Assemble a Conniption

by FanOfMostEverything

It's Not Sprocket Science

The largest disasters can have the most innocuous beginnings. A field trip to an archeological site can lead to a conflict that sinks continents and fractures reality. A few words whispered in the right ear can kick off a civil war between matter and spirit. A single acceptance letter to a school of magic can lead to a battle across time and space or spawn a horror capable of devouring both.

In this case, it all began with a seemingly innocent question:

"What do you want for Hearth's Warming, Dinky?"

Ditzy Doo had encountered many languages in her time, and thanks to the goodwill of a bad man—and a tiny amount of magical metal in her brain—could understand all of them as clearly as Equish. But even she couldn't make heads or tails of the vague grunt that... followed that question. "Answered" might have been too generous even for Rarity.

She turned to the third seat at the kitchen table only to see plum-colored magic hold up a copy of the Ponyville Express held up like an aegis against family drama. Ditzy rolled her eyes. Fine. She'd handled Dinky for years on her own; she could handle her now. "Now, Muffin," she said sweetly, "if you don't say what you want out loud, Chancellor Puddinghead will have to get creative when picking your gifts."

Dinky didn't look up from glaring into a bowl of oatmeal. "Chancellor Puddinghead has been dead for centuries."

"Now, now. I know plenty of people who didn't let a little thing like being dead slow them down." Ditzy smiled. Tales from around the Multiverse always cheered up her little muffin. She couldn't bring many souvenirs from traveling to other planes of existence, but stories were always easy to carry. "Did I ever tell you the story of a man on Innistrad who—"

An exasperated groan cut her off. "Yes, Mom, you told me about the geist of Saint Traft. And Kiyomaro, and Gusty the Great, and even Grandfather Karlov. I know all your ghost stories."

"Oh." That definitely wasn't true, but Ditzy couldn't think of any more that she'd willingly tell Dinky. "Um, well—"

"It doesn't change the fact that Hearth's Warming tradition appropriates Puddinghead as the carrot to Smart Cookie's stick. Be a good little foal and the jolly chancellor comes down your chimney with all kinds of delights. But if you're bad, she sends her assistant with nothing but socks and school supplies. It's transparent manipulation and bribery. Though that's on-theme for the whole holiday when the main message is 'Be kind to one another so we don't all die a horrible frozen death.'"

Ditzy frowned. "When did you get so cynical?"

Dinky finally looked up, the better to give Ditzy a sour look. "Is it really cynicism when I say what everypony's thinking?"

"It is when you think that's what everypony thinks," Ditzy said with a frown. She caught herself and smiled as she booped her daughter with a pinion. "And I still don't know what you want for Hearth's Warming."

Dinky drew away, her scowl deepening. "I don't know, okay?"

"That's fine, just think about it."


Ditzy bit back a rebuke. That would likely only provoke Dinky further. Instead, once her daughter turned back to her breakfast, Ditzy drew on memories of alien seas and rivers, coastlines that few other Equestrians had ever seen. Blue mana, the stuff of air and water, thought and reason, flowed through her like her own blood. She extended a bit of her will towards Dinky—

Only for Dinky's horn to flare golden. To Ditzy's eyes, able to see magical energy as clearly as visible light, an equally blue wave of energy shredded the careful magical construct like confetti. All that remained were useless sparks, just like the one coming off of the wand on the filly's cutie mark. Dinky looked back up at her, jaw dropped. "Did... Did you seriously just try to read my mind just so you knew what to get me for Hearth's Warming?"

"I was just going to look at your surface thoughts after prompting you, see if you'd picked something you weren't consciously aware of."

Dinky bolted off her stool, marching around the kitchen. "I can't believe you!"

Ditzy tracked her. "I only did it because you weren't giving me anything else to work with!"

"So that means I can't have the privacy of my own thoughts?"

"I wasn't going to dig through any deep, dark secrets. What else was I supposed to do?"

Dinky whirled to face her. "Wait, like a reasonable pony?"

"I've been waiting, Dinky. I don't have many shopping Sundays left before the big day, and I'd really rather not use combat spells in Barnyard Bargains if I don't have to."

"You're impossible!"

Ditzy glared. Even with Dinky, her patience had limits. "Young lady, I do not appreciate this attitude."

"I don't appreciate having to defend myself from my own mother."

Ditzy got off her own stool, looking down at Dinky... though not as much as she used to. "I don't appreciate you treating me like the enemy."

"You think I do?"

They were both shouting by this point. "It certainly sounds like you're looking for excuses to be upset with me!"

"I am!"

Ditzy blinked as the echoes faded. "Huh?"

"I am," Dinky said, her eyes watering. "And I hate it. You're awesome. But everything you do is so. Aggravating." She stomped to emphasize the last two words.

"Like what?"

Dinky threw up her forehooves. "Everything! Because you're doing it! And it's the worst!" She made for the door. "I'm going for a walk until I calm down!"

"I think that's a good idea!" Ditzy shouted back.

"Love you!"

"I love you too!" Ditzy took a few deep breaths and turned to the fortress of newsprint. Address Unknown had lowered the drawbridge and gave his wife an empathetic look. She shot back a glower. "Thanks for backing me up."

The purple stallion gave a helpless shrug. "I knew better than to provoke Dinky. Don't you remember what it was like at that age?"

Ditzy gave him a flat look, realizing then just who Dinky had learned it from. "At that age, I was busy surviving everything the Multiverse could throw at me while trying to find a way home."

He winced. "Right. Well, the point is, puberty's rough on a pony. There's a need for independence, an itch to go out and do something with your special talent... which would explain why you never really noticed."

She nodded and glanced at the universe-bubbles on her flanks. "Certainly did something with it."

"Still," said Address, "it's especially rough for unicorns."

"I guess a headache to go along with the other growth spurts would make her especially cranky. I know it's bad with wings." Ditzy ruffled her own.

Address shook his head. "Not that. Every unicorn has..." His ears flattened as he trailed off. "Well, a megalomaniacal phase."

Ditzy blinked. She tried to picture her little muffin cackling like Nightmare Moon and completely failed. "A what?"

"We don't really like talking about it, but a horn can really go to your head if you aren't careful. Every unicorn has at least a brief period where they imagine ruling over the feeble masses."

As she kept processing the concept, Ditzy's thoughts leaked out her mouth. "Do you think Twilight Sparkle got out of hers early, or never left?"

Address shuddered. "I'm not sure and I don't want to know. The point is, you're not just Dinky's mother, Derpy Girl. You're also a powerful spellcaster. That's making her resent you twice over while those hormones stampede through her brain. You remember that bad dream she had that I told you about a couple months ago?"

"Of course." As if she could forget something that had left Dinky almost insensate and crying for her. It had taken all her self-control not to fly to Canterlot and give Princess Luna a piece of her mind. "I'm guessing this is what you meant when you said it was a 'unicorn thing'?"

He nodded. "Dinky was horrified by her own imagination."

Ditzy sighed and wilted. "Great. So what do I do?"

"With Dinky? Give her space. I'll see what I can do. Since I... well, wasn't around for a while, I might get a pass." Address looked no happier. "Or she might resent me for not being there when she made her first friends. Or got her cutie mark. Or—"

Ditzy went around the table, spreading a wing along Address's back she nuzzled him. "Easy there, Stud Muffin. That was my fault as much as yours, and that madpony more than either of us. We got you back; that's what matters."

He gave a sad smile and returned the nuzzle. "Thanks, Ditz."

"Of course." Still, that left one part of her family who wasn't nearly as easy to placate. "So what else can I do?"

"Do whatever you were planning on today. Maybe talk to some other parents of unicorns."

There were times when Ditzy wasn't sure what to do with her Sundays. Some days had clear directions to pursue: office issues to iron out, interplanar concerns to address, or at least groceries to buy. She could almost see Dinky's outburst as a good thing in that sense. Before it, today's plans had been vague at best.

Now she knew precisely where to turn. Dinky was friends with the Cutie Mark Crusaders, after all, and tagged along in their endeavors not as a fellow seeker of destiny but as a piece of safety equipment. Especially after Ditzy had taught the girls how to form mana bonds, which admittedly had not been her wisest decision.

Still, that meant that Dinky had told her mother plenty about her friends back when she'd been more communicative, which meant that said mother knew just where to go on matters of raising a young unicorn who wasn't quite as young as she used to be.

Ditzy knocked, and Rarity opened the door of the Carousel Boutique. "Welcome to the—" She paused and blinked, sending sprays of light across her eyelids. "Ditzy Doo? Why, what brings you here?" Rarity gave her a wary look. "I trust you're not here to teach Sweetie any more magic."

"Nothing like that. I was actually hoping you could help with Dinky."


Ditzy shook her head. "Advice."

"Really? That's... certainly unexpected." Rarity stepped inside. "Do come in, darling."

Ditzy did so, taking the changes. She was sketchy on the details of the whole "narrowly averting the advent of Tirek" thing. At the time, she'd been called in by the Equestrian Time-Space Administration Bureau as they'd tried to stabilize Ungula, the plane containing Equestria, in the timestream of the rest of the Multiverse. The plane had had a tendency to drift from moment to moment since Discord had first gone mad local millennia ago, and Starlight Glimmer's mad efforts at destroying Ditzy out of a misguided blend of revenge and saving the world hadn't helped. By the time Ditzy had gotten back to Ponyville, the gateway to Tartarus had been resealed, the Bearers had somehow absorbed the physical Elements into their bodies, and the Golden Oak Library had grown twice as tall and semi-crystalline.

Rarity had apparently followed suit. Not only had she gained a few inches, she was as faceted as if she'd recently visited the Crystal Empire, another adventure Ditzy had heard about secondhoof. The finest arcanists of the kingdom had concluded the effect was harmless at worst, and even Ditzy's mana-sensitive eyes just saw a subtle blue glow overlaying Rarity, so she trusted them... so long as the unicorn didn't go damaging the substructure of the plane or sliding crystals into ponies' foreheads. The last generosity elemental had been bad enough.

That woolgathering gave Rarity enough time to prepare tea and cucumber sandwiches. Once the two were situated in her sitting room, she said, "Now, what ever could be the matter with Dinky? She's always terribly polite when I see her."

"Well, according to Address, she's starting to go through the rough patches of unicorn puberty."

Rarity nodded. "Ah yes, the terrible tweens."

Ditzy tilted her head. "'Tweens'?"

"You've never—" Rarity cut herself off, a forehoof over her mouth. "Oh, of course. You were... abroad at the time."

"That's one way of putting it," Ditzy said with a slanted grin.

"It refers to that awkward time between foal and adult. No longer one, not yet the other..." Rarity shook her head. "Oh, I shudder to remember when I was that age. I was simply terrible to Mother and Father. And I believe I understand the issue now. But why come to me?"

"Sweetie may live with your parents, but we both know how often they're out of town."

Rarity sighed and nodded. "Regrettably true, yes. So you came to me for how to handle a unicorn when they start bucking back."

Ditzy shrugged her wings. "That or mistakes your parents made that I can avoid."

Rarity shook her head. "Very considerate of you, dear, but you're working from a flawed premise. If you're her parent, you're automatically wrong. Not just wrong, anathema. Everything you say, do, and are is the literal worst a pony can possibly be."

Ditzy looked around the elegant boutique, considered Rarity's Whinnysotan heritage, and carefully said, "Do they ever grow out of it?"

"I suppose it doesn't help that I was already a very different pony than my parents," Rarity said as she focused intently on her tea.

"How's Sweetie handling it?" The Crusaders were all about a year older than Dinky, and all things considered, that explained a lot.

"From what I've seen, she's directed most of her resentment towards Mother and Father in their absence... though I suppose that incident in Canterlot might have been a sign of things to come. I had thought Scootaloo might have put her up to it, but..." Rarity gulped. "Oh dear. Not all of my clients are as understanding as Sapphire Shores."

Ditzy felt her wings fidget. "So what do I do?"

"Ditzy, half the reason I was surprised that you were coming to me of all ponies for parenting advice is because you're one of the best mothers I know. Dinky may be cross with you, but she is one of the best-behaved foals I have had the pleasure of interacting with. All I can tell you is to give her a little space. Let her come to you when she needs you, and be there when she does." Rarity sighed. "Mother tried to get herself back in my good graces by feigning an interest in fashion. It did not work."

"That's certainly encouraging." Ditzy poured herself another cup. "What about the megalomania?"

Judging by the choking sounds, she'd managed to ask the question right as Rarity had taken a sip. After the coughing cleared up, Rarity gasped out, "I'm sorry, the what?"

Ditzy offered a nervous grin. "Address mentioned how that's part of it as well."

"Did he. You certainly do have a very... devoted and... transparent husband." Rarity's tone said everything her words didn't.

"I understand if you don't want to talk about it, and I certainly won't spread it around, but I don't want my daughter to end up on the wrong end of the Elements."

"It very rarely ever gets that bad. In my case, well..." Rarity's blush scattered scarlet motes across the room. "Oh dear. I do believe I owe Suri Polomare an apology."


"Personal history. Suffice to say, Ditzy, this is just a phase. Dinky will get through it soon enough." Rarity's tail thrashed back and forth. "Frankly, I'm more concerned about Sweetie. If she got the other Crusaders to Canterlot, she makes for a much better sinister vizier than I realized."

Ditzy sighed. "That's all well and good, but giving Dinky space doesn't tell me what to get her for Hearth's Warming."

Pinkie Pie burst out of the teapot, draped in garlands and holly. "Did somepony say 'Hearth's Warming'?"

Ditzy raised a hoof. As Pinkie grabbed her and dragged her back into the teapot, she realized that had been the wrong move.

The other end of the teapot had led to Pinkie's apartment over Sugarcube Corner. She was probably on shift, come to think of it, but Ditzy knew better to ask. She reviewed events as they stood instead, considering Pinkie. She certainly looked normal at first glance—for Pinkie, anyway—but the black mana radiating from her came with hints of unusual traits lurking under her fluffy coat. A few scales here, a starfish-like pebbling of the skin there, what seemed to be a gill...

"Huh." Pinkie brought a not-quite-cloven hoof to her chin as Ditzy's recap came to a close. "Unicorns are weird."

"Your family farms rocks for a living."

"I never said earth ponies and pegasususes weren't weird. My little sister Blinkie used to dye black streaks in her mane, listen to heavy metal records, and call herself Limestone." Pinkie tugged a bit of mane straight and draped it over one eye. It stayed that way for less than a second before springing back out of shape.

Ditzy had spent enough time around the other mare that her only question was "Why Limestone?"

"'Cause it's made of millions and millions of dead sea creatures. I'm pretty sure Inkie got into classical just so she'd be different from both of us." Pinkie pointed her forelock at one the pictures hanging along the staircase. It showed a mare on her hind legs, holding a cello and giving the camera a much smaller smile than Pinkie herself seemed capable of.

"Ah." Ditzy had also spent enough time around Pinkie to know when to change the subject. "So, uh, gift ideas?"

"Right! Lucky for you your Aunt Pinkie knows the place to find the perfect present for every occasion, no matter how grumpy a grumpus you're shopping for. And every gift is guaranteed to be out of this world!"

"Another plane?" Ditzy asked Ponyville's other resident planeswalker.

Pinkie nodded. "Another plane. Even if most planeswalkers don't seem to like the place that much. The only other guy I've ever seen go there was Urza. And boy did Ol' Twinkle Eyes leave an impact on the place; almost everyone there is super-smart and super-creative! And may be a teensy weensy, itsy bitsy bit super-crazy, but that's what makes the gifts so special."

"Was he really as bad as they say?" Ditzy had heard plenty of stories about Urza's misdeeds and massacres, all in the name of thwarting an even greater evil, but he had been dust long before she'd been born. Technically, the same was true for Pinkie, but due to time rifts, most of her life had happened before she'd been born.

Pinkie shook her head. "Worse. Couldn't take a joke with a thirty-foot-tall joke-taking engine. Plus he tried to take the Elements of Harmony to use against the Phyrexians. I told him to go make his own." She stared in a direction Ditzy couldn't follow. "Pony magic against Phyrexia. What a crazy idea."

After a few moments of uncomfortable silence, Ditzy cleared her throat. "Uh, Pinkie?"

She snapped back to awareness. "Right! The plane's called Bablovia. Peaceful place... more or less. Probably. It has been a few years since I went there last."

Ditzy raised an eyebrow. "Is this going to be anything like that one restaurant you recommended on Dominaria?"

"Not centuries! Besides, the place I'm thinking of has been neutral ground since they built it. Oh, but you will need to look human to blend in." Pinkie shoved her muzzle into a petite nose for emphasis.

"Not a problem. Where is it?"

Her answer was a boop in the snoot. Ditzy's eyes spun as she unpacked the complex coordinates of the plane's position in the Multiverse and the location of the bazaar Pinkie had in mind that just got shoved into her brain. "Gaah... You want to do that a little more gently next time?"

Pinkie gave a sheepish grin, her face springing back out as she did so. "Sorry. I don't do it that often."

"Fair enough." Ditzy nodded as she finished translating Pinkie's model of the greater stretches of existence into her own. "Got it. Thanks, Pinkie."

Pinkie waved. "Have fun!"

Ditzy spread her wings and crouched. Her eyes and pinions both glowed the color of a clear noon sky, and she took off out of the world.

"Hmm. I wonder if I should've told her anything else." Pinkie shrugged as she went back to work. "Eh, she'll figure it out."

Moving through the Blind Eternities, the space between spaces, was a different experience for every planeswalker. Some barely registered their time between planes, their minds refusing to store the memories. Others struggled to make sense of a place beyond space and time and color. Most tried to spend as little time as possible, practically traveling directly from one plane to another and only lingering when seeking out somewhere unfamiliar.

For Ditzy Doo, who had gotten her cutie mark between planes, the Blind Eternities were the one place where her eyes and sense of direction had enough dimensions to focus properly. She knew she still didn't see the truth of the place; no being born of a plane could. But she certainly handled it better than most 'walkers she knew. With Pinkie's directions, it was a simple matter of soaring on the æther currents through regions of impossible color and tangible scent, past the limits of imagination and over the edge of impossibility.

Soon enough, she approached her destination. She tilted her head as she approached. Planes appeared to her much as they did on her cutie mark, bubbles of comprehensible reality against the madly dancing background. But this was the first time she'd seen one that had a sheen to it, silvery highlights on the surface reflecting wherever the Eternities' eternally fluctuating mana patterns concentrated most.

Ditzy stretched her mind out to the area around her. The region definitely hadn't seen any planeswalker traffic recently. The Eternities scrubbed æther trails into unreadability in a matter of days—inasmuch as time meant anything out here—but this region barely showed a trace of anything moving through it.

Well, Pinkie had told her as much; she might as well see what all the fuss was about. And it wasn't like she had any other gift ideas. She fluttered up to the top of the hypersphere and came in for a landing, planeswalking into Bablovia.

Entering a plane for the first time was always a roll of the dice. This time, Ditzy emerged in darkness, low red lights not illuminating so much as emphasizing it. The heavy scent of hot iron and machine oil made it unclear whether the lighting was intentional or if she'd 'walked into a smithy of some kind. Or, going by the faint reek of sulphur, a volcano. Possibly one in the other; Pinkie hadn't said whether this plane had any dwarves.

That reminded her of what Pinkie had said. As Ditzy's hooves made contact with the floor—sheet metal, going by the clank—she wrapped herself in a familiar old illusion of a humanized version of herself. One with a normal skin tone, not the surreal, skinny stone golem look she had in that one parallel timeline.

She wasn't sure if it was the spell or touching the ground, but the place came to life in that moment. Lights brightened to wash the walls with blood. Alarms screeched. Numerous devices unfolded from the walls, aglow with destructive red mana even against the darkroom lighting, all of them pointed at her.

Ditzy winced, thought of vast grasslands, and harnessed the resulting white mana as a quick and dirty shield bubble. She was terribly out of practice when it came to subtle arrivals, though she wasn't sure if she could've got in this place quietly even in her prime.

Then the assorted mana beams started firing, and she had to devote all of her concentration to surviving. So much so that she didn't even notice the probe that emerged from the floor right next to her, crackling with electricity, until it had already jabbed her in the thigh.

Her muscles locked. Her body shook. But she was a pegasus, and she'd been on the wrong end of lightning more than once. She could handle this.

She couldn't handle a jump in voltage. That dropped her like a sack of potatoes.

One could say that Baron Earl von Count, head mastermind and self-proclaimed snappiest dresser of the League of Dastardly Doom, was a simple man. It would be a complete lie, but one could say it.

Baron von Count enjoyed many things—elaborate doomsday devices, inescapable deathtraps, inexorable countdowns to oblivion—but simplicity was not one of them. Thus, he was less than impressed with the specimen before him, lacking even the novel juxtaposition of the products of Crossbreed Labs, much less the vastly superior amalgamations his fellow league member Grusilda could produce.

A smile slithered across the Baron’s pasty face. Ah, Grusilda. So much more enlightened than that doddering fool Jumblemorph, with all his nattering on about “viable host species” and “living tissue.” No, Grusilda understood that the true potential of biocombinatorics began with replacing the prefix with a “necro-.“

But the creature now before von Count barely even qualified as any manner of chimera. Certainly, ponies were recognized as a potent host species even by Crossbreed Labs, often achieving impressive ætheric resonance when augmented with squirrel. But this creature? It was nothing more than a small horse with wings. Bird wings, yes, at least it managed some degree of anatomical novelty, but they melded so seamlessly one might even think the beast had been born with them. They were even the same color, for villainy’s sake! And it was gray!

And really, if it thought he would be impressed by its ability to talk, it had clearly never met Dr. Julius Jumblemorph. If nothing else, the man had an admirable lack of restraint when it came to self-experimentation.

“You aren’t listening to a word I’m saying, are you?”

He gave a noncommittal grunt as he turned his attention to the laser-scarred division table and its latest victim. “I was paying attention to that question. Now, you should know that the only reason the security system was set to stun was because a pile of ash tells us so little about the nature of intruder or intrusion. I believe I've gathered all I can from you, so kindly explain why I shouldn’t simply fire one of the dozen death rays in this room alone at you and allow fair Grusilda to experiment on the remains.” Indeed, the dread chamber was lit only by the countless crimson manacoils just waiting to vaporize vulnerable flesh. Or brass, if the Order of the Widget got involved.

The specimen’s yellow, oversized eyes bobbled in thought. The Baron supposed the strabismus was a mildly interesting alteration. “You mean the zombie who strapped me to this thing? The one with the detached jaw and the fright wig?”

“Come now, there’s no need to be rude. You don’t see me mocking your hairstyle.” As dull as the rest of it, but at least he had enough class not to say that out loud.

“Just threatening my life,” the creature deadpanned.

The Baron turned up his nose. “You’re the one who manifested in the middle of my volcano lair. Don’t try to act like you’re the aggrieved party here.”

The horse sighed. “You know, the sad thing is that this isn’t even the first time I’ve been strapped to an examination table and threatened with annihilation. For the record, I was aiming for the Watermarket.”

“Well, you ended up here.” The Baron paused in his pacing, though various folds of flesh tried to keep going. “What exactly were you hoping to obtain at the Watermarket, anyway? I was under the impression that most of Crossbreed Labs operated on a favor economy. ‘You splice my back, I splice yours,’ that sort of thing.”

Now that he was thinking about it, further questions came to his unparalleled scientific mind. “Furthermore, when you say ‘aiming for the Watermarket,’ aiming from where? Almost sounds like you traveled by personnel cannon, and the Explosioneers hoard the things almost as jealously as their precious hammers.” Savages, the lot of them. Horrifyingly brilliant savages at times, goblin ingenuity being a disastrously true oxymoron, but savages nonetheless.

“If I tell you, will you let me go?”

He chuckled indulgently. “Cunning little crossbreed, aren’t you? I admit, you’ve piqued my curiosity, but the League has more brainpower in one of its members than any other organization in all of Bablovia has in its entire personnel.” Probably, anyway. The Baron didn’t keep a close count on the Big Idea’s brain collection, but there was certainly more grey matter bouncing about his cranial jar than in this creature’s prosaic little skull.

The creature had the audacity to smirk. “Well, I can do more than pique your curiosity.” Then it began to glow in sharp contrast to the ambient lighting.

“Hmm?” The Baron adjusted his spectacles and checked the mana readout. The beast was drawing white and… blue mana to it? Not green? And without a single bit of clockwork in its body! Oh, if only the Calcutron could hear about this; he’d strip a gear! Still, it wouldn’t do to let the specimen do whatever it was it intended.

He flipped back the cover on the death ray trigger, a corpulent thumb hovering over the shiny red button. “I am afraid you have exhausted both my patience and my hospitality, my dear. And for that, you must—”

And, in total defiance of any kind of proper victim-villain etiquette, the creature vanished into nothingness before he finished his monologue, much less blasted it to oblivion! The nerve! The Baron waddled off to find Mary for a nice bit of cathartic complaining over tea. Even if it turned out to be just another killbot, he might get lucky and find one of the empathetic ones.

Ditzy sighed as she banked into a hard turn through the Blind Eternities. Jumping from one point on a plane to another on the same one wasn’t easy, even for a pony whose special talent was planeswalking. And aiming for a location she only knew secondhoof wasn't likely to go any better the second time around. She was growing a bit wary of Pinkie's recommendation. It certainly didn’t seem like she'd find anything foal-safe in that world.

But then, Dinky wasn't a foal anymore, was she?

With that thought, Ditzy completed the turn and dove back into the silver-tinged bubble of a universe. First impressions could be terribly misleading, after all, and getting a smile back on Dinky's face would be worth whatever trouble lay in obtaining it.

Shrieking alarms assaulted Ditzy’s ears the moment she reentered the plane. Flattening them against her head did virtually nothing, nor did it do much to block out the panicking, surprisingly well-dressed humans running every which way, improbable gadgets and eyes on mechanical tentacles bobbing about as they went. Some shifted into blue-black clouds of magic which were probably supposed to be invisibility spells. They certainly weren't for inaudibility.

“Where did that come from?”

“How did it find us?”

“No, seriously, guys. I’ve been an agent for three years and I still don’t know what S.N.E.A.K. stands for.”

It was at that point that Ditzy came to an important realization.

Every plane had a... a flavor to it, for lack of a better term. Lorwyn was as bright and cheery as Shadowmoor was dark and dreary. Innistrad was its own subtly different sort of gloomy. Ravnica bustled, Theros hammed it up like Trixie at her worst, and Dominaria looked back even as it moved forward.

But Bablovia, Ditzy realized, wasn't like any of them. She doubted Bablovia even felt much like Kaladesh, another land of invention, brilliant in every sense according to the rumors she'd heard.

Because Bablovia wasn't merely mad. Bablovia ran on Pinkie logic.

And with that in mind, as the gallery of rogues seemed to realize that they should probably do something about the intruder, Ditzy looked behind her. As she expected, there was an exit directly behind her, at least if all the flashing signs and arrows, enough for a Las Pegasus resort, were any indication. “I’ll just, uh, be on my way.”

No one said anything. Well, they said a lot of things, but no one said anything regarding her leaving. She flew out of the tunnel and into beautiful—and more importantly, quiet—afternoon sunshine. The landmarks had shifted somewhat since Pinkie had made her mental map of the area, but the coastline hadn't changed... other than a few circular divots that were probably best left unconsidered. Still, it was a fairly quick glide to the coastal bazaar Pinkie had told her about. Even Ditzy's infamous sense of direction couldn't get turned around when following the line between land and sea.

When she reached the market, she circled above the area before landing, taking in the locals. There were quite a few to take in. More goblins than she was strictly comfortable with, more of the dapper humans, hunched-over figures both living and undead that screamed "minion," spliced-together creatures out of the fever dreams of the mutation-happy Simic Combine of the city-plane of Ravnica, and humans with wheels for legs and... cheese graters for hands? Okay, just that one guy, the one next to him had an eggbeater and a magnifying glass where his left hand should be.

"I'm going to be more out of place with my usual disguise," Ditzy said to herself. That illusion was dressed under the assumption that her surroundings were sane. The "see what you expect" spell was out too; in this world, there was no way of knowing what people might see in her place.

Finally, Ditzy just came in for a landing in her own form, dodging a few half-man, half-thopters with no respect other ponies' airspace. The fat man hadn't seemed too surprised to see her. Even if this world didn't have pegasi, she'd still be the least outlandish being in the market. It even solved one issue she and Pinkie had both neglected to consider until now.

She trotted through the stalls until she found a promising-looking one, run by a creature with the head of a rhino, the body of a gorilla, and legs obscured by the booth. The sheer number of cages full of similar if smaller hybrids said it was a pet shop, and the green magic holding many of them together told Ditzy she was right to liken them to the Simic. The rest was white rather than blue, but the same bartering techniques would definitely work. "Hi there."

The vendor blinked, then turned its head back and forth so each eye could get a good look at her. "Well, you're new," she said in an unexpected soprano.

"I am." Ditzy gave her best sly grin. "How would you like an exclusive sample of a new species?"

"I sense there's a catch." Several thin antennae Ditzy had missed until now twitched as the salesbeing said that.

"It's a sale, not a donation."

Those wide lips curled up in a smile. "Is that all? This is the Watermarket, dear. The only free samples are smells and collateral damage."

A few loose feathers later, Ditzy went wandering again. It was a lot like Ponyville on market day, only much more surreal. Turbodriven auto-hammer, no. Pneumatic letter delivery system, maybe. "Mandatory friendship shackles"? Best to keep those far away from Dinky and Twilight both.

And then Ditzy spotted it from across a crowded plaza. She soared over most heads, dodged around a partial giraffe and a mobile smokestack, and landed before the booth. "They're perfect!"

"Nothing's ever quite perfect, miss," said the salesbeing, who had a single wheel instead of legs and a tool belt that threaded through his modular torso, "but I greatly appreciate the compliment."

"I'll give you three hundred querca for the little one." It wasn't like the local currency would do any good back home.

"Three hun... Absolutely, miss! If you'll pardon my presumption, I saw you fly here, and I'll happily include a carrying case that should protect it from pretty much anything."

She beamed. "Perfect! Thank you very much."

“Thank you, miss. And if I may, you seem like a being who appreciates a good baked good. I recently had my stomach replaced with an extra difference engine." He reached under the counter, which involved quite a few gyroscopes spinning on his back and shoulders as he dipped down. He came back holding a wonderfully welcome sight. "I’m more than willing to include this self-heating muffin tin as thanks for your generosity.”

One could accurately say that Ditzy Doo was a simple mare. And she decided that overall, today had been a good day.

"There it is!"

"There it is!"

"Hey, we saw it first!"

Ditzy looked behind her and saw a group of humans in suits, top hats, and metal eyestalks butting heads with zombies and walking brains in jars waving more death rays.

"Thanks again! Have a nice day!" She took flight and prepared to planeswalk, amending that earlier decision to pretty good day.

Hearth's Warming morning dawned bright and clear, the reflections off the newfallen snow almost as bright as the sun itself. The tree practically sparkled with tinsel and a tiny illusory Fire of Friendship on the top. None of that brightness seemed to reach Dinky Doo's gaze as she stared at her father over a library copy of The What's Happening to My Body? Book for Unicorns. "You know, you could've just told me what was happening."

"It's..." Address looked away. "You see, fillies and colts go through different changes, and... Well, it's awkward."

"Miss Cheerilee told us about that stuff. It's not nearly as awkward as seeing Mom and catching myself thinking, 'I have to destroy her before she destroys me.'"

Address sighed. "Yeah, tweenage paranoia runs in the family. Your great-grandfather once sealed himself in one of the Royal Archive's reading rooms for a week because he didn't feel safe at home."

"Huh." Dinky thought about that for a moment and nodded. "Yeah, I can see how that'd make sense at the time. The point is, the better I understand something, the better I can counteract it. That's how I work, with magic or anything else."

"I'll keep it in mind."

Dinky got her lips to turn up a little. "That's all I ask, Dad."

Ditzy came in, a row of mugs balanced on her back and outstretched wings. "Fresh cocoa's ready!" Once she'd distributed all the mugs, she got a camera that had been resting on a side table and said, "Dinky, you're next."

"Sure." Dinky grabbed a present out from her pile and tore apart the wrapping paper in her magic. "It's..." She tilted her head, vaguely aware of her mother snapping a picture at her most confused. "What is it?"

It was a tiny thing, the sort that wouldn't look out of place gathering dust on some big Manehattan executive's desk. A dozen cogs, sprockets, and other assorted wheels with teeth spun in every direction imaginable, never ceasing, some even winding the mainspring that drove it all.

Dinky stiffened as she felt wings embrace her from behind. "A perpetual motion machine," said Ditzy. "Because my love for you will never stop."

After forcing herself to relax, Dinky said, "You realize I'm going to tear the spells on this thing apart to see how they're put together."

That got her a kiss on the top of her head. "Yup. And then you'll put them back together. Because you can break your poor mother's heart, but I know you won't leave it that way."

Dinky couldn't help but smile even as she said, "That's incredibly corny."

"I thought you'd like it." Ditzy let her go and smiled down at her, though not as far down as even a month ago. "Sentimental symbolism is one thing, but I still wanted to get you something you'd enjoy."

Dinky watched the perpetual motion machine for a few seconds. She'd never seen the like, and she knew what that meant. "You went to another plane for this, didn't you?"


"Ended up risking your life in incredibly unlikely circumstances?"

Address made a brief strangled sound. Ditzy just laughed. "That does tend to be a theme with me, doesn't it?"

Dinky looked up at her. "And you did it just so I had a halfway decent Hearth's Warming present."

"Of course." Ditzy beamed. "I did say the thing about neverending love, right?"

After a moment, Dinky gave a full smile, her vision a little blurry. "Thanks, Mom. Really."

"You're welcome, Muffin." Ditzy swept her up in another hug, with wings and forelimbs both.

Dinky thrashed in the sudden grab. "Okay, really pushing my ability to put aside the tweenage hostility!"

Ditzy just smiled. "I love you too."