• Published 25th Aug 2018
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Sol Dilemma - Andromidus



They all say we have a destiny among the stars. Sometimes, some destinies are just more literal than others.

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Chapter 4 - "Cracking an Enigma"

Sol Dilemma - Chapter 4

“Cracking an Enigma”

“What brings you here so late at night, Guardian?”

She briefly considered not answering. Valia frowned. “Nightmares. The usual.”

“If you do not mind me asking, what troubles you?”

She eyed the person who approached her. “Them. It’s…” The warlock began, only to be interrupted by a raised hand.

“You do not need to speak any further, it pains you to do so and I already know. It’s your fireteam, isn’t it?”

“Of course. It’s always them in some shape or form.” She cracked her knuckles. “Sometimes I get regular dreams. Sometimes I don’t. I honestly dislike chancing it. I don’t have to sleep. I don’t need it.”

“Rest is good for the mind, warlock. Your body may no longer follow that of a mortal’s, but your mind is still fragile as one.”

“Is it worth seeing them every night? Feeling the guilt clawing up my spine as I twist and turn in my bed?”

“Perhaps. Perhaps not. You must learn to overcome this. Guardians become stronger in the face of adversity, never weaker. The same goes for humanity. That is how we have survived great cataclysms and that is how we will continue to do so until we have all died out or triumphed over them.”

“This isn’t a great cataclysm. It’s just… guilt of—”

“Being the only survivor? You are not the only one to feel this way, warlock. Many have come before you bearing the same things. They all survived. You shall too.” He paused. “The only difference with them is how they got through it. As humans, we all have different ways of coping. Find yours.”

“But how?”

“Remember who we are. When you were brought back, you signed an unspoken agreement, took an invisible oath; to protect not only the Traveler, humanity, and the last city, but to also purge the darkness with your light. No matter how far you must travel. No matter how many stars you must blur by, the darkness shall not escape the wrath of your light.

“It is our responsibility to do what we can with the gifts bestowed upon us by the Traveler, so as not to waste the lives lost as humanity fell from glory and the wolves descended to feast.

“Whether you stand vigilant because of the former, or march on because of the latter, know why we struggle to fight every day. Know why we wrap our wounds and suck in the pain. Know why we choose to meet the fiends upon their field of choice. We have been chosen as the sword and the shield, warlock. Never forget that.” The person looked to the left. “Do excuse me, I have other things to attend to. I hope I was of assistance.”

Valia’s expression did little to change, but she nodded. “Thank you, Speaker. I appreciate your… advice.”

His head bowed and he walked away, robes billowing in the night breeze. The warlock watched him disappear around a corner. She slumped against the bench, robes compressing into a funny shape.

Memories of the battle seeped into her mind, dancing like hungry flies amidst a decaying corpse. She could make out each detail so vividly, down to the finest speck of dust. If she so pleased, Valia could recreate the entire scene frame by frame. The assault, the infiltration and the fall.

The three witches stood at the forefront of it all, cackling like the disgusting hags they were.

The solar energy burned within her. Demanding vengeance and blood to sate the fury and pain. A wicked smile gleamed in the moonlight.

Valia found her reason to move on. Until the perpetrators lay under her heel, or her fire burned to its last ember, she would not rest. She got up to head back to her dorm.

In the distance, the flickering image of a blue alicorn watched.

“You took on that request pretty quick, Starlight,” Sunset commented, nursing a glass of hard cider. “It’s not because you both happened to be orphans, right?” Starlight remained quiet, absently shooting glances at the crate Twilight had procured for the artifact. “Look, I— never mind, going to shut up now.”

Sunset sent her an apologetic look and went off to her room to rest, still holding onto the glass of cider. Starlight followed shortly after, quietly shutting the door to her private room.

Twilight sighed. Sunset had been progressing at leaps and bounds, turning away from a she-demon (figuratively and literally) to a much more tolerable pony. Twilight did agree that she acted much more human than pony at times, and it showed. She tended to be arrogant, abrasive at times and often did things that made others very uncomfortable. Such as today. She thought to herself. But could they really blame her for that? She lived in exile for an undetermined amount of time, amongst alien creatures who lived differently.

Who wouldn’t adapt to survive? Perhaps somewhere in human society, what she did would've been praised by her set of friends, most likely for her quick thinking and “sound judgment”.

She wrapped a foreleg around the hoofrest. Aside from Dilemma melting down the economies hallway, and Sunset’s stunt, it had been fairly okay in comparison to her usual weeks. Though… most of the problems weren't differences in customs and disturbing gestures—Dilemma’s outburst was much more in line with the norm.

Twilight thought back to everything this week. It was actually much milder than the highlights made it out to be. Preferably, she wished for days like these, where problems weren't so time consumingly annoying. I missed the days where I could take a good novel, lay down, and read peacefully.

After sorting out Dilemma, she had freshened up and immediately returned to judging the incoming foals. Luckily enough, she had been spared from being the one to let them know whether or not they had been accepted. But she could discern those who had a slim chance of getting in.

She returned over the next couple of days to continue judging the other foals. After the last day for acceptance ended, she dropped by her parents’ house to say hello and catch up.

Then the next day, she had been given a request from Celestia to contact Pinkie and help set up a party for her student. To which she attended, befriended two more foals, watched a filly devour a buffet of sweets with the voracity of a certain pink pony, and had an overall great time—disregarding the hiccup when Sunset cut herself. That reminds me, be sure to look into that healing spell.

The week ended with her boarding a train back to Ponyville.

There had been no resurfacing of long-time villains seeking revenge, world-ending catastrophes, strange happenings that involved one of her close friends and the creatures of their world, or friendship problems that somehow spiraled out of control (that maybe also endangered a bunch of ponies at the same time).

No, it was an actual normal week.

That felt strange to say. Since her type of normal happened to be “save the world every other Tuesday”, rather than the normal in what she assumed happened in normal pony’s lives.

Normalnormalnormalnormalnormal. She groaned. Twilight briefly considered if her ex-mentor had thoughts like these. But tapped a hoof against her chin and then immediately threw that idea away. No way could Princess Celestia ever regret taking on the mantle of diarch of Equestria! She slapped herself. We had lessons about this Sparkle, pull yourself together. Celestia is just a mare. A really powerful and old mare, but just a mare nonetheless.

She stared out the window, watching trees blur by. I’m going to go insane before I even hit Cadence's age. She propped her tired head on a hoof.

The gentle clacking of the train and the tracks mimicked a calming lull, almost sending her straight to Luna’s realm. But she could not rest. At least, not for now. There was too much to do, too much to see to. If she fell asleep now, who knows how much she could forget while she dreamed?

Her adamant will and years of training under the moonlight hardened her ability to resist the siren song of the Sandpony. She sluggishly trotted to the refreshments counter and began magically heating the cup of her favorite sleep-resistance potion.

Otherwise known as coffee.

Sniffing the bitter aroma, Twilight moaned in satisfaction. Nothing could ever replace her favorite drink. Nothing. She began sipping from the mug while looking over the manuscript copies she obtained from Celestia’s personal library.

She asked herself about how she managed to gloss over these. She had gone through many of her ex-mentor’s collection in her free time, reading through material that wasn’t even available in the royal library. She considered the notion that Celestia had placed an ignoration-type spell on them, purposefully hiding them from prying eyes.

She remembered the short discussion they shared, on how uncontrollable primal magic could be. Perhaps as a young filly, Twilight might’ve done something regrettable that could’ve been prevented had she not read the text. She was impulsive, and still so much so the same today.

Habits were hard to break.

The alicorn took a look at the papers in hoof and picked them up in her aura. Sunset had been Celestia’s first student, and she wondered if the mare was quite possibly the reason the manuscripts had been barred until today.

She walked to Sunset’s door and knocked. She sipped her coffee, as she heard fumbling through the door. It creaked open slightly, and a cyan eye peered from behind. “Wondering how I’m still awake? Jet-lag, etcetera, etcetera… come on in I guess, even though you basically own this entire train car.”

“Jet lag?”

“Right. Ponies are basically cavemen compared to humans, technology-wise.” She stopped. “Cavemen, caveponies. Same stuff. Jets are these crazy things that fly without any magical support. It was pretty scary, knowing the only thing between me and the super-soft ground was some thin sheets of metal and a whole lot of monkey science.”

“Monkey science? Sunset, you’re speaking nonsense again,” Twilight responded, visibly confused. “Not all of us have spent… uh, let me… thirty years, in another world, to understand their colloquialism.”

“Thirty? That’s super wrong. I only spent four years there, enough to get to senior year.”

“Senior year—ugh, the point is, you’ve been gone longer than you’ve thought, Shimmer. I hadn’t even been born while you were still Celestia’s student.”

“Wait, really?” She looked worried. “When… how old is Red Caper?”

“Thirty-six years and eight months. Hatter is still alive, but he’s pretty senile.”

Sunset recoiled. “Wow. Impressive that you know that off the top of your head, but… I remember Celestia reading that to me as a foal when it was fairly new…”

Twilight cautiously approached, hoof raised and ready for a consolatory embrace. “Sunset, don't tell me you were an orphan too.” Twilight snorted in slight annoyance, “If you say yes, I'm going to cry, act a little upset, and demand as to why fate seems attracted to orphans.”

Sunset looked appalled. “No! No. I guess it kinda looked like that, but I'm not parentless or anything. I had a mom and dad, but they weren't amazing or anything. They were… just kind of there. They did enough to let me know they existed, but didn't do anything more than that.” Sunset had a small frown crease her face. “I don't think I even know their real names. Celestia was more a mother to me than my real mom.”

“Sunset…”

She shook her head and held up a foreleg to stop Twilight. “Nope. None of that pity stuff. I got over it years ago. They're probably dead now or something,” she murmured. She walked over to her nightstand and took another swig of the cider. “A better question to ask… how does the mirror portal work? It's already clear to me it bridges two things together. Whether those things are different realities, dimensions, or even a different point in the universe we reside in… it can do its job.”

“Time also happens to pass slower on your end, evidenced by your physical appearance and your experiences.” Twilight began pacing back and forth. “I've studied the theoretical design via Starswirl’s notes, in which he only meant to make it as a fast travel system. But something went wrong along the way.”

“I’d like to think the targeting sequences and protection wards interfered with each other since everything else about his planning and calculations were perfect,” Sunset added.

“Yes, you’re—hey, don’t change the subject with my favorite wizard… and also my favorite research project of all time!” Twilight fumed. “Deflecting the problem regarding your parentage is not a healthy way of coping!”

Sunset rolled her eyes. “Usually that works. I guess you’re getting savvy with me.” She attempted to take another drink from her bottle, but Twilight snatched it away with her magic.

“Will you stop that?”

“I don’t really want to.”

“Sunset, you're acting like a foal… what's wrong?” She asked, concern in her tone.

Sunset had a guilty look to her. She turned away, obviously showing that the eye-contact was making her uncomfortable. The unicorn remained silent, staring at her piles of travel luggage and commodities. She absentmindedly commented. “I wonder why I even bothered to bring any of my clothes. I completely forgot ponies are nudists.”

“Sunset Shimmer. Talk to me. I’m your friend and the princess of friendship. This kind of thing is a really big deal for me,” Twilight urged. “Please.”

She looked torn between telling her the truth and shutting up and staying adamant in her approach. Her mind warred with itself, laying the benefits of spilling her thoughts, and the drawbacks of doing so, against each other.

With a drawn-out sigh, she caved into her demands. “I’m jealous, alright?”

“Jealous… of whom?”

“Gah, Twilight, for all your brilliance, you sure do fall short on these kinds of things,” Sunset hissed, with small hints of vitriol in her voice. “It’s Dilemma.”

“...”

“There it is. The look of understanding. But not really. You graduated from her tutelage. While I… I never did.” Sunset snatched away the bottle and flicked the cap off. “Yeah, my parents were terrible. Yeah, it was more like they filled a biological imperative rather than attempt to raise me.” She swirled the contents of her bottle around. “So when Celestia took me in and began filling the hole that my ‘parents’ left, she became something I’d never have before. An actual mother.

“Sure, I began trotting down a path less galloped after a couple of years, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I saw her as a mother, Sparkle. So it hurt so much more when I fled and was left to fend for myself in this strange new world. It hurt even more when I finally had the time to set aside and come visit, only to learn that she had taken on another student.

“Twilight. I saw Dilemma… and I reacted accordingly.” She took a swig. “Humans have a funny way of dealing with problems. Violence, lashing out, self-depreciation. Man, I could list it all out and we’d be still be here while Luna lowers her charge.”

“You’re jealous of Dilemma because it looks like Celestia replaced her with you.” Twilight looked confused. Face scrunching up as she began asking herself question after question. She thought back to when they first met, and when they truly established a working relationship. Some things didn’t add up. “So why weren’t you mad about me?”

“Ah, okay. I see how that’s getting to you,” she murmured. “Thing is, it was easier because, first things first—” She had automatically raised a hoof. “Right, no more fingers. Whatever. First thing, you were older than… than Dilemma when we first saw each other, harder to picture you in my hooves. Secondly… your… your affinity is magic… not fire, like mine. Dilemma, she’s got a solar affinity. The foal is much more like you in terms of personality. She's closer to how Celestia pictured her perfect student.

“And I could already see the doting look on her face. It hurt to see how easily I was replaced.” Sunset looked on the verge of tears. “I suppose you wouldn't ever know that. Not on a deeper level like me.” She threw her forelegs into the air. “You've got an amazing older brother and a sister-in-law. A mom and a dad who care for you and made sure you were happy. Me? I thought I had a mom.”

The quiet that filled the room was disgustingly thick. For the second time in her life (Twilight honestly didn’t even expect to hit a second time) she had no idea how to react. Sunset had placed down her bottle and was now looking back at her with a look that demanded, “got a comeback for that?”

“I…”

She harrumphed and stood straight. “So why were you here in the first place, Twi? I don't think you arrived just to talk about my problems.”

What did I come here for? Twilight looked at the neatly stacked papers, which she must’ve subconsciously laid down. She had several questions about the primal magic papers. Right. Grabbing them in her magic, she turned to face Sunset once again. “Originally… my visit was to ask if you knew anything about these,” she said, floating them over to the unicorn. “It was an objective reason, but it seems you have a penchant for being able to throw ponies onto tangents.”

“At least this is easier to talk about,” she commented. “These are the research papers Celestia had on primal magic. But there’s also the spellbooks. Did you get those as well?”

“Spellbooks? She had spellbooks with primal magic?”

“Figures she wouldn’t even show those to you,” Sunset scoffed. “The spell matrices slightly differ for each element, but they often remain the same. Using primal in a spell is a sorta big no-no if you don’t know what you’re doing.” Twilight had eagerly brought out her magic notebook. “Most of the primal spells boil down from the basic structures, but then it’s left to the discretion of the pony. The spell books are more like guidelines or starting points than anything.”

“Let’s say two ponies have the same affinity, so pony A may do it one way, while pony B does it another, and they both end up with a fairly similar result?” Twilight looked up. “Is that correct?”

“Mhm.”

“Interesting.”

Sunset began describing the roundabout story on how she had been selected for her skills and primal fire affinity.

When asked how she found out, she noted how it was difficult to do certain spells early on in life, before one of her teachers noticed something was off. Her following experience had been her juggled through medical professionals until the princess had taken an interest. She had been sent to the school nurse, who then sent her to an expert at the hospital, who referred to a court wizard, who finally brought it up to the very top.

After her spiel, the unicorn began talking about the finer points glossed over by the manuscripts, scrolls, and books containing all things primal.

Twilight drank it all with glee.

“Hey Twilight, do you know where your Rainbow Dash is? I haven’t even seen her since I came back, and she wasn’t among your friends at the party,” Sunset asked, as their conversation began dying off.

“What’s got you thinking about her?”

The unicorn bobbed her head. “Just thinking about my Rainbow Dash. The group tends to stick together like glue. So I thought it was kinda odd when she was missing.”

“Well, she went on a Wonderbolt vacation two weeks ago. She hasn’t really written back since,” Twilight replied. She hadn’t bothered to look up, too focused on recalculating her findings based on the information her friend had given her. “Anything else you can give me on primal magic?”

“Nothing you shouldn’t have read already in those papers.”

She nodded. “I still have to get through the third set, and finish up four and five, so if that’s all,” the alicorn mumbled, fumbling for the door handle, “I bid you a good night.”

“Twilight, it’s morning.”

“It’s in place?”

Starlight nodded. “Thaum-locked and wards are set. We are a go for basic reaction tests.”

Twilight nodded and slipped her goggles on. “Okay. Let’s take this slow. We have no idea what this thing is capable of, and the material used couldn’t be identified by the compare spells or by visual analysis.”

“I’m going to start the temperature test,” Sunset said, securing the strap on an enchanted helmet and as she stepped out from behind the protective glass. The unicorn turned back to look at Twilight. “Ready?”

The alicorn lifted her notepad and a crystal recording device. “Ready.”

“Activating the array; slow exothermic reaction.” Sunset’s horn began glowing brighter as the seconds passed. “Gradual increments… surpassing normal room temp. We've hit the point where a pony would start feeling uncomfortable. No change from my end. Twilight, Starlight, anything?”

The other unicorn glanced at her spell. “I don’t see anything worth mentioning.”

“Er… so we can cross off our other theories regarding what material makes it up.” Twilight bit her lip. “We could try further temperatures, we’re prepared for it. I suppose it may just be a crystal. If it is, we shouldn’t actually note anything until we get past melting points for various other substances.”

The two nodded. “Alright. I’ll load in the control.”

Sunset backed off and downed a mana potion. Wiping the excess off with a hoof, she rolled her shoulders. “Ready whenever you are.”

Twilight let what she was carrying gently down on a table and prepared a shield spell. The purple semi-sphere reminded her so much of that day when Canterlot had been thrown under siege. It was crazy to think they were close friends now. Starlight slotted a standard crystal obtained from Rarity and another obtained from the Crystal Empire.

“We’re all good to go.”

“Mhm.” Sunset lowered her head and aimed her horn. Fire swirled around inside the bubble.

“Temperature climbing. Remember, we need to hit above or around four-thousand.”

“Yeah, uh-huh, lemme concentrate.”

The roar of the inferno could be heard from beyond the bubble, flames dancing along the interior of the shield, scorching and blackening the sides.

The caster grit her teeth, but remained strong in her resolve. It continued this way for another minute or so before a lavender alicorn raised her hoof.

“Hey, alright, hold!” Starlight called out. “We’re getting a reaction from the crystals!”

Twilight magically wiped away the burns and inspected the table. The standard crystal had… well… just stopped existing, while the CE crystal had turned into a molten pool of glowing liquid. The mysterious crystal Dilemma had given her, however?

Well.

It just sat there and laughed at them like the intense heat was meaningless. She trotted over to Sunset and tapped her withers. “You can stop.”

“Did… hah… did it melt?” She asked, head woozy from the spell.

“Nope.” Twilight scribbled into her paper. “It’s completely fine.”

“I JUST DON’T GET IT,” Twilight screeched. “HOW IS THIS THING UNHARMED!? WE SCANNED FOR PROTECTIVE SPELLS OF ANY KIND AND THERE WERE NONE.”

Five fun-tastic days of testing had gone by and the magic squad had gone through many different experiments.

After the failure of eliciting a reaction from the crystal, they began trying other methods to discern what it could be.

They attempted an endothermic test, but that did nothing either. They did a drop test from various heights (even one from the top of Canterlot). The “anomaly” as Twilight had gotten used to calling it, survived without a scratch. The group then proceeded to try a stress test of various weights. Twilight had even managed to get Ember’s father to help out.

Not surprised at this point, the thing was not cracked in the slightest, and even managed to embed itself into Torch’s tush. He requested that he might try eating it. Reluctantly, the group agreed and attached a recall spell on it.

He was unable to crack it with his teeth. To his astonishment, it broke the ones he bit it with. The unicorns and alicorn had been horrified. Torch just shrugged it off, saying they would regrow and make him look tougher.

He ate it whole and immediately fell into a bliss-induced coma.

Ember came by the next day to see how it was going, found her father, asked what happened, and also volunteered for the test.

Twilight supposed that day was the strangest time she ever had to call the other princesses for help in utilizing a long-range mass teleportation relay. At least they could note off that dragon stomach acid did nothing to it.

Rainbow Dash came back the following night, wide-eyed and mumbly. She kept going on and on about praising the sun and how her everything was sore. She refused to comment on what she did during her vacation. With her back, Starlight suggested they try impact experiments, from simple bucks to a collision bolstered by a rainboom.

The prismatic pegasus was quite eager to join in and even more willing when they offered her “cool armor”. Although trying to fish for information about her vacation while she was elated were deflected by looks of fear and uncontrollable shivering. They ignored that and proceeded.

Surprise, surprise, Rainbow Dash was the one sent to the hospital for a serious concussion. The cause was because she hadn’t activated the absorption spells like instructed, and not because she smacked into the anomaly. Despite that, if you were to ask a completely irate lavender alicorn, she would tell you otherwise.

In one case, they attempted at cutting, sawing, drilling, surgical scalpels, fine-edged spellblades, Tempest’s enchanted dagger, Celestia’s Edge of Dawn, and Flurry Heart.

They returned empty-hooved with broken hopes and tools. Also, a crying foal.

Exhausted, the once-motivated crew of scientists unanimously decided to skip this portion of testing.

“I suppose now we can try other ways of getting to the magical core.”

Sunset perked up, a mischievous smile stretching on her features. “How many licks will it take?”

“I'm not even going to bother anymore with your obscure human references,” Twilight groaned.

She stuck her tongue out. “You're no fun.”

Starlight narrowed her eyes as she rotated the anomaly in her aura. “Twilight, what did Dilemma tell you the day she gave this to you?”

“I believe it was… ‘I think. It's sort of like an enchanted safe without any doors’, is exactly what she said.” She paused. “And… ‘Mom says they recovered it in the crash that orphaned me’.”

The purple unicorn winced at the last part. “I see. So have we tried anything besides brute-forcing our way through?”

Sunset shook her head while she drunk from a glass of water. “Nooope. Usually, we want to find the easiest way through a magical artifact, but it seems we can’t do that.” Sunset finished her glass and laid it down. “So let’s do what we do best.”

“So it’s a safe of some sorts?”

“That’s what I can assume from the connotation Dilemma gave me. She’s not exactly wrong either…” Twilight said. “I can feel that there is something in there. Now the question is raised, how do we get into it?”

Sunset tapped a hoof. “Remember what Dilemma said. ‘A safe with no doors’. So a locked object consisting only of walls? I may have a solution.” She moved over to a shelf and withdrew a book. Higher-Tier Destruction Magic. “Rainbow Dash showed me this really cool show called Myth—”

Starlight murmured something as she moved past, placing the anomaly on the top of a table. She grabbed an enhancing glass and hovered it over.

Beneath the shell of “crystal” was a web of interlacing lines, connected to each other like artificial synapses. They pulsed every so often and rearranged themselves into new patterns, growing ever more complex. Different bars of varying width appeared on the lines themselves, however, they remained static and simply followed the lines as they shifted along.

Sunset was a little peeved that she had been abruptly cut off but brushed it off. This was nothing to get worked on over.

Twilight was interested, she had never seen Starlight so focused on one thing before (aside from the fact that she basically started a cutie-markless cult in the past). The alicorn motioned for Sunset to join them. Crowding around the glass that mimicked the usage of a microscope, they too saw the intricate beauty of the dodecahedron.

“It’s like a computer encryption,” Sunset started, “Those are practically impossible to crack, as there’s an infinite number of combinations but only one right key.”

Twilight blanched. “Then how are we supposed to open it!? We can’t shatter it open, now we can’t even open open it!”

“Relax, Twilight,” Sunset assured. “I didn’t say it was completely impossible. The difference is that we have magic and humans were limited to the technology they had. And what do we have in this room? Experts in magic.

“We have a pony who finished an uncompletable spell! We have a pony who’d mixed dozens of spells together to travel back in time! And we’ve got the only pony who’s the only capable computer expert in all of this planet.” She smiled. “So girls… let’s do this.”

They all let out wide grins. It was time to make the anomaly a conformity. Twilight rushed straight out of her basement floor and to the nearby library. As she began picking out books, she had to berate herself for ignoring such a fundamental aspect of her very being. The alicorn had focused so much on figuring it out scientifically and getting riled up by so many of its quirks, that was pushed to the back of her mind.

She was regressing back into old habits and tunnel-visioning. She was lucky to have friends to catch her.

With her cargo in tow, she made her way back into the lab. Sunset and Starlight were sitting patiently, determination oozing from their stances. “Alright, I've brought everything I had regarding magical code breaking, infiltration, lock breaking, algorithms, and thievery.”

Sunset picked out a book from the stack. “Twi, what does Love on the Horizon have to do anything with this?”

The lavender alicorn turned a shade unlike her and swiped the novella away. “It's… its got… the main character… uses his magic to rob banks… and… and…”

She rolled her eyes. “I should really get you laid sometime. I mean like, you're a princess, shouldn't be too hard.”

“Sunset!” Twilight cried out.

While the two bickered over setting up a date, Starlight remained objective in her approach.

Flipping quickly through the books, she ran her analysis spell on them to pull the important and relevant topics. Satisfied with what she got, the unicorn read through them. Ideas and concepts poured into her head as she pieced together what she needed.

She obtained the conductive chalks and began sketching on the designated floor.

A simplistic image of a lock was the first to be drawn, surrounded by a lined circle. Triangles quickly began overlapping each other as time passed, forming an eight-pointed star. A triad of ovals looped around the center, ending in spiked bands.

Another bubble, and another spiral. Starlight drew lines with varying spaces in between them on the exterior of her rings, laying another to close them off.

Symbols and numbers found themselves being carved, a raised hoof for power, a pendulum for balance, a melted shield for weakening, an arrowhead for piercing, an eye for seeing, a skeleton key for unlocking, a wavy dagger for betrayal and a cloak of shadows. Calculations were made as she dropped dots on symbols.

They were focalization points for the magic to find form and meet.

Now all she needed was a power source to activate the runes. She cleared her throat at the other two, who stopped what they were doing and sheepishly walked to her.

“Hardwire’s theorem… The triad law…” Twilight whispered, looking over her fellow’s work. “Law of rings… that… no, this can work.” A flash of light had the anomaly appear in the center. “I'll begin. Get ready, everypony.”

“Wait! Let me add something.” Sunset dashed over, drawing strings of math and ones and zeros. “There. We aren't dealing with something normal here.”

The alicorn nodded. She took a deep breath and steadied her stance. Magic from her surroundings was drawn into the horn and moved to the runes laying beneath her. They burned a vibrant purple as Twilight’s massive supply of magic poured in.

“We’re getting a reaction! Twilight, don't stop!”

The dodecahedron glowed, lines stopping and shifting. The faces of the shape lifted from the base. The core began glowing brighter and brighter. It reached a blinding status, forcing all in the room to shield their eyes.

Twilight stopped feeding the spell, which was now moving of its own power.

Suddenly, it all stopped. The runes died, and the light receded. Sunset blinked, dazed. “Is it done?”

Sitting in the center was not a crystal.

Flat, shiny, smooth, and black, it was encased in a stainless steel frame. The edges were blunted by rubber stoppers.

“Inside the crystal was a tablet!?” Sunset screamed. “We waited with bated breath for this!? I… wait. This was with Dilemma when they found her…” She lifted it in her magic and brought it closer. Turning it on after she found the power button, it flashed to life with a diagram of a spaceship. Entire chunks of the thing had been highlighted and flashed in red. A hologram showed a massive red gash on the stern. Obvious warning signs blared across the screen. The key thing, however, not a single bit of the tablet was displayed in Equuish. “That can’t be possible.”

Twilight looked worried. “What does this mean?”

The group, now drained of their excitement, stared at each other with confused looks.

Perhaps if they spoke common, as was the norm in the Last City, they would’ve seen the engraving written on the bottom of the console, written: SOL DILEMMA CONTROL PAD. Along with SHIP DAMAGED. CONTROL PAD LOCATED FAR FROM MAIN COMPUTER. TRACKING BEACON ENGAGED.

Author's Note:

Shorter chapter this time.

Hope that isn't too big a deal.