"The Celestial Inquistion declares you guilty," Twilight Sparkle Awoke saying, "of heresy, and your sins must be cleansed in bloo..."
The purple unicorn trailed off as her mind caught up with her lips. "What. The. Tree-Forsaken. Buck." As if to punctuate the statement, there was a loud clatter as a tray holding various implements Twilight absolutely did not want to think about fell to the stone floor, the soft blue aura that had been supporting it vanished.
There was a long moment of silence. Dust motes drifted slowly in the shafts of (divine, purifying) sunlight the magical one-way windows let into the torture chamber.
"Twilight, darling?" The question came from the pony at Twilight's side, dressed in all-concealing red robes. A junior interrogator under her command, the Loop memories told her.
"Yes, Rarity?" Twilight answered, using her magic to throw back the hood of her own matching robes, which she had just realized she was wearing.
"Why are we torture-happy minions of an oppressive theocracy?" Rarity revealed her own face.
Twilight glared at her. "Not funny," she said.
"Did someone create a running gag without me? That's not very nice!" Twilight looked up to her... victims. Pinkie Pie – who of course had just spoken – and Applejack were chained to the wall, the sunlight shining directly into their magically pried open eyes.
Fortunately, nothing else had been done to them yet, but Twilight still felt awful as she dismissed the spell.
"Thank ya kindly," Applejack drawled, blinking rapidly, and Twilight finally checked, determining that all six Elements were awake, and close by. That made this... well to be honest, she wasn't sure whether it was less or more awkward. Somehow, her voluminous in-progress research paper A Survey of Applied Friendship In Transfinite Pan-Multiversal Temporal Quasi-Loops did not yet have a chapter on how to handle Awaking in the middle of torturing two of your closest friends.
"I think Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy are standing guard outside," Twilight said. "Can you let them in, Rarity?"
The white unicorn smiled. "Of course, Your Holiness."
Twilight's glare followed her over to the door, and a few minutes later, two black-armored pegasus mares stomped inside. Among it's many other wonderful features, this Loop's Equestria apparently enjoyed universal pegasus conscription, and her pre-Loop self had picked the pair out of basic training for her personal retinue.
As soon as Rarity closed the door behind them, Rainbow Dash turned to Twilight. "So, are we going alicorn revolutionaries on this Loop, or what?"
Fluttershy took the air and started unchaining Applejack and Pinkie Pie, making Twilight wince briefly as she realized she hadn't gotten around to that yet. "Maybe," she said after a moment. "Give me a minute to think and let my Loop memories finish settling."
Applejack snorted as she got loose and fell to the floor. "What's to think about?"
"Well, for one," Twilight answered, "Even if she turns out to not be Awake, Celestia is actually sane and not evil this Loop, so we won't need to fight her."
"Then I fear I must repeat my prior question," Rarity said. "Why are we torture-happy minions -"
"Of an oppressive theocracy," Twilight said, "yes."
"We're all ears," Applejack said.
Pinkie wormed her way free of her chains before Fluttershy could finish with the last manacle. "I've been all ears," she said as she landed beside Applejack. "It's less fun than it sounds." Twilight decided she did not want to know about that, nor why Fluttershy was nodding in agreement.
"Okay, long story short," Twilight said, "Nightmare Moon hit Celestia with a nasty spell before being banished, which left her all but in a coma for most of the past thousand years. The unicorns who've been helping her keep the sun and moon moving mostly on schedule have been running the show, and she's been too weak to tear down this whole rotten, tribalist edifice."
"Lovely," Rarity murmured. "Shall we start tearing it down for her, then?"
Twilight smiled slightly. "Let's adjourn to my office," she said. "I have a plan. I wonder if Chrysalis is Awake... hmm, well, either way the first step is to come up with ninety-five theses to nail to Grand Inquisitor Blueblood's door."
Everypony looked at her blankly. "Oh come on," Twilight complained. "It's funny. You have to get it. We've all been through Earth high school at least a hundred times. "
"Yeah," Rainbow Dash replied, "but you're the only one who enjoys that 's just ascend and kick flank until the world makes sense again."
"Oh, fine," Twilight grumbled. "If we want to do this the boring way..."
"We'd like to sign up please!"
Applejack and Rainbow Dash turned to the three little fillies, smiling beautifully and wearing necklaces. They shared a look.
"Um, how do I put this?" Rainbow Dash crossed her forelegs. "It's an iron pony competition, and as awesome as you three are you're still kinda minipones."
"Hey! We can be iron ponies!" Scootaloo protested.
Applejack sighed. "Look, girls, Ah get that yer confident. But Ah don't want ta see ya'll hurt in a competition with older ponies."
Apple Bloom pushed her bow back. "Oh, believe me, we'll be perfectly fine."
"You and Scoots, maybe," Rainbow Dash allowed, "but Sweetie Belle?"
The unicorn rolled her eyes. "Suuuuuure, I'm frilly so I must be weak."
Applejack snorted. "That's not what she meant. Listen, you can have yer own competition, but nothing ya'll can say could possibly change our opinion on this."
A wide grin appeared on each of the filly's faces. Then, almost as one, their necklaces began to glow.
After a few moments, the transformation was complete. The three armored ponies looked upon the two shocked athletes and waited patiently for a response.
"...when... when we said iron ponies," Rainbow finally managed, "we didn't... mean it literally."
Twilight Awoke sitting in a library, reading book detailing the imprisonment of a pony in the moon a thousand years ago.
Said pony was not normally called Monstrous Eye, and was not normally "Cursed to have her appearance reflect her true self". This could be something as simple as a variant Loop, or it could be a fused Loop.
Twilight, student of Lady Palutena, blinked as her Loop memories came in. Well, that answered that question.
The clearly Awake Palutena had, quite cheerily, sent "backup" in the form of her just-as-clearly Awake Captain of the Guard- Who was, for a change, not Shining Armour, who Loop memories indicated as being a mercenary of some kind out in the far east.
"I have to say," Dug Hole (Or, as he preferred to be called, Pit) mused as he and Twilight walked into the library. "I've been a pegasus before but this is the first time I've been a yellow pegasus."
Twilight shrugged. All four pony forms were natural to her now.
"Not the weirdest thing I've been, by a long shot."
"That's something I think every Looper can agree on."
The appearance of Monstrous Eye, mane of snakes hissing at full volume, at the Summer Sun celebration caused immediate panic, and posthaste evacuation of every single non-Looper pony in the building- Quite a feat, as this included Unawake versions of the other Elements of Harmony. Twilight herself had felt a surge of absolute terror, before she recognized the effects of the enchantment and brushed it aside.
Pit seemed unaffected by the terror field, and met the gaze of Monstrous Eye's single… Well, eye.
"Medusa," he greeted, not quite calmly, but close to it. "How long have you been Awake?"
The darkness swirled around Medusa's body, and faded to reveal a much more normal alicorn form. "Since the beginning of the Loop, of course," She examined herself curiously. "I have to say, Goddess of the moon is definitely an improvement over my usual job…"
The Pegasus noticeably relaxed. "That's good. Most of my weapons aren't made for quadrupedal bodies,"
Twilight let herself relax as well.
"I had been wondering about that," Palutena's mental voice echoed over the room. "The person you're replacing would normally have at least done something to me."
"Well, that's not quite true." Medusa grinned, a grin which showed entirely too many teeth. "I did take the time to go through your castle's treasury to… re-appropriate some of the more esoterich items there."
"I'm pretty sure that's not how you say that," the Sun goddess opined.
"Silence." The darker alicorn pulled a large, ornate mirror out from her Subspace Pocket, and angled it at Pit. "Now, I believe you have an appointment with the Mirror of Truth…"
The mirror flashed once, and dropped a dark mirror image of the white pegasus onto the ground.
"Pittoo!" Pit greeted cheerfully.
"Don't call me that," was the instant response, though it had a rehearsed air to it that indicated it was more out of habit than any real vitriol toward the name. The jet-black pony took a single step forward, and immediately collapsed to the ground. "…Pit."
"Why am I quadrupedal?"
"Because I am?"
Twilight felt a headache coming on. This was going to be a long Loop.
Twilight Awoke, pushing the hat off of her head with a grumble and almost sliding off the chair sideways onto the floor before regaining her balance. Her eyes slid over the dials of her vessel, remembering a number of loops that started with exploding engines, but it seemed everything was-
"Rarity?" Twilight shouted.
"Yes, Twilight?" Rarity ceased her rocking out for a moment, turning the volume down and looking speculatively at the bag in her hands.
"Are we flying through space in a winnebago?"
The white pikanese Wog (half woman, half dog, all fabulous) checked her loop memories.
"Yes dear, it seems we are." Rarity shrugged and popped a treat into her mouth, shrugging again at the taste and heading for the cockpit.
"Oh good. I was worried I was hallucinating. Um, incoming hail. I think you... Audio only, Rarity, please."
"Oh, right, it's... this one."
"Hello Lone Star." The video screen greeted.
"Oh. Sorry." Rarity blushed.
"Hey, um, Vinnie. What do you want?" Twilight quickly began running through her loop memories, didn't need any supr-
"Nonononono." The mechanical man twitched, "It's not what I want. It's what HE wants..."
"PIZZA THE HUTT!?" Chorused the two displaced ponies. They shared a glance, and then simultaneously facepalmed.
I'm thinking this loop may be entirely too silly.
"No. No. No. No. No." Diamond Tiara recited, walking away from the altar and Prince Blueblood as fast as her dress would allow, her faithful white and lavender-pink robomaid (the traitor was holding back laughter) following behind her, "Prepare to blow this popsicle stand."
"Preparing to blow this popsicle stand." Sweetie recited.
"Blow this popsicle stand."
"Blowing this popsicle stand." Sweetie replied, amused even as she revved up the Mercedes' engines and threw the two of them into the atmosphere and beyond.
Twilight Awoke, screaming. She paused to let the loop memories filter in... and then continued screaming.
Apparently, in a fit of idiocy, she'd left her jacket with her father's watch inside a dangerous test chamber designed to separate objects from the intrinsic fields... whatever the bark that meant exactly, as she didn't have time to debate the loop's technobabble while the loops of alloy around her heated up to... probably tear her apart at the molecular level, if she had to guess. She took the logical path of screaming at the door in hopes that someone would unlock it and let her out while trying to access her magic... Nope. Pocket? Nope, though that seemed to be a property of the room rather than the loop.
It wasn't that she hadn't died before. She'd done that quite a lot actually. And with her waking up in almost certain danger of dying, this was probably one of those loops with odd and varied definitions of death anyway. But dying was something she tried to avoid as a general rule. It hurt. All for naught, it seemed, as the scientist outside delivered the bad news. With a sigh, she leaned against the door and resolved herself to-
Well. This was curious. She had indeed been torn apart at the molecular level. But she wasn't dead. Somehow. She was all there, but disconnected. She couldn't really see anything, but she could sense the molecular structure of everything around her. Not that this told her anything about what was going on around her. It was like looking through the eyes of a million flies at once, too much complexity to make sense of. But she could sense herself. And she could move herself. And... any of the other molecules, as it turned out. She thought she might even be able to see the atomic level if she squinted. She refrained from mucking about with it though, for now, and just tried to pull herself together.
Three months after the tragic death of Dr. Sparkle, the ghosts began appearing. A brain in the bathroom. A circulatory system in the kitchen. Bones and some muscle in the courtyard.
The scientists could be forgiven for not recognizing a resemblance, since the late Dr. Sparkled hadn't been quadrupedal.
This was harder than Twilight had thought it would be. Without all the components in the right place, the structure came right apart again. But she thought she finally had it right this time.
Finally, in the break room, a full body appeared... a be-winged, horned equine, glowing purple, its solid white eyes looking around with curiosity. Truthfully, Twilight was just glad to be able to see again and put names to the collections of atoms she'd been looking at all this time. Eventually, her focus turned to the people in the room, looking at her with fear and curiosity.
"Um... hi?" She tried.
It was several days later that she got a moment to herself to pull out her PADD and look up this place in her HUB fiction collection.
"Eeeeeenope. Well, wouldn't be the first time I've brought about world peace." She mused, "Making friends with the Russians should cut off Viedt before he gets started." She'd already replaced the payload of all the nuclear weapons in the world with custard, whipped cream, or marzipan, as the mood struck her, pretty standard procedure when she had the juice for it. "A helping hoof to a few key players, get Walter Kovacs to a healthy home of some kind... I should make sure he gets his face though, at least. Other than that, just a big heap of socio-political engineering. Yipee."
Twilight willed the components of the Perpetual Energy Generator to little flourishes as she put them together. Well, maybe it was a little fun, having power not incomparable to Discord's but... much more sciency. And they let her research whatever she wanted! She might even turn that weird past-present-future vision back on and study it, if she could do it without being driven bonkers from do/did/will.
Trixie waited in the shadows as the bear wearing yellow shorts and a blue backpack entered the tent shaped like her pointed hat. Her loop memories informed her that she was replacing a shamaness that used her transfiguration magic to help the local heroes.
"Erm, anyone home?" Called out the bird that was riding in the bear's pack. Smoke began to fill the tent and the lights dimmed. Stirring music played for a moment before with a bright flash, Trixie appeared on her chair in front of the magic pool.
"Welcome to the home of the Great and Powerful Trixie Wixie! I, using my stupendous skills in transfiguration, shall assist you in your noble quest!" Fireworks went off behind her. It wasn't often that the show mare got to perform for a new audience, so she sold it for all it's worth.
"Huh. A pony. That's... Strange." The bear said after a moment, earning an annoyed huff from the unicorn.
"No, strange was that one time when we were all talking fruits and vegetables." The bird countered. "This is pretty much normal for us."
"Trixie assumes that you are both loopers?"
"Stuck in a time loop." The mare clarified.
"Oh! Yeah! Wait, does that mean you are too Miss Trixie?" The bear asked.
"Yes. I'll also assume this is your first fused loop?" She received a hesitant nod. "Oh good! I've been meaning to try out some new material. Those slideshows are so boring." Trixie's horn lit up. "Now, watch in awe as the secrets of time, space, and the multi-verse are revealed to you!"
Trixie and the two loopers, Banjo and Kazooie, watched in awe as her hat-shaped tent burned to the ground.
"I think you might have overdid it with the fireworks." Banjo said.
"Nonsense! One can never have too many explosives!"
"Remind me to not show her Grenade Eggs." Kazooie murmured. Unfortunately, she was overheard.
"Grenade... Eggs? Trixie has not yet experimented with this concept yet." A shiver ran down the bear and bird's spines as a feeling of impending doom filled them.
"You mentioned a slideshow?" Banjo quickly interrupted.
"Ah yes. I suppose it'll have to do until I perfect my technique." She reached into her mane and pulled out a projector, causing the other two to blink. "Once we're through you'll have to show me these wondrous eggs of yours."
Dread filled them as Banjo's distraction failed. They watched the presentation without interruption, wondering what kind of trouble they just caused and silently begged forgiveness for it.
65.7 (Dalxein, Indalecio)
"Apple Bloom? What are you...?" Twilight started. The two were apparently replacing 'The Ponds' or something. Though that made no sense, since their canonical 'daughter' was still running around and... she shook her head to fight off a headache. No use making sense of the Whoverse, that's why it was Read-Only.
This brought her back to the filly in front of her, surrounded by bits and bobs, wires and tech, that she'd scrounged from the TARDIS. "I'm learning how to build a sonic screwdriver."
The unicorn shook her head. "But it's a Read-Only loop. This sort of technology-"
"Not if I build it myself after we leave!"
An incredulous head-tilt. "That isn't going to-"
"Yes it will!" The younger mare snapped.
Twilight decided to leave the filly be. She really liked The Doctor's Deus Ex Matchstick.
Twilight examined Applebloom's newly completed "Sonic Screwdriver". It was a kludge of magic and technology, which, while not quite anything like "The" Sonic Screwdriver, was impressve in its own way.
"Lets see here, you attached a tricorder, an omnitool, a matter manipulator, a Rod of Lordly Might, and that's an impressive amount of duct tape you've got there." said Twilight as she ran her eyes up and down the device.
"Well, its just a proof of concept. I'm going to field test it with Sweetie and Scootaloo and then refine it when I'm done."
65.8 (Detective Ethan Redfield)
Looper Conference, Part 1
At first, this looped seemed similar to the other adventures in Elder Tales, awakening in front of his computer with hours to spare before the Novasphere Pioneer update would activate. First thing he did was message Akatsuki with the pre-determined awake signal. Sometimes, they would start as new characters (Akatsuki as female every time), others they would meet up and explore the real world Japan. Their loop varied in length, lasting up to a year in game, but in real life that translated to 30 days.
The two had just about decided to start new characters when an email appeared on his screen from an unknown account. Curious, since he had never received an email the day prior to the update, he opened it. Unconsciously, his mouth curved into a cheerful grin, returning a reply immediately, Bring your entire guild to the Akibahara server and make sure everyone is online at midnight.
With that out of the way, he messaged Akatsuki that they would have to start new players another time, sending the appearance changing formula along with the message.
Akihabara Server, The Day of the Apocalypse
Almost immediately, Shiroe knew something had changed. Some of the adventurers he ran into were a lot more relaxed than those who were unawake...like they had lived through stranger things. A couple of the out of place adventurers were taking charge, giving orders and returning purpose to those not awake. As strange as that was, it was not a concern at the moment. He was meeting with a foreign guild.
There was no mistaking them for a second, as their race didn't exist in the baseline Elder Tales. In this loop, it was an update exclusive to America, created by petition due to the popularity of a local tv show, or so his loop memories told him. However since the expansion wasn't widely used, it wasn't released in other countries.
Several noticed his arrival. The anchor must have fulfilled his request to the letter since there were non-awake characters mixed in with the loopers. It was blindingly obvious who was asleep since they were far more nervous. Those asleep were far more nervous and shrank back at his approach. But their nerves decreased as their guild leader walked forward with a big smile on her face. They were about to greet one another when a pink haired girl just...appeared in front of him and gave a deep hug, "Shiroe-chan, it's been so long well not so long since loops here are so short but our loops are longer by quite a bit and we have other loops in longer loops but I'm here again and get to see mybestfriendinElderTalesweshouldthrowapartywith-"
The guild leader looked at the Pink haired girl disapprovingly, "Pinkie, I'm glad your excited, but please let him up for a moment."
Pinkie bobbed her head, "Ok," and released the enchanter. Shiroe chuckled, "Good to see you too Pinkie. Hello, Twilight Sparkle. Been awhile since Hogwarts."
The leader of the Lunar Republic, Twilight Sparkle, gave a big grin of her own, "Come on! Let me introduce you."
Shiroe's eyes danced above each adventurers. Each one had a name, race, class and subclass along with their level number:
Lv. 90 Sorcerer
Lv. 90 Scholar (Looper)
Pinkamena "Pinkie" Pie
Lv. 90 Bard
Lv. 90 Chef (Looper)
The Enchanter remembered their previous discussion on Equestria, Putting names to faces. In addition to a pony like tail, each Equine Tail had a unique feature to their type, the earth types having their ears replaced with horse ears and their feet replaced with hooves.
Lv. 90 Monk
Lv. 90 Farmer (Looper)
Some of the guild members had wings like the pegasus of legend:
Lv. 90 Monk
Lv. 90 Knight (Looper)
Lv. 90 Summoner
Lv. 90 Animal Trainer (Looper)
Even more had Unicorn horns on their head:
Lv. 90 Shaman
Lv. 90 Tailor (Looper)
Lv. 90 Bard
Lv. 90 Dancer (Looper)
But the final two were something else altogether with both wings and a horn:
Lv. 90 Bard
Lv. 90 Sigil Maker (Looper)
Lv. 90 Enchanter
Lv. 90 Aristocrat (Looper)
They were, without a doubt, the princesses of Equestria. The wind kicked up, tugging at the hem of Shiroe's robe as he gave a low bow, "My princesses, let me be the first to welcome you to the Elder Tales loops."
Luna rolled her eyes, "Please arise, Enchanter Shiroe. We ask that you do not bow in our presence, nor that any looper do the same."
Celestia chuckled, "Yes, we get enough of that at home from those who are not awake. Besides, you are not one of our subjects, nor are we princesses in this world."
Shiroe chuckled, "Of course, my ladies. If I may inquire about your unique species? The Japanese servers do not have the option to become Equine Tail. What abilities do you hold?"
Twilight fielded this question, "Equine Tails have several polarizing advantages and disadvantages. We have higher magical reserves and the ability to shapeshift into our pony form. However since equines have a herd mindset, the fewer we are in number, the easier we are to panic and the lower our defense will be. Furthermore, we are not naturally a fighting race, so our attack strength with weapons based classes are reduced as well."
With that, she shifted into her pony form, then back to half human, half equine. Shiroe sighed, "Sounds like a difficult species to play."
"In America, we're commonly mages due to our high magical reserves. Our race also allows us to play as Monks without reductions to our attacking stats. Finally, we countered the penalty to our defense by always fighting in groups."
"Hmm..." Shiroe muttered to himself. While they talked, the non awake players wondered off, trying to get a feel for the moss covered, forested city of Akiba. Their talk, though, ended when Akatsuki appeared in the middle of their group on one knee in front of Shiroe. It showed just how much these loopers had been through that none of them, not even Fluttershy, blinked at her arrival.
"Akatsuki, you shouldn't just appear in the middle of groups like this."
"Forgive me, Shiroe, but have you checked your friends list recently?"
Shiroe's menu opened a second later and the friend list took up most of the screen. The list scrolled down as Shiroe read name after name. The first name he noticed was Maryelle's...or more appropriately where Maryelle should have been. It had been replaced by another name, one he didn't immediately recognize until he called upon his loop memories. As he scrolled down, several names had been replaced by others.
He needed to figure out what was going on, so he sent a call out to Maryelle's replacement.
"So you are the Anchor of this loop," asked Maryelle's replacement. Shiroe was unsure how to act beyond nodding. Part of what made him speechless was their guild hall. They had entered the main guild building and then travelled to the replacement's guild room, located in the same spot as Maryelle's. It was like they had opened the door to another dimension altogether, a forested dimension with a single oak tree with pavilions attached on all sides. There was a river flowing on one side of the massive tree and countless wood and hay huts surrounding the previous pavilions. This was not in Shiroe's loop memories.
"Allow me to reintroduce myself. I am Sally Acorn, guildmaster of the Underground."
Lv. 90 Shaman
Lv. 90 Aristocrat (Looper)
Surrounding her were members of her Loop. He only recognized two by name:
Lv. 90 Monk
Lv. 90 Tracker (Looper)
Miles "Tails" Prowler
lv. 90 Swashbuckler
Lv. 90 Mechanic (Looper)
He pushed his glasses to the bridge of his nose. If Crescent Moon was replaced by Underground, it was possible that other guilds had been replaced as well, and he could be hosting a lot of extra loopers.
"Well, this is most overdue," Princess Luna noted. "I had heard of such loops from several of your cohort, and was wondering if there was some criterion I did not fulfil."
Her sister, Princess Twilight, shrugged. "Apparently not. Any choice on which Elements you take?"
"Well, magic is yours..." Luna nodded. "I think mayhap I shall take Honesty, alongside Laughter and Kindness. Dost this work for you?"
"...you really don't need to do the whole archaic speech thing, Luna." Twilight picked up the two necklaces and slipped them on her wings. "Right, I assume you know how to use these."
"You assume correctly."
"Well, job done," Twilight said with a smile. "That went a lot more smoothly than normal."
"It went rather more smoothly than it did the first time Celestia and I faced the chaotic one. Far be it from me to suggest Celly was perhaps less experienced at the use of the elements then than you are now, but..." Luna trailed off.
Twilight chuckled. "You're suggesting it, all right. Okay, what now?"
"Are you comfortable with handling the day?" Luna asked. "I am most experienced with the night, but..."
"Actually, I had an idea. What about this – if the moon is in the sky, you're in charge. And we move things so the lunar cycle is about four days. If my mental calculations are right, that puts us at a schedule of sixteen hours each, moving around the calendar." Twilight cast a spell on a nearby plant, turning it into a sky chart. "Does that make sense?"
Luna perused the paper. "It seems to hold together."
"Well, we wanted interesting proposals..." Twilight said absently, holding up the document to the light.
There were diagrams. There were scribbled notes in spidery handwriting. There was a cost-benefit analysis that seemed to assume that having the moon permanently looming overhead was "cool".
And there was an approved stamp in the deep blue ink of Luna's personal seal.
"Oh, well. In for a bit, in for... a lot... of bits." Twilight shrugged, and slapped her own personal seal on next to Luna's one.
It had taken ten years to get this far.
First, the moon had been moved into a geostationary orbit, so it neither rose nor set. That had been relatively easy, though working out a truly stable position for an object that large had been somewhat nerve-wracking and resulted in three months of Twilight trying to solve the three-body problem, before giving up and using a computer simulator.
Step two had involved importing a substantial amount of extra atmosphere. That had entailed setting up a cracking plant on a convenient out-system satellite, increasing the partial nitrogen pressure, and moderating the oxygen level increase to avoid causing medical problems.
After a roche limit calculation had come up at nearly a thousand kilometres surface-surface distance, Twilight had resorted to magically increasing the apparent density of the entire moon with a series of Epic grade spells. (A dovin basal would have been easier, but she didn't have one.) And Luna had only mumbled a little about "ruining the purity of the exercise".
And finally, the moon had had an atmosphere of equal density to the current Equestrian one added.
Tonight, however, was the moment of truth.
"Ready?" Twilight asked.
Together, their horns lit. And the moon began to slowly approach.
"Phew," Twilight said, some hours later, as the spell locking the moon in place finally engaged. "That took a lot more care than I was expecting."
"We had some margin," Luna replied. "But indeed, 'tis much easier to be blasé about moving the moon with five hundred thousand kilometres under it than merely five hundred all told."
They looked up at the huge white circle obscuring much of the sky.
"Did we get it right?" Twilight asked.
Luna squinted upwards. "It seems a few pegasi have already decided to test our hoofiwork..."
As they watched, a dozen or so bright-coated pegasi winged their way steadily upwards, into the atmosphere no thicker than sea level on a normal loop. Then further, into thinner air... and then, after almost an hour of high-speed climb, they spun for a moment and began to dive.
Towards the moon.
"Yes!" Twilight cheered. "We did get it working!"
Luna nodded, smiling. "The Lunar Air Bridge is done. Fine work, Twilight Sparkle."
"Right. Now, space elevator time! Well, lunar-vator."
"Was that my normal sister I saw leaving?" Luna asked Twilight.
"Yes, that's right." Twilight smiled after the door Celestia had left out of. "I asked her to set up an observatory on the antequestria side of the moon, because that way she'll get more sun – she likes the sun."
"So, she is your student?" Luna nodded to herself. "I wonder if I might be able to track down Cadence..."
Waking up in her bedroom in her family cottage wasn't unusual, nor was waking up to not find her dog there given their usual loop start had him being kept by neighbours. What was odd this time was the fact that she was a bipedal, bat-winged horse, her usual curly dark hair replaced by a slightly longer dark mane.
"Pony fused loop of some kind?" The young girl wondered aloud. It wouldn't be the first time she had ended up as an anthropomorphised creature, and she had heard there were looping ponies. She needed to talk to her mother about who her cousins were, since most likely the only way the loop would end up like this was if one or more of them had been replaced given they were the main group, and she couldn't feel their presence in her mind at the moment.
:Timmy,: She Reached out with her mind, grabbing some clothes from the wardrobe and snorting to herself when she found they were already adapted to her body form. Even without Loop Memories, she could tell that anthro-ponies weren't going to be unusual this time out. How would it affect their tastes though? The amount of ginger beer they got through, not to mention ham and other things, as humans would probably be unreal for ponies.
At least her clothes were still boyish. She had hated some of the loops where she had been a girly-girl.
:Yes George?: The voice still sounded masculine, and he still knew her name, meaning he was still 'normal', for a given definition of the word.
Pulling her clothes on, she glanced out the window, towards the old island her family owned. :Can you meet me at home? I think we've got some type of fusion with that pony loop, but I need to check with Mom first.:
There was a mental snort of amusement from Timmy. :I had noticed. It seems every human is now a pony, though I'm still a dog.:
:Yes but you're also able to become something else after that loop we got this trick in.: George pointed out, heading downstairs to find her mother and father outside, her father flying around. "Is Dad trying to learn how things fly through doing things himself, Mom?" She asked, approaching the pale grey mare.
"It looks like it, George." Her mother replied, turning to look at her. "Are you staying here this time or going off with Timothy?"
"I was planning on staying here, since it is likely at least one of my cousins isn't my cousin." George replied, looking up at her father. It was obvious she got her wings from her mother, but her dark mane was straight from her father. "Do you remember who they are?" She asked.
Her mother frowned for a moment. "Rayne, Lauren and Felicity Kirrin, all girls," Her tail twitched. "I think all three have been replaced this time." She added as a large dog bounded up the path to be hugged by George. "Hello Timothy," Crouching down, she rubbed the dog's ears.
George nodded, frowning slightly. Where had Julian, Dick and Anne ended up if all three of them were replaced this time out? Wherever they were, she silently wished them luck and good adventures, since their normal run was getting a bit stale, particularly since they could pretty much skip the first two simply due to knowing where things were and what they needed for school.
:You're thinking too hard,: Timmy said, licking her face. :They will be fine, even little Anne can be as fierce as a lion if the situation calls for it.:
"I know, Tim, but it's still hard thinking they're out there while I'm here with little new happening."
Her mother smiled slightly, ruffling her mane. "Don't worry, George, you'll get your adventures. Why don't you and Timothy go down to the bay for a while? If things go as they usually do, as long as you're back for dinner, you will meet your cousins today." She looked up and winced as her husband ended up ploughing into the ground. "And I had better make sure your father is alright." She said, getting up to see to her husband.
She hadn't been sure what she was expecting her 'cousins' to be, but the fact they were all bird-winged like her father made sense, after all her uncle was her father's brother. The colours on the other hand, those were somewhat strange. Both Rayne and her father seemed to have rainbow coloured manes, while her aunt's was a rich blue, leaving her no clue as to how the girl she guessed was Felicity had pink for her mane colour, nor the amber-blonde of Lauren's mane. Her father wasn't focused on biology, but she had picked up enough to know that normally things ran in families.
Dropping down to land, she back-winged and settled gently on the ground near Kirrin Cottage before walking up to stand near her mother, watching her cousins' replacements get things out of the car.
"Hi," Rayne said, walking up to the two of them. "Are you Georgina?"
George grimaced, looking up at her mother. "Did you have to tell them my full name, Mom?" She asked. "I prefer George, thank you very much." She replied to Rayne. "I take it that you're Rayne and that you know about loops."
Rayne nodded. "Yeah," She twitched a wing, "Though I can honestly say I've never been to this one before."
"That might be because we haven't been going that long, dear." George's mother answered. "I'm Fanny Kirrin, and yes I do know how that can be taken. This is Georgina, though as she said, she prefers George. Quentin is in the house, resting off a rather unfortunate incident."
George rolled her eyes. "Dad flubbed a landing and ploughed the garden with his nose." She translated.
After getting everyone settled and fed, and Timmy returning to meet the new (to their loop) Loopers. George sat on the floor, leaning against her dog, the others in chairs. "Alright, as I said earlier, I'm George and I'm one of the local loopers. So far there's eight I know about, maybe another one or two elsewhere. We've had the talk about the multiverse, which is why we're not that worried about the whole fact we're anthro-ponies.
"I'm not entirely sure who our anchor is, I would have thought it would be Julian, my older cousin, but given I'm here and looping while he isn't, it might be me or Timmy." She shrugged her wings. "Normally speaking this loop lasts around seven to eight years, most of which is school for us." She grimaced at that. "However holidays are usually interesting, mainly because we have adventures during them."
Rayne nodded. "I know," She said, reaching into the air and pulling a slim book out. "We stocked up the last time we landed a hub loop, just in case we ended up somewhere new."
"Do the other series that Mrs. Blyton wrote work in the same universe?" Felicity asked.
"You know, I don't think we've checked. It would make sense, but I think at one point one of the boys had a book about the Seven, so either it's not or they come in before us." George shrugged, looking up at her mother.
"We can always check, since this is unlikely to be a base loop." Fanny said, frowning slightly. "It's not as if we need to worry about the wreck being thrown up or having to sell the island since we've had several loops of gathering that bullion."
George nodded. "That's true, and that's usually our first adventure, and with Dad putting things in a really complex code now, we don't need to worry too much about the three thugs this Christmas time either." She frowned, twitching her tail. "What about you three, what's 'normal' for you?"
Rayne shifted slightly. "Well, I normally go by Rainbow Dash, Felicity is normally Fluttershy, both of us are Loopers from Equestria. Lauren isn't a Looper, normally she goes by Lightning Dust and she doesn't normally come into our story until I go to the Wonderbolt's Academy. Normally we're quadrupedal, but we've been looping for a while so we've had a few times when we've been bipedal. I think Lauren's been working off in loop memories, meaning she's probably not going to think outside the box too often."
"You said we were replacing your cousins?" Lauren asked, curiously. Obviously trying to follow the conversation even if she didn't know most of what it was about.
George nodded. "Julian, Dick and Anne. Normally I meet them tomorrow and the first few times it didn't go well since they knew me as Georgina. This holiday we normally end up spending time on Kirrin Island, investigating the wreck of my grandfather's ship when a storm throws it up onto the rocks near the island. I can probably force that storm myself now, thanks to a 'game loop' where a number of people ended up as dragons when magic came back. Timmy was 'human' that loop so we ended up with telepathy between the five of us.
"Anyway, once we get the document box from the wreck we find out the gold it was carrying is in a dungeon, one that's under the castle on the island. Getting hold of that pretty much fixes our financial problems; otherwise we would have had to sell the island." George shifted again. "We can probably ignore it since we've already got a few loops' worth, plus other things we've picked up. I can't remember off hand what else there is we get into, but there's a number of times we come across spies or other things. Actually, I need to see if I can grab Jo when she shows up. She's probably going to either be disgusted as heck or will want Lauren regardless. I'm hoping she'll tone it down to sibling rather than lover since she has been up there the last couple of loops."
"Jo?" Lauren asked, her ears perking up. "Should I be worried?"
"Not really, I know how to deal with her."
:We both know how to deal with young Jo, normally, George.: Timmy cut in as Felicity yawned.
Fanny nodded slightly. "Well, I don't know how old you three are normally, but if you're starting to yawn, it's probably time you all went to bed. We can continue this tomorrow and George can show you the town and bay." She frowned. "If your wings work as well here as they do normally, she can probably show you the island as well."
George rolled her eyes at her mother before getting to her feet. "Come on, I'll show you where Julian, Dick and Anne sleep." She said, Timmy getting up behind her as she started out of the room.
Looking up at the clouds overhead, the dark maned pony frowned. His memories were telling him that he should be clearing them for later tonight and tomorrow morning for the Summer Sun Celebration, but it seemed a waste to have to fly up to each one and burst them like soap bubbles.
Closing his eyes, he Reached for the power he knew he still had, his body starting to blacken and become wispy as he drew on the energy, drawing the clouds together. Pegasi seemed to have the ability to manipulate the weather here, but it wasn't to the degree that an Heir of the Storm could, much less a Storm Lord.
The clouds above unravelled, sending down a light, misty rain across the town for a few minutes as he opened his eyes again, his body returning to normal.
"Well, it wasn't ten seconds flat, but that was certainly impressive." A female voice commented from behind him.
Turning, he found himself facing a purple unicorn with an equally purple dragon standing beside her. "It wasn't much," He said, blushing slightly from the praise. "I just thought it would be a shame to have to fly up to pop them when I could deal with them all at once." He shrugged his feathered wings. "I'm Dick Kirrin… though the loop memories seem to want to call me Dark Kestrel for some reason."
"Kirrin? I've not heard that name before, what loop do you usually do?" The purple mare asked before getting nudged by the dragon at her side. "Oops, sorry, I'm Twilight Sparkle, local anchor, and this is Spike, one of the local loopers. It seems you're replacing Rainbow Dash, one of our loopers this time."
"Well that explains why I seem to have Pegasus Weather Management 101 in my head." Dick responded with a slight frown. "As for my usual loop, I'm part of a group the Hub knows as the Famous Five. My older brother, Julian seems to have found a bar or something nearby and my sister, Anne is…" He trailed off, Reaching with his mind to find his sister. "With a group of birds or something."
Twilight twitched her tail. "Sounds like your brother is at Mac's bar in Sweet Apple Acres and your sister is replacing Fluttershy." She frowned. "That means we won't be able to use the Elements, though I think Luna is awake this time so we won't need them for a while anyway." She motioned for him to follow her and set off towards Fluttershy's cottage. "How much do you know about loops and how did you do that with the clouds?"
Following her, Dick shrugged his shoulders. "I know the basics of them. The world tree, the problems, that there can be fused loops and such. I haven't really looped that much that I know of. Certainly not to places like this, though we did have… I think it was Naruto ended up taking Uncle Quentin's place once, he explained the basics. Not too long after that, we ended up in a game loop; the fused ones where there's nobody to really do anything so you just get random quests and such."
"I know the type, I've been to the Dungeons and Dragons world a couple of times, the last time was going through this massive dungeon."
"We had one called Fireborn. It and… Shadowrun are functionally similar. Magic returns to normal Earth, bringing with it a lot of 'fantasy' creatures. The main difference is that Shadowrun is higher tech and people tend towards 'demihumans', Fireborn has most people end up as dragons and you get memories of being around while Atlantis was the main power in the world." Dick shrugged again. "There are three major abilities I like from there though, Group Mind, meaning limited telepathy and empathy to certain people, in our case, each other, Heir of the Storm, which is how I manipulated the clouds. Good Storm Lords can actually create hurricanes on their own. The last one is Alternate Form, which is basically limited shape shifting to picked static forms."
"Those sound useful." Spike commented. "And it would be interesting to end up with an entire world full of dragons."
Dick snorted in amusement. "Not everyone is happy about dragons turning up. We had more than a few near misses with the unseelie, the sluagh and the Dwellers." He shivered. "The last group are nasty, taint driven demons. There's also the Weeping Death, which isn't fun, and that's not going into the human bad guys." He looked up as they reached a small cottage, spotting a familiar, blonde Pegasus in front of it. "Hey Anne!"
Looking up from the birds, Anne flicked her tail. "Dick!" She called, hurrying over to hug him. "I'm glad to see you. What's going on?"
"You're in Equestria, apparently replacing Fluttershy, one of our loopers." Twilight cut in. "Twilight Sparkle, local anchor. This is my assistant, Spike, also one of our loopers."
Anne nodded slightly, taking a pro-offered hoof and shaking it. "Anne Kirrin." She turned to her brother, "Any idea where Julian, George and Timmy are?"
"Julian's found a bar." Dick rolled his eyes at that, though he couldn't blame his brother considering the fact that their home loop didn't seem to move on the same timescale for everything, leaving them at some ambiguous age between ten and twenty for seven years. "George isn't here and neither is Timmy, I'm guessing they're still back home."
"Right," Twilight said. "Since I know where your brother is, I'll lead you to him and hopefully we can avoid setting Pinkie off with a massive party again," She paused, looking up at the sky. "Or getting annoyed because you all showed up and she didn't do a Welcome to Equestria party for you." She added, leading the pair towards Sweet Apple Acres.
It had actually been a fun few days for the five of them, certainly more interesting than the normal holiday she had at the beginning of her loop since they could actually fly now. Of course with her loop memories, they had gotten the gold, again, and set up the bank account with it so that Kirrin Island would never go up for sale.
One interesting thing they had learned thanks to her mother's checking. It seemed that most of the 'groups' that the Hub universe had written by Enid Blyton looped as one universe about half the time, though they each had their own anchors and did loop independently. Odd, but it made some sense.
Hearing a yell from above, she frowned, looking up and around until she spotted a dark dot on the horizon. Shifting her form into that of a large four-footed dragon, she focused on the spot for a moment before recognising the dark mane, bat-like wings and coat a shade or two off her own. "Jo! Down here!" She called, sending up a plume of fire before shifting back to her normal form.
A few minutes later, a panting Josephine was kneeling in front of George, the three Equestrians gathered near. "What are you doing here Jo?" George asked, offering the other girl a bottle of ginger beer.
"I…" Jo broke off into a coughing fit, grunting as Rayne slapped her back a few times when some of the drink went down the wrong pipe. "George, what's going on? Where are your cousins and why are we horses?!" It was evident that Jo was already heading for new looper paranoia.
Kneeling down, George shifted, placing a hand on Jo's shoulder. "We're not horses, Jo, we're ponies. As for what's going on, it's a long story; the short version is that things went really, really wrong with reality so everything is repeating to try to get things fixed. Things like this just happen randomly so we get people replacing others, as Rayne, Lauren and Felicity are. I'd let Dad give you the full explanation, but I doubt you'd understand it." She snorted. "I don't understand it and he's my dad."
"Well he is supposed to be one of the best scientists in Britain." Jo managed, giving a weak grin.
George nodded. "Come on, let's get you settled… maybe we can try things with us being siblings this time." She grinned at Jo's blank look.
Rayne snorted in amusement. "I take it you two know each other."
"Yeah, usually we meet because Jo steals my wallow on the beach, though that's not for… four or five years, I think. The floating timeline makes it confusing."
"That isn't very nice of her." Felicity commented as George hauled Jo to her feet.
George snorted in amusement. "The original me isn't that nice. I'm still pretty hot tempered sometimes; unfortunately I got it from Dad. Jo managed to get us out of a few scrapes though, starting with that one surprisingly enough. We met up again a couple of years later when she was visiting her…" She looked at Jo. "Is it your uncle and aunt that are in that circus when we meet the second time?"
Jo nodded. "Something like that. I don't even know what's going on anymore."
"You get used to it," Lauren commented dryly. "I haven't known what's going on since we got here."
"That's because half the time you don't even listen." Rayne pointed out. "I swear Lightning, I am so glad the loop memories have us keeping you on a leash."
George snickered at Lauren's confused look, guiding Jo towards the cottage. "Come on, Mom's probably got something for lunch… you know, I'm kind of surprised how well I'm handling meat given I'm a pony."
"It isn't all meat." Felicity put in, following them. "It seems like some of the things we eat in Equestria came over when everything got rearranged. The bacon is actually hay." That got looks from George and Jo. "It's not that bad, besides as you are, it's better for you than all that meat."
"Yeah, I guess…" George sighed. So much for that dream.
"The Night.. shall last.. FOREVER!" Nightmare Moon laughed maniacally. Twilight looked at Nightmare Moon with a bored look. She could tell she was the only one Awake, and didn't feel like messing with anything this time. She wasn't even going to bother going baseline.
"Nope. Not dealing with this this time. If Nightmare wants Eternal Night, she can have it." With that, Twilight trotted off, and Equestria was covered in an eternal veil of darkness.
Life in Equestria after Nightmare Moon took over was full of fear. Ponies rarely left their homes, and crops failed to grow time after time with minimal light to sustain them. Ponies grew hungry and restless as temperatures dropped. Twilight felt regret leaving the ponies like this and resolved to try to fix her mess. She went to each of her Unawake friends, but failed to convince them to go with her into the Everfree Forest.
With no option, Twilight went to the Everfree Forest alone. She knew she needed her five friends, but they wouldn't go with her. While she was gone, ponies stayed indoors, even as food stores continued to drop.
Nightmare Moon looked out at Canterlot from the balcony. "I don't get it. I created Eternal Night so ponies could enjoy my night, and yet I don't see them outside playing. They remain indoors, just like it was a thousand years ago. Could I possibly be wrong? Could Eternal Night not be the way to go?" Nightmare thought for a moment. "Preposterous. I should just give them more time. The night will grow on them. The sun will never return."
Huh. Another Loop where I'm Trixie. Twilight stopped, pulled her wagon off to the side, and got in to see what she had to work with.
"Not bad, actually," she judged. A fair-sized library, nothing she hadn't read before but a few she didn't mind reading again; a kitchen unit, not always a certainty depending on how impoverished the wandering mage was; a collection of board games (some of them enchanted to play the opposing side) and various stage supplies.
After her check, she hitched the wagon up again. Then stopped, getting a mischievous expression on her face.
Three hours later, she had the wheels enchanted with a standard cloud-walking enchantment, a small but robust cloud generator fitted to the undercarriage, and a large fan attached to the back of the wagon.
As the contraption soared skywards, she poured herself a drink. "I never liked walking anyway."
With a whistle that terminated in a thud, something landed on her roof.
Sighing, she put the drink down and poked her head out of the back, looking around and up at the roof. "Who is it... wait a sec. Trixie?"
"Correct." The blue unicorn adjusted her hat, seemingly none the worse for wear for her trip aloft. "Trixie may have irritated the Element of Honesty a little too much when she met her, when setting up the Summer Sun celebration."
"Wow." Twilight helped Trixie down into the main area of the wagon. "How much did you annoy AJ?"
"Trixie did not specify the identity of the Element of Honesty." The sorceress looked around. "I like what you've done with this place, by the way. The potted plant really ties the room together..."
"Oh, right." Trixie shrugged. "It's Awake Gilda. She galestormed me across half the country."
"Oh." Twilight blinked. "Oh, neat. So it's one of those loops, huh? Can you two handle the Elements together?"
Trixie waved a hoof. "We get along like a house on fire. Complete with screams. We may alienate the other Elements, though."
"Just use Pinkie as a go-between," Twilight recommended. "Want a lift back?"
"Certainly. Trixie will use the time manufacturing a parasail for a suitably epic triumphant return."
65.1: Another dystopia bites the dust.
65.2: Technically not iron.
65.3: Don't get too close to the sun, kid.
65.4: "Blueblood! Are you playing with your dolls again?"
65.5: Doctor Ponhattan.
65.6: Enthusiastic Trixie. Aim away from hands and face.
65.7: The lights and sounds are provided by a toy sonic screwdriver. Because if it doesn't go whirr with a light then it isn't a proper one, dangit.
65.8: MMORLG. Massively Multiplayer Online Replacement Looper Game.
65.9: They got the idea from some Star Wars place or other.
65.10: The Blytonverse.
65.11: Don't worry, folks, nopony dies in this story. They just get really bad ersatz coffee.
65.12: Being Griffon the Brush Off is a lot more meaningful when the Brush the Griffon has to work with can cast magic.