• Published 14th Jun 2012
  • 9,336 Views, 179 Comments

Mare Genius - Samarkand



Agatha Heterodyne comes to Equestria

  • ...
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Nesting Instinct

"Kinda, huh, chunky," Gilda said, gasping a bit. "You might want to lay off the hay fries."

Agatha bit back the urge to snap back at the griffon's remarks about her robust figure. There was no sense in alienating the sole halfway-friendly person she had found in this world. In truth, Gilda had put herself to some trouble. Her aerie was a cave several meters above the ground with no path leading up to it. The griffon had had to fly Agatha up clutched between her front legs. She noted in the back of her mind that Gilda was very strong, and that there was no way out of her home that didn't involve a dangerous plunge. A bit of Krosp's cynicism had rubbed on on her after two months.

The cave was much better appointed than she had expected. Gilda lit several candles placed in niches in the cave wall. The candles didn't have the distinctive scent of tallow. If this world were dominated by ponies, Agatha guessed they would choose beeswax or some sort of plant extract over rendered fat. More importantly, Gilda lit the candles with matches. There were other signs of technology: an iron stove in one corner, rough yet serviceable wooden furniture with nails, and an icebox. The huge nest at the back of the aerie had fluffy pillows and a cheery white-and-red checked blanket. It was further evidence that this world wasn't primitive. It had science.

There was a chance she could find a way home.

Her stomach rumbled.

One amenity Gilda's home lacked was a water closet. Rushing to the cave mouth, Agatha suffered the consequences of a herbivore eating most of a rabbit. Gilda handed her a mug full of water after the assault on her digestive system was finished. Clumsily, Agatha held it between her forehooves as she drank. The earthenware cup had a quite human handle. It was of a piece with the oddities in the furniture: it wouldn't have been out of place in a Europan peasant's home. One might have thought a society of intelligent animals would have built things differently. Agatha was able to sit comfortably enough while Gilda roasted sausages in a skillet. It turned out they were vegetarian, though well-spiced with pepper and salt. Gilda ate with knife and fork. She didn't bat an eye when Agatha tucked in sans utensils.

Hands. Oh, this would be a problem!

"So what are you doing out here?" Gilda asked.

"I just woke up in a valley not far away," Agatha said, before cautiously grasping an opened bottle on the table in her mouth. "mmmppphh...nnnphhhh...verdamnt!"

"Wow, you're like a three-day-old cub," Gilda said. "Complete spaz."

"'Spaz' as in 'spasm'?" Agatha mopped up the spill with a napkin. "Ach, danke."

"Donkey? Where?"

"Very funny." Agatha sighed at Gilda's confusion. "Sorry. It means 'thank you' in one of my native languages."

"So you're an egghead, huh?" Gilda snapped up another sausage. "I didn't think those could buck stallions so hard they never wished they were born."

"Where I come from, you learn to be quick. Or dead."

"Weird hearing a pony say the D-word." Gilda flicked a talon dismissively. "Most of them are goody horse-shoes. So, a smarty-pants."

"I'm a scientist," Agatha said. "I make things, if I have the tools and can learn how to use them with these ridiculous things on the end of my legs."

"Don't have anything like that here." Gilda paused. "Only places near here that've have stuff like that is Canterlot or Ponyville. I get it. You probably want to head out to be with the rest of the lame-o's."

Gilda preened her feathers as if nonchalant, but Agatha had seen that expression before.

She has worn it much of her life, before finding her friends.

"I couldn't enjoy better company," she replied, "while I get my hooves under me."

"No pressure." Gilda shrugged. "Don't mind if you want to hang for a while."

"Well, I should pay back your hospitality somehow," Agatha said, noting that "hang" in this context meant socializing rather than execution. "I don't see a piano about. At least I can tell some stories from my homeland, if you're interested."

"This isn't going to be sappy fairytale stuff, right?" Gilda sounded more disgusted than when Agatha's pipes had been backing up.

"Minimal sap. Unless you object to tales of high adventure."

"You don't say?" Gilda grabbed a book on an empty stool with her tail. "I love the Daring Do series. Get a new one every time I visit Cloudsdale."

"Something like this, yes." Agatha hesitantly flicked the pages with the pointy front edge of a hoof. These creatures had printing presses and books. Libraries... "Let me tell you a tale about the Heterodyne B--Colts."

"This had better not be stupid."

"Trust me."

+++

"Gilda?" Agatha looked down from the table where she had assumed a dramatic pose.

White feathers were all that were visible from where the griffon had hidden behind her nest.

"Ach, I forgot I really get into the role sometimes," Agatha said, hoof to face.

"Are you nuts? Don't stop!" Gilda popped up, golden eyes wide in wonder. "That was sheer, complete, Sonic Rainboom with an Immelman finish cool! I have to hear the end of it!"

Agatha smiled. If she had to be Sheherazade again--

"One cannot be corrupted by science, and science alone is my master."

++++

Assume wingspan is approximately 1.5 meters--

The chalk between her front teeth scraped over the cave wall.

--weight estimated at 140 kilograms, based on what can be recalled from encyclopedia entries back home of similar examples of genus Panthera, although Gilda's avian characteristics may include hollow bones--

The rock was covered with calculations, free-hoof mechanical diagrams, and stranger things.

--must ask if there are any anatomical models of her species for examination of skeletal structure and muscle arrangement, the combination of avian and feline morphology must be fascinating--

Hooves flicked the beads of an abacus.

--starting figures are likely wildly inaccurate, but based on my assumptions, the lifting force a griffin can produce in order to fly a pony weighing mumble straight up for a distance of five meters is--

The figure that emerged at the end of a calculation that took of a square half-meter of rock made no sense. If Gilda was capable of that much lift with her wings, then her chest muscles would be roughly the size of Castle Wulfenbach. Ordinary scientists would have sat down and wept at the impossibility. Agatha didn't. The phenomenon existed. Therefore, a theory explaining it could be made once enough observations and variables were factored in. She already had several hypotheses. Unicorns were apparently capable of telekinesis. Griffons might have that ability in some form--mass reduction, gravitic manipulation, amazing potential--that didn't manifest as an aura.

As once was said, a bumblebee couldn't possibly fly under then-current aerodynamic models. Which had lead to several Sparks creating clockwork half-living bumblebee clankstructs, much to the regret of everyone when the inevitable weaponization occured. The Apiary Wars of 1811 had been one of the less pleasant periods during the Long War. The honey produced had been inedible, though some interesting plant species had arisen as the bees had obeyed synthetic pollen-gathering instincts.

"Whoa." Gilda blinked sleepily, head rising from her pillow. "What the hay is that?"

"Some time-wasting." Agatha gestured at the table. "I helped myself to some of your breakfast things. I put the milk back into the icebox."

"Must have found my old school stuff." Gilda traced an exploded diagram. "This looks like one of those airships the Canterlot 'corns are making. They're just big balloons with boats or baskets hanging from them."

"You've developed non-rigid airship technology?" Agatha washed her mouth clean with a sip of milk. Note--invent fountain pens. Further note--invent hands. "We've had those for centuries in Europa. It was the Montgolfiers and De Roziere who perfected the first dirigible with internal framework."

"Is this--" Gilda peered closed. "Something about griffin claws and a saw and...sewing...needles..."

There was a significant pause in which Gilda edged ever so slightly towards the cave mouth.

"I don't conduct vitalism experiments on my friends." Agatha considered her words further. "Correction: I don't conduct unauthorized vitalism experiments on my friends unless they're in mortal danger, or random vitalism experiments at all unless on cadavers. So you won't be waking up to me with a saw in my mouth and a crazed smile."

There was a further stretch of silence.

"You have a clear line of escape." Agatha stepped clear. "I'll show myself out of you're too afraid to be near me."

"Fffffft. Like you're psyching me." Gilda fluffed her head feathers with talons that only shook a little. "Nice try, sister."

"Lucrezia Mongfish from the story was my mother," Agatha replied flatly. "She was a Spark, and not a nice one. So am I, though I hope I take after my father Bill instead."

Another long silence.

"So, did I pass the test," Gilda finally said, "by sticking around? Or fail by not flying off when I could?"

"Pass and fail." Agatha twisted a hoof in a halfway motion. "Sparks like me get somewhat obsessed when we become involved in our work. That leads to, er, a little bit of madness. Actually, a lot. If you hear me humming, don't interrupt. It's like interfering with a sleepwalker who might fly into a homicidal rage."

"Yeah, total fail," Gilda said. "Why are you telling me this?"

"You come across as arrogant and a potential bully," Agatha replied. "You also gave hospitality to a stranger in need. You may become a friend. If you'll be spending any time around me, this is what might happen."

Gilda narrowed her eyes. Then she screeched in wild laughter.

"You're seriously wacko, pony. But you're alright!"

++++

The important thing was to remember that Gilda could fly in defiance of known physics models.

Agatha jerked one of the ropes comprising the improvised flight harness a little tighter. She was sprawled on Gilda's back with hemp linking them at chest, belly, and haunches. Her four legs clamped tight around the griffon's leonine body, eliciting an annoyed grumble. Gilda's front talons scratched the cave floor. Her back paws propelled her from a crouch with the power a mundane lion would use to leap upon a gazelle. Air rushed, the bottom fell out of Agatha's stomach, feathers rustled as wings ended to their full span. Then they were out in the sunlight and flying.

So this was why Gil had been obsessed with heavier-than-air flight. Agatha grinned as her mount executed a deft bank no airship could do. The two of them spiraled up upon a thermal which brought them clear of the mountaintops. One could see for tens of kilometers all around. Below them was a mountain range mirrored by another, separated by a broad and fertile valley. Agatha could make out fields and houses and-- Ah, perfect! A town at the southern end of the valley at the edges of a great forest. A railway line ran along the eastern edge of the valley; a locomotive puffed far below, pulling a train. North was an even more impressive sight. A great city of white stone clung to a mountain at the northern mouth of the valley. It rose to a fairy-tale castle.

Glorious!

Gilda's wings flared as she landed upon a cloud high above the landscape. It sank a bit beneath her weight like a featherbed beneath a sleeper. Agatha waved a hoof through the apparently solid cloud. It was so much water vapour to her touch. Gazing about, she noticed other figures flying about the airspace. Her eyes widened behind her glasses. Ponies with improbably small wings actually pushing clouds about, they must be able to interact with clouds in some way. If they can manipulate clouds then they can affect meteorological conditions, ach look at that, a pegasus was bouncing on a black cloud to rain upon a field. Oooooo, her brain was spinning at the insanity this meant for this worlds physics. It also implied huge advantages in regards to agriculture and country-wide climate control--

A wing smacked the side of her head.

"That the humming I should be worried about?" Gilda asked. "Thought I'd smack some sense into you in case you stepped off. You'd fall right through and go splat if you did."

"You're learning," Agatha said, head swiveling like a devil dog seeking a target. "How do you do this?"

"Magic."

"Magic." Agatha frowned. "Is this 'magic in that we have no explanation and it works because it does', or is there a set of articulated theories--"

"Slow down, I was all about the practical in school," Gilda said. "Weren't kidding about being a nutty egghead. Anyway, magic's magic. Big force that lets sky creatures like us control the weather and stand on clouds, Princess Celestia make the sun rise, yadda yadda."

"Pardon me," Agatha said, "but are you implying this Celestia can actually telekinetically control the movements of a star?"

"Yeah, she used to do both sun and moon," Gilda said, "but then her sis Luna came back after a thousand years. Some kind of big fight between them. Luna's not evil anymore, so she's taking care of the night."

Wind whistled past them.

"Agatha?"

"I'm having a massive existential breakdown of my paradigms." Agatha was surprised that she was as calm as if hit by Cookie's nutmeg-laced pies. "Don't mind me. Oh, is that an entire city in the clouds over there? Quite impressive."

"That's Cloudsdale." Gilda shifted beneath her. "I better get you back to the lair before--oh, no!"

A sound akin to an engine's roar broke through Agatha's shock. Something blue flashed past them with a polychromatic light flaring in its wake. Gilda crouched in an attack posture. Verdamnt! This world seemed so peaceful. Was this creature a rival predator species of some kind? And her without a handy--er, hoofy--death ray. Mmmm, if and when she had a chance, working out the trigger and stock ergonomics could be tricky. The griffin snarled when it backwinged into a hover in front of them.

It was a pegasus. The sky-blue mare's mane and tail were tinted in the classic colour progression of a rainbow. Clan markings? Or natural hue? Up close, her wings were absurdly small to support a creature of her size and weight. The analytical portion of Agatha's mind calculated how much this magic would compensate for mass, aerodynamics, and velocity. The pegasus had streaked by incredibly fast. Faster perhaps than Gil's flyer, which had an engine which she still thought could be much more simplified once they had some free time. Odd markings on each flank at her hindquarters depicted a rainbow lighting bolt arcing down from a white cloud.

Cerise eyes glared at them hurt anger.

"Gilda."

"Raindork."

Agatha realized she was high above the ground, attached to a creature confronting another who had assumed a classic territorial-protection aggression response.

Uh-oh.