• Published 18th Dec 2016
  • 5,411 Views, 177 Comments

The Sparkle Census - Autumn Colors Fall

Upon gaining access to the multiverse, some people go on fantastic adventures, rewriting history or exploring the vast unknowns of time and space. Twilight Sparkle had another idea.

  • ...


Twilight sat at her podium in the small, square room. The ceiling, made from cheap tiling and the tacky, stripped wallpaper that adorned every wall were both eyesores, and the lavender pony had grown quite tired of staring at them. The floor was lined with beige tiling and was quite nondescript. The only interesting thing in the bland room was the angry alicorn standing resolutely in its center, who was the current source of the princess’s ire.

“Ma’am, please, I just need your name and then you can move on to the next room.”

“No!” the mare shrieked, eying her suspiciously. “I know what this is: it’s another scam by those Flim-Flam brothers, trying to steal my identity. Well it’s not going to work I tell ya!”

The overworked alicorn gave a sigh of annoyance. She was supposed to get through one new entrant roughly every five minutes, and this one had taken over twenty so far. She was paranoid to a ludicrous degree, and was certain that the Census was actually a ploy to steal her rights. She had accused everyone from Sapphire Shores to Scootaloo of being involved in the conspiracy.

It was exceedingly rare that anypony called into the Census identified as anything other than Twilight Sparkle, but there had been enough edge cases for it to become mandatory to ask for a name each time. Twilight still felt that the jarring dimensional shift that occurred upon opening the letter wasn’t helping matters, but years of data showed it to be the most effective method of getting new Sparkles to show up. Gearing for another attempt, the princess put on her most diplomatic façade.

“I know this is sudden and probably quite difficult, but the sooner you give me your name the sooner you will be able to go home.”

“Yeah, right. And when I get home there will be another pony calling herself Twilight Sparkle already there, and all of my friends will believe she’s the real one. I know your game; I won’t be replaced!”

“Oh, so your name is Twilight Sparkle! Very good, please take these papers with you on your way out.”

The pony gawked for a moment before angrily grabbing the papers in her teeth. She grumbled to herself as the door opened and let her out of the room. Twilight let out a sigh of relief, glad to be through with the tricky customer. She still had several days-worth of entry duty to complete, and it was taking a toll on her patience. She wanted to get back to working in a real laboratory, or start sniffing out potential security issues with 2K. This kind of busywork drove her up the wall.

There had been much discussion amongst the numerous members of the Census over the past few weeks. Spurred by the recent breakout and the damages to the Equine atrium, the popularity of having a classified section of the Census had fallen to an all-time low. While some of the Council still felt it was too dangerous to open the Wing up to the public, they had agreed to a few reforms thus far. For example, the most dangerous projects had been moved to secure labs far away from one another in order to minimize the risk of another total catastrophe, and the prison now had a few more guards posted at all times. The turophobia lab had been made public as well in order to expedite research on a countermeasure. The former researchers had been shocked when they found that the project hadn't been scrapped after all, but most were willing to accept the sincere apology from the Grand Secretariat and their former lead. After all, most of them were Princesses of Friendship, and forgiveness is a very important part of any relationship.

Getting back to work, Twilight pulled her intercom close and said, “Next!”

The center of the room distorted as another lavender alicorn was pulled through the fabric of space and time. She landed with a small thud, her head spinning and a mug of coffee held in her hoof. At least she had a pick-me-up for later, Twilight thought. Pulling out another stack of forms from beneath her podium, Twilight looked the dazed mare in the eyes and repeated the word for what felt like the hundredth time today.


Author's Note:

And that’s all she wrote!

Wow, this story was a wild ride to write. It started as a silly take on the Council of Ricks/ some Douglas Adams style humor and ended up going a lot further. I initially expected to write no more than 10K words, and instead I ended up over doubling that number. This was an incredibly silly story that involved a lot more cheese than I expected, literally and figuratively. I hope that you have enjoyed this nonsensical tale of a lavender mare stuck in a silly situation. I’m so tired of trying to find synonyms for counterpart or twin, it’s not even funny.

This has been a blast and a great learning experience. Criticism is greatly appreciated; I want to know what could have been done better so that I can improve as a writer. Even if I disagree with you, I still benefit from your perspective.

Edit 12/22/19: Cus' I love to make you smile, smile, smi-----l---e------------------------y---e--s----i----d--------o-----

Comments ( 52 )

7926767 It started more based on the Council of Reeds from marvel (or Council of Ricks from Rick & Morty) but the SCP Foundation is a decent comparison as well, albeit with far less classified nonsense going on. And no memetic hazards... yet.


Changeling Queen Twilight Sparkle - Object Class: Keter.

Council of Reeds/Ricks is a great idea to see explored like this in MLP. The possibly unintentional SCP-like touch, especially at the end there, feels like fantastic garnish on top of everything. I'd like to see more in this nexusverse if you're continuing. Switched from Tracked to Favorited, and you've got my upvote.

This was good, and I liked it a great deal.

Twilight should've had one more complaint about how the welcoming is handled.

Mainly, tell the freaking out arrival to read the letter followed by a quick explanation of what's happening. "We need you name to make sure we have the right being, and after a questionnaire you'll be given orientation where you'll learn about what we have built here."

Awesome multiverse story, very glad I read this. I really enjoyed how it started with a focus on the comedy of the surreal situation and gradually hit an actual climax. As Aurora put it, the little undertones of a SCP foundation style entity really added to the whole thing.
I found myself really enjoying this pocket dimension you crafted; it seems like a comfy place, I wouldn't mind visiting there one bit!

7926925 Bah. The first word from any greeter should be "This is a test"
That is how you get a Sparkles attention.

This story is a lot of fun to read. I loved a lot of the dialogue, and just general silliness. Great work!

I also featured it on my podcast, Pony 411.

7946220 Thanks for the positive PR, I'm glad you enjoyed the story! I gave the episode a listen, enjoyed the long discussion of bacon horse!

Thanks for all of the support everyone!

A small update: I'm going back through the chapters and fixing some errors with grammar. I'm also rephrasing some sentences to read more smoothly. Once again, no important content is being changed, just little updates to make is a nicer read.

7996421 Lol, that's hilarious. Did you make that?

Also, the post-mortem edit is complete! Huzzah! [Insert Princess Luna Emote. Why do we not have this?]

Sadly no.:twilightsheepish: It's from an artist named Sue Dunn Emm. Most of her work is rather, er, mature, shall we say, sometimes going weird places, so fair warning to anyone wanting to look her up.

Oh my, this was very well done! I'm looking forward to the sequel. Do you have an estimate of when you expect to start working on it?

8030357 At the moment I'm still in the early planning stages (and also moving/ starting a new job. Aaahhhh!) I haven't come to a point where I'm really happy with a plan for The Pink Paradox yet; I know what it is about on a vague level but making that fun/ funny is still a work in progress. I'd expect no earlier than sometime this summer due to how busy my schedule is about to get.

8030380 Ah, guess I'll just have to keep an eye out then. Good luck at your new job! :twilightsmile:

8030418 To necro-quote myself:

"I hate to break it you you Spike, but what ponies call "friendship" is just a chemical reaction that compels animals to bond for mutual protection. It hits hard Spike, then it slowly fades, leaving you stranded in a weird mentor-student relationship. I did it. Starlight is going to do it. Break the cycle Spike, rise above, focus on science. "

8030918 Try rereading the second and third chapter, as well as the first bit of the fourth.

>the popularity having a classified section of the Census
-Seems like there's an 'of' missing after 'popularity' ?

8030960 I just read them... That's kinda why I'm confused.

8031177 I'll try to break down the situation. For those reading the comments before the story you have been warned of spoilers.

First mention of the meet up. Twilight is scheduled to meet with the "Head of the Registration Committee." (Chap 2)

“Is there some-Twilight else I could talk to about this?” she tried again.
“Yes. I can arrange a meeting for you with the head of the registration committee if you are interested?”
“That would be perfect, thank you miss…”
“Sparkle.” The receptionist deadpanned.
“Right.” Twilight waited as her twin penned a short memo, which she dropped into a small chute labelled ‘Out-Spike.’
“The committee member will be available to see you in her office in about an hour. Now, if there is nothing else please return to your seat.”

Indication that the meeting being planned was less for Twilight's benefit and more to get Twilight to finish up and get where she needs to be on time. We start to see that the Census's methods are a little manipulative. (Chap 2)

Looking back down at her paper and then back towards the receptionist, it dawned on her that unless she quickly finished the form she would not be able to leave for the scheduled meeting, running the risk of being…
“Tardy.” Twilight whispered shrilly, a chill running down her spine. The giggling duplicate caught her eye, and Twilight saw that she now had a broad smirk on her face.
“She got another Sparkle with that one just a few minutes before you showed up. Better get cracking, Smarty-Pants.” She said in a sing-song voice, vaguely reminiscent of a certain pink pony.

The Sparkle at the Hayburger clearly knows something Twi does not, and implies that she went through the same situation. The wink but lack of explanation shows she knows Twilight is being tricked, though the audience doesn't yet know how. (Chap 3)

“Oh, the entry to the orientation hall is at the near end of the atrium, not too far from here. You should head over soon and catch a tour.”
“Thanks, though I actually have a meeting coming up with the Head of the Registration Committee, so the tour will have to wait.”
“The Head of the Registration Committee, huh?” Her lookalike spoke sardonically and acquired a mischievous grin. “I remember meeting her when I first showed up a few months ago. Make sure to give her my regards.”
She gave Twilight a wink, leaving the lavender mare flummoxed. “You’ll find her office in the same area, and there should be adequate signage.

The door being right next to the orientation hall, somewhat informally worded signage reading "Office of Head of Registration Committee This Way", the overly twisted corridor, and the door leading right out into the Orientation Hall is all part of a somewhat manipulative ploy by the Census to ensure that bothersome or rebellious Sparkles end up at Orientation. Essentially, if bothered enough a secretary offers to schedule a meeting with the head of this nonexistent committee. This placates the Sparkle in question, who then has to get her paperwork done quickly to make said meeting, forcing her to stop being a nuisance. She then searches out the office and goes through the door and down the hall, ending up at Orientation instead. She is quickly snatched up by a tour guide so that she can get through the end of the mandatory steps, receive her ticket out, and leave if she so chooses.

This is partially clarified at the start of Chapter 4. Twilight knows that she was tricked now from the moment the meeting was scheduled, and is miffed about it.

This particular Twilight Sparkle, amongst the twenty or so who made up present company, was in an especially sullen mood. She had not appreciated the trick that had been played on her in order to ensure that she ended up at Orientation on time.

Chapter 8 gives a bit of final explanation as to why this is done.

We do generally try to persuade new members to at least stay through the orientation. Our methods of doing so can be a tad abrasive or inconsiderate at times, but we feel it is important to gather all the data we can and at least let the Sparkles in question know who we are.

A little convoluted? Yeah, probably not the most efficient way of going about it. I thought it was funny though, so it stuck. This is a comedy first and foremost after all.

I really enjoyed this! Congratulations on the EQD feature and all, bud. Really fun stuff. :)

Woaaah that was quite a ride. I admit first few chapters were a bit drag to read from all the descriptions and very little character interaction. Story does pick up and prevents me from stopping to read.

But to be honest I am most interested in the premise you have created which offers so many possibilities. :twilightsmile:

...When you do get around to the sequel, please be sure to leave a blog-post with this story selected in the "tagged story"-box.

...'cause I don't wanna miss that sequel! :pinkiehappy:

And that's the most reliable way to get the info out there to anyone who's following this first story, since fimfiction sadly doesn't do sequel notifications anymore. :twilightsheepish:

Man this was a hell of a romp- can't wait for the sequel!

Also getting a massive urge to draw some alternate non-pony Twilights from this. Curse you, inspiration!

8036581 Do iiiiiit! Moar art is best art.

This was a fun story! I look forward to the follow-up, and am sorely tempted to include some small nod to this in my own storyline, given the multiversal hijinks I'm planning in the future.

Been a long time since I went back to this story. Overall the manipulative nature of the Census left a bad taste in my mouth, and while you basically said it was for comedy's sake I felt it was the least funny thing in the story. I feel like there should probably be at least 50 different Twiligh's thinking of some way to toss the original founders of the groups or split off from them. Because if nothing else it feels untrustworthy and disrespectful and no Twilight should just accept that

That's fair. Comedy is a very subjective medium and not everything will work for everyone. I was in many ways going for a satire of bureaucratic and corporate systems and just how messed up and manipulative they can be, putting a comedic spin on an often frustrating situation.

There are almost certainly rebel sparkles who would like nothing more than to see the Census fall. It would be an interesting topic to cover perhaps.

It's interesting going back and re-reading one's old work at times. I feel that I did a pretty good job on The Sparkle Census looking back, though a few sections are perhaps a little convoluted or exist too much to simply advance the plot in the right direction.

While I can't really fix that now, I can learn from it for the future. I hope to improve on the story and the universe in the sequel, which is still happening but is taking a while. Thanks again to everyone who read The Sparkle Census, especially to those offering praise or criticism! It is all well appreciated.

The story is such a roller coaster of emotion and i like it.

Funny part twilight was told she would not get punished then gets punished with Census duty anyway. xD

what does the Census do when they run into a Twilight who has an assistant who opens her mail for her?

This was a blast! :pinkiehappy:

Sucker that I am for multiverses and analogues running into one another, I got a huge kick out of this. There's only one issue souring the experience: how the protagonist Twilight stood out from the herd. Twilight Sparkle is defined in part as a pony who rushes towards danger rather than away from it, the better to solve the problem. By this story's logic, most Twilights wouldn't have even dared to face down Nightmare Moon. They certainly wouldn't have charged her. And yet, the equine atrium's full of alicorns.

Again, aside from that, fantastic story. I'm honestly sorry to hear you don't plan on expanding it. Still, thank you for it.

Thanks for the read! Yeah, looking back I can see that the story has more than a few holes in it, which is why I didn't consider it a good base for a sequel. I just wasn't going to be able to get around some of that stuff, and I decided it worked better as a standalone piece.

Perhaps I will write some more absurd/ bureaucratic humor in the future if I can find the inspiration. I know I left it somewhere around here. I'll check behind the couch later.

I want more... to know more about this universe... :O

But you had something in mind that might have been a sequel.
The files of Pinkamena Research Institute.

There is certainly room for a sequel, but I'm not entirely certain whether a sequel is necessary or even that it would benefit the current story. I like that a lot of the Census is left up to the reader to consider, and I worry that whatever I wrote the PRI out to be wouldn't match up with what readers might imagine it as. Sometimes the mystery is better than the reality.

I've considered several times writing The Pink Paradox, but I haven't quite found the passion or the plot line to really go through with it. I don't want to write a sequel just for the point of adding more words. If I did write it, it would have to be because I know it is going to improve the universe as a whole and make The Sparkle Census itself a better story, which is hard considering that this story is a parody on both bureaucracy and alternate universe stories in sci-fi. It's not meant to be taken especially seriously, and I don't want to end up taking it too seriously if I take it further. I'm keeping the door open, but as of yet I've not felt that I can do a sequel justice.

Something about this story reminds me of those days I had just started browsing this site... What is it? I can't tell...

I'll just say, it's pleasant to read, is not too serious about certain things and is solid plotwise. It's humourous as well!

I think, not only is it worth a bookshelf add, but a thumb-up as well :pinkiehappy:!

Thanks, glad you enjoyed it!

This story is wonderful. It's practically Potter-esque in the way you take this incomprehensible concept and make it so absolutely approachable and compelling. There isn't a second of this fic that I did not love.

Edit: After a lot of planning and reworking I have decided not to publish a sequel to The Sparkle Census. This will be a standalone work.

The following is a detailed account of all known information relating to the anomalous Pinkamena Research Institute.

So you’re just going to leave us hanging?

This was some great stuff! I usually shy away from multi-verse-type stories due to the existential implications that writers seem to lean on, so it's very refreshing to see a light-hearted and comedic approach. Just enough mystery and action to keep it interesting, while also playing true to Twilight's character. I find these types of stories work best when you just go along for the ride and try not to think too hard about certain implications.

All in all, a fun read over the weekend! Thank you for writing it! :twilightsmile:

I knew something seemed off about them. Regardless, thanks for pointing me here. Now to read your take on it. :twilightsmile:

Timto unleash the Pinkie Pie Sparkle... :pinkiecrazy::facehoof:

Question. How will Grand Secretariat react if some creature other than twilight is in the Spakle Census?
remember how altruistic twilight is, I imagine she wouldn't mind if somepony else try to study in their place. though not for free.

She'd likely use the power of friendship to delegate the problem to some-Twilight else.

That makes sense. she is too busy to solve this problem herself.
so I can assume there is no rule such as, "There is no creature other than Twilight is allowed in the Sparkle Census."
oh right btw,I'm not expecting you to reply so I purposely leave this detail. so the one who infiltrates the Sparkle Census is Luna from my dimension.

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