The ruined city of Canterlot stood before them. The buildings were obviously different. The whole city seemed to have been renovated several times over the last 19000 years. Which, when she thought about it, made sense to Dash. But it looked like it’d gone through a bomb raid hundreds of years earlier. Nothing was in one piece any more. But there was no smoke, no fire, no ongoing destruction. In fact, there was nothing. Silence permeated the capital city of Equestria. Thick, dead, ugly silence.
The castle still stood. Set into the mountainside, Canterlot Castle loomed darkly in the distance. None of it seemed to have been damaged, and that was a relief in a way. No fallen walls, no collapsed roof. Even the vines didn’t seem to grow there. However, no lights adorned its towers, no glimmer of brightness in a single window. It simply stood there, dark and menacing. A shadow of its former glory.
“What...happened?” Rainbow Dash choked down her astonishment. This was the largest, most important city in the known world. The Princesses lived here. They protected this place with a power greater than anything out there. Yet here it lay, hardly more than a pile of rubble.
“I...I don’t know.” The Doctor’s eyes wavered at the sight that lay before him. He’d seen countless beings that could do something like this, armies and demons and creatures the size of planets. But nothing fit, and none of them could be here. “I’m sorry, but...I don’t know.” He shook his head sadly. Looking up, he saw Dash heading towards the stairs. “Oi!” He called and stepped on her tail to stop her from going further. “Rule 1.” He shook his head again. “No running off.”
“We don’t know what’s out there. It could be dangerous. There could be creatures, or radiation, or worse lurking just beyond these steps.” He levelled a look at her. “We need to get back to the TARDIS.”
“No!” The pegasus shouted, turning to glare at the brown pony. “You can’t possibly expect me to just leave!” She yanked her tail out from under his hoof, wincing as a few strands of her hair were pulled out as well. “This is my country! My Equestria! You think I can just look at this and walk away? I’m gonna find out what’s going on, and I’m gonna fix it! And if you’re against that, then I’ll just go on my own.” She said, stomping her hoof so hard it nearly hurt. The Doctor stayed quiet.
“Rainbow Dash.” The tone he used made her feel strange. Not attacked, nor threatened, nor even scolded. It was understanding, but it was authoritative. “I have no intention of leaving this place. Not until we do everything we can to set things right. But we still need the TARDIS. I need to scan the air outside the museum. I need to go over every inch of this city and try and figure out what happened that way. Please, Dash. Trust me.” He sat silently after he finished, his head hung, but his eyes turned towards his companion with a seriousness that Dash couldn’t be upset about.
Dash seethed for a moment more, then turned her back to her new friend. She growled and lifted a hoof, driving it harshly into one of the pillars nearby. It cracked a little. She waited until the dull throbbing in her front leg evened out before she spoke. “...Fine.” A tremble shook her body. “But when we find out what did this...” She started pressing the hoof harder into the marble. “I’ll make sure they regret it.” She whipped around and marched back towards the door, her eyes closed as she passed The Doctor. He let out a gentle sigh. However hard she tried, she couldn’t hide the tears that were streaming down her face.
Dash reached the door quickly and grabbed the handle. She gave a mighty pull that should have been far more than she needed. However, the door didn’t budge. She yanked and tugged, putting her back hooves on the other door and trying to leverage herself more. Still no response. “Stupid...door!” She grunted, pulling harder and beating her wings all at once. The Doctor walked over and examined the door closely, closing one eye and putting it to the crack along the outside edge, near the hinges.
“Hm...” He mused. Dash gave one more huge pull, but The Doctor’s response made her grip slip, and the force she’d been focussing on the door handle turned into force pushing her away. She tumbled a bit, hitting the ground and rolling. With a light groan, she sat up. Nothing major, just some hurt pride. The Doctor looked back to her.
“You alright there?”
“Shut up. Why won’t the door open?” She asked, standing and brushed herself off. The more time went on, the more she was calming down. Something about The Doctor and the way he spoke quelled her rage in a way she couldn’t quite work out.
“Looks like it’s a one way door. Well, it’s been switched to one way mode, really.” He tapped the door lightly with a hoof. “Let us get out, but won’t let us back in. The museum is closed, after all. Only makes sense that they’d lock the door.” He grimaced. “Doesn’t help our situation at all though. Let’s try a window!” He trotted along the wall to the edge of the overhang, then hauled himself up onto the stone slab that acted as a guard rail. There was a window about a yard from his position. He carefully placed himself at the very edge, glancing down. It was a good 7 hoof drop. Not a terribly dangerous fall, but not something he particularly wanted to experience. Steadying himself, he started stretching, reaching across the gap towards the window.
“Almost got it!” He closed one eye, sticking his tongue out a little bit as he leaned a little more. However hard he tried, he couldn’t quite reach it. “Little more!”
“Don’t interrupt me, Dash! I’ve got to concentrate!”
“Dash, please!” He called, wishing he were double jointed.
“Doctor!” Her hoof tapped him on the forehead lightly. The Time Lord nearly lost his balance, but caught himself and sat back up on the stone. He blinked a few times, then looked up at what had hit him. Dash was floating there, looking rather bemused. “Really?”
“...Oh! Right! Ah...not used to having companions that can fly!” He grinned sheepishly. “Right then, you, ah...yes. You do that.” He said. Sinking his head back a little, he fought back the blush that was rising.
“Whatever you say, Doctor.” She turned towards the window and found herself a good hoofhold, then began pushing up. When that didn’t work, she pushed inwards. She even tried pulling down from the top. The window looked like it COULD open, but it just wasn’t.
“Hmph, fine, be that way.” She looked around and found, about three feet behind her, a good sized piece of rubble. She flew down and picked it up, then came straight back up. Distancing herself a bit from the window, she wound up.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea...” The Doctor was examining the window, squinting and tilting his head.
“Don’t worry, I got this.” Dash hurled the rock towards the glass barrier. The moment it hit there was a ‘thunk’ and a slight delay. The stone just sat there for about half a second before trembling and rocketing back away from the glass, straight back along the same path it had taken. Dash dove out of the way as it flew towards her. It clattered into the street a good distance away, coming to a rest when it knocked into the edge of the curb.
“Hm...just as I thought. This place has some really high security. It’s alright though! I’ll just grab my handy dandy sonic and...” He reached back and patted his side with his front hoof. “Er...” Only now did he realize he wasn’t wearing a jacket. Or pants. “Right. No pockets. That’s...not a good thing.” He sighed. No Sonic Screwdriver. It’d been awhile since he last did something without it.
Dash settled herself back down on the platform, quirking an eye at the Doctor. “What the hoof are you talking about? What’s a sonic?”
“A Sonic Screwdriver. It’s a device that I use to do lots of things. Like opening pesky security windows. Or fixing barbed wire. Or lighting a hundred flambee from across the room. THAT was a good party!” The Doctor grinned a little, hopping down off of the stone. “That little thing would get us back to the TARDIS in no time.”
“And where is it?”
“I’ll try to keep my excitement low key.” She placed her hoof on her forehead in exasperation. “So NOW what?” She sighed and looked around. They were running out of things to try.
“Now we go look around, I suppose.” The Doctor shrugged, walking towards the steps.
“But...!” Dash reared back a bit. “But what about monsters and radiation and who-knows-what-else?” She leered at him. “You stopped me from going out there earlier because it was ‘too dangerous!’”
“That was when we had options and you were being rash.” He looked back at her. “Now it’s just all we’ve got left. Either we sit around here and wait to starve to death, or we go look for somepony who might know something. Since I don’t particularly like starving, that kind of makes looking about the only option, doesn’t it?”
Dash sighed, but nodded. His logic was sound, anyway. The pair set off into the city, keeping their eyes on the shadowy buildings as they went. Their hooves clopped on the street, echoing loudly across the rubble. It was an unnerving sense of loneliness and silence that seeped through their bodies. Nothing bothered them, no eyes peeked from the stone piles, no pebbles fell from the remaining rooftops, no stray steps could be heard echoing along with their own. Nothing.
“Doctor...” Dash whispered, though she didn’t know why. “Do you think the city was just abandoned and left to fall apart like this?” Some strain of hope creaked into her voice. It was smashed as the doctor shook his head, gravely looking at the ground.
“I’m afraid not. The damage is too...perfect. Too wide spread. These walls look like they were knocked down deliberately.” As if the city were trying to prove his point, they passed what used to be a small cafe. A part of the wall was missing, and it formed a perfectly circular hole in the eatery. “I don’t know what did it, but we can be sure that we don’t want to meet the culprits.”
“Speak for yourself.” Dash grumbled, her eyes locked on a building that looked as though claws had been dragged along the side.
“Dash, I know you’re angry. But you need to think this through. We need to approach this cautiously. Rationally. We need to find people, find out what happened, find out what did this, and learn everything we can about it. That’s the only way we can be sure we won’t be...” He let the sentence and the thought hang.
“...I know.” She kicked a particularly large pebble, which turned out to be more like a small rock. It was heavier than it looked, and she winced a bit. She might have overdone it with the pillar, she thought. “I just...I can’t imagine letting something that did this get away with it, you know?” She looked up at The Doctor with large eyes. She really was trying. “I mean...I know you’ve been here for a while, but I’ve been here my whole life. And if this is how bad Canterlot is, imagine Ponyville!” She shook her head. “Can you even...” She stopped. Her eyes locked with his. He looked serious. Very serious. She remembered the conversation they’d had in the TARDIS. About the Time Lords. “...I...I didn’t mean...”
“Dash.” He’d stopped moving. She turned to fully face him. “I want to show you something.”
He approached her slowly, and she tilted her head.
“Doctor, what are you...”
He kept coming. The closer he got, the more uncomfortable things became.
“Doctor, I don’t get it. I mean, what...”
He was mere inches from her face now.
He reached up and placed a hoof on each side of her head.
“Hey, now, what do you think you’re....!?”
His face approached hers.
She tried to pull away.
Instead of what she expected, The Doctor pulled her head down so that she was facing the ground. He did the same with his own and, for just a moment, he touched his forehead against hers.
Everything came in a rush. Lights, sounds, feelings. Everything happened all at once. It took her several seconds to make even the slightest sense of it all. The feelings came first. Emotions like dread and foreboding, hate and fear, anger and...a lot of anger. Next came the physical feelings. Cold metal pressed against her hooves. Sharp pains, long past, aching across her body. The scent of blood and death filled her nose. Then came the sights. They were blurry, but she could see entities firing lasers similar to what the security droid had shot at them. There was a lot of motion, a lot of running. A lot of explosions. She saw many creatures fall as blue lights struck them. They had two legs, and she assumed that these were what The Doctor had referred to as humanoid. Whether they were actually human, she didn’t know. Finally, sounds started filtering in. The explosions had substance, and her eardrums shook. The lasers made a unique sound that she feared, though she couldn’t place why. There was screaming. So much screaming, and crying. Gut wrenching, heart tearing sounds that transferred the fear and pain felt by the sources of the noise. There was more yelling of the word ‘run’ than there was actual running. Finally, another voice filled her head. Metallic, grainy. Still, it was the single most terrifying thing she had ever heard.
When Dash returned to the present, she found herself on the side of the road. She was leaning against a railing, looking over it and down towards the ground. She was also panting heavily. She tried to open her mouth to say something, but she suddenly remembered why she’d run there. She’d been on the verge of vomiting. She coughed, but held her stomach in place. Instead, she resumed gasping for breath, trying to process everything she’d seen. She tried to whip around, but instead wound up gingerly turning. She shuddered as she looked The Doctor in the eye.
“What...what was that?” She managed to gasp out. Her wobbly legs were slowly steadying. The things she’d seen were slowly sinking into the back of her mind, as though they’d happened years and years ago. Never once did they stop being so vivid.
“Those were my memories.” The Doctor watched her sadly. He knew what she was going through.
“Those...creatures. What were they? Those things!” She remembered them more clearly. Hovering metal monstrosities. They looked rather unassuming, but just from what she’d seen, or rather what The Doctor had seen, she knew how terrible they really were.
“The Daleks.” He said. The name sent a chill down her spine. “They exist in the other universe. The one I came from. They were the single greatest, most terrible threat to ever raze its way across the universe. They’ve destroyed so many lives. They’ve wiped out whole civilizations, whole planets just because they wanted to. They tout themselves as purifiers. They say that nothing less than a Dalek deserves to exist.” He shook his head.
“Is...Did they do this?” She looked around. “Did the Daleks attack Canterlot?” A mild panic settled into her chest. How could they fight something like that?
“No!” He blinked, shaking his head more vigorously. “No, this is definitely not Dalek. They’re in the other dimension.”
“So, why did you show me that?”
“I wanted you to understand. I can tell you a million times not to be rash. I can lecture you to be careful, to plan. I can explain the unimaginable terrors that I’ve seen. I can point out to you the dangers that are present in the universe that are beyond anything you’ve ever imagined. But you wouldn’t understand. Not really. I showed you that so that I could ask you a very important question. I’m sorry, I should have shown you that before we ever left. Before I even offered.” He approached her and reached out his hoof, placing it gently on her shoulder. “Rainbow Dash...do you want to go home?” He stared her dead in the eye. It was a serious question.
“I...” She pictured the Daleks in her head. She felt the hopelessness that followed those things. Those Daleks. But the more she thought, the more her answer became clear. Just as before, at the Wonderbolt exhibit in the museum, the answer materialized in her head. There were several moments of silence before she continued. “That’s the worst you could think of. The thing you thought would show me how bad stuff could get, right?” She closed her eyes. “In that case...It can’t get any worse.” She shrugged a bit, then smiled weakly. “No way am I going home now. Everything after THAT has gotta be like napping on a cloud.”
The Doctor, though a little shocked at just how well she was taking everything, laughed. “True enough!” He grinned. “Well then! I do believe that we both know where we should be headed, yeah?”
Both of them turned in the same direction at the same time. There, in the distance, stood the castle. Dark, gray, and foreboding as ever. “You know,” the pegasus said. “It’s almost a little cliche, when you think about it. I mean, a big scary castle? All that’s missing is some random lightning bolts and we’ve got ourselves a storybook!” She giggled, heading off down the road. Everything seemed a little brighter for some reason.
The Doctor watched her go, then followed after her. He was glad that she’d stayed. Whatever problems they might come up against, he knew that the two of them together could overcome it.
As the two ponies strode off down the road, Dash piped up. “Oh, hey! What if I’d said I DID want to go home?” She looked back as The Doctor caught up.
“Hm? What do you mean?”
“Well, the TARDIS is locked in the museum. How would you have taken me anywhere?”
“...Oh. Er. That. Right. Well, doesn’t matter now, does it?” He called cheerily back to her. She clocked him over the head with her hoof.
“You’re officially ‘Doc’ for the rest of the day.”
“Oh, now that’s just cruel!”