The morgue was as silent as… well, the grave. The unicorn sneered. “Oh, come now, Doctor. No wry jape? No wiseacre remark? I’m rather insulted.”
At length, the Doctor licked his lips. “Well, even the best laid plans of mice and men, you know.”
Rumble furrowed his brow. “I don’t think I get that one.”
“I think it’s from a poem,” Maple said.
“Robert Burns?” the Intelligence guessed. “Well. It’s something, I suppose. Though perhaps Robert Frost would have been a better choice.” He smiled thinly.
The three ponies exchanged glances. “I really didn’t get that one,” Rumble said.
“Nor I,” Maple agreed. “And what kind of a name is ‘Robert’, anyway?”
“Are you trying to make a pun about the cold?” the Doctor guessed. “If you are, I’ve gotta say, that’s a real stretch.”
“What? I— no! No!” the corpse of Dr. Mountain Climber said, waving a hoof. “I just happen to appreciate Frost!”
Maple looked more closely at the cadaver. “Are his cheeks turning green, or is it just me?”
“Ah,” the Doctor said. “That’d be the preservatives in his blood. Formaldehyde and whatnot.”
“So he’s blushing?” Rumble asked, chuckling. “Big bad eternal consciousness, embarrassed about public speaking?”
“If you like,” the Doctor said, grinning. “I’d blush, too, there’s no shame in it. That pun was truly horrible.”
The grey pallor of the unicorn’s cheeks flushed a darker green. “Fine,” he hissed. “Laugh this one off, my little ponies.”
Ice began to form under his hooves as the ambient temperature of the room began to drop dramatically. The corpse’s grin was a rictus. “I told you I appreciated frost,” he said.
The Doctor’s teeth began to chatter. “What’s your game?” he demanded. “What’s your big plan this time, Intelligence?”
The corpse made a show of pulling out and checking a pocketwatch. “Much as I’d love to stay and chat, I have other appointments to keep. A pity you won’t be here for the show.” He nodded at the call switch for the elevator, and it bent out of position as the moisture that had dripped inside froze and expanded. His horn glowed pale blue, and with a burst of light, he was gone.
The room was silent once more. “Doctor?” Maple asked quietly. “We’re going to die, aren’t we?”
The Doctor glanced back at her. “What? Die? Nah, I’ve had enough of that for a lifetime already. Come on, keep moving, there has to be a way out of here around somewhere. Stairs, maybe.”
Rumble just stared at the damp floor, now slick with ice. He was so cold. So terribly, terribly cold.
He was cold. He was so terribly, terribly cold. The cloud he had landed on was bog-standard, no substitute for a bed at all. It was cold and wet, and like trying to sleep in a puddle. Rumble shivered and curled up into a ball, grey on grey. He had no home, no bed, no friends, no family. He was alone. Then, he paused. No family? That wasn’t quite true, was it? The colt stumbled to his hooves, practically tripping over himself. It was a long shot. There was no guarantee that he’d be able to make it that far. But it was the only thing he had. Wobbling slightly, Rumble took off at a flutter, flitting unsteadily toward his only hope. He would have to ask for help.
He would have to ask for help. Rumble rose to his hooves, purpose in his violet eyes. He marched over to the elevator shaft and pulled open the grille. The Doctor looked at him oddly. “Rumble, what are you doing?”
Rumble ignored him. Instead, he poked his head into the shaft. “HEY!” he shouted. “MISS ELEVATOR PONY! I DIDN’T GET YOUR NAME! CAN YOU HEAR ME?”
His words echoed briefly. Several long, agonizing seconds ticked by.
Rumble pumped his hoof. Yes! “THE CALL SWITCH IS BROKEN, BUT WE NEED TO COME UP NOW. CAN YOU COME DOWN?”
“... on my way!”
The Doctor grinned through chattering teeth. “Oh, well done, Rumble!”
“Yes,” Maple agreed, fluffing out her feathers. “I just hope she gets here soon!”
“What the—” Shutter said, surveying the icy morgue with horror. “How did this happen? And— and aren’t you meant to be dead?” she asked, looking at the Doctor.
“Just take us up, we’ll explain on the way,” Rumble said, squeezing by the mare.
Shutter looked at them. They were shivering, and she thought that the cream one’s ears were turning blue. “Alright,” she said. “I don’t want to be down here either. But you aren’t getting out until I’ve had a satisfactory explanation!”
The lift rose slowly from the frozen chamber, and slowly, the travelers massaged some feeling back into their extremities. “Alright, now talk,” the lift operator said, crossing her hooves.
“Sorry we had to deceive you,” the Doctor said smoothly, holding up a piece of paper. “Inspector Time Turner of Shetland Yard. These are my associates, Constable Tomtit and Sergeant Tuppenny Bit. We’ve been investigating that invasion of body snatchers.”
“Oh? Oh!” said Shutter, looking at the paper with interest. “Of course. But, er, if you don’t mind my asking, why did you check the morgue? Almost all the thefts took place up in the theatre.”
The Doctor smiled, slipping his ID away. “Well! All of those had already been stolen, so the next logical target would be the bodies that were still here! As it turns out, we were mostly correct. Unfortunately, we got ambushed and left to freeze.”
“Oh. That... makes sense,” said Shutter, scratching her head. “But, um, how did the crooks get out? There’s no other exit from that room.”
The Doctor paused. Maple Leaf cut in. “The chap teleported out. I suppose you have wards against that type of thing?"
"...I believe so."
"Interesting. Then our next step must be to find out how he bypassed them.”
This answer apparently satisfied the mare’s curiosity, for she released the lever and opened the grille. “Sorry to have kept you, officers,” she said, grinning sheepishly.
“Quite understandable,” Maple assured her. “Have a nice Hearth’s Warming!”
“Thanks! You too!”
As they trotted away, Maple leaned in next to the Doctor. “So, we’re the police now?”
“Psychic paper,” he muttered back. “Terribly convenient for getting out of awkward conversations.”
“Awkward conversations?” Maple asked, frowning.
“Like the one we would’ve ended up having with the real police,” Rumble said flatly.
“What?” Maple asked, wings fluttering out nervously. “Why would they want to talk to us? We’re the good guys!”
“Well, yes, but they don’t know that,” the Doctor explained. “While I could prove my credentials eventually, that would take time and patience that we really don’t have.”
“Oh,” said Maple, quietly.
“I’m guessing it isn’t like that in your adventure stories?” Rumble guessed drily.
“Not really,” Maple admitted. “Not at all, really. I mean, there’s that one about Ruffles, the gentleman safecracker, but…”
“Real life rarely imitates art,” the Doctor said. “Well. Not by accident. I mean, sometimes it’s done on purpose, which can be a good thing. Or, well, not. Like trying to bring storybook characters to life!”
The two pegasi exchanged glances. “Sure,” said Maple slowly. “If you say so. I just mean—” she sighed. “I don’t know what I mean,” she said sadly. “It’s almost like one of my adventures, but it’s all wrong! None of the coincidences mean anything useful!”
Rumble squinted. “Coincidences? What coincidences?”
Maple waved a hoof. “You know. The Yeti being gone. The Intelligence attacking on Hearth’s Warming Eve, the anniversary of its failure. Dr. Climber dying.”
The Doctor stared. “That’s— that’s—”
“Useless, I know,” Maple sighed, slumping. “Real adventures don’t work like that.”
The Doctor snorted. “In my experience, they can.”
Rumble started to pace. “Okay. The Yeti is pretty obvious. The Intelligence is probably possessing it like it did back at Dr. Climber’s apartment. Dr. Climber himself was a loose end. The Intelligence likely killed and possessed him to…” He trailed off. “I want to say ‘lure us here’, but that’s just insanely convoluted and kinda sociopathic.”
“Yeah, that’s the Intelligence all over,” the Doctor said. “As for attacking on Hearth’s Warming Eve…” He scratched his chin. “Symbolism, perhaps? He wants closure for the defeat of the Windigoes, but that’s likely not all there is to it.”
“...He said something about a show,” Maple said slowly. Her eyes widened. “The fair! He’s going back to the fair!”