“Calibrations?” Sunset shouted. “Are you kidding me?”
“Hey! I’m doing my best here!” Twilight snapped back.
Her ears flattened as a nearby airship took a massive hit to its port side, sending steam, brass and debris crashing down into the raging battle below. A gyrocopter was knocked out of the sky by a runaway propeller blade.
“Where are we?” Sunset demanded as the great airship accelerated and began its descent toward the city, its cannons booming every few seconds as it unleashed magical fury in beams of amber light.
A pair of harbor guns swiveled and returned fire.
Sunset threw herself over Twilight as a cannon blast nearly took their heads off, instead impacting on the airship’s balloon. From Twilight’s position under Sunset, she marveled at the shield that shimmered into existence before the blast could strike the envelope.
“This is not where I expected to be today,” Sunset muttered as a gyrocopter soared just over the bow, pursued by a pair of armored pegasi.
“Uh… Sunset?” Twilight repeated, going red.
“What?” she snapped and looked down at Twilight.
They were nearly muzzle-to-muzzle. Sunset paled and her eyes shrank. Her horn ignited and she teleported back to her hooves.
“Um… sorry,” she said as she reached out a hoof to help Twilight back up.
“Don’t mention it,” Twilight murmured. “But… let’s… um… focus on the—”
The airship bucked beneath them, sending the Talisman out of Twilight’s magic. Only a quick grab by Sunset prevented it from sailing over the railing into the chaos in the sky.
“Repair teams to Deck Six!” Captain Stormbreak shouted over the intercom. “Firing teams, I want those guns torn apart! The Shimmering Dawn isn’t about to fall to some rebel shippers!”
Despite themselves, they couldn’t pull back from the railing. What they saw over the side of the bow was just… beyond description. The two other airships had fully engaged the enemy air support. Gyrocopters flittered all over the place with armored griffons and steam-powered pegasi flying in tight formations. Energy blasts like lightning flew across the warzone as the three ships descended upon their target.
Twilight forced her attention back to the Transdimensional Portal Talisman and flared her magic. In an instant, a floating holographic diagram the arcane circuity appeared above the device. Twilight’s eyes darted through the schematic, trying to determine the fault.
“There!” Sunset pointed a hoof at a small relay near the center of the original anomaly containment unit at the core of the device. Her hoof went through it for a moment when the Shimmering Dawn took another hit. “That can’t be right. It looks like it’s still configured to absorb magical energy… but at only a fraction of what it used to.”
“Good eye,” Twilight said as she studied the relay. She didn’t have the tools for this! She didn’t have the time! And she couldn't do it in the middle of a war for pony’s sake!
Then it came to her.
“Oh ponyfeathers. That means it was never locked to Canterlot High in the first place! That means… I think we’re in some alternate reality! How did I miss that?”
“I don’t think you did,” Sunset braced herself against another impact. “I think it may have been hardcod—”
“Attention all hands, gyro wing coming around for another pass! Short-range turrets fire at will!”
Sunset froze and stared behind Twilight, going pale. However, Twilight suspected the reason she went pale was not embarrassment this time.
Twilight turned and felt her blood go cold.
Six gyrocopters—strange whirling mechanical contraptions with more moving parts than seemed possible—were bearing down on the bow of the Shimmering Dawn. They were painted in a strangely familiar pink and blue color scheme. And each of them carried massive crackling energy cylinders that could only be weapons.
The first three opened fire.
Sunset dove to the side and Twilight immediately flared her best shield spell. It absorbed the first three hits, but the drain on her magic was intense. She growled with the effort.
Sunset was already striking back. Beams of teal fire erupted across the hissing bow of the airship, slicing through the rotors of one of the ships. It exploded instantly, leaving behind an unconscious pilot in a bubble of magic. Moments later, pegasi in Sunset and Twilight’s colors were there, blasting away at the gyrocopters with beams of brilliant violet electricity.
The remaining gyrocopters unleashed the full might of their arsenal just before another went down. However, they hadn’t fired at Twilight or Sunset.
They had targeted the deck.
The deck below their hooves erupted in a blaze of steam and fire. Twilight was thrown overboard, but managed to catch herself with her wings to see the gyrocopters fully engage the pegasi.
She glanced around for Sunset.
Her heart plummeted with Sunset.
Well, this has been a swell day, Sunset thought as she fell to what was probably her doom. At least I got a kiss from—
She shoved that little detail out of her head and focused her magic on a mass-effect spell, shifting her density to make her heavier. After all, if she didn’t catch the Talisman falling toward the ocean surface, they would be stuck in this crazy world with no chance to get back to Equestria.
Pegasi spun in the air around her. Flak cannons tore at the sky. Gyrocopters erupted in magical fire. Griffons screeched in anger. Sunset pushed it all away, focusing on the little purple trinket… but it was out of reach.
“Oh, I am so going to regret this.” Sunset ignited her horn and teleported… straight down.
Instantly, she snatched the thing in her hooves and breathed a sigh of relief.
Then she realized she was still plummeting to her doom.
There was a flash of purple magic and she crashed into something warm, soft and lavender.
Sunset fought back the sigh of relief as she looked Twilight in the eye even as she was cradled in the alicorn’s hooves.
“What took you so long?”
Twilight rolled her eyes. “I took the scenic route.”
Sunset froze as nine pegasi suddenly swooped up to them.
“Oh come on!” Sunset growled.
“Shimmering Dawn,” shouted one of them into some sort of headpiece. “We have confirmation of Queens on-site. Repeat. Queens on-site! We’re bringing them in now!”
“That voice…” Twilight muttered.
The lead pegasi pulled off her helmet to reveal the pony with a yellow coat and a matted mane of yellow and gold.
“Your Majesties!” Spitfire cried. “This area isn’t secure yet! We need to get you back on the flagship, ASAP!”
“Roll with it,” Sunset muttered in Twilight’s ear. Twilight nodded.
“Very well,” Twilight said in her most imperious tone. “Lead the way.”
Sunset didn’t let go of Twilight once as the pegasi escorted them through the battle back to the great airship.
“It was an honor, ma’ams. The captain sends his regards, but as he’s commanding this battle, he won’t be able to speak with you until the rebels have been quelled.”
“Thank you.” Twilight nodded. “You performed excellently.”
Spitfire saluted smartly. “It is an honor to serve the cause, Your Majesties. The captain’s attache, Sunlight Fan #10,000,204, will be with you shortly. You’ll find she’s quite fervent in her devotion. Almost… too fervent.”
“What do you mean… ‘too fervent’?” Sunset asked.
Spitfire fluffed her wings awkwardly. “It’s not for me to judge, Your Majesties, but 204 tends to probably too much time in the more… fanciful tales of your exploits.”
“Thank you,” Twilight repeated. “That will be all.”
Spitfire saluted once more, did a smart about-face and departed from the small conference room. The second the door was open, Twilight brought out the Talisman again with the holographic diagram.
“Sunset, I’ve been thinking about this…” Twilight bit her lip. “I don’t have the tools to fix this properly. I think I can aim us in the general direction of home… but who knows how long it’ll take it get back there?”
Sunset put a hoof on her shoulder. “Twilight, it’s okay. We both missed it and you shouldn’t beat yourself up about it. Who knows? This might end up actually being fun. Seeing alternate timelines? Whole different worlds? Sounds pretty cool to me.”
Twilight chuckled at that.
“You know… it doesn’t sound all that bad when you say it like that. It’s been a little while since I’ve had a good adventure. I don’t think I’ve ever had one just…” Twilight coughed slightly, “…with you.”
Twilight was sure she didn’t see a faint blush on Sunset’s cheeks. That would have been silly. Ridiculous even.
“Yeah!” Sunset said in a voice far too loud. “Exploring the multiverse, just you and me. Sounds like a great time.”
Twilight nodded. “As long as we’re together.”
Sunset smirked. “Together.”
The door opened a moment later and admitted another pegasus. A very familiar looking one at that.
“Fluttershy?” Twilight and Sunset cried—appropriately—together.