• Published 1st Feb 2019
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The League of Sweetie Belles - GMBlackjack



A team of multiversal explorers comprised of alternate Sweetie Belles explore fanfic worlds and beyond!

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A Human Condition (Oversaturation)

Cinder wasn’t sure how to feel about Sweetaloo. When she’d been talking to the three-way conglomeration of all Crusaders, Cinder had felt at home, like she’d been in the presence of her best friends. It was easy to identify the big heart of Apple Bloom, the recklessness of Scootaloo, and her own thoughtful nature.

Now, behind closed doors in Swip’s meeting room, this sense of equality had vanished. Sweetaloo seemed so much larger than before, though this was likely due to the large, empty table. The screen behind Sweetaloo displayed the red, nebulous shifting appearance of Swip’s pocket dimension, casting the counselor in an ethereal glow.

Cinder would have been able to move past this. What she wasn’t able to move past was the shift in Sweetaloo’s demeanor. It was slight, but clear - out there, she could be Cinder’s friend, a pony to go and do wild things with at the drop of a hat. In here, however, she had a job, and that job involved knowing exactly what was going on in Cinder’s mind.

“Why don’t you tell me about yourself?” Sweetaloo asked, pressing her front hooves together. Her smile was excessively calm, and that put Cinder on edge for some reason.

“Well…” Cinder blinked. “I’m a Sweetie Belle. I read the file on the ‘standard template’ and I appear to fit the bill. Crusader, check. Unicorn, check. Singer, check. Basically everything here is 'check' but the eyes and my, ahem, ‘slightly future-oriented contact timeframe’.”

“You talk of your standard nature as if it’s nothing eye-opening or meaningful.”

“I’m on this ship aren’t I?”

Sweetaloo nodded. “While you are right, I would not dismiss those thoughts out of hoof. Sweeties will commonly gather feelings of insignificance over time, feeling their individuality is threatened.”

Cinder blinked. “Well, I guess that’s just another way I’m not a ‘common’ Sweetie then, huh?”

“Perhaps,” Sweetaloo admitted. She processed what had been said for a few moments before asking her next question. “Why did you choose ‘Cinder’?”

Cinder answered a little too quickly. “I burned the colorvore to cinders! That’s as good of a reason for a name as any!”

“I think there’s more to it,” Sweetaloo said. “Names based on an event are usually given after the fact by people who turn it into a nickname. Blink’s in that category. Others are named from obvious features: Squiddy, myself, and Sweetie Bot - one of our founders - all fall into this category. From the way you chose the name yourself, it suggests you fit into the ‘meaningful rename’ category, along with Nira and Allure.”

“Allure? She’s the big-boss Sweetie right?”

Sweetaloo smiled warmly. “We don’t have much in the way of leaders. She’s just our face and a founder. By the way, good attempt at changing the subject. You’ll find that it’s harder to get out of conversations like that when you’re surrounded by yourself.”

“...Oh.”

“Now tell me, why did you really choose Cinder?”

Cinder let out a grunt. “Well, it was a mean nickname Diamond Tiara used to call me that I could never really get out of my head. So I made it my own.”

“And why did she name you that? It seems odd, doesn’t it?”

Cinder sighed. “I burned down the school when I was little. Stray magic discharge and FOOF, entire thing went up in flames.”

Sweetaloo put a hoof on one of Cinder’s. “Everyone makes mistakes, Cinder.”

“Yeah, I know,” Cinder said. “And it’s not like I’m terrified of using my own magic anymore - took care of that with Twilight’s help. I just don’t like talking about it much.”

“And yet you named yourself after it.”

Cinder blinked. “...That does sound kind of silly, now that you mention it…”

“Not at all!” Sweetaloo gently shook her head. “You’re changing what the word and the memory means to you. Yesterday, it was just an old shame of yours. Now? Now it reminds you of a moment of heroism, of success, of turning what was once a failure into something greater. I think it’s beautiful what you’re doing, even if you can’t really see it yourself.”

Cinder was silent for a few moments. “...You really are a counselor, huh?”

“The best and the worst of every Crusader,” Sweetaloo said with pride. “I’ll find your destiny even if you didn’t know you needed one!”

“Does it really work better with all three of you in there…?”

“I’m not sure I could call it better, but it is more organi-”

Cinder’s communication disc started ringing with a cheerful beeping tone. Cinder smiled awkwardly. “...It hasn’t even been a day yet.”

“Go ahead, answer her,” Sweetaloo encouraged.

Cinder took the disc out from its position behind her mane - apparently, little devices such as this had been designed to fit there, modeled so more ponies could have stuff on them like Pinkies. She held it in front of her face and the screen buzzed to life, displaying a small image of Rarity’s face.

Cinder giggled. “You look so tiny.”

“Think of how you look to me,” Rarity said with a coy smirk. “Anyway, how have you been? What have you been doing? What places have you seen?”

“I slept, Rarity. I haven’t even left the ship yet.”

“Oh.”

“I have a name,” Swip muttered.

Sweetaloo glared at the ceiling - sessions were supposed to be completely private, even to Swip’s inner sensors.

Rarity tossed her mane back. “Well, how are the other yous, at least?”

“They’re all great!” Cinder said with a grin. “Well, except maybe Nira, but I’m trying to get past her… creepy factor. I’m sure she has my back, though.”

“Well, that’s good.” Rarity glanced behind herself for a moment. “Twilight is exceptionally jealous of you. I know she has her ear up to the door and is scrawling as many notes as that book of hers can carry.”

“...Didn’t they give her a dimensional device?”

“Oh, of course, and she’s used it a few times, but what she really wants is the space ship, and apparently that’s not something you just give away on the first day.”

Cinder chuckled. “Sounds like her.”

“Anyway, I’ll stop bothering you when nothing’s actually happened,” Rarity said, rubbing the back of her head. “Should I call at night or in the morning?”

“...Whichever?” Cinder said, shrugging. “They said something about time not being constant between universes, I dunno. It’ll probably just work out. Or not.”

“Oh. That’ll give Twilight an aneurysm…” She waved at Sweetie. “Talk to you later!”

The call ended.

“You have a great sister,” Sweetaloo commented.

“Don’t we all?” Cinder pointed out.

“I have three,” Sweetaloo chuckled. “But yes, most of us have good sisters. ...With a few exceptions, of course.”

“Huh. I can’t imagine what it’s like to have a bad Rarity…”

“Be glad you can’t. I have seen some Sweeties who had experienced too much in their young live-”

Blink threw the door open. “Hey hey happy hour horses! We just got a mission from Expeditions!”

“A personal request from Renee?” Sweetaloo asked.

“What? Oh, no, nothing that dramatic. We’re dropping off one of the support packages for Earth Shimmer.”

“Yay!” Cinder said, clapping her hooves. “We’re finally going to get some exploring done!”

“Uh, well, it’s not exactly exploring,” Blink admitted. “Earth Shimmer already knows about the multiverse and everything, and we’ve already been there a few times. This is mostly supposed to be a check up.”

“...Oh.”

“But hey, it’ll be good for you! You don’t know what human culture is like, and that’s a good thing to know out here in the multiverse!”

Cinder blinked. “Why?”

“I’ll let Suzie explain it - she wants everyone on the bridge for the transition anyway.”

“We’ll continue this at a later date,” Sweetaloo told Cinder.

Cinder didn’t feel quite as nervous about the inevitable continuation as she’d been about this first one. Not that she was looking forward to it, or anything. There would always be something off putting about being psychoanalyzed by a pony who was one-third you.

The bridge was exactly two doors away from the meeting room. Swip was by no means a large ship, just the right size to support a small crew, cargo, and perhaps a few passengers. The largest room - the lounge - wasn’t even large enough to run around in. In theory the Sweeties could exercise in there if they wanted, but it would be a rare week where they didn’t have some expedition that made sure they kept in shape.

The bridge itself was designed to be spacious enough to hold a lot of people if everyone wanted to be where the action was, but compact enough to make it feel full when only three seats were filled. This had resulted in a mostly circular room lined with chairs and screens along every edge except the forward-most, where the main display monitor was positioned. They used it to watch movies and TV shows in what Blink called ‘ULTIMATE DEFINITION’, though right now it was just set to the default ‘display what’s in front of us’ option. As usual that was the nebulous shimmer of Swip’s pocket dimension.

At the center of the bridge was a sort of curved digital desk capable of seating pony, human, or otherwise through the magic of self-adjusting chairs. In the case of Suzie, however, she prefered to stand - so her chair was retracted into the floor. This led Cinder to the somewhat awkward realization that there was no ‘Captain’s chair’ here, just a Captain’s control panel. If at any point a Captain’s chair decided to exist, that meant the Captain wasn’t on deck.

The rest of the Sweeties were crowded around the back of Suzie’s control panel. The last to arrive was not Cinder and her group, but Seren, whose little legs had needed to skip here all the way from engineering. It took less than a minute to cross Swip, but it was still the furthest room away. “Sorry!”

“Being the last one here doesn’t mean you’re late,” Squiddy pointed out.

“Oh. Sorry!” Seren repeated.

“Ugh…” Squiddy facepalmed.

“Right, so, most of you probably know what we’re doing,” Suzie began. “But I’m going to go through the official procedure so Cinder doesn’t feel like a fish thrown onto a rollercoaster.”

“Thanks,” Cinder said with a smile.

“So, simply put, we’re delivering a package to Earth Shimmer - the first world, the one that's been in contact with Merodi Universalis for a while, not the newer one. This package contains letters, up-to-date information on the multiverse, a few technological curiosities, and the like. It has to be done this way since Earth Shimmer is naturally unstable and we’re smart enough not to create a portal there every five seconds. We’ll only want to open one portal for as little time as possible, so Swip is going to have to leave her pocket dimension and physically enter Earth Shimmer.”

“I have this amazing pocket dimension and we never get to put it to use,” Swip quipped.

“We spend almost all of our time in it, toaster,” Squiddy ribbed.

Suzie held up a hand signifying she was not going to put up with more bickering. Both of them shut up without a fuss. “Earth Shimmer itself is a human society,” Suzie continued, “one that’s close enough to standard to give anyone a good idea how humans operate, a good skill for any multiversal explorer.”

“...Why?” Cinder asked.

“Humans are the most common race in the multiverse, so you’ll run into them all the time.” She pointed at herself. “Earth Shimmer humans look like me and have a lot of bright colors, but you’ll find out as you explore existence that humans favor more dulled, brown-pink colors.”

Cinder was satisfied with this.

Suzie continued. “A few things to keep in mind when visiting Earth Shimmer. First of all, the world is arbitrated by a deity-level version of Sunset Shimmer. She’s nice and understanding, and you’ll probably get to meet her when we enter, just don’t call her a god, she doesn't like that. Magic is still only a few decades old in this world, so don’t be surprised if a lot of the mages look like they have no idea what they’re doing. And, here’s the big one, don’t call attention to cutie marks around them.”

Cinder blinked. “...What?”

Suzie smiled awkwardly. “I know that’s not particularly easy for us since, well, cutie marks are our thing, but trust me, you don’t want to. Their dominant religion, Harmonism, has a sort of taboo about discussing them in public. If you want to be respectful, don’t bring it up unless they talk to you first about it.” She pressed her hands together. “Celia and I will take the package to the local U.N. - United Nations - while the rest of you can do whatever you want. I suggest Canterlot, they’re the most open to visitors.”

“Got it!” Blink said, putting a hoof around Cinder. “I will be your guide to the vast and confusing world of human culture, Cinder.”

“...Wouldn’t it be better if Burgerbelle did that?” Cinder asked. “I mean…”

Burgerbelle was currently flipping a card around in her fingers. It was flat but had three sides, one of which was an image of a blue stop sign. She was furiously typing into her cell phone with the other hand.

Blink cringed. “Eh… she exemplifies a very specific niche of human culture. Probably not the best way to look at them.”

“I’d be glad to answer any questions you have after I do the delivery,” Suzie promised. “Blink should be able to do just fine on her own. Cinder, are you ready?”

“You bet I am!” Cinder said with the enthusiasm of a Sweetie Belle.

Suzie didn’t even have to give the order - Swip already knew what needed to be done. She activated her dimensional drive and tore a hole in space-time in front of her nose. She slipped through over the course of about three seconds, leaving the nebulous pocket dimension behind.

The main screen showed stars… and a blue-green planet covered in swirling clouds.

“Woah…” Cinder said, trotting up to the main screen, allowing the scene to fill her field of view. “That’s… Amazing.”

“The view from space really is something,” Suzie admitted. “Take a good long look. You’ll remember this moment the rest of your life.” She looked at her watch. “Actually, sorry, you only have about three seconds.”

Cinder looked away from the screen. “What?” She saw Suzie counting down on her fingers.

In a flash of bright light, a glowing woman appeared on the bridge. Her hair was flowing like the sun, and yet reminded Cinder of hay bacon. Everything about her screamed light - the pristine wings, the gentle eyes, the slender limbs.

Cinder could understand why people wanted to call her a god.

“Hello, Sunset Shimmer,” Suzie said with a bow.

“You guys are here to deliver the package?” Sunset asked. “Early… it appears my attempt to re-align the timestreams didn’t exactly work…” She rubbed the back of her head. “Guess you were right about that not working. I owe Twilight a soda. She said that would be too easy.”

“That’s what you get for not trusting the multiversal society with years of experience,” Squiddy muttered.

“Hey!” Seren put her hands on her hips with indignation. “Progress is never made by telling people to stop trying! You never know when the inexperienced might come up with a new idea.”

Sunset smirked in Seren’s direction. “Thanks. Glad someone here understands how discovery works.”

“The squid does not speak for all of us,” Burgerbelle said.

“I can if I want to,” Squiddy responded.

“Anyway…” Suzie said, stopping the argument before it could really begin. “Say hello to our newest crew member, Cinder. She’s here to learn about human culture.”

“Hi!” Cinder said, waving.

Sunset leaned down to be eye level with her. “Hmm… good choice in eyes.”

“Uh, these are natural.”

Sunset smirked softly. “So they are... “ Her expression shifted to confusion for a split second, but she quickly brushed it aside. “You’re in for both a treat and a rude awakening. Humans are… interesting creatures.”

“They’re tall, have hands, and apparently wear clothes all the time.”

“That’s a good start,” Sunset chuckled. “The rest is probably best if you find out on your own.”

“She’ll have plenty of time to do that,” Suzie said. “They’ll be on the planet while we do the general business.”

Sunset stood up, nodding in Suzie’s direction. “You and Celia, right?”

“That would be correct,” Celia said, her voice somehow more dignified and careful than Cinder remembered it. “The package is in the bay. If you don’t mind?”

Sunset nodded. The three of them vanished in golden light, leaving Swip.

Blink tapped her hooves on the floor. “Okay Cinder, you, me, a night on the town!”

“It’s day in Canterlot,” Swip offered.

“...To lunch then!” Blink said, rolling her eyes. “I’ll be your guide!”

“I’m going to make sure you don’t fill her head with ridiculous stories,” Squiddy said.

Blink sighed. “Fine, you can come…”

“Oh! Oh!” Seren waved her hand rapidly. “Can I come too!? I hear they’ve got some really awesome early stage magitech!” She squeed like the little girl she was.

Cinder grinned. “Sure, come on, you can explain to me how all the crazy stuff works. ...We can start with this disc-messenger-thing.”

“It’s a communicator, or phone, or two-way transceiver! There’s a complex circuit within composed of Peridot-type latticework superimposed upon a dimensional protocol through which a multi-step connection can be tunneled! This tunnel can have quantum bits sent through it that both receivers can translate to and from video with ease! Of course, that is only the basics, at a more comprehensive level the connections between universes are mapped through the ‘cell service’ towers on a government frequency akin to a…”

~~~

“...So basically what I’m trying to say is, well, ‘it’s complicated’.”

“No kidding,” Cinder said, shaking her head. The four of them were standing in front of the interdimensional ring. “...Wait, wasn’t the universe unstable?”

“That’s if you portal in from outside,” Seren offered. “The leylines won’t be altered if you use general teleportation gateways within. They actually have a sort of stargate, so we wouldn’t even be doing anything the universe doesn’t already see on a daily basis.”

Cinder stared at the girl and blinked.

“She’s starting to understand what Seren is,” Blink whispered to Squiddy.

“A prodigy…?” Cinder asked, having overheard.

“...Eh, that’s better than what I was going for.” Blink shrugged. “I was thinking ‘inconsistent’ and ‘contradictory’.”

“Aww, thanks!” Seren said.

Squiddy facepalmed. “Swip, dial us to Canterlot before we end up distracting ourselves even further.”

The ring activated. The four Sweeties wasted no time stepping through, arriving on a sidewalk in the middle of a city. To Cinder, the area around them looked a lot like Manehattan with all the roads and big buildings. There were a few key differences - all the vehicles she saw on the roads were cars, not carriages, for one. For two, everything seemed slightly taller than she was used to - even the clouds, though she couldn’t imagine how that was possible just yet.

Oh, and the fact that there were no ponies, only humans. That was a big deal.

Cinder knew she was here to study human culture, so the first thing she did was examine every one she could. The clothing was a lot like what ponies wore in terms of color and basic design elements, though here it was clearly mandatory. She was immediately curious about the cloth-based cutie marks on virtually every human she saw, and realized that Suzie had been very smart to give her warning ahead of time. Many of the people had their faces glued to phones, but not a majority.

It took her a little longer than she would have liked to admit to realize none of them were quite like Suzie. Some had feathers on the back of their necks, others had crystals in their foreheads, and then there were the ones that looked almost normal except they had oversized fingernails.

“You didn’t tell her about aspects?” a new Sweetie asked.

The local version of the Cutie Mark Crusaders was standing behind the League. Their Sweetie Belle was in the lead, an eyebrow raised. She was somewhat younger in appearance than Suzie and had a magical gem in her forehead while Suzie’s was bare. Apple Bloom had the nails, while Scootaloo had the feathers.

“Aspects…?” Cinder thought for a moment. “The extra features?”

“Yes, the extra features,” Apple Bloom said. “They a-”

“They’re clearly unicorns, pegasi, and earth ponies,” Cinder deduced. “Which seems… not human.”

“It’s a consequence of their world having magic thrust upon them,” Blink said. “They’re still mostly recognizable as a human society, not a pony one. ...Plus, before we came along, they kind of subconsciously didn’t think about it.”

“How do you subconsciously not think of something?” Squiddy asked.

Blink rolled her eyes. “The answer is a deep mystery…”

Seren put a hand to her chin. “I was reading about a spell that can catch a thought before it fully forms… Couldn’t cast it. ...Or at least I think I couldn’t.”

The local Sweetie cleared her throat. “Getting off topic.” She turned to Cinder. “Hello. I go by Skuldie when the rest of you are around. I a-”

“She can totally see the future,” Scootaloo said. “It’s the coolest thing ever.”

Skuldie rolled her eyes. “I can see visions of the future. All of which were decimated by their arrival.”

“Huh? What did we do?” Cinder asked.

“The Prophecy Dilemma,” Seren said, speaking as if she were reciting something. “Many spells exist that can predict events with a hundred percent certainty. However, they only take into account events within the universe itself - if a traveler appears, the Butterfly Effect soon cascades out of control and prophecies become pretty much useless.”

“...Oh. Sorry.”

“You didn’t mess with anything important and you had no control over it,” Skuldie said. “...I am going to have to get used to it when the world stabilizes enough for visitors to come regularly…”

“I know of some advanced prediction mechanisms! I could probably order a specialized spell matri-”

Squiddy tapped Seren on the shoulder. “Ahem. No. No you can’t.”

“Oh. Right. Sorry, legal stuff…”

“It’s okay,” Apple Bloom said. “You are here to give us cool stuff, right?”

“That’s what they always do,” Scootaloo pointed out.

“And they cause a scene half the time. Ah don’t think any of the deliveries have been ‘routine’.”

“How can delivering interdimensional mail be routine?”

“You’d be surprised,” Blink said, shaking her head.

Cinder allowed her attention to wander as the CMC talked with the older members of the League. She continued to examine Canterlot - finding her gaze drawn to a giant billboard of a white human biting into some sort of sandwich with a brown substance pressed between lettuce and tomatoes…

Oh. That was probably meat.

She shook her head - why did she have such a negative gut reaction? Griffons ate meat, and they were fine. Though she usually didn’t think of Gabby as a predator. Or Spike. Now that she thought about it she knew a lot of meat eaters…

Moving onto another billboard, she couldn’t quite make out what it was trying to advertise. There was a woman on it striking a pose Cinder couldn’t identify as meaning anything, though given that her knowledge of humans extended back one day this wasn't surprising. The best way Cinder could describe her expression was… ‘inviting’. A bit like those faces Rarity made at people she wanted to get good reviews from.

Oh, Cinder said, figuring it out. And they just have that on a billboard!? In the middle of town!?

Blink put a hoof on Cinder. “Ah, I see you’ve found one of the key differences between most humans and ponies. To put it mildly, they’re sexually obsessed.”

“Oh, dear Celestia,” Cinder muttered, paling.

“Hey!” Scootaloo put her hands on her hips. “Don’t judge us! It’s perfectly natural a-”

“Don’t give her a complex, Scootaloo,” Skuldie said.

“...But…”

“We don’t always have to defend ourselves to everyone we meet.”

“Uh, girls? Might wanna put a pin in this one,” Apple Bloom said. “People are starting to notice.

“Notice? Notice what?” Squiddy asked.

“OH. MY. GOD!” A human with purple skin and yellow hair ran up to Squiddy. “What kind of person are you? What are those tentacles!?”

“Oh. That.”

“Come on you have to tell me! What do they do?”

“They act like hair. And I can slap people who annoy me with them.” She lightly slapped the bystander on the face with her wet, fleshy appendage.

The woman backed away - but there were more to take her place. “Oh wow! They’re so distinctive! I didn’t think an aspect could be so large!”

Squiddy readied for another slap - but she stopped herself. A sly grin crawled up her face. “Yeah, they are pretty sweet aren’t they? These babies are the best in a sticky situation! Just latch one of these suckers onto a wall and ka-pow, instant grappling hook!”

“They can do that?” Cinder asked Blink.

“...They aren’t that strong,” Blink said. “Squiddy, can you tone it down a b-”

“Unicorns!?” a few of the humans with gems shouted, turning their attention to the two white unicorns. “Oh wow! They’re even more graceful in real life!”

“Uh… what?” Cinder blinked. “You guys have gems! Those are way cooler!”

Too many of them started talking at once for Cinder to make out anything for sure. What she did notice was a feeling rising within her of being suffocated. She liked ponies and people but this level was just a bit much.

To her surprise, she realized this wasn’t even all the humans. Whenever something exciting happened in Ponyville, all the ponies would run to or away from it. Here, things were split. Everyone nearby was interested in the Sweeties, but the majority were hanging back, watching from afar as if they didn’t want to be noticed. Some were using their phones to capture the action, but others were just staring silently.

Humans are weird.

Seren got it the worst out of all of them. The humans had some idea what unicorns were, and they thought Squiddy was just a rare version of them. But Seren was clearly a hybrid - half human, half pony. She was also young and cute, a combination that drew the human population in like moths to a flame.

“What are you?”

“Are you like one of those furry anthro things?”

“This dress is amazing!”

“Oh you’re just the cutest thing I could eat you right up!”

“Eheheheh…” Seren said, visible sweat drops appearing on her face. “Uh… Wow you all really like me! That’s… Uh…”

“We need extraction,” Blink told Squiddy.

“What?” Squiddy laughed. “Come on, live a little, appreciate the limeli - OW!” A small child had just yanked on her tentacle. “...Fine, screw them, let’s blow this joint.”

Blink facehooved. “I’ll just… Uh…”

“Do your thing on all of us in a minor sense,” Skuldie said, eyes closed tightly. “The power of Void will cause enough confusion for us to make our escape to a place that… should be relatively safe.”

“Relatively?” Squiddy asked.

“Unless something transdimensional happens you’re going to end up there anyway, so you might as well end this as soon as possible. Make sure everyone can follow me.”

Blink nodded. She adjusted her shades and shot everyone a “radical” smirk. “You’ve all been a joy, really, but all good things must come to an end! Le-poof!”

As far as the humans were concerned the Sweeties faded away, vanishing. In reality, all Blink had done was make it so they were semi-Voided - just unimportant enough that they could blend with a crowd they shouldn’t be able to.

“Wow…” Cinder said, waving her hoof at one of the children who had been bugging her until just then. “This is cool.”

“Don’t test it,” Blink warned. “Anyone with a sizable willpower or magic sense can still see you. I’m not expanding all the energy to go for higher orders of hiding.”

“...How high can you go?”

Blink smirked. “If I wanted I could convince the universe I don’t exist.”

“Wow…”

Skuldie coughed. “Relative safety is this direction. We should move - that guy over there is just insane enough to still see us.”

Cinder glanced at the old man in question. He looked right at her with crazed eyes. Magical wings sprouted out of his back, his grin widening. “I see you…”

“Running sounds like a good idea.”

~~~

Merodi Universalis had a habit of making things that had no right to look fantastical and otherworldly just that. All they needed to load onto Swip was a simple storage crate filled with everything Earth Shimmer needed. Instead, the bored and clever government designers created a chest studded with numerous precious gems, rimmed with gold, and engraved with a couple magical reliefs of an animating Merodi symbol.

It currently sat in the middle of Earth Shimmer’s United Nations, surrounded on all sides by faceless bureaucrats trying their best to look calm and collected when they really couldn’t wait five seconds to see what was inside. To keep themselves distracted, they studied the otherworlders.

Or, more accurately, they studied Celia. The only interesting thing about Suzie was her lack of forehead gem - Celia was not only a unicorn, but a large one who had a gem instead of a horn. Furthermore the gemstone was clearly not of the same sort as Earth Shimmer, given its sharper shape and crack down the middle.

“Always over the top,” Celia said.

“The suits or the chest?” Sunset asked.

“The chest, mostly.” Celia took a moment to look around. The ‘suits’ in question were mostly old men who had spent lifetimes perfecting the stern look. Most of them had immense power on the scale of this single world, and she knew full well that they didn’t like what she represented - something much more powerful than them.

Celia put on a smile anyway. “I won’t bore you all with an introductory speech. I am Celia Chalcedony, and I extend to you gifts from the larger multiverse.” She allowed her smile to become slightly coy as she tapped the side of the chest, prompting it to open with a dramatic flash of light. “Everything within is yours to do with as you wish.”

Suzie reached into the chest and took out a couple of white globes, each one larger than her head. She held them for all to see as Celia explained what they were. “We have listened to your request for defensive capabilities. These are harmony nodes that, if spread across the Earth properly, could shield your entire planet from dark forces. These were manufactured in Equis Cosmic itself, specifically to work with the magic field of your planet.”

Sunset’s jaw hung slightly slack. “That’s… really generous of you.”

“It is the first Division-level technology we are giving to you,” Celia continued. “We’re doing it as a sign of trust, that we think you can use such devices as they were meant to be used. I hope I don’t need to say that they are to be used for defense, and nothing else.”

She didn’t get a response beyond hushed whispering between all the suits. This was what she had expected.

Suzie reached into the chest again and pulled out several data pads, showing them off for Celia’s speech. “As usual, we have compiled the news of the multiverse since we were here last. Everything pertinent is stored on those pads.”

“Don’t try to read it all this time,” Sunset added. “Seriously, there’s too much in there, have the A.I. do it.”

“We also have some selected literature and other media from our member worlds. I know those are quite popular.”

Celia got a few reactions out of that - no doubt some of them had gotten hooked on Star Trek. Funny how they had analogues for almost every standard Earth show, but virtually never the same.

“And lastly, Sunset, this one’s for you.” Celia pulled the last data pad out of the chest herself and handed it to the woman of Harmony. “Another letter from Corona.”

Sunset brightened visibly. “Can’t wait to read this. Wonder what crazy stuff other-me’s done this time…?”

Suzie shrugged. “Class 1 complaints, from what I hear.”

“...Fun.”

Celia directed her attention back to the United Nations. “The instructions for setting up the harmony nodes are in the data pads. Any questions?”

An old woman with neon blue skin stood up. “If you’re willing to give us such powerful technology, why do you not give us more? Why didn’t you do it sooner?”

A hundred pairs of eyes shot toward her, all of them screaming shut up.

She didn’t back down. “Answer me.”

Celia sighed. “Senator Nutmeg, our reasons are the same as they always have been. Accelerating a culture too fast ends in disaster, and given the natural instability of your own we must take it even slower.”

“We are ready.”

“We’ll be the judge of that.”

Sunset sensed Senator Nutmeg was about to say something stupid, so she stepped in. “Look, everyone, the Merodi are being exceptionally nice and patient with us and all of our crap. How about we don’t antagonize them with greed and impatience?”

Senator Nutmeg sat down, clearly displeased with Sunset’s existence.

“There is the other side of the issue,” a darker-toned man said, standing up. “The thought that they are interfering in our affairs too much. Turning our world into theirs.”

He got the same shut up expression Nutmeg had gotten.

Sunset folded her arms. “I would step in if they were taking it too far. They’re doing a lot more good than harm.”

“No offense, Miss Shimmer, but you are hardly qualified to make that judgment. Your job is to regulate magic, not the governments of man.”

Sunset opened her mouth to respond, but halfway through her first breath she realized he had a point.

“You are free to deny anything you wish,” Celia reminded the U.N. “You would not be the first, nor would you be the last. I will say that, statistically speaking, most universes end up better off after we sweep through. But you already have those documents and I know you’ve looked through them all.”

The man nodded. “I understand that, as a whole, we are not likely to turn your offers down. I am merely stating my opinion so that others may, at least, be more cautious.”

“Admirable.”

“There are those who would not be so respectful.”

“We know,” Suzie said, addressing the U.N. for the first time. “It would be far from the first time we’ve been attacked or seen as evil for giving aid.”

There was silence in the U.N. The man decided he had got his point across and sat down.

“Now on to the rest of the itinerary…” Celia said, struggling to keep her smile up. “No doubt you all have a long list of things you’d like to get through while we’re here?”

“Ursasistan and Prance are at war.”

Celia sighed inwardly. There was going to be a lot to unpack there…

~~~

Cinder, the other Sweeties, and the local CMC ran into the front doors of a small office building. Seren was the last one in. She twirled her staff and cast a lock spell on the doors, barring the old man from entry. He charged head-first into the door, discovered the glass was bulletproof, and promptly lost all consciousness.

“...Y’know, you could have just cast sleep on him and saved us all this running,” Squiddy said.

“I wasn't thinking straight! He was scary!” Seren shivered.

“He belongs in an asylum,” Blink said, looking down at his form through the glass.

“He’s not too far off,” Scootaloo said. “Welcome to a ‘relatively safe’ location.”

Everyone took a moment to look around. They were in a seemingly normal office building lobby. Behind the main desk was the business's name: N.A.H.T.I.I.

“...They really are obsessed…” Cinder said, eyes wide.

“Huh?” Apple Bloom blinked. “Whaddoya mean?”

Skuldie facepalmed. “It’s ‘nahtii’. Think about it.”

Apple Bloom processed this. “What does it say about me that Ah never went there until now?”

Scootaloo shrugged. “Dunno. It was the first thing I thought of, back when we first arrived at school. I didn’t think it was for science at first.”

“I’m hurt,” a man said, walking into the room. He had wild eyes and an aura of unpredictability about him. “That’s practically the one kind of naughtiness we’re not indulging in.” He gestured at himself. “I’m Discord, professional embodiment of chaos and mad scientist, in case you were wondering. Charmed!”

“Scientist? This place is for science?” Cinder rubbed her eyes. “What does the acronym even stand for?”

“Not A Human Testing Installation Two,” Skuldie recited.

Cinder’s expression slowly went from confused to completely blank.

“Oh, sweet!” Blink laughed. “What we have here is the newborn dimensional explorer in its natural habitat - mental befuddlement. As she grows she will mature into simple acceptance of the seemingly stupid and ridiculous, but for now she is in a vulnerable position where predators could take advantage of her…”

Squiddy placed a suction cup on Cinder’s back, prompting her to jump three feet in the air and yell in surprise.

“And it looks like she’s snapped out of it and will live to fight another day,” Blink continued. “Join us next time on Animal Multiverse when we examine the advanced age stage of the inkling - calamari.”

With a flash of white magic a bucket of fried calamari appeared above Squiddy’s head, the contents surrounding the inkling with an uncomfortably familiar smell. “...I hate it when this happens.”

Blink burst into laughter. “T-That was not part of the plan!”

“I love improvising,” Discord said with a grin. “It makes every joke better!”

“Not the one about the dead cat,” a blue woman with a handful of fishy features said, stepping out from behind him.

“I temporarily forgot about the realism quotient, Sonata, forgive me.”

Skuldie cleared her throat. “Everyone, meet Mr. Discord, he runs the N.A.H.T.I.I. and does all sorts of scientific experiments for the sake of understanding magic.”

Seren lit up, all evidence of her previous unease gone. “You study the magic of your universe! Oh, tell me everything! My homeworld operated on an inner soul power-matrix regulated through emotions and familial connection, but I have since devoted most of my efforts into the very adaptable quantum-ring arcanum!”

Discord laughed. “Well, my child, it appears you have a bit of spunk in you…” He summoned a chalkboard covered in cartoonish drawings of cutie marks on it. “Allow me to engage your bright little mind for a minute…”

Seren sat on the floor and looked to Discord with wide eyes. “I’m ready.”

Discord grinned. “Magic here is sort of a ‘patchwork’ if you will, a hastily thrown-together mess of two separate systems arranged in the wild hopes it would stop the universe from exploding at the expense of most consistency and stability. One system was the Equestrian magic I'm sure you're familiar with. The other, Human magic, was an enigma by nature. I believe you’d call it an ‘anti-memetic’ system: a self-keeping secret. While it no doubt had reasons and mechanisms behind it, in its inherent ‘values’ there was a distaste for logical understanding and query. All scientists were convinced it didn’t exist. But, of course, it did - and when we figured that out we didn’t get a chance to study it because the world was exploding.” He drew a lot of zig-zags in the air. “So the two had to be fused together.”

“Can you extrapolate backwards now that you’re more aware? I’m sure there’s a thaumic analysis function we can cook up with a quantum-ring dielectric…”

“Spare me,” Discord groaned. “All I hear is ‘quantum-ring’ this and ‘quantum-ring’ that from the rest of the multiverse.”

“Oh, but it’s a very very useful magic system!"

“Please, how can it be that good? It’s just one magic system, and each one is inherently quirky, why not just use the one you're familiar with? The multiverse likes magic to behave as expected almost wherever it goes. I could travel to… Earth Tau’ri, let’s say, and I would be just as much as a chaos entity as I am now.”

“But if you took your computers, their programming would fail because your magic system is… unreliable!” Seren looked a little embarrassed to admit this. “It’s such a ‘patchwork quilt’ that your magitech is almost guaranteed to break down. Quantum ring can be pro-”

“NEEEEERDS!” Squiddy shouted, hands cupped over her mouth. “Geez, can’t you do that some other time?”

“My dear seafoody friend, why would we do that?” Discord appeared behind her, tracing a finger along one of her tentacles. “It’s not like you have anywhere to be, or anything.”

Squiddy folded her arms. “We can be doing more fun things than listening to you two yammer all day.”

Cinder blinked. “Maybe we could see some of the N.A.H.T… Er, the lab’s actual experiments?”

“RIGHT THIS WAY!” Discord said, pointing at a door. The moment Cinder reached to open it, he teleported them all into a room with a tall glass pillar containing a deep brown swirl of chaotic clouds. Every second or so an eye or mouth would spontaneously form from the smoke. “BEHOLD! The chaos pillar! Pure, uncontrolled chaos wriggling around in a tube, trying to find someone, anything it could grab a hold of!”

“...Isn’t this dangerous?” Blink asked.

“Of course it is. But I use it to uncover the secrets of the universe. Plus I can always just destroy it with the snap of my fingers, it’s not like it’s better than me at chaos magic. That’d be quite the joke, wouldn’t you say?”

“Why yes I would say!” another Discord said.

“Why is it that Discord’s the only thing in this world that seems normal?” Cinder asked.

“Chaotic Consistency Theorem,” Sonata said, smirking.

“We don’t talk about that,” Discord growled.

“Hey, you came up with it, not me.”

An yellow woman with ridiculously poofy orange hair walked in. “Hey, I got the results on that… thing you all needed. Whatever it was.”

“Oh, that’s great Adagio!” Sonata said with a smile. “I’ll take tha-”

Adagio dropped the clipboard, staring at Squiddy. “...Kraken.”

Squiddy saw the mixture of fear and murder in Adagio’s eyes. “...Shit.”

It was at this point the chaos pillar decided to explode.

~~~

Eventually, the meeting at the U.N. was completed. Sunset went back to arbitrating reality - however exactly it was she did that - while Celia and Suzie were standing on a balcony, looking out at the sky of Earth Shimmer.

“I like worlds that don’t know about us better,” Suzie said, kicking one of her legs back and forth. “There’s nothing already set up, so it’s all wild and new every time. After the third or fourth… it becomes bureaucracy. People with suits or the local equivalent doing what they do best - being needlessly complicated and prideful.”

“We have suits too, you know.” Celia smirked. “I am one of them.”

“I guess we aren’t really that different. Yeah, we’ve got policy… But our entire legal code was built with the idea of exceptions and variety in mind. Everyone else's is so… so… single-world oriented.”

“Can you blame them?”

“Not really, but I can complain to my good friend all I want to blow off some steam.”

Celia let out a soft chuckle. “In that case, vent away.”

Suzie shrugged. “I think I’m done. The meeting’s over and we can go do something new tomorrow.”

“What do you hope we’ll find?”

Suzie thought for a moment. “Something simple - for Cinder’s sake. But after that… well, aside from finding her, I’d like to find a world where everything is singing.”

“...Exploring the wrong section of the multiverse for that.”

Suzie smiled sadly. “Yep. And I wouldn’t want to explore the Unrealities - too much abstract everything - but I’d just like to be pleasantly surprised one day, you know?”

“I do know.” She blinked. “There’s someone flying toward us.”

Suzie looked out over the balcony and saw a winged woman flying to them. The woman locked eyes with her - and screamed. With a forceful flap, she came sailing toward the balcony. “TAKE THIS!”

Suzie pulled out a black gun and fired a pulse of blue-green energy right into the flying woman’s face. She passed out but continued on her flight trajectory, landing face-first on the balcony floor hard enough to leave some blood trails.

“...She was carrying a bomb, you know,” Celia said.

“I know,” Suzie said, pulling the woman’s coat open and examining the wired explosives inside.

“That pulse could have detonated it.”

“I know,” Suzie said, cutting a few choice wires. “I just decided to let it explode on my terms instead of hers.”

Celia accepted this. “So. How many suicide bombers is this now?”

“Forty-seven,” Suzie grunted. She hastily picked the woman up and sat her up against the balcony railing. Suzie set her gun to ‘shock’ and blasted the woman in the face, waking her right up with a painful scream.

“For Harmony!”

“Why are so many of you religious nutjobs!?” Suzie shouted. “You make Rev look bad!”

The Harmonist laughed. “You of disharmony would not understand! We are not ‘nutjobs’, we see you for what you really are! The bringers of instability! The-”

“Look, we didn’t mess up your universe, that was the Mirror Portal, we came later.”

“Lies!”

“You should know better,” Celia chided Suzie.

“One of these days reason is gonna get through to someone…” Suzie told herself

“You are the enemies of Harmony! You seek to see us disappear in favor of this false world of yours! We will not stand for it! I will not be the last! My brothers and sisters w-”

Suzie shot her again, knocking her unconscious. “Always the same…”

“Suzie, you’re getting angry.”

Suzie nodded. “Of course I am.”

“Just because an idiot brought up a valid point doesn’t mean you should get angry.”

“We are not trying to make them disappear. They’re doing that on their own. But they’ve just messed with the wrong Sweetie…” She pulled out a communication device. “Nira, I need you to soul-trace someone. Just integrate your magic with Swip’s sensor array, it should work. ...How did you know it was another suicide bomber?”

Celia sighed. There went the chances of the rest of the day being anything close to relaxing.

~~~

The chaos pillar unleashed a torrent of brown, noxious gas that occasionally formed random body parts that were usually able to be found somewhere on the human body.

Usually.

Cinder didn’t know what floppy, disgusting thing hit her, but she was sure it wasn’t human, pony, or otherwise. She let out a wail of panic and struck it with fire, only to discover that wet fleshy things didn’t really burn. She tried to run, but instead flattened herself against a giant eyeball. This was more disgusting than terrifying, but the previous terror carried over enough to make her scream.

“INK TO THE EYE!” Squiddy shouted, showering the eyeball in white ink. It shivered in pain - but just dissipated to become part of the chaos cloud.

“...Thanks,” Cinder said. “But there’s still the floppy thing!”

“...All I see is a giant hand,” Squiddy said, pointing up. “...Craaaaap…”

The hand opened itself up fully and tried to slap them into the ground. Seren leaped into action, creating a shield spell between them and the monstrosity. “Got ‘im!”

“I envy your magic talent,” Cinder said.

“I envy your magic,” Squiddy muttered.

Seren pointed her staff at the hand. “Leave my friends alone, you big bully!” She fired a laser and disintegrated the hand.

Two mouths appeared at once, speaking gibberish and wagging their tongues around madly.

“Why isn’t Discord doing anything!?” Cinder shouted. “He said he could!”

Blink dropped the invisibility on herself and the unconscious form of Discord. “He took an unlucky hit to the face. Seren, healing, now.”

“...I don’t think it needs to see us to hurt us,” Seren said, blasting away a free-flying leg.

“I’ll take care of it,” Blink said, blinking out of existence and appearing behind an incoming big toe, driving it to the ground. This only resulted in her getting caught in an armpit. “AUGH!”

Seren bit her lip - and stopped casting magic to defend everyone, instead focusing on healing Discord. “Come on Mr. Discord, we need you…”

Cinder readied her spark. “...Is your ink flammable?”

“No.”

“Well, that’s pretty much the only offensive spell I know, so…”

“Just take cover,” Squiddy took a pyramid-shaped prism out of her pocket and threw it. It hit a giant hand dead on, exploding in a shower of ink so forceful it tore the hand apart and sent the chaos cloud away.

“Woohoo!” Cinder shouted, despite having white ink all over her.

Her feeling of victory was short lived - the chaos mist returned, forming more random body parts.

“...Ponyfeathers,” she said.

“Done!” Seren shouted, jumping up from Discord. “He should be good as new!”

“SNAP!” Discord said, snapping his fingers to make the monstrosity stop doing anything. “CRACKLE!” He clapped his hands together, and all the physical body parts shattered like they were glass. “POP!” The monstrosity was suddenly back in the tube, fixed as if nothing had happened. “And that, my friends, is how you make a balanced breakfast.”

Sonata facepalmed. Adagio and the CMC were currently flat on their backs, dazed.

“...How come you didn’t see that coming…?” Apple Bloom halfheartedly asked Skuldie.

“Eh… It’s not an exact science…”

“Ah… Okay…”

Adagio slowly sat up and looked right at Squiddy.

Squiddy pointed her gun at the siren. “I. Am not. A kraken.

“Bullshit.”

“I’m an inkling! From another universe!”

“You move like a kraken. Don’t care what your universe calls you, you’re a kraken. Kraken.”

“Can I shoot her?” Squiddy asked Blink.

“Blink is not available for leadership duties right now,” Blink muttered. “Ugh, this is gonna leave a whole lot of marks…”

“Mr. Discord!” Seren said with a huff. “Why didn’t you have the proper safety procedures in place for a magic surge like that!?”

“I do,” Discord said, popping open a panel on the side of the tube’s base. It was empty save for a few snipped wires. “Oh. ...It appears someone stole my chaos magic triggering circuit…”

“How would anyone get in?” Sonata asked.

“I don’t exactly have very good security besides myself...” With a shrug, Discord snapped his fingers and recreated the circuit. He proceeded to put a bubble spell on it for added security. “Much better.”

“...Can’t we figure out who stole it?” Cinder asked. “That sounds a lot like the start of an adventure!”

“Any magical signature that would have been left here was erased by that chaos cloud,” Discord said. “So, no, I’m afraid we can’t trace whoever did this.”

“Oh. Disappointing…”

But I can take you all out to lunch! Who wants burgers?”

Cinder paled. “Oh no.”

~~~

Nira told Suzie and Celia exactly where the bomber’s brothers and sisters were.

A Harmonist temple. It was a small structure lined with symbols that were vaguely reminiscent of the Elements of Harmony. It looked like it belonged in ancient Greece to Suzie - for the life of her she couldn’t remember what ‘Greece’ was called on Earth Shimmer, and frankly she was a little too upset to particularly care about what horse-related pun-names existed at the moment.

“You know you can’t just go storming in there,” Celia said.

“Yes I can.”

“Only Harmonists are allowed in.”

“I can pull that off.”

Celia facehooved. “No, you cannot. They know you. The moment they notice you don’t have a gem, they’ll be able to look you up.”

“So? Earth Vitis is a lot like this world.”

“It doesn’t have Harmonists.”

“It does have these,” Suzie said, pointing at the emblem she had instead of a cutie mark. “Random chance can be spun as spiritual influence. I’m sure I can stylyze my hair to cover my forehead and get it to work…”

Celia sighed. “Even if you could convince them you were a Harmonist, you don’t know how to act it. You go to church, not a temple. It wouldn’t be one of Rev’s sermons and you know it.”

“...And lying isn’t a good idea in the first place...” Suzie muttered, starting to pace. “I still have case-by-case authorization. I could declare a need for interference.” She furrowed her brow and sighed. “But, of course, that would be a bad idea. It’d just give the Harmonists more reasons to hate us.”

“Glad to see you’re finally thinking clearly.”

“What we need is someone who can get in…”

“Suzie, dear… what are you doing?”

Suzie held out a small pen with a red button on the back. “Getting someone’s attention.” She pressed down the button, activating the reality anchor field. It had no discernible effect, but it did stick out like a sore thumb in space-time as an area where the laws of physics were completely immutable.

Naturally, Sunset noticed it instantly and appeared behind them. “You know, I honestly can’t tell if that’s more or less annoying than a prayer.”

Suzie turned off the reality anchor. “We have a problem. We got attacked by a suicide bomber. Apparently there are a lot more of them… in that temple there.”

Sunset looked at the Harmonist temple. “I take it neither of you are Harmonists?”

“Afraid not.”

“I’m not allowed in there either, you know.”

“At least you going in wouldn’t give them more reason to use suicide bombers on us. I don’t think bombs can do much to you.”

Sunset shrugged. “Probably not.” She narrowed her eyes. “I could probably go in, find out what’s going on, and… wait, no, bad idea, really bad idea.”

“Why?”

“As much as I hate to admit it, and despite my best efforts, Shimmerism is becoming very popular. If I walk in there it’d be like declaring a religious war.”

“Oh. Sassafras.” Suzie put a hand to her chin. “...Is there anyone who can go in there?”

“There are a few Harmonist priests I could check with,” Sunset said. “But I think I’m pretty much out of favors with them at this point. It’d probably take a little too long.”

Suzie sighed. “...I guess we report it all to the U.N. and just let it slide then.”

“Afraid so. You have to let them deal with it internally or the backlash is just… much, much worse.”

“Not so fast,” Celia said, grabbing their attention. “There’s certainly ways to avoid just ‘letting it slide’, I assure you. Suzie, your phone please.”

~~~

Cinder looked down at the hamburger on her plate.

“...You don’t have to eat it if you don’t want to,” Sonata said. “You could give it to me!”

“She’ll have to eventually,” Squiddy said, digging into her own. “Part of the rite of passage and all that jazz. Or something.”

Cinder made no response to either of them. Discord had taken them all out to the local burger joint - one that specifically wasn't fast food, Feedrooster’s - though the local CMC had opted out, as had Adagio. It was just the Sweeties, Discord, and Sonata.

“It’s really not that bad,” Blink told Cinder. “It’s just a little weird, is all.”

“It’s meat,” Cinder said, staring at the burger.

“Seriously, you don’t have to eat it,” Sonata repeated, pointing into her mouth.

“True…” Discord said, leaning back. “But does she want to?”

Cinder looked at the burger closely. Then, before she could send herself into another round of analysis paralysis, she bit down on the thing.

She promptly spat it out and dropped the burger. “GAH! That… What was that flavor!?

“Meat,” Blink said, chewing her own burger. “Guess you don’t like the taste. That’s fair.”

“How could anyone like that!?”

“Carnivores have to eat nothing but that,” Seren said. “They like it.”

Cinder groaned. Sonata picked the burger up and devoured it.

“You get a prize for trying,” Discord said, snapping his fingers. A sundae larger than Cinder appeared on the table.

Cinder’s grimace was soon replaced with a huge, cheesy grin. “...Thank you… it’s beautiful…”

“Dig in.”

She did, in quite a literal sense.

Blink was about to join her when her communicator rang. “This is the Blink, don’t blink and you’ll miss me!”

“I need you to come over,” Suzie said. “Just you - not the others. We need something done covertly.”

“Righty-o, I’ll have Swip do the location-sendithing.” She hung up. “Duty calls! Enjoy your burgers!” Before anyone could ask her what this was about, she vanished into nothingness.

“...Clever trick…” Discord muttered.

Cinder didn’t notice Blink had left for a while. The sundae was occupying far too much of her mind.

~~~

“Blink, just to make sure, you understand the plan?” Celia asked.

“I do!” Blink said, adjusting the band on her head so it was just below her horn.

Sunset, Celia, and Suzie nodded. They turned to the temple. “Then go,” Suzie said. “Complete Void.”

Blink nodded slowly - and then focused on herself. A dark blue energy wafted off of her for a moment as she asked the universe to do one thing for her.

Would it forget she existed?

Given Sunset’s gasp, it had worked like a charm.

“I… I can’t see her,” Sunset said, waving her hand right through Blink. “Holy… I - I think I can detect a shadow of presence, a sort of lack. But I can’t pinpoint it directly.”

“That’s Blink for you,” Suzie said. “Now Blink, if I know you, I know you haven't gotten moving yet even though you can’t keep yourself this Voided for long. So get moving!”

“Aye aye, cap’n!” Blink said. Suzie couldn’t hear her, naturally.

The unicorn of Void ran into the temple. Her hooves didn’t touch the ground - they couldn’t, since she effectively didn’t exist. She moved as a balloon, floating up to the front doors. Like a ghost, she passed right through and drifted into a very bland and uninteresting looking hallway. The ground floor was clearly not full of secrets, just a bunch of people praying, studying holy books, and the like. A few meditation rooms here and there had fancy skylights.

But the basement… That was another story entirely. The world above had seemed like the interior of any modern building, save the altar in the very center. But down here, everything was different. The walls were tiled with images of cutie marks, the hallways themselves were arranged in a six-way pattern akin to the Element of Magic, and in the center there was an altar with a sun on one half, a moon on the other. People stood around this altar, guarding it from six sides.

Blink wasn’t here to see the general magic secrets the Harmonists had - she was here for something else entirely, looking at the interior of the temple was just a bonus. After a quick stop waving her hoof in front of the guards for her own amusement, she continued on. She found a magically saturated room filled with fabric icons. At one end of the room were nothing but simple colored squares of fabric, but on the other there were almost fully-defined marks. A little creepy, if she was being honest with herself.

She didn’t find any stairs to continue her journey - but she still hadn’t found anything particularly useful. So she decided to just say ‘screw it’ and phase through the floor. It wasn’t all that surprising that a full second basement existed beneath the temple, this one much more cave-like. Here, there was a large magic circle on the ground, glowing with a vibrant green energy. Sitting in the middle was a green woman adorned with black robes who was consistently muttering in arcane nonsense.

Blink was almost certain those weren’t Harmonist robes and that this woman wasn’t supposed to be down here. What happened next made her absolutely certain - a half dozen Harmonist acolytes teleported down to the cave, looking at the woman with reverence.

The woman smirked, snapping her fingers. Six bombs appeared around her, each one laced with complex magitech circuitry. “Go, my slaves, and drive the invaders from this earth. Your mother will remember your sacrifice when the world is at her knees…”

Blink decided this was enough. She was running out of Void time anyway. She passed through the wall, floated up through the ground, and appeared back in front of Suzie. “Tah-dah!”

Suzie made no response.

Blink made herself visible. “...Tah-dah.”

“Oh, you’re back!” Suzie said, smiling. Sunset looked at blink like she’d just seen a ghost.

“Did you get anything useful?” Celia asked.

“Heck yes!” Blink took off the headband and handed it to Celia. “As long as your camera captured everything, we’re golden!”

“Oh, it did, trust me.”

~~~

It’s surprisingly easy to take down a religious mind control conspiracy without causing a fuss.

Just send a video from ‘a concerned anonymous Harmonist’ to a major religious leader known to absolutely despise magical corruption within the temples. The next day people in fancy robes will walk into the temple, change its management, and discipline those within all without causing a religious war or international incident.

“And we never get to figure out what her plan actually was,” Sunset observed from Swip’s bridge. “I think that’s what bothers me most about all this.”

“It is the price we must pay for dealing with things calmly,” Celia said.

Suzie shrugged. “...I don’t think I need to state that our little ploy didn’t happen, right?”

“What ploy?” Blink asked.

“...When existence itself is your toy…” Sunset said, not finishing the thought. “Anyway, despite the inevitable drama you guys cause, you’re good to have around. I really do hope I can figure out how to stabilize this universe faster so you can start coming more often.”

“And then a whole new can of worms will be opened up,” Celia said.

“There’s always a can of worms in the can of worms,” Suzie added.

Sunset chuckled. “Don’t I know it.” She waved. “Bye. Have a nice trip.”

With a flash of light she was off the bridge.

“Good riddance,” Swip declared.

Suzie rolled her eyes. “Everyone on board?”

“Yes.”

“Any extras?”

“Nope.”

“Good. Take us out of here, Swip.”

Swip opened a portal in front of herself and re-created her pocket dimension, entering the swirling miasma once more. The portal closed behind them, leaving Earth Shimmer alone until the next package was scheduled to be delivered.

Cinder walked onto the bridge. “Huh. Well, I guess that’s that, then.”

“Did you like your first world?” Suzie asked.

“Lots of eye opening experiences, an interesting culture, and new friends.” Cinder put a hoof to her chin. “But it all seemed a little… domestic to me. There wasn’t any action on that world, just normal stuff with a different spin on it. ...I mean, I guess there was a chaos monster thing...”

Suzie smiled knowingly. If you only knew… “I promise it’s not always like that.”

“I’ll hold you to that!” Cinder chuckled. As she turned back to head towards her room, she removed her communicator and called up Rarity. “Hey, guess what, I finally went somewhere and made a lot of new friends! Including another me!”

“...Why don’t any of us call our Rarities?” Blink wondered.

“Different lives for different Sweeties,” Celia said, tossing her mane back. “Even those who live on the same ship.”

Author's Note:

Oversaturation is a curious little work created by FanofMostEverything. It has its own extended universe to check out too!

Also, extra thanks to FanofMostEverything for pre-reading this. And for helping make the first entry on the League's travels be as good as it could be!

Wanna suggest fics or worlds for the League to visit? Go here! You'll also find the status of what stories are being considered as well.

-GM, master of mice.

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