A LESSON ABOUT "COSMOS"
(A MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC STORY)
Ambassador Kark was sitting at his desk in his office pouring over some manuscripts. Being the Chief Commissioner on Trade and Commerce between Equestria and his home country of Draconia, it was his job to ensure that equal and fair trade was maintained between the ponies and his people, the civilized dragons of Draconia.
Just yesterday, he had gone to Ponyville to pay a visit with Mr. and Mrs. Cake, the owners of Sugarcube Corner. They had placed an order for a whole pallet full of wheat flour that was to come from the western region of his home country. "Only the finest whole wheat from the western province of Saskatchewa!" he would tell the Cakes, who seemed quite pleased with the deal they've made. Mr. Cake signed the waybill, and Ambassador Kark told him that he can expect delivery by the end of the week; to which Mr. Cake smiled and thanked Kark for everything he's done for them. "All in a day's work!" he would tell the Cakes, smiling.
It was also here that he met up with Pinkie Pie again. He had only seen her a couple of times ever since his former pupil, Twilight Sparkle, befriended her: Once at the Grand Galloping Gala, and the other time was at the Nightmare Night Festival held in Ponyville, where she was dressed up in a chicken costume. She seemed quite subdued, Kark thought. Last time he saw her, she was quite excitable. There was a reason why she wasn't as jumpy as last time: She was carrying the Cakes' infant twins in her forelegs. He knew ponies could stand on their hind legs for brief periods of time. A few, however, could walk on their hind legs briefly with ease! Pinkie Pie seemed to fit that bill.
The infant colt was a Pegasus named Pound Cake, and the filly was a unicorn named Pumpkin Cake. He had already heard about how the fraternal twins came to be what they were through Twilight's letter to Princess Celestia about the whole thing. Kark, not knowing much about pony genetics, figured it must be true. The little colt seemed quite pleased to have a big dragon like him rub a big finger gently against his cheek. He even grabbed the finger with his hooves momentarily just to see what dragon scales felt like.
Pumpkin Cake, however, tried to grab Kark's finger and suck on the end of it. Kark quickly pulled it away saying "Be careful! That claw is a bit sharp!" in a gentle warning tone. The little unicorn filly just squeed and laughed as she reached for the finger.
"You have really adorable kids, Mr. and Mrs. Cake." Kark commented.
"Thank you very much!" they both said, smiling brightly.
When Kark learned that Pinkie Pie became their very special foal sitter, he looked at Pinkie Pie with an expression that betrayed surprise. He never thought that a party pony, like she seemed to be, could become responsible enough to look after two young foals at any moment's notice. Pinkie Pie smiled brightly and thanked Kark when he congratulated her on her new responsibilities.
When that was over, he had enough time to pay a visit to his former pupils, Twilight Sparkle and Spike. He found the purple coloured mare pouring over some books at the library where she lived. The ever faithful Spike was helping her with her studies. After happy greetings were exchanged between them, they got caught up on things over tea. Kark normally drank coffee; but whenever he got together with Twilight Sparkle, he made the exception and drank the tea that was freely offered to him.
It was here that Twilight Sparkle asked if Kark could do a favour for one of her friends for her. She had asked her old tutor and mentor, because she could think of no one better than him to help out her friend in need.
"Anything for the most magically gifted unicorn in all of Equestria!" Kark smiled.
"Great!" Twilight said with joy. "I'll make sure she goes to see you at Canterlot tomorrow."
When came the time for Kark to return to Canterlot, they all hugged each other goodbye, and Kark took to the air on his mighty wings and flew back towards the palace. As Twilight watched Kark fly away, she thought about how lucky she was to have such a great teacher and dragon friend.
Kark was finalizing the paperwork for the deal between the Cakes and the wheat traders who were to prepare the wheat flour order for them while he waited for his star pupil's friend to arrive, so he can fulfill his promise to her.
He had just finished this task and prepared everything to be sent off to Draconia when a knock came on his office door. "Yes?" he called out.
The door creaked open and a pony guard stuck his head inside. It was Sunshine Smiles, the younger of the two guards assigned to protect Princess Luna on her nightly duties. He had started his duty shift barely a half hour ago, and was assigned to guard the outside of Kark's office before Luna assumed her nightly business. He had struck up a friendship with he and his companion, Night Shade, only a few months ago. They often sat together in the Royal Cafeteria while Kark had his supper, and they had their breakfast. He and the two night guards shared the common trait of loving astronomy and music. They were also omnivorous, like he was; often sharing plates of bacon, eggs, sausage, steak, hamburgers and chicken. Since it was not the usual pony fare, it had to be specially made for them; and it would sometimes turn other ponies' stomachs, including the cafeteria cooks. They would sometimes have fun with this at the expense of the squeamish ponies, when they felt especially mischievous.
"Ambassador Kark?" Sunshine Smiles began.
"Yes. What is it?" Kark asked.
"There's a mare here to see you. Says her name is 'Fluttershy'."
"Ah, yes!" Kark smiled. "I've been expecting her. Please! Send her in." He motioned.
"Yes, sir." Sunshine Smiles said as he bowed. "You can walk right in, ma'am." He said as he turned to his left and moved away from the door.
A rather shy looking mare with pale yellow coat and pink mane and tail slowly peaked around the door. "Um… Hello?"
"Fluttershy! So glad you could come! Please, come in, come in!" Kark said as he motioned for her to come into his office.
"Oh! A-all right." The mare said softly as she slowly walked into the room. She glanced behind her as Sunshine Smiles shut the door behind her.
"Please!" Kark smiled as he motioned for her to come lie down on a large pillow on the floor next to his desk.
The light sounds on her hooffalls could be heard as she moved to take her place on the pillow.
"So, how are things?" Kark asked in conversation.
"Oh. Just fine, thanks." Fluttershy said softly.
"How are those animals of yours?" Kark asked.
"Just great." Fluttershy smiled. "Well, except for Angel, who came down with the flu; but he's now recovering, thanks to me."
"Well, that's good!" Kark said happily. "I'm sure he'll get well soon, being looked after by a pony with your gift for animal husbandry."
Fluttershy said nothing as she casually looked down at her front hoofs and crossed them on the pillow.
Kark chuckled. "Still the same ol' Fluttershy! You certainly live up to your name, I can tell you that."
Fluttershy still said nothing as she briefly glanced in Kark's direction.
Seeing that the conversation was going nowhere, Kark switched gears and got down to business. "Twlight Sparkle tells me you're looking for a lesson in something related to astronomy?"
Fluttershy showed a weak smile as she looked up. "Yes! Especially in how the sun shines so brightly at day and how all of the stars shine at night."
Kark raised a questioning eyeridge. "Oh?"
"I-I mean…" Fluttershy continued. "I know that Princess Celestia makes the sun rise and set every day, and Princess Luna makes the moon rise; and sometimes gives us neat stuff, like meteor showers, at night. But they're not the ones who make the sun and the stars shine, do they?"
Kark smiled at his student. "Indeed not! That's very astute! From what I've noticed in pony behaviour over the years, most of them believe that our great and powerful princesses also give them that ability to shine. You don't. That indicates you're special."
"Oh! Well, I guess I am. Heh heh." Fluttershy smiled nervously.
Sensing her uneasiness, Kark was quick to reassure. "But I don't want you to think that as a fallacy. Far from it! That shows that your mind is open enough to 'think outside the box', if you will. You know that there is more to life than just what our dear alicorn princesses can do, or what many ponies believe that they can do. That is what makes you special, Fluttershy. It's also what makes my star pupil, and your friend, Twilight Sparkle, so special." Kark smiled down at her.
Fluttershy giggled. "You're right. So, what does make the sun and the stars shine, if it's not the princesses?"
Kark was pensive for a few seconds, then the idea came to him. "I think" he began as he got up from his big desk chair. "the best person to tell us all about it is the great Colt Sagan himself!"
"Colt Sagan?" Fluttershy asked.
"Yes! Have you heard of him?"
"Well… yes… I know that he was a great Astronomer, but that's about it."
"Oh! He was more than just a great Astronomer, he was an Astrophysicist; an expert stargazer, if you will. He made important discoveries that changed the way many of his peers viewed the cosmos."
"Cosmos?" Fluttershy asked, somewhat confused.
"Yes. Cosmos! You know what the 'cosmos' is, don't you?"
Fluttershy shook her head. "Not really."
"Well, let me put it to you this way: You learned that chaos was in your dealings with Discord, right?"
"uhm hmm." Fluttershy nodded.
"Well, chaos is an old fancy term that means 'disorder'."
"Fancy?" Fluttershy asked.
"Not Fancy like the language I know, but an old Grekol term. For my people, Grekol is an ancient language that came to be known as the language of philosophers and great thinkers of the ancient world."
Fluttershy looked a bit puzzled.
"I can tell you all about it later." Kark said, sensing her confusion. "Conversely, while chaos is an ancient Grekol term for 'disorder', cosmos is an ancient Grekol term that literally means 'the order of things'."
Fluttershy smiled brightly. "So that's what it means! I remember the speech that Princess Celestia gave after we defeated Discord. I was confused by the phrase 'restored cosmos to all of Equestria'. So she meant that we've defeated disorder and restored order to Equestria!"
Kark chuckled. "Now you're getting it! By the way, that line in her speech was my idea. I suggested that she use it, especially after I told her what cosmos really meant." Kark smiled and winked.
Fluttershy giggled. "Makes sense."
"Now, let me see if I can find that Colt Sagan episode." He said as he moved to what could only be described as a "magic mirror" on the other side of his desk. "How does this work again? Celestia only showed it to me once." He started pressing a few buttons on the console in front of the "mirror". It made a few beeping sounds as Kark fiddled at activating it. "Ah! Here we go!" he said with a smile as he finally figured out the sequence.
"Uhm… Ambassador? May I ask a question?" Fluttershy asked softly as she got up to stand beside Kark.
"Certainly!" Kark said as he glanced back at Fluttershy. "By the way, you can call me 'Kark'. All of my friends do."
"Okay." Fluttershy said.
"What was your question?"
"How did you come to know so much about astronomy and… cosmos?" Fluttershy smiled.
Kark smiled back at Fluttershy. "Most of what I know, I learned from my father; who's an Astrophysicist himself, but nowhere near the caliber that Colt Sagan was. Matter of fact, he was a great admirer of Colt Sagan. Most of what he knows, he learned from him; and most of what I know, I've learned from my father."
"Wow!" Fluttershy smiled brightly.
Kark smiled back. Then he pressed one final button on the console, which made a beeping sound as he pressed it. "Ah! Here we go! The episode's ready to roll. Are you ready?"
"Yes!" Fluttershy said.
Kark simply smiled and pressed another button, thus causing the "mirror" to start glowing. Kark moved to settle back down in his chair, and Fluttershy to settle herself back down on her floor pillow. Then the episode started to play.
Soft piano music started playing as an image of moving stars came on the "mirror". Then a faint whistling sound could be heard as the captions "Cosmos: A Personal Voyage by Colt Sagan" came on the screen.
The music itself evoked the passage of time and space. Then a bright star appeared in the "mirror" as the episode title "The Lives of The Stars" appeared on the screen.
After a few more seconds, the orchestral music was replaced by the sound of a clarinet as an image of a Granny Smith apple appeared on the screen. The camera did a slow close up of the apple, and the moving star image in the background slowly faded away.
After about a minute of this, dramatic music start to play as a knife came down and cut the apple in half. This was followed by the image of a mound of dough being dropped on a table. Flour was sprinkled on top of the dough before a rolling pin came down to roll the dough flat.
Then an image of a pie being pushed into an oven came up. The dramatic music increased as we see the pie baking, steam rising from the cracks in the dough.
This was then replaced with fancy trumpet music as we see two Baker ponies extract the now fully baked pie from the oven. One of them places the pie on a fancy silver platter. It is then picked up by an elegantly dressed Earth pony and taken to a large dining room hall.
We see a lone unicorn pony sitting at the far table. As the butler pony approached the unicorn male, we could see that he was of a light brown colour with black hair and tail. This was Colt Sagan!
He smiled as the butler pony deposited the pie in front of him. The fancy trumpet music stopped, and he faced the camera, still smiling.
"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe."
He then turned to face the butler pony. "Thank you very much." Colt Sagan said as he bowed to him.
The butler pony returned the bow, turned and walked back the way he came.
Colt Sagan then got up from his seat cushion. "Suppose I were to cut a piece of this apple pie." He said as he used his unicorn magic to grab a knife off of the table and used it to cut out a standard sized piece of the pie.
He then used his magic again to pick up a spatula, and used it to scoop up the piece that was cut out.
"Crumbly, but good!" he commented as pieces of the crust broke off and fell to the table. He gingerly picked up the piece with the spatula and deposited it on a small plate.
"Now suppose I were to cut this piece in half, more or less." Colt Sagan said as he proceeded to do just that with the spatula.
"And cut this piece in half." He said as he cut the small half in two. "And keep going."
He faces the camera again. "How many cuts before we get down to an individual atom? The answer: About ninety successive cuts!
"But we can't do that here because the knife isn't sharp enough, the pie is too crumbly; and the atom is too small to see to begin with. But there is a way to do it!
"It was here at Canterlot University that the secrets of the atom were first discovered, mainly by shooting pieces of atoms and other atoms, and observing how they reacted."
For the next hour or so, Colt Sagan talked about everything from how atoms were composed of to large numbers(like the googol, the googolplex and infinity) to the chemical elements themselves to how nuclear forces acted to the chemical and nuclear reactions that made the sun and the stars shine to how the stars in the night sky "lived" to how they "died".
Fluttershy seemed quite mesmerized by the lessons Colt Sagan gave. She listened intently as the famous Astronomer talked about the lives of the stars from beginning to end. Kark had seen it numerous times, so he knew the lesson almost word for word, but was quite pleased by Fluttershy's reaction as her eyes were glued to the "magic mirror".
At the end of the lesson, Kark got up from his desk and moved to turn off the "magic mirror". "So, what did you think?" he asked Fluttershy as he turned to face her.
"That was great!" Fluttershy said with a smile. "I had no idea that that was how the sun and the stars really shined!"
She giggled. "Funny! When I was a filly, I always thought that it was Princess Celestia who made the sun and the stars shine so bright!"
Kark chuckled. "Well, while our dear alicorn princess is very powerful, it pales in comparison to the might of the nuclear furnaces in the sun and the stars, as you've just seen."
Fluttershy nodded. "That's true. But there has to be something very powerful to control all of those so called 'nuclear' forces, is there?"
Kark placed his hands behind his back as he became pensive. "Indeed there is! It goes by many names, and it's probably the greatest unsolved mystery we ever knew."
"Are you talking about what we call 'Pony Creation'?"
Kark smiled. "Indeed! Most of us dragons simply call it 'Creation', others call it 'All Mighty', or 'All Father'; others, still, like me, call it 'The Great Unseen One', or simply He.
"I believe lots of you ponies call it 'The All Mother', because you believe it's a female being."
Fluttershy nodded. "That's right! It's what my mothercalled it."
"And what do you believe it is?"
Fluttershy pondered for a moment. "Well, I'm more of the opinion that it's like what you call 'Creation'." She smiled.
Kark smiled back. "I'm glad that I was able to teach something to you today."
"I'm glad, too!" Fluttershy said. "I have to admit, though, that that apple pie made me a little hungry."
Kark nodded, then his face lit up. "You just gave me an idea!"
"I should take you down to the Royal Cafeteria. I'm sure they would have a few apple pies left lying around, and they look exactly like the one you've seen!"
"Really!?" Fluttershy said, as her face brightened.
Kark smiled and nodded. "We could share one!"
"I'd like that, but…"
"It's funny. I didn't know dragons ate pie. Spike certainly doesn't."
"Civilized dragons, like me and Spike, are omnivorous. Savage rogues, like the one you've encountered on the mountain top, are mostly carnivorous. Spike could eat pie, if he wanted to; but he chooses not to. Me? I love them!"
Fluttershy smiled up a Kark.
"So, shall we?" Kark gestured towards the door.
Fluttershy nodded. "Yes."
As they stepped outside of the office, they noticed that Sunshine Smiles was gone. Kark figured he must've left his post to report for duty as Luna's night guard. He glanced outside one of the windows of the hallway and saw that it was dusk. Celestia was slowly lowering the sun, and Luna would soon raise the moon.
"So, has anypony I know seen that episode?" Fluttershy asked.
"Celestia had seen it." Kark answered. "As has Luna. They said that it explains everything perfectly, and Colt Sagan had everything down to a tee! Soarin and Spitfire of the Wonderbolts have also seen it. I showed it to them when they came to Canterlot a short while ago. Soarin especially liked that 'bit with the pie'."
Fluttershy giggled. "That sounds just like Soarin, according to what Rainbow Dash told me about him. He seems to like pies a lot, especially apple pies!"
"Heh! He certainly does!" Kark commented. "After seeing the episode, he insisted that I bring him to the Royal Cafeteria for one of 'Canterlot's finest apple pies'."
Fluttershy giggled at this.
"Let's see, who else you'd know has seen it? Oh! Well, Twilight Sparkle must've seen every episode about four dozen times, and read all of his books!"
Fluttershy giggled again. "Typical! But, how many episodes did he actually make?"
"He made thirteen episodes in all. In them, he talks about virtually everything that has to do with cosmos."
"Wow!" Fluttershy commented. "It must've taken him a long time to make all of them, if they're all an hour long."
"It took him an entire year to make the whole series."
"I'm sure it was all worth it!"
Kark smiled and nodded."It was!"
"I'm sure Applejack and her siblings would love to see that episode!"
"Applejack? That's the apple farmer, right?"
"Okay! I remember her now! Twilight Sparkle introduced her to me at the Nightmare Night Festival in Ponyville a couple of years back. I'm trying to get her to export some of her finest apples to Draconia in exchange for fine quality lumber from Kebek and Ontoria for fixing and renovating her barns.
"Hey! Here's an idea! You could get your friends to come to Canterlot for an entire weekend. We could watch all of Colt Sagan's episodes together. Maybe it'll answer any questions they may have about cosmos!"
"Sound like a plan!" Fluttershy said. "I'll mention it to Twilight Sparkle. I'm sure all of our friends would want to do this!"
"No doubt! I'd like to show them to Shining Armour and Princess Cadence as well. They mentioned that they were willing to see them also."
They reached the threshold of the Royal Cafeteria entrance. The din of conversation was prevalent inside, as many palace residents and staff were having their evening meal.
"After you, my dear!" Kark said as he ushered Fluttershy inside.
"Ooh, my! So courteous!" Fluttershy said as she blushed lightly.
"I think this is going to be the start of a beautiful friendship." Kark said with a smile as he followed Fluttershy inside.