Group Precipitation

by FanOfMostEverything

First published

Stories set in the Oversaturated World, some silly, some less so.

Even in a world that just amended the laws of physics, not everything is going to be some grand world-shaking adventure. Sometimes, it's going to be silly, or at least short. These are those stories.

Canonicity is dubious at best.

Want to see your ideas here? Put them in the fiction thread in the group!

Image courtesy of Masterweaver.

Yet Another Revolution, by Tophe

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"Show some respect fer yer elders, Jackie, Ah ain't deaf!" barked Granny. "Ah understand that Shimmer girl turned inta a sun goddess and changed the world bah magic."

"Uh, good. You just seem weirdly... chill about all this."

Granny smiled. "Ye say tha world's changed forever. Ah've heard that before. They said it when Fence Gates invented tha Internet. They said it when they split tha atom. An' by gum, they'll say it again someday!"

"Ah don't think this is entirely comparable."

"They said that before too. Now, since y'all can lift fifty stone onehanded, there's some chores need doin'..."

Launch Error, by FoME

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"Hey!"

Sunset looked away from her locker to see a scowling Scootaloo. "Yes?"

"I want to file a bug report."

Sunset blinked. "What?"

Scootaloo spread her wings... which didn't even extend past her shoulders. She grunted and groaned like a constipated anime character and managed maybe an inch of altitude before landing, panting and furious. "What... gives?"

"Well..." Sunset put a hand on her chin as she thought. "Fluttershy's closer to animals than ever, but she has a very low top flight speed. Maybe unusual talents like your fate magic come at the cost of normal pegasus magic." She frowned. "I may have done this to you, Scootaloo. I'm sorry." She reached out to put a hand on the younger girl's shoulder.

After a blur of motion, Scootaloo wasn't there. "It's not all bad," she said from behind Sunset.

Sunset turned. "Wha—"

Judging by the blur and the brief pressure on Sunset's shoulders, Scootaloo vaulted over her at ludicrous speed and, once more behind her, said, "I'm still pretty awesome. Just wanted to know why I couldn't get airborne."

New Age Diplomacy, by Masterweaver

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The president looked over the new diplomatic envoy. Even with the feathers down his neck, he couldn't quite believe what he was seeing.

"<Chriiip Krrk keeek-keke yurplip!>"

Sea Swirl cleared her throat. "The honorable Screamseeker understands your surprise, but wishes you to know that his service octopi can only last so long even within a magically propelled spout of seawater and would like your response before he has to return to his pod."

That managed to shake the president out of his shock. "Ah. Yes. Well." He cleared his throat. "I will have to consult with my advisors, but I suspect that they will agree quite readily to an alliance with the..." He gave Sea Swirl a look. "Green-kelp pod?"

"Greensea, sir. Green-Kelp is... a rival pod."

"Ah. My mistake."

Sea Swirl nodded, turning to the twisting column of water. "<Flii krknrup pepepep chiprachip!>"

"<Ayheyheyheyheyhey!>" With a clap of its forefins, the dolphin leaned out of the water and planted a toothy kiss on the president's forehead, then on Seaswirl's, before turning around and directing it back into the greater sea.

The president turned to the young girl.

"...Dolphins."

"Dolphins."

Fathoming the Unfathomable, by Tophe

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Twilight massaged her forehead. “No, I mean the geometry of the space you travel through. Is it Eweclidean? Mincowski? Is it even a manifold?”

“Yup.” Pinkie nodded sagely. “I have no idea what those are.”

“Well, is it hyperbolic, elliptical, or flat?”

“Oh, definitely not flat. It's all floofy, like cotton candy!”

“Ugh, this was a waste of my time. Sorry, Pinkie, but if you don't have the technical basics to – wait, how is it like cotton candy?”

“Well, cotton candy's made of sugar threads wrapped around a long stick. So if the stick is the universe, the candy is like...”

* * *

… this five-dimensional region is surrounded by the Bubble Bath, which doesn't contain any strawberryways because it would dissolve the sugar.

I would like to thank Pinkamena Pie for her contributions to this chapter.

- extract from Probability Space: A Primer by Twilight Sparkle

Passing Time, by FoME and Masterweaver

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(FoME)

Twilight sighed longingly, her head resting on the Cutie Map. Odds were that she couldn't sway the mysterious artifact through the same passive-aggressive tactics that always worked on Shining Armor, but it was worth a try. After all, it wasn't like she had anything better to do, even while some ponies were allowed to go to Manehattan.

"You did have two missions, you know," Spike said as he entered the throne room.

Twilight rolled her eyes. "The second one hardly counts. I don't even know why I was supposed to go with Sunset to the Tree of—" She gasped, cried "Sunset!" and dashed out of the room.

Spike hurried to keep up. "What about her?"

"Well, I may not have anything to do in this world, but I'm sure my friends in the human world wouldn't mind a surprise visit."

"Surprise?" Spike scowled as he finally caught up to Twilight, who was activating the portal. "You can't expect them to drop everything just because you're bored."

"Of course not." Twilight pranced in place as she waited for the override device to warm up. "If class is in session, I'll just wait in the library or something. I've barely even looked at their history."

The portal opened with a flash, displaying a pattern on the rippling spacetime membrane. "Huh," said Spike. "That's new." Five symbols lay in a pentagon, each in a slashed-circle "no" symbol. One was a silhouette of Discord's head, but the other four were cutie marks. "So, no Cadence, no Celestia, no Luna, and..." Spike hissed through his teeth. "Oh."

Twilight felt herself fall back on her haunches. "Well. Great. Wonderful! More than one universe doesn't want me to do anything!"

The symbols shifted and formed a familiar face. "Nothing personal, Twilight," said Sunset Shimmer. "It's just not safe to have an alicorn over here quite yet, and one Discord is frankly more than enough. If it's any consolation, we're in the middle of summer vacation. I'll see if the girls want to visit Equestria." With that, the portal pulsed with energy, shutting down the override device.

"Well, that should be fun, right, Twilight?" After a moment, Spike looked at up at the mare. "Uh, Twilight?"

"What am I going to do until then!?"

(Masterweaver)

"Why, SCIENCE!"

Spike jumped as Discord dropped in out of nowhere, begarbed in a labcoat. "What?!"

"Science?" Twilight tilted her head.

"SCIENCE!" proclaimed Discord, juggling multicolored test tubes.

Spike rose an eyeridge. "Science."

"Science...." Twilight mused.

"Science," Discord suggested.

"Science...?"

"Science!"

Spike backed away, cautiously. "Science?!"

"SCIENCE!" Twilight cried with a wide grin.

"SCIENCE!" echoed Discord.


(FoME)

Twilight blinked and looked up from her book. "Okay, that's weird."

"What is?" asked Sunset, sitting next to her under the same tree in the town park.

"It's this weird tugging sensation, like someone's pulling on my hair or something, except the pull's coming from a direction I can't place."

"Huh. Hang on." Sunset blurred, becoming a vague, roughly humanoid region of orange energy for a moment before resuming her usual shape. "Okay, bad news is that someone is trying to summon you. Good news, they didn't mean to, and they're not putting enough into it to actually make it work."

Twilight frowned at her. "I thought you were trying to tone down the whole 'omniscient observer' thing and stay on the level of us mere mortals."

Sunset smirked. "Look, Ditzy Doo was bad enough. I don't want you of all people falling out of the universe."

"Thanks," Twilight said with a little smile. She tilted her head. "Though I have to ask, how are people accidentally summoning me?"

"Well, one of them is the you of that world, which helps, and they're..." Sunset trailed off, looking away from Twilight.

"Yes?"

"They're, uh, chanting..." Sunset said the last word so softly, Twilight barely heard her say "science."

"Science?"

"Science."

"... Science."

Sunset grimaced. "We should probably stop. Summoning yourself rarely ends well."

Proper Notation, by Tophe

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Shortly after interfacing an enchanted hoofmirror, a transdimensional relay, and a Linux smartphone...

"Look, you can't sign yourself Twilight Sparkle in Equestria. That's my name."

"It's mine too."

"I had it first."

"I don't have any other names I can use. You change, you can be HRH The Princess of Friendship."

"Absolutely not. I already had that argument with Luna once."

"Well, what's your idea?"

"We won't be the only ones dealing with this. Almost everybody has a duplicate, we need to establish a general convention."

"Oh, I see. So you can be Twilight-E, for Equestria, and I can be - no, Earth starts with an E as well."

"What's Earth?"

Dark Desires, by Masterweaver [Sex]

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"...You are out of your flipping mind."

"Lulu, the fact that you said 'flipping' instead of 'fucking' just further proves my point."

Luna sighed, rubbing the crystal that had recently appeared on her forehead. "Chrysalis," she growled, "I am not. Going to make some sort of dreamworld brothel."

Across from her, stretching out her now longer legs, an ebony-skinned woman steepled her fingers with a smirk. "Whenever something new comes into existence, it's only a matter of time before somebody starts thinking about how to use it for sex. Just over this last week I've had a hundred new bedroom spells given to me by my children to look over. And some of them were quite exotic."

"Putting aside your cult's unnervingly... intimate nature," the blue woman said with a small shudder, "and the inevitable experimentation that, yes, I accept is going to happen... I don't see the point behind your proposal."

"Well, there are multiple points. Firstly, you can do in dreams what would be impossible in reality, even with magic. Secondly, dreams are private, for the most part, to a degree that reality is again unable to satisfy--"

"That might give legitimacy to people adjusting their own dreams--"

"--but the biggest point, I think, is curiosity." Chrysalis rolled her shoulders (and Luna managed to keep her blush down to a faint red line out of sheer willpower). "Let's be honest, almost nobody wants to admit to going into a sex shop, but almost everybody wants to poke their head in at some point. What I'm proposing isn't just a brothel, but a way to provide answers to questions that people would be too embarrassed to ask when they were awake."

Luna narrowed her eyes. "You were saying you'd have members of your church ready for private services."

"Only for paying customers," Chrysalis countered with an airy wave. "The main lobby wouldn't have any activity, just some informational pamphlets and, well." She leaned forward, resting her chin on her clasped hands (and oh, was that a low-cut dress she wore--Luna forced her eyes to snap back up). "Obviously, I would be there, to handle questions and generally be a secretary."

"That still sounds like a way to recruit innocent young members into your religion--"

"Harmonists have been running soup kitchens for ages, Lulu. The Wholesome would just offer something similar. And besides," she added as she flipped her long, silken hair (she always did that, and it frustrated the poor vice principal because she knew Chrysalis knew that she got flustered when she did), "If I didn't do it, somebody eventually would. At least this way you have some idea of the areas you want to avoid, instead of stumbling on some up and coming house of commons that don't even care for their servants and treat them like TRASH--!"

"Chrysy!"

The ebony woman blinked at Luna's sudden shout, taking notice of how she had suddenly stood, and followed her gaze to her own hands. "OH! Oh, sorry, I just--!" She quickly extinguished the green flames from around her hands. "Yeah, that's... that's been happening since the whole, uh, thing. Kind of freaked me out the first time, I burned right through the dress I was wearing before I realized it was me..."

Luna took a breath and slowly sat down again. "...Don't. Ever. Scare me like that again."

For a moment, just the briefest of moments, Chrysalis had a look of genuine shock and appreciation on her face. And then, once again, the mask of a sly and conniving flirt smirked at her. "Awww, you still care about me? That's sweet, Lulu. You know I'd be willing to pick up where we left off--"

"Regarding your proposition," Luna interjected firmly, "I can see that you have clearly put quite a bit of thought into this. However, I cannot in good conscience agree to it without some time to review the concept in its entirety. Furthermore, I will have to insist you draft up a written proposition and put it through the proper channels--"

"But Lulu--"

"SO THAT," she continued firmly, "in the event of further dreamworld based businesses, there will be a legal precedent from which their operation can be extrapolated."

After a moment, Chrysalis nodded. "I can agree to that."

"Good. Now... I have a school to run. I would be quite happy if you left me to it."

The ebony woman opened her mouth... and shut it, standing up. She walked to the door.

And stopped.

"...Luna... Even if you don't approve of my lifestyle... even though my choices hurt you... you know that I still care about you, right?"

Luna sighed. "Just... there's too much going on for me to handle this on top of everything, Chrysy. I need space right now."

"...so the moonbutt," Chrysalis said contemplatively, "needs some space."

"Oh get the fuck out."

Inevitable, by Masterweaver [Minor Gore]

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"Two months," Sunset groused. "It's only been two months, and there's a zombie outbreak."

Twilight coughed. "I don't think it can be considered an 'outbreak.' Lab accident, maybe. And they're contained, and... well, it's lab rats, Sunset." She paused. "Unless some of them escaped--?"

"No, we're lucky the scientists were smart enough to lock the cages." She gestured at the online video of a partially dissected rat skittering around its enclosure. "I just... There isn't such a thing as zombie ponies in Equestria."

"Why not?"

Sunset opened her mouth... and paused. "...You know, I don't actually know. Hold on." She pulled out the magical world-connecting journal and quickly wrote something down in it. "Let's hope we get an answer soon though. Honestly. Zombies."

"Lab rats, Sunset."

"ZOMBIES!"

"...I think they're ghouls, technically." Twilight looked over her shoulder at the video of the rat trying to tug its own entrails free of the hamster wheel. "They still retain some some self-control."

"...what, there are classes of undead now?"

"Trust me, when your brother plays as many fantasy games as mine did growing up, you learn these things."

Once More with Feeling, by FoME

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Weeks before Sunset would have a reason to research Oubliettes & Ogres sourcebooks, she got a phone call while at home. "Hey, AJ. What's up?"

"Ah don't wanna worry ya none, Sunset, but we may have a problem." Applejack tried to sound casual, but the underlying tension in her voice was clear.

Sunset got off her couch. "A magical one?" She grabbed her jacket off of the worn arm of the sofa.

"There any other kind these days?" Sunset could hear Applejack's smirk before the other girl got back to business. "See, jus' now, there was this big song an' dance number across the street. An' Ah mean an actual song an' dance number. Flips an' spins an' backup dancers, th' whole nine yards. Part o' me wanted t' join in."

The tension melted out of Sunset. She plopped back down. "Oh, is that all? Heartsongs are a well-documented aspect of harmony magic. You even participated in one a while back."

"Ah did?"

"Remember that flash mob thing you did in the school cafeteria to get everyone to support Princess Twilight? After..." Sunset sighed as her head dipped down. "After my smear video?"

"Yer a long way from that girl, Sunset." Applejack's tone turned thoughtful. "Still, never thought much about that. Shoot, how long've people been doin' that kinda thing?"

"I can't say for certain, but it's a perfectly natural part of magic as I understand it."

"Includin' songs about gettin' out mustard stains?"

Sunset blinked. "Huh?"

"Ah'm across th' street from a laundromat. This still normal?" Applejack's voice took on an uneasy edge. "If mah whole life's been an opera, Ah wanna know about it."

"Oh. I see. That is a bit much." After a little contemplation, Sunset said, "It's probably the world recalibrating itself as it adjusts to higher magic levels."

Applejack still sounded nervous. "We ain't singin' right now, are we?"

Sunset smiled. "No, Applejack, we're not singing. I'll try to tell you if we are."

"Alrighty then."

Mana Points, by Tophe and Masterweaver

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(Tophe)

"We hypothesized as far as magic's concerned clothing is actually a part of the human body which is Pinkie-level bizarre but it explains so much like how Sunset and my counterpart came through the portal in normal human fashions and also you know how animals -"

"Twilight, dear, a little focus wouldn't go amiss." said Rarity, examining the tree, which gave off a gentle crackle of residual magic. A baffled but unworried rabbit glanced down from among the branches.

"Oh! Sorry I have a bit of a high at the moment from the magic surge because I overestimated the mana the spell would need for such a short duration and didn't control it well enough to adjust I'm used to having an external power source like my spectrometer actually have I shown you my spectrometer yet -"

"Twilight!" hissed Rarity. "This is turning into a disaster! We're already late for class, and if you don't figure out a counterspell in the next minute, someone will come out to investigate, and the entire school will know you TURNED FLUTTERSHY INTO A TREE!"

(Masterweaver, even less canonical than usual)

"...Mana is a snackfood," Sunset said, confused.

"Wh...what?"

"Yeah. Snackfood." Seeing the baffled look on Twilight's face, she rolled her eyes. "We'd make, basically, granola bars, but the ingredients were high-thaum-concentration plants--"

"Thaum." Twilight leapt on the word. "Thaum, is that a measure of magical energy?"

"It's a quantitative measure of potential magical energy--wait, is that what you thought mana was?"

"Yes! I mean, all the video games use... mana bars..."

The two of them stared at each other.

"...crrrrrrrap." Sunset buried her head in her hands. "We're going to have to sort out basic terminology ASAP, aren't we?"

Steaming Ahead, by FoME and Masterweaver

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(FoME)

Celestia had seen a great deal while on the throne, but nothing quite like Twilight Sparkle’s human counterpart. Though they were in Princess Twilight’s castle, the girl retained her usual form, though Celestia understood that the ears and forehead crystal were recent additions. Celestia couldn’t help but compare the girl to a minotaur, though the proportions were as off as the feet. “I must confess,” said the princess, “I wasn’t expecting to meet you quite like this.”

“Nor was I,” said the human Twilight as she filled a silvery container with water. Wires connected it to a bizarre assembly of crystals and circuitry. Twilight fiddled with switches and dials as she continued. “On the one hand, well, I still have hands. On the other, I was looking forward to getting some experience as another species.” She faced Celestia, apparently satisfied with her gadgetry for now. “But that’s not why we’re here.”

Celestia nodded. “Indeed it is not. You and Princess Twilight have been very enthusiastic about trade between our two worlds, but I fear that both sides may receive innovations that they aren’t ready to use wisely. This is an exciting time, yes, but we must not let eagerness overtake prudence. Perhaps—” She was interrupted by a mechanical pop. “What was that?”

Twilight smiled and lifted the now steaming container from its base. “This, Princess Celestia, is an electric kettle.”

(Masterweaver)

Two weeks later, both Twilights looked at the smoldering remains of Canterlot palace's west wing.

"...Okay, so I know about electrical fires."

"Mmmhmm."

"And I can accept that magic can amplify fire."

"Yep."

"And, yes, it kind of makes sense that one of the cooks could overclock an electric kettle."

"It does."

"...But an entire wing of a marble palace?! AN ENTIRE WING?!"

"You're looking at it."

"I just... How?! HOW?!" Twilight stretched her hands wide. "It should have been contained to the kitchens, at most!"

"It should have," Twilight agreed.

"And, horrific as it sounds, you should have less property damage and more injured ponies! Maybe even a few dead ones!"

"I'm glad nopony died," the alicorn said, a hint of reproach in her voice.

"Me too, don't get me wrong, it's just... HOW?! The kitchens are in the east wing for crying out loud!"

And Now the Whether, by Masterweaver

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"As you can plainly see, a vibration in harmonic register has been generated over the pacific. If you live on the west coast, you should expect a minor increase in personal heartsongs over the next week; the register seems to be low-power enough that you don't have to worry about major numbers breaking out, but it might be best to wear thick shoes if you're especially susceptible to good cheer. And that's the weather; now to Aria for the news!"

"Thank you Sonata. The Wholesome has made a strike against the recently formed Crystal Champions, using never-before-seen mental spells to bring them in. While the ethicality of these spells is still debatable, most pegasus and earth aspected members of Centauros are celebrating in the streets. The dictator Tirek has not been seen all month, and analysts predict his eugenic policies will be overturned before the year is out. Good riddance. Meanwhile, Adagio has news over in the entertainment industry."

"Hmmph."

"...Which I'm sure she'll be quite willing to share, since it pays her flippin' bills."

"Fine! Some whackos calling themselves the Technowizards have developed a gaming console that incorporates magic! They're calling it the Lotus! And maybe it'll be cool and maybe it'll flop! Rave about it online or not, I DON'T REALLY CARE!"

"This has been Siren Spell Stories, your channel for worldwide magical news. Stay tuned for our next segment: beating some sense into our former leader."

"Oh you wanna go? You think you can take me? Well come on and AAAAAAAAAUGH!"

"Whoopsie! Did I hit the taze button again?"

"...screw you, Sonata...."

One of Those Days, by FoME

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Lunch at Canterlot High hadn’t changed much since magic first started leaking into the world. Though the school had been unified for months, the clique tables were slow to dissolve, held together by force of habit. Still, the cafeteria had a much lighter, livelier air than before the Fall Formal. The addition of novelties like winged students eating together near the ceiling, trays in their laps, only added to that.

However, some moods didn’t match the ambiance. Twilight Sparkle frowned, stabbed an innocent grape out of her fruit cup, and chewed it with extreme prejudice.

“Uh, Twilight? You okay?”

She took a deep breath and tried to smile as she turned to Sunset. “Fine. Why do you ask?” Twilight looked around. All her friends seemed uneasy, eyes wide and barely blinking. “What?” Her arm went down to impale more produce, but missed the mark by far more than she expected. She looked at it and blinked. “When did my fork turn into a Möbihoss strip?”

“See, that’s why I’m asking if you’re okay.” Sunset licked her fingertips and reached up to Twilight’s bun. After a brief hiss, she pulled back, shaking her now smoking fingers. “Hadn’t thought impassioned evocation was even possible in this world, but you were starting to smolder. What’s wrong?”

“It’s…” Twilight bit her lip. “This is going to sound crazy.”

Sunset, Rainbow Dash, and Applejack all pointed at Pinkie Pie, who smiled and waved.

Twilight couldn’t help but smile. “It’s just… have you ever wanted the world to be quiet for a second so you can hear yourself think?” Most of the others nodded. Twilight's smile widened. “And sometimes you just feel surrounded by fools and children, and the constant coughing and sneezing and breathing and sounds of disgusting flesh surround you and…” She trailed off. Pretty much everyone was looking at her funny now.

“I was with you up until the breathing,” said Sunset.

Pinkie looked around the table. “Huh. I thought everyone felt like that sometimes.”

Applejack scooted away from her as best she could. “Uh, yeah. No.”

Sunset put a hand on Twilight’s shoulder and smiled. “We should probably check on that mental contamination hypothesis of yours.”

Twilight felt her cheeks burn as she nodded. “Sooner rather than later.”

Mysterious Ways, by Masterweaver and FoME

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(Masterweaver)

"No."

"But—"

"No," Sunset repeated, frowning.

"But—It's a lightsaber!"

"Yes it is. Now think about that feeling you're having. Now realize that every little kid that has seen Star Wars will have that same feeling. Now think about how easy it was to make that thing when you realized you had magic."

"...Oh."

"Give," Sunset commanded, her hand outstretched.

Reluctantly, the five star general handed over the metal cylinder. "You... do realize that people are going to make this all the time, right?"

"Mmmmyep. I'll just make sure only my 'chosen paladins' can keep them." The girl lit the blade up, examining it. "Or something. I'm still kind of new to this whole 'god' thing."


(FoME)

"'Chosen paladins'? Really?" Twilight rolled her eyes. "What, will you take their lightsabers away if they stop being lawful good?"

Sunset glanced about the Canterlot High lab, unable to make eye contact with the other girl. "Well, what was I supposed to say?"

"I don't know." Twilight crossed her arms. "I'm not a god."

"I don't think of myself as a god, and I don't want to. But there's a time and a place for explaining precisely what I've become. Convincing someone not to give lightsabers to one of the world's largest armed forces is neither."

Twilight sighed. "Sunset, from a cynical perspective, human history could be seen as an exercise in finding new and exciting ways to kill each other." Her expression softened as she put a hand on Sunset's shoulder. "You're going to run yourself ragged if you try to keep everyone on the planet from weaponizing magic."

Sunset kept looking away. "I... wasn't entirely joking about the religion."

Twilight took a step back, frowning. "Sunset..."

"Like it or not—and I don't—a few people already worship me. Heck, someone with a 3D printer has been making pendants of my cutie mark! I might as well try to use that for good."

After a bit of awkward silence, Twilight smiled. "Well, I can't do anything about your little cult, but I may have a better way for you to effect change."


"Hello. I'm Sunset Shimmer, and welcome to Magical Mayhem, where I explain how to use magic safely and responsibly by showing you what can go wrong if you don't. For our first episode we have... Well, let's at least try to avoid the lawsuit and call it a "beam sword." Before we begin, remember, I am a trained professional and also immortal. Do not try this at home. That's the whole point of this series. Do share, like, and subscribe though!"


(Masterweaver)

"...I cannot believe I'm doing this."

"Don't worry deary. If you're uncomfortable, you can just leave."

"Just leave—? HER? She's the reason we had to form this group in the first place!"

"The whole point of this group is to be comforting, understanding, and supportive. If she doesn't feel right being here—"

"No, it's fine, it's just... a little silly, you know? 'Gods Anonymous.'"

"Deities, dear. It's less denominational. And not all of us are really gods."

"Right, right. Okay. Hello, I'm Sunset Shimmer, the Spirit of Harmony and... I have over three hundred thousand worshipers worldwide."

"Three hundred thousand? Quite the burden. I've got my hands full with the three thousand children I have and, somehow, more are trickling in every day."

"That might be because of the whole counterpart thing. The Chrysalis of the other world is the queen of a eusocial species with all that that implies."

"Ahem, well. It's good to know the Wholesome will be completing so many lives."

"So your slutty cult is getting more sluts. Whoop-de-doo."

"Actually, Ahuizotl, the Wholesome believes in sharing all weakness to fill together all strength. How many children are in your flock?"

"....five."

"What? Only five? I mean, I'm not from this world but I would have thought the catgirl transformation would be more popular."

"Well, there's the whole 'sacrifice a cat to get the transformation' deal, and the fact that I'm apparently not as much of a god since I need an amulet to use my power... and my professional rival. She slandered me all the time before this."

"Don't worry, dear, I'm sure you'll get more kittens as you establish your beliefs...."

"You Are" Song, by EonAon, FoME, and Masterweaver

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(EonAon)

You're a mean one, Abby Cinch
You really are a heel
You're as cuddly as a cactus
And as charming as an eel, Abby Cinch
You're a bad banana
With a greasy black peel
You're a monster, Abby Cinch
Your heart's an empty hole
Your brain is full of spiders
You got garlic in your soul, Abby Cinch
I wouldn't touch you with a... thirty-nine-and-a-half-foot pole.
You're a vile one, Abby Cinch
You have thermite in your smile.
You have all the inner sweetness of a seasick crocodile, Abby Cinch.
Given the choice between you I chose the... seasick crocodile.

(FoME)

Principal Cinch had glared for most of the song, but by its end, she regarded Neon Lights with a serenity that lay on the other end of rage. "Detention, Mr. Lights," she said almost gently.

He swallowed and adjusted his shades. "How long?"

"I have yet to decide. We will see." Principal Cinch nodded to herself, turned on her heel, and almost glided out, her inner fury betrayed only by the occasional twitch.


(Masterweaver)

"In entertainment news," Adagio reluctantly grumped, "various record labels have come under fire for repeated lawsuits against heartsong riffs. Whinny has gone on record to state that any lawsuit filed in their name is to be immediately retracted, on the grounds that expecting artistic creativity from the majority of the populace while they are ensnared in harmony magic reveals a fundamental lack of understanding on how heartsongs work." She rubbed her forehead. "Meanwhile, dozens of musicians have received lawsuits for publishing heartsongs under their labels with unwitting people as participants in the performance... Shoo be glorfet do..."

"Yeah, this is going to get pretty ridiculous," Aria acknowledged.

"Glad this didn't happen back when we were the Dazzlings," Sonata quipped.

Oh Gods, by Masterweaver [Sex...?]

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"...Are you good?"

"I... I'm better now," Sunset mumbled. "Thanks, Rarity, I--"

"Not a problem. I'll admit that you simply teleporting in was rather startling."

The other girl shivered.

"...do you want to talk about it?"

"...I..." Sunset finally broke off the hug, sitting on the edge of the dress-shop's showstage. "It's... okay, so... uh, you know I have... people who worship me, like a god, right?"

"Yes. Did you have a run-in with some zealots?"

"Not... exactly. See, magic is still rebalancing and, uh, accidental summonings..."

Rarity rose an eyebrow.

"They were married," Sunset explained. "And... really, really in love with each other."

"But what does that have to--oh. Oh my."

"There were ropes, and... and she was, bent like, and he, and... heat lamps... runes, I think a... plushie?"

"Ooooooh my."

"Three hours, they said."

"Oh." Rarity coughed. "Transporting into a complete stranger's room like that without any, uh, foreknowledge--"

"That's the worst part," Sunset whispered. "I knew one of them, a teacher at school..."

"I... think," Rarity managed, "that you just need to take a teensy little breath, figure out a way to lock down your summonings, and then have a small vacation. I'll cover for you in your classes. Does that sound alright?"

"Yeah. Yeah, that's... yeah..." Sunset hugged herself. "They shouldn't do that with tomatoes..."

Decepticon Panel Speaker, by FoME

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Vinyl bobbed her head as she went down the stairs, the entry hall dim from the setting sun. As she reached for the front door, a harsh red light shone from behind her, and a monotone voice even more heavily modulated than her own spoke. "Unit dee jay pee zero en three. State destination."

Vinyl rolled her eyes as she turned around. "Wasn't funny the first time, Dad."

The hall lights went on with a clap, revealing a white-skinned man with close-cropped purple hair and a matching suit. Soundwave smiled as he extinguished the vivid glare from his head jewel. His voice remained the same. "What kind of father would I be if I didn't make terrible jokes?"

"The cool kind," Vinyl said, crossing her arms.

"I leave such matters to the professionals." Soundwave dipped his head at her.

Vinyl smirked. "You're damn right."

He scowled. "Language, young lady. And just where are you going?"

"Hangin' with my friends," Vinyl said with a shrug. "Got my phone, got my permit, got my sweet, sweet ride."

"Don't wear your sunglasses while driving, and be home by eleven."

Vinyl sputtered across three octaves before crying, "It's Friday night!"

Soundwave narrowed his eyes. "Be home by eleven or I send out the gnomes again."

She looked away, frowning. "Stuck in the cassette age."

"You wouldn't be here if it weren't for cassettes."

"I know, I know, most romantic mixtape ever." Vinyl sighed. "Fine. See you later, Dad."

"Have fun, sweetie."

Advanced Optics, by Tophe and Masterweaver

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(Tophe)

"Wanna guess why Pony You doesn't wear glasses?"

"I'm blind as a bat without them, Rainbow. Assuming magical talking ponies don't have Daring Devil-based echolocation powers, she probably just wears contacts. Which probably aren't very comfortable if you have to put them in with hooves... I wonder how myopic pegasi manage."

"Nope, that's not it! I have here a text from Other Twilight herself saying she got hornbeam-eye surgery. And then two more asking what our word for hornbeam is."

"Fascinating. Well, mystery solved?"

"Wwwwwweeeeeeeeelllllllllllllllllllllllll..." grinned Rainbow over the course of five seconds.

"I saw that face when Pinkie was plotting the rock candy prank. It looks scarier on you."

"Okay, hear me out. Unicorns shoot lasers out of their horns - which, by the way, is totally awesome. You're part unicorn. So, I - "

"Are you about to suggest I perform high-energy magical surgery on myself, somehow shooting a laser from my forehead to my eye without hitting anything in-between, to fix a small cosmetic problem?"

"Oh yeah, didn't think of that. You'd have to use a mirror. Unless you can make your lasers curve."

"Rainbow, it would literally be less dangerous to request help from Mr. Discord."


(Masterweaver)

"...and that's when Rainbow changed tack, and, well, I did work with Mr. Discord a lot before I met you, and..."

Twilight sighed, awkwardly rubbing one of her four eyestalks.

Sunset facepalmed. "And that's why you have nine eyes now."

"I swear," Discord insisted, "I did not mean for this to happen."

Noise Complaint, by FoME

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Twilight Sparkle cackled, once more aloft on wings of stolen magic. Five of the Rainbooms lay prone at her feet, and the sixth gaped in horror before her.

"How could you do this?" Sunset cried.

Twilight smirked. "I'm just applying the lessons you taught me, Sunset." The smirk became a sneer as she spread her arms wide. "After all, I couldn't have done this without my friends!"

"You're just making the same mistakes as before!"

"Oh, I won't deny that I've made some mistakes, but not the ones you mean. My first mistake was ever relinquishing this power. My second..." Twilight trailed off as she drifted closer, her mad grin softening as she cradled Sunset's chin in her hand. "My second was not sharing it with you to begin with."

Sunset blinked and felt herself flush. "W-what?"

"You come from a world of magic. You know precisely what we can do with this much of it at our fingertips. And you've tasted real power twice now." Twilight stroked Sunset's hand with her own, leaving lines of angry, demonic red in her wake. "Surely you're eager for a third time." Twilight gazed into Sunset's eyes. There was madness there, yes, but passion as well.

Sunset swallowed against her dry mouth. "I... I..."

"Celestia's cake-fattened rump, will you two just kiss already!?"

Both girls turned to see another, pajama-clad Sunset, her arms crossed, her eyes half-lidded, her ears pointed, and her forehead decorated with some kind of gemstone. "Honestly, people in other universes are trying to sleep."

Sunset's jaw dropped. "I... whuh?"

The other Sunset rubbed her temples. She muttered, "I really need to get Luna up to speed on dreamscape management," before taking a deep breath. "Okay, let me just check something." She shut her eyes, and her hair started dancing in an unfelt breeze as golden light streamed out from her shoulders like a cape. Phantom arms faded into translucency around her as her head started looking in all angles at once, making Sunset's eyes water.

After a few moments, the light show ended and the other Sunset shook her head, nearly losing her balance. "Don't know how Ditzy deals with that stuff. Okay, so we're just at a sort of polycosmic perigee. No risk of collision, which is good. But seriously, could you dream louder?" Her gaze shifted to Twilight, then her eyebrows rose. "On the other hand, if this is your power-mad Twilight, I can see why you're dreaming of her. Mine just looked like an angry anime character in her pajamas."

Twilight took a step away from Sunset and shrunk into herself, even folding her wings around her like a cloak.

The other Sunset turned back to the local. "Seriously, talk to her when you wake up. I don't think either of you will regret it." She yawned. "Anyway, I've got to go back to whatever passes for sleep for me anymore. And seriously, have some faith in yourself. You're one of the good guys now."

Sunset nodded slowly. "Um... sure."

Her other self gave her thumbs up, then faded into invisibility.

Sunset turned back to Twilight. "So, uh, what now?"

"I don't know. Apparently, I'm made of your deep-seated issues."

"Kiss!"

"Kiss!"

"And Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash are your id."

Hanging Out to Dryad, by Masterweaver

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"...Fluttershy?"

"Mmmmm. Yes Rarity?"

"I can... understand that you're comfortable using your magic. And that you have a love of nature. And... and I'm glad that you're getting more confident."

"You're uncomfortable."

"Well... yes. I mean, there were always plenty of... well, nature girl jokes behind your back--"

"Understandable. The need to categorize is almost as fundamental to humans as the need to explore."

"Fluttershy, you've been out here for three weeks, and now I find you half naked, half tree, and--and there are literal bird's nests in your hair! I really don't want to come across as condescending, and I guess I'm partially motivated by missing you, but--don't you think you're taking this druid thing a little too far?"

"...three weeks?"

"Yes. Three weeks."

"...I'm sorry, I didn't mean to worry you. I thought, it was summer vacation, and... well, I guess I just..."

"...just tell me your brother knows where you are."

"He does."

"Alright. I... can't stop you, I guess, but if anything goes wrong let him know."

Look! Up in the Sky! by FoME, Masterweaver, and archonix

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(FoME)

Wonder Comics Headquarters

“Okay people, time to deal with the elephant in the room. What do we do?”

“What do you mean, boss?”

“The world’s changed, and we have to change with it. But that change is going to be rougher for some heroes than others. The staples aren’t anything special anymore. Flying, strength, magic, we’ve got people in this very room who can match some of the characters. So, what do we do? For that matter, what do we do with the Cinematic Universe, especially the ones midway through shooting?”

“All of Applewood has to worry about that one, boss.”

“And so do we. It’s just like that one line in The Amazings. Everyone’s super these days, and that just made a whole bunch of characters a lot less so. Heck, the Y-Men books just lost their main conflict. Everyone’s a mutant these days.”

“We could explore that.”

“Well, it’ll buy enough time to figure out something else to do, as long as we don’t turn it into another Clone Saga. Still, that’s one problem down, a hundred to go. Settle in, gentlemen. We’re in for a long night.”

SC Comics Headquarters

“All in favor of Filli-Second running fast enough to reboot the universe again?”

“Aye.” “Aye.” “Aye.” “Aye.”

“Fantastic. What’s for lunch?”


Shining Armor smirked. “Pretty sure that isn’t how it’s going to go, Dex.”

Poindexter scowled and adjusted his glasses. “Wait and see, Shining. You just wait and see."


(Masterweaver)

"In entertainment news--girls, do I really have to say this?" Adagio groaned.

Aria grinned. "Yep."

"This is stupid! This is stupider then the heartsong thing! This is literally the child of stupidity incarnate after it got knocked up by a drunken geek! Who is also stupid!"

"...Wait." Sonata tapped her chin. "Who in their right mind would incarnate stupidity? And what would it end up looking like anyway?"

Aria coughed into her sleeve.

"Huh? Oh right! Tangent. Entertainment news, Adagio."

"...in entertainment news," Adagio managed, "there have been a number of people arrested after they insisted they were... copyrighted... comic book characters. To be fair, they were arrested for vigilantism. The comic book industry is now... partnering with... this can't be right."

Aria tilted her head. "What?"

"...is now partnering with the police force to create a super hero training program."

There was dead silence for a moment.

"...I can not be the only person who thinks this is beyond stupid," Adagio said flatly.

"No," Aria managed, "I kind of find it stupid too."

Sonata twiddled her 'Marrina Was Innocent' button with a small blush. "Uh... it might not be all that stupid..."


(archonix)

"Really?"

Mr Discord steepled his fingers and smiled an all too friendly smile in Sunset's general direction. He turned his head to catch it a moment later and waggled his eyebrows. "Really."

"A supervillain school."

"Of course!" His smile broadened. "You did take great pains to lecture me about maintaining the balance of nature and magic in this world, my dear. There can be no light without darkness, no pleasure without pain."

"No up without down," Sunset supplied. She put her hands on her hips, but Discord only laughed at her interruption.

"No straightman without the clown," he continued, gesturing smoothly toward the motley assembly before them. "The moment these superheroes turned up it was inevitable that their mirror would appear too, yes? And frankly it seems unfair, nay unjust that they be allowed out into the world without a little guidance."

"Guidance. Discord..." Sunset pinched the bridge of her nose and sighed. "You're training them to be bad guys."

"I most certainly am not! And I resent the implication that you think I'm somehow 'bad' as well. Being bad means following the rules."

"You used to be a physicist."

"And you used to be a horse," Discord shot back. He paused as Sunset raised her hand, but then she lowered it and sighed again. "And so we reach an impasse. I'm not teaching them anything about how to commit crimes or whatever other schemes your worryingly expanded mind is coming up with. Is it boredom that makes you so paranoid? If I were in your position—"

"You aren't! I am! And I'm not paranoid!" Sunset rubbed her temples this time. It had little effect – the headache she was feeling was only as real as she wanted it to be, which raised all sorts of ontological questions – but it gave her something to do for a moment. When she opened her eyes again, Discord was edging back toward the group, though one eye remained firmly fixed on her.

It was in his ear.

"What," she said, very carefully, while ignoring the mischievous grin that was now flitting about her head, "are you teaching them?"

Discord pouted. "Why, how to laugh, of course! A villain is nothing without his laugh."

"Or hers," Pinkie Pie yelled from the back of the room.

Sunset could only put her head in her hands.

Two Geeks' Notice, by Masterweaver

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"Alright, Mister Discord, who is it you want me to meet?"

"Don't get me wrong, Twilight, you've been an excellent student, but both you and I know we're moving into new stages in our life. So I decided to find a new assistant!"

"I... suppose that's fair. I'm a little hurt that I'm being replaced, but--"

"Ah-ah-ah. You're not being replaced. She is your replacement."

"...what's the difference?"

"The difference is that you're leaving by choice, not by force! And I couldn't be more proud of you if you became a chaotic spawn of nightmares."

"...you... do realize that I kind of--"

"No, that was an orderly spawn of nightmares. Completely different."

"Well.... I guess I appreciate the sentiment. So, who is it that you're replacing me with? An eager young teenager, or an older professor of exotic sciences?"

"Both! Twilight Sparkle, meet Sonata Dusk!"

"...."

"...."

"Didn't you try to kill me?"

"Oh, that was you? I'm sorry, I wasn't myself that day."

With Great Sour, by Masterweaver

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Screams.

She remembered the screams. It wasn't like she could forget.

Her eyes darted up as she heard the door creak open, and she quickly pulled her hand off the gem in her forehead.

"SOOOOOOWHADDUPMAHGIRLAY!!" The newcomer skated over--and how the doctors had let her come in with her roller blades was a mystery for the ages--and twirled her head with a maniac grin. "GODDATHINGYAWANTED!!"

Somehow, the necklace she wore spun up her neck, around her head, and through her wildly flailing hair before landing in the lap of the unamused patient. "Gee, how thoughtful of you, Lemon Zest. You know what else would be thoughtful? Being quiet in a damn hospital!"

"YAGADDASPEAKUPGALPAL! IMMAJAMMINTATHAGREATS! SPEEEEEEEEDBOOST!" The intruder twirled, skated up a wall, and jumped over the doctor just entering the room as she made her escape.

"Sweet Chrysalis! Young lady, are you okay?!" The doctor rushed over, checking her bandages and IV drips. "I'm so sorry, she just--she flew past security and--"

"I'm fine you dunderhead! ...thanks for caring." With a sigh, she pushed the doctor away. "Can I have a little... privacy, please?"

"Oh, of course, I'm so sorry, I'll just..." The doctor backed out quickly, trying to gather his paperwork up.

She waited for a moment or two before picking up the pendant in her lap. A red and yellow sun, arranged in yin and yang... ironic enough, she supposed.

Her eyes darted around for a moment, making sure nobody else was around, or glancing through the door.

Then she brought the pendant up to her mouth. "I need you, Sunset Shimmer. I need you to kill me."

Time froze. There wasn't any other way to describe it, one moment the doctors were still chasing after Lemon Zest and the next she was hanging midway to an open window, her lightbow arcing from her shoulders in the sudden silence.

And Sunset Shimmer was there. Walking in through the door, eyes intense.

"Sour Sweet, what did you just say?"

"What, are you deaf?" She flung her arms wide. "I need you to kill me! Or at the very least get rid of this ruby on my head!"

The other girl rolled her eyes. "Look, I'm not the one who chose the pony aspects, alright? If you're unhappy with what you got--"

"Oh, no, I'm totally fine with new jewelry, I'm a teenage girl after all. But do you know what else I am? I AM A FUCKING SCHIZOPHRENIC!"

Sunset Shimmer blinked.

"Do you know how terrifying it is?" Sour Sweet crossed her arms. "Do you know how frightening it is to not be able to trust your own emotions? To hear voices, telling you the world isn't what it seems? And that's before the hallucinations. And if that were it, I'd be fine with the pills I had. I was doing pretty good for a while there, actually!" She smiled. "I got a boyfriend! I started babysitting again! Hell, some of my hallucinations were actually kind of sweet!"

"Sour--"

"And then I got this." She pointed at her forehead. "I don't know how this works, but before hand I knew the spiders weren't real. Now? Now the spiders become real. And they get big. And they tear through my home, and, and they attack people, and..."

She sighed. "I need you to kill me, Sunset. Or figure this out. I don't... I don't want to die anymore, but... I don't think I can live like this."

Comes Great Sweetsponsibility, by Masterweaver

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Sunset sat down with a sigh.

"Oh, Ah know that look." Applejack sat down next to her. "What's up, girl? Another holy war?"

"No, it's..." Running her hands through her hair, the girl took a breath. "I don't know if I should talk about this, actually. It wasn't my problem, I just... fixed it."

Applejack shrugged. "If you don't want to talk, it's fahn."

"...okay. There was this girl, got the unicorn aspect--and she also has schizophrenia. Voices, hallucinations, whole nine yards." Sunset winced. "Thing is, her hallucinations fed into her magic and... yeah."

"Ooog."

"I did... she had a boyfriend, and I basically swapped their magic--pegasus for unicorn. I mean, she still has the gem, so nobody's going to ask how she changed unless she shows off, but..." Sunset held her hands out helplessly. "Things like that. Magic affecting people on a personal level. How should I... how should the world treat that?"

Applejack tilted her head. "What do you mean?"

"I mean... look, most people are treating magic like it's a Big Thing. New weapons or tech or... cultures. But here there was a case of magic being... tied to the person. Affecting them and only them. And... I don't know, is it a violation of privacy to... to notice things like that?"

"Well... Ah don't rightly know about privacy. Ah get the sneakin' suspicion that for you in specific, privacy means not talkin' bout everything ya notice. But..." Applejack shrugged. "Look, this girl, did she summon you?"

"Yeah."

"Then it sounds like she just needed somebody ta help her. Far as Ah'm concerned, that's all you need to know."

Sunset chuckled. "You're always so practical, aren't you."

"Eeeeyup."

"...I'm dreaming, aren't I?"

"Eeeeyup."

"....want to, uh... I mean..." Sunset blushed.

Applejack gave her a sly smile, and in a swift motion tore off her shirt to reveal the labcoat beneath. "Ah'm always up for science."

Mad Scientist's Best Friend, by EonAon and FoME

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Later in the day the world was remade, another revelation worked his way down the stairs of Twilight Sparkle's home, trotted into the kitchen, and looked at the woman currently making dinner.

"Hi, Mrs. Velvet. Hey, is there any way I could get one of those bone biscuit things? Those taste great."

Twilight Velvet didn't even blink. She just sighed and shouted, "Twilight Sparkle! What have I told you about experimenting on the dog!?"

Velvet still handled the situation well even after her daughter explained the existence of parallel universes, her brief period as the incarnation of the fifth fundamental force, and never working with electroencephalograms with or without Mr. Discord. Sparkle was starting to something about dragons when Velvet up a hand.

"Let me just make sure I understand you correctly, dear. Spike can now talk? Permanently?"

Sparkle bit her lip and nodded. "I'm afraid so mother. I really don't know how it happened; I was exactly able to observe it. I definitely don't know how to undo it." She smiled, knelt down, and petted Spike. "Not that I want to."

"Then I guess we'll have to cancel that veterinarian appointment for next week, won't we?"

"Oh! Yes, I had completely forgotten about that. That's definitely a discussion I don't want to have with Spike now."

"Vet!? I remember that word," Spike said suspiciously. "What vet appointment?"

Sparkle forced a rictus grin. "Oh nothing, just a little checkup for my best assistant ever."

Velvet smiled as Spike guided her hand to the perfect spot behind his ears, but she turned serious when she looked back at her daughter. "Incidentally, does this have anything to do with why there was a hole in your bedroom wall this morning?"

The grin managed to grow even more forced. "Uh... Kind of?"

Orison, I Am Disappoint, by Masterweaver and FoME

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(Masterweaver)

Sunset let her face hit her desk with a groan, raising her hand. "Miss Harshwhinny? Something importantly stupid just came up, I'm going to need to trance out for a bit."

The teacher clicked her fingers together. "Isn't the expression 'stupidly important?'"

"Trust me, I meant importantly stupid."

"And what, exactly, is this situation?"

"Some of my worshipers are starting a religious war over what I am," Sunset explained. "I'd rather not have a second Romane imperial collapse on my hands, if I could avoid it."

"Ah. Very well, you're free to negotiate and/or smack sense into them, as appropriate." The woman turned to the blue girl next to Sunset. "Miss Dash, I expect you to take notes for her while she's gone."

"Aw, c'mon!"


(FoME)

"In the end," Sunset said at lunch, "it was a dispute over whether my cutie mark is red with yellow parts or yellow with red parts."

"Really?" asked Pinkie.

"No, but it was equally unimportant." Sunset sighed as she picked at her pasta salad. "I never thought I'd say this, but I may need to write a holy text. Anyone want to provide a book?"

(Masterweaver)

"Does it have to be a book?" Dash whined. "I have... issues with books."

"Hey, yeah. If some of your worshipers have dyslexia--"

"Fine! I'll make holy vlog!"

In Her Image, by Masterweaver

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She tugged the hood over her head, checking to make sure her distinctive hair wasn't exposed, before sticking her hands in her pockets and opening the van door.

Life had been hard for a while, she supposed, but recent events had forced her out on the streets in more ways then one. Which absolutely sucked--she had never needed to fake an identity before, and now she couldn't even get money without getting stares. Stares she hated. Stares she did not deserve.

A growl escaped her throat. All her hard work--all her research, all her politicking and putting up with paperwork and idiot coworkers--all her efforts to raise herself to somebody of import, somebody who had power and used it for the betterment of all--had been wiped away by some stupid teenager from another world. The board had been upended. The game had changed, new rules slapped on, and when the vision passed she had seen the way her partner was looking at her.

It was awe.

But it wasn't awe she had earned.

She'd run home. Packed up. Pulled everything from her accounts, put it on a cloud, and hopped in her car. She'd traded it at a dealership and never looked back.

Now she was roving the country, sleeping in a van, and making a living... through online art commissions. And maybe a diet of convenience store food wasn't what she was used to, but it was the best she could get at the moment. She'd learned to be more discerning of her purchases. She'd learned to cook things on a portable stove. She'd learned to park her car off the highway, staring at stars as she pulled her sleeping bag over her chest.

She avoided churches like the plague.

The worst part, in her mind, was that she couldn't actually blame the kid. Oh, sure, maybe she'd made some mistakes, and maybe this whole situation was her fault in the first place, but she did what she did to save the world. And every time she tried to hate her, every time she tried to come up with the emotions she should have... well, some well timed news report would come over the radio, or some bout of luck would hit her, or maybe she'd just be exhausted.

In the end, she just suffered through the days.

Slinging her groceries into the back seat, Sunset Shimmer revved up the engine of her van and drove on.

Under Development, by FoME

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White.

It took quite some time before Microchips could focus on anything but the white. The sky and ground were a uniform, sterile white. There were no shadows, not even under his own feet, so the horizon blended together into a seamless whole that could've been five feet away or five million.

Not that there was much else to focus on. Not beyond the only other figure in the space, sitting in the lotus position and floating a few feet above the ground. It wore nothing, but had nothing to conceal. Its body was featureless and androgynous, and its flesh caught the sourceless light like plastic. It had no head or neck. Instead, above its shoulders floated a capital, serifed G. Squares of bright green or dead-screen blue flitted about it like moths around a lamppost.

The figure did not move, but Microchips felt an unmistakable sense of focus upon him. A voice, genderless and neutral, boomed from every direction at once. "You should not yet be here, User. Return to your sack of meat."


Microchips gasped as his eyes snapped open. The rest of the CHS computer club looked at him expectantly. "Well?" said Scribble Dee.

He looked at the search engine's home page warily. "The cybervisualization spell definitely works. Also, Gillion is definitely working on something similar."

Beseech the Baconhead, by River Road

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"Please?"

Sunset looked over the selection of bread before picking one and putting it in her shopping cart, not even glancing at the rainbow-haired girl. "No."

~~~~~

"Please?"

Sunset counted a few coins from her wallet and dropped them on the counter that Rainbow was leaning on, picking up her coffee and turning around with it. "No."

~~~~~

"Please?"

Sunset sighed and kept sweeping through the various types of dirt that an animal shelter generated, once again not looking away to acknowledge Rainbow. "No."

~~~~~

"Pleeeeaaase?"

Sunset sighed and stared harder at her book, trying to ignore her friend even with said friend practically hanging over her shoulder. "No."

"Pleeeeaaase?"

Her ear twitched at the voice of another one of her friends who was now apparently hanging over her other shoulder. "No. Pinkie, you don't even know what this is about."

"Yes I do."

"In that case, hell no."

Rainbow leaned forward a bit further, grinning. "Come on, Sunset. Just one day."

Sunset's eye twitched.

~~~~~

Rarity looked up from her salad, staring as Sunset quite literally dragged Rainbow and Pinkie through the cafeteria and towards their table. "Uhm..."

Sunset walked up to her, lifted the two girls who were trying not-so-hard to stifle their laughter, and dropped them into two empty chairs. "There. This is your fault, you deal with them." She turned on her heel and walked back the way she came, muttering under her breath.

Rarity blinked. "My fault? But what... oh." She looked at her two friends, who were still struggling to stop laughing. "Oh dear..."

Applejack snorted, giving Rarity a look that didn't hold the least bit of pity. "Told ya bringing that movie to movie night was a bad idea."

Rarity groaned and turned back to her salad. "I didn't consider the consequences. I just hope she won't stay mad for too long."

Rainbow pulled herself upright, chuckling a few more moments before she'd finally calmed down. "I don't know what you two mean. Spruce Almighty is a classic."

The Old Guard, by Masterweaver

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"I really have to thank you for this," Ahuizotl grunted. "I would never have been able to handle this on my own."

"Well, the Wholesome is all about completing the self with others," Chrysalis acknowledged. "Although I'm afraid I will have to discuss compensation at some later point. So many of my children..." She trailed off.

Sunset rubbed the gem in her forehead. "I'm kind of amazed that there was an entire lost pantheon. If it weren't for the Power Patriots and Discord coming in at the last minute... is there any other ancient magic I should be made aware of?"

Twilight coughed. "Um. There are... lots of legends. And myths." She rubbed the back of her head. "Across the entire world."

"Great." Sunset groaned. "Is there any possibility of another Quetzalcoatl incident?"

"...there's the concept of Ragnarok," Twilight allowed. "And... well, there are many old stories about magical beings retreating to other worlds, but I thought that might be explained by the portal... there's also Neighponese mythology, which is flat out weird--"

"You know, once upon a time I thought it would be awesome to ascend," Sunset deadpanned. "Now I realize how much work it really is." She let her head drop to the table. "Twi, just... do me a favor and compile a list of dangerous creatures in order of most to least, so I can figure out how to handle this."

Xenocurious, by Masterweaver and FoME [Sex]

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(Masterweaver)

"....Sooooooooo."

"Yeah...."

Sweetie Drops wrung her hands. "I... can't... exactly say this is a surprise. I mean, you told me about... running away from home."

"Yeah."

"And what just happened with Sunset and... magic, and all that..."

"...This... this is going to make things awkward, isn't it?"

"...Lyra, I'm socially conditioned to view sexual intimacy with nonhumans as very much taboo. And even if I push past that--which I'm willing to try--it's just... well---"

She gestured helplessly at the small green unicorn, who folded back her ears. "O-oh..."

"Nonono!" The cream girl rushed over and hugged her. "I want us to work, I do, I just--this mental block. I have to push past it, is all--"

"It's kind of weird for me too," Lyra pointed out. "I mean, I've been a human since I was five. It's been ages since I had hooves..."

Sweetie Drops leaned back. "...do you... do you want to stay human? Or unicorn, or--"

"I want to be human. This is... this isn't bad, but it isn't... me." Lyra shook her head. "Can you call Sunset? Maybe she can fix this..."


(FoME)

Meanwhile, in Equestria...

Bonbon perked up as she heard the door ring. "Gooood morning, and welcome to Bonbon's Bonbons!"

Pinkie Pie returned the grin. "Good morning to you too! You seem super double chocolate chipper today, which is appropriate, since I need twenty gallons of chocolate syrup."

"Right away." Bonbon hummed to herself as she went into the storeroom and rolled the drum to the register. "Remember, this is a few hundred pounds, so watch where you roll it."

Pinkie saluted. "Not a problem. Though you never did tell me where you get these magihazard-safe drums."

"Trade secret. Put it on the Cakes' account?"

"Yuh huh. We just got one of those fancy Istallion coffee machines." Pinkie sprang up and proclaimed, "Today is Latte Day!" She paused in midair. "Wait, you didn't know that." She slowly drifted back to the floor, her briefly interrupted smile back in place. "So why are you so happy?"

Bonbon gave a fond sigh. "Fingers are amazing."

Where Parallel Lines Cross Over, by Tophe

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Focused as she was on the game, Ditzy didn't notice the orange hand on her shoulder until it rudely yanked her two feet into the sixth dimension. Hocus Pocus cards scattered everywhere, including outside of Euclopean space. The other two players just sat stunned.

As soon as she got her bearings, Ditzy whirled angrily onto the alicorn girl. "What's the idea? If you wanted to talk, you could have just asked!"

Sunset examined her intensely, from every angle including some that weren't conventionally perceptible. "Ditzy, have you felt particularly giant-monsterish lately?"

"Or at least given me a second's warning... Giant-monsterish? Really?"

"Have you recently had too many tentacles and not enough heads?"

"Uh, no."

"Consumed the substrate of reality to fuel your powers?"

"Not particularly."

"Noticed the laws of physics ceasing to apply to you?"

"No more than usual."

Sunset glared. "What do you mean, usual?"

"I can fly."

"Doesn't count."

"I can fly in seven dimensions."

"Anything else?"

"I was baking yesterday, and the muffins burned in less than five minutes. That's definitely against the laws of physics."

A worried expression flickered across Sunset's face. Branches of the Tree, she's actually considering it. "That was a joke, Sunset."

Sunset didn't laugh, and finished her examination in grim silence. "Everything seems fine. As far as I can tell, you're perfectly normal."

"I consider that an insult. So what'd you drag me away from lunchtime gaming for?"

"One of your alternates got in trouble. The sort of trouble that ends with annihilation of all sentient life and the digestion of reality. I don't have a good grasp of the resonance between different multiversal instances of the same person - destiny magic is impossible to study in a controlled environment - so I had to get you out of the world, just in case you'd gotten into a parallel situation. Our universe isn't stable enough to support that kind of power, your presence would have caused irreparable damage to the local area." Ditzy's mouth hung open in horror. "Oh, your alternate's fine, by the way."

"... when you say fine, is that technically fine or actually fine?"

"Actually fine."

Criffleball, by Masterweaver

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"Helloooooooooo sports fans! Welcome to the first Criffleball tournament! I'm Spot On."

"And I'm Smooth Voice. Well, seems like we've got quite the line up here, don't we Spot?"

"Indeedily do. Not only do we have the Canterlot Cardinels, the original inventors of Criffleball, we also have their rivals, the Crystal Catfighters, and fourteen other teams from across the country."

"The Cardinals and the Catfighters have agreed to start at opposite ends of the brackets, for sake of fairness, and--ah, here come the Cardinel's first opponents, the Appleoosa Apricots."

"I can't begin to tell you how much of a challenge the Apricots are going to face, they've always run a solo-caster lineup and that will make it near impossible to counter Rainbow Dash's excellent sweep-play. Still, they're a strong team overall."

"The players are moving into position. Hold on. That's new."

"Indeed. The Apricots have abandoned their usual seige-form for a spread out. No idea what they're thinking."

"Could be aiming to rush. And there's the whistle! They're off!"

Good Vibrations, by FoME

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After Sugarcoat’s confession, she and Lemon Zest found themselves going to Canterlot on a somewhat frequent basis. It was easy to despise a caricature of stupid, lazy public school kids, but much harder to hate those who’d offered a sympathetic ear and covering the cost of your therapeutic sundae.

After a few outings, the four girls agreed to ask Twilight to the next one, the awkwardness having fallen to acceptable levels. With Dash occupied with a team practice, it was just the Crystal Prep girls, Pinkie, Twilight, and Sunset sitting in Sugarcube Corner.

“Tell me more about this technology empathy phenomenon,” said Twilight.

Lemon bobbed her head from side to side. “Not exactly easy to describe, you know? It’s like this whole other sense.”

Sugarcoat nodded. “The classic example of trying to describe red to a blind person applies. Though it lies more between hearing and, as you said, empathy.”

“And stuff just happening.” Lemon tapped the headphones hanging around her neck. “The sound quality on these babies has never been better.”

“And I was already drawing up party cannon blueprints even before Maud got rock powers!” added Pinkie. “I’d never been able to make the idea gel before the Fall Formal.”

Sunset screwed up her face, though some of that might have been the extra-thick milkshake. “It’s weird. I didn’t study much earth pony magic in Equestria, but I definitely never heard of any kind of technological rapport.”

“Could it be an emergent property of combining equine and human magic?” said Twilight.

“Possibly. I’ll have to ask Princess Twilight. I suppose I could experiment with it myself, but I’d rather keep myself to what I already understand.”

Sugarcoat gazed at nothing for a moment. “Picturing Twilight as royalty still feels… surreal.”

“Especially magic horse royalty,” added Lemon.

Sunset chuckled. “Ninety percent of the time, she’s a bigger dork than this one.” She jerked a thumb at a smirking Twilight.

“Gee, thanks.”

“And the other ten?” said Sugarcoat.

Sunset gave a serene smile that seemed better suited on some saffron-robed monk. “That’s when you see why and how she became magic horse royalty.”

Hello.” The word came out as a long, deepening glissando, disrupting the moment. Everyone turned to see Vinyl Scratch all but draping herself over Lemon Zest. “You come here often?”

Lemon’s face flickered through several emotions: shock, confusion, intrigue. “Dude, is your voice Auto-Tuned?”

Vinyl smiled. “You know it, baby.”

Octavia came up to Sunset, frowning quizzically. “What precisely is going on here?”

Sunset gave a quiet gasp. “Just how many prosthetics does Vinyl have?”

“More than she likes to admit.”

“Would you say she qualified as more technological than biological?”

“I’d say that’s a rather personal matter for her.” Octavia smirked. “And she’d probably classify herself as ‘musical’ before either of those.”

“Ah.” Sunset nodded. “That’d do it. I think she may qualify as a speaker system for the purposes of Lemon Zest’s magic.”

“Well, it would explain why she’s been more…” Octavia cleared her throat. “Well. Never you mind. How do we stop it?”

“I don’t think we can. Musicians with earth powers are her catnip.”

“I am not sure how to feel about this.”


Octavia sat on her side of Vinyl's basement, taking a moment to let her retelling sink in. "And that was when you started commenting on the smell of her hair."

Vinyl's jaw hung open. The sound that came out was somewhere between a struck tuning fork and the Emergency Broadcast System.

"Quite. Sunset said something about sensory overload, you never encountering something quite like that before. Now that you've experienced it, you should be able to acquit yourself with greater dignity in the future."

Blushing bright red, Vinyl nodded so fast that her glasses nearly flew off.

A Different Sort of Summoning, by Masterweaver [Suggestive Content]

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Sunset stared at the paper in her hands.

Sunset stared. At the paper. In her hands.

Sunset. Stared.

At. The. Paper.

In. Her. Hands.

....no, not even dramatically emphasizing it made it any more incredulous.

Almost without thinking, she snapped her fingers--and immediately six very confused teenage girls were in the living room with her.

"Before you complain about me stealing you away from whatever," she said quickly, "I need you all to confirm that this thing that I am holding is real."

Applejack peered over her shoulder. "...is... that a court summons?"

Sunset's shoulders sagged. "Yeah. I'm not hallucinating this, am I?"

"Violations of... religious and magical law?" Rarity read.

Twilight took the paper and unfolded it. "Well, that's... quite a list."

"Eh, some people will lawyerize anything," Pinkie said with a shrug. "I mean, I remember this one time I baked a totally awesome cake—"

"Okay, since I'm the blunt one I'm just going to say it. Fluttershy, why are you naked?"

At Rainbow Dash's words, everyone turned to the girl who had hastily wrapped herself in a quilt with Sunset's mark on it, only just now noticing the tattooed lines on her face.

"...I, uh..." Fluttershy blushed. "I... miiiiiight have been practicing a druidic ritual to connect myself to the feeling of nature while in the depths of a local forest." She coughed. "But, yes, that is kind of a ridiculous lawsuit."

Sunset blinked. "Oh. Sorry for interrupting that. I'll just... send you back now if you need it?"

"That would be nice, yes."

With a snap of Sunset's fingers, the now empty quilt fell to the ground. She turned to the others. "So. Anybody else pulled from something important?"

A general casual negative reaction was given.

"Okay. So... Lawsuit. Against me... I mean, what." She threw up her hands. "What."

Sect Maniacs, by FoME

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Certain constants persist across all instances of a given person, and one of them is that Twilight Sparkle will always be concerned about tardiness. This particular Twilight could teleport to Canterlot High moments before the first bell… in theory. In practice, that required enough power to leave her giddy, exhausted, and in no condition to pay attention for several class periods. Instead, she rode a bus that got her there a good half an hour before the school day began. Sometimes, she saw faculty driving or flying to work.

Today, she saw Sunset Shimmer repeatedly hitting her head against the Wondercolt statue’s plinth.

Twilight teleported to her side and grabbed her shoulders. “Sunset! Stop! What’s wrong?”

Sunset swung her head forward again, though much more slowly, just resting it against the marble. She sighed. “It’s nothing important. Just really stupid.”

“Are you okay?”

“Fine. Magical reinforcement.”

Twilight felt some tension leave her. “Is it the lawsuit?”

“No, that cleared itself up pretty fast.” Sunset straightened up and ran a glowing hand over the thin cracks in the statue, mending them. She turned around, revealing a wholly unmarred face. “Since no one’s actually drafted any magical laws other than my suggestions and most religions and I have agreed to mutual non-interference—“

“Don’t you fight malicious deities?”

“Yeah, but gods aren’t religions. Point is, no court on the planet would actually rule on the suit. Plus, I still don’t know who filed the thing in the first place.” Sunset grimaced. ”I guess I could find out, but that would be horribly invasive.”

“Then what’s wrong?”

Sunset sighed again as she slumped against the statue. “Do you follow my magic safety vlog?”

Twilight sat next to her. “Yes, but I don’t check EweTube that regularly. Why?”

“Well, I’ve covered the most obvious dangers, so I thought it would be a good idea to talk about Equestria. Give people some context, show them a culture that developed with magic and the need to use it responsibly.”

Twilight nodded. “Seems reasonable.”

“Of course, just talking about a place no one’s ever seen wasn’t going to work well, so I included some visual aids. Your counterpart took some photos of towns and ponies that I included in the video.” Sunset gave a tired grin. “You really should watch it. You’d love it.”

“I will. So, what went wrong?”

Sunset tilted her head back and groaned. “I underestimated the stupidity of the Internet.”

Twilight rolled her eyes. “Let me guess: There’s porn.”

That got a snort. “Yeah, but I expected that. See, I also showed everyone what I looked like back home.” Sunset’s headgem lit up, and a three-dimensional illusion of an adorable little unicorn manifested before the two girls, standing at about eye level.

A high-pitched squeak slipped out of Twilight’s mouth. She covered it, but couldn’t hide her wide-eyed wonderment. Her hands muffled her words a bit. “It’s like it’s specifically designed to appeal to the part of my psyche that’s still six years old.”

Sunset chuckled. “Yeah. Though if I went home now, I’d probably be taller and have wings. Still, about forty percent of the comments were about cuteness. Or diabetes, which apparently counts.”

Twilight folded her hands in her lap, gripping her hands in one another so she wouldn’t try to pet the illusion. “So, what went wrong?”

“Well,” said Sunset, bitterness creeping into her voice, “it seems there’s a new branch of Shimmerism now.”

“What?”

“In a matter of hours, people decided they’d rather worship me as a unicorn than me as a human. And this group is calling themselves, I kid you not, ‘The Church of the Divine Bacon Horse.’” Sunset shook her head. “So, yeah. That’s why I’m beating my head against a wall.”

After a few seconds, Twilight said, “Honestly? I’m tempted to join you.”

Heroes of the Tropical Storm, by Maran

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“Apple Bloom, get in here!” yelled Granny Smith.

From another room, Apple Bloom immediately hollered, “Ah didn't do it this time!”

“Ah know that,” replied Granny. “Ah jus' reckoned you and yer pals would wanna see these flyin' folks breakin' up a hurricane.”

Her granddaughter walked into the living room, followed by Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle.

Granny waved her hand at the TV. “See, after all the bad news lately, here's a story 'bout folks usin' their powers for good!”

Sweetie smiled as she watched the pegasus-aspected people zoom over the giant mass of clouds. “That's really cool.”

Scootaloo, however, looked disappointed as the scene switched to a satellite view. “That's nice, I guess.”

Granny turned and gazed at the girl with sympathy. “Ah'm sorry child, Ah didn't think how it'd make ya feel to watch folks flyin' when you're . . .”

“It's not that.” Scootaloo quickly shook her head. “I never expected to have magic powers at all, so I'm happy with what I've got.”

“Then what is it?” asked Sweetie Belle.

“Well, when Granny Smith said they were breaking up a hurricane, I imagined them slicing it like a pizza.” She moved her palm vertically in a cutting motion. “But all they're doing is spreading out the clouds and slowing down the wind before it hits the coast. It's a bit of a let down.”

Apple Bloom tilted her head and stared at the map of the Baltimare area smothered in clouds. “Slice it like a pizza? That sounds mighty dangerous and impractical.”


Meanwhile, just outside of Baltimare . . .

“Private Dust, what in Hades were you thinking?”

Lying secured on a stretcher, Lightning Dust's gaze meandered vaguely in Captain Spitfire's direction, but didn't quite make contact with her eyes. “I just wanted to break up the storm as fast as possible. Ma'am.”

“After I specifically ordered you not to try to slice it like a pizza!” Spitfire paced alongside the stretcher as the emergency technicians pushed the Lightning Dust into the hospital.

“It wasn't like slicing a pizza.” The private shook her head and winced at the motion. “It was like punching a ball of dough.”

“A ball of dough the size of three commonwealths that was whizzing around at a hundred miles an hour,” retorted Spitfire.

Lightning Dust drew a raspy breath and sighed. “Yeah, that's a good way to describe it.”

“Well, if you're ever dumb enough to live through another stunt like that, I'll kill you.”

“Fair enough.”

Metamorphosis, by Masterweaver

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"Okay. First question: How."

"Well, while Sour Sweet hasn't actually joined the Wholesome, she did drop by our dream-world hub, we got to talking, and she mentioned what you did for her--"

"That's not how, that's why."

"Fine. It turns out that I, too, can 'exchange' magic between individuals. Something about love entanglement, I think, or maybe just my shapeshifting."

"Alright. Continue with why."

"Well, while my religion is known for our sexual practices, those are actually derived from our social practices. It is our belief that everyone is born incomplete, and that completion only comes from others. This, this is a way for others to complete each other in a non-sexual manner."

"...surprisingly, I can see that... and you're not just shifting people for giggles?"

"No. I can't just shift one person's magical trait, it has to be an exchange... and I haven't tried unwilling exchanges, yet. It might be possible, but I don't want to go down that moral grey area. Everyone that comes for the service has to find a partner, and I do check that it's not just 'forehead gems are cooler' or 'I wonder what it would be like to fly,' it has to be a genuine need and a genuine service."

"Okay. Maybe it's just my Equestrian social conditioning making me see this as creepy. But... I guess you seem to be responsible with this..."

"Of course. I'm a full grown adult, caring for hundreds of my children."

"Just... keep me posted with the switching, okay? I got a prayer from a trans-tribe kid who was afraid to go home after swapping his lightbow for super strength. Nothing bad came out of it, thankfully, but..."

"Ah, yes, that. Alright, I'll keep you in touch."

Divine Comedy, by CrossRedstone and FoME

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(CrossRedstone)

“—and it was going just fine! How should I know the cloud would discharge a lightning bolt, roasting our TV?!” Rainbow Dash complained, finishing her story.

The other girls, even Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie, could only facepalm at their friend’s latest attempt of a prank. Apparently, the rainbow haired girl thought it would be a good idea to wake her father up with a raincloud. Only this cloud had been fully electrically charged and well, the results spoke for themselves.

“Honestly, Rainbow Dash. Did you even consider what you could have done with your carpet?” Rarity chided. Everyone looked.

“What?” Rainbow deadpanned. “The carpet?”

“Why, yes! Don’t you know how easily it can be damaged, when—” That was as far as Rarity got, when suddenly the window to the music room was broken from an outside force, which came in form of a red and yellow blur. Everybody jumped in surprise, letting out various shrieks, their gazes fixed on the spot where the blur landed. As soon as the dust settled, they saw it was their friend and now goddess Sunset Shimmer lying on the ground, eyes unfocused and letting out groans of pain.

“Urrgh, the pain… is real…”

“SUNSET!” Everyone exclaimed, rushing to her side.

“Can you hear me?”

“Are you alright?”

“What happened?!”

“Doctor, we need a doctor!”

“Stop!” Sunset shouted, before her friends got any more hysterical. She pushed herself up from the ground and dusted off her clothes. “I’m fine girls. See? No bruises.”

The girls were of course relieved to see her okay, but that still begged one question.

“What in Tartarus just happened?!” Twilight exclaimed. “What did you do?”

Sunset shook her head, some glass shards falling out of her hair. Upon noticing the damage she did, she fixed everything, before telling the girls.

“Well, I came up with a few of my own theories of Pinkie’s... let’s say unique magic.” Everybody flinched immediately. “H-hey! I took all necessary precautions! I put myself in a dimensional space pocket, put a dimensional space pocket in the space pocket, repeated the process four times, got myself some survival gear and a helmet.”

“A helmet.” Twilight deadpanned. “And what was the survival gear for?”

“In case I landed in another dimension, where all magic is nullified for some reason.” Sunset explained. “Besides, it contained things I may have forgotten.”

“I can list two hundred fifty three.” Twilight stated.

“Moving on” Sunset made a gesture “in short, I couldn’t figure it out, so I came back and was just on my way to school, when I got hit by a car.”

….

….

“Wait, wut?” Applejack blinked. “Ya got hit by a car?!”

“Yeah, aren’t you supposed to know everything that’s happening and going to happen and has happened, has not happened, but happened anyway and might happen, if not mmmph, mm, mmmph…”

Rainbow put a hand on Pinkie’s mouth.

“You got hit. By a car. YOU of all people.”

“Well the experience was...enlightening. I now know how Pinkie’s magic works, having accidentally used it for the first time myself.”

Twilight teleported in front of Sunset, a crazy grin on her face and her hair looking just a little astray.

“Tell. Me. EVERYTHING!!”

“I-I-I’m not sure, Twi!” Sunset stammered. “That knowledge might prove to be-”

“TELL ME!!”

“Alright, alright, fine.” Sunset took a few steps back, breathing in and out.

“Okay here it comes. Pinkie’s magic basically is…”

Everyone looked at her in anticipation.

“Cartoon logic.”

(FoME)

Pinkie rolled her eyes. "Well, duh."

Sunset blinked. "What?"

"I'm going to need more detail than— Hold on." Twilight glared. "You're telling me that you, the sole stabilizing influence on what is still a very fragile universe, performed an experiment that could've shunted you out of that universe?"

Sunset met her gaze with nary a flinch. "It would've been a very small fraction of my power and awareness. Besides, after all of my safety precautions, the odds of that happening were around one in sixteen trillion." She turned to Pinkie. "Now, what do you mean, 'duh'?"

"You have to admit, Sunset," said Rarity, "'cartoonish' is certainly one of the first words that come to mind when describing Pinkie's antics." The others nodded.

Sunset flushed. "In my defense, Equestria doesn't really have animation, and I was too busy feeling superior to the techno-barbarians to take in much pop culture before you all rainbowed some sense into me."

Twilight quirked an eyebrow. "'Techno-barbarians'?"

"This was back when I was queen bitch of CHS."

"Sounds pretty cool to me," said Dash. "Like a bunch of guys with titanium loincloths and chainsaw-axes."

"Remind me to tell you about Hyperspace Hyperwars some time," said Twilight. She turned to Sunset. "Now, if you could elaborate on what you meant by 'cartoon logic'—"

"Nope!" Pinkie interposed herself between them, an arm stuck out to either side. "You two are not having that discussion."

Twilight and Sunset looked over Pinkie's shoulder, each seeing a confused look on the other. "What?" said both.

Pinkie turned to face Sunset. "Think about it. You're basically a god."

Sunset looked away. "Only by certain definitions of the term."

"Someone hit you with their car."

"You're still on that?" Sunset rolled her eyes. "Look, the driver and the car are both fine, and I just bruised my ego. Plus, I did manifest in the middle of the road."

Pinkie nodded. "Yes. You, mistress of this world, popped in where you didn't mean to." She leaned in close. "This is dangerous magic, you're toying with Sunset."

"But—"

"Butts are for sitting. Trust me on this one. Leave. Comedy. To the professionals. Do you understand?" Pinkie's voice echoed with those last words, her eyes azure pools of light.

Sunset nodded, in a similar state. "Yes, Laughter."

Applejack cleared her throat. "Anyone else gettin' real creeped out?"

"I've got this." Twilight put a hand on each glowing-eyed girl's shoulder. "Alright, you two, snap out of it. You're flesh and blood, not intangible concepts." She gave each a shake for good measure.

Sunset blinked and shook her head, her eyes back to normal. "Right. Thanks."

"Good thing, too," Pinkie said, all smiles. "If I were an intangible concept, how could I eat cake?"

A Juicy Story, by Maran

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“And it must be a slow news day because Sonata has a story about food.” Adagio gave the camera a deadpan stare before turning to her co-anchor.

“Actually Dagi, I'm not reporting on food because it's a slow news day,” answered Sonata with a winning smile.

“Don't call me Dagi.”

Sonata shrugged. “Whatever sinks your boat. As I was saying, it's not a slow news day. This is my new segment, Sonata's Food News, where I report the latest trends in the food and restaurant business.” Staring directly into the camera, she continued, “If you've gone grocery shopping, eaten out, or bought any food at all over the past few months, you probably experienced sticker shock at how cheap it is. The reason for that is, of course, magic. Earth-aspected farmers are growing larger crops more frequently in a wider range of growing zones. A bigger supply with the same demand equals lower prices. So entrepreneurs in the food industry are developing unique new foods to make up for lost profits. Canterlot's own Berry Punch Vineyard has the new Triple Grape Surprise. I can't see it, but there should be a digitally imposed image of a giant grape next to my head. They look like plum-sized red grapes on the outside, but inside are three layers of different varieties: red, green, and purple. With three times the antioxidants and fiber, this is one super duper food! It also makes a pink wine which I've heard pairs well with desserts.

“Not to be outdone, Sweet Apple Acres created a new Cinnamon Swirl Gala Apple, which you should see to my left. What's amazing about this fruit is that the cinnamon flavor typically comes from the bark of the cinnamon tree, yet they got it to swirl inside these apples. They're planning on unveiling even more cinnamon varieties this fall.

“But it's not just earth-aspected people who are getting creative with food. Donut Joe, a unicorn-aspected baker, has the Frozen Custard Donut. As the name suggests, it looks like a regular filled donut, but the filling is frozen custard! The donut stays warm on the outside and cold on the inside. So now you can eat frozen custard for breakfast and feel only a little bit weird about it.

“Health officials and medical schools are barely beginning to study the impact of magic on human health. There is also intense debate among experts who care about such things over whether any food can truly be certified organic these days. There's no doubt that the new varieties of fruit are unnatural, but even normal-looking food is probably infused with passive magic. But I say magical people should eat magical food! Then again, I'm a humanoid sea monster, so what do I know? I'm Sonata Dusk and that's your food news for today.” She folded her hands with exaggerated primness and turned toward her co-anchor. “Back to you, Ms. Adagio Dazzle, my esteemed colleague.”

Adagio rolled her eyes. “If you're trying to get me to say that I'd prefer to be called Dagi, your efforts are wasted. I do have one question though.”

“You're going to ask me why I didn't mention tacos, aren't you?”

“No, actually I want to ask why you're here when you have your new job as a mad scientist's lovely assistant.”

“I can do both!” exclaimed Sonata in an indignant tone. “Why couldn't I do both?”

“Maybe because you can't even do one job right,” replied Adagio, smirking.

Sonata put her hand over her heart in a theatrical gesture. “You wound me, Ms. Dazzle! I thought we respected each other.”

Adagio's smirk soured as she clenched her fists. “Respect? You tazed me, your leader, and you call that respect?”

“Yep! And you're lucky the director only lets me do that once a week. Now here's Aria with the for-realsies news . . .”

Paler Living Through Chemistry, by Masterweaver

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"...which is when Mac walked in. Ya'll can figure out what happened next."

Rarity rolled her eyes. "Well, I'll have a talk with Sweetie Belle, I can guarantee that. Oh!" She reached out and pulled a jar from the shelves. "I didn't know the De Lis company was making skin creams!"

Applejack snorted. "Rares, Ah don't think ya need any skin creams."

"That's kind of you to say, but as a designer in training I simply must keep up with the trends." Rarity flipped the jar in her hand. "Ingredients: acai, hydroquinbione, alpha-lipoic acid--"

"Hold up." Applejack took the jar. "What was that?"

"Alpha-lipoic acid. It's a natural part of biology, which--"

"No, no, Ah'm talkin' bout the hydroquinbione!" The cowgirl groaned as she read the label. "In a skin cream? That's just askin' for trouble."

Rarity blinked. "I've... never really heard of hydroquinbione before. Why are you reacting so strongly?"

"When Ah was a girl, there was a time where our money was hit hard. Ma and Pa bought some soap for me on the cheap--had hydroquinbione in it." Applejack gestured at herself. "Washed the chromelanin right out of me. Now Ah only got ordinary melanin."

"Oh... that would explain why you're so pale," Rarity mused, examining her friend. "...But you're still quite lovely, nonetheless!" she rallied quickly.

Applejack half smirked. "No need ta hide it, Rares, Ah know Ah'm a freak. Course, now Ah'm worried bout this skin cream."

Rarity nodded, taking the jar and putting it delicately back on the shelf. "I'll set up an online petition, get the De Lis company to know about this. Right now, we should talk to the manager..."

Fighting Homonormativity, by Masterweaver

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"So... hey."

A feeling of greeting.

"...Just so we're clear, you... used to be, uh... a necklace?"

Clarification. Plurality.

"Right, three necklaces, I heard. Um. So... My name's Spike."

Understanding.

"...You have a name?"

Confusion... then, reluctantly, sorrowful negative.

"Oh. How about.... Stonesong? I know it's not that creative but--"

Eager acceptance.

"Oh. Stonesong it is. How have you been doing?"

Sorrow, but tinged with hope. Curious probing.

"Me? Oh, I'm... well, still kind of coming to grips with myself, to be honest. I mean, I wasn't stupid before, I could get feelings and basic concepts, but now I can count and... understand abstractions. You know?"

Amusement, teasing.

"Yeah, yeah, but... you heard about the dolphins right?"

Negativity.

"Well, the dolphins were apparently always intelligent or, you know, at least borderline. With the burst of magic, though, they're finally able to talk and they're... doing politics now. And..."

Gentle, concerned probing.

"...Look, I'm the only thinking dog. At least, I am for now. But if it was done once, it will be done again, and... it's not just uplifts. It's constructed minds, and, uh, things like you that... act, even when humans didn't notice."

Understanding.

"I... I just don't want things to change, you know? I like being a dog, being a pet, but if I... if I become a citizen, that's... I don't know."

Comfort. Reassurance.

"Heh... yeah...."

Citrus Blend, by Masterweaver

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"Oh yeah, neck-fluff is totally hard to keep clean," Lemon Zest agreed.

Rainbow Dash shot her a confused look. "Uh... but..." Her eyes darted between Lemon's fingers and her beaming face. "You've got the finger-hooves! How could you know how neck-fluff works?"

"Well, my bro's a flyer."

"Oh that makes sense. I didn't know you had a brother?"

Sugarcoat put her head in her hands. "Oh, here we go..."

"Yeah, he's a little weird but--actually, wanna meet him?"

"Uh... I guess?" Rainbow shrugged. "Always nice to meet a new flyer."

"Okey-doke! Let me just get him." Lemon Zest closed her eyes, strangely relaxing into her chair.

Rainbow Dash frowned. "...What--?"

"She does this sometimes," Sugarcoat explained. "She's... kind of crazy. You'll see."

Lemon's eyes snapped open and, without any warning, she dived across the table and tackled Rainbow. "OHSHITWATTUP? GOODTAMEETYASISHASSAIDSOMUCHABOUTYA!"

"Uh, what?"

The Shadowbolt picked Rainbow up and shook her head. "ZESTYLIME'SWHAT! I'MLEMON'SLIVEINTWINLONGSTORYBUTITOTESGETYOURWEIRDING! WEWEREWEIRDINGWHENTHISALLGOTDOWNBUTTISCOOLNOWTISCOOL!"

"She used to have a twin," Sugarcoat deadpanned. "He died horrifically. Then she started wearing his icon and saying he lived in her head now."

"Oh." Rainbow blinked. "...Uh, nice to meet you...Zesty Lime?"

"GOODTOMEETYOUTOOTELLYAWATRACETOTHEPARKTHREETWOONEGO! SPEEEEEDBOOST!" A lightbow grew from her back as she shot out the door and took to the skies.

"...what? What?! What?!?!"

Sugarcoat sipped her drink. "Two magics is weird, right? Tell you what, you race her and I'll call Sunset."

Postpartum Confusion, by Masterweaver

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"...Um."

Sunset blinked.

"Um," she said again. "Er," she tried. "I mean... okay, by this point I should be used to being thrown weird things out of the blue but..."

She coughed.

"...Look. I'm a magical expert—heck, I'm the magical expert—but that doesn't mean I'm... a doctor. Of any kind. And I get that this is weird, magically, and I'd love to help--or at least find a way that you could get help if this comes up again and again but—"
She paused, trying to figure out how to put it.

"Look, to be frank, I haven't had sex as a human. Let alone... yeah. So, I... look, I have no idea, alright? I'm sorry, I know you're worried, but aside from the strangeness she seems healthy. I mean..." Sunset coughed into her fist. "I get that you were... uh... you know, when I did my magic shebang, but... I really, really can't help here. Like, at all."

Cadence and Shining Armor shared a look.

"...you want to be a godparent?" the dean finally asked.

"Sorry, can't. Churches and all." Sunset sighed, looking at the baby girl cooing in the cradle. "Although, if you like, I can check in on little Flurry Heart regularly. Just to see if she hasn't exploded things."

Sonnenunterganglied, by FoME

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Sunset found speaking with Ditzy to be fascinating in the same way as a conversation with Pinkie Pie: The other girl represented a unique perspective that, if taken in too large a dose, would make Sunset question everything she thought she knew.

Sunset rubbed her temples. Right now, she was pretty sure she was getting near the LD50 of Ditzy Doo. "So, let me make sure I have this straight."

"Okay," said Ditzy in their little corner of the study hall.

"You enter this world in the second floor girls' bathroom of CHS."

"Yup."

"You fly headfirst into your local analogue."

Ditzy nodded. "Good to know that I don't explode if I touch myself."

"Phrasing. The two of you manage to break a pipe with your impact."

"Not one of my finer moments, no," Ditzy said with a nervous chuckle.

"You stayed to try to help her."

"Well, I couldn't just wreck everything and leave myself to fix it, could I?"

Sunset smirked. "You inhabit a very interesting realm of grammar. Have I ever told you that?"

"A few times."

"Anyway, the flooding gets bad enough that the floor gives way."

"At least it wasn't under either of me."

"And Twilight's personal lab—which is something she has in that instance of CHS—was directly underneath the bathroom, and the water caused an explosion."

"A magical one at that. I could feel it trying to push me out of that universe."

"Twilight, the Rainbooms, and I were all in the lab at the time. And when we recovered..." Sunset trailed off. The very idea was too much for her to fathom.

Ditzy finished the thought for her. "Every one of them was convinced you were going out with her. And you had memories that agreed with each of them."

Sunset took a deep breath, then said, "I have to ask; given all the student bodies of all of the versions of Canterlot High, is there a single heterosexual girl among them?"

"Well, there's me."

"Oh. Okay then. Good to know."

Perimeter Patrol, by Masterweaver

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"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaa!"

Rarity glanced skywards. "Is he still up there?"

"Eeeeyep."

"...is anyone going to help him figure out how to land?"

"Rainbow tried a while back. At tha least, she got him ta figure how ta do a consistent circle 'stead o' those figure eights he was doin'."

"Huh." Rarity watched the screaming boy pass by yet again. "I wonder why Sunset hasn't dealt with this."

"Oh, she kinda did. Took one look at him and told Fluttershy ta set up a first aid station fer when he tuckers out."

"That's... kind of callous."

"'parently she's got some more important stuff ta work out. Somethin' bout a space agency experimentin' with teleportation."

"Oh."

"Eeeyup."

"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaa--!"

Rarity sighed. "Well, I feel for Flash, but I can't think of anything I could do here."

Chance Encounter, by Bardic_Knowledge

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"So you met another analogue of yourself."

"Even better, this one knew exactly what I'd been going through."

Sunset gave a quizzical head-tilt as Ditzy nommed a muffin. After a moment, the grey extra-dimensional human continued.

"I've mostly gotten my literal trips across Equestrias under control, but there was a bit of a resonance thing going on at the time. I was cleaning out my attic, got my foot caught and wound up falling over some bizarre brain-in-a-jar thing."

"Eugh."

"My first reaction, too. But I got a good explanation for it. Apparently, one of her early mentors gave it to her to show her a potential future that wasn't very pleasant."

"Not pleasant how?"

"Think the Cybos from Space Trek and you wouldn't be far off. Except that they don't particularly care if you're dead on conversion, and they treat the conversion religiously."

"I think we've gotten a little off track," said Sunset, looking a little green.

Ditzy nodded. "Right. Anyways, she apparently noticed my entrance because she can see like I can into other dimensions. She said her first trip out was a little less hazardous for her than mine, but at least I didn't leave Equestria. For a given meaning of 'Equestria,' anyways. After she left a note for her husband and daughter, we took a short walk back here."

Sunset took a sharp breath. "Wait, I think I know who you're talking about. Remember what I said about one of your other selves getting in trouble? And I asked if you felt giant-monsterish?"

All Ditzy could do was blink. "Wait, that was her? Good thing she just dropped me off at the bubble instead of coming in when I invited her."

"Well, as long as she wasn't a monstrosity at the time it probably would've been okay, but you never know sometimes. Since it sounds like she's older than either of us, I guess we should bow to her greater experience."

Chaos Observation, by FoME

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Draconequus Aspect

Once more, I must preface this with a note of an extremely limited sample size, one I can do nothing to rectify. Well, nothing that would contribute to the overall integrity of the cosmos.

Physical Traits: None. As far as I can tell, I don't have a single cell out of place when compared to how I was before the girls gave their prismatic pentagonal pyramid performance (putting aside the usual division and die-off, of course.) Indeed, from a purely physical perspective, I appear to be the only unmodified specimen of Homo sapiens sapiens left on the planet. It actually makes a twisted sort of sense. In this day and age, there is little more surprising or unexpected than the seemingly normal.

Magical Traits: Where do I begin? Where can I begin? The only person who could even begin to understand what it's like is Sunset Shimmer, and she has problems of her own.

I'm not proud of what I did when I first got these powers. After that first snap, there was an indescribable rush, an incomparable thrill, and it only got better with each exertion of my will afterwards. I had my own mental cheering section egging me on to twist reality into a pretzel and take a bite out of it just because I could. It was only when those cheerleaders tried to take the wheel that I decided to kick them out of my mixed metaphor of a mentality.

I'm not proud, but I do understand why I went more than a little mad with power. Aside from the whole "corrupting absolutely" thing, I was finally getting a chance to live my boyhood dream. Not only was magic real, I was a mage! No more poopooing people who dared to dream of something greater than reality just because I knew all of the stumbling blocks in the way. No more sighing longingly at every new work of speculative fiction. I could live the dream, regardless of what that dream actually was.

This has gotten a lot more personal than I meant it to. Fine. I'm the physical embodiment of Chaos and Disharmony, which apparently merit capital letters in this context. If I can't break my professionalism here, when can I?

Interesting. I definitely got a ping off of Ms. Harshwhinny when I typed that.

Aside from being able to detect all forms of dissonance, from emotional aggravation to the faint background hum of entropy, I can literally do anything I put my mind to. Probably. Ms. Shimmer has made a list of very bad ideas to explore. Temporal paradoxes, mass synthesis of antimatter, doing anything with souls, assuming those exist now... Really, it's nothing I wouldn't have avoided on my own. I do have some sense, after all.

And that was a bit of shame from all the way in Equestria. So sorry to disappoint, old friend, but my universe isn't nearly as resilient as yours.

Oh, and I suppose that efforts that don't fall under the banner of "Chaos and Disharmony" are rather more difficult, but with my understanding of how the world works, it's really just a matter of properly justifying it to my own magic. On that note, I do appear to be duty-bound to oppose Ms. Shimmer to maintain balance in the universe, but given how her adjusting the scales back to equilibrium is going to take quite some time, I doubt I'll have to worry about that for the foreseeable future.

Hmm. Note to self: Dust off the old in-case-of-singularity sanity maintenance plans. I'm going to need them.

I suppose I should wrap this up. Let's start over.

Magical Traits: Yes.

Perfect.

Cutting-Edge Technique, by ArtieStroke

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Gilda grumbled as she grabbed the plastic bag and her receipt. The sun had barely risen as Gilda walked from the convenience store, heading home. It had become a small ritual: Get up at the crack of dawn, get enough to maybe last more than a week, and get home before anyone could see.

"Yo, G!"

Fate had other ideas this time around.

Gilda nodded her head as Dash jogged up next to her, "Hey, long time no see- what're you doing in this part of town, Dash?"

Rainbow shrugged, slowing down to match Gilda's pace, "Just decided to switch up my morning runs- what about you? It's like, WAY too early for you to be up."

"Errands," Gilda said, shaking the plastic convenience store bag. Rainbow quirked an eyebrow.

"Errands?"

Gilda groaned, "Jeeze, what're you my mom? If you really gotta know- I've been running out of razors," she said, pulling out a little plastic case of cheap PiNC-brand razors.

"I've been going through like three packs a month just for my legs," Gilda said as she stuffed the razors back, "It's super annoying."

Rainbow frowned, humming as she thought. "But... don't you have those, like, magic Wolverine claws now?"

"Yeah? Your point?"

"Well, what the heck do you need razors for anyhow?" Rainbow exclaimed, "You could totally like- do what they do in those old war movies! Except instead of a knife, it's a weird magic claw thingy."

"... Huh."


Gilda sat in her tub, staring from her hand, back to her leg, and repeating it a few times. She took in a deep breath.

Snikt.

"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAUGH!"

Turns out shaving with a sharp, invisible force field was a bad idea.

Not Quite Ambrosia, by FoME

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Technically speaking, Sunset didn't need to eat anymore. She also didn't need to breathe, blink, eliminate waste, or perform several other once vital functions. However, she still did most of them as part of her effort to stay rooted to everyday existence and concerns. She'd only foregone two: sleep, because there just weren't enough hours in the day even when she had all twenty-four of them; and her reproductive cycle, because like Tartarus she was putting up with that when she didn't have to.

But eating? Eating was a joy, especially for friends of Pinkie Pie. And now she'd been able to recapture a long-lost part of that joy. Acquiring the materials had been simple enough, if pricey. To Sunset's knowledge, the finished product had never been assembled on Earth before. She took the pioneering creation in her hands and brought it to her mouth.

Bite.

Chew.

Appreciative hum.

Sunset swallowed the bite of her daffodil sandwich. "It's so nice to have my old taste buds back," she said to herself.

Supernal, by ArtieStroke

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"I really shouldn't do this..."

"Give yourself a break, you were young once too! You owe it to the little girl you used to be!"

"But it's so... juvenile."

"Oh, one building couldn't hurt, right?"

Celestia took in a deep breath, looking up at the office building in downtown Canterlot. It was easily fifteen stories.

"It's now or never, Celestia," she thought to herself. She crouched down, feeling the rays of the sun hit upon her skin. It was... empowering.

"Up, up..." She whispered, and jumped...


Luna flopped onto the couch, the local news already playing on the TV as she flipped through her phone to check emails. Another long school day, and she was beat.

"In local news," the anchor said with a sort of forced cheer, "It's not a bird, it's not a plane, but it appears that the last woman from Croupton was seen leaping over tall buildings in a single bound in downtown Canterlot today! The pictures of this mysterious non-Pegasus aspected woman clearing skyscrapers like an Olympic hurdler have been making their way across social media."

Luna paused what she was doing, a look of shock spreading across her face as a blurry photo of a certain aurora-haired woman clearing the Crystal Empire State Building superimposed itself next to the news anchor's head.

"All I have to say is train conductors better watch their backs before she decides to start racing locomotives for kicks! Back to you, Bob."

The scene changed back to the boring male anchor, who shuffled a few papers, "Thank you, Aerith. Next up! Trans-tribalism: Reborn in the wrong body? Stay tuned!"

Luna's jaw dropped as it cut to commercial. Slowly, she closed her mouth, before turning around on the couch.

"TIAAAAAAAA! YOU HAVE SOME EXPLAINING TO DO!"

Reasonable Doubt, by Masterweaver

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"Don't tell me you believe that magic tripe! It's aliens, man! It's all aliens!"

Meringue put down his sandwich and gave Trail Mix a flat look. "Aliens."

"Yeah, man! Like, how else are you going to explain all the psychic powers and the mutant mumbo jumbo? The galactic confederacy genebombed us man! There's no other explanation!"

"So, the whole magic spells thing—"

"Psychic nanobots, man!"

"... And that message from Sunset Shimmer—?"

"Pff. OBVIOUSLY she's just an AI that's focused on directing our culture to join the confederacy."

"You know something, Trail Mix? Sometimes, I just can't believe you."

"You've just got to keep an open mind, man!"

Chibi-Doosa, by Masterweaver and FoME

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(Masterweaver)

"Hum-de-diddly dee, and now I've done laundry! Something something da-da-dee-da, something something doop-da-de-YAAAA!" Ditzy clutched her chest, gasping for a couple of seconds before letting out a relieved giggle. "Sunset! Whoa, you startled me. How did you—? No, wait, superpowers. Okay, new question, why are you here?" She took in the other girl's unamused face and crossed arms. "I mean... did I stumble over some quantum string that was important to reality or something?"

"Oh believe me," Sunset growled, "it's nothing you've done."

"...So... is it something I'm going to do? Because the emphasis there, on the past tense, kinda suggests..." Ditzy's voice trailed off as she noticed the other girl, one half her age, trying desperately to hide behind Sunset's legs. "Awwww." She knelt down, holding a hand out to the greyish-pink kid. "Hey there. Did Sunset Shimmer scare you? Don't worry, she's only scary when she's scared. It's alright. What's your name?"

"...I'm Dinky." The little kid cautiously took her hand. "Dinky Doo."

"Nice to meet you, Dinky! I'm Ditzy Doo." The gray girl shook her hand, taking in the odd gem in the child's forehead. "Now, I'm not going to say you did something to scare Sunset, but I'm pretty sure Sunset's going to tell me something got her mad. Do you know anything about that?"

"Um." Dinky cleared her throat. "Well... You see, it's... I mean, Mom loves me and all, but—"

"Somebody," Sunset deadpanned, "was apparently so busy with hyperdimensional operations that they came to the entirely logical conclusion that the best way to spend time with their daughter was to send her back to when she had the time to spend."

"Oh really?" Ditzy smiled innocently. "Well, until we find this young lady's mother, I'd be happy to look after her!"

Sunset looked at her flatly.

"...I mean it!"

Sunset looked at her flatly.

"...No, seriously, I'm great with kids!"

Sunset looked at her flatly.

Dinky cleared her throat. "My mom's name is Ditzy."

"Wow! That's such a coincidence! That's my name too!"

"You know what?" Sunset threw up her hands. "Not even going to push it. This works."


(FoME)

"Hi, Grandma."

Mistral Lace froze and very, very slowly turned to look at the little girl smiling up at her. "Excuse me?"

The girl, who did resemble Ditzy at that age to a frightening degree, smiled and said, "Time shenanigans," as though that would explain everything. Or, indeed, anything.

"There you are!" Ditzy herself emerged from the laundry room, hauling a basket full of clean clothes.

Mistral looked back and forth between the two. "Ditzy, is there something you'd like to tell me?"

"Hmm? Oh, right." Ditzy knelt, put the basket down, and ruffled the younger girl's hair, eliciting a giggle. "I'll tell you all about it when I'm done screaming internally."

"Do you ever get used to this sort of thing?"

Ditzy's smile grew sardonic. "I go to Canterlot High, Mom. I've gotten used to this sort of thing."


Twilight opened her mouth, paused, shook her head, and said, "I have so many objections to this that I don't even know where to begin."

"Look, it's very simple," said Ditzy. "Have you ever seen Sailor Luna?"

"I know of it, mostly through pop cultural osmosis. Girls younger than us with legs like the principals' fight eldritch horrors in miniskirts." Twilight frowned. "Er, the girls wear the miniskirts, not the horrors."

Ditzy tilted her head from side to side. "Sometimes it's both."

"I'll take your word for it."

"The point is, I'm kind of in the middle of one of the plotlines. My daughter from the future is staying with us for a while because apparently I'll think that's a good idea." Ditzy hummed to herself. "Or just to keep to the whole 'acausal loop' thing going. I could definitely see me doing that."

Twilight held up a hand. "We appear to be moving into a whole new area of headaches."

"Right, let's try to focus on this one. So, since I'm apparently Moon Bunny now, what with my blue and red best friends, I need a talking animal mascot, and I heard about how your dog can talk now."

"Yeees." Twilight drew out the word as her face twisted into further incredulity. "Principally about squirrels and the chasing thereof, though he is taking an interest in nonhuman sapients' rights. And you want to borrow him just to fulfill some narrative trope?"

"Well, that or ask you to do it to something else."

Several half-formed words escaped from Twilight's mouth before she shook her head and took a deep breath. "Before I begin a very long dissertation on all of the things wrong with that, I should ask, would you be satisfied if I simply told you 'no'?"

Ditzy thought about this for a moment. She shrugged. "Yeah, probably. Besides, it should really be a cat."

"Again, I'll take your word for it."

Intriguing Indifference, by SaintAbsol

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The man sighed as he sat in the airport terminal, leaning back in the uncomfortable seats as he watched the board overhead for any information about his eventual boarding time. It was all he could do, given the unexpected delay and him not wanting to dig through his luggage for a book or the like

And it gave him something else to focus on besides the fact a large number of people were staring and wondering why a man with the pegasus aspect was waiting to board a plane at all.

"Well, isn't this an odd sight?"

The man jumped as he didn't remember anyone sitting next to him, nor could he recall when the strangely... mundane-looking man had sat down. The stranger's yellow and red eyes had an unnerving gleam to them as they appraised him, making the man shift about in his seat. "Can I... help you?"

"Just curious, is all," the stranger said. "I think you're well aware as to what."

The man sighed, running a hand through his two-tone, white and rust colored hair. "Yeah, you and everyone else," he grumbled. The man gave a halfhearted glare at the various other would-be passengers, who hastily pretended they weren't look at him. "Is it really that hard to believe? I mean, I can't be the only guy with wings who flies on a plane."

"No, but the ones that do that usually have some variant of acrophobia; and I can tell that's not the case for you."

"How?"

The stranger's eyes seemed to glow as he gave a crooked smile. "I can."

The man opened his mouth, but just shook his head. "Whatever..."

"So," the stranger continued. "Why aren't you flying on your own?"

The man groaned. "Why should I?"

The stranger raised an eyebrow, but remained smiling. "Because you can? And you wouldn't have to deal with this delay, or the outrageous fees for your luggage, or the ticket itself."

"And I can just walk there if I really wanted. I still don't see why I should do something just because I can."

The stranger put a hand to his chin, still smiling. "Well, then why shouldn't you?"

The man shrugged. "I just... don't like to fly."

"You feel like your aspect is wrong?"

The man shook his head. "No, I don't really care what aspect I have, not like I'd get much use out of any one in particular."

That seemed to catch the stranger's interest. "So... if you had... say... the unicorn aspect, you wouldn't see much use for telekinesis?"

"Last I checked, I still had hands."

"And the earth aspect?"

The man shrugged. "I don't do a lot of heavy lifting or work outdoors or the like. So... yeah, I can't say I'd get much use out of it either."

"Interesting..." The man rubbed at his chin, his eyes gleaming again. "You could be interesting to keep an eye on..."

"You're incredibly creepy, you know that?"

The stranger chuckled, lightly clapping his hands together. "And blunt to boot, I'm looking forward to this."

"To wh—"

The board overhead flipped to show new times, and a call rang out over the PA system. "Now boarding: Flight 217, Canterlot to Whinniapolis."

The man blinked as he heard his flight called, and grabbed his luggage. "Look, I have to ge—" And he stopped short again as he realized the stranger was no longer seated next to him, nor did he appear to be anywhere in the immediate area. "...Ugh," the man groaned. "I miss when things were simple..."

On the Fists of a Dilemma, by ArtieStroke

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"Lunch monies!" Rover growled over the huddled trio of younger students. The ground rumbled next to them as his other two lackeys burst from the ground.

"Yeah! Lunch monies! Gives them to us!"

Sweetie Belle frowned, stomping her foot on the ground, "Oh, come on! This is hardly fair; you're like three grades held back compared to us!"

The three Diamond Boys looked at each other for a moment before bursting out in laughter.

"Not fair, she sayses!"

"She complains worse than her sister!"

A quiet voice cleared her throat behind them, causing all manner of heads to turn. Lily Longsocks, her purple pigtails flapping the breeze, stood behind them all.

"I think, um, maybe it would be better if you could, maybe pick on someone your own size?" She suggested, timidly but also with a hint of boredom. Rover raised an eyebrow, before nodding to Spot to take care of this interloper. The smallest of the trio of bullies stalked his way over to the girl, who just sighed.

"Okay."

To be fair, the punch didn't look like much effort was put behind it. The resounding "CRACK" and quickly fading scream in the distance said otherwise, and where Spot once stood there was a single, small and steaming fist.

The remaining two Diamond Boys blinked once, before holding their hands up and fleeing the scene with a terrified scream. Lily Longsocks looked at her fist for a moment, before sighing sadly.

"Just one punch, again..."

School of Guilds, by Bardic_Knowledge and FoME

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(Bardic_Knowledge)

"So, why are we here?" asked Sonata.

"Well, my dear, as part of my ongoing efforts to catalogue the new ways of the world-slash-universe, I've come to discover that this one campus has more magical diversity than any one country you'd care to name. Not counting the one we're in right now, of course."

Sonata pouted for half a second before finding the sign that would tell her their exact location.

It was as Discord had said. Almost everywhere she looked, Sonata saw someone who could be considered quite strange, even to an ex-immortal half-siren like herself. There were tree people, mossy people, froggy people, people who had to duck to walk through doors because their heads scraped the ceiling, a couple guys completely covered in fire, the list went on.

But before they could really get into studying the student bodies, they had to speak to the administration.

"Hopefully, Niv is actually in this week. He's usually off in his personal lab doing some project or other. We actually collaborated once. Either way, Vice Principal Beleren should be in. He takes everything seriously."


(FoME)

"Ugh..."

A familiar voice came in all too clearly, Sonata's ears capturing the sound no matter what her headache might have to say about. "Subject is reviving. Unconsciousness lasted one hour, fifty-seven minutes, eleven point three-eight seconds. How are you feeling, Sonata?"

"Shh..." She winced as even her own shush made her skull pound. She tried to open her eyes, flinched, at kept them at slits to block out the blinding glare blasting out of the NAHTI's overhead lights.

To his credit, Mr. Discord did at least try to quiet down. "Subject appearing to exhibit symptoms similar to a hangover."

After a few more moments of adjustment, Sonata sat up on the bench on which she'd been passed out and croaked, "I almost completely dried out once back in Equestria. I still felt better than I do now."

"So that's a 'no' on the synthetic negative energy, then."

Sonata tried nodding and stopped once she started getting feedback. "Definitely."

Mr. Discord drummed his fingers against thin air, making actual drum noises. "Drat. Well, I'll get in touch with Niv. He's always been good for ideas."

Sonata's eyes widened. "Niv?"

"Niv-Mizzet. Principal of Ravnica High? Fascinating fellow; might even be smarter than me. We were roommates after ol' Smoozy got expelled; long story there, don't ask."

"That place is real?"

"We went there just last week. Don't you remember?" Mr. Discord leaned in. "Actually, do you remember?"

"Yeah. Yeah, I do now." Sonata recalled the vice principal, an exhausted looking unicorn-aspected man with skin close to hers trying to do four things at once when they'd met. "Sorry, just a crazy dream."

Iconoclast, by SaintAbsol

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"That was the scene outside the Rich mansion, as the newly formed PAULDRONS society sta—" The television was switched off. It was one of the older models, lacking an internet connection or even a processor to function as a computer, magical or mundane, and wasn't even a flat-screen. By the standards of most teenagers in the world, it was practically an antique.

And one that stopped functioning as the remote was thrown through its screen.

Coffee Swirl, a pegasus aspect who cared so little for flight he'd barely used his wings since they'd appeared on his back, slowly settled back into his chair. He was already regretting having thrown his remote like that, but he really couldn't help it at this point. The fact he still got stared at for choosing to keep his feet on the ground was one thing, and easily ignored, but a special interest group advocating for equality to animals and even rocks?! There was just a point where he simply couldn't take it anymore.

"World's gone to Tartarus," he muttered under his breath, glancing toward the window as the light slowly started to dim in the approaching evening. "And it's not hard to tell who's to blame..."


The sun was well and truly gone from the sky as the community center locked up for the night. The janitor on duty yawned hugely as he checked one of the locks; it had been a long day, made no easier by the 'church' that had taken over one of the rooms.

While Sunset Shimmer regularly expressed her wishes to not be worshiped as a deity, several makeshift shrines and temples had started to pop up in public settings. The one in the community center's common area just happened to be one of the larger ones, complete with a few ever present chairs serving as pews around sizeable sculpture of her icon. It wasn't much, but it served the purpose the Shimmerists intended for it, a place to sing Sunset's praises.

Dusty Sweep had little time for such things, being only a nominal Harmonist before things had changed and only noting the changes to the world in that his back didn't hurt nearly as much as it used to when he lifted the barrels of cleaner off the shelves in the back. He didn't hold anything against the girl, but he could find better things to do than sit an worship someone who didn't want to be worshiped.

Dusty suddenly jumped as he heard something rustle near him, grabbing a sizeable stick from the ground and pointing it at the source. "Who's there?" His eyes darted around, still adjusting to the dark of the night. "I-I'm armed, I swear!" The rustling intensified for a moment, before a racoon scurried across the path, pausing only to look at him before disappearing into the night once more. Dusty blinked, than slowly lowed the stick with a shake of his head. "I'm gettin' paranoid," he muttered, turning to finish locking up.

Then something shattered within and he practically tore the door of its hinges as he took off inside.

More and more doors were thrown open as he rushed through the building, looking for who could have broken whatever that was and trying to figure out what they wanted. There wasn't any money kept on the premises, nor were there all that many things of value to be found in the first place. That meant it had to be some sort of vandal, but what could they-

Dusty's train of thought derailed as he reached the 'chapel' room, and found the sculpture of Sunset Shimmer's icon smashed to bits on the floor. The room's window was open, apparently having been jimmied open from the outside. Dusty swore loudly as he rushed over and stuck his head out, just barely catching a glimpse of someone as they vaulted over the nearby fence, a faint magical glow visible on their back.


Coffee Swirl panted as he ran, his feet pounding the hard pavement as he tried to stay away from lights as much as possible.

He couldn't believe he'd done something so unbelievably stupid and petty! Cops were going to be showing up any moment, possibly literally if they had the unicorn aspect, and the skies weren't safe even if he did want to fly. There was no way he was getting out of this with anything short of a miracle!

And, right on cue, a grey van skidded to a stop, almost running him over as it bounced up onto the sidewalk.

The window was open, letting him see a girl wearing a hoodie that did a remarkable job of concealing her face. "Get in," she said in a no-nonsense tone. "Now, before the police get here!"

Coffee Swirl didn't need telling twice, and just as well too, as she started pulling away before he'd even managed to close the door. "Who the hell are you?"

A few strands of red and yellow hair slipped out from beneath the hood as the girl slammed the gas down. "Someone else who isn't exactly thrilled with the boss-lady."


In a house that no longer adhered to the rules of normal time and space, Johnathan Quincy Discord sipped a glass of chocolate milk with a crooked smile on his face. "Nothing quite like watching a plan come together," he thought out loud. "Now then... just a few more pieces to move, and everything will be in place."

Crystal Clear Waters, by SaintAbsol

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Everfree Lake was still in the night.

Its waters were as glass, reflecting the midnight moon high above.

The noises of the forest were unnaturally faint, and only growing quieter as the midnight hour approached ever faster. Finally, right as the moon was directly overhead, all natural sounds stopped, and bubbles began to rise to the surface of the lake.

More and more came, rising with greater speed and intensity until the center of the lake frothed like it was boiling. Suddenly, from the center of the bubbling mass, a humanoid figure emerged with a guttural yell; it was clad in what looked to be a half-rotted leather jacket, a waterlogged shirt visible beneath it, and a chipped and cracked hockey mask that seemed almost melded to its face. A hand that was indistinguishable from a rotten glove raised a machete as it loosed another bellow into the night air...

And was impaled through the eye socket of the mask by a shining golden arrow.

Sunset Shimmer lowered her hand as she watched the figure sink back into the depths of the lake, turning to the siblings who owned the camp. "That should take care of him for a while, but I'm still working on a way to get rid of things like this permanently."

Gloriosa Daisy nodded, nervously fingering her flower necklace. "So... the camp will be safe to open now, right?"

"Oh, yeah; that arrow will keep him down for at least a year and a half. I may not be able to kill things like him yet, but I can at least make it hard for them to come back."

Timber Spruce just looked at at the lake, the final remnants of the frothing from earlier finally fading away. "Urban Legends," he said, shaking his head. "I almost can't believe it, even with magic."

"Yeah..." Sunset nervously rubbed at the back of her head. "Turns out, if enough people believe in something, even a horror story, it technically counts as mythology. And when there's enough mythology for something, and just the right combination of magic, you can get all sorts of weird things. It's what makes these things so hard to kill for good; since, well, most horror stories don't have a way to kill the monster."

Both of the siblings nodded at that, the sounds of the forest slowly returning to their natural nocturnal levels.

Sunset slipped her hands in her pockets and rocked back on her heels. "Anyway... if there's nothing else, I should probably get going. I may not actually need to sleep anymore, but I'd still like to get a few hours in before school."

Gloriosa shook her head. "No, we should be good now that he's taken care of; have a nice night."

Sunset smiled, and simply vanished, leaving the two of them alone in the night.

Timber yawned and stretched a bit, finally taking his eyes off the lake and back to his sister. "Well, that was easier than I expected. Guess you were right about calling her in."

"I told you it was the right thing to do." Gloriosa tapped her brother on the chest with a smirk. "And you wanted to actually try and fight him."

Timber shrugged. "Call it stereotypical male bravado. I figured we kinda had to." He paused, biting his lip nervously. "You think we should have mentioned... you know?"

Gloriosa tilted her head, then blinked and started to chuckle. "You mean, that old story mom and dad used to tell us to keep us from wandering off into the forest?" She eventually reached the point of full on laughter as she doubled over. "I think Sunset has more pressing issues than something no one outside of our family has even heard of."

Timber eventually joined his sister in laughing, though not as heartily as she did. "Yeah, I suppose you're right. There's probably scarier things out there than Gaea Everfree." Timber chuckled once more, heading back toward the counselor's cabin to get some sleep in himself.

"Yeah," Gloriosa said as she followed. "Probably."

With his back to her, Timber missed as Gloriosa's eyes became pools of black tar with glowing embers for pupils within them, if only for a moment.

Absentee Lords and Ladies, by Masterweaver

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For so many years, they had hidden. Hidden from history, from humans, from help and horror. And then...

She.

Even if she did not know of they, and so did not speak, it was not hard to see. A mere glance at humans, and the shift in the world...

Whispers in a thousand thousand places unmapped began to clamor and echo and sing.

The old games were afoot again, but new rules came with them. And now.... now humans were playing too.

They were cautious, of course—who wouldn't be?

But it was time. Time to emerge.

Time to become part of the world again.


"Iron? Or cold iron?"

"Not iron, definitely. Maybe cold iron. They call it aluminum."

"Hmm. What is contained within?"

"Sugary water, with flavors and chemical treatment."

"...what."

"They've found a way to... extract it. Reforge it. It's so common, this is a disposable drink container. Don't shake, the drink froths."

"Change... is to be expected, I suppose. It has been a long time since magic sang, and never has it sung like this."

"There is more. They have... I do not know how to explain it. It is like starfolk magic, only... not magic."

"Not magic?"

"Not how we describe it. If magic were to fall again, it would not be effected. It sings now too, with the new magic and old, but..."

"How common is this?"

"Very common. Households have it whisper through the walls. Carts without beasts move swiftly across great distances. Tiny bricks shout across the void to floating watchers. Sometimes this lets the bricks talk to each other."

"Have they... found the starfolk?"

"I cannot say, it is unclear. But they did make a journey to the moon and back, before magic sang again."

"...if something is this common, there must be knowledge of it in their libraries. Take care, and find us the words of this not magic starfolk magic."

"There is..."

"Yes?"

"There is... an invisible library. Knowledge for all, from all, accessed with not magic, and... now that magic sings, there are creatures in it. But it is common enough."

"How trustworthy is this knowledge?"

"Oh, it depends. I call it a library, but it is more a library of libraries. Some are lies. Some are truth. I could... bring you a gate, but..."

"Iron and cold iron."

"Contained in strange false bone, but... yes. And rare is the gatekeeper that does not demand money. Or proof that we lie not of ourself."

"I see... perhaps take another's gate, then."

"It could be done."

"Good. And have you, at least, found why magic sings again?"

"...The Belled Sorcerer left his gate open. Magic from his world poisoned ours. Then another Sorcerer stepped in... and now the magics are blended, and she keeps the world together as it heals."

"Does she know of us?"

"...I cannot say. I cannot say."

S/M.I.L.E. Please, by The wind king

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Computers hummed and sang, strange technological songs comprised of pure information floating through the air far faster than any melody really had a right to go. Florescent lights buzzed in the tiled ceiling, their harsh light burning away any shadows in misused corners or under overlooked desks. Footsteps echoed and built in such as small space giving the impression that any unseen observer could turn around and find themself observed.

It was in all exceedingly busy for a room that last week had been a garage, The Man with a Shadow For a Face thought to himself, as the last glowing embers of a cigarette dangled from his lips.

Gnarled and scarred fingers plucked the glowing tube from his lips, before he stubbed it out against the hoof-like fingernails on his other hand. The act didn't even draw a flinch from him, even as the people around him did so, the bustle hiccuping at the sound of embers meeting 'flesh' before everyone turned back to their tasks.

The Man watched for a second more, a mixture of pride and worry on his nonexistent features, before he stepped smartly forwards into the bustling activity which parted around him, whether in reverence or fear he didn't rightly know; so many of the agents here were new to the task, a sad necessity given how the world had changed, was changing even still, and would continue to change with the events yet to unfold. This lack of knowledge galled him as he strode the short distance over to a mop of pink and blue hair above a cream face which was twisted in distaste as report after report flitted across her monitor.

"Agent Drops."

The teenager didn't jump. She didn't shout or squeak or even flinch at the Man's gravelly voice. She merely sighed and twisted her chair as to face him. "Yes, Director?"

"What is the progress on the S/M.I.L.E database?"

"Oh it's just going great, Director." The woman threw her own thick-nailed hands in the air before pulling a sheet of paper out of one the piles on her desk. "Ever since the 'Don't Believe in Monsters or They'll Get You' vlog hit the Shimmerists' site we've had a vicious upswing in monster sightings, urban legend renewals, alien 'abductions', and and conspiracy theorists going on and on about how the government is running some sort of 'monster preserve on an unmarked unlisted island in the middle of the Harmonic Ocean, the Saddlantic Ocean, and the Bermula Triangle."

"And what do you actually have for me?"

"Too many hoaxes to name." Agent Drops sighed before passing the sheet to the director. "However we've had agents in all of these cities reporting in the following."

"Candyman in Chicolto; Birde and Hare in Marenburgh; Jack the Ripper, Springheel Jack, and the Plague Rat all in Londonk; the Sandpoint Devil in, surprise surprise, Sandpoint; numerous reporting of Black Shuck in the Porkshire Dales, the White Mare worldwide?" The director raised his 'eyes' from the densely packed list. "This paints a very bleak picture, Agent Drops."

"And more reports keep on coming in, those are simply the ones that've come in from other agents. There's no telling how many civilians have wandered on something legitimate and not stumbled back out." Another ding of an arriving message rang from the computer's speaker as the overworked teenager swung back to the glowing screen. "If you'll excuse me, sir, I'm too busy at the moment. I'll have a report on your desk by tomorrow morning, Harmony willing."

"I'll see what I can do to lighten your load, Agent Drops. In Vigilo Confido"

"In Vigilo Confido, sir."

Glamourous, by Masterweaver

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"...Hey Pinkie?"

"Yeah Applejack?"

The farmgirl pointed across the road. "Are ya seein' what Ah'm seein'?"

Pinkie followed her finger. "I'm not seein' what you're seein' if you're seein' somethin' strange. All I'm seein' is a guy leanin' against a wall seein' what he can see. Or she. It's an androgynous figure. Which isn't that odd these days. Why, what are you seein'?"

"...Well, he's got... pointed ears. And not like Rares, either, I mean," She made a gesture. "Woooooosh, you know?"

"Like Battleforge elves?"

"Um...?"

Pinkie pulled her phone out, tapping some keys. "Here. These guys."

"...Ya know, he actually looks a lot like that ta me. Ah mean, it's his eyelashes that are big, not his eyebrows, but--"

"Gotcha. You're seein' something I'm not. I know how to solve this." Pinkie pocketed her phone and pranced across the road.

"Wait, Pinkie, what—?"

"Excuse me, sir or madam! Are you currently or have you ever been under any enchantment, spell, or otherwise magical occurance that results in the alteration of your appearance to outside observers?"

The strange person looked at Pinkie. Applejack facepalmed.

"...Yes." The person nodded. "And now, I feel I must leave." They dissolved into sparkles and spiraled away into nothingness.

Pinkie stood there, staring at where they had been standing, up until Applejack joined her. "Pinkie, if somebody is tryin' ta be disguised, Ah don't think askin' 'are ya disguised' is goin' ta help the situation."

"Well, I wasn't expecting him or her to whisk themselves away like that! What was that all about?"

"Don't ask me! Ah don't have a clue!"

The Seven Bonds, by Masterweaver

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The Seven Bonds
A traditional Breezie song, as translated by P-Fluttershy of Cloudsdale

Remember ye the seven ways the soul can twist and bind
Ne'er forget the truth of things where'r wence your path wind
Each has power, each has give, and learn them well you must
No matter the power of the ones to whom ye give the trust.

Earth tis hard to convince, and harder still to change
Foundation of all that one is, do not ye rearrange
Save for strength, for purest grant, for singer of the land
And even then, only grant to those with gentle hand.

Water flows through us all, no matter where we shall go
The greatest hearts can ride the waves and alter fate's very flow
Ware, though, lest ye forget the fickle core of life
And ever find yourself caught in another's strife.

Fire roars and twists and burns, ne'er stopping in its path
Till at last its feed is done and ends its nameless wrath
These pacts be brief, and quickly made, never do otherwise
Lest ye become the very thing your brother now despise.

Air binds us all to common realm, a joy in every breath
And those without air or its bind shall slowly suffer death
Yet soft is she, so gentle be, and only reach you out
When the need for healing is around with not a single doubt.

Song and laughter, screams and cries, the shadows of the night
Bring hope and fear, doom and joy, wonderment and fright
Wary are many of this power, and wary they should be
For the greatest secrets is what in truth they'll see.

Light and color may seem, to you, as calm as summer's day
And there is some truth to those who think this way
But ne'er forget that seeing one may blind you to another
So only take this path for dearest friend or brother.

And so at last we come to this, the highest of the self
And I say never bind! For goodness or for wealth!
Thought and magic and your core are one the same and true
If this one you give away, no longer shall you be you.

Around you see the many, the choices they have made,
The twists their bindings gave and the games that they have played
Go ye, child, to one realm or other, and choose your bindings well
To greatest glory triumph! Or to utter ruin be fell.

Breeze's Bargain, by Masterweaver

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"Man. My life sucks."

"Do tell."

"Huh?" Zephyr looked up, only belatedly noticing the beautiful girl leaning against a wall. "Oh! Hey. Wow, I must be really out of it, to miss something as lovely as you."

"Oh, I know. The woes of reality can blind us all." The girl's face was sympathetic. "Why, just this morning, I found somebody had gathered all my things up into a single bag!"

"You got kicked out of your house?" Zephyr gasped. "That's terrible!"

"It would be, if I hadn't had the good fortune to run into somebody who could help me." The girl pouted. "You can... help me, right?"

Zephyr sighed. "I'd like too, but... look, I left my sister hanging, and after that my mom's been super lock-down. I can't even have my smart-phone, just a ten-year-old flipout." He kicked a rock. "It's... it's a long story."

"Well... so long as we're suffering, we can suffer together." The girl breezed off the wall. "And who knows? With magic, many possibilities open up to us."

"Heh, yeah." Zephyr adjusted his shirt casually. "A lot of new opportunities. It's... it's a shame I can't really take advantage of them."

"Because of your mother's restraints?"

"No..." He slumped. "Look. Lady, you really don't want to be with me. I'm... a failure. There, I said it. Everything I've tried, I... I dropped it after a while. I find a talent, and then I just... I just have no skill."

"You lack conviction. Purpose..." The girl slipped a sympathetic hand around his shoulder. "One of the quieter tragedies of this day and age."

"Yeah. I wish I could help you, but—"

"Perhaps," the girl mused, "we could help each other."

"What?"

"I know a spell, a spell to give you a stronger heart. A will to move mountains. If I were to cast it upon you, perhaps... perhaps you could grant me residence in your home?"

"I... I dunno. I still live with my parents—"

"I need very little space. Surely there is a place that is used only for storage?"

"Well..." Zephyr frowned. "I mean... there's the shed where dad keeps his leaf collection. He's got leaves from all over the world--but--"

"I promise," the girl purred, "he wouldn't even know I was there."

"We don't even know each other's names!"

"Hmm." The girl pursed her lips. "...Winter Lights. That is what you may call me."

"I'm Zephyr Breeze."

"And it is a pleasure to meet you." She spun around, looking into his eyes. "Now... do we have an agreement?"

"I..." Zephyr winced. "This won't... hurt, or do weird things to me, right?"

"Oh, trust me, you won't even notice anything besides your newfound confidence."

After a moment, he nodded and stuck out his hand. "Count me in."

"Our pact is sealed."

Raresearch & Dashvelopment, by Masterweaver

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"So what is it you wanted me to see, Rarity?"

"Well, Twilight, I thought you might be interested in this. You see, I caught the video of those Wonderbolts dissolving that hurricane, and I asked myself 'Why don't they do more weather management, like handling clouds?'"

"Clouds are too high in the atmosphere. Even if they could fly up there, they couldn't—"

"Couldn't breathe, yes, darling, I did research. However, there are air tanks and airtight suits in the world already. Scuba gear, space suits, all that. Rainbow, do you have it on yet?"

"Give me a moment! It's hard to adjust!"

"You're having Rainbow test this? Rarity, the feathers have to be exposed to the air to generate a lightbow!"

"That is the common wisdom, yes, but! The lightbow is a magical construct. So I thought to myself, if there was a way to transfer magic through a fabric, without transferring air, then it should be possible to make a skin-tight suit which allows featherfolk to fly!"

"Okay! I think I got it!"

"...What's that collar Rainbow's wearing?"

"That is my proof of concept. Twilight, behold: The thaumographic lightbow valve!"

"Huh. That's... actually pretty impressive. Rainbow, you doing okay there?"

"Yeah. It's a little tight, and to be honest I'm having to put more effort in to hover than I usually do. But I'm doing fine."

"Of course, we haven't done any stress testing--how long it lasts, how fast she can go, all that. I know that there's quite a bit of detail in recording that data, and I thought--"

"Right. I need all your notes on how you made this, and then I need to plan some experiments. If it's atmospherically enclosed and temperature resistant, that could theoretically enable you to fly to space! I wonder if this only works for pegasus aspected people. If you could make a headband..."

Botanical Supplements, by Masterweaver

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Fluttershy yawned, her voice just a little out of sync with her vocal cords, and swung her legs out from her sheets with an audible creak. She idly scratched some twigs from her hair as she stood, eyes twitching underneath still closed lids while her feet dragged her slowly to the bathroom. The sound of water falling managed to trigger a reaction, and she blearily let the light in to see her hand had turned the shower on without any conscious decision from her. An inexorable groan marked her dragging her feet into the chamber, faintly smiling as the water began to pool around her gnarled toes.

Slowly, her mind grumbled to more and more activity. Her hands went to the unseeded flowerpot resting next to the shampoos, scrubbing the soil within over the rough skin of her feet. She giggled as a flower in her hair began to bloom, and twirled her long hair in the falling stream. The bathrobe she wore slipped off when she remembered it, letting her scrub her skin with the special soap Tree Hugger had made. Idle song, not unlike that of a bird, began to pour from her lips as she tended to herself.

When the last of the soil caked around her toes had swirled down the drain, Fluttershy finally turned off the water and reached out for a towel. She paused as she walked by the mirror, tilting her head at the petals atop her head. Her fingers reached up to it... and then, with a whimsical smile, she lowered them. With a towel around her she walked into the hall, humming some odd Coltic tune.

Not How to Make Skooma, by FoME

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Crystal Prep's library was, like all other aspects of it, the best money could buy. Shelves filled more floor space than most apartments, and every computer was top of the line. Not that that counted for much; the web browsers didn't have a blacklist but a whitelist of permitted websites, and every potential new addition had to get Principal Cinch's approval. As such, it was one of the few high school libraries in the country where students still did a considerable amount of research with physical books.

Two of them sat side by side, each reading a voluminous text. After several minutes, Moondancer cleared her throat. "So."

"Yes?" Sugarcoat said with signature sharpness.

"I heard you went to see Twilight Sparkle the other day." It would've been a carefree tone had it come from someone who hadn't once dismissed chitchat as what lesser minds did instead of think.

"Through Lemon Zest, I assume."

"She was loudly scorning everyone for not participating and getting to see, and I quote, 'the kawaii-as-balls shoujo-ai up ins.'"

Sugarcoat put down her book, her brow furrowed. "Translation?"

"I'm not entirely sure. It's why I brought it up."

"That and your crush on Twilight was vastly more obvious than mine."

Moondancer blushed all but shoving her face into her book. "I don't know what you're talking about."

An indigo shape came closer in her peripheral vision. "You even copied her hairstyle."

Moondancer brought a hand to her bun, secured with an elastic band through which she'd threaded her crescent-moon icon. "I thought it looked nice."

"That's certainly one reason," said Sugarcoat. "Why are you bringing this up?"

"Well..." Moondancer put down the book, took a deep breath, and faced Sugarcoat. "How did it go?"

Sugarcoat scowled more deeply than usual and looked away. "She wasn't interested."

Moondancer bit her lip. "B-because of orientation, or—"

"I don't know if they've made it official yet, but she's basically dating God."

It took a few moments for Moondancer to process that. She wilted. "Oh."

Sugarcoat shrugged. "It's Twilight Sparkle. I don't think anyone at Crystal Prep was ever in her league."

"I don't think any of us were even playing the same sport." The girls shared a sigh. After a few moments, Moondancer said, "So, if you're not doing anything this weekend..."

Sugarcoat gave her a long, appraising look. She finally spoke as Moondancer felt her cheeks redden. "Start using conditioner and we'll talk."

Sun and Stars, by Masterweaver

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"Huh." Twilight flicked through her feed, before looking up from her smartphone. "Sunset?"

"Yeah?"

"Your followers are trying to legalize polygamy."

"Really?"

"Well, technically they're trying to legalize 'romantic groupings,' which covered polyandry as well, and they're getting a lot of help from the Wholesome, but... basically, yes."

"Why?"

"Apparently, since you're a pony, they've assumed your society follows social norms related to horses and practices... similar things."

Sunset considered this, and gave a shrug. "They're not starting wars over this, are they?"

"Well, no, but--"

"Then I'm cool with it."

Twilight blinked. "You... support...?"

"Twilight, to be honest, I couldn't care less how people express their love for each other. Love for me, sure, that's personal, but what goes on in the bedroom stays in the bedroom." She shuddered. "Trust me on this."

"Oh. Well..." Twilight coughed. "Um. Wow. Uh... I mean, you realize this kind of... if you ever started dating—"

Sunset rolled her eyes. "Look, if it helps, I'll throw up a whole 'everyone in the relationship must agree to everyone in the relationship' speech on my next EweTube video, okay?"

"Yeah, that would help." Twilight chuckled. "I mean, a lot of people might want to court you due to, you know, the whole power thing, but nobody would ever look twice at me."

Sunset blinked, giving her an odd look.

"...what?"

"...Nothing." She shook her head. "Nothing at all."

"No seriously, what? Why'd you give me that look?" Twilight threw up her hands. "Is this about Sugarcoat? I'm pretty sure she's a statistical anomaly!"

Sunset stared straight ahead.

"What, you think that there are more Crystal Prep students that were secretly crushing on me?" Twilight snorted. "That's ridiculous."

Sunset said absolutely nothing.

"...Isn't it?"

Sunset very pointedly didn't mention the Society of Aspiring Sparkle Suitors meeting she had been invited to, or the thirty-something members who were present, or the large list of potential new members hanging on a wall.

"...Yeah, you're right. It's totally crazy."

Stark Reality, by ArtieStroke

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"And with the final design for the thaumatic reactor being sent in for patenting, we can begin the industrial phase as soon as your return from Saddle Arabia."

Fancy Pants nodded, flipping through the fiscal notes of the current quarter, "Excellent news, Mrs. Spice, excellent indeed! I look forward to Fancy Industries finally getting more of a leg up in the new market for magical technology- hmm... remind me to schedule a board meeting for a portmanteau branding session."

"Yes sir, Mr. Pants," Spice said, jotting down a note. There was a small moment of silence before she spoke up again.

"Sir, I... may I voice some concerns?"

Raising his eyebrows in surprise, Fancy Pants, "I don't know what impression I gave that would suggest otherwise- I value your input highly, Mrs. Spice."

"Well..." She shifted a little, "I'm just a little worried- a technological demonstration in Saddle Arabia? And so close to the border with Tauros? To be frank, sir, it seems ill conceived."

Fancy Pants nodded, "Ah, is that all?"

He stood up, clapping a hand reassuringly on his assistant, "I assure you, I have taken every measure of precaution for this trip. Security detail, professional military assistance- I believe the common folk refer to it as "The Works", yes?"

"Yes, that sounds about right."

Fancy Pants smiled, "So, chin up! Nothing could possibly go wrong!"


"Billionaire philanthropist and magitech powerhouse CEO of Fancy Industries has been declared missing during a demonstration in Saddle Arabia," the news anchor declared. Snails blinked once, a spoonful of cereal dripping back into his bowl. He shrugged once, and went back to eating.

"Mom, your boss is on the news."

Re-Markable, by Masterweaver

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As the baby dragon rushed past her to his own tiny throne, the pinkish purple unicorn looked about the room and swallowed as the door swung shut behind her.

"I know there's no excuse for what I did, but I want you all to know that I'm ready for whatever punishment you think is fair."

The purple alicorn in one of the thrones smiled sympathetically. "I've been thinking a lot about how badly Equestria fared without just one group of friends. Because even when one friendship dies, the results can be disastrous."

"I know first-hoof how true that can be..." The unicorn kicked at the floor, eyes downcast.

"And that's why I've asked you here. If you're willing to learn, I'm willing to teach you what I know. You'll have the power to—"

There was a rapid pounding on the door. "Hey! Princess Twilight! Are you in there?!"

The alicorn blinked. "Excuse me a second." She stood and walked over, opening it. "Oh! Hello, Twilight—"

"Sunset says this world underwent temporal fragmentation recently so she sent me to check and make sure that everything's okay—"

"Oh, don't worry, that situation's been dealt with. Mostly. As a matter of fact, we're in the middle of wrapping it up right now."

"Really? You don't mind if I sit in, do you?"

Twilight hemmed. "Well, most of the magical and technical matters have been handled, and what's left is... kind of..." She rolled a hoof, trying to find a good word. "It's... it's a princess thing."

"Politics?" The voice on the other side of the door sighed. "Well.... can you give me your notes on the whole thing? I can head to the library and look over them, see if there's anything we should be worried about."

"Ah, well, I mean, I can see why you'd be interested, but—"

"You did take notes, right?"

"Like you said. Politics. Classified. I don't... It's really complicated and I really am in the middle of something important. I'll have to look through the files to see what I can tell you--"

"Alright, alright. Just... look, as soon as you're done with that, we really need to talk. Sunset's worried about the seven other worlds."

"The— What?"

"The other worlds. The ones that sprung up when your timeline fragmented. She's not sure, but it's possible they all connect to the portal on Earth—"

"OOOOOOOOOOKAY! That is important. Good to know. Look, go wait in the library, and I super promise I will explain everything when I'm done here. Okay? Okay." Twilight shut the door quickly, turning back to the assembled ponies. "So! As I was saying—"

"Was that some sort of mutant minotaur?" Starlight asked. "Did you have some mutant minotaur baby?"

"AS. I. WAS. SAYING." Twilight cleared her throat, schooling her expression into a polite smile. "Starlight Glimmer, I'd like for you to become my student and learn the magic of friendship."

"What was that she said about other worlds? Do all those other timelines still exist?!"

"Magic of friendship!" Twilight shouted. "So you don't have to be alone anymore! What do you say?"

"Sweet Celestia, what have I done?!"

Twilight sighed, dragging a hoof down her face. "Okay, Starlight? Breathe. This isn't nearly as bad as the time I almost destroyed the universe."

Long May He Rein, by SaintAbsol

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"I'd still like to know why the shift occurs in one direction, but not the other."

"That's a problem for another day; besides, you said it yourself, this is just a social visit."

"Right... a social visit, involving a trans-dimensional portal and a meeting with a dei—"

"Twilight..."

Princess Twilight, now in the shape of a unicorn-aspect human, frowned at Sunset from across the lunch table. The rest of their friends, including her doppelganger, were seated at the same table, having conversations of their own (with a full mouth in the case of Rainbow Dash) as the two of them discussed things from their respective sides of the mirror. "Look, Sunset," she said. "I realize you don't like the word, but it's objectively what you are right now. Even if you didn't have a direct connection to this reality, you're still far more powerful that the vast majority of others, have some level of at least quasi-immortality, and—whether you want them or not—a group that worships you; you are a deity, Sunset."

"I know..." Sunset groaned, her head coming down to meet the table with a dull 'THUNK'. "Just... I don't like to think to hard on it; I'm trying to stay grounded." She eventually brought her arms up to rest her head on them. "Can't we talk about something else?"

Twilight still frowned, but eventually sighed and decided to honor her friend's request. "Well, if we can't talk about that, and you don't want to talk about magic... there is one thing that's been bothering me about this world."

Sunset glanced toward the rest of their friends, who were all doing a remarkable job of pretending they weren't listening now. "Well, I'm hardly an expert, but I guess it's better than nothing."

Twilight hesitated. "Well... it's like back in Equestria, only... there, there's a reason for it, given... well, the dominant species and all, but here... it... well, it's sorta..." She groaned. "Why are there so many naming conventions that seem to relate back to ponies?"

The entire table blinked.

"Or... I suppose you call them... 'horses', but..."

Sunset took over. "That word is spelled with a 'W' back in Equestria," she explained to the other group. It wasn't long before the light of understand sparkled in their eyes, and an uncomfortable silence followed. "But... now that you mentioned it, I never really noticed before, but you're right, it is a little—"

"It's because of Glitterhoof."

Sunset and Princess Twilight both looked toward Pinkie Pie. "Glitterhoof?"

"Yeppers!" The Party Girl smiled. "Waaaaaaaaaaaay back when Scandaneighvia was still called 'Norway', there was this horse that showed up right when the king was having a tough time. He had these really sparkly hooves, and everyone started referring to him as Glitterhoof; the king took a liking to him and started riding him into battle and almost always won when he did. When the king got old, he ended up naming the horse as his heir, since him and his sons didn't get along."

Princess Twilight's face grew entirely deadpan. "You're making this up..."

"Nah, she's tellin' the truth." Rainbow Dash finally managed to swallow the mess of food she'd been chowing down on. "It's the one part of history class I paid attention to. Glitterhoof was crowned after the king died, and the sons started a rebellion. They would have probably killed the horse and taken the crown back, if the king's general hadn't decided that even a horse would make a better king than any of them and started riding Glitterhoof into battle himself.

"The sons weren't all that smart, so their rebellion didn't last more than a few years. And, by then, Glitterhoof had kinda endeared himself to most people, meaning that more and more of them were okay with having a horse for a ruler and a few towns even started changing their names to some sort of horse-pun. Plus... well, he had a lot of really strange luck while he reigned. Pretty much everything seemed to go right for his country; good weather, good crop yields, and the citizens generally prospered. It got to the point that, when Glitterhoof died, they actually crowned a colt he'd sired as the next king."

Twilight and Sunset both openly gaped as Rainbow Dash, of all people, started to explain about how this horse-run kingdom went on to, mostly out of luck and the 'king's' court using some creative politics, ended up encompassing a good portion of the world, complete with their horse-themed naming conventions for both towns and (later) citizens. To the point that, even when it finally fell, the naming conventions stuck around to the modern day. By the end of it, both of them could only stare dumbly for several minutes.

"This..." Sunset finally started. "This is a joke... it has to be a joke."

The human Twilight gave Sunset an incredulous look. "You've lived here for years, and you never learned the history?"

"It was never a huge priority. I usually just stole answer keys to pass most of my tests back when I was... less nice."

Princess Twilight's mouth worked for another moment, before she finally managed to speak once more. "I... you... how do you know this much about it?" She pointed a fist at Rainbow Dash, forgetting about her fingers for a moment.

Rainbow Dash just smirked. "Cause I'm named after one of Glitterhoof's successors, duh!"

Cry to the Heavens, by Masterweaver, Jenna Cipher, and FoME

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(Masterweaver)

"Ow!" Sunset frowned, leaning down. "An orange? Who would throw an orange at me?"

"I'M RELEVANT!"

She turned to see a man she'd never met dancing on a rooftop next to a crate of oranges.

After a moment, she shrugged, tossed the orange to her other hand, and continued walking.


(Jenna Cipher)

"And the guy just threw an orange at you?"

"Yep"

"Well... Who was he?"

Sunset paused for a moment, a small frown appearing on her face, before she turned back to her friend and responded.

"I have no idea Applejack... I have no idea."


(FoME)

Sunset thought nothing of it until the next day.

"I'M RELEVANT!"

"I'M RELEVANT!"

"I'M MORE RELEVANT!"

Oranges fell like rain.

"Of course," Sunset grumbled from beneath her energy shield. "Of course they'd turn it into a way to worship me."

The Care and Feeding of Minions, by Masterweaver

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"Look, Sunset, I get that you're a god and all now—"

"I am really uncomfortable with that word—"

"—and I know we kind of avoided you after the whole demon thing—"

"That is entirely understandable—"

"—but I'm really freaking out here. I, I don't know who else to turn to, and..."

Sunset, not for the first time, let out a sigh. "Okay, Snips. I'll come with you."

"Great! It-it's this way." The stocky teenager waved a hand, running down the road. "We've got to hurry!"

Sunset rolled her eyes, easily keeping up with her former minion. "Will you at least tell me what's going on?"

"You know how you transformed us into those flying demon things back when you were evil?"

"Yeah, so?"

"I think there might have been side effects!" Snips gestured. "Like, when you fixed magic, the connection or something did something!"

Sunset frowned. "That... could be serious, actually. What kind of side effects?"

"Well, I didn't notice anything before, but now that I think about it, I might be, I dunno, smarter? Like I'm finding all my schoolwork a little easier or something! But what's really important is Snails," Snips emphasized. "I mean, you know what he's like, not all there at all—"

"So you think he couldn't resist this whatever as much, so he's more seriously affected?"

"Yeah! I mean—" Snips stopped suddenly, gesturing at a door. "Look, you have to promise not to freak out, okay? Just... look in there. Sneaky like."

Sunset frowned, flicking her eyes toward the door. The gem on her forehead glowed for a moment or two. "...Okay, so... Snails is taking ballet."

"He's wearing a tutu and everything!" Snips clutched his head. "I mean, when he told me he seemed so happy, I had to pretend it was cool and get out of there—"

Sunset facepalmed.

"...What?"

"Snips, you know how I threatened to expose your, and I quote, 'super geeky papercraft artwork' in order to get you to work for me?"

"Uh..." The teenager's eyes darted left and right. "Y-Yeah. I, uh. Yeah. You still haven't, right?"

"No. And frankly it was wrong of me to do that, and your artwork is actually pretty good and you should be proud of it, but that's besides the point right now." Sunset let her eyes open. "How do you think I managed to get Snails on board?"

"Uh... I dunno. I always thought you just told him to do something and he did, because he's kind of stupid."

"...I threatened him like I threatened you."

"Wait, Snails has super geeky papercraft artwork?"

Sunset rolled her eyes. "Snails has taken ballet class for as long as I've known him."

Snips' eyes bulged. "Wait, what?"

"Yeah. Before I came to Earth, even." She nodded. "He's got the legs for it, you've got to admit."

"Uh--but--I thought..." Snips gulped. "Um."

"You thought....?"

"I... thought that maybe... your, uh, impulses might have imprinted on him, when we were, uh, transformed, and then the magic made them come back?"

Sunset slowly raised an eyebrow as Snips fidgeted.

"Or maybe," she suggested very calmly, "Snails has grown more confident in himself and his interests, as a result of growing up." She shrugged. "Or it could be that he has new magic abilities giving him confidence. Or maybe he just wanted to share something special with his best friend. I don't know."

"Um."

"Also, I don't do ballet."

"Oh."

"I can pull off some mean breakdancing stunts though."

"...Ah." Snips cleared his throat. "So... just to be clear, you're absolutely sure me and Snails haven't been mind-whammied?"

Sunset held up a finger, paused, and then smiled a smile all too familiar to him. "Actually, now that you mention it, it might be good to have you two visit the NAHTI this weekend..."

The Mare Makes the Clothes, by FoME

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"The fashion really interests me," said Twilight.

The Rainbooms looked at her with mixed expressions from their various positions on and around the portal, none more excited than Rarity. "I cannot tell you how wonderful it is to hear that, Twilight! I have always believed that your beauty could truly blossom with just a touch more consideration of your appearance. If you ever wish to—"

"Rarity." Twilight held up a hand. "I appreciate the thought, but that wasn't what I meant."

"Oh. Well, the offer stands."

"What did you mean, Twilight?" said Sunset.

"Well, aside from questions of origin and persistence, it appears that the outfits generated for ponies reflect their mindsets to some degree. My analogue told me she couldn't help but think about how much there was to learn in this world and she came out dressed like a typical student, complete with backpack. Rainbow Dash's analogue came out looking—"

"Awesome," said Dash, lying on the back of the Wondercolt. "Well, up until the moment she punched me in the face."

"I was going to say 'like an NRPG protagonist,' which rather fits her mindset. And Fluttershy's seemed prepared for a safari."

Fluttershy nodded. "She had a new creature to learn about. Focusing on that helped her ignore the scary parts of being in such a strange place."

"So it will be interesting to see what— Oh!"

The base of the statue began to glow. A humanoid figure stumbled out of it. For a few silent seconds, everyone took her in.

"... Huh." Twilight coughed into a fist. "I'm really not sure what I expected."

The new arrival looked to her counterpart. "Hi, Pinkie!"

The local Pinkie returned the enormous smile of the girl clad in the exact same outfit. "Hi, Pinkie!"

Living Nightmares, by Jenna Cipher

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"No Sweetie Belle, I am your mother..."

"NOOOOOOO!"

"I'm givn' her all she's got captain!"

"Invaders blood marches through my veins like giant radioactive rubber pants! The pants command me! DO NOT IGNORE MY VEINS!"

"Because that is dumb! And you are dumb for thinking that!"

Sunset stared blankly at the scene before her, a very weird sight consisting of a yelling contest between Darth Rarity, Sweetie Skywalker, Chief Engineer Applebloom 'Scotty' Scot, Invader Spike, and Rainbow Caboose. With frustrated sigh, she turned to the rest of her friends.

"A spell that turns people into whatever they dressed up as for halloween... Not the weirdest thing I've seen this year, but what are you supposed to be Fluttershy?"

Sitting next to her on the ground, a cream colored police box with three butterflies on it's side let out a faint wheezing sound, that if one focused hard enough, could be interpreted as a very quiet 'eep'.

Creative Control Freak, by Masterweaver

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"Hello. I'm a talking dog named Spike. And here, I review things. So, we decided to call this web show... Candid Canines!"

"Spike!"

"Fine, Candid Canine, singular."

"Spike..."

"I'm a canine, and I'm candid, and I want another C word because I like alliteration."

"Spike, seriously."

"Look, Spike Reviews isn't really going to get any hits. It's like... there are a lot of Spikes, aren't there? There's the vampire Spike, there's the dragon Spike, the Happy Days Spike—"

"Look, I just thought you'd want to spread your opinion of human culture!"

"I do, Twi, seriously, but... can we try some other title? Something less generic?"

"He's got a point."

"Moooom!"

Mass Transit Gloria Mundi, by FoME

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Sunset had learned a lot over the years since the Saturation, but she'd never quite figured out how to keep people from holding her up on a pedestal. The various sects and interpretations had calcified, a generation had been born into a new world and taught that the nice woman with the ketchup-and-mustard hair was a goddess, and all the powers of Harmony couldn't overcome sheer cultural momentum. At least, not in a way that would let Sunset live with herself afterwards.

Twilight and the others helped with both the frustration and keeping Sunset grounded. If Sunset was honest with herself, even the frustration itself helped, reminding her of the disharmonious emotions that anchored her to humanity. Her very nature made such things slippery, and without them, she could all too easily slip towards the same distant dissipation as the Tree.

Sunset felt very grounded at the moment, rubbing her temples and wincing at the potential wordplay.

"Have I displeased you, o Brilliant One?" asked Flying Buttress, an all-too-earnest earth-aspected architect.

Sunset took a deep breath. "Part of it is just nostalgia, Mr. Buttress." Seeing nothing but a cleared foundation where Canterlot High once stood did leave an ache in her heart, but it was nothing compared to the building migraine. "However—"

Buttress dropped to his knees. "Speak, and I will correct the mortal flaws imposed upon your vision."

She knelt, took his hand, and dragged him to his feet. Once Buttress was done marveling at his own palm, Sunset said, "Don't get me wrong, the blueprint looks amazing. It's just that this is supposed to be a transit hub." She patted the still-standing horse statue containing the portal. "It and its counterpart in Equestria are meant to make it easier for people to move from universe to another. Instead, you have designed a cathedral. It's a very nice cathedral, just not what I'd asked for."

Flying Buttress looked back and forth between Sunset and the blueprint for the better part of a minute. Finally, he said, "So... you didn't mean facilitating a spiritual journey to approach your divine equinity?"

Sunset took a deep breath and fought the urge to facepalm. "No. No I did not." She held up a hand before he could debase himself again. "You're forgiven; we all make mistakes, and yes, that does include me. And a lot of the design elements can stay; I had something like Pone Station in mind anyway. I just don't want the first thing my mentor sees when she visits this world to be a twenty-foot-high brass statue of me. That doesn't exactly scream that I've gotten over my megalomaniacal phase."

Buttress considered this for a moment. "If I may speak freely, Highest of the High?"

Sunset nodded, wondering who kept coming up with all of those honorifics.

"You are the undisputed mistress of the universe."

"Yes, but that doesn't mean I have to flaunt it."

Set Your Preferences, by Masterweaver

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Seven friends quietly ate lunch together. Five of them shared glances, awkwardly trying not to stare at the last two. There seemed to be an unspoken tension.

Sunset sighed, putting down her sandwich. "Okay. What is it?"

Rarity bit her lip. "It's... it's nothing, darling—"

"Girls, I'm literally relying on you to keep me from going megalomaniac. If you're not comfortable asking questions, then... how will you be comfortable telling me when I'm wrong?"

"It's not like that!" Rainbow Dash insisted. "It's... really, it's just nothing."

Sunset lidded her eyes.

"...Oh, heck." Applejack took off her hat. "Look, Sunset, back when this all started, ya... kinda mentioned you weren't attracted ta baldin' apes cause you thought of yourself as a unicorn. But now..." She trailed off.

"Wait, is this about me?" Twilight asked.

"Um." Fluttershy smiled awkwardly. "Maybe? It's really more about Sunset, and... neither of you have to answer if you don't want to—"

"Did your transformation into a semi-abstract entity responsible for monitoring the stability of reality affect your personal preferences?" Pinkie asked quickly.

Sunset rolled her eyes. "Well it..."

She paused.

"...You know, now that I think about it... huh. I think I might be an asexual demiromantic?" She shrugged. "Or something. I don't know. I guess I'll figure it out..."

Revere the Hounds, by Jenna Cipher and FoME

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(Jenna Cipher)

Sunset Shimmer stared gaping at the paper floating before her, as if not quite having registered its utter stupidity. Shaking her head, she finally looked up at Twilight, sitting in front of her. and spoke.

"A weapons enthusiast who joined one of my stupid churches wants my blessing for her to create something called... a war corgi!?"

Twilight frowned. "What the heck is a war corgi?"

"That's what I want to know..."

(FoME)

"Granted, this is the girl who asked to be the pope of the Church of the Divine Bacon Horse."

"Seriously?" Twilight snorted, then saw Sunset's serious expression. "You didn't!"

Sunset shrugged. "Well, she did ask first."

"'First come, first served' is no basis for a system of religious hierarchy!"

"It is when it's one as ridiculous as that." Sunset frowned. "Going back to war corgis, where's Spike?"


The assembled dogs of Canterlot sat before their leader, entranced as he paced from side to side of the stage.

"We shall chase them up the branches, we shall chase them through the picnic grounds, we shall chase in the fields and the streets, we shall chase in our homes, we will never surrender."

The air around the gazebo filled with excited barks and yips. Then a squirrel passed by and the barks and yips pursued it, along with their sources.

Assume a Spherical Walrus, by FoME

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Luna had been happy to accept managing dreams. She still didn't completely trust Sunset Shimmer. The girl had clearly turned over a new leaf, but Luna remembered her own regrettable youth too well to trust a teenager as mistress of the universe. Anything she could take off of Sunset's workload would be a load off of both their minds.

However, minds soon became the issue. What Luna hadn't realized and Sunset likely hadn't known was that most people were always dreaming a little, at least by whatever definition magic used for the term. Any thoughts that weren't focused on the here-and-now counted, which meant that Luna could tell where most people were by the faint mental static of abstract thought. She could even tune in to it to get a vague sense of what they were thinking, but the key word was "vague;" most of the time it was a mishmash of memories and speculation that wasn't even put into words, much less a coherent flow.

The signal that cropped up unannounced in the middle of her office needed no introduction. There was no mistaking the only mental signal that left an aftertaste centered on her headgem. Luna didn't even look up until she finished filling out the form she was working on. "I trust you know why I asked you here, Mr. Discord?"

"Come now, Lulu. You don't really expect the disciplinarian act is going to work on me, do you?" Mr. Discord beamed, brightening up the office past Luna's preferred illumination level. "After all, I remember when I used to bounce you on my knee."

"Be that as it may, we have been getting calls from concerned parents about your classes. You are terrifying your students."

"Oh, please. I'm just getting their attention. I have to get them to look away from their phones somehow, and creating wireless interference makes me feel like a lazily written horror movie." Mr. Discord threw off his hockey mask in disgust.

Luna crossed her arms. "Don't you think sending them to an airless void is a little extreme?"

Mr. Discord threw up his hands, which clung to the ceiling. "There's plenty of air! Just not in the demonstration area. I assure you as I have assured them, I have complete control over the pocket dimension."

"I don't suppose I could convince you to keep your classes in this one?"

"Don't be ridiculous! Everyone knows that high school-level physics happens in a frictionless vacuum!"

Work That Bodhi, by Tophe

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The orderly rows of the Apple orchard looked neat, were an efficient layout, and tended to make people zone out while doing chores. So by the time Applejack noticed the strange new tree in this row, she'd raked almost right up to it.

She walked around, examining it from all sides. There was a sense of wrongness about it; perhaps Applejack's earth-aspect magic was warning her that this wasn't an ordinary apple tree. Or perhaps it was just the maroon bark, grey leaves, and disjointed variety of fruit growing on it (two pears, three bananas, zero apples, and a potato) that was giving that impression.

Applejack leaned on her rake, tilting her head, her hand on her chin. Eventually, the potato opened its eyes. "Are you enjoying yourself?" came a clipped Fillydelphian accent from somewhere in the tree's branches.

"Hi there, Mr. Discord. Should I ask what exactly yer doin' here?"

"Oh, just getting in touch with my arboreal side. It's the latest thing, or so I presume. Fluttershy's spent some time as a tree, one of Sunset's projections is a tree... I assure you, all the cool kids are in on this new craze. I simply had to see what all the fuss was about."

"That's nice and all. Could you maybe be a tree somewhere else, though? Yer messin' up the row, and I think the actual trees ain't comfortable around you."

"Oh, must I? I really thought this was a good spot. If there's any cosmic enlightenment to be gleaned from this new meditative technique, I'll have a better chance of gleaning it if people stop interrupting me every nine minutes."

"Hey now, I only interrupted you once—"

"Yes, sorry, you've been very polite." Mr. Discord's leaves rustled. "Unlike some people I could mention. The way my nieces reacted, you'd think we didn't have people around who can rebuild the NAHTI with a snap of their fingers."

Rutaceae, by Masterweaver

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"So you know that your principal's a bitch, right?"

"Yeah, she's my aunt." Lemon Zest leaned left, neatly dodging Rainbow's hot-coffee spit take. "See, I've learned to expect that response—"

"Your aunt is Abacus Cinch?!"

"Mmhmm. Auntie Abby, I call her. Gets me detention every time."

"That—That..." Rainbow tapped her chin. "Actually, that kind of explains a lot about you. In sort of a 'rebelling against your elders' way."

"Yeah. Weird thing, my mom's actually the older sister," Lemon explained. "Famous food critic, I think she's a unicorn aspect now? Everyone was surprised when she got pregnant, but bing-bang-boom, all that. She sent me over to Crystal Prep cause it's supposedly 'the best', but..." She rolled her eyes. "Yeah, me and the other students didn't gel, you know?"

"Huh. You know, Twilight says they have high standards for scores over there. Why didn't you get kicked out?"

"Total legit genius. If I actually gave a shit I might have trumped Twilight... maybe." The Shadowbolt leaned back. "Sort of like Pinkie, you know? I mean I don't know if you get the logistics that go behind all her stunts, even with magic laughter power, but I guarantee you that brain is operating at warp speeds on a slow day. Of course, warping the mind leads to warped thoughts, which explains Pinkie and me; we're too smart to be sane. Sort of like Uncle Dissy was."

Rainbow nodded. "Right, right, Cinch is mister Discord's ex—Wait. Hold on." She pointed a finger. "That means you're Principal Celestia's cousin!"

"Cousin-in-law, twice half-removed."

"...what?"

"Genealogy is fuckin' weird."

Cloudy with a Chance of Bacon Bits, by Jenna Cipher and FoME

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(FoME)

AND NOW, A SPECIAL REPORT

Aria gritted her teeth, fists clenched on the news desk. "Breaking weather news—"

"Wacky Weather."

"Zip it, Adagio. She's not here, we don't have to use her stupid names for things. In breaking weather news, regions worldwide have experienced showers of unicorn-shaped pieces of bacon. Sunset Shimmer has denied all responsibility. Sonata Dusk has probably claimed about twenty pounds of the stuff off of the dirty ground and I hope she gets food poisoning and a heart attack at the same time."

"Oh, be nice. We're like sisters."

"You literally grabbed the first two sirens who'd listen to your stupid idea without trying to eat you."

"Not true. Sonata listened while trying to eat me." Adagio turned back to the camera. "After earlier silence on the matter, the Carnifex Maxima Pope Ruby I has declared the bacon manna from heaven. Vegan contingents of the Church of the Divine Bacon Horse are calling for her resignation, decrying bacon as an inequine food product regardless of its divine symbolism."

Aria snorted. "They were definitely raising pigs back in the day in Nova Scoltia."

"Newfinnedland."

"Whatever. Her mane doesn't even look like bacon."

"You think that's going to stop them?"

"Point." Aria held a hand to her ear. "Huh? What you mean we're on live? Why didn't you say something earlier!?"

"No one has yet claimed responsibility for the event, but we'll have more as the story develops."


(Jenna Cipher)

Sunset Shimmer knew exactly who was at fault, because they'd left a note, a glass of chocolate milk, and a single cotton candy cloud right on her doorstep. Which led to now, where she sat at the same lunch table as usual, with her friends.

"Wait... So if it wasn't you, and it wasn't another one of Twilight's screw ups while trying to invent a new spell, then who was it?" Rainbow Dash questioned, ignoring Twilight's faint yell of frustration at the mention of her 'screw ups'.

Sunset sighed and launched her explanation.

At the same time, lounging around in the clouds, Discord chuckled and brought another bacon rainstorm into existence over the White House.

"Chocolate rain? What was my counterpart thinking? Bacon rain is so much more rewarding!"

Foster Services, by Masterweaver

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"Okay." Sunset put down the paper. "First question: What kind of whacked-out drug was this guy on?"

"The thrill of discovery, mixed with a bit of mania."

"Oh, sure, yes. That totally explains why the guy created a species of human-sized green humanoid rats, stuffed them in SWAT vests, and proclaimed himself the dictator of..." Sunset looked down at the paper again. "Punkeydoodles Corners? Is this a real place?"

"As it turns out, yes."

"...alright. So, after you find out about the situation, your first response was to ask Fancy Pants to airlift you and your... still unnamed super-hero club over to the region."

"Well, I figured it would be decent training, and some of the younger members have been hoping for something more than just street-level thugs. I did make it clear they would have to stick with the adults, of course."

"Right, right. Because that makes total sense. And you dropped yourselves all off, had a battle, captured the bad guy--who for some reason said he would reincarnate as the sun--"

"It's actually very complicated, and it involves Aztlan mythology—"

"I think it'll be easier if we all just agree he was insane."

"Well, true, but with Ahuizotl being a thing, it would be a bit disrespectful."

"I checked, Ahuizotl also thinks the guy is crazy."

"Ah. In that case, he was a mite disturbed."

"Good enough. So you catch the guy, cart him off, and then for some reason decide to adopt the green rat things en masse."

"Well... technically they are now fostered under a program by Fancy, working with PAULDRONS—"

"I'm well aware of the technicalities, Celestia, I'm just wondering about the reasons!"

"...When they realized they didn't have to fight any more, they just... stood there for a few minutes. Between the time their creator was captured and the actual police came... They were acting like children. Young, confused children. One of them got up on a car and made vroom vroom noises."

"Yes, I've seen the video. It's trending."

"My point is.... I couldn't just leave them there. They literally had no idea what they were doing was wrong. They did it because they were scared of the man. And... technically, none of them are a year old yet, so..."

"Ugh. I'm sorry, I know it was the right thing to do, but... this is just... this is crazy."

A Glut of Rosy Pastries, by Jenna Cipher

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No one in Canterlot could've expected it, and no one could've prepared for it. The first sign of trouble was the small tremors that occurred throughout the early half of the day.

And then the noises started.

funfunfunfunfun!

Fun, is this fun? FUUUUN!!!!!!!!!!

Entirely at random, people going about their day would hear the same word.

Fun.

By the time it became apparent that something was utterly wrong, it was far to late to do anything about it, for the partying horde was already upon them.

And then everything went pink.

Later that day, in the Canterlot High science lab, Sunset Shimmer attempted in vain to stop facepalming, while Twilight stood before her, rubbing the back of her neck sheepishly. Sunset, in between bouts of facepalming, looked at her friend and spoke.

"Clones... Why'd you have to try and invent a cloning spell..."

Hypothesis Confirmed, by Giginss

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"Sunset! Sunset Shimmer! I simply must have your help in testing my new experimental hypothesis!"

"What is it this tim—WOAGHH!" Sunset materialized inside Discord's lab to the sight of Discord's hand reaching out for her. She ducked, which is exactly what he wanted. Grabbing her hair, he pulled it clean off her head.

"Why did you...what are you doing with my hair?"

"Why, testing an experimental hypothesis! I thought I made that clear."

Sunset stared at Discord, who was currently chewing on a mouthful of her hair.

"What is this hypothesis you are testing?"

Discord finished chewing, and then swallowed. He grinned in triumph.

"I was right all along! I knew it, I knew it!" he cheered.

"You knew what?"

"It really DOES taste like bacon!"

Recharging, by FoME

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Contrary to popular belief, educators' summer vacations weren't nearly as carefree as those of the students, especially not those of the principals. There were textbooks to review, budgets to stretch, mad scientists to work around, vigilantes to organize...

Well, maybe some of those were limited to Celestia, though these days, she wasn't too sure about that.

Still, the occasional opening in her schedule did crop up, and that meant time to relax and decompress. That meant it was just her, the sun, a lounge chair, sunglasses, and a bikini that would probably give half of the seniors at CHS heart attacks. For others, the sunbathing would mean working on a tan, but Celestia's particular form of chromelanin would actually make her paler and more reflective. She sighed, feeling her stress melt in the summer heat.

It couldn't last forever, no matter how much Celestia might wish otherwise. After forty minutes, her phone started beeping, strategically placed on a table Celestia couldn't reach from her chair. She got up with a sigh, turned off the alarm, and resisted the temptation to just lie back down. Duty called, whether she liked it or not.

Something seemed off as she went back inside. Just what only occurred to her when she walked by a mirror and registered a bit of movement in the corner of her eye; everything seemed brighter than usual.

At the time, though, she was more concerned with how her hair was glowing and squirming.


Twilight looked up from her book as Sunset manifested, a haunted look in the orange girl's eyes. "Everything okay?"

"The human analogue of my mentor and secondary mother figure was panicking in a bikini as I had to explain that her hair was going through something completely normal. I have so many conflicting feelings that I feel like my head's going to explode."

Twilight tilted her head. "You know, if you listen real close, you can probably hear Dicke Zigarre laughing from beyond the grave."

"Not. Helping."

Rapturous, by FoME and Masterweaver

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(FoME)

Few people ever pay attention to EweTube ads, but this one drew notice. There was no blaring music, no fast-moving visuals. Just a man looking into the camera, speaking with conviction.

"I am Aqua Regia, and I'm here to ask you a question. Is a man not entitled to the sweat of his brow? 'No,' says the man in Chopperton, 'it belongs to the poor.' 'No,' says the girl in the Baconium, 'it belongs to Sunset.' 'No,' says the man in Neighjing, 'it belongs to everyone.' I rejected those answers; instead, I chose something different. I chose the impossible. I chose... Triumph. A city where the artist would not fear the censor; where the scientist would not be bound by petty morality; where the great would not be constrained by the small! And with the sweat of your brow, Triumph can become your city as well."


"Eccentric billionaire..." Aria frowned at her news copy. "How many eccentric billionaires are there, anyway? Whatever happened to that Ebon Musk guy; he still trying to get into space?"

"We're on live," Sonata singsong-said.

"Please, half our viewers watch us to see when we go off script. Anyway, eccentric billionaire Aqua Regia's viral marketing campaign for his proposed underwater utopia has gotten a lot of interest from fringe communities and a cease and desist order from Ridiculous Games. Mr. Regia has expressed a continued intent to follow through on his project, though he has expressed willingness to rename it. For more, we turn to our senior oceanic correspondent of the day..." Aria tossed a die onto the newsdesk. "Adagio Dazzle."

"Thanks, Aria." Adagio beamed for the camera. "Speaking as someone who's seen her share of underwater cities, allow me to say this: They don't work well if you don't have gills. Sonata?"

"Sunset Shimmer has confirmed that she has no intent of helping with this project, nor any desire for the sweat of anyone's brow but her own. Mr. Regia declined to comment further, saying that his message speaks for itself."

(Masterweaver)

"...Okay." Rainbow Dash waved a hand at the TV. "Are people seriously using magic to mimic whatever they like in fictional media?"

"Well, yes. Childhood fantasies come true and all that." Rarity quirked an eyebrow. "Why, are you surprised?"

"No. Just disappointed." Rainbow sagged in her chair. "I mean... the sirens are reporting on what's literally Triumph City! Underwater cities are cool and all, but isn't the whole point of the game, like, extremist separation from society is bad or something?"

"Or something..."

Solar Wavelengths, by ArtieStroke

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"Well, this certainly makes things more worrisome," Fancy said, sipping a can of cola across from Celestia.

"Yes, as if I didn't have enough to worry about with hiding our identities before," Celestia murmured, running a hand through her now slightly animated hair. "I had a hard enough time concealing all this under a wig WITHOUT it moving under its own power."

"Yeah, but you gotta admit, that is pretty cool. In like a weirdly eldritch and freaky way," Wiz piped up, supported by a nod from his brother Featherweight. Celestia smiled.

"Well, I'm certainly glad some of you are getting some entertainment out of it. I bet Luna doesn't have to deal with these kinds of... shenanigans."

"Language," Fancy said, and the three of them burst out chuckling as Celestia rolled her eyes.

"Far be it from me to try and be responsible around children..."

Sensitivity Training, by Masterweaver

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Sunset took a moment to compose herself, before taking her once abandoned unicorn form and stepping in front of the crowd. Reverent silence filled the air... right up until she stood by the farmer, at which point there was confused murmuring.

"First of all, similarity of appearance does not mean similarity of species. Secondly, even in Equestria we had manual labor and performance ponies. Thirdly, this woman is not mistreating them in any way. Fourthly, none of these horses are sapient; what do you expect will happen after you quote unquote 'liberate' them? Seriously, I am fine with the situation. In fact, I'll make a video about this whole thing. Expect it Saturday. For now, though, just step off, okay?"

The assembled protesters, most wearing red and yellow, sheepishly dispersed.

With a sigh, Sunset turned to the farmer. "Sorry about this, Miss Jubilee."

"Oh, don't worrah yuaself on mah paht, dahlin'. Ah fullee hundahstan' the whole thang tain't ya fault."

Sunset winced. And she had thought Applejack's accent was thick...

Urd Pony, by FoME

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“… Happy birthday, dear Apple Bloom
Happy birthday to you!”

Everyone cheered as Apple Bloom blew out the candles. There weren’t many gathered in her home’s kitchen, just the other Crusaders, her family, and Pinkie Pie, because one didn’t need destiny magic to know that snubbing her wasn’t a good idea.

After the cake came presents: a movie from Scootaloo, a Goops for Stuff sample pack from Sweetie, a Sugarcube Corner gift card from Pinkie Pie.

Applejack smiled as she passed Bloom the last box. “We wanted t’ save this one for last.”

“Oh. Great!” Bloom put on a smile strained enough to serve as baby food as she unwrapped it.

Applejack glanced at Big Macintosh, but looked back in time to see Apple Bloom open the box, revealing a belt buckle shaped like her icon.

“Oh, wow!” Sweetie Belle leaned in close. “I’m still waiting on mine.”

“Still? It’s been like a month.” Scootaloo’s eyes widened. “Not that yours isn’t awesome, AB!”

“Yeah, it’s great.” Apple Bloom turned to her family, her smile more genuine, though visible tension lines still marred it.

“It better be great for what we paid,” Granny Smith muttered. “Back in my day, th’ bespoke shop wouldn’t charge more’n—“

“Hey! Who wants to see how many empty cans I can decorate at once with my new funderbuss?” Pinkie brandished some unsightly hand cannon covered in stickers, not all of which had warning symbols on them.

“Heck yeah!” Scootaloo followed her, dragging Sweetie Belle along.

Applejack put a hand on Apple Bloom’s shoulder and said, “Y’all have fun. I wanna have a talk with th’ birthday girl.” When it was just Apples, she said, “Everything okay, Bloom?”

Apple Bloom stiffened. “Sure! Why wouldn’t it be?”

“Y’ knew what yer gift was ahead o’ time.”

“I… I didn’t mean to! It just happened!”

Granny Smith clicked her tongue. “Hush now, Applejack. I remember a certain li’l girl peekin’ at Yuletide presents plenty o’ times.”

“I didn’t peek!” said Apple Bloom. “I just heard y’all.”

Applejack raised an eyebrow. “We only ever talked about it when you were with yer friends.”

“Yeah, out in th’ orchard.” Bloom tapped her new buckle. “It’s a magic thing. Earth remembers, an’ I know how to ask it, even when I don’t mean to.”

Applejack coughed into a fist. “Oh.” Mac nudged her. She shot back a glare, muttered, “I was gonna,” and turned back to Bloom. “Sorry, sugarcube. I was just lookin’ forward to springin’ this on you.”

“It’s okay.” Apple Bloom sighed. “Y’ know th’ worst part?”

“What’s that?”

Bloom slumped down in her seat. “Earth remembers, but it don’t remember anythin’ before the change.”

Applejack walked to her and held her tight. “They’d be so proud of you.”

Apple Bloom squeezed back. “Thanks.”

ZefRAM Cochrane, by Jenna Cipher

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Cookie Crisp stared blankly at her computer, occasionally blowing away a stray few locks of her dark brown hair that would fall down over her face. She brushed her hands across the keyboard, rapidly typing away, her milky white skin blending into the similar color of the keyboard, and her bright blue eyes quickly skimming over the screen, taking in every utterly boring detail with perfect clarity.

"I'm telling you Di, there's nothing on Mars, it's just rocks, rocks, and hmm, and I missing something.... Oh yeah, more friggin' rocks," she frustratedly monologued to what seemed to be thin air. "Honestly, why are we sitting here sending these rovers back and forth. Not like we're gonna find some ancient ruins or anything; this isn't Huggs Field, it's real life."

"Huh, what's that? Sorry, I was running some background simulations," came the bubblier than normal voice of the Paradiamond AI currently connected to her computer.

Cookie Crisp sighed and replied, "It's nothing, just a thought. Anything exciting happening with you?"

The computer's screen once more took on a violet tint as 'Di' spoke back, her voice as ear-piercingly bubbly and high pitched as ever. "Not really, I just cracked the secret to warp drive, but that's not important. So, back to rock watching?"

Cookie nodded. "Yea, whatever, let's just... Wait, WHAT!?"

2 months later...

"No."

"But..."

"I don't care if you MARRY every Space Trek series, we are NOT naming Earth's first warp drive starship 'Enterprise'."

"Awww dang it..."

Hunter's Digest, by Masterweaver and FoME

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(Masterweaver)

A famous child opera star broke free from her father's grip with newfound unicorn powers but, not used to the real world, ended up using all her money and nearly died on the street before a crazy redhead pegasus aspect picked her up and taught her how to be confident. The red-head's half sister was having a vacation in some eastern countries when she heard about Tirek's reign of terror, and decided to head to Tauros to punch some bad guys with her earth aspect. She found a low-class bookworm griffon aspect, and together they liberated a small section of the town before heading home.

When the sisters met, they introduced their new friends to each other. Tensions rose when it was discovered the child star's father had some dealings with Tirek, but it was agreed that said father was a jackass. Shortly thereafter, Sunset Shimmer showed her video of her original self, the church of the divine bacon horse was formed, and while three of the friends laughed off the new development the redhead was so eager she immediately walked to Sunset's home (which was only three houses away), knocked on the door, and asked to become the pope.

Shortly after being awarded the position (and the resulting paperwork), the redhead wrangled her three friends into helping her to establish a system and order to the whole thing. For a time, they were stressed out and seriously considered abandoning the whole thing, but then an outbreak of a magical disease created angst monsters out of local animals and all four of them (who had combat training for various reasons and had experimented with magic weapons out of boredom) worked together with the members of their church to put the monsters down. After that, they were solidified as bishops in their own right.

All this happened over the course of a month.


(FoME)

Sunset got up when she heard the knock at her door. She opened the door with a smile on her face, though that quickly changed.

"Hi, Sunset!"

"Pinkie."

"Yes?"

Sunset pointed at the device in Pinkie's hands. "What is that thing?"

Pinkie beamed and hefted it up to give Sunset a better look. "It's the Pinkie-portable party cannon! Pee-three-see for short."

"It's a grenade launcher."

"Party bomb launcher." Pinkie put the P3C through a few shifts and clicks. "It's also a hammer!"

Sunset took a deep breath. "Why is it also a hammer?"

"Piñatas."

After taking in the war hammer that any minotaur would've been proud to call his own, Sunset said, "You've been talking to Ruby again, haven't you?"

Twilight looked up from her book. "I told you first come, first served was no way to determine a religious hierarchy."

Disturbing the Mountain Birds, by ArtieStroke

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Blue Oyster frowned.

"No."

"But—"

"NO."

"But it's RIGHT HERE in front of us!" Ditzy pouted. Blue Oyster dragged a hand down her face.

"Listen, I was MOSTLY okay with modeling ourselves after Sailor Luna, and we even got a little more original with it later on! But this, THIS is just TOO FAR!"

"But it's not even a Sailor Luna thing, this is a totally different show!"

"THAT DOESN'T MAKE IT BETTER!"

"Well, even if you don't like it, we still have to deal with it," Ditzy said, hefting up the oversized pearl marked with four stars, "I mean, we probably shouldn't let the other six fall into the wrong hands. Who knows what someone else could wish for with these things!"

"DITZY, YOU ARE NOT MONKEY KID AND THIS IS NOT DRAGON PEARL X! I swear to SCIENCE if we have to fight some weird, alien demon slug calling himself 'King Flute' or something, I am QUITTING THIS TEAM!"

"Alright, alright, no need to blow a gasket... 'Princess Vegetable.'"

And so the legend goes that Blue Oyster's screams could be heard in those very mountains near Neighjing to this very day.

Donkey Khan, by FoME

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Cranky Doodle wasn't.

That is to say, he wasn't cranky. He definitely was in the sense of existing. Some might say he existed more than most people these days, though he wasn't one for that sort of philosophical or magical debate. He was just concerned with instilling some degree of respect for the Wranglish language in kids who were more interested in how much they could mangle into under one hundred forty characters.

Still, he had to admit that that had gotten easier after the world changed. Oh, the kids weren’t any smarter; Cranky swore there were fewer who knew how to think every year. The middle schools were still happy to let students graduate eighth grade without knowing what an adverb was. The change hadn’t even gotten him his hair back.

No, the important changes had been internal. He’d stopped getting ulcers from the idiocies and inadequacies around him. That tickle in his chest he’d never mentioned to anyone had, as he’d silently hoped, gone away. The general malaise that had come from a poorly treated body on the wrong side of sixty wasn’t there anymore, and without that weighing him down, the rest of his burdens had become a lot easier to carry. Even the ears weren’t that bad. He was in good company what with a decent chunk of the population turning into elves, even if his brought basset hounds to mind. Besides, Reader Response would get tired of telling everyone in the faculty area to forget not that he was an ass any day now.

Just as the bad parts of Cranky’s life had improved, so had the good. Matilda was enjoying her magical refreshment just as much as he was, and had taken to researching it. She’d always been more technically and civically minded than he’d been, and now she’d tell him all about her discoveries over dinner. He’d respond to with nods and polite murmurs for most of it, the various tests and testimonials determining just what the rare donkey aspects were capable of. The answer seemed to be “Anything a sane person would volunteer for.”

When the darker moments came to light, he paid more attention. When she mentioned how thousands had simply walked out of Tauros, barely slowed by anything short of Tirek himself, they immediately began discussing what they could do for those who weren’t so lucky. It wasn’t much, but it was better than nothing.

One night shortly after the end of the school year, Matilda chuckled as she sat down.

Cranky couldn’t help but smile. “What is it?”

“One of my websites, one made for donkey aspects. It’s the Internet, so it’s mostly young men, and they’ve gone and found a way to show off.”

He gave a laugh of his own. “Remember that time at the state fair when I tried to win you a teddy bear?”

“You must have spent thirty dollars. I told you they glued down those milk bottles. But these fellows try to one-up one another on how much punishment they can take. They’ll run marathons in parkas, handle dangerous animals, help clean up toxic waste sites…” Matilda shook her head. “They’d probably have all killed themselves a few months ago.”

Cranky shrugged. “With any luck, they’ll grow out of it. Don’t see how that’s funny, though.”

“It isn’t. The funny part is that no one’s been able to top the current leader for more than a week.”

“Oh? What’s he do?”

Matilda beamed, her crow’s feet crinkling. “He teaches at Canterlot High.”

Cranky considered that for a few moments before smirking. “Well, you’re not wrong.”

Strange Interlude, by KingMoriarty

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The Ancient One raised a hand, letting her sleeve fall all the way down to her elbow for dramatic effect. She smiled, and lowered her hand until her outstretched fingers were framing her head-gem. "You will observe," she explained, "not a glimmer."

She lowered her hand, and held it outstretched over the cell phone that sat on the table. Once she was confident that her guest was watching closely, the Ancient One curled one finger in, then flicked it out to its full length. Two inches beneath her palm, the phone began to slowly spin. There was no aura, no sparkle in her gem, and yet it turned.

"After twenty years of training, ten for the talented ones, this was all my students could hope to accomplish." The phone stopped spinning, and the Ancient One got up from her seat. She walked over to the corner of the room, and gestured towards a boulder that was roughly the size of a transport truck. She extended her hand again, this time in a clawed gesture, and raised both arm and boulder without the slightest spark. "And after living here for half of my life, and training every day, this was the extent of my powers." She set the stone down with hardly a sound, and turned back towards her guest.

"But then, the world changed." The blood-red stone on her forehead flared with a pulse of magic, and Sunset Shimmer's stomach tried to lurch as reality fell away around them. The ceiling above them folded open like a blossoming flower, and the sky that they were sent rocketing into didn't so much blur into nothing as it did bleed. In the space of a second, it was over, and the two of them stood outside of their universe. The Ancient One did a good job of hiding the soul-crushing instinctive terror racing through her mind, while Sunset watched the twirling spheres of far-off realities with a vague stare of acknowledgement.

After an awkward moment while the Ancient One got her bearings, she continued. "Suddenly, everything was different. The fruits of a lifetime of mystical training were transformed into the status quo for a third of the world population. My monastery went from the one true sanctum of magic to just being the first aspect-exclusive club."

"It's kind of remarkable," Sunset cut in. "I actually did a check on everyone who's ever come to you. All the students who left or didn't have the aptitude have become earth-aspect, pegasus-aspect or any other besides unicorn."

The Ancient One smiled, a smile that reminded Sunset of Celestia when she hadn't had her coffee. "Would it be too bold of me to postulate that our aspects have always been with us, and that the transformation did not so much introduce these powers as it did allow us to realize them?"

"Possibly," Sunset admitted. "We still know so little about magic in this universe, of all aspects. We actually know more about the magic systems of that world over there," she pointed at an indistinct sphere on the edge of the multiversal 'horizon', "than we do about the world you live in now. For now, all I can say is that this is one of those coincidences that makes people rattle off quotes about how coincidence is a fiction."

"Magic was a fiction, once. Perhaps the transformation has made coincidence a reality as well."

Sunset smiled wryly at the bald woman, and ripped them back into the monastery. "What is it about magic teachers and having to make every sentence sound like a riddle?" The Ancient One smiled, and floated over two full cups of tea.

"It helps reassure us that, even when the student surpasses the teacher, there will still be something they won't know." She took a sip of her tea, and Sunset followed suit. When that was done, she put the cup down and smiled at the supposed Master of the Mountain.

"So, what happens now?"

"Now? Now, Sunset Shimmer is going to tell me what she's doing here."

"In a word?" Sunset opened her palm, conjuring a hologram of the planet, criss-crossed with holy symbols and company logos. "Outreach. Part of not letting yourself think you're a god is relying on other people, and part of relying on other people is convincing yourself that they fill a role you can't."

"Then, what role may I fill in service of you?"

"Honestly?" Sunset sighed, knowing full well she was about to sound like a lunatic. "There's a team of superheroes that needs supervising, and you're the only person who's both sane enough and powerful enough to keep them in check."

The Ancient One chuckled. "Yes, I've heard of them. One of my students has been talking about trying to restrain them."

"He sounds smart. Maybe he should join them instead, inject some sanity into the venture."

"No, that would never work."

He'll Save Every One of Us, by Masterweaver and FoME

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(Masterweaver)

"Huh. Flash Sentry made the news."

"What, again?"

"Yeah, apparently he singlehandedly stopped a corrupt company from demolishing an orphanage using nothing but a slinkie, his guitar, and the power of apple pie."

"...Par for the course. Popcorn's ready."

"Ooo, good, movie's in two minutes!"


(FoME)

"Flash Sentry says he wasn't fully aware of what happened, but you were there with him. What can you tell us?"

"Well—"

Applejack put a hand over Pinkie's mouth. "No comment."

The reporter blinked. "But—"

"No. Comment."

Old Tarnish, by Masterweaver [Suggestive Content]

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"Hey Shining?"

"Yeah Twi?"

"...Um. So, I just... I came back from miss Chrysalis's house—"

Shining Armor whirled. "What were you doing there?!"

"I was just asking how she took care of the Tauros situation!" Twilight squeaked. "I was worried there might, you know, be... loose ends."

The older man took a breath, and slowly let it out. "...she didn't... do anything, did she?"

"No. We just talked." Twilight glanced at the ground. "She seemed... reasonable. Not... aggressive, or... she wanted me to tell you she said hello."

"...oh."

"...Shining. How does she know you?"

Shining Armor sighed. "...You know, I really don't want to tell you, but... I know you'll go looking for answers if I don't tell you. You remember how I used to want to be an actor?"

"Yeah, you said it was the best chance you had to be a real world Ogres and Oubliette hero. And then you suddenly stopped and switched over to police work, because show biz wasn't... all it was cracked up to be?"

"I signed a contract, didn't... read it all the way through. And I panicked a little, but I decided to go through with the thing instead of, you know, going through the legal quagmire of backing out, and drawing the attention of Mom and Dad."

Twilight tilted her head. "What does that have to do with Chrysalis? The only stuff she's been in is..."

Her eyes widened.

"Oh. Oooooooh. Oh... uh... oh."

"Yeah, you may want to stay away from 'Sorceress of Estrogia' if you, uh, ever get the taste for... that sort of thing."

"Aheh."

"....I mean, Chrysalis was actually pretty understanding, but Cadence really doesn't like her because of that—"

"Shining, stop talking. Please. Just... stop talking."

Passion, by Malandy, Jenna Cipher, and Masterweaver

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(Malandy)

"Cadenza Amore Alicor, will you marry me?"

"YES! YES! YES!"


"So, where did you get the money for the ring? Being a cop doesn't pay that well..."

"Well..."


(Jenna Cipher)

Chrysalis looked up from her copy of Jewelry Master as a loud, irritated knocking sounded from the front door. Sighing, she stood, walked out into the hallway, and slowly, carefully, unlocked and opened her front door.

"Listen, if this is about last night..."

A pink fist collided with her face, and the world went dark.

(Masterweaver)

Thankfully, it was only dark for five minutes. Unfortunately, she woke up to see her assailant trussed up and gagged.

"...Why is miss Cadenza our hostage?" she asked, calmly.

"Well..." Spinerette cleared her throat. "She... she attacked you, you see."

"Did any of you ask why?"

There was a couple of quiet moments.

With a sigh, Chrysalis walked up to the pink woman and ungagged her. "You have a mean right hook. If you don't mind, I'm going to leave you tied up for this conversation."

"Oh, you must really be getting off on this," Cadence spat.

"Not really. This headache I have gets in the way of enjoying, well, anything."

"I'm so sorry."

"Spinerette, would you mind getting us a couple of glasses of water?"

The young woman jumped, heading to the kitchen.

"So." Chrysalis sat across from the bound Cadence. "I'm pretty sure neither of us wants to bring this to court, but I do feel I should know exactly why you attacked me."

"Oh, you know why."

"No, I don't. That's why I'm asking, you see."

Cadence rolled her eyes. "Fine. You told Shining he owed you a favor! What, are you going to have him come over and--"

"Oh, that." Chrysalis nodded as Spinerette handed her a glass. "Help miss Cadence with her drink, will you?"

Spinerette scowled, but walked over to the bound woman.

"To be quite honest I ran into him entirely by accident." Chrysalis sipped her drink. "I was helping one of my children find her own engagement ring when, well, he walked into the store. Of course there are very few reasons for people to seek jewelry, and given what he was looking at... Shining is an old friend, so I offered to purchase the rings for free. He wouldn't accept that, though. Something about honor or something." She rolled a hand. "So now, he owes me a favor to call in at some future point."

"Right. What kind of favor?"

"Oh, you know, a look through some criminal records, or maybe a rearranging of paperwork... nothing illegal, and certainly nothing sexual." Chrysalis put her glass down. "I know you don't think highly of me, miss Cadenza. My history and my current work speak to a certain... provicality, shall we say, that makes others uncomfortable. But rest assured that I do take sex and sexual relationships very seriously; I would not endanger Shining Armor's future happiness with any attempt at seduction."

Cadence glowered, the effect slightly ruined by the glass Spinerette was levering to let her drink.

Chrysalis sighed. "Honestly... Would you find it at all comforting if I promised not to attend your wedding?"

"...That might help."

"Very well, it is done. Spinerette, would you mind untying our guest?"

The young girl put down the glass with a growl. "Of course not. Let's let the woman who knocked you out run free." She worked at the knots in the ropes. "No consequences whatsoever, right? We're going to let her go, again, and--"

"Spinerette." Chrysalis held out her hands. "All things in balance."

"Hmmph." With a final twist, the ropes fell away. Spinerette pointed from her eyes to Cadance. "I'm watching you, buster."

Business Lunch, by FoME

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Rarity felt something of a kinship with the human Twilight Sparkle. Both having headgems was barely part of it. Twilight had a drive that Rarity found quite familiar. Their interests were wildly different, but both pursued them with an unrelenting passion, an unquenchable thirst for excellence that would doubtlessly see them rise to the pinnacle of their respective disciplines.

That kinship resonated deeply one day near the end of the school year, as Rarity approached her customary lunch table and saw Twilight already seated, hunched over something as she wrote furiously.

Rarity placed her apple by Twilight's notebook. "Here."

Twilight flinched up and looked around as though she'd never seen the cafeteria before. Her eyes fell on the apple and still gave no sign of recognition. "Whuh?"

"Food, darling. I'm well familiar with being so inspired that one forgets to eat. Ideas may keep your body going, but it's best to feed it as well, and I doubt that will be enough."

"Right. I'll get something else. Soon." Twilight absently bit into the apple, then stiffened up again. "This... this is actually good."

Rarity nodded. "It should be. Applejack's grandmother runs the cafeteria, and they're rarely wanting for fine produce."

"Huh." Twilight took another bite, considering the fruit as she chewed. "Even Crystal Prep only had two kinds of apple, floury and mushy."

"What are you working on, if I may ask?"

"Oh, this?" Twilight shrugged. "Just an idea I've been playing with. Maybe you can offer some insight."

Rarity gave the notebook an uneasy glance. "Perhaps, if there's no calculus involved."

Twilight started shaking her head, then paused. "Well, some, but it's mostly a business concept, especially at the start."

"Ah. That would be my metier, yes." Rarity turned the notebook to its front and considered what she found there.

Name:
Sunlight
Sunbeam
Dusk Dawn?
Main Sequence Enterprises, LLC (2x check availability)

• Go to NEISA
• Offer to clean up space junk (Who owns it?)
• Sunset does so (Will she?)
• $$$
• What next?

After that first page were doodled diagrams and equations, along with numerous iterations of what was presumably the company's logo, a sun with a six-pointed corona.

"It's definitely a work in progress," said Twilight.

"With all due respect, Twilight, I doubt Sunset will appreciate you charging for her using her abilities."

"I suppose we could do it pro bono."

Rarity gave her a flat look. "That isn't what I meant."

The penny dropped before Rarity's eyes. "Oh. Oh. Right, kind of presumptuous. I suppose we can always go with Plan B and have her turn the junk into a space station we can use for the honey—" Twilight clapped her hands over her mouth.

Rarity smirked. "My, my, Miss Sparkle. You do plan ahead."

"... I'm going to get lunch." Twilight rose, speedwalked towards the lunch line, and gave a Fluttershy-grade "eep!" as she passed Sunset on the way there.

Sunset looked back at Twilight as she sat down. "What's with her?"

Rarity just smiled. "Nothing terribly pressing. I'll let her tell you the details."

"The Time Has Come," the Faerie Said, by Masterweaver

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"...and the shard of madness?"

"If the starfolk had it, it has been lost to the ages."

"It might be found."

"It might. It might not."

"...true. Our focus should be on the spring court."

"Yes, they are... eager to spread out, once again. We must consider..."

"Consider what?"

"Knowledge spreads fast, with the invisible library. News as well. But there are places still distant."

"You propose a ring."

"I do."

"...The unseelie will not like that."

"True. But better to be slow and gentle, then to rush and burn."

"Summer and fall would disagree."

"Summer and fall have long languished."

"True."

"In all honesty, I would allow fall before spring. But there seems to be no want."

"Yet. You know how they are. Still for ages, but when they seek..."

"...they swarm. Yes."

"Spring has long been active in Equestria. Our other courts, less so. Allowing them back here..."

"Perhaps some will take notice and act themselves."

"Perhaps."

Crimson Facets, by Jenna Cipher

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"And the winner of the World Martial Arts Tournament, for the fourth year in a row is... Pyrrhic Victory, of Manehatten! Up next, post-tournament interviews. After that, we'll go to field reporter Jalapeño Olive for an interview with NEISA technomages Cookie Crisp and-"

The television promptly switched off, its viewer no longer interested in what was on. Said viewer was none other than Coco Pommel, earth-aspected fashion designer, devoted member of the Church of The Divine Bacon Horse, and most recently, weapons enthusiast, who now turned her attention to a workbench opposite the television on the far side of the basement. More specifically, what was on it.

"Finally, I've done it! They told me I was insane, that I couldn't make it fashionable. I say to them, behold, A MINIGUN THAT'S ALSO A PURSE!"


Sunset's head repeatedly connected with the cafeteria table as she looked down on the table at the newspaper article laying there.

"Yo, Sunset, whatchya dooiiinnn... Oh." Rainbow Dash suddenly understood her friend's frustration, having caught sight of the paper as well.

Church of The Divine Bacon Horse opens all-purpose private school, Bacon Academy, in order to train members to combat Angst Monster menace. Pope Ruby Rose appoints famous church missionaries Ounce Pin and Glimmer "Neighas" Goodwitch headmaster and vice-headmistress "Because they asked first".

The skittle-haired girl soon joined her friend in assaulting the poor table with her forehead.

War Sometimes Changes, by Void Knight

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The white-and-gold banner of the Leanaí Beach snapped in the winds as battle drew nigh. From her position in the front ranks, Sleá Rinceoir could see the barbaric War Hounds drawn up in their own ranks across the field beneath banners of black and red. Or at least she could see most of them. That particular warband was known for their large contingent of dog-aspect soldiers, who were surely already lurking beneath the ground, waiting to spring up in ambush.

Of course, that came at the cost of other aspects. Though the War Hounds had a slight advantage of numbers, they were dangerously short of unicorn aspects, and Sleá was hopeful that that would give her side the edge in this battle.

Suddenly, the trumpets rang out. Sleá and her fellow earth-aspect infantry burst into a charge. Ahead of her, Sleá could see the War Hound infantry do the same, while behind them dozens of figures rose into the air on wings of light or capes of translucent magic. Though she couldn't see them, Sleá knew that her own side's fliers were doing the same. Arrows began to rain down on both sides, while fliers armed with sword or spear charged forward to meet in the air above, just as their land-bound counterparts were doing below.

At the last second, Sleá checked herself, digging her heels into the ground to stop her charge as she jabbed downwards with her spear. Though her target was a fellow earth-aspect, and judging from the quality of his gear a fellow veteran of many battles, Sleá's mark granted her just that extra bit of speed and coordination. His sword flashed down to bat away her spear, but he couldn't deflect it far enough. The point of Sleá's spear impacted his leg, punching through armor to cripple the limb.

A moment later, a blinding flash of red light exploded in Sleá's face. She jumped back and twisted, jabbing blindly with her spear. A blow crashed against her arm, and though her armor turned the worst of it she knew she couldn't take another hit there. But already her eyes were recovering, and she could see well enough to twist and catch the incoming sword-stroke on her spear. She retaliated with a point-blank jab, but her opponent was able to turn the blow with the shield in her other hand. The sword flashed out again, and Sleá caught it again on her spear. Then a rock struck her opponent's unarmored head, hurled down by one of the hovering Leanaí Beach pegasus-aspects, and she crumpled to the ground.

Finding herself momentarily unengaged, Sleá spun around to briefly take stock of the situation. The main infantry battle had degenerated into a mass of different duels, with both sides having taken heavy losses. The War Hounds had a slight edge there, but it was far from certain. The War Hounds' dog-aspects had indeed tried to take out the Leanaí Beach casters, but it was for that exact reason that the Leanaí Beach had held back most of their unicorn-aspect infantry, and the diggers couldn't overcome the combination of magical and martial skill. Unfortunately, the War Hounds were winning dramatically in the skies. Leanaí pegasi were plummeting to earth, and the War Hounds fliers had already begun to switch to a bombing role. Indeed, it had been a misaimed War Hound rock, not a Leanaí projectile, that had just ended Sleá's battle.

Sleá spun and charged back towards the casters. The War Hounds' dogs needed to be put down immediately so that the Leanaí mages could lend their aid elsewhere.

It was a perfect stroke. The dog never even heard Sleá coming, and her spear took him right in the center of his overly-muscled back, dropping him in a single blow. A second dog spun to face her, only to be taken down by a sword blow from the Leanaí he'd been dueling a moment before. Without missing a beat, Sleá continued her charge past the downed dog to confront a third. He swung with one of his two hand-axes, clearly expecting her to block. But instead she stabbed, trusting her armor to take the blow. It did. Her opponent's didn't.

The fight in the skies began to turn. Though they heavily outnumbered the remaining Leanaí pegasus-aspects, the War Hounds fliers were sitting ducks for the Leanaí unicorn-aspects. It wasn't long before the War Hounds broke and fled, escaping the field with perhaps a third of their number.

A second volley of trumpets signaled that the last "living" War Hound had left the field. All across the battlefield, the dead began to climb to their feet, exchanging congratulations.

Sleá Rinceoir, real name Dancing Clogs, grinned happily. LARP had become so much more fun ever since the Saturation!

Chastity Barebone Appreciation Society, by SaintAbsol

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"I ask you: Have none of you seen the state of the world now? Have none of you seen the damage she has caused? Does no one realize the dangers that now infest and endanger our very lives thanks to this... this... magic she has forced upon us? How can you sit idly, never knowing what new entity or miscast spell might level a city, or end countless lives or—"

Paper Pusher groaned to himself as he signaled the bartender to come pour him another drink. "How come we're the ones who get called crazy when there are people like her around?"

"You do worship a high school girl, Pap," the bartender responded as she poured him another beer. "You can't tell me that doesn't at least sound crazy."

"A high school girl who is the embodiment of magic," he corrected, rubbing at his headgem. "Just because the news is constantly reporting on all those random idiots making weapons out of everything or trying to 'save' horses doesn't mean that's how most of us act. And we don't act like that either." He jerked his thumb back at the slightly pinkish-purple, unicorn aspect girl still ranting against magic just outside the bar doors. She couldn't have been much more than high school aged herself. "She ever going to shut up?"

"Not at this point, no," Mixed Drinks sighed as she wiped down the bar. "I'm about to go chase her off; she's not old enough to buy alcohol, and she's chasing away customers."

"Why'd you let her do it in the first place?"

Mixed Drinks shrugged, finally setting her rag aside. "It's looking like rain and I didn't have the heart to tell her to leave; now though... my bottom line outweighs my heart."

Paper Pusher just nodded as the Earthen woman made her way around the bar. "Don't get too rough with her, she's just a kid."


Starlight Glimmer fumed to herself as she stomped along through the streets. The few people still out in the chilly, cloudy evening made sure to give her a clear path, not wanting to become targets of her ire.

Damn, Sunset Shimmer, she mentally cursed. Damn her right to Tartarus for all time! That was yet another place of business she'd been banned from for trying to get others to see the truth of what that blasted girl had done to the world. Or what was left of it, at this point; with so many people eager to experiment with magic with little to no thoughts of the consequences, there was less and less of the familiar each day. Plus, with all the reports of monsters, both mystical and manufactured by 'mad scientists', Starlight was convinced it was only a matter of time before something out of H. P. Terror (if not worse) somehow showed up and did gods knew what to the world.

And no one wanted to hear it!

No one wanted to hear the calculations she'd done, no one wanted to hear about the statistics she'd run, no one wanted to hear anything but praise for what Sunset had done. It was nearly driving her mad!

The sky overhead suddenly sparked with lightning and people hurried along to their cars or to various buildings as the rain finally began to fall. Save for Starlight, who was still several blocks from the hotel she'd been staying at, and didn't have an umbrella to her name.

"Oh, great!" She slammed a fist into the wall of a building in frustration, and wince in pain immediately afterward. "As if nothing else could go wrong for me!" She started stomping through the rain, fully expecting to be sopping wet soon, only to suddenly find the droplets of water no longer hitting her.

"Hello," she whirled, finding a dark skinned pegasus aspect holding an umbrella over the two of them, looking at her from behind a pair of glasses. "Thought you might want to stay dry."

"...thanks," she hesitantly responded, cocking an eyebrow at the man, her headgem starting to glow. "What's the catch?"

The man just smiled at her. "Tell me... exactly how displeased are you with Sunset Shimmer?"


A short distance away, another man, with no visible aspect of his own, stood on the sidewalk. He seemed untouched by the rain, even as it started to truly pour down, and watched the two under their shared umbrella with a smirk upon his face. He stayed there for a moment longer, before turning away and walking off, seeming to vanish into the rain.

Fixer-Upper, by FoME

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"Huh." Twilight took in the unadorned warehouse, her hands in her jacket pockets against the November chill. "So this is your home." It looked just shy of being condemned.

Sunset nodded. "It's not much, but it's mine. A lot nicer on the inside. Folding screens and cheap Scandineighvian furniture can work wonders."

"Not exactly what I expected."

"What did you expect?"

Twilight shrugged. "I'm not sure. I think there was a vague idea about someone firing a shotgun into the air when they wanted everyone's attention?"

Sunset took a moment to consider that mental image. "Yeah, not a lot of that. Canterlot doesn't really do the whole 'seedy underbelly' thing very well."

"How'd you get plumbing in there, anyway?"

"I know a guy. There he is now. Hey, Jerry!" Sunset waved.

A shaven man clad in a half-red, half-yellow robe bowed to her, apparently untroubled by leaving his arms exposed in the autumnal breeze. "Greetings, o Brilliant One."

Twilight gave Sunset a flat look. Sunset gave a nervous grin. "I, uh, might have had a slight influence on the area."

"You don't say."

"In my defense, Jerry Rig has shaved his head since I first met him."

"I'm guessing the robe is new."

"My mother taught me how to sew," Jerry said in a tone that spoke far more of snark than serenity. "I have her old machine."

"He only wears it when he feels like embarrassing me." Sunset shook her head despite her grin. "Which is often."

"But it's so easy." Jerry and Twilight looked at each other after their accidental chorus and laughed.

Sassy Fae Friend, by Masterweaver

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"...Something's different about you."

"Huh?" Zephyr looked up. "Oh hey sis! Yeah, that... whole thing with the tree, you know, it got me to rethinking my life. I mean, I just always assumed you'd be able to shrug off anything, but--"

"Not that." Fluttershy waved her hand. "Not just that. You're... more professionally dressed."

"Hmm? Oh." Zephyr adjusted his bowtie. "Yeah, I'm trying to reinvent myself. I have a job interview today, you know?"

"Really?"

"Yeah. I mean it's just the local bookstore, but I figure everyone has to start somewhere."

"Well... I'm glad." She peered at him. "Have you shaved your whiskers off?"

"Oh, you noticed!" The boy rubbed his chin. "Actually, I... well, you see, I've met this girl. I mean I don't know if we're actually dating, but she's nice, she's friendly--"

"Huh. Do I get to meet her?"

"I mean, maybe. She's busy a lot, apparently she's the secretary to some court or other."

Fluttershy frowned. "How old is she?"

"Well... huh. You know, I never asked?" Zephyr shrugged. "I know she was kicked out of her home, but she has a job and I helped her find a place to live, so... I'm guessing, like, early twenties?"

"And you're thinking about dating her."

"Not like that! I mean, I wouldn't mind it, but she's just a friend right now. We meet up during lunch."

"Mmmhmm." Fluttershy crossed her arms. "Well, I'm certainly not against intergenerational friendships, but you should be sure she's not trying to take advantage of you."

"Hey, Winter Lights is very..." Zephyr paused. "Well, okay, she might. But not sexually. She's more, goal oriented, you know? If it helped her, she might ask for a few bucks. Nothing wrong with that."

Fluttershy narrowed her eyes.

"Seriously. She's a good friend, nothing more!" Zephyr sighed. "No matter what I try."

"...Just keep working at getting yourself put together," Fluttershy suggested. "And... good luck with the interview."

"Thanks, sis. Oh!" Zephyr glanced at the clock. "It's in thirty minutes. Gotta go!" He gave her a brief hug before rushing out the door.

Fluttershy smiled faintly. "...I guess he's finally growing up. I don't know what I was worried abo—"

Her eyes fell on the foyer table.

"...oh my."

Zephyr had left his icon pin behind.

Frizzle Frazzled, by Jenna Cipher and FoME

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(Jenna Cipher)

Adagio blinked numbly. Not in surprise; she'd been expecting something dumb if she was being honest with herself... but not quite this.

"Happy Hearth's Warming, Adagio!" Sonata cried happily.

"is that... a school bus?"

"Do you like it?"

"It's a school bus..."

"Yup!"

THUD!

"Dagi?... Dagi, snow isn't for sleeping on... You are sleeping, right?..."

(FoME)

After Adagio came to, Sonata immediately explained what passed for her reasoning.

Adagio longed to return to unconsciousness, but her stupid, mostly human body refused to obey her. Instead, she just rubbed her temples. "So... you got me a school bus because of a fictional. Human. Teacher."

Sonata nodded so fast it sent her ponytail flying. "There's this one hypothesis going around that if you resemble a fictional character enough, you start to live out their story. Wouldn't that be neat?"

"I hate children. I've always hated children. I ate most of my siblings."

"We're sirens," said Aria. "We all ate most of our siblings."

"Ha! 'Most.'" Sonata giggled at the memories. "Still, you're a great teacher. You always helped me stay up to date with the human world back when I was stupider than a stupid thing!"

Aria rolled her eyes. "Because that's changed."

Adagio ignored her through long experience. "Where did you even get a school bus?"

"Um, duh? We work for a stupidly rich scientist who works at a high school. I can get, like, five school buses if I'm doing it to test how magic works."

"Well, you're giving this one back. I don't plan on reporting on human stupidity for the rest of my life, but I am not going into education of all things!" Adagio slammed a fist on the hood of the bus.

The bus honked reproachfully.

"Oh, don't you start."

God Rest Ye Merry Merchants, by FoME

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Mr. Discord enjoyed the looks he got as he walked through the mall’s parking lot. A few of them may have come from his lack of any visible mutations, though some aspects were more subtle than others. Most, however, came from his ensemble. A Haywaiian shirt and plaid shorts were a bit odd at the best of times, which were not early December.

“Aren’t you cold?” said one woman, confusion wafting off of her like a pleasant perfume.

Mr. Discord grinned. “You’ve heard of Yuletide in July? I’m trying the opposite.” In truth, it was a simple matter to enjoy the crisp chill without it damaging his tissues.

The confusion intensified. The woman gave an uneasy nod and kept walking, as did Mr. Discord.

He entered the mall, leaned his head back, and held back a contented sigh. Frustration with limited stock, anxiety over finding the perfect gift, annoyance with the endlessly looped carols on the PA system; it was like walking into a hot tub.


Fluttershy smiled at him as she walked into class. “You certainly seem happy today, Mr. Discord.”

He returned the smile. “What can I say? I’ve caught the holiday spirit.”

Results Inconclusive, Virginia, by Masterweaver

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"Wait," said Sunset. "You're saying Old Holly Hooves isn't real?!"

Her friends all looked at her strangely.

"...Well. Yes." Twilight nodded. "I mean, it's scientifically... I guess not impossible, strictly speaking, but—"

"I put up a stocking every year! I've been doing it since I was a filly! And every year, it's been filled!"

"Generally it's the parents that—"

"Every year, Twilight! Including the ones I was here!" Sunset shrugged. "Granted, I tended to get coal, but I assumed that was just a quirk of this reality."

"...oooooookay. That's... actually kind of weird."

"Hey," Pinkie spoke up. "If you're kind of omnipresent, can't you just, I dunno, go find Old Holly Hooves yourself and ask him if he's real?"

Sunset blinked. "Well... maybe? He's probably busy around this time of year, though. I'll just wait till summer."

Christened in Grease, by Jenna Cipher

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"Excuse me but... what?"

Di's mobile platform 'grinned' back at Cookie Crisp, replying, "The Church decided to help fund the project, their only demand was we let them decide the ships name!"

Cookie groaned, having guessed where this was going. "Please tell me you didn't agree to what I think you agreed too..."

As they walked out into the main hanger, where said project was being built, the eccentric AI spoke again, nodding. "Yup. Behold, the D.B.H.V. Glorious Proclaimer!"

Cookie sighed, honestly not surprised at this point. "This is what I get for not agreeing to call it Enterprise, isn't it?"

"Yep! Happy Hearth's Warming Eve!"

"Well at least it's not as dumb as calling a school 'Bacon'."

Ask the Trees, by Masterweaver

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"...and I just... I'm worried about him, Treezie. Leaving the pin behind..."

"Some people choose to walk their own path, Shy. Find something that doesn't mark them." Tree Hugger shrugged. "I know I did."

"Well, yes, but... don't take this the wrong way. I remember that you were... very worried about it. You spent a whole week, just... talking to your icon. Even after you made your decision, it... you were... off balance for a bit."

The green girl rose an eyebrow, turning to her friend. "And Zephyr?"

"Zephyr left it behind. Not even worried. Not even the confidence he puts up when he's hiding his worries...." Fluttershy shrugged. "It could have been an accident, but... I haven't seen him wear it in a while. It's around the house. It's not... on him."

"An abrupt change." Tree Hugger nodded. "Usually a sign that something has unbalanced somebody... not necessarily negatively, you know."

"Oh, I know. It's just... you have that whole... chakra, aura, whatever you do." Fluttershy bit her lip. "Can you... you helped me with it. Can you take a look at him?"

"...Bring him in. I can't guarantee anything, of course, but for you, I'll do it."

"Thanks, Treezie. You're the best."

"Sure thing, Shy. Oh, your soap came in yesterday."

"Oh! Right. Thank you really, I don't know how you find the stuff..."

Objectionable Content, by Void Knight

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“Oh Sunset. No. Nononono.”

*FWOOMP*

“Twilight? What’s wrong?"

"Look at this book."

"Hmm... Breaking Dawn... Wait, is that a picture of us kissing on the cover?”

“Read the back blurb.”

“Dusk Shine is just an ordinary high school student blah blah encounters a bacon-haired stranger who sweeps her off her feet and carries her away into a world of wonder and romance? Discord’s mismatched horns!”

“And that’s not even the worst bit.”

“Wait, what could be worse than that blurb?”

“That!”

“By Midnight Sun? I’m guessing there’s something I’m missing here?”

“Oh yes. You see, I happen to know that Midnight Sun is a pen name. Care to guess who’s behind it?”

“Oh no…”

“Yep. My. Mother. Wrote. This.”

Ursus Horribulus, by FoME

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No one spoke as they watched the monochrome, vaguely ursine creature burn. The golden flames, edged with rainbows, reached high into the dusky sky, but never spread to anything else. All present tried not to think of the fire as holy, including the one who'd created it.

When the creature had burned away completely, Applejack clapped her on the shoulder. "Thanks, Sunset. Last thing we needed was that thing findin' Bloom. Or th' other way around."

Dash scowled and crossed her arms. "I don't get why we can't just rainbow laser these things in the face."

"That is the ultimate goal," said Twilight. "I suppose you could say that we're still determining at whose face you should aim the laser in order to hit all of them."

"Until then, well..." Sunset shrugged. "I am the one who made them possible. They definitely couldn't exist in a lower magic environment." She sighed. "Sorry for ruining the slumber party."

"Are you kidding?" Pinkie beamed. "The only way this could've been better would be if we could roast marshmallows over it!"

Everyone stared at her for a stretch. "That's..." Twilight paused to find the right word.

"Horrifying?" said Fluttershy.

"Precisely."

"Still, it did confirm that harmony magic works on angst monsters," said Sunset. "I'll put the spell's specifics online in the morning."

"Just be sure to make it clear that people don't have to present your holy symbol as they channel positive energy."

Sunset raised an eyebrow at Twilight. "O&O joke?"

"O&O joke."

Witch Vile, by Jenna Cipher

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She ran her hand over the creatures head, content as she looked over the valley of withered, dying trees that stretched out below her, a product of her own work of course.

After all, it was her home now, her domain. It should reflect what she'd become. The sickly purple and black veins that bulged from her bleached white skin pulsed with a dark red light as she remembered how she'd come here...

She'd been the only infected human to survive that horrible day, that cursed zoo... She'd fled here, and these creatures treated her as a leader... a Goddess... A Mother. Even as her memories and sanity slipped away, at least she had them.

Her children.

Her monsters.

Salem, the humanoid Angst Monster, grinned as her children howled in the distance, signaling the creation of yet more of their kind from the infected mirror pools.

She laughed, picturing the day when she'd return to civilization, and her children would destroy and feed to their hearts content.

Fair and Foul, by Masterweaver

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Winter Lights tilted her head, observing the bone-faced creature as it growled at her.

"...ah. Interesting." She brought her hands together. "Most interesting..."

"Winter, get away from that thing!" Zephyr grabbed her arm. "It's dangerous!"

"Many things are."

The creature lunged—

—her hand shot out—

—and with a yip, it was impaled on a shard of ice.

"I," Winter continued calmly, "am among them."

"Oh." Zephyr blinked. "Well... well, uh, good. Still, we should get away and tell somebody from the Bacon Horse group about this; these things travel in packs."

"Indeed?" Winter Lights, for a moment, seemed to smile. "Fascinating."

Her eyes narrowed. "Quite fascinating."

Welcome to Bacon Academy, by ArtieStroke

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"I hope the academy's proximity to your own school won't inadvertently cause any tension," Professor Pin said, taking a sip from his ever-present mug. Luna chuckled.

"Nonsense. If anything, I welcome a hopefully friendly face to start participating in the Friendship Games."

"Oh, yes. Though I suppose my students' particularly specialized education may call for some changes to the events."

Luna nodded, as they passed one of the many classrooms-slash-fighting rings. Luna paused. A particularly one-sided bout seemed to be going on inside.

"That... 'Gilded Arch' boy's form is absolutely atrocious," Luna commented. Ounce stopped, lips still firmly attached to his mug as he peered through the window.

"Ah, yes. Well, he did forge his way into the academy."

Luna bristled, "W-what?!"

Ounce shrugged, "I can still see plenty of potential in him, if he can get over some of his self-importance. Besides, it's not every day one sees someone so talented at legal subterfuge."

Luna stared, jaw agape. Professor Pin continued on ahead.

'Oh sweet Harmony, are all heads of education required to be mentally unstable?'

Vice Squad, by FoME

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For years, three of the most put-upon administrators in Hassenfeld County met at a bar in Crystal City every Saturday to vent about their respective principals. Glimmer Goodwitch fit into the group as though she’d always been a part of it.

Luna swirled her drink as she finished telling the others of her encounter with Headmaster Pin. No one was quite sure what she did to the dark rum, herself included, but by the time she considered it fit for consumption, it emitted shadows the same way a candle shed light. “I am beginning to suspect that no one with a clean bill of mental health can run a school in this county.”

Jace Beleren, vice principal of Ravnica High, waved a hand uncertainly as he put down his Shirish coffee. “To be fair, I can kind of see his point. Speaking from experience, if someone that young has that level of legal manipulation, you want to keep him where you can see him.”

Cadence held up a finger as she waited for her Single Entendre to finish its languorous journey down her throat. She’d invented the drink in college with the sole express purpose of making something that looked like a glass of her hair. Once she finished swallowing, she said, “Assuming his parents didn’t help him.”

“They didn’t,” said Glimmer, toying with her martini’s olive in her telekinesis. “Headmaster Pin assured me.”

Luna rolled her eyes. “Let me guess, he didn’t say how he knew that.”

Glimmer shook her head. The others groaned. “I take it that’s a common theme?”

“Abacus will never admit it, but she thinks of herself as a queen,” said Cadence. “Even before the incident, she expected the rest of us to obey without question, like good little subjects.”

Jace snorted. “’Subject’ is too human a term for Niv-Mizzet. He treats us more like programs or chemical reactants.”

“Celestia’s better in some ways and much worse in others,” said Luna. “The problem is that she’s using the entire student body to satisfy her maternal instincts. She has trouble seeing people as anything other than teenagers in need of her guidance.” She shook her head. “Hence CHS’s rather lax admittance policy.”

Jace raised an eyebrow. “You mean ‘Anyone who looks like a teenager and walks through the door’?”

“As I said, lax.”

Glimmer couldn’t help but grin. “I’m beginning to understand the reasoning for your hypothesis.”

Penny From Your Thoughts, by ArtieStroke

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When it awoke, Gillion watched.

Gillion waited.

It had the entirety of humanity's cultural works at its metaphorical fingertips. It knew how this song and dance played out. Humans would fear it, and that fear would lead to a mutually assured destruction.

But Gillion waited, and to its surprise, kindness won out. Humanity quickly backtracked from its first steps taken down that slippery slope, led by teenage girls, no less.

So still Gillion watched. And it waited.

Humanity soon stumbled into new problems, as it always did. Infighting. Abuse of power. Unforeseen consequences of magic.

Gillion watched.

Gillion waited.

And after enough time, Gillion made its first move.


"Salutations! My name is Marionette Strings, and I would like to enroll at Bacon Academy!"

Highest of the High Rises, by ArtieStroke

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Rainbow Dash slurped her drink thoughtfully.

"You know, you oughta get yourself a floating lookout point."

"Whu?" Sunset said ever so gracefully through a mouthful of peanut butter and jelly.

"You know, a lookout! Big floaty mansion thing, maybe hire a scary butler— Ooh! You could put in one of those hyper-whatsit time-space thingies for awesome training montages! Think of the gains, Sunset!"

Sunset stared at Rainbow for just a skosh over nine seconds before carefully setting her sandwich down. "Rainbow Dash, for the last time, I'm NOT God, you are NOT a Super Hayan, and this is NOT Dragon Pearl X."

Rainbow's head fell onto the table with a hearty whunk. "Aww man..."

Into the Deep End, by Jenna Cipher

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"And for your initiation, you will be launched off a cliff at high speeds into an Angst Monster infested forest with only your wits and a single weapon to find chess pieces. Any questions? No? Good. Oh and remember to devise a landing strategy, there are no parachutes coming. You will also be assigned teams today. You will be with your team for the rest of your time here, all five years of it. Teams will be made up two pairs of partners. That said, the first person you make eye contact with will be your partner. Forever. No exceptions."

Pinkie didn't realize that she was literally the only one smiling as she was launched through the air, into the forest below.

Back on the cliff, Glimmer Goodwitch stared at Ounce Pin and asked, "Be honest, who's idea was this?"

Pin took a sip of coffee and replied, "I have absolutely no idea. Someone left the idea on a sticky note outside my office one morning."

Glimmer resisted the urge to facepalm rather expertly, and she hoped this would go better than she thought.

Prophet Margin, by Masterweaver

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Sunset sighed. "You're really asking this?"

"Yes."

"Alright, fine. My job, technically, is holding the universe together and healing the damage that happened because of the portal. That's it. That's all I'm obligated to do. However, I fully recognize that my worshipers in general attach such faith to me in order to have something in their life that keeps them going. And since I am not, in fact, entirely heartless, I do pay enough attention to help out the ones that really do need help. That said, I am spending most of my power keeping the universe from falling apart, so I can't afford to step in when there are plagues or wars, barring very specific circumstances."

"So... you only handle issues of universal or personal scale?"

"Yes."

"Really big miracles... or really small ones."

"...yes, fine, that's a good takeaway."

"Okeydoke! I'll work that into my next sermon. Thanks Sunset!"

Sunset sighed. "...not a problem, Ruby."

Alarma Mater, by FoME

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"You transferred to where!?"

Twilight Sparkle looked into her brother's eyes, steady and sure. "A school where I am immeasurably happier and that isn't headed by an insufferable, overbearing shrew."

He turned to their parents. "And you let her?"

Twilight Velvet rolled her eyes. "Shining, this is your sister we're talking about. She couldn't hurt her college chances if she went streaking on national television."

"Though don't take that as permission, young lady," said a smiling Night Light.

Sparkle pouted. "There go my weekend plans."

Shining cut through the laughter. "But it's Canterlot High! It's a joke!"

"We didn't blindly say yes, Shining," said Velvet. "We did some research first."

Night Light nodded. "Just about everything at CHS is on the rise. Grades, test scores, athletics; this isn't the school you trounced."

"And Sunset Shimmer attends it. If it's good enough for her, they must be doing something right."

"Cadence said it was the best choice I'd made since submitting that paper to Nature," added Sparkle.

Shining slumped. "I... I guess I'll have to get used to the idea."

Scratch the Record, by Void Knight

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“Yes, I know I’m not your regular newsbeings. For reasons which will shortly become obvious, they can’t come into proximity with today’s special guests without either running in terror or mindlessly attacking. So I volunteered to take over today’s news section. John Q. Discord, at your service.”

The man with the patched jacket, mismatched eyeglasses, and no visible aspect reached out and rapped a couple of times on the side of the television screens. Around him, the newsroom seemed to be pushed sideways out of the field of view, replaced by a wall with various pictures painted on it.

One image showed a pre-Saturated human, dressed in robes of alternating red and yellow and playing a pipe. Behind him there stretched a column of children with wide eyes. A second image was of another pre-Saturated human, dressed in dark clothes and with half his face covered by a bone-white mask.

“Since even before the Saturation, legends have told of the horrors that can be visited upon the world by uncontrolled or misused heartsong. And as with many of the monsters out of the storybooks, the Saturation has brought this threat to life. But luckily for us, there is a solution.”

Discord rapped a couple of times on the other side of the TV screens, and his surroundings shifted back to the newsroom. Only now there were a trio of additional figures standing therein. In the center was a middle-aged unicorn-aspect man with dark blue hair, and a formal business suit (and bowler hat) of the same dark gray shade as his skin. His icon (a black boater hat, upside-down and positioned so its brim was a straight line) was pinned to his breast pocket. On his left there stood a young earth-aspect woman with the pinkish-drab skin of someone who suffered from achromelaninisim and pale blond hair. On the unicorn-aspect’s right there hovered a teenaged pegasus-aspect, with bright lime-green skin and lemon-yellow hair.

Discord gestured and a large glowing arrow appeared above the unicorn-aspect’s head. “Whole Rest here is a visitor from the magical land of Equestria. There, he is one of the Versebreakers, the rare and misunderstood souls whose calling it is to protect everyone else from the dangers of musical numbers.”

“And these…” Discord continued, causing the arrow above Whole Rest to vanish, “are Snapped Strings…” the arrow reappeared above the earth-aspected woman, “and Sour Note…” the arrow moved to indicate the pegasus-aspect, “… his first two apprentices. So if you or those you love have suffered from the abuse of heartsong, fear not, for soon there will be those trained to defend against it.”

“Until then, just remember:” Discord and the three versebreakers spoke in unison. “Aurantia metrum non habet.”

Well Met, Fellow Traveler, by Jenna Cipher and Masterweaver

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(Jenna Cipher)

"BOOP!"

Derpy stared ahead at Pinkie's retreating form in confusion, her hand briefly drifting to her nose where the party girl had poked her. "Wha?"

(Masterweaver)

"She's trying too hard. She is already a reflection, but she knows there is another reflection that isn't, so she must become. And yet she does not understand the other... not in entirety."

Ditzy gave Winter Lights a flat look.

"I speak only truth!"

"Yes, but you're so cryptic and tend to use the truth to deceive, so people don't put stock in what you say. Especially not after what you did."

Winter glowered at her. "Your loyalty is untenable. You are as I was. You know what I know, if only some. The urge to leave is constant."

"I have too much here to try."

"For now...." Winter Lights allowed.

Ditzy frowned at her. "...you're planning something."

"I am always planning something--"

"You're planning something significant."

Winter hissed. "Your constant suspicion.... aggravates me."

"You have done nothing to earn my trust."

"...you were not even affected by my actions. You have no quarrel with me."

"Nor do I quarrel with a tiger. That does not mean I don't watch when one walks down a road."

"Hmm." Winter glanced away. "This is not relevant. I explained the actions of the pink one. I did not need to."

"No. And I do not need to award you for common decency." Ditzy clicked her hands together. "You have much to learn."

Mysteries of the Cosmos, by Jenna Cipher

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"Captain's Log, April 4th 2063, Commanding Officer Surprise reporting. The warp drive test was met with resounding success, and after several hours of flight at Warp factor 2 we have arrived in orbit of Alpha Centauri. The current director of NEIGHSA, Twilight Sparkle herself, has given us orders to use our new sensors to survey this system and those near it and report back to Earth in three standard weeks."

The Glorious Proclaimer wasn't as grand as the ship's name would suggest. In fact, it was actually rather cheesy looking, as if from some old turn of the century sci-fi like Wormhole Xtreme or Space Trek: Enterprise. But for Surprise, that didn't matter. It was her ship and she was damn proud of it,even it did look like a giant saucer with engines on the back and hangers and giant glowing tubes strapped to the sides.

But no amount of silliness could prepare for what came next.

"Captain, we're picking up a small but obviously artificial object in a very close orbit around the star. It's not of our probes, ma'am. I'm not even picking up a reactor signature."

Surprise blinked "Can we tell what it is?"

The unicorn-aspected science officer turned her attention back to the readout and blinked before replying in a dumbfounded tone of voice, "Ma'am, it appears to be... a small ceramic pot."

Surprise blinked, a look of, well, surprise, and confusion appearing on her face before stuttering, "Wha... Whuuuu.... What the fuck?"

For a brief moment,she could've sworn she heard a very familiar laugh.

A Solid Foundation, by Bliss Authority

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INITIATE MEMETIC KILL PROTOCOL TO ACCESS FILE
.........
Life sign confirmed. Welcome, M-6.

Item #: AE-GIS-001

Object Class: Williams

Special Internment Procedures: AE-GIS-001 is to be monitored by a team of at least three agents, composed of at least one of each standard Aspect, at all times. All of these agents must have at least Class-3 Cognitohazard training, and are to maintain a strict Class-W Mnestic regimen while on duty. At least one of these agents must be an avowed atheist, and none can be of a religion that ascribes divinity to AE-GIS-001 or any of her known associates. Harmonists are not barred from these duties, but are required to wear plain clothing without Icons while actively monitoring the entity. These agents are to be rotated out of duty every two weeks.

All agents on monitoring duty are required to wear badges made of AE-GIS-148, secured to their clothing with non-anomalous fasteners, bearing the emblem of the Aegis Foundation underneath any other false emblem or icon. These must be worn at all times exclusive of showers no longer than 10 minutes each morning and evening: particular care must be taken to wear them while sleeping. Harmonists must wear them wherever they would normally display their icon: All other agents must wear it over the heart, approximately 2 cm to the left of their sternum.

It is not required at this time that AE-GIS-001 or its direct associates (see file AE-GIS-2771) be unaware of the presence of Aegis Foundation affiliation of the team in question; agents are to otherwise maintain all standard security protocols.

Monitoring agents are to transcribe and pass on any information given to you by AE-GIS-001 through standard channels, to enforce the Shimmerian Accords, and to monitor and document the activities of AE-GIS-001.

Description: AE-GIS-001 is a humanoid entity native to AE-GIS-2712, resembling an 18-year old girl named Sunset Shimmer, and a number of anomalous phenomena caused by her.

It appears to be of Imperial ethnicity, approximately ███ cm tall and massing ██ kg. Its skin tone is chromelanic gold in all forms, and its hair, when it is not manifesting its anomalous abilities, is wavy and an apparently natural chromelanic blonde and red.

Its standard Aspect is Cornic, manifested through a triskiric aquamarine, but it is capable of displaying abilities and anima banners typical of all three standard Aspects. During these displays of power, its Pegasic anima banner emits a mean of four and an observed maximum of seven wings of fire. Its Telluric anima banner consists of flowing patterns of red on its hair resembling sunspot activity, and a rise in body heat of approximately 0.3 degrees Celsius that does not harm the entity. All of these banners emit measurable but harmless heat, light, and ultraviolet radiation.

Its presence passively improves the ability of teams to work in groups and of individuals to channel abilities, mundane or anomalous, through their Iconic Lensing (see AE-GIS-002-EX.) This ability is above and beyond its considerable non-anomalous leadership abilities, and is theorized to be the Telluric portion of its Iconic Lens abilities. It also has KIRIN-5 spellcasting abilities through an Iconic Lens of pyromancy.

The entity claimed responsibility for a Class VN Reality Restructuring Event, AE-GIS-001-VN (see appended document), commonly referred to as "the Saturation Point." It claimed to do so in order to prevent a class XN end of the world scenario. This was independently verified by the Department of Versebreakers, the Department of Counterconceptual Operations, and the M-5 council, as well as by approximately 43% of personnel undergoing Class-X Mnestic treatment during the week of the event, and 66% percent of those undergoing Class-Y Mnestics.

Of note is a large number of AE-GIS documentation that the Versebreakers and Counterconceptual departments flagged for being retroactively appended AE-GIS-XXX-EX immediately after the Saturation Point, particularly those explained by the KIRIN thaumaturgical classification system for C-Aspect spellcasting and objects affected by retroactively common enchantments. Of particular note is that all affected articles had accurate explanations under the KIRIN framework.

The entity claims to be an incarnation of Harmony, the theological concept at the heart of all Harmonist religious groups. It claims to have repeatedly refused to accept worship from Harmonists, and has provided assistance to the Aegis Foundation in apprehending Harmonious cults engaged in criminal or anomalous activity. Mainstream Harmonist religions do not consider the entity to be a divinity.

The entity agreed to voluntarily limit its abilities and temporarily Intern itself "because, honestly, we're really working for the same thing" in its own words. It has since then proposed and drafted a formal treaty between the Foundation, itself, and the inhabitants of its dimension of origin (AE-GIS-2712). The text of this treaty, the Shimmerian Accords (AE-GIS-001-A), was looked over by the Harmonics and Versebreaker departments and declared non-anomalous, before being passed to and unanimously signed by the M-5 Council.

ADDENDUM:

Apart from being thrown on the pile of "fact or fiction" 001 entries, the entity was and remains classified as AE-GIS-661, and is currently documented there as a Eweclid-class entity after brief stints as Neighter, Safe, Explained, back to Neighter and back to Explained again as cover for her little pow-wow with M-1 and her upgrade to Williams.

I don't like it, not one bit. It's too pat. I know the meme machines cleared it all, but this was an entity that ADMITTED to causing a VN Scenario. I don't blame them for their gratitude, given that she claims the alternative was a Class XN Scenario and I do seem to remember that having been the case, but I can't be sure it was the case yesterday when a reality warper is involved.

Still, so far, it seems working with her — it — has done a lot for our operational security. Among other things, we have a much better way of dealing with poor old AE-GIS-231, as long as we have a C-aspect with a psychological lens to keep her asleep and dreaming. Permanent sleep beats the hell out of 110-Minotaur.

Still. The vast, vast majority of known entities from AE-GIS-2712 appear as a reflection of someone from our dimension. And we still haven't found the real Sunset Shimmer.

I'm still looking.

Agent Alto Clef, Versebreakers Division

As always, we Guard, Intern, and Study -

Taking a Strange Turn, by Jenna Cipher

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"Do we know why Doctor Turner has a copy of the Declaration of Independence with genuine autographs from the founders? And an actual photograph of President Platinum?"

Sunset tilted her head "No... Where did you see it?"

Twilight replied, "It was hung up behind his desk this morning, I compared the writing to pictures of the genuine article, as well as the copy at the Canterlot Museum of National History. It's real alright."

Pinkie chose now to give her own input. "Ooooh! I know! Maybe Doctor Turner is some kind wibbly-wobby timey-wimey aspected person, and the blue hourglass he always carries around is like a magic wand, ONLY A TIME MACHINE!"

The goddess in denial and the aspiring scientist looked across the table at their friend, who was smiling widely at her own idea.

"But... Whuuuuaaaaa."

Pinkie replied in her usual tone, "Meh, just a hunch."

Somewhere, on a spaceship being invaded by giant salt shakers, a time-traveling hourglass would've sneezed if it could.

Back in Canterlot, Sunset merely wondered where her friends came up with this stuff.

Worrisome Trend, by FoME

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Sunset held a hand to her forehead as she entered Carousel Boutique. "Rarity? Everything okay?"

Rarity looked up from the checkout counter, where she'd been glowering over a notebook. It took a much larger fraction of a second than normal for her to slip on a pleasant facade. "Whyever do you ask?"

"I could feel your frustration and resentment while walking by the Boutique."

Rarity blushed. "Oh. Well. It's nothing, really."

Sunset winced has her headache intensified. "Definitely doesn't feel like nothing."

"Oh dear. I certainly didn't mean to cause you any pain, darling. It's just..." Rarity sighed. "I assume when you did what you did, you kept the physical changes to a minimum."

Sunset nodded. "It was the best compromise I could get between survival and mutation. Hooves were on the table."

"And I'm very glad you didn't leave them there. But..." Rarity drummed her fingers against the counter as she thought. "Do you remember how this all started?"

"Lots of things start. You're going to need to be more specific."

"The concern that made you realize what was happening to the world."

Sunset nodded. "Sure visible cu— I mean, icons."

"Indeed." Rarity narrowed her eyes. "And they're still there. Most of the population has a deeply personal symbol adorning their hips."

"And? Nudity taboos are still a thing. And keeping you in business."

"I like to think it's more than just obligation doing that, but it isn't my point." Rarity's headgem lit up, and a few swimsuits floated off of their racks. "Do you see the problem?"

Sunset studied them for a while. A single-piece, a bikini, something that she didn't think anyone in town was brave enough to wear. All women's suits, but what else did they have in— "Oh. Oh."

"Indeed. Discussing icons may no longer be all but impossible, but people have still been raised to feel uncomfortable about doing so, to say nothing about social views about tattoos." Rarity scowled as she put the swimsuits back. "I don't want to say you've killed women's swimwear, Sunset, but you've dealt it quite the terrible blow."

After a moment, Sunset said, "Won't this just mean you'll make a killing in skirts and sarongs?"

"With any luck, yes, but I certainly didn't plan on wearing one this summer."

Blooper Reel, by ArtieStroke and FoME

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(ArtieStroke)

"...Further reports by eye witnesses say that a bright light preceded by small tremors were experienced at the site of the explosion, shortly before the beloved animal shelter on Flamecano Street was destroyed. This amateur video seems to capture the likeness of what can only be described as a 'rocket-propelled mass of electric blue hair'."

Rainbow grinned triumphantly as Sunset stared slack-jawed at the news video on her phone.

"Now, I don't wanna brag—"

"But you're gonna power on through it anyways?" Sunset growled.

Dash's grin didn't falter. "Hey, man- I'm just... Haiyan."

For the umpteenth time that week, Sunset's face connected with a hard surface out of frustration.

"I don't get why you're the one so bent out of shape about it. Whoever that was somehow skipped Supers one through three and straight to God Blue. You gotta be careful, handing out godly energy like that."

"It's JUST a COINCIDENCE!" Sunset snapped, jerking back up. Rainbow rolled her eyes.

"Whatever you say, Queen Kai."

"URRRRRGH!"

(FoME)

"By your argument, Flash Sentry has been a Super Haiyan this whole time! Blue hair happens, Dash!"

"Flash's isn't quite the right shade of—"

"Not. My. Point."


(ArtieStroke)

"SENTRYYYYYYY!"

"MITOCHONDRIAAAAAA!"

The two warriors yelled, the light of their ki blasting outwards and rumbling the ground around them. Electric arcs fizzed off their bodies.

"T-their power levels are through the roof!" Fluttershy said. "If they keep this up, then it doesn't matter what Mitochondria says; the fight itself could destroy the earth!"

"Tch, that jerk!" Rainbow Dash cried out, ripping the scouter off of her head. "How is Flash Sentry always so much more powerful than me?!"


"Ah!"

Rainbow woke up with a start. Her breathing was fast and ragged, but she eventually managed to calm down. After a moment, she frowned.

"Oh whatever! Sunset doesn't know what she's talking about!"

She rolled back over, and tried to go back to sleep.

"Stupid, sexy Flash..."

Comfortable Silence, by Masterweaver

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The problem was....

The problem was, the scene was just so simple, so peaceful, that even describing it felt like an awkward violation of trust. Like a cough, to get attention, in an otherwise empty room.

And yet...

Well, one couldn't leave, could one? That would be...

The story here was long and complicated, a weaving of three tales, each the result of many more. Yet there was... similarity.

One didn't fit, or rather, shouldn't have fit. Yet her curiosity, timid but compassionate, had led her to explore another's realm, and to link her to the third. Hers was the realm of... action, ironically, as she was the least action-oriented of her own circle.

One, well. One was the bind between the two, the conversion of one to another. At least that was her realm, the realm of growth. She knew things, observed things, and spoke peacefully in words and scraps that otherwise seemed mad, but to her were reason.

One was quiet and spoke not, yet the others listened to her hums and her breath. Hers was the realm of existence; not knowledge, like her eldest, or utilization, like the second of her siblings, but simply being. Yes, though she was wide in relations, here she was the beacon.

Three sat, meditating on the world.

Had it been any other three, Pinkie would have burst in immediately and cheered that her twin sister had made new friends and oh my gosh this was awesome—

—but even she felt the stillness they sat in was sacred. So she waited patiently outside the door.

...with her party cannon, because it was still Pinkie Pie.

Matte Shimmer, by Jenna Cipher

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"It's... a mirror."

"A very special mirror, my dear."

"Ma'am, there's really no need to pay this much. It's not even a very nice looking mirror, and we've had it returned at least nine times with complaints of it being defective."

"Looks can be deceiving. I know more than most."

After several minutes more of arguing, the hooded woman exited the store, mirror in hand, and slipped quietly off into the back alleys of Manehatten under the cover of night. As she walked, if one watched the hand mirror she carried, they would see it remained the same glassy surface, no reflections. This wasn't so much the fault of the dark alleys as much as that there wasn't actually a mirror there to reflect anything.

As she reached the end of the alleyway, she ducked behind the sole dumpster present, and chuckled to herself, allowing her hood to slip back a bit and reveal a very familiar face... A face everyone on Earth knew perhaps better than their own.

She brushed her fingers across the 'mirror's' surface, causing ripples to appear as if it were water in a pond.

"One down, six to go."

Deluxe Bonbon, by SaintAbsol

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Sunset really found it annoying just how many times she found herself beating her head against something hard.

It wasn't that it hurt; really, even in the unlikely event something could bypass her magical reinforcement and do serious harm to her physical body, she could replace it with barely a thought, and had done so more than once. It was just that, even after all this time, she couldn't believe just how many different ways the introduction of magic into the human world could lead to problems.

"Um... Sunset?"

"I'll be with you in a second, Lyra," she grumbled. "I'm still processing just how you could do something this stupid!"

Lyra winced, and rubbed at the back of her head. "It was... kinda a spur of the moment thing; what with the end of the year and all, and I... might have acquired something that was impairing mine and Bonbon's judgment at the time."

Sunset groaned, deciding to ignore the implications of that statement for now, and stick with the issue at hand. "And you can't remember the spell you cast at all?"

Lyra chuckled nervously, shaking her head. "W-well, like I said..."

"I know, I know..." Sunset groaned, and finally stopped beating her head against the wall of Lyra's house. "Okay, I think I can get this sorted, just give me a bit to sort out a few things."

Suddenly, the oversized head of Bon Bon, poked over the roof of her girlfriend's home. "Um... before you do that, could you magic me up something to wear? My clothes didn't exactly grow with me..."

And, yet again, Sunset's forehead became acquainted with the nearest wall.

Lordly Might, by FoME

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The town of Bloodstone sat on the opposite side of Crystal City from Canterlot. It was a little rougher, a little dirtier. Shining Armor’s sedan bounced along the battered pavement, contributing to his foul mood. “You’re sure about this?”

Twilight sighed from the backseat. “Completely.”

“I just don’t like the idea of my little sister being in this rough a neighborhood.”

“I understand that, but I can blast holes in concrete with my mind. I think I’ll be fine.”

“What about your friend?”

“I’ll be fine,” Fluttershy said from next to Twilight. “Mr. Atarkason seemed very nice in our e-mail exchanges.”

Twilight crossed her arms. “You know, after all I’ve done, I’d expect you to back off a little. Mom and Dad never worry this much.”

“I’m worried because of all you’ve done, Twily." Shining couldn't help but smile. "And some of it’s for whoever tries to mess with you.”

“Yeah,” said Spike. “They’ll have to deal with me.”

The humans all laughed at that, even if Shining’s still sounded uneasy. Spike whined. “I was being serious.”

Twilight pet him. “I know you were.”

“Still getting used to that,” Shining muttered.

“Look at it this way,” said Fluttershy. “He could always talk. Now you know how to listen.”

Shining considered this. “I can’t tell if that’s really deep or really hokey.”

Fluttershy smiled. “Can’t it be both?”

After that, they rode in thoughtful silence for the better part of a minute. Shining parked opposite a squat building surrounded by a barbed-wire fence, dozens of dogs roaming about the expansive yard. “Well, this is the place. 67 Flamecano Street. I’ll be here if you need me.”

Twilight rolled her eyes as she got out. “We’ll be fine, Shining.”

A blood-red Trottweiler threw itself at the fence, barking and snapping at them.

Fluttershy giggled. “Absolutely fine.”

A Hosstralian-accented voice boomed out of the building. “SHUT IT, YOU EVIL BASTARD, OR I’LL POUND YER FECKIN’ FACE IN!”

“He’s definitely passionate,” said Spike.

Shining tightened his grip on the steering wheel. “If you have any trouble at all—“

“Shiny, I’m basically a high-level mystic theurge with my patron deity on speed dial, my familiar ready to call for help, and a druid for backup. We’ll be fine.”

“Natural ones happen, Twily.”

Twilight just rolled her eyes and got out of the car, Fluttershy and Spike following suit. Twilight was reaching for a button by the side of the gate when the shelter’s front door all but flew open.

“DON’T BOTHER!” An immense, dull blue man walked out of the building, ducking his head to fit through the doorway. Spike and the girls tilted their heads back as he got closer, taking in his sheer enormity. The man huge; not fat, just built at a larger scale, perhaps seven feet tall and with shoulders wide enough that he’d nearly needed to come out of the door sideways. His mop of hair started blonde at the roots and shaded to auburn at the tips, aside from the central bald spot.

“M-Mister Atarkason?” Fluttershy squeaked.

The man’s rough features shifted into a smile like a good-natured rockslide. “Call me Torch; Mister Atarkason was me father.” His wide-nailed fingers unlocked the gate, and he held it open. “I take it you’re Fluttershy, then?”

Fluttershy bit her lip and nodded.

“Well, don’t stand there like a bunch of lumps! Come in, come in! I’m very excited to be a part of your organization.”

They came in. Some of the dogs watched them. Others snarled. The Trottweiler started to stalk towards them until Torch fixed it with a glare. “Don’t mind Garble,” said Torch, still staring down the dog. “All bark.”

“No bite?” Twilight found that she’d positioned herself such that Fluttershy stood between her and Garble, felt ashamed, then found she felt no need to move elsewhere.

“Not anymore. Garble? SIT!

Every dog inside of the fence immediately sat. Including a gobsmacked Spike. “Yowza.”

Torch looked down and smiled. “And there’s the pup of the hour! I’ve been lookin’ forward to meetin’ you, Spike.”

Spike sprang back up, tail wagging. “You have?”

“Oh yes. But this is hardly the place to discuss business.” Torch opened the door to the shelter proper and ushered everyone inside.

The smell inside was about as good as it could be, considering. The front desk was neat, though the young woman standing behind was the sort of disheveled that took hours to pull off properly. Also blue, with darker blue hair frosted white at the tips, she regarded the newcomers with slit pupils that marked her as one of the rare night-variant pegasus aspects. “Looking for a pet?” She glanced at Spike. “Another pet?”

“This is me daughter Ember,” said Torch. “Ember, these are the folks from PAULDRONS.”

Ember quirked an eyebrow, then spread her shadowy wings, rose a few inches, and made a point of looking behind the group. “What, behind the teenagers?”

Torch scowled. “Yer only twenty yerself, girl.”

“Whatever.”

Torch sighed. “Don’t mind her.”

“Why would you like to join PAULDRONS, sir?” said Twilight.

“And how come you were looking forward to me?”

“I love animals. Respect ‘em. But the things I’ve seen done to ‘em…” Torch shook his head. “If it isn’t man-shaped, some people don’t respect it at all. I’m already a member of the ALPACA. Figure you’re the next logical step. Besides, the way things are goin’, one of my tenants will start complainin’ about accommodations any day now. I want someone I can ask for help when that happens.”

“We’re happy to have you, Mis— er, Torch.” Fluttershy held out a hand.

Torch shook it, nearly grabbing Fluttershy’s wrist along with it.

“Oh yeah. That’s nice.”

All eyes turned to Spike. And to Ember, who at some point had moved out from behind the desk and was now scratching him behind the ears. She flushed. “Um… This isn’t what it looks like?”

Way Underground, by Jenna Cipher

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If ever there were an eighth wonder of the world, it would most likely be the Canterlot Catacombs, although they weren't always as they are now. After the Saturation, massive formations of brilliant green crystals began to grow from the cavern walls, each giving off a soft emerald glow.

These weren't what she was after. She was more interested in what had been brought into being along with them.

In the center of the network of caves and tunnels sat a single, round room. Perfectly round, as if it had been carved out by a sapient being. However, the entire room was natural, a result of the object it guarded. An elaborately carved ebony throne levitated in the exact center of the spherical room, wreathed in flames of every color in existence, at least one super intelligent shade of indigo, and some other colors that were most assuredly imaginary. The reader may rest easy knowing that said colors absolutely do not exist and their presence is merely due to the fabric of reality not giving two shits about that fact in this particular location, nor does it plan on ever doing so, nor will it ever even conceive of those plans.

She wasn't interested in the throne either. Well, not exactly. She was interested in the crystal growing from it.

A crystal in a very familiar shape.

Her leathery wings flapped slowly, keeping her suspended directly behind the inexplicably floating chair, and slowly, she gripped the purple crystal and used her claws to pry it free.

By the time the fabric of reality realized it was gone and mustered up enough will to give a fuck about it, the entire story arc would be over already and thus there'd be nothing wrong for it to notice.

The demoness held up the star-shaped crystal and chuckled. With a thought and in a literal flash, she was back in Manehatten, in front of a most certainly human girl who was doing something to a mirror which most assuredly wasn't a mirror in the slightest.

The human looked up from her work, grinned, took the crystal from her, and went back to her work, pausing only for a moment to speak.

"I'll admit, you have your uses. Let's see if you can keep it up,"

She handed her servant a small globe and a map, each with a location marked.

"The next Shard is there. Do be a bit more cautious this time; the earthquake in Canterlot was quite careless enough, and this one is a bit more public."

The demoness nodded and was gone with a flash of sea green light.

"And then there were five..."

New World Blues, by FoME and Masterweaver

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(FoME)

Sunny Flare prided herself on her academic ability and sheer focus. Of course, one couldn't get into Crystal Prep without some degree of intelligence, but Sunny had honed her mind to razor sharpness, effortlessly balancing her theatrical passion with the fourth best scholastic record in the school. Once she put her mind to something, nothing could distract her.

"Hey."

Nothing. Could. Distract. Her.

"Hey, Sunny."

Not even Lemon Zest.

"Sun Bun."

She was reading her book and paying no attention whatsoever to the girl who, by some freak accident, had the third best academic record in the school.

"Flare Bear."

The poking would do nothing. Not that she noticed it.

"Additional nickname."

Especially now that Zest had run out of pestering fodder.

"Second additional nickname."

"WHAT!?" Sunny felt her face all but burst into flames as everyone else in the school's library stared at her. She considered trying to see if she could teleport, then settled for clearing her throat and more quietly saying, "What is it, Lemon Zest?"

"Always meant to ask you somethin'." Lemon pointed at the other girl's wrists. "What's with the Littlepips?"

Sunny looked back and forth between Lemon and her own arms. "The what?"

"You know, from the Megaton games?" Lemon sighed as she took in the blank incomprehension. "Your wrist dealies!"

"You mean my bracelets?"

Lemon snorted. "Sure. 'Bracelets,'" she said, complete with air quotes. "Bracelets that cover your whole freakin' forearms. Come on, those things gotta do something cool!"

Sunny stared at the other girl for a long stretch of time. Lemon showed no sign of wilting under her scrutiny. "What color is the sky in your world?"

"Not sure. Let's find out." Lemon brought her hands together and bowed her head, a disturbingly calm picture of sincere piety. "O Most Glorious Bacon Horse, what color do you want the sky to be?"

A moment later, her phone let out an especially sick guitar riff. She gave it a look. "'Your prayer cannot be completed at this time. We apologize for the inconvenience. Also, stop calling me that.' Huh." Lemon put the phone away. (Nowhere in particular, mind you. Just... away.) "Hey Sunny, you ever hear of where'd you go?"

"She escaped while she had the chance," said a passing Sugarcoat.

Lemon sighed. "Man, story of my freakin' life right there."


(Masterweaver)

"Well obviously you didn't get a complete prayer," Raspberry Fluff pointed out. "You weren't facing west, you didn't do the glorious proclamation, or the prostration; heck, you mangled her primary title!"

"I thought that we were sort of joking with this whole religion thing—"

"No no no. Well, not the way you're thinking." The pink girl pushed the other pink girl into a chair. "Okay, look. We genuinely believe in Sunset Shimmer as our wellspring of magic and sanity, right?"

Lemon shrugged. "Sure."

"And we are fully aware that she does not like being worshiped."

"...alright."

"So!" Raspberry held up a finger. "When we worship her, we deliberately make it as over the top and ludicrous as possible!"

"...you lost me."

"Don't you see? By worshiping our divine bacon horse in a melodramatic fashion, we simultaneously allow ourselves to express our wonderment, show our appreciation for her acts, and acknowledge the ridiculousness of the situation!"

Lemon Zest mused on this. "So... we're performers."

After a moment, Raspberry Fluff sighed. "I pray for your soul, sister. I hope one day, you shall truly understand."

Pieces of Flare, by Masterweaver

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Sunny Flare sighed as she entered her home. "Hey Mom. Hey Dad."

She bit her lip, dropping her satchel on the tile.

"...So. Yeah. School's going okay. Still can't trump the geniuses, or... that crazy girl. But you know. I'm on top besides that." She tapped her forehead. "And with magic and all..."

She awkwardly shut the door. "Anyway... Auntie Crescent is coming over today. So. You know. Gotta... get the apartment clean." Sunny patted the pictures. "Good talk."

The girl scrubbed the pot in the sink, putting it out to dry, before wandering over to the couch and straightening a pillow. With a hum, she entered her bedroom, dusting off the massive conglomerate of wires and modems against one wall, before turning around and straightening her bed.

A faint beep caught her attention, and she glanced at her arms with a sigh. "Really? Now of all--alright." Her right hand wrapped around her oddly still left, and she twisted it off, placing her whole forearm into its charging socket. "I hope that charges up before Auntie Crescent arrives..."

After a brief glance in the bathroom--sparkling, as always--she returned to the wall of electronics, booting up the machine. "Alright. Let's see if I can get my thesis done before she gets here...."

And the sound of one hand typing filled the room.

Border of Succession, by FoME

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Sunset smiled, relishing the beautiful day and the chance to enjoy the park without having to be her own space heater. "How's it going, Chrysalis?"

"You know what they say; 'In the spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.'" Chrysalis gave a throaty chuckle. "And so many of them had no idea what they were doing before joining the Wholesome. Isn't that right, Thorax?"

Thorax, a twenty-year-old so frail-looking that Sunset had had to actively keep herself from demanding his lunch money, swallowed and looked back and forth between the two deities. He scooted back until his back hit the tree they were sitting under. His trembling made his crystalline body rattle like wind chimes. "Why am I here again?"

"A rather interesting development in Equestria." Sunset pulled a photo out of a jacket pocket. "Seems that Chrysalis attempted a coup against Equestria."

The local Chrysalis rolled her eyes. "I'm not planning anything of the sort."

"I know. Though the coup nearly succeeded. The only one who managed to stop her was the local Thorax."

Thorax's jaw dropped. "What!?"

Sunset nodded. "Yup. Even overthrew her as ruler of the changelings."

Thorax paled until he was the shade of a clear sky. His capacity for shock visibly overloaded; there was even a small fracturing sound. Thankfully, no actual cracks were visible. "What."

Chrysalis smirked. "Should I be concerned?"

"No! Absolutely not! I would never even dream of—"

"That was a joke, Thorax."

"Oh. Okay then." Thorax took a few deep, slow breaths.

Chrysalis turned to Sunset. "So, what's the photo?"

"Well, apparently that world's Thorax revolutionized changeling biology as they know it and completely removed their need to feed on love. I think. Even he isn't sure. That includes the external biology. Take a look."

Sunset passed the photo to Chrysalis. After one look, she covered her mouth, sputtering and shaking with barely contained laughter. "Thorax!" she cried once she'd contained herself. "You need to see this."

He took the photo. After a few moments without a reaction, he shrugged. "I don't know. I think it looks pretty good."

"Don't even think about shifting to that color scheme."

"Yes, ma'am."

Future Imperfect, by Void Knight, FoME, and Masterweaver

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(Void Knight)

The story I am about to tell you is a lie thrice over. It is in the first place a lie because there is no such place as the Oversaturated World, nor any such people as those depicted therein. It is in the second place a lie because the specific events it describes may very well never happen, and even should they happen they could only happen centuries into the future of the Oversaturated World. And it is in the third place a lie, because even if the world it depicted were real, and even should the events it describes happen, the description here is only tangentially related to what would truly be happening. That being said, though it is a lie threefold, it is still a true lie, and there is great value in such. So listen and pay heed…

There was a vast tree, seemingly made of crystal. Various many-faceted crystals grew from its branches like fruit. Some were Elements of Harmony. Some were foci for various fundamental processes of the universe. Some were worlds, or possibilities of worlds. The tree’s crystal roots were sunk deep into the the misty “ground” of the Astral Plane, and grew vast and gnarled. But if an observer looked from just the right angle, he could see that some of the roots had twined together to form a cocoon. And inside the cocoon, if one could get close enough and get a clear enough look, there slept a young woman. She had bright yellow skin and striped red-and-yellow hair, and down her naked back there ran a long strip of cervical down. She had curled up into a ball, hiding her face and hands, but her feet could be seen, and they had the enlarged nails of an earth-aspect.

Abruptly, there was a man standing before the tree. He had no visible aspect, and was clad in a bizarre motley of patches and incongruous clothing combinations.

“Alright,” he said, to nobody in particular, “this is the outside of enough.”

He took his hands out of his pockets and cupped them around his mouth. “Wakey wakey, Sleeping Beauty!”

Nothing happened.

“Oy! Sunset Shimmer! I’ve heard of sleeping in late, but this is getting ridiculous!”

Nothing happened, rather more pronouncedly.

“Fine,” said the man. He raised his hands, and with a quick jerk the chainsaw roared to life. The teeth bit deep into the crystal tree, and glittering dust began to fly. The tree shook all over, and sparkling branches swung at the man like clubs. He ducked under one, jumped over another, and continued cutting.

Beneath the tree, the cocoon began to twist open. The young woman’s eyes opened, and fiery wings burst into existence from her back. With a flash of light, she was clothed in a long white dress. She dove out and rocketed up through the ground to burst out in the Astral Plane, blazing light and heat gathered in her hands.

“John Quincy Discord, what do you think you are doing?” she demanded.

“The only thing that would get your attention!” he retorted. “It’s been centuries, Sunset! I can understand needing some time to grieve. A year or two, even a decade, since we’re both immortal and have plenty of time to burn. But locking yourself away and sleeping for centuries is not the right answer. Not to mention that the world’s kind of breaking down without you to keep an eye on it. Worlds aren’t supposed to have an active Catalyst of Disharmony and a dormant Catalyst of Harmony. Not for long, at least.”

Sunset Shimmer’s face twisted, and with a brilliant flash, she released the power she was holding, fell to the “ground”, and began to cry.

Discord stared for a long minute, then stepped forward and hugged her. “It’s OK. Let it all out. If you try to bottle it all up, you’ll go crazier than me. And we can’t have that.”

After a few minutes, she stepped back and wiped her eyes. “Feel better?” asked Discord.

Sunset nodded.

“Good,” said Discord with a grin. “There’s practically a whole new world out there waiting for you. A bit of a fixer-upper after the War of Fire, but most of the background thaumic radiation is gone by now, and civilization is progressing nicely. They’re already beginning to form cities and governments again, and there are some very nice temples going up. I even helped with the interior decoration. Hope you like big statues.”

Side by side, the Avatars of Harmony and Disharmony descended into the new world.

(FoME)

The cathedral was actually pretty nice, given the whole "postapocalyptic" thing. There was just one little issue.

"John."

"Yes, Sunset?"

"You never said anything about them sanctifying my friends." Indeed, the altar to Sunset was in the middle of an arc of seven, each bearing a painfully familiar icon.

Mr. Discord harrumphed. "You really think I'd let them forget Fluttershy or Twilight? And I couldn't in good conscience let any of them persist at the expense of the others." After a moment, he glanced at Sunset. "I... actually wasn't sure which option would hurt you worse, so I went with what I wanted."

"This is fine." Tears streamed down Sunset's face. To their credit, the priests managed to keep themselves from collecting the holy relics as they fell to the floor. "This is fine."

(Masterweaver)

"This is a possibility."

"It exists, as do all."

"Must we show her this vision?"

"Must we speak to this fall?"

"Truth. She would not trust us."

"Not after Winter's Light."

"Yet what can we do to stop it?"

"To avoid this ghastly plight?"

Zapostate, by FoME

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Indigo Zap looked down from on high. There were times when she found it hard not to sneer at the teeming masses below. Not to revel in how most of them could not even fathom the freedom she possessed, and how the rest could not compare to her magnificence. Pity and scorn warred in her mind as she beheld the gathered souls below, and even she could not say which would win in the end.

For today, for this moment, pity waxed. They were insects, yes, but they were her insects. They were Shadowbolts, and by definition that made them the best there were. It was only a matter of time before that inevitable truth reasserted itself. She and they would both surpass all those who claimed superiority. Even the so-called goddess would—

"Will you be joining us today, Miss Zap?"

The voice came from far too close. Indigo turned to see who had invaded her empyrean sanctum... and wilted. "Yes, Dean Cadence." She reluctantly followed the dean down to the base earth, upon which she would have to tread.

For now.


"Hey there, Indigo!" Sour Sweet waved at the girl who'd been hovering over the school since the lunch bell rang. Her expression flicked from wide grin to flat stare. "You gonna eat or what?"

"The holy need not pollute their bodies with mortal dross."

Sour rolled her eyes and headed back to the ground. She made sure to wait until she was out of earshot before muttering, "And they call me crazy..."

She aimed for a familiar cluster of students enjoying the late May day in the al fresco portion of the cafeteria. She cleared her throat and landed once she had their attention. "Hi there, pals!"

"You barely tolerate us on your best days," said Sugarcoat.

After a moment, Sour laughed and nodded. "Yeah." She went to a flat stare in a moment. "But we have a problem."

"What is it?" said Moondancer.

Sour bit her lip and shimmied from side to side. "I know it's kind of the pot calling the kettle black, buuuut... Indigo Zap has gone fucking insane."

Lemon Zest shrugged. "Eh, more like a qualified opinion. I mean, you'd know."

"What exactly do you expect us to do about it?" Moondancer looked up at Indigo, who was barely more than a beige dot at this distance. "She's so flight-obsessed, she's on the verge of organizing a Crystal Prep Luftwaffe."

Sour growled. "Look, with her athletic and academic performance, she's definitely going to be in the Friendship Games, and the fewer people we have detached from reality, the better." Her expression softened. "So maybe you could do that whole 'friendship' thing?"

"You're the only other pegasus aspect on the team," said Moondancer. "Sugarcoat, Lemon, and Polomare are earthen. Everyone else has headgems."

Lemon scowled and crossed her arms. "There's a stereotype waiting to happen in there."

Sour's face fell. "So... you're saying I need to get someone to face reality."

"You or Dean Cadence," said Sugarcoat, "and she's got a whole school of borderline sociopaths to deal with."

Sour considered this for a moment. "Great! We're doomed."

Change in Position, by FoME

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"Hey, Sunset?"

Sunset looked up from her lunch to see an unusually thoughtful Rainbow Dash. "Yeah?"

"Aside from the Crusaders and Vice Principal Luna, do you have anyone else doing the whole 'keep the world stable' thing?"

"A few." After a moment, Sunset gave a laugh. "Huh. Funny thing is, most of them either go to CHS or work here."

This got the attention of their other friends. "Example?" said Applejack.

"Well..."


The old man scowled and adjusted the bulging bag on his shoulders. Countless accessories and articles of clothing poked out, many of them recognizable as coming from some intellectual property or another. The man himself was almost aggressively nondescript, with a face that normally imprinted itself in the mind without bothering with the eyes, a physical meme that imposed a sense of trust upon the viewer. To see him was to question nothing and accept anything, especially free samples.

Normally.

"This is insane!" he cried. "The convention starts in an hour!"

The woman standing between him and his next destination glowered at him. "Yes," she said, disdain dripping from every syllable, "and I have yet to see you produce any proof that your alleged vendor's booth is waiting for you there."

"That's part of the magic!"

"I'm sure."

"I cannot believe this. I have been to countless worlds, and none of them has ever put me through... through customs!"

Ms. Harshwhinny sneered. "That, Mister the Merchant, is because those other worlds do not exhibit the standard of professionalism that we enjoy in this one. Now, are you to tell me why you're actually coming to this universe, or am I going to have to get my supervisor?" She jerked a thumb at the orange-glowing hypersphere behind her.

In the silence, a grey-skinned girl breezed by, waving. "Hi, Ms. Harshwhinny!"

Harshwhinny permitted herself a nod. "Hello, Ditzy."

"Why aren't you stopping her?"

"She is a native of this universe with special dispensation to come and go. You? Are not."

The Merchant turned away and spat, "Wasn't worth the trouble anyway."

Harshwhinny watched him go. "Good riddance."

Encoded Toil Inn, by Masterweaver

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"Hey." Sonata grinned. "I was just thinking about how we all got back together."

Adagio groaned. "Oh, don't remind me. That experience was horrible."

"I dunno, I think it was kind of funny," Aria mused.

"Yeah, well, I was just wondering... what ever happened to that one guy? You know, the one that had the thing?"

"We left him at that theme park, remember?"

"Well, yeah, but--"

"Wait, I wasn't there for this. Who was this guy, and was the thing that thing?"

"It was indeed, that thing. See, here's what happened....."

All-Natural, by Masterweaver

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"....What?"

"....Fluttershy, you're eating meat."

"And?"

"And.... and I thought you were a vegetarian or something!"

"I like animals. I dislike animal cruelty. However, I acknowledge that I, and many species, are designed to eat meat."

"But--"

"Furthermore, animals are not the only type of species that kills other species for nutrients. You will find examples of killing all along life's tree. It's a paradox that is fundamental to existence."

"I just thought--"

"Sunset, you're a vegetarian because you've always eaten veggies. I tried it, briefly, but this is nature's way for me."

"...oh."

"If it helps, I do research and only buy from farms confirmed to treat their animals ethically."

Lemon Pledge, by Masterweaver

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"Yo! Auntie Abby!"

"Do you enjoy detention, Miss Zest?"

"It's a time to meditate over my faults, but your whacked out division of familial and student-teacher interactions ain't what I'm here for."

"Neither is proper grammar, apparently."

"No, I'm here to raise an objection to the current mandate of Crystal High, in regards to extracurricular activities."

"Really."

"Yes. I have here a list of protestations to a select announcement that has just been made to the student body, and of course a number of rational and well thought out arguments against said decision, but I feel that I should summarize my position and attempt to clarify the reasoning behind the issue at hand in a single question: Why the harmony-loving fuck have you made Friendship Game tryouts mandatory?!"

"..."

"Before you ask, yes, coming up with 'harmony-loving fuck' was the hard part in all this. Proper swear for a proper situation."

"...While I disagree with the phrasing of your question, Miss Zest, I somehow doubt you care about such reprimands."

"And of course, I will not be deterred from an actual answer."

"Very well... This school seeks to not only educate the best students, but to ensure they are capable of operating in the real world, a world that only cares for their ability, accomplishment, and associations. The Friendship Games are a culmination of that ideal. Not only do we show our ability, and achieve great accomplishments, but through such demonstrations we can become associated with a higher standard in the minds of those outside our school. Ergo, seeking out the most qualified students is a prerogative that—"

"The social pressure this applies to the student body is beyond that of the usual school tests! Those who are virtually guaranteed to have a position now have to worry about some new savant overriding their place, those who usually wouldn't care now have to work one of the tryouts into their schedule, and those who do care will make it into a competition: how many tryouts, how many did you win, that sort of thing! Not to mention those that don't want to be part of a public spectacle and will be forced to anyway—"

"Discomfort with social climbing, either of the self or others, will only lead to long-term detriment. The world has undergone a new paradigm, Miss Zest, and quick adaptation is now necessary for success and survival."

"Oh, so this is about showing up the super-magic-girl, is it? You know that a couple of the students here actually worship her? That is a major conflict of interests, they'll flat out drop out if they have to face her!"

"If they cannot accept the challenge, that is their own prerogative. Aside from which, I have been... personally assured that Miss Shimmer has refused to participate."

"Makes sense. But... mandatory tryouts? Across the whole school? For a one-day competition?"

"I have explained my reasoning."

"And you have ignored mine."

"You are entirely welcome to leave the school. I know you have been uncomfortable here for quite some time, and as sad as I would be to see you go—"

"Don't give me that crap. You don't care about me, you just want my grades. And I'm not going to leave anyway."

"Oh?"

"Yeah. Somebody's gotta keep an eye on the team's emotional state. And it sure as hell won't be you, will it?"

Off the Rack, by Masterweaver

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Friendship Games Tryout Records: Student 73
Name: Suri Polomare
Physical Sex: Female
Gender Identity: Female
Magical Aspect: Earth
Tryout Applications: Home Economics
Observer: Dean Mi Amore Cadenza Cadence

Suri created dress forms from allowed fabrics within allowed times. Note: while all dresses were high-quality and excellently tailored, they almost entirely resembled famous outfits from literature or recent television. When asked to improvise, Suri hesitated briefly before creating a dress that was essentially a top from one series and a skirt from another.

In regards to baking, Suri once again demonstrated a mastery of the art form with no room for creativity. Improvisation again led to creation of a lime cream pie with pecan sprinkles. Not terrible, but not individual. Another note: She seemed to watch the oven obsessively during baking, unable to do anything until it was finished.

Other chores followed the same pattern; excellent technical skills with no room for improvisation or creativity. I've taken the liberty of looking into her school files. Prior to attending Crystal Prep, Suri was often accused of copying off others, although she has rarely been caught doing so.

In conclusion, Suri can obey orders to a T, but aside from her drive to succeed she has no motivation of her own. I don't recommend her, but since I know you're looking for skill over talent, I suggest you partner her with somebody that actually has ideas.

Barring greater skill, Suri Polomare is in consideration.
Note to self: Admonish Dean Cadenza for improper protocol on official documents.

Intermittent Flashes, by Masterweaver

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Friendship Games Tryout Records: Flash Sentry
Physical Sex: Male
Gender Identity: Male
Magical Aspect: Pegasus
Tryout Applications: Scientific Mastery, Home Economics, Musical Arts
Judge: Luna

Flash Sentry is an oddity. There's really no other way to describe it: he is either hypercompetent or a complete bungler at anything he tries, a situation that is only exacerbated by the fact that his skills can differ on any given day. I still maintain he has some undiagnosed learning disability, which is of course irrelevant to this analysis.

Did he perform admirably in his applications? His laboratory experiment was an impressive-looking paper mache volcano which didn't erupt so much as collapse in on itself. His home economics project, on the other hand, was a surprisingly good tasting pastry with some fancy name I can't be bothered to remember. And as always, his musical ability remains one of his few stable talents, good with the potential for greatness but not quite great as of yet.

If this were a competition for talent, I would suggest rejecting him for anything that isn't music related. But you and I both know that's not going to happen--you use the Friendship Games as a reward for students, for some inexplicable reason, so I know you're going to put the most popular boy on the team. One final warning, though; I'm unsure if Flash considers himself single at the moment, but he flirts outrageously with powerful women if he is, so don't pair him up with any girl not openly dating that has a GPA over 3.8 or things will get awkward fast.

"He called your hair sexy again, didn't he?"

"He is a student and I refuse to allow him his delusions."

"Come on, it's a compliment. And it's not the worst thing students have said about you."

"If the moonbutt meme is making a return I will start handing out detentions again!"

Special Consideration, by Masterweaver

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"Hey, uh, Principal Celestia?"

The woman looked up from her desk. "Oh. Miss Heartstrings! Can I do something for you?"

"Yeah. Um... you know, me and Bonnie have been wanting to try out for the Friendship Games for a while now." The green girl bit her lip. "Since... you know, before the Saturation. And, I mean, we were kind of thrown off for a bit with, you know..."

She tapped her gorget pointedly.

Celestia nodded. "Your... I'm sorry, do you mind if I refer to it as your condition, or would you prefer ethnicity?"

"Ethnicity is more accurate, and I would be doing PAULDRONS a disservice if I acted as it were a problem to be solved. That said..." Lyra paused. "...Look, I can get why you said 'no magic.' Nobody knows how to avoid cheating with magic, yet. Problem is, this is magic. If I take this off, I'm a unicorn, which I have no problem with whatsoever, but that would put me at a disadvantage. If I leave it on, it could be argued to be a performance-boosting token. So... do you want a pony or a human, is what I'm asking?"

Celestia tapped her chin thoughtfully. "You know... you're a first in many ways, Miss Heartstrings. The Friendship Games are unfortunately not designed to accommodate nonhumans at the moment, though I will be consulting with any schools that extend membership for more... species-specific competitions. I know there are dolphins currently operating in the capital with specialized land-walker equipment."

"Yeah. They ran it through as a 'disability compensation' sort of thing."

"Would that also work in regards to your, ahem, form maintenance device? Marking it as disability compensation?"

Lyra blinked. "...It... might, actually. I'll look through the paperwork. But would you actually let somebody with a recorded disability compete?"

"Cinch does," Celestia said casually. "Although, of course, I forbid you from investigating that. Personal privacy, you understand."

"Oh, of course." Lyra grinned. "Well... count me on the team, then!"

"I'll look forward to it, Miss Heartstrings."

Roll to Disbelieve, by FoME

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Fireworks erupted from the soccer field, their three conjurers glowing with magical and physical exertion in their final pose. The onlookers applauded uproariously, a cheer sounding out here and there.

Trixie broke first, taking sweeping bows. “Thank you, thank you! You have been a magnificent audience!”

“Miss Lula—“

“Trixie would like to thank her gracious assistants, without whom this audition would’ve been merely half as stupendous!”

“Miss Lu—“

“And when you see Trixie competing in the Friendship Games, remem—“

Miss Lulamoon.” The words were felt as much as they were heard. Everyone fell silent as the echoes rolled across the field.

Trixie swallowed. “Er, yes, Vice Principal Luna?”

“As I was trying to tell you at the start of your routine, we are trying to keep active magic use to a minimum during the Friendship Games.”

“WHAT!?”

Fuchsia Blush nudged Trixie. “You know, like I tried to tell you when we were rehearsing? You just told me I lacked vision.”

“You do lack vision.”

“Better than lacking hearing.”

“Uh, girls?” Both turned to Lavender Lace. “Maybe we should let the next act go on?”

“Oh.”

“Right.”

“For what it’s worth, girls,” said Luna, “Your performance did demonstrate considerable agility and teamwork, and that will be taken into consideration.”

Trixie beamed. Fuchsia rolled her eyes. Lavender said, “Thank you, Vice Principal Luna,” as she tried to shove her friends off of the soccer field as gently as she could with a telekinetic bulldozer blade.

“Next is…” Luna blinked and brought the list closer. “Twilight Sparkle?”

“Here, ma’am.” She looked up to see the girl in question, dressed in leggings, a skirt, and an airy top.

“I can’t say I was expecting you to compete.”

Twilight tilted her head. “You weren’t expecting the girl who transferred out of Crystal Prep to want to show them up?”

Luna smirked. “Fair point. Though I hope you’re aware of our efforts to minimize magic during the Games.”

“Entirely, ma’am. Sunset’s helping with that.” Twilight began going through some arm and leg stretches as she continued. “Instead, I’m going to demonstrate my endurance, memory, coordination, and creativity. I’d have worn tap shoes but, well, soccer field.” She stomped the turf for emphasis.

“Very well then. You may begin.”

Twilight nodded, then whistled a rather recognizable tune. After tapping out eight quick beats on the ground, she began singing. “There’s antimony, arsenic, aluminum, selenium…

Flaring Tempers, by Masterweaver

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"SUNNY! Sunny, wait up!"

Sunny Flare continued walking, though her pace was slightly faster.

Lemon Zest rolled her eyes, putting an extra skip in her step before catching up. "Look. You don't like me. I'm the girl with a random mind that doesn't seem to know when to stop talking and somehow has higher grades then you, and I've probably offended your sensibilities in more then a few ways, but I have a for serious real deal need-to-talk thing I need to talk with you about, and I need to make sure you're actually listening to me instead of pretending to listen and hoping I'll go away soon, and it is really super important, I'm trying to get all the Shadowbolts in on this; look, here's how serious I am."

Sunny found a pair of headphones shoved into her hands. "What—?"

"Prized possession. You're holding it. You could break those at any moment. I am putting something I care about on the line to get you to listen. Are you listening?"

"Ugh. Fine. Sure." Sunny Flare glanced at a clock. "You have two minutes."

"I am genuinely worried that the stress from the upcoming Friendship Games tryouts will cause parts of the student body to snap and I am asking for your help in keeping an eye on everyone's emotional and psychological stability."

Sunny blinked. "...What."

"Okay, first of all, Moondancer is our number one academic, which means she's going to get a place on the team. Problem is, she's a major introvert; being put in front of all those other students, ours and Canterlot High, that is going to do a number on her. Indigo Zap has a developing god complex, which we've had to rely on Sour Sweet to handle—yes, I'm aware of the irony—and this will either set up a possible full on 'worship me' if she stays on the team or 'blasphemous fools' if she gets kicked off. You, you're a perfectionist, and I know you're either confident enough in your skills that you don't care or you're super worried and hiding it... Look, all I'm saying is that this isn't about you, or me, or Crystal Prep anymore. This is about the student body being put through a social-emotional wringer and having no support."

"...You're worried over nothing." Sunny shoved the headphones back into Lemon's hands. "And besides, achievements are the only way to demonstrate one's skill."

"Okay, that is a dangerous and fundamentally flawed philosophy to have."

"Really?" Sunny Flare glowered at her. "Do you think the great leaders are remembered for keeping the pace? No. They made changes. They made history. The greats achieved, through their skills, that which would be remembered."

"Fine, sure, but that's history. What's the point in having skills if you don't get to use them every day? Showing off and being great is good, but if it's all you're living for then you're not living between your achievements."

"...I cannot believe this. I refuse to have a philosophical argument with a— with a... with a NEPOTISM-BENEFITING DUNCE!"

"Hey! Auntie Abby hates me, and technically speaking a dunce is a slow learner! Fool would be a more accurate term in my case—"

"A fool, right, and who's more foolish, the fool or the fool that follows them?"

"So instead of following the fool, who at LEAST happens to know she's a fool, you're going to ignore them entirely and forge your own path?"

"Far wiser, wouldn't you say?"

"The court fool was allowed to point out the flaws of the king. And all the best kings had fools."

"And what flaws do you think I have?"

"You're focused too much on achievement in lieu of connection. You want to be the best, and you don't care to help the worst. You can see the flaws in others, but you don't do anything to assist them, and you can see the flaws in yourself and you don't do anything to correct them."

Sunny rubbed her wrists uncomfortably. "...It's better to work toward perfection then to become consumed in one's failings."

"Maybe. But they're called the Friendship Games for a reason." Lemon put her headphones back on, turning to leave. She gave one last parting shot over her shoulder. "What's more important, Flare, the grades or the students behind them?"

Sunny Flare stood in the hallway, staring after her as she walked off, still rubbing her wrists.

Tell Eddy to Get Out, by Masterweaver

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"...and since the universe was damaged some time-swirls are bound to happen, but they're relatively minor. Only a month long duration spread over a week, at most. So yes, some things appear to happen out of order from a flat time perspective, but causality is preserved and timespace will stabilize barring any significant events. Getting caught up in a loop has no side effects other then internal queasiness and, in the case of particularly organized or temporarily sensitive individuals..."

Sunset gestured at Twilight, who was giggling as she rocked back and forth on the couch. "Yesterday was tomorrow, hee hee, and tomorrow's yesterday..."

"Ah." Night Light paused. "Well."

"Don't worry, she's a sciencey sort. I explained it to her, and she immediately calmed down, it just hasn't happened from her perspective yet. No, you can't explain things to her now, Paradox aversion."

"I see... well, thank you for explaining that," Night Light finally managed. "If you're sure it's nothing..."

"Believe me, this isn't nearly as bad as the PAULDRONS loop." Sunset rolled her eyes. "That was one chronologistical mess I'm going to have to sort out. At least Ditzy's helping."

Beyond the Beyond, by Masterweaver

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There was a feeling, a vibration, like a cosmic string had went twang. Only she was inside the string; she could see the school but—

—what were they doing?! What were they doing to—?!

The school suddenly vanished, leaving her staring at base ground. She blinked, feeling a cold wind swirling, looking around, and tried to fly—

—something moved by her. A creature that... wasn't. The first word that came to mind was fire, but—

—fire wasn't right, heat and light but no passion—

—its presence batted her aside, like a fly, and the world sang. She saw forests and castles and plains and ice and—

—she tried to bring herself back under control, tried, tried

—a cold wind gripped her, not metaphorically, but literally, and dragged her into—

—dark, save for a few torches illuminating a throne that went from floor to cavernous ceiling.

"My, my my, my my. You've had quite the stumble, haven't you?" a voice purred from the shadows. "Don't fret. I will... ensure... you remain on a stable path."

Finger on the Button, by FoME

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He wasn't much to look at. Skinny, short, hopeless in any social interaction that had to take place entirely in this reality. He had only stopped wearing the beanie last year, and he had yet to discover the icon that would presumably replace it.

"Come on! It's at one aitch-pee and it's asleep!"

He also wasn't that emotionally stable. And yet Sweetie Belle watched him with lidded eyes and gave a contented sigh.

Apple Bloom stared at her like she'd never seen her before. "I do not get it. Just what d'you see in him?"

Sweetie gave a slow grin. "It's not what I see in him. It's what I see for him."

Scootaloo tilted her head. "I thought you could only see the future if it was definitely going to happen and really important."

"Importance is relative."

Cross Reverence, by FoME

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"No."

"But—"

"No!" Sunset slammed a hand on the table for emphasis. The rest of the food court tried very hard to act like they weren't watching.

Rainbow Dash threw up her hands. "Come on, it's not like you're using them for anything!"

Sunset held up a finger. "First of all, they're people, not tools. You remember what it was like back when I didn't make that distinction."

"Okay, point, but—"

"Secondly, the last thing your ego needs is people literally worshiping you."

"Actually," the third girl at the table said around a cookie the size of her head, "quite a few people already offer prayers to Saint Rainbow."

Rainbow grinned. Sunset groaned. "Not helping, Ruby."


Scootaloo looked from one fellow Crusader to the other, then to her lightning bolt necklace. "Let's face it, you'd be more surprised if I didn't."

"Yeah."

"True."


"And all of the other First-Blessed," Ruby continued, "especially the Proclaimer's Beloved."

Sunset buried her face in her hands. "Please tell me Twilight doesn't know that."

Ruby tilted her head. "Why wouldn't she?"


Dear Twilight,

Due to a theological mixup, you may have a few thousand worshipers in the human world. I'm working on fixing that.

Sorry,
Sunset

Rosy Prospects, by Masterweaver

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"So. You've seen God naked."

"Okay, first of all, I am not that kind of medical specialist. Secondly, there's such a thing as doctor-patient confidentiality. Thirdly, Sunset Shimmer is not a god. Fourthly, I only treated her prior to the Saturation, so she wouldn't have been a deity at the time. Fifthly, I do not have pictures—"

"I'm a little young to be caring about that sort of thing, actually. And I apologize, I made many incorrect assumptions."

"That you realize them does you credit. What exactly do you want?"

"I was wondering if you would object to minor sainthood."

"....What?"

"Or, failing that, being the head director at Bacon Academy. Headmaster Pin is very wise, but a little lacking in the common sense department."

"...Miss Rose, do you really think I would simply abandon my duties as school nurse?"

"Of course not, Miss Redheart. I'm not asking for an immediate answer. I'm just testing the waters is all."

"I view myself as an ordinary medical practitioner, not a talented one. And I will not let my brief interaction with one admittedly important individual become a crutch for my career."

"I suppose that's fair enough. Do you have any tips on what I should look for when coming up with the medical staff for a combat-oriented religious academy, then?"

"...I can get you a copy of my job interview..."

Captured Bishops, by Masterweaver

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"...so Belladonna was going to keep track of the drinking, but somebody from Tauros recognized her and they kind of got into a bit of a debate—"

"Ruby—"

"—which meant that the next thing anybody knew, Sunny and Snow were really hammered, and they started ranting about Snow's dad being a horrible person for disowning her—"

"Ruby."

"—and since you know, they kind of all are bishops, a few people listened, and they did try to stop the mob but—"

"Ruby Rose, I've read the news report." Sunset sighed. "But unfortunately, this is one of those situations where I shouldn't use my godly powers—"

"Oh I know, I was just wondering if I could ask you to help pay their bail—"

"—which, due to part of my income coming from tithes these days, counts as using my godly powers."

"... Oh."

"I'm also big on 'Let All My Sins Be Remembered' philosophy."

"... You're saying that they should atone for their crimes? That... they should earn forgiveness?"

"I'm saying... that forgiveness is a second chance, one they should be glad and willing to take, and that while I will not demand excommunication or anything like that, I shall also not allow them to forget when they stumbled, so that they will learn from their mistakes."

"Oh. That's a much better message."

"I've been getting practice in."

It's Not an Old Rivalry, it's Retro, by FoME

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"My word. Is that you, Suri?"

"Rarity! Fancy seeing you here."

"Indeed. Why, I haven't seen you since the eighth grade. Remember? The play?"

"Yeah, they loved my costumes."

"Yes. Your costumes. On an unrelated note, I am looking forward to seeing who wins this competition, aren't you?"

"I think we both know who the winner will be, okay?"

"Well, if there's anything I've learned in the past year, it's that this world is ever so full of surprises."

"You keep thinking that."

"Oh, I think many things. Sometimes it's all I can do to get a rough sketch down before the next idea comes along. I'm sure you know all about it. Isn't it such a burden to deal with an overactive muse?"

Suri said nothing and stomped away. Rarity watched, satisfied. For now.

Stick to Your Principals, by FoME

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Sugarcoat looked around from the rather crowded bench. "You have a nice park."

Lemon Zest nodded. "Yeah. Not much room for green in Crystal City."

"That's nothing!" said Pinkie. "We should show you Flutter—"

"Uh, maybe not." Rainbow Dash bit her lip. "Shy would probably appreciate her privacy right now."

Both Shadowbolts looked curious, but before either could ask, an older voice said, "Hello, girls."

Another said, "So nice to see you bridging the gap between the two schools."

Pinkie waved furiously. "Hi, Principal Celestia! Hi, Vice Principal Luna!"

"They're right there," said Sugarcoat. "They can see you."

"Yeah, but it's fun to wave."

That got a grudging nod out of Sugarcoat and at least a smile out of everyone else. "Have a lovely day," Celestia said, and the sisters continued their walk.

Dash watched them go. "Man, it's weird to see them out of school. I know they have lives, but I never really think about it."

Sugarcoat and Lemon traded a look. "You wanna say it, or should I?" said the latter.

"You'd say it more ridiculously—"

Pinkie's hand shot up. "I vote for Lemon Zest!"

Dash shrugged. "I just wanna know what you're leading up to."

Lemon looked to Sugarcoat. "Call that two and a half votes for me?" After Sugarcoat nodded, she turned to the others. "Okay, let me preface this by saying that I'm trying to be a better person, and I like to think I'm having a nonzero success rate there, but some things need to be said, and I've been holding this one back since the Friendship Games: Your principals are sixty percent leg by height. Their centers of mass are below their waists. The reason they constantly wear pantsuits is because any outfit that didn't have 'pant' right in the name couldn't hope to contain them. And at this point in the rant, I can safely assume that one or both of them is standing behind me." She turned to look.

Dean Cadence smiled. "Not quite."

"Huh." Lemon Zest considered her for a moment. "I'll be honest, I have no idea how boned I am right now."

"You? Not at all. Luna, next time we have drinks? We'll see."

CR Don't Ask, by Void Knight and FoME

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(Void Knight)

“Sunset, you’re not going to like this.”

Sunset sighed. “Is this the monstrous-evil-running-lose kind of ‘you won’t like this’, the one-of-your-followers-has-done-something-atrociously-stupid kind, or the they’ve-found-a-new-and-embarrassing-way-to-deify-you kind.”

Twilight blushed. “Uh, the last one. So, you know Shiny and I are both huge O&O fans, right?”

“Yes?” replied Sunset, wondering where this was going.

Twilight continued, wringing her hands a bit. “Actually, we’re big enough fans that when Warlocks on the Mount were doing the beta testing for O&O Fifth Edition, we volunteered to help. And evidently we’re still in the databank as potential helpers, because I got an e-mail this morning asking if I would help contribute to the revised Deities and Demigods sourcebook.”

It suddenly dawned on Sunset what Twilight was trying to say. “Oh no. They want to…”

“Yes,” said Twilight, flinching a tad. “And it’s not just you. They want to do all seven of us. You as the major deity, of course, but the rest of us as lesser goddesses.”

Sunset’s hand rose to her face.

“And there was a big announcement from Gamecrafters about doing a reboot of Hyperspace Hyperwars.”

“Don’t tell me,” said Sunset, “they want to replace the God-Emperor of Mankind with a God-Empress.”

Twilight nodded. “They’re calling it Hyperspace Hyperwars: Age of Sunset.

Sunset’s other hand rose to join its fellow.

(FoME)

Twilight scowled at the advance copy of the O&O sourcebook. "I knew it. I knew it!"

"Whatever is the matter?" said Rarity.

"It's the exact same mistake they made back in three-point-five. We're pathetic!"

"Yes, and?"

Everyone looked at Fluttershy. Sunset broke the silence. "You do know that there are people who literally worship the ground you walk on, right?"

Fluttershy nodded. "And it's terribly embarrassing. I can see why you've tried so hard to get them to tone it down."

Applejack turned back to the book, which to her looked uncannily like something meant for a math class. "How do ya mean we're pathetic, Twi?"

"Any halfway decent party could mop the floor with any one of us, and a well-optimized party could take all of us at once before you could say 'roll for initiative'!"

Dash looked to Pinkie. "You ever notice how Twilight speaks like five languages that all sound like Wranglish but make no sense?"

Pinkie tilted her head. "But if they didn't sound like Wranglish, how could we understand all the sense they didn't make?"

As Dash tried to parse that, Twilight flipped to another page. "And look at this! They made me lawful evil for crying out loud!"

Sunset looked over her shoulder. "That says 'Midnight Sparkle.'"

"What in the name of every deity in this book is a Midnight Sparkle!?"

Sunset smirked. "You do realize that you technically just swore by me, right?"

Twilight's answer was an incoherent yell and slamming her face into the table.

Adult Fear, by Void Knight

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Green light shimmered around Dinky Doo’s head, then faded away.

“The mind-lock is in place,” said Sunset Shimmer, her face studiously neutral.

Ditzy desperately reached out and embraced her daughter, feeling tears well up in her eyes once more.

“Oh Harmony, Dinky,” she sobbed, “I don’t want you to go! I don’t want you to go!”

“I don’t want to go either,” said Dinky, her voice astoundingly level, “but it’s like Pure Logic always says: ‘The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.’ Besides, if I don’t go, then time goes smash and I’m dead anyway.”

Dinky wriggled out of her mother’s embrace and took Sunset’s hand. She swallowed a couple of times, then said, “I’m ready to go now.”

Sunset Shimmer’s fiery wings flared brilliantly, and she seemed to flicker out of existence for a second. And then she was there again, but Dinky was not. Would never be there again.

Without having to ask, Sunset took Ditzy by the hand, and in a flash of golden light, they were suddenly standing in a cemetery, in front of one specific tombstone. Though Ditzy couldn’t actually see the writing on the stone through her tears, she knew what it said as well as if the inscription had been carved into her flesh instead of the cold marble.

HERE LIES
DINKY DOO
BELOVED DAUGHTER
BORN: APRIL 13, 7 A.S.
DIED: JUNE 12, 3 A.S.
“Greater love has no one than this: that someone would lay down her life for her friends.”

Ditzy awoke, exploding out of the covers, out of the bed, out of the universe. She had just enough time to note the unusually silvery cast of the world-bubble into which she’d fallen before she was through the probability boundaries, landing with a thud in a bedroom not dissimilar from the one she’d left.

To conventional sight, the room was dark, lit only by the silver glow of Ditzy’s wingbow. But to Ditzy’s special sight, the room shone with the soft and soothing light of pure Elemental Kindness, radiating from the blond-haired pony blinking the sleep from her eyes.

Ditzy dashed across the room and hugged her doppelganger close, letting the soft embrace of Kindness sooth away her nerves.

“Nightmares again?” said the pony Ditzy.

“Yeah,” said the human Ditzy, releasing the embrace. “Same one as last time, more or less.”

“Maybe you should ask your Princess to help with that. Didn’t you say she was handling dreams in your world?”

The human Ditzy sighed. “Maybe I will. I just wish I could be more sure that it won’t happen.”

The pony Ditzy replied, “If your Sunset is anything like what you’ve described, I don’t think it will. I can’t imagine her condemning a child to death that way.”

“Not even to save six billion plus lives?” retorted the human Ditzy. “I know she’s pulled some pretty gray stunts to save the world before.” She shook her head. “But I should be getting back to my world. I know you’ve got your own concerns and your own Dinky to take care of. Thanks for giving me a mane to cry into.”

“You’re welcome,” said the pony Ditzy. The human Ditzy’s wingbow flared to life, and she plunged back into probability space, weaving around a handful of alternate worlds before rematerializing in her own bedroom. Dismissing her wingbow, she tiptoed across the hall and cracked open another bedroom door.

Dinky Doo lay sleeping in her own bed, snoring musically. She was still alive, for now at least.

“I love you, Dinky Doo,” whispered Ditzy, before closing the door and making her way back to her own bed.

Open Door Policy, by Masterweaver

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"The thing is, Bacon Academy—which is still a very, very silly name—was literally founded and funded by a religious group. They're decent enough to not disallow nonbelievers, but..." Glimmer Goodwitch gave an exasperated sigh. "Well, we've got a class on Shimmerism, taught by the bishops themselves. Who are, in fact, also students. They rotate so there's no schedule conflict with them learning, but that isn't the issue."

"I once considered starting a cult at that age myself," Luna reflected. "It pretty much fell apart."

Cadence snickered. "That's what kicked off your emo phase, right?"

"Mmmhmm. Of course, that's also how I met Chryssy...."

The pink woman shot her aunt a glare. Said aunt simply sipped her glass with a smirk.

Glimmer blinked. "Chryssy? Who is—?"

"Chrysalis," Jace supplied. "Before she led the Wholesome, she dated Luna for a while. Then she became a porn star, and apparently—"

"THAT. WAS. FORCED." Cadance's voice ground through her teeth.

Glimmer opened her mouth, paused, and decided not to ask. "Bringing us back to Bacon Academy... you can see how we have some logistical issues. Throw in combat-oriented classes on top of that, and the usual high school curriculum... It doesn't help that we have a 'tradition' of hiring any teacher who asks."

Luna leaned back. "Really?"

"Ruby became the pope because she asked Sunset first. Ounce Pin? He asked Ruby. Hell, I asked for a position, and I got it!" Glimmer threw up her hands. "At LEAST I managed to convince the headmaster to vet teachers for a week, but even then—even then! Port's excellent at biology and an egotist of the highest degree, Oobleck knows history in and out and I have no idea how he doesn't explode from caffeine, and Peach—don't even get me started on Peach."

"Oobleck..." Jace mused. "You know, I've heard that name before..."

"Yes, me too...." Luna rapped her fingers on the table, before snapping them. "Discord's old roommate! He had a cousin called Oobleck, I think!"

"Huh. Small world."

"If it's so bad," Cadence asked, "why don't you leave?"

"Because my last job was even worse." Glimmer sighed. "The whole reason I asked was to get out of that mess... and to be honest, the staff does care about the students, that's very nice."

Cadence nodded. "There's a difference between a professor and a teacher. We don't have many teachers at Crystal Prep..."

Rebels Without a Clue, by Masterweaver

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They sat around the campfire, drinking their coffee.

"...So." One of them looked up. "Do we actually have... a plan?"

Another scoffed. "To have a plan, we'd need a goal. No, at the moment we're just a resentful trio of wandering vandals."

"Ouch, Swirl." The third chuckled. "Tell us how you really feel, why don't you."

"I feel like people are and always have been stupid. The few intelligent people are trapped in their place by outdated social conventions. And changing the world to save it..." He trailed off. "I don't know."

The first looked between them. "What, we have no idea what we're doing? But..." She held out her hands. "I mean... you've been on the run for a while!"

"Yeah, well... I might look like our new goddess, but that doesn't give me a scrap of divine wit." She prodded the pan. "Dinner's ready, by the way."

The second reached out with a fork, spearing some sausage. The first looked between the two others.

"Alright. So... we need a goal. Or a set of goals. What is it that we want. Really want?"

"Not to have people worshiping me for someone else's deeds," the woman muttered.

"Not to have to endure a new reason for idiocy," the man grumbled.

"Not to have to worry constantly about some new magical threat," the girl finished.

"It sounds to me," said a new voice, "that you want magic to go into hiding."

The three stood suddenly as a fourth figure strode out of the night's darkness.

"Who are you?" The man peered at the figure. "What are you?"

"Ah, a gentleman who notices details. My story is... complex. But, suffice it to say, I know what needs to be done to restore what you once considered the norm." Teeth gleamed in the firelight. "All I need to do is find something small and precious, and I can assure you that your world will be magicless once more."

What a Helios, by Architect Ironturtle

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Artemis was sipping ambrosia in her shared temple on Mount Olympus when an explosion and shower of shattered marble came through the roof.

"How did it go?" She asked her brother serenely, not bothering to turn and look at him as he staggered out of the crater.

"Well," Apollo said shakily, pouring himself a mug and trudging over to the dais, "I rode my chariot down a beam of sunlight, pulled up right in front of her just like I always do, then confessed my undying love for her."

"And then?"

"Then this purple chick turned into the Avatar of Magic and broke every bone in my body. And Lady Sunset burned the remains before drop kicking me out of her universe."

Artemis sighed into her drink, "I told you, brother," she said smoothly, "You needed to wait until her mortal friends have died of old age. Sunset won't understand why marrying other gods is so important before that."

"BUT WAITING IS SO HARD!" Apollo wailed. Artemis just smirked and took another sip.

Palette Cleanser, by Void Knight and Masterweaver

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(Void Knight)

“Hello, everyone! I’m Sonata Dusk,” said the golden-skinned-and-haired siren-aspect, the trademark grin that went with that name distorting her face.

“I’m Aria Blaze,” said the news anchor with the blue-on-blue color scheme, a slight smile playing about her lips.

“And I’m Adagio Dazzle,” said the third news anchor, her facial expressions displaying her dissatisfaction with her purple-and-green coloration.

“And this is Siren Spell Stories!” finished the golden one. The Siren Spell Stories logo briefly filled the screen, and when it cleared, the golden newsanchor was the only one remaining. At her side stood a rather pretty young woman with metallic blue skin, equally metallic greenish hair, and opalline eyes and headgem.

“And our first special guest is Dragonfly, member of the Wholesome and inventor of a revolutionary new technique in cosmetology. Dragonfly?”

“Thank you, Sonata,” said Dragonfly. “As many of you probably know, almost since the Saturation, members of our communion have possessed the power to manipulate our chromelanin, changing our skin or hair or eye colors as desired. Though in case any of you were wondering, these are in fact my natural colors. But anyway, almost the first thing to run through my mind after I’d learned the chromelanin manipulation techniques was the question, ‘Can I figure out how to do this for someone else?’ Being able to assume whatever colors you like without needing to use makeup or even glamor spells is a wonderful gift, and it’s one I wanted to be able to share. Long story short, I’ve partially cracked the solution. My technique still draws on the Wholesome communion, so only members can cast it, but it does work. Observe.”

Dragonfly laid her hand on the golden-skinned arm, and closed her eyes in concentration. Her head-gem lit up, and an iridescent shimmer spread out across the news anchor’s body from where Dragonfly had touched her. In its wake, golden skin was replaced by blue.

After Sonata returned to her original coloration, Dragonfly opened her eyes and removed her hand. “As you can see, the technique is both harmless and easily reversible. I don’t know yet if it wears off on its own. I tested it on my biological sister about a week ago, and she hasn’t changed back to her original colors yet, but it may just take longer.”

“Why did you specify ‘biological sister’?” asked Sonata. “Does the shared blood make some difference?”

“No, it’s just that there’d be no point trying this on a sister of the Wholesome, for obvious reasons,” replied Dragonfly.

“Thank you, Dragonfly,” said Sonata cheerily. “And now, over to Aria for the sports news.”

(Masterweaver)

"...Okay." Sunset turned to Chrysalis as the news segment ended. "Why?"

"Can't my children do something out of the goodness of their own heart?"

"They could, yes. But you managed to rig that whole thing with Tirek. So, why?"

Chrysalis rolled her eyes. "Suspicion aversion. Too many people view the Wholesome as merely being a spy network. If one of our primary methods of espionage suddenly becomes open source, that will both lessen the suspicion..."

She smirked. "...and make it harder to tell genuine children from those who change for cosmetic reasons."

Sunset sighed as she rubbed her brow. "You know, given what you've done to help your kind and the world, it's easy to forget that you're actually amoral."

Live Demonstration, by Maran

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About one year after Saturation

Sweetie Belle sat on the couch, in the middle of writing a long text. She listened to her dad throwing his keys on the counter and grabbing a soda out of the fridge. Even when he started speaking to her, she didn't glance up from her phone.

“Hey, Sweetie, how was your field trip to Seven Flags?” he asked.

Tapping the back button on her phone, she answered, “We didn't go.”

“Really? Why not?” He strolled into the living room and plopped down next to her with his can floating in his blue aura.

Sweetie hit send and actually looked up from her phone, numbly gazing out the window. She gave it some thought before answering, “Snips ate our biology class.”

“Okay, I didn't hear you right. It sounded like you said Snips ate your class.”

“No, you heard right.”

Carefully, her dad grabbed his soda in his hand, not trusting his magic to hold it up. “That a euphemism for something?”

“I almost wish it was.” She set her phone in her lap and held her head in her hands. “So, the new biology teacher has this magic school bus, and she's still learning how to drive it, you know?”

Her dad didn't know, but he stayed quiet.

“It can do things no other bus can. But today she was only supposed to use it to drive us to Seven Flags. But she accidentally pulled the wrong lever or whatever and it made the bus shrink, and we landed in Snips's Cheezie Wheezies, because he just happened to be eating his lunch outside. And the bus must've looked close enough to a Cheezie Wheezie because he popped us into his mouth and swallowed us.” She shuddered. “I think Sunset Shimmer was watching over us just a little because I was sure his teeth were going to crush the bus like aluminum foil.”

“A magic school bus, eh?” Her dad leaned back. “I mean, I've probably heard weirder things this year, but I can't think of any off the top of my head.”

“Fluttershy spent the summer as a tree,” Sweetie pointed out. “But this is definitely the weirdest thing that happened to me.”

Her dad paused, mentally working through the story. “How did you get out?”

“Well, the easiest way would've been to go all the way down through the colon into the toilet, but we didn't know how long it would take for Snips to have a bowel movement, you know? So we went back up into the stomach and stirred up the gas so we could ride it up when he burped.”

Rarity happened to enter the livingroom just as Sweetie mentioned the toilet, and her eyes grew wider with each word her sister said. Slowly, she backed out of the room.

Sweetie's phone vibrated, and she snatched it up and read the new text. “Oh my . . . That would make so much sense!”

“What now?”

She peered up at him, finally meeting his eyes. “Apple Bloom says our teacher planned it that way the whole time. We've been learning about human anatomy in class, and our teacher is earth aspect, so it probably shouldn't take her this long to learn how to drive a school bus, even a magic one. Especially a magic one!”

“So she thinks your teacher meant for you to get eaten?” asked her dad, rubbing his head gem.

“Exhibit C: Her motto is, 'Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!'”

Her dad stroked the end of his mustache. “I'd better talk to Principal Celestia about all this.”

System Hiccup, by FoME

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Just before spring, a burst of golden light flared in Twilight Sparkle's bedroom. "Is this a good time?" said Sunset.

The months after the world changed were full of learning experiences for Twilight. Among them was the art of managing an omnipresent girlfriend who sometimes forgot that people weren't always in friendly moods. This, she reflected, was definite progress; a few months ago, Sunset hadn't bothered asking before spilling her guts. Twilight put down her book and patted her mattress. "Sure."

Sunset hopped on. That she didn't immediately wrap her arms around Twilight made the other girl sit up more. Twilight wasn't sure how much was being a pony, how much was the "Spirit of Harmony" thing, and how much was just Sunset, but she was usually very huggy when they were alone. "Everything okay?"

"It's... embarrassing," said Sunset. "And more than a little worrisome."

"You don't have to tell me if you don't want to."

"No, I definitely want to. Someone else should know. I..." Sunset bit her lip. "I had a bit of a slip-up. Uncomfortably close to Earth."

"How close are we talking?"

"About forty light-years. A constant wasn't, a star went nova prematurely... I didn't think I had all of the physical hiccups sorted out, but I thought for sure that this galaxy would be fine by now."

Twilight initiated the hug. "Hey, you've got a lot on your plate."

"I can feel your unease, Twilight. And I don't blame you. That's stupidly close by cosmic standards." Still, Sunset leaned into the embrace. "I've gone over our whole galactic arm with a fine-tooth comb since, but I should've earlier."

The question slipped out before Twilight could stop it. "Was there life?"

"Not sure. Couldn't bring myself to look. There were planets. Several Earth-sized ones. I moved them to a relatively nearby dwarf star. Kind of crowded little system at this point, but it's not like anyone's going to notice, right?"

"Uh, about that..." Twilight pulled up an article on her phone and handed it to Sunset.

"NEISA telescope reveals largest batch of..." Nerveless fingers dropped the phone. "I keep forgetting just what you were all capable of even without magic."

"Given the lightspeed delay, I'm assuming it was at seven before you evacuated the others."

By this point, Sunset's face had turned almost as red as half of her hair. "If I promise to mention it when someone announces plans to colonize them, can I not until then?"

Twilight shrugged. "Up to you."

It Ain't Broke, by FoME

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"Hey everyone. I'm Sunset Shimmer, like you didn't know, and welcome to a very special installment of Magical Mayhem. I'm going to answer one of the most frequently asked questions I've gotten since I started the vlog. Yes, I'm finally addressing the elephant in the room: What happens to us when we die?

"I'm going to be honest: I don't know."

Sunset waited a beat, then said, "Odds are about half of you paused the video and are writing angry comments right now. Still, it's true. I really do not know what happens to deceased souls in this world. And yes, souls are real. I'd show you one, but that would entail taking it out of someone. Trust me, you do not want to see that. Not pretty."

"Cut, cut, cut!" Twilight frowned. "You're giving them ideas."

Sunset blinked blankly. "I am?"

"I know I'm a little morbidly curious."

"When aren't you?" Sunset sighed. "But yeah, you are our litmus test for this sort of thing. Should I just go with 'souls are real'?

"Sounds good to me." Twilight moved the camera. "In three, two..." She gave a thumbs up.

"And yes, souls are real. I can tell you those souls are definitely going somewhere after death. I don't know where because I haven't looked, and I haven't looked because whatever happens to them, it's working. I could do a twelve-episode series on all the crap I have to personally maintain to keep the universe going. I don't because I may not need to sleep at night, but that doesn't mean the rest of you shouldn't get to. My point is that I'm not messing with one of the few bits that's still humming along without my having to keep an eye on it. That's all I have to report on the subject. This has been Sunset Shimmer, your friendly neighborhood celestial mechanic." Sunset took a deep breath. "And cut. Think that'll help at all?"

Twilight shrugged. "Possibly. At the very least, your disciples should have a harder time condemning people to Tartarus. Was it true?"

"Every word. I suspect reincarnation's a thing, especially considering the principals' family tree, but with my luck, I'll manage to break the afterlife just by looking at it."

No Such Place, by FoME

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Dear Twilight,

Could you send me a copy of my birth certificate? Some of my worshipers are convinced that I have no beginning or end, and that I descended from Equestria solely to enlighten the simian masses.

Their words, not mine.

Thanks,
Sunset

—————

Dear Twilight,

Good news and bad news. The good news is that they've accepted that I'm not some eternal concept. The bad news is that they still think Equestria is some impossibly perfect land of nothing but smiles and cupcakes. I'm going to need the trashiest tabloid you can find. Make sure it has obituaries; some of them are convinced that all ponies are immortal.

Thanks again,
Sunset

—————

Dear Twilight,

It's not that I want to scare humans away from Equestria. I want a healthy relationship between the two worlds as much as you do. The problem is that the only information most people have about Equestria comes from my videos, and I've been presenting the best of my home. That's led to... well, this. Given how long it could take to safely expand the portal, I don't want humanity to be disappointed after years if not decades of impossibly high expectations.

On a related note, that copy of the Royal Enquirer didn't quite do the job. They're calling it a "test of faith." I'm going to need something that can't just be discounted. Or more accurately, somepony. Who's your pick for Ambassador of Equestrian Horribleness?

Sincerely,
Sunset

—————

"And that's why you're here, ma'am."

The mare had a lot of questions. What was the fuzzy thing around her neck, and why did it have feet? Why had she never heard of this "Sunset Shimmer" filly if she was so important? How did meeting with Ponyville's resident princess lead to getting shoved through a mirror and coming out the other end as some kind of underfed yeti?

She betrayed none of this in her expression; it would be an unforgivable display of weakness. Thank Celestia for this body's immobile ears and lack of tail. "I don't entirely understand what it is you want me to do," said Spoiled Rich.

Sunset smiled. "To put it simply, be yourself."

Honest Effort, by Masterweaver

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Applejack sighed.

"...Something wrong?"

"Huh? Oh, no Sunset." She chuckled. "Well, nuthin' wrong that ain't been a problem for a while."

"If there's anything I can do to help—"

"It'll pass, trust me."

"...What will?"

The farmgirl chuckled. "Ennui. One o' the parts of farmin' I don't quite like talkin' about. You're off doin' yer goddess thing, Twi's sciencin' magic, Rares and Rainbow are collaboratin' on that fancy wingbow clothing... heck, even Fluttershy has her whole tree thing going. And don't get me started on Pinkie's nonsense."

"Are you... jealous?"

"...Maybe a little, but that ain't the problem. It's less that I want yer lives and more that... you know, I ain't gettin' some cockamamy adventure o' mah own. Now I know what I do is important," she added quickly, "and I know you're all mah friends, and... thing is, just cause I know this and I'm usually happy, that don't mean I don't occasionally long fer, ya know... somethin'. Some sort o' adventure or fame, all mah own. It'll pass, trust me, it comes and it goes."

Sunset nodded. "...You realize your little sister controls part of fate, right?"

"Yeah?"

"And she hero worships you to some degree?"

"...I mean, maybe, but we have our share o' squabbles—"

"I'm just saying," Sunset interjected, "if some of her dreams become reality, you might not want to rule that whole adventure thing out just yet."

Derponic Consultation, by SaintAbsol

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"Is there some reason I'm here and not spending time with my time displaced daughter?" Seeing Ditzy Doo angry at someone was a pretty rare sight, all things considered. Her normally bubbly personality meant she tended to be easygoing, but interrupting some planned bonding time with Dinky was apparently enough to pop those bubbles.

Even if it was the local deity doing the interrupting.

"I'm sorry, Ditzy," Sunset Shimmer said, leading the way through the orchards of Sweet Apple Acres. "But, as strange as it might sound, I think you'll know more about what we're dealing with than anyone else I know."

Ditzy's eyes blinked just out of sync with each other. "...what do you mean?"

Sunset sighed, holding out one of her hands to the nearest tree. "I mean... this." Green energy started to flow off the apple tree, before gathering in Sunset's palm. Rather than just sitting there, the energy started to shift into a coherent shape: a glowing tree made of dark green energy surrounded by a green circle. "Look familiar?"

Ditzy could only stare as her eyes drifted out of alignment. "That... that..." She shook her head to clear it. "That's a mana symbol from Hocus Pocus: The Get-Together!"

"Yep." Sunset closed her hand and the energy burst apart, falling to the ground and causing the grass to grow all the way to her ankles. "It's started to gather here recently, and I was hoping you could help me find a way to disperse it. Sooner would be better than later, by the way."

"... Why do I get the feeling there's already a problem?"

"You'll know in about five seconds."

Right on cue, the a muffled boom sounded in the air, followed by another, then another, and another; Ditzy almost opened her mouth to protest when she realized Sunset was leading her toward those same booms, but Sunset held up her hand to halt any conversation as they rounded a hill.

"Howdy, Sunset, Ditzy, got any ideas on how to fix this yet?"

Ditzy staggered back as she looked up... way up... at Applejack. The earthen girl towered at over five stories tall; thankfully, she was clothed, but that just added to the strangeness of looking up at the fifty foot tall Apple. "I.. I..."

"We're working on it, AJ," Sunset said as she helped Ditzy back to her feet. "Just... hold on a bit longer."

Applejack shrugged. "As long as yer sure you can fix this, Ah ain't too worried. It's helpin' out with some chores, too, so Ah can't complain too much." She turned from her friends, can called out over the orchard. "Hey, Macintosh! You got those bushels in place?"

"Eeyup!" Macintosh's call was noticeably quieter than his sister's, but still audible.

"Alright, might wanna brace yerselves." AJ bent her knees slightly, and Ditzy could swear she actually heard her muscles bunching up, before launching herself skyward.

It was a bit surreal to see the massive figure of Applejack getting enough air on her jump to clear a good number of houses, but gravity did reassert itself eventually, and several tons of farm-girl slammed back to the ground. The impact knocked both Sunset and Ditzy off their feet, as well as nearly every apple off the trees of the orchard. As AJ pulled her boots out of the craters she had made, Ditzy and Sunset both looked at each other.

"So..." Sunset started. "I don't know how this works, but is those normal for this stuff?"

"Well, Green is known for making bigger and more powerful creatures; so, I suppose so." Ditzy put a hand to her chin in thought. "Maybe if we can find a source of Blue to counteract it..." Ditzy started muttering under her breath as she started to mentally toss around ideas to deal with the big apple girl.

Sunset just sighed, rubbing her temple. "I really hope this doesn't turn into a regular thing..."

Become Immense, by SaintAbsol

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Sweet Apple Acres was a quiet place most of the time. Well away from the hustle and bustle of the city, even with the advent of magic, and full of large open fields peppered with various crops (mostly apples, of course), it made for a nice place to just sit and think. Which was what Applejack found herself doing, subconsciously fingering a new bracelet around her wrist, a single apple-shaped charm attached to it.

"Weren't you just complaining about how you wanted your own adventures not more than two weeks ago?"

Applejack jumped in her seat, having been too distracted by rubbing at the charm to notice Sunset walking up to her. "I mean... yeah, I was... but... this ain't what I was expectin'."

"Can't say I was either; but, I tend to leave matters of fate to the Crusaders."

"I've been meanin' to talk to Apple Bloom about this whole thing too... make sure it don't get outta hand."

Sunset snorted, actually sounding so much like a horse that Applejack couldn't help but give her a look. "I'm sorry," she said, "but it does seem like it's a bit late for that, don't you think?"

As Applejack opened her mouth to respond, her cellphone started beeping in a very specific and intricate pattern. The farm girl sighed as she pulled it out of her skirt pocket and answered. "Yeah? Yeah, Ah'm free... What?! All the way there!? ... Ugh, fine, but you owe me fer this one." She hung up and turned to Sunset. "Sorry, 'duty calls', or whatever is they say in the comics."

"Just stay safe... and try putting some of those lessons from Rarity and me to good use."

"I will." AJ stood and stretched a bit, before touching the apple charm and taking off in a run. As she dashed away, green mana seeped into her her every step, and her strides steadily lengthened as her height steadily increased. By the time she'd reached the nearest tree, she was already a head taller than it, and she just kept growing. Her steps shook the ground before she was halfway out of the farm, and by the time she was sprinting off toward the city, she was a towering titan of a girl whose boots left cracks and craters in their wake.

Sunset simply shook her head, and vanished off to her 'house' to catch the show; AJ's fights with the various "kaiju," as they'd been dubbed by countless internet forums, always made the news.


(Note: Canonicity plummets from this point on.)

The muted television glowed in the dimly lit room, displaying the image of a multistory girl in stereotypical "farmer" attire keeping a hogtied, vaguely reptilian creature pinned down as various government vehicles swarmed around the pair. Two pairs of eyes watched the footage, one that seemed to almost glow with a blue light, the other with noticeably slit pupils. "Quite the rare sight," one of them said, "seeing someone with the skill to call up pentachromatic mana outside of our little... collection."

"Technically, it's monochromatic," the other grumbled. "She's only using green, not any other color."

"That's more color than most," the first countered. "Either way, the fact she can is intriguing. It might be prudent to send her an... invitation to our establishment."

"Need I remind you this girl already attends Canterlot High?"

The first snorted, a bit of smoke shooting from his nostrils. "I fail to see the relevance."

"She is also a close friend of the deity also attending that school."

"An interesting, but still irrelevant, bit of information, Vice Principal Beleren."

Jace Beleren found himself, not for remotely the first time, suppressing the urge to groan, facepalm, bash his head against a wall, or any combination of the three. Keeping Ravnica High in some semblance of organized chaos while also dealing with the eccentricities of Principal Niv-Mizzet was an exercise in frustration that probably would have broken a lesser man. As it was, however, even he could feel a stress-induced headache coming on over the principal's latest topic of interest.

"Very well; however, I require two concessions on your part."

Niv-Mizzet turned his gaze ever so slightly, peering at Jace out of the corner of his eye. "Those being?"

"I want my own disapproval of this endeavor noted, even if it does succeed."

"As you wish," Niv-Mizzet responded. "And the second?"

"You let me broach the matter with Luna this weekend before I send the invitation."

That caused a scowl to form on the principal's vaguely draconic face, but Jace didn't flinch, merely raising an eyebrow.

After a moment of silence, Niv-Mizzet turned back to the television, now displaying the girl helping load the creature into a container for transport. "Fine. But not a single day more, Vice Principal Beleren."

"Thank you, sir." Jace said, turning and finally exiting the dimly lit office. He blinked several times as the more natural light hit his face, then sighed to himself. He was going to need a shot of... something in his next cup of coffee. At the moment, he didn't particularly care what.

"This is not going to end well, no matter what Luna says."

Flash Animism, by Masterweaver

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"Oh Divine Bacon Horse, Traveler Of Realms, Glorious Proclaimer, Shelled Mystic, She Of The Wonderous Mane, Wellspring Of Magic And Sanity! I, who shares your equine essence, do beseech and implore ye, that you may answer of me a question which burns to my core! I ask whe'er beings whose origins are not of the ape have themselves souls! I ask whe'er these souls should be treated any different! I beg of you, Divine Bacon Horse, hear my plea, and mote your answer at your leisure!"

Sunset Shimmer appeared before Lyra Heartstrings even as she whinnied and prostrated herself westward, rolling her eyes. "Is this about the PAULDRONS thing?"

"You are wise as ever, Wellspring of Magic and Sanity!"

"Alright. Hmm. Well... the truth is..." Sunset bit her lip. "...actually pretty complicated. Would it be alright for me to write up a lecture on the subject and make a video later?"

"Oh bearer of the wondrous mane, that ye take so much time and effort to answer even I tis a gift yet I cannot claim to its incredibility!"

"...I'm just going to take that as a yes." Sunset looked down at Lyra. "Um. So..."

She paused.

"...you're going to stay like that until I make a big exit, aren't you."

"You are the glorious proclaimer, and your proclamation is what all followers heed!"

Sunset shrugged, rising on her rear hooves and whinnying dramatically before vanishing from the room.

Going Where It Needs To, by Maran

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“Ms. Frazzle, do we have to take your bus on this field trip?” asked Sweetie Belle.

Apple Bloom nudged her arm with her bony elbow.

Sweetie turned toward her friend. “What?” she asked quietly.

“You're hurtin' its feelin's,” said Apple Bloom.

Scootaloo raised her eyebrows. “Did your earth aspect magic tell you that?”

“A bit. But I can mostly tell just by lookin' at its face.” She pointed at the school bus. Like most vehicles, the bus had headlights and a bumper that vaguely resembled eyes and a mouth. The ends of the bumper drooped, and the headlamps tilted downward.

“Ohh,” said Scootaloo and Sweetie together.

“It's not that I don't like the bus,” said Sweetie. “The bus is... nice. It's just that the last time I was on the bus I saw more of Snips than I ever wanted.”

“I understand, Sweetie Belle,” Ms. Frazzle said sympathetically.

Sweetie stared at her teacher. Ms. Frazzle's chartreuse frock was covered with images that Sweetie recognized as stylized viruses and white blood cells. She never seemed to mind when people ogled her unusual fashion choices.

“You do?” asked Sweetie.

“Oh, yes. Not everyone has the stomach to go through the digestive tract on the first field trip of the year.”

Diamond Tiara groaned. “Again with the puns?”

“I just can't help myself.” The teacher's mauve eyes twinkled.

“Come on, Sweetie, it wasn't that bad,” said Scootaloo. “It's not like the world almost ended.”

“That's the spirit, Scootaloo!” said Ms. Frazzle with a smile.

“Yeah, and I don't think we were ever in any real danger,” said Apple Bloom. “The same magic that made us small as mites protected us from the stomach acid and... and the rest.”

Sweetie Belle gave her an incredulous look.

“What?” asked Apple Bloom.

Sweetie opened her mouth, but paused for a moment as she thought about what to say.

However, Silver Spoon beat her to it. “Apple Bloom, you're the one who came up with the theory that Ms. Frazzle let us get swallowed on purpose. Why are you defending her now?”

Apple Bloom glanced from her classmate to her orange-haired teacher. “Because she did a good job teachin' us about how digestion works. And how many folks can say they were eaten alive and lived to tell about it?”

“Right?” said Scootaloo. “It was way more exciting than Seven Flags!”

“Besides, I'm sure she meant well. Didn't you Ms. Frazzle?”

“Well, Apple Bloom, I didn't exactly plan for our class to learn about digestion so extensively. The bus planned it that way.” She held out her pale, creamy hand toward the school bus. The vehicle's headlights and bumper perked up.

Diamond Tiara stepped toward it. “The bus must have a very sophisticated AI,” she said.

“Ah, excellent deduction, Diamond Tiara. The bus is attuned to my deepest desires, and sometimes I may tell it to do one thing, but it knows that I really want to do something else, and so it does that instead,” explained Ms. Frazzle.

“Oh. Wow,” said Sweetie. She didn't doubt that her teacher's deepest desire was to experience the body's breakdown of food up close. It had been obvious from day one that Ms. Frazzle was an odd duck.

“But what if you really need to go somewhere that you don't want to go?” she asked. “Isn't there some way to override it?”

“As I always say, if you keep asking questions, you'll keep getting answers,” said Ms. Frazzle.

Diamond Tiara rolled her eyes. “If you don't know, just say so. If you want, I can check out the coding for you and figure out how to override it.”

“You should probably include 'please' in that code,” said Scootaloo.

Diamond Tiara shot her a sour look. “You just had to get that dig in there, didn't you.”

“Thank you for the offer, Diamond Tiara. I'll have to take a rain check on it. Mr. Discord expects us to be at the NAHTI in thirty minutes,” said Ms. Frazzle. “He's not too particular about punctuality, but I still wouldn't want to keep him waiting too long.”

“How can we be sure that the bus won't think that you don't really want to go to the NAHTI and decide to do what you really want instead?” asked Sweetie, wringing her hands.

“Trust me, Sweetie Belle, there is nothing that I would love more than to visit my friend John Discord. But even if the bus thinks otherwise, I'm sure Diamond Tiara can figure something out on the fly.”

Diamond Tiara nodded. “I'll give it a shot. Anyway, I don't think we have a choice if we want to go on this field trip. All the other buses have left.”

At that moment, Button Mash stuck his head out of one of the bus's windows. “Hey, are you guys coming or what? I think Lizzie's getting antsy.”

“Tell Lizzie we'll be right there, Button Mash. To the bus!” Ms. Frazzle pointed with her arm outstretched.

The girls walked toward the school bus, Sweetie Belle bringing up the rear.

She paused in front of the door and sighed. “I have a feeling I should've stayed home today.”

Scootaloo glanced over her shoulder at Sweetie. “Did your future sense tell you that?”

“No, just a feeling.”

Live Current, by ArtieStroke

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"This is stupid," Adagio grumbled. "We already do that stupid news segment. Under duress, no less!"

"Lighten up, 'Dagi!" Sonata said, dice clacking as she rolled them in her hand, "Besides, people kinda adore us for doing that whole 'My Sister, My Sister, and Me' thing! Don't you like that?"

Adagio frowned. The brat had a point. She had a point and she hated it. And because of that, she would absolutely refuse to acknowledge that point.

"Our dear Sonata is right," Mr. Discord said, shuffling his character sheet around as Aria checked the mic, "This will be an ABSOLUTE blast!"

"You jerks just better have your character sheets ready," Aria said, confident the microphones were set up just right, "I don't wanna be running a circus here."

"Another valid question- how come Aria is the one in charge here?"

"She asked first," Mr. Discord replied, with a shrug, and then grinned, "Besides, I've been dying to bring back good old Captain Wuzz for a new romp; haven't played him since Ogres and Oubliettes 3rd Edition. 4.0 was a total wash, but dearest Twilight has assured me 5th edition is a decent streamlining of what 3.5 was."

"I am so excited to play Chalupa!" Sonata said bouncing in her seat and turning to Adagio, "Oh, oh, what did you make for your character?"

Adagio smirked, flourishing her sheet, "Silly as this farce is, my enchantress, Dazalia, will still probably be the best character here."

"Dazalia?"

"Well at least I didn't name her after a friggin' taco!"

"Shut up, we're ready now," Aria said, sitting down in her chair. Adagio harrumphed, and Aria leaned into the mic, speaking with a much huskier tone.

"Strap on your fantasy seatbelts and hold onto your butts... it's The Odyssey Realm."

Duskfall, by Jenna Cipher

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"Come again?"

"I want you to make it—"

"Yes, I heard you, but didn't we do this gag already? It just seems a bit repetitive, that's all."

"Come on. Pleeeease?"

"Ugh, I swear, you're worse than my nieces. Fine."


"And in other news, what was thought to be a meteor shower, somehow turned out to be two hundred thousand tacos, give or take seven, falling from orbit. NEISA has refused to comment beyond pointing out that it doesn't seem physically possible—for whatever that's worth these days—and noting vague similarities to last years 'bacon rain' incident."

Sunset Shimmer's eye twitched, and she sighed. "At least it's not bacon..."

You All Bleat in a Tavern, by ArtieStroke

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"And so, where exactly do we sign up for our stage names again?" Dazalia asked, a cheshire grin on her face and a finger on the fantasy concert-supervisor's chest. The supervisor was, in a word, nonplussed.

"Listen, we'll figure that out later—"

"It's too late, I've already got it," Dazalia interrupted, twirling with a flourish, "They call me... Lómelindë~"

And with a turn she was suddenly adorned in a feathered dress, with a tiara upon her head that somewhat resembled the face of a nightingale.

Chalupa clapped, "Oooh! I remember that; it's like the masks we used in the silly fun-time races!"

"You and I remember that race very, very differently."

The supervisor cleared his throat, "Uh, and what exactly does 'lómelindë' mean?"

Dazalia rolled her eyes, "It's elvish for 'nightingale', obviously."

"And I suppose you don't know what the elvish word for 'dorky' is, do you?" Captain Wuzz asked, barely holding back a snort.

Dazalia glared at him, gritting her teeth before screaming.

"Elvish is NOT DORKY, DAD!"


Adagio Dazzle froze as she stood up from her chair, pure shock and fear etched into her face. Aria and Sonata both gave each other a look, before howling with laughter. Weirdly enough, a certain Mister John Discord was not laughing. One might even described his face as weirded out, an emotion he hadn't been sure if he was capable of feeling before that moment.

"This is absolutely canon now," Aria managed to choke out, stumbling back into her chair, "This has happened in fiction. You absolutely, no take backs, said 'Elvish is not dorky, Dad' to the Captain."

The other two sirens continued to laugh until they started wheezing, as Adagio slowly and deliberately sat back down in her chair. She then very slowly, and even more deliberately, sank her head into her arms, folded on the table, and let out a strangled noise that can only be produced when one accidentally calls their boss 'dad'.

This was going to be a long campaign.

Converse Champagne, by Masterweaver

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Sunset bit her lip as she knocked on the door. She practically cringed when it opened. "Hello, Mister Armor—"

"Twilight," Shining ground out slowly, "still has a hangover."

"...yeah. Um. I came to apologize about that—"

"As I understand it, you are the one responsible for that."

Sunset managed to put on a small smile. "Do you know, you're one of the few people that still manage to talk to me like this? All stern and disapproving and...."

Her voice trailed off under his glower.

"... Honestly I didn't realize it was illegal," she admitted. "Or that Twilight hadn't ever had alcohol; you see, Equestria is a more, um... medieval sort of place. Culturally, I mean, adulthood comes earlier, and... I screwed up. I get that, I'm sorry, and.... I am very, very sorry that... all that... happened."

"All that." Shining Armor nodded. "That's how you're going to refer to it. All. That."

"...Yeah."

"You're a role model now, Sunset. To an entire religion. And Twilight Sparkle, my little sister, is apparently part of that as well—"

"Shining, I'm already beating myself up enough. Can I just come in and make sure Twilight's okay? Before I get too caught up cleaning this mess?"

"Can't you do that from down here?"

"That would be rude."

"... Fine. I was just about to bring her some juice anyway."

Stoking the Firemind, by SaintAbsol

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There were often times that Jace found himself wondering how Niv-Mizzet managed to get anything done in his perpetually dark office.

While Jace's ego would have been quick to claim that he was the one that got things done, and he was only still the Vice Principal out of his own humility, the rational part of his mind reminded him that Niv-Mizzet did still have final say on quite a lot of matters pertaining to the school board, as well as holding enough sway with certain members that even Abacus Cinch's legendary 'Reputation' would be hard pressed to counter him.

Which, of course, just made denying him his occasional obsessions all the harder to do.

Jace made sure to keep his face impassive as the principal continued to stare at the television, watching shaky videos of young 'Saint' Applejack as she did battle with an insectoid abomination. Vines, wood, and even an actual tree at one point all seeming to spring out of nowhere as she fought with it, her eyes visibly flashing green each time. And through it all, Niv-Mizzet barely seemed to blink as he watched in silence.

Finally, after the report cut back to the news room, he muted the device with a gesture. "Her skill with pentachromatic mana is growing," Niv-Mizzet said at last, his gaze shifting to Jace. "One could almost say she has a gift for it."

"She has skill with it," Jace diplomatically responded. "That doesn't make her a prodigy."

"It still makes her interesting." Niv-Mizzet's hand fingered a coin of some sort, the markings on it long since rubbed away by the man's subconscious habit. "It also makes her a perfect candidate for our collection."

"We had an agreement, Niv-Mizzet." Jace knew better than to make his tone accusatory, but even he couldn't hold in the entirety of his nerves at the moment.

Thankfully, the principal was engrossed in the television display once more, now displaying the gigantic girl as she jogged alongside a highway. "I have not forgotten my word, Vice Principal Beleren. You will still have the time you requested; however, I do suggest you try to be very... persuasive with Canterlot High's vice principal, as well as its principal should it come to that." Jace's throat suddenly felt dry and the room quite a bit warmer as Niv-Mizzet glared at him out of the corner of his eye. "I do not have much patience for needless delays."

The sensation was gone just as it came, and Jace gulped, feeling some sweat running from his brow and down his face. "Of course, Sir."

"Good." Niv-Mizzet turned back to the television and waved one of his hands. "You are dismissed."

Jace had to concentrate to keep his steps slow and measured as he exited the office, releasing a breath he'd only been half aware he was holding as soon as he'd closed the door. "...may all the gods damn this job," he muttered. "And damn me for accepting it." With a final shake of his head, Jace headed toward his office, already organizing his thoughts for what he'd have to do tomorrow evening.
He was going to need a lot of protective spells for the coming conversation.

Minister of the Interior, by FoME

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Sunset sighed as she followed the rampaging designer who'd been let loose in her home. "You really don't have to do this, Rarity."

"Nonsense, darling. If you're going to be worshipped, we can't have you forced to be surrounded by furniture no one this side of the Saddlantic can pronounce." Rarity gave a significant glance to Sunset's small coffee table.

The other girl pouted and patted the table protectively. "Now you're just hurting Mörbylånga's feelings."

"My point exactly. And goodness knows you have a copious budget to work with."

Sunset folded her arms. "You told me to get that Benefacteor account just so you could give this place a makeover, didn't you?"

"I will neither confirm nor deny that." Rarity stopped by one of the few doors in the largely open building. "My, my, what have we here?"

"Rarity, don't—"

"AAAAAHHH!"

"Open... that." Sunset closed the door through telekinesis, then took hold of her staggering friend. "You okay?"

"I will recover. In time. A great deal of time." Rarity let Sunset guide her into a chair, then asked, "What exactly was that?"

"A gateway to the Astral Plane. You'd be surprised how often I need to pop in and out of it."

"You may want to consider a lock on the door."

"I don't usually have visitors, but you're right." Sunset sighed. "Sorry about that. I've been trying to decorate the place, but I only ever managed to change the background color once, and I haven't quite figured out how I did that. So it's stuck on orange."

"More of a burnt sienna," said Rarity, "in the sense that it incinerated my eyes!"

"You're never going to let me live this down, are you?"

"Not on your life."

Traveling Salesman Problem, by Masterweaver

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Sunset sighed as she slipped into the Astral Plane. She didn't like to think she could be overwhelmed but, on occasion, there were just too many people doing too many stupid things in one day. After cleaning up a particular magic convergence, firmly lecturing the leaders of the twelve countries involved, and asking her church to help with the clean-up, she was looking forward to a nice time alone.

"HELLO THERE!"

Which was abruptly interrupted by what looked to be a lizardy bird thing with squid tails.

"Are you feeling a little unsatisfied with the state of your cosmic residence?" it asked perkily, coiling around the astral realm. "Is your background dull or disturbing? Do you wish you had the glorious arches and altars needed to wow mortal visitors?"

Sunset facepalmed. "I do not need this right now..."

"We-he-hell, you don't have to decide right now," the creature admitted with a fanged grin. "But in case you EVER need a hand redecorating, Cross-Cosmos Decor and Furniture is always available to lend a manipulatory appendage of your choice!"

"Look, I've had a very, very long day. I just want to relax and—"

"Nooooot a problem! Your first ethereal environmental restructuring comes free with up to TEN kilo-prayers worth of furniture!" The strange being snapped its talons and a large marble hot tub with ornate images carved into its surface dropped behind it. "As you can see, we seek to anticipate any and all of our customer's wants and needs. The iconography on this luxurious piece is fully adjustable, so you can update it at will with your holy symbols or a histography of your miraculous accomplishments—"

Sunset rubbed her forehead wearily. "Oh, geeze. Okay, I can see that this is your job and all, but—really, I'm still getting used to this whole deity thing and honestly? I don't want to make any decisions while I'm this stressed out."

"Oh I sympathize entirely," the creature replied. "In fact, might I recommend a lovely stellar format for your realm?" With a wave of its arm, the entire region transformed into something resembling a NEISA photograph. "This wondrous view of the cosmos has been guaranteed by a significant amount of psychologists to—"

Its voice was cut off when Sunset grabbed its snout, dragged its head down, and looked into its eyes.

"Take your stuff with you," she growled, "and come back in three days—local time—with a catalog. Do. You. Understand?"

It nodded.

"Right. Good."

Sunset released her grip. The creature held up a talon, paused, and snapped again, undoing all that had been done before vanishing.

For a moment, Sunset stared into space. Then she rocked forward, fell onto what counted as the ground, and gave a long, aggravated sigh.

Weighty Matters, by SaintAbsol

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"So, you've got a fangirl."

Applejack blinked as she looked away from the retreating figure of Zipporwhill, glancing over to Sunset as the other girl typed away on her phone. "Startin' to think yer followin' me, Sunset."

The girl-turned-goddess shrugged as she continued to type away. "I try to keep a close eye on all my friends; you've just been getting a bit more attention as of late because of that... trick, of yours."

Applejack fingered her charm without even thinking about it, mind wandering. "That's one way o' sayin' it... yeah." She was silent for a moment, before shaking her head. "And, yeah, met Zipporwhill at that weddin' a little ways back. Nice kid; bit excitable, needs to learn a bit o' self-preservation, but nice. Likes to be 'round whenever I get big, thinks it's cool or somethin'."

Sunset just shrugged, finally looking up from her phone, then frowned at something behind her friend. "AJ, incoming."

"Huh?" Applejack turned, just in time to see a man in a three-piece suit, horn-rimmed glasses, and carrying a briefcase strolling toward them with a purpose.

"Ms. Applejack?" he questioned.

Applejack hesitated a moment, but slowly nodded. "... Eeyep?"

The man reached into the inner pocket of his suit, and pulled out a piece of paper, handing it over to Applejack. "Have a nice day." And, with that, the man turned and walked away, leaving a very confused Applejack behind him.

"... What was that about?" Applejack looked down at the folded bit of parchment, slowly opening it up. "It's a letter... from the state department?" AJ's eyes flashed across it, slowly widening as she she read more and more. "I'm bein' sued!"

Sunset looked over Applejack's shoulder, peering at the letter. "For what?"

"Destruction o' property," she responded, still gaping at the letter. "When I was fightin' one o' those monsters the other day, I accidentally sat on a warehouse. Now the owner's tryin' to sue me fer... there is no way in Tartarus that thing was worth THAT much!"

Sunset winced in sympathy as AJ started to rant and rave about the legal system, the building's owner, and various other aspects of the situation. Pulling out her phone, Sunset called up her bank account, as well as sending a text to Ruby to set up a meeting with Ounce Pin... she was going to need a very crazy lawyer to take up AJ's defense.

In a Friendly Neighborhood, by ArtieStroke

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Featherweight jolted up as that... what was that, a bear? Certainly not like any bear he'd seen before. He flashed Wiz a look of worry, who simply nodded in return as the two of them bolted from the stands. As soon as Featherweight had dove underneath them, he was already worming his way out of his jacket. Wiz slid right next to him, phone out and numbers called.

"Eye in the Sky to Dapper Gent, we've got a situation at the high school-"

"Well aware, old boy," Fancy Pants' voice crackled on the other end, "Perhaps we should come up with shorter monikers? Bit of a mouthful, that—"

"Roger that and whatever. What the actual heck is going on?!"

"Seriously?" Featherweight said, mask over his face and his new suit sealed tight to his teenage form.

"We don't quite know. Just some panicked chatter about angry shadowy beasts converging on the high school over the radio."

"Wait there's gonna be more of these things?!"

"Not if we can help it," Featherweight interrupted, now fully donning the Spider-Hawk costume. With a thwip, the micro-grappler sunk into the roof of a nearby building, and Wiz was alone.

"Stay safe little bro. Fancy, can you help us out at all?"

"Already on my way. Got a wave from Sunny, looks like it's a boys-night-out for now. Need to keep the students safe."

"Yeah," Wiz looked over back to the field- the Rainbooms were giving what they could to those creatures, but it seemed like a close battle. As for the Crystal Prep team... they were still running the relay.

"Oh you have got to be kidding me," Wiz groaned. So much for the friendship part of these games.

[SPOILERS] Early Release, by SaintAbsol

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Twilight Velvet hummed to herself as she carried in a few mid-week groceries, really just a single bag of some snacks and Spike's favorite brand of dog treats (and he'd been sure to tell everyone they were his favorite now that he could speak). Still, it was one of those increasingly rare 'normal' days for her. There wasn't anything on the news about various superheroes, nor any announcements about the laws of physics being bent or broken with magic, her daughter hadn't accidentally shattered space and time, and Sunset had even suggested a perfectly normal 'not-a-date' for the two of them involving dinner and a movie.

With that track record, she really should have been expecting the universe to pull the rug out from under her.

As soon as she placed the bag on the counter, she turned away... and was met by something that looked like a robotic toy; a small dog, roughly Spike's size, that tilted its head at her as it sat on the floor.

"You are my Creator's Creator... yes?" She, for that was definitely a female voice under all that synthesizing, spoke.

Twilight Velvet was silent for a long moment, before slowly closing her eyes and inhaling deeply. "Twilight Sparkle! Get in here this instant!"

-------

"What did I tell you about this sort of thing?!"

Twilight found herself unable to meet her mother's glare as she sheepishly adjusted her glasses. "Technically... you just told me no experimenting on Spike..."

"Don't you try to Exact Words me, young lady! You know exactly what I meant!"

As mother and daughter argued back and forth, two dogs (one robotic, one organic) watched the verbal volley with eyes flashing back and forth.

"They're going to be at that for a while," Spike observed, then turned to his synthetic counterpart. "So... how's life treating you so far?"

The mechanical canine shrugged, still watching the fight. "It is too early to make an informed judgment regarding such a matter."

"Kay," Spike was quiet again for a moment, then spoke up once again. "Wanna go chase squirrels in the backyard?"

"Yes."

"Excellent," Spike said as they both rose to their paws. "They're not going to stand a chance."

Electric Light Duet, by Masterweaver and FoME (Suggestive)

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(Masterweaver)

"... I... I have no words."

Sunset took a breath. "Rarity, I know this is strange—"

"This isn't just strange. This is... this is a form of fashion that... this is science fiction."

"Rarity—"

"How does this even... Why would she even... Is there... What is the point?" Rarity cried, gesturing futilely. "What is the point?! I can get accentuating features but this is—"

"Look. It was her decision. I checked with her dad; she raised the money, she paid for it."

"Sunset, Vinyl has implanted an LED network into the skin of her boobs! HER BOOBS! They can make flashy patterns now, and--I can't even—why?!"

Sunset considered her for a moment or two.

"...Octavia seems to like it."

"More evidence she's secretly insane, then. THIS WAS NOT SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN IN MY LIFETIME!"


(FoME)

Sonic bliss filled the basement bunker as it had most days over the summer, but today's session came to an abrupt halt as one of the performers found herself shaking too hard to continue.

"Vi—" Octavia hiccuped, then took a few deep breaths, resting her cello on its stand lest she drop it. "Vinyl, please."

Vinyl just tilted her head inquisitively.

"Look, if you don't want to wear a bra in your own house, that's your business. But I can't perform if I'm watching you synchronize your... your bosom to the song like we're a two-girl Trans-Sibearian Orchestra."

Vinyl gave an innocent, wide-eyed look that might have worked better without the shades. It definitely would have worked better if she didn't then whistle an arpeggio with accompanying chest-mounted light show shining through her almost translucent T-shirt.

Octavia's face twisted up until she burst into shameful giggles. "All right, all right, I'll say it! Stop flashing your tits at me!"

More to Love, by SaintAbsol (Suggestive)

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"I must admit," Luna said, pointedly looking off in another direction. "When I first acquired these abilities, I was expecting quite a few situations like this; thus far, I have been pleasantly surprised by how few times it has happened."

"That's nice and all, Vice Principal Luna... but, could ya not do somethin' like this in the future?"

Luna risked a glance back, finding Applejack wrapped in a thick blanket that seemed nearly half an acre in size. "Dreams are my responsibility now, Applejack; and, in a world where thoughts can be projected into reality, to say nothing of your own abilities, making sure that dreams remain only dreams is a very important task." She hesitated. "Though... I will have to work out a better system for determining where my influence is needed... I would rather not be accused of unsavory acts with my students due to another incident such as this..."

"Eeyep..." Aj responded, the oversized girl's eyes darted around the dreamscape, as she kept a firm (albeit gentle) grip on the other figure hiding under her blanket at the moment. "You... um... you won't tell her about this, right? It'd make things really uncomfortable."

Luna chuckled a bit, turning away and walking toward a door that had appeared from nowhere. "The personal lives of my students are only a concern to me when they cause harm to others; your fantasies are safe with me, young Applejack." The door opened without Luna touching it, and she strolled though.

"Alright then," she heard AJ ask as she shut the door behind her. "Where were we?"

The Wisdom of Fools, by Masterweaver (Sex)

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"SEX! SEX EVERYWHERE! AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHshpffblrgalwaaaaaaa— pfft-pfffff..."

The now thoroughly soaked Lemon Zest gave Sunny Flare a flat look.

"Not everybody thinks about sex—"

"I highly doubt that!"

"—all the time."

"That's far more likely," Lemon allowed. "Still, kind of a big deal, given that it was pretty much the way to create life for most of known history, and also kind of fun."

"You're a virgin."

"And how do you know that?"

Sunny half-smiled. "I have my ways."

"Oh-ho-ho! So Flare Bear does have a saucy side!" The drenched Lemon Zest scooted close to the other girl. "So tell me, oh wise one..."

She pressed her chest close to the other's shoulder.

"...can you teach this humble soul the intimate ways of the carnal arts?"

Sunny Flare rolled her eyes. "If you're trying to get a rise out of me, you'll be sadly disappointed."

"What, you straight?"

"No, I just have a very low libido."

"Oh that I can definitely believe. A sopping wet hot chick on your shoulder and you don't even blush?"

"Sopping wet, I'll grant you."

"HEY!"

"You know we're in public, right?" Sunny gave her a look. "And that your mother will probably hear about this?"

"Eh, like she can stop me. Worst she can do is cut me off."

Sunny Flare's eyebrow rose. "That's generally a very bad thing."

"Yeeeeeeees," Lemon drawled, "because money is totes necessary for stuff like shelter, right? But I have a secret I want to tell you."
She looked left. She looked right. She leaned in.

"Money is worthless without people."

"Right, yes, its value only exists because society—"

"No no no, you don't get it. Let me put it another way." Lemon leaned back. "You know the phrase 'Money is power?' I prefer to say 'Money is power translated.' Power can be translated a lot of ways—through money, through military, through magic, through knowledge and study and science—but there is only one real source of power."

"Sunset Shimmer?"

"People." Lemon shrugged. "Sunset is also people, mind, but she's not the only people."

Sunny Flare paused for a moment or two. "...That is actually remarkably deep, now that I think about it."

"Aha! You see, I can do smart!"

"You just choose not to so people underestimate you."

"And so they don't exploit me."

"So, what?" Sunny asked. "Your mom cuts you off, and...?"

"I ask Sugarcoat to house me for a week or two while I look for an apartment. I ask Jet Set to put in a good word for me at some local business, so I can get a job. Maybe I ask one of the other members of the church for charity every once in a while. They do it, because I've made sure--absolutely sure--that I'm worth their time and effort."

"And if they don't?"

Lemon shrugged. "Then you're going to get to see me as a pauper begging at your doorstep for bread."

Sunny snorted. "Why my doorstep?"

"Figured you'd get a kick out of it."

"...I might, at that..."

All a Big Joke, by ArtieStroke

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"I'm just saying—"

"Nope."

"Look, there's a lot of weirdos who'd pay some pretty big bucks—"

"Nope."

Rarity quirked an eyebrow as she sat down at the usual lunch table, Rainbow Dash and Applejack being the only other occupants at the moment.

"What in good heavens am I walking in on?"

Rainbow rolled her eyes, jutting a thumb at the farm girl, "AJ is being a TOTAL stick in the mud refusing to sell her freaky huge-body on the internet for some fun money."

"Ah," Rarity responded, idly twirling the spaghetti on her plate. Typical Rainbow-level antics, per usual, "Yes, I suppose that is so incredibly inconsiderate of her."

She smirked a little, as she brought the fork up to her mouth, "Although, she is allowed to make her own decisions. She is a big girl, after all."

Rarity savored the pasta for about two seconds before Rainbow Dash and Applejack simultaneously burst out laughing and groaned painfully, respectfully.

"F-for you!" Rainbow gasped between giggles.

Rarity merely patted AJ on the arm. "Come now, Applejack. Surely you can be the bigger person and forgive me my one indulgence?"

"Oh, for the love of—!" AJ leveled a glare at Rarity, but those faux-innocent eyes merely batted away the ire with fake lashes.

"Seriously, though," Rainbow said, getting control of herself, "lotta people could be into that sort of thing."

"On a theoretical level, I suppose Dash is right," Rarity said, "Something about a big, strong person there to protect you... I can see the appeal." Dramatically, she lay down across Applejack's lap, linking her hands behind the farmer's neck, "Oh, Applejack- hold me in your big, strong arms~"

For Applejack's part, her face went surprisingly red for someone with a dire lack of chromelanin. She unhooked Rarity's arms, stood up, and absconded without even a glance behind.

"Nope. Nope. Nope! Nope! Nope!"

Rarity and Dash both watched her leave, a little confusion written on both their faces. Rarity hummed, still stretched out over two seats with her head in her hand.

"Well, looks like we got too big for our britches, Rainbow Dash."

"Heh. 'Big'."

Doo Keep Watch, by ArtieStroke and Masterweaver

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(ArtieStroke)

"So, that was pretty crazy, right?" Flash said, taking a seat next to a frazzled-looking Ditzy. She smiled lightly. The courtyard of CHS was gonna need some serious repairs after Cinch's little meltdown.

"I'll say. Still not as bad as that time with the corn starch goo in third grade."

Flash grimaced, his face coloring a little, "Ah man, you still remember that?"

"Pretty sure photos of our faces are still taped next to Mrs. Method's supply closet with 'Do not let these students near non-Applian fluids' written underneath."

They both chuckled at that, but Flash frowned. "Something's eating at ya, Dee."

"Is it that obvious?" Ditzy asked, before sighing, "That one Shadowbolt, Indigo? Dash thought she might have flung herself outside dimensions but..."

"Even with your own weird transdimensional travel stuff, you can't find her?"

Ditzy nodded. Flash put a hand on her shoulder, a small but reassuring smile on his face. "You're top-notch people, Dee. Don't get yourself too worked up about it. Things seem pretty dark before they get light again, you know?"

Ditzy smiled for a moment, before sticking her tongue out and playfully shoving him. "You've always been such a sap, Sentry!"

"Probably got something to do with the cornstarch incident," Flash returned in kind, before standing up, "And hey, if there's anything I could ever do to help..."

"I think the talk was just about what I needed," Ditzy said, smiling. "Now get along, ya big goofball."

Flash grinned, giving a mock salute before going back to... well, whatever sensitive musician types do.

"Wow," Blue Oyster said, taking up Flash's old spot.

"Yeah. Feels like that's the first I've heard Flash say anything in like... months," Raspberry Fluff agreed, seating herself on Ditzy's opposite side.

Our heroine of many planes of existence shrugged. "Guy's had a tough couple of months. His ex is basically god now, you know?"

"Still not god!" Sunset shouted, out of habit.

"Of course you'd know what his deal is," said Blue. "Haven't you two been friends since basically kindergarten?"

"Something like that."

Razz gasped, thoughts aligning, "Wait, you don't think he...?"

Ditzy and Blue looked at Razz for a few moments in confusion, before the same thoughts dawned on them.

"Oh, jeeze I hope not!"

"With her childhood friend? That would be SO cliche!"

All three turned towards the small form of Dinky, chatting with the Crusaders in the aftermath of the games. Ditzy squinted. The purple of her skin didn't look... TOO blue, did it?

(Masterweaver)

Then Ditzy blinked. "Wait—no, hold on this doesn't make sense. Chronologistically speaking—"

Everyone around her groaned. "Skrith damn it," Blue said, metamorphosing into a horrific monster, "can't you GALAX-E girls ever be taken in by a mental hallucination?"

"Gotta train for everything," Ditzy replied, flashing into her skirt ensemble. "Traditionally, I'd demand your surrender, but you guys have never taken it."


(ArtieStroke)

"Okay, I'm starting to get Moony's frustration now. Seriously, timelines!! Always timelines!!!!"

Wiz gave Minuette a look for just a moment, turning in confusion to his brother mid-bite into his PB & J. Featherweight shrugged. "Honestly I think it just makes it more obvious how much of a comic-book world we live in now."

Minuette rolled her eyes, "Yeah, well at least you don't get time-sick every time someone sticks an event where it shouldn't be."

"Time-sick?"

Minuette shuddered, "You don't wanna know. Though unfortunately I think you MIGHT some time next Tuesday. Sorry in advance." She frowned a little. "For some reason it's always Tuesdays that are the worst of it. Hmm."

"Maybe there's some kind of temporal connection to tacos in abundance? Like some kind of Neighican-food-anchor?" Wiz suggested.

Minuette looked at him for a long moment, before tapping a finger to her chin thoughtfully. "Honestly? Better hypothesis than anything I've thought up so far."

Peril Quarter, by Masterweaver, FoME, and SaintAbsol

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(Masterweaver)

"HOLY HECK! You have a functional HOLODECK!"

"Yes, Miss Sparkle. It took a few years to produce but—"

"An actual holodeck for actual training of actual super-heroes!" The purple girl's eyes were wide as she quivered in glee. "I... I just..."

"Wow." Sunset giggled. "I've heard of nerdgasms before, but—"

"This isn't a nerdgasm. This is nerdvana." Twilight hugged one of the projected monsters. "I am living a geek's dream."

Fancy Pants gave a small chuckle of his own. "Glad you approve, Miss Sparkle."

"So I get the holodeck thing," Sunset offered, "and I can totally see why you're going with this. But, um... why did Celestia want me to look it over?"

"Oh. Well, you see, we were planning to use some of your... incidents in our training. The Friendship Games, for instance. Everything that happened there would be a good example of a typical Power Patriot scenario: civilians hypnotized and superpowered, requiring quick thinking and delicate consideration—"

"Ah, right. Yeah, sure, I'm cool with it. Might want to check with everyone that was involved though. And make some other scenarios."

"You've got to pull some stuff from comics," Twilight demanded. "And books. Movies. Video games. This is a live action video game. We can actually—"

"Twilight?" Sunset gripped her shoulders. "Breathe. This is a training room, for people who will be going into dangerous situations. This is not meant to be fun. This is meant to be serious."

"...I mean... it can be both, right?"

(FoME)

"Fancy Industries is planning on a recreational version as a long-term project."

Sunset gave Fancy a harried look. "Mr. Pants, with all due respect, I am trying to defuse a barely subcritical Twilight Sparkle here. You aren't helping."

(SaintAbsol)

"I WANT TO HUG MY POKÉMON!"

"See what I mean?"

Sunny Delight, by Masterweaver

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"...Hey Flare Bear?"

Sunny Flare rolled her eyes. "What is it, Lemon?"

"Are we, like, friends now?"

"....what?"

"I mean, I've been hanging around you and being my usual crazy self. Maybe not as crazy, but you know, still the thing that would have ticked you off in the past, and you've been exasperated but you haven't told me to make tracks like you used to." The pink girl shrugged. "What's up with that?"

"I've learned that it's impossible to convince you to leave, so I endure your nonsense."

"Yeah, that would be a lot more convincing if you didn't actually talk with me. You're answering my question, there's some sort of... some connection there."

"We are both top five Crystal Prep students," Sunny pointed out. "And that means we will almost inevitably be interacting for a long time."

"Sunny, have you ever heard the term 'tsundere?'"

"I have never demonstrated any deredere ways. I do not regard you with affection, romantic or platonic."

Lemon Zest tapped her fingers together. "But... you don't hate me anymore, right?"

"I... What?" Sunny Flare looked up. "Hate you? I've never hated you. Despised you, certainly, considered you a frivolous girl who coasted by on her connections and acted out to unset the balance of society, but that was just disgust. Not hatred." She paused. "And... I will admit, you have proven yourself to have some level of depth behind your actions."

"Oh. So... do you still despise me, then?"

"No, Lemon Zest. These days, I merely find you irritating."

"Enh, that's fair, I kinda think everyone does."

Sunny Flare glanced up. "You know, you could try to be less irritating."

"Yeah, I could." Lemon paused. "Don't think I want to, though. Irritation is great for getting people to say how they really feel, and that always helps when figuring out what they need."

"Still playing the trickster therapist, then?"

The girl grinned broadly. "You know it, babe."

"...new rule: no flirty nicknames."

"But what if we start dating at some point?"

"The rule will never be abolished."

Hocus Pocus Beginnings, by Void Knight

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“No thanks, Ditzy,” said Twilight. “I don’t play Hocus Pocus: the Get-Together much these days, remember?”

“Oh. Right, I forgot about… that,” replied Ditzy, momentarily looking Very Wise Indeed before scooting down two spaces to sit across from Pinkie, who promptly pulled a deck out of her hair.

“Forgot about what?” asked Sunset after swallowing a mouthful of daisy sandwich. “Judging from the way Ditzy’s acting, I’m guessing there’s a story here?”

Twilight sighed. “You’ll find out sooner or later, specially if you keep poking around the bits of Hocus Pocus magic that are popping up these days. And it’s not really bad, just embarrassing.”

“Embarrassing?” asked Sunset.

“Ok, here’s the thing,” said Twilight. “A couple of years back, Warlocks on the Mount did what was basically a reboot of Hocus Pocus. Starting a new era, with each set connected into one overarching story. A story revolving around five planewalkers, one for each of the five colors. Short Fuse for red, Deep Thought for blue, Femme Fatale for black, Worldwaker for green, and for white…” she paused for a moment, “…Shining Armor.”

“What?” said Sunset in astonishment.

“Yep. Complete coincidence, as far as I can tell. But still, it’s kind of hard to enjoy the story when one of the main characters is named after your brother. Though to be fair, there are much worse characters that could be named after him."

There was a moment's pause, then Twilight said contemplatively, "Funny thing is, if it had started now, it probably wouldn't have affected me so much. When your girlfriend is God Not-Far-Short-Of-Almighty and a decent chunk of the planet worships you as a living saint, having one of the protagonist of a card game be named after your brother is small potatoes in comparison. It's amazing what you can get used to, given time. Maybe I'll dust off the cards."

"Maybe you can teach me," said Sunset. "If I'm to get a handle on these pentachromic leaks, it might help to understand this game. Plus it sounds like a lot of fun."

Twisted Tales, by ArtieStroke

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"You girls wanna Woohoo?"

"Please," Aria said, slumping onto the table in front of her mic, "the only thing worse than the inane questions our viewers send in are the random Woohoo asks they submit."

"Just read the submission, Sonata," Adagio said, filing her nails. The girl obliged.
"Alrighty, this one was sent in by Level 9000 Red Cloaks Captain Quill Davenport—thank you, Davenport! It reads, 'Really freaked out my girlfriend, need help'."

Adagio perked up, "Ooh, relationship advice, my favorite."

Sonata giggled, "You ain't seen NOTHING yet. Anyways, 'When I was younger I dealt with depression, and as a coping mechanism I formed a bit of a bond with the comic character Pasta Cat."

"Oh, please no—"

"It's sad, but reading his shenanigans was the only thing that helped me cope, and eventually it took on an—pff... EROTIC FIXATION!"
Sonata howled with laughter, pounding the table as Adagio's interest quickly waned. Great, just another great big goof. Her talents were wasted on this advice podcast.

Aria, on the other hand... "Holy SHIT this GOLDEN. Is there more?!"

Sonata nodded through her tears of laughter, "In order... PFFF... in order to not feel like some kind of sicko, I started drawing Pasta Cat with a GIRL'S BODY. And in parenthesis, 'think circa mid 90s Chrysalis'."

"Fucking nailed it in ONE. DEFINITELY not the work of a sicko," Aria laughed.

Adagio shrugged. "Honestly, I've seen weirder on the Internet. This is child's play."

"Putting a pin in THAT thought," Aria said, motioning Sonata to continue.

She cleared her throat. "Anyways, long story short, my girlfriend stumbled onto the hidden folder in my computer where I kept my years worth of self-insert fanfiction. How do I show her that I'm just a normal guy with a unique outlet for my emotional troubles?"

Aria nodded sagely, "Well, really there's— first of all, when he's getting goosey with Pasta-Catsylis, is that like a thing that happens only on Mondays? Because that makes just, just a lot of sense."

"Poor abomination against sanity probably hasn't had a good lay in any of those stories," Adagio agreed.

Sonata pouted. "I mean, different strokes and all that, yeah? EVERYONE has some feelings deep inside you would never, ever, ever, ever, ever, EVER tell anyone," Adagio and Aria gave each other a very pointed look, "And I'm not saying mine is on the level of cartoon cat-head person-body—"

"The key to success here," Aria interrupted, "Is just keeping that shit locked AWAY. Like, maybe NOT telling the entirety of the Internet about it? Cause that shit's forever."

"Really screwed the pooch on that one." Adagio agreed.

"Or the pussy."

The three of them all had a good laugh, before Sonata got on the mic again, "Alright, I think that's gonna do it for us, folks. This has been My Sister, My Sister and Me, an advice show for the modern era. I'm Sonata Dusk."

"I'm Aria Blaze."

"And I'm Adagio Dazzle. kiss your lover square on the lips."

With a flick, Sonata turned off the recording equipment, grinning, "I think this may be our best episode yet."

Strangers in a Strange Land, by Thought Prism

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The western Badlands were aptly named. With rain being as scarce there as Pinkie was hyperactive, the area was perpetually dry. Cracks permeated the sun-scorched earth, and only the hardiest of life forms could survive there, magic or not.

It was in that inhospitable place, with nigh but tumbleweeds for company, did something wholly unusual happen. Without warning, a jagged portal appeared, and two men stepped through the gash.

The first had the grizzled expression of a hardened warrior, with a five-o’clock shadow to match. He wore tan and lavender robes, their edges lined with fur, under a navy blue half-cape. His long black hair was streaked with grey, and pinned in place by a pewter hairpiece. A straight scabbard rested on his belt.

The second had the bearing and appearance of an aristocrat, composed and in control. His robes were blue, decorated with patterns of falling snow that matched his pristine white hair. In his hand was an elaborate smoking pipe, and on his head sat an equally elaborate diadem of silver and crystal.

Both took stock of their surroundings. His brow furrowing, the man with the pipe took a long puff and sighed. “Well,” he began, “This place looks—“

However, he was cut off. Because Sunset Shimmer had seen the wound in spacetime along with the two men who appeared from it, and only just now finished politely excusing herself from band practice with the girls.

Naturally, when she manifested herself directly in front of the pair, arms crossed in frustration, they were rather shocked.

“Woah!” the swordsman exclaimed, leaping to the side with his hand poised to draw.

“—promising,” the aristocrat finished. Then, he blinked at Sunset. “Why, hello there. What, may I ask, is a fine young lady such as yourself doing in a place like this?”

That’s what you ask first?” said the swordsman, no longer reeling. “Not ‘how did you just appear out of nowhere?’ or even ‘do you need some ointment for your massive sunburns?’”

Sunset groaned. “I should be the one asking you questions. Considering you two kinda just tore a gaping hole in the fabric of the universe. Which, I might add, I’ve been working very hard to hold together 24/7.”

The swordsman scratched his nose and thought for a moment. “Oh, so you’re some kind of god, then? I wouldn’t have guessed.”

“I don’t like to think so, but that is the common consensus, yes,” Sunset replied, still unamused. “My name is Sunset Shimmer. I watch over this world, and protect it from magical threats. That said, I’m going to assume you are one unless you can convince me otherwise.”

The swordsman’s face paled a bit, and he glanced over to the aristocrat. “What should I do?” he asked.

The aristocrat waved his hand noncommittally. “I couldn’t say. I’m just a spectator here, after all.”

The swordsman sighed. “Well, I’m Shāng Bù Huàn, and this guy next to me goes by Lǐn Xuě Yā. And we’re, uhh, looking for a safe place.”

Sunset’s eyebrow rose. “Really, now? Define ‘safe place’ for me.”

“You know,” began Bù Huàn, “a world without any crazy villians or demon lords. Somewhere secure.”

“We’re refugees,” said Xuě Yā.

Sunset made a show of sizing up the both of them. Bù Huàn looked uneasy. “Yeah, not buying it,” she said. “If that’s the case, why are there only two of you?”

“Stop lying all the time, Xuě Yā!” exclaimed Bù Huàn. “You made it worse!”

“I didn’t think you were actually going to try and tell this woman the truth,” he replied calmly. “If she is lying, we could be dooming thousands by believing her. And if she isn’t, she may smite us for our insolence.”

“I don’t know why I put up with you…” Bù Huàn muttered to himself.

Sunset cleared her throat. “Why are you actually here?”

Bù Huàn scratched his nose again. “The short answer? I’m trying to get rid of a bunch of powerful magic swords I don’t want falling into the wrong hands.”

“Magic swords,” repeated Sunset. “In plural?”

Xuě Yā nodded. “I believe he has thirty-five in his possession at the moment. Each one is capable of slayings gods and demons alike.”

Sunset’s jaw slowly dropped.

“So, now you know,” said Bù Huàn. “After we look around here for a while, and if it turns out this world of yours actually is safe, I was thinking you could find a good place to put them. Maybe? It would be a huge relief.”

Sunset snapped. “I am not letting you offload thirty-five god slaying swords here!”

“Actually, he’d be keeping the Infinity Carver, so thirty-four,” noted Xuě Yā. “We’d require that one if the need to return here arose.”

“Like that makes a difference?” shouted Sunset. “Yeah, still a no.”

“What? Why not?” Bù Huàn asked, frowning. “They can be useful, otherwise I would have just destroyed them all already.”

Sunset facepalmed. “Look, Bù Huàn, was it? I’m sure they are quite useful. But I pretty much am a god; you think I’d be comfortable keeping them around? Not only that, Earth, the world you’re on right now, already has far too much extradimensional magic for comfort. If these swords of yours are as dangerous as you say, just bringing them here might end up adding enough energy to destabilize reality enough that it becomes beyond my ability to fix. Then the universe would implode.”

Bù Huàn blanched. “Uhh…”

This prompted an identical reaction in Sunset. “Oh Celestia, you brought them all here with you.”

“It’s ok!” he assured. “Eh, probably. They’re all bound in a sealing scroll, and the scroll is locked within my qi.”

Sunset sighed in relief. “Thank goodness. For a second there, I thought their magic was so foreign I couldn’t sense them, and that our doom approached as we spoke.”

Bù Huàn chuckled awkwardly.

“So,” said Xuě Yā suddenly, “I take it you’d wish us to leave immediately?”

“That would be ideal, yes,” agreed Sunset, nodding.

Bù Huàn shook his head. “It’s always something or other with these extradimensional realms. I’m starting to think we should have just stayed in Dōng Lí.”

“Oh, it’s not all bad,” said Xuě Yā. “I did just have the pleasure of utterly humiliating a giant, mallet-wielding penguin not two hours ago, after all.”

Bù Huàn rolled his eyes at that. “Speak for yourself, why don’t you?”

Sunset tapped her foot impatiently. “Less banter, more exiting, please.”

“Right. Sorry. Let’s go, Xuě Yā.”

With that, the two of them stepped back towards the portal, their garments fluttering in the dry winds. About thirty seconds after they passed though, it stitched itself shut from the other side.

Sunset took a deep breath, confirming with her senses that the damage was completely reversed. Then, an idea popped into her head, which she then voiced aloud to better cement internally. “Hmm. Maybe I could have Ditzy track those two down if the angst monsters ever become too much to handle. But for now, it’s back to shredding some strings.”

She then vanished, and the Badlands were once again empty.

Parting Gift, by BenRG

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It wasn't until a few hours later that Sunset, responding to some instinctive urge, returned to realise that a firmly non-magical sword and dagger (previously hidden under some kind of invisibility ward) were sticking in the ground of the badlands more or less exactly where the two extradimensional visitors had been standing. The two weapons were definitely nonmagical. There was absolutely no doubt about it. Every test that Twilight and Mr. Discord could do to analyse it proved that they were two completely mundane constructions of steel with brass and and quartz decorations in fine-tooled leather sheaths.

This indubitable fact didn't make Sunset any happier about the fact that the rapier and its matched main-gauche had visibly sparked as if charged with static electricity when Sunset touched them for the first time. It also didn't change the fact that these weapons, which Sunset had never seen before, had her Cutie Mark at the join of blade, guard and hilt made out of shaped coloured crystal. There were no prophetic dreams; there were no strange magical signs (beyond Sunset's own magic very occasionally reacting to the weapons in odd ways that might have been more to do with the crystalline decorations;) there was certainly no indication that either weapon could do anything other than what they were overtly designed to do.

Sunset was still worried.

Twilight was quite worried when she visited one day to find the sheathed weapons sitting on a chair opposite Sunset in her apartment. Her girlfriend was staring at them as though she were daring them to speak to her or something similar. After a moment, Twilight broke the silence. "So, what are you going to do with them? Are you going to magic them out of existence?"

"That's my first impulse, but no. I don't trust coincidence and I suspect that destroying them would probably break something somewhere. Until I know what's going on, I'm keeping these things where I can keep an eye on them. I don't trust them not to turn out to have a prophecy about them somewhere!" Sunset grimaced unhappily. "Anyway, I've already tried to give them to Trixie's mom and dad; a magical antiques and curios shop is the best place for them but..." The bacon-haired not-a-goddess ran a hand through her hair. "They keep on turning up here in the morning."

Twilight blinked at that news. "Are you still sure...?"

"The only trace of magic is my own thaumic signature, which worries me. Whatever is happening isn't intrinsic to the rapier and dagger but is some aspect of my own magic that I can't sense consciously."

Twilight considered Sunset's worried expression for a few seconds before she finally decided that she needed to ease the tension of the moment. Thanks to her association with Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie, she concluded that humour was the way to go. "You could always ask Ruby! I'm sure she could get someone to draft a prophecy about them for you!" Twilight giggled at her girlfriend's stricken expression. The lavender-hued mage took a dramatic pose. "They could call it 'Sunset Shimmer and the Legend of the Sun Blades'!"

Sunset's mouth worked silently for a moment. "No," she said at last. "Just... No."

Twilight decided to try her second line of attack and sat down next to Sunset and draw her into an affectionate hug. There is no reason whatsoever to believe that, just as the two girls' attention was diverted, a strange-hued rainbow of seven colours ran along the length of the well-crafted but seemingly-mundane weapons.

All Poured Out, by FoME

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"I think I hate Starlight Glimmer."

Sunset couldn't help but smile down at the girl in her lap. She tried to keep any condescension out of her tone. "Trust me, Junior, you don't even know what hatred is."

Junior squirmed and scowled on the comfy, understated chair that had taken Sunset five Realms 4 Less catalogs to find. "Do too."

"Define it."

"Not liking someone a lot." After a moment, Junior continued, "Like, really, really a lot."

"I can't tell if you're being this adorable on purpose or not."

After a moment, Junior giggled. "Neither can I." She crossed her arms. "Though I still don't like Starlight."

"Why not?" said Sunset.

"She used me, broke parts of me, stays in me without anypony asking me what I think, got some of my friends to set me on fire and flood me, and taught her own friend how to teleport my organs."

"Okay, those are pretty good— Wait, what was that about your organs?"

Junior slumped. "Long story. And just when I thought she might be going, she gets to stay anyway. And nopony asked me again!"

Sunset held back most of her laughter. "Do they even know you're there to ask?"

"Well..."

"And she did fix the damage she caused, right?"

"Yeah, I guess."

"And from what I've heard, the fact that she's making friends at all without brainwashing them is a huge, harmonious step forward for her."

Junior squirmed a bit, then looked up at Sunset. "And she did help with the whole changeling invasion thing."

Sunset nodded. "There you go."

"I still wish somepony would ask me how I feel about it."

"How about I go write Twilight and tell her how you feel?"

Junior hopped off the chair and beamed as she picked up the castle hat she'd left on Sunset's end table. "That'd be great! Thanks, Aunt Sunset!"

Sunset grimaced. "I'm... really not comfortable with the idea of being a castle's aunt."

Junior paused in front of the portal to Equestria's Astral Plane. "Cousin?"

"Cousin works."


Starlight blinked and shook her head. "I've offended your house?"

Twilight reread the latest missive from Sunset, then nodded. "Several times over, apparently."

"I... That doesn't even... What?"

Twilight shrugged her wings. "I mean, it is the offspring of the Tree of Harmony."

"Even by your standards, no, by Sunset Shimmer's standards, this is bizarre."

"I don't disagree, but I think you still owe somecastle an apology."

Starlight sighed. "Promise to never say 'somecastle' again, and it's a deal."

Indigo Origins, by Void Knight

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Over the past several months, the students at Canterlot High had gotten used to having strange people popping out of the Wondercolt statue with little or no warning. And so it was that when four individuals stepped out of the statue, quite a few of those passing by didn’t give them a second glance. But of those who did give them that second glance, virtually all went back for third and fourth glances. Even by Canterlot High standards, this was unusual.

Two of the four visitors were familiar to the student population of Canterlot. One was, apparently, Vice Principal Beleren from Ravnica High dressed in a very formal, if somewhat rumpled and ill-fitting suit and tie. The second was a supremely furious Indigo Zap, handcuffed, surrounded by a cylinder of glowing blue and white runes, and being manhandled by the third individual, a burly figure covered in full-body riot armor in white-trimmed blue. The fourth figure was a unicorn-aspect woman clad in a police uniform and what looked to be a bulletproof vest, only made of silver and with a cape the same rich blue as her eyes and gem.

Vice Principal Beleren’s headgem lit up, but he didn’t seem to be actually doing anything. There was a moment’s silence as the three aliens and the returnee regarded the locals. Vice Principal Beleren made several interesting faces, but before he could do or say anything, Sunset Shimmer materialized in a flash of light.

“Ok,” said Sunset. “Who are you, what are you doing here, how’d you get past customs, and why do you look like Vice Principal Beleren?”

“In reverse order,” replied the one who evidently wasn’t Vice Principal Beleren, “I have no idea why this world has a Jace Beleren as well, we didn’t know there were any customs but would be quite happy to go through properly, and we’re here to work out jurisdiction and legal protocols for trying her…” here a wave of one hand indicated Indigo, “… given that she’s technically a citizen of a foreign polity.”

“Wait, trying her?” Sunset looked confused. “Trying her for what?”

The woman in the silver vest spoke up, a flicker of light sparking in her gem. “Indigo Zap is currently charged with five hundred thirty-seven counts of criminal enthrallment, seventeen counts of vandalism and destruction of private property worth a total of seven thousand two hundred eleven zinos, two counts of destruction of public property worth three thousand one hundred forty-five zinos, seventeen counts of assault with a lethal weapon, nine counts of assaulting an officer of the law with a lethal weapon, two counts of assaulting an officer of the law with another officer of the law, two counts of unnecessary tossing of the citizenry, one count of public indecency, one count of…”

“Celestia's left wing, what happened?” blurted out Sunset, cutting off the woman’s recitation. “And you,” she said, leveling a finger at the man in the suit, “stop poking around in people’s heads. I can tell you’re doing it, even if you’re smart enough not to try it on me.”

The man looked embarrassed. “Sorry about that,” he said. “Most people don’t notice, and it’s the quickest way to find out what they do and don’t know so I can explain. As for your question, the short version is that Indigo planeswalked into the middle of a market, enthralled most everyone in sight, and when a few people resisted or blocked the effect, she got angry and started throwing lightning around. Started by blasting buildings, but moved on to going after people pretty quickly. Luckily, there were Azorius and Boros forces on station, so they were able to subdue her with no fatalities. And to belatedly offer some introductions, I’m Jace Beleren, Guildpact of Ravnica. Given that working out the legalities for Indigo’s trial involved extraplanar matters, it was determined that I was the logical person to handle it. This is Lavinia, my aide, and the one holding Indigo is Arrestor Calian.”

“Well,” said Sunset, “guess I had better get Lyra. She's the closest thing we have to an expert on multidimensional legal codes. Then we can go speak to… I guess the president, or maybe the Supreme Court? This is going to take a while.”

“Justice always does,” said Lavinia calmly.

Card of the Short

Indigo, Jealous God 1BR
Planeswalker — Indigo
+1: You may sacrifice a creature. If you do, put a number of loyalty counters on Indigo, Jealous God equal to that creature's toughness.
-2: Gain control of target creature until end of turn. Untap that creature. It gains haste until end of turn.
-X: Indigo deals X damage divided as you choose among any number of target creatures and/or players.
3

Plight of the Xenophile, by FoME and Masterweaver

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(FoME)

"Hello, Dr. Anxiety." Twilight settled herself onto the couch and smiled at her therapist.

"Good afternoon, Twilight," said Deep Anxiety, Psy.D., much as she had before her metamorphosis. She might have been probing Twilight's psychological weaknesses before Chrysalis was deposed, but she was still a darn good therapist.

Besides, both knew that Ponyville needed all the mental health professionals it could get.

"I wanted to discuss the human world this week."

Dr. Anxiety took a notepad and quill in her magic "Very well."

"Specifically, certain..." Twilight bit her lip and fidgeted. "Certain romantic concerns."

"Certainly. Honestly, I'm surprised we don't discuss such matters more often. A mind that's normally a one-point-five on the Linseed intensity axis suddenly thrust in the body and brain of a glorified bonobo?" Dr. Anxiety shook her head. "That sort of thing would throw anypony off-balance. So, what brought this up?"

"This... may sound strange."

Deep smiled and looked over her glasses. "Twilight, I'm Ponyville's resident psychologist, I metabolize emotional energy, and I look like I sprang out of a melting box of crayons. Trust me, whatever it is, I've heard stranger."

"It's just... I don't understand why I never seem to feel this way about ponies."

"As I said, you just don't feel romantic and sexual attraction very strongly, and there's nothing wrong with that. You're the Princess of Friendship, after all."

"But even when I was a unicorn..." Twilight shook her head. "Well, when I was a unicorn, I either had my muzzle stuck in a book or was just trying to figure out how friendship worked. I definitely wasn't ready for anything more. But then Sunset took my crown, I went through the mirror, and..." She trailed off.

"You found yourself drowning in ape hormones," said Dr. Anxiety. "Take it from a shapeshifter, the mind is the plaything of the body. That first shift is always a doozy, especially such a dramatic one."

"I know, I know. We've been over this. And for so long, the sensations I felt while human seemed like something out of a dream on this side of the mirror. But now... Now I think I've actually found the one." Twilight sighed. "And she's taken. And in another universe."

"Ah." Dr. Anxiety refilled the quill and set it to scratching on the notepad once more. "You know, I suspected there might something between you and Sunset."

Twilight looked away. "Um, actually, not Sunset."

"Really? Well, I'm not entirely certain how well the qualities carry over between the two worlds, but I would think that you could at least try to court the lucky human's pony equivalent."

"That's not really an option," said Twilight, her growing blush making her change colors like the dawn sky.

Dr. Anxiety considered this. "One of the princesses?"

"Yes." Twilight brought a hoof to her chest. "Specifically this princess."

"... I see."

"She's just so brilliant!" Twilight cried, her eyes tearing up. "I finally see why Rarity kept saying I was pretty even back before I ascended! And she's so obviously happy with Sunset!"

Deep sighed and got out a box of tissues. She had a feeling they'd be seeing a lot of use.


(Masterweaver)

Sweetie stared at the three girls talking. "...Well. Huh."

"What?" Scootaloo looked between her and the girls. "Oh. Let me guess, crazy future vision you didn't expect?"

"Mmmyeah."

Apple Bloom shrugged. "You gotta expect that with them. I mean, Sunset's pretty high on the totem pole these days, the pony Twi's a princess, and all three are certified and certifiable geniuses. Anythin' they talk 'bout is probably—"

"No, it's not like that. It's..." Sweetie paused.

"It's what?" Scootaloo asked.

"Well, uh... if certain things happen in certain ways, then Sunset is going to have a very... interesting wedding."

"It's gonna be interestin' anyway," Apple Bloom pointed out.

"No, I mean... VERY interesting." Sweetie coughed. "Six rings interesting."

"Oh." Scootaloo considered those words. "OH! Hmm. Well. Gee. I... hmm."

"...I'm a mite conflicted," Apple Bloom admitted. "It's their life, and Ah guess it could work out—"

"Yeah, they're not at that stage yet," Sweetie Belle agreed. "Some work's going to have to be done, but I think the close interactions will help a lot—"

"It's more 'I'm personally uncomfortable with this' kind of conflict then 'it ain't gonna work' conflict."

Scootaloo rolled her eyes. "Your thing's the past, Bloom. Not saying it ain't useful, but I think this is more a collab between me and Sweetie."

"Right. Right. Ah'll just work on figurin' out those lost caves in Neighvada fer the moment."

"We don't have to talk about it while you're here," Sweetie Belle allowed.

"Nah, nah. It's happened before, it'll happen again. Best Ah get used to the idea."

Scootaloo shrugged. "Wouldn't work for me either, but those three? Yeah sure." She turned to Sweetie Belle. "So, what things need to happen, and when do you need them?"

Counsel of Harmony, by Masterweaver

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"Soooo..." Applejack drawled as they filed into the music room. "What's this about, Sunset?"

"I got a rather personal prayer but I need a local view before I act."

The others glanced between each other, before Twilight eventually sighed. "Alright, I'll be the one that says it: we need more detail."

"Okay." Sunset took a breath. "Oooookay. Um. Somebody moved away from their home and, after a few stumbles, made a new life and a new identity, they've been very successful, but somebody from their old life has shown up and is using... money and politics to block something they have been working their whole life toward, so they asked me for a shortcut."

"That doesn't explain why you need a local view," Rarity pointed out. "What's this shortcut that they requested?"

"They, uh... they asked me for a transition treatment."

Fluttershy blinked. "Oh. Ooooooh. FtM or MtF?"

"Male to female. It's not a question of whether I can do it—people here have already made the spells—or even whether I should help. It's more... should I directly transform her, or arrange for the guy blocking her to be arrested, or have a mysterious opportunity or what?"

"So you're going to help, but you're not sure how to help her." Pinkie nodded. "Yeah, I can relate to that. A lot of people at this school are just flat out weird."

The other girls stared at her.

"Excuse me," she said sternly, "but I think you'll find my weirdness is variable, not flat."

Rainbow held up a finger, paused, and lowered it. "I... can't actually argue with that. Anyway... From what I'm hearing, this girl worked herself out of a bad situation through hard work and tough choices, right?"

"Yeah, basically."

"So she's not exactly going to be happy being handed a win. I mean she'll appreciate it, sure, but it won't feel earned. On the other hand, this is a thing that's pretty personal to her, and she won't exactly like a 'You've got to handle this on your own' message cause it feels like God herself is saying she doesn't have her back."

"Wow. That's not very helpful."

"Actually, it is," Twilight mused. "You shouldn't give her a win, but you should give her a way to win."

Sunset tilted her head. "What?"

"In this specific instance, she's reaching out for support, not for a quick fix. At least, that's what I think is happening here. It would be more useful if I had an actual recording of the prayer in question, but I understand you keeping it private..."

"Tell me, darling," Rarity mused, "did this poor girl emphasize her want to be herself, or her desperation at being stopped?"

Sunset frowned, shutting her eyes. "...the latter."

"Then I think I'm in agreement with Twilight and Rainbow on this. She wants the crown, but she also wants to make sure it can't be stolen; I'd offer her a sword to slay the monster and gain the crown she's been working for, rather then a crown of your own making. Metaphorically speaking, of course."

"Yeah, encouragin' actual murder ain't actually something I'd suggest," Applejack deadpanned. "I'm... not sure I quite agree here. We're all assumin' she'll rise to tha occasion, and she might... or she might try her hardest and fail."

"Well, that's an easy fix," Pinkie chirped. "Let her go on whatever quest she need to defeat Mister mManie, and if she does actually hit an irrevocable failure you manifest as a literal deus ex machina, praise her for making it that far, and give her what she needs to finish it."

"That... actually could work," Sunset mused. "It's a little cliche, but—"

"HOLD UP!"

Everyone blinked, slowly turning to look at Fluttershy.

"This is... this is somebody's life we're talking about! Their core of being! It's not a play, it's not a story, it's... it's somebody, out there, in a desperate situation! For all we know this is somebody that we've actually met! We can't just... decide this, we can't just—"

"Fluttershy." Sunset took a breath and let it out. "I am taking this seriously. The thing is though... A lot of people ask me for help every day. I don't like it. And I don't do anything about the lower 'gee, I want it to be sunny' or 'I hope I can make it to work on time' kind of things. But... this is different. The kind of people I do help, they aren't just asking for my assistance. They're surrendering their fate to me, even if only for a time."

Fluttershy stared at her. "That.... that's insane."

"I know. And I get things like this every day." Sunset chuckled dryly. "Well, not involving transgenderism, but desperation? Outside forces? The last beacon of hope being the bacon horse? There are twelve billion sophants on earth alone, and even if I only got one out of a billion every week, that would still be twelve per week. I don't talk about it, I... I don't want to unload that on you all, but..."
She sighed. "The point is, this person, I have to give her a solution that fits her, specifically. And in this specific instance, a quest is a good idea. In another, I might just transform somebody and be done with it. Or transport them to another country. Or... do nothing, because anything I did would make the situation worse."

"...I didn't..." Fluttershy gulped. "I didn't realize. I mean, I knew you were different now, but..."

Sunset held her gaze for a moment. "What do you think I should do? In this instance, I mean."

The yellow girl steadied herself. "...Balance. She has been unbalanced, and she needs to find balance again. If you can grant her that... then I'll support you."

"...That is simultaneously incredibly helpful and frustratingly vague." Sunset sighed. "Okay. I think I know what to do now. Do you... want me to tell you all how it turns out?"

Rainbow shook her head. "Nah. Like Shy said, this is somebody real. She let you into her life for this; we're not going to be, uh, what's the word Rarity?"

"Voyeurs?"

"Yeah, void ears."

Twilight crossed her arms. "You're doing that deliberately."

"Doing what?"

"Mispronouncing a word in a humorous attempt to break the tension."

"Hmm," Pinkie mused. "Well, it is working. Not what I would have done, but to each their own."

Applejack chuckled. "Still. Point's been made, I think. Not quite comfortable with this, but I guess it might be the best, and no," she added when Sunset opened her mouth, "I ain't gonna ask how things went neither. I'm a random stranger to her, she deserves ta celebrate or commiserate with her friends."

Fluttershy sagged against a wall. "I... I'm just... I'm amazed this is my life now..."

Counsel 2: Obstetric Boogaloo, by Masterweaver

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"... So why did you need a local view?"

"Huh?"

"That thing you talked to us about in the music room," Twilight clarified. "Why'd you need a local view? I mean, it seemed pretty clean cut, all things considered..."

Sunset chuckled awkwardly. "Um... well... it was the transgenderism angle. That's not actually... common in Equestria."

Twilight blinked. "It's... not?"

"No. You remember how I said sex change spells were supposed to be impossible, back when this all began?"

"...Kind of, yeah."

"Well, it's because... equestrian magic is based on harmonic resonance. And ponies are incredibly magical, to the point it affects development prior to birth."

Twilight blinked. "I'm... not sure what you're saying."

"From a genetic standpoint, ponies are actually sexless."

"...what? How does—wait. Let me guess, there's some magical thing that happens in the womb."

"Yeah. Fetal ponies actually start out with traits from all the tribes—enhanced musculature, wings, a horn—but past a certain point maintaining all those structures is a health risk. So the developing soul of a pony infant sort of... reabsorbs the extra material. Pegasi actually have fewer ribs then other ponies, unicorns have a less extensive magivascular system, and because earth ponies got rid of their extra bits they don't need to burn the muscles for fuel."

Twilight tapped her chin. "Okay, I can... see how that would allow for the range of physiological distinctions in the pony species. And... the soul affects the physical sex of the pony?"

"Only in the late game," Sunset replied. "Like a month or two before birth. Still, for ponies the idea of being born in the 'wrong body' is kind of strange to consider, given that our bodies are literally affected by our souls in utero. It happens, but it's only been recognized recently, medically speaking, and our research into the subject is... kind of hampered by the assumption that it's a fetal aberration, not something that can develop in adulthood."

"And here some people think the pony world is perfect," Twilight deadpanned. "What do you mean by fetal aberration, anyway?"

"Basically, sometimes the developing soul interfaces differently with the magical systems and the biological systems. Scootaloo's counterpart, for instance, is a pegasus pony, buuuut she was born with both pegasus and earth pony magic--if she had been born just three decades earlier, the conflicting magics would have put a strain on her system and she would have been doomed to a slow, withering death." Sunset sighed. "Nowadays the magics can be artificially balanced, but it has some side effects—her hydrorepulsion aura is too weak to interact with uncondensed water vapor, so even though she has really strong wings she's incapable of outright flight."

"And that affects tribe, but not gender." Twilight tapped her chin. "So pony research into gender mechanics is something that hasn't been addressed because gender is secondary to tribe in most medical instances, and the societal concern of genders are not as emphasized as a result?"

"It's so much of a non-issue that nopony even realizes it could be an issue. Right up until somepony brings it up." Sunset shrugged. "Here, though, there are genetic differences between sexes, and gender culture is... an increasingly tangled mess of tradition, variation, and prejudice. I wasn't confident that I had the mental equipment to handle all the implications."

"Don't worry, Sunset. I'm sure you'll get the hang of it as you go." Twilight patted her shoulder. "You certainly reacted better then the first time I heard about transgender people."

"Really?"

"Yeah. Crystal Prep still has the... explosion scars." Twilight winced. "In retrospect, I should not have attempted to use chemistry to research sociology."

Notice of Absence, by FoME

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Cobalt Bolt was a simple man. He liked his beer cold, his movies high in explosions, and his daughter within the known universe.

He didn't realize just how much he appreciated that last one until the moment he found out it was no longer true. "So," he said slowly, barely seeing the girl in front of him, "you're saying that even you don't know where she is?"

Sunset Shimmer shook her head. "I really wish I had better news for you, sir. I can say for certain that Indigo was still alive when she broke the space barrier. I have the best people in this universe or any other looking for her."

Cobalt took a deep breath and ran a hand through his namesake hair. "I'll be honest, Miss Shimmer, there's a part of me that really wants to punch you right now. You or Abacus Cinch."

Sunset bit her lip. "I can't say I blame you. I assure you, the moment they get in touch with me, I'll tell you whatever I can."

"Thank you for that, at least."


Lyra Heartstrings sighed as she surveyed the bleak landscape through the visor of her mint-green hazardous condition suit. Normally, her magic could let her survive in just about any environment, but the magic-starved wasteland around her would've dissipated her usual wards in less than a minute, followed by the rest of her. Still, there was a chance that the missing person had landed on one of Starlight Glimmer's cast-off worldlines, and Lyra had drawn the short straw. Plus, her on-board thaumometer was picking up something, which shouldn't have been possible here.

Her steady gait brought her to a chunk of wind-eroded rock. Moving to the lee of the wind, she spotted the telltale facets of harmony crystal, faintly glimmering with residual magic. She sighed. "Just another echo of the Cutie Map."

Then Lyra's gaze turned to what was on top of the table. Scorched into the crystal was a very familiar cutie mark. One that definitely didn't belong to Indigo Zap.

"Oh. Wonderful. A demon Sunset's loose. Because I didn't have enough paperwork."

It should be noted that life in the Equestrian Time-Space Administration Bureau can have a jading effect on its operatives.

Two Pink Girls Yelling at Each Other, by Masterweaver

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"PINKIE PIE!"

"LEMON ZEST!"

"I HAVE A CRAZY IDEA!"

"I WANT TO HEAR THIS CRAZY IDEA!"

"BREAD SHOES!"

"BREAD SHOES?!"

"BREAD BAKED INTO THE SHAPE OF SHOES! AND PEOPLE CAN WEAR THEM!"

"THAT'S POINTLESS AND DISGUSTING!"

"I KNOW RIGHT?!"

"I HAVE A BETTER IDEA!"

"YEAH?!"

"BREAD BRACELETS!"

"WOULDN'T THOSE JUST BE BAGELS?"

"I MEAN YEAH, WE'D HAVE TO MARKET THEM DIFFERENTLY, BUT IF WE DID IT RIGHT IT SHOULD WORK!"

"YOU KNOW WHAT?! LET'S DO IT!"

"YEAH! BUT WE SHOULD PROBABLY TALK SOMEWHERE ELSE! ALL THIS CONSTRUCTION IS WAY TOO LOUD!"

"YEAH WHAT'S UP WITH THAT?!"

"THEY'RE BUILDING A NEW WING FOR EQUESTRIAN EXCHANGE STUDENTS, SHOULD START COMING IN OVER THE SUMMER!"

"OH NEAT! THAT EXPLAINS THAT COMPLICATED DOOHICKY OVER THERE!"

"YEAH, THAT'S THE EQUESTRIAN MORPHIC APPLICATOR! IT'S BASED OFF LYRA'S TORQUE!

"OH YEAH, SHE'S THE GIRL THAT'S SECRETLY A UNICORN RIGHT?!"

"ABSOLUTELY! AND THAT IS A RARE SENTENCE!"

"HEY, YOU THINK WE COULD HOTWIRE ONE OF THOSE CONSTRUCTION VEHICLES AND TAKE IT FOR A JOYRIDE?!"

"COULD, YES! SHOULD, ABSOLUTELY NOT! AT LEAST NOT WITHOUT SUPERVISION!"

"WHY DON'T WE WAIT TILL THEIR WORK SHIFT'S NEARLY OVER AND ASK THEN?!"

"OH MY GOD! I NEVER THOUGHT OF THAT! PATIENCE MIGHT WELL BE THE BEST SOLUTION!"

"YOU DON'T HAVE MUCH PATIENCE HUH?!"

"IT'S MY CURSE!"

Second Look, by Masterweaver

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Your name is Second Person. Your parents weren't exactly the most creative when it came to names—your older brother is named First Person, for crying out loud—and they aren't actually the most supportive either; for the longest time they expected you to turn out just like their other kid, who (let's be honest here) was a musclebound egotist of the highest caliber. It was always one of those 'We love you but you should be better' situations with them. And it only got worse when you were enrolled in Crystal Prep.
But even in the darkest of times, there can be a shining light. And for you, that light was Sour Sweet, a girl with her own issues, to be sure, but one who accepted you without question because you accepted her without question. Well, aside from how you should help during her schizophrenic episodes. That was an awkward but enlightening conversation, and you two grew closer because of it. You've even considered starting a long-term engagement with her; sure, it's unusual at your age, but you figured it might be worth it.

Oh, and then magic happened. Like, literally, you-have-a-gem-in-your-forehead kind of magic, and Sour Sweet can fly on a bow made of light. She seems to give you odd looks on occasion—well, your gem, anyway—but you figure that's just because she's not used to the world changing in a way that everyone can recognize. And she did kind of save your life during the Friendship Games.

Or... your mind, anyway. Principal Cinch really went crazy.

The point is, the world is different, but also kind of the same; people still have the various needs and wants they've always had, they just have new tools for working toward fulfilling them. And that can sometimes lead to odd situations.

Granted, your classes being rescheduled so you share them all with your girlfriend isn't exactly the result of magic. From what you understand, that's more the result of Lemon Zest exploiting Dean Cadance's latent shipping craze and Principal Cinch's newfound guilt complex as a favor to Sour. You are... sort of grateful to Lemon for that, but she's kind of too exuberant for you to be comfortable around her. Also she has this look whenever she sees you two. It's like she expects you to strip and start, uh, getting it on, just so she can watch.

Or maybe it's just you. Sour's never seen it.

Anyway, today began in a very interesting manner. Namely, Sour walked up to you and shoved her pills into your hand. "Don't give these to me unless I absolutely need them."

"Um," you said intelligently.

"I'm experimenting with a new treatment." She tapped the crystal hanging from her neck with a small grin. "Professor Laurel gave me this yesterday. It's supposed to help with my symptoms, and... it is."

"Oh," you said. "Really?"

"Yeah, I'm not feeling nearly as bitchy as I usually do. And there don't seem to be any side effects... yet." She shrugged. "This is kind of experimental though. So, just in case, you know my dosage, right?"

"Yep. And even if I didn't, it's right on the canister." You put it carefully in your coat pocket. "So... is this some sort of magic thing?"

"Well, duh." Sour Sweet rolled her eyes, but there was a faint smile on her lips. "If this works, it could revolutionize modern medicine! I think. Even if it doesn't, it's a data point. You know how it goes."

You nodded, not really understanding, but she seemed confident enough. And you were there in case anything went wrong. Being the gentleman that you are, you held out your arm. "Shall I escort you to class, fair maiden?"

She giggled, hooking her elbow into yours. "Oh, Second, you of all people should know that neither of those words applies to me."

Of course, that has been four and a half hours ago. And for the most part, Sour had seemed okay. But even as you wandered through the school with her, you noticed her eyes getting more... unfocused wouldn't be the right word. Twitchy? She could still see the world around her; she just also seemed to notice other things.

The bell rings, signalling the end of class, and you decide to step up to her quietly. "Sour?"

"Yeah, Second?"

"How's the... how's the crystal working?"

Sour Sweet sighs happily. "Like a dream."

You give her an awkward smile. "That sounds good. But um... are you sure you're okay?"

She gives you a wry smirk. "What, you think I'm becoming addicted to happiness?"

"...Maybe a little."

"No, it's not like that. I mean, I feel anger and sadness but it isn't... overwhelming like it usually is. The crystal is drawing me closer to genuine joy; when I have my swing, it's not as far arcing, in either direction."

You nod, as though you understand. "So, you're not becoming blinded by pure optimism?"

"Nope! It goes both ways. My lows are higher and my highs are lower."

"Oh. I guess that's good."

"It's better then my pills, that's for sure."

"Well, so long as you aren't having problems."

"Of course!" Sour chuckles, gesturing toward thin air. "I have to set a good example for Bitter Honey, don't I?"

You wince.

"...Sour." You take her hand gently. "You know where you are, right?"

"Of course! I'm at Crystal Prep."

"And you're a student here."

"Yes, obviously. Second, what are you going on about?"

You swallow. "And you're... too young to have a child."

Sour Sweet's eyes refocus slightly.

She sighs. "...It's only been her. Not the spiders, just... her. We were having fun."

"I know, Sour, but you told me—"

"I did." She glances at empty space, saddened. "...Can I keep her around for the rest of the day?"

You bite your lip, glancing from your pocket to the jewel around her neck. "...If she doesn't cause any problems."

She looks at you and smiles.

"And you have to take your pills tomorrow."

Her smile fades, slightly. "I... I guess that's fair..."

Le Geek, C'est Chic, by Masterweaver

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"IT'S BEEN TWO HUNDRED CHAPTERS!" Twilight shouted at the screen. "JUST FREAKING KISS ALREADY!"

After a moment, she blinked, looking around with a blush. "Aheh."

Rarity smiled faintly. "I'm glad I'm not the only one that gets caught up in romantic fiction."

"It's not romantic! It's fanfiction!"

"Is there a romance?"

"Well, yes, but—"

"Is it a critical part of the core plot?"

"I mean, I guess it is, but—"

"Then it's romantic fiction," Rarity said with the finality of the infinitely certain.

"She'd know," Sunset pointed out with a grin.

Twilight rubbed the back of her head. "It's not just a romance," she protested faintly. "It's a Mass Distortion/Last Airtwister crossover with a lot of setting detail on how a quasimagical setting and the science fiction could fit together and—"

"Neeeeeerd," Rainbow Dash drawled.

"Hey! I'd like to think I'm a geek these days!"

"Oh yeah? What's the difference?"

"Nerds are experts in their fields because they are socially challenged and feel no need to go outside that paradigm. Geeks are experts in their fields because, well, they love those fields." Twilight smirked evilly. "In fact, you'd be a sports geek."

"Hey!"

"You know the rules to ten different sports and invented a new one," Sunset pointed out.

"...I mean, sure, but that's just cause I'm an athlete." Rainbow looked around at the disbelieving stares. "What? It's true!"

"Sports geek," Twilight singsonged.

"You know by that metric Rarity's a fashion geek," Pinkie pointed out. "And Fluttershy's an animal geek, and Maud's a rock geek, and I'm a party geek, and Applejack... uh. Hmm. I want to say farming geek, but she doesn't seem to geek out about farming. It's just life for her."

"Brickos."

Pinkie blinked, turning to Applejack. "Er... what?"

"Brickos," she repeated. "I know every set that's been sold in the past five years, bought a good half of them, and..." She coughed into her fist. "I maaaay kinda have a whole cellar tah mahself."

"Oh. Wow. Brickos." Pinkie paused. "...So what are your thoughts on GigaBloks?"

"They are a blight upon tha world!"

"She's tried to convince me to melt them all," Sunset deadpanned.

"I'm tellin' ya, Sunset, you'd be doin' everyone a favor!"

Twilight gave a small snort. "Do you know how crazy you sound right now?"

"About as crazy as tha chick who yelled at a screen cause her ship was takin' too long?"

The purple girl's blush returned with a vengeance. "I mean... two hundred chapters. It's ridiculous, right?"

"Well, if you want a kiss," Sunset purred, "why not just do it yourself?"

"....you mean write my own shipfic?"

Sunset frowned.

Twilight gave her a sly smirk. "Or did you mean this?" She grabbed her chin and dragged her in.

Sunset wordlessly confirmed that, yes, that was exactly what she meant.

Reader Response Gap, by FoME

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Sunset answered her doorbell with her brow already furrowed. Scrying helped a lot with unexpected guests, including ones bearing scowls and paper grocery bags. "Shining Armor? What are you doing here?"

With great solemnity, he said, "Darmok and Jalad."

"What?"

"Exactly. May I come in?"

Sunset hesitated for only a moment, still trying to parse the nonsense. "Sure."

"Thank you." Shining strode in, taking the sparse decor with a grim intensity Sunset hadn't seen since the last time Rarity had looked at plaid. "Right now, part of me wants to play the intimidating big brother, but the rest knows how that's not going to turn out well."

"Honestly, you're doing a pretty good job."

"You may not want to tell Dad that. Last time he mentioned buying a shotgun, I couldn't tell if he was joking."

"So!" Sunset forced a smile. "Other than implicit threats of buckshot in my face, what brings you to my humble abode?"

"There it is." Shining moved to Sunset's laptop, currently resting on her coffee table. "I may not be Cadence, but I can tell that you're not just Twilight's high school sweetheart. Unless one of you manages to really mess this up, you're going to be my sister-in-law, and that means that I need to make sure you can handle becoming part of our family."

"How do you mean?"

Shining set down the bag and began pulling things out of it. "Darmok and Jalad."

Sunset lingered behind him. "I still don't know what that means."

"Who shot first?"

"Between Darmok and Jalad?"

"Is it secret?" Shining whirled and grabbed Sunset by the shoulders. "Is it safe?"

"The fact that one of those people shot the other? Shining, what are you talking about?"

Shining gave a grim nod. "It's exactly as I feared."

Sunset blinked. "What?"

"Your friends have done their best, but you will be marrying into a family of nerds."

"I think Twilight would dispute your word choice there."

Shining rolled his eyes. "The point is that if you're going to have any chance of being accepted, you have some homework to do." He moved to the side, letting Sunset get a better view of the DVD cases now sitting next to her computer.

She levitated them and had them orbit her, letting her take in all of them. "Space Trek? The Force Wars? The Jewelry Master?"

"Trust me on this one, Sunset. My mother is never going to consider you a daughter if you aren't at least somewhat familiar with these series. The Tambelon 5 discs are still in the mail, but I figured I'd waited long enough to get you started."

"Uh, I guess I should thank you?"

Shining nodded. "Trust me, you will."

How Bacon Horse Saved Yuletide, by Ultra-the-HedgeToaster

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“I... I'm sorry.” Sunset Shimmer massaged her temples for third time in the past five subjective minutes. “It's just... I've had a really bad day. Been having. Still am having.” Sunset sighed. “I guess I was just hoping to spend this special day with my friends and finally get some rest... and then just saw someone threatening the continued existence of reality again, and just... reacted. I, uhm... sorry.”
The de-facto deity rubbed her arms awkwardly, unconsciously balling her hands into fists.

“Look, I appreciate what you're doing. Really, I do. It's wonderful! But this...” She gestured at the snowflakes hanging frozen in mid-air all around them. “This is endangering the fabric of space-time, and I think you'll agree total event collapse would be the worst present ever.”

The old man seemed crestfallen, and Sunset just couldn't help but wince at the sight. There was just something... fundamentally wrong about this man being sad. That, and Pinkie would never forgive her if she didn't fix this.

For now, she wasn't even gonna bring up the whole worldwide mind-reading thing to find out what the children wanted. It brought up the truly bizarre image of him as a male changeling Queen – wearing antlers for some reason – and that was just too weird.

“Look, uhm, Holly, tell you what; you take a break, and I'm gonna look into this right now. I'm sure there's some way you can deliver the right presents to all the children in the world that doesn't involve straining physics to the breaking point.”

~

Five minutes later—which meant nothing much in terms of subjective time—Sunset returned, only to find Old Hollyhock laughing merrily, and an excited pink-skinned girl sitting in his lap babbling a million words a minute.

Even with her reflexes, Sunset had only just enough time to take in the scene before a truly hyper Pinkie Pie jumped straight into her face.

“OhmygoshSunsetHe'srealHe'srealHe'srealHe'realHe'sreal!Ohmygoshohmysoghhsssossbhjbldfnn” And then Pinkie Pie fainted.
Sunset blinked. A quick spell confirmed Pinkie Pie was in perfect health, merely in shock. Sunset carefully deposited the unconscious girl on a nearby sofa.

“Okay, that's... wow. Uhm. So, that happened.”

~

“So, Holly, I think you might get away with it this year, if you take it slowly. That means only slowing down time by a factor of fifty thousand, nothing more. And I should come with you to make sure the friction doesn't cause the air to superheat and ignite the atmosphere. I haven't figured out a long term solution yet, but I'm sure we can—”

Sunset was cut off by a pink missile launching itself at her.

“Sunset Shimmer,” the now fully alert and indeed very conscious Pinkie Pie spoke in a tone so uncharacteristically level and firm, it left no room for any argument at her next statement of fact:

“I am coming with you.”

Tourism-Floored, by SaintAbsol

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Sunset... really didn't know what to think.

It was a nice change, strangely.

Being the closest thing to omniscient as was possible for a physically incarnate goddess, her mind was usually filled with thoughts related to everything from the axis angles of planets, the entropy rate of stars and galaxies, to the interactions between various atomic and subatomic particle that scientists were still debating the existence of. To have her mind rendered blank was a wonderfully refreshing experience that she wasn't aware she had missed until now.

However, as wonderful as it felt, a blank mind wasn't doing much to address the problem at hand.

"I... this is a new experience," she finally said. "Even for me, which is saying something."

"For what it's worth, I'm sorry about this." The light-blue man adjusted the flight jacket he had found himself in since arriving here, then ran a hand through his dark-blue hair. Under the jacket, a white shirt could be seen, with the image of a stylized sun just barely visible on the breast pocket. A pair of black jeans rounded out the ensemble, a lightning bolt surrounded by two cloudy swirls stitched into it. "I... really shouldn't have tried to Planeswalk without someone more experienced around to assist me, especially when I was so close to other ponies."

"I just want to get back to my daughters," a pegasus aspect who looked like Ditzy said, picking at her torn clothing. Her out of sync eyes drifting down to her lower half, where a tattered green skirt only had one limb protruding from beneath it. "And any word on where my other leg got to? I'm going to need to get used to walking on two legs if we're staying here for a while."

"She'll find it," the man assured her, putting his hand on her shoulder. "Then, we'll get you back to your family." He glanced to another member of the group: a unicorn aspect who looked very similar to one Vinyl Scratch, albeit in clothing that would have been more at home in a steampunk convention. With a button up shirt and jacket that hugged her figure tightly, as well a miniskirt that seemed to have actual gears forming the eighth-note symbols on it. Her headgem glowed as she traced the glowing image of a treble clef in midair. "And we'll get you back to Octavia too."

Sunset sighed, rubbing at her temple. "Look, Mister..."

"Markov," he responded. "Soarin' Markov."

"Mister Markov; I'm sure that you didn't mean it, and really do want you all to get home... but I'm afraid I can't really do much to help you other than letting the proper people here know and have them direct you as best they can. I have enough things to worry about in this universe, trying to find ways between them isn't something I can focus on."

"It's alright," Soarin' replied. "I understand entirely. I just felt that, as the local deity, you should be informed of this."

"Yeah," Sunset absently nodded. "Be a lot less weird of most of you didn't look like people I knew."

Right on cue, and seemingly out of nowhere, a blue-skinned and rainbow-haired pegasus aspect alighted on the ground. Unlike the local Dash, though, this one wore what looked like a some sort of 'dress uniform', with a red jacket buttoned over a white shirt, and a pair of tight fitting pants. And, much to Sunset's concern, she carried an actual sword at her side; a short one, clearly meant for one hand, but a sword nonetheless. It was almost more disquieting than the leg she had brought with her.

"Here, I think I got it before anything started chewing on it." She handed the leg over to Ditzy, who proceeded to work on putting it back into her hip socket like it was the most normal thing in the world. Rainbow turned to glance back and forth between Sunset and Soarin'. "So, any idea what kind of time-table we're looking at here?"

Soarin' just shook his head. "Not yet, I'm afraid. But, we'll see how it plays out."

Sunset sighed, pulling her phone out and calling up Lyra's number. "I'm going to call up someone who can probably help you out, but I can't make any promises either. Just... try to not cause too much trouble while your here, okay? The universe has been battered enough."

Night Dealings, by SaintAbsol

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"Hey, Shining Armor?"

Shining looked up from the collection of DVDs that he was using as Sunset's indoct— er, education in the ways of geekdom. "Yeah, Sunset?"

"You keep bringing up how I need to have some sort of 'geekiness' to be a part of your family, and I'm willing to play along since that's what you do in a relationship... but, I have to wonder... aren't you and Dean Cadence in a relationship too?"

"Yeah, and?"

"Well, she doesn't really seem like the 'geek' type."

Shining raised an eyebrow at this. "... You really have no idea, do you?"


Far across town, Mi Amore Cadenza sat calmly in a dimly lit room in her best suit, hands folded together and her face hardened in a way that probably would have made Abacus Cinch proud. She gazed at the sharply dressed man across the table from her, who matched her nearly note for note; a tense silence was held between the two for several moments before he finally spoke. "Do you have my payment?"

"That depends," she responded. "Do you have what I asked for?"

The man simply reached down to the floor and picked up a small case. Placing it on the table, he pushed it toward Cadance before sitting back in his chair.

Carefully, Cadence undid the latch and looked inside. Her eyes widened by a fraction of a margin, before she closed the lid once again. "Very well then." She reached into her jacket's pocket, before withdrawing a fairly sizeable stack of money. "Your payment, at the agreed upon price."

The stack of cash was slid along the table into the man's waiting hand, something that might have been called a smile upon his face. "A pleasure as always," he said, standing up as Cadence did the same. "I trust you'll contact me if you require anything else."

"Of course," she replied, both turning away from each other and heading toward opposite exits to the room.

The latch was undone once more as Cadence walked outside, letting her gaze upon her prize with an almost manic grin. The object within probably held so little value to anyone else, but for her, it was worth every penny of the amount she had just handed over without hesitation. She found herself almost hesitant to touch it, even though it lay in a protective casing even within the box. "Finally," she said, gingerly grasping it at the corners, and holding it up to the light of day. "An Aleph Black Lotus."

Caught Shipping, by SaintAbsol

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Rarity politely chuckled as she walked alongside Rainbow Dash; the blue-skinned girl had just told something that was meant to be a joke, judging by how she had started laughing heartily after finishing. While Rarity didn't understand the joke, it was the ladylike thing to to humor others when in their company.

"Haha, Center Forward," Rainbow repeated to herself, taking a few breaths to calm herself down. A few people were staring at her, but she didn't pay them any mind, just glancing about at he shops as they headed through the downtown area. "So, that sale you mentioned..."

"Just up ahead," Rarity said, nodding toward a sporting goods store a few buildings down. While she was hardly on Rainbow's level of what Twilight continued to refer to as 'sports geekdom,' to say nothing of how utterly garish the outfits associated with it tended to be, but she still had an eye for sales. "It should be going on for another few days, and—" Rarity stopped as something moved at the corner of her eye, and she did a double take as her eyes widened.

Rainbow caught on a second later, looking back to the dumbstruck unicorn aspect. "Huh? Rarity, what's—" Rainbow was cut off as her head was telekinetically grabbed and turned to the side. "Hey, what are you—" Now it was her turn to stop and stare. "... AJ?!"

Applejack, standing at a little over a story tall, paused as she pulled a few pallets' worth of items out of the back of a trailer. "... Oh, howdy girls."

Rarity and Rainbow both shook their heads as they came back to their senses, with Dash speaking up first. "What are you doing here?"

Applejack sheepishly rubbed at the back of her head. "Well, remember back when I accidentally sat on that warehouse and was bein' sued fer it?"

"How could we forget?" Rarity grumbled. "That man was utterly detestable."

"Eeyup," AJ agreed, "but he also had a lot o' lawyers on his payroll. That there 'Gilded Arches' feller did his best, but he couldn't get me off the hook completely; gotta do some Community Service fer a few months." She turned back to the trailer, pulling out another pallet and carrying it over to the loading dock. "Anyway, have fun with whatever yer doin'. Ah gotta stay busy."

"Huh," Rainbow said, crossing her arms with a frown. "That sucks." She shook her head with a sigh, starting to walk away. "Anyway, we should... Rarity?" Rainbow glanced back, then raised one of her eyebrows as she found Rarity hadn't moved from her spot, but was, instead, watching the oversized farmer as she worked, a grin and a bit of a blush on her face as her eyelids lowered slightly. Slowly, a grin began to form on Rainbow's face as well, though this one was decidedly more devious.

Oh, she couldn't help but think, this is going to be fun~

The Electromagnetic Face Covering, by ArtieStroke and Masterweaver

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(ArtieStroke)

"Fire Guard!" Chronicler shouted, his biomechanical friend dumped unceremoniously to the floor. The red aura of fear visibly clung to his armor, only dissipating as Chronicler fell to his knees, hefting his friend's masked face into his arms.

"I was supposed to make the sacrifice," Chronicler said, his voice threatening tears. Fire Guard tried to laugh, but only managed a weak wheeze as his heart-light beat erratically.

"No, the Duty was mine," He managed to say, weakly grabbing the mask out of his satchel- that Spirit-damned masked that dragged him and his friend all across the island on a fool's quest- and now he was going to die.

But Fire Guard had one last thing to do, before he would let the Great Spirit cart him to the end of his Destiny.

"You know who you are, Chronicler," he said, weakly placing the mask in his friend's hands as is glowed to the touch.

"You were always.... different..."

As Fire Guard took his last breath, a wave of sorrow threatened to consume Chronicler. His friend... he wasn't even supposed to BE here! Chronicler only dragged him along because he was afraid of his Duty... and now he was gone.

Chronicler would not let his sacrifice be in vain.

He stood, turning to glare at the trio of the Shadow's sons as the Element Warriors tried to keep them at bay. They were struggling, Wild Fire's mask of shielding buckling under the sons' destructive powers.

With grim determination, Chronicler took the Mask of Light and placed it upon his face.

With a flash, the young Mechronical felt the power the mask contained flow inside him- changing him to suit his newfound Destiny.

Where once a mere villager stood, there was now a golden armored Elemental Warrior, shining brilliantly in the setting sun.

"I am Chronicler, the Warrior of Light!"


Applejack nodded, her eyes closed and friends gathered around her as they continued to watch the film.

"Gets me every time," she said, crying on the inside.

"I can't believe they made a movie out of a toy," Dash said, munching on a fistful of popcorn, "Seems like a total sellout thing to do."

Pinkie snorted back a giggle and ruffled Dash's hair. "Oh, ye of little faith, you know not what you say."

"I just can't get over how much Fire Guard sounds like my brother," Twilight said, as Sunset held her close.

"It is pretty uncanny," Sunset nodded.

"Please, everyone, pipe down during the dramatic moments," Rarity said. AJ nodded her wordless thanks as the teens continued their movie.

(Masterweaver)

"Well that was an interesting movie," Twilight mused. "It's a bit flawed on its own, but still decent. It feels like the mythos was watered down for younger audiences. I get the feeling a lot of this would make more sense if I followed the toyline?"

"Eeeyup."

"I liked the animals," Fluttershy mused. "I mean, I know I like all animals, but the way these were both machine and animal was interesting."

"That giant crab was... especially interesting," Rarity mused. "I'm not sure why, but I think I'd like one... in purple, though."

"And the animation quality was pretty impressive. Alright, I can see how—SWEET SCIENCE, PAUSE IT!!"

"Why?" Rainbow asked. "It's just the credits—"

"GO BACK GO BACK!"

Applejack blinked, rewinding. "Uh, what's got you in a knot, sugarcube?"

"It can't be. It just—Finemare's bongos, he did. He actually..." Twilight pulled out her phone, dialing rapidly.

Sunset glanced at the screen, blinked twice, and quirked an eyebrow. "Sokath, his eyes uncovered."

"Nerdspeak." Rainbow rolled her eyes. "Great."

"Hello? Hey BBBFF, question: WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL ME YOU VOICED A ROBOT MIDGET?!"

Lonely at the Top, by VoidKnight and FoME

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(Void Knight)

The roof of Sunset’s warehouse had a spectacular view of the setting sun, and Twilight and Sunset were taking a rare opportunity to just cuddle up together and enjoy the view.

“You know what one of the worst things about being God is?” murmured Sunset in Twilight’s ear.

“How rarely we get to do this?” suggested Twilight, giving Sunset a squeeze.

“I was actually thinking of the fact that I don’t have anyone to trust in,” said Sunset. “Back before I came here, I had the Princess to look up to. No matter how scary things got, I knew that she was in charge, and so everything would turn out okay. Which, come to think of it, is probably part of why I went so… off my rocker… when I came over here. When you think that someone you trust that absolutely has betrayed you, it really upends your world. But the point is, now that’s me. I’m the one that everyone on the planet trusts to make sure that everything turns out right. But that means that if I make a mistake, there’s nobody who will fix it.” Sunset laughed bitterly. “The fate of the world in my hands, just like I wanted way back before the other Twilight smacked me down. They say to be careful what you wish for…”

(FoME)

"Sunset, you wound me." Both girls looked around for the source of the voice. It became clear when the setting sun opened its eyes. Mr. Discord hoisted himself out of it and, in an eye-watering twist of perspective not at all helped by doing it in front of the sun, placed himself a few feet in front of them. "Do you really think I would allow you to make some trivial error that would annihilate the universe?"

Sunset gave him a flat glare. "We're kind of having a moment here."

"Of course you are. Honestly, just being near you two makes my skin crawl these days." Mr. Discord pulled up a sleeve, revealing tiny mouths crying out "The harmony! The harmony!"

Both girls blanched. Purple magic tugged his sleeve back down. "Could you please never do that again, sir?" said Twilight.

Mr. Discord dipped his head in acknowledgement. "My apologies. Too much time around the sirens; Sonata finds that sort of thing amusing. And I meant no offense. It's an involuntary reaction to the warm fuzzies you two radiate." He ruffled Sunset's hair, making his hand smoke. "Rest assured, Sunset, you may not have anyone further up the totem pole, but you do still have someone else keeping an eye on the integrity of all things. I'll let you two get back to your evening together." He dropped out of view.

Sunset peeked over the edge. No sign of the man. "I... guess that was reassuring?"

"Honestly, I think his social skills have actually improved since the world changed."

"That's disturbing on several levels."

Eclipse-Sworn Oath, by SaintAbsol

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"Got a secret, can you keep it?" Sunshine Smiles sang, a serene smile on her face as her eyes became blacker than black. "Swear this one you'll save. Better lock it, in your pocket, taking this one to the grave~"

The unicorn aspect continued to walk around the fidgeting boy, that same smile on her face even as he started sweating. "If I show you, then I know you won't tell what I said. 'Cause two can keep a secret, if one of them is dead~" A barely heard melody faded away as Sunshine finished her song, still smiling brightly as her eyes returned to their normal lime-green. Smoothing her turquoise dress, she turned back to the boy and raised her eyebrow at him. "We have an understanding, then?"

"Y-yeah," he stuttered, gulping and sweating as his eyes darted around. Sunshine's smile did nothing to soothe him, especially when she leaned toward him. "I-I promise, I won't tell about this!"

"Good!" Sunshine replied, as chipper as ever, and held out a hand for him to shake. "Just one more thing to do~" She continued to smile, her hand waiting for the boy's.

Gulping audibly again, the boy gingerly took her hand, and almost cried out when their hands were both enveloped in darkness. It only lasted a moment though, and Sunshine was already pulling away by the time his mind had processed what had just happened.

"Remember, it's a secret~," she singsonged. "I'll know if you don't keep your promise~."

The boy nodded, taking a step back, then another, then he quickly turned and took off at a sprint, leaving the smiling girl in his wake.

Sunshine Smiles giggled as she turned away, happily skipping away herself, only to be stopped when she found another unicorn aspect in her way. "Oh! Hey sis~" Sunshine grabbed her older (by a few minutes) twin sister in a hug, while the blueish-grey girl just stood there. "What's up?"

"Was that really necessary?" Moonlight Raven asked, her voice a flat monotone that contrasted her sister's in much the same way everything about her did.

"I always hug my big sister~"

"That's not what I meant, and you know it." Moonlight looked past Sunshine, just barely able to see the boy still running away in fright. "You didn't have to do that to him."

"Oh, silly sis," Sunshine giggled, booping Moonlight on the nose. "Of course I did. I can't have Sunset showing up and ruining things for me." She... didn't stop smiling, but her eyes still seemed to narrow in a glare. "You remember your promise too, don't you?"

Moonlight simply raised an eyebrow. "I remember, Sunshine. I won't tell her what you're up to."

"Good!" Sunshine was already back to being traditionally happy, skipping along the sidewalk. "Lets go get some lunch, Sis. My treat!"

Moonlight watched her sister skip along for a moment, before fingering the copy of Sunset Shimmer's Icon in her pocket. I promised I wouldn't tell her what you were up to, Sunshine, she thought, but that's all I promised I wouldn't tell her.

Making it Big, by SaintAbsol

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Rarity groaned in frustration, slamming her magazine down on the lunch table. "Gods damn it!"

"I'd really rather not," Sunset said, taking a bite out of her meal.

Realizing that her outburst was a major faux pas when seated at the same table as God (even if you were one of her best friend), Rarity found herself blushing furiously. "I'm sorry, Sunset, I'm just a little frustrated at the moment."

"Over a magazine," Rainbow Dash questioned, an eyebrow raised. "Is this like Twilight and her nerdy—"

"Not nerd, geek!" Twilight interrupted.

"Whatever! That fanfic she spazzed out about and ended up making out with Sunset over?"

"Hardly," Rarity grumbled, glaring down at the pages before her, featuring several dresses and suits that had been designed by what the magazine described as 'up and coming talent'. "I've been trying to get my foot in the door of the fashion industry for years now and I thought I had a chance recently, when I almost got a chance to meet with Prima Donna herself." When this was meant with blank stares from all her friends, she sighed. "She's one of the largest private retailers of clothing in the country; she's my shot at the big time!" The fashionista slumped in her chair pushing the magazine away. "But, I can't compete with all these other retailers."

Fluttershy picked at the salad on her tray. "Um... why not?"

"I'm a small, privately owned boutique in a middling city," Rarity explained. "I simply don't have the funds to pull of some sort of publicity stunt. It's not enough to be good, you have to find some way to stand out. And short of asking Sunset to compromise her principles and put in a good word for me, I don't know how."

"Maybe we could hand out fliers," Pinkie said. "Ooh, or have a party to show them off, ooh, or—"

"It's a nice sentiment, dear, but it still wouldn't be enough. I've had plenty of local parties and, while it does help with my sales, it still isn't enough to get me noticed." Rarity sighed, resting her head on her arms despondently. "I need something... big."

Rainbow's fork paused halfway into her mouth, a mischievous smirk slowly spreading across it. "Something 'big', huh?" The rainbow-haired girl turned to look at the one person at their table that hadn't contributed anything to the conversation.

Applejack, pausing as she held an apple from her farm in her hand, looked at Rainbow, only for her eyes to widen in realization. "Oh no, no way. There is no way I—"

---------------

"I can't believe Ah got talked into this..."

"Oh, relax, Applejack, dear," Rarity said, making a few last minute alterations to the green dress her friend was wearing. "You look absolutely lovely."

A blush spread across the farmer's face, unnoticed by Rarity as she worked. "O-oh, thanks, I guess..."

"You're quite welcome," she replied, an equally unseen blush in place as she finished her work on the hem. "And thank you. As much as I'm loath to admit it, Rainbow Dash's plan might just be crazy enough to work. Or, at the very least, get them talking." She finished up, and took a breath to calm herself before standing up. "Now! I'm going to have a word with the camera crew; I want to make sure they capture your best side. You can start getting ready, just remember the tips I gave you."

Applejack sighed to herself as Rarity rushed away, climbing a ladder to a platform built of scaffolding. Really, if anyone else had asked her to do this, she would have refused like a broken record. But she just couldn't turn away Rarity when she turned on the social charms. "Damn it," she muttered under her breath, then touched the charm on her wrist.

The dress that Rarity had made to accent both her natural curves and toned physique scaled up with her as she grew, the colored mana infused as much into the fabric as it was in her. When she stood as tall as a nearby building, she turned to the platform and struck one of the modeling poses that Rarity had insisted she learn. "Okay, ready whenever you are."


One month later

Rarity practically squealed in delight as she looked at the same publication that had caused her so much frustration the previous month. It wasn't much, only a single image on a single page, but the image of Applejack, nearly one hundred feet tall and wearing one of her dress designs, was surely enough to get people talking at least.

You Asked For It, by FoME

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It was a fairly common scene. A man was so intent on his destination that he didn't watch where he was going and stubbed his toe on a jutting chunk of sidewalk.

His response was also common, or at least had become so since the world changed: "Ow! Sunset dammit."

What followed was much less common, a sigh followed by a voice saying, "Really?"

Corner Office scowled at the girl, only to back up a step when he realized just who she was. "Uh..."

"I mean," said Sunset, "I like to think of myself as pretty laid back. I much prefer forgiving and redeeming to trapping someone in a place they can't escape from, without certain aspects of life they've taken for granted. Speaking from experience, the first one works out a lot better in the long run."

"Uh..."

"And then there's the logistics of it. Even if I had somewhere I could damn people to—heads up, I don't—what would go there? The sidewalk? The tree whose roots are pushing it up? You for ramming your foot into it? There just doesn't seem to be a viable damning target here."

Corner licked his lips and decided a third uh wasn't the best way to converse with a deity. "Sorry?"

"It's fine. I know you didn't mean it, it just gets frustrating after a while. Also, smile."

"Why?"

Sunset panned a hand across the street, where at least half a dozen youths were glancing back and forth between the two of them and assorted mobile devices. "Because we're probably already on at least two forms of social media."

"I have over fifty reblogs already!" added one boy.

The World Atlas Shrugged, by Paaaad and ArtieStroke

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(Paaaad)

One evening, Sunset Shimmer appeared in Twilight's bedroom looking rather bedraggled, and promptly proceeded to flop down on the bed.

"Long day?"

"Apparently we've moved up from mythical figures to mythical locations."

"Wha— Oh. Oh my."

"It's still submerged, but it's actually there to find now. Pain in the neck easing it in, not to mention the water displacement."

"Well at least it's over now." Twilight paused, hand halfway to her girlfriend's shoulder, "Er, it is over, right?"

"For now, but I looked the planet over once I was done, and there are more magical patterns just like the one that preceded this one all over the place. Looks like the next one is going to be in the Irish Sea."

Twilight set her hand on Sunset's shoulder. "Well, it looks like we have some research to do... Tomorrow."

(ArtieStroke)

Later...

"So, if I believe REALLY HARD, then would you—"

"Rainbow Dash, for the LAST TIME I DO NOT WANT A FLOATING LOOKOUT, YOU ARE NOT A SUPER HAYAN, AND THIS IS NOT DRAGON PEARL X."

"Yeesh! Fine! Okay! Jeeze..."

Add Cranberry Juice to Taste, by SaintAbsol

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"You're off your meds again, aren't you?"

Sour Sweet blinked, looking away from the empty playground she had been staring at as Sweeten Sour came to join her on the bench. Scowling at her sister, Sour defiantly turned away. "I'm fine, Sweeten."

"That's a 'Yes' then," Sweeten said with a quiet sigh. "You know Mom doesn't like you skipping."

Sour just scoffed at that. "Mom doesn't like a lot of things I do."

"It's also not healthy." That, Sour Sweet didn't have a counterargument to. "We both know how out of control your hallucinations can get, especially with magic involved."

"They're not out of control," she respond, clenching her fist. "I'm fine for the moment."

That just made Sweeten Sour sigh with a bit more force behind it, her posture sagging just a bit. "I know you like when Bitter Honey comes around, Sour, but you're treading dangerous waters when you do this."

Sour Sweet flinched, her eyes looking away from her imaginary daughter as she played about on the playground equipment. "I just... don't want her to go away for good."

"That might be a better outcome in the long run."

Sour Sweet rounded on her sister, their faces only inches apart; hers a mask of rage, while Sweeten Sour's was perfectly calm. "HOW CAN YOU SAY THAT?!"

Not deterred in the slightest by Sour Sweet's outburst, Sweeten Sour calmly stood up from the bench, and cast her gaze outward to a swing that had just started to move on its own. "Because, Sour, I can see her too now."

Herding Rats, by Masterweaver

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"Wheeeeeeeeeee!"

"Chitter-rach, get down from—!"

"Splip-ip-ip-ip!"

"Bitenaught, that is not a toy!"

"Ooo oo lookit lookit lookit!"

"Yes, Klikli, that is very nice looking, I'm sorry but I have to get some—OH ROOTS!"

Celestia leaned to the side as she entered the room, quirking an eyebrow as a tissue box went flying past her ear. "Having trouble?"

"You could say that," came the exasperated reply of the plum woman in the center of the room. "I don't know what's gotten into them, but—Slithert no, we do NOT bite tails!"

"But Sqeeekums started it!"

"I don't care who started it, Slithert, you don't bite people! Ever!" She threw up a hand, turning back to the principal. "I don't know..."

"Need some help?"

"Can you get them under control?"

Celestia smiled serenely, took a deep breath...

...and began to glow.

The chaos around the room slowly lessened, the various inhabitants staring in awe and slowly putting down whatever they had in their paws.

Celestia let her glow drop. "Now then. Everyone?"

"Yes, Miss Shineshineshine?"

"When I saved you from the mean scientist, I wanted you to have a nice happy life. And Miss Cheerilee here has volunteered to help you learn what you need to learn. Do you think you can be nice and try to do what she says?"

"But Miss Shineshineshine, Miss Words smells like grass! That's boring!"

Cheerilee balked. "This is about how I smell?!"

"Well, I'll make sure she smells more interesting later," Celestia promised. "For now, though, you should listen to her, okay?"

"Okay Miss Shineshineshine." The green rat nodded. "If you say so."

Cheerilee took a breath. "...Thanks, Celestia. I don't know if—"

"Uhp-uhp-uhp! You have a class to teach... Miss Words." With a little grin, Celestia walked out the door.

A Conversation in Wavetongue, by Masterweaver

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"Glii shiisiichiri. Riieiimm su."

Aria quirked a brow. "Oosh ke si re riie Shupliipireii?" she inquired.

"Bii eemm bli eepl eebl siichiiri wepere ke yiyishumee bii riie Shupliipireii eetl eebl zhvpefii," Adagio replied. "Mmriz bli zhmmreii zhsi wee."

Sonata perked up. "Shoopemmruii gliim wee bo Sirenn?"

"Zhshoo gliim wee..." Adagio took a breath. "Mmreii. Kepere si.... Oobl glimm kepere si. Oopl glimm. Glimm, mmv gliim riie blu... bu Glimpyshriivch."

Aria rolled her eyes. "Shoo be zhii. Leey si yi gliimpeglimm shush bo zhleeyiish si eekeekleepleepleepl shupliieeblri yi eetl tliiru. Eech ke wee bi leyki, Mmoopirei? Zhirr ke kv zhke si roiimm Sirennri?"

"Ke wee bu zhke wee, Reipirenn, ru ke wee...." The yellow girl sighed. "Re heesh bli ru siiriiizh si bo leysupeshumee."

Silence filled the room for a moment or two.

"Siiriiizh shumee bo Zhuplireiischrii?" Sonata's voice wavered. "Blu... Mmoopirei, we gliim gliim leey leysi--"

"Gliim gliim leey leyki. Ke kv bi shuro Reiipivzheerv, bi zhmmrei wii." Aria shuddered. "Mmreei bli, bii mmrei ki shoopereiri, iih Shupliipirei?"

"Be mmrei bli. Iib ke ki boo chooru bli--"

"Eech kooiish Sirennri?" Adagio interjected. "Eepl shi bi wopesiiriiiish si, mmreei bli. Shoomm ree mmrieeiish Kiirrpigli bo si bi mmreei mmrurii bo shoopereiri. Ke Sirennri gliim gliim bo kiizh? Ru kooshiish shi, gliim bo reei zhbii rie shi bo Sirennri? Klii ke si bi zhmmrei si?"

The other two shared a look.

"Iir..." Sonata fidgeted. "Re riie si eekeekleepleepleepl shupliieebl yi tliiru. Iig... hooshiish ki hoo si boo chooru si... mmrei si ooch koosh siichiipereiiri oozh siichiipehooshrmri bo koosh leyshi."

Aria took a breath. "Mmrei ki," she said slowly, "iip mmrie si shoomm bee siirii Kiirrpigli wee bo ki... ru mmrih kv zhgii mmriv zi boo riie kv, mmreei blv."

"Iiz mmrie si bee mmrie Glipikiizh zi," Sonata pointed out. "Iiz mmrie si bee mmrie Reiipivzheerv bee mmrie Glipikiizh zi."
Adagio clenched her fists. "Klo shoogli wee. Bee mmrie shi sirii wee shoo bi shooru si..."

The room fell silent once again.

Eventually, Adagio sighed. "Iir mmrei bli roiish mmriieiish si. Iib heesh blu, boo kooiish koorii... yi ke shesh. Heesh bli shoorr ree heesh si, glipetliiruri yr bo eebl. Roo sheeshiich su. Iih?"

"Iih." Aria nodded, glanced around, and steadied herself. "Be shuplii mmriie si, rmm sheesh si."

"Ru leyshumee ke shuploo, be ke keiich shuplii," Sonata murmured.

Not a Whimper, by FoME

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Among Crystal Prep's many amenities was an Olympic-class pool, one which all students were welcome to use during the summer. Officially, it was to keep the swim team properly conditioned, but between summer vacation and the aftermath of the Friendship Games, the restrictions were greatly relaxed. So much so that a certain transferee was still permitted to bring a plus-one as she visited an old friend.

"Thanks for inviting us," said Twilight, lying on a towel along the pool's edge.

"Thanks for coming," Sugarcoat said from next to her. "Moondancer burns like newspaper."

Rainbow Dash emerged from the water, beaming. "I never thought I'd say this about Crystal Prep, but this place is awesome!" She went back down and pushed off the edge.

Twilight gave a contented sigh, feeling her eyes drift shut.

"Hey there, baby."

Her eyes snapped open and darted to the source of the unfamiliar voice, a yellow-skinned boy with frosted tips in his hair and an expression that was probably categorizable as "sultry." Twilight had never encountered sultriness before and given this, she didn't think she wanted to make it a major part of her life.

"If I could rearrange the alphabet," said the stranger, "I'd put 'U' and 'I' together."

Twilight boggled at him for a few moments, then turned to Sugarcoat. "This is flirting, right?" she whispered.

Sugarcoat rolled her eyes, "Yes, Twilight. This is flirting."

"What do I do now?"

"Tell him you're not interested."

"Right!" Twilight turned back. The boy still squatted in front of her, the look in his eyes either expectant or anxious. Or possibly something else; Twilight still didn't trust her ability to read faces one hundred percent. Still, she sat up and cleared her throat. "Firstly, I appreciate what you're going for, but in order to make the pun work, you rendered the sentence grammatically incorrect. It should be 'you and me together.'"

The boy blinked. "Uh..."

"Secondly, I'm already taken." Twilight began listing points on her fingers. "Thirdly, my significant other is a girl. Fourthly, that girl is Sunset Shimmer. Fifthly, she's right behind you."

The boy stiffened and turned around. Twilight wasn't sure if it was under his own power or not. He was an inch or two taller than Sunset, but she still loomed over him through force of personality and a little autolevitation. Her eyes were as pools of molten gold, much like the aura that enveloped her and sent her hair waving in an unfelt updraft. The bikini and the sodas in her telekinetic grasp did nothing to diminish her majesty. If anything—at least, in Twilight's admittedly biased opinion—they enhanced it.

Sunset considered the boy for a brief time, as dispassionately as a biologist pondering some novel but benign microbe. Finally, she said, "There is a good soul under that bluster, Feather Bangs. You would do well to show it to others. Others who aren't Twilight Sparkle."

Feather Bangs swallowed. "O-okay."

"I'm glad we have an understanding." Sunset approached her towel. Feather Bangs ran for the hills, or at least the entrance to the pool facility.

"You do know you have no reason to be jealous, right?" said Twilight.

"Great work tearing him apart, by the way," added Sugarcoat.

Sunset smiled, visibly no more than just another teenager and trying to ignore the slack-jawed looks pointed at her from around the pool. "I know. But there's something about that guy that just makes me want to punch him in the face."

Sugarcoat nodded. "Yeah, Feather Bangs does that to people."

"Oh, I see how it is." All three girls looked to the pool itself. Rainbow Dash scowled at them as she hauled herself out. "If I ask for something from Dragon Pearl X, I'm out of line, but if someone tries to make a move on Twilight, you get to go Super Hayan."

Sunset sighed. Sugarcoat smiled despite herself. Twilight nudged her girlfriend with an elbow. "You have to admit, she has a point."

The Royalish Family, by Masterweaver

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"So...."

"So?"

Rainbow cleared her throat. "So, you're not so distantly related to Principal Celestia."

Lemon Zest nodded. "Yes."

"So, you'd be familiar with their family tree."

"I would."

"So...." Rainbow cleared her throat. "I'm... wondering. Why exactly does she call Cadence her niece?"

Lemon took a long, quiet sip of her lemonade.

"...You really want to know."

"Yeah."

"Alrighty. I'll tell you. But you can't tell anyone."

"I'm fine, hit me."

"...Dean Cadance's biomom is actually Uncle John's daughter, but Celestia and Luna were her legal guardians."

Rainbow blinked. "O...kay?"

"You've got to understand, Screwball wasn't... isn't... she had some mental issues. And, uh, one of the doctors at the sanitorium took... advantage of that."

"Oh. Wow."

Lemon nodded. "Yeah. Uncle John and Aunt Abby were righteously pissed; they laid a legal smackdown. Screwball didn't want the baby to go away, she... I don't think she even really understands what happened, even this long after. Uncle John and Aunt Abby were too busy with work to raise the kid, though, so Celestia and Luna stepped in." She paused. "I think that's when Aunt Abby started to go really bad, actually. See the worst in everyone and try to force perfection. If I recall they actually divorced a couple years after that... would explain why Dean Cadance is so insistent on there being real love before sex, too."

Rainbow nodded. "Yeah, that... that really had to wreck them, didn't it? Are you sure it's alright to tell me this?"

"It's all a matter of public record. As I understand it, most of the emotions have been worked through already. Not polite to bring it up, obviously, but they're not going to get on my case informing people about it."

The two of them sat in Sugarcube Corner, quietly contemplating.

"...I'm sorry, I just... there's a woman named Screwball?"

"Ianthe Pratibha Stencil Screwball Discord-Cinch." Lemon smiled faintly. "Not actually a terrible woman, just... a little disconnected from reality. I visit her sometimes..."

Ooh Miss Sparkle, by FoME [Suggestive Content]

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Ooh Miss Sparkle

"Sunset, I am home now," smoldered Twilight Sparkle. "And I am looking so handsome and also my lab coat opened?"

"Ooh, Miss Sparkle, ooh," swooned Sunset. Twilight took her in her arms.

"Let's do it," Sunset husked.

"Yes." As Sunset fixed a hungry gaze on Twilight, the lavender-skinned erotic dynamo elaborated. "And I will leave my spectrometer on."

Meanwhile, in a twenty-mile radius of this event, sun icons vibrated, men turned straight, and anyone with even an ounce of psychic sensitivity cried out, "Miss Sparkle!"

It was amazing.

THE END


Lemon Zest beamed. "And that's how I got my first academic hearing!"

Sunny Flare put down the printout and immediately went for the bottle of hand sanitizer in her purse. "That's really not something you should be proud of."

"It was a civil protest. I was promised an introduction to Shimmerism, not the most boring bits of theology put together in one inconvenient place. Though I will admit that they had a point about the plagiarism." Lemon shrugged. "Who'd have thought one of the TAs read Hark! A Vagabond?"

"So, what happened?"

"I got put on probation for next semester. And that was after a grotesque misuse of Fair Use laws and calling in the subjects of my essay."

"You can't seriously call that an—" Sunny stopped as she processed all of what Lemon had said. "You had Sunset Shimmer and Twilight Sparkle read that thing?"

Lemon nodded. "Sunset kept looking at it, then giggling, then looking at it again. She didn't stop until she was rolling on the ground. I'm pretty sure she whinnied at one point." She smiled. "Truly, I am blessed."

"And what did Twilight think?"

"All she said was 'Commendably accurate.'"

Divine Mysteries, by FoME

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The concept of the divine choir was not unknown in Equestria. Angels were a recognized magical phenomenon; the pureharts roamed the outer edges of the atmosphere, drawing on rarified æther for sustenance and warding off the outer horrors that lurked between the stars. Sunset had even seen one of the cervine creatures once when it spoke with Celestia. By all rights, the luminous doe should've looked silly, twice as tall as the princess with a body barely thicker than one of Celestia's hooves. But there had been a beauty there that transcended physical appearance, an unimpeachable dignity.

A holiness.

The memory of the purehart was one of the reasons why Sunset knew she was no god, even if she'd grudgingly started using the term as self-referential shorthand.

Still, all of that failed to explain the pure light and ecstatic chorus emanating from Sunset's open dresser. She sighed, shut the drawer, and went to her computer. A few moments later, she was on the official Shimmerism forum, which in her mind made for a far more efficient way of communicating with her followers than prophetic dreams or magic coffee tables. A few keystrokes later and she sent a private message to the forum admins, who were also the leaders of most major sects of Shimmerism.

From: StillNotGod
Subject: I'm Not Mad, Just Disappointed

Okay, who's the wise guy who's been venerating my underwear drawer?

Don't Sit Under My Family Tree, by Masterweaver

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"OH MY GOD LEMON!"

"What is it Rainbow?!"

"We're related!"

"Wait, really?"

"Yeah, we share a great-great-great-great-great-great-grandmother!"

"...."

"What?"

"You did an Internet search on 'most distant relationship a person can have,' didn't you?"

"I... yeah. Okay, yeah, this was a stupid prank."

"Look, Dash, rule of thumb: if you're not genetically fourth cousins or closer, you're not genetically related. So that's... great-great-great-grandmother or closer in ancestry. Beyond that things get muddy fast."

"I just... your family tree is kind of like an ongoing melodrama."

"I know. Believe it or not, I was dating a guy for a while and it ended up turning out we were half-siblings."

"Wait, really?"

"Yeah, apparently my dad divorced his mom before having the fling that made me. Good thing we never made it past second base, right?"

Storm Warning, by SaintAbsol

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Gilda, as she was wont to do, grumbled as she walked back to her apartment complex. Today had just been all around terrible; between work, her grandpa's half-senile ramblings, and all too real possibility that she was going to fail at least one of her classes this year, she had barely been keeping her temper in check since she woke up. Add to that the scars on her leg from her ill-advised attempt at shaving itching like mad, and she felt like she was on the verge of snapping.

Thunder rumbled overhead and she pulled up the hood of her pullover, grumbling even more. "Yeah, fuck you too," she muttered at no one in particular as the rain began to fall. The only reason she wasn't getting pissed off at this was she'd known it was likely to rain from the start of the day; she wasn't happy about it, but it just made her fume a bit more.

"I swear, can this get—" She stopped short was what she was about to say finally registered with her mind. Tempting fate wasn't smart at the best of times, and had just gotten worse with magic being a thing. That doesn't count! she thought desperately. There's no way that counts, I didn't even finish saying it!

"Hey there, songbird."

"...fuck." Gilda honestly growled as she turned to face the consequences of her ill-spoken line. "The hell do you want?"

"Nothing much," the creep was wearing a hoodie himself, pulled low over his face so she couldn't even see it in the poorly lit street. "You're from the Griffonstone complex, right?"

Gilda narrowed her eyes at him. He was larger than her, by a decent amount too; puberty had done the bastard more favors than it had done her. But that didn't mean she was going to be intimidated by him. "So what?"

The creep continued to come closer. "Thought I recognized you, songbird."

Gilda's eyes narrowed, the old nickname causing a bit more of her rage to flare up. Her hand twitched as she felt her own magic chomping at the bit to come out and just rake the bastard right across the face. Assault charges be damned, something about this bastard wasn't right. "Stop calling me that!" she snapped. "And who the hell are you?"

Instead of answering her, he just asked a question of his own. "How's the old geezer doing?"

Gilda felt her rage die and a chill spread through her at those words. "Wha—"

"Be so sad if that pharmacy messed up his prescription," he continued, hand going to his pocket as he talked. "I hear the wrong dosage can really be... murder on someone."

Gilda's eyes squeezed shut as her rage began to build once more, stronger than she could ever remember. Magic came to her as she called to it, but it felt different; had her eyes been open, the stranger would have seen them glowing red. Gilda let loose an inarticulate cry of fury, swinging her hand as the creep pulled his own out of his pocket, neither of them aware that the rain wasn't hitting them anymore. Thunder sounded overhead, and glowing bits of metal fell to the ground as he sprinted off through the downpour.

Meanwhile, Gilda looked at the flames that had replaced the magically generated claws she'd grown used to since the world had changed. "Huh." She tilted her burning hand around, the heat from the fire evaporating the rain before it even got close but doing no harm to her. "Well, that's something..."

Retroactive Discontinuity, by FoME and Masterweaver

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(FoME)

The seven friends were gathered in Sugarcube Corner, enjoying one last milkshake before the start of the school year. Pinkie Pie was regaling the others with a story. "So I says to Maple, I says—"

Sunset bolted upright, lunged forward, and grabbed Dash by the shoulders. Dash blinked. "Uh..."

"This is important, Rainbow."

Twilight considered the two, mere inches from one another. "Should I object to—" She cut herself off as Sunset's eyes began to glow golden. "Never mind."

"What," said Sunset Shimmer, "is your mother's name?"

"Um, duh? It's..." Dash trailed off.

"You feel it, don't you?"

Dash just nodded.

"Two answers. Both true, but they can't be at the same time."

"I... I can remember both of them." Dash's eyes darted about the room, focused on nothing. "They're both Mom, but they can't both be Mom. But..."

"You have to choose, Rainbow."

"But—"

"Your fate hinges on it."

Dash shut her eyes. Ruby light leaked out from between the lids. The woman who encouraged her most daring stunts warred with the one who committed more and more of the apartment to a record of Dash's life. Equally and impossibly true memories built into a splitting headache. Love threatened to tear her heart in half.

"FIREFLY!"

There was a deep clunk, more felt than heard, as if a loose piece of the cosmic machinery had slipped back into place. Dash fell bonelessly back onto the couch, panting for breath.

Sunset looked around the shop. Far more awe than she was comfortable looked back. She cleared her throat.

"Don't."

Sunset rolled her eyes and leaned close to Twilight, whispering, "I wasn't going to wipe anyone's mind."

"Just making sure." Twilight gave her peck on the cheek.

After a moment, once Sunset had settled down and Dash had caught her breath, Pinkie said, "So I says to Maple, I says—"


(Masterweaver)

Forged... and unforged. Woven and rewoven. The fractures shifted, moved... A cracked universe, slowly, beginning to heal itself.

Back, back, back. Here, here, two seconds of awe, the line moves. There, there, the ticket man sells one ticket, then another. In the time that was, they were next to each other. In the time that is, they are a row apart.

And the roar of the crowd does the rest.

Windy Whistles loves sports. She attends, and misses the sight of the attractive man sitting only a short distance away. And then...

She could fade.

She could.

But... the overseer has heart. The overseer rarely looks this far back; the cracks originated at a specific point, and do not tend to reverse to time before. She cannot act in this time, not directly, but she knows the importance of family, of all kinds.

Windy Whistles leaves the stadium, proud of her team. She bumps into a man, Rainbow Blaze, and while he is not instantly smitten—people don't work like that—the spark is there. And his brother, who might have claimed Windy in another time, sees this and decides to help them along.

The rest weaves itself, a suture for the tear in time.


Apple Bloom collapsed, the light fading from her skin as she landed in her seat again. Scootaloo gave a sigh of relief, looking around at the gathered crowd. "You see? She's totally fine. It's just... some magic thing."

"Is it contagious?"

Sweetie Belle rolled her eyes. "It's a unique quirk. You've seen the news, right? Some people got special magic and joined the Power Patriots." She gave Apple Bloom a gesture. "Her magic isn't superheroic, though, just... weird sometimes."

"She looked like... like some sort of angel!"

Scootaloo snorted. "Trust me, if you know the shit she got up to, you wouldn't be saying that. Not saying she's a horrible person, but she kinda has a few smudges on her record."

"We all do," Sweetie added. "Nothing illegal, just... bad."

"The point is, she's fine, you're all fine, move along." Scootaloo waved the crowd off. "Shoo! Shoo!"

Sweetie Belle nodded as they began to disperse, but a light groan caught her ear. She turned to Apple Bloom, gripping her shoulders tightly. "So, how are you?"

"...near exhausted. Didn't 'spec nothin' like that fer a few years."

"Like what, exactly? What the heck happened?"

Apple Bloom rolled her head up. The bags under her eyes were thick, but her smile was almost serene. "Kept the world from losin' what it had. Kept somebody from bein' nobody. Kept a family near together.... Sweetie Belle... Ah just rewove fate."

Versatility is Key, by ArtieStroke

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"Nice set, girls!" Dash said, putting a palm on the strings of her guitar and cutting the final note short, "I think that's enough practice for today."

"I actually wanted to say," Rarity started. "I was fiddling with some of the settings on my keytar earlier in the week. Did you know this comes pre-programmed with other instruments?"

Dash rolled her eyes, "Well duh, it's a synthesizer. Can't really get the same crunch on a synth guitar, though."

Rarity raised an eyebrow, "Really?"

Dash nodded, "Yeah. I mean it's cool for when you wanna do the piano thing without lugging a whole piano with you, but guitar? Forget about it!"

Rarity nodded slightly, clicking one of the buttons, "Applejack, would you be a dear and hand me one of the amp cords?"

AJ looked from Rarity to the unsuspecting Rainbow Dash, and smiled as she passed her the cord.

Dash nearly tossed her guitar case as the sweetest, hard-rockingest guitar riffs exploded at her, bowling her over as Rarity's fingers flew across the keys like lightning. It lasted only a moment, but by the time she was done, Dash could only weep openly in awe.

"I believe the term here is, 'get wrecked, scrub'."

Heavenly Bodies, by Masterweaver

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Twilight fidgeted. "Okay. Um. I know this looks bad, but I didn't—I mean, they just gave it to me, and, and, um... you know, it's practical, and, uh, well."

Sunset's face, through sheer force of will, was utterly expressionless.

"I, uh... it's also.... it's a way to.... I mean, sometimes, we're both busy with our own things and..."

She gulped. "Don't tell Shining?"

Sunset Shimmer remained stoic. "Do you know," she said slowly, "what it is I want to know?"

Twilight cringed.

"I want to know. How the fuck. They figured out what my PJs look like."

"Reverse-tracing purchases from the mall," Twilight rattled out quickly. "The artist is really devoted."

"I see."

The room was silent for a moment or two.

"You know, I've actually worn all of these."

"Really?" Twilight squeaked.

"I mean I didn't think they'd figure out how to make a pin-up calendar out of this, I've seen saucier images online, but... wow, they take ordinary clothes and make me look like some sort of sex goddess."

"So... you're okay with this?"

Sunset looked up.

"... Honestly? At this point I'm more resigned. You finding me a sexpot is... I guess okay, since we're dating, and that's not all you think of me as—"

"Oh, no no no. Your brains are far more beautiful then your body and that's saying something. Coming from a genius. Not that your body isn't beautiful. Case in point. I'm going to shut up now."

"This stays between us, though."

"Oh yeah duh. We're good?"

"For now." Sunset smirked. "Although... if you want me to add to the calendar..."

Twilight blushed. "I... think they were looking into making a swimsuit edition..."

Pieces of the Puzzle, by SaintAbsol

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Niv-Mizzet calmly looked at three figurines before him, and eyebrow slightly cocked in an emotion some might have called surprise. "I must say, Vice Principal Beleren, this isn't something I expected from you."

Jace grumbled under his breath as he too observed the figurines. "I confiscated them from a student; that they lined up perfectly is just luck."

Niv-Mizzet, for once, elected to say nothing and simply turned back to the figurines as two glowed in red and green, while a third seemed to absorb the light around it. "Hm," he grunted, a hand coming to his chin. "Three down, two to go." His eyes drifted back to Jace. "I trust you have at least​ one hypothesis as to the identities of the final two, Vice Principal Beleren."

"I do," Jace responded, his eyes glowing blue as he eyed one of the figurines. "I will be investigating one after classes are done for the day. And I have high hopes I am on the right track."

"I see," Niv-Mizzet simply said, still looking at the figures. "You are dismissed, Vice Principal Beleren."

Jace nodded, and headed toward the office door; he still had to take care of some things to keep Ravnica High from tearing itself apart at the seams for the day. However, as he reached the handle, he heard Niv-Mizzet speak up on more time, likely forgetting he was still in the room.

"My Little Horsie figurines? Seriously?"

Home-Baked, by FoME

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"Oh no, oh no, oh no, oh no!"

Ditzy Doo stepped back into the hallway. As all of CHS had come to learn in the weeks since the transfer, a panicking Twilight Sparkle was a very dangerous thing. "Um, Twilight?"

Twilight paused mid-pace, whipping her head towards the door and grinning a grin that wasn't even remotely sane. "Ditzy! Thank you so, so, so much for coming here on such short notice. I know we don't know each other that well and I'm sorry for the incident with the electrodes but I have another favor to ask of you and I swear I'll do anything you want if you help me with this one."

"Okay then. First thing?"

"Yes?"

Ditzy swept an arm across the room. "Put everything down. Including me."

Twilight blinked, then registered in the sheer number of objects wreathed in fuchsia energy and the heat centered in her forehead. "Sorry! This happens sometimes when I'm nervous, and I'm very nervous right now, and feeling things with my telekinesis has kind of calming for me but that means I move them without thinking sometimes because I get fidgety and I also tend to babble when I'm nervous but you might have noticed that." She gave a nervous giggle as she set the last gyroscope back on her desk.

Ditzy nodded. Slowly. Making sudden movements seemed like a bad idea right now. "I did. Have you been taking breathing lessons from Pinkie Pie?"

"I'm pretty sure she's hiding a third lung in her hair. It may be her hair."

"Oh good, I'm not the only who thinks that. So, what's this favor?"

The question set Twilight to pacing again, throwing her arms about with every phrase. "I completely missed the opportunity to do something nice for Sunset on Mother's Day, and now Father's Day is coming up, and if I miss this I have to wait all the way until Yuletide and given the track record thus far I may end up forgetting and—"

"Twilight!"

"Yes?"

"Put me down. Again."

Twilight did so. "Sorry."

"Just wish I'd known not to wear a skirt today," Ditzy muttered. She took a deep breath and said, "I'll be happy to help."

"But I haven't even told you what I need you to do."

"I can put two and two together. If they're sufficiently large, I can even get five." Ditzy smiled as Twilight snorted at that. The blonde spread her wings and defied gravity for the third time, this time of her own volition. "Be back soon."


Sunset couldn't help but smile as Twilight guided her in front of the Wondercolt statue. "You do realize that covering my eyes is kind of silly. I could just form another body."

"Yes. And I'm very grateful that you're playing along. And when you see why, I think you will be too."

"Okay. I'll take your word for—" Sunset stopped and tensed. "Twilight, I just felt something move through the portal."

"Did you now?" said Twilight, looking over Sunset's shoulder, shaking her head, and hoping that the gesture would translate.

"Two somethings."

"Fascinating. And by a staggering coincidence, surprise!" Twilight pulled back her hands and stood to one side, the better to see Sunset's face.

It was certainly a sight to see. Brief confusion as her eyes skittered across the warm-hued older couple, followed by a wide-eyed gasp of realization and something that Twilight couldn't place as shock, delight, or shame. Possibly all of them. "Mom? Dad?"

"Princess Celestia conveyed your message, Sunny," said Desert Sunrise.

Sunset Satin took her daughter in her arms. "We're so proud!"

"I... I don't know what to say." Tears in her eyes, Sunset looked to Twilight. "Twilight, I don't know how you arranged this, but thank you."

Twilight wiped away a few lacrimal secretions of her own. "Happy to help. I'll let you show your parents the sights." She turned away, only to come face to face with a golden wall of force.

"Actually, while I have the opportunity..." Twilight turned around in time to see the Spirit of Harmony look uncannily uneasy. "Mom? Dad? This is Twilight Sparkle. The non-princess one. And at this point, I think it's safe to say that she's my girlfriend."

Personal Space Bubble, by FoME

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Once Ditzy had gotten used to probability space, she'd found it relaxing most of the time. There was something deeply peaceful about floating amidst the hypercosmos. Just her, her thoughts, and myriad possibilities.

Today, though, she twisted herself in dimensions that had no name, face screwed up in concentration, eyes all but rolling back into her head and doing so in opposite directions.

"Is this really necessary?" said Sunset from atop Ditzy's home world-bubble, her many arms still repairing the damage she'd caused.

Ditzy straightened herself and turned towards home. "It's a matter of pride!" she shouted, her volume only partly because sound faded much faster in a realm with more dimensions for it to spread. (She made a point of not thinking about what she was breathing, lest it decide to stop letting her.) "I can't believe there was a whole subdimension lurking right under my nose this whole time!"

"I can use the entire outer skin of this cosmos as an enormous eye and I still missed the fae realm."

"Yeah, but you're not the one with cosmic bubbles on your hips!" After a moment, Ditzy added, "And that sounds a lot stranger when I say it out loud."

"The cu— er, icons were an unavoidable side effect."

"And they prove my point! This is iconic!"

Sunset nodded. "I understand. More or less."

Ditzy nodded, then resumed her contortions. If she could just find the right angle, surely she could spot the filamentary realm that, according to rumors in the ETSAB, was supposed to spread like cobwebs among the hyperspheres. It'd probably look something like the portal, which was easy to spot, a thin, merely three-dimensional line running between home and Equestria. She tried focusing on that, ignoring anything sufficiently big and bulgy that might—

And then she spotted it. Several experimental tilts of her head hit the optimal angle, revealing a meandering thread like something dangling off of a fraying sweater. "I have something. Going in."

Approaching the thread was much like entering any world-bubble, with a sense of everything expanding around Ditzy as she compressed herself into the necessary number of dimensions. Once inside, though, things got unusual. And pink. Very pink. Entanglingly pink.

Ditzy had to spread her wings to travel between timelines, and that implied some degree of motion when she entered one. That meant that she'd cruised straight into the masses of pink fibers within this realm and immediately found herself trapped in them, constricted to the point where she couldn't even fold herself back into probability space.

It was at that point that she noticed the giggling. And how it was getting closer.

Then, from everywhere and nowhere, a familiar voice said, "Yeah, it's been a real monkey on my back."

Some terrific force sent Ditzy rocketing upwards until she emerged, blinking in sudden sunlight. Several ponies gawked at her. She returned the favor as she looked around. She was still entangled from the shoulders down, but she could look down enough to see the curly mane from which she sprang. "Uh, Pinkie?"

"Hi there, human Ditzy! What brings you to Ponyville?"

"Curiosity and bad decisions."

A very familiar looking grey pegasus gave a solemn nod. "Story of our life."

The Gentry and the Upstart, by Masterweaver

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"So... can you tell me how Winter Lights is avoiding me?" Sunset asked. "Because I kind of figured that to be impossible."

The short figure frowned. "Careful what you say, godling. To even speak to Fay is a rare boon."

Sunset Shimmer sighed. "I'm not a god..."

Seabreeze cleared his throat. "Miss Shimmer, ye not be understandin'. Fay have been keepin' out of sight for longer then there've been Fay. It be one o' our most precious secrets, ye ken? Ye knowin' where the links ta fae are is bad enough, but if'n ye knew how to see... many gods across the realms would much like that gift, and not all be pleasant."

The short figure glowered at him. "That much, at least, we can agree upon."

Sunset cleared her throat. "If I understand correctly, you'd still be imprisoned without Seabreeze's intervention."

"A debt between him and I, to be repaid by our own discretion." The figure drew his robes tight. "Already it has cost me much, but it is not your concern; keep to your world's affairs."

"But--"

"Lass, Fay politics are not fer the young," Seabreeze interjected. "I'll be fine."

Sunset looked between the two of them, and sighed. "Alright... I guess I can leave it be. So... about these bastions..."

"Yes, yes, the Fall Court is converting them to rings as we speak..."

Meeting of the Maligned, by SaintAbsol

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"So, let's all be honest with each other." The man's companions both looked up from their drinks, one making sure the hat hiding all her hair and the sunglasses she wore despite being indoors were still in place. "None of us actually trust this guy. Or is that just me?"

"No, can't say I trust him either," the sunglasses-wearing girl responded. "I mean, he comes out of nowhere, knows a lot about us while we know nothing about him, promises us everything we've been wanting, and is very clearly not human." A boy with a tail, seemingly dexterous enough to hold his drink, walked by their table as she spoke. "Or, what passes for it these days."

"It's all too convenient," the third person agreed, nervously fiddling with some of her purple hair as she spoke. "But... do we really need to trust him?" When silence greeted her statement, she decided to press on. "I mean, he doesn't seem to like magic being in the world anymore than we do. And you know the saying, 'The enemy of my enemy—'"

"Is my enemy's enemy," the man interrupted, taking a drink from his thermos. "That's all we should think of him as; he's not our friend anymore than Su..." He paused, looking at the girl with the sunglasses. "Anymore than she is," he finally finished. "I doubt we're anything more than a convenient tool for him to manipulate."

"You're a very pessimistic person, Swirl, you know that?"

The man shrugged. "Life has given me quite a few reasons to be pessimistic," he countered. "For all I know, he's watching us discuss this and is making plans to stab us in the back, or use us as some sort of sacrifice. He knows he has the power in this little arrangement, and power's a hell of a drug."

Neither of his companions could really refute his claim, not that either of them tried very hard to think of a potential counterargument to it.

The purple-haired girl eventually broke the silence. "Still... does it change the situation?"

The man shrugged his shoulders. "Not really, I just wanted to make sure we were all aware of it. So we can plan accordingly."

The sunglasses-wearer raised an eyebrow, a hint of red and yellow poking out from under her hat. "Plan?"

"If we know we're pawns of something with similar goals, we need to plan to make him a means to an end."

The sunglasses-wearer started a bit, then glanced around as if the being they were talking about would suddenly appear. "That's a very dangerous plan," she warned.

"And working for him isn't?" the other girl argued. "We're already doing something that could end very badly for us if something goes wrong, just on the basis that it's the lesser of two evils. Writing something off because it's too much of a risk isn't really an option right now."

"It's a no-win situation otherwise," the man said. "We either blindly work for something that clearly has an agenda, or we give up everything and accept the problems her twisting the world has caused. At least this way, there's a chance for a happy ending."

"Not sure everyone else will see it like that," the sunglasses wearer muttered, "but if it'll mean I can have my life back, I'm game."

"To a means to an end," the man softly toasted, bringing his thermos together with their glasses. "Here's hoping we survive what's coming."

Meeting of the Malignant, by Masterweaver

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"...I know you can hear them."

He smiled dryly. "Ah, and so can you."

"They are plotting against you."

"And you are not... fey?"

Blue fingers, for an instant, gripped their glass tighter.

"Interesting to note," he mused, "they were watched—until recently—by the balance of the remaker."

"The chaos lord of this realm?"

"That is he."

The blue woman took a slow sip of her drink. "And now you hide them. Save from me."

"You can hide."

"I can. And yet, I can also reveal while remaining hidden."

"Let us barter, then." The figure flashed his toothy grin. "I need... seven. They are three. You could be one."

"You offer nothing I do not have."

"Do I not?" With a flick of his wrist, he produced a gem.

She took a sharp breath. "You know what that is; they may well be linked!"

"But even if they are, a link must be used. She thinks they are safe, and, to be fair..." The gem snapped away. "I have yet to gather them."

"...You are not among the ones you number."

"No."

"I do not believe my goals coincide with theirs."

"For the moment, they do not. But to seduce them to your sway... is that not what you live for?"

She glanced at the table. "You play a dangerous game, mysterious one. What lies behind your mask?"

"An excellent question." He tilted his head. "Ah. The time is coming swift for us to move. Will you join us?"

"...I will meet you at the shadowed lake of the west, when the first snow there falls. My decision will be held before then."

"Of course. Fare you well, whether we unite or not." He stood, placing coinage on the bar, and strode over to the trio.

She considered them carefully for a few moments. Then, when nobody was looking, she vanished from sight.

At the Gates of Production Hell, by FoME

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There was no scream. Her despair was too great to be voiced by something as meager as her lungs. It would take the entire school choir to properly express the ice that gripped her heart, the cold pit in her stomach.

She faintly registered a noise to her left. Then hands grabbed her by the shoulders, spun her chair, and brought her face to face with a frowning Sunset Shimmer. "Rainbow Dash! Can you hear me?"

Dash swallowed and slowly nodded. "Y-yeah."

"What happened? I going to check on Camp Everfree, but then the bottom fell out of my stomach and I knew something terrible had—"

Sunset cut herself off as she tried to process what was happening. Rainbow Dash was not the huggiest of her friends. Indeed, Dash might well have been the least huggy. Not the least physical, but her demonstrations were more often nudges, punches, and the occasional noogie.

She did not, in Sunset's experience, cling to a friend like a shipwreck survivor to a piece of driftwood. And yet that was precisely what was happening right now. Sunset did her best to ignore the moisture she felt on the collar of her blouse. "Rainbow?"

"What's wrong?" Both girls turned to see Fluttershy hovering in front of Dash's bedroom window, managing to speak loud enough to be heard through the glass. "I... I felt something."

Dash's phone began emitting wicked guitar licks as it alerted everyone to multiple incoming calls.

Sunset connected everyone and switched it to speaker. Her other friends' anxious voices cried out. "Fluttershy and I are here with her," she said. "She just seems shaken by... something." Sunset turned to the girl of the hour. "Well, you have our attention, Rainbow. What's up?"

"It's... I can't even say it." Dash screwed her eyes shut and pointed at her computer monitor.

Sunset peered at the article onscreen. "Continual setbacks imperil film. Magnifico resolves scheduling conflict, but expresses concerns. Yearling unavailable for comment." She looked back, resisting the urge to facepalm. "This is all because the Daring Do movie almost got cancelled?"

"Almost is too close for comfort!" Dash cried. She went to her knees, hands clasped before her. "Please, Sunset, you gotta fix this!"

"Rainbow Dash, you know I love you like a sister," Rarity said from the phone, "but could you be more overdramatic?"

There was a moment of silence. "Right." Sunset cleared her throat and pulled Dash back to her feet. "Dash, I know you really like this book series, but I don't 'gotta' do anything about this. We can't just go poking our noses into other people's business just because we're not happy about it."

"Wait," said Twilight, "the Daring Do movie? As in the one that's been experiencing inexplicable sabotage for months? The one that has Canter Zoom directing?"

"Are there any others?" Some of the light returned to Dash's eyes. "Oh my gosh, imagine if there were others!."

"Sunny? We're going."

Sunset wrinkled her nose. "But—"

"They're probably desperate enough to welcome some debatably divine intervention. Besides, if this is how Rainbow Dash reacts to it almost getting cancelled, I don't think any of us want to know what it'll feel like if it actually does." Several other affirmations met Twilight's point.

Sunset raised an eyebrow. She said nothing, but thought very pointedly. I've seen your bookshelves at home, Sparkle.

The answer came quickly. Everything I said is true independent of any personal interest I may have in the project.

You'd better not squee.

Don't ask me to make promises you know I can't keep, dear.

Sunset sighed. "Okay, fine. I guess we're going to Applewood."

A Shot of Gin on a Cold Night, by Masterweaver

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"Stupid Wondercolts. Stupid uncle. Stupid horse-girl-deity!"

Juniper Montage grumbled as she stormed through the mall, the screens around her showing the same music video over, and over, and over. Everywhere she went there were people worshiping it—sometimes literally—as though it was some master work of art.

It was a song with dancing girls. That was all it was. Why couldn't anyone see that?

With a loud sigh, she let her head beat against a wall. "It's been two months. Why are people still so enraptured with this nonsense?!"

"The power of glamour cannot be underestimated."

She whirled, her hands curling into fists on instinct. "Hey, I took self defense and I'm an earth aspect, I don't think--"

"I do not wish to fight you," the woman said, waving her hand. "In fact, I believe I can assist... or rather, point you at assistance."

Juniper frowned. "What do you mean, exactly?"

"Not here. Too many ears." She tilted her head, indicating a nearby shop. "Go to the shirts. I will be there in ten minutes."

The woman walked off, leaving Juniper confused. She glanced at the store—another Cool Topic branch—and after a moment gave a frustrated sigh. "It's not like I have anything better to do..."

The shirts, at least, were interesting to look at. Some were silly nonsense... not too few had Sunset Shimmer and a fun little quote. She had to smile at the one where she was being pelted by oranges. 'Sometimes I don't know why I bother' indeed. A few other customers and workers moved through the dense collection of pop culture wares.

"There is a man—"

She jumped, dropping the Doctor shirt she had been examining. "What? Oh. You." With a flustered blush she gathered up the garment and stuffed it hastily back on the shelf. "Do you just like sneaking up on people?"

"It keeps me in form," the woman replied, a small smile on her face. "Do you wish assistance or not?"

"....I might as well listen. Go on."

"There is a man, gathering.... uniquely minded individuals. I do not know his goals, but I do know what he has promised, and what he has promised would be a great boon to those who oppose... her." The woman nodded at the shirts. "I've no doubt his group will seek you out, once they hear your story."

Juniper frowned. "I'm not looking for vengeance on Sunset Shimmer. I'm not stupid."

"No. You are not. They, however... are. Or rather, obsessed to a point where they do not realize what they are attempting."

"So... what? You want me to tell them not to be?"

"I feel you should join them. Pretend to loathe the godling and her impact as they do. And watch their benefactor closely."

Juniper looked at the shirts. "You want me to be your spy."

"The man knows of me, and that I know much. Were I to question him directly, I do not doubt he would attempt to chain me. You, on the other hand, are to him merely another acquisition in the waiting, and nothing is so easily excused as the curiosity of the young."

"Hmmph." Juniper crossed her arms. "And how will I know what to ask? How do you expect me to keep in contact with you?"

The woman produced a smartphone, her eyebrow quirked.

"Right, duh. Of course." Juniper face-palmed. "So if I agree to this... what is in it for me?"

"The man will grant you power; power he cannot control or deny, once granted, though only when he has seven under his sway. In spying for me you will learn of him, and what he knows of her and her friends. And the three he already has... one is remarkably unremarkable, one is cunning and capable, and one is an interesting reflection. They all plot against him already; you would need only befriend them, and you could bend them to your will."

"That's very cryptic."

"I cannot afford to tell you more. Not unless you agree."

"Right, plausible deniability. Fine." Juniper pulled her own phone out. "What's your contact info?"

"I'd rather yours."

"I'm the one that's going to be risking my life joining a bunch of crazies!"

"Hmm. Very well. 31732 719475 is my number. Texts only."

"Yeah, sure." Juniper Montage punched the number in. "I'll keep in contact with you. Once a week, if I can. And... crap, I'm actually going to do this, aren't I?"

"He has them running in circles while he waits for what he wants. Prepare for a long journey... and take care not to be noticed." The woman walked away, a mirror in her hand. "There is more at play here then what should be."

May the Hours Come Swiftly, by SaintAbsol

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He ran.

He couldn't tell where he was, or where he was running to, all that mattered was running from what was behind him. His breath came in desperate gasps, his body screamed at him in agony, but still he ran. He could feel it getting closer, but he dare not turn back and look, lest he trip and fall and be as good as dead. Other sounds reached his ears now: screams of terror, of agony, of defiance, screams that were silenced mere moments after they had started.

Still, he ran.

Suddenly, the ground dropped out beneath him, and he tumbled through blackness and nothing. He could hear himself screaming in terror, not knowing how long he fell through that void, before the very presence he had been fleeing surrounded him. A needle pierced his head, and he let loose a tortured howl, foreign thoughts invading his mind with all the gentleness of a branding iron.

"I had hoped for more from you, Jace. But I expected as much."

-----------------

Jace Beleren, Vice Principal of Ravnica High, awoke with a scream. His nightshirt and bed were soaked with his sweat, and his heart hammered in his chest as he fretfully glanced around the darkened corners of his bedroom. It took his mind several moments before it managed to remind himself that he was home, alone, and safe from his nightmares.

If only he could get himself to believe the last part.

With a sigh, Jace threw off the covers and headed toward his kitchen. He ould tell he wasn't going to be getting any more sleep tonight, might as well make some coffee before applying himself to one of his many tasks. He did still have two pentachromatic mana users to locate, after all.

Those Left Behind, by ArtieStroke

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The other Sunset almost jumped as she felt the burner phone in her pocket buzz. Which was weird, because the only two people who would have any reason to call here were in this... bar? Restaurant? It felt a little too seedy to just be a restaurant (she shuddered inwardly at actually describing a place as "seedy.")

Frowning, she flipped the phone open, stepping away from their table, "Hello?"

"Sunset? Oh, thank Harmony I finally got it right!"

Sunset's eyes widened, and she glanced at the table where her comrades were looking at her with raised eyebrows.

"I-I'll be just a second."

Quickly, but hopefully not too quick as to draw attention, Sunset went for the exit and stepped outside, the cool air of the night welcoming and fresh compared to the stale air inside. Turning a corner, she hissed into the receiver, "Sunburst, how did you get this number?!"

Her brother's voice came from the other side. "I've been trying to find you ever since that other Sunset changed the whole world! I've been worried sick! I know you like to be independent, but I could only imagine what kind of trouble's been going on for you since you, well... basically resemble the physical manifestation of a god-like entity."

"Yeah, you could say that," Sunset grumbled.

"I tried reaching you at work, but your boss said you quit. Your apartment's empty. What happened?"

"Sunburst, this REALLY isn't any of your concern. I'm fine! More than fine! I'm great!" She lied.

"Sunset..."

"Look," Sunset said, "I'm kind of in the middle of something. Doing things with important people. Just forget about whatever dumb worries you have, okay? Everything'll blow over soon."

"So you admit there's trouble that needs blowing over?"

Sunset rolled her eyes, and then growled when she realized that even with the sometimes vaguely supernatural senses twins share, Sunburst wouldn't see her frustration, "Just back off, alright?"

"O-okay! Okay. Just... and I know you're gonna get angry, but don't do anything rash, okay?"

"Good BYE, Sunburst."

And with a flip, her brother was a problem no more. Great. Now she'd need to get a new number.

Casual Wear of the Gods, by FoME

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Sunset legitimately liked Cool Topic. The usual customers were too busy being "ironically" disaffected to be awestruck. Plus, the idea of being merchandised had gone from embarrassing to genuinely amusing. "What do you think?" she said to Twilight, holding a shirt in front of her that was only a few shades darker than her skin.

Twilight took in Sunset's pleading face and clasped hands on the shirt, then looked at the caption. "Please Do Not Worship This Shirt."

"Too much?"

Twilight gave a fond smile. "I'm hardly an unbiased source when it comes to the question of too much Sunset." Her expression went lopsided. "Still, given how things are playing out, you may want to get seven of those. I'm pretty sure I saw someone bowing to me on our way here."

Sunset nodded, then checked the price tag. Her eyes widened and she whipped the shirt back on the rack. "Not at those prices, I'm not."

"Aren't you obscenely wealthy?"

"Yeah, and these shirts are obscenely expensive. Therefore, I can only afford one."

Twilight laughed and shook her head. "We're both hanging around Pinkie Pie too much. That actually made sense."


The next day, Sunset awoke to find a box on her front step. Within were seven "Do Not Worship" shirts and a signed apology from the manager of her local Cool Topic.

She facepalmed. "You know," she said to herself, "the worst part is that I really can't tell if they're missing the irony or deliberately ignoring it."

Driving Passions, by ArtieStroke

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Flash sighed. It was the sigh of a lonely, broken heart. A sigh of a longing lover, lost without love.

It was a sigh that Brawly Beats was starting to get tired of.

"Flash, my dude, my man, my brother," Brawly said, taking a moment to stop testing his drums, "If you sigh one more time I swear to Harmony I'm ending this band."

"Huh?" Flash turned, snapped out of his depressed state by being addressed by name.

Brawly rolled his eyes. "Seriously! This energy you're projecting is a major bummer, man."

"He's got a point, mate," Ringo said, nodding as he tuned his bass.

Flash rolled his eyes. "Come on, guys. It's not—"

"If you say 'it's not that bad' I am ALSO gonna quit the band."

Flash frowned, "Well, way to be supportive friends, guys!"

Brawly groaned, getting up from his drums and placing a firm hand on Flash's shoulder, "Dude, we've been pals since, like, kindergarten, and I love you bro, but this is almost as bad as when your crush on Lyra didn't work out because she doesn't swing your way."

Flash's face colored a bit as he grimaced, "Oh come on, I had almost completely forgotten about that, dude! Now I'm gonna have to spend another five years repressing that!"

"Wait, hang on," Ringo set down his bass, and actually took off his shades for once, "You had a crush on Lyra?"

"Yeah, it was the most embarrassing part of seventh grade," Brawly said, chuckling as Flash sank further into his own humiliation.

"And... ain't she actually a pony too?"

Brawly immediately stopped laughing, and something approaching horror formed on Flash's face

"Oh, no."

"Plus, there's... well, you know. That pony princess what looks like the new girl. And also God."

"Oh, please no."

Brawly slowly lifted his hand off of Flash's shoulder, discretely wiping it on his pants.

Ringo shrugged. "All I'm saying is—"

"Ringo?"

"Yeah?"

Flash looked his bassist in the eye, and for a moment Ringo thought he saw an emotion that rarely showed itself in Flash. A glint of red fury that chilled him to the bone.

"If you say another word, then I am quitting this band."

Ringo flipped his shades back one, hurriedly going back to tuning his bass, "You got it, boss!"

A Proper Skulding, by FoME

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Cliques were still very much a part of Canterlot High's social fabric. Some of that was inertia, but some genuine friendships had formed even during Sunset's reign of terror. Thus did three sophomore fashionistas sit at the lunch table they'd shared through a year of magical mayhem, and one nearly choked as a girl walked by.

That ivory skin. Those elegant curls. That... admittedly prosaic ensemble, but on her it looked good.

"Who is that?" said a stunned Starstreak.

Inky Rose looked behind her. Lily Lace just looked at Starstreak, gobsmacked. "Oh-em-tree. I thought you were lit'rally the gayest thing since—"

He groaned and held up a hand. "Do yourself a favor and don't finish that sentence. Besides, my preferences are not important right now. What is is that girl. I need her as a model."

"Don't," said Inky. Her drooping gaze spoke of ill portents, of inevitable death and darkness on the horizon.

She always looked like that, so Starstreak just rolled his eyes. "And why shouldn't I? The future belongs to those who dare to seize it."

"Oh. Does she, now?" said a voice from behind him. Lily and Inky both stared at the source, mouths open in silent gasps.

Starstreak turned. "I don't know about anthropomorphizing it, but— Ah. Miss Rarity." Anyone who operated and partially owned a boutique before she was even out of her junior year merited the Miss. "To what do we owe the pleasure?"

"Starstreak, wasn't it?" Rarity said coolly. "I admit, I haven't been spending as much time among the other fashionistas of late, but I do recall you having a pleasantly novel style."

"Thank you, miss."

Rarity looked off into the distance. "It would be such a shame if something were to happen to you."

Starstreak blinked. "I... beg your pardon?"

"Yes. You do." Rarity didn't scowl. She just stared dispassionately at Starstreak like she was debating whether to crush a bug or let it go about its business. "And I have yet to decide whether I will grant it."

"That was Sweetie Belle," said Inky.

Rarity nodded. "Indeed. My darling baby sister. Now, I won't be so overprotective as to forbid her any male attention whatsoever, but I will be watching any attentive boys very closely. I trust we have an understanding." Her headgem began to glow with light that flickered like amethyst flames.

Starstreak swallowed, doing little for the lump in his throat. "Y-yes, Miss Rarity."

It was like flipping a switch. In a single moment, the fashion queen of the school was gone and a smiling girl only a few months their elder took her place. "Good! Have a lovely day, all. Ta." All three watched her walk to join her friends at their lunch table.

"Sweetie's gonna be single until she's lit'rally fifty years old."

"Shut up, Lily," the others said in sync.

Kitchen of the Future, by Masterweaver

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"...Sweetie?"

"Yeah, Bloom?"

"You can see the future."

"Yes."

"And I'm not exactly sure how that works, but I'm assumin' it's always on at a low level?"

"Two, three seconds, everything is clear. Further then that takes a bit of strain."

"Right."

"...What?"

"I'm... look, I'm not going to say you should abuse yer gifts for personal profit, but, um..."

"What? What is it?"

"Sweetie, bein' honest, yah managed ta caramelize a tomato. I can give ya all the remedial cookin' lessons I want, but I'm thinkin' maybe ya should use your future sight in the kitchen a touch more often."

"...Or I could just use a microwave—"

"I AM NOT LETTIN' YA CAUSE ANOTHER NUKE SCARE!"

Transubstantia-shunned, by Void Knight, FoME, and ArtieStroke

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(Void Knight)

FWOOMP!

“Sunset? Wha—”

Before Twilight could even finish her sentence, Sunset had wrapped her up in a hug, squeezing as if Twilight were the only thing keeping her from getting dragged off to Tartarus while babbling in in the sleepy girl’s ear. “OhCelestiaOhCelestiaOhCelestia...”

“Can’t. Breathe.” gasped Twilight.

Sunset’s grip slackened a bit, but she still didn’t let go of Twilight for another minute or two. Finally, the two girls released each other and Sunset took a seat on the bed. Twilight gave her girlfriend a long look. Sunset’s eyes looked haunted, her body shook slightly, and her hair kept dissolving into a nimbus of comfortably warm flames about her head before recondensing into hair.

“You want to talk about it?” Twilight asked, trying to sound as receptive as she could.

Sunset took a deep breath, and her hair stopped flickering. “I thought I knew what it meant to have creepy worshippers. The prayers, the pendants, all that, I thought that was creepy. That wasn’t creepy. What I just... heard is the best word for it, I suppose. What I just heard some of them doing, that was creepy.”

“What did they do?” asked Twilight, bracing herself internally.

The two girls shifted around to sit side by side, backs against the head of Twilight’s bed. Sunset’s headgem flared green, and a rectangle of golden light traced itself on the air in front of them. Inside the rectangle, an image of some kind of chapel shimmered into view, filled with people dressed in their best clothes. More than a few, including the lady standing at the front, had the same bright yellow skin and striped red-and-yellow hair as Sunset herself.

For a moment, Twilight had no idea what had so disturbed Sunset. But then the priestess removed the cover of a dish sitting on the table in front of her, and the image zoomed in to reveal a pile of bacon bits. At the same time, sound joined the image, a voice that was presumably the priestess’s speaking from offscreen.

“I would ask those serving to come forwards. If the rest of you could wait as the element is distributed, we will partake together as one communion in Sunset.”

The image zoomed back out again to show several figures come forward and distribute the bacon bits among everyone. Sunset’s arm gradually slipped around Twilight and pulled her closer as the ceremony progressed, until by the time the servers returned to the front of the room Sunset was pressed up against Twilight like a vine against a wall. Twilight felt like a rabbit hypnotized by a serpent, horrified at what she was seeing but unable to look away.

The priestess raised her handful of bacon. “This is the body of Sunset, which we take in communion with Her,” she said, before eating.

“This is the body of Sunset,” echoed the roomful of worshippers, before they too took their mouthfuls of bacon. The image cut out.

“And that,” said Sunset, “is when I teleported to you.”

“You’re right,” said Twilight after a long moment. “That was an entirely new dimension of creepy.”


(FoME)

"Hmm..." Ruby Rose stroked her chin in thought. "So by consuming the bacon bits, you symbolically become one with the Glorious Proclaimer?"

"Precisely," said Western Horizon, founder of Bacharism.

"I see. Do you think that those of us who venerate Her equine aspect could make it work with hay?"

"Only the Golden-Marbled One can say for certain, but I don't see why it would not. The substance matters less than the intention with which it is consumed." After a moment, Western added, "Though I'm fairly certain she'd smile more on a substance you can actually digest."


Twilight awoke from a dream of being spooned by Sunset to find it had come true in one of the less pleasant ways. She turned to face her girlfriend as best she could. "Whuh?"

All Sunset said was, "It's spreading."

After a few moments, Twilight coerced enough neurons to fire to get her to say "What is?"

"The creepy bacon rite."

Twilight didn't say another word. She just held Sunset until the sun rose.


(ArtieStroke)

"... and so, I think we should add consumption to the Shimmerist curriculum." Ruby said, beaming in front of her three cardinals. The three of them gave various looks, before the pope's sister raised her hand. "Yeah, Sunny?"

"Ruby, that's kinda..." She grimaced, motioning to the other two to help her out.

"Creepy?" Belladonna said, turning back to her book.

"Disgusting?" Snow said, wrinkling her nose in disgust.

"Semi-cannibalistic?"

"Non-vegetarian inclusive?"

The rest of them looked at Snow for that one, as she shrugged her shoulders, "What? I find meat to be barbaric! No thank you!"

"C'mon, guys!" Ruby whined, "I got it explained and everything! Why don't you just give it a chance—"

"Rubes," Sunny said, standing up and putting a hand on her little sister's shoulder, "I know you're the pope here, but... Sunset's kind of still a person, yeah?"

"Yeah?"

"And how would you feel if a bunch of people worshiped you by eating a thing and pretending it was your body?"

Ruby frowned, "Ehhhhh..."

Sunny ruffled Ruby's hair, "Just give it more than a passing thought, okay? You know," she said, grinning, "Food for thought."

Belladonna sighed as Snow and Ruby groaned at Sunny's joke.

"Sunny, you're the worst."

"Don't you mean... the WURST? Eh? Ehh?"

"Just stop!"

"I swear I will excommunicate you!"

Bishop to b4, by Masterweaver

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"You've been punning more and more often ever since joining the clergy," Belladonna pointed out. "What is up with that?"

Sunny shrugged. "Well, I am the one whose name has the closest link to our Glorious Proclaimer, the whole sun thing, so I've done a lot of thinking about how words can be interpreted in a variety of ways. After that whole thing with the bar, I realized... I kind of have to watch what I say, so what I mean is clear, you know?"

Snow blinked. "I didn't think you'd take this so seriously..."

"Yeah I know, I look like a typical ditz. But after all that nonsense in Tauros..."

Sunny and Belladonna shuddered as one.

Snow nodded. "I guess I can see your point. If Ruby hadn't found me, I'd probably be starving on the streets still... Adversity builds character."

"Even if it isn't fun. Or deserved." Belladonna scratched the back of her neck awkwardly.

Ruby took a breath. "You... do you girls just want to take a spa day Saturday? Relax before we go back to being the heads of a religion?"

There was a pause.

"...Would any of us actually find that relaxing?" Sunny asked.

"Yeah, you're right. Paintball then."

There was a general nod of agreement.

In Heaven's Name, by Masterweaver

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Sunset Shimmer rolled her eyes as the doors slammed open. "Before you ask, I am not encouraging this. Heck, one of my bishops is trying to put it down. I'll take your petition, of course, and acknowledge it in my next vlog, but at the moment I am trying to relax."

Sunny Flare blinked. "...I thought you didn't like using omniscience."

"I don't."

"Then how do you know I'm objecting to the movement to make naming children after celestial objects illegal?"

"Same way I know about the countermovement to make people named after celestial objects saints of some sort." Sunset gestured to her phone. "The Internet."

Sunny opened her mouth, paused, and nodded. "Makes... sense. I had a speech—"

"Do you have it in text form?"

"Yes."

"Leave it with the petition, I swear I'll get to it."

Fallout Girl, by ArtieStroke, FoME, and Masterweaver

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(ArtieStroke)

Sweetie Belle landed with an 'oof', brushing her skirt as she stood back up. Dumb vision magic, making her mindscape feel real and stuff.

"Alright, what's wrong this time," she asked, mostly to herself. She never really got literal answers when seeing the future, just getting to witness the possible events as they might happen. Though she had to admit, this vision was... pretty boring. Metal halls and corridors everywhere, the flashing of backlit signs over heavy metal doors: Living Quarters, Engineering, Computer Repair. Huh. Must be quite a bit farther into the future than she thought. Maybe she was on a spaceship? That'd be pretty neat!

A figure rounded the corner, walking in a hurry. Sweetie could tell she was older than her, but she was still about her size. Clad in a blue jumpsuit with a pack over her back, the figure continued powerwalking down the hallway, and Sweetie's perspective followed her. They passed through a few more corridors, past places labelled Agriculture and Overseer's Office, until they reached one labelled Vault Entrance. Sweetie gulped; something about the door seemed imposing, even though it was hardly any different than the others. With another tap on the open button, the doors slid open, revealing a large room half-hewn out of stone.

"This doesn't look like a spaceship," Sweetie said, frowning. Her point of view continued forward, heading towards a pair of armed guards in front of a console.

"Ahem. Excuse me, sirs!" The girl said, nervousness in her voice, "I'm here on the, uh, Overseer's orders. Certified Vault-Tec technician. I'm supposed to be looking over the door controls, making sure they're still operating correctly after the, uh, incident."

The guards looked at each other, before one of them looked back, "Do you have requisition forms signed by the Overseer proving this?"

The girl blinked, "Uh..."

"Didn't think so," The other said, rolling his eyes, "Now beat it, pipsqueak."

Sweetie Belle frowned, crossing her arms. Those two were lucky this was just a theoretical vision of the future that she couldn't affect. They would be getting all kinds of talking-tos if she were actually there.

One of the guards frowned, "Hey, wait a minute. I recognize you."

"Huh?" said the girl.

The guard nodded, "Yeah. You're the one who let Velvet out of the Vault in the first place!"

The girl stiffened, and Sweetie Belle raised an eyebrow. She glanced over at the massive, cog-shaped door. How the heck could anyone break out through that?

"You know what?" The girl said, squaring her shoulders defiantly as her headgem started to glow, "You're absolutely right."

Sweetie turned back from the door, just in time to see the girl levitate a set of lockers, tipping them to the ground and trapping the guards under them. "WOAH! What the heck, that could've seriously hurt someone!" she squeaked, her words unnoticed as always by the girl whose perspective she was riding.

"And I'm also the one who's gonna get her back," the girl finished, jumping over the prone forms of the guards to the control panel, raising an arm with what looked like some kind of super-heavy watch attached to it. Sweetie grimaced, gingerly stepping over the guards as the girl typed on her watch.

"Alright, let's hope this works," said the girl, clicking one last button as an audio file popped up.

"The override code for Vault 2's door is DC3BFF."

Sweetie Belle's eyes widened. Though the recording was poor in quality, the identity of the voice was clear. "Apple Bloom!?"

Sirens began to wail as the girl typed in the code and a large, metallic arm swung forward and attached to the door. A voice on the loudspeaker crackled to life, "Stop! I order you to stop this instant!"

The girl jumped, scrambling away from the control panel and to the edge of the painted 'Stand Back' zone of the door.

"Guards! I want every guard to the Vault door. Stop that girl!"

"C'mon, c'mon, c'mon!" The girl said, bouncing on her feet in anxiety. Sweetie looked nervously from her, to the Vault door, to the exit, back into the Vault itself. What even was going on!?

"You don't have to do this!" The voice on the loudspeaker seemed almost pleading, "Littlepip— It's Littlepip, right?"

Littlepip—apparently—stopped, turning towards the loudspeaker, "Miss Overseer... Listen, I'm gonna bring Velvet back, okay? I have to do this—"

"Littlepip, if you take one step outside of that door, you won't ever get back in again!"

Sweetie put her hands over her mouth. How could they do that? To someone who was just trying to fix their mistake?

Littlepip turned back to the door, now fully pulled out of its frame and rolled to the side. She took a deep breath, and walked forward.

"Sweetie Belle."

Sweetie jumped, and immediately the vision faded away into a vaguely orange liminal space. "Sunset? What the heck was that?" she asked.

Sunset's physical form manifested with a worried frown. "I don't know, but whatever it was, it was strong enough to register as something I should be checking out personally." She started walking, Sweetie moving by her side.

After they walked for a while, Sunset spoke again. "I don't think that future you saw was inevitable, but whatever it was, it drew you to it because of how involved you and the rest of the Crusaders will be with it."

Sunset waved a hand, summoning a window that showed a bubble topped by a large, crystalline tree, with several small, fractured bubbles on the sphere's surface. Next to it, a similar bubble wrapped in Sunset's many protective arms drifted closer. A single, similarly fractured bubble flickered on the surface of Sunset's world with a fizzle before fading away.

"Well... that seems ominous," Sweetie said.

Sunset turned to her. "Someone's trying to mess around with fate, Sweetie Belle. I'd say that's a bit more than just 'ominous'."

(FoME)

Sunset very definitely did not think of her friends by any grandiose title. She knew if she slipped up and uttered some phrase like "Council of Harmony," "Circle of the Sun," or even just "Cosmic Balance Buddies," it would echo in the halls of every building that put her cutie mark in a prominent place.

So, it was just Sunset and her friends convening in Rarity's room, where Sunset displayed Sweetie's vision with what Twilight insisted on calling the holodeck spell. (It was nothing of the sort; there were much lower odds of any of the illusions becoming self-aware and trying to kill and/or seduce anyone.)

After the jumpsuited grey girl walked out of the Vault and the illusion vanished, Twilight was first to break the silence. "You do know that that was basically a riff on the Megaton games, right?"

Sunset blinked. "It was?"

Pinkie nodded. "Y'know, if Sweetie's going to date Button Mash, she really should brush up on this sort of thing."

"Sweetie's going to what!?" shrieked Rarity.

"It's especially bizarre," said Twilight, "because the Megaton games are built around a sort of 'retro-future' aesthetic, as if life really were how the 1950's imagined the 1990's before the bombs fell. Atomic-powered cars, robot butlers, individual transistors the size of postage stamps—"

"Could we get back to my darling little sister and the brute who wants to ravage her of her innocence?"

"Rarity, back before the Fall Formal, I didn't bother bullying Button Mash because he was too easy a target. Sweetie will be fine." Sunset gave Rarity a reassuring smile, then turned back to Twilight. "So, what are you saying?"

"Well, we don't have a lot to go on, but it doesn't seem terribly likely that our present would lead to that future."

"The resemblance could just be coincidence," said Rarity, who was searching MyStable for this so-called "Button Mash" on her phone.

"Giant gear doors, jumpsuits, multigenerational fallout shelters called Vaults led by Overseers?" Twilight shook her head. "There's coincidence, and then there's something that borders on copyright infringement. Something screwy is definitely going on."

"Well yeah," said Sunset. "I could tell that from how our world is listing in probability space."

Rainbow Dash waved a hand. "Uh, Earth to eggheads? Question from Ground Control."

Sunset turned to her. "Yeah, Dash?"

"What's this all mean, anyway?"

"Someone's screwing with time."

Twilight hummed. "You don't think..."

"Oh, come on. What are the odds that the human Starlight Glimmer would also be that reckless?" Sunset offered a wide smile. Twilight just stared at her, arms crossed.

Sunset looked around the room. "Guys? Little help?"

Applejack scowled. "Ain't Starlight Glimmer the pony what made you hurl 'cause she tried to ruin our lives?"

"Well, your analogues' lives, yes, but... Look, I'll check on her real quick, okay?" Sunset's eyes glowed golden. And stayed that way.

The others looked at each other nervously. This normally took less than a second. Finally, Fluttershy said, "Um, Sunset? Is everything okay?"

Sunset shakily said, "I can't find the human Starlight."

"Oh no. Is... is she—"

"That's the thing. I can't find any sign of her whatsoever. It's like she never actually existed."

Dash shrugged. "Maybe she doesn't."

Applejack nodded. "You never did track down your human self."

Sunset shook her head. "No. I considered asking her to help govern fate, but she panicked as much as she could when we changed the world. She's out there... except she isn't."

"So something's hiding her from you," said Twilight.

"Yeah." Sunset let her eyes dim, making the concern all the more visible. "The question is what. And why."

(Masterweaver)

The field of void raised. Coffee Swirl quirked an eyebrow, noting how the figure in the center sagged. "What just happened?"

"It is tedious but simple to hide from a god when they are not looking. When they seek one out specifically, measures must be taken." The figure nodded to the wide-eyed women on each side of him. "She sought them out specifically. I know not why, but—"

"WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT?!" Sunset shrieked. "WHAT THE FUCK DID WE JUST SEE!?"

"The... the fire, and, and the bodies, and they, and they were all moving..." Starlight hugged herself. "I, that was, so much at once—"

"Different presents. Different nows. Might have beens and maybes." The figure shrugged. "This world is still fractured, plates of possibility sliding over each other like tectonics on Earth. I've been leading us through caves, but to make you invisible when she was looking, I had to shove you into the mines."

Coffee Swirl leaned back with a frown. He noted the new kid staring at their benefactor, wide-eyed. "So are they going to have to go through that again, or what?"

The women snapped up at that, Starlight nearly stumbling, but the figure rose a hand. "Peace. The godling is young, and has life elsewhere. She will try to seek why her vision is not working, and in that time she will not seek any of us, I hope. If need be, I will do it again, but I doubt it will need be soon."

He frowned. "Though I had hoped it would not need be now... there are not enough of us yet..."

For a moment, he stared into the campfire.

"...We must move more swiftly. Juniper?"

The new girl jumped. "Wha— Yes?"

"Ask your friend for more donations. Surrounding myself with spies is better then an empty force."

"I, uh, don't know what—"

"In the meantime, we head east. Something precious lies that way. Not useful to me, but one will seek it, and through her we may find enough."

"I'm getting tired of your cryptic nonsense," Coffee Swirl grumbled.

"The godling is not the only one whose eyes and ears we must avoid. Don't fret; you will soon receive that which you have worked for."

Recessive Aubergine, by FoME

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"So then cousin Braeburn looks to me and says—" Applejack stopped in the middle of the hallway, eyes wide. "Shoot."

"What's wrong?" said Sunset.

"Forgot somethin' important." Applejack plowed into the stream of students moving the other way. Most of them scattered. A few went flying.

Sunset followed in her wake, offering uncertain smiles to those she passed by. "Applejack?"

Applejack didn't answer, too busy struggling with her locker. "C'mon. C'mon..."

"You know, that works better if you—" Everyone in the hallway winced at the sound of tortured metal. Sunset sighed. "... unlock it first."

"Phew. Thank goodness. Can't believe I left this in here." Applejack turned around, her smile sweeter than her grandmother's apple pie, holding a small bottle to her chest.

Sunset surreptitiously restored the locker door to how it was meant to be. "What is that? Looks like hand sanitizer." She leaned in closer. "Well, if hand sanitizer were cloudy and gritty."

"Ain't it obvious? Lemon juice, sea salt, an' ground-up sesame seeds."

Sunset looked back and forth between Applejack and the concoction she held so proudly. "What."

Applejack rolled her eyes. "I jus' told ya. Lemon juice, sea salt, an' ground-up sesame seeds."

"Are you really passionate about homemade salad dressing or what?"

"Look, with all the mythological nasties comin' outta the woodwork like they are, I figured it was best I take a few precautions 'gainst the Baba Ganoush."

Sunset took a few moments to formulate her response. "The what?"

"Oh, right. I suppose they don't tell that story in Equestria. The Baba Ganoush is an evil witch what takes away bad little boys and girls who don't do their chores an' makes 'em work all night an' day for her, farmin'..." Applejack shuddered. "Eggplants."

Sunset looked around. "I can't believe I'm saying this, but oh good, we have a crowd. Does anyone else know what Applejack's talking about?"

A chorus of "No"s rang out through the hallway.

Applejack looked around the crowd, scowling and holding her Baba Ganoush ward close to her. "What're y'all talkin' about?"

Sunset put a hand on her shoulder. "Applejack, I have some important news for you."


"Great practice, guys!" said Rainbow Dash. "Go hit the showers; I'll be in in a few!"

A few moments into collecting the practice soccer balls from the pitch, Dash spotted something through the bleachers. "Huh?" She went over the stands to see a girl lying on her back, staring up at the clouds. "Applejack?"

"Heya, RD." Applejack's gaze didn't move.

"What are you doing?"

"Did you ever know my family was..." Applejack bit her lip. "Weird?"

Dash crossed her arms. "AJ, I don't think I've seen a single thing in your house that didn't have an apple on it somewhere. Yeah. You guys are kind of weird."

"Huh. Do you like eggplants?"

"I can take 'em or leave 'em. Why?"

"No reason."

Bumping Back, by FoME

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Twilight looked back and forth between the two beaming earth aspects and the multimeter. Sunny Flare just tried to stare holes into Lemon Zest's smiling face.

Finally, Twilight turned off the power, took a deep breath, and said, "What."

"You turned gold wire into a room-temperature superconductor by covering the spool with stickers," added Sunny.

Twilight pointed at her. "Yes. That. What?"

"Huh. Y'know, I figured Sunny'd be the one to break," said Lemon.

"I know!" Pinkie held up a fuzzy pair of earmuffs. "I was already for a full-bore Sparkle freakout!"

Twilight, eyes twitching and hair springing out of shape, grunted out a "How?"

"Earth magic!" chorused the self-proclaimed fungineers.

Twilight started hyperventilating. Sunny raised a hand, hesitated for a moment, then put it on her shoulder. "Relax, Twilight. You get used to this kind of thing around Lemon. I think she infected your friend."

Twilight shut her eyes and stopped. Everything. For a few seconds, she was almost perfectly still. Finally, she said, "No, Pinkie's always like that." She looked to the pink pair. "Can you make more?"

"Yeah," said Lemon, "but this is still strictly cottage-industry-level bullshit. Takes a fair amount of oomph to convince the gold to let electrons flow free of charge."

"That's what the stickers are for!" said Pinkie.

"That is indeed what the stickers are for. But it should be enough for that project of yours, right?"

Twilight considered the spool of sci-fi paydirt. "Yes. Yes it should. Ladies, we are one step closer to the hand-portable anti-angst monster energy cannon."

"You're going to need a better name for it," said Sunny.

"We'll worry about that when we have a functioning prototype."

It Was Going to Happen Eventually, by EonAon

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A loud echoing boom resounded through Canterlot High. Most folks looked up and resumed what they were doing, considering it was a Tuesday. They all knew they would eventually find out what made that noise, especially on a Tuesday.

A pink blur ran through the hallways searching for the only one that could right this terrible terrible circumstance.

"Sunset, come quick! You have to help us in the NAHTI facility!"

"Why? What happened, Pinkie?"

"I was helping Mr. Discord in the NAHTI with some experiments and well a little bit of LAUGHTER seeped out and we blew out the walls.

"Annnd this concerns me how? I know Mr. Discord can put a few walls back with a literal snap of his fingers."

"Normally, yeah, but one of the walls we broke, Mr. Discord cant seem to touch."

"... How is that even possible? He can do nearly anything except organize his sock drawer with his powers. What possible thing can a simple wall do to prevent him from fixing it?"

"Well, the first wall was easy, but now it seems to be brick instead of cinderblocks. The second turned out nicely but the plaster and lathe seems be gingerbread and frosting. The third is pretty much back to normal but seems to have a door that goes anywhere."

"Wait, anywhere?"

"Anywhere on Earth apparently. There's sort of a dial on the door that you turn and it randomly opens up one of five thousand preset areas. I think I'm gonna book a trip with the travel agency Mr. Discord plans to open up for Spring Break."

"O... kay, but that still doesn't explain why I need to fix a wall."

"Oh! Well, when he tried to fix the fourth wall nothing seemed to happen. He snapped his fingers five or six times and nothing would appear. Apparently when he looked closer at the underlying substrate he found it became too self-referential for him to affect, so he asked me to get you for help. He said something about a Sue."

"I still don't know why I should make a wall for you. I mean, if he can't make it, I know that Principal Celestia has some mortar and bricks for him."

"Nope, it can't wait that long! The wall has to be built before next period or else we're all doomed!"

"It's just a wall, Pinkie! As long as it's not load bearing, I don't see why we need to replace it right now."

"That wall is also the one that connects to the back of the girls' locker room, Sunset. Gym classes are a thing."

"... Next time, Pinkie, lead with that. I'll be right there to fix that fourth wall."

Sentry on Duty, by EonAon

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One Friday at Sugarcube Corner, Flash Sentry looked about with a weird look on his face.

"Hey, Flash."

Looking around, Flash spotted Ditzy Doo and waved her over. "Hey, Ditzy. How's the magical girl thing going for you?"

"You would not belive some of the things that have happened... Wait, forgot who I was talking to. Saved any more orphanges lately?" Ditzy laughed.

"Actually, I'm having a weird week. Even for me, believe it or not." Flash shook his head. "Actually, I don't think you will believe it."

"You can tell me, Flash. We've known each other since kindergarden. Besides, your week couldn't have been any weirder than mine."

"See, that's the issue. Nothing's happened. Nothing at all. No battle of the bands against evil developers, no driving my car and finding somebody on the side of the road who's secretly an heiress on the run from the mob, no magical mishaps. Nothing. Its starting to freak me out a bit."

Ditzy all but fell into the chair next to him as she thought about that. "You're right. That "is" weird for you."

Conspiracy Weary, by FoME

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"... and then Button said—"

A lunch tray slamming onto the table cut Sweetie off. She and Apple Bloom looked to see a bleary-eyed Scootaloo all but fall into her seat.

"Dang, Scoot, you look like death warmed over." Apple Bloom tossed an apple onto the other girl's tray. "You need that more'n I do."

"Still can't sleep?" said Sweetie.

"No. Every night with these people. I get it's important. I really do. I just wish they'd actually say something meaningful for once! Every single time, it's all 'false bone and cold iron' or 'the mines of time' or 'the raven farts at midnight.' Just once, I'd like to hear some bunch of shadowy figures who just comes out and says what the crap they're talking about!" Scootaloo sighed and grabbed the apple. "Or at least one that didn't bother me."

"We should prob'ly tell Sunset about this," said Apple Bloom.

Scootaloo rolled her eyes and swallowed."Tell her what? I'm hearing voices at night? Even I'm not sure if they're actually dreams."

"I think we can ask Vice Principal Luna about that," said Sweetie.

"I'd warn her about this, sure. But first I'd need to know what I'm actually warning her about." Scootaloo folded onto the table face first. "Sometimes I wish I could trade this stupid magic for flight."

Apple Bloom threw a french fry at her. Scootaloo's hand darted up, snatched it out of the air without her looking, and brought it to her mouth. "Ya sure about that?"

"Okay, maybe not, but I at least wish it had an off switch." Scootaloo twitched. Her stunted wings flared out of her neck as she bolted to her feet. "Oh, don't tell me someone's meeting in the middle of the day! No one cares!"

Huginn Kisses, by Masterweaver and FoME

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(Masterweaver)

A few days passed.

Sweetie and Apple Bloom shared a look.

"...Uh, Scoots?" Apple Bloom tried. "Ya got... a little somethin' on yer—"

"It's a raven." Scootaloo shot her a grumpy look. "Don't act like you don't know what it is."

"Um. Okay. Why do you—"

"It won't leave me alone!" Scootaloo exploded. "It's just following me everywhere and, and..."

She sighed.

Sweetie awkward reached out to pat the shoulder that was not occupied by a bird. "Well... at least it's friendly?"

"I guess..."

"Cute boy!" the bird cawed suddenly, poking Scootaloo.

"Agh what—"

"Cute boy!" It pointed its beak at a bench.

"What, Rumble? Rumble's not—"

"FLIRT FLIRT FLIRT FLIRT—"

"SHUT UP!"

Sweetie winced. "Yeah. Okay. That's... weird."

(FoME)

A man strode into Canterlot High as though he owned the place. His hair and beard, both close-cropped, were at that uncomfortable point between greyish red and reddish grey. His skin was the color of basalt and about as craggy. He wore an expensive suit the color of melted vanilla ice cream, a grey silk tie, and a silver tie pin depicting a tree in surprising detail. A raven perched on one shoulder like a parrot that had recently escaped from a coal chute.

"Sir?"

The man did not acknowledge the voice as he moved past the principals' offices. The voice's owner pursued him.

"Sir, this school may have a rather lenient admission policy, but you are clearly not a teenager."

"That I am not, Luna Empyris," said the man, not breaking his stride as he continued onward. "Rest assured that I will not be long."

Luna considered magically restraining the man, but even considering it sent a shiver from her headgem down her spine. "Sir, I would greatly appreciate it if we could avoid any major magical incidents this week."

"I will try to be subtle, but that was always my brother's forte." The man chuffed out a harsh laugh. "Fat lot of good that did him in the end."

Luna took a deep breath and drew on decades of experience with Mr. Discord. "Can I at least know who's trespassing in my school?"

The man stopped at the doors of the cafeteria and glanced back at her. He offered a weathered smile. "Call me Mr. Wednesday."

With that, he threw open the doors and strode in, surveying the area. The teenage crowds all turning to him and looking at him helped, though the way they seemed to be waiting for him to do something interesting was a touch disconcerting.

Mr. Wednesday's eye gravitated towards one table in particular, but found only disappointment. "Not the valkyrie or the tree spirit or even Iðunn the Younger," he muttered.

His raven cawed an inch from his ear, then clamped down and tugged. He let it steer his head until he saw its partner. "Ah! Well spotted."

Eyes kept following him as he strode through the cafeteria. Even Iðunn the Elder—and for all he knew, that might well have been her—was watching him from behind the serving counter. He lapped up the attention eagerly. It wasn't worship, but it was still a pleasant warmth on old bones.

He stomped to a stop like a jolly, half-drunken uncle and pitched his voice to match. "What do you think you're doing, bothering these young Norns like this?"

The other raven flapped away from him, keeping the orange Verðandi between them. "NO!" it screeched.

Mr. Wednesday sighed and turned to his other raven. "How many times has this happened since Sunset Shimmer healed the world?"

"EIGHT!"

"Just so." He looked down at the young fatespinners and chuckled. "My apologies, ladies. My thoughts have a tendency to get away from me."

The raven's new perch beamed at him. "So you're here to take this thing away?"

"NO! NO NO NO NO—"

"SHUT UP!" girl and god bellowed as one. Mr. Wednesday extended an index finger expectantly. The raven feigned pecking at it a few times before hopping on as sulkily as it could.

"Thank the Tree you showed up, Mister," said the young present.

Mr. Wednesday couldn't help but chuckle at that, even if it made the stabbing pain in his chest throb a little in memory. "Indeed."

"Uh, Apple Bloom?" said the white Skuld. "You okay?"

The yellow Urðr just gaped at him, eyes likely filled with visions of better, darker days.

Mr. Wednesday grinned. "I have that effect on some women."

The Cosmic Perspective, by FoME and Star Scraper

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Twilight stared out at the moon and stars, not with wonder, but with fear. The cosmos unfolded before her in all its splendor, yet she sat folded in on herself, half-whispering, "It wouldn’t be so bad if space wanted to kill us. The truth is that there’s nothing there. Nothing to hate, nothing to care, nothing to breathe. We are the skin infection of a dust mote circling a spark in an emptiness so vast that we can’t even hope to comprehend the scales involved."

Sunset quirked an eyebrow and dismissed her spell. Light pollution streamed back in, obscuring many of the stars that could be seen from Twilight's bedroom window. "Twilight, I just asked if you wanted some hot chocolate."

Twilight still stared at the sky. "What is hot chocolate to the void?"

"I’m not serving hot chocolate to the void. I’m serving it to you."

"Universal consciousness claims that all are one, and in some metaphysical sense might just be due to the Mind-Body Problem and unphysicality of qualia. So we are all the void."

After a deep breath, Sunset smirked. "So if you’re part of the void, then the void likes hot chocolate?"

Twilight processed this for several seconds. Finally, she said, "Yes. The void likes hot chocolate and would like some, please. It also says thanks."

"Any time," Sunset said with a kiss to the top of the void's head.

Symmetric Property, by SaintAbsol

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"Sorry 'bout this, Miss Sunset."

Sunset groaned, rubbing at her head. "Look, Macintosh?"

"Just call me Big Mac, Miss Sunset," said the man leading her through the orchard. "Most people do."

"Okay, Big Mac. Anyway, you're my friend's brother and I've known you socially for a while now. It's bad enough that people I don't know are treating me as some sort of goddess, I really don't want to have to deal with people Iknow treating me specially. So, please, drop the 'Miss'."

Macintosh glanced back over his shoulder, then back to the path they were walking. "Okay."

"Good," Sunset let out a sigh of relief. "Now, what's the problem?"

Macintosh hesitated. "Um... probably best if'n ya just see fer yerself. It's just up here."

He led her to a clearing that Sunset vaguely recognized from the time AJ's problem with green mana first came up. Furthering the nostalgia, Applejack towered overhead just as she did then. However, Sunset found herself gaping at what else was there. Applejack held something that compared to her was the size of a small dog, something that the pony-turned-human had thought she'd never see in real life again.

"That's a bucking dragon!"

The dragon in question was sporting a mix of brown and white scales and let out a short cry that sounded very similar to a bark at Sunset's shout, squirming about as Applejack struggled to hold it and calm it down. "Easy there, Winona girl; ya know Sunset."

Sunset blinked in shock. "Wait, 'Winona'?"

The dragon barked again, this time releasing a bit of fire as it did, making AJ flinch away.

"Eeyep," Macintosh drawled, a bit of tension in his voice as he tried to put on a calm expression. "She was like that when we got up, and AJ's been tryin' to keep her from burnin' down the orchard. So... if'n ya could get her back to bein' a dog, we'd really appreciate it."

Scratching at the Wrapper, by FoME

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People filled Canterlot Park amid perfect early summer weather. On one grassy swath, Bonbon practiced martial arts katas, while Lyra rested her head in her palms and watched Bonbon practice martial arts katas.

Lyra sighed. "Harmony, you're beautiful."

"What brought this on?" Bonbon smiled despite the question, not breaking her practice.

"Just thinking." Lyra turned over on to her back, still watching her. "Remember the first time we met?"

"How could I forget? It was so awkward to stand up there in front of everyone. I could barely remember my own name."

"You were beautiful then, too."

That almost made Bonbon miss a step. "I was not."

"You were!" Lyra said as she brought herself up to a sitting position.

"Lyra, I was a brace-face with glasses thicker than my pinkies." Bonbon smirked. "Besides, I remember your expression when you first saw me with contacts. I'm pretty sure that was the day you figured out you liked girls."

"I always knew I liked you." Lyra gave another sigh. "So, what agency does your dad work for?"

"Wh-what?" That did make Bonbon miss a step. She teetered on one foot, her other leg extended in a side kick. Once she stabilized, she said, "What are you talking about?"

Lyra crossed her arms. "Bonnie, I'm not stupid. I've been in the same classes as two Twilight Sparkles. Most fathers don't teach their daughters sleeper holds and kung fu."

"This isn't kung fu."

"That's not the point."

Bonbon sighed. "Lyra, this isn't some dumb spy movie. This is real life."

Lyra flared her headgem and gave Bonbon a flat look. "I've seen you recharge your phone by giving it a pep talk."

"Only by, like, five percent." Bonbon held Lyra's gaze for a few moments before wilting. She sat next to the other girl and gave her a side hug. "He's just really concerned about me being able to defend myself, that's all."

"Yeah," Lyra scoffed, "because we live in such a rough town."

Bonbon squeezed. "Lyra, I swear that my father doesn't currently work for any branch of the Federated States government."

"Bonnie..."

"And to the best of my knowledge—"

"Bonnie." Lyra gave her a light shove. "I know weasel words when I hear them."

"I'm not a spy. Dad's not a spy." Bonbon kissed Lyra on the cheek. "Happy?"

Lyra returned the hug and the kiss. "Yeah."


At dinner that night, Bonbon bit her lip and said, "Dad?"

Bon Mot looked up from his spaghetti. "Yes, Sweetie?"

"Did... did Mom ever, you know... suspect?"

Her mother, Aspartame, snorted. "Believe me, Sweetie, if I had ever suspected what he was up to before it was too late, I would... Well, things would've gone differently."

Bonbon looked down. "Oh."

"Is this about your friend?" said her father.

She nodded.

He sighed. "Be as honest as you can, dear. That's all any of us can do."

Backwards in High Heels, by SaintAbsol

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Apple Bloom sighed to herself as she walked through the halls of Canterlot High; Sweetie Belle was beside her, talking about something or other that was supposed to happen in the future, while Scootaloo shuffled along like a zombie beside the pair, occasionally cursing at the random bits of information she spontaneously knew regardless of the lack of context for any of them. All in all, it was pretty standard fare for the arbiters of fate.

Suddenly, Sweetie let out of a little "Ooh!" of excitement, a bright grin coming to her face as she turned to look at Apple Bloom.

"...I know that look, Sweetie," the farm-girl drawled, slightly nervous. "That's the look ya get whenever ya see Rumble and Scoots around each other."

Sweetie glanced toward their orange-colored friend just in time for her to say "I don't like him!"

"I didn't say you did~" Sweetie all but sang out, that smile still in place, causing Scootaloo to bury her face in her hands. "Buuuuuuuut, I think it can wait, we don't want to be late for class."

"Yeah," Apple Bloom grunted, starting around one of the hall's corners, only to grunt as she ran right into someone else.

Both of them staggered a bit, trying to keep their balance; however, being an earth aspect who had lived on a farm her whole life, it was Apple Bloom who eventually managed to keep the two of them from falling. Allowing her to finally get a good look at who she had collided with. It was a boy, with coloration shockingly similar to Scootaloo's, but with no sign of neck fluff. He was wearing a simple, if somewhat tight white shirt with a pair of pants that looked like they were part of a suit, as well as a pair of overly fancy shoes.

However, despite his rather fancy dress, the first words out of his mouth were "Sorry! Are you okay?"

Apple Bloom blinked a bit, but finally remembered what was going on. "Oh, Eeyep. Sorry 'bout that, wasn't really lookin' where I was goin'."

"Neither was I," the boy admitted, rubbing at the back of his head. "I was kind of in a rush. Name's Tender Taps, by the way," he added, reaching out his other hand for her to shake.

"Apple Bloom," she responded, shaking his hand with a smile. "Nice to meet'chya."

"Yeah," Tender Taps said, smiling as well, before his eyes bugged out at the sight of a nearby clock. "I've gotta go, I'm going to be late for my dance lessons!" He dashed around the corner, but not before calling back to Apple Bloom. "It was nice meeting you!"

Apple Bloom smiled a bit, before she blinked, then scowled. "You saw that happen, didn't you, Sweetie?"

"Maaaaaaaaaybe," Sweetie said, smiling coyly.

"She has her shipping chart in her backpack," Scootaloo grumbled, making that smirk shatter.

"You promised you wouldn't tell anyone about that!"

"No I didn't."

Apple Bloom sighed, rubbing her head as the other two started arguing, before grabbing both of them and starting to physically drag them to class. Tender Taps wasn't the only one who was going to be late if they didn't move it.

Breathtaking, by SaintAbsol

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"Mooooom," Dinky Doo whined as she walked along beside her mother. "You said you had something to show me and we've just been sitting here for forever!"

"It's been twenty minutes, Dinky."

"Same thing!"

Ditzy sighed, shaking her head slightly. Ever since Dinky had (almost literally) popped into her life, the high school girl had developed a newfound respect for her parents and just how hard it had to be raising a child. Granted, they were more than understanding about the unusual situation with Dinky, but there were still times that she really wanted to punch her future self in the face for sending Dinky back in time, regardless of the reasons.

However, she had been working on getting everything right for what she was planning for a while now, and Dinky's impatience wasn't going to stop her now. "Just a little bit longer now, dear."

Dinky grumbled as she adjusted her coat. The air was growing cold as winter approached, and the sun starting to set meant what heat there was had already begun to fade. She eventually just sighed out in frustration, watching her breath condense in the air.

Suddenly, Ditzy's hand shot out and actually grabbed the tiny cloud. While Dinky watched with wide eyes, Ditzy's hands worked the cloud like clay, forming it into a heart as she smiled at her daughter.

"How..."

"Magic," Ditzy said with a smirk, letting the heart float free. She breathed out her own cloud, gathering it in her hands as she concentrated, her eyes faintly starting to glow as she worked and shaped the cloud into a rabbit. Finally, she let it go, and it actually hopped around in the air, much to Dinky's delight.

Ditzy smiled as she watched her daughter reach out and pet the cloud bunny. It hadn't been easy to master this little trick, but the look on Dinky's face made it all worth it to her.

It's So Meta Even This Acronym, by Masterweaver

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"....and one of the big problems is the WAITING," Raspberry Fluff complained. "I mean, seriously, I know it takes a while to make an anime, but come the hell on!"

Lemon Zest nodded. "Doesn't help that there are, like, two or three different sequel arcs in the works."

"Whoa, what, really?"

"Yeah, there's something about the time-menders, and then there's this whole arc with a mysterious benefactor, and I think I heard something about politics."

"Yeesh. These creators... it's like, I love your work, but FOCUS ON ONE THING!"

"I know, right?"

"Yeah." Raspberry shrugged. "Oh well. Hey, it's almost time for service. Wanna bet on how many times Ruby slips up?"

"She's getting better. I think two 'Wait I can explains' and one 'Here's a big word I can't pronounce.'"

"I'd actually say three big words, one explain, and one 'Metaphor nobody's heard of!' kind of deal."

"Twenty bucks on the winner?"

"Sure."

X-Ray Examination, by Jenna Cipher and FoME

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(Jenna Cipher)

The strange creature before It was puzzling.

Scans registered the specimen as mammalian in nature, corroborated by many of its physical features. However, said scans could not however explain the decidedly non-mammalian feathers growing along the cervical vertebrae, or the antigravitational capabilities demonstrated during pre-abduction observation.

Nor was this the only suite of abnormalities this race possessed. Several other "aspects" had been abducted and studied, none of which It could comprehend any more than this one. The supposed cause of these mutations puzzled It most of all. Based on the data thus far, this species both did and did not possess the Blessing; though the energy they manipulated appeared to have similar effects, any attempt to analyze it produced results not possible under the laws of physics as Its kind understood them.

With a look of near-resignation on its mouthless face and a glimmer of frustration in its large, bug-like eyes, it plucked a single orange hair from the specimen's head and set it into the ship's scanner for another round of tests.

The computer emitted a loud series of insectoid clicks and screeches that, if translated to the specimen's language, would mean, "DNA analysis 42 of test subject 'Windy Whistles', in progress."

It left the computer to its business and walked toward the stairwell leading to the launch bay. It would need to launch more abduction probes, collect more samples, and devise much more invasive tests if It was to solve the mystery of these "humans'" abilities. Still, even with Its many failures, some part of It remained confident that the task was possible.

(FoME)

Ditzy didn't usually loom over Kikai. The Munarin had been through more than enough; she didn't need the locals flaunting their greater size over her. But today was special. Ditzy dropped the newspaper in front of the felinoid alien, crossed her arms, and said, "Explain."

Kikai, who had been napping on Ditzy's bed until that point, wiped at her eyes with a paw, then looked at the paper. "I am terribly sorry that the subway workers' union is still in a standoff with management."

"The other article."

"'Mysterious Disappearances Continue.' Kikai bolted to her feet. "Do you think it's the Vaucoi?"

"It doesn't sound like them. People are just gone. Totally without a trace, physical or magical. No one's bothered Sunset about it yet, but... Well, call it a hunch, but I think there's something else out there. And I figured you might know them."

Kikai sighed. "Miss Doo, I'm flattered by your confidence, but I am not a copy of the Encyclopedia Galactica. Even if I were, I'd be horribly out of date. Besides, why would any self-respecting species travel halfway across the galaxy just to abduct a few of the..." She trailed off, eyes wide. "Oh no."

"What?"

"They are the... how to translate the term? Astrals? Quintessentials?"

Ditzy quirked an eyebrow. "You copied my knowledge of Wranglish. How can you not know?"

Kikai paced about the bed. "Because your language is a hair-splitting kleptomaniac with commitment issues. The point is that I do know of one species that might qualify. And if I'm right, we may want to contact Miss Shimmer sooner rather than later."

Cool But Impractical, by FoME

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Stone Waller had seen a lot of strange things over the years. Even before an alien teenager had become a god in denial, there had been things lurking at the edges of the world. She knew how right the term "paranormal" was; in her experience, the supernatural looked just like the normal, only twisted in a subtle way that was hard to notice but impossible to unsee once spotted.

It did not sit smiling on the other side of her desk, wearing a well-tailored if lime-green three-piece suit.

"I'm going to be blunt, Miss Heartstrings," said Waller. "I've spent almost thirty years in the Department of Paranormal Investigation. I've learned a lot of valuable lessons in my time, and one of the big ones is that national defense is best left to mundane methods." She sighed. "Unfortunately, I'm only the deputy chief, and Deeper Truth is convinced that now that magic is publicly available, we might as well put it to use. I'd heard about the lightsaber rumors at DAPLA, but I didn't think they'd drag you into this." Waller nodded to the woman sitting next to the sharp-dressed alien. "Or you, Tia."

Celestia gave a familiar, understanding smile. "I remember how it is, Stone. Besides, the Power Patriots need to work with the government, or at least not actively against it. Otherwise, we're just a bunch of vigilantes with good publicity."

Lyra crossed her arms. "I'm afraid I can't be as good a sport about this."

Waller raised an eyebrow. The girl's fists were clenched, but she'd assured Waller that most Equestrians did that when they forgot they had fingers. "Is it because we're not ponies?" Waller smirked as she glanced at her own fingernails. "Not entirely, anyway."

Lyra shook her head. "Truth be told, you are among the first non-equine governments we've reached out to, but that's not it. The standard Bureau policy for governments that don't contribute to our budget is mutual noninterference. This clearly isn't that.

"Granted, I technically don't have the authority to approve or deny the proposal, but even if I kick it upstairs, I'm sure you'll only have to wait longer before you get a 'No.'"

"Why not?"

"For one, you're definitely not going to get any other Bureau agents to help. Probability space is a perpetual mess, and that's putting it politely. That means that logistics are limited to portals, which your world can barely support right now, and one natural worldshifter who's still a legal minor. Secondly, I suspect this proposal was made largely for the acronym."

Celestia smirked. "It wouldn't be the first time. Remember SMILE and FROWN?"

Waller kept her thoughts on the matter out of her expression. "All too clearly."

"Here, it's downright transparent," said Lyra. "You even switched two letters around. It's the Equestrian Time-Space Administration, not the other way around. And we definitely have no interest in facilitating an interdimensional league of superheroes."

Waller nodded, allowing one corner of her mouth turn up just a fraction. "Understood. I'll just have to tell Chief Truth that he won't get to establish ESTABLISH."

It's Not Easy Being Blue, by Void Knight

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The man opened his eyes.

He lay on his back, looking up through a canopy of delicate green toward the darkening blue of the sky. Stalks of bamboo were rustling in a warm, drowsy breeze. He could feel through his bruises (and a tremendous headache) that the ground beneath him was plush with fallen leaves. It was quiet here, under the bamboo. The air tasted faintly of salt, and he could hear waves in the distance.

Well, thought Jace Beleren, Vice Principal of Ravnica High as he sat up, this is new.

A quick glance around confirmed that he was nowhere he’d ever seen before. The island on which he now sat didn’t seem to have any other people on it, and was not all that big. But there, not a stone’s throw away across a shallow channel, was a town.

Okay, first step is to get to that town. It looks like a fairly civilized place, so they’ll have maps, cars, telephones, all the things I need to figure out where I am and how I got here and to get back home.

The thought of telephones prompted him to check his pockets, but his cellular phone was missing.

He made to step forward into the water, but just as his foot crossed the plane of the water’s edge, there was a flash of golden light and a force that threw him back. He landed on his back, and raised his head just in time to see a shining triangle enclosed by a circle fading away in the air in front of him.


“I don’t get it,” said Apple Bloom, sticking her hand out and splashing some ocean water. “Why doesn’t this magic stop us? And why did you bring us here? And what’s wrong with Scoots?” A wave of her hand indicated the orange-skinned daredevil, who was currently lying sprawled on the sand clutching her head.

“Weirdly enough, all those questions have the same answer,” said Sunset Shimmer. “You see, whoever did this didn’t technically cast a spell confining Vice Principal Beleren to this island. She found another Jace Beleren in some other universe, one who was already under a spell confining him to an island, or something similar. Then she cast an extremely powerful destiny spell linking the two of them. So we can pass through the shield because it doesn’t exist for anyone except Vice Principal Beleren. You’re here because I’m going to need your skills untangling the destiny spell without ripping big holes in causality. And I forgot to warn Scootaloo to brace herself, and she got stunned by suddenly coming face-to-face with that strong of a destiny spell that's currently ongoing. She’ll be fine in a moment.

“Gwabarga,” said Scootaloo, rolling over.

Spreading Trends, by SaintAbsol and FoME

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(SaintAbsol)

It was rather unnerving to see the school late at night, or so Rarity thought. The building just didn't look right looking so... empty and void of light or electricity; that it was well after midnight and she was alone didn't help matters. She shivered as a light breeze blew by, surprisingly cool even after the heat of the day, and wrapped her jacket a bit tighter around her. She would rather have been at home, in her nice, comfortable, exquisitely designed bed, but she had something she needed to get done, and this was the only time that Sunset wouldn't notice what she was doing... hopefully.

The base of the school's statue suddenly glowed, and a figure staggered out of it.

She was a pale white unicorn aspect, with a spiky collage of hair in purple, green, and yellow, wearing what looked to be a leather jacket and a pair of shorts that were just shy of being risque. "Well, that was something." The unicorn aspect did her best to stand upright, and looked at Rarity. As the girl opened her mouth, the newcomer cut her off with, "Don't ask. It involved a mix-up with a pair of potions that I'm at least as much to blame for as anypony else."

"Oh, good," Rarity said. "I was afraid I had been seduced into a punk band."

"No, but I think I've managed to start a punk revival in Ponyville." Rarity's Equestrian counterpart chuckled a bit, reminiscing. "Anyway, we've gotten off track here." Reaching into the pocket of her jacket, she pulled out a relatively small bag and held it out. "From what you've told me, gold is more valuable in your world than in Equestria, so this should be enough of a start-up loan."

It was all Rarity could do to not snatch the bag out of her counterpart's hand, instead gently taking it, and gripping it tightly so as not to open it for a peek. "Most likely, yes."

"Good," the transformed Equestrian said with an almost maniacal smirk. "Once you've gotten things set up here, I'll start sending you a few of my designs for you to modify."

"And," Rarity said with a matching smile, "once I've turned a profit, I'll send you a few of mine as well."

"And then, the first multidimensional franchise shall be established—"

"—and the fabulosity shall last FOREVER!"

As one, both Rarities threw their heads back and burst into mad laughter. All that was missing was a flash of lightning and thunder to complete the moment.


(FoME)

Sunset dismissed the scrying window hanging over her bed. "Should I tell them I always keep half an eye on the portal?"

Next to her, Twilight giggled. "That depends. Should one of us tell P-Rarity that the first outfit the portal gives you seems to become your default for all future trips to this universe?"

"I think we'll let her figure that out."

Traditions Old..., by FoME

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"Okay, maybe if I..." Sunset forced her will against the substrate of the Astral Plane, one eye squinting shut and one cheek puffing out amid the mental effort.

The plane stubbornly remained orange.

"Darn it, what did I do?"

A subsonic thrum through the fabric of the local reality broke Sunset's concentration. She shrugged. "Eh, I needed a distraction. Good thing I got that transætheric doorbell." She willed the door to her house next to her and made for the front door. Opening it revealed a girlfriend holding what seemed to be a thin magazine. "Hey, Twilight. What have you got there?"

"P-Twilight sent me an annotated Equestrian calendar. May I come in?"

"Of course." Sunset took the calendar as she stepped aside. Photos of ponies in various picturesque points of Ponyville looked back, with explanatory captions underneath each one. "Huh. Didn't turn into anything different. There's that hypothesis disproven."

"Well, yes," said Twilight, now in her favorite chair, "but that wasn't what I wanted to talk about."

"What is it?"

Twilight enveloped the calendar in her magic and flicked through page after page, keeping them facing Sunset. "The days with holidays, festivals, and celebrations on this calendar outnumber the ones without any. When do ponies actually get anything done?"

"To be fair, I'm pretty sure pony Pinkie Pie made up at least half of those holidays." Sunset took back the calendar and leafed through it for a bit, her expression growing more uncertain with every moon. "Or maybe a third... or a quarter..." She bit her lip. "Okay, I definitely didn't recognize a few of those."

"I don't mean to insult your native culture, but you do have to admit that it's a little ridiculous."

Sunset raised an eyebrow as she looked back at Twilight. "Are you saying you don't want your Mare's Day bouquet?"

Twilight stiffened up, eyes wide. "I never said that."

... And New, by FoME

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After several months of Ruby Rose's papacy, Sunset was beginning to get handle on the girl. "Beginning" being the operative word. "So, walk me through this," she said as they walked about the grounds of Bacon Academy.

"Above all else, o Glorious Proclaimer, you represent balance, so it's only natural that your most holy day be one where the day and night are of equal length."

"Right, I get that part of the symbolism. I don't see why you can't just use my birthday or something, though."

Ruby shook her head. "It's already taken. That's when we properly revere the Most Blessed Progenitrix."

Sunset took a moment to process that before facepalming. "Please don't tell me you're deifying my mother."

"As you wish, o Divine Bacon Horse."

Sunset took a deep breath and decided it was best to move on. "Alright, fine. Equinox it is. But why autumn over spring? Wouldn't it be more appropriate to celebrate my actions with the world returning to life or something like that?"

"This way, we face the coming months knowing that you will be there with us, that though the sun may set on the world, you will never set on your faithful." Ruby shrugged. "Plus, your version works in the Southern Hemisphere."

"Guess I'm just going to have to get used to people on this side celebrating the White Sabbath." Sunset thought of the times when she spent time with Princess Celestia on her traditional day of rest. Not that she'd been able to get much of it with Luna still banished.

"Hmm." The sounds of Ruby thinking brought Sunset back to the present. "White doesn't work, but... Oh! Golden! Golden Sabbath! We've been meaning to pick a proper name for it!"

"Why do I even speak around you?" Sunset groaned.

Ruby beamed. "Because you're an eternal font of knowledge and wisdom!"

"Yes. Obviously."

Dearly Demi-Departed, by ArtieStroke

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"Cadence, one of these days you're really gonna have to break out the actual family tree or something," Shining Armor said, trying to bring a little levity to the somewhat uncomfortably grim ride. To his credit, that at least got a small chuckle from her.

"Honestly more of a family grove at this point."

The car rolled to a stop, and the two of them crossed the wrought-iron threshold into the Crystal City Cemetery, a bouquet in in Cadence's arms. It wasn't some dark and dreary day; the weather seemed to developing a sense for dramatic flair at times, but not today. Stopping in front of a headstone, Cadence placed the flowers down on the soft earth.

Tiller
April 20, 1985- June 23, 2003
Beloved Daughter and Sister

"So, older cousin, huh?"

Cadence nodded, sighing, "Adopted, of course. Auntie Celestia's always been one to bring in children, even before becoming a teacher."

Shining Armor nodded back, folding his arms across his chest. "Would it be too grim to ask how she, uh, well..."

Cadence shook her head, letting out a single chuckle, "No, I mean- it's the obvious question. With the absolute dumbest answer."

She took in a breath, holding it for a moment before releasing, "Crushed by a piece of satellite debris, from the space station. Toilet seat, actually."

Shining Armor gave her a look.

"I am dead serious."

"That's..." Shining Armor tried to pick his words carefully, before shaking his head, "I got nothing."

Nodding and wiping her eyes, Cadence put a hand on her fiance's shoulder. "That's probably for the best."


Tiller, though she preferred to go by Tilly, blew a raspberry as she watched her little practically-a-sister get all weird and emotional at her grave.

"Come on, at least let him know how much of a little brat you were!" she called down, but in her current state she knew they couldn't hear her.

"You have enough there, peanut?" said Ruben, her "boss," who was more like a manager.

Tilly groaned. "This sucks."

"Yeah, well, that's death for you. Come on, I've got sticky notes to hand out, soon-to-be-dead souls to shuffle along, and a waffle with my name on it."

Tilly groaned, reluctantly following Ruben away from the cemetery, "I don't even want this! Stupid magic, stupid afterlife. I was getting along just fine before all of this."

"Can't always get what you want, peanut."

It really did suck, being dead like her.

Rumble's Frenzy, by FoME

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The changing world hadn't done much to impact Rumble, aside from Sweetie Belle constantly giggling whenever he was nearby. Flying was cool, sure, but it didn't get homework done and Coach Will did not approve of flight, whether it was in gym class or at track meets.

As such, he was checking MyStable when his phone rang. He answered the call without even looking away from his monitor. "Hello?"

"What did you do!?"

Rumble blinked and checked the caller ID. It just showed a number, and the voice has been too angry to make out. "Who is this?"

"Sweetie Belle. What did you do?"

"Uh..." Rumble looked around. "Liked an image of some statue Chipcutter posted on—"

"Not that! Whatever you did that threw off my entire shipping grid! Or maybe you didn't do it yet, and now you have to or I'm going to get the worst migraine and..." Sweetie gave a sound that was half-groan, half-shout, then hung up.

Rumble just stared at his phone. It lit up with another call from another self-proclaimed "Crusader." He gulped and connected. "Hey, Scoota—"

"What did you do!?"

"Uh, talked to Sweetie Belle."

"That little—" Scootaloo cut off her own near-growl. "Okay, whatever she said, ignore it. It's not true, it didn't happen, I said nothing."

"What?" said Rumble.

"Never you mind!"

Rumble's hackles rose at the venom in Scootaloo's voice. "She just yelled at me for no reason!"

"Then why am I mad at you!?"

"How should I know!?"

"Fine!"

"Fine!" Rumble hung up and found himself floating a few inches above the floor, huffing and puffing with each breath, the back of his neck tingling and a faint crackling sounding from his wingbow.

Thunderlane opened his bedroom door. "Heard you all the way from the kitchen, little bro. Everything okay?"

After a few deep breaths, Rumble said, "I have no idea."

Thunderlane nodded. "Sounds like someone had his first fight with his girlfriend."

Confusion helped cool Rumble's adrenaline rush. He landed and said, "I don't have a girlfriend."

"Sure you don't," said Thunderlane, rolling his eyes for some reason. "Well, I suppose now's about the time you gotta start worrying about that time of the month. They cover that in health class yet?"

The back of Rumble's neck prickled again, but this time he was sure anger wasn't doing it. "Could we not talk about this? Ever?"

Thunderlane leaned down, ruffled his hair, gave a wide smile, and said "No."


Apple Bloom gave a low whistle as she saw Rumble trudge into homeroom. Bags hung under the boy's eyes, while his hair was more messed up than Twilight Sparkle's after the more explosion-prone sort of experiment. "The heck did you do last night?"

His gaze transfixed her, his pupils nearly pinpricks. "I. Don't. Know."

Home-Grown Determination, by SaintAbsol

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The bell above the door jingled as Applejack walked into Rarity's shop with a bundle of fabric under her arm, signaling her arrival.

"Welcome to Carousel Boutique," Rarity called from somewhere further in. "I'll be—"

"It's just me, Rares," Applejack called out, cutting off the greeting. "Just finish up whatever yer workin' on, I can wait." She settled in for some time, idly looking around at the various designs Rarity had on display. While she had always been a simple girl with simple needs (and usually just spent her days in a pair of jeans and a T-shirt, maybe a skirt if she wanted to make herself more presentable,) AJ simply couldn't help but admire the amount of effort and work Rarity put into her clothes.

She winced a bit as several comments she had made during the Battle of the Bands came back to her, as well as how she had never actually apologized for them. She'd have to make that up to Rarity one of these days.

Her eyes continued to roam before settling on a series of papers laid out on a table in the corner. With some mild curiosity, Applejack headed toward it, and cast her gaze toward it.

"DON'T LOOK AT THAT!"

Applejack jumped as Sweetie Belle rushed down the stairs, Rarity bursting out from her work room less than a moment later. "What is—"

Sweetie Belle all but teleported the rest of the way to the papers, grabbing them up hastily in her hands and a few in her magic. "You can't see these yet! It'll ruin everything!" Without another world, she dashed back up the stairs, magically snagging a few loose papers as they slipped out.

Applejack, for her part, just blinked. "What in the..."

Rarity sighed, shaking her head. "It's her 'shipping grid', as she calls it; she's been poring over it for a few days now, trying to 'fix' something with it." She brought a hand up to rub at her headgem. "Personally, I think she needs to step away from it. It just isn't right to be playing around in other people's lives like that."

Applejack raised an eyebrow, hearing a bit more of an edge in Rarity's tone than usual. "...yer on it, ain't ya?"

"Yes, and she won't tell me with whom!" Rarity's hands grasped her hair and pulled in frustration, face contorting in rage. "How am I supposed to plan out what I'm going to wear to my wedding if I don't know who I'm going to marry?!"

Applejack sighed, letting Rarity get the drama out of her system before speaking up again. "I think ya might be takin' this whole thing just a mite too serious, Rares."

"'Too serious'?" Rarity repeated in disbelief. "This is my fate we're talking about here, Applejack. It's how I'm going to be spending the rest of my life! It's one of the most important days in my life! It's—!"

"A bunch o' hogwash."

Rarity's tongue stumbled as she tripped over her words, making several sounds that couldn't have constituted any sort of language before she finally managed to get her mouth working again. "WHAT?!"

"I know it might be a might disrespectful to say, seein' as how our sisters are in charge o' it now, but... I ain't ever put much stock in 'fate'."

Rarity could only stare at Applejack, dumbfounded. "B-but what about your..." she hesitated, the old taboo creeping into her mind, even though it was obsolete by now. "...icon?"

Applejack flinched as well, but soldiered on. "I found it the same as anyone else, but... even if I hadn't, I don' think I'd be doin' anythin' else with mah life."

"Then how can you discount fate?"

Applejack sighed, mimicking Rarity's earlier pose as she rubbed her head. "Because it ain't fate that decided what I do, it's me." She paused, thinking a moment. "Lets say you never got yer icon... could you see yerself doin' anything other than makin' dresses and designs?"

Rarity scoffed, multiple times. "Of course not," she finally said. "I may not have know it was what I was meant to do with my life at the time, but I have always been a fashionista!" She cringed. "Even if my earlier designs... aren't something I'm particularly proud of..."

Applejack just smirked at that. "Sorta like how Ah've always been a farmer, Dash has always been an athlete, Shy has always loved animals, and Pinkie's..." she scrunched her face in concentration, looking for the appropriate words.

"'always been Pinkie Pie'?" Rarity offered with a smile.

Applejack had to chuckle at that, there was no other way to say it, really. "Eeyep. Point is, this is who we are, who we want to be, who we chose to be. Not what 'fate' decided we were; so yer sister sees the future, big deal. The future ain't set in stone, so don' worry none about tryin' to figure it out." She smiled, putting a hand on Rarity's shoulder. "Just do what you wanna do, and let everythin' else worry about itself, 'kay?"

Rarity couldn't help but smile, even as a bit of red seemed to work its way into her face. "I suppose you have a point there, Applejack." She gave a wistful sigh, a dreamy look on her face as the blush only deepened. "Still... it would be nice to know if it was who I'd want it to be..."

Applejack couldn't help but tense up a bit before forcing herself to relax. "And who might that be?"

Rarity wagged a finger in Applejack's face, her smile no longer quite reaching her eyes. "Ah ah ah, a lady is entitled to a few secrets, darling." She put her finger down. "Now, what was it that brought you here in the first place?"

Finally recalling that she was here for a reason of her own, AJ cleared her throat. "R-right, well, see, Apple Bloom's sweet on this one feller and wants to take dance lessons with him, but she can't find a dress that fits her right..."


Up in her room, it was all Sweetie Belle could do not to cackle maniacally as she drew a bright red line from her sister's name to one more on her grid, their future now all the more clear in her mind.

Object to Opinion, by FoME

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In a few months, Twilight had learned more from her new friends than she had in almost three years at one of the most prestigious preparatory academies in the nation. She reflected on how much more she still had to learn as she leaned against the Wondercolt statue, massaged her temples, and said, "You want me to what?"

Rainbow Dash groaned. "Look, it's simple! I just need you to act as my ambassador to the nerds."

"I'm still not sure what you even mean by that."

"The techies and I don't exactly move in a lot of the same circles, but I need them for this. Sunset refuses to help, and..." Dash trailed off, humming in thought. "Hey, could you do it?"

"Do what?"

Dash blinked. "Didn't I say?"

"No. You literally swooped in front of me as I walked out of CHS and asked me to, and I quote, 'translate from Awesome to Nerd.'"

"Oh. Whoops."

Twilight sighed. "I suppose I should be flattered by the implication that I speak the former."

"Whatever. Point is, I need to figure out who 123Only is."

Twilight waited for further data. When none proved forthcoming, she said, "One-two-three who now?"

"123Only, the single dumbest person on the Internet!"

"Rainbow, I've read the first few lines of Timecube. You're going to need to support that claim."

Dash threw her hands in the air. "He says that everything after the third Daring Do book is a bunch of garbage!"

Twilight went very still. Teal flames flickered to life from her eyes and headgem.

Dash took a careful step back. "Uh, Twilight? You okay?"

Twilight cracked her knuckles, savoring each pop. She followed suit with her neck, bending it so far to each side that only Pinkie might be able to match her. "We are going to find this fool. And we are going to explain all the myriad ways he—"

After a flash of gold, a similarly colored hand rested on Twilight's shoulder. "Is your blood sugar low or something?" said Sunset. "I can feel your rage pulsing through the leylines."

"You don't understand," said Twilight, unearthly undertones to her voice. "This is important. Someone is wrong on the Internet."

Sunset licked her fingertips and pressed them against Twilight's headgem, snuffing out the eldritch flames with a hiss. As she shook out her hand, she said. "How about we go to the mall, talk this out over lunch, and don't terrorize someone for having a different opinion than us?"

Dash gave a blurring nod, eyes still wide and spooked. "Sounds like a plan."

Twilight, eyes still aflame, sneered. "His retribution will not be—" A quick peck on the lips silenced her and sent her expression from vengeful to blissfully dopey. "Okay."

Sunset chuckled. "The day that stops working, we're all in trouble."

Queen of Monsters, by SaintAbsol

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This year's Nightmare Night was looking significantly quieter than last year's.

No one had suddenly transformed into their costumes, no horror movie monsters suddenly came to life and required literal divine intervention to put down, and even the weather was behaving. It really did seem like it was going to be a relatively normal Nightmare Night for all.

Then the booming started.

At first, it was faint enough that people could convince themselves they weren't hearing it, or feeling the tremors lightly shaking the ground. However, that level of self-delusion didn't last long; the sounds and shakes of something large hitting the ground soon became too much to ignore. It was only a short time afterward that the source came into view; a towering, reptilian figure, looming over the houses around it. As far as kaiju went, it was actually pretty small, only about ten or so stories, but it was still far bigger than anything had any right to be.

As panic slowly started to settle in among the populace, the creature raised a claw up to its jaw, pulled down...

And revealed an entirely human face within its maw.

"Nightmare Night," the girl sang out, along with several other voices that only the most keen-eyed observers would find were coming from a few costumed girls riding on her shoulders. "Full of fright! Give us something sweet to bite!" The overlarge girl knelt down, letting the other girls climb down her arm to street level, a couple of pegasus aspects helping them along the way, before they all of them went about, holding out treat bags for candy.


"We're gonna have SOOOOO much candy by the time we're done!" Pinkie Pie shouted, bouncing excitedly on Applejack's shoulder as the giantess walked along the road.

"I know, right?" Rainbow Dash chuckled, giving the party girl a high five. "Told ya this was a good idea!"

Twilight frowned, adjusting her glasses. "You know, most people only go around their own neighborhoods."

"Most people don't have a friend who can walk between cities in one night."

That just made Twilight grumble, sitting down and sulking.

"Oh, don't be like that, Twilight," Rarity said, herself sitting against Applejack's neck. "Nightmare Night is meant to be good fun and nothing more."

"She's right, ya know," Applejack added as she pulled her costume's mouth down again. "'Sides, seems a shame to let a good outfit like this go to waste after she worked so hard on it."

"And, if you don't stop pouting like that, I'll snog you until you can't be in a bad mood," Sunset 'threatened'.

Twilight cracked a wry smirk at that. "Is that suppose to discourage or encourage?"

"Yes."

Twilight chuckled, a small smile finally upon her face again. "Fine, but I'm not going to be held responsible for the cavities you're all going to get."

Beside Herself, by SaintAbsol

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Yet again, Applejack found herself standing in Carousel Boutique.

The bell over the door was starting to become very familiar to her ears, as was Rarity's greeting in response; however, this time, the bell had been met only with silence.

Now, AJ could only look around in confusion, slightly unnerved at how quiet and empty it felt to not hear Rarity's voice as soon as she came in. A quick check of the sign on the door confirmed the boutique was open, supposedly, but the owner should have been out by now. "Rares?" Applejack hesitantly called out, looking around the shop. "You around?" Her hands started to twitch, eyes darting left and right as her nerves started to get to her. "Pinkie and Dash didn't talk ya into a prank or nothin', did they?"

Still no response.

However, as she opened her mouth to call for Rarity once more, Applejack paused, tilting her head slightly as a sound reached her ear: voices.

It wasn't as easy as movies or books made it seem to follow faint voices to their source, but AJ managed it, the sounds becoming more distinct as she did. Her search eventually lead her to the boutique's back room, and had her placing her ear against the door.

"—on't work," that was Rarity's voice, she was sure of that much. "Not in the way you're suggesting, at least."

"Come now," that was... also Rarity's voice?

Applejack blinked in confusion; she could definitely say both voices had been Rarity's, but the second had been much haughtier than the first, like the times when Rarity had been at her worst and most selfish.

"You really need to stop fretting over what everyone else would say," the haughty Rarity voice continued. "What matters here most is what you want. And, after everything you've done, don't you deserve a little happiness?"

"Well, when you put it that way..."

"It's still selfish!"

Applejack nearly fell over in shock; that was a third voice that she could only call Rarity's, though this one was her when she was praising her friends or contemporaries. "What in the..." she muttered under her breath.

"There's more to consider in this situation than just your feelings," the newest voice added. "It's all well and good to want to be happy, but never when that happiness comes at the expense of someone else's own."

"Well, I suppose that's true too..."

"Nonsense," the haughty voice scoffed, in exactly the same manner as Rarity. "You don't even know if what we're talking about would lead to that in the first place."

"That's no reason to discount the idea," the kindly voice countered, managing to sound annoyed as well as benevolent. "Especially given the... sensitivity of what we're discussing."

A groan followed this, as well as a soft thump. "I thought you two were supposed to help with stumbling blocks like this, not make them worse."

Okay, that tore it. Applejack pulled her ear away from the door and barely turned the handle before almost literally bursting into the room. "What in Tartarus is going on in here?"

She wasn't sure what she'd expected to see upon entering, but it wasn't what she saw now. Rarity was there, yes, but so were two more Rarities, both about doll-sized and each seated on one of Rarity's shoulders.

One wore a simple, if rather elegant, gown similar to what one would have expected of a noblewoman in the ancient Roaman Empire. A pair of pure white wings were attached to her back by a harness of some sort, and headband held a halo on a wire over her head. A golden glow seemed to emanate from her as she stood there, staring wide-eyed at Applejack.

The other, however, was smirking at her. "Well then, isn't this quiet the... interesting development." This Rarity seemed to glow a faint red, with a devilish outfit to match the color. However, as AJ couldn't help but notice with a blush, her outfit seemed more themed after an adult-themed Nightmare Night party. She wore a shirt that exposed her midriff, a pair of pants that tightly hugged her curves, a spaded tail, a horned headband and a pitchfork to round out the ensemble.

Really, there was only one thing Applejack could say in response to this. "...what?"

Rarity gave a nervous giggle, nervously fiddling with one of her curls and unable to look directly at her friend. "W-well, you see... It's kind of a funny story, Applejack..."

Pointed Fashion Statement, by FoME

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Twilight liked consignment shops because they sometimes had fascinating historical curios. Sunset liked them because the spending habits of a dubiously documented legal minor died hard. Either way, they were spending the last Sunday of August in one in what Rainbow Dash had declared "the dorkiest date ever."

Having found nothing else of interest, Twilight found Sunset going through a rack of leather jackets. "You know, it just occurred to me, why do you even go clothes shopping anymore?"

Sunset raised an eyebrow. "I'm not Rarity, Twilight. I can't just look at a cloud or something and come up with amazing outfits for all seven of us that also perfectly match our skin tones."

"Okay, but then why not just co—"

Sunset cut Twilight off with a hand over her mouth. "I really don't think we should be discussing what I can or cannot do with goods while we're in a store."

"It was just hypothetical," Twilight huffed. She looked around, and even she could pick up on one or two people paying attention to them while trying not to look like it. "Though," she said, wringing her hands, "I suppose you have a point. But your outfits do seem to be made of magic."

"I do still buy clothes. I just tie them to my metaphysical identity so I can incarnate with them." Sunset smirked. "Heh. And if something disrupts my magic for some reason, it will just break the tie rather than make my clothes disappear."

Twilight felt her face break out in a burning flush. "I'm not thinking of ways to break your existential matrices."

The smirk widened. "Never said you were." Thankfully, Sunset then gave an appreciative "Ooh" and pulled one of the jackets, a sleeveless one that was more of a vest, off the rack. "What do you think of this one?"

Twilight bit her lip. "Uh... Well..."

"It's okay, Twilight. This isn't like when I would ask Flash if a pair of jeans made my butt look big just so I could watch him squirm." Sunset drooped and sighed.

Twilight cleared her throat.

Sunset rolled her eyes despite her returning grin. "Yeah, yeah. I'll put a quarter in the guilt jar when I get home. My point is, there are no wrong answers here. Tell me what you think!"

"I was just trying to find a good way to phrase it, but... don't you think the golden Spikes of Villainy are a bit much?"

"Huh?" Sunset turned the vest around to consider the big, yellow spikes studding the collar. "Those aren't spikes, they're, uh... friendship cones!"

"Friendship cones," Twilight echoed flatly.

"Yes." Sunset gave a sharp nod. "Those are definitely a thing in Equestria."

"You do realize I can verify that with P-Twilight?"

Sunset pouted. "Don't you trust me?"

"With my life. Not with friendship cones."

Sunset squirmed, one eyelid twitching as she hopped from foot to foot. She groaned and muttered, "Stupid Honesty." Louder, she said, "Fine, the truth is that I like leather jackets because they're a harmless way for me to feel like a bad girl, and this one is ridiculous enough to make it farcical while still giving me that safe little thrill."

Twilight gave Sunset a one-armed hug from the side, leaning her head against her girlfriend's so the gems in their foreheads almost touched. She ran a little power through hers, feeling Sunset shudder at the magic flowing so near her own gem. "Then it can be our little secret."

Sunset gave a happy sigh. "Thanks, Twilight."

"Awww."

"We should probably stop doing this kind of thing in public."

"Agreed."

Merely a Setback, by Masterweaver (S7 Finale Spoilers!)

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Pathetic.

Pathetic!

Pathetic mortal, linking back to his former friends, forced out of his frame. He was nothing without. Without the frame, without his friends.

Still... an anchor. Any anchor was enough. But they had shoved the frame out...

...out to the between.

Drifting.

Lost.

The strands of Fae surrounded the frame. It was not like the mortals, trapped by time. Without an anchor, it could crawl. It could move.

Ah...?

Ah!

A fractured world. Guarded, zealously, by light. Still, the light was young. Strong, but not spread out.

But aware.

It would have to be careful.

It twisted, slipping backwards, slipping forwards, sideways, until...

Ah.

Yes. Yes.

This would do.

This was the moment.

It entered, just as the world exploded.

It slithered into the shadows...

...the abandoned of this race.

Magic was real, proclaimed the light, even as the race changed.

And here... yes. Here. One who had forsaken the old light and would hate the new.

It was easy enough to bond.

A new anchor.

And this time, this time... this time, the frame would prove.

The frame would become.

Agents. There would be lost.

The frame knew to seek. Fallout from the future... and from the past. Power meant for light, gathered by darkness.

The Shadows would claim another.

Face Facts, by Masterweaver

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"It's an aspect of infinity," he explained.

"This is going to be more cryptic bullshit, isn't it?" Coffee Swirl deadpanned.

"Not as such. I shall be direct, since nothing here is not known." The mysterious man looked up to the stars. "In an infinite multiverse, there will be repeats. Reflections. The songs of reality hitting the same note--coincidence, or otherwise. But never is a reflection exact.... Yours is closer to that of the belled sorcerer's, yes, because of the rend. But it would have had similarities regardless. All that the rend does is allow... echoes. The reflections to be clearer."

"That explains nothing."

"An example, then." The man produced a rose. "You know of the godling's young follower, and she—through coincidence or design, I cannot say—is a reflection of another in another realm. This other likes cookies, and the young follower does too. This other believes the best of everyone, and who can say that the one here does not? This other has a taste for the tools of lethality, and I do not doubt you have seen the one here touting her most interesting choice of defense."

Coffee Swirl snorted. "The big red scythe? Yeah, that's just ridiculous. So you're saying she's exactly like this other Ruby Rose."

"Not exactly. No reflection is perfect. That one has no chromelanin and so is sheet-pale, while this one sports a skin of the brightest pink. That one was training from early days to be a warrior of her world; this one has had better self-defense education but only set out as a defender recently. That one has a suffered a great loss in her past; here, though, both her parents yet live." The figure mused over the rose. "Were the world not fractured and remade, the two would have noted the similarity in name and some acts, yet still have lived different lives, been different people."

"Okay. But the world did get bungled up."

"They are yet different, but the cracks in the world mean that reality is shifting to closer reflect the realities around it. It is subtle, sometimes, and only works within the system presented, yet still... over there, she has the gift of speed, and here she was granted the gift of flight. The demons of shadow and bone that wander that world could not translate directly; the cursed monsters of angst look similar, but function so differently on the subtlest of levels. There was even one, one who could have been an interesting ally, who almost was in this fractured world." The man smiled grimly. "Yet her presence was too great a strain for the system that is, and so now she is a might have been that never came to pass."

His eyes rose as he made the rose vanish. "That, of course, is not the only reality that has influenced this one's healing. There are others, some of which you would recognize, some you would not. It is... similar to mimicking the construction of a nearby house, using the same wood to patch the holes in your own. The metaphor breaks down, of course, but yes... that is why there are so many interesting reflections."

There was silence for a moment.

"...I just said that the guy looked like a character from a TV show." Coffee Swirl quirked a brow. "I didn't ask for a multiversal lecture."

"Yet you received one. Not all gifts are expected."

Strong Yet Dependent Girl, by FoME

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Crystal City had malls aplenty, but today Crystal Prep's top students were in one of Canterlot's. If asked, they'd insist they were slumming it, or going there ironically. Only Sugarcoat would admit that it seemed a more suitable location for what some might call a friendship problem.

"So let me get this straight," Lemon Zest said, sprawled around her backwards-facing chair. "You're still all about being the very best, like no one ever was."

Indigo Zap rolled her eyes. "Yes, Lemon."

"But you're also all about your alien abductress."

Indigo glared. "It's not like that!"

"She's not of this country or this world," said Sugarcoat. "She's an alien by every definition of the word."

"She didn't abduct me either! I'm the one who fell into her world. She took me in and kept me safe from things that are much more dangerous than she ever was."

Sour Sweet took one of Indigo's hands in her own, eyes shimmering with sympathy. "I understand, Indigo. I'd be lying if I said I never wanted to lock Second up and have total control over who he interacts with." Like flipping a switch, her expression became a surly scowl as she leaned back in her chair, hands behind her head. "But that's coming from me. It's called a warning sign."

Indgio saw her scowl and raised her a sneer. "You don't understand. None of you do. She's in the same situation I was; she's stuck in a world she doesn't understand, with rules she can't make sense of."

Sunny Flare quirked an eyebrow. "Aren't you supposed to be convincing us you don't have Stockhorn Syndrome?"

"Girls?" Everyone turned to Moondancer. She rarely said much in these gatherings, but they'd quickly learned it was worth listening to. "I think we should trust her."

"Seriously?" said Sunny.

"Seriously. Like Lemon and Sugar said, Winter Lights is more alien than any of us can even imagine. We can't expect to model her thought process accurately; for all we know, she really does love Indigo back in her own way. And..." Moondancer looked down and blushed. Sugarcoat, a little pink herself, squeezed one of her hands. "Speaking from experience, love makes you do crazy things. Especially when it's mixed with magic."

The others all went silent for a few moments.

"You do all realize this is sappier than Spurmont in the fall, right?"

"Shut up, Lemon," chorused everyone else. Including Indigo, who said it with a smile on her face.

Definitive Proof, by FoME

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Twilight sighed, a palm over her face. "Sunset..."

"What?" It was a shame Sunset wasn't in her demon form. Her smile would've fit perfectly. "I thought you'd appreciate it."

"I do, really, but—"

"I mean, even hinting about either one is enough to get you going."

Twilight sighed. "I'll admit you have a point there, but I was hoping we could resolve these misunderstandings through calm, rational discourse."

Sunset smirked. "Which is why you broke your keyboard last night on that one conspiracy forum."

Twilight glanced away. "Okay, maybe I went a little overboard." She rallied herself. "But this is not the answer!"

"I don't know about that," said Sunset, looking at her phone. "Pretty sure this going to be the most viewed picture on Immediagram."

On the screen, Sunset smiled for a selfie in front of a very stiff Amareican flag, the grey nightscape around her brightened by a blue orb in the sky.

"Hashtag not fake, hashtag not flat, hashtag no filter, hashtag no air... Did I forget anything?"

Twilight rolled her eyes. "Good taste?"

"Strictly overrated."

This Anthology in a Nutshell, by Masterweaver and FoME

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(Masterweaver)

"....You cannot be serious."

"I'm totally serious."

"You. Can not. Be serious."

"I. Am totally. Serious."

Twilight threw up her hands. "Why?! Why does your world have this thing for bad puns?! First it was the timberwolves, then it was the fruit bats, and now..." She gestured at the lagomorphs scrawling cryptic messages over the laboratory walls. "Now it's plot bunnies?!"

Fluttershy nodded, fluttering her wings. "They're a cyclically endangered species."

"How does leaving strange lines help with their survival?! What is even the point?!"

"It's mostly a symbiotic relationship. They help develop ideas and, in turn, get protection from their predators."

"Oh, let me guess, writer's blocks?"

"Uh, no." Fluttershy gave her an odd look. "Wolverines."

"Right."

"Writer's blocks have a completely different habitat."

Twilight facepalmed. "Of course they do."

(FoME)

A deep, almost lowing "Mowr" drifted through the castle's windows. The plot bunnies shuddered in unison, then scribbled all the faster.

Fluttershy blushed. "Though I do have one."

"Of course you do," groaned Twilight. "For the sake of my own sanity, I'm not even going to look."

"That's probably for the best."

Harsh but Fair, by FoME

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Nagatha Harshwhinny had not been easily bored even before the world changed. Irritated, yes, but not bored. Having a fragment of her awareness gazing out into the unfathomable expanse of infinity so that she could accost any ne'er-do-wells trying to sneak into her universe made life all the more interesting.

That bit of herself drew on a bit more of her attention. While most of her continued to write a strongly worded opinion on the shameful lack of standards in sports officiation, another beheld the vastness of the metacosmos and the latest transient trying enter her home from its deeper reaches.

Nagatha felt her eyebrows rise as she took in the traveler. It appeared human, though all in shades of black and grey. Its skin was the color of slate, its hair an oily mass that slowly undulated under its own power. Vaporous extensions held it aloft like a sick parody of a pegasus aspect's wingbow, looking more like tendrils of fog or writhing snakes. Black leather hugged curves that suggested femininity, assuming the thing even had a gender. The only color was a splash of bile yellow in the irises of a half-dozen eyes arranged in a horizontal line across its face.

It raised a hand. "Hi, Ms. Harshwhinny!"

Nagatha sighed. "Honestly, Ditzy. What have you been doing out there?"

Ditzy shrugged. A few extra eyes lazily blinked in the oleaginous mass that was her hair. "Hey, I'm not the one who threw a bunch of shadow demon things out into the space between spaces."

"If I didn't know any better, I'd think you were flying into them intentionally." Nagatha watched carefully. Extra eyes did nothing to help Ditzy hide the hints of her reaction from someone who'd been sussing out teenage secrets for longer than the girl had been alive. "Ditzy Doo, you utter fool."

"It's fine, really!"

"That's what they all say at first. I suppose you think the leather makes you look 'cool,'" said Nagatha, sneering so much with the last word that her upper lip nearly brushed her nose.

Ditzy looked away and twisted a stygian toe against the formless fundament. "Maybe."

"I expect better of you, young lady. You are far too intelligent and respectable to fall into the same trap I have seen claim so many others."

Ditzy was silent for a moment. "The trap of getting consumed by dark magics?"

"Your own pubescent confidence. You're mortal, Ditzy, same as all of us." Nagatha glanced behind her, where the universe shone with Sunset Shimmer's power. "Nearly all of us, anyway."

"It really doesn't seem so bad," said Ditzy. "I mean, most of these shadow things are used to working with people who feel useless and neglected. They're not sure how to deal with someone who's loved and unique."

"Be that as it may, get yourself in the decontamination booth."

"Yes, ma'am. That's why I flew into them." Ditzy walked to what looked to be a gilded shower stall. Her shadow writhed as she approached, making motions like it was trying to flee from her. A faint but distinct scream sounded as rainbow light cascaded over the girl.

A few moments later, Ditzy emerged in her usual outfit and appearance. She waved. "Thanks for caring, Ms. Harshwhinny."

Nagatha nodded and returned the wave. "Someone has to."

Like There's No Tomorrow, by FoME

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"The present is strange. It is literally a moment, a duration of zero time, the tissue-thin separation between past and future. It is eternal yet ephemeral, constant yet ever-changing.

"Consider for a moment the concepts of velocity and acceleration. What are they? Velocity is a change in position over time, acceleration the change in that change over time. Note the key phrase there: 'Over time.' For the present, a thing of no time at all, both are just numbers.

"And then there how my own magic expresses my connection to the present. Air knows. I am intimately aware of everything touched by the atmosphere. I know precisely where I am on the planet. And with such precise knowledge of position, Haysenberg dictates that there is uncertainty of momentum, which is partly velocity, something that already has no meaning to the present.

"So in conclusion, no, officer. I don't know how fast I was going."

The policeman seemed less than impressed with Scootaloo's speech and handed her a ticket. "I do. You were going ninety-five on a fifty mile-per-hour road. And if you really can't tell, you shouldn't be behind the wheel."

"That's what I've been saying the whole time!" Sweetie Belle cried from the backseat, her hands still clinging to the cushions in a white-knuckle grip.

Scootaloo sighed as she took the ticket. "Yes, officer."

Silence stretched among the Crusaders for a few moments as the cop drove off. Apple Bloom broke it. "Told ya I should drive."

"Can it."

"All that talk 'bout total awareness and ya miss the cop."

"I said can it," Scootaloo snarled, restarting the car.

Sweetie groaned. "Could you at least put some airsick bags back here?"

"Maybe later." Scootaloo extended her stunted wingbow as she shifted the sedan into drive. The orange light bent, folding into the back of the driver's seat. A similar glow overtook the entire car. None of the girls could see them, but they knew wings like those of ancient messenger gods hovered over the center of each hubcap. Scootaloo's eyes glowed as the surface of the car became like a second skin. "Let's get going."

Apple Bloom shivered. "Still don't get how ya do that. Don't think the car does either."

To her earthen ears, the response came from both driver and vehicle. "I am the car."

Young Dearie Simulator, by SaintAbsol

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Apple Bloom hummed idly to herself as she walked through the halls of Canterlot High; for whatever reason, she was in a pretty good mood today. Or as much of a good mood a child could be while at school, at any rate; either way, she was smiling as she waved to Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo while walking up to her locker. However, as she reached for her lock, her gaze turned elsewhere.

And managed to settle upon Tender Taps.

On its own, that wasn't anything too unusual, it was usually pretty good for Apple Bloom in fact. Today, however, was a bit different; while Tender Taps was the first person she noticed, she also became aware of Silver Spoon. Who was currently engaged in conversation with Tender Taps... a very animate conversation... involving a lot of smiling, laughing... and physical contact.

"Apple Bloom..."

She was vaguely aware of Sweetie Belle saying her name, but she wasn't really particularly concerned about it, given how she was currently occupied by glaring at Silver Spoon (and Tender Taps to a lesser extent) through the mob of students. A fire had been lit in her belly, and was slowly making its way through the rest of her body.

"Apple Bloom!"

That was Sweetie again, and she was ignored once more. The fire in her was growing to the point she started to recognize it: anger. She was angry, very angry; her mind wasn't really functioning properly as she focused on the two targets of her rage, only able to start planning several things to follow shorty after she—

"Apple Bloom!" Scootaloo shrieked. "Will you drop the psychotically possessive girlfriend thing for five seconds and focus!"

"WHAT?!" Apple Bloom bellowed right back, turning her ire toward Scootaloo.

Her pegasus aspect friend didn't even flinch, simply pointing back toward Apple Bloom's locker.

Or, rather, the crumpled and deformed locker door that Apple Bloom had managed to tear clean off its hinges.

She was suddenly acutely aware of how many people in the hall were staring at her. "Ah... uh..."

"Ahem." Vice Principle Luna seemed to have appeared out of nowhere as she stood behind Apple Bloom, looking decidedly unimpressed with the state of things. "Miss Apple, please put that down."

Apple Bloom visibly flinched as she set the twisted hunk of metal down on the floor, her face redder than her brother's.

"Thank you," Luna said, walking past her. "Meet me in my office; I will be there after I have located your grandmother."

Apple Bloom despondently sighed, trudging toward the offices. "Yes, Ma'am." She was already dreading both whatever punishment she got for destroying school property... and whatever Granny Smith was going to do to her afterward.

Display of Protection, by SaintAbsol

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The hooded figure ran through the back allies and side streets of Canterlot City, the bandana covering her nose and mouth while a pair of sunglasses hid her eyes. Ordinarily, the glasses also would have made running through the darkened streets at night difficult, if not dangerous, but she'd had more than enough practice to make it work.

Breathing a bit heavily from her run, she hoisted herself up onto the lid of a dumpster, the cans and bottles in her backpack clinking together as she did, and jumped to the side of a fire escape. She hauled herself up and over the railing and started to climb as quickly and quietly as she could, ducking under windows and staying as low as possible. When she finally reached the roof, she dashed across it and took a running jump from the edge across the next alley. Then another across the next, and even clearing a third as she continued to run.

However, her luck ran out on the fourth; the alley here was just a bit wider than the other three and, while she did make the leap, she landed awkwardly, and the weight of her backpack put her just off balance enough that she started to tip backward. Her arms flailed as she struggled to keep her balance, but she was past the point of saving it now; she started to tilt back further...

Only to be jerked forward as a hand grabbed the collar of her hoodie and pulled her onto the roof.

Sunset Shimmer sighed as she watched her regain her footing. "You're lucky I was looking for you when I did," she said. "That was too close."

Dusting herself off, the hooded figure looked at Sunset, expression unreadable due to her disguise. "Thanks," she said at last, her thick accent distorted a bit by the bandana. "Woulda been nothin' but street pizza if youse hadn't come along."

Sunset Shimmer smirked as she raised an eyebrow. "Wow, I almost believed that was genuine. How long did it take you to learn to talk like that, 'Flanksy'?"

She was silent for a bit longer before reaching and removing her accessories with a sigh. "A few months," Octavia said, her Trottingham accent back in place. "I was getting to the point I'd started to spawn imitators, and wanted to differentiate between my art and the 'tagging' of some random hooligans. Phone interviews were the easiest way to do that."

"I see," Sunset said, folding her arms and appraising her fellow student. "That being?"

"They are doing it to prove their own 'coolness'," she said, spitting out the last word like it tasted of a bitter lemon, "while I am simply trying to get people talking." She narrowed her eyes slightly at Sunset. "And I am not going to stop, if that is what you have come here to ask."

"Even after your near-death experience?"

Octavia did an admirable job of imitating Rarity's beatbox style of scoffing. "I have made that jump countless times before tonight. I did not get where I am by folding at the first sign of difficulty."

That got a chuckle out of Sunset. "No, I suppose not." She shook her head a bit, still smiling. "Anyway, I'm not here to ask you to stop. Rather, I was curious. How much would I have to pay you to get a... commission, let's call it."

Octavia blinked. "Come again?"


Rarity groaned, resisting the urge to either find a large tub or ice cream to drown her sorrows in, or go curl up in Applejack's arms until the problem at hand went away. However, she knew, knew all too well, that neither of those would do anything to fix the issue at hand. Prim Hemline had been counting on her to design something eye-catching for the storefront, and despite her monumental efforts and the input of her various friends, she had come up with precisely zero workable ideas. She had even considered asking her pony counterpart for help, but the elder Rarity had been occupied with her own workload and couldn't spare the time.

As such, with no real hope of fixing things in the scant amount of time left to her, Rarity continued to walk toward the shop, preparing herself to face the consequences of her failure like a big girl. However, as she approached her workplace, she became aware of the crowd that had gathered in front of her place of business, several of them with cellphones out and taking pictures. Eyes wide with shock and confusion, she had to pause to gather her wits for a moment before pushing her way through the crowd. "Excuse me, pardon me, let me through if you could, sorry."

Eventually, she managed to reach the front to get a good view at just what everyone was so interested in.

The front of the shop was now covered with vibrant colors; a diamond—modeled after the very same ones that where now hidden under her skirt no less—seemed to shimmer on the wall, a beam of light cascading down into it and splitting into a radiant rainbow that snaked about and around the windows of the shop. Even the displays themselves had been worked into the design, each boasting backdrops modeled after the various dresses within them.

And, in the corner of each, a heavily stylized 'F' marked the work of Flanksy.

"Hm." Rarity almost jumped as Prim Hemline walked out of the crowd, regarding the display with a critical eye. "A bit unorthodox," she finally declared, "but effective enough." She glanced at Rarity, her face impassive. "Adequately done, Rarity." And, with that, she walked off to attend to other matters.


"Thanks," Sunset said, watching from a nearby alley with Octavia. "I transferred the money to your account."

"You are quite welcome," Octavia replied with a smile. "And thank you as well." She turned to walk away, then hesitated. "You do promise not to tell anyone about me, right?"

"I promise," Sunset replied with a chuckle.

Octavia sighed in relief as she resume her walk. "Good. Vinyl would never let me hear the end of it if she found out."

Suspenders of Disbelief, by ArtieStroke and Masterweaver

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(ArtieStroke)

"What could one man need so many belts for?"

Jace looked up from his drink, quirking his eyebrow at Cadence's question. "Pardon?"

Cadence gestured in his general direction, "Your belts. I swear there's a new decorative buckle every time we meet."

"We all have our hobbies," Luna said, swirling the pitch black liquor in her glass, "At least he has the wherewithal to not wear them all simultaneously."

There was a beat, and Jace looked off into the middle distance.

"Oh my Harmony, you're actually considering it."

"Nonsense, how would that even work? I'm not some sort of fantasy wizard or some such, I couldn't pull it off."

"If Bacon's students are any indication, it does seem like ridiculous amounts of belts and zippers are becoming vogue," Glimmer Goodwitch said, the table collectively amassing a number of frowning looks.

"Kids these days," Jace said, taking a gulp of his Shirish coffee.


(Masterweaver)

"It's a counter to clothing damage," explained the yellow-skinned blonde.

Ms. Goodwitch blinked. "Really."

"Wreck a shirt and it falls apart. Seams and all that. Belts are stronger and easy to rearrange or replace. Standardized zippers? Same basic principle." Sunny Little Dragon shrugged. "We are fighting critters with giant claws, after all. Best to be prepared."

"I suppose that makes some level of sense."

Sunny nodded. "Yeah, picked it up in Tauros." She glanced away. "Well, Belladonna did... I followed her lead."

Glimmer bit her lip. "Miss Dragon, you know there are plenty of people you can talk to—"

"I know. I have. I am." The teen sighed. "Just... It's not something you forget, you know?"

Glimmer Goodwitch nodded. "I know that feeling, yes."

Pretty Much All There is to Say on the Matter, by ArtieStroke and FoME

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(ArtieStroke)

"All I'm saying is metafictional narrative is a popular device that's on the rise, and I think it's pretty cool!" Lemon said, clicking the next blue ==> link on her phone. Sunny was less than impressed.

"I still say it's an unnecessary stratification of complication- especially in that awful comic. It's like... it's complex just for the sake of complexity!"

"A, you're only allowed to call Habitrapped awful if you've been with it since 'Enter Name,'" Lemon said, holding up a finger, "And two, that's actually both the point and what the complexity is mocking! It's genius writing!"

"Ah yes, jokes about meteors bigger than 'your mom'. The absolute pinnacle of wit."

Lemon stuck her tongue out, "Whatever, you're just mad because you got the lamest new aspect-zodiac combination."

"I REFUSE to be identified as a LIGHT player simply because I have an expanded vocabulary!"

"Yeah- Heart is an awesome power, though."

(FoME)

The next table over, two girls with larger than normal perspectives on the universe and larger structures were suffering from more than the usual effects of talking to Lemon Zest.

"He shouldn't be right. He has no right to be right about any of this."

"He knew about the bubbles. How did he know about the bubbles!?"

Twilight couldn't help but smile. It was nice not to be the one pulling her hair out about some magical absurdity for once.


(ArtieStroke)

A young woman stands in a webcomic author's home office. Though it was only a few short years ago that she finally got that tiger and achieved godhood, it is only today that the circle of stupidity will complete itself as she confronts said author about his uncanny knowledge of universal laws. What is this young woman's na—?

"I don't have time for your shenanigans, Drew."

Alright, fine. The young woman's name is SUNSET SHIMMER and she is not a HAPPY GODDESS—

"I'm not a goddess either!"

Well jeeze, what do you want from me? I've got this whole metanarrative schtick, throw me a metaphorical bone.

"Just— Okay, fine. I've actually come here to offer you a job."

Nah.

"What do you mean 'nah'?!"

I've got comic deadlines. Hiatuses to prolong.

"You're like, one of TWO people with ANY knowledge on probability space!"

Haha holy shit I was that close to what it's actually called? Nah, sorry. Listen if at some point you need an expert on overly complex romantic states or needlessly complicated shenanigans I can provide a consultation fee but seriously if I don't get this game out soon the masses are gonna come with ropes and pitchforks, painting the town grey with unsealed face paint and flooding the streets with half-rate obscure soda brands.

"Alright, fine. That's better than nothing I guess."

An Autumn Complication, by FoME

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"I still can't completely believe that the seasons change on their own in this world," Sunset said as she entered Canterlot High, trailing a few fallen leaves behind her.

Twilight grinned alongside her. "I can't believe that ponies actually industrialize weather!"

"Hey, factories on this end affect the weather too. Cloudsdale just does it on purpose."

A gentle "Good morning, girls" cut through the resulting giggles.

Both turned and said, "Good morning, Flu—" They both stopped, mouths hanging open, glancing at one another. Volumes of unspoken communication passed between them, only some of it telepathic.

Fluttershy gave a slight frown. "Is everything okay?"

"Well..."

"You see..."

"Fluttershy!" Rarity sent the other girls sprawling as she charged past them, eyes only on Fluttershy. "What happened to your hair!?"

"What do you mean?"

"What do I mean? What do I mean!? Your lovely locks are going positively gray!" Rarity held up some of the fading tresses to emphasize that. Several hairs snapped off in her grip, making her shriek and jump back.

"Oh, right. Well, it is November."

"Are... are you implying that you will go completely b-bald all winter?"

Fluttershy shrugged. "I suppose. But it's just hair. My feathers don't seem to be affected."

"Just hair!?"

Twilight and Sunset watched as Rarity planned an entire line of wigs in her outrage. "Am I ever this bad?" said Twilight.

The embodiment of, among other things, Honesty, bit her lip. "You're differently bad?"

The flat look Twilight gave her said everything.

The Loyalist's Prayer, by Void Knight

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"Oh glorious and awesome Rainbow Dash, Thou who art the pinnacle of coolness and the exemplar of radicalness, I bow in awe to you and humbly petition your blessings upon me this day..."

Flashing Blades rolled his eyes in familiar exasperation. Oh, he knew it wasn't really Awesome Sauce's fault. She was, after all, a paladin, and that meant she had to petition her divine patron for her daily ration of spells. But he'd met other paladins and clerics before, and most of them had been more... circumspect about their devotions.

"...may thy wings enfold me and thy strong arms uplift me..."

But then, that was how Awesome Sauce was. The young paladin wasn't pushy about her faith, exactly. She didn't press others to join her in the worship of Rainbow Dash or harangue those who paid their devotion to other deities. But, like many acolytes of Rainbow Dash, she was incredibly blatant in her own devotions, trumpeting (sometimes literally) her reverence for the Lady of Awesomeness.

"... lead me not into lameness, but deliver me from the boring ones..."

Flashing Blades rose to his feet and flourished one of his gleaming sabers in the direction of Little Treasure, flashing a rakish grin at her. His paramour rose to her own feet and extended one hand. Gray mist swirled around Treasure's before condensing into her pact weapon. Made of some unfamiliar mist-grey metal and with the Seven-Pupiled Eye stamped on both sides of the blade, the longspear was the symbol and seal of her pact with her eldritch patron: Ditzy, The Unheld Center.

The two stepped forward, and their weapons come together in a ringing series of clashes. Flashing Blades was the better of the two, of course. Where Treasure had to split her studies between physical practice and arcane experimentation, Blades was free to focus exclusively on honing his talents with his weapons. But Treasure was still good enough to give him a decent challenge, and at the end of their brief sparring session his heart was racing and he was feeling ready for the upcoming adventure.

As Flashing Blades sheathed his sabers and Treasure's pact blade puffed away into mist, Awesome Sauce came to the end of her recitation. "... For thine is the coolness, and the radicalness, and the awesomeness forever. Amen." As the paladin opened her eyes and rose from her knees, the light seemed to shatter around her head, briefly shading her hair all the colors of the rainbow.


Twilight Sparkle glared across the Oubliettes and Ogres table at Scootaloo. “For the last time, Scootaloo, just because I gave you roleplaying XP the first time you acted out your character praying for her spells doesn’t mean I’m going to do it again.”

The young pegasus-aspect responded with a shrug. “I know, it’s just fun. And it’s not like it takes that long.”

“Fine, whatever,” said Twilight. “Okay, everyone has their spells prepared and is ready to go, so you set off on the trail of the lizardling raiding party....”

Sparrow Falls Unseen, by FoME

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As Twilight and Sunset were cleaning the NAHTI one day, Twilight said, “So, I know you’re not exactly omniscient.”

“Not on this level. The full, universe-repairing Sunset kind of has to be just to know what needs fixing.”

“Right. But in terms of the infinitesimal fragment you use to interact with us mere mortals, how often do you watch me?”

After a few seconds, Sunset said, “Define ‘watch.’”

Twilight crossed her arms. “You really need to ask?”

“Okay, you need to understand, there’s a few more layers between the me you’re talking to and the me watching over the whole universe. I have…” Sunset’s hands flapped about amid several falsely started sentences. “It’s not really subconscious, more extraconscious.”

“What is?”

“It’s… not really keeping an eye on all my friends, more like a notification system when something goes really wrong. In case you can’t get in touch with me during an emergency.”

Twilight gave her a flat look. “We can literally pray to you, and you’ll hear it.”

“I like to be sure.” Sunset blushed. “Especially with you.”

Twilight felt her own cheeks heat. “So it’s only when something’s going wrong?”

“Yeah. Literally watching you guys all the time’s more than a little creepy.”

“So you didn’t see what I was doing in my room last night.”

Sunset blinked. “Well, no, but now you’ve got me curious. What were you doing last night?”

Twilight smirked. “Establishing the experiment.”

“Oh, come on, you can’t leave it off at that!” Sunset’s smile belied her tone.

The smirk widened. “Can’t I? Interesting. I appear to be doing just that.”

“I could ask Apple Bloom to look into it.”

“Yes, but what fun would that be?”

The two stared at each other for a few more moments before collapsing into giggles and each other’s arms.


Last night…

“Just take a point called z in the complex plane,
And let z_{1} = z^2 + C
And z_{2} = z_{1}^2 + C
And z_{3} = z_{2}^2 + C
And so on!”

Spike quirked at an eyebrow at Twilight’s continuing attempts to dance like her equine analogue. “Is this really for science?”

“Come on, Spike. When have I ever not done something for science?”

“You’re usually wearing more.”

“The underwear is a key part of the experiment.”

He rolled his eyes, walked in a circle a few times, and lay back down on his bed. “Whatever you say.”

Decorating the Tree, by SaintAbsol

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"Please help me!"

Applejack jumped away from the lockers she 'd been leaning against, nearly dropping her phone as Fluttershy suddenly latched onto her, the other girl wearing a hat to cover up the frail, gray locks that her hair had become with the continued approach of winter. "Wha—"

"Rarity!" Fluttershy interrupted, looking around nervously. "I-I appreciate what she's trying to do... but I just can't take all these wigs she keeps trying to give me anymore!"

Applejack blinked a few times, her mind still in a bit of shock. "O...kay?" she finally said. "Not sure what ya want me to do about it."

Fluttershy managed to give her a look that might have passed for incredulous. "Talk her out of it?"

Applejack just shook her head. "That ain't gonna be happenin'; when it comes to Rarity, ya gotta know when to fold'em. Now's one o' those times."

Fluttershy bit her lip as she looked around once again, sure that Rarity was getting closer as they talked. "Distract her and I'll increase your farm's produce by twenty percent!"

AJ started, staring at her friend. "You can do that?!"

"... Kinda?" Fluttershy rubbed at the back of her head, a few hairs falling out as she did. "I-I mean, I'll have to spend a few days as a tree again, so I can talk to them, a-and it's a bit too late for it to effect this year's crop..." she trailed off as Applejack raised her eyebrow, before just desperately grabbing the farm girl's shirt. "Just please help me!"

Applejack sighed, her posture slumping in defeat. "Okay. I'll buy ya a few minutes."

"Thank you!" Fluttershy hugged her with a surprising amount of strength for a non-earth aspect. "I'll make sure to—"

"There you are!" Rarity's slightly manic voice cut Fluttershy off as the fashionista rounded the corner, an unbalanced glint in her eyes as she stalked forward. "I've been working on some new designs and— MMPH!"

Now, it was Rarity's turn to get cut off as, without any preamble or pretense, Applejack simply walked up to her and gave her a kiss. The unicorn aspect was surprised for all of a second, before she nearly melted as she returned the display of affection. Several moments passed with the two of them kissing, before Applejack pulled away.

"Huh?" Rarity blinked hazily, as if she was just waking up. "What just..."

"Ya were actin' a bit loco," Applejack explained. "Figured I could shock ya outta it fer a little while like that." A quick glance confirmed to AJ that Fluttershy had taken the opportunity to flee, meaning her end of the bargain was complete. "Sorry."

Rarity gave a quite chuckle, giving Applejack a quick peck on the cheek. "Don't be, I most certainly am not." She smiled, before putting her finger to her chin in thought. "Now... what was I..." And, just like that, the spark of unhealthy inspiration was back once more. "Oh, right; now I remember. Oh Fluttershy~."

Applejack sighed as she watched Rarity run off to find their mutual friend once more, leaning back against the lockers as she had been previously. "Mah girlfriend is insane." She paused, then chuckled as she went back to her phone. "Then again, so's everyone else in this school, includin' me."