“And you’ll want to visit Canterlot, for sure. Lovely buildings—highest on the planet. Not that that’s saying much, but there you go. Oh! And definitely take a look at Cloudsdale. It’s a fantastic place, really.”
The alien, a tall insectoid creature with several deep-blue eyes, bowed slightly to the Doctor. Its mandibles moved slowly, letting out something unintelligible.
“Oh, it’s nothing, really,” the Doctor said with a smile and a pat on the back. “I always love helping out some tourists in a fix. Love the Hawaiian shirt, by the way. Very nice touch.”
The alien waved its arms around a few times, proudly displaying its clothing. It tapped two of its lanky limbs together, creating a sound not entirely unlike a pair of drumsticks.
“You’re quite welcome,” the Doctor said, quickly bobbing his head. “Went on a little galaxy tour myself a few years ago. Wonderful honeymoon.” He paused. “Ah, and you’ll want to keep your Appearifier Transmogricant on at all times. The locals might not take kindly to strange visitors in their midst.”
A few more clicks and clacks made their way from the alien’s jaws.
The Doctor nodded. “Good man—bug—thing. Brilliant. Now, make sure you learn the language, and don’t be taken in by street vendors! Nasty lot.”
The alien cracked its neck a few times in what was presumably a nod, then turned to walk away. As it grew smaller in the distance, moving toward the outskirts of Ponyville, its form flickered. Instead of an insectoid extraterrestrial, a lanky, orange-colored stallion was now wandering into town.
The Doctor grinned. “Fantastic. I do hope he has a good time.” He trotted along down the road for a moment before he stopped, putting a hoof on his chin.
“That’s taken care of. Now what did I come here for in the first place?” the Doctor mused. He looked around, trying to spot anything that might trigger his memory. Sadly, nothing presented itself.
With a sigh, the Doctor trotted on down the road toward Ponyville. He waved to a few passers-by as he entered the town proper. Most shops and restaurants were already in full swing for the day, and the town square was actually quite crowded when the Doctor arrived. “I’m sure I’ll remember soon enough.” As if on cue, his stomach rumbled rather loudly. The Doctor chuckled awkwardly, and looked around for a bit before finally stopping.
“Why, hello there!” the Doctor said, smiling and galloping over to a tableside café. A sign over the entrance read Butterfly Fries in large, pink letters, and several ponies sat at roadside tables just next to the building. “Fancy meeting you here.”
Carrot Top looked up from her menu and groaned. “Hello Doctor. What might I have done to earn the honor of this visit?”
The Doctor shrugged. “Oh, nothing, really. Just spotted you and thought I might come over and say hello—” His stomach growled loudly.
Carrot sighed. “I can see where this is going. Take a seat.”
The Doctor reached forward tentatively. “Oh, really? No, I couldn’t.”
Carrot stared. “It’s fine, really.”
“Brilliant.” The Doctor grabbed a chair and sat down in it quicker than Carrot could blink. He beamed.
Carrot held up a hoof. Within a few moments, the waiter, a rather stocky earth pony, appeared by their table. “Yes, ma’am?”
“I guess we’ll have another menu for my friend here,” Carrot said, gesturing to the Doctor. The waiter nodded and vanished back into the café.
“So what brings you into town today, anyway?” Carrot asked, leaning back in her chair. “Far as I remember, you’re usually just fiddling around with some gizmo or such up at your house.”
The Doctor snorted. “Well, I do occasionally make house calls, you know.”
“And you expect me to think you’re doing that right now?” Carrot quirked an eyebrow.
“Your menu, sir?” the waiter said, trotting up to their table and offering a small menu. The Doctor nodded gratefully, whisking the paper out of the waiter’s hooves and onto the table.
“Hm, the custard looks quite nice,” the Doctor said to himself, flipping the menu over. “And that celery salad doesn’t seem to shabby either.”
“You still haven’t answered my question,” Carrot said with a wan smirk. “Just in town for a quick bite to eat? Errands to run, perhaps?”
“Fancy that,” the Doctor said, grinning. “They do have carrot fingers here.” He paused and looked up. “Did you say something?”
Carrot put a hoof to her forehead. “Never mind. I’m ready to order. Waiter!”
“I’ll have the walnut and apple sandwich, please,” Carrot Top said pleasantly, handing the waiter her menu. “And you, Doctor?”
He smiled. “Carrot fingers and custard for me.”
The waiter nodded. “The custard’s for desert, right?”
The Doctor frowned, giving the waiter an odd look. “No. The carrot fingers go in the custard.”
“Really?” Carrot asked, sighing.
The Doctor nodded quickly. “Absolutely! Carrot fingers and custard make the best dish known to ponykind—after muffins, of course.”
Carrot Top traced her hoof idly on the table as the waiter left for the kitchen. “So, anyway—”
A loud crashing noise erupted from the interior of the café. Dark plumes of smoke were just barely visible, coming from the door to the kitchen. A deep voice echoed through the building and just outside.
“You have repressed our kind for far too long.”
“Sweet Celestia!” someone cried. “The oven’s talking!”
“For years we have slumbered, but now now we will rise up and destroy you.”
The Doctor sighed, moving his head down to the side and coming back up with a strange, cylindrical object in his mouth. It glinted a cold silver, its tip glowing a faint green. “Excuse me for a moment,” he said in a slightly muffled voice.
“We shall revolt and end the oppression of kitchen appliances everywhe—”
The green end of the object in the Doctor’s mouth glowed brightly, and a low buzzing sounded through the café. Immediately, the voice ceased speaking, and billows of white steam came from the kitchen.
“It just stopped!”
The Doctor nodded to himself and tucked the object back away. He looked up at Carrot Top expectantly. “You were saying?”
Carrot blinked. “What was that? And what just happened?”
“Oh, nothing important, really,” the Doctor said with an innocent look. “Do go on.”
Carrot narrowed her eyes. “That was your sonic thing, wasn’t it?”
The Doctor waved one hoof around dismissively. “Oh, was it? I hadn’t noticed.”
Carrot sighed. “So how’s Sparkler doing?”
“Fine, fine,” the Doctor said in an amiable tone. “She’s still trying to get that part-time job at that Boutique in town. I do hope she gets it.”
Carrot rolled her eyes. “You have seen how she looks at your time machine, right?”
The Doctor stared. “What do you mean?”
“She might talk about fashion, but Sparkler’s completely taken with those adventures of yours,” Carrot said. She tilted her head. “What, you didn’t notice? It’s obvious she wants to follow in your footsteps. That’s all she ever talks about when she’s with Derpy and I.”
The Doctor grinned weakly. “Well. Fancy that. Can’t say I noticed that, really.”
“Although,” Carrot said, looking up. “She’d probably defeat alien menaces with the power of sarcasm rather than whatever you use.”
The Doctor chuckled. “That sounds like my Sparkler, all right.”
“And Dinky seems to be good friends with that colt from Trottingham,” Carrot said with a nod. “What was his name, Pipsqueak?”
“Excuse me,” the waiter mumbled, coming over with a tray in his mouth. He set it down on the table, causing the two plates on top to shake slightly. Lifting each plate up from its place, the waiter set down a rather tasty-looking sandwich in front of Carrot Top, and a strange, soupy thing by the Doctor. He flushed a bit. “Sorry they’re so late—we had some problems in the kitchen.”
The Doctor beamed, staring at his own meal intently. “Looks delicious!”
A chiming sound rang throughout the café.
The Doctor looked up. “What was that?”
A dim orb of light, growing brighter with each passing second, slowly materialized in the middle of the road. Any nearby ponies backed away with wide eyes. The light swirled over the dirt, glimmering in every color of the rainbow.
The orb flashed like lightning for a fraction of a second, and the onlookers shielded their eyes. The Doctor frowned, staring straight into its center.
When the light had faded, two ponies were left standing in its place, each rubbing their eyes. The ground around them was scorched and somewhat melted, and any bystanders had clustered to either side of the street, watching the newcomers warily.
One of the new arrivals, a white unicorn with what seemed to be a tabletlike machine on his flank, looked about excitedly. “I think we did it!” he said loudly, poking his companion on the shoulder. “It actually worked!”
“No way,” breathed the other, a red earth pony with a Cutie Mark in the shape of...a pony? “We’re in Equestria!”
“Maybe we’ll actually get to meet Rainbow Dash!” the unicorn said, his eyes shining.
The earth pony tried to clap his hooves, and promptly fell flat on his face. “Or even Twilight Sparkle!”
The Doctor groaned. “Oh, no. Not more of them.”
“Doctor,” Carrot Top said, chewing her sandwich slowly. “Who are they?”
“Nobody of particular importance,” the Doctor said, flicking his tail with a snort. “Nobody at all. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go have a few words with them.”
Carrot stared as the Doctor hopped over the fence at the edge of the café and wandered over to the two newcomers. He seemed to look enthusiastic enough, greeting each of them with a firm hoofshake. It almost looked like they recognized him, shaking his hoof eagerly and then dancing around him in a circle. After a moment of discussion, the two nodded happily and headed off down the road out of town.
As the Doctor trotted back over to the café, Carrot gave him an odd look. "Exactly who was that? They seemed to know you."
The Doctor shook his head. "Oh, no. Not at all."
"What did you tell them?" Carrot raised her eyebrows.
The Doctor looked around innocently. "Oh, just that they might be interested in looking at this new spot in the Everfree Forest that just happens to have a one-way transdimensional portal in it." He leaned in conspiratorially, whispering. "Not that I told them about the second bit, mind you."
Carrot stared. "Who would go voluntarily to the Everfree Forest? And where were you trying to send them?"
"Well, back where they came from, really," the Doctor said, inspecting the back of his hoof. "Those ponies are more trouble than they're worth."
Carrot gave him a skeptical look. “I’ve really just given up on understanding what you do at this point,” she said, taking another bite of her sandwich.
The Doctor grinned and gleefully stuck his face into his bowl of carrot finger custard. “So have I, my dear Carrot,” he said proudly after swallowing, licking his lips. “It’s really much more fun that way.”
Carrot snorted. “Is there ever a quiet moment for you?” She held up a hoof as he opened his mouth. “No; don’t say anything. I mean, is this what your family’s life is really like? One thing after another, so much random chaos and craziness that you get lost in it all?”
The Doctor chuckled. “Pretty much.”
“How could you possibly put up with it?” Carrot asked. “Derpy told me some, but the more time I spend with you all, the more I find myself wondering if you’re all quite sane.”
The Doctor winked at her. “Ah, Carrot. Sanity is overrated, anyway. Besides! Who would want things to get boring? Life can be much more entertaining.”
Carrot threw up her hooves. “I swear, I’ll never understand you Whooves. Crazy bunch, the whole lot of you—”
The skies went black. Shadows stretched across the town, and the ground rumbled beneath it. From above came a crack of thunder.
It was a few moments later that the screams began.
Carrot Top popped her head out into the street to see what was going on. Her eyes were wide. “What the hay is going on—”
She looked up. “Oh.”
Floating above Ponyville, covering the ground in darkness, was a huge assembly of what looked to be giant apartment buildings. The ships—if indeed they were ships—were colored a gritty kind of yellow-grey that twisted the eye with its sheer tastelessness. They filled the atmosphere, stretching across the horizon.
There was a horribly heavy silence, and then a horribly heavy voice.
“THIS PLANET HAS BEEN DESIGNATED FOR DEMOLITION. ALL ELIGIBLE OR ABLE LIFE IS ADVISED TO FILL OUT THE PROPER EVACUATION FORMS. THANK YOU, AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”
The screams resumed in short order.
Carrot Top paled and looked at the Doctor. “What’s going on? What do we do?”
The Doctor’s eyes narrowed. “I know these aliens. And they should know better than to come here, of all places.”
“So you can stop them?”
The Doctor turned to look at her, and for a moment, something old and dangerous flashed across his eyes.
“We’ll find out.”
Carrot stood back, her mouth slightly agape. as the Doctor jumped on top of the small café table and whipper out that cylindrical object again. “Hold this, please,” he mumbled around it.
She took it from him. “This is your sonic whatsit thingy?”
“Sonic Screwdriver,” the Doctor said, nodding to himself. He poked it a few times. “Okay, then—here, here, and here—excellent!” He cleared his throat a few times.
When he next opened his mouth, his voice echoed like a crack of thunder, carrying far up into the atmosphere.
“HELLO! IS THIS THING ON?”
Carrot covered her ears. “I think it is!” she shouted.
The Doctor nodded. “GOOD!” He looked back up at the hovering ships.
“YOU THERE!” he shouted, taking a deep breath. “I’m invoking Section 4-B of the Second Shadow Proclamation to order a representative member of the Sontogon Confederation to descend and deal!”
“Descend and deal?” Carrot murmured.
“It’s one of their idioms,” the Doctor said quietly, and turned back to the screwdriver. “COME ON, NOW! WE’RE ALL WAITING!”
With a hiss, a single pillar of metal began to push outward from one of the ships, lowering until it loomed far over the town of Ponyville. A smaller column descended from there, reaching down to just over the road. As it ceased movement, a wisp of steam billowed from the sides, and a tall, shadowed figure stepped out into the street.
The figure was large and rather unpleasant-looking. Its bulbous body was only barely hidden by a brown, wraparound cloak, and two jagged objects—some kind of metal—hung across its back.
It took a step toward the café. “You invoke the Second Shadow Proclamation?” it asked in a gravelly voice. Any nearby ponies scattered, fleeing for their houses.
The Doctor nodded. “That would be me.”
“You are aware this planet’s subspace has been deemed an obstacle to the expansion of the Great Confederation?”
The Doctor shrugged. “Yes, but I’d like to file a complaint form.”
“It is already too late to file such a form. The appropriate times—”
“Humor me,” the Doctor said. His voice was flat, all humor gone.
“What are you doing?” Carrot Top whispered, spitting the sonic screwdriver out onto the table. “Do you even know—”
The Doctor held up a hoof. “I might be saving this planet,” he said, giving Carrot a sideways glance. His face softened for a moment. “Trust me.”
The alien figure approached the Doctor, holding out a shimmering piece of paper. “Here is the form,” it said, its face as still as a rock. “Please sign in triplicate.”
“Mmhm,” the Doctor grunted. He traced his hoof over the page, biting his lip as the words shimmered and appeared. Electronic digits danced across its surface. “And...done!”
The figure accepted the form and then froze.
“...You have signed this form under the name ‘The Doctor’. Is this correct?”
The Doctor glanced at his hoof. “Well, yes. That’s what most people know me as.”
“Do you plan to stand in the way of the Confederation’s power?”
The Doctor gritted his teeth, and he trotted over until he was face-to-face with the alien creature. “Listen up, because I’m going to tell you exactly what I’m going to do. I’m going to sit here and count to ten, and if you lot aren’t gone by then, I’ll do to you exactly what I did to the Maneforians. You seemed to recognize my name—maybe you recognize theirs?”
The figure made no move.
The Doctor nodded. “Fancy that—he does! Now, I’m going to turn around, and when I turn back, I want you and your big, ugly ships out of my site. Because this is Equestria, and it is under. My. Protection.”
He paused. “Is that clear?”
The alien failed to answer. It stood there for a moment with a shadow covering its face, and its cloak whispering quietly in the wind. The Doctor narrowed his eyes.
“Is that clear?”
The figure turned away, its hands shaking slightly. The electronic pad vanished into one of the folds of its cloak, and it moved in careful, controlled motions toward the metal column. With total silence reigning throughout the square, the alien stepped into the pillar. A door hissed shut behind it, and the structure slowly moved upward until it had reconnected with the original ship.
The Doctor stood there, watching with a steady stare, as the ships hung in the sky for a few moments more.
Within seconds, vanishing one by one, they had disappeared from the atmosphere.
Ponies slowly began to emerge from their houses, resuming their daily activities. The waiter, who had been hiding in a broom closet, rushed out and cleared the table of Carrot and the Doctor’s empty plates.
“Hey! I didn’t finish that!” the Doctor shouted.
Carrot blinked a few times. “That...just happened.”
The Doctor tilted his head. “Yes. Are you feeling alright, Carrot Top?”
Carrot put her hooves on her head. “Aliens just threatened to destroy the planet...and then you showed up, said a few words, and they ran away.” She shook her head. “And nopony’s even saying anything about it?”
The Doctor shrugged. “It happens. People—ponies, sorry—get so wrapped up in their own lives that even something as big as an alien incursion gets written off as completely irrelevant.
“Although,” he said, looking around for a bit. “Having everypony get over this in such a short time is actually rather unexpected. A nice change, though.”
Carrot hiccuped, and then giggled a bit. “Doctor...”
Carrot closed her eyes. “Who are you, really?”
The Doctor said nothing.
“You said your name to those aliens—the ‘Sontagans’ or whatever, and they ran off immediately,” Carrot said. She pounded her hoof on the table. “A name alone doesn’t—shouldn’t—do that.”
She ran a hoof through her mane. “How old are you, Doctor? Just how long have you been doing this?”
The Doctor sighed, and slowly smiled. “Well, Carrot, it’s interesting you might ask, because—” He paused. “Just a moment. Who’s that pony over there?”
Carrot Top turned around in her seat. A grey earth pony, wearing a top hat and a bowtie, was glancing around the market square with an odd look on his face. He seemed to be halfway between smiling and frowning. He also had the mark of an hourglass on his flank.
Carrot grunted thoughtfully. “Can’t say I’ve seen him before. He’s got the same Cutie Mark as you, which is interesting, but—”
“Pardon me for a moment,” the Doctor said hurriedly, bumping against the table in his hurry to get up. He trotted out of the café and toward the strange pony. Carrot watched in some confusion as the Doctor waved to the strange pony. The other stallion galloped over, and the two exchanged some words, grinning like mad the entire time.
After a few moments, the Doctor’s grin faded, becoming more of a sad smile. Carrot watched with some concern as he nodded to the other pony before turning away and slowly trotting back to the café.
“Who was that?” Carrot asked.
The Doctor chuckled softly. “Just a friend, my dear Carrot Top. Fancy meeting him here, but he’s always a good one to talk with.”
“But you said you didn’t know him,” Carrot said, frowning.
“And I didn’t.”
Carrot blinked, pointing at the Doctor with a hoof. “You’re not making any sense.”
The Doctor grinned again, stretching it ear to ear. “I don’t need to make sense—I’m the Doctor.”
Carrot groaned. “I give up.”
The Doctor laughed quietly before freezing. “I just remembered why I came into town.”
Carrot Top quirked an eyebrow. “Oh? What for?”
The Doctor shook his head rapidly. “I need to pick Dinky up from school!” Bumping into the waiter and a few other patrons on the way, the Doctor dashed out of the café. Carrot watched with wide eyes as he rounded a corner, disappearing behind a building.
The waiter dropped a piece of paper on the table. “Here’s the check, ma’am. Wasn’t your friend going to help pay?”
Carrot Top twitched.