• Published 6th Mar 2018
  • 3,495 Views, 211 Comments

I Don't Need Magic - Undome Tinwe

Fifteen years into the future, Twilight Sparkle and Sunset Shimmer reunite to stop a thief from bringing magic back into the world.

  • ...

Chapter 3: Third Law

Sunset took great pleasure in watching Twilight's eyes widen as she stepped into her lab.

"This is... eclectic," Twilight said after a few seconds of wordless gazing. "It looks like a tornado went through campus, picked up a few things from each department, then dumped it all in this room. Is that a forge in the corner over there?" Twilight pointed at a large metal box with several large metal pipes sticking out of it.

"Yeah, I was trying to recreate some Equestrian alloys with it. I managed to make something like adamantium – but without the magical bonding that makes it really strong, so it's sorta useless – and I think I've got mythril almost figured out, even though without magic I won't be able to up its capacitance as high as I could back in Equestria. I still haven't figured out how to make cloudcrete, but I think that one might just be impossible without magic. Here, let me show you the rest of the lab."

For the next few minutes, Sunset gave Twilight a whirlwind tour of the facility. She started on the left side, where she did her experiments with inorganic chemistry and metallurgy. Admittedly, it was the least impressive part of the lab, since humans were way more advanced than ponies in that regard. Still, she'd managed to leverage some Equestrian knowledge of alchemy to pull off a few neat feats of transmutation.

She continued on to the biochemical part of the lab, showing Twilight the various compounds she'd synthesized. Next to that was a small climate lab where she experimented with very small-scale weather control; scaling the methods up was a job she left to her researchers. Scattered around the room were also various sensors and detectors she was developing.

As the tour continued, she saw Twilight visibly struggle to hold back her curiosity. It was actually pretty funny how Twilight tried to feign disinterest while her eyes kept cutting over to the plethora of advanced equipment she had on hand, like a child in a candy store trying to pretend she wasn't drooling.

Finally, she reached the right end of the room, where she did her research on magic itself. She watched Twilight's eyes light up she showed her the equipment she used to unravel the secrets of how magic functioned in this world.

"Is that a TI XK Ninety-Three Spectrograph?" Twilight asked, pointing at the marvel of metal and glass sitting on the table.

"Ninety-Four, actually." Sunset placed a hand lovingly on the object in question. "Two-hundred-and-fifty-six bits of precision at four terahertz with a sensitivity of fifteen angstroms." She slipped her hand from the spectrograph and softly stroked the device next to it. "It pairs really well with the TI OS Mac Swell Oscilloscope."

Twilight's jaw dropped. "That's not supposed to come out for another six months!"

Sunset smirked. "Equinox helped provide some of the technology the new model uses, so I managed to snatch up one of these babies from R&D."

Twilight slowly approached the device, her hand hovering reverently over it. Then she noticed Sunset's smirk and backed away sheepishly, adopting a stoic mask. "I notice a distinct lack of actual magical objects in here."

"I keep them in the safe," Sunset replied. She walked over to the corner of the room where the hefty metal box lay. Keying in the combination to unlock it, she swung the door open, revealing its arcane contents. "And there you have it, the last of the magic in this world."

Twilight stared at the opened safe in silence, a thousand memories crashing against her mind.

Each object sitting so innocently on those shelves told a story she had worked hard to forget. On the top shelf of the safe were a collection of red crystal shards, the last remnants of the power of the Sirens. The destruction of the original gems had brought Twilight to CHS and the world of magic. They were completely inert now, with not even an iota of power within them, but it seemed like Sunset wasn't taking any chances.

Next to them sat a necklace with a ruby pendant framed by a silvery metal forged in the shape of a unicorn's head: the Alicorn Amulet – an artifact from Equestria that had managed to find its way to the human world via a rift between worlds and had fallen into the wrong hands. Trixie had used it during the school talent show, turning the evening into a terrifying fight against a crazed tyrant bent on world domination that had very nearly been lost.

On the shelf below it lay a set of six small pendants, each bearing a different symbol: a butterfly, a lightning bolt, an apple, a diamond, a balloon, and a stylized sun. The seventh pendant in this collection was currently sitting in Twilight's hotel room, evidence of her victory against the corrupting influence of magic. Twilight didn't want to have to use it, but she also knew that sometimes, you had to fight fire with fire.

Finally, at the bottom of the safe was a small, circular disk, the object that had started it all. The device had been designed to measure magical energy, but it had also allowed Twilight to trap nearby magic within its collection lattice. Without it, she would never have gone to Canterlot High, never stolen magic from her friends, never absorbed its power and nearly destroyed the world.

This device had set in motion the events that had led to the day when Twilight had thrown it at Sunset, telling her to get out of her life.

And creating fifteen years of loneliness for herself.

Twilight took an involuntary step back from the safe, as if physically distancing herself from those objects would also allow her to distance herself from her memories. She wasn't sure which ones were worse: the horrible ones of fighting for her life and risking the end of the world, or the wonderful ones about experiencing the wonders of magic with her friends. Both hurt in different ways, and Twilight was tired of all the pain.

"You okay, Twilight?" Sunset asked.

"I'm fine," Twilight replied, not looking at her old friend. "Just didn't expect to see any of these things ever again. So I'm guessing that the journal was also kept here?" Yes, focus on the matter at hand. That was a good way to keep the past in the past.

"Yeah." Sunset pointed at an empty spot next to the magic collector. "Right there. It was here on Monday night, and the next morning it was gone."

"And you're sure the theft was magical in nature?" Twilight hadn't seen anything that indicated that the theft might have been something other than mundane. In fact, there didn't seem to be any sign of a break-in at all. Could Sunset have simply misplaced the journal?

"I'm sure." Sunset pulled out her phone. "The security guards have no memory of letting someone into the building, even though the cameras clearly show someone coming in the middle of the night and being escorted to the elevator."

"And you're sure it wasn't coercion rather than magic?"

"Not completely," Sunset admitted, "but I also found this on the door and the safe." She passed her phone over to Twilight. Twilight looked at the image on the phone. It showed the same door she had just walked through half an hour ago, but with minor alterations.

Namely, the shimmering circular pattern inscribed on its surface in some multicolored paint. Twilight recognized the sequence of lines and symbols as ones she had studied long ago in another lifetime.

"Okay, that's definitely a spell. I recognize the symbol for temporal manipulation with a stasis modifier, and the rest looks familiar, but it's been way too long since I've worked with this stuff. What is it, a time lock spell?"

"Impressive," Sunset said with an approving nod. "Yeah, it's a ghosting spell. Or a 'Temporal Displacement Enchantment', if you're being anal like the profs at CSGU were. Basically, it lets you phase something out of time for a little bit, so that you can, say, walk right through it. It's a pretty advanced spell, and not many unicorns back in Equestria could pull it off, but there's enough that blocking it is part of the standard counterspell package in every building in Equestria. I didn't bother because, well, you know."

Twilight shook off that old, familiar feeling of surreality that happened whenever Sunset talked about violating the fundamental laws of the universe like it was something that happened every day. Now, it just served as a reminder of how truly other Sunset and her pony world was, and how dangerous they could be.

"Alright, so it's a complex but not unheard of spell. Should we be looking for someone from Equestria then?" She knew Sunset wasn't the only Equestrian living in this world – the Sirens were still around somewhere, for example – but unless they had only recently arrived, it seemed odd that they would try to keep a low profile and then steal the journal with magic fifteen years later.

And if they had arrived recently, then that raised the question of whether there was another breach between worlds. Either way, not something Twilight wanted to think about.

"Not quite," Sunset said to Twilight's relief. "This is a really crude way to construct the spell. A proper version wouldn't use an arcane circle at all; a starburst would be a lot better at channeling the static part of the spell. There's a few other weird things about it, but the short version is, no one in any respected magic school would be caught dead casting something like this."

Sunset took her phone back from Twilight, peering at the image displayed on it. "This is like a kid trying to cast the spell from scratch for the first time; I wouldn't be surprised if this was what Star Swirl's first try actually looked like. That's why I suspected you at first; this seems more like something that someone trying to piece together magical theory on their own might come up with."

"So we're probably dealing with someone from this world who's been studying magic for a while." Twilight tried to summarize Sunset's technical explanation as best she could, her brain kicking into full academic mode.

"Pretty much, yeah," Sunset replied. "That still leaves a bunch of people we know, and maybe more we don't. I don't think everyone who was exposed to magic went insane and tried to take over the world. Some people probably handled it just fine and they're just staying under the radar using magic to make their lives better." The pointed look Sunset was giving Twilight made it clear what message she was trying to send.

"Fine, so there might be a bunch of perfectly happy magic people who could pull this off," Twilight said flatly. "That still doesn't leave us with much to go on."

"No, it doesn't. Which is why I wanted your help. Traditional detective work hasn't gotten us anywhere, so I'm hoping that we can track either the journal or the magic used in the theft. I know some forensic spells that could do it, but they won't work here because of how magic interacts with the atmosphere here."

"Right, magical emissions get transformed into other kinds of energy in this world, instead of permeating through the... aether, I think you called it?" At Sunset's nod, Twilight continued speaking. "I was working on some models to determine how magic breaks down after emission before, well..." Twilight trailed off, not wanting to bring up the same debate again. She was still angry at Sunset, but now wasn't the time for emotion. "Anyways, I never finished that work, but I have some preliminary models that might be useful."

"That's a good place to start," Sunset replied. "I'll show you the security footage from the theft to see if you can get anything from it too."

The elevator ride up to Sunset's apartment was silent save for the sound of footsteps and the whisper of clothing brushing against itself. Twilight tried to hide her feelings behind a stoic mask, but Sunset remembered enough of the teenager she used to be that she could still read her. Twilight was overwhelmed and taking the time to collect her thoughts, and Sunset decided to give her some space to sort out her own head.

To be honest, given how she had acted towards magic and Sunset, it was surprising how collected she was at the moment. Sunset had half-expected Twilight to try and destroy the magical artifacts on the spot or tell Sunset to get rid of them. It gave Sunset hope that maybe Twilight hadn't moved on as much as she'd claimed she had.

They reached the penthouse floor once again, and Sunset unlocked the door to her apartment. "Make yourself at home," she said, motioning for Twilight to enter.

"Nice place," Twilight commented as she entered the main foyer of her home. "You've done really well for yourself in the past fifteen years. Don't you think this is all a little much, though?"

"I spent most of my life living in a palace, Twilight," Sunset replied dryly. "Compared to that, this is practically modest."

Twilight shook her head. "Whatever. So, where's the security footage?"

"Over here," Sunset led Twilight to her home office, where she powered up her computer and brought up the video from the night of the theft. She skipped forward to the relevant timestamp and hit the play button. "This is the footage from the front desk."

On screen, a hooded figure walked up to the front desk and spoke to the receptionist for a few minutes. Halfway through the conversation, the receptionist's eyes glazed over and her movements became mechanical. The receptionist stood up, walked robotically over towards the elevator, and opened it for the thief, a blank expression on her face the whole time. A few seconds after the elevator doors closed, her expression became puzzled and she returned to the desk.

Sunset fast-forwarded through the next half hour of video before slowing down as the thief returned. The receptionist seemed surprised by her appearance, but her expression quickly blanked out again as she spoke to the thief, and she allowed the thief to exit without question.

Twilight wore a look of disgust on her face as she watched the video. "I see why you assumed mind control over coercion. That poor receptionist. How is she doing?"

"She and the guards have no memory of what happened," Sunset said. "Boy, was it annoying coming up with a cover story for that."

"Whoever did this knew where all the cameras were made sure their faces were obscured from them the whole time," Twilight said, looking at the screen. "Are there any other cameras that caught the thief?"

"Not that I could find. I did set up some security cameras in the lab, but, well, let me show you." Sunset pulled up another video and fast-forwarded to the appropriate time period. "This is when I suspect the lab door was hacked open."

The camera feed showed an image of the lab as it was on Monday night. It was a pretty boring sight until a few lines a static appeared on the screen for a few seconds before fading. "Wait," Twilight said, staring at the screen. "Was that static colored?"

"Yup," Sunset replied. "All the colors of the rainbow. I counted."

"But this feed comes from a black-and-white camera."

"Keep watching," Sunset said, starting the video again. The image of the empty lab continued playing, with only the occasional multicolored flicker indicating that something was off. Then, about a minute later, the image on screen was replaced by a swirling pattern of random colors.

"What in the world?" Twilight's jaw dropped as she watched the video. "This shouldn't be possible unless they replaced the recording."

Sunset pointed at a few of the less "swirly" parts of the screen. "You can still see the lab behind the interference, as well as what looks like someone moving around. I've already sent the video to someone to try and retrieve the original, uncorrupted signal. But yeah, it's obvious that someone used magic to obfuscate themselves."

Sunset waited for the corruption to fade before turning off the video. "So, that's what I've got so far. I haven't been able to find any solid leads on who might have done this, where they might have taken the journal, or what they plan to do with it."

Twilight raised an eyebrow. "Well, you've certainly been productive in the past couple weeks."

"I still have a company to run," Sunset replied. "It took me a while to set things up so that I could take an extended vacation to deal with this. So, what do you think about all this?"

Twilight's brows furrowed in concentration. "It's a lot to take in, honestly. I'm still getting my thoughts together, but I have some preliminary ideas."

"I'm all ears." Sunset was eager to hear Twilight's take on the theft. Sunset had wracked her brain for a way to track down the journal, but at the end of the day, her knowledge of physics was nothing compared to Twilight's.

"Well, first of all..." Twilight was interrupted by a low growling sound coming from her stomach.

Sunset looked at the time on the screen. "When did you have lunch?"

"I didn't," Twilight replied. "I was already running late getting here because of traffic."

"Well, why don't we discuss our game plan over dinner? My treat."

"I told you I didn't want anything from you."

"C'mon Twilight, it's just dinner. I dragged you all the way to Canterlot, I might as well do something to say thanks for coming." Sunset desperately hoped that Twilight would accept the figurative olive branch she was extending..

"Fine," Twilight sighed to Sunset's immense relief. "Let's go."

Join our Patreon to remove these adverts!
Join our Patreon to remove these adverts!