Chapter Five: We Have Met the Enemy...and It Is Us
The inside of the TARDIS was not its usual brightly illuminated self, it now looked dark and gloomy and was illuminated with an ominous red glow. Various pipes, wires and other appendages were sticking out of places where there hadn’t been any before and the central console was now enclosed in a cage.
“It’s bigger on the inside, Mommy…” Dinky said quietly to Derpy, looking around her. “But it’s scary...I don’t like it…”
“What has that boulder done to you?!” the Doctor cried, looking around the TARDIS in disdain.
“What have I done?” a gravelly voice spoke from the shadows. “I think the better question Doctor, is what you have done…”
With a sickening crunching sound, Tom rolled out from behind the console into their line of sight. Despite not having any eyes, the League of Fanons could practically feel the boulder staring at them. Dinky slipped behind Derpy’s legs.
And when Tom spoke, it was how you would imagine a boulder to sound like – like two rocks scraping against each other, gravelly and harsh. “What you have done, are doing, and will do, Doctor…”
“Who are you?” the Doctor demanded. “What are you?”
“A race as old as time, Doctor…” Tom responded. “We have the appearance of boulders but are living creatures. Each generation lasts for millions of years, born from the dust, the sedimentation of the previous generation. Such as it is, such as it always will be. The time lords consider themselves the guardians of time, but we are the embodiment of time: ever-enduring, ever-lasting, patient, and hidden in plain sight.”
“I don’t understand,” the Doctor continued. “Why are you here? What have you done to the TARDIS?”
“To prevent the conflicting versions of these ponies,” Tom explained. “I have transformed the TARDIS into a paradox machine.”
“How?” Octavia exclaimed. “You’re a boulder!”
“I am a proud member of a species as old as time, as I said before,” Tom said. “My kind knows much of the workings of time.”
“That’s…not what I meant,” Octavia muttered. “I mean you have no arms, no appendages of any kind, how did you build it?”
“For a group of Elements of Fiction, surely you know the meaning of ‘suspension of disbelief’? My kind knows much of the workings of time. That is all you need to know.”
“Yeah, but that-“ DJ Pon3 began.
“Suspension of disbelief,” Tom repeated.
“But that doesn’t make any-“ Lyra started.
“Suspension of disbelief,” Tom said once more.
“But why?” the Doctor yelled, increasingly furious. “Why steal the TARDIS? Why steal MY TARDIS? And why twist it into a paradox machine?”
“Why? Why?” Tom demanded. “You dare ask me why? You, who brought this madness upon us all?”
It had been a good day for Princess Trollestia. In just one day she had pulled a variety of great pranks on her subjects, including replacing the sun with a disco ball, replacing the water of Canterlot with red food coloring (the combination of which had led numerous ponies to announce the end times were upon them), “accidentally” releasing a swarm of parasprites over Manehattan, sending a multitude of uncomfortable objects through Spike, readjusting the stars to spell out her name, and giving her tailor an allergy to fabric. Best of all, she had crushed the Lunar Resistance and banished her sister to the moon once again, removing that threat to her continued fun. It had been a very good day.
But now there was this annoying group calling themselves the “Legion of Gloom” standing before her. It was enough that they had barged in here and demanded her presence, but now they had the gall to demand she give up the throne!
“And why should I do that?” Princess Trollestia asked sweetly.
“Because we bear the Elements of Harmony!” Prince Blueblood announced, proudly showing off his necklace. “Should you refuse to relinquish the throne, we will use their power to banish you to the sun and take the throne by force!”
Princess Trollestia paused to consider this for a moment. Finally she bowed her head.
“Very well, then. I know when I’ve been bested. I am helpless before the Elements, and shall relinquish the throne to you. However, I do have one question…”
She raised her head and smiled mischievously at the Legion of Gloom. “Do you like bananas?”
“…Me?” the Doctor responded, confused. “What are you talking about?”
“For a timelord, you seem rather dense,” Tom muttered. “And that’s coming from a boulder. Think, Doctor. This reality is bearing the weight of fanon versions of the creatures of this world that do not belong here. Did it not once occur to you that you are one of those fanon characters that do not belong here?”
“I…” the Doctor started, but stopped as realization dawned on his face. “…But then…that would mean…”
“Doctor Whooves does not belong to this reality,” Tom answered. “No fanon does. You are all of a different reality, and your presence here threatens to destroy this one. It was you, Doctor, who started the chain of events that led to where we are now.”
There was a silence following this statement as the League of Fanons considered the ramifications of this statement. Tom considered them before speaking again, only this time his voice somehow seemed softer. “You seem genuinely surprised by this information. I may have made a mistake – I assumed you brought this chaos onto our world with evil intent.”
“What are you?” Octavia asked pointedly. “I assumed you were just another poorly-written villain, but you don’t sound like it.”
“I am a creature older than ponykind,” Tom answered. “My superiors placed me in the Canterlot sculpture gardens to keep watch over the dangerous beings held there – Discord is but the tip of the iceberg, I assure you. When Discord was released and the Elements of Harmony sent to defeat him in the maze, Discord, not knowing my true nature, cast a spell on me that seemed to give the Rarity pony the impression that I was a diamond.”
Tom’s voice grew quieter and more gravelly. “I must admit, my kind knows little of affection, and I found the adoration of the Rarity pony…much to my liking. I had never received such attention before, and when she cast me aside after Discord’s spell was lifted I…became bitter.”
Tom was silent for a moment before speaking again. “But soon my attention was focused on the more pressing matter of your arrival, Doctor. You landed in Equestria with your TARDIS, and I felt reality bending to accept your presence.” Doctor Whooves remembered the day well, when his TARDIS jumped into this reality. “And to my horror,” Tom continued. “You possessed the knowledge of fanon characters. Within moments you met Derpy, and soon you two discovered the other fanons and formed your little team. The tears in the fabric of space and time were spreading as you replaced these background characters with their fanon versions, and I struggled to keep reality intact. But then you met the bearers of the Elements of Harmony and informed them of the existence of fanons. At this point the damage was too great, and I could no longer contain it.”
“But…we’re in a fanfic!” DJ Pon3 said. “Fanfics have fanon characters! It’s just the way it works, right?”
“This fanfic was never supposed to be,” Tom explained. “Though the events that have occurred will be recorded in writing, it was never supposed to have happened.”
“So you stole the TARDIS…” the Doctor began.
“To save this reality,” Tom finished. “When I discovered that the destroyers of this reality were aligned with Rarity, the same pony who had hurt me, I admit that I was eager to enact revenge upon her, petty though it may be. I enlisted the help of the Legion of Gloom, and while their intents are obviously not pure, they were the only ones I could count on to be willing to fight against you. And while they distracted you, I would steal the TARDIS and stop this destruction before it even started.”
“But something went wrong,” the Doctor inserted.
“Indeed,” Tom replied. “I had intended to take the TARDIS to the moment you entered this reality and prevent that event from occurring, but the TARDIS refused to let me.”
“Self-protection time-path cross system,” the Doctor said quietly. “The TARDIS is programmed to automatically stay clear of itself in a different time so that its time paths never cross.”
“I couldn’t carry out my original plan,” Tom continued. “So, with no way to intercept you before you entered this reality, all I could do was ensure that this reality could survive the incoming collision of all the different versions of these ponies. I transformed the TARDIS into a paradox machine. I admitted defeat. I could not prevent the chaos, but at least I could prevent this reality from crumbling on itself.”
“So…you’re not a bad rock at all, are you?” Dinky asked.
Derpy chuckled and ruffled Dinky’s mane. “You really are my daughter, you know,” she said softly. Dinky gave her mother a smile.
“Well, Doc?” DJ Pon3 asked. “What do we do now?”
“I don’t know…” the Doctor muttered, slumping down onto a railing. “We weren’t supposed to be here…I was never supposed to be here.”
“We have the Elements of Fiction!” Lyra said enthusiastically. “Couldn’t we use them?”
“The Elements of Fiction were not meant to be used as a deus ex machina,” Tom replied curtly. “Quite the opposite, in fact.”
The Doctor nodded. “We can only use the Elements of Fiction to remove bothersome aspects of a story, such as a self-insert. But to use them to solve this problem would defeat this story’s internal logic.”
The Doctor looked at Dinky for a moment before slapping his forehead with one of his front hooves. “Aah! Of course! I’m so thick! Look at me, I'm old and thick! Head's too full of stuff! I need a bigger head!” Suddenly the Doctor grabbed Dinky in a tight hug and started playfully swinging her around in the air. “Oh, you adorable little filly, you! You’re the answer! You’ve been staring me in the face this whole time and I was just so thick!” the Doctor said with breathless excitement as Dinky laughed. After a moment the Doctor finally set Dinky down and turned to face the others.
“The internal logic of the story!” the Doctor cried. “Derpy, you said it yourself! How could I speak of ‘fixing’ all this? How are you supposed to go back to your old life now that you know about Dinky? You’re not supposed to!” he yelled triumphantly. “This story has been building to one logical conclusion: Dinky and Derpy will remain together while at the same time this whole timey-whimey wibbly-wobbly…mess…with the fanon characters gets sorted out!”
“But…aren’t those two things in direct contradiction to each other?” Bon Bon asked.
“Yes. In this reality…” All of a sudden the excitement that had been positively radiating from the Doctor faded in an instant and the Doctor’s face fell. “In order to fix this, it requires a sacrifice.”
“What kind of sacrifice?” Octavia asked quietly.
“I have to remove myself from this reality,” the Doctor answered. “All traces of me here must be eradicated forever.”
“How…” Derpy swallowed hard before continuing. “How do we do that?”
“We have to destroy the TARDIS,” the Doctor explained. “By destroying the paradox machine the paradox will correct itself, and if I’m inside the TARDIS as it implodes, it should pull all traces of me out of this reality. It’ll be as if I was never here…because technically speaking, I wouldn’t have been here. With any luck, the forces of time and reality will simply deposit me back within my own fanon reality, where I can exist without causing harm. And if Derpy and Dinky are present with me…” he looked at the two of them. “Then you can go back to your own reality.”
“And then I would remember…” Derpy glanced at Dinky.
“I think there’s a good chance of that happening,” the Doctor smiled. Derpy smiled back, wiping a tear from her eye as she hugged Dinky.
Lyra, Bon Bon, Octavia and DJ Pon3 looked at each other for a moment before Octavia stepped forward. “Then so be it,” she announced. “We give our lives together, so that Equestria can be restored.”
“No,” the Doctor said sternly. “I’m the one responsible for all of this. There’s no reason for you to give up your lives too. Everything you worked for here, everything you did will vanish when you leave this reality. There will be absolutely no trace of you – before I showed up, you were at least background characters to the Elements of Harmony, but if you sacrifice yourselves you wouldn’t have even been that. No one will remember you, you’ll have never been. Do you understand that?”
“After all I’ve seen with you Doctor, how could I willingly go back to what I was before?” Lyra asked. “I’ll take my chances in another reality, hopefully one where I belong, if you don’t mind.”
“We’re the League of Fanons, Doctor!” Bon Bon said. “Whatever we do, we’re supposed to do as a team.”
DJ Pon3 nodded, smiling. “Come on Doc, let’s put an end to this crazy story. A team of fanon characters who have little in common with each other? Tom’s right, this was never supposed to be. Let’s finish off this chaotic mess of a fanfic while we have a chance.”
Octavia held out a hoof to DJ Pon3. “For once, I agree with your artistic tastes. I am proud to have called you my friend and partner, DJ.”
DJ took Octavia’s hoof in one of her own. “Same here, Octavia.”
“D’awwww!” Lyra and Bon Bon d’awwed. Octavia and DJ Pon3 gave them a sharp glare.
“Well after that display Doctor,” Derpy chuckled. “I don’t think you have much choice. Wouldn’t the logic of the story now follow that all of us, so willing to go through with this, have to?”
“I…well…see…you…” the Doctor stammered. “…I’ve got nothing,” he weakly finished. “Alright, we do this together then.”
“I am touched by your sacrifice,” Tom said quietly. “Clearly, I was mistaken about you six, and I apologize. If you will allow me, I would like to help you carry out your plan.”
“We will gladly accept your help,” the Doctor replied, smiling. “Alright everypony…and, boulder, Tom…the objective is simple: search and destroy. I need you all to disconnect all the wiring in here by any means necessary. DJ Pon3, Lyra, I need you to use your magic to levitate Tom and smash him into the central console there.”
“Please Doctor…” Tom replied before rolling over to reveal a large pair of sunglasses wedged on the boulder. “Tom does all his own stunts.”
“Gah, talk about fan service…” Derpy muttered darkly under her breath.
The assembled ponies watched as Tom rolled surprisingly quickly down the steps toward the side of the room before catching a slanted object and vaulting himself at the wall, bouncing off it with a sharp crash before sailing back through the air at the central console. Everypony ducked as Tom smashed directly into the console, showering the TARDIS with sparks. Octavia starting slicing through tubes and pipes with her bow/sword while everypony else gripped various wires in their teeth and yanked them out of their various slots. Another massive crash into the central console by Tom completely wrecked what little there was left of the console, and the TARDIS began to shudder violently.
“This is it, everypony!” the Doctor yelled.
Sparks were flying everywhere and the TARDIS was filling with smoke as a blinding light began to emerge from the center of the time machine. The League of Fanons took a final look at each other. Derpy held Dinky, who clung to her mother. Octavia and DJ Pon3 gave each other a brohoof, looking confidently into each other’s eyes. Lyra and Bon Bon embraced each other and did not let go as they closed their eyes and awaited their fates together. The Doctor stood before his shattered time machine, watching the light as it engulfed him.
Everything was so bright…and then it was no more.
Hold on to your hats, folks, the story ain't over yet! There's one more chapter left, in the thrilling conclusion of the Legion of Gloom series!