Mad Science: Chapter 10

Apr 7th, 2019 (edited)
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  1. Mad Science
  2. By IceMan
  4. Chapter 10: General Relativity
  6. >You had found that a particular tower nestled in one of the older, more labyrinthian wings of Canterlot Palace made an excellent reading nook.
  7. >Its height off the ground insulated the room from noise and it was rarely visited by anyone.
  8. >Someone, you would never find out who, had placed a chair in the corner for some reason, maybe because the room just seemed a little too empty without, or maybe because it was the Royal Lonely Sitting Chair Room.
  9. >However, you elected not to sit in this chair, because it was made of wrought iron clad in gold, and not very comfortable for sitting in.
  10. >Perhaps Twilight had discovered the room as well, but you had yet to see her, or any other soul for that matter, there.
  11. >That is, until one sunny afternoon when Rainbow Dash, with a brand new Daring Do book under her foreleg, came barrelling through the window you’d opened for some fresh air.
  12. >She screeches to a halt from her high speed flight, pants a bit, then trots right into you.
  13. >“Oh, uh, hi, uh, Anonymous,” Dash says. “What are you doing here?”
  14. >You flick your eyes from your book to Dash and back to your book.
  15. “Reading,” you say.
  16. >“All alone?” Rainbow Dash asks.
  17. “Yes. Are you surprised by this?”
  18. >“I guess not - but -”
  19. “Do you not want people to find out you have a new book?” you ask.
  20. >Dash seems to be trying, and failing, to hide her new book beneath her wing, but it keeps slipping out.
  21. >“What new book?”
  22. >You give Dash a deadpan look.
  23. >A bead of sweat rolls down her forehead, and the book thumps to the ground.
  24. >“Listen, it’s brand new, I think I got the first copy in the whole world, I don’t think Twilight even has it yet and I know she always tries to get the first copy because she wants it for the library but I got it this time but maybe she has gotten the first copy because she’s better at planning then me, so she might spoil me on what happens and -”
  25. “You had best start reading it then. The Golden Oaks Library always receives one of the first copies of the manuscript, before the book even arrives in stores.”
  26. >“What! How -”
  27. “Twilight knew you were going to try and get it today, so she told me. I figured I might ask if you would like to spend some time reading together with Twilight and I later today.”
  28. >Rainbow Dash furrows her brow.
  29. >“Why were you going to do that?”
  30. “You wouldn’t find it enjoyable to have some company to share all the amazing adventures of Daring Do with?”
  31. >”Yeah, she’s awesome, but... you usually don’t ask to do that. Or you usually just read with Twilight or something, I don’t know.”
  32. “You usually don’t spend a lot of time reading.”
  33. >“Hey! That - that’s not true! I just -”
  34. “You prefer to read alone.”
  35. >“No - well, okay, yeah. I don’t mind reading with friends, but I can’t let it be known to everyone that I’m some sort of egghead bookworm like you or Twilight.”
  36. >Your eyes narrow.
  37. “You have not done a great job of keeping that secret safe then. I’m fairly certain most of your friends know you are a, quote, ‘egghead bookworm.’”
  38. >“Yeah, but they’re my friends, they’re allowed to know that.”
  39. “A secret known by more than two people is no longer a secret.”
  40. >“Yeah? Well - whatever. Do you want to read or what?”
  41. “Of course. Please, sit.”
  42. >Rainbow Dash plops herself on the floor next to you and opens up her book.
  43. >The two of you sit in silence except for the occasional flip of a page or Dash’s muted gasp at some undoubtedly amazing twist.
  44. >You breathe heavily through your nose and exhale, then slam your book closed and get up.
  45. >“Hey! What’s up?” Dash asks.
  46. “Nothing - no, not nothing. In fact, I need your help with something, and I need you to find Applejack too.”
  48. >Not too much time later, Applejack has joined you in the tower, which, now known by more than two people, was no longer secret.
  49. >“Alright, what’s up?” Dash says.
  50. >You purse your lips.
  51. “I’m trying to determine something for myself, and for that I want to perform a - well, I suppose Twilight would call it a ‘friendship experiment.’ So it’s an experiment.”
  52. >“What kind of experiment?” Applejack asks. “And what’s the goal?”
  53. “This experiment has multiple goals,” you explain.
  54. >“It’s weird that you’re calling it an experiment,” Applejack says.
  55. “Do you have a better term?”
  56. >“Well... no.”
  57. “Then experiment stays for now. Also, I can’t guarantee I will tell you all of the results of said experiment either.”
  58. >“Why’s that?” Dash asks.
  59. “That is for me to know, and you to find out if I’m successful.”
  60. >“Woah, hold your horses there,” Applejack says. “I don’t want any of your tricks today. This whole thing is already fishy, and now you’re only makin’ it weirder.”
  61. “This isn’t a trick. It’s just something personal. I ask you to respect that.”
  62. >Applejack and Dash exchange looks.
  63. >“Alright then,” AJ says. “What do you need us for?”
  64. >You interlace your fingers.
  65. “Friendship experiments tend to be unorthodox in terms of method,” you say. “To the best I can tell, I just need you two to take me on some outing that the both of you enjoy.”
  66. >“Yeah, that seems about right,” Dash says. “So, all you’re saying is, you want to hang out with us?”
  67. >You nod.
  68. >“Dude, you realize you don’t need to do some egghead experiment to do that, right?”
  69. “I figured you would say no otherwise. I don’t believe we’re on the best of terms.”
  70. >“Yeah, but doin’ stuff together is how we fix that,” Applejack says.
  71. “We shall see. The real question is, what stuff do you want to do?”
  72. >The blue and orange pair again look to each other and then back to you.
  73. >“I have tickets for the Wonderbolts air show on Saturday,” Dash says.
  74. >“How long were we gonna stay in Canterlot anyways?” Applejack asks.
  75. “I don’t know,” you answer. “Until our work here is complete.”
  76. >Applejack scratches her chin with her hoof.
  77. >“How ‘bout this then. Rainbow Dash and I go for a run every mornin’,” she says. “Nothin’ too hard, plus you’re a lot bigger than us.”
  78. >Every muscle in your body clenches.
  79. “I am not certain that is the best idea.”
  80. >“We’ll go at your pace,” Dash says. “It’s just for us to hang out together, right?”
  81. >You frown, then sigh.
  82. “Very well. I’ll need to figure out how I’m going to get gym clothes on such short notice....”
  84. >The next morning, you stand outside in the mist of the early morning just before dawn, the blue-white magical street lamps not even extinguished, slouched over in the sfumato of grey vapor and faint sunlight just peeking the tips of its long fingers over the indigo mountains.
  85. >Rarity, with her typical “It won’t be a problem at all darling!”-nature, managed to pull through, of course, with a black and red tracksuit that was “very chic indeed.”
  86. >Rainbow Dash and Applejack trot down the stairs to the courtyard, only a few moments behind you.
  87. >“You’re early?” Dash asks.
  88. “I don’t rest easily, and I’m an early riser,” you reply. “Shall we go?”
  89. >“You should really stretch first,” Dash says, leaning down into a sprinter’s vault and bridging her vertebral column. “Do humans need to do that?”
  90. “It’s been recommended to me.”
  91. >You gently spread your legs wide.
  92. >A painful, yet somewhat pleasant sensation fills your thighs as you extend your calf muscles.
  93. >You rest on the ground and do the same for your shins and ankles.
  94. >Feeling mildly more limber than a stack of pinewood, you stand and wait for the starting shot as Rainbow Dash and Applejack finish up their warm-up as well.
  95. “Where to?” you ask.
  96. >Applejack stamps her hoof three times.
  97. >“There’s a - whatchamacallit -” she begins to say, but Dash cuts her off.
  98. >“It’s a book cafe,” Dash. “Like, you get a coffee and a book.”
  99. “Okay. Is the book determined by the coffee order? How far is it?”
  100. >“Don’t know,” Dash says. “Twilight recommended it, but we’ve never been there.”
  101. >“And it can’t be more than a mile, maybe a mile and a half, by my reckonin’” Applejack says.
  102. >The three of you line up at the portcullis at the edge of the courtyard.
  103. >“You set the pace,” Dash says. “I’m sure we’ll be able to keep up.”
  104. >You nod, and set off at a gentle jog.
  105. >Rainbow Dash and Applejack stay with you at an even trot.
  106. >After only a few minutes, your breathing is ragged and your legs are receiving acupuncture from red-hot needles.
  107. >The pegasus and earth pony next to you seem barely winded.
  108. >Sweat runs down your brow.
  109. >You curse your past self for not taking a few laps around the university track and for only eating a single bowl of instant ramen a day during undergrad.
  110. >Your physical form was but a gaunt, skeletal case for your intellect, and at some point you hoped to maybe replace it with machine and metal.
  111. >For now, you would have to suffer the torment of being a mortal human man whose fitness could be outdone by cotton-candy colored small equines.
  112. >Finally, you see the sign for the book cafe, and the shackles around your legs break as you rush into a full sprint, using speed to end your torment once and for all.
  113. >You skid to a stop and slump against a nearby lamppost, air rushing into and out of your inflamed windpipe and perspiration soaking your hair.
  114. >“You alright?” Applejack asks.
  115. “Never... better,” you wheeze.
  116. >“Good!” Dash says, “Bet you could do another lap then, huh?”
  117. >You take a deep breath, easing your heart’s staccato drumbeat from allegro to allegretto.
  118. “I don’t think so. Not today, perhaps tomorrow.”
  119. >Dash chuckles.
  120. >“So, what’s the result of your experiment?” Applejack says.
  121. “Undetermined as of yet,” you say, making a slightly pained smirk. “I think our outing isn’t finished yet.”
  122. >You push in the door to the cafe.
  123. >Ponies sit in comfortable suede leather armchairs in front of small wooden tables, books in one forehoof and cups of coffee in the other.
  124. >You hobble towards the counter and order a large black coffee.
  125. >Dash orders herself a soy milk cappuccino, and Applejack orders an apple cider spiced latte.
  126. >Each cup of coffee, indeed, comes with a particular book: you get a book of Equestrian lore, Rainbow Dash gets an adventure novel (she pouts because it’s not Daring Do), and Applejack gets a guide to vegetable gardening.
  127. >You find a table for three and take your seats, each of you digging into your book: you quietly and fairly quickly working through the thick tome on runic curses; Dash seeming to race through the book like it was a quest to get to the end; and Applejack moseying along, furrowing her brow at some diagrams that were clearly incorrect, and then moving onto the next without finishing the last.
  128. >But, as you are taking a sip of your still piping-hot coffee, you nearly do a spit-take, first from your nearly burnt tongue and second from the bobbing crimson hair knot atop a cream unicorn that enters the cafe.
  129. >There is no use in hiding; you are the only human in this world.
  130. >Catching her gaze, you give a little wave, then return to your book.
  131. >She looks at you, cocks her head to one side, and then goes up to the counter to get her coffee and book.
  132. >For a moment, you think you’ve dodged the bullet, but your inner voice of reason knows what is inevitable.
  133. “Hello, Moondancer,” you say.
  134. >“Moondancer?” Applejack asks, looking up from her book and noticing the unicorn approaching the table. “Is she a friend of yours?”
  135. “She is.”
  136. >“You want to sit with us? Any friend of Anon’s is a friend of ours,” Dash says.
  137. >“Uh, sure,” Moondancer says.
  138. >She pushes a chair over, and Rainbow Dash and Applejack open up the circle to let her in.
  139. >Dash looks her up and down.
  140. >“Oh great. Another egghead,” she says.
  141. >You frown slightly and shake your head at Rainbow Dash.
  142. >“Is this the pony you and Twi were meetin’ with?” Applejack asks.
  143. “Of course,” you answer.
  144. >Moondancer fidgets in her chair.
  145. “Oh, uh, Moondancer, this is Applejack and Rainbow Dash. They are also... friends of mine, I suppose.”
  146. >“And friends of Twilight,” Dash adds. “Which, I guess you are as well? Surprised she’s never mentioned you if so. Though I guess it makes sense, maybe Anon’s test was to - yo!”
  147. >Rainbow turns to you.
  148. >“How did you plan all this out?”
  149. “I didn’t.”
  150. >“No way! You’re such a kidder. Twilight telling you about the new Daring Do book, you being in the tower I found to read the new book, then putting your little ‘experiment’ together - complete coincidence? Really?”
  151. >You nod, your brow furrowed.
  152. >Rainbow Dash frowns.
  153. >“Huh,” is all she says.
  154. >Moondancer seems to be hiding behind the grey wooly walls of her sweater.
  155. >“It’s s-so n-nice you all are f-friends of Twilight,” she stutters. Her coffee sloshes back in forth in her hooves. “J-just s-so great. She’s s-so great, isn’t she? She d-doesn’t even n-need someone l-like me... when she has friends as great as all of you!”
  156. “Moondancer, you know that’s not -” you begin to say.
  157. >“And you!” Moondancer’s eyes are pools of liquid hate and tears. Her mug crashes to the floor as she forces herself onto the table. “You might be able to fool these imbeciles with your act, but every maneuver you make is just another act to get something you need.”
  158. “That isn’t true,” you say. “You know it’s not. Please, I’m sorry, this isn’t - this isn’t what I wanted.”
  159. >“Of course it’s not what you wanted!” Moondancer shouts. “You wanted me to see how great Twilight’s friends were, so I’d remember how great she was, and then we’d be friends again.”
  160. “No,” you say.
  161. >“What do you mean, ‘no?’” Moondancer asks.
  162. “There wasn’t supposed to be any value to any of this. I wanted to see if I could just enjoy some time with friends for its own sake.”
  163. >“And how well was that going?” Moondancer asks, sarcasm leaking from her words like an overpressurized water pipe.
  164. >You remain silent.
  165. >“It was going well!” Dash says, speaking up for you. “Listen, I don’t know what Twilight did to hurt you, but I’m sure she feels bad about it now. And Anon, yeah, he’s a weirdo nerd who acts strange and is kind of a jerk sometimes, but he came on a run with us this morning. And, hey, that’s not his thing. He just wanted to get to know the two of us a little better. There wasn’t any sort of weird stuff going on with it at all!”
  166. >“Was that what you’re ‘experiment’ was, Anonymous?” Applejack asks. “To see if you could enjoy something without having an... ulterior motive?”
  167. >You are again silent for a moment.
  168. “Everything I do has an ulterior motive,” you finally say. “And, whether I intend it or not, I am always able to capitalize fully on every situation.”
  169. >“What?!” Rainbow Dash exclaims. “You’re not making sense.”
  170. “I told you. This was an experiment. I wanted to see if I could enjoy something without some direct benefit to myself. But in doing that experiment, I created a direct benefit for myself.”
  171. >“But that - that’s stupid!” Dash says.
  172. “I’m sorry you don’t understand,” you say. “But I can’t escape this mindset. It invades everything I do, and I don’t know what to do about it.”
  173. >“I think you’re gettin’ yourself worked up over nothin’,” Applejack says. “It’s not selfish to want to hang out with friends to see if you enjoy spendin’ time with them.”
  174. “But that’s not the point! Everything I do goes back to my other goals, and -”
  175. >”The fact that you’re worried about this at all shows that it doesn’t matter,” Moondancer says.
  176. >Everyone turns to look at her.
  177. >She wipes a few tears from her eyes and glasses with the corner of her sweater.
  178. >“I’d been trying to piece together what Twilight wanted, why she had sent you to become my friend,” Moondancer says. “Some sort of ‘friendship test?’ It was nonsense. But now I understand. Sure, some of the things you did were unconventional, but I think you’re getting yourself held up on whether they were genuine or not, and it’s way simpler to think of it as the former.”
  179. “You may be right,” you say.
  180. >“Of course I’m right!” Moondancer says.
  181. “But I can’t accept that. Simplicity doesn’t imply that the notion is correct.”
  182. >Everyone groans.
  183. >“I wish Twilight were here,” Rainbow Dash says.
  184. >Your eyes widen.
  185. “Speak of the Devil and he shall appear,” you say, as Twilight strides to your table.
  186. >“How’s it going girls? Anonymous?” she asks before turning to the final member of your party.
  187. >Moondancer’s eyes narrow slightly, but she stays in her seat.
  188. >“And, Moondancer? I thought you were still planning on how to get us together, Anonymous.”
  189. “Circumstances arose in my favor,” you say. “And I am adept at taking advantage of them. In fact, that was just what we were discussing. What are you doing here?”
  190. >“I always come here on Tuesday mornings,” Twilight says. “They're the best book cafe in the city.”
  191. >You nod.
  192. “But you've never seen Moondancer here before?” you ask.
  193. >“It's my first time coming here,” Moondancer says. “And probably now will be my last considering -”
  194. >“Quit saying your dumb words,” Dash says. “Listen, Twilight. I need you to tell Anon that he’s a good friend.”
  195. >“What? Why?” Twilight asks.
  196. >“Because he’s being weird,” Dash says, “And he thinks he’s a bad friend, so just tell him he’s good and that he’s passed your test or whatever.”
  197. “Please do not do that.”
  198. >Twilight sighs.
  199. >“Anonymous, what is happening?” she says.
  200. “We’ve discussed it before,” you say. “Maybe it’s because of the situation you’ve created for me, but it seems impossible for me to say that any action I do towards making friends is 100% genuine.”
  201. >“I told you, you need to make that decision for yourself,” Twilight says.
  202. “Well, I can’t.”
  203. >“You’ve put yourself in checkmate,” Moondancer says.
  204. “What?”
  205. >“You’re in checkmate. No matter what move you make, you’ll always be stuck,” the cream unicorn explains. “Even if you were to have Twilight tell you that you’ve... whatever, figured out this idiotic philosophical issue of yours, that would only prove you’d manipulated her into thinking that.”
  206. >You nod.
  207. “Correct. There’s no way out.”
  208. >“So why not just accept that’s who you are?” Moondancer asks.
  209. “Because -”
  210. >“When you first met me, you first said you wanted to be my friend, and also that I had information you wanted,” Moondancer says.
  211. >She still seems to be avoiding Twilight’s gaze.
  212. >“You got that information, and you still wanted to be my friend, despite everything you’d... we’d done to each other. And, yeah, that proves to Twilight that you can be a good friend, which is something you wanted too. But if that’s who you are, if that’s how your human brain works, then there’s nothing you can do about that. You need to accept that regardless of all that nonsense... you’re my friend.”
  213. >You nod, and turn to Twilight.
  214. “I believe you have an apology to make,” you say. “Something about a missed birthday party.”
  215. >Twilight’s face turns slightly crimson and she looks to the floor.
  216. >“Oh, yeah,” she says. “I’m sorry I didn’t come to your party. Everything got very uncharacteristically messy that day, both figuratively and literally. And I’m sorry I never wrote. I never wanted it to seem like I forgot about you. I think I was embarrassed. And even though life is busy, that’s not an excuse not to keep in touch with old friends. So, I’m sorry.”
  217. >Moondancer finally looks her in the eye.
  218. >“It really hurt me that you never wrote or anything,” she says. “I read everything about your adventures in the papers, and saw your publications coming out about the magic of friendship and all that. I figured you’d just forgotten about me.”
  219. >“I can’t forget a thing,” Twilight answers. “You know that.”
  220. >A small smile crosses Moondancer’s face, along with a few more tears to wet the dried ones.
  221. >“I don’t know if I can call you a friend again yet, but I don’t hate you anymore. So there’s that,” she says.
  222. >Twilight reaches out and gives her a short hug, the two of them both sobbing into each others' shoulder.
  223. >“So does Anonymous pass his crummy test or what?” Dash asks.
  224. >Twilight turns to you, wiping her eyes.
  225. >“I think he’s exceeded my expectations.”
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