• Published 4th Aug 2016
  • 2,325 Views, 51 Comments

A Solid Soul - DEI Caboose



A routine magical experiment goes awry when a magical manifestation and animate duplicate of Twilight Sparkle gains sentience.

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The grand clock struck five and the dings reverberated off the crystal walls in sequence. The trio of Twilight Sparkle, Starlight Glimmer and Spike elected to eat together after a long hard day of magical manipulation, sitting around a counter in the kitchen while the rain outside continued to drizzle across the window, steaming onto the inside of the glass and audibly pattering off as they made contact. While the three conversed, Starlight would every so often rise from her seat and man the kitchen appliances, having volunteered to cook for them all almost in an instant.

Flipping a plethora of colourful vegetables into the air, Twilight could not help but commend her friend. “Wow, Starlight! I had no idea you knew how to cook like that,” Twilight lauded from the table, with Spike sat close to her side.

Starlight’s smile was wide as she retrieved three plates with her magic. “I was on the road for a while when I was younger, being able to cook was a bit of a necessity,” she humouredly replied, slipping the food onto each plate in a conveyed fashion. “I didn't have a personal number-one assistant, but I don't want to lose my edge too much. No offence, Spike, but if it were up to me I'd have you cook everything, have you had his pancakes? I don't know how you do them but they are…!” Starlight paused, having realised she had deviated from her original point by a fair amount. “Ahem, they're really good.”

Their laughter carried throughout the castle, echoing off the walls as Starlight took her seat again. “Well come to think of it, if you ever get that duplication thingy working you could just make another me and have that do all the cooking!” Spike spoke with a grin, shovelling his mixture of vegetables and gemstones into his mouth.

While Starlight giggled at the remark, Twilight found herself rolling her eyes. “It's not just a ‘thingy,’ Spike. It's a highly esteemed and extremely useful field of magic, the applications for that spell are-”

“Okay we get it, magical copies are great! I was just saying…” Spike finished, his shoulders drooping along with his smile.

Realising she had been a little too forceful in her reply, Twilight took the initiative, her own smile glowing. “Sorry, Spike. I didn't mean to snap at you, I guess I'm just a little bummed out that the experiment didn't work out right,” Twilight’s smile grew when Spike’s did the same. “I do have to say though, two Spike’s wouldn't be unwelcome.”

Folding his arms behind his neck in reply, Spike relished in the attention granted by the pair of mares. “Seems like nopony can get enough of me,” he jokingly said, before his thoughts began to drift elsewhere. As the topic had shifted back to their prior experiments in the underground laboratory, Spike could not help but ponder the lingering questions weighing upon his thoughts and voiced them with conviction. “I gotta ask though, how come you were doing all that duplicating magic anyway? Weren't you doing something else the other day?”

While Twilight had her mouth full, almost choking when she attempted to reply, Starlight elected to answer for her which Twilight wordlessly thanked her for, nodding in Starlight’s direction while she continued to enjoy her meal. “It's because of me actually, I was reading through Twilight’s old friendship reports for essay research and came across one about a... ‘mirror pool’ or something like that.” Noticing that Spike’s brow rose in recognition, Starlight assumed he knew what she was talking about. “So yeah, I asked Twilight about it as she told me there was this whole area of magic that allowed you to create copies of yourself, and in rare cases other ponies, and I was just really interested by it.”

“Makes sense…” Spike said, shaking his head in agreement, before another question began to plague him. “Why not just go and use the mirror pool then? Weren't the ponies that came out of that senta- senti-”

“Sentient,” corrected Twilight, clearing her throat of any food before continuing. “And no, they weren't. Remember when Pinkie Pie used it, the ponies that came out were her and yet at the same time they weren't. I looked into it after we sealed the pool off, it's almost like the ponies that are replicated from the pool are exaggerated versions of whatever goes in, but lack any substance or meaning behind their actions and are incapable of being more than that.” With both her companions fixated on her lecture, Twilight decided to expand on what she was saying. “The spells that allow us to create duplicates of ourselves work nothing like the pool, copies we create are like puppets on strings, they do only what we consciously want them to do whereas copies made from the pool are sort of ‘programed’ to act a certain way and nothing more. I thought about experimenting with the pool, but it's far too dangerous considering what happened with Pinkie and best left alone.”

Spike, growing rather confused by the narrative, run a claw through his spines. “I don't know, those Pinkie’s seemed pretty free thinking to me!”

“Well it was Pinkie Pie so anything is possible!”

Starlight’s comment drove the group to laugh again and soon the conversation drifted away from magical conundrums and academic procedures, instead focusing on personal lives and simple small talk. Spike spoke of his plans with Big Mac, Starlight spoke of her recent catch up spa session with Trixie and Twilight dulled the conversation by going into far too much detail about some diplomatic proceedings she was currently undertaking. Their dinner was devoured but nopony decided to leave just yet, forced together by the conditions outside, they all thought it best to share in the company of their friends before retiring for the night, which drew ever closer with each intrepid second.

As the bells of the clock dinged out again, six times if Twilight’s count was correct, the princess decided it was time for a change of environment, having other duties to attend to before the day was done. With some reluctance Twilight rose from her seat and bid her friends adieu, leaving in the direction of the library to conduct some last minute research into the culture of the deer's to the west, which would serve as the basis for her negotiations with their leaders in the coming weeks. She noticed with some bemusement that the wooden door to the library was wide open, concluding that in her haste to begin her experiment in the morning she had forgotten to close it, a thought only confounded upon entering the library and finding that she had left several books laid out upon a desk, messily deposited and abandoned like litter.

Aghast at her own sloppiness, Twilight approached the table in disdain, quickly piling the books atop each other to ensure their refilling would be as easy as possible. She took a curious glance at one of the books in her grasp however, finding that it wasn't one she had been reading earlier. Upon further inspection she found that the book was not even one she had picked out herself, instead it was titled Conjure’s Methods of Manifestation, a book by arch-mage Cronius Conjure from the late Celestia era. It dealt with methods of magical manifesting of both inanimate and animate objects and beings, not unlike what she and Starlight had been experimenting with in the laboratory below.

“I guess I need to reiterate to Starlight the importance of library etiquette,” Twilight grumbled as she took a seat at the desk, concluding that Starlight must have undertaken some independent research of her own at some point during the day, though when she was able to do so eluded Twilight. Placing the book to the side, Twilight left the book on the page it was opened to, assuming that Starlight would appreciate the gesture when she eventually returned.

Commencing with her own research, Twilight buried her muzzle into the piles of books encompassing her. She was so engaged in her work that she took no notice that the Manifestation book was opened to a page on the longevity of the spells, nor did she notice the library door creak shut behind her.

The hour past by swiftly, the clock striking seven and ringing out once more. Across the castle, up the winding towers overlooking the village below, Spike once again found himself within his room, bored and filled with contempt towards the weather outside that would not cease in its assault upon the land for an instant. The rain just trickled down seemingly endlessly, imprisoning everypony within their homes and attacking those unfortunate enough to find themselves in the path of it's barrage. Spike hated the rain, he had always hated it. It was cold and wet, which to a dragon felt as if he was standing under a shower of glass. Why couldn't rain be warm? Water could be warm so why couldn't rain?

As Spike pondered these thoughts he found himself distracted by a knock upon his door. A polite knock he recognised without a moment's notice, only Twilight knocked upon his door as timidity as that. That, and he only possessed a fifty fifty chance of being wrong, so he took his chances and assumed it was Twilight.

Silently applauding himself upon opening the door and finding that he was correct, Spike found his mood diminishing upon seeing that Twilight was not in as perky a mood as she was when she had left them at dinner. Her smile was sagging and her head was held low, far lower than what was necessary to meet Spike’s eyes. He tilted his head at the mare, frowning in turn. “Twilight, are you okay? You look sad,” Spike said, his concern evident.

Twilight looked down at him, her frown slowly melding into a small smile. “I'm fine, Spike,” she spoke softly, drawing a hoof up to stroke Spike’s spines. “I've just been thinking lately… I don't spend as much time with you as I used to. I'd like to think that taking on Starlight as a pupil, my duties as a princess and my own studies justify it but… They don't. They don't and I'm sorry.”

Very well enjoying the feeling of Twilight’s hoof upon his head, Spike found himself looking up to her with a widening brow. “Oh, it's okay, Twilight, really! I mean I get it, you're really busy now. It's not like I want you to stop doing what makes you happy just for me.”

“But you make me happy, Spike. I just don't tell you enough sometimes.” Twilight’s neck twitched and within moments Spike found himself embracing her. He couldn't see Twilight’s face but he felt her back straighten and her wings flutter, two confident signs that Twilight’s mood was improving. “Thank you, Spike,” he heard Twilight whisper above his ear. “Now, I'd… Better get back to work. You just do what you want for the time being, enjoy yourself.”

She didn't have to tell Spike twice. “In that case, I'll go see if Starlight’s finished cleaning the dishes!” Finishing the hug, Spike waved to Twilight as he ran down the crystal hall in the direction of the kitchen, which was Starlight’s last known location. Spike decided that rather than wallow all in his lonesome he would instead spend his time with his new housemate. He enjoyed their chats far more than he had initially expected to, beneath Starlight’s hardened exterior was a pony he felt he got along with well.

Upon barging through the closed doors into the kitchen Spike found himself frozen in the air by the unmistakable feeling of a magic aura. He would have protested if his assailant didn't start to scold him almost immediately. “Spike! What did I tell you about running in the halls? You'll fall and hurt yourself if you're not careful!”

“Aw come on, Twilight! I was being care-” Halting mid speech, Spike found himself coming to his senses and realised that the magic aura he was floating in belonged to none other than Twilight Sparkle… Who he had been hugging passionately several seconds ago. She sat with her horn aglow and a half eaten sandwich nestled within her mouth, with Starlight sitting bemused at her side. Spike voiced his evolving annoyance in an instant, as well as his confusion as to how Twilight was even in here in the first place.

“Okay what gives? You were outside my room a second ago and now you're here munching on a sandwich! You could've teleported me with you you know!” The magic dissipated over a seat at the table and Spike found himself under the stares of two very confused mares.

Twilight was the first to voice herself. “Outside your room? Spike, I've been in the library for the past hour, I came in here to get a snack and Starlight passed me on the way. I haven't seen you since dinner!”

“It's true, Spike. She's been with me this whole time.”

Under both mares denials, Spike found himself growing more unnerved and confused with every second. “But… That was Twilight outside my room,” he trembled, the spines atop his head visibly vibrating.

Twilight looked to Starlight with growing alarm and could only ask Spike another desperate question in the futile attempt to discover an answer that made sense to her. “Spike, are you sure, absolutely sure it was me?” She too trembled out, her thoughts shifting to a darkly scenario which deeply concerned her.

“Why would I make this up.” Was all Spike said in reply.

Twilight raised her hoof, her mouth opening and closing several times as she attempted to form a rational explanation to the uneasy occurrence. She pondered if Spike was simply mistaken, if Discord was about initiating one of his twisted games, if Rainbow and Pinkie were lurking in the shadows in the midst of performing another one of their famed pranks.

And yet Twilight knew none of those were correct and that the answer was available to them already, concealed beneath the darkened halls of her underground laboratory.

Her chair crashed to the floor beneath her as Twilight sprinted out of the kitchen, startling her two companions and prompting them to fearfully pursue her. If Twilight had been of a less frantic mindset she would have teleported to her destination in an instant, but her clouded thoughts and impaired judgement was not the best state of mind to perform the spell under she reasoned. It was too much of a risk she was not willing to take, lest she want to end up inside a wall.

Her hooves slipped upon the crystal floor and Twilight skidded to her knees, paying the minor scraps no mind as she jumped to her hooves yet again and continued on her sprint, the stairs nearing at the end of the hall. Racing down the steps one after the other, Twilight ignored the pleading questions shouted by Starlight behind her, Spike perched firmly on her back.

Bursting through the door, Twilight took one look around the room before she froze. Starlight was right behind her, rocketing through the door and similarly halting at Twilight's side, her mouth too falling open in mesmerised shock.

The room was empty.

Devoid of both light and any presence other than their own, the trio stared at the floor where the replicated Twilight Sparkle had been stood mere hours earlier. They heard the wind rushing down the stairs through the opened doors above, a chill racing through their manes, causing them to stand more on end then they already were.

“She's gone,” Starlight stammered out. “Your copy’s gone. Your inanimate, lifeless magical copy that is not capable of going anyway except where you want it to go. Where has it gone, Twilight? It's freaking me out, this is freaking me out!”

“Starlight, do you know what this means?” Twilight whispered at Starlight’s side, ignoring her pupil's freneticism.

Starlight only grew more weary at her teacher's words. “I know what it means, there's another you running about out there!”

“Yes!” Erupted Twilight, almost scaring Spike from Starlight back due to its abruptness. “Yes! It worked! We did it, Starlight! We created a magical duplication capable of independent-”

“Don't care!” Interrupted Starlight, her wide eyed fear contrasting with Twilight’s almost manic grin. “I'll say it again. Another! You! Self aware pony! Capable of doing whatever it wants!”

“I know!” Twilight squeed. “Isn't it wonderful?”

Gripping Starlight’s neck as he repositioned himself, Spike looked to Twilight with a worried frown accompanying his perplextion. “How do we know it was really it thought? I thought you said magical duplications go away after they run out of magic?”

“She still has some time left,” Twilight said, her grin everlasting. “Besides, how else do you explain seeing another me outside your room? The copy being responsible is the only rational explanation, Spike! We have created a sentient pony!”

“A sentient pony, who is on the loose!” cried Starlight, her dread morphing into rage as she saw how stolid Twilight was being over the, in her eyes, deteriorating catastrophe. “What are we going to do, Twilight? How are we supposed to deal with this? Friendship lessons did not prepare me for this, at all! What if she tries something? Hmm? What if she tries to replace you! Take over your life while the rest of us are none the wiser!”

“Oh, Starlight. You're overreacting,” Twilight laughed, dismissing Starlight's erupting worry. “Yes it's true that the duplicate is on the loose, but you're forgetting, it's a duplicate me. I sincerely doubt she's dangerous.”

“Not reassuring!” Starlight yelled with alarm.

“Alright,” Twilight soothingly replied, placing a hoof on Starlight’s shoulder. “How about this, we’ll search for her and if we find her… Well, we’ll see where we go from there. If not, she won't be around forever, her magic reserves should run out soon and she'll vanish. See? Nothing to worry about.”

As Starlight tried not to hyperventilate, Spike found himself assured by Twilight’s words, if still unnerved by the situation as a whole. His thoughts drifted back to his encounter with Twilight in the hallway, the Twilight he now knew was not real. He had hugged it.

“Where should we start looking?” Spike asked from his perched position, attempting to distract himself from his rampant uncomforting memories.

Twilight smiled as she retreated back through the door. “Best place to start with is the rest of the castle, I'd wager that she's still here somewhere, it wasn't that long ago that you saw her in the hallway after all.”

As Starlight followed on, she listened to Twilight intently, whereas Spike still had some questions on his mind. “But how do you know she'll stay here? Can't she just teleport some place else?”

Twilight was adamant in her response. “Nope! Magical duplicates are just projections of another pony, nothing more. My doppelgänger may look like me, talk like me and even think like me but that's about it. She's a magical manipulation, she can't manipulate magic herself. No magic, no spells, no flying. Plus, I sincerely doubt the rain would agree with her, Celestia knows it doesn't with me...”

Twilight’s response reassured the pair in pursuit of her, but there was still one more question plaguing Spike, a question he feared to voice earlier but had now almost overcome him entirely. “Twilight, I gotta ask…” Spike murmured out as they reached the top of the steps, the light almost blinded when compared to the underground dreariness. He looked over to Twilight, Starlight pacing alongside her, his frown deepening into something far more conflicted. “I was wondering, if you make a magical copy of yourself that's able to feel, think and knows everything you do. Doesn't it know that after it runs out of magic it's going to… Vanish?”

His words stung.

Twilight found herself slowing down until her legs stopped completely, Starlight almost running past her by mistake. She turned back to her friend with impatience, ready to berate her for delaying them. Whatever words Starlight could form died in her throat when she took notice of Twilight’s eyes, widened to the point of tears and expressing such absolute horror that Starlight could not help but shy away in response.

“Twilight, is something wrong?”

“How could I be so stupid?” Twilight murmured out in disbelief, gripping her mane with her left foreleg, yanking at its roots. “Granting a manifestation sentience! What was I thinking! I'm an idiot! What have I done?” Twilight’s horrified exclamations scared her companions, who backed away as Twilight continued to grip her mane and cry out pained. She closed her eyes, wished to spare herself from the sight of her friends shocked faces, but instead she was haunted by a visualised embodiment of herself, crying into the earth as it clambered for its time which was swiftly running out.

For the second time that day Twilight bolted off, leaving Starlight and Spike behind once again. She sprinted for the centre of the castle; the throne room, the one place in the castle her voice amplification spell would be at its most effective. She kicked open the doors and shot towards the circle of crystal chairs, but her pace grinded to a halt when she came face to face with a reflection of her own eyes, fading into the air like smoke against a dimming light. Its words were ghostly as they sounded out from its fading mouth.

“No time. Help me.”

Author's Note:

Cliffhanger!

Update tomorrow, what do up you think will happen? Tell me, I leech off praise.

Next chapter pretty much defines the story I feel, everything has really only been building up to it.

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