• Published 6th Apr 2012
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Doctor Whooves - The Series: Episode Three - Along Came a Spider - Loyal2Luna



When Zecora falls ill with a deadly sickness, it falls to the Doctor, Twilight, and Fluttershy to find a cure in her ancestral homeland Zebrica. All the while dodging the twisted machinations of an old foe from the Doctor's past.

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Prologue: Mixed Signals

Prologue: Mixed Signals




Stirrup Street
Ponyville, Everfree Province of Equestria
29th of Summer, 1001 C.R. (Celestia’s Reign), 1:45 p.m.

“Oh, Doctor Clockwork! Thank you so much!”

“Um…” The brown stallion drew back slightly, unsure of what to say. “Really, it was nothing… Mrs. Cake, was it?”

“Oh, please, call me Cup.” The somewhat pudgy blue mare nodded pleasantly, one hoof to her chest as she spoke animatedly with the stallion. “I mean, really, thank you! Carrot and I have been fretting over that broken oven ever since we put the new nursery to use. Then, Pinkie brings you in and, wouldn’t you just know it? It’s not only fixed up, but it’s preheating faster and running more smoothly than even those expensive new deluxe baking ovens like in the catalogs!”

The Doctor shifted uncomfortably on his hooves, but the mare continued talking. He was feeling cornered as he looked over towards the door where Spike had disappeared through only a few moments earlier. “It was no trouble, Mrs. Cake--”

“Cup, dear,”

Cup... But I really…” The Doctor took a slight step back. “...should be…”

“Oh, Doctor!”

The Time Lord pony stopped and cringed in place as a new voice came up behind him, this one belonging to another older mare. Brown-coated with a white mane done up in a conservative bun, her cutie mark displaying an open newspaper, she trotted up excitedly along his flank.

“The modifications you made to my printing press are absolutely amazing! At this rate, we may be able to publish the Ponyville Express on a daily basis and still have time for our jobs at the bookstore! It's like a dream come true!”

“Oh! Well, then, you’re welcome, Mrs. Ream.”

“Please, Doctor, call me Page.”

Page… It was nothing, really. Twilight said that you might need a hand-- hoof! Might need a hoof with--”

“You’re quite the Mr. Fix-it, aren't you, Doctor?” Cup Cake interjected, moving to box the stallion in as she maneuvered to his opposite flank. “Have you considered opening up a repair shop? I know a few ponies who would be happy to invest in--”

“Ohhh, a new business in Ponyville? I would be happy to run advertisements in the paper for you, Clock. May I call you Clock? Absolutely no charge, of course, given your help.”

“Just… Doctor would be more… Ahem, ladies?” The Doctor was feeling more and more out of his element as he felt the two mares literally pressing in on him, flank to flank to flank as they continued to talk excitedly.

“Oh! And a grand opening! We could provide a full spread. Pinkie could supply the banners and Carrot and I could set up a stand.”

“I personally think Mayor Mare would love the idea. You’re so handy, and all.”

“Personal… bubble…” The Doctor cringed with a small, terrified voice. “...has been breached…”

“Uh, Doc?” the prepubescent voice of a small purple reptile jumped in out of nowhere, seeming to the distressed stallion like a life preserver. “They don’t have any of this ‘dar-jeeeliee’ stuff you wanted, and nopony I’ve talked to has ever heard of a pony named Earl Grey. Which province is he supposed to live in?”

“Spike! Oh, so sorry ladies, duty calls! I have quite a busy day ahead of me. Ta-ta! Thank you! You’re welcome! Goodbye!”

The Doctor bolted forward, causing the two mares to fall into one another as the stallion between them all but vanished in a burst of velocity, scooping up the purple and green baby dragon before breaking away at top speed.

For a moment, Cup Cake and Page Ream looked at one another, quite confused as to why the colt had rushed off in such a panic.

————————

“So they just wanted to thank you for helping out?” Spike asked, leaning on the Doctor’s back as the brown stallion fell into a slower pace now that the two mares were out of sight. “What’s wrong with that?”

“Nothing wrong with that, specifically, it just… feels strange. I mean, those repairs were minor; nothing truly extraordinary. I did those things at Twilight and Pinkie’s request, just as I assisted Rarity with her sewing machine. Just my way of making up for their expenses on my behalf. I didn’t do it for praise or recognition, and certainly not to get the attention of the local mares.”

“You do realize that Mrs. Cake and Mrs. Ream are both married, right?”

The Doctor shivered slightly. “Even more reason not to draw attention to myself. From what I’ve seen of gender dynamics around here, there are at least five mares for every stallion, and that makes me a prime target.” The Doctor shook his head, looking from side to side as he took note of the occasional glance he got. “I never have understood that, to be honest. What is it about me that draws them in? Animal magnetism? The allure of danger? The mystery?”

Spike climbed forward on the Doctor’s shoulders, placing a set of claws on the Time Pony’s head before tugging on his ear slightly. “Turn here… And don'tcha think you're being a little dramatic, Doc?” The dragon smirked, his tone filled with sarcasm.

“Did you see how close they were getting!? They were practically on top of me!”

“They were just being friendly,” Spike explained. “It’s not like it’s Hearts and Hooves Day, or anything. You’re new in town, and they’re trying to make you feel welcome and appreciated. I mean, you probably seem like even more of a shut-in than Twilight, and that’s saying something.”

“I’ve only been here, what, a month?” The Doctor shook his head in frustration again. “I still don’t understand why Twilight insists I come out with you on these errands.”

“Well, ponies need to get used to seeing you around town. They need to have some idea of who you’re supposed to be. Otherwise, any time you do come out, they’ll be all like, 'Hey, it's that weird pony again. What's he doing?' How else are you gonna get accepted into the community?”

“Accepted into…” The Doctor snorted spitefully. “Spike, I’m a Time Lord.”

“Yes, I know you’re a Time Lord.” Spike rolled his eyes, his tone slightly sarcastic as he leaned over on the Doctor’s neck.

“You don't understand just what that means.... I'm not a pony. I walk in eternity. I’m a traveler.”

“Really?” Spike’s sarcasm was unabated. “I had no idea.”

“I’m like an awkward piece of a puzzle…”

“You can say that again.”

“I can’t just be pushed down and made to fit…” The Doctor paused, his expression turning sour. “…And you’re mocking me, aren't you?”

“You know, for somepony that’s so smart, you're a little slow on the uptake, sometimes.”

“Oh, never mind…” The brown stallion's tail twitched with annoyance. “Let’s just get this over with and get back to the library. What’s our next stop?”

“Said Grumpy the Time Lord pony.”

“I’m over a thousand years old. I’m allowed to be grumpy.”

“Okay, okay. Let’s see...” Spike produced the checklist that Twilight had given him. “That’s a no-go on the freaky tea stuff that you wanted at the Juice Bar, soooo… The Pony Express Station. We need sealing wax and stamps.”

Spike paused as he looked up from his checklist, a sudden feeling of being watched overcoming him as he looked back down the road where they came. Just in time to note a blur of orange, yellow, and white dart behind a bush.

“Uh, Doc?”

“I know… it’s alright. Let them.” The Doctor smiled slightly.

————————

“The Cutie Mark Crusader Investigators…” Scootaloo pulled one branch down from the inside of the bush, getting a clear look at the brown stallion. “The Masters of Stealth.”

“Or Cutie Mark Crusader Stalkers…” Apple Bloom interrupted, the farm filly shaking her head with a less than thrilled tone as she looked to her pegasus friend. “You, too, now?”

“Well, duh, Apple Bloom.” Scootaloo let go of the branch, obscuring their vision again. “You gotta admit, this whole thing is weird.”

“Yeah. A colt hangin’ out with Spike and goin’ to stores. Soooo weird.” Apple Bloom rolled her eyes, her flat tone showing a lack of her usual enthusiasm. “We’re missin' one a' Pinkie Pie’s Free Cupcake Afternoons at Sugarcube Corner fer this?”

Sweetie Belle stuck her head out of the bush, signaling the all clear as the brown stallion put some distance between them, and the three fillies piled out of the bush. “You can’t argue with the facts, Apple Bloom, and all the facts say that there’s something fishy going on with this guy.”

“He fixed a clock, then covered up that you broke it, and he’s stayin’ at the library with Twilight,” the yellow filly stated frankly. “Yeah, Snips and Snails mark way higher on the weirdometer than that.”

“You saw him at the Spring Bloom Festival," said Scootaloo. "I mean, he sounds like he’s from Trottingham, says he’s from Hoofany, and it took how many tries for him to get his own name right? And that's on top of all that other stuff that happened that day.”

“It’s not just that,” Sweetie added, the three fillies attempting to remain stealthy as they moved along the side of the road. “You didn’t hear the way my sister talked to him. Rarity doesn’t talk to anypony like that. It was like she was in awe.”

“Maybe she just has a crush on him… or maybe he’s rich.”

“Not awwwww.” Sweetie’s eyes got wide and watery for a moment as she accented the sound with her expression. “I mean like… ahhhhhh.” Her expression changed again to one of breathless shock, a slight twinkle obvious in her eyes.

“And it’s not just her,” Scootaloo informed their still unconvinced friend. “I heard Rainbow talking to Pinkie the other day. It was Doctor this and Doctor that, just going on and on…”

“Well, what was she saying about him?”

“I dunno...” The pegasus filly looked away shamefully. “Mr. Cake caught me snooping near the private booth and gave me a talking to about eavesdropping.”

“What are ‘eaves,’ and why were you dropping them? You should have been listening.” Sweetie tilted her head curiously.

“We’re missin’ out on free cupcakes!” Apple Bloom reiterated, giving herself a facehoof as she listened to her two friends rambling. “Free. Cupcakes.”

“Aw, come on, Apple Bloom,” Sweetie pleaded. “Let’s just see where he’s heading.”

“Yeah. After that, we can cut over to Sugarcube Corner for a quick bite. Will that make you happy?”

“Bet they’re already out of the applecake...”

“Bloom, seriously, don’t you ever get tired of apples?”

“Tired of apples!?” Apple Bloom looked aghast before her eyes narrowed in a determined manner. “Never!”

“Uhhh, girls… where did he go?” Sweetie Belle asked, looking about as her friend’s attention returned to the road.

It was just then that the Cutie Mark Crusaders realized their quarry had slipped out from under their little noses.

————————
Pony Express Station
Ponyville
A short time later

The post office of Ponyville was one of the oldest non-residential structures in the town, a two-story building with a thatched roof that had been hastily constructed by earth ponies when the town’s first pegasus-owned business, the Pony Express, had opened up a local branch to deliver mail and distribute packages from all over Equestria to the growing township.

Easily recognizable by the parked set of sky-carriages designed for fast air transport of goods for those that could afford the service, the building was a constant hub of activity in the town as Pony Express ponies were constantly bringing in and taking out packages and mail for everypony.

But there was one mailmare in particular whose job it was to distribute letters to all the local residences and, on occasion, had the unenviable task of speaking with ponies whose service had been less than satisfactory. Such was the situation that Ditzy Doo Hooves found herself in today as tried to keep her attitude calm and professional.

“What do you mean, you do not know?” a somewhat harsh and deep voice came from a mare who stomped her hoof angrily. Nearly a foot taller than Ditzy stood Zecora, the exotic zebra mare that had at one time been feared by the whole of Ponyville. And now, wrapped as she was in a brown cloak and bearing down angrily on the pegasus, Ditzy could easily remember why they had found her so intimidating. “The shipment should have arrived weeks ago!”

“I’m so sorry, Ms. Zecora… but it just never got here,” Ditzy Doo told Ponyville’s only resident zebra, her tone apologetic as she stood her ground, doing all she could to focus and prevent giving the impression she was distracted. “I’ve told the Pony Express Head Office how important this is, but they don’t know what’s happened, either. Is it at all possible that the issue is not with the transit, but with the sender?”

“It was certainly sent, know this much, I do.” The zebra said, taking a deep breath to steady herself. “Letters from that place are still coming through.”

“Then rest assured, we will find it and…” Ditzy started, then drew back as the zebra glared at her.

“For almost a month, you have fed me this tale!” she all but shouted, drawing more than a few eyes as the zebra dug at the ground with one hoof. “This is much too important to be lost in the mail!”

Ditzy tilted her head a bit to one side, trying to keep one eye on the zebra while the other wandered in spite of her attempts to keep it steady. The zebra's brow was beaded with sweat. She was swallowing hard and out of breathe, it seemed, signs even to a laypony that something was clearly wrong.

“Ms. Zecora… a-are you alright?” the grey pegasus asked, now very concerned.

“I… I am not feeling well, this much is true.” Zecora took a step back, her expression clearly one of embarrassment as she started away. “But please, I beg that you find it, Ditzy Doo.”

“I’ll do everything I can… but maybe you should call a doc--” Before Ditzy could finish her sentence. the zebra turned and started out the door, her head down as she moved and her walk giving an impression of a limp.

“That is not required, I will be fine,” the zebra said quickly as she moved to the door. “The only medicine I trust… is mine.”

She was not paying attention, it seemed, as she moved through the door and out into the sun, where her leg suddenly bumped into something small and scaly.

“Umph!” Spike went back a couple of steps as the zebra’s leg impacted and pushed him to the side. “Hey, watch it!”

Zecora huffed angrily, turning to the dragon with a glare that immediately took the wind out of his sails before catching herself, realizing the effect on her scaled friend. “Apologies, Spike, I don’t mean to be surly,” she said quickly, turning away. ”But I’m afraid I am in quite a…” She froze as she came face to face with the dragon’s compatriot, a brown stallion with a spiky mane right in front of her as she froze up. “…hu…rry...” she finished with a stammer.

“Oh, hello.” The stallion nodded pleasantly in spite of Zecora’s manners as he looked her up and down. “My word, are you a zebra!? Fascinating! I had no idea zebras were included in this planet's roster of intelligent ungulates.”

Zecora took a step back, her eyes wide.

“Though, I guess it's to be expected. After all, I've seen donkeys and cows and whatnot milling around, so why not a zebra? Coloration is clearly a regional acquirement, so it would stand to reason that various continental divides would lead to a variation of the species with--”

“AAAGGGGGHHHHHH!”

The Doctor was snapped out of his ramblings as the zebra suddenly fell back over herself, screaming in terror as her hooves caught up on the edges of her cloak and nearly tore it from her back while she scrambled away.

“I say, are you alright?” The Time Stallion took a step closer, concerned at the reaction.

“Back! Begone! Keep away!” Zecora cried out frantically, taking three steps back per one of the Doctor's. “If you have any mercy, remain at bay!”

“I have no intention of harming you...” The Doctor held up one hoof defensively, trying to get a grip on the sudden situation. “I’m the Doctor. Or… what was it…? Dr. Clockwork, if you like.”

“I know who you are, better than you think! And if you are here, God Slayer, then we are all on the brink!” Zecora spat out, her legs pulling her back as the Doctor recoiled a bit from the accusation.

What did you call me?”

“Certain as the cauldron bubbles...” Zecora shook her head, turning as she steadied her legs, clearly having difficulty as she broke into a gallop. “Your presence here shall bring naught but troubles!”

“Wait!” The Doctor hesitated, considering chasing after her for a moment before looking back to his escort, the purple and green dragon looking nearly as shocked as him.

“What did she say?” Spike asked quickly, clearly concerned as the zebra raced off into the distance towards the edge of the forest. “Something about a cauldron?”

“Who was that?” the Doctor asked quickly, his tone serious.

“Her name’s Zecora. She lives in the Everfree Forest and she’s a close friend of Twilight’s,” Spike explained as he moved around and jumped up onto the Doctor’s back to ride. “How weird... I’ve never seen her like that before. She's usually really nice.”

"Hmm... God Slayer..." The stallion got a faraway look in his deep blue eyes, before he shook himself out of it. “The stamps can wait, Spike. We need to get back and see Twilight.” The Doctor ignored the concerned glances from passersby as he set into a gallop back into town, making a direct break for the library.

Almost completely unnoticed in the bizarre events outside the Pony Express Station was the form of a small yellow filly rushing off in the direction of the Everfree Forest, where few sane ponies dared to tread, following the tracks of the zebra.

“Okay…” Apple Bloom said to herself, trying to figure out what she had just seen in the Cutie Mark Crusader’s surveillance of the Hourglass Stallion. “Now Ah’m a believer.”

—————————————————————————————

*Opening Theme*

Featuring:
The Doctor
Twilight Sparkle
Fluttershy
and
Zecora the Zebra

Doctor Whooves: The Series
“Along Came a Spider”

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