Mad Science: Chapter 7

Jul 18th, 2017
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  1. Mad Science
  2. By IceMan
  4. Chapter 7: Chaos Theory
  6. >The copper tea kettle whistles cheerily as its liquid contents come to rolling boil.
  7. >Carefully lifting it with your magic, you pour two tea-filled mugs with clear fluid, watching the hot steam rise in translucent clouds, then drop a spoonful of tea leaves in each.
  8. >Having returned from the bookshop, Anonymous quietly sits in an armchair thumbing the pages of the leather-bound tome as you levitate a cup over to him.
  9. >“Thank you,” he mutters, flicking over to the next page.
  10. >You sit yourself in a chair 90 degrees from his, and pull down your own reading for the day.
  11. >For a few moments, the two of you sip your tea and tear into the pages vigorously, until, abruptly, Anonymous slams his book shut.
  12. >“I hate this,” he says. “This is all just a distraction.”
  13. >He gets up and marches over to the basement stairway.
  14. >Following suit, you trot over to block his path.
  15. “Wait! Come on, that had to at least be nice, getting your mind off of everything for -”
  16. >“No, that was exactly the problem! I couldn’t - I can’t stop thinking about... problems.”
  17. “Alright, then sit,” you say, gently leading him back to the chairs. “And let’s just talk about it.”
  18. >Grudgingly, he sits back down.
  19. >“Fine. You want to talk? Let’s start with the newest revelation. The philosophical consequences - and paradoxes - of reverse causality are enormous in and of themselves, obviously enough, and to translate those consequences into a coherent physical theory is virtually impossible,” he says.
  20. >You can’t help but sort of internally sigh.
  21. >You’d hoped that he’d be opening up about his friendship issues but….
  22. >“Every conceivable equation would need to be rewritten to account for the fact that actions in the future could affect the past, unless this power were somehow limited to specific forces. Every theory I know of, even my own, concludes that time travel is impossible, unless one travels from the present to the future.”
  23. “Well, the conditions for time travel are extremely limited,” you reply, attempting to console him. “Pinkie’s gift is one example. I’ve experimented with one short-term time travel spell, but it seems to require a stable temporal loop. For it to be possible, whatever you do in the past must ultimately lead to you activating the spell and traveling back in time.”
  24. “I see.”
  25. “However, and this is just a theory that I’ve thought up, a more powerful version of that spell could be created that eliminated that requirement, but the amount of energy required would be phenomenal.”
  26. >“Unfortunately that puts us back in the problem still. Reverse time travel can’t be allowed under any circumstances.”
  27. “And yet, that’s what happens.”
  28. >He nods, solemn.
  29. >“Indeed. But, let’s go back even before that. You told me that magical systems can create more energy than what is put into them. Doing this is also forbidden, and I have yet to find a way to circumvent this issue, especially because you also mentioned that the amount of extra energy varies, and I’ve verified this with some of the other sources in your library.”
  30. “Well, no one’s been able to fully explain the Grand Law of Magic. We just sort of taken it for granted.”
  31. >“And that can sometimes be what you need. Barring a full, deeper explanation for some law, it may be simple enough to take at as almost like a logical prior of the universe. An observable factoid that gives the universe structure, which we can perhaps probe at a later date.”
  32. >You nod.
  33. >“But, supposing I could explain reverse causality and the Grand Law, there would still be even deeper problems than those. I could write down some law that explained all of magic’s effects, but for it to be scientific it would also need to make testable predictions. It would need to propose something new.”
  34. >He looks into the swirling tea leaves.
  35. >“That’s where the real problem lies.”
  36. >What Anonymous has said stews in your mind for a few moments.
  37. “You’ve run yourself ragged for the past week,” you finally say. “You need to take a break. You can’t do this to yourself.”
  38. >“I need to. Problems need to be solved.”
  39. “And there’s plenty of time to solve them. This one and others. Because you’re still leaving out one part of your theory.”
  40. >“What?”
  41. “Friendship.”
  42. >“That’s…. I’ve agreed to try to fix myself, but there is no conceivable way that connections to others somehow affect some sort of physical force. It’s irrelevant.”
  43. “It’s not. Maybe… okay, this might sound crazy, but -”
  44. >“But what?”
  45. “Maybe if we solve your friendship problem, then you’ll figure out the magic problem!”
  46. >Anonymous returns your smile with a sullen frown.
  47. >“I’m going for a walk,” he says.
  48. “Do you want me to come with you?”
  49. >He thinks for a moment, but shakes his head no as he leaves through the door.
  50. >“I can’t have any distractions,” he says. “I’m sorry.”
  51. >You can’t help but sigh.
  52. >Some work still needs to be done.
  53. >You pace for a few moments, rueing your indecisiveness in that you hadn’t obligated him to let you come.
  54. >It wasn’t too late to fix that, you suppose, as you head out the door only a few moments behind him.
  56. >The low sun of the late afternoon was your only companion as you strolled along with your hands in your pockets and your brain still tossing thoughts back and forth in a never-ending game of ping pong.
  57. >There wasn’t much else to explain; you’d laid your thoughts bare for Twilight.
  58. >Perhaps she could make something of this mess.
  59. >At least the air was fresh and the sky was blue as a robin’s egg, minus a small, very quickly moving speck, shooting overhead like a fighter jet in pursuit of some enemy target.
  60. >As if it were a hawk spotting a shrew, the object pirouettes around and heads in your general direction.
  61. >Your curiosity over who or what this thing is overtakes your instinct to take cover as a blue pegasus shoots down in front of you, landing with a strong draft of air that kicks up a low cloud of dust.
  62. >“Hey! You!” a scratchy, high-pitched voice says.
  63. >Rainbow Dash - that’s her name - you recall, noticing her Technicolor mane.
  64. “Is there something you require?” you state flatly. “I’ll have you know I’m a bit preoccupied right now with other things - even if it might not seem that way - so I’d appreciate if you’d move aside.”
  65. >The mare snorts and stamps her front right hoof.
  66. >Frowning, you move to get around her, though she dashes, much as her namesake would imply, and blocks you again.
  67. >“You hurt my friends,” she says.
  68. “Excuse me?”
  69. >“Don’t you play dumb! Twilight says you’re smart. Why did you betray her?”
  70. >You blink.
  71. “Betray? Well, you’re certainly proving your commitment to your Element to use such a strong term. Loyalty, was it not?”
  72. >“Uh, yeah?” Dash says, her voice wavering ever so slightly. “What do you care about loyalty?”
  73. “I don’t particularly. I’m more trying to understand why your faith in your friends is so strong that you’d act so violently.”
  74. >“I’m not acting violently.”
  75. >You try to get around her again, failing a second time.
  76. “You’re blocking me quite aggressively.”
  77. >“Well - uh - I need to talk to you. I need to -”
  78. “You want to hurt me for what I did, or, rather, what you think I did. You think you’re the noble knight in shining armor coming to the rescue. In any other situation it would be quite poetic.”
  79. >“And it’s not here?”
  80. “First of all, you’re not just doing this out of loyalty. You’re doing this because you’re impulsive. Otherwise, you would have taken the time to find out that I have apologized for my actions, and we - Twilight and I - are in the process of working things out.”
  81. >Rainbow Dash takes a step back at that, but then says, “Oh, so you said some words to her then? That just means you’re scheming some new way to hurt her.”
  82. “That’s a strong accusation,” you reply. “Pray tell, do you plan to provide evidence to back that up?”
  83. >A small crowd of ponies gathers around you to watch the shouting match.
  84. >“I don’t need to prove it. I just need to prevent it.”
  85. “And how do you plan to do that?”
  86. >“I’m going to make you pay for what you’ve done,” Rainbow Dash says, narrowing her eyes.
  87. “I’m afraid I don’t believe I owe anything that I would need to pay for,” you say, but then Dash tackles you and knocks you into the dirt.
  88. >She stands above you, almost snarling.
  89. “That was unwise,” you say, planting an arm down to stand.
  90. >“Then this is even less!”
  91. >Dash goes for your arm, hitting it like a bicycle kickstand as you pull it aside, sending you again sprawling into the dirt.
  92. >She slams her hips against your chest, knocking the wind out of you.
  93. >You reflexively shield your face with your arms and hands, your mind racing to come up with a plan to escape as blows hammer down upon your only line of defense.
  94. >She’s light enough that you can easily throw her off you, but you can’t get her that far.
  95. >You need a good point of leverage.
  96. >Shifting your defense, you notice the pair of wings before you provide the perfect spot to grab.
  97. >Shooting out your hands, you latch onto the downy feathers.
  98. >“Let me go!” Dash growls.
  99. “I think not.”
  100. >She lifts herself up and punches you hard in the face, a trickle of warm, crimson blood running down your forehead into your right eye where her hard hoof dug into your skull.
  101. >It’s the last thing you feel before a second hit lands on your temple, sending you into sudden blackness.
  103. >You arrive just in time to see Rainbow Dash for some reason knocking Anonymous unconscious.
  104. “What in Celestia’s name are you doing?” you shout, galloping through the small throng of ponies surrounding the two combatants.
  105. >Dash snorts.
  106. >“I was just dealing with that squirt,” she says. “I can’t believe he was still in town.”
  107. “Of course he was still in town! Why would he leave town? Why would you beat someone to a pulp just for being in town?”
  108. >“He betrayed your trust, Twilight. You let him into your home and he took advantage of you.”
  109. “Yeah, but he apologized for that!”
  110. >Dash steps back.
  111. >“He what?”
  112. “He said he was sorry and that he was going to try to change. I mean, it was a bit more complicated than that, but still.”
  113. >“Then… oh Celestia....”
  114. >Her eyes go very wide.
  115. >Suddenly everything fits together, like reassembling the pieces of a vase that was rudely kicked off a coffee table.
  116. “Rainbow Dash, if you -”
  117. >“I didn’t know, Twilight - I - I thought he might be lying when he said he apologized! And then he was egging me on about my Element and -”
  118. >You take a deep breath and sharply exhale.
  119. “No. There’s no sense in agonizing over a misunderstanding,” you say, collecting yourself.
  120. “It is only fortunate that his injuries do not look to serious. Do you think you can carry him back to the library?”
  121. >Dash only nods and scoops Anonymous onto her back.
  122. >His body surrounded by a purple aura as a you tend to his wounds, you take him back to the library, cursing that you hadn’t forced him to take you with him.
  124. >You write at your desk when the walls begin to melt and shift like rainbow candle wax exposed to a heat lamp, and then you realize that you aren’t at your desk at all.
  125. >From the mirage of twisting colors emerges the long slender figure of Discord, sitting cross-legged and filing at his nails.
  126. >“You know, I thought you’d have this all figured out by now,” he says. “I mean, you were so quick to reject my little deal back - eight hours, 16 minutes, 32 point nine nine eight two -”
  127. “Go away.”
  128. >“And it doesn’t seem that you’re taking much of Ms. Sparkle’s lessons to heart, now are you? Aren’t you supposed to be learning to be nicer to people?”
  129. “That isn’t your concern. What do you want?”
  130. >“Just some idle conversation.”
  131. “I really don’t have time for this.”
  132. >You try to get up to leave, but you run into an invisible wall.
  133. >Behind you, Discord is making a square with his mismatched index fingers and thumbs, a fanged smirk slinking across his face.
  134. >“Having trouble?” he asks.
  135. >Your eyes narrow.
  136. “Are you just here to bother me, or do you actually plan on making use of our limited time? Presumably I will wake up eventually, and then you have to deal with Twilight -”
  137. >“Oooh, so you’re on a first-name basis now, are you?”
  138. >You don’t reply, and Discord sighs.
  139. >“Fine, fine,” he says. “I have a question to ask you. What is the one constant of the universe?”
  140. “There isn’t one,” you answer immediate. “There are many fundamental constants that seem to be -”
  141. >Discord wags his finger.
  142. >“No, not that type of constant, you silly. I’ll ask you again. What’s the one constant of the universe?”
  143. “I’m not playing the game of unanswerable questions.”
  144. >Discord summons a steel pendulum, split in two by a pivot point.
  145. >“What is the one constant of the multiverse?” he asks. “Let me show you.”
  146. >He taps the double pendulum with a decent amount of force.
  147. >At first, it acts fairly regularly, swinging back and forth neatly and evenly, but soon, the pieces begin to dance and whirl with not-just-seemingly random changes in velocity and direction.
  148. >“Chaos,” Discord says with a spark in his eye, “is the one constant.”
  149. “Hardly. So you’ve given a very nice example of chaotic motion. Well done,” you say. “Even in all the seeming chaos, there is order. It just… takes time to figure out.”
  150. >“And how exactly do you do that?” Discord asks. “Even when you ‘solve’ the system, plug in all the variables and put all the constants in the right place, even then you still might not be able to make anything predictive out of it. So many of your equations require simplifying assumptions to get anything of value out of them - an approximation here, a variable expansion there. Or you take one of your amazing computing devices and have them brute force solutions point by point.”
  151. “Did I say we solved everything perfectly?”
  152. >“No, but how do you know you’re really solving anything at all? In fact, why do you trust that your methods of inquiry even closely approximate the actual universe? It could all just be an elaborate illusion, detached from the ‘real world’ by a regress of obfuscating steps - the numbers and dials of your instruments that just so happen to be tuned to fit your predictions. There could be no ‘real world’ at all, just some falsehood constructed by your feeble human mind.”
  153. “What you propose makes no sense.”
  154. >“Does it really?”
  155. “Yes. We make models that seem to match what we observe. It is far more likely that these models thus actually represent the natural world because they match our observations of said world, than that we’ve made the complicated web of errors you’re proposing.”
  156. >“But something being more likely does not make it certain. There are many unlikely things that -”
  157. “I’m not here to play your game of sophistry.”
  158. >Discord rears himself up very close to you, such that you can smell the surprisingly not-unpleasant musky scent of his coat, a scent of bananas and pepper mixed with old shag carpet.
  159. >“Interrupt me one more time, and I’ll….”
  160. “You’ll what? Don’t you need me for something?”
  161. >He frowns.
  162. >“Indeed, I do. So let us return to the matter at hand.”
  163. >With a snap of his talon, a sheet of paper covered in scribblings appears in his lion’s paw.
  164. >“Ooh, now isn’t this curious?” Discord says with a toothy smirk.
  165. “Where did you get that?” you say, almost snarling, realizing what it is.
  166. >“It was right here in your head.”
  167. >Another snap, and the equations blow themselves up to large size and float in the otherwise empty air.
  168. >Tapping symbols with a talon, they float, dance, and snicker at you.
  169. >“No, no, no, this is all wrong,” Discord says. “I could fix it for you, but that would require something from you in exchange, something you’re completely unwilling to provide, but still…. Point of order number one, look at what a mess this is. There’s so many characters. Too many! You’d expect that the underlying laws of the universe would be so much simpler than this.”
  170. “They are as simple as they need to be, and no more,” you reply. “The fact that we can even write down equations for the universe is a miracle in and of itself. The fact that we can even provide some form of order -”
  171. >“There it is again. You think you’re providing some sort of order to the universe? What an utter farce! Maybe your feeble, unenlightened mind can’t grasp it, but chaos is the order of the universe. To believe that you can even come to make sense of the incalculable abyss of reality is an utter joke. And just to prove my point further….”
  172. >A second equation appears in the air, one you like far better.
  173. >“Ah, yes,” Discord says. “The perfect equation to explain how to quantize the geometry of spacetime, involving the development of a theory of parallel universes and the mechanics of a black hole singularity. Yet it’s not like you can solve this collection of 28 Greek and Roman symbols - not counting the super and subscripts - for any reasonable solutions.”
  174. >He taps his chin.
  175. >“You know what would be fun to try? Let’s take a singularity of the mass of an entire universe. Your universe. Let’s put that in here…”
  176. >A small white dot appears before you.
  177. >“... and see what happens.”
  178. >The dot rapidly expands in a sudden burst of light and color, an ethereal firework, forming long filaments of glowing energy.
  179. >Just as it seems to be reaching a climax, Discord shoves it aside.
  180. >“Now we change the mass by a factor of 0.000000000000000000000001%. Watch carefully now.”
  181. >The process repeats, but approximately the same moment as the previous…
  182. “The structure is entirely changed. Yes, I know this.”
  183. >“And that’s just one of the parameters,” Discord says, chuckling a bit. “There are an infinite number of combinations that lead to an -”
  184. “Yes, and that’s why there must be a multiverse, presuming that any singularity of the right critical conditions could form. What do you want to prove that I don’t already know?”
  185. >“What I’m showing you is that your system, your perfect, orderly system - is completely chaotic. It’s worse than your double wangdoodle wickerstick, even.”
  186. “Double inverted pendulum.”
  187. >“Whatever.”
  188. >For the first time, though, you have both of your models before you, and, for the first time, you come to a realization.
  189. “No, this can’t work,” you mutter to yourself. “It doesn’t fit with the observed phenomena. But what if…. Tell me, what would happen if one were to add a controlling force, predicated on, oh… these parameters.”
  190. >You wave your hands, rearranging the equations to add a new term to the mix and adjust the others.
  191. >It’s so much easier to simply put things together in your head than manually write them out on paper.
  192. “It has a separate field dictated by its relation to the other four fundamental fields, and yet it acts as a control. Depending on the right initial parameters, its power could be quite strong or quite weak. It would also, of course, have a conservation law, that is required.”
  193. >“What are you doing?” Discord says, his eyes narrowing.
  194. >You ignore him.
  195. “The system is chaotic, but there are ways we can provide order to chaos. Yes, of course I would have missed something like this if there would be no way to observe such a force.”
  196. >You nod.
  197. “Excuse me, Discord,” you say. “I believe I have some explanations to make and experiments to do. If I am correct, then I am on the right track to solving the Grand Law of Magic.”
  198. >“Wait! But, you weren’t supposed to - I was - you can’t do this without me!”
  199. “I told you. I don’t need your help. And this is my mind. Goodbye.”
  200. >And, with that, you wake up.
  202. “He’s not waking up,” you whine, your hooves dancing a nervous tarantella; however, as soon as you say that, Anonymous’s eyes pop open.
  203. >Rubbing his head, he leans upwards and looks around for a moment at you, then Rainbow Dash, back to you, and then back to Dash.
  204. >“I presume you have resolved the cause of our previous conflict?” he says.
  205. “Yes,” you say, half-sighing.
  206. >“Good,” he says, turning to Rainbow Dash and staring at her for a moment before finally saying, “I apologize for any of the harsh language I may have used with you, but I do not appreciate being told that I am lying when I am not.”
  207. >Dash blinks and frowns slightly.
  208. >“You seem confused,” Anonymous says.
  209. >“I mean, uh, yeah?” Dash replies. “That seemed really easy for you to say.”
  210. >“Then trust me when I say it wasn’t,” he says. “There is a part of me that would like to maintain that I am fully in the right - that your attack was unprovoked and that apologizing to you for my own justified actions is a waste of breath. I am suppressing that part of me for the benefit of....”
  211. >He trails off and doesn’t say anything more.
  212. “For the benefit of what?” you ask.
  213. >“It’s not relevant to this discussion,” he says.
  214. “I think it is.”
  215. >Anonymous locks his gaze with yours.
  216. >“For the benefit of our friendship,” he finally says, then quickly turns back to Rainbow Dash. “Do you have any words for me?”
  217. >“Oh, uh, yeah,” she says. “I... kinda beat the stuffing out of you. I’m sorry. That wasn’t right, but I didn’t know if I could trust what you said. And, what you said about me being impulsive did hurt, but… you were right. So, uh, yeah. Sorry.”
  218. >“Apology accepted.”
  219. >Her brow furrows.
  220. >“That’s it?” she says.
  221. >“Why wouldn’t it be? Were you expecting me to agonize over it more?” he asks. “I believe the both of us would like to move on from this affair.”
  222. >“Uh, yeah. I would. Maybe I’ll just go, okay? See you around, Twilight.”
  223. “Wait, Dash -” you begin to say, but before you can stop her, she is already out the door and rocketing into the sky.
  224. >You groan and return to Anonymous.
  225. >“That went better than I expected it to,” he says flatly.
  226. “I… Well, I unfortunately have to agree,” you say. “That could have been much worse, but I would hesitate to call that the paragon of an apology.”
  227. >“Would you have expected me to pull it off perfectly the first time?”
  228. “No, I don’t think you could ever meet my exacting standards,” you say with a bit of a twinkle in your eye.
  229. >Anonymous half-smiles, before returning to his normal stoicism.
  230. >“The whole thing was rather overshadowed by a rather unwise interjection on my part, I would have to say.”
  231. “There’s a part of you that thinks you were fully in the right.”
  232. >“There’s a whole of me that knows I was fully in the right, but, as I said, I am obligated by our current agreement to perform as I did.”
  233. “You’re not obligated by anything, and there’s no ‘agreement.’ You should be doing this because you want to.”
  234. >“I am obligated to and there is some form of bargaining here. I need to try to be friendly so as to secure my laboratory and living spaces. As to the second point, I agree, but the fact of the matter is that I don’t wholly want to. For now.”
  235. “You believe that you will eventually come to want to?”
  236. >“Either that or a perfect facsimile. I’d personally prefer the former.”
  237. “And what do you think would lead to that first option?”
  238. >“I don’t know. While I can accept that friendship is valuable in theory, it is harder to internalize and act on that. It is not natural to me, especially when, again, part of me still would like to continue trying to poke holes in the argument.”
  239. >You think for a moment.
  240. “How is this different from your deception before?”
  241. >“I’m not sure if deception is the right term. It was more that I was taking advantage of you by not attempting to be friendly at all. Here at least I am being friendly, even if only by coercion.”
  242. >“I’m not sure if coercion is the right term, and I’m not sure if you’re being friendly.”
  243. >Anonymous sighs.
  244. >“I’m doing the best I can at this moment. I want to understand how you can do both of these things.”
  245. “Both of what things?”
  246. >“How you can balance intellect and friendship,” he says.
  247. >A small smile blooms on your face.
  248. “There’s nothing more that I’d like,” you say.
  249. >Anonymous nods.
  250. >“Now, moving onto other matters,” he says. “You said you had previously looked into magic’s ability to travel through time. Do you still have your notes from this investigation?”
  251. “Yes, but, hang on, I still want to -”
  252. >“Twilight, if you give me those notes, then I assure you that I will answer any further questions you have about my current motivations at this point following.”
  253. >You blink.
  254. “Okay. Let me go get them.”
  255. >You quickly run into the basement and sift through one of the filing cabinets, finding what you seek quickly through the efficient organization system, which you have, of course, memorized.
  256. >Anonymous briefly looks over the notes, frowning in contemplation and nodding in understanding every once and awhile.
  257. >“Very good. Now, where could we find Ms. Pie at this moment?”
  258. “Uh, she’d probably be at Sugarcube Corner. Why do you ask?”
  259. >“I have an apology to make, and questions to ask.”
  261. >The sight of Sugarcube Corner brings a hollow, sickening feeling to your stomach, a physical revulsion perhaps caused by its mockery of your childhood dreams or perhaps by the thought of what would happen should you consume the entirety of its overly-saccharine expanse.
  262. “For some reason I thought this would be easier. The last one came to me very naturally. Perhaps because it was a simple misunderstanding,” you say.
  263. >“Admitting you were wrong is never easy,” Twilight says.
  264. “No, it’s not.”
  265. >Pursing your lips, you push open the door.
  266. >Pinkie Pie is at the counter, polishing the glass with a damp cloth.
  267. “Hey, Twilight!” she says, spotting your companion, before cocking her head to one side and frowning. “And, Anonymous? What are you doing here?”
  268. >You only nod politely by means of greeting, and look to Twilight.
  269. >“Hello, Pinkie,” Twilight says. “Anonymous has something he’d like to say to you, but I think we’d both appreciate a few cupcakes to go with it.”
  270. >“Oh, yeah! Sure. Would you like an assortment?” Pinkie asks.
  271. “That would be fine,” you say.
  272. >Twilight and you choose a table near the window and pull up three chairs, while Pinkie brings out a plate of confections as well as a pot of tea.
  273. “I will make this brief,” you say as she joins the two of you, “I would like to -”
  274. >“Do you prefer chocolate or strawberry icing?” Pinkie asks, pointing to the two cakes on the plate. “Or coconut? Or lemon?”
  275. “I have no preference at the moment. What I’m trying to say is -”
  276. >“You know, I really do like the chocolate sometimes,” Pinkie says, “but strawberry can be really good too. But we also just came up with a new recipe for the coconut icing and the lemon is super popular with the customers since we have fresh lemons coming in and -”
  277. “Would you please stop being distracted with confections and let me apologize to you?”
  278. >Your hand slams on the table with a bit more force than you would have liked, sending the cutlery and flatware into a tumultuous clammer.
  279. >The cafe falls quiet for a moment.
  280. “I treated you unfairly yesterday,” you say. “You put a lot of effort into trying to entertain me, and I was wrong not to appreciate that. I apologize.”
  281. >Pinkie is quiet for a moment, her ears flat against her head and her mane a bit deflated.
  282. >Twilight, though pensive as well, seems to be ever so slightly smiling in approval.
  283. >Finally, Pinkie says, “It’s hard when you have an image in your mind of what makes you happy, and what a lot of people find fun, but that’s not always true. Some people do just prefer to be alone, and being super energetic is just a bit off-putting to them. So, I’m sorry I didn’t take your feelings into account.”
  284. >You nod.
  285. “I think I’ll have lemon today,” you say.
  286. >Pinkie smiles and passes you that cupcake as you pour yourself a cup of tea.
  287. >The cake is moist and the icing is creamy with just the right amount of lemon.
  288. “Now that we have that settled, I have another question for you,” you say, swallowing.
  289. >“Shoot,” Pinkie says, licking chocolate frosting off her nose.
  290. “I need to have a better understanding of your… Pinkie-sense. Considering that it seems to be an ability unique to you, as I have found few other records of it, maybe you have some intuition into that?”
  291. >She thinks for a moment, and then a moment longer, and then a moment too long, while you quietly sip your tea, before finally saying, “Do you think we should start putting frosting in the center of the cupcake too? I’ve heard of a bakery in Canterlot that does that, and I think that since so many people just like the frosting on their cupcakes that it might be a good idea.”
  292. >Reflexively, you lower your forehead into your hand, then bring it up again, your brow furrowed.
  293. “Focus. You must have some intuition as to how your powers work.”
  294. >“But that’s the thing! I really don’t. I mean, if I had to guess then it’s like my body is somehow connected to the most likely thing to happen in certain scenario.”
  295. >You actually almost smile.
  296. “Go on.”
  297. >“Like, I dunno. I get these feelings pretty often, see. And even though they cause my body to do different things, and they’re almost always right, I can also sort of sense this underlying, like, direction to everything. Like everything is pointing the right way towards a certain outcome.”
  298. >You nod.
  299. >The rest of the meeting doesn’t involve much of note, at least to you.
  300. >Twilight discusses something of little note with Pinkie, and you delve more into your thoughts to build a coherent picture, thus not picking up much of it.
  301. >As the door of Sugarcube Corner jingles shut, Twilight asks, “Was that enlightening?”.
  302. “I would say that was a most productive meeting for all parties involved. I think we have resolved several issues, most importantly: neither of the phenomena you explain as temporal magic are true ‘time travel.’ Ms. Pie’s power, I theorize, is from a magical connection to a large number of quantum states. Your description of time travel - the kind that changes outcomes, is from travelling to or creating parallel universes.”
  303. >“Those seem to be too convenient of an explanation,” Twilight says. “Why didn’t you consider it before?”
  304. “For several reasons. First of all, I don’t want to be constrained by how I expect things to work. If magic could actually travel through time, whatever theory I create of it must explain why that action is allowed. To be perfectly honest, I’m a little bit disappointed. It would have been rather interesting re-writing all of causality to incorporate a potential for the future influencing the past, even if it were difficult. Secondly, I was trusting your direct language as the simplest form of the theory. Simplicity, as I believe I’ve told you, is to be valued in a scientific theory.”
  305. >You pause.
  306. “Of course, it could happen that this conception of how temporal magic can function is incorrect with observation or inconsistent with the rest of the theory. If so, then we will need to revise it.”
  307. >Twilight paces along, mulling it over.
  308. >“I want to backtrack a little bit, though. You said Pinkie’s Pinkie-sense is created by connecting to ‘quantum states.’ What does that mean?”
  309. “Do you know how a ferromagnet works at the fundamental level?” you ask rhetorically. “I suppose I will have to explain it to you at some point. The short version is that the magnetic field is generated by a large number of electrons having their magnetic momenta aligned parallel to one another. My theory is that Ms. Pie can detect similar alignments on a more general level, thanks to magic.”
  310. >“That… makes sense, I guess,” Twilight says, gazing into the earth beneath her plodding hooves.
  311. “You seem disappointed.”
  312. >“It’s just I spent months working to figure out how Pinkie sense worked into the magical paradigm, and here you come along and practically solve it in a single day.”
  313. “This problem is not solved. I have no clue if magic can actually support my explanation in the first place, as I said. And... you deserve most of the credit, to be quite honest. Had it not been for your meticulous note keeping, I may never have made the connection.”
  314. >Out of your peripheral vision you notice Twilight is staring at you.
  315. “What?” you ask.
  316. >“I’m just… nevermind. There’s something else I wanted to ask,” Twilight says. “How do I know you’re not just making this apology so that you can gain a better explanation of her Pinkie Sense?”
  317. “You can’t. Unless you plan to cast your lie-suppressing spell again, which I doubt you desire to, my real motivations shall always remain behind a veil. I suppose in some sense that the very fact that I would be willing to submit to such coercion is proof enough. I will say that my reason right now, as with many things, is for the benefit of our relationship, and to better understand, for lack of a better wording, what it means to be friendly.”
  318. >You think for a moment.
  319. “I suppose the best proof is that I also apologized to Ms. Dash earlier today, and I had nothing to gain from that.”
  320. >“But you did have something to gain. You wanted to prove that you had changed to me.”
  321. >You can’t help but smirk.
  322. “You’re thinking as I do now. Come. I have more calculations to perform, and I would appreciate your assistance.”
  324. >Something pokes you in your slumber.
  325. >“Wake up.”
  326. “Hrm?”
  327. >“C’mon, wake up!”
  328. >Blearily, you open your eyes, not that it made much of a difference.
  329. “Twilight, it’s -”
  330. >You realize you don’t have a timepiece near you.
  331. >“Three-fifteen, yes, but you need wake up if you want to catch the best stargazing of your life! So c’mon - the meteor shower has already started by now!”
  332. >Twilight leads you up the stairs onto the balcony, pulling you with what you can only assume to be magically-assisted force and babbling ceaselessly.
  333. >“The weather is just perfect tonight, and I’ve been waiting so long to show you this
  334. >Rubbing your eyes to remove the groggy feeling from your face, you face an endless starscape dotted with millions of sparkling lights and the thick band of gas and dust forming a galactic ecliptic.
  335. >Twilight sets out a teapot and a few mugs and unrolls a star chart from its neat cylinder.
  336. >Using her magic, she adjusts it so that it lines up with the constellations currently in the sky.
  337. >“Let’s start with some easy ones,” she says, she points to a collection of stars in the sky that kind of look like the Big Dipper, except the tail end seems to double up at some point. “That’s the Ursa Major, and near it is the Ursa Minor.”
  338. “Curious,” you say. “I have similarly named constellations in my home universe. Does this planet’s axis of rotation align with the final star in the tail of Ursa Minor?”
  339. >“No. I don’t think the axis of rotation aligns with any stars, to be honest. At least, not in any convenient constellation.”
  340. “Interesting.”
  341. >Twilight leads you through the other constellations, pausing only for a shower of blue-white meteoroids streaking through the sky.
  342. >The stars bear the same names and similar formations, but they are differently placed.
  343. >The patterns, though recognizable as the scorpions, snakes, warriors, women, bulls, twins, and all the rest of the menagerie of the night sky, were altered - stars in different places, with different brightnesses and shades, the shining red of Betelgeuse turned to a pale blue, the blue of Sirius a muted pink, and so on.
  344. >Eventually, though, you’re forced to ask the question that plagues your mind.
  345. “Twilight, where is Jupiter?”
  346. >“Jupiter? I do believe… oh, yes, there it is.”
  347. >She swings the telescope around 30 degrees to the right, and 15 degrees up.
  348. >“Right there. Pretty faint tonight, though. I guess that’s to be expected from such a small planet.”
  349. >You’re silent for a moment.
  350. “Thank you, Twilight. I appreciate what you’ve done tonight,” you say, like someone had tugged the pull string to say one of your 115 unique phrases. “But I need to rest. I’m very tired.”
  351. >“Is something wrong?” she asks.
  352. >You think of an answer for a longer amount of time than you would have liked.
  353. “Yes,” you finally say, “but there’s nothing you can do to help me.”
  354. >“Part of having friends is talking with others about your problems,” Twilight says.
  355. You ask, chuckling, “Fine. Can you make the night sky familiar to me, Twilight? Can you show me the gas giant Jupiter with its Great Red Spot and four Jovian moons?”
  356. >She hangs her head.
  357. >“No, I can’t do that,” Twilight says. “I’m sorry.”
  358. >You begin to say “You should be,” but you cut the statement off and it comes out more as a soft sigh.
  359. “No, I shouldn’t have said that,” you say. “I should have just enjoyed this, but I can’t, when the very act of doing so reminds me of how far away I am from home.”
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