• Published 10th Dec 2020
  • 3,884 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 28 - Cady’s Closet

Tail peered down at the elegant ensemble that she had carefully rested atop her bed. Heart racing, the pegasus drew a paced breath to try to calm herself in the midst of such an outfit. She considered the white corset, embroidered with silvery hearts and a little lacy flair, over the top even for a wedding ceremony. How in the world did she have this for the Grand Galloping Gala?

Her sights drifted from the centerpiece to the set of powder-blue silk stockings, and her wings immediately stiffened. Tail could already imagine how the smooth fabric would feel wrapped around her limbs, and how snug they would be once all the white lacy garters properly anchored the garments. As flamboyant as it all was, the scientist’s stifled moan conveyed the desire that kept her feathers fanned. “I can’t wait to see what Barrier’s reaction will be…”

In true academic fashion, Tail had already prepared to record that information. Her personal journal had also been placed upon her mattress, and she had preemptively opened the book to a mostly empty page that was appropriately labelled Day 121. Despite the excitement swirling around that evening’s festivities, she couldn’t help but smile warmly at the cursive text that littered the adjacent leaf. The previous two weeks had been interesting.

“Academic Log, Day 110,” Tail narrated aloud as she deconstructed the testing setup on Workbench 8. “The Barrier-9 coils exceeded all of my expectations in the previous set of trials. Even when using B-Type and L-Type shells in the core, all components in this series hit the thirty-minute mark without incident—thanks entirely to the supreme auguric arts of a Magic Bear.”

“Heh, you sure you want to go with that description for me, Blanket?” Stepping towards the coat-wearing physicist, the unicorn bore a skeptical grimace. “I was also responsible for the dozens of them that blew up on us, technically anyway.”

Tail stopped her storytelling, turned her head to gaze at the stallion, and pulled her goggles up onto her forehead. “Sweety, if you keep that up, I’m going to fill my notes with even more accurate depictions when it comes to the subject of you.” She fashioned a half-lidded stare as she flashed a mischievous smirk for her coltfriend.

Maintaining his unsure demeanor, Barrier nervously chuckled. “And just like that, I’m trotting right into a trap. You’d think that a guy would get it after a thousand years, but nope, mares.”

Giggling, said mare leaned forward and tapped her muzzle against Barrier’s snoot to melt away the colt’s silly restlessness. She closed her eyes and tendered a meditative hum. “You were the one who quoted Cady’s ‘love is a battlefield’ line. I’m just resetting the goalposts to combat this particular form of self-deprecation. I could say, ‘Without my wonderful special somepony, I would be adrift in a hostile ocean of tedious metallurgy and endless nights.’ But you really should know better. Traps have been a part of the relationship game for ages, and you haven’t exactly been innocent on that front either, Mr.-Nickname-Me-Blanket. And don’t even try to deny the parallels to combative sprinting.”

Having preserved the intimate contact through her latest round of teasing, Tail suddenly retreated after her mind clutched a theoretical straw. “You know,” she continued, tapping one of her forehooves against the floor, “I wonder if the whole teasing, trapping, gamesponship thing couples do is the result of society secretly clinging to some elements of your dueling tradition.”

“Not impossible, but I bet tracing those clues through history would be difficult.” Barrier shrugged and levitated the goggles off his face. He closed the gap that had formed between the pair and started affectionately nuzzling Tail. “Especially when you think about how much ponies learned about my era, I doubt we’d truly know. What can be easily explained is my choice in nickname.

“The single most important tool any executor can have is a good blanket. There’ve been times when one is all I had to see me home safely. It can do a lot when you’re caught in a crisis. It can still be there when your chips are down. I think most ponies would probably laugh at the sentiment nowadays, but I gave you that nickname because there really aren’t any other ponies around who I would trust as much as a good blanket on the field. I am lucky to have found the perfect one.”

Tail’s entire body jerked. She pomfed immediately, and her muzzle and ears succumbed to the blood rush that turned them all a deep shade of red. A surprised squeak popped from her parted lips, and for a moment, the vibrant blaze that warmed her entire being showed no signs that it would ever relent. Jittery, timid movements followed, in which the pegasus tried to return the nuzzles with an appropriate degree of vigor, but her brain had put oh my gosh on a near-endless loop that gave the victory to Barrier.

“A perfect, squeaky little Blanket,” the stallion’s raspy tenor hit one of those perked, rosied ears. “Though, maybe we should start talking about crafting the steel cylinder for your coils before we lose the entire day to a back-and-forth that we’d have to keep secret from insufferable princesses for all of time.”

Tail barely managed to nod while she dazedly ogled Barrier’s withers and flanks. “The Gala will probably give them enough ammo,” she meekly mumbled, not really registering any of the words she had just spoken. Instead, her brain’s screaming proved to be far more distracting when accompanied by Barrier’s gentle touch. This colt is going to be my perfect perch!

As the second week of training with Trigger neared its end, Tail tumbled into the grass and swept one of her wings in the stallion’s direction. Two cloud swirls trickled into the wake before they started rapidly spinning, and a second set followed suit after the mare made a backstroke with the same feathered appendage.

The clanking of armor plates echoed off the palace walls after Tail continued her roll and sprinted to gain some separation between herself and the inbound volley. Her two Synchrotron Flicker pairs sprang to life and brilliantly glistened just in time to nudge Trigger’s shot down and to the side.

Tail did not stand still for a second. She darted to the left, snapped her namesake behind her, and threw a fleeting glance to check Trigger’s location. Still there. Now, what about the spell? Her sights shifted towards her idling current loops before she followed the trail of uprooted grass and excavated dirt that the amber bolt kept digging into the pitch.

Cutting the feeds to the four rings, Tail started dumping her pegasus energies elsewhere. She flapped both of her wings to pick up speed and banked to the right, a move which pointed her sleek frame directly at Trigger. You want to throw a live, homing round at me!? Here’s some fucking integration for you, big boy!

Angle of inclination, mutual inductance corrections, A-dot-d-L, d-theta, delta-T… Tail’s brain crunched the calculations as she continued her frontal assault. An inferno raced around her chocolate irides the instant her internal clock hit t-zero, and her wings curled in preparation for the coming counter.

To her right, a pair of vibrant rings appeared for a wrinkle in time that briefly forced Trigger’s spell to follow the trajectory Tail had flown. For most of the training session, this was the maximum degree to which Tail had operated—spot, seed, deflect, move, repeat! This time around, she was determined to try something new.

The first auguric guide vanished as quickly as Tail had spawned it, but the maneuver had not been deployed alone. Successive doublets flared along the flight path to keep the stallion’s salvo confined, and those firefly embers snaked towards Tail until the mare crouched and leapt into the air. On the spot where she had stood, a quadrupole arrangement of synchrotron snares outshone the sun.

“Let’s try a strong focusing element then!” she roared as the pursuing bolt abandoned its target and rocketed along the beam axis Tail had created instead. A broad smile claimed her countenance as she watched the attack barrel down on its creator. The slew of math that had occupied her mental landscape was abandoned for the basest, most down-to-earth expression of joy all scientists aspired to grasp. It fucking worked! It fucking worked!

Trigger wore a smirk of his own as he confronted the power of his volley. The amber aura around his horn swiftly evaporated, and in its place, an argent mist started to swirl around the spire. The creature of reverie lifted his foreleg before a similarly colored light illuminated the limb.

Steam exploded out from around Trigger’s body when the round collided with its caster’s hoof. The attack vigorously ruptured, blowing away the swirling vapor from the giddy-looking creature of reverie. The resulting shock wave rattled off the castle walls and windows, and Amora, Barrier, and Tail all cringed at the obnoxious noise.

The reaction from Tail, however, was by far the most vocal. “Are you kidding me?” she shouted as soon as her hooves touched down on the grass. “I set that whole chain up after scrambling around, and you just stiff-arm the thing like it’s nothing?”

Laughter flowed from the stallion after he lowered his leg. “Barry! Ya should have pulled me in for this shit way before her B.C.T. final exam. C’mon! How could ya hold out this level of entertainment? And stop whinin’, Flicker! Do ya even have any idea what ya just did? Four sustained pairs and—what was it?—ten or so leadin’ in. New record and an absolute poppin’ counter. What are ya gonna call that one?”

Tail quirked an eyebrow as she observed Trigger’s exuberant reaction. Geeze, with how much he likes the art of the battle, maybe he should be giving one-on-ones with Bonecrusher instead. She tilted her head once she became the target of his address, and she quickly puffed through her open mouth. It’s not whining to strive for more parity— Oh, he wants another name?

Tail scratched her chin with one of her gauntlets as she pondered the new dilemma. Though, in this particular instance, there wasn’t much to ponder since the base maneuver already had a name. She had simply created a series of the auguric kickers to get the job done. A series? Hmm— “Synchrotron Cascade,” she answered, still looking skyward as her mind reaffirmed its choice.

Meanwhile, Amora peered across the training yard at her best friend. Her muzzle hung slightly agape as she took in the scientist’s battle-tested visage, and her white coat bristled in the aftermath of Tail’s flashy Synchrotron Cascade and the Trigger-induced blast wave that followed. “She made him use dreamshell magic,” the medic muttered. Blinking, she turned towards Magic Barrier. “She actually made him use it.”

“Just another example of her being the perfect Blanket, Major,” the captain replied as he kept his stoic pose pointed towards the field. “She keeps figuring out new ways to tell everyone else the same message she told me. Though, it honestly doesn’t hurt that Trigsy’s enjoying it out there.”

“Yeah, it’s just”—Amora hesitated as she shifted her attention over to the resting combatants—“amazing to see how much she’s grown.”

“I think I can take back my hat now,” Trigger said, trotting ever closer to the pegasus. “Did ya think about that other homework assignment I gave ya? I’d like to spend the next week hammerin’ that shit out before my three weeks is up.”

“The teleport thing?” Tail asked while her head bobbed up and down. “I thought about it quite a bit, actually. If a teleport spell transmits with an auguric field, then my field loops should pick it up. My guess is that’s what I felt the other day. I’m also guessing that this is the variable that gets tuned to control the noise of said teleports, which in turn explains why silent teleports can be a thing when it would otherwise make no sense—”

“Whoa, get in the stable, Flicker. You’re Twigglin’ on me here. Totally right, but don’t need the lecture right now.”

The mare flushed and she nodded again as she gazed up at the creature of reverie.

“For the next three sessions, I want ya to focus on maintainin’ a single loop, maybe two, for the entire day. That’s going to be your sensor, and nothing else matters. Well, almost.” He smirked as his magical aura reverted to its more familiar amber hue. “Ya got to get used to wearin’ this.”

Tail squeaked as a dark object roughly the size of a watermelon appeared from nowhere. It tumbled through the air towards her, and she scrambled to snatch it with her forehooves. It took very little time for the pegasus to determine that the squishy object was made of some type of synthetic rubber. What took a bit longer was for her to determine that she was holding a sensory deprivation hood.

When the moment happened. It happened spectacularly. Her ears shot skyward. Her tail flagged, and the redness on her muzzle almost managed to reach the shade Barrier had provoked in her lab. “Did you get this out of a porn store!?” she wailed, prompting another bout of laughter from Trigger.

“No,” he answered with an ambiguous level of sarcasm, “I got it from Cady’s BDSM closet.”

Eyes? Useless. Ears? Useless. Helmet? Set aside. Tail stood at the center of the training field with touch as her only meaningful sensory input. Even the breaths that she could draw through the little nostril holes in the rubber deprivation hood had the scent of the yard drowned out by the overwhelming aroma of the gear.

This isn’t embarrassing at all! she screamed in her head as she pranced in place and fluffed her wings. “Don’t worry about a thing,” he said. She pondered Trigger’s last instructions to her when hearing was still a thing that she could freely do, and she tried to calm herself in the expansive darkness.

Relax, it’s not that bad. It’s not like Barrier is standing over there thinking thoughts. Her mental voice briefly shifted from its typical tone to something far more voluptuous. Sweety, I’m sure he’s thinking the thoughts you’d want him to— Not the time! Not the time! Okay, two field loops. Yeah, let’s try that. I should be able to maintain them. Now, where to put them?

After some further deliberation, Tail decided to place a loop at the midpoint of each of her wings. The nerves running along the edges of the feathered appendages would provide sufficient feedback. Her hooves would be free to help her dodge incoming teleports from Trigger, and she could change her wing orientation to easily scan. Plus, if he got cocky with her, she could always toss one of her blazing rings of lightning at him for the laughs.

Getting to work, the physicist went through her normal procedure of converting collected water vapor into scintillating halos. Once they were prepared, Tail lowered her center of mass towards the ground and waited. She held her flight limbs in a half-cocked position that set the orientations of the two disks to be roughly ninety degrees apart. To optimize the coverage, of course!

Out of nowhere, a buzz rumbled against her right wing before a spark jolted a squeak from her trapped muzzle. She leapt to the left as her heart thumped, and she could feel from the thud that reverberated through the dirt that Trigger had indeed slammed into the grass some distance to the right of where she had stood.

Her head jerked to the side after she landed, and the next round of contemplation commenced. Those feedback shocks are actually kind of distracting. I don’t think I even need them to be that big. Beneath the black hood, a grin stretched across Tail’s muzzle. She had, once again, found herself smack dab in the middle of a physics problem.

Tail shrunk the loop area by about ten percent, and she reduced the current flow to the point that the outside observers would probably have a chance at spotting the diminished brightness. Not like that particularly mattered to the pegasus, who reasserted her crouching stance and endured the void.

The tiny synchrotrons whirred, and both sent a trail of shocks along the leading edge of Tail’s wings. Her muzzle scrunched, and she snapped her nose towards the ground. That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. What is he going to do, teleport in dirt? She lifted one of her pinions and huffed. The change in pressure that she felt did nothing to alter her mindset that Trigger was coming from below.

Two heavy knocks pushed against Tail’s armor before the mare’s entire front half got lifted off the ground. She squealed from the unexpected motion and flailed as Trigger tightened his hold on Sally’s breastplate.

Eventually, the physicist settled down. She dangled in the elevated state, and her nose pointed directly downward at the chuckling Trigger. She could feel the vibrations of his laughter through the subtle presses against her armor, but she had little way to convey her own amusement. The intuition was right, and I still have room to make them more efficient.

“Dun-duh-duh-dah!” Tail sang as she held up the forged cylinder with both of her forehooves. She presented the gleaming marriage of stainless steel and augurite to Barrier as though it were some sort of mystical offering to the unicorn. Of course, the stallion’s magic had been an essential piece of the crafting process, so he was not at all surprised by its existence.

“It looks so pretty,” Tail carried on in an enthusiastic whisper before she carefully eyed the six chambers, the augurite ejector rod and extractor, and the current injection band that followed the cylinder stops. She purred and glanced at Barrier. “You did such a great job with this. I can’t even see any of the seams between the metals.”

“It’s your design,” the stallion replied as he returned her gaze with a gentle smile. “I think making your lab life easier is the least I can do after letting Trigger run a little wild with your training.”

Tail immediately blushed, and her brain scurried to deliver a hastily executed ramble. “It’s fine! It’s fine, really. I’ve been able to trim the current loops a lot over the course of two days. It’s like they’re not even there now. Majorly efficient!”

Pitching his muzzle downward, the unicorn snorted. “You know that’s not the part of the training that I was talking about.”

The pegasus bit her lower lip and steadily exhaled. She shuffled back onto the swivel chair at Workbench 8 and propped up the cylinder on the test stand. “It’s been a little distracting,” she admitted, clamping the leads from the breadboard to the injection band and the end of the ejector rod. “Kind of puts certain ideas in the head when you’re pretty much alone with your thoughts.”

Sidling up to the table, Barrier nodded. “I bet it does. Quite the sight to see you fighting against the odds as well, and then there’s the obvious—”

“Sweety, it’s going on your head when I win a duel,” Tail flatly interrupted. “Then I’ll be free to explore your conquered coat at my leisure, right?”

“If you win, then it’d be your right to do so, but”—Barrier grunted— “I’m not all that inclined to let you win, Blanket.”

“We’ll see about that, Magic Bear. There’s more to the battlefield than the physical grind.” She paused to trace the augurite circuit with the tip of her hoof. “R, C, lead, injection band, six coils, rod output, back to breadboard. Good! Academic Log, Day 119: six-shell, five-minute run. Personal Log, Day 119: prepare to floor coltfriend at the Grand Galloping Gala and gain a dueling edge.”

Author's Note:

Happy Tuesday, everyone! Welcome to Chapter 28! I think the name of this chapter speaks for itself, and my particle physics roots are showing big time in this one. x3 As always, thank you for your continued readership, time, comments, likes&subscribeslol. With thousands of stories to read, I appreciate all of you coming around week after week.

Another piece of Tail's growth is on the record, and I am incredibly excited about what's around the corner.

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