* * *
Fluttershy buckled from the sudden jolt upwards. The acceleration stopped abruptly, leaving her suspended in air for a brief moment, legs scrambling to regain their purchase.
The last rays of daylight narrowed to a thin band. A razor-fine sliver that shone brilliantly against the pitch blackness surrounding her. And then it was gone, leaving no hint of the world outside.
She swung her head from side to side in panic, straining to see.
“Trent! Trent!” she cried softly.
“I’m here.” She could feel his steady grip around her forehoof.
“I can’t see. I can’t see anything!”
“Ahh, but you can hear me, yes?”
“Yes,” she whimpered.
“You can sense many things, even without your sight. Concentrate on those. What can you feel?”
“No, no, no. It’s not. I’m afraid Trent.”
“It’s okay,” he said soothingly. “I’ve been afraid of many things too.”
“But... What about this? Are you afraid of this?”
“No. It’s just a dark room. Now, I’ll turn the lights on in a moment, but there’s something I want you to do for me first.”
She responded through a whimper and a nod.
“Relax. Don’t panic. You’re perfectly safe here, even if your mind is screaming otherwise. Can you do that for me?”
“Y.. Yes,” she stammered.
“Just try to relax. Relax harder, if you have to. Breathe slowly. You’re in control of yourself, even if it doesn’t feel that way.”
“Okay,” she said. Her hoof returned to the floor. A metallic tap that pinged into the cavernous space, echoing back softly.
“Are you still afraid?”
“Yes! Well... No, actually. Just a little, now.” She tapped at the floor again.
“You’re doing very well. I think that’s rather brave of you.”
“Ohh, but I don’t feel very brave.”
“That’s okay. If you didn’t feel a little afraid at first, then you wouldn’t be brave at all. Just foolhardy, or overconfident. And that sort of approach can end very badly.”
“Oh, I see.”
“You can never really know what the future holds, and every little step along the way may bring it’s own surprises.”
“And the future is the unknown. That’s what you said, right?”
“Yes. And there’s no shame in being cautious. Anyways, I’m about to turn the lights on. Close your eyes for a moment, will you?”
“Okay,” she said. Her eyes squeezed shut.
There was a high pitched humming noise, and a short silence. It left her feeling dizzy for a moment, which quickly grew into a deeply unsettling sensation. She was falling.
“Trent! Trent!” she shouted, as her eyelids shot open. The lights overhead flared to life, causing her to wince as she shut them tightly again. Her hooves scrabbled at the steel floor until she could no longer feel it.
“Easy there,” he said.
Fluttershy’s hooves tapped the steel deck again, as the feeling of weight returned, and her stomach no longer felt as if it was trying to crawl out through her throat.
“What was that?” she demanded, cautiously opening her eyes again.
“Fun!” he squealed, through a big stupid grin.
She looked aside from Trent for a moment. Smooth steel walls surrounded her, slowly coming into focus through the bleary afterimage of the overhead lights. Blackened spots resolved into a regular pattern of squat mushroom shaped rubber protrusions. A coarse mesh of vivid purple and muted grey rope netting strung taut between them.
The room was spacious, yet it felt cramped. A minuscule volume compared to the hulking mass of the structure outside. The utilitarian scheme left any single feature as wholly unremarkable. Yet taken together, they conveyed a sense of dizzying precision and fluidly organic design.
“Trent?” She asked again. “What was that, really? It felt like I was falling. No... I was falling! I left the ground without moving my wings!”
“Ahh, that was artificially induced gravity. Mind you, not quite the same as artificial gravity. Two totally different principles. Even if we sometimes use the word interchangeably...”
“What? What do you mean by artificial?” The words made sense by themselves, but felt unpleasantly foreign when used together.
“Come to think of it, that was actually the lack of gravity. Artificial, or otherwise.”
Fluttershy lowered herself to the deck. It pressed back against her, reassuringly.
“But... Gravity pulls everypony down. How could it stop? Did you make it stop?”
“Errmm... No and yes, but not really.”
“Well, you know what gravity is, right. Or at least we both have the same general concept. It’s the force that pulls you down. But that’s not exactly the most accurate way to describe it.”
“In a nutshell, mass makes gravity. Planets have a lot of mass, so they make the gravity that holds you down.”
“Oh, thank Luna.”
“For bringing out the planets at night.”
“Ehh... The ball of rock you’ve been standing on all morning is a planet too. That’s what makes the gravity that you feel.”
Fluttershy responded wordlessly with a look of stunned disbelief.
“So, there’s that. Gravity. Scary stuff actually... You know we used to think it was the weakest of the four fundamental forces in the universe. I mean, it still is, for most intents and purposes. And that’s not to say that it’s as strong, or stronger than the other forces, because that’s a meaningless comparison. There’s no fixed way to measure it really, especially since we haven’t really nailed down whether it’s weakly interacting, or it simply has a.. “long” way to get to our dimension. Either way though, thank whatever deity you ascribe to that we’re pretty well insulated from it.”
“I’m sorry, I’ll try to keep it straightforward. Planets have lots of mass, mass makes gravity, and that’s why trees grow up, and we fall down. Any questions?”
Her usual countenance of surprise and terror has been firmly stuck in baffled incredulity for some time now. Finally she spoke.
“Then where did the gravity go?”
“Ahh, perhaps you should ask, ‘where did the planet go?’”
The look of surprise and terror returned with a vengeance.
“Did something happen to Equestria! Is it still there?”
“Nothing happened to it. I’m sure it’s fine.”
“Then... Oh... What’s going on?”
“Oh... You don’t make any sense... Ever!” She huffed in frustration.
“Well lets step back for a second. Where are we right now?”
“Inside of a metal box,” she looked around nervously.
“Are you still afraid of this metal box?” He gestured around the cavernous confines.
“Well... No. Not really.”
“Ahh. Splendid! You were afraid when you first ventured inside, but now that you’ve seen it, it’s not nearly as intimidating.”
“But what does that have to do with anything?”
“Well, to venture off on a tangent for a moment, I’d like to say that I’ve appreciated the welcome I’ve received from those I’ve met. Welcomed to Equestria, that is. I only hope to return the favor, and welcome you to my home.”
Fluttershy turned her head around again, looking at the steel bulkheads covered in rope netting.
“Oh... Ah, thank you.” She looked around a bit longer. “Um... Do you like living in a metal box?”
Trent’s hand slapped against his forehead, massaging it firmly.
“Ehh. This is more of a memento than an actual home. Sort of a keepsake, rather. But yes, a steel box is all right, given the alternatives.”
“Oh. Well, it’s.. nice.”
Trent burst out laughing. He leaned over to Fluttershy’s eye level, kicking his feet out as he stooped over. Surprisingly enough, given his sudden panicked flailing, this left him flat against the deck.
“Are you okay?”
“Ugh, yes,” he propped himself up on his elbows. “Sorry about that. Force of habit. Stupid gravity. Anyways, I appreciate your false modesty in my aesthetic adornments. Really isn’t much to look at in here.”
“Um. I could help you.. decorate, maybe?”
“Ohh, no. I appreciate the offer, but I’d prefer not having any free float projectiles bouncing around my hull, no matter how pretty they look. Long story, you’ll understand soon enough.”
She looked slightly miffed.
“Now now... Lets get back to what I mentioned earlier. Discovery, right?”
“What did you mean by that?”
“Discovery! That’s why you’re no longer afraid of a metal box. You know what it is now!” He shuffled towards her across the floor, pushing himself up to her eye level.
“And not just that, but you faced your fears, even if you were more afraid that you’ve ever been in your whole life. Before you had any idea of what was inside here.”
“You did. Don’t be shy about it.”
She squeaked softly, as she nodded in begrudging agreement.
“And most important of all - you had the drive to press forward. You could have backed off easily enough, but you didn’t. Just stepping onto that ramp was a profound decision on your part. Think about it... Think back to all the times where you were given the opportunity to take part in some sort of adventure, activity, or romantic pursuit. All those chances lost forever, simply because you never took that first step.”
“Oh. Um...” She blushed slightly. “Was it really that important?”
“I would say so. Do you remember what I said while we were back in Equestria?”
“I mean, when we were still outside, before we stepped onto the ramp?”
She eyed Trent strangely.
“You told me what was inside here.”
“The unknown. The future.”
“Yes. Then what happened?”
“Oh... I came, and I saw it” she said meekly.
“And you conquered it!” Trent cheered, grasping her forehooves and standing, holding them high in triumph.
“Meep!” she replied. The maniacal grin of flesh-rending teeth bared just inches from her nose.
“Sorry, I’ll put you back down. Anyways, as I was saying, the future is the unknown. It will always be the unknown. You may fear the unknown, or you may face it. And to face it, you only need three things. Curiosity, conviction, and courage. And you have demonstrated all three just now.”
“Oh, my... Um.”
“Don’t argue with yourself. You know it’s true.”
The hint of a smile began to spread over Fluttershy’s face.
“Is that what you wanted to show me?”
“Ohh, no. This is just the start of it. There are many things ahead of us that are much scarier, and much more dangerous than just a dark metal box. And you will face them. This was just practice.”
The smile vanished.
“Stop saying ‘Um’.”
“I... I don’t think I can go through with this,” her voice trembled.
“Hmm. Are you sure of that?”
She nodded quietly.
“Even if it meant that you never learned how to fly fast, gain self confidence, face down terrifying encounters, or even find the love of your life?”
She nodded again. Her eyes clenched shut, as several tears began to stream down her soft yellow fur.
“Would you do it, if it meant that you could help others?”
Her head hung like a wilted rose, but it did not rise.
“Is that a maybe?”
Fluttershy nodded firmly.
“Well, you have time to think about it. All the time in the world, really.”
“Thank you.” she breathed.
“Now, you did ask me, how I fly... Did you not?”
“Y... Yes. You said something about an... Air... Plane.”
“Would you like to see one?”
She was quiet for a moment, before whispering, “Okay.”
“That’s the spirit. Let’s go!”
“Right outside,” he gestured back to the leveled ramp.
“Ohh... Are we done in here?”
“Yep. No more scary metal box.”
She rolled her eyes, and sighed, stepping forward onto the ramp.
“Thank you for inviting me in here.”
“The pleasure is mine. Anyways, brace yourself, I’ll lower the ramp now.”
“Okay,” she exhaled, as her gaze sank to the deck.
There was a soft hiss of metal sliding against metal, and the ramp twitched with a loud twang. Slowly it began to lower.
It was pitch black outside.
“Trent!” she gasped. “Something’s wrong! Why is it so dark now?”
He walked past her, unperturbed; disappearing within the inky void at the base of the ramp.
“Trent! Officer Lancaster! Hello?” She raced down the ramp, her hooves tinging against the folded metal channels. She reached the base, and froze.
She had left the ramp, but her hooves still tapped loudly against metal. The echos of each step reverberated from far in the distance.
The ramp lifted with a soft whirr, sealing against the belly of the craft, and shuttering away the only source of light with it.
“Remember what I said. Just relax.”
Far overhead, tiny pinpricks of light began to glow and flicker. Fluttershy looked up with relief.
“Ohhh... Thank Luna for the stars on this night.”
“And thank the Kreshtahl - Phillips Electric Glass Company for the XAP 7500 halide arc element array.”
“Close your eyes.”
The pinpricks of light exploded like a string of firecrackers; each blazing with fury of a bottled star, each flash accompanied by the sharp retort of high amperage breakers slamming closed. The light bathed them, and the heat shone through the bright yellow fur of her back.
“EEEEEeeeee!” She squealed, huddled against the deck with both forelegs pressed across her face.
“I told you,” Trent sighed.
Slowly she peered out, blinking away the searing after-images through wide bleary eyes. The world slowly came into focus.
She stood upright, forcing her eyes open. Her jaw slowly dropped. She blinked again, several times, trying to comprehend what was before her.
It was a canyon of metal.
Steel platforms jutted from the far wall, like the many parallel combs within a honeybee hive. Embossed panels laid flat over each cell. The smallest doors were packed into many layers of neat rows. The largest doors surpassed their entire length. Every flat surface bore a myriad of geometric lines that followed unseen contours. Each set of lines tracing out a network of paths and regions, each colored from one of many unique rainbow hues.
A haze hung in the gulf before her, twinkling as motes of dust within the beams of the sun. It obscured the far wall slightly, but only slightly, compared to the distance that stripped away any sense of scale.
“Trent?” she asked, her voice shaky and nearly cracking. “Where are we...”
Something had caught the corner of her eye, and she turned to look. Where the far wall could be discerned as a tiled mosaic of steel doors, the wall to her left appeared just the same - but from the perspective of an ant. She swiftly turned around. The wall to her right stretched onward in the same manner. Above, both walls met along a vaulted ceiling. An impossibly large rectangle, framed by the harsh blinding glow of halide arc lamps, loomed overhead. If it were a door, it would span the Ghastly Gorge.
“Okay, okay,” Trent intoned. “It’s just another metal box. Just a bit bigger than the last one. Oh... Just don’t look down.”
She looked down.
The floor beneath her was yet another door - opened away from the vast wall, hanging as a tiny precipice over a cavernous pit. The platform extended nearly fifty feet out into the empty space, and its width spanned twice that distance. But as she turned her gaze down, past the sharp edges of the steel platform, did the sheer enormity of the bay began to sink in. It stretched out below, farther than the height of the ceiling. The depths receded into darkness, punctuated only by the sporadic flickering of smaller burnt out fluorescent bulbs.
Fluttershy responded with a long slow gasp, steadily inhaling as her eyes tried to fixate on the distant reaches of the entire bay.
She shivered, backing away slowly. Her legs fighting against terror stricken paralysis.
“Where are we?” she gasped. “There’s nothing nearly this big in Equestria!”
Trent stood with his thumbs hooked into his pockets. The toes of his boots extended just over a green and red line that bisected the platform. Fluttershy dashed towards him, flapping her wings to bring herself to his eye level.
“Ohh, careful about that line there,” he pointed at the deck.
She barely had time to look before she flew over the line. The uneasy sensation of falling returned immediately.
“AHHhhhh! Trent!” Her legs galloped mid air, furtively clawing towards the steel deck, less than a foot out of reach.
“Now just relax. Use your wings... Oh, wait.”
She tried to twist around to face Trent, and began pumping her wings furiously. However, instead of flying back to the platform, she simply shot up like a cork in a bathtub.
A high pitched echoing scream steadily diminished as she sailed onwards and upwards.
“Told you...” Trent sighed as he shook his head. He looked up at the flailing yellow and pink pegasus, as he absentmindedly kicked himself across the green and red line with the tips of his toes. He folded his arms together and threw his head forward, slowing his body as he bent his legs. His arms shot upwards as he crouched, moving smoothly with the grace of an underwater ballet dancer.
The deck pressed against the soles of his boots for just a moment, and he was off.
* * *
By most standards, which included week days, weekends, week nights, holidays, or besiegement by hostile supernatural beings, it was a relatively slow day at the Ponyville Library. Twilight paced the main floor with mechanical determination. She was too engrossed in thought to read, and too impatient to relax. The thick walls of her wooden sanctuary grew imposing as the hours passed, a solitary confinement within a fortress of knowledge.
She trotted up the stairs again, surveying the wreckage of her bedroom. Coiled metal springs, torn strips of fabric, and wooden splinters carpeted the polished wooden floorboards where her bed once stood.
“Urrrghhh...” she muttered. The thoughts racing through her mind demanded to be discussed, yet there had been nopony to talk with since Applebloom had left. And even then, that which she had to say could not simply be told to anyone.
“Spike, take a letter. Ohh...”
Spike was gone.
She trotted over to her writing desk, sighing in exasperation when she remembered that it too had become no more than a mound of jagged sawdust.
“Oh sweet Celestia, how much longer is it going to be.”
A small flare of magic from her horn, and her bedside clock zipped in front of her face. Unfortunately, it had been crushed into a small shiny ball, the size of a marble.
“Ughh... No, wait. You can fix this, Twilight. Just have to un-crush it until it’s exactly how it was before.”
She concentrated. The magical glow from the tip of her horn brightened considerably. She tried to unfold the steel ball, but it had become fused together as a single lump. Her teeth gritted as she tried a new approach, squishing the molten steel like a piece of clay, flattening it into a bowl shape, and painstakingly forming a sharp crease to make the base of an open cylinder.
The result of her horn-work was held high for inspection. However, while looking vaguely like a clock, it lacked certain important functions, such as the counting of time. And while she did pour a considerable amount of effort and perspiration into the reconstruction, the most positive aspect she could think of to describe it was that it wasn’t completely lumpy everywhere.
Twilight sighed. The clock dropped. A small patch of her floor began to smoulder and smoke.
“Eeep!” she exclaimed, stamping the ersatz timepiece into the approximation of a tin platter. Tiny flames began to creep out from underneath.
“Oh no, no no...” she frantically looked around her bedroom for something to extinguish the miniature blaze. There! A small wooden bucket with a toothbrush sticking out, and a frothy solution of mint-flavored baking soda inside. Perfect! She darted over to the bucket, jammed her face into the rim, and slurped up as much of the regurgitated mouthwash as she could hold, before racing back to the small charred spot on her floor. The flames had nearly died out, leaving a few charred spots where the hot metal had touched. Though, still In a panic, she straddled the minuscule conflagration and spurted the foamy fluid all over the floor. The remains of the tin clock sizzled briefly, and all was silent.
Silent, save for the despair laden groan of the most intelligent, smartest, and scientifically minded pony in all of Ponyville.
She looked back to the small bucket, experimentally lifting it with her magic, before letting it drop. The bucket hit the floor, and her hoof smacked her forehead, both with a loud synchronised *thwack*.
“Oooh, don’t break anything else, Twilight,” she mumbled derisively in Spike’s deeper voice. “Oh, whatever would I do without you, Spike?”
Twilight flung open the doors to the balcony, seeking escape from the demolished bedroom. Her hooves kicked through the pile of rolled scrolls as she stepped outside into the afternoon sunlight.
It warmed her fur, and set her eyes squinting. She looked up cautiously, shuttering her eyelids as she tried to look at the glowing orb that hung motionless in the blue sky. At the edge of the balcony, her telescope hung in it’s cradle, pointing down at the wooden deck.
“And the sun is a star...” she said absentmindedly. “Hmmm.”
She walked over as she lifted the wide lens with her magic, pointing it at the stellar furnace.
“What do they look like up close... Wait... What!”
A small spot on the deck quickly charred and burst into flames. She stared at it momentarily as she let the telescope drift. An invisible line of flame sprouted up, tracing away from the first spot.
“Oh Celestia! Not again!” She raced back inside, bringing out the bucket with the last few ounces of liquid. It splashed across the deck, extinguishing the guttering flame, and dripping down to the branches below.
She collapsed to the deck, sobbing quietly. The telescope had returned to it’s original state, staring blindly at the ground.
“I can’t do anything right,” she wailed.
She stayed that way for nearly a minute, before her head shot upright. An inquisitive look vied to replace her expression of despair. Slowly she approached the spot on the deck where flames had mysteriously erupted.
They traced a line, punctuated by larger spots where the fire had been more intense. But still, it made little sense. The element of fire could only be conjured through a set number of well defined conditions.
2. More fire.
3. Close proximity to things that were previously on fire.
7. Angry mobs.
8. Sparks - electrical, or otherwise.
9. Unattended children.
10. Improper handling of magnifying glasses. (See 9. Unattended children)
She tallied the list in her mind, paying attention to the last entry. A telescope was very similar to a magnifying glass! Yes! She was making progress. And when combined with the ninth entry, ‘unattended children’...
Twilight rolled her eyes and scowled, shaking her head with a snort.
Moving on. Magnifying glasses focused light. However, a focused point of light was simply very bright - and thus no different from standing next to a very large light bulb. And while a large light bulb could be very warm, you could only feel that within inches of the surface, yet you could see its light for miles away.
She scowled a bit longer, mentally wrestling with the many varying sets of data. As she thought, she wished that Trent were here to give her a clue - as he seemed to know everything about anything.
Electromagnetic radiation. That’s what he called it. He even said that heat and light were both different kinds of electro...
Twilight’s eyes shot open. Heat and light were both electromagnetic radiation - but differing in terms of energy. Energy! Both heat and light had energy, the same sort that could be measured in the work done by a draft pony, or the energy in a speeding locomotive. She pranced back towards the telescope, feeling the warmth of the sun beat down upon her back and flank as she left the shade.
If a lens could focus light, then perhaps it could focus heat as well. And where focused light would appear brighter, focused heat would simply be hotter. Or, perhaps it wouldn’t even matter, since both light and heat were simply invisible carriers of energy.
She tilted the telescope back to the sun. To her delight, a tiny patch of the deck began to smolder and burn within seconds.
* * *
The steel plates drifted by as Fluttershy sailed along weightlessly. Her breaths came in fast shallow puffs, as her heart pounded within her chest, and the contents of her stomach demanded immediate relocation.
Suddenly she caught sight of Trent, drifting up alongside her. He stood casually with his thumbs hooked into his pockets, appearing to lean back within an invisible elevator.
“What’s up?” he asked casually, concealing the traces of a smirk.
“We’re flying upwards, out of control!” she shrieked.
“Ohh... Okay. Don’t worry, I’ve got just the thing.”
Trent slowly lifted his knee and extended his leg, before swinging it down swiftly. He began to tumble through half a rotation, before he kicked his leg out again, and slowly brought it back. His arms extended, and he brought them in suddenly, one clutched to his chest, and the other behind his back. As he spun around to face Fluttershy again, he flung his arms back out, and slowed to a stop.
“Now we’re falling downwards! Problem solved.”
“But we’re still moving!”
“Says who? What if we’re standing still, and the whole ship is moving?”
“Listen, I could use your help here in a second. You have wings, and I have a B plus in college physics. I think we can work together here.”
“Well, you know how gravity always pulls you down, right? Your wings are designed to lift you up. However, without gravity, that seems to throw you off a bit. But you can still fly in here! You just have to know which direction to flap them.”
“Oh... Okay,” She stuttered.
“Look towards me, and push your wings behind you, like you were pushing yourself through water.”
Fluttershy bent her wings downward, and flapped a few times experimentally. The distance between her and Trent narrowed.
“Oh, my! Trent, I’m doing it!”
“Very good. Now give me your hooves.”
Hand and hoof clasped together in the free floating void.
“Now if you want us to slow down, you just need to spread your wings, and let air resistance take care of the rest. Okay?”
“Okay!” She said, as her wings thrust outward to plow into the still air. As promised, she began to slow down quickly, yet Trent kept going.
The two tumbled wildly, holding on as centripetal forces firmly stretched their bodies apart. Fluttershy gasped at Trent, who smiled as the vista of steel plates, bright lights, and cavernous depths spun behind him.
“Now this next part is a bit tricky. We want to get back to the walls there, because the catwalks have artificial grav... I mean, artificially induced gravity.”
“Just remember, keep your hooves pointed downwards. I mean, in the direction you’re travelling... No, wait. Keep them pointed in the direction of whatever you’re going to run into first, and then just flap your wings normally to slow down. Okay?”
“Here we go! Frame change, frame change!”
Trent’s hands sprang open, and the two parted ways at a modest velocity with respect to each other.
“You’re doing very well,” he shouted across the bay. “It might be a little confusing at first, but I’m sure you’ll pick it up as we go. In fact, this is a really good way to demonstrate Newton’s three laws of motion!”
A terrified scream echoed back in response.
“And Doppler shifting too. Anyways, hold tight, and I’ll be over there in a minute.”
As he sailed towards the wall, Trent pulled up the legs of his pants, and kicked. A set of stilts unfolded from the back of his calves, locking in place beneath his boots with the quickness of a switchblade. He scissored his arms and legs as he floated, orienting his feet towards the rapidly approaching array of steel doors.
The rubberized talons at the tip of each stilt connected firmly with the wall, compressing a stiff spring just above his heels. His legs bent as he came to a stop, and then he rocketed back out into the bay. He pressed his toes down, and the stilts unfolded into a set of fins, clear plastic stretched taut between the carbon fiber poles.
“Now, just open your wings up like we practiced. Burn off some of that delta-V you’ve got.”
Fluttershy had tried to point her hooves towards the oncoming wall, but exactly the opposite had occurred. She looked directly up in horror, to see the enormous array of steel bulkhead approaching rapidly. With nothing left to try, she shut her eyes, and spread her wings wide, feeling for a moment like she was laying gently on her back, with only the soft puffy vapors of a cloud holding her up. The feeling slowly diminished, and the sensation of falling returned. Her eyes squeezed shut even tighter as she prepared for the impact that should have happened already.
After some time, after Fluttershy was sure that she should have crashed painfully into the far wall, she timidly opened one eyelid to peer out. She had half expected to see Nurse Redheart, and the ceiling of the Ponyville hospital. Instead, there was Trent.
“Well done!” he exclaimed.
“Whaa?” She looked up. The steel wall of the bay was only several feet away. The catwalk, several yards off to her left.
Trent swam through the air, circling her with the patient undulation of a shark in still waters.
“You’re getting the hang of it.”
“No!” she cried. “No, I’m not! This is too much for me, Trent! I can’t do the things that you can.”
“Look. There’s nothing special about me. If I can do it, you can too. You just need to relax a bit. More thinking, less panicking.”
She whimpered, looking sidelong at the catwalk.
“Now, I’d just like to point out something here to make this a bit less confusing. This is artificially induced artificial gravity. Rather than centripetal artificial gravity, or actual artificially induced gravity - because that’s what we use to tear starships in half, smash planets from the inside out, or strip the coronal gas from stars. Told you, it’s scary stuff. Anyways, it’s a bit different, which is why it feels like real gravity, but it only has a few yards of range before it tails off. Whole loads cheaper on the energy requirements too. Many orders of magnitude. That’s why we can use it all over the place here... Ugh, are you even listening to me?”
She looked back at Trent, still too frightened to respond. Trent sighed, and gave her a gentle push. She drifted towards the catwalk slowly at first, and then more quickly. Her wings flapped, and she settled down normally, hugging the metal pole that served as a guard rail.
As she watched, Trent floated down outside the catwalk. His leg shot out, and the rubberized talons of his stilt grasped the rail, pulling him inward. The other stilt pressed firmly on the catwalk, and he towered before her, standing nearly a foot taller.
“Are you okay there?”
She looked past him, staring at the wall that joined the two sides of the bay. It appeared as several massive segments of steel plating, with unreadable inscriptions that towered as high as a small mountain.
“Trent? What does that say?”
“Hmm, that? Two Alpha dash Three Alpha.”
“What does it mean?”
“It means we’re in bay Two Alpha, and Three Alpha is on the other side. So we’re facing aft.”
“And we’re going to bay Four Bravo, so we’ll have to go through here, and transit across Three Charlie. That stands for centerline, by the way. That’s the maintenance area on this ship.”
“I... I don’t understand.”
“You will. Just follow me.”
“But, where are we going?” she asked, as they approached the expansive barrier.
“Through this door.”
“That’s a door!?” she shouted in surprise.
“Yup. Watch this.”
Trent thrust his hand into the air, and snapped his fingers. All around the door, red lights began to spin, and green lights flashed. An ear-splitting klaxon alarm blared, sending Fluttershy’s hooves to clamp over her ears. He pointed at the door with two fingers outstretched, and swept his arm to the other side of the bay. The door shot open along its rails, each segment racing aside and slamming into the next with a terrible crash that made the catwalk shake repeatedly.
Beyond the door lay a pitch black cavern. Lights flared overhead, and the terrifying expanse of the next bay was abruptly revealed. Not terrifying for it’s size, but for the simple fact that it was exactly the same size as the enormous steel canyon that they already stood in.
Several seconds passed. Fluttershy’s jaw hung open and her eyes bulged. Eventually she gasped for breath, despite her exemplary imitation of a stone statue.
“Ready to go see an airplane?”
A high pitched squeak came as her reply.
“We need to get to the other side over there. It’s about half a mile altogether, so you’ve got the choice of taking the catwalk, or going there directly. You can take your time, either way.”
“All the way over there?” she whispered.
“Yep. See ya on the other side,” he said, as he stepped to the edge of the catwalk, his stilts gripping the polished rail.
She peered over the edge, retreating back from depths with a newfound sense of acrophobia.
“Ironically enough, it only feels like you’re falling when you’re in the place where you aren’t falling.”
Trent rolled his eyes. “In other words... Screw gravity!”
He bent his knees and kicked off from the rail, swimming through the expanse with his fins kicking behind him.
She watched as he departed. As she crept back to the edge of the catwalk, she cautiously stuck one hoof over the rail, feeling the tug of gravity diminish. She flapped her wings and lifted away from the catwalk, prodding the weightless space again with one outstretched foreleg.
Several deep breaths later, she closed her eyes, gritted her teeth, and fell into the free float void.
* * *
Twilight scribbled furiously in her notebook. She flipped back several pages to re-read her findings.
Name: Twilight Sparkle
Experiment: Study of the effects of focused sunlight on various objects. For Science.
Hypothesis: Direct sunlight appears to have several components, including heat and light, as well as potential others not yet discovered. This experiment uses the assumption that heat and light are both forms of electromagnetic radiation (see footnote 1), which differ only by the energy inherit to the wavelength (see footnote 2) of each. Furthermore, it is theorized that wave-like properties of light may have an additional component of amplitude (footnote 3), which may play into the energy conveyed (footnote 4), yet the experimental apparatus does not yet allow for any discernible measurement of this distinction at this time.
1: The Sun (1)
2: One (1) telescope, pointed at the Sun.
3: One (1) small wooden bucket with a thermometer inside, and a marking inside to allow the bucket to be refilled with the same volume of water between experiments.
4: Secondary bucket (1) to refill the first bucket, and provide unexpected conflagration control.
5: Various objects, (many) as described in Observational Reports.
1: Wooden planks.
Observation: Caught on fire.
Notes: I’m sure that can be buffed out.
Observation: Melted, then caught on fire.
Notes: This wasn’t really my best idea.
3: Large rock.
Observation: Warmed up considerably over the course of ten (10) seconds. When dropped in bucket of water, noticed the temperature rose by three (3) degrees.
Notes: Acquire oven mitts.
4. Small rocks
Notes: That wasn’t supposed to happen!!
5: Loose paper.
Observation: Caught on fire immediately.
Notes: Lost due to fire. Previous entries of this report have been transcribed to this notebook from memory.
Observation: Nothing happened.
Notes: Acquire sunglasses.
7: Remains of former bedside clock.
Observation: Melted within seconds.
Notes: Former bedside clock suffered magically induced topological deformation prior to experimentation, which also produced a buildup of heat. It is possible that magical energy, when applied through momentary lapses of sanity, can also induce a transfer of energy, which in turn exhibits a buildup of heat.
8: Hoof clippings.
Observation: Did not melt, so much as bubble up vigorously, before catching on fire.
Notes: Dear Sweet Celestia, this smelled horrible! Acquire nose plugs.
9: Hair clippings.
Observation: Heated up unevenly, and deformed when moved. Raised water temperature by about one (1) degree.
Notes: Spoon still serviceable, but no longer matches set.
Observation: Caught on fire. Vigorously.
Notes: Acquired second bucket of water to deal with unexpected fires that are not part of standard testing procedure.
12: Wooden planks.
Observation: Caught on fire. Vigorously.
Notes: Unplanned repeat of first experimental observation while acquiring secondary water bucket.
13: Glass salt shaker with salt inside.
Observation: Salt melted. Glass exploded.
Notes: Construct barrier to prevent potential exposure to molten salt. Owwwww.
14: Small potted plant.
Observation: Deceased, despite plant’s natural affinity to sunlight.
Notes: This is stupid!
15: Clay pot, containing deceased potted plant.
Notes: Didn’t see that coming.
Findings: Focused sunlight appears to have many potential uses, if it can be learned to be harnessed safely in large scale. Potential practical uses may include, but not be limited to, renewable energy, fiery destruction of encroaching armies, ore smelting, and demolition of structures that are primarily composed of wooden planks and/or tiny rocks.
It was observed that the ratio of the telescope diameter to the focal area diameter was approximately twelve (12) to one (1), which corresponds to an area ratio of which is considerably smaller. It has become unsettling to consider that the warmth of the sun over a broad area can be turned into such violently hot pinpoint with the use of simple refractive or reflective lenses. Please note that figure three (3) depicts a representational drawing consisting of the Sun, Equestria, and a hypothetical lens between the two, where the lens is depicted as approximately the same size as Equestria itself. This is NOT TO SCALE. I do not want to even imagine what could happen if someone built a lens that big.
Note: Every time I try to divide the ratio of a circular area’s circumference by it’s diameter, I ALWAYS get an answer somewhere between 3.13 and 3.145, with my most accurate measurement being close to 3.1415. This is incredibly frustrating, and I feel like I must be doing something completely wrong. I, as your faithful student, and in the interest of my elective scientific pursuits, will vow to figure out what’s going on here.
Twilight slapped the notebook shut, surveying the disaster that had become her balcony. Still, it was oddly satisfying, despite the numerous mishaps.
And by numerous, she meant nearly all of them.
A copy of the Canterlot Royal College Handbook of Alchemy and Magic lay open next to her. The list of ten (10) conditions for the creation of fire were crossed out, with the word “Energy!” scribbled in the margin. This too was crossed out, and replaced with “Energy divided by area x time”. She felt giddy at the thought of publishing a correction to the venerable old book. The “Big Red Paperweight” as it was known in scholarly circles, and the “Twelve Inches of Terror” to students who were unlucky enough to punished by transcribing various chapters.
Her hooves rubbed together gleefully. There would be fame! There would be recognition!
There would be a big fat research grant!
The telescope faced back to the charred deck again, and she looked wistfully back towards the sky - her eyes skirting the glare of the Sun.
Something didn’t quite look right though - and it wasn’t because of the botched mirror experiment. There was a tiny shape casting a shadow at the edge of the fiery disc. She squinted her eyes tightly for a better look.
The tiny shape was growing larger.
She gasped, and threw herself to the balcony’s deck as the shape sprouted a pair of wings, and rocketed through a fishhook turn, clearing the railing of the balcony by mere inches and sweeping through the open doors to her bedroom.
Twilight stood gasping at the intruder. While it vaguely resembled an overgrown pegasus, her eyes could barely focus upon it properly. It bore a patchwork suit of irregular swatches, each overlapping like the scales of a dragon. Where she could have sworn that the suit was a perfect sky blue with traces of puffy white and grey just moments before, it now resembled the colors of her bedroom. Brown and tan, with a smattering of other colors she recognized as belonging to the covers of the many books that littered her floor and shelves.
“Who... Who are you!” Twilight gasped.
The intruder’s horn flared beneath the hood of the camouflaged suit, and Twilight felt herself picked up, and swept inside.
The balcony doors slammed shut behind her.