On a table in the middle of Golden Oaks library sat a large pile of books. No organization or consideration was given to which kind of books made up each part of the vaguely triangular mass of paper and hardback coverings, since every single one of them had been salvaged from the ancient castle in the Everfree Forest.
Spike was pacing around the library, his snout stuck in one of the books as he complained aloud. "I really don't get why you had to raid the entire library."
Twilight rolled her eyes. "They were uncategorized, Spike. Most of these were written before they had any kind of sorting system." She pulled the book out of Spike's claws and placed it back on the pile.
Spike walked up to the small mountain of books, scratching his head. "So, we're gonna do the sorting?" The same book he had been reading was thrust back into his claws.
"Exactly! We'll read them, give them an appropriate label and put them into our collection. It's going to be so fun!" she practically squealed.
Their plans for the evening had been set. Twilight split the pile between them; she slowly read her half at the foot of the table while Spike lazily skimmed over his half at the foot of the staircase.
The dragon was mostly silent through his reading, occasionally looking up to inspect Twilight's progress. The first time he saw that she had already set up her own little system, several books stacked in neat rows with small labels on each stack. She would sometimes make audible grunts of interest as she flipped a page or read a particularly interesting sentence.
After an hour, Spike looked up again to see that Twilight had, surprisingly, made almost no progress. Only a few new sorted pieces graced the stacks and Twilight was engrossed in what appeared to be a very old, very battered brown book. Spike didn't think much of it and turned back to his own sorting; his system was much simpler. One pillar of books for 'boring', the other for 'cool'.
It was late in the evening when his half of the pile dried up and he clasped the last book. Standing up, he saw that Twilight was still reading the grubby tome. Her brows were furrowed in concentration, her eyes darting about the pages as she seemed to be reading over each sentence several times with overbearing scrutiny.
"You've been reading that same book all day. What gives?" he asked, walking up to her. He received no answer. "Twilight?"
Twilight didn't even look up as she waved a hoof. "Tell them we're closed."
Spike had seen this before; a book so fascinating to her that it was almost impossible to get her attention. He waved a claw in front of her face. She blinked but otherwise gave no response.
More drastic measures were necessary. He sucked in some air and puffed out his chest. "Reading is for dorks!"
Twilight's head instantly whipped away form her book. "What!?"
"Never fails. What are you reading? You've had your nose in it all day."
She chuckled at Spike's deception. "It's a spellbook, Spike."
"We already have tons of spellbooks."
"None like this," she said. She motioned for Spike to come over. When he did, Spike saw the pages of the book for himself. The writing was so small that he had to squint.
Twilight continued. "Most of the spellbooks in the library have dozens or hundreds of spells in each one. As far as I can tell, this book is describing one."
"One whole book for a spell? What's it do?"
"That's just the thing, I'm not really sure. Listen to this," she said, picking up the book and reading it aloud while she paced around the room. "Therefore, a caster must ground the agur and island-key else risking catastrophic overload among the lower runes. A grounding rune-carving or an equally deep earth-scar must be inscribed with the Sigil of Starswirl, the Mark of the Dragon and either the Glyph of Might or the Symbol of Air. This will facilitate and dissipate excess power. Care must be taken—"
Twilight flipped through the pages. "You have to be careful with this stuff or it'll explode. I think. It's like the writer only wrote down the parts of the spell he thought he'd forget."
"So what's the spell do?"
"You know, it never really says. Well, it keeps mentioning 'excess speed' and 'Positive-Negative Crossing'. With all preparing...maybe a conduit spell? I guess we won't know until we do a test run."
Spike sighed; if there was one thing in the entire universe that would make her postpone her library duties, it was the opportunity to learn a new spell, particularly one nopony had ever heard of before.
Twilight continued skimming through the book. "Oh, and you have to be outside to perform it. Spike, could you get some chalk?"
"We're doing it now?"
Spike didn't receive an answer; Twilight had already walked outside with book in tow. The dragon felt something in his hand. He didn't even bother looking; she had summoned some chalk right into his claw.
He sighed once more and walked outside. The sooner the spell didn't work because the writer was obviously a kook, the sooner they could go back inside.
Twilight began by instructing Spike to draw a large circle around her.
After that was chaos.
Twilight showed him some of the symbols he was supposed to draw within the circle, but he was almost always interrupted with her providing some kind of correction.
"This symbol won't work at all. And this: why is all the pre-spell buildup shifted into the runes? That's just plain wasteful."
Spiked looked up from his scribbling. "So?"
"I think we can do the spell without all the extra stuff."
Spike shrugged and walked out of the spell area. "You ready?"
"Ready!" Twilight exclaimed. She closed her eyes and began to concentrate, her horn glowing with an unusually maroon-hued aura.
For a few moments, nothing happened as Twilight shook with power and continued her task. Then, a breeze hit Spike and he shivered. Maybe it was a wind spell? After another breeze hit him from above, he looked up to see something rather odd.
A cloud had fixed itself above Twilight and was shaking violently.
Spike pointed to the shivering lump. "Uh, Twilight?"
She didn't hear him, far too invested in the spell. The breeze had become a steady gust now, quickly wrapping itself around Twilight. The cloud became more and more random in its spasms, almost as if something were trying to escape the fluffy prison.
"Twilight!" he shouted. The cloud had started to become dark grey. He shouted her name again. Twilight jerked up and for a moment he thought he had caught her attention, but he saw the white glow of magic had overtaken her eyes.
At that moment, the cloud exploded, sending a golden, almost white streak of lightning right at Twilight, who only had enough time to look up and flinch before it overtook her. A second explosion came, sending Spike flying.
He quickly scrambled to his feet only to see the charred ground where Twilight had been and the low, rumbling thunder in the skies above.
Twilight's world had become one of pure white. She could not figure out which way was up only to realize that she didn't possess much of a body at all, despite being able to feel the immense crackling power around her. After a few moments, the white eternity abruptly ended into a pale blue. A loud bang like the one she had heard just before she had been struck followed and Twilight's senses slowly returned to her.
Her sense of touch was the first thing to return, accompanied with a strong gust bellowing up against her back. She blinked a few times and her vision began to focus. That giant pale blue was the sky, interrupted by some of the higher clouds that dotted it. She drearily looked back to see a large stretch of green below her, gradually becoming larger.
She squinted. "Wonder what that is."
Her sense of hearing returned suddenly, registering the deafening howl of wind as it whooshed by her ears.
"Huh," she blurted, "I'm a few thousand feet in the air."
Her fried brain took a few seconds to process what she had just said.
She tried to flap her wings to no avail; they were fatigued and useless. Her horn began to glow, and she tried to teleport, but in her panic she only winked out a couple of feet down, her momentum still going strong. She saw a dark thundercloud quickly coming up underneath her, and charged another spell to avoid it.
The cloud convulsed and shook when she approached it. As she got within a hundred feet, her horn began to spark, and the cloud bulged toward her. Just a stone's throw from the cloud, she saw a large bolt of lightning erupt from the cloud and arc toward her. In an instant the world was gone again, replaced with the white void.
A second later, she felt the surge of electrical power disappear. Instead of the flopping at air, she felt the warm, solid ground underneath her hooves. Then she fell over.
Spike had been running over to her the moment he saw her arrive on the lightning bolt. "Twilight!"
Twilight turned to Spike, not in the best condition for conversation. "Bwuh?"
"What happened? I thought you got zapped to a crisp!"
Twilight looked up to see tiny fluffy bits floating above her.
Spike pointed. "That's what's left of the cloud you exploded out of."
She turned to her thoughts, ignoring the pain and placing a hoof on her chin. "Hmmm," After a moment's consideration, she answered. "Spike, I think this is a teleportation spell."
"Wait," Spike said, "so you teleported—"
"—By riding lightning."
Spike stared at her for a few moments before speaking again. "You're gonna keep doing this until you can use it, huh?"
Twilight smiled. "Yep! I mean, at least we have a proof of concept now. I just have to make a few little corrections..." she said, looking around for the book. She found it lying on the ground away from the circle she had drawn. As soon as she picked it up, she produced a small quill, opening the book and scrawling her own notes within the margins.
Spike groaned and followed Twilight back inside the library, even though he knew she couldn't hear him. It was going to be a long night of research.
It was a very long night of research. Spike had pulled every single book they had on the subject of electricity to satisfy Twilight's curiosity. She had already gone full-on into science mode in their make-shift laboratory upstairs. Complex equations were scribbled all over the chalkboard and when she had run out of room, the oaken walls of the library became her medium.
She had taken to calling her project the "Arc Jump", since the book gave the spell no name. Probably because it killed the author, Spike thought. As the night dragged on, Spike eventually fell asleep on a tower of books on electrical engineering, and when he woke up, he squinted against the golden-orange sun setting through the window.
The room had somehow become even more covered in chalky equations.
"Twilight?" he asked groggily, "What time is it?"
She answered while reading one of the thicker books in the room. "About five in the afternoon."
Spike tried to stand up only for his makeshift bed to tumble over and send him against the floor. He jerked up, declaring he was okay. "So, we any closer to making the spell work?"
Twilight closed the book. "Actually, I think I'm ready for another run." She stood and walked downstairs with Spike right behind her. When they were outside, she looked for a clearing near where she had performed the spell the first time.
"This looks good," she said, bracing herself. Her horn glowed with magical energy and a cloud above her began to darken.
"You're not gonna draw any of those crazy lines?"
"Not needed!" she shouted over the loud buzz of power forming around her horn, "Ancient pony magic was often very ritualized! That makes it very predictable! As long as you know what you're doing, you can—"
She was interrupted when something dropped out of the cloud. Not a lightning bolt, but a very bright, compact sphere that jerked about violently, making a sound in between a hum and hiss.
Twilight reared back. "Ball lightning!" she cried, "Spike! Get away!"
He turned and ran from the ball of power. It zigzagged right behind him and threatened to hit him before Twilight threw herself between the dragon and the ball. It hit her straight on and she vanished in a massive flash.
Spike had been thrown down by the shockwave. He pushed himself up to see what had happened.
She was gone, leaving only a blackened patch of grass like before, only there wasn't just a single circle of charred ground. A long streak extended away from the impact zone, around the library and over the hills before it disappeared from view.
He ran alongside the smoking trail. It went all the way out of town, past the bridge. It circled an oak tree on the edges of Ponyville six times before finally leading right into the Everfree Forest.
Zecora had just finished the three-hour preparation it took to brew her green tea to her exact tastes. She had spent even longer gathering the herbs, and was curled up in a warm corner of her treehouse when a sound like someone had popped the world's largest balloon rocked her home. The teacup fell out of her hooves, along with most of the shelved ingredients on her walls. She leaped off her bed and grabbed her trusty bamboo stick with her mouth. With a mighty whack she hit the door open, ready to deal with whatever unfortunate monster had interrupted her drink.
Instead of some giant writhing mass with glowing eyes or restless spirit seeking revenge, she saw a white-hot sphere going in circles in the area in front of her house. It dug into the ground slightly while it raced along, with dirt and grass being ground up and spat out behind the object as charred clumps.
She ran out into the yard and struck her stick into the ground to speak.
"Stop this!" she commanded. As if obeying her, the sphere began to wobble and disort. It slowed down, then stopped, then a long streak of energy jumped out of it and hit the bamboo just inches away from Zecora.
The glowing orb vanished and was replaced with a very dizzy Twilight Sparkle with a slightly singed mane. She deliriously looked over her new location before she noticed Zecora.
"Hi, zebra lady!" she announced in a goofy tone before collapsing.
When the librarian had collapsed, Zecora quickly dragged her inside to see if she was injured. Luckily, the only thing that had really been compromised was her hairdo. The bamboo stick had not been so fortunate. It had been reduced to a black, smoking husk, a feat in itself considering how much time she had put into fortifying it with alchemy. What had Twilight been doing?
As Zecora stirred some stew for Twilight in her massive black cauldron, a loud knock came from the bottom of her front door. She had a guess who it was.
She walked away from the cauldron and opened her door to find a panicked Spike.
"Twilight! Spell! Bad!" he spattered, pointing in different directions with a crazed look in his eyes.
Zecora opened the door fully to invite him in. "Twilight is fine, though a bit worse for wear. She's sleeping right now, here in my care."
Spike put a claw on his chest and relaxed. "Thank goodness. Can I see her?"
She nodded and pointed over to Twilight, who had begun to stir from her unconsciousness. She raised her head from the makeshift bed Zecora had made for her. "Spike?"
"Twilight!" Spike cried. He ran up to her. "Are you okay? What the heck was that ball thing?"
She didn't respond immediately, but instead slid out of her bed against Zecora's protests. "I think I might have made a slight miscalculation."
"Slight? You almost got burnt to a crisp!"
"It was a learning experience. Besides, I know what not to do now!"
Spike groaned. "Twilight! That spell's way too dangerous. You gotta stop before you really hurt yourself!"
Zecora walked up alongside Spike with her ruined stick on her back. "Spike is right, and for good reason too." She shrugged and it dropped to the floor. "If things had gone worse, this stick would have been you!"
Twilight held down her head and sighed. "I guess you're right. Good thing it conducted my spell, or—"
Her mouth dropped open. "That's it," she whispered.
"Oh no," Spike muttered.
Twilight was beaming. "No wonder the spell's been so hard to control! It needs a controlling rod!" She ran out the open door. "C'mon Spike!" she called from outside, "I know for sure how get the Arc Jump working!"
Spike looked to Zecora and motioned toward the door with a frown.
She shook her head.
He rolled his eyes and took off behind Twilight.
They were in the front yard again. Twilight had situated herself in the middle of the first two test sites. To her right was Owlowiscious' stand, buried halfway into the ground.
"Seriously? That's what you're going to use?" Spike asked.
"Who!" Owlowiscious angrily called from one of the library's tree limbs.
"Don't worry, Owlowiscious, I'll buy you a new one."
Twilight closed her eyes. Instead of tensing her muscles like the previous two attempts, she instead simply stood straight up while she gathered power. Thunder rolled across the town, signaling the formation of a dark, ominous cloud above the library. Streaks of light lit up inside the dark mass, and it slowly hovered down until it was touching the top of the large oak tree.
The stand began to shake. First, a light twitch, then a constant spasm.
A huge bolt flew out of the cloud. Instead of hitting Twilight directly, it instead struck the stand. The stand lurched back from the impact and rebounded at the spell's caster. The stand exploded when the stored bolt erupted out of it and toward Twilight. The lightning formed a circle around her, and she began to lift into the air. Her eyes opened and the field surrounding her imploded. The ball of lightning instantly deformed and arced back up into the skies.
Queen Chrysalis was having a bad day. She also lived in the Badlands, which honestly just added insult to injury. In the past year, both of her attempts to take over Equestria had been thwarted. Usually she did her best to ignore previous failures, but for some reason her mind decided she needed a trip down memory lane.
"Drone!" she shrieked, her voice reverberating all throughout the cave. She had decided to make a large mesa her new home and her swarm had done a rather nice job of hollowing it out.
A small, skinny changeling emerged from one of the room's many holes and flew up to her, giving her a stiff salute.
"Drink," she commanded. The changeling nodded and buzzed out of Chrysalis' makeshift headquarters. A second later it retreated back inside, chittering wildly.
"What are you on about?" Chrysalis complained.
It kept pointing outside, blabbering about a storm.
She got up from her throne and walked over to the opening her changeling was so afraid of. Outside, there was indeed a large storm cloud on the horizon.
The queen turned back to the drone. "Are you serious? You're afraid of a cloud? All the way over there?"
She looked back to the cloud to see a lighting bolt jump out of the cloud and into another nearby. The cloud lit up and spat the streak into another nearby cloud, which repeated the pattern straight at Chryalis' throne room until it finally hit one close to the mesa. Instead of jumping to another cloud, the streak leaped out and right past the changeling queen.
Chrysalis screamed and the changeling had to jump out of the lightning bolt's path, the entire room going white for a moment when the bolt hit the far side of the wall. Dust and bits of rock flew out where the lightning had struck, throwing the changeling aside and forcing Chrysalis to erect a barrier.
As the dust began to settle, Chrysalis lowered her shield when she heard coughing coming from the crater. With a wave of her horn, she pushed a hole through the debris field to see Twilight Sparkle inside the hole.
Twilight stopped wheezing and looked up. "Wait, this isn't Canterlot!"
"You!" Chrysalis bellowed, sending a blast of magic at Twilight. The alicorn jumped out of the crater just before it struck, cracking the stone wall even further.
Queen Chrysalis continued to rant during her attack. "You! Have! Some! Nerve! HOLD STILL!"
Twilight deftly deflected each spell with magical zaps of her own while running in a wide arc around the enraged queen. The storm cloud that had brought her into the throne room was still there, floating innocently outside the window. She winked out, appearing behind the changeling queen. She kept running, jumping out of the opening and toward the cloud.
Chrysalis whipped around and jumped at her. "Oh no you don't!" she screamed, grabbing Twilight's back legs and charging a spell to finish off the intruder. At once she felt the tingling voltage race through her body, becoming part of the spell's circuit along with the caster. Twilight disappeared along with a flash, transforming her into pure energy and carrying her away into the stratosphere.
Chrysalis simply thought Twilight had tried some kind of energy spell and laughed. "It'll take more than that, you stupid ho—"
The queen cut herself short when she realized she wasn't holding anything, save for a lot of black soot that covered her legs.
"I hate this job," she muttered. Gravity took over and dragged her to the earth. The changeling in the throne room had watched the whole "battle" play out, but wasn't nearly fast enough to catch her.
Several of the other changelings had emerged from their dens as well to investigate the racket. They hovered in the air, staring at the Chrysalis-shaped hole in the ground that hadn't been there a few moments ago.
With a mighty clap, a white streak deposited her somewhere else in the Badlands. She shook off the shock of her arrival quickly and stomped a hoof.
"Darn! The math checked out! Why isn't this working?"
Sparks were still crackling off her horn, which she considered a sign that she had probably missed a step in the spell. She looked around for something to write with. With no sticks nearby, she settled with a nearby rock and began to drag it along the sand, writing out the mathematics that made the spell work.
When she was finished, she pored over the equation. She crossed out some of the numbers and made minute corrections, talking to herself all the while.
"Hmmmm. Guess I'll have to modify that part. And this. And why am still sparking? I should've shed off the excess energy by now..."
The last part bothered her. She still felt jumpy from the spell, like she had just cast it, and her body still felt like it could leap into the clouds at any moment.
Then, she remembered that Chrysalis had grabbed her. While charging a spell.
Before she drew any hasty conclusions, she wrote down the estimated strength of Chrysalis' charge along with hers and ran them through a formula.
She stared at the formula for a second. It clicked. Of course it hadn't been working, she needed two poles. Two people. Like, say, an alicorn and a changeling queen. "I have it," she whispered.
"I have it!" she said with more confidence. Her horn began to glow purple without any prompt from her and she looked up to see the clouds above had begun to darken.
"EUREKA!" she screamed. Her spirits high, she swung her horn into the air and commanded the heavens to obey her, sending a massive bolt of lightning directly at her. Completely overcharged, she jumped about the clouds in long stream of energy, sometimes overloading a cloud and obliterating it. She phased in and out of physical form at random, only able to grasp the briefest glimpses of the ground below her before she turned into a river of energy again. Twilight traveled in a wide circle around Equestria, hitting clouds over Manehattan, Appleoosa and Las Pegasus.
The entire sky had become her highway.
As she danced in the sky, a thought hit her. She had to tell Princess Celestia about the Arc Jump!
With a mere thought the lightning that made up her essence jumped among a line of clouds headed to Canterlot.
Celestia was drinking her afternoon tea on the balcony of her bedroom. When she brought up the cup for another sip, a massive bolt of lightning came out of nowhere and hit the balcony just below the guard rails. Celestia jumped back, dropping her tea. The cup shattered into a million pieces, but she was far more concerned with whatever had just hit her castle. Before she could lean over to investigate, she saw a single pony's leg reaching up to grab the railing.
The princess concentrated and lifted the soul hanging on for dear life. When she had brought the pony all the way up in a magical aura, her jaw dropped. There was Twilight, her mane a bit split and darkened, but otherwise fine.
"Twilight? What on earth happened to you?" she asked, gently drifting her over onto the balcony floor and setting her down.
"It's a...long story," she mumbled. "I found a spell in an old book that could teleport ponies by riding lightning. It was feasible, but the research was so sloppy that I thought I'd never get it working. Then, I had it! Another, uh, volunteer showed me that the spell is impossible alone. You need someone else to lend you extra power to start the overcharge or otherwise the spell can't be controlled. Once you get the spell going, though, you can control it indefinitely."
Celestia raised an eyebrow. "Go on."
"And, well, whoever wrote it was an idiot. They had no idea how power regulation worked, zero skill with environmental magic, and I'm pretty sure they didn't even understand the basics of mana flow. Not only that, but once the novelty wears off, you've got a teleportation spell that's way too dangerous, uses way too much energy and assumes permanent cloudy weather."
They both heard the flapping of wings and turned to see Luna, her eyes heavy-lidded.
"Sister," she said, "what was all that din? Is someone attacking our citadel?"
"That was Twilight. She figured out Heaven's Gate."
Luna shook herself to alertness. "Wait, what?"
"Wait, what?" Twilight repeated.
Celestia turned back to Twilight. "Island-key? Sigil of Starswirl?"
"That book was yours?"
Luna landed on the balcony. "Ages ago, when we were still young, sister became obsessed—"
"Fascinated," Celestia corrected.
"—fascinated with lightning. She became convinced she could ride it like a chariot for the gods. So she created a spell: Heaven's Gate. She worked on it for months and could never get the clouds to obey her. Then one day she miscast the spell and it almost cut her life short."
"So, I shelved it. Until now I thought it couldn't be done. I must admit, I never would have thought of using two ponies to overcharge the spell."
Twilight was pale in the face. "Oh no. That means all those horrible things I just said—"
Celestia gave a motherly smile. "Twilight, why would I be mad at you? You perfected a spell I thought was impossible."
"I—I called you an idiot!"
Celestia knelt down. "Twilight? Do you want to know something?"
"I was. I gave up. That's something you never do, no matter how many mistakes you make or how hard things get. I'm so proud of you, Twilight Sparkle."
Twilight's vision blurred, a thin line of tears had begun to bubble forth. She walked forward and hugged her mentor tightly.
After a moment, Celestia let go and stood back up. "Hm. So, what did you call the spell? In retrospect, I think Heaven's Gate might have been a little too grand."
"I don't think you ever wrote down the name. I've been calling it the Arc Jump."
Celestia nodded. "Arc Jump it is. Would you mind showing it to Luna?"
Twilight pressed her lips. "Honestly, the spell's taken a lot out of me. I think I'll walk home."
Luna nodded. "Just as well; sister burnt off her entire mane when she over-exerted herself on the spell. She was bald for three years."
Celestia spoke trough her teeth to Luna. "I seem to remember us agreeing never to talk about that."
"Your history of magical deduction is safe with Twilight." Her eyes lit up. "Oh, I must tell you about that thing sister does in her sleep. When she's leaning just the right way, she—" Luna's mouth was slammed shut by a magical yellow aura.
Celestia smiled at Twilight. "Twilight, you're one of the greatest spellcasters I've ever known but you really should get go—"
The sun princesses' mouth was shut in turn by a scowling Luna. They began to push each other across the balcony, which Twilight took as her cue to leave. She stepped past the bickering siblings, down the royal castle. When she arrived at Canterlot's train station, she found Discord floating above the platform.
Twilight sighed. "I guess you have some huge list of lightning puns ready?"
Discord frowned. "Twilight, I'm offended. How could you think such a thing?" He snapped his claws and a massive scroll appeared, unfurling down to the platform and extending away a good couple of feet. "It's more of a tome, really. Ahem. 'That spell was a real flash in the pan, huh?', 'I'd light to see that again!' 'Something something electrons.' I'm still working on that one."
While Discord continued to read his list, Twilight rolled her eyes and resigned herself to an afternoon's worth of groan-inducing puns as the train pulled into the station.