Sunset’s mind kicked into overdrive as she regained consciousness, and she let out a shriek as she sat up straight. She flailed her arms about, feeling her human clothes, the cool soil beneath her—she only calmed when she realized she was on solid ground, safe and away from Sombra.
“You’re awake!” chirped Twilight from behind her. Sunset turned just in time to receive a crushing hug from Twilight. She groaned in pain at the embrace, but didn’t move away. “How are you feeling? Did you get caught in Sombra’s blast at all?”
“I’m fine,” Sunset said. “Just a little rattled. But what is this place?”
The two looked around. The teleporter had thrown them into some sort of forest, its massive purple-leaved trees rustling in the warm wind. Only a minute awake, and already Sunset could feel the humidity seeping into her skin, calling forth a sheen of sweat.
“What should we do now?” Twilight asked. “Just wait for the TPT to recharge?”
“Actually,” said Sunset, pulling the new device out from her pocket, “it’s not the TPT. Or even the Talisman.”
“Sunset… what is that?”
“Aeon’s boss called it a ‘training teleporter.’ This is how we’re supposed to stop… or at least find Tirek. In fact, the last jump should have taken us to him… but there’s no one here. I get the feeling he’s kinda hard to miss. Ugh. I don’t know. Maybe the Mirror Pool caused this thing to malfunction?”
“Tirek broke out?” Twilight asked. “Oh, goodness...”
“Yeah. So we either go nail him or turn ourselves into the cops. And I’m pretty sure that won’t end well.” Sunset put the training teleporter away. “Let’s walk and talk until this thing’s recharged—I can fill you in on everything that’s happened. Who knows, maybe we’ll even run into someone on the way?” She offered Twilight a hand, pulled her up, and the two headed off.
The forest stretched out endlessly in all directions, but luckily the ground was flat enough that they could shoot through acres in mere minutes. While they hiked, Sunset recounted her confrontation with Aeon, the loss of their Talisman, Tirek’s escape, and all about the training teleporter. Twilight just grimaced at each new piece of info.
Yet, by the time an hour had passed—with civilization nowhere in sight—neither girl could keep from marveling at the universe they had fallen into. Unfamiliar birds sang overhead and alien insects scurried underfoot, teasing the scientist inside Sunset like glints of gold in a riverbed. And although purple dominated the landscape, tiny patches of blue and red flowers grew all around, lining the ancient tree roots.
“These are beautiful,” Twilight said, drawing close to sniff a blue flower.
Sunset nodded. “Y’know, this little journey of ours hasn’t been all bad. We’ve gotten to see some pretty baller stuff.”
Twilight shot her a furrow-browed glance.
“Cool stuff,” Sunset corrected. She stooped down to examine a discarded brown feather leaning against a tree. It had to be as long as her arm.
“Agreed.” Twilight leaned down, pushed her nose between some petals, and took a long whiff. “Like these—eek!”
Sunset whipped her head around just in time to see Twilight stumbling backwards, shimmering green vapor floating about her head. Twilight fell to her rear, and Sunset ran to help her.
“Whoa, what happened?” Sunset asked. “Are you alright?”
Twilight rubbed at her eyes, then looked up at Sunset. Her pupils had become as wide as suns. “Alright...? Who are you?”
Sunset waited for the smile, the laugh—but it didn’t come. “I’m Sunset Shimmer,” she said as Twilight stared. “I’m your friend, remember?”
“I don’t have any—what’s wrong with my body?” Twilight cried, staring down at her human form. She rose to her feet, wobbling about ungracefully. “And where am I? What’s going on?!”
“Twi,” said Sunset, forcing her voice to stay steady. She tapped into her memory-searching powers and reached out. “Calm down. Take a deep breath and—”
“Get away from me,” Twilight said, jumping back. When Sunset tried to grab her again, Twilight scrambled away. “Leave me alone!”
Sunset shouted out her name, but within seconds Twilight had disappeared into the purple foliage. Cursing, Sunset ran after her.
Sunset climbed up and over a massive log. She squinted to see in the dim light, scanning every inch of forest she could—but found no one.
She hadn’t cursed this much since middle school. Where could Twilight be? This forest was huge; how would Sunset ever have a chance of finding her?
Sunset collapsed against a tree. Her throat burned, her feet ached, sweat rolled down every inch of skin—she needed a break, even if for just a second. She closed her eyes and let the sounds of the forest swallow her.
Then, in the distance: weeping.
Sunset hated that sound.
Minutes later, Sunset stepped into a wide clearing, dirt forest floor replaced by a sweeping stone plateau. Those feathers Sunset had noticed before littered the ground. And at the other end, slumped against a fallen branch: Twilight, sobbing.
Twilight flinched when she noticed Sunset drawing close. “Go away!”
“Please,” said Sunset, “don’t be afraid, Twilight. Let me help you.”
“I—” Twilight sniffled. “Don’t hurt me. I just want to go home.”
“Yeah.” Sunset nodded. “Me too.”
Twilight sat up a bit straighter. “Are you from Canterlot?”
“You know it.” Sunset sat down. “Went to PCSGU, too. Kelpie House. Studied elemental magic. You?”
“Magical applications,” replied Twilight. She took a long breath. “None of this makes sense. One minute I was in the middle of a lesson, and now I’m here. What happened?”
“It’s a long story. Like, at least twenty chapters.”
“Well, how do we get back?”
Sunset raised her palms, each one surrounded by a shining gold aura. “Just relax. Just—”
Twilight screamed and toppled over to her side. Sunset rolled her eyes and prepared another cuss—but stopped when she noticed the massive shadow enveloping them, even darker than nightfall.
Praying for a trick of the moonlight, Sunset forced herself to turn around. All the breath left her lungs.
Leaves and discarded feathers skittered about as a massive roc descended into the clearing, its vomit-green eyes boring straight into Sunset’s. A bloody porcine carcass hung from its talons, but soon hit the ground with a thump as the bird focused its attention on the two very alive, very meat-filled girls standing before it. It stood as tall as a house, with a wingspan rivaling an airliner.
Sunset couldn’t shout, couldn’t talk, could barely breathe.
The roc advanced, pinning the duo against a tree. It regarded them with a sort of bemusement, tilting its head this way and that.
Twilight quaked. “What—what do we do?”
Forcing her mind to keep running, Sunset whispered, “On the count of three, run. One—”
With a screech, the roc thrusted its beak straight at Sunset’s head.
Both girls barely threw themselves out of the way before the roc’s beak hit the tree behind them, tearing through the wood like a power drill.
“Holy Celestia—” was all Sunset could spit out before she was lifted off the ground and thrown through the air. She spun in freefall before landing on her side. Her chest felt like it might cave in as she rolled across the rocky ground. Yet, she could only muster one thought: Where’s Twilight?
Sunset opened her eyes and managed a smile when she saw the bird coming towards her again. Twilight stood far off, knees trembling, hands wringing.
Plan, need a plan, Sunset’s thoughts shouted as the roc approached. It let out another screech, and this time dodging wasn’t enough. The bird’s beak caught the edge of her jacket and lifted her into the air again. She flailed and kicked, but all it earned her was another toss through the air.
She landed hard on her ass and let out a pained cry. Her rear had absorbed most of the impact, but something sharp in her pocket had dug into her skin. Collapsing, she pulled out the object.
The training teleporter!
The roc reared up over Sunset, spreading its wings out to their full length—then squawked and flew to the other side of the clearing, smoke trailing from its side. In its place now stood Twilight, holding a pair of flaming sticks.
“Thermal energy wins again!” Twilight said, holding up her weapons. She scurried to Sunset and helped her off the ground. “Can you walk?”
“Yeah, I just need a few minutes”—Sunset took in a breath, and nearly shouted at the sudden pain—”or hours.”
“I don’t think we have that long,” said Twilight. Across the clearing, the roc was tearing out its burnt feathers. They didn’t have much time before it would be on the attack again, even angrier than before. And it took time for the training teleporter to activate...
Sunset pressed the device into Twilight’s hands. “You need to leave. I’ll distract the bird. You just get to a safe distance, press this button here, hold it, and wait—you’ll find some cops, and they’ll help you.” I hope.
Twilight stared. “But what about you?”
The roc roared.
“Run!” Sunset shouted.
Clutching the teleporter tight, Twilight ran off into the forest.
Sunset groaned as she rose to her feet. The bird returned and let out a horrifying shriek, louder than any before.
“C’mon,” Sunset said, closing her eyes. “Gimme your best shot.”
Get home safe, Twilight.