Sonata the Drama

by MythrilMoth

First published

Sonata Dusk accidentally summons Kim Possible, Ron Stoppable, and Rufus to Canterlot High.

It all started with a car battery, a taco, and dreams of home.

Then Sonata Dusk's plans to return to Equestria literally blew up in her face...and left three strangers from an even stranger land relying on her to help get them home.

Can a former evil Siren, two teenage freelance heroes, and a naked mole rat somehow find a way to send everybody back where they belong?

Sonata the drama!

Sonata Good Start

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Sonata stood back and studied her handiwork under the light of the full moon.

"And Aria thinks I'm a brainless ditz," she said. "Hmph! I'll show her! Just wait until I go back to Equestria without her and Adagio! They'll be stuck here in this horrible world and I'll be back home where I belong and I'll make all-new, better friends! Then I'll be the one laughing!"

Before her stood the huge horse statue on the lawn of Canterlot High School. She'd been watching the Rainbooms the day after the Battle of the Bands, and knew that the base of the statue was a portal. After all, Twilight Sparkle had gone right into it, and she was from Equestria!

The only problem: the portal was closed right now.

But if the portal could be opened from one side, surely it could be opened from another, right?

It had taken Sonata a few weeks to figure out how to open the portal. She'd drawn diagrams, written out lengthy equations, doodled pictures of herself laughing at the other Sirens from Canterlot.

And now...now, it was time to go home.

The shards of her magical gem were taped to the statue all around where she'd seen the portal. Each gem shard had the bare end of a wire wrapped around it. The wires were all braided into a bundle with two leads, to which she'd affixed alligator clamps. A car battery sat next to the base of the statue.

She took a bite of the tasty chicken fiesta taco she'd picked up on the way to the school as she checked to make sure each gem was exactly where it needed to be, and the wires were secured. Nodding, she knelt down and attached one of the alligator clips to the negative terminal on the battery. Then, taking a deep breath, she attached the second clip to the positive terminal.

For a moment, nothing happened.

Then, the gem shards began to glow.

The gems began emitting sparks. Red arcs of electricity snapped back and forth between the shards, forming a web of red lightning across the base of the statue.

The battery began to vibrate, and the ground began to tremble.

"It's working!" Sonata cried happily.

Then, one of the arcs of electricity leapt away from the web, striking Sonata right in the taco. Her hair stood on end and her teeth began chattering.

A big spinny glowy thing formed between Sonata's taco, the statue, and the battery. For a split second, she saw the inside of a Mexican restaurant.

Then, the whole thing went SPLODEY!!

Sonata was blown across the courtyard, landing on her tushie. Her taco was reduced to crumbling black ash. The car battery exploded, raining shards of plastic and metal and spraying searing hot battery acid everywhere.

The shards of Sonata's gem rained down like hail, shattering into fine ruby dust as they hit the ground.

She sat up, rubbing her head. "Owchie..."

"Ugh...what just happened?"

Sonata looked at the statue, which was miraculously unscathed. Two people lay against its base. One of them sat up, rubbing her head. "That was seriously freaky...Ron? Ron, are you okay?"

The other person groaned and tried to sit up. "Okay, someone ate way too many refried beans." This second person looked around frantically. "Rufus? Buddy? Speak to me!"

A tiny little rodent shape scurried up the boy's arm. "Uh-huh! All systems go," it said in a chittering, did-that-thing-really-just-talk? sort of way.

The girl stood up. "Where...are we?"

Sonata picked herself up off the ground. "Umm...hello?" she asked.

"Oh, hi there," the girl said, taking a step closer. She had light skin and thick, wavy red hair. "Sorry if this is a strange question, but...where are we?"

"Oh, this is Canterlot High School!" Sonata said.

The girl frowned. "Canterlot? You mean...Camelot, right?"

Sonata laughed. "Camel? Don't be silly! That's silly! Who'd name a high school after camels?"

"Uh...huh." The girl looked around. She pulled something out of her pocket. "Wade? I need a GPS lock."

A moment of awkward silence passed.

"Wade?" The girl frowned. "Ron...I'm not getting a signal."

The boy—Ron, apparently—stood up, dusting himself off. "Huh? But....that's impossible, right? Wade's got the whole world wired!"

"I know," the girl said. "Either whatever just happened fried the Kimmunicator, or..."

Sonata waved a hand to get her attention. "Umm...excuse me..."

"Hey, Kim? Is that girl...blue?" Ron suddenly asked.

Kim blinked. "You're right!"

"Umm...I think...my taco might've accidentally brought you here from another dimension," Sonata said.

"Oooooh...yeah, that'd explain the whole, y'know, big glowing explosion thing," Ron said.

"And the Kimmunicator not working," Kim added with a frown.

"Kiiiiiim," Ron said warily, "You don't think...you don't think this is..." He gulped nervously, then whispered, "Drakken's daughter?"

"I don't know," Kim said. "Let's ask her. Are you Drakken's daughter?"

"I don't even know who that is," Sonata said. "Umm...look, I'm really sorry. I was trying to open a portal to Equestria...I just wanted to go home..." She kicked at the grass. "I didn't mean to bring you here. I'm really sorry."

"It's okay," Kim said gently. She looked around. "So...what's Equestria?"

"You...you're not from Equestria too?" Sonata asked.

"Never heard of it," Kim said.

"Sounds kinda horsey though," Ron put in.

"Aww...! You mean I went through all that for nothing?" Sonata whined.

Kim frowned. "I don't...see anything that looks like a pandimensional vortex inducer. Or any other kind of dimensional portal thingy."

"Oh, I was trying to use pieces of a magical jewel and a car battery to force open a portal that's hidden in that statue over there," Sonata said. "It just...didn't work."

"Can't imagine why," Kim said. "Well...we're gonna need some help if we're ever gonna get back to Middleton." She approached Sonata, extending her hand. "I'm Kim Possible."

"And I'm Ron Stoppable," Ron said. "Oh, and this is Rufus." He held up the little pink naked rat thing he was carrying.

Sonata accepted Kim's hand and shook it. "I'm Sonata Dusk!" she said cheerfully.

"Interesting name," Kim said.

"So uhh...why are you blue?" Ron asked.

Sonata shrugged. "I dunno. I just am." She looked at Kim, then at Ron. "Are you brother and sister?"

"Boyfriend and girlfriend," Kim said.

"Oh. That's cool. I just thought, because you both...nevermind. So...the world you're from is called Middleton, huh?"

"Earth. The world we're from is called Earth. Middleton is our hometown."

"Ooooh, that makes sense," Sonata said. "Well, this town is called Canterlot, and this world is called..." She frowned, tapping her chin. "You know, I'm not really sure what this world is called!"

"How can you not know what your own world is called?" Ron asked.

"Uh, DUH! It's not my world, remember?" Sonata said. "I was trying to leave this place!" She shrugged. "I just never bothered to find out what this world is called."

Kim sighed. "Well, we'll need information. And help. And a place to stay."

"Hmm...well, since I got you into this mess, I guess I should help you, even though I'm evil," Sonata said.

Kim blinked. "Wait. You're evil?"

"Oh, totally!" Sonata said. "Me and my sisters tried to take over the world a little while back, but some girls with better magic than ours beat us and took away our power, so now we're just stuck here." She shrugged.

"So...you tried to take over the world...and you're not like, in jail or anything?"

"Nah, they just made us pick up a lot of trash."

"Huh," Ron said. "You know, Kim, this world sounds like it's..."

"Not our problem," Kim said. "Look...Sonata...usually I don't team up with evil people. I beat them up and put them in jail."

Sonata cowered. "Don't beat me up and put me in jail!"

"Let me finish!" Kim said. "BUT...we need your help to get home, and maybe we can find a way to send you and your sisters back to your own world. IF! You promise to start over and be good from now on."

"Huh. Be good," Sonata said, rubbing her chin. "Well...I guess the whole being evil thing was a lot of work, so...I dunno, maybe?"

Kim sighed. "I guess that'll do for now," she said. "So...got any ideas?"

Sonata thought for a minute. "Ah! I've got it!"

"What?" Kim asked eagerly.

"I'm hungry!" Sonata announced. "Let's get tacos!"

Kim facepalmed.

"You know, I could go for tacos. Rufus?"

"Mmmtaco."

Kim sighed. "Fine,", she said. "But you're buying, because I don't think our money would work here."

Sonata giggled sheepishly. "Eheheheheheh...about that..."

Ron groaned. "This adventure is not off to a promising start."

Sonata Free Meal

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As they entered a more well-lit part of town, Kim studied their odd companion critically. She was dressed like a Japanese idol singer, and her light blue skin wasn't the only odd thing about her: she had bright purple eyes, and her hair, pulled into a high ponytail, was a medium shade of Arctic blue, with two darker blue streaks. "Uhh...so...Sonata...is that...your natural hair color?"

"Yeah," Sonata said.

"Interesting," Kim said.

"Blue skin, blue hair..." Ron shook his head. "Yeah, this girl is not normal."

"Hey! That wasn't very nice," Sonata said.

"Rooooon," Kim groaned through gritted teeth.

"Sorry," Ron said.

"Here it is," Sonata said. "Taco Tuesday's!"

Sonata led them into a fast food joint that reminded them of Bueno Nacho back home. A college-aged boy with pimples and dark orange skin, wearing a black smock with a picture of a taco on it and a taco-shaped hat, stood behind the counter. He looked up as they entered. "Welcome to Taco Tuesday's," he said in a bored tone. "Can I help you?"

"Hey Caramel!" Sonata said.

The boy rolled his eyes. "Hi Sonata," he said. "Weren't you just here about fifteen minutes ago?"

"My taco got zapped," Sonata said. "Oh, and these guys are hungry, but they don't have any money."

"No money, no tacos," Caramel said boredly.

Kim stepped up to the counter. "Excuse me," she said. "We've just...had a very strange accident, and we're a long way from home, and we really just need a place to sit, rest, and figure things out, and maybe a bite to eat. We'd be willing to wash dishes or clean the floors or something...anything to work off our meal."

Caramel frowned. "One second," he said. He leaned over to a swinging microphone next to the register. "Manager to the front," he said.

A woman with light purple skin and blond hair walked up beside him. "What's up?" she asked.

"These people want to work for food," Caramel said boredly.

"We're from way out of town and we don't have any money," Kim explained. "Could we maybe just...?"

The manager shrugged. "Sure, why not." She looked around, scratching her cheek. "Tell you what. You can eat for an hour, then you have to work for an hour."

"Deal!" Kim agreed. "Thank you."

"Eh." The manager wandered back into the back.

Caramel gave them a bored look. "So, take your order?" he asked.

"I don't suppose you have nacos here, huh?" Ron asked.

"Nachos? Yeah, we got nachos."

"No, not...not nachos, nac...you know what, nevermind." Ron looked at the big board. "I'll take the number two combo and the number three combo. Oh, and the chimicherrychanga. I have no idea what that is, but it sounds wacky."

"Oooh, chimicherrychangas! I love those!" Sonata said. "I'll have two of those and the number one."

"I'll take the number four and a small taco salad," Kim said.

A few minutes later, they were seated at a dingy table, trays of greasy Mexican fast food and cups of watered-down soda in front of them. Just as they had sat down, four girls walked into the restaurant and up to the counter. One had grey skin and black hair, one had pale white skin and electric blue hair and wore huge purple shades, the third had mint green skin and spiky silver-and-spearmint hair, and the fourth had pale yellowish skin with curly hair which was half indigo and half pink.

"So uh, KP," Ron said as he watched the group at the counter, "have you noticed that the people here are kinda...well..."

"Technicolor?" Kim said, her eyes wide as she studied the four girls. "Yeah, I noticed." She looked at Sonata. "What's up with that?"

"What's up with what?" Sonata replied blankly.

"Ummm..." Kim looked at Ron, shrugging helplessly.

"Where we come from, people aren't, you know...blue and green and grey and stuff," Ron said. "I mean, normal people aren't."

"Oh," Sonata said. She frowned. "That's weird."

"You think we're weird?" Ron asked.

Kim sighed. "Ron...we're aliens here. So yes. We're weird."

"KP, we're NOT aliens! We're humans!"

Kim pinched the bridge of her nose. "Moving along..." She picked up her spork and stirred her salad. "Sonata, would you tell us a little more about where we are, how we got here, and what exactly you were doing when we met you?"

Sonata opened a hot sauce packet and drizzled it on a chicken fiesta taco. "Okay, so like...this world is really boring, and I'm from Equestria, which is a magical world that's mostly inhabited by ponies. A really long time ago, my sisters and I tried to conquer Equestria with our magic, but this old geezer named Starswirl banished us here. We've been wandering around this world for a long time, using our magic to make people fight each other, then feeding off their anger and hate, which is what powers our magic, then we used that magic to stay young and keep making people do whatever we wanted. Then several months ago we felt Equestrian magic here in this world, and we started trying to find it. A few weeks ago, we tracked it down to Canterlot High, and forced our way into the school, then made the principal change their music festival to a Battle of the Bands so we could suck the students dry with our magic while we tried to find the Equestrian magic. We found the girls who had it, and Adagio, that's my sister, thought we could steal their magic if we made them hate each other, so we messed with them until they got mad at each other, then we stole some of their magic and used it to try to take over the whole school. I think that was supposed to help us take over the world somehow? Anyway, those girls stopped fighting each other and went back to fighting us, and they pulled some kind of super finishing move that busted our magic jewels. Now we can't sing anymore and we can't make people fight each other, so we're pretty much just...normal girls now." She sighed. "And I really hate it here and I want to go home. So anyway, I found out there's a portal to Equestria at Canterlot High, so I decided to see if I could force it open with the pieces of my magic jewel and a car battery. I think maybe it was starting to work, but something went wrong, and...here you are."

Kim frowned as she digested this. "So...you were using a busted magical doo-dad to tamper with a portal to another world that you don't know anything about?"

Sonata thought about that. "Yep!"

"Oy." Kim shook her head. "You said there were other girls who have magic...why didn't you just ask them for help?"

"Umm, because we turned the whole school against them and made them fight with each other and then tried to kill them with our magic?"

"Yep, that's a good reason," Ron said.

"Well, right now it sounds like those girls are our best bet for finding a way out of this world and back to Middleton," Kim said. She took a bite of her salad. "So, this Equestria...you said it's inhabited by...ponies?"

"Uh-huh!" Sonata said. "These humans in this world, there's nothing like them in Equestria. Well, there's some minotaurs, and I think maybe a centaur? But no humans. It's all unicorns and pegasuses and earth ponies. It's funny that the people in this world speak the same language as the ponies in Equestria."

"Talking...horses?" Ron said.

"Frrreaky," Rufus murmured from inside a burrito.

Kim frowned. "You just said there's no humans in Equestria. But...you are a human..."

"Eh, here I am, yeah," Sonata said. "In Equestria, we were seaponies. You know, half fish, half pony?" She gestured with a chimicherrychanga. "That Twilight Sparkle that came here from Equestria turned into a human too. I think it's just something about this world, or the portal or whatever. Coming here from Equestria turns you into a human."

"Well, we've seen magic do some pretty freaky stuff," Kim said.

"Oooh, your world has magic too?" Sonata asked.

"Some," Kim said. "It's pretty rare, though."

"Yeah, except that we always manage to run right into it," Ron added. "Especially if it's monkey magic."

"Hoo-hoo, monkey," Rufus chittered.

Sonata frowned. "That...thing...how can it talk?"

"What, Rufus?" Ron shrugged. "Beats me. I just figured it's something all naked mole-rats can do." He unwrapped a chimicherrychanga, inspecting it from every angle before taking a bite. His eyes widened. "Whoa."

"I know, right!" Sonata said.

"KP, you gotta try this," Ron said. "My mind...is blown."

Kim frowned. "What is it?"

Sonata tore her second chimicherrychanga in half and gave half to Kim. "It's kind of like a cherry pie except it's deep-fried and it's a tortilla instead of a pie crust and the filling is a little spicy."

Kim took a bite. "Huh. That's not bad."

"Oh, I have so got to get the recipe," Ron said. "Bueno Nacho should have these. It'll be the next naco!"

"Well, anyway...it looks like it's pretty late, so..." Kim sipped her soda. "We should finish eating, do whatever work they need us to do to pay off our food, then find a place to sleep."

Sonata sighed. "I guess...you'll have to come back to my place," she said. "I just hope Adagio and Aria don't act too cranky."

Once they finished eating, the manager assigned them various tasks. Kim was put to work cleaning the prep area, Ron was tasked with cleaning the men's restroom, and Sonata was asked to mop the floor and wipe down tables.

While Kim was cleaning the vegetable washing station, the girl with the shades and electric blue hair walked over. "Hey," she said, a concerned frown on her face.

"Yes?" Kim asked.

"I saw you hanging out with Sonata Dusk," the girl said. "You want to watch out for her. She's trouble."

"So I've heard," Kim said. "But we're a long way from home and she's trying to help us, so...for now, I trust her."

"Okay...just don't say I didn't warn you."

Once Kim, Ron, and Sonata had cleaned practically every inch of Taco Tuesday's, the manager bid them farewell, and Sonata led the displaced teens to a darker, grittier section of town. "Just so you know," she said, "our place is small and a little cramped...and not really all that cozy..."

Sonata Comfy Bed

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"Wow, this place is...small. And cramped."

"And doesn't look very cozy."

The Sirens' apartment was in a dingy, run-down building in a part of town where most of the streetlights didn't work. When Sonata unlocked the front door, Kim and Ron were treated to a view of a tiny living room with discolored, threadbare carpet, trash all over the room, an old, stained sofa with some of the stuffing peeking out of splits in the cushions, a couple of steel folding chairs next to a rusty old card table, and a small television set perched on a milk crate. A girl with dusty purple-pink skin sat on the sofa. Her hair was grape soda purple with thin seafoam-green streaks, tied up in twin ponytails. She looked up as the door opened; her eyes fell on Kim and Ron, and she frowned. "Jeez, Sonata...why'd you bring people here?"

"Umm...I kinda did something that...didn't go as planned."

The girl on the sofa snorted and rolled her eyes. "There's a surprise."

Sonata frowned. "Kim, Ron, this is my sister Aria Blaze."

"Hello Aria," Kim said. "I'm Kim Possible."

"And I'm Ron Stoppable."

"And I don't care," Aria said. "Thanks for stopping by, hope I never see you again."

"Aria, they need our help," Sonata said.

"Our help? Our help?" Aria stared at Sonata incredulously. "Sonata, we don't help people. We never have. We never will. That's not who we are."

"Well...maybe just this once?" Sonata pleaded. "Because they're kind of stuck in this world just like we are, and it's kind of my fault..."

Aria seemed about to retort, but stopped suddenly. "Wait. What do you mean, 'stuck in this world'?" She looked at Kim and Ron. "You're...you're not from Equestria, are you?"

"No, we're from a completely different world," Kim said. "Sonata told us all about Equestria and this place after we got here, though."

Aria frowned. "Okay. So...Sonata...how is it your fault that two strangers from another world wound up here?"

Sonata took a deep breath. "I tried to open a portal back to Equestria and it backfired."

Aria stared at her. "You...you WHAT?!"

"Well the two of YOU haven't been doing anything but moping and being miserable jerks since we lost the battle!" Sonata cried. "I...I just wanted to go home. I wanted to get away from this stupid world."

Aria gave Sonata a level, measuring gaze. "How...what made you think you could even find a way to open a portal home?"

"Oh, there's one at the high school," Sonata said. "It just isn't open. I thought if there was any magic left in the pieces of my gem, I could force it open. So I hooked all my gem pieces up to a car battery and taped them to the portal."

Aria stared at her. "That...is the most idiotic thing I've ever heard you say or do."

"It worked," Sonata said, crossing her arms.

Aria blinked. "Say what?"

"Well...it half-worked," Sonata said. "I mean, I did open a portal. Just...not the one I was trying to open, and all it did was dump these two here and explode."

Aria stared, slack-jawed, from Sonata to the two aliens. "You...have got to be kidding me."

"It's true," Kim said. "And Sonata said she'll help us try to find a way back to our world. And in return, we're going to try to help you get back to your world. But only if you promise not to hurt anyone ever again."

"Hmm..." Aria rubbed her chin thoughtfully. "ADAGIO! GET OUT HERE!"

Down the tiny, narrow hall, a door opened. "What IS it, Aria?" a grouchy voice answered. A third girl walked into the room, and Kim had to fight the urge to stare at her hair.

Ron didn't even make an effort. "That...is a LOT of hair," he said.

The third Siren had light apricot skin, a perfect figure...and at least sixty pounds of orange hair. Her hair was larger than her head and torso combined.

Hair Girl stared at Kim and Ron, frowning. "Who are they?" she asked.

"They might be our ticket home," Aria said. "Kam and Run, was it? This is Adagio."

"Kim, actually," Kim said.

"And Ron. With an 'on'."

Adagio studied them haughtily. "They don't look like much," she said. "I don't even have to have magic to know they're not from Equestria."

"No, but they're not from this world either," Aria said. "Sonata, explain it again."

Sonata told Adagio what she had told Aria. As she spoke, Adagio's expression shifted from measured annoyance, to surprise, to anger, to disbelief, to thoughtful contemplation.

"...and so Kim and Ron want to help us figure out how to get that portal open so we can go home," Sonata said. "And they need our help to find a way back to their world."

"Hmm..." Adagio stroked her chin. "And you say you'll help us if we promise to change our wicked ways?"

"You have my word," Kim said.

Adagio stared levelly at Kim for some time. "I'll think it over," she said. "In the meantime, you can spend the night here. Tomorrow you'll need to make other arrangements, you understand." She gestured around the tiny living room. "We aren't exactly a five-star hotel here."

"So not the drama," Kim said. "Thank you for letting us stay tonight."

"Kim, you can stay in mine and Aria's room!" Sonata said excitedly.

"Hey! What about me?" Aria asked hotly.

"Oh, you can stay in Adagio's room with her," Sonata said airily.

"Fine," Aria grumbled. She glared at Ron. "You. Couch."

"Cool."

A short while later, Kim followed Sonata to a tiny room that held only a large wardrobe and a small bunk bed...and piles of dirty clothes in the corners. "You want the top bunk?" Sonata asked. "It's usually mine, but if you want it..."

"No, I'm good with the bottom. Unless you want the bottom."

"Nah, I like the top bunk." Sonata climbed up to her bed. "I'm sooooo tired," she said. "G'nite, Kim!"

"Goodnight, Sonata," Kim said as she slid into the bottom bunk, staring out the tiny window at the starry sky.

She wriggled around. The mattress was rock hard, and a spring was poking her in the rear end.

She fluffed the pillow and turned over, using her cheerleader agility to contort her body in such a way as to avoid the rogue spring.

Another spring caught her just below her armpit.

Outside, a dog started howling. Two more joined in.

"This is gonna be a long night," Kim muttered.

Sonata Morning Person

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Kim woke to the entire bed bouncing. "Nnnngh...what?"

"Wakey-wakey, Kim!" Sonata said cheerfully.

Groggily, Kim sat up. It took a moment for the events of last night to permeate her brain, but once they did, she was wide awake—if not entirely clear-headed or well-rested. "I'm up," she said. She pulled herself off the bed, grimacing as she felt what was sure to be a rather nasty bruise forming from the loose spring in the mattress. "No wonder that Aria girl is so grouchy," she muttered.

She followed Sonata out into the living room. Ron was sitting on the couch, rubbing his eyes. Aria sat in one of the chairs by the table, looking rested but surly.

A few minutes later, Adagio walked in through the front door, carrying a box of donuts. She set it on the card table, then went into the kitchen and came back with napkins and paper plates. "Aria, didn't you make any coffee?" she asked.

"You know I hate coffee," Aria said.

"I need my coffee," Adagio muttered. She laid the plates and napkins on the table, then headed back into the kitchen. "Two donuts each," she said. "If I don't find my two donuts out there when I get the coffee done, I'm kicking all your butts."

"Wow, not a morning person, is she?" Kim asked.

"You have no idea," Aria said.

"Usually she's a lot worse," Sonata chipped in.

Once she had a couple of donuts in her, Kim felt a little more awake. "So, Sonata," she asked, "any ideas on where Ron and I can stay until we figure out how to get home?"

"I dunno," Sonata said with a shrug. "Hey Adagio, got any ideas on where they can go?"

Adagio walked in with a cup of coffee. "I'm guessing they don't have any money," she said.

"Good guess," Kim agreed.

"Hmm." Adagio sipped her coffee. "Word around town is Sweet Apple Acres could use a little help," she said. "Maybe you could work for room and board."

"What's Sweet Apple Acres?" Kim asked.

"Oh, it's a big apple farm!" Sonata said.

Kim shrugged. "Farm work's not so bad."

"Not so bad?" Ron echoed petulantly.

"Not if we want food and a roof over our heads," Kim said.

"Hmm. Good point."

"I'd show you where it is, but..." Adagio shook her head. "We're definitely not welcome there."

"Really? How come?"

Sonata fidgeted. "You know those girls I mentioned? The ones who beat us and took away our magic?" At Kim's nod, Sonata continued, "One of those girls lives there."

"Oh," Kim said. "Well...if it's a big apple farm, I'm sure we can find it ourselves." She sighed. "Then we'll just...have to see if we can figure out a way to get that portal open, or find some other way to go back to our dimension..."

Adagio snorted. "I wouldn't even begin to know what to tell you there," she said. "If the only clue we've got is those Rainboom girls, we're out of luck. There's no way they'd ever agree to help us."

Kim frowned. "Maybe with the right approach, they'd be willing to forgive and help you. I know I've helped some of my enemies before. That's the thing about good people. Good people help people who are in trouble, even if they're bad people."

Adagio rolled her eyes and went back to her coffee.

Kim sighed. "Well...one problem at a time. Ron? We're leaving." She turned to Sonata. "Thanks for helping us. We'll be in touch as soon as we know anything."

"Hey...take Sonata with you," Aria said suddenly.

"How's that now?" Kim asked.

"You just said it yourself. Good people help bad people if they're in trouble." Aria smirked. "Just look at Sonata. She's hopeless. If there's any chance of the Rainbladders helping us, Sonata's the key."

Ron frowned. "You know, she's got a point. I mean, Sonata told us she's evil and I still don't believe it. She's just too...nice."

"Aww, thank you!" Sonata said.

Kim raised an eyebrow. "Okay. I'll go along with that. What do you say, Sonata? Would you like to come with us to an apple farm and do back-breaking labor for room and board?"

"Sure!" Sonata agreed happily.

"Well then let's go," Kim said.

Once they were on the street, Kim asked, "So...where is this Sweet Apple Acres?"

"I have no idea!" Sonata said cheerfully.

"Greeat," Kim groaned. She was about to turn and walk back upstairs when she heard the rumble of an engine. A beat-up old pickup truck trundled down the road, kicking up dust and billowing exhaust. Three huge hay bales sat in the bed of the truck.

"Looks like farmers," Ron said. "Maybe they'll know."

"Worth a shot," Kim said. She stepped into the road and waved her arms. The truck slowed to a halt, engine idling.

A teenage girl with long blond hair, green eyes, and a smattering of freckles leaned out, pushing her battered brown Stetson out of her eyes. "Help you with somethin'?" she asked with a country twang.

"I hope so," Kim said. "We're new in town and we're kind of in a bind...you wouldn't happen to know where we can find Sweet Apple Acres, would you?"

The girl chuckled. "Reckon Ah do, it's mah home."

"Oh! That's convenient," Kim said. "We were actually kind of hoping we might be able to work for room and board on the farm. We heard a rumor..."

The girl frowned. "Hmm." She turned to talk to the driver of the truck. "Whaddya think, Big Mac? Couple workers for th' farm? We've got th' room for 'em."

"Eeyup," a deep voice rumbled over the truck's engine.

The girl looked back at Kim, grinning. "Pile on in th' back," she said. "Might be a tight fit, but..." She trailed off as she espied Sonata. Her cheerful expression darkened. "Uhh...y'all weren't plannin' on bringin' that one along, were ya?"

"Hi Applejack!" Sonata said cheerfully, waving. "I'm not evil anymore! Well, not very evil. These two really need help, and I kinda need to stick with them. Pleasies? I'll do just as much work as they do, for realzies!"

Applejack's brow furrowed. "Well..." She sighed. "Heck. Alright. But any shenanigans an' you're out."

"I promise she'll behave herself," Kim said.

"Alright," Applejack said. "Get on in. We'll get all friendly-like when we get to th' farm."

Sonata Hayride

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The drive to Sweet Apple Acres was long and bumpy. The truck's suspension was shot, so even the slightest bump in the road had Kim, Ron, and Sonata bouncing into each other and the hay bales. Only five minutes into the trip, Kim had hay all in her hair and had been poked repeatedly in the arms by straw.

When they finally arrived—which took over half an hour, because the truck couldn't do over forty—the three rattled teens followed their hosts into a rustic, comfortable farmhouse.

"Sorry fer th' rough ride," Applejack said. "Tain't no better up front, but Ah reckon all that hay didn't help."

"It's...it's alright," Kim said.

"Ah'm Applejack, by the way," Applejack said. "This here's mah brother Big Macintosh. Ah already know this one," she said, motioning at Sonata, "but who are y'all folks?"

"I'm Kim Possible, and this is Ron Stoppable."

"And this is Rufus!" Ron said, introducing his naked mole rat.

Applejack scratched her head. "Huh. That's a mighty odd little critter." She shrugged. "Well...c'mon in, set a spell. Ah'll fetch us all a drink. We can chit-chat like, then git down t' business."

Moments later, Applejack, Kim, Ron, Sonata, and Big Macintosh sat around the living room with cold bottles of fizzy apple cider. "So, whut's yer story?" Applejack asked.

"This may sound hard to believe," Kim said, "but...we're from another dimension, and we're a little...stuck."

Applejack frowned. "Equestria?"

"Nope, different dimension," Ron said.

"I uhh...tried to force open that portal at CHS, and I had a little oopsie," Sonata said.

Applejack raised an eyebrow. "An' jes' why in tarnation were you foolin' with that there portal?"

Sonata looked down. "I just...wanted to go home."

Applejack's eyes softened. "Well...dang it all..." She sighed. "Ah don't know nothin' about all this magic an' other worlds stuff. You'll wanna talk t' Sunset Shimmer about all that. But, Ah can put y'all up here until y'all can git yerselves home." She took a swig of cider, then looked at Sonata. "Now, about you..."

Sonata gulped.

"Whut happened t' them other two Sirens?"

"Oh, they're still in the city," Sonata said. "They wanna go home too. But we'll need help. And...they weren't sure you'd be willing to help us. We don't really belong in your world." She sighed. "I don't know if they'll even let us go back to Equestria, but...I just wanna go home. I can't promise Adagio and Aria will behave themselves, but I'm gonna try. For realzies."

"Well heck, you shoulda just asked us in th' first place," Applejack said. "Ah'm sure Sunset Shimmer woulda wrote t' Princess Twilight. Ah mean, we all forgave her, an' she was causin' trouble 'round here a heck of a lot longer than y'all were." She frowned. "You sure you wanna work here fer a room? Sounds t' me like you got a place t' stay."

"Well...I need to stick close to Kim and Ron," Sonata said. "I mean...it was my taco that zapped them here, so it's my fault they're stuck...and it'll be easier to keep up with what's going on with the portal and everything if I'm around when it happens."

"Fair enough," Applejack said. "Well, Ah reckon Kim an' Sonata can take th' guest room...Ron, you'll hafta bunk in th' barn, but it ain't so bad. Ah got a sleepin' bag an' we can set you up a nice little camp out there." She looked at the clock. "Granny oughta have lunch up pretty soon." She frowned. "Ah'd call Sunset Shimmer, but Ah know she went t' some film festival with Rainbow Dash an' Pinkie Pie today, so she probably ain't got service. We'll holler at 'er later." She put her empty cider bottle on the table and stretched her arms out. "Ah'll git y'all started on some chores after lunch."

A short while later, everyone was called to the kitchen by Applejack's grandmother Granny Smith, an elderly woman with pale green skin, deep wrinkles, and her grey hair in a bun. As they all sat at the table, Granny Smith looked around. "Well now, who do we have here?"

"Couple'a boarders," Applejack said. "They're gonna work fer beds an' meals."

"Really now? Well, pleased t' meetcha," Granny Smith said. "Y'all help yerselves, don't be shy now."

"Please and thank you!" Kim said, reaching for a serving platter and heaping green beans onto her plate. Ron reached for the mashed potatoes, while Sonata spooned fried okra onto her plate. A minute later, a platter of fried chicken was passed around, and everybody took two pieces (or three, in Big Mac's case).

Once everyone had gotten what they wanted, they started eating. "Wow, this is really good!" Kim said.

"Yeah! This is so much better than...well...anything I've ever eaten in this world!" Sonata said.

"Yep, this here's some primo chow," Ron said. He gave Rufus a piece of fried okra.

"Mmm-hmm, homecookin'," Rufus agreed, chomping it down eagerly.

Granny Smith stared at Rufus. "Now whut kinda varmint's that?"

"Rufus is a naked mole rat," Kim said. "Don't worry about him, he's probably the most well-behaved pet in the world."

"An' here Ah thought Spike was th' only talkin' critter," Applejack said, shaking her head.

"We...don't even really know how he does that," Ron said.

Over lunch, Kim and Ron told the Apple family about themselves: that they had recently graduated high school, that they were a steady couple, that they regularly saved the world from a variety of evil villains, and that this wasn't their first brush with other worlds or other dimensions.

"Huh," Applejack said. "Sounds like y'all have quite th' excitin' life."

"A little too exciting sometimes," Ron said.

"Well, Ah'm a junior at CHS, Big Mac here's a senior, mah lil' sis Apple Bloom is a freshman..." Applejack waved a chicken leg around as she spoke. "Ma an' Pa passed a few years back, so me an' Big Mac run th' farm when we're not in school. Granny's the school lunch lady. Oh, an' Ah'm in a band with mah friends." She gave Sonata a smug look. "A band that won th' Battle o' th' Bands a little while back."

Sonata ducked her head. "Okay, yeah, so you're pretty good," she said.

"Ooh, you're in a rock band?" Kim asked. "Spankin'! What do you play?"

"Bass."

Ron looked at his hands. "You know, I tried to learn to play bass once. Didn't care for the blisters."

"Can I ask a really stupid question?" Kim asked. "What do you call this world?"

Applejack scratched her head. "Earth."

Sonata gasped. "Oh my gosh! Kim! You said you're from Earth! That means you just need to get a ride back home!" She bounced in her seat. "Yay! Things worked out okay!"

"Uhh...not so much, Sonata," Kim said. "I'm pretty sure the Earth we're from and this Earth aren't the same Earth."

"Yeah, we don't have blue and green people on our Earth," Ron said. "I mean, you know, normally. Drakken and Shego don't count, they're freaks."

"Ron!"

"What? They are. I mean, yeah, they're okay freaks, you know, now..."

"ANYway," Kim said, "there's also the fact that the Kimmunicator doesn't work. If we were really still on our Earth, it'd work no matter where we were."

"Well, don't fret none now, missy," Granny Smith said. "You'll find your way home, an' we'll take good care'a y'all here at Sweet Apple Acres 'til y'do."

"Thanks, Granny Smith," Kim said.

Once everyone had eaten their fill and Kim had helped wash the dishes, Applejack led Kim, Ron, and Sonata out into the orchard. "Now, there's pickin' to be done all up in th' east field, so that's what we're gonna be doin' today..."

Sonata Easy Job

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"'Nother one," Ron called down. Sonata stood at the base of the tree, holding up a wooden bucket. Ron, clinging to the trunk of the tree, dropped a ripe apple into the bucket. He climbed around to the other side of the tree and picked another apple. "'Nother one."

At the neighboring tree, Kim leapt straight up, caught a branch with her fingertips, flipped up, and snatched two apples off the branch above her. She dropped down, put them in a bucket on the ground, then jumped up into the tree again.

"'Nother one..."

"How're y'all comin' along?" Applejack asked.

"I've already cleared two trees," Kim said. "Not bad for an hour's work."

"We're still on this tree," Ron said. "I can only pick one at a time since, you know, gotta hang on for dear life here..."

Applejack rolled her eyes. "Well, so long as y'all're makin' headway." She scratched her head. "C'mon down outta there, rest up a sec."

Kim dropped to the ground, while Ron climbed down. Ron was dripping sweat; Kim had a faint sheen of sweat on her brow, but seemed largely unfazed by the high-intensity apple picking.

"Good...a break'd be nice..."

"Well, a break of sorts," Applejack said. "Y'all can pick up mah drops." She walked over to another, sturdy-looking tree, examining it critically. With a nod, she took a step back, then turned and delivered a swift spinning kick to the trunk of the tree.

Fifty apples dropped to the ground.

Ron's jaw dropped.

Kim stared. "Whoa."

Applejack grinned, buffing her nails on her shirt as she leaned against the tree. "You just gotta have th' right touch," she said.

"Remind me never to tick you off," Kim said as she grabbed a bucket and started picking up apples. Ron and Sonata followed suit, while Applejack walked over to another tree and kicked it, unburdening it of its load.

"HOW?" Ron wondered. "Who the heck just...just kicks a tree and makes all the fruit fall out?"

After dropping the apples from five trees, Applejack grabbed a bucket and helped the others pick up the precious fruit.

"So uhh...nice trick," Kim said. "How do you do that?"

Applejack shrugged. "Just somethin' Ah learned from my Pa an' Big Mac." She smirked. "How do you do all that jumpin' an' flippin'?"

"Years of cheerleading and saving the world from evil," Kim said.

Applejack looked around at the full buckets of apples surrounding them. "Welp, let's haul these out t' th' storehouse."

Carrying two buckets each, the teens walked across the farm to the low stone storehouse. Applejack pulled the door open with a foot, then led the others inside. The cavernous building was filled with barrels, some partially full, some overfull, all sorted by type. They set their baskets on a large work table at the back of the room. "Alright, let's see..." Applejack cast a critical eye over the buckets. "We've got Red Delicious, Granny Smith, an' Fuji here..." She sorted the buckets into three groups. She looked around the room, then quickly carried buckets over to barrels and began dumping them in, except for the last bucket; she motioned for the others to follow her as she carried this bucket to the farmhouse. Along the side wall of the house was a free-standing water spigot, with a wooden crossbar hammered into the ground next to it that had a couple of towels hanging from it. She turned on the water, then washed and polished three apples, handing one each to Kim, Ron, and Sonata, before taking one for herself. "Y'all more than earned a snack break," she said.

"Thanks," Kim said, biting into the apple. Juice dripped down her chin. "Oh. Oh, this is good."

"Sooo juuuuuicy," Sonata murmured, eyes rolling back in her head as she savored the fruit.

"Mmm...now that is a good apple. And you know it's true because I don't usually eat fruit," Ron said.

"It's true, he doesn't," Kim said, smirking and rolling her eyes. She looked around the farm. "So it's really just you and your brother taking care of all of this?" she asked.

"Eeyup."

"And you both go to school?"

"Eeyup."

"And you find time to be in a band?"

"Eeyup."

Kim blinked. "Wow. And I thought I had a busy life."

A faint music could be heard from Applejack's pocket. She reached in and pulled out her phone, glancing at the screen. "Oh hey, it's Sunset Shimmer!" She held the phone up to hear ear. "Howdy, Sunset! Ah thought y'all'd still be in that movie...oh? Aww, that's a shame. Yeah. Well, listen, can you come out t' th' farm? Ah got a couple people here that need some help, an' you're th' one that can help 'em. Ah hope." She listened for a minute. "Well, they're kinda...far from home, if'n y' know whut Ah mean. ...no, it ain't that simple. Better come 'round an' let them explain. Thanks." She put her phone away. "Okay y'all...Sunset Shimmer's comin' 'round fer supper. Y'all can tell her everything, an' she'll know whut t' do. Ah hope."

"Thanks, Applejack," Kim said. "We really appreciate it."

"Shucks, it ain't nothin'," Applejack said. She finished off her apple and tossed the core back into the bucket. "Welp...meantime, let's git back t' work."

Sonata Normal Dinner Conversation

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By the time Applejack called a halt for supper, Ron could barely move his arms anymore, Kim was utterly exhausted, and Sonata looked like she was about to pass out. "I've never done any actual work before," Sonata whined. "It's haaaaard!"

Applejack chuckled. "Heh...jes' wait, a few days of this an' you'll be fitter'n a fiddle."

As they approached the farmhouse, the sound of a motorcycle engine drew near. Peering at the dusty trail that led from the main road to the farm proper, they could see a cloud of dust rising. A dark shape peeled out of the dust; a minute later, a motorcycle coasted to a stop near Big Mac's old pickup. A booted foot lowered the kickstand. The rider got off and removed a black helmet decorated with purple flames, which matched her knee-high boots.

A girl with amber skin, wearing an orange skirt with two colored stripes on one side, a light purple top, and a black leather jacket walked up to the group. Her teal eyes shone with intelligence and a hint of suspicion, and her wavy copper-and-gold hair shone in the afternoon sun.

"Howdy, Sunset Shimmer!" Applejack called.

"Hey Applejack," Sunset replied with a wave. She frowned at Sonata, then looked Kim and Ron up and down appraisingly. "And you are?"

"Kim Possible," Kim said.

"And Ron Stoppable," Ron added.

"Uh-huh," Sunset said.

"Umm...Sunset Shimmer?" Sonata said hesitantly. "Can...can you help fix the mess I made? And maybe help me get home?"

Sunset looked the three of them over, a mild frown on her face. "We'll discuss it over dinner," she said. "Haven't had Granny Smith's cooking in a while. Well, except for school lunches."

"We're havin' steak fingers an' country gravy tonight," Applejack said, grinning.

Sunset's eyes lit up. "Awesome."

"Ooh, that sounds num," Ron said.

"It does actually," Kim said. "If a bit fattening."

"We don't gotta worry 'bout that none around here," Applejack said with a smirk. The others laughed.

The group went inside and sat around the table. They were soon joined by Big Macintosh and a young girl with yellow skin and long pinkish-red hair. She looked around at all the new faces in confusion—and slight fear when she espied Sonata. "Uhh...hi?" she ventured.

"Kim, Ron, this is mah lil' sis Apple Bloom," Applejack said. "Apple Bloom, this is Kim an' Ron, they're our new boarders an' workers. Sonata's stayin' here a spell too...she's workin' as hard as they are, though, so don't fret none about her."

"Okay," Apple Bloom said uncertainly.

Granny Smith soon bustled out of the kitchen, setting platters on the table. She went from plate to plate, setting a teacup full of cream gravy on each plate, then dishing out golden brown steak fingers, thick, hand-cut fries, and thick-sliced griddle toast. "There's plenty more if'n y'all want seconds," she said as she served herself and sat down.

"This. Is. So awesome," Ron said. "You ROCK, Granny Smith."

"Awww, shucks," Granny Smith said, chuckling.

For a few minutes, everyone ate in silence, save for the occasional compliment to Granny or noise of appreciation. After finishing off three steak fingers and a handful of fries, Sunset dipped her toast in the gravy, then looked across the table. "So...Applejack said somebody's been messing with the portal, and now somebody's stuck in this world that doesn't belong here?"

"That's right," Kim said. Kim and Ron did their best to explain the situation as they understood it. Sonata then filled in her part of the story, detailing exactly what she had done at the portal.

"And then it all just blew up and there they were," Sonata finished. "I'm really sorry! I just...I really wanted to go back to Equestria." She sniffled. "There's kinda nothing left for us in this world...well, we always hated this world anyway...and..."

Sunset frowned. "You were banished here for a reason, you know."

Sonata looked down. "I know," she said. "I know. But...but I can't hurt anyone anymore, right? So...so why can't I just...go home?"

Sunset's eyes softened. "Sonata, I..." She sighed. "I'll have to talk to Princess Twilight. I can't open the portal for you. It can only open from Equestria. And...she might not...I mean..."

Sonata sighed. "I know."

"But I'll ask, I promise," Sunset said. She looked at Kim and Ron, frowning. "Now, getting you guys back where you belong...that's another matter entirely." She took a bite of toast. "I just...I don't even know where to begin. If there's a way to send you back where you belong, it's...it's going to be like finding a needle in a haystack. Unless Twilight happens to have miraculously studied exactly the right magic to send you home, but...the odds of that are astronomical."

"Any chance at all is better than none," Kim said.

"I just wonder how the portal backfired the way it did," Sunset said. "As far as I know, that portal only connects this world and Equestria. There shouldn't be any way it could connect to another world entirely."

"It was the taco!" Sonata said. "I told you, the taco did it!"

Sunset facepalmed. "Sonata...your taco theory is ridiculous. I'm sorry, but there's just no way that a taco can interfere with complex interdimensional conduit magic."

Ron tilted his head. "We were in a Mexican restaurant..."

"Hey, yeah!" Sonata said, nodding rapidly.

Sunset groaned. "I'm telling you, it's NOT the taco!" She sighed. "I've got the journal I use to talk to Twilight in my bag. It's out on my bike. I'll go get it after dinner and write to her."

"Thank you," Kim said. "We really appreciate it."

Sunset smiled. "I'll do my best to get you guys home." She looked at Sonata. "And I'll make the best case I can to Twilight. In the end, it's up to her, but...I'll try."

Sonata sniffled. "For realzies?"

"For realzies," Sunset said, rolling her eyes and laughing.

"You're the best! I'm so sorry I taunted you and tried to suck out all your magic!"

Everyone except Granny Smith had seconds; Applejack, Big Macintosh, Kim, Ron, and Sonata all had thirds. By the time they were finished, there was almost nothing left of the sizeable meal Granny Smith had prepared. They moved to the living room, nursing cold sodas. Ron patted his swollen belly and groaned; Kim was half-asleep in her easy chair.

Sunset returned from her bike, carrying her bag. She pulled an antiquated book out of it and spread it open on the table; taking a ball-point pen from her bag, she began writing.

Dear Princess Twilight,

Something's come up and I really need your help...

Sonata Long Wait

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"So that's like...a magic book," Ron said.

"That's right," Sunset said. "I write in this, and what I write appears in its twin back in Equestria."

"Cool."

"So, Sunset Shimmer," Kim began, "you're from this...Equestria place too?"

"That's right," Sunset said.

"She used to be evil just like me!" Sonata said cheerfully.

"Really?" Kim asked.

Sunset sighed. "Yes, really."

Applejack grinned. "Tell 'em all about th' Fall Formal," she said.

Sunset groaned. "Really, AJ? You're still—"

"Jes' teasin' ya, girl," Applejack said.

"Sunset Shimmer turned into a demon!" Apple Bloom piped up. "A real, no-foolin' demon!"

"A demon?" Kim asked, blinking. "That's a new one."

"No, I'm pretty sure we've done demons before," Ron said. "No, wait, wait, we just did devil robots."

"Hmm...you know, I can't honestly remember if we've ever fought a demon or not," Kim said, tapping her chin thoughtfully. "We've dealt with so much weird magic stuff, I just...really don't remember." At Sunset's bemused expression, Kim explained, "Me and Ron save the world a lot. Like, at least once a week."

"Huh. How screwed is your world without the two of you?" Sunset asked.

"Pretty screwed," Ron said.

"Sorry," Sonata said sadly.

The book on the table began to glow and vibrate. Kim, Ron, and Apple Bloom stared at it.

"Okay, that's just freaky," Ron said.

"Ah know all about cell phones, but..cell books?" Apple Bloom said.

Sunset rolled her eyes and opened the book. It flipped to a page where new writing was appearing in rushed, erratic script, written in violet ink. The entire room crowded around to read...

Dear Sunset Shimmer,

I'm performing a diagnostic of the portal on my end as soon as I finish writing this to determine if there's any damage to the dimensional conduit. It should take about eight hours to perform the complete analysis. As soon as I'm satisfied everything's working the way it's supposed to, I'll write back to let you know. If the portal's functioning properly, I want you and the others to meet at the statue and wait for my signal. I'll allow Sonata Dusk to return to Equestria temporarily, under close supervision, because I want to question her directly. You should bring those others you mentioned with you. Warn them about what'll happen to them when they enter the portal. Hopefully, I'll see you in the morning.

Your friend,
Twilight Sparkle

"So...we're going world-hopping again?" Kim asked.

"Apparently," Sunset said.

Sonata gasped happily. "I get to go home! Yay!"

"Temporarily," Sunset pointed out. "She didn't say anything about letting you stay there, and I'm pretty sure you won't like what she'll do to you if you try anything."

Sonata pouted. "Oh well...even just a little while in Equestria would be nice..."

Kim smiled. "I'm sure you'll get to go back home for good, Sonata."

"Well, if'n y'all ain't goin' noplace till mornin', y'all better git some shut-eye," Applejack said.

"I'd better get home," Sunset said. "AJ, I'll call you in the morning as soon as I hear from Twilight. You can get them to the school, right?"

"Yes ma'am," Applejack said. "Come on, y'all, let's git y'all settled in..."

The next morning, after breakfast, Sunset called Applejack. "Alright y'all, it's time t' head on out."

"All systems go?" Kim asked.

"Eeyup."

Kim, Ron, and Sonata piled into the old pickup; Applejack drove them to the school. Sunset was already waiting for them when they arrived. "We may be gone a day or two," Sunset advised. She handed Applejack the journal. "Possibly longer. I'll let you know as soon as we're ready to come back...assuming we don't find a way to get these two home."

Applejack took the journal, nodding. "Ah'll keep this safe," she said. "Y'all have a safe trip."

"Thank you, Applejack," Kim said. "For everything."

"Think nothin' of it, sugarcube," Applejack said. "Good luck. Hope y'all find your way home."

The base of the statue rippled, and a small purple dog trotted out. "All clear," he said, looking around. "Everybody coming to Equestria, follow me!"

"Whoa. Talking dog. Weird."

Sunset grinned. "It's about to get a lot weirder..."

Sonata Familiar Face

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"Now remember," Sunset said to Kim and Ron, "when you go through the portal, you're going to come out on the other side...different."

"Why is that, anyway?" Kim asked.

Sunset shrugged. "Humans don't exist in Equestria, just like Equestrian ponies and magical creatures don't exist here. Something about the portal's magic changes you when you pass through it." She braced herself. "Well...let's go." She stepped into the base of the statue, which rippled as she passed through it.

Kim and Ron turned to one another. With a shrug, they walked into the statue, followed by Sonata.

They were assaulted by a kaleidoscope of swirling, glowing colors. When Kim's vision cleared, she was treated to a lovely view of a cold, crystalline floor and a set of amber hooves. She looked up and saw a unicorn with Sunset Shimmer's hair and eyes looking down at her. "Welcome to Equestria," Sunset said.

"Ooohhhh...that was one wild ride," Kim said, struggling to stand. It didn't take her long to realize she had hooves; she took a moment to find her new center of gravity, then easily pushed herself up, her legs only wobbling slightly as she tried to figure them out. She felt the strangest sensation of having new limbs her brain wasn't quite familiar with; she decided to sort that out later. "So, uhh...what do I look like?"

Another unicorn—this one lavender, taller than Sunset Shimmer, and with wings—walked into view, smiling. "Just a moment; Spike is bringing a normal mirror for everyone." She looked past Kim; her eyes widened in surprise, and she was clearly fighting back laughter; her eyes shifted, and she tensed up.

Kim turned around. The first thing she saw was a mustard yellow donkey lying in a heap next to the portal. The next thing she saw...

"Whoa."

A sky-blue creature like nothing Kim had ever seen flew around the room. The front half of its body was a light blue equine, with spindly legs and broad hooves. Its head was longer than the other two ponies in the room; the shape of its head was more like a dragon than a horse, and instead of a mane, it had a broad, spiny fin that stretched from the crown of its head to the base of its neck. The back half of its body was a scaly mermaid tail, with shimmering scales in shades of medium blue and violet, ending in a broad fin matching the one on its neck. The creature opened its mouth wide...

"WHEE!" it shouted excitedly in the ditzy voice of Sonata Dusk. "I can fly again! Oh, this feels soooooo gooooooooooood..."

Sunset stared at Sonata, jaw agape. "Wow. That's your real form?"

"Uh-huh!" Sonata said, doing a lazy midair flip, her long body undulating. She made a pained face suddenly. "Oooh...I feel kinda itchy..."

A faint red glow lit Sonata's chest, pulsing brightly before fading. The lavender pony gasped; her horn began to glow as she studied Sonata intently. She frowned. "Your...your magic gem is...regenerating," she said. "That's very strange..."

Sonata gasped. "You mean I'm getting my magic back?"

"I'm afraid so," the pony Kim had not yet been introduced to said. "And that...could be a problem."

Sonata sagged in midair. "You won't let me come home if I have my magic back, will you?" she said sadly.

"I don't know, Sonata," the lavender pony said. "It...it depends on a lot of things."

"Oh, man..." Ron groaned. "KP? KP! I've got hooves! I've got hooves!"

Kim sighed. "I've got hooves too, Ron. We were told about this..."

A fancy mirror on wheels rolled into the room, pushed by a small purple dragon. Kim stepped over to the mirror and studied herself. Her entire body, including her hooves, was the same vivid purple as her mission outfit. She still had the same green eyes and the same long, flippy red hair. An equally long, equally flippy red tail grew out of her hind end. There was an emblem on her general butt area: a gold medal engraved with a picture of the Earth, with a red, white, and blue ribbon.

She also had wings. "Okay, so I'm a pegasus," Kim said. "Sure, why not?"

"Ohhh, KP! That stupid portal made an ass of me! Literally!"

Kim turned to see the donkey by the mirror trying to stand up and failing. Ron's wide, fearful eyes stared out of its—his—face.

Kim fought not to laugh, but failed. "It...it's not that bad, Ron..."

"Yeah, for you! You got wings! And you're not a donkey!"

"Eww, donkey," Rufus' voice said...but there was a piercing, avian sound to it.

"Rufus? Where are you, buddy?" Ron asked.

A shining red and gold phoenix—an actual phoenix—landed on Ron's head.

"Whoa," Kim said. "Rufus? Is that you?"

The phoenix nodded.

Ron groaned. "OH COME ON! SERIOUSLY?!"

The winged unicorn cleared her throat, drawing Kim's attention. "We haven't been introduced yet," she said. "My name is Twilight Sparkle."

"Kim Possible," Kim said. "Donkey-boy over there is my boyfriend Ron, and that phoenix is his pet Rufus."

Sunset tilted her head. "How does a naked pink weasel...thing...turn into a phoenix?"

"How does a dragon turn into a dog?" Twilight replied with a shrug. "I don't know how the portal works or why it does what it does. Anyway..." She looked up at Sonata, who was flying slow laps around the room. "We've got a lot of work to do, so we'd better get started." Her horn glowed, and Ron was lifted to his hooves. His knees wobbled for a moment, but he managed to stay standing. He took a shaky step forward, then let out a hesitant breath. After a moment, he was able to walk.

"This blows," he said.

"Stow the blowage, Ron," Kim said. "Focus on the mission." She looked at Twilight, frowning. "Question, though."

"Yes?"

"Okay, the unicorn thing, I get, but why do you have wings?"

Twilight laughed. "I'm an alicorn," she said. "It's...difficult to explain..."

"Twilight's a Princess, and one of the four most powerful ponies in Equestria," the dragon said helpfully.

"Okay, maybe not that difficult," Twilight said. "Thanks, Spike." She shook her head. "Anyway, let's get started. Sonata? Would you mind coming down from there?"

"No thanks, I'm good!" Sonata said.

Twilight frowned. "Let me put that another way." Her horn glowed; with a bright flash, Sonata was yanked out of the air and deposited awkwardly in a chair at the large reading table.

"Ouchies!" Sonata whined.

"Thank you," Twilight said primly, taking a seat at the head of the table. Sunset joined her, sitting at her left.

Kim looked at the chairs awkwardly. "Umm...is it okay if I stand?" she asked. "I'm...not even sure how to sit with this body."

Twilight laughed. "Sure, you and Ron can stand."

Ron fell flat on his face.

"Or not." Twilight rolled her eyes. "Alright...I want to know everything. First, Kim, Ron, I want you to tell me about your world."

"Well, there's not much to tell," Kim said. "We're from Earth, but not the same Earth we just left. There's magic in our world, but it's usually the bad kind of magic, and...well..." She trailed off. "Sorry, I'm just...not really sure what exactly you want to know."

"That's alright," Twilight said gently. She looked at Sonata. "Now...tell me exactly what you did the night these two came to your world. I want every detail." As Sonata took a deep breath, Twilight amended, "Of your attempt to open the portal."

Sonata stopped in mid-inhale. "Okay! Well..."

She rattled off the same account of her failed dimensional travel attempt that Kim, Ron, and Sunset had heard the night before. Only this time, she added a lot more technical details that Kim couldn't follow, about things like ley lines and bizarre mathematical equations and electromagical pulse feedback and a dozen other things that Kim had no frame of reference for.

"And then it zapped my taco and I saw the inside of a Mexican restaurant, and then the whole thing exploded and there they were!" Sonata finished.

Sunset groaned. "Sonata, will you knock it off with the taco already? For the last time, the taco isn't important!"

"Actually, I'm pretty sure the taco caused all this," Twilight said.

Sunset stared at her, jaw agape. "...WHAT?!"

Sonata smirked. "Booyah!"

Sonata Complete Ditz

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"How could a taco cause a dimension portal to go crazy?" Sunset demanded.

Twilight shrugged. "That's a good question, and I'm hoping we'll find an answer, but the fact that the cross-dimensional rip occurred when the magical feedback surge hit the taco seems significant."

Kim frowned. "Well, we were at Bueno Nacho. It's too freaky a coincidence."

Twlight nodded. "Don't ask how, but I think that taco acted as a...beacon, for lack of a better word, to guide the cross-dimensional rip. I'm just guessing, mind. We're dealing with a combination of an established dimensional conduit, improperly functioning dark magic, and electricity. In all my research, I've never encountered such a bizarre conflict of incompatible energies. It's going to take a while to calculate exactly what happened, and..." She looked at Kim and Ron sadly. "I'm afraid knowing how you wound up in Sunset Shimmer's world isn't going to help me get you back where you belong. That's going to take weeks of research into spells that have been sealed in Starswirl the Bearded's Aethenaeum for centuries."

"You mean I gotta be a donkey for that long?" Ron brayed.

"Well...you don't have to stay in Equestria the whole time," Sunset said. "Going from here to my Canterlot is easy enough—"

"Actually, I'd rather none of you return to Canterlot High for the time being," Twilight said. "Sunset Shimmer, I'm going to need your help to research the dimensional crossing spells. Kim, Ron, I'm going to need to run a series of tests to try to find some kind of link between you and your home dimension." She frowned at Sonata. "And as for you...I'd like to keep you under observation until I determine just how dangerous it is for you to be back in Equestria. Also, I want to find out if you're really willing to reform and not use your power for evil."

"Eh. I'm tired of being evil. Been there, done that," Sonata said. "I just wanna see what Equestria's like. I've been gone a really long time!"

Twilight smiled. "Alright then." She looked at Kim. "Are you willing to remain here while I try to find a way to send you home?"

"So not the drama!" Kim said. "Don't mind Ron's braying—"

"I can't help it! I'm a DONKEY!"

"—whatever it takes to get us home, that's what we'll do."

"Good. Sunset Shimmer? Can I count on you?"

Sunset tilted her head. "Of course you can, but...I guess...we're gonna have to go to Canterlot, aren't we?"

"Well, that is where the Aethenaeum is," Twilight said. She smiled gently. "It'll be okay...I promise. Trust me."

"Well...alright..."

"One last thing," Twilight said. Her horn glowed; the whirring of the apparatus around the portal mirror quieted as the various arcane devices slowed to a stop. The sheets of magic funneling into the portal faded into nothingness, and the whirling portal vanished, becoming the smooth surface of an ordinary mirror once more. A magenta aura surrounded the book powering the portal, and it floated onto the table. "I can't risk leaving the portal open while I'm in Canterlot," Twilight said. "If someone accidentally discovered it...that could be a problem. Worse..." She gave Sonata an apologetic grimace. "I'm sorry, but I don't trust Adagio and Aria. If they somehow discovered the portal was open and came back to Equestria..."

Sonata sighed. "I know," she said. "It probably wouldn't be a good idea to let them come back, especially if it'd give them their powers back."

"Not until they can be supervised," Twilight amended gently. "Sunset Shimmer, did you leave your journal with one of the others?"

Sunset nodded. "I left it with Applejack. Want me to send a message?"

"Please do," Twilight said, passing the book over to Sunset. Sunset inked a quill and wrote a note in the journal.

Twilight nodded. Her horn began to glow, and in a bright flash, saddlebags appeared on her, Sunset, Kim, and Ron.

Kim looked at her saddlebags, which were beige and bore the same medallion mark on her flank. "Spankin'," she said.

Sunset floated the journal into her saddlebag. "So, are we taking the train to Canterlot?"

"Probably a good idea," Twilight said. "I need to introduce Sonata to my friends in Ponyville first. I'm leaving her with them while we're in Canterlot."

"Aww, I wanted to go on the train," Sonata complained.

"Sorry, Sonata...I don't think it's a good idea for you to be seen in Canterlot at the moment. Besides..." Twilight smiled. "I think you'll enjoy Ponyville."

"Oh, okay."

"Alright...everypony follow me," Twilight said, headed for the library door. "We've got a lot to do, and the sooner we do it, the better."

Sonata Tour of Ponyville

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Twilight, Sunset, Kim, Ron, and Sonata emerged into a bright, clear day. Ron took a deep breath. "Whoa," he said. "Check the air, KP."

"It's...really clean," Kim said. "I mean, I'm no stranger to clean air, with all the places we've been, but this...wow."

Sonata flew up a bit, doing lazy loops in the air. She turned around to look at the castle they'd just left. Her jaw dropped. "Woooooooooooooooooooooow."

"What's up, Sonata?" Kim asked. She turned to look behind her. Then looked up. And up. Her eyes widened. "Oh."

Ron and Sunset also turned. Sunset's eyes nearly fell out of her head. "Okay, that's impressive."

"A treecastle?" Ron asked. "In a big glowy crystal tree?"

"How did you even—?" Sunset asked.

Twilight giggled. "It's a long story. I'll tell you all about it on the train to Canterlot. Come on, we've got a bit of a walk into town."

"Hold up a sec," Kim said. The others stopped and turned to her. Her face scrunched up in concentration. Hesitantly, she spread her wings. Then, with a grunt of effort, she pushed herself into the air. She wobbled a bit, her wings flapping uncertainly for a moment, but she managed to keep herself a good five feet in the air. She did a small, quick circle around the others, then landed, folding her wings. "Okay, let's go."

"How did you—?" Twilight asked, gaping.

"KP can do anything," Ron said. "Don't question it." Rufus, circling above his head, let out a piercing screech of agreement.

Twilight and Sunset shared a glance and a shrug. The group continued on their way to Ponyville, which lay below them, shining in the morning sun.

"This town wasn't here when we were banished, was it?" Sonata asked.

"I don't think so," Twilight said. "Ponyville was settled about a hundred years ago."

"It looks so...peaceful," Kim said.

"You'd be surprised," Twilight muttered, rolling her eyes.

They had just reached the edge of town when a pegasus swooped down in front of them. "Hey Twilight!"

"Hi Rainbow Dash," Twilight said.

Rainbow Dash started to say something, then stopped, staring at Sonata. "Uhh...what...?"

"Hi!" Sonata said cheerfully. "I'm Sonata!"

"Rainbow Dash, this is one of the Sirens," Twilight said. "You know, the ones I went to the other world to help Sunset Shimmer and my Canterlot High friends defeat?"

"Oh," Rainbow said nervously. "Uhh...okay..." She looked at Sunset Shimmer. "You, I remember. I know Twilight says you're good an' all now, but watch yourself, okay?"

Sunset rolled her eyes. "Nice to meet you too, Rainbow Dash."

"And..." Rainbow looked at Kim and Ron.

"I'm Kim Possible," Kim said.

"I'm Ron Stoppable," Ron said. "This is Rufus," he added, flicking an ear. Rufus chirped.

"Love the hair," Kim said. "Really nice dye job."

"Dye job?" Rainbow cried. "This is all natural!"

"It really is," Sunset said, nodding.

"Wow, really?" Kim asked. "Whoa."

"These three got stuck in Sunset Shimmer's world," Twilight said. "They're from a different world entirely...one that doesn't appear to be connected to any of the parallel Equestrias we know of. We're going to Canterlot to try to figure out how to send them home."

"Geez...you find one magic mirror portal, and suddenly you're up to your wingpits in different dimensions," Rainbow said.

"Actually, I was about to round up the others," Twilight said. "Can you get Applejack and Fluttershy and bring them to Sugar Cube Corner for me?"

"Can do!" Rainbow said, saluting. She sped off, leaving a rainbow contrail in her wake.

"Wow, she's fast," Sunset said in wonder.

"Good thing we ran into her first," Twilight said as she continued walking. "That'll save us some time."

"How so?" Kim asked.

"Well, Rainbow Dash can fly out to Fluttershy's cottage and Sweet Apple Acres a lot faster than we could walk there, and this way we only have two stops to make, right in the middle of town."

"Wait a sec," Ron said. "Sweet Apple Acres? Applejack? Didn't we leave all that like...way over in another dimension?"

"Applejack and Sweet Apple Acres exist in both worlds," Twilight said. "This dimension and the world you just left are parallel."

"Ooooooh," Ron said. "Like that old TV show about those four people who kept going to different worlds where like, Japan won the war or humans evolved from dinosaurs or the sky was orange. Okay, I get it now."

The group walked down the streets of Ponyville, the out-of-towners taking in the sights. Ponies they passed on the street would cast odd glances at Sonata. "You'd think they'd never seen a Siren before," Sonata said.

"They haven't," Twilight reminded her. "You and your sisters are the only three Sirens in existence, and you were banished centuries ago."

"Ooooooh, riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight," Sonata said, blinking. She giggled. "Then I'm special!" She did a few loops in the air.

"It's Pinkie Pie all over again," Sunset groaned, facehoofing.

Twilight giggled. "Funny you should say that..."

Sunset's eyes shrank to pinpricks. "Oh no."

"Yep."

"Is she...?"

"Worse."

"Gah."

"But we're meeting Rarity first," Twilight said. "And...we're here!"

The group stood in front of a tall, round building done entirely in pastel pinks, blues, and purples, with gold accents. The top floor was designed to look like a fairground carousel, with a smaller purple carousel crowning the building.

"Tacky much?" Kim asked.

"Don't let Rarity hear you say that," Twilight advised. She knocked on the door.

A moment later, the door opened, revealing a white unicorn with a meticulously styled and layered purple mane. She batted sparkling sapphire eyes at them. "Good morning, Twilight!" she said. She looked around at the rest of them. "And to you all as...well...is that a Siren?"

"Yay! Somepony knows what I am!" Sonata cheered.

"Rarity, would you please come with us to Sugar Cube Corner? Rainbow Dash is rounding up Applejack and Fluttershy. I need all of you to handle something very important for me."

"Of course, darling," Rarity said. "Give me just a moment to close up shop."

Once Rarity had put out her closed sign, she joined their group. Twilight made introductions as they walked to their destination. Rarity gave Sunset Shimmer a measuring look. "You do have quite the fabulous mane, Sunset darling, but the rest of you..." She tilted her head. "Are you quite certain you were raised in Canterlot?"

"Rarity!" Twilight snapped.

Sunset rolled her eyes. "We can't all be prissy, Rarity," she said. "Besides, in the other world, I'm the sexiest girl at school."

"She does rock the bad girl look," Kim said.

"Bad girl?" Rarity repeated. "I thought you'd reformed?"

"Well...yeah..." Sunset looked away. "But...I couldn't really bring myself to change my look...it's just...grown on me."

After passing through an increasingly crowded market square, the group reached a building that looked like an overgrown gingerbread house. "And we're here," Twilight said.

Ron flicked an ear. "You know, the architecture in this world is...pretty bizarre."

"This coming from the guy whose favorite hangout has a roof shaped like a sombrero," Kim quipped.

"A sombrero, you say?" Rarity asked, tilting her head. "Hmm...that gives me some ideas..."

Twilight rolled her eyes and led the group inside. The shop wasn't terribly crowded, but still had quite a few ponies present, and delightful smells of cinnamon, vanilla, and fruit mingled in the air. A blue mare with a pinkish-red mane that was styled to look like icing rushed up to them, dropping to her knees. "Good morning, Princess Twilight! Do come in!"

"Good morning, Mrs. Cake," Twilight said. "And you know you don't have to do that. I hate to impose, but...could we possibly use your dining room in the back? My friends are all joining us here soon, and we're going to have a fairly large group...we have some serious business to discuss, and..."

"Say no more, dearie," Mrs. Cake said. "Of course you can use any part of Sugar Cube Corner you like." She tilted her head. "You'll be needing Pinkie Pie too, I assume?"

"Yes," Twilight said. She looked around. "Where is Pinkie Pie?"

"Oh, we let her sleep in this morning," Mrs. Cake said. "She hosted a wedding shower last night that ran late and...got slightly out of hoof. I've never actually seen her so tired."

"Oh," Twilight said, ears drooping. "Well...if that's the case, then there's no need to—"

"Hi Twilight!"

"GAH!"

Kim and Ron stared, startled, at the excessively pink pony which had just appeared behind Twilight. "How did...?" Kim asked, raising a hoof.

Sunset rolled her eyes. "Yep. That's Pinkie Pie."

Twilight turned. "Pinkie," she groaned, "don't DO that!"

"Do what?" Pinkie asked. She turned and looked at the rest of the group. "Hi, Sunset Shimmer! And...wow, I don't know who any of you are! I'll need to throw you a Welcome to Ponyville party!"

"No time for that," Twilight said. "Rainbow Dash should be here with the others any—"

"We're here!" Rainbow Dash called from the front door. Another pegasus was with her, as well as an orange pony with a blonde mane and tail, wearing a familiar hat.

"Good," Twilight said. "Everyone, in the back."

"I'll bring you all something to eat," Mrs. Cake said. "What would you like?"

"Anything's fine," Twilight said. She led the way into the private living quarters of the Cakes, the others following her.

Once they had all arranged themselves in the Cakes' dining room, Twilight made a round of introductions. Once Applejack was introduced, Ron tilted his head. "Yeah...you know, I do see it...same eyes, same hair, same hat..."

Sonata roamed around the room, studying each new pony in turn. "Uh-huh...yeah...hmm. Yep, you guys are definitely the same guys we met in the other world!"

For her part, Fluttershy seemed to be both afraid of and curious about Sonata. Applejack was watching the roaming Siren distrustfully, while Pinkie Pie seemed to be excited to meet her.

Once Mrs. Cake had wheeled in a cart loaded with assorted sweets, and Twilight and Rarity had used their magic to spread it all out in front of the group, Twilight cleared her throat and assumed a businesslike tone. "Alright everypony, here's what's going on. Sonata tried to force open the portal between our world and Canterlot High. Something went wrong, and she accidentally brought Kim and Ron to that world from somewhere else. The world they're from doesn't appear to be connected to any parallel Equestria. Sunset Shimmer and I are going to Canterlot with Kim and Ron to research Starswirl's dimensional magic and ask Princess Celestia if she can help us. I need the five of you to keep an eye on Sonata here in Ponyville. Don't worry about the castle, I've left Spike in charge." She gave her friends a serious look. "Sonata says she doesn't want to cause trouble. All she wants is to be allowed to come back to Equestria. There's a problem, though. Her magic is regenerating. I don't know for certain what that means yet. I do know that her magic is dangerous, and that's why I want you girls to keep an eye on her." She looked at Sonata, who had stopped roaming and was sort of...drooping in midair. "But...try to make friends with her, alright? I believe her when she says she doesn't mean any harm." She smiled. "She certainly isn't the strangest creature we've befriended."

"Heh, you got that right," Rainbow said.

"I'll throw you a super-duper 'Welcome Back To Equestria And Please Don't Be Evil Anymore' party!" Pinkie said.

"A party? For me? For realzies?" Sonata asked, swimming circles in the air around Pinkie Pie, which caused the pink pony to giggle.

"You can count on us, Twi," Applejack said. The others agreed, though Fluttershy seemed hesitant.

"Thank you, girls," Twilight said.

The group spent a while making pleasant conversation and sampling the tasty confections of Sugar Cube Corner. After almost an hour, Twilight bid her friends goodbye, then lead Sunset, Kim, and Ron to the train station.

"We should reach Canterlot by mid-afternoon," Twilight said once she'd purchased their tickets. They were fortunate; the next train to Canterlot arrived less than ten minutes after they reached the station.

Sunset looked up at the city perched on the side of the tallest mountain in Equestria, and swallowed nervously. "Canterlot..."

Twilight laid a hoof on her shoulder. "It'll be fine," she said.

They boarded the train, and were soon on their way.

Sonata Long Train Ride

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"So we're taking a train up to a city that's sitting on the side of a ginormous mountain?" Kim asked.

"Yep!" Twilight said. "Why, is that weird?"

"A little," Kim said.

"Who builds a city on the side of a really tall mountain, anyway?" Ron wondered.

"Magical talking ponies, apparently," Kim said.

"So, uhh...Twilight," Sunset asked as she stared out the window. "Kinda late for me to ask this, but...I'm not gonna be, y'know...arrested or anything when we get to Canterlot, am I?"

Twilight blinked. "Arrested?"

Sunset ducked her head. "Well...yeah. I mean, before I left Equestria I was banished from the castle, then the last time I set hoof in this world I stole your crown..." She rubbed one hoof with the other.

Twilight smiled gently. "I don't think you need to worry," she said. "And besides, if they do try to arrest you, well...you're with me, and I'll pardon you."

"And...and if Princess Celestia—"

"Sunset," Twilight said, "take my word for it. Celestia wants to see you again. She's not angry with you." She smiled sadly. "She misses you."

"Really?" Sunset asked in a small voice, swallowing heavily.

"Trust me."

During the train ride, the group swapped stories to pass the time. Kim and Ron learned about Equestria, Twilight's adventures in Ponyville, and Sunset's journey from self-centered, arrogant she-demon to redeemed student of friendship, while Twilight and Sunset learned about Kim's frequent world-saving exploits and the host of bizarre villains the two teens routinely battled.

"Next stop, Canterlot Station!" the conductor announced as the train rattled its way up the tall spire.

Sunset began to fidget. Without warning, her horn glowed, and a black wool cloak materialized out of thin air, settling over her. She pulled the hood up over her head with her magic.

Twilight rolled her eyes. "Seriously?"

"I'm just a little nervous, okay?" Sunset replied.

Twilight smiled. "You're being silly, but...I understand." She leaned in, narrowing her eyes. "You're not gonna try ducking out of talking to Princess Celestia, are you?"

"Of course not! I just...I'm nervous."

Twilight shook her head. "Still, you just reminded me..." Her saddlebags opened, and her five-pointed gold crown floated out, settling itself upon her head; it was followed by four dainty golden slippers, which she settled onto her hooves. Lastly, a slim gold peytral, a much smaller, less ostentatious version of Celestia's, settled around her neck, a gleaming six-pointed star jewel set directly over her chest.

Sunset blinked. "New crown?" she asked. "I...I didn't damage the—"

"No, you didn't," Twilight said with a gentle smile. "My friends and I...we had to give up the Elements of Harmony a while back to save Equestria. Ever since then, I...switched to this crown." She shrugged. "It's a better fit, anyway. It's not as...well...crowny." She grimaced. "I hate wearing this stuff," she muttered.

"So why wear it?" Kim asked.

Twilight shrugged. "Canterlot is, well..." She gestured with a gold-shod hoof. "Help me out here, Sunset?"

"Snobby? Hung up on ceremony?"

"There you go," Twilight said. "Every time I show up in Canterlot without my regalia, I wind up in all those trashy gossip rags Rarity reads, and they're not very nice about it, so..."

"Eesh," Kim said.

Sunset rolled her eyes. "Poor, put-upon Princess."

When the train pulled into the station, the group disembarked. The station attendant bowed respectfully to Twilight. Twilight led them through the streets. Kim eyed their surroundings with interest; Ron gawked shamelessly. Many of the well-dressed ponies they passed gave Ron dirty looks and turned their noses up.

Sunset sighed. "Canterlot...this Canterlot...it's been so long..."

"Why, good day, Princess Twilight!" a tall unicorn stallion with a waxed moustache and monocle greeted, striding over to them. A graceful unicorn mare stood two paces behind him, striking a series of elaborate modeling poses.

"Hello, Fancy Pants," Twilight said. "How have you been?"

"Oh, smashing," Fancy Pants said. He surveyed Twilight's companions with interest. "I say...not your usual entourage..."

"They're friends from...far away," Twilight said. "They need my help with something. We're just going to the Canterlot Archives to do a little research."

"Splendid!" Fancy Pants said. "Any friend of Princess Twilight's." He espied Sunset's horn peeking out from beneath her hood, and stooped to take her hoof, brushing his lips across it. "A pleasure."

Sunset blushed. "Umm...likewise?"

"And what a lovely young pegasus!" Fancy Pants said. "I do love your mane, my dear!"

"Oh...well...thank you?" Kim said sheepishly.

"Don't get many donkeys in Canterlot," Fancy Pants said as he turned his gaze upon Ron. "Don't let the disapproving stares of the Canterlot elite get to you, my lad. We all trot on four legs, nes paz?"

"Heheh...yeah..."

"Well, we must be off," Fancy Pants said. "Expected at a wine tasting. Enjoy Canterlot!" He and his companion trotted away.

"Wow, that guy's a charmer," Kim said.

"Fancy Pants is pretty much the conscience of the Canterlot elite," Twilight said as she resumed her trot towards the castle. "He singlehandedly saved Rarity's reputation once." With a sheepish look, she added, "And...made me and my friends look less like a bunch of low-class rubes in the process. Not that I care about that or anything! It's just—"

"The Canterlot snobs have a way of making you feel like you're the worm in the apple," Sunset finished for her with a snort. "That's one thing about this city I haven't missed."

When they arrived at the castle, they were greeted by the gate guards and admitted without question. Kim and Ron stared at the opulent decor of the grand, spacious castle with obvious awe. "Wow, this place is right out of a storybook!" Ron said.

"No joke," Kim agreed.

As they traversed the broad, elegant corridors, Twilight was greeted reverently by guards, nobles, and staff, while the others were either regarded with mild curiosity or dismissed with less mild disdain. All too soon, they reached an ornate set of doors flanked by a pair of unicorn guards. The guards bowed to Twilight. "Your Highness," one of them said. "We weren't told to expect you."

"I'm not expected," Twilight said. "But I do have a matter to discuss with Princess Celestia. Is she available?"

"Of course, Your Highness." The doors glowed and swung open; Twilight led the group inside. Sunset began to tremble with anticipation and hesitation.

Beyond the doors lay a long room with a high ceiling, adorned on all sides by intricate stained glass windows, at least two of which depicted Twilight herself. At the end of the long red velvet carpet stood a tall gold throne, upon which was seated Princess Celestia herself, her pastel mane rippling in a nonexistent wind as she sipped tea while perusing a scroll. She looked up at their approach and smiled warmly. "Twilight!" she greeted. "Welcome! This is an unexpected surprise!" She looked over the rest of the group. "I see you have some new friends with you today!"

"New friends...and old," Twilight said. She nudged Sunset.

Swallowing, Sunset lowered her hood and bowed low. "Princess Celestia," she squeaked out nervously.

Celestia gasped, eyes wide with shock. "S-Sunset Shimmer..."

Sonata Predator

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"And over here is Quills and Sofas, which also sells beds! Oh, and this is where the Golden Oak Library used to be! Before it got blown to smithereens and...oh, and if you look over there, you'll see—"

"Ooh, what's THIS?"

"—umm...that's a turd on the ground."

"Well that's silly. And gross. Who thought a turd on the ground was a good idea for an attraction?"

"I don't think it's an attraction, I think somepony just pooped here. Uhh...let's move on with the tour! The Ponyville school is over this way..."

Ponies watched curiously as Pinkie Pie led Sonata through the streets of Ponyville, showing her the sights. It seemed like every twig, blade of grass, tiny puffy cloud, flower, and...well...turd on the ground excited the Siren as she flew in sinuous spirals like a kite dancing on the wind...or like an eel swimming in the air, undulating and coiling and diving and swooping and climbing.

Behind them, at what she thought was a casual distance, flew Rainbow Dash, keeping a wary eye on Sonata. Not far behind her was Fluttershy, who looked concerned.

Rainbow dropped back a bit. "Hey, Fluttershy," she whispered, "do you trust that thing?"

"Umm...well...I'm sure that if Twilight thinks she's worth giving a second chance to, then she can't be all that bad..."

"I guess," Rainbow said. She frowned. "You sure seem nervous about this, though."

"Oh. Well..." Fluttershy ducked her head. "I just...haven't had very good experiences with predatory non-pony species," she said. "Or, well...I guess Sonata is part-pony, but...she still feels like a predator to me, and it's making me a little nervous."

"Seriously?" Rainbow asked. "Because I've seen you treat manticores like kitty-cats, and—"

"I was talking about griffons," Fluttershy said in a breathless rush. Then, with a shuddering breath, she added, "I just...I feel the same unease around this Siren that I feel around, well...griffons." She ducked her head. "I know I'm just being judgmental, but..."

"Wait, you're scared of griffons?" Rainbow asked. "Seriously?"

"Well...yes, a little," Fluttershy said. "You can thank your old friend Gilda for that."

Rainbow facehoofed. "Fluttershy...Gilda's just a jerk. You know that, right?"

"Well, yes...but she's also a predator. I'm sorry, I just..." She shuddered, then looked at Sonata. "And...and I feel like...Sonata's also a predator. So she's making me nervous."

"I'm not a predator, silly!" Sonata said. Rainbow and Fluttershy drew back as their faces were suddenly full of blue Siren. "I don't turn invisible and I don't have infrared vision and I'm not from space and I don't skin people alive and collect their skulls as trophies and that's not the kind of predator you meant, is it?"

"Uhh...what?" Rainbow asked, blinking at Sonata.

"Oh...goodness...you heard me," Fluttershy said timidly. "I'm sorry. Please don't be upset with me. I didn't mean to judge you or hurt your feelings. Oh, I didn't hurt your feelings, did I?"

"Nah, it's cool," Sonata said, doing a loop in the air. "I mean, I don't even know what you were saying, not really, so..."

Pinkie bounced up to them. "Sonata!" she called. "Don't you wanna see the school?"

"Oops! Sorry! I just got distracted by these two following us," Sonata said. She waved cheerfully at the two pegasi. "Bye! See you later!" She flew off after Pinkie.

Rainbow and Fluttershy exchanged a glance, shrugged, and followed them.

Sonata Casual Reunion

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Celestia descended slowly and shakily from her throne, approaching Sunset Shimmer on trembling legs. Sunset looked up into her pale, disbelieving face, fear and uncertainty written across her own.

Celestia lunged forward and swept Sunset up in a great, feathery hug. "Oh, my foolish little pony," she whispered, tears streaming from her eyes. "Can you ever forgive me?"

"F-forgive you?" Sunset said. She swallowed. "Princess Celestia, I—"

Celestia shushed her, spending a long moment simply hugging her. When she finally let go, she took a step back. "Sunset Shimmer...it's true that you disobeyed me, forced your way into a forbidden area of the castle—twice—escaped into another world, and upon your brief return to Equestria, stole a national treasure." She swallowed heavily. "But...I have never been angry with you. Just...just sad. And...and angry at myself." She bowed her head. "I failed you, Sunset Shimmer. I lost my temper with you, when it was clear to me you needed firmer, steadier guidance. Instead of being patient and trying to reach you, I..." She shook her head. "I drove you away. And...and I'm sorry..."

"No," Sunset said. "I...I didn't listen to what you were trying to tell me. I thought...I thought I was better than you, that I deserved things I never really earned." She looked away. "I was a small, petty, jealous foal. I didn't understand..." She burst into tears and flung herself at Celestia. "I'm so sorry!"

Celestia crouched down and nuzzled her. "We've both made foolish mistakes, my little pony," she said. "How about...we start over? Wipe the slate clean?" She smiled. "After all, Twilight Sparkle tells me you have changed...that you finally learned the magic of friendship."

Sunset laughed shakily. "Y-yeah," she said. "I'm...still learning, and I still have a lot to answer for, but...I'm trying."

"That's all any teacher can ask," Celestia said with a bright smile.

"I told you it'd be alright," Twilight said.

Celestia shook herself, remembering the other ponies present. She drew up to her full height, clearing her throat. "Princess Twilight," she said. "And friends. Forgive me, I...I was swept away by the sudden appearance of—"

"We understand," Twilight said. She ruffled her wings. "And if you need time to catch up with Sunset Shimmer in private, we'll understand that too."

Celestia tilted her head. "Perhaps later? If...if you're staying in Canterlot..."

"We'll...probably be here a while, yeah," Sunset said.

Kim stepped forward and bowed as best she could. "Greetings, Your Highness," she said. She glanced back at Ron. "Ron!" she hissed. "Show some respect here!"

"Uhh...I don't know how to kneel or bow in this body, KP," Ron said. "Not and, you know, get back up."

"It's quite alright, I assure you," Celestia said. She glanced at Twilight. "So...who are your new friends, and what brings you here today? Certainly if you simply meant to reunite me with Sunset Shimmer, you would have written first."

"Celestia, these two are humans from a different world than the one Sunset Shimmer lives in now," Twilight said. "One of the Sirens tried to force open the portal to Equestria and accidentally opened a one-way portal to some other world we have no knowledge of. We were hoping to research Starswirl the Bearded's dimensional magic to find some way of locating their home and sending them back."

"I see," Celestia said. She frowned. "The Sirens...they're attempting to invade Equestria?"

"No, not an invasion," Twilight said. She frowned. "The least evil of the Sirens, Sonata Dusk, wanted to come home. Instead of asking Sunset Shimmer for help, she...she tried to open the portal, and it backfired. I've allowed her to return to Equestria temporarily to see if she can really be trusted. She's in Ponyville right now, my friends are keeping an eye on her."

Celestia nodded. "Do you believe she can be trusted?"

"I'm not sure," Twilight said. "I want to think so. From what I've heard, she's been helping these two since their arrival, and is genuinely sorry for what she did to them. She also seems to want to reform, but...there is one problem." She started to pace. "Since she returned to Equestria, her magic has begun to regenerate. I'm not sure what that means, but..."

"I see," Celestia said, nodding thoughtfully. "So it is a matter of whether a creature of dark magic can be reformed. Well...we already know it can be done. Do you believe this Siren can be reformed as Discord was?"

Sunset's eyes widened.

"I think it'll actually be much easier," Twilight said. "Especially since on her own, Sonata's...well..." She shrugged. "Goofy. I mean, she's..." She glanced at Sunset. "Help me out here?"

"She's...a little like Pinkie Pie," Sunset said.

Celestia blinked. Her lip twitched. "Oh my. Well...as to the matter of this Siren, I will defer to your judgment, Princess Twilight. If you believe she can be reformed, and deem it safe for her to remain in Equestria, I see no reason to deny her." She paused. "And the other Sirens?"

"I'd advise against letting them return, Your Highness," Sunset said. "Especially their leader, Adagio Dazzle. If she got her magic back, she'd be a threat to Equestria all over again."

"I agree," Twilight said with a sigh. "It would take a lot to convince me the other Sirens could be reformed." She frowned. "In which case my biggest concern would be whether or not Sonata could accept being separated from her sisters forever."

"I'm pretty sure the Sirens all hate each other," Sunset said.

"Well...the matter of the Sirens, I'll leave to you, Twilight," Celestia said. "In the meantime, the Canterlot Archives and Starswirl's Athenaeum are at your disposal. I assume Sunset Shimmer will be assisting you in your research?"

Sunset smiled. "It's been a long time," she said. "I'm actually looking forward to it."

"But first, I'll see to it that you're all given accomodations here at the castle," Celestia said. She turned to Kim and Ron, frowning. "Oh! I'm sorry, I never got your names. That's terribly rude of me."

"No big!" Kim said. "I'm Kim Possible, and this is Ron Stoppable."

Celestia dipped her head respectfully to each of them in turn. "Well then. The castle is at your disposal," she said. "Sunset Shimmer, I hope once you're settled in, you'll make time to catch up with me."

"Of course," Sunset said.

Celestia nodded to a guard, who stepped forward. "This way," he said.

As the guard led them through the castle halls, Kim mused, "She seems nice."

"Did you see that horn?" Ron asked. "It's like she's got a sword on her forehead!"

Kim rolled her eyes. "I'm pretty sure they don't go around goring each other here." She glanced at Twilight. "Err...do you?"

"Ick. No," Twilight said, making a face.

"Twilight?" Sunset asked. "What was Princess Celestia saying about Discord?"

"Oh, well...that's a long story," Twilight said. "He's...well..."

"He's right behiiiiiiiind yooooooooou," a rich masculine voice crooned. Sunset jumped, spun around...

...and came face-to-face with a draconequus.

Sonata Simple Solution

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"GAH!" Sunset screamed, teleporting halfway down the hall. Her heart hammered in her chest.

Twilight facehoofed. "Discord," she groaned.

Discord flipped upside-down, turning his head upside-down so it was right-side-up. "Why, hello, Princess Twilight! It's so good to see you! I was just wondering what you were up to...I was just thinking of popping over to Ponyville for a visit, and here you are!"

Sunset's eyes were wide and wary. "What...how...what...Twilight...what...DISCORD...WHY?!"

"Well, it appears somepony didn't get the memo," Discord said disdainfully, turning up his nose. In a bright flash, a fax machine appeared in front of Sunset, spitting out a sheet of paper. It tore itself off and waved itself in her face, literally screaming DISCORD IS REFORMED.

Twilight banished it with her magic. "Discord, this isn't a good time..."

"It never is, is it?" Discord said petulantly. "Why, I—"

"Actually, scratch that. This may actually be the one time I'm happy to see you!"

"Just the one?" Discord asked, arching an eyebrow.

"How are you with dimensional magic?" Twilight asked.

Discord buffed a claw on his chest. "Why, I can easily open portals between dimensions whenever I please!" he said.

"Good, because these two here need to get back to their own dimension," Twilight said, motioning to Kim and Ron.

"Oh they do, do they? Well, let's just have a look." Discord pulled out a jeweler's loupe and began examining Kim and Ron, nodding and humming thoughtfully to himself. He pulled out a tape measure and stretched it out, measuring both of them, then pulled out an abacus and made a series of rapid calculations. Finally, he snapped his talons, making all his tools disappear, and shook his head. "Can't do it," he said. "Sorry."

"What? Why not?" Twilight asked.

"Well, for starters, this donkey is full of monkey magic, and monkeys make me itch," Discord said. "But that's not the reason. It's...oh, it's too difficult to explain. It'd be easier if I just showed you."

And before Twilight could react, Discord stole her eyes and swapped them with his.

"AHHH! WHAT DID YOU JUST—" Twilight screamed before pausing and blinking. She stared at Kim and Ron with Discord's eyes. Her jaw fell open. "What...what am I looking at?!"

"A problem," Discord said. "These two brought incompatible magic into a world that isn't supposed to have magic, were pulled there by one of Starswirl's silly mirror portals that had been corrupted by dark magic, and then you brought them here, which compounded pony magic on top of everything. And then there's that...vaguely spicy, cheesy aura floating around them I've never seen before—"

"Taco magic," Twilight said absently.

Discord blinked...with Twilight's eyes. "Taco magic," he said flatly. "Right. Okay. Anyway...you see the problem?"

"I...think so, yeah," Twilight said. She shook her head. "Now can you please give me my eyes back? This is really freaking me out!"

"Oh...sorry." Discord snapped his talons, and Twilight's eyes returned to her face, while Discord's rolled up his arm and popped into his head.

"Gorchy," Kim said, shuddering.

"This dude...thing...whatever is really freaky," Ron stage-whispered.

"So for those of us who just saw something very mentally scarring happen and can't process it," Sunset said as she strode up beside Twilight, a severely nauseated expression on her face, "what exactly are you two talking about? And don't do that eye thing with me, Discord! I will blast you! And buck you!"

"Have you ever tried to untangle a knot and ended up making it worse?" Twilight asked.

"Oh! Oh! I have!" Ron said. "Every time my dad decides to go fishing. Don't ask."

"I think I know what you mean," Kim said. "Like...Christmas tree lights, right? They get all tangled up and when you take them out, it takes hours to get them untangled, and then you end up going out and buying new ones anyway?"

"Okay, well...right now, the two of you are basically a really, really tangled knot," Twilight said. "If I understand what Discord just showed me, trying to send you back to your own dimension without untangling you...well..." She looked at Discord, tilting her head.

Discord drew a rectangle in the air. An image appeared of a massive, colorful explosion, spraying flaming debris in every direction and erecting a towering mushroom cloud.

"WE'RE GONNA EXPLODE?!" Ron brayed.

"No, you wouldn't explode," Discord said.

"Whew."

"Your entire home dimension would."

"Yikes," Kim said. "So...what, we're just...stuck?"

"No," Twilight said. "We need to get you back where you belong and we're going to get you home. It's just..." She sighed. "Figuring out how to untangle you without doing any permanent damage is going to take a while." She glanced at Discord. "Unless you—"

Discord held up his mismatched hands in surrender. "Hey, the less I get involved with this mess, the better," he said. "If I even lay a paw on these crazy kids, I'm liable to accidentally torch Equestria, and I happen to like it here." He shook his head. "Sorry, but you're on your own for this one." Without fanfare, he vanished in a white flash.

The group looked around at one another awkwardly.

"So...what now?" Kim asked.

Twilight sighed. "For now, we should all get settled in," she said. "We've got a lot more work ahead of us than I thought."

Sonata Recap Chapter

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"Whoa whoa whoa. Sunset's where doing WHAT?!"

Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie, Applejack, and Rarity had gathered at Sugar Cube Corner later that morning. Applejack sighed at Rainbow's outburst, rubbing the bridge of her nose. She held up the journal—Sunset's magic journal and her primary link back to Equestria. "Look, here's whut Ah know," Applejack said. "That one Dazzling, Sonata—y'all remember her, right?"

"Oh yeah," Pinkie said. "She was the goofy one, right? I kinda liked her. I mean, other than the whole being evil and stuff."

"She did...rather remind me of you," Rarity said contemplatively.

"Right, well, anyhoo," Applejack continued, "she decided she wanted ta go back to Equestria, so she tried ta bust open th' portal with some weird gizmo she whipped up outta whut was left of her magic gem. Best Ah understand, she goofed up somethin' fierce an' opened a portal ta some whole other world entirely. A couple'a folks fell out an' got stuck in our world, so now Sunset's done took all three of 'em ta Equestria ta see if Twilight can help those two git back where they came from." She scratched her nose. "An' Ah reckon t' see if Sonata can be trusted in Equestria."

"So how long's that gonna take?" Rainbow wondered.

"I can't imagine it'll be a simple matter," Rarity said with a frown.

Applejack sighed. "Sunset said she might be gone a while."

The others let out a collective disappointed whine.

"Did Trixie hear correctly?" a smug voice intruded. "That dreadful demon is gone? Never to return?"

"She ain't gone never to return, Trixie," Applejack said tiredly. "She's just takin' a little trip. She'll be back soon."

Trixie sneered. "If she knows what's good for her, she'll stay gone and never show her face again."

"Oh, shut up, Trixie," Flash Sentry said as he walked up behind her. "Look, Sunset...she's changed, okay? Even I see that. You could learn a thing or two from her."

Trixie glared at him, sniffed haughtily, and stormed off.

"Way to go, Flash!" Rainbow cheered. "You got rid of Dripsie for us!"

Flash chuckled, rubbing the back of his head. "So...did I hear right? Sunset's gone to see Twilight?"

"That's right," Applejack said.

"Cool, cool," Flash said. He jammed his hands in his pockets. "So, uhh..."

The girls looked at each other and groaned. "This is...probably not a good time, darling," Rarity said with a game grimace.

"Oh...right, right." Flash sighed. "Well, uhh...if you can get a message to Twilight, tell her hi for me, okay?"

"We'll get right on that," Rainbow said with a smirk.

* * * * *

Sunset Shimmer looked around the room which had once been her home in Canterlot Castle.

Everything was exactly as she had left it.

"I've had the maids keep it clean, but ordered them not to touch anything except to dust it," Celestia said from behind her.

Sunset turned around, tears in her eyes. "Princess..."

Celestia dipped her head. "I missed you," she said.

Sunset sniffled. "I..." She swallowed. "I told myself I hated you, but..." She walked over to her old bed and climbed onto it, laying flat and stretching her hooves in front of her. "And then every day, seeing that other Celestia's face at school, it made me angry, and I used that anger, turned it into fire in my gut..." Sunset sighed. "But ever since...ever since Twilight and...and my new friends showed me how stupid and mistaken I was, every time I see Principal Celestia, I feel...lost, sad..."

Celestia trotted over and stroked Sunset with a wing. "I'm afraid Twilight hasn't told me every detail of that world," she said. "I know that you've learned and changed, that you have friends...that you're happy."

Sunset took a deep breath. "Yeah," she said. "But seeing you again...finally having the chance to apologize..." She laughed shakily. "I think that's what I really needed."

Celestia smiled. "I am very delighted to hear that, my little pony." She sighed. "I would like nothing more than to sit and talk with you for hours, but I imagine you need a few minutes to settle in, and I need to confer with Kibitz to rearrange my schedule for the duration of your visit. You'll come to tea, of course? With Twilight and your two new friends?"

"Of course!"

Celestia nodded. "And...and later this evening, we'll have a long talk...if that's alright with you."

Sunset smiled. "I'm looking forward to it..."

* * * * *

Adagio and Aria sat in a cheap, greasy diner not far from their apartment.

"Do you think she'll really find a way for us to go back, Adagio?" Aria asked.

Adagio frowned thoughtfully. "Well, it's not like we have anything to lose by letting her try." Shrugging, she added, "Those ponies are fools if they think we'll just decide to act however they tell us to act."

Aria grunted. "Honestly, I wouldn't mind just going back to living in the sea, catching and eating fish..." She shook her head. "Nobody bothering us, no need for money..."

"We're better than that," Adagio said. "Even without our magic, we can do so much better for ourselves here."

"Maybe you can," Aria said sourly. She sighed. "I guess I don't really care which world we live in, just as long as we're left alone."

"Hmm." Adagio toyed with the salt shaker on their table. "Wouldn't mind getting a little revenge on Sunset Shimmer, though."

Aria snorted. "Yeah, I'll go along with that."

"So...you want revenge on Sunset Shimmer, do you?"

The two Sirens looked around for the source of the voice.

At the next table over, a girl in a hoodie turned around, flashing them a wicked grin from the shadows of her pulled-up hood. "I'm more than willing to help you with that..."

Sonata Dazzling Solo

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As Sonata swam through the air behind her pony guide, she started singing idly to herself. "If everyone is not special, maybe you can be what you want to be! Broccoli! Colostomy! A zoo camel! FLAMBE!!"

Pinkie, Fluttershy, and Rainbow all stopped and stared at her.

"...what?"" Rainbow choked out along with a bark of laughter.

Sonata shrugged. "It's the theme song to this show I like," she said.

"Oh my," Fluttershy said, blinking. "Well. That's...interesting?"

"Waaaaaait a second," Pinkie said suspiciously, jumping up in the air and hanging in front of Sonata, eyes narrowed. "I thought you couldn't sing anymore?"

Sonata blinked in realization. "Oh! Well, I mean...not usually. I mean, we can sing, just not...y'know...carry a tune." She looked down at her own chest. "Maybe it's because my magic is regenerating?"

Pinkie shrugged and settled back to the ground. "Fair enough."

As the little group continued on its merry way, Sonata started singing again. "TV says donuts are high fat kazoo, found a hobo in my room! It's Princess Leia, the yodel of life! Gimme back my sweater or I'll play the guitar!"

Rainbow braked in midair with an audible screech. "Okay, there is no way that's even a real song."

Pinkie stared up at Sonata. "That was too random even for me!"

Fluttershy tilted her head curiously. "Was that...was that supposed to be a threat? The guitar thing? Because that's a weird thing to threaten somepony with."

Sonata giggled sheepishly. "It's just something silly I heard on the Internet," she said.

The ponies looked at each other. "What's an Internet?" Rainbow asked.

"It's this thingie humans have where they can look at pictures of cats and stuff," Sonata said. "And lots of boring words, and..." Her eyes glazed over. "And some stuff Adagio likes to look at that makes my soul feel dirty..."

"Ooh!" Pinkie said brightly, reaching into her mane. "I have some purifying salt here somewhere!"

"Oh goodie!" Sonata said, clapping her hooves. Pinkie pulled out a big glass shaker and tossed it up into the air. Sonata caught it and upended it over herself.

As the twinkling granular dust showered over her, glittering in the sunlight, she blinked. "Umm, Pinkie Pie? This is purifying sugar," she said.

Pinkie blinked. "Oh! Sorry."

Sonata beamed. "No worries! Sugar's WAY better than salt!" She did a loop in the air, giggling happily.

Pinkie giggled too, bouncing up and down in place. "I know, right? I mean, we all need salt and it helps baking and stuff but who can say no to a whole bunch of yummy delicious sugar?"

Rainbow's irises shrank to pinpricks in sheer dread. "Oh Celestia," she mumbled. "There's two of them now."

Fluttershy huddled into herself. "So many bad memories," she moaned.

"Oh hey! We'd better get to the schoolhouse if we wanna keep this tour going!" Pinkie said suddenly, pronking off in the direction they'd been heading.

"Sure seems to be takin' longer than usual to get there," Rainbow said as she, Sonata, and a reluctant Fluttershy followed.

"I don't care if we never get there!" Sonata said happily. "I'm having more fun than I've had in forever!" She undulated around Pinkie, rose up into the air, and started singing again. "Breakdown! Wahoo reaction, now a Gucci cola sale! She sucks he sucks, Gengar power! Now I've got to lather barroom cheese! Obi-Wan coaches! IIIIII AM IIIIIMPAAAAAAACTOOOOOO!"

As her guides stared oddly at her, something in the distance exploded. A scream dopplered toward them; after a moment they heard a filly's voice screaming "DA-DA-DAAAAAAAASH!"

And then a small orange comet slammed into Rainbow Dash, knocking her out of the air. Rainbow let out a loud, startled "Oof!" as she hit the ground hard. "What the—? Scoots?!"

Scootaloo lay sprawled on Rainbow's belly. Her mane, tail, and feathers were singed and smoldering; a few small flames were still burning on her tail.

"EEK! FILLY ON FIRE!" Pinkie screamed, pulling a fire extinguisher out of nowhere and dousing both Scootaloo and Rainbow with a liberal amount of foam.

"Oh my goodness!" Fluttershy gasped, covering her mouth with her hooves. "Scootaloo, what happened?!"

Scootaloo rubbed the back of her head dizzily. "The merry-go-round broke down," she mumbled listlessly. "Made the darnedest sound..."

A herd of fillies and colts stampeded toward them, led by Cheerilee. "Scootaloo! Are you alright?"

Scootaloo blinked and looked around. "Huh? Oh, uhh...yeah, I'm okay," she said. She flapped her soggy wings and looked down at Rainbow, who was covered in foam. "Umm...sorry about that," she said.

"No...problem," Rainbow said, sputtering and spitting out foam. "What the hay happened?"

Diamond Tiara laughed. "The Goofsaders tried to blow up the school," she said.

Fluttershy's eyes widened. "What?!"

"We did NOT!" Apple Bloom protested.

"This is all my fault," Cheerilee said shakily. "Time Turner gave me a make-your-own-fireworks kit, and I thought it'd be a fun chemistry lesson to show the class how you..." She trailed off, then facehoofed. "What was I thinking?!"

Pinkie gasped. "You let these three anywhere NEAR gunpowder?!" she shrieked, waving her hooves at the Cutie Mark Crusaders. "Are you loco in the coco?!"

"Apparent...ly..." Cheerilee trailed off as she stared at Sonata. She wasn't the only one; a lot of the students were watching Sonata float lazily in the air, expressions of fear, wonder, and curiosity on their little faces.

Sonata, for her part, had caught on to being the center of attention, and was smiling and waving. "Hi!"

"Class?" Cheerilee said. "I think we'll change the lesson plan for the afternoon. Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, why don't you teach the class a little something about...whatever your friend here is?"

Sonata Lucky Girl

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The group had gotten settled into their suites at the castle, then joined Princess Celestia for late afternoon tea. At Celestia's insistence, Kim and Ron had spoken at length of their world and their adventures.

"—and I'll be honest, for a little bit there, I really thought it was all over," Kim said. "But then Ron stepped up. These Lorwardians were ridiculously strong, but Ron's Monkey Power put a stop to them for good!"

Princess Celestia smiled. "Goodness," she said. "You two lead quite an adventurous life."

"Yeah, we save the world," Ron said. "It's what we do."

Celestia's lips quirked as she glanced at Twilight. "I might know a few ponies who can relate to that."

Twilight laughed sheepishly. "Well, I just wish my friends and I didn't have to go on epic save-the-world adventures so often," she said. "I'd much rather spend my time having picnics and reorganizing my library."

"I'm still waiting to hear why Discord is free," Sunset said. "For that matter, why he seems to be on friendly terms with Twilight."

"Yeah, that creepy dude had kind of a..." Ron paused. "I dunno, bad juju vibe to him?"

"Discord was once the greatest threat to Equestria," Celestia said. "A mischievous spirit of chaos and disharmony with tremendous magical power, and quite malevolent in the past. Not long ago, I decided to entrust Princess Twilight and her friends with the task of reforming Discord, in the hopes he would use his magic for good."

"It's a work in progress," Twilight said. "He's mostly behaving himself these days. It's usually Fluttershy who keeps him in check."

Sunset raised an eyebrow. "Fluttershy."

"Never underestimate the power of kindness," Twilight said.

"In other words, he's whipped," Ron said with narrowed eyes.

"Pretty much!" Twilight agreed happily.

Sunset shuddered. "And that mental image will now be with me forever, thanks."

"But at least thanks to Discord, we know the problem is bigger than we thought," Twilight pointed out.

Celestia turned to her. "How so?"

"Basically there's a catastrophic magical entanglement surrounding these two," Twilight explained. "Multiple incompatible magics overlapping, and bringing them to Equestria actually made things worse. It's going to take complex magical disentanglement and purging spells I'm not even sure exist to unravel this mess, and then I'll have to make sure I don't purge them of magic they're supposed to have."

"Yeah, I vote for less purging," Ron said. "Don't wanna lose my mystical monkey mojo."

"The biggest problem is that we're dealing with a river crossing puzzle here," Twilight said with a sigh. "We'll have to send these two back where they belong from Sunset's world, but any magic from Equestria and the portal we succeed in purging here will just stick to them again when they go back through the portal."

"And then you'd need to bring them back to purge them again since you can't cast spells over there," Celestia said, "which would..." She trailed off, frowning. "I see. That is a complex problem."

"What if we could devise some sort of magic-draining device?" Sunset asked. "One that would work in my world and could be configured to remove and contain specific magical fields."

"That could work," Twilight said pensively, "but we don't have the technology here to make something like that, well...portable."

"We do in my world," Sunset said. "If we can figure out how it'd work, I could round up some whiz kids at school and work on the actual device." She frowned. "I might even have to go to Crystal Prep for assistance, and I don't know how willing they'd be to help a Wondercolt. There's a bit of a rivalry between our schools even if I don't understand it."

"Crystal Prep? Sounds snobby," Ron said.

"It's a private school in the city," Sunset explained. "Every time they win some contest or award or something, Rainbow Dash gets really mad for days."

"Anyway," Twilight said, "the main thing we need to do is untangle the Equestrian magic they collected here, the portal magic they collected by coming here in the first place, the corrupted Siren magic that entangled the portal, and the taco magic that caused all this in the first place."

Celestia raised an eyebrow. "Taco magic."

"It's a thing, apparently," Twilight said, eyes half-lidded. "Don't ask how I know. Seriously. Don't." She shrugged. "Anyway, so we have to do all that without disrupting Ron's monkey magic or whatever Kim's natural magic is."

Kim blinked. "I don't have any magic," she said.

"Oh, you have magic," Twilight said. "And it's powerful, too."

Kim shook her head. "No, seriously, I'm about as magical as buttered bread."

"KP doesn't need magic," Ron said. "Her mad cheer skills and ability to do pretty much anything are all she needs."

Celestia pursed her lips. "Do pretty much anything, you say...hmm."

"You know, now that you mention it, it's funny that she figured out how to use her wings almost immediately," Sunset said.

Kim blushed. "Oh, I don't know about that," she said. "I mean, having them feels weird, I just—"

A saucer wrapped in a teal aura shot straight up in the air, spinning on its edge, then fell straight toward Kim. Without thinking, Kim took off vertically, catching the saucer in her mouth and somersaulting before gliding down to a graceful landing on her own chair.

"Whoa," Ron said. "Go KP!"

Twilight shot Sunset a cross look. "What was that all about?"

"Just testing something," Sunset said. "Kim, do things usually just...go your way?"

Kim blinked. "Well, not always," she said. "I mean, I have to work pretty hard at everything I do. School, cheerleading, martial arts..."

"Yeah, but you're a natural at almost everything, KP," Ron pointed out.

"I'm not just talking about your skills," Sunset said. "I mean, life in general. Do things have a habit of working out in your favor?"

"Boy do they ever," Ron said. "I wish I had even half of Kim's luck."

"Hey, I'm not always lucky!" Kim protested. "Sometimes things go wrong for me!"

"And when things go wrong for you, they go really wrong, right?" Sunset pressed.

"Well..." Kim thought about it for a few seconds. "Yeah, actually."

"I think I see where you're going with this," Celestia said.

"What, you think KP has some kind of luck magic?" Ron snorted. After a brief pause, his eyes shot open wide. "KP, you totally have some kind of luck magic!"

Kim frowned thoughtfully. "Huh. I...guess that'd make sense." She tilted her head. "Wait, does that mean everything I can do is all just...luck?"

"Not at all," Celestia said. "Your skills, your experience, your confidence, that's all you. Luck magic would simply...hmm..." She paused thoughtfully. "Enhance your abilities."

"Yeah, you know," Ron said. "Like how there's always a ride available for us when we need one, or how Drakken's lair exploding never, y'know, kills anybody."

Twilight frowned. "Okay, that makes sense, but how does your little stunt with the saucer relate?"

"Well, I figured if I sent a saucer falling right for her head, either she'd fly up and catch it—which shouldn't be possible since she's only had wings for a few hours and they're completely alien to her anatomy—or it'd hit her on the head." Sunset paused. "Or one of you would've stopped it and yelled at me, but—"

"—for this to be a true magical probability field based on best possible or worst possible outcome, there were only two ways it could've gone," Twilight said, nodding.

"That's the theory, anyway," Sunset said.

"Kind of a messed-up way to test a theory," Ron muttered.

"Gotta agree with Ron," Kim said. "How does dropping a plate on my head prove whether or not I'm magically lucky?"

"You were able to fly up and catch the plate without even thinking about it," Sunset pointed out. "Like it was something you'd done a million times. Your boyfriend can't even figure out how to sit down. Don't you think it's lucky that your natural skills and reflexes carried over to your pegasus body without you having to relearn everything?"

Kim's jaw dropped. "...wow," she said.

Twilight gave Sunset a flat stare. "You realize that's a pretty loose application of probability," she said.

Sunset shrugged.

"You know," Ron said thoughtfully, "remember when we needed to find Sweet Apple Acres and had no idea where it was, and then AJ and Big Mac just happened to drive by right then?"

"That was an awfully big coincidence," Kim said. "Huh."

"I caution you not to think too deeply about this luck magic you apparently have," Celestia said. "Nor to rely on it too heavily. Simply being aware of it is likely to do you more harm than good."

"Yeah, if you start expecting things to just go right, your luck will probably turn sour," Sunset said. She folded her ears back. "Crap, now I wish I'd kept my big mouth shut."

"Nah, it's cool," Kim said. "I don't worry about luck. I worry about what I know I can do. And I can do anything."

"It's true, she really can. Including turn into a flying purple horse," Ron said. He glanced at Twilight, and his ears folded back. "Don't get me wrong, flying purple horses are cool."

Twilight giggled.

Celestia stood. "Well, it seems you four have quite a bit of work ahead of you," she said. "Given the hour, I suggest you retire to your suites and rest for the evening, then begin your research early tomorrow after a good night's sleep." She paused, then added, "Sunset Shimmer, I'll be waiting for you in my royal suite whenever you're ready to talk." She smiled fondly. "We have so much catching up to do..."

Sunset nodded, smiling. "I'll be there in just a bit."

"I might get started early," Twilight said. "I can never sit still when there's research to be done." She looked at Kim and Ron. "You two should definitely go rest up."

"Will do," Kim said. "Come on, Ron."

As they headed for the door, the princesses and Sunset heard Ron's trailing voice say:

"Who knew horses could bake cakes? Heck, who knew horses even eat cake?"

"Ponies, Ron," Kim replied in an exasperated tone. "But yeah, that was good cake..."

Sonata Public Library

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Princess Celestia and Sunset Shimmer reclined on large piles of plush velvet pillows in Celestia's spacious royal chambers. "You have no idea how much it delights me to see you again, Sunset Shimmer," Celestia said softly.

Sunset smiled, ducking her head. "I wasn't...I wasn't sure you'd ever want to see me again," she said.

"Oh, Sunset," Celestia said, shaking her head. "The last time we saw each other, I...I was exasperated and frustrated. I lost my temper."

"Yeah...I don't blame you," Sunset said miserably. "I was out of control."

"Yes, you were," Celestia said, "but that doesn't excuse my behavior. I made the same mistake with you I once made with my own sister." She sighed. "You would think, after a thousand years of remorse and regret, I would not repeat my greatest mistake." She perked up suddenly. "Which reminds me! You simply must meet Luna as soon as possible! I've told her so much about you!"

Sunset smiled. "I'm looking forward to it." She paused. "At least, I think I am. I've gotten used to Vice-Principal Luna, but meeting the princess who became Nightmare Moon..."

Celestia's muzzle twisted into a pained grimace. "I...would recommend not bringing that up," she said. "Luna's past is still a bit of a sore subject for her."

"I can relate," Sunset said with a shaky laugh. "I've pretty much gotten past the whole 'I turned into a literal demon' thing by now to the point where I can laugh about it with my friends, but it's not really something I like having thrown in my face."

Celestia blinked. "A demon? Twilight didn't tell me about that." She paused, then admitted, "Actually, Twilight didn't tell me much of anything about her time in your world except that she showed you the magic of friendship and that you were turning your life around and making friends."

"Really?" Sunset asked. "That doesn't sound like Twilight."

"It isn't," Celestia said. "I knew she was keeping something from me about what happened in your world because her report was...far less detailed than I'm used to. I figured there was a reason for it, and let it go. Besides, she's a Princess and my equal now, it isn't my place to question her."

"Nopony's your equal, Princess Celestia," Sunset said.

Celestia rolled her eyes. "Let an old mare have her little delusions." They both giggled. "So...do you want to talk about it?"

Sunset sighed. "There's not much to tell, really," she said. "I put on Twilight's crown, the Element of Harmony turned me into a demon, Twilight somehow made a magical connection with the human versions of her friends here, they blasted me with a rainbow, I woke up in a smoking crater in the middle of the school courtyard." She shrugged. "It took months to get everyone to stop glaring at me and muttering angrily behind my back—or to my face—and accept me as a changed person, but my friends stuck by me." She laughed softly. "Helping save the school from the Sirens went a long way toward changing everyone's opinion of me."

"The Sirens," Celestia said, shaking her head. "I can't believe Starswirl did something that irresponsible. I am truly sorry you and your friends had to deal with such a dangerous magical threat."

Sunset shrugged. "At least some good came out of it. Twilight figured out how to open the portal because I needed her help. Now we can go back and forth whenever we want."

"And that is truly a joyous thing," Celestia said with a smile. "I do hope you will be coming back to visit more often. Or...or perhaps even come home to stay?"

Sunset smiled a bit sadly. "I...don't think I'm coming back for good," she said. "At least...not yet. Not for a while. I've never been as happy as I am right now. I have friends, I have a good life."

Celestia's smile turned sad, but she nodded. "As long as you are happy and well, that is all I need. Though perhaps before you return home, I'll create another pair of enchanted journals...so you can keep in touch."

"I'd like that," Sunset said. She paused, then softly asked, "Princess Celestia?"

"Yes, my little pony?"

Sunset cast her gaze to the pillow she lay upon. "I...I was never going to be a princess, was I?"

Celestia sighed. "In all honesty? I'm not sure," she admitted. "I wanted it to be you. I hoped so dearly you were the one I'd been waiting for. That it would be you who would reunite the Elements of Harmony and save my sister when she escaped her imprisonment." She paused, then added, "I saw so much of myself in you that I conveniently forgot something very important."

"What was that?" Sunset asked, tilting her head.

"The third Cutie Mark on the trunk of the Tree of Harmony," Celestia said. "When Starswirl first took Luna and myself to the Tree, we did not yet have our Cutie Marks, yet they were already present on its trunk: the Sun and the Moon. It was not until we returned to the Tree to take the Elements of Harmony to defeat Discord that we truly realized the implications." She paused, studying her hooves. "There was a third Cutie Mark on the tree, larger and more prominent than ours. I believe Starswirl, who had already visited the future and seen many things to come, knew whose Cutie Mark it was—had seen Equestria as it is now, with four Alicorn Princesses." She bowed her head. "For many hundreds of years, I watched and waited. I desperately wanted to know who the third Cutie Mark on the Tree of Harmony belonged to.

"But then the time for my sister's return drew nearer, and I became desperate. I knew that a pony with powerful magic would need to recover and reunite the Elements of Harmony, and that only true friendship could revive their power. When I took you as my student, I...I hoped it would be you who would accomplish this." She looked away. "I hoped so strongly that I allowed myself to forget about..."

"The third Cutie Mark on the Tree," Sunset said quietly. "It's...it's Twilight's, isn't it?"

"It is," Celestia said, nodding. "I met her not long after your...departure...on the very day she earned her Cutie Mark. I immediately took her as my student, though I was more careful and more patient with her. And did not make the same mistake of promising her something dangerous."

Sunset laughed a short, bitter, self-deprecating laugh. "Wow," she said quietly. "I went through all that for nothing, huh?"

Celestia winced. "Well...the important thing is you ultimately found your purpose and your happiness. Even if it came at...at a terribly high cost."

They lapsed into an awkward silence.

"Well on the bright side," Sunset said suddenly, "as much as I miss having magic, I actually kinda like being human."

"Oh?" Celestia asked, her ears perking with interest.

"Yeah," Sunset said, smiling broadly. "When you get used to it, it's pretty cool. Magic may not be a regular thing there, but the human world is full of amazing things. Things I can't even explain in terms you'd understand!" She closed her eyes, a look of bliss crossing her face. "There's so many simple, little things that I enjoy. Riding my motorcycle, sitting barefoot in the park, feeling the cool green grass between my toes..." She smirked and looked at Celestia. "And my human form is pretty sexy. I'm looking forward to bikini season! Going to the beach with my friends, making all the guys drool..."

Celestia giggled, covering her muzzle with a hoof. "My goodness!" She smiled happily. "I know just enough about your world to understand that last part," she said with a wink, which sent both mares into giggles. After a long moment, Celestia sighed wistfully. "It's been a long time since we sat and laughed together."

"It has, hasn't it?" Sunset said. With a smile, she added, "We'll just have to make up for lost time..."

* * * * *

After a sinfully restful night in the luxurious suites of Canterlot Castle and a large, elegant royal breakfast—at which they were introduced to Princess Luna—Twilight led Sunset, Kim, and Ron deep into the catacombs beneath Canterlot.

"Wow. This place is...KP, what's the word I'm looking for?"

"Dank?"

"Dank! That's the word. This place is dank."

"And dusty," Kim commented. "And—ew!" She ducked under a cobweb, idly trying to brush some strands of spidersilk from her mane with a hoof.

"We're almost to the Athenaeum," Twilight said.

"Just what the heck is an Athenaeum anyway?" Ron asked. "And if we're supposed to be doing research, wouldn't it be better to go to, y'know, a library?"

"An Athenaeum is a library," Sunset said as the group reached the base of the long, crumbled stone steps that emptied out into a massive cavern lit by ancient magical torches.

"Really?" Kim asked, looking around. "Because it kinda looks like a cross between a museum and someone's grandpa's basement."

The group descended into a massive cavern full of books, furniture, knick-knacks, museum pieces, artifacts, scrolls, tomes, globes, and the relics of a life devoted to magical research. Even overgrown with roots and fungus as it was, even with much of the carefully-wrought masonwork and furniture in a state of decay brought about by centuries, even with spiderwebs everywhere and bats rustling about in the stalactites high above, the grand space took the breath away from those who had never laid eyes upon it before.

Sunset looked around the ancient, dusty cavern, her eyes wide with wonder. "It's real," she breathed. Her muzzle crinkled. "Funny, I thought there'd be more books."

"Oh, this is just the antechamber," Twilight said. "The Athenaeum is further inside."

The group trotted through the antechamber, craning their necks around to gawk at everything, from an ancient, still ticking grandfather clock to a dusty old ship in a bottle. The sound of water trickling from overhead drew near, and they soon found themselves walking past a small artificial pond, inside which...

"HOLY HEE-HAW WHAT THE HECK IS THAT?!" Ron brayed.

Kim looked at what he was staring at, and recoiled in disgust. "Eugh!" In the pond lay a moldy, slimy, massive skeleton, its bones splayed out in the stagnant water. Four skulls lay half-submerged in the water, covered in algae.

Sunset leaned forward with interest. "Is that a hydra?"

"Was," Twilight said. "Come on, this way."

They trotted past the hydra corpse through a broader cavern; eventually, they came upon a huge carved stone building, built right into the rockface of the cave. Cracked sandstone sculptures of lions flanked the steps leading up to the tarnished bronze door. A brass plaque mounted on the door bore the legend:

ATHENAEUM AND SUNDRIES

"Looks like the Middleton Public Library," Ron said. "Only, y'know...a lot older."

Twilight's horn lit up, and the ancient bronze doors swung open.

Sunset glanced at her curiously. "You...you've been here before, haven't you?"

"Yeah," Twilight said. "Long story and I'll probably end up telling you most of it while we're doing research, but you're not the only pony who went through a magic mirror and caused everypony a lot of problems." She paused. "Err...no offense."

Sunset rolled her eyes. "None taken," she said. "Wait, what other pony? I don't remember you ever chasing anypony else through the mirror..."

"It wasn't the same portal," Twilight said. "It was another one of Starswirl's mirrors." She sighed. "Let's just say Celestia decided to visit her old boyfriend and we nearly lost Equestria in the process."

Sunset blinked. "Her...her what?!"

"Wow, Romeo and Juliet much?" Kim asked, shaking her head.

The group followed Twilight through the doors of the Athenaeum, which led to an anteroom full of dusty, cobwebbed old bookshelves stuffed full of tomes of forgotten lore. Jars and bottles lined shelves long overgrown with creeping vines that snaked through cracks in the rock and stone. Moss covered the ancient wooden shelves.

"Yeah this is a wizard's library," Ron said.

Sunset stared at a coatrack standing off to one side, from which hung an old purple cape and a hat adorned with bells. "Is...is that...?" she asked, her jaw dropping.

Twilight smiled. "The original," she said with a touch of pride. She gave Sunset a sly look. "Wanna try it on?"

Sunset's eyes bugged out and her ears folded back. "C-can I?" she whispered reverently.

"No," Twilight said with a smirk. At Sunset's crestfallen expression, she giggled. "Just kidding. Knock yourself out. I reinforced the preservation spell that's kept it from disintegrating all these years, so it's safe to move it."

With a look of pure awe, Sunset took the old hat and cape from the coatrack and gently put them on, ignoring the cobwebs and frayed threads grabbing at her coat. "Wow," she said, studying herself.

"Wizardy," Kim commented.

Sunset spent a moment posing and preening in the old wizard's garments, then gently put them back on the coatrack. "But...Twilight," she said, "if you found that here, if...if you preserved it magically..." She shook her head. "Why did you leave it down here? It belongs in a museum!"

Twilight smiled. "It is in a museum," she said. "A special museum. The secret museum. The true shrine to Starswirl the Bearded."

"Well, yeah, but—"

"It belongs down here," Twilight said firmly. "It's as much a part of him as this Athenaeum. As long as his hat and cape are here..." She looked around fondly. "He's still here." She smiled sadly. "Besides, Starswirl travels across time and space like the rest of us travel across town to grab a hayburger. I want it to be there waiting for him if, you know...if he ever pops in." She turned away from the coatrack. "Come on, what we're looking for is deeper in."

"Wait, there's more?" Ron asked.

"There's a lot more," Twilight said, heading for a descending staircase hidden in a shadowy alcove between two teetering old stacks. The quartet descended the stairs into a truly massive cave, half of which was overtaken by massive granite bookshelves, built three stories tall, with stone staircases and ladders set between the stacks, which were crammed full of books, scrolls, and tomes. The rest of the cavern was a reliquery, with various and sundry artifacts, knick-knacks, bric-a-brac, sculptures, lanterns, books, maps, charts, junk, and treasure scattered haphazardly in all directions. A massive sandstone carving of Starswirl himself towered over the cavern, near a two-story-tall painting of a much younger Celestia.

"Now this is a library," Kim said in an impressed tone as she looked around.

"It is," Sunset said giddily. "It really really is."

Twilight smiled and hovered off the ground, spreading her hooves broadly to encompass the totality of the grand space.

"Welcome," she said, "to the Athenaeum of Starswirl the Bearded."

Sonata Biology Class

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"Class?" Cheerilee said. "I think we'll change the lesson plan for the afternoon. Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, why don't you teach the class a little something about...whatever your friend here is?"

Pinkie, Fluttershy, and Rainbow Dash looked at one another, then at Sonata, then at the desperate Cheerilee and the eager, curious herd of foals. "Uhh..." Rainbow said.

"Well," Pinkie hedged, "we'd like to, but..." She glanced at Fluttershy.

"The truth is...we don't really know much about her ourselves," Fluttershy said. "She's the only one of her kind in Equestria right now, and the first one of her kind in over a thousand years." She glanced at Sonata. "Umm...maybe you could tell them about yourself...?"

Sonata giggled. "Show and tell? Sure! I love show and tell!" She frowned. "Except for that one time I brought this toy I found in Adagio's room, and then the teacher got all mad and sent me to the principal's office, and then they called a priest and he threw holy water on me and—"

"Ahem," Cheerilee said.

"Oh! Sorry." Sonata smiled sheepishly.

"Ah think we're gettin' an education," Apple Bloom said, tilting her head curiously.

"I'm not sure this is the education we want or need," Sweetie Belle said.

"Why don't you start by just telling us who you are and what you are?" Cheerilee suggested in a bright, sunny tone.

Sonata smiled brightly (terrifying some of the poor foals in the process) and did a flip in the air. "Hi, little ponies! My name is Sonata Dusk, and I'm a Siren!" She waggled her fins.

"Are you a theapony?" Twist asked.

"Hee! Not quite," Sonata said. "I used to know some seaponies, though! I love that little song they sing. Shoo be doo, shoo shoo be doo!"

"How are you flying?" Scootaloo asked. "I mean, you don't even have wings, just...like...fins and stuff."

Sonata blinked. "Huh," she said. "You know, I don't actually know? I never really thought about it. Me, Adagio, and Aria could just always fly when we're not in the sea. You'd think we wouldn't be able to leave the ocean with these fish-horsey bodies, but..." She shrugged. "I guess if you can fly with those tiny stubby wings, anything's possible, right?" she asked with a bright smile.

Scootaloo's ears folded down. "I, uhh..." She looked away dejectedly.

Rainbow flew up and cuffed Sonata across the head. "Way to go, jerkface!" she snapped. In a harsh whisper, she added, "Scoots can't fly!"

"Oh. Oopsie." Sonata drooped in the air, then glided down low to the ground. "Sorry, I didn't know," she said.

Scootaloo sighed. "It's okay..."

"What's that weird glowing thingie on your chest?" Sweetie Belle asked, determined to change the subject.

"Huh? Oh! That's my magic song gem," Sonata said. "It kinda got broken back when I was evil and helped try to take over the world, but when I came back to Equestria from that other world it started growing back."

This drew a gasp from the crowd. "You're evil?!" Pipsqueak shouted. "Oh my gosh! You guys, she's evil! She's going to eat us all whole!"

"What? No I'm not!" Sonata protested, eyes wide. "I'm not gonna eat anypony! And I'm not evil anymore! I don't think." She paused, tilting her head. "Well, I mean...I don't wanna be, you know?"

"Oh. So you're like Nightmare Moon then," Pipsqueak said, visibly calming down.

"Other world?" Apple Bloom asked, brow furrowing thoughtfully. Her eyes narrowed. "Wait a sec," she said, "are you from that crazy across-th'-mirror place Princess Twilight wandered off to a while back? Mah sis told me some'a whut Twilight told 'er about that place."

"Well, I'm from Equestria," Sonata said. "But a long long really long time ago, me and my sisters got tossed into a magic mirror by Starswirl the Bearded when we tried to conquer Equestria, and then we barely had any magic, and it was so hard to get by on what little energy we could drain from humans with no magic, but then there was a big blast of Equestrian magic that came from a high school, and Adagio decided we'd go there, take over, find the magic, take it for ourselves, and REALLY rule!" She paused for breath. "But then some girls with magic shot a giant rainbow laser disco alicorn at us and our song gems broke and now we just kinda sit around doing nothing."

Cheerilee's class blinked uncomprehendingly at her.

"Reformed vanquished baddie," Pinkie summed up.

"Oooooohhhhh," the class all said in understanding.

Diamond Tiara snorted. "Oh, puh-LEEZE," she harrumphed. "Like Discord isn't bad enough. Remember that time he tried to 'adopt' Featherweight?"

Featherweight shuddered. "The cockroaches...they talked in haiku..."

"Do we really need some other creepy dark magic monster that claims not to be evil anymore roaming around Ponyville?" Diamond Tiara tossed her mane. "Let's go, everypony! I'll show you something really educational at my mansion." She paused, glanced back at the Cutie Mask Crusaders with a haughty smirk, and added, "You three aren't invited."

Silver Spoon let out a sycophantic laugh, hoof-bumped Diamond Tiara, and marched off. A few of their classmates followed.

"GIRLS!" Cheerilee snapped. "I have NOT dismissed school! Get...back here..." She bowed her head. "Oh, what's the use? Class...dismissed..." She slunk off toward Ponyville, her tail dangling low.

Sonata drooped. "Did I do something wrong?"

"Nah, it ain't you," Apple Bloom said. "Diamond Tiara's an eighteen carrot horseapple."

"And Cheerilee's more of a doormat than I realized," Rainbow Dash said, frowning in the retreating teacher's direction. "This kind of thing happen often, squirt?"

"Not...too often," Scootaloo said, "but...yeah, sometimes Miss Cheerilee kinda loses control of the class..."

"Oh my," Fluttershy said. "That's not very good. Wait here, everypony." She took off after the departed group of foals.

"Pinkie, Sonata, watch the brats," Rainbow said. "I'm gonna go have a word with Cheerilee." She took off in a flash.

An awkward silence fell. "So, uhh..." Pinkie Pie hedged, "anypony wanna hear some silly songs?"

* * * * *

"Good job back there, Di!" Silver Spoon simpered.

"I know," Diamond Tiara said, buffing a hoof on her coat. "Can you imagine, Cheerilee wanting us to hang around with that?"

"'THAT' has FEELINGS, you know," a soft but steely voice said from above. The two rich fillies and their hangers-on stopped short as a yellow pegasus dropped into their path, spreading her wings wide and lowering her head to glare at them. She snorted steam as she planted her hooves in a broad stance.

Diamond Tiara snorted. "Pssh. Big deal. I don't care about feelings."

"Oh really?" Fluttershy asked. "And what if nopony cared about your feelings, hmm?" She arched her head up like a cobra preparing to strike. "What if everypony laughed if somepony said your mane looks like toothpaste?"

One of the fillies behind Diamond Tiara giggled.

"Or if somepony pointed out what a joke it is for you to walk around wearing a dime-store tiara like you're a pretend princess?" Fluttershy continued.

More snickering ensued. Diamond Tiara's ears folded down. "Stop it," she said.

"Why? Am I hurting your feelings?" Fluttershy asked in a snide tone. "I thought you didn't care about feelings!"

"STOP!" Silver Spoon cried, moving closer to Diamond Tiara. "I'm gonna tell my daddy on you! And so is she!"

"Really?" Fluttershy asked, tilting her head. "Maybe I should tell them about how you talked back to Miss Cheerilee and walked away from school without being dismissed. You girls are all cutting class right now. Would your mommies and daddies like to hear about that?"

Guilty shuffling of hooves ensued.

"But..." Diamond Tiara whined petulantly. "But that stupid thing back there..."

Fluttershy settled down, her wings folding back at her sides and her face returning to its usual soft, kind expression, with just a hint of disapproval. "Now really, girls," she said in a motherly tone, "Sonata is a very nice creature and she just wants to belong somewhere. She's been stranded in another world for a very long time and Equestria is her home, and all she wants is to fit in and make friends. What does it say about all of you when you treat her like some kind of monster just because she looks different from you?" She took a step closer to Diamond Tiara. "Now, we're all going to go back there, and you're all going to apologize to Sonata and to Miss Cheerilee."

"Yes, Fluttershy," the small group of fillies said in a collective whipped-puppy tone, hanging their heads as they trudged after Fluttershy, who trotted back to the waiting group with her head held high.

* * * * *

A rainbow blur landed in Cheerilee's path. "Whoa!" Rainbow Dash said. "You're just gonna walk off like that?"

"You saw what happened back there!" Cheerilee moaned.

"Yeah. I saw that brat Diamond Tiara throw a fit and walk away in the middle of class, and you just took it." She planted her hooves on her hips. "You gotta have more backbone than that!"

"I've tried!" Cheerilee cried, throwing up her hooves. "Nothing I ever do gets through to her! She's always like this! Even when I took away her post as editor of the Foal Free Press, it didn't stop this!"

"Yeah, well, Diamond Tiara's a spoiled brat, everypony knows it," Rainbow Dash said dismissively. "But you let her disrupt your lesson and act like a jerk, and then you just left all those kids back there! How do you expect to get any respect from anypony if you tuck tail and walk away when things get a little out of hoof?" She dropped to the ground, planted a hoof on Cheerilee's shoulder, and stared her square in the eyes. "You're gonna go back there, you're gonna get your class back in order, and you're gonna show 'em what a great teacher you are. And next time you see Diamond Tiara, you're gonna put her in her place."

Cheerilee sighed. "And if I say no, you're gonna drag me back by my tail, aren't you?"

"Darn right!"

Cheerilee snorted. "Okay, okay. Let's go. But I dismissed class, so—"

"Eh, they're all still there," Rainbow said. "I left 'em with Pinkie an' Sonata."

Cheerilee's eyes widened. "Oh my gosh! We'd better hurry!" She turned around and galloped off. Rainbow snickered and followed at a leisurely glide.

* * * * *

"—and that's why you should always have that nasty-tasting pink stuff in your medicine cabinet!" Sonata said to a group of wide-eyed, grossed-out foals. "Of course, maybe if I didn't try to eat two dozen tacos at once—"

"OKAY!" Pinkie Pie shouted in a strained, forced-cheerful tone. "That was...very educational, wasn't it class?" She clapped her hooves. "Why don't we—"

"I'm sorry I ran off on you kids!" Cheerilee cried in a breathless rush as she ran up, Rainbow Dash right behind her. "Pinkie, Sonata, thank you for taking care of...why is Pipsqueak throwing up behind a bush?"

"Umm...Sonata's biology lecture was a bit...graphic," Pinkie said sheepishly.

Cheerilee blinked, then looked up at Sonata, who shrugged with a happy-go-lucky smile. "Uh-huh," she said. She took a deep breath, then fixed an overly-bright smile on her face. "Well! I'm sure I'll be getting some very interesting letters from your parents, but in the meantime—"

"Excuse me, Miss Cheerilee?" Fluttershy said as she trotted up. "I believe Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon have something they'd like to say to you." She motioned with a wing, and the two fillies trotted up, heads down, and glanced up guiltily at Cheerilee.

"We're sorry," they both said contritely.

"And?" Fluttershy prompted.

Diamond Tiara looked up at Sonata. "Sorry," she said. "I shouldn't have been mean to you just because you're different."

Sonata waved a hoof dismissively. "I totally get it," she said. "I've done the whole school bully bit, I know you were only doing it to make yourself feel big and important because you know you're really all alone and—"

Pinkie jumped up and clamped Sonata's muzzle shut. "She accepts your apology!" she said hastily, nodding Sonata's head up and down with her hooves.

"Umm..." Cheerilee said. "Okay! In that case, ahem. Class? How about we go...play some hoofball! At Sweet Apple Acres! And maybe help Granny Smith, umm...bake a pie?" She glanced at Apple Bloom.

"Yeah, we can totally do that!" Apple Bloom agreed. The rest of the class gave a cheer (albeit somewhat half-hearted from Silver Spoon and Diamond Tiara).

"Great!" Cheerilee turned to Fluttershy, Rainbow, and Pinkie. "Well! Thank you all so much for, umm...today. I'll certainly never forget it!" Under her breath, she muttered, "No matter how much of Berry Punch's special stash I drink tonight..."

"Don't sweat it, Cheerilee!" Rainbow said. "Well, we've done enough damage here. Guess we'd better get back to that tour of Ponyville!" Her stomach rumbled. "Or maybe just to Hayburger."

"Hayburger sounds good," Pinkie said.

"I could eat," Sonata agreed. "Don't guess there's a taco place here?"

"NO TACOS!" Pinkie shouted.

"Aww..."

Sonata Research Assistant

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By the time the group had been in the Athenaeum for a solid hour, the novelty had worn off and reality had set in: they were in a dusty old library. Twilight and Sunset were hard at work, pulling books and scrolls off shelves and skimming through them, creating piles for further study and piles to be reshelved. Kim was doing her best to help, flying along stacks and trying to look for anything that seemed like it might be useful.

Ron, on the other hoof...

"Man, this bites," Ron complained. "I wish Rufus was here."

"Ron, right now Rufus is a bird made out of fire," Kim pointed out in exasperation. "We are in a library. Not really the best idea!"

Ron sighed. "Yeah, yeah, you're right." He kicked at a loose pebble on the floor. "I just...why did I even come down here? It's not like I can do anything but stand here and bray."

"Well, you could help us search for something we can use in our research," Sunset said testily.

"Yyyeah, research? Not really Ron's strong suit," Kim said as she flew down from a high shelf, flipping pages in a book with her hooves.

Ron stared at her. "Okay how are you even doing that?"

"Hmm?" Kim mumbled distractedly. "Ron, I figured out how to fly yesterday. I've been doing it all day!"

"Not the flying, the thing with the hooves!"

Kim blinked, then looked at her hooves. "What thing?"

"The thing! You're turning pages in a book with hooves! As in, big clumsy there are no fingers or thumbs hooves!"

Kim pursed her lips. "Huh." She shook her head. "Weird." She turned another page as she lowered herself onto a bench by a reading table. "What's up with that?"

Sunset shrugged. "It's just how things work here. You'll get used to it just like me and Twilight got used to fingers." She sighed as she tossed another book aside with her magic and grabbed a fresh book. "Twilight, what are we even looking for here?"

"I honestly won't know until we find it," Twilight said without looking up from a scroll. "Starswirl put every ounce of magical knowledge he accumulated in his entire lifetime into mirror portal research. He and Celestia spent decades studying other world and the magic needed to reach them."

"Yeah, we could spend decades just reading all these books," Ron said.

Kim frowned as she paged through a dusty old journal. "You know, some of this sounds like they were just time-traveling instead of jumping to other worlds," she said.

"I think some of it actually was just time travel," Twilight admitted. "They just didn't realize it at the time. But trust me, they visited several alternate worlds."

"...they?" Sunset asked. She frowned. "Wait. You mentioned Princess Celestia going through a mirror earlier..."

Twilight set aside the scroll and picked up a book. "They found a world that was a reflection of Equestria," she said. "One where everypony was the opposite of their nature here."

"Oh, like that one episode of that space show," Ron said.

"Life isn't TV, Ron," Kim said in an exasperated tone.

Twilight shot them an irritated look, then continued, "In that other world, Celestia and Luna were evil tyrants, and Equestria was ruled by a wise and benevolent King Sombra. Our Celestia fell in love with their Sombra and snuck off to visit him without Starswirl's permission several times. Starswirl eventually caught her and sealed the portal because her little visits were putting both worlds in danger."

"Ouch," Kim said.

"Wow, the things you don't know about somepony," Sunset said, eyes wide.

"None of that has anything to do with our situation," Twilight said with a shrug. "But it does emphasize the need for caution when dealing with dimensional travel magic."

"Yeah, uh-huh, what I know about magic is the less you have to deal with it the better, especially if it has anything to do with time, dimensions, or monkeys," Ron said as he examined the ancient statue of Starswirl. "Or time monkeys."

"Time monkeys?" Sunset asked.

"You don't wanna know," Kim muttered.

"Actually," Twilight mused, "Ron's monkey magic is even more powerful than Kim's luck magic, and since we're trying to figure out how to untangle the mess of magic surrounding you two without removing anything important, I probably need to know everything I can about...whatever monkey magic is."

"Oh, dude, you are asking the wrong donkey," Ron said. "I so don't understand this mystic monkey stuff. I just know I have it and it comes out when I need it." He paused. "And that, you know, every month or so we run into some new stupid monkey thing that ends up nearly destroying the world."

"Yeah, we run into lots of monkey stuff," Kim said. "Monkey idols, monkey statues, monkey demons, monkey spirits, monkey gods, Monkey Kung Fu, monkey magic...it's like monkeyshines just can't stop happening around Ron."

Ron shuddered. "All I ever wanted was a happy-go-lucky, monkey-free life."

Twilight and Sunset exchanged a glance. Sunset looked back at Kim and Ron, raising an eyebrow. "Sooooo...monkey magic is something that just sort of...follows you two around?"

"Mostly Ron," Kim said. "He's, well..." She gestured vaguely with a hoof. "Do ponies believe in destiny? Do you have like, the whole 'The Chosen One' thing here?"

Sunset's eyebrow climbed higher as she slowly looked at Twilight, smirking. Twilight coughed, a sheepish smile crossing her face. "Yeah, I, umm...think we're familiar with it," she said.

Ron blinked. "Wow. You too, huh?"

Twilight sighed. "Yeah."

"Well, Ron's apparently the destined Ultimate Monkey Master," Kim said. "Neither of us really understand it, and usually when this monkey stuff happens, it happens too fast for us to really get any answers or understand it."

"Yeah, it's like all these ancient monkey mystics just wanna fling crap at me," Ron said. "If the mystical monkey power hadn't let me save KP's life that one time and, y'know, Sensei didn't constantly seem to need my help with something, I'd say rip it right outta me. I so need less monkey in my life."

Twilight shook her head. "I'm not messing with anything I don't completely understand," she said. "Magic you brought with you from your world needs to stay with you when you go back there. There's no telling what kind of damage is being done to your world just by you and your monkey magic not being there."

* * * * *

"I find it very inconvenient," a blue-skinned man with a ring of bright yellow flower petals growing out of his neck grumbled as he aimed a ray gun at a monkey dressed in a black ninja outfit, "that Kim Possible and Ron Stoppable are nowhere to be found right now!"

"Yeah, it's not like Kimmy to miss out on a party like this," the green-skinned woman at his side said as she fired a green energy blast at a monkey ninja, while backfisting one that tried to attack her from behind. She unclipped a communication device from her belt and tapped a button. "Hey Nerdlinger, what's—"

"—the sitch?" the voice of a young boy answered. "No clue. The Kimmunicator's gone completely off the grid. Can't pick up Ron's chip either. Umm...thanks again for picking up the slack while I try to figure out what happened to them."

"Nnnghhaaaaah," Dr. Drakken grunted, scowling as he sent a trio of vines after a monkey ninja. "I hate doing this whole hero thing. This is not my department!"

"Yeah, well, you save the world a time or two, you kinda end up saving it a whole bunch," Shego said. "I didn't exactly wanna go back to hero work either, you know!" She blasted two monkey ninjas, then sighed. "Of course, after that whole alien invasion thing, I kinda...don't really feel like doing the whole taking-over-the-world thing anymore either."

Drakken grimaced. "I have to admit, I've lost my taste for it as well," he said. He shot a monkey ninja, freezing it solid. "Still, the hero thing is best left to...blast it, where IS that annoying teen hero?"

A sinister chuckle filled the air.

"Where indeed...?"

* * * * *

Ron's jaw and ears dropped. "Are you saying I'm like, our whole world's monkey plug?"

"Don't be so dramatic, Ron!" Kim said. "Monkey Fist is, well..." She frowned. "After that whole thing with Yono, I don't think he's coming back."

"Oh, yeah, right," Ron said. "Kinda forgot about that. Yikes."

"And I'm pretty sure by now we've exhausted all the really bad monkeyshines," Kim added. "In any case, worrying about it doesn't help anybody. What we need to focus on right now is helping Twilight and Sunset get us home." She gave the two native ponies a perky smile. "Anything we can do to help, just say the word."

"Well, for starters, you can tell me how this monkey magic works," Twilight said. "It sounds like you have active control over it, I'd love to see an example of what it does." She paused, then added, "If it'll even work in your current form."

Ron laughed nervously. "Aheh...yeah..." He scuffed a hoof on the floor. "Thing is, I don't really have like, y'know, control over it. It's one of those...oh, what do you call it, I got it wrong on a biology test I barely passed..."

Kim rolled her eyes. "The Mystical Monkey Power only kicks in when Ron's super stressed," she said. "Like, 'one of us is about to die' stressed."

"Or 'pushed way past the limit of BS I'm willing to put up with' stressed," Ron added.

Twilight blinked. "Oh...kaaaay," she said. "Well, when you do tap into it, what do you use it for? How does it work?"

Ron shrugged. "Pretty much kicking bad guy butt," he said. "I mean, that's all it's really good for. There's always a bad guy, they have a butt, I go monkey mad and kick it."

"That's...awfully vague," Sunset said. "I think she was hoping for something a little more...technical?"

"The monkey power gives him mastery of Tai Shing Pek Kwar," Kim said. "Monkey Kung Fu. When he's in magic monkey mode, he's practically invincible."

"Yeah, it's only happened a couple of times," Ron said.

Sunset's muzzle crinkled. "So it gives you increased physical strength and skill?"

"Yeah, sounds about right," Ron said. "Oh, and it's connected to a whole bunch of monkey stuff we've run into. Mostly the Lotus Blade."

"Lotus Blade?" Twilight asked.

"Shape-changing ancient magic weapon," Ron said. "If you have the mystical monkey mojo, you can make it turn into anything you think of."

"That sounds useful," Sunset said.

"Yeah, but it's the ancient treasure of a super-secret ninja school, so...kinda not available for everyday use."

"Most of the other monkey stuff is too dangerous to mess with," Kim added. "Or we've already destroyed it."

Twilight frowned. "So basically this monkey magic, it's a purely combat-oriented form of magic that can only be used either in battle or to control a variety of enchanted objects, most of which are used for destruction?"

"Sounds about right," Ron said.

"Sounds like a jinx," Sunset muttered.

"Well, Ron does tend to have spectacularly bad luck," Kim said. With a laugh, she added, "Sometimes it's so bad it spins back around to good!"

"And sometimes it's just plain bad," Ron grumbled. "I mean, you wanted to go to that new Japanese place, but I insisted on Bueno Nacho. If I'd just gone along with what you suggested, none of this would've happened!"

"Eh, I wasn't really enthused about it myself," Kim said. "I just suggested it because I thought we could use a change of pace. I mean, I don't want us to fall into a rut, y'know?"

Ron snorted. "KP, I think we fell into the ruttiest rut that ever rutted."

Twilight made a stuck sound. Sunset flushed. "Uhh...yeah. Word of advice? Go easy on the word 'rutted' when you're in Equestria. Kinda...not something you say in public here."

"Oh...sorry," Ron said. He tilted his head. "Wonder why that is?"

Kim blushed. "I think I know, and I agree. Bad word."

Twilight sighed. "Okay, so...can't examine Ron's monkey magic in action, so we'll have to do passive tests." She frowned. "I guess for now, we should just get back to work."

"Yeah, I'm still not sure what we're even looking for," Sunset said.

Twilight frowned. "Anything related to cross-dimensional magical entanglements," she said. "I mean, Starswirl probably ran into something that would be useful now. Maybe he has some kind of filtering spell I could adapt."

"Well while you ladies are doing that, I'm gonna look through some of this funky wizard stuff," Ron said, trotting over to a large brass chest which stood against one wall. With some difficulty, he managed to open it, tipping it over in the process; dozens of objects tumbled out, clattering across the ancient floor. Ron flopped onto his belly, braying in alarm.

"RON!" Kim snapped. "Be more care...ful...?" She trailed off, eyes widening as one of the objects in the chest began to glow and rose into the air, pulsing with a faint violet light.

Sunset looked up from her book, noticed it, and blinked. "Uhh, Twilight? What...is that?"

"Hmm?" Twilight followed her gaze. Her eyes widened. "GAH! What—"

A bright pulse of light flooded the room.

Stoppable-san.

The deep, melliflous voice echoed off the walls of the Athenaeum.

Ron scrambled to his hooves, eyes wide. "Sensei...?!"

The world is in grave danger. The great devil monkey Genghis Kong has risen. You, Stoppable-san, are our only hope.

"Where's that voice coming from?" Twilight asked, wings flaring wide as her head darted around, seeking the source of the voice.

"How'd he even find us here?" Kim wondered.

The astral plane binds all, Kim Possible-san, Sensei said. Though the distance between us makes contact...difficult.

"Yeah, about that," Ron said. "We've kinda got a serious problem here and I'm not sure when we're gonna be able to get back to our world. Unless, y'know, you have some kind of magic ninja doo-dad that'll help?"

Alas, the long path home from the Land of the Great Horse will be your honor to find and walk, Stoppable-san.

Ron sighed. "Yeah. Figured as much."

But it is fortuitous that you are there, for it is the location of one of the Seven Rainbow Monkey Crystals, which you will need to stop Genghis Kong.

"Of course," Ron said, eyes half-lidded.

Our great founder Toshimiru left the Seven Banana Crystal with an equine wizard long ago, Sensei continued. You have come into contact with that crystal, and that is how I have found you. The remaining Rainbow Monkey Crystals are scattered across the Great Zodiac Animal Worlds. Even I do not know their location. Stoppable-san, you must find all seven crystals and return them to our world, and you must do so as quickly as possible. We will join your allies in Middleton and Go City to hold back Genghis Kong for as long as we can. The world needs you, Stoppable-san.

The bright pulse of violet light faded to a soft glow as a hoof-sized violet crystal ball dropped to the floor, rolling slowly toward Ron. Seven small golden bananas were embedded just beneath its glassy surface.

Ron, Kim, Sunset, and Twilight all stared at it.

They slowly looked at one another with wide, startled eyes.

Finally, Kim broke the silence:

"Maybe you really are our world's monkey plug..."

Sonata Complication

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Princess Celestia and Princess Luna studied the small violet crystal ball that sat in the center of the table.

"Curious," Celestia said. "I've never seen this before. Of course, Starswirl the Bearded collected and created so many things, I doubt I'd recognize half of what lies within his lair."

"So you were contacted via the Astral Plane?" Luna asked. "It is interesting that a world unconnected to Equestria or any of its sister planes was able to traverse the great void beyond life and death."

"That's Sensei for ya," Ron said. "Dude sent me a message written in cafeteria mystery meat gravy one time."

"He said there are seven of these crystals and we'll need to find all of them to save our world," Kim said in a worried tone. "So now it's not just that we need to figure out how to get home, we need to figure it out fast and we need to figure out where these other crystals are."

"And from the sound of it, they're not in Equestria," Sunset said with a tired sigh.

"That voice mentioned something called the Great Zodiac Animal Worlds," Twilight said. "What can you tell us about that?"

Celestia shook her head. "I'm sorry, it's nothing I've ever heard of."

"He called this world the Land of the Great Horse," Kim said thoughtfully. Her brow furrowed. "Great Horse...Zodiac Animals..." She shook her head. "I feel like that's something I should know..." She growled in frustration. "Dang it, if only we could reach Wade! He'd know!"

"Hmm," Ron mused. "Maybe it's like that Chinese New Year stuff? You know, Year of the Rat, Year of the Dragon, that stuff you hear about in kung fu movies?"

Kim's eyes widened. "Ron, you're a genius! That's exactly what it is!" She sighed, her ears folding back. "But that doesn't help us if neither of us knows that much about the Chinese Zodiac, and I'm sorry, but I don't."

"Yeah, I don't either, except for knowing there's a Year of the Monkey," Ron said with a shudder.

"Zodiac? That's just star constellations, right?" Sunset said with a frown. "Like...Cancer and Aquarius and Gemini?"

"The Chinese Zodiac is different," Kim said, waving a hoof vaguely. "It's all based on animals, like dragons and rats and horses."

"Sensei called this place Land of the Great Horse," Ron said. "So yeah, probably some Chinese Zodiac thing."

"I hate to ask this, but what are the chances of your friends defeating this...Genghis Kong without you two and these crystals?" Sunset asked.

Kim shrugged. "If Sensei says we need the crystals, I guarantee we need the crystals. That's how this sort of thing works."

"Yeah, it sounds like an 'Elements of Harmony' kind of thing," Twilight agreed. "We wouldn't have been able to defeat Nightmare Moon or Discord without them, or save Equestria from the Everfree Forest without giving them up."

"Or like, y'know, those video games where if you don't find the Hero's Armor, the Shield of Virtue, and the Sword of Destiny, you can't beat the final boss," Ron said.

"So what are we supposed to do?" Sunset asked, throwing up her hooves. "Figuring out how to disentangle all the incompatible magic these two are toting around is bad enough, then figuring out how to send them home, but now we have to find some magical glass beads that are in worlds nopony's ever even been to?!"

"That last part," a voice intruded, "I can help you with." Discord appeared in a flash of light, wearing a white lab coat and a pair of safety glasses. "But it won't be easy, and you'll still have to deal with that whole magic entanglement thing yourselves."

"Discord," Celestia said solemnly, "you've heard of these 'Great Zodiac Animal Worlds'?"

"Oh, absolutely," Discord said. "Why, I was in the Land of the Great Rabbit just the other day. They have the most exquisite carrot cake!"

"Then you could find these monkey crystals for us?" Kim asked.

Discord grinned obnoxiously. "No," he said.

"Discord!" Twilight snapped.

"I'm sorry, Twilight, but I really can't," Discord said. "Or to be more precise, I won't." His expression turned to one of doleful mock sorrow. "I'm afraid your little friends here must search for their silly little banana balls themselves. It's one of those wax-on wax-off things. I'm sure you understand."

Twilight frowned. "Whacks what?"

"Discord," Celestia groaned tiredly. "This is no time for your nonsense—"

Ron let out a long, whining groan. "Duuuuude! I hate wax-on wax-off! Especially the part where you don't know you're being wax-on wax-offed!"

Kim rolled her eyes. "Ron, he just told us he's wax-on wax-offing us!" She sighed. "Anyway, at least he's willing to help us get started, that's more than we had five minutes ago." She turned to Discord. "You can really help us get to where these monkey things are hidden?"

"Mmm...indirectly," Discord said, stroking his beard. "Actually..." He snapped his talons. "There, that should set everything in motion."

"And what's that supposed to mean?" Sunset asked guardedly.

Discord chuckled. "Oh, you'll find out soon enough," he said mischievously. "For now, I suggest you continue on with your original plans. You're on the right track, by the way. Magic isn't the key to fixing this." He tugged on the lapels of his lab coat. "Science is." With that, he vanished in a burst of light.

"Helpful," Luna grunted sourly.

"Discord did something just now," Twilight said, narrowing her eyes. "I don't know what, but I'm sure of it." She sighed. "I guess for now, all we can do is get back to work figuring out how to fix the first problem."

"I've been thinking about that," Sunset said with a grimace. "What we're talking about doing would be a lot easier if we had a scientist from my world here to help figure out—"

A loud rush of wind interrupted her. Everypony present blinked as manes were whipped around and a flashing, strobing blue light washed over the room. Heads whipped around, searching for the source. Eyes widened as a massive, rippling blue vortex formed in the middle of the room, less than fifteen feet from the conference table.

"What in Equestria?" Celestia shouted above the roaring wind.

"Something comes, sister!" Luna yelled.

A silhouette formed in the center of the vortex. Everypony tensed; four lowered horns were pointed at the emerging form.

With a sudden loud snapping sound and a quiet clap of thunder, the vortex collapsed. The wind died, the strobing light no longer casting a blue wash over everything. Where the unnatural phenomenon had been, there now stood a human teenager. She wore a purple and white school uniform. Her violet hair was gathered up in a messy bun.

A lavender hand reached up to adjust black-framed glasses which magnified large, expressive purple eyes. In her other hand, she held a device with a distinctly cobbled-together look, upon which a string of red digital numbers was flashing.

She looked around the room, her mouth frozen in a small, surprised 'o'.

The ponies who had bristled for combat slowly rose to their full heights, relaxing, their wariness replaced with confusion.

Sunset Shimmer looked from Princess Twilight Sparkle to the human girl who was, unquestionably, also Twilight Sparkle.

"Well...this is awkward," she summed up.

Sonata Doppelganger

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"Well...this is awkward."

Ron looked back and forth between the two Twilights, then drooped his head, his ears dragging the ground. "Oh man, I thought we left all this identical pony twin stuff back in Ponyville!"

Celestia's lip quivered as she fought to restrain a giggle. "Well," she said, her voice quavering, "this is certainly...an unexpected development."

The newly arrived Twilight Sparkle was, for her part, staring in open-mouthed shock at the array of colorful equines before her. "Uhhhh..."

Sunset Shimmer stepped forward. "It's alright," she said. "I know this all looks...strange. I assure you there's a perfectly logical explanation for all this—"

"I jumped through a dimensional vortex," Twilight said. "It transported me to another world. An alien world. An alien world populated by small talking horses."

"Well, she's quick on the uptake," Kim said.

Twilight shook her head. "I don't know what I was expecting to find on the other side of the Hindstein-Ronan-Piedolsky Bridge, but this is..." She paused, looking around the room again. "Weird."

Princess Twilight's ears perked up. "Did you say Hindstein-Ronan-Piedolsky Bridge? That was a Hindstein-Ronan-Piedolsky Bridge? You actually created a Hindstein-Ronan-Piedolsky Bridge?!"

"Well...yeah!" Twilight said, staring at the excited pony who was suddenly two feet from her face and bouncing eagerly on her hooves. "I mean, it was kind of an accident, I was working on a completely different experiment, but..." She frowned, adjusting her glasses. "Wait. Whyyyyyy do you look and sound so much like, well...me?"

"She is you," Sunset said. "Well, the you from this dimension."

Twilight stared at her, eyes wide. "You mean the multiverse theory really is true?"

"It certainly is," Celestia said.

"Oh my gosh! This. Is. So. Amazing!" Twilight started to vibrate as she pulled out a device that looked like she'd built it in her garage and started waving it around. Things lit up and went ding on the little device as she wandered all over the room. After a full minute of this, she paused, frowned, and looked back around the room. "Wait, why are you all horses?"

Princess Twilight giggled. "Welcome to Equestria, Twilight. I'm Twilight Sparkle—well, obviously—and this is Princess Celestia, Princess Luna, and Sunset Shimmer."

"And I'm Kim Possible, and this is my boyfriend Ron," Kim chipped in. She paused, then added, "We're usually human. Me and Ron. This pony and donkey thing is new."

Twilight blinked at that. "Wait. What?" She looked around with alarm, backing up against a wall. "Oh no. You turn humans into horses? I don't wanna be turned into a horse!"

"Calm down, Twilight, nobody's gonna turn you into a horse!" Princess Twilight exclaimed, flaring her wings. She pointed a hoof at Kim and Ron. "That is just a side effect of the usual way we cross back and forth from your world to Equestria."

Twilight blinked. "The...the usual way? You mean...you've been coming and going from my world already?" Her brow furrowed, and she narrowed her eyes. "Wait a second," she said suspiciously. "It's you! You're the anomaly I've been tracking at Canterlot High School!"

This brought Sunset and Princess Twilight up short. They exchanged a guilty glance and shuffled their hooves. "Well, yeah...that's where the portal to Equestria is," Sunset said. "You mean you've been...you've been investigating that?"

"For several months now," Twilight said. "There's a lot of strange things going on at that school. Seismic disturbances, rainbows in the night sky, weird rumors..." She pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose. "Ever since that last huge surge in readings, I've been working on finding a way to track and measure any energy anomalies coming out of CHS. I was actually going to head over there once I finished my latest experiment, but then the device I was building turned out to..." Her cheeks flushed. "Well, let's just say inventing interdimensional travel was more or less an accident."

"Great," Ron said. "Another prep school mad scientist."

Sunset frowned at that, taking a closer look at Twilight's uniform. "Prep school...Twilight, by any chance to you go to Crystal Prep?"

"Yeah," Twilight said. "You've heard of it?"

Sunset shrugged. "Yeah, I go to CHS."

Twilight blinked. "Umm...you're a horse," she said.

"Pony," Sunset corrected. "And I've been living in your world—as a human—for a long time now. And in your world, I go to CHS."

"Oh." Twilight shrugged. "Well okay then!" She paused, her brow furrowing as she leaned closer to Sunset, adjusting her glasses and squinting. "You have a horn," she noted.

"Well, I am a unicorn."

"Unicorn...?" Twilight's mouth hung slack as she looked around the room, taking in features of the assembled equines she'd missed. Her jaw dropped, her eyes bugging out. "What in the world!?"

Princess Twilight laughed. "Come on, I'll get you some tea and explain Equestria to you," she said. Gently guiding her doppelganger with one wing, she led her out of the room.

Once the two Twilights were gone, Luna spoke up for the first time since Twilight's arrival. "Oh, but for the days when you and I had such adventures, eh Sister?"

Celestia chuckled. "Twilight and her friends do get to have all the fun these days," she said. "But we have our role and they have theirs. Besides, I am far too old for adventuring..."

Sunset snorted. "That's a load," she said. "You're ageless. You could win ten races in a row on hoof or in the air and still have energy for a magic duel."

"Let me have my delusions," Celestia stage-whispered.

* * * * *

Several hours passed before the two Twilights rejoined the group. The human Twilight looked frazzled and bewildered, but at the same time excited beyond measure.

"Good news!" Princess Twilight declared. "Twilight has agreed to help us! I explained the entire situation, and as soon as Sunset and I finish our research in Starswirl's Athenaeum, we're all going back to the human world!"

Twilight adjusted her glasses. "As soon as you're all ready, come to my lab at Crystal Prep. I got enough baseline readings off Twilight and some other ponies around the castle to start building a more refined and accurate magic sensor. I should theoretically also be able to build something that'll track these crystals you're searching for."

Kim sighed gratefully. "Please and thank you," she said. "If it was just me and Ron getting caught up in parallel universe shenanigans, it wouldn't be so bad, but our entire world is in trouble."

"Hey, how often does a teenage girl get to save an entire parallel universe with science?" Twilight asked with a broad, slightly manic grin.

"You'd be surprised," Ron said flatly.

Sonata Interlude

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Evening had fallen over Middleton. In a two-story house in the middle of the suburbs which had two attached garages and one odd structure perched on the roof which featured accordion shutters and an array of antennas, dishes, and scopes, the Possible family was gathered together with their missing daughter's most persistent nemeses.

"I don't get it," said Dr. James Possible, a man with a rich, deep voice, a face right out of a fifties sitcom, and well-groomed brown hair with graying streaks at the temples. "They can't just be gone." He took a sip of his coffee and ran a hand over the growth of stubble that framed his mouth.

"Dad, your own space sensor stuff picked up all that weird wormhole residue at Bueno Nacho," one of a pair of young twins seated around the low, lacquered table said somberly.

"Wouldn't be the first time Kim and the sidekick got caught up in dimensional travel shenanigans," Shego said as she walked around the living room, running a gloved finger along various surfaces. With a laugh, she added, "Heck, usually it's Dr. D's fault." She looked around. "Nice new digs, by the way. Global Justice really came through for you guys, huh?"

Mr. Dr. Possible shot the blue-skinned, flower-wreathed man seated on the sofa a dirty look. "Drew, if you—"

"I most certainly did not," Dr. Drakken said. "What would I have to gain from making Kim Possible and Ron Stoppable disappear?"

"Umm...taking over the world?" the other twin offered.

Dr. Drakken snorted. "Puh-lease," he said. "I haven't made a serious take-over-the-world attempt since that alien invasion."

A red-haired woman who had just walked in from the kitchen raised an eyebrow at that. "Really?" she said. "Because Kim and Ron still seem to need to thwart you every Thursday." She frowned. "Actually, it is every Thursday. Like clockwork..."

Dr. Drakken growled. "Look, it...it's complicated, alright?"

Shego rolled her eyes. "Yeah, no. Dr. D. puts hits on Kimmy's website himself about some half-baked scheme, they show up, we fight, that's it." She smirked. "It's like when you old people get together for bridge once a week, only without cards, less boring, and with more chances of actually blowing up a bridge."

"Old people?" Dr. Anne Possible asked in a mildly offended tone, flinching. "I'm not that old..."

"Watch it, Shego," Dr. Drakken grumbled. "Jim Possible is my age, remember?"

"Whoa, sorry," Shego said with a chuckle. "Heh, yeah..."

"Okay, so assuming for the moment Drew isn't behind this," Mr. Dr. Possible said, "then what did happen to them?"

"Why not find Monkey Fist and beat it out of him?" Shego asked. "I mean, it's been raining monkey ninjas all day every day for the last three days. There's gotta be a connection."

"I am afraid Monkey Fist is not the architect of either the attacks or the disappearance of Kim Possible-san and Ron Stoppable-san," a deep, rich voice intruded. Everyone jumped as an elderly Japanese man with a long white beard appeared in midair above the living room table, seated on nothing in a lotus position, and slowly lowered himself to the floor.

The front door opened, and a teenage Japanese girl in a black ninja gi entered, bowing deeply. "Please pardon our intrusion, Possible-san," she said.

"Ooo...kaaaaay," Shego drawled, "who are you guys?"

"I am Sensei," the elderly man said, "head of the Yamanouchi School in Japan, and ally of Ron Stoppable-san."

"I am Yori, kunoichi and student of the Yamanouchi School," the girl said. "We have come to offer our assistance while we await the return of Stoppable-san and Kim Possible."

"Then you know where they are?" a younger voice intruded from the fifty inch plasma TV on the wall. The visage of Wade filled the screen.

Mr. Dr. Possible leaned forward, eyes hard. "Who. Took. My. Little. Girl?"

Sensei held up a hand. "We do not believe the disappearance of your daughter and Stoppable-san to have been an act of evil intent. There are too few in our world who know of the existence of the place they have gone. It is more likely they were spirited away by an accident, or an act of fate."

"And just where are they, and how do you know about it?" Shego asked suspiciously.

"Before I explain that, I must explain the danger which presently threatens our world," Sensei said. "Also, you, Shego-san, should contact your brothers in Go City as soon as possible. I have already dispatched shinobi to assist them."

Shego blinked. "My brothers? What?"

"The armies of Genghis Kong are attacking Go City as well," Yori reported. "Presently, their attacks are limited to Middleton, Go City, and the Yamanouchi School. I am afraid our own ninja are spread thin, but the item Genghis Kong seeks is not at Yamanouchi, and the school itself is protected from destruction."

"It is our hope that those who you call 'supervillains' will come together to aid in the battle against Genghis Kong and his armies," Sensei continued. "Just as Drakken-san and Shego-san have done here in Middleton."

"Genghis Kong?" Wade asked, furiously typing away on his computer. "I don't have any intel on a Genghis Kong."

"You would not, young Wade-san," Sensei said. "Genghis Kong has not been a plague upon this world for a thousand years." He leaned forward and steepled his fingers. "Genghis Kong is an ancient monkey demon, vast and terrible. His spirit essence is bound to a bull demon of great power and immense evil who dwells in a distant world. Long ago, when that bull demon was defeated by the great protectors of that world, Genghis Kong's physical body was destroyed, and his demonic essence was sealed.

"Some time ago, the seal on Genghis Kong's essence was broken. How, we can never know. We did not detect his return until it was too late. Now, his armies search for the amulet which will make him unstoppable."

"There's always an amulet," Wade muttered.

"You will have noticed the monkey ninjas only appear during the daytime," Yori said.

"That's...actually been bothering me," Shego admitted, frowning.

"At present, Genghis Kong's power rises and sets with the sun," Sensei explained.

"Solar-powered demon?" Mr. Dr. Possible asked, brow furrowed skeptically. "That seems like a stretch."

"Not all demons are bound in darkness, Dr. Possible-san," Sensei said with a chuckle. "Some demons are bound in light." He resumed his more grave expression. "If, however, his armies retrieve the Moon Monkey Medallion and return it to the Great Seal of Sarushima, it will unleash a demonic plague upon this world that has not been seen in one thousand years."

"Okay, so let's go find this monkey demon and kick his butt," Shego said, pounding a glowing fist into an open palm.

"Alas, Genghis Kong has no butt to kick," Yori said. "As Sensei mentioned, his physical body was destroyed long ago. He exists only as a demonic spirit."

"As long as Genghis Kong remains incorporeal, the world is in grave danger," Sensei said. "In order to end the threat he poses to all life on Earth, his body must be restored. Only when he regains physical form may he be defeated by the Master of the Mystical Monkey Power."

"So we need to shove this demon back in a body, and we need Ron to kick his butt once he has one again," one of the twins summed up. "So...how do we do any of that?"

Sensei sighed. "Alas, for the moment, everything rests in the hands of Stoppable-san and Possible-san."

"Which brings us back to where is my little girl?" Mr. Dr. Possible asked.

"I was briefly able to make astral contact with Stoppable-san," Sensei said. "I do not know how he and your daughter have come to be where they are, but they are alive and well in the Land of the Great Horse."

"The land of the who what now?" Shego asked.

"The Great Zodiac Animal Worlds surround and encircle our own," Yori explained. "It is a lesson Sensei only recently taught me when I began my advanced meditation and enlightenment training."

"They are higher planes," Sensei continued, "inhabited by mythical beings of great magic, wisdom, and enlightenment, or so it is told. I myself have never been able to directly ascend to any of the Great Zodiac Animal Worlds solely through meditation. It is only because Stoppable-san came into contact with a powerful magical relic from our world that I was able to find him at all."

"Yeah, that sounds like Ron," Wade said.

"In order to return Genghis Kong to his mortal form, the Seven Rainbow Monkey Crystals must be brought together," Sensei said. "Long ago, the Rainbow Monkey Crystals were scattered across the Great Zodiac Animal Worlds. One of them was taken to the Land of the Great Horse, and is already in Stoppable-san's possession. I have instructed Stoppable-san and Kim Possible-san to seek out the remaining six and return to our world as quickly as possible." He sighed. "Alas, I fear their journey will be long and difficult."

"Hmm," Dr. Drakken grunted, rubbing his chin. "And you say these daily hailstorms of monkey ninjas won't stop until they gather these monkey marbles and come back home?"

"That is correct, Drakken-san," Yori said.

Drakken let out a long, discontented growl. "Gaaaah...! Very well!" He stood abruptly. "Come, Shego! We need to steal that Pan-Dimensional Vortex Inducer again!"

"Oh yeah!" Shego said with a wicked grin.

"Hey now!" Mr. Dr. Possible said, standing up just as suddenly. "I know what you're thinking, but we are not just going to stand by and let you go steal a Pan-Dimensional Vortex Inducer!"

Dr. Drakken glowered at him. "I would have thought you'd be more supportive of an idea that would bring Kim Possible back home," he growled.

"Of course I am," Mr. Dr. Possible said. "That's why we're going to ask nicely and borrow it." He smirked, eyes gleaming. "And then you and I are going to work together on a way to find Kimmy-cub and Ronald and help them."

Dr. Drakken scowled. "Grrrgh...FINE, take all the fun out of it," he muttered sourly.

Sensei smiled. "I wish you the best of luck," he said. "Yori and I will remain here to assist in defending your town from the monkey ninjas in the meantime." He glanced at Mrs. Dr. Possible. "Would it be an inconvenience?"

Mrs. Dr. Possible bowed. "It would be our honor to have you in our home," she said.

The twins glanced at one another. "Hic-a-bic-a-boo?"

"Hooshah!"

"No, boys," Mr. Dr. Possible said sternly. "You're not going dimension-hopping looking for your sister."

"Awww...!"

Mr. Dr. Possible turned his smirk on his sons. "You're going to monkey-proof the house."

The twins beamed, then hi-fived each other.

Shego watched the Possible family with a twinge of discomfort. "I, uhh...I think I'll go make a call to Go City," she said awkwardly. "Check up on my idiot brothers..."

Sonata Slumber Party

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Twilight had decided to return to Ponyville to catch her friends and Sonata up rather than send a letter. As an alicorn, a flight from Canterlot to Ponyville and back was a relatively simple matter, and she felt like stretching her wings after spending so much time in the musty recesses of the Athenaeum.

What she had not expected to find upon returning to her castle was for most of the foyer to be covered in queso dip.

Her ears flattened against her skull as she looked around the castle with wide, disbelieving eyes. "What in Equestria...?!"

Spike ambled in, twirling a mop and whistling. He espied Twilight and let out an alarmed yelp. "Twilight!" he cried. "You're back...early..."

"Spike? What. Happened. To. My. CASTLE?!"

Spike jumped straight up, nearly dropping his mop. "W-well! Heheh. F-funny story, that..."

"Spiiiiiiiiiiiiike!" Sonata trilled as she soared into the room. "C'mon, cleanup can wait, we've still—oh, hey Twilight!"

Twilight stared at Sonata.

She was drenched in salsa.

"Hey girls! Twilight's back!"

Alarmed whinnies sounded from the direction of the dining room, followed by stampeding hooves on crystal. Pinkie Pie, Applejack, and Rainbow Dash charged into the foyer, skidding in congealing cheese. They were all spattered in salsa and cheese and wore guilty expressions. "Uhh...hey Twilight," Rainbow said.

"Hi Twilight!" Pinkie said cheerfully, waving a hoof.

"Girls?" Twilight said, pinning a forced, clench-toothed smile on her face. "What's going on?"

The mares looked at each other sheepishly. "W-well," Applejack said, her eyes darting around frantically. "Y'see, it's like—"

"Oh girls!" Discord's voice chimed from the dining room. "I found the refried beans! You'll never believe..." He floated into the room, then saw Twilight. "Well, hello Twilight! I had no idea you were coming home so soon!"

Twilight's eyes narrowed. "Discord," she said sourly. "Of course."

"Hey now, this wasn't his fault," Applejack said. "Well...not entirely."

"Actually, it was mostly me and Sonata," Pinkie admitted sheepishly.

"Well how was I supposed to know a lake of cheese dip would explode?" Sonata whined.

Twilight twitched. "Lake of...of cheese dip...?"

"And the salsa balloons were Rainbow Dash's idea," Applejack said, glaring at Rainbow.

Rainbow snorted. "Oh, puh-LEASE! Like you even tried to stop me!"

Twilight's eyes shrank to pinpricks, her wings flaring out and her ears folding back. "Salsa...balloons? Cheese dip lake...? Girls, what the HAY did you DO?!"

Pinkie and Sonata looked at each other and giggled. "Well," Sonata said sheepishly, "see...we decided to have a little slumber party...y'know, here at the castle, since you were gone and all and Spike needed company..."

"And Rarity and Fluttershy were busy, so they couldn't make it," Pinkie added.

"So, well...when the other girls got here, Spike and I started making nachos, and then Pinkie came in and started helping, and we made way too many," Sonata continued.

"And then I sneezed and burned all the cheese dip," Spike said.

"So there we were without any cheese dip, and I wished we could have a whole lake of the stuff," Sonata said.

"And that's when Discord showed up, and he heard, and he decided to give us one," Rainbow picked up.

"An' at first me an' Rainbow were a mite upset, but then he made a salsa fountain t' go with it, and well...dang it all, sometimes Discord's little pranks are fun if they ain't hurtin' nopony an' he promises to clean it all up later!" Applejack said.

"But then Rainbow Dash got the idea to fill water balloons with salsa," Pinkie said. "And, well...we had a salsa balloon fight." She giggled. "It was fun! But a little gross."

"And we still don't know why or even how the cheese dip lake exploded, but..." Sonata giggled sheepishly and shrugged. "Well, it kinda did!"

"And I wasn't here for that part," Discord said sorrowfully, "because I went off to find some refried beans so we could make rolled soft tacos." He looked around, tapping his chin with a talon. "How did the cheese dip lake explode, anyway? That shouldn't have happened."

Twilight's teeth began to spark from grinding together. "ALRIGHT! ENOUGH! All of you!" she snapped. "Discord? Clean this mess up. Now."

Discord sighed. "Yes, of course." He snapped his talons, and in a flash, the entire castle was spotless and sparkling. Sonata and the ponies were no longer covered in salsa and cheese. "I was hoping to have an evening free of your angry tone, especially after I just saw you and you earlier, but it is your castle."

"Lighten up a little, Twi," Rainbow said, her ears folding back. "Nopony got hurt, nothing got smashed. We were just, y'know, havin' a little fun! Makin' friends with Sonata an' stuff."

Twilight took a deep breath, then let it out as a sigh as her expression softened. "I'm sorry," she said. "I just wasn't...wasn't expecting to come home to a queso explosion, is all."

"Nopony expects the Queso Explosition!" Sonata said, laughing crazily.

"Ah...guess we'll clear out, pack it in for the night," Applejack said.

"Yeah, fun's fun, but if we're gonna be in your mane," Pinkie began.

"No, it's okay," Twilight said with a smile. "You can go ahead and have your slumber party. In fact, I might as well join you since I'm already here and don't really feel up to flying back tonight. But maybe a little less of a mess?"

* * * * *

The sun sparkled off the spires of Twilight's castle. Rarity and Fluttershy, awake bright and early, trotted up to the castle doors. "It's a shame we had to miss the slumber party," Rarity said regretfully. "I do hope at least we can have a nice leisurely breakfast with our friends."

"I wonder if they're even awake yet," Fluttershy said with a giggle as she reached out and opened the door.

A massive wave of milk gushed out, slamming into the two mares and sending them flying. They shrieked in alarm as they were washed away on a dairy tide.

Four ponies, a Siren, and a draconequus rode the river of milk, landing near Rarity and Fluttershy, who watched in confusion and disbelief as their friends rolled around on the ground, covered in soggy corn flakes and laughing their plots off.

Rarity blinked. "Did...did I miss something...?"

Sonata Transfer Student

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Days passed. Sunset, Twilight, Kim, and Ron researched everything they could in the Athenaeum, then returned to Ponyville. They gathered their friends together for a war council.

"So here's the plan," Twilight said. "I'm going back through the portal with Sunset, Sonata, Kim, and Ron. With our research and the other Twilight's help, we're hoping we'll be able to disentangle this mess of mixed magics. After that, the other Twilight will take Kim and Ron on their quest to save their home." She glanced at Sonata. "I know you want to stay here in Equestria, but right now, we need to figure out the extent to which your magic is going to regenerate." She paused, then added, "And frankly, if you can be trusted. I think you can and so do my friends, but we've been burned by 'reformed' dark magic creatures before. I'd feel a lot more comfortable about letting you come back to stay if you prove yourself first."

Sonata's maw crinkled. "Like...maybe helping Kim and Ron save their world?"

"That's what I was thinking," Twilight said, nodding. "I know how capable Kim and Ron are—or at least, how capable they tell me they are—but I don't know what the other Twilight is capable of, and honestly? I'd feel better if they had somebody else going with them."

"Hey, the more the merrier," Ron said.

"I'll help too," Sunset said.

"No," Twilight said, shaking her head. "I need you to do something else for me."

Sunset blinked. "Something else? What?"

Twilight levitated a five-pointed amethyst crown out of her saddlebag and placed it atop Sunset's head. "I need you to fill in for me here," she said.

Everyone stared at her.

"Wait...what?" Rainbow cried.

"You're not going with them on this absurd quest, are you?" Rarity asked, blinking rapidly.

"No, I'm not," Twilight said. She took a deep breath. "I'm taking the other Twilight's place at Crystal Prep until she gets back. We may have dragged her into the middle of our little misadventure, but that doesn't mean we can just uproot her life."

The others stared at her.

"Uhh...are you loco in the coco?" Pinkie asked. "I mean, I know if I traded places with the other Pinkie Pie I could probably pull it off because I'm Pinkie Pie, but do you think you'll be able to be a whole other Twilight Sparkle without, y'know...getting caught?"

"Ah agree," Applejack said. "This has bad idea written all over it."

Twilight shrugged. "From what Twilight tells me, she pretty much keeps to herself and does her own research. She doesn't have any friends and her teachers don't really bother her. If she leaves enough notes on what I need to know, I can fake it long enough."

"And Princess Celestia is okay with this?" Sunset asked.

"More or less," Twilight said. "Besides, if any real emergencies come up back here that need my attention, I can always hop a bus back to CHS and come home." She smiled reassuringly. "Just trust me, okay? Besides, you'll do fine as interim Princess of Friendship."

"Uhh...yeah, about that," Sunset said. "I, uhh..."

"Just follow my schedule and Spike will tell you whatever you need to know," Twilight said reassuringly. "It's not like I even really do all that much right now, so just...think of it like a little vacation back home!"

Sunset stared at her for a long moment, then sighed. "Okay, I'll do it," she said. "We'll need to explain it to my friends and Principal Celestia though."

"Of course," Twilight said.

"We'll be here for you, Sunset Shimmer," Fluttershy said reassuringly.

"Yeah!" Rainbow said. "I mean, it's way past time we all got to know you, right?"

Sunset smiled. "Thanks, everypony."

* * * * *

Twilight, Sunset, Sonata, Kim, and Ron got off the bus at the gates of Crystal Prep. "Wow, this place looks...boring," Sonata said.

"Yep, this is a prep school," Ron said.

Twilight adjusted the wig and sunglasses Rarity had given her. "Let's go," she said.

The group walked up to the doors and entered the cold, austere halls. "So...which way do we go?" Sunset asked.

Twilight paused. "That's...a good question." She looked around. "I think—"

"Twilight? What the heck are you wearing? What's up with the wig? And who are these people?"

The group stopped short as a pink-skinned woman with long, elegant three-colored hair walked up to them, the heels of her gold pumps clicking on the marble floor.

"Oh! Um, hello," Twilight said, waving sheepishly. "I...wasn't expecting to run into you out here! These are, umm..." She looked at her friends.

"A delegation from CHS," Sunset lied smoothly. "We're looking to remodel a couple of our science labs, and we heard one of your students had a state-of-the art lab here, so we wanted to take a look and get some ideas."

"Oh! Well...I hadn't heard anything about that, but—"

"There you all are!" Twilight yelled breathlessly as she skidded around a corner, charging up to them with her glasses askew and her hair out of its bun. "I should've gotten a cell number for...but then I remembered I don't even have a phone, and I..." She trailed off. "Oh, umm...hi Dean Cadance. I—"

Dean Cadance held up a hand to stall her as she looked, wide-eyed, between the two Twilights. "Twilight?" she asked the newly-arrived Twilight. "Why are there two of you?"

"Two of me? Heheheh, what do you..."

Princess Twilight sighed and removed her wig and sunglasses, shaking out her long violet hair. "Don't bother," she said. "Cadance? Sorry about this, but we really can explain..."

Twenty minutes later, in Dean Cadance's office...

"So...none of you are from this world?" Dean Cadance stared around at the group of teenagers. "And you need Twilight's—I mean this Twilight's help to get home?"

"These two do," Princess Twilight said, indicating Kim and Ron. "The rest of us can just go through the portal to Equestria that's at Canterlot High School. Except Sunset Shimmer actually lives here in your world and goes to CHS." She paused. "And, well...I'm going to be taking this Twilight's place here while she helps Kim and Ron get home."

"Uh...huh," Cadance said slowly, pursing her lips.

Twilight sighed. "Look...Dean Cadance...just pretend you never saw any of this, okay? Please? In a couple of hours, these three won't be here anymore, Sunset Shimmer will be back on the bus to CHS, and there'll only be one Twilight Sparkle at Crystal Prep, just like always. It doesn't matter that she isn't me, she can be me. Just...help her be a little more me than she is now maybe?"

Cadance pinched the bridge of her nose. "I'm dreaming this," she muttered. "I'm dreaming this, and none of this is real..." She looked up, forcing a bright, happy smile onto her face. "Right! Okay! I'm going to sit right here at my desk for about...three hours? At which time I'll drop by the lab to check on you, Twilight. And you'll be the only one there, because the rest of you don't exist, right? And you won't say anything...crazy, right?"

The two Twilights looked at each other.

"Cross my heart, hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye," Princess Twilight said, going through the gestures of a Pinkie Promise.

"See, that right there is what I mean by 'anything crazy'," Dean Cadance said flatly. "Just...just get into a Crystal Prep uniform or disappear or whatever you're going to do, but..." She sighed. "I'm sorry. I just..."

"We'll get out of your hair now," Sunset said.

"Your very pretty hair," Ron put in.

"I'm SO jealous of your hair," Kim added.

Cadance glared at all of them. "Thank you," she said tersely.

"Right!" Twilight said, clapping her hands together. "Let's get to the lab and make science happen. Enjoy the rest of your definitely-not-going-crazy dream, Dean Cadance!"

The group hastily left the office. "Well...that went well," Princess Twilight said.

"I like her!" Sonata said, giggling. "She's funny!"

As the group proceeded to the lab, they failed to notice a blue-skinned girl with frost-colored hair done up in massive twin pigtails and salmon-framed glasses watching them, a frown on her face. "Twilight Sparkle's up to something," she said to nobody in particular. "I should keep an eye on this."

Sonata Sendoff

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The group had waited around while the two Twilights changed clothes. "Looks like I'm gonna need some fake glasses," Princess Twilight, now wearing a Crystal Prep uniform, muttered. She looked down at herself, then up at her counterpart. "You think anybody will care if I don't put my hair up like that? Sorry, it's just..." She grimaced. "I'm not really a fan of your hairstyle."

Twilight, who had changed into jeans, sneakers, and a grey hoodie, frowned, reaching up to touch her bun. "What's wrong with my hair?" she asked.

"Well, it's just..." Princess Twilight ran her fingers through her own hair. "Did you ever think of wearing it loose, or maybe up in a ponytail? Anything that isn't..." She sighed. "Look, I don't wanna tell you how to live your life or anything, but you're kind of a hot mess."

"Gee, thanks," Twilight said sourly.

"I'm sorry!" Princess Twilight said. "It's just...you're really pretty, you should take more pride in your appearance!"

"Wow," Sunset drawled with a smirk, "That is the most vain compliment I've ever heard." She shook her head. "She's got a point though. About the hair, I mean. You should try a different style. Might make you feel like a whole new you!"

Kim fished around in her pockets and dug out some hairbands and a brush. "Here, let me," she said. She undid Twilight's bun, straightened her hair out, then put it up in a ponytail. She dug out her makeup compact and showed Twilight her reflection.

Twilight blinked, tilting her head. "Huh," she said. "I...do you really think it's me?"

"Definitely," Ron said.

"Mm-hmm, A+," Rufus chimed in from Ron's pocket.

Princess Twilight smiled. "You look great, Twilight," she said. She looked down at herself. "Better than I do, anyway. Your uniform is...it's kinda baggy around my chest." She plucked at the fabric.

"That's because she's got bigger tits than you!" Sonata said cheerfully. Twilight blushed and covered her chest; Sunset smirked.

Kim tilted her head. "How does that even work?" she wondered. "I mean, you're both Twilight Sparkle, shouldn't you be...identical?"

"If anything, the pony princess should be like, bigger and taller," Ron said. "Since she had the whole super-pony thing going on back in Horseland."

Princess Twilight frowned. "Well...that's something we can look into when this is all over," she decided.

"Yeah, it's...not important," Twilight agreed. She adjusted her glasses. "By the way, I have two spare pairs of glasses in my desk. Give one to Dean Cadance, she can get some fake lenses made for you."

"Or you could just say you got contacts," Sunset offered.

Twilight shook her head. "That won't get past my parents," she said.

Princess Twilight frowned. "Okay, so what do I do about them until I can get fake glasses made?"

Twilight shrugged. "I go home with bad eyestrain a lot. Just walk around squinting and pinching the bridge of your nose and pretend you can barely see two feet in front of you and you'll be fine."

"Got it," Princess Twilight said.

They went to Twilight's lab, a solid third of which was taken up by a giant machine that looked like a wind turbine on steroids. Twilight walked over to her work table and went through the contents of a backpack sitting there. Satisfied, she slung it over her shoulders and adjusted the straps. One item she'd taken out of the backpack, she hung around her neck; it looked like a birth control pill case, but with soft violet LEDs slowly cycling around the face, and a pale pink glowing six-pointed star in the center. "What's that?" Kim asked curiously.

"Spectrometer," Twilight said. "It'll let us track these spheres you're searching for as well as pick up any anomalous sources of magical energy." She adjusted her glasses. "Speaking of which, I need the two of you to take turns standing between those two electrodes over in the corner..."

The rest of the group watched from a safe distance as Twilight slowly, methodically extracted the anomalous magic from Kim and Ron. By the time she was done, a device connected to the electrodes was glowing a bright pink-white and beeping insistently. "Uhh, Twilight?" Kim asked nervously as she stepped out of the electrode field. "What is that?"

"The magic I siphoned off of you two," Twilight said absently, checking some readings. "And it's unstable now that it's no longer being applied to a directed effect, so we need to get rid of it." She flicked several switches and pulled two large, heavy levers. The glowing device hummed loudly; a green meter on one side drained out, turning red, then going dark as the device's glow faded. Twilight let out a sigh of relief. "There we go."

"Umm...what did you do with it?" Princess Twilight asked.

"Drained it into the school's emergency backup power," Twilight said. "Principal Cinch has this weird hangup about keeping the backup power at 85% capacity. Once I found out about that, I set up a bleed from my lab. Any power surges or feedbacks or whatever I have here in the lab, I bleed them into the backup power, then kill the mains when nobody's around to burn off the excess so Cinch doesn't notice."

Everyone stared at her. "What?" Sunset asked in disbelief.

"I didn't follow any of that," Ron said, "but something tells me we're talking about mad science here. Are we talking about mad science here?"

Princess Twilight raised a finger. "I—" She paused, then lowered her hand. "Have absolutely no room to talk because I've done some pretty questionable stuff myself, so..." She shook her head. "Did you stop to think about what dumping magic into an electrical power source might do?"

Twilight grimaced. "I don't have enough data to know what the risks are, but it's the only way I could get rid of it," she said. "Hopefully nothing bad will happen. Hopefully." She clapped her hands together briskly. "So! Are you all ready to get going?"

The group looked around at each other. "Yeah, I guess we'd better get moving," Kim said. "Ron and I have rations and water, Sonata's got some extra supplies we might need. We have no idea what we're gonna run into, but I think with the ponies' help, we're prepared for just about anything."

"Cool," Twilight said, fishing the remote for her dimensional portal out of her pocket. "Well...I guess we'd better get going," she said. "Oh! Umm...I wrote my schedule and stuff down in the notebook on my desk," she said to Princess Twilight. "Anything I could think of that you need to know to pretend to be me is in there."

"Thanks," Princess Twilight said. "Take care of yourself."

Twilight nodded, then turned to the other three adventurers. They looked at each other and nodded with determination. "Well...here's hoping I'll see you again soon," Twilight said. And with that, she opened the portal. As the roaring wind of the interdimensional wormhole filled the lab, Twilight, Kim, Ron, and Sonata stepped into the portal and vanished. It closed with a sonic boom, and stillness returned to the lab.

"Well," Princess Twilight said, "there they go." She turned to Sunset. "I guess...you should be getting back to Equestria now."

"Yeah," Sunset said. She reached into her backpack and pulled out the magic journal with Celestia's Cutie Mark on it. "Here," she said. "Keep us posted on how things are going here. We'll keep in touch from Equestria with the other journal."

Princess Twilight nodded, accepting the journal. She took a deep breath. "Take care," she said. "Don't let Spike eat too much ice cream."

"Everything will be fine," Sunset said. "I...I can manage castle-sitting for you for however long this takes. Yeah." She chuckled wryly. "Always did want to be a Princess..." She smiled. "Good luck, Twilight."

"You too, Princess Sunset," Twilight said. She looked around the lab, which had been thoroughly tossed and tumbled by the wormhole. "Yeesh, what a mess..."

A plaintive whine caught the girls' attention. A small purple dog crawled out from under a thick blanket, stretching and shaking out his floppy ears. He looked from one girl to the other, then let out an inquisitive bark.

Twilight giggled. "Well, this must be Spike," she said. She knelt down and reached out a hand. Spike sniffed her, then whined softly, his brow furrowing in confusion.

"You must smell different from his Twilight," Sunset said. As if in agreement, Spike whined again.

Twilight sighed. "I'm sorry, Spike," she said. "Your Twilight went on a little trip. She left me here to take care of you." She looked around the lab, then spotted a bag of dog treats. Fishing one out, she offered it to Spike, who accepted it with a happy bark. Giggling, she scratched behind his ears.

Sunset smiled. "Well...I guess I'll leave you to get settled in," she said. "See you soon!"

"Yeah...see you soon," Twilight said, looking up at Sunset. After a last lingering gaze, Sunset left, closing the door behind her.

Twilight sat down heavily, looking around the strange lab full of strange machines and strange things she didn't understand. She sighed. "I can do this," she said. "I can pretend to be human, just for a little while...I've done it before, I can do it again...

"Without my friends...without my Spike...

"All by myself..."

Twilight sighed again, flopping to the floor and rolling over onto her back. Spike padded over to her and licked her ear, whimpering.

* * * * *

The party emerged from the portal into a darkened city street. A shimmering full moon hung low overhead, and the sky glowed with the reflected neon lights of the city around them. As they looked around, a landmark stood out: a massive, tapering tower, covered from foot to top in bright lights.

Ron stared up at the tower. "Is that the Eiffel Tower? Are we in Paris?"

Kim shook her head. "No, Ron, that's Tokyo Tower." She looked around at the various storefronts, whose signage was written mostly in Japanese.

"We're in Japan."

Sonata Rabbit

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"We're in Japan."

"Don't you mean Neighpon?" Twilight asked, frowning.

Before Kim could ask what Twilight meant, her spectrometer started going crazy, flashing and beeping wildly. Something shot past them, whipping their hair and clothes in a sudden gust of wind. It skidded to a halt and spun around, letting out a feminine shout.

Before any of them could process what was happening, the four travelers found themselves trapped in a thick layer of what looked and smelled like orange marmalade. "Ugh! What the—?" Kim said.

"OHOHOHOHOHO!" laughed their apparent assailant. Through the marmalade, they could just barely make out the details of her appearance:

She looked to be in her mid to late twenties and was tall and slender, with long legs encased in peppermint-striped tights. On her feet, she wore bright pink, open-toe platform shoes with six-inch spike heels. Her indecently short miniskirt was made of interwoven red and black licorice. The low-cut top she wore was covered in what appeared to be hard candies of different colors and shapes. Her skin was a glossy, almost translucent pink, her expression one of manic glee and superiority. A butterfly-shaped mask made of chocolate covered her eyes, and her hair was a mass of cotton candy decorated with peppermints and butterscotch candies. A purse made of marzipan hung at her right hip; in her hands, she held a massive lollipop.

"Bad candy! BAD CANDY!" Ron yelped.

"SHINE AQUA ILLUSION!"

A wave of cold, clear water washed over Twilight, Kim, Ron, and Sonata, dissolving the marmalade.

"Daijoubu desu ka?" a gentle but insistent voice asked. They turned to see a teenage girl with short medium-blue hair and gentle blue eyes wearing a white leotard with a blue skirt, naval collar flap, and knee-high boots, white elbow-length gloves, and light blue bows at her chest and the small of her back. A blue choker encircled her neck, and a gold tiara graced her forehead. She looked the four of them over, blinking twice, then shook her head and looked at the candy nightmare standing just a few feet away. "Hayaku, nigete kudasai!"

"Uhh...what?" Ron asked.

Twilight adjusted her glasses. "I don't speak Neighponese but I'm pretty sure she's telling us to run!" The last word came out as a yell as the candy woman pulled a sparkling jawbreaker out of her bag and threw it at the blue-haired girl.

Twilight, Sonata, and Ron scrambled to the side, but Kim jumped forward, grabbed the jawbreaker out of the air, and threw it back at the source. The candy woman's eyes widened in shock as it exploded, scattering bits of candy from her hair and clothes all over the street.

The blue-haired girl stared at Kim in shock; four more girls in similar outfits, each with a different color scheme and different footwear, dropped into view. The one with a red skirt, red high heels, and long black hair got in Kim's face and started raving angrily at her. The tall, green-skirted brunette next to her put a hand on her shoulder and calmed her down.

The candy villain started ranting at them and throwing things, then charged with her lollipop raised high like a cudgel or sledgehammer.

Just then, a pinkish blur shot out of nowhere with a loud whirring sound. The travelers watched, dumbfounded, as a red yo-yo with five black spots wound itself around the lollipop and yanked it from her hands. Their gaze traveled up the yo-yo's cable as it retracted, depositing the giant lollipop in the hands of a petite girl in a form-fitting red bodysuit with black spots and a matching domino mask over her eyes. "Chat Noir!" she yelled, tossing the lollipop high into the air.

A black form ghosted overhead; a blonde boy in skintight black leather with a distinctive cat motif snatched the lollipop and dropped to the ground. "CATACLYSM!" he yelled as motes of black energy gathered in his right hand. He touched the lollipop with his black-glowing hand, and it rotted away to nothing. A purple and black butterfly flew out of the crumbling candy dust.

"Tu as assez fait de mal comme ça, petit Akuma," the red-clad girl said as she opened the top of her yo-yo, revealing a glowing white disc of light. She began swinging it back and forth like a pendulum. "Je te libère du mal!"

The glowing yo-yo swept out and caught the dark butterfly in mid-flap; the girl reeled it in with a triumphant cry of "Je t'ai eu!" She opened the top of the yo-yo again, releasing a pure white butterfly which flapped delicately away into the night. "Bye-bye, petit papillon!" the girl said as it departed. She then threw a black-spotted red tuning fork into the air with a shout of:

"MIRACULOUS LADYBUG!"

A swarm of glowing pink and white ladybugs swept across the city. The candy-coated nightmare in the middle of the street turned into a plain, unassuming Japanese office lady in a navy skirt and blazer with short black hair. The ladybug girl and the black cat boy landed in the middle of the street and bumped their fists together. "Bien joué!"

Ron blinked several times. "Oooookay what...just happened?"

"I have no idea, but my spectrometer is going crazy," Twilight said, frowning and adjusting her glasses.

"Uh, superheroes fighting a supervillain, obviously," Sonata said. "Duh!"

Kim frowned as the five girls in sailor-themed outfits and the two teens who had apparently actually defeated the villain began talking over each other, neither side seeming to really be able to make any headway in their conversation. She pinched the bridge of her nose. "Okay, I'm so not great with foreign languages, but I can at least tell one language from another, and what I'm hearing isn't making any sense." She pointed at the red-clad girl and the black-clad boy. "Those two," she said, "are speaking French. The rest of them are speaking Japanese."

Ron frowned. "Yeah okay so...confused now. Are we in France after all? Because I'm still pretty sure that's the Eiffel Tower."

"No, Ron, this is definitely Tokyo," Kim said. "I mean, the signs are in Japanese. Not something you really see in Paris."

"Not...as such, no," Ron admitted.

The superheroes seemed to finally have taken notice of them and turned to face them. Questions and shouts came flying at them from all directions, in French and in Japanese. Twilight recoiled, hiding behind Kim; Ron stood staring stupidly, trying to keep his eyes off the Japanese girls' legs.

Finally, Sonata let out a frustrated groan. "Alright, ENOUGH OF THIS!" She clasped her hands to her chest and began to sing softly.

Aa-aah-aa, aa-aaah...

Everybody froze, watching Sonata sing. A pulsing red glow radiated from her cupped hands; when she stopped singing, she dropped them to her sides, revealing a malformed, incomplete red gem glistening from the choker on her throat.

"What...what was that?" the girl in red asked softly.

"What did you do just now?" the tall girl in the green skirt demanded, a note of warning in her tone.

Ron blinked. "Hey, they're speaking English now!"

"Huh? I'm speaking Japanese, what are you talking about?" the brunette said.

The catboy frowned. "No, you're definitely speaking French, both of you," he said. "Don't you hear it, Ladybug?"

"Well, I hear French, but..." the red-clad girl said slowly, her brow furrowed.

"Amazing," the blue-haired, blue-skirted girl said. A translucent blue visor had appeared across her eyes, and data was flashing rapidly across it. "This girl has cast some sort of universal translation spell. We're all speaking our own language and hearing it as well, but..."

Sonata looked around at everybody and shrugged. "Well, if we're all just shouting at each other in different languages, we'll never get anything done, am I right?"

"Uhh...yeah," Kim said slowly. "Good thinking, Sonata."

"Yeah, but how did you do that?" Ron asked.

Sonata snorted. "Please," she said. "Me and my sisters can't influence people to do our bidding if they can't understand our songs. That translation spell is the most basic element of Siren magic!"

"That...makes sense," Kim said.

"Excuse me," a voice they had not yet heard said. Four of the skirted Japanese girls stepped back respectfully as a fifth stepped forward. While her costume was similar to the others, there were key differences. Her skirt and collar were navy blue; her boots were reddish-pink, and the bows at her chest and back were red, as was the trim on her gloves. Small golden crescent moons adorned the trim at the tops of her boots, as well as the red choker on her throat. A golden brooch sat in the center of the bow on her chest, and round red jewels were pinned into the twin buns her long blond hair was tied up in. Two ankle-length ponytails trailed down her back, and bright blue eyes shone in the neon lights as she gazed intently at the quartet.

"Who are you and where are you from?" she asked. "Two of you look like Americans, but you and you," she pointed at Twilight and Sonata, "I'm not even sure you're human. Then there's the magic spell this girl used. Would you explain, please?"

"While you're at it, explain why you thought it was a good idea to try to get yourself killed!" the girl in the red skirt snapped at Kim. "Do you have any idea what would've happened to you if that candy bomb had exploded? We'd be cleaning you off the street with a mop!"

"That's enough, Sailor Mars," the leader said softly. Sailor Mars frowned, but nodded.

Kim sighed. "Look, I wasn't in any danger, I deal with stuff like that all the time," she said. "But you had no way of knowing that, so...I'm sorry. My name is Kim Possible, this is Ron Stoppable, and yes, we're Americans."

"My name is Twilight Sparkle, I am human, but I'm from another universe," Twilight said.

"I'm Sonata! I'm not human! Except right now, because I have a human body, but I'm a Siren! So yeah. Oh, and I'm from Equestria."

At the collection of confused, wary looks they were receiving, Kim blew on her bangs in exasperation. "The important thing here is we're just passing through and we don't mean any harm. We're searching for something a mystic sage may have left in your world. We need it to save ours." She frowned. "Assuming this isn't our world. I mean, there's a Tokyo and a Paris..." She pulled out her Kimmunicator. "Wade? Wade, can you hear me?"

Static was her answer.

"Guess we're not home yet," Ron said.

"Which is just as well," Kim said with a sigh. "We'd just have to leave again right away."

Shrill beeps filled the air. Everyone looked at the two French heroes, whose eyes were wide. "We gotta bug out," Ladybug said.

Her partner nodded. "Yeah, this cat needs to scat."

"Wait!" the leader of the Japanese group said. "That monster. How did you know what to do? What do you have to do with it?"

Ladybug sighed. "Short version? Our enemy, Le Papillon, is here in Tokyo. He can turn people into supervillains when they experience negative emotions. He's after our Miraculous—my earrings, Chat Noir's ring. If he gets them, the world could be doomed." Her earrings beeped again. "And now I have to go. If there's a place Chat Noir and I can meet up with all of you again...?"

The girls looked at each other and shrugged. "Tokyo Tower will do," their leader said. "If you're new to the city, it's the one place you can't possibly miss."

"Got it," Ladybug said. She nodded to her partner, and they took off in separate directions.

"Okay, now for you four," the leader of the Japanese group said, turning her attention to Kim. "I'm sorry, I haven't introduced myself. My name is Sailor Moon."

"I'm Sailor Mercury," the blue-haired girl in the blue uniform said.

"Sailor Jupiter," the green-skirted brunette said.

"Sailor Mars," the raven-haired girl with the red skirt and heels said.

"Sailor Venus," said the last girl, who had long, straight blonde hair topped with a large red bow and wore an orange-skirted uniform.

Ron snickered. "Great, now all we need are Sailor Earth, Saturn, Neptune, Uranus, and Pluto and we're all set!"

"Pluto's not a planet anymore, Ron."

The five girls tensed. "You say you're from another world, but you know about the other Sailor Soldiers?" Sailor Mars asked skeptically.

Ron blinked. "N-no, I was...it was a joke, see, because the planets, and...wait, there really are—?"

"All except Sailor Earth, yes," Sailor Mercury said. "So you were just trying to be funny and not succeeding terribly well?"

"That's Ron for you," Kim said wryly.

The Sailor Soldiers relaxed somewhat. "So, what is it you're looking for?" Sailor Jupiter asked. "Maybe we can help."

Kim pulled the Seven Banana Crystal from her backpack and held it out for the Sailor Soldiers to examine. "We're looking for one of these," she said. "We think we can track them, but it's a pretty tiny crystal and, well..."

"Like finding a haystack in a needle factory," Sailor Venus said, nodding sagely.

"That's 'looking for a needle in a haystack'," Sailor Mercury corrected absently.

"It's definitely here somewhere," Twilight said, turning in a slow circle. Her spectrometer beeped slowly. As she pointed it directly at Sailor Moon, it suddenly lit up brilliantly, all the LEDs strobing wildly. The pink star-shaped light in the center warped and twisted, taking the shape of...

"A rabbit?" Twilight said, frowning. "Don't tell me this thing is busted already..."

Sailor Jupiter laughed. "Ha! No, it works just fine, doesn't it Usagi?" She wrapped an arm around Sailor Moon and winked.

"Jupiter!" Sailor Moon whined.

"Usagi?" Kim asked.

Sailor Moon sighed. "My name," she said. "Which is supposed to be a secret," she hissed to Sailor Jupiter.

Twilight blinked slowly. "Wait," she said. "Say your name again except not in the context of a name."

Sailor Moon frowned at the odd request, but did as asked.

"Rabbit?"

The travelers looked at each other, eyes wide.

"You don't think...?" Ron said, looking from Kim to Twilight.

"Yeah, I think," Kim said, nodding. "We just found the Great Rabbit."

A confused silence followed.

Sonata pulled a carrot out of her bag and offered it to Sailor Moon with a winning smile.

Sonata Homestay

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"We just found the Great Rabbit."

In the stillness that followed that proclamation, the Sailor Soldiers exploded into laughter.

"G-Great Rabbit?!" Venus exclaimed, clutching her stomach. "I...I can't even!"

"It hurts," Mars said, eyes squeezed shut. "It hurts so much!"

Sailor Moon stamped a foot and puffed out her cheeks, glaring at her friends. "Mou...!"

"S-sorry, Usagi-chan," Mercury said. "It's just...I don't think any of us were expecting to hear something like...that..." She shook her head.

Twilight coughed for attention, still pointing her spectrometer at Sailor Moon. "I'll admit that I'm not entirely certain how this device works myself—and I built the thing—but one of its intended functions is to find the most concentrated focus of magical energy in any given world and orient toward it, sort of a 'magical magnetic north'." She looked up at Sailor Moon. "You seem to radiate the strongest magical energy signature in this city, if not on this world."

The Soldiers stopped laughing. All eyes turned intently toward Sailor Moon and Twilight.

"Well...that's true enough," Mercury said. "Nothing is as powerful as the Silver Dreaming Crystal, and Sailor Moon is its protector and only mistress."

"And powerful in her own right," Venus said. "As befitting the Moon Princess."

"Silver Dreaming Crystal?" Kim asked.

"It's an ancient magical artifact, wielded by my ancestors for tens of thousands of years," Sailor Moon said.

"Yeah, so it's probably the thing we're looking for," Ron said flatly.

"I don't think so," Twilight said, shaking her head. "I'm not reading any monkey magic from her."

"Monkey magic?" Mars asked, raising an eyebrow.

Kim sighed. "Long story. We're from another dimension, we got sent to a dimension other than ours by accident, we're trying to find our way home, but a mystic from our world contacted us from the astral plane and told us we need to travel across the Great Zodiac Animal Worlds and find these missing crystals that we need to defeat an ancient monkey demon that's destroying our world as we speak."

The Sailor Soldiers digested this. Mars frowned. "The signs of the zodiac," she said, nodding thoughtfully. She looked at Sailor Moon. "If Usagi represents the Rabbit, then..."

Sailor Moon blinked. "So...I'm the center of the universe?"

"Don't let it go to your head," Jupiter said, seizing her in a headlock and giving her a noogie.

Mercury scanned the Crystal with her visor, a thoughtful frown on her face. "Yes, there's a faint magical aura," she said. "It seems to be resonating with another aura, but it's too faint to get a bearing on."

Venus shook her head. "Well, it doesn't look like it has anything to do with us, and we've still gotta get the scoop on those French kids and what they're doing dragging their fight onto our turd..."

Mercury winced and pinched the bridge of her nose. "Turf, Minako-chan," she said tiredly.

Sailor Moon shook her head. "No, we should help these people," she said. "Their world is in danger. Even if all we can do is help them find the thing they're looking for, we can't just wave goodbye and let them deal with this on their own. Besides, they'll need local guides, right?"

"Well, that's true," Jupiter said. "Besides, I don't feel right not doing anything."

Mars frowned. "That mess with the candy witch and these two French heroes aside, things have actually been pretty quiet lately," she said. She looked over the four travelers and frowned. "Besides, they'll need somewhere to stay while they're in our world, and even if money isn't a problem..." She glanced significantly at Twilight and Sonata.

The others grimaced. "Yyyyeah," Jupiter said, "they'll draw way too much attention." Looking Twilight up and down, she added, "Possibly the kind teenage girls in a strange city don't want."

Everyone looked at Twilight, who blinked rapidly. "What?"

"I don't like the implication, but I won't disagree," Kim said with a grimace.

"It's settled then," Sailor Moon said. "I don't think any of us has room for more than one houseguest, so..." She pursed her lips. "Stoppable-san, was it? I'll have to call my boyfriend and ask him to put you up for a bit."

"I'll look after the blue girl," Venus said.

"I believe Sparkle-san should stay with me," Mercury added.

"Then Possible-san can stay over at my place," Mars said.

"Don't we get a say in this?" Ron asked.

"No, we don't," Kim said. "Because they're being very gracious and inviting us into their homes. Best we leave it to them. Besides, we could be here a while."

"I don't mind!" Sonata chirped. "I haven't been to Neighpon in forever!"

"Japan," Kim corrected.

"Nihon," Mars said at almost the same time.

They looked at each other, then burst into snickers. Kim shook her head.

Venus tilted her head curiously. "Neighpon?"

"Yeah, everything in horse world is like, horse named," Ron said. "Canterlot, Ponyville..."

"Baltimare, Hoofston, Fillydelphia," Twilight continued. She frowned. "You know, I never even noticed until just now how strange that is."

Mars groaned. "Your world sounds like a nightmare of puns," she said.

"Alright, everyone," Sailor Moon said. "It's a little late to do anything else tonight, so we should..." She yawned. "Split up for the night, get our guests settled in. We can meet up first thing in the morning to talk about this whole monkey crystal thing."

"Umm, Usagi?" Jupiter asked. "What about those French kids? We sort of told them to go to Tokyo Tower, and—"

"I'll handle it," Sailor Moon said. "As soon as I drop Stoppable-san off at Mamo-chan's place, I'll go to Tokyo Tower and meet them." She glanced at Mars. "Can I tell them to drop by the shrine tomorrow?"

Mars frowned. "Maybe ask them what their plans are first," she said. "Or, it might even be a better idea for us all to meet up at Chiba-san's apartment."

"Right, good idea," Sailor Moon agreed. "Alright." Looking around to make sure the coast was clear, she bowed her head and closed her eyes. Her body glowed pink; her costume exploded away from her in ribbons, retracting into her brooch and leaving her wearing a pink sweater, white jeans, and cream flats.

Around her, the other girls detransformed, revealing themselves to look more or less the same without their Sailor Soldier regalia, just in street clothes. Each of the girls motioned for her guest to come with her, then headed in different directions.

The Executive Suite, Yamagoto Plaza Hotel

A dark man sat in a dark room on one of the highest floors of a monolithic hotel, staring out into the neon glow of night as he swirled blood red wine in a glass. An array of expensive appetizers spread across the table before him. A small silver cage sat on the edge of the table; inside, a tiny glowing pink creature morosely but rapidly devoured morsels of food.

The dark man examined a small object he held in his other hand: a perfectly round blue crystal with five golden bananas embedded beneath the smooth, shiny surface.

"Nooroo," the dark man said, his voice deep, powerful, and commanding, "what can you tell me about this curious object?"

Sonata Team Meeting

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Explaining Sonata to Minako's parents had been...interesting.

"You've heard of La Blue Girl, right Mum?" Minako had said cheerfully. "Well, here she is!"

Mrs. Aino had given her daughter a flat stare and pinched the bridge of her nose. "Mou, Minako-chan," she'd said, shaking her head. "Even for you, that was bad." She looked Sonata up and down, pursing her lips. "And this is why I avoid Harajuku like the plague."

"Y-yeah! Harajuku! Totally, she's totally...yeah!" Minako had said, nodding rapidly. "So anyway, umm...sleepover! For...a few nights, maybe?"

Mrs. Aino had shrugged. "Alright." She had shuffled off into the house; Minako had led Sonata up to her room, relieved that her mother had accepted the whole thing so easily.

The next morning, Usagi arrived at very nearly the crack of dawn. "Get her as bundled up as you can so nobody gets a good look at her," she said. "We're going over to Ami-chan's place."

Minako groaned. "Usagi-chan? It's...it's so early..."

"Yeah, and I didn't really get any sleep last night, so just do it and let's move."

Any protests Minako had on her lips died when she looked into Usagi's eyes. She may have been dressed in a soft pink flannel hoodie with a cute bunny on the front and white capri pants, but the girl on the doorstep was Sailor Moon through and through, and she was in full-on leader mode. "O-okay," Minako said, biting her lip.

Ten minutes later, a dressed but bleary-eyed Minako and a rumpled Sonata in a hoodie, jeans, a cold mask, and sunglasses, with her hands shoved in her pockets, were on their way out the door. "So why are we up so early again, Usagi-chan?" Minako asked.

"We need to get over to Ami-chan's place," Usagi said. "I need Dusk-san and Sparkle-san in the same place."

"For what?" Sonata asked. "Oh, and you can just call me Sonata."

"To make it so you two can walk around Tokyo without freaking people out," Usagi said simply.

"But how—" Minako began, then paused. "Oooh, right! The Luna Pen! I forgot all about that!"

"Right, but I can only use it once a day, it has to recharge overnight," Usagi said. "I explained things to Luna, and she thinks it should be able to do both of them for a whole day since it's a minor change." She cracked a yawn.

"Luna?" Sonata asked. "Vice-Principal Luna?"

The two blonds stared at her. "Umm...no," Minako said. "Luna is, well...Usagi's talking cat guardian...advisor...thingie."

"Talking cat guardian?" Sonata asked, blinking.

Usagi raised an eyebrow. "You know, like Artemis." At Sonata's blank stare, she turned to Minako.

Minako shrugged. "Hey, don't look at me. Artemis wasn't home last night. I honestly thought he was with Luna, he usually is when I can't find him."

Usagi rolled her eyes. "Anyway," she said, "you'll meet Luna later. She's already at Mamo-chan's place." A few minutes later, the trio walked up to an upscale apartment mansion. Usagi pressed the intercom button for "MIZUNO"; a moment later, Ami's somewhat sleepy but alert voice greeted them.

"This is a nice place," Sonata mused as they took the elevator up to Ami's floor. They soon found themselves standing in her living room, where Twilight Sparkle sat on the couch, focused intently on fine-tuning her spectrometer. Sonata removed her glasses and cold mask and shook out her hair. "Hi~iii!" she called to Twilight.

Twilight looked up. "Hey," she said, adjusting her glasses.

"Alright, we're going to get you two squared away, then head over to my boyfriend's apartment," Usagi said. "Mamo-chan's gonna get breakfast for everyone, then we'll...then we'll wait for the others to come when they get up at a more, umm...sane hour."

Ami checked the time. "It's seven thirty, Usagi-chan. Most people are up by now."

"That's beside the point," Usagi said. "Sparkle-san? I need you to come stand beside Sonata."

Twilight frowned, but stood, walking over to Sonata and standing beside her. Usagi pulled a fat pink pen with a large red jewel on the end from her pocket and held it over her head. "LUNA PEN! Disguise these two girls to blend in with the rest of Tokyo!"

Swirls of stars and crescent moons exploded out from the pen and swirled around the two girls, who began to glow softly. Slowly, their pastel skin tones faded to a homogenous not-quite-Asian, not-quite-Caucasian pale tone that perfectly matched the other three girls in the room.

Twilight blinked at herself, examining her arm. "What...did you just do?"

"It isn't permanent," Usagi said as the gem on the pen dulled in color. She shoved it into her pocket. "It's a disguise spell. I'll need to do it again tomorrow morning, and again every day you're in town. This way, you can move around without freaking people out."

"Interesting," Twilight said.

Sonata giggled. "Heehee, I look funny!"

"You're unusually focused today, Usagi-chan," Ami said with a pensive frown. "I doubt it has anything to do with helping our new friends here find the thing they're looking for. What's bothering you?"

Usagi frowned. "Those two French kids brought a big problem to Tokyo with them," she said. "One we need to deal with before it turns the whole city upside down."

* * * * *

Forty minutes later, five girls arrived at yet another upscale apartment mansion. By this point, Sonata and Minako were tired and grumpy from all the walking and their stomachs grumbled and growled.

They entered to find Ron flopped on a couch, watching a large flatscreen television. Nearby, a tall, dark-haired youth with sharp eyes sat at a breakfast nook, a book in hand. A black cat lay in the sun by the broad window.

"We're here, Mamo-chan," Usagi said, yawning hugely. The youth looked up and surveyed the group calmly, then nodded.

"Chiba Mamoru. Pleasure to meet you. I have croissants, donuts, eclairs, and hot coffee," he said. "Usako, you said something about a visitor later?"

Usagi nodded as she headed directly for the kitchen and attacked a row of plastic bags. "I gave Ladybug your address," she said. "She'll be coming...sometime. She said she'd come whenever she can." She produced two eclairs, then helped herself to a canned juice from the refrigerator and wandered over to the breakfast nook, sitting down across from Mamoru.

The others filed into the kitchen and raided the breakfast spread, then found places to sit around the apartment. "This is a very nice place you have here," Twilight said.

"It suits my needs," Mamoru said. "So, you two are from another universe and are searching for an artifact you need."

"You seem remarkably blase about that, Chiba-san," Twilight said as she tore a croissant in half.

Mamoru chuckled wryly. "I've died twice and met my daughter from a thousand years in the future. There isn't much left that can surprise me."

Twilight blinked at that, a bite of croissant dangling from her mouth. "Umm," she mumbled through the pastry.

"So Usagi-chan, why drag us over here so early?" Minako asked as she selected a donut and helped herself to a cup of coffee.

Usagi sighed. "I'd rather wait until the others are here to explain it, but basically, our new French friends brought a serious problem into town with them. The Candy Witch is just the first symptom of something a lot worse."

"I was afraid of that," Minako muttered.

"The good news is it doesn't sound like the kind of thing we usually deal with," Usagi continued. "The bad news is, we've got a supervillain in town who could potentially turn thousands of innocent people into living weapons."

Minako paled. "That's bad," she said.

"For now, I'm going to eat breakfast, then I'm going to take a nap," Usagi said. "When everybody gets here, I'll..." She yawned. "Explain."

And then she passed out right in her eclair.

Mamoru shook his head, smiled, and gently picked her up, carrying her to his bedroom. They heard him bustling around for a few minutes; when he returned, he put the face-smeared eclair and a fresh, untouched eclair on a paper plate, picked up the juice Usagi had been drinking, and carried both to the bedroom.

"Oh my," Ami said. "She must have been up all night."

"Will she be okay?" Twilight asked.

"Probably," Ami said. "It's just...it's been a while since she's been this serious about anything."

The black cat by the window flicked an ear. "I was sort of hoping I'd never have to see this side of her again, even if her lazy crybaby side gets on my nerves," it said.

Twilight stared, eyes wide behind her glasses.

"Ooh, talking kitty!" Sonata cooed. "Now I know we're in Neighpon!"

* * * * *

An hour and a half later, the other Sailor Soldiers and Kim arrived. Kim looked around Mamoru's apartment and let out a whistle. "Swanky," she said.

"Hey KP," Ron said, waving. "I had a great night, how were your digs?"

Kim glanced at Rei, pursed her lips, and shrugged. "Quiet," she said. "Very...traditional."

"Slept on the floor, huh?" Ron asked.

"Yep."

"Those straw floor mats?"

"Oh yeah."

"Thin walls, cold as heck?"

"Yes and yes."

"Ah, memories." Ron nodded sagely. "Yeah, I'll take modern Tokyo any day."

"I'm right here, you know," Rei said irritably.

"Ah! Sorry," Kim said sheepishly. "I don't mean to complain, especially when you've been so generous and everything..."

Rei held up a hand. "It's okay," she said. Looking around, she stage-whispered, "I'm not exactly a fan of sleeping on the floor myself. But, it comes with the territory."

"So where's Usagi?" Makoto asked.

"Late as usual?" Rei wondered.

"No, she's here," Mamoru said. "She's just asleep in the bedroom. She's been up all night." He frowned. "I know Usako has to grow up and what she'll be one day, but every time I see her the way she is right now, I wonder how much longer I'll have with the odango-atama I fell in love with."

"So she's in full-blown Serenity mode?" Makoto asked.

"Close enough," Minako said. "She was at my door before I even rolled out of bed."

"I had a good reason."

All eyes turned to Usagi, who walked into the room with a slight case of bedhead, bags under her eyes, and her clothes rumpled. Nevertheless, her gaze was sharp and full of concern as she sat down on the windowsill, allowing the bright sunlight to silhouette her, making her hair look like shining spun gold.

"Now that you're all here, I can tell you what's happening right now in this city..."

* * * * *

"To be honest, I'm actually here on vacation with my family," Ladybug said. "Mama always wanted to visit Tokyo, and we saved up enough to afford a trip. I was a little worried about leaving Paris unprotected, but Tikki—my Kwami, the fairy who gives my Miraculous its power—assured me that even if I was away, at least Chat Noir could keep the damage from the Akumatized to a minimum if there was an attack."

"Akumatized?" Sailor Moon asked.

"Le Papillon's victims," Chat Noir explained. "He targets people experiencing negative emotions—jealousy, anger, frustration—and uses his Miraculous to take control of them, give them superpowers."

"Then he lets them go on a rampage to draw us out," Ladybug said. "He's after our Miraculous, mine and Chat Noir's." She bit her lip. "I didn't want to leave Chat Noir to deal with it by himself, especially since I'm the only one who can cleanse an Akuma once it's released from its victim. Without me, Chat Noir can't stop an Akumatized without making it worse."

Chat Noir shuddered. "Yeah. Do NOT want to do THAT again."

"Making it worse how?" Sailor Moon asked.

"Once the Akuma is released from the object it possesses, it has to be captured and purified," Ladybug explained. "You saw, right?"

"The butterfly?" Sailor Moon asked.

"That's right," Ladybug said. "If I don't catch and purify it, it'll escape and multiply. Then it can turn thousands of people into copies of the same Akumatized."

Sailor Moon gasped. "That's...!"

"Anyway, Tikki reasoned that if Le Papillon realized I wasn't in Paris, he'd hold off on attacking." Ladybug glanced at Chat Noir, an apology in her eyes. "Although it might have put Chat Noir at risk, his Miraculous."

"I would've been fine, My Lady," Chat Noir said. He stretched. "Anyway, it's a moot point since I just happened to be in Tokyo myself."

"And Le Papillon followed you both here?" Sailor Moon asked.

Ladybug chewed her lip. "That part bothers me," she admitted. "It's too...contrived. My being here on vacation is one thing, but Chat Noir and Le Papillon showing up here too?"

Sailor Moon glanced at Chat Noir. "What brought you to Tokyo?"

"Can't say," Chat Noir said, scratching his cheek. "Sorry, it's...if I explained why I'm here, Ladybug would figure out who I am, and she's the one who keeps saying we have to keep our identities a secret."

"Even from each other?" Sailor Moon asked, frowning. "How do you work together like that?"

"We trust each other enough that we don't need to know," Ladybug said. Sailor Moon couldn't help but notice the faint cloud of desperation and pain that filled Chat Noir's eyes at that.

"But Le Papillon being here...yeah, that's a mystery," Chat Noir said. "Plagg swears he has no way of tracking our Miraculous, but..."

"In any case, for obvious reasons, we can't just go straight back to Paris. Not until our personal reasons for being here are...you know," Ladybug said.

"Yeah, you can't exactly interrupt your family vacation," Sailor Moon agreed with a nod. "And nobody's expecting you to. That's not fair. If anybody knows what it's like to have your life interrupted by being a superhero, it's me."

"Right," Ladybug said. "But in all likelihood, when we do return to Paris, Le Papillon will follow."

"Assuming we don't figure out who he is and kick his butt here," Chat Noir said, cracking his knuckles.

"It shouldn't be that hard to figure out how many Parisian tourists are wandering around Tokyo," Sailor Moon mused. "I'm sure Sailor Mercury can do it." She looked at the two French teens. "Of course, you realize if we try to help you identify your enemy, we're going to figure out who you two are in the process."

Ladybug grimaced. "As...as long as you keep that information to yourself," she said. Her eyes flicked to Chat Noir. "Agreed?"

Chat Noir sighed. "Agreed."

Sailor Moon nodded. "So, Le Papillon. What are the limits to his power?"

"As far as we know, the only limit is he can only Akumatize one victim at a time," Ladybug said. "As far as we know."

"And the whole 'army of a thousand Akumatized' thing only happens when an Akuma gets away from us, which is something we go out of our way to avoid," Chat Noir added. "Once was enough, believe me."

"But he can Akumatize anyone feeling strong enough negative emotions," Ladybug said.

Sailor Moon winced. "In this city? That's a problem..."

* * * * *

"So it's like pretty much every other bad guy we've faced that did the whole 'turn innocent people into monsters' bit?" Makoto asked. "No sweat!"

"Except we have no way of knowing if my Moon Healing Escalation will work on these Akuma, so if one does show up, we have to wait for Ladybug and Chat Noir," Sailor Moon said. "And in the meantime, we need to try to help them find this Papillon of theirs and try to help our friends here find the thing they're looking for."

Minako laughed. "Is that all? Pizza cake! Compared to everything else we've ever put up with, that's pretty tame!"

"She's not wrong," Makoto said. "Except about the 'pizza cake' thing, I mean." She shook her head. "I don't see why you're so worried about this."

Usagi sighed. "I just...I just have a bad feeling," she said.

Rei raised an eyebrow. "Is that Usagi talking, or Serenity?"

"Serenity," Usagi admitted. "Usagi just wants to go back to bed with Mamo-chan, yakisoba pan, and some manga."

"Then thank the spirits for Serenity," Rei muttered with a small smile.

Twilight frowned. "You keep talking about 'Serenity'," she said. "You make it sound like...like she's a different person."

"That's...a really long story, but that's kind of how it is," Makoto said.

"All of us are reincarnated from a past life," Ami put in. "A very long time ago, Usagi was Princess Serenity. A thousand years from now, she will be Neo-Queen Serenity."

"Her personality when Serenity manifests is very different," Mamoru said. "Lately, her Serenity self has been surfacing more and more. We all want to think it's just a sign that Usako is maturing, but..."

"None of us are really ready to let go of the lazy crybaby we know and love," Makoto said. "We don't...really know where Usagi ends and Serenity begins."

"Wow," Kim said. "That..." She trailed off. "I got nothin'."

"None of which really matters right now," Usagi said. "What matters right now is we have work to do. The sooner we find the thing these people need and help those two French superheroes deal with their problem, the better."

"About the latter part," Ami said. "It looks like there are only five Parisian tourists under the age of eighteen are in Japan right now, and only two of them are staying anywhere near Azabu-Juuban." Her fingers danced across her tiny palmtop computer. "One is a boy named Adrien Agreste, who is here with his father Gabriel Agreste. They're staying at the Yamagoto Plaza Hotel." She looked up. "The other is a girl named Marinette Dupain-Cheng, vacationing here with her parents Tom Dupain and Sabine Cheng, staying at the Ladybird Suites."

Makoto raised an eyebrow. "Ladybug is staying at the Ladybird. That's like, the opposite of trying." The others laughed.

"Assuming it's her," Rei pointed out.

Ami projected a hologram of the girl in question onto the wall of Mamoru's apartment. Everyone stared.

"It's totally her," Ron said.

"Gabriel Agreste," Rei said with a frown. "I feel like I should know that name..."

* * * * *

Cameras flashed in a crowded press room at the Yamagoto Plaza Hotel. Gabriel Agreste stood behind a podium, hands clasped behind his back, gazing dispassionately out at the sea of reporters. His son Adrien stood uncomfortably at his side.

"I am pleased to announce the opening of my boutique in Ginza next month," Gabriel said. "I am also pleased to announce that a second boutique, showcasing an...alternate line inspired by youth culture and certain recent events in my native Paris, will be opening in Harajuku at the end of summer."

As Gabriel droned on about his new boutiques, fielding questions from reporters, Adrien let his mind wander.

How did Le Papillon track them to Tokyo? What were the odds that he and Ladybug would be in Japan at the same time? Who were those strange people that had shown up during their battle with Candy Crusher? How far could they really trust Sailor Moon and her team?

So many questions and so few answers...

Sonata Secret Identity

View Online

The Sailor Soldiers and their extradimensional visitors spent the remainder of the day at Mamoru's apartment, mostly sitting around killing time. Usagi had gone back to bed for a while. Slightly past noon, Makoto and Rei went shopping; when they returned, Makoto started cooking.

The smell of food roused Usagi, who returned to the living room and played cards with the others. Just as Makoto announced the food was ready, there was a knock on the glass door leading out to the balcony. Everyone looked up to see Ladybug standing there, waving sheepishly.

Usagi rolled her eyes and opened the balcony door. "You could've come in the front way," she said.

"Sorry, habit," Ladybug said. She looked slowly around the room, blinking, then focused her gaze on Usagi. "Sailor Moon?"

Usagi nodded. "That's right. All of the girls here, you've already met." She went around the room, making introductions. When she was finished, she took a deep breath. "And...we know who you are too, Marinette Dupain-Cheng. If you'd like, you can drop your transformation now and join us for lunch."

Ladybug tensed, then sighed. "Tikki, spots off." In a pink flash, her spotted bodysuit was replaced with pink jeans, ballet slippers, a patterned shirt, and a light black jacket. "How'd you—?"

"It wasn't hard," Ami said apologetically. "Airline and tourist entry records search, then narrowing it down with a little logic."

"Oh," Marinette said, blinking.

"There aren't a whole lot of French teenagers in Tokyo right now, apparently," Rei said. "Ami-chan came up with a list and we worked from there."

"We also know who Chat Noir is," Usagi said. "But since you said you don't want to know..."

"Right," Marinette said somewhat apprehensively. "It...it wouldn't be right to ask. Not like this." She took a deep breath. "And...Le Papillon?"

Ami grimaced. "That...is a bit harder," she said. "With you and Chat Noir-san, it was easy, but we don't know anything about Le Papillon. There are one hundred forty-seven French adults in Tokyo at the moment, excluding your parents and..." She bit her lip.

"And Chat Noir's," Marinette finished for her. "I sort of figured he wasn't here by himself."

"Right," Ami said, nodding. "Even assuming Le Papillon is staying in this part of the city, that's six people to investigate." She adjusted her glasses. "Again, excluding your parents and Chat Noir-san's."

"Why exclude them?" Sonata asked suddenly.

Everyone turned to her. "What?" Marinette asked.

"Well, do your parents know you're a superhero?" Sonata asked. "I'm guessing probably not."

"W-well, no," Marinette admitted.

"So if one of them or Chat Noir's dad was a supervillain, do you think you'd know?"

"My parents could never be supervillains!" Marinette protested, stamping a foot. "Papa is the kindest, most gentle man in Paris! Mama is kind, sweet, and...and I'm pretty sure Le Papillon isn't a woman!"

"Calm down, Dupain-san," Rei said gently. "Sonata-san didn't mean any offense, and she does have a valid point." She frowned. "And you don't know anything about Chat Noir's father, so we can't necessarily exclude him."

"I think Chat Noir would know if his father was a supervillain," Marinette said sourly, crossing her arms.

"Yeah, because that worked so well for Luke Skywalker," Makoto said teasingly as she began laying serving dishes on the table. "Come on, we're just about to eat, you're welcome to join us."

"Thank you," Marinette said, looking over the spread. "Wow, this all looks really good. I haven't really tried much Japanese food."

"Well, now's as good a time as any!" Makoto said with a cheerful smile.

Everyone sat down and began loading up plates. As they did so, Marinette held a contemplative expression on her face. "I guess...you do have a point," she said. "We can't rule out Chat Noir's father just because he's Chat Noir's father. At the very least, we need to clear him off the suspect list so we can go back to finding Le Papillon."

"I'm sure your friend's father is as good a man as yours," Usagi said with a kind smile.

"Hey...who's Luke Skywalker?" Sonata stage-whispered to Twilight. Twilight shrugged.

* * * * *

Adrien Agreste leaned against a balcony railing, a half-empty smoothie in one hand, utterly bored out of his mind as he watched people coming and going below.

The Yamagoto Plaza Hotel, where he and his father were staying during their business trip, occupied the upper three-fourths of the Yamagoto Plaza complex, the lower three floors of which were an expansive shopping center. As Adrien understood it, there were also two floors of offices above the shopping center before the hotel took over the rest of the building. Having nothing to do for the rest of the day, Adrien had decided to explore the Yamagoto Shopping Plaza for anything interesting, but he had quickly grown bored with it and decided to spend some time people-watching while he gathered his thoughts.

Defying all probability, Ladybug was somewhere in this city. Equally improbably, Le Papillon had followed both of them to Tokyo. It was all too convenient, too contrived; something about the whole situation made Adrien's brain itch, like there was something obvious he should be seeing...

"Adrien? Oh my goodness, it is you!"

Snapped out of his reverie, Adrien looked to his right and gaped. Sabine Cheng and Tom Dupain were walking slowly up to him; it was Mrs. Cheng who had called his name. He blinked, then smiled. "Uhh...hi!" he said. "Wow, I wasn't expecting to run into anybody I know here. Except my father, I mean." He chuckled.

Sabine smiled. "Well, we're on a little family vacation," she said. "I've always wanted to see Tokyo, we saved up enough to afford a little time away, Tom was able to get a friend of his to manage the boulangerie for a couple of weeks and house-sit for us." She clasped her hands in front of her. "So, you're here on vacation too?"

"Business actually," Adrien said. "My father's opening two new stores here in Japan later this year. I have to do photo shoots with him, his branch partners, the Japanese models..." He sighed. "I mean, yeah, I'm getting a little time to wander around, and it's Tokyo, but..."

"But you're all by yourself?" Sabine asked sadly.

Adrien nodded miserably.

"Well, maybe you can meet up with Marinette and go sightseeing," Sabine said brightly. "I'm sure she'd love to see Tokyo with you!"

Adrien brightened. "Marinette's here too?"

"Of course she is!" Tom said jovially. "Wouldn't be much of a family vacation if it was just us two." He scratched his chin thoughtfully. "No, it'd be more of a second honeymoon if that was the case..."

"Where is she?" Adrien asked eagerly. "Is she in one of the stores?"

Sabine winced. "Actually, she's off on her own today," she said apologetically. "Something about an Instagram friend from here in the city wanting to show her something, she'll meet us back at the hotel later...oh, and we're not staying here, we're staying at the Ladybird. This place is...just a bit much for us."

Adrien snorted. "Yeah, it's a bit much period," he muttered. "Don't get me wrong, it's a great hotel, it's just..." He sighed. "Reminds me way too much of Le Grand Paris. Only more over-the-top."

Tom laughed. "Well, our hotel is just right for a family on vacation." He clapped Adrien on the shoulder with a meaty hand. "You should give Marinette a call, let her know you're in the city. I'm sure she'd be happy to go sightseeing with you."

"Yeah, I should," Adrien said distractedly. He blinked. "Wait, I don't have her number..."

"Really?" Sabine asked. "Huh, that's strange." She reached into her purse and pulled out a pen and a scrap of paper, then wrote Marinette's number down and handed it to Adrien. "Here. I'm sure she won't mind at all since you're friends." She winked and offered Adrien a secretive smile. "Well, we've got a lot more to do before we go back to our hotel, and we're two transfers away and the JR is a lot worse than the Metro, so...hopefully we'll see you later, non? Have fun!"

"Yeah, have fun," Adrien said, smiling. "It was nice seeing a couple of familiar faces."

Adrien watched them head for the escalator, smiling as he looked down at Marinette's number. *So Marinette is here in Tokyo,* he mused. *I don't get to spend nearly enough time with her even though she was one of the first friends I made, it'll be nice to—*

His train of thought abruptly derailed. His eyes shot open wide.

"Plagg," he hissed into the inside pocket of his jacket. "PLAGG!"

"What is it?" came the sleepy reply of his Kwami.

"Marinette's in Tokyo," Adrien hissed.

"Yeah, I heard," Plagg grunted. "That's nice."

"You don't get it," Adrien said quietly, his mind racing. "Marinette is here in Tokyo."

"Yeah, she is," Plagg agreed. "What about it?"

Adrien rolled his eyes. "Plagg, Marinette's here in Tokyo...and so is Ladybug."

Plagg was silent for a long moment. "Huh," he said at length. "That's interesting."

"Interesting? Interesting?!" Adrien snapped, drawing curious looks from a couple of passing Japanese women. "Plagg, what if Marinette is Ladybug?!"

Plagg poked his head out from Adrien's jacket, his green eyes glowing faintly. "Well, that'd be nice, don't you think?" A sly smile graced his lips. "I mean, you have almost as big a crush on Marinette as you do on Ladybug."

"I do not!" Adrien protested.

"Right," Plagg said with a derisive snort. "And I'm lactose intolerant." He shook his head and twitched his whiskers. "I'm just saying, if Marinette is Ladybug, that's good for you, right?" With that, he ducked his head back into Adrien's jacket.

Adrien stood there for a long moment, his smoothie long forgotten, his mind whirling.

* * * * *

During the course of the meal, the group of teenagers had gotten to know each other, swapping stories and talking about their hobbies, interests, and so forth. The atmosphere in Mamoru's apartment quickly became one of relaxed comfort and comraderie.

"Ah, that was good," Marinette said, leaning back in her seat and wiping her mouth. "I think I ate too much."

Makoto laughed. "Glad you enjoyed it. And given the way you go flying around like Spider-Man all the time, I'm sure you'll burn it off."

"You're a really good cook, Mako-chan," Kim said. "I'm impressed."

"Yeah, you rock! I'd love to see what you can do with Mexican food," Ron said.

Makoto raised an eyebrow. "Mexican food, huh? I dunno..." She put a hand to her chin. "Now that I think about it, I don't think I've ever even eaten Mexican food..."

"I have!" Usagi said, thrusting her hand into the air. "It makes you fart a whole bunch!"

"It really does," Mamoru agreed, his nose wrinkling in distaste.

"There's a story there," Minako said with a sly grin.

"Yeah, and you're not hearing it," Usagi said, blushing furiously. Everybody laughed.

A fast, cheery jingle sounded out from Marinette's pocket. "Oh no, I bet that's my parents," she said, reaching into her pocket and pulling out her phone. "Or my friend Alya checking to see how the trip's—" She trailed off as she looked at her phone. Her eyes widened. Her cheeks turned red.

She very nearly dropped the phone. "UWAH!" she cried.

Everyone stared at her. "What's up?" Kim asked.

Tikki flew up and examined the phone. She blinked. "Huh. A call from Adrien." She smiled a sly smile. "Well well."

Around the room, eyes flicked sharply from one Sailor Soldier to another.

Marinette just barely managed to answer the phone and held it in nervous, shaking hands. "H-hello?" she stammered.

//Hello, Marinette?//

"A-a-a-a-adrien! I, how, I, how, I mean, I, umm...h-hi!" Marinette stammered. "How nice! To call, from you, the phone, I mean..." She coughed. "Hi!"

Minako's eyebrows went up. Her eyes sparkled. The other Senshi exchanged knowing glances and smirks. Ron blinked owlishly.

//Hey. So, uhh...sorry for the sudden call, I ran into your mom, she gave me your number. Umm...I mean, I ran into her just a little while ago. In Tokyo.//

Marinette blinked rapidly. "I-in T—" She broke off sharply. "Ah! Right, I forgot, your dad's announcement! That was this week?"

//Ah, you knew about that?//

"Yeah, it was in a magazine I read. I didn't know you were going with him, I mean..." Marinette frowned, her mind whirling. *How did I not know Adrien was going to be in Tokyo this week? Was I so excited for this trip that I just forgot to check on his plans for break?*

//Yeah, I'm doing the whole publicity thing. It's boring.//

"Aww, that...that's too bad."

//Yeah.// There was a nervous pause. //So, uhh...you're here and I'm here and we're friends, I mean...we're friends and we're both in Tokyo, so...// Adrien coughed. //You maybe wanna meet up, see some of the sights together? I've got all day free tomorrow.//

"Y-yeah!" Marinette exclaimed, nodding rapidly. "Of course! Seeing you is a sight, I mean, sightseeing you, I mean, seeing the sights with you..." She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. "Yeah, I'll have to check with my parents, but I think they'll...yeah."

//Great! Umm...I'll text you later.//

"Right, I'm looking forward to it," Marinette said. "Well, umm...I'll see you tomorrow then, and later we'll text and...yeah..." She ducked her face, playing with her hair. "Later!"

It took her almost a minute to think to disconnect the call and put her phone away. When she finally did, she realized the entire room was staring at her, many of them with knowing smirks and smug grins. She burned scarlet. "What?"

"Some~one has a boy~friend," Sonata sang teasingly.

"I do not!" Marinette cried sharply. "I mean, I..." She smiled, playing with her hair. "I...I want to have him, I mean...as my boyfriend I mean! But..." She trailed off and sighed.

"She's got it baaaaaad," Tikki said, giggling.

"We noticed," Makoto said dryly.

"I think it's sweet," Minako said.

"Adrien," Marinette sighed happily.

Rei coughed. "So you're planning to meet him tomorrow to go sightseeing?" she asked lightly.

"Yeah, we—" Marinette broke off abruptly, blinking rapidly. "Wait a minute. Adrien's here in Tokyo?" She stood up and started pacing. "Adrien's here in Tokyo. Adrien...Adrien's here in Tokyo..." Her brow furrowed, her eyes darting back and forth, not really seeing her surroundings. The group could see her mind working furiously. She stopped pacing suddenly and gave Ami a sharp look. "You said there aren't many teenagers from Paris in Tokyo right now," she said.

"That's right," Ami said evenly.

Marinette sat down on the sofa, tucking her legs under her. "But Chat Noir is here," she said. "Chat Noir is here...Adrien is here..." Her eyes flicked to Tikki, who hovered nearby. Tikki gave a noncommittal shrug. Marinette closed her eyes and shook her head. "No, it's impossible," she decided. "Adrien being Chat Noir, that's nonsense..." And yet, her voice held a note of uncertainty.

Ron opened his mouth to say something. Kim elbowed him in the breadbasket.

Usagi cleared her throat. "If Chat Noir turned out to be the boy you liked, would that be a problem?" she asked.

Marinette chewed her lip. "I don't know," she admitted. "I don't..." She shook her head. "I can't see them being the same person, but..." She looked around the room, narrowing her eyes. "You all know who Chat Noir is," she said.

Nobody would meet her gaze.

"I see," Marinette said, her tone firm, her jaw clenched. She sighed. "I need some air. I...I have a lot to think about. Tikki, spots on."

One bright flash of magic later, Ladybug was out the window and swinging across the Tokyo cityscape.

The Senshi and their extradimensional guests looked at each other guiltily.

"Well..." Ami said hesitantly. "She was bound to find out sooner or later."

"Yeah," Makoto agreed. "I mean, it's like Mamoru and Usagi-chan here," she said. "I mean, it's almost exactly like them."

"Actually, it sounded to me like it's the other way around," Rei said. "Usagi hated Mamoru-san at first, remember?"

Mamoru chuckled, his eyes twinkling. "And I went out of my way to insult Usako at every opportunity," he said. "Good times...good times..."

"Well, as long as the Goddess of Love is on the case, those two will end up together and be happy!" Minako declared firmly, pumping a fist.

"Yyyyyeah, maybe just let it run its course without getting involved," Kim suggested. "And I hate to break up the fun, but we do need to get back to talking about that Rainbow Monkey Crystal..."

Sonata Sightseeing Tour

View Online

Ladybug's mind was a whirling storm of emotions, memories, confusion, and inner turmoil as she swung through the unfamiliar cityscape, ignoring the dozens of bystanders below snapping photos of her, pointing in awe.

Adrien Agreste, the boy of her dreams, the most perfect, gorgeous, polite, kind, sensitive, intelligent boy in all of Paris...could very well also be the corny, flirtatious, obnoxious Chat Noir.

It...it just wasn't possible, right? And yet...

Adrien was in Tokyo.

Chat Noir was in Tokyo.

Her instincts told her it was no coincidence. The way the Sailor Soldiers refused to meet her gaze, didn't deny it when the subject came up...

Ladybug found cover half a block from her hotel and changed back, thankful her parents had gotten a separate room for her even though they were probably still out shopping and exploring. As soon as she was safely behind a locked door, Marinette flopped onto the room's plush love seat and sighed.

Tikki floated beside her. "Are you okay?" she asked.

"Yeah, I'm..." Marinette shook her head. "No, Tikki, I'm confused. I'm kind of freaking out here. I mean...is he? Is Adrien Chat Noir?"

"I don't know," Tikki said. "But it's a strange coincidence, him being here, Chat Noir being here."

"Yeah." Marinette stood up and started pacing. "I...I can't believe it, but..."

"But?" Tikki prompted.

"But the more I think about it, the more I start remembering stuff," Marinette said. "Stuff I should've noticed a long time ago."

"Like?"

"Well...remember when my great-uncle was Akumatized? The hotel was sealed off, but Chat Noir was there." Marinette frowned. "Now, it's a hotel, there's a lot of people in a hotel, but..." She shook her head. "And then there was Horrificator."

Tikki frowned. "Yeah," she said slowly. "Now that you mention it, what was Chat Noir doing at your school when it was supposed to be empty except for your class and Director Damocles?"

"Right," Marinette said, nodding firmly. "And then there was Adrien's shoe. It didn't have any of that pink slime next to it. Like..." Her eyes widened. "Exactly like the phone I planted to make it look like Horrificator got me."

"So you think Adrien did the same thing with his shoe?"

"If he's Chat Noir, that's exactly what he did," Marinette said. She groaned. "Why did it never occur to me to wonder how Chat Noir got inside a totally sealed off school?"

"Well, you did kind of have other problems at the time," Tikki said placatingly.

"Yeah, but that's the kind of thing I should've noticed," Marinette replied. She stopped suddenly, then groaned. "Speaking of things I should've noticed," she muttered.

"What's up?"

"Adrien's always running off in class or showing up late, just like me," Marinette said. "I know sometimes it's because of his modeling, but..." She shook her head. "Mademoiselle Sancoeur would've started scheduling his photo shoots around school hours, I know because, well..." She blushed. "So yeah, when he up and disappears—"

"Kind of like you do?"

"Yeah..." Marinette sat down again, heaving a tremendous sigh. "Great," she moaned, covering her face with both hands. "The boy of my dreams is a dorky alley cat."

Tikki perched on her tummy. "Is that so bad?" she asked quietly. Marinette spread her fingers to peer down at her with one eye. "Marinette, the Ladybug and the Black Cat are two halves of a whole. It's always been that way. Every single Ladybug and Chat Noir ever have been connected." She paused, then added, "Besides, remember Copycat? Didn't that whole thing happen because Chat Noir—"

"Told Theo we're a thing," Marinette finished, cheeks reddening. "Oh my gosh, Adrien said that..." She paused, frowning. "Okay, so he lied and caused Theo to be Akumatized, which is not cool, but..." She shook her head.

"All I'm saying is if you start going out with Adrien, and he really is Chat Noir, at least you won't have to deal with, y'know, a jealous tomcat going after your boyfriend."

Marinette grimaced. "Thanks for that, Tikki," she said flatly. Sighing, she flopped over on her side. "So what do I do? Do I go up to Adrien and say 'oh by the way, are you Chat Noir?'"

Tikki shrugged. "It's up to you," she said. "I think you're at the point where you can make that choice by yourself now."

"I'm gonna take a nap," Marinette decided. She curled up in a ball on the love seat and closed her eyes.

Tikki smiled down at her, then nestled into the crook of her neck. "It'll work out," she whispered fondly. "It'll all work out."

* * * * *

While some of the girls had helped Makoto clean up and Usagi had retreated to a corner to read manga, Ami and Twilight huddled over the living room table, equipment and diagrams spread out before them. Kim, Ron, and Sonata, finding themselves with nothing of worth to do, settled onto the sofa and channel-surfed.

As the sun began to set, Ami and Twilight emerged from their deep nerding. "Well, we think we've figured out where the crystal is," Twilight announced.

Everyone focused their attention on the two scientists.

Ami adjusted her glasses. "I fed Sparkle-san's data through the Mercury Computer," she said. "We were able to pinpoint the magical signature of two Rainbow Monkey Crystals within Tokyo. One of them is the one you brought with you. The other, we've located at Yamagoto Plaza."

Makoto winced. "Uhh...you realize how big Yamagoto Plaza is, right? I mean, you took away a whole lot of the hay, but that's still a pretty big haystack to search."

"Yes, but there's more," Twilight said. "The Crystal is moving. Somebody has it."

The others looked around at each other.

"That's...gonna be a problem, isn't it?" Ron asked.

"Well, at best, it means we have to find out who has the crystal and convince them to give it up," Mamoru said, frowning. "At worst, well..." He sighed. "Yamagoto Plaza is a shopping complex and a hotel. That means whoever has it..."

"Likely won't be there long," Ami finished. "Unless they're one of the hotel's permanent residents, but we can't afford to assume that." She pushed her glasses up. "We're going to have to get that crystal as quickly as possible if we want to avoid having to chase one person to God knows where."

Kim frowned. "Can you figure out who has it once we're in?"

"Working on it," Twilight said. "I may have to build a second scanner, that could take a few hours."

"Do whatever you need to," Kim said. "We need to get that crystal and move on to the next dimension as soon as we can." She blinked, looking around. "Not that you guys haven't been great! We really appreciate your hospitality and all, it's just—"

"We get it," Minako said with a smile. "You've got a world to save. We know the sitch."

"I'll get right on that tracker," Twilight said.

"I'll help," Ami offered.

* * * * *

Night fell over Tokyo.

At the Ladybird Hotel, the Dupain-Cheng family had dinner together, Marinette talking excitedly about her plans to go sightseeing with Adrien the next day while concealing her conflicting thoughts and feelings about what she had learned.

Ami and Twilight remained at Mamoru's apartment to work while everyone else had spread out and gone home. Mamoru slipped out as his alter ego, Tuxedo Kamen, to patrol the night for trouble.

Adrien Agreste could barely sleep, excited for what the next day would bring, mind whirling with the possibility that his amazing (and cute) friend Marinette could very well be the girl behind the mask...his Ladybug, the girl he loved.

And Le Papillon...well, even supervillains sleep.

* * * * *

After struggling to figure out which line she needed to ride, getting aggravated, and wasting fifteen minutes fretting about being late meeting Adrien and the myriad ways he would react (ranging from refusing to speak to her to leaving a bad Yelp review of the boulangerie to becoming Akumatized and attacking her), Marinette finally decided to transform into Ladybug and take the direct aerial route to Yamagoto Plaza, where she and Adrien had agreed to meet shortly after nine in the morning to spend the day sightseeing.

At five minutes to nine, Ladybug dropped into a rail station, wandered into a water closet, and emerged as Marinette. Five people saw her. None of them cared. After all, this was Japan. Marinette whistled cheerfully to herself, largely to calm her jangling nerves, as she made her way to Yamagoto Plaza, keeping her eyes peeled for the ornamental statue Adrien had sent her a picture of, which was to be their meeting place.

"There it is," Tikki whispered from Marinette's purse. Following her gaze, Marinette headed for the statue, finding several benches situated around its base. Seeing no sign of Adrien, she sat down, drumming her fingers nervously on her knees.

Ten minutes later, Adrien walked up briskly. "Sorry I'm late," he panted breathlessly. "Got caught up." He looked Marinette over, a faint blush dusting his cheeks. "You uhh...you look really cute today," he said.

Marinette had chosen to wear pink and black pinstripe tights, black flats, a cherry blossom pink pleated skirt with black trim, a dark pink crop top, and a light pink half-jacket with a matching beret. She blushed prettily, wringing her hands. "Th-thank you," she said. "Umm, you look...you look great too." She took Adrien in; he was wearing more or less the same clothes he always did, but his hair and skin were as flawless as ever, his green eyes gorgeous, his smile perfect... *It's not true, is it? He isn't...* But her mind messed up Adrien's perfect hair, made it tousled and wild, and gave his gorgeous eyes and perfect smile a mischievous twinkle and a rakish tilt.

"Umm..." Adrien scratched his cheek. "So, uhh...ready to get going?"

"Huh? Oh...yes," Marinette said, standing up and smoothing out her skirt. "So, umm...where are we going?"

"Well," Adrien said thoughtfully, "I gotta admit I'm kind of interested in checking out Tokyo Tower. I mean, I know we've got pretty much the same thing back in Paris, but..." His smile took on a teasing edge. "As long as we're here, we might as well get an Eiffel."

Marinette gave him a blank, half-lidded stare. After a long moment, she facepalmed. "Ugh," she muttered. "That was bad, minou."

Adrien shrugged, jamming his hands in his pockets. "What can I say? I'm always trying to reach new hei—" He broke off, his eyes wide. "Umm. Did you just—"

"Yeah," Marinette said roughly, nodding.

Adrien's surprised expression changed to one of wonder. "So you are—"

"Yeah," Marinette said again. She swallowed. "You...figured it out?"

"Well, it's...it's a bit too much of a coincidence," Adrien said. "Both of us being..."

"Yeah, it...it kind of is," Marinette agreed. They both laughed self-consciously.

Adrien took hold of Marinette's hands, prompting a full-on blush. "I've...I've wanted to know for so long who you really are," he said.

Marinette ducked her head. "And now that you do?"

Adrien brushed his fingers through her hair. "I'll follow you anywhere in the world, My Lady. If you'll let me."

Marinette let out a funny little squeak, but her eyes shone brightly. "O-okay," she said. She looked into his eyes, then ducked her gaze again. "But, umm...maybe we should just...do some sightseeing. And...and later...we have a lot to talk about."

* * * * *

The north end of Yamagoto Plaza was home to Yamagoto Stageplex, a concert venue which mostly hosted idol groups signed to various business partners of the Yamagoto Group.

An early morning special appearance by popular idol unit Next HarMEOWny was well underway at Yamagoto Stageplex, with a crowd of adoring fans gathered around the stage. One fan, a scrawny, plain, messy-haired NEET wearing baggy sweats, suddenly crawled up onto the stage, pulling brightly-colored garments out of a backpack. "Wear these!" he cried to the girls, who stopped singing and turned to him, backing away in confusion. Stagehands began scrambling as the director and the group's manager spoke rapidly into radios. The crowd yelled at him to get off the stage, many whipping out phones to record the disturbance. He ignored them, throwing lacy, silky, diaphanous pieces of costume clothing at the girls.

A pair of bright red panties landed on one idol's head. She screamed.

The stagehands finally managed to tackle the man and haul him away, with him screaming encouragements and demands to wear his costumes at the girls all the while. More stagehands furiously gathered up the scattered bits of clothing, and after five minutes, the concert continued.

In the security office, the NEET sat on a steel chair, head bowed. His phone hadn't been confiscated; he sat reviewing the pictures he'd taken before he'd been hauled away.

A purple-black butterfly landed on his phone, and a dark shadow spread across his face.

Otaku. I am Le Papillon. Your passion for idols is an inspiration. Go forth and fill this city with your dreams of perfect idol groups! In return, I ask only that you bring me the Miraculous—Ladybug's earrings, Chat Noir's ring!

Otaku chuckled darkly as an oily purple-black mist roiled across his body. "Yes, Papillon," he said.

* * * * *

At half past nine, Twilight, Ami, Rei, and Kim arrived at Yamagoto Plaza. "Spankin' mall," Kim observed as she looked around the shopping complex.

"Tourist trap," Rei commented.

"Really?" Twilight asked, frowning. "But I see a lot of Neighponese—"

"Tourists don't only come from other countries, Sparkle-san."

"Oh."

"Actually, a lot of locals shop here too," Ami said absently as she studied the screen of her phone; she and Twilight had made adjustments to their scanning equipment so that it sent data to her phone via Bluetooth, eliminating the need to openly wave around their little science experiment. "It's like any mall. Lots of stores selling overpriced stuff, a number of places to get food or drinks, some entertainment facilities—"

"There's a cinema, an idol stage, an event hall, and a bowling alley," Rei interpreted in a bored tone. "Also two arcades."

"I'm getting something," Ami said. "The Rainbow Monkey Crystal is..." She frowned. "Executive suites, second floor from the top..."

Rei blinked. "Somebody that rich and important has it?" she asked.

"I'm also detecting a second magical signature in the immediate vicinity of the Crystal," Ami said. She put her phone away and pulled out her Mercury Computer, eyes narrowed as she tapped away intently. Her mouth pressed into a thin line. "The signature..." She looked at the others gravely. "It's identical to the Miraculous."

The others digested this. "Le Papillon?" Rei suggested.

"So it seems," Ami confirmed.

"Okay, so French archvillain staying in the executive suites and he has the thing we need," Kim said. "This just got interesting."

"We need to find Ladybug and Chat Noir," Rei said.

"Wait," Twilight said. "Before that, we need to get a list of everyone staying on that floor."

"French residents of those suites," Ami said, nodding. Her glasses reflected the overhead lights eerily. "I already thought of that." She sighed. "Chat Noir is not going to like what I have to tell him."

The girls looked at each other with unhappy frowns. Kim sighed. "Right," she said. "So first thing's first, we need to—"

Hundreds of female screams filled the plaza, a growing wave of noise that came out of nowhere and drew closer by the second. Twilight's eyes widened. "Wha—what's going on?"

"Akumatized," Ami said, frowning at her computer. "So that's why Le Papillon's Miraculous is active."

Rei pulled out her phone. "I'll call—"

A bright rainbow beam of light struck her.

She began spinning in place, her clothes exploding away from her body, revealing her naked glory to the world. New clothes formed on her body, beginning with brightly colored silk and lace underwear; when she stopped spinning, she was wearing a gauzy layered skirt in alternating shades of cream and seafoam, a top made almost entirely of pink and periwinkle ribbons, pink bicep-length gloves tied with dark pink ribbons at the top, and shiny pink platform shoes with pink ribbons. Satin cat ears perched atop her head, and her phone had turned into a microphone. She began dancing on the spot, twirling and singing.

Call me, call you, call RAINBOW SUNSHINE
Dancing makes me happy and I love it for you!
LOVE FOR YOU CALL LOVE FOREVER! Dancing Rainbow Sunshine!

The others stared at her. "Uhh...okay?" Kim said.

Twilight ducked behind Kim, quaking. "L-look," she said.

The plaza was full of young girls dressed in similarly garish outfits of clashing colors, all singing the same insipid song and dancing the same dance.

Ami hurriedly fired off a text to Marinette, then pulled out her henshin wand. "MERCURY CRYSTAL POWER, MAKE-"

The rainbow beam hit her before she could activate the protective energies of her transformation. In seconds, she was dancing right alongside Rei.

Kim and Twilight looked at each other, gulped nervously, and turned to run.

They didn't get far.

* * * * *

Marinette and Adrien emerged from a JR terminal, looking at the brightly colored signs and storefronts of Azabu-Juuban. "I wish we had more time here," Adrien said. "There's just so much to see."

"Yeah." Marinette took a shaky breath. "S-so...umm...there's still things I...still things I need to tell you. I mean, we talked about the whole, you know, superhero secret identity thing on the train, but..." She blushed and fidgeted with her purse. "I, umm...I still need to tell you something—"

Her phone vibrated in her purse. She almost ignored it and pushed on, but Tikki suddenly shot out of the bag, eyes wide and alarmed. "Akumatized at Yamagoto Plaza!" she said. "That was from Ami! They're in danger!"

"Ami?" Adrien asked.

"Sailor Mercury," Marinette said, her blush and stammer gone, replaced by the firm steel of Ladybug. She glanced around, then nodded to a narrow alley between a nail salon and a bookstore. Adrien nodded, and the two teens ducked into the alley.

"Tikki, spots on!"
"Plagg, claws out!"

Ladybug and Chat Noir blinked at each other once their transformations were finished. Ladybug covered her mouth and giggled. "Wh-what was with that pose, Adrien?" she laughed out. "And that claw thing at the end, are you a Pokemon now?"

"Oh, like you're one to talk," Chat Noir said. Leering, he added, "Love the thing you did with your leg there, very—"

Ladybug punched him in the face.

"New rule. We don't do that in front of each other ever again," she said, face as red as her mask. She whipped out her yo-yo and threw it at the nearest tall building. "Let's go!"

Chat Noir snickered as he extended his baton and followed. "Oh, I'm so not done teasing her about that leg thing," he said. "I don't care how many times she punches me in the face..."

* * * * *

In a small coffee shop in the heart of Yamagoto Plaza, three effeminate young men watched the chaos unfolding in the mall with worried frowns. "Is this...is this something we should get involved in?" the pale-haired of the three wondered.

"We're not even supposed to be here," the one with slightly messy, slightly curly dark hair pointed out. "Sailor Moon and her Soldiers can handle it."

"I'm not so sure about that," the third one said gravely. "Because I think I just saw one of them dance by."

They looked at each other. The pale-haired one sighed. "Guess we're up," he said. Headsets appeared on each man's left ear: microphones attached to an earpiece with a star-shaped ornament on the side and a gauzy, backswept angel wing at the top.

"FIGHTER STAR POWER..."
"HEALER STAR POWER..."
"MAKER STAR POWER..."
"...MAKE...UP!"

Sonata Stage Show

View Online

Yamagoto Plaza was full to bursting with young women in garish, often scandalous costumes, all dancing the same dance and singing the same insipid song. Were it not for the terrified, uncomfortable, confused expressions most of them wore as they danced and sang, it could be mistaken for a massive flash mob.

Standing atop an ornamental sculpture, presiding over the chaos, was a tall, pale-skinned man in a dark red haori with 「オタク一番」 emblazoned down the broad black silk lapels. Underneath the haori he wore a skintight blue bodysuit with white gloves and boots. His eyes were covered by a pink mask that looked like a cross between a butterfly and a bra, and a matching pink mask that looked like panties covered his mouth. His wild, spiky hot pink hair was swept back by a black hachimaki. In one hand, he held a broad paper fan with a picture of a dancing anime idol singer on it. "Yes...yes, my idol army! Dance! Sing! Become the ultimate idol unit! We will take over Japan and show the world the beauty of IDOLS!"

The sound of snapping fingers echoed through the plaza, drowning out the singing of the idol mob. Otaku looked around wildly. "What? Who's there?!"

"Penetrating the darkness of night, streaking through the atmosphere, resounding truth, we are three shooting stars!"

Three slender women appeared. They all wore black leather hot pants, bikini tops, and thigh-high boots, along with elbow-length black leather gloves. Thin belts criss-crossed their waists, joined by a star-shaped clasp over their navels, and each wore a circlet upon her brow. One had straight, dark, curly hair with a long, straightened ponytail, another had slicked-back brown hair in a long ponytail, and the third had long, wavy silver-blue hair in a ponytail.

"Sailor Star Fighter!" the dark-haired one introduced.

"Sailor Star Maker!" the brown-haired one called out.

"Sailor Star Healer!" the third one said.

"SAILOR STARLIGHTS...STAGE ON!"

"Tch...!" Otaku spat. "You'll become my idols, just like all the rest!" He waved his fan, firing a rainbow beam at the Starlights.

"I won't let you!" Sailor Star Fighter declared. A ring of glowing stars orbited her body as she raised a finger to the heavens. "STAR SERIOUS LASER!" The stars streaked into her fingertip; she pointed at the incoming beam and fired a bright laser of starlight, which intercepted and cancelled Otaku's attack. "Healer! Now!"

"Right!" Sailor Star Healer leapt high into the air, gathering crackling energy in her palms. "STAR SENSITIVE INFERNO!" Dozens of arcs of electricity danced forth from her outstretched hands, trapping Otaku in a crackling web. He roared in agony as he twitched, sparks snapping across his body. He fired off another rainbow beam from his fan; it missed wide and hit a waitress in the cafe behind them. She immediately turned into a singing, dancing idol.

"That fan...!" Sailor Star Maker said. "It's how he's doing this!"

"If we destroy it, they'll all turn back to normal?" Sailor Star Healer asked.

"Only one way to find out!" Sailor Star Fighter said.

"I won't let you!" Otaku retorted, wildly firing rainbow blast after rainbow blast, forcing the Starlights on the defensive.

Sailor Star Maker raised her hands above her head, a glowing star forming between them as she spun in place. "STAR GENTLE UTERUS!" She flung an energy blast at Otaku; it expanded into dozens of glowing bands of light, trapping his arms and legs. He struggled and strained to no avail.

"STAR SERIOUS LASER!" Sailor Star Fighter's attack pierced the fan, ripping it apart. A tiny black and purple butterfly flew out, ascending to the ceiling high above and phasing through it. Otaku himself collapsed to the ground, an oily purple mist writhing across his body, leaving behind a nondescript, unconscious NEET.

All around them, the transformed idols continued singing and dancing.

Sailor Star Healer frowned. "It...it didn't work," she said.

"Wow, this is some dance party." The Starlights snapped their heads around as a young blonde boy in skintight black leather landed behind them, his feline green eyes surveying the scene. "Looks like we're fashionably late, My Lady."

A girl in a black-spotted red body stocking landed next to him, her blue eyes taking in the scene with fierce intensity as she spun a yo-yo at her side.

* * * * *

Sailor Moon, Sailor Jupiter, and Sailor Venus raced across the city, headed for Yamagoto Plaza. "You think there'll be anything left for us to do?" Jupiter asked. "I mean, if Ladybug and Chat Noir beat us there?"

"I don't know," Sailor Moon said, "but we need to be there anyway, just in case." She frowned. "I can't get hold of Ami-chan or Rei-chan."

"They were with Sparkle-san and Possible-san today, right?"

"I just have a bad feeling...let's hurry."

* * * * *

Ladybug's lips pressed into a thin line as she surveyed the scene. "Okay, pretty obvious what happened here," she said. "Strange that all they're doing is standing around singing and dancing." She frowned. "He got Sailor Mercury and Sailor Mars."

"Yeah, and two of those girls from the other dimension," Chat Noir agreed, his eyes never leaving the Starlights. "More importantly, what's out of place here?"

Ladybug's frown deepened. "Yeah, that's..." She shook her head. "Nevermind. We need to find the Akumatized."

"Excuse me," Sailor Star Healer said, "if you're talking about the guy that did all this? We took care of him already." She pointed to the still-unconscious man on the ground in the middle of the singing crowd.

Ladybug stared, eyes wide. "You did WHAT?!" she yelled.

"Great," Chat Noir groaned, facepalming. "Just great."

Sailor Star Fighter scowled. "Look, I don't know who you kids are, but we have a problem here, so—"

"Yeah, you've got a problem,," Ladybug spat. "Do you have any idea what you've done?!" She took an aggressive step forward. "Did you see where the Akuma went?"

The Starlights looked at each other. "Akuma?"

"THE BUTTERFLY!" Ladybug yelled. "There was a butterfly, right?"

"Oh yeah, it flew away," Sailor Star Maker said indifferently, pointing at the ceiling.

"Merde," Chat Noir grumbled.

Sailor Star Fighter frowned. "You seem to know what's going on here," she said.

"Yeah, we do," Ladybug said. "Because this is our fight. Who even are you, anyway? Besides really skanky dressers—"

"Seiya? Taiki? Yaten? What are you three doing here?!"

All eyes turned to Sailor Moon, Sailor Jupiter, and Sailor Venus as they arrived, looking around with wide eyes.

"Okay, this is...weird," Sailor Jupiter said.

"What's going on here, some kind of contest?" Sailor Venus asked.

Ladybug turned to Sailor Moon. "Do you know these three skanks?" she asked, motioning at the Starlights.

"HEY!" the Starlights protested.

Sailor Moon frowned. "Yes. They're...allies. But they shouldn't be on Earth at all. What—"

"Nevermind that right now," Chat Noir said. "They just screwed up big time."

"Will somebody please explain what you two are so worked up about?" Sailor Star Maker demanded.

And then a massive cloud of purple butterflies swarmed through the plaza.

Anyone who wasn't a transformed magical warrior or a dancing idol transformed into a motionless copy of Otaku.

"Oh snap," Sailor Jupiter said, staring around with wide eyes.

Ladybug groaned. "And here we go again," she muttered.

The Starlights, for their part, backed away, grouping tightly together, their faces pale. "We...we didn't know," Sailor Star Healer said shakily.

"What...what just happened?" Sailor Star Maker asked.

Sailor Moon approached Ladybug. "Ladybug? How...how do we fix this?"

Ladybug shook her head. "The last time this happened, the original Akumatized had to be possessed again. We weren't able to do anything about the copies until we had to fight the original a second time."

"That doesn't sound like a good plan," Sailor Jupiter said doubtfully.

"Yeah, especially since we don't know how this Akumatized was possessed in the first place," Chat Noir said. He clenched his fists. "This is a disaster."

"Our friends are..." Sailor Moon said, biting her lip as she watched Ami and Rei continue to dance and sing. "There's nothing we can do?"

Ladybug shook her head. "I don't know," she said. "I don't even know if using my Lucky Charm would help right now."

Sailor Venus pursed her lips. "Usagi? Maybe...do you think...?"

Sailor Moon nodded. "It's worth a try." She jumped high into the air, holding out her right hand. A short pink wand topped with a golden crescent moon appeared, a shining silver crystal glowing in the curve of the moon. She seized it, then traced a glowing silver circle in the air.

"MOON HEALING ESCALATION!"

A silver wave spread through the crowd. All the idols glowed a soft silver; slowly, they stopped dancing and singing, their clothes returning to whatever they were wearing before. They looked around in confusion.

The motionless copies of Otaku remained.

Sailor Moon landed next to her friends, grimacing. "Well, at least I freed our friends," she said. In the crowd, she saw Rei and Ami look at each other, nod, and rush off.

Chat Noir blinked. "Huh. I guess her powers are similar to yours, huh Bugaboo?"

"Looks that way," Ladybug said. "But that still leaves half the problem."

Sailor Mars and Sailor Mercury joined the group. "What the hell's going on?" Sailor Mars asked.

"Long story short, the Starlights showed up and made everything worse," Sailor Jupiter said.

Sailor Star Maker snorted. "So much for a happy reunion," she said. "I know when I'm not wanted." She leapt up to the second floor balcony. The other Starlights looked at each other, then back at the Sailor Soldiers. Sighing, they vacated the scene as well.

Sailor Mars blinked. "Okay, that...was a little rude."

Sailor Moon sighed. "We'll have to find them and talk it out later, once everything's settled down and we're all calm. It's...it's just a huge misunderstanding." She shook her head. "Alright...so there's no other way to save the rest of these people except find the original Akuma and purify it?"

"You could always go Eternal and use Starlight Honeymoon Therapy Kiss," Sailor Venus suggested.

Sailor Moon frowned. "I'd rather not risk it," she said. "I don't want to make the same mistake the Starlights made and screw this mess up even worse." She looked to Ladybug. "This is your call. What's our next move?"

Ladybug rubbed her chin. "If I remember correctly, the original Akuma will have returned to Le Papillon," she said. "If we can find him, we can..." She shook her head. "But if it were that easy, we'd have put an end to this months ago."

The Sailor Soldiers looked at each other uneasily. "Actually," Sailor Mercury said, "we know exactly where he is." She paused, then added, "We also know who he is."

Ladybug and Chat Noir gasped, giving her their full attention. "Seriously?!" Chat Noir asked excitedly.

Sailor Mercury gave him a sympathetic glance. "I'm sorry, Agreste-san," she said quietly. "I'm...I'm very sorry." She took a steadying breath.

"Le Papillon is in the Lavender Suite, one floor down from the penthouse."

Chat Noir's eyes widened. He took a step back. "No," he whispered.

"Adrien?" Ladybug asked quietly, watching the color drain from his face.

Chat Noir turned and fled, his baton extending as he vaulted to the second floor.

Ladybug watched him, then turned back to Sailor Mercury. "What's going on?"

The Sailor Soldiers looked at each other. Sailor Mercury shook her head. "Chat Noir's father is Le Papillon," she said.

Ladybug's face turned ashen. "No..."

She ran.

Sonata Secret Mission

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Chat Noir's tail lashed angrily as he raced through the halls of Yamagoto Plaza, throwing open doors to stairwells and vaulting up floors with the grace of a cat. *Impossible,* he told himself over and over again. *It's a mistake. Father isn't—*

But as furiously as he denied it, scenes from recent memory played through his mind. Father's cold, distant demeanor. His flashes of anger. His secretive nature, frequently disappearing for hours, even days at a time. The hidden safe behind her portrait...

The book. The Miraculous book.

Gritting his teeth, Chat Noir burst onto the floor below the penthouse.

The ding of an elevator chime registered on his senses. A door opened. Ladybug stepped out into the hall, calm and collected despite the turbulent worry churning in her blue eyes. "Chat Noir," she called softly. When he didn't answer, she tried again: "Adrien."

"Don't, Marinette," Chat Noir said roughly. "Just...not now."

"Adrien," Ladybug said sternly. "You need to stop and take a breath."

He growled at her. She held her ground.

"Adrien," Ladybug tried again, running backwards and keeping pace with him, "if you go into this like you are now, it's not going to go right. I know...I know you're angry—"

"You don't know what I'm feeling right now," Chat Noir hissed.

Ladybug winced. Tears welled up in her eyes. "You're right," she said softly. "I don't. But I know that it's up to us to stop Le Papillon. He's tormented us—tormented Paris—for months. He has to pay. But if we...if we go in there letting our emotions run wild..." She reached out and caught Chat Noir's shoulders, digging in her heels. "Listen to me," she said insistently.

Chat Noir strained against her, but she held firm.

"Listen to me," Ladybug repeated. "If you go in there like this, you're going to make a mistake, and he might...he might kill you." Tears welled up in her eyes. "I've watched you die once already, minou. And that was before I knew you were...you." Her voice was hoarse, rough. "I can't do that again. I can't let you go in there like this."

Chat Noir stilled. He took a deep breath, clenching his claws. "Ladybug..." His irises contracted into narrow slits. "I can't. I can't...if he's...if..." He shook his head. "How can you ask me to just..."

"You're Chat Noir," Ladybug said. "You're my partner. My friend. Look...whatever else is going on here, we can deal with that later. But right now, we have a job to do. There's an Akuma that hasn't been cleansed. Hundreds of people are counting on us. Two cities are counting on us. This is what we've been waiting for, Chaton. The final battle. The day we defeat Le Papillon once and for all." She took a deep breath. "Right now, that's all that matters. Focus, Chat Noir. Focus on the mission. Just the mission. We're the heroes, he's the villain. We can...we can worry about the rest once we win."

For a long, tense moment, Chat Noir stared into Ladybug's eyes. Then, he sighed. "Alright," he said hoarsely. "I'll...I'll try."

The elevator dinged again. The two heroes turned and looked down the hall.

Kim Possible strolled out, cracking her knuckles and rolling her shoulders. "I'm not late to the party, am I?" she asked.

"We've got this," Ladybug said. "Get someplace safe, this could get—"

"I can handle danger," Kim interrupted. "Besides, I've got a personal stake in this. Sailor Mercury tells me that jerk has the Rainbow Monkey Crystal."

The heroes stared at her, wide-eyed. "Seriously?" Ladybug asked.

Chat Noir snorted. "That figures," he growled. "Alright, but be careful. And...just so you know, this is kinda personal for us."

Kim sighed. "Yeah. I...I heard. I'm...sorry." She looked down the hall. "So...we doing this?"

Ladybug and Chat Noir looked at each other and nodded.

The three of them continued down the hall, to the door of the Lavender Suite.

* * * * *

Otaku's former victims had long since left the premises en masse. The Sailor Senshi and Twilight Sparkle remained on the scene. Twilight, for her part, was moving among the frozen Otaku copies, scanning them and taking notes.

"Is it...is it safe for her to do that?" Jupiter wondered.

"It should be," Mercury said. "Unless the original infected victim returns to his Akumatized state, the copies will remain dormant like this." She frowned. "Besides, even if they activate, this particular Akumatized wasn't...very dangerous. Mostly just...annoying."

"Very annoying," Mars said with a sour frown.

Sailor Moon sat on a bench, a worried frown on her face. "Hey...you okay?" Venus asked, laying a hand on her shoulder.

Sailor Moon sighed. "I'm just...worried," she said. "Poor Chat Noir...I can't begin to imagine what it's like for him, finding out his dad is his mortal enemy..."

"Yeah," Venus agreed, shuddering. "I feel like we should be doing more than standing watch down here, but...at the same time, I really don't want to get into the middle of that."

"Me neither," Sailor Moon said. "And then there's the Starlights. I don't know what they were doing here, but..."

"Yeah, kinda sounds like they just got on everybody's nerves today," Venus said with a grimace. "We'll have to find them later and...and clear the air..." She shook her head. "What a time for a reunion, huh?"

"Yeah," Sailor Moon agreed. "And what are they even doing here? That's got me worried too..."

"Whatever it is, we'll handle it," Venus said confidently. "We've already been through so much, what's the worst that could happen?"

* * * * *

Three women and a young girl stood on the top level of the Tokyo Skytree. One of them held an ornate hand mirror; its face showed not her reflection, but the deep blackness of space.

"A threat from beyond the stars approaches," the tallest woman said.

"This threat...it's beyond anything we've faced, isn't it?" the young girl said sadly.

"I don't know if even Princess Serenity is ready to face this," the second tallest woman said, clenching her fists at her side.

"The messengers from the distant star came with the warning, but..." the last woman frowned. "I feel turbulence in the sea..."

"The black waves carry a herald of destruction," the young girl said in a sorrowful tone.

A silver shape streaked across the blackness in the mirror.

* * * * *

Le Papillon observed the Akuma fluttering its wings idly within the crystal top of his cane. He smirked. "Hm. These interlopers...I owe them a debt of gratitude. Who would have suspected that Japanese superheroes would make it that much easier to—"

The door to the anteroom exploded. Papillon tensed, his head whipping sharply around, his grip on his cane tightening. "What in—"

"PAPILLON!" Ladybug's voice yelled. "COME OUT AND FACE US, COWARD!"

Papillon's eyes widened. "How?!"

"GET OUT HERE, GABRIEL AGRESTE!" Chat Noir snarled. "THIS! ENDS! TODAY!"

Papillon's face twisted into a furious sneer. "Merde," he spat. Squaring his shoulders, he schooled his expression into one of smug superiority and strolled out into the anteroom, where Ladybug, Chat Noir, and a red-haired American girl stood in wary stances. He made a show of clapping his hands mockingly and sketching a bow. "Ladybug. Chat Noir. And guest." He surveyed them all with cold eyes. "I congratulate you on finding me. And now, I will have your Miraculous."

"No you won't," Chat Noir said coldly, his baton extending as he charged forward.

Papillon smirked. "Now now, we mustn't disobey our fathers...Adrien."

Chat Noir skidded to a halt, his baton inches from Papillon's face.

"Really. Attacking your own father," Papillon continued in that same amused tone, closing his eyes. "I'm disappointed in you, Adrien. You were taught better."

"That's rich coming from you, you bastard," Ladybug spat.

Chat Noir's face was a study in confusion and uncertainty. "You...you know—?"

"Of course I know," Papillon said impatiently. "Oh, I didn't know for a very long time. Not until I sent Jackady after you. That day..." He rocked back on his heels. "In the mansion, you reminded me so much of her. Then later..."

Chat Noir's face went slack, stricken. "My ring," he said. "You saw my ring. That's when you knew."

"Yes." Papillon opened his eyes, which were full of mania and arrogance. "If it's any consolation, I still have no idea who Ladybug is. Not that it matters. After today, there will be no Ladybug."

"You're wrong, Gabriel," Ladybug said confidently. "After today, you're finished."

"Really?" Papillon asked, raising an eyebrow. "You'll defeat me, take my Miraculous, reveal my identity to the world, have the Parisian police waiting for me at the airport when you drag me back to France in chains?" He smirked. "It will be the end of Chat Noir's life as he knows it, non? Disgraced. The son of a supervillain. Everything he owns, everything he knows, gone. Bankrupt, orphaned, alone—"

"He'll never be alone," Ladybug said dangerously. "As long as he has me, Adrien has a family. He has a home."

Chat Noir looked at her, his eyes wide and wet. "Ladybug..."

Papillon laughed long and loud. "Touching," he said. "Foolish."

"Okay, I know you three have like, this whole big drama to hash out?" Kim interrupted. "But I'm sick of listening to this jerk." With that, she darted forward, launching a spinning kick at Papillon. He blocked with his cane, then lashed out with a punch that caught her on the shoulder and sent her spinning across the room. She crashed into a glass table and went down.

"KIM!" Ladybug yelled. "Are you—"

"I'm alright," Kim said, picking herself up and wiping blood from her lip as she brushed shards of glass off her body. "I've had worse." She clutched her shoulder. "Warn me about the super strength next time, willya? Jeez..."

"Give me your Miraculous and I won't kill this foolish girl," Papillon insisted.

"Better idea," Ladybug said, "we kick your butt and take your Miraculous."

Papillon snorted. "You have no idea what you're dealing with, child."

"NEITHER DO YOU!" Chat Noir charged forward, letting out a wild yowl as he laid into his father with a furious barrage of baton strikes and claw swipes. Papillon's superior expression changed to one of grim resolve as he was forced on the defensive; he grit his teeth as each terrible blow drove him further back. Chat Noir's fury drove him into a corner; barely holding the enraged hero back with his cane, he looked left and right, snarling as he desperately sought some distraction, some escape...

"It doesn't have to be this way, Adrien," Papillon said. "I'm doing this for you. For us."

"BULLSHIT!" Chat Noir roared. "You're a monster! All the people you've hurt! You used a little kid to do your dirty work! What possible excuse could you have for—"

"Your mother," Papillon said hoarsely.

Chat Noir tensed, relaxing his attack. "What?"

"She's trapped inside the Peacock Miraculous," Papillon said, real emotion in his eyes as he locked gazes with his son. "I've tried to find a way to save her...I searched for months..." He closed his eyes. "Combining the power of the Ladybug and Black Cat Miraculous is the only way..."

"I don't believe you," Chat Noir said listlessly. He took a step back, doubt on his face. His tail hung limp. "You're lying."

"Would I risk everything I've worked so hard to build without a good reason?" Papillon asked sharply. "You and your mother are everything to me. I don't care if I have to burn the world down...I'm going to save her. And to do that..." He struck out with his cane, driving Chat Noir to his knees. "I need the Miraculous!" He raised his cane to strike again...

Ladybug's yo-yo wrapped around his arm. "No," she said. "I...I understand...if you're telling the truth, then I..." She bowed her head. "But this isn't the way. If you're...if what you're saying is true, then we need to take the Peacock Miraculous to Master Fu. He'll...he'll know how to save her. And if it....if it really does take our Miraculous to do it...then we'll be the ones to set her free." She looked up sharply, her bluebell eyes blazing as they bore into Papillon. "You lost the right to try to justify your actions the first time you used your Miraculous to turn an innocent kid into a supervillain. I'm sorry, Monsieur Agreste, but we can't...we can't forgive your crimes. No matter what your motives, you've become a monster and you must answer for what you've done. All of it." Tears gathered in her eyes as she gave her yo-yo a sharp tug, dragging the resisting Papillon to the floor.

"Let...GO OF ME!" Papillon growled.

Kim rushed over, diving to the floor and wrestling with Papillon's flailing legs, struggling to keep him pinned. "Okay, how do we put a stop to this?" she asked.

Chat Noir reached out, a grim expression on his face, and removed the butterfly brooch from Papillon's suit. A bright pink light washed over him, and Papillon was replaced by a furious, snarling Gabriel Agreste.

A tiny pink Kwami erupted from the brooch, wobbling listlessly in the air before coming to a rest in Kim's hair. "Thank...you," he said. He looked sorrowfully at the group of teens, then down at his former master. "I'm sorry," he said. "I didn't have a choice...I had to do what he said..."

"Nobody blames you," Ladybug said gently. "What's your name?"

"Nooroo."

"Nooroo," Ladybug said with a smile. "I believe Master Fu is looking forward to seeing you again." She looked down at Gabriel, who had stopped struggling. She sighed. "Adrien...I'm sorry..."

Chat Noir sat down beside his father, all the fight and anger drained out of him. He looked like a broken puppet, all his strings cut. His hair hung over his eyes. "I wanna go home," he said quietly.

"We will," Ladybug promised. "And...when we get back to Paris...you're staying at my place." With a blush, she added, "I mean...if you want..."

Chat Noir looked up at her, a faint smile on his face. "I...I think I'd like that," he said. He frowned at Gabriel. "Especially since I won't have a home of my own to go back to after we hand this over to the police." He reached down and grabbed Gabriel by the ascot. "Well? Aren't you gonna say anything, Father?"

Gabriel averted his eyes. "I don't care what you do with me anymore," he said. "Just...promise me you'll save her."

"Of course we'll save her," Chat Noir said. "She's my mother. You think I'm just gonna leave it like this?"

"Monsieur Agreste," Ladybug said, "why didn't you just ask? After you got our attention with Stoneheart, you could've...you could've just called us out and explained..." She gave him a sad look. "We would've helped. There was no need for any of this."

Gabriel said nothing.

Ladybug sighed. "I think...we all need to get out of here," she said.

Chat Noir looked around at the wrecked suite and grimaced. "Yeah, probably a good idea," he agreed.

"Wait," Kim said. "There's one last thing." She pulled Gabriel into a sitting position. "The crystal. Where is it?"

Gabriel frowned. "Crystal?"

"About yea big, has a bunch of golden bananas engraved in it?"

Gabriel's brow furrowed. He reached into his jacket and withdrew a small blue crystal with five golden bananas inside it. "This?"

Chat Noir snatched it away, then handed it to Kim. "So this is the thing, huh?"

"Yep, this is it," Kim said. She stood and stretched as she put the crystal in her belt pouch. "Alright, now we're done here. Well, I am anyway. Umm...good luck with your whole...drama."

Chat Noir rolled his eyes. "Thanks. Come on, let's go. We've got...a lot of loose ends to tie up."

Sonata Sayonara

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The Sailor Senshi and Twilight Sparkle watched as the various copies of Otaku returned to normal, looking around in confusion. "I guess it's over then," Jupiter said.

"Yes, that seems to be the case," Mercury agreed. "The third Miraculous has deactivated. Ladybug and Chat Noir are leaving the executive floor."

A short time later, Ladybug and Chat Noir emerged into the now nearly-empty concourse of the mall, both looking solemn. Between them, hands bound behind his back, was Gabriel Agreste. His head was bowed, his expression unreadable. He offered no resistance. A few paces behind them was Kim Possible.

"So this is him," Jupiter said as the group approached. She frowned. "Gotta admit, I'm not used to seeing a supervillain led away like a common criminal."

"Not now, Mako-chan," Sailor Moon said softly, observing the wince Chat Noir gave and the tightening of his jaw.

Ladybug stopped walking and approached the Sailor Senshi. "We...will be leaving Tokyo as soon as arrangements can be made," she said. "Thank you for your help."

"We're sorry things turned out like this," Sailor Moon said. "Will...will you be okay?"

Chat Noir sighed. "I think so," he said. "There's a lot more to do, but..." He looked at Gabriel and frowned. "If he's telling the truth about why he did all this...and we'll know as soon as we get back to Paris..." He sighed again. "Well, some good will come out of all this. But..." He shook his head. "The price is too high. She'll agree with that. She wouldn't...wouldn't have wanted any of this."

Gabriel looked away, visibly stricken. "Let's just go," he said sourly. "Let's get this over with."

The French trio left without another word to anyone. The Senshi and Twilight turned their attention to Kim. "And...the other thing?" Mars asked.

Kim fished the Blue Rainbow Monkey Crystal out of her pouch and held it up. "Mission accomplished," she said. "Soon as we round up Ron and Sonata, we can get out of here."

"Not without a goodbye party!" Jupiter said cheerfully.

Twilight tilted her head. "Well, it will take time for the portal to lock on to the next coordinates," she said.

"Spankin'," Kim said. "Always did wanna try one of those cook-the-meat-yourself places..."

"Yakiniku?" Sailor Moon said brightly. "That's a great idea! Let's call Mamo-chan and get everybody together, I know a great place!"

"Of course you do," Mars said with a laugh.

* * * * *

The Sailor Senshi, Mamoru, and guests spent two hours at a mid-range yakiniku place, eating delicious food and having a last blast together. All through the meal, Minako furiously swapped digital music with Ron and Sonata.

Finally, the time came for the travelers to move on. "It was nice meeting you all," Kim said to the Senshi.

"It was a pleasure meeting you as well," Ami said.

"Hope you guys make it home okay and, y'know, save the world," Makoto said.

"Take care of yourselves," Rei said.

"It's time," Twilight said as she finished calibrating the remote for the portal.

"Goodbye Tokyo!" Ron said. "Wonder what kinda crazy place we'll end up in next?"

"This calls for some travel music!" Sonata said cheerfully, tapping and swiping her phone. A fast, peppy J-pop tune blared out of the little speaker.

"Ooh, catchy," Kim said.

The portal opened with a rush of wind. The four teens looked at each other, then back at their hosts. With a last wave, they jumped into the vortex...

* * * * *

The portal discharged them violently into a harsh, blindingly bright landscape with the brightest night sky overhead any of them could remember ever seeing.

"Oof...where are we?" Kim wondered. Looking around, she frowned. "Better question...what happened to us?"

None of them were wearing the same clothes they'd been wearing in Tokyo. Moreover, they all had a stylized, aggressively punked-out look to them.

Ron looked down at himself. His eyes widened. He opened his mouth to say something, to complain, to yell, but whatever he intended to say, what came out was:

"I saw
You
Dance..."

Sonata Begins To Shine

View Online

Kim, Ron, Sonata, and Twilight looked out at the harsh pastel wasteland that stretched infinitely ahead of them. It was deserted, strange, and beautiful. The bright land below shone and sparkled; the night sky above was a bright velvety purple spangled with bright stars and shining jewels of the heavens. Planets hung low and full, impossible yet amazing; the horizon was an electric blue haze, and where it met the sky, the sky glowed hot pink. A constant music surrounded them, flowing over them, through them. It was power, it was energy...

It was magic.

"Okay, this is just freaky weird," Ron said. His normal slacker attire had changed into a red jacket with the sleeves ripped off over a black T-shirt with a print of a howling ape on it, tight purple jeans, and black hi-tops. His hair had exploded out into a teased, feathered mess. Kim wore a denim jacket and skirt, day-glo pink leg warmers and armbands, and white sneakers; her hair was a massive, frizzy ponytail held up with a neon green scrunchie. Twilight was dressed all in black leather and spikes, with her hair short and feathered, giving her a punk librarian look. Her glasses had turned hot pink, with angular, asymmetric frames.

Sonata...looked almost exactly the same as always.

"Gorchy," Kim complained, checking her reflection in a piece of metal debris that jutted out of the ground at an odd angle.

Twilight shook her head to clear it and looked down at her tracker. "This isn't a Zodiac Animal World," she said. The face of her tracker had a pulsing equalizer graph on it which pulsed in time with the rhythmic heartbeat of the world.

"Ooh, look there," Sonata said, pointing. High above, a hot pink giant female robot soared through the sky, the round crystal set in her forehead shining brilliantly. Three beings, unidentifiable from the ground, perched atop her back as she flew past.

"This place is so random," Kim said.

"I feel like we just walked into a really old album cover," Ron said. "You know, one of those hair metal things? Like, with metal hawks and steel horses and stuff—"

Just as he said that, a golden metal hawk soared overhead, letting out a piercing cry.

"—see? That. That's exactly what I'm talkin' about!"

Twilight frowned, examining her transformed glasses with a furrowed brow. "What...happened to us?" she asked, reaching up and fingering her feathered bangs.

"It's this place," Sonata said. "It's got some kind of, I dunno, eighties magic or something." She looked around. "You can all feel it, right? The song..." And with that, she began humming.

"Oh god don't," Ron moaned. "I know the words and I don't know how I know the words and it's freaking me out!"

"There's definitely powerful magic here," Twilight said, examining her scanner. "Too powerful. Whatever this place is, it's operating under its own laws." She sighed. "My equipment's completely useless here."

"Great," Kim said. "So...what? I guess we just...pick a direction and start walking?"

A wolf leapt out of nowhere, landing in front of them. It howled into the sky, then charged past them, growling. As they watched it, it looked back over its shoulder at them, its golden eye glowing.

"I say we follow the wolf," Ron said. "Don't ask why."

"Follow a...wolf?" Twilight asked dubiously.

"Makes sense to me," Sonata said as she took off after the wolf. The others joined.

For half an hour they followed the wolf as it led them higher and higher up the shining dunes, until they reached a plateau that overlooked a deep valley. At the heart of the valley, the bleached bones of some massive beast jutted up out of the sands, a melted pair of giant shades lying nearby. The pink robot drifted lazily overhead; the wolf howled up at her, then leapt down into the valley.

"Oh hey it's that robot chick again," Ron said.

The robot coasted closer, descending. A bright blue beam of light shot from her forehead, slamming into the plateau. The group shielded their eyes...

"Welcome, strangers."

They looked up.

Before them were three strange individuals: a tall humanoid robot with long, flowing orange-red hair, a bulky white robot with a black bubble visor for a face who sat behind a set of glowing hexagonal drums, and a birdman with blue feathers and a glowing guitar.

Kim blinked. "Uhh...okay...who or...or what are you guys?"

The robot with the great hair strummed a chord. "Billy Regan."

The drummer rolled a fill. "Carl Burnett."

The birdman played a short riff. "Frank Enea."

"Together, we're B.E.R.," they said in unison. The giant robot projected a hologram of the band in profile, with "B.E.R." above their faces.

"Oh, okay, so you're like some weird alien...robot...rock band," Ron said. "Cool, I guess?"

"Oh we're not aliens," Carl said. "We're human. We just take these forms in this world because of the power of the music."

"Uh-huh," Kim said skeptically. "And...what is this place, exactly?"

"This place?" Frank echoed. "This is the land where the night shines forever."

"We created it with the power of our most righteous music," Billy added.

"That's...completely impossible," Twilight said flatly. "You can't create an entire world with just...music!"

"Maybe you can't," Carl said, playing a fill.

Kim shook her head. "Okay, so...what are we doing here? This isn't even remotely where we were trying to go."

"The music brought you here," Billy said.

"Uhh...wha?" Kim asked. She shook her head. "You know what? Nevermind. We've gotta get going, our world's in danger—"

Billy held up his hand. "You don't need to say anything," he said. "When I look at you, I see the story in your eyes."

"Hey, is that a come-on?" Ron asked in a challenging tone. "That sounded like a come-on."

"Chill, dude," Billy said. "Dig it, you're here for a reason. And the reason is, you need the power of music." He looked directly at Sonata. "You have the power of music, but it's wrong, twisted. We can tell you've used music for evil."

Sonata ducked her head. "Y-yeah," she said. "But I'm trying to change..."

"We can dig it," Frank said. "That's why we're gonna help you. We're gonna give you the power of music. Use it wisely. Take it with you wherever you go. Share it with people who need it."

And then they began to play. It was a different song than the ambient beat which drove the world around them. It was filled with energy and power, something pure and uplifting. The world around them reacted to the new song; the planets hanging in the sky all began glowing and twinkling, spinning sparkles glistening on their surfaces.

Feel the wave of the energy...

Pink, pale blue, and silver sparkles of light surrounded Sonata as she rose into the air, spinning slowly in place, her face tilted up to the pastel night sky. Beams from B.E.R.'s glowing instruments lanced through her with loud, piercing chimes as she closed her eyes, her entire body seeming to invert its color palette, becoming translucent, filling with a starry void...

The red gem at her throat flared brilliantly and turned an impossibly bright pale pink, gleaming brilliantly from within.

Slowly, the light show faded and Sonata dropped to the ground, returning to normal except for the brightly glowing pink jewel on her choker. She opened her eyes, and they shone with a pastel rainbow for a moment before returning to normal. She blinked rapidly, then clasped her hands to her jewel, closed her eyes, and started to sing, the band joining in.

With a piercing cry, the golden hawk flew down, landing on Kim's shoulder. The wolf leapt back onto the plateau, snarling and howling as it landed in front of Ron. With the thunder of steel hooves, a metallic horse galloped up to Twilight, snorting steam. Each animal began to glow, transforming into small, gleaming pendants which appeared around the teens' necks.

A glowing wormhole formed in the air, made up of lines in a grid, stretching into empty space. A hot pink arrow formed in the air, pointing into the vortex.

Twilight, jaw scraping the ground, looked from the wormhole to her scanner and back. "That's...that's the next world," she said numbly. "It goes right to it. But how?"

"The music has power," Billy said. "Power to make your dreams reality. Power to take your heart places the world says are out of reach."

"Trust the music," Carl said. "Always trust the music. It's there, inside your soul. When things are at their darkest, listen to the music in your soul. As long as you never give up hope, the night will always shine."

The four teens looked at each other, then back at B.E.R. The band leapt into the air, landing on the back of their giant hot pink robot, who soared off into the shining night.

"Well..." Kim began. She frowned, then shook her head. "Nope. I got nothin'." She looked down at her new hawk talisman. "But I guess...something good just happened?"

"Dude, we totally just got key items," Ron said, grasping his wolf talisman. "Trust me, something like this? It's gonna be super important later."

"Yeah, pretty much," Sonata said. "Well, what're we standing around here for? Another world awaits!" With that, she charged into the new portal. The others looked at each other, shrugged, and followed her in...

Sonata Monkey Ball

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The four teens emerged from the glowing vortex into a peaceful forest. The scent of fresh, springy green growth and the twittering of birds surrounded them. A bright sun shone down from above.

Ron looked around. "Wow. Green."

Twilight took a deep breath. "Ahhh, this air smells so nice..."

"Been a long time since I smelled air this clean," Sonata said. She looked down at herself, then at the others, and pouted. "Aww, we changed back to normal..."

"We still have those thingies they gave us, though," Kim pointed out, fingering her hawk talisman. "Okay, Twi, what's the sitch?"

"Okay, so this is the Great Monkey World," Twilight said as she adjusted her spectrometer. "Which is where we were headed in the first place. I'm scanning f—uuuuuuh..." Her eyes widened, her glasses sliding down her nose.

"Twi? What's up?"

Twilight shook her head and slammed her hand against the side of her spectrometer a couple of times, frowning. "Either this thing's broken, or there's two Rainbow Monkey Crystals less than half a kilometer away, and a third approaching fast from the east."

The others blinked. "Three Rainbow Monkey Crystals?" Ron asked. "Score! Why couldn't it be this easy all the time?"

Kim frowned. "Something doesn't sound right," she said. "I'm pretty sure Sensei said they were all scattered..."

Twilight pushed her glasses up. "Well, we should check it out just to make sure," she said. "This way." She led the group through the forest, which was at the base of a broad mountain. After several minutes, they found a dirt trail which wound through the low hills and trees.

"Look there," Kim said, pointing. Just over the rise of the hill, the top of a thatched roof was visible, a white clay chimney jutting out of it.

"Hmm...the crystals are in that structure," Twilight said.

The trail plunged into the valley, then climbed a steep hill. At the top of the trail, they rounded a bend and found themselves in the lawn of a dwelling comprised of three buildings, with a stone well at the center of the property. The thatched-roof stone cottage had two main buildings, erected perpendicular to one another, one much smaller than the other. At the bend of the two cottages, a white metal dome-shaped building sat; its front door had a red diamond-shaped marking above it, and a squat round chimney poked up out of the top. Off to the side was a smaller shed, or perhaps a shrine of some sort, in an Oriental style; it was brick at the bottom with clay or stone walls above the bricks, and a black tiled steeple roof.

"Huh. Interesting place," Kim said.

"I can't even tell what that dome is made of," Twilight said, looking at it. "I mean, it looks like metal, but it also looks like plastic..."

"So, uhh...do we knock, or what?" Ron asked.

Sonata walked brazenly up to the white dome and knocked. After a moment, the door opened, and a massive man leaned out. He wore brown pants held up by thick suspenders, a white shirt, boots the size of trash barrels, glasses, and a helmet with broad, curved bull horns on the sides. He sported a full, bristly beard. He looked down at them, blinked, and frowned. "Yes?" he asked. "Can I help you?"

"Eep!" Sonata squeaked, jumping back and hiding behind Kim. Kim swallowed and stepped forward.

"Ah, hello. Good...afternoon, sir. We were wondering if perhaps you had seen a small crystal sphere, about so big, with unusual markings—?"

The man frowned. "You're looking for those," he said. "I'm sorry, kids, but I can't—"

The sound of engines filled the air. The leaves in the trees rustled, and the grass began to stir. The teens' clothing was buffeted by the wind. They looked around and saw an aircraft land. It was a strange mix between a helicopter and a VTL plane, with an overall grasshopper-like appearance. As it touched down and the engines went silent, a bald old man in Chinese clothes jumped out, holding a gnarled old walking stick. He had a pointed white beard and wore sunglasses with plastic frames. A short anthropomorphic pig in overalls landed next to him, followed by a flying cat-like creature with dark bluish-black fur on most of its body except for the light brown fur inside its ears and on its face and belly. Lastly, a girl a few years older than Kim got out of the aircraft. She had shortish, slightly teased blue hair and wore a striped blue-and-yellow tube top, a black leather jacket, blue jeans, riding boots, and fingerless gloves. A round compass-like device with a green screen on the front hung from a long nylon cord around her neck.

"Gyuumaoh!" the old man called, waving.

The massive man squeezed himself out of the house, brushing past the four teens. "Roshi, you old fart!" he called jovially. "Took you long enough to get here!"

"Yeah, well, we had a couple things to do first," the old man said. "Besides, we're not exactly in a hurry here, you know?" He frowned, adjusting his glasses. "I mean, we've got ten months...it doesn't really take that long, you know..."

"Maybe not long at all," the woman said. "Since we moved into range, two more Dragonballs showed up right at your doorstep..." She paused, frowning, and looked at the four kids. "And I'm guessing this is why," she said.

The man identified as Gyuumaoh nodded. "They just got here," he said. "I...think we'll have to explain to them why they can't—"

"Excuse me," Kim said, interjecting herself between them. "Hi, sorry to interrupt, but it sounds like we're about to have a situation here, so I'd like to make introductions, sit down, talk this out calmly..."

The blue-haired woman, Gyuumaoh, and the old man looked at each other and shrugged. "Yeah, okay," Gyuumaoh said. "But we'll go around to the old house. Chichi's asleep inside, and...and it's not a good idea to upset her right now..." The visitors looked solemn at that.

* * * * *

The inside of the old cottage was as rustic as the outside. It was well-tended, but given the haphazard decoration and the fact that most of it seemed to be used for storage and laundry, it was clear that the residents had moved into the white dome house. There were, at least, comfortable chairs and sofas.

Kim, Ron, Sonata, and Twilight sat across from their hosts. "Alright, so let me start," Kim said. "I'm Kim Possible, this is Ron Stoppable, and our friends Sonata Dusk and Twilight Sparkle." She tilted her head. "You...don't seem the least bit weirded out that one of them is blue and the other is purple."

"We've seen things," the old man said. "Besides, a cute girl is a cute girl, no matter what color her skin is."

The blue-haired woman slapped him upside the head. "Not now, you old pervert," she said. She sighed. "Right. My name is Bulma, this lech is Master Roshi, this is Gyuumaoh, the pig here is Oolong, and the flying cat is Puar."

"Pleased to meet you!" Puar said in a high, squeaky voice. The teens blinked.

"Okay, now I know why you're not freaked out about the blue girl and the purple girl," Kim said. "So anyway...we're here from another universe, looking for something we need to save our home from an ancient demon."

"The Dragonballs, right?" Bulma asked.

The teens blinked at each other. "Dragonballs?" Kim repeated in a confused tone. "What...?"

Master Roshi reached into his tunic and pulled out a smooth orange crystal. He turned it around and showed the kids the four red stars that marked it.

Kim, Twilight, and Ron looked at each other. "Well it looks like a Monkey Crystal," Ron said, "except..."

"Stars instead of bananas," Kim said, frowning.

"Bananas?" Bulma asked, tilting her head.

"Bananas," Kim repeated, reaching into her belt pouch and pulling out the Violet Seven-Banana Crystal, which she rolled across the floor. Bulma blinked at it, picking it up and inspecting it.

"Huh," Gyuumaoh grunted, scratching his head. "Well that isn't a Dragonball at all," he said.

Bulma frowned, turning on the device around her neck. "No, but my Dragon Radar is picking it up," she said. "Right now I'm showing five Dragonballs here in this house."

"And my spectrometer is showing five Rainbow Monkey Crystals," Twilight said, adjusting her glasses. She and Bulma looked at each other significantly.

"Hmm. Curious," Mutenroshi said. "You have two of these?"

Kim pulled the Blue Five-Banana Crystal out of her pouch and held it up for all to see.

The locals looked at each other significantly. "Well...this is unexpected," Oolong said. "Do you think they, y'know, grant a wish?"

"I dunno," Bulma said, rolling the violet Crystal back to Kim. "But it's obvious they're a completely different set of...umm...whatever from our Dragonballs." She smiled sheepishly at Kim. "Sorry, we thought you were after our Dragonballs, and we kinda need them to wish this friend of ours back to life..."

"No big...I think," Kim said, putting the Crystals safely away. "So just to make sure you don't have the thing we're looking for...?"

"Huh? Oh! Right," Gyuumaoh said. He got up and rummaged through a nearby dresser, pulling out two orange crystal balls. He showed them to Kim; one had three red stars on the face, and the other had six.

"Yep, not our target," Ron agreed.

"This complicates things," Twilight said, frowning. "If our scanners can't tell Rainbow Monkey Crystals apart from these...Dragonballs?" She absently fingered her spectrometer. "We could literally cross this entire planet chasing after something we can't use." She looked up at Bulma. "How many Dragonballs are there?"

"Seven," Bulma said. "We've got three of them, we're about to set out looking for the rest later this afternoon." She grimaced. "After I check on Chichi, let her know everything's going to be okay."

Gyuumaoh frowned. "I...wouldn't right now," he said. "She's not nearly as upset about Goku being dead as she is about Gohan...you know..."

Bulma winced. "Y-yeah..." She sighed. "But I still need to talk to her before we leave."

Ron sighed. "So what do we do?" he asked. "I mean are we sure there's even a Rainbow Monkey Crystal here at all?"

Twilight grimaced. "Honestly? I don't know anymore," she said. "I mean, what I locked onto here could easily just be the Dragonballs, but..." She pursed her lips. "We can't just leave without at least checking, right?"

"Twilight's right," Kim said. "We need to be sure."

"Umm...but how are we gonna do that?" Sonata asked. "I mean, I doubt this place is small enough for us to just search on foot, and if it could be anywhere—"

Bulma, Roshi, Oolong, and Puar looked at each other. "Well..." Bulma said, "you could just tag along with us. I mean, we're hunting the Dragonballs anyway. If that thing you're looking for is here, we're bound to run into it eventually."

"Oh, dude, sweet!" Ron said.

"That would help," Twilight said.

"Yeah, it really would," Kim agreed. "But your little airplane thingie looks like it'd be really cramped with all of us, and I wouldn't want to, y'know, be a drain on provisions or whatever..."

Bulma laughed into the back of her hand. "OOOOO-HOHOHOHO! Not a problem!" She smirked, flipping her bangs. "You happen to be talking to the heiress of Capsule Corporation and world's greatest inventor! You think I'm not prepared to transport, shelter, and feed a small army at a moment's notice?"

"Yeah, four kids tagging along with us won't be a problem," Oolong said.

"I'm cool with it," Roshi added with a grin. Bulma thumped him hard.

"Well...okay then!" Kim said. "We'll do that. We'll tag along with you until we figure out whether or not our Rainbow Monkey Crystal is here."

"Great, welcome aboard!" Bulma said. "Soon as I check on Chichi and rest up a bit, we'll get underway."

"Please and thank you!" Kim said brightly.

"Woohoo, road trip!" Sonata cheered, thrusting a fist into the air.

Sonata Head Cha La

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Bulma and Puar had returned to the dome house to check on Chichi, leaving Gyuumaoh, Roshi, and Oolong alone with the four teens and an awkward silence.

"So..." Roshi said, adjusting his sunglasses. "You kids are from another universe, you say?"

"That's right," Kim said. "We're tracking down these crystals an ancient sage scattered across the Great Zodiac Animal Worlds."

"We've already done Horse World and Rabbit World," Ron said. "This one's..." He shuddered. "Monkey World."

Roshi stroked his beard. "Monkey World, you say. Hmm...interesting."

"You sure it's not Pig World?" Oolong asked.

"Or Ox World?" Gyuumaoh added with a grin.

"Nope, definitely Monkey World," Ron said. "It kinda feels monkey-ish, except...not bad monkey-ish, you know?"

Kim rolled her eyes. "Enough, Ron."

"Hey, you said you guys are trying to bring somebody back to life, right?" Sonata piped up.

The natives shifted uncomfortably. "Well...yeah," Oolong said. "I mean, it's no big deal wishing somebody back with the Dragonballs, we do it all the time, it's just...none of us ever thought it'd be him dying."

"And there's...other things going on," Roshi added. "Frankly, things are kind of serious here right now."

"Serious like end-of-the-world serious?" Ron asked.

"If Goku doesn't get strong enough in the other world to fight the Saiyajin before we wish him back to life, then...yes," Roshi said gravely.

"Saiyajin?"

"Invaders from outer space," Oolong said. "Real tough customers. Goku died taking out just one of them, and there's two more coming that are supposed to be way stronger."

"Oh, don't get me wrong, we've got a bunch of strong fighters training night and day for what's about to happen, but really? All our hopes rest on Goku," Roshi added.

"The guy who's dead," Sonata said.

"Sonata! Have some tact!" Kim chided.

Roshi chuckled. "Oh no, my dear, it's fine. This isn't the first time we've had to bring a friend back to life with the Dragonballs." He sighed. "Seems we have to do it way too often actually. But the problem isn't Goku, it's...well..."

"My grandson was taken by a demon," Gyuumaoh said. "My little Chichi...she isn't taking it very well."

The teens gasped. "What?!" Kim cried, shooting to her feet.

"Mmm, Piccolo," Roshi said gravely. "None of us particularly like the fact that he took Gohan, but there's not much we can do about it. Besides, he's dead set on training the kid to fight the Saiyajin, and, well..." He shrugged. "He's Goku's son. I mean, he's not even five years old, but the kid's tough."

Twilight frowned. "Hold up," she said. "A demon is training a four year old to fight alien invaders?!" She looked around the room. "And nobody's...nobody's doing anything about this?!"

"There's nothing we can do," Gyuumaoh said sadly. "The only fighter on Earth strong enough to even try to stop Piccolo from doing whatever the hell he wants is, well...Goku."

"And Goku's dead," Oolong said miserably. "So all we can do is hope Piccolo doesn't eat the kid or something."

Kim clenched her fists. "That isn't right," she said. "I think we need to put our own problems on hold for a bit and...and try to help this poor little kid..."

"Whoa, hold up there, missy," Roshi said. "I sympathize, but trust me, this is something you don't wanna get involved in." He frowned, looking the group over. "I mean, I can tell you're a martial artist and not a bad one for your age, but you wouldn't last half a second if you got involved with the kind of crowd we run with."

"You wouldn't last half a second against Mutenroshi here," Gyuumaoh added, "and he hasn't had a serious fight in years."

"I could still kick your ass," Roshi grumbled.

Gyuumaoh paled. "E-err...I'm sorry, I didn't mean any offense!"

Ron raised an eyebrow. "Okay, if the huge dude who looks like he can throw a bus like a football is scared of ticking off the old dude, the old dude's gotta have like, scary skills."

"No doubt," Kim said. She smirked. "I'm almost tempted to ask for a sparring match."

Roshi raised an eyebrow. "We'll see," he said.

"You know, I like this world," Sonata said cheerfully. "It's like some kind of comic book. Aliens and demons and little kids being kidnapped to be turned into mega weapons, and some creepy old martial arts master who looks like he'd keel over dead if he farted too hard but can probably knock down a mountain—it's all so...so..."

"Manga?" Ron offered.

"Yeah!"

Bulma returned. Closing the door behind her, she let out a sigh. "Well, she's screaming about as much as she's crying, so that's a good sign," she said. "Still, the only way I could calm her down was to promise to make a little detour before we start our search."

"What kind of detour?" Oolong asked skeptically.

"We gotta go see Kami-sama," Bulma said. "Chichi can't rest until she knows Gohan is safe, and the only way to find out is to ask Kami-sama." She frowned. "Which might not be a bad idea anyway, because while we're there we can see if he knows anything about a Monkey Crystal that has the same kind of magic as a Dragonball."

Ron's eyes widened. "Wait," he said. "That's...you're saying we're gonna visit GOD?!"

"And it's a long flight," Bulma added. "Everybody ready?"

"To meet GOD? Uhh..." Kim blinked rapidly.

Roshi chuckled. "Don't worry, it's...well, you'll see."

"We'd better get going," Bulma said, frowning. "We're probably going to have to spend the night at Kami's Lookout."

"Well, while we're there, we might as well look in on Kuririn and the boys," Roshi said. "They've been there training for a couple of months now, right?"

"That's right, Yamucha is there!" Bulma said brightly. "Okay, is everybody ready?"

"Wait, we're just...gonna go, now, like that?" Kim asked. "To meet God?"

"Just like that," Bulma said, turning and heading for the door.

"See you later Bulma! Later, Mutenroshi!" Gyuumaoh said cheerfully. Kim looked at the others in her group, who shrugged; they all stood up and followed Bulma's group outside.

Bulma walked over to her plane and pressed a switch on the side. With a loud *BOM!* and a cloud of smoke, it disappeared; she picked up a small, slender capsule from the ground and tucked it into a metal case she pulled from her jacket pocket. "Let's see...ah, here we go," she said. "Stand back, everybody!" She pulled a similar capsule out and clicked the small button on the top, then threw it.

Kim, Ron, Twilight, and Sonata stared as, in a cloud of smoke, a massive green transport plane appeared...

Sonata Holy Experience

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"Huh, so God's a green alien," Ron said. "Didn't see that coming."

During the three hour flight to God's Temple, Twilight Sparkle had bombarded Bulma with science and engineering questions related to the bulky airplane they all rode in—which had come out of a pocket-sized capsule. Bulma had done her best to entertain as many of Twilight's questions as she could while still concentrating on flying the plane.

When the gleaming, bowl-shaped Temple first appeared, the four teens had crowded the cockpit to look on in awe.

Well, mostly.

"It kinda looks like a ramen bowl," Ron had pointed out.

"It really does," Kim had said, blinking.

"Huh," Oolong had mused. "Now that you mention it, it...kinda does, doesn't it?"

"Yeah," Roshi had agreed. "Huh. Never noticed that before."

They'd landed on the gleaming white tiles that stretched from edge to edge of the floating platform. The Temple was sparsely decorated: at the "front" were two small groups of palm trees in rectangular patches of grass, and at four points along the edges were grass beds with four tall evergreens planted in each. Four tall, thin columns surrounded the actual temple, which stood near the back and had a humble, modest design.

Immediately after they'd disembarked, a fat black genie had approached the plane. After a brief exchange with this genie, who had been introduced as Mister Popo, the group was greeted by a tall, thin, wrinkled old green alien with pointed ears and antennae, who wore flowing robes and carried a tall staff with a top shaped like a beast's fang.

Ron's assessment of Kami-sama's appearance caused some tension among the group...until Kami-sama laughed. "Indeed I am, young man," he said. "But despite being human, you are more alien here than I. I witnessed your arrival in this dimension."

"We're sorry to intrude, your Holiness," Kim said abruptly. "We just—"

Kami-sama raised a clawed hand to stall her. "You're seeking a Rainbow Monkey Crystal," he said. "A quest complicated by the fact that the devices used to seek out my Dragonballs can't tell the Rainbow Monkey Crystals and Dragonballs apart."

"Uhh...yeah," Kim said.

Kami-sama bowed his head. "Alas, that particular problem is one I'm afraid I can't help you with," he said. "But I can, at the very least, tell you that the object you seek does exist in this world. It appeared here six months ago."

"Six months? But..." Kim blinked. "The founder of the Yamanouchi School scattered the Crystals hundreds of years ago!"

Kami-sama smiled. "Young lady...a man capable of scattering mystical objects across multiple dimensions need not concern himself with something as trivial as the flow of time." He tapped his staff on the ground. "If I understand the nature of the magic which scattered these crystals, they will appear at the time and place where those who have need of them will have the best chance of obtaining them."

Everyone stared at him. "...huh?" Ron said.

"Hey, as long as we don't have to figure out how to travel through time to find them, I don't think it matters," Twilight said.

"Indeed," Kami-sama said. "Unfortunately, I can't tell you precisely where the Rainbow Monkey Crystal is, any more than I could give you the precise locations of the remaining Dragonballs. It is a journey you must undertake, using your own wits and the tools at your disposal. I can, however, offer you respite here until you are ready to begin your search."

"Thank you, Your Holiness," Kim said.

"Kami-sama," Bulma interrupted. "There's...there's one other thing." She squirmed in place, worrying at her lip. "Gohan. Is...is he...?"

"Ah," Kami-sama said, nodding. "Be at ease, Bulma. Gohan is alive and well, and being shown surprising consideration." His eyes took on a faraway look. "By no means is Piccolo coddling him, far from it—the next several months are going to be sheer hell for the child. But he is in no danger from Piccolo. Rather the opposite. Piccolo seems to have developed a fondness for the boy." He smiled grimly. "I will admit I am most interested in seeing what the end result will be."

"Hmm," Bulma muttered unhappily. "I doubt that'll be of much comfort to Chichi..."

Kami-sama laid a hand on Bulma's shoulder. "I understand her concern," he said. "But I agree with Piccolo's decision to take the boy, even if I disapprove of his methods. The child is a Saiyajin, like his father. If we are all to survive what's coming to this world, Son Gohan may play an important role in our salvation."

Bulma sighed. "If I hadn't known Son-kun as long as I have, I'd argue, but..." She shook her head. "Alright. Will you let the guys know we're here? We don't want to interrupt their training, but it'll be nice to talk to them for a few minutes."

Kami-sama nodded. "I believe they are about to break for a meal. Follow Mister Popo, you can eat with them..."

* * * * *

The rest of the evening had a much lighter, more festive environment. Team Possible was introduced to a group of fighters training to defeat the Saiyajin: the wild-haired, rough-mannered Yamucha, who appeared to be in an off-again, on-again relationship with Bulma; the short, bald, noseless monk Kuririn, the three-eyed, super-serious Tenshinhan, and the tiny Chiaotzu, who looked like a porcelain doll. Over a massive, delicious feast, the fighters caught up on recent events with their friends, as well as swapping stories with the new arrivals.

"Man, when things get crazy, they get super crazy," Kuririn said once Kim finished explaining their entire adventure to date.

"Yeah, but something tells me everything you guys deal with is way crazier than anything we've ever dealt with," Kim said.

"True that," Ron agreed as he shoved a pork bun in his mouth. "Mmm, good eats, Mr. P!"

After dinner, Mister Popo stood before the new arrivals, hands clasped behind his back. "I shall prepare rooms for you," he said. "We have not had this many guests in quite some time, but I should be able to—"

"No need, Mister Popo," Bulma said, taking her capsule case out of her jacket. "There's more than enough space here to set up a couple of mini huts. Besides, no offense, but I've been in some of those rooms guests sleep in, and they kinda smell like feet."

Mister Popo shrugged. "Well, it's true," he said blandly.

Kim raised an eyebrow. "Don't tell me you have instant camping gear in there or something..."

Bulma laughed smugly, then tossed two capsules to the ground. They exploded into a pair of hemispherical huts, each roughly the size of the plane they'd landed in, taking up almost a third of the upper deck of the Temple.

"Whoa," Ron said, eyes wide.

"Okay," Bulma said. "Boys on the left, girls on the right." She stretched and headed for the right hut. "No peeking, guys, I'm serious! Get some sleep, tomorrow we're headed out early to start the search."

"Sounds good to me," Kim said, following her into the right hut. "Come on, girls. Goodnight, Ron!"

"Yeah, g'nite KP," Ron said, yawning as he headed for the left hut. "Let's check out these digs ooooh NICE. Is there cable?" From inside, they heard him yell, "Oh snap, there's cable!"

Mutenroshi chuckled and followed him in, Oolong and Puar right behind him. Sonata and Twilight looked at each other, shrugged, and went into the girls' hut.

Outside, the group of fighters watched the huts close. Kuririn let out a heavy sigh. "Man, I wish she'd brought out one for us," he said. "I don't know about you guys, but my room smells like celery and feet..."

Yamucha tilted his head. "Umm...you don't...have a nose," he pointed out.

"I know, and that makes it worse," Kuririn muttered as he headed off into the Temple. The others looked at each other, shrugged, and followed.

Sonata Search Party

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After a full night's sleep in comfortable beds and a hearty, filling breakfast, the search party gathered on the deck of God's Temple. The out-of-towners had changed into local clothing drawn from the capsule huts' spare wardrobes; Ron wore baggy jeans, calf-high suede boots, and a long, dark orange T-shirt that said "ORANGE CITY 004" on the front in black letters. Twilight wore a blue minidress, black tights, white knee-high boots, and a short, open ash grey vest with black stitching. Sonata sported a purple tube top, a white miniskirt, pink hi-top sneakers, a faded denim jacket, and a white, blue-billed ball cap with the Capsule Corp logo on the front. Kim wore dark pants, heavy grey boots, a black tank top, and a dark blue denim jacket with the Capsule Corp logo on the sleeves.

"Okay, everybody ready?" Bulma asked. As the others chorused agreement, she collapsed the huts, returned them to her capsule case, and expanded the large green carrier plane they'd arrived in. As the group filed aboard, she waved goodbye to Kami-sama, Mr. Popo, and the fighters in training. "G'bye, guys! See you in ten months! Train hard!"

"Take care, Bulma!" Yamucha replied. "Good luck!"

Five minutes later, the plane was circling in the sky below the Temple. "Okay, we've got four Dragonballs and a Rainbow Monkey Crystal to find," Bulma said. She set the Dragon Radar into a recess on the plane's control console; the grid expanded outward twice, then a third time, and a small white dot began flashing on the periphery of the screen. "Okay, I've got a bearing west-southwest..." She punched a few coordinates into the controls, pursing her lips. "Looks like it's in the lake north of the Southwest Forest."

"Hmm," Roshi said thoughtfully. "Don't tell me it's at Baba's place."

"Baba?" Kim asked.

"My sister," Roshi said.

"Well that makes it easy then!" Sonata chirped. She paused, then added, "Oh. Unless you two don't get along or something..."

Roshi shrugged. "Nah, we're cool. More or less. It's just that getting anything out of Baba is like pulling a dinosaur's teeth."

"Even if the fate of the world is at stake?" Kim asked, blinking.

"Especially if the fate of the world is at stake."

"Yikes."

"Alright, best get this over with then," Bulma said, punching various controls and flipping various levers. She pulled back on the yoke and turned it, and the plane lurched due west.

* * * * *

After several hours of flight, a lake came into view at the border of a vast desert. Bulma circled the lake, flying low, until a group of buildings on square artificial islands near one shore of the lake came into view. Team Possible gathered by the windows to look out at their destination as Bulma made her landing approach. A stone bridge connected a squat blue-and-gold dome on the shore to a large, lush square island just off the shore, upon which stood a tall blue-and-gold structure with a dome-shaped lower level and a small, round tower on the second level. Smaller square islands branched off from this island, connected by bridges, each with a pyramid in the center. Behind the palace proper was a small round island, its surface containing nothing but stone tiles.

"Hmm. That's odd," Roshi said, adjusting his glasses. "What's going on down there?"

"What do you me—oh, I see," Bulma said, frowning as she adjusted her landing approach. A veritable town of tents and small capsule huts had sprung up along the lake shore, with dozens of people milling about.

Kim frowned. "What's up with the people?"

"Well, there's always a line of people waiting to see Baba to get a divination," Roshi mused, stroking his beard. "I've never seen them all camped out like this before, though. I mean, Baba wouldn't allow anything like this."

"Let's land and find out," Bulma suggested.

A few minutes later, they landed and debarked; Bulma collapsed her plane, and the group filed down the shore to the entrance. Haggard-looking people peeked out of tents and huts at them; some grumbled, some snorted and went back inside, others yelled offers of sale and trade at them.

When they reached the entrance hall, they were intercepted by a small, round pink ghost wearing a conical straw hat. Sonata and Ron screamed in fright and hid behind Roshi and Kim, respectively. Twilight blinked curiously at the ghost and pulled out an instrument to scan it.

"Halt!" the ghost said. "Beseechers of the divination of Uranai Baba, know that the mistress is away on urgent business and will not return for several months! Many who have made the arduous journey have chosen to wait, but I encourage you to return to—"

Roshi slapped the ghost hard enough to make it bob and weave alarmingly. "It's ME, ya dip!" he snapped.

The ghost righted itself and stared at Roshi. "Oh! So sorry, Master! Things have been so rough here, I—" He coughed. "Umm...your sister isn't home, so—"

"Yeah, we heard," Oolong muttered sourly.

"We're not here to see Baba," Roshi said. "We're here for the Dragonball."

The ghost blinked. "Dragonball?"

"There's one right here," Bulma said, checking her Dragon Radar. "Inside the palace."

The ghost frowned. "Huh," it said. "Umm..." It weaved in the air, hemming and hawing. "Well...I guess..." It coughed. "I mean, if it was anybody else, I'd say no, but since it's you..." It sighed. "Alright. I'll let you in, but only three of you!"

"No, we're all going in," Roshi said.

The ghost groaned. "Okay okay, you can all go in. Just don't make a mess and don't break anything! Baba-sama would have my afterlife!"

"Don't worry," Roshi said absently as he led the group into the entrance hall. "We'll find the Dragonball and be on our way."

* * * * *

"UGH!" Ron complained as he finished repotting the tenth potted plant he'd unearthed. "Where IS that stupid thing?!"

The group had been searching the palace and its grounds for the better part of two hours without finding any trace of the Dragonball or a Rainbow Monkey Crystal.

"I don't understand," Twilight said. "According to my spectrometer, we should be right on top of it!"

"My Dragon Radar agrees," Bulma added.

"Is there maybe some kind of, I dunno, secret room or something?" Sonata asked.

"Secret room, huh?" Roshi mused. "Well..." He frowned. "There's one place we could check...heck if I know how a Dragonball ended up there, though." He shrugged. "Follow me, everyone..."

Roshi led the group into a series of catacombs with slick, dripping stone walls. They eventually emerged from a creepy tunnel onto a long, narrow stone bridge with a deep groove carved down the middle. On the other end of the cavern...

"Oh, dude, SICK AND WRONG!" Ron yelled.

Directly across from the group was a massive stone statue of a demon...sitting on the toilet. The demon's fanged mouth was wide open, revealing a dark recess that stretched into infinity within; the demon's tongue was sticking straight out, forming a bridge exactly like the one they stood upon. In fact, the tongue met their bridge at the center of the chasm, and the end of their bridge...

Kim blinked and craned her neck up to look behind them. They'd just emerged from the mouth of an identical demon statue. She shuddered. "Gorchy."

"So this is the legendary Devil's Toilet," Bulma said. "I heard stories about this place. Wow."

"Who even comes up with something like this?" Twilight asked, face green. "This is super gross!"

"Gross and scary!" Sonata added.

"Hey, I think I see something!" Puar said, pointing at the statue behind them. "Look up there, jammed between those two teeth!" The group squinted and strained; Twilight pulled out a compact LED light and shone it at the statue. A gleaming object reflected the light.

"I'm on it," Kim said confidently, pulling her hair dryer grappling hook out of a pocket of her pants and aiming it at the statue's nose. She fired; the anchor jammed itself into the carved nostril of the demon. Testing the line, Kim pulled herself up and swung toward the sharp, jagged teeth. She pulled a spare leather belt out of her other pocket as she swung and lashed out with it like a whip, wrapping it around the tooth where they'd spotted the gleam. Bracing herself with the belt once she reached the top, she retracted and stowed her grappling hook, then worked to liberate the shining object from the demon's maw. After a moment's work, she untied herself from the tooth, then rappelled down the statue's mouth, jumping from tooth to tooth, and landed in front of the group.

Roshi's jaw dropped. "Dang," he said.

Kim held the orange crystal up for the group to inspect. Two red stars glistened beneath its surface. "Dragonball," she said, offering it to Roshi, who pocketed it. "So, we're done here?"

"Yeah, unless we wanna talk about super flippy ninja girl here and how she did that like it was nothin'," Oolong grunted.

"Eh, that's just how KP rolls," Ron said indifferently.

"Well now I'm glad we have you along," Bulma said, scratching her head. "The Dragonballs have a habit of ending up in really weird, hard-to-reach places that make finding them a major pain in the butt."

"So can we get out of this creepy toilet cave now?" Sonata asked. "Because I really wanna get out of this creepy toilet cave."

"I'm with the blue girl, let's bail," Oolong said.

The group returned to the palace and crossed the narrow bridge to the entrance hall. "Well, so far so good!" Bulma said cheerfully. "Two days in and we've already got four Dragonballs! This is gonna be a breeze!"

They walked out onto the shore of the lake...and found themselves surrounded by huge, muscular, heavily-armed bandits.

Sonata Bandit Brawl

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The search party emerged from the entrance hall and found themselves surrounded by huge, muscular, heavily-armed bandits.

Sonata's eyes widened. "Whoa."

Twilight yelped, her glasses slipping down her nose.

Ron groaned. "Oh man! Why can't it ever be as easy as it looks?"

"Yep, this is the kind of thing you expect when you're lookin' for Dragonballs," Oolong muttered.

"You think maybe you could've warned us about that?!" Twilight cried.

The biggest, nastiest bandit stepped forward. He wore a dusty brown canvas loincloth, heavy black boots, and a striped black and white shirt with the sleeves ripped off. A leather aviator's cap was strapped to his head, from which long, wiry tangles of unruly black hair stuck out. He sported a full, scrubby black beard and had beady eyes beneath a low, sloping brow. A massive club was slung over one shoulder. "They don't look so tough," he rumbled.

To his left stood a shorter bandit who wore a gorilla hide tunic and a tiger skin kilt with hemp boots and tanned leather bracers. He had a lean, wiry build, a sharp face lined with scars left by a tiger's claws, and an eyepatch over his left eye. His hair was short, stiff, and spiky. A pair of khukuris hung from his wide leather belt. He folded his arms and snorted. "We heard you came here looking for a Dragonball," he said in a soft, raspy voice. "I'll be taking it off your hands, and any others you've found." The bandits around him laughed, chuckled, and chortled.

Roshi raised an eyebrow. "Oh you will, huh?"

"That's right, old man!" the larger bandit said, pointing his club at Roshi. "If you're hard'a hearin', we'll say it again! GIVE US THEM DRAGONBALLS!"

"Yeah, yeah!" a bandit to his right said. This one was a fox-man with red fur and a bushy tail, dressed in suede breeches and a leather jerkin. A wooden staff was lashed to his back. "Who wants to sit around waitin' months to get their fortune told when we can make our fortune with that wish!"

Oolong rolled his eyes. "Ho boy," he groaned.

"Sorry, boys, but we're not giving you our Dragonballs," Roshi said. "If you know what's good for you, you'll clear outta here before you get hurt!"

The bandits guffawed. "Oh, that's right!" the large bandit roared. "An old geezer, a bunch of little girls, and a pig are gonna hurt us?!" He sneered. "Want I should splatterize 'em, Mayo?"

The leader smirked. "Now now, Mustard, there's no need to be murderous brutes. Make an example of the boy. Maybe they'll be more cooperative."

Ron flinched back. "Oh snap, I'm the boy!"

Kim rolled her eyes. "Relax, Ron." She rolled her neck, cracked her knuckles, and settled into a fighting stance. "These goons don't know what they're messing with. Get ready to bust out some of that mad monkey kung fu."

"Uhh...yeah..." Ron gulped, but took a shaky stance.

The bandits laughed. Their leader smirked. "Well, if you insist on making this interesting..." He drew one of his knives and pointed it forward. "Mustard, Ketchup, Relish, teach them a lesson."

Mustard grinned as he lumbered forward, his club at the ready. Two other bandits joined him, both armed with hatchets. Kim didn't wait; she launched herself at one of the hatchet men, dropping low and sweeping his feet, then stealing his weapon and using it to block a strike from the second bandit. She hooked his wrist with the back of the blade and pulled hard, then ripped the hatchet out of his hand and tossed it at Mustard, who blocked with his club. As the first bandit recovered, Kim backflipped away, passing her liberated hatchet off to Twilight. "Here, hold this," she said.

"Umm..." Twilight quivered on her feet, her knuckles white on the handle of the hatchet. She swallowed nervously.

Ron met Mustard's charge by jumping onto his shoulders and doing a handspring off him, then grabbing the straps of his aviator cap and yanking hard. Mustard let out a grunt of pain; Ron dropped down behind him and tugged hard on his loincloth. It fell.

He wasn't wearing anything under it.

"EWW!" Sonata gagged, covering her eyes. "RON, WHY!?"

"Oh, this is so wrong," Bulma groaned, holding her nose and squeezing her eyes shut.

Kim stared over at Ron's fight. "Really, Ron?"

Mustard, meanwhile, roared in rage and embarrassment, fumbling for his loincloth with one hand as he swung his club at Ron with the other. Ron limboed under it, gagging. "Ugh! DUDE! You need to WASH DOWN THERE once in a while! Also LICE! Gah! I need to wash my hands like, fifty times!"

Mayo ground his teeth. "You IDIOTS!" he snarled. "You're letting them make fools of you!" He turned to the other bandits. "Shoyu! Salsa! Tabasco! Don't just stand around, get them!"

The named bandits charged forward, waving swords and yelling. The fox bandit pulled his staff and spun it over his head. One by one, the other bandits joined the fray.

Ron ducked under another wild swing of Mustard's club, then jumped right into the back of his neck and pushed off, unbalancing him. As the pantsless bandit fell to the ground with a mighty thud, Ron looked up and squawked. "Oh snap," he said. "KP! We've got incoming!"

"I noticed!" Kim retorted from where she was dodging clumsy but persistent dual attacks from Ketchup and Relish.

Bulma let out a frustrated groan and slapped Roshi upside the head. "Well? Don't just stand there! Get out there and help them!"

"Huh? Oh. Oh yeah." Roshi rubbed the back of his head sheepishly, tossed his stick to the side, and settled into a fighting stance. He let out a yell and charged in, dispatching three bandits with swift palm strikes. As he joined the battle, Bulma put her hands on her hips. "You too, Oolong!"

"M-me?" Oolong replied, gulping. "Uhh...Bulma...I ain't one of those crazy fighters you hang out with..."

"No, but you can change into something really big and strong," Bulma pointed out.

"Big yes, strong not so much," Oolong reminded her.

Bulma rolled her eyes. "JUST FREAK THEM OUT THEN!" she yelled, punting Oolong into the fray. He let out a startled yelp and transformed into a giant two-tailed bull, plowing through several bandits before he got control of himself. Taking the initiative, Puar transformed into a giant pteranodon, screeching and flapping over the fray. Several bandits dropped their weapons and ran.

Mayo groaned, pinching the bridge of his nose. "Idiots..." He raised his voice and yelled, "Don't fall for their stupid tricks! Remember the wish!"

"Remember my FIST!" Roshi yelled, appearing suddenly behind Mayo and punching him hard in the kidneys. Mayo's eyes widened in surprise; with a gurgling cry, he coughed up a spurt of blood and sank to his knees, then fell to the ground.

"BOSS!" Mustard roared. He forgot about Ron and his lost loincloth and ran at Roshi, bellowing at the top of his lungs. His club smashed right into the old man...

...who suddenly wasn't there; his afterimage faded as Roshi himself appeared some distance away, hands cupped at his sides, a bright blue glow forming within.

"KA...ME..."

"HEY! Don't overdo it, old man!" Oolong lowed.

"HA...ME..."

"Uhh...Ron? Something tells me we need to get out of the way," Kim said, eyes wide as she cartwheeled away from the battle. Ron yelped and scrambled back to the sidelines.

"HAAAA!!"

A solid beam of blue-white energy shot forth from Roshi's hands as he thrust his palms at Mustard. The bandit could only stare in astonishment as Roshi's Kamehameha slammed right into his exposed junk.

His eyes crossed.

He fell to the ground, whimpering pitifully.

The rest of the bandits stopped dead where they were, staring at this spectacle. They looked from Mustard, to Mayo, to Roshi.

They ran.

Roshi took a deep breath, then exhaled through his nose. He looked up, straightened his shirt, and flashed a V-sign.

Bulma, Kim, Twilight, and Sonata blinked.

"Umm...I think we should go," Kim said slowly.

"Probably...probably a good idea," Bulma agreed, nodding.

Less than three minutes later, the adventurers were back on their plane and safely in the sky.

Sonata Space Patrol

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"So that was...intense," Twilight said slowly.

"Eh, I've seen crazier," Bulma said. "With the crowd we run with, this kind of thing is...pretty normal."

"Yeah I want off this world now," Ron said, shuddering. "No offense, but—" He was cut off by a beeping alarm from the control console. Bulma began punching controls furiously, frowning at the screen.

"What the heck—?"

"Is something wrong?" Kim asked.

Bulma frowned. "Some idiot's tailgating us," she said. "Who'd be that stupid, in a wide open sky? I mean..."

A gleaming shape suddenly shot out in front of the plane, turning around and rising up in front of it. It was a white saucer with a fin on the back, a clear dome in the center, and an emblem emblazoned across the front which looked like a stylized letter N with a dot over it. Red lights strobed on either side of the emblem. In the cockpit sat a purple-and-white humanoid figure with large, pupilless yellow eyes, a round, hairless head, and the same emblem across its chest. Bulma bit off a curse, throttling back to slow the plane.

"HOLY CRAP IT'S AN ALIEN!" Ron exclaimed, eyes bugging out.

"Is that...is that a real UFO?" Twilight asked, eyes wide.

"Oh hey, he looks kinda like that goofy suit guy from that Neighponese show!" Sonata said.

The alien waved to Bulma, then made a series of hand gestures conveying the universal "follow me and land". Sighing, Bulma trailed in behind the saucer, which made a beeline for a long strip of rocky terrain some miles away, losing altitude as they approached.

"So, we're...we're just gonna follow an alien and land," Kim said. "Just like that."

"Just like that," Bulma said tersely. "And then I'm gonna give him a piece of my mind for...ARGH! For whatever it is he wants that's so DAMN important!"

As soon as the plane landed, Bulma killed the engine and got out, stomping down the ramp just as the alien jumped out of his ship. She stormed right up to him and grabbed him by his chestplate. "JACO!" she snarled. "What's the big idea, flying so close like that! Next time, just use the radio!"

Jaco disengaged himself from Bulma's grasp and looked at the group of stunned onlookers that emerged from the plane, frowning. "Why is it every time I meet you you're with a different pack of weirdos?"

"Look who's talking," Sonata muttered.

"Wait. Bulma...knows an alien?" Kim asked, tilting her head.

Roshi scratched his head. "Huh. Girl gets around."

Bulma pinched the bridge of her nose. "What are you doing here, Jaco?" she asked.

Jaco's frown deepened. "I'd think you'd be a little more grateful about my delivering a warning!" he said. "Just FYI, the Galactic Patrol detected another Saiyajin spacepod headed for your world and sent me to investigate! I got a little sidetracked by a meteor shower that damaged my engines, but I calculate I got here before the Saiyajin could cause too much destruction—"

"We already know about the Saiyajin," Bulma said. "We have several months to prepare for their arrival, which is kind of what we're in the middle of doing."

"Huh?" Jaco asked. "No, his ship's already here on Chikyuu, I picked it up on my scanners—"

"Oh, THAT Saiyajin," Bulma said dismissively. "Yeah, he's already dead."

Jaco took a step back. "Dead? But how?"

"Goku and Piccolo," Bulma said. She spent a few minutes summing up the events of Raditz's arrival, the truth about Son Goku, and the battle which claimed his life.

When she finished, Jaco stroked his chin. "Huh," he said. "Well that wraps up the case I was sent here for in the first place," he mused. He scratched his head. "Gosh, it's hard to believe that was over twenty years ago. I always did wonder what ended up happening to that Saiyajin."

"Well, since you're here anyway, you might as well hang around a few months," Bulma said. "Tights is turning forty pretty soon, we're gonna have a big party. I'm sure she'd love to have you."

"Forty, huh? That a big deal on your world?"

"For a woman it is," Bulma said. "And you can help out when those other two Saiyajin arrive."

Jaco took a step back. "T-TWO?!" He shook his head. "But..." He began sweating. "But wait, Planet Vegeta was destroyed, almost all the..." He looked back and forth between Bulma and his ship. "Uhh...you know what? I just remembered, I've got a ton of paperwork to do, so uhh..."

Bulma folded her arms. "Jaco," she said in a warning tone.

"No, really, I'd love to help, but I can only intervene if I'm under orders, and I'm only under orders to deal with the one Saiyajin who's already dead," Jaco insisted. "Since I know he's dead and so is the one they sent me here to stop the first time around, I need to get back to HQ and hand in my report on both incidents. It could take, I dunno...a whole year, maybe? Umm...I'll stop by and wish Tights a happy birthday before I leave though!" He jumped back into his spaceship and, with a blast of engines, took off into the sky.

"AUGH!" Bulma screamed. "THAT LITTLE...!" She stormed back onto the ship; the rest of the group looked at each other in confusion, curiosity, and a hint of terror before following her. They found her angrily punching frequencies into the radio, the headset jammed haphazardly on her head and the hand mic clenched in a death grip. "Oneesan? Oneesan! This is Bulma! Listen, Jaco showed up just now. I tried to get him to stick around because we could really use his help right now, but he's about to take off again like a little coward, so—"

* * * * *

"Oh, I know."

A blond woman with brown eyes smiled as she looked through the scope of a shoulder-mounted rocket launcher. A gleaming white saucer passed through her sights. Her smile tightened. "And..."

She pulled the trigger.

* * * * *

An explosion in the sky rocked the plane. Everyone jumped, startled, and rushed back outside. Bulma stared out the cockpit windscreen, eyes wide.

Jaco's saucer spun back around toward them, crash-landing violently on the rocks, flames trailing from its engines. Jaco himself leapt clear of the wreck. "WHAT THE HELL?" he yelled. "WHO DID THAT? YOU'RE UNDER ARREST!"

"Don't look at us," Oolong said.

Bulma rushed back outside, stomping down the ramp, alarmed. "JACO! Are you alright?!"

"I'm fine, but when I get my hands on whoever blew up my ship—"

The roar of an engine drew everyone's attention to an approaching cloud of dust. A jeep rumbled over the rocks, approaching the wreck and the plane. As it drew near, a blond woman wearing blue overalls, a black T-shirt, and a red neckerchief waved cheerfully at everyone, smiling brightly.

Jaco paled, taking a step back.

There was a massive rocket launcher standing in the passenger's seat next to her.

"Hi, Jaco!" she said as she stopped the jeep and jumped out. "It's been a while, ne?"

Sonata Family Reunion

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"Hi, Jaco!" she said as she stopped the jeep and jumped out. "It's been a while, ne?"

Jaco began to sweat nervously. "Uhh...h-hi there, Tights..."

"Oneesan!" Bulma cried cheerfully, rushing forward and sweeping the blond up in a hug. "It's so good to see you! I didn't know you were around here!"

Tights laughed. "Hi, Bulma." She stepped back. "Wow, look at you!" She looked around at the rest of the group. "Huh. Interesting bunch you're with."

Bulma laughed. "Yeah, the purple girl and the blue girl are from another universe. So are the other two teenagers, but I think they're not from the same...you know, nevermind." She stepped back. "It's been so long..." She turned to the rest of the group. "Everyone, this is my older sister, Tights!"

"You have a sister?" Oolong asked, shocked. "First I've heard of it!"

"Well well, and what a pretty thing she is, too!" Roshi mused. "A little older than the girls I'm usually interested in, but you obviously take care of yourself!"

Tights' left eye twitched. "You must be Kamesennin," she said in an overly sweet tone. "I've heard all about you." With a thin smile, she added, "Keep both hands where I can see them, you dirty perv. And by that, I mean at your sides at all times."

"Why, I'd never!" Roshi protested.

"Riight."

Bulma laughed. "Tights, this is Oolong and Puar, I've known them forever, and this is Kim, this is Ron, and this is Twilight Sparkle and Sonata Dusk."

Tights smiled. "Nice to meet you all," she said. "So, what're you all doing out here in the middle of nowhere?"

"We're searching for the Dragonballs again," Bulma said. She sighed, bowing her head. "We need to bring Son-kun back to life, and...Chikyuu is in danger."

"Eeee," Tights said. "Well, I never did understand all that magic stuff you were involved with, but it sounds important."

"It is," Jaco said. "Two very powerful, very dangerous aliens are coming to your world. Both of them are powerful enough to destroy entire cities without breaking a sweat."

Tights' eyes widened. "Oh my," she said. "We have to warn somebody, don't we?"

"There's no point," Bulma said. "You don't know what we're up against here. If we warned people, they'd either think we're crazy or start a mass panic."

"She's right," Roshi said gravely. "Our best bet is to wish Goku back with the Dragonballs just before the Saiyajin arrive and hope he's strong enough to defeat them."

"And our friends are up at Kami's Palace training to fight," Oolong said. "When those Saiyajin arrive, there's gonna be more powerful fighters ready to take them on. They'll be outnumbered!"

Jaco snorted. "You're crazy if you think any human fighters can stand up to a Saiyajin," he said. "Saiyajin are dangerous."

"Well, good thing we've got our own Saiyajin then," Bulma retorted snippily. "And we've got Piccolo...I think."

Tights blinked. "Piccolo? The Demon King?"

"He seems to be as interested in stopping the Saiyajin as we are," Roshi said. "Mostly because they stand in his way of taking over Chikyuu himself, but right now, we need all the help we can get." He adjusted his sunglasses. "Also, apparently he's an alien himself, so there's that."

"An alien, you say?" Jaco asked, tilting his head. "What kind of alien, where's he from?"

"Hmmm, can't say for sure I caught that part," Roshi said. "I can tell you he's green, has pointed ears and antenna, and he can grow back his arms."

"A Namekian?" Jaco looked down, hand to his chin. "Hmm. If you've got a Saiyajin and a Namekian fighting, you might just have a shot..." He frowned. "But if I'm right about who's coming to your planet, it's going to take a miracle for you to survive."

"That's why you're going to stay here and help us, right?" Bulma asked sweetly.

"Hell no," Jaco said. "Soon as I fix my ship, I'm outta here."

Tights closed her eyes and smiled tightly. "Is that so," she said lightly.

Jaco blanched, backing away. "I...! W-well, that's..."

"I was hoping you'd at the very least stay on Chikyuu until my birthday party. You can manage that, right?" Tights asked.

Jaco sighed, drooping. "Yes..."

"Wonderful!" Tights clasped her hands together. "Alright! Bulma, is there anything you need help with?" She ran a hand through her hair. "I'm not really doing anything in particular right now. I can lend a hand."

"We'd love to have you along," Bulma said. "These Dragonball hunts can get a little rough, so the more the merrier." She glanced sidelong at Jaco. "We can count on you too, right?"

"Yeah yeah," Jaco said dismissively, turning away and folding his arms.

"Great!" Bulma said. "Alright then, all aboard! Once we get back in the sky, I'll call Tousan and have him come pick up what's left of your ship, alright?"

Jaco grumbled something under his breath, but followed everyone else up the ramp into the plane. Tights retrieved her gear from the jeep, collapsed it into a capsule, and brought up the rear.

Sonata Side Dish

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"Alright, let's get back on course toward the next Dragonball," Bulma said. She checked the radar, pursing her lips.

"Oh! I almost forgot!" Tights said. She reached into her pocket and pulled out a Dragonball with six stars on it. "I found this in the desert while I was changing a tire."

"Wow, Oneesan, you're a real good luck charm!" Bulma declared happily. "That saves us from having to search the desert for the next one. Okay, so..." She hummed thoughtfully as she expanded the scope of her tracker. She squinted at the next blip on the radar. "Huh. Those coordinates look really familiar." Shrugging, she punched them into the console and turned the plane on a new bearing.

"Ah?" Tights asked. "We're headed in the direction of the Mushroom Forest?"

"That's where I'm picking up the signal," Bulma confirmed.

Over the three hours it took to reach their destination, the group swapped stories of their adventures. The sun was beginning to dip low in the sky when they approached a forest of giant mushrooms growing on the edge of the desert. "We're almost there," Bulma reported.

"I'm getting the strangest feeling I've been here before," Oolong said.

"Me too," Puar agreed.

"Oh my," Tights said suddenly. "Look at those ruins!"

Up ahead, they could just make out the ruins of what must have once been a grand palace. Bulma gasped in recognition. "Of course!" she exclaimed, bringing the plane lower. She smiled. "Wow, this brings back memories..."

"Yeah, none of them good," Oolong muttered sourly.

At the heart of the mushroom forest stood the base of a pyramid, large sections of it crumbled and eroded. Atop the broken pyramid was a smashed foundation, jagged marble slabs sticking up at odd angles. All around the pyramid, the remains of a grand marble palace lay strewn about. Fallen towers, shattered domes, broken arches, and walls that had been broken apart and thrown around like so much garbage; much of the broken palace had collapsed into the center of the pyramid, destroying its support structures and all the lower levels.

"Whoa, what happened to this place, a bomb?" Ron wondered.

"Son-kun happened," Bulma said.

Jaco frowned. "The damage is consistent with a transformed Saiyajin," he said. "I'm guessing this...Son Goku of yours transformed into an oozaru here, went berserk, and demolished this palace?"

"That's about the size of it," Bulma confirmed.

"Oozaru?" Kim asked.

"Giant pissed-off weremonkey," Bulma said. "Before we cut off Son-kun's tail, any time he saw the full moon he'd turn from a pint-sized puncher into a raging monkey the size of a skyscraper. We'd all been captured by the guy who used to own this place when we were looking for the Dragonballs the first time. It was all over for us until Son-kun happened to look at the moon by chance. Then he turned into that giant monkey thing and smashed up the place."

"See? SEE?!" Ron cried. "Monkeys are the ultimate evil!"

"Chill, Ron," Kim said. "So, is this place safe?"

"Probably not," Oolong muttered.

Bulma landed the plane near the edge of the ruins. "Alright, we'll split into two teams," she said. "We have my Dragon Radar and Twilight's scanner, so it'll be quicker to search the ruins that way. Tights, Jaco, you go with Twilight and whoever else goes with her. Roshi, I guess you're with me, but behave yourself."

As Twilight adjusted her scanner, Tights, Jaco, Sonata, and Puar formed up alongside her. Roshi, Oolong, Kim, and Ron joined Bulma's group. "We'll take the inside," Tights said. "Jaco's strength will come in handy there."

Bulma nodded. "Alright, we'll search the outside. Meet back up out front in...three hours, I guess?"

"Got it." With that, the groups split up to search.

* * * * *

By the time the group emerged from the ruins with the Dragonball, the sky was dark.

"Good news!" Tights said as Bulma's group walked up to them. She produced an amber sphere from her pocket and held it up with a bright smile. "We found the Dragonball!"

"And we found a bunch of scorpions and tarantulas!" Ron exclaimed. "Seriously, so many scorpions..."

As Tights handed the Dragonball to Bulma, Bulma looked up at the dark sky, placing her hands on her hips. "Alright, I guess we should set up camp for the night and—"

Bulma's plane exploded. The group gasped, bracing themselves against the rolling wave of sand, dust, and hot debris. "What the hell?!" Bulma cried.

Floodlights snapped on, casting a harsh halogen glare over the desert. A black airship lowered into view.

Over a loudspeaker, a raspy voice cackled.

"So, we meet again. Ironic that this, the place where you and your friends ruined everything for me, is the very place where I'll have my revenge...and the Dragonballs!"

Bulma's shoulders slumped. "I know that voice," she muttered.

"This clown again, seriously?" Oolong asked in a bored tone.

"No tricks!" the voice boomed. "No chop-socky karate crap! No freaky giant monkeys! This time, it's just me, a full stock of bombs, and my two minions manning the miniguns!"

Bright flashes and loud, staccato bursts erupted from the deck as dozens of bullets scored the ground around the group. Twilight shrieked and jumped behind Ron. Tights gritted her teeth.

With a grinding groan, a loading platform descended from the airship. A small blue imp dressed in green and black robes with a white ruffled collar strode toward them, holding a large burlap sack.

"Pilaf," Bulma growled.

"Bulma," Pilaf said with a smirk. "I don't see that spiky-haired punk with you this time." He looked the group over. "I don't want any funny business. I'm sure at least some of you aren't bulletproof, and Shuu and Mai have lots of bullets up there. Wouldn't want anybody to get killed now, would we?"

"Tch," Roshi spat with a scowl.

"Now," Pilaf said, holding out the open sack. "The Dragonballs. All of them. No tricks. Or else."

The group looked nervously at each other. "Look, Pilaf..." Bulma began. "How about a deal? We really, really need the Dragonballs to bring a friend of ours back to life. If...if you'll wait until next year, I'll help you find them again."

"Do I look stupid to you?" Pilaf snapped.

"Kinda, yeah," Ron said.

"RON! NOT HELPING!" Kim hissed.

"I'll be taking the Dragonballs now, and as far as your dead friend...too bad, so sad."

Above, the miniguns clicked ominously.

"Dammit..." Bulma sighed, closing her eyes. "Fine," she snarled. One by one, she dropped the six Dragonballs they'd collected into the sack. Pilaf watched intently as each ball fell in. Once Bulma dropped the sixth, he nodded, closed up the sack, and backed away.

"Remember this day, Bulma," he said as he stepped onto the loading platform. "For THIS! Is the day that Emperor Pilaf triumphed once and for all!" With that, he ascended back into the airship, which rose high into the sky and streaked off to the northeast.

In the silence that followed, Tights asked quietly, "We're following him, right?"

"Of course," Bulma said. She sighed as she looked at the mess that was her plane. "But we're gonna have to split up. That...was the only plane I had that could carry a group this size."

"I've got a helicopter and a jeep," Tights said.

"I've got an ornipther and a bike," Bulma said. She looked over the group, frowning. "Okay, the original gang I was with? You're with me in the ornipther. Twilight, Sonata? You're with Tights in her jeep. Kim, Ron, can either of you drive a motorbike?"

"I can," Kim said.

"Okay, you take the bike. That leaves Jaco and Ron in the helicopter. You can fly a helicopter, right Jaco?"

Jaco snorted. "Please. There's no primitive vehicle you have that I can't operate."

"So I guess camping for the night's out, right?" Ron said tiredly.

"Sorry, we can't let Pilaf get too far," Bulma said apologetically. "If he manages to use the Dragonballs, it'll be a whole year before we can find them again, and by then we won't be able to wish Son-kun back to life at all."

"And the world will be destroyed by those Saiyajin," Oolong added.

"Right, saving the world comes first," Kim said with determination.

"Uhh, guys?" Twilight said nervously, studying her scanner. "We...we'd better get moving. According to this? He's already got all seven Dragonballs."

Bulma gasped, checking her own Dragon Radar. Her face paled.

Everyone looked at each other, nodded, and boarded their assigned vehicles, taking off in pursuit of Pilaf's airship.

* * * * *

Standing on the deck of his ship, Pilaf cackled. "At LAST!" he crowed. "FINALLY, I have all SEVEN Dragonballs! I can make my wish!"

"Uh, sir?" Mai said. "I think we've got a problem."

"Huh? What's that?" Pilaf asked.

The Dragonballs had been spread out on a blanket on the deck. Their red stars gleamed into the night sky. As Shuu and Mai turned each Dragonball this way and that, Mai kept a gloved hand on one particular ball, studying it with pursed lips.

"This one right here, the one we found two days ago?" Mai looked up. "I don't think it's a Dragonball."

"Of course it's a Dragonball," Pilaf snapped. "It's orange, it's crystal, it's the right size, it has markings on the side..."

Mai raised an eyebrow and picked up the ball, turning it to show Pilaf the two golden bananas on the side. She then picked up an almost identical ball, turning it to show two red stars.

Pilaf took a step back, sweat beading on his brow. "Wh-what—?!"

"We're one short," Mai said. "I don't know what this is, but it's obviously not a Dragonball."

"Uhh, Your Majesty?" Shuu said, frowning. "You're not gonna believe this, but I'm picking up two Dragonballs following us from the southwest."

Pilaf let out a string of curses. "She tricked us!" he snarled. "This is all that devil woman Bulma's work!" He clenched his fists at his side. "I swear, I'll make her pay if it's the last thing I ever do!"

Sonata Desert Dash

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The blades of a Capsule Corporation helicopter loudly chopped through the dry night air of the Diablo Desert, an ornipther flying on a parallel path. Below, Kim Possible drove a motorcycle through the desert, ahead of the bouncing, lurching jeep driven by Tights and occupied by Twilight Sparkle and Sonata Dusk. A constant stream of chatter between the radios in all the vehicles could barely be heard over the noise of the engines.

"He's headed back toward Son-kun's place! But why...?"

"There's not much out that way, is there? I mean, I know East District is a pretty big place, but..."

"Guys? Something's happ—THEY'RE TURNING AROUND!"

The four vehicles slowed and widened their formation as the airship turned. The muzzles of the miniguns flashed as hailfire tracked the two flying vehicles.

"Why are they shooting at us WHY ARE THEY SHOOTING AT US?!" Ron wailed as Jaco swerved the helicopter to evade the gunfire.

"I don't know, but I'm not gonna stand for it!" Tights snapped into her radio. "Sonata, take the wheel!"

"Uhh...sure!" Sonata said, blinking. The jeep started to swerve as Tights levered herself out of the driver's seat and hopped up onto the rollbar; Sonata quickly jumped into the driver's seat and, with effort, managed to straighten out the jeep. "Uhh, just so you know? I've never driven a car before. Like, ever."

"Just keep us straight for a few minutes," Tights said, bending down and grabbing the strap of her bazooka. She hoisted it onto her shoulder and peered through the scope, which lit up with a targeting reticle.

"ONEESAN! WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU—"

"KURAE!" Tights screamed into the night as she fired at the airship. Her shot struck the rudder, causing the ship to judder violently and wobble in the air.

"She's got the right idea!" Roshi said as he tied a safety strap around his waist and leaned out the door of the ornipther, cupping his hands at his side.

"WAIT!" Bulma yelled in alarm. "If you do that, you could blow up the Dragonballs—"

"Dragonballs are practically indestructible, m'dear! Besides, the wreck'll break the fall! KA...ME..."

"Oh shit!" Oolong leaned into the radio. "FIRE IN THE HOLE, EVERYONE!"

"HA...ME...HAAAAA!"

The dark night was split apart by a lance of blazing blue ki which struck the port engine of Pilaf's airship. It flipped onto its side and juked violently in the air; a moment later, another grenade fired from the jeep struck the starboard engine, and the dark ship dropped to the desert like a stone.

* * * * *

"UWAAA!" Pilaf cried, flailing his stubby arms as he scrambled about on the tilting, lurching deck in a mad panic. The Dragonballs rolled this way and that; Shuu scrambled to catch them and throw them back into the bag, while Mai ran around with a fire extinguisher. "This can't be happening! My Invincible Albatross is invincible! Shuu! Mai! Do something!"

"There's nothing we can do, Lord Pilaf!" Mai replied. "They got the engines! We're going down!"

"I've gathered the Dragonballs, My Lord!" Shuu reported. Then a third explosion rocked the ship, and he cried out. The bag flew from his grasp and sailed over the railing. Shuu let out a surprised bark, running to the railing and looking out into the dark desert. "Awuu?"

"YOU IDIOT! YOU IMBECILE!" Pilaf yelled. "YOU AAAHHH!" A piece of debris conked him on the head, igniting his hat. He shrieked as he patted the flames, finally pulling the hat off and stamping on it.

Mai had given up on fire control and rushed to the bridge. "The rudder's out, so I can't do much to steer, but if I can get the flaps to level..." She grabbed the yoke and tugged on it with all her might, gritting her teeth. "I think I can...put us down...in one piece...nnnngh!"

The ship lurched, bits flying off as it crashed into the desert, digging a deep furrow in the baked ground as it shuddered to a violent, bone-rattling halt. Once it stopped, Pilaf found himself thrown against the mizzen, panting and gasping. Shuu lay flat on his back on the deck, his tongue lolled out.

Mai emerged from the bridge, strapping a submachine gun to her hip and checking a flashlight. "We need to go," she said. "I've got a skycar, if we can just find the Dragonballs before they get here, we can leave..."

"Yes! Let's do that!" Pilaf said, nodding rapidly. "I'll be damned if I let that obnoxious woman get the better of me yet again!" He frowned. "But my ship—"

"Once you have the Dragonballs you can wish for an entire fleet, but if we don't beat them to it, we'll have nothing, My Lord!" Mai insisted. "Now get up and let's get moving!"

"Ah! R-Right!" Pilaf hopped to his feet and shuffled after Mai, Shuu bringing up the rear. "Wait! I mean! I give the orders! Move out, my minions!"

* * * * *

The helicopter and ornipther landed, their floodlights bathing the desert near the wreck. The bike and jeep ground to a halt nearby. Kim jumped off the bike, tensed for action. Twilight got out of the jeep, her legs wobbling and knocking under her as she swayed and lurched. "Bad...bad ride," she said wheezily. "Bad ride..."

"Whee, that was fun!" Sonata giggled. "Just like a video game! What do we get to blow up next?"

"No more explosions please," Ron said as he walked over. "What's with you people and explosions?"

Tights was busy rooting around in the equipment box strapped to the back of her jeep. Frowning, she pulled something out and tossed it to Bulma, who had just walked up after encapsulating the ornipther. "Here," Tights said offhandedly.

Bulma caught what Tights threw at her, studied it, and frowned. "Wow, it's been a while since I had to use one of these."

"Ack! More guns! Explosions and guns, this place is crazy!" Ron moaned.

"Ron? Chill," Kim ordered. "So, how much of a fight are we expecting here?"

"That depends on what kind of fighting force Pilaf has," Bulma said as she checked the clip on the 9mm pistol she held. "If it's just him and his two goons, then we really only have to worry about how well armed they are."

"They were well armed enough to mug us earlier," Sonata said.

"Yeah, but miniguns aren't exactly portable," Tights noted as she tossed a second handgun to Kim. "Here, you look competent."

"Uhh...thanks," Kim said. "Not really a big fan of guns."

"Take it anyway," Tights said in a clipped tone. "I want to see this little blue bastard piss himself in terror." She pulled an assault rifle out and slung it over her shoulder, then took out several large flashlights.

"Oneesan, since when do you carry around this much firepower? What the hell have you even been doing?"

"It's a dangerous world," Tights said. "An innocent young maiden needs to be able to take care of herself!"

Bulma rolled her eyes. "Right," she drawled.

"Hey!" Sonata whined. "Don't I get a gun?"

Tights shot her a look and tossed a flashlight at her. "YOU get a flashlight," she said. She tossed another one to Twilight, who fumbled it and dropped it. Ron just barely caught the one he was offered, juggling it before flicking it on and waving it around.

"Alright, let's move out," Tights said, taking the lead with her own flashlight, her hand on the strap of her rifle. "Bulma, cover me. You too, red. Old man, have you got another of those freaky blasts in you?"

"I'm good to go," Roshi said.

As they crossed the desert, Bulma and Twilight each kept one eye on their trackers and the other on the path ahead. Bulma clicked the button on her Dragon Radar, frowning. "The Dragonballs have stopped moving," she said. "Wait, no...six of them stopped moving. One's still..." She furrowed her brow. "Moving toward the others..."

"Maybe the Dragonballs went overboard when we blew up their ship?" Tights suggested. "They might've managed to hang onto one but lost the others."

"Probably," Bulma mused. "Anyway, we need to hurry. We can't let them waste that wish!"

* * * * *

"Sire! You're not...puff...gonna believe this...woof! I'm picking up two Dragonballs headed for the bag where the rest of them are!"

"CURSE that foul woman!" Pilaf snarled.

Mai frowned. "Wait...two?" Her brow furrowed. "But...no. I mean, we had one fake, but the rest were real. The Dragon Radar shows them as real..."

"It shows the fake one as real too," Shuu said with a frown. "Don't ask me how she managed that."

"Must be something similar to the box we used to hide the Dragonball that one time," Mai said. She shook her head. "Anyway, we can worry about that later. Odds are at least one of the Dragonballs they still have are real."

"Then we have to get the Dragonballs from them at all costs," Pilaf said. "I will have my wish!"

"YES, LORD PILAF!"

* * * * *

Flashlights jerked and bobbed across the dark, cracked desert landscape as feet pounded across the ground.

"Couldn't...we have stopped...a little closer...to the crash?" Twilight puffed and wheezed out.

"The ship's down but the guns might still work," Tights said. "We couldn't risk being an easy target from closer up."

"Yeah I'm all for being a hard target any day," Ron said.

"The Dragonballs are straight ahead," Bulma said. "I think they must've fallen off the ship!"

The group poured on as much speed as they could muster. After a minute, Jaco threw out a hand. "I see the Dragonballs," he said, his yellow eyes glowing brightly in the night.

Tights' flashlight swept over a sack, from which a shining amber orb had spilled. "Yeah, looks like we got here first," she said. "Come on!"

Shots rang out, forcing them to hold back. Kim reflexively brought up a hand to catch a shuriken inches from her face. The group trained their flashlights on three figures approaching from the opposite direction: the squat blue imp Pilaf, a serious-looking woman with long, dark hair in a military uniform who had a machine gun trained on them, and a short, fat anthropomorphic Shiba Inu in a purple ninja uniform.

"DOGE!" Sonata squealed, a huge, cheery smile on her face. "Very ninja! Much fluffy! Wow!"

Twilight facepalmed. "Now's not the time for stupid memes, Sonata..."

"Silly Twilight, it's ALWAYS the time for stupid memes!"

"BULMA!" Pilaf yelled, a vein throbbing in his temple. "You thought you could trick me with a fake Dragonball? We're wise to your games! Hand over the real Dragonball or we'll kill you all right here, right now!"

Bulma blinked. "Fake Dragonball? What are you talking about? We gave you all our Dragonballs."

Mai leaned forward. "Actually, Lord Pilaf, we found that fake one on our own, remember? Technically, Bulma-san did give us the real Dragonballs..."

"Yes, well...she planted the fake one we found, I know it! And the proof is right here on the Dragon Radar!" Pilar snatched the Radar from Shuu and held it up over his head. On it, the sack of Dragonballs lying between the two groups blinked as a massive blob of yellow, with one smaller dot blinking to one side of it, and two joined dots blinking to the other side. "According to this, there are nine Dragonballs here," Pilaf pointed out after counting briefly on his fingers. "Now, we all know there are only seven, and out of the seven we have, one of them turned out to be a fake!" He pointed a trembling, accusatory finger at Bulma. "Now you give me that Dragonball, or else!"

Bulma frowned. "Look, Pilaf, I don't know what to tell you. I don't have any Dragonballs. I gave you all the Dragonballs we have!"

"Wait a minute," Kim said suddenly. "What 'fake Dragonball'?" She took a step forward; when Mai pointed her gun at her, Kim held her hands out at her sides placatingly. "You found a Dragonball that had golden bananas on it instead of red stars?"

The trio shared a blink. "That's...that's exactly what we found," Mai said.

"AHA! So you admit it!" Pilaf crowed. "You are responsible for—"

The ground began to shudder underneath their feet. "What was that?" Sonata wondered. "An earthquake?"

"Don't try to change the subject!" Pilaf continued. "We're gonna settle this right here, right n—"

The ground bucked violently, throwing them all off their feet. The ground cracked open, and a long, slender serpent with shimmering scales that glowed in all colors of the rainbow under the wan moonlight erupted from the ground, saliva mixed with dry desert dust hanging in thick yellow-brown ropes from long, curved fangs. Sightless eyes glowed like white pearls as it rose into the air, a pair of scaly, translucent wings with thick red veins unwrapping from around its sinewy body and bearing it aloft.

"Heeeeeh," Tights said wonderingly. "A prism moonserpent. We must be the first humans to see a live one in at least two hundred years!"

The two conflicting groups could only watch in dismay as an amber shimmer fell into the beast's gaping maw.

Twilight's jaw dropped, and her glasses slid down her nose. "Oh...oh no..."

"Did it just...eat a Dragonball?" Kim asked, blinking.

"Umm..." Bulma looked at her Radar. Her heart sank. "It got...three of them," she said.

"We'll see about that," Kim saw, firming her jaw. She pulled her grappling gun from her belt and fired it at the ascending beast. The hook found purchase in the scales of its tail, and she rose up into the air after it.

"STOP HER!" Pilaf ordered. Mai pulled a similar grappling gun from her own pack and fired, piercing the beast's wing with the grapple. She winched herself up the line as she fishlined around in its wake.

Everyone left on the ground watched them for a moment, then turned their attention to the three Dragonballs still perched precariously on the broken, unstable ground.

A mad scramble ensued.

Sonata Sky Battle

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Kim dodged a kick from Mai, countering with a quick triple palm strike, then jumped and flipped over Mai, grabbing her in an arm bar and forcing her to her knees, all while struggling to maintain her own footing on the twisting, undulating moonserpent. "Listen, you!" she snapped. "In case you didn't notice, we're on a flying death snake, a fall from this height could kill either one of us, and somehow or another we've gotta get those three Dragonballs out of this thing or everything we've been through today was for nothing! Now do you wanna keep fighting, or do we work together to get the Dragonballs back?"

Mai stopped struggling and inclined her head. "You're right," she said. Kim released her, and Mai stood, swaying, her hair blowing in the wind from the beast's wings. "So, how do you propose we remove the Dragonballs from this serpent?"

"First, give me the Monkey Crystal," Kim said, holding out her hand. "I don't want it getting lost in all this."

Mai frowned, taking the Two-Banana Crystal from her pouch. "This? The fake Dragonball?"

"It's not a Dragonball, but it's every bit as important and it's the thing my friends and I came here looking for," Kim said. "The main reason we teamed up with Bulma and her group is because our tracker and her Dragon Radar can't tell these crystals apart from Dragonballs."

"I see," Mai said, stroking her chin. "So the other Dragonballs we were detecting from Bulma's group—"

"The other Rainbow Monkey Crystals we've collected," Kim said. "And before you ask, no, they don't do the same thing the Dragonballs do. They're not even all here on this world." She swiftly pocketed the Crystal.

"I see," Mai said. "And yet you say they're important?"

"We need them to save the world I come from," Kim said. "They're the only way to stop a rampaging demon from destroying everything. That's all you need to know."

Mai nodded. "I can believe that," she said. "Now, what do we do about the Dragonballs here?"

Kim looked up and down the sinewy body of the serpent. "I can...I can only think of one way," she said, her face twisting in a grimace of disgust. "Do you think you can tick this thing off enough to bring it down to the ground?"

Mai flicked the safety on her submachine gun. "I can try," she said.

"Do it, but be careful where you aim," Kim said. Swallowing, she added, "I'm going in." And with that, she darted up the length of the snake's twisting, weaving body, grabbed hold of its snout, flipped down and over, and threw herself straight down its throat.

* * * * *

The unstable ground made the mad scramble for the remaining Dragonballs more treacherous, but for Bulma's party, the real danger turned out to be each other. Pilaf and Shuu simply weren't agile enough or nimble enough to pose any real threat, while the sheer number of people on Bulma's side kept getting in each other's way as they raced to salvage the Dragonballs, which were in serious danger of falling down the prism moonserpent's exit tunnel.

"SHUU! YOU IDIOT! GET THOSE DRAGONBALLS!"

"RON! WATCH IT, YOU KLUTZ!"

"OOLONG, TURN INTO SOMETHING USEFUL, YOU LAZY PIG!"

"JACO, WHAT ARE YOU DOING? YOU'RE THE ONLY ONE HERE WHO CAN FLY, HURRY AFTER THAT MOONSERPENT!"

"WHEE, YELLING IS FUN!!"

A Dragonball rolled across the ground, knocked by many shuffling feet. Tights and Pilaf both made for it. Just as Pilaf was about to reach it, Tights hauled him up by his collar and, with a fierce shout, hurled him across the desert, then scooped up the Dragonball and tucked it down her shirt. Shuu jumped at her, his shortsword drawn, and slashed, cutting the front of her shirt and splitting it open. Tights shrieked, covering herself with one arm and opening fire on Shuu with the other. The Dragonball rolled down her stomach and bounced across the ground; Twilight dived in and scooped it up, juggling it for a moment before tossing it in Bulma's general direction. Bulma caught it and added it to her pouch just as Sonata skipped over to her with the other two.

"Okay, that's all of them," Bulma said. She frowned. "Oneesan, a woman your age shouldn't be wearing underwear like that!"

"Keep your nose out of my bra, Bulma!" Tights retorted, pulling a face and sticking her tongue out.

"Wow. Don't hear that every day," Ron commented, face red. The others all laughed, snickered, facepalmed, or groaned.

"HEY!" Pilaf cried, running back onto the scene and flailing his stubby arms. "WE'RE NOT DONE HERE! GIVE THOSE BACK RIGHT NOW!"

Roshi blurred behind Pilaf and cold-cocked him with his staff, then blurred behind Shuu, hauled him over his shoulder, and threw him in Pilaf's direction. "Say goodnight, boys," he said. He then looked over at Tights and raised an eyebrow, a thin trickle of blood rolling down from his nose. "Well now," he said. "You're Bulma's sister alright..."

Tights shot him in the face, and he laid down for a little nap.

* * * * *

"Oh, this is so gorchy," Kim grumbled as she crawled along the snake's innards. Her flashlight shone off slimy things she'd have nightmares about forever as she searched for the Dragonballs. Outside, she could faintly hear Mai's machine gun biting into the snake's scales just behind the head. She quickened her pace. "Shoot the wings, you stupid—"

The snake lurched violently, and Kim nearly lost her flashlight. She flipped end over end, brushing up against the grotesque muscles of the serpent's tract, and fought to keep her lunch down as she pulled a handkerchief out of one of her pouches and tied it around her nose, tightening it.

After what felt like an eternity, she finally found the Dragonballs, clustered together in a thick knot of earthen detritus that had partially clogged the serpent's tract. Squirming her way through the squeezing mass of muscles, Kim pocketed the slippery, slimy Dragonballs, then reversed course and pushed her way back up, fighting the pressure of powerful digestive muscles trying to crush her and force her through the snake's body. The beast's constant lurching and twisting around in midair wasn't making things any easier for her, and she found her own flexibility pushed to the limit.

With difficulty, she made it back into the serpent's mouth. She could only just catch thin glimpses of the night sky outside, whirling and spiralling as the snake thrashed and writhed. "I need to make this snake open wide," she muttered. Frowning, she pulled out the handgun Tights had given her. With determination, she aimed at the softest-looking spot she could find on the roof of its mouth and fired twice.

The mouth dropped open as the serpent let out an unholy screech. The sky outside jumped suddenly as the feeling of being on a rollercoaster plummeting to the ground seized Kim's stomach and dragged it up into her throat. The serpent's screech abruptly trailed off into a gurgling death rattle. Eyes wide with alarm and horror, Kim made a headlong dash for the open mouth and jumped out.

It took a few seconds for it to register that she was still way too far up, and had no means of slowing her descent. "Oh no," she muttered.

The hawk pendant around her neck suddenly gave off a piercing shriek and emitted a brilliant golden glow which spread out around Kim, covering her in a ghostly golden aura. Her eyes lit up with a golden flash, and a strange calm settled over her. She spread her arms wide, and etheral hawk wings formed, stretching from her arms to her hips. She pulled into a smooth, even glide, soaring through the night sky.

She spotted Mai flailing around on the back of the serpent, which despite being dead was still thrashing and twisting even as it fell. She swooped around and dived low. "GRAB ON!" she yelled. Mai jumped off the snake and grabbed hold of Kim's legs, holding on for dear life. Wobbling slightly, Kim righted her course and circled, gliding gently toward the ground. Below, she could see her friends looking up at her in amazement. As she neared the ground, Mai let go and rushed over to Pilaf and Shuu. Kim landed, stumbling slightly. Her etheral wings vanished, and the golden glow receded into the pendant before fading away entirely.

Nobody spoke for a long moment.

"Wow," Tights said. "That was pretty cool."

"How'd you do that?" Bulma wondered.

"I don't know," Kim said, blinking. "I..." She looked down at her pendant, fingering it. "This must be what those guys from the other world were talking about," she mused.

Ron gaped, looking down at his own wolf pendant. "Wait, you mean those hair metal dudes actually gave us magic 80s music powers?!"

"Apparently," Kim said. She looked around. "So, uhh...are we done here?"

Mai's machine gun clicked loudly in the silence. Everyone turned to see her aiming at them with steely determination.

"I've been through too much tonight," she said. "You're not leaving here with those Dragonballs."

Kim sighed. "Look...Mai, was it? What is it your boss wants with the Dragonballs?"

"That doesn't concern you," Mai said.

"Yeah, it kinda does," Bulma said. "If Pilaf wants to waste a wish on ruling the world or a pile of money or fancy castles or something like that, what we need them for is a little more important!"

"Mai," Kim said calmly, motioning for Bulma to be quiet. "We just went through something really messed up together. I think that deserves a level of respect between us, right?"

Mai frowned, but nodded slightly, lowering the muzzle of her gun a fraction.

"Your boss...he wants the Dragonballs for his own glory, right?"

Mai sighed. "Yes," she admitted.

Kim looked Mai directly in the eyes. "These people, they need the Dragonballs to bring a friend of theirs back to life," she said. "And...from what they've told me, this friend of theirs is the only thing standing between this entire world—which includes you and your boss and dog-boy there—and total annihilation."

Mai frowned, brow furrowing in thought. She looked at Bulma. "Son Goku...is dead?" she asked.

"Yes," Bulma said sadly.

Mai glanced over at the still-unconscious Pilaf and the glazed-eyed Shuu, then back to Bulma. "What...what killed him? What finally managed to kill him?"

"His brother," Bulma said. "He died protecting the Earth from his evil brother. But there are two guys coming who are from the same planet Son-kun and his brother came from, and they're even stronger. They're going to kill everything on Earth, and Son-kun is the only one who even has a chance of stopping them."

Mai blinked. "That monkey-tailed demon boy...was an alien all along?"

"I know, right?" Bulma said, laughing softly.

Mai bit her lip indecisively. She looked Bulma's group over, then looked at Kim's sincere eyes. She looked back at Pilaf. She sighed, thumbed the safety on her gun, and shrugged. "Go," she said. "We'll...we'll definitely get the Dragonballs next time. We've waited this long, what's another year?"

Kim sighed with relief. "Thank you," she said. "You heard her, gang, let's roll."

* * * * *

The next morning, far away from the crashed airship and the desert, Kim Possible's group said their farewells to Bulma's group. "You sure you'll be okay?" Kim asked. "We can put our thing on hold a little longer to help you get that last Dragonball."

Bulma waved her off. "We'll be fine," she said. "You've got your own quest to get back to. Besides, I've narrowed the last one down to Yunzabet Heights. There's nothing out there. It'll be a quick, easy grab. I don't think we'll have to deal with Pilaf again, and if we do, we can totally handle him." She smiled. "Besides, I can always get Yamucha or Kuririn to come help out for a bit, and that's more than enough muscle for those three."

"Okay then," Kim said. "This was fun. I hope...I hope everything turns out alright."

"It will," Bulma said confidently. "I'm sure of it."

Kim looked around to Ron, Twilight, and Sonata. "Are...are we ready?" she asked.

"We're ready," Twilight said. "We've double-checked to make sure we didn't lose any Monkey Crystals during that whole mess, and I'm locked onto the next Zodiac World. We can go any time."

"Take care, you guys!" Oolong called, waving.

"Stay safe!" Roshi added.

"Right," Kim said. "Twilight? Let's go."

Twilight opened the vortex. The four teens stepped in...

A rumbling sound rushed into their ears as they landed in a dusty, musty, dark place lit by torches and thick with cobwebs and creeper vines. They landed in a tangled heap. As they began picking themselves up, Sonata let out a scream. The others followed her gaze, and found they had landed in a pit of mangled human bones.

"Oh, hell no," Ron complained, pale and wide-eyed as he scrambled at the slimy edges of the pit.

"Uhh...okay," Kim said shakily. "This is...ominous." She pulled out her grappling gun and aimed it overhead. "Grab on, everyone." She hauled them out of the pit; her grapple gave way as the ceiling crumbled, and they sprawled in a pile on the edge of the pit.

The rumbling sound grew closer. The stone walls around them were shaking, raining layers of ancient dust down on their heads.

Another sound joined the rumbling: a man's voice, screaming two words over and over again:

"BAD DAY BAD DAY BAD DAY BAD DAY BAD DAAAAAAAAAAAY!!"

Sonata Snake Pit

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"BAD DAY BAD DAY BAD DAY BAD DAY BAD DAAAAAAAAAAAY!!"

The three girls and Ron turned to face the sound of the shout. All four of them stared, slack-jawed.

A Chinese man who was anywhere from his late twenties to mid thirties wearing a khaki explorer's outfit and a young, slim, attractive woman with brown skin and long black hair in a dark blue spy suit were running straight toward them. Behind them were...

Well, the things chasing them were humanoid to a certain point, but covered in scales, with hideous, twisted, snakelike faces. They hissed and spat, long forked tongues snaking out of their fanged mouths. Their eyes were yellow with slit pupils. Most of them were clad only in loincloths and the occasional loose, open vest.

The woman spotted them first. "WHOEVER YOU ARE, RUN!" she shouted. The four teens looked at each other, nodded, and ran down the corridor in the opposite direction from the pit they'd landed in. A few seconds later, the two adults were hot on their heels, still dragging an army of irritable snake people behind them.

"What the hell ARE those things?" Kim yelled.

"Culebra!" the woman replied. "Descendants of an ancient cult! Worshipped an obscure snake goddess who was probably also a vampire!"

"Wonderful!" Ron complained.

"What the hell are you kids doing here?" the woman continued. "This place is dangerous!"

"No duh!" Sonata retorted. "Look, we don't have any control over where the portal thingie dumps us out at, okay? Boy, it'd be nice to get dropped on a nice soft comfy bed in a love hotel or something next time..."

"A love hotel?" Kim asked, arching an eyebrow.

"What? I like vibrating beds!"

"Bad day," the man muttered.

The woman snorted. "Hey, Toro told us to stay away from the Temple of Santanico Pandemonium, but you wouldn't listen!"

"It's my job, Viper!" the man cried in exasperation. "I didn't know it would be full of culebra! And anyway, if you were so worried about this place, why did you follow?"

"Uh, hello? Snake themed artifacts? Kind of my thing? Besides, somebody needed to cover your back."

"Can you guys argue this out later? Like maybe after we ditch the scaly squad?" Kim snapped.

"Yeah yeah," the woman said. "By the way, name's Viper. This pasty putz is Jackie Chan."

"Kim Possible," Kim returned. "This is Ron Stoppable, Twilight Sparkle, and Sonata Dusk."

"Pleased to meet you!" Almost in unison, Viper and Kim launched themselves up, flipped backwards, turned in midair, and landed between the rest of the group and the culebra. Nodding to each other, they began weaving among them, landing weaving, darting strikes that would have dropped humans, but had a tougher time connecting through thick reptilian scales. Nevertheless, they persisted, applying more force to their strikes until the culebra began taking damage and slowing down. As the ranks thinned, Jackie dropped back and entered the fray, his own punches solid enough to crack bone. The entire party never stopped their headlong sprint out of the temple and into the arid desert outside, but by the time they'd reached the edge of the ancient, worn stone steps, the culebra had retreated into the shadows of the temple atrium, hissing and agitated.

"Please tell me neither of you got bitten," Jackie said wearily. Kim and Viper looked each other over for damage, shrugged, and shook their heads. "Good," Jackie said. "That's the last thing we needed today."

"So...I'm guessing from the creepy snake people," Kim said shakily, "this is the Great Snake World."

"No," Twilight said absently, checking her scanner. "Dragon."

"Dragon? You sure? Because we just—"

"I'm positive," Twilight said. "Also, the Crystal is nowhere near here. So the snake people probably have nothing to do with it and we just came out someplace totally random."

A cough interrupted them. They turned to face Jackie. "Hello," he said politely. "Would you mind explaining who you are and what you are doing here?"

"And why two of you are in Technicolor?" Viper added, arms folded.

"Explanation time again," Ron said with a groan. "Getting a little tired of explanation time..."

* * * * *

"Atchaaaa," the wizened old Chinese man identified only as 'Uncle' mused as he examined the Rainbow Monkey Crystals. "Strong Good Chi magic! Very strong, but incomplete. Each of these is one part of a powerful summoning spell!"

"Yeah, we know that," Kim said.

"One more thing!" Uncle interrupted. "Spell is keyed to colors of rainbow, meaning there are seven containers to complete full spell!"

"We know that too—"

"ONE MORE THING!" Uncle said loudly, holding up a finger. "I have heard of these Great Zodiac Animal Worlds you speak of! Very ancient legend, magic far beyond Uncle's ken!"

"And we have the means to find them and cross into them, and track the Crystals, so we—"

"ONE MORE THING!" Uncle declared, standing up and slapping his palms on the table. "Uncle and Tohru will help you with location spell to find your missing Crystal here! Jackie will go with you to find it! Come, Tohru! We must do research!"

The massive Sumo wrestler seated in the corner stood up ponderously. "Yes, Sensei," he rumbled tiredly, following after the old man.

"Magic item hunt?" Jackie's niece Jade, a young Chinese girl in a soft orange hoodie and baggy jeans, said with an excited grin. "Sweet! Count me in!"

"No, Jade," Jackie said sternly. "You have school. Besides, it sounds like only one of these—err—Rainbow Monkey Crystals is here in our world, yes? Once the location spell is complete, it shouldn't take long to find it, and then our guests will be leaving." Jackie smiled at the four teens. "Until then, please, welcome. You'll be our guests."

"At a secret government facility decorated to look like an old Chinese junk shop?" Ron asked. "I mean, it's not the weirdest digs we've had, but—"

"Thank you," Kim said, elbowing Ron. "We appreciate it."

"You guys must have some awesome stories," Jade said. "Like, why are these chicks purple and blue? And what's with the funky hair colors? Oh! Are you anime? You so look anime."

Twilight groaned. "Seriously, why is it every new world we go to, people are so hung up on me being purple?"

"Jaaaaade," Jackie said, pinching the bridge of his nose. "Leave the purple girl alone..."

Sonata Secret Base

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Jackie, Jade, and their guests assembled for breakfast in the Section 13 cafeteria, along with Viper, who had decided to stick around out of curiosity. As Ron salted and peppered his fluffy scrambled eggs, a tiny pink shape scampered onto the table, making noises of interest and hunger.

"He-hey, Rufus!" Ron said cheerfully, wadding up a bit of scrambled egg and toast and offering it to the naked mole rat, who accepted it gratefully.

Kim blinked. "Where's he been all this time? I haven't seen him since we left Equestria!"

"In my backpack," Sonata said indifferently. "I had a whole stash of granola bars back there." She wrinkled her nose. "Had a whole stash."

"Eheheh, yummy?" Rufus chittered sheepishly.

"Oh, yeah, little dude digs granola," Ron said. "Almost as much as he digs Bueno Nacho!"

"You keep a naked mole rat for a pet?" Jackie asked curiously. "I was not aware they could be domesticated."

"Heh, yeah, Rufus is one of a kind, y'know?" Ron said. "A one of a kind pet for a one of a kind guy."

"I'll vouch for that," Kim said with a wry grin. "So, you and your niece just...live in a secret government facility."

"Unfortunately," Jackie said. "I must be the only archaeologist in the world who never gets to do any real archaeology. No, my time is spent fighting criminals and demons and evil sorcerers and recovering dangerous magic artifacts."

"And kicking major butt!" Jade added. "Nobody can kick butt like Jackie."

"Yes, but there is more to life than kicking butt, Jade," Jackie said patiently. "I could actually do with much less kicking butt in my life."

"Eh, not much you can do about it," Kim said indifferently. "I mean, there's always gonna be butt that needs kicking, somebody's gotta kick it, you know?" She sipped her orange juice. "Take my advice, just have fun with it. Think less about how you'd rather be doing anything else and more about how awesome it is that you can do impossible things and still go home and chill after!"

"I like her!" Jade said cheerfully.

"Hmm..." Jackie pursed his lips. "I...guess there's a certain logic to that philosophy?"

"Trust me, it's less stressful than freaking out every time you're hip-deep in supervillains and death traps," Kim said. "Now popping a zit on date night? That's stressful. Stopping evil villains and their dastardly schemes? No big!"

Viper laughed. "I'm with Jade, this girl's a great role model!"

Jackie tilted his head. "You are a teenager. How much experience with fighting evil could you possibly have?"

"Eighty-seven successful missions and counting," Ron said. "Although some of those were just one really long mission that had...I guess you could say a bunch of mini-missions?"

Kim gasped, fluttering her eyelashes. "You're keeping count? Aww, that's so sweet!"

"Yeah, well, it's a thing I do," Ron said bashfully.

Jackie whistled, blinking rapidly. "When do you find time for school?"

"Oh, I have plenty of time for school, homework, hanging out with Ron, then there's cheerleading practice, babysitting, mall time with Monique..." Kim shrugged. "Saving the world's more or less a weekend thing, usually."

"And she knows kung fu," Viper pointed out. "I mean, she put down as many culebra as we did, Jackie."

Jackie massaged his temples. "Stop, please," he implored. "You are giving Jade ideas. Bad ideas."

"You call bad ideas, I call good ideas," Jade said cheekily. "I think I just found a new big sister!"

Before anybody could say anything else, Uncle and Tohru burst into the cafeteria. "Uncle has located Monkey Crystal!" Uncle announced sharply, adjusting his glasses.

Everyone looked up with interest. "Where is it?" Jade asked excitedly. "Is it someplace cool? Are there gonna be monkey ninjas guarding it?"

"Pfft, monkey ninjas," Viper snorted.

"Hey. Monkey ninjas are serious business," Ron said, shuddering.

"Wait, seriously?" Viper asked, raising an eyebrow.

"We...have this one nemesis, he does have monkey ninjas," Kim said. "Anyway, Uncle, you were saying?"

"Atchaa," Uncle grumbled, pinching the bridge of his nose. "Coffee first, Uncle pulled all nighter."

"Here, Sensei," Tohru said, handing Uncle a steaming styrofoam cup. Uncle took it and sipped it, grimacing.

"Captain Black needs to buy better beans," Uncle grumbled. "Section 13 coffee tastes like back end of warthog. Anyway, as Uncle was saying, Monkey Crystal is in..."

* * * * *

The silence of a mid-sized southern California town's parking lot was broken by the sudden appearance of a phone booth in the middle of a handicapped parking space. The doors opened, and an assortment of mismatched people poured out, all dressed in outfits from different periods in history, led by two guys in their early twenties, both dressed in slacker attire. One had a shaggy mop of black hair; the other had a curly mop of blonde hair.

"Attention, historic dudes!" the dark-haired one said. "Welcome to picturesque San Dimas, California, in the year...uh...NOW!"

"The next phone booth to the past leaves in one hour," the blonde said. "Enjoy your stay, and have an excellent time here in the most righteous future that is today!"

Sonata Valley Girl

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"Man, it's so weird how we keep coming to worlds that are so much like ours, but aren't," Ron commented. "I mean, first we had the Earth that had Tokyo and France but no Middleton, and now we're in San Francisco, about to head down to Los Angeles, but still no Middleton!"

"And yet Hollywood will probably be just as gross and phony here as it is back home," Kim remarked.

"Ew, CGI, uh-uh," Rufus chittered, pulling a face.

"What, you don't like movies?" Jade asked curiously as she helped pack Jackie's bag for the mission.

"Oh, we love movies and TV and stuff," Ron said. "We just don't love dealing with Hollywood types. We've had...experiences."

"Yeah. The business end of Hollywood? The actual movie stars? They can stay in their own little world," Kim said. "We'll stick to watching them be fake people on the screen, because the fake people they are on the screen are way more fun than the fake people they are in real life."

"Yikes," Jade said, eyes wide.

"Well, we are not going to Hollywood this time," Jackie said as he walked in. "Where we are going is east of Hollywood, out in the suburbs." He patted Jade on the head. "San Dimas is a nice, quiet little town where nothing ever happens. We'll be in and out with no fuss and right back on the plane. This will be easy. And boring."

Jade folded her arms and pouted, blowing on her bangs. "Tch."

"We leave in twenty minutes," Jackie said. "Get everybody together." He shouldered his bag and left the room again.

"Well, I could do with an easy grab and go," Ron said cheerfully. "I mean, after what we've been through lately, I could use a mission where nothing exciting happens. Ooh, maybe we'll have time to grab Mexican food!"

"Mmm, tacos, yum," Rufus agreed.

Kim raised an eyebrow. "In California, Ron?" she asked. "Where good food goes to die?"

"HEY!" Jade cried. "What's that supposed to mean? And hello, me and my family live in San Francisco!"

Kim winced. "Sorry," she said. "We've had some...let's just say weird experiences with restaurants in California."

Jade frowned at them, but sighed and shrugged. "Yeah yeah, we've got that rep for a reason, I get it," she agreed sourly. "But it's mostly pizza and fusion cuisine that go wrong here. Regular food is just, y'know, regular food." She tilted her head. "Or maybe it's just worse where you guys come from, since you're from some other dimension that has an Earth that's not the same as ours?"

"That...could be, yeah," Kim said. "Just...don't mind us if we say anything weird or offensive, okay? This whole multiple Earths thing is still kinda new to us."

Jade snorted. "Yeah, it's cool," she said.

* * * * *

Not many malls have thrift stores. Malls, after all, are bastions of excess. People go to the mall to buy overpriced name-brand retail goods or get the hottest new toy everyone has to have that all the other stores are out of.

San Dimas Mall just happened to have a thrift store, Kahoʻolawe Curios, which uniquely dealt in second-hand merchandise acquired (allegedly) in Hawaii, the owner's home state and ethnic background. The large, boisterous Hawaiian man who owned and ran the shop would happily regale any visitors with tales of his beloved home state and all the wonderful things his store had which were lovingly hand-delivered from the Islands to California so that "others may delight in the culture of the Islands without ever leaving home".

Everybody in town knew he was really a half-Samoan named Dave from Indiana who'd never set foot in Hawaii in his life, but nobody called him on it because he was a fun, interesting guy. Some of the locals even occasionally bought some of his dubious crap of questionable origin and value simply because his outrageous tales were worth the price on their own.

Dave had just opened his shop for the day when a colorful group of obvious out-of-towners entered. In recent years, San Dimas had seen its share of colorful groups of out-of-towners—the rumor going around was that there was some sort of roving historical cosplay convention that passed through town every so often, usually creating total chaos at the mall. The first two times, there had been multiple arrests; after that, the police decided the whole thing was just local color and did their best to keep order until the crazed cosplayers went away.

The group currently combing through the junk shop were...very eclectic. There was an effeminate Chinese soldier in full armor from a long-forgotten time, a pirate in a wine-colored longcoat and sailcloth breeches with long, matted hair and a mouth full of bad teeth, a stocky Arabian fellow in white silks and a fine turban with a thick, bushy grey beard and shrewd eyes...and Captain Kirk.

No, seriously. Captain Kirk. William Shatner. Like he'd walked right off the Paramount lot in the sixties.

Dave decided to make his opening pitch regardless of how bizarre his customers seemed. "Aloha, folks! Welcome to Kahoʻolawe Curios, your little taste of de islands in de greater Los Angeles area! If you see anything you wanna know more about, let dis kahuna know, I tell you all de good stuff!"

Shatner rolled his eyes. "Please, you're a bigger ham than I am." He looked around with interest. "Do people actually buy this junk?"

"They do indeed. And...err...are you really—"

"William Shatner, star of stage and television? Yes, yes I am. Is this really the year—"

The Arabian fellow suddenly went off in a loud string of Arabic, excitedly waving around a creepy-looking marionette of a monkey man. He banged it on the counter, gesticulating wildly at it and pulling an old tarnished lamp out of his sash.

"I think the bloke wants to barter, mate," the pirate said dispassionately as he studied a model of a volcano.

The Chinese warrior stepped forward suddenly, shouting loudly and colorfully and waving his arms. Everyone turned; in the confusion, the Arabian fellow's grip slipped on the puppet. He caught it by the leg...

In a bright flash of light, the Arabian merchant became a wooden puppet, the wooden puppet became a laughing, grinning monkey man, Dave, Bill, and the pirate became very confused, and one ancient Chinese warrior sighed wearily. "Aiyah."

* * * * *

"The tracker says it's this way...five miles," Twilight reported from the shotgun seat in the rental van.

The group searching for the Crystal was only supposed to be the world-hoppers, Jackie, Uncle, and Viper.

Somehow, the only one really surprised that Jade was with them when the plane landed was Jackie.

"Seriously, dude?" Ron had asked at Jackie's reaction. "Even I saw it coming a mile away."

"Yeah, my cousin Joss pulled exactly the same thing," Kim had said with a roll of her eyes.

"Looks like we're headed for the local mall," Viper mused as they drove through San Dimas.

"What would rare magical artifact be doing at shopping mall?" Uncle wondered.

"More importantly, why are there so many police cars headed the same way we're going?" Kim wondered. "That was the third one I've seen."

"There goes another," Ron pointed out.

"I hear an ambulance coming up fast," Viper added as the van joined the rest of the traffic in making way for the emergency vehicles.

Everyone looked at each other, eyes wide.

"Bad day," Jackie muttered.

* * * * *

"Well well well welly-well-well," the Monkey King said as he looked around at the collection of oddballs. "A-LOOOOOO-HA!" He twirled his staff. "Man, is it good to stretch my legs and feel the warm tropical breeze of—" He paused, then looked at Dave. "Err, what part of Hawaii are we on again?"

"Uhh...the Greater Los Angeles Area part?" Dave said, forgetting to use his fake Hawaiian accent.

The Monkey King blinked. "Really? Huh." He shrugged. "It's so good to be back in sunny Southern California! Where I've...never been before. Now, I've been to Northern California—" In a whirl and blur of magic, his green and grey outfit changed to a gaudy neon orange poet shirt and loose lemon yellow breeches with a lime green ascot, a raspberry beret, and cheap plastic sunglasses with pink flamingo frames. "Hated it," he said in a stereotypical homosexual voice, before reverting to his normal appearance. His gaze swept over the room and landed on the Chinese soldier. "Ah, you look like somebody who speaks my language!" Switching to Chinese, he leaned in close and asked in a sinister tone, "I'm looking for a man named Jackie Chan and his bratty niece. I have a score to settle with them. Do you know them?"

The soldier stared back at him defiantly. "I know of you, Sun Wukong. I know you are dangerous and not to be trusted. I do not know what madness you are up to, but I will not let you—"

"Bored now," the Monkey King said, pointing his staff at the soldier and yawning. A giant toilet appeared underneath the soldier and flushed. With a surprised yell, the soldier went down the hoooooooole...

* * * * *

The Chan Clan and Team Possible had just parked and gotten out of the van when a swirling hole opened up over their heads, dumping gallons of water and a soaking wet Chinese soldier on them. "What the—" Jackie spluttered, sitting up and coughing water.

"And now we know," Ron said in a bored tone, his wet bangs falling across his eyes.

"Okay, even by my standards that was random," Kim said, blinking.

"Hey, check it out," Jade said. "Living history lesson at twelve o'clock."

Jackie stared at the soldier, who was staring at him in surprise even as he tried to rid himself of some excess water.

Or rather, herself. The wet silk of her uniform left absolutely no confusion as to the soldier's true gender.

"You...you are Hua Mulan," Jackie said in a wondering tone.

"Whoa. The original Chinese tomboy," Jade said, eyes wide.

Hua Mulan looked between them. "You...know me?" she asked.

"You're a legend," Jade replied in Chinese. "Like, really a legend."

"You can speak her dialect?" Jackie asked.

"Barely," Jade said.

"Ask her what she is doing here—"

Sonata began singing. A haze spread over the entire group.

"Ask her yourself," Sonata said when she fell silent.

Jackie blinked. "Wh-what was—"

Mulan stared at Sonata. "What manner of spirit are you?"

"Oh, sweet, she can speak English now!" Jade said.

"Eh, sort of," Kim said. "It's a translation spell."

"Incredible," Mulan said. She shook her head and turned to face Jackie. "This place is not safe. A dangerous spirit has been set free."

"Of course it has," Ron groaned. "Because, y'know, nothing we ever do is easy."

"What sort of spirit?" Jackie wondered. "And what are you even doing in California in this time?"

"I was brought here by two strange young men with a magic box," Mulan said. "I did not understand anything they were saying, but I get the impression they are in the habit of abducting people from different times and places and bringing them to this..." She waved a hand absently. "Place. I was with a very strange group exploring some sort of shop when another such as myself released Sun Wukong."

"THE MONKEY KING?!" Ron screamed. "AGAIN WITH MONKEYS! IT'S ALWAYS MONKEYS!"

"Oh no. Not him. Anything but him," Jackie groaned, burying his face in his hands.

"Yeah, we've had more than enough of his monkeyshines," Jade muttered.

Mulan's brow furrowed. "Forgive me, but...would you happen to be Jackie Chan? And his...'bratty niece'?"

"Yes on both counts," Jackie said. "How did you know?"

"Because Sun Wukong is looking for you," Mulan said.

Jackie sighed tiredly. "Bad day..."

Sonata the Llama

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"Hmm," the Monkey King droned, rubbing his hairy chin as he held up the battered old lamp. "To rub or not to rub..."

"Uhh...if there's a genie in that lamp? Like, don't rub it, monkey dude," Dave said. "Things are weird enough around here already."

"Oh, I dunno," Bill Shatner said. "I think you should rub it. You want those three wishes, right?"

"Dude! I mean, Mr. Shatner, Captain Kirk, uh, sir! Don't give him ideas—"

"Hmm, the ham has a point," the Monkey King said, flicking the lamp away. "I hate it when people try to trick a trickster."

"Well, it was worth a shot," Bill said with a pained grimace.

"I don't get what just happened," the pirate said.

"The genie in the lamp," Bill said. "In all the stories, the genie is a trickster. He always interprets your wishes in some way that'll backfire on you."

"Oh yeah, that's right," Dave said, eyes wide.

"And it was a good try, really it was," the Monkey King said. In a flash of magic, he was wearing a Star Trek costume identical to Shatner's. In a mockery of his voice, he said, "Captain's Log." He pointed his staff at Shatner...

A massive redwood log encased Shatner. Shatner rolled his eyes. "Ha ha," he said. "Very funny."

"Hey, at least it was a wooden log," the Monkey King said. "I could've stuck you inside a giant tur—"

"MONKEY KING!"

The doors burst open. Jackie Chan, Jade Chan, Hua Mulan, and entourage stood in the entrance.

The Monkey King's eyes narrowed. "Chan," he said. "Well, well. Just the chump this chimp wants to chomp. Put 'em up, champ!" In a flash, his outfit changed again, this time to boxing trunks and gloves. He threw a punch, and one of his gloves fired out on a spring, straight at Jackie. Jackie dodged, punching the glove so that it went off course and slammed into the door frame behind him.

"Oh god, is this one of those guys?" Ron moaned. "You know, reality warpers? Turns up into down, left into right, Coke into tap water?"

"He is a spirit of great mischief," Hua Mulan said. "It is said he so thoroughly annoyed the gods with his infantile pranks he was transformed into a wooden puppet—"

"Old news," the Monkey King said, waving his staff at Mulan. In an instant, she aged dramatically, becoming a wizened, shriveled old lady with sagging skin, weighted down by silk and armor her ancient bones would no longer support.

"Oh, that is SO not right," Kim said. "Are you okay?"

"I...now understand my grandmother's complaints," Mulan wheezed. "But do not worry about me. Sun Wukong must be stopped!"

"Stopped? Stopped?! But I'm just getting started!" With another wave of his staff, Jackie, Viper, and Jade all underwent a costume change: Jade's outfit changed into a yellow T-shirt over a white long-sleeved undershirt, baggy blue jeans, and blue and white sneakers, Viper's casual attire was replaced by a black V-neck top, a short white jacket, a pink skirt, white socks, and pink hi-tops, and Jackie's khakis and blue shirt changed into dark grey cargo shorts, a yellow polo shirt, a mauve sweater vest, white socks, and brown loafers. A heavy backpack appeared on his back.

Ron frowned, tilting his head. "I don't get it," he said.

"Eh, you will one day," the Monkey King said. "But something's missing...ah! I know!" He pointed his staff at Sonata, who had time to blink comically before she turned into a big, shaggy blue llama.

Sonata the Llama blinked twice, then bleated blankly.

"How's that for a llama incident?" the Monkey King asked in his best Groucho Marx voice, complete with glasses, mustache, eyebrows, and cigar.

"WHY JACKIE LEAVE UNCLE BEHIND?" Uncle roared sharply from outside the shop. "Uncle too old to spend last twenty minutes smelling Ieyasu Tokugawa's farts! ONE MORE THING! Need to fix history! Too many historical figures wandering around in present time very dangerous! ONE MORE THING! What are you weariiiiiiiiiing?"

"Wow, who's this old fossil?" the Monkey King, now back in his normal garb, asked.

"Old fossil is powerful chi wizard, trickster monkey! One more thing! Uncle is going to put you back in puppet body, undo all your shenanigans!"

"Oh yeah? I'd love to see you try it," the Monkey King said derisively, scratching under his arm.

Uncle raised an eyebrow and pulled a dried salamander out of his pocket. "Yu Mo Gui Gwai Fai Di Zao, Yu Mo Gui Gwai Fai Di Zao, Yu Mo Gui Gwai Fai Di Zao..."

"Oh no, we're not doing THIS again," the Monkey King snarled, leaping at Uncle. "First that dude in the black dress did a magic whammy on me, now some shriveled up old baboon? Nuh-uh. NO WAY! I DON'T THINK SO! I—"

"Hey, monkey brains," Kim said suddenly. She grabbed the Monkey King's right paw, shoved the leg of the Arab merchant puppet in it, curled the Monkey King's paw into a fist, and gave a sharp yank before throwing him across the room.

"Ah, fu—" the Monkey King got out before the magic surrounded him, returning him to a wooden puppet, which clattered across the floor. The Arab trader expanded into his full, stout size and landed with a thud on his rump.

All around the room, the effects of the Monkey King's magic wore off, returning everything to normal. "Well, that was quick," Jade said.

"Excellent strategy," Mulan said. "The chi wizard's diversion gave this young warrior just the opening she needed to defeat Sun Wukong. I am impressed."

"Xie xie," Kim said, bowing. "Now, we just need to find that Monkey Crystal—"

"OKAY, LISTEN UP, HISTORIC DUDES!"

A youth in slacker garb with dark, shaggy hair ambled into the shop, clapping his hands together. "Time to go, dudes! Express shuttle back to the past leaves in two minutes! Come on Chinese dude...ette? Whoa. Oh, pirate dude, Arab dude, Captain Kirk, come on, we're going..."

Mulan turned and bowed to the Chans and their companions. "It was an honor meeting you," she said.

"You as well," Jackie said, returning the bow.

"Stay cool!" Jade added, waving.

"Err, yes, well, it is winter, or was...I believe the weather will be cool for some ti—"

"It's a modern expression," Bill interrupted as he guided Mulan out of the shop. "Just...don't worry about it. So, you're a girl, huh? Had me fooled..."

Once the shop was clear of time-displaced persons, Dave let out a huge sigh of relief. "Wow. Dudes. Thank you so much. That monkey dude..." He picked the puppet up carefully and frowned at it. "Yeah, I'm so puttin' this guy in the wood chipper out back on my break," he decided. "So! Let me make it up to you. Anything in the shop, on the house!"

"Sweet!" Jade said.

"Actually, we were wondering if you'd seen any crystals resembling this," Kim asked, pulling the Blue Five-Banana Crystal out of her satchel.

Dave scratched his head. "Yeah, now that you mention it, I do have this like, emerald or jade piece, it's got a bunch of gold bananas in it. Tried to appraise it, nobody could figure out how much it was worth." He shuffled over to one of his display cases. "Now where did I put...oh no." He stared at an empty cubby in his display case, a dark frown on his face. "That crystal was here just this morning," he rumbled.

"I'm picking it up on my tracker," Twilight said. "It's moving...it's headed for the parking lot! It—" She blinked, smacked her tracker a couple of times, then fiddled with the instrumentation. Her face drained of color. "It's gone," she said tonelessly. "It just...it just vanished."

Jade groaned, smacking her face with an open palm. "Oh, man! One of those guys from the past must've stolen it when nobody was looking!"

Sonata blinked. "So...what, now we've gotta chase the crystal into this world's past?"

Ron groaned heavily. "Bad day," he said.

"You said it," Jackie agreed with a sigh.

Sonata Excellent Adventure

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Jade groaned, smacking her face with an open palm. "Oh, man! One of those guys from the past must've stolen it when nobody was looking!"

Sonata blinked. "So...what, now we've gotta chase the crystal into this world's past?"

Ron groaned heavily. "Bad day," he said.

"You said it," Jackie agreed with a sigh.

"Now hold on," Kim said, holding up a hand. "Think for a minute, guys." She began pacing. "As far as we know, these Monkey Crystals can't be destroyed. So if somebody from the past stole it from this shop, then went back to their own time—"

"All that means is that it'll turn up somewhere else in this time," Viper finished, nodding. "Good thinking, Red!"

"Oh. Yeah. That makes sense," Jade said, blinking. "Darn. That's a shame, I was kinda hoping we'd get to do some time travel."

"TIME TRAVEL VERY DANGEROUS!" Uncle thundered. "You no mess with flow of time while Uncle is around!"

"So what we need to do," Jackie reasoned, "is figure out which one of them stole the crystal, then begin searching for it in areas of the world where they were likely to have been active."

"Well, I know it wasn't Mr. Shatner," Dave said. "I mean, he's Captain Kirk. What would Captain Kirk want with a stolen trinket from a junk shop?"

"I bet it was the pirate," Jade said. "He looked shifty enough."

"It might've been the Arab," Viper pointed out. "He seemed like the type to go for a five-finger discount."

"Wow, that's not racist or anything," Kim muttered. "It could have been Hua Mulan," she added. "Just because she's a great historical hero doesn't mean she didn't pocket the Crystal. She might've thought she was doing the world a favor hiding it from the Monkey King or something, or mistaken it for some ancient artifact we don't even know about."

"So..." Jackie mused, "if it is not somewhere in Los Angeles, it is likely to be somewhere pirates were active, somewhere in China, or somewhere in the Middle East." He sighed. "This is going to take a very long time."

"We must do RESEAAAAAAAAARCH!" Uncle declared.

"Not me," Ron said. "Ron must get BURRIIIIIIIIIIIIITO! You in, Rufus?"

"Uh-huh, oh yeah, burrito, yum."

"I could eat," Viper put in.

"I guess we're headed back to Section 13 then," Jackie said. He paused, then added, "After we stop for Mexican food."

* * * * *

By the next afternoon, Uncle, Tohru, Jackie, Kim, and Twilight had finished researching, and called the team together with long faces.

"Well, we have some leads," Kim said. "The problem is, we have too many leads."

Ron sighed. "That figures."

"Our first lead is the Eye of Calypso," Twilight said. "A cursed gem said to have been found among the wreckage of a ship once sailing under the colors of a pirate named Bartholomew Roberts."

"Black Bart?" Jade asked excitedly. "You mean that pirate dude from the shop was Black Bart?!"

"More likely one of his captains," Viper said. "Black Bart had a lot of ships under his flag."

"According to this legend," Twilight continued, "the survivors of Roberts' final battle at sea claim the Eye of Calypso was brought aboard ship two days before the HMS Swallow engaged Roberts' fleet in the Battle of Cape Lopez."

"Every sailor who carried it after and every merchant it was ever sold to had bad luck and suffered some horrible fate," Kim put in. "They all traced its bad luck back to this pirate's death, so it's picked up something of a bad reputation."

"No kidding," Jade said. "So where is it now?"

Kim grimaced. "Greenwich," she said. "Evidently it's part of an exhibit aboard a ship that's been converted into a museum attraction."

"Arr, then it be a-piratin' we be goin'!" Jade said. "Where be me eyepatch, matey?"

Jackie facepalmed. "Jaaaaaaaade..."

"Oooh, nice pirate lingo!" Ron said.

"Shiver me timbers!" Rufus agreed.

"Nobody's shivering anybody's timbers!" Kim snapped. "We don't even know if this Eye of Calypso is the thing we're looking for yet! We've still got other leads to follow!"

"Okay, so...what're we doing, then?" Ron asked.

"We'll go to Greenwich and scope it out," Viper said. "Shouldn't need the full team for this one, just me and Red. If it's the thing, we'll break in after dark and snatch it."

"VIPER!" Jackie howled.

"What?" Viper complained. "Our new friends need it to save the world, right? It doesn't belong here. It shouldn't be part of history in the first place!"

Jackie frowned. "But stealing is—"

"Totally necessary and justified in this case," Kim said. "I hate doing it, it's not cool, but sometimes, you gotta do what you gotta do."

"No fair," Jade pouted. "I wanna go on the pirate adventure."

"Jade needed for second lead," Uncle said. "Collector in Hong Kong showing heirloom called Monkey's Jealous Eye. Said to be beautiful green gem with gold inside. Has not been seen outside of owner's family for generations. Owner claims to be descendant of Hua Mulan. You will go with Uncle to Hong Kong to investigate."

"Aww," Jade pouted.

"Look on the bright side," Jackie said cheerfully. "You will have a chance to visit your parents."

Jade shrugged. "I guess."

Ron blinked. "Huh? I thought you and Viper were her parents."

Jackie's eyes bugged out. Viper raised an eyebrow. "Do I really look old enough to have a kid Jade's age?"

Ron shrugged. "I'unno."

Jackie coughed. "Err, no. Jade is my niece. Her parents sent her to live with me here in America for...reasons."

"Third lead," Uncle continued, "is artifact called Luck of the Oasis. Arab traders lusted after it for many years, said to bring prosperity to any man who possessed it. According to research, it is either in Iran or Turkey. Cannot narrow it down any more than that." He looked around the table. "Jackie, Tohru, you will take ropey-face boy and go to Middle East to search."

"Ropey-face boy?" Ron echoed, a whine in his voice.

"Your face is fine, Ron," Kim said. "I mean, yeah, it's kinda ropey, but you've got your dad's genes, what're you gonna do?"

"Ouch!" Jade said.

Ron sighed. "Fair enough."

"What about me and Twilight?" Sonata asked.

"The two of you are staying here at Section 13," Jackie said. "Sorry, but your strange skin color is likely to draw too much attention."

"Not to mention you're both attractive teenage girls," Viper added. "There are a lot of people out there, especially in some of the more dangerous parts of the world, who'd love to kidnap you and force you into—" She glanced at Jade, then coughed. "Well, let's just say it isn't safe for young girls."

Jade rolled her eyes. "I know what sex slavery is, Viper. And yeah, I agree. You girls would totally be targets for that kind of thing."

Jackie did a double-take at Jade. "How—what—" he spluttered. "Why does a child your age know about sex slavery?!"

Jade stared at him as though he were an idiot. "Uhh, because I'm also the kind of girl who'd be a target for that kind of thing in some parts of the world? Why do you think my folks are so cool with me learning kung fu?"

Jackie turned green. "Sorry I asked," he muttered.

"Wow," Kim said, blinking. "I didn't even know what sex was until I was fourteen."

"I, uhh...yeah, I think staying in this heavily fortified secret military base and letting the rest of you handle the hard work this time is a really good idea," Twilight said, eyes wide behind her glasses.

"Alright!" Kim said loudly and brightly, clapping her hands together briskly. "I suggest we all get rested up and packed for our missions! I imagine we'll be leaving first thing in the morning?"

"Will leave as soon as arrangements can be made," Uncle agreed.

"Actually, if Kim's got a mission pack ready, the two of us can leave right now," Viper said. "I've always got a private charter ready to go at a moment's notice."

Everyone stared at her. "Do I even want to know?" Jackie asked.

Viper shrugged. "Just because I've gone straight doesn't mean I'm not ready for anything," she said. "What do you say, Kim? Wanna get going?"

"Please and thank you!" Kim said. She gave Ron a peck on the cheek. "Be careful, ropey boy."

"Yeah yeah," Ron said, cheeks heating up. "Good luck with your pirate adventure."

As Kim and Viper left, Jackie looked around the table. "Everyone else, rest up. We leave tomorrow."

Sonata Bogus Journey

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Kim and Viper joined the queue walking up the gangplank into the old, weatherbeaten wooden sloop. The masts, their sails furled, creaked in the wind as the ship's hull groaned with the light motion of the waves. Overhead, a black flag fluttered in the wind, a ratty old skull and crossbones symbol adorned on its face.

"Yo-ho, hoist the colors," Viper quipped.

"Is this thing safe to go aboard?" Kim wondered. "I mean, it looks like it's hundreds of years old."

"Oh, it's hundreds of years old alright," Viper said. "But it's pretty well maintained. It could probably even still make sail." She raised an eyebrow. "You don't get seasick, do you?"

Kim scoffed. "Please," she said. "I've been on lots of boats. Fast boats, slow boats, speedboats, rowboats, submarines. I'm just not a fan of ancient deathtraps."

Viper chuckled. "Fair enough."

When they reached the top of the ramp, they found visitors milling around in loose groups on the deck. An announcement came over the loudspeakers hanging from the masts: //Attention visitors! The next tours will begin in twenty minutes. The lower decks exhibits are closed for the next hour due to electrical maintenance. In the meantime, please enjoy the captain's cabin and poop deck exhibits, and feel free to stop by the gift shop located on the main deck. Thank you for your patience!//

"Huh," Viper said. Nudging Kim, she said, "Wanna go up on the poop deck? I bet there's some good poop up there."

Kim groaned. "Must everyone?"

"Hey, it's hard to resist."

For the next hour, Kim and Viper wandered the decks aimlessly, meandering among the tourists. As announcements came over the loudspeakers with updates on the delays, there was an increase in the level of irritated grumbling from the visitors, and a number of museum patrons were disembarking. As they made their third round of the poop deck, whose main exhibit was a "History of Piracy" diorama, another announcement came over the speakers:

//We apologize for the continued delays. We will be reopening all exhibits in approximately thirty minutes. To apologize for the delay, all gift shop merchandise is half off for the rest of the day.//

Kim frowned. "Wonder what's going on?"

Viper shrugged. "Rigging an old sloop like this for modern conveniences is a delicate operation."

"So," Kim said slowly. "Viper. Got a real name?"

Viper arched an eyebrow.

"Oh, come on," Kim said. "Just between us girls. Your secret's safe with me."

Viper kept her eyebrow raised for a long moment, then pursed her lips and rolled her eyes. "Carmen," she said.

"Cool."

Almost an hour later, the museum finally opened the lower deck exhibits. Kim and Viper joined the guided tour, which passed through cabins full of antiques such as swords, pistols, compasses, spyglasses, and letters of marque. Forty minutes into the tour, they were introduced to the "Eye of Calypso".

Both women let out a sigh as they stared at what was clearly an emerald with a chunk of pyrite embedded in it. "Well, scratch this one off the list," Kim said. "So, wanna tool around London a bit before we head back, or catch up with one of the other gro—"

The lights fizzled out, pitching the cabin in eerie darkness, as it was a cloudy day and very little light seeped in through the ancient, grimy portholes.

"Wonderful," Viper said.

"Ladies and gentlemen, please remain calm!" the tour guide called out. "Apparently we didn't have those problems with the lights quite sorted out, but it should only be a moment—"

The ship pitched. A loud, groaning creak stirred through the hull, shuddering up from the keel through the decks. Over the confused whispers and hushed conversation, Kim could just barely hear a great chain clinking and rattling.

The ship pitched again. The groaning intensified.

"Uhh..." Viper grabbed Kim's sleeve and tugged on it, then pointed outside. "Please tell me I'm imagining things."

The panic in the cabin grew louder. A few lights came back on. A loudspeaker crackled.

//Ladies And Gentlemen.//

The voice was youthful, male, and heavily accented.

//Welcome aboard the maiden, and final, voyage of the S.S. Moonlight Magician. Please remain calm and leave the steering to your humble captain. We'll be sailing out into the bay until midnight, then returning. Nobody's going to be hurt. For your own safety, it's advised you remain aboard the ship until we make port.//

In the dim light, Kim and Viper looked at each other, shared a nod, and pelted down the corridor and up the stairs. As they emerged above decks, they looked around them and gasped.

The sails were unfurled. Land was receding. The ship's original Jolly Roger had been lowered, and a new flag flew in its place:

Sonata Phantom Thief

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Kim and Viper stared up at the caricature flag which had replaced the ship's original Jolly Roger. "What the heck?" Kim wondered.

Viper groaned, pinching the bridge of her nose. "Ugh," she muttered. "Phantom thieves. I hate these guys."

"Phantom thieves?" Kim asked.

Viper looked around, then pulled Kim aside. Most everyone on deck was either pointing at the flag, leaning on the railing and yelling for help, or grouped together discussing the "event", believing it to be a staged performance. "Okay, you know how I mentioned I used to be a catburglar?" At Kim's nod, Viper went on, "Well, phantom thieves are the opposite of catburglars. Catburglars sneak into a place in the dead of night under the cover of silence, steal what they want, and slip out, and if you're doing your job right, nobody ever knows you were there. Well, except for things being missing, I mean. Some catburglars leave a calling card or have a signature style, but most do everything they can to avoid leaving any kind of 'signature' behind."

Kim nodded. "With you so far..."

"Phantom thieves want you to know they were there," Viper continued. "They send out an advance notice of their heist. They make big, flashy entrances. They crave the spotlight. And they absolutely love stealing something right out from under your nose, with you watching, and getting away with it."

"That sounds...crazy annoying," Kim said.

"The really eccentric ones do the whole theatrical costumes and props thing," Viper added. "I've never encountered one in person, but I hear they're real—"

A huge commotion erupted all around them. They followed the gazes and excited pointing of the trapped museum patrons to the mizzenmast, where a tall, lanky figure dressed all in white stood. Kim pulled a set of compact spy binoculars from her pocket to get a closer look.

He was thin, almost impossibly so. He wore an all-white tuxedo with a blue dress shirt and a red tie, a flowing white opera cape, and a tall white top hat with a blue band. He wore a monocle over his right eye, with a triangular charm dangling from a long chain.

"Oddballs," Viper finished, groaning, as she folded her own spynoculars away.

"And I thought I'd dealt with some crazy villains," Kim said. "This guy looks like a total whacko. Or a cheesy magician that escaped from a birthday party."

"Well, he's definitely a magician," Viper muttered. "He managed to steal and sail an ancient pirate ship crowded with museum staff and patrons, with nobody noticing anything was amiss until it was too...late..." She trailed off. "Oh no."

"What's up?" Kim asked.

Viper shook her head. "White suit, magician motif, known for huge, dramatic illusions..." She looked up at the calmly perched figure in white again. "I've heard of this guy. We can't let our guards down for even a second."

"That bad, huh?"

"He's been on Interpol's hit list longer than I have," Viper said. "ICPO International Criminal Number 1412, known colloquially in his native Japan as..."

The phantom thief on the mast abruptly vanished in a puff of smoke. Dozens of playing cards fluttered down like rain.

"Kaitou Kid," Viper finished.

* * * * *

Back at Section 13, a buzz of activity roused everyone before sunrise.

"Atchaa," Uncle complained. "Is five in the morning! We have to be at airport at nine! Why you wake Uncle before long flight?"

"What's going on?" Jackie asked sleepily.

"Trouble in England," Captain Black said brusquely. "That museum ship your friends went to visit? It's been stolen."

Jackie blinked. "Viper stole a museum?!"

"Not Viper," Black said. "Odds are she's still on board with the other museum patrons. We've lost contact. The ship's been taken out into open water by a Japanese phantom thief who recently reappeared after a long hiatus."

"Surely not Kaitou Kid?" Tohru rumbled.

"The same," Black confirmed.

"You've heard of him?"

"Yes," Tohru said, eyes narrowed. "I've had the...pleasure."

Jade, a cup of cocoa in one hand and her hair messy, patted back a yawn. "He stole something from Valmont, huh?"

"Yes," Tohru said. "It was...not a good week for anyone in the Dark Hand."

"Are Viper and Kim in danger?" Jackie asked, wide awake and alarmed. "Do we need to go there as backup?"

"It shouldn't be necessary," Tohru said. "Kaitou Kid is not dangerous. In fact, he's known for going out of his way to avoid hurting anyone. He is simply..." His face twisted into a sour grimace. "Severely frustrating. And impossible to capture."

"Something of an Arsene Lupin wannabe, I take it?" Jackie asked.

"A damned good one," Captain Black said. "He singlehandedly managed to hijack a converted pirate ship right under the noses of twenty agents of Scotland Yard."

Jade whistled. "Whoa."

"And our friends are on board that ship," Jackie said gravely.

* * * * *

The crowd of onlookers watched in awe as Kim Possible flipped from rope to mast to rope, ascending the ship's rigging with ridiculous ease. Once she arrived on the spot where Kaitou Kid had disappeared, she crouched down and surveyed the scene. After a moment of exploring the upper mast, she slid down and dropped to the deck, where Viper was waiting.

"Flashy moves," Viper commented.

"No big," Kim replied absently, holding out a small metal object and a handful of burnt pellets. "I found this stuff up top. Looks like our thief does some serious planning ahead."

"Yeah, that sounds about right," Viper said. "Big heists need lots of tools. Flashy crap guys like this go in for? Need even more tools." She examined the items Kim found. "The smoke pellets are pretty standard fare, but this thing..." She frowned. "Maybe this is where all those cards came from? Speaking of which..." She picked up one of the cards and showed it to Kim. "They all have some kind of code on them."

Kim studied the random jumble of letters, numbers, and mathematical symbols on the card, brow furrowing. "Secret codes aren't really my thing," she said, shaking her head. "I mean, I can give it a go, but I think our time would be better spent trying to find this guy. He can't have gotten off the ship, and he said we'd be out here until midnight." She checked her watch. "That means we've got..." She bit her lip. "Ugh, forgot to set it to English time!"

"Eight hours," Viper said, taking a compact flashlight out of her pocket. "Let's get to work."

"And just what work would that be now, hmm?"

The women turned to see a stocky, square-shouldered man in a charcoal suit standing behind them. His face was haggard and unshaven. He flashed a badge. "Detective Inspector Sutter," he said curtly.

"Viper," Viper said. "Freelance security consultant. You can check with Section 13 in the States for my credentials. We got caught up in all this by chance. I'd be happy to lend a hand."

Sutter frowned. "Best to keep your nose out of police business, miss," he said.

"Oh come on," Viper cajoled. "Catching thieves is my job. Besides, having someone who thinks like a thief on the job can't be a bad thing, right?"

"She's a reformed catburglar," Kim supplied. "And I, well...I have experience dealing with oddball crooks." She shrugged gamely. "We'd love to help. Sooner this guy's bagged, the sooner we can get all these people off this boat, right?"

Sutter scrutinized the both of them, then let out a grunt. "Bad enough we've got that Hakuba kid back at the Yard," he said with a shake of his head. "Alright, but don't get in the way." He gestured and turned, stumping away toward the bowels of the ship. Kim and Viper followed.

"So what's Kid after?" Viper asked.

"Eye of Calypso," Sutter said. "We had everything shut down on the lower decks all day setting up security."

"That 'electrical maintenance'?" Kim asked.

"Yeah, that was us," Sutter said gruffly. "Had to keep the decks clear of anyone other than MPS, Kid's a master of disguise. He could've slipped in and out a dozen times over."

Viper frowned. "Then why not just close the museum for the day?"

"Oh, we tried that already," Sutter said with a heavy sigh. "The original advance notice said he'd try for the gem two days ago. We closed the museum and set all sorts of traps. All we got for our trouble was a second notice. The higher-ups decided it was a hoax, refused to shut down the museum again. Then that Hakuba kid all but said we'd never lure Kid out if we kept shutting it down..." He grumbled something under his breath.

"So you play Kid's game, by Kid's rules," Viper said as they arrived on the deck where the Eye was kept.

Sutter snorted. "Hell of a liberty, isn't it?"

* * * * *

The police, Kim, and Viper prowled the ship for hours, searching for any sign of the thief. The trapped patrons had all been isolated in two areas of the main deck and poop deck. Helicopters continually passed overhead, and a ring of escort ships surrouned the pirate ship, keeping a wary distance with floodlights trained on the rickety old vessel. The overall atmosphere was tense beyond measure, growing worse and worse as the night wore on.

Five minutes to midnight found Kim, Viper, and Sutter gathered in the exhibit room where the Eye of Calypso slept, with officers stationed in each corner of the cabin and at its only exit.

"So, how do you think this is gonna go down?" Kim asked.

Viper shrugged. "You never know with a guy like Kaitou Kid. He could come in through that window, he could use gas on the cops, or he could already be here. He might have even already taken the jewel hours ago and we're guarding a fake."

"Not bloody likely," Sutter said. "I've got the real one in my pocket."

"Really now," Viper said, raising an eyebrow.

The entire ship swayed and creaked suddenly as the anchor was dragged up, the scraping of the chain startling everyone in the room. "And that's my cue," Viper said, spreading her fingers wide and tossing down several small, round balls.

"Wait, what?" Kim began, just as clouds of pinkish-grey gas rose from the floor. The room was quickly filled with gas and smoke; the officers began coughing and hacking as they rushed to put on their masks. Kim felt a mask pressed into her hands and rushed to put it on, coughing as her eyes burned.

A vacuum fan overhead cranked noisily to life, and the smokescreen and gas were sucked up, clearing the room. As the officers recovered, Sutter let out a loud curse, checking his pockets. "The gem!" he bellowed. "She took the gem! After her, you sots!"

Kim's eyes narrowed as she pelted for the open door. Scrambling through the dark corridors and up rickety old stairs as the ship swayed and groaned, she burst out onto the deck, where the officers stationed topside were struggling to keep order. "Keep aside, you lot!" one officer bellowed. "We shall have order!"

Kim spied a flash of pink ascending the rigging and gave chase. Illuminated by spotlights from the helicopters circling above, Viper swung from rope to rope, climbing higher and higher. Growling, Kim pulled out her hair dryer grappling gun and aimed high, wrapping the line around the topmast. She pulled herself up, then cartwheeled down the length of the mast, landing three feet from Viper. "Alright, what's the sitch?" she growled.

Viper smirked, her eyes shadowed by her bangs, and pulled out a large, oddly-shaped gun. Taking aim at Kim's feet, she fired several razor-sharp cards, which bit into the wood in a straight line, forcing Kim back. With one last shot, Viper leapt high into the air, catching hold of the fluttering pirate flag and tearing it loose from its anchors. She whipped it around herself like a shroud...

Kim stared in shock as the black flag fluttered to the deck below, along with Viper's pink top, shoes, and capris. Where "Viper" had been, Kaitou Kid now hung by one hand from the mast, grinning down at her in the moonlight.

"Thank you for the exercise," he called as he produced the Eye of Calypso from his pocket. He held it up above his head, scrutinizing it. With a sigh, he shook his head and tossed it down to Kim, who yelped in alarm and scrambled to catch it without falling to her death. "Give that back to Inspector Sutter with my compliments," Kid said. "Oh, and you might want to take a look in the crow's nest before you head down." With a jaunty wave, he launched himself into the open air. In a bright puff of smoke, a shining white hang glider burst from beneath his cape; he glided serenely off toward land, a graceful ghost lit from above by the moon and below by the searchlights.

Kim scowled, blowing her flippy red bangs out of her eyes, watching the phantom thief's escape with narrowed eyes. "So not cool," she growled. Shaking her head, she pocketed the Eye of Calypso, then made her way to the crow's nest. She peered inside and blinked, green eyes wide and startled.

Viper—the real Viper—lay there, tied up, wide awake, and growling angrily through a canvas gag.

She was also in her underwear.

"Umm..." Kim bit her lip, then gently began untying Viper.

Viper sat up, scowling as she rubbed feeling and warmth back into her arms and legs. "I'll murder that little bastard," she snarled.

"When—?" Kim asked, holding up an index finger.

"When I went looking for the restroom while you were in the captain's cabin," Viper said. "The little pervert was hiding on the ceiling."

Kim blinked. "Wait. That means I spent almost the entire day with an impostor?! And I never noticed?"

"Well, it's not like we really know each other," Viper said. "I mean, we just met."

"But then how did he show up on the mast earlier, if he was standing right next to me?"

"Kaitou Kid is a magician," Viper said with a shrug. "I've heard of some of his illusions. I'd believe just about anything. Besides, how'd one little punk thief manage to rig a massive pirate ship to sail itself out to sea?"

"Good point." Kim coughed. "Umm...I should go down and get your clothes...oh, and give Inspector Sutter the Eye of Calypso."

"Take your time," Viper said sourly. "I'll just be here, naked and freezing my butt off and thinking up all the very slow and painful things I'm gonna do to that damn thief..."

Sonata Family Visit

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Once Section 13 had received word that the Greenwich incident had been "resolved" and Kim and Viper were unharmed if annoyed, and confirmation that the Eye of Calypso was a false lead, the rest of the team commenced preparations for their missions. Viper had made a passing remark about perhaps joining Jackie's group once they were on the ground in Turkey.

One intercontinental flight plus ground travel later, Jade and Uncle were in Hong Kong, where Jade's parents waited for them. Jade hugged her parents, but then jumped back and started babbling excitedly all about their most recent adventure, which led to raised eyebrows and some pointed glances at Uncle.

Uncle shrugged. "What? You sent her to Jackie. You let her stay with Jackie even after whole mess with Shendu. You know what you signed up for!"

Jade's mother sighed. "Alright, alright. Come, you two. We have a long ride home."

Once they were in the family car, with the luggage stowed in the trunk, Jade's father asked, "What brings the two of you to Hong Kong so suddenly, and without Jackie?"

"Searching for artifact," Uncle said. "Have three leads on location. First lead already go bust."

"We're looking for this magic green crystal," Jade said. "We'd actually found it in L.A., but then the Monkey King got loose again and while we were dealing with his monkeyshines, somebody stole the crystal and went back in time with it!"

"Back in...time," Jade's father said slowly, disapproval in his tone.

"Very long story," Uncle said. "Actually, Uncle not know whole story. Veeeeeery much crazy Los Angeles thing. Is why Uncle stay away from Hollywood!"

"Yeah, so anyway, we figure either a pirate, an Arab, or Hua Mulan stole it," Jade said. "Oh, did I mention we met Hua Mulan? Because we totally met Hua Mulan."

Jade's mother clucked her tongue. "I see your...imagination is as untamed as ever."

"I'm not making it up, I swear!"

"Atchaaa, believe in demon sorcerors and magic talismans, no believe legendary Chinese hero can travel in time?"

Jade's parents sighed. "Alright, fine, so...Hua Mulan stole some magic crystal. From Hollywood."

"Might have stolen it," Jade said. "I still say it was the Arab. Anyway, Jackie's gone to Turkey to look for it there, and we came here to look for it because some rich guy who claims to be a descendant of Hua Mulan has it in his private collection."

"The Monkey's Jealous Eye?" Jade's mother asked. "I read about that in the newspaper."

"You two aren't going to do anything...illegal, are you?" Jade's father asked, gripping the steering wheel more tightly.

"First, must find out if Eye is crystal we seek," Uncle said. "If it is, then we maybe do something illegal."

Jade grinned. "Sweet, Fun Uncle time!"

"But FIIIIIIRST, we try to get crystal legally," Uncle said. "Never go straight to worst life choice!"

"Awww..."

* * * * *

"So this is like, the biggest shopping mall in the Middle East, right?" Ron Stoppable asked. "And we're here to find something that's probably in a museum somewhere."

"Hey, the crystal was in a shopping mall in San Dimas the first time around," Jackie pointed out.

"Fair point," Ron admitted.

"Why are we in the Grand Bazaar?" Tohru asked. "I thought we came to Istanbul to visit one of your archaeology colleagues."

"We are," Jackie said, a mild frown on his face. "Not every archaeologist is scrupulous or reputable. Some are in it for a quick buck." He sighed. "Still, if we're searching the Middle East for a notorious treasure, this is the man I would trust to know the most about it—and if he's found it himself, at least we can try to bargain for it."

"Oh, he's one of those guys," Ron said, pulling a face. "Wonderful. Bet he's got goons armed to the teeth."

"No, that's not his style," Jackie said. "Besides, trust me, if he ever tried to hire goons, they'd tie him up and rob him blind." He frowned as he studied Twilight's tracker. "I am not picking up any signal on this device. I was hoping we would be lucky for a change." He shook his head and rounded a corner. "It's right up here in the Old Bazaar." As they walked through the bustling foot traffic, they soon came upon an unusual sight which made Tohru stop in his tracks:

A short, elderly Japanese woman with a broad, flat face, shaggy eyebrows, and her hair in a topknot was arguing with a tall, ruggedly handsome American man with shaggy blond hair, bright blue eyes, and two days' growth of stubble that gave him a roguish look. The American wore khaki pants, a wrinkled blue dress shirt, and an off-white jacket; the old woman was conservatively dressed in a wine-colored skirt and blazer, a cream blouse with crescent-moon brooch, support hose, and sensible shoes.

"—expect me to believe that?" the old woman said snappishly.

"I assure you, ma'am," the American said, his voice carrying a charming light Southern twang. "It was used by Miyamoto himself."

"Pah!" the old woman retorted. "It is an authentic antique, but sometimes 'antique' just means 'junk', and this shogi set is junk!"

"Hey, it's got the drunk elephant piece," the American said. "You know how rare it is to find a set that's got that?"

The old woman pressed her lips together tightly, making a low, indecisive humming noise.

"Tohru, isn't that—" Jackie said quietly.

Tohru took three large steps toward the argument, drawing the attention of the American, who sized him up with wide eyes and swallowed visibly. Tohru ignored him. "Mother," he rumbled.

Tohru's mother looked round sharply, craning her head. "Tohru!" she said happily. "What a pleasant surprise! I did not know you were in Istanbul!"

"I just got here on business this morning," Tohru said. "What are you doing here, Mother?"

"Just doing a bit of sightseeing," Mama Tohru said. "And right now, haggling with this crook over a piece of junk he claims Miyamoto played shogi on!"

Tohru looked at the merchant, who seemed to have developed a sudden concern for his personal well-being. "Is that so," he said slowly and deliberately.

"Aheh, well...maybe that's a bit of, y'know, color," the merchant hedged.

"If there is one thing you are full of, it is color," Jackie said, his voice dry and dripping with disapproval. The merchant slowly turned his head to stare at Jackie, and his face paled.

Jackie had his arms crossed. "Hello, Owen," he said stonily.

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"Hello, Owen," Jackie said stonily.

Owen licked his suddenly dry lips. "H-hey Jackie," he said. "What brings you here?"

"More importantly, is old billy goat with you?" Mama Tohru asked frostily.

"Sensei is in Hong Kong," Tohru said placatingly. "It's just me, Jackie, and this boy."

"Hi, I'm Ron," Ron said, waving awkwardly.

"Owen, do you know anything about the Luck of the Oasis?" Jackie asked.

"The Luck of the Oasis?" Owen sucked air through his teeth. "Shoot, y'know, Jackie, if you'd hit me up just two weeks ago, I'd'a had it right here waitin' for ya. Had it right in my hot little hand!"

"I'm sure that you did," Jackie said coolly, visibly straining not to roll his eyes.

"I did, honest Injun!" Owen insisted. "Least, I did. Then I ran into an old friend, we got t' drinkin', we played some poker—y'know, like we did back in the old days—"

"You lost it in a card game," Jackie interrupted dryly.

"Yep, just like old times, pardner," Owen said with a big, toothy grin.

"You know this phony?" Mama Tohru asked disapprovingly.

"We go way back," Jackie said. "Owen, you said you ran into an old friend. Who has the Luck of the Oasis now?"

Owen grimaced. "Yeah, about that..."

Jackie blinked. His shoulders slumped. "Oh no."

"Yep."

"Not him."

"Fraid so."

"Please, anyone else but him."

Owen clapped a hand on Jackie's shoulder and looked him square in the eyes. "Good luck, Jackie. You're gonna need it."

* * * * *

"Well that was a bust," Jade said grumpily as she climbed into the back seat of the family car. She crossed her arms and glared at the mansion they'd just left as though it had personally offended her.

"Well it's a very lovely jewel," her mother said. "And so unusual! I can see why they're protective of it."

"Pfeh," Uncle said. "'Natural impurity of gold'! Uncle does not think so! Gold not make shape of character for 'monkey' in piece of jade by accident!"

"Who cares," Jade sulked. "It isn't the thing. We could be having a cool adventure with Jackie in the Middle East!"

"Is visiting your dear old parents really that bad?" Jade's mother asked.

Jade sighed. "Of course not," she said. "I mean, it's nice to see you guys once in a while. It's just that now we know Jackie's the one on the trail of the real Monkey Crystal, and I'm missing out on it!"

"Well, as long as we are in Hong Kong, Uncle has personal business to take care of," Uncle said. "You have nice visit with parents for next two days, then we go back to America."

"Eh, I guess," Jade said resignedly.

* * * * *

After Jackie asked Owen a few more questions, the group made their way out of the Grand Bazaar, now with Mama Tohru in tow.

"Mother, why were you haggling with that crook over an old shogi set? I bought you a perfectly nice shogi set for your birthday two years ago!"

"Yes, and I love it and I use it often," Mama Tohru said with a smile. "But I happened to see that while I was browsing, and I thought it might be nice to have an antique shogi set to display when I have Taiko Meijin in my house for tea next month."

Tohru blinked. "You're having a Meijin for tea?"

"An honor I won in a shopping district raffle," Mama Tohru said. "Anyway, it was a passing thought, but..."

"Taco Mage?" Ron wondered aloud, earning a disapproving scowl from Mama Tohru.

"Taiko Meijin," Tohru enunciated slowly and deliberately.

"A Meijin is a respected master of a game or sport," Jackie explained patiently. "Shogi is a very important and revered game, you see—"

"Yeah, it's Japanese chess, I know," Ron said. "I picked it up when I was an exchange student in Japan. Never really got good at it." He stroked his chin. "So it's like, a shogi champion? Okay, I got it."

Jackie sighed. "Yes, something like that."

Mama Tohru scrutinized Ron sharply. "Who is ropey-face boy?" she asked. "Usually I see you with billy goat or that cute little scamp Jade."

"Aww, again with the ropey face? What the heck?!"

"He is a...visitor, of sorts," Jackie said. "He and his friends are actually why we are looking for the Luck of the Oasis. It is a very long story. As for Jade, she is with billy goat—err, I mean Uncle—in Hong Kong."

"Hmph! You sure billy goat can take care of that girl by himself?"

"Of course he can," Jackie said tiredly. "Come on, we need to rest up and arrange passage to Thailand." His shoulders slumped. "Bad day..."

* * * * *

"So this dude we're here to see," Ron said as the group left the airport in Bangkok. "What's his deal and why do you look like you'd rather eat expired dairy and ride the world's biggest rollercoaster?"

Jackie grimaced. "Carter traffics in stolen artifacts," he said. "Many unsavory types have dealings with him, and more than once I've had trouble with him showing up at a dig. He tends to not care how much damage he causes or how many delicate and priceless discoveries he breaks. He once collapsed the excavation of a temple by setting off a pile of explosives to cover his escape with a golden idol." He shook his head. "Besides, he's just...very annoying."

"You seem to encounter quite a variety of societal rejects in your profession," Mama Tohru said in a calm, conversational tone.

"Archaeology unfortunately attracts oddballs," Jackie said, showing no sign of offense. "Very old things are often worth quite a lot of money to the wrong people, after all."

"Still, it almost sounds as though you, that American in the Bazaar, and this man we're on our way to see now are old friends."

Jackie grimaced. "We are, or were," he said. "We were classmates in college. All three of us were archaeology students, had most of the same classes." He smiled in reminiscence. "I was the quiet one, Carter was the loud one, and Owen was the one with all the big schemes and plans. We got up to so much mischief...we were inseparable."

"So what happened?" Ron asked.

Jackie sighed. "We drifted apart," he said. "Carter always had, shall we say, a loose relationship with the rule of law. It was our senior year, he was busted for possession and expelled. He decided to go out and see the world after that. Owen had always talked about making it rich as a treasure hunter, and I dreamed of working for the world's museums to make ancient treasures available for the public to learn from." He shook his head. "In retrospect, our friendship was doomed before it even began. Anyway, while I disapprove of Owen's tendency to scheme and connive, he has never to my knowledge broken the law, and I have at least kept in touch with him over the years, though we are not as close as we once were. Carter, however, I prefer to keep at least one continent in between us at all times."

"Ouch," Ron said.

"And now your former friend has the jewel we seek," Tohru rumbled darkly.

"And if it is the Monkey Crystal, then this will likely end in violence," Jackie said resignedly. "Knowing Carter, he probably smuggled it out of Turkey in his behind, and—" He cut himself off. "Well, anyway."

"Oh, dude, SICK AND WRONG!"

"I agree," Tohru said. "That is...a nauseating prospect."

"I am so glad Jade is not here," Jackie said. "Carter's foul language and lifestyle are hardly suitable for children."

Mama Tohru scowled. "Perhaps my Tohru should not be here either."

Tohru pinched the bridge of his nose. "I believe I'm grown-up enough to handle a little cursing and...whatever else this man is up to."

"So long as you don't pick up any bad habits," Mama Tohru said sternly.

"Yes, Mommy."

It took almost two hours to find the address Owen had given them. It was deep in the heart of one of Bangkok's red-light districts. The outside dazzled with bright neon lights and offended the senses with columns wrapped in red velvet with coiled golden dragons climbing from bottom to top, lighted panels on either side of the door depicting silhouettes of dancing women, and the constant thrum of pounding music emanating from within like an excited heartbeat.

"Uhh...you sure this is the right place?" Ron asked.

Jackie sighed. "Yes, this is exactly the sort of place one would find Carter." Squaring his shoulders, he walked up to the front doors. A thuggish bouncer stood there, arms folded and stern scowl firmly fixed on his face. Beneath his sunglasses, an ugly scar crossed over one eye. Jackie approached him fearlessly. "We are here to see Carter," he said. "Let us in."

The bouncer looked down at him and snorted. "Piss off," he growled.

Tohru stepped up, cracking his knuckles. "Let me handle this," he said. "We are going through that door. Either you stand aside, or I will use you to force the door open."

The bouncer raised an eyebrow...then, moving like lightning, hit Tohru in the gut with a rising double knee. Tohru grunted in surprise as he skidded across the street, barely keeping his balance.

Mama Tohru scowled darkly. "Nobody hurts my BABY!" she howled. She leapt onto the bouncer, seized him around the neck, and threw him to the ground. Before he could register what happened, she delivered a rapid series of strikes to his face and chest that produced audible cracks and shattered his glasses. He let out a groan and fell still.

"Holy crap," Ron said, staring at Mama Tohru.

Jackie knelt down to check the bouncer's pulse. "Sorry, so sorry!" he said, then pushed open the doors. The music from inside assaulted them like a wave. Tohru rejoined them; after being fussed over briefly by his mother, he led the way into the club.

The inside was just like the outside, except cranked up to eleven. Tacky Oriental decor was on display everywhere, a mishmash of every culture's most opulent excesses. Men tipped back drinks and hooted at several women in various states of undress who undulated on a brightly lit, smoky stage at the heart of the room, winding their nearly-nude bodies around brass poles. Strobing speakers pulsed their lights in time with the pounding music. Musky smells filled the air, a combination of sweat, alcohol, smoke, and incense.

"Okay, so...it's a strip club," Ron said in a shaky voice, his eyes wide and his face pale. "Man, KP would so kill me if she knew where I was right now."

Tohru shifted uncomfortably. "Perhaps...I will wait outside," he said hesitantly.

"I might need the backup," Jackie said.

"Dude, I think he's embarrassed to be in the same room as his mom and a bunch of strippers and honestly? I'm not all that cool with it either because I feel like I'm in the same room with my grandma and a bunch of strippers and I'm having kind of a freakout here."

"Pay no heed to the shameful naked harlots," Mama Tohru said in a forebidding tone. "I suggest you boys focus on why we're here. The sooner we take care of business, the sooner we can leave."

"Yes, Mommy."

Jackie walked over to the bar and flagged down the bartender. "I'm here to see Carter," he shouted over the music.

The bartender frowned at him and shrugged.

"Carter!" Jackie repeated insistently. "Your boss! I know he is here! Tell him I am looking for him! My name is Jackie Chan!"

The bartender continued wiping a glass, giving Jackie an impassive stare.

"I got this," Ron said. He slid up to the bar, opened his wallet, and pulled out two ten-dollar bills. "Show us the way to Mr. Carter, my good man!"

The bartender studied Ron shrewdly. He picked up the two bills and a cigarette lighter. He set them on fire and dropped them onto the bar.

"DUDE!"

A passing waitress in a skimpy outfit dropped a metal tray onto the bar, right on top of the burning money. "If you're looking for that son of a bitch Carter, he's upstairs. Third floor. Private suite."

"Thank you," Jackie said.

"I'm not doing you any favors telling you that," the waitress said crossly as the bartender placed three drinks on her tray and gave her a murderous glare. Once she cleared out, the bartender sighed, shrugged, and inclined his head toward a neon-and-gold framed door that led to velvet-carpeted stairs.

Once they reached the third-floor landing, they found themselves standing before a large mahogany door with intricate carvings and brass pulls. Jackie sized the door up. "Tohru?" he said calmly. "Would you care to announce us to our host?"

"Gladly," Tohru said. He stomped up to the door and, with a yell and a massive blow, smashed the door clear off its hinges, sending dust, splinters, and paint chips flying. Shrill, feminine screams could be heard from within, combined with a man's voice yelling profanities.

The room beyond the door was somewhat more tasteful than downstairs—but only just barely. It had less furniture, mostly consisting of two long, plush leather sofas, three large leather chairs, a low lacquered table, and a wall covered in television screens and security monitors. Three naked women were huddled against the back wall. In the center of the room stood a tall, skinny black man in a pinstripe suit. He had short-cropped hair, a pencil-thin mustache and beard, and wore a diamond earring in his left ear. "WOO!" he yelled, looking Tohru up and down. "Damn, boy, what'choo been eatin', whole baluga whales?" As the rest of the group entered, his eyes landed on Jackie and lit up. He grinned, showing pearly white teeth. "My man Jackie Chan!" he said enthusiastically. "Damn, nigga, you ain't gotta go bustin' down my door in the middle of Little Jimmy's lap time, know what I'm sayin'? A phone call woulda worked!"

"Carter," Jackie said calmly. His eyes flicked to the naked ladies. "Can we talk in private?"

"Sheeit, man, they don't speak English!" Carter said. "Go right on. Hey, Imma git'choo a sip, a'ight? I know your big beefy boy here be wantin' some sashimi an' sake, an'..." He looked at the other two members of the group and frowned. "Damn, Jackie, what happened to your taste in friends?"

"I keep better company these days," Jackie said frostily. "Come on, Carter, get rid of the prostitutes."

Carter snorted, snapped his fingers, and barked something in Thai at the women, who hastily departed through a door at the back of the room. Once they were gone, he gave Jackie a long-suffering stare, his hands clasped in front of him. "A'ight, man, wassup?"

"I talked to Owen yesterday," Jackie said. "He said you have the Luck of the Oasis. I would like to have a look at it."

Carter's eyes bulged out. "That's what—nigga you come tearin' ass up in here like it's World War Goddamn Three, an' all you want is to look at a goddamn rock?" He shook his head in disbelief. "Sheeeeeit."

"Please, it is urgent," Jackie insisted.

Carter stared at him for a long moment, then sighed heavily. "See now here's the thing," he said. "You roll up in here, you come up in my place wit'cho big Sumo gorilla an' yo monkey boy an' some...I dunno, crocodile lady? Shit, I ain't seen that much leather since the Bad album! An' I'm supposed to be what, intimidated?"

Jackie sighed. "No, Carter, I'm not here to intimidate you. I just want to examine the Luck of the Oasis."

"Yeah, and snatch it up outta my hands wit'cho quick-ass kung fu shit," Carter said flatly, his expression now cold and hostile. "I may'a fell fo' dat shit in Rio, but yo Rice-a-Roni ass ain't pullin' that shit on me again."

Jackie stared at him, slack-jawed. "I'm not—CARTER! I am not going to pull any shit on you! I just. Want. To SEE. the stone."

"See it," Carter repeated. "Yeah. A'ight. You can see it from over there. Wit'cho eyes. Yo ass hands ain't touchin' it, a'ight?"

Jackie spread his hands wide. "No tricks," he promised.

"A'ight. Coo'." Carter slowly reached into his breast pocket and pulled out...a small remote. He pressed a button.

Four panels opened in the ceiling, and four tall, solidly built men in pinstripe suits and fedoras dropped into the room, assuming Muay Thai stances. Carter slid smoothly back from his guards and started dancing from foot to foot in a loose capoeira stance.

"Bad day?" Ron suggested weakly.

"Bad day," Jackie agreed, taking his own stance...

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"Tito, Jermaine, y'all take care'a Sumo over there. Randy, Marlon, y'all deal with monkey boy an' the old lady." Carter gave Jackie a frosty stare. "Chan's ass is mine."

"We don't have to do this, Carter!" Jackie insisted.

"Aw yeah, we finna do dis," Carter said, narrowing his eyes. "I been waitin' a long time to whoop yo little Chun King ass."

"Since when do you even know martial arts?" Jackie asked, shaking his head in disbelief.

"Since Rio," Carter replied. "I learned capoeira just so I could put yo bitch ass on the ground!"

Jackie cracked his neck and locked his wrists. "I'd like to see you try...punk bitch."

"I ain't no punk bitch, punk bitch!"

Ron blinked. "Okay, this...is not something I expected from Jackie."

"Same," Tohru grunted, eyes wide in confusion. "I have never once heard Jackie swear until today. This is a side of Chan I didn't know existed."

"Sometimes rivalries and old friendships bring out hidden sides of people," Mama Tohru said sagely. "More importantly, there are four large Muay Thai kickboxers about to—"

And that's when the kickboxers chose to attack.

"Randy" and "Marlon" drove Ron and Mama Tohru away from the others, backing them into a corner, while "Tito" and "Jermaine" piled on Tohru, who drew them into the corner furthest from his mother while endeavoring to stay within range of Jackie and Carter. Their attacks were fierce, but Tohru's stamina and considerable bulk held out against the onslaught.

"Ropey-face boy know how to fight?" Mama Tohru asked.

Ron narrowed his eyes. "Just watch me," he said dangerously as he took a Monkey Kung Fu stance. As one of the bodyguards came at him with a high kick, Ron jumped up, coiling his legs against the wall behind him, and sprang forward in a diving tackle, letting out a loud whoop as he grabbed his opponent by the collar and took him down with him in a rolling throw. The unfortunate man smashed into a painting on the opposite wall, shattering glass with a loud crash. Ron rolled to his feet and rolled his neck as he taunted his down foe.

Mama Tohru nodded approvingly, then used her opponent's reach against him, turning her own short stature and short reach into an advantage as he overextended. A simple but brutal judo throw dropped the man to the ground; Mama Tohru picked up a heavy gold and jade statue and dropped it on his head with a loud thunk. He twitched and groaned on the floor before going still.

Tohru, meanwhile, slammed one of his opponents into a couch while catching the other by the face and piledriving him through the low table, raining splinters of wood.

"HEY! Y'all gon' pay fo' all dat?!" Carter roared as he traded lightning-fast blows with Jackie. Both of them were grabbing random things from around the room as they matched each other punch for punch; presently, Carter was swinging a table lamp around by the cord like a flail, which Jackie was holding...a lacy black bra. Jackie looked from the bra, to Carter, to his friends, seemingly unsure of what to do. Then Carter came at him with the lamp, and his reflexes decided for him. He rolled to the side, jumped up, twisted around behind Carter, and slung the bra around his head, blinding him with it. While Carter dropped the lamp and reached up to grab at the bra, Jackie kneed him in the kidneys, then swung him around with the bra and threw him at the floor. Carter recovered quickly, rolling to his feet and launching himself at Jackie with a string of vicious kicks.

"Now I know why you're not friends with this guy anymore!" Ron called. His opponent had recovered and rushed him like a bull; Ron was on the defensive, as the bodyguard was much larger and stronger and he had less space to move around in than was ideal for Monkey Kung Fu. Unfortunately, Mama Tohru was too concerned with assisting Tohru—who hardly needed it—to help him.

"We're still friends!" Jackie called back, dodging a kick and replying in kind with three quick punches to Carter's face. "This is just a disagreement!"

"Disagreement my black ass!" Carter snarled, wiping a trickle of blood from his lip and picking up the table lamp again. "I had TWO fine pieces of ass on the table in Rio an' I hadda drop 'em both 'cuz things got too hot after that shit you pulled!"

"I didn't pull any shit!" Jackie retorted, ducking under a swing of the lamp and trying to sweep Carter's legs. "You stole priceless artifacts! They belonged in a museum!"

"Imma put yo ass in a museum!" Carter replied. "The Museum of You Got Yo Ass Whooped!"

"THAT IS NOT A REAL MUSEUM!" Jackie retorted as he used an errant table leg to do away with the lamp once and for all, then punched Carter repeatedly in the chest and face before kicking him hard in the knee and dropping him with a roundhouse. He pinned Carter down and cocked a fist. "CALL THEM OFF!"

"Okay, okay, damn!" Carter snapped. "Yo, man, it's cool! Y'all chill, a'ight? It's over. It's over."

The bodyguards calmly slid back away from their opponents, dusting themselves off and adjusting their jackets and fedoras. Ron, Tohru, and Mama Tohru watched them all warily.

"A'ight a'ight, man," Carter said, looking Jackie right in the eyes. "Look, you done shit all up in my business a buncha times, man. That ain't cool, know what I'm sayin'? So yeah, I's a little bit pissed when I heard you was comin', I ain't gonna lie. But I don't wanna kill yo' punk ass, an' I see right now I ain't gonna win this fight without killin' you. I don't kill friends, even bitch-ass bullshit friends like you." He held his hands out to his sides, open wide. Jackie watched him warily for a long moment, then stood and backed away, not lowering his guard.

Carter stood up, brushed himself off, straightened his clothes, then slowly reached into his inside jacket pocket and pulled out a round green gem. "This what'choo lookin' for?"

"Yes," Jackie said. "I just need to see it."

Carter held it out in his open palm. Jackie slowly reached for it and turned it this way and that, studying it intently. He frowned and put it back in Carter's palm. "It's not what we're looking for," he announced to the room.

"It's not?!" Ron cried. "Aw man!"

Carter frowned in confusion. "What? Dassit?"

Jackie smiled sheepishly, scratching the back of his head. "I said I just needed to see the stone," he said. "We just needed to know if it was the one we were looking for." He sighed. "I guess it must be in Hong Kong, which means Jade and Uncle probably have it by now."

"Wait, hol' up," Carter said, throwing up his free hand. "You mean you came bustin' up in here like that, wit'cho Sumo an' these two, startin' all this SHIT up in here, an' you ain't even takin' this goddamn thing?!"

Jackie shrugged. "It's yours," he said. "You won it from Owen fair and square. Jewels like that get passed around from private owner to private owner all the time. It's not my business."

Carter stared at Jackie slack-jawed. "Mo-ther fucker," he said, even as his bodyguards watched in blatant confusion.

"So all this was for nothing?" Mama Tohru asked harshly.

"Ah...heheh. So it would seem," Jackie said. He clapped Carter hard on the shoulder, offering a big, goofy smile. "Sorry for disturbing you," he said. "We will be going now."

As the group left the room, Carter called out behind them, "BullSHIT! What about all this shit'choo busted up?! HEY! You gonna pay for this fucked-up shit, Jackie?!"

"You fucked up your own shit," Jackie called back cheerfully over his shoulder. "We were just defending ourselves! You started the fight, remember?" More quietly, to his party, he said, "Let's go. Quickly."

"Man FUCK YOU, Jackie Chan!" Carter yelled from behind them, but his bodyguards made no move to give chase. The very last they heard of Carter was:

"Y'all can ALL eat the biggest, blackest bag of DICKS!"

Once they were on the street, Tohru scowled. "If I had known we were meeting with such a foul-mouthed, unsavory individual, I would not have allowed my mother to come along."

"Me?! I would have made you stay at the hotel!" Mama Tohru retorted sharply. "My baby boy has no business being corrupted by such things!"

"I just hope KP never finds out I was in a strip club in Thailand," Ron said morosely. "She would so kill me."

"Mm-hm, mm-hmm, keeeer-krek," Rufus agreed.

Jackie sighed. "In any case, it's all up to Uncle and Jade now. Let's get some rest." He rubbed at a forming bruise. "Tomorrow, we will go home."

* * * * *

Two days later, at Section 13...

"So...none of them were the Rainbow Monkey Crystal?" Jade asked, slack-jawed.

"But then...where is it?" Kim wondered. She frowned. "And...where are Twilight and Sonata?"

"They took off this morning with two agents," Captain Black said. "They didn't say where they were going."

"So, I guess we need to crack open the books again," Kim said tiredly, "get another lead—"

The tracker, which Jackie still had, began beeping insistently. Everyone stared at him.

Jackie slowly pulled the tracker out of his pocket and stared at it, frowning. "The Crystal is moving...toward us!"

"Hey everyone!" Sonata's bubbly voice called from down the hall. "We got it!"

Sonata and Twilight walked into the conference room, all smiles. Everyone stared at them in confusion.

Twilight held up a green crystal with four golden bananas gleaming just beneath its surface. "Behold, the Green Four-Banana Crystal!" she said excitedly.

The room at large gasped. "No way!" Jade cried. "How? WHERE?!"

"How'd you girls find it when the rest of us struck out?" Viper wondered.

"Turns out that actor had it the whole time," Sonata said. "You know, the Star Trek guy? We just went to his place and asked nicely."

Everybody stared at them, then looked at each other. Numerous palms met numerous foreheads.

"That should've been our first stop," Kim muttered.

"Aiyaaaah," Uncle groaned.

"Well, at least...we all got an adventure out of it?" Jackie offered hopefully. At the flat stares he received in return, he sighed. "You're right."

"Well, now that we've got the crystal, we'd better get out of here," Kim said.

"Aww!" Jade cried. "You're leaving already?"

"Sorry, but we really should," Kim said. "We've already been here way too long as it is, and the longer it takes us to find the rest of these things, the worse things are getting back home." She looked around the room. "Everybody ready?"

"Yeah, we're good to go," Ron said.

"I need my tracker back," Twilight said. Jackie handed it over; Twilight checked it, nodded, and put it away, pulling out the portal control. "Alright, stand back everybody..."

* * * * *

Wispy clouds drifted across a low, bright full moon. Leaves rustled. Crisp spring scents filled the air.

"Aw man, did we land in a forest again?" Ron wondered. "Because I'm really getting sick of these forest landings." He sniffed the air. "Do I smell cherry blossoms?"

"That! Was! SO! COOL!"

Four teenagers slowly turned.

Jade Chan stood behind them, a cheeky grin on her face. "It was day and now it's night and are we really in a whole other WORLD?!"

Kim's eyes widened. She pointed a trembling finger at Jade. "You...you're not supposed to be here," she said.

"Duh," Jade replied, rolling her eyes. "I tagged along! It's kind of what I do."

"But..." Twilight stared at her, slack-jawed. "But...we don't have any way to send you back," she said.

Jade blinked. "Oh," she said. "Huh. I...guess I didn't think about that..." She looked at Twilight's portal control. "You can't just zap us back over real quick?"

"It doesn't work that way," Twilight said numbly. "The vortex only moves in one direction. We may never be able to go back to your world."

"N-never?" Jade said shakily. "But...but..."

Sudden movement and a brief rush of unnatural noise and wind made her stop.

Eyes gleamed in the dark all around them. Lots of eyes.

Blackened steel gleamed dully in the moonlight.

Without warning, the air was thick with shuriken.

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Blackened steel gleamed dully in the moonlight.

Without warning, the air was thick with shuriken.

Twilight screamed. Ron let out a yell and ducked, covering his head. Sonata looked around, eyes wide.

Kim and Jade sprang into motion, pushing the others down, flipping between the shuriken, deflecting the projectiles into trees and the ground.

"Matte!" a voice called from the trees. The shuriken stopped flying. Kim and Jade covered Sonata and Twilight as Ron got up and took his own defensive stance. A man stepped into view. He was Japanese, with a stern face, wearing a scarlet gi and arm wraps. He scrutinized the five travelers for a long moment. "You are lost," he said in roughly accented English.

"That's right," Kim said guardedly.

The man bowed. "My apologies," he said. "Your arrival caused quite a disturbance. We cannot be too careful. Strange, otherworldly happenings are afoot of late."

"Otherworldly. Pah." A second man in identical garb, whose appearance was remarkably similar to the first man, dropped from one of the trees. "Your imagination runs wild, brother."

"The world is not so mundane as it would seem, Yoshi," the first man chided mildly. "Surely Sensei has drilled this into your head—"

"Unlike you, brother, I focus on what is right in front of me." The second man turned to Kim and bowed respectfully. "I am Hamato Yoshi. You are on land belonging to the Hamato Clan. What are your intentions?"

"We're just passing through," Kim said. "We didn't mean to trespass. We don't exactly have any control over where our portal drops us." She glanced over at Twilight. "Uh, Twi? Get a bearing for us so we can get off the nice ninja's property."

"Working on it," Twilight said as she adjusted her scanner.

"Portal?" the first man asked curiously.

"Long story, ninja dude," Ron said. "You know, I spent a few weeks at a secret ninja school once. Good times..."

Twilight smacked her scanner sharply, frowning. After a moment, she sighed. "There's no Crystal here," she said. "The ones we brought with us are the only ones I'm picking up."

"But...that just means it's too far away, right?"

Twilight shook her head. "The scanner can pick up the signature of a crystal even if it's too far away to track. It shows up as a unique frequency of background radiation. I'm not detecting it here." She frowned, adjusting her glasses. "This world is the Great Rat," she added. "I'll be able to open the vortex again in twelve hours."

"You speak strange and interesting words, outsider," the first ninja said. "And the two of you who are...very unique..."

"We're from another dimension," Ron said. "You get used to it."

Kim rolled her eyes. "Like he said. We're a long way from home and looking for something we desperately need to save our home dimension from a demon. I know it sounds crazy, but..." She shrugged helplessly.

"A noble quest indeed." All eyes turned toward an older man in white robes who had suddenly appeared. He inclined his head respectfully to the travelers. "You are welcome to stay the night with us. Clan Hamato will see to it no harm befalls you. Yoshi, Saki! See to it rooms are prepared at the compound."

"Hai, Sensei!" Yoshi and Saki disappeared in puffs of smoke. The ninja hiding in the trees took off, gliding through the night sky like ghosts.

"Follow me," the master of the Hamato Clan said, turning and walking silently into the forest. The travelers looked at each other, shrugged, and followed.

* * * * *

"You know, it's funny how every time we end up in Tokyo, it always looks like the same Tokyo, even if it's a completely different Tokyo."

The clan elder, Hamato Yuuta, glanced curiously back at Ron. "How is that now?"

"Have you ever heard of parallel Earths?" Kim asked. "That's kind of what we've been dealing with lately. The Earth we're from has all the same cities as this Earth and a bunch of others, but they're always different in some way."

"Ah." Yuuta nodded. "And you have visited Tokyo before, on these other Earths?"

"One of them anyway."

They soon arrived at the Hamato Clan compound. Traditional and austere, it consisted of a spacious main residence, a dormitory, a dojo, and a shrine on a hill. As they approached, Yoshi—wearing more casual clothing—met the group, exchanging words with Yuuta briefly before veering off in a different direction, toward the city proper. Yuuta chuckled as he watched Yoshi go. "Another meeting with Tang Shen," he said, smiling. "As the sakura blossom, so too does young love...ahem. Saki has begun preparing guest quarters in the main house. Naito! Show our guests the way. I must meditate."

"Hai, Sensei," one of the masked shinobi said, bowing. He turned to the group. "Please, follow me, honored guests."

"It's lucky that we keep finding such gracious hosts everywhere we go," Kim said chipperly.

* * * * *

Despite the brightness of the moon, it was actually still fairly early in the night, and the Hamato Clan were preparing to take the evening meal. The party joined their hosts, minus the elder's son Yoshi, who was still in the city.

"Yoshi is afforded special privileges," Saki said as he scooped rice into his bowl, "as the heir to the Clan."

"Your brother has no more privilege than you, Saki," Yuuta said mildly. "It is merely custom for us to gather for the meal, not clan law. If you wished to, say, go out for a pizza, you would be more than welcome to do so."

Saki scowled. "I hold our Clan's honor and custom more dear than that, Sensei."

Yuuta chuckled.

"Thank you for your hospitality," Kim said after the meal. "Tomorrow morning we'll be out of your hair."

"You are welcome here for as long as you need," Yuuta said with a broad smile. "The Hamato Clan lives to support and protect those in need." He glanced to his right. "You will oversee our guests' needs. See to it they have whatever they need, and are not disturbed."

"Hai, Sensei," the shinobi seated there said.

* * * * *

The sun shone down on Tokyo, cutting through the ever-present haze of urban pollution. The Hamato compound, shaded by acres of trees, was silent even as a dozen shinobi bustled around, attending to morning chores and training.

A shrill scream split the air over the compound, bringing everything to a halt and drawing most of the Hamato ninja to the main house guest quarters. Saki burst through the door of the visitors' room, eyes sharp and wary. "Nani kore?"

"They're gone!" Twilight Sparkle cried, scrabbling frantically around the room. "The scanner, the vortex control, they're gone!"

"This is bad," Kim said, eyes wide.

"You were robbed?! HERE?!" Saki thundered.

"Looks like it," Ron said grimly.

Saki clenched his fists. "Who is responsible? What fool was on duty here?!"

"It was Naito," one of the assembled shinobi said. "Sensei ordered him to secure these rooms!"

Another shinobi burst in, eyes wide and frantic. "Naito is missing! We have searched his room, we have checked the dojo and the shrine...he has disappeared!"

Saki scowled darkly. "Search everywhere," he said. "Naito has betrayed the Hamato Clan! He has dishonored us! Stolen from our honored guests! FIND HIM!"

"HAI!"

Saki turned to the four teens, taking a deep breath. "We will recover your stolen property," he said. "I stake my honor on this."

"We'll help," Kim said fiercely.

* * * * *

Miles away from the Hamato compound, a blank-faced man with neatly-cropped black hair, dressed in a Hamato uniform, stopped on a rooftop. After a furtive look around, he opened his tunic, revealing a scarred pink brain creature nestled in a recessed control pit in his stomach. The creature let out a burbling cackle as it studied the stolen tracker and vortex control with its beady black-on-green eyes.

"Well whaddya know," a grating, nasal voice issued from somewhere above the brain creature. "You really can find all the best stuff in Japan..."

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"Well whaddya know," a grating, nasal voice issued from somewhere above the brain creature. "You really can find all the best stuff in Japan..."

"Whoa," a soft voice said from not too far away—and, unfortunately, still within earshot. The brain creature's eyes snapped to the side, and the ninja followed suit.

"What the—?! You?!"

* * * * *

"Uhh...guys? Where's Jade?" Ron asked suddenly.

The others blinked, looking around. Kim bit her lip. "Yeah, where is Jade?" she said slowly. "She was so quiet all through dinner I almost forgot she was here."

"I totally forgot she was here," Sonata said.

"Your young friend snuck away several times before and during dinner," Saki said, rubbing his chin. "We kept a close eye on her, of course, but..." He shook his head. "She won't have gone far. We must find Naito and your stolen property. You should remain here to wait for the girl."

"I'll wait here with Sonata," Twilight said. "Neither of us are much use for the action stuff."

"I'll search for Jade around your ninja base," Ron said.

"I'll go with your ninjas to look for this Naito guy out in the city," Kim added.

"Very well," Saki agreed. "Let us make haste."

* * * * *

"Dude, what are you?!" Jade wondered, staring wide-eyed at the false Hamato ninja, who had hastily covered up the brain in his stomach and taken a fighting stance.

"You've seen too much," Naito said in a completely different voice—one with no inflection or noticeable accent. "Prepare for your annihilation."

"Better idea, gimme back the stuff you stole from my friends and I won't tell everyone you're some kind of weird alien brain thing," Jade countered.

"I have a better idea than that," Naito retorted. "You die right here and right now, I incinerate your body, and none of these pathetic humans know any of this ever happened until it's too late."

"Pssh," Jade snorted, blowing on her bangs. "Alien brain creep or not, you're still just a ninja. Chans eat ninjas for breakfast." She took her own stance and narrowed her eyes.

Naito laughed in that dull, inflectionless tone. "Please. You are a bratty child. I am an awesome ninja who is also a robot! Even a puny, weak human like you should—"

Jade kicked him in the throat, sending him staggering. She spun in the air and delivered two more kicks to his face, then grabbed his tunic as she fell, rolled, and dragged him to the ground, sliding between his legs before coming to a stop behind him. Naito flailed around, completely off balance. An electronic stuttering issued from a mechanism in his throat. As he recovered his balance, he turned to face Jade. His face was still completely impassive, but he snarled furiously—not in the flat, toneless voice, but in the grating, nasal voice she'd heard earlier, and without his mouth moving at all.

"You annoying little inferior lifeform!" He reached into a pouch on his belt and pulled out a short, glowing gun made of some shiny metal unlike anything Jade had ever seen.

Two bright purple plasma bolts leapt from the muzzle of the gun. Jade's eyes widened.

She took off running.

"I'm gonna fry you up and make brat tempura outta you!" Naito yelled after her as he gave chase. Jade glanced back, juked left, and searched the rooftops around her for anything useful. Her eyes lit up as she espied a broken two-by-four sitting next to a pile of assorted junk. She grabbed it in passing, swung around, and hurled it like a missile into her foe's path just as he fired his gun. The blast hit the board, which burst into flames—but kept heading right at him, forcing him to dodge and mistime a jump. Jade heard a satisfyingly loud crash in an alley below, and grinned to herself.

"Alright, that takes care of ninja brain boy," she said. "Now to get that stuff back—"

Naito climbed back onto the roof of the building, eyes flat and lifeless as he glared at her. He aimed his plasma pistol again. "Tch," Jade spat, turning and running in another direction.

* * * * *

"Any idea why this Naito guy would wanna steal our stuff?" Kim asked.

"No idea, sorry," Yoshi said. He had joined the pursuit once Saki had filled him in on the situation; he was as angry as his brother. "Naito only joined the Clan recently. He is...rather strange."

"He's creepy," Saki said sourly. "There is no emotion in his voice or in his eyes. His face is a blank. I suppose in some ways that makes him the perfect ninja—a bit too perfect."

"I know what you mean, brother," Yoshi said grimly. "Everything he is taught, he performs flawlessly, but that's all he does. He repeats what he's taught. He doesn't improve on it. He shows no drive or passion. He simply follows instructions and obeys orders."

"Until now," Saki said. "What I find odd is that he only stole your technology. He took no other valuables from you or your friends, nor did he steal anything of value from the Clan."

"Yes," Yoshi agreed. "He has never shown interest in anything until today. To suddenly—"

A shrill scream interrupted him, dopplering in their direction. The three turned to see Jade rapidly approaching across the rooftops of Tokyo, being pursued by Naito. He was firing some sort of weapon at her; it spat purple bolts which exploded when they bit into the buildings.

"Nani kore?!" Yoshi exclaimed, eyes wide.

"That...is not a standard ninja ray gun, is it?" Kim asked.

"Fascinating," Saki said. Then, his eyebrows drew together and down in a fierce scowl. "I will study it once I have taken it from his broken body!" He launched himself toward and over Jade, spinning in the air as he descended on Naito with both heels pressed together. His kick caught Naito in the head and dropped him; a wild shot exploded in the air past Saki's ear.

"JADE!" Kim cried, holding out her arms. "What were you thinking?!"

"I was coming back from the bathroom when I saw that guy run out of our room!" Jade said. "He had the thing that makes the portal! I couldn't let him get away, so I followed him!"

Kim smiled. "That was really brave, but also totally dangerous. You could've been hurt or killed!"

"Tchyeah, I know," Jade said, turning to watch Saki battle Naito. The fight was a near stalemate; Saki was too fast for Naito to aim and shoot properly, but Saki couldn't risk staying within his range for too long without taking a point blank plasma blast that would likely be fatal. "Kim, that guy—he isn't human!"

"What do you mean?" Kim asked.

"He's some kind of weird alien!" Jade said. "I saw it, he's got like, this brain thing in his stomach! And there's that alien ray gun!"

"Aliens?" Yoshi asked incredulously. "First you expect us to believe in visitors from other dimensions, and now you expect us to believe our Clan has been sheltering a space invader?!"

Then they all heard a loud metallic clang, and turned to watch in horror as Naito's head bounced across one of the rooftops, sparks shooting out of the severed neck. His body shuddered and his gun almost fell out of his hand.

"Saki!" Yoshi yelled. "What have you done?!"

Saki's eyes were wide. "What in blazes—?!"

"Oh, for the love of—" a nasal voice growled from the headless body. Firing two shots in Saki's direction, Naito tucked and rolled across the roof, picking up his severed head and hoisting it back onto his neck. A series of wires, cables, and flexible metal servos reconnected it, weaving together like fibrous tissue, leaving Naito's expressionless head sitting on his shoulders at an odd angle. He grabbed it, gave it a sharp twist to the side, and it snapped back into place with a loud ratcheting sound.

Saki, Yoshi, and Jade could only stare, slack-jawed. Kim, on the other hand, narrowed her eyes. "A robot," she said.

"Dude," Jade breathed.

Naito leveled an index finger at Saki. "Saki, you IMBECILE! You can't beat me! I'm better than you! I'm stronger, I'm faster, and I have a plasma gun! Do you have a plasma gun? I don't think so!"

"His voice," Yoshi breathed. "It...changed."

"I think...the creepy robot voice was coming from the robot, and the way he's talking now is coming from the alien inside the robot," Jade said, eyes wide in realization. "That talking right now is the real alien ninja!"

"Who and what ARE you?!" Saki demanded. "How dare you make a mockery of the Hamato Clan! Return what you have stolen and begone from this city forever, or you will answer to my fists!"

"Sorry, I don't speak stupid monkey fist," Naito sneered, pulling out the stolen devices. "Oh, were you looking for this? Well guess what! Your puny little human dimensional portal that can only go one way because it is not awesome is ready to use! I think I'll take it for a test drive! Oh, and leave you and your friends stranded in this miserable, stupid city just because I can!"

"WAIT! DON'T!" Kim yelled, rushing forward, only to be brought short by a plasma bolt. Naito aimed the vortex control and pressed the trigger, and a roaring portal opened up next to him.

"Sayonara, suckers!" Naito called mockingly.

"NAITO, YAMERO!" Yoshi yelled. "WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS?!"

"Because, Yoshi," Naito said in a condescending tone, "I'm evil! And by the way..."

Saki made a grab for the vortex control, only to take a spin-kick to the ribs that sent him flying.

"My name isn't 'Knight'. MY NAME! IS KRAANG! SUB! PRIME!"

And with that, Kraang Subprime jumped into the vortex, which snapped shut behind him.

Kim sank to her knees, staring in despair at empty air. "No..."

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A heavy air hung over the Hamato Clan compound. Kim sat, dejected, next to Ron, who was doing his best to comfort her without freaking out. Jade sat next to them, looking miserable. Sonata and Twilight sat across from them, glum and uncomfortable.

At the head of the table, Yoshi and Saki sat to either side of Yuuta. Both of them looked furious. Yuuta looked solemn.

"This...impostor," Yuuta said. "Is there any way to pursue him?"

"Not unless I can build a new vortex inducer," Twilight said. "Which...I'm going to try to do, but I need the parts, and I'm not sure I can even lock on to the vortex without the original."

Saki frowned. "The device that was stolen...it creates a hole in space and time, does it not?"

"Yes and no," Twilight said. "The vortex is actually..." She chewed her lip in thought. "Think of it like a current," she began. "I was able to trigger it using the equipment in my lab in our home dimension, but the current flows in one direction. The vortex inducer was hard-coded to the specific frequency of the vortex, so it could trigger a rip that accesses the flow and lets us travel from one universe to the next."

Saki rubbed his chin. "Then...the portable device you carry with you does not create the passage, it merely taps into a river flowing from your home to other worlds?"

"So, it is a key," Yuuta said, nodding.

"Basically," Twilight said, adjusting her glasses. "And a key needs to fit the lock or the door won't open."

"If anyone can make a new portal opening thingie, you can," Ron said with an encouraging smile. "Without you, we wouldn't even be on this crazy ride to begin with!"

"But I don't have a lab. Or equipment. Or materials." Twilight sighed, bowing her head. "I can't make a vortex inducer out of thin air."

"We can help procure the things you need to complete your device," Yuuta said. "Now, my next question: Naito, or rather, this alien...what of him? If you can once again open the door to other worlds, can you find him and see to it justice is served?"

"He can only go wherever the vortex goes with that thing," Kim said, shrugging. "If we can lock onto the vortex again, we're bound to run into him sooner or later." She narrowed her eyes. "And then? It's payback time."

"I am curious," Saki said. "You were able to build a device that can travel between alternate realities. Why does it only allow you to travel in one direction?"

"Because I barely understand how the dimensional vortex works in the first place," Twilight admitted. "I invented the vortex by accident. It can bridge freely back and forth between two worlds that are directly connected to each other, but to travel between universes that aren't on the same plane..." She shrugged. "All I managed to do was send a shockwave rippling across reality and make a trigger that opens a hole in it. It'll take years for me to figure out how to make the vortex open and close at will wherever I want it to."

Yuuta sat forward. "Provide us with a list of the equipment and materials you need," he said. "We will do what we can to assist you. In the meantime, make yourselves at home. You are safe and welcome here."

* * * * *

Several days passed.

As the Hamato Clan worked to put together a temporary lab for Twilight, Twilight worked on schematics for a replacement vortex inducer and crystal tracker. Meanwhile, Sonata, Kim, Ron, and Jade passed the time alternating between exploring the city and doing chores around the compound, as well as joining some of the shinobi for exercises. Ron and Jade also spent quite a bit of time on the Internet searching for anything related to aliens and paranormal activity, in an effort to learn more about Kraang Subprime and other sightings of similar beings.

Three days into this seemingly pointless endeavor, Ron suddenly burst into the dojo where Kim was sparring with Yoshi, face pale and shaking a sheaf of papers frantically. "KP?! KP!!"

"Chill, Ron, what's the sitch?"

Ron shoved his papers at Kim, a haunted look on his face. "We're the sitch, KP. We're the sitch."

Kim frowned at Ron, but took the papers and began reading them. As she read, her jaw slowly dropped open, her eyes wide. "But...but this is...this is impossible!"

"No," Ron said seriously, tapping the top paper with a finger. "This is Kim Possible."

Their friends, who had gathered upon hearing Ron's panicked yells, crowded around to see what Ron and Kim were freaked out about. On the very front page was a newspaper article. Over a photograph of a young teen with braces and a bashful expression, a headline proclaimed:

CHEERLEADER SAVES MILLIONAIRE FROM SECURITY SYSTEM SNAFU

"Hey, that looks kinda like you, Kim!" Sonata said.

"That's because it is me," Kim said. She looked up at Ron, blinking owlishly. "We're...home?!"

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CHEERLEADER SAVES MILLIONAIRE FROM SECURITY SYSTEM SNAFU

"Hey, that looks kinda like you, Kim!" Sonata said.

"That's because it is me," Kim said. She looked up at Ron, blinking owlishly. "We're...home?!"

"Whoa," Jade said. "Not bad."

"So...your quest has reached its end after all?" Yoshi asked.

"I don't think so," Ron said, pointing to the date on the article. "See the date, Kim?"

"Well, yeah," Kim said. "That's the day that happened. It's hard to forget."

Ron shook his head. "KP, this newspaper came out two days ago," he said. He handed a copy of the article to Yoshi, who nodded.

"Yes, this happened just this week," he said.

Kim gasped. "But...!" She sat down, eyes cloudy. "We're home...but in the past?"

"Ooh, time travel, nuh-uh," Rufus chittered, diving into Ron's pocket.

Everyone looked around. "So...what does this mean?" Jade asked. "Does it mean we're done? I mean, this is where you guys were headed, right?"

"Give or take about five years," Ron said sourly.

"Five years is not so terrible a wait to return to your lives," Yoshi said. "Hard as it is for me to believe in such things as aliens and time travel, it would seem that if you time your return to your homes to the time you departed—"

"We'd be five years older," Kim said, shaking her head. "That'd be really weird to explain to everyone back home."

"Plus we'd have to stay totally off the grid to not screw up history and I know KP can't pull that off," Ron added.

"Besides, we can't just sit around for five years when Jade needs to get home. Her family's worried sick about her," Kim finished.

"Yeah, I'm not sure I can figure out how to work time travel into everything else," Twilight said as she read the article. "Wow, you defeated a laser security system with just your cheerleading skills? When you were in middle school?"

"Oh, it was no big," Kim said with a shrug.

"But this has gotta be some kind of sick joke, right?" Ron said. "I mean, we're so close to being home, but it's home in the past and we can't stay?"

"Yeah, this totally blows," Kim huffed, blowing on her bangs. Her face paled suddenly. "What if...what if all this dimension-jumping...are we just randomly bouncing around in time and space?" Dread crept into her expression. "If that's the case, then we might—"

"Kim," Ron said seriously, taking her hands. "We'll get through this. Don't worry."

"Yeah, I think our pass through your home dimension could be a coincidence," Twilight said, adjusting her glasses. "I mean, before everything went...bad, the tracker registered this world as the Great Rat."

"Heyoooo," Rufus said, taking a bow.

"But the Zodiac energy reading...thing...which I still can't explain, it was focused here. As in, right where we're standing. Japan, Tokyo, the Hamato Dojo."

"Aww, phooey," Rufus pouted.

"So...what does that even mean?" Jade asked.

"I know of no legends connecting our clan with the sign of the Rat," Yoshi said. "Do you, Father?"

"No, I don't," Yuuta said. "But I am intrigued by the concept that entire universes are aligned to the Chinese Zodiac in such an intricate way." He shook his head. "But that is irrelevant at the moment. More importantly, how does this affect your quest?"

"I wish I knew," Kim said, staring at the photo of her younger self again. "It's majorly wiggy, at the very least." She shook her head. "Twilight, how's your vortex manipulator coming?"

Twilight frowned. "Well, I've almost completely reassembled the timer and rip trigger from memory, not that there's any certain way to test it, but there is a problem, and it's a pretty big one."

"What's the problem?" Kim asked.

"Well...in order to calibrate a vortex manipulator, we need a vortex," Twilight said. "Also, we need to find my vortex. I just...don't have the equipment to do that here." She shrugged. "I'm not even sure it exists here. I mean, for starters I'd need some kind of..." She shrugged. "Dimensional vortex...trigger...thingie."

Ron's eyes lit up. "Like, maybe, a pan-dimensional vortex inducer?" he said slowly.

Twilight blinked. "Yeah, that...sounds about right," she hedged. "Why?"

Kim stared at Ron. "No way," she said.

"Way," Ron said grimly. "Funny how things work out sometimes, huh?"

"What are you two on about?" Yoshi asked curiously.

"Well...we kinda maybe know where to find a pan-dimensional vortex inducer," Kim said. "At least, if they've invented it yet." She brushed a hand through her hair. "There's...just one little problem."

"Oh? And what would that be?" Yuuta asked politely.

Kim grimaced. "We'd have to steal it."

Rufus winced. "Hoo, irony."