Leaning nonchalantly against the door, the brown earth pony with the hourglass cutie mark looked at the beige pegasus. “Now that that's out of the way, who might you be?”
Ink Well looked at 'the Doctor' confusedly. “Huh?”
The Doctor walked along the catwalk towards him. “It's customary that after someon-err somepony gives their name, the other party responds in kind. I gave you mine, what's yours?”
Ink Well rubbed his head with his hoof. “That's your name? It's a title! Doctor what?”
The Doctor shook his head. “No, no. Just 'the Doctor'.”
Ink Well raised an eyebrow at him. “The Doctor?”
The beige pony waved. “Hello!”
The pegasus nodded slowly. “Right... I'm Ink Well.”
The Doctor looked surprised. “Oh?! The writer of this play Ink Well?”
He nodded sheepishly. “Yeah...”
“Well I love your work. Your writing is fantastic, and quite accurate considering you weren't actually there. I rather like how you put in the extra effort for accuracy. Better even than the average historian! You know, I've never much liked historians. Always collecting away history in museums and studying it, never really going out there and experiencing it. And they always have to apply some interpretation to it, never bothering to ask the conquered how they felt about the whole thing. I happen to know for a fact that...” Ink Well zoned out, letting the Doctor rant as he looked at the stage far below, seeing actors in their guard costumes preparing to rush Nightmare Moon. Dramatic music was playing, filling the high dark space as Nightmare Moon reveled in her appearance, the crowd oohing and aahing at the special cloud and lightning effects surrounding her. It was now, just before the first act finale, that the guards would fly in, only to be struck down by lightning and stagger woozily off stage to await their next entrance in act two. The scene would never change, the script unable to be rewritten, yet they'd do it every time.
The guards made their entrance, flying onto the stage and confronting the evil presence. At the same time, Ink Well turned to rambling pony. “Doctor, I need you to unlock that door.”
“... who was actually a very nice person once you got to-” The Doctor cut off mid thought, giving him a confused look and simply stating “What?”
Ink Well walked over to him, determined despite the lack of response. “If we don't do something about that attacker then somepony else is going to run into it. I don't want anypony getting hurt when I was clearly the target.” He walked past the confused earth pony, reaching for the door handle. As he ducked to grip it, his face was showered with splinters and bits of timber as a long, wicked blade burst through the door, halting itself abruptly just above his mane, removing a few unlucky hairs from the top. Ink Well looked up at the sword tip, flashbacks to the battle of Ponyville erupting in his mind as he slowly walked backward, careful not to lift his head..
The blade retreated into the door, then came back at an angle, causing Ink Well to stagger as he dodged its hacking. He fell backwards into a waiting Doctor, who steadied him as they watched the hole slowly widen beneath the blade. The door was turned to rapidly toothpicks before their eyes, hole quickly widening to reveal the cloaked pony behind it. Seemingly unaware of this, The Doctor set Ink Well steady, stepping between him and the dwindling door and giving him a cheerful smile. “I don't think we'll have to worry about others.” Ink Well gave a slow, stunned nod as he looked around The Doctor, both curious and frightful of the nature of his attacker. The Doctor saw this and leaned in a little closer, whispering conspiratorially. “It might not be a bad idea to start running again.”
Both ponies started moving at that, running along the catwalk mere moments before the door failed and fell to pieces. The shrouded figure stepped though, seeming to scan the area despite remaining unnaturally motionless. After a brief delay it seemed to hone in on them, and in far too few steps it had instantly matched pace with the two sets of hooves retreating. Its heavy hoof beats clanged on the metal catwalks, shaking them beneath Ink Well's hooves and garnering more than a few angry glares from the tech ponies on the floor below.
With each passing moment the figure slowly accelerated, growing ever closer until it was clear the two ponies would be unable to outrun their assailant. The Doctor kept a lead on Ink Well as they ran and when he reached an intersection, hurried right down the available staircase, bounding down to the first landing. He had rounded that and was halfway to stage level before he realized the complete lack of pursuing hoof steps or shaking stairs. Looking up in the leftover stage lighting he could just make out the two dim figures wheeling away on the catwalk above. He followed beneath them, swerving around sets, bewildered actors and techs who called out quietly but angrily after him. Ignoring them he plowed through, his focus locked on the chase above.
Ink Well looked back as he made the left turn, immediately regretting it as he saw the cloak gaining ground. He looked forward to see a few earth ponies handling ropes and rigging on the catwalk, unaware of his presence as they blocked the path, waiting for the next cue. Nightmare's speech was at full volume, with music preparing to swell for her Decree of Darkness, and the chill it inspired spurred Ink Well to double his efforts, increasing his speed. The two ponies seemed to notice the vibrating under their feet, looking around just in time to see the chase as Ink Well vaulted the techs, leaping over the first flapping his wings just once to clear the second before landing lightly on the other side in full stride. His pursuer wasn't as nimble, crashing through the two frightened ponies and bowling them over, causing their grip to slip on the ropes they held. A muffled yelp came from the stage as Nightmare dropped. The techs scrambled for the rope, the heavier of the two leaping forward to grip it with his teeth. The harness caught Nightmare painfully when her fall ceased, but her speech didn't falter for more than that moment, taking the slip up in stride.
The cloaked pursuer seemed to pick up speed effortlessly, returning to and surpassing its old pace as Ink Well took a right at the next corner. This proved to be a bad decision, placing him on a small dead-end platform near the ropes of the rigging. He immediately turned around to see the cloaked figure blocking his exit, the dim light bleeding through the drop behind back-lighting him menacingly. The figure advanced slowly, hooves clinking on the metal walkway. Ink Well looked around, not sure he could fly in the tight space between the rigging and his hunter.
A few feet away the hunter stopped, holding stock still for a moment as a whirring emanated from beneath the hood. Ink Well felt uncomfortable as he watched curiously, fascinated despite himself as his fur stood on end. The empty darkness under the cloak seeming to peer into his very soul, taking inventory of every part of his being. A few moments later the whirring changed to a higher pitch, followed by a sharp 'click'. “Source confirmed.” The voice from the hood was cold and harsh, like the echoing of sound through the pipes of Rose's distillery.
Ink Well's fright was replaced by an adrenaline charged confusion. “Source? What source? What are you talking about?”
The whirring returned, followed by another 'click'. “Prepare for collection” was all the assailant said before his hoof raised up, the bottom giving a faint metallic gleam that was absent from a small circle in the center. The Darkness Decree's music began, swelling to a fevered minor pitch as lighting crashed and Nightmare on stage called for everlasting night. Trumpets blared, timpani pounded, and, behind Ink Well, a faint whizzing noise could be heard.
Behind the shrouded figure a drop moved, the fabric buckling and falling as it lost support, a flowing black wall slowly moving towards the catwalk. Ink Well's tail was gripped, pulled upward by a brown blur attached to the rigging rope that blazed by. As he moved out of the way, a puff of smoke left the end of the assailant's hoof, a dart launching forth. It seemed to take ages to pass before him, the tip sliding just under his nose as his body was propelled upwards tail first. He watched it go, reaching the brick wall at a point now a few feet below him and harmlessly bouncing off.
The heavy drop engulfing the figure, its only reaction an emotionless stare as it watched Ink Well retreat. The next level of the catwalk blitzed by, followed by the grid at the top of the building, which Ink Well found himself dangling from. He looked down the length of his body, seeing The Doctor standing on the metal beams, Ink Well's dark tail firmly held in his mouth and a sword clutched in his hoof. The Doctor smiled before giving a pleading look, prompting Ink Well to flap his wings and alight on the grid. The Doctor spit out his tail, grinning madly as he looked at the prop sabre in his hoof. “That was fun! Ever since I was on that pirate ship I wanted to do that! Like a zip line but vertical. Too bad about the drop though, but I'm sure they can fix it before it's needed.”
Ink Well heart was pounding as he looked down from his high perch, seeing dozens of feet below the bright morning Ponyville sun crinkled and drooping over the catwalk. Almost a dozen pegasi were taking to the air around it to lift the painted drop back into position, while the glow of a few different varieties of supporting magic suffused the dim space below. He looked back at The Doctor, smiling wildly. “They've got 'til the end of act two, and intermission is coming up. It'll be fine.”
Above the music rose cries of confusion from below, causing both ponies in the grid to look down. Smoke was billowing from beneath the drop, and as one edge lifted a dark figure shot out on a pillar of flame. The cloak billowed around the assassin as it perched atop the fire that shot from its legs, the reflected fiery hue betraying a metal nature. It slowly rose into the air, the dark hole beneath the hood staring straight upwards, coldly evaluating Ink Well even as he stood so far away.
Ink Well was snapped from the sight below him with the touch of The Doctor's hoof on his shoulder and looked around him. All of the rigging of the theater ran through the grid, dozens of ropes of all gauges running from various points around the stage to the pulleys at the back wall. With one look he knew this was not a place to face his chaser. “This whole place will go up like a candle, and all that falling on the ponies below... Doctor, follow me.”
The Doctor raised an eyebrow at him. “Oh, where are we going?”
“A more suitable stage. The show must go on.” Ink Well hovered in the narrow space between the grid's beams and the roof to the far side where there was a small hatch set above. He pulled on the handle, yanking hard to open it and causing a narrow set of stairs to fold out. He motioned The Doctor up them, getting an amused grin from the earth pony, seemingly enjoying letting Ink Well take over. On the other side of the grid he saw his attacker land, the jets of flame that emanated from its legs cutting off as it began to make its own way across. Ominous music thrummed far below, focusing determination coming from the dark hood into a chill down Ink Well's spine. Ink Well nodded to the figure, then flew up the hatch to join The Doctor above.
The two ponies stood in the open Manehattan air, the bright lights of the buildings surrounding them bathing the whole area in a warm glow. Far above, barely visible with all the light pollution around them, the moon gazed coolly from the sky. Ink Well gazed back at it, the familiar orb above not feeling quite... right. It was odd, just off from the perfect circle it always was, and higher for this time of night, as though it had rose a little early.
Shaking off thoughts of what it could mean, he examined his choice of battle stage. The roof was large and flat, with little to be said for it apart from the hatch in one end and the small drainage holes along the side. A short wall surrounded the perimeter, making it an almost perfect set for a duel. Nothing to get in the way, nothing to hide behind.
Ink Well's ran the upcoming fight in his head. His attacker had an arsenal, with everything from darts to swords to electrified clubs, and seemed to be some strange immensely powerful amalgam of pony and machine. It felt emotionless, only focused on him for some reason, and to top it all off it was faster than him and could also fly despite lacking wings. Ink Well had...
He looked over at The Doctor, who had taken up a similar position next to Ink Well in the center of the roof. He hefted a prop sword in one hoof, which was apparently sharp enough to cut a rope, and had a faint grin on his face and a wild look in his blue eyes, like he was really enjoying the danger. 'You've got some crazy pony you don't know with a sword and a glowy blue pen. You've got nowhere to run, nothing to hide behind, not even a weapon. Just a notepad and a pen...' Ink Well smiled nervously, turning to The Doctor. “You wouldn't happen to have a plan to fight this guy, would you?”
The Doctor looked over at him, still smiling away. “No, can't say that I do. It's a scary thought, isn't it? I could do anything!”
Ink Well turned back towards the hatch, knees trembling and sweat pouring down him in the cool night air. 'Oh, what could I have done to make somepony attack me? Okay, bad question, you angered a super wealthy and powerful mare in the world of business with her own army, but she is under the careful watch of Princess Celestia... who is downstairs enjoying the show you wrote about her sister turning evil and imprisoning her.' He swallowed at a lump in his throat as the cloaked figure rose from the hatch, turning to face the two with it's blank hooded stare. Oddly, this caused his trembling to stop. 'I'm dead. I'm on the roof of a theater with a crazy pony as my only ally, and I'm dead. Well, it was a good run. Shame about missing the rest of the show. I bet it would have been nice.' The assailant moved closer, coming to a point opposite the two ponies on the roof before stopping. 'Manehattan. It had to happen in Manehattan. I couldn't die in Cloudsdale or Ponyville, somewhere beautiful with family or friends. No, the big blocky city...'
As Ink Well pondered over the life choices that had brought him to this point, The Doctor took a step forward, brandishing his sword. “Right then! I've had about enough of this. Why are you so interested in my friend here?”
'Even the train would have been better than this. That way you could have at least died with Rose nearby...'
The cloak whirred and clicked one more before speaking. “My orders are to remove the Source.”
“The source? The source of what?”
Whir. Click. “Change.” The hood turned in the pale moonlight, aiming itself towards Ink Well. Whir. Click. “Prepare for transport.”
'Rose... I promised I'd spend more time with you, then this happens. Guess I'll have to break my promise...'
“Hold on! Transport where?” The hoof raised once more, the center hollow, gleaming coolly. “Where are you to take the Source? Who's orders are you following?”
Rose's voice chimed in Ink Well's mind like a siren's song, pulling him from the fog of doubt. 'But you never break your promises.'
A puff of smoke emitted from the bottom of the hoof, another dart flying towards Ink Well, whose unfocused eyes seemed to resolve a moment too late. Just before arriving there was a blur of metal, The Doctor's sword deflecting the shot effortlessly. The Doctor frowned at the assailant, visibly perturbed by it. “Why won't you listen to me?” He whipped Ink Well's flank with his tail before charging at the cloaked form, sword at the ready. The upraised leg rotated, the interior of the hole changing as its aim adjusted.
Ink Well reacted, finally freed from his own mind, and began to circle the hooded pony, trying to position himself better for attack. The hood followed him rigidly, it's gaze never leaving him as its body rotated, the leg spinning once more to its original position and pointing towards Ink Well. Mid way through turn, The Doctor appeared next to him. “I don't like to be ignored.” His sword struck, clanging off of the leg and causing him to stumble back with the sword's rebound.
The cloaked pony's hoof rotated once more, his own sword sliding from it slowly before locking in position with an audible 'snick'. It swiped down, striking back as The Doctor blocked unsteadily. The hood focused on him, a cold frustrated anger emanating from it for the distraction. It stepped forward, thrusting, which The Doctor parried before rearing onto his back hooves and assuming a fencing pose. Irritated whirring came from beneath the hood before the next attack came, also effortlessly dodged by The Doctor who returned the swing with his own thrust.
While the two were locked in combat, Ink Well circled around, taking a running start before leaping at the cloaked pony in a flying kick. The form whirled around, glaring at this new assault and blocking it with the flat of his sword. It barely reacted to the attack, the full force of the impact bouncing back and shaking Ink Well as though he'd kicked a solid wall.
“One shouldn't get distracted in a fight,” said The Doctor as he slashed forward, cutting the back of the hood cleanly down the center before his sword was stopped dead on the body beneath.
The hood fell to either side, sliding away to reveal a brass body that gleamed in the light. Black, empty eyes stared at Ink Well calculatingly, while an annoyed whirring came from the grille where is mouth should have been. The metal pony spun back around, gaining another swipe from The Doctor's sword which caused the rest of its cloak to fall away. Beneath it lay an entire pony of brass, with plates running from nose to rear, the joints scaled and interlocking like a folded fan. The body was absent of hair, instead a metal seam and rivets ran where a mane would flow. Without the muffling effect of the cape, every motion was accompanied by soft whirs, clinks, and groans of machinery as it struck out at the brown earth pony.
The Doctor smiled warmly at the brass pony assailing him. “Ah! You're beautiful! But I don't recognize the construction...” He parried a blow, sending the metal pony past him in the direction of Ink Well, then dropped the sword, ignoring the metal pony next to him in favor of his small silver pen. Luckily for him, the mechanical pony ignored him as well, the empty black eyes immediately locking back onto Ink Well as the metal legs groaned into motion.
Ink Well instinctively reached for his notebook, pulling it from his jacket with his wing and reaching for his pen before his brain reminded him that the approaching figure wouldn't give him time to jot down notes. The shining pony rapidly accelerated, causing Ink Well to start flapping his wings ineffectually, dropping the notebook as he backed away, skirting around the edge of the roof. He sprinted as quickly as he could, hearing strong metallic hoof beats behind him but not looking back in case the act were to slow him down. His imagination was more than enough to keep him running. Instead he looked towards the center of the roof where The Doctor was fiddling with his glowing blue pen, pivoting to follow the brass pony around and pointing the lighted end at it.
Ink Well risked a glance back, seeing the gleaming metal figure closing the gap, and launched right, bee-lining for the earth pony standing in the center. “Doctor! What are you doing?”
The Doctor kept staring at his pen. “Analyzing it. Just a few more moments...”
Ink Well took to the air, speeding up once he lost contact with the ground, and banked into a wide circle around The Doctor. His chaser followed, flames bursting from its feet as it gained altitude and yet more speed. “Doctor! A little help?”
The Doctor raised the hoof balancing the pen to his mouth, staring at it more intently. “Shhhh!”
Ink Well banked harder, coming into a tight spiral that pulled him closer and closer to the brown pony in the center. The brass pony behind him banked as well, the ring of fire trailing behind him closing in until, from above, it looked like a giant firework spinning across the ground. The billowing flames heated the whole area as it closed its distance to Ink Well, hoof sparking as it came into striking range. “DOCTOR!” Underneath the thrum of electricity and the roar of the flames, a vibration buzzed, unnoticed in the commotion.
Except by one pony. “Aha!” The Doctor stepped forward, holding out his pen to the blur of motion in the very tight tornado around him. Ever so carefully he brought it forward, tapping the glowing tip to the metal pony. Instantly the flames shut off, the form falling heavily to the ground and tumbling across the roof to crash into the far wall. The Doctor smiled, placing his pen in his teeth as he walked over to the prone form and leaving Ink Well to circle a few more times as he slowed himself to a landing.
By the time Ink Well landed The Doctor was standing on the prone metal pony pointing the blue light at it. He continued to talk rapidly, but most of the words were muffled by the pen. “Oh, ou're a real eauty aren't ou? 'et's ust et is afepate off an fee what mafes you 'ick!” After a few moments of concentrated whirring the blue pen seemed to have an effect, the front of the brass pony's face disconnecting and sliding forward, revealing a clear dome filled with moving gears and flashing lights. To Ink Well it looked like parts of a speaker and a clock were jammed haphazardly into the dome, but The Doctor whistled, dropping his blue pen into the collar of his tie. “Oh, you are a beauty aren't you?”
Ink Well took a tentative step forward. “Doctor, what is that thing?”
The Doctor ignored him in favor of licking the clear dome of the metal pony's head, garnering a very strange look from Ink Well. The Doctor however looked like he'd been struck by inspiration. “Ah! A transparent aluminum alloy! This is centuries early on its own.” He moved the clear dome around quickly, examining every angle, while every motion elicited a tired whir from the ponyform below. “Clockwork construction, pneumatic limbs, magnetic tape recordings to the speaker system, magic scroll subroutine,” he sniffed deeply at the black mesh where the grille had been on the faceplate, “and is that a bio-carbon link for the wiring? Now?” The Doctor got up from the metal pony, eying it suspiciously. “Everything from tubes to nanofibers in you. That's not standard for anything. Oh, you're a real mess my robot friend, so where do you come from?”
There were a few distressed whirs and hisses as the brass pony struggled to get all of its limbs in order, seemingly unable to despite The Doctor no longer standing on it. He waved a hoof at the metal pony. “Ah ah, disabled your stabilizers, and might I add gyroscopes are a nice touch, really add to the enigma that is you. No, you aren't going anywhere until you give me a name. Now who built you?”
The metal pony's clear head turned, large dishes where the eyes should be fixing on Ink Well one final time before whirr came from its mouth, a small tape behind it winding to the correct spot before it clicked into playing. “The Source is confirmed found. Unable to retrieve. Returning to base to report.”
The Doctor smiled down on the robot. “Ah, that's even better! Lead us there! It'd make my job a lot easier.” The glass dome lit up as a red light bathed the interior. Energy could be felt in the air, expanding from the prone metal form. Ink Well felt his hair raise on end as energy charged through him. The Doctor's eyes widened, a hoof going up to try to stop the grounded robot. “No!” Electricity crackled around the body before it seemed to collapse on itself in a flash of light with a soft thunderclap.
Ink Well found himself drawn to the spot, stunned by the sudden disappearance of his enemy while The Doctor ran around looking up at the sky. “No-no-no-no-no-no-no-no awwww!” He smacked his head with a hoof. “I am so thick! Teleports! Of course the thing can teleport, that kind of technology? Jet feet? The sonic even said it!” He smacked his head in rhythm to his words. “Why didn't you listen to the sonic?”
Ink Well stood dumbfounded, staring at the fuming earth pony. “Doctor, what was that thing? Where did it go?”
The Doctor walked over to him, still berating himself until he suddenly stopped at the spot where the brass pony had disappeared, nose wrinkling as his eyes shot open. He circled the point like a dog before breathing in deeply and looking over at Ink Well with curious eyes, one eyebrow raised in question. “Do you smell that?”
Confused, Ink Well sniffed, smelling the strong metallic tang that comes after a lightning strike without the cool water components of a storm. “What, the lightning smell?”
“No, not that, underneath...” The Doctor smiled, raising a hoof in exclamation. “That's temporal!” He looked at his hoof for a moment, dejected. “Aw, forgot I can't snap.” After just a moment of this he pointed his hoof at Ink Well, back to his smiling state. “Tell me, what does temporal energy remaining when something that small teleports just scream at you?”
Ink Well stared at him blankly, and awkward silence growing between the two stallions. The Doctor gave him a slightly disappointed look. “Right, apparently not a lot.” He turned around, pacing to continue his train of thought. “What it screams to me is that the temporal shift was done primitively, leaving behind one heck of an energy signature in space-time.”
Ink Well wasn't sure he was following. In fact, he was fairly sure he'd been lost somewhere near the stage door, but he gave it his best shot. “So... you can track where it went?”
“I can do you one better! I can track when it went!” Before Ink Well could object that that made no sense The Doctor was off, heading over to the edge of the roof. He hopped onto the ledge, signaling Ink Well to follow before leaping across the alley, landing on the fire escape of the adjacent building and hurrying down the stairs. Ink Well watched him start to leave and looked around the roof. The hatch looked so inviting, the final few chords of the finale barely making it into the night air. Just one easy path and this whole night could be forgotten.
His eyes then fell on the tiny scorch mark left in the roof where the pony had disappeared and knew exactly what had to happen. He dusted off from the ceiling, swinging past where his notebook had landed to pick it up before rising high up and diving into the alleyway.
The Doctor reached street level in the dim theater alley and took off like a shot, leaving Ink Well to twist in the air and hover above him as he galloped away. “Where are we going?” Ink Well called at the chestnut mane beneath him.
“That's part of the surprise, isn't it?” The earth pony just turned at the next alleyway, stopping at the front of a large blue box sitting between two dumpsters. “We are going to track it.” He tapped the blue painted wood, grinning as he did. “With this baby!”
Ink Well looked the box over. It was fairly tall, but small, looking like it could hold maybe six ponies if they crammed into two pillars three ponies high. There was also a row of small latticed white windows around the top, above which was a lit sign that read “POLICE PUBLIC CALL BOX.” To top it all off it had a light sitting at the top, currently off, as well as a plaque on the front written with instructions next to a very small handle and key hole. The instructions read something about a 'Police Telephone', whatever that meant. “We're going to track that mechanical pony with a blue wooden box?”
“Yes!” The Doctor pushed open the door, his smile unwavering as he stepped confidently into the light that spilled from it into the narrow alleyway. Ink Well hesitated outside, waiting for the crazed earth pony to bump into the other side or turn back around and step out, but instead just his head appeared. “Come on! Don't you want to know where that thing came from?”
Ink Well walked over to the front of the box, preparing a friendly reason why he wasn't going to cram into the booth with somepony he barely knew when the sight within dropped his jaw. The tall doors of the box led to a room far larger than it could contain. Amber light saturated the room, a dome surrounded by light emitting hexagon fixtures and supported by columns that seemed to grow naturally from the ground to the ceiling, which itself was about a dozen feet higher than the exterior allowed. A metal grille platform sat raised in the center, with a green glowing glass tube rising from it to the ceiling, a massive bulb at its base. Around the center part of the floor ran guard railings that reached above Ink Well's head, while set into the wall were two other doors, both far taller and wider than a pony would ever need.
The pegasus felt himself drawn into the room, trying to wrap his brain around the impossibility before him. The Doctor stood at the door, smiling knowingly while the thought made its way to Ink Well's lips. “It's smaller on the outside.”
The Doctor frowned, shutting the door and making his way to the bulb at the base of the pillar as he talked. “You're the second being to say that. Most reverse the observation.”
Ink Well was now following the cables that ran from the center of both the ceiling and the floor beneath the grille to the exterior walls, brain still a little strapped for wording. “How did you fit all of this into such a tiny space? Is it magic? A very powerful unicorn? Did Twilight help you with this?”
The Doctor stopped, looking back at him. “Oh, you know Twilight? How is she doing?”
Ink Well had to think for a moment, the friendly recognition throwing him off. “She's alr-”
“Good, great to hear.” The Doctor reared up on his back hooves, barely able to reach the top of the bulb, which was set with and eclectic arrangement of knobs, buttons, pumps, levers, wheels, valves, and things Ink Well didn't recognize, and pulled over a swiveling display screen, setting it before him. He ran around the bulb, jumping up to hit button and flip switches before returning to the screen. He looked at it one more time before turning a valve next to him. “No, she will be just as confused by this as you are. There's no magic in this ship, and unicorns were a bit of a myth in my dimension, but that's neither here nor there.” He pushed a button, causing the entire room to shake. Faintly a loud, beautiful otherworldly whine like a broken galactic pump resonated between the walls, while a much louder thumping came from the glass pistons pumping in the center of the room. The Doctor ignored all of this, tapping a hoof against his chin thoughtfully. “Well, mostly it's there, but that's a fair ways away, while this,” he slammed down a knife switch, causing the sound, the rumbling, and all the moving parts to slow to a stop, “is far closer.” There was a knock at the door behind Ink Well. “Could you open that?”
Ink Well turned around, carefully pulling open the door and peering into a blinding afternoon sun and a pair of bright yellow eyes that peered back. “Oh! Excuse me, I didn't know The Doctor would have company.” Ink Well blinked in amazement, ignoring the feminine voice before him to instead look at the lack of alley beyond the door. “Hello? Are you listening?” Green grass, blue sky, bright yellow flowers and the twittering of birds instead filled the outside, along with the distant, familiar chiming of the Ponyville clock tower. “If you could just step aside I could get in.”
Ink Well stood in shock. “We're in Ponyville. In the day. How did we do that?”
The voice outside the door giggled. “Ah, you're new then. Yep! This is Ponyville! Didn't The Doctor tell you about the TaRDiS?” Ink Well shook his head, prompting the voice to continue on. “Well, it stands for Time and Relative Dimensions in Space, and it-” A polite cough came from behind Ink Well, causing the pony outside to cease her explaining. “Um, could you let me in? I think The Doctor wants to leave.”
“Oh, yeah, right.” Ink Well blinked a few more times, making sure the landscape didn't go anywhere as he stepped back inside. The owner of the eyes and voice made her way past, closing the door behind her. In the dimmer golden light of the TaRDiS grey fur and a long messy blonde mane were visible, along with the small bags she held beneath her wings. Bubbles moved on her flank as she walked past, and while it took a little bit for Ink Well to pick up on, there was a strange cadence to her walking and an almost imperceptible wobble to her path.
The pegasus made her way to The Doctor, frowning. “You're late! I had to hide in a bush so I didn't run into myself!”
The Doctor smiled apologetically. “I got a little delayed. You already met the reason. I believe you were explaining the ship to him?”
“Oh, I was wasn't I?” The pegasus put down her bags before walking back to Ink Well, looking at him with skewed eyes that split the difference: one higher than center and one lower. “Right, so it stands for Time and Relative Dimensions in Space and it is able to go...” Her eyes slid into a more normal position as she focused on his face. “Ink Well!” Recognition caused her eyes to skew once more as she smiled and began to shake his hoof. “Long time no see! I didn't recognize you without your hat, sorry. How have you been?”
Ink Well tilted his head in confusion, wondering why the wall eyed pegasus was so familiar. “You're, um. You're...” Her smile faded, looking slightly injured that he didn't remember her. He wracked his brain for the relevant details. 'You know her. Way back. Back when you were still a journalist. It was a D name. Dah, duh, dih, dit-'
“Ditzy! That's right! Ms. Ditzy Doo, I gave you that story all those months ago.” Her smile returned, causing him to smile as well before it was cut off by a memory. “I promised I'd say 'Hi' when I next saw you, didn't I? I can't believe I forgot! Hi! How are you?”
Ditzy looked confused. “Why are you calling back all this old stuff? That was ages ago. Did everything go alright after the fall? I know you were worried about somepony, are they alright?”
It was Ink Well's turn to look confused. “Fall? What fall? The Equirer?”
Ditzy huffed. “No! How can you not remember the fall? All that running around in the-”
“Ah, ah, uh...” The Doctor appeared beside her, cutting her off with a hoof and pulling her back up to the platform shaking his head. “Not yet.”
“You mean he hasn't-?”
“Five months.” He let her go, turning back to his console and moving the many objects on it again. “He was at his musical's opening when he was attacked, robo pony, completely the wrong time period, so I'm tracking it.” He looked at the display once more, focused on its readings. “It's starting to fade, I'm going to lock the TaRDiS onto the signal as we take off. Everypony hold on!” The Doctor pushed a few buttons on the panel beneath the display, all of which seemed too small for his hoof to press accurately without a lot of care, before pulling on a lever and ringing a small bell. The entire room rocked and shook, jolting to the side and staggering the occupants as a yellow light flashed on the console.
Ink Well swayed with the room by the door, watching as Ditzy and The Doctor ran around the central bulb pushing buttons smiling at each other. While The Doctor was an anomaly, it seemed that Ditzy had fit right into the flow here, and they worked gracefully around each other. They must have been together for a long time before he'd gotten here. Ink Well felt rather superfluous to the process, so instead found a place where he could lean and pulled out his notepad, trying to find words to describe the wonderful room around him. He pulled out his pen, chewing on it softly to adjust it, then placing tip to paper. Ink flowed with the pen strokes, and over the short period he had, he managed to fill a page purely with the what had happened so far. When he finished he read it over, shaking his head. 'Nopony is every going to believe this.'
A large jerk shook him from his writings, causing him to look at the center platform. The Doctor was gripping his display, looking at it worriedly while Ditzy held down two levers at the very edges of her wingspan. She looked over at him, her smile missing from her face. “Doctor, what's going on? I thought you had a lock on it!”
“I did! It veered off and disappeared. I'm going to try to land us where it was headed.” Without looking away from the display, he spun a valve next to him, scrolling a wheel with his other hoof and pumping a handle with his mouth. The room lurched once more, then seemed to stabilize before 'landing' with a whump. The Doctor ran to the door, pulling it open and sticking his head outside. “This looks right.” He pulled his head back inside, grinning back at Ditzy. “Here we are! Let's look around.” He walked outside, followed quickly by Ditzy, who flew from the center pedestal and zipped out the door.
Ink Well trailed out last, a slight hesitance in his step. 'You're already this far, it's a little late to turn back.' Curious as to the wonders behind it, he pushed open the door revealing...
A metal wall and floor. A small silvered hallway, by the look of it, with pipes running along the ceiling. Disappointed, Ink Well stepped outside, looking for The Doctor. Rounding the back of the blue box he saw The Doctor and Ditzy walking down the narrow hallway. Both sides of it were lined with egg shaped metal things with glass tops stacked two high, and whatever was in them had the rapt attention of Ditzy and the interest of The Doctor, as he seemed to be talking rapidly as he zipped between them. Unable to resist his own curiosity, Ink Well walked over to the nearest one, peering into it.
All that he could see was a layer of frost on the outside, so he wiped a hoof over it and tried again.
Within the metal egg lay a blue-green unicorn on a rigid, frosty bed. It did not move, not even breathe, it just lay there motionless. Unnerved, Ink Well walked over to the next one, wiping away the frost to reveal another pony, an earth pony, laying in the same pose, unmoving. He moved down the line faster and faster, each frozen pony revealed redoubling his fears.
He ran along the pods, catching merest glimpses of the forms within before running headlong into The Doctor, knocking them both over. At the end of their tumble Ink Well was atop The Doctor's chest, shaking visibly. “Oh! Right, you're here too, aren't you? Must have gotten lost in the excitement.” The Doctor noticed Ink Well's condition. “You alright there stallion?”
Ink Well shook his head. “All these freezers... ponies... Is this some sick joke?”
Ditzy fluttered next to him, confusion on her face once more. “What are you talking about?”
Ink Well flung a hoof out towards the pods around them. “Who would display dead ponies like this?”
The Doctor smiled, placing a hoof on the shaking pegasus's shoulder. “Ah! Is that what this is? They are just sleeping, kept in cold storage for the trip, like vegetables.”
Ink Well stared at him, shocked at how calm he was. “They are frozen solid! They aren't breathing!”
“There wouldn't be supplies if they were awake. Not food, water, or even air for the length of it.” Ink Well still looked shaken, leading The Doctor to put a foreleg around Ink Well. “Perhaps I can give you a better visual.” The Doctor led him down a short side corridor to a large window set into the wall. Beyond it was nothing but a moonless night sky, pure darkness filled with a multitude of tiny pinpricks of light that shone coldly in the vastness. Very close to the window tumbled a giant grey rock that floated past on its journey through the dark.
Ink Well jumped in the friendly grip, looking at the steadfast pony beside him. “Doctor, what is this place?”
“You're really shaken, aren't you?” The Doctor looked at him with warm eyes before looking back out the window. “Relax Ink Well. You're in space.”