Chapter 3: Extrapolation
Twilight closed the door, her mind buzzing. She knew very little about the enigmatic red stallion. He never seemed to have much to say to her. But granted, he didn’t have much to say to anypony. “Why would he be knocking on my door?” The “aliens” stared back at her, providing no answers.
“Thanks Pinkie,” Twilight said as she accepted her eighth cup of alien punch.
“More to the point, why would he knock and then leave?”
“Why would who do what?”
Twilight jumped, startled by Pinkie’s intrusion into her thoughts.
“Um, why would – Soarin’ – knnnnock down a–n apple tree?” For all her intelligence Twilight was horrible at spontaneous lies.
“I have no idea! Why?!”
“Um because…uhh - he wanted - an apple tree-at? Treat? Get it?”
Pinkie looked at her for a second then burst out laughing. “Tree-at!” She exclaimed. “I have to tell that one to Emperor Beeboop!”
Twilight let out a breath of relief as Pinkie bounced off to tell the Emperor. She jumped again as a series of knocks rang out. When she landed, she whirled around and wrenched open the door.
There stood Rainbow Dash, Rarity, Fluttershy, and Applejack all with party hats, and all looking surprised at Twilight’s wild expression.
“Something up, sugar-cube?” No pony could miss Twilight’s crestfallen appearance.
“Nothing at all. Just a totally tubular party! Come on in!”
Rainbow Dash flinched at Twilight’s abuse of the word “tubular.” From there the party really got started. More guests arrived, irresistibly drawn by the unmistakable sounds of merriment. Although everypony had a great time partying in space, none could fail to notice that Twilight, while having fun, seemed distracted for most of the night.
The party finished with Pinkie’s releasing all the “aliens” into the sky. Everypony cheered as they slowly rose into the heavens, returning to their home planet. Twilight cheered along with the crowd but could not help thinking about the ending to this entire macabre ritual. The balloons would rise until the pressure differential popped them one by one in the darkness. They would not find their home among the stars. From the moment they were breathed into life, they were doomed to die alone. On that depressing note, Twilight said goodnight to all and headed up for bed.
She didn’t even try crawling into her bed. The alien punch had a very high caffeine content, but what really kept her up were thoughts of Big Mac.
There has to be a reason he would be trying to talk to me. He obviously wants to say something. But what? And why doesn’t he just say it? Reading other ponies’ intentions was not her strong suit; they tended to be so… irrational. He must be embarrassed about it. Typically, colts are too embarrassed to talk to Nurse Redheart about their problems. Her mind continued racing, examining, analyzing.
The only conclusion is that he is nervous around me, specifically when he is alone with me. She normally was not this slow to catch on, but she was totally unprepared for this sort of interest. Finally the wheels ground through the possibilities to rest with the obvious. It was completely unthinkable.
Could he like me? As in like, like? Like love? That would explain it all. He kept my Smarty-Pants doll. Even after the want-it need-it spell was done. He likes me. It all makes sense. Her mind was so preoccupied with compiling evidence and analyzing possibilities that she was able to divorce her feelings. I need to approach this rationally.
Twilight took this opportunity to reexamine her entire endeavor. Premise 1: The goal of a biological organism is to perpetuate its genes. Genetically, as a mare, I need a stallion for procreation. I suppose I could use a surrogate donor. She quickly moved on before her mind could put too much consideration into exactly what would be involved in a “donation.” But that would not be ideal. He needs to be healthy and should show signs of beneficial traits. Premise 2: I will remain with this pony for most of my life. He needs to be stable and able to provide for me and my offspring, both materially and parentally.
Big Macintosh is physically strong and is in superb shape. He has shown with Sweet Apple Acres that he is capable of providing financial support. However, while Big Macintosh meets most of those criteria, I don’t know about his blood work or possible genetic defects. He appears to be physically healthy, but he could have underlying genetic disorders that I don’t want to pass on to my foal. I need to check those before I consider him as a possible mate candidate. Assuming he passes the biological screening, he would make an ideal mate. He is big and strong. He has a good job. He is hardworking, calm, loyal, determined, and dependable. All perfect traits. I’ll need his consent for those tests. I also need to confirm my suspicions. He should be up by dawn.She looked at the clock; it was 4:08A.M. Dawn was another two hours off. “I’ll go see him then.”
And with that thought, she pulled the covers up around her and started rereading Of Mice and Stallions.
“Miss Twilight,” intoned Big Mac in his usual steady calm voice, “Ah love ya like a sister. Yer the smartest pony Ah know. But mah heart rests with another.” He was genuinely sorry. She could tell that from his tone. “Ah wish Ah could change that. But the heart wants what the heart wants.” He embraced her. It felt like being hugged by an older brother. “You’ll always be mah little sister.”
“Of course, I understand. Thank you. Have a good day.” Twilight was able to keep everything walled off behind her emotional barriers until she reached the library, was past Spike and behind her room’s door.
Spike woke to the sound of sobbing coming from Twilight’s room. Tiredly he rubbed sleep from his eyes and looked out to see dawn just finish breaking. Ploddin his way along, he listened intently, but no sound reached him. He lightly knocked. “Twilight… are you ok?”
No answer came. He swung the door open easily, and found Twilight’s room undisturbed. Everything was perfectly in order. Twilight was in her bed, sleeping peacefully. He froze, worried he had woken her with his knocks, but she was obviously in a deep sleep, the covers slowly rising and falling. Slowly, he backed out the door.
He almost made it, but his tail caught the coat rack, knocking it over with a tremendous crash. He jumped and became entangled in her coat, falling heavily to the ground with another reverberating impact. He fought his way out of the coat and rose, looking guilty at Twilight, but she had not woken up. Her face retained the tranquil expression of slumber. She must just be REALLY tired. Moving ever so slowly, he righted the stand and hung the coat back up, wincing at every creak of the floorboards. He inched out the door, careful not to bump anything else.
Once downstairs, he forced his heart rate back down to something that approached a normal rhythm and let out a breath. Adrenaline coursed through his system, making his claws twitch. No way was he getting back to sleep now, so he made a cup of hot coco, and with a careful glance around, added three marshmallows. It really was beautiful, he decided, looking out the window. His attention turned back to the coco. Everything was right in the world. Everything except Twilight’s coat, which lay discarded on the floor by the door. That was easily remedied. Funny, it was cold like it had been outside. “Weird.”
Taking yet another guilty look around the room, he satisfied himself that Twilight was still asleep, and he was safe to add another marshmallow. Now everything was right with the world. He sipped quietly, enjoying the sights of Ponyville coming alive; however, before long he had enough of tranquil serenity. He wanted action, adventure, danger. The new Dr. Whooves novel Twilight had got him fit the bill perfectly.
“The Doctor again finds himself in a Cyber-Steed trap. Can he escape from the clutches of the electro-gelding?”
This one was going to be good. He settled into his spot on the couch, feeling the cushions assume their familiar shape. Even as he cracked the cover and inhaled the aroma of a fresh page, a thought kept niggling in the back of his mind. Wait, I just hung up her coat, didn’t I? Then what did I trip over upstairs? He looked, and there was Twilight’s coat, right where he just hung it up. With a puzzled frown, he tiptoed upstairs and cracked open the door.
In the dim light he could see the coat rack where he set it back up. But no coat. “Weird.” This mystery was not as exciting as the one in which the Doctor was embroiled, so he returned to his favorite spot and found out that in fact the Doctor was able to escape from the electro-gelding after all.
Twilight stood in the dark of her room, her horn providing flickering illumination as it held the illusion in place. The shadows didn’t bother her now.
“Big Mac was right, of course. The heart wants what the heart wants.” She felt angry, not at Big Mac, but at the whole cruel irony of it. It isn’t rational! One of the biggest, if not the biggest, decision in my life is based on… She struggled to find a word for it. the heart? An organ that pumps blood should not have this much control! Is the gallbladder in charge of my favorite color?! Does my spleen get to pick the name of my foal?!
The very notion that the heart had some other “emotional” function was absurd, but so many ponies accepted it. She cried out with the sheer inanity of it. Big Macintosh seemed to find it a perfectly reasonable explanation. She was past tears now; this was a puzzle once again. It was like one of Pinkie’s “riddles,” - it didn’t make any sense at all. She was not even sure if once she had the answer it would make sense.
“What did you get when you crossed a dragon and a buffalo? The question doesn’t make any sense you couldn’t cross breed them; they were too genetically different, and even if you did, you wouldn’t end up with a half-dragon half-buffalo. It didn’t make any sense. The answer makes even less. And yet everypony seemed to innately understand it. I need more data. More research. The answer is out there.
It has to be…
16:54. Subject is entering Sugar Cube Corner. Readings all within established ranges. Slightly elevated blood pressure +.5%. Illusion is holding firm.
“Good afternoon, Mrs. Cake.”
“Fluttershy, good to see you dear, the usual?”
16:55. Illusion stable. Test continuing.
“Just a small lemon water if that’s ok.”
Fluttershy squeaked out a response that even Twilight’s pickup was unable to register. Mrs. Cake clearly didn’t catch the response but allowed the yellow pegasus her privacy, bringing the lemon water in silence.
“I’m terribly sorry, dear; something in the back needs my attention. Watch the front for me, darling.”
16:56. Thermal distributions indicate subject has an abnormal amount of blood in facial region. Possible indication of blushing.
16:57. Consumption of lemon water invalidates salivary readings. Subject is removing a book from her saddlebags.
Fluttershy withdrew a book about caring for feather loss in birds and took another sip of her lemon water.
Subject appears to be smelling the book. Air flow patterns confirm this. Subject is smiling.
17:08. Pupil dilation increasing. Retinal focus decreasing. Respiratory rate changing. Conjecture: Subject is entering a daydream. Content of dream unknown.
18:17. Subject is still dreaming. Fascinating. Periodic releases of breath indicate subject occasionally sighs. No clear pattern has emerged. Closer analysis of sighs is warranted. No more clues about content of dream have emerged. Ideally, brain imaging should be done while dreaming. Subject is ignoring outside world. Lemon water remains at 90% of starting volume. Subject has not partaken since dream began. Heart rate is holding steady.
18:20. No, Spike, I don’t know what the title of the book is. Why would that matter? She is clearly not reading it. Retinal tracking and pupil fixing confirm that. She is using the book as cover to conceal herself. Wait, are you writing this down? No, you only write down my observations - I was answering your question, which is not an observation. Ok, fine, if you will stop asking, the book is… A pause while Twilight studied the display. The book appears to be An Introductory Primer to Feather Loss by Mare Mareton. Yes, there is the receipt I gave her when she checked it out last week. The book has nothing to do with the matter at hand. Now get back to writing my observations.
Fluttershy snapped back to reality with a jerk at the tinkling sound of the bell on the door. She shut the book with such force that a cloud of dust was expelled, causing her to cough. She covered it by taking a long draw on her drink.
“You were thinking about her again, weren’t you?” Rainbow Dash wore a conspiratorial smile.
Fluttershy squeaked out a reply. While it was not understandable verbally, her reaction told more than enough.
“You were!” Rainbow Dash exclaimed with a wicked grin.
Fluttershy tried to shrink down into her chair, her mane obscuring her face.
18:31. Subject RD1 has arrived and is engaging subject FS1 is conversation. Visual readings are obscured by subject’s mane. Conjecture: Subject RD1 knows the identity of subject FS1’s infatuation. Strong biological readings indicate embarrassment on the part of FS1.
Subject RD1’s continued onslaught of questions was interrupted by Mrs. Cake returning from the back room.
“Rainbow Dash!” Her words were not harsh, but still distracted Rainbow Dash from her quarry. “What can I get for you?” She liked Fluttershy, and had been lurking in the back room so that she could have her peace. She was clearly over the moon for some poor young colt, and Mrs. Cake remembered when she was that young, and had just met Carrot Cake. One of her fondest memories was sitting in a shop much like this, staring deep into his eyes, and being the happiest filly in all Equestria. Fluttershy was such a nice filly; whoever the lucky colt was, it was none of her business. And more to the point, it was none of Rainbow Dash’s business.
Fluttershy packed up her book, laid a bit down on the table, and departed while Rainbow was agonizing over whether to have the Pan-Equestria Muzzle Blaster or the Righteous Rainbow Reverberator. Both looked delicious, and by the time she had made her selection, she noticed Fluttershy was gone.
Subject FS1 Observational Analysis: All factors designate that the subject is experiencing infatuation with unknown subject. Possibly female. Further study is warranted. Current data does not document symptoms when subject is face to face with target of affection. This data is crucial to further understanding of love.
7:18. Day Three. Experimental parameters as per Days 1 and 2. Subject has left staging area. Baseline vital readings within standard deviation of previous records. Illusion holding. All systems nominal.
7:43. Subject is distributing feed to animals. Vital readings indicate that subject is experiencing a reaction similar to that of being in love. Key differences are highlighted and should be examined further.
18:54. Subject keeps heading for town and then turning back. During these periods, subject’s vitals show subject may be experiencing nervousness. When she turns back, vitals fall, indicating relief. Conjecture: Subject is attempting to confront her love but does not for unknown reasons.
Hayfeathers! She is heading back to the library. I thought this time she would confront that pony! Twilight’s curses were delivered in a flat tone, betraying only the faintest hint of possible emotion.
Resigning herself to discovering the secrets of love some other day, Twilight powered down the data feeds and went upstairs.
Spike finished up his records and filed them away. He was happy to help Twilight, but this was a lot less fun than it had been. Originally, there had been a thrill of watching ponies go about their lives. But now it was just tedious. Twilight seemed possessed and would spend hours poring over the scrolls. The lab, normally neat and tidy except for her desk, was a wasteland of dirty dishes, discarded quills, empty ink pots, and half-eaten sandwiches. The shelves were now covered by scrolls plotting skin conductivity over time and various other unknowable things. Sighing, he hoped this would be over soon. If I see one more cup of coltsfoot tea, I am going to…
Upstairs, Twilight put on a brave face. It was not Fluttershy’s fault; her friend was trying as hard as she could. Idly, Twilight wondered how long Fluttershy had hidden this secret crush. “It couldn’t have been long; I would have noticed something. Something to look into.” There she was, standing on the doorstep, just waiting. Twilight opened the door for her. She jumped back in surprise, her hoof poised just about to knock. “Don’t have a heart attack! It’s just me. Whom did you expect to open the door?”
Fluttershy gave no audible response, instead hiding her face under her mane and trotting inside.
“Let’s get this all off you.” Twilight dismissed the illusion and began to detach the primary flux relay.
From beneath her mane came a whisper, “Twilight there is something I really need to tell you.”
“Of course, I am listening; just let me get this caliper uncaliped.”
Fluttershy mumbled something.
“I am sorry I didn’t catch any of that. Could you puff out your chest for just a sec I need to unclip this.”
“Did you get the data you needed? Did I do I good job? I didn’t do anything wrong, did I?” This response didn’t sound anything like what Fluttershy had originally said, but Twilight was too busy puzzling over why the magnetometer coil was still reading 1.17 nT to notice.
“You did perfectly. I feel we’re really close to finding what we need.” She thought to herself, Fluttershy was always so nervous when she got back.
Downstairs, a blinking light caught Spike’s eye. He moved a pile of scrolls and saw that the blood pressure gauge, respiratory rate meter, and numerous other readouts were pegged. He had never seen this level of reaction. He raced upstairs to tell Twilight. He didn’t understand fully what it all meant, but whatever was happening was important - the whirling dials and flashing lights made that clear.
Even as his mouth opened, he saw Fluttershy’s dreamy expression. Twilight was decoupling the breathing strap and Fluttershy was taking the chance to gaze deep into the back of her head. He didn’t need a single one of Twilight’s sensors to tell him that Fluttershy was head over hooves in love. In that moment, he knew that he could say nothing. Nothing at all.
Author’s note: Same as always, all comments are more than welcome.