A Study on Chaos Theory

by Amber Spark

Chapter 1: Sequence Initiation

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“We’re not ready yet!” Twilight Sparkle whined.

“We are!” Sunset Shimmer insisted. “I know you’re scared, but we can do this.”

“It’s not about me being scared!” Twilight took off her glasses and rubbed her eyes. “It’s about us doing it right!

“Twilight… come on!”

Princess Celestia watched through the cracked door at the two arguing mares. Sunset gestured wildly at the small crystalline cone sitting atop a table in the magic laboratory. Twilight glared at her and adjusted a hexagonal stone set into the array of runes, focusing elements and magic patterns. Sunset rolled her eyes and crossed her forelegs, her tail twitching behind her.

Celestia could see the aftermath of the last few hours of work on the counters lining the laboratory. Alchemical distilleries, at least a dozen sets of mortars and pestles, several large sample containers and half the contents of the runic spellcasting section of the Royal Canterlot Archive cast strange shadows around the room. Overhead, a small series of arcane sensors continued to swirl in a comforting shade of green.

Celestia liked that green. She’d seen the sensors orange or red too many times when Sunset got a little too excited about an experiment.

All of that—plus the safety gear stashed in the corner—made the room appear somewhat cluttered, especially with the heavy stone table in the center. However, Twilight and Sunset didn’t seem to mind. Instead, Sunset rolled her eyes again and Twilight started another of her lectures.

“Still arguing, I see?” Raven whispered.

Celestia turned and smiled at her beloved friend and aide. The white unicorn brushed back a lock of her brown mane as she studied the clipboard floating in her pale red magic. She adjusted her glasses, glanced at a clock on the hallway wall and then back to the clipboard.

“You should have started with them eight minutes ago,” Raven pointed out.

“And normally,” Celestia said with a wry smile, “Twilight would be in a mild panic at my late arrival. However, she has other things on her mind at present.”

Celestia backed away so Raven could peer into the lab. Thankfully, she’d assigned her two students to a somewhat disused lab in the south tower today. However, the cleaning staff did keep the hardwood floors polished, the various landscapes along the wall dusted and the sconces maintained. Though a bit cramped, Celestia found the quiet—Sunset and Twilight’s argument notwithstanding—to be quite relaxing after another morning at court.

Raven chuckled. “My, they really are quite nervous about this demonstration, aren’t they?”

“It’s not too surprising,” Celestia said with a shrug. “Yet another reason I put Twilight with Sunset. Even after all these years, Sunset is still rather impulsive, though her passion is undeniable. On the other hoof, in the last two months, Twilight has proven herself to be exceedingly—or excessively—thorough in every aspect of her new fields of study.”

“You’re hoping they’ll balance each other out,” Raven surmised.

“Insightful as always, my dear Raven,” Celestia said with a smile.

“Look, if you’re so worried about a 0.0004 variance in the leyline feed, I could ask the Princess to reschedule.” Sunset sighed. “Moon Dancer will be here soon with the book and you can double-check your figures to your heart’s content.”

“What?” Twilight squealed. “We can’t reschedule the Princess of the Sun! That’s… that’s… unthinkable!

Raven coughed. “You didn’t tell them you’d cleared your afternoon, did you, Princess?”

“I’m sad to say it slipped my mind, Raven.” Celestia didn’t bother to hide her smirk.

“It’s almost unfair, you teasing the two of them.” Raven shook her head and chuckled again. “Considering what you’re trying to accomplish with the Spire Project.”

Celestia’s grin faded. Her left wing shivered almost imperceptibly. A normal pony would never have noticed.

However, Raven was not a normal pony.

“The report still troubles you,” Raven murmured. “The one from Cloudsdale.”

Celestia’s eyes fell upon the lavender unicorn. As Twilight argued with Sunset about a section of the runes, she had to adjust her dark rectangular glasses twice. The pink streak in her purple mane shone in the lab’s lighting as she fiddled with the jeweled hairclip that kept her mane manageable. Despite all these nervous tics, she continued to nibble on one of her bangs.

However, more than anything, Celestia’s eyes were drawn to the mark on Twilight’s flank: a book in a field of magic.

It was rather different from the bright magenta star with five smaller stars in the eight-year-old photograph from Cloudsdale.

“There’s a reason I had all records placed in the Equestria Secret Service Deep Archives, Raven. The information in that report…” Her eyes lingered on Sunset and Twilight. “They can’t know, Raven.”

“I wasn’t recommending you inform them,” Raven said. “But it is still on your mind.”

Celestia nodded vaguely, her eyes still locked on the two young mares.

“Something occurred to me, Princess,” Raven said, her voice still low. “That night… we never did speak of the dragon in the photograph.”

“No,” Celestia said. “And we both know why.”

“As you say, Princess.”

Celestia eyed Raven, but Raven simply looked worried. What’s worse, she knew the origin of Raven’s concerns: Celestia herself.

“I’ll be fine,” Celestia assured her, putting a hoof on her aide’s shoulder. “But thank you for your concern.”

“With all due respect, Princess,” Raven said, meeting Celestia’s gaze. “Keeping this kind of secret is eating at you.”

“We all have secrets, Raven,” Celestia whispered. “But don’t worry yourself overmuch. Having you as a confidant is an invaluable comfort.”

Raven didn’t look entirely convinced, but she changed the subject and nodded at the two ponies in the lab. “To be honest, I’m also worried about them.”

Celestia turned to see that Sunset had wrapped Twilight in a gentle hug. Celestia’s ears swiveled and she heard the telltale sounds of hyperventilation.

Poor Twilight had suffered another panic attack.

That, in and of itself, didn’t concern Celestia greatly. Sunset’s experience with panic attacks—even if she still suffered them from time to time—would be a wonderful help to Twilight.

However, the fact that they were both blushing furiously when they pulled apart did concern her.

“Princess, from the information you shared with me…” Raven hesitated, but only briefly. “Shouldn’t the heightened emotions caused by the spell already have worn off?”

Celestia took a slow breath and nodded. “Yes.”

“If I may ask… did you tell them that?”

If anypony else had asked that question, Celestia would have answered it without a second thought. But with Raven, Celestia again hesitated.

“The risk is too great.”

Raven’s eyes followed Celestia’s to watch Sunset and Twilight. “I see.”

Celestia had always appreciated Raven’s brevity. For example, her gift of applying several layers of meaning on two simple words.

“What are you going to do?”

Celestia straightened herself up and put on her most motherly smile. “Trust my students, Raven.”

“That hasn’t always worked out to Equestria’s benefit, Princess,” Raven said with a raised eyebrow.

“I know.” Celestia studied the two mares and took a single deep breath to cleanse any doubt or hesitation from her face. “But these two are very, very special.”

With that, Celestia opened the door and strode into the lab.

“Princess!” Sunset cried with a smile.

Twilight immediately dropped into a bow—only to stop herself halfway with an awkward smile.

Celestia chuckled. “How long are you going to do that, Twilight?”

“It’s… a hard habit to break, Your Maj—Princess.”

“I can see that.” Celestia strode over to the table and studied the prototype with a critical eye. “But today isn’t about etiquette. Today is about you. Both of you. I’m eager to see what you have in store for me.”

“We’re ready for our first test run!” Sunset declared. She stood straight and tall, her red and gold mane gleaming in the bright light of the magic lab. “We’ve gone over everything a dozen times—and a dozen more,” Sunset shot a glance at Twilight. “We’re confident in the principles of the project.”

“I still think we should wait for Moon Dancer!” Twilight interjected. “That variance could cause an effect similar to a class-three chaos surge! It would overwhelm the table’s containment spells!”

“Twilight, we’ve been over this! This is just a prototype!”

“And prototypes should be safe!”

“Prototypes aren’t meant to be safe!” Sunset laughed. “The only safe prototype is one that doesn’t work!”

“That reasoning is completely illogical. Safety is of paramount importance in any endeavor. Especially when dealing with the fundamental magics of creation itself!”

“Twilight, that cone is about eight inches high. The most we’re going to get out of it is a little ribbon of light. We’re here to make magic!”

“That isn’t proper terminology and you know it! One can’t make magic.” Twilight slipped into her lecturing voice as easily as the sun slipped through the sky. “Like all energy, it cannot be created or destroyed.”

Sunset gave her friend a long stare. “It’s a figure of speech, Twi.”

Twilight blinked and adjusted her glasses with a flash of magic. “I knew that.”

Celestia coughed politely, which served two purposes. First, it reminded the two mares that she was still here, and secondly, it helped cover her own laugh.

“Sorry, Princess,” Sunset said with a sigh. “Despite assurances, somepony is still somewhat nervous about this. She’s worried the amount of energy will overload everything and get one of us zapped. Even if it’s only partially to scale!”

Twilight blushed hotly. “I just want to be sure!”

“I assure you both,” Celestia said—more for Twilight’s benefit than Sunset’s, “there is little danger. You’ll only be linking it to a single leyline, after all. Even if the entire apparatus were to explode in a shower of chaos-charged crystal shards, it would be a small matter to contain it.”

“I just… I just don’t…” Twilight trailed off, blushing even brighter under Celestia’s gentle smile.

Out of the corner of her eye, Celestia saw Sunset blushing and biting her lip as she watched her friend.

I wonder… should I remind them about our earlier conversation on this topic? Celestia mused. If they are still this easily distracted by one another’s presence—

“She’s afraid of messing up in front of you, Princess,” Sunset blurted out.

“Sunset!” Twilight squealed, burying her face in her hooves.

This time, Celestia couldn’t hide the laugh even if she wanted to. Her chuckle echoed off the lab’s reinforced walls. At least It was enough to bring Twilight out of hiding, though her ears were still flat against her head.

“There is no shame in wanting to do your best, Twilight.” Celestia stepped over and put a hoof on the young mare’s shoulder. “In fact, I remember a young unicorn filly who was once as preoccupied with such concepts as you were. Even more so. I recall once having to light a fire under her to get her to break out of that fear.”

“You didn’t have to do it literally,” Sunset pointed out.

Twilight froze. Her eyes darted back and forth between Sunset and Celestia. “Wait. Princess Celestia, are you saying that you actually tried to set your personal apprentice on fire?”

Celestia smiled down at Twilight. “In my defense, it did seem like a good idea at the time. And I recall it being very successful.”

“Only because the fire exploded!” Sunset flushed, her ears plastered against her head as she refused to meet either of their eyes. She looked almost as petulant as she had all those years ago.

“It would not have exploded if you had simply cast the self-levitation spell instead of trying to douse the flames,” Celestia replied calmly, fighting to suppress her smile.

“You’re telling me,” Twilight said, her eyes huge behind her glasses, “that you not only lit your student on fire, but also blew her up?

Celestia tapped her hoof on her chin as she considered the question. After the appropriate amount of time, she shrugged. “Technically speaking, she blew herself up.”

Poor Twilight didn’t seem to know how to react. Thankfully, Sunset helped by bursting into laughter. It was enough to get Twilight to relax and before too long, break into giggles of her own. Celestia smiled at both of them.

They may have a complex relationship, but they are good for each other.

“I would like to see your progress, Twilight,” Celestia said. “Though if you’re not ready, I understand.”

Twilight looked to Sunset, who grinned and lifted a hoof in a show of support. Twilight turned back to Celestia, swallowed and shook her head. “No, Princess. Sunset’s right. It’s… it’s just a little test.”

“Wonderful.” Celestia beamed at them. Both blushed, which only made Celestia beam all the harder.

Then Celestia took a few steps back as Twilight and Sunset started the initialization sequence for the spell matrix. Teal intertwined with raspberry as their magic sought out the focal points on the outermost magic circle.

As they worked, Celestia studied the two mares carefully. Sunset was all but bouncing on her hooves. Twilight stuck out her tongue in concentration. Both of them had their eyes squeezed shut. And both had moved closer to one another before casting the spell.

Two months since they reconnected after eight years of guilt and resentment. Two months since the principles of unified harmony magics created a bond between them. Two months since I warned them about the dangers of acting on the heightened emotions created by such a bond.

And while neither of them had acted on that temptation, Celestia found herself agreeing with Raven. It was still a matter of concern.

Yet, she couldn’t separate them. Sunset’s second vision in Starswirl’s Mirror had all but confirmed Twilight was critical to Sunset’s future, perhaps even more so than the rest of her friends.

The outermost pattern of magic ignited in a shining circle of brilliant blue. Smaller lines of magic shot inward. The second pattern started to glow.

Celestia looked up to see both of her students bathed in azure light. Her heart clenched, though she refused to show any outward sign of such a petty emotion.

I’ll have to tell her the whole truth one day, Celestia thought. The truth about the alicorn of fire she saw the first time she peered into my old teacher’s mirror. The truth about the seven colored shadows in the second vision.

Celestia closed her eyes for a moment, though she could still tell when the second circle burst with light.

And one day—after she comes home—I’ll have to tell her about what happened in Cloudsdale eight years ago. It’ll be so much easier for Sunset if she isn’t involved with Twilight on that day.

Celestia opened her eyes. Both mares were straining to keep the magical connection between them and the small crystal cone. Two layers of overglow burned around their horns. Beads of sweat poured down Twilight’s face—this level of spellcasting was still new to her—while Sunset looked tense, but in control.

She took a moment to capture this instant in her memory and put it somewhere safe, like a treasured painting. There would come a day where moments like this would be rare.

Sunset, I only hope you can forgive me when you finally learn the truth.

The third and final circle flashed a blinding purplish-pink and lines of magic began to pour into the crystalline cone. Lights strobed within the geometric structure. The hum of crystal filled the air, a gentle soothing tone that calmed Celestia’s nerves and fears.

Celestia’s eyes went wide when a small streamer of rainbow light began to flicker into existence directly above the point of the cone.

The door banged open. Twilight yelped. Sunset jumped. Even Celestia blinked in surprise. All three whirled.

“Sorry I’m late,” Moon Dancer gasped, her chest heaving as she clutched three large books in her magic. “You wouldn’t imagine what I had to go—”

The hum changed to a buzz.

Celestia looked back at the prototype just in time to see the fourth quadrant flicker. Twilight and Sunset gasped. Sunset tried to yank the magic back, but Twilight hesitated.

Her eyes were locked on Moon Dancer.

That split-second pause was enough.

The crystalline cone cracked with a sound like a lightning strike and all four of them jumped. A moment later, the outer circle went black. Wild green magic flashed across the room. Only Sunset’s hasty shield spell saved Twilight and her from getting raked by the unstable magic.

Celestia moved to grab Moon Dancer and yank her over, but just as her magic snapped over the mare, a beam of magic as big around as Celestia’s hoof crashed into Moon Dancer.

The magical feedback knocked Celestia on her tail with a whump. It sent Moon Dancer flying backward, crashing through the doors and out into the hall beyond.

“Princess!” Sunset cried.

“Moon Dancer!” Twilight shouted.

Sunset teleported to Celestia’s side and knelt down beside her. Celestia could feel her student’s magic washing over her, checking for injuries.

“I’m fine, Sunset,” Celestia assured her as she climbed back to her hooves. “You should be more concerned about the state of your—”

Celestia and Sunset froze at the sound of high-pitched giggling coming from the hallway.

“That’s… Twilight?” Sunset said, looking completely bewildered.

Slowly, Sunset and Celestia walked to the door and looked out into the hallway, where Twilight leaned on a wall to prevent herself from falling over laughing.

Moon Dancer sat on the floor, blinking up at them with her bright purple eyes.

These days, Celestia considered Moon Dancer a friend. She’d gotten to know the young filly and watched her help Sunset—and be helped by Sunset. Indeed, she was rather fond of the snarky young mare. As she had once said to Twilight, Celestia appreciated those in her life who treated her as a pony, rather than only as a Princess.

Despite all of that, Celestia couldn’t hold back her own giggle.

Sunset didn’t even try. Within three seconds of seeing Moon Dancer, she’d fallen to the floor, laughing her head off and pounding the wood with her hoof.

“Are… are you okay?” Twilight asked, her concern mixed with her giggles.

“I will be,” Moon Dancer said slowly. “As soon as you all stop laughing at me and fix this!”

Moon Dancer glowered at them all—including Celestia herself. That only brought another round of giggles, as her glower didn’t have quite the same effect coming from a doe.

The chaos surge had quite thoroughly transformed Moon Dancer into a deer. Her horn had vanished. Her features were far more delicate. For some reason, the wild spell had transformed her topknot into flowing locks of red, pink and purple that reached halfway to her hooves. Her legs were delicate and slender. She still had the same cream-colored coat, though she now had a white streak running from her chest and down her belly. She was still Moon Dancer… just Moon Dancer the doe.

Moon Dancer pushed herself to her hooves and stumbled. Twilight managed to pull herself out of her giggles in time to catch her. Moon Dancer shoved her away, blushing furiously, while her hooves glowed ever so softly, something Celestia hadn’t seen over six hundred years.

“You enjoying yourself, Sunny?” Moon Dancer snapped.

“Your tail…” Sunset gasped. “I… I can’t get over your tail!”

Moon Dancer turned to peer at her tail. Except it wasn’t there. Now, there was only a small tuft of cream-colored fur on her flank.

Moon Dancer glowered at Sunset. She managed to pick up one of the books she’d been carrying and with something close to a death glare, she threw the book with all of her might.

It landed two feet short of Sunset. Moon Dancer’s new tail twitched in annoyance.

“I think it’s actually really cute,” Twilight said, blushing and biting her lip.

Moon Dancer groaned and blushed even brighter.

Sunset was too busy laughing to notice.

And that’s when Celestia realized what she’d been missing.

That… could simplify matters, she mused. But if I know Sunset like I think I do… once she realizes what’s going on…

Something inside Celestia twisted, but she had to look at the bigger picture. It was the price of leadership. The price of being the shepherd of both sun and moon. The price of over a millennium of experience.

A price that couldn’t reflect her personal feelings on the subject.

So, she put on her best whimsical diplomatic smile and regarded the three mares.

“Come inside, Moon Dancer,” Celestia said. “Let’s see if we can get you back to normal. And I suspect Sunset and Twilight could use your help in researching this minor snag. Unless anypony has any objections?”

“Let her keep the tail,” Sunset giggled as she pushed herself to her hooves.

“Um… I wouldn’t mind that either,” Twilight said sheepishly.

“You’re both evil!” Moon Dancer snapped—though her blush hadn’t faded.

As Celestia guided the bickering friends back into the laboratory, she reached out and fetched the three books Moon Dancer had been carrying.

“A Study in Chaos Theory,” Celestia said to herself as she eyed Moon Dancer and Twilight. “This may be exactly what they need.”

Celestia breathed out a sigh of relief and stepped inside, closing the door behind her.

Author's Notes:

And so, the Dreamers Arc officially begins in earnest!

Welcome back to Wavelengths, folks! I have done my absolute best to make A Study in Chaos Theory a good entry point into the Wavelengths Timeline. It's a hard balancing act, as I don't want to bore long-time readers but I don't want new readers to be confused. I hope both newcomers and veterans of Wavelengths enjoy it!

If you're interested in how all this came to pass, please check out the Wavelengths Timeline Master Guide (Dark Theme Version || Light Theme Version). There you'll find all of the Wavelengths stories in chronological order with a fancy and slick design!

Saddle up. This is where it starts to get real interesting.

If you come across any errors, please let me know by PM!

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