Two weeks had passed since the Friendship Games, and life at Canterlot High School had largely returned to normal. Twilight Sparkle was now a student at CHS, and the awkward period of adjustment—of working to convince people she wasn't the same Twilight Sparkle as the Fall Formal Princess—had begun, albeit with slow, halting progress.
"Hey, did you girls hear?" Pinkie Pie asked as she met up with her friends during the fifteen-minute break between second and third period. "Convicted serial anal rapist Ben Dover escaped from Foalsom Prison!"
A collective gasp rose from the group. "Oh my," Fluttershy whispered. "He used to live in our neighborhood."
"Oh, I do hope he doesn't return to Canterlot," Rarity moaned. "I just know he'll go after my precious powdered sugar donut!"
The other girls slooooooooowly turned to stare at Rarity.
"Thanks for that, Rarity," Sunset Shimmer said dryly. "I could've gone my whole life without knowing your pet name for your anus."
"Now why in th' hay would you even think of that?" Applejack wondered, scratching her head.
"That's a good question," Rainbow Dash said. With a smirk, she added, "Maybe we should launch a probe into it!"
Rarity, cheeks burning, shot her an icy death glare. "That will do, thank you," she said testily.
Any further discussion was halted by Principal Celestia hurriedly approaching the group. "Girls," she whispered urgently, "there's something you need to see."
"Is this about convicted serial anal rapist Ben Dover?" Pinkie asked. "Because we were just talking about convicted serial anal rapist Ben Dover."
Celestia blinked, then shook her head. "No, this has nothing to do with convicted serial anal rapist Ben Dover," she said. "It's...well...please come with me."
The seven girls looked at one another with concern, then followed Celestia down the hall to the faculty lounge, which had a small crowd of teachers gathered outside, whispering urgently and excitedly.
"In...in there," Celestia said, pointing to the door. Sunset Shimmer took the lead, Rainbow Dash right behind her. As soon as Sunset crossed the threshold, she let out a sharp gasp.
"Whoa," Rainbow said, eyes wide.
A tiny bird with bright red and orange plumage was hopping madly around the room, leaving tiny, short-lived flames in its wake. Most of the furniture was covered in scorch marks. Papers scattered around the lounge were burning or smoldering.
Vice Principal Luna joined them from the hall. "What is that thing?" she asked.
"It's a Phoenix," Sunset said immediately. "A baby one. What's it doing here?"
"At the moment? Saving half my first-period class from failing today's pop quiz," Ms. Harshwhinny said irritably from behind them.
"Wow, good news for me," Rainbow said.
"It just showed up out of nowhere," Celestia said. "Showed up and went crazy. We had to evacuate the lounge."
"Amazing," Twilight Sparkle said, craning her neck for a better look. "Are you sure that's a real Phoenix?" she asked. "I mean...they're just a myth..."
"Oh, they're real," Sunset said with a worried frown. "The problem is, they're real in Equestria."
"So what's it doin' here?" Rainbow wondered.
"I don't know," Sunset said, brow furrowing.
"Umm...can you girls worry about what it's doing here later?" Ms. Cheerilee asked. "Maybe after you get it out of our faculty lounge?"
"Everybody out of the way," Fluttershy said, her voice firm. The others stood aside as she pushed her way into the lounge and approached the Phoenix, which was in the process of melting a styrofoam coffee cup. "Here chick chick chick chick chick," she said in a soothing tone. The Phoenix's head craned sharply around to look at her. She smiled disarmingly. "Good chick chick chick chick chick, c'mere chick chick chick chick chick." She crouched low and patted her thigh.
The Phoenix chirped and hopped over to her. She caught it in her skirt and gently picked it up, cradling it in her hands. "There's a good little girl," she cooed. "You're just alone and scared, aren't you? And curious! You just wanted to know—oh! And I bet you're hungry!" She tilted her head, frowned, then looked at Sunset. "What do Phoenixes eat?"
Sunset scratched her cheek. "Well, adults eat fish, mice, voles, and such," she said. "I think the babies..." She frowned, her brow furrowing. "A Phoenix chick can't eat anything it can't burn," she said slowly. "Oh, and water could kill it."
"It needs fuel, like a fire," Celestia said. "Is that right?"
"Right," Sunset said, nodding. "And a fireproof cage so it doesn't accidentally torch anything."
"I've got just the thing out in my van," Fluttershy said as she gently stroked the chick's feathers. It trilled happily at her. "So what can we give her to eat and drink?"
"Small pieces of wood and paper," Sunset said. "Crushed charcoal, that'd be good. Oh, and that whiskey Vice Principal Luna keeps locked up in her desk should work."
Luna stiffened. Celestia slowly turned to her and raised an eyebrow.
"I've got about ten boxes of tongue depressors sitting around being depressing," Nurse Redheart said. "Would that be good?"
Sunset nodded. "Yeah, that'd be perfect. We'll just need to snap them in little pieces."
"Oh, you have no idea how happy I'd be to do that."
Fluttershy turned to Rarity. "Can you grab my keys out of my backpack and go out to my van? There's a steel bird cage in the back."
Rarity nodded, dug around in Fluttershy's backpack until she found her keys, and left.
"We'll round up the tongue depressors and whiskey for it," Celestia said. She glanced at Luna. "Right, Luna?"
"Of course," Luna said, shooting Sunset a glare.
"I'll help!" Rainbow said. "Breaking tongue depressors beats chem lab."
"Twilight, you rebuilt your magic tracker, right? The old one, not the one that caused all that trouble at the Friendship Games?"
Twilight adjusted her glasses and nodded. "I actually built a brand new one. It's more precise."
"Get it," Sunset said. "We need to figure out how this Phoenix got here."
The little chick chirped, looking curiously around at everyone.
* * * * *
Twilight, Sunset, Pinkie, and Applejack stood in front of the ruined horse statue. Twilight held a device in her hands that emitted several soft beeps as she ran it over the polished base. "I'm detecting the portal," she said, "but the energy readings aren't any different from last time."
Sunset touched the smooth surface of the statue. Nothing happened. She nodded. "Okay. The portal isn't open, so that rules out one theory."
"Whew, that's a relief," Pinkie said, wiping her brow. "Can you imagine if convicted serial anal rapist Ben Dover found the portal and escaped to Equestria?"
Applejack slapped her upside the head. "Ah think it'd be more likely that some kid from school would fall in," she said.
"So that rules out the obvious," Sunset said, frowning. "Not that I can see Princess Twilight leaving a nest of Phoenix chicks running loose in her castle." She scratched her head. "So how—"
"Wait a minute," Twilight said suddenly, adjusting a knob on her scanner. "I'm picking up—" Her scanner started screaming, and her eyes widened as she spun around and faced the direction of the school track. "This way!" She started running; the other girls followed her.
As they neared the track, Applejack's nose wrinkled. "Y'all smell somethin'—"
A terrifying roar split the air just as the girls rounded the corner of the building. They skidded to a halt, eyes wide with terror.
A massive wolf-like creature made entirely of branches, limbs, and leaves stood before them, its eyes glowing with an eerie green light.
"Whoa nelly," Applejack said, jaw dropping.
"Wh-wh-wh-wh-wh-what the HECK IS THAT?!" Pinkie shrieked, her hair frizzing out as she jumped three feet in the air.
Sunset took a step back, her irises contracting to pinpricks. "That's impossible," she said softly.
"This thing is...!" Twilight looked between the monster and her scanner. "It's loaded with mag-EEK!" She shrieked as Sunset grabbed her arm and started running. Applejack and Pinkie turned and followed.
Behind them, they heard the ominous creaking and stomping of the wooden wolf as it gave chase, bellowing a challenge at them.
"What..." Pinkie puffed. "What...IS...that...thing?!"
"Timberwolf!" Sunset gasped out. "I've never seen one before, but I've heard...I've heard horrible stories...!"
"Timberwolf?" Applejack asked.
"Ooooh! 'Cause it's made of wood," Pinkie said. She laughed. "Nice pun!"
The Timberwolf howled, and the girls picked up their pace, scrambling for the school doors. "What do we do?" Twilight asked.
"Get inside!" Sunset said. "And hope the rest of its pack didn't make it here from Equestria!"
"How'd th' ONE make it here from Equestria?" Applejack demanded.
"I DON'T KNOW!" Sunset yelled back as she took the front steps of the school two at a time. The Timberwolf was at their heels now; Sunset could feel its wooden teeth scraping at the back of her jacket. The stench of its breath made her want to vomit.
Applejack spun around and kicked it in the face; the other girls heard its muzzle crack and splinter. Pinkie zoomed ahead of Sunset and threw the doors open, frantically urging the girls inside. Sunset practically threw Twilight into the school foyer, then followed her in; as soon as Applejack was through, Pinkie ducked into the building and yanked the door shut. The Timberwolf slammed into the door, trying to crash through the glass; the glass and metal of the school doors held, and the Timberwolf exploded into splinters and twigs, clattering to the steps.
"Whew!" Pinkie said. "That was a close one."
Twilight sat spread-eagle on the floor, skirt askew, eyes wide behind her glasses and chest heaving. "Is...is it dead?" she panted.
Sunset frowned worriedly. "No," she said. "Timberwolves—"
The twigs began vibrating and gathering together as a sickly green glow suffused the rubble of the wolf. The girls watched in fascinated horror as the monster reassembled itself, glaring at them and scratching at the glass with wooden claws.
"—do that," Sunset finished gamely.
Pinkie's hair drooped. "I think I'd rather have to deal with convicted serial anal rapist Ben Dover," she whined.
"Yeah, Ah reckon at least if you kicked convicted serial anal rapist Ben Dover in th' face, he'd stay kicked," Applejack said, fanning herself with her hat.
Principal Celestia came jogging up the hall. "There you girls are!" she said. "We've got another..." She trailed off, eyes wide as she stared at the Timberwolf trying to bash down the front doors. "What in the...?"
"Timberwolf," Sunset said. "We found it on the school track. It's a magical monster from Equestria."
"From Equestria?" Celestia asked. "Did it...did it come through the portal?"
"No, the portal's closed," Sunset said.
"That thing wouldn't have fit in the portal!" Pinkie added, waving her arms frantically.
Sunset brushed herself off and faced Celestia. "Seal the school," she said. "As long as that thing is outside, it isn't safe."
Celestia nodded numbly. "Who...who do I call about—"
Sunset shook her head. "If I remember my studies correctly, you can't really kill a Timberwolf. You can destroy its body, but the magic would probably find something else to animate."
Twilight frowned. "You mean it's a golem?" Everyone glanced at her. She blushed and ducked her head. "I've been doing research on...stuff," she said sheepishly. "You know, ever since I found out magic is real..."
"Umm, Twilight? I see Trottingham," Pinkie said.
"Eep!" Twilight shot to her feet and rearranged her skirt, face flaming.
Sunset rolled her eyes. "Anyway, yeah, Timberwolves are a type of golem," she said. "They're animated by natural wild magic..." She frowned. "The only place in Equestria where they exist is the Everfree Forest."
"Good to know," Applejack said. "What do we do about it?"
Sunset glanced at Twilight. "Do you still have that magic-draining device?"
Twilight shuddered. "No," she said. "After what happened at the Friendship Games, I..."
"Can you make another one? One that won't go all cuckoo and start draining every source of magic in sight?"
Twilight chewed on her lip. "I should be able to," she said. "I can't do it here, though. I'd need to get to my lab at home."
Sunset nodded. "We'll need to find you a safe way out of the school. And a bodyguard." She glanced at the Timberwolf again. "Yeah, a magic-draining weapon is probably what we need. Something you can completely control. Something you can aim."
"So a ray gun," Twilight said, adjusting her glasses. "Yeah, I can do that."
"YOU CAN?!" Pinkie, Applejack, and Celestia cried all at once.
Celestia raised a finger and opened her mouth, paused, then shook her head. "To be continued," she said. "Applejack, can you find a way to get Twilight out of here safely so she can build her ray gun?"
"Can do!" Applejack said. "C'mon, Twi. Ah think Ah know just th' guy fer th' job." She grabbed Twilight by the wrist and started tugging her down the hall.
Twilight gave her a dubious stare. "You're not thinking of Flash Sentry, are you? Because I kinda try to avoid him—"
"He's got a fast car," Applejack said. "It's either him or that DJ girl, an' she drives like a jackass. Ah reckon you'll be safest with Flash if'n there's more'a them monsters out there."
Twilight sighed. "Okay. Let's find him." She tossed her magic tracker to Sunset. "Hang onto this until I get back!"
As they rushed off, Celestia turned to Sunset. "Anyway, we've got a new problem," she said.
Sunset groaned. "What now?"
"This, you have to see," Celestia said.
* * * * *
"I see it, but I don't believe it," Sunset said numbly.
The bleachers in the gym had been moved to one wall and folded up into a barricade, behind which two dozen students and two gym teachers stood, peering anxiously out between the gaps in the bleachers. Many of the students were half-dressed; a few of the girls were in their underwear. Derpy, standing on the end of the bleachers in shorts and a bra, had her phone out and angled around the edge to record the latest wacky thing to happen at CHS.
Rainbow Dash was running laps around the gym, being chased by a bird monster the size of a Rottweiler. Its plump body was covered in brown and black feathers. It had massive wings, with white down mixed in among the brown and black. It sported six scaly legs: a long, slender dark gray pair with sharp, hooked talons upon which it ran, a shorter pair with webbed toes that hung loosely underneath its body, and a yellow-orange pair which were raised before it in a manner reminiscent of a Tyrannosaur. The base of its long neck was ruffed with short white feathers. Its head was green, topped with a short, spiky red comb above burning red eyes. It sported a short, sharp beak from which dangled a fleshy red wattle. The waxed wooden floor of the gym was pocked with scorch marks from the fireballs the bird was spitting at Rainbow. Every so often, it would let out an angry cry of "Quobblck!"
Sunset let out a disbelieving bark of laughter. "Wh-what the hell?!"
Lyra and Bon Bon spotted them and jogged over from behind the bleachers, casting wary glances at the chase. "That thing showed up in the locker room while we were changing for gym," Lyra said. "We started screaming, of course; Rainbow Dash came running in from the hall and kicked it in the head. Then it started spitting fire at her and chasing her around the gym. The rest of us set up a barricade..."
Pinkie tilted her head. "So if it's out of the locker room, why'd you all come out half-naked?"
"And miss this, are you kidding?" Bon Bon asked.
"Besides, that bird thing made a huge mess in the locker room," Lyra said. "And with it spitting fire like that, a lot of our clothes are, well..."
"Sunset Shimmer, what can you tell us about this creature?" Celestia asked. "And how to stop it?"
Sunset shook her head. "I honestly have no idea what this one is," she said. "I've never seen or heard of anything like it." She frowned. "It...looks like some sort of chimera, maybe?"
"It's a Turducken!" Pinkie said matter-of-factly.
The others looked at her. "A turd what now?" Bon Bon asked.
"A Turducken," Pinkie repeated, gesturing at the angry bird. "See, look at it! It's part turkey, part duck, and part chicken!"
Everyone paused to digest that.
"Yeah okay, why not," Sunset said. "But that doesn't explain how it's spitting fire, or—"
Suddenly the Turducken squatted down and laid an egg. Rainbow Dash skidded to a halt, turning around to stare oddly at it.
"Huh," Pinkie said. "I coulda sworn it was a boy Turducken..."
The Turducken kicked its egg at Rainbow with its webbed duck feet. Rainbow danced backwards, laughing. "Seriously?" she yelled. "You were better off with the fireballs, you bird-brained—"
And then the egg exploded, leaving a huge, smoking crater in the gym floor.
Most of the girls hiding behind the bleachers screamed. Everyone in the gym besides Rainbow, Celestia, Sunset, and Pinkie stampeded for the doors, heedless of their present state of dress.
"Holy huevos!" Pinkie exclaimed. "That was a shell of a surprise! Wait! This is no time to be yolking around!"
"Okay this just stopped being funny," Rainbow said as she ran past them. The Turducken was once again in pursuit and spitting fire. "Sunset! Do something! Stop this crazy thing!"
"I don't even know what this crazy thing is!" Sunset cried. "I have no idea how to stop it!"
"I'm on it!" Pinkie said, running over to the gym's fire hose. She let out a loud "HYAH!" and shattered the glass with a spinning kick, then reeled out the hose and ran across the gym with it. "HEY TURDY-BIRDIE!" she yelled, pulling a ball out of her pocket and throwing it at the Turducken. It beaned it on the head; the Turducken screeched to a halt and turned, glaring at her.
"Quobblck!" It scratched at the floor.
"COOL OFF!" Pinkie yelled, turning the nozzle on full blast. A high-pressure stream of water caught the Turducken in the chest and blasted it into the air; Pinkie skidded backwards on her heels, straining to keep her footing. She advanced on the Turducken, which flailed and quobblcked as the water pressure drove it back...back...back...
"Say goodnight, featherbrain!" Rainbow Dash yelled as she ran up behind the Turducken and clubbed it upside the head with an aluminum baseball bat.
"Quooooooooooooooo," it warbled as it dropped to the floor, an unconscious mass of soggy feathers.
Pinkie turned off the hose and jumped up and down. "Yay! We turfed the Turducken!"
"Good work, girls," Celestia said. "Although...Pinkie? You really didn't need to break the glass. There was a handle."
Pinkie giggled. "Heehee...oopsie."
"What's going on in here?" Rarity called from the gym doors. "A crowd of half-naked girls just ran past the nurse's office, and..." She trailed off. "Good heavens, what is that?!"
The girls turned to see Fluttershy run in behind Rarity. Fluttershy took one look at the Turducken and gasped. "Oh my! What happened to this poor thing?"
Rainbow's jaw dropped. "Fluttershy, 'this poor thing' breathes fire and lays exploding eggs and tried to kill me!"
"Oh. Well. That's not good," Fluttershy said. "I'm sure it didn't mean anything by it, though. The poor thing is probably just scared." She walked over and gathered it up in her arms. "I'll find you a nice cozy place to make a nice, dry nest where you won't have to worry about anybody bothering you," she said soothingly.
"Actually, if you could lock it in the equipment closet until we can figure out how to get rid of it, that'd be helpful," Sunset said. "I mean, there's a metal door. I don't think it can blast its way out."
Fluttershy sighed. "Alright," she said. With help from Celestia, Fluttershy wrangled the Turducken into the gym's equipment closet. Once Fluttershy had made the beast 'comfortable', Celestia locked the door. "Well, that's one down," she said. "Fluttershy, how's the...Phoenix..." She trailed off, looking Fluttershy up and down with flushed cheeks and a thin-lipped expression.
"Oh, she ate some tongue depressors and went right to sleep," Fluttershy said. "She's such a good little birdie!"
"Well, that's good," Celestia said, pinching the bridge of her nose. "Umm...I don't even know how to ask this, but does anybody have an extra shirt Fluttershy can put on? And maybe a bra?"
"Huh?" Fluttershy looked down at herself. Her white tank top was completely soaked through, illustrating her lack of a bra. "...MEEP!" She wrapped her arms around herself, her face turning tomato red.
Sunset rolled her eyes. "I knew it'd happen sooner or later," she said. "Come on, I'm sure there's a T-shirt or something in the locker room that didn't burn up when the Turducken showed up. I'm sure nobody will mind you borrowing something."
As Sunset led Fluttershy away, Celestia frowned. "I'm pretty sure there's a rule in the student handbook about proper undergarments."
"You're really only just now noticing that?" Rainbow asked.
"Well...I guess I never paid attention before," Celestia admitted. "Besides, it doesn't make sense for Fluttershy to—"
"Medical condition," Pinkie said. "She can't wear a bra."
"Oh." Celestia pondered that, then shook her head. "Anyway, let's just hope that's the last new problem we—"
"BUCKAW!" A scaly, winged monster with a chicken head dropped out of the rafters, its burning red eyes boring intently into Celestia. Pinkie and Rainbow could only watch in horror as she slowly turned to stone.
They glanced at each other.
"Shit," Rainbow said.
* * * * *
"Left here," Twilight said. Flash turned onto a street lined with upscale two-story houses with two-car garages. "Third house on the right." Flash pulled up to the curb and stopped. Twilight undid her seat belt and got out; Flash got out beside her, and she heard the car alarm being activated.
"So, uhh...nice place," Flash said.
Twilight adjusted her glasses and walked around to the back gate; Flash followed her. As she neared the back door, she saw her mother moving around in the kitchen. She knocked quietly on the door. A moment later, Twilight Velvet opened it, a surprised and concerned look on her face. "Twilight? What are you doing home at this hour?"
"Emergency at school," Twilight said. "I needed my lab for something, we'll be going back as soon as I'm done."
"What kind of emergency?" Velvet asked as Twilight walked in, Flash right behind her. "Can I get you a snack? Oh! Hello, are you Twilight's boyfriend?"
Twilight stiffened. Flash rubbed the back of his head awkwardly. "H-hi, I'm Flash—"
"He's just a classmate," Twilight said. "I borrowed him because he has a fast car. We're in a hurry, Mom." She paused, then added, "A snack sounds good, though." With that, she turned and headed further into the house.
Flash stared after her. "Is...is she always like that?" he asked.
Velvet frowned. "Not usually, no," she said. "Don't take it personally, I've never actually seen Twilight talk to a boy before." She tilted her head. "So what kind of emergency?"
Flash rocked back and forth on his heels. "Ah...actually, I'm not really sure," he said. "I mean, weird stuff happens at CHS, you know? All I know is all the teachers are freaking out and every class is study hall right now and they told me to drive Twilight home so she could make some kind of gadget."
A little purple dog ran into the kitchen. "Mom! Twilight's home!" he said.
Velvet flinched. "I...I know, Spike."
Spike glanced up at Flash, tilting his head. "Huh. I wondered why I smelled dork." With that, he went to his water dish and started lapping away.
"Spike!" Velvet snapped harshly. "That's rude!"
Flash laughed nervously. "No, he's right, I...I'm a dork." He hung his head. "Such a dork..."
* * * * *
Sunset and Fluttershy emerged from the locker room. Fluttershy had dried herself off and swapped her sopping wet white tank top for Derpy's short-sleeved blue shirt and yellow tie.
"—just saying, if you'd maybe just wear a green crop top, it'd—" Sunset stopped short as she spotted the petrified Celestia. "Oh no," she muttered.
"What's wrong?" Fluttershy followed her gaze. "That's funny. There wasn't a statue of Principal Celestia here before."
"That's...not a statue," Sunset said. She started gazing around warily, eyes wide and terrified. "There are some creatures in Equestria that can turn you to stone," she added quietly.
Fluttershy's eyes widened. "Then that's...that's really Principal Celestia, and she's—?"
"Yeah," Sunset said.
"Oh my goodness," Fluttershy whimpered, cowering behind Sunset. "What do we do? Is...is she...dead?"
Sunset frowned. "It depends on what did this to her," she said. "Most petrifications can be reversed..." Still keeping a wary eye out for monsters, she pulled out Twilight's magic tracker and approached Celestia, running it up and down her body. She nodded at the readings. "There's an active magic component," she said.
"What does that mean?" Fluttershy asked.
"It means we just have to kill whatever did this and she should turn back to normal."
"K-kill?" Fluttershy gasped quietly, covering her mouth with her hands.
"You know, like Medusa in mythology," Sunset said. Frowning, she added, "Of course, if a Gorgon is responsible for this, we're in trouble..."
And then an unearthly screech split the air as a fat, scaly green reptile with broad leathery wings, bird talons, and the head of a chicken came out of nowhere. Both girls screamed and dived to the sides, rolling across the floor in opposite directions.
"WH-WHAT IS THAT THING?!" Fluttershy shrieked.
"Cockatrice!" Sunset replied. "Whatever you do, don't look directly at it!"
"Looking at it is the last thing I want to do right now!" Fluttershy cried as she ran for her life. Sunset caught up to her and followed her out of the gym, slamming the door behind her. They heard the Cockatrice slam into the door and screech angrily.
Fluttershy leaned against the wall, panting heavily. "We...can't just...leave...Principal Celestia...alone with that thing!"
"That's exactly what we have to do," Sunset said. "She's safe for now. It can't do anything else to her."
"So, umm...what do we do about this?" Fluttershy asked. "You said we can save her, right? If we..." She swallowed. "If we kill that monster?"
"Yeah." Sunset rubbed her chin. "It's been a long time since I read up on dangerous creatures, but I'm pretty sure anything that turns other creatures to stone with its gaze can be killed by..." Her eyes lit up. "A mirror! We just need a mirror!"
"A mirror?" Fluttershy blinked. "Oh! So it'll see its own reflection and turn itself to stone?"
"Which should free Principal Celestia!" Sunset said excitedly. "Okay! We just need a mirror. The bigger, the better, since we'll need to make sure neither of us look that thing in the eye."
"Rarity," Fluttershy said immediately. "Rarity and Diamond Tiara. They carry the biggest hand mirrors of any girl on campus."
Sunset nodded. "Let's go."
* * * * *
There was a knock on Twilight's door; after a moment, it opened. "Umm...so your mom sent back some marshmallow rice squares," Flash said.
Twilight was seated at a long workbench, safety goggles over her glasses. Circuitboards, wires, and other bits of science were scattered all over the tabletop; Twilight was in the process of soldering something.
"Sooo..." Flash said awkwardly. "If you wanted to take a break, have a rice square..."
Twilight set aside her soldering iron and sat back, stretching. She pushed her safety goggles up onto her forehead and spun around to face Flash. "Sure," she said. Shifting in her chair, she said, "Come on in, sit down." She sighed. "Sorry I've been kinda...rude to you."
"It's cool," Flash said. He set the tray he was carrying down on the least cluttered countertop and handed Twilight a paper plate with three marshmallow rice squares on it, along with a glass of chocolate milk. He sat down on the other side of the room with his own snack and milk.
"It really isn't," Twilight said with a sigh as she broke a piece off a square. "I mean, yeah, the way you've imprinted on me because of her is more than a little awkward, but..." She shook her head. "It's not...it's not you," she said. "It's..." She sighed again as she chewed crisp rice cereal and marshmallow. "Everybody at CHS is so nice to me and so friendly, but I know..." She looked over at a board on the wall which was covered with pictures and printouts and newspaper clippings and, for some reason, a Taco Tuesday poster. "Would anyone at CHS notice me, or even care, if they weren't all so in love with her?"
Flash winced. "Twilight, no, that's—"
Twilight turned and gave him a sharp look. "Don't," she said. "You're the most prominent symptom of the problem. You've got a huge crush on her so you keep trying to talk to me, and it just ends up making both of us feel uncomfortable." She sighed. "Sorry. That was harsh."
"No...you're right," Flash said with a sigh, looking down at his lap. "I..." He shook his head. "What can I say? You're not her, but you're so much like her and then you're not like her at all..." He picked at a rice square. "You're right. I guess...a lot of us think of you as..." He shrugged, at a loss for words.
"A replacement? A copy?" Twilight suggested, frowning. "There's this old show that used to be one of my brother's favorites. Well, it's not that old, but it's older than either of us. It was a sci-fi show and it was set on a space station, and one of the main characters was this girl who was in her twenties, but she had a slug thing in her stomach that was centuries old, and her species had this thing where they kept passing the slug thing down from one host to another whenever they died, so the slug thing would keep living and it'd give the new host all the memories and experiences of all the other hosts. Anyway, late in the series they decided to kill her off and put the slug in a new girl who was ten years younger but looked a lot like the other girl." Twilight pursed her lips. "Fans didn't like the new girl. They called her a bad copy of the one that left the show."
Once she fell silent, Flash toyed with his milk. "That's what you feel like, isn't it? Like you replaced her but you're just a copy."
"Sometimes, yeah," Twilight said. "Like they took the slug out of the other Twilight and then just forgot to put it in me, but everybody thinks I've got her slug inside me so..." She threw up her hands in defeat. "Yeah."
Flash nodded. "Give it time," he said. "Look...it's only been a couple of weeks. I mean, could you get used to the idea of there being two of somebody you know that fast?"
Twilight frowned. "Well...probably not," she admitted.
"It took six months for everybody at CHS to see Sunset Shimmer for who she is now instead of the awful bitch she used to be," Flash said. "It might take time, but..." He shook his head. "Twilight—the other Twilight, I mean—wasn't even around for a whole week, and that's counting both times she was at CHS. I think once everybody gets used to you, they'll start forgetting who she is, what she was like. Or maybe they'll just kind of...fold the memories of her into you." He half-smiled awkwardly. "I mean, you'll probably have to deal with being remembered as the Fall Formal Princess when that wasn't you, but..." He shrugged. "It's just an adjustment we all have to make. Them, me, you."
Twilight thought quietly for a long moment, picking at her snack. "Yeah, you're probably right," she admitted. "I guess I wasn't looking at it that way." She looked up at him. "What about you, though?"
Flash sighed. "Yeah..." He looked down at his hands. "Not gonna lie, it's gonna be hard for me, seeing you all over the place and having to remember you're not her." He laughed. "It's stupid. I had all of, what, four conversations with her? And I know if she ever does come back, it won't be for long. I don't really understand the whole thing about where she's from or any of that, but I do know that she's important there and...and this isn't where she belongs. And I'm guessing there's probably not much of a place for a guy like me in her world." He shrugged. "So either I try to get over her or I go crazy."
Twilight laughed. "She sure had a huge impact around here for only having been around a few days, huh?"
"I'll say," Flash agreed with a chuckle. They fell silent.
Twilight adjusted her glasses. "I'd better get back to work," she said. "The girls need me."
"Yeah," Flash said. "Want me out of your hair?"
"Actually, if you could walk Spike for me, that'd be helpful. I'll be done here in about...twenty minutes?"
"Cool," Flash said.
As Flash opened the door to leave, Twilight called to him. "Hey Flash? Thanks."
Flash smiled. "Sure thing."
* * * * *
It took longer than Sunset was happy with to get Rarity to hand over her mirror. When she returned to the gym, she found Fluttershy somewhat more in disarray than before, holding a mirror that had clearly been ripped off a vehicle. She blinked. "Fluttershy? What—"
"Diamond Tiara didn't want to give up her hand mirror," Fluttershy said. "So I, umm...borrowed one of the side mirrors from her Vespa."
Sunset's jaw dropped. "You—"
Fluttershy casually ran her fingers through her hair. "We have to save Principal Celestia, right?"
"—Right." Sunset shook herself, putting on her game face. "Let's go in there and—"
The gym door buckled and exploded outward into the hall. Both girls jumped clear, missing being crushed by the door by scant inches.
"YEEP!" Fluttershy squealed. "What—"
An egg bomb flew past and exploded against the wall. Sunset's eyes widened. "Crap! That Turducken got loose?!"
The girls heard the screech of the Cockatrice. Glancing warily at each other, they cautiously peered around the frame of the ruined gym door.
"QUOBBLCK!" the Turducken bellowed as it glared angrily at something just out of sight, scratching at the floor with its legs. The girls heard a sound that was halfway between a hiss and an angry cluck...
Slowly, the Turducken began turning to stone, beginning with its scaly feet. It flapped its wings madly and belched out fireball after fireball, but to no avail; the girls watched with horrified fascination as it became completely petrified, frozen in a defiant pose.
Sunset and Fluttershy looked at one another. Sunset nodded firmly. "Mirrors up," she said. "On three, we go in."
Fluttershy swallowed nervously, but gave a hesitant nod, raising the Vespa mirror in front of her face. Sunset did likewise with Rarity's hand mirror.
"One...two...THREE!" Both girls dove into the gym, crouching low, peering around the edges of their mirrors. The Cockatrice was flying in circles above them.
"Hey, Cockatrash!" Sunset yelled. "Your momma was a Basilisk!"
The Cockatrice hissed angrily and dove at Sunset, claws out. She backed away, holding her mirror up defensively.
Fluttershy took a deep breath, watching the Cockatrice attack Sunset. "Hey, birdbrain!" she yelled nervously. The Cockatrice paused and turned, staring at her with one beady eye. "Yeah, you crazy-looking thing that can't decide if it's a bird or a lizard!"
"BUCKAAAAAW!" the Cockatrice screeched, turning its full attention on Fluttershy.
Planting her feet, Fluttershy stared the Cockatrice defiantly in the eye. Her feet started to turn to stone, but she forced herself to remain calm. "You. Are. A. BUTT!" And with that, she raised the mirror in front of her face.
"C-CAAAAAAAAWP?!" The Cockatrice reeled back in shock as its burning gaze locked onto its own reflection. It began to sweat as it flapped frantically. Sunset jumped up and tackled it, slamming it to the floor and forcing it to stare at its own reflection. She grimaced as she looked at Fluttershy, who was presently petrified up to her hips...
And then, with a loud crack, the Cockatrice instantly turned to stone in her arms. Fluttershy's legs vibrated and shed the skin of stone covering them, scattering petrified fragments all over the gym floor. The sound of shattering concrete told Sunset that Celestia and the Turducken were also free.
"What in the—?! What happened?!" Celestia said, looking wildly around.
"QUOBBLCK!" the Turducken screeched as it spun around, spitting fire everywhere. Fluttershy almost got hit, but recovered from her petrification quickly enough to drop to the floor.
"GET OUT OF HERE!" Sunset roared at the Turducken, rearing back and throwing the petrified Cockatrice at it. Her wild throw missed by a foot, but the loud sound of the Cockatrice smashing to pieces startled the Turducken enough that it turned and ran, bursting out of the open gym doors and fleeing down one of the halls.
Sunset panted and wheezed. "Well...that's one down," she said.
"Yay," Fluttershy muttered halfheartedly, staring at what was left of the Cockatrice.
Celestia looked at the two girls. "What...happened here?" she asked.
"You got turned to stone," Sunset said. "We killed the thing that did it, but now that damn bird is loose."
Celestia sighed. "Alright. Let's...let's just go back to the faculty lounge for now. I think we all need a minute."
The girls nodded listlessly and followed her back to the lounge, weary and sore.
* * * * *
Twilight Velvet stared as her daughter and the boy named Flash emerged from Twilight's lab. Flash had a heavy-looking piece of gear slung over his shoulder, affixed to what looked like repurposed straps from an old backpack reinforced with cut lengths of orange outdoor extension cord. Twilight herself had a gadget in her hands that looked like a hair dryer, but two cables and a flexible hose connected it to the equipment Flash was carrying.
"Wasn't...the thing you used...at the Friendship Games..." Flash grunted. "A lot smaller than this?"
"The spectrometer? Yeah, but it was only intended to be a tracking device," Twilight said. "Well, track and contain, but it had a conversion capacitor that used the magic it captured to sustain its own power. That's why it went out of control in the first—oh, hi Mom."
Velvet blinked. "Umm...what is all this?"
Twilight adjusted her glasses. "We're going ghostbusting," she said matter-of-factly.
"Riiight," Velvet said. She glanced worriedly at the thing Flash was carrying. "That...isn't radioactive or nuclear or anything, is it?"
"Of course not!" Twilight said. "It's the battery from that electric car Shining Armor totalled two years ago. I kept it just in case." She frowned. "It'll provide the power we need for this device, but it's kinda heavy."
"O...kay," Velvet said uncertainly. "You know, I'm starting to think this transfer to CHS was a bad idea—"
"Sorry Mom, gotta go, gotta save the school," Twilight said. "Come on, Flash." As they hurried for the door, Twilight called back over her shoulder, "Not going back to Crystal Prep, final answer! Bye Spike, be good!"
"You're going back to school already?" Spike whined. "But we haven't even played yet! Can't I go with you?"
"Only if you wanna get eaten by monsters," Twilight said.
"I don't wanna get eaten by monsters," Spike whimpered, cowering under an end table.
"Bye Mom!" Twilight called.
"Uhh...I'll make sure nothing happens to her!" Flash added.
Once the two teens were outside, Twilight groaned. "Tonight's gonna be fun," she muttered.
"So why did you need this honking huge battery pack again?" Flash asked.
"Huh? Oh! Because I can't risk the same thing happening again," Twilight said. "This time, we're just trapping the magic. It won't be powering the device at all. And the battery's only part of that pack. There's a storage cell for the magic that's lead-lined. I'm not sure if lead will work the same for magic as it does for radiation, but we'll worry about that later. The important thing is that for this to work at range, I need a big power supply, and I have no idea how many times I'll need to use this today."
Flash nodded. "If you say so." He popped the trunk of his car and, with a grunt of effort, hefted the battery pack into it. Twilight laid the apparatus of her magic capture ray in beside it, then got in the passenger seat as Flash closed the trunk. "I texted the others a while back, so they should be expecting us by now," he said once he got in the car and started the engine.
Twilight nodded. "Did you ask them how things are going back at school?"
Flash grimaced. "I asked. I only got a two word reply. 'Not good.'"
"Gah," Twilight said, pulling a face. "Okay, let's hurry."
* * * * *
Classes had been cancelled for the day. Once word had gotten out around the school that more magical weirdness was on the loose, the teaching staff had herded all the students into the auditorium. The Timberwolf was still battering the front doors; the glass was cracked and starting to give, but the wolf was unlikely to be able to squeeze its bulk through the door frames, which were metal. The Turducken was still loose somewhere—nobody was quite sure where it had escaped to.
The Rainbooms and the two principals sat in the faculty lounge, where Nurse Redheart was looking after the caged Phoenix, which had settled down and was sleeping soundly.
"When Twilight gets back, we'll be able to deal with the Timberwolf," Sunset said. "That bird chimera thing—"
"Turducken," Pinkie Pie said absently.
"—Turducken, we'll have to figure out a way to corral it."
"What are all these magical monsters doing in our school in the first place?" Vice Principal Luna asked.
Sunset frowned. "I'm not sure," she said. "We haven't really had a chance to properly investigate yet, not with all the craziness. Once Twilight gets back—"
"HEY!" Rainbow cried suddenly. "You should write to Twilight! You know, Pony Princess Twilight!"
Sunset blinked, then smacked her forehead and groaned. "That should've been the first thing I did," she muttered. She got up and walked over to where the girls had all left their backpacks, then dug the magic journal out of her bag. Sitting back down, she opened it to the newest blank page and wrote:
We have a new magical problem here in our world. Some creatures from Equestria are showing up here at CHS, and we're not sure why. So far we've run into a baby Phoenix, a Cockatrice, a Timberwolf, and a weird bird chimera Pinkie insists on calling a Turducken. We're doing the best we can to deal with it, but we haven't figured out how they got here in the first place.
Our Twilight is making a new magic-draining device to deal with the Timberwolf. Everything else, we're handling the best we can. Once we've gotten the situation under control, we'll be investigating how this all started as best we can here, but if you could see what you can find out on your end, it'd really be helpful.
I really hope you can get back to me quickly on this one. It's chaos here.
Sighing, Sunset closed the journal and twirled her pen idly between her fingers. "So, anyone checked with Twilight yet?"
"Ah got a text from Flash fifteen minutes ago," Applejack said. "Said Twi's just about ready t' head back. Shouldn't be too long now."
"That world you come from is a little dangerous, isn't it?" Vice Principal Luna asked casually.
Sunset shook her head. "Not usually," she said. "I mean, yeah, there are monsters, but they're hardly a fact of everyday life."
The journal vibrated. Sunset opened it and read aloud:
Those are all creatures from the Everfree Forest. I'll head to Zecora's place to see if she's noticed anything strange. My first thought, though? You told me all about that battle between you and the other Twilight a couple of weeks ago, where she was tearing apart the walls between your world and Equestria. You said you fixed all the damage, but are you sure? If you left any cracks, these things could be slipping through them and nopony here would notice.
It could be something else entirely though, so I'll check with Zecora just to be sure. In the meantime, work from that theory and be careful!
A silence fell.
Sunset looked around the room, face pale. "This is...my fault?"
"We don't know that for sure, darling," Rarity said with a soothing smile. "And, well...as chaotic as things were at the Friendship Games, it...it makes sense you'd, ahem...miss a spot cleaning up."
* * * * *
They were five minutes from the school when they ran into trouble. Literally.
Flash slammed on the brakes as a lion leapt out into the road in front of his car, roaring. "WHOA!"
"Great!" Twilight exclaimed. "On top of everything else, there's a breakout at the zoo?!"
"Uhh...Twilight? I don't think that came from the zoo," Flash said nervously.
Twilight adjusted her glasses and peered at the beast staring them down. It looked like a lion...except most lions didn't have bat wings or scorpion tails. Twilight's jaw dropped. "Whaaaaaa..."
"Guessing this came from Equestria," Flash muttered as he shifted into reverse and backed up slightly. He hit the brake, shifted into idle, and gunned the engine. It roared mightily at the beast. The beast's eyes narrowed, and it bellowed a challenge at them.
Twilight screamed and cowered in her seat. Flash narrowed his eyes and shifted into gear. "Grab hold of something," he said dangerously.
And then he punched it. Twilight shrieked as the car leapt forward, slamming into the beast and sending it flying. Shifting again, Flash swerved crazily around it and tore off down the road, tires squealing.
Twilight stared at him, eyes wide and glasses askew. "You're INSANE!" she cried.
"Whatever that thing is, we can deal with it after we get you back to the school," Flash said. "Sunset and the girls need you. CHS needs you." He glanced at his rear view and bit off a curse. "Hang on," he said. "We're not out of this yet."
Twilight glanced in her side mirror and yelped in fright. The monster was chasing them, flying through the air and roaring.
Flash pulled out his phone and, keeping one hand on the wheel, called Sunset. "We've got a problem," he said. "We're on our way back to CHS but we've got some kind of freaky lion monster on our butt! I don't know, it's...it's got bat wings, a scorpion tail...yeah. Okay, cool story, but it's following us and I kinda pissed it off by hitting it with my car and I don't see either of us getting out of this car without that thing eating us! You've got...two minutes to come up with something, or I'm gonna be stuck playing chicken with a lion! Okay. We'll stall it as long as we can. Just so you know, I don't think my insurance will cover—okay, fine. Yeah. See you in a minute." He hung up and put his phone away, then let out a string of curses that made Twilight wince. "This could get messy," he told her.
* * * * *
"We've got a new problem, girls," Sunset said as she looked around the room. "Flash and Twilight are being chased by a Manticore."
"A what now?" Rainbow asked.
"Big lion with bat wings and a scorpion tail," Luna said. "You need to study mythology."
"But...they're in Flash's car, right?" Fluttershy asked. "I mean, his car is really fast."
"Yeah, but so's the Manticore," Sunset said. "They're almost here, it's right behind them, and if they stop the car and get out, they'll be that thing's dinner."
"So what do we do?" Rainbow asked.
Sunset shrugged. "I don't know," she said. "Manticores don't really have any weaknesses. I mean if we had a shotgun or something, we'd have a chance..."
Everybody looked at Applejack. She blinked. "Whut?" After a moment, she narrowed her eyes. "Okay that's just stereotypin'."
"Sorry," Sunset said.
"Ah do have an idea, though," Applejack said. When all attention returned to her, she rubbed her chin thoughtfully. "We need ta get everybody with a big, tough car or truck out there runnin' interference, and..." Her eyebrows drew down. "Ah reckon it's gotta be weak t' noise. Most critters are."
Rainbow's eyes widened. "Vinyl!" she said. "That rolling bass cannon!"
"It's as good an idea as any," Sunset said. Her phone was already out and she was rapidly texting. "Let's get everybody to meet up in the back parking lot. We need to hurry."
In less than five minutes, a small crowd had assembled in the parking lot. There were a lot of surprised gasps and exclamations at what they found waiting there: Flash was driving wide circles around the lot, the Manticore following him and swiping at his rear windshield with its claws while roaring angrily.
Sunset eyed the scene nervously. "Okay. Fluttershy, Big Mac, Bulk Biceps, look for an opening and go. You three can give Flash some breathing room."
"I'll do my best."
"Vinyl, once it's distracted, you get into position and drop the bass." Vinyl gave Sunset a thumbs-up and a confident grin. "Applejack, if we do manage to drop that thing, be ready to rope it."
"You got it, sugarcube!"
Sunset watched Flash make another lap, the Manticore right on his tail. She took a deep breath. "MOVE!"
"YYYYEAH!" Bulk Biceps bellowed as he charged like a linebacker toward his heavy-duty pickup truck.
"Eeeeyupyupyupyupyup," Big Mac chanted as he sprinted to the busted old Apple Family pickup.
"Oh my goodness," Fluttershy whispered over and over to herself as she ran, terrified, toward her large, beat-up old van.
Starting their engines, they backed out and lined up, waiting for Flash to make his next pass. Once Flash was in position, Sunset yelled, "GO!"
Flash shifted and floored it, redlining his car and pulling ahead of the Manticore. At the same time, three bulky vehicles lurched out into the lane. The Manticore couldn't correct its furious charge in time and slammed into the side of Fluttershy's van, then fell back into the bed of Mac's pickup. It staggered to its feet and shook its head, then roared angrily.
"SCATTER!" Sunset yelled, and the four vehicles took off in different directions, running criss-crossing circuits of the parking lot. The Manticore took wing, glaring around in confusion and roaring challenges at the four moving vehicles.
"It's working!" Rainbow cried, pumping a fist.
"Give it one more pass, get it good and confused," Sunset said. They waited with bated breath. "Okay, GO!"
Vinyl sprinted to her car, jumped in, and transformed it into its mobile party platform mode. Choosing her favorite dubstep mix, she cranked the bass all the way up and dropped it. The entire school shook from the force of Vinyl's wubs; the Manticore roared in confusion and thrashed madly in midair, its tail writhing angrily as it glared in every direction.
Bulk stopped his truck, jumped out, and climbed into the bed. He hefted a massive barbell, drew back, and hurled it at the Manticore. It struck the beast in the head, and the Manticore went down in a heap.
"Now, Applejack!" Sunset cried. Applejack nodded and rushed out as the other vehicles stopped; she made short work of hog-tying the stunned Manticore, which she and Big Macintosh hefted into the bed of Bulk's truck.
"YEAH!" Bulk roared. "WHAT DO WE DO WITH IT?"
"Good question," Sunset said as she walked up. "I'm open to sugges—"
The Manticore roared and rose up out of the bed of the truck on its wings. It struggled against Applejack's ropes; the teens watched in horror as it broke free and landed, glaring menacingly at all of them and spreading its wings wide.
"Oh crap!" Rainbow Dash yelped, backing away with wide eyes.
Twilight and Flash, who had just pulled up next to the truck, stood against the side of Flash's car, quaking in terror. "Oh...oh no..." Twilight whimpered, clutching Flash's arm.
"We are so boned," Flash groaned.
"What do we do now?" Celestia asked Sunset.
Sunset stared at the Manticore in fear. "I...I got nothing!" she cried.
The Manticore turned to Flash and Twilight and reared, its intent to pounce evident as it raised its tail menacingly above its head...
The back door of Fluttershy's van burst open, and a large man with dark blue skin and short, stiff blond hair burst out. He wore faded blue canvas pants, white shoes, and a white T-shirt with the sleeves ripped off, revealing beefy biceps. He leapt upon the Manticore and grabbed its tail, wrenching it back and shoving the deadly tip up the beast's own ass.
The Manticore let out a surprised mewl as its eyes flew open wide.
The man stepped back and shoved the beast with his foot. It fell over on its side, its eyes rolling up in its head.
"Well, that takes care of that," he said in a soft tenor with just a hint of a Trottingham accent.
Pinkie Pie gasped sharply. "Convicted serial anal rapist Ben Dover!"
Convicted serial anal rapist Ben Dover bowed, smiling pleasantly. "At your service," he said. He looked around at the crowd of teenagers and two adults. "Hmm. Shame I'm here on business instead of pleasure," he said.
"Somebody grab him, I'm calling the police!" Luna said as she pulled out her phone.
"Wait!" convicted serial anal rapist Ben Dover said, holding up his hands. "Believe it or not, I'm here to help!"
"What do you mean?" Sunset asked slowly, brow furrowing in confusion.
"And what were you doing in my van?" Fluttershy asked dangerously, glaring at him.
"Pretending to be a bag of deer feed," convicted serial anal rapist Ben Dover said. He chuckled, then looked around the parking lot. "As to why I'm here...I came here because of the cracks." Everyone present gasped, horrified, stricken, and angry expressions on their faces. He rolled his eyes. "Not THOSE cracks," he said. "I mean the cracks in reality! I'm not just a convicted serial anal rapist, I'm also a paranormal researcher."
"You are?" most of the girls cried.
"Well, yes," convicted serial anal rapist Ben Dover said. "I'm also a concert violinist, a contributor to several magazines, and until my unfortunate conviction, I was developing a new therapy for cancer." He shook his head. "But that's not important. I take it this terrible beast is just one symptom of the problem?"
"That's right," Sunset said. "There's a parallel world full of magic. Two weeks ago, we had an incident here and the barrier between worlds was severely breached. I was able to seal most of the breaches, but it looks like I missed some."
"Interesting," convicted serial anal rapist Ben Dover said, nodding. "And have you a plan to deal with this?"
Twilight walked up, wearing the power pack for her magic draining gun on her back. The weapon itself was held in both hands and emitting a satisfyingly loud hum. "We do now," she said.
"Capital!" Convicted serial anal rapist Ben Dover said, clapping his hands. "Well then, I'll just hang around and observe until you seal the breaches, and then I'm afraid I must continue my escape from the law."
"You ain't goin' nowhere, convicted serial anal rapist Ben Dover!" Applejack said. "C'mon, Big Mac, let's—"
The foul stench of the Timberwolf's breath wasn't warning enough as the wooden monster came charging around the corner, smashing its way through the parking lot. It roared menacingly as it leapt toward the crowd, wooden fangs dripping sap.
With a yelp, Twilight aimed her magic sucking ray and fired. The twisty yellow beam that warped and warbled out of the device slammed into the Timberwolf; it froze in midair, eyes wide with surprise as a spiral stream of green magic flowed out of it and down the length of the beam. Lights began flashing on Twilight's device as a meter on the backpack went deep into the red; a loud 'ding!' sounded from her backpack, a green LED lighting up solid as the needle went back to normal. Twilight ceased fire, and the Timberwolf fell out of the air with a wooden clatter, collapsing into nothing but a massive pile of kindling and leaves.
"Fascinating," convicted serial anal rapist Ben Dover said.
Celestia let out a long sigh of relief. "That's everything but the Turducken and the Phoenix," she said.
Sunset surrendered Twilight's tracker to her; she began adjusting its dials, then walked off in the direction of the track. The entire curious crowd followed her, leaving the violated and unconscious Manticore and the scattered remnants of the Timberwolf lying in the parking lot.
* * * * *
"Yep," Rainbow Dash said. "That's a crack."
"That," convicted serial anal rapist Ben Dover said, "is a magnificent crack."
"You would know," Rarity muttered.
"Why yes," convicted serial anal rapist Ben Dover purred, "I would." Rarity shuddered and took two steps further away.
Sunset, her friends, the assorted students helping them, the two principals, and convicted serial anal rapist Ben Dover stood staring at a massive, glowing gash in reality that began roughly eight inches off the ground above the grassy field in the center of the school track, extending roughly twelve feet up and seven feet across at its widest point. Warping purple energy surrounded it, and the edges glowed a vibrant green-black.
"Okay how did nobody notice this?" Sunset asked.
"Because it was invisible to the naked eye," a cultured female voice said, "until I brought its true form nigh."
Everyone blinked. Applejack scratched her head. "Now who in th' heck said that?"
The voice chuckled. "Do not be alarmed, my human friends," she said. "We are quite different, but seek the same ends."
And then a zebra stepped into view.
She had numerous burlap pouches hanging from woven straps that criss-crossed her striped back. Gold bands encircled her throat and forelegs; large gold hoops dangled from her ears. Her striped mane was styled in a tall, stiff mohawk.
She smiled at them and dipped her head. "A pleasure to meet you all," she said. "I am surprised—you humans are rather tall!"
"Is that...is that a talking zebra?!" Rainbow cried in disbelief.
"Oh my," Fluttershy said, blinking.
Pinkie jumped forward excitedly. "A talking zebra!" she exclaimed. "Is your name Kevin?"
The zebra chuckled. "Alas it is not, Pinkie Pie, for I am a mare, and such a name belongs to a guy." She winked.
A lavender pony with broad, feathery wings and a horn stepped into view beside the zebra. Her straight violet mane had a familiar magenta streak, and her expressive purple eyes took in the group with familiarity and affection. "Hey everyone," she said.
A gasp rose from most of the group. "TWILIGHT?!"
"Yeah..." Princess Twilight Sparkle scratched the back of her head with a hoof and laughed sheepishly. "This...is the real me." She inclined her head to the zebra beside her. "And this is my friend Zecora."
"Twilight, it's so good to see you again!" Sunset said, kneeling down to get on Princess Twilight's eye level.
Princess Twilight smiled. "It's good to see you again too," she said. "Even though it's only been a couple of weeks this time." Her expression turned serious. "How bad is it over there?"
"We've already dealt with most of it," Sunset said. "The Cockatrice and the Timberwolf are dead. The Manticore's out cold, the Phoenix isn't a threat, and the only thing we still haven't managed to deal with is the Turducken. It's running loose somewhere in the school."
Princess Twilight blinked. "How the heck did you kill a Timberwolf?"
Twilight stepped forward, waving apprehensively at her pony double. "With this," she said, holding up her magic sucking gun. "I drained its magic and contained it."
Princess Twilight nodded. "Good thinking," she said. "Actually, that device might help solve all of this if it's powerful enough." She flicked an ear. "We've found five cracks of various sizes all over the Everfree Forest. Closing them from this side would require a trip to Canterlot." Glancing aside, she muttered, "Discord is inconveniently on vacation with Fluttershy this week, or we could fix all this in five seconds." She shook her head. "Anyway, if you can track and eliminate the cracks from your side, everything should go back to normal." She paused. "Of course, if any more magical beasts from the Everfree get through before you can seal the cracks, you'll have to deal with them on your own."
Sunset nodded. "I think we've got it covered," she said. Laughing, she added, "Honestly, I don't think any of those creatures knew what hit them."
"It's unfortunate that you had to kill some of them," Princess Twilight said with a frown, "but if it was necessary in order to protect your world, then..."
"Loss of life is lamented," Zecora agreed, "but the denizens of the Everfree can be quite demented."
"Well, we've still got a baby Phoenix and a Turducken to deal with," Sunset said. "I guess I can just bring the Phoenix through the portal so you can return it to the wild."
Princess Twilight shook her head. "If I know my Fluttershies, it's already imprinted on her," she said. "And, well..." She glanced significantly at Fluttershy, a knowing smirk on her face. "I doubt she wants to give up something that cute."
Fluttershy blushed. Everyone laughed.
"But...won't the mama bird...?"
Princess Twilight shook her head. "The only adult Phoenixes in the Everfree right now disappeared three moons ago. The chicks are on their own. It's probably better off in your world, even if it doesn't really belong there."
"It'll be interesting to have a real live non-mythical Phoenix in our world," Celestia mused.
"You should return the Manticore to this place," Zecora said. "I believe it will be relieved to see a friendly face."
"What about the Turducken?" Rainbow Dash asked.
Princess Twilight and Zecora looked at one another and shrugged. "Kill it," Twilight said. "Kill it and eat it. It's too dangerous to let something like that run free and we do not want it back."
"Kill it?" Fluttershy cried, her voice breaking off in a strangled squeak.
"Well, yeah," Princess Twilight said. "That's what we did the last time one of those stupid birds got loose in Ponyville. There's not much else you can do with a rampaging Turducken." She smiled. "Besides, it tastes pretty good!"
"Horses...eat birds?" Luna stage-whispered to her sister. Celestia shrugged.
"Anyway, you'd better get busy before anything else slips through," Princess Twilight said. She beamed brightly. "It was nice seeing you all a...gain..." Her ears folded back and her eyes widened as she noticed who was standing behind the other Twilight. "Flash?"
Flash was staring at her, jaw slack. At the sound of his name, he waved distractedly, his expression never changing.
"Well...we should be going," Princess Twilight said. "I don't really wanna be anywhere near this crack when Twilight sucks up its magic. She waved a wing. "Goodbye, everybody!"
"Bye, Twilight!" Pinkie yelled happily.
Sunset smiled. "Goodbye, Twilight. I'll write soon!"
Princess Twilight nodded, then turned and, with a mighty flap of her wings, soared off into the forest beyond. Zecora smiled at all of them, inclined her head, and trotted off after her.
A long, silent moment passed. Everyone stood in awkward silence.
"Well, I guess we should split up into teams to deal with cleanup," Principal Celestia said. "Luna, you should dismiss the students. Bulk, Big Mac, go grab that Manticore and bring it here. Rainbow Dash, Applejack, get the fire axes and hunt down that stupid bird." She looked around the group. "Twilight, you and Sunset close the cracks. Everyone e—" She broke off. "Wait a second. Something isn't right here."
The group looked around in confusion.
Pinkie gasped. "Convicted serial anal rapist Ben Dover! He's gone!"
"Dammit!" Luna snarled.
"Well, the police will catch him eventually," Celestia said. "Come on, everyone. This day isn't over yet, and we've got a hell of a mess to clean up."
As everyone scattered to deal with their various tasks, Sunset overheard Flash mutter distantly:
"You know...I think I'm over her now."
Sunset rolled her eyes.
* * * * *
"Well, time to close this crack," Sunset said. Twilight stepped forward and started sucking up the magic; the crack warped and wobbled, slowly closing before, after almost a full minute, sealing completely with a bright flash.
Twilight let out a sigh. "That was the last one," she said, wiping sweat from her brow.
"What a day," Pinkie said as she plopped down on a bench next to the other girls. "I don't know about you girls, but I'm pooped!"
"At least it's over now," Sunset said. "Too bad school's gonna be cancelled for a week while they fix all the damage, huh?"
"About that," Rainbow said, cracking her knuckles. "I say we head down to Canterlittle, soak up some rays for a few days. We've earned it!"
Sunset laughed. "Canterlittle, huh? Yeah, I'm down with that."
"I just hope we didn't miss anything important," Twilight said.
* * * * *
Several hours later and several miles away from Canterlot High School...
A massive, muscular blue minotaur leapt out from behind a tall bush. "Iron Will demands to know where Iron Will is!" he roared, flexing his biceps and posing impressively.
Convicted serial anal rapist Ben Dover looked him up and down, a slow smile spreading across his face as he licked his lips. "Well hello there," he said with a suggestive leer.
Iron Will stared at him, then backed away slowly. "Iron Will needs an adult..."
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