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Follows A Little Spark 1

Cee-esS Oct 16th, 2019 (edited) 983 Never
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  1. >”That’s quite the collection you have there, Anon.”
  2. >You look up to see Twilight enter, eyeing the massive spread on the huge square table that served as a workbench before you.
  3. “Don’t call it that, you sound like Celestia.”
  4. >The purple pony looks up at you. “What is it, then?”
  5. >You spread your arms to encompass the entirety of your chaotic work surface.
  6. “Components! Today we begin our great work.”
  7. >Twilight gives you a look somewhere between ‘oh really’ and ‘that’s cute’.
  8. “No, I’m serious. I’m tired of being a ‘royal adviser’ in title only. And I’ve had it with magic. Uh, no offense.”
  9. >She just rolls her eyes. “Alright, Anon, then why did you want me here?”
  10. >You look back down at the collection if knickknacks across your desk. Celestia was generous, and acquired just about any part you could ask for. She thought your requests were cute.
  11. “Well, I haven’t seen anything more complicated here than a steam engine. I feel like I need to start from scratch. I need to know what magic can and can’t do before I go about breaking it.”
  12. >An incredulous expression from the purple one, this time. “Break it?”
  13. “Yeah, you know. Cheat.”
  14. >”You can’t cheat magic, Anon.”
  15. “Where I come from, magic IS cheating.”
  16. >”But there are rules! Like-”
  17. “Alright fine, whatever. Rules are made to be broken. Physics has rules too and magic gets around them. Lets use physics to get around magic’s rules.”
  18. >This got her full attention. “And you’re going to do that with all this?”
  19. “Well, we’re going to start. And we start with a lot of questions.”
  20. >You hold up what had to be the biggest flawless quartz crystal you’d ever seen, about as long as your forearm. You had fastened a couple electrodes to its surface the night before.
  21. “You have a ton of this stuff, apparently.”
  22. >”It’s just a crystal, Anon. I could grow something like that one easily.”
  23. “That’s ridiculous, but alright.”
  24. >Magic was bullshit.
  25. “Hold this for me.”
  26. >Her horn starts glowing. You let go of the crystal when it too begins to glow.
  27. >You pick up a fairly thick wire attached to it, along with another wire attached to a post on your workstation, and hold their exposed ends near each other.
  28. “Now squeeze it as hard as you can without breaking it.”
  29. >Twilight looks at you like you asked her to open a jar.
  30. >You’d like her a lot more if it wasn’t for all the condescension.
  31. >At least she was actually interested in your ideas, unlike the other two alicorns you interacted with regularly.
  32. >Twilight looked to be straining with the effort, now is the time
  33. >You slowly bring the two wires closer together
  34. >Far sooner than anticipated, a bright flash arcs between then, accompanied by a loud snap.
  35. “Holy shit.”
  36. >You look to Twilight with a manic grin on your face
  37. >She looks astonished.
  38. “Power!”
  39. >”Did I do that?”
  40. “Kinda. It’s complicated.”
  41. >She looks over the crystal again, then back to you. “Can we do it again?”
  42. >You tap the now-dead ends of the wires together a few times.
  43. “No, you’d need to let it go and start squeezing again. But it’s a fun trick, and when I saw how big this thing was, I had to try it.”
  44. >Twilight considers this, then shakes her head. “Wait, you were the one with questions. You weren’t supposed to make me have my own.”
  45. “Oh, yeah. Well, here we go. If you squeeze something with magic, does it stay squeezed?”
  46. >”No.”
  47. >You thought about this some, looking over the bits and pieces on your desk.
  48. “If you shrink something, does it stay shrunk?”
  49. >”Yes it does, but that’s much more complicated than squeezing something.”
  50. “How so?”
  51. >”Well,” Twilight started, fidgeting. By the look of her eyes, she was about ten seconds away from starting a rant. “It requires a lot more preparation and effort. It’s also a lot more specialized, so most unicorns wouldn’t be able to manage it unless they’ve studied it, or their specialtalenthassomethingtodowithmagicorsizeand-”
  52. “Alright, alright, I get it. Well I can already think of one way to break this; mechanically, you can make some sort of harness, then shrink the harness around the object in question. It’s now squeezed for long periods of time.”
  53. >At first she looked miffed you interrupted her lecture-to-be, then rolled her eyes again. “Yeah, Anon, everypony knows that. Well, everypony who cares, which isn’t many. It’s not a very useful trick.”
  54. “But that’s the kind of stuff I mean. Getting around the rules of magic. Squeezed things stay… squeezed. There’s all sorts of things we can do, like turn this crystal into a capacitor.”
  55. >”I could always charge the crystal directly, with magic. We do that all the time.”
  56. >You make a show of thinking on this. Could magic be measured piezo- or pyroelectrically?
  57. “Maybe I can do something with that later. For now, I was thinking more… mundane.
  58. >Twilight puts the giant crystal back on your workbench, then looks over some other pieces. “And you want to know how magic can break the rules of the mundane?”
  59. “Exactly.”
  60. >You pick up a rod with several magnets glued to one end, then roll it between your hands back and forth
  61. “Can you make things spin magically?”
  62. >Twilight looked at your idle activity. “Temporarily, that’s trivial. Over long periods of time without a pony doing it themselves, that’d require something like a come-to-life spell-”
  63. “A whatnow?”
  64. >A look of frustration flit across her features at another interruption.
  65. >She looked kind of cute when she was irritated, you’ll have to do it more.
  66. >“It’s an animation spell, of a sort. It makes things move on their own.”
  67. “Can it actually bring things to life? Walking, talking-”
  68. >”No, Anon,” she said. You had to expect she’d get you back. “Just simple movement, they’re not aware or anything. You probably could do something like that with magic, but it’d take me a lot of research to figure out how. And, ah, probably not recommended.”
  69. “I’m not here to figure out if we should do something, only if we could. And if we can, I will.”
  70. >Twilight does not look convinced, but she’s having trouble hiding proof that your enthusiasm is contagious.
  71. >”So why were you interested in making a machine that could think?”
  72. >You reach down and whip out a huge sheet of paper from underneath your workbench, startling Twilight. She jumps far enough back for you to snatch a couple more pages from near where she stood.
  73. >You look around your desk for a pen, then scowl when you see the pencil you’ve been using. Could pony manufacturing advance far enough to make a ballpoint before you die?
  74. >Taking the pencil, you vigorously circle an entry on the page, then start making a couple notes next to it. Twilight recovers her wits and walks over, craning her neck around your body to see what you’re doing. Her chin barely clears the benchtop.
  75. >”Horse Hands?” she reads off the main entry
  76. “Yeah, I figure if I can find a way to make some servomotors and a means of controlling them, I can make you some hands.”
  77. >You wiggle your fingers in an exaggerated wave. Twilight looked unimpressed. ”Telekinesis is far better than anything you can do with those crude appendages.”
  78. “Hey, don’t knock it until you try it. It’s a long way off anyhow.”
  79. >You roll up your sheets and place them back under your bench with the rest of your many pages.
  80. “Doesn’t really matter until I can get some reliable power working. Free spinning is great, that’s a perpetual motion generator already.”
  81. >”Not perpetual, after constant use it’ll wear down in about a year. I’d have to come back and cast it again.”
  82. “Hell, that’s still better than I was expecting going into this. We’re practically already there.”
  83. >You pick your magnet-stick up again and spin it a few more times, then put it out at the edge of your collection of parts. What else could you do?
  84. “Do ponies know about radioactivity?”
  85. >”Radio-what?”
  86. “I don’t know how to make a radioisotope generator anyway. Is your metallurgy even good enough to make thermocouples? Wait, are there no handheld firearms because you can’t heat-treat metal?”
  87. >”Handheld? We don’t have hands, Anon,” Twilight says flatly.
  88. “Right, that makes more sense. Guns are one of those things we shouldn’t do, anyway. Well, we can keep this simple. One of my mentors always said almost every way of generating power consistently used water to make something spin, and you already have coal-fired steam engines. Oil or gas might require too much infrastructure. Reflector arrays can make solar power without messing around with photovoltaics. Aside from boilers… Stirlings should be easy. If you use magic to make something hot, does it stay hot?”
  89. >”Of course not.”
  90. “I wonder if we can make some sort of Maxwell’s Demon”
  91. >”I’m not summoning a demon for you!” You look over to Twilight, who is now visibly angry. “Perhaps a lesson on means and ends is proper, before we go any further!”
  92. “No, not an actual- wait are there actual Maxwell’s Demons here? That’s wild.”
  93. >Her anger slowly fades to confusion. “I’ve never read of anything by that name, demonic or otherwise.”
  94. “Not a demon. It’s- nevermind. Can magic do something when it sees something?”
  95. >”I don’t know, Anon,” she says, sarcasm practically dripping from her mouth. “Can you be any more vague?”
  96. “Perform an action when it notices a specific thing. Like tap a crystal, maybe.”
  97. >”Oh, yes. That’s trivial.”
  98. “I don’t know any ways of turning information into energy that’d be practical anyway.”
  99. >Twilight cocks her head. “It sounds like there is a lot you don’t know, Anon.”
  100. “Well, that’s how it goes, back home. Everyone specializes. You know a lot about a couple things.”
  101. >”Well,” she says, smug, “never send a stallion to do a mare’s job. I’ll have you know I study everything.”
  102. “Good for you. You still don’t know how crushing quartz makes a spark.”
  103. >There’s that cute irritated expression again.
  104. “Doesn’t matter. We can make something spin. Is there a limit to how hard it is? How heavy?”
  105. >”Well, the harder the motion, the more effort required to cast the spell.”
  106. “So the only limit is your prodigious magical talent.”
  107. >She looked cute when she was proud of herself too. You could get used to working with her.
  108. “I’ll take that as a yes. We’ll have to do some experiments sometime on how heavy a load you can turn, and how fast.”
  109. “I’d be happy to. It would be a fun challenge.”
  110. >You lean back and look over your collection of parts again, thinking of your list of ideas. The amount of components you need to make by hand is exhausting just to think about.
  111. “Can you duplicate items?”
  112. >”Yes. Some ponies can even duplicate themselves, or others.”
  113. “How has your economy not collapsed?”
  114. >”It’s an exceedingly rare skill. Those who can do it know the trouble that sort of thing brings.”
  115. “You’re telling me you’ve never, uh, made change?”
  116. >She looks away from you and shifts on her hooves.
  117. “Thought so. Your restraint is noted. At any rate, I’d like to have you duplicate a bunch of parts for me, once I’ve figured out what I need.”
  118. >”As long as they’re small and simple, that wont be a problem.” She looked out across the vast assortment of miscellaneous doodads Celestia had brought you by request. “As long as you clean all this up.”
  119. “Oh, uh. Yeah. Now that I know what I have to do next, I can do that.”
  120. >The two of you continued staring at the mess until it became awkward. You thought about pulling your planning sheets out again, but Twilight stood in the way, shuffling nervously.
  121. >”Anon, you know...”
  122. “Yes?”
  123. >”Well, it’s weird being able to talk to a… a male, about stuff like this. So few are interested in magic, or science.”
  124. “I tried talking to some guards about it when I needed help. They wondered why I was getting my hands dirty. I’ve never met such a combination of catty, prissy, and meathead before.”
  125. >”They’re there mostly to look pretty.”
  126. “Where I come from, they’d be there mostly to kill things.”
  127. >Twilight blanched. “The princesses are more than capable of taking care of themselves. They wouldn’t put their guards in needless danger. Celestia cares for them.”
  128. “So I’d guessed.”
  129. >You still didn’t like the implications.
  130. >Twilight swept out one wing to indicate the table and its numerous occupants. “Celestia seems to be taking care of you as well.”
  131. “She humors me. Really, she dotes on me. It’s embarrassing, frankly. Part of the reason I’m doing this is just to show I’m able to put deed to word, when she asks my opinion. Not that she’s actually asking my opinion, but she makes a show of it during petitions. I don’t know why; as far as I can tell, my title is meaningless. I don’t even think she knows what I’m doing here. She might not even know you’re here at all.”
  132. >This stopped the purple pony cold. “She- she doesn’t know I’m here? With you?”
  133. “No, why?”
  134. >Twilight’s wings flit out in alarm, then she started to back out of the room. “Because, she’s, uh. She- it’s hard to explain. I’ll uh, I’ll talk to you later, Anon. Let me know when you’ve got the experiment ready. And, uh, let Celestia know too. I’ll- I’ll see you then.”
  135. >She turned then, and darted out of the room.
  136. >What the fuck?
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