"Alright Alright!" Vinyl Scratch yelled into her mic. She was currently speaking into her microphone, doing her job as a radio DJ this Loop. While it wasn't as cool as just spinning tunes in various clubs and parties, it did allow her a few perks. "I'm still holding tickets to Mistress Z and Iron Will's concert here in Canterlot in my very hooves! And they will go to the fifth pony who calls in." However, in these types of Loops, is was usually Octavia who was her co-host. However, this time someone different was with her.
"You're not going to try calling in yourself, are you, Vinyl?" Twilight Sparkle teased. Instead of a Librarian this Loop, she was more into radio. In fact, she'd been listening to the legend about the Mare in the Moon when she Awoke, instead of reading about it. She had to admit, she was having a lot more fun than she would have thought.
"Hey, I only did that once!" Vinyl jokingly protested, before a laugh escaped her lips. "Anyways, let's put on "Nature of Reality", the new hot single from Sweetie Belle's upcoming album! And when we come back, we'll let you know who won those tickets!"
As the "On Air" sign stopped glowing, as a slow beat started to kick in. "So, how long has Zecora been rapping for?" Vinyl asked, taking the headphones off of her head. "First time I've been Awake and heard about it."
Twilight paused for a moment. Then she said "I think it's been about four or five Loops. She picked it up during a Fused Loop, and decided to keep it as a hobby. It's made for some interesting shows. I think I've got a video of her and Trixie performing in a rap battle somewhere in my Pocket..."
"Mrs. Sparkle? Miss Scratch?" An intern unicorn came in to the studio, a piece of paper telekinetically following behind him. "A "Derpy Hooves" from Ponyville accidentally called here while trying to get take-out. But she was the fifth caller, and she did want the tickets..."
"Once upon a time, two sisters ruled over Equestria" read Twilight in the most annoying voice she could manage, in an effort to make the story seem interesting again.
"The older sister raised the sun by swimming under it, while the younger sister raised the moon by jumping over- wait what?"
...by jumping over it. But one day the younger sister became jealous of the older sister's fiddle-playing cat, and so turned into Nightmare Moo. In her panic, the older sister banished the younger with the most powerful artifacts in Equestria, the Elements of Rhyme. Legend has it that three beings shall one day free her from her prison, but none can say which beings..."
Winona, Diamond Dish, and Silver Spoon barked, giggled, and cackled as they finalized their plans to help Nightmare Moo run out of the moon.
Macintosh Awoke on Sweet Apple Acres. Specifically, near the back door coming off the kitchen.
The familiar surroundings were about the only thing normal about it though.
He shifted his weight, only just bringing himself out of a stumble. This was nothing new. Awakening mid-step was par for the course, even if he was typically in the south field. Most loops he had to restart the furrow he'd been working on, but that was a minor inconvenience.
Unfortunately his center of gravity was apparently further back this loop, so even though he managed to save his first step, the second sent Macintosh flopping head over hooves onto the half-door.
Macintosh leaned there for a moment, chest resting on the lower, still-shut portion of the door. The edifice seemed taller than normal. He shook his head, trying to regain his balance. After a moment, he'd cleared the dizziness enough to look around.
What he saw poleaxed him for a full sixty seconds.
The farm itself seemed normal, along with its inhabitants. Frieda May and the rest of the cows were in the dairy barn, getting their morning milking from Granny Smith. Winona was nosing around the hog pen, apparently tracking a wayward piglet. Supplies for the Apple Family Reunion bedecked the tables set up in the cleared area between the barn and the house. None of which was what had Macintosh, professional farmer, vocational all-weather help, amateur barkeep, and part-time Hulk on the fritz.
Out there, in the south field, was a stallion with a straw-colored mane and bright red coat, plowing a furrow as straight as could be.
Granny Smith's voice broke him out of his distant-stallion-beholding-and-potential-existential-crisis-provoking reverie.
"Applejack, y'all wanna stop layin' around on th' door witcher mouth open like yer tryin' ta catch flies and get yer sister up?"
Macintosh the Looper brought a hoof to his head as he listened. The rubbing motion he made was an attempt to dispel the headache he could feel coming on. All it actually accomplished was displacing a brown stetson.
As Twilight Awoke, she noticed that she didn't have a body. While this was rare, but not unheard of, it was the first time that she had just been a disembodied head.
She opened the door to the shed she was lying in (although she seemed to be missing her horn this Loop, she had long since learned how to channel her magic through other parts of her body-in this case, her tongue). Then, text began to scroll across her vision.
1999. What appeared to be a harmless meteorite crashing in the Neighvada Desert had turned out to be Darc Seed, an evil alien creature with horrible powers. By shooting strange magnetic rays, Darc Seed had turned the helpless ponies into zombies and had brought the Statue of Neighberty to life to do his dirty work. These rays had also given him control over deadly weapons, but none were more powerful than the legendary unicorn horn Shura. When the great head of the magus, Twilight Sparkle, heard that the horn had fallen into evil hooves, she set off immediately for Manehattan. For only she possessed the strength and knowledge needed to recapture the magical horn and free Equestria from the evil clutches of Darc Seed.
The Anchor's disembodied head rocketed into the air, and, almost without thinking, flew all the way to Manehattan.
She looked down at the city. At the undead ponies walking its streets. At the giant flying tanks and hands flying all over the city, smashing skyscrapers with wild abandon.
As Twilight tried in vain to wrap her head (after all, she was nothing but a head right now) around what was happening, several of the hands broke off from the swarm to approach her. Opening her mouth, she shot a giant glass eyeball from her throat, piercing through the palms of the hands and tearing them all to pieces.
She could do nothing but stare for several moments.
"Right," she said to herself, as she flew deeper into the city, "after this, I'm going to have to have a long night at Mac's Bar. I think I'm getting a headache that'll last me for so many Loops to come.
Twilight Sparkle Awoke in her crib. Great, a foal loop. Well might as well get started with the pranks.
Over the next couple days Twilight Velvet, mother of Twilight Sparkle, noticed something strange. Twilight was being fed but no one remembered giving her a bottle. Her diaper was being changed but no one remembered doing it. And sometimes Twilight was even being put to bed with no one doing it. And Twilight only cried when she, Nightlight or Shining Armor were right outside her room and every time the only thing she wanted was to be let out of her crib. Yes, something strange was happening in her daughter and she was going to get to the bottom of it.
Velvet moved her typewriter into Twilight’s room; she wasn’t going to leave her daughter’s side until she figured out what was going on.
About an hour later her daughter woke up and looked at her. Little Twilight’s horn lit up, which wasn’t unusual for unicorn foal. However a bottle of milk entering the room and heading straight for her daughter was. Little Twilight started sucking at the bottle.
Did Twilight just…? thought Velvet.
Little Twilight lifted herself up and changed her own diaper. When Twilight was done with the bottle it floated over to Velvet’s hoof.
Velvet stared at her daughter. What? I have heard of independent kids but that’s ridiculous. Oh, I know. This must be a dream I fell asleep in my baby’s room and I’m dreaming.
Little Twilight levitated the finished pages of her mother’s book and a red pen and started poof reading.
Ok, now I know I am dreaming. There’s no way my one year old daughter is editing my book.
Little Twilight put her mother book back when she was done and ascended and started flying around the room.
And now she’s an alicorn. Definitely a dream.
“Mom, I’m home,” cried Shining Armor from downstairs.
Twilight flew downstairs.
“M-MOM!” Shining Armor galloped up the stairs. “Twily’s Flying!”
Velvet left her daughter’s room. “I know dear. She’ll be back to normal when we wake up. I’m sure of it.”
It took Twilight Velvet a couple days to come to terms with the fact her daughter really was an alicorn. Now if she could just catch her phantom editor (There was no way she would believe that her one year old daughter was actually editing her book).
Overall Twilight Velvet’s life was getting back to normal - at least until next week, when her daughter started speaking to Princess Celestia in old equis, a language that no one but Princess Celestia herself spoke anymore.
... and the Rest Loop: Dragonshy
(Reminder: the "And the Rest" Loop has Twilight, Cheerilee, Ivory Scroll, Zecora, Angel, and Gilda Awake. The rest of the Mane Six, not Awake, are Element Bearers for the Loop. Twilight's previous Loop was so bad she doesn't want to talk about it, and she's declared a go-through-the-motions relaxation Loop. The other five Awake Loopers are gleefully abusing this.)
"What do you MEAN, 'condemned'?"
Ivory Scroll ignored the blast of draconic outrage, which she could afford to do so long as it wasn't draconic flame. "This cave has been declared unfit for habitation due to structural and hygienic defects beyond repair. Therefore it is scheduled for demolition, by order of the Housing Authority of Greater Equestria."
"Unfit for-!" The dragon snorted a large cloud of black smoke. "IT'S A CAVE! How can a cave be condemned? Is it insufficiently cave-y for you?"
"Nevertheless," Ivory Scroll said, standing on her dignity, "under the circumstances I must deny your certificate of occupancy and suggest you find an alternate place of residence."
"I didn't apply for any certificate," the dragon growled. "And what do you propose to do if I simply ignore you and move in?"
"What?" Ivory Scroll put on her best offended look. "Whatever happened to the legendary draconic concern for law and order?"
"This IS the legendary draconic concern for law and order." With thumb and foreclaw the dragon flicked the mayor out of his way, picked the enormous sack containing his hoard off the clifftop, and crawled into the cave.
He was still in the process of arranging his bed of jewels and gold when the sound of beating drums echoed into the cave from outside. He poked his head out to see a zebra pounding on large tomtoms, wearing a garish wooden mask. "Welcome wagon?" he grumbled.
"You have disturbed my ancestors' burial place! Begone, or the consequences you shall face!"
The dragon raised an eyeridge. "Zebras don't bury their dead. And they don't live on mountains."
The tomtoms stopped. "Er... orphaned was I when but a filly. I was adopted by goats both gruff and billy."
A voice from a cloud above hissed, "Is that all you have?"
Zecora looked up and said, "To remove him I'm trying..." She bounded over the sweep of a large claw that crushed the drums into leather and kindling. "... but I don't think he's buying!"
A second swat sent the zebra flying off the ledge. With an eagle's shriek, Gilda plunged through the cloud she'd been lounging on and caught the falling zebra only about twenty feet down from the cliff edge.
Satisfied that the new annoyance was gone, the dragon went back into the cave.
"Well," Gilda said, "that's two down, one to go, since Angel didn't want any part of the bet." The griffin turned to Cheerilee and said, "I hope you've got something better."
"Well, as a teacher I can only say," Cheerilee giggled smugly, "watch and learn."
"Demolition squad?" the dragon rumbled.
"Yes, on account of this cave being condemned," Cheerilee said. "I'm giving you fair warning that you'll probably want to be outside the cave in about two minutes."
"Now listen, pony," the dragon grumbled, "I came here for a restful little nap, and I'm getting seriously annoyed by you pestering Equestrians. If you don't have something very good to show me, I'm-" The dragon's gaze turned from Cheerilee to the three new arrivals. "And who are you?"
"We're the Cutie Mark Crusaders!" the filly with the red bow in her mane chirped.
"We're on a crusade to find our cutie marks!" the orange pegasus added.
"And we won't rest until we've discovered our destiny!" the unicorn finished.
"Girls," Cheerilee said, "it's all arranged. Go right ahead!"
"CUTIE MARK CRUSADERS SPELUNKERS, YAAAAAY!" The three fillies pulled out helmets, safety vests and more grapnels and ropes than anyone who'd known them five minutes would feel safe about their possessing, and plunged off past the dragon and its treasure into the depths of the cave.
The dragon watched the fillies vanish into the darkness, then turned his attention back to Cheerilee. "Am I supposed to be concerned?"
"Wait for it," Cheerilee said. After a long four count, she turned and dashed for the cave entrance.
Moments later the shrieks and giggles of enthusiastic fillies turned to shouts of dismay. Deep in the cave rocks began cracking and groaning. Things fell. Larger things fell. Even larger things fell, making loud booms in the depths that shook the relatively bright entry chamber where the dragon had set up residence.
The dragon glanced up, spotted only two stalactites that might be annoying, and reached up and removed them, pounding them flat-side up into the cave floor for use as nightstands.
In the depths of the cave, the sound of falling rocks tapered off into the occasional shower of gravel and the dismayed moans of miserable ponies.
The dragon used a bit of flame to inspect the situation, found a long sapling log tucked in a corner by a prior occupant, poked around in the depths, and drew out three fillies covered in coal tar. He dropped the stick out the cave entrance, saying, "You should probably wash that off them as soon as possible. The nearest shampoo is somewhere OFF MY MOUNTAIN!!"
Cheerilee looked at the three Crusaders, tangled in rope, covered in sticky toxic substances, and shook her head.
Three large bags of bits dropped at Twilight's hooves.
"What are these for?" Twilight asked.
"Those three had a bet going and made me the judge," Gilda said, pointing a talon at the sheepish-looking zebra, teacher and mayor standing behind her. "Who could get rid of the smoke dragon using no Looper abilities, just simple in-Loop talents? But they all failed, which means you should get that letter from Sunbutt this afternoon. So, since you'll have to deal with it as in baseline, I say you should win the bet." After a moment she coughed and added, "By the way, he may be a bit grumpier than usual this time."
"Right," Twilight sighed. "Thanks for that." As if getting a non-Awake Fluttershy up that mountain wasn't difficult enough already...
and the Rest Loop: Look Before You Sleep
"So, all you did was assign Rarity and Applejack to opposite ends of town?" Cheerilee asked Ivory Scroll.
"If they're not working together, they can't get on each other's nerves," the mayor nodded. "So they either never bother Twilight at all, or else they meet at her place as friends, and things go swimmingly." Nodding to herself confidently, she added, "Everything should work out perfectly."
"Applejack, darling, your hooves are a fright!" Rarity gasped, pointing to the mud encasing the earth pony's feet. "Go rinse yourself off before you come in here!"
"Rarity, it's pourin' down out here!!" Applejack gasped.
"No argument, shoo! shoo!" Rarity demanded, pointing back out the door.
Twilight sighed as Applejack complied with ill grace, and she watched with silence as the garden hose outside took the apple farmer two falls out of three. When Applejack finally came back inside she was soaked through her coat, and her hat had lost its shape from the water soaked through every inch. "Let me go get a towel," she said quietly, trudging off to the bathroom.
Applejack looked at Rarity, who looked at Applejack. Both looked at the bathroom door.
"Uh, Twilight," Applejack said, walking over to the door and taking the towel that floated out to her, "have we done somethin' ta upset ya? 'Cause you seem really down in the dumps. I mean, more than ya usually are," she added.
"Er, yes," Rarity added. "It's nice to have a quiet friend, especially after spending an afternoon with Pinkie, but you seem more... well... subdued than usual."
"You're gloomier than a pig who's just watched th' last mudhole in th' whole world dry up," Applejack agreed.
Twilight sighed and flopped forward on a reading table, resting her head on her forehooves. "I didn't want to talk about this," she said. "There's too much I can't explain, and there's too much I don't even want to think about, much less talk about. But... long story short, not long before Princess Celestia sent me here for the Summer Sun Celebration, I went through some really unpleasant circumstances. One of the reasons I was happy to move here was to have a quiet place where I could recover... with my friends," she added with a tiny smile.
"What kinda un-"
Applejack's question was interrupted by a white hoof to the mouth. "Darling, she said she doesn't even want to think about it," Rarity said.
"You know, I never had friends back in Canterlot, aside from my brother and my foalsitter," Twilight continued. "I've certainly never had a sleepover. But just now, when I saw you two at the door, and how annoyed you were at each other-"
"Annoyed?" Applejack cocked her head in confusion. "Over a bit o'water? It weren't that big a deal!"
"No, she's right," Rarity said, looking abashed. "I wasn't thinking about you at all, Applejack. You could have washed up in the bathroom. I'm so sorry."
"Anyway," Twilight said, "I'm not really in the mood for a party tonight anyway. Let's just have a quiet evening together, all right?"
"Sure thing," Applejack said. "A wet night calls for some comfort food anyway. Hot oatmeal with apples and cinnamon sound good?"
"Delightful, darling," Rarity said. "I'll just check on Twilight's extra blankets and pillows."
Outside, the rain poured peacefully onto the streets of Ponyville.
"Well, you were right," Cheerilee said. "I hear Twilight had a nice, peaceful, pleasant evening with her two friends."
Ivory Scroll sighed.
"So nothing went wrong..." Cheerilee gestured to the greenery lying higgledy-piggledy around the inside of the town hall. "Aside from a few loose branches, of course."
"Topiary," Ivory Scroll groaned. "Exquisitely crafted topiary. Two hundred and sixty-one pieces of exquisite unicorn-crafted topiary."
"Yes," Cheerilee nodded. "Funny how, out of all the buildings in town, they only hit Town Hall."
Ivory Scroll moaned.
"And based on a quick count," the teacher continued, "they knocked out two hundred and fifty-eight windowpanes in the process."
Ivory Scroll sobbed.
"Which, I suppose, would explain three of the seven holes in the roof," Cheerilee continued. "But what about-"
"Oh hai, Cheerilee!" a cheerful voice called out from a large pile of styled tree branches. "Did you come to help clean up too?"
"Ah, hello, Derpy," Cheerilee called back, all her questions answered. Still, to be polite, she asked, "Do you know how this mess got started?"
"Not really," Derpy replied, shaking her head. "Rainbow Dash kept the wind blowing west-to-east during the storm, and she sent me home to take care of Dinky when it started. It looks like the streets funnelled all the loose branches the wind picked up straight into town square." Her crossed eyes crossed slightly more in helpless confusion. "I don't know which pony was in charge of tree cleanup on the west side of town."
"I do," the mayor of Ponyville wept into her ascot. "Ohhh, I do..."
Nyx blinked and examined herself as she Awoke. Human, or something close, again with dark skin (frankly it amused her how her human skin tones tended to flip between either really pale or as dark as was naturally possible). Moving on, she was walking in the middle of the woods, carrying a basket, headed to her grandmother Twilight Velvet's writing cottage to bring her some food (because apparently her grandmother frequently forgot to take enough supplies when she got inspired). Oh, and she was wearing a red hood and cape combo over her other clothes.
'Well, this is interesting,' she thought to herself as she looked around expectantly. 'Wonder if anyone replaced the Big Bad Wolf?'
Almost as it the thought had been a cue, she heard a deep masculine voice begin singing.
"Who's that I see walkin' in these woods? Why, it's Little Red Riding Hood!"
Turning to the direction the voice came from, she beheld a tall muscular werewolf wearing plate armor and grinning cheekily in her direction.
"Hey there Little Red Riding Hood! You sure are looking good!"
Nyx couldn't help herself. She began giggling hysterically, interrupting the song. "Hey Lemon!" she managed to get out between giggles. "How've you been?"
"Not bad," the werewolf, also known as Leman Russ, as well as Lemon Rush to the Equestrian loopers, allowed. "Just saw you walking through the woods and wondered if you could use some company."
"Probably," Nyx grinned back. "After all, there could be any number of dangerous beasts lurking out in the woods that might attack a poor defenseless little girl out to take goodies to her poor old grandma's place! Why, if there wasn't a big strong escort around for defense, who knows what might happen?"
Leman Russ tried to hold it in, but the deep, rumbling laughter broke out anyway. "And would I be protecting you from them... or them from you?"
"Depends..." Nyx tapped her chin playfully. "Are you going to finish your set?"
Leman laughed again, shaking his head as he walked up to join Nyx on her trip through the woods. "You're everything a big bad wolf could want..."
Nyx tilted her head back and joined Leman with an echoing "Owoooooooo" before they both devolved back into laughter.
Fluttershy gasped as she saw the state of angel bunny; fur was stretched tight across his chest, showing the bones beneath, and one of his eyes was missing. "Oh, Angel, you poor thing!" She moved to comfort him...
Then he bit her hoof. Hard. "Ow! ANGEL! You bad, bad bunny!"
Angel just gave her the finger and hopped off.
"Angel! That's rude!"
At least it meant Angel wasn't suffering, despite appearances to the contrary.
*knock knock knock*
Twilight opened the door to find Fluttershy.
"Oh hi Fluttershy! What's up?"
To illustrate, Fluttershy's right eye fell out of its socket, only to dangle by a nerve bundle.
Twilight sighed. "Let me guess. Angel bunny bit you?"
Fluttershy nodded. "How'd you know?"
Twilight turned to reveal a skeletal tail. "That little rodent has been going around biting everypony for a couple days now."
Fluttershy's left eye widened. "Oh, my. I hope everypony's OK..."
"WOO HOO!" yelled Spike, flying down the stairs. "Check it out, Twilight! I'm a skeletal wyvern!"
Twilight chuckled. "Some of the ponies are a little creeped out by the changes, but yeah, we're fine."
125.9 (Hubris Plus)
Twilight stumbled as she Woke up mid-step and rolled her eyes before taking stock. You'd think she'd have gotten the hang of a smooth gait after the first few million times it had happened, but she supposed there really were some things that you never outgrew.
Looking around, she found herself-
"You're walking in the woods," a voice informed her, seeming to come from the air itself. "There's nopony around and your magic is dulled."
She suppressed a groan. There were a hoof-full of decent narrators across the cosmos, but by and large they were a bad sign. A quick test of her horn confirmed that she could just about manage levitation. The rest of her abilities were just as sluggish.
"Out of the corner of your eye you spot her..." Twilight barely caught the motion and was startled when a second voice chimed in with-
"She's following you, about thirty feet back," it went on. Twilight found herself hurrying her pace just a little. "She lowers her head and starts to gallop. She's gaining on you!"
Twilight broke into a run as she tried to sort things out in her head. Getting run down by celebrities was hardly new. The Loops were more than happy to stick her with 'ponies are the deadliest game of all' on occasion. Slasher scenarios happened often enough, and narrators were only a little rarer. All three at once was a new one, though.
"You're looking for the road, but you're all turned around. She's almost upon you now and you can see there's blood on her face. Sweet Celestia, there's blood everywhere!" She suppressed the urge to upchuck as she caught sight of red all around her. To Tartarus with this mess, she was ending things then and there.
"Running for your life!"-"From Sapphire Sh-"
"Nope!" Twilight shouted, turning back and running straight at the ponicidal pop sensation. This was somehow turning into a Heart Song, which meant she'd have to act fast to shift the narrative momentum.
"Turning back to fight!"-"Sapphire Shores!"
"She's rearing back to strike you!"
"Musical mastermind, Sapphire Shores!" Twilight dove under her opponent's flailing forehooves before throwing herself upwards. Her horn drove into what she knew to be a sensitive nerve cluster just beyond the shoulder.
"You've got her on the ropes!"-"Sapphire Shores!" She continued her assault, dusting off disused martial arts to knock the musician off balance.
"But she doesn't give up hope!"-"Sapphire Shores!" Sapphire continued fighting even as she hit the dirt. Her scrabbling hooves managed to strike Twilight a few times, leaving bruises and scrapes. Twilight, in turn, hefted a log in unsteady telekinesis and brought it around to strike her attacker across the back of her head.
"Finally defeated!"-"Safe at last from Sapphire Shores..." Twilight heaved a sigh of relief as the other pony's eyes rolled up and she slumped to the ground.
"Alright," she muttered, pacing as she unravelled the constraints on her magic. "Am I teleporting you to jail or a psych ward?" She wished Spike was there. Her own Legilimency was competent, but more intrusive than she'd like.
"But she's only playing dead!"-"Shores surprise!" The other mare leaped to her hooves in a lightning fast motion. "She's got a knife in her hoof!"-"And death in her eyes!"
"Oh come on!" Twilight growled. Narrators were the worst.
125.10 (Kris Overstreet)
Celestia noticed her hoof tapping on the marble floor and forced herself to stop. Twilight Sparkle hadn't responded to her ping upon Awakening (nopony had), and she hadn't sent the usual "help help Nightmare Moon is coming" letter. One or the other always happened, without fail, in the first ten minutes of a baseline Loop. What was going on?
She had almost decided to go looking for her student when Twilight Sparkle appeared in a flash in front of her. The purple unicorn shook like a willow tree in a tornado. "Twilight," Celestia asked, "what's wrong?"
"Big Mac and Berry Punch aren't Awake and nobody else is but you and this Loop doesn't have alcohol and I-I-I..."
Celestia wrapped Twilight in one wing. To one of the guards at the door to her throne room she said, "Cancel all audiences and public events for the day. All of them. We shall be busy." Before the guard could protest, she teleported herself and her student to her bedchambers, where Celestia's personal student could cry on her shoulder as much as she needed to.
For the better part of half an hour Celestia just hugged Twilight and let her cry. Her mind flooded with questions- what Loop could have been this bad, that it completely shattered an Anchor this experienced?- but she kept her silence. If Twilight wanted to talk, she would. If not, Celestia would be there for her. True, their relationship wasn't what it once was, in baseline. Twilight no longer needed a mentor, and she had several friends closer than Celestia. But Celestia was still her friend, and would always be so, as long as Twilight Sparkle- Looping or not- needed her.
Finally, long after the sobs had ended and the sniffles had dried up, Twilight spoke. "What do you think would happen," she said, "if someone inverted a Bureau Loop?"
Celestia frowned, an expression all the more impressive for how seldom she used it. The Conversion Bureau. Not the absolute worst variant Loop Equestria had to offer, but none of the worse variants happened more than once, whereas the Bureau popped up again and again, like a wormy apple in the bobbing tank. "Under any other circumstances I would guess it was a good thing," Celestia said cautiously. "People imprisoned in bodies they weren't born in and didn't want, released and returned to the lives they were meant to live."
Twilight snorted like a donkey. "Not even close," she grumbled. "Human scientists were conducting an experiment in travel to alternate dimensions. They opened a portal onto Equestria. For a little while everything seemed to be perfect- peaceful first contact, cultural exchange, the start of friendship between the two species."
When Twilight paused for reaction, Celestia replied, "But the portal did something to poison Equestria, didn't it? Something requiring Conversion?"
Twilight shuddered. "Once the portal was established it was harmless. But the initial experiment that opened the portal tainted the mana field across Equestria. Anything that used magic would gradually be poisoned and die from the exposure. And since Equestria relies on magic for practically everything..."
"Everypony would have to migrate to Earth," Celestia said. "I begin to see where this is going."
"Ponies could live on Earth as ponies," Twilight continued, "but that Earth had its own magic field, tainted even more so than Equestria's. We tried closing the portal, but closing the portal didn't take away the taint from Equestria's magic. So eventually it came down to one solution: convert every talking creature in Equestria into a creature that couldn't touch magic in any way, that would be immune to the taint. Humans."
"I see," Celestia said. After a moment's thought she added, "And I asked you to be one of the first ones converted, didn't I?"
Twilight nodded. "You and Luna were too far gone by that point, you said- too much magic, too much poisoning to survive conversion. I was supposed to take your place and lead the ponies to safety on Earth... in a world they didn't understand, a world that worked like the worst horrors of the Everfree Forest, a world without any of the wonders or miracles we take for granted."
"So what did you do?" Celestia asked.
"I said no," Twilight said. "You cajoled me and I said no. You called to my sense of duty, and I said no. Then you got on your knees and pleaded, begged me to accept conversion so I would live." Twilight sniffed again and pressed herself a little harder against Celestia. "I think it wouldn't hurt so much if she'd acted more like the usual Bureau Celestia and tried to take the decision out of my hooves, but she wouldn't do that. She was basically you. She did everything she could except force me to be converted. But she would- not- give- up!" After a shuddering sigh she finished, "I eventually teleported myself into solid rock to crash the Loop."
Uh-oh, Celestia thought but carefully didn't say aloud. As a rule of thumb, deliberately crashing a bad Loop tended to land the Loopers involved in a worse Loop. But not always. "And you ended up here?"
"No. Minecraft," Twilight said. "That didn't last long, because I couldn't concentrate on mining and building. I kept wondering... did I do the right thing? I mean, the Loop crashes when the Anchor dies... but what if there was another Anchor in that Loop? Did I just condemn all Equestria to a lifetime of leaderless exile without magic? Could I have found some way to purify the magic field if I hadn't given up?" Twilight looked up at Celestia and whispered, "Could I have saved you and Luna?"
Celestia hugged Twilight again. "My dear Twilight," she said, "you made the best decision you could at the time. Sometimes the Loops are just cruel, and nothing we do can change that, no matter how hard we try." A small smile crept on her lips. "Remind me to tell you about the Loop where my chosen student was Jack Napier... and he had to save Equestria from the dreaded Batmare."
This teaser served its purpose, which was to break the mood completely. "What? But... how? PLEASE tell me the Joker isn't Looping!"
"Another time, Twilight," Celestia chuckled. "I think we both need a vacation Loop. Why don't we go tell Nightmare Moon the throne is hers, and see how long it takes for her to beg us to come back?"
"Surfing again?" Twilight asked.
"Actually, I was thinking Maneaco. Roulette and baccarat in a city that never sleeps. Incognito, of course. And with the Equestrian treasury for mad money."
"You know," Twilight said, "I've been working out this new system for card-counting at blackjack that I'm almost certain the casino won't be-"
Twilight's words were cut off as the two ponies teleported away.
125.3 continued (elmagnifico)
When the ping came, he almost missed it.
Macintosh Apple, elder brother, professional farmer, amateur barkeep and looper, in that order, rubbed at his forehead with a hoof. Massaging the bridge of one's nose was a comfort limited to the loops where he had fingers, and a nose for that matter. It was one which he had not managed to bring back to his equine form, and was sorely missing at the moment. So, in lieu of such action, he continued rubbing at his forehead with a hoof.
An outside observer would see something quite different. Another pony, or similar narrator more focused on the physical reality, such as the two green eyes peering into the mirror, would say Applejack was massaging her forehead. For that was the name tied to the body currently ensconced in a bathroom on Sweet Apple Acres, as it had been for a good five minutes while the mind currently possessing it sorted out the disorientation of waking up somewhere unfamiliar.
Macintosh, on the other hand, saw no reason to bow his internal pronouns to the whims of something so capricious in the Loops as Fact. So he massaged his forehead.
There hadn't been a loop this... disorienting, since That One Loop with Twilight. Which had at least been bearable by dint of not giving him time to think over the changes until after Discord had been vanquished. By that point he had more important concerns, like forging a nation and keeping a religion devoted to him from getting too silly.
It occurred to him that there were duties that needed to be done, here and now, and that his family would be missing the fourth member if this anti-headache session went on much longer, but the idea of interacting with the rest of the clan as Applejack, simply galled too much in his mind.
A loop memory bubbled to the surface. Breakfast. It was familiar, one of the fresher memories whenever he Awoke. His sister always made hazelnut pancakes. But the memory was wrong too. He could remember making hazelnut pancakes. Thoughts accompanied images and actions, sounding like Applejack being there, whispering in his head.
He tried listening for a moment. 'Gotta grind these nuts good an' small. Granny Smith can't take the big chunks, get stuck in her dentures. Maybe I should make a separate batch for her, I like 'em, and Big Mac prefers-'
Mention of his name shot him back to the present, and his eyes widened, and then clenched shut as he strained at the corners of his mind. More loop memories tried to burn their way to the surface, but he held them down with a green-tinged extension of his will until they subsided. He let out a sigh of relief, and returned to regarding "his" reflection.
What looked like Applejack continued to scowl at him through the bathroom mirror, reinforcing his conviction. Making him all the more determined to repress those thoughts from before he awoke in this body. After all, one fact remained true:
Those were not his memories.
Granted, there were many loop memories that he'd seen that were not his. Every time he looped somewhere other than the Apple farm, he got a set that weren't his. These memories, however, weren't just not his.
They were Applejack's.
Who knew what kinds of private moments and thoughts were held therein?
"Sis? Y' okay in there?"
The voice from outside made him stiffen. That wasn't Applebloom or Granny Smith. Didn't sound like them anyway. The male relatives wouldn't arrive until later, unless this was a stranger variant than he'd thought. That left only one candidate. One he was not ready to face.
Then the Ping hit.
He cleared his throat, feeling the unfamiliar vocal chords. A tiny psychic poke at the back of his mind was the least of his problems. Despite the strangeness of using it, the voice sounded perfectly natural to him. Which could not be less normal.
"Ah'm fine, jus' don' feel like mahself."
There was a grunt from outside, and then a receding set of hoofsteps as Macintosh moved away.
'That's going to get confusing quick,' the looper thought to himself as he pinged back.
Another Loop here at Canterlot High...
Sunset Shimmer was, as you'd expect by now, tired of high school. The 'Dazzlings incident' did change things up a bit, but even their tricks got stale. The teacher then mentioned two new exchange students, and that got Sunset's attention. Five bits it's guest Loopers.
"...Please welcome Pound Foolish and Blue Thunder."
The latter, a young man with blue skin, bowed. "It is an honor to meet you all. I hope we can get along."
Pound Foolish, a young woman, then said, "Pleased to meet you all! Hope you'll get us in the Loop about this place!"
Sunset knew that familiar sign, and quickly used a Ping, getting responses which were presumably from the new students. Raising her hand, Sunset said, "I'll show them around!"
A few minutes later, the new students were in the gym, when Sunset pointed to Pound Foolish and inquired, "You're Nabiki Tendo, right? And by his name, your friend is...I can't believe I'm saying this...an Awake Tatewaki Kuno?"
The revealed Nabiki nodded. "Correct. Ranma told me about you. Heard you replaced me when you met him. Hope he taught you as well as he did me back during the early days."
Sunset nodded. "His teachings did help form my way of fighting. How DID you end up being the first Nerima Looper after him to Awaken anyway?" Nabiki shrugged. "He needed an ear to hear his problems, that's all, and didn't want to worry Kasumi. Even I was surprised when I started Looping."
Sunset chuckled. "Hard to believe the stories of how generous you are nowadays. So", Sunset pointed at Kuno, "What's HIS story? When he'd Awaken?" Kuno replied with, "Ranma befriended me one Loop where we had met during his training trip. He was there for me when my mother passed; I'd likely fallen into my baseline habits otherwise. I happened to Awaken just as my baseline self was proclaiming his love for Ranma's girl form."
Sunset cringed. "Now that's gotta be embarrassing. So, what've you been doing in the Loops, Kuno?"
The samurai wannabe replied, "I have been trying to learn what it truly means to be a samurai. I have had a couple of Fused Loops which have helped. Allow me to demonstrate what I know, as little as it may be..."
Sunset grabbed a basketball, and said, "Let's see it, then."
Lifting his hand, Kuno used the Force to move the basketball. Sunset, intrigued, replied, "A Jedi, huh. Their ways would fit you."
Kuno then drew a sword, which Sunset could sense was a Zanpakuto. Saying, "Strike, Ao Ikazuchi," the Zanpakuto's blade turned into pure lightning, and Kuno then sent it at the basketball.
"'Blue Thunder'...” Sunset mused. “Why am I not shocked that's what that'd be named?"
Kuno snickered, and when Sunset raised her eyebrow, then replied, "I hope you meant that awful pun." Sunset facepalmed. "I just realized it. Anyhow, welcome to this corner of the Multiverse, Kuno. Just don't try and hit on anyone."
Kuno laughed mirthfully. "What do you take me for? That buffoon whom I had once seen any day in the mirror?"
Nabiki shrugged. "At least he's honest about it." The trio laughed. Sunset grinned widely. "Well, welcome to Canter lot High. Hope you enjoy the experience!"
Nabiki nodded. "We will."
“So, what did you dress up as for Nightmare Night?” Twilight asked.
Nyx shrugged. “Didn't. I just took my hairband off.”
Twilight sniggered. “That, I admit, works.”
125.13 (with OathToOblivion)
"Okay, so... I think I've got this down." The Smeargle sat down, toying with her tail idly. "This is the Pokemon world, right?"
"Well, yeah," Pikachu confirmed. "It's kind of obvious."
"Yeah, yeah, I don't play much. So... right. Why am I a Smeargle?"
"Why wouldn't you be?" Ash asked. "Well, you might be a human, I guess..."
"No, I mean... look, I'm a griffin, right? Why aren't I a griffin Pokemon?" Gilda waved her tail around. "I can see where it's coming from, I guess, but..."
Pikachu started to reply... and stopped. He turned to Ash. "Do we even have a griffin Pokemon?"
"...now you mention it..." Ash shrugged. "Can't think of one."
"That sucks." Gilda shrugged. "Oh well. Guess I may as well tag along with you butts. What do Smeargle learn, anyway?"
Pikachu grinned. "Good news! Anything they want. They copy moves."
"Really?" Gilda's expression turned contemplative. "Interesting. You guys run into Legendaries, right?"
"This could go either really well, or really badly," Pikachu commented to Ash, who nodded his agreement.
"Just to clarify, I get to keep the moves when I leave, right?"
"Yep," Ash confirmed, holding up his hand. A lazily-spinning Shadow Ball formed in his hand, while Pikachu spat out an Ember.
"Discord?" Twilight asked. "Would you care to explain?"
Discord shrugged. "Explain what? All of this is above-board."
He tapped the board to prove it, which made a wooden sound.
"More to the point, it is below my house." Twilight pointed at the large barrels. "That one has a fuse. Why does it have a fuse?"
Discord gestured to his comrade-in-legs. "Ask her."
Zecora spread her wings, and coughed.
the fourth season ender,
harmony, centaur and plot.
If we blow your building
before Tirek escapes,
then - simply put - he can not."
"Very nice," Twilight said, and sighed. "Have either of you had a stressful loop recently?"
"Not especially, no..." Discord replied. "There is a good reason for this, though."
Zecora nodded, and tapped the walls. "These are treated with a potion. If made right, there will be no motion. The blast shall all go to the sky, and no danger for those nearby."
"I see." Twilight frowned. "Right, just give me ten minutes to put everything I want to keep in my pocket and ascend."
"Ascend?" Discord turned his head sideways in thought. "Why?"
Twilight produced a large surfboard. "I may as well see what Celestia sees in this, now I have the opportunity."