Two-Body Problem: Assignment 3

Dec 17th, 2015
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  1. Two-Body Problem
  2. By IceMan
  4. Assignment 3: Two-Body Problem at Absolute Zero
  6. Chapter Theme: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qqe0GdUpJHs
  8. >On a cold winter’s day, once the first snow had fallen, the city set up a large ice rink in the center of the park in downtown, with a small wooden shack selling skates, cocoa, and snacks to those who dare to tread out of comfortable apartments in snow boots, mittens, and thick sweaters into the ice pick-sharp day.
  9. >Two of those people are you and the person whose rational nature had breached your emotional defenses, your girlfriend.
  10. “Are you sure you don’t want to skate?” you ask, sliding along the glass wall to where Twilight Sparkle, your aforementioned girlfriend, sits, nursing a mug of hot chocolate and a thick hardback tome.
  11. >Twilight turns a page, intently focussed on Eugene Onegin.
  12. >“I’m sure that I don’t want to make a fool of myself,” she replies.
  13. “You won’t make a fool of yourself. Everybody falls -”
  14. >“And yet you haven’t fallen once.”
  15. “When they’re starting. Everybody falls when they’re starting.”
  16. >Twilight snaps the book shut.
  17. >“Fine. It seems like you aren’t going to stop bothering me about this, so I guess I have to.”
  18. “I did kinda invite you to go ice skating with me and all. I just thought it would be fun for both of us. If you didn’t want to, you could’ve said no, I guess. ”
  19. >“No, it’s fine. I like doing things with you. Sorry I snapped. I’ll try it. It’s just... I’ve got a lot on my mind right now, okay. I wanted to talk to you, but -”
  20. “Why don’t we talk about it afterwards then? Keep the serious things for later. We’ve got time for fun now. Alright?”
  21. >Twilight nods and gets up from the bench.
  22. >“Let me get a pair of skates,” she says.
  23. >Twilight walks over to the shack and trades a few dollars for a pair of skates, then sits down on the bench near you and begins lacing them up.
  24. >Legs wobbling, she steps out onto the ice and immediately falls over on her ass.
  25. >You stifle a chuckle and give her a hand up.
  26. >She instinctively grabs hold of the railing to maintain her balance.
  27. >“Alright. What’s the secret?” Twilight says.
  28. “There’s no ‘secret.’ You just have to start a bit slow, I don’t know. Here, hold on.”
  29. >You pull your phone out of your pocket and quickly Google “How to ice skate,” tapping on a page labelled with that phrase as the title.
  30. >“You don’t even know how to skate,” Twilight says.
  31. “I know how to skate; I just don’t know how to teach someone to skate. Okay, step one, wear appropriate clothes for the environment.”
  32. >You take a look up from your phone to get a look at Twilight’s outfit.
  33. >She is dressed in a black puffy jacket, a burgundy scarf, black gloves, a small grey ski cap, and thick winter leggings.
  34. “Looks good to me. Uh, step two - okay, there’s no rubber mat here. So we can’t do that step. Just, uh, try to figure out how to balance on your skates, I guess.”
  35. >“That’s not exactly helpful. Isn’t that exactly what we’re trying to do right now?”
  36. “Look, this isn’t all going to plan, okay? Step three, get out on the ice, but just hold on to the wall - okay, we’re already doing that. Step four, walk around on the ice, just holding onto the wall.”
  37. >Twilight takes a few short, slow steps along the wall, but then stops.
  38. “You’re going to need to walk a little more than that. Get used to the feel of the ice. Figure out the coefficient of friction, I don’t know. This is all just simple physics. A simple problem.”
  39. >“Everything seems simple in theory, but in practice...”
  40. >Twilight takes some more steps, this time with longer strides.
  41. >You slide a little bit down to follow her.
  42. >Gradually, Twilight gets a bit more accustomed to the skates and the ice, her steps nearly reaching a normal pace length.
  43. “Okay, when you’re ready, let go of the wall, keep your arms out, and try to slowly glide around. Like a bird. Nice and easy.”
  44. >Releasing her grip from the wall, Twilight drifts slightly out onto the ice.
  45. >Then, she falls over again.
  46. “Whoa!”
  47. >You grab her right wrist and stop her.
  48. >Twilight stands herself up and balances against you.
  49. “Easy. I’ve got you.”
  50. >“I think that’s enough for today.”
  51. “No! C’mon, you’re almost there. Everyone makes mistakes sometimes. Everyone falls. You can figure it out. Here. Glide with me.”
  52. >You take a few easy skates forward, Twilight’s woolen-gloved hand in yours.
  53. >A mom and her kid gives you a bit of an odd look for some reason, but you ignore it.
  54. “See. It’s not so bad.”
  55. >Twilight gently sliding along behind you, you skate a bit further on the ice.
  56. “Just tell me if you want to let go.”
  57. >“Don’t you just want to skate together?”
  58. “Didn’t you want to learn to skate on your own?”
  59. >The two of you take an evenly-paced loop around the ice rink, melting into the flow of skaters.
  60. >A pair of ten-year-olds race by you in hockey pads, but you pay them no mind.
  61. >You just adroitly glissade across the ice, building up a little speed, but not too much.
  62. >After a couple of passes, Twilight gives you a small smile.
  63. >“Alright, Anon. I think I’ve got it.”
  64. “If you think you’re ready.”
  65. >Twilight lets go of your hand, wobbles a bit, but then takes a few smooth skates forward.
  66. “There, looks like you’ve got it.”
  67. >The pair of you gracefully carve a long oval around the ice rink, following the flow of the other skaters on the slick surface.
  68. >Chill air whips by you as you build up a bit of speed, rushing past bundled-up toddlers, children, and adults.
  69. >Twilight matches your pace, keeping a few feet behind you.
  70. >You accelerate a bit, the wind turning to soft frigid daggers on your face.
  71. >Other skaters race by in your peripheral vision.
  72. >Looking over your shoulder, you make sure Twilight is still keeping up.
  73. >She seems to be managing, even speeding up a bit to catch up with you.
  74. >“Hey, uh, Anon, do you think we might be going a bit too fast?” you barely hear over the wind whistling by.
  75. “It’s fine. We’re fine. Just keep your balance and woah! -”
  76. >Your skate suddenly catches on the ice and sends you rolling over.
  77. >Slipping, your arms waving wildly in small circles as you attempt to regain your balance, you smack into the ice, Twilight crashing and toppling on top of you with a soft thump of neoprene on neoprene.
  78. >The flow of skaters weaves around you like streamwater around a suddenly fallen rock.
  79. >Twilight looks you in the eye and laughs.
  80. >“Well, you did say everyone falls. Are you alright?”
  81. >A few teenagers are snickering in the corner of your eye.
  82. >Your wrist hurts a little bit, maybe from breaking your fall, but the pain is subsiding quickly.
  83. >There doesn’t seem to be any significant damage to your person.
  84. “I’m fine. What about you?” you ask.
  85. “Fine. Like I said, everyone falls.”
  86. >Twilight picks herself up, grabs onto the outer wall, and gives you her hand.
  87. >You get yourself off the ice with Twilight’s assistance.
  88. “I think that’s enough for today,” you says.
  89. >“Really? Are you sure? I mean, we were having fun before the little... mishap,” Twilight replies.
  90. “Nope. That’s enough of that.”
  91. >“But we were just getting started.”
  92. “The next time we fall one of us could get hurt, and - nevermind, forget it.”
  93. >“What is it?”
  94. >You mutter something beneath your breath.
  95. >“What was that?”
  96. “I don’t want to make a fool of myself anymore,” you say a bit louder.
  97. >“Oh, so mister ‘Everyone falls’ doesn’t want to fall himself, huh?”
  98. “Not in front of all these people, no.”
  99. >“You little hypocrite, you. Well, now maybe you get why I wasn’t so keen on learning to ice skate today.”
  100. “Didn’t you have something you wanted to talk to me about anyways? Something important? We can’t spend the whole day here.”
  101. >“Alright, fine. I think I’ve had enough as well.”
  102. “Let’s get over to the exit and get these skates off. Then let’s talk.”
  103. >You do exactly that, then begin walking over to a little coffee shop down the street, somewhere where the street noise and the brays of crying infants wouldn’t intermingle with your conversation.
  104. “What do you need to discuss?” you ask to begin.
  105. >“Well, you know how last weekend I competed in the Friendship Games.”
  106. “Yes. I heard. Was it better than you expected?”
  107. >“Yeah, I guess. I mean, the games themselves weren’t that great but.... well, to start, Principal Cinch threatened to not recommend me to the Everton Academy to force me to compete.”
  108. “Are you serious?”
  109. >Twilight nods.
  110. “So, what you’re telling me is Principal Cinch basically blackmailed you into competing in the games? And you didn’t consider telling anyone?” you ask.
  111. >“Nobody would have believed me, or, if they did, they probably would have just told me that it was such a great honor to be a part of the team,” Twilight says. “Vice Principal Cadence was in the room with me, and my brother was there too. Who could I have gone to?”
  112. “Anyone! The police, the school board, whoever! That’s complete bullshit,” you say, kicking a lump of ice down the street. “If you didn’t want to compete, then they shouldn’t have forced you. And to put your future on the line like that? Seriously, that’s outright evil.”
  113. >“I guess you’re right. Especially considering that most of the competition wasn’t even academic anyways. After the decathalon, it was just archery, skating, and motocross -”
  114. “What school would allow motocross at a high school event anyways? Did they think anyone there would actually know how to ride a motorcycle?”
  115. >“I don’t even know what the administrators were thinking, but, then again, I don’t think they expected forces from an alternate dimension to suddenly intervene in the games either.”
  116. >You blink.
  117. “What?”
  118. >“Yeah, that’s right. Forces from an alternate dimension.”
  119. “I think I need to sit down for this,” you say, opening the door to the shop.
  120. >“Yeah, let’s sit down. I’ll pay for it. My treat.”
  121. “Really? You wanna go Dutch for this?”
  122. >“You paid for the last date, I’ll pay for this one.”
  123. “Fine by me.”
  124. >You find a table while Twilight orders two coffees from the barista.
  125. >She comes back with two mugs filled with piping hot brown liquid with a white heart design made in the foam.
  126. >Setting the coffee down on the little metal table and taking a seat in the lightweight aluminum chair with a bit of a screech of metal on concrete, Twilight takes a deep breath.
  127. >“I mean, let’s start from the beginning. So I went over to CHS after the last couple big energy spikes, and I found that the energy seemed to be almost emanating from the base of this statue at the front of the school. But then this girl chased me off, so I couldn’t really get enough data. Then I remembered those particle capturing cell designs you gave me. I modified them a bit to respond to the frequency of the energy field and used them to build this pendant so I could capture the energy for study,” Twilight says.
  128. “And what happened?” you ask.
  129. >“I brought the pendant to the games, and it started reacting really weirdly, almost like it had a mind of its own. Turns out that the energy also was coming off of these six girls at the school, whenever they did something that showed their ‘true selves’ or whatever. I really haven’t studied it that much yet, but still. The pendant captured the energy excellently, but it started going out of my control. It took the energy from the statue and started making all these rifts in space-time everywhere, and some crazy giant vines came through and ruined the second challenge.”
  130. >You nod, taking a sip of your beverage and waiting a bit longer to ask questions.
  131. >“Then everyone else on the team pressured me into using the power inside the pendant to help them win the last game, and I was curious too as to what would happen if I used it myself and what the energy was. But then I turned - well, this is coming second-hand at this point, I can’t exactly remember what happened - evil, I guess, and started making rifts in space-time myself that led to another world. But then this other girl, I think her name was Sunset Glimmer or something, can’t exactly remember, got some of the power herself, and she defeated me, I guess? And then we sat by the statue the next day and an alternate me from another dimension came through a portal that’s in the base of the statue.”
  132. >Staring directly at Twilight, you nearly spit out your drink.
  133. “Wow. That is, I mean... Wow. I don’t think I can even -”
  134. >“I can’t really comprehend it either.”
  135. “Where would I even start? I mean, between this new source of energy, that’s apparently sentient or something by the way, and confirmation of multiverse theory, and wormholes, I mean, just. Holy shit.”
  136. >Taking a draught from her coffee mug, Twilight merely nods.
  137. “I mean, if you still have those powers, then someone might want to see them. If we could study the rifts, it might help us better understand general relativity. Or help us understand this multiverse you’ve connected to.”
  138. >“I can’t use those powers again. The magic -”
  139. “Oh, so it’s magic now.”
  140. >“Yes, that’s what the energy is called! The magic made me... not myself. Evil. I never want to be in that place again.”
  141. “But you at least saved some of it, right? You have to still have the pendant, right?”
  142. >“I destroyed the pendant. Or maybe it destroyed itself? I don’t exactly remember.”
  143. >Twilight frowns.
  144. “Anon, I don’t think we should be messing with this stuff. It seems really dangerous. I mean, Sunset Shimmer - yeah, that’s her name! - she explained that it was brought here from the alternate dimension, and she’s still trying to understand it herself. Oh, and she’s apparently also from the alternate universe, so, there’s that.”
  145. >Crossing your arms over your chest, you say,
  146. “Twilight, you realize no one is going to believe you without proof. I’m finding it a little hard to believe you myself, except I’ve seen those energy anomalies too. And if it’s some kind of alien... multiversal energy source, then I guess that would explain why it really doesn’t make any sense.”
  147. >Your brow furrows.
  148. “I’m just surprised nobody discovered it until now. It was in such an obvious place.”
  149. >You think for a second.
  150. “But, if you can get some proof, you’d be the most famous scientist of the century... no, the millenium, maybe. This would be the biggest thing in physics since general relativity. Just think of it, Twi! If we could even just understand those space-time rifts, it could pave the way to interstellar colonization. And this new source of energy could be the key to all of that.”
  151. >“And what if someone misuses it? What if this just leads to new terrible dread weapons?”
  152. “Don’t you go down that route. People always try to restrict us scientists. We’re the engines of progress, Twilight. We have to keep advancing.”
  153. >“But at what cost? Anonymous, we know nothing about this - this magic.”
  154. “So we study it.”
  155. >“But I don’t want to. I don’t want anything to do with it anymore. I mean, well... not that type of magic.”
  156. “Not that type?”
  157. >“The girls I met, Anon, they said that there was a special type of magic that exists in... friendship.”
  158. >You cock an eyebrow.
  159. “After everything else you’ve told me today, I have no choice but to believe you’re serious right now.”
  160. >“100 percent, unfortunately.”
  161. “My God. This is a nightmare. I’m in a literal walking cliche. Any minute now, I’m going to wake up in my nice bed, secure in the fact that there are mysteries in the laws of physics that will be solvable by good scientific analysis and not through the random occurrences of happenstance, and that there isn’t some fifth force of nature or something that’s been brought into this universe through a magic portal, and that fifth force happens to be love and friendship.”
  162. >Twilight pinches your shoulder.
  163. “Ow.”
  164. >“There. You’re not dreaming.”
  165. “Unfortunately not. Are you done with your coffee?”
  166. >“Yeah. You wanna go?”
  167. “Sure. Let’s go.”
  168. >You return the mugs and exit the shop into a blustering gust of cold air.
  169. “Well. Alright, so you want to study the magic of friendship, instead of vastly more interesting material. Anything else you want to tell me?”
  170. >“Uh, yeah. I’m leaving Crystal Prep next semester to transfer to CHS. And I’ve dropped my application to the Everton Academy.”
  171. “Okay, you’re joking. You have to be joking. Why would you even consider such a thing?”
  172. >“Because... because all this time I’ve been alone, except for you, Anonymous. I have no one but you.”
  173. “And isn’t that something?”
  174. >“Yes, but. Ugh, how do I say this? Now I’ve found these people that seem to, well, actually like me, and I think I might have something to learn from them. Something I can’t learn alone in a laboratory.”
  175. “But that’s completely ridiculous! You’re giving up your entire future here over friendship. And what about us? What about our relationship?”
  176. >“It’s not like we really see each other in school that much anyways. We’re too busy. I’m not moving away or anything, I’m just going to a different school. We’ll still be able to see each other plenty.”
  177. “I just liked knowing you were around. I don’t know.”
  178. >“Come here.”
  179. >Twilight pulls you into a hug.
  180. “I can’t understand why you would do all this. It’s completely irrational.”
  181. >“Humans aren’t perfectly rational. We’re not machines.”
  182. “But wouldn’t you prefer to be? You’re giving up so much for... nothing. Nothing that I can see.”
  183. >You break the embrace.
  184. “I don’t know if I can ‘support’ your decision. I want to, but I can’t see the reasoning behind it. Maybe I just needed to have been through what you’ve been through to really understand. Maybe that... magic, messed up your head, who knows. But I won’t try to stop you. It’s not my place to try. But, I also couldn’t live with myself knowing that you’d make a decision that you’d regret 10 years down the line or something. So, I don’t know. Think about what I’ve said.”
  185. >“I will.”
  186. “I mean, I don’t think I can change your mind, or anything, but still.”
  187. >You sigh.
  188. “I don’t want to be alone, either.”
  189. >Twilight gives you another hug.
  190. >“Whatever happens, you’ll always be close to me, Anon.”
  191. >The chill wind blows a bit stronger.
  192. “I just don’t want to be alone again.”
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