-IceMan-

Mad Science: Chapter 5

Jul 28th, 2016 (edited)
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  1. Mad Science
  2. By IceMan
  3.  
  4. Chapter 5: Chandrasekhar Limits
  5.  
  6. “What are you writing?”
  7. >Morning came, and, again, Anonymous sat at his desk, working alone, as usual, black rippling lines extending from a pencil clutched firmly between his first and second digits.
  8. >“I thought that we were going with, ‘Good morning, Anonymous. Did you sleep well?’ Or something to that effect. To which I probably should respond ‘Good morning, Twilight Sparkle, my sleep was excellent. How about yours?’ But, obviously, we have proceeded to more efficacious modes of communication. So, to answer your question: pseudocode,” he says in his particular tone, each word placed most efficiently for greatest effect.
  9. “See. So you do think it’s odd that I didn’t greet you. But, regardless. What’s pseudocode?”
  10. >“An outline for the string of written commands that run the computer systems of my hazard suit. And, no, I only think it’s odd because you brought that up yesterday. I’m merely trying to maintain some consistency in our relationship. Is that not what good friends do?”
  11. “Well, yes, but I thought you didn’t care about that.”
  12. >“I don’t.”
  13. >You stare across the volume of papers spread over the table.
  14. “How long have you been working on this?”
  15. >“The pseudocode? A few hours at most. I’ve been working on some other calculations as well.”
  16. “And how long did that take?”
  17. >He pauses for a moment.
  18. >“An unimportant amount of time.”
  19. “Have you been awake all night?”
  20. >“I will neither confirm nor deny that. And why would it matter if I did? Am I not capable of making my own decisions?”
  21. “Yes, but, I don’t know, don’t friends usually care for each other’s well-being? Staying up so late can’t be healthy, even with what little I know of human biology.”
  22. >“It isn’t. But I don’t care about that. I can stay awake for at least 48 hours with no consequences. Learned that as an undergraduate. It’s not particularly pleasant, but this is not the time to worry about my comfort.”
  23. “Do you at least have time to eat? I’m going to get breakfast, and I don’t think that -”
  24. >“You know what my answer is to that.”
  25. “Okay, then. There’s - uh - cereal, I guess, in the pantry.”
  26. >Anonymous gives you no reply other than a slight shrug, returning to his work.
  27. >The weather ponies apparently having not yet cleared the skies, you exit the library into a gloomy early-morning fog.
  28. >With the shops and stalls just opening for business, sales ponies just setting out their wares for the day, you head through town towards the main square and a building made almost entirely of confectionary sugar and baked goods.
  29. >The bell over the door jingling overhead, you enter Sugarcube Corner and walk up to the counter.
  30. >“Hey, Twilight!” Pinkie says, greeting you from the table she’s wiping down.
  31. “Good morning, Pinkie,” you reply.
  32. >“Here for breakfast?” she asks. “I think I could snag you two piping-fresh muffins. Let me just go to the back.”
  33. >Before you can make a reply, Pinkie scampers off to the kitchen, returning with a plate of cranberry-orange muffins, a few puffs of steam rising from them.
  34. “Those look great! How much for two?”
  35. >“Two? Who’s the other one for? Or are you just really hungry?”
  36. “I was going to get one for Anonymous.”
  37. >“Eh, don’t worry about it. If the Cakes bother me about missing muffins, then I’ll just take it from my pay. My treat!”
  38. “Wow, thank you.”
  39. >Pinkie places two of the muffins on a pair of small plates, and the other in a paper bag.
  40. >The two of you sit down at one of the tables in the otherwise empty cafe.
  41. >“So I was talking to Roseluck yesterday about this big gala that’s going to be thrown in town for the arrival of some duke of somewhere or something, and I was wondering if the Cakes would be involved and it turns out we are and we’re making this huge cake, but I can’t come up with a recipe that I think would fit, and then I thought, ‘You know what would be perfect? The Double Chocolate Supreme Strawberry Dream Cake! We haven’t made it in years!’ and so now I’m going around making sure we have enough strawberries for the filling,” Pinkie says, each word fired rapidly from her machine gun of a mouth, “So, what’s up with you, Twilight?”
  42. “I’ve been researching and working on a counter-spell to the Ultimate Laughing Hex. Supposedly the hex should cause non-stop laughter -”
  43. >“That doesn’t sound so bad,” says Pinkie.
  44. “Well, yes, but even so, it’s supposedly unstoppable. Unstoppable laughter can’t be that good for anyone. If I can come up with a cure, then it could pave the way to figuring out other unbreakable spells.”
  45. >“That sounds neat. Maybe that human guy can help you with it.”
  46. “What? Anonymous? I doubt he would. He’s been far too busy working on his own projects. In fact I invited him to breakfast, and he declined for that reason. I’d do just about anything to get him out of his shell.”
  47. >“Huh. Well, I think I’ve got the perfect idea to do that.”
  48. “Is it a party?”
  49. >“Of course it’s a party! And a big one too. With a full band, and dancers, and cake, and -”
  50. “I don’t think that throwing a massive party is such a good idea, Pinkie.”
  51. >“Why not?”
  52. “Because I don’t think Anonymous will appreciate it. He doesn’t seem like the... er... partying type.”
  53. >“How do you know that? Has he told you?”
  54. “Well, no.”
  55. >“And you did say you would do anything to get Anominous-”
  56. “- Anonymous -”
  57. >“Yeah, that! You said you would do anything to get him out of his shell.”
  58. “Well, I didn’t mean absolutely anything.”
  59. >“Then why did you say that?”
  60. “Because it’s just a figure of speech. It’s hyperbole!”
  61. >“Nuts to your hyperbole! I’ve been planning this for the last three days since he got here. Nobody escapes a Pinkie Welcome Party.”
  62. >And, with that, she raced out the door, leaving behind only a paper muffin wrapper, some crumbs, and a few strands of springy pink hair.
  63. >Staring at your half-eaten muffin, you ponder over what has just occurred, until, suddenly, your stomach sinks to your hooves and you are left without much of an appetite.
  64. >With a start, your eyes widening, you jump up from the table and race out the door.
  65.  
  66. >Twilight returns, her eyes wide and frantically searching the room.
  67. “What’s going on?” you ask.
  68. >“Nothing,” Twilight says, letting out a sigh of relief. “I brought you breakfast.”
  69. “Oh.
  70. >She hands you a paper bag containing a small muffin topped with sugary icing and a few red cranberries.
  71. “I was going to just make something for myself, but thank you. I guess.”
  72. >Gently taking a bite, you enjoy the sweet tang of citric acid and orange oil mixed with sugar.
  73. >Twilight busies herself with organizing her books for a moment, until her ears suddenly perk up.
  74. >“That’s right!” she says. “We were going to go over to the Apple farm to take a look at that threshing machine.”
  75. >You stop your writing and get up from your chair.
  76. “Correct. And I think I have enough written down for now to solve the problem. Let’s go.”
  77. >“Great! Let me just get a few things.”
  78. >Twilight grabs a leather saddle bag and fills it with a few items of incomprehensible usage, what looks like an astrolabe, and a magnifying glass.
  79. “What were those?” you ask.
  80. >“Tools for examining magical fields,” Twilight says. “I’ve got a thaumometer, voltaic charger, sphere of dowsing, macroscope, and a couple other things just in case.”
  81. >Opening the door, you head out into the fresh air.
  82. >Overhead, a few pegasi zip by, clearing the skies of the fog.
  83. “Why do they need to do that?” you ask.
  84. >“Do what?” Twilight asks in return.
  85. “Clear the clouds. You have people clear the clouds in the morning. Why?”
  86. >“Ponyville has no weather that isn’t controlled by ponies.”
  87. “Why?”
  88. >“I don’t know. Presumably some ancient enchantment placed by the founders of the town. Whatever it is, we denizens of this territory must be responsible for managing the weather.”
  89. “Curious,” you say, gazing again at the clouds.
  90. >“Now, remember, Anonymous, when we get to the farm, no interrogations,” Twilight says as you head through town. “Applejack is not your philosophical sparring partner. That is not how you make friends.”
  91. “I make no promises. If such topics arise, then I will engage.”
  92. >“No, you won’t. We’re out for a pleasant afternoon, not a debate. So as much as it may bother you not to use your brain -”
  93. >You give her a stern look.
  94. “Friends don’t usually give each other orders -”
  95. >“Well, but, I didn’t mean-”
  96. “Do not tell me not to utilize my gifts.”
  97. >Twilight remains silent for the rest of the journey.
  98. >Beneath the slowly clearing sky, you and Twilight walk along the gravel path out towards the outskirts of town, where the land gently creases into rolling plains and grassy hills topped with deciduous trees.
  99. >As you rise over the top of a hill, a low valley spills outwards into row after row of apple trees surrounding a bright red barn and farmhouse.
  100. >Descending, you find Applejack hard at work hoeing holes for new seeds to be planted.
  101. >“Hiya, Twilight.... And, Anonymous. Ya came,” Applejack says, looking up from the gouged earth. “Here. Lemme show ya ‘round back.”
  102. >She brings the two of you around the back of the barn to what appears to be a rusted red art-deco style tractor with an open cab and a set of heavy, black rubber tires.
  103. >“So, uh, yeah, there’s been this sort of pinging sound coming out of the engine,” the farmpony says. “Maybe you want to take a look at that?”
  104. >Twilight nods, and her horn hums and glows with the aura of a magical spell being cast.
  105. >The hood of the tractor lifts up to reveal a cylindrical device with a small rotor in the center, some small metal bars set over it coming together in a peaked top connected to some kind of clear, glowing crystal.
  106. >It has no resemblance whatsoever to any sort of generator or engine you’ve ever seen before, other than the gears, driveshafts, and other mechanisms attached to it.
  107. “Could you turn it on?” you ask.
  108. >“Uh, sure,” Applejack says. “Just watch out. That thing can get a bit energetic when the hood’s off.”
  109. >The magical engine hums to life for a few seconds.
  110. >Sparks of what you recognize as plasma begin to form around the crystal as the rotor underneath begins to spin faster and faster as each moment passes.
  111. >The chassis rumbles as the mechanical pieces clank and grind past one another, the fitful wheels only held back by the firm grip of the brake.
  112. >You can faintly hear a light ringing, like a bell chiming some distance away, then the engine roars like a beast struck with a sharp spear and emits a massive cloud of acrid smoke.
  113. >The engine dies.
  114. >You turn to Twilight and say one word:
  115. “Explain.”
  116. >She points to the crystal at the top of the engine.
  117. >“This is shocked quartz,” she says. “It’s a special type of quartz crystal that’s been magically optimized to produce electrical energy. There’s two spells on it. One is a minor Squeezing Incantation that compresses the crystal when the machine is activated. The second is a Electrical Magnifier that increases the electrical output. This output is fed into a coil of wire to turn the magnetic rotor, which drives the engine.”
  118. “So it’s powered by piezoelectricity? How can such a weak current be -”
  119. >“The Grand Law of Magic.”
  120. “Of course…. Well, considering that piezoelectric effects are only used to power watches in my universe, there is absolutely nothing that I know that could aid in fixing this,” you say with a shrug. “Maybe you should try turning the magnification field off and on again.”
  121. >“That… actually might work,” Twilight says. “I think, from the amount of smoke the engine generates once it gets up to speed, that the generation field is too strong, and the electrical energy is causing the air to ignite when it gets too close. I can re-cast the field at a lower energy. Let me take a look.”
  122. >Twilight brings out one of her tools and begins examining the crystal at the top of the engine.
  123. >Her horn sparks for a moment, then subsides.
  124. >The crystal turns opaque and non-luminous.
  125. >With greater concentration, Twilight cloaks the quartz in magical energy.
  126. >“Okay, try it now,” she says with the conclusion of the spell.
  127. >Applejack starts the engine, which comes to life with a throaty, vibrant hum.
  128. >“Seems to be workin’ okay,” she says after about a minute. “Thanks, Twilight.”
  129. >“No problem. Happy to help.”
  130. >“I don’t reckon ya’d like to stay for lunch as a reward for your work. Oh, and Anonymous is absolutely welcome as well.”
  131. >“Sure! We’d love to,” Twilight says before you have a chance to speak.
  132. >Applejack takes you into the farmhouse.
  133. >“Granny Smith was just makin’ up a whole bunch of apple pies to take to market tomorrow,” she says as you enter the kitchen. “There might still be a couple on the - perfect!”
  134. >Picking up a checkered cloth in her mouth to protect herself from the still-hot pie tin, Applejack takes a steaming pie off the oven and sets it on the round wooden table.
  135. >She then grabs a few plates and forks from the cupboard, and begins cutting slices.
  136. >Thick, sugary filling spills out of the flaky crust as the piece plops down on your plate.
  137. >You elect to let it cool for a bit, seeing as there was still wafts of vapor rising from the warm apple slices.
  138. >“How’s the harvest been this season?” Twilight asks between a mouthful of pie.
  139. >“It’s okay. Could be better. Harvestin’ the wheat and corn has been delayed since we couldn’t get that thresher workin’. But now I think we’ll get that wrapped up pretty quick.”
  140. >“And the apples? I know that Rainbow Dash has been bugging me about cider, so….”
  141. >“Well, yeah, those are comin’ along. We’ll probably have a good amount leftover after all the bakin’ and sellin’ for pressin’ into cider. Depends on how well the pink ladies do, plus the red deliciouses. If we can get those sold, then we’re golden.”
  142. >“Don’t you have anything to ask of Applejack, Anonymous? Maybe about her farming or -”
  143. “If I had something to ask I would have said it. As it is, I have little interesting in agriculture or making idle conversation.”
  144. >“Then what are ya interested in?” Applejack says with a cocked eyebrow. “Other than philosophy, natural or otherwise.”
  145. “Not much else.”
  146. >“Well, okay then. We’ll have it your way. Maybe you’ve come up with an answer to what I said about honesty yesterday.”
  147. >“Applejack, maybe we can talk about a… er, nicer topic?”
  148. >You swallow a bite of pie, both you and Applejack ignoring Twilight.
  149. “Of course I have a refutation. You’re lying right now.”
  150. >Twilight’s fork clatters on her plate.
  151. >“Anonymous. Don’t,” she says.
  152. “My apologies, Twilight, but I cannot break a promise that I did not make.”
  153. >You turn to Applejack, saying:
  154. “You don’t want me here right now. I’ve provided you with no help. I’m eating your food without compensation. Your only interaction with me has been an argument. Why would you want me here right now?”
  155. >Smirking, you continue:
  156. “This is exactly what I discussed yesterday, and, though you presented a different approach, you still didn’t answer my central criticism. Even if, when the chips are down, your friends will be honest with you, why not simply be open and upfront with each other all the time, if honesty is that valuable? Why are you hiding behind pleasantries right now? Do you really want me to be here?”
  157. >“Because… because at the end of the day, I do want you to be here,” Applejack says, interrupting your monologue. “I haven’t been lyin’.”
  158. “What?”
  159. >“As much as it makes me uncomfortable, I know that the first step to gettin’ through to you is at least bein’ hospitable. Who cares if you haven’t been the biggest help? You’re still our guest, not just on this farm, but within this universe, dangit. That’s gotta be worth somethin’. So long as I think there’s even the smallest shred of decency in you, I think you’re entitled to a seat at our table.”
  160. >Nobody says anything for a second.
  161. >“I’ve seen Applejack really try to lie about something,” Twilight says. “Her eyes get all shifty and she starts trying to hide behind things. She’s a terrible liar. No offense.”
  162. >“None taken.”
  163. “If she really didn’t want you here, I don’t think she’d try to keep it from you.”
  164. “Is that so…. Very well. I’ll yield for now, but I know I can find something. There is no conceivable way you can conduct every interaction with your friends in total honesty, and I’ll find a way to prove it.”
  165. >You stand up from the table.
  166. “Thank you for the pie. It was excellent. However, I have spent far too much time away from my research, and must return home. I do not know what you are planning, Twilight, but if you would like, it may be more efficient for us to travel together.”
  167. >You creak open the farmhouse door as Twilight says a hurried goodbye to Applejack as she follows you.
  168. >“I thought you agreed no more arguments,” she says as the door closes and you begin walking up the path towards town.
  169. “I agreed that I wouldn’t start anymore arguments, not that I wouldn’t participate. Also, that term feels very out of place. We were perfectly civil. A discussion would be a better term,” you say.
  170. >“Argument, discussion, whatever. No more of them! -
  171. “And we really need to work on your conversation skills -”
  172. “No more of them or you’ll what?” you mutter.
  173. >“What?”
  174. “Nothing. Please, continue lecturing me on avoiding topics of discourse that interest me when conversing with others.”
  175. >“Now you’re just being thick-headed.”
  176. “I can hold a conversation perfectly.”
  177. >“Prove it.”
  178. >You think for a moment.
  179. “Hello, Twilight. How was your trip to Applejack’s? Was it enjoyable? What did you do there? I’ve heard her pies are excellent, but I’m not sure what you think. Did she say anything about how well the harvest is going? Does the farm seem to be holding up? How about -”
  180. >“Fine, you’ve proved your point!” Twilight says. “But… why don’t you just do that then?”
  181. “Because I see no reason to conduct myself falsely with you or your friends. I believe honesty is valuable, and to feign interest in topics I couldn’t care less about is wrong.”
  182. >“But as you become friends with people you become interested in aspects of their life,” Twilight says.
  183. “True.”
  184. >“So eventually you don’t need to fake your interest in those things. You will be honestly interested, and they’ll be honestly interested in your life.”
  185. “Also true.”
  186. >“So why don’t you just make little lies for now, so that greater honesty can come later?”
  187. “Why not simply be honest all the time, so that those who are willing to accept your honesty are honest to you as well?”
  188. >“You just have an answer for everything, don’t you?” Twilight says.
  189. “I’m a physicist. I give answers to problems,” you say.
  190. >Twilight groans.
  191. >“This isn’t over,” she says.
  192. “Of course it isn’t.”
  193. >As you pass by the front door of the Carousel Boutique, the door suddenly opens with the ding-a-ling of a bell.
  194. >“Anonymous! Twilight! Just the two I wanted to see,” Rarity says.
  195. >“Hiya, Rarity,” Twilight says. “What is it?”
  196. >You loom silently behind Twilight.
  197. >“Well, I was just putting the finishing touches on the outfit I was making for Anonymous, and then I saw you two walking by. So, if you have a moment, you could come right in and pick it up!”
  198. “Excellent,” you say. “I think I will.”
  199. >You and Twilight follow Rarity into the store.
  200. >The seamstress trots into the back room and returns with a white box.
  201. >“Now, I’m not usually one for minimalism, and my skills with male designs are a little rusty, but I think I came up with something quite ravishing.”
  202. >She reveals a black jacket with matching trousers, a white shirt, and a crimson tie.
  203. >“Here, have a feel of the fabric. It’s absolutely to die for.”
  204. >Rarity passes the shirt into your hands.
  205. >The texture is soft, light, and incredibly smooth.
  206. >The milky cloth floats almost weightlessly in your hands, flowing with the grace of the ocean’s surface on a moonless, windless night.
  207. “Is this silk?” you ask. “I can’t wear something like that. I thought I asked for something simple.”
  208. >“But it is simple, darling,” she says, brow furrowing. “Just a solid navy. What could be more simple than that?”
  209. “Yes, but simplicity goes beyond designs. I can’t wear something that I will constantly need to worry about getting dirty.”
  210. >“Oh, that’s what you were worried about? Pfft. All my garments are produced with anti-dirt and anti-odor enchantments. I can’t remember the formal names, but Twilight should be able to tell you. I know you’re interested in magic and all that,” Rarity says, turning to the other unicorn. “In fact, it was Twilight who taught me how to cast them, isn’t that right?”
  211. >Twilight gives a big smile and nods.
  212. “Very well. If that enchantment holds, I guess they’ll do,” you say, taking a look at the outfit. “But I can’t help but wonder....”
  213. >“Can’t help but wonder what, darling?” Rarity asks.
  214. “What do you seek to gain by this? I asked you for something simple. A t-shirt and jeans would have been fine,” you say, stretching out those particular articles of clothing, which currently adorn you, as if to show off their grubbiness. “Instead, you give me formal evening wear. For what purpose?”
  215. >“I’m just being generous.”
  216. >You think for a moment.
  217. >Twilight’s stare digs into you with the force of a drill rig boring for oil.
  218. “I guess I don’t really have any reason to believe otherwise,” you say. “Thank you very much.”
  219. >“Don’t you want to try it on?”
  220. >You blink.
  221. “Of course. Let me take a look.”
  222. >You step into the dressing room and redress in the suit.
  223. >It fits perfectly, maybe even a bit better than your clothes from Earth, which were always a bit baggy around your skeletal frame.
  224. “It seems to fit,” you say, exiting back into the main show floor.
  225. >“It looks great,” says Twilight.
  226. >“Absolutely marvelous, if I do say so myself,” says Rarity. “My first human design....”
  227. >“I think it suits you,” says a third voice, followed by a giggle.
  228. >You turn around to find a pink horse entering the boutique.
  229. >“Hello, Pinkie,” Rarity says. “Are you here to pick up the -”
  230. >“Yeah! The outfit for the -”
  231. >Pinkie quickly shoves a hoof in her mouth.
  232. >“Sorry, can’t say in present company.”
  233. “I guess that’s our cue to leave then. Thank you for the suit.”
  234. >“You’re quite welcome, Anonymous. If you need anything else, just ask.”
  235. “Of course,” you say, holding the door for Twilight to leave with you.
  236. >Twilight is silent for a few moments as you walk towards home.
  237. “Was that better?” you ask as you approach the entrance.
  238. >You set the box containing your new clothes on your desk in the upper part of the library, taking a few sheets of paper in exchange, then head towards the basement to continue to work.
  239. >“At least you managed to hold your argumentative tongue in check,” she says. “I guess we’ll have a bit of time to work on that….”
  240. >Downstairs, the clock was ticking.
  241. >A metronomic drone of low beats at a steady rate of one tock per second echoes off the walls.
  242. >Reprogramming the hazard suit’s central computer had been easier than you expected.
  243. >By running the suit in test mode, you could create a new function that would plot the output of the photoelectric experiment.
  244. >Very simple.
  245. >Quite elegant.
  246. >Unfortunately, you still had to input the values into the computer by hand.
  247. >The right wrist had a keyboard precisely for this purpose.
  248. >You could never know if a universe could somehow alternate the laws of computer logic, making it possible for a calculator to make two plus two equal five.
  249. >May as well include that function.
  250. >Regardless, it was taking some time, and there didn’t seem to be a way to automate it further.
  251. >The preliminary results, at least, looked accurate - a nice dropoff until stopping at the work function.
  252. >Everything was going smoothly.
  253. >The clock keeps ticking.
  254. >Until, suddenly, the punctuated silence is burst by an explosion of noise and color.
  255. >You flinch and rip the helmet from your head, trying to regain a sense of order.
  256. >It was like someone set off a multicolored bomb.
  257. >Shards and strings of paper sifted down over head, along with dozens of squeaking balloons.
  258. >A party horn screamed in your ear as a full brass band wound up in an overwhelming crescendo.
  259. >At the center of the maelstrom is a pink pony with a cotton candy-like mane, currently covered by a flat boater’s hat and carrying a mahogany cane.
  260. >Her maw opens up, and she begins to sing in a wild bouncing double-patter tune:
  261. >“Welcome to our universe, we hope you find it grand!”
  262. >“And if you’ll give a listen, please, to our big brass band!”
  263. >“There’s a plethora of games to play, so join us, if you’d please!”
  264. >“There’ll be so much mirth and laughter it will leave you on your knees!”
  265. >“You’ve been working down here for so long, and now it’s time for fun,”
  266. >“And maybe you can make a friend, finally when we’re - oof!”
  267. >The orchestra falters in a sudden stop of rushed minor second chords, like a subway train crashing into a brick wall, as you stomp up to the podium and wrap your hands around Pinkie’s cheeks, the paragon of fury blazing deep within your eyes.
  268. >“Hey! Let me go! I haven’t finished the song,” she says, her voice muffled by your grip.
  269. “There will be no more songs. You have interrupted my work in the most egregious way. Get out,” your voice at moderate volume and your words sliding easily, but carrying all the weight of a glacier carving through a valley.
  270. >You turn to the rest of the entourage Pinkie has brought with her.
  271. “Get out!” you say, a bit more loudly, but only so that everyone can hear you.
  272. >Grumbling a bit, the band shuffles out of your laboratory, a pair of cymbals crashing on the floor with a metallic shimmer of sound until its owner quickly picks them up and scuttles out.
  273. “Who the hell do you think you are that you can barge into a private residence and start making such a racket? What did you think this would accomplish?” you ask, whipping back to the pink pony rubbing her cheeks.
  274. >“I-I’m Pinkie Pie. I’m one of T-Twilight’s friends. And I-I just thought you had been cooped up down here so long that you might have some fun with a party,” she stutters, shrinking back a bit from your looming presence and balled fists.
  275. “Ah, yes. Fun. Here I am, working to advance my knowledge of this universe, and you waste my time with fun. Truly a worthy endeavor.”
  276. >“We all need to have fun sometimes.”
  277. “No, we do not. The most important thing in life is accretion and advancement of knowledge, and you have taken away from my efforts in doing that. You should be ashamed.”
  278. >“Well, I - but - I.... You listen here, mister Unanimous!”
  279. “Anonymous. My name is Anonymous, and you shall refer to me as such.”
  280. >“Fine! Whatever! Everyone needs a laugh at some point. Everyone loves a party.”
  281. >Your glare intensifies to icepick sharpness, a laser-like beam with which you hoped to puncture this annoyance’s skull.
  282. “Do you know what I find funny?” you say in low, hollow tone. “What a pathetic creature you are. Your goal in life is to appeal to our basest sensibilities, our lowest pleasures. Your only desire is to make people happy, and, when your narrow view of what makes people happy is irreversibly shattered, your reaction is to argue that person does not understand happiness. So, not only are you committed to hedonism, but your view of what actions are hedonistic is limited. You are the butt of your very own joke. So, go ahead. Laugh.”
  283. >Pinkie’s ears turn downwards, flat against her head, and a layer of tears builds up on her lower eyelid.
  284. >“I... I didn’t know that -”
  285. “You didn’t know what? That I am not a connoisseur of obnoxious noises and trivialities? That your personal beliefs in what entertains people would be so horribly rebuked? Couldn’t you have possibly figured that I would not appreciate one iota of these efforts from the fact that I have spent my entire time within this overwrought cartoon you call a universe working on a way to escape it?”
  286. >“I just wanted to make you happy,” she says. “I’m sorry.”
  287. “And you very well should be. Now, as I have ordered you to earlier: get out. I have much work to do and I prefer to have no more -”
  288. >It was at that moment you noticed Twilight on the staircase, overlooking you with a dark glare.
  289. “What?” you ask. “Are you taking her side in this? She barges into my laboratory with an entire marching band, thinking that’s perfectly alright.”
  290. >“Your laboratory?” Twilight says.
  291. “Semantics,” you reply.
  292. >Twilight turns to her friend.
  293. >“You really should go,” she says, calmly, but then grits her teeth. “I need to discuss something with our new acquaintance. Privately.”
  294. >Pinkie Pie slowly ascends the stairs, takes a final look at you, and then leaves.
  295. “Well, now that that’s out of the way, I believe we can discuss our experimental results, which are coming quite well, thanks to my -”
  296. >“What happened?” Twilight asks, coming down towards you.
  297. >You place yourself in a chair, your helmet and gauntlet at your side, a few stacks of paper next to you, your back to Twilight.
  298. >You pick up a pencil and begin to write out some thoughts.
  299. “I just told you. I was doing my research when your pink friend there -”
  300. >“And what happened after that?”
  301. “I explained to her why that wasn’t an acceptable thing to do.”
  302. >“Anonymous, I was listening the whole time.”
  303. “And you didn’t stop her?”
  304. >“I was a few seconds too late for that.”
  305. “Very well. Either way, I think you will find my argument sound.”
  306. >“That’s not the point. You promised not to do that anymore. You said you wouldn’t analyze people like that.”
  307. “Then what was I supposed to do? Sit there and take it?”
  308. >“You know what? Yes. Pinkie just didn’t know you that well, and you should have at least appreciated her making an effort to make you happy.”
  309. “Well, it didn’t. She should have done better research, or drawn maybe some logical conclusions about my disposition from my actions thus far. Or talked to you.”
  310. >“She did talk to me. I tried to... I tried to talk her out of it.”
  311. >The pencil scratches across the paper.
  312. “So you agree with me.”
  313. >“She put a lot of effort into this, Anonymous. She always does. Parties are her thing, just like you and science -”
  314. “What a worthless talent to have.”
  315. >“It’s not worthless! Making people happy is not worthless. And if you had only been more open with her, then she could have found the way to do that most effectively.”
  316. “Well, as I have established at least one hundred times, I don’t care about that.”
  317. >Silence.
  318. >“Why not?” Twilight asks.
  319. “I told you to figure it out,” you say. “It’s been three days. Have you put any thought into it?”
  320. >“Have you put any time into refuting my friends’ arguments?”
  321. “Irrelevant. I have spent my time with other things.”
  322. >“And so have I. So why haven’t you set out on that task? Isn’t it important to keeping your worldview?”
  323. “Yes, but -”
  324. >“Then why haven’t you worked on it?”
  325. >You sigh and check the display on your helmet.
  326. “Point understood. Very well. I believe the analysis program can run without my oversight. So, I can put some effort into this project.”
  327. >“Good. And I’ll put some time into thinking about you then.”
  328. “There isn’t any need to do that. I meant it merely as a triviality.”
  329. >“Oh no. I want to figure it out. It’s like you said. There isn’t any problem that can’t be solved, given enough time.”
  330.  
  331. >He doesn’t say anything more, just returning to writing more things down on paper.
  332. >Seeing that Anonymous doesn’t want to be bothered any further, you quietly head back upstairs.
  333. >You still have a few remaining errands to do for the end of the day, but, as you head outside, you find Pinkie Pie sitting on the stairs leading up to the library.
  334. >“Oh. Hey, again, Twilight,” she says, her voice unusually low.
  335. “I’m sorry, Pinkie,” you reply. “But I can’t say I didn’t warn you.”
  336. >“It’s fine. I guess I was just so eager to welcome him, that I just wasn’t willing to listen to your advice. But even then… I’ve never met anyone who reacted that sourly to someone just being friendly to them.”
  337. “I know, and I’m trying to figure out why, as best as I can. And I’ve told Anonymous that he needs to… be better, about things like that. But I don’t think it’s really taking.”
  338. >“Hm.”
  339. “I just can’t understand why someone so intelligent would so want to be alone.”
  340. >“Isn’t that what you wanted when you first came to Ponyville?”
  341. “What?”
  342. >“Watch your head, the door’s about to - oof!”
  343. >Standing in the entryway is Anonymous, his expression as flat as a sheet of cloth pulled taut, only his eyes narrowed slightly, who, hopefully unknowingly, has just shoved you aside with the door.
  344. >He looks around the corner and, seeing you there and your gaping mouth, says, “My apologies. Maybe you shouldn’t sit so close to the door. I’m going for a walk, and I shall return shortly.”
  345. >And, having said that, he descends the stairs, his hands in his pockets.
  346. >“Hey! Where are you going?” Pinkie Pie asks. “And can I come?”
  347. >He turns for a moment and stares at your friend, his eyes again narrowed, then continues on his journey.
  348. “Anonymous. Please stay here for a moment and talk with us,” you say.
  349. >“And why should I do that?” he asks.
  350. “Because... because maybe you can help me with something that just happened. Pinkie, can you explain your Pinkie-sense to him?”
  351. >Approaching the entryway again, Anonymous cocks his head to one side.
  352. >“Well, uh - it’s like - sometimes, my tail will start twitching or my eyebrows start shaking or my hooves start quivering,” Pinkie explains. “And when that happens I know something, usually something bad is about to happen. And I don’t know why it happens! It’s just magic.”
  353. >Anonymous’s eyes grow like a pair of white sponges soaked in water, and you swear you could see one of his hands shudder.
  354. >“Coincidences,” he says. “You’re just taking some individual instances where this... sense... has happened, and extrapolating that it happens all the time. There’s no reason to believe that you have any sort of predictive power, or the ability to affect causal chains, or something.”
  355. >“But it does happen all the time! I have notes to prove it,” she says, pulling a large notebook from seemingly nowhere, causing Anonymous’s eyes to again expand in surprise.
  356. >He takes the notebook and flips through it.
  357. >“These are Twilight’s notes,” he says, then shifts slightly. “I recognize the handwriting from the work we’ve done together. Did you steal these?”
  358. >“Well, duh. My tongue got a bit dry after our little - let’s not talk about that thing. But, anyways, I knew that I would need those notes because my tongue getting a bit dry means I’m going to need to give some information about myself to someone soon. And there that book was, and here you are!”
  359. >“That’s strangely specific.”
  360. >“I know,” Pinkie says with a quickly-stifled giggle, her trademark laughter somewhat returning. “Some of them are funny like that. Like, I can’t predict everything under the sun, but I can predict a lot of things.”
  361. >Anonymous rapidly turns to you.
  362. >“Why didn’t you tell me that magic can travel through time?”
  363. “What? How did you figure that out?” you ask. “I mean, time travel is a legitimate school of magic, but -”
  364. >“Let me repeat: why didn’t you tell me about it?”
  365. “Because you were so busy going off about your physics that I never got a chance to give you one of my lectures on magic. Plus, the School of Temporality is an extremely advanced study, we’d need to go through more basic concepts first like -”
  366. >“That’s not the point! The structure of time itself must flow strictly linearly for physics to work. It’s an essential part of causality. It’s just assumed that causal events always flow forward in time. But that isn’t true in this case. In this case, an event in the future is causing an event in the past. And, if that’s true, then that means magic can obey backwards causality as well as forwards, which completely erases all the work I’ve just done. It can’t be simply some sort of superforce, because the four fundamental forces all obey forwards causality.”
  367. >“Congratulations, you little pink monster,” he says, turning back to Pinkie. “You’ve not only distracted me, but now you’ve erased my work. I have to start all over again. Excellent.”
  368. >Pinkie quivers again, most likely not from her Pinkie Sense this time.
  369. “Don’t take this out on her! Had I known that the way magic flows through time would affect your theories, I would have told you sooner,” you say.
  370. >Anonymous gives no reply other than his sour frown, before throwing his hands in the air, turning, and leaving.
  371. “Where are you going?” you ask.
  372. >“On my walk. I need to clear my head and reassess the situation. Leave me alone.”
  373. “No, please. You need to stay,” you say. “We need to work this out between you and Pink-”
  374. >“I will have no further discussion with her at this time. The only thing that I think would improve this situation is if she left.”
  375. >“Maybe it would be best if I left, Twilight. I think I’ve caused enough trouble for one day,” Pinkie says.
  376. >You think for a moment.
  377. “Very well. You’re right. I have some things that I would like to figure out with my friend, privately. Again,” you say, emphasizing “my friend” to a near absurd degree.
  378. >Smiling, but only barely, Pinkie Pie gets up from the steps and half-bounces, half-walks away.
  379. “That’s the second time you’ve had to interact with what is generally considered to be one of the nicest ponies in Ponyville. How do you think that went?” you ask, as soon as Pinkie seems to be out of earshot.
  380. >“Poorly for all parties involved,” Anonymous says. “Although the information I’ve gleaned may become valuable to future -”
  381. “Not the point,” you say, sighing. “I’ve been trying to teach you what it means to be a good friend. No, not even that. Just how to be nice to others. But whenever I turn away, it seems that all you can do is return to being cruel. Why? Why don’t you try to be better?”
  382. >The sun shines brightly, Anonymous’s looming shadow granting you some shade.
  383. >A faint breeze rustles through the leaves overhead, a few detaching and gently floating to the ground.
  384. >“I don’t think you really want to know that at this point. It’s ultimately irrelevant to our relationship, and would most likely only sully it.”
  385. “I think it would be best if we have an open, honest relationship between us.”
  386. >Chuckling, he seems to make a decision.
  387. >“Fine. You really want to know then? You want to know what my game is? Because that’s what it is. A game. I’m trying to determine how far I can push you. I know you’re curious about the advanced knowledge I have, and just about my universe in general. I know you want to know why I am the way I am. I also know that you want me to become a better, friendlier person. To do both of those things, you can’t just push me away. To do so would be to admit defeat: that ultimately I can’t be changed. I don’t think you believe that. As for myself, I don’t really care.”
  388. >A smirk grows across his face.
  389. >“Judging by your shocked expression, you don’t particularly like what I said. Funny. Your friend Applejack said just earlier today that honesty was generally the best policy, and your friends should be the people you were most honest with. I guess that isn’t true here. The truth hurt far more, but I guess you would have figured this all out eventually anyways.”
  390. “Get out.”
  391. >“Excuse me?”
  392. “Get your things and get out of my library.”
  393. >“Why? I only did what you asked me to do. I told you exactly what you -”
  394. “I should have known all along that you - urgh, I just can’t believe this! You tell my friends to leave and - Get out!”
  395. >“This is a bit extreme. Maybe you should have a glass of water and think about what you’re doing to both of us.”
  396. “And here you are, still trying to manipulate me, like I’m some kind of fool. Go away. I never want to see you again. To take complete advantage of my hospitality and kindness, like that!”
  397. >“Oh, really now, don’t be so melodramatic. I mean, really, you can’t throw me out, where would I go? Plus, there’s still the chance for productive research. Why would you throw that chance away?”
  398. “No, that’s it. It’s over.”
  399. >Anonymous’s face is completely flat.
  400. >“I don’t understand,” he says, after a long pause.
  401. “What do you mean you don’t understand? Highest IQ in the multiverse, and you can’t understand the words ‘Get out?’”
  402. >“Not that. I thought -”
  403. “You thought what?”
  404. >“Nothing,” he says, lowering and shaking his head. “I guess I was wrong in that hypothesis as well.”
  405. “What hypothesis?”
  406. >He matches his gaze to yours.
  407. >“There’s something more to you, Twilight Sparkle. Your gift is not magic, nor friendship, but intellect. I give you difficult problems, and you solve them; give you new concepts, and you absorb them. I tell you to figure out what only one of the greatest minds in human history could figure out, and you put the pieces of the puzzle together.”
  408. >“But intellect is both a blessing and a curse. I was so high above everyone else that I began to think ‘Why even bother with them?’ What could they give me that I didn’t already have, except… torment. They were either tools or obstacles in my search for knowledge, and nothing more. When I asked why I shouldn’t think that, I was given no answer.”
  409. >“Do you understand?”
  410. >The wind blows again, while Anonymous waits for your response.
  411. “I can’t believe you,” you finally say. “Trying to manipulate me with a sob story after all this. How gullible do you think I am?”
  412. >His brow furrows and his frown deepens.
  413. Sighing, you say, “Before I came to Ponyville, I was alone. All I had were my studies and my books. That was my choice of how to live my life, and I thought others were a waste of time.”
  414. >Anonymous only nods.
  415. “As I’ve come to learn through my studies here, friendship is valuable, but you clearly don’t want to learn that. Why else would you put no effort into countering my friends’ arguments for why their Elements are valuable? You should’ve been able to defeat them easily. The only thing I can come to is that you don’t care to.”
  416. “You think you’re a genius, but you clearly know nothing about other people. You want to lord your intellect over them like an emperor instead of sharing it for mutual benefit, and all that shows is that, deep down, you’re just a selfish, manipulating, cruel little human. I have no place for anyone like that in my life, and so, until you can learn how to be kind, you’ll have no place here. And that’s why you’re going to leave.”
  417. >Anonymous takes a final look at you, and, then, in silence, slowly trudges away.
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