• Published 18th Dec 2014
  • 1,942 Views, 91 Comments

Double Trouble: The Flaws Within - Masterius

Two Twilight Sparkles are not better than one, especially when each are stranded in the wrong world! With the Crystal Mirror broken, is there any way for them to find the way back to their respective homes?

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Chapter 2

Chapter Two

A gentle pink glow flickered and danced in the small circular room, that coruscating luminescence emanating from the strange apparatus centered there.

More precisely, emitting from the mirror positioned there.

The mirror stood three ponies tall and sat within a frame mounted atop two flat, circular bases, the upper one slightly smaller in diameter than the lower. The edge of the lower base was decorated with embossed, deep purple, heels-upwards horseshoes, while the upper base’s edge was lightly scalloped. The support frame was a light purple, elongated horseshoe resting on its heels, the face decorated with a pattern of eleven, pink tourmaline stones facet cut as oblong hexagons.

Atop the support frame was a crown‑shaped crest, and positioned atop that, at the very apex, was a second, smaller horseshoe frame of the same color and material as the larger. Roughly one pony in height and with heels facing upwards, it appeared as if floating in space, buttressed by wavy filigrees cleverly holding it in a fashion which reinforced that illusion. Mounted within the smaller frame was a second mirror, the face of which was decorated with an engraved, stylized rearing pony. The heels of this frame were connected by metal—which also completed enclosing the smaller, upper mirror with its frame—having a diamond‑facet‑cut, pink tourmaline stone centered there. The outer edges of both horseshoe frames had wavy lattices matching the fretwork supporting the upper frame atop the lower.

Normally the polished face of the mirror showed the typical reflection of any other mirror…normally. However…

This was no normal mirror. This was the Crystal Mirror.

The main mirror’s pearlescent flat surface was neither silvered glass nor polished metal. Instead, it was a lustrous, slivered piece of burnished crystal, and while it usually functioned the same as a normal mirror, under special circumstances and certain situations it did far more. Some ponies, when gazing into its depths, saw reflected back to them far more than their mere likeness, and, depending on the pony in question, that revelation could have profound consequences.

That, however, was only one of its obscure, mystic properties. Unbeknownst to almost everypony was a very different, utterly unique, attribute: the Crystal Mirror was a portal, a gateway to another world.

Every thirty moons, one could walk through the face of the Crystal Mirror and enter a world entirely separate from, and independent of, Equestria. And in many ways it was a very odd, quite weird world there, indeed. That opening, however, lasted only for a short time: a period of three days, ending when the moon in that world reached its zenith the night of that third day.

However, the Crystal Mirror wasn’t the only item in the room.

The room itself was perfectly smooth and round, the wall and ceiling an unblemished hemisphere about thirty paces in width. The floor, walls, and ceiling were a soft, deep charcoal gray stone, almost smoky in appearance. The Crystal Mirror sat in the exact middle, partially surrounded by what could only be described as ‘an infernal contraption’.

Princess Twilight had originally built and assembled the device in her library, for that was where she’d first placed the Crystal Mirror when it had been entrusted to her care. However, the device’s size—’large’ and ‘clunky’ described it quite accurately—took up a substantial portion of the library interior, and, well, Princess Twilight wouldn’t have it remain that way. Libraries were essential!

Most importantly, however, were both the device and the Crystal Mirror needed relocation someplace more private, and much more secure…

…Because Princess Twilight no longer needed waiting thirty moons to pass through the portal gateway.

At the moment, perched at the very top of that contrivance and settled into a niche exactly its size, rested a thick, heavy book whose cover was emblazoned with Princess Celestia’s cutie mark. Its mate was currently in that other world: identical to this one save for being embossed with Sunset Shimmer’s cutie mark on its cover. That one had been a gift to Sunset Shimmer from Princess Celestia when she had been her student and protégé. These were a very special pair of books, for whatever was penned on the pages of one book instantly appeared on the pages of the other.

Princess Twilight had never needed anything like that to communicate with her teacher, since all she’d ever had to do was have Spike take dictation, pen scrolls, and then use his fiery breath to burn them up and magically send the ashes of the note to Princess Celestia. While anything that Princess Celestia wanted to send back, Spike just burped up in a puff of green flame once Princess Celestia had “posted” it.

Normally, this book was on the nightstand in Princess Twilight’s bedroom, for that was where, in the evenings and before retiring to bed, she’d relax and keep up with any messages from Sunset Shimmer, one of her friends back in that other world. And, against all odds—especially considering how they’d first met!—Sunset Shimmer truly was one of Twilight Sparkle’s friends. A very close one, in fact.

There were aspects of Sunset Shimmer that Princess Twilight found very comforting. Familiar even. It was hard to describe, actually. In fact, there were times she suspected Sunset Shimmer represented a facet of the Magic of Friendship that, somehow, the Elements of Harmony had inexplicably overlooked, as she not only complemented her friends, Twilight included, but seemed also to complete their group, too.

In no way was this more apparent than when they played together as a group. It was as if she catalyzed their power, somehow increased it beyond mere addition. As if, instead of it being seven plus seven it was seven times seven.

It also hadn’t escaped Twilight’s notice that the one time when their powers had truly meshed together, with Sunset Shimmer’s being added to theirs, they had merged into a true rainbow. Which, as anypony knew, was actually seven prismatic colors, not six.

However, as curious as Twilight might be about Sunset Shimmer’s potential aspects—and she was very curious, indeed!—and what those might entail, she wasn’t about to treat her as some sort of lab experiment. That didn’t stop her, of course, from researching things from her end, examining every script, scroll, record, and book she could find, hunting for any possible clue about a seventh Element.

Of course, the explanation could be as simple as magic—or what passed for magic there, at any rate—operated quite differently there than it did in Equestria. After all, none of her friends in that world had ever possessed anything like the Elements of Harmony, yet they nevertheless were channels of the Magic of Friendship.

The interesting point of all these musings of hers was that, truly, what was known as fact about the Elements of Harmony was quite small, while what was conjectured was rather extensive. Which made Princess Twilight wonder if there might not be, under the right concatenation of circumstances, yet another, as yet unnamed and unknown, Element lurking about.

And whether or not Sunset Shimmer might be the Holder of—if not outright personification of—that Element.

There was a brilliant flash of light from the mirror as Princess Twilight stepped through it and back into the Portal Room. Moments later, there was a second flash as Sunset Shimmer passed through. The difference between their actual arrivals, however, was rather profound.

Princess Twilight was basically an old hoof at this by now, having more than half‑a‑dozen passages under her wings, and so was used to the physical and spatial disorientation felt when shifting between the normal horizontal, quadrupedal position and the awkward and unnatural vertical, bipedal.

Sunset Shimmer, however, was not so experienced, sharply gasping upon exiting the mirror, at first trying to maintain balance on two rear hooves as forelegs wildly flailed for balance. It wasn’t until dropping down and standing on all four hooves that she stopped wobbling and weaving about as if struck by a disorientation spell. Eyelids tightly squinched shut and violently shaking her head, her brilliant yellow and vivid crimson mane waved like a dazzling, rolling surf.

For the first time, Princess Twilight had a good, long look at Sunset Shimmer as a unicorn. The last time—and, actually, the first time as well—things had been rather busy and hectic, more focused on pursuit than observation. But now she had that opportunity, and the first thought flicking into her head was that Rarity would die to get her hooves on that thick expanse of mane and work her own brand of “magic” on those luxurious, flowing tresses.

But that mental smile vanished, replaced by a physical look of concern when Sunset Shimmer remained standing there, all four legs set apart and braced, barrel heaving as if she’d just run a race. Her eyes remained tightly shut and her skin twitched as if shaking off flies. Her horn began glowing; softly at first, little firefly flashes chasing each other ‘round and ‘round the helixed spiral before gradually spreading along the length until the entire horn refulgently illumined the room.

Princess Twilight closed the distance between them in two small steps then lowered her head alongside Sunset Shimmer’s. “It’s OK,” she softly, reassuringly murmured. “I’m right here. Everything’s going to be just fine. I promise.”

Sunset Shimmer softly groaned, trembling as she stood there. “I…I can feel it,” she agonizingly whimpered. “It…it’s coming back!”

“Well, of course it is, silly!” Princess Twilight soothingly chided. “You are a unicorn, after all!”

The tone was so unexpected—gentle teasing mixed with mild admonishment—that Sunset Shimmer’s eyes flew open in startled surprise as her head reared back in astonishment. Princess Twilight just grinned as if that was of no import, as if everything was just spiffy and perfectly normal.

Taking a deep breath, Sunset Shimmer gustily exhaled; then took a second one, eyes this time softly closed, and exhaled again. The skin twitching slowed, then ceased. Raspy gasps gradually eased, while the coruscation of her horn gradually dimmed and died, not so much disappearing as being absorbed. Finally, after what seemed a long time but in actuality wasn’t more than a minute, she took a final, deep breath before calmly exhaling.

Giving a last head shake, mane rippling as she did, Sunset Shimmer finally opened her eyes. Princess Twilight still just stood there, looking perfectly calm and at ease as if she hadn’t a worry in the world. And that wasn’t an act: Sunset Shimmer knew that on soooo many levels, not the least of which—this time—was also arcane, for she could sense with the replenishment of her powers that Princess Twilight had activated absolutely no defensive or protective magicks.

She was wide open to anything Sunset Shimmer might choose to do. And, even as a filly in her first year in magic school, Sunset Shimmer had possessed the raw power and ability to have floored Princess Twilight where she stood.

And Sunset Shimmer knew Princess Twilight knew that.

A gentle yet intense warmth bloomed and blossomed inside, a sensation no longer foreign to her. Of course Princess Twilight hadn’t activated any such thing! Because she trusted Sunset Shimmer. Trusted her as a friend.

“Feeling better?” Princess Twilight solicitously inquired.

Sunset Shimmer licked lips that felt a bit dry. Closing her eyes again, this time to assist with concentration, Sunset Shimmer ran a bit of an internal self-diagnostic. For the most part, nothing felt wrong…exactly. Weird and strange, definitely, particularly those inner conduits now shimmering and brimming with magic. And yes, now that she’d had a few minutes to, well, adjust, she was feeling better, especially since her fears didn’t seem to be coming true.

Not coming true, yet, anyway, she mentally qualified. Still, she’d be extremely untruthful if she’d said this wasn’t feeling at least a bit disorienting!

“Ummm…errr…” she faltered. “Yeah. I think so, anyway,” she finally replied, then jerked back in alarm, cyan eyes round and wide as saucers, feeling…something…wash over her. But all she could see that might have caused that sensation was Princess Twilight levitating the book “battery” from its niche atop the device which, as soon as the book was removed, powered down and closed the portal. Using skills she hadn’t employed in a long time, Sunset Shimmer quickly determined that what she’d felt—and what had spooked her—was sensing Princess Twilight’s use of unicorn magic.

Although, she wryly thought, in Princess Twilight’s case it was more accurate to say Alicorn magic.

As there wasn’t any place inside this special room to shelve the book, Twilight simply kept it hovering overhead. “I don’t have any idea what you’re actually feeling right now,” she admitted to Sunset Shimmer. “The few times in the past when I’d completely lost my magic had never lasted very long. I remember how that made me feel, though, and I feel pretty certain‑sure that comparing what I felt when losing magic to how you’re feeling regaining it isn’t at all the same.” Pausing for a moment, Princess Twilight gently gazed at Sunset Shimmer. “So,” she softly murmured, “What are you feeling?”

“Hooooo!” Sunset Shimmer gusted. “Where to begin?”

“At the beginning, of course!” Princess Twilight grinned.

Sunset Shimmer lopsidedly grinned back. As long as she had her friend with her she felt a lot more settled, a lot more safe and secure, about all this. “Well,” she began, “Physically, I’m feeling a bit disoriented. Mentally, more than a bit flustered.” She took a cautious step forwards, then a second. “My perspective makes things look odd and makes me a bit dizzy but it’s getting better. Starting to feel more, well, natural. Pretty much the same way as I’d felt the last time I, erm...” Shamefaced, she took several deep, cleansing breaths before continuing. “It took me a while to adjust the last time, too.”

Slowly pacing around the circumference of the Portal Room, Princess Twilight patiently gave her all the time she needed to reacclimatize to the world of her birth.

Twilight Sparkle grunted with effort as she hoisted the transmitter out of the van. She’d used a hand truck getting it to the van, but she hadn’t ever planned on transporting it except between the van and her dorm...which is where the aforementioned—and highly useful—trolley currently resided. Taking several minutes to lug the unwieldy, awkward mechanism across the street and up to the statue, she was puffing like a bellows by the time she unceremoniously thumped it down.

Everything else she needed—or could think of needing, anyway—was already placed by the statue, and for the next couple of minutes, Twilight was busy attaching various and sundry electrodes and terminals to the statue base. Fingers—the tips ink‑stained, the nails nibbled and ragged—flew like dancing bolts of lightning as she rapidly connected wires to their attachment points. It felt as if she were wading through molasses, but in actuality, Twilight had things set up and running in record speed, and in a very short period of time her devices were busy humming, buzzing, or ticking away.

Pushing glasses back up, Twilight quizzically stared at the statue. There was absolutely no doubt about it: this statue was the primary locus for the energies she’d been detecting and tracking these long months, yet there wasn’t anything extraordinary about it. Especially at this moment, for it wasn’t emitting anything; for all its discernable activity it could very well be merely the hunk of chiseled marble it resembled.

Or probably was, rather than resembled—mere marble, that is; Twilight decided to chip off a piece for later analysis back at her lab, to determine what, exactly, its actual composition was.

Still, just because it was quiescent now didn’t mean it hadn’t been active in the past. Especially the recent past.

Twilight kept a very careful eye on the quantum gyroscope. That seemed to be the most sensitive of her detection equipment, and Twilight already had the beginnings of several monographs started, documenting the correlation between quantum effects—like quantum entanglement, teleportation, and tunneling—and the effects the uneducated, unwashed masses called “magic”. In fact, the waveforms and frequencies she’d been recording…

Flicking the power toggle on, Twilight waited as the transmitter powered up, humming as it warmed. Adjusting dials and rheostats, she closely watched the oscilloscope as she did so, stopping once the displayed waveform matched the tracings recorded by the integrated electronic piezoelectric accelerometer. Her eyes widened when, at the moment the oscilloscope output matched the accelerometer tracings, the rear base of the statue flickered.

It wasn’t an exact match, she noted, and began the delicate task of matching signals to each other. Within a few seconds, though, she realized the signals seemed to be taking on a life of their own, adjusting themselves to each other. And not just adjusting, either! They were augmenting each other in a self‑propagating, self‑amplifying, feedback loop; in some ways resembling, and functioning, very much like the typical harmonic oscillator.

It wasn’t until the quantum gyroscope abruptly spun up so fast and so furious that it disintegrated, that Twilight abruptly realized there was a great deal more energy involved here than she had ever envisioned. This was—somehow!—a quantum harmonic oscillator she’d energized!

She knew, without any false modesty or humility, this was far more powerful and esoteric than she had the ability, knowledge, or experience, to handle, let alone contain and control! The power levels were enormously strong and exponentially growing, and if she didn’t disconnect the equipment right now!

Twilight had just reached for the main power bus when the base of the statue erupted in a silent globe of blinding kaleidoscopic energy, enveloping not just Twilight’s equipment

…but also Twilight herself.

Soft clip‑clops lightly echoed in the portal chamber as Sunset Shimmer deliberately paced around the room. Getting her hooves back under her was proceeding much faster than she’d believed she would or could do, and as long as she didn’t really focus on what she was doing, it didn’t feel awkward or strange. Princess Twilight was going to be right…again, she suspected, crookedly grinning at that admission.

Steadily circling, she gradually permitted herself to feel, slowly yet surely, the energies roiling within her. For quite some time, she kept flinching from appraising too deeply that inner, blinding radiance, fearing being overtaken by that power. Actually, and more accurately, nervous and anxious of being subsumed by former, fierce, selfish desires and temptations, that consumption being augmented by the resumption of her power. The other times she’d returned, initially to reconnoiter and research and then finally to steal Princess Twilight’s Crown―and, more importantly, the Element of Magic that powered it—the replenishment of her magicks had also intensified her diabolic thirst for Power. However, those other times she’d still hungered for power and vengeance, while, this time…

But—again!—Princess Twilight was correct—or seemed to be, anyway: just because Sunset Shimmer had the ability, talent, skills—and now power—to do something didn’t mean she would.

However, Sunset Shimmer was also a wiser mare than she’d once been. Temptations, she knew, never really went away for good. Like any sneaky foe, a beaten temptation might withdraw from the field of battle, but a battle wasn’t a war, and forcing a retreat wasn’t a total victory. So Sunset Shimmer wasn’t about to let her guard down; not for a very long time, if ever. All the same, she wasn’t going to walk around huddled in fear, afraid of her own shadow because of “what‑mights”. Like Fluttershy.

At that, Sunset Shimmer felt a wave of shamed heat flood her face. That really wasn’t fair to Fluttershy and she knew it. Not only was Fluttershy a friend of hers, but Sunset Shimmer knew there was a core of steel inside Fluttershy’s normally timid diffidence. And Celestia help anyone if they threatened harm to an animal if she was there! Why, they’d be lucky if—

“Here. Catch!”

Sunset Shimmer blinked, startled as Princess Twilight called out. Then staggered back, eyes wide in alarm, as Twilight simply heaved the Book over towards her, the magenta aura of levitation disappearing once the Book reached the zenith of its arced trajectory… and which was now rapidly descending directly towards Sunset Shimmer.

“Ack!” The Book came to a halt, hovering in mid‑air, surrounded by a faint, shimmering light crimson aura.

The same auroral glow that flickered and danced over her horn.

“What are you doing!?” Sunset Shimmer gibbered.

“At the moment? At the moment, I’m not doing anything. You are,” Princess Twilight patiently stated, as sober and serious as any of Sunset Shimmer’s stodgy teachers had ever been, especially when they’d been stating the obvious. Alas, the twinkling of gleaming violet eyes gave the game away.

Once she’d gotten over the sheer shock of having the heavy book flung her way without warning, she suffered a second, more intense one at feeling the magic—her magic—actively flowing through her as she levitated the Book. After the last few years that felt decidedly…odd. Strange. Peculiar.

But also nice.

Very nice, in fact.

Pleasant. Pleasurable. Satisfying. Delightful. Oh, so many feelings, and all of them good! So, so good!

“Back atcha!” Sunset Shimmer grinned, “tossing” the Book back to Princess Twilight.

For the next couple of minutes the two of them acted like silly little foals, hugely grinning as they took turns pitching the Book back and forth, sometimes lobbing it in a high arc and sometimes firing it like a missile. Princess Twilight had picked the best way to get Sunset Shimmer to relax about her magic, it seemed, because once she’d gotten over the initial shock, she abandoned herself with playful passion to the game.

In fact, Sunset Shimmer was frisking about, giddy with the euphoria of relief from her most immediate fears. Pealing giggles rang out as she suddenly pictured herself having done this back when she had still been a student at Princess Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns! The other students would have been bowled over, knocked for a loop!

Abruptly pausing and holding still, she kept the Book hovering just overhead. “Is something wrong?” Princess Twilight asked, voice full of concern. Sunset Shimmer quickly shook her head. No. Nothing was wrong. But she’d suddenly pictured how Princess Celestia might have looked, seeing her student gamboling about in exuberant fun with friends.

Well, better a slow learner, she wryly thought, than a complete dunce and dolt‑colt! “She’s pretty amazing, isn’t she,” Sunset Shimmer murmured.

Taking the abrupt change in direction totally in stride, Princess Twilight replied, “Princess Celestia, you mean?”

Sunset Shimmer wasn’t at all surprised she’d straightaway deduced whom Sunset Shimmer had meant. Nodding, she’d just opened her mouth to continue when she stopped, becoming cognizant of a sensation that, she realized, she’d been superficially growing more and more aware. “Ummm,” she semi‑stammered, “Is that supposed to be doing that?”

Princess Twilight turned and fully faced the Crystal Mirror, that having been the first “that” Sunset Shimmer had referenced. Jaw dropping, she looked quite stunned, for the Crystal Mirror’s surface was flickering: flashing and flaring in a discordant pattern, but whose intensity was growing noticeably stronger, that burgeoning power being the second “that” Sunset Shimmer had implied.

“No. No, it’s not,” Princess Twilight answered, narrowing eyes as she focused fully on the misbehaving Mirror. Granted, she’d only been using the Mirror for less than three moons, so it wasn’t as if she considered herself an expert regarding it. But what she was seeing now was totally unique in her experience.

Worse, much, much worse, was that it should also be totally impossible.

For one of the very few times in her life, Princess Twilight reacted instead of acted. Her immediate assessment were the power levels of the Mirror were unsteadily fluctuating and therefore needed a regulating moderator. The best way of doing that, she intuited, was using an external stabilizer, especially if that could also provide its own steady, reliable source of power.

And she just happened to have a hoofy‑doofy one right here!

Before Sunset Shimmer could say anything—not that she had a clue, afterwards, what she might have said—Princess Twilight had levitated the Book up and ensconced it into its niche.

And that’s when everything went to Tartarus in a basket.

For a moment it looked as if Princess Twilight’s idea had worked: the irregular flashes and flares died down into a steady, albeit bright, glow. But that lasted only for a moment. Sunset Shimmer cried out, feeling energy suddenly, painfully, wash over her, forcing her eyes closed lest she be blinded by the radiance. It felt very much like what had happened to her back in her other world, the first—and only!—time she’d learned what having bare skin instead of a pony coat meant when staying out in the sun too long. She’d gotten a ferocious sunburn, and her skin had been so sensitive that, until she’d healed, feeling sunlight against the burned skin had hurt!

This felt much the same, but ten—nay, a hundred!—times worse!

She felt, more than heard, a silent explosion, then all was quiet. Raw, untamed and uncontrolled magic no longer shrilled along her nerves. Sunset Shimmer cautiously slitted one eye, and seeing that the room was dark now save for the four bracketed, flameless torches in their wall sconces, blew out a gusty sigh as she opened both. “That was—Twilight!!

Sunset Shimmer leapt over to Princess Twilight, who was lying bonelessly sprawled in an untidy heap on the floor. “Princess Twilight!” Sunset Shimmer cried out. “Are you OK? What’s wrong?” Sunset Shimmer danced in place, hooves tattooing little clip‑clops that echoed in the small chamber. She was about to race off and find help when she heard a low, soft groan. “It’s OK, I’m right here,” she reassured, feeling uncharacteristically helpless. “Everything’s going to be fine, I promise.”

Looking about, Sunset Shimmer hoped she was telling the truth. Although she’d felt…whatever that had been!…with her arcane senses, she hadn’t felt anything physical. No sound. No pressure. Nothing at all. But it appeared Princess Twilight’s device hadn’t fared anywhere near so well. Bits and pieces were loosely dangling, and as best as she could tell—considering she’d never seen the device in operation before—it wasn’t functioning.

Which made the fact the Crystal Mirror was beginning to fitfully spit sparks extremely alarming.

Princess Twilight softly groaned again before weakly moving, slowly lifting her head up and gingerly shaking it, slowly and unsteadily getting hooves back under her. Then she opened her eyes…

A hysterical shriek sounding like a scalded dragon burst from her as she stared, horrified, at her forehooves. With an eruption of fearful energy she surged upright…

…onto rear hooves.

Sunset Shimmer stared, eyes rounded saucers, as Princess Twilight heaved herself up onto her hind legs then stood there, forelegs windmilling about, eyes wide with horror. She kept staring at her forehooves as if they were fiends; beasts about to rend and savage her. Wobbling on hind legs she kept sharply flicking forelegs as if trying to shake her hooves off, all the while howling in distress.

Watch out!!

It was too late. Sunset Shimmer had been so transfixed by Princess Twilight’s—histrionics? Possession seemed more accurate!—that she hadn’t noticed when that infernal device began partially collapsing. At the very last moment, she’d seen the Book dropping like a rock from the heavens, having fallen from its shattered niche, and her warning came the same instant it smacked Princess Twilight right in the back of the head. The hysterical alicorn’s wails came to an abrupt stop as she, too, dropped like the self‑same metaphoric rock.


Sunset Shimmer screamed, completely frozen, unable to do a thing as she watched the Book take a bounce behind Princess Twilight as she was collapsing from the impact…

…then, in a smooth arc, take a second bounce…

…right through the Crystal Mirror.

There was another explosion, just as silent as the first but insanely more powerful. It took several minutes before Sunset Shimmer could see past the stars and spangles the glaring, blinding blast had imprinted on her vision. And when she finally could see, her stomach knotted up so badly she wished she’d remained still dazzled-blinded.

The Crystal Mirror was no longer spitefully sparking and flaring. It was completely dark and quiescent.

And, based upon the fact its crystal surface was now cracked and crazed like a shattered eggshell, it was quite broken, as well.

Author's Note:

Revised 02/07/2020