• Published 20th Jun 2013
  • 9,003 Views, 760 Comments

Technicalities - BionicBrony

After being forced from their home, a master engineer and his AI end up in Twilight's basement, their only desire to rebuild what they lost. Although not everything is as straightforward as it seems...

  • ...

Shedding some light

Twilight Sparkle poked her empty breakfast plate idly with a fork. She had been waiting for Alex to wake up for several hours now and the clock was bordering on 11:30. Sure, others considered her to be up and about earlier than usual, but 6:00 sharp was a more than an acceptable time to start each day!

Alex didn’t seem too tired last night, did he? she thought. Unless humans have a longer sleep cycle… Drat! There’s still so much I don’t know!

“You know, you could just go check up on him.”

Twilight turned to Spike who had been busying himself shelving some of the more recent additions to the library.

“I don’t want to be rude to him, Spike,” she said. “I mean, I didn’t think about it until now, but maybe humans have to sleep longer than we do.”

“You’ll never know until you look…”

Twilight toyed with the idea, though the more she did, the less pleasant it seemed. For all she knew, he might feel too pressured to talk about his device and decide to change his mind about the whole thing. But what if something bad happened…? Maybe he tripped while getting out of bed and hit his head? He's tall so he has a much higher center of gravity, and the fact that he's bipedal means he isn't as stable as a pony...

Twilight got up from the table and made her way to the guest room. She carefully placed her ear against the door to try and listen for any sound. She heard something, but couldn’t quite tell what it was.

Maybe a little peek wouldn’t hurt…

Using her magic, she ever so carefully turned the door handle. Once she was confident the handle was as far as it could turn, she carefully nudged it open to peek inside. Before she could react, the door flung open and a pair of wide, bloodshot eyes bared down on her.

“AAAHHH!” Twilight instantly yelped and backed up in a panic.

The human averted his gaze from Twilight and looked around, breathing heavily, and eyed the breakfast table with the convenient chair places across from the empty but recently used plate and utentils. Ignoring the bedroom intruder, he shambled from the confines of the guest room towards the chair, assuming it was meant for him. He pulled the pony-sized chair out and squated down uncomfortably on it before his head suddenly impacted the table with a dull thud.

Spike, who had observed the scene from a distance, didn’t quite share Twilight’s reaction. “Well good morning to you too.”

Alex’s back expanded as it sounded like he took his first breath in years. He flopped an arm on the table and pushed himself upright, though still slouched in the small chair. His red eyes just stared at the floor.

Twilight, coming out of her stupor, finally managed a coherent sentence. “Alex, are you okay?”

He swung his head over his shoulder to look at her, his mouth slightly open. After taking a raggedy breath, he managed to grumble out: “I didn’t sleep very well…”

“Oh… Was something wrong? Was it the bed? Nightmares?”

Nightmares weren't too far off. In reality, Alex had been thinking about the fact that he now found himself in an incredibly popular cartoon he remembered from when he was a teenager. Despite the fact that the cartoon in question looked much more realistic now that he was here, it still retained some of the elements he remembered - like the ponies' large eyes. He spent an inordinate amount of time trying to remember details about what was in the show, but he couldn’t remember very much for the life of him. All he remembered was that he enjoyed the odd episode and the fan-made contributions like the music he had apparently brought with him.

His head was swarming with thoughts of the previous night. Mostly questions that he couldn’t possibly figure out the answer to, like how he ended up in what he thought was a cartoon show in the first place, or what this meant for him and Rose. He eventually dismissed the idea by coming to the conclusion that no matter what the answer was, it wouldn’t change his current situation. Cartoon or not, right now, it was very real, and had to be treated as such.

Still didn’t help him sleep, though.

As he briefly thought about his revelation, his mind gradually wandered to the conversation he shared with Twilight the night before, about how he said he would tell her about the Power Core. If there was anything he remembered from the show, it was that the likelihood of something bad coming out of making a Power Core in Equestria was slim. Life was already dandy for them, after all, and the presence of him and anything he builds would likely just be a curiosity.

Either that or the possibilities would be catastrophic, but he wasn’t quite sure. He was willing to bet on the former, though. In the end, Alex ended up forgetting what Twilight had just asked him and figured it was probably best to ignore it.

“Do you have any coffee…?” he mumbled.

“Um… I didn’t make any, no, but Spike can prepare a pot if you want. Do you want anything to eat? We have some oats, some spare eggs... we have some hay bacon if you'd like.”

Oats and hay bacon? Fuck me, please no. Alex gently rested his head against the table. “Eggs sound great…”

Twilight looked at Spike and tilted her head towards the kitchen. He rolled his eyes as he descended from the ladder to complete his new task. Twilight walked back to her chair, opposite Alex, and sat down. He still had his head on the table.

“So,” she said, trying to find some way to engage in small talk, “what kinds of food do humans eat? I don’t think I’ve gotten around to asking you yet…”

Alex pushed himself back up and rested his head in his hand, forearm braced against the table. He gave Twilight the thousand yard stare devoid of any emotion.

“Humans are omnivores…” he mumbled. “We eat fruit… veggies… meat… anything, really… Hay and oats aren't on the list, though.”

Twilight was slightly taken aback by the fact that he ate meat, but quickly regained herself. It wasn’t uncommon for some more civilized creatures like griffons to eat meat. While she personally wasn’t for the practice, she couldn’t fault him for being an omnivore if that’s the way humans were. There was one question, however, that did make its way to the forefront of her mind. “Alex, just out of curiosity, where do humans get the meat they eat?”

Alex’s only response was a low groan as his head slammed back onto the table.

"Right, sorry," Twilight sighed, mentally kicking herself. Asking him a morally stained question like that wasn't exactly the kind of thing that would get him to open up. Figuring Alex wasn't quite in a state to talk much, she walked over to the kitchen to go help Spike. Upon arriving in the kitchen, she found her assistant near the stove making a batch of scrambled eggs, a pot of coffee preparing nearby.

“Hey, Spike. Need any help?” she asked.

Spike shifted the eggs around in the pan, the pleasant smell wafting in the air. “Nah, it’s okay, I got it. How’s Alex doing? He looked more dead than alive.”

“He couldn’t sleep for some reason… I guess it’s understandable if you consider the situation he’s in right now,” she said, clearly concerned.

“Right… nearly getting killed by monsters and going through some portal that could’ve also killed him and instead ending up in another world he thinks is weird… Come on, Equestria isn’t weird...”

Twilight shook her head and spoke to him firmly, imparting a lesson to the young dragon. “It is for him, Spike. To us, it’s completely normal since it’s all we know. It’s just a matter of perspective.”

“Yeah, I guess… Anyway, coffee should be done.”

Twilight looked over the pot and found that it had, in-fact, been properly brewed. “Thanks, Spike!” The grabbed the pot and a couple of cups with her magic and levitated them into the main room, placing them on the table.

Alex, who was still resting his head on the table caught the scent of the freshly brewed coffee. His eyes shot open and he caught the sight of Twilight magically pouring him a cup.

“Do you want anything with it?” she asked. “Milk? Sugar?”

“Black’s fine,” he said curtly, eyes fixated on the drink as if it contained everything he ever wanted.

As soon as she placed the cup on the table, Alex’s hand shot towards it and brought up to his face. Despite his surprising speed, he didn’t spill any of it. He smelt it once more to confirm its caffeinated goodness. Satisfied with his appraisal, he quickly downed the piping hot cup in a few gulps and was quickly pouring himself another.

Twilight looked at him in awe as he consumed the second cup like water.

He slammed the cup down in front of him and grit his teeth, the heat of the coffee seemingly catching up with him. "Aaarrgghhh..." he groaned, seemingly communicating "I regret the choice I just made," before steeling himself for another moment and looking at Twilight. “Would you mind if I had another?”

After stuttering incoherently for a few seconds, Twilight finally managed a sentence. “Uh… no, go right ahead.”

Without another word, he poured himself a third cup and, like the previous cups, downed it like nothing. He slowly placed the cup on the table, took several deep breaths and, without warning, raised his hand and slapped himself as hard as he could.

“WHOA!” Alex suddenly yelled. “Now that is the good stuff!”

Twilight stood in shock, still trying to process the scene she had just witnessed. Any semblance of a walking corpse he had less than a minute ago was completely gone as he appeared more awake and alert than even she was. He stood up from the table and began walking around the room, doing small stretches and swinging his arms as he went.

“Ooohhh yeah… Thanks, I needed that,” he said.

Twilight continued to stare at him in disbelief.

Alex looked back at her. “Hey, you alright? You look like you’ve just seen a ghost.”

“Duhbedabuh…” she stuttered.

“I’m sorry, what?” he asked, leaning an ear in?

Twilight shut her eyes briefly to regain her composure. “What was that?”

“What was what?” He leaned in slightly more.

That!” Twilight pointed at the coffee pot and cup. “One minute you’re practically a zombie and now… This!”

Alex stifled a laugh. “Twilight, you’re talking to someone who has more than enough experience going at least forty eight hours without sleep using nothing but caffeine and stubbornness. That stuff’s like a miracle drug for me.”

“Do you do this kind of thing often?” she asked, concern etched in her voice. She was familiar with long caffeinated study sessions, but the longest Twilight had ever gone was thirty six hours before her body shut down and forced her to sleep. Even then, that was exceptional. Going double that on a regular basis just seemed really unhealthy.

“Only when I need to,” he said, talking exceptionally quickly. “Mind you, I’ve got a feeling this won’t last terribly long since it usually only works if I drink it over a longer period of time while trying to stay awake. So, fair warning, I’m probably gonna crash pretty hard in a little bit.”

Twilight had seen plenty of ridiculous behavior from Pinkie Pie before, but seeing something similar coming from Alex just seemed… wrong. In fact, everything about him seemed wrong!

He wasn’t like this before. What happened last night?

Spike poked his head out of the kitchen. “Hey, everything okay in here?”

“Everything’s GREAT!” Alex responded promptly, swinging his arms back and forth with a massive grin.

Spike raised a scaly eyebrow. He looked at Twilight, hoping her expression would tell him how to react to the now very animated human. Sadly, she looked just as confused. “Riiiiight… Anyway, eggs are almost done. You like scrambled, right?”

Alex raised two outstretched thumbs up, keeping his smile. “Scrambled’s awesome!”

Still unsure how to react, Spike just retreated behind the door.

Alex spun to look at Twilight and clapped his hands together, still holding his unnerving smile. “So, I do believe we had something to discuss!”

Now reminded of the conversation they shared the previous night, Twilight nodded slowly and took her seat at the table. “Yes, that’s right. You wanted to explain to me what it was that you wanted to build.”

Alex took his own seat while his leg started involuntarily twitching. “That’s it! So, what do you want to know?”

Twilight was taken a bit by surprise. She had fully expected him to start rambling at this point. Now she just wasn’t sure what to expect from him. She decided it would be best to treat him the same way she treated Pinkie until she could get to know him better. That is to say, very carefully.

“Um… How about what it is?” she asked tentatively.

"Right, right." Alex closed his eyes and inhaled deeply to gather his thoughts. He let out an equally large exhale before calmly replying. “It’s called a Power Core.”

Twilight was, yet again, confused by his sudden change in behavior.

“Okay, wait up for a second,” she said, holding her hoof up to silence him. “You’re really starting to confuse me right now.”

Alex raised an eyebrow. “How am I confusing you already? I only told you its name.”

“Nonono, not that!” Twilight said, shaking her head in frustration. “One minute you’re almost dead, the next you’re practically flying around the room, and now look like you’re completely grounded.”

He smirked and slowly nodded. “Ah, right, I can see why that would confuse you. You see, it’s this technique that I perfected that I like to call a ‘mental reset’ where I purge all my thoughts and focus myself on one thing.” Alex poured himself a fourth cup of coffee and gingerly sipped from it. “Aahh… Very useful trick, actually. Took me a while to get it right.”

Twilight looked at him, her mouth agape.

“What?” he said, taking another sip of coffee.

“You have to teach me how to do that.”

Alex chuckled and placed his cup on the table. “Maybe some other time. Now then, I believe you wanted to know more about the Power Core?”

Twilight shook her head a bit to try and get her own thoughts in order. “Right. So, what is this ‘Power Core’ supposed to do?”

“Okay, before I start getting into anything,” he said, keeping his calm and even tone, “I just wanna make sure of something… You’re aware of the laws regarding energy in physics, right? Like how you can’t get more energy out of a system than what you put in?”

“Of course! They're fundamental truths about everything in physics. You always lose ener–” Twilight’s mind suddenly clicked when she remembered what Alex had mentioned during his story the night before.

I pitched the idea to my Father, but he outright rejected it. He thought it was way too expensive for an idea that supposedly trumped one of the fundamental laws of... Well...

Twilight’s eyes widened and she let out a low gasp of understanding. She wasn’t sure how to process this information.

You can’t just break physics, it’s impossible! Not because some scientist said so, but because you can’t physically do it. Is he seriously going to claim that he made something that did this? He can’t be telling the truth. Plenty of ponies have claimed to make perpetual energy machines but they always turned out to use some quirk their inventor never really understood while still obeying physics. But what if he isn't kidding…? No he has to be, this kind of thing isn’t possible!

Twilight was suddenly jerked back to reality by the sound of snapping fingers. She looked down towards the source of the noise to see her scaled assistant carrying a pan with scrambled eggs.

“Hey, Twilight, you okay? You kinda zoned out there for a second,” he said.

“Huh? Oh! Yeah, uh… sorry about that…” she stumbled.

Spike looked at Alex as he started to serve the eggs on a plate in front of him. “Wow, what did you tell her to make her do that?”

Alex shrugged. “Heck if I know, I didn’t tell her much of anything yet. Oh, and thanks for the eggs.”

Spike finished serving the eggs and began moving back to the kitchen. “Riiiight. I’m just gonna start cleaning up. Try not to break her brain or something.”

Once Spike was safely out of earshot, Twilight slammed her hoof down on the table. “You liar!” she hissed.

Alex gaped at her. “What?”

“You liar!” she repeated. “Perpetual energy machines aren't possible! This ‘Power Core’ of yours isn't something that can ever exist! How do I know the rest of your story isn’t a lie, too?”

“You’re right, you caught me,” he deadpanned. “I was actually brought here by pixie dust and happy thoughts.”

“Aha! I knew it!”

“Knew what?

“That you were brought here by magic!”

Alex face palmed. “No, Twilight, that was sarcasm. Magic doesn’t exist on my world.”

“But building a perpetual energy generator seems much more believable, right?” she said sarcastically.

Alex was impressed that she figured out the basic idea of a Power Core with so little prompting from him. He also had to concede that between that and the use of magic, the magic idea seemed much more possible to her because of her own magical abilities. Twilight seemed more apprehensive about it than he figured she would be, and he was starting to get the feeling that the situation with his father would repeat itself. Unless he gained control of the conversation quickly, things might end up badly for him in the long run.

Alex silently took a bite of eggs without breaking eye contact with Twilight, who simply stared back at him angrily.

“Twilight,” he said as he swallowed his meal. “I’m going to be straight with you. I am a terrible liar. I can’t come up with a simple lie to save my skin, let alone a story like mine. A Power Core is something that sounds impossible, yes, I understand that, but that doesn’t change the fact that I managed to build one. If I didn’t, I would be dead right now, or at the very least scrambling for my life. Besides, I’ve got nothing to gain from lying to you. Not in my current situation, anyway.”

He continued to eat his breakfast while they engaged in their staring contest.

“Now then, are you going to act like everyone else and refuse to believe me, or are you going to go at this with an open mind and think that maybe, just maybe I’ve got knowledge worth knowing?”

Alex hated being this blunt with people, but he felt he didn’t really have any other choice. Twilight didn’t seem like she would even give him the time of day at this point, so he decided to fight fire with fire. To his minor relief, it seemed to work.

“Okay…” she said, still keeping a stern face. “I’ll listen to you… for now…”

"Thank you." Alex cleared his throat. “Now then, if you’re being honest with me right now, you’re probably gonna want to know the details. I promise you, the math behind it is an absolute nightmare… Tends to be that way wherever quantum physics is involved... But it works.”

He calmly finished the eggs and noticed that Twilight had also relaxed a little bit out of the corner of his eye.

“What is does,” he continued slowly, attempting to pick his words carefully, “is it... let's say 'brings forth', stores, and recycles a form of raw energy. Normally, we think of energy as a concept related to work and forces, but here, energy is different. It's almost like a substance. It doesn’t really have a mass, per se, but has a condensible volume that can be manipulated with the proper technology.”

Once Alex started on some form of explanation, the rest of his body would relax as a consequence. He always chalked it up to enjoying going on educational tangents, and figured he might've tried becoming a teacher some day, perhaps after retiring. He didn’t get the opportunity to teach others often (mostly because Rose already knew everything he did, and everyone else lacked the fundamental knowledge necessary for his current work), so he relished the opportunity to discuss what was easily his life's greatest achievement.

“Now, as you’ve already noted,” he said, gesturing towards her, “Power Cores are a form of super-efficient generators: they produce more energy than they require, and in vast quantities, too. They produce a lot of energy in a small time frame. Now, is this what’s actually happening? Does a Power Core actually draw this energy seemingly from nowhere? The answer is…” he paused, noticing his breakfast companion lean slightly forward in anticipation of the answer. Did he really want to let the genie out of the bottle? The idea didn't sit well with him quite yet, but he had already gotten this far, so a half-truth it is.

“… we don’t know,” he finished.

Twilight’s breath caught in her throat and she froze. She couldn’t think of anything to say besides: “What?”

“We don’t know!” he repeated, leaning back more comfortably in his chair.

“What do you mean ‘you don’t know?!’” Twilight yelled, her left eye clearly twitching. “You built and designed the thing and you don’t know how it works?!

Alex tried to suppress a smile. “I never said I didn’t know how it works! I know exactly how it works! The problem is that neither Rose nor I know everything about the nature of this energy or where exactly Cores draw it from. The best knowledge that we have is that it comes from some sort of... aether, or something. From the space between atoms. That's about it, though. Otherwise, we know absolutely everything else. Honestly, though, as it stands, we don’t really care about finding out right now.”

Twilight’s eye twitched again. “What do you mean you don’t care?” she wheezed.

“Well, it’s not that we don’t care,” he said, rubbing his chin. “It’s just a question that isn't important for us to answer yet.”

“How is it not important?!” She was leaning over the table at him.

“Results, Twilight. So long as we can duplicate the results – and we can – we’re not gonna try to break our heads over a tangential mystery. Knowing enough to make cores work to our advantage is good enough for us.”

Twilight plunked down in her chair and stared at him. Her lips were pursed and one eye was partially closed. If it wasn’t for the fur, Alex would probably be able to see a vein twitching.

He tried his hardest not to laugh.

“What’s so funny?!” she said loudly. Evidently, his hardest wasn’t good enough.

“Hehehe, sorry, you just have the funniest face right now!”

Twilight was practically fuming. He had a feeling that if he pushed her just a tad further, she might spontaneously combust. He decided it was probably for the best to stop pulling her leg and try to defuse her.

“Okay, okay, let me explain,” he said, clearing his throat and placing an arm on the table. “As a scientist, yes, I agree with you, it’s a shame we don’t know exactly where the energy is coming from, and yes, I would love to know more about it eventually. But as an engineer, I think about practical matters. Whether we know or not doesn’t change the fact that it works the way it does. So long as it still works, that’s all that matters to us. Don’t get me wrong, we’re still trying to figure it out! It’s just not our highest priority. It’s more of a… curiosity, you know?”

Twilight seemed a little calmer, but not much. “But why? Don’t you think that kind of thing would be really important? Unknowns like these can lead to whole new fields of scientific research.”

"I mean that's true, but... um..." Alex started rubbing his chin, thinking of a way to phrase his opinion on the matter. “Have you ever done a test when you were younger, and you came across a question you weren’t quite sure how to answer, so you just moved on to questions you knew how to answer more easily before getting back to that one?”

She stared blankly at him. “No.”

His mouth hung limply for a moment before he brought his palm up to his face. God dammit… he thought. “Okay, look, it’s just a question that isn’t worth the time or effort to answer at the moment because we don't think it will yield that much more practical info.”


Alex held up his hand. “No ‘buts.’ We just don't consider it worth our time right now.”

Twilight sat quietly with a defeated look. He sighed and looked out a window, observing the beautifully sunny day. Despite the beauty of the day, he started to carry a sorrowful expression as his thoughts drifted.

“It’s because it works that I had to do what I did…” he pondered aloud.

Twilight tilted her head and spoke softly, noticing the sudden change of tone in his voice. “Do what?”

“Going into hiding, abandoning pretty much everything… Everyone... If people found out I created a super-efficient generator, everyone would go crazy trying to get their hands on it.” He scoffed. “Now I’m no politician, but there was no way to know how the world would react to it. I just knew it would be a spectrum. Some would use it to help people, others would try to engineer it into weapons…”

He frowned and shook his head. “I didn’t have much of a choice… It was either preserve the fragile status quo, or risk the destruction of the human race…”

Twilight flattened her ears. “You don’t know if that would’ve actually happened…”

“You’re right, I didn’t…” He averted his gaze from the window and looked at her square in the eyes. “But if you were in my position, knowing that national tensions were at an all-time high because incompetent despots were elected to the highest offices in the most powerful countries in the world, invading other countries on the other side of the globe for their resources in the name of 'self defense'... would you really risk it?”

Twilight looked away from him, marinating in his words before answering. “No, I... I guess not…”

Alex turned to stare back out the window. “Exactly…”

The two preserved the silence for a moment, leaving the other with their thoughts. From what Twilight could gather, Alex understood that the rest of his world would have greatly benefited from the Power Core. However, according to him, there was too great a risk it would also be used for maligned purposes. Since he couldn’t tell which was more likely to happen, he thought it best to not find out.

“Now I don’t know how reluctant you’ll be to help me,” Alex suddenly spoke up, “but if I want to get anything done here, I want - no, I need to build a new Power Core. Nothing too big, just enough to get me and Rose started.”

Twilight snapped up and her mind immediately focused on whether or not she should actually help him. What he wanted to build was, as he mentioned earlier, potentially dangerous, but it was also the only thing he could do since he didn’t seem interested in anything else. It was clear he was going to find some way to build it, whether she helped him or not. The real question for him was how easy it would be, and that hinged on her decision.

A Power Core could be extremely dangerous. But on the other hoof, it could also mark a new age in equestrian history.


Alex looked at her blankly, as if he expected a different answer. “Huh?”

Twilight looked at him seriously. “I’ll help you.”

“Y-you will?”

“Of course.” She offered him a warm smile. “I can't say for sure whether or not bringing your cores to Equestria is a good idea or not, if it means that much to you, I’ll be glad to help.”

A weight lifted from Alex's chest, and he allowed himself the opportunity to feel an ounce of hope. “Th-thank you! You really have no idea how much this means to me.”

“But,” she held up a hoof, “I still have a few more questions for you.”

“Sure, ask away!”

“First, what kind of materials does it need?”

He waved her off. “I can draw you up a list later, it’s not exactly simple. Although it will need a catalyst, which may be a problem.”

Twilight’s curiosity was piqued. “A catalyst? What sort of catalyst?”

“Well, activating a Power Core isn’t as simple as flipping a switch. It needs a relatively small jumpstart of about…” He scratched his chin, wondering how Twilight was going to react to what he was about to say. “Um… Roughly a terajoule. The higher the wattage the better.”

Twilight’s ears flopped down and her pupil’s shrank to pinpricks. “A… tera… joule…?”

He nodded his head slowly, pursing his lips. “Yeeeaaah, it’s a lot…”

“How in the hay did you manage to activate it last time?”


[Night time, two years ago, somewhere above the city of Montreal, Quebec. A father and son are returning home from a vacation by plane. They are seated near the window.]

“Pst, hey, son, look outside. See all the lights?”

“Wow! They look so cool from up here!”

“Isn’t it? I always love landing in a city at night… Someday, I want to show you Las Vegas at night, it’s the most amazing… huh…? What the heck?”

“Dad, where’d all the lights go?”


Alex rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly. “Let’s just say it took me a while to get it right and leave it at that… Anyway, I’m sure we can figure something out.”

“Okay… and second, what was that other thing you made?”

Alex sat up straight and smiled. “Oh, right, that! It’s called an EMC, or Energy to Matter Converter. It uses large quantities of energy provided by a Power Core and transforms it into usable matter.”

Twilight stared at him with wide eyes. “Wait, you can do that?”

“Very much so! It's relativity! Energy is equal to mass times the speed of light squared. If you know what you’re doing, it’s not particularly difficult.”

“Hold on, hold on…” Twilight held a hoof to her head. “What's relativity?”

Alex quirked a brow. "You're not at all familiar with the theory of general or specific relativity? What about atomic theory?”

Twilight shook her head.

“Interesting…” Alex leaned back and began stroking his chin. “You guys are further behind than I thought…”

“Hey!” she scolded.

“Well it’s just a statement of fact!” he defended. “It’s obvious ponies aren’t at the same level as modern humans.”

“Maybe in some fields, but we have extensive knowledge is a host of thaumaturlogical fields that humans definitely don't have.”

"I have no idea what er... thaumaturgy is."

"The study of magic."

"Alright, I'll grant you that one," Alex shrugged. “Anyway, the EMC is how I was able to build my Liandri and lab without having to buy additional materials. If you power it using a Power Core, you can take advantage of the fact that matter and energy are interchangeable to make whatever you want, particle by particle.”

Twilight nodded along as she contemplated the uses for such technology. “That- That’s pretty amazing!”

He smiled. “Isn’t it? Problem is, though, the process is time consuming and very difficult to control manually. I had to create a special, self-correcting program in order for it to function properly. Incidentally, the program I created to do that eventually became–” Alex suddenly sat up rigidly, staring straight ahead at nothing in particular. “Twilight, how long have we been having this conversation?”

She cocked an eyebrow. “I don’t know… half an hour, forty minutes, maybe?”

Alex did some quick mental calculations. “Ah dammit.”

“What’s wrong?” Twilight asked, worry starting to sink in.

“Sorry, but I think we’re gonna have to continue this conversation laaaaaaayyyyyyy–” Before he could finish his sentence, Alex’s eyes rolled up into his skull. His mouth hung limp as he tumbled out of his chair face down with a loud thud.

“Oh my gosh, Alex!” Twilight ran around the table to his side to see what was wrong. “Spike! Spike, come quick!”

The dragon rushed out of the kitchen as fast as he could. “Twilight! What’s wrong!”

“Something happened to him! He just fell out of his chair!”

“Oh no, what do we do, what do we do!”

“I don’t know, I don’t know!”

During the brief moment of silence between their panicked cries, both Twilight and Spike heard a strange sound. Spike wasn’t quite sure what it was at first, but it was all too familiar to Twilight.

Was that... snoring?

“Spike, do you hear that?” she asked.

“Yeah, what is it?”

Twilight carefully rolled Alex onto his back and confirmed her hypothesis. Right in the middle of their conversation, he had suddenly fallen asleep and fell out of his chair as a result. All things considered, she was surprised that the fall didn’t wake him up.

Well, he did say he would crash pretty hard…

“Uh… Twilight, is he sleeping?” asked her assistant.

Twilight shook her head and let out a small laugh. “Yes, Spike… Yes he is…”

Sighing, she decided that it would be best to get Alex back to bed. Using her magic, she ever so carefully lifted up the sleeping mass and carried him back to the guest room, dragon in tow.

“Spike, why don’t you go and clean the table while I make sure he’s comfortable? I’ll be back to help you in a minute.”

Figuring it would probably be best to do something productive instead of standing around while she tucked Alex back into bed, Spike agreed, although he felt slightly irritated that he had to do so much cleaning lately.

Twilight carefully lowered her unconscious guest onto the small disheveled bed and did her best to put him in a position he would find comfortable. As she finished pulling the sheets up and making sure Alex was still sleeping soundly, her attention was brought to the night stand as a familiar, synthetic voice called out to her. “Hello there.”

“Oh, hello, Rose!” she said as she looked at the source of the voice.

“Could you open the lid of the computer, please?”

Twilight complied and manually opened the device. Upon doing so, she was greeted with the virtual face of none other than the AI she had become such a fan of. “Good morning, Rose! Sleep well?”

“I don’t sleep,” Rose said flatly, the tone of the simple comment making Twilight feel a pang of regret for asking in the first place. “So, what did he tell you?”

Twilight’s heart nearly stopped upon hearing her question. She remembered that Alex had told her that Rose wouldn’t be happy about him telling her about the Power Core. She decided to put on her best smile and deny everything.

“Tell me what? He didn’t tell me anything! We just had breakfast and he fell asleep, so I brought him back here!”

Rose frowned. “I’m not stupid. I know you two were talking about something related to us. What was it?”

Twilight’s smile was starting to falter. “I don’t know what you’re talking about…”

“He told you about the Power Core, didn’t he?"

“Power Core, what’s that?” Twilight was trying her best to not give herself away, but Rose’s intense glare were breaking her resolve faster than fine china being thrown at a wall. The fact that Rose never blinked didn’t help either.

Twilight sighed in defeat and hung her head. “Yes…”

The AI shook her virtual head. “Of course he would’ve…”

“Please don’t be angry!” Twilight pleaded. “He just wanted my help!”

“I’m not angry, Twilight Sparkle.”

She blinked. “Y-you’re not?”

“No. In all honesty, it was probably going to happen at one point or another. Trying to build a Power Core on your own without resources is not possible, and you do seem like someone who would be the most likely to assist with the endeavor. Speaking of which, are you going to help?”

“Yes, I am,” the unicorn confirmed with a nod. “I'm still a little doubtful, but given everything that's happened, I figured it's all still worth a shot.”

“Good, then allow me to establish some ground rules… First off, this is not to become public knowledge.”

“Why not?”

“Because a Power Core is an incredibly valuable piece of technology, and the fewer people who know about it, the better. Secondly, if you’re as eager to help build it as I think you are, then know that if we need a certain material, it must be acquired, understood?”

Twilight nodded slowly. “I understand. Can’t build something properly unless you have all the things you need, right?”

“Precisely. However, I really must emphasize secrecy. It’s not every day technology like this comes around, and you never know who might want to exploit it.”

“Don’t worry, Rose, you can count on me!” said Twilight, standing proudly.

“Keep in mind that I still don’t trust you.”

The pony’s stature suddenly wilted and her ears flattened, the AI’s words cutting into her heart.

“The only reason I’m willing to work with you at all,” Rose continued, “is because Alex seems to trust you, for whatever reason he may have. I may be willing to give you the benefit of the doubt, but if you want my trust, you will have to earn it.”

Upon hearing that she still had a chance to gain Rose’s trust, Twilight stood tall again and gave the computer a salute. “I won’t let you down!”

“I’m sure,” she said, her tone suggesting she was only half paying attention. “Now then, could you do me a favor and put me in the sunlight over by the window?”

“Not a problem!” Twilight picked up the computer with her magic confidently, hoping to show the AI that she was more than trustworthy.

“Wait a moment!” Rose said just before Twilight put her down on the window sill.

“Hm? What’s wrong?”

“Just keep holding me with your… magic… I need to check something.”

With that, Rose’s virtual face disappeared from the screen. Almost an entire minute passed by before she finally materialized on the screen again. “Ok, you can put me down now.”

Twilight did as she was asked. “Alright… what did you need to do?”

“Your… magic, for lack of a better word, seemed… interesting. I just wanted to record a few things. Thank you for your time.”

Once again, Rose disappeared as the computer’s entire screen went black. Twilight was more than a little confused about her behavior, but it’s not like she could ask Rose any questions about it at this point.

With both guests “asleep,” she walked out of the room, closing the door behind her, to go help Spike with the cleanup. Since Alex was most likely going to be asleep all day, that meant they wouldn’t be able to do much in terms of working on the Power Core. Twilight was disappointed that she couldn’t learn more about either the Power Core or the EMC, but realized there would always be time for that later. For now, Spike needed help and the library needed re-organizing.

It wasn’t until early in the morning the next day that Alex finally woke up feeling well rested. He sat up as best he could on the small bed and stretched his arms, as was his habit whenever he woke up. His body felt sore and his stomach was practically imploding of hunger from having slept in nearly the same position for eighteen hours.

Ok… mental recap… he thought. Attack, portal, ponies, sleep, breakfast… Fuck, what happened after breakfast…? Wait… what time is it?

He glanced out the window and saw small slivers of light over the horizon. What caught his attention more, though, was the fact that Rose was now on the window sill and looking straight at him.

“It’s about time you woke up,” she said.

Alex stretched a final time and started rubbing his eyes. “What time is it?”

“Six twelve AM. You spent pretty much all of yesterday sleeping.”

“Oh… Well shit…”

“Indeed. Now this may seem like a non-sequitur, and not exactly early morning conversation material, but I have some news you may want to hear. Can you bring to mind the gaps in our knowledge concerning power core energy? Specifically concerning its nature and behavior?”

Alex was still trying to get his thoughts in order and Rose’s eloquence didn’t exactly help, but he managed to focus on the one particular subject, vaguely recalling that he had spoken to Twilight about it the previous morning. “Uh… Yeah? What about it?”

“Well… I believe I may just have figured it out.”

Author's Note:

Chapters 1 to 3 are mostly introductory. Chapter 4 is where the ball really gets rolling. As always, tell me what you guys think!

NOTICE: Okay, I've noticed that a lot of people tend to skip over chapter 4, and I have no idea why that is. Maybe it's because it's name is V.Log [05/31/22] and they think it's some kind of blog post I stuck in the middle of the story. Allow me to clarify: it IS an actual chapter that acts as a prologue to chapter 5 and it DOES contain information that you SHOULD know. Otherwise, some things might not makes sense to you later on. Okay? Okay. Moving on.