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In the basement of Ponyville's library five mares stood in anticipation. Before them was a work table strewn with scientific equipment, both magical and mundane. However, the ponies were more interested in finding out the reason they were gathered here in the first place.
“What do ya'll think it is Twilight wants ta show us?” Applejack, the sturdy farmer of the group, broke the silence.
“Whatever it is must be something special, she's hardly ever so secretive about her inventions.” Answered Rarity, trying to hide her own curiosity behind a veil of aloofness.
“Do you think it'll be as fun as the last thingy she made? Or do you think it'll be one of the explodey ones? Oooh, I'm so excited!” Pinkie Pie said in one breath. Then with wide eyes and an excited gasp she continued, “What if it's a ray-gun that makes ponies smile?! I'd be all like, Pew! Pew! Pew! And they'd be all like, Happy! Happy! Happy! Or maybe it's a way to put 37 times the sugar in a single cake! I tried that once, it didn't work very well, it was still good though. Or maybe...”
The pink pony continued her rant. Fortunately, years of friendship with the chattering mare gave the others the ability to tune her out when she got like this. The friends continued to speculate the nature of Twilight's surprise, when the mare herself walked in. Wearing an excited smile, the unicorn approached the table from the opposite end of the room.
“Good news, everypony!” Twilight exclaimed, “I've invented a device that will allow ponies to manipulate distant objects without the aid of magic!”
This was quite the revelation, nothing like this had ever been accomplished before, it would surely revolutionize pony society. The five mares gazed at their friend with a mixture of excitement and pride. The ponies were practically shaking with anticipation (Pinkie Pie was quite literally vibrating, though that may have just been the sugar).
Satisfied with her pitch, and eager to show her work Twilight said, “I present to you,” she paused for dramatic effect, “The Hoof-Longer!”
From behind the table Twilight rose her right foreleg. Attached to her hoof was a long, rigid stretch of material, ending in an artificial sole.
Twilight's friends stared at her. For a long moment no one spoke. Then, slowly coming out of their shock, the ponies started stomping in applause. Softly at first, but swiftly growing to a roar. Pinkie cheered, Rarity and Fluttershy shed tears of pride, Applejack and Rainbow Dash whooped and high-hooved. This was a day that would go down in pony history, and they were a part of it.
With a blush and a smile Twilight thanked her friends. After the room calmed down (or at least became as calm as any room occupied by Pinkie can be) Twilight continued, “As you can clearly see, I can now operate any device from clear across the room.”
With no small amount of effort Twilight rose the Hoof-Longer, and after a few false starts, flipped a switch activating a machine resting against the far wall. After another round of applause Twilight took a bow, knocking over some very valuable magical equipment with the Hoof-Longer in the process.
“Twilight?” A soft voice asked after a pause.
“Yes Fluttershy? Do you have a question about the Hoof-Longer?” Twilight replied, eager to educated her shy friend.
“Yes, well uh, no. Um, sort of?”
Twilight was used to this type of response from the pegasus, so she answered with a simple, “Ask away.” and smiled.
“Well, I was just wondering what you turned on with it?”
All the ponies in the room turned to look back at the now humming device. Almost forgotten in all the excitement the mares now took the time to observe the strange machine. The thing looked very much like a film projector but without anyplace to attach the reels. The other discrepancy was the phonograph horn protruding from the top. Following the direction of the lens, the machine was indeed pointed at a projector screen. The ponies looked back at Twilight, silently asking for an explanation.
“Oh, that.” Twilight said with a dismissive wave of her (non elongated) hoof. “That's just my 'What If' machine.”
“Beg pardon?” Applejack asked.
“It shows you possible 'what if' scenarios for questions you face it.”
“Oh my, how intriguing!” Rarity exclaimed, her expression glazing over as she was bombarded with all the 'could have's' and 'may be's' of her life. The others were equally impressed. Seeing what their lives might otherwise be like seemed an opportunity too good to pass up.
“You mean you've had a machine that could show my life as a Wonderbolt and you never told me!” Rainbow Dash fumed.
“Calm down Dash, it only shows hypothetical scenarios, and it's not even very accurate. It doesn't even go past 98% of a probability.” Twilight reassured. However, this didn't seem to dissuade her friends.
“Ooo! Ooo! Ooo! Can it show what the world would be like if I had a crocodile instead of an alligator? Or if my mane was made of cotton candy? Or if I had finished med-school?” Pinkie was now jumping circles around Twilight, leaving the unicorn dizzy and confused.
“Can it show what would'a happened if Ah planted those pear trees that one year?”
“Could it show me what my life would be like had that sorry excuse of a prince actually been a gentlepony?”
“Show us!” All five of Twilight's friends shouted, tackling her to the floor in their excitement.
“Ugh, fine!” Twilight gave in, “you can each ask it a question, but don't blame me if you're disappointed in the results.”
Five exclamations of glee filled the room, as well as one exacerbated sigh. Twilight had a bad feeling about this, and her bad feelings were usually followed by disaster (granted that the disaster was often times caused by her bad feeling, but that was neither here nor there). With another sigh Twilight turned towards the 'What If' machine and, trying to salvage the real reason they had gathered in the first place, used the Hoof-Longer to set up the device.
“Did Pinkie say she went to medical school?”