• Published 10th Dec 2020
  • 3,947 Views, 372 Comments

No Longer Alone - NoLongerSober

Sass, science, and surviving shipping! Postage paid! The gruff captain put a certain pegasus professor to the test and learned that she just couldn’t quit. Now come the hard parts: an actual relationship and maybe a villain or two.

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Chapter 27 - Integrals

Digging into her second muffin of the day, Tail retained her place of refuge in the princesses’ private study. Celestia had left the physicist to her own devices. At least, that’s what the diarch opted to do after gleaning as much information as she could regarding Barrier’s surprise at Pop’s Place. Now, with that hurdle finally cleared, Tail could turn her attention to her original checklist for the day.

She retrieved the brown envelope from her saddlebag and carefully extracted the contents. The pegasus expected the onslaught of cursive hornwriting that neatly covered every available space on the parchment. What Tail did not expect to receive was a sleeved recorded single. “Explains the padded envelope,” she mumbled while setting the vinyl off to her side before she fully turned her focus to the note itself.

Dear Tail,

Thank you for being such an amazing sister, and thank you for opening up your home and life to me in a whole new way. Maybe it’s weird to hear this from a younger brother, but I am so incredibly proud of you. You just blow my mind all the time with how cool you are — and how you’re willing to keep a promise you made when I was four.

SincyStar still sounds amazing, and I continue to really dig the bite. In fact, I snuck in some time to drop a demo track of that song of yours using the best invention ever. That’s what the record is, by the way. Barley sat in to lay down some drums and bass, and I took the synthesizer and backup guitar parts. I left the main lick line open for you to play over though. Just in case you want to jam along on L.L. Maybe we can rock it out when I come back to Canterlot for the Gala — since I obviously think that you revelling in your musical side is dreamy.

Sorry for the pause — or if my writing looks worse from here on out. I had to put on the shades for this bit. Since your dreamy music is related to a certain stallion, this seems like the perfect moment to segue. An overnight postcard arrived yesterday from Mom “breaking” the news about you seeing a guy. No! I did not spill the beans early this time! Won’t deny that I wanted to. Barrier seems like a radical stallion, and if he makes you happy, which he obviously does, then I’m a happy bro.

I’ll be even happier if you write back to tell me he did the forget-me-not thing. Please tell me he did the forget-me-not thing! Seriously, pick up a quill right now and let me know. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, then I’ll still think he’s a cool champ. But if he did it, then the colt is 5Head for listening to the sibling-based market research on what makes a Tail tick.

See you in a few weeks!

Love always,
Sincerity Chain

Tail giggled as she tucked the letter and record back into the padded envelope. Shaking her head at the collection of words, Tail placed Dr. Secret’s notebook next to her own. “That stallion is such a dork,” she rambled, flipping ahead about a dozen pages in the tome of information, “and what in Tartarus is 5Head? Is he tripping on modern slang again?”

Whatever the case, Tail’s battle resided less with her brother’s mannerisms and more with Dr. Secret’s story. The pegasus located the spot where she stopped reading during her previous visit and immediately resumed where she had left off.

I don’t want to limit myself when it comes to pondering potential applications of the divergence proportionality condition, but I must admit that I keep gravitating towards the theoretical implications instead. Our entire scale for measuring magic is gauged against the magical output of an alicorn — namely Callie for obvious reasons — but the unit is frankly bullshit. It’d be like basing the kilogram on an arbitrary mass housed in some random glass jar. We’ve grown implicit in just accepting it as norm that her celestial powers are a maximum constant in the Universe — in the same way we do for the speed of light. If my k-designators are true constants, that worldview is gone — and no offense, Callie, if you read this, but it probably should be.

This mathematical framework offers explanations for so many oddities in our lives. Earthpon coupling — the alpha-field. Why a unicorn horn has a spiral — the relation between the casting and auguric vectors. Cutie marks might even be buried in here, and yet there are still things that just feel out of reach. I really would like to tie the curl of the magic field to that of the electric. All the hints are there. It would make the auguric analogous to the magnetic, and I could sleep easy at night. I think the practical applications here would also be far more amusing…

“Analogous to the magnetic?” Tail questioned aloud if she had read that correctly. Her sights wandered to the beginning of the paragraph, and upon reading it again, she reiterated, “Analogous to the magnetic.”

The physicist snatched one of her lavender feather quills, opened her notebook to the first page, and inked the tip of her pen. She started her own musings by writing in the primary expressions from Dr. Secret’s journal, and her lips curled into a sly smile as she penned her book’s title: Catty Cover: From Section W to the Bullet Flash.

With a snap of her wrist, she flipped to the second page the instant she thought that the ink on the first was dry. Her eyes sparkled under the light that seeped in through the stained glass dome, and her hoof scrambled to convey the inspiration that had kindled the seed of an idea.

In the spirit of Dr. Secret’s ruminations on the mathematical descriptions of magical phenomena, may this journal provide additional insight through the likely oversimplification and over-trivialization of extremely complex methods — in a similar vein to every physics grad student’s “favorite” author.

The author of this particular manuscript can definitively state that a practical test of the divergence proportionality condition (Eq. 1) conducted by a pegasus (in this case, me) demonstrated a highly correlated effect with respect to a unicorn’s spell (namely that belonging to the Captain of the Royal Guard).

I’ll likely write more on this in the future, but for now, I’d like to focus on something raised by Dr. Secret himself. What if I assume that there is a curl proportionality condition between the magic and electric fields as well?

Tail began sketching several loops onto the piece of paper as she mindlessly toyed with her bottom lip. “So what happens if I’m looking at it all wrong and it’s not like the Bullet Flash? I can’t just overwhelm the local magic field by hard ramping on the auguric. Well, I am still ramping because time derivatives exist, but using that principle as the fundamental mechanic to counter Trigger probably gets busted right off the bat.”

The pegasus hovered over one of her doodles of two stacked field rings, and she carefully drew in her expectation for how the lines of the auguric field would behave in that scenario. “‘Analogous to the magnetic field,’ you say, Dr. Secret?”

Suddenly, Tail’s eyes went wide. She sliced the diagram with a heavy arrow that mimicked how she had tackled Trigger’s shots. “That’ll never work because the auguric field can’t do work if it’s like the magnetic! The force’ll go as v-cross-A, and that’s why every time I saw no effect! I literally optimized everything to fail by default!”

Tail bounced as she made her way out onto the training yard. The muscles in her legs and chest still felt warm from her morning weightlifting session with Barrier, but after a fantastic lunch, she also felt primed and pumped for another chance at unlocking Trigger’s sorcery.

“Ya look pretty energetic today, Flicker,” the creature of reverie remarked as he strolled alongside the physicist. “I’m startin’ to get the sensation that ya might have tapped into an impressive dream. Does that mean I should expect some experimentin’?”

Beaming in the afternoon sunlight, Tail tossed a sidelong glance to Trigger. “I spent yesterday in a library, Colonel, and we both figured out what that meant when it came to Captain Armor. In my professional opinion, you should expect this afternoon’s science to reveal just how much ass I intend to kick.”

“Heh, I like it. A little feist never hurt anypony,” the stallion grunted as he sized up the metal-clad mare. “So what are ya gonna try today? Will it be boostin’ your shit to six rings, or are ya planning to give me somethin’ new and interestin’ to watch?”

Tail swished her namesake and replied, “Interesting and semi-new—more of a refresh, really. I’m still going to be using the field rings, but my testing methodology has changed. I’d like to make a few trial runs against single spells if that’s alright. Doesn’t really fit the combat realism portion of the training, but verifying that I’m on the right track would be useful.”

“It’s fine with me. B.C.T. was the place to tear your ass down and build ya back up anyway. Way past that point now.” Trigger’s horn began to glow as he came to a halt, and his gaze quickly narrowed on Tail while she marched to her normal spot on the pitch. “Just let me know when and where.”

Full breaths filled Tail’s lungs as she paced out the ten meters from Trigger’s post. She spun around to face the powerful mage, firmly planted her hind hooves against the dirt, and reared up. Flapping her wings to maintain balance, the scientist outstretched her forelimbs and started guiding water vapor towards her glimmering gauntlets.

As soon as the twin tufts appreciably formed between Tail’s limbs, the tiny cloud constructs began to spin. The transition from white fluff balls—to powdery donuts—to black streamlined toroids occurred swiftly, leaving the flier with two rings ready to handle her lightning charge. She didn’t wait to seed the electrical current either, and soon enough, the darkness surrendered to vibrant golden halos.

“Alright,” Tail called after she nudged the sparking bands into orientations that kept the second dimension of the loops hidden from Trigger. For all intents and purposes, the physicist had created the auguric equivalent of a Toptimbertz coil, and now, she was ready to put it to the test. “Whenever you’re ready, please launch one of them between my forelegs. Target somewhere on my breastplate, I guess.”

Trigger aimed his horn by tilting his head downward and fired a salvo. Creating a pressure wave that pushed the blades of grass beneath it, the sizzling amber pulse sprinted across the yard.

In a heartbeat, Tail felt the shot slam and shatter against her protected chest. She stumbled a few steps but managed to maintain her upright position thanks to some quick work from her wings. “Ugh,” she groaned in defeat as rising frustration shaped the scowl that pursed her brow. The first observation that made it through Tail’s mental processing was the fact that she hadn’t stopped Trigger’s attack whatsoever. “Still not enough…”

However, as more data slipped into her awareness, Tail realized that this experiment had ended quite differently than the others. For starters, Trigger’s spell had pushed her forelegs apart instead of simply ghosting her defenses, and—unlike all of the previous efforts—Tail still held two swirling disks of lightning at the ends of said limbs. They didn’t shatter this time?

“Another!” Trigger barked before a second round erupted from his horn.

Yanked from her internal gearbox, Tail snapped her sights to the stallion. She scrambled, attempting to clap her hooves together around the blistering bolt. In the instant the assault snuck through her appendages, Tail could have believed that she had squeezed a slick, invisible stress ball as opposed to completely whiffing on Trigger’s magical aura.

The crack of a third volley bursting upon Sally’s golden contours immediately followed. Tail staggered away again, but the defensive arrangement held. The pegasus had not lost her weather magic, and she had undoubtedly sensed something that had not been detected during the first two sessions with Trigger.

Nevertheless, Tail huffed in the wake of her body taking those blows. Her forelegs burned from the strains and stresses generated by both her cloudcrafting and Trigger’s firepower. A dull throbbing repeatedly pinged the nerves in the scientist’s neck, and her eyes ravenously ensnared the rays of the sun to craft a blazing, determined reflection.

Tail snorted and glared down her black-coated nemesis. Calculations flashed across her imagination as she replanted her hind legs in the dirt and braced for another attack. You feel a force, Tail. It’s doing something. Why isn’t it enough? Too fast? Not enough field strength? A whole lot of both?

The stream of thoughts surrendered the floor once Tail noticed that Trigger was not making a move to launch a fourth strike. Her rear limbs quivered as they supported her mass, and her jaw clamped shut while the swirl of anticipation, dissatisfaction, and contemplation took over. “You’re standing there for an awfully long time, Colonel!” she roared, waving her forelegs in an effort to keep them loose.

In a blink, the mage vanished from Tail’s field of view. Exhaling after the abrupt disappearance, Tail swiveled her head from left to right to check if Trigger was trying to pull a fast one on her, but he was nowhere to be seen on her flanks.

“Eeep!” the pegasus shrieked as a droning vibration arced from her field rings to her legs. She tumbled backwards from Trigger manifesting just outside of her hoof’s reach—and would have hit the ground if not for the creature of reverie’s magical intervention.

“Ya know, Flicker, I really like this one. I don’t know why ya got all scowly on me. All I’ve got to do is look at the data to see progress. Right off the bat, the fuckin’ things aren’t shattering after one hit, which is a pretty big plus when it comes to a fight. Probably less of a burden on ya, too, since ya don’t have to recast ‘em every damn time. Then, there’s the whole part where I was aiming here”—he lightly pressed his forehoof to the star medallion that decorated the armor—“but the first shot hit here.”

Tail’s ears wavered to the metallic scraping sound that accompanied Trigger moving his hoof a few centimeters towards the ground.

“And the second and third ones hit here.” A toothy grin dominated the stallion’s expression as he dragged his hoof downward. “So ya definitely did somethin’. If they were a little out in front of ya though, it’d buy some more time. Also, ya can make two pairs already, so ya probably should. It’s fuckin’ calculus. As the physics horses say, integrate that shit.”

“What?” the mare blurted, gaping at Trigger through dilated pupils. Her feathers ruffled, and the set of weather-casts dissipated while she pondered his peculiar diction. “Did you just tell me to integrate that shit?”

“Yeah, it’s like ya got a piece of that particle trap thing, but it ain’t complete or tuned yet. What the fuck does Wing call it?” Trigger clicked his tongue in thought. “Synchrotron? Yeah, definitely synchrotron. Honestly, that’s what ya should call this maneuver. The Synchrotron Flicker, a name that’s badass, and everyone at the Phoenix Fire will know who helped make it.”

Tail finally managed a blinking reaction before Trigger’s magic guided the mare onto all fours.

“But, once again, ya found a great path we can take by just bein’ yourself. Let’s see if ya can throw the fuckers. If ya can chuck ‘em and keep control, there’ll be a greater deflection distance by the time the shot gets to ya.” Snickering, Trigger turned around to trot back to his original shooting spot. However, before doing so, the mage glanced over his shoulder towards the pondering pegasus to offer one additional bit of wisdom. “And, uh, third thing, Flicker. Your rings gave ya a spook before I teleported in, right? Might want to, I dunno, look into that shit too.”

Author's Note:

More lessons from Trigger on this Tuesday afternoon. As always, thank you for your continued time, readership, comments, likes&subscribes#lol! I'd normally focus on my feelings with this chapter, but Trigger & Tail can speak for themselves. There is something even more pressing when it comes to today! It's Sober's Orbit Day. So to my coauthor -- to one of my closest and best friends -- Happy Bday my guy. Enjoy some cake and/or something equally delicious.

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