Chapter 34: Covalent Bonding
Twilight hovered over Andromeda’s shoulder while the young unicorn drew a diagram of their discussion. The two had been working hard on the time travel spell all morning and found themselves going over other aspects of what had happened.
“So what you’re saying is,” Twilight began, “you think that the amount of time traveled into the past increases and decreases the physical reaction of the physical plane?”
“Exactly,” Andromeda replied. “Powerful spells have the ability to create bright flashes of light and storm-like qualities, but what happens if a hole has been ripped in space and time itself? And of this magnitude! I don’t think it’s a coincidence that my friends and I arrived at the exact moment the biggest recorded storm in Ponyville in years struck without warning.”
“And what about the spell at the time of use? When you were in the future, did it destroy the inside of the house?”
“No, it didn’t, but it was more powerful than any other spell I’ve been in contact with.”
“Perhaps it had a ballistic effect that caused more damage upon exit than entry,” Twilight suggested, “or maybe it just grew more powerful the further back you went.”
“That’s my thought,” Andromeda said, searching through a stack of notes. “In your old notes, you wrote about what happened when a pony arrived from time traveling. For you it was a bit of lightning, gust, and maybe some smoke, but you remained unhurt. For us, we were physically damaged by the jump, like when Tempest’s feathers were burned off his charred wings. The amount of time must be the difference! For you it was days or weeks, but we’ve gone back several decades!”
“It’s no wonder the spell disintegrated,” Twilight muttered. “The strain was too much.”
Before Andromeda could say anything, a loud rumble interrupted her.
“Was that your stomach?” Twilight asked. “It seems that the spell isn’t the only thing creating loud noises.”
Andromeda smirked timidly and nodded.
“I might have forgotten breakfast. I was too much in a hurry to get here so we could continue working on the way home.”
Twilight smiled and turned towards the kitchen.
“Come on,” she said. “I’ll make you something to eat.”
“I’m fine,” Andromeda replied, unmoving. “Really. You go ahead. I’ve got too much to do.”
Twilight spun around and returned to her. She had a look to her that was familiar to Andromeda. She could already see the motherly nature in the purple unicorn.
“You won’t be able to concentrate on an empty stomach for long,” she replied. “Come on. I’ll make you something to eat and then we’ll get back to work. Okay?”
Andromeda glanced back at her books. Even though finding the quickest and safest way for them to go back home was her primary priority, there were other reasons why she didn’t want to stand around talking, and now that her mother knew who she was, Andromeda was even more cautious. With a deep sigh, she nodded.
“Okay, okay,” she said, “but I’m bringing my notes with me.”
Twilight didn’t say anything and made her way to the kitchen with Andromeda not far behind. While her mother scampered around finding various ingredients and dishes, Andromeda got a serious case of déjà vu. It was like her fillyhood all over again, with her working on some homework assignment while Twilight made her something to eat. It was a cozy feeling, but something about this felt distant and cold.
“I’m afraid I don’t have much to cook with,” Twilight admitted, showing her the pantry. “Spike does most of the shopping and he’s been away. What are you in the mood for?”
“Anything’s fine,” Andromeda said, returning her attention to the spell charts that she had set on the table.
While she began making their breakfast, Twilight couldn’t help but notice her daughter’s dedication. For several minutes the young mare didn’t look up from her books once. Watching Andromeda scan the old books felt like looking in the mirror. At this point, more than ever,
Twilight could see the family resemblance. While she prepared the food, she attempted to initiate conversation.
“I can’t believe that I’m working with my daughter from the future,” she said excitedly. “I’ve been trying so hard to be professional about this, but I can’t resist feeling so happy seeing you! I have so many questions. I know that I can’t ask too many without altering time and space, but I’m sure that I can ask certain kinds of them that wouldn’t affect anything too much in the long run, which I’m pretty sure would be the case because, when I tried to go back and time to change the present, it wasn’t as easy as I…”
“You don’t have to worry about it!” Andromeda interrupted, looking up. “What do you want to know?”
Twilight’s emotions seemed to burst from inside her, forcing her to play it cool. With a glimmer in her eye, she began to think about it.
“Wow, where do I start?” she asked. “Okay, ummm… what’s your favorite color?”
“That’s your question? What my favorite color is?”
“Don’t look at me like that,” Twilight laughed. “I’m honestly interested in what your favorite color is and I’m sure my knowing won’t endanger anypony!”
Andromeda thought about it for a while. What was her favorite color? She had never really thought about it as she appreciated all kinds of different hues, but Twilight was expecting an answer, so she’d have to come up with one.
“Midnight blue,” she decided. “My favorite color is midnight blue. I guess I’ve always liked the night sky.”
“I shouldn’t be surprised. I did name you Andromeda after all. Speaking of which, do you like astronomy at all?”
Twilight waited for her to continue, but Andromeda seemed to be finished. Shaking the abrupt ending off, Twilight kept asking questions.
“So… uh…. what are your hobbies?”
“I don’t know,” Andromeda shrugged. “Reading, stargazing, experimenting with my spells, and other nerd stuff, I guess.”
“Being smart and enjoying those things is not nerdy,” Twilight asserted. “It helps you a lot more in life than you think, like in school. Are you still in school? How is it? Do you do well?”
“It’s great,” Andromeda answered. “I go to a University for scientific ponies. I’ve learned a lot since I’ve been there.”
“How are your professors and classmates?” Twilight inquired. “Do you like them too?”
Andromeda’s ears sank low, though a busy Twilight did not see. This subject was the last thing she wanted to talk about.
“I don’t pay them too much attention because I’m usually busy with my own stuff.”
Twilight’s ears caught the subtle tone of melancholy in her words, compelling her to turn her head towards Andromeda.
“You don’t like your classmates and professors?” she asked.
“They’re okay, I guess,” Andromeda lied. “I don’t focus on them. I’m just there to study and that’s it.”
Twilight stopped what she was doing.
“Just there to study. You remind me so much of myself, it’s amazing,” she said softly. “I’m sure it’s been obvious to you since the day you were born that I was never a naturally sociable pony myself. I had to work at it. All my educated life I avoided ponies and, for the most part, they seemed to forget that I existed. Sometimes I wonder what my life would have been like if I had made friends over the years, on my own and without outside help. Maybe I would have been a more personable mare.”
“I’m not anti-social,” Andromeda responded. “I just don’t have any real connection to anypony in college.”
Twilight paused for a while before returning her attention to the food. Seeing that it was finished, she began to set the table.
“No, no, no, I wasn’t accusing you of anything,” she explained. “I’m just talking out loud. Besides, that’s all in the past anyway. I mean, if I had done things differently, I may have never met my friends here in Ponyville, and I’m glad I was able to learn about friendship while living here. At least you seem to have good friends already. College comes and goes, and sometimes you’ll leave without new friends, but true friends are forever if you allow it and keep the friendship strong. Knowing that you learned from my mistakes makes me feel easier about parenthood.”
Placing the food on the table, Twilight sat down with Andromeda and began to serve the food.
“It looks great,” Andromeda complimented. “Thank you.”
“You’re very welcome,” Twilight smiled. “I followed a recipe I read in an old cook book I found.”
“Speaking of reading,” Andromeda said shyly, “do you mind if I look over some stuff while I eat? There’s an equation I’ve been reviewing that’s driving me mad and I’m afraid that all I’m going to think about at the table is that stupid missing factor.”
“Go ahead,” Twilight said, nodding with approval. “I hope you enjoy it.”
Andromeda thanked her mother again and began working again, scribbling down formulaic notes and graphs after each bite. Twilight watched Andromeda’s expressions contort with each written word, lips moving silently while her eyes glided from side to side. Andromeda knew that lives were on the line and that the safety of her friends depended on her progress, so she remained dedicated to her studies. However, despite her keen focus on the task at hand, she couldn’t help but feel like she was being watched. Looking up, she could see Twilight silently pushing her own food around. Every once in a while, she caught Twilight staring at her before quickly looking away when spotted.
“Do you need something?” Andromeda asked.
“You’re kind of staring at me. You keep looking at me when you think I don’t notice and it makes me feel a little uncomfortable,” Andromeda timidly noted.
“I didn’t mean to stare. My apologies.”
It wasn’t but a few seconds later that she realized she was staring again. When Andromeda noticed her again, a grin rose on Twilight’s face. Now it was funny to her.
“It’s just… surreal how much you even look like me,” she said. “Aside from your lovely yellow eyes, of course. And your hair is so beautiful.”
Andromeda finished chewing the last bite and looked up.
“Thank you. I brush it every day,” she said, trying to smile and be polite when she was secretly under more stress than she could possibly explain. “Now, I really don’t mean to cut this short, but may I be excused? I need to get back to my task of finding our way home.”
“But we’ve barely had any time off!” Twilight exclaimed, lifting the dishes and bringing them to the sink. “If you keep working yourself this hard, you’ll collapse before you get anything done. Besides, I want to talk to you with no distractions for a little bit. Just you and me, mom and daughter time. What do you say?”
Andromeda shut her eyes tightly for a moment and inhaled deeply, as if needing to compose herself. With a loud exhale, she opened them once more as she stood up and began walking towards the basement.
“Every minute wasted is one fewer minute my friends and I have to live and I intend on fixing this problem before something terrible happens. I’m sorry, Twilight, but as much as I’d really love to sit down and tell you about my childhood, I can’t afford to allow my friends to die because of me.”
“Mom,” Twilight said, following Andromeda.
“You haven’t called me ‘mom’ once, even after I found out that you were my daughter. You don’t have to use my first name, you know.”
“I can’t afford to do that,” Andromeda replied. “If I start calling you that, I might slip up and say it in public like Berry did. If I’m going to be walking around Ponyville working with you, I can’t allow myself to put us all in an even worse situation than we’re currently in.”
Twilight’s heart broke into confliction. On one hoof, she was proud of Andromeda’s use of logic, foresight, and personal drive to do all she could for her friends, but something about it all felt… bitter. Twilight said nothing for a while and followed her daughter downstairs. Sitting down next to her, she chose to watch her work for a while, though she wanted to speak up. Mustering the strength to say what was on her mind, she spoke up.
“Can I ask one last question, though?” she inquired in a near-whisper. “I promise I’ll leave you alone afterward.”
Andromeda glanced back and slumped her shoulders.
“Alright,” she said. “One more and then we should get back to work.”
A light chill ran through Twilight’s body when her daughter’s sunset eyes connected with her own. Though not cruel or angry, they seemed both vivid and impatient all at once.
“In the future,” Twilight began, “was I…”
She had to know. Something about how Andromeda looked at her felt wrong.
“Was I a good mother?” she asked.
The two unicorns looked at each other for a short moment before Andromeda returned to her measurements.
“Of course you were,” Andromeda answered.
Twilight waited to hear a continuation, but she received none.
“Is that all? Was I a bad mother at times? Did I punish you too severely? Was I too hard on you?”
“Yes, no, no, and no. You were… the best mother a filly could ask for.”
And that was it. Andromeda said nothing after that. Silence pierced Twilight’s heart. Taking the cue to stop asking questions, she stood back up and proceeded to go back to the kitchen to clean the dishes. Before she left the basement, Twilight glanced back at Andromeda, her face scrunched in emotional pain.
“I wish I could believe you.”