• 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 14: Apprehension

“Rainbow! Come on, Dashie, please wake up!”

Twilight urgently nudged her fallen friend’s cheek. The smell of burnt hair assaulted her nostrils as she did so; Rainbow’s wig was singed at the tips and many of her tertial feathers had been blackened around the edges.

Already she felt a wave of panic set in, an icy chill building in her stomach. While it had only been moments since the event, Dash had yet to stir since the blast of electricity had assaulted her. A spark arced briefly between the wig’s synthetic bangs despite the fact that Rainbow’s suit should have insulated her against such shocks. Twilight’s mind raced, trying to piece together just how powerful the jolt had been.

Trixie moved up behind her, absently dusting some loose sand from her cloak while worry creased her eyes. In the process of being yanked to cover, she’d landed on a spilled sandbag which nopony had ever gotten around to cleaning up. Not that it mattered much to her right now.

The door to the lab slammed open, making Trixie jump slightly. Like a switch had been thrown, she snapped out of her own dumbfounded haze and quickly rummaged through the large pocket strapped to her vest. The sound of clinking glass blended with the steps of those entering the room before she pulled out a small metal-capped glass vial.

“Here, Twilight, try this,” she offered in a quiet, soothing voice, levitating the vial of smelling salts to her. Meanwhile Princess Luna swept gracefully down the stairwell on her wings, coming to a landing a few steps away. Above her, Spike was just beginning his descent.

“What was that terrible—” Luna had begun to say on the way down, only to catch in her throat when she spied the group by the makeshift bunker. “Lady Dash!”

Twilight snorted involuntarily, the salts wobbling slightly in the air as they were uncapped and waved under Rainbow’s nose. She quickly wiped her face clean with a fetlock, a ghost of a smile on her unmasked muzzle. “Don’t let her hear you call her ‘lady’, Luna. Anyways, I’m pretty sure she’s just unconscious.” Her eyes wavered, and she turned her attention back to Rainbow. “Just unconscious…”

Spike bounded off the final steps to the floor, scampering quickly over to Luna with a black costume mask sitting prominently upon his face. “Gee willikers, what happened to Rainbow Dash?”

Trixie raised a brow at the young dragon with a barely suppressed scowl, noticing the bit of costume. “‘Gee willikers,’ Spike?”

“Huh? Oh! Sorry, Luna was playing superheroes with me and I just kinda got into the role,” he announced, causing Luna’s cheeks to shift a shade closer to purple. Twilight felt herself try to smile again, but she only managed it faintly—until the fallen pegasus began to move.

Rainbow groaned, shaking her head as the odor assaulting her nostrils finally got her to stir. “Ughh… Did anypony get the number of that train?” She looked up at Twilight, blinking blearily as the world came back into focus.

Twilight let out a breath, but rather than relax, her shoulders tensed and one eyebrow began twitching subtly. She then summoned up a deep breath and flared her wings, her next words coming out at such an impressive volume that they were likely heard several houses down. “What were you thinking?!

Rainbow stared a moment, her ears pinning back against her skull. “Errr… it’s what I do when my toaster is on the fritz…?” she hesitantly replied, then blew upwards at the still smoking strand of hair dangling in her face. “So, did I break it?”

Twilight groaned in response to her friend’s incomprehensible stubbornness, but moved out of the way of the mirror all the same. “Somehow, no. It looks like you managed to make the mirror work as intended.”

“Whoo! Dumb luck for the win!” Rainbow cheered, perking back up again.

Trixie harrumphed. “Yes, and with acceptable losses, too.”

“Yeah, I- Hey!” Rainbow shot Trixie a dirty look for the jab. “Aren’t you supposed to be trying to be nice?”

That got a roll of the eyes out of Trixie. “Well of course, but I’m not going to sugar-coat recklessness, Dash. Sparkle already has a hundred criticisms for you about tampering with sensitive magical paraphernalia, I’m sure.”

Rainbow Dash flickered an embarrassed look between the two unicorns frowning at her, before folding her front legs and turning away. “Whatever, I’m fine and it worked, didn’t it?”

Spike raised a hand, trying to join the conversation. “So uh… Could anypony actually tell us just what happened down here?”

Heaving a sigh, Twilight sat back with a thoughtful expression on her face, looking between her friends and the portal standing on the far side of the basement. “I’m not entirely sure of that myself, Spike.”

She spent a few minutes recapping what just happened to the two of them. Meanwhile, Luna split her attention between listening to Twilight and giving Rainbow some magical attention. Her skill with mending magics being on par with her sister’s, she was able to rapidly heal the pegasus’ residual injuries and restore her feathers and outfit to pristine condition.

“...Then you both came down. So now it looks like, well, that, and I’m not sure if it’s supposed to or not,” she finished, turning her gaze towards the mirror once again.

Now that it had calmed down, the mirror had returned to its normal appearance with little sign that anything had gone wrong in the first place. The typical glow given off by the surface when active however was replaced by pitch black. It was as though they were looking into a blank void. Only at the edges was there a thin line of silver giving off any light.

Trixie frowned, following Twilight’s gaze. “Yeah… that certainly looks inviting.”

“Perhaps a test is in order?” suggested Luna, stepping a bit closer.

“Not it!” said Trixie and Rainbow simultaneously.

Luna smirked, lighting her horn without another word. With a quiet rapport she teleported in a red ball from somewhere, holding it in the air between her and the mirror.

Twilight walked up next to her, giving her a small nod. “That’s a good idea, Luna. Give it a try.”

The elder princess smiled and tossed the ball through the portal. It emitted a squeak as it hit the ground on the other side, but they got another response as well.

”Foreign object detected. Scanning…” spoke Twilight’s voice from the other side, but with a tinny edge to it. Then with a trio of squeaks, the ball rebounded off something on the other side and came right back through again, rolling to a stop in front of Spike. ”Error. Scan inconclusive. Returning to sleep mode…”

He picked up the ball, looking back to the others. “Whoa. Twilight, that sounded like you!”

“It did, but there’s… something off about it.” Twilight frowned, rubbing her chin.

“Well, the ball looks fine to me,” said Spike, showing off its visibly unmarred surface and giving it a squeak for good measure.

Rainbow leaned towards the gathered group and raised a hoof for attention. “Hey, here’s a question. How come that ball could go through the mirror just fine, but Luna and I had to go through Tartarus so I could be able to use it?”

“I believe I can answer that, Rainbow Dash,” spoke up Trixie. “You see, unlike you, the ball—or any of our belongings for that matter—has no life force. Thus it produces no innate magic of its own, and is forced to accept any magic fields passing through it. Living creatures on the other hoof—and to a much lesser extent, most plants—have their own innate magical field, which naturally tries to resist any unwanted magic. This portal conflicts with that resistance, sees it as foreign, and erects a defense to block any approaching fields that have not been made to harmonize with it.” Finished, Trixie smiled and bowed with a little hoof-flourish.

“Pretty much,” said Twilight, smirking at the magician’s bow.

“A… huh…” responded Dash, her ears flattening. “Okay you know what? I think some sleep is in order after all. I’m so tired I’m not only asking an egghead question, but I actually understood that because my brain is so desperate to stay awake it paid extra attention.”

That got a round of laughs from everyone present. With that they all headed upstairs, intent on getting some food and rest. After dinner it was agreed that, in spite of what had happened, they should keep pressing onwards with all possible haste towards Twilight and Trixie’s recovery. Assuaged of any trepidations with a good meal and friendly company, the trio would be setting out once more into the unknown the next day.

The next morning they all got an early start on things. After breakfast, while everypony was getting geared up, Princess Luna set up a little area of the lab with some cushions and a summoned desk. That way she could keep tabs on the mirror while having a space to attend to what royal duties she could by mail.

“Twilight, are you sure you want to go in there alone?” asked Rainbow, continuing a thread of discussion they’d touched upon over breakfast.

Twilight nodded firmly, then went back to checking her wings one last time for loose feathers. Even now she was still getting used to needing to preen in the morning. “I’m sure. After everything that’s happened, I don’t want us all barreling through the portal without knowing what we’re getting into. Besides, that was my voice I heard on the other side of that mirror. I should be the one to go through and find out why.”

“Just please, do be careful, dear Twilight,” spoke up Luna.

“We’ll be right behind you if you need us,” said Trixie, nodding.

Twilight smiled and turned to face the blackened portal. “I’ll remember that, thanks. Well.. here goes nothing!” she announced, stepping forth into the darkness.

Twilight immediately realized something was off when she emerged into a small glass chamber. It was roughly as tall as the mirror, a few strides longer than her body and just wide enough to give her room to stretch if she needed to, with a soft rubber mat for flooring. The glass all around her was frosted and a sealed metal door opposite her served as the only exit. As such, she couldn’t see much other than the light of the portal shining on a grey, tiled floor outside.

“Not town square this time? But then, where…?” she muttered to herself, perking up her ears.

The distinctly alien sound of fans whirring and quiet, mechanical clicking slowly came to life around her, though she had no idea what was making it. She was startled when a head-sized rectangular light suddenly flicked to life in the darkness beyond the glass, accompanied by a copy of her own voice echoing back at her.

“Exiting sleep mode. Ingress of user zero-zero-one logged. Welcome back, Twilight Sparkle. It has been,” the voice paused, returning in a series of mismatching inflections, “Five. Hundred, and... Seventeen. Days. Since last active login.”

Twilight listened as the odd-sounding copy of her voice spoke. “Hello? Uh, ‘local’ Twilight, is that you out there? What does any of that mean?”

Behind her, Trixie called through the mirror. “Twilight, are you alright? Is it safe to come through?”

Twilight angled her head back toward the portal but kept her eyes on the new light source. “Yes, I’m fine. Give me a minute to figure out what’s going on though first, okay?”

“Please stand by. Decontamination in progress.”

The chamber was briefly illuminated by a blacklight in the roof, accompanied by a quiet crackling sound, like static. Whatever was happening made her fur stand on end, but it only lasted a few seconds before the light and noise went away again.

A pair of metal armatures then began sliding from the front of the chamber towards the back, drawing a strange, thin curtain of green light over her body as it went. She flexed a wing toward it but felt nothing as the light passed over her, so she curiously stood and watched it do its job. As it slid past towards the back of the chamber, her eyes followed, giving her the first look at what she’d stepped out of.

On this side, the portal was shimmering within a rather large metal frame, roughly the same dimensions as the mirror she’d just entered. Unlike the organic, arcane appearance of their wooden mirror frame, however, this was stark and clinical, a mechanical edifice of right angles in the shape of a tall rectangular doorway.

Numerous thick cables were mounted to its sides, while dozens of small rectangular status lights glowed along the front of the frame. Most were red, but as she watched many were turning yellow and then green.

The frame itself was at least a hoof thick all the way around and several hooves deep. Rather than a solid pane of light, the threshold of the portal flowed like water, with a bright light source beneath the surface. Despite the amount of light pouring out of it, nothing reflected off the frame’s cold grey surface—rather, it seemed to absorb all light cast upon it instead.

’That’s strange… Is the portal unstable on this side? The door frame… that looks like starmetal, but how could anypony ever find so much of it? Let alone shape it?’

By now, the armature had returned to the front of the chamber and shut off. Once again she heard her own voice speak up from somewhere nearby. Now that she’d had time to listen, she felt more and more that something sounded off about it.

“Decontamination complete. Working… no foreign contaminants detected. User biorhythm optimal.” She started to relax, but then an brief alarm klaxon sounded out, startling her. “Warning! Body mass differs significantly from records. Possible mutation detected. Please consult a doctor immediately.” The klaxon shut off, but an extra warning light stayed lit on the ‘scanning chamber’, as she’d decided to label it. “You may now exit,” said the disjointed, cloned voice. With that, the door at the end of the chamber slid open, the metal slipping down into the floor.

“Heh, okay, well I imagine you have a lot of ques…” Twilight trailed off, looking around as she exited the chamber and seeing nopony there. Just the rectangle of light behind and to her right, shining through an old white sheet which had been thrown over the machine’s terminal.

She furrowed her brow, looking left and right and squinting into the dark. “He… Hello? Isn’t there somepony here?”

“That’s it,” she heard Rainbow say, “I’m going in.”

“Err, right, sorry.” Twilight turned back around to talk towards the portal. “I think it’s safe girls, just come in one at a time. There’s a sort of… checkpoint set up.”

Rainbow walked through the mirror, a curious expression hitting her face immediately. “What do you mean checkpoint? How’s that even… work…” she trailed off as she saw her surroundings. “Whoa.”

“Ingress of user zero-zero-five logged. Welcome back—name not found!” said the machine.

“Huh?” Dash balked. The machine responded by snapping shut the door between the two on its own, while the scanner went to work around her.

Twilight stepped back with a start, but quickly released her surprise in a long exhale. “I’m holding off on hypotheses until I gather more information. Just hold still until it’s done, it’s some sort of medical scanner. I think. Let Trixie know to come through when you’re done.”

“Uh… ‘kay…” came the muffled reply.

She turned around and set out to explore her surroundings a bit, ignoring further remarks for now resulting from Rainbow recognizing ‘Twilight’s’ voice coming from the machine.

As Twilight walked out into the darkness, lights began to come to life in the ceiling, illuminating the place at last. She blinked and had to squint for a moment as her eyes adjusted to the light. In spite of that, recognition hit her almost immediately. The walls had been painted over in black paint and the furnishings were different, but she knew this was the very room she had just left: The library’s basement.

Only, it looked like nopony had been here for a long, long time. There were no active experiments, no hoofprints on the floor aside her own. Her only company besides Rainbow in that room was a dozen or so bulky devices, likely machines or lab equipment, lining its edges and covered by old white sheets. Everything was blanketed in a thin layer of dust.

Twilight’s ears flattened involuntarily as she took a few tentative steps into the lab. “What… what happened here?”

A flickering light drew her eyes upwards. As if just to put the finishing touch towards making the atmosphere scream ’this place is abandoned’ to her, one of the two electric lightbulbs was flickering constantly and threatening to go out. Still, even with dust clinging to them, they were significantly sleeker and more modern looking than the ones in the industrial, airship-filled world she’d just left the night before.

Within a few minutes, both companions had passed through the scanner and were looking around in bewilderment along with her, hooves clacking on the grey tile and leaving faint prints in the dust.

“This place is supposed to be your basement, Twi?” asked Rainbow, tentatively poking a hoof at a sheet-covered table. Quiet clinking sounds were made, and she pulled her hoof away.

Trixie bit her lip, tiptoeing warily past the portal’s terminal. “Unless there’s some other reason that somepony would have used this bizarre machine to copy her voice… Actually, that line of thinking is creeping me out even more, now.” Trixie shuddered, increasing her pace to get past the device in question and explore the far side.

“Well, if it’s something the other me built, it should be safe… Still, everypony be careful.” She looked around at her companions one more time, then the room. With a brief nod, more to herself than anything, she called on her magic to pull her logbook and an ‘auto-quill’—A pre-filled and refillable quill-and-ink device she’d purchased in the previous world—and started taking notes.

“I know we’ve got to get down to business looking for motes soon, but they’ll be coming to us anyways, so let’s investigate a bit. I’m particularly interested in trying to figure out how this end of our portal got bound to this device instead of the fountain, like it usually leads to. Any objections?” she asked, looking over to her friends.

Rainbow by now had pulled the whole sheet off what was just a simple chemistry set—though Twilight noted it lacked much of the normal magical paraphernalia associated with alchemy. “Hum, yeah I guess it’s okay for a few minutes. Just don’t get carried away.”

“Yes, yes, it’s fine, Spark--er, Twilight. Just… well I agree with Rainbow. Please try not to take too long.” her voice quieted, the next phrase probably not intended to be picked up by her alicorn ears. “Something about this world is creeping me out…”

Twilight smiled softly to herself, instincts wanting to go comfort her friend. Still, they had a job to do, and if she was going to start logging what they’d found, she needed to get to it. With another, determined nod, she turned and headed towards the nearest covered machine, pen at the ready to take notes in her explorer’s log, and pulled the sheet away.

She found another glass-encased chamber, similar to the scanning checkpoint, but with a medical red cross on the side. Peeking inside she found glass shelves covered in medical supplies, while a once-sterile looking medical bed was attached to the opposite wall. Disabled monitors lined the alcove the bed was set into, and above it she spied far more articulated arms, with dozens of needles, tubes, and surgical devices sticking to them. An aged spatter of dark brown stained the wall and sheets lightly. Twilight couldn’t get closer to investigate in detail; a tape barrier had been stretched across the entrance, saying ‘AUTOMED PROJECT: CANCELLED’. To be fair, she didn’t really want to get closer.

“That’s…” Twilight gulped, looking down at her notes and crossing out mention of this thing.

“Sup, Twi?” asked Rainbow, standing near another sheet and looking ready to pull it away.

“Um, it’s just… Well, I don’t want to admit it, but I’m getting the feeling that not everything that went on down here with the other me was… well, ethical.”

“Ehh, so your alternate has a creepy lab. It’s not the worst thing we’ve run up against,” she sighed to exacerbate the point. “‘Sides, for all that, she had a lot of boring stuff too. I keep finding diddly over here.“ Rainbow took a minute to point out how she’d found more or less a collection of empty bookshelves. If they had once contained notebooks, textbooks or reference material of any kind, they had long since been packed and taken away, in favor of letting cobwebs and dust bunnies take up residence upon the empty shelves.

“Girls?” came Trixie’s voice, back behind the machinery where she’d gone to investigate. “I think I may be onto something back here. Come look?”, she asked, and then quieter, “ ...Please?”

Twilight and Rainbow looked at each other and nodded. “Coming, Trixie!” said Twilight, leading them to carefully pick their way to the back.

Trixie stood huddled in the back corner of the lab, peeking on top of a simple work desk. There was a slim black terminal window sitting atop which still gave off the weak light of it’s bright green lettering. “It looks like log files of some kind,” she said, pointing a hoof at it as the other two walked up close enough to see it clearly.

“Good work, Trixie!” Twilight smiled, earning a blush and a small smile back from the showmare.

“Alright, I can read the first line, but how do we get more?” asked Rainbow, who had walked up in front of it.

Twilight thought a moment, rubbing her chin. “I’ve seen things like this, back on the human world. If this works like they did there, then I think I can operate it. Let’s see…” she stepped up, looking at the devices on the desk with the monitor. “Yes, this here is called a ‘keyboard’, and the metal block on a cord here is the ‘mouse’.”

Rainbow nodded, backing off to let the egghead work. “Alright, so read it already!”

“Okay... Ahem,” and with a clear throat, she started reading off the log entries.

“Log Entry #11: ‘Another failure. Another wasted night. Spike is the only one who keeps me from spending the mornings with my face planted in a puddle of drool on my workbench. Bless him. I don’t tell him enough how much his help means to me. Meanwhile, all I can do is keep moving forward. I’ll make this work.’

“Log Entry #12: ‘My theory is sound, I know it is, but generating enough power to produce results has been a challenge. Last night’s test confirmed that the lab’s meagre mana refraction generator, capable of producing ten times more power than I need for both the house and the entire lab combined, didn’t even come close to sufficient for a stable reaction with the crystals I’m fueling it with. Sadly, they’re the best I can afford right now. I’m going to have to start looking for alternatives. I’ll need to check the math again, too. Despite what my previous estimate suggested, the power requirement for wormhole stability is well outside the gigawatt range.’

“Log Entry #17: ‘Funds are drying up. The monthly research grant and living stipends from Princess Celestia are keeping me from going into debt, at least, but just barely. Manehattan University has pulled its funding, though. I knew it was coming, but that doesn’t do much to soften the blow. The project keeps increasing in size and scope, and procuring what I need to advance to each next stage of testing is becoming difficult. I refuse to push things so far that I’d compromise our home life; Spike deserves better than an overly obsessed pony spending his gemstone money on Flux Capacitors and Thaumic Aggregators. Meaning if I can’t get it working soon, can’t produce measurable results, I may have to put everything on hold for a few months. Unacceptable.’

“Log Entry #24: ‘It’s over. After last night I’m lucky I’m not being kicked out of town or arrested. I’ve always been useful to them, at least. A credit to Ponyville, they said. It was just an accident, they said. It’s not true. I knew what I was doing, I just never expected that to be the result... The damage can be fixed, but with how long it’s going to take…’” Twilight trailed off, swallowing hard before continuing, her voice shaking and quiet. “‘I can’t bear to face my neighbors’ angry eyes now. Oh Spike… what have I done?’

Twilight sniffled, surprised to find two differently colored hooves on each of her shoulders. She looked up to see the worried faces of her friends, trying to comfort her however they could. “T..thanks. Just… give me a few minutes, I’ll be okay.”

Rainbow bit her lip. “You sure, Twilight?”

Twilight nodded, a little weakly. “Yeah. I’m sure. See if you can find anything more somewhere else in here. I need some time to think…”

Her friends nodded, giving her gentle words of encouragement, and a pat on the hoof from Trixie. They acquiesced to her desire for some space and went out to explore the rest of the lab. However, a few minutes soon became half an hour, but nothing new was turned up. A full hour later, Rainbow Dash had finally stretched her patience out to its absolute limits.

“Well, I’m bored,” said Rainbow, after staring into the same empty bookshelf for the fifth time.

“Agreed, perhaps we should get on with it?” suggested Trixie. “At least it’s secluded here.”

“Hey, yeah! How ‘bout that, Twi? Looks like you got your wish after all.” Rainbow grinned at her friend.

“Ahuh.” responded Twilight faintly, her eyes looking a hundred miles away as she kept combing over the room.

Rainbow’s grin faltered and was replaced by a small frown. She walked over to her friend and waved a hoof in front of her face. “You okay there?”

“Huh?” Twilight asked, turning to meet Rainbow’s concerned face. “S-sorry, just… weirded out by this, I guess. I mean, the machine indicated the local Twilight hasn’t been here for almost two years...”

Trixie sighed faintly and made as if to sit down, but grimaced and caught herself before she sat in the dust. She shook her head and turned away from the exchange, setting her gaze upwards toward the stairs instead. Then she closed her eyes and conjured a bit of magic into her pendant, momentarily casting pink light down her face. Her focus turned inward until the pendant’s magic took form, obscuring her face with starscape once again.

Unexpectedly, when she opened her eyes, her enhanced sight didn’t move very far from where she’d already been looking. She saw through the ceiling into the library’s upper room, her gaze shifting to a pair of tiny, gift-wrapped boxes sitting on the upstairs table. Looking just a bit further, she could see one mote within each box, gently pulsing with light at regular intervals.

“Hmm. Well. That’s a new one,” she said, before letting the spell drop.

The others walked over, Twilight looking a little more focused and speaking up first. “What’s a new one?”

Trixie screwed up her face. “Somehow our motes are sitting on the upstairs table. Gift-wrapped.”

Twilight’s eyes widened. “Gift-wrapped?” She looked up the stairs, immediately starting to head up and muttering as she went. “Discord, what are you up to…?”

“Discord? Wait, what’s he got to do with anything?” asked Dash.

Twilight looked back as she reached the door. “Well, on one of our earlier trips, I found my mote had been put in a little box by Discord. I can’t imagine anypony else who could do that.”

She tried to push the door open, but surprisingly it refused to budge.

“That’s odd,” she said, trying again and getting the same result. “It feels like something’s blocking the door.”

Rainbow moved up next to Twilight and gave the door a harder shove. Her effort was rewarded with a short scraping sound and the door budging just an inch. “Yeesh, whatever it is, it’s heavy.”

“Maybe if we all push together?” suggested Trixie.

Twilight and Rainbow nodded to one another, and the three got into position in short order. “Alright, on three,” said Twilight. “One… Two… Three!”

Together the group strained to push the door open, a loud scraping sound of wood on wood accompanying their effort. With their combined strength it didn’t take long before the door was finally pushed open enough for them to get past.

They piled through, turning to see the door had been blocked off by a rather large and well-stocked bookshelf. Several books had hit the floor from all the jostling and were now strewn in disarray. A cursory glance by Twilight showed her that they were all books on equestrian law and civic codes.

It also didn’t escape anypony’s notice just how dark it was inside right now. A glance through the windows showed Twilight a dark and foreboding night sky, with black clouds gathering overhead. Wind could be heard strongly rustling the great oak’s upper branches, a sound accompanied by the occasional rumble of thunder in the background.

Twilight visibly flinched when her wandering gaze landed on the cover of a book which had been wedged under the bookshelf. It had obviously only ended up there from their pushing, leaving the poor periodical a torn and mangled mess. She tugged it free with her magic in a fit of panic, which just served to rip the front cover clean off.

“Noo!” she cried, cradling the ruined remnants of ’Rudimentary Rezoning Rubrics’ in her hooves. Without even thinking about it, she cast a repairing spell on the remains. Only when the tattered tome actually knit itself back together into one piece did she really realize what she’d just done.

“Oh, hey! Look!” She beamed a bright smile to the others, lifting the now spotless book in the air. “I got a ‘Fix-It’ spell to work!”

Trixie perked up immediately. “Ooh! Let Trixie try!” she exclaimed.

She looked around the room for something else to mend, but the rest of the library proper appeared perfectly spotless and organized, in stark contrast to their point of arrival. “Huh. Well maybe if I tear one—”

“No!” shouted a suddenly wide-eyed Twilight, forcing her companions to pin back their ears from the volume.

“Alright, alright, fine! Sheesh.” Trixie shook her head, looking around the room again. “You know, from the state of the basement, I expected this place to be in more disarray.”

“Yeah, I was thinking that’s kinda weird, myself,” commented Dash, who walked out towards the middle of the room. “And who puts a bookshelf in front of a door, which itself is already behind a staircase?” She looked back to the others and gestured to the adjacent stairwell to the upper floor, but neither could muster an answer right away.

“Well, whatever...” She shrugged.

Rainbow looked across the big table in the center of the room, spotting two small gift boxes on the far side of the wooden bust. One was wrapped with blue paper, and the other a lavender ribbon. Not the color, mind; the ribbon was literally woven out of sprigs of fresh lavender.

“Hey, Trixie was right,” Dash pointed out. “Looks like you’ve got presents to open. And there’s a card...”

Twilight quickly reshelved her book and trotted over to see what Rainbow was talking about. There, leaning against the gift boxes, was a note written on a small index card. The text itself looked like somepony had cut out letters from a magazine, magically shrunk them down to average writing size, and pasted them in place.

“Well then, let’s see what he has to say.” Twilight leaned closer and cleared her throat before reading it aloud.

“‘Dear Thing One and Thing Two—’”

“Hey!” Trixie huffed.

“Ahem,” Twilight continued, “‘As much fun as it would be to watch you two and your prismatic tagalong floundering about, you are about to have much bigger problems on your hooves. So, take these with the following advice: (turn card over.)’”

Twilight gave the card a quick flip, and was immediately taken aback by four words taking up almost the entirety of the next side in large, flowing calligraphy. She gulped as she read them, uncertain why they had already begun to fill her with dread.

‘Take them and leave,’” she said, reading them off just before the weather took the opportunity to release a particularly loud peal of thunder. The three shared a look.

“Well that’s not ominous at all,” piped up Trixie half-heartedly.

Other than that, this side of the card was blank, save for a small note in the lower right which read ‘(Turn card over.)’ After taking a moment to shake off the absurdity of that instruction, she remembered who they were dealing with and just turned it over again, finding the words had returned to their pasted-style lettering.

“‘However, I know you won’t listen to my advice, because it’s my advice, so I’ll be watching what happens next with great interest. Be aware that as much as I’d love to help my good friends, I simply cannot interfere any more than I already have. For reasons. Some of them actually good ones!

So do be careful, my dears.

-D.

P.S. You never did tell me I said hello. I’m wounded! Be a dear and don’t forget this time, if you would?’”

Rainbow remained silent as she’d been since Twilight began reading, a frown plastered on her face. Trixie, meanwhile, raised an eyebrow, having to get in a word edgewise.

“Surely he can’t be serious?”

The note card flipped itself over of its own accord, the newly rewritten back side reading, ‘I am serious. And don’t call her Shirley.’

Rainbow snorted, a little smile finding its way to her lips. Trixie gave a small groan, while Twilight just face-hoofed.

‘Discord, you are one of a kind… Thank Harmony.’ She frowned, slowly lowering her hoof to rest on the table. ‘Still, that’s a pretty worrying message to get from him of all beings…’

“Well, let’s get on with it then,” she firmly decided. She checked the presents for name tags and hoofed Trixie’s blue package over to her, taking the lavender one for herself. For a moment before opening the box, she found herself pondering upon the fact that she was now more often instinctively using her hooves rather than magic for simple tasks.

She smiled softly, cradling the box in her hooves. “You know, I think this has been all been a good experience for me, losing my magic.”

Rainbow balked, turning so she could be face-to-face with Twilight. “How could you say that? It’d be like me losing a wing!” She shuddered. “Just thinking about it gives me the heebie jeebies.”

Twilight smirked towards her. “I know, but it’s given me more of an appreciation for ponies that don’t have it. I guess after I learned to use magic as a filly, I pretty much stopped using my hooves for things when I could use levitation instead.” The smile faded now, her eyes softening. “You know, I can’t honestly remember the last time I physically touched a book before I lost it...”

She trailed off, thoughts wandering to that first day when she couldn’t use her horn. 'What would have become of me if that first mote hadn’t returned as soon as it had?', she wondered, imagining herself struggling to learn how to do basic tasks again without being able to rely on levitation. Even the brief period she’d been without her magic had felt like she’d lost a limb. At the time, the shock of what happened and the adrenaline driving them to get themselves to medical care had kept her from dwelling on it. Well, no, it wasn’t adrenaline, she realized. Just having a course of action to follow, having hope that it could be fixed.

But what if it hadn’t?

Twilight sat there for a while, her head swimming in circles as she dwelled on her spiralling thoughts, until she felt the warm embrace of a wing around her. She blinked open her eyes, unconsciously registering a little moisture had formed at the corners. She felt more than saw Rainbow Dash’s mane nestling under her chin, and the pegasus’ forehooves wrapping around her in a gentle hug.

Twilight smiled, returning the embrace and letting herself calm down. No words needed to be said; Rainbow empathized with how it felt to be helpless from occasional serious sports injuries, and Twilight knew that. She relaxed, just listening to the sounds of their breathing. After a minute or so, a shuffling of hoofsteps drew her attention upwards.

Trixie looked on pensively, chewing unconsciously on her lower lip as though conflicted. “You and your friends do so much hugging…”

Twilight felt Rainbow snort quietly under her chin, and she couldn’t help a grin spreading across her own face as well. “Oh come here, you,” she said, lighting her horn and pulling Trixie in to join a group hug.

Trixie’s eyes widened and she gave a little yip of surprise as a blue wing and lavender hoof wrapped around her. “Gah! You’re wrinkling my cape!” she protested. There was no conviction behind her words, though, and she quickly relented and hugged them both back.

“Stupid touchy-feely friendship… stuff,” she grumbled, turning her head to hide her small smile.

After another few minutes the group finally broke apart again, their spirits bolstered and the mood having risen considerably. Rainbow Dash reached over, picking up the two forgotten gift boxes—each the size of a jewelry box—and offering them to the others.

“Alright you two, time to open your presents.”

They obliged, tearing open their boxes and releasing their motes, which immediately sought their respective owners.

There were no memories this time, no flashbacks. Twilight simply felt warmth and happiness spread through her; the content joy of their shared laughter suffusing her being. The experience was slow to fade, leaving her feeling blissful and relaxed in its wake.

That moment was interrupted by the sounds of two sets of rapidly approaching hooves. Before anypony had a chance to raise a question as to the source, the library’s door was thrown open and a trio of familiar ponies and an owl rushed in. The electric-maned unicorn of the trio brought up the rear, slamming the door shut behind her with a burst of telekinesis.

There stood Davenport and Vinyl Scratch, both gasping for breath and appearing rather disheveled and scuffed-up. Laying draped across Davenport’s back was a barely conscious Octavia. Vinyl was missing her signature shades, and Octavia’s normally primly tied mane was hanging loosely around her head. Owloysius flapped over and settled on top of the bust on the table, looking down at the six ponies present and uttering a hoot.

“Uhhh…” said Rainbow Dash, raising a hoof.

At this, the exhausted ponies, sans Octavia, looked up at the trio, and aside from their slowly calming pulls for air, neither side made any noise for the breadth of a few seconds. Just enough time for Twilight’s thoughts to return to Discord’s message.

’I have a bad feeling about this...’

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Comments ( 18 )

This is sooo weird! I just scanned the first four chapters and the last chapter, yet I still don't remember anything that happened in the others.

6928211 I can't really blame you, it's been a long time since I updated. :fluttercry: Also, I'm working on fixing the page breaks. Darned imgur! *shakes fist*
Update: ALLLLLLLL feex'd. :heart: I think. >.>

6928224 No worries. I think I had practically the same timeframe between one of the updates on my first story. Sometimes you just can't bring yourself to write, right? Or the thought of writing gives you anxiety because of all the stuff you have to do in the story? Or is that just me?

It's alliiiive! It's Alliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiivvvvvvee!

I missed this story! And I can't wait for more! Good job, Frissy!

6928582

Ditto!

"Dashie" sounds a lot more Pinkie than Twilight... Is that just me?

6928385 No that sums it up pretty well for me too ^^; It became an intimidating prospect, the longer I went without updating D:
6928582 *squee!* :twilightsmile:
6928595 Maybe, but worried Twilight was worried. *nodnod*

You had your chance to leave, ponies. Now it's time to get involved in another adventure.

A little more laid back this time around given some of the stuff happening before. We probably needed that breather given how the next part is going to go down.

Trixie's first hug? Awwwww.

Till next time!

6928582 I was gonna say something sarcastic about you and updates..then realized that next to two years, the few months between them that you sometimes do isn't all that bad :rainbowwild:


Hopefully this means the other story I've been waiting two years for also gets resurrected!

Oh, and I'm sure group hugs will grow on Trixie eventually. It is inevitable!

6929675 Hey technically it's only been one and a few months ^^;
6929551 :yay: Hi RK! =3 Glad to see you're back and liked it :D
6929808 Maybe he has a vested interest in things beyond what we can see so far? :pinkiegasp: ...or maybe he's just bored. :pinkiecrazy:

Completely and utterly forgot that this fic existed and what it was about.

Cool, I get to reread the whole thing and it'll be like I never read it before!

Still as excellent as before. You have a real knack for setting the ambiance. Throughout the scene where they were rooting around in the lab, I kept expecting them to find something shocking, like a body or somesuch. Instead it just continued with the "everything is seemingly just fine" vibe. It's true when they say that "Nothing is scarier", and you got that down pat.

I am eagerly anticipating the continuation.

6991113 Whooooops! Tankoo! :heart: I had to breeze through every chapter and find and replace every existing link with one from a new site, thanks for catching the error!

7005004 I am super proud of those chapters. :twilightsmile:

7005811 as you should be. As for this chapter, ugh oh. Stuff is about to go down. Hopefully nothing too bad. This chapter was definitely worth staying up entirely too late for. Any estimation on the next chapter?

(Also, I saw the comment in chapter before my notifications caught it, early bird gets the worm I guess)

7006362 Progress has been slow, but steady. Hopefully soon, but be warned, stuff is gonna go down. :pinkiegasp:

7009006 well, all I ask for is progress, however slow, it will be good. And shorter than the last wait? Even better.
May the creative juices flow with you, and may the gods of revision be quick to aid you. And let your internet publish the next fine work properly.

Hopefully you can update this story again! Nice work!

i know it's been over 3 years since the last update, but this is such a cool story! shame the author has been inactive for so long

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