“Charges: One count of illegal construction of space-altering devices,” a voice, both stern yet jaded said. She clearly had been through this routine many times.
Sunset just stared at the silver disk she stood upon. She could hear Twilight’s frustrated groans and cries of jubilation during the time they spent creating their portal Talisman.
“Thirteen counts of illegal interdimensional travel.”
And every world had been its own level of bizarre. So many places. So many people. So many sights. And Twilight had been with her through all of it.
A universal constant.
“Assaulting an officer.”
She started it, Sunset thought bitterly.
Yes, their journey had been dangerous at points, but she and Twilight had been completely fine until Aeon showed up. They were almost home, too. A few more jumps. Now, Twilight sat chained in a hell that used to be sweet Equestria, while Sunset stood here, waiting to be told she would die.
Aeon hadn’t entered the Director’s room with Sunset. She stood alone in an office that finally lived up to her expectations of interdimensional police officers. It curved outward like a crescent moon. Chrome paint with odd symbols covered the wall that stretched behind Sunset. A large, glass window made up the wall in front of her, giving a stunning view of space. Thousands upon thousands of stars glittered in front of her, shimmering dust thrown onto a black canvas. Twilight would have loved this too.
“Assisting a known universal criminal.”
Okay, she lost me now. Sunset had enough sense to hold her tongue. Or perhaps, she had moved beyond the point of caring. What did it matter? The Director’s room had reverted her back to her equine form, yet her front hooves remained bound, and an inhibitor ring around her horn locked her magic. The Talisman was who-knew-where by now. She had only emptiness. A void left behind by Twilight that ate at her, feasting on whatever passion and drive had once motivated her. This was it: her journey’s end.
“And finally, unauthorized access to restricted dimensions.”
Sunset repressed her urge to scream out the last of her rage, anger, and vitriol before she died. Instead, she glared up defiantly at the desk floating on a second silver disk just up in front of her. Jet black with gold trimming and nothing on top save for a gold name plate that read ‘Stella Nova.’ Its occupant sat in an equally black chair, back still turned to Sunset as she read off the crimes.
“All things considered, it’s not the worst I’ve seen from you,” Stella Nova said. She turned her chair around, revealing the bizarrest creature Sunset had seen yet. Stella’s skin was milk white on her right half and pitch black on the left with criss-crossed lipstick. Her grey hair was pulled up into a neat bun. Above it floated a metal halo that flickered different colors every few seconds. She leaned her head into her right hand and looked at Sunset with lidded, grey eyes. “So, how do you plead, Sunset Shimmer?”
Did she choose now to make a last stand? Argue her point? That she and Twilight had not been aware these dimensional laws even existed and that they just wanted to go home? It hadn’t worked on Aeon, and if Sunset had to guess, this woman would be even stricter.
Sunset slackened her shoulders and sighed. “Guilty. We didn’t mean to cause any harm. We just wanted to explore the multiverse. Then, we wanted to go home.” Her throat caught and tears stung her eyes. She would die before ever seeing home again, and Twilight would languish in Hell.
Stella seemed to scribble on the paper with her finger. “Ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking it, blah, blah blah, I’m sure Aeon’s already told you that one.”
Sunset took a second look at Stella’s face. While it looked flawless, upon closer inspection, Sunset could see the bags under her eyes. Either this woman was very bored, very tired, or both.
She turned her chair to the side and looked out at the stars. “Sunset Shimmer, when a world discovers the power to break through the barriers between worlds, they usually only do it with one world, giving us ample time to go in and meet with them. We offer them a chance to join our task force, or destroy their machines and tell them not to do it again.” She swiveled her chair back to Sunset, eyes wide with aggravation. “But you two. One little device, and you go galloping through the multiverse like it’s a carnival! Every time!”
Sunset cocked her head. “Every time?”
Stella leaned back in her chair and massaged her temple. “Do you know how many Sunsets and/or Twilight Sparkles have stood in my office?”
“One-hundred and seventy, including you. Sometimes quivering, sometimes defiant, sometimes dying, sometimes as heroes. But every time there was one of you… there was always another somewhere around.”
Universal constants. Sunset’s heart fluttered for a moment, then died again. Whatever she felt for Twilight was in vain. They would not be together now. Sunset hated herself for not saying something sooner. All of the signs had been there—they had always been there, ever since Twilight had reached a hand out to pull Sunset from her darkest moment. As much as she tried to push it away, Sunset knew they couldn’t be just friends.
But out there somewhere was another Twilight and Sunset. Maybe that Sunset wouldn’t make the same mistake.
Stella grumbled. “I used to believe that universal constants were a myth. Hundreds of millions of universes, all made by different choices, all heading in different directions. Of course some things would overlap, but every time there is a Sunset Shimmer, there is a Twilight Sparkle. So maybe, just maybe… constants do exist.”
The soft tone in her voice sparked something in Sunset’s dying heart. Did she dare to hope?
Stella straightened up and folded her hands. “Frankly, Miss Shimmer, I grow tired of this game. Sending someone to hunt you two down whenever a version of you makes that blasted portal device. I’m going to have to find a way to cut it at the source. In the meantime, I also grow tired of seeing you in my courtroom and having to send you to be executed. While you’re both pains in my rear end…” A ghost of a smile passed her lips. “You’re both brilliant and almost always trying to do the right thing.” She leaned forward. “So I’m going to cut you a deal.”
Hope roared to life in Sunset. She straightened her back and met Stella with a look of rekindled determination. If it meant saving Twilight, she’d do anything.
The ghost smile traced Stella’s lips again. “I will let you go and provide you with the means to return to Hell and save your beloved, as well as drop all charges against both of you under two conditions.” She held up a white finger. “One, you two must stop and/or apprehend the prisoner you helped release.”
“What priso—” Sunset’s blood ran ice cold, stalling the fire within her. “Tirek,” she whispered.
Stella gave a grim nod. “Thanks to your meddling, he created his own device and is now gallivanting across worlds, stealing all the magic he can before hopping somewhere else. My men can hardly keep up. So, since you released him, you’ll put him back. Or kill him. I don’t care which at this point.”
Sunset swallowed her rising fear. “And the second condition?”
“Upon returning to your world, you will destroy your portal device and all related portal materials and research, including the prototype mirror linking Equestria Prime to Earth Beta Five. Limited access or not, it’s getting on my nerves.”
A wave of despair drowned out the flickering fire of hope. No more connection between Equestria and the human world? She and Twilight would have to pick one world and stay there forever. Twilight would most certainly choose Equestria. But what about Sunset? Which world could she settle down in?
She shook her head, and the fire rose again. Twilight was the only thing that mattered right now. Giving up a world would sting, maybe even break her heart. But to save Twilight—her Twilight—the girl who had given her a new life… Sunset would sacrifice anything. “Deal,” she said firmly.
Stella rolled her eyes. “Of course.” She snapped her black hand, and the restraints on Sunset’s hooves fell off.
She gingerly rubbed them together. “You don’t expect me to survive, do you?”
“I’m sending you to Hell and after a magic sucking demon. Of course not. Even if you do, I will be there to personally ensure your devices are destroyed. Either way, I’ll have one less pair to deal with.” Stella turned her chair to the window and waved her hand. “Now get out of my sight. As always, your hair offends me.”