Then Goes the Neighborhood

by FanOfMostEverything

Chapter 1: Picking Up Bad Vibrations

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Dr. Turner's history lessons made Sunset regret not studying this world's past before the Fall Formal. He didn't need magic to make the dry passages of the textbooks come to life, just a blend of enthusiasm and storytelling talent that made every class feel more like watching a performance than listening to a lecture.

He paced behind his desk as he spoke. He hadn't stopped moving since he'd began the discussion on the nomadic tribes of central Neighsia. "They called him Khan of Khans, Immortal Khan, for they believed he did not die but instead left this soft world to seek more satisfying conquests." Dr. Turner smiled. "Given recent developments, there may be something to that. Regardless of how Tirejin left this world, without his leadership, the clans he'd gath— GAH!" He clutched his head and flinched back.

A loud thump sounded, but Sunset Shimmer couldn't say for sure what caused it, her own vision reduced to a blur. Her skin prickled with heat and cold alike. She swayed in her seat, resting her hands on her desk to compensate for her lost equilibrium as she gasped for breath. Her stomach roiled. Her reflexive attempt to dissolve her body resulted only in fitful sparks from her headgem, making her breath even shallower in her panic.

But worst of all...



"Glorious Proclaimer!"

Worst of all were the students who worshiped her. She could hear their chairs squeal and feet stomp as they approached, their reverence an almost physical weight that was the last thing she needed, their unspoken prayers roaring in her ears, their—

Silence. Another body near hers, devoid of awe, pushing back the desk and easing her head between her knees. Hands holding back her hair. Something purple beneath her, with everything else tinted the same hue.

"It's okay, Sunset," said Twilight. "They can't see or hear us."

Sunset managed a "Thanks" before revisiting her lunch.

After several heaves, Sunset caught her breath and waited for her guts to decide if they were through trying things the other way around. Once a consensus was reached, she tried reconstructing her body again. This time, it went without a hitch, her form dissolving and reassembling in an orange wave that flowed from her headgem to the soles of her feet, leaving her clean and with no aftertaste in her mouth. "What in Tartarus was that?"

Twilight's own gem brightened a bit as she formed a lid over the bucket she'd crafted from magical force. "I was going to ask you the same thing."

A hollow clanging made both girls look up. Dr. Turner stood on the other end of Twilight's shield, one hand holding the back of his head, the other forming the fist that had knocked on the dome, his mouth moving soundlessly. "Oh, right," said Twilight, who then dropped the shield.

"—ectly reasonable sort of candy, even if they do come off as a bit infanticidal. And going by your expressions, you hit that sentence at the most ridiculous point." Dr. Turner managed a smile. "Don't suppose either of you can tell us what that was about?"

Sunset glanced at his hourglass lapel pin. "If you were also affected, I think it was some sort of temporal distortion. A big one, in Equestria. Otherwise, I'd have caught it ahead of time. So to speak."

"I see. More or less." Dr. Turner shook his head, then winced. "Mostly less, if I'm being honest. Now, there's only eight minutes and twenty... one seconds of class left and a lovely June day outside; I'd say you can all leave a bit early." A fair portion of the class fled at that. Sunset couldn't help but smile a little at Twilight's disapproving glare. "Personally," said Dr. Turner, "I'm going to pay Redheart a visit and see if those cold packs are for students only. Sunset?"

She shook her head. "I'll be fine, sir." She looked around at the stragglers, all of whom had been invoking her earlier. Some averted their eyes. She preferred it when they did; then she didn't have to see the faintly manic gleam of faith. "Seriously, you don't need to hang around on my account."

Dr. Turner frowned at them. "Come on, you lot, your goddess is fine. She said so herself."

"I am and I did."

"There, you see? If you can't trust your object of worship, who can you trust?" Sunset's supplicants slowly shuffled out. Dr. Turner nodded and immediately regretted it, going by the hand he put to the back of his head. He turned back to Twilight and Sunset, said, "Have a lovely day, you two," and followed the others out.

Both waved. Once he was out of the classroom, Twilight turned to Sunset. "You're sure you're okay?"

"This body's fresh. I'm fine. But thanks."

Twilight nodded, then hefted the force bucket in her magic. "I'll go flush this before someone tries to make a relic out of it."

Sunset rolled her eyes and started gathering her things. "They would, too. See you later, Twilight."

"See you."

Twilight turned and made for the nearest girls' bathroom with all due haste. It wasn't out of concern for the bucket; she could've maintained the telekinetic construct for hours. The reason was waiting for her in that restroom.

Ditzy Doo had her arms crossed when Twilight entered the room. "For the record, I don't appreciate thoughts in my brain when I'm not the one thinking them."

"Sorry. Sending a message that actually stimulates the auditory cortex is a lot trickier than just transmitting the information." Twilight released the bucket and flushed what might now be the world's most holy public toilet. "In any case, I need a favor."

"I got that much." Ditzy's frown deepened. "This isn't going to involve electrodes in personal places again, is it?"

"No. I need you to go to Equestria and activate the portal."

"Uh huh. Why, exactly?"

Twilight mentally rifled through her options and decided to try persuasion. "I can compensate you if necessary."

That broke Ditzy's composure. Twilight noted that she'd probably gone for the wrong tactic, going by the other girl's incredulous expression. "It's nice of you to offer... I think. Still, I just want to know what to tell your pony princess self if she sees me. I get the feeling she doesn't appreciate people breaking into her house and messing with her stuff."

"Oh. I see." It was logical. She certainly wouldn't appreciate finding someone rooting through her lab. "That temporal anomaly wouldn't have caught Sunset off-guard if it had originated in this universe. She believes that it occurred in Equestria, and I agree. It's the most likely explanation. But if I asked to borrow Sunset's quantum entanglement journal to ask P-Twilight, she'd just brush it off because she wouldn't want me to worry."

"So that leaves Plan B for bubbles," said Ditzy. She bit her lip. "Though... are you sure you want to worry about this? It seems to have blown over."

Twilight narrowed her eyes. "Someone should. For Sunset's sake."

"Ah." Ditzy nodded. "I see. The portal will be open by the time you're at the statue."

"Thank you."

Ditzy saluted, spread her wings, and seemed to shrink away into nothing.

Twilight gave a sharp nod and left the bathroom, clenching her fists as the incident replayed itself over and over in her mind. Something so powerful that it could be felt from another universe was troubling enough. That Sunset was the one affected made it even worse. To see someone so strong, so proud hit that hard; to see her sickened, frightened, humiliated...

"Uh, Twilight?"

"Are you... feeling quite alright, darling?"

She turned her head. At some point, she'd reached the entrance hall of the school. Generosity and Laughter were—

Twilight caught her own thought process and took stock of her situation. The edges of her vision had gone fuchsia, and she only then became aware of how she'd been floating a few inches off the ground for the past minute or so. She grounded herself figuratively and literally and gave Rarity and Pinkie a sheepish smile. "Sorry. Something happened to Sunset and I'm investigating."

"Ah. That would explain things."

"Like how your eyes were all..." Pinkie waved her hands around her own eyes as she looked for the words.

"Shining with the white-hot intensity of a thousand stars?" said Rarity.

Pinkie shrugged. "I was going to go with 'glowy,' but that works too."

Rarity gave a proud smile before turning back to Twilight. "In any case, do give the other Twilight our regards. Such a shame she can't visit more often."

"I will." Twilight took a deep breath. "Just need to remember to keep myself calm. Don't want the ponies to think I'm some monster. I'm sure they didn't mean to do whatever they did." She strode off, muttering, "They'd better not have."

"So romantic. Going off to defend the honor of her beloved. Would that I had so devoted a swain."

"I can still hear you, Rarity."

"Consider it a compliment, dear!"

Twilight couldn't help but grin as she made her way to the statue. She didn't even stop to test the portal; she just stuck an arm out to confirm that it was active as she walked in. The transition through it was as fascinating as the few trips she'd made before, moving in a direction her senses struggled to register along with the sharp tingle of the transforming spell reluctantly considering her sufficiently pony to enter Equestria unchanged.

The momentum conservation after the moment of paradoxically speedy stillness still took some getting used to. Ditzy steadied Twilight as she half-tumbled out of the portal. The blonde grinned. "Not every day I'm helping someone else keep her balance."

Twilight chuckled as Ditzy helped her back on her feet. "Thanks."

"No problem. Also, I think I found part of the problem."


"Yeah, on my way here, I saw seven universes on the opposite side of this one." Ditzy looked off to two sides and added, "You know, for a given definition of 'opposite' in high-dimensional space. Anyway, they definitely weren't here last time I checked. Not sure if they're the problem or just another side effect, but they're definitely new, and the Trees of Harmony coming out of them aren't looking healthy. Some of them..." She shuddered. "Some of them are very definitely dead."

"Oh. Oh." Twilight didn't think of herself as an especially devout Harmonist, but even considering a dead Tree was horrifying. "Good to know, I guess?"

"Figured you should." Ditzy looked at the portal. "Is it better to leave this thing on or off?"

Twilight wasn't sure. "Better to turn it off." She definitely didn't know what just spoke through her lips. A soothing presence brushed against her mind before she could panic.

Ditzy just turned off the portal, said "Good luck," and flew out of the universe.

Twilight looked around. There was no one else there, just the crystalline walls of the castle itself. The castle that, according to her local analogue, was the offspring of the Tree of Harmony itself. "Am I speaking to the building?"


"Not the strangest thing I've ever done. I don't suppose you know what caused the temporal anomaly?"

Affirmation, firmer and angrier.

Twilight felt her face twist into a snarl that wasn't entirely the castle's doing. "Well then. Guide the way."

A gentle tug, a familiarity with the place not her own, guided her steps.

As the baby dragon rushed past her to his own tiny throne, Starlight looked about the room and swallowed as the door swung shut behind her. "I know there's no excuse for what I did, but I want you all to know that I'm ready for whatever punishment you think is fair."

Princess Twilight smiled sympathetically. "I've been thinking a lot about how badly Equestria fared without just one group of friends. Because even when one friendship dies, the results can be disastrous."

"I know firsthoof how true that can be..." Starlight kicked at the floor, eyes downcast.

"And that's why I've asked you here. If you're willing to learn, I'm willing to teach you what I know. You'll have the power to—"

A rapid pounding drew all eyes to the throne room's doors, where a familiar voice shouted, "Hey, horse self! We need to talk!"

Princess Twilight blinked and put on a clearly false smile. "Excuse me a second." She trotted to the doors and opened them a crack. "Oh! Hello, H-Twilight—"

"Whatever temporal experiments you're doing, knock it off. The reverberations made Sunset vomit in the middle of history class."

"Experi..." The smile reached new heights of artificiality. "Oh, yes. The temporal experiments. We're in the middle of wrapping those up right now. So if you could just—"

"Really?" The rage had drained out of the other voice, and Starlight's eyes widened as she realized that it was Princess Twilight's, clearly audible even when the alicorn's mouth was shut. "Do you mind if I watch? You know, assuming you can keep the higher dimensional shockwaves tamped down."

Princess Twilight gave a nervous little giggle. "Well, most of the magical and technical matters have been handled, and what's left is... kind of..." She rolled a hoof, trying to find a good word. "It's... it's a princess thing."

"Politics?" The voice on the other side of the door sighed. "Well.... can you at least give me your notes? If you've already collected the data, we might as well get some use out of it."

"Ah, well, I mean, I can see why you'd be interested, but—"

"You did take notes, right?"

Starlight felt herself take a step back from the door before she realized she had. Then she felt her jaw drop. She was now at an angle where she could see the alien creature on the other side of the door.

"Like you said," said Princess Twilight. "Politics. Classified. I don't... It's really complicated and I really am in the middle of something important. I'll have to look through the files to see what I can tell you—"

The other being groaned and held up a spindly paw. "Alright, alright. Just... look, as soon as you're done with that, we really need to talk. There's been some temporal fracturing."

The princess's wings flared open as her eyes bugged out. "Temporal what!?"

"Well, that tells me whether or not you meant to cause it. But yeah, whatever you were doing, you've made seven new universes." The Twilight-voiced entity hummed to itself. "We should definitely check to see how they interact with the por—"

"OOOOKAY! That is important. Good to know. Look, go wait in the library, and I extra-especially Pinkie Promise I will explain everything when I'm done here. Okay? Okay." Princess Twilight punched herself in the face, slammed the door shut, and turned back to the assembled ponies. "So! As I was saying—"

"Was that some sort of mutant minotaur?" Starlight asked. "Did you have some mutant minotaur baby?"

"AS. I. WAS. SAYING." Twilight cleared her throat, schooling her expression into a polite smile. "Starlight Glimmer, I'd like for you to become my student and learn the magic of friendship."

Starlight's mind finally managed to get past the strange being and immediately regretted it. "What was that she said about other worlds? Do all those other timelines still exist!?"

"Magic of friendship!" Twilight shouted. "So you don't have to be alone anymore! What do you say?"

Starlight's legs fell out from under her. "Sweet Celestia, what have I done?!"

Twilight sighed, dragging a hoof down her face. "Okay, Starlight? Breathe. This isn't nearly as bad as the time I almost destroyed the universe. Atomic matter wouldn't have survived."

Starlight just curled up into a ball.

"Call me crazy, Twi," said the earth pony with the hat, "but I don't think that helped."

Author's Notes:

The section written from Starlight Glimmer's perspective was modified from the Group Precipitation story "Re-Markable," written by Masterweaver.

Next Chapter: A Sad Glimmer Estimated time remaining: 14 Minutes
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