• Published 4th Oct 2013
  • 6,863 Views, 396 Comments

My Clockwork Stallion - Aegis Shield



Twilight's Cuckoo Clock is actually an ancient magical artifact. She and Time Turner try to unravel its secrets.

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Clocks and Keys

My Clockwork Stallion
Part 1: Keys and Clocks

“Hullo! Welcome to Keys and Clocks, for all your time needs and for keys for locks!” A handsome brown stallion greeted Twilight Sparkle as she poked her head into the strange little shop. He was an earth pony with a cocoa-brown coat and a darker brown mane, quite plain-looking. His pleasant eyes and handsome smile made him look very soothing though. “I’m Time Turner— Can I help you?” he asked, looking up from his work. Spread out in front of him on a glass case was a pocket watch that had been taken apart, gear for gear.

Twilight nodded, turning and producing a carefully wrapped cuckoo clock from her saddlebags. “Hullo, I'm Twilight Sparkle." he smiled as she spoke, for he knew the name of the element of magic like any other pony. "I wanted to see if I could get this repaired?” she asked. He motioned for her to come forward and levitated it onto the display case that was between them. Careful of the pendulum, she rotated it until it could lay properly on the glass.

“Hmm, what seems to be the problem?” Time Turner smiled a bit, leaning over it and unrolling a tool kit full of tiny precision tools. “Let me guess, it’s stopped ticking and tocking, right?” he chuckled when she nodded. “Well that’s usually the case. When was the last time it was brought in for servicing?”

“Er-well… I don’t know. I’ve lived in Ponyville for about three years. I’ve never really thought about it until something made it stop.” Twilight smiled a little embarrassedly.

“Most ponies don’t think much about their clocks so long as they’re working, it’s alright.” He said, turning the clock on its side to look for the back panel. “It’s probably just full of dust bunnies and needs a good cleaning!” The stallion gave her a warm and rather coltish smile that made a girly giggle rise up out of Twilight’s throat. “These are old screws, though, wow, they don’t make ‘em like this anymore…” he leaned and got a magnifying glass that was attached to a desk-lamp-apparatus. Angling it back and forth until he had the proper light and magnification, he pored over his screw bits. He tried one, then another, then another. Nothing seemed to fit. He frowned a little, then a new smile flicked over his features. “Ah, it’s a security screw.” He said matter-of-factly. “Strange thing for a clock to have!”

“A security screw?” Twilight said, leaning on the counter with interest.

“It’s a special screw that keeps the average pony out of something, like a locked mailbox or bits drawer. They’re a lot less common, and a lot more expensive to use since you need special tools to work with them.” He flicked on another lamp so they could see better, unrolling a little velvet placemat so they could work on a clean space. He placed the clock there, and leaned under the counter a moment. Returning with a tiny bundle in his mouth, in unrolled the cloth to reveal a much stranger set of tools. “This is definitely an antique,” he said, nodding as he selected the proper tool.

Twilight watched in fascination as he undid each of the six back screws and pulled the panel off of the clock. Both ponies leaned inside and stared. Sure enough, half of the gears were green, the wooden bird inside was spider-webbed beyond view, and plenty of the inner workings looked less than stellar. Using his nose, Time Turner flipped the clock over, then flipped it back. Sure enough, it left behind a bunch of dust bunnies and little piles of dust. “Wow, I didn’t know it would be that gross in there,” Twilight said, wincing.

“Well you know, years of just hanging on a wall might do that to the little fella,” Time Turner smiled, reaching and turning the panel over. “Let’s see the make and model, maybe I can identi…fy… it?” His sentence sputtered out and he stared, wide-eyed. “What’s this…?” he whispered reverently.

Happy Birthday Starswirl, Love, Luna.” Twilight read aloud.

Twilight went a little pale, gaping at the words carved into the inside of the back panel. “This is…! I meant it can’t be that… and he was…. And Luna is….!” Twilight’s normally powerful mind began to overheat a bit, and she felt a wave of dizziness work its way over her. It was even signed with ‘love’. But that would mean--! “N-no way….” THUMP, she hit the ground.

Time Turner stood there, blinking, then leaned over the counter. “Miss Sparkle?” he asked softly. The shop was silent, save for the fretful breathing of the mare on the floor. Looking around a little nervously, he crossed the counter and leaned over her. It probably wouldn’t be very good if somepony wandered in and found him leaning over an unconscious mare on the floor. Flicking his eyes back and forth over her, he finally remembered his sitting couch. Sticking his head under her limp form, he deposited her on the couch so she might regain her senses a bit more quickly.

He stared at her, laying on her back. Like any red-blooded stallion in the early springtime, he looked at mares now and then— a quick flutter of embarrassment rushed across his features and he cleared his throat. None of that, now! Making sure she had a little sofa pillow so her neck didn’t cramp, he turned away and back to the mystery on his counter.

Time Turner returned to the strange clock, studying the innards and gears. Those gears were bronze, not brass. How intricate! The wooden bird had been replaced a few times, it was easy to see by the glue marks on the plank it came out on. The plank looked newer as well. He tested the weight of the pendulum as well. Yeah, that was a new part. The rest of the clock, the true insides, however, seemed just about as old as they could be. The pondered over the whole thing for a time, though. Bronze was not the best metal to make clock innards with, much less with such a strange design. Whoever had made this thing had either been a genius or a certifiable madpony. The gears were close together, hoof-filed and some of them looked home-made. It was a patchwork of madness and non-standard metals that could only lead Time Turner to one conclusion. “This was home-made. A long time ago,” He whispered, fascinated.

Turning on yet another lamp, he poured a glass of cleaning vinegar, got a tube of tarnish remover, and a huge stack of silver-cleaning rags. The really soft kind that wouldn’t scratch anything. Putting on a special pair of goggles that made everything bigger for him, the earth pony steadied the clock with his hooves and began to undo the screws one by one. This whole thing would need to be taken apart, examined, and cleaned. If ‘Starswirl’ was who he thought it was, this clock should’ve turned to dust a long, long time ago. Whatever was holding it together, he had to know.

Freeing the first gear with a tiny pair of tweezers, he held it up to the light. Stress fatigue, but no wear? Impossible! “The clock that doesn’t make any sense,” Time Turner grinned his lopsided, coltish grin. “I cannot wait to see what makes you tick. Or made you tick, rather.”

=-=-=-=

Twilight sat up with a grunt, blinking owlishly. It was still mid-afternoon. “What happened?” she said, touching her cheek.

“I think you fainted. Welcome back to the land of the living!” The brown stallion behind the counter said. “Feeling okay?” he looked up from his work at last, setting aside a tiny piece of metal.

Twilight’s eyes flicked down at her clock laying in a million pieces on his counter. “Yeah,” she mumbled. “Sorry about that,” she said in embarrassment. “Is it true, though? Do you think this clock is…?” she let the sentence hang.

“I can’t know for certain,” Timer Turner shook his head, wary of the writing scratched into the back panel. “I can tell you quite a bit, though. You were out for almost an hour, and I found quite a few discoveries.”

“Discoveries?” Twilight said, cocking her head.

“Yes, come around here and have a look.” He lifted the little divider on one side of the counter so the purple mare could come and stand next to him. “Look at this,” he gestured to a little group of bright screws that had a rather blue sheen to them. “I found these in a sub-panel on the inside of your clock. These screws are galvanized.”

“What’s that mean?”

“It means they’ve been dipped in zinc.” Time Turner whispered like they were in a museum. “But this clock is too old for that. I see no evidence that they’ve ever been replaced. Galvanized screws have a good deal of protection from moisture and mildew, but this is way too advanced for a clock this age.”

Twilight leaned and squinted over the tiny screws. “That’s strange,” she murmured, staring at them through the magnifying lens.

“And look at this,” Time Turner pulled one of his lights to shine deep into the clock’s innards. “See how the gears are touching there, there, and there?” he pointed with a tiny instrument. “They shouldn’t be. The clock shouldn’t be able to move at all with this configuration.”

“Well it is broken, maybe that’s why it stopped? They started rubbing and caught each other.” Twilight offered. She pushed her mane out of her eyes to get a better look. “Well no, they’re built like that,” she countered herself before he could speak. “The rods are connected to the walls of the clock, they can’t be misaligned like that,” she whispered. Twilight knew little of mechanical clocks, but she did know how gears worked in a basic sense. “This clock is all wrong! How did it ever work at all?!”

“I don’t know!” Time Turner said a little giddily, grinning wide. “I’d like your permission to take it all the way apart for cleaning, so I can examine it properly. No extra charge, of course, but I’d like to study it.” Twilight’s face lit up when he said ‘study.’

“Can I study it with you?” she whispered reverently.

“Er, if you like, and if you promise not to touch anything,” Time Turner said a little cautiously. “This clock is very, very old and I’ve never seen a design like it. Promise not to touch?” She nodded eagerly, scroll and parchment levitating out of her saddlebags and to one side. The two of them pressed together, shoulder to shoulder, as Time Turner gingerly worked another screw loose and lifted a wafer-thin gear out of the clock. It was an old cuckoo clock, it shouldn’t have had such fine things inside it. Bronze gears, zinc-coated screws, it was like some modern-era mechanism from the olden times. Time Turner wildly wondered if Princess Luna herself had commissioned it.

“Wait, what’s that?” Twilight said, pointing a little. Time Turner leaned back and forth, trying to see what she was seeing. “No, no, there.” She took one of his instruments into her mouth. He started to squawk at her, but she pointed with the needle-pointed tool instead of touching. There was a spot on one of the gears on the the secondary shaft of the minute hand coil. The clock pony leaned with a frown. Bronze didn’t tarnish like that…

“Let me see,” he pulled his magnification goggles back on, angling the light just so. “Its uh… its some kind of mark. Maybe the manufacturer. I’ve never seen one so tiny, though… I can barely make it out. It’s circular.” The paused to think a moment, and got a really up-close view of Twilight’s forehead while he was doing so. Shaking his head a little, he flipped a couple of magnifying panels down over his right eye. Closing the left eye so he could focus, he leeeeeaned into the casing of the clock, his muzzle practically touching it. “Makers marks are usually square, holding the initials of the company,” he mumbled. “But something tells me that it’s more than that.”

Twilight waited eagerly while he carefully, carefully worked that particular gear loose. He had to get eight or ten more pieces and things out of the clock to get it free. When he finally did, he used his mouth tweezers to pull it loose. He looked afraid to break it. Careful not to breathe too hard and make him drop it, the purple mare gestured to an open spot on the velvet place mat between them. He put it down, set his tweezers aside, then gingerly stroked the gear with an ear swab to make it shine. Twilight turned to grab the mounted magnifying glass next to her, then let out a little cry of surprise. “It’s a sealing circle!” she said, staring in fascination.

“A what?” Time Turner practically mooshed his cheek to hers so they could both see at the same time. “What is it?” he asked again, eagerly.

“A sealing circle,” the unicorn told the earth pony. “It’s like uh…. It’s like laminating words on paper, but for magic. It makes a spell stay for a long, long time, preserving it.” He stared at her for a time, a little lost. “Somepony put a spell on this clock, and then left a sealing circle in it to make sure the spell stayed, maybe forever.”

“Huh,” Time Turner leaned this way and that. “None of the other gears are marked that way. You only need one for the whole thing?” Twilight nodded that it was true, and he rubbed his chin. “I don’t get it, Twilight,” he whispered, looking a little worriedly over the massive spread of bronze gears and shining screws scattered over the counter top.

“Me either,” she murmured. A long silence passed between them, and both ponies suddenly realized they were standing pressed up against each other. They stepped carefully apart, the stallion coughing a bit as they did so.

“Well, I’d better get started, then,” Time Turner said, reaching for his vinegar and silver-cleaning rags. “Come back tomorrow, and I should have the whole thing taken apart. We’ll see what sort of clock this really is, huhm?” he smiled.

“Alright.” Twilight said, “I do have a bit more shopping to do today. I’ll swing by tomorrow evening.”

“It’s a date,” Time Turner said without thinking. Twilight gave him a wry look and he smiled guiltily, apologizing with his eyes. She shook her head and smiled a bit before exiting the shop. Scratching the hourglass on his flank when she was gone, the stallion heaved a great sigh. The average cuckoo clock was about four hundred pieces, he knew. But the weird thing was-- he could already account for over five hundred just by looking. “I don’t think this is just a clock,” he mumbled, ears turning down worriedly as Twilight cantered away from the shop. He scrubbed at his messy mane a few times to rid himself of a nervous itch.

Favoring his left-front leg, he limped just a little as he went to the front of the shop and turned the sign from open to close. Pulling the blinds down so he could have some privacy, he went and pulled on a pair of latex hoof-gloves. He’d handled enough antique clocks to need them now and then, but this was something else entirely. Leaning on the counter, he used his tweezers and dipped a copper spring into the vinegar, swirling it about for a bit. When he pulled it out and dabbed it gently on some cloth, it was shining like new again. “Well at least that’s normal,” he smiled faintly.

End of Part 1