She could only kick so many before grizzled teeth sliced under her throat. Ponies they were. Used to be. Now, they just moaned, growled, and hissed as mind-numbed monsters.
With a front knee jerk, Derpy pommeled the former Daisy in the face, breaking her jaw and releasing the death grip round her neck. Doctor Whooves slammed in amongst the horde with bat in mouth. With a jerk of his head, he directed Derpy to the opening and she made her escape. They galloped down the cobbled street of Ponyville, past the central fountain oozing grey sludge.
The duo skidded to a halt at the realization they were getting surrounded. The Doctor spat his weapon into his front right leg. “Get out of here and fly while you still can!”
Derpy panted. “I can’t.” She rose her battered wing, shorn of feathers along the edge. “And even if I could, I wouldn’t.”
He looked left and right, spotting an opening near the Cutie Mark Crusaders, rather, drooling, moaning, wretched forms of them. Zombified Rarity and Applejack, with matted fur and thinning to the bone, walked beside them. The Doctor grit his teeth in worry before reaching into his saddle bag and tossing a bottle in their direction.
In the shatter, a fizzing explosion of smoke erupted in the midst of the two mares. More by raw instinct than actual pain, Rarity and Applejack wheezed and closed their eyes, rubbing the irritation. Derpy and the Doctor ran beside them, bumping Applejack who lashed out blindly, then they jumped over the CMCs.
The Doctor looked back as they continued running. “That tells me their biological processes are still retained on a functional level. That’s a good sign.”
They made it up to a jagged structure rising up into an old water tower. As the Doctor looked up, he gaped his mouth and shuddered. Two of Ponyville’s Pegasi residents were hanging on the ladder. Their tongues slithered out like the forking of a snake, eyes swelled and open, jaws distended and teeth starting to twist into fangs. He believed that only an hour ago, they were likely seeking refuge and were now succumbing to the blight.
“Doc, what do we do?” Derpy whimpered.
“The adrenaline of their systems from the blight has heightened their physicality such I cannot put them out of commission lightly.”
“Oh golly, we don’t have to kill them do we?”
“I didn’t say that,” he opened his eyes wide and looked back at a sound. The horde was approaching them steadily from behind. “Yet.” He pulled out a rope, cut it in half and started to climb, Derpy right behind. The Doctor continued. “I believe their mental function is impaired to the point they are having trouble. They might be stuck. And self-preservation instincts are still intact enough to keep them from jumping.”
He reached the first Pegasus, who swiped at him with her hoof. He tossed a rope around her neck and grasping leg to the bar. “Step carefully,” he called down below.
Derpy looked down and gasped. “Doc! They’re everywhere!”
He squinted his eyes and yelled in frustration. “I know, I know! Just—don’t look down!” He scrambled up to the next Pegasus dangling upside down. He tied his hind legs and left hoof to secure him to the bar, though he could still try snapping with his mouth at the side. Derpy inched her way to the other bar and climbed around the ladder from behind to avoid being bitten again, and righted herself up at the top.
The doctor put a key to a secret lock and a door swung into the darkness. He flicked the light on to his laboratory and sighed with relief to see everything still intact. Normally Derpy delightfully played with things and gazed at all the amazing gadgets, but she was too sore and tired, slumping to the ground.
The Doctor closed and doubled locked the door before pushing a desk in front and straining to put one of his contraptions on it. “There,” he said wiping his brow, “that will hold them in case they evolve better mental capacity until I finish the cure.”
Derpy looked up. “You have everything you need?”
He turned to her side. “I am sure of it. Now that we are safe are you hurt?”
Derpy whimpered. “I—I think I’m ok. You just get to…”
He saw her mane dabbed in blood and as he parted it from her neck he saw the blood dribbling into her chest fur. “We have to attend to this!”
“Don’t worry about me, Doc!” She batted his hoof away. “Just finish the cure!”
“If I don’t dress this wound, it’ll worsen. You will most certainly turn into one of them in an hour or two otherwise.”
Derpy stood and yelled, “I’ll do it myself, Doc!” She stopped and put a hoof to her mouth, lip quivering.
“Your aggression is already on the rise,” he said.
“It’s fine,” she said turning away to grab a water bottle. “Just—just get to work.”
The Doctor nodded and turned to his chemistry set. He was already working on a major breakthrough. Seven caged rats, all infected with the blight, hissed and snarled while foaming at the mouth, gnawing at their cages. One was already trying to undo the lock though it wasn’t strong enough for it. He knew it was only a matter of time till their minds created a hive link to a shared intelligence.
He sifted a beaker and gently sloshed the liquid around before pulling some goggles over his eyes and increasing their magnification to inspect his test subject. There was the magic-resistant blight parasite, small enough to crawl in the tube of an ink quill, mutated to reproduce eggs into the body and bloodstream. He paused to lift his goggles and look at Derpy who paced furiously, sweating, mumbling and starting to yell at herself. The hormonal changes induced violent interaction with other creatures, promoting the parasite’s intent to spread.
“Oh Derpy,” he sighed before returning to work. Killing the parasites was easy. Gutting them from sufficient blood supply, or surgically extracting them from the victim and destroying them. The problem was that they manifested in random parts of the brain, and he was not about to blindly butcher the grey Pegasus in attempt to find the root of her problem.
She gripped her head. “I have a headache, Doc, I have a headache!” She stood on her hind legs and stepped around before throwing herself against the wall. She twisted around, eyes faced rightly and screamed. “WHAT’S TAKING SO LONG?”
“Derpy, please!” The Doctor coughed, swallowing another shouting confrontation, knowing that escalating will only help the blight. “I need to concentrate. You have to fight it! It’s the parasite, it’s already growing and trying to take control.”
Derpy shook her head and held a hoof to it, eyes derped to normal. “Oh, oh! I’m so sorry! I dunno what came over me!”
The Doctor moved away from his bench and gave her a loving embrace, stroking her back. “It’s the blight.”
After a few moments, Derpy unwillingly pushed him aside. She was about to speak but he cupped a hoof under her chin and spoke for her. “I know, I know. Get back to work, yes. Well, allons-y!”
Derpy wanted to know if he could find a cure before she became too violent, but didn’t want to distract him anymore. She began looking around the lab to see if maybe she could lock herself up like a lab rat, but the last of the useful rope was being used to tie down the Pegasi outside.
The Doctor mumbled. “If only I could get the airborne pesticide through solid objects and dissipate it to the atmosphere.” He studied a series of connecting glassware and burners where he intended to grow and mass produce his new concoction.
He took a sample and pumped it into a sealed container where a rat paced two steps left and right in its small prison, scratching, biting, and hissing, becoming more violent as the Doctor’s chemical gas filled its lungs. It flung itself wrathfully in a blind fury as if desperate to escape before it finally collapsed. In a few long minutes, it began to sleep peacefully, though it was rapidly running out of oxygen.
“Well it works,” he said. “But I don’t know if I can reasonably force every pony to breath in enough, simply not practical. I need a spark of ideas.” He stopped himself and smiled. “Yes, yes! A spark!” He became giddy and excited, but first he wanted to test his cure on Derpy with a respirator hooked up to a container full of the cure.
He picked up the mask and turned about. “Derpy! Derpy? I need—” she sprung out at him and snarled. She snapped at him and tried to punch him, but her attack threw them both to the floor. He scrambled up and tried to get some distance when she lunged at him again, opening her mouth revealing a row of sharpening, jagged teeth. He jammed the respirator in her mouth, causing her to choke on the distasteful rubber before he pushed her down and pinned her partially under a chair.
Derpy shook her head again, realizing what was going on. She sniffled, drifting into a saddening cry. “I—I—I’m sorry, Doc! I can’t help it!”
The Doctor bashed the chair aside and hugged her tightly. “I know you can’t.”
“I j-j-j-just thought that maybe I c-c-c-could, you know? Resist it? For you?”
The Doctor gripped her shoulders and looked intently into her eyes that starting to redden around the edges. “Derpy, listen to me. I just figured out a cure! The blight is resistant to direct magical effects, but I believe I can still use magic to deliver the cure!”
“So,” Derpy sniffed, “you can cure me?”
The Doctor looked at the tattered respirator. “I needed that to deliver the cure so you could help me prep a magical explosion outside. But you’re in no condition to…”
“Let me do it,” she said.
“It’s more than that.” His eyes glistened a little as he looked away a moment, trying not to gaze directly to her. She realized he was hiding something from her, and as angry as that made her, she desperately tried swallowing the emotion.
The door began to clang. It seemed some of them were now able to either climb the ladder, or the parasites in some Pegasi were able to control their hosts to fly. As the Doctor ran the mathematical possibilities in his mind, the sound of trotting on the roof and banging on the sides confirmed it. They were airborne.
“There’s no time to explain!” He pushed her aside, grabbing a hose and hooking it up to his boiler the size of a wagon. He lifted a lever here and there, and moved to an elevator after putting on a helmet and strapping gloves around his legs.
Derpy rushed to him as he pushed the button that rose the platform up, clanking chains rattling in obedience. “Derpy, you have to stay here!”
“No, Doc!” She yelled. “Tell me what I have to do.”
“What I’m going to do is alter the air siren, slash sonic disruptor, mounted to the top of the water tower into an explosive air purifier that will eject and amplify the cure to all of Ponyville and its countryside to start the cure!” He tried to push her off the platform but she gripped hard and resisted. “You are going to stay here and make sure that my notes on the formula remain safe so the cure can be replicated!”
Derpy mustered the strength from the blight and pushed him down and pushed the button, stopping the elevator. “I’m not stupid, Doc! You won’t let me do anything because you think that, that, I’ll mess it up!” She started crying hot tears of anger while biting her lip, trying not to lose control. “You say that as if you won’t come back!”
Doctor Whooves stood and pressed the button, restarting the elevator. “There’s a lever designed to be depressed by Pegasi. But since I can’t fly, I’ll most likely go down to the ground getting it set.”
Derpy slammed her right hoof on the bar. “That’s if you get past the blighted zombies flying around! There has to be another way!”
“There’s no time,” he replied lowering his voice. “They could be destroying the contraption as we speak trying to get inside.”
“But what if something goes wrong? You’re the only one who can make it right! An-and try again!”
He grabbed her, wrestling with her but Derpy’s strength was growing. He kicked her left leg out and gained the upper hoof, trying to pin her down in a choke hold that would cause her to pass out. She was about to bite him, but instead threw her head back and pushed both her hooves on his foreleg to come away free.
“I can’t give you the weight of this responsibility!” He shouted.
“Why? Because you think I’m inadequate?”
He hugged her tightly. “Because I think you’re too wonderful!”
The word shocked her enough to give pause enough to overcome the rage of the blight.
“Because you are a beautiful mare, and the world needs you greatly, even when you can’t see it with your adorable eyes! You are selfless to a fault! Because I love you!”
The platform reached the top. He made his way to the top hatch, opening the emergency latch. As he pressed down on the handle, he felt her wheat mane streak by his face, and a flash of grey whip around him. Then his world was enveloped in a confusing swirl of emotions, her face in his. His lips were gripped firmly by her dry, crackling mouth, but their intimate embrace softened them. The warmth and electrifying sensation running about warmed his hate for what he knew was about to happen. His fur stood on end up and down his back as he felt her press in to him.
Then, the moment of the kiss tumbled away as she pushed him back to the platform before kicking the chain’s secure pulley. It wobbled a bit.
She whispered loudly. “Me too, Doc. Me too.”
The Doctor yelled as his eyes welled up. He stood to reach for the ledge but the elevator was already zipping down. He watched her exit the escape hatch, pushing a Pegasus out of her way. As the elevator hit the floor of his lab, he heard her pull the Pegasus away from the door before trying to close it behind her.
Doctor Whooves struggled to stand, the impact jolting his shoulder to bruising. He limped his way to a broom as the blighted Pegasus opened the door and began to fly around, snarling and looking for a victim. Outside, Derpy ran beside another Pegasus who dove into the opening. She fought back tears as she found the lever. She had to climb a ladder and she could feel the blight wanting to take over as rage flooded into her mind.
She fought the blight, sobbing, feeling the parasite trying to take control. It was aware enough to know it was in danger. She started losing function of her mouth, drooling as she reached what would be her final destination. A final push and she became angry with herself and her failures. She kicked and rammed herself into the metal bars, bruising herself nearly to breaking bones. Derpy bent down, wanting to claw out the demon possessing her.
But then she heard the Doctor. It was faint. It was distant. But it was alive and well.
“You can do it, Derpy!”
She imagined the parasite screech in terror as she threw herself at the oversized lever, dragging her weight down upon it. It shuddered and she was nearly thrown off. She gripped on it with all her might, using her anger as a weapon, yelling as she throttled with it till it started clanking.
The Doctor took up a broom in his mouth and smashed it across one of the deranged Pegasi. He then punched the throat of another, causing it to choke and turn away. He knocked down a chair and pinned a filly to the ground, pinching her wing as he stood on the chair and smacked the broom’s handle into the mouth of another Pegasi. Then, with a thud and a charging electronic jolt frizzing everypony’s strand of fur and hair, an explosion of colors sent them all into shock.
Derpy felt the parasite squirm, sure she could hear it’s deathly, fitful cries. She smiled. “I did it, Doc. I did something right.”
Then, she slipped…