Morning on the planet of Padrivole Regency XI was a time of constant action. Since most of the planet’s biota were active during the day, with very few nocturnal species, the rising of the system’s two suns was like an alarm clock for every creature on half the planet to wake up and get to business. And nowhere was this more evident that in the cosmopolitan capital city of the Regency, especially in the central marketplace.
The Market was situated on an elevated platform at the very top of a tower, slap-bang in the middle of the city. From this enormous circular saucer, over a dozen suspended bridges emerged to connect it to various levels of the surrounding towers, many of which were far taller and more impressive-looking. Upon the platform lay hundreds of stands, shops, and improvised buildings of all sorts, all of them having something to offer to anything with sufficient money. It was the sort of place that had something for every visitor, and the Doctor had rightly assumed that it was the perfect place to leave Ditzy Doo to explore in relative safety, while he eloped back to his beloved TARDIS to spend the rest of the day reading about the marvelous Universe he found himself in.
It would have therefore distressed him greatly to see her kicked, rather violently, out of a ramshackle variety store, while a fat Raxacolticofallapatrotian antiquities dealer menacingly shook his hoof-like appendage at her:
“… And if I ever catch you around my store again, Clom help me, I’ll make you regret it!”, said Bartfast Fing-Foom Goodnight Arlene, closing the store’s door behind him with a loud, impolite thud.
“It looked like a perfectly edible muffin, you dodo! How was I supposed to know that was your wife?” she retorted, running back to the door and beating her hooves against the planks. “Now what’ll I get the Doctor as a surprise thank-you-for-taking-me-around-the-Universe gift?” She’d even made sure the shoppe accepted her Equestrian gold currency before she went in, thoughtfully averting any awkward situation.
As it seemed the massive bug-eyed shopkeeper wasn’t going to open the door to her any time soon, Ditzy resolved to find another pace to buy her new friend a gift. Across the street she saw something that resembled a bookshop. Knowing the Doctor’s curiously incomplete knowledge about even the most basic things in the Universe, she figured an alien encyclopedia might suit his tastes.
As she opened the door, a set of melodiously vibrating bars let the shopkeeper know of her presence. This one closely resembled the more gangly ponies from her world, in posture and color at least (a vibrant, cactus-like green), while still standing apart from them with her lack of a mane and the presence of long, spike-like protusions emanating from all over her face. She was nice enough to direct the young mare to the shop’s science section, where Ditzy spent quite a while trying to deduce what each tome, scroll, vinyl tape, data-disk or mnemonic crystal was about, without risking further incident by touching them. After long deliberation, she settled on an electronic-looking tome with many pages made out of a thick sort of plastic paper, each one capable of altering its diplayed contents after the user’s need. The covers read “DON’T PANIC!” in large, friendly red letters, and the shopkeeper confirmed that it was, indeed, an encyclopedia to the Universe of sorts.
As she pondered whether to purchase something else, for her family this time, a familiar whirring sound came to her ears from beyond the shop’s door. Not wasting any time, the mare payed for her purchase and made for the door. Surely enough, there it was: the TARDIS, pumping itself into existence in the middle of the road as unsubtly as possible, and scaring a four-legged insect-like bystander in the process.
“Doctor,” she protested as she entered the blue box, “I thought I had until sunset to look around town!” No answer came, however. The vast control room of the Time Lord’s mad box was empty, and a dim red light emanated from everywhere; with the distant, ominous sound of a cloister bell, the room was giving her a feeling of general distress. “Doctor!” she called again, suspecting some sort of prank. “Hello! Anypony home?”
Seconds later, the door closed behind her, and the most distressing apparition revealed itself before her: “Emergency! Emergency! Pigtails function activated,” said the… thing in front of her. How would one describe it? It was as alien as anything she had ever encountered: a sort of large, bald ape-like animal, dressed in the most curious assortment of clothes imaginable (tweed jacket and bowtie? Really?), standing on its hind legs and speaking with a very familiar voice.
“This time capsule has received a level-one distress beacon and has detected the presence in this vicinity of an authorized emergency operator. Please confirm!” the thing continued. Its face bore no recognizable expression, and the fact that it was partially translucent led Ditzy to conclude that it was something like a projected image. Either that, or her eyes were playing tricks on her.
“Uh… Doctor, is that you?” she asked
“Confirmation accepted. Please approach the TARDIS console and prepare for emergency evacuation,” it said, making it clear that this was not her friend speaking to her.
“You’re not the Doctor, and I’m not doing anything until you tell me what’s going on! Who are you?” she demanded, trying to sound as uncompromising as possible.
“I am a voice interface system programmed to aid you in piloting this time capsule to the aid of its distressed owner. This time capsule has translocalized eight minutes into the past from the moment it received the distress beacon, in order to facilitate your accomodation with its control system.”
“So, let me get this straight… the Doctor is in trouble, and he called for help, and I have eight minutes to learn how to use the TARDIS to save him?”
“Correct. You now have seven minutes and forty-two seconds to time horizon.”
“Well, how hard can it be?” she wondered as she trotted enthusiastically over to the console.
“… I can see where this is going,” the Doctor said, interrupting Ditzy’s breathless narration of the events leading to her crashing the most valuable ship in the Universe through a castle made out of marzipan and crystal sugar and into a group of murderous Weeping Alicorns. “Serves me right for spending my holiday here,” he muttered under his breath, only to follow up up a loud “NOTHING!” when asked by Ditzy to articulate.
Outside the ship, in the guest rooms’ balcony, the chocolate milk rain was drowning most other noises as it continued to fall from the cotton candy clouds.
“This is Canterlot castle, right? What happened to it?” the mare asked, eyes looking around (rather independently). “What happened to the sky? And the rain?” A horrified expression covered her face: “Did I do this? I swear I didn’t mean to…”
“Calm down, Ditzy, it wasn’t you… this time.” The Doctor got out of the ship, calling to his other companions: “It’s all clear, dears, you can come along now!” Outside, Décor finally blinked after having kept watch over the remaining Alicorns through wind, rain, lightning and terror, knowing that the Doctor would observe the monsters in her stead.
A bit further on, Princess Celestia clambered to the crash site. Décor came to her aid, bringing her the circular box that had been torn from the grasp of one of the crushed Angels. She stood back as the Princess opened it, a bright light engulfing her body, returning her to her original, majestic form. Her horn glowed with bright yellow light as the barrier around the castle solidified, blocking out the sticky rain. With another wave of her horn, the masonry of a section of the castle returned to normal, and the swarms of rampaging Parasprites were transported away.
“Thank you, Doctor,” she said, “and thank your friend as well, for this most timely rescue!”
Seeing the Princess, Ditzy Doo immediately bowed, her head touching the now-pristine marble floor: “Ditzy Doo, your Majesty! It’s an honor to meet you, you Majesty! Anything else I can help with, your Majesty?”
“Oh, it’s quite alright,” the Princess said. “I think you should take Décor inside your… vessel,” she suggested, peeking into the massive room within the box, and doing a fine job of holding back her amazement. “I think she has earned a bit of respite.”
“Uh, Princess,” the Doctor began, not taking his eyes off the remaining Weeping Alicorns “you need to come with us. The castle… nay, the planet isn’t safe with even one of these things loose out there.”
“Don’t worry about me Doctor,” she replied, turning to the statues, who now looked less like horrifying Nightmare-spawned hunters and more like terrified little fillies, trying vainly to run from their mother. “Or about them. I have the perfect prison for these abominations. Rather, take your time to fill Décor in and meet me in the Canterlot Archives after I’m done sending these beasts to their rest.” The Alicorns lay frozen mid-gait, as they tried to get away from the newly-empowered Princess of the Rising Sun, with a look of panic on their faces.
The Doctor and Décor could have sworn the helpless statues were trembling as the Princess approached and disappeared with them in a flash of white light. Turning around, they saw that the remains of Ditzy’s victims had also vanished.
“Right, then,” the Doctor said, “you heard her. In you go,” he told Décor, pointing at the TARDIS door. The mare was puzzled. How were the three of them supposed to fit inside of that dreadfully cramped thing. She stopped in front of it to examine.
It looked as if the blue box had crashed into the gallery, smashing through several of the Alicorn statues and lodging itself into the gallery wall. The door itself read "Police" or some such; she never got around to reading the whole thing, because the door swung open seconds later, as the brown stallion bumped into her rump, pushing her inside. This resulted in Décor's face acquainting itself with the metal floor rather enthusiastically.
"Ditzy, twisty lever, now," came the Doctor's order.
Another voice, likely coming from the mare named Ditzy, came a second later: "Aye, aye, Cap!"
Loving as the floor was, Décor wasted no time in removing herself from it and regaining a bit of her composture (not that it mattered for much these days, but a royal aide such as herself did have an image to uphold). No sooner did she do so, however, that wooden blue door behind her slammed shut and the room began a process of violent quaking, likened in her mind to what an insect would feel if it was in a jar being shaken by a curious little filly. Once this stopped, the mare found herself once again picking herself up from the floor. She looked around, and felt her tired legs give way beneath her for what seemed like the tenth time today. "What?" she managed. She was in an enormous, circular bronze-coloured room. The walls were irregularly arranged and had the appearance of polished copper, with multiple glass spheres, lamps and other things attached, as well as a great circular pane of glass to her side. The white inside of the wooden door behind her, now tightly closed, looked entirely out of place, as if a teleportation mishap had merged two completely separate chambers.
In the center of the room the room was a raised platform, arranged around a glass column that ran from a sphere beneath the glass floor to the very ceiling of the room. On the platform, accessible via a set of stairs, were a couch and a chair, as well as a strange, six-sided desk covered in the strangest collection of nonsense she'd ever seen. Among them she noticed a glass screen, a small antique typewriter and a couple of water faucets. "How did we get here?" she continued, after assessing her surroundings.
"We walked in through the door, of course" the strange stallion smiled. He approached her, seeing her panicked expression. “I’m sorry, I know this is a lot to take in, but we needed to get away from there before Discord finds us again. He probably knows we’ve done in his Weeping Alicorns by now.”
He walked up to the desk (console?), standing on his hind legs and grinning proudly. “Welcome to the TARDIS,” he announced, forelegs outstretched in a dramatic manner. “The Doctor will take your questions now!”
Décor took a few moments longer to adjust to the surroundings. It wasn’t the alien nature of this place that bothered her, but its familiarity, like something so strange and unnatural had been forcibly made to look welcoming and friendly. It was more confusing than a griffon’s table manners.
“So, your vessel, your –uh– ship…” she began, “is bigger on the inside?”
“Yep,” came his reply. “This is my TARDIS. It stands for Time And Relative Dimension In Space. My home, my ship, and my time machine, all in one.”
“You stole this, didn’t you?” she accused, suddenly aware of what she was dealing with. Ditzy’s jaw dropped.
“What? H-how could you possibly…” the stallion stammered.
“I knew it! Who did you think you were fooling?” she continued, walking around the room. She noticed there were passages leading away from it, deeper into the bowels of this cavernous TARDIS. “You stole this ship from somepony quite a long time ago.”
“Yes, well, I did… but that was so long ago.” The Doctor felt disarmed. “How could you possibly know?”
“Well, it’s obvious, really. I’ve heard of boxes being made by unicorn magicians that were a bit bigger on the inside. This is probably something like that. And you mentioned time travel. The only way to do that is with unicorn magic. Since you’re an Earth pony, I really don’t see what you were trying to hide. You have the air of ownership about it, so it’s obvious that you stole this so long ago you’ve even forgotten that it’s not yours.”
The Doctor’s face relaxed, amused at the bizarre coincidence. “Oh… Well, I did steal it, but not from a pony, and certainly not from a unicorn. I borrowed it from a museum back home, some seven hundred and twelve years ago. The whole place closed down in the meantime so there was nowhere to return it to,” he smiled.
Décor looked surprised at this failure of her detective skill. Then she noticed the coat hanger by the door. “Is that your jacket?”
“Yes,” the stallion replied.
“Then you’re not from around here, are you?” She gave him a knowing smile. “That tweed coat is definitely not for a pony of your size, but the style matches the silly green tie around your neck. And the faucets on your desk? Only griffons and unicorns use those.”
“Wow! She’s good, Doctor,” Ditzy remarked. He’d hinted vaguely at his not being a pony per-se more than once. In retrospect, she supposed that the helpful “voice interface” hologram she’d met earlier must have been what he originally looked like.
“Right,” he started, impressed (and a bit annoyed), “You got me. I’m haven’t been a pony very long, I’m still getting used to it. Used to look a bit more like a monkey, Ditzy here can probably tell you more about that.”
The gray pegasus jumped to greet her: “Ditzy Doo, ma’am, pleased to meet you,” she said, shaking her hoof enthusiastically. Décor opened her mouth to respond, when she realized: “Did you say you’re seven hundred years old?”
“Well, I’m nine hundred and seventy, actually-”
“How is that even possible? What sort of being lives that long anyway? It’s not like you’re the Princess!”
“No, and I’m rather thankful for that. I look dreadful in gold,” he smiled. “I’m a Time Lord, from the planet Gallifrey. I don’t suppose you’ve heard of it?”
“Nor should you, it’s in another Universe.”
“Oh, there you go again! What does that mean, ‘another Universe’? You sound like one of those science journals, going on about other planets. Am I to gather you’re some kind of alien?”
“Precisely that, actually. Just that, I’m not from any planet in your sky. I’m from a different universe, dropped in here more or less by accident this time. I was looking for a place to hold up for a while, do some peaceful exploration, maybe settle down for a bit. Crashed here, and I fell in love with the scenery. The morphic field variance turned me into an equine, as always. I’d forgotten how that feels like.”
Décor slumped, defeated by the technobabble once again.“So, it’s not your first time visiting Equestria, is it,” she sighed.
“Well, yes and no. I’ve been here before, lifetimes ago, you could say. There’s this party I love going to, one of the few places where I can safely meet myselves from the past. But that’s a story for another time,” he said, turning to the console. “Right now, we need to stop this Discord character.”
“You get used to it after a while,” Ditzy whispered into her ear, before joining her companion at the console. “So, Doctor, now that she’s briefed, mind telling me what exactly is happening to Equestria? Last time I checked, chocolate rain wasn’t on schedule and Canterlot wasn’t made of bakery goods.”
“Right, well…” he started, “it seems we have a bit of a problem with a nigh-omnipotent dragon deity of some description. The ‘Discord’ fellow I mentioned. After I left you on Padrivole, I found him snooping around the TARDIS. He hijacked her, took her to God-knows-where, and then wiped the records and left me with it on the hills near Ponyville. Know anything about him? ”
“Umm… well, not that I can remember. BUT-” she cried, suddenly very proud of herself. Ditzy ran past Décor and retrieved a brown saddlebag from near the door, taking the guide from it and giving it to the Doctor. “I got you this as a thank-you gift! Maybe it has something about Discord!”
“Oh,” the stallion grinned triumphantly, gazing at the friendly reminder on the cover, “Ditzy you’re a marvel today, aren’t you? I haven’t seen one of these in ages, thank you!” The grin widened as he opened the strange tome, flipping through the pages and saying the word ‘Discord’. The “tome” beeped. “Here we are! Let’s see,” he began, quickly reading the entry, “ancient evil… Paleopony period… ponies of Equestria… spirit of disharmony… eternal chaos… Elements of- HA! Bravo, Princess!”
“What?” the mares asked in unison.
“See, I knew there was something on with those two!” he announced, closing the tome. “Right, then. Short version: Discord is the spirit of chaos, it seems. Used to run Equestria into the ground ages ago, before Luna and Celestia rose up against him and turned him to stone with the Elements of Harmony. How did you two not know that your rulers were total heroes?”
“Well,” Ditzy began, “I don’t know anything about any Discord, but the Princess stopped all sorts of beasties over the years.”
“Yes, Equestria has had to deal with threats and evil before,” Décor continued. “Most of them are now locked away in Tartarus. I’ve never heard of anything like this though.”
The Doctor supposed a group of Weeping Alicorns were the most recent prisoners in this “Tartarus”.
“So, the Princess used the Elements last time, but she can’t use them now. She said Twilight Sparkle and her friends were going to stop him, so that means she and her sister can’t use the Elements any more… That’s strange.” He paused for a second.
“If the Princess can’t use the Elements to stop Discord, and he stole the things from the castle after he escaped… Why did he go out of his way to stop her from getting to the Archives?”
“Well, the Princess said she could help the bearers in finding them with something from the Archives,” Décor said.
“Naah, it doesn’t work like that,” the Doctor replied. “If he wanted Celestia out of the way he’d have just dropped a bridge on her or something.” Décor gasped, scandalized. “What he did was simply delay her,” the Doctor continued. “Why even bother with her, unless – Oh! Oh no!”
The Time Lord jumped at his sudden realization, reaching for the TARDIS controls. Flip went the switches, around went the knobs, clank went the levers, and within seconds, the room was trembling and quaking once again, only to stop a minute later.
“Doctor, what is it,” asked the alarmed Ditzy.
“We have to warn the Princess. He wasn’t delaying her, since at this point she can’t stop him anymore!” He ran to the door, before turning once again to the mares: “He was delaying me!”
The three exited the TARDIS, walking into the elegant halls of the Canterlot Archives. Décor concluded that the ship used some kind of teleportation spell to get around, since there was no other way they could have ended up in there. It was a very elegant solution. “I think I know what he’s doing,” the Doctor continued. “He’s directing me on a certain path, pushing me towards a time horizon. I think he’s interfered with his own timeline using the TARDIS, and that’s ludicrously dangerous. If he messes up it could tear open the Universe. If he succeeds–”
“-eternal chaos in Equestria,” Décor finished, looking around the halls. There was no sign of the Princess, and the shelves and rooms were strangely devoid of devastation.
“Right. We need to find Celestia, I need to ask her something-”
He stopped, gulping loudly. From behind one of the larger bookcases, a long, sharp rapier extended, aligning itself with his throat, right above his tie. Its handle was encased in a field of shimmering, blue magic.
“And, pray tell,” came a beautiful mare’s voice, both calm and threatening at the same time, “What art thou seeking to ask her?”
Author's note: The plot thickens! As always, please leave a comment/rating/both. I'd love to hear anything you have to say, be it speculation, praise, rant or those lovely reaction images.