• Published 13th May 2016
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Friendship is Sufficiently Advanced - Cordial Nova

A first-in scout from the Associated Worlds investigates a very odd star system.

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VI. The Importance of Pants

The Carousel Boutique, earlier that morning

Rarity sighed. She had spent much of the night studying the clothing Twilight had sent over, with a frustrating lack of results. While it had been easy enough to piece together the rough shape of the alien garment, the fabric wasn't like any she'd seen before. It was stretchy, like elastic, a clear white with a faint silvery pattern of hexagons running beneath the surface and a spongy, slippery lining. While the hospital ponies had not found the seams, and had cut it apart in in removing it, her designer's eye had easily found the hidden spot at the neck that opened a seam from shoulder to hip, the fabric subtly unweaving itself only to rejoin into a single piece when pressed together.

Other parts, though, made little or no sense. Why was there a weave of fine metal threads woven into the middle of the fabric? What was the function of the soft, almost fluid blobs sewn into the joints of the forelegs, at the juncture of the hindquarters, high on the front and low at the back? Why did the fabric twitch on its own sometimes, especially at the touch of her field? It was maddening.

No, Rarity could not repair it.

On the other hand, she had an exquisite organza, imported from the qilin lands beyond Zebrica, one in which one silken thread in every gross was wrapped in fine golden foil. That might work. Not for something tight-fitting, like this one, but one, or two parts made to fit the same shape. And she could transfer the ornaments and embroidery from the old to the new...

Seizing carbon and paper, the unicorn began to hum as she sketched out possible designs.

Outside, shortly thereafter

“You’re attracting a lot of attention doing that!”

Cordelia looked over at her companion, eyebrow raised.

“More than the usual hairless alien biped walking through town wearing a bed sheet?”

“You’re not walking. You’re floating. And glowing,” Twilight said evenly.

“Lots of ponies have been floating or making things glow on the way here, so it can’t be that unusual.” Cordelia sighed. “I’m not trying to be difficult, Twilight Sparkle, but I’ve spent more than half a year under less than an eighth standard gravity (1), and I’ve got no shoes to wear. Walking on cobblestone hurts.”

1. Being a relatively small starship, the Aval Cyprium-class microscout’s habitat wheels spin only just fast enough to provide a down direction and simplify the plumbing.

Actual gravity-manipulation technology is reserved for the much more important task of inertial damping – which, since it is only required when the main drive is in use, is much friendlier to the ship’s energy budget.

“They’re that soft?”

“Only because they’ve not had to bear my weight for that long, but yes. It’s” – Cordelia chuckled – “well, I’d say it’s like trying to walk everywhere on your hands, but that metaphor’s probably not going to stand up. As it were. Anyway, aren't we here?”

Twilight pushed open the door, and entered, Cordelia following behind her, drifting down and settling into the thick carpeting with a sigh of relief. “Rarity?”

Over Twilight’s head, Cordelia could see another unicorn, her coat so white it practically glowed in the dimmer light within the building, and with mane and tail of rich purple elaborately styled in a series of curves; and around her, the tools of her art; mirrors, ponyquins, bolts of fabric, screens, sewing tools placed to hand – or to hoof. Aesthant (2), Cordelia thought, and no mere apt.

“Welcome to the Carousel Boutique, where everything is chic, unique, and magnifi – Ah, good morning, Twilight! And you must be our visitor from the stars?” Rarity extended a hoof, which Cordelia bowed over, the precise 30 degrees of respect-from-a-professional-to-an-acknowledged-Excellence.

2. One of the eldraeic darëssef (major social-functional groupings), whose care is beauty. See https://eldraeverse.com/2014/02/23/the-daressef/ .

“So I’m called, indeed. It is an honor and pleasure to meet you,” Cordelia fumbled briefly for a generic title, “Lady Rarity”.

“So courteous! But just ‘Rarity’ would be fine, and I shall call you Moongleam, if I may?”

“Oh, certainly.”

A cough from Twilight interrupted the conversation. “So, Rarity, did you have any thoughts on clothing for her?”

“Oh, I have so many ideas,” the white unicorn trilled. “But first,” she continued, balancing her orange pince-nez on her muzzle, and leading the group over to the table where Cordelia’s former clothing had been dismantled, “you must tell me about this extraordinary fabric. And,” she made a moue, “is this typical of your clothing? It doesn’t seem to be, ah –“

“It’s not ugly, but it fails to have any other aesthetic qualities either?” Cordelia suggested.

“Well, I’d never put it quite like that, but… yes.”

“Sorry. But it’s fair to say – that was an emergency survival suit, designed to be tough and quick to don, and not for much else. That’s why it’s so elastic – to keep it skin-tight when there’s vacuum outside. Those dark blobs fill in all the hollows and crannies of the body so you don’t end up swelling to fit it.”

“And the geometric pattern isn’t just for decoration?”

“It lets all the – well, it’s got to keep you alive in hostile conditions, so there’s a lot of technology incorporated into it. It’s more like a very flat machine than actual fabric. That little mesh lets the different parts of the suit talk to each other. But,” Cordelia continued, “however intriguing it may be…”

(Twilight, at this point, being engrossed in poking at the material with her field, observing how the blobs conformed slowly to any pressure, and the fabric itself twitched in response to the field’s mere presence.)

“…not really my kind of clothing. Really, I’m dreadfully short of anything suitable to wear – even if my quarters are intact after the crash, all that’s in them is a dress uniform for particularly formal occasions and a suit of light field armor which – although it does come with a rather dashing cloak – isn’t really friendly enough to wear about town (3). Neither would qualify as any sort of couture.”

3. Originally, of course, she also had a self-cleaning shipsuit for on-board wear. The procedures for donning an emergency survival suit, however, do not include taking the time to remove your clothing in any sort of fashion that would let you put it on again afterwards.

“Not a problem at all, darling, that’s what I’m here for! I’ve made some preliminary sketches based on the idea of your shape that your suit gave me. Perhaps you can tell me what you think?” Rarity’s magic pulled a wide sheet of paper from the back of the workroom, and spread it out in front of Cordelia.

Cordelia gazed at the designs, carefully refraining from laughing even slightly at the interesting notion of her head Rarity must have got from Twilight’s note. That aside, she thought, the designs were impressive. The first one was the simplest: a close-fitting single-breasted tunic and trousers with silk slippers for her feet made up the ensemble. The second moved further away from the suit’s example, with a loose blouse and flowing skirt – presumably based upon adapted local fashion, Cordelia thought – replacing them, while the third was a variation on the second adding multilayered embellishment and ornament to the design.

“These are positively magnificent, Rarity!” Cordelia said, glancing up in time to see the unicorn’s nervous expression vanish swift as morning mist. “I don’t know how I’d be able to choose between them.”

“I’m so happy to hear that!” Rarity clapped her front hooves together in glee. “So now I just need to take your measurements, and we can get you out of that rag…”

One hour later

Rarity, Cordelia concluded as she stood behind one of the Boutique’s movable screens, was very good at her job, and especially the parts of it that involved attention to detail. Unfamiliar with the eldrae’s anatomy she might have been, especially when it came to digits – although, Cordelia would think in retrospect, Spike at least had analogous body parts – but the unicorn didn’t let that stop her for even a second. Cordelia had never been measured quite so thoroughly.

Although quite what use the length and diameter of every one of her toes would be was something of a mystery…

Two hours after that

Cordelia gazed into the full-length mirror and preened.

The past two hours had passed quickly, first in watching Rarity at work – it had proven fascinating to both watch and feel with her kinetic sense the expert way the designer split her attention, expertly manipulating thread, fabric, and tools in an aerial ballet of virtuoso needlework – and when that palled (or, she admitted to herself, when she made herself stop watching lest it be perceived as impolite), in a continuing discussion with Twilight contrasting weather control by satellite versus weather control by pegasus (4), tempered by the occasional annoyed glance from Rarity when enthusiasm for their subject overpowered their mutual volume control.

4. Along with some inevitable speculation about using the two together, and the adding of “Visit to Cloudsdale” to the revised checklist.

Even had they passed with miserable slowness, however, Cordelia decided, it had been worth it. Her new tunic and trousers fitted her perfectly. The green silk with its tiny golden glints harmonized with the red-gold of her mane – hair, she reminded herself, hair – beautifully. And the whole ensemble felt much nicer against the skin than the sheet did, not least because she felt fully clothed again.

She turned to Rarity, clasped her hands in front of her, and bowed slightly. “It’s perfect. I am most deeply indebted.”

“You don’t need to worry about that.” Rarity hoof-waved that thought away. “You offered me an interesting challenge, and I’m more than happy to help.”

“I really must –” Cordelia began.

“Moongleam. They are a gift. I insist –”

“Pardon me, but – it is my mélith, my… balance-of-self. I cannot perceive rightness in myself if I do not return generosity for generosity. It is,” Cordelia paused, thinking of a good translation, “instinct-and-custom-like-law. I must.”

The two unicorns looked at each other.

“Well, if you absolutely insist, maybe you could make some sketches for me of fashions from your world?” Rarity primped her mane. “A designer is always on the lookout for new sources of inspiration.”

“I’d be delighted so to do,” Cordelia replied, relieved. “I might even be able to do one better. If my library survived the crash, I can dig you up some books and such on the –”

“You have a library on your ship?” Twilight interrupted.

“Certainly. I never go anywhere without one.”

Amethyst eyes widened. “We have to go and make sure that’s safe.”

“Wasn’t lunch the next thing on the checklist?” Cordelia asked. “I’m really quite peckish from all the body-flying (5), and it’s not as if it’s going anywhere -”

5. Slang for “using psychokinesis to fly”. The trick is not to try to lift yourself; conservation of momentum will not be your friend. Instead, you stay still and push the ground away.

In this ‘verse, at least, one presumes this is also how Starlight Glimmer’s self-levitation works.

“But we don’t know what state the library’s in now. There could have been smoke, or water damage, or, or…” Twilight’s pupils and the surrounding irises had shrunk almost to pinholes, and one eyelid twitched. “…broken spines. Save the books first, lunch later!” Cordelia abruptly found herself surrounded by the sparkly lavender glow of Twilight’s field, and lifted gently into the air. “Thanks for all your help, Rarity! Got to go!”

“Wait, it’s not-”

And with a mid-sentence flash of purple light, they vanished.