• Published 21st Oct 2017
  • 4,879 Views, 337 Comments

Sparks Catch - Tale Swapper

Sunset Shimmer has emerged from the events of Anon-A-Miss with deeper bonds with her friends- and a proper home for the first time in a decade. The fires of friendship burn brightly within her. But Friendship is magic, and fire tends to catch...

  • ...

Burning Brands

Th tardy bell was just beginning to ring as Sunset stepped into the office. As soon as the door to the waiting room shut, Luna emerged from her office, quickly motioning Sunset to follow her. Without preamble, she ushered Sunset into her office, shutting the door behind them.

Sunset nervously held still for a few moments, before Luna spoke up. "Ms. Shimmer. Yesterday, you mentioned that you and your friends had gained access to magic." she pulled in a deep breath, then dropped her head into her hands. "Last evening, we confirmed that other members of the campus community are starting to gain their own powers."

Sunset froze, contemplating the consequences of some of the more dynamic students gaining magic. In a strangled voice, she said "Please tell me Trixie hasn't-"

"It was not Ms. Lulamoon." Luna cut her off. "Were it that simple. And before you ask," she said, heading off Sunset's follow up question, "the person in question has agreed to retrain their use- so long as we not reveal to anyone their identity or what their powers are- until they've, and I quote, "Made the entire school question their sanity." Without lifting her head form her hands, she spoke softly. "I know I'm already questioning mine."

Finally lifting her fact to Sunset's , she continued. "Magic is becoming more commonplace- and disruptive- with every passing day, Ms. Shimmer. Up until now I- and my sister- have been able to tolerate staying on the sidelines- magic was not common, and Principal Celestia decided it was best left to be managed by those who understood it. However, the events of the Battle of the Bands, and the new magic that seems to be spreading through he school leaves us with little choice. We either need to reject magic- and keep it from spreading- or find a way to manage it."

Sunset frowned. "I barely understand the magic here, ma'am. I have no idea how to get rid of it."

"I thought as much. And both Celestia and I refuse to allow you and your friends to be the only ones able to handle this... problem." Luna leaned forward. "So. Sunset Shimmer, I ask that you teach the both of us the secrets of magic."

Sunset's eyes widened. "Ms. Luna, I don't think I'm quite qualified to teach you magic." A sudden thought twisted through her mind, and she smiled. "But I think I know who might."

Flash Sentry rounded the corner, moving briskly. While normally he would be in advanced chemistry at this point (and making a mess- for all his dexterity, Flash tended to goof when it came to dealing with chemicals of any sort), today he had to see someone before things got out of hand. Fortunately, he knew exactly where his little sister was.

Moving to the door of classroom 201, he quietly knocked. Ms. Harshwhinney opened the door, and said brusquely, "Scootaloo already left my class, Mr. Sentry."

Flash opened his mouth for a moment, then closed it. Then he shook the confusion from his mind, and replied "What? Why did she- I just needed to talk with her for a second."

"She said she had a ferocious headache- and she was distinctly less energetic." Harshwhinney sniffed. If there was one thing people understood about Harshwhinney, it was that she could see through falsehood like nobody's business. If you lied to her, she'd call you out immediately, but on the other hand she could tell when one of her students really had a legitimate excuse. "She went to the nurse's office. Redheart is probably treating her now."

"Right. Thank you, ma'am." Flash turned and walked off, hearing the door slam behind him. As soon as he knew no one was looking, Flash took off running. Sunset mentioned her friends had headaches before their magic ignited- does that mean Scootaloo...

Twilight Sparkle was confused. Being ambushed by a person she didn't recognize was a familiar feeling to her- she'd often had similar instances in the halls of Crystal Prep. Being ambushed by a hug was a new feeling, and much more pleasant than the snide remarks or tidying she would have run into at her school. The second girl's approach had been similarly unusual- rather than talking down to or confronting Rarity, Aria had simply passed on a message for some third party... including the suspicious "other Twilight".

More baffling, her spectrograph was going crazy. The entire school had become saturated with the energy- and her guide had as strong a signature as she would have expected months ago.

But Rarity isn't showing any of the signs of being empowered by this energy. Even her hug was just a normal hug- she's got no special speed or strength. Either I'm getting false reading, or this energy may enhance more than just the physical.

Unless it's enhancing her looks... Twilight speculated as she watched Rarity approach the office. That would be a highly frivolous use of a poorly understood medium, but I've heard of much more dimwitted things done for the sake of fashion.

Entering the office, Twilight only had to wait for a few moments before one of the three doors within opened, revealing two women with dual-colored hair. The first was (probably) a student, while the second was almost certainly Vice-Principal Luna, whom Principal Cinch had informed her of. As the two entered, both froze for a second, before Luna shook her head. "Ah. You must be Ms. Sparkle, correct?" Luna smiled, offering a hand to the stunned Crystal Prep student. Hesitantly, Twiligth shook it. "It's good to meet you." Turning, she motioned to the yellow-and-red haired girl standing beside her. "My sister wishes to meet with you before she shows you around the school, but you might as well meet her first. This is Sunset Shimmer, your guide for the day."

As Sunset gave an awkward grin, Twilight's eyes narrowed. Something felt... off about this. As she was about to act, she caught Shining glaring at her out of the corner of her eye. Science after you meet with the principal, Twilight. Be polite. Twilight silently gathered herself, then extended her hand towards Sunset. "It's nice to meet you both."

As Twilight walked into Celestia's office, Sunset held her tongue. As soon as the door shut behind the girl, she turned to face Rarity, who was still standing in the office. "Celestia's beard, that was freaky. She really does look just like Twilight." Glancing at Rarity's face, she caught a flash of embarrassment. Looking more closely, she noticed that Rarity was only partly composed- makeup was missing and her hair had a few loose strands. "Rarity? What happened?"

"Well darling, it's a long story. To make it short-" She glanced at the closed door to the office, mindful of the time, then continued. "My magic awakened last night, and it was inspiring!" Rarity's eyes gleamed. "Apparently, my magic acts as a toolkit- I was able to unravel some of my old travesties and make something new from them! Cloth came apart and was rewoven at my fingertips!" She gave a giggle, a slightly maniacal edge to her voice. "I was even able to make one dress glow, darling! Oooh, my creative spark was given full reign last night!" The grin dropped from her face, and she shuddered. "Unfortunately, my magic left me drained, darling. I missed your text yesterday, and when I encountered Ms. Sparkle..."

"You thought she was... well, Princess Twilight." Sunset finished, then frowned. "Rarity, how mush magic did you use? You must have..." She trailed off, taking one of Rarity's hands. "...there's no burns," she muttered, her brow creased. "If you were using magic for hours, why is n't there any damage?"

Rarity frowned. "I have no idea, darling. Perhaps magic is changing a bit? Adjusting to help us." Taking her hand away from Sunset, she smiled. "However, darling, I'm glad I was able to catch you. I made something last night- a new jacket." She grinned, pulling a package out of her bag. "I can't wait to see what you think, darling!"

Sunset took the package, and glanced down at it. She then looked at Rarity's bag, then back at her package, then at the bag again. "Rarity... how did you fit this in your bag?"

Rarity opened her mouth, then glanced down at her pack. The backpack was the size of a bowling ball- maybe big enough to fit a couple of books. The package, meanwhile, was the size of a briefcase in its own right. "...you know, I have no idea..."

Shining Armor half-listened to the girls nearby, hearing once or twice the words "magic" and "enchantment". Frowning, he turned to look at the tall lady standing beside him. "They... they are talking about some sort of tabletop game, right?"

Luna looked back at Shining Armor, then pursed her lips. Finally, she shook her head. "I make it a policy never to lie, Mr. Armor. Let us simply say that the "energy" your sister is investigating is not native to this world, and is the reason we had to rebuild the front of the school several months ago."

Shining's eyes widened. "Are- that was a gas leak." He sounded almost desperate. "There's- there's no such thing as magic, right?" In the back of his head though, Shining Armor was slowly pulling together the pieces of a puzzle he'd never know existed. Various facts and shaky video footage began to line up in a way which caused him to break into a cold sweat.

Luna glanced back at him, then said softly, "You used the word, not I. We know no one will believe us- not right now. But what has happened here has no better term for how it could be possible- and our resident expert-" she motioned to Sunset as she spoke "uses it as well."

Shining was silent for a long moment, then let out a breath. "I... one of my friends told me that there was something... strange going on here. He asked me to be careful- to keep an eye on my sister." His face hardened. "I know I can't deter my sister from trying to figure this out. But- I have to ask- is this safe? Is there anything I can do?"

Luna glanced back at him, then shook her head. "Stand by your sister, Mr. Armor. She may need your support soon."

Scootaloo groaned as she staggered through the halls. She'd felt fine this morning- but ever since she'd come to school, she'd felt terrible. I had started out as a mild headache, but now it was an erratically pounding thrum which echoed through her body. Or rather, two pulses- each slightly different, clashing against each other. Oddly enough, though the pulses went through her entire frame, they only seemed to cause pain in the front of her head.

Far worse then the headache was the... tug upon her mind. It seemed as though whatever was causing this was pulling her towards the front of the school.

Scootaloo had felt pain before- and even through this disorienting feeling, she still had enough presence of mind to think. The front of the school- that's where the statue is. And the portal. I think- I think I might have gotten magic after all.

And the magic- it wants me there. At the statue.

As she continued down the hall, she couldn't help but think But how do I know that?

Apple Bloom fidgeted in her seat. There was something wrong about the air- something which sent some instinct insider her jangling. What was worse was that the instincts were focused- somehow, Apple Bloom knew who was in trouble.


Apple Bloom raised her hand, signalling her need to leave the classroom. She didn't know how, and she didn't know why, but she needed to go to her friend. Ah can tell- this has somethin' to do with magic. Scoots- Ah hope you're okay.

Across the school, Sweetie Belle slipped out of her classroom, her thoughts running exactly the same way.

Rainbow Dash cursed as she left the classroom. Her headache was getting worse, pounding in her head as she moved towards the front office. Before, it was manageable- but it's only gotten worse over the last hour. What is going on?

Rounding the corner, she nearly crashed into Flash Sentry. Flash's hair was more frazzle dthan usual, and his eyes were darting back and forth. As soon as he realized who had bumped into him, he grabbed Rainbow by the shoulders. "Rainbow? Have you seen Scoots?"

Rainbow's head snapped up, and she shook her head. Cursing, Flash moved past her. "She came down with a headache, like you guys had, and left class to go to the nurses' office, but she never showed up there. I'm getting worried."

Rainbow fell in step behind Flash as they continued down the hall. For all that she was still upset at the little Crusader, she wasn't going to leave one of her friends hanging.

Twilight Sparkle emerged from Celestia's office, the Principal herself in tow. Glancing around the room, her eyes finally settled on Sunset Shimmer. Walking forward, she glared at Sunset, adjusting the small gadget she held in one hand.

Silence stretched between them for a few moments, until Sunset finally spoke up. "So... what do you want to see first?"

Twilight glanced up at Sunset, then back down at her device. "Look, Principal Celestia told me- just like all your friends- that you're the one who understands this energy source the best." Looking into Sunset's eyes, Sunset could see a mixture of confusion and anger in Twilight's face. "And yet, when I requested access to your lab, she told me that you don't have one. She also said that I may not be able to get all the information I need- even from you." She shook her head. "none of which makes sense. From what I've found, this energy anchors itself in biological organisms- and I can tell that you've been augmenting yourself with it extensively-"

Sunset tried to cut her off "Erm, Twilight-"

"And yet, she told me point blank that you had not data. No models, no experimental records, nothing. Is that true?"

"Well, yes. But there's-"

"Then in that case, I just need you to conduct me to the source of this energy, since I don't think you'll be able to help me otherwise..." Twilight's voice trailed off, as she glared at the device. Sweeping it around, her eyes widened as she saw something. "And now the primary source is leaving school grounds!" Taking off running, Twilight exited the room, following the signal from her spectrograph.

As she exited, Sunset's eyes widened. "Wait- the magic's leaving? Why..." She followed Twilight, tracing her steps as she headed towards the front of the school- and the portal. "Oh no."

Behind Sunset, Shining Armor fell into running alongside her. Twilight's got the sent of whatever the secret of this 'magic' is. But now that she'd this close...

Celsetia and Luna watched the three figures leave the office. Pausing only a moment, Rarity gave them both a small push out the door. "Excuse me, ma'ams. We should probably follow them." As they turned to watch her, Rarity gave a quick shake of her head. "I have a feeling something terrible is about to happen, and we should probably all be at hand- at the very least, to keep the other students safe." Moving past them , she broke into an unladylike trot, followed by both of her principals.

As Twilight approached the main doors, she heard a voice calling her back. "Wait! Sunset Shimmer ran forward, skidding to a halt a few feet away from the Crystal prep student. "You need to hear me out before you go poking your nose into-"

"So your discovery can go hide?" Twilight shot back. At Sunset's agape expression, Twilight continued. "I've seen it before, you know. Someone finds something, or invents something incredible- and hides it, uses their discoveries to block others from going further in that field. Science can't advance if you don't catalog- and share- your work." She turned away from Sunset, then stepped towards the front doors. "We can talk after I find out just what this energy is- and just how you were planning to use it. I won't let the greatest discovery of the century slip through my fingers!"

Sunset dashed forward, intent on stopping Twilight- only to see the girl open the front doors, revealing a strange tableau. Scootaloo stood, swaying before the statue, clutching her forehead. As Sunset watched, Twilight strode forward, aiming her improved spectrograph at the statue and girl. "Hmm... energy readings are fluctuating... Two sources, beginning to sync up- these readings are perfect!" Stepping forward, oblivious to Sunset's horror, she continued. "Soon, I'll have what I need to-" Her voice cut off as she noticed the 'containment' light begin blinking. "Oh no, not again-"

Scootaloo stood in front of the statue, swaying back and forth. The pulses were at there worst here- but far stranger, the longer she stood here, in the middle of the maelstrom of pain, the more distinct, and closer together, the two alternating pulses within her had become. Something was fighting for control, here in front of the gateway to Equestria, and Scootaloo could feel the power she'd somehow gained slowly gaining ground.

Then behind her, she heard the crunch of boots in the snow. Turning slightly, she saw a girl who looked a lot like Princess Twilight holding some sort of gadget at her, glancing at it with a look of delight. Behind her, Sunset Shimmer shoved the doors open, allowing her to dash out into the snow, closely followed by a blue haired man, Rarity, and the principals. As she opened her mouth to speak, the not-Twilight took a step closer...

Sunset Shimmer, hit the closing doors at a run, barely overcoming the pneumatic closing systems which automatically shut the doors. Shoving them open, she emerged into the snow, and gasped.

Scootaloo stood a the center of a storm of magic, invisible to the naked eyes. The swirling, red-tinged-white of the magic was slowly turning back and merging with the traces of magic flowing out of the closed portal, slowly unraveling the snarl of magic which had formed in the space between the school and the portal. The new magic- it's been fighting Equestrian magic, trying to asset itself. That's why I had my headache, that's why the girls have had issues- and why Dash's flight and her new magic aren't compatible. But that discord is starting to fade. The magical field must be using Scootaloo as a conduit, to finish settling the conflict between the two. It's got to be a delicate process, but if we leave her be-

Then she saw Twilight take a step closer, and everything went wrong.

Before, Twilight's device had drawn energy from a static, unthinking source- draining from a well of magic which was open for the taking. Twilight's device had not been aligned to take in raw magic, but the magical conflict swarming around the statue had been absorbed by it regardless, leading to the spectacular containment failure of its battery.

Twilight's new device was designed to focus on the strongest source of magic, geared to only take from the strongest source. Even through the wild magic buzzing in the air, Scootaloo's connection to the new magic was far stronger, even if she couldn't yet consciously use it. And Twilight's new spectrograph latched on to that connection, already strained by the flux of wild magic in the air around her, began to take from her.

Needless to say, this would not be a pleasant sensation even if done under the best of circumstances. Under the conditions which hung over the tableau in front of the school, the sensation was downright agonizing.

Scootaloo hunched over, as a visible stream of purple light began to stream from her head towards Twilight's device. She began to scream, even as Twilight recoiled in horror. Desperately, Scootaloo began to beg in her own mind, asking for something, anything to stop the girl before her from hurting her.

Then Scootaloo's scream cut off, as the magic within her responded. Echoing across the links between her and her two friends, it quickly stooped the outward flow of magic; and took control of Scootaloo, intent on stopping the being which had torn out a piece of it from its host.

There was a deafening sound, the peal of a massive bell which echoed through each of the magic users in the school.

From her class, Aria burst from her seat, leaving her desk, moving- as she always had- towards the source of the problem.

Discord jerked from his work, where he'd been carefully tuning a long-necked instrument.

Rainbow Dash staggered, drawing a concerned glance from Flash Sentry.

Pinkie leapt into a closet, before emerging into the courtyard from behind a bush.

Applejack emerged from her classroom, intent on finding her sisters, knowing full well something had gone terribly wrong.

Fluttershy's eyes widened, and she nearly tumbled from her desk- a feeling of pain echoing from three sources scattered across the school.

And three girls rose from their prone forms, each with their eyes blazing with white light.

Author's Note:

Are you certain you want to overwrite MidnightSparkle.exe?
File overwritten. Installing Scootaloo_SoulofMagic.exe...
Installation complete.
Run program?

Celestia and Luna are tired of sitting on the sidelines (or being mind controlled) whenever something paranormal targets their students. Granted, getting magic is probably more difficult than Luna thinks it will be- but even a theoretical understanding of how it works will greatly help the sisters make the right decisions in regards to powers.

Twilight's seen other people hide their discoveries- either in history, or in the annals of her own school experience. Worse, she's absorbed some of Cinch's paranoia- and is trying, desperately, to avoid being trapped in Crystal Prep for another year. When she found out she couldn't just collaborate on Sunset's work, she got really anxious- and allowed her frustration and curiosity to lead her by the nose.

Up next- Twilight Sparkle sees magic in action.

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