• Published 1st Nov 2014
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A New Sun Rises - CommissarAJ



Sunset Shimmer has never needed anyone or anything - she had her magic, she had her ambition, and she had intellect. Others just stood in her way or held her down. So what do you do when your plans for world domination fall through?

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Act V-IV

Anybody who’s ever pursued research of any kind, be it scientific or magical, knows full-well that it is a journey that is often fraught with setbacks and obstacles. It is a little-known fact that Starswirl the Bearded had to spend a month as ‘Starswirl the Eyebrow-less’ after his experiments looking into the interactions between magic and lighter-than-air gases.

The short version of his results: methane and magic made for an unstable combination.

As for myself, however, I had to sit and stew in the kitchen until Celestia got home from work to find out how deep of a metaphorical pit I would be in. While spending most of the school day asleep in the rehearsal room was enough to land me in the dog house, that didn’t begin to compare to my reckless and unauthorized use of school equipment, most of which had been damaged or outright destroyed by my experiments.

Whether by feelings of pity or a need to keep an eye on me, Luna kept me company in the meantime. She sat on the opposite side of the kitchen island from me, casually checking her phone every few minutes to see if there were any notifications from her sister, or so she claimed.

All I could do, however, was ponder all the possible ways my life could be made more miserable. The failures of my experiments, along with my favourite jacket, had already dampened my mood, and the cherry on top of this awful sundae was that my cell phone had also been destroyed by the experiments. It had been in my coat pocket and the magic electrical discharge had turned it into a fancy paperweight.

So not only did I not find any answers; I lost my coat, my phone, and my laptop. I probably left a good portion of my dignity behind as well, but at least the only witnesses were my friends.

I sat quietly on my little stool, tapping my fingers against the granite countertop in a slow and rhythmic fashion. Eventually, the awkward silence compelled me to say something, even if it was the first idiotic thing to pop into my mind.

“Well, at least I didn’t blow up part of the school this time,” I said, followed by the most forced chuckle in the history of the world.

“I would hope that by now you would’ve set a slightly higher bar for yourself,” Luna replied. She smiled afterwards, letting me know that she’s not trying to be demeaning. “She isn’t going to be angry, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

“Me? Worried? Oh, hardly.” I tried to laugh off her concerns but made little headway. After a few agonizing moments of silence, Luna’s phone suddenly rang, to which I responded in a calm and rational manner: screaming followed by falling off of my stool.

“Just keep telling yourself that; one day it might come true,” Luna quipped before answering her phone. The conversation was brief—little more than a series of ‘mm-hm’ and ‘yeah’ before it was over. “Are you going to hide down there all night?” she asked once done with the phone call.

“Maybe she won’t notice me if I play dead.”

Realizing that it was childish to stay on the floor, I reluctantly climbed back onto the stool. I must’ve sparked some sense of pity in Luna, because she gave me a reassuring smile to help calm my nerves. It was strange finding comfort from her given that only a short while ago she was among those calling for my head.

“Did she sound upset?” I asked after a prolonged silence.

“She’s… under a fair amount of stress right now.” A delicate answer from Luna, which did little to help my anxiety. “Now this magic that you were investigating—is it something we need to be worried about?”

“Yes and no,” I answered as best I could. “Magic in and of itself isn’t a huge concern, at least not from my perspective. I’ve been using and studying magic for most of my life, so for me it’s just another part of life. What I’m concerned about is that I don’t know how differently the rules of magic apply to this world compared to my world.”

“Hence the experiments.”

“Exactly,” I affirmed with a quick nod. I was glad to see that Luna at least understood my reasoning. “I’m not worried so much about magic, rather it’s the unknown that’s bothering me. Especially if we’re trying to avoid drawing any more attention to ourselves or blow up parts of the school again.”

Luna let out a disquieted sigh. No doubt she was still just as bothered by unknown threats as she had been back when my fate was being discussed. Hopefully she didn’t consider throwing me and my friends out in order to protect the school.

“Normally I would say to leave such mysteries to the experts, but you’re probably the closest thing we have to one,” Luna remarked, albeit with notable reluctance as she rubbed the bridge of her nose. “What about in your world? How does magic work there?”

“Well, in Equestria, magic is a force that exists naturally; it permeates through the world and resides in all living creatures to some extent,” I explained, although it felt like I was just regurgitating the opening lines of ‘My First Spellbook’ that’s given out in magic kindergarten. “And a unicorn possesses a natural ability to harness the magic inside them. Most are limited to a very narrow range of spells pertaining to a given specialty, like a pony who specializes in glass-blowing would have magic that assists in that task. However, in rare occasions you can have a unicorn who’s talented in magic as a whole, such as myself, which makes it very easy for them to learn how to channel their magic to all manner of effects.”

I was half-expecting Luna to be staring off into space with glazed-over eyes, but instead I was surprised to see her regarding me with an amused smirk across her face.

“Is something wrong?”

“Sorry, I was just picturing you as a unicorn,” she replied.

“I’ll have you know that Princess Celestia once said that I was the prettiest filly in my grade,” I remarked with no shortage of pride in my tone. We both had a good laugh after that, which I sorely needed. The levity was cut-short, unfortunately, when I heard the front door opening and closing, which could only mean one thing.

Celestia was home.

I could hear her drawing closer to the kitchen, my chest tightening with each audible step. Her arrival was accompanied by a curious aroma of hot, fried food. My fears were confirmed when I saw the principal entering with a family-sized bag of MacDougal’s in tow.

“That’s not a good sign,” I murmured under my breath.

Celestia took a seat at the island, positioning herself such that Luna and I sat to either side of her. She looked tired, both physically and emotionally, like a soldier home from a long-fought war. There was a prolonged, painful silence around the table for a couple of minutes, save for Luna helping herself to some of the contents of the MacDougal’s bag.

“Sunset, what were you thinking?” Celestia finally spoke up at long last. As I had been led to expect, there was no anger or malice in her tone. Unfortunately, she sounded disappointed—very, very disappointed. Part of me would’ve preferred anger; at least I knew how to deal with anger.

There was no point trying to wrap this with noble intentions because she knew I was no longer guided by ambition or greed. The truth was far more simple.

“I was just trying to find answers.”

“By jury-rigging school equipment and conducting live experiments on your friends?”

“When you phrase it like that, you make me sound like some kinda mad scientist,” I remarked. I quickly realized that my nonchalance might not go over well with Celestia, so I tried to downplay the whole disaster. “I mean, yes, things got a little out of hand near the end, but it’s just a few broken computers. I’ll figure out some way to repair the damage or I could maybe get a job to at least pay back some of the damages. And I’ll make sure to catch up on all the work I missed because I slept through school.”

“You think I’m concerned about old lab equipment and you missing a day of class?” Celestia asked with a tone of restrained exasperation. “Sunset, you could’ve been seriously hurt. There was an electrical fire; there was power surge! The inside of one of the computers looked like someone had gone over it with a tesla coil!”

It was strange: I had almost forgotten all about the fire that claimed my coat, and the electrical discharge that let me tap into my inner pegasus and fly across the room. The fact that Celestia was so concerned for my safety hadn’t escaped my notice, which just made me feel worse. I had expected an earful about breaking school property and costing them more money, but I had forgotten about the other party that had been at risk: me.

“Okay, okay, I’m sorry!” I hastily spat out in order to try and placate my guardian. “I made a mistake—well, several mistakes—it won’t happen again.”

“You’re darn right this won’t happen again, because I don’t want you doing any more of these experiments.”

“What?” I gasped in disbelief. “You can’t be serious. How am I supposed to figure out how Rainbow Dash started flying through the halls?”

“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Luna asked her sister, surprising both of us by advocating for me. “This magic could have negative repercussions if it’s left unchecked.”

For her part, Celestia kept her shock in check, at best only betraying her thoughts with a brief lifting of her eyebrows. “Right now, the only risk from Rainbow Dash flying down the hallways is if she does so recklessly,” she answered. “Frankly, that’s a risk that’s far easier to mitigate.”

While I had been prepared to accept the consequences for my reckless behaviour, I hadn’t envisioned something so drastic. And emboldened by my recent successes at school and beyond, I felt confident enough to stand my ground against what I felt was an overreaction.

“Oh, come on!” I exclaimed, “this is magic, not splitting the atom! I may have overestimated what the machines could tolerate, but this is far from dangerous! This is completely unnecessary.”

“You set yourself on fire!” Celestia rebuked.

“I set my jacket on fire, and it’s not like anybody got hurt—well, not seriously hurt.”

A smarter and more observant me would’ve realized sooner that testing Celestia’s patience when she was in a MacDougal’s mood was not the best choice. Better choices could’ve been made while intoxicated at a free seminar for time shares. Just because I was popular at school again didn’t mean I was done being an idiot.

“You were lucky that you got away without any injuries; the next time might be different, and I will not have you putting yourself or anyone else in jeopardy just to satisfy your idle curiosity.”

I took great offence to my drive being described as mere ‘idle curiosity.’ I liked to believe that my ambitions served a greater purpose than simply being something to sink my time into.

“This is unbelievable,” I scoffed in disgust. “You don’t trust me, do you? What, do you think if I start studying magic I’ll turn back into that bloody she-demon again? I helped saved the school—saved you, might I add!”

“This isn’t about trust, Sunset Shimmer!” Celestia shouted as she slammed her palm against the table. “This is about your safety and that is non-negotiable!”

“‘Safety,’ my cutie marked flank!” I snapped back before storming out of the room.

“Your… what?”

“Pony saying!”

*******************

With my phone and computer destroyed, I spent the rest of the evening brooding in my room. Besides finishing off what school work I had missed due to sleeping through the day, I had little else to preoccupy my time. I had no desire to leave my room and run the risk of another confrontation with Celestia. It was better for both of us to give the other some distance in order to let tempers cool.

Sadly, my school work took only about an hour to complete and my skewered sleeping cycle meant that I spent the next agonizingly-long hours laying in bed with nothing to do. I went through a lot of brainstorming, trying to figure out how I could circumvent Celestia’s restrictions. The school was out of the question at this point: no doubt tomorrow would see her distribute a memorandum barring me from any extracurricular use of computers or scientific equipments. I could just imagine the library adorned with posters of my face with warnings of ‘do not allow near computers unsupervised!’

There was always the public library and its computers, or perhaps I could get a job and buy myself a replacement laptop. The hardest part would be gathering data without alerting Celestia, as any of my friends could potentially be recruited to keep tabs on me.

It was a poisonous thought to have, contemplating whether I could trust my friends, but it was hard for my mind not to start taking every possibility into account. Though I trusted them implicitly, they were still bound to their promise to Twilight Sparkle to help look after me, and if Celestia can convince them that it includes spying on me, then it remained a real possibility. Not to mention I’d hate to have to put them in a position where they might have to lie on my behalf.

It was beginning to look like I would have to concede defeat in this situation, as there was no realistic way to gather data and conduct research without having to cover my tracks with lies and obfuscations. I wasn’t so idiotic as to think that was anything resembling a good idea.

I let out a quiet sigh of resignation, folding my arms behind my head and braced myself for a long night of wallowing in ignorance. But then I heard a noise come from the window: a very faint ‘klink’ noise as if something just hit the window. Once I heard that noise a second time, I knew it couldn’t have been my imagination.

As it was dark outside, I had to open up the window in order to see what was going on, only to catch a pebble square in the forehead.

“Ow! What in the—”

“Sorry! I was aiming for the window!”

Imagine my surprise to see Twilight Sparkle standing outside my window, looking very sheepish and apologetic for having beaned me with a rock. What in the name of Celestia she was doing at my place in the middle of the night was a complete mystery, but one that I intended to get answers for shortly.

“What is going on, Twilight? What are you doing here?” I asked, still rubbing the sore spot on my forehead.

“Well, you see, I needed to talk to you, but I couldn’t get a hold of you; none of my texts or phone calls were getting through.” Not what I asked, but at least she was speaking in coherent sentences, so I wasn’t about to dissuade her.

“My phone got electrocuted,” I explained.

“Oh. Um, did you get any of my emails?”

“My laptop caught fire.”

“Wait, you mean like literally?” Twilight asked in momentary disbelief.

“Funeral pyre and everything; it’s a long story.”

Whatever answers Twilight expected, they were obviously nowhere close to the truth. She just continued staring in disbelief for a few more seconds before I gave her another verbal nudge to bring the conversation back on track.

“Twilight, it’s the middle of the night,” I reminded her. “What couldn’t wait until normal business hours?”

“We need to talk. May I come in?”

“Why didn’t you just knock on the door like a normal person?” Now considering how my day had gone, I was arguably the last person who should be criticizing others over what constituted ‘normal,’ I was already on thin ice with the house overlords and didn’t want to push my luck.

For her part, Twilight responded with a sheepish grin and a nervous chuckle as she rubbed the back of her neck. “Ah-heh, well, I was trying to avoid waking anybody else up—”

“Which you already did!” Luna’s voice suddenly rang out. I leaned outside and saw Luna poking her head out from her own bedroom window. “Now, would you just invite her inside before you wake up the whole neighborhood?”

“I might’ve gotten the wrong window at first,” Twilight offered as an explanation.

It was a good thing that it was so dark because otherwise Twilight might’ve seen me rolling my eyes in disbelief. I told her to wait by the front door and then hurried to let her inside. I was in for my second surprise of the night when I opened the front door and Twilight barged on in with an overstuffed dufflebag in tow and a corkboard tucked under one arm.

“You wouldn’t believe what’s been happening in the past few days,” she blurted out the second she was inside. “In fact, I almost didn’t believe it myself, but I didn’t know who else to turn to if I wanted to verify my data.”

Since I didn’t want to disturb everyone else in the house, I led Twilight up to my room so we could continue the discussion in private. In the back of my mind, I felt an unsettling tingle, as though my subconscious were trying to alert me to something that the rest of me hadn’t clued in on yet. Had I not been so distracted with my own problems, I wouldn’t have panicked so badly when I did.

Once in my room, Twilight Sparkle threw her bag onto my bed and began unpacking, taking out several file folders haphazardly stuffed to capacity, a number of homemade electronic devices, and several metal poles, the purpose of which became evident when she assembled the poles together into a rudimentary easel. I took a seat on the edge of my bed and waited for the inevitable presentation.

“Sunset, has there been any strange occurrences at your school in the past week?” Twilight asked in the midst of her setting up.

Since I couldn’t mention evil Sirens from Equestria attempting to harvest the school for magical power, I had to offer up a feigned look of confusion as I shrugged my shoulders. “We had a big music festival, but that’s about it,” I added.

Once the easel was ready, she put the corkboard on it and started pinning up numerous graphs, charts, equations, and other scientific oddities that it was too late at night for me to make sense of.

“It all happened just a few days ago when my seismograph picked up a sudden disturbance,” Twilight began to explain. She held up a long stretch of paper, showing what I presumed to be a reading of the aforementioned sensor. “At first I thought it might’ve been just an isolated incident or perhaps an artifact from construction work, but then I saw these data samplings I got from the sensor arrays I put in place around Canterlot High from around the same time period.”

“You put sensors around my school?”

“Well I couldn’t go inside so I had to settle with installing them on the school grounds around the building,” Twilight explained, misinterpreting my remark for disappointment rather than disbelief. “But look at all these energy spikes, all at different times and in different locations! Some of them only last a few moments, but there’s a few that lasted for several minutes.”

That was when my weary mind finally put the pieces together and realized what all the numbers and graphs were pointing to: they were all the moments where magic was being used at the school. I recognized a few of the time stamps, such as when the other Twilight Sparkle came through the portal, or when the Dazzlings were siphoning energy from the audience during the Battle of the Bands, and it didn’t take a genius to figure out what fifty-foot magic alicorn corresponded to the biggest spike in her data.

In all the excitement of dragging my name out of the mud and Rainbow Dash’s persisting magical abilities, I had neglected to consider that other people might notice things like giant, fluorescent alicorns.

Unfortunately, I got so lost in thought restraining my panic, I hadn’t paid attention to what Twilight was saying, as she had been rambling on about her data and findings. I only snapped back to the conversation when she said, “—do you think you can help?”

“Wh—Oh! Yeah, sure. Of course!” I blurted out without even thinking.

“That’s fantastic! Just keep this with you at school, carrying it around in your backpack or something, and just let me know if it picks up anything unusual,” Twilight said as she suddenly dropped a toaster-sized piece of electronic onto my lap. “The on switch is right here, and try not to let it overheat too much. It should have enough range to cover most of the school as you go about your day.”

I think I had just volunteered to be her guinea pig.

“Oh, I’m not sure if it’s a great idea to be carrying something this big around,” I said in a desperate attempt to back out of my promise without making it obvious. “Maybe this isn’t such a great idea.”

“It’ll be safe, I promise,” Twilight insisted. Seeing my lingering doubt, she clasped her hands together. “Pleeeeease?” She sat down next to me, taking one of my hands and holding it tight. “This is really important for me, Sunset. Whatever these readings are, whatever these strange energy waveforms are, they’re big! And I mean like ‘front cover of Science Monthly’ big. This could even get me a scholarship after high school. But I really, really need your help. You’re the only other person I can turn to for this.”

There was no easy way out of this, but any hope did not lay with trying to weasel out of this arrangement. I could figure something out later, but for now I had to give Twilight what she wanted to hear.

“Okay, okay, I’ll see what I can manage,” I said while offering a reassuring smile.

“Oh thank you, thank you, thank you!” In her excitement, Twilight threw her arms around me, squeezing me to the point of turning a touch red around the face. At least one of us was excited.

Before she could crush all of my ribs, I tried to distract her with something to talk about. “So what are some of these other toys you’ve managed to slap together?” I asked as I pointed to the nearest unfamiliar-looking device she had unpacked.

“These things?” Twilight replied, taking the bait. “Just some of the prototypes for my next batch of scanning equipment. I think I’ve managed to adjust the sensitivity for the phase discriminators enough so that I don’t have to worry so much about chasing false signals.” She held up one such device, which looked very similar to the one she had shown me back at the MacDougal’s restaurant some time ago; it was more refined and less held together by duct tape. It still reminded me of something from a cheap sci-fi film, but Twilight had already shown her aptitude for homemade electronics. “This should even be able to capture an active sample if I manage to find one, which will let me analyze the waveform patterns in better detail.”

As she flicked the device on, I felt my heart tighten in my chest. She had it aimed right at me, and as sure as the sun rises in the morning, the machine began crackling and beeping in a fury of noise and lights. I thought for certain I was going to be in for a difficult explanation when Twilight suddenly applied some percussive maintenance, and continued smacking the side of it until it stopped making any noise, save for a faint, repetitive beep.

“Sorry about that,” she apologized. “The sensors on this thing need recalibrating every other hour, it seems.”

“Y-you sure that’s the problem?” I asked despite all logic dictating I should leave the matter alone.

“If anybody was putting out readings like this, they’d be glowing,” Twilight replied. She was still fixated on her device, so thankfully she didn’t notice how relieved I was to hear that. “That or melting into a pile of radioactive goo.”

“Nope, no glowing here.” At least not since my experiments.

“Isn’t this exciting? We could be on the verge of a huge scientific breakthrough,” Twilight said. She was practically bouncing on the spot in her excitement, to the point where I was beginning to wonder how somebody could still be this energetic in the middle of the night.

That brought a curious thought to mind. “Twilight, when was the last time you slept?”

“Ummm, I’m not sure. What day is it today?”

I could only bury my face into my palm. If she had to ask, then the answer was never going to be something reasonable; at least that was another thing we had in common. But thinking about our shared irrationality made me realize that she was pursuing much of the same information that I had been. I didn’t necessarily need to conduct my own experiments because Twilight had gathered a smorgasbord of data for me.

“Say, do you think you could go over some of this data with me?” I asked as I gestured back to Twilight’s easel. “Maybe I could help you disseminate it.”

“Really? You want to see all the raw data?” Twilight asked.

“Of course. This all looks really fascinating.”

Those were probably words that Twilight rarely heard uttered without being stuffed to the brim with sarcasm. She had a look of genuine surprise about her, but soon realized my sincerity and nodded in agreement. She grabbed one of her dossiers and opened it up for me to see. The first sheets I saw contained a number of line graphs showing measured outputs over time from the sensors she had placed around Canterlot High.

“Wow, Twilight, these are really extensive,” I remarked in a mix of awe and disbelief. I was even a little jealous; it made the small amounts of data I collected look like crayon drawings. “Where did you manage to get all the equipment for this?”

“From the science lab at my school, though I’ve had to modify them extensively for this job,” she explained. She reached over and pulled a few sheets out to the forefront. “Here’s some of the drafts I did for the alterations…”

Twilight and I went on to talk about her research for hours. It was equal parts impressive and horrifying to see just how organized and methodical she was in her approach to discovering the nature of magic. Were the possible dangers to Equestria not so prevalent in my mind, I would’ve been more than eager to help her with this journey of discovery. As it stood, however, I had to do whatever I could to delay Twilight without her knowledge, at least until I knew enough about the magic in this world so I could keep Equestria safe.

“Now as you can see on this page, I’ve overlaid the waveforms from the first data samples I gathered from your school, as well as the first and second samples I collected from you…”

I felt guilty that Twilight was so close to finding the answers, but I couldn’t tell her what the mystery really was. First off, she’d never believe in a concept like ‘magic,’ which is understandable, but she’d also never settle for just being told the answer. She’d have to find the magic for herself, to study and analyze every facet of it, and I was still worried about what those consequences might be. Our worlds simply weren’t ready for each other, and I wasn’t going to let my past mistakes cause more grief for Princess Celestia.

Twilight Sparkle was my friend, but I had to keep feigning ignorance. It was a bad decision, but it was for the right reasons, wasn’t it?

Things quieted down after a while, if only because exhaustion had left me unable to really formulate any questions, so I simply read over the notes as best I could. Eventually, I concluded that there had been a reasonable length of time to entertain Twilight’s visit and that I had flown past it by several miles. This became all the more obvious when I realized it took me ten minutes to notice that the page I had been trying to decipher was upside-down.

“Okay Twilight,” I said whilst stifling a yawn, “I think it’s time to call it a ni—”

I stopped abruptly when I looked over to my friend and realized that she was no longer sitting next to me. Instead, she was curled up on the bed alongside me, sound asleep. It would seem that she shared similar sentiments. Now I could’ve woken her up or called her parents or otherwise done something to help get Twilight home, but I was too tired to really care. I just grabbed the blankets, pulled them over the two of us, and went to sleep as well.

I could worry about the repercussions in the morning.