A Tempest Tossed

by LotusTeaDragon

First published

Violet Tempest must stop a violent storm from destroying Equestria!

Violet Tempest has just about everything she could want in life: a satisfying career, both a sister and sister-in-law who are Elements of Harmony, and who love her dearly, and an adorable kitty cat named Mr. Doldrums. What she doesn't need is an adventure that takes her away from her class, or her adopted city, but if she doesn't embark on a journey to solve the greatest weather crisis Equestria has ever known, there won't be any class, city, or kitty to call home.


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The City of Manehattan, Equestria
Day of the Summer Equinox

The rain was coming down hard, splattering against pavement and pony alike as creatures of hoof, and claw, scrambled for cover under the many varied and colorful awnings along the main thoroughfare of Manehattan's Times Square.

As always, there were a few stubborn souls who preferred to ride it out in the open, but even they were beginning to feel the effects of the sudden storm's brutal onslaught.

Nestled underneath the gold and brown canopy of the DeBoar's Diamond Emporium, a pale green unicorn took note of the deluge and remarked quietly to herself.

"What did you say?" an elderly mare called to her over the cacophony created by the torrential downpour. She had the misfortune of having been shoved up against the pale green unicorn by those also seeking to stay dry under the inadequate shelter.

"I said that it seemed rather odd, because there wasn't a rainstorm scheduled today," the unicorn replied, inching herself a little further under the awning as the wind began to carry the bulbous drops directly into their temporary shelter.

"What's going on with the clouds?!" the old mare replied. The pale green unicorn mare didn't understand her question until she followed the old mare's outstretched hoof, and saw that there was indeed something wrong with the clouds.

Instead of soft, fluffy objects of gray and silver floating across the sky, she saw angry black anvils towering high into the atmosphere, the tops so high they couldn't be clearly defined by the naked eye.

That wasn't the worst of it, however. What brought the most concern was that these clouds were arcing with purple lightning. There was even an audible buzzing emanating from them, and that was enough to keep the pegasi away.

Indeed, while hundreds of pegasi had joined in the massive effort to corral the towering thunderheads away from the city, they were being pushed back by an intense electric field, along with a stiff headwind that would have ripped the mane right off of your withers if you were flying directly into the center of it. As a result, the storms were simply ploughing roughshod right through downtown Manehattan.

The unicorn mare, whom friends and coworkers knew as Sprightly Sprocket, ducked her head and attempted to wedge herself firmly against the brick wall behind her. Unfortunately, it was as unyielding as the curtain of raindrops now hammering hard against the pavement. In her minds eye, Sprightly could almost see the drops as crystal filaments, drilling deep into the concrete sidewalk.

A sudden gust of wind shoved the old mare into Sprightly's barrel. Attempting to catch her, Sprightly fell off-balance and tumbled downward, the old mare landing on top of her, the sharp, bony frame unloading its full weight upon her. Sprightly could feel the bruise already forming underneath her fur.

Other ponies standing around her began to panic, and Sprightly was all too aware of her position, and the knowledge of what usually happened when ponies began to panic. She knew she had to get up, and to get the little old mare back onto her hooves, lest they were trampled into the sidewalk.

"Little old mare!" she called, attempting to right herself and pull the senior to her hooves. "Hey, can you hear me?!" she shouted over the din of the wind's howling.

Pulling her head as far to the right as she could, she turned just enough to see the little old mare lying on top of her, eyes closed. Sprightly then realized that more than the wind was at fault when she saw the goose egg sized welt on the poor old one's forehead. Something had apparently slammed into her.

Considering how fast the winds were now gusting, Sprightly had no idea whether it was a concussion or much worse, and before she could think on it too much, she decided to simply act quickly.

Planting her fore hooves against the pavement, and her back hooves against the brick wall behind her, she began to push herself up, taking the insensate old mare with her.

A gust pushed into her once more, knocking her back down, and now the other ponies were beyond just panic, they began pushing and shoving one another to escape the intense weather. It would only be moments before somepony, in their haste, crushed Sprightly and the old mare underhoof, which gave her a surge of adrenaline as her fight or flight response kicked in, and in one swift motion, she rolled to her side, and up onto her hooves.

The little old mare fell back onto the ground. Attempting to pick her up with her magic, the unicorn realized she couldn't get her levitation spell to lift the old pony. Sighing, and saying a little prayer to Celestia, Sprightly ducked her head under the old mare's battered body, and lifted it onto her back.

As she steadied herself with the new weight, a large umbrella plowed through the large glass double doors of the Manefair hotel, the building next to her, shattering it into a thousand pieces, and creating a glittering rain of projectiles as the debris was swiftly picked up by the wind, and carried aloft, a certain deadly danger to any pony who crossed its path.

Looking up, she was horrified to see hundreds of pegasi being thrown about, many of them falling to the earth as purple bolts of lightning struck a number of them as they attempted to control the chaotic gale.

Sprightly realized she was currently exposed, and focused back on her plight. Taking a breath, she leaned against the wall just long enough to come up with a solution to save their flanks. Seeing no immediate shelter, she began to trudge forward, step by step, attempting to find some semblance of a safe haven. She couldn't open the door of the shop she had been leaning against, as jagged shards of glass were still in the frame, and moving it would just cause them to break outward towards her and make a horrible mess as far as she was concerned.

She quickly looked about at the rapidly emptying streets, seeking any kind of shelter. She began to start moving once more, skittish at the thought of being hit by the same kind of detritus that knocker her aged companion unconscious. On the second quick survey of the street nearest to her, she caught what appeared to be a service cover for the sewer system.

She was about to disregard that option as they were always bolted in place when not in use in order to prevent ponies from taking a long step down, but she noticed, with some elation, that this one was missing the cover plate that bolted the hatch to the iron framework.

Without questioning her good fortune she moved toward the sewer hatch, uttering a prayer of thanks to the goddess as she did so, and pulled the exposed handle upwards.

The wind was fighting her with all its strength as she was losing her own from the exertion spent in rescuing the mare and finding shelter, and she knew she had to put the little old mare down in order to focus all of her power on the hatch. She did so quickly, and focused her attention back on the sewer hatch.

Once more, she found that she could not concentrate hard enough to use her magic. It was as if it had been pulled from her. She shook her head in an effort to clear it, but was still incapable of using any magic whatsoever. With little time left, she leaned down and grasped the handle with her teeth, pulling with every ounce of her muscle power, hoping those twice weekly aerobics classes would pay off.

It seemed that the fickle mare of good fortune was betting in her favor right then, and she managed to get the handle to lift, squeaking and squealing as it unlocked the levers inside the hatch, and opened outward. Sprightly had began to work her head under the old mare in order to lift her body and take them both to safety, when she heard it: a low, continuous rumbling behind her.

Hoping it was merely the echo of thunder, she turned on reflex, and her jaw dropped to the ground as she saw a double wide hay wagon careening right for them, its contents long since scattered to the four winds, but its heavy, wooden, tumbling frame still capable of smashing ponies foolish enough to stand still in rain squalls.

Without thinking, or giving the incoming pile of hurt a second glance, Sprightly grabbed the comatose old mare by the forelegs, pulling as hard as she could, and vaulted backwards into the open sewer hole, hoping for a soft landing and another stroke of good luck.

Scant seconds later, the hatch was slammed shut by the weight of the hay cart as it continued tearing itself apart over top of their escape route.

The darkness swallowed everything behind them as they fell.


Chapter One

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Chapter One
City of Canterlot

Canterlot University, Sciences Wing
Room 401

A light rain was tapping against the glass of Violet's office window. It went unnoticed by the mare, as she was hooves deep in paperwork.

Her blue eyes, now bespectacled thanks to a little too much late night reading and not enough daylight, scanned over the submissions from her 4th-period Climactic Geomorphology class.

How do you misspell rain? she thought to herself as she marked off another red 'x' on Saffron Summers' end of quarter exam. A quick glance through the rest of the document showed an impressively comprehensive understanding of how the climate actually worked. The telltale that made her sigh, though, was when she got to the bottom and read the words "Copyright YOC 997, Hoofton-Martingale Publishers."

Violet sighed. Saffron had copied the entire paper from a dictionary page. While that sin alone would have been enough to sink her grade, what irked Violet the most was not that she had copied it from the textbook. No, what bothered her more was that even copying it straight from the book she still managed to misspell rain!

Violet leaned back in her seat and put a hoof to the bridge of her muzzle. This year's crop of students were going to be the death of her. Teaching at Canterlot University was an honor and a privilege, but there were days. Oh, there were days when she would have rather been anywhere else.

When she had graduated Summa Cum Laude from The Royal Academy of Sciences, she had felt honored. When they offered her a teaching position at Canterlot University, she felt overwhelmed.

Now she still felt overwhelmed, but in a much different way. It was the kind that caused ponies like Mr. Withers, the Buckball coach, to hide in his office every day fortifying his nerves with liquid courage.

Liquid sanity? Maybe.

It's not that she was ungrateful. She taught class after class filled with fresh young minds, year after year. It worried her that she was becoming used to the routine. She didn't want to teach by rote, but by her passion.

Ten years she had been teaching, and for every one of those years, she wouldn't have missed it for the world. She wasn't sure if she felt that way this year. She had been the youngest professor in Canterlot U's illustrious history when she started, but now she was its most exhausted.

She glanced at the mug sitting on her desk. She reached over with her hoof and moved the handle back and forth until the message could be easily read.

"Climatologists Do It With Their Anemometers In The Air."

She snorted. It had been a gift from one of her students in the second year of her tenure. His name was Snowball Segue, and he was the best ukulele player she had ever heard. Unfortunately, he was also one of her worst students when it came to the class material.

She worked with the pegasus all summer that semester helping him study. She had spent half of an hour just teaching him the difference between evapotranspiration and transubstantiation, of which the latter wasn't even a meteorological term. She forgave him for that one since that's what happened when you had a cute stallion sitting in the seat ahead of you.

Violet chuckled to herself. He graduated that year with a D+ average but managed to earn a "B" in her class as a result of his efforts. She was proud of him.

A knock at the door shook her from her thoughts.

She sat up in her chair, having not realized earlier that she had been slowly leaning further on her desk. A quick cough and a straightening of her tie was all she needed to recover.

"Come," she said aloud, giving a wave toward the door. She still didn't know why she did that automatically. No one could see it.

The door creaked open, as in walked a light orange unicorn mare.

Violet smiled. "Yes, Miss Valencia?"

The school secretary offered her a timid smile before speaking in her low, wispy voice.

"Hello, Miss Tempest, I'm sorry to bother you, but Dean Head Honcho has asked you to join him in his office. He, uh, didn't sound too pleased," she quailed.

That struck Violet as odd, that the Dean would wish to see her out of nowhere. She wasn't aware of any infractions she had committed. Her teaching record was exemplary!

Still, there was no reason to sit around wondering when the answer was two flights down and a brisk walk to the administrative building.

"Thank you, Miss Valencia, I will be along in a moment," Violet said to the soft-spoken mare while offering up an appreciative smile.

The mare only nodded once and scooted out of the room, eager to get back to her files and folders.

Violet stood and stretched, her spine popping and cracking as she turned her head from left to right.

Sweet Celestia, I've been grading exams for 7 hours straight! she thought to herself as she worked a kink out of her right foreleg. Rotating the hoof, she placed it back on terra firma and received a satisfying pop in response.

She trotted out of the door, leaving the pile of unfinished reviews to languish on her desk.

She approached the administrative office, stepping inside to find Miss Valencia shuffling papers by a filing cabinet in the corner. She gave Violet a quick glance and a nod of her head to indicate that the Dean was waiting in the next room.

She knocked on the open door as she stuck her head around the side.

The Dean glanced up from his paperwork, and motioned for her to approach. He cleared his throat.

"Take a seat, Professor Tempest." His voice was all business.

Violet couldn't tell whether he was pleased or disappointed, as the Dean had a knack for keeping a well crafted poker face regardless of whether his audience was student or faculty.

Violet took a seat in front of his desk.

Dean Honcho scribbled something on one more form before setting the pile aside, placing his hooves together on his desk, and looking at Violet, his expression placid, composed.

"Professor, when I asked you to join Canterlot University more than ten years ago, it was because I expected a level of competency, teaching acumen, and an innate sense of propriety unparalleled in the schools of academia."

Violet's stomach tightened into a knot. What could she have possibly done wrong?

The Dean adjusted his glasses before continuing.

"I realize that may have been too much of an expectation to place on one pony, but I had faith that the decision to bring you on right out of graduate school was not only the right one, but the optimal one. It seems that the only real time tested teacher is the future. Today, it has taught me a new lesson."

Her heart began to make thudding sounds against her rib cage, while her stomach performed aerial loops.

"Today, I must bid you farewell."

She was going to be sick. Her mind began to rattle off possible scenarios where she had failed the school. Her hooves began to feel numb.

"Princess Luna has commissioned you for immediate transfer to the Royal Equestrian Meteorological Society..."

Her heart stopped.

"...where you will join their advisory council on Climatological phenomena."

He stood up from his desk, and held out his hoof, a grin splitting his muzzle. "Congratulations, Professor."

Violet's jaw dropped, taking the Dean's proffered hoof from years of habit.

"You will report to the Royal Sciences wing of the castle tomorrow morning, where you will be brought up to speed on your position. Miss Valencia will assign someone to finish reviewing those exam papers, and I want you to know that the student body and faculty stand behind you in your great leap forward, Miss Tempest."

"Uh huh" was all she managed as the Dean moved from his desk to show her out, a thought ran through her mind. Why in the wide wide world of Equestria would Luna choose me to head her advisory council?

Frostmuzzle Village
Northern Crystal Mountains

Sunpike Star awoke to silence.

She had fallen asleep on her favorite rug once again. The frayed, worn floor covering offered a modicum of warm respite from the cold, damp floor.

The cold and damp were nothing new to her, so she didn't give it a moment's thought as she jumped to her hooves and walked to her wash basin, her hooves sloshing about in a mixture of snowmelt.

A few splashes on her face, a quick dry with the tattered towel, and she was good to go. The sunlight was streaking through the decaying wooden door that lead from the single room hut to the outside. The rays of light looked warm and inviting, but they weren't by any stretch of the imagination.

She stepped outside and froze as she stared at what she saw before her. The first thing she noticed was the extreme heat.

Frostmuzzle Village was situated on the outer edges of the Chill Fields, a large ice shelf located in the northern Crystal Mountains. It was a plateau covered in permafrost that extended more than 10 hoof lengths deep below the earth.

The only thing that would grow this far north were the crystal berries, a hardy shrub that bore grape sized fruits that resembled raspberries, but with a distinct salty flavor.

They were prized for their versatility in various dishes. Equestria's top chefs paid top dollar to have them shipped across the Crystal Mountains and into their eager hooves, and more for Frostmuzzle crystal berries. It was said that the village could survive for decades just from the profits alone, made on berry exports. "No one can grow a berry like Frostmuzzle!" they would brag, and for good reason, because the Chill Fields had the coldest climate in all of the Crystal Empire.

The second thing Sunpike noticed was the massive fault line that ran across the entire plain before her.

"Sunpike!" came a shout behind her.

She turned to find her longtime foal-hood friend, and village blacksmith, Ten Penny Nail running up to her, his panicky voice matching his wild eyes, and his stumbling gait.

"Are you seeing this?!" he yelled, slipping as he approached her position. "It's the heat! The heat is melting the ice!"

Sunpike blinked quickly, recovering from her shock.

"I see it, Ten," she said as she helped him back to his hooves. His earth pony body was just a little too heavy to handle sudden stops, especially on the slush that had formed where solid ice had once existed.

"What's happening, Sun, why is it so hot?" he asked her as his head snapped back and forth at the cacophony of villagers yelling, screaming, and running out into the fields to save as much of the crop as they could from the rising watery mix.

Sunpike shook her head in response as she watched two earth pony stallions trying to life an old cedar chest filled with berries. Instead, she stood in the same spot, unable or unwilling to commit her thought to action.

She had never before felt anything like the heat they were experiencing. Yesterday had been just as cold as any other, and yet today? Blazing.

It was enough to terrify any mare and bring back thoughts of Lucien the Fire Mage, a stallion of ancient Crystal legend who had purportedly burned an entire village to the ground for offering him no sanctuary from the frigid environs of the plateau's harsh winters.

A loud rumble caught their attention, and the surface under their hooves heaved as if someone had grabbed the edge of it and snapped it taut. Both Sunpike and Ten Penny fell to the ground, their coats covered in muddy water, and bits of thawing soil.

As she got to her hooves, attempting to brush some of the silt from embedding itself into her coat, she heard Ten Penny behind her as an earsplitting shriek tore the air asunder.

"Wha- what was that?" he asked, his voice filled with fear.

Turning to face her friend, Sunpike was certain they were about to find out as she watched the open fault begin to spread. The act of separation made a growling sound, as if an Ursa Major had shown up at their doorstep demanding its hunger be satisfied.

The ground beneath them rumbled once again, though the pair managed to maintain their footing. The village huts didn't fare so well, as they began to collapse, including her modest home behind her. She didn't get a chance to feel dismay at its loss because what came next made her heart stand still.

Even without ever hearing it in her entire life up until that point, Sunpike knew the death knell of a large mass of ice losing the battle against gravity. She turned just in time to see a wall of ice heading right for them, and uttered one last word to Celestia before knowing nothing more.

The plateau screeched as it opened its maw, hungrily swallowing Frostmuzzle Village, the devastated bounty of the Chill Fields, and any witnesses who could have spread the news of what had happened there. If only they had could have told someone, anyone, before their world was upended, but not one pony in all of Equestria had any idea of what was coming for them all.


Chapter Two

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Chapter Two

City of Canterlot
Canterlot Castle

Violet arrived at the castle the next morning, having packed everything into her single suitcase. Even after ten years, she packed light.

The letter she had received in the mail that afternoon had laid out in detail where she was to go, and who she was to meet. Her specific assignment had not been explained in the letter, which was a bit of a mystery to her.

She was being lead through the kitchens of Canterlot Castle via a confusing series of shortcuts, backstairs, and side entrances, by a Royal guard.

When she had first arrived, it had caught her by surprise when the young stallion motioned for her to follow him. As they trotted, he had initially apologized for having to eschew standard procedure, with Violet dismissing the apology as unnecessary. After that exchange, however, they both lapsed into silence as they traversed the halls.

Finally, after a quick duck inside a small doorway was opposite the entrance to the cold storage freezer, Violet found herself standing in a black and white tiled kitchenette that held a few cupboards, one round wooden table, a couple of chairs, and two princesses who were enjoying tea.

Violet bowed. "Princess Luna, Princess Twilight, it is an honor to see you again."

Luna rolled her eyes, while Twilight giggled.

"Don't be absurd, you silly filly, come over here and give me a hug," laughed Twilight.

Violet returned to a standing position just as the lavender alicorn grabbed her in a tight squeeze, and nuzzled her cheek. Violet blushed, but didn't resist. It had been too long since she had visited Twilight anyway.

"Twilight, dearest, you are choking our young friend."

Releasing her from the hug, Twilight gave a bashful grin before returning to her seat next to Luna. She motioned to a chair across from them.

As Violet eased herself into the old wooden chair, Luna nodded her greeting to the mare, giving her a small smile as she did so.

"Tea?" asked Twilight.

Violet nodded and smiled. "Yes, please."

The next few moments were spent in the finer points of tea preparation. As they settled in with their cups, Luna took on an air of solemnity.

"I realize the two of you might wish to catch up on old times," she said as she glanced at Twilight, and then back to Violet, "however, I have called you here to discuss something of dire importance, young Violet Tempest."

While sitting with two of her friends had caused her to relax in their informal surroundings, the sudden usage of her full name caused Violet to sit up straighter in her chair and brought her to full attention.

Luna continued. "We are witnessing a phenomenon we have never experienced before in all of our known history." She glanced to her left. "Twilight, will you give her a summation of what we are facing?"

Twilight nodded to Luna before focusing on Violet, and clearing her throat.

"Several locations around the world, one of which has taken place in Equestria itself, have experienced meteorological phenomena that we simply cannot explain. Frigid regions experiencing record temperatures, tropical islands receiving record snowfalls, and we learned that a major squall line passed through Manehattan earlier this week."

Violet raised her hoof to interrupt. "When did this happen in Manehattan, Twi? I haven't read anything in the papers."

Luna glanced downward, as Twilight traced circles on the table with her hoof. "We, uh," she began before pausing, "I felt it was best to prevent that kind of news from getting out. No information is flowing in or out from Manehattan."

Violet frowned. A communications blackout was highly irregular, and she said as much. "Twilight, that doesn't sound like something you would do without just cause. Why would a storm be enough for you to suppress something like that?"

Twilight looked into Violet's eyes, her voice becoming monotone. "Manehattan was practically leveled by the storm."

Violet stared at her in shock, taken aback by the news.

Luna's voice took over. "We cordoned off the city with the use of the Royal Guard Reserves, preventing anyone from entering, or leaving the area. We know it is temporary, as news of this nature will not stay suppressed for long, but we felt it was necessary to prevent widespread panic."

Luna and Twilight were silent, waiting for Violet to absorb the shock so she could concentrate on the details. The young professor was staring at her teacup as if scrutinizing it held the answers to all of her questions.

"Were there any survivors?" she finally asked, her voice small.

"We don't know," Twilight responded. "You see, the storm is still there. It hasn't abated. We only know that Manehattan has been so thoroughly damaged because we managed to send a magic probe through the outskirts of the city before its matrix collapsed. We still don't know why, but what we managed to see before that happened was enough to confirm our worst fears about the town itself."

Violet's hooves were stilled by apprehension, but her mind was racing. What could cause a storm so violent that it could tear apart an entire city without warning, and without the ability to be controlled by the legions of pegasi that managed the city's weather systems?

"That is why we have called upon you, dear Violet." Luna's voice broke through her thoughts.

"You will be accompanying Twilight to study this disaster. We must know what is happening, and why. Only then will we find a solution."

Violet's gaze moved upward to focus on Twilight. The lavender princess gave her a half smile in return.

"You chose me to study this? Is this the real reason I was called away from my students?" Violet asked her.

Twilight nodded. "Call it nepotism, but I'd rather say you were chosen because of your exceptional skills, Violet. This isn't a career move so much as a desire to bring the best minds to bear on the task ahead."

Violet raised an eyebrow. "Surely there are better minds than my own, Twilight. Dr. Von Bridle, for example."

"Von Bridle retired last year, and we did attempt to contact him when we first learned of the maelstrom, but couldn't get hold of him. We think he may have been in Manehattan when the storm hit. You were his understudy, and if you want my honest opinion, his successor."

Violet blushed.

"I'm serious," Twilight continued, taking on a look of consternation. "You have the best meteorological mind in all of Equestria, and it's time you used it. We need you, Violet. Help us find the root of these occurrences, because if we can't, all of Equestria, or even the world itself, is at risk of destruction."

Violet sighed. "Okay, I'm in."

"Huzzah!" cried Luna, with a pump of her fist.

City of Canterlot
Port Canterlot

"This is the last one, Flyjack!" cried the boatswain as he hoisted the last cargo crate onto one of the pallet lifts stationed along the dock, motioning to the lift crane, and the unicorn inside, to bring it abord.

Violet approached the dark furred pegasus. "Excuse me, sir," she called, "where can I find Princess Twilight?"

The pony glanced down at the pass pinned to her overcoat. "Ah, Professor Tempest, yes, Princess Twilight is expecting you. She has already boarded and is in her cabin."

Violet nodded her thanks and stepped onto the gangway, feeling a moment of unsteadiness as the airship swayed gently in the breeze, catching her off guard.

Once she had arrived on the deck, she began finding her way below decks, asking various officers and crew which way to the royal cabin. Finally, after getting lost twice, she managed to find herself standing in front of the suite, the door itself guarded by both a pegasus and unicorn guard.

"Hello, sirs," she began, "I..."

"Send her in!" came a muffled voice beyond the door.

Violet couldn't help but chuckle to herself as the door was opened and she stepped inside.

"I'll be out in a moment, just make yourself at home!" came Twilight's voice from another room.

She surveyed the main living area of the cabin. It had a number of rich appointments that couldn't be denied, such as the gold trim that ran along the walls, the gem studded magic lamps, and the finely upholstered sitting couch in one corner, with large, overstuffed pillows nestled nearby.

There were curved bay style windows that overlooked the dock itself, and Violet took a moment to watch the busy ponies as they went about their duties preparing the ship for departure.

They were clearly in the aft section of the ship. Violet wondered if that wasn't a somewhat dangerous location for a princess to be, especially in battle, for the Mare Nobilium wasn't just any airship, but was in fact a warship; Princess Luna's warship to be exact.

A moment later, Twilight emerged from her room.

"Hey Violet," she said as she hugged the mare, who returned it with great affection. "Welcome aboard!"

Violet smiled. "I wish getting the chance to travel aboard Princess Luna's vessel was under better circumstances."

Twilight nodded, her smiling dimming slightly.

"I agree, but since we are here, and since we will be undoubtedly busy once we arrive at Manehattan, it would be nice for us to share a few peaceful moments together."

Violet blushed. "I'm sorry about falling asleep so early last night," she said, her voice contrite. "It had been really busy, and my mind was already on overload from the news of what has happened."

Twilight nodded in agreement. "Still," she replied gently, "I am glad you're here with me now, and that we can work together."

She turned and made her way towards the sitting couch. Violet joined her, taking a seat on one of the large pillows nearby.

"So," Twilight began, her tone becoming conversational, "have you been enjoying your tenure as Professor of Climatology at RCU?" she asked.

Violet smiled. "Very much so. Seeing your words reach their hearts and minds, the knowledge you share becoming a part of their world, it's so enriching. There's nothing like it."

Twilight nodded, a smile of her own appearing on her muzzle. "I can imagine, having once ran a friendship school. It was almost..."

"Magical?" Violet filled in where Twilight had paused.

This elicited a giggle from the studious princess. "Yes, exactly!"

They laughed together, the sound echoing off of the walls of the well appointed cabin.

"How are you and Princess Luna getting along?" Violet asked.

Twilight's smile spread into a grin. "Very well. We've been together all of these years, and every day still feels like the first time we held hooves, the first time we kissed."

She turned her face away from Violet for a moment, before side eyeing the mare.

"Any tempestuous lovers I should know about?" she said, a devilish grin gracing her features.

Violet groaned. "That was horrible, Twilight. That was a horrible pun. Clearly, you've been practicing."

Twilight chuckled. "Every day. Spike still writes me every so often, so I have to stay on top of my game."

"How is he doing?" Violet asked. She had become fond of the drake, and once he left home to join Ember in the Dragonlands, she had felt a little hole in her heart form, and it had never quite healed.

"He's doing just fine, last time I heard from him."

Violet nodded.

"But," Twilight continued, "that doesn't take away from my question. So?"

Violet gave the lavender bookworm her harshest glare, which wasn't very effective. "I'm not seeing anyone."

Twilight gasped. "Why not?! You're a beautiful, intelligent mare! Why, any stallion or mare worth their weight in horseshoes should recognize how much of a catch you are! I can-"

"It's okay, Twilight," Violet interrupted, chuckling. "I've been busy teaching, that's all. I'll find someone when I'm ready."

Twilight pointed a hoof at her, "just remember, young lady," she admonished gently, "if you don't make time, eventually you'll run out of it."

Violet thought on her statement. She acknowledged it with a simple grunt.

At that moment, the ship lurched. A few seconds passed, and the voice of the Captain emanated from the speaker above them.

"Attention, all hooves, this is Captain Copperpot: All hooves to stations, all moorings have been secured, the ship is now leaving dock. Repeat: all hooves to stations, all moorings have been secured, the ship is now leaving dock. Our destination is the city of Manehattan."


Chapter Three

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Chapter Three

Aboard the Equestrian Command Cruiser Mare Nobilium
4:15 PM, Manehattan Time

"Attention, all hooves, this is the Captain: All required hooves to flight quarters. This is not a drill. Repeat: All required hooves to flight quarters. This is not a drill."

A klaxon whooped for several seconds before going silent. Moments later, there was a knock at Violet's cabin door.

Violet sat up on her bed. "Come in," she called.

The door was pushed aside as a pegasus guard in purple armor stepped inside.

"Excuse me, Professor Tempest, but the Captain has called both Princess Twilight and yourself to the bridge. I am to escort you there."

Violet grabbed her notes from the bed, shoved them into her carry-on satchel, and jumped to her hooves. She followed the guard out of her cabin.

She could see Twilight's cabin across the narrow hallway, its door already open and its occupants gone.

"Can I ask what's happening?" she inquired of her escort.

The guard spoke without looking backward. "We are approaching Manehattan airspace, Ma'am."

Violet's heart began to thump just a little harder inside of her chest. "What was it the Captain was saying in his announcement just now?"

The guard turned his head slightly to respond as they began to climb the stairs to the next deck.

"The Captain called for flight quarters. That means they're preparing a pegasi crew to scout current conditions."

Violet frowned. "Isn't that something they should do before we get too close to Manehattan, just in case?"

The royal guard merely shrugged his shoulders as they took the next flight up. "I can't rightly say, Professor, you'll probably have to ask the Captain."

"Well, I-" Violet's response was interrupted as the ship shuddered hard, heeling slightly to the starboard side before righting itself. She found herself being supported by the guard as he braced himself against the railing.

"Good Goddess, what was that?!" she exclaimed getting back to her hooves, a slight blush on her face.

"That was the storm, ma'am."

As they resumed their route to the bridge, Violet felt perturbed by the possibility of what they were getting themselves into.

"We're here." The guard stepped to one side as the bridge door was opened by one of the ship's crew. Violet hesitated a moment, and then stepped inside.

The bridge was a flurry of activity. Crewponies operating stations that lined the curved walls of the room, communications ponies with headsets fueled by magic crystals that allowed them to talk to the pegasus scouts who had just been sent out to patrol the storm that lay ahead of them.

Through the view port at the front of the bridge, Violet could see black clouds near the horizon. A shiver ran down her spine as she realized they were getting closer to it with every second.

The Mare Nobilium was a fast vessel, one of the fastest in the Night Fleet. Princess Luna had commissioned it herself a few years after her return from the Moon. It was designed to be a command cruiser, a battleship, and a scout all in one, which made it an all around solid choice for their mission.

Glancing away from the view port, she saw the Captain, and Twilight, standing at a small table in the center of the bridge just a few lengths behind the helm. Twilight was using her magic to hold a quill as she appeared to scribble details of something on a map.

As she approached them, Violet saw that the map was the same topographical representation of Manehattan she and Twi had pored over earlier that morning in her quarters. Since then, Twilight had crammed the margins with her precise horn writing, clearly coming up with a number of fresh ideas for how to approach the storm.

"Oh, Violet, you're here!"

Violet jumped at the sudden acknowledgment. So caught up was she in the ominous presence of the storm, she hadn't even noticed Twilight sidling up next to her and placing her hoof on Violet's shoulder.

Twilight continued her discussion with the Captain, while Violet's eyes stayed trained on the maelstrom sitting just beyond the horizon. She knew they were getting closer with each passing second.

"...find the core and disperse it with that same wing." Twilight's voice broke into her thoughts.

"Wait, what?" Violet asked the purple mare.

Twilight gave her a confused look, and smiled.

"I was just telling the Captain that once we penetrate the core of the storm, we can dispatch the pegasus teams to break it up."

Violet was silent for a moment.

Twilight fidgeted. "Is there something wrong, Violet?"

Violet, for her own sake, was lost in thought. Something had been nagging her ever since the initial mission had been set in motion. It had bothered her when Princesses Luna and Twilight laid out their plans. It had poked at her subconscious when they had settled aboard ship and began formulating theories behind the origins of the storm.

Now it was pushing hard against the back of her mind.

"Well..." she began.

It made its way to the front.

"I was wondering, Twilight, er, Princess," she began, remembering that they were in mixed company, and formality was a necessity when dealing with the chain of command.

"Go on." Twilight urged after a pause.

Violet continued. "It's probably nothing, and you may have already mentioned it, but if it's so simple that we can disperse it with a pegasi weather team, why didn't the teams based in Manehattan manage to control it? There must have been a dozen teams in the air at any given time."

Twilight furrowed her brow. Violet had raised an excellent point. What had happened to the pegasi weather teams?

Violet glanced at Twilight, who was deep in thought.

"I think I have an idea, Princess," she began.
Twilight glanced up, and focused on the young mare. "What is it, Violet?"

She cleared her throat to remove the wavering quality that always managed to find its way in there when she had to address royalty, even royalty she knew before they were royalty.

Violet continued. "I'm uncertain that it's quite as simple as sending a team of pegasi into the maelstrom."

She ambled over to the map, and pointed a foreleg at an area right above Manehattan's Central Park.

"If you'll notice here, Princess, right below Central Park is a subterranean weather post. It was designed as a forward station in the event we ever experienced another blizzard like the one we saw hit back in 741. Back then, we were still working on snow wrangling to protect the logging camps we had in that neck of the woods."

Twilight nodded. "I remember reading about that in 'The Wild Winter Woes of Wind Wrangler.'

Violet nodded. "Correct, Princess. Well, these days, it's used as an archive for atmospheric data."

Twilight blinked when nothing else was forthcoming.

"Is that all you wanted to say?" she asked.

Violet started. "Oh, sorry Twil-er, Your Highness, I assumed you knew this part of the story, what with your comprehensive grasp of Manehattan's history."

Twilight chuckled. "Well, comprehensive, perhaps, but not quite omniscient."

Violet shrugged. "You could have fooled me."

Twilight rolled her eyes and gave the mare a half smile.

Violet didn't notice the look as she laid out her theory.

"Somewhere in that archive is an old mana crystal that was once used to fuel a series of weather balloons that acted as bulwarks against low level clouds that would drift in from the Celestial Sea. One of those balloons still exists to this day, and it's linked to the crystal."

Twilight nodded. "I'm still following."

Violet grunted in the affirmative. "Once the maelstrom hit, that balloon would have fired off a signal to the crystal, and would have alerted Manehattan, and the surrounding area, that a storm system was inbound."

She tapped the map. "Nopony received that signal."

Twilight frowned. The likelihood of a mana crystal being signal blocked was rather improbable. They acted directly on the transmission of information via natural ley lines.

She looked at Violet. "One of those ley lines runs under Central Park.

Violet nodded.

Twilight frowned. "Do you think it means something is blocking the ley line itself?"

Violet scratched her mane, pondering the question. "No..." she began, "I don't think it blocked the ley line, because if it could we would be facing something even more dangerous than initially thought. Something with enough power to block a ley line would be more powerful than the energy produced by our own Sun."

She scratched at her chin in deep thought, a gesture she had picked up from her sister-in-law.

"No, it would have to be something else. Something..."

She looked at Twilight with a start. "Twi," she said, forgetting all formalities, "remember in the meeting, what Luna said? She said communication in and out of the city was non-existent?"

Twilight nodded. "I remember," she confirmed.

Violet sat on her haunches, using her forelegs to emphasize her point. "What if the reason we're experiencing total silence from Manehattan is because something isn't blocking the ley lines, it's draining them?"

Twilight's expression was one of shock. "Violet, draining a ley line is simply not possible. Ley lines are more than just magical highways, they're thaumic generators. It would take a-"

She was interrupted as the deck lurched downward. Twilight tumbled backward, slamming hard against the helm.

"Twilight!" Violet called out as she stumbled, managing to grab the leg of the map table as the ship began charging and bucking like an angry bull at the Baltimare Red Cape Festival.

The lights dimmed as klaxons began sounding overhead, their wail deafening the ponies on the bridge. In the chaos, she could hear Captain Copperpot yelling orders over the ship's intercom, as crewponies moved swiftly about the bridge.

A loud groaning could be heard echoing from belowdecks as Violet felt the thrum of the ship's quad General Equestrian 90-115B engines gradually become a hard, vibrating shudder. Their collective might straining to keep the vessel upright and level.

The ship bucked once, then twice, and finally on the third drop, a loud rumble echoed throughout the bridge. Violet held tight to the table leg as the ship began to move into a yaw pattern. A screech of metal ran its tendrils up her spine.

"...lost the engines, Captain!" she heard the shout from one crewpony over the din as the ship began to shimmy as the ship began to pitch upward.

Violet took the opportunity of momentum to pull herself to her hooves, still clinging tightly to the map table. From her position, she now had a better view of the bridge. Smoke was everywhere, with tiny fires in sections where mana batteries had exploded.

She turned just in time to get a look outside the bridge viewport, and her blood ran cold. They were right upon the storm. Either they had reached it, or it had reached them, but it didn't matter, because it was here.

Her reflection was short lived, as the ship began to angle downward. Violet's stomach churned as she realized the ship's heliox envelope had been punctured. Severely if they were losing height this rapidly, and that they were going down.

The ship shuddered hard once again as it picked up speed. She noticed immediately that the prow of the ship could be seen edging back above the horizon. Violet looked over to the helm, and saw the helmspony desperately pulling hard on the controls, his face straining from the effort.

A flame of hope erupted in her chest, as she began to feel the ship level out. It lasted exactly two seconds, at which point the lights went out. A second later, the emergency illumination crystals came to life, bathing the bridge in harsh, blood red hues.

The ship once more began to angle downward.

"All hands, brace for impact!" came the voice of the helmspony. In all the confusion, Violet couldn't see the Captain, or Twilight, but she heeded the command and wrapped herself around a nearby support beam, praying to Celestia as the ship began to pick up speed as it made its run for the hard earth below.

She could hear the wind shrieking outside the bridge, as the viewport shattered from the pressure, glass scattering everywhere.

Violet had no time to protect herself as the ship made a final shudder before lurching to starboard, forcing her to lose her grip on the support beam, and leaving her holding nothing but empty air to grip onto. As she felt herself floating backward, she glanced up to see the ground speed towards her.

Somewhere in the back of her mind, she registered the scent of new rain on fresh soil before her vision started going black.


Chapter Four

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Chapter Four

City of Manehattan
Time and Date Unknown

It was pitch black, she was soaked to the fur, and Violet's brain was threatening to secede from the rest of her body. Amidst the war drums between her ears, she could feel nothing but the cacophony of cannon shells as they slammed home against her cerebellum, giving her a pounding headache, and one heck of a sensory overload to where she couldn't even open her eyes, much less move.

It would have reminded her of the time she had rode the WonderBlast, the official theme park ride of the Wonderbolts, and Los Pegasus' largest rollercoaster. In a fit of teenage stupidity, she had ridden it backwards on a dare, in order to impress some mare she had been fancying that morning.

What she had failed to realize at the time was that the seats were designed facing forward for many reasons, the biggest one was that the ride only traveled forward in the first place.

So what happened? Violet's face was repeatedly smashed into the seat rest over and over and over and over, all the way down, up, around, and back down again. She had an imprint of the Wonderbolts logo tattooed on her forehead for three days.

What sucked the most was that the mare she was trying to impress had a coltfriend, and he was among those laughing the hardest at her folly. Violet concluded that being a teenager was stupid, riding backwards on a forward moving coaster was stupid, and this pounding headache was stupid.

It was then that she noticed something she hadn't when she had been casually screaming down memory lane: while the pain was still present, its sharpness had receded. It still throbbed like a mother of Celestia, but it wasn't nearly as crippling as before.

She opened her eyes. Daggers of light caused her to immediately close them. 'Okay,' she thought, 'still sensitive.'

Taking the opportunity to quiet her brain's chattering as much as possible, she tried to focus on the world around her. Even though the pain was still enough to force her eyes closed, she could still listen to, feel about, and even smell her surroundings if only she could concentrate.

The first thing she could hear, through the hazy web of pain, was the constant thrumming of rain against a hard surface. She was in some kind of shelter, she assumed, because the next thing she noted was that the rain wasn't hitting her in the face. Taking a quick sniff, she immediately detected a mustiness, the odor of things long since neglected, and possibly abandoned.

The dust suspended in the air caused her to sneeze.

"Bless you."

She figured that she had ended up in some kind of... and her mind froze as she realized she wasn't the only creature in the room.

Her heartbeat quickened. "Hello?" she called out, her voice less than a whisper. She tried to clear her throat, and the action caused a blossoming pain in her forehead. She stopped immediately as her eyes screwed shut even tighter, a mask of pain forming on her face.

"Don't try to speak or move, please. You've a serious head injury."

Violet tried to grasp at every detail she could sense. The first thing she noticed was that the voice was higher pitched. The second thing she felt was a cool washcloth on her forehead.

"You've got some serious bruising all over your body," her companion commented in her soothing voice, as she dabbed the cloth along Violet's face.

Violet tried to open her muzzle, but her companion replied before she could utter a sound.

"Try not to speak, please. I've brought you some water, and a few more bandages. I've also extinguished the candle, so it should be dark enough for you to open your eyes, but do it slowly."

Taking great care, Violet gently opened her eyes halfway, letting them adjust to the room. Her companion, rescuer, whatever you wanted to call her, was silhouetted next to her. She couldn't make out very much, but she could immediately tell her newfound friend wasn't a pony.

She opened her eyes the rest of the way.

"Ah, now, isn't that better?"

Violet had to admit the almost non-existent light helped ease the pain in her head, but it also had the side effect of keeping her pretty much literally in the dark.

Her companion's shape could be seen to move in the dark. She was bringing something closer.

"I would imagine you're quite thirsty, and in some pain. I've added an analgesic compound to this cup of water, so when you drink it, the pain should begin to go away. Okay?"

She really was very thirsty, and her head was still pounding, even in the much improved darkness. Attempting to sit up, she felt her body protest hard. Her breath caught in her throat.

"Whoa, there," she heard her companion's voice tinged with worry. "I don't think your body is quite ready to do anything just yet, my dear. You're going to need to let me hold your head up, alright?"

Violet nodded, and then realized that they were in the dark. She was about to roll her eyes, when she felt a limb support her head to where she could raise it. She felt, rather than really saw, the cup of water move against her lips, and she began drinking in small sips. That went by the wayside when she realized how thirsty she was, and began drinking it down quickly. Before she realized it, she had drained the cup.

"Very good," she heard her companion say. Violet could almost hear a smile in that voice. She hoped that the smile was to her benefit, rather than her detriment, because she still had no idea the identity of her rescuer.

She felt her head being lowered back to lay against her hooves.

Her companion spoke. "Now that we've got that out of the way, I need to bandage your wounds. I've applied salve to most of them, but they need to be protected from dirt and grime so they may heal. You also have several bruised ribs, so I will need to wrap them. May I proceed?"

Though the water had reduced the dryness of her throat, Violet could only emit a whispered "yes, please." Still, she was thankful that she hadn't been all alone with bruised ribs, and bleeding wounds. That would have been a rather grim situation. Not that things weren't already pretty bad all around.

A few moments later, she was surprised to feel herself floating a hooflength from the floor, encapsulated in a magic field. She could feel bandages being applied to her barrel. So her companion was a magic user. She didn't look like a pony, though, and she couldn't think of any species other than unicorn that could utilize directed magic. Of course, that may have been due to her mind being occupied with her situation, but that only meant her curiosity had grown ever stronger.

"Hold on, I'm moving you just a little bit," she heard her companion say, a bit of strain in her voice from the effort of holding Violet in the air for such an extended period of time.

Violet felt herself moving, and then descending. She immediately noticed the surface had changed from hard floor to soft pillows.

"There we go," she heard a satisfied murmur from right next to her. "Now," she continued, "how is the pain?"

Violet took a quick mental inventory, and realized the pain had receded. She breathed a sigh of relief, and spoke in a whispered, "I think it's going away. I don't feel like Tartarus warmed over."

She heard a chuckle. "Wonderful," came the reply, "this means I can raise the light level for you just a bit. I'm sure it must be a bit disorienting at the moment."

A few moments later, she saw a spark of magic light several candles, and the room achieved a soft illumination, not unlike that of dusk.

"I'm going to get us some food. I will return quickly," she heard the voice as it trailed out of the room.

The first thing Violet noticed was that she was now lying on a divan, with pillows on every side to prevent her from falling off should she shift positions in her sleep. The divan itself was old and musty, probably from years of disuse, and situated near one corner of the room.

Along the walls she saw rows and rows of books, stacked on wooden planks, and cinder blocks. The floor was concrete in appearance, the walls made of a red brick she remembered seeing in old magazine photos of Baltimare. Near the center of the room stood an old table, one of its legs uneven and held in place by what appeared to be a stack of dilapidated magazines. Everything had a fine layer of dust on it, as if it hadn't been used in eons.

So her initial shelter idea may have had some merit to it. This could have been some kind of emergency shelter, though it looked like the last time there had been an actual emergency where this thing saw use, Violet had probably been in kindergarten.

She sighed, and could feel the scratchiness in her throat had diminished. She tested her voice. "Hello, hello, hello," she intoned softly, her voice getting clearer each time.

"I am the very model of a modern weather pegasus,
I've mastered every weather form from here to Whinnyapolis," she singsonged quietly to herself.

"Oh my, someone's voice is coming back!" she heard from around the corner. Turning her head to the sound at the doorway, she watched as a tan colored earth pony ambled into the room, a tray of food balanced on her back.

The earth pony, managed to sit the tray on a nearby table. She turned to meet Violet's gaze, her golden eyes apprehensive, and smiled.

"Hello," she waved a forehoof timidly. "I'm, uh, Candela Bright."

Violet coughed to cover her surprise, and replied quietly. "Hi, uh, I'm Violet Tempest. I, uh," she paused, not sure how to proceed, though she knew she had to address something immediately. "Thank you for rescuing me, Candela Bright. I owe you a debt of gratitude."

She watched as Candela Bright's face burnished red, a blush creeping along her tanned cheeks as she looked away, one eye partially hidden by the braid of her chestnut mane.

"Oh," she replied, still looking towards the wall, "you can just call me Canby."

A few moments later, she clapped both hooves together. "Well," she said, attempting to break the slight awkwardness one encounters in new social situations, "why don't we eat? I bet you're hungry, and I have to admit I'm a bit famished myself."

Violet smiled for the first time in what felt like forever. Still, as they sat together and shared the small meal of bread and cheese, she couldn't help but think back to the moment where magic had been used to lift her up and bandage her ribs.

Earth ponies possessed magic, of course, it's how they grew crops, and it was the source of their incredible strength and stamina, but there had never been an earth pony who could use magic the same way a unicorn could. A horn was required for that kind of magical manipulation, and so Violet couldn't let go of the notion that there was more to Candela Bright than the shy mare seemed to let on.

Still, it was a matter to investigate when her wounds had healed, and she could move about again. In the meantime, the kind pony seemed harmless enough. Since Violet had learned a long time ago to give new friends the benefit of the doubt, for every stranger was just a friend she had yet to meet, it wasn't something that had to be answered right now, as they sat in companionable silence.

Regardless, there would be an answer.


Chapter Five

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Chapter Five

City of Manehattan
Time: Dusk

Violet sat quietly as Candela checked her bandages.

"You're doing very well," the earth pony said as she glanced underneath the gauze surrounding Violet's midsection. "I expect that you'll be able to move about in the next day or so."

Violet sighed in relief, feeling a twinge in her side as she did so. "Thank you," she said. Aside from being helped to the bathroom a few times, she had spent the majority of the past two days on the divan, and it was starting to get somewhat irritating.

She was no closer to finding out where anypony else was, where she was, and when asked, Candela had no idea that there had even been a crash in the first place. She seemed to have no inkling of what was going on more than a few hoofsteps outside her home.

Violet's gratitude had been accepted on the premise that she was simply a wayward traveler that Candela had found lying outside of the building, someone who had been injured in the storm, and had simply collapsed near the closest shelter she could find.

What bothered her, still, was that since the other night, she hadn't seen Candela use unicorn magic of any kind. She had started to wonder if her eyes had just played tricks on her, but she also recalled being physically lifted and placed on the divan. Had it all been in her head?

It seemed as if the mystery just kept growing, and Violet didn't have even the faintest idea of what to do because she was still relatively immobile in somepony's home, and unable to explore her environment beyond the confines of Candela's sitting room.

"Would you care for some tea?"

Candela's voice broke into Violet's ruminating. To be honest, it was a welcome intrusion, because the constant looping thoughts had begun to drive her up the wall.

"Yes, please," Violet replied, and gave Candela a small smile as she watched the lovely mare place a cup and saucer on the small wooden box she had managed to find and set by the divan so she could eat and drink with minimum difficulty.

Candela had been a gracious host up to this point, and had shared everything she had with Violet without asking for anything in return. Violet knew that could change at any moment, but she had a feeling the earth pony wasn't the type to throw somepony out, especially a pony who had been injured just outside her own front door, wherever that was.

Still, it was clear that she had very little in the way of personal possessions, and unless she was hoarding it somewhere else, she doubted the mare had more than a pocketful of bits. It showed all around her.

The shelter they were in wasn't much of anything beyond a barebones structure. It was just sturdy enough to stand up to the raging storm outside, but that was about the long and short of it. It lacked most creature comforts, and though Violet was curious to find out more about it, she felt broaching the subject would be rude toward her host.

Fortunately, her host seemed inclined to do it for her.

"I'm sorry about all of this," she said, her foreleg motioning to the rest of the room. "It's the best I could manage on such short notice."

Violet shook her head gently. "You don't need to explain yourself," she said. When Candela said nothing, she continued. "You know, I believe you saved my life the other day. I would hope you have seen, so far, that I'm grateful, and wouldn't base my understanding of you on where you live."

Candela's gaze dropped to the floor, a small smile on her face.

"I don't know if I saved your life," she began quietly, "but I am glad I investigated the loud noise outside of my front door instead of cowering in a corner somewhere."

Violet's confused expression compelled Candela to continue.

"You see," the tan pony responded to the look with an air of exasperation, "I'm not what you'd call a courageous pony. I... I don't like dealing with other ponies. It's not that I don't like them, I just don't like talking to them. They make me nervous, and when I have to be around them for too long, I start to feel tired and kind of cranky. You're the, uh" she looked away from Violet and continued, "you're the first stranger I've talked to in over a year."

Violet raised an eyebrow in response, but a warm smile edged onto her face. "It was very kind what you did, and I must be taxing you by requiring so much from you. I'm so sorry about that, and I don't mean to do it," Violet replied, her tone apologetic.

She hated being a burden, and until she could get back on all four hooves, she knew she was consuming the meager resources of her companion.

"No, no!" Candela objected, "you're not a drain at all! No, you're hurt. That's a little different than somepony spending hours nattering away with small talk. No, you're not at all taxing, you're, um, rather nice, actually."

Violet blushed at the quiet compliment.

"It must seem odd," she opined, "to have the survivor of a shipwreck here recovering in your own living room. It would seem very surreal to me."

"It is a little weird, yeah," she replied, following the statement with a nervous chuckle, while rubbing her withers with a forehoof. Then she caught herself.

"Not that you're weird," she stated emphatically, "I mean, no weirder than anypony else would be." She started at her own statement. "Oh wait, that's not what I meant!" She groaned.

Violet laughed, a warmth spreading in her chest. She couldn't help but notice that Candela had some of the same mannerisms as her friend Twilight: shy, self-effacing, bookish, sometimes awkward to the point of adorkability, and it was all rather endearing, if she was being honest with herself.

"How will you find out what happened to your friends?" the tan earth pony asked her.

Violet's good mood evaporated instantly.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to be clumsy, I just-"

"No, it's okay," Violet interrupted, waving a hoof to dispel any concerns her newfound friend may have been entertaining in her own mind. "I've tried not to think about it, honestly. It's just... what do you do when you're laid up, when there's a storm outside that is too dangerous for pony or beast? I feel so useless."

Candela moved from her chair, and sat in front of Violet, putting a hoof on the young mare's withers. "You're not useless, Violet. Don't think that. You sound like a good friend. We're just in the middle of this... I don't know... overwhelming situation, and it's going to take more than one pony to get the job done."

"What do you mean?" asked the pegasus.

Candela shrugged her shoulders. "I mean, I'd like to help you. If you'll let me. I may not be a brilliant scientist, or a powerful warrior, but I'm pretty good with a pack of bandages, and I make some great tea."

Violet couldn't help but laugh at the mare's impish nature. "You have patched me up most efficiently, I have to say, and yes, I would like having your help in finding my friends."

She placed her hoof on Candela's shoulder. "You also make some great tea."

Candela blushed. A few moments passed as she gathered her thoughts, and stood gently, letting Violet's hoof fall back to the bed.

"I'm going to go prepare a few things just in case we have to get moving. Then I can scrounge up something for us to eat. After that, we'll begin working on plans. I figure that by the time you're healed enough, we'll have something firmly in place."

She left the room as Violet stewed in her own thoughts. She had an ally now, somepony who would help her look for the ponies she loved the most, along with everypony else who may have been stranded by the ship crash. It seemed like a pretty solid start to a good plan.

If there was anything that bothered her, it was the fact that she hadn't heard a sound from anypony else about what had happened to the ship and crew. Even in a storm such as this one, surely somepony would have been spreading the news about a great airship crash. It's not like it would have been subtle and gone unnoticed.

That was only the first of a dozen questions she had about her situation, and while they still nagged at the back of her mind, she took comfort in the fact that she wouldn't be seeking those answers alone. Even in the midst of a maelstrom, it was good to know you could always count on a friend to step up and improve the odds.

For now, though, she was a bit hungry, and eagerly anticipated Candela's return.


Chapter Six

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Chapter Six

City of Manehattan
Time: Dawn

"I've packed the last of the supplies, have you figured out where you wanted to start searching?" Candela asked as she loaded two canteens into her saddlebags.

Violet hobbled into the anteroom, supporting herself on the short, fat stick Candela had found for her while scrounging together their supplies from the old utility shed attached to the building. She had managed to fasten an old rag around the hilt in order to prevent it from digging into her leg joint.

"Do you really think I need this thing?" she asked Candela, her tone exasperated.

"Yes, and you shouldn't complain. We're going to have to make the best time we can, because I can't promise you we'll find much of anything in this weather." She fastened the latches on her saddlebags, and looked at Violet.

"You were near death when I found you, and I don't want to see it happen. I've already invested good food and clean bandages into you, so I expect some kind of return on that investment. Now," she added, placing a foreleg on their cargo, "you were saying about search plans?"

Violet let a half grin appear on her muzzle as she shifted her weight from one hoof to the other. "I don't really know this area of Manehattan very well, to be honest," she said with a tinge of disappointment in her voice, "but if we follow the classic patterns used in standard search and rescue operations, we're bound to encounter somepony or something that will lead us to the wreck."

The last word came out haltingly. Only now, as they prepared to embark on their rescue mission did she really stop and think about what she expected to find out in the wild wind and rain. Somewhere in the fog and confusion of a maelstrom were the remains of a once proud command ship, and Celestia knows what else.

Candela made her way around the small table upon which her saddlebags had been sitting, and pulled Violet into a hug. Not one second had passed before she felt the sobs start working their way out of her newfound friend.

"It's okay, sweetheart," her voice soothingly soft, and a foreleg stroking the younger mare's withers. "We're going to find your friends, and we're going to find your ship. Okay?"

For a moment there was no response other than the muffled crying, and then she felt the nod against her shoulder. She smiled to herself as she hugged Violet a little tighter.

"Good," Candela said as patted Violet on the top of her head like one would a keening foal. If it had been any one of her friends, she would have been annoyed, but Violet rather liked the kind and gentle gesture. It spoke well of Candela that her immediate response to stressful situations was to comfort those around her.

Violet pulled away from her as gently as possible. She looked at Candela's shoulder and sighed. "I'm sorry," she said to the older mare, "I seem to have stained your fur with my, uh..."

Candela glanced at her right shoulder and chuckled. "It's okay, Violet. I've had much, much worse."

Violet used her left wing to unwrap the rag from her support stick, and dabbed at the stains on Candela's fur.

Candela couldn't help but chuckle inwardly as she watched the pegasus concentrate on drying her fur, mostly because as she focused on the worst of the staining, her tongue would stick out, and it was much too cute to ignore.

Another hoofful of seconds passed, and Violet was done. "Well," she said, "it won't win any awards, but I think we can brave the elements free of incriminating stains."

Candela raised an eyebrow. "You mean the elements like wind and rain?"

Violet nodded. "Yeah... those." She put a hoof against her forehead. "I'm a goof."

Candela laughed hard. Perhaps it was the tension of knowing what they were about to attempt, or just being delighted in the company of so cute a mare, but Candela let out a belly laugh that caught Violet off guard, and whose only response was to blush.

"It wasn't really that funny, was it?" she said, her ears folding down as she pawed at the old, chipped floor with a forehoof.

Candela's laughter died down to a chuckle, and she shook her head. "No, my dear, it probably wasn't," she said with a warm smile, "but I think when it comes to you, exceptions should always be made. I promise I wasn't laughing at you, just at how sweet you are."

That brought on another blush, and Violet broke eye contact with the earth mare, instead choosing to focus on the crudely drawn map she had thought out the night before.

"Okay, down to business then," she stated in an effort to cool the blush and change the subject. "You said that about 200 paces from here is a large concrete bunker?

"Correct," she stated, nodding her head in confirmation. "It was used as a fallout shelter toward the start of the mage wars, during the reign of Discord."

"Back when the royal archmages attempted to seize power?" asked Violet.

"Indeed," came Candela's reply. "By the end, mana bombs had become a grim reality, and ponies had to huddle together in these shelters in order to avoid the worst of the damage."

Violet nodded. "Then we'll start there, and see if anypony found it and decided to use it as a command post, or simply as a rescue shelter until the worst of the storm passed."

The weak overhead lighting chose that moment to wink out, and then back on.

"Whenever that is," Candela said mostly to herself, as she stared at the ceiling.

"Okay, so bunker first. Now," she continued, pointing at the second dot that had been drawn on the map, "we can move from there and make our way over to this location, which is an old general store. You said it had a basement."

Candela leaned over Violet's shoulder and hummed for a moment as she took in the location pinpointed on the map. "Yes, it's an old storage cellar," she said, the breath from her muzzle tickling Violet's ear. She was amused to watch the ear flick back and forth for a moment, its owner too focused to notice.

Candela couldn't help but breathe in Violet's scent. She probably hadn't showered in days, but there was no real odor. Instead, her scent reminded the earth mare of a sunny day on the beach, with the salt tinged air that excited the lungs, and the crisp ocean breeze that lifted the spirit.

She realized she had missed the third location. "I'm sorry, I didn't catch that," she said, her tone apologetic.

Violet looked up and nearly bumped her head into Candela's muzzle.

They both stepped away quickly in order to avoid bruised noggins.

"I was, uh, just saying that our third location is here," she indicated, her voice flustered but her hoof landing squarely on target where the library stood. Once stood? Who knew?

"We can reach the library, and hole up in the receiving area in back. You said the doors to the receiving dock are reinforced?" asked Violet.

Candela nodded. "Yes, we had to install them once ponies started stealing palettes of books."

Violet frowned. "What kind of pony steals books? Wait, what do you mean we?" she asked, her frown lessening into an expression of confusion.

Candela nodded. "Oh, I didn't tell you?" she polished a forehoof before continuing. "My dear, you are looking at the head librarian of the Manehattan Public Library. I have held that position for 11 years, 8 months, three day-, are you drooling?" she asked, as she looked back up at her companion.

Violet had indeed started drooling. Fortunately, she apparently caught herself after a few brief moments and had the good grace to wipe the excess from her muzzle. No hoofshakes with that foreleg, Candela told herself, her inner voice choosing that moment to be cheeky.

"I'm sorry, I've been recovering in the home of the head librarian?!" Violet asked incredulously. "Why didn't you tell me sooner?"

Candela shrugged. "It never came up. I was more concerned with keeping you comfortable and, to be honest, this place doesn't really fit the profile of a head librarian, does it?"

Violet's expression was rueful as she nodded. "I guess it's not as glamorous as I imagined, that's for sure."

Candela grinned. "Oh, this isn't my house, honey, this is an old storage facility. I keep my old things here. A few months ago, the owner started building in basic amenities when he realized he could make more bits by rezoning them as luxury apartments."

Violet blinked.

Candela wriggled her eyebrows.

They both started laughing from the sheer silliness of it.

"Only in Manehattan," Candela added with a shrug of her shoulders, and a twinkle in her eye.

Once the laughter died down, and it did fairly quickly all things considered, Violet folded up the map and slid it into Candela's saddlebags.

"Are you sure you don't want me to carry those?" the pegasus mare asked.

Candela looked at Violet as if she'd grown a 3rd wing. "Are you serious? Your ribs have only started to truly heal, and you require a cane to walk properly."

Violet rolled her eyes. "I know I'm not in top shape, but I can still carry something."

Candela shook her head, her expression resolute. "No way. You're going to put everything you've got into our plan. Only once we're at the library can we use the communications equipment to summon help."

Violet sighed in resignation. "Fine," she said at last, displeasure evident in her voice, "but once we're there, I expect for you to let me help you. I feel like a lazy lump."

Candela smiled. "An adorable lazy lump."

Violet snorted at the compliment, but you could clearly see the blush forming on her cheeks.

"Alright," she said, "enough horsing around. Let's roll."

Candela nodded, her face all business, and she lead them both to a small hallway that lead up to a flight of stairs. She turned to her partner.

"Remember, once I open this door, we're committed, because I doubt I'll be able to get it shut again. Do you think you're ready?"

Violet nodded. "Yeah, I'm ready."

"Good," Candela replied as she pulled a rope from her saddlebags. It had been tied into two loops, with a short length in-between of about one meter.

As she placed the first loop around Violet's right foreleg, pulling it up her elbow and tightening the first loop, she added, "Just remember: 20 paces forward, 100 paces to the right. Try to keep close, but if you get turned around, tug hard on the rope, I'll stop and we'll get coordinated."

She pulled the second loop up above her own elbow, and tightened it. "I don't know how long we'll last in this kind of weather, since I couldn't find any actual protective gear, so the faster we move and find our first stop on the map, the better."

Candela then looked Violet directly into her blue eyes. "One more thing: don't try to be brave, okay? Don't think you can tackle all of this on your own. I know pegasi, and I know you like to take on the world. This storm is different. I've never seen anything like it, and I figure you've never seen anything like it. Just stick with me, and we'll get there alright."

Violet nodded and began psyching herself out. She was a pegasus, weather was in her blood. She could handle a little rain and wind, and she could do it while working with her new friend. They could do it, they could do it, they could do it.

"Go!" came the command a second later. The door was shoved open, and was immediately ripped from its rusting hinges, making the entryway into an archway.

The pair moved forward into the blinding rain and gale force winds, and the shroud enveloped them.


Chapter Seven

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Chapter Seven
City of Manehattan

The effect was immediate. Violet found her entire body waterlogged, the rain scouring her fur as she was shoved hard into the brick siding. It was a corner wall of the building in which they had taken shelter the past few days.

The iciness of the wind, it's howling rage, all of it assaulted her from muzzle to tail, daring her to defy its roaring command for submission.

Her eyes had squeezed shut, and her ears folded down to keep out the driving rain. The unfortunate side effect of that was it made her deaf and blind to everything going on around her. She couldn't have seen her hooves right in front of her, though, even if she'd had her eyes wide open.

'Ponyfeathers!' she swore to herself. She had already lost count of how far they'd moved. Was it 5 paces? 10? 20? She didn't know, because the effects of the storm had been so immediate and so drastic a change from their haven, that the resulting confusion had caused her to stop counting.

The only thing she was certain of at the moment was that her right side was being pushed against the hard grit of the wall, and her left side was being buffeted by the angry storm. She began to wonder how she ever thought she could take all of this on by herself.

She felt a hard tug on her foreleg.

Except, she remembered, as she felt the tug once more, that she wasn't by herself. She had Candela, she had a friend who was going to help her get to the heart of this absurd mystery so that they could go back to their respective homes, safe and sound.

She tugged back against the rope in response. She felt herself being pulled forward, slowly, and she followed that pull, knowing her friend was at the other end of the rope, guiding them both forward.

The winds were merciless. Every step was an effort, the fat drops of rain shaped more like arrowheads as they smacked into her face, her withers, and her barrel. At one point, a sudden gust caused her to stumble, and in doing so lost the grip on her stick, and could feel it torn from her, instantly becoming yet more debris.

They continued onward, taking refuge against anterior walls, concrete steps, and anything else that provided even a momentary shelter against the raging gale. Before long, Violet lost count of the steps, and could no longer recall how long they had been out in the storm. All she knew was that she could feel the rope pulling her forward, and her left foreleg crying out in pain as she forced her weight onto it each step.

Finally, she felt the rope slacken, and she stopped. A flit of panic raced through her chest as she wondered if Candela had lost her step, or worse that they were now lost amidst the raging winds, prone to exposure and doomed to wander out in the open until they lost consciousness and succumbed to the storm.

For a moment, she imagined that she had heard something, and tentatively swiveled an ear towards the sound. The deafening winds overrode almost everything, but she could definitely hear something happening. It had sounded like steel grating on concrete.

Her heart leapt in her chest. They had made it to the first shelter on their route. If she was right, this was the bunker.

She carefully opened an eye, and amid the driving rain, fog, and darkness, she could make out a faint glow. Blocking much of whatever light source created it was the silhouette of her friend.

She felt the tug of the rope, and started moving forward, squinting hard to keep the wind and rain out of her eyes as she partially tripped over the raised lip of an entryway.

"Be careful, Violet, there are shallow steps ahead," came Candela's voice, just in front of her.

She opened her eyes wide, allowing them to adjust to the faint light. She felt the rope tug again.

"Hold on a second, while I lock the grate back in place," she heard from behind.

'When had she moved behind her?' Violet thought to herself.

A few moments passed as she heard grating steel on concrete, and then there was nothing. Violet took a moment to exalt in it, thankful that the shrieking winds had been silenced for the moment, and that they were safe from the storm.

She felt the rope move once again, and followed it along what appeared to be a narrow, squat hallway. It was apparently a short one, as once they rounded a sharp corner, they were in an open chamber.

It had a low ceiling, ran about 8 paces in each direction, and was lit by a single emergency luminance crystal, bathing the room in a reddish color, almost like rust.

Still, light was light, and a lack of wind was a lack of wind. Violet wasn't going to start complaining about it now.

She could see Candela moving about in the small space, rustling around in her saddlebags.

"So this was one of the old bunker's used during the Mage war," Violet commented as she looked about at the bare concrete walls, and scuffed floor.

Candela looked up at her, pausing in her search. "You sound disappointed."

Violet shrugged, a physical gesture that was probably pointless in the low, ruddy light. "I don't know," she remarked, shaking her head, "I guess I expected to see old posters on the walls, or ancient equipment lying in a corner. This looks, well..."

"Bare?" Candela filled in after Violet's momentary loss for words.

Violet nodded and laughed ruefully. "Yeah, I guess."

Candela smiled, her facial features coming into sharp relief as she lit the salt lamp she had pulled from their supplies.

"Well, not everything can live up to a pony's imagination," she said as she laid a small sheet on the ground, and removed two sandwiches from the pack.

"Here," she said, "take a seat and have a bite. It's egg salad."

Violet took the proffered sandwich, and with Candela's assistance, sat down on the little sheet. She could feel her bones protesting the action, and she hissed as a sharp pain lanced along her barrel.

Candela had noted her difficulty in sitting, realizing in that same moment that Violet's crutch was missing.

"What happened to your stick?" she asked, concern pushing aside the exhaustion evident in her voice.

Violet shrugged. "It's a lawn ornament somewhere in the Greater Manehattan area by now," came her sullen reply, as she bit into her sandwich.

She stopped eating.

"Um... Candela?" she asked, trying to speak around the egg salad in her mouth.

"Yes, dear?" came the reply.

"Where did you, um, get this egg salad?"

Candela shrugged. "It was in one of the cans I found in the supply room back at home base." She continued eating. "Why?"

Violet gently lifted a corner of the bread and looked at the egg salad itself.

She froze.

"I don't think we should eat this."

"Why not?"

"It's moving."


"It just moved."

Several seconds were spent in panic as each pony spit the offending filler out of their mouths, each grabbing her own canteen of water and swishing as quickly as each could.

"Ew! What was it?!"

"I don't know! I can't see very well in the dark, but it moved!"

"Your eyes were playing tricks on you, they had to be!"

"I swear on Celestia's royal rump it was moving. I think it looked at me!"

A skittering sound could be heard. Both ponies stared in shock at one another, and began scraping tongues against hooves. The two mares once more took a swish of water from their canteens, desperate to remove any remnants of whatever it was they had been eating.

Their dinner complete, they quickly packed their things and prepared to leave the bunker behind.

After making certain the rope was securely fastened to their respective hooves, and Violet assuring Candela she could make it to their next stop, they pushed their way out and back into the maelstrom.

The journey was without incident, if one could call being blasted in the muzzle by 250 kilometer per hour winds, and rain drops the size of a tennis ball occurring 'without incident.'

The cellar of the general store appeared to be a much better hiding place, as it contained a few extra supplies the pair could use to continue their sojourn to the library.

Candela looked about the shelves, grabbing extra cans of fruit, and capsules for the salt lamp, while Violet managed to find an old cane and modify it to act as a new crutch.

"Do you think we have everything we need?" Candela asked as they began to look over their equipment one last time.

Violet nodded. "I think we're ready for the last leg of this trip, and I will be quite happy to make that happen. I just want to get help. Celestia only knows what has happened to the crew of the Mare Nobilium after all of this time."

Her eyes were downcast as she began to dwell on the fates of her shipmates, and especially Twilight, whom she missed most of all.

Candela leaned in and put her foreleg around Violet's withers. "They'll be fine, Violet, I promise you. You said Twilight was an alicorn princess?"

Violet nodded morosely.

Candela smiled. "Then she must be very resourceful to have gained such a position, don't you think?"

Violet thought on it a moment, and then replied. "She's brilliant in so many ways, and has enough book knowledge to put the Canterlot Library to shame, but..."

"Yes?" Candela prodded when Violet had fallen silent.

"For all I know, she could have been knocked unconscious like I was. She could be..." and she swallowed in an attempt to keep the rising sob, "she could be..."

Candela pulled her into a full embrace. "Don't even say it," she whispered into Violet's ear.

Violet hiccuped, "but she could-"

"No!" came Candela's firm reply. "You don't say it, don't even think it. The only way we're going to make it to the library alive, the only way we're going to recover the crew of your ship, and the only way we're going to stop this storm is if you believe in yourself, in us, and in Twilight's ability to think on her hooves."

She gave Violet's forehead a tender kiss. "Have faith, sweetheart."

Violet returned the embrace, her heart lighter, and her cheeks much warmer than they had been a moment ago.

"Now," said Candela, after a few more moments comforting one another, "we should get going."

They released the other from the hug, and grabbed their equipment, securing it firmly, and giving everything one more brief glance before heading for the steps that lead to the ground floor of the general store.

The last leg of the journey was just ahead.


Chapter Eight

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Chapter Eight
Manehattan Public Library

Aside from getting lost at one point, and Violet once more losing her crutch to the unceasing winds, the pair made it safely to their destination without incident.

As she closed the door behind them, and blockaded it with a wooden chair, Candela turned to face Violet, her face sopping wet from the torrential wind and rain.

"You okay?" she asked Violet as she began wringing the water from her mane.

Violet nodded her head and began to do the same, water dripping to the tile floor of the empty staging area, where book crates were stored and sorted. The large, open area was deserted, the ponies who would have filled the room with their activity having long evacuated to perceived safety elsewhere.

An open crate was next to her, a stack of hardbacks piled inside. Violet picked up the topmost book, and glanced at the cover. 'How to Meet Ponies And Influence Griffons.' She sat it aside, and picked up the next one. 'Great And Powerful Stage Magic.'

Violet smiled as she considered who would have the ego to write about effective stage magic in a world where teleportation was a reality.

She placed the books back into the crate and looked up in time to see Candela trotting back into the room, a towel wrapped around her mane as she tossed another one to Violet.

"Here you go," she said to the pegasus, "I found these over in the janitors closet. I hope they're clean" she added, as Violet began drying her own mane and tail.

"We'll find out if my mane turns orange," Violet replied. The two mares chuckled at the mental image that created, as they continued drying their manes and coats by the dim red light of an illumination gem glowing softly above the door to the Manehattan Library offices.

"So where to now?" Candela asked as they tossed their towels into a corner, walking past them as they passed through the doorway and into the next set of rooms, which was a series of offices silently laid out before them.

"You know, this place is far spookier than I remember," Candela said as they looked about in the darkness.

Violet heard quiet rustling before light flared forth from a sodium canister. A few spots were blinked away, and she could see all around her. "How many of those do we have left?" she asked.

"This is my last one," Candela replied.

A moment of silence passed as they considered their surroundings. Where they were, the storms couldn't be heard as much, so the only actual sounds aside from their breathing was the faint buzz of the sodium light burning its fuel.

"You ready?" Candela asked her companion.

Violet nodded. "Lead on, MacDuff."

Candela cleared her throat. "Actually," she began, holding up her hoof, her voice entering into lecture mode, "it's 'lay on, Macduff.'"

Violet raised an eyebrow. "Are you sure?" came the doubtful reply.

The earth mare nodded. "Quite sure, my dear. The line comes from Shetland's play that shall not be named, act 5, scene 8, and I quote "Before my barrel, I throw my warlike shield. Lay on, Macduff, and damn'd be she that first cries, 'Hold, enough!'"

Violet giggled. "I stand corrected, oh noble sage, full of wit, wisdom, and wonder."

The earth mare made a mock bow, responding with a grandiose "I accept your humble apology, lovely filly."

This caused Violet to blush, and she attempted to clear her throat in an effort to banish the blush from her muzzle.

A small smile appeared on the tan earth pony's own face as she lead them down the short hallway, and out into the main lobby of the library.

The glow of the sodium light let her see row after row of tall bookshelves, continuing on back until the darkness swallowed them. "This way," Candela called as she headed past the first row of shelves, down a wide aisle that lead further into the heart of the library.

Violet followed, letting her gaze flit over as many titles as she could. She could tell from the catalog numbers that they were in the reference section, and she smiled at the thought of Twilight's reaction to being in an abandoned library filled wall to wall with reference books.

Thinking about her friend caused a pang of sadness to echo in her chest. She had been so busy trying to find a way to stop the storm... ''no,' she realized, 'I have been enjoying my time with Candela, and not focusing on my mission.'

She glanced over to her new friend, guiding them through the labyrinth of books and blackness, tomes and total darkness, to reach a small media room which housed a shortwave radio in the hopes that they could make contact with the outside world.

For a moment, she felt irritated that she had nearly forgotten her goal, but at the same time she couldn't help but feel that Twilight would have lectured her on the importance of friendship, even in times of trouble, or especially in times of trouble.

Plus, she had to admit that she had grown fond of Candela over the past few days. The earth pony was likable, her sense of humor on point, and her attitude one of kindness and empathy. She didn't have to know how important the missing ponies were to Violet, only that they were important, and that Violet needed help.

She felt a flutter of warmth in her chest that soothed the aching that had been left there by the guilt. She hadn't been derelict, she had been healing. What good is a pony who can't even stand long enough to begin a search, let alone a rescue mission in the midst of the worst storm Equestria had ever witnessed?

They still hadn't even figured out what had caused the storm, or the events surrounding it. The ice shelf collapse, the earthquakes, and the floods. It was as if Equestria herself was shaking them off, like Pinkie Pie after falling into the punch bowl.

That thought didn't sit well with her, and she brought her attention back to the task at hoof.

Candela had stopped. They had arrived at a nondescript door in the very back of the library. She watched with rapt interest as Candela removed a scrap of paper from her saddlebags and studied it for a few moments.

"The map?" Violet whispered, with no thought to the lack of need for whispering in an abandoned library.

Candela shook her head. "No, it's the keycode combination."

She pointed at the door, which Violet had only just noticed had a tiny keypad underneath the handle. She had never seen anything like it before.

Candela, sensing her curiosity, explained. "This is a magic proof keylock, which uses electricity to keep the door secure. There isn't just a radio in here, it's actually a shelter in the event of a city-wide emergency."

Violet watched as Candela punched in a six digit code, and a little green light flickered for just a moment before going dark.

The earth pony smiled and pulled the handle, which resulted in the sound of locks disengaging that echoed throughout the empty library. A few seconds later, the door itself began to budge.

"Could you give me a hoof, hon?" Candela asked, her voice beginning to strain.

Violet started at being addressed, but jumped right in to help pull the door open. It was clearly far heavier than it looked.

"A little more," came Candela's voice, more like a grunt than an actual statement. As they pulled the heavy door aside, Candela lost her balance, tripped, and a moment later, Violet found herself on the floor, face to face with the earth pony.

Both mares blushed as they realized their muzzles were touching. Instead of pulling away, however, Candela raised her muzzle a few inches, and kissed Violet on her nose.

Violet felt as if her blush burned a thousand times brighter than the Sun. Before she could react with her full capacity, however, Candela got to her hooves, and reached out with her foreleg.

"I'm sorry, hon, I forgot about your leg!" she said as she helped the pegasus to her own hooves.

Violet was still reeling from the gentle peck on her muzzle, but Candela was already back to business, picking up the few items that had fallen out of her saddlebags.

"Well, now the fun part begins," she said as she tightened her straps. Violet looked to where she had turned and saw that the door was now open, and what lay beyond it was a flight of stairs that went down about 6 or 7 steps before being swallowed up by the blackness.

Violet wasn't afraid of the dark, but it wasn't necessarily her best friend, either, and all pegasi had an aversion to anything underground. It made them feel trapped.

She dragged her eyes away from the gaping maw of darkness and saw that Candela was staring at her.

"You okay?" she asked softly.

Violet took a deep breath and nodded. "I'm okay, just" and she gulped here, "just a little nervous about... those spaces," she finished, waving a foreleg at the all consuming inky abyss framed by a mundane doorway.

Candela closed the few steps between them, and hugged the pegasus. "You're shaking," she noted, concern in her voice. She rubbed a foreleg on the mare's back as she used the other to continue the embrace.

Violet sighed. "I'm sorry, I must be nothing but a hindrance to you," she said, a mote of disappointment in her own voice.

Candela chuckled. "Don't be silly," came the reply, "if you hadn't done this with me, I'd have been all alone in that pitiful excuse for a shelter. One pony couldn't navigate this horrible storm by themselves."

Violet squeezed Candela's neck and nuzzled her cheek.

"Thank you," she whispered into the mare's ear," and let her lips trail along the side of her muzzle.

She was rewarded by the burning cheeks of a tan earth mare desperately trying to remain very cool and failing at it.

"Well," she said, coughing into her hoof, "we need to um, we need to get going if we want to save the day."

Violet smirked, and waved a foreleg towards the open stairwell.

"Lead on, MacDuff."

They stepped downward into the darkness.


Chapter Nine

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City of Manehattan
Basement of the Manehattan Public Library

"It's dark."

"Sorry, Violet, I'm trying to find my spare salt lamp," Candela said, hurriedly feeling her way through the saddlebags. "I'm afraid we may have either lost it in the storm, or used it up already. Then again, I might have miscounted."

Violet took a small step forward, her hooves scuffing against the hard concrete of the basement floor. "Take your time," she replied, focusing on any potential obstacles in her way.

"It would probably be better if you didn't move," Candela's voice called to her from behind and to her right.

Violet chuckled. "Probably, but there's little adventure in standing still."

She could feel light prickles in the air as she shuffled forward. The air was so dry down in the basement that she could feel her fur react to the static build up. Between the constant rain outside, the wind, the mud, and then the bone dry air inside, Violet was set on getting a whole coat treatment next time she visited Sandy Sandlebrush's Spa back home.

She had gone about 10 hoof lengths, by her reckoning, before she bumped into something solid. She ran a hoof upward, following the shape until she could feel her hoof level with her muzzle. Whatever it was, it was quite tall. She tapped on it, and heard a soft thud.

Not hollow.

She was about to slide her hoof along the side to see how wide the object was, when everything flared into existence.

"Found it!" came Candela's voice.

"Gah!" came the reply. Violet held up a forehoof, attempting to block the bright light, and failed. She squeezed her eyes shut.

"You okay?" she heard from nearby.

"Yeah, yeah, I'm okay, just... surprised, I guess," Violet answered.

She felt a hoof on her withers, and a hug that muffled a chuckle. It seemed she was the subject of some amusement.

"I can hear you laughing," came her reply.

"I'm not laughing," Candela spoke with little conviction before she started chuckling again. Violet felt Candela lean in close behind her right ear. A moment later, she felt shock at the small kiss that had been placed there. Her face became a blushing mess.

"I didn't mean to laugh, but if you could see yourself, you'd understand why." Candela explained, the mirth still evident in her voice.

Violet opened her eyes until she was merely squinting. The bright light from the salt lamp was still sharp, but tolerable, and she could feel herself acclimate. As she opened her eyes, she could see a beige blob in front of her.

"Is that you, Candela?" she called out as she began to blink rapidly.

A snort. "I hope not. I mean, I've put on a little weight over the winter, but not that much."

Her vision cleared, and Violet could finally make out the object in front of her.

"A box?" she asked.

Candela nodded as she came into view to Violet's right.

"Yes, but not just any box, it's an electrical oscillator."

Violet was too busy staring at Candela to comment on their find. She was too busy trying not to laugh at Candela. The earth pony was covered from muzzle to tail in styrofoam peanuts.

"Why in the wide world of Equestria are you covered in packing peanuts?!" she asked her dear friend.

Candela looked down, and took note of her appearance. "Hm, I guess they got me, too."

"What do you mean, 'you too'?" asked Violet.

Candela raised an eyebrow. "I'm not the only one who took a short trip through the United Pony Shipping center, my dear."

Violet looked down to where Candela had focused her gaze. Sure enough, Violet was covered in packing peanuts as well. Then it clicked. "That's what the prickling sensations were when I was trying to look around in the dark!"

Candela nodded and motioned around her with a forehoof.

Violet looked about and saw the air full of debris, mostly packing peanuts, paperclips, nuts, and bolts, ad a few emergency meal packages floating from floor to ceiling.

"What is going on?" she asked no one in particular, but most satisfyingly, Candela deigned to answer anyway.

"It would seem our oscillator has gone haywire," she replied.

Violet stepped away from the boxy object, coming around to the other side to stand with Candela.

Before them stood a massive squat machine, housed inside of a wooden structure, and an open front. The machine itself was a brushed aluminum, with a large copper coil inside of it that was visible thanks to a reinforced glass window on the front of the machine itself. Above the glass window was a small control panel with a hoof full of buttons and switches.

From the top of the machine, and leading out through the paneling, were tubes, and wires. Glancing at the switches and gauges on the front, Violet could see that it didn't appear to be powered on.

"I can't hear anything," said Violet.

"I think it's in standby mode," came the reply.

"Standby for what?" asked Violet, "oscillators like these aren't supposed to come on unless there has been a massive surge of magic directly in the vicinity. Right now, not a drop of magic is working anywhere inside of the storm."

Carefully, Violet reached out to touch a button on the front panel.

"I don't know if we should press anything just yet," came Candela's voice.

Violet's hoof stopped just short of pressing the standby switch. Considering her friend's note of caution, she felt it better to take things slowly.

She stepped back and joined the earth pony.

"Maybe we should look for the radio, first."

Violet nodded in agreement, tearing her eyes away from the machine and looking about the large, open space, broken up only by the tall storage shelving, for the emergency all-band radio transmitter.

They split up and began glancing at the utility shelves lined up against the wall, each pony taking one row and walking down the center of each aisle.

Violet couldn't help but take an interest in the items sitting on each shelf. Well, sitting wasn't really the right term. Because of the odd state of the atmosphere around them, the various boxes and canisters were floating, though the enclosed storage bins kept them from floating out and about like so much of the other detritus that made moving quickly a painfully annoying job.

She had stopped to glance at a box of 90 year old animal crackers when she heard Candela call out for her.


"Coming! Where are you?" she called back as she rounded the corner at a trot. She would have gone faster, but she'd managed to walk right into a sea of ball bearings. That would have hurt going full speed.

"Over here! Shelf system 1A-3B!"

Violet carefully dodged the BBs from hell as she made her way further along the storage shelving, looking at the placards on each one. "2C-3G... 2B-3D... 2A-3B!" she said as she read them off, taking a left turn at the placard. The end of the aisle should have met right up with Candela's location, and sure enough, it lead right to a small open area, where there sat a desk.

Candela was standing over a pile of spare parts, from what she could see, but it was the look of worry on her face that concerned Violet the most.

"What is it, Candy?" she asked, feeling a bit out of breath. She noted to herself that she really needed to start exercising again. All of this adventuring was wearing her out.

"Well, it's good news, and bad news, really," came the reply as Candela looked from the desk to the pile of parts loosely packed and pushing gently against the underside of the desk.

"The good news is that we found the transmitter."

Violet's gut felt hollow as she dreaded the words that came next.

"The bad news," Candela said with a sigh, "is what we're looking at is the transmitter."

Violet shook her head, and bumped it on the desk, jostling the parts floating underneath.

"Great. No one told us that there would be some assembly required."

Candela snorted. "There's more, actually," she said and grabbed a component with one hoof, holding it up and showing it to Violet.

"I'm sure you can tell just by looking," she began as Violet examined the hunk of metal.

Violet noticed it right away, of course, considering her extensive background in using and repairing weather equipment. She looked up at Candela, her eyes grim to match the earth pony's hooded gaze.

"They've been shorted out," said Candela.

Violet nodded. "Each component of this transmitter has been flooded with energy beyond its maximum capacity. Every single capacitor is dead."

They were now without any way to call for help, and sitting squarely in the center of the storm.


Chapter Ten

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Chapter Ten

Manehattan Library
Loading Dock Entrance

"This is insane, Violet," Candela said to her companion as she helped her suit up, placing her saddlebags on the young mare's back, while carefully avoiding her wings.

"What choice do we have?" Violet replied, her eyes downcast. "If we can't find parts for this transmitter, we're not likely to figure out what caused this storm, or what happened to Twilight. It feels like such a hopeless situation."

"It's not hopeless."

She raised her head, settling her gaze on her new friend. "I used to believe that once."

For a moment, the two just stared at each other, letting silence fill the spaces. Navigating the storm the first time had been hard going, to the point of exhaustion for the both of them. Violet had lost any optimism she had that another trip out to look for spare parts to fix the transmitter would result in anything other than the same at best. Add in the fact that they were already worn out from the events of that evening, and she wasn't sure if any outcome was going to be a positive one.

"I have to go," Violet said at last.

"You don't have to go, we can find another way," replied Candela, frustration tinging her words.

"Look, we both know that as a pegasus I can handle weather extremes like these. The directory in the manager's office showed a little repair shop not three blocks from here. I can make that distance. It wouldn't make sense to put you at risk by having you go out there again."

"Maybe I don't want you to be put at risk, did you consider that?" Candela retorted.

"It's not like I want to leave you behind."

"Well then don't go."

"I have to go!"

"You don't have to leave! You can stay here, we can find something to make the transmitter work, and then we can be rescued!"

Violet huffed. "If I thought we could do that, then I'd have suggested it. Truth is, it's only three blocks, I can handle it."

"No, the truth is that you want to go out and play the hero, and leave me here all alone again!"

"What?! Now wait just a bucking mi-"

Violet's reply was cut short as Candela closed the distance between the two of them and kissed the pegasus squarely on the lips.

Still locked muzzle to muzzle, Violet's wings flew from her sides, pain lancing up her body, but she hardly noticed it as she melted into the kiss. Her heart was thudding against her ribcage as she felt Candela bring her strong forelegs up and embrace her, their chests pressed against one another, sharing the heat between their two bodies.

The moment seemed to last forever and yet lingered for mere moments, before the two mares parted.

Each gasping for breath, Violet spoke first. "What... was that... for?" she said between breaths.

"I've been wanting... to kiss you since... the first day I met you."

"Me?" came Violet's surprised reply. It was more confusion than a question.

"Yes, you!" Candela said, punctuating her words with the tap of a forehoof on the cold concrete floor. "You were in need, and I doted over you as you slept, and I have to admit I was taken, but it was when you woke up, when I saw your face, when I saw you smile. Your laughter, and your kindness. I couldn't help it."

The heat from Violet's blush radiated all over her face. She could have melted a snowball without it ever reaching her.

"You see," Candela continued, glancing away as she spoke. "I've been alone most of my life, living in this city. Alone but not alone, you know?" she finished lamely.

Violet chuckled.

Candela blushed, embarrassed, but Violet didn't let her linger on it as she pulled her to her own chest, and hugged the earth pony. "I know all too well," came the soft reply.

The earth shifted.

It wasn't a metaphorical shift that one experiences when overwhelmed by emotion, I mean the earth actually shifted.

"Um, did you feel that?" Violet asked as she held Candela.

"Feel what?" came her response.

Violet stepped back to address Candela face to face. "It felt like an earthquake. You didn't feel it?"

Candela shook her head.

Before Violet could reply, the earth underneath their hooves rumbled again.

"Are you okay, Violet?" Candela asked, concern in her voice.

"I, uh, don't-" Violet began, but was cut short as the whole world tilted sideways. Everything was a scatter of light and sound, a cacophony of noise that assaulted her from every direction. For a moment, Violet thought the storm had torn through the building and had began terrorizing them with all of its fury.

Her heart leapt into her throat as the laws of gravity completely gave way to insanity, and the world went black. She felt a pressure against her head, pushing hard. Before she could react to it, her whole body flipped sideways, rolling, until she felt something hard slam into her side.

A yelp forced its way out of her muzzle as everything began to die down. First the earth stopped shaking, the rolling had stopped, and now all she felt was cold against her back.


She lay there for a few more moments, the dizziness and dysphoria coalescing into a quiet chirping.


She slowly opened her eyes, and saw a red robin sitting on a window sill. Her office window sill.

She was in her office.

She was in her office?

The question was confirmed as she rolled to her side, and looked around. Sure enough, she was lying on the hard tile floor in her office.

"Oh, Miss Tempest, are you okay?!" a voice called out behind her.

She turned to see a tan furred earth pony mare wearing glasses, and a green sweater approaching her with concern etched on her muzzle.

"Uh..." Violet managed.

"Here, let me help you," the chestnut maned mare said as she helped Violet to her hooves.

"Um, thank you, I seem to have tripped over something," Violet said as she checked herself over and not finding anything out of place. Well, physically anyway. Once she found everything in order, she turned her attention to the mare.

"I'm sorry, do I know you?"

The mare laughed. "My name's Candela. Candela Bright. I just started this week, I'm the new Applied Physics professor."

Violet's thoughts were swirling. Had she been dreaming? Was all of it just some kind of delusion? She quickly looked back at her desk, but couldn't see anything out of place.

"Are you sure you're okay?" she heard Candela ask.

Violet turned back to her. "I'm... fine. I just... today has been a weird day," she said, laughing nervously.

Candela chuckled. "I know what you mean. I'm not used to dealing with Canterlot students. It's so much different than my old position at Manehattan Community College."

Violet absorbed this new, but familiar, bit of information. She had to know more.

"I would be more than happy to help you navigate some of the thornier issues, and acclimate you to the students and faculty."

Candela grinned. "I would sincerely appreciate that."

Violet nodded. "Great! If you're not, uh, busy, then we can even go out for lunch."

"It's 6 o'clock in the evening."

"Dinner, then?" asked Violet, recovering quickly.

Candela tilted her head in thought for a moment, something which Violet found adorable.

"That sounds lovely. It's a date then," Candela replied.

"Ah heh, yeah, a date." Violet said, opening the door to her office.

The two mares walked out of the office and began making their way down the school hallway. As they turned a corner, Violet could be heard asking, "oh, by the way, what's your opinion regarding cats?"


Chapter Eleven

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Manehattan Library
Receiving Office

Inky blackness swam about her as she felt herself shake. She could have swore she'd just walked through her office door, but instead all she could feel was the cold hardness of something pressing against her side. Had she fallen asleep at her desk again?

She opened her eyes and found she was staring right into the eyes of Candela.

"Gah!" she called out in surprise as she pushed herself backward, creating distance between the two ponies.

"I realize I haven't brushed my teeth in a few days, but it can't be that bad," said the earth pony.

Violet sat up, and looked around. "This isn't my office," she said.

Candela tilted her head in confusion. "What? Um, are you okay, Violet?"

Violet blinked her eyes rapidly for a few moments, willing away the last dregs of sleepiness. Looking around her, she realized where she was.

She had been dreaming that she had been, well, dreaming. She had, for a few moments it seemed, convinced herself that she was back in Canterlot, that she was home safe and sound, and that... she looked over at Candela. She felt a blush heat up her muzzle as she remembered what she had imagined in that dream.

Candela, for her part, wasn't privy to Violet's innermost thoughts, and so expressed her concern by putting a forehoof on Violet's shoulder.

"Are you okay, sweetheart?" she asked.

This, of course, only made the blush burn hotter, causing it to spread to the rest of her face.

Violet shook her head in an effort to clear the remaining dregs of sleep that had tried to valiantly hold on to her awareness.

"Yeah, yeah," she finally said, putting a hoof to her forehead. "I guess I had a dream where I was back home, and none of this had happened." She left out the extra tidbit where Candela had appeared so prominently in that dream.

Candela leaned in, and rubbed Violet's back. It was such a soothing gesture from a friend, but Violet couldn't help indulging in it with the twinging hope of maybe a little more? She wasn't sure.

"...and that's how we got back here."

Violet had completely missed Candela's reply. "I'm sorry," she said, pawing a forehoof at the beige low pile carpet they were lying on, "I missed all of that."

Candela chuckled. "You must still be a little out of it. All I really said was that you had been out of it all night, and I was starting to get worried."

Violet's heart ached just a little at that bit of news. Then a thought struck her. "Out? What do you mean?"

Candela's hoof left Violet's back, leaving it a bit cold now, and turned to face her. "Sweetie, you said you were feeling faint, and so we decided to come back up here to plan a new course of action, and take a little time to rest. We had managed to get back up the steps before you kind of just... laid down on them. I managed to carry you back here," she said, motioning to the darkened receiving office around them.

Violet digested this information for a few moments, and then licked her lips. "So I passed out?"

Candela nodded. "Passed out, fainted. I don't know if maybe the transmitter being broken was just too much all at once, maybe you were exhausted, or that you were sick from something. Either way, I'm so very glad to see you're awake."

Before Violet could react, Candela pulled her into a tight hug. She could hear the sniffles.

Poor Candela, she thought, all alone in this awful storm, her only companion out like a light from... something... and waiting without a friend in the world, or as far as she knew. The thought of Candela under that kind of stress disturbed her, and she banished the painful specter in her mind's eye to outer darkness.

Without thinking any further on it, she brought her own forelegs up and wrapped them around the earth pony's withers. She was so soft and warm. The two of them shared in the embrace amidst the peals of cacophonous thunder, and sting of the crackling lightning from the storm that raged outside.

In her embrace, Violet couldn't help but recall the more intense parts of her dream. She would have been lying to herself if she had denied there was an attraction to the earth pony mare. She was intelligent, kind, generous, and a natural leader. She reminded Violet of her first real crush.

It almost made her hesitate, remembering the results from that confession, but if she had learned anything from Rainbow Dash, nothing ventured was nothing gained. Well, okay, Twilight would have told her that, but Rainbow Dash would have lived it, and that's what counted here.

Deftly, very softly, Violet nuzzled Candela's neck, letting her muzzle disturb the fine hairs in a gentle, swirling motion.She felt Candela jerk slightly, and had begun to pull back when she felt the embrace tighten. Could Candela possibly feel the same way as she did?

The question had no sooner surfaced in her mind before she felt soft lips touch her own neck.

Her heart began to beat faster. She could scarcely believe that her dream really did have some merit to it. 'Go, subconscious!' she thought to herself. Deciding to see if it was only a fluke, she leaned forward just enough to return the kiss along Candela's neck. She felt the mare shiver ever so slightly.


It had come out as barely above a whisper, but Violet could actually feel the words through her lips that had been caressing the earth mare's neck.

"Yes?" came the soft reply.

A pause, and then "what are you doing?"

Violet's heart began beating faster. It was now or never, that she would never get a more perfect opportunity to tell Candela how she felt, how her feelings had grown, how she had become so fond of her from their closeness, their need to stay together. She wondered where it would go from here as ideas flooded her mind. Not very experienced in relationships, she didn't know if Candela would even be in the mood to-


The mares jumped as a loud clatter came from the receiving dock.

"What in Celestia's mane was that?!" Violet called out as both she and Candela disentangled themselves from one another.

"It couldn't have been thunder. Thunder doesn't sound like that," came Candela's observation.


The mares looked at each other. "Someone's at the back door!" they exclaimed in unison.

The pair jumped into action. As Candela picked up her heavy saddlebag to use as a bludgeon, Violet made her way toward the receiving dock.


Motioning Candela to the opposite side of the service door, Violet slowly grabbed the door handle, and disengaged the locks. As she pulled, the door swung wide open as the gales from outside took over, throwing Violet backward and skidding across the concrete floor.

Holding a foreleg up to shield her eyes, she managed to look up just in time to see a dark figure standing in the doorway, its robes whipping wildly in the winds. Seemingly unaffected by the maelstrom outside, it took a step inside, and called out a name: "Violet!"

Candela leapt from beside the doorway, full saddlebag swinging downward.

"Not my friends, punk!" she cried out as the heavy bag made contact with the back of the intruder's head.

Caught off guard, the intruder went down like a sack of potatoes.

Hurriedly, Violet stood and rushed to help Candela get the door closed before more of the wind and rain could pour inside their shelter. The wind was pushing hard, but between the two they managed to silence it, locking the door, and then leaning against it, panting.

"What... what was that all about?!" Candela managed to get the words out between breaths.

Violet shook her head as she tried to gather herself together. "I have no idea!"

Slightly faster to recover, Candela made her way over to the prostrate figure lying on the floor in front of them. Stepping around them carefully, she picked up the saddlebags, most of its contents now spilled out onto the floor, and fished around for an emergency sodium light.

After a few seconds of frenzied digging, she managed to retrieve one and struck it hard against the floor, creating the reaction and making it possible to see without the need for the frequent lightning outside to flare in the thick blackness.

"What is it?" Violet asked as she approached from the opposite side.

Candela's softly lit expression showed not much but confusion.

"I'm not sure," she said. "If I had to guess, though" she said, rubbing her chin with a hoof, "I'd say it's a changeling."

Violet's heartbeat skyrocketed. A changeling?!

"Wha-what makes you say that?" she asked, her mouth having difficulty forming the words due to her fear.

"It's simple," Candela said, "what pony in their right mind would try to dress up like an alicorn and ransack a library in the middle of a storm like this one?"

Violet's heart stopped. "Alicorn?"

Candela nodded. "Yeah, a purple alicorn. She has-"

She was interrupted as Violet, having vaulted over the body on the floor, grabbed the sodium light and held it in front of the prone figure.

Her heart sank. There was the violet stripe in her purple mane, the signature horn, and those unmistakable wings. It was Twilight. She had apparently found them, which would have been fantastic at any other time, and when things were resolved she would feel the relief from that resolution, but for now they faced a new problem: Candela, in her effort to protect them from their assailant, had knocked the Princess of Friendship unconscious.




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Running full force
Against the wall
Even when I fall.

I’m a laden sparrow
A cannonball with wings
Massive, Disproportionate,
Tied down without strings.

The darkest flashlight
You’ll ever not see
In pitch I can find
Everything I need.

Knocked down
Life’s a beach
But once more
Unto the breach.

- Amaris the Wise
Royal Advisor, The First Celestial Dynasty

Chapter Twelve

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Twilight's head was pounding with a power mad, magic filled Tirek sized headache. One minute she had been bracing for impact, and the next she had found herself flank up in the air inside the navigation console right before she blacked out. The ship had to have ran aground at some point after that.

She dreaded what she would find when her head would stop swimming so she could open her eyes. She dreaded having to deal with the aftermath, the outcome of a massive airship crash that had more than a hundred hooves on board. An inquiry was going to be the least of her worries when this was all over.

The dizziness began to ease up. She slowly opened her eyes and took in her environment. The evening sky offered enough light for her to get a good look at what must have been a field of wreckage where the ship crashed, but as she looked about she didn’t see anything out of the ordinary.



A small pond.

She couldn’t fully gauge the size of the area as accurately as she would have liked, but it seemed to stretch about two minutes of steady trotting in any direction before she’d reach the copse of trees at the edge. If she didn’t know better she would have believed she was in a park. An idyllic one, too, as the next thing she noticed is that there was no gale force winds, no rain. Just clear skies all around.

The next thing she noticed was the absolute quiet.

And the loneliness.

She got to her hooves, and gave herself a quick examination: no cuts, no bruises, not a hair out of place. She flapped her wings, no soreness or indications of damaged motor function. That was good, if a bit odd for somepony who had just recently been thrown from a crashing airship. She did a quick scan about the area, taking in any details that would give her a clue as to where she was.

There was no one to be seen, no signs of sentient life anywhere. No birds chirping, no squirrels in the trees, no ponies or griffons taking a stroll. It was a picturesque image, a still life. If she were being honest with herself, it felt a little off, that something didn’t quite add up outside of the obvious.

She couldn’t put a hoof on it, but then there were many mysteries pressing on her mind. One of them was Violet. One second she had been nearby, and the next she was nowhere to be found, along with the crew of the Mare Nobilium, and the ship itself. No wreckage, no personnel, not a sign that anything in this park area was amiss.

Doing a full sweep of the park, as that was what she now dubbed it, she couldn’t find any real detail that stood out. No telltales of smoke coming from above the tree line, no natural or artificial formations, or distinct markers that gave away any notion of which direction in which she needed to head to help her navigate, and so she did something she rarely liked doing, and that was pick a direction at random.

She bent her knees slightly, flexed her wings, doing a quick test for air worthiness, and leapt into the sky.

She dropped back to her hooves a moment later.

She frowned, and stretched her wings again, giving them a visual inspection to make sure every feather was in place. Nothing seemed out of order, and so she stuck her tongue out, looked to the sky, and jumped, extending her wings to catch as much air as she could.

She thudded to the ground once again.

A creeping feeling made its way down her withers.

She activated her horn to create a light bubble. Nothing. She glanced toward the grove of trees in the distance, and in her mind’s eye directed her magic to fold space and transport her body to the edge of the wooded area in front of her.

Instead, she found herself standing exactly where she had been for the past few moments. No light bubble, no teleport. Running through a dozen other spells offered the same result. No matter how much energy she poured into her horn, no matter how simple or complex the spell, nothing was happening. She finally noticed that not even her horn was lighting up!

“Oh dear Celestia, this isn’t good at all!” she spoke out loud, the barbed edges of panic lacing her words.

Still, standing in the same spot being worried wasn’t going to solve anything, so with no other choice left but to go on hoof, she set off to her left.

After changing her mind a moment later, and heading right instead (stupid indecision!), she began crossing the field of well manicured grass, taking a studious lope around the small pond, absorbing as many details as she could.

Even the pond itself was featureless. No vegetation around its edges, no fish swimming in it, or ducks floating on it, just nothing but water as still and smooth as glass across its surface.

The blue sky, at least, was lovely.

“Ah, that’s what was missing!” she said out loud to herself, if for no other reason that to break the monotony of silence that sat atop everything like a thick blanket. “ There are no clouds!”

And she observed correctly, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. You never really realize how much you miss the soft, puffy companions until they’re no longer around to break up the solid weight of the sky. It was the only time she felt such a beautiful blue sky felt so oppressive. There was definitely something wrong with this place, she could feel it.

Like any good mare of science, however, Twilight knew she couldn’t just rely on gut instinct. She had to find evidence. She reached back behind her to grab her notepad from her saddlebags when she realized she wasn’t wearing any. Up until this point she hadn’t even noticed they weren’t there.

“Of course,” she said aloud, “they were probably in my stateroom on the ship.”

She sighed.

“Well, little good they’ll do me there, wherever that is, and wherever I am,” she groused. A grunt was let loose in frustration. Not knowing was always the least enjoyable aspect of learning. There was joy in discovery, but the implacable mystery that brooked no answers here would just keep eating at her until she could work it out.

By this point she had walked her way around the small pond, and was approaching the copse of trees ahead. If she was lucky, any forthcoming answers would reveal themselves as soon as she stepped through and out the other side.

She began walking under the tree canopy, the filtered light through the leaves of what appeared to be cedar trees offering some relief from the cloudless sky, the tall trunks stretching up some 20 meters.

She glanced about through the branches, looking for any sign of life. Even something as small and otherwise insignificant as a butterfly, or a ladybug, a squirrel, or a sugar glider would have given her cause for excitement, but she found nothing evident.

If they were up there, they were doing an excellent job of hiding from her.

“Hello?” she called out as she walked, noting to herself that there was no echo. Her voice didn’t carry, so much as it was swallowed up.

Fortunately, it didn’t get much darker, and so she was quite capable of seeing her surrounding environment. She looked down at her hooves as she walked, and noted that the grass was just as well manicured as it had been in the clearing.

Whomever, or whatever, lived here clearly took care of the flora. If there were fauna, they were probably well taken care of, too. Unfortunately, any signs of animal life remained hypothetical as she continued on through the forest.

It would be another half an hour, by her rough estimation as there was no clearly visible sun to give her more of an exact reckoning, before she saw the edge of the forest ahead.

Excited to finally leave the forest of solitude, as she had so aptly named it, she picked up the pace to a canter, hoping to have some of her questions answered by what lay on the other side.

She was hoping it would be some sign of civilization, or even just a marker that would point her in the right direction to civilization, or at the very least a bird or chipmunk to break the silence.

A few moments later she emerged from the grove of trees, and stopped, taking time to look over what she had found, silently pleading to whomever may have been watching or listening that there would be some sign of progress.

Her hopes were dashed, however, as she stared ahead to a clearing surrounded by trees on all sides, and a small pond sitting right in the center of it.



Chapter Thirteen

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Location Unknown

Twilight approached the edge of the forest, moving at a steady pace, the dull ache in her head growing into a constant reminder that her stress levels were moving beyond the occasional management lessons she'd been taught by her Cadance.

Things had not progressed. As she broke through the forest edge, her heart sank. It was the same clearing she'd encountered more than a dozen times at this point. Were there any visible source of daylight, she'd check it to see how many hours she'd wasted traversing this same forest and field over and over again, but there wasn't, and so she couldn't.
After the first few repeated appearances, she wondered if perhaps she was just dreaming, and had called out for Luna several times, not just to confirm her suspicions, but also to have her beloved nearby for companionship if nothing else. Unfortunately, she had not appeared, so either she was dreaming and her magic was being suppressed, or she was somewhere beyond Luna's reach, and the latter prospect terrified her deep inside.

She stepped further into the clearing and approached the small pond. The crystal clear water was inviting, and after what felt like hours of trotting, she felt the need to slake her thirst and cool her forehead. The weather wasn't so much hot, it was mild if anything, but the exertion had taxed her to a point where a few moments rest and some cool water would surely lift her spirits.

She ambled up to the edge of the water, and gently dipped a hoof into it, and splashed some of it onto her face.

The water was warm.

"Ugh," she said aloud, her words quickly swallowed up by the silence of her surroundings.

Ah well, warm water was still water, and so she splashed her face, and leaned down to take a drink.

She jerked back quickly, unsure of what she had just tasted. Leaning down once more, she took a tentative sniff and found nothing out of the ordinary. Once more, she took a small sip, this time allowing the water to swish around in her mouth a few moments.

She couldn't put her hoof on it, but something about the water tasted different. It wasn't any kind of flavor that stood out, it was almost a textural oddity, but even that didn't quite fit. If she could have called the water "thick" she would have. There was just something not right about it.

"That's because there is something not right about it, Twilight Sparkle, at least not from where you stand."

Twilight leapt straight into the air out of fright, only to fall back to the ground on her flank, and tripped over herself trying to turn around and face the new voice that had caused her heart to behave like a hammer smashing an anvil. She ended up laying on her back, and staring at an upside down figure she did not recognize.

She began to right herself. The upside down figure, once right side up, became the image of a small, brown furred field mouse sitting in the short grass. It looked as most field mice do, with large ears, a long tail, and a pointed nose. It was the first creature she had seen since she'd arrived wherever she was, which lead her to wonder if she was hallucinating.

"I'm quite real," said the field mouse, its tiny body belying its soft spoken baritone, "and I am quite pleased to finally meet you, Twilight Sparkle."

Twilight recovered herself, and held out her hoof, "just Twilight, please." The mouse looked curiously at her hoof for a moment, before making a small fist and bumping it gently.

"Very well, then," said the mouse, "Twilight it is, and you may call me Amari."

"Well, Amari, it's nice to meet you, but I have to ask how you knew what I was thinking," said Twilight.

The field mouse beamed. "That's because it's a gift, my dear! Knowing the thoughts of others is something that comes naturally to my species, but have no fear, I only see what's on the surface, the intentions of a pony. What you want to say is what I see, nothing more."

"Ah, I see. I guess I'll have to take your word on that for the moment," she replied, and then added, "privacy is very important to me, though."

The mouse nodded. "Fair enough, Twilight. Now, before we go any further, I do have one request for you, and that is if you could take a seat? Without intending any offense, it is rather difficult to get a proper look at you from all the way down here."

Twilight blushed, and adjusted herself into a relaxed position, lying on the ground, her hooves crossed.

"Thank you, Twilight," Amari said, being caretaker of this place, I sometimes forget that I am not the largest sentient creature roaming these woods."

Twilight perked up at this news. "Oh! Yes, I was actually hoping to ask you about that, you see, I don't know where this is, and I don't know how I got here. The ship I was on crashed, and I must have fallen unconscious. When I woke up, I found myself in a clearing, much like this one. Actually, exactly like this one."

Amari nodded. "Yes, I imagine the experience of waking here would be nothing short of surprise. While it may look the part, this isn't any ordinary place, Twilight. You have happened upon, by circumstance, a crossroads of sorts."

"Not to be impatient or impertinent," Twilight began, rubbing her foreleg, "but where are we?"

Amari smiled. "Your impatience is understandable, and impertinence only applies if I felt you were beneath my station, and that simply isn't so for many reasons, but before I answer your question, I would ask that you follow me back to my home, as a storm is approaching" he said, and beckoned her to follow him.

Looking around, Twilight noticed that clouds had indeed been forming at the edges of the clearing, which surprised her because up until then, she hadn't seen a single cloud in the sky anywhere.

She turned and saw Amari had already started along by several meters, and so she scrambled to her hooves and followed along, making the effort not to run ahead due to her longer gait. The urge to place Amari on her back the way she once did with Spike made her feel a bittersweet pang, the memory evoking a fondness cloaked in the melancholy that often comes with change. She no longer had to do that with the young drake these days.

"Ah yes, change, such a wonderfully expected, and yet woefully dreaded event," came a voice from just ahead of her. Twilight realized she had been staring at the ground as they had traveled along, and so she looked up in reflex. Around her, the forest had reappeared at some point, and had become more dense, and even looked a little different. It took her a moment to realize as she watched a bee bumbling around a rather lovely daisy, that there was a life, or at least one other instance aside from herself and Amari.

Again, none of this was visible even moments earlier. They couldn't have gone more than two dozen paces, and yet as though they'd traveled miles, here they were arriving at a straw hut nestled up against the base of a redwood tree that Twilight would have sworn hadn't been there moments earlier.

"Welcome to my home, Twilight," said Amari, as he indicated the small hut. "It may not look like much, but then appearances can be deceiving," he said as he opened the wood door and motioned her inside.

Stepping inside, Twilight could only agree. Instead of a small room with straw walls and a dirt floor, as the outside had implied, the room she was in was at least two stories tall, with a winding, spiral staircase in the middle of the room. She looked down and saw she was on a stone floor, the walls were a red brick, and there was a fireplace, something not recommended in a straw hut, but here would be perfectly safe. Couches, chairs, tables, and lamps took up the area surrounding the staircase itself, and shelves upon shelves of books lined the wall.

"This is amazing!" she whispered to herself.

"Thank you, as the decorator, I accept the compliment," Amari said as he grinned, and gestured Twilight to an overstuffed chair that was her size. Taking her seat, she waited as Amari climbed into his own chair, one more fitting of his stature.

"I'm certain you have many questions, Twilight," he began, "but let us start with your initial question. Where are we, you asked. Well, that is both simple and complicated. You see, we're not so much a where as we are as when we are."

Twilight nodded, "I see," she said. "Then may I ask when are we?"

Amari nodded, "a logical follow up. That, too, is complicated. Time, in a sense, does not exist here, even though we exhibit most of the same characteristics beings would as they travel in the 4th dimension. Rather, time is more of a suggestion, data that can be plotted on a map, were that map infinitely curved."

"You see, Twilight," he continued, "we are mostly outside of time, though we are still connected to the timeline in your universe."

"So like a pocket universe," Twilight offered.

Amari thought for a moment and then nodded. "Yes, similar, except this universe, the one you're in, connects to all universes."

Twilight's eyebrows shot up. "All universes?"

Amari nodded.

Twilight scoffed. "Come now, Mr. Amari, no universe is connected to all universes. That would be physically impossible."

Amari smiled. "Physically, yes. Temporally? No. This universe connects to all universes at all points simultaneously, because this universe was the first to exist."

Twilight sat back in her chair, frowning. "Mr. Amari,-"

"Just Amari, please," the field mouse interjected.

"Sorry about that, Amari," she continued. "You have to understand that the claim of inhabiting a universe that is connected to all universes simultaneously is, on its face, rather silly, and to tell me this without much in the way of preamble makes me wonder if you're not just pulling my leg. I love a good joke as the next pony, but if this is a joke, I feel I must tell you that I'm not really in a joking mood. I'm tired, I've been walking all day, and I've been looking for my friends, my crew, my airship, and a solution to a really big problem. So, you know, I'm not really in the joking spirit."

Amari's expression seemed to turn to one of pity.

"Oh dear," he said more to himself than anyone in the room, "I guess you don't know. Silly me, I forget sometimes. Linear creatures need a structured understanding of time in order to process information. Twilight," he said, looking directly at the mare, "you asked me who I was, and I told you my name, Amari. I assumed that you knew my vocation once I told you that name, and with my sincerest apologies I now realize you've never been out of your own timeline before. Most who timewalk know of me, for example, both Celestia and Luna know me quite well. As I said before, I am a caretaker, that is true, but more specifically, I am something more akin to a custodian. I clean up what is left behind by universes once their times have passed."

"What do you mean, times have passed?" asked the mare.

Amari took a breath, something Twilight hadn't seen him do up to to that point, and she started wondering to herself just what was real, and what was being presented to her as real.

"I apologize," he began, "if this seems difficult, but I want to state it correctly, in linear fashion, as it matters a great deal that you understand what I say when I tell you. Please understand that there is more to this than what I will say, and that you have no reason to be alarmed."

Twilight's frustration was growing. "Amari, please tell me what you're talking about, I'm starting to feel out of my depth."

Amari chuckled. "A fitting turn of phrase, truly. Very well then, I shall delay no longer.

Twilight, your universe is dead."


Chapter Fourteen

View Online



Twilight jumped up from her chair, wings spread, taking on a battle stance. "What did you do to my friends?! My... my universe?!" she demanded.

Amari, realizing a little bit of drama was probably a bad idea in hindsight, worked to allay Twilight's anger, his paw gestures placating. "Calm down, Twilight, please. It's not what you think. I have done nothing to your universe."

Twilight folded her wings, and sat back on her haunches, but pointed a hoof at Amari. "No more games," she said, "tell me what's going on. Where am I? Where is this place? Are you really a caretaker? What is it you do?"

Amari nodded quickly, "certainly, Twilight, I truly meant no offense, it's just I so rarely get visitors here." He took a deep breath, and let it out slowly before continuing. "Your universe is dead, but," he said, holding up a paw to forestall her response, "that's because where we are, all universes are dead. We are beyond time, Twilight, beyond space. We are where all things that ever were have been, and will become."

He returned to his chair. Twilight stayed where she was, focused on his every move.

"When I told you I was a caretaker, that was true, and if you'll forgive my flair for the dramatic, I did mean your universe was dead, because it is, but that is because by your being here, you've arrived at the end of all things."

Twilight looked around her at the interior of the study. "As pleased as I am to see books surviving the end of all things, I'm a bit underwhelmed, if I'm being honest."

Amari's heart, or what constituted one in the perceptions of linear beings, fluttered just a bit in his chest. Twilight's humor was starting to come back, which meant she was becoming more relaxed. He made a note to never joke with Twilight the way he joked with Luna again. Clearly, not all Alicorns reacted the same way.

"Well yes and no," he continued. A spark of inspiration hit him. "Think of this place as a library," he said, a smile on his face as he turned to further regard his interlocuter. "Instead of books, it is the repository of all existence. It is indexed, sorted, and collected. It can be viewed at any time should reference need to be made."

Twilight's eyes grew large. "Are you telling me that we're in the universal equivalent of a library?"

Amari nodded. "That is exactly what I am telling you," he said, though his smile became a bit strained when he saw the hungry look that began to form in her expression.

He cleared his throat. "Before you take this far, far beyond what imagination will tell you, let me tell you that no living, linear creature can process the amount of information in this repository. I told you when we first met that I was glad to finally meet you, and it is true. I have read much about you, Twilight, you and your friends, and when I felt your presence, I had already begun to research into why you were here."

"If you will follow me up the stairs, to the second level, I will show you why I think you're here," he said.

Twilight stood, and followed her diminutive host up the spiral steps. As she reached the second floor, she noticed it was much cooler here, and somewhat darker. As she reached the last step, she stopped to take in her surroundings. Much like the downstairs area, this seemed like a study, but rather than couches or conventional chairs, there were only what appeared to be pods.

"What is this place, Amari?" Twilight asked as she moved to follow the mouse to a central console against the far wall.

"This," he said, pointing to the white desk shaped object, "is the Astrix. Think of it as a universal card catalog. With it, I can bring up any event in your history, or any history, from any universe that has existed in the time stream."

Twilight was in awe at the notion of so much information at her hoof tips. "Can I see?" She asked as she gazed at all of the buttons, knobs, and switches that littered the face of the machine.

Amari chuckled. "I'm sorry, Twilight, don't take this the wrong way, but your mind couldn't handle it. If I let you see what I could see, you would likely die from shock after only a few moments. That said," he continued as he flipped the switch on the console, "I can bring up information so that you can see a rough interpretation of what I see, something more in tune with your own senses."

With that, a flat image appeared in thin air above the console, and Twilight could see a blob shaped object, glittering with what must have been thousands of points of light.

"This," he remarked, "is your galaxy. Our designation for it is EQC57-D. It is a spiral galaxy measuring some 100 light years across. Rather small, actually, and that is because your universe is approximately 1000 light years across."

Twilight frowned. "I'm not sure if that's good or bad, Amari, since I have no reference to any other universes."

Amari nodded. "Ah, yes, good point. Well, let's put it this way: if we compared it to, say, this galaxy..." and with that he pulled up another much larger galaxy, this one shaped like a pinwheel.

"This," he said as he motioned to it with his paw, "is a spiral galaxy in universe HHG42-DA. It measures 100,000 light years across. The universe in which it exists is approximately 16 BILLION light years across, and is still expanding."

Twilight pursed her lips. "Okay," she began, "but I'm not certain the length of measurement. What is a light year?"

Amari considered her question for a moment. "Ah, I see the issue. What is the circumference of Equestria, Twilight?"

She rattled if off without having to give it a moment's thought: "31,000,000 hoof lengths, or approximately 4,000 kilometers."

Amari nodded. "Very well. Then let's just say in a single second, light could travel from one side of Equestria to the other approximately 75 times."

Twilight's eyes bugged. "In a single second?"

Amari grinned. "In a single second. Now, keeping that velocity in mind, how fast could light travel in a year?"

Twilight mentally calculated her answer in half a second. "roughly nine trillion, four hundred and sixty billion, eight hundred million kilometers in a year."

Amari put his paw on her shoulder. "Multiply that by 16 billion."

Twilight's eyes grew large, and she dropped to her haunches. "That's... that's impossibly huge."

Amari patted her shoulder gently. "Yes, it is very large, but not impossible, and there are universes much, much larger."

He returned his focus to the console. "That said, we're going to look at your little universe, with it's little galaxy, and specifically your world."

He tapped out a sequence on a small keypad. Twilight watched as her own world zoomed in, and her heart twinged. Learning about new places was always fascinating, but she wanted to go home, to find her crew, and her friends.

"Now if you'll look here," said Amari, tapping out a final sequence, and bringing up a number of lines crisscrossing her world, "you will see that during the time frame in which you and your ship arrived in Manehattan to study the anomaly, there are a number of intersecting leylines in that same area."

Twilight could indeed see them, with the point of intersection right over what would be the Manehattan library.

"What are these lines, Amari?" she asked.

Amari pressed another button, and a new image appeared. "These," he said, "are quantum streams. They're what cause your universe to maintain its physical laws and, as I'm sure you're already figuring out, they do not belong in this configuration. What I think," he continued, "is that a spell has somehow managed to reverse a number of these quantum streams, and has created a cosmic whirlpool."

"I'm guessing that's not good," Twilight observed.

Amari nodded. "An understatement. A cosmic whirlpool is terribly unstable, and if left to its own devices, will not only wholly disrupt your world's magic, but also breakdown the physics of your universe."

A spike of panic shot through Twilight's chest. "Please tell me there is a solution."

Amari patted Twilight's shoulder, something he found he liked doing not only to comfort the mare, but to maintain his own emotional control. "Yes, believe me I wouldn't tell you all of this if I didn't believe there was a solution, and fortunately it will only require you and a few other ponies to make it happen."

Twilight nodded. "How do we get started?"

Amari clapped his paws together. "That's the easy part!" He headed towards the staircase and motioned Twilight to follow, talking as he went. "Usually, we wouldn't get involved in something like this, because we believe that every universe plays out as it should, however," he said as they walked out of the hut and towards a small wooden building on the opposite side of the tree, "this is a situation that requires some intervention."

They stepped into the wooden hut, and to Twilight's lack of surprise, it too was much bigger on the inside, and appeared to be some kind of laboratory with various instruments on tables, colorful liquids along shelves against the wall.

Amari lead them to what appeared to be a wall safe, and input a sequence into a wall panel she didn't even notice until he was already finished.

A small door appeared, and opened for Amari, who reached in and pulled out what looked like a glowing, color changing cube.

"What is it?" Twilight asked. She couldn't tear her eyes away from it.

"This," he said, smiling as he held the cube in his paws, "is a tesseract, Twilight, and with it you're going to create a logjam in the quantum stream."

Twilight smiled. "Just show me where to cram it."


Chapter Fifteen

View Online

Manehattan Library
City of Manehattan


Violet whispered quietly as she poked the prone form of the Princess of Friendship. So far there had been no reaction, though Violet could see the mare's barrel move up and down, so she was breathing.

Candela, meanwhile, was in the corner hyperventilating. It wasn't every day you knocked the horse apples out of a Princess of Equestria, and her brain had decided now was as good a time as any to focus solely on that fact.

Up until about 10 minutes prior, Violet had tried to calm Candela down with soft words, hugs, a glass of water, and some cajoling, but none of it had worked, so she settled on letting her work it out on her own in the hopes reason and sanity would take over once again. She was still waiting.



"It's doing it again!" Candela's voice rang out. Violet turned toward the corner of the room where they had sat Twilight's saddlebags, and once more she saw they had begun glowing a bright blue. Something inside those bags was making its presence known, and Violet wanted no part of it.

"It's okay," Violet told the tan furred earth pony, in the hopes of getting her to calm down, and maybe convincing herself that things were actually going to be okay. "Whatever's inside hasn't actually done anything, and I don't think Twilight would bring something dangerous with her, especially if she was looking for us."

*poke *poke* *poke*


"Twilight!" Violet called out as she recognized the mare's voice grumbling from the pointy end of the stick. She dropped it and helped Twilight into a sitting position, the Alicorn putting a hoof on her head and wincing as she quickly pulled it away.

"What happened?" she asked, her voice gravelly.

"You passed out when you came through the doorway," Violet lied, because of course she would. "There must have been some kind of tree limb that knocked you out, and we dragged you inside."

Meanwhile, a few hoofsteps away, Candela's jaw had dropped, because lying to a princess was wrong, and could land you in a lot of hot water if that lie was ever found out! Still conflicted over whether or not she was going to back up her partner in crime, she got to her hooves, attempted to straighten out her mane, and quickly cantered over to the other side of the princess.

"Can I get you something to drink, your highness?" she asked.

Twilight nodded. "Some water, please."

Candela quickly headed off to retrieve some water from one of the nearby vending machines.

"We were so worried we'd lost you!" Violet said as she hugged Twilight as gently as she could. "When I woke up you were nowhere to be found, and I was so scared!" Tears had started to form in her eyes, and Twilight returned the hug, comforting the younger mare.

About that time, Candela returned with the bottle of water, which Twilight accepted gratefully, and took a long drink. For some reason, Candela noted, she seemed to really appreciate it, but paid it no real attention to it as she took a seat next to Violet.

Twilight moved up from a leaning position, to sit back on her haunches. "Well, at least we're all here now, together, although..." she looked at the tan furred earth pony next to Violet.

Violet turned from Twilight to Candela and back, and it clicked. "Oh! Yes, um, Twilight Sparkle, this is Candela Bright. Candela, this is Twilight, whom I'm sure you already know, but I've already committed myself to doing it this way."

Twilight put a hoof out to bump it, and Candela simply looked at it, looked to Violet, and then leaned over, kissing Twilight's hoof.

"Buh?!" Twilight said as she pulled her hoof back.

Candela panicked. "I apologize your highness, it's because I'm sitting down isn't it? Oh no, please don't banish me to the Moon!"

Twilight took the frenetic mare by her shoulders. "Calm down, Candela, it's okay, please, I'm not offended."

The young mare's breathing began to calm as she looked at Twilight uncertainly.

"I'm really not much on protocol to be honest, aheh," Twilight said as she let go of the pony, and rubbed the back of her own head instead. "Please, please call me Twilight. I would much rather be your friend. I mean, that's literally my job."

Formalities out of the way, the mares quickly brought one another up to speed on the events leading up to where they were presently, with Twilight motioning for Violet to bring her the saddlebags, since Twilight was still a bit dizzy from whatever had caused her collapse outside of the door.

"So what is the plan, Twilight?" Violet asked as she laid the saddlebags in front of the Alicorn.

"Well," began Twilight, "it's rather simple and straightforward. We need to take the tesseract and activate it, which will disrupt the quantum streams intersecting the library, and cause this storm to dissipate."

Violet nodded. "That seems simple enough. When can we do it."

Twilight's expression turned uncertain. "Unfortunately, I'm not sure. The tesseract will do all of the work once it's engaged, but we need a spark of magic to make that happen. As we all know from far too much personal experience, magical fields break down immediately. Amari told me that it's due to the rupture of elemental bonds on the sub-quanta level. Magic simply cannot work without them because they form the very fabric of our universe. No foundation, nothing to build upon."

Candela raised a hoof.

Twilight chuffed. "You don't have to do that. You can just ask me a question, Candela."

The earth pony blushed. "If magic doesn't work, what about something else that can create a disruption? Like electricity? As you can see, lights do work, so maybe some other catalyst can activate the device?"

Twilight had looked around the staff room. Some of the lights were indeed working, and she wondered what Tempest Shadow would think of using electricity to create a magical reaction. An idea began to form in her head.

"Violet, you told me that the two of you had found some kind of radio transmitter in the basement of the building?" she asked the pegasus.

Violet nodded. "Yeah, Candela and I had managed to find a transmitter, but the capacitors had burned out from overload."

Twilight nodded. "I can work with that. Can you two take me there?"


About 15 minutes later, they were standing in front of the broken assemblage of parts that once resembled a transmitter. Twilight had begun the process of tearing down what was remaining, while Candela and Violet traded off holding the small handheld light stick they'd found in one of the desk drawers upstairs.

"Any luck?" Candela asked Violet, who was currently holding the light.

"She's still trying to piece together the motherboard," came the whispered reply.

Twilight rolled her eyes as she continued working, attempting to ignore the furtive whispers above her head. She didn't have the heart to tell them whispering doesn't matter when a pony's ears are situated between the two whispering parties.

She had just managed to snap a lead wire in place, using a soldering kit cobbled together from janitors closets and tool boxes.

"Okay, Candela, hoof me the tesseract out of my saddlebag."

She felt gentle pressure as weight was removed from her back, and a moment later, a shaking hoof was reaching over to hand her the cube.

"It's not going to explode, Candela," she admonished gently.

"Sorry, your highness."

"I told you not to call me that."

"I'm sorry, your highness Twilight."

Twilight grunted. That would have to do.

She placed the cube against the motherboard, and attached the lead wire to it, adjusting several capacitors. She nodded with approval. So far, so good.

Twilight took the cobbled together kit, and trotted over to the large electrical generator in the center of the room.

"Now, this generator powers the whole building. For the moment it's not functional due to the magical field breakdown preventing large magnetic fields of any kind from forming. I'm going to attach the tesseract to the generator."

The other two mares nodded.

"Then I'm going to allow the tesseract to open completely, at which point its quantum field will regenerate the circuit, and allow for magnetic fields to form inside of it, which will cause the generator to produce electricity."

The other two mares nodded.

"Once that happens, I will disengage the safety on the generator, and ramp up the output to maximum, severing the wires leading out of the step down transformer."

The other two mares glanced at one another.

"Once that happens, and the switch is thrown, we should be able to take cover before the whole power system disrupts the quantum stream."

Twilight nodded to herself.

"Uh, Twilight?" Violet asked, as Candela raised her hoof.

"Yes, Violet?" the Alicorn responded.

"How much power will be produced by that generator?"

Twilight did a quick mental calculation. "It will produce about one hundred thousand gigawatts of power."

Candela fainted.

Violet stared and looked at Twilight, opening her muzzle and closing it again several times. "Won't that, uh, cause us to die horrible, horrible deaths?" she finally managed.

Twilight dismissed her with a forehoof. "Don't be silly, the electricity produced will be mostly self-contained, and since the quantum junction sits almost directly atop the generator, we should be able to take adequate cover without incident.

Violet took a deep breath, and then went to help Candela to her hooves.

Twilight affixed the device to the generator.

"Now," she said, "prepare to take cover underneath that large mattress in the corner."

"On the count of three," she began, her hoof held over the switch.


Sweat began to drip down Violet's withers.


She also realized she had to pee.


Twilight pulled the switch hard, breaking it in the process. Wasting no time, the three mares galloped for the alleged safety of the mattress as the generator, and the tesseract both, began to give off a brilliant blue and white light.

"Cover your heads!" Twilight shouted. "You can be struck by lightning in just about any orifice and live except in the head!"

The mattress pulled over, the three mares held on for dear life. For a few seconds, things seemed to be working well, but things started going awry quickly as they were all slammed to the ground, as if a ten ton weight were pressing on their chests.

"What's going on, Twilight?!" Violet managed to wheeze.

Twilight couldn't even shake her head to respond. "I don't know," she forced out. "I think there is... some kind of conflict... between... the matrices... and their lattices!"

"I... don't know... what that means!" Violet shouted as the room became blindingly bright. A high pitched whine soon followed, and Twilight knew they were in serious danger.

"Hold on!" she shouted, and prayed to her mentor that she had time.

Right at the moment the entire generator system exploded, sending fire, hot shrapnel, and 100,000 gigawatts of electricity into the open air, a violet bubble winked into existence, and three ponies vanished.


"Aaaaaaaah!" Candela screamed as she suddenly realized there was nothing underneath her, and she was falling. A few moments later, her backside hit the ground, and she rolled onto her side.

She looked up right before a purple furred pony landed on top of her. She grunted in pain.

Violet, meanwhile, noticed that she too had fallen, but had a much softer landing. It took her a moment to notice the tan furred pony underneath.

She panicked, of course.

"Oh, Candela, are you okay?" she asked as she scrambled to her hooves and helped the earth pony to her own.

"Ugh, you're lucky I'm made of sterner stuff," she rasped as she was pulled to her hooves, and brought the pegasus into a hug.

"We did it!" they heard a voice shout next to them. Breaking the embrace, they turned to see Twilight already on her hooves, much of that likely owed to her Alicorn constitution, and a massive grin on her face.

Surely enough, they were all standing in the middle of the Manehattan Library's arboretum.

"There's no rain," Violet said in a whisper. "There's no rain!" she repeated again, not even remotely whispering.

"Clearly this is an indicator that the junction has been dissolved," Twilight explained as she brushed the leaves and twigs from her mane. She had landed in the bird section.

"How did we get here, Twilight?" Violet asked as she and Candela made their way over to the walkway near the entrance of the arboretum.

"It's quite simple, really," Twilight said, removing a bird's nest from her tail. "There was a window of .08812 seconds where the electrical field was supercharged, and where the magical field would be present, with the magic field reaching us first during that window. I merely had to calculate the timing and teleport us before the electrical field took over."

The two mares were just staring in shock, no pun intended, at the Alicorn's ability.

"Your highness!" came a voice from nearby. They all turned to see the Captain of the Mare Nobilum approaching in a hurry. "We were worried about you," he said as he stopped and saluted.

"Captain Copperpot," Twilight exclaimed, relief in her voice, "I assume then that there are survivors."

The captain nodded. "Yes, your highness. There were no casualties. The Sola Raptura is on its way to pick us up. The city is peaceful, and there's not a cloud in the sky. It's a miracle, your highness!"

Twilight smiled, turned to Violet and Candela, and gave them a wink.

"Let's go home then, Captain," she said.

The two trotted off in brisk fashion, leaving Violet and Candela alone.

"So, Candela, I was thinking. You know, Canterlot and Manehattan aren't that far from here and, I mean, if you want to visit sometime, you could stay at my place," Violet was saying as she created circles in the soil with her forehoof, "and you could meet my cat, Mr. Doldrums. He's a little impatient with new ponies, but he's a good kit-"

She was interrupted by a very warm muzzle making contact with her own as forelegs embraced her and pulled her closer. She melted into the warmth.

Mr. Doldrums could wait. The future was getting bright.

The End.