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By Paleo Prints
Chapter 4: The Enemy of the World
In a future that may never be, in the magical land of Equestria
The young unicorn stepped around the detritus of the battle as she walked down the main avenue of Canterlot. The remains of a smoking building surrounded her. The fires were being dealt with, but the smolder and ash would last a few hours more. As she walked toward the causeway, a large gleaming object on the ground caught her eye.
As she stepped up to examine it, she could see the huge industrial mountain town that supplied the kingdom with ore from the mines, and brilliant minds from Luna’s Academy. Sprawled on the bridge was a still-burning metal husk.
It looked like a big fallen saltshaker, split down the side from Equestrian magic. A plunger-like device and a nozzle protruded from the side. A sinister mechanical eye on a stalk bent out of the top, crumpled from force. The smoke billowing out of its crack smelled faintly of calamari.
Wandering Star shivered and walked on.
He was waiting for her by the statue. The twenty-foot tall statue of the legendary unicorn professor was where most Canterlot University students met their significant others in happier times. He stood at the statue’s foot, contemplating her.
Wandering Star stepped next to him, judging the artist’s work. “She looked better.”
The soot-stained, scruffy-coated unicorn nodded. “Aye. She took a hit or two when their ships started firing.”
Star shook her head. “No, she looked better herself. Grandfather and I met her when she was younger. She was so full of life. Had this this fragile smile that brightened up the room.” She smiled. “It was a joy to hear her talk. She really believed that everypony would be better off if they just treated each other the right way. I honestly think that Grandfather was smitten with her when he was younger.”
He turned to her in surprise. “Star, Twilight Sparkle’s been dead a hundred years, and she wasn’t young then either.”
She nodded. “Come on, Steadfast. Let’s go meet up with Grandfather.”
They found the blue box on the opposite side of the city from the victory celebration. Star grinned. It’d be just like Grandfather to slip out while no one’s looking. She wrapped on the door. She tried a second time. By the third knock the smile was gone.
The TARDIS’s outside speakers turned on. “Hello, child. I’m going to be leaving now.” She could sense the restrained emotion in the old stallion’s voice.
“Grandfather, you can’t just leave me here. Did I do something wrong?”
“Not at all. You did everything right. I think of every triumph we’ve been through, every villain you’ve looked in the eye. There are cultures that tell stories of you to their children, you know? No, I need to know that you’re somewhere safe. Somewhere you’ll excel on your own, not just be a companion to a doddering old madpony in a box, gallivanting into danger after danger.”
Star’s tearfully threw herself against the TARDIS door. “Don’t go, Grandfather. You need me!” Steadfast pulled at the mysterious doors with his horn’s magic to no avail.
There was a momentary pause. “I need to not need you now, my dearest. You can have a life here. I’ve seen the looks you and Steadfast share. You have a career waiting; Celestia and Luna saw your technical prowess, a futuristic knowledge that will aid in the reconstruction of this nation. You are the key to Equestria’s new golden age, my dear.”
Star shuddered as Steadfast moved to support her. She rested her head against the door of the TARDIS, tears falling down the blue doors. “I love you, Grandfather,” she whispered.
“And I you. Someday, I will come back to check on you. I’ll see you make me proud. Yes, someday I’ll come back.”
Inside the TARDIS a gentlepony in formal wear threw a succession of levers. After a few seconds had passed he could no longer hear the sounds of sobs coming over the sound system. He straightened himself as he walked to the TARDIS doors. Gently he pushed them open with his hooves, revealing a scene of ice moons spinning around a gas giant.
As he stood there for innumerable hours lost in thought, several life forms who had evolved on a particularly volcanic nearby moon felt a pang of melancholy; their priests gathered to discuss the virtues of their rulers. The fabled ‘Blue Spinning Star’ of legend was whispered to only appear when great sadness was present in the cosmos. In their mythology, it meant the gods were crying.
In the decisive hour of the magical land of Equestria.
Ditzy Doo’s eyes stared straight ahead. This normally difficult feat was accomplished with none of the usual exertion or concentration needed. Normally Ditzy could only pretend to be "normal" for seconds at a time to make a point. Although it was effortless, it was not painless. Ditzy screamed in agony inside her own mind and felt her body refuse to respond in the slightest way.
The mustached white stallion in front of her allowed himself a gloating smile as wiped the dramatically applied dirt from his face. “Excellent! Miss Doo, I am glad to have you on-board. I may not use you as a sounding board to bolster my self-respect as my counterpart does, but you shall prove useful in any case. You may speak now, Miss Doo.”
She sputtered as she felt her mouth return to her control. Her eyes continued to disobey her. Ditzy screamed loudly, although tears refused to come.
“Stop that screaming, Miss Doo. I’d rather have an intelligent conversation.”
Ditzy stared at the gloating pony. His eyes were alight with the joy of a child with a new toy. She remained in intense pain, yet her body refused to voice it. She swallowed, willing herself to talk. “Why… are you doing this?”
The Master rolled his eyes. “Such simple questions! My dear, I did hope for a higher level of conversation. I’m taking control.”
Sweat poured down Ditzy’s face. “Of… what?”
He shrugged. “Everything. It’s better this way for everyone involved.” He leaned in with a conspiratorial whisper. “You have one more chance to impress me.”
Ditzy’s vision went red. When her sight cleared the Master was still smiling. Good, I only passed out for a second. “I could ask about how you… control the bioweapon. Or what you’ll finally do… with them. But the bigger question is… ”
Ditzy took a long breath. The Master waved his hoof impatiently, goading her to finish.
“… what are you going to do when my husband gets here?”
The Master scowled. “Be quiet now, Miss Doo.”
He gave a start when a pained and unrecognizable voice pushed its way out of Ditzy. “My name...is Doo-Smith.”
The Master cast his head back and laughed. “That is willpower! Miss Doo, I am impressed. No wonder my counterpart has taken you as his pet. Now be absolutely silent.”
The Time Charger examined the rest of Ditzy’s motionless and mute group. His eyes narrowed at a familiar face. “Miss Savory! What a pleasure to have you here. My remembrances simply flow. When did we last meet? Was it when you pushed me off the precipice at Tamberlon? Perhaps when you threw a cake in my face among the Axoids?”
Ursine figures began to enter into the corridor. A cybernetically-rebuilt bear with head bowed passed the Master a finely-tailored black jacket. The Master threw his dirty clothes over Sparkler’s neck as he changed. From behind Ditzy’s companions came the heavy footsteps of the Grand Invasorial Warmaster. His claws clutched three leashes that barely constrained a trio of orange wriggling beasts. The many-legged things waved their antennae at the paralyzed ponies.
The Master sighed in anticipation. “Gentlebeings, let us take these new attractive tools to the control room. But first,” he said as he waved a hoof in the air, “My dear Invasorial, please set those grubby things on the good Miss Savory. The Octopedes should make quick and entertaining karmic work of her. If I feel merciful, I may allow her to scream.”
Servos in the cyborg’s necked clicked wildly as he gave a respectful nod. He dropped the leash, extending a firearm from his cybergauntlet in case the Octopedes proved especially famished. The three Grundonian predators strained towards the immobile Savory.
The first pair of orange antennae skimmed across Savory’s flank when a loud sound filled the corridor. The octopedes drew back towards their handler from the flashing lights as a materialized blue box blocked the hallway. The illiop mercenaries took a surprised step back as the Master scowled. “This is it, Gentlebeings. Be ready for anything!”
The TARDIS door opened, and an avalanche of ringing alarm clocks poured into the hallway. The vibrating brass wave filled the corridor to flank height, making the surprised mercenaries stare dumbstruck. Ditzy’s eyes uncrossed as the chaos of clattering timepieces filled her senses. Scanning for the Master, she saw his henchbears trying to help the sprawled maniac back to his hooves. She giggled as he slipped on a gear.
One of the mortified illiops suddenly lifted into the air mid-apology, dropping the frustrated Time Charger back onto his flank. He screamed in fear as a violet glow hurled him against the wall of the hallway.
“Mother,” Sparkler snarled, “we should be finishing this.”
“No time for that, my Firecracker!” A cheerful pleading turned the Smith family around. Top Hat waved at them from the TARDIS door. “Big bad guy! Lots of nasty things hidden on him! Our running appointment is here!”
The growl of another incoming illiop convinced Ditzy. She beat her wings forcefully into the TARDIS. A terrified gasp turned her head to see Sparkler tripping on clocks as a robotic claw grasped for her. An angry grey pile of maternal instincts slammed into the cyborg, toppling over the unbalanced war-machine. She quickly pulled her daughter into the TARDIS.
Top Hat grabbed the open door with a flourish to slam them shut. Ditzy’s hoof suddenly held them open. “Doctor, what about Dinky?”
As Top Hat flung a worried look into the hallway a rage-filled pony picked himself up from the floor. The Master’s eyes narrowed as he slid a device out of his coat. “I believe you get less respectable with every go around, dear Doctor.” He aimed the tiny cylinder at the open TARDIS doors.
Ditzy shoved aside Top Hat without a second’s consideration and closed her eyes. She spent a fraction of a moment waiting for any number of quick oblivions. Suddenly risking a look she saw the remains of the unlucky pursuing illiop, now a shrunken doll sitting on top of the pile.
Top Hat angrily aimed his sonic screwdriver at the door, slamming it shut. He leapt onto his hooves, running toward the console controls. Ditzy followed him, grabbing one of his hooves that tried to through a lever.
“We can’t go, Doctor! What about the others?”
A calm face turned to her. “The TARDIS was almost as wide as that corridor. They couldn’t slip through. I’m sure they ran down the side hallway.” Ditzy tearfully nodded. Top Hat continued, “Anyway, our most important point to make now is…”
Ditzy spiraled backward as the Doctor screamed a word at her in incoherent rage. Lying on her back, he towered over her as she saw a purple horn protectively point at his chest.
Top Hat didn’t give Sparkler any heed as he repeated himself. “Calculator!”
Ditzy swallowed back tears as she tried to reason with the raging Time Charger. “What…what about calculators, Doctor?”
“Get one,” he shrieked, waving his hooves in the air. He tapped his hoof onto Sparklers horn and gently pushed it to the side. His voice became low but no less filled with wrath. “Get a calculator, or an abacus, or a mother box, or just some counting stones and learn comparisons because…, ” he said as his rage broke into tears, “because there is no way losing one wonderful, important Ditzy is worth saving an old, careless one of me.”
As collapsed onto knees the dematerialization alarm sounded throughout the TARDIS. Sparkler walked over to the door, leaving the two adults to themselves. Opening the doors a crack, she saw the TARDIS tumble down a corridor of storm clouds and lightning flashes. She sighed as she closed the door.
“Father and sister are so very far away.”
A pair of Time Chargers tread softly through the corridors of the ship. The sound of alarms raced up and down the corridors as they worked to evade patrols. As the soft padding of dozens of feet reached his ears, John Smith pulled his companion into an opened door. From the tentative safety of a darkened room they watched a pack of orange predators lead a merciless ursine in search of everyone John cared about. He shivered at the sight of the beasts’ slavering mouths moving as they tracked what was doubtlessly his family’s scent.
After the pack passed UNIT’s science pony ventured a look after the patrol. He gave John an encouraging nod and motioned for him to follow. The Adviser gave a dark grin as he settled into the familiar task of sneaking down hallways.
“Shame about those Octopedes, ‘John.’ They used to be quite the intelligent species before the genetic restructuring. Nothing in the universe like proper Octopedian root stew, I promise you.”
A few beats of silence worried the Adviser. It’s not like me to be the listening one. Turning to John the Adviser saw the pensive pony, his distracted eyes unfocused. The unicorn sighed.
“Clear your mind of your family, ‘John.’ That’s the only way to help them.”
Smith’s snort answered him. “Perhaps you’ve forgotten what it’s like to be emotionally attached. You love playing the ancient scientist who’s above it all. You were the one remembering Wandering Star earlier. Did the feeling of your hearts beating worry you?”
The Adviser coughed in indignation. “I recognize the inevitability of ponies, dear fellow. She died.” He kept his eyes straight ahead as he talked. “They do that.”
John stuck his face right against that of his older self. “Absolutely! She died; she’s dead and gone and buried now. But do you know what happened first?”
The Unit Adviser was too stunned at Smith’s vehemence to respond.
“She lived. She lived a long life with grandchildren and tax forms and rainy Sundays. She lived and cried and loved and laughed without you or me there to hold her.” John Smith exhaled a breath he felt he’d been holding for centuries.
“I think of everything we’ve gone through, from the Whinnying Angels to the Tomorrow Windows. All of that was worth it just to hear her call me ‘Grandfather,’ and you’re lying to yourself if you’ve forgotten that.”
The Adviser blinked, responding with the single word, “Mercenaries.”
The sound of heavy metal boots around the corner came to John’s attention. He rolled his eyes as he dragged his younger incarnation down the corridor. “There’s never time for a good conversation during these things, is there?”
As they passed an intersection, the Adviser pulled John to a stop. “Wait!” He gestured to a small bear doll sitting on a pile of clocks.
John shivered at the sight of the tiny shrunken corpse. “There’s only one thing that could do that to a live illiop.” He gave a meaningful look to his counterpart.
“Indeed,” the Adviser said with a nod. “The tissue compression eliminator. That rather narrows down who’s in charge here.” He cast a disappointed look at John. “I would have hoped by your time we would have dealt with him.”
John shrugged as the gentlepony scientist made his way to the shrunken doll. The dandy levitated off of the timepieces in order to study it. As he held it to his face its servos began to click.
“I want to be your friend,” the shrunken corpse declared.
John clicked his tongue. “Old AI processor’s kicking in, eh?”
“I love talking to people,” it continued. The Adviser spun it around, removing circuits from the back.
“Yeah, those things always creep me out, too,” John said with an approving nod.
A blue hoof wrapped him on the nose. “Focus for just a second! If the thing’s back-up battle AI processor works, than…”
John ignored the pain in his snort. “There’s still a RX-P1N system chip functioning!”
The unicorn nodded as glowing mechanisms hovered in front of him. “Exactly! And with a working RX-P1N unit we could tap into this entire network.”
John grabbed his counterpart with both hooves. “We could signal the TARDIS!”
The UNIT Science Adviser grinned. “Make yourself useful and grab me four batteries out of these clocks, will you dear boy? The Master will never see us coming.”
Dinky’s lungs struggled for air as she ran through the corridors. She heard the reassuring sound of Miss Savory and Miss Pond behind her. Further down the corridor came the chattering hunter call of the octopedes. The filly turned the hallway corner and gasped. The only path was a long metal bridge over a gaping pit.
Savory gaped at the sight. “What possible use could that be in a spacecraft?”
“Really, lass?” Ripple snorted. “It’s obviously an extended exhaust vent for the engines. Bet it opens up on the bottom and the thrusty-wusties are on top.”
Both of her companions stared at Ripple Pond. She bowed. “I’m Scolttish, ye know. We’re natural bodgers and jiggery-pokers.”
Savory turned incredulously from Ripple to cast a worried look at Dinky. The filly was shaking badly and nearly hyperventilating. She gingerly placed a hoof around Dinky’s neck and guided her onto the bridge. “So, how’s my brave girl doing?”
Dinky shook her head. “I-I don’t feel very brave. I’m scared of the monsters.”
Savory leaned into whispering range. “Really? Haven’t you noticed how silly they are?” The filly gave a confused look. Savory nodded and continued. “We’ve been chased by drooling caterpillars, big teddy bears, and grape pudding. Isn’t that a little silly?”
Dinky gave a giggle. Savory patted her on the head. “They’re mean indeed. We need to keep away from them. Don’t for a second think that you should be so scared to move.” The UNIT pony gestured dramatically toward the other side of the suspended walkway. “Why, the next time you see that teddy bear just offer him a tea party!”
Dinky snorted. Even Ripple chuckled to herself. “You’d make a great Mom, you know,” she whispered to Savory.
The military mare looked offended. “Could you imagine me with a brood?”
A booming voice sounded from the end of the causeway. “I will have to refuse your tea party, Miss.” The three ponies stopped in the dead middle of the bridge as the Grand Invasorial Warmaster pointed a large weapon at them.
Ripple slammed her hoof into the ground. “We just finished being prisoners!”
The mechanical mercenary shook his head as he slowly walked towards them. “I’m afraid there has been a change in protocol, Companions of the Oncoming Storm. The Mighty Civilization Stomper of the illiop comes for you this day, and he is not interested in prisoners.”
Ripple stood in shock as Dinky started to shiver. Savory leaned down to the young filly. “Don’t run, Dinky.” He’s got more than enough range to kill us on this straight-away anyway. “Stand up, look him in the eye.” Savory gave a reassuring grin to the shaking youngster. “Smile, if you can.” The least I give her is a little dignity at the end.
Dinky nodded, drawing in a breath. She caught at the approaching illiop’s merciless gaze. “I wish Daddy was here.”
As Ditzy stuck her head out the TARDIS door, Top Hat called out, “Can you see anything yet?”
She shrugged slightly in response. The Time Charger stared intently at her wiggling rump. He suddenly snapped to attention, noticing Sparkler looking at him in embarrassment. He whistled nervously.
“I can smell animals, Doctor! There’s sunlight out there. I think I hear singing!” She pulled her head back into the TARDIS. “Doctor, we landed in Fluttershy’s chicken coop.”
Top Hat shook his head. “No use getting more ponies involved.” He eagerly tapped along the keyboard. After the sound of dematerialization ended he rubbed his chin, thoughtfully checking his coordinates. Ditzy and Sparkler stepped towards him with hope. He carefully considered his equipment, the suddenly pushed every loose piece of TARDIS console equipment onto the floor.
“No! No! No! Rubbish! I’ve got nothing but rubbish here!” He turned around and sank onto his haunch in defeat.
Ditzy stared at the dejected Doctor. “I thought Equestria never existed because of what happened?”
Top Hat’s eye snapped open. “That’s right!” He leapt to his hooves. “We’re getting somewhere now! Our actions must have brought probability swinging back towards happy good-goodness!”
Sparkler clapped. “That is meaning we win, Top Hat?”
He pointed a hoof at her with a serious look. “That means it’s the bottom of the ninth, fourth down, and we have more baskets than they do.” He blinked. “Or something. I never could get hockey. This means we’re currently winning, but time’s still in flux. Winning teams can still have upsets.” He paused thoughtfully. “Winning teams can still lose players.”
As Top Hat and Sparkler started silently cleaning up the console wreckage Ditzy inspected the TARDIS doors. “Doctor, where are we?”
He waved dismissively. “One of the Grand Galloping Galas, I think.” He suddenly heard the doors slam open. “Oh, no. That was something obvious, wasn’t it?”
Overcome by curiosity, Ditzy stared in wonder at the spinning ponies dancing formally across the ballroom floor. She leaned onto the TARDIS door frame with a sigh as rows of proper stallions bowed to their mares.
“Oh, I have been waiting to see this.”
A pinto-colored stallion walked in from the castle balcony. He smiled, wiping lipstick off of his collar. Suddenly he dropped the hoofkerchief and stared at the TARDIS. “Um. Love, you should really come and see this.”
A pale purple mare in a yellow dress covered with stars stepped behind him. The unicorn teased her blond hair back into place with her hooves. “What now, you naughty pirate?”
Her date gestured to Ditzy. “Isn’t that your…?”
She grabbed the stallion around the neck and dragged him outside again. “Timey-wimey stuff. Best to stay out of it. More balcony time for you.”
Across the ballroom Ditzy walked out of the TARDIS, her mouth wide with wonder. The orchestra relented as a white-coated unicorn singer took her applause. Ditzy became aware of Top Hat’s hooves pulling on her flanks.
“Hey! No touching there!” She kicked out, sending him sprawled across the floor.
He stood up, reclaiming his fallen hat. “We need to go now, Miss Doo.”
“Aw.” She drew in a deep breath. “It’s a time machine. Can’t I just spend a minute here?” Her eyes watered. “We don’t know what happens back on the ship. I may never get the chance to come here with my husband.”
Suddenly Ditzy’s eyes straightened in shock as she recognized a pair giggling across the dance floor. Despite the music stopping one pony danced on. A familiar colt was tapping out a storm, the hourglass on his chestnut flank bouncing up and down. The aged grey mare he was with giggled, rolling her golden eyes. Ancient and fragile wings spread wide in amusement. Her stallion stopped, laughing to himself as he lovingly stroked his date’s faded white-blond hair.
Top Hat whispered in Ditzy's ear. “I said the Gala was a painful thing.” He nodded his head. “I meant that. I mean things I say unless I don’t actually but in that case I mean the opposite rather thoroughly.”
Ditzy stared at the digressing Doctor with one eye, keeping the other on herself across the room.
“The Galas are painful. To me. Specifically.” He sighed. “I took you to them. Well, he did. Um, we did. One night, you’ll go to all of them. Every last one.” The stuttering stallion to her side leaned in and whispered in her ear. “The Gala isn’t mine anymore. It’ll always be his.”
She nodded, her mouth drawn into a thin line. “Doctor, get back in the TARDIS. We’re going now to make sure this happens.” Her eyes spun. “Or something. Verb tenses and time travel tickle my brain.”
She walked with purpose through the blue doors. Top Hat cast one glance back at the celebrating Smiths. He doffed his hat to them, catching John Smith’s eye. The brown Time Charger stared at his future self as Top Hat walked backward into the TARDIS.
Ditzy Doo-Smith placed her aged hoof on her husband’s chin. “Pay attention, silly. We have to head to the next Gala in a few minutes or we’ll miss Sparkler assaulting her future fiancée.”
“But,” he stammered.
“No!” She stomped a hoof down. “No timey-wimey tonight. You promised.”
John Smith sighed as he took his beloved wife in hoof. “I guess someone else is dealing with it. I just hope it works out.”
Ripple Pond shed a tear as she patted Dinky gingerly. “I kind of wish my Da was here too.”
Dinky look at her in confusion then shook her head. “That’s not what I meant, Miss.” She started walking towards the gun-slinging cyborg. “I want my Dad here so he can help me do this.”
She stopped and sat on her haunches within arm’s reach of the Grand Warmaker. He regarded her with a raised metal eyebrow. “You seek oblivion sooner than the others, Child of the Storm?”
Dinky examined him carefully. “You’re not gonna kill me.”
Servos clicked in surprise. “Unless you have a larger weapon, I doubt you could stop me.” He called over her shoulder. “Don’t think this little one’s distraction will buy you running time, my dear ponies.”
Savory grimaced. “I wouldn’t dream of it.”
Ripple grabbed her companion. “What is she doing?”
Savory smiled. “I don’t know. It’s not rational or reasonable.” She smiled. “But remember whose daughter she is.”
“Mister Warmaker,” Dinky respectfully stated. “You can’t kill me because you aren’t real.”
He laughed boisterously. “Shall you convince me I’m a figment of your imagination?”
“Ponies…,” Dinky chewed her lip thoughtfully and corrected herself. “People like you aren’t real; Daddy says bullies like you act mean to forget things. You had birthday parties, and parents, and the day when your most favoritest toy in the world broke. That’s what makes you real.” She looked up imploringly. “You’re pretending so you don’t have to be real.”
The illiop stared with electronic eyes of red hate at the unmoving child. “Little one, do you know what a Plasmaticaster 9b can do to a filly?”
She shook her head. The warrior literally deflated as steam released from his joints; the red light of his eyes winked out and became his own brown pupils.
“I don’t either. The Warmaking Team dropped one as it hovered over my village one year on the way to the Eternity Clash.” He sighed. “It was broken into a hundred pieces. “
Dinky listened attentively as the warrior paused.
“If you look at the Gausnostic Diver when it falls of, and the Semiplasnosticator is still attached….”
The Mighty Civilization Stomper looked slightly pensive.
“Well, the whole thing looks like a doll.”
Dinky clapped in delight as the ancient bear sat down next to her.
“A doll charged with a Neutronigium Half-Life of seven standard Unfinities. A doll that would always keep you warm when Mommy and Daddy were away on the front.” He gave a conspiratorial look as he leaned in to whisper at his eager young audience. “A doll that will make scary sister-frightening noises if you rub it the right way with a Kiddy’s First T-X3 Masshammer.”
Dinky giggled. The Grand Invasorial Hegemonic Destructor dropped his weary head to his chest. His eyes slowly expanded. He threw his weapon over the side of the bridge. Turning to Dinky he nodded.
“Go now, young mare. Leave this place in notfight.”
Savory and Ripple silently walked to Dinky, both convinced this was a trap. The aged illiop stared off into nothing as they passed by. As they exited the bridge, Dinky shouted at the old warrior. “Peace!”
The Grand Invasorial Warmaster regarded her questioningly.
“We leave in ‘peace.’ It means ‘notfight.’”
He shook his head. “What an extraordinary word.”
As the three ponies stepped around the corner a harsh sound filled the air, making Dinky clap with joy. The TARDIS appeared in the corridor. Top Hat threw the doors open and gestured with his hat and a cane. “Rescue time! Line up in an orderly manner to express gratitude.”
Ditzy and Sparkler rushed out of the open doors, their grasping limbs nearly suffocating Dinky in a desperate embrace. Ripple walked up to her Doctor and punched him in the side.
“Ow!” He rubbed his side. “What was that for?”
“You’re late.” She crossed her forelimbs and raised a comically accusing eyebrow. “You’re always late.”
Savory walked onto the unfamiliar TARDIS. Top Hat gestured to Dinky as she squealed under her sister’s tickling hooves. “Let’s go, little one. Your father awaits.”
Dinky shook her head. “I’m not going in there.”
Silence hung in the air. Top Hat spun around. “My ears must be broken. I’m the rescue!”
Dinky shook her head more forcefully. “My daddy told me to never go anywhere with you. He said you weren’t safe.”
The Doctor sadly smiled as he sat on the edge of the TARDIS. Ditzy started to say something. She stopped as she heard the Doctor try to speak. She could see a great weight straining to come out of the stallion who used to be her husband.
“He’s right you know.” He gave a sad grimace. “He’s a good pony, your father. Sometimes I think he’s a better pony than I.”
The grey Doctor suddenly started making comical faces; Dinky applauded with glee. “I’m dangerous. Woo hoo, scary me. I’m nasty and mean, and you know what?”
Dinky cocked her head.
“I’m most dangerous to the people who want to hurt the ones I care for.”
Dinky thought for a second, then nodded. She stepped into the TARDIS and walked past, followed by her family. The Doctor kept staring at the space she had occupied, looking far into the past at memories too numerous to count.
A hoof fell onto his shoulder. “Come on, you old fuddy duddy. Let’s go before your retirement check arrives.”
“Miss Pond, you always have a way to motivate. I believe the appropriate term for this situation is allon-sy!” He leapt to his hooves and closed the TARDIS door behind him.
John and the Adviser crept silently into a control room. Ramps rose to meet a large circular raised platform dominating the main chamber of the ship. Beneath it was suspiciously clear area of floor surrounded by consoles and machinery. Along the side wall a gigantic viewscreen offered an image of the surrounding countryside.
The Adviser clicked his tongue. “He’s certainty no less ostentatious after all these years.”
John trotted up the ramp to the blinking control center. “There’s no time for wisecracks. Well, a little. Well, at least do something while you’re talking.” His eyes played over the data screens. “This technology is horrendous! Did he buy it off the back of a cart?”
Behind him the UNIT science pony typed on a keyboard. “If he did, he’s going to be upgrading soon.” Smith turned to him, perplexed. “John, the transmit just brought something aboard the ship.”
John scratched his neck. “Bigger than a breadbox? Bigger than a breadcart?”
The Adviser raised his eyebrows. “Bigger than a bread-house. Thirty tons. Now help me figure out how to work this archaic mish-mash of parts before the Master comes back.”
The doors of the TARDIS opened, revealing the familiar corridors of the Master’s flagship. Top Hat and Ditzy’s head poked out. As she nodded in approval he offered her a wink. “Who’s your navigator, baby?”
She flipped her mane back coolly. “He’s somewhere on this ship. Come on girls, let’s go.”
Top Hat shrugged to himself as the gaggle of ponies left the TARDIS. “Whoah, whoah, whoah. We can’t be bringing everyone! Even little Dinky?”
Ditzy nodded. “No one’s staying behind, in case we have to run. Besides, she was more useful today than that blue slime mare you picked up once.”
Top Hat locked the doors of the TARDIS behind them. “But she had those cute red antennae thingies! She always complimented your hair!”
Ditzy stared daggers at the Doctor. “She tried to organically assimilate my scalp. And she never did the dishes!”
As they walked into a larger equipment room an amused voice chuckled to itself. "Doctor, one wonders if you enjoy arranging these inevitable catfights.”
The group froze as the Master and the Warmaker stepped out of a doorway. Before Top Hat could draw his multi-tool the Wakmaker’s right claw lifted, the cannon there attached placing three red dots on his chest.
The master stepped forward. “No beeping last minutes saves today, Doctor. I do believe this is the end of the line for all of you.”
Top Hat gave a deprecating smile as he raised his hooves. “So, now I see the height of your victory and everything, yeah? Popcorn? Applause?” Behind him his retinue froze, waiting for an opening.
The Master slowly shook his head. “I do enjoy letting my superiority show every once in a while, Doctor.” He shrugged apologetically. “However, aside from this being a unfeasible amount of prisoners I personally find your current form annoying. Even if I kill everyone in this room, I’ll have two others Doctors to gloat over. I’d much rather have that old UNIT dandy than you.”
Sparkler stomped the ground. “Top Hat is good Doctor pony! My father will be proud to being him someday!”
Ditzy’s eyes went wide and Dinky blinked in confusion. The Master inclined his head to the teen. “You’ve figured it out then, my dear Sparkler? This one is sharper than she lets everyone know, Doctor.” He turned to the Warmaker. “Shoot her first.”
Dinky gasped as Ditzy growled. The Grand Invasorial Warkmaker’s eyes flickered to the small unicorn for a contemplative moment. Without moving, he replied “No, Master.”
The impatient immortal turned to stare at his henchman incredulously. “Why on Gallopfrey not, you insignificant worm?”
The Hegemonic Destructor’s claw lashed as he lifted the Master off of his surprised hooves. “Because I am real!”
The startled Time Charged landed in a heap of machinery. Before he could stand, Sparkler, Ditzy, Ripple, and Savory were already at his side raining a hail of kicks onto him. The cowering immortal carefully drew a small device from his neighru jacket and clicked a button on the side. A pulse of blue light threw the mares backwards, allowing the Master the needed seconds to get on his hooves again. Even Top Hat and Dinky fell to their knees in pain.
The Master aimed the device at the sprawled form of Savory. “Oldest acquaintances first, my dear. Unfortunately, this one doesn’t have a mercifully quick setting. How unlucky for you.”
The weapon was blown out of his hooves by the cannon shot of the Warmaster. As the Master gaped three red dots circled unto his chest. Without a word the illiop fired. The resulting explosion came not from any gun barrel but from the Warmaker’s own cybernetics.
The Master smiled. “You poor brute, did you really think I would arm you with anything that I’d allow to be pointed at me?” Casting a glance at the rousing ponies, the disheveled Time Charger ran for his life.
Top Hat rose to his feet first. He helped Ditzy and Pond off the floor as Dinky walked over to the smoking Hegemonic Destructor. The small filly placed her hoof against his side.
“I remembered, little one. You helped me remember…” His voice had a wet sound to it.
She smiled. “You remembered your doll?”
He shook his head as lights blinked out up and down his body. “No. I remembered my sister.”
Ripple shoved the spellbound Top Hat, who had watched the scene silently. “Doctor, the universe is at stake! We’d better go.”
Top Hat knelt down by Dinky, gently crooking his forelimb around her. He nodded as the silently crying filly looked up to him. She looked away and took the twitching claws of the old illiop in her hooves as his breathing slowed down. His fingers curled around her hoof, and she petted them as his grip lessened.
“Miss Pond, a universe is ending right here,” Top Hat said reverently. “We should see it on its way out.”
John Smith threw his hooves in the air in frustration. “This is ridiculous! They’re running a type 7.0 semi-sapient Stross OS on a Kerenzekov motherboard. The compatibility issues alone should ground this ship permanently!”
The Adviser was on his back, multi-tool in his mouth as he adjusted the insides of an open panel. He carefully spit his sonic screwdriver onto his chest. “Does 7.0 turn out to be that bad? I’ll keep the TARDIS on 5.7 then.”
John shook his head as he attacked the operating system with a quiet rage. “You’ll tell yourself that now.”
The Master ran into the room with a weapon in hoof. He spotted his fellow Time Charger a second before John could react. Gleefully aiming at Smith he walked languidly up the ramp, occasionally slowing down as he spared a hoof to straighten his suit.
As he approached John whispered out of the side of his mouth. “Run! He might just shoot me first without the talking part.”
“Dearest Doctor! How lovely to have you here. Finally I command an audience very nearly worthy of me.”
The Adviser shook his head as he worked quietly and deliberately. “Like there was a chance he’d really do that,” he whispered to himself.
John and the Master stared at each other for a space of seconds. John’s mind was racing with possible escapes. Unfortunately, his captor had appeared when his hooves where in the air, not a good position for trickery. The Master’s eyes glimmered with delight.
“Which where you going to use, Doctor?”
John cocked his head. “Pardon?”
“Which speech?” The Master gestured with the gun like a conductor bidding an orchestra to start. “Shall we go over ‘the inherent potential of ponykind’ speech? The ‘cosmic responsibility’ ditty?” His eyes lit up. “Maybe that old ‘This planet is protected’ speech. I love how the venom almost starts dripping in that one.”
The gun was pointed slightly more forcefully at John’s chest. The Master was now within ten hooves of him. “With which maudlin oratory did you intend to startle me with today?”
The seconds ticked away as John saw danger growing in the eyes of the Master. He felt a soft kick from behind him. The message from the Adviser was quite clear: keep him talking, dummy!
“Um…stamps. I was going to talk about how much I love stamps.”
The Master was caught dumbfounded. “As some kind of universal metaphor, certainly?”
“Yeah.” John’s face scrunched up in mock embarrassment. “ Yeah, a bit. Sort of. Not really at all, no.”
“I can’t say that you lack surprises,” the Master said with a shake of his head. “Look at you. We both have a responsibility to guide the universe as the last of the Time Chargers. You wore the robes of Ramblelon as the President of the Time Chargers once. Now you fix clocks, toasters, and presumably clubs and fire-sticks.”
A startled voice from downstairs gasped in shock. “President?”
John sighed. “It was a weird weekend.” He gave a start. “Ditzy! What are you doing here?”
The Adviser quickened his efforts with a dark look. “This is why you shouldn’t bring a retinue. Never break the potential hostage limit.”
Beneath them Ditzy Doo-Smith walked into view. The Master looked at John and shrugged comically as he redirected his gun barrel. “Surely you don’t expect to frighten me, my dear? After all, you have no gun, whereas I have both a gun and some very recent painful memories.”
“Go ahead , ya big meanie!” An angry voice called out from the other side of the room. “I’ll teach you how we deal with stuffed shirts in Scoltland!”
The Master whirled, realizing that Sparkler and Savory were ascending the platform from opposite ends. Savory gave him a mocking wave of familiarity. Sparkler lowered her head. “You are being outnumbered. I am daring you to shoot all of us before I run you through.”
The Master shrugged, returning his gaze to the Doctor. “You surround yourself with intelligent lovelies, Doctor. All of them willing sacrifice their lives for the universe.” He raised the gun, pointing it at John just as Ditzy hovered over the railing. “Also willing to sacrifice the universe’s life for yours, I’d wager.”
Every mare stopped dead in their path. John shook his head. “No. No, Ditzy. No, Sparkler, no!”
The Master laughed, gesturing at John’s area with the gun. The mares sheepishly took position behind him. As they walked behind the machinery, Savory’s eyes went wide as she saw the prostrate UNIT Science Adviser. He lifted a hoof to his lips.
John sighed. “I’ll give it to you. You’ll never shut up until I do it.” He rolled his eyes. “Why?”
The Master’s smiled exploded in triumph. “One has to eventually contemplate their own end, Doctor. As much as it pains me to do so, I considered the idea that my goals of running this decadent universe correctly and continuing my immortality might conflict. I just might die one day, Doctor. Thus, I revived the Smooze. Assuming I live, they’ll rework the universe in the image of perfect order. In case,” he swallowed, “the unexpected happens, they will be my legacy. Imagine a race that will last for all time; a race that can never be defeated, never be stopped!”
Downstairs, Top Hat carefully removed a wall panel with his sonic screwdriver. Looking in at the display screen, he whispered back to Dinky. “The Doctor is almost ready to flip the switch up there. I need you to turn that green dial. Hurry! The girls can only distract him for so long.”
Dinky nodded, her horn glowing as she levitated a spanner wrench.
The Master took on a quiet, contemplative air. “They'll do well for themselves. My principles and beliefs are coded into the Smooze’s genome. One day their geneticists may decode their genetic code. I've written my memoirs and principals into their junk DNA.” He raised a commiserating pair of eyebrows in the Doctor's direction. “I took up a whole length of introns using you as a cautionary tale.” A grin reappeared. “Of course, they couldn’t emulate you if they tried. I checked their programming. Free will is wasted the many.”
He shook his head at the disgusted look John now wore. “You of all beings should understand me, Doctor. After all, aren’t you a father now? You certainly remember the pain caused when a child refuses to follow the advice of those with more experience and intellect?”
John took a step forward with an angry air. “If I compelled my daughters to do what I’ve said, I’ll never be proud of her! Yes, they’ll make mistakes. Of course, they’ll be hurt. In the end, they’ll still make me proud at what she’s accomplished.” He pointed to the Equestrian landscape on the viewscreen. “And so will they!”
The Master looked at John patronizingly. His sarcastic reply was cut short as the side tilted at a sharp angle. His gun went flying to the floor below as he gripped a nearby rail with both hooves. He them immediately felt a grey hoof lashed out across his face.
The injured Time Charger flew against a console. He looking into Ditzy’s angry eyes. “After all this time it escapes me why your husband hasn’t fixed those eyes, my dear.” His hoof slammed down on a large purple button.
Ditzy snarled. “I’m not broken!” Suddenly she stopped, hearing a bevy of familiar sucking and sloshing sounds. She turned back to the bleeding madpony in alarm as a blob of purple goo rolled into the room through an open vent.
He shrugged. “You unleashed your family on me, witch. Allow me to return the favor.” He regained his feet. “Your daughter’s down there, correct?” Not waiting for an answer he ran down the ramp toward the main controls.
“Not escaping this time!” John jumped over machinery as he pursued the Master. “And for your information I have a family. You've only made a race of goopy marrionettes.”
Upstairs the Adviser leapt to his feet. He grabbed Sparkle by her shoulder. “Miss, I need some of that spunk and bravery and I need it now!”
She stammered. “How… how to we fight Smooze here?” She saw the violet death crawling up the ramp.
The Adviser calmly gestured to the rows of computer consoles that surrounded them. “I understand we have all of this expensive equipment. Expensive and heavy, yet not bolted to the floor.”
A roaring blob advanced on Ripple as she stood at the top of the ramp. She screamed as she turned from it. The thing suddenly made squelching noises as three large glowing consoles slammed into it, carrying it down to the floor.
He nodded with pride at Sparkler’s glowing horn. “That is a judicial use of technology.” She smiled.
Downstairs Top Hat grabbed Dinky by her hoof. “We’d better go. I’d never forgive myself if anything happened to you. I’d yell at myself a lot.”
Dinky gulped as she looked down the corridors. “What about the monsters?”
He shook his head. “All of the Smooze he brought up should be accounted for in this room.” Suddenly Top Hat cocked his head and stopped. A gigantic tidal wave of Smooze splashed into view in the middle of their path.
“That is unless they’ve consumed every illiop and octopedes on this ship! Reverse running!”
Inside the control room the Master’s hooves played across the console, erecting a shimmering force field. It raised just in time to stop a flung chair from the second story platform that was perfectly aimed at the maniacal Time Charger. It was reflected off at a much greater speed, shimmering with sparks.
He shook his head. “Miss Savory, you never give up, do you.”
He turned in the direction of a crackling sound. John Smith was trying to physically push through the wall of smoking energy. John’s eyes flashed as part of his trench coat caught on fire. “Master! You have just put yourself in the most dangerous place in the universe!”
The mustached maniac only laughed. “My dear Doctor, how could this be any different than the Planet of Fire, or the clash at Logopony? Danger would be our middle names, if we had them.”
The seething stallion smashed against the barrier; arcs of energy played over his fur, singing it about. “You’re standing between me and my family!” Just as the wall seemed weakened Ditzy flew past, picking John. A second later a purple tendril smashed down on the space he had just occupied. The Master laughed.
Top Hat ran into the control room with Dinky on his back. He threw himself to the side to avoid the deadly sentient tsunami that stretched out for him like a grasping claw. Regaining his footing, he lifted Dinky onto a computer bank. “Stay here. I’ll do the fixing thing now.”
Dinky stared at him with pleading eyes. “What about my folks?”
Top Hat pointed to the raised platform. Sparkler threw machinery everywhere at the Adviser’s request, repelling the upper assault and bedeviling the Smooze below. “I think your family is in good hands.” She stared back uncomprehendingly. “Fine, hooves! I don’t know why I try sometimes.”
A shadow appeared over Dinky. Top Hat grabbed her and dodged to the side as a tentacle smashed the equipment behind them. He stared across the room into the eyes of John and Ditzy. John waved at him frantically while he held Ditzy back from flying into the spiraling field of tentacles. Top Hat pushed his namesake down and ran across the room with Dinky riding.
As Top Hat approached the middle of the room the Master whispered to a smaller blob of Smooze that sat unmoving and unnoticed on the floor. “Now, boy! Get them!”
The blob hesitated for a second. It then leapt into the air.
Top Hat stopped. He heard the single squelch and felt the weight of his back shift.
“Oh, no. “
Across the room he saw Ditzy start to cry, falling into her husband’s arms. John Smith stared blankly into space.
“Oh, please no. All of my no.” Top Hat quivered, tears coming easily. “Pleased don’t let this no be yes.”
He slowly turned his head. On his back Dinky shivered, she was half imbedded in a motionless block of Smooze.
The Master raised his hoof. “Shhh, now. Shh, everyone.” The Smooze stopped. “I want to see this.”
Dinky looked at Top Hat imploringly with pleading eyes. “You can… you can fix this, right?” She called out with effort. “Daddy, help me!”
John walked forward slowly. “Oh, my darling child. I’m… I’m so… ”
“No!” Ditzy interrupted. “Not for her. Don’t you dare say that for your own daughter.”
As Ripple and Sparkler ran past him, the Adviser looked down with confusion. “This is taking too long.”
Savory turned to him in shock. “You heartless stallion.”
The Doctor shook his head and smiled. “Not at all, my dear Savory. She should have been enveloped a full minute ago. I can think of only one reason.”
The Smooze shivered and began moving. Dinky closed her eyes, waiting for the end.
Savory turned to the Adviser. “What’s going on?”
“The most powerful force in the universe.” He smiled triumphantly. “Mercy, my dear.”
Picket’s head formed out of the top of the blob. His half-formed face turned toward the Master. “Dad? I don’t wanna do this.”
The Master’s mouth dropped as he stared incredulously. Centuries of upsets allowed him to recover quickly. “Daddy needs you to do this Picket. She’s a nasty pony who wants to wreck Daddy’s life.”
Picket’s features quivered as he turned to Dinky. “I have to do this.”
She moved her head sideways as best as she could. “No, you don’t.”
He started to move over her. Ditzy gasped as John petted her head. “Take a good look, Ditzy. She’s not in pain.”
Top Hat stood dead still while the internal conflict raged on his back. “Come on, boy. Be better than this.”
Dinky whispered to Picket as he started to flow up her neck. “My Dad would never tell me to do anything wrong.”
The blob split apart. It flowed down Top Hat’s sides harmless and coalesced into a young stallion-shaped blob on the floor. It gave the Master a nervous look. “Dad? Can we go home?”
The ancient conqueror beat his hooves against the force field. “You unbearable imbecile. I created you to do one thing! Can’t you even accomplish that?”
Picket blubbered tearlessly. “But… Dad… “
The Master’s eyes narrowed. “You were a mistake.” He turned to John Smith. “That’s another one in your pile, dear Doctor. Do you know what doesn’t have crises of conscience or moral uncertainty?” The Master manipulated a control panel. Suddenly bright thin lights flew across the room, leaving scorch marks in their wake. “Lasers, Doctor! Shame the lasers, I dare you!”
The Smooze was now entirely inert except for Picket’s crying. Top Hat looked down at the child, reached his hooves out, and the pulled back biting his lip. He stepped to the side to avoid a laser shot and spun around, gesturing as if he was arguing with himself. Suddenly shrugging, he grabbed the blob of Smooze and ran for cover. Tripping, he found himself pulled to his hooves by Ripple. She picked up the crying pile of Smooze as she ran underneath cover.
“Um. There, there.” She looked mortified as she pet Picket. Her hoof made it about two inches in. As Top Hat sat next to her she glared at him.
John rushed forward to grab Dinky. His daughter ran forward, ignoring the criss-crossing of beams.
The Adviser grabbed the railing. “Oh, no.”
Savory ducked under a fallen computer bank. “Doctor? You realize should get under cover… ” the metal of the computer started melting under the laser barrage. “While we still have cover, that is.”
He lifted a hoof to shush her. “It’s a standard attack pattern. Why tell her to run? John, didn’t I tell you to keep your mind on the… ”
Savory looked out of her cover. “On what, Doctor?” He was no longer there.
John reached out for his daughter while she was mere moments away. He suddenly threw his limb in front of his face as the glow of laser fire blinded him. The smell of burnt fur and cooked meat assaulted his nostrils.
Please, no. Not after all that. Don’t let her be…
Opening his eyes, John saw a dark red dandy’s suit scorched black by intense heat. It worn by a much-paler gentlepony. The injured Adviser carried an unharmed filly in his limbs as he struggled to collapse into a safe corner next to Ditzy.
The Master clapped. “I got you, Doctor! The only Doctor that ever mattered to me, and I finally did it. I told you your emotions would be your undoing one day.” He faked a sympathetic smile. “At least things will hurt less as the blood loss rate increases.”
Hot tears ran down John Smith’s face. Laser fire played around him. He gave it no heed. “... and we can settle this. We can settle this.” He drew his sonic screwdriver, aiming at the floor as he breathed heavily.
The Master clapped. “You expect to intimidate me? You’ve always kept your foot right at the line where you’d be actually dangerous.” He spun around, imitating Top Hat. “Even the one of you who died the most hasn’t wised up.”
John narrowed his eyes. “Yes, haven’t I? Always been just on the edge. Always been almost dangerous, almost murderously vengeful. Do you know what a family does to a person, Master?”
Dinky stared at her father. “Mommy, what’s Daddy doing?” Nearby Sparkler shivered.
Ditzy turned her daughter’s head to look at her mother’s eyes. “This is the part you shouldn’t watch, Little Muffin.”
The Master shrugged. John responded by aiming his screwdriver at Picket and firing. The Master covered his ears as the Smooze foal’s burbling cry came over every speaker in the room.
“Doctor, do stop that racket! It’s unseemly in a confrontation like this.” The Master didn’t notice the nearby Smooze starting to bubble.
“Yes, quite lovely, isn’t it?” The John passed his multitool over a communications panel. “Let’s share it with the folks back home. It should be a top play hit.”
Every pony of the ship winced as the noise became unbearable. The Master played with his console. “I shall merely eliminate the screaming monstrosity.” As the lasers aimed toward Picket, they all stopped firing. The maniacal madpony smashed his hoof into the console. “What now?”
Top Hat waved from the side of the room. “Hi! I’m the silly one, remember? So sorry, but I just broke your toy. And if I’m not mistaken…” he said as he angled a hoof behind the Master, “you’ve got bigger problems than me.”
The Master spun around. The viewscreen was filled with Smooze. The entire town had coalesced into a single tendril, now reaching into the sky and wrapped around the ship. Holes began to appear in the side of the control room as angry Smooze poured in, ignoring everypony but the Master and his force field.
“This is preposterous!” The tyrannical Time Charger rushed back and forth, looking at the wall of slime surrounding his shield.
“Oh, this?” John cackled. “This is the most normal thing in the world! You didn’t just make a super weapon, Master. You remade the universe’s most hated super weapon and made them ponies! Real ponies, the kind who have tea parties and families and go to magic shows! Real ponies, Master!” John gritted his teeth in righteous fury as a tendril smashed out of the floor behind the force field.
“And what real pony can ignore the cries of a child over a viciously abusive parent?”
Arms of Smooze began to surround the Master. He held his hooves up toward them. “Now, I can explain everything…” The purple tentacles wrapped around him, pulling him toward the hole in the ship.
“Doctor!” The Master cried out in fear. “Let me die and you shall be forever alone, Doctor!”
John blinked. “Are you kidding? I have a family.” He turned his back on the retreating shape of the screaming Master and walked toward Ditzy.
Top Hat ran towards the damage control unit. “I am not done yet!” He ran his glowing sonic screwdriver over the sparkling machinery. “Just a little more time. Planet’s at stake, you know!”
John nodded, picking up the Adviser. He walked out of the room with a serious look on his face. The rest of the crowd followed him except for Ripple.
“You daft old hatter, come on!”
Top Hat shook his head as he typed like a mad composer. “I calculate I have just enough time before they come back to save me. Run!”
John walked stoically. Ditzy was at his side with the rest behind him. She whispered in his ear, “Turn left up here. TARDIS is fourth door on the left.” The seriously-looking Time Charger nodded almost unperceptively.
Ditzy smiled. It would ruin his moment to ask for directions.
Top Hat whirled away from the computer and explosions rocked the ship. “There we go,” he screamed over the din. “Evacuation room of aliens jettisoned toward the nearest interstellar patrol point, the ship set to implode, the big planet-ending thing dealt with... ”
Ripple rushed to him. “What about us?”
A blue box materialized next to the pair. As the door opened, Top Hat stepped over the threshold and pulled Ripple Pond inside.
“Always remember, Miss Pond, that I really am that impressive!”
The TARDIS materialized next to two identical blue boxes. John Smith walked out and placed the heavily-breathing Adviser against his own TARDIS.
John knelt down next to the Adviser. Tears ran down his cheeks.The pained Adviser patted him on the forehead with his horn as if it was a knighting ceremony. “You’re doing something right. The family thing.”
John just gaped. “But…but why did you keep ragging on me for it?”
The blue unicorn only giggled. “My dear boy, that means I remember how much it hurts when things ends. Logically, before it ends it must have been wonderful.” The aged colt sighed with memories. “If we take away everything that’s good to get rid of the hurting, we’d be no better than the Cybermares; tin ponies without a heart.”
John felt a tear roll down his check. “It hurts sometimes. It hurt more than all the worlds in the sky.”
His past self nodded, as if giving a diagnosis. “That means it’s working.”
Top Hat knelt next to the dying Time Charger. He placed his hooves on the Adviser’s forehead.
John looked at him suspiciously. “What are you doing?”
Top Hat grimced. “I’m sealing away his memories of us. The next one won’t remember meeting the Smiths.”
John grabbed the ancient wanderer by his bow tie. “You can’t! You can’t let me wander without them! The long nights would be easier just knowing about this!”
Top Hat whispered to John Smith. “What does a family do to a pony? What does it do, John? What does it do, Mister John Smith of Third Featherdown with the squeaky gate you never dared to fix?”
John released Top Hat. “It changes him.”
“Right, it changes a pony. What happens when you change the pony who has to do just the right thing at just the right time for six hundred years? Where do the stars end up turning? What are the odds that darling Ditzy would even be born into such a world?”
The Adviser sniffed. “Don’t let me end listening to this nonsense. I need to talk to Dinky.”
The two Doctors gaped at their fallen self. “Why… why do you need to talk to my daughter?”
The Adviser smiled. “Because one day, Doctor you will unleash her on the universe. And she will change everything.”
He closed his eyes in pain. When he opened them up, Dinky was standing there.
“Hello, young one.”
She sniffed. “Are you leaving?”
He nodded. “But it’s not my worst day ever. Shall I tell you of my worst day?”
She started crying. "Sure."
“I remember as a young colt losing my favorite toy. I was so angry I trekked under the orange sky to the pony who was supposed to know everything. He lived on a mountain, surrounded by dirty snow and straining flowers. When I found him, I asked him to help me. Do you know what he did?”
Dinky sniffled, shaking her head.
“He pointed to one of the flowers, struggling so hard to survive. He made me stare at it. I saw an amazing, complicated life form, fighting to exist in a harsh world. I saw the beauty of the individual petals, the glimmering white snow checked by the grains of dirt that were made by long geologic struggles.” He sighed. “I saw everything that others miss after that day. I don’t recall having a bad day ever again. Do you understand, Dinky?”
“Good. I’d love to talk more, but could you get Miss Savory for me?”
She didn't move. "Are you going to be okay, Mister Doctor?"
He weakly caressed her mane. "I promise you, I'll feel like a new stallion in the morning. Go get her, please. And good-bye."
Dinky kissed the Adviser’s cheek tenderly as she walked off. While Savory walked over to him the Adviser watched the sunset.
“Did you know, Miss Savory, that I have always been fond of sunsets?” A slow smile cracked over his pained expression. “Still have yet to see two of them be the same. Carry me inside TARDIS now, dear. It’s time to prepare.”
From across the hill the Smith family watched Savory help the ailing unicorn to stand. Ditzy wiped off a tear. “She’s such a brave girl. So fearless.”
John nodded. “I’d expect her to be. Never gives up. Never surrenders. It’s what you’d expect from the grandmother of an Element of Harmony.”
Ditzy’s eyes spun in her head. She stared at Savory’s flank as it disappeared into the TARDIS, finally realizing the import of the steaming dessert that decorated it.
“John!” She grabbed her husband’s collar. “I knew her, John! I meet her when I was very young and... and she wasn't. Savory Pie! Her name’s Savory Pie!”
Inside the TARDIS, Savory tearfully laid the Adviser on the floor of his control room.
“Why are you crying, my dear?” He was calmly smiling.
“You’re... you’re going to die now, Doctor.”
He gave a feeble nod. “To die would be a great adventure.” Suddenly the Time Charger exploded into a shimmering field of golden light. Savory covered her eyes at the intense brightness. When she looked again a much younger brown earth pony lay on the ground. He sprang to his feet with a grin.
“Inventory time, dear Savory! Here now, what have I got? Still have legs, I see. Great! I love running. Still not a pegasus, but it can’t be helped. Oh, and just feel those teeth.” He blinked for a second, and then held out a hoof as if he was a skull-bearing actor upon the stage. “Feel those teeth,” he dramatically enunciated, his booming voice filling the console room. Miss Savory was still too stunned to react as he turned to her.
“Just listen to that voice, my dear. Deep and dramatic, with just the right hint of enthusiasm and whimsy. I think I’m rather going to like this one.” His eyebrows raised in glee. “To the wardrobe!”
The taken-aback mare followed him to a room she had never seen. Suits, shoes, cravats, and penny-whistles littered the floor. She gingerly tried to get the attention of the manic stallion whose rear could be seen sticking out of a closet. “Doctor, if you’re… alright... then we should head home. I do believe the Brigadier would like your report.”
A formal Zebra ambassador’s uniform was flung past her head. “Why would I ever want to do that? Of all the infinite possibilities, imagine wasting our time in such a way.” She heard him gasp. “Miss Savory, do have a look at this!”
She gasped as he drew out with a flourish an unbelievably long multicolored scarf. He held it in his hooves like a proud father holds a foal. Swallowing uncomfortably, she nodded. “It’s certainly…long, Doctor.”
He returned the nod, a new brown hat draped across his head. “Yes indeed! Rather as if someone had found some good material and just continued on, heedless of limits or conventions.” He threw it around his neck with a flourish. “I think I’m in love.”
She found herself smiling in spite of herself as the crazed Time Charger marched with purpose to the main console. With a sigh, she reminded him, “It won’t work. The Council of Time fixed it, remember?”
He turned with a frustrated look on his face. “Of course they did! They locked it all according to tradition and regulation and procedure!” Instantly the stallion produced both his sonic screwdriver and a toothy grin. “Which means they would never have expected me to do this.”
He aimed over his shoulder and clicked the multi-tool without even looking. A small beep from the device was immediately followed by all the lights in the control room turning on.
Savory’s mouth opened in astonishment. The Doctor bowed low as a performer would, his forelimb throwing his scarf in front of him . She let forth a wellspring of laughter bubbling inside her as she fell on the floor, rolling back and forth.
An offered hoof gently lifted her up from the floor. She found herself unable to resist the toothy smile presented to her.
“Well then, Miss Savory. We have all of time and space in front of us.” His eyes gleamed. “Where to first?”
John and Top Hat leaned against the TARDIS, watching the town of Violet Springs. Ponies were busy fixing their town from the damages it had suffered from falling ship debris.
Sparkler looked at it in terror. “The Smooze is still there, Father?”
John shook his head, cocking a hoof at Top Hat. “This beautiful genius fixed it. Ask him.”
Top Hat took a low bow. “I get the highest points today!” He grabbed Sparkler by her front hooves and spun her around in a dance. “Because it pleases me, I have made ponies!”
She giggled until Ditzy pushed the two apart. She glared at Top Hat. “Control your instincts, Mister. She’s coming home with us. No new companions.”
He sadly nodded. “The Master said he genetically programmed them. I rewrote that. Filled them to the brim with redundant commands to stay in their current configuration, never change shape again. Any Smooze that was a semi-sentient house remains a house. Any ones that were ponies are now perfectly pony forever.”
Dinky touched his side. “And Picket?”
Top Hat patted her on the head. “Last I saw him several overemotional mares were arguing over who gets to be his mother. He’ll have a long, wonderful, and completely pony life.”
The young filly responded by hugging Top Hat. He slowly worked his way out, looking at Ripple. “That’s what you do with girls, right? Anyway, had a lovely time Smiths! Must ta-ta away. Geronimo!” He cantered off towards his TARDIS with a wave.
Sparkler waved enthusiastically until she caught sight of her father’s thoughtful expression. “Are you sad, Father? Sad being for the good unicorn?”
He shook his head. “No, Sparkler. A very wise pony once compared life to a garden we spend a day with. We shouldn’t appreciate the beauty any less for the fact we have to leave.”
Dinky snorted. “I’d rather go for donuts them a garden, right now.”
Her family giggled. Her father recovered first. “Well then, to the pastry shop we go!” He carried her up unto his shoulders as they walked into the TARDIS. “I know a special one just for the occasion.”
Top Hat stood at his TARDIS door. He watched the Smith’s dematerialize through the tiniest crack in the open TARDIS door.
“Was it worth it, Doctor?”
“Argh!” He jumped in surprise at the sudden appearance of Ripple. “I wasn’t doing it!”
She smiled. “Doctor, was it worth having a family when you had to outlive them?”
He lowered his gaze, his hooves rubbing against each other. His head bobbed from side to side as if caught in an internal monologue. He suddenly stared into Ripple’s eyes. “Yes, Miss Pond. Every second of it.”
She looked thoughtful for a second, and then cantered off. “Take me home, Doctor. There’s something I need to do.”
He stood by the door, fondling his hat in his hooves as he watched the space the Smith family TARDIS had previously occupied. Ripple leaned her head out of the door of the TARDIS wardrobe. “And get a nice suit on. I’m getting married in the morning.”
Top Hat grinned. “Miss Pond, I admit you’re a quite wonderful girl, but…”
She rolled her eyes. “Not to you, silly! Come on and get this thing moving!” She ducked back inside the wardrobe.
The ancient traveler smiled all the way to the console.
Far into the golden age of the magical land of Equestria
The aged mare wandered past her mantle. Her horn glowed as she lifted up each award or photograph. She carefully wiped the dust off each object until she reached the end. In between a Professor Walking Prize in Physics and an Order of the Royal Crown for Bravery Medal was a nearly shapeless lump of ancient clay. Only the most generous art critic would remark that it looked like a pony. Scratched into its side was the word “GRNADMA.”
“I should have brought this to your book signings.” She gave a mischievous smile.
Her attention was drawn by a soft, tentative knock on the door. She paced towards it, intrigued. “I haven’t had a visitor in some time now.”
She opened the door to reveal a small crowd of ponies. Her eyes played over the pair of unicorns and the oddly staring pensive pegasus. “What can I help you all with…”
She saw the stallion. Her ancient hearts nearly stopped.
“Huh. Aging. That’s another thing you did better than me. Hi! I was in the neighborhood looking for Pony Joes, or Donut Joes, or something, and I can’t quite recognize the old place anymore. I thought that I turned left at the statue of you, but…” John Smith scratched his mane nervously.
The elderly woman stared. “Grandfather? That is you, isn’t it Grandfather?”
He nodded. She flung her hooves around his neck with the energy of a much younger mare. He let a long breath out. “I have some ponies I’d like you to meet, Wandering Star. This is your Aunt Dinky. Well, that may be a bit weird …”
She nuzzled him, her eyes closed. “Hush. Give me this moment first. You came back. You really came back”.
He hugged her tightly, ignoring his tears. “Of course I did. You’re family.”
Follow the Doo-Smith family into their next adventure, Doctor Whooves and the House of Daring!
Also, see how Ditzy and the Doctor met and fell in love in Choices!