• Member Since 18th Oct, 2014
  • offline last seen March 20th

Trick Question

Being against evil doesn't make you good.


Somepony is sabotaging Moondancer's research project.

Twilight Sparkle suspects Starlight Glimmer may be responsible. She enlists the Canterlot Royal Guard to protect Moondancer, and offers to help with her research.

Soon, however, the two ponies discover an unexpected side effect of Moondancer's research: one with dangerous consequences for all of Equestria—and possibly even their friendship.

Inspired by The Writeoff Association's "Out of Time" contest.

Now featured on Equestria Daily.

Chapters (14)
Comments ( 204 )

Good chapter, can't wait to see how you do this story proud.

Ooh, I never thought about the potential paradoxes that Twilight could cause by bringing Starlight back to the present with her. You definitely have my interest in the story.

Hah, when I read how Twilight held her cup, I first suspected the culprit would be human Twilight Sparkle stuck in Equestria.

Oooooh. I love me some time shenanigans, and the first-person Moondancer is a most enjoyable voice. This looks like it's going to be a great deal of fun.

Bravo! I love it! And our Moondancer is as sharp as any Noir Protagonist. :moustache:

I have made a few OC's that have come and gone. I'm going to start writing again, and this is practically begging a crossover. Not that You'll let me... But I like your Moondancer, I really do.

Technically, I published this story just before midnight on Sunday...

...which means chapter two appears today! Happy early Hearth's Warming, everypony! :pinkiehappy:

Good job on the story, keep up the good work.

Antimatter production and spells that allow symmetry breaking...

Yeah, I'd be worried too.

"It's okay, I like hearing you explain it," she insisted.

Kinky, Twilight.

"Exactly. That's because the field is absolute. Anything that would collapse the field automatically reverts the material inside of it to its previous state,"

Interesting. So magic is like physical type theory. ∀A. ∀B. λ(f : A -> B). λ(g : B -> A). id.

This comparison was in no way affected by my study interests.

Let's see... effective mystery, nice eager geekery, and the plot flows smoothly.

You've earned the Track and the Like! :pinkiesmile:

...now to see if the story can earn the Favorite. Rough guesstimate - the next two chapters, I hope?

Well, this is intriguing and more than a little worrisome. Also, I can't help but recall that antimatter is indistinguishable from normal matter traveling backwards in time...

Chapter three of dork-horse saga continues. :twilightsmile:


Before I get any further... I don't exactly want a repeat of my experience with Miss Sparkle, Psychopath. So is this going to be solvable with the evidence given to the reader? A fair-play mystery, in other words?

Another great chapter :heart::pinkiesmile::twilightsmile:

Disclaimer: this is intended to be a story, not a logic puzzle.

That said, I've gone to a lot of trouble to make all of the clues fit together. It should be possible for a reader to figure out what's happening in advance of many of the reveals. :twilightsmile:

(In other words, no, there won't be a cheap deus ex at the climax of the story.)

I used to have a bit of a thing for guards in general, but I grew out of it. I doubt I'd have enough in common with a guard to make it a realistic fantasy.

Every mare loves a stallion in uniform. It's just so... flashy. :coolphoto:

Ah yes, intellectual censor Celestia. Not something I'm usually fond of, but when dealing with threats to all of existence, I can understand her motivations.
Also, I do like the idea of Star Swirl optimizing the timeline, including scheduling all of the greatest threats to when there are heroes available to deal with them.

Oh hey, the thing I mentioned and clearly had an imperfect understanding of. Neat. Nice to know I can at least approach the level of thinking on display here.

I continue to be intrigued. Not sure where this is going, but looking forward to more.


I would say reality (which encompasses narratives, not excludes) is a logic puzzle, simply one far more complex than single humans can fully understand.

But thank you. With Miss Sparkle, I read the story believing it was something it wasn't, which... maybe hurt my enjoyment. That misbelief was possibly the point of the story, though I disagree with the actual point that Adda posited.

Early update this weekend. Enjoy your cliffhanger. :trollestia:

Ah, the stick, that most fundamental of scientific instruments, especially in a species that lacks fingers. It's sweet that Moondancer kept a souvenir of that day. A bit worrisome that it's the bludgeon she nearly used to clock Twilight, but sweet all the same.

I can definitely sympathize with Moondancer's social situation. Being around people can be very hard work.

I was stunned, and resolved to stop prejudging ponies so much—I never would have pegged Sassy Saddles for a yellow.

I'm definitely missing something here.

I suspect I know what happened with the dress, but I'm not totally certain. Definitely looking forward to the next installment.

Sassy Saddles has a yellowish magic aura, like Princess Celestia. Anything beyond that remains unspoken here.

Moondancer is definitely still struggling with her asocial tendencies. Plus, for somepony who values her rational mind, she's awfully quick to judge ponies for shallow and superficial reasons.

This weekend's update was missed due to the holidays. Updates will resume on January 3rd.

What is the story that won the contest?

Which contest, the Out of Time contest? That would be horizon's entry, but the link is to the rough draft because he hasn't revised it for Fimfiction yet.

If you were asking which one of my stories won a Writeoff, that would be this one over here, which won the "A Matter of Perspective" competition.

The mystery deepens. Who gains from this? What's really going on? Is Starlight even involved? Eagerly looking forward to the next installment.

Ohhh my. I don't begrudge you for needing to take some time off from the site, but you are an evil, evil person for leaving this story on such a cliffhanger. All the more reason to look forward to your return.

I never would have pegged Sassy Saddles for a yellow

This one line spawned an entire headcanon, where magic of higher-energy colors takes more energy to produce, and that lavendar violet unicorns are considered magically disabled. Twilight's cutie mark story becomes 10x more interesting.

Love it.

(I was already planning something with aura colors in another story.)

I have to skip this weekend's update due to Things Outside My Control, but a new chapter will be up no later than Saturday. :twilightsheepish: Sorry for the delays.

6836155 But...violet is the high-energy end of the visible spectrum.

Also, dammit Moonie, when are you going to figure out she wants you to put on some pants so she can get into them?!


But...violet is the high-energy end of the visible spectrum.

Not sure you thought that through? If magic of higher-energy colors takes more energy to produce, then a red-magic unicorn can cast more spells with the same reserves as a violet-magic unicorn, who can barely cast magic at all.

Another headcanon (optimizing for cruelty): Celestia is infrared, and Luna is ultraviolet.

6863059 I guess I see your reasoning there. But I'd still think that a red-color unicorn would be casting less powerful spells, even if they could cast more. You can power a red laser for a lot longer than a blue laser with the same amount of energy, but only the blue laser is going to be able to set anything on fire.


No, the light the magic gives off is an indirect effect. I'm not speaking in terms of the spells only producing certain colors, I'm talking about the aura.

One scheme for my intended theme: Say that the aura is a natural decay of thaumically-charged whatever. Particles, space, thaumons, whatever. The thaumic energy, whatever it is, decays into single-frequency photons with some probability. The aura and the intended spell are competing for energy, and when your aura is naturally violet, it is taking most of your energy. I don't really like this one because the energy difference between red and violet is not high enough for violet unicorns to be considered magically disabled; auras would have to be shining like crazy for them to compete for a significant amount of energy.

A second, better scheme for my intended theme is that the aura is an indicator for a causal parent that also affects the energy efficiency of thaumic conversion. A third is that an aura is an interference pattern in regions of thaumic flux (interesting consequence: thaumically charged regions cannot be made dark). The higher the flux, the higher the frequency of light. A unicorn's natural aura color is determined by how much thaumic flux they require in a region to be able to manipulate it magically. I prefer this one, because I can simply define the relation between aura frequency and necessary thaumic flux to be some high proportion, or even exponential if I want to be totally sadistic.


Should the relation be exponential, or is that being too psychotic to poor Twiley?

Accidentally hit Publish?

Mirror-image sugars I assume?

Oh. Oh dear. I think I get it. Everything got mirrored, from Twilight's cutie mark to her molecular chirality. Until she went through the antimatter chamber a second time, she was biochemically incompatible with everything in Equestria.

So yeah, not a safe means of time travel. Good thing Moondancer's on the case. If she only knew about same-sex relationships...

Unlike what Mass Effect would have you believe, L-glucose isn't actually toxic to organisms based on D-sugars. It still tastes sweet and it's only a mild laxative.

Even if you think you have things figured out, have faith in the geekery of the author. :twilightsmile:

If I haven't mentioned it before, the geekery is some of what I like most about this story.

"...I'll go get a guard detail. Two guards on the facility, twenty-four hours. Another two on your place," I said.

That last "I" should presumably be "she"?

Yes; thanks for the catch. Fixed.

Oh. Right-handedness. That's why it's called dextrose. I just got that. Now I'm kind of disappointed that L-glucose isn't called sinistrose.

In any case, as I thought, the problem was chiral mirroring. It will be interesting to see why and how the symmetry was broken. For now, though, Moondancer pulled through magnificently. Great work in establishing tension even when we knew the outcome; that's often a major failing of time travel stories, but you really made it work.

That has gotta hurt.

That was a fantastic read. I loved it very much. I only have two issues with it. 'Right hoofed' and 'left hoofed' instead of right handed and left handed. and the use of 'horsely' instead of 'hoarsely'. I'm not sure if you meant to put a pun there but it made me groan and pulled me out of the scene. Other than that I really enjoyed it even though some of the physics stuff is a little beyond my ability to comprehend. OK a lot beyond me lol but I love how you write Moondancer <3 .

Fixed the hoofedness, thanks for the catch.

"Horsely" was intentional, even though nopony seems to like that one except for me. :derpytongue2:

7004389 It's not super bad or anything just a teensy bit of a stumble. :)

(Spoiler warning for all passers-by who are only checking the comments to decide if they should read the story!)

The sabotage at the beginning of the story was clearly Future-Twilight's doing. Why? Because it was the reason why Moondancer invited her to join the project in the first place. Closed loop. :derpytongue2:

Now, as for the current chapter...

Hmm... If we're dealing with an unstable timeloop, then ... it's a miracle that the universe we're observing is one where a Future-Twilight arrived to save her past self. :derpyderp1:

'Cause if some minor thing in this setup went wrong even the tiniest bit - and it looks like that's a real possibility here - there wouldn't be a living Twilight that could go back to give past-Moondancer instructions. :rainbowderp:

Unless there's a fail-safe...

In a timeline where Moondancer fails to save Twilight, she... steps into the time machine herself to save past-Twilight?

Although, given that there's already a future-Twilight that arrived in her timeline that failed to give the correct instructions, all that would achieve is to send Moondancer to a different timeline... One where there is only one Twilight, who might still die, and two Moondancers. So going back again after failure is actually a bad idea from Moondancer's perspective. So that'd be where the "loop" would terminate.

So... Oh, wait, it's actually not a miracle after all that Moondancer was able to save Twilight. Because statistically, there's only a single timeline where she fails to do so. Huh. Go figure. :rainbowhuh:

Incidentally, this makes me wonder how the "loop" started --- because if it isn't infinite, then it had to start somewhere, and because of a reason.

That reason wouldn't have been "because Future-Twilght said so", because there wouldn't be a Future-Twilight in the initial timeline.

Well, okay, the "reason" would obviously be for Moondancer to go back in time to save Twilight after she died. (She's clearly able to put together the pieces explaining why the medication had killed her, because we've seen her do it in the story-timeline.)

So "Moondancer 1" goes back in time to save "Twilight 2", succeeds, and............ then "Twilight 2" goes back to tell "Moondancer 3" she has to save "Twilight 3"? Why?

"Moondancer 1" already saved a Twilight. (Although now she has to "share" with "Moondacer 2".) Plus, if "Twilight 2" went back in time, she'd abandon both of them for "Moondancer 3".

So why go back again? :twilightoops:

Of course, I may be wrong. Maybe the loop is actually stable, but "oscillating" between different states, none of which cause Twilight to die, but to deliver an alternating message each time she goes back.

...This is fun! Wheeeee! :pinkiehappy:


This whole story feels like the glimpses I got of the movie "Primer". Though I haven't actually seen it, I've heard it "doesn't hold the viewer's hand" and "involves a lot of physics explanations" regarding its time travel mechanics. :derpytongue2:

Didn't expect an update to come so soon, but great job anyways. It's hilarious how Moondancer still has not completely figured out Twilight's feelings for her.

Login or register to comment