• Published 6th Apr 2012
  • 12,621 Views, 551 Comments

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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Ch. 1: Desperation and Hesitation

Chapter 1: Desperation and Hesitation

Edge of the Everfree Forest
South of Ponyville
2:15 p.m.

“Apple Bloom! Come back!” Scootaloo shouted, now regretting her decision to leave her trademarked scooter behind as she and Sweetie Belle raced away from the edge of town after the farm filly.

On hoof, Apple Bloom was easily the quickest of the Crusaders, and after the scene they had come across at the Pony Express Station, she had gotten quite a head start as the unicorn and pegasus had been stunned by Zecora’s reaction to meeting the Hourglass Stallion.

Until the appearance of Nightmare Moon well over a year ago, back before they were the Cutie Mark Crusaders, Zecora had been the scariest pony they knew. For as long as they could remember, her emergence from the Everfree Forest was cause to rush inside and hide not only for them, but for all of the grown mares and stallions in Ponyville. And even though her nature had been revealed as benign after Apple Bloom and Twilight Sparkle had sought out the mysterious zebra, she was still a bit intimidating to many of the local foals.

So if she was afraid of Doctor Clockwork to the point of running away screaming… then what did that make him?

“Apple Bloom!” Sweetie called after the red-maned filly as she moved to the edge of the forest, that line of shadow between the safety of pony civilization and the dark, wild place where monsters came from… and broke past it without a single look back.

Sweetie and Scootaloo came to a stop just short of that all too visible line, looking at one another nervously. No words needed to be shared.

The two fillies had followed Apple Bloom into the Everfree Forest once before, and that night would have ended in disaster had it not been for the amazing abilities of Fluttershy, who had been foalsitting them that night. And it was an experience that neither the daredevil pegasus nor the white-coated unicorn wanted to repeat.

“Apple Blooooom!” the two cried out together, hoping that they might be able to get the stubborn farm filly’s attention before they had to choose between the safety of Ponyville and the bond of loyalty they felt as Crusaders.

“Jeez, I hear ya already, gosh!” the yellow filly’s voice fluttered back through the underbrush and low-lying trees, though Sweetie and Scootaloo could only barely make out their friend’s bow-topped form several meters in, obscured by the shadow of the forest.

Scootaloo breathed a sigh of relief. “Oh, whew… You had us worried, Bloom. Fast as you were going, we thought you were halfway out of earshot by now.”

“Don’t worry, Ah’ll be fine,” the farm filly assured them, waving a hoof to rustle the bushes hiding her slightly so they could see her, but remaining in the shadows. “Ah’m just gonna make sure Zecora’s alright. You girls go ahead. Ah’ll meet y'all at Sugarcube Corner in just a bit.”

“A-are you sure? We could… you know…” Sweetie hesitated, sincerely hoping that the offer wasn’t taken up on. “…go in with you?”

“It’s fine, Ah come here ta visit Zecora all the time,” Apple Bloom’s voice responded, the filly sounding quite calm. “You go, Ah’ll catch up. Oh, and do me a favor, wouldja? Applejack’s outta town at that convention thingamajig with Rarity, and Ah kinda promised her I wouldn’t go into the forest while she was gone. Couldja… not mention it ta anypony? Ah don’t wanna get in trouble.”

“I know what you mean.” Sweetie nodded. “Rarity would spit a bit if she knew I was even this close to the edge of the forest.”

“Well, if you say so…” Scootaloo nodded in agreement, her concerns greatly eased by the confidence in her friend’s voice.

“Just save an applecake for me if they still have any, ya hear?” They saw Apple Bloom’s bow bob slightly before they turned and started back towards town.

“Sure thing… just be careful in there, alright?” Sweetie called back.

“Always am,” Apple Bloom’s voice assured them as the two fillies moved away from the edge of Everfree, the silhouette of the young farm pony appearing to watch them for several moments.

Then, the leaves and twigs standing in for the farm filly’s mane and bow fell to the forest floor with all the grace of a puppet having its strings cut. From the lifeless heap of foliage, an oily smoke tinged black and blue swirled its way up, out, and off in the direction that the true Apple Bloom had run off without pause.


Everfree Forest
2:25 p.m.

“Zecoraaaa!” Apple Bloom called out, her throat beginning to grow hoarse as her little legs grew sore.

She had been running for some time now, looking around wildly as her eyes adjusted to the shadowy nature of the Everfree Forest. The young pony had come here quite often in the past few months since her first adventure beyond the treeline, and she knew the safest path to the zebra’s hut.

Unfortunately, she had left that path some time ago following the wake of broken branches and hoof marks recently left behind by the rushing zebra.

Still, she wasn’t scared. She was a Cutie Mark Crusader. She wasn’t scared of anything.

Her legs were just tired. That’s why they were shaking so much as she trudged a bit deeper into the overgrown foliage.

“Ze…Zecoraaaa!” she cried out again, coughing slightly as she looked about for any sign of where her friend had went as the forest opened into a clearing. “Where are ya!?”

Apple Bloom stopped suddenly as her hooves came down on the ground inside the clearing. It felt… strange. Soft and sooty, like ash that had been spread out after a fire. Looking around, Apple Bloom saw just how different this clearing was from anywhere else she had seen in the Everfree.

The ground was bare, save for a layer of ash and charcoal that seemed to spread out from the center, all of the foliage having been somehow pushed back and tamed, even though such an idea was hard to fathom after seeing how wild the Everfree was.

Absolutely nothing was growing here, and for a few moments, Apple Bloom thought the ground was flat until she set a hoof into a narrow hole dug into the ashy dirt. Then she looked out at the center of the clearing.

“Oh, mah stars… Zecora!”

Laying on her side, almost directly at the center of the clearing, the zebra was laboring for breath, a small cloud of ashy dust rising with every exhale as the farm filly rushed to her side.

“Zecora, please be okay... Oh, mah goodness…”

“Apple… Bloom…?” The zebra’s tone was shocked, but her voice was barely there as the mare opened her eyes. “What are you… doing here?” As the older mare tried to lift her head, the hood that was covering it slipped off, causing the farm filly to draw back slightly from what she saw. “It’s… a poor time for a visit… I’m afraid… my dear.”

Apple Bloom’s expression softened as she noted the pain in the elder mare’s voice. “...What happened to ya?”

“T’was a foalish choice… I once did make…” Zecora attempted to push herself to her hooves, but hardly got her shoulder off the ground before her legs gave out under her. “And I fear you have… made the same mistake.”

“Ah was worried about ya.” Apple Bloom tried to help by pushing up against the zebra’s flanks. “And with y'all lookin' like ya do now, Ah'd say Ah made the right choice.”

“It was not… my intent to mock,” Zecora strained, turning her head a bit, her expression urgent. “Flee now, filly! Beware the Roc!”

“A rock?” Apple Bloom shook her head, redoubling her efforts. “Ah ain’t about ta leave ya here and Ah don’t care about some dumb ol’ rock! Y'all need a doc--”


Apple Bloom turned her eyes upward in shock as a piercing cry was heard overhead, causing her to squint as the bright sun bore down into the center of the clearing. It took a few moments for her to realize the dark shape growing against the bright blue sky as it dove down towards the ground, and a moment longer to recognize the sheer size of the thing. The bird, as it was increasingly apparent that it was, had to easily be the largest she had ever seen.

“Filly, run! Into the trees, just flee!” The zebra gasped for breath, trying again and failing to push herself up. “This accursed bird wants only me!”

Apple Bloom’s heart pounded in her chest as she gulped, seeing the shadow of the enormous eagle-like creature growing larger atop the two of them. Every instinct told her to run; to do as she was told. Then she turned to see the weakened zebra, her friend, laying there… and knew that she could not.

“No! Come on!” Apple Bloom moved around, grasping the neck of the zebra’s cloak in her teeth and pulling for all she was worth, grinding her hooves into the ground as she strained to slowly drag Zecora over the barren, ashy landscape.


The shadow of the creature Zecora called 'Roc’ grew larger, its wings folded into a dive. An ominous dark spot against the otherwise bright sun. Sweat beading on her brow, Apple Bloom gritted her teeth and pulled harder, yanking at the fabric fastened securely around the zebra and leaving a trail in the ash as she slowly but surely pulled her to the treeline.

“Apple Bloom… go… You should not be here…” Zecora winced in pain, her limbs feeling like dead weight even as the filly tugged and struggled. “I have known… this was coming… for many a year…”

The farm filly’s jaws hurt from holding on, but she stubbornly kept hold, pulling and tugging even harder.

"SCREEEEEEE!" The Roc bore down on them, growing larger as its wings flared out, a gleaming talon reaching forward.

Apple Bloom dug her hooves into the soft ground and pushed harder against it, getting all the traction she could. Just a few more feet to the treeline... but the bird was too close; they didn’t have enough time. It was going to get them.

As the creature angled down, she spared a moment to look up and then desperately wished she hadn’t.

Nearly half as large as a dragon, the enormous eagle nevertheless looked malnourished and thin, its head free of feathers, showing blood-red skin where a black beak and eyes were not already dominating its face. The large black feathers covering the rest of its body, like those of a buzzard, all but blotted out the sun where its shadow was cast.

Her blood turned to ice and, more frightened than she had ever been in her life, the farm filly clenched her eyes and kept pulling.

Black talons opened as it descended, slowing as the creature skimmed the ground on its approach, wings nearly large enough to touch each end of the clearing from tip to tip.



A flash of gold and scarlet streaked in from out of nowhere, burning through the air and creating a warm gust of wind that sent Apple Bloom’s bow flying from her head and her tail and mane sweeping forward. Her eyes still closed, she saw nothing as she continued pulling.



Air rushed about as if blowing in a storm, sending Apple Bloom’s mane swishing from side to side as the wind whipped around, the filly’s eyes still remaining shut. There was the sound of wings beating wildly as she pulled at the cloth in her teeth, not daring to look for fear of losing what nerve she had left and knowing only from the weight of her load that she was still dragging Zecora along.

She dared not open her eyes even as she felt the ash under her hooves give way to the underbrush of the Everfree. The sound of crunching leaves was welcoming, while those of wings and screeching faded into the distance as she pulled her friend to safety at any cost.

Fluttershy’s Cottage
Outskirts of Ponyville
2:35 p.m.

“…and then he said, ‘Are you sure you’re not even a little bit satisfied?’” Fluttershy beamed openly. “And I told him, ‘No means no!’ ...And then he just rode off. I don’t think anypony ever stood up like that to him before. He didn’t know how to react.”

Twilight Sparkle smiled as she listened to Fluttershy’s story, blowing on the lukewarm tea that had been made for her as the two friends regaled one another with tales of what they had been doing over the past few days.

While she loved her timid friend dearly, she was glad that the yellow pegasus had found a balance between her natural kindness and the ability to assert herself to keep that kindness from being taken advantage of.

“Pinkie and Rarity were so proud… and you know what? So was I,” Fluttershy finished, nodding softly as she leaned forward, picking up the dainty teacup in her teeth and sipping slightly on it.

“That’s great news, Fluttershy!”

“I wish you could have seen it, but I really didn’t see you at all that day.”

“Heh, yeah…” Twilight drew back, a smile still on her face. “Rainbow finally decided on where she wanted to go with the Doctor, and we got wrapped up in this whole thing back in the year 500 C.R. involving the Pegalympics. That was a doozy.”

“O-oh… Well…” Fluttershy set her hoof to her mouth awkwardly, suddenly reverting to her familiar, slightly intimidated stance. “It sounds like you had fun.”

“It was… interesting.” Twilight nodded at the memory, thinking it best not to tell Fluttershy about the cheating scandal they had gotten themselves involved in… or how Rainbow had dyed her mane and coat (reluctantly) in order to take the place of the famous -- and incapacitated -- Thunder Streak to maintain the timeline and win the centennial Cloudsdale athletics competition. “But for the most fun, I gotta give that up to Pinkie Pie. I don’t know how he found it, but the Doctor got us to this one place... I think it was in the future. He called it a ‘vacation planet.’ Party City: literally a domed pony city where the party never stopped.”

“Wow…” Fluttershy smiled at the thought. “Pinkie must have been really, really happy there.”

“Oh, you'd better believe it. They even installed her as Party Queen for the night she was there, and she declared that if anypony was hungry, she would ‘Let them eat cake.’ I don’t know why, but that made the Doctor nervous for some reason, and we had to drag her back to the TARDIS after she finally passed out.”

“Oh… well, speaking of the Doctor, it sure sounds like he’s really turned a corner.” Fluttershy leaned back in her lounge chair as she folded her legs up under her. “I’m glad he’s finding his place here after coming so far from home.”

“Actually, that’s one of the reasons I came over,” Twilight started, glad that she was able to lead into the point of her visit so well.


“Well, it’s just that… Rainbow, Applejack, Pinkie Pie, Rarity, and I have all had our trips. Some have been more… vibrant than others, but it got me thinking that, well, you haven't taken your turn yet.”

My turn…?” Fluttershy’s eye twitched slightly. “Oh, I don’t know... I thought you girls were doing just fine... I didn’t want to hold you back, or anything.”

“Aw, come on, Fluttershy.” Twilight smirked a bit, sipping on her own tea as it floated to her lips before setting it down. “There has to be something you're curious about. Maybe somepony you've always wanted to meet?”

“Well, it’s just... Applejack told me about what happened in Roan, and… it just sounded so… so dangerous.” Fluttershy withdrew slightly, causing Twilight to sigh.

Thanks, AJ, Twilight thought to herself. Why did you have to give all of the facts to Fluttershy?

“Yeah, but we all came out of it just fine,” Twilight replied casually. “Like the night you scared off that cockatrice, or when I managed to repel that Ursa Minor.”

“But… those were both still really scary nights.” Fluttershy shook her head, still unsure. “And if that’s what it’s going to be like traveling with him, I… I’m just worried that maybe… I was being a little... um... rash, the night we met him.”

“True... But once they were over, we both know that they made things better. And now they’re great stories and memories.” Twilight nodded. “Besides, the Doctor can take us anywhere we want. I'm sure you can think of something without any danger whatsoever. It doesn't have to be big; just enough to get your hooves wet.”

“I-I still don’t know…” Fluttershy drew back, her mane falling in that adorable way that hid half of her face.

Twilight couldn't help but smile. She knew her friend well enough to see that she was considering it… She just needed a positive assurance to give her that last boost of confidence to take the leap.

She sort of wished Pinkie Pie was here for this… but as she took a breath, she just knew that she would be able to get this to work!

“Come on, Fluttershy. Put on your Ponyville Best!” Twilight hopped up in her seat. “We’re going on a trip! Next stop, everywhere!”

Twilight suddenly stood up on her hind-legs, moving her front hooves in a wide sweeping motion as her voice took on a specific pitch. Seemingly from nowhere, a whimsical musical number started up around them.

“Out there~
There are worlds outside Equestria~
Way out there beyond this one town, Fluttershy~
There are new worlds, Fluttershy~”

“Um… okay, if you say so…” Fluttershy murmured, shifting uncomfortably and feeling a little exposed despite a relative familiarity with this sort of thing.

“Out there~
Trust your ol’ friend, Twilight Sparkle~
Close your eyes and see ‘em glisten, Fluttershy~
Listen, Fluttershy~”

“Do you mean the music? But I-- Wha-whoooaaa!” Fluttershy was interrupted mid-sentence as Twilight closed the distance between them and swept her up by her hooves.

“Put on your Ponyville Best, there’s so much more out there!
Wonderful worlds ‘cross time and spaaaace.
We’re gonna find the beauty hidden everywhere!
Fields alight, in the gleaming night and sparkling ‘neath all of the staaaars!”

Fluttershy’s ears perked up slightly, taken in by Twilight’s enthusiastic display. “That... does sound nice...” she admitted, Twilight starting to edge her towards the door of her cottage.

“Put on your Ponyville Best, it’s time to ride the ups and downs!
In that magic box, taking us near and faaaaar.”

“I-I can do that!” The yellow pegasus’ confidence was on the rise, a smile spreading over her face as she bobbed her head in agreement before adding her own melodic voice to the music flowing around them in a duet so perfect, one might have thought they had rehearsed it.

“We’ll see the things,
Made of hopes and dreams,
If the Doctor says that we caaaaan!
And when we get home we can do it all agaaaaain!”

The music started slowly fading away, though still keeping a steady, lighthearted rhythm as the two friends reached the door. Twilight took a deep breath as she placed a hoof on the wooden surface and Fluttershy fell into step beside her.

“Oh, Fluttershy~ There are so,

With a sudden motion, Twilight thrust the door open with a flourish. And before Fluttershy could take a single step, her smile and enthusiasm were robbed from her, her eyes going wide in shock as one hoof went to her mouth in a startled gasp.

Two feet in front of her door, panting and looking to be on her last, wobbly legs, a yellow-coated, red-maned filly they both knew very well stood with a full-grown zebra mare’s foreleg over her shoulder in a size mismatch that might have been comical to some ponies. But with one look, it was clear that there was nothing amusing about this scene.

Zecora was clearly unconscious, her body a dead weight that the farm filly struggled desperately to support, but the small cuts and bruises along each of her legs, and the twigs and leaves in her mane, indicated she had been mostly dragged through a difficult and wild terrain.

Trembling with exhaustion, Apple Bloom looked up to the two stunned mares with a pleading expression that few could match before a dry, cracking gasp escaped her. “...Help...”

And with that, Apple Bloom collapsed, her zebra friend tumbling off to her side.

Waiting Room, Pranceton Plainsboro Memorial Hospital
4:42 p.m.

Twilight Sparkle paced the sterile white waiting room of the hospital, her hooves clicking crisply on the solid floor as her eyes continued to dart towards the large double doors leading to the patient wing. Laying on the sofa nearby, Apple Bloom remained uncharacteristically still as she leaned into Fluttershy, the caring pegasus acting as something of a pillow for the filly who kept her eyes trained on the doors with a desperate intent. Fluttershy was likewise quiet, which made the clipping of Twilight’s hooves the only real sound in the waiting area.

Having trouble with this as her overactive imagination went wild with the different treatment plans that the doctors could be trying at that very moment, Twilight took a deep breath, compelled to go over the details again out loud. “Okay… So you found her in a burned out clearing in the Everfree Forest…”

“Yeah… Ah know Ah wasn’t supposed to be in there while Applejack is gone, but…” Apple Bloom tried to defend herself halfheartedly, only to be shushed softly by Fluttershy.

“Nopony cares about that right now,” the yellow pegasus assured her, running a hoof though her mane, which was still stuck out at odd angles as if it had been in a windstorm, her pink bow conspicuously missing.

“Fluttershy's right. You absolutely did the right thing,” Twilight assured her as well. “But what else can you tell me about this giant bird?

“It was big,” Apple Bloom stated plainly.

“Yes, I got that from the word ‘giant,’” Twilight replied flatly, trying to keep in mind that Apple Bloom had to be at least as worried as she was over the condition of their mutual friend.

“Ah don't know what else ta tell ya. It was like… like a super buzzard, or somethin’. Zecora called it a ‘rock.’”

“I’ve never heard of a bird called Rock, before... Rocky, maybe, but that still seems like such a strange name for a bird,” Fluttershy added.

“It sounds kind of familiar...but I can’t put my hoof on it.” Twilight tapped her chin lightly. “Is the bird what made her face... like that?”

“No. At least, Ah'm pretty sure.” Apple Bloom shook her head. “That monster didn’t show up till after Ah did, an' she was like that when Ah found her... But Ah saw her in town just a little bit before, an' Ah didn’t see nuthin’ strange then.”

“Where did you see her before?” Twilight inquired, at which point Apple Bloom seemed to withdraw a bit.

“She was... at the Pony Express Station, an'...” The filly trailed off.

“And... what?” Twilight pressed a bit further.

Whatever information Apple Bloom was withholding was forgotten a moment later when the double doors opened suddenly, snapping all three girls’ attention their way as the caramel-coated, brown-maned Dr. Stable stepped through. Twilight recognized him at once as the pony that had been Rainbow Dash’s attending physician when the athletic pegasus had fractured her wing several months back. He paused a moment next to a wastebasket, turning a bit to one side as he looked about, making the heart monitor that made up his cutie mark plainly visible. His horn took on a slight glow as he removed the surgical mask from his muzzle and disposed of it.

Twilight cringed; the frown on his snout was not very reassuring at all. “Dr. Stable... how is she?”

“Yeah, is she alright? Can we see her? What happened?” Apple Bloom pulled herself up. Although still obviously sore from her earlier exertions, she was as eager as anypony to get in to see her friend.

Dr. Stable was solemn as he looked to the trio of mares. “We... will need to contact her next of kin,” he said plainly, the words impacting Twilight like a stake through the heart.

“Y-you don’t mean...”

“No, rest assured, she’s still with us,” Dr. Stable reiterated, clearly realizing his misstep. “But she’s in no condition to make medical decisions for herself. Does she have any family here?”

“What? No... I don’t think she has any family in Equestria,” Twilight told the doctor as Apple Bloom moved up beside her, along with Fluttershy.

“Then we’ll need somepony to act as her proxy,” Dr. Stable informed them.

“Ah’ll do it!” Apple Bloom jumped up, shouting to get the Doctor’s attention. “She always says Ah’m just like family ta her.” Then she paused, looking back to Fluttershy sheepishly. “Wait. What the hay does ‘prock-see’ mean?”

“It means that when a pony is very sick and can’t make decisions for themselves, a good friend is trusted to make decisions for them,” Fluttershy explained.

“And I’m sorry, my dear, but I’m afraid that said pony’s... or in this case, zebra’s proxy has to be an adult.”

Twilight nodded. “I know her best, I think. Aside from Apple Bloom.”

Dr. Stable gave a weary sigh and looked to Fluttershy and the farm filly. “She's sleeping right now, so I suppose there's no harm in seeing her. She’s in rough shape, however, so please do not disturb her. And whatever you do, don’t... touch her,” he said sympathetically, pushing one of the doors open for Fluttershy as the pegasus chaperoned the eager earth pony filly.

As they left, Twilight’s expression drooped a bit more. This was certainly one of the downsides of being an intelligent, responsible adult mare.

“What’s her condition, Dr. Stable?” she asked, fearing the answer. “I’m guessing since you're letting us see her that it’s not infectious.”

“That's correct, but as for her condition, we... don’t think she has very long.” Dr. Stable shook his head, sighing. “To be honest, we’ve never encountered anything like this kind of wound.”

“Wound?” Twilight inquired, now confused. “What wound? I thought she was sick.”

“She is, but... allow me to explain.” The medical doctor motioned to the doors, leading Twilight through and continuing her conversation as the two of them walked. “When we got her into the emergency room, we attempted several forms of magic and medicine to stabilize her condition. As part of hospital protocol, we had to remove her jewelry. The gold rings in her ears and around her foreleg came off easily enough, but... for the rings around her neck, that was not the case.”

“Now that you mention it... I’ve never seen her take those off,” Twilight confirmed.

“That is because they couldn’t be taken off, Ms. Sparkle. Not by mundane methods, anyway,” Dr. Stable told her. “They seem to have been forged into place around her neck under enormous heat and pressure. We had to resort to magic in order to finally pry them off.”

Twilight drew back in shock. She couldn’t believe that in all the time that she had known the zebra, she had never thought to ask. She just always assumed that the five gold rings that Zecora always wore around her neck were some sort of cultural thing, as much as wearing ponyshoes was for most ponies.

“Once they were removed, well... we found the source of the problem.”

Stopping short, Dr. Stable directed Twilight’s attention to the transparent wall of one of the intensive care units, which allowed the doctors in the hospital to keep a close eye on their more serious cases. Inside, a single bed and several magically powered medical devices stood, with Apple Bloom leaning against Fluttershy’s foreleg, tears running down her face.

On the bed, covers pulled up to the top of her chest, lay Zecora... although if not for the stripes and mohawk mane, Twilight would have hardly recognized her.

The right side of her head was covered in bright green veins that seemed to glow, pulsing in time with her heartbeat. As she labored for breath in her sleep, her skin and fur looked parched, as if the moisture had been drained from around the afflicted areas. But while Twilight had seen the sorry condition of Zecora's face back at Fluttershy’s cottage, she had not realized that it looked downright benign compared to the what lay slightly below that.

Along the right side of her neck, it was as if there was a piece of her hide that had been torn from her; a furless, ragged patch of skin upon which sat a wicked, green scar that looked very old, and yet had never healed over. And what was worse, it seemed to be bleeding, the greenish fluid having already overburdened the bandages that had been wrapped over it and exposing the wound itself.

“It acts like a toxin, but every attempt we’ve made to purge it from her body has been completely ineffective,” Dr. Stable told Twilight as she looked on in worried shock, both amazed and horrified by how weak and frail the normally formidable zebra looked. “The wound appears to be some sort of bite mark, but we can’t match it to any creature on record, and none of the anti-venomous spells we have available have proven the least bit effective. And that's not even the strangest part.”

“What do you mean?” Twilight asked.

“As far as we can tell, the infection looks fresh, but the scar tissue around the wound is anything but recent. Judging by the thickness of it, we would have to say she’s had this injury for at least twenty years.”

Twilight cringed as she looked back to the zebra in the room and took a breath as she steadied herself. She needed to be strong now. “...What are her options?”

“When the standard purge and treatment spells failed, we attempted to excise the wound with more… physical methods,” Dr. Stable continued, grimacing a bit as he clearly disliked having to resort to something so primitive and inefficient as mundane surgical techniques. “But the slightest incision caused her vitals to plummet, as has any attempt to prod or take a sample of the wound itself. This kind of reactivity can only be magical in nature, and we're afraid to do anything more for fear that it might worsen her condition. We’ve sent a message to Canterlot to see if the Royal Medical Institute can help us in diagnosis, but those sorts of things take time.”

Twilight’s eyes narrowed, her ears flattening against her head in annoyance as she recognized what had been left out of the medical pony’s long-winded tangent. “You didn’t answer my question, Doctor.”

Dr. Stable sighed, drooping slightly. “I’m sorry, Ms. Sparkle, but… frankly, all we can do is make her comfortable, and hope that the Institute can find us a solution.”

“But…” Twilight shook her head, fighting tears of her own. “There has to be something! An experimental treatment… A crackpot theory… Anything!!”

Dr. Stable stiffened his posture as he tried to project a disciplined calm. “We do everything we can, Ms. Sparkle, and under most circumstances, it is enough. But there comes a time when we have to accept our limitations. We’re doctors… not miracle workers.”

Twilight bowed her head, closing her eyes and taking a deep breath.

“I’m sorry… but there’s nothing else we can do. Some things… we just can’t fix.”

Twilight opened her eyes again, but rather than the despair Dr. Stable expected, there was a harsh determination as she looked into the room, taking note of how the zebra was stirring and Apple Bloom moved up to the side of her bed.

“Maybe you can’t…” With a snort and a stomp of one hoof, Twilight turned that gaze to the practiced medical professional, who had to fight not to cringe under that stern, commanding glare. “I understand… Take care of her and do whatever you can to keep her stable. I’ll be back as soon as possible.”

Without any further hesitation, Twilight Sparkle turned and walked past the Doctor, who turned to watch her leave. “Ms. Sparkle, where are you going?”

“To get a second opinion!”


The waking world was a haze of pain as Zecora came to, a soft moan escaping her lips while her entire right side throbbed with pain in time with her heartbeat. Opening her eyes slowly as each breath caused her to wince, the blur of a fatigue-driven sleep lifted slowly as her surroundings came into focus.

She lay in a soft, downy feather bed, a commonplace standard of the natives of Equestria. The walls around her were sterile and white, lacking of any character in order to give the impression of a clean, healthy place. Such a depressing and bland decor brought her to a single conclusion as to her whereabouts, the deduction obvious even in her state.

She had never wished to set hoof inside of the confines of the hospital at the opposite end of Ponyville from the Everfree, and yet it seemed fate had something else in mind.

“Zecora! You're awake!”

The zebra winced a bit at the sudden noise, but welcomed it all the same as she tilted her head forward, for the first time coming to realize she was not alone in this place. And in spite of the pain, she felt a small smile creep over her face.

She wouldn’t have chosen any other company over this one.

“Ah… my little hero… Apple Bloom,” she started, her tongue feeling heavy and leaden in her mouth as she had to pant for breath between her words. “It appears you saved me from… a certain doom.”

“A'course Ah did!” Apple Bloom moved up the side of the bed, looking to the pained mare with a forced smile at the praise, as though she feared letting on just how in bad a state the zebra looked. “Ah ain’t gonna leave no friend a’ mine out for the birds, no matter how big they are.”

Zecora chuckled lightly. “Such courage… in the face of what you found… Surely, my dear… you shall be… renowned.”

A painful pulse from her neck caused the zebra to shudder suddenly, stealing the smile from her face as she fell back into the pillow that was too soft for her liking.

“Zecora… are you going to be alright?” a new voice caught the zebra’s attention, causing her to perk up.

She looked up past Apple Bloom to see the overly shy pink-maned pony standing back a bit, clearly hesitant to interrupt and looking more than slightly disturbed by the zebra’s appearance.

Zecora’s eyes widened with realization as she turned her head a bit to the right, her neck cramping badly when she realized her rings had been removed, exposing something she had kept hidden away for many years. Still, forcing through the agony, she craned a bit more to look to her side, just in time to watch a familiar purple flank and tail move out of sight, on the other side of the transparent wall.

“Full circle… events have come,” she panted as the throbbing pain forced her to turn back, straightening her neck at the cramping sensation. “After all this time… what's been done must be done.”

“What? Whatcha talkin’ about Zecora?” Apple Bloom looked to the zebra with a worried expression. “What needs to be done?”

“Fluttershy… please… answer me true.” Zecora seemed to ignore the filly for that moment, looking to the timid mare past her. “Does Twilight seek… a brown pony… with old eyes of blue?”

Apple Bloom tilted her head curiously as she turned to Fluttershy with a puzzled gaze. The yellow pegasus’ reaction was quite telling as she drew back, one hoof over her mouth, her tail seeming to sweep up and around her front defensively.

“H-how do you know about… I mean… I mean, I don’t know if… well, she… might be… I don’t…” she stammered, her soft voice growing more quiet as she clearly disliked the inquiry.

Apple Bloom looked between the two mares, now feeling very left out. “Went to see who? What’s goin’ on? Zecora?”

“Apple Bloom… your company I will… certainly seek,” Zecora said, her tone steady in spite of the apparent agony she was still suffering. “But for this moment… alone with Fluttershy… I must speak.”

“But…” the filly started to protest.

“Apple Boom, do as she says... This sounds like it's important,” Fluttershy interrupted, an action that again made Apple Bloom gape slightly. “Out to the waiting room, please. I’ll come get you in a moment.”

“But Ah--”

“Apple Bloom… please do as I say,” Zecora panted, her tone urgent. “After we’re done… then I would beg you to stay.”

The farm filly looked down and away, seeming much smaller without her large pink bow; a consequence Zecora was certain came from her decision to aid her in getting to the apparent safety of this place.

“...Okay… I’ll wait,” she responded in a defeated tone as she dragged her hooves all the way to the door, opening and shutting it quickly before skulking quietly away.

Zecora sighed at the sight. She hated to have to send her friend away, but the zebra knew that this would be a very delicate matter.

“How do you know about the Doctor?” Fluttershy asked the moment that the door had closed, looking to Zecora with eyes wide and tone frantic before the zebra held up a hoof to stop her.

“Before you start… think on what I say.” Zecora shook her head a bit in a slow, controlled motion. “Since when do… curious fillies… ever obey?”

Fluttershy paused, having to think those words over for a moment before her stunned expression was replaced by understanding. In three swift steps, she moved over to the door and opened it suddenly, allowing the filly with her ear pressed up against the crack in the door to fall over on her side into the room.

“Oh! Um, uh, you meant the waitin' room, didn't ya? I thought y'all meant wait... outside the door...”

Fluttershy’s eyes narrowed in a stern manner, a threat of something far more terrifying directed towards the young pony. Apple Bloom, recognizing this signal, scrambled to her hooves.

“Alright, alright! Ah’m a'gettin’, Ah’m a'gettin’!” Apple Bloom broke into a trot down the hallway before Fluttershy closed the door again, regretting the sudden impulse she had followed to frighten the filly into submission immediately.

The zebra laughed weakly at the display for a moment before a pronounced wince stole the mirth from her face, causing her to curl on the bed for a few seconds before it passed, drawing Fluttershy out of her self-admonishment and towards the more immediate trouble.

“Zecora… What is going on?” she asked, her nervousness overcome by concern. “What happened to you?”

“A consequence from a long past time…” Zecora answered, her tone inherently cryptic. “Back even before I was made to rhyme.”

“What do you mean?” Fluttershy questioned again as she moved to the side of the bed, her empathic tone begging for an answer.

Zecora took a few breaths, steadying herself as she felt the pulsing fire in her veins throb along the side of her face. “One thing you are certain to call a sure bet…“ she began, taking long, steadying gasps as she seemed to slip into the familiar patterns of verse that Fluttershy had become accustomed to hearing from her. “If you will, remember how it was that we met.”

“How could I forget?” Fluttershy took a step closer towards Zecora’s bedside, setting a hoof up on the mattress as she tried to keep the zebra’s mind off her obvious pain. “We were all terrified of you… and then all those things that happened from the Poison Joke… we thought you had put a curse on us.” Fluttershy couldn’t help but shake her head at how foalish it seemed now: stomping off thinking that Zecora was an evil enchantress. “What happened that day taught us all a lesson we’ll always keep close to our hearts.”

“Memories we share shall always endure...” Zecora told Fluttershy, pausing for a deep breath. “But take my advice: Do not be so sure.”

Fluttershy looked to Zecora curiously, then nodded her head for her to keep going.

“There is more to this tale than within any tome…” Zecora went on. “But the hope for my future… lies in the past of my home.”

“Zecora, I don’t understand... What does this have to do with what’s making you sick? We met over a year ago and you’ve never been like this. If something in the forest can help you, can’t you just tell me what we can do to make you better? If it’s some sort of herb, surely Twilight can mix up a potion.”

Zecora seemed to hesitate for a moment, then sighed. “‘T'was longer than that, if you would believe… You see, the home that I speak of... is not the Everfree.”

Fluttershy shook her head, still not comprehending what she was being told. “Zecora, you need help... Why can’t you just tell me how to help you?”

The zebra looked away a moment, still hesitant before turning back to the pleading Fluttershy. “In Zebrica, the land I am from… there is a mountain called Thunder Drum… At its base grows a plant called the Ashmed... A brew of this plant will free me from this bed.”

“That’s it? That shouldn’t be a problem… We can--”

“I know Twilight has great skill… but one tiny mistake, and this potion can kill… Only one other zebra I ever knew… could prepare this tricky brew,” Zecora cut Fluttershy off. “But he cannot aid you in this goal… for he was lost when I was but a foal.”

Fluttershy drooped, tilting her head a bit, catching the sad tone in the zebra’s voice. “...Who was it?”

“The bravest zebra to ever inspire…” Zecora bowed her head, her tone deep and respectful as she seemed to struggle to match her words in her usual form. “His name... was Zilaka… and he was my sire.”

“And...” Fluttershy looked up, her mind putting together the pieces. “...this Zilaka... he knew how to make the potion to cure you.”

“My father taught me all that he knew… of all manner of plants and how to brew.” Zecora nodded, clearly pained as much by memory as the illness that coursed through her body. Looking up, the zebra took note of the suddenly determined expression on the normally timid pony’s face. “And I know, while I stay here and rest… that you and Twilight will try your best,” Zecora said, her tone even. “But know this, my friend… be you ever so sweet.”

Fluttershy looked straight into the pained eyes of the zebra, her only real choice clear as Zecora gave her a look of sympathetic concern.

“If your fear overcomes you…” The zebra moved one leg free of her covers, setting a hoof over Fluttershy’s as it sat on the bed. “…we never shall meet.”

Books and Branches Library
5:09 p.m.

“Doctor!” Twilight practically threw the door of her beloved library off of its hinges as she came barreling in, the book-laden shelves reverberating from the loud slam. The force sent a shock-wave through the wooden foundation, from the floor up through the ladder to the top shelves, much to the concern of the purple and green dragon that was on the top step.

She looked about to see her assistant balancing precariously on the ladder, which had bounced upright and forced the young dragon to hold on as he shifted his weight.

“WHOAAAAAAOOOOOAAA!” Spike cried out, a book in his claws dropped unceremoniously when he grasped the ladder’s frame as it overbalanced and started to fall back towards the floor.



The baby dragon vanished in a burst of purple magic as the ladder fell back to the floor with a crash.


Only to reappear right in front of the unicorn as he fell a scant few inches before hitting the floor himself.

“Spike!” Twilight didn’t hesitate for a moment as she leaned over the dragon’s face. “Where is he!?”

“...I’m fine by the way, thanks for asking,” the young dragon snorted grumpily as he sat up.

“This isn’t a joke, Spike! I need to talk to him right now! Somepony’s life depends on it!”

“Okay, okay! I get it! Urgent!” Spike drew back, realizing that this clearly was no time for jokes as he brushed his scales off. “He went out looking for you a few hours ago after we ran into Zecora while we were doing those errands you sent us out on.”

“Ran into… Zecora?” Twilight drew back in shock.

“Yeah, literally. She just about stampeded me. I’m surprised I don’t have a hoofprint on my scales.” Spike turned to better relate his tale to Twilight. “Then she saw the Doc and went completely nuts, running for the treeline and shouting that bizarre mumbo-jumbo of hers.”

That was odd news... Why would Zecora be afraid of the Doctor? As far as she knew, the two had never met before.

Twilight hadn’t seen Zecora since the Doctor first came to Ponyville, the zebra’s monthly visit having happened only a day or so before the TARDIS crashed into her library. And she had been so busy with everything else that was going on to visit the Everfree in the meantime, so it wasn't like she'd had a chance to talk to her about him.

So why would Zecora react so strongly to seeing the Time Pony? He looked just like any other stallion on the outside. And unless somepony were to get out a stethoscope and check his pulse, there was nothing outwardly alien about him.

Shaking her head, Twilight pushed that curiosity aside, determined to deal with one crisis at a time. “Great, he could be anywhere in town! It could take hours to find him!” She flattened her ears in an annoyed manner.

“Twilight… I think someone broke your door,” said the Doctor’s voice as it came from behind her.


“There we are, good as new.”

Twilight rolled her eyes as she turned around, not sure why she even bothered to get worked up as the brown stallion she was seeking closed the door behind him, walking into the library casually.

He certainly lived up to his species, as she had discovered over the past few weeks; his sense of timing was nearly as remarkable as Pinkie Pie’s, even if he didn't share her tendency to pop out of the most random of places when he appeared.

“It's about time I found you, by the way,” the Doctor breathed out in a sigh of relief. “That cinches it, I am getting you a mobile. I don't care if the technology doesn't belong here, being separated from you lot without a direct method of contact is going to spell problems down the line. For example, do you have any idea how long I've been looking for you?”


“I was looking everywhere, and I do mean everywhere. The Bookstore-slash-Printing Office, the Joke Shop, the Fan Shop, Sugarcube Corner, Carousel Boutique...”

“Doctor, I--” Twilight’s eye twitched a bit as the Time Pony continued to prattle.

“…the Quill and Sofa -- well, they were out of quills, again, so I guess it was just the Sofa this time. They really do need a new quill supplier, don't you agree? But I digress. I even took a look in Applejack's cellar at Sweet Apple Acres. At least, until that wrinkly green mare chased me off with a pitchfork… She is surprisingly spry given her age…”

DOCTOR!” the unicorn shouted violently, her decibel level rising to match that of a dragon’s roar.

“Um… Yes, Twilight?” The Doctor flicked an ear slightly, trying to stop the ringing he had grown used to when his companion became… vocal.

“Somepony needs your help! I need you to come with me to the hospital, right now!

The Doctor perked up, his attention certainly caught as he looked to Twilight with a more serious expression. “What’s happened?”

“It’s my friend, Zecora!” The Doctor drew back slightly at Twilight's mention of the name. “She’s fallen ill with some sort of mysterious toxin. The doctors there can’t help her and I think whatever happened to her might fall into your area of expertise. I mean, it looks alien enough. She has this wound on her neck that’s--”

“Twilight… stop.” The unicorn paused, looking to him urgently as the Time Pony sighed sharply. “I can’t… Not this time.”

“What!?” Twilight was aghast. “Why!?

“Uh, eh-heh…” Spike chuckled nervously, taking a step away from the two ponies and towards the door. “I think I hear an ice cream sundae calling my name at Sugarcube Corner… I’ll… just…”

“I met this same zebra briefly this afternoon,” the Doctor explained, ignoring his young dragon friend. “And she reacted to me… badly.”

“So what? Just because you had a bad experience with her doesn't mean you can't still help her!” Twilight shook her head.

“I can’t interfere in something like this, Twilight. It’s dangerous!” the Time Lord countered.

“You do it all the time!” Twilight stomped a hoof as Spike snuck out the door, closing it behind him as he put distance between himself and the arguing ponies.

“Yes, but only while operating from an outside perspective. This is somepony you know; part of your own personal history. Somepony that somehow recognized me. That puts this into the ‘more dangerous than usual’ bin. If we're not careful, this situation could easily turn into another paradox. Do you really want to have another Reaper rampaging through Ponyville?”

“Wait, Zecora recognized you?” Twilight turned a bit, giving the Doctor a sideways look. “What did she say?”

“Did I mention possibility of a paradox? Time monster… devouring the town to clean up? I seem to remember mentioning that.”

“What did she say?” Twilight asked again, clearly seeing this as being an important clue as to why the Hourglass Stallion was being so hesitant.

“Oh… it was nothing… too strange.” The Doctor waved a hoof, although his tone indicated that this was not entirely true. “She was just shouting at me as she... ran away at full gallop... There might have been some name-calling.”

“You’re refusing to help her because she called you names!?” Twilight reared back in disgust. “She’s dying!”

“Twilight… we’re all dying,” the Doctor said blankly.

Twilight was taken aback. This was her friend she was talking about. “...How can you be so cold about this?” She drooped, her expression showing a pained disappointment.

“Twilight, I’m simply stating a fact.” The Doctor shook his head, clearly growing uncomfortable with this conversation. “You and I, Spike, and everypony that is out there… We’re all dying. Every day. But at the same time we’re living. We’re mortal… That’s what we do.”

“But… you can save her... Can't you at least try?”

The Doctor sighed. “I learned a long time ago… that I can’t save everyone, Twilight. No matter how much I want to,” the Doctor said, his tone falling. “And even if I tried, she may not even want my help. And if I go to force my help on her, I could easily learn something that could cause another paradox. We got lucky last time, Twilight. No one was hurt.”

The purple unicorn lowered her gaze, remembering all too well the monster that had been unleashed in the Toy Shop on the day of the Bloom Festival.

“I am just starting to get used to this town,” the Doctor admitted. “I don’t want to be the one to put it at risk.”

“I…” Twilight’s eyes, like her mood, were downcast as she listened to what the Doctor had to say. “I just…”


The Doctor and Twilight turned to the door as it cracked open.

“Um, excuse me... Twilight? Doctor?”

“Fluttershy? What are you doing here?” Twilight asked, surprised as the timid pegasus opened the door the rest of the way and slipped inside, shutting it behind her as if she were trying to be secretive. “I thought you were staying with Apple Bloom and Zecora.”

“Oh, I was… but I... well…”

“Did something happen?”

“Oh, yes… Well, no. I mean… Zecora’s still okay. I left Apple Bloom with her and told the doctors to contact Big Macintosh and Granny Smith to let them know she was there,” Fluttershy said quickly, rubbing her left foreleg with her right hoof. “But I wanted to talk to you, Doctor. I know where I want to go now.”

Twilight drew back for a moment in shock. “Uh, Fluttershy? I’m happy for you and all… but I don’t think this is the time for--”

“Actually, you know what? It’s the perfect time.” The Doctor moved over to Fluttershy’s side, causing the shy pony to draw back just a bit as he set a leg over her shoulders. “I’ve been looking forward to this, Fluttershy. You know, I really have. I’m sure that you’re just the filly that knows where we might go to have a nice… peaceful trip.”

The Doctor’s smile and enthusiasm were forced, Twilight could tell. Clearly, he was trying to detach himself from what was happening with Zecora and distract his suppressed impulse to help with a jaunt in the TARDIS.

“You don’t have to come, Twilight. I’m sure that Fluttershy and I can find a nice… glade to relax in, or something. So! Where to, Fluttershy, my dear? Anywhere you like!” The Doctor flashed a full grin.

“I want to go to Zebrica. A place called Mount Thunder Drum… about twenty-five years ago or so?” the pegasus said in her usual soft manner.

The Doctor’s grin and enthusiasm were punctured in an instant while Twilight's were simultaneously raised. “Zebrica…?” he asked, removing his foreleg from her shoulder.

“That’s right,” Fluttershy confirmed.

“As in, the place that zebras come from?”

“I see you’ve been studying.” Twilight smirked slightly.

“Kind of obvious from the name, wouldn't you say?” The Doctor shook his head, looking to Twilight suspiciously. “Did you two plan this?”

“First that I’ve heard about it,” Twilight replied honestly. “But you did say anywhere.”

The Doctor’s eyes widened as the two mares watched him, Twilight moving around to Fluttershy’s side as he walked away. “Oh, no… I can see what's going on here.” The Doctor shook his head vibrantly. “This trip has an agenda! As I recall, Rule Number Two--”

“Doesn’t apply,” Twilight interrupted quickly. “Doctor, twenty-five years ago goes back to before either of us were even born, so it’s not part of our personal timelines. It’s outside of Equestria, so it can’t influence our families either.”


“Doctor…” Fluttershy tilted her head, her eyes shimmering slightly. “We have to go… please.”

The Time Lord swayed his head back and forth, clearly engaging in an internal debate before he huffed stubbornly. “For the last time, I refuse to get involved in this! I can’t! And nothing either of you say can convince me otherwise.”

Twilight and Fluttershy exchanged a look before both turned back to the Doctor.

“Fluttershy… Hit him.”

The Doctor drew back at this flat instruction, rather surprised. “Violence, Twilight? Really? I had thought you were more… more…” The Doctor paused, catching a sudden change in the pegasus’ demeanor and posture; the way her ears suddenly flattened, her pupils expanding as her lower lip trembled… her eyes rimmed with tears as she made a soft, sad squeal.


Ninety seconds later

“Alright! So, Zebrica!” The Doctor rushed to the center console as Twilight closed the door behind her, still smirking as Fluttershy fluttered over quietly. “Where I’m sure stripes are always in fashion. Now, to be absolutely clear: This is a quick drop in. We’ll see the sights, stay an hour tops… then right back. No getting involved with anything, am I clear!?” the Doctor directed as he grasped a pulley-switch in his teeth, then hit a button.

“Oh, yes, Doctor. Absolutely crystal clear.” Fluttershy nodded obediently, still smiling softly. “We’ll stop, pick up what we need from the nearest shop, and come right back.”

“And don’t think that trick will work a second time… I’m on to you Miss ‘I’m so innocent.’” The Doctor glared accusingly at Fluttershy, who withdrew half a step.

“Why, I have no idea what you mean, Doctor.”

The Doctor shuddered a bit, looking away before he could have another lapse of reason on account of the yellow pegasus and focusing on the purple unicorn, who had taken the opportunity to grab several books from the library shelves before they came down to the basement where the TARDIS had been resting. “Alright, Twilight, where am I going?”

“Let’s see… according to my Equis World Reference…” Twilight levitated a large red book with an emblem resembling a globe on the cover in front of her, flipping the pages open in a swirl of purple magic. “Ah, here it is: 'Zebrica, discovered by Polo the Explorer in 1521 A.R. on his eastward voyage around the world, lies to the south of the Camel-held deserts of the Sandhara.'”

The Doctor paused, glancing around the TARDIS’ time rotor to give Twilight a puzzled stare. “Sandhara? Please tell me you’re making that up.”

“Why would I?” Twilight shrugged.

“Oh… no reason.” The Doctor shook his head, amazed that he was still even surprised by the ever-growing number of puns and wordplays that he encountered before Twilight continued to read.

“‘The temperate landscape is home to a diverse array of exotic flora and many unique creatures that roam the wild plains, of which few ponies have ever witnessed. Native to this vast, untamed frontier are the Zebra Tribes, a variant species of earth pony. Little is known about their culture due to the insular, nomadic nature of the tribes, typically numbering in the hundreds, which continue to exist in a foraging and gathering society much like the pre-civilized ponies of the Wild Era, with only the largest and strongest tribes maintaining permanent settlements around sites of spiritual and cultural significance.’”

“That’s very enlightening, but I need something I can plug in for coordinates Twilight,” the Doctor told the unicorn.

“Well, I have a world map here. It’s a little dated, but it has longitudes and latitudes. And I can see Canterlot on it... Hold on a minute...” Twilight squinted a bit, looking closely at the detailed map. “Yes! Thunder Drum Mountain is listed on it. It must be one of those permanent zebra settlements.”

“Oh, good! Good!” The Doctor motioned her to levitate the book over to see the map for himself. “Alright, let’s see… that looks like the equatorial line… assuming static latitudes… factoring in orbital velocity…”

“Ummm, what’s he talking about?” Fluttershy asked, looking to Twilight curiously.

“Honestly? I think he makes it up as he goes,” Twilight told her as she watched the Doctor rush around the console, his hooves clicking against the glass floor before he pulled one more lever.

“Right, quick trip to the past and back! Nothing to worry about! Won’t be any problem at all!” the Doctor reassured himself as the TARDIS began to rock violently, Twilight already catching hold of a railing while Fluttershy, far less experienced, found herself tumbling as their entire world shifted.