• Published 2nd Dec 2018
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The Multiverse in a Nutshell - Pennington Inkwell



What do you do when you accidentally break the multiverse and scatter your friends to the cosmic winds? Go on a ROAD TRIP, of course!

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On the Road Again

"Uuuurgh..."

Sunset's head snapped up from the book she was trying to read. She rushed out of her seat and across the room to the bunk where the sound was coming from.

Once they'd managed to extract him from the Dalek, they'd laid him down in one of the bunks to rest. It had been nearly eight hours that she had been waiting for him to wake up. Outside, the world was growing dark as the sun fell beyond the horizon. Sunset rushed up to the door of the bunk, only to stop herself from slamming the door open. Startling Penn was likely the last thing she wanted to do. She rapped her knuckles twice against the door before pulling it aside with an excruciating level of self-control.

Penn's face was half-covered in mottled black and blue bruises, and a healthy-sized welt on his forehead. His exposed arms were equally battered, with wrappings on his left forearm and right upper arm where he had been slashed by the Dalek's interior mechanisms in the crash.

"Hey... are you okay?"

Penn made a feeble-looking attempt to sit up, mostly resulting in his head lifting slightly off the pillow. A second later his expression twisted into a grimace of pain and he fell back onto his pillow.

"My... everything hurts." he groaned.

"Simmons patched you up as best she could, but we didn't want to risk trying to move you to a hospital." Sunset carefully sat herself on the edge of the bed. "Penn, this is my-"

"Sunset..." his voice descended into a growl. Sunset didn't flinch, but she braced herself for whatever punishment was coming. She knew she deserved it.

"I have neither the patience nor the energy... to deal with your self-loathing." Penn grumpily made a halfhearted attempt to punch at her thigh, only to hiss through his teeth as the impact hurt himself more than her. After a few seconds, the pain seemed to recede enough for him to talk again. "Blame yourself one more time and I'll... I'll..." he let out a long sigh. "I'll... draw a blank on clever references to make."

Despite the situation, Sunset felt laughter beginning to bubble up from deep inside. She managed to keep herself from bursting into chuckles out of respect for his situation, but she did feel the weight on her shoulders lift a bit.

"I mean, seriously, how do you threaten somebody who's powered by 'the magic of friendship?'" He let out a weak chuckle, then shakily raised his hand towards her. "Now... help me up, would you?"

Sunset's eyes widened in surprise as she stared at his offered hand.

"You're kidding, right?"

Penn rolled his eyes.

"This is a REALLY uncomfortable bed. I want to go home and get in mine."

Sunset frowned. "You shouldn't even be moving right now. In good conscience, I couldn't-"

"Ha." Penn's offered hand shifted into a accusatory finger. "You DO still have a good conscience!"

Sunset blinked, not following his logic. "What?"

"Well, a good conscience means that, deep down, you KNOW you're not guilty!" Penn flashed her a weak grin and winked with his non-bruised eye. "Now, use that clear conscience to help me get up!"

That logic was almost Pinkie-Pie-levels of twisted.

Sunset rolled her eyes. "You know that wasn't what I meant by 'in good conscience.' And I'm still not moving you anywhere until Simmons gives you the all-clear. You fell out of the sky in a glorified tin can hard enough to leave a crater!"

Penn flashed her a cocky smirk.

"I survived all of that and you think standing up will kill me?"

Sunset slapped her palm against her forehead.

"Would you just be reasonable? Act your age!"

Penn took his turn to roll his eyes.

"Well, I WOULD ask for a book, but all my books are in my car. You know, the car we left behind because you wanted to ride in the fancy armored vehicle?"

Sunset sighed.

"There's plenty of books on this plane. Any requests?"

Penn pondered the question for a few seconds. "Fablehaven. Or Eragon! Eragon is one of my favorites! Anything with dragons in it, really. The Fire Within! The Dragon Rider! Oh, that author, Cornelia Funke, also wrote this AWESOME book called Inkheart! You've gotta read it!"

Sunset chuckled and gave him a pat on the shoulder.

"I'm sure I can find one of those. Be back in a sec."

"Thanks, Sunset."

Sunset nodded and stood up from the bed, sliding the door shut behind her. The truth was that most of the reading materials on the plane were technical manuals and protocol guidelines. Trying to track down anything more interesting than an encyclopedia was her mission for three of the eight hours he'd been asleep, all fruitless. But if it was enough to keep him from getting up and hurting herself, she was willing to try again.

Before she could start on her search, however, Coulson stepped through the door. He glanced at the still-shut door of Penn's temporary bunk and leaned in to whisper.

"So, how's he doing?"

Sunset smiled.

"Antsy. Thinks he can walk it off. I think Simmons did too good of a job!" The two of them spared a moment to chuckle. "I told him I'd find something for him to read if he'd stay put."

"Did he ask for anything in particular? Maybe we could track it down together?" Sunset could see right through Coulson, judging by the way he kept stealing glances at her belt.

"You want to see the lightsaber again, don't you?"

"Please?"

Sunset sighed, beginning to reach for the device, only to pause. She had an idea.

"Does SHIELD have any way to get Penn's car here? He seemed pretty upset about leaving it behind."

"Sunset, we're a secret government organization with advanced technology and deep pockets. Of course we can move an Oldsmobile a few miles!"

Sunset smiled and reached down to her belt, handing the handle to Coulson.

"I want it back after five minutes. All of Penn's favorite books are in his car. Think you can make it happen?"

Coulson held the saber with an almost reverent air before raising one hand up to his ear.

"Ward? Go get Penn's car, would you? Take one of the controller units and have it follow you back. We think he might have left... something important in the trunk. Thank you." After a moment, Coulson grinned and pressed the button on the hilt, causing the bright red blade to emerge.

"Not as random or as clumsy as a blaster. An elegant weapon for a more... civilized age," he whispered.

Sunset knew an opportunity to get free information when she saw it. "So... what is it, exactly? You and Penn both recognized it, but I honestly have no idea what it is."

Coulson stared at her in disbelief as he swung the weapon from side to side. As it traveled through the air, the blade's hum increased and decreased in pitch to match its speed.

"What is it? Only one of the best weapons in all of science fiction! It's the weapon of a Jedi Knight, peacekeepers from a long time ago... in a galaxy far, far away..." Coulson replied as he swung the tip in a small circle. "It can cut through almost anything like butter, leave any wound it inflicts perfectly cauterized and even deflect blaster bolts and energy weapons!" He paused for a moment, bringing the blade dangerously close to his face to stare directly at it.

"Although... the color worries me a bit. Jedi don't use red lightsabers." He gave Sunset a wary glance. "You said you just... found this? In the hardware store where you fought the first Dalek?" Sunset nodded.

"It felt like it was calling out to me. It just felt right in my hand. But if those 'Jedi' don't use red lightsabers, who DOES?"

"Sith. They're Jedi who embraced the dark side of their powers, gave in to fear and hatred."

Sunset felt herself cringe.

"So... the bad guys?"

"Yeah. So bad, only two could ever manage to work together at a time, master and student! And the student always killed the master, in the end."

It figured. All of her friends had forgiven her, along with the whole of CHS and even Princess Celestia, herself! But it looked like the universe itself still hadn't forgotten about her past. There was still some part of fate that designated her as "evil," no matter how much she changed.

"B-but the color suits you! It matches your hair! And your complexion!" Coulson seemed to notice her hurt feelings and began to quickly backpedal on his statement. After his corrections fell flat, he sighed and switched the blade back off again before handing it back to her.

"Sunset, look. No matter what the color, it's just a tool. The blade might have a past with someone else, but what really matters is what you choose to do with it today. You said that you managed to save Penn from a Dalek with it, right? A Sith would have just saved their own lousy hide and run for it."

Sunset gripped the handle tight. Despite knowing that it was a weapon that had most likely been used for evil in the past, it still felt right for her, as if it had been made specifically for her hand. She wasn't sure whether that was good or bad, any more, but it was what it was. Whatever kind of statement the universe was trying to make about her, she wasn't buying it.

Besides, Rarity would be devastated if she found out Sunset had thrown away an accessory that was both life-savingly practical AND complimented her outfit.

"Thanks, Agent Coulson. I appreciate it."

Sunset heard the light rustling of a sliding door moving, and both of them turned to see Penn,standing shakily on his feet, mid-escape. He seemed equally surprised to see them, smiling and awkwardly chuckling.

"Whoops."

Sunset and Coulson glanced at one another. Sunset nodded towards her friend, leaving the matter to the superior officer. Coulson rolled his eyes before walking over and looping Penn's arm around his shoulder.

"You know, last time somebody went through what you did, he was out eating shawarma about fifteen minutes later. You were out cold for eight hours, so you've got to be hungry, right?"

"Starving!"

As Coulson and Penn walked away, Sunset noticed Skye sitting in the corner. After a moment, she walked over and took a seat beside her, letting out a long sigh.

"Agent Coulson's a pretty nice guy."

Skye nodded. "I wouldn't be sticking around here with a bunch of government suits if he wasn't. Coulson dragged me out of my van to help him track down someone with powers, it wasn't exactly what I'd call a good first impression. But after that guy started to lose control and was about to literally explode, Coulson risked his life to talk him down. For a member of a faceless government organization with little to no restrictions, he's surprisingly... human. After that, I decided to stick around for a while, lend help where I could if they were planning to keep protecting people. So far, they haven't let me down."

"Reminds me of my friends back home." Sunset smiled and reached up to her geode. "I used to be... pretty awful. I thought friends were for people too weak to get anything done on their own. I only focused on gathering my own power, even it was only enough to dominate a school. Things got so far out of hand that I... almost made an awful mistake. I nearly hurt people in a way that I couldn't ever take back. But then they all came together and showed that their friendship was stronger than anything I could become on my own! And when I was beaten, they offered me their hands and let me be a part of it. They changed my life! We've all been like family ever since, totally inseparable... Until now."

Skye reached over and gripped Sunset's shoulder.

"And now I don't even know what happened to them in all this madness, and it's all my fault! I dragged Penn into this and he got hurt, almost KILLED! I just... I messed up. Worse than I ever have before. And now I don't know if I can fix it."

"Well, I'm not exactly an expert on friends, I've always been pretty alone, but... if there's anything I've learned around here, it's that even if you made a mess yourself, real friends won't leave you to fix it alone. Wherever they are, I'm absolutely sure that they're looking just as hard for you as you are for them. The important thing is not to give up."

Sunset hadn't thought of that. Somewhere, Applejack was probably fighting just as hard to find her. Fluttershy was certainly out there braving her fears for her friends. Rainbow Dash's one-track mind probably hadn't even noticed the multiverse being broken. Rarity and Twilight had probably already come up with their own plans to track her down! Sunset smiled as she envisioned Pinkie's madness spreading across other worlds in her own frantic search.

Her friends were OUT THERE. And they were all searching for each other at once. That love and enthusiasm, combined with the bond of their friendship and the Elements of Harmony, made it impossible that they would fail to find each other. That was first certainty Sunset had felt since this insanity began, and it formed a bedrock under her feet.

"Thanks, Skye..." She smiled and rose to her feet and tightened her fists with determination. "I promise, I'll never give up!"

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"Hel-LOOO beautiful!" Penn rushed forward and practically threw himself onto the driver's-side door of his car, wrapping his arms around what little of it he could reach. "Oh, I missed you!"

Sunset chuckled. Somehow, she could imagine that this was what happened EVERY time Penn spent an extended period of time away from home. With a long sigh of relief, he yanked the door open and collapsed into the seat.

"Now I can stay put and rest..."

"Boys and cars..." Skye chuckled to herself as she walked up beside Sunset. "What's with that, anyway? Like, I've met guys who seemed to love their cars more than their girlfriends, and people just act like that's normal!"

Sunset shrugged. She could remember many a long evening when Flash Sentry had insisted on covering himself in dirt and grime for the sake of his ridiculous "muscle car." While working on their tour bus with the rest of the Rainbooms had felt pretty rewarding, she didn't feel like she'd needed to kiss the thing when she was finished. "My ex-boyfriend used to spend a lot of time on his car. It always seemed like there was something that needed fixing or tuning up. I didn't care too much, it kept him out of trouble."

And out of the way of my bullying...

Penn cleared his throat, catching both of their attention.

"That's because my car also puts bread on the table, and it has for two years! Without it, I'd have been out of a job! I take care of her and she takes care of me!"

Skye raised an eyebrow in surprise, but Sunset simply shrugged. It didn't make a lot of sense to her to treat a machine like it was alive, but maybe that was just because she'd built and disassembled so many doing her research. Hearing footsteps on the ramp behind her, Sunset saw Coulson walking out to join them.

"You two leaving already? Feels like we were just getting to know you!"

"Well, it's up to Penn-"

"It's Sunset's call, but-"

Sunset and Penn both looked at one another in surprise.

"Well... It IS your friends we're looking for. I'm just the chauffeur!" Penn leaned back in his seat. "It's all your call, Sunset. I'm ready to go whenever you are."

Sunset thought carefully.

"I guess I'm ready now, if you want to go..." She reached into her pocket, retrieving the leather wallet and handing it back to Coulson. "These were only temporary, right? For this one mission to stop the Daleks?"

Coulson pondered the badge before pushing it back into her hands.

"Keep it. SHIELD can open a lot of doors, and we owe you one for going out there and risking everything. Maybe it can help you find your friends. Besides, you never know when the Daleks might come back! We could need your help again, some day!"

Sunset looked down at the badge, then up at Coulson. With a wide smile, she slipped the badge into her back pocket and gave a quick salute. Penn did the same from the seat of his car, straightening his tired posture as best he could.

"Thank you, sir!"

Coulson smiled and gave her a firm handshake before turning and walking back inside the plane. "I wish you luck!"

Skye smiled, opting to give Sunset a short hug.

"You'll find them. I'm sure of it."

Sunset nodded.

"Thank you for helping me, Skye..."

There was a brief pause before Skye released her.

"Sorry Fitz and Simmons can't come say goodbye, but they're already working on trying to figure out where that rift came from and how they can close it! Knowing those two, they're probably going to have a few more sleepless nights before they solve it, but they'll get it done."

Sunset felt guilt weighing in her chest for a moment. Would it be better to confess her part in everything? If she did, she'd also have to explain magic, which would mean explaining that she was from a different universe, which would tip off these people that they were from one of this world's TV shows, as well-

Her train of thought was cut off as Skye gave her a soft pat on the shoulder.

"You two saved the world from aliens! Would it kill you to smile a little more?"

Sunset felt the guilt ease a bit, and she flashed Skye a toothy grin. Saving the whole world WAS a nice step up from saving a single high school, after all.

"Better! I guess I'll see you later, right?"

Sunset nodded. "Of course! Next time the world needs saving!"

Skye grinned. "Well, maybe not THAT soon!"

The two shared a short giggle before parting in different directions. Skye walked back onto the plane as Sunset made her way to Penn's passenger door. The fabric seat felt less alien than the first time she'd entered the car. At this point, even the creepy doll hanging from the rearview mirror was a welcome helping of "normal" after their space adventure. Penn slipped the key into the ignition and cranked the engine to squeaky, jittery life.

"So... where to first?"

Sunset tried to think back to their earlier plans. It felt like an eternity since they had been sat together on the floor of Penn's home, planning their route.

"Well, I guess we should go-" suddenly, she was cut off by a familiar humming noise and a vibrating feeling against her throat. She looked down, pulling on her geode to get a better look at it. It was glowing and humming with energy. As if it had realized that she was paying attention, the humming stopped and the stone tugged itself in a direction to her ten o'clock. After a moment, it repeated itself, with greater force.

Is... is it pointing in the direction of the others?

Sunset pointed her finger in the direction the geode had been pulling: further out and away from Seminole, down the highway.

"That way."

Penn smiled and shifted the car into gear, lurching forward and quickly matching the speed limit posted on the sign.

"Magical compass? I like it!"

Sunset had to admit, she agreed. It was incredibly convenient, to say the least.

Hang in there, girls... I'm not giving up! I'll find you!

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