not only had she already caught up with Rainbow Dash, but she found herself having to hold back slightly not to surge ahead of her friend.

Within moments the group had left the universities behind and were dodging through narrow streets and alleyways once again, hot on the blonde tail of the thief.

“Twenty-three seconds, by the way,” commented Rainbow.

“Huh? Oh, right! Thanks.” Twilight smiled.

“Ahuh. So seriously though, Twi. You brought that dumb doll?” she grumbled.

Twilight huffed. “She is not dumb! Smarty Pants is a valuable research assistant.”

Rainbow deadpanned. “Okayyyy... I thought Big Mac still had her after last time?”

Trixie narrowed her eyes, glancing over at the two for a moment as she kept up. “You mean that big guy related to Applejack?”

The three of them skidded around a corner in order to make a ninety degree turn down a side street. Trixie’s hooves actually gave off sparks of magic friction from her cloudwalk spell. They seemed to be moving through dense urban housing now, somewhat ramshackle compared to the outer districts of the city. The thief spared a glance back at the trio before pulling ahead just a bit.

Twilight sighed, at least as well as she could while galloping at full tilt. “You have no idea how hard it was to get her back. I really don’t want to lose her again, okay? Can we drop it until we catch that... that… dollnapper!? Rainbow, go up!”

Rainbow immediately unfolded her wings and took to the skies. The thief happened to choose that moment to look back at the group and took a hard right down another old road. Within seconds the girls zipped around the corner, only to find an empty dead end.

“What the? Where’d he go?” exclaimed Rainbow, zipping down to the high cloud-brick wall blocking the path.

There was a clatter and a bang behind the group, and they turned in time to see an overturned trash can roll around while the thief had turned their shadowed face back towards the group in apparent alarm.

“Got ya!” yelled Rainbow, who surged into the air as the thief ran off again.

Twilight and Trixie took off running, getting back onto the main road. Twilight glanced aside at the can when the corner of her eye caught something: a weird multicolored scorch mark. It was heat-blurred, but it looked almost like blue... plaid? She shook it off and focused, having to dodge a few bystanders once they hit the street again, but didn’t lose much ground.

Trixie panted, starting to run out of breath. “At least,” she huffed again, “they aren’t doing that cliche thing where they knock over these fruit or paper stands,” commented Trixie.

“Don’t give ‘em ideas!” snapped Twilight.

Rainbow’s contrail sailed overhead as she poured on a burst of speed. Unfettered by the ground, she was free to pull out all the stops and show this thief exactly who they were messing with. The thief cut down another corner which forced her to slow down long enough to take it. She focused her attention on the thief; just a few more seconds and the chase would end—then her instincts screamed at her to pull up.

”Buck! Tunnel!” she cursed and slammed herself upwards, her belly sliding against the thankfully soft wall blocking further pursuit by air. Rainbow pulled a backwards loop and swooped back to the ground, dropping to her hooves again next to her friends just in time for the trio to plunge into a poorly lit tunnel.

“Where the heck are they going?” asked Trixie.

“The sign over the tunnel said ‘Cogworks,’” Dash replied. “Also ‘no unauthorized entry’, so there’s that.”

Trixie grunted softly. She and Twilight simultaneously decided to use their horns to light the tunnel, sparing each other a glance and a determined smile before refocusing on the task at hand.

A task which was taking them underground. A wisp of blonde hair was visible flitting down a flight of metal steps in the side of the tunnel, and the sounds of slowing hooves echoed below them. The trio slowed just enough to carefully descend one at a time on the narrow stairway, and found themselves in a much better lit section at the bottom.

The clouds had given way to a tunnel of brass and yellow stone, with caged light bulbs embedded in the walls at regular intervals. Perhaps it was the light from the bulbs which cast everything in a yellow glow, but Twilight compartmentalized the thoughts of optical illusions and light spectrums to the back of her mind. The tunnel was wide enough for four ponies to stand abreast, and tall enough for even Celestia to walk comfortably down it.

It was humid and warm down here, and the ground sounded oddly hollow with each step they took. Twilight wasn’t certain, but it felt as though the tunnel had a downward slant to it. They had lost sight of the thief, but the sounds of their hoofsteps persisted just ahead of them at all times. The sound lead them past the occasional fork or intersection and gradually slowed down to a walk, allowing the three to slow down to catch their breath.

“So, Trixie…” Twilight began, moving so she and Trixie were walking next to each other. She licked her lips while she thought how to continue. It felt funny with the mask in the way.

Trixie arched a brow. “Yes?”

“Um… well.” She cleared her throat. “When I connected with my mote, I didn’t see one of my memories this time. It seemed to be one of yours, actually.”

“Hm.” Trixie turned her eyes forward, her expression hardening somewhat. Twilight knew that look. Her friend was bracing for bad news.

She bit her lip, but ventured to continue. “I saw how you got your cutie mark.”

Trixie blinked, her face relaxing. “Y-you did? Oh. Well, um… Yes! Feel privileged knowing you have seen the very first awe-inspiring performance of The Great and Powerful Trixie!”

Twilight giggled softly. “I do, it was really impressive.”

Trixie puffed up a bit and smiled. “Yes, well... so was yours. Terrifying,” she emphasised, “but impressive.”

The alicorn grimaced under her mask. “You have no idea how scared I was when that happened.”

“Actually, I know exactly how scared you were. I could feel it.” Trixie looked at her sympathetically. “I was afraid you’d seen something from my life that felt that way too.”

Rainbow had listened in quietly, paying as much attention to their conversation as their surroundings. She chose now to speak up, however. “Hey girls, listen.”

They could hear the rhythmic chugging of machinery through the walls, here. Bursts of steam, cogs slowly turning, engines hard at work, the unfamiliar industrial song was putting the ponies on edge.

The sound of the thief’s hooves abruptly stopped. Moments later they came across Smarty Pants, abandoned on the floor in front of a large wooden door marked ‘Engineering.’

Rainbow gulped quietly, her wings fidgeting on her sides. “Okay, this is creepy...”

Twilight ignored her, immediately lifting Smarty up in her horn’s glow and bringing the doll to her so she could hug it. “Oh I’m so sorry! I never should’ve taken you on my expeditions with me! I’m going to get you such a nice display case when we get home. With a lock.” She paused. “A big lock.”

Trixie sighed in relief and sat down. “I’m just glad that’s over with. Maybe now we can all go home?” She grumbled, stamping a forehoof on the stone floor. “At least down here, Trixie doesn’t have to worry about falling.”

A tremor shook the tunnel. In the background, the rhythm of machinery was interrupted with a loud *thunk*, replaced entirely by a long hiss of steam. All three felt their stomachs flop when the world around them suddenly dropped about a foot, then stopped again.

“You had to say it!” growled Rainbow.

Twilight stowed her doll securely away and yanked open the door. “Come on!”

After barreling through the doorway they had immediately found themselves on a narrow metal catwalk on the other side. It was barely two ponies wide, and lined on either side with a chain-link fence which stretched all the way to the ceiling, connecting there in order to suspend the catwalk in midair. Below and around them on all sides, as far as they could see, was nothing. They were surrounded by a pitch-black, vast emptiness. The only light came from evenly spaced exposed light bulbs sticking from the ceiling, and the only sound aside from hooves on metal was the sustained hiss of releasing steam.

Twilight glanced behind her at Trixie worriedly, but the blue unicorn was putting on a brave face and ignoring the vertigo. The three crossed thirty yards of catwalk as quickly as they could before reaching the far side—a large metal shaft that stretched from the ceiling down into the blackness below. It had a polished brass double-door in front and a hoof-shaped button next to them.

“What the hay is that?” asked Rainbow.

Twilight’s eyes lit up in recognition and she hit the button before she started to explain. “It’s an elevator!”

Rainbow cocked her head. “An ‘elevator’?”

Trixie nodded. “They use them in all the major cities, like Manehattan.”

“Yup! They had one of these at Equestria High, too. It’s a machine, well, a moving box, that moves ponies from one floor to another without needing to use stairs. The school was only two stories high, but according to law there, one is required in any public institution for the use of those who cannot physically use stairs.” Twilight beamed, just in time for the elevator bell to ding behind her, and the doors to slide open. “I looked it up.”

She walked inside, followed by her friends, and looked at the panel. It only had two buttons to choose from, so she hit the lower one and off they went, once again making their stomachs flop slightly from the descent.

“Ah, I haven’t been out to Manehattan yet. I guess that makes sense, though.” Rainbow grunted when the lift began to move. “Whuh, that feels weird.”

“Feels a bit out of place here though, doesn’t it?” asked Trixie.

Twilight rubbed her chin. “Well, from what I read, steam-powered elevators were invented around the humans’ mid-nineteenth century, and first put to use in their coal mines.”

While she was looking up, she noticed the bulb in the elevator’s ceiling flickered and dimmed a bit. The elevator slowed its descent, and the bulb started to slowly fade. “Oh no... we have to fix whatever’s happening, fast!”

“So what was that when everything just dropped for a second? If this platform is shutting down, why aren’t we sinking yet?” asked Rainbow, her eyebrows creased upwards in worry.

“If I had to guess,” chimed in Trixie, her eyes glowing pink briefly, “when the engines stopped some sort of safety system engaged to disconnect this district from the rest of the city. That’s why we dropped, the edges snapped away so it doesn’t drag the rest of the city down. Momentum should keep the propellers spinning for a while but when they start to slow, we’ll start to drop—if we aren’t already. Hard to tell on the elevator.”

Twilight and Rainbow just stared at her for a minute. Trixie blinked, the glow vanishing from her irises. “What?”

“Eyes,” muttered a dumbstruck Rainbow.

“U-uh… I thought you weren’t an engineer?” ventured Twilight.

“Yeah…” Trixie frowned. “I’m not sure where that came from. Sounds about right though.”

The elevator came to a halt with a weak chime of the bell, and the doors opened, but chugged to a halt three quarters of the way. The light bulb above shut off, leaving the girls to climb out of the darkened box into the equally dark ground floor of the open pit they’d gone down into. Just ahead, working light spilled out of another doorway, joined suddenly by a crash and clatter of metal.

“We’ll worry about it later, this has to be it!” declared Trixie, leading the three in the charge to the room ahead.

They didn’t have to run far, as the other side of the doorway immediately opened up into the true belly of the beast. A very short flight of steps dropped down into a moderately sized, but very high-ceilinged chamber which opened up around them. Cogs, cables, clockwork and other machinery lined the walls in their periphery, but everypony’s attention was immediately brought to what laid directly before them at the center of the room.

A tan pegasus stallion stood with his back turned to the group, attempting to crowbar open a large hatch on the front of what looked like one of three massive copper boilers. He was wearing a black beret, mask, striped white and black shirt, and black suspenders holding up black trousers in probably the most cliche burglar outfit possible. His mane and tail were a deep russet brown, however. Whoever the girls had been chasing, this wasn’t them.

The machines he stood in front of were four-foot thick columns of copper, covered in lights and readout gauges, spaced evenly apart in a triangular pattern and stretching from floor to ceiling. One of them was already missing its front hatch—it now lay on the floor in a twisted heap—while the inside revealed an incomprehensible mass of cables and devices all linked up to what was now a gaping hole. Next to the stallion was a sack with a glowing blue crystal sticking out the top, easily as big as a pony’s head and matching the shape of the empty hole in the machine.

The stallion succeeded in prying off the second hatch just as the trio galloped inside, which flew open on its hinges and hit the machine’s side with a loud bang before the top hinge broke off, leaving it dangling there. Inside was another crystal glowing a radiant green, magnitudes brighter than the disconnected one. Before the door fell, Twilight had spotted a large cog on the room’s back wall had been dislodged as well, now laying on the floor while its surrounding cogs had been bent out of position.

“What do you think you’re doing?! Stop it!” declared Twilight, spreading out her hooves and wings in an aggressive posture. Rainbow and Trixie stopped on either side of her, doing the same.

“Yeah! Are you nuts? You’re going to sink the city!” pressed Rainbow.

The stallion slowly turned around, an eyebrow raised and a cocky sneer on his face. A five-o'clock shadow covered his bulky chin. The lights in the room flickered, fading slightly while casting menacing shadows across his features. “That’s the idea. And here I thought this was getting boring!” He laughed callously, then shook his head.

“But is this seriously all the opposition anyone is going to muster? Three weak little mares? Well…” he raised his crowbar, somehow gripping it in his hoof as easily as a guard might hold a sword in his teeth.

Just then everypony felt the room shift, a steady and accelerating sensation of falling telling the obvious—the city had started to sink.

He smirked, finishing his thought. “I won’t complain about it being too easy. After all, clock is ticking.”

Rainbow charged. Just as she was about to fly into him, the stallion spun and kicked her in the chin, sending her flying across the room. Twilight and Trixie rushed him from opposite sides, but he rolled out of the way, leaving the two to slide into each others’ sides.

The stallion gave a wild-eyed grin and made to rush the dazed pair with his weapon. He was caught from behind by a flying buck from Rainbow and went skidding across the room himself.

“I’ll handle this guy,” she yelled, “you two try to fix this mess before we all crash!”

While Rainbow chased after the saboteur and the two began to brawl in earnest, the duo got to work. Twilight ran over to the machine and peered inside, studying the workings while Trixie dragged the sack over with her mouth.

“Does it matter which end goes up or anything?” Trixie asked, trying to lift the crystal into the air in her pink aura. She got a jolt to her horn for her effort, convulsing briefly and being thrown to the ground.

“Trixie!” Twilight turned and kneeled down next to her. “Are you okay?”

“Y-yes, I t-think s-so,” she stammered, still having spasms. “Guess we c-can’t use m-magic on it-t-t.” The unicorn struggled to get to her hooves, but her legs were trembling too badly from the shock.

“Stay down until you recover, I’ll figure out something.”

“H-hurry…”

Twilight stood up and looked around, analyzing her options while watching the stallion and Rainbow trade blows, their fight having taken to the air at this point. ’Okay, facts at hand: I can’t use magic on the crystal. Could lift using the sack, but risk of magic field contact too high. He got the crystal out of the engine. He’s a pegasus. He’s not wearing anything on his hooves. No visible tools beyond the crowbar. Hypothesis: Safe to touch by hoof.’

She turned and grabbed the sack in her mouth, finding its contents surprisingly light for its size. ’Low mass. Delicate.’ she thought, hyper-focus removing the narrative from her inner monologue. Using that lack of weight, Twilight stood on her hind legs and lifted the sack as high as she could toward the gap in the engine with her mouth, bracing her wings against the machine to hold her steady.

A yell from Rainbow and a crash behind her told her the fight was getting uncomfortably close. There was a grunt from the stallion as he landed nearby. Twilight caught a whiff of sulfur, which was accompanied by a loud snap and a surprised yelp from the saboteur.

“Hah! Wand-da is never weak-k and helpless!”

“Why you—!”

”You leave her alone!” *slam!*

Twilight forced herself to tune it out, concentrating on maneuvering her forehooves in a way as to grab the crystal from the sack. She eyed the hole with careful scrutiny, comparing it to the shape of the crystal: a rectangular prism capped on both ends with square pyramids. It was warm and vibrated subtly in her grasp, and it gave off an electric buzz whenever her horn got close to touching it.

A few more moments of lifting and it was almost in place. Desperate for the last bit of leverage she needed, she had to use her chin to nudge it in the rest of the way. This close to her face, she could feel tingles of electricity jumping from it to her horn, which amplified the instant the crystal reconnected to its reactor with a loud click. She jumped back to avoid what happened to Trixie happening to her, just in time to see the crystal’s blue light intensify to match its twin and forcing her to shield her eyes.

But they were still falling, and the city was picking up speed.

“Augh!” cried Rainbow, crashing to the ground one more time and sliding into Twilight, knocking her backwards off her hooves into a heap on top of her friend. Rainbow wasn’t stirring, she’d been knocked out cold.

The stallion chuckled darkly, flapping his wings slowly before his form landed and filled Twilight’s upside-down view of world. “Like I said. Easy.” He smirked, readying his crowbar.

Twilight tried to get up, but Rainbow had her hind legs pinned. She could see Trixie struggling to her hooves at last, but there wasn’t time for her to reach them. She wasn’t sure the weakened unicorn could even do much to help if she could. She poured all her meager power into forming a bubble shield to buy some time, but even with her latest boost in power she realized it would only survive one hit, at best. Twilight closed her eyes and hoped for a miracle.

“Lafiette! I should have known one of Charge’s lackeys would be behind this!”

Twilight opened her eyes, blinking and looking around for the source of the voice. There at the top of the stairs was Orange Marmalade, glaring at the stallion in contempt. She had a weird device with a grapple claw buckled to her right forehoof, was wearing a pith helmet with a hole for her horn, had her hair down in a way that made recognizing her difficult, and had saddlebags covering her flanks that didn’t depict her cutie mark, but rather one of a—

“Compass Rose!” Lafiette growled, breaking off his attack on Twilight to face the newcomer. “You would try to interfere.”

“This is a new low, even for you!” She jumped down the stairs, and the two started to circle each other. “Disabling Laputa’s reactors just to steal mana crystals, seriously?! There’s thousands of ponies in this district alone, and they’re not all pegasi!”

“What do I care? So long as this place goes down I get paid, Coil’s reputation is ruined, and the fat one’s stock goes up when he swoops in to pick up the pieces. Not to mention you’ll be buried in the wreckage. Taking the crystals was just gravy.” He grinned maliciously. “Maybe Charge can even spin it to put the blame on you when they find your body.” His grin widened, and he lunged at the unicorn with a swing of his crowbar.

Marmalade got up on her hind hooves and backpedaled in a surprising display of control, dodging the weapon. She returned the favor by jabbing him the in face with her right hoof, before immediately following with her left. When he stumbled back she pressed the advantage, hopping up and kicking Lafiette in the face to send him sprawling on his back.

Twilight turned her attention back to her own predicament and dropped the shield spell she'd been in the process of building. Instead she sent a burst of magic under her back, the concussive force helping to propel her forward onto her forehooves again. Now at least upright and no longer pinned under both Rainbow’s weight and her own, she started struggling to pull her hind legs out from under the pegasus’ unconscious form. Help came in the form of Trixie’s aura lifting Dash up enough for her to get out.

Twilight smiled faintly to Trixie and turned around to face the prone pegasus. “Come on, Rainbow. Wake up, please!” she said, nuzzling Dash’s cheek. Rainbow groaned quietly but didn’t get up.

“She’ll be fine,” said Trixie, “but we need to finish the job before the city hits the ground.” She motioned with her hoof toward the damaged clockwork in the back of the room.

Twilight nodded. “You’re right. Let’s go!”

As the two headed for the back, the fight grew in intensity. Twilight caught ‘Rose’ taking a vicious swing in the side from Lafiette’s crowbar and skid into the wall. Lucky for her, the machinery lining the walls wasn’t running at the moment, or that itself could have ended her. Unfortunately for them all, if they didn’t get it running, the point would soon be moot for everypony.

They ran up to the fallen cog, moving to either side of it. Twilight immediately lit her horn and engulfed the cogwheel in her aura, grunting as she tried to lift it. Trixie joined in, their magic merging and sparkling brightly around it as a result.

Lafiette suddenly crashed into the wall next to them, actually knocking one of the dislodged smaller gears back into place with his body.

Trixie smirked. “Thanks.”

“Why you—whoa!” Lafiette had started to counter, but then his leg was snagged by Marmalade’s grappling hook and he was dragged away again.

Twilight had to laugh, despite starting to sweat from the strain of trying to lift the heavy gear. “Rainbow is going to be so mad she’s missed seeing this when she wakes up.”

Trixie grinned, then grunted when the cog started to wobble at about head-level and reasserted her control. “Yeah, it’s just like something out of Daring Do!”

Both sets of eyes widened, and they nearly dropped the cog. They both yelped and increased the power they were sending to the levitation spells, raising the massive cog high enough that they could start trying to line it up with its socket.

“There’s no way,” stated Twilight. “Daring Do is clearly filed in the fiction section!”

“But it’s right there!” Trixie panted, glancing back to the fight still underway, and hushed her voice to a harsh whisper. “Daring Do and the Forbidden City of the Clouds, chapter four!”

Sweat pouring from their brows, the two growled and pushed with all their might. finally getting the cog properly aligned and sliding it into place on its axle. Trixie panted hard, catching her breath while Twilight kept at it, working on pressing the remainder of the dislodged gears back into alignment.

Trixie leaned closer, still whispering. “The mare that gave Daring the maps she needed to outmaneuver Dr. Caballeron, and helped her escape the ambush at bazaar? Her name was—”

“Compass Rose.” Twilight finished in her own whisper, shoving the final gear into place. “I remember, but it’s got to be a coincidence. Besides, when she went to Marapore with Daring in ‘The Marked Thief of Marapore’, Compass Rose was killed by Ahuizotl’s henchmen right in the introduction.”

Trixie pulled her hood back and wiped off her brow, before securing it back in place. “But her body fell in the river after she was stabbed. It’s only implied that she dies…”

The long, weakening hiss of steam that had permeated the air stopped as the gears slowly began to chug into motion again. As they quickly picked up speed the flickering lights above them started to come back to life as well. Pressure built under their legs, increasing gravity making it clear that the platform was slowing its descent.

Twilight turned back toward the center of the room and saw that Rainbow was finally waking up. She and Trixie ran back over to her just in time to see Lafiette growl and try to make his escape. He was thwarted when Marmalade’s grappling hook snagged him by the leg once again, and with a mighty tug assisted by an amber glow from her horn he was slammed back to the ground, this time out cold.

“Unhh…” groaned Rainbow, rolling over off of her back and shaking her head slowly. “Did I get ‘im? Did we win?”

The feeling of falling finally slowed to a stop. Twilight smiled, hugging the fallen pegasus and helping her to her hooves. “I think we did.”

“That takes care of this creep,” said Marmalade, using her magic to tie up Lafiette with a length of rope from her saddlebag. She walked over to a console near the reactors, looking at it with a raised eyebrow and a frown.

“Altitude holding stable at four hundred feet to ground level. Bloody hell...” She sighed. After a moment though, her frown melted into a smile and she looked over at the girls. “Good job, you lot.”

“Thanks, Marmalade.” Twilight raised an eyebrow. “Or is it Compass Rose? How’d you even find us?”

“Say what?” asked Rainbow, looking over at Marmalade for the first time since waking up. Twilight didn’t even have to look to know the fervent Daring Do fan was immediately connecting the dots, which was confirmed when she heard Dash gasp softly next to her and whisper, “No way…”

Marmalade gave a wan smile. “Cat’s out of the bag isn’t it? Kind of like how you’re actually an alicorn, Horizon.” She winked when Twilight blushed. “Don’t think I didn’t notice.”

Twilight sputtered and Marmalade used the chance to continue. “Compass Rose is just an alias I use when I’m off exploring on my own. A lot of bad elements out there, like this git, I don’t really want tracking me back to the family. You girls can still call me Marmalade.” She smiled. “As for how I found you, this odd little blonde thing in a cloak told me there was trouble brewing in the cogworks, so I came straight away. Good thing I did, too!”

The trio exchanged a shocked look. “It couldn’t be,” said Trixie, shaking her head.

“There’s been a lot of that happening today…” replied a perplexed Twilight. She looked back to Marmalade. “A pony matching that description brought us down here, too, but they vanished on us. It’s almost like they arranged for us to all be here in time to save the city...”

Marmalade raised her eyebrows. “That’s… I don’t know what to think about that.”

“Hey wait, how’d you get down here with the elevator shut down, anyways?” asked Rainbow.

Marmalade raised her right forearm, showing off the gadget attached. “Grappling hook. It’s an explorer’s best friend,” she said with a wink.

Trixie walked over to the tied up and unconscious saboteur, nudging him with a hoof. “So what are we going to do with this fool? Hmph. Cost me a perfectly good flash ball.”

“The authorities will handle him. I just wish we could prove Director Charge’s involvement in this, but the slimy bastard always covers his tracks too well, even if the police could get Lafiette to confess.” Marmalade sighed in irritation.

“Who is that?” asked the showmare. “I heard you mention him before.”

Marmalade’s brow furrowed, and she looked between the three of them. “I’m really getting the feeling you lot aren’t from around here…”

Twilight smiled sheepishly. “You could say that. Please don’t pry, though.”

“Alright…” she replied slowly. “Anyways, he runs Charge Industrial, the biggest power provider and airship manufacturer on the market. He and Nickel Coil were actually partners, back when this whole industrial revolution started, but disagreements split them apart and now they’re bitter rivals.”

The sound of voices approaching reached their ears from outside, and Marmalade sat down with a relieved sigh. “There’s the cavalry.” She winced, looking at the bruise forming on her side where Lafiette’s crowbar had struck. “I think I’m going to take a nice vacation after this. I’ve got a friend heading to Marapore that says it’s nice this time of year.”

All three of the girls went wide-eyed and shouted ”NO!!!” simultaneously, causing the navigator to pin down her ears and flinch.

“I mean, uh…” started Twilight.

“Applejack!” said Rainbow. “She said she and the family have really missed having you around lately. Maybe you should stay with them for a while, hang out in Ponyville? It’s a pretty nice place, y’know?”

“Huh… Maybe you’re right about that, I have been gone a lot lately.” She rubbed her chin, then turned to wave at a couple of uniformed officers who had walked into the room. “Come on girls, let’s get out of here.”

Exploration Log of Twilight Sparkle and Trixie Lulamoon

Fourth Entry, Supplemental: June 17, 1002 CR
Coordinates: AR Orion Beta

This world was breathtaking, terrifying and fascinating all at the same time. I covered this already in my first entry here, how it’s a world of science turned almost sideways from the kind we know, but I just felt it needed to be said again. It can’t be said enough. It’s likely I’ll sneak back here now and then. The research possibilities alone...

I’m getting decidedly off-track here.

In the end, the fallen district of ‘Laputa’ had to be evacuated so that technicians from Coil Innovations could safely pilot it back into place. The four of us were evacuated via jetwing-equipped ponies up to the Apples’ ship not long after the police arrived to clean up and take the saboteur into custody. Coincidentally, The Harvester had been unloaded in record time. Luna certainly knows how to motivate ponies.

We never did find out what the trouble was that Applejack got called away for. She’s still gone, probably saving the world from giant evil snails or something with the rest of the girls. Including my own alternate self. Still not used to that idea, but hey, at least we know we won’t blow up or anything if we touch, thanks to Rainbow and her own double.

I feel pretty guilty about letting her confirm that without saying anything first. I was certain that was just something sci-fi writers put in their stories to exaggerate the dangers.

… Okay, 97.8% certain. It was a minuscule risk, and it's not like Dash gave me any time to react...

Am I a bad pony?

Wait, why am I even writing this out on a paper meant for scholarly records? Why am I writing out ‘why am I writing this out’ instead of just thinki—

Getting off track again.

Anyways, Rainbow managed to convince Orange Marmalade, aka Compass Rose, to stay with her family rather than take a vacation halfway across the world. I’m just glad we’ve prevented the tragedy of the book’s events from happening to her.

Trixie kept looking at her like she wanted to get an autograph, but never worked up the nerve to ask for it. I can’t blame her, I kind of felt the same way. I still have a hard time believing that a fictional character wasn’t fictional after all, but then, alternate universe, alternate rules.

For Applejack’s sake, I hope that’s all it is… I don’t quite think I have the heart to ask her if she ever had a cousin named Orange Marmalade who may or may not have disappeared years ago.

I’m certainly not prepared to accept the possibility that Daring Do might be a real pony in our world. I’ll believe that when I see it.

Anyways, mote pair #5 collected. Another successful expedition! I don’t feel a whole lot different yet, but I haven’t had time to exercise my spell repertoire to see what possibilities have opened up. I would probably simplify the matter if I make a checklist of all the spells I know, in order of power requirements. If only that were a simple matter.

Still, it’s getting late and we’re on our way home now, so I’ll wrap up this entry here. I would like to make one more stop before we go, though.

The three said their goodbyes at last and made their way through Ponyville, towards the portal home. Twilight couldn’t resist stopping and buying that telescope she had her eyes on from before. She practically pranced all the way from the store to the portal with it in tow, despite needing both her and Trixie to lift it.

It was late evening now, the sky filled with the colors of sunset by the time they made it to the statue. While Trixie and Twilight had to work together to levitate the telescope over the fountain, it was feather-light to them compared to that cog earlier. Trixie went first, disappearing into the side of the statue while her magic kept its hold on the telescope.

“Hurry up and head through,” said Rainbow, “before anypony—”

There was a crash nearby, and the two looked up in time to see a stallion who had smacked into a wall. Another was right behind behind him, staring at the group while he walked before he too crashed into it.

Twilight sighed and finished the journey to the other side of the portal. “I wish we had some control over what the portal exit was bound to. A fountain smack in the middle of town square isn’t exactly discrete…”

“Woo! That world was so awesome!” cheered Dash, emerging on the library side of the portal. She flitted about excitedly in the air while Twilight and Trixie set the telescope down in the lab’s corner.

Twilight smiled up at her. “I’m glad you had fun, sometimes we get to see some really amazing things.”

Rainbow grinned, and flew down to the mirror as soon as Trixie had finished stepping through. “So what are we waiting for, then? Let’s go to another one!”

Trixie nearly tripped moving aside to make way for Rainbow, and her face paled when she processed what the pegasus had said. “What? But we just got back! Doesn’t Trixie get any time to recover from that harrowing ordeal?!”

“Pfft, come on, Trixie. Heights aren’t that bad.” Rainbow rolled her eyes.

Trixie glared at her. “Says the pony with wings.”

Twilight bit her lip gently and inserted herself between the two. “All right, settle down girls. Dash, Trixie’s probably right. We should take a little break before rushing off again. It is pretty late.”

Rainbow shot Twilight a bemused look. “Well no wonder you’ve only got four of those magic light thingies back so far if that’s how you two have been doing things!”

“Five,” shot back Trixie, “and they’re called motes.”

“Whatever.” Rainbow waved a hoof dismissively. “Now that I’m here, we’ll be able to get all of them back in just a couple days, easy!”

She beamed a bright smile and puffed her chest out proudly. Trixie just rolled her eyes, but Twilight chuckled politely behind a hoof. “With you as our trainer, I’m sure we’ll all be the Wonderbolts of exploration in no time.” Twilight said with a hint of playful sarcasm.

“Eeex-actly!” Dash continued proudly, ignoring Twilight’s tone. “So, uh…” She paused to give all the constellations, lights and symbols on the frame a serious look. “How does this work, anyways?”

Twilight smiled and closed her eyes, her body language shifting as she donned her imaginary professor’s cap. “Well, the enchantment interpreted the constellations painted on the frame into a holomagic interface for lack of other controls. It’s constantly projecting the representative coordinates of each alternate universe as one of the stars, and you can trigger the dimensional realignment via tactile contact.” When she opened her eyes again she was slightly crestfallen to see Rainbow giving her a confused stare. “Er… You just touch a star and it sets that universe as the next destination. You can tap the active star to shut it down entirely.”

“We still need a name for this thing,” commented Trixie with a small smirk.

Rainbow nodded slowly in comprehension. “So, like this?” She reached up and tapped a star in the middle of a new constellation, which Twilight recognized as Cassiopeia.

The topaz topping the mirror glowed bright red in concert with a harsh buzzing noise emitting from the contraption for a second. The reverberation made Twilight’s teeth buzz, and all three girls pinned their ears against their heads until the noise stopped. Even the magical interface depicting the stars was jarred out of focus momentarily.

“Oww! Hey, what gives?” cried Rainbow, glaring at the mirror as if it would answer her.

Twilight blinked away the discomfort and tried to get a closer look. “It’s never done that before...”

Stubbornly, the Rainbow pressed her hoof on the same star again, and was punished with the same result. Trixie winced and dropped to her haunches, covering her ears with her hooves. Twilight gritted her teeth and raised a hoof to protest, but the brash pegasus wasn’t about to let some inanimate object get the better of her.

“I said we’re going here, so we’re going here!” she yelled, pressing the star down and holding it down.

The buzzing was worse this time, increasing in orders of magnitude to an ear-splitting volume as the star was held in place, but Rainbow persisted. A couple seconds later the buzz was replaced with an even louder sound of harsh static filling the air.

The red glow of the topaz intensified and started flashing rapidly, filling the room with pulses of red light. The smell of ozone assaulted their nostrils just as they heard a crackling noise. Electricity surrounded the gem before shooting down to arc around the entire frame like it was a giant tesla coil. Rainbow yelped as the shock coursed through her, and she was thrown back from the mirror in a shower of sparks.

“Rainbow!” Twilight cried, her eyes wide and pupils shrinking as she ran to her friend’s side.

“Sparkle, it’s not stopping!” came Trixie’s panicked voice behind her, barely audible.

Twilight looked back to Trixie, seeing the mirror going berserk behind them. Her adrenaline surged, temporarily giving her enough magical strength to yank both Trixie and Rainbow with her to take cover behind the pile of sandbags still standing from her experiments.

But instead of some kind of critical reaction and explosion like she braced for, there was a burst of white light from the mirror’s doorway and it suddenly calmed down. The lights stopped flashing, the electricity ceased and the static faded away.

As her ears stopped ringing, Twilight could just make out a voice coming from the other side of the mirror.

“...nknown energy source. Working... Energy flow stabilized. Working… Data marriage complete. New user profiles online.”

Her voice.

In a room somewhere outside of space, beyond the reach of time, a fire crackled and roared in an exquisitely crafted fireplace. The light it cast danced across immaculate bookshelves and over an enormously tall chair. A pipe lay on a tall, narrow side table next to it, bubbles still streaming lazily from its mouthpiece.

In the privacy of his study, the god of chaos smiled.

A grey pegasus with a blonde mane and tail popped into existence next to him. She shrugged her cloak aside and looked up at him with her lopsided eyes.

“Excellent work, my dear.” The young pegasus beamed from the praise, and Discord looked back into the fire.

“And now, heh… Now things get interesting…

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