Tick-Tock Goes the Clock

by SilverQuilled

Day One


It was Dinky who found the stallion first. He was in horrible shape, as was evidenced my the massive gash down his right side. To even an untrained pony (which Dinky most certainly wasn't), it was obvious that he needed medical attention, and soon. He lay unmoving as the huge wound on his side oozed scarlet blood into a sizable pool around him. From the way the puddle had dried around the edges, he must have lain there for about seven or eight hours. Accompanying the most worrying wound was a menagerie of smaller abrasions and lacerations. In short, he didn't look too good.

Now, most fillies would either scream or run for help. Some of the weaker-stomached ones might have taken the time to be ill. Not Dinky. She was a professional. She quickly shrugged off the scratchy sweatshirt her mommy had made her wear and draped it over the large slash. The nurse filly then quickly applied pressure to the bleeding area, just as Nurse Redheart had told her.

Now that the mysterious brown stallion's condition had been (mostly) stabilized, Dinky took the time to call out to her classmates, who had accompanied her on the annual school camp-out at Ghastly Gorge. "Guys? Come here! Someone needs help! Help!"

There was no reply. Dinky had wandered too far from the rest of her group, her busy examining rocks down near where the river deposit began. Screwing up her face adorably (She was always cute when she tried to look the most serious, a trait she would carry with her into adulthood), she focused on her desperate need for this stallion to get aid. Fast.

"HEEEEEEEEEEELP!" she bellowed at the top of her miniscule lungs. The force of the shout was enough to part the hair on the mysterious stallion, temporarily deafen some unfortunate Quarry Eels slithering nearby, and send an echo that could be heard on both ends of the gorge.

Needless to say, her help soon arrived, in the form of the Cutie Mark Crusaders, Applejack (who was chaperoning for the group), and Winona, Applejack's friendly farm dog.

"What is it, sugarcube?!" Applejack yelped. "You hurt? Sick? Is there some sort a' monster?"

The orange mare stopped short when she saw the stricken stallion. "Dinky Doo! What in tarnation happened here?!"

"He's hurt," the filly whimpered."He needs to go to the hospital. Now."

Applejack sighed. "O' course, sugarcube, but I can't promise he'll make it. Ah ain't never seen a wound quite like that."

"That's because that's a manticore sting, if I had to guess," Dinky explained, helping to slide the unconscious stallion onto Applejack's broad shoulders, taking care to keep the makeshift bandage on the gash. "I can't be totally sure, as manticores live deep in the Everfree, and almost nopony is dumb enough to go in there. We hardly ever get cases like these in the hospital."

"Now what would you be doin' in the-" the farm mare stopped herself. "O' yeah, forgot ya worked with Nurse Red..."

The rest of the trip consisted mostly of Applejack grumbling about the stallion's weight (Which, as far as Dinky could tell, was a good bit lighter than certain blue mares with a penchant for dangerous stunt tricks that resolved with the diminutive filly hauling her to the nearest first-aid station), the CMC pestering Dinky on first-aid tips for their potential cutie marks, and Dinky herself trying to keep the stallion from bleeding out before he was properly attended to. The nurse-in-training sincerely hoped something like this never happened again. Ever.

Fortunately, no major incident occurred on the journey to the hospital, aside from Dinky developing a sudden and powerful need to quaff incredible amounts of highly-caffeinated beverages, namely coffee. Were all fillies as hyperactive as these?

Dinky specifically asked for Nurse Redheart to tend to the injured stallion. Some of the doctors were transfer students from places like Fillydelphia and Manehattan, and a good number of the hotshots felt that they were far too good for a small hick town in the middle of nowhere. (One had gone so far as to try to get Dinky thrown out of the hospital. As this had been early on in her apprenticeship, Dinky still had a ways to go in terms of anger management. Needless to say, it had taken them months to get the singe marks out of the carpet.)

One of the senior doctors, one Doctor Helping Hoof, accompanied Redheart to room 42, where the mystery patient now resided. Dinky liked that he was professional towards her, but she felt that he took his job a little too seriously. Nevertheless, the unicorn filly was assured that the stallion was in good hooves- the hooves of Doctor Hoof, that was.

Dinky had stayed to assist the medical pair as they worked swiftly and efficiently. The manticore sting- which was confirmed by Doctor Hoof's prognosis- was cleaned and then stitched together neatly. A layer of sturdy cotton bandaging was wrapped over the stitches to help keep them from tearing. There was a slash on the left forehoof that was also wrapped in bandages, but it wasn't nearly as bad as the laceration on the stallion's side. Antiseptic was applied to the minor scratches, and Dinky winced, even though the stallion couldn't feel it. That stuff hurt.

Then came the basic check-up. Now the patient was stable, they needed to make sure that there wasn't an internal condition that couldn't be observed from a glance.

What they found was surprising, to say the least.

It had been when Doctor Hoof had applied the stethoscope in order to check the patient's heartbeat. Manticore venom was incredibly varied among the gargantuan number of subspecies in existence, and some variants of the venom had the nasty habit of messing with the target's heart rate, whether slowing it down, speeding it up, stopping it completely, or even causing the heart to explode. (The last seemed highly unlikely, as the patient was, in fact, still alive.)

There had been two heartbeats.

Not one.


Dinky's first thought was changeling, but Doctor Hoof said that changelings, when in disguise, were no different from a normal pony. Another idea was that he had an extremely rare heart defect, but there seemed to be nothing wrong with either beat. (Well, that was after you got used to hearing two of them.)

The rest of the check-up proceeded with as usual, right up until the stallion decided that it was high time he woke up.

Dinky had just slipped a thermometer into the stallion's mouth when he stirred, stretched, and opened his eyes. Brilliant turquoise eyes stared into Dinky's golden ones. Between his sleepy expression and his tousled mane, he looked just like somepony who had yet to get out of bed after a long nap. He had a befuddled look that was so comical it almost made Dinky giggle.

Well, that was until the confused expression rapidly shifted to that of dawning alarm and then to absolute, flat-out terror. His eyes darted back and forth across the room, seemingly searching for an escape, like a tiny bird frantically fluttering about in the vain hope of finding and egress.

Something had scared him. Something had scared him quite a lot.

Doctor Whooves was dreaming. It was safe and warm here. Something bad and frightening had happened, but he couldn't really remember what. All that mattered was that he was here now. With his companions. With his... friends.

Clover the Clever giggled at him from where she snuggled beside her husband, a stallion named Star Swirl the something-or-another. Firefly and Surprise were playing a quiet game of hoovsies in the corner, a game they had invented on their travels in the TARDIS. Maegwynna the gryphon sat nobly next to him, stalwart and steadfast as the statues that adorned the lofty peaks of her aerie.

Everypony he had ever cared about was her at this gathering. They smiled and they laughed, and the Doctor felt something he hadn't felt in a long, long time. He felt whole. Complete. There was a feeling of contentment that made the room cozier than any quilt. The Doctor felt himself almost ready to drift off in this peaceful atmosphere.

The room tilted alarmingly, the floor becoming a steep incline. Ponies cried out and whimpered, doing their best to get hoof holds in the uncompromising ground. The wall behind them fell away into darkness, and the unfortunate ponies who had not found anything to anchor themselves to slid down into the blackness, their cries echoing in the air.

With a horrifying jolt, the Doctor felt himself sliding towards the void. His hooves offered no purchase, sliding off the now-slick floor. Something wrapped around one hoof. Maegy. The griffon had managed to hold onto a lamp that was bolted onto the floor with her back paws and grab his hoof with a talon.

Her sapphire-blue eyes were shockingly calm, even with the calamity raging around them. "Doctor, look at me," she commanded in her gentle voice, the one with the gentle thrum that underlined her words. "Doctor, everything will be all right."

He stared at her helplessly, the fear in him clenching his limbs. He could feel his hoof sliding out of her grip.

Maegwynna smiled gently. "It is not quite time to say goodbye, Doctor."

And then, he fell.

Doctor Whooves was confused. This was not where expected to wake up. The rocky ground where he had cornered the Shadowed One and then gotten attacked, maybe. He wouldn't have been surprised if it was some sort of predatory animal that had attacked him, and it had dragged him back to its nest. Thankfully, it didn't seem to have eaten any chunks out of him. That would not be getting the day off to a proper start.

The Time Lord felt a cold metal rod slip under his tongue. A thermometer?!

His eyes opened slowly. The first thing he saw was a little lilac unicorn filly levitating the temperature-taking device into his mouth. The next thing he saw was-

Oh sweet Celestia. Scientists.

The Doctor's heart rate soared. He began looking around desperately. There had to be some way out of here. No. No, no, no. Nononononono....

The Doctor didn't get along with scientists. Not now, anyways. Talking with them about some advance in science years into the future was one thing, but being confined to a bed with them looming over him was something else altogether. (In all fairness, Doctor Hoof and Nurse Redheart weren't really looming. They were honestly concerned with his health, but he didn't know that. In all fairness, it had been doctors who had once caused him to regenerate.)

There. A gap between the filly and the pink-and-white nurse. The Doctor bolted. Or rather, he would have bolted if his forehoof and side hadn't been filled with a searing pain that caused him to collapse to the floor like a puppet with its strings cut. He squirmed futilely as strong hooves lifted him back into the bed. To make matters even worse, he realized that his sonic screwdriver was not with him. He was completely unarmed and utterly helpless. This was not good. Not good at all.

The Time Lord took a brief moment to fully comprehend how much pain he was in. His side felt like somepony had taken an axe to it. One forehoof was probably sliced open -he hadn't completely made it over a thorn bush last night- and every miniscule cut stung with every movement he took.

That wasn't the worst thing, though. There was something inside him. Something very, very bad. He could feel it twisting and coiling in his bones, pulsing in his veins. Poison. The agony from the previous night came back full force. The Shadowed One's crackling laugh, the pain beyond pain that had filled him far past his limit.

The Doctor tried to curl into a ball as alternating waves of nausea and pain rolled through him. There had been regenerations that had been far more pleasant than what he was experiencing right now. There was a sharp prick on the back of his neck. A syringe of some sort? The Doctor was tired, but he didn't want to sleep. He felt his eyes grow heavier and he was afraid. He didn't want to see them again. He didn't want to have to lose them all again. But he was tired. Very, very tired. All... he... had... to... do... now... was... sleep...

The patient was terrified. Dinky could easily see that much. His heart rate had to be simply astronomical. It was something of a surprise that he didn't just keel over from cardiac arrest then and there. (I have a hilarious joke about heart attacks. Do you want to hear it? No? Fine. Be that way.)

His extremely contracted pupils and slightly crazed expression made Dinky sure he was suffering from delirium. After a shot of a powerful sedative to calm him down, the nursing team came to the consensus that an IV drip would be the best next step. As the injured earth pony had been exposed to the elements for a fair amount of time, it was mandatory to get him hydrated once more.

Doctor Hoof sighed. It had been a long day, and this particular patient had been more than a little troublesome. "It seems our attention is no longer required. All we need to do now is observe this patient and try to avoid another... incident."

Suddenly, Nurse Redheart stiffened. "It's him. He's coming!"

Dinky froze as well. "Not this! Not now!"

"Luna give me strength," the senior doctor groaned.

And then he stuck his head through the crack in the door. The he in question gave the receptionist a nervous breakdown and was a recurring image in the nightmares of many orderlies and nurses.

"Pureblood," Dinky all but snarled. (She did so in a darling way, of course. Dinky would make an excellent super-villain, as she could defeat her enemies simply by cute-ing them to death.)

Pureblood, as the name suggested, was the spoiled brat of a noble, his snobby ways only eclipsed by his brother, the infamous Blueblood. He had taken it into his head that it would be most becoming for him to take on the responsibility of a doctor. After he bribed his way into medical school (he certainly wouldn't have passed the entrance exams), he was quickly reassigned to study in the Ponyville General Hospital. (The truth was that nopony could stand the fop, and so they got rid of him as soon as possible.) There he had incessantly bullied and pestered every single pony who worked there, trying to make his miraculous breakthrough in the field of modern medicine, and so become the talk of Canterlot.

As a result, Dinky loathed him with a passion usually reserved for no-good coltfriends and Brussels sprouts. She despised him, as he abused his position to order others around and generally be a no-good pest. The other doctors wouldn't even let him near the patients for fear he would poison them. To top it all off, he had hit on Dinky's mommy. Repeatedly. The chauvinist thought he was Celestia's gifts to mares everywhere, and couldn't understand why they wanted absolutely nothing to do with him.

So you could now see why Dinky wasn't exactly pleased to see him.

"Move aside, little foal," he said grandly. "It's time for you to stop playing nurse and have a real doctor take over."

Dinky snarled soundlessly but moved aside. As much as she didn't want him messing with the mysterious stallion, setting the room ablaze didn't help at all. After all, it took ages to get the smell out.

"I'm not sure you're authorized to be in this wing of the hospital," Doctor Hoof tried to intervene. He really didn't want somepony suing them. Again.

"Yes," Redheart concurred, slight panic in her eyes. "This patient needs specific treatment from the most experienced doctors here." What she didn't add was, and you're not one of them.

Pureblood took this the wrong way. "Ah, I should've known you'd be needing my expertise. Why didn't you call me sooner?"

He barged right past Dinky, who was trying to form one last desperate blockade from this oncoming disaster. "Now let's start our checkup," he said, sticking the chest piece of the stethoscope into his ear.

Nurse Redheart irately reoriented the misused device, attempting to rectify the situation as best as she could. If he was going to go through with this, he might as well do it properly. The snobby unicorn shifted the diaphragm on the stallion's chest and froze at the unusual sounds he heard.

"What is that!?" he asked, as if expecting them to know.

"Two hearts." Redheart said dully. She knew where this was headed.

"Two hearts?!" the egotistical prince gasped. "He's a changeling!"

The solid thunk of three hooves hitting three foreheads resounded in the newly-created silence.

Prince Pureblood had not apparently noticed this simultaneous expression of utter resentment towards his stupidity, because he was still ranting on. "A real changeling! In disguise! I can't believe I caught one! I'll get a medical team down from Canterlot to study it! This is wonderful! My breakthrough has arrived!"

Dinky flicked her eyes up towards him, startled. What was he talking about?! He couldn't do that to their patient! This was Ponyville General's jurisdiction, not Canterlot's !

Pureblood ranted on. "A real live changeling! Once we've got the scientific teams in here, we'll finally be able to study a changeling up close! Now I'll be famous!"

Dinky was now alarmed. What he sounded like he was going to do was far from legal, let alone ethical. She was certain the princesses would not approve a project like this.

"I need to step out and contact my scientific research team immediately." Pureblood should not sound that happy. That was terrifying.

Naturally, Dinky wasn't about to allow a potentially dangerous message escape her. So, naturally, she was delighted when Pureblood sent his parchment scroll through a personal dragonfire nexus. Perfect. She had already learned a spell that disrupted said nexus, giving her a temporary copy of the message sent. (Dinky developed this particular spell after learning one particular suitor of her mother was the leader of a ring of thieves.)

What she saw was... alarming.

Dear Auntie Celestia,
I have located a changeling withing Ponyville General. It is in the disguise of a patient, obviously attempting to glean emotions off of those who are foolish enough to sympathize with its current state.

I am unsure as to whether it is indeed as injured as it lets on, and it is trying to gain medical attention subtly, or if it is merely faking the wounds. Either way, it is heavily sedated and incapable of escape, so it should not be too difficult to subdue, if you are to send guards.

I propose that it be taken to one of the high-security medical facilities in Canterlot. There, it can be properly studied by a team of top scientists, namely the ones I have nominated, including Doctor Bonesaw and Doctor Introspect. We could learn vital information on the changeling race, and possibly prevent another event like the infamous Canterlot Wedding.

The changeling is to be assumed dangerous, even if it appears to be helpless. I have had experience up close with changelings, and I know them to be ruthless creatures that will use every advantage they can to gain the upper hoof. Force should be authorized if you wish your guards to succeed at detaining this nefarious beast.

Sincerely Yours,
Your Nephew, Prince Pureblood V

This was bad news indeed. If Princess Celestia believed Pureblood, and she had no reason not to, then the poor stallion would be falsely accused of being a changeling. Assuming he would eventually convinced the research team that he was just a normal pony, which would take months, then nopony would look at him the same way again. The changeling scare had been so bad that anypony who was even suspected of being a changeling, let alone taken in for examination, became a partial outcast, as nopony felt they could trust the accused any more.

Nurse Redheart and Doctor Hoof had vacated the room in her period of absence. However, she was startled to see that the sepia stallion had returned to the land of the wakeful. Dinky scrambled up onto her bedside stool.

"I have to get you out of here," she whispered. "It isn't safe."

The stallion blinked and raised an eyebrow, a universal sign of confusion, so Dinky elaborated. "The resident idiot thinks you're a changeling, and he's getting Celestia to send guards. They're gonna take you away and have you tested."

The mysterious pony shivered. Obviously, he didn't like the idea any more than Dinky did.

Fortunately for the brown earth pony, Dinky had something very important: a plan.

Trotting over to the window, she opened it and tugged something into the aperture. A slightly dented in can hung on the end of a wire. Dinky pulled what looked like a wind-up key on top of a toy clock. she twisted the key to the right, paused and reconsidered, and then turned the key back a little to the left. Satisfied with whatever she had done, she replaced the gizmo onto the back of the can and enunciated clearly into the tin cylinder.

"Calling all Cutie Mark Crusaders, calling all Cutie Mark Crusaders, Crusader Doo is requesting an evacuation squadron to the Ponyville General Hospital, repeat, the Ponyville General Hospital, room forty-two. Subject is incapacitated and extraction through window is advisable. Incoming unit should be prepared for a difficult extraction. Subtlety is mandatory. Building is under surveillance. Crusader Doo, over and out."

After she had returned the communication device to its proper position, she turned back to the stallion, who had a quizzical expression on his face.

"What? We have communicators in place all over town in case of communicator emergency."

Apparently, the sepia stallion wanted a little more of an explanation. Dinky rolled her eyes in an irresistible fashion before continuing. "Okay, okay. You're not allowed to tell anypony, but the Cutie Mark Crusaders aren't as small or trivial as almost everypony seems to think they are. We've got a chapter in each major city, consisting both of blank flanks and those who have received their cutie marks while they were members. The society has been around almost since the three tribes unified, and there is a level of organization that adults don't think us capable of.

"Every city with a CMC chapter is equipped with the standardized system of tin cans and wires. You can reach almost any place in town, provided you tune the communicator to the right channel with the indicator knob. You'd be surprised at the stuff Apple Bloom and Sprocket and some of the others come up with."

Just then, there was a tapping on the windowsill. A gray colt with a blueprint for a cutie mark hung in front of the window, a rope harness wrapped around his chest. "Okay, now that story time is over, let's get this guy out of here."

Dinky nodded. "Just a minute, Schematics, I need to ensure his bandages are in place."

The colt named Schematics smiled amiably. "We've got plenty o' time. Sweetie Belle and Ruby are running distraction, and the pulley's all set up."

It took both of them to carefully guide the injured stallion onto the wide sling that Schematics pulled inside. As soon as he was secure, a clever, easily deployed pulley whisked him out of the window in one smooth motion, depositing him in a basket that was lowered to the ground. From there, he was concealed under a layer of fake apples in a cart and removed from the perimeters of the hospital.

"Mission accomplished." Sweetie Belle reported.

"Now comes the fun part," Dinky grumbled. "Getting him into my house without anypony, especially the abominable Pawn Pusher, noticing."

Contrary to Dinky's belief, it wasn't avoiding her mom and her mommy's obnoxious coltfriend that was so difficult. No, it was something else entirely: stairs.

More specifically, the stairs that led up to Dinky's attic bedroom. Keep in mind, this wasn't a dingy, dusty, cramped room like in the Harry Trotter book series, but instead a cozy, pretty room to be in. It was decorated with pictures she had drawn and colored and lit by several magic lanterns. These lanterns were designed so that they would not reduce the house to cinders if one of them got knocked over. (Though frankly, Dinky could do that well enough on her own if she so chose.)

The stairs, the greatest foe Dinky had ever faced, loomed before her like a nightmare inspired by Sombra's darkest dreams. The stallion was in no condition to make the harrowing climb, and the other Cutie Mark Crusaders had dispersed after they reached Dinky's dwelling place.

It had taken the small filly numerous tries to relocate the strange stallion. At first, she tried to levitate him, but her magic cut out after two steps. Next, she attempted to simply drag him up, but he got caught on the next step up. The next few endeavors involved string, jello, and her second-best winter sled, along with vehement exclamations of irritation.

By trial number twenty-seven, Dinky was ready to call it quits and leave the stallion on the fourth step of the stairs. Nothing she had tried succeeded. The unnamed earth pony seemed to be doing his absolute best to act like a lumpy sack of potatoes. It also didn't help that he had dozed off right around attempt fourteen.

Dinky was almost crying from frustration by this point, something she never did. "C'mon, mister stallion guy! I've got to get you upstairs! Now!" Seeing as this wasn't working, she tried a different technique. "Please, mister pony? PLEEEEEAASE?"

Nothing happened. What were you expecting?

So that left Dinky with the only option available to her: she got angry. But instead of her fiery all-consuming rage, she became cold. Analytical. This stallion didn't want to move, so Dinky was going to make him. None of the convoluted, hare-brained schemes worked. So she decided to return to basic telekinesis. Her main problem was that, after a few seconds, her mental focus declined, making her incapable of continuing the spell. That was about to change.

She closed her eyes, focusing with all her might upon her stubby little horn, willing the magic spark to activate. A golden aura flickered into being and then encased the stallion. With an extra burst of concentrated willpower, the aura encompassed her as well, lifting her a few inches off the ground.

Dinky gritted her teeth as a pounding ache invaded her cranium. She would not give up. She would not give in. And then, the pair of ponies started to move. Slowly, at first, but then Dinky began to build up speed, hurtling around the final corner like a comet blazing through the starry skies. Her magic lasted just long enough to tuck the stallion into the cot in the corner that she used for the injured or ill, and then she collapsed, face plowing into the oaken floorboards.

That was how her mother found her three hours later. You'd expect to be alarmed or furious at the unexplained and uninvited guest sleeping soundly in the medical cot (Which Dinky had bought herself with her own money), but Ditzy was used to her daughter bringing home all sorts of injured ponies. Granted, this particular stallion seemed to be a little more... inconvenienced... than most, but there was always a reason for Dinky's compassion; the filly couldn't stand to see others hurt or suffering.

Most unfortunately, Pawn Pusher did not take the surprise nearly as well. "WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING?!" He roared at her, reaching a volume dragons and hydras could but dream of.

"Helping somepony," she said shortly, her patience already onion-skin thin. "He was hurt."


Dinky had had enough of his horseapples. "STUPIDITY? OH, SO SAVING LIVES IS STUPID, IS IT?"

Maybe if the stallion with chess pieces for a cutie mark had backed down, things wouldn't have ended the way they did. This story might have had a completely different ending. But oh no, Pawn Pusher wasn't smart enough for that.


Ooh. Big mistake, mister meany-pants.

"Oh. You. Did. NOT. Just. Say. That." Dinky snarled ferally. Her horn ignited with yellow fire. "You did not..."

By this point, Ursa Majors would have fled from the tone Dinky was using. Then again, Pawn Pusher did not have the intelligence of an Ursa Major.

Instead, he did one of the worst possible things he could have ever done: he slapped Dinky. With one foreleg, he slapped her square in the face. Ditzy growled and lunged towards him, only to flinch back as he feinted a strike at her. "You insolent little brat. It's time you pay."

"Aaand I think I've heard enough." a new voice said. Everypony turned to face this new speaker.

It was the injured stallion. He was sitting upright, giving a peculiar look to Pawn Pusher. It wasn't a glare. It was far much worse than that. The sepia stallion was staring evenly at the abusive pony, a cold fire in his eyes. His freezing gaze held nothing but contempt, hatred, and scorn for Pawn.

And then, the look changed to that of fiery hatred that Dinky would be hard-pressed to match. The rage was that which was born of centuries of observing pain and despair, of being helpless to intervene. It was the righteous wrath of one who had seen enough suffering to fill several lifetimes, and who had come to vindicate the broken and forgotten.

Pawn Pusher, the daft idiot, did not know when to quit. "And just who do you think you are?"

The sepia stallion gave a thin smile that was far more intimidating than all the death threats in the world. "I'm the one who's not going to stand for what you're doing, you sniveling little coward."

The abusive stallion was starting to get a bit nervous. Somehow, he instinctively knew he was in well over his pathetically small head. His solution? Be more aggressive. Numbskull. "You keep your muzzle shut! Do you even know who I am?!"

Oh, what a gargantuan, massive, enormous mistake.

The injured stallion gave a vicious grin, one that showed that he was about to bring Pawn's world crashing down around him. "I know exactly what you are, morphling"

Pawn Pusher reeled back in sudden alarm. "Y-You're deluded!"

It was too late. Far too late. The bedridden stallion was already circling in on his prey. "Don't you lie, now. I know the signs. Obsessive behavior? Controlling of others? A need for dominance, even to extreme measures? You've got it all."

Pusher was beginning to sweat now. "So? T-That doesn't prove nothing!"

The sepia stallion was now closing in for the kill. "See? You're already staring to slip up. And you're right. What I said doesn't prove anything. However, this does." And with that, he sloshed an open bottle of disinfectant onto the other stallion.

As the liquid splashed against Pawn Pusher's fur, it began to hiss and sizzle, like water droplets thrown in a hot frying pan. The stallion shrieked and writhed, acrid green smoke pouring off of him. A cloud of the fumes surrounded him, temporarily blocking him from the other ponies' view.

A completely different creature emerged from the cloud. It was a sickly off-green, pulsing with a yellowish inner light. To the disgust of those observing it, every vein and nerve was visible, supported in the cushion of gel. Parts of it had burned to a dark, scaly, olive-green where the disinfectant had splashed against it.

Its baleful yellow eyes stared at them from within a thin mask of goop. "What did you do? What did you do?!" the thing shrieked, writhing in horror. "How? It isn't possible!"

Thunder and death and fire flared in the brown stallion's eyes. "You ever lay one hoof on them again, and I'll make you regret the day you were spawned."

The creature -the stallion had called it a morphling- retreated hurriedly, simply oozing out of the slightly-open window.

"Iodine," the stallion said faintly, as if all his strength had now abandoned him. "They hate iodine." And with that, he flopped back onto the pillow.

Ditzy was the first to recover her voice. "Who- Who are you?"

The stallion smiled faintly. "The Doctor."

"Doctor who?" Dinky asked, cocking her head to one side.

"Exactly," he replied. In a moment, he was asleep.