• Published 28th May 2023
  • 360 Views, 23 Comments

A Certain Scientific Twilight - Babroniedad

Sunset and Twilight's Continuing Adventures in Academy City. A crossover with A Certain Magical Index / A Certain Scientific Railgun.

  • ...

07 - Sunset - The Lair of the Goddess

Saturday, September 13, 8:00 AM Tokyo time.

Sunset woke, smiling. She rolled over to face her BFF, who was snoring gently, still asleep, a smile gracing her beautiful features. Sunset kissed her gently on the cheek, trying not to wake her.

“Hmmm,” groaned Twilight happily. “More please,” she muttered, still half asleep. Sunset giggled, and kissed her again. Hearing a quiet laugh, she remembered their current roommate.

She raised her head slightly to look over her BFFs head. Kaori was laying on her bed, facing them wearing a sly smirk. She raised an eyebrow, then teased, “Is this where you make me want to run from the room in embarrassment? You were both so good last night. Saving it up for the morning?”

“I will smite you,” laughed Sunset. “Friend or not.”

“I dare you try,” laughed Kaori back, grinning.

“You’re just jealous,” teased Sunset.

“You’ll never know,” teased Kaori back.

Still smiling, Twilight’s face turned beet red. “She’s watching us, isn’t she?” she asked, eyes still shut.

Sunset laughed, and Kaori as well. “Don’t stop on my account,” she teased again. “Go on right ahead with whatever you are doing.”

Twilight opened her eyes. “Way to kill the moment, Kaori!” she joked.

“Not my fault you two are so shy,” Kaori rejoined, getting up. “I’ll be right back. Going to use the bathroom.”

“TMI, Kaori,” Sunset teased her back.

Twilight kissed Sunset on the cheek. “Roommates! Am I right?” she laughed, getting up grabbing her and Sunset’s clothes and Sunset’s bathroom bag. “Hop on, love. Sunset express is leaving the station!” She sat on the edge of the bed by Sunset.

“Now you’re just trying to embarrass me!” laughed Sunset, sitting up and putting her arms around Twilight’s neck. Twilight positioned Sunset’s legs around her, and pulled her up onto her back. “Maaaaybe….” she teased as she stood up. “Or maybe I just really love my BFF, and want to be a special part of her morning.”

Sunset flushed, leaning into her BFF. “I so love you right now, Sparky,” she sighed.

“I love you too, Sunny! Now and always! Now, to the bathroom!” Twilight opened the door and stepped out into the main room, Sunset on her back and bag and clothes in her arm.

The girls were up, their bedroom door open. “Duh’ah!” gushed Mikoto, seeing the Twilight and Sunset. Her eyes lit up with happiness. The other girls turned to see what she was looking at, causing them to gush as well.

“So jelly right now,” muttered Kuroko dreamily, watching as Twilight waved to them as they headed into the bathroom. Sunset turned to the girls and winked with a smile, wiggling her eyebrows. The girls excitedly jumped off the bed and grabbed their clothes to follow them in.

Stiyl and Toma watched their antics from the Den where they were browsing on the laptops. Toma turned to Stiyl with a grin. “Girls, am I right?” He laughed.

“Don’t I know it,” Stiyl laughed. They turned back to their laptops.

The coven was bustling with activity. They had found where their targets were hiding, and now needed to find a way to get to them to complete the sacrifices they had promised their gods.

That was the problem. They now knew exactly where they were hiding. But no one had the power to actually pull off a teleport off the planet, let alone to Mars. But those they served did. The only problem was, their gods were greedy gods. They wanted a human sacrifice for everything they did. That was problematic, as placating their gods had over time given the coven a bit of a reputation in the surrounding area, even if the locals couldn’t actually see or find them due to the magical warding. The rumors and tales were enough to drive off anyone from living nearby. So they had to recruit their sacrifices from other places, and most of those were either watched or protected in some manner.

Because of this, they were looking for a way to use the old gods magical strength without actually using a sacrifice. It was an ancient magic, rumored in the later coven teachings, but the actual spell and ritual were only mentioned as a listing in more ancient texts of the coven. So they were digging madly through the coven library, looking for any sign of the ritual needed.

“We really need to get a librarian to straighten this mess out,” grumbled one witch as she poured through a pile of old tomes and scrolls where she sat at a library table.

“We had one,” commented the witch next to her without looking up from the scrolls she was pouring through. “An emergency came up, and she was sacrificed to get the power we needed to meet it.”

“That sucks,” agreed the first witch, still reading as well. “You would think we could have found a replacement by now.”

“The librarian association black listed us,” grumbled the other witch. “Too many of the librarians they sent us went missing. They suspected us, so we’re on the blacklist.”

“All the more reason to find this spell. This isn’t the middle ages, we can't just go around kidnapping people every time we need something. Too much communication now, everything gets noticed,” noted the first witch.

“Agreed,” nodded the second witch. “Confound it, where is this infernal spell? Are we going to have to read every scroll and book in this damned library?”

From across the room, a witch called out. “Found it! I think I’ve found it! Come take a look!” Everyone raced over to her, as she read out the ritual and spell from a crumbling scroll.

“Finally!” called out the first witch. “About damned time! Thank you eternal ones!”

They rushed out of the library, led by the witch that had found the passage, scroll in hand.

The girls were all laughing, splashing each other in the spa, taking a quick soak after their morning ablutions and washing. Kaori sat with them, laughing at their antics.

“You girls have a lot of energy for the first thing in the morning,” joked Kaori.

“Ah, the energy of youth,” grinned Twilight from her spot next to Sunset.

Sunset laughed. “You’re only four years older than them, oh goddess mine,” teased Sunset. “And you’re pretty chipper most mornings yourself.”

“The miracle of caffeine,” laughed Twilight. “Behold, it makes all morning possible.”

“It does help,” agreed Sunset with a grin. “Some mornings more than others.”

“Speaking of mornings and caffeine, who’s ready for breakfast? I think we’ve played around in here long enough. Any longer I’ll be feeding a group of cute young prunes!” teased Twilight.

Index nodded happily. “I could go for some breakfast!” she called out cheerfully, hopping out of the spa and running over to the stool and basket with her habit. She dried off quickly and donned her clothes. The other girls followed her at a more leisurely pace, drying and dressing as well.

Twilight lifted her friend, carrying her over to her stool to get dressed.

“Oh la la!” called out Ruiko, teasing.

“Shuddup you! I will smite!” teased Sunset back. The girls all giggled while Kaori rolled her eyes and grinned.

All dressed and ready for the day, the girls headed out to the kitchen.

They found the boys already at the stove. Toma was wearing an apron while cooking pancakes. There were two piles beside him, the smaller one containing burnt samples of his cooking. Stiyl was just taking the tofu bacon out of the microwave.

Sunset laughed. “Absolute A for effort, you two! Thank you!” She rolled over to Toma. “So good job! More edible than burnt, always appreciated,” she teased. “Need a hand with anything?”

“I think I finally have this down,” Toma grinned. “The first batch or two may be a bit less than edible.” He eyed the burnt pile. “I think I should be done in a few minutes. Probably a good time to set the table. I know the eggs cook fairly quickly.”

Twilight nodded, already whipping the eggs in a mixing bowl. “Good point, Toma.” She turned to the girls. “Girls, set the table please? Pancake breakfast, juice and coffee for everyone, and the toppings of course.” She looked over at Index, smiling happily at her place. “And leftover pizza for Index as well. I don’t think a small stack of pancakes and some eggs and bacon are going to be enough for our hungry friend.”

“Thank you!” Index called out happily. Mikoto put a box of leftover cold pizza in front of Index, which she happily started eating.

Places set, everyone got in line for a turn at the coffee maker. Toma finished the last of the pancakes, setting both plates on the table. “All yours, Twilight,” he smiled as he got in line for coffee.

“Thanks!” called out Twilight as she used the tofu bacon oil to grease the pan and cooked the eggs. By the time the last of the line had their coffee and sat down, the eggs were done. She plated them up, turning off the stove, then placed them on the table.

Sunset smiled, pulling the chair out for her BFF. Twilight sat, and sipped the steaming coffee waiting for her at her place. “Thank you, Sunny!” she smiled.

“For you, anything, Sparky!” grinned Sunset, sipping her own coffee. Turning to everyone, she called out. “Let’s say grace, then eat this feast!” She led them in Harmonic grace, then they tucked into the food.

Everyone satiated, kitchen cleaned and food put away, they were ready to start their adventure.

“Okay everyone! Sunset and I are going to pick up our missing guest, and our ride for the day. Go ahead and play or whatever you want, and we’ll be back in a bit. Shouldn’t take more than an half hour or so I think,” Twilight called out. She looked down at Sunset, who smiled and nodded. “Okay, stay inside and stay safe. We’ll be back!” She grabbed the handles of Sunset’s chair, and with a flash of magenta, they disappeared.

With a flash, they appeared inside of Twilight’s garage. Sunset rolled out the side door, and over to the gate in the side yard where Dash was waiting for them.

“Hey, slow-pokes! Where’ve you been? I’ve been up for hours,” Dash teased.

“They’re called timezones, Dash,” snarked Sunset. “Not rocket science.”

“Whatevs!” grinned Dash, giving Sunset a hug. “So everyone else is already at the bunker?”

“Yup,” answered Sunset, rolling back into the garage. “Coming?”

“Would not miss this for the world!” agreed Dash, following her in.

Twilight looked up from her phone. The latest bloom data could be seen on the screen. “Hey Dash! Anyone else coming along? Or are you it for today?” Twilight asked.

“The girls all had work,” answered Dash. “But Chang’e mentioned she might come along. Can we pick her up?”

“Chang’e is coming? Wow, okay. Sure, one moment,” Twilight texted Drs. Moonshot and Long at NASA that they were heading to Tranquility base. She got an almost immediate affirmation from them.

“Okay. I let NASA know we are coming for a quick visit. Let’s head there first, then back to the NASA site on Mars for our ride for the day,” commented Twilight. She put a hand on Sunset’s back, and took Dash’s hand. “Ready?” she asked.

“Ready Freddy!” Sunset agreed. Dash nodded. In a flash of magenta, they disappeared.

And appeared with a flash by the Lunar transporter in Tranquility Base. “Dang, Sparky,” commented Sunset. “You’re getting better at this than I am.”

Twilight laughed. “Plenty of practice. Where is Chang’e?”

She felt someone hugging her from behind. “Hello, dear pranksters!” greeted Chang’e from behind her.

Leaning into the hug and clasping her hands over Chang’e’s, Twilight greeted her back. “Hi Chang’e! Heard you were interested in joining our little adventure. Feel like a trip to Mars?”

“I thought you might never ask,” joked Chang’e. “Yes, I would not want to miss this. A chance to once again visit the lair of the old God Mars.”

“Alright then,” smiled Twilight. “Let’s do this!” She placed a hand on Sunset’s shoulder. Dash held her hand, while Chang’e continued to embrace her friend. With a flash of magenta, they disappeared.

And appeared in the hangar of the NASA Martian Base, beside the TACIT transporter.

Twilight looked around, and spied an engineer walking through equipment racks with his clipboard. She walked over to him.

“Hello! We’re your neighbors! We were told we could borrow one of the rovers for the day?” she greeted.

The man looked up, eyes widening. “Oh! Oh my! Hello! Yes, we were told you might be showing up. Which one would you be?” he asked.

“Sorry, my apologies for forgetting to introduce myself. My name is Twilight Sparkle. I’m the inventor of the transporters you’ve been using. My partner over there with the shockingly beautiful red hair is Sunset Shimmer, with our friends Rainbow Dash, and Dr. Henge from Tranquility Base.”

The man held out his hand. “Pleased to meet you, Ms. Sparkle. And delighted to meet the inventor of the transporter. I can’t thank you enough for that. It’s such a delight to be able to move around the solar system. It’s truly a dream come true!” he gushed, shaking Twilight’s hand. “Oh, I’m Dr. Larson. I’m one of the researchers assigned to this station. And certainly, I was asked to help you out when you showed up.” He walked towards the rovers, parked by the airlock.

Twilight waved to the rest of the group, who moved to follow them. Dr. Larson stopped by one of the large rovers. “I was told you had a large group to shepherd around today, so you would need one of the largest rovers. It’s an eight seater, hope that’s enough.” He opened the hatch for them, allowing them to enter and look around.

“It will do, thank you!” smiled Twilight. “Where do I sign? I assume you have the temporary requisition on you?”

“Absolutely! Right here please? And initial here, here, and here. Also here.” he held the forms for her while she signed and initialed the paperwork. When she was done, he pulled out some papers stapled together. “Here is your copy. Thank you! And I hope you have a wonderful time! Just contact control on channel 7 with the radio when you are ready to leave, and they will help you work through the airlock procedure.” He smiled, waving as he walked back to the racks he had been inspecting.

“Wow, that was friendly and efficient. He works for the government?” snarked Sunset.

“He works for NASA. If the government ran as well as NASA, I think the world would explode in shock,” replied Twilight dryly.

Chang’e laughed. “Well at least some things never change,” she observed.

Dash and Twilight helped Sunset get into the rover, folding up her chair and stowing it behind the seats. Chang’e climbed in, sitting behind the driver's seat. Dash and Twilight moved to the front, Dash taking the pilot seat while Twilight took the copilot spot. Twilight flipped on the radio, setting the channel control to 7. She keyed the mike.

“Control, this is Twilight Sparkle, in rover…”, she looked over to Dash. “Dash, what rover is this?”

Looking around, Dash called out. “It’s MU-8a.” she answered.

“In MU-8a,” continued Twilight to control. “We are requesting egress to the Martian landscape, and need instructions on navigating through your airlock procedure. Please advise.”

“MU-8a, one moment please while we prepare,” confirmed the control operator. A moment later, he came back on channel. “MU-8a, confirmed for egress to the Martian landscape. Prepare to receive airlock authorization and instructions.”

“MU-8a prepared,” confirmed Twilight.

A red light appeared on the airlock door panel before them. “Airlock is being cycled in preparation for your departure. Please prepare to enter. The light turned green, and a large door rolled up before them. Fully opened, operations resumed instruction. “The door has been opened, and the airlock is ready to receive you. Please pilot your vehicle into the airlock being sure to pull forward to the blue line before the egress door. Stop just behind the line, and notify us when ready.”

“MU-8a acknowledging. Will advise,” Twilight confirmed. Dash flipped the motor switches, and gently moved the rover into the airlock, just behind the blue line. She turned to Twilight. “All set, Twilight.”

“MU-8a confirmed behind the blue line and ready for airlock cycle. Repeat, MU-8a confirmed ready for airlock cycle,” Twilight confirmed.

“Operations acknowledges. Please stand by,” reported operations.

Both Dash and Twilight checked their stations for any issues with containment. All checks came back green. “MU-8a confirms double greens on containment check. All systems are go,” reported Twilight.

“Operations confirms containment checks are go,” confirmed the operator. The door behind them closed as red lights started flashing in the airlock bay.

“MU-8a, be advised that airlock cycling has begun,” reported the operator.

“MU-8a acknowledges, airlock cycling has begun,” repeated Twilight.

The door behind them closed with a soft clang. They could hear the chugging of the compressors removing the air from the airlock. They grew softer and softer, until they could barely be felt through the skin of the rover. A moment later, the red light on the panel before them switched from a red light to a green one.

Operations came back on speaker. “Operations confirms, airlock cycle has completed. Please prepare for egress.”

“MU-8a acknowledges, airlock cycle completed. Prepared for egress,” confirmed Twilight.

“Operations confirms, MU-8a prepared for egress. Acknowledged,” confirmed the operator.

The door before them rumbled, slowly raising. As it opened, they could see a ramp leading up to the Martian surface. The door completed opening, locking into position. “Operation confirms, egress enabled. You are go for egress, MU-8a. Godspeed,” the operator informed them.

“Woo hoo! Let’s get this party started!” Dash whooped. She throttled the rover forward, angling it up the ramp and out onto the Martian surface. After they cleared the tunnel, Twilight confirmed their exit with operations.

“Operations, MU-8a here. MU-8a confirms successful egress. We are outside. Thank you and best wishes!” reported Twilight.

“To you as well, MU-8a! Please advise when you require return access. Operations out,” confirmed the operator.

“Okay, homeward bound!” smiled Twilight, returning the mike to the radio.

“Which way?” asked Dash of her copilot.

“Second star to the right, straight ahead ‘till morning,” smiled Twilight.

Dash grinned. “We’re not flying to Neverland, dork. Really, which way?”

Twilight laughed. “Look around you, Dash. Did you ever think you would be sitting here doing this?”

Dash laughed. “Okay, got me there,” she admitted.

Neverland. I present to you our Neverland,” Twilight teased. “Okay seriously, set your heading to 0.7. We should be only a dozen klicks away.”

Dash turned the rover to the desired heading and moved out. “Yeah, it really is Neverland, isn’t it? I never even imagined,” she smiled.

The door to the bunker opened, and Twilight walked in, fully ponied up into her angelic form. “Party time, crew! Time to head out!” she called out. Everyone cheered and headed up the ramp. When the last of them had exited, Twilight shut and locked the door.

Following them up the ramp, they were greeted by the sight of Sunset and Dash, both also ponied up, a meter off the ground.

Sunset called out to them. “Slight change of plans. The party is a bit bigger than we originally planned, and the rover only seats eight. So four of us are going to be outside while the rest of us ride in comfort.”

Kuroko waved her hand wildly. Sunset laughed. “Yes, Kuroko. You can be outside.” Kuroko did a little happy dance.

“Dash and Twilight will be outside with me as well. Inside, Dr. Heng’e has agreed to pilot the rover, as she has experience with these models. Karoi will act as her copilot. And the rest of you will be in the first class section behind the pilot,” Sunset quipped.

Twilight checked everyone’s packs as they clambered into the rover. “Headsets on, radios active,” she reminded them. “Otherwise we won’t be able to talk together, and where is the fun in that?”

They pulled out their headsets, powering and checking them, then placed them on, buckling themselves into the seats. Chang’e turned around to face them. “Okay, when everyone is settled, we will get this show on the road.” Making sure her headset was active and keyed, she called out to Twilight. “Everyone is in, shutting and locking the door.” Kaori nodded, scrambling back and pulling the door shut, dogging the door tightly closed. She scrambled back to her seat. “Everyone buckled and ready?” Kaori called out.

Everyone confirmed they were set. “Okay Twilight, we’re good to go here,” Kaori called out.

On the roof of the rover, Twilight sat, Kuroko cradled in her arms. Sunset and Dash sat just before them, hanging onto the luggage railing. “Good to go, Chang’e! Let’s rock!” Twilight called out.

“Hang onto your shorts!” laughed Dash. Inside the rover, Chang’e smiled and started the rover forward, heading for Olympus Mons.

I’m bored! This is boring,” groaned Dash an hour later, as the rover lumbered towards the pass up to the caldera.

Sunset rolled her eyes with a grin. “Classic Dashie,” she teased.

Dash turned to her. “What’s that supposed to mean?” she whined.

“You, Dashie, are an adrenaline junkie,” smiled Sunset. “If there isn’t something going on that triggers your adrenaline high, you shut down and just go to sleep.”

“That’s a load of crap,” yawned Dash, eyes drooping. “I just need a lot of sleep because I am so energetic the rest of the time.”

“You sleep anytime we are not doing something you like,” came Chang’e’s voice over the headset.

“Not helping, mistress,” growled Dash, valiantly fighting another yawn.

Sunset giggled. “Now who is acting like an old married couple?” she teased.

Dash shot her a dirty look. “Hey, it’s not like that!” she growled. “You know I don’t swing that way. And my mistress is married for pity's sake!”

Sunset smiled, then cocked one eyebrow at Dash. “You sure about that swing of yours?” she teased.

Dash turned away, settling back into a semi-comfortable position against the roof. “Whatever,” she growled. Several chuckles were heard over the headset. Dash scowled, staring off into the horizon.

Relenting, Sunset reached over and placed a hand on her friend's shoulder. Dash stiffened.

“Hey Dashie. Want to stretch those wings out? How about we take a flight together,” suggested Sunset.

Dash turned back around, facing Sunset with a hopeful look. “For real?” she asked.

“For real, Dashie. You and me, flying together. Take a break from bouncing around like luggage on a train. What do you say?” Sunset asked with a grin.

“I say Heck Yeah!” called out Dash, spinning back around and immediately fully awake again. “Let’s go.”

Sunset turned to Twilight. “You okay with that, Sparky? Mind holding down the fort here?” she asked.

Twilight smiled. “No problems, Sunny. You two go have some fun,” she laughed. She looked down at Kuroko, who was smiling, sound asleep in her arms. “I’ll just stay here with our little sissy.”

Sunset smiled. “You’re the best, Sparky. I love you!”

“Love you too, dork!” Twilight smiled back. “Go on, keep Dashie awake and go have some fun.”

Dash rolled her eyes. “Ha ha ha,” she deadpanned. Turning to Sunset, she grinned. “Alright, Sunset! Let’s get this going!” She crouched to launch into the air.

“Wait up, Dashie. Let’s fly together,” called out Sunset, flapping her wings and rising a few meters above the rover. Dash matched her, and together they rose up above the Martian landscape.

“Now this is more like it!” called out Dashie happily, twirling in the air beside her friend. “Way better than just sitting on top of that tin can.”

A minute later they were far above the rover, the Martian landscape spread out beneath them. Dash stopped her spinning and took Sunset’s hands. “Hey, Sunset! I have an idea?” she grinned wickedly.

Sunset looked at Dash, eyebrow cocked. “You know we’re wearing headsets, right? If you’re thinking of showing me which way you really swing by inducting me into the mile high club, everyone is going to know,” she teased.

Dash laughed. “You wish, pervert. Get your mind out of the gutter. No, I have a way better idea,” she grinned. She let go of Sunset’s hands, then yelled out. “Last one to the caldera is a sore loser!” She blasted off in a rainbow of color.

No Dash! Wait!” Sunset called out. Too late. Dash was a blur of prismatic light shooting towards the mountain side. Sunset started after her, holding her face in her hands. “Dash, dammit you dork!” she sighed.

At about that moment, Dash's rainbow petered out. She crested, then started angling towards the base of the mountain, still moving fast.

Shit! Shit shit shit!” called out Sunset, putting on a burst of speed to catch up with her boneheaded friend.

Before she could catch up, Dash augered into the side of the mountain.

The witches of the coven were all gathered in a large room, bloody sigils powering a large blood drawn spell circle in the center of the room. They were all looking a little peaked, as although the ritual did not call for the usual sacrifice, it was powered by blood magic. Enough blood that all of them had donated a pint each to the cause. Some energy snacks and fruit juice later, they were ready to try the ritual.

“This better work,” growled the first witch to her fellows. “If I have to donate for a second try, I may just faint.” That got a few laughs from the others.

One of their assassin sisters stood beside the circle, a sacrificial dagger in each hand, limbering up and shaking off any stress before the ritual started. If everything worked correctly, the ritual would provide her with enough magical mana to make the teleport to Mars, take out her two targets, then return. She visualized the attack in her head to keep focused.

Around her, the rest of the coven lined up around the circle. “Let us begin!” called out the lead witch. They began chanting a litany to the old gods, as proscribed by the scroll to begin the ritual. When the chant was complete, the lead witch called out, incanting the spell in the language of the old gods, imploring them to grant their faithful this boon of power with the gift of their sacrificial blood. The runes glowed red, then spread to the entire circle. The air shimmered with dark power, warping the view of the assassin in the circle’s center. With a slam and a flash of amber, she disappeared.

Sunset raced to where Dash had crashed at top speed. At the last moment, she slowed to land gracefully next to her fallen friend. And crashed to the ground next to her, legs folded up under her uselessly.

“Damn it!” she swore. She dragged herself over to Dash, rolling her over and inspecting her friend. “No sign of broken bones,” she said to herself. Several relieved sighs were heard over her headset. “Checking for internal damage,” she commented, feeling her friend's abdomen and using her magical sight to verify that Dash was indeed just knocked silly. “Ah shit! She’s not breathing!” Sunset called out in a panic.

She pushed herself into a sitting position, then cradled Dash in her arms. She put her mouth over Dash’s, holding her nose closed. She breathed into her friend, then let the air back out. Repeat. Breath in, let the air out. She did this for a minute while everyone on the radio was completely silent, hearing only Sunset’s breaths in, and Dash’s lungs expelling the air.,

Dash twitched in Sunset’s arms, then coughed and started gasping, then breathing on her own.

“Thank the Maker!” Sunset called out happily, cradling her friend, tears rolling down her cheeks. Over the radio, cheers broke out.

Dash slowly opened her eyes, looking at Sunset. “Hiya Sunset,” she called out groggily. “What happened? And why are you crying? Did someone get hurt?” she asked, still clueless.

Sunset clutched her tightly to her. “Yes, you bonehead! Someone got hurt! Someone I love dearly!” she cried.

“Man, I hope they're okay,” she responded groggily. “What the heck hit me?” She pulled away a bit from Sunset, looking around. “Hey, weren’t we flying a moment ago? Are we already at the caldera?” She turned and saw the slope beside them. “I guess not. Why did we take a break here I wonder?”

“Dash, you idiot,” sobbed Sunset. “Don’t you ever do that again, you dope!”

“Do what?” asked Dash. She rubbed her eyes, then shook her head and took a deep breath. She started, then turned back to Sunset. “Now I remember. I challenged you to a race, and took off for the cladera. I did something stupid again, huh?” she asked.

Sunset hugged her friend. “Yes, Dash, you did something wrong.” She pulled back and looked her friend in the eyes. “Do you know what it was?”

“It wasn’t the magic. I felt it, I was fine. I was staying close enough that I wasn’t going to deplete myself like last time. And the magic was there, I felt fine,” Dash mused.

“It wasn’t the magic Dash, though I am happy you gave that a thought. What else is missing on Mars? Besides magic,” asked Sunset.

Dash thought for a bit, then facepalmed. “Air,” she replied simply.

“Good girl, Dashie. A bit slow to get there, but correct. Next time, try to think of that before you choke yourself out, black out, crash, and stop breathing,” agreed Sunset, playfully slugging her friend in the arm. She dried her tears. “So, want to try again? This time not racing to the caldera, but going together like I said in the first place?”

Dash hugged her friend, then stood up, pulling Sunset up with her, holding her in her arms. “That sounds perfect, Sunset,” she smiled.

Sunset flapped her wings, lifting out of her friend's embrace, and held out her hand. “Okay, Dashie. One more time! To the caldera!” she called out.

Dash leapt up and joined her, staying right by her side. “You don’t have to ask me twice!” she agreed.

Sunset laughed. “Yeah, apparently I do,” she snarked. Everyone laughed over the headsets.

Dash laughed as well. “Okay, got me there. Good one, Sunset!” Together they winged their way up the side of the mountain towards the caldera.

The assassin apparated inside of the bunker, crouched into a tight combat stance, daggers at the ready. Looking around, she didn’t see any sign of anyone, including the two goddesses she had come to sacrifice. Staying low, she darted from room to room, looking for any sign of her quarry. Finding no one, she spoke into her sleeve. “It’s a bust. They’re not here,” she reported in disappointment. With a flash of amber, she disappeared.

Sunset and Dash crested the mountain, and began flying around the caldera, looking for signs of the lair. Sunset called out. “Chang’e, do you know where he kept his lair?” she asked.

“Not really,” answered Chang’e. “The few times I was ever able to visit, we just went directly to the lair. I don’t recall anything about exactly where it was, except that it was located in the caldera of an inactive volcano.” She thought for a moment. “There was also a great amount of plants, and vegetation. Like myself, he had a love for the fruits of the land, and had many orchards of fruit trees, vines, and fields.”

“Hm. From the measurements we made with the drone, and our field examination, there was an indication of large amounts of life along a vector that bisects the caldera. One sec,” Twilight mused aloud. A few moments later, she came online. “Looking at the satellite photos now. The line roughly passes between the twin spires behind you, close to where you are now, and the large peak on the far side of the caldera. So somewhere between those might be the best place to focus your search. We’ll join you when we crest and enter the caldera ourselves.”

“Got it, Sparky! Thanks!” called out Sunset. Her and Dash set out for the twin spires to start their search for the old God of Mars’ lair.

An hour later, the rover crested the mountain and descended into the caldera. They headed for the area of the line crossing through the caldera most likely to include the lair.

“How’s it going, Sunny, Dash?” asked Twilight, watching the two of them crisscrossing, searching for any sign of the lair itself.

“Not great. We’re on our second pass, going slower this time. Didn’t see any sign of it on the first pass, obviously. So we’re going a little wider, and slower,” replied Sunset over the helmet. “I’m hoping to get a ping from my magical senses at least when we are close enough. It must be either deep or well shielded, I suspect.”

“Sunny, I see a fissure off to the far right. It looks promising, we should go check it out,” called out Dash on the headset.

“You have good eyes, Dash. I don’t see it,” responded Sunset.

“Yeah, it’s past where we were looking. At the very edge. And it’s not that big. Follow me?” suggested Dash.

“Sure thing, Dashie. I’m on your six,” responded Sunset, following right behind her friend to ensure Dash stayed within the bubble of air she was maintaining.

As they got closer, Sunset called out, “I see it now! Dash, dang you have good eyes. Good find. And it looks big enough for a vehicle to go through. Here’s hoping if it is the entrance, we don’t have to all get out and walk.”

Hovering before it, they could see the fissure extended for several hundred feet, deepening as it progressed, until it ended in a canyon wall. At the base of that wall was a cave opening, as wide as the fissure and just as tall.

“Woo hoo! Now that looks like the start of a Daring Do adventure!” called out Dash happily.

“Way to jinx it, Dashie!” laughed Sunset next to her. “Hey Chang’e, Sparky. How soon do you think until you can join us?”

Chang’e responded first. “I cannot really run this rover any faster than this on this uneven terrain.”

“Given that, I estimate we are at least 30 minutes from you,” added Twilight. “You could wait, or…”

“Or we could go in together and start exploring to clear the path for when you get here!” Dash exclaimed excitedly. “Daring Do, eat your heart out!”

Sunset facepalmed. “Dash, I swear, if we run into pitfalls or traps now after you said that, I will smite you.” They both laughed.

Chang’e joined in the laughter. “No smiting my avatar, Sunset!” she called out playfully.

“Okay, I guess we are going in. And so very glad you set up our radios to use TACIT channels so we can stay in touch. Thank you for that Sparky,” stated Sunset. “See you guys soon.”

Sunset and Dash flew into the cave slowly.

The assassin sat in the middle of the now inactive circle, the witches of the coven sitting where they had been standing. They were reviewing the attempt, trying to determine their next course of action.

“So if they are not in their Lair, then where are they?” questioned the lead witch of the Coven.

“I did not see any trace of an apparation leaving the lair,” reported the assassin. “However, that doesn’t mean they didn’t return back here to a different location.”

“How do you figure that?” one of the witches called out.

“They had one of those devices we keep hearing about. A TACIT transporter. It was in one of the rooms I searched. They’re always paired units. It’s likely it’s paired to something on Earth, allowing their followers to come and go directly,” responded the assassin.

“That actually makes a great deal of sense. And there is also the fact that they can survive on the surface. With the goddesses power, they can shepherd their followers all over the surface. Perhaps they found out we were onto them, and escaped to the surface to avoid us,” mused another witch.

“But what would that gain them? They have to return at some point,” commented another.

“Wait. I recall there is another base only a dozen or so kilometers from them. NASA I believe, whom they gave TACIT technology to. Perhaps they escaped to them,” the coven leader speculated.

“Perhaps. But they also could have just gone far enough in some direction to make it difficult for us to trace them, then apparated back themselves. With the goddesses' power, they could have done that without difficulty,” mused the assassin.

“So we are back to square one,” sighed the coven leader. “We have to put our feelers out, and find them. Then run them to the ground again, and finish what we started.” She nodded resolutely, standing up. “Okay, ladies. The hunt is on. Let’s find these goddesses and placate the elder ones.”

The walls of the tunnel were bathed in teal light. Above Sunset, a teal orb glowed, bathing the walls around them with its light.

“Well this is boring,” commented Dash. “Where are the traps? Aren’t old lairs supposed to have traps, and magical guardians, and riddles and stuff?”

Sunset looked over, scowling playfully at her friend. “Smite, Dashie. I will Smite!”

Dash laughed, flying along next to her. “It doesn’t work that way, Sunset. You can’t actually jinx yourself. That’s just silly superstition.”

Smite. Smite smite smite smite,” chanted Sunset playfully.

Suddenly the tunnel shook. Dust fell from the top of the tunnel, only missing falling on them as it was stopped by the surface of Sunset’s shield and rolled and drifted down around it.

“What was that?” asked Dash in excitement.

“Oh crab nuggets,” Sunset responded. She could hear crashes, stone scraping stone, and thunderous roaring as something massive worked its way towards them. “Dash, get ready to retreat!” Sunset called out.

“What? Retreat? Aren’t you just going to zap them or something?” Dash asked in disappointment.

At the very edges of her light, Sunset saw the massive boulder rolling towards them, scraping the sides as it bounced with very little room on either side of it. “Now Dash! Retreat now!” She spun, heading towards the entrance again.

Dash sputtered. “But Sunset…” Dash was gripped in Sunset’s magic and pulled after her. Together they raced the boulder to the cave entrance.

The two of them shot out just as the boulder crashed into the entrance and stopped with an earth shattering collision heard even through the thin Martian atmosphere.

“Oh, hells no!” shouted Sunset. She shot a teal beam of magic at the boulder, reducing it to a pile of rubble which she quickly levitated to the side of the canyon.

“Ah, come on, Sunset!” cried out Dash. “Now you hit it with the magic blast? After making us run like chickens back to the entrance? Why didn’t you just blast it when it came at us? This is so lame!

Sunset shot her friend a scowl. “This isn’t some video game, Dash! We can’t just respawn if we get it wrong, or lose health points and drink some magical potion. If that damned boulder had hit us, we would be dead! No take backs! No reset. Not a game, Dash! Quick acting like we’re playing one!

It was completely quiet. No one said anything, not even over the headsets. Dash hovered below her and off to the side, head down.

Sunset was crying. A tear rolled down her cheek. “Damn it Dashie! I already lost you once today. I can’t lose you. I can’t lose a friend,” she cried softly.

Dash looked up to her. She was crying too. She flew over to her friend and embraced her. “I’m sorry, Sunset. I just got caught up in the moment. We get to live a real Daring Do adventure! That just seemed so cool, I let it go to my head.”

Sunset embraced her back. “I know. I’m sorry I blew up at you. I just love you too much to lose you.”

Dash smiled, drying her tears as she pulled away from Sunset. “Okay, enough of this mushy stuff. We have a lair to get into. Let’s get cracking.” She held her friend’s hand, smiling.

Sunset dried her tears, smiling back. “Yes we do. Come on Dashie, let’s do this.” Pulling her hand back, together they flew back into the cave.

Passing the point where the boulder had shot down from the tunnel roof to roll after them, they continued on cautiously.

“I wonder if there are any other traps we will run into?” asked Sunset aloud.

Dash rolled her eyes and turned to her friend. “You just had to go and say that, didn’t you?”

“Kinda, yeah,” admitted Sunset. “I was hoping that if I jinxed it, whatever was going to happen would just happen, and I would be ready for it.”

“You do know that’s not how a jinx works, right?” asked Dash.

“What? Why not?” replied Sunset.

“If you jinx yourself, expecting something to happen, it won’t happen then. It will happen later when you least expect it. Basic jinx 101,” nodded Dash.

“There’s a class in Jinx?” teased Sunset. “Egghead!”

Dash laughed and rolled her eyes. “Egghead you!” she called out, flying over and hip checking her friend. “Takes one to know one!”

Sunset corrected herself from her near collision with the tunnel wall. “Really Dash, now you want to goof around?” she snarked.

“Hey, who's…” Dash started.

At that moment, a wave of spears shot out from the tunnel walls, sweeping over the girls in mid-flight. They were stopped cold by the shield Sunset had up to protect their bubble of air.

Oh hell no! I am calling BS on this one,” growled Sunset. A blast of teal magic shot out from her horn, melting the spears into the holes they were still blocked in. “In fact, complete BS. I am not leaving any of them unplugged!” She levitated up all the spears that had bounced off the shield and turned them into molten spheres, slamming them into the remaining holes.

Dash looked on, one eyebrow cocked. “Uh, I think that may be kind of cheating,” she observed.

Sunset turned to her and scowled. “Not! A. Game. Dashie!”

Dash held up her hands, “I know, I know. I’m not complaining. I’m just saying, these traps were clearly not designed with a magical goddess in mind.”

“I’d like to meet whomever put this in here, and give them a good piece of my mind!” groused Sunset.

“Eh, maybe you will. Guess we just have to get to the end and find out,” suggested Dash.

“Looking forward to it!” fumed Sunset.

They passed over a sensor, and a pit opened below them, lethal sharp spikes visible in the bottom of the pit below.

Bull shit, bull shit, bull shit!” growled out Sunset. A blast from her horn, and the pit was filled with rocks, then paved over. The trap creaked and groaned attempting to shut itself after they passed by. Something inside snapped loudly, then the creaking stopped. “Complete and utter Bull Shit!” groused Sunset.

Dash just covered her mouth, laughing quietly.

Just a bit further down, a wave of poisoned darts shot out, bouncing off Sunset’s shield. “Still Bull Shit!” she groused. This trap got the same treatment. The darts were lifted up from where they fell, melted and shoved into the holes they had emerged from.

Just a bit further along, she had to stop when an entire multi-ton section of the ceiling dropped down onto the top of her shield, effectively pinning them in that spot. Sunset just sighed. “Again?” she asked rhetorically. She shoved the section of the ceiling back into place, hearing grinding and crunching as she did so. She flashed a large section of the ceiling to a molten state, including several yards before and after the trap. She then flash cooled the molten stone, effectively sealing the trap shut. She rolled her eyes and moved on.

Dash was laughing hard now, having a difficult time keeping her mirth contained. Sunset just glared at her, shook her head, and continued onward.

They could see the opening now. They were almost to the end. Just then flames shot out at them. Wave after wave of lethal flames swept over her shield. Flammable fuel shot out, drenching the shield, catching fire from the shooting flames, resulting in a hellish inferno engulfing them around the shield.

“Okay, screw this!” shouted Sunset, giving the entire end section of the tunnel the same treatment she had given the crushing trap. The entire section was reduced to glowing rock, sealing up all the holes as the rock melted together. It was then hit with a cooling spell that fused the entire section into one solid sleeve of rock.

“That’s how you deal with that kind of crap!” Sunset called out, flying through the last section of the tunnel. “Assholes!”

As they came out of the tunnel and entered into the cavern at its end, Sunset stopped cold. Looking around, all she could say was one word.


Dash hovered beside her, speechless.

Author's Note:

And the lair is breached!
I'm sure nothing bad will happen now. Crisis averted, right? So what if now the coven can actually get to Mars and knows exactly where their redoubt is. Nothing bad can happen now, right. :twilightoops:
So we wait for the next chapter, with wonder in our eyes and dread in our hearts. :twilightsmile:
In the Lair of the Goddess Mars Ascendant: