• Published 1st Mar 2012
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Arrow 18 Mission Logs: Lone Ranger - AdmiralTigerclaw


A mission to investigate a far off world takes an interesting twist.

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Archive Ten: And Explorers

MISSION LOG:
December 20th, 2257

I actually sat and reviewed my logs since arrival today, and it's shocking how little progress I've made over the last few months compared to Twilight. And now it seems I have my own personal retinue, if anyone could believe that. Then again, I suppose that would be easy to believe compared to what I've logged up to this point.

But I digress...

After the Guards-ponies came and escorted Shifty away yesterday, they left a bit of a presence behind standing around the Raven. I won't go so far as to say I know why they're posted. It could be to screen for more changers. But I haven't seen Twilight around to confirm it.

Speaking of Twilight... I've had time to sleep on it, and her comment yesterday irritates me. If I read her little slip right, there's a bit of an experiment going on involving me. I doubt it's anything hazardous, but that girl has the most awkward way of handling how she goes about getting permission to do things. Between the Raven, the suits, and the way she all but invited herself and Rainbow Dash on a trip to space (I'll admit that last one was my fault), it's like she's used to having a certain amount of unquestioned authority without realizing she's even got it. That makes it really hard to stay mad at her, even the times when she really did make me mad. It's just... It's just hard to stay upset at that girl. She's trying so hard.

Still, something is bothering me. I can get the immunity to their magic. Why that is, is still unknown like a few other dozen anomalies around here. It brings up the question of a few examples she cited. In particular, this 'dream viewing' she said Princess Luna could do. If it's what I think it is -and I have pretty good track record for being half-right around here- then the princesses have likely been trying to... I want to say 'spy on me', but that just sounds sinister. Ponies seem to be anything but. 'Discern if I'm a threat'? Maybe? It was probably a while back given how they were a bit jittery around me at first.

Either way, Twilight seems to consider me immune to that ability. So the weirdness that is my subconscious is safe as far as I know. What I really need to do is get my priorities straight and get at least a few questions out of the way. If we want to get our mutual mysteries solved I'll need that girl to open up and be frank about everything she's doing and let her know that's it's okay to ask me. I'm not even remotely afraid she's going to probe me or anything like that. (If anything, I'm the space alien with the flying saucer, I should be the one doing the probing. Insert mad-science laugh here at your own discretion.)

I'll get my questions compiled tonight and go bother her in the morning... Assuming these guards don't have me in lock down or something. I should really go see if they let me leave the Raven.


MISSION LOG:
December 21st, 2257

Well, it figures. I went to the library to ask questions, and the girl's out of town. She's probably up at the capital dealing with whatever fallout came with the changer. So that pretty much ruined any plans I had to get my answers.

So, for probably the first time since I'd been here, I found myself at a loss for something to do. I know that technically I have a million-and-one tasks I need to get done for the sake of this mission and for science itself, but considering how much mental effort I went through preparing to give Twilight my stern-face, her not being there kind of took the wind right out of my sails.

I think I ended up wandering around the town in a grouchy funk for at least an hour with my retinue in tow before Dash noticed me.

Oh, I should mention my retinue. Seems I really am being guarded. I'm free to move about as I please, obviously, but I was followed by at least one (visible) guard at all times. Some people would be annoyed by having such protection shadow them, but in all honesty I hardly noticed; Funk and all that...

Either way, that ended abruptly when Dash showed up. If you didn't know she was a pegasus, you'd think she was a parrot the way she was squawking at the guards when she landed. Without Twilight to translate once more, it kind of hit home just how little I've picked up on the language when an argument broke out between Rainbow and the guard. Seems I'm a little spoiled when it comes to my favorite awkward translator.

The awkwardness redoubled when Dash finally seemed to convince the guards to leave (really they just backed off to a less oppressive distance) and turned to squawk a very creaky-sounding 'sorry' at me. That held until we both cracked. I've never noticed before, but Rainbow Dash has a bit of a goofy smile when she's going for apologetic. It certainly helped lighten the mood after a rough start to the morning.

I did instrument rounds after that, trying to recover at least some structure to the day with her in tow, chasing the guards back every once in a while as she went about her usual aerobatics. Sometimes she'd watch me examining the instruments, but she'd quickly grow bored if nothing started blinking at her the way they had on board the Arrow. At that point, she'd take off and do a few high speed strafes just off the top of my head... Babbling nonsense the whole time. It was funny how at first the guards rushed to protect me from her 'bombing runs', but like anyone who's been dive bombed by mocking birds, she never really struck me more than to tap me on the head.

However, she soon grew bored of that too and decided to land, still babbling.

I don't know how long she kept it up, having tuned the incomprehensible noise out at some point, but she must have gotten tired of it, seeing as she suddenly stormed up and shoved me, knocking me flat on my rear.

I'm not sure how much effort she'd put into it, but the last thing Dash said before taking off like a small blue rocket, was broken English to make Twilight's first words look fluent (Emphasis on phonetics): 'I-tok! Una-tok! Tok-I'*

Makes me feel like a slouch when I can't even say even that in their language after as many months. Can I even SPEAK in their tongue?

I'll try a little experiment of my own tomorrow. Rainbow's a completely different kind of speed from Twilight, maybe we can get something going until Twilight gets back.


MISSION LOG:
December 22nd, 2257

It wasn't easy catching up with Rainbow today. Whatever had her upset yesterday left her in a foul mood to the point that every time I approached, she'd take a cloud and zip off to the other side of town. This was quickly turning problematic, so I decided to stop a few hours before lunch and ducked into one of the town business establishments. Smelled like a bakery from outside, and looked like a Christmas gingerbread house.

Now, to this point I haven't actually been inside any of the local establishments aside from the Library, so I didn't know what to expect. I should have known, however. The moment I walked in, it was like one of those scenes in an old western where the big bad outlaw steps into the saloon. A few patrons enjoying breakfast, along with the apparent owners went dead silent when they saw me.

Of course, that's where the similarity to a movie ended. Almost out of nowhere, Pink Pie seemed to appear and began chirping (while bouncing around like a rubber ball) in unintelligible pony speak. A few seconds after this, I found myself swarmed by the patrons, each wanting to get a closer look at me. It was like the parties all over again, but this time with less competition for my attention.

Before long, I found myself pushed to one of the booths with Pink continuing to resemble a child hopped up on too much sugar and caffeine. I was offered – I assume it was an offer – a variety of baked confections. As far as I could tell, it was on the house too. The apparent owners seemed very pleased when I finally caved and tried something.

In retrospect, my 'patronage' probably helped increase their business. The 'alien from another world who took two local heroes to space approves of our food' advertising campaign that had to have resulted from that would be hard to ignore.

Speaking of ignore, I still had the problem of trying to catch Rainbow. And while I was pleased by a free (early) lunch, I was still no closer to trying my little language experiment than I was when I walked in. Pink seemed to catch on to my slightly quiet mood and did her utmost best to ask me what was wrong. If you call improvised Pictionary using cake icing to draw stick figures and smiley faces, 'asking'... Surprisingly, for not knowing a word we were saying to each other, that was extremely effective communication.

Before long, I had somehow recruited the Living Sugar Rush into some kind of zany scheme right out of a cartoon serial. She spent an hour doing seemingly random things, like placing objects in bushes or trotting seeming random paths around the town while glancing around, greeting the other ponies while I followed. I was about to lose my own patience for what appeared to be totally random things when she suddenly turned and smiled, then led me right to Dash.

Rainbow still had no desire to see me and promptly took off again, and that's when Pink's actions started to fall into place.

Before I knew it, the little baker had taken off in another direction through town and, still in my line of sight, managed to actually out maneuver the flying pony. I don't know HOW she predicted the route and knew which way to go to BEAT someone who could fly a straight line path over the town, but she managed it. Even as I watched, she worked frantically, spring-boarding off planks of wood, ducking between houses, and generally moving as if she had every single move planned well in advance. My vantage was perfect, looking right down two of the main thoroughfares as she zipped in and out. Above her, Rainbow was doing a frustrated evasion of her own from one spot to the next, only to be routed again and again by the pink menace. By the time five minutes had gone by, I could hear the multi-colored pony above squawking in annoyance that was becoming more and more panicked at every turn.

It finally ended when Pink somehow chased Dash right to where I was standing from the beginning. The pegasus was obviously out of sorts and huffing from the effort, so much so that she barely even realized that she was right back where she started until after I had greeted her with the best attempt at a pony 'hello' as human vocal cords could manage.

That got her attention, enough to halt any further attempts to give me a cold shoulder at least.

Now my little language experiment, as far as I had planned it, was meant to be just between myself and Dash, but with Pink around, I had a little bit of a bonus.

I should mention now that unlike my attempts with Twilight, Dash is and was more of a personal curiosity, so I didn't bring any recording gear for the task. In retrospect, I really should have, as the three-way interaction produced quite a few interesting results.

I'll start with Dash. She was enthusiastic about trying to talk to me at first, but I could see boredom set in with her quickly once it proved that picking up an alien language wasn't going to be something she could do in a few hours. I suspect that formal schooling also might not be her best environment either. The pegasus kept trying to find anything and everything that could interrupt any progress we made. She squirmed in place, paid more attention to the clouds in the sky, and generally was the exact opposite of Twilight in terms of being a good study.

I feel shock even now to say that Pink was an amazing help.

To elaborate, she was just as wound up, if obviously more so, than Dash was. But despite my fears that she would drag us into completely unrelated activities, she showed surprising focus and had a knack for drawing Rainbow back into the 'conversation' we were plowing our way through every time the pegasus started to lose interest.

By mid-afternoon, we'd made some amazing progress. That's not to say Dash had improved any. In fact, I'd say she managed to say one entire coherent statement without losing any patience and devolving into a series of irritated squawks and whinnies the whole time. Rather, Pink made frightening progress both in understanding and pronunciation. As soon as she was able to pick up the meaning of a word, she'd bounce in place, repeating it singsong over and over again. Her articulation after a few tries was only surpassed by Twilight's experience and dedication. The girl has a knack for it.

I also learned a few of their words as well. Unfortunately, I don't think I'll be bringing a workable beginner's translation home for the scientists to go over. As would be expected from horse-like sapients, the difference in their vocal cords from that of a human actually makes some parts of their speech impossible to reproduce. At least, impossible for me… The word for 'cloud' is apparently somewhere between a half-whinny, half-squawk like a parrot. There's also a syllable that seems to rely on them peeling their lips back and hissing through their teeth like we would an 'S', but so far to the side that it comes out like a slurp. And THAT is distinct from an actual 'S' sound in the normal fashion.

English is apparently less sophisticated in terms of the sounds being made to them, but I'll have to verify that with Twilight to be sure. One thing I am sure of, however, is the two are very… Excited? To see me attempting to speak their language.


MISSION LOG:
December 23rd, 2257

‘Team Sugar-Crash’, as I have now dubbed Pink and Rainbow when they get together, woke me before the crack of dawn this morning. I got nothing technical done at all as they promptly picked up where we left off yesterday. However, by noon, I'd noticed that Pink had reached a somewhat competent level of communication. She actually asked and understood my answer as to what I wanted for lunch. Her grasp is nothing short of terrifying.

Her coherency however, is somewhat lacking. I would have said her ability to grasp a new language was superior to Twilight in every way, but her sentence structure remains little more than broken fragments and phrases consisting of no more than two words maximum. That is to say, she gets the words, she just doesn't seem to acknowledge that they can be used in complex manners.

Still, she's only been at it for a day. Twilight took weeks to make it to phrases, and months to reach her amazingly fluent level of speaking. And either case is far faster than anything I've ever heard of happening back home. Of course, I’m not a language expert, so I’m not really one to talk.

I should make a note of that. Language expert for follow up missions…

Actually, I should start making a LOT of notes for follow up missions.

Because I know you guys. The moment this goes public, there’ll practically be a space traffic jam to get here.

But anyway, while Pink has made frightening progress, Rainbow continues with a more lackluster… I should say ‘NORMAL’ level of progression (At least, I think it’s normal). She’s learned a few basic words, identifying herself, others, and me, as well as basic ‘yes’ and ‘no’ responses. Beyond that, she suffers from that attention span I mentioned in one of the previous entries.

For the time being, however, I’m going to have to cut this experiment short. I’m still no closer to solving the system conundrum than I have been, and distracting myself on the speaking skills of ponies is not doing me any good in giving me evidence. As far as I can tell, orbital mechanics work just fine, but I just can’t get what’s going on. It seems like I’m missing one key detail that could tie everything together. To recap what I know.

1: The sun and moon orbit the planet, which should be physically impossible, and do so with no identifiable consequences.
2: Princess Heaven and Princess Luna have both shown to be in direct control of the physical bodies. They cannot articulate an explanation beyond ‘they just can’ and ‘special talent’.
3: The sun itself has no measurable solar magneto-dynamic activity. This indicates a high likelihood of zero rotation within’ the body.
4: Solar orbital velocity and motions coincide with the behavior of a steady ‘hum’ in the microwave band.

Where’s the connection? I know something about the microwave pattern has to do with Princess Heaven. I also know the microwave pattern is related to the lack of magnetic activity… Is she TKing it? That can’t be the answer because of what Twilight said about anchoring. If Princess heaven anchored the SUN through her body into the ground, she’d smash the planet like a piece of chalk in a super-collider. And the Arrow’s records have yet to turn up any potential super-massive bodies to counter-point. She also appeared to exert almost no effort in the process. I can’t say for certain that she is not simply that strong, or if there is in fact a method for cheating the system.

However, I’m inclined to think the latter. The acts of ‘magic’ that I’ve seen so far, to include TK and Teleportation, seem to require some physical exertion on the part of the user. Princess Heaven has shown negligible exertion the few times I’ve seen it.

I’m missing a key data point, but I don’t know WHAT.


MISSION LOG:
December 24th, 2257

Twilight’s back, and I have a changer the size of Princess Heaven looking over my shoulder as I type this. It’s been a very busy day, so I’ll try and consolidate my thoughts the best I can despite the prickling sensation on the back of my neck.

To begin with, I was awoken this morning by a rather ‘official’ sounding rap against the external airlock door. Rainbow has a habit of tapping on the viewports, while Pink... Well, I'm still confused about the one time she got into the airlock between the doors... Either way, this one had that whole 'Police! Open up!' sound to it.

Imagine looking out the cockpit window to see an entire guard contingent, the two princesses, Twilight, and both a large and small changer standing in front of the Raven. For a second I thought I might be in trouble.

Thankfully, that didn't seem to be the case. From what I gather, the appearance and subsequent capture of 'Shifty' seemed to have a wider influence than I could have known. The Changers, according to Twilight, have been described as aggressive and desperate, and Princess Heaven has been desperate for any excuse to drag them out of the shadows and up to the bargaining table.

My wall of questions is brought right back to the forefront at this point. Twilight informed me that it was my natural reaction to Shifty's... 'emotion probing' that caused a bit of a stir on both sides of the political line. (I use political line here to denote the changers and the ponies as two separate national entities. Its accuracy may or may not be subject to change... Pun not intended.) The 'reaction', I'm told, seemed to be related to the way shifty would act whenever we'd made eye contact before she (yes, a she) lost her cover. Twilight tried to describe it as best as she could that Shifty said it felt like 'an electric shock to the horn'.

I'll spare the ins and outs of Twilight translating between the princesses and the 'queen' changer (I swear, every time she said queen, she practically spat the word. Something's up there). But between the four of them, I gather that the 'zap' reaction as I now call it had never been witnessed, and Twilight suspected the Changers might be emboldened to take steps to remove a threat to their ability to hide. Thus, for my safety, she had arranged to capture 'Shifty' and use her as a bargaining chip.

Being the alien here, I can't say I'm entirely surprised to realize I've been the center of an intelligence/counter-intelligence operation... Primitive as it was. My presence alone is political ammunition of the highest degree. That's actually kind of scary. From a political standpoint, I'm both that which is to be coveted, or feared.

Twilight indicated as much to me when she explained that the linchpin in Princess Heaven's move once she lured the Changer Queen out was to indicate that I am but one, and that many more would likely follow. Princess Heaven visibly giggled... and blushed?- as Twilight described a nice little fear-inducing scenario of magic resistant creatures spilling out of the skies in flaming metal birds and laying siege to the world.

Well, alien invasions are no laughing matter. After all, when the hoards of space monkeys with thunder sticks invade, you either unite against a common threat, or find yourselves conquered and turned into pets for little girls.

I am SO glad this Changer Queen can't read a single sentence of this log. She doesn't look like the sort that would find it a complement to be referred to as 'cute and cuddly'. And-

-Sheesh! I can't believe she just went and started flipping switches! You'd think the queen of a nation would have a little more sense than to go messing with things she didn't understand! Thank God she was only messing with some of the instrumentation and not the cockpit. Twilight's giving her an earful now and... Ugh. Now they're arguing again. What is it with these two? This isn't the first time they've argued either.

Earlier today, after explaining Princess Heaven's political chess game, it came back to me to ask Twilight about the whole 'magical resistance' I had. Apparently, ever since the cockatrice incident, Twilight's been noting how I seem to have both a natural resistance to magic, as well as what appears to be a sense for when it's being used on me. Apparently, both her and Luna have been trying things under the table. Luna more-so than Twilight... It seems Twilight had lessons in magical ethics where Luna has not. But I digress. Among some of the 'tests' I was subject to without my knowledge or consent, Luna has attempted to 'dream view' (with abysmal results, apparently every attempt resulted in me waking up immediately), as well as use some kind of extreme far sight while we were in orbit. That may explain the goosebumps episode.

Twilight's shenanigans were more subtle. TK shoves disguised as enthusiasm over something, a few attempts to use a 'sleep spell', and 'rejuvenation spells'. Things she called 'harmless stuff' I wouldn't have noticed anyway. Most of which didn't work. The only thing she mentions that even worked was the potion I ingested.

Apparently she was about to announce a theory to me and ask for cooperation when 'Shifty' showed up. And then the whole 'zap' thing when the Changer tried to probe my emotions for an easy meal.

Twilight suspects that between observations and tests, humans might have a stronger connection to magic than we first thought. But rather than being able to use it, we have built-in natural defenses against it. I'll let the theoretical physics and biology guys take a crack at that piece of information.

Somewhere in the explanation, the Changer Queen had gained a strangely smug look, and made a comment that seemed to irritate everyone. The result was that Twilight rounded on her and snapped back. It didn't take long for this to devolve into a shouting match with the two bickering so fiercely even Princess Heaven took a step back.

Thankfully, the argument was cut short when Princess Luna shouted something and stomped the ground.

Now, let me put this in perspective. When I say shouted, I mean to say it sounded like she was hooked up to a concert audio system with a wall of speakers the size of an office building behind her. And when she stomped, the ground cracked around her, and the Raven rattled on its landing gear. For a second, I was actually scared of her. But it did stop the argument.

Long and short of it, Twilight wants to observe my 'magic resistance' a little more, and wants to try having a changer around me to so if she can spot any other reactions. The Changer Queen also expressed a desire to know more about my kind, though I suspect for less altruistic reasons. Thus... why I have a giant insectoid-equine hybrid currently arguing with Twilight behind me...

...Which isn't going to work at all. The options are to have the Changer Queen, or 'Shifty' around. I agreed to that much. But if Twilight and the Queen can't get along, then one of them has to go. And I'm not getting rid of my only translator over this... Shifty, while more timid, isn't going to shout my ears off with that weird double-tone voice- Alright I'm sick of this.

...Amazing how intimidating I can be when I drop my voice. And apparently just now when I rounded on them, the Changer Queen physically flinched as if she'd been hit by a hammer. I think this is the first time Twilight ever saw me truly angry. Not simply irritated at her. I had their attention though, all of it. And in no uncertain terms I made it clear that I would not tolerate bickering inside a spacecraft filled to the brim with canned kaboom.

After witnessing my outburst, the Changer Queen quickly excused herself, and Twilight mentioned that the royal creature agreed that 'Shifty' would be a better choice. I think I scared the hybrid queen. Which is totally fine with me.

So I guess I'll be having shifty as a guest for a few days. Twilight will be supervising of course.



MISSION LOG:
December 25th, 2257

Merry Christmas to anyone reading this report. I know it’ll probably be mid-summer before anyone can even hope to see it, but it’s the thought that counts, right?

A very interesting observation, but it appears that when Changers shape-shift, they emit X-rays. It’s brief, but contains a strong characteristic signature for carbon (0.277 keV). X-ray analysis was never one of my strong points in college, but if I recall the one-and-a-half rule means that the excitation energy of the event must be equal to or greater than 0.4155 keV. I don’t know what to make of it, but I kept the data samples for the think-tank.

It’s real interesting, however, to witness the changer show off its ability without having to panic about the fire suppression system on the Raven. Despite the burst of flames, the heat release appears to be superficial. I could physically make contact with the flames, and it didn’t even come close to threatening a burn.

And its mimic abilities are absolutely amazing. Attached in file ‘Copycat’ is a series of photos and videos showing Shifty duplicating the appearance of other pony subjects. Even with intense scrutiny, the distinction between Shifty, and either Rainbow or Twilight is nearly flawless. The only subtle limiting factor appears to be mass. No matter which form Shifty took, weight measurements remained the same.

This is a very useful piece of information according to Twilight. It allowed her to come up with a reliable method of identifying changers that may have infiltrated the guard with a fairly simple measurement. Of course, she also mentioned the logistics are a bit cumbersome, but worth it for the general peace of mind. I’ve dealt with worse at GSA security checkpoints. A weigh-in would be nothing.

When asked to mimic me, Shifty didn’t seem so keen on the idea, but she complied.

The results were terrible. Shifty got the form down, but something completely threw her off. For the most part, clothing looked like it had been merged with the skin, which in itself seemed to be far too glossy for my tone, and on closer observation, seemed to be lacking hair. Shifty was also completely unable to balance and couldn’t stand for more than a second. When I asked Twilight, she conversed with Shifty about what was wrong. Shifty indicated that for some reason, copying me was really hard.

The changer tried several more times, but only succeeded in some hilarious, but anatomically impossible caricatures. According to Shifty, something about ‘look-feeling’ me just wasn’t working right. I asked Twilight what ‘look-feeling’ was, but she couldn’t get Shifty to elaborate. Twilight is pretty certain my ability to resist magic is somehow interfering with how changers ‘scan’ a potential copy subject as they transform. If you ask me, I’d imagine it’s related to that X-ray burst. The only inconsistency is that my body doesn’t block X-rays. More for the think-tanks!

Pink took care of lunch for us again today. Shifty didn’t so much as touch a morsel, lending merit to what Twilight and I discussed recently about them consuming magical energy instead of food. I wanted to try and pry for Shifty’s full diet, but Pink suddenly got so excited upon looking the changer over. After that, not even Twilight could keep up with trying to translate the babbling she was doing. As if to complicate matters, Shifty started to turn into her repeatedly, resulting in Pink carefully examining her each time. Changer expressions are slightly harder to read than a pony, but during Shifty's first transformation into Pink, she seemed almost insulted by a comment. I will speak no further on the resulting incident I will simply call the ‘Copy War’.

Seriously, guys, don’t ever ask me about this. EVER. I was tempted to bring back data on this, but I deleted it a few minutes ago after some thought. ONE Pink Pie is enough.

Twilight noticed the beginnings of this log a little while ago. And true to form, she asked me about Christmas. Between a rather poor explanation from me, and a far superior one from the computer, I’d say she got the idea pretty well. She mentioned it was similar to a national holiday of theirs that involved the pony tribes not freezing to death or dying of hunger and unifying…

It’s complicated, and I didn’t get much out of her before she rushed off. I (still) don’t speak pony, but Shifty had babbled something causing Pink to laugh… Then gasp and rush off herself.

That leaves me alone with Shifty. Mostly... There’s still the guards outside, but I’m not counting them. Besides, Shifty’s never caused me trouble before so I’m not going to call Twilight out on her lapse of supervision on the ‘dangerous’ Changer.



MISSION LOG:
December 26th, 2257

I should have known this would end in a party…

I was reviewing my modified launch parameters for mid-January when it happened. Twilight ‘bamf!’ed in with her teleport, grabbed both myself and Shifty, and then ‘bamf!’ed us to a new location before I could even voice my surprise. Please note, teleportation feels like two parts zero-G, one part pressure shift, one part temperature shift, and one part instant nausea. If I hadn’t been sitting at the time, I would have ended up falling over.

Shifty fared little better, nearly staggering into a table with a cake on it. A second later, we were both hit with the typical Pink-style surprise party, including the broken English shout. That didn’t turn out so well with an already skittish changer in tow. Pink is still upset about the loss of a perfectly good cake.

The purpose for the party became clear after we managed to coax Shifty out of hiding. There was a tree, and wrapped gifts, and in general the place was decked out better than Santa’s Workshop (the holiday shop down town back home). Apparently when Twilight figured out the Earth-date yesterday, she realized I was missing out on the holiday, and that I probably wouldn’t be around for their equivalent. So she decided to get me a gift, only for Pink to catch on and turn it into a full scale event.

Honestly it feels kind of awkward. Half the town turned up trying to give me all sorts of trinkets and knick-knacks. I didn’t want to turn them down, but I also didn’t want to really explain that pretty much everything I was given would only end up designated as artifacts and placed in display cases or analyzed for research purposes… Property of the GSA. It’s a real shame too. Twilight gave me this really nice writing quill and ink well. On Earth, this would be an antique.

The party did serve an interesting, and quite unexpected use though. Shifty seemed extremely curious as to the behavior of the ponies, and indulged in a number of activities at Pink’s behest. The Changer’s social behavior contrasted nicely from the pony norm, giving me quite a few observations of note.

First off: Shifty seemed slightly awkward. Nearly all of her interactions were slow and nervous. Most of the time she seemed to glance for nearby exits. The interactions where she seemed less awkward were the ones where she was asked to copy a form and quickly complied. Almost eagerly, mind you. When ‘disguised’, she seemed far more amiable and open. I suspect that this shift in behavior is instinctive to a species that spends a significant portion of its time disguised and blending in. Without the mental comfort of knowing they’re in disguise, they likely feel exposed and vulnerable. Especially when ‘caught’ in a large group undisguised. But Shifty held it together well enough, though I think the disguise requests helped a lot.

When the party had run its course, Twilight was polite enough to return us to the Raven with another teleport. Again, feels like what I’m guessing explosive decompression feels like without the whole death part. I suppose you get used to it. Or maybe my ‘magic resistance’ she talks about makes it an unpleasant experience.

Speaking of which, I did ask her how she managed that in spite of said resistance. Her reply?

Raw power.

Scary.


MISSION LOG:
December 28th, 2257

Rain scheduled again yesterday, so really nothing much happened noteworthy of a log report. Shifty spent most of it curled up in Rainbow’s favorite spot just watching it come down and Twilight spent it researching Earth myths.

Today, however, saw a little more activity when some of the children from the school showed up to investigate Shifty. She made a show of being frightening, but that ended when I gave her an irritated look (That physically jolted her. I can't get over it. It's like popping a dog on the nose with a newspaper). Twilight expressed some humor at the reaction but relayed to the changer for me that ‘picking on children is just mean’. Shifty relayed through Twilight that she didn't mean it (Apparently, changers actually really like children) and that my “Emotion Pulse” is really annoying. The resulting conversation that sparked and relayed through Twilight was probably the most I've gotten out of the changer. Twilight actually finds her quite a pleasant discussion, and the information she gave me about changers in general is pretty good.

It seems that I'm mostly a blank to her, except for moments when I either release a bottled up emotion like irritation or anger, or when we make eye contact. The best Shifty can articulate it, it's like being splashed with ice water, or blinded by a flash.

The children... foals, had their own fun, asking Shifty to transform for them into various characters from stories they had. Even Twilight's little dragon, Spike, had some fun with Shifty. Some of the ones she turned into were pretty silly looking too. A few reminded me somewhat of old American 'superheroes' in their overblown style. It was enough that I asked if changers couldn't make a solid, friendly living around the ponies through being able to act out fantasies. Especially pretending to be superheroes for children's shows. If these changers eat 'love', well, imagine how much 'love' they get from just doing a little acting for the little ones. Given how changers seem to like children, that would be an easy solution.

Twilight agrees. The very idea seems like something that could at least allow them to cooperate without all the tension. Shifty was quiet after that one, even with an orange filly climbing on her back and buzzing her wings like she was mimicking the changer (Kind of funny having someone trying to mimic a mimic).


MISSION LOG:
December 29th, 2257

Rain again? I don't know what's with the weather schedule, but that was a bit much with a hard morning downpour. One of the Raven's wheels sank into the mud. Because of that, I had to have the guards move the perimeter back while I used the VTOLs to lift the Raven. Once the heat from those thrusters dried the ground out, a little kick from the mains set us down a few feet forward on dry ground.

I say 'us' because Shifty was on board. And you can tell that Changers are not fans of rocket engines. She pretty much tried to bury her head in the special seat Twilight had installed a while back. An experiment later with sudden, loud noises confirmed for me that they do seem to be more sensitive to them.

I noticed lately that a few of the children running around have started to sport crude space helmets similar to the GSA pressure suits. I wonder who's making them...


MISSION LOG:
December 30th, 2257

Group study session today. Not much to say except this has been the most packed the Raven has ever been. Twilight, Pink, Rainbow, and Shifty plus a guard all sitting around the console while words got repeated, explained, and tested. I should mention Rainbow stayed closest to the hatch, and Shifty spent most of her time in what we've come to call her default disguise (the pony form she first used to spy on the party). Not a bad experience I'd say. Twilight expressed to me that she's surprised Rainbow Dash stayed still as long as she did.

Also, I'm told Princess Luna will be showing up tomorrow evening. She wants to 'paint the sky' with a friend for her night. I've seen some spectacular sunsets and vivid nightscapes in my time here, but it never occurred to me they were enhanced. I'll tune some sensors on it to see what I can pick up. Should be worth it.


MISSION LOG:
December 31st, 2257

More space helmets around town today. It's definitely not Rarity making them. I made a pit-stop by her shop and she's only creating some patches and scarves similar (but less fancy) than the one I received during our show-and-tell at the school.

I'm hoping for some good data on Luna's display of the night sky. It was absolutely amazing to watch. Funny thing is: When she made a show of 'raising' the moon, an alarm in the Raven went off. Well, to be exact, it was the SDD Wake Proximity Alert. Which is odd, because the sweep alert only goes off if the sensor is in the area of an imminent subspace displace

[LOG TERMINATED]


MISSION LOG:
SUPPLEMENTAL

FIVE POINT ONE SEVEN GIGAHERTZ!

That’s 5.17 x10^9 Hertz!

That's... That's it. That's SO. IT.

It makes sense. ALL OF IT! It's SDD Dynamics 101! You guys all know how the mechanics behind the SDD work. Each displacement requires an amount of power that is proportional to both mass and distance displaced per cycle. We found when we first invented the drive that the energy consumption of the system goes up linearly as mass increases, but exponentially as the displacement distance rises. To get around it, it was decided that a distance of a few thousand km repeated rapidly enough could keep control on the power requirements. Theoretically, if you could keep the distance down to just a few kilometers, or even meters or centimeters, you could create a full reaction-less engine that could run off chemical batteries so long as the cycle could be repeated fast enough.

That's what she's doing! THAT is how Princess Heaven can move a STAR! I just didn't think about it because current SDD technology can't be cycled faster than a hundred thousand Hertz. But she CAN! It's the microwave background the sun emits! Or rather, the number of times the sun is shifted in a second. It explains the non-existent dynamo activity, and the up-swing in the frequency when she speeds it up for the dramatic sunrises and sunsets.

If I do some back-of-the-napkin math on the numbers, the amount of energy needed to displace the sun a reasonable distance needed to keep it in an apparent 'orbit' around the planet comes out to the output of a small fusion reactor. Given pony magic and the nearly arbitrary connections it has with many things, Princess heaven could either be producing that directly, or she has an energy feedback loop with the star providing her with the energy needed to move it around.

This...

THIS IS INCREDIBLE!

I'm going to go run the data through the computer and see if I can make some of the SDD simulator software model this! I don't care if I'm up all night!




*[Later translated by Twilight as: “I'm talking, but you never talk! Talk to me!”]

Author's Note:

Randolph's epiphany and finally getting a chapter out after a year has only one thing brought to my mind.

The hardest part of why this took so long is because this was slated as the archive where the final 'puzzle piece' had to fall in. The chapter had to have something simple enough for the audience to understand, complex enough not to be obvious, and connected to other 'clues' in the story to hit the 'SUDDENLY! I GET IT!' button believably. And that's all while trying to refine the pseudo-science so that it remains consistent for the story setting.

It's not easy. So as a micro-lesson, don't dis the writers of your favorite sci-fi shows when they fall apart in logic or consistency. I took a year, they get weeks at best.