On a Cross and Arrow
By Conner Cogwork
Twilight and her five friends are transported during a botched spell, across dimensions to... Ponyville, Equestria? But not the same one that they knew. Sitting on a bench is Harpsy and Babar. The Doctoress avoids apples from an aspiring Applebuck. And in a library across town, six stallions join their forces as they try to decipher the appearance of filly look-alikes of themselves around Ponyville!
Image credit is to Stellarina! Thanks!
On a Word Misheard
"Spike, can you be a dear and get me 'Rules of Thermodynamics 101?"
"Sure thing Twilight, hang on."
The lavender mare nodded to her assistant as he rushed off, before turning back to her book. It was a book that she had managed to find only a few minutes ago. A mysterious title labeled 'Exploring the Aether for Fun and Profit'.
She'd already managed to work her way halfway through the volume, her curiosity continually piqued more and more as she delved deeper. It was a traveler's guide, and she was doubly pleased to see that it was aimed AT unicorns, a spell popping up every now and then on the pages.
Some of these, she could see adding to her normal repertoire. The compass spell in particular, she resolved to commit to memory. That would be extremely handy, should she ever wind up inside the Everfree once again. Another, was a 'foodstuff sanitizer'. Definitely keeping that one. she thought to herself, reminded of her one trip outside Equestrian borders to Mexicolt. Never again would she have to suffer Mountezuma's Revenge.
And then finally, her eyes alighted upon a really good one that made her bounce in place in anticipation. It was a teleportation spell, but reading it over, she saw it was significantly more advanced than the one she utilized regularly. This required a ritual. While lengthy and complex, the benefit was that it offered instant travel to any location on the globe, and for the caster to be accompanied by a party of up to 10 ponies at once.
I know ten ponies. she mused. But there are five in particular that I'd love to invite!
It had been then that she had asked her dragon friend to retrieve the physics guide. Transferring 6 ponies over that much distance, in such a short amount of time, was bound to create some sort of heat-lash, even in ether form.
Her eyes glanced at the spell that rested below the teleportation one. Sharing the same page was a simple viewing spell. One that offered glimpses into parallel dimensions. Very interesting. Exciting even... she gave it the once over, before adding ...But not very practical. Maybe another time.
Spike arrived with the tome in-hand. "Here we are Twilight." he spoke, plopping a rather hefty volume next to the unicorn's current book. "Whoosh. Anymore heavy lifting like that, and I'll be as ripped as Applejack."
"There's a disturbing thought." Twilight joked, before her horn lit and the book opened up. Within moments, she double-checked her theories on energy buildup and release, before comparing them with the spell. Yes... yes, it COULD work! Leylines, of course!
There was then a slam, as the student announced her next intention. "Spike, pack my bags. I'm going on a trip."
That caught the dragon by surprise. "Wh-what? Trip? B-but Twilight, where're we going?"
"Not 'We' Spike, I need you to remain at the library and keep it running. You're a big dragon now. I have full confidence in you to keep the place in tip-top condition while I'm gone. Besides, the trip shouldn't take that long. Two, three days at the most."
He blinked. He'd taken custodianship of the library before, but never for a whole day. Not even THREE whole days. "W-wow... Twilight, I'm... I'm touched! Y-you can count on me!" His scaled chest puffed out in pride. "I won't let you down!"
The filly giggled. "I know you won't." she assured, as she prepared a saddlebag, taking her travel book, and her bitpurse. "Just remember to tell Owlowicious when it's his turn!"
"Oh..." Spike's ears drooped as he was reminded he'd be sharing his duties. But he let it slide as another question entered his mind. "Wait a second, where are you going anyways?"
As Twilight trotted towards the door and opened it, she looked back at her assistant. "Don't know yet!" she exclaimed. "But I bet it's gonna be VERY educational!"
"Ah spell that lets y'all go anywhere at th' drop o' a hat?"
"That's right Applejack!" The unicorn nodded to her Earth-pony friend, who was bringing in the last wagon full of apples for the day. "It'll also let me take as many ponies as I want with me! Well, up to a maximum of ten actually, but you get the idea!"
Applejack hummed in thought, a hoof going up to tilt her hat back. "Sounds mighty temptin', Twi. Tell meh... y'all got a place 'n mind?"
"Not yet. I was hoping you all would have ideas."
"Hmmm.... welp, ah got a day 'r so off comin' up. An' ah admit, it's been a while since ah last saw that Big Apple... Manehatten sit alright wit' you?"
"Manehatten sounds WONDERFUL darling!" Rarity crooned. "Seriously Applejack, it never ceases to amaze me that you've been to such a capital of glamour and class!"
AJ simply rolled her eyes as she leaned against one of the boutique's walls. Twilight simply smiled. "She's offered to give us a tour of the city. We could use the spell to go there, spend the day, and then come back!"
"Certainly sounds like a plan to me, dear!" With that, the white mare's horn glowed, as a saddlebag and various other items began to float out into the open. "Oh you'll simply must excuse me now dears. I have a lot of packing to do!"
The other two chuckled and began to depart, before the purple pony stopped in her tracks. "Oh, Rarity, if you can, pack plenty of rubies. We'll be needing them."
That earned her a surprised look. "Rubies? Wh-why ever for dear?"
"The spell is a ritual-based one." she explained, head craned up to look at the cloud above her. "And that's one of items required, if we're going to pull it off successfully."
"A blue feather?" Rainbow Dash had an eyebrow cocked. "I mean yeah, I've got plenty of them, but I kinda, y'know, need them for flying. I had a new stunt I was wanting to try today..."
"C'mon now Dash, ah know it tain't THAT hard." The applebucker was directing her voice upwards. "Pegasuses tend t'molt every now an' 'gain, don't they?"
"That's PeguSAI." Rarity corrected.
The vibrant-maned speedster looked vaguely uncomfortable. "It's... not something we really like to talk about to... other non-winged ones..." she then hurriedly cast her rose-colored eyes back downwards. "No offense to you guys! Just... okay, tell you what, I'm in. I have a few down feathers that're coming loose anyways. Still think I could fly to Manehatten in less time than your spell, but if you really need the Dash..."
"Oh THANK you!" came the smile, followed by a hug. Fluttershy returned both readily, as she embraced Twilight.
"Oh, it's no problem at all, Twilight. I had been given these vases anyways, as a gift from White Wash, for taking care of his ferrets." The yellow pony gestured to the two ceramic containers, each one about the size of a bottle of soda. "I was originally thinking of putting cut roses in them, but this is better."
"Glad t' hear it, Fluttershy." Applejack smiled, giving her a pat on the back. "Ah promise, Manehatten may be pretty loud, but Central Park's as relaxin' a place as any 'round. The critters there're so tame, they'll eat th' bread right outta yer hooves, if not straight outta yer bag!"
"O-oh my~" the animal-lover's eyes practically glowed. "I'll have to be sure to pack plenty of bread then! And, and carrots, for the bunnies, and seeds for the birds, a-and nuts for the squirrels, and fish for the alligators..."
"And CUPCAKES for the ponies!!" Pinkie Pie chimed in, twirling about Sugarcube Corner's kitchen floor with a plate full of the treats balanced on her head.
"Yes yes, Pinkie." Rarity waved a hoof at her hyperactive friend. "We're all quite aware of a pony's predilection for those pastries."
"Actually, Pinkie." The purple unicorn stepped forward as her eyes scanned the spellbook hovering in front of her. "I need a different item. Not that I don't like cupcakes too, but would you happen to have any sunflower oil?"
The party pony stopped her dance, eyes slightly crossed as she processed the request. "Sunflower oil? Sure, I got some! But that wouldn't taste very good with the cupcakes! I mean, I guess you could make cupcakes with sunflower oil instead of regular vegetable oil, but I've never had a need to do that. Hmmm, though that would be interesting to try, I wonder what kind of taste that would give to the-"
"PINKIE-PIE~!" Rainbow yelled, startling her friend out of her rant. "Just get us the stuff, please?"
A pause, before the cheerful response of "Okie-dokie-Lokie!"
Ten minutes later, all six ponies reconvened at the outskirts of Ponyville. Each pony had packed light... this was just supposed to be a day-trip after all.
However, it seemed that somepony had forgotten to tell Rarity that, as she slowly made it to the top of the hill that Dash, Applejack, Pinkie and Fluttershy were lounging on.
"Woah." The farmer went, as she caught the size of the dressmaker's baggage. "Think y'all packed enough jewels in there, Rarity?"
"That, and a few other things~" she responded, trying to keep the strain out of her voice. "This is Manehatten we're going to, after all. I must SIMPLY be prepared to look my best, wherever we head to!"
"Y'all may not cotton to it as much o' all that, Rares. Ah seem t' recall th' streets bein' awfully crowded... and dirty."
The look that came over the pale unicorn's face was enough to set Rainbow off guffawing.
The timid yellow pony simply shook her head, before turning to her blue-coated friend. "What are you going to be doing there, Dash?" she asked. "I hear that flying there is tricky, isn't it?"
"Oh yeah, that's what I hear." came the answer. "But the updrafts are supposed to be wicked awesome for stunt-flying! Maybe I'll be able to pull off my new trick while I'm there!"
"Oh, oh, don't forget the food!" The pink pony leapt up, her hooves waving in the air. "I know there's supposed to be SUPER-DUPER yummy restaurants around there! Like Lombardi's Pizzeria, and Cha Cha's, in Little Itallion!" She then pantomimed tossing a pizza crust into the air. "I can't WAIT to try them all!"
There was a round of chuckling and giggling from all fillies present, before the cyan pegasus looked off to the side. "Oop, better straighten up girls, our ride's here."
Indeed, Twilight Sparkle was trotting up the hill, her saddlebag secured to her side, and the spellbook on her back. As she drew closer, she called out to them. "Sorry girls! Had to stop by the library and grab my bags. Also had to promise Spike I'd pick up a slice of pizza while we were gone."
"Shore thing!" Applejack drawled. "What kind does he like?"
"Peppers and Emeralds with Extra Cheese."
"If we are going to eat out," Rarity began, "I must insist that we try the Deloco Rooteria. It's a five-star establishment you know, where only the best-"
"Nuh-uh." the orange equine suddenly vetoed her idea. "Tain't goin' within twelve feet o' that place."
There was a surprised blink. "Why Applejack, why ever not?"
"Cause Ah've eaten there b'fore." she stated flatly. "Too much money fer not enough food. Twenty-four bits fer a steamed turnip 'n some chives? Ah'll take one o' them carrot-dog stands any day o' th' week!"
"Was this back when you were a filly?"
"Girls." came a commanding voice. The dark-maned unicorn was giving them all an odd look. "We'll discuss eating arrangements after we've arrived. Let's focus on getting there first. Fluttershy... you have the vase?"
The yellow one nodded, and dug into her pack, retrieving one of the white vessels, placing it on an even patch of ground. Twilight opened her book, found the spell, and began reciting from it.
"A vessel of white, to hold the down."
"Okay, step one." Applejack stated cheerfully. "What next?"
"Hmmm... A feather of blue, to match the sky 'round."
All eyes turned to Rainbow Dash, who fidgeted for just a second, before extending a wing out. She reached her head back there, inspected her feathers, and then singled one out, gripping it in her teeth and plucking it, with only a slight wince and an 'ow' from her lips.
"Thank you, Dash." the unicorn soothed, as the pegasus dropped the feather inside the vase. "Also inside the vase, we need... A stone of fire, from light which grows..."
Rarity levitated a ruby from her saddlepack, the surface gleaming flawlessly. With a smile, she nudged it down into the ceramic vessel, trying to disturb Dash's feather as little as possible.
"And finally, Pinkie. The essence of flower, for which the sun glows!"
The named equine stepped up, a bottle of oil in her mouth. With disturbing ease, and with nary a drop spilled, the golden substance poured into the vase. "Fill it about halfway, that should be more than enough." the magician instructed.
The finished conglomeration sat there in the middle of the group, eyes all upon it. "Ho'kay, sugarcube..." Applejack began. "Now what?"
"Now, everypony huddle around the vase. And just let me do the work." There was a confident smile.
They did as they were told. Twilight took one more glance at the spellbook, and then lowered her head as she concentrated. A glow began to coalesce around the vase, purple at first, but then turning to a bright gold as the items contained within began to react with one another.
"Oooh, preeety~" Pinkie sang as the light began to intensify. After a couple of seconds, the glow began to expand, encompassing the entire group within its borders. Rarity wasn't sure if the tingle she was getting was only being felt by her, or if her friends were feeling it too.
Okay. Twilight thought to herself. So far so good. Now I just need to find the leyline... the one that directs me straight to the Clydesler Building. That'd be a good place to start. Now let's see...
In her mind's eye, she began to perceive the waves of energy, usually unseen to the naked eye, that danced and cavorted about them. She spotted at least a dozen different streams that seemed to go in all directions. Tapping into one of those and then riding its current, would provide the teleportation needed. But she couldn't... quite make them out. They were fuzzy... indistinct. She wasn't sure which one she needed. I must not be properly tuned right. she realized. What frequency? I need to double-check.
She opened an eye, her vision blurred slightly from strain. But she spotted the frequency reading on the page in front of her. 40.1 Kiimehertz.
She readjusted her horn's magic output... and instantly a new layout became visible to her, a land of lines that resembled the webs of cracked glass. One in particular popped out to her, and if she was perceiving it right, it seemed to be stretching out into the northeast, in the general direction of Manehatten.
That's probably as close as we're gonna get. she told herself, and then tapped into the line.
What happened next, was not covered in her book. Instantly, she felt a whirlwind of energy emitting from the point she had touched. No, it wasn't coming from inside the line... it was coming from herself! It was sucking them in!
In the waking world, the glow that was surrounding the group had suddenly turned violent, ripples of wind thrashing their manes, as a pillar of light exploded from the vase and pierced into the sky.
"TWILIGHT!" Applejack had to strain to make herself heard of the roar of air. "Y'ALL SURE THIS IS S'POSSED T' HAPPEN, SUGARCUBE!?"
"NO, I'M NOT SURE!" Twilight yelled back. "JUST KEEP TOGETHER! EVERYPONY, HANG ON!!"
The magic field began to compress, the forms of the six mares inside becoming smaller and indistinct as well. A rumble like thunder began, before it opened and cracked as the field suddenly leapt upwards, following the pillar into the sky. With a blinding flash, both the glowing column and the wind died away.
The only things left on the hill, was a smoldering vase, and an open book, its pages ruffling listlessly in the breeze.
The first thing she became aware of, was grass tickling her cheek.
With a groan, Twilight righted herself. What... happened? She didn't think a teleportation spell would have involved a pillar of light. She found herself wincing as her horn throbbed. Nor did I think it'd take so much OUT of me! She groggily turned her head to take in the surrounding scene.
She found herself relieved to see that her friends were present and accounted for. They too, were all in various states of confusion and wooziness. Dash was the first to have gotten to her feet, and was experimentally taking a few steps, angling herself towards Fluttershy to assist her. Applejack was on her back, doing a fair impression of Ditzy Doo, and Rarity's face had seemingly frozen in a expression of wild-eyed terror. Unsurprisingly, Pinkie had landed on her front, forelegs and neck supporting her body as her hindhooves kicked in the air.
There was also a manic grin on her face. "Whoooo!! Let's do that again!"
"I-i-if... if that's a-all right with you..." the yellow pegasus stuttered as Rainbow helped her to her feet. "I'd... I'd rather not."
"Same here, Fluttershy." Twilight responded. "I'm sorry about that guys. Had no idea the landing would be so... rough."
"Y'all SHORE that light show there was expected n' all?' AJ questioned, as she rolled back onto her side. "Y'all seemed awful panicked there. Did it work right? Actually..." her green eyes began to roam the landscape about them. "How come I ain't seein' th' Statue o' Miss Li-Bray-ty?"
Now the purple unicorn took the time to look beyond her group. They were sitting on a grassy hill. The sun was still in the same position in the sky. Off in the distance, she saw the treeline of a forest. And over to the side, she spied the rooftops of a sleepy little village. She had a feeling that if she was close enough, she'd see a sign along it's border that said 'Welcome to Ponyville'.
They were right where they'd started.
"What the HAY?!" Rainbow exclaimed, taking in the sight. "All that flashing and blowing, and we haven't even budged a yard!"
"Calm down Dash, we don't know what happened." the magician groaned, leaning back and rubbing her forehead. "Okay. First off. Let's take stock. Is everypony okay?"
"I... I'm fine dear." Rarity finally spoke, coming out of her stupor. "I apologize, that was just... quite more than I had expected, really. Twilight, I never knew you had so... so MUCH in you!"
Why did that make her blush? She shook her head and directed herself at each pony in turn. "You Applejack?"
"Ah'm alright sugarcube. It'll take more 'n that t' scare th' cutiemarks offa me."
"I'm a bit frustrated that we've just spent time I could have been using practicing, going nowhere at all. Other than that, I'm fine."
"Oh, um, I'm okay, really Twilight. Though I admit, that was... um... rather... s-scary..."
"I thought it was fun! Can we doitagain Twilight, HuhHuhHuh?!"
Twilight simply rolled her eyes, as she finally got to her hooves. "I'm sorry girls. But whatever the spell did, it took a FAIR amount of magic out of me. I don't think the book said anything about-"
She looked down at the ground where she had sat the tome. It was gone.
"Gah!" she shrieked, causing all present to jump. "My travel book! It's gone!!"
She got a nudge from the white mare. "Dear, that's not ALL that's gone. The vase is missing too!"
There was a frantic searching of the immediate premises that proved fruitless. Both the spellbook, and their ritual machina, had disappeared without a single trace.
"Well great." their pegasus friend grumped. "Apparently, the spell did work. Just not for us. I hope my feather's enjoying the view from the Brookmare Bridge."
"Now now Dash, don't be goin' 'n getting yer tail all inna knot." Applejack stated, before walking up to Twilight. "Hon, yer th' one wit' th' skills. Lay it out fer us. What happened, exactly?"
The lavender pony bit her lip. "Well... I'll be honest, I think... I think the spell did work, and we did move..." she lowered her head, and tried to activate her horn, but only a few sparks flew from it's tip. "I've used up so much magic... If it had just been the vase and the book that had teleported, that wouldn't have been the case! But... that still doesn't explain why we're in the same spot that we started from..."
Fluttershy's eyes flew open. "Twilight! What if... I mean, I know I don't usually say this, but, what IF... we moved in other ways instead? I mean, I've read about it in those Neighponese comics Scootaloo lets me borrow."
Dash quirked an eyebrow. "I never knew you read Nann-ga. The science-fiction ones, or those icky schoolfilly ones?"
"Hold on, hold on." Twilight interrupted, a hoof to her chin. "You mentioned other kinds of travel. You're talking something like along the lines of... time-travel, aren't you?"
A silence descended upon them so quickly, it made the butter-pony go 'eep!' in surprise.
"You know." Rarity got to all four hooves, shouldering her pack. "There's really only one way to find out."
"ADVENTURE!!" Pinkie cheered for all present.
All six mares ponied up and began their trek into town, each one with a vague sense of unease within their stomachs. Well, all but one, her stomach was simply empty, and she was craving fudge. They left the scene, the breeze ruffling the grass they had previously trampled. Within a few minutes time, any sign that they had been there, was gone with them.
Nopony saw the unicorn stallion who advanced on the hill from the other direction, his horn aglow as he checked the site for signs of the flash he had seen minutes earlier.
"Holy horseapples!" he exclaimed, catching the leftover energy residue. "What in Solaris's kingdom has the power for THAT kinda magic?!"
The fillies' sense of unease increased as they entered Ponyville proper. As far as they knew, it was Ponyville. At least, it had looked like it from outside of town. Inside however...
"IS this Ponyville? Ah mean, th' place looks th' same 'n all." Applejack stated as she strolled through the square. "But ah dun reco'nize any o' these ponies."
Twilight looked around the town herself. The street looked the same. All the architecture was in place. But her friend had a point, Absolutely none of the ponies that milled around the town looked familiar. At least she didn't THINK they did...
"Maybe we... maybe we really DID, y'know, travel in time?" Dash stated, a slight tinge of fear creeping into her voice. "I mean, we c-could be in the past, o-or the future!"
"Rainbow, please." the white unicorn chided. "I would have noticed if this were a different time period. Look." She trotted over to a nearby lamp-post. "This pole has a patina on it, the same as the current state of wear back home, if we're not already there. If this were the past, this would have been new paint, not a bit of erosion. And if this were the future, there would most definitely be rust building around the base and lantern itself."
"A very astute observation, Rarity!" Twilight beamed. "You would have made a great detective, you know!"
As the purple-maned one preened at the comment, she turned back to her friends. "So we can assume that we're still in the present day and age. If we did time-travel at all, it probably has only been by a few days."
Fluttershy glanced around. "But, with so many different ponies around... there must be a holiday going on. And there's not a Ponyville holiday for another month or so. At least, I don't THINK there is..."
"What holiday would that be?" Twilight asked.
"Oh! Oh! Memememe!" the party pony suddenly leapt. "The CLOVER DERBY! Everypony gathers in the park when all the clover leaves are in bloom and they all lineup and run through the fields picking as many clovers at they can! The one who finds a FOUR-LEAF clover is the WINNER!"
"Though usually, it comes down'ta whoever comes in first." Applejack finished. "Four-leaves bein' so rare 'n all."
"Hey!" Dash interjected. "If it IS the Clover Derby today, what say we enter!?" She hovered in the air, eyes alight and current plight momentarily forgotten.
Rarity clicked her tongue. "Dearie, we have more important matters to worry about at the moment. Though I do agree that if that's what the case is, then let's head to the park."
"The sooner the better." Twilight agreed. "I'd like to know if I've missed a month of friendship reports or not."
The group galloped off, only Pinkie trailing slightly behind. "Ooooh, I LOVE Clovers! Especially on a Radish salad!"
"Well, this looks like a bust."
"It shore looks like it, don't it?" the farmer agreed with the pegasus as they looked over the park. There were ponies in it, but not the huge gaggle usually associated with the running of a race. No, there were ponies playing, eating, chatting, the usual stuff. And they were still all ponies that they had never seen before.
"Oh my." Rarity stated, looking a bit antsy. "At this point, I would even be grateful to see Ditzy Doo! I mean, the mare has SUCH a hard time, but she's STILL a sweetheart!"
"I don't recognize ANY of them!" Twilight groaned, entering a state of panic herself. "How is this even POSSIBLE!? What did the spell DO!? D-did we... are we...?"
An uneasy silence settled over them as they looked to the ground. Which made it easier for Fluttershy to be heard.
"Look!" she exclaimed, as loudly as she was oft to do. She was pointing to a park bench that was facing away from them. "Lyra and BonBon!"
Sure enough, a pair of manes peaked over the edge of the bench's back. A mint-green with a stripe, and a more curly pink-and-purple do.
Suddenly all six mares were tripping over each other as they galloped to the bench. Twilight was the first to round the corner as she spun and faced them. "Lyra! BonBon! It's so good to-"
She stopped in mid-sentence as she stared in wide-eyed confusion. The rest of her group caught up with her, and one-by-one, they too paused and stared, Dash adding a gaping mouth to hers.
The two ponies on the bench were giving them confused looks of their own. The green one was a unicorn, perched on their rear with their back against the rest, hindlegs draped over the edge in exactly the way a pony doesn't sit. Curled up next to the pony, was a cream-coated equine with wide blue eyes.
What surprised the group was the fact that these two also possessed sloped and squared noses, a slightly larger stature, and toned chests. Though the green pony had a lyre cutiemark, and the earth-pony a trio of candies... these two were unmistakably stallions.
"Um..." the not-BonBon started. "Can we help you?"
The group gaped for a second more, before Twilight finally managed to collect her wits. "Oh! I-I'm sorry." she apologized, cheeks going red. "From behind, you two looked just like somepony else we knew."
The male Lyra waved a hoof. "Ahh, that's okay. You'd be surprised how often that happens." He turned to his companion. "Hey Babar, did I ever tell you about the time I participated in the Clover Derby last year? I swore I saw another stallion there who looked just like me, save he was an earth-pony!"
'Babar' chuckled. "I can just imagine it now. New and improved Earth-Pony Harpsy! With Apple-bucking action!"
He got a look, but soon the green one began chuckling alongside his friend, before moving in and giving him an affectionate nuzzle. Somewhere in the back of the group, a butter pegasus went 'Awww~'.
The mint unicorn, Harpsy, turned back to the fillies. "Right, sorry about that. Are you girls new in town? Can't say I've seen you lot here before."
"Oh... um... yeah, we..." Twilight bit her lip. She was faltering in the face of all this information, and she couldn't quite-
"Why yes we are!" Rarity spoke up. "Me and my friends were just passing through. We're on our way to Fillydelphia for a show there, this is our first time in Ponyville!"
"Well then, welcome!" Babar cheered. "If you can, stay around for a spell! You won't find a nicer town in all of Equestria. We can give you a tour, if you'd like!"
"Oh oh!" Pinkie suddenly cheered. "Let's go see Sugarcube Corner! I hear it's the BEST!"
"Actually," Applejack interrupted. "Ain't we runnin' a bit late fer that 'show', Rarity?"
She got a stare in her direction, which she returned. It took a second for the dressmaker to pick up. "Oh! Oh yes, my friend makes a dreadfully good point. I apologize, but we have to depart posthaste. It was mighty good to meet you though!"
"Nice meeting you!" Harpsy responded, waving a hoof. "Be sure to stick around on your return trip!"
"Oh we will!" Rarity responded, turning to follow her friends as they alternatively slunk, stumbled, creeped, or bounced away behind the trees. "Until we meet again!"
The two colts continued to wave as the group progressed out of sight. After a long minute, the earth-pony turned to his friend. "Say... didn't those fillies remind you of a certain other group?"
"Y'know... they did kinda. Can't put my finger on why, but they did remind me of them..."
"... hon, don't you mean 'hoof?'"
"OhmygoshOhmygoshOhmygoshOhmygoshOhmygoshOhmygosh-" Dash was chanting. The implications were hitting her the hardest.
"I can't believe I didn't see it earlier!" Twilight exclaimed, head poking out of the bushes as she took in the surrounding ponyfolk. "But it's TRUE! Everypony IS here, they're just... just, all..."
"SWITCHED!!" Applejack thundered. "Lookit over there! Ain't that th' Professor?!" She was pointing at a tan mare with a spiky mane and an hourglass cutiemark.
"And that, If I'm not mistaken..." Rarity quipped, looking at a lanky purple colt that walked with a slight stagger in his step. "... is quite possibly Berry Punch. Poor thing can't seem to hold their cider as a boy or a girl."
"I-i-i-if every pony here who was a filly back home, is now a colt..." Fluttershy began, trying to wrap her mind around the concept. "Th-then... would that make the Princess, a Prince?"
The student's face turned a bright shade of crimson at the thought. "M-maybe. T-that's not the point! The point is, we at least have a better idea of where we are. We've not really traveled in time... but we did travel in space. We're in an Alternate Universe!"
"Woo!" Pinkie cheered. "Where no mare has gone before!"
"S-space?" Rainbow stuttered, her wings still slightly trembling. "Y-you mean we're not even on the same planet anymore?"
"That's probably a bad word for it." Rarity interjected. "We're still in Equestria. It's just not our Equestria."
The orange equine raised an eyebrow. "Beg pardon sugarcube, but what 'n tarnation's THAT s'posed t'mean?"
"An alternate timeline," Twilight began, launching into her explanation. "Emerges when a set of different circumstances occur. Technically, a new universe is spawned with every decision made or not made, with every event that did or didn't happen. Buuuut, that's probably a bit much to go into..." she grinned sheepishly at the baffled faces before her. She thought for a moment, before her ears perked up. "Rarity, do you have a marker and some ribbons?"
The white mare provided the two materials. As the purple one took them, she started anew. "Let's say that this red ribbon is our native timeline. It's the world which we all grew up in and made us who we are. Now... we all know that Rainbow Dash's first Sonic Rainboom gave us all our Cutie Marks at about the same time, right?"
She got a round of nods. "Good. Now, this isn't a slight against your skill Dash, but let's face it. There was always the chance that you never would have made it, right?"
For a second, it looked like the pegasus wanted to argue against the possibility, but she then closed her eyes and slowly nodded her head.
"There's always the chance that the opposite result, will occur. And when that happens, a whole new chain of events happen." She brought a marker up to the red ribbon, made a dot on it, and then brought up a blue strip to branch away from the point. "And the laws of causality states that every choice has to happen. Somewhere out there, there's a universe where Dash DIDN'T make the Sonic Rainboom. And when she didn't, a new timeline branched off that point. This blue ribbon..." she gave it a wave. "Is that alternate universe."
All the ponies present stared, dumbfounded, as the thought sank in. Even Pinkie was uncharacteristically silent, thinking back on the Rock farm.
"Ah would still be in Manehatten..." Applejack mumbled. "Goll-darn. When we git back, ah'll have'ta pay Aunt 'n Uncle Orange another visit."
"It's not pleasant for me to think about either, what with the test and all." Twilight added. "But what happens, happens. and our other selves have to live with it, like we have to live with what we have."
"But we're NOT living our own lives right now." Rarity spoke. "If what you say is right, we've jumped off our own ribbon, and landed on another."
"Where everypony was born the opposite gender?" Dash quipped. "Well... I can think of worse places to wind up... but still, that's just creepy."
"W-wait," Fluttershy suddenly spoke, her eyes wide. "If everyone here was born the other sex..."
"... what about US?"
A silence reigned. Fillies looked back and forth at each other, a chill going down their spines.
"D-do y'think our... 'selves'... are still here?" Applejack stuttered. "Or d'ya think we out 'n out switched places and they're havin' this conversation right now in our world, wonderin' why th' hay they tain't in Manehatten yet?"
More silence, before Twilight finally narrowed her eyes.
"Only one way to find out. To the Library!"
The plan was half-baked, but a plan was still a plan. The giant tree that served as Ponyville's repository of knowledge loomed close as they galloped towards it. Twilight was relieved to see that there was nothing substantially different about the place on the outside.
Or on the inside, as they piled through the door. It was mercifully empty as they all caught their breath. She took a moment to see that yes, everything was still in perfect order. She felt a surge of pride, even though she knew technically that this wasn't exactly HER library.
"Well, I don't see us." Dash replied, panting as she looked around. "Not that I was really looking forward to that, but still."
"Is this even a good idea?" Rarity quipped. "Twilight, isn't there a rule about time-traveling paradoxes, and meeting yourself in the past?"
"That's time-traveling, not dimension-hopping." the magician replied. "But... I can see what you mean by it."
"What do you mean? W-will something bad happen?" Fluttershy asked, hooves up to her mouth.
"Well... some research ponies believe that it's impossible for the same pony to exist twice in the same place and time. If one meets the other, the both of them might... well..." she bit her lip, not sure if she wanted to say it.
"Go poof?" Pinkie suggested.
"Cease to exist."
"Isn't that what I just said?"
"Pardon me," the applefarmer butted in. "But if that's true, then why 'n tarnation are we all gathered 'round here for? Isn't this one o' our meetin' spots?"
"If our other selves are in this dimension still, then yes, that's a cause for worry." Rarity replied. "Though there's also the case that they're experiencing the same thing we are. In which case, we should be fine."
Suddenly, a voice drifted from above. It was a young voice, slightly squeaky and whiny... but it was female.
"Hello? Anypony down there?"
"Spike!" Twilight hissed under her breath. "Ponyfeathers! We can't stay here, the rest of the other ponyfolk may not have recognized us, but he- er, she surely will!"
"But I thought we were trying to get answers!" Rainbow whispered back. "Somepony's gonna have to stay!"
"It can't be me!" the student exclaimed, quietly. "She'll know me the best!"
"Not me!" Rarity interjected, eyes flickering back and forth. "We all know how the dear feels about me, and I wouldn't want to traumatize!"
"Ah don't trust Pinkie." Applejack whispered, earning her a confused look from the pink pony. "An' I also dun trust mahself, OR Dash, t'go an' start flappin' our mouths." She got another look, rather angry, from the pegasus. "So that just leaves-"
"I'm coming, I'm coming!" came the voice from upstairs again, followed by the patter of dragonoid feet.
Suddenly, Fluttershy found a farmer's hat plopped onto her head, quickly followed by a bright blue scarf from the dressmaker's saddlebag wrapped around her throat and mouth. Then just as suddenly, she was wished a hasty 'good luck!', before finding herself alone in the middle of the library proper, the door still swinging slightly from a hasty departure.
Aqua eyes wide, she began looking around for a hiding place herself, before a purple form ran into view. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I was napping! I'll be down innaWOAA-HOHOAAH!!"
The small dragon had tripped, their journey down the stairs a bumpy one. As they finally landed in a heap at the bottom, Fluttershy got her first good look. The dragoness was still small, about the same size as Spike. Her spines were a lighter green however, almost lime. They were smaller and limp as well, falling down the back of her head not unlike a mane.
The purple lizard got back on her feet, before dusting herself off. "Sorry about that. Just not my day today... oh!" The green eyes finally locked on the yellow pegasus, a look of ease coming over her face. "Heya Butterscotch. Fancy findin' you here. Say... isn't that AJ's hat?"
"O-oh, um, er..." she faltered, not really certain how to answer. "Y-yeah, sh-um... he, let me borrow it for today. I mean, sh-er, he didn't mind, that is..."
Now the dragoness had a look of worry, as an eyebrow was arched. "You okay there, 'Scotch? You're not soundin' like yourself, pony."
An idea came to mind, and she held a hoof up as she pretend-coughed into it. "*Ahack!* Oh, no, I'm... I'm really not. I, well, I caught a cold, and *ahack!* and... well, AJ let me borrow her-*AHACK* I mean, um, his hat, to keep me warm."
"Well now that was mighty neighborly of him!" the femme reptile replied, her eyes now going to the scarf. "And I bet Elusive gave you that too, didn't he? Oh, whatta guy~..." her eyes went misty for a second, before she came back to focus. "Is there anything I can do to help, 'Scotch?"
Fluttershy's eyes returned to scanning the room. Along one window, she saw a multitude of eyes peering in. "Oh, well, um, well, if it isn't too much of a bother, Sp-*ahack!* um... Sp-*ahack!*... um..."
"Aww, c'mon Butterscotch, it's me, Spines." the she-lizard replied, spreading her arms wide. "Only dragon in Ponyville, but you knew that already, right? C'mon brony, lay it on me, can I get'ya anything at all?"
The yellow pony sat in thought for a second. She'd talked herself into this corner, and now she would have to talk herself back out. Too bad she didn't have any Poison Joke on her, the man-voice would have come in handy... wait.
"Um... would you still happen to have 'Supernaturals'?" she asked, before giving another cough.
Spines smiled back. "Sure thing! Just wait right here, I'll get it right quick!"
She found herself grinning beneath her scarf as the dragoness ran off. Despite being a girl, the personality had more-or-less remained the same. And that comforted her on some unexplainable level.
I hope she manages to find it soon. she though to herself. The sooner I can leave, the better.
Outside, five fillies were breathing sighs of relief as they watched and listened.
"Good thinking dear!" Rarity said, more to herself than anypony else. "That was truly inspired, to combine the cover of sickness with the quest for knowledge!"
"That girl can think on 'er feet when it comes right down to it, that's f'sure!" Applejack agreed, a smile plastered on her face.
"So far, so good." Twilight spoke, her eyes still watching the scene inside. "It's still weird to see Spike as a girl, but besides that, she doesn't seem that different. Maybe this universe really is a mirror world, and-"
Her words were cut short by the sound of hoofsteps. Quickly, all the mares ducked back into the shrubbery behind the library sign as the clopping grew closer.
As the steps trotted up to the library door, the student found her curiosity overwhelming. Gently, she activated her horn to allow her a peek through the bushes, as the new pony came into view...
...and she stopped as she saw himself.
"Welp." Applejack whispered. "So much fer mirrors."
Pinkie Pie blinked, a mirror in her mouth. "I'm SFO conffuzfed."
"Spines, I'm home."
Fluttershy's eyes shrunk at the sound of the voice. It was male, but light. Like that of a schoolteacher she had back in Cloudsdale. Slowly she forced her head to turn in the direction of the speaker.
It was a purple unicorn stallion, with a fair build. She found herself thinking of Caramel the most, in regards of structure. His hair was straight-cut, with only a hint of raggedness towards the rear of the mane, his tail echoing the style. Upon his flank, was a familiar pink six-pointed star.
"Oh hey Dusk!" the dragoness called out from atop a ladder. "Just helpin' out Butterscotch with somethin'."
The lavender colt turned his purple eyes upon the pegasus, having apparently missed her earlier. "Oh! Hey there 'Scotch, didn't see you before. Sorry about that." He laughed nervously, rubbing the back of his mane. "Kinda had my head in the clouds, you know."
She was now stammering as she faced down a different face of one of her friends. "It... it... it's alright... I... I... *ahack!*"
Dusk paused, his eyes widening in much the same way as Spine's had earlier. "Wow Butterscotch... you're not sounding too good. You didn't get into the Poison Joke again, did you?"
"He's got a cold." Spines replied, rejoining the two with a green book in her hands. "Here we go, li'l guy. Supernaturals, the one book that woulda saved us all if SOMEPONY hadn't been in such a hurry." She gave a pointed glare to the purple pony, who grinned sheepishly.
"Oh, thank you Sp-Spines." Fluttershy responded, coming forward and taking the book in her own hooves. "This is just what I *ahack!* what I needed."
"Y'know 'Scotch." Dusk began, coming up alongside the winged one. "You could have let me try and find a cure spell for whatever you've got. I mean, I know they say there's no cure for the common cold, but that doesn't mean somepony shouldn't give it a try."
"Oh! Th-tha-thank you, D... D-Dusk." she replied, her tongue tripping over the use of the name. "But, um, you know me... I'd like to try and, well, go the *ahack!* the natural route first... um, this is, if you don't mind..." Inwardly, she was already imagining that if Dusk were anything like her friend, she'd be stuck having to endure experiment after experiment to try and rid her of whatever 'cold' she had.
He smiled at her. "Of course." the purple colt replied, before leaning in and giving her a nuzzle. "Just be sure and wash those clothes before you go giving them back. I bet Applejack wouldn't be too happy to catch whatever it is you've got."
She was being nuzzled by a colt. Even if it was more or less Twilight in male form, he was STILL a COLT. She found herself blushing furiously under the scarf, her wits temporarily scattered. "I... I-I will... I... I know... Rarity wouldn't like her... scarf... um, I mean..."
Dusk pulled his head back, an eyebrow raised. "Um, yeah... souuunds to me like you'd better get some rest." he chuckled nervously.
She blinked, before she chuckled alongside him, trying her best to keep it from turning into a giggle. "You're right, I should be going. See you two later. And thanks again Spik-*ahack!* um, Spines!"
"No problem!" the girl dragon called back, as Fluttershy did an about-face and quickly galloped out of the library.
To Be Continued...
ON THE NEXT CROSS AND ARROW
Twilight rolled her eyes. "That won't work Pinkie. Augh, I didn't think about it before, but this applies to ALL of us!" She lumped on the ground as the rest of the ponies gathered around her. "Any hiding spot that WE can think of, our other selves are going to think of too! And we can't ask for help from any of the townsponies, they'd become suspicious!!"
"Hmmm..." the party pony hummed to herself, before something in the distance caught her eye. "What about THOSE guys?!"
As one, everypony looked in the direction Pinkie was pointing at. There was a red and orange blur working it's way down the path towards them. As it got closer, a noise began to fill the air... the buzzing of miniature wings.