• Published 18th Dec 2014
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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 3

Chapter Three

The moment Princess Twilight fell to her knees, she'd known something was terribly, terribly wrong. She shouldn’t have knees!

More accurately, she shouldn’t have only two knees! She should have four!…

…when in Equestria.

When she then fell forwards, landed on her palms and began reeling on hands and knees, she really knew she was in trouble; so dizzy, so disoriented, she couldn’t focus enough to make sense of anything; stomach so nauseated her concentration was primarily focused on keeping from getting sicker. Harshly panting and violently trembling, Twilight was so weak she let herself gradually collapse until sprawled on the pavement, the heat radiating upwards from the absorbed sunlight revitalizing.

Gradually, her insides ceased fiercely whirling, and she started taking stock of her situation. Without opening eyes she knew—positively knew—she was no longer in Equestria, and was almost as certain about her current location. Let’s see…

Hands. Feet. Arms. Legs. Clothes.

Yup.

Her breathing calmed and slowed; tummy stopped roller‑coastering; heart stopped pounding; pulse no longer throbbed and raced. She didn’t remember going through the mirror—crabapples, she didn’t remember activating the portal, for that matter!—but clearly she had, somehow, returned to the world of her human friends.

Sweet Celestia, please let it be that world and not a different one!

The thought that, perhaps, she might have somehow wound up someplace else was stimulus enough for Twilight to open eyes and take a quick look about. Once confirming that, indeed, this was the world of her human friends, she quickly closed them again because, at the moment, her sight was still rolling back and forth in a decidedly seasick manner.

mmmmmmmmmmmmmmMMMMMMMMMmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

mmmmmmmmmmmmmmMMMMMMMMMMMMM putt-putt-putt-putt sqck…

“Twilight? Is that you? Are you all right?”

Something had just passed by, making a peculiar sound as it had, but Twilight had been too woozy to crack open an eye to see what weird oddity that might have been. Even when it appeared to loop around and return, she’d much rather keep her eyes closed. But then it had squeaked to a stop quite close to her, making it much more difficult to ignore. And when someone had then called her name…

Lifting her head, Twilight looked towards the sound of the voice, her vision blurring a moment before finally settling into semi‑focused clarity.

“Mystery Mint? Is that you?”

Pushing her scooter up onto its stand, Mystery Mint nodded as she walked over. “Uh‑huh. It’s me.” Crouching next to Twilight and tossing her scarf over her shoulder, she observed, “You don’t look so good. Are you all right?” she repeated. “Did you hurt yourself? Did someone hurt you?” she asked, sounding more concerned.

She carefully helped ease Twilight up until she was sitting mostly upright with legs curled at her side. “I…I think I am,” Twilight hesitantly answered. “I’m more dizzy than anything else. I’m not hurt, at any rate.”

“That’s good!” Mystery Mint exhaled in relief. “What’s all this stuff for?” she asked.

“This stuff” turned out to be quite a few devices, none of which Twilight immediately recognized as anything familiar. They were placed in a roughly semicircular arc on the pavement at the rear of the statue, and she had absolutely no idea why they were there.

Suddenly, Mystery Mint gasped in alarm. Twilight looked up, startled and concerned. “What?”

Mystery Mint just pointed to the rear of the statue pedestal. Twilight’s eyes rounded in alarm before she’d even looked up, feeling sick and dizzy all over again. The rear face of the statue pedestal, the portal entrance…

…looked as if an angry giant had smashed an enormous sledgehammer right in the center.


“Yep. By the statue.”…“I don’t how many. As many as we can get for now.”…“She might need all our help. Definitely gotta get Velvet and Wiz though; pretty sure we’re gonna need their help.”…“It’s pretty weird and awful bad.”…“OK, see you soon!” Mystery Mint ended the call then slipped her cell phone into her pocket.

“Just called Cherry Crash,” she explained to Twilight, whom Mystery Mint had earlier assisted with leaning upright against an unbroken side of the statue. “She’ll round up the others to help.”

Twilight was feeling much better by now. If circumstances had been different, she’d have said she was feeling completely better. But circumstances weren’t different.

The portal was broken.

Just leaning against it, Twilight could sense it was broken. She hadn’t needed to see the shattered face to know she was stranded here.

Stranded here. All alone, and with no way at all returning!

Crouching next to her, Mystery Mint held out the water bottle she’d taken from her scooter. “Here, have some; it’ll be good for you.”

“Thanks,” Twilight softly replied, taking the proffered bottle and sipping. The water was still chill, and had an interesting minerally taste. Normally that would have quite intrigued her, but not at this point in time.

Then what else Mystery Mint had said finally percolated through. “‘Round up the others’? What others?”

Standing back up, Mystery Mint put small, fisted hands on her hips. “Twilight. Really,” raising a hand, she semi‑scolded as small fingers flicked a lock of her hair. “I’m lavender and rose; I’m not blonde.” Twilight blushed but Mystery Mint just grinned, obviously teasing. “Everyone at Canterlot High knows how much we owe you. We might not know everything about you,” she added, “but we know enough to understand what you’ve done for us.”

Hunkering back down, Mystery Mint gazed at Twilight. “We might not make a big deal about that, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t noticed. Or that we don’t care. Mostly it’s because we don’t want to embarrass you and the others,” whereupon Mystery Mint grinned as Twilight blushed, “but also because we respect your privacy. Not that most of us aren’t dying of curiosity!” she grinned again.

Twilight took another swallow. “Ummm…so what do you know?” she asked, at which point Mystery Mint made Pinkie Pie’s original guesstimate of whom Twilight had been, back during the Fall Formal, seem rather…mild and tame.

Considering Pinkie’s “guesstimate” had been, You’re from an alternate world and you’re a pony princess there and the crown actually has a magical element embedded in it that helps power up other magical elements, and without it they don’t work anymore, and you need them all to help protect your magical world, and if you don’t get the crown tonight, you’ll be stuck in this world and you won’t be able to get back for, like, a really, really long time!

Twilight’s eyes were wide in astonishment by the time Mystery Mint was finished.

“So that’s why I know that that,” Mystery Mint gestured towards the shattered portal face, “is terrible! It’s your way home.” Then she looked all around at the scattered instruments. “I just have no idea what these things are, or are supposed to do. They aren’t yours, I’m guessing?”

Twilight shook her head. “No, they aren’t. They look like measuring instruments though.”

Mystery Mint looked at Twilight in surprise. Twilight just snorted, semi‑amused. “It might not seem that way to you, but we really don’t use magic for everything. And back in Equestria you’d probably consider me as much a scientist and a researcher as well as, well…”

“A Magical Alicorn Pony Princess of Friendship and Magic?” Mystery Mint helpfully offered, giggling as Twilight blushed an even deeper rose.

Rising up, Mystery Mint padded over to her scooter, fetching a granola bar from a saddle pocket. She was opening up the packaging when she stopped, her expression puzzled, before crouching and picking something up. “I…I think this is something you need to see,” she stated as she walked back over to Twilight. Hunkering down in front of her, she held out a book. “This looks more like your type of thing than the rest of this stuff does.”

Reaching out, Twilight took the book, then stiffened. She paled so badly she turned a ghostly, ghastly gray.

“Twilight! What’s wrong?” Mystery Mint cried, freezing in the middle of handing Twilight the granola bar.

Embossed on the cover of the Book was a radiant, golden, stylized sun; a very familiar image to Twilight.

After all, it was the cutie mark of her former teacher and mentor…the Royal Sun Princess of Equestria, Princess Celestia.


“She’s been like that ever since I gave her the book,” Mystery Mint whispered to Applejack, the only close friend of Twilight’s they’d so far been able to reach. “Just sitting there, holding it to her chest, and softly crying. We’ve all tried talking to her,” she tearfully said, “But she just sits there. None of us know what to do!”

“Thankee, Mystery Mint,” Applejack said, giving her a quick hug. “Ah’m not sure whut’s up, but Ah’ll go have a talk with Twalaight and see what Ah can find out.”

Applejack had been very surprised getting a call from, of all people, Trixie Lulamoon; who, in turn, had relayed the message she’d gotten from Octavia Melody; who, in her turn, had gotten one from Cherry Crash. And a very frightening message that had been, too.

The Great and Powerful Trrrrixie wishes to inform you that…oh shoot, Trixie’s voice dramatically changed. Octavia just called me. Twilight’s in trouble. Meet us at the school statue out front.

Twilight did look awful, her eyes swollen and red, her face splotchy. Squatting in front of her friend and tipping her Stetson back a bit as she hunkered down, “Ah’m here, Twalaight. It’s me: Applejack. Me and a heap more of yer friends. We want t’ help. Whut’s wrong, Sugarcube?”

For the longest time, Twilight just sat there, clutching her Book. Finally, after what seemed like forever, Twilight slowly looked up, meeting her eyes at last, and it took everything Applejack had not to flinch from the awful, dead look in Twilight’s normally bright, dancing eyes. Just as slowly, like a drawbridge ponderously being lowered, Twilight tipped the book down and exposed the cover.

Now, Applejack had seen Sunset Shimmer’s book before. Plus—being such close friends and all now—Applejack also knew there was a similar book of sorts back where Twilight lived. A book that was matched and paired to Sunset Shimmer’s…magically matched and paired. Heck, Applejack had even seen Twilight’s messages to Sunset Shimmer magically appear on the pages of her book!

But this certainly wasn’t Sunset Shimmer’s book. Which meant…did it really mean what Applejack thought it meant?

“Thet’s t’other book, ain’t it?”

Twilight just nodded.

“An’ thet one’s s’pposed’ta be back there, right?”

Twilight nodded again.

“This’s a bad thing, right.” And it wasn’t a question this time.

Tears trickled down Twilight’s cheeks as she nodded again, as Applejack felt her heart plummet to the ground.


“OK, here’s what we have so far.”

Sitting cross‑legged in front and a bit to either side of Twilight were two of the younger kids there. Actually, they were the two youngest. They were also, for the moment, the complete center of attention of everyone.

Neither Velvet Sky nor Wiz Kid were used to being paid this close of attention by their classmates. Especially when they were about to go all techie!

Velvet: “First off, it doesn’t look like anything actually broke the statue.”

Wiz: “Right,” he nodded. “It looks as if, well, it broke itself.”

Velvet: “I know, that sounds absurd.” (Someone whispered, “That means silly.”)

Wiz: “But it appears as if it either absorbed, or was processing, more energy than it was meant to handle, and shattered under the stress.”

Velvet: “We’re not sure it can be repaired. We don’t know enough about the mechanics or science behind it.” (Someone else muttered, “Or magic.”)

Wiz: “Well, yes. That, too.” (in response to aforesaid anonymous mutters)

Velvet: “As for the equipment around the statue, we know what they’re for and what they do.”

Wiz: “Well, what most of it does, anyway.” It was obvious he disliked having to admit that.

The students leaned closer, not wanting to miss anything.

Velvet: “All of it is meant to detect and measure energy. And apparently a very special, very distinct, type of energy.”

Wiz: “Well, all but one piece,” he scrupulously clarified, and Velvet nodded.

Velvet: “That one over there,” she pointed to the statue, “had wires connected to electrodes that were attached to the statue. It looks as if those were originally connected to a measuring device. But that…” Velvet pointed to another device.

Wiz: “That,” Wiz continued, “Isn’t a measuring device. It’s a transmitter.”

Continuing to speak back‑and‑forth, seamlessly finishing each other’s sentences, Wiz and Velvet explained that someone must have detected strange happenings going on (there were lots of nods, ‘Hmmmms’ and murmurs at that) and traced them back here.

To Canterlot High.

That wasn’t terribly surprising, after all. After all, you couldn’t have hidden the effects—or aftereffects, for that matter—that had occurred during the Fall Formal or the following Spring’s Musical Showcase/“Battle of the Bands”.

But strange things randomly happened everywhere. Granted, Canterlot High had come in for more than its fair share, and in such a short time, but there had been reasons for that.

But it wasn’t that the ones at CHS had been just strange events. They had been strange, otherworldly events.

They had involved magic, and powers, from Equestria. Twilight Sparkle’s home.

More properly, and respectfully—as they were all very aware—Princess Twilight Sparkle.

Velvet and Wiz hypothesized (Guessed, someone whispered) someone had detected the esoteric (I have no idea, another murmured) energies specific to Princess Twilight Sparkle and of Equestria in general, and decided to isolate (Wait! I know this one!) its location.

While those two continued sharing their speculations and deductions, Mystery Mint walked back over to and crouched down alongside Applejack, who was hunkered alongside her friend. “Twilight?” she murmured, “Take a bite. It’ll make you feel better,” she softly said as she held out the granola bar. Her heart broke seeing the terrible, lost expression on Twilight’s face. Neither did she miss the way Twilight was holding her hands: fingers together, wrists bent, as if the hooves she’d been borne with. Which was another reason Mystery Mint wanted Twilight to have the granola bar: in addition to providing a boost of energy, it was mostly mixed grains, and perhaps that would be a familiar, homey taste.

Twilight gripped the unwrapped bar between her “hooved” hands then lowered her head and took a nibble. She slowly chewed, then swallowed, then took a slightly bigger bite.

“That’s right, Twalaight. Get a little grub inside. Y’all feel better for it.” Applejack gave Mystery Mint a grateful smile as Twilight took yet another small bite.

Twilight had almost finished the bar when Lyra Heartstrings walked over. “Wiz Kid and Velvet Sky are just about done explaining things. It’s not that we don’t care, Applejack,” she apologized, “But it doesn’t sound as if there’s much that most of us can do to help right this minute. We can barely understand what those two are saying. So most of us are going to be heading off. But if there’s anything we can do…”

“Thankee kindly, Lyra. And thank th’ others for me and Twalaight, too, okay?”

“Sure thing Applejack. And Twilight?” Lyra gazed down at her. “We’re all here for you. Just say the word and we’ll do whatever is needed. Promise.”


Most of the kids had departed, unhappily accepting they could be of no practical help at the moment, but reassured they would be called once something had been figured out. Wiz Kid and Velvet Sky were comparing notes, heads almost touching together where they sat cross‑legged, when came the sudden cry:

TWILIGHT! Where is she?”

Heads popped up as Pinkie Pie came screeching in on a bicycle, handlebar tassels flying, bells ringing, spokes clicking like castanets from the plastic cards pinned there, and a horn blatting as she rapidly honked it.

Pinkie Pie braked so hard it went up on its front wheel, almost dumping her on top of Twilight. “Pinkie Pah!” Applejack yelped. “Watch out thar!”

“I would have been here sooner,” Pinkie Pie panted, hopping off the bike which, against all odds, remained upright on just its front wheel. “But I had to make an emergency stop first!”

“What in tarnation could be more of an emergency, Pinkie Pah?” Applejack asked.

“This!” Pinkie Pie chirped, taking a rectangular paperboard container from the bike basket…whereupon the bike promptly teetered over. “Cupcakes!” she brightly piped, plopping down next to Twilight and almost knocking Mystery Mint right onto her rump as she did.

“Cupcakes?” Applejack hooted. “Cupcakes!?” She stared at Pinkie Pie in indignation. “Cupcakes were th’ emergency?”

Nodding, Pinkie Pie opened the lid and reached inside. “Not just any cupcakes, either!” she enthused, eyes turning glassy‑dreamy, “Ookie‑gookie, icky‑sticky, molten lava chocolate cupcakes!” she said, voice just as dreamy and practically oozing ‘yummy’.

“Pinkeh Pah,” Applejack said, her voice accented even thicker with exasperation, “Did y’all miss th’ fact thet Twalaight’s in real serious trouble?”

“Of course not, silly‑billy!” Pinkie Pie replied, returning from wherever her mind had just wandered off, “That’s why getting the cupcakes was an emergency!”

Before Applejack could form any sort of retort, Pinkie Pie had removed a cupcake and lightly smooshed it against Twilight’s mouth.

Pinkie Pah!

Twilight lifted “hooved” hands up, grasping the cupcake even as she took a bite. Within a moment or two her expression relaxed, eyes looking less haunted and tense shoulders relaxing as she slowly chewed.

“Whhu?” Pinkie Pie asked, eyes ingenuously wide, having stuffed a cupcake fully into her mouth.

By the time Pinkie Pie managed working her cupcake down, Twilight had more daintily finished hers, licking fingers and lips as she chased the last of the gooey icing. Both Applejack and Mystery Mint were flabbergasted at the change in Twilight, both their jaws dropped in astonishment.

They just stared at each other as Pinkie Pie fished out another cupcake for herself. That one went the same as the first and, as she handed—this time—a second one to Twilight, Pinkie Pie looked at Applejack and Mystery Mint, shrugging at their expressions. “Whhu? Ccpkhs rr gghhd!”

All Applejack and Mystery Mint could do was look at each other and shrug…and grin, of course. It was Pinkie Pie, after all!


By the time Twilight had finished her second cupcake—and Pinkie Pie had devoured her fourth—she felt much better; enough so that she’d noticed Mystery Mint looking somewhat dejected, and could even take a perceptive guess why.

Reaching out, Twilight gently squeezed her hand. “Thanks for the granola bar. It really helped,” Twilight gratefully said, and was pleased to see her spark right back up. “And for the water, too,” she added, taking another swallow before handing the bottle back.

Gazing around, she noticed that while the number of her classmates had significantly dwindled, the few that remained seemed even more dedicated. Twilight felt a little hurt, though, seeing so many of her closest friends absent. Pinkie Pie was still busy chasing icing off her nose, but Applejack noticed the hurt expression on her friend’s face as she surreptitiously looked around.

Applejack shrewdly guessed the source of Twilight’s melancholy. “Rarity’s away on vacation,” she informed, “along with Sweetie Belle. Rainbow Dash is away at sports camp. So’s Scootaloo. They went t’gether.” Applejack grinned. “Lil’ scamp was so excited t’ go with her “big sis” too! An’ Fluttershah’ll be by later; she volunteers at the Animal Shelter, otherwise she’d be here, you betcha.”

Seeing Twilight’s expression ease and relax told Applejack she’d hit the mark dead on. Quite deadpan, she added, “An’ Flash Sentry, he’s at band camp,” hiding a grin as her friend brightly blushed.

“I have to go for now.” Mystery Mint morosely stood there. “I’m sorry I couldn’t do anything to help.”

Twilight was astonished. “Couldn’t do anything?” she said in amazement. Pushing off the ground with a hand, she gingerly stood up then pulled Mystery Mint into a tight hug. “You stopped to help. You called, and rounded up, everyone to help. You stayed with me the entire time. What do you mean ‘couldn’t do anything’?”

Ducking her head, Mystery Mint blushed. “You know what I mean. I couldn’t make it better. Fix things.”

Twilight snorted. “Mystery Mint,” she softly chided, “you don’t have to actually fix something to have helped someone. Sometimes just knowing they’re there is all they need. And I’d be in a really bad fix if you hadn’t done what you did. You were a big help. Honest.”

“Hey, Twilight.” Cherry Crash walked up, stopping next to Mystery Mint. “I have no idea what those two are talking about,” indicating Wiz Kid and Velvet Sky with a hooked thumb, “but they seem to think you’ll understand.” She wrinkled her nose in mock disgust, and was pleased when Twilight responded with a little smile. “Yo, Mystery Mint.”

“Eh?”

“Can I grab a ride with you? I took a cab over, but I’m busted for coin now.”

“Sure thing. Even have a spare helmet. We’re not gonna be driving fast though, not doubled up on that!”

Cherry Crash hugged Twilight and then so did Mystery Mint. Both of them gave Applejack a ‘look’ before heading over to Mystery Mint’s scooter. Twilight guessed she wasn’t supposed to have seen them exchange that glance, and they must have thought she wouldn’t see them do so. It didn’t upset her, though, not when she understood their message as loud and clear as if they’d spoken. Theirs had been ‘She’s going to be OK, right?’ while Applejack’s had been ‘We’ve got her back’.

Just several years ago, that exchange would have flown right by her as something incomprehensible. But she’d learned a lot about things since then, and relaxed even further surrounded by friends that cared for her.

About then the “Dangerous Duo” gestured at Twilight, motioning for her to come over to where they were huddled. Twilight and Applejack waved in farewell to the girls as they headed off to Mystery Mint’s scooter, while Pinkie Pie jumped up and down, flapping her hand in a motion more akin to a one‑winged albatross trying to lift off. “Oo! Oo! Wait! Wait!” While the two of them headed over to Wiz and Velvet, Pinkie Pie dashed over to Mystery Mint and Cherry Crash, bakery box in hand. “You can’t leave without cupcakes!”

Velvet pouted as they came to a stop next to them. “I like cupcakes,” she grumbled.

“I prefer danish myself,” Wiz grinned, earning a poke from Velvet, before turning serious as he met Twilight’s eyes. “We can’t tell you exactly what happened,” he honestly confessed, Velvet also turning solemn and nodding. “But we have a pretty good idea what this stuff is and what is does.”

“We even have a good idea what it’s supposed to do,” Velvet stated.

Applejack softly whistled, quite impressed.

“But there is one thing we have to guess at. It’s a pretty good guess, though, we think.” Wiz confessed

“What’s that?” Twilight asked.

“Well,” Velvet began, gesturing to all the various and sundry pieces of equipment, “here’s all this stuff. And a lot of it looks very expensive. So…”

“Where is the owner of all these instruments?” Wiz finished.

Twilight felt her mouth open; Applejack’s actually dropped. For the very first time it truly dawned on them that whomever had set all this apparatus in place, whomever had been using it, was nowhere to be found.

Four heads swiveled as one, staring at the fractured portal surface. “Yeah,” both tech wizards extraordinaire said in unison, “That’s what we thought, too.”


Considerate of their audience, they condensed into a brief synopsis what they’d learned, so it didn’t take long for them to finish. “We don’t know where this all came from, though,” they admitted. “Hopefully it isn’t some sort of secret government agency,” they worried.

Pinkie Pie giggled. “It isn’t funny, Pinkie Pie,” Wiz Kid scolded. “It could be, you know.”

She giggled again. “It’s just somebody from Everfree University. Probably some geeky student. Ummm, no offense, guys,” she hastily apologized.

Velvet just gave Pinkie Pie a look. “Now how do you know that?” she challenged. “We can’t even tell you where it came from.”

Gesturing across the way, Pinkie Pie pointed to the white van parked there. “Because that has EU parking stickers on it!” Pinkie Pie grinned, then held out the bakery box. “Cupcakes?”


Once Pinkie Pie had pointed out the van, it became obvious she was most likely correct. There wasn’t any reason for a motor vehicle to be parked there, after all: school was closed and there weren’t any local businesses, parks, or nearby homes. Besides, it made far too much sense that a University student might have been drawn to the peculiar energy discharges that had occurred this last year. So the group, much smaller now, traipsed over to the van to see what might be found.

Alas, the van was locked, and their mystery scientist/secret agent/whomever had neglected to leave their keys behind. “I don’t feel right about breaking out a window,” Twilight confessed, “Not even to get answers.”

“Make way for the Great and Powerful Trrrrixie!”

Eyes rolled as Trixie Lulamoon theatrically—how else?—forged her way to the front. “The Great and Powerful Trrrrixie shall open the door for you!”

“Oo! Oo!” Pinkie Pie enthused, clapping her hands as she bounced up and down. “This I have to see!”

Applejack muttered, sotto voce, to Twilight, “You and me both!” as Twilight smothered a grin.

Reaching up to her hair, Trixie unfastened her barrette, an extremely pretty, star‑shaped ornamental hair clip, pausing a moment and wincing a little before bending the spring clip back of the barrette straight out. Leaning over and looking very closely at the key entrance, she pressed the bent metal clip inside then started working it back and forth, jiggling it up and down. The very tip of her tongue peeked out past her lips as she intensely focused on picking the lock.

Several minutes passed, and sweat was now beading her forehead. There was a growing look of desperation on her face, and Applejack was pretty sure the barely audible, ‘C’mon, c’mon! Trixie’s gotta do this!’ she overheard was never meant to be heard at all.

Several more minutes passed, and Applejack was about to tap Trixie on the shoulder and tell her to give it up as a lost cause when, suddenly, to her surprise—and everyone else’s, too, not the least being Trixie herself—the lock knob lifted up with an audible *pop*.

“I…I…I did it!” Trixie stuttered, wide‑eyed and astonished. An incredible smile of delight and accomplishment spread across her face, for once utterly guileless and unpretentious.

“Let’s hear it fer th’ Great and Powerful Trixie!” Applejack hollered. Everyone cheered, with Pinkie Pie doing a cheerleader routine using two cupcakes for pompoms.

“Thanks, Trixie,” Twilight said as she tightly hugged her. “That was amazing!”

“It was, wasn’t it?” she said, her voice soft and wondrous, her expression elatedly stunned; her face falling as, moments later, her beautiful barrette broke apart and fell to the ground. “Trixie needs a new hairclip,” she mournfully said.

Octavia Melody crouched down and picked up the pieces before standing back up alongside Trixie. Gently squeezing her shoulder, she said in that cultured voice no few of her classmates envied—or mooncalfed over—“This is such a lovely ornament. My uncle is a jeweler; if anyone can fix this, he can. Shall we go and ask him? When I tell him that you broke it as the only means of helping a friend, he will spare no effort making it as good as new.”

“Really?” Trixie asked, heart on her sleeve. “It is very special to Trixie.”

“Yes. Really,” Octavia smiled and nodded. After verifying they weren’t needed right that moment, Octavia guided Trixie to the side before they headed off together.

“Wait! You need cupcakes!” Pinkie Pie hollered, chasing off after them.

“Ah gotta admit, Twalaight, Ah thought fer sure ol’ Trixie was jes’ up t’ her old tricks again. Ah never thought she’d really do it!” Applejack sounded quite impressed.

Wiz stepped around from the far side of the van at that point, with the oddest expression to his face, looking as if he’d just swallowed a worm and was trying to keep it down. He was also slipping a small device into his pocket as he approached them. Twilight lifted an eyebrow at him and Wiz blushed, looking sheepish; unaccountably shy, yet also quite pleased with himself.

After checking around and assuring no one was paying either of them especial attention at the moment, Twilight leaned down and whispered, “Do I want to know?”

His ears turned bright red, yet a grin kept fighting to break out. “Promise to keep a secret?”

“Cross my heart, hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye.”

At the word “cupcake” they both shot glances Pinkie Pie’s way, but she was still busy handing out cupcakes to the departing pair.

Wiz partially removed the device from his pocket. “Electric door locks; I hacked the locks and opened them.” He gazed Trixie’s direction, an odd look on his face. “She needed to win; she hardly ever does, you know.”

“And you like her.”

Wiz shot her an anxious, alarmed look.

“Cupcakes, remember?” Twilight assured.

She didn’t need an answer and, truthfully, wasn’t looking for one, but Wiz Kid, after giving her a searching look for a few moments, simply nodded as he glanced Trixie’s way. “And I like her.”

Both of them jumped as Pinkie Pie suddenly appeared between them. “Did somebody mention cupcakes?”



“Guys, you aren’t going to believe this,” Velvet said a few minutes later.

They’d opened the van’s doors, torn between necessity and feeling like burglars, and were astounded by the mobile lab they’d discovered inside. While the rest of them had been distracted by that bonanza, Velvet—surprisingly, since she was every bit as intrigued by that lab as Wiz and Twilight were—had decided to be a bit more pragmatic in her search. She’d focused on the map compartment and the backpack on the forward passenger floor. Inside the backpack, buried amidst papers, documents, books, and other scholarly items, had been a small, plain, functional clutch. And inside that…

Velvet held out the small billfold that had been inside the clutch, already opened and folded back to reveal the driver’s license inside.

The driver’s license issued to one Twilight Sparkle.

Author's Note:

Revised 02/07/2020