• Published 22nd Nov 2015
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Gunsmoke - Wanderer D

Sunset Shimmer and Desert Mirage... what exactly is the connection?

  • ...

Chapter 03: Loner


by Wanderer D

Chapter 3: Loner

Sunset Shimmer's apartment wasn't in the best location in town, but it wasn't a dump either. When she had crossed the mirror, years back, among the many things she had brought with her had been several large gems, which she had invested appropriately after a few month's worth of research first at Canterlot High, then with more specialized individuals once she understood how the internet worked.

The apartment complex itself was pretty standard, but roomy enough, with the kitchen window to the left to the entrance, facing the front, a small hallway with the kitchen and dining room on the left, her room and guest room/office on the right, and the living room in the back. She had talked to the others about moving maybe to a small house later on, but for now, the apartment fitted her just fine.

None of the girls had known that until they had become friends and Sunset had invited them over one night for pizza and movies. In a way, Sunset was loaded with money... she just didn't care to show it off too much, even when she was lording her superiority over everyone in Canterlot High.

Rainbow Dash shook her head. All of that didn't matter, because she wasn't here to appreciate how well her friend managed her finances after all. She was here to talk to Sunset and see if she was ready to get rid of that chip on her shoulder and sort things out.

Still, she hesitated at the door, fist raised to knock. She had seen Sunset pull up a few minutes ago from across the street, so she knew Sunset was at home, but lately Sunset had done everything she could to avoid them when they were not practicing for the concert. It really felt like she wasn't interested in hanging out anymore.

Rainbow Dash frowned and glared at the door. "There's no point in avoiding it, I'm already here," she whispered. She raised her fist more firmly and was about to knock when the phone rang in the kitchen. She heard Sunset's footsteps and greet the caller.

"Hello? Twilight? I'm going to put you on speakers for now, I have a lot to do, okay?" Sunset said from within her kitchen.

"No problem!" Twilight's voice responded, loud and clear even to Rainbow Dash.

Rainbow grimaced. Should she knock? Or wait? Before she could act, Twilight's voice came up again. "Are you still up for our session today?"

"Of course!" Sunset replied enthusiastically, and Rainbow could hear her moving some dishes. "But you'll have to forgive me, I went ahead and jumped in again last night. I really needed to clear my mind."

"Well, as long as you didn't do anything extreme..."

"Nothing too crazy."

"Good! Hopefully today's experiment will yield some new results! By the way, I just spoke to Lemon Zest earlier, she double-checked the rules like you asked, and she says even if you girls pony up as long as it's considered a visual effect, it shouldn't affect the judging."

"Well, I'm sure Rainbow Dash will be happy to know that I was right," Sunset replied. "It'll make their performance easier, at least."

Rainbow Dash blinked. She didn't like the sound of that.

"Sunset, what's wrong?" Twilight asked after a moment of silence. "You sound... angry. And you said their performance. Aren't you playing with them?"

Sunset was quiet, and for almost half a minute all Rainbow Dash could hear were plates being washed. Finally, with a long sigh, she responded, "they don't need me."

Rainbow leaned against the door, biting her lip to stop herself from speaking up.

"Sunset..." Twilight said. "What's going on?"

"Twilight, they're great girls, but I'm not sure they even want to be my friends and—"

"That's absurd!" Twilight interrupted. "You know that."

"Then why don't they care about how I feel?" Sunset snapped, loudly putting down whatever she had been holding at the time. "It's all about the stupid concert in the stupid fair. All about their needs, and their issues, and their problems, and their music. If I don't matter, I don't want anything else to do with it."

Twilight responded something, but Rainbow Dash wasn't listening. She had already pushed away from the door and was marching down the hallway.

Rainbow Dash snarled, clenching her fists tight. "Stupid concert?" she growled, "if she wants to do something else, with someone else, then she's welcome to it!" She shook her head. "If that's how she wants to play it, that's how it's going to be!" Neither she nor her friends needed to hang out with someone that felt like it was a drag to share the same room.

She pulled out her cell phone and wrote a quick text message.

"That's a lie and you know it." Twilight's voice was borderline angry.

Sunset took a deep breath, dried her hands, and slid down to sit on the floor, placing her phone next to her. "I don't know sometimes, Twilight. I've tried to tell them how I feel, but they just brush it off as if it didn't matter. I'm so afraid to lose them, but they don't seem to want to listen at all."

"Why not?" Twilight's voice was lower now, all traces of anger gone.

"Because the last time I told them how I felt, they just said everything would be alright." Sunset closed her eyes. "It's one thing to assure me that if I make a mistake it's not a big deal, but... how can they understand what I—what we went through? When I saw you after the games, you knew. You knew exactly what I didn't say."

Twilight was silent for a moment. "Isn't it a bit unfair to expect them to understand something that? It's not like they've lived through it in the flesh."

"I know. But you also know how they can be. Especially Rainbow Dash. I know she doesn't mean to be so pushy, and that it's just that she's passionate..." Sunset tapped the back of her head gently against the counter behind her. "...but they're not trying, Twilight. I've reached out and they just think I'm moody and that I'll get better with a milkshake and ignoring the issue. Why can't they see how I feel? Even your friends noticed my mood."

"It's sometimes easier to notice these kinds of things in people you don't see every day," Twilight pointed out, "don't be too harsh on them."

Sunset nodded, then realized Twilight couldn't see that. "Yeah. I know. I'll see if I can talk to them tonight—we're meeting for dinner at that new burger place downtown, the one with the stuffed patties. Maybe we can sort this out over dinner."

"I'm happy to hear that!" Twilight giggled. "Okay! I'll see you soon then. I'll have the modified Amusphere ready, so don't forget your book! I'm so excited! Did you arrange for something today, or are we doing whatever we want?"

Sunset smiled. "Yeah, I'm going on a raid with a small squad. Perfect timing to test if magic affects a full dive."

"Perfect! See you soon!"


"Okay, if Princess Twilight's response to my notes is correct, then all we need now is to put the book here..." Twilight muttered, placing Sunset's diary carefully inside an electronic box she had constructed.

"Are you sure that's safe?" Sunset asked a little nervously, "that looks like a microwave."

"Oh, don't worry about that!" Twilight smiled. "It doesn't actually produce any sort of energy—it just captures the theumatic waves that emanate from your diary once we activate it! Just like Princess Twilight's mirror in Equestria."

Sunset examined the machine in question, but at least to her eyes there didn't seem to be any obvious problems. "And what's this screen for?"

"Well, besides letting me see what you're looking at without the need for streaming, it's my theory that we can use it to send objects from here into the game itself."

Sunset frowned, leaning in to look over Twilight's shoulder at the screens. "Won't that create a conflict in the code? The last thing I want is for a system sweep to find glitches in my inventory."

"Oh, don't worry," Twilight assured her, assisting Sunset as she lay down on the nearby bed and made sure the Amusphere was secure on her head. "I don't intend to use it much. Besides, it's just for experimental purposes. I'm thinking throwing you an apple through it, and you throw it back."

"Fine, but just that, and we do it in the city where there's no monsters around. Last thing we need is Lizardmen running around in Crystal Prep."

"Silly, it's too small for that," Twilight said, then frowned. "I think. Unless the data compresses on the way out."

Sunset rolled her eyes and rested her head on the pillow. "Link start!"

Desert Mirage stumbled and had to rest her hand on a nearby wall. The world around her pulsed and breathed and she had to shake her head before things started to look normal. She blinked and looked down at her hands.

She made sure there was no one around before bringing her hand up to eye level and snapping her fingers together.

Immediately flame burst to life, hovering over her hand.

Mirage stared in awe at the tennis ball-sized fireball. "It-it worked!" she gasped, snapping her hand shut and dispersing the fire. There was no change in her HP gauge, nor any sort of bar that indicated MPs.

She grinned—once more making sure no other gamers were in the area—then concentrated and pulled out Twilight and Sunset as she ran out of the city. She needed a good place to try things out. But where?

She then remembered her conversation with Twilight.

The field was based on ancient abandoned temples, and the monsters were decently leveled.Most players didn't bother with the place, since the low re-spawning quantity and time made it a particularly pointless place to try and level up effectively.

However, it was perfect for her experiment.

Mirage contemplated what gun to use. Sunset already had a fire effect added to it when she had created the weapon, so she decided to try a different spell. Something temporary, perhaps? Maybe worth a single shot. She looked down at her gun and grimaced. "Okay, I'll use a spare, I don't want to risk anything happening to you."

Twilight was also out of the question, it being a rare drop as it was. So, she'd use one of the guns she had acquired from her last fight. Something decent. Like the 5.7mm FN Five Seven she had taken from Surgeon's lieutenant.

Placing it down on the floor, she recalled her lessons from so long ago, trying to figure out what spell to cast, and how. She smirked. "Well, we already have fire covered, don't we?"

Putting both hands on top of the handgun, she concentrated, using them as the focus as if they were her horn, just the same way she had learned to summon fire in the real world. A soft glow enveloped the gun, and Mirage grinned, picking it up.

She made her way slowly through the ruins until she spotted a lizardman skulking around. She sneaked closer to it and hid behind a pillar when it started sniffing the air and tasting it with its tongue.

That was the problem with lizardmen. They had very high perception. But that was not important right now.

Desert Mirage burst from cover just as the lizardman jumped her way. She dodged the first two swipes, then shot it point blank in the head.

As good as the 5.7mm FN Five Seven was, it wouldn't kill the monster in one shot, but that wasn't her objective.

Mirage cursed when the lizardman's head whipped back from the shot and it immediately swiped back at her again. Apparently magic didn't exactly work as she had anticipated here.

She blinked. "Or does it?"

The lizardman hadn't attempted a follow up and had instead stopped completely in a ready stance.

Desert Mirage crouched, ready to react, but nothing happened. After a few seconds of them both staring at each other, she carefully made her way to the monster, which didn't move an inch. She noticed that its scales were slightly lighter than before, however.

Pointing her gun straight at its head, she poked it. The monster swayed and fell back, breaking into pieces before bursting into fragments of data and fading away.


She looked down at the gun in her hand, which suddenly cracked and dispersed into data. Mirage took a couple of steps back, grimacing. "I'm glad I didn't use one of the good ones."

She glanced down at her hands, imagining the magic within. She could feel the power, burning inside of her. She didn't need her guns. She could just destroy her enemies with magic alone. She could be the queen of Gun Gale Online, and no one would be able to defeat her. She'd prove to everyone that—

She stepped back and put her hand to her aching head. "No. No, I can't. Not again."

She could feel her heart rate go up, and the world around her lit up into red warning lights just as a little monitor measuring her heart rate appeared, increasingly getting higher.

A shaky wave of her hand brought the interface menu up, and she quickly sent a message cancelling the raid before logging out.

Sunset sat up in the bed and quickly took off the Amusphere, putting it down on her lap.

"What happened?" Twilight asked worriedly, taking her friend's hands in her own. "Are you okay? I was getting amazing readings but then I saw your heart rate spike and—"

"I'm okay," Sunset interrupted. "I'm okay. I just... I don't think we should do active magic again I'm sorry. Maybe when Princess Twilight visits next time she can do it but I—I can't."

Twilight bit her lip as if she wanted to argue the point, then she leaned forward and hugged Sunset. "I'm sorry. I should have realized... I understand."

Sunset sighed, resting her head on Twilight's shoulder and slowly calming down. When she felt like her heart wasn't trying to rip its way out of her chest, she pulled back and turned, letting her legs dangle from the side of the bed.

"I'm sorry, Twi," she said. "I know the active influence is an important part of your experiment but... I just… don't trust myself with it yet."

Twilight nodded. "It's okay. I'm glad you realized what was happening and pulled out—I don't know if I would have been strong enough to fight the temptation myself."

Sunset nodded dumbly, looking down at her hands, her mind flashing back to the feeling of complete control, the superiority, the power over everything inside Gun Gale Online. She trembled, hugging herself. The feeling was gone now. Just the memory remained, but it was scary and worrying.

"I was able to feel my full magic power in there... like when I was back in Equestria at my best. Even the magic I can do in the real world doesn't feel as... enticing... I don't want it to ruin my experience in GGO."

However she wanted to put it, Desert Mirage had become an important part of herself. A person that had amazing skills and unrealistic abilities... but she was one of many, she excelled without magic or cheating or destroying people. Desert Mirage was catharsis. Sunset Shimmer, with all her magic... in Gun Gale Online?

That was travesty and a violation of her beloved character. One thing was experimenting; it was a completely different matter to turn Mirage into something twisted like that.

"We'll wrap up for today," Twilight said, giving the diary back to Sunset with an understanding smile. "Why don't you get ready for your dinner with the girls?"

"Yeah." Sunset smiled. "Yeah, that's a good idea. I think I could really use their support right now. Maybe we can even talk about what's going on. I'm sure they'll have some good ideas."

Twilight nodded. "I feel the same way with Lemon Zest and the others," she said, smiling encouragingly.

Sunset jumped down from the bed and threw her diary into her backpack. "Thanks, Twilight. I'll see you later."

Sunset sighed and finished the last of her water. The large round table was empty, and her phone rested right in front of her, dark and quiet, as it had been for the last hour. She had been the recipient of many pitying looks and grimaces, with one of the waiters offering her a drink on the house while she waited. They all knew what she knew now.

With a last, dull look at the device, she picked it up and slid it into her purse.

She pushed away from the table and left a decent tip, even if she had just gotten water. She apologized to the waitress as she walked out into the fading light of day and stopped outside the restaurant.

She blinked the tears away and then jolted when someone pushed past her into the restaurant. She stepped away from the doorway and started walking home.