Starlight in a Broken Vessel

by the-pieman

Chapter 48

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Chapter 48

I stumbled away from Lyra, completely terrified. How could she have known? It wasn’t possible, shouldn’t be possible. And she still had that small, knowing smile as she looked at me, as if totally unconcerned with my panic.

“Wh- who are you?” I actually Spark up on instinct, my body knows I’m flipping out.

“I am Lyra Virtuoso Heartstrings.” She said, smile not leaving her face, her amber eyes holding steady with my own.

“I- I... How?” That’s all I can think of to say, nothing else comes to my paralyzed mind. “How?”

“Harmony has a voice, however faint. I speak back. And so the world turns.” I get the strangest feeling she’s being purposefully obtuse now.

“No, really. How do you know my name? Both of them!?” Again, on instinct, I enter a defensive pose, as if my mind thinks she’s dangerous. Hell, for all I know, she is.

“Because your heart speaks...” she stops, snickers for a moment. “No, I’m not going to say that. But I knew the same way a fawn knows to stand and run in danger, and how you know how to keep your powers from backlashing against you lethally each time you use them.”

“L- lethal... I know I get tired but...” I think about it. Even when I’m producing flames hot enough to melt flesh, my technically perfectly normal human body... resists. Holy shit, I could kill myself in an instant!

“Novas aren’t your biggest danger, little star. Have you ever considered what your body should be undergoing when you get so large? I know you know of the square-cube law, even if most of ponykind hasn’t learned it yet.”

“How the hell do you know... oh forget it. Yeah, but I can’t enter my Star form when I’m giant, it’s a separate power entirely!” I pause. “Isn’t it?”

“What happens when a star is dying?” The question catches me off guard, and I have to think a moment before the answer hits me.

“It... it get’s huge, and then... it starts to shrink... and it... oh shit...”

“Or, if its power is great enough, it turns itself into the basis of life itself... I’m sure you’re familiar with what you’d call ‘element number six’, yes? Most often encountered as...?” She trailed off, her smile still one of benign humor.

“C- carbon...?” I reach my hand to my pouch of coal. No way. No fucking way! I summon some of the coal out of the pouch and shift it into various forms. I give a sigh of defeat and return it to the pouch.

“Diamonds don’t form in stars, though. Oh! but you should come visit us sometime. I’m sure mother would help with that.” Lyra smiled again, beginning to fade out. Where she’d been standing was, instead, a pony-shaped hole into the night sky. “See you later, little star.”

The patch of night faded into day, and there was no evidence of Lyra anywhere. It took me several minutes to think again, and I remembered that Lyra is also the name for a constellation.

“Oh, man... this is heavy...” I need to calm down, I can’t seem to keep my brain on one thought process at a time.

I spy, off to the side, one thing proving that the pony was actually here. The plain harp had turned to gold, and was leaning against the bench. I pick it up, studying it. The shadowed portions of it seem to be windows into night sky instead of actual shadows. I decide to take it with me. Maybe someone can tell me what the heck just happened.

I figure I can learn more about that later. Right now, I just want to feel normal. Well, as normal as I can get in Equestria. I recall I wanted to get Rarity to tell me her little secret crush, so I head off to Carousel Boutique. It would be a long walk from here, but I’m not sure if I feel comfortable using any of my powers at the moment...

My face must’ve shown my discomfort, because I heard a steady ‘poing, poing’ from beside me as I walked a few minutes into the journey. I looked over to see Pinkie, who was looking at me with worry.

I figure I don’t want to scare her or anything, so I just smile and act like everything’s fine. I hope I look sincere. “Heya, Pinkie. Watcha doin’?”

“Anthony, if you’re not alright, you’re always welcome to hang out with me.” She looks up at me with those clear blue eyes of hers, and I feel like I’d barely put any effort into faking happiness. Stupid, perceptive pink ponies...

“Well... fine. I’m not alright, but I think I’ll just think about it on my own at first, but if I need someone to talk to, you know I’ll come see you, alright?” I give her a quick hug, which she returns, hopping up to nuzzle my neck as well. I mentally remind myself that while it is morning, I can always get a lumberjack. Stupid morning wood. Stupid pink princess ponies. I can’t even enjoy being around my friends the same now... I need an actual girlfriend.

I let go of Pinkie and, assuring her that I’ll be fine, I return to my trek towards Carousel Boutique. It’s such a shame that the rest of the Berry’s Punch is certainly spoiled by now.

Pinkie waves a reluctant goodbye, and I finally arrive at the boutique. Knocking on the door, I wait outside, fitfully glancing up at the sky and hoping the stars aren’t watching me. Thinking back on that thought, I think I may have developed paranoia in the last thirty minutes or so.

The door opens, but instead of Rarity opening the door, I look down to see Sweetie Belle looking up at me, the faintest signs of bed-head marring her normally perfect curls. It is adorable, especially with the sleepy look in her tired eyes and the little pajama shirt she’s wearing.

“Hi there, Sweetie. I didn’t wake you up, did I?”

“Rarity’s just being stupid again, so I couldn’t sleep too good. I think she said something about a project idea, and needing to meet with the diamond dogs again. ‘M so tired...”

“Well, why don’t you just go back up to your room and get some rest? Wait... what’s a diamond dog?” I think back to the Mineraloid classification Lyra brought up.

“Mmph, they’re a type of troll, Twilight said. Rarity is pack alpha or something.” She yawned squeakily, like a small dog or cat that’s been up too long. “at least, thas’ wha she tol’ me...”

I decide to take pity on the filly, and I pick her up and walk inside quietly. Finding her room shouldn’t be that hard. Sure enough, there’s a macaroni art picture of ‘Sweetie’s Room’ with a  gilded plaque beneath saying the same, but with tiny little gems the same color as Sweetie’s mane on the polished white surface. Sweetie’s and Rarity’s work, respectively, I’d guess.

I open the door and, being very quiet, take the filly to her bed and put her down. “Sleep well, Sweetie.” The filly just yawns and curls up into a tiny ball under the sheets, now holding a little stuffed Rarity toy.

I carefully step out of the messy room, stuffed animals and all sorts of other toys scattered around. It reminds me of my room, back home, though with much less legos.

I wince as my foot steps instead on the spire of a block tower set, and realize that tin blocks are far more painful and sharp than legos are, on average.

Edging out, I gently close the door and return to the first floor. I’m not sure if I should stay here and wait for Rarity - she had said she was working on something when I’d stopped by yesterday - or wander off towards Twilight’s house and bug her for a little while. She might be able to explain the star-pony reading my mind or whatever had happened, in a way that will calm me down. Or make me freak out more, depending on what the explanation is.

Deciding I can come back later, I head for Golden Oaks. Rarity’s little secret isn’t going anywhere, and I can check on her later.

Trekking down the road, I wave and give a pseudo-cheery smile to the ponies along the way. Most wave back, but I notice some of the earth ponies looking at me worriedly. Maybe they’re just better at reading body language or something.

Once I’ve made my way to the library, which is once more filtering nothing but golden light, I push open the door, and step in, stooping under the doorway as usual.

The entirety of the main room is barren of any ponies, only Spike, sweeping while wearing a frilly pink apron, is here. When he sees me, he points a thumb over his shoulder towards the basement door. “Hey, Twilight wanted to chat with you. Something about ‘unprecedented scientific progress’ and ‘xenological studies of a meaningful nature’. I’d suggest being ready to run, she’s in one of those moods.” He went back to sweeping, whistling quietly as he worked.

I shrugged and headed down to the basement anyway. I suppose a scientific discussion would be nice. I walk down the wooden steps. It’s strange.The area is definitely under the tree, but seems to have wood paneling on the walls to imply that you’re still inside the main tree itself... Kinda neat.

“Ah, you’re here Anthony! You’re two hours and forty-seven minutes sooner than expected, but that’s alright! I’ve had my pots of coffee, and I am ready for science!” Pots of coffee? I’m seriously rethinking coming down here of my own free will.

“Uh... yeah, hi. Spike said you were doing something about xenological study, and I assume you mean me, as I’m the most alien thing in Ponyville as far as I’m aware.”

“hmm? Oh, yes, that too. I was wanting to do some studies on your powers and maybe ask about your cultural history and backgrounds and if anything significant had happened in your world recently enough to precipitate your longitudinal transfer through the interstitial matrices to this plane of existence!” I reach the bottom of the stairs to see Twilight in the middle of a high-ceilinged lab, with tasteful walnut panelling. The pony is wearing a long labcoat and a pair of intimidating welding goggles, along with the widest grin I’ve seen yet. Flanking her on either side are large glass cylinders, one of which contained a sedately grinning Pinkie Pie.

I run over and hug her. “Thank you so much! You have no idea how much I’ve been wanting to hear someone say those words and know exactly what they’re talking about! I was beginning to think I’d given up on having an intelligent conversation!”

Twilight squees. “Well, then, you are to be referred to as ‘subject zero-zero’ during the testing, and if you could sign on this waiver here...” Twilight’s magic held up a clipboard with a seven-page legal document detailing all the events that she wasn’t liable for, most of which I didn’t understand. I did read as much of it as I could, though. I wasn’t going to agree to have my internal organs sucked out and put back.

After reading the mind bogglingly large number of extremely esoteric possibilities, including ‘accidental cranial wormhole insertion’ I come up with an idea. I will sign it, but still have a plan. I sign it as ‘patient 00’ as Twilight said I’d be referred to during the proceedings. Ha.

“Perfect! you even signed it, and this document has arcane bindings to make sure that it’s the intent that binds, not the writing. I’m no newbie to lab experiments!” Her grin, if anything, was worryingly wider. “Now get in the giant tube-thingy! It’s science time!”

“Well played, Twilight. Well played...” I narrow my eyes, arms crossed. I walk up to the tube aside from Pinkie’s. I’m probably going to find out what she’s there for in a few moments, so I don’t bother asking.

“The first test is... getting in! It’s currently hermetically sealed, with eleven different atmosphere-processing glyphs to maintain a perfectly balanced and sterile environment. Air included.”

I think for a moment, before sparking up and turning intangible, and knocking on the tube with my fist. My hand goes straight through the thick glass, with less resistance than normal.

“Heh, cake.” I chuckle and walk right into the tube, then power down.

“Perfect!” Twilight says, looking over a mountain of data pouring from the machines. “hmm, a surge in emotion magic, a pulse of stellar energies, and some cosmic radiation bleed-off. Interesting... Alright, next test. Your containment unit is connected to Pinkie’s. I’m going to pour in a thin layer of conductive gel, and you’ll put forth enough of a charge for Pinkie to feel it, no more. We’re not trying for hurting anypony, after all.”

“Aw, what fun is safe science?” I ask sarcastically. “Fine, I’ll set myself on ‘joybuzzer’ then.”

Twilight looks at me with a look of derision. “Crude jokes about sexual implements is not welcome in the scientific workplace, Anthony.” She smacks a button on the dashboard in front of her. Sure enough, a greenish, mostly clear, viscous semi-fluid bubbles up from tiny vents on the floor, and I can feel a very slight current already in it.

I charge up some electricity, staying out of my Dynamo form, not entirely aware of what doing so might result in. Once I’ve got about fifty volts charged up, enough for a large startle, but not pain, I release it, and it travels through my body into the goo.

Pinkie yelps, then begins to giggle. “Hee hee hee! Stop! It tickles!” She’s now rolling in the goo, a bright smile on her face. She’s now completely covered in a gooey cocoon.

“Pinkie! Don’t play in that! It’s a vital scientific testing material! Conductivity Gel may be the cheapest of the six gels I buy from Passage Scientific Laboratories, but it’s still not cheap!”

“She’s right, Pinkie. You never know what could happen...” I grin and send a much lighter charge, only about 30 volts, into the gel at my feet to give Pinkie another electric tickle. I assume the conductivity increases with how much your body is in contact with, and I don’t want to hurt her.

Pinkie begins thrashing, flailing, and laughing at the top of her lungs. Blobs of the barely-greenish gel get splattered onto the inside of the glass cylinder by the pony. Once I stop channeling, she lays there on the bottom, panting, heaving in breaths, and giggling. Twilight is looking impatient and mildly upset, but also like she’s holding back her own giggles.

“Well, we needed to find out what happens if I lower the voltage while the other subject is mostly covered in the gel, didn’t we?” I grin, my excuse a very thin veil for my little prank.

“No, but I suppose it’s good data either way...” Twilight rolls her eyes indulgently, and motions to the two of us. “Alright, I’ll initiate the cleansing system. I’ll also be isolating Pinkie, because the next test is to see how high you can go with your voltage, amperage, and ohms.”

“Gotcha, just tell me when.”

A torrent of icey-cold water sprays from the top of the cylinder, causing me to yelp in surprise, my Spark extinguishing at the shock. The water quickly turns to a more normal warm, but I can see Twilight smirking triumphantly from her little science station.

Once the goo is washed off and the water has sluiced away, Twilight tells me to begin charging my electricity for thirty seconds, or until I can’t handle it any more. She also says to direct the discharge at the electrodes on the back of the glass tube. I turn around, and there is a pair of wide metal plates on the back, like thin steel stickers.

I memorize the position of the electrodes, and then enter my Dynamo form. If I’m supposed to go all out, I’m gonna need to really focus. I concentrate on the electricity flowing through me. I close my eyes, and push as much effort into the power generation as I can. I’ll probably feel pretty tired, but I want to know my upper limits just as much as Twilight does.

I can hear loose electricity crackling across my skin, and the sharp tang of ozone spikes through my nose. Behind my tightly-clenched eyes, I’m starting to see stars. Not as in the stars I’d be seeing if I was simply holding my eyes closed. I’m seeing literal stars, specks of burning light and gas flaring and beautiful. Coronal flares the size of continents pass by my vision as it feels like I’m zooming away, and the stars fade into galaxies, the silent blackness of space in all directions, until a faint light begins to fade in at the edges, resolving itself into-

With a cry, the charge I’ve been building up begins to hurt too bad for me to concentrate, and I unload all of the energy I’d gathered into the twin electrodes. I open my eyes a crack, and see that the glass is now sagging around a hand-shaped glowing spot in the metal that had once been the electrodes.

Silence fills the chamber, and I realize I can’t hear or smell anything.

I blink and look around, my starry form shifting gently in the absence of input, my hair drifting eerily from the months of growth in a strangely weightless environment. I try to ask Twilight what’s going on, but no sound comes out. She’s just staring, stupefied, at the console in front of her. The needle that is supposed to be tracking the data has bent all the way up above the machine from trying to reach the height of the spike.

I feel tired. Not like when I was fighting the demon, more like a drained tired. I look up at Twilight, bracing myself inside the tube.

I can’t seem to turn off my Spark, and I keep trying to speak to get her attention. Finally, I try speaking with my Spark, unable to think of anything else. I don’t want to go into the wooden library if I’m still hot enough to put an inch-deep handprint in two-inch glass at a touch.

<TWILIGHT. WOAH! WHAT HAPPENED TO MY VOICE?> I look out to see Twilight jerk her head up at the sound of my modified vocalizations. She tries to say something, but I can’t hear her in the slightest. I think I know what’s going on, now that I think about it. I may have just completely removed the air inside the testing tube!

<I CAN’T HEAR YOU, BUT YOU CAN HEAR ME. I THINK I JUST SHOCKED THE AIR MOLECULES OUT OF THE TUBE. HOW CAN I GET OUT SAFELY?> Twilight nodded at my assertion about the atmosphere, and looked around. After a moment, she pulled out a simple chalkboard and a piece of chalk.

‘I think you can just step out, you’re not radiating heat anymore’ she wrote, before erasing it to clear the board. ‘are you still have enough power to’ she erased the words and tried again. ‘Do you think you have enough power to go intangible again?’

Rather than answering, I just try anyway. I make myself intangible again to get out. I step out,and the moment my body is fully clear of the glass, I feel my Spark flicker out again, and I drop into the reams of spare paper, feeling exhausted. At least this time, I didn’t just go unconscious. that can’t be healthy...

“So... tired...” I snuggle into the cozy paper, and close my eyes, dreaming of stars and galaxies and patches of green on the edges of space...

Next Chapter: Chapter 49 Estimated time remaining: 28 Hours, 42 Minutes

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