• Published 1st Dec 2011
  • 24,168 Views, 529 Comments

Doctor Whooves - The Series: Episode Two - Game of Stones - Loyal2Luna



Twilight, Rainbow and Applejack travel 3000 years into the past with their new friend the Doctor, to the ancient city-state of Roan. They meet the famous Leonard DiHoovsie, and find themselves embroiled in a deep mystery with dark implications.

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Ch. 1: One Ponyville Morning

Chapter 1: One Ponyville Morning




Sweet Apple Acres
Ponyville, Everfree Province of Equestria
5th of Summer, 1001 C.R. (Celestia’s Reign), 8:45 a.m.

Applejack wandered downstairs from her bedroom at a slow trot this morning, her mane and tail a bit frazzled as they had been quickly forced into the rubber bands that let her manage her long blonde hair during the workday. But even as she walked into the kitchen, already quite alive with the sounds of movement and the fetching aroma of cinnamon-apple buns, she felt just a bit better. Even if her body was weary and her mind was a thousand miles away, the orange farm pony could always appreciate that scent.

Apple Bloom, who had retreated only scant minutes before from a barrage of incredibly stiff pillows, was already seated at the table next to Granny Smith, who actually looked quite alert this morning -- no mean feat for a pony pushing well over a hundred -- while Big Macintosh moved about the kitchen fluidly despite his great size and heft.

The Apple Family kitchen, easily the largest room in the house with its three baking ovens and pony-sized apple wash stall, was the only place in all of Ponyville where Big Mac ever took off the yoke harness that he was famed for wearing, now hanging on a hook over the stove-top and making him seem slightly smaller than any other time.

Applejack felt a slight pang of guilt as she remembered that it was supposed to be her turn to fix breakfast this morning. And it seemed that, as usual when she slacked off, her workhorse big brother was right there to make up for it.

“Well, good mornin’, Big Sis!” Apple Bloom spoke up as Applejack trudged into the room, a smug, superior-looking grin on her face as she savored a rare victory against the mare who often scolded her for sleeping in. “And here we was thinkin’ y'all ’d be up there snoozin’ away till noon.”

Applejack mumbled back something unintelligible under her breath, sounding a bit like Granny Smith as she moved to the table and sat back on her haunches. Her hat slightly askew and with discolored bags under her eyes, her attention was whole worlds away from engaging in a verbal sparring with the youngest Apple Family filly. Something which said filly seemed to take as a personal invitation to press the issue.

“Welp, if y'all wanna hop back up to bed, Ah could bring breakfast on up for ya.” Apple Bloom continued to smirk, attempting to elicit some response from the proud farm pony. “Big Mac an’ Ah’ll handle the tendin’ an’ the weedin’. You just rest up. Tell ya what, Ah’ll take the cart on into town an’ see if Ah can find Rarity. The two a’ y'all can spend the day paintin’ each other’s hooves and gossipin’ up fer--”

“Bloom, that’s enough.”

The filly fell silent as Big Mac moved to the table, precariously balancing a plate in each forehoof and two more on his head before managing to shift the goods to the table, each an appropriately sized bun to match the appetites of those gathered, still steaming and warm from the oven.

The large, red stallion’s tone had been soft, as it always was, but there was a definite hint of concern in his voice as he looked Applejack up and down, the mare’s eyes still sagging and her head slightly bowed even at the table.

“Must’ve been some party Pinkie threw last night…” Big Mac started, his voice solid but hinting ever so subtly that he was hardly convinced as to that explanation.

Applejack almost froze up as her eyes widened considerably. He was asking about last night... About what had happened…

Of course they were asking. How could she have not been prepared for them asking? She was out late and didn’t come back until well into the early morning, which would have been difficult enough without the extra hours of time she had actually spent out of the house that they weren’t even aware of.

What was she supposed to tell them?

That last night, she and her closest friends had encountered an ancient, alien stallion with a magic box, who took them to the Moon, with the whole of Equis glowing with beautiful pastel greens and blues and whites right over their heads? That he had given them instructions and rules on traveling with him, hinting that it was to be only the first of many trips across all of the universe? Across time and space itself, where nopony had ever gone before? And then, for good measure -- and, she figured, simply to show off -- taking them deep into space to see a wondrous nebula from the doorway of the magic box that was so much larger on the inside, a comet crossing their gaze so closely she could have picked out every imperfection on its surface and how the shimmering air and tail around it glowed against the backdrop of that swirling orange and red cloud in space?

That she had seen something so powerful and moving that, even here at the breakfast table, remembering and focusing on it threatened to bring a tear to her eye?

All of that… and she had promised, not just to her friends or even to the mysterious stallion, but (by extension) to Princess Celestia herself that she would keep it a secret.

Applejack didn’t like secrets… and worst of all, she hated lying in order to keep a secret. But even more than that, she knew that she couldn’t break this promise. This wasn’t like a surprise birthday party for Pinkie or smiling while Big Mac told Granny Smith that Sweet Apple Acres was doing "just fine" even as they were dipping into the red ink right out of the gate for the season. This was so much bigger than that.

Even if it was right there on the tip of her tongue and she had to physically swallow to avoid it bursting out of her mouth, she simply tried to force a smile.

“Err… yeah. Some… party.” Applejack chuckled weakly, her teeth gritting together as she held the expression in place.

Big Mac nodded while Granny Smith said nothing, simply lifting her half-sized bun to bite into. Unfortunately for Applejack, however, her younger sister had not yet learned that there were times when it was best to just let something go.

“Hold on, you’ve been ta dozens a' Pinkie Pie’s parties and she ain’t never done things so crazy that ya turned inta a no-fun zombie-pony the next mornin’. Jeez, Sis, what in tarnation’s wrong witcha?” Apple Bloom cocked her head to one side curiously. “Did y'all get inta the cider from the far back shelf of the storage shed or sumthin’?”

Applejack was about to protest this allegation when Granny Smith came to her rescue.

“Ehhh… An’ what exactly do y'all know 'bout back shelf cider, little Missy?” the ancient pony inquired, her voice ragged and more than a bit dry with age, but still dangerously edged.

Apple Bloom’s eyes went wide as Applejack was allowed to relax, the subject pulled away from her as the more devious younger filly tried to work her way out of yet another circumstance where her loose lips had let on that she knew something that she shouldn’t have.

Applejack munched quietly on her bun, not paying any real attention as Big Mac and Granny Smith proceeded to double-team the filly on the reasons not to go anywhere near the heavily fermented cider that was kept as part of a "select stock" of Sweet Apple Acres. Her thoughts instead turned back to that time in Manehattan.

It had been over ten years ago now when she had attended that art gallery, bored almost to tears. She remembered that was the night that her Aunt and Uncle Orange had invited some of their friends who had been at the gallery as well to dinner, where she was supposed to dazzle them with how "sophisticated" she was.

It was a story she had told to the self-proclaimed Cutie Mark Crusaders only a few months back, about how she had witnessed Rainbow Dash’s Sonic Rainboom the next morning and had come back home where she belonged right after. Her tale had been so focused on that particular part of her memories that she had forgotten to mention the things she had seen the night before. It had never seemed important until just now. But now that she thought about it, she found herself conflicted.

That art had been old. Ancient, even. Painted way back before Princess Celestia had even been born. Or, for that matter, before Equestria as they knew it had been formed, if she remembered her pony history properly from school -- something she was sure Twilight could verify. And yet, there it had been, supposedly painted by a pony even simple farm-folk had heard of that lived thousands of years ago.

Did that mean the Doctor was going to go back and visit that time, or did it mean he already had? But if he already had, then didn’t that just mean that he was going to eventually? Did that mean she was going to see it as well? If he had only just arrived in the past few days, how could that painting have already been there when she was a filly? What if she went and told the Time Pony about it? What would he do? What if she didn’t tell him, and he never went back in the first place? If he didn’t go back, then who painted that picture of the blue box?

Twilight had said that the Doctor traveled around fixing things. What if there was something back then that needed to be fixed? What if it didn’t get fixed? Maybe there wouldn’t have been a gallery exhibit. And if there wasn’t a gallery, they may not have had those city ponies over for dinner.

What if she hadn’t made a foal of herself in front of Aunt and Uncle Orange’s friends? Would she still have been up looking out the window that next morning? Would she have seen that rainbow?

What if none of it even had anything to do with this crazy Time Pony, and she was just misremembering what she saw because of a crazy dream?

Applejack could almost feel her brain scrambling inside her head as she tried to think about the sheer complexities of the proposed time travel. Shaking her head, she feared if she didn’t stop thinking about it, her eyes would end up rolling around like the local mailmare’s.

“AJ?” Big Mac brought the mare’s attention back down to Equis, surprising her when she realized that not only had she barely eaten any of her own cinnamon bun, but that Granny Smith and Apple Bloom had already finished and left the kitchen without her even noticing.

“Wha…? Whoa. Kinda lost in mah own little world there. Sorry, Big Mac. Y'all need help with the dishes?” Applejack tried to smile and get up as Big Macintosh looked her over.

“What’s wrong?”

“Wrong? Oh, psssh... Wrong?” Applejack tried to keep the smile on her snout, feeling a cold sweat break out down her face as she looked this way and that. “Shoot… ain’t nothin’ really wrong. Ah feel fine. Jus’ some… bad dreams is all.”

“AJ...” Big Macintosh shook his head, the red pony’s tone causing Applejack to drop the façade.

He didn’t have to say it. She already knew she was the downright worst liar in the history of Equestria.

“Aw, goshdarnit, Big Brother. Look... Ah can’t talk about it. Not that Ah don’t wanna, Ah jus’ can’t! Ah promised.”

“…”

At Big Mac's silence, Applejack continued on, moving from her seat and pacing around the kitchen as she opened up a bit more. “Ah mean, nopony’s in danger or nuthin’. At least, Ah don’t think so. Jus’, it’s about this business wit’ the Princess… Ah think Ah can tell ya that much. Twi’s got this new friend an’ we’re all tryin’ ta… ya know… make ‘im feel welcome.”

“...”

“But Ah don’t know. Ah mean, somethin’ ‘bout ‘im jus’... sits like a bushel a’ scrumpy apples in the belly, ya know? Not sayin’ he’s mean or bad or nuthin’. Shoot, he’s downright charmin’, Ah guess. An’ smart. An’ kinda funny. But also kinda intimidatin’, ya know what Ah mean?”

“…”

“Twilight trusts ‘im. An’ I trust Twi. So, Ah guess Ah should give ‘im a chance at least.” Applejack kept going, feeling a bit more awake as she had the chance to work things out aloud. “An’ Ah did learn from that mess wit’ Zecora that ya can’t be afraid a’ nopony jus’ cause they’re different, right? So, maybe Ah’m worried ‘bout nuthin’, an’ Ah should just talk to ‘im. Ah mean, what’s the harm in talkin’?”

“…”

The orange mare moved up to the larger red pony and set her neck affectionately against his for a moment. “Yer right, Ah can’t jus’ sit around thinkin’ about it. Ah gotta do somethin’ about it. Wow, that sure is a weight off mah back. Thanks, Big Mac. These talks always do me a world a’ good. Ah feel better already! But, Ah better go talk ta that crazy pony real quick. Do ya think the farm can spare me jus’ fer a few hours?”

Big Mac took a moment before answering, walking over to where his yoke hung on the wall and taking it in both hooves. He tossed it up in the air before maneuvering to allow it to fall perfectly around his head, onto his shoulders, setting it back into its proper place. “Eeeeeyup.”

Nodding to the stallion, Applejack proceeded to race out the door at a steady canter. All she wanted was to just talk to the pony and see if he had any thoughts on that silly story from her foalhood. No trouble.

It wasn’t as if it was the end of Equestria, or something.

————————
Carousel Boutique
Ponyville
9:13 a.m.

“This is the end of Equestria as we know it!” an off-white filly exclaimed, her violet-pink curled hair a tangle and her eyes remaining wide in panic as she tried to keep her fear from getting the best of her.

“Not to fear, I think I see the problem,” the strange stallion replied calmly, leaning down to have a closer look.

Sweetie Belle shifted uncomfortably on her hooves as she looked worriedly upstairs for a sign of the horrifying, razor-clawed monster that she knew would come out at any moment and find them. And knowing her sister’s habit of always catching her at the worst times, Rarity would be right behind that overfed puffball of a cat.

The Carousel Boutique had only just opened a few minutes ago, Rarity having asked her younger sister to wait for her downstairs while she prepared a few "special" ensembles for a "special" customer that she was expecting, and to let her know when he arrived. It had been a simple enough thing, she had thought, like that time Mister Marmalade or that hoity-toity fashion pony (What was his name? She couldn’t remember.) had come to call about this or that order.

And while she waited, what was the harm in bouncing around the new Super Bouncy Ball that Scootaloo had given her yesterday?

The answer to that question came in a matter of moments, as she lost control of a bounce and the ricocheting ball took the worst possible path, redirecting awkwardly off the walls where she couldn’t catch it before crashing right into an antique coo-coo clock, sending it careening to the floor.

She was finished, and she knew it.

That clock had been a collectible that came all the way from Canterlot and had cost Rarity more than a few bits because of its intricate woodwork and artistic styling. And she had broken it.

Then the door had opened, and there he was: the brown stallion in a fine suit and bow-tie that was definitely her sister’s work. Fashion might not have been her talent, but Sweetie Belle had been around the boutique long enough to recognize her sister’s style.

When she saw his cutie mark, she knew that Celestia had heard her silent pleas. A feeling that was only compounded when he rushed right over to see the problem, answering her question of, "Sir, can you fix a clock!?" with a soft smile.

“Absolutely nothing to worry about, sweetie,” the brown stallion remarked, turning the clock over in his hooves as he looked at the cracks and noted the bronze gears that were now rattling around in its face.

The filly gasped slightly. “How did you know my name?”

“Sweetie? Your name is Sweetie? Really?” The stallion looked confused for a moment, looking away from the clock as if her name was far more interesting. “Huh... Well, fancy that. Although I shouldn’t be surprised, given the naming practices in this particular culture.”

“Uhhh... Yep! I’m Sweetie Belle,” Sweetie answered, not quite sure what this strange stallion was talking about. "Soooo, can you fix it, Mister…?”

"Doctor."

"Mister Doctor?"

“No, just Doctor. And of course I can.” He twisted the clock somewhat violently, breaking it open as Sweetie cringed, gears popping apart while he worked and continued to talk. “Good to see that night I spent assisting David Rittenhouse won’t go to waste. And here I thought my mate Benny was just wanting to get rid of me in order to attend Dashwood’s club. Aaaanyways, I’m sure this time we’ll finish up, at least. No redcoats to come in and start ransacking the place now, are there?”

“...Are you sure you’re a doctor? Why do you have an hourglass for a cutie mark?” Sweetie tilted her head a bit, watching him for a moment in shock and confusion. She found herself looking towards the stallion’s flank, and wondering if maybe the mark should be a straitjacket. “Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever seen an hourglass mark before… What sort of special talent is an hourglass?”

From up the stairs, there was a sudden sing-song voice that chilled Sweetie Belle to the bone in spite of its pleasant tone. “Oh, Doctor? Is that you, dear? I’m not quite ready yet… Just give me a few moments to get these last few samples together.”

Sweetie met the Doctor’s eyes after a moment, the two ponies sharing the same horrified look. “What's my sister getting together?”

“No idea… And I’m not sure I want to know. So, you must be Rarity’s little sister, eh? And I guess that means this is Rarity’s clock?”

“Ya-huh...” Sweetie deflated, expecting a lecture on taking responsibility for one’s actions to come at any second from the adult pony.

“Well then, we’d better get this thing back together before she finds out, shouldn’t we?” The Doctor’s tone was playful, a smirk on his face as he shifted the clock around in his hooves a moment longer. “Let’s see... That should about do it… Hmm… Screwdriver, top pocket. Could you get that for me? I shouldn’t set these halves down. Also, just curious: If you’re ‘Sweetie Belle,’ doesn’t that make your sister’s full name ‘Rarity Belle’? The naming conventions here are still a bit over my-- Oh, dear, I don’t think that pin is supposed to go there. Alright, screwdriver, please.”

Sweetie was briefly stunned by his response and whip-lashing changes of subject, having to shake her head for a moment before assisting. Moving up and edging the metal tube thing from his pocket and lifting it up a bit, she stood up on her hind hooves as he took it in his teeth and pointed the device at the clock, the tip lighting up and making a strange whirring noise.

“What is that thing?” she asked.

“Honick hrewdrivar,” the Doctor replied with his mouth full, still maneuvering a bit here and there as the light flashed and the metal tube whirred. “Hit hixes dhings.”

Not sure what else she could do, Sweetie Belle watched in confusion, confused as to how he could possibly be fixing the clock when the stallion wasn’t even touching it with the tool. For a few seconds, there was quiet, the filly’s eyes darting back and forth between this "Doctor" and the door upstairs where Rarity was certain to come through any moment and discover the terrible deed.

Would she shout? Yell? Would she hate her? Would she send her back to their parents for the day? Or a week? Or forever?

*Whirrr*
*Click-clack*

“And there we go, good as new!” the Doctor announced, the clock now put back together and held in one hoof as he used the other to replace the strange device in his coat pocket. “One hoofmade clock with a few new features. Complete with a working coo-coo, timing, chiming hands, phases of the Moon, automatic winding, a perpetual motion pendulum, automatic time-change, (You do have timezones here, don’t you? No? What about Daylight Savings Time? Anyways,) barometer, thermometer, calculator, Geiger Counter... Oh, and look at that, a little red button.”

The Doctor paused as Sweetie Belle’s jaw all but hit the floor. She had absolutely no idea what this Doctor was saying, but looking at the ticking clock, she found that it didn’t matter. It was ticking, and all of the broken pieces on the front looked like they had never even been broken. Even the glass face of the clock, which had been cracked, looked brand new. He had fixed it completely in a matter of moments.

“Not quite sure what the little red button does, but it’s little and red, so it can’t be anything good... You may want to leave that alone.” He smiled, tossing the clock casually to the filly, who had to leap forward in terror, sliding on her stomach in order to catch it and prevent it from smashing into the floor again.

“How…? How did…?”

“Oh, and hold onto this.” The Doctor lightly kicked the Super Bouncy Ball, which had been forgotten in the panic over the clock itself and left on the floor, sending it rolling to the white filly’s nose. “You never know when one of those might come in handy.”

“Oh, Doctor~” The door upstairs opened again and the resident fashionista stepped out, a set of orange spectacles with sparkling sequins at the flared corners adorning her face as she grinned, beaming brightly towards the "special" customer, then noticing Sweetie Belle. “Oh, dear. I’m sorry, Sweetie, I just got so wrapped up, I almost forgot you were down here. So sorry, Clockwork. I hope she hasn’t been a bother.”

As Rarity apologized, moving down the steps, Sweetie took a step back, realizing that her sister hadn’t even noticed that she had the expensive coo-coo clock still in her hooves.

This was very strange.

She seemed fixated on the brown stallion, and there was something odd about when she said his name, "Clockwork," her tone rising as if she were emphasizing it, implying something peculiar about the name itself.

“Oh, no bother at all,” the Doctor explained, nodding a bit as he set a hoof on Sweetie’s head. “Your darling sister here was just showing me this fascinating timepiece. Really, a show of extraordinary taste. And such a sweetheart shouldn’t stay cooped up in a boutique all day, I might add. It might be better if she was outside, having fun, playing with friends, wouldn't you say?”

Sweetie could hardly believe it. Here was a grownup stallion -- a responsible adult -- lying through his teeth just to keep her out of trouble.

Rarity gave the stallion a questioning look at this. “I’m sorry, have you met my sister yet?“

“Oh, I have. And take it from somebody--”

“Somepony,” Rarity corrected quickly.

“Somepony who knows…” the Doctor backtracked. “Creative, talented, restless young pony, plus boredom, multiplied by no fewer than three dozen breakables in easy view...”

Rarity suddenly found herself looking around the shop, at the swaths of fabric rolls, the fanciful decorations, and the cases of jewels intended for her higher grade fashions.

Sweetie Belle noticed her sister’s eye twitch slightly from behind her glasses.

“Does this sound like a formula for good things?” the stallion concluded.

“...Sweetie, darling,” Rarity started after an awkward moment of silence. “Would you… rather go out today with your friends?”

“...Yeeeeeah?” Sweetie answered, more than a bit surprised. Her sister didn’t trust her to make a glass of water, let alone go off unsupervised to join up with the other Cutie Mark Crusaders outside of school.

“Well, if you'd like, how about you go on out and have some fun today? Just… be back in time for lunch, won’t you, dear?”

Sweetie Belle instantly perked up. Getting out of waiting around the boutique for hours on end and getting to go out with her friends instead of being sat down for nopony knew how long for breaking her sister's clock?

This was incredible!

“Now then, back to business. It’s so very good of you to drop in this morning, Clockwork.”

“You left a note with Spike. Said it was urgent and that I needed to come straight away…” The Doctor narrowed his eyes suspiciously. “What exactly is this abou--”

Absolutely urgent! Now, come along. Upstairs, I’ll show you.” Rarity moved up to the Doctor’s flank, stopping him in mid-question and nudging him in the direction of the stairs urgently.

“Um…” The Doctor suddenly looked quite uncomfortable as he tried to dig his hooves into the carpet to combat Rarity’s shoving, to no avail. “You know what? Perhaps this could wait for another time.”

“Oh, nonsense. Come along now, darling. I’ve got something absolutely magnificent in mind.”

“‘Darling’?” The Doctor’s confident expression faltered as he found himself suddenly being pushed by an abnormally sturdy mare towards the stairs up to the main workshop area.

As he was ushered up the steps, unable to quite push past the smaller white mare, his blue eyes fell to Sweetie Belle with a silent plea.

Help me…

Sweetie watched the door close behind her sister, the clock still in her hooves as she tried to figure out what had just happened.

Rarity never just let her go like that. She loved her sister dearly, of course, but if there was one thing that Sweetie knew was an absolute truth about Rarity, it was that her need for perfection in nearly everything tended to make her almost a smothering influence on the young filly.

She came to just two conclusions: Grownups are weird… And there was something very strange going on about this "Doctor Clockwork." And now she had to find out what.

This sounded like a job for the Cutie Mark Crusaders!

————————

“Now, take off your clothes.”

The Doctor’s jaw almost hit the floor. Nothing good ever came of conversations that started this way.

“…and feast your eyes on these!”

This conversation was getting worse by the nanosecond. “Rarity, now hold on! What in the name of--”

*ssshhhink*

The Doctor instantly relaxed. “…Oh, I see. Those are... nice.”

As the curtain was pulled back, the purpose of Rarity’s desire for the Doctor’s company became clear. It revealed several pony-shaped dress forms, each fitted with different designs and styles, in a small wardrobe of stylish selections that had been set up.

“What did you think I was getting at?” Rarity asked, raising a brow curiously.

“Oh, nothing at all. Absolutely nothing. So… a new suit?” The Doctor paused, his relief turning to moderate confusion. “But, Rarity, you’ve already made me a suit. Three of them, in fact. Two of which I believe I’ve ruined. None of which I’ve yet to compensate you for, by the way. And they are perfectly good suits. Why would I need…?” He paused again, looking over the selections as his train of thought was derailed by the absurd yet again. “Is that one spandex?”

“Now, now, my darling Doctor. As the premiere fashion designer of Ponyville, I simply cannot allow such a unique visitor to the lands of Equestria to be seen in just any old rags.”

“But… you designed those 'rags.'”

“I never look back, darling. It distracts from the now.” Rarity waved him off with a hoof. “You see, I threw those old things together before I found out what and who you are, Doctor. For somepony planning on going out and having adventures with all of the running and the jumping and all of that, such a coat could be an impediment! What you need is something more suited to the task, and I simply shall not take no for an answer, dear. If you’re going to go trotting off all around the universe and across Equestrian history, I am going to make sure that you are all set for any occasion. Now then, onward to fabulousity!”

The Doctor cringed. This was going to be difficult.

————————

Looking in the mirror, the Doctor’s newest face, a pony reflection that he never could have dreamed being his own, looked back at him. His chest, hindquarters, and legs were all gleaming with a fine silvery material that felt as light and breezy as wearing woven water -- a specific fabric he had just so happened to come into contact with years and years ago -- but looked almost like a tin foil jumper.

“You like?” Rarity grinned as her image appeared next to his in the mirror. “The material just screams ‘science,’ repels just about any liquid, and it breathes like it’s not even there. Perfect for days out on those strange and mysterious planets. I call it the Silver Zoot!”

“I call it… horrendous,” the Doctor replied in a deadpan tone that would have given Rainbow Dash a run for her money. “Subtlety, Rarity. A bit more subtlety.”

————————

The mirror’s image looked back at the Doctor; certainly an improvement, but still missing the point, as Rarity hovered around behind him in the mirror’s reflection. It was a formal Earth look, to be sure. Coat and tails for ponies, it seemed, with a purple bow-tie and a top hat that sat awkwardly on his spiky mane. All four hooves had coverings that completed the ensemble, though the Time Lord was unsure if they were supposed to be cuffs, socks, or some form of shoes.

“Actually, I got this idea from Pinkie Pie. I reworked it a bit, and let out the chest. I call it the Agent. Quite fetching.”

“That’s… nice. But I don’t think you were listening before. Subtlety...”

————————

This is your idea of ‘subtle’!?”

The image in the mirror would have been laughable if Rarity had not been so serious about it: The Doctor in a form-fitting red and blue spandex material that covered him from hooves to neck with an enormous "D" across his chest.

“Absolutely not this one! It doesn’t even have pockets! Help me out of this thing, would you?”

Rarity stood several paces behind the Doctor at this point, her dream-glazed eyes looking over his rump as he struggled while focusing on a way to work the outfit off.

“In a minute...” She smirked, watching his flank.

————————

A far simpler-looking pony gazed back now from the mirror, only a red, long-style tie and a set of black glasses adding to his base features.

“Mild-mannered.” Rarity nodded, moving around him. “You asked for... how did you put it? ‘Brainy specs’? Well, here are the ‘brainy specs.’”

“Can I see it with the fez?”

Rarity obliged him, pulling out a red fez that matched the tie and setting it on his head. The Doctor cringed at the result.

“Oh, what was I thinking?” He shook his head disapprovingly. “Alright, maybe this is a little too subtle.”

“Stallions…” Rarity groaned in frustration. “No pleasing them no matter what universe they’re from.”

————————

Tilting his head up slightly, the fedora’s rim gave the Doctor a somewhat shaded view of the latest outfit: a dark, sturdy jacket over his shoulder blades and forelegs, with a rugged-looking shirt underneath it. At his flank, although he had no idea how he was supposed to use it, was a coiled whip set into a thin holster.

Weeeeell? Better?” Rarity poked her head into the mirror's image, grinning.

“I look like an archaeologist,” the Doctor replied flatly.

“And that’s a bad thing?”

“Rarity, I’m a time traveler. I point and laugh at archaeologists.”

“Alright… How about…?”

————————

Standing before the mirror yet again, the Doctor nodded with a smile. “Oh… Oooooh, yeah. Here we go. I am liking this.”

“I thought you might.” Rarity grinned as she walked around the Doctor slowly, making sure everything was in place. “That hoof-band has a watch set into it, as you can see. I’m sure that you’ll be tinkering with it soon enough, but it’s also got a sleeve on the underside to hold that metal tool thingy of yours without it slipping off your hoof. A slight step down will slide it into a catch for storage while a flick of the hoof can extend it to point.”

Sonic screwdriver. Really, is that so hard to remember?” the Doctor asked, although he had to admit, the design of the "hoof-band," as Rarity had termed, it was indeed ingenious, its sophistication far beyond what he would have considered for a mere clothiers shop, and solving any number of problems he had anticipated in the use of his most trusty tool.

“But why would you call it that? It doesn't even look like a screwdriver.”

The Doctor didn’t dignify the question with an answer, merely shaking his head. Slowly, but surely, he was becoming used to the various peculiarities of his newest companions.

“In any case," the ivory mare continued. "The vest is formed snug, but allows for a full gallop without impacting movement of the forelegs. Multiple pockets with this side satchel allows for easy carrying of small items and is fully secured as part of the outfit, meaning you won’t need to carry around a saddlebag all of the time. And, to top it all off, it’s a tough, sturdy fabric made from Harsh Tree pulp, a buffalo staple crop imported all the way from Appleloosa. It repels stains, moisture, and cleans fairly easily, which seems to be something you desperately need. Really, going through three suits in as many days?”

“All of that, eh? I could have sworn it was just leather.”

“Leather? What’s that?” Rarity asked innocently.

“Oh, leather? It’s cured hide from a… a... Um…” The Doctor paused as his train of thought caught on yet another hitch of this particular universe. “You know what? Never mind. Not important.”

“Very well. Moving on, we have the ever-fashionable bow-tie, like you requested. A bit smaller than what you’re used to, but it still gets the point across.”

“I agree. The bow-tie is still cool.”

“And while I can’t recommend a good set of ‘brainy specs’ to go with this particular set, I do have these!”

Rarity sidled up next to the Doctor, pulling something over his head and under his mane which snapped to form as she let it go, a slight extra weight over his eyes.

He looked back into the mirror. “Rarity, my dear, you’ve truly outdone yourself.”

The white unicorn beamed at the praise as the Doctor reached up and pulled the dark goggles down over his eyes, enjoying the moment as he looked himself over.

“The Doctor…” He raised the goggles back into place, his expression delighted by the effect. “…is in!”

————————
Books and Branches Library
Ponyville
10:50 a.m.

While Twilight had long since become accustomed to her blue pegasus friend crashing into her home or coming to visit with the other girls, she had to admit to having never seen Rainbow Dash in the Books and Branches before today just for the sake of finding something to read.

But since this morning, there she had been, putting Spike to work since he had gotten out of bed and going through several shelves and multiple volumes to find what she was after. That is, until the dragon finally gave up and left in a huff to go get something to eat, leaving Rainbow hopelessly lost as she tried to find something of, as she termed it, "an appropriate level of awesome" for her first trip in the TARDIS.

Something that she seemed to find for perhaps the sixth time since she had arrived.

“I got it!”

A heavy book was set down on top of Twilight’s current reading project, Theory of Temporal Magics by New Webb the Eccentric, the page of Rainbow Dash’s newest find depicting a portrait of nine pegasi dated 451 C.R, over five hundred and fifty years ago.

By now, Twilight was tiring of holding her irritation in check at the constant interruptions. But as excitable as Rainbow Dash was right now, she knew that it wouldn’t be right to send her off while she was trying to do actual research, even if she knew all too well why the rainbow-maned pegasus was so intent on history all of a sudden.

“And who are they?” Twilight questioned, trying to sound interested even if she already knew the answer.

“Who are they? Oh, only Slipstream the Mad Mare and the Thunder Chasers, the first ever pegasus team to break up a wild storm! And this was before Night and Sunny Shift, don’t forget, back when all weather was wild, so they didn’t have anything to go on! Nopony had ever done something that big before!” Rainbow shook with excitement as she pulled the book back, flipping through the pages. “How accurate do you think the Doctor can get? I mean, can he land on an exact date? Because according to this, it was the nineteenth day of spring when they tracked down the storm and realized it was going to devastate Trottingham, and then flew in to stop it! So maybe if we can get to the eighteenth of spring, we can watch the whole thing from the beginning!”

Twilight shook her head, smiling in spite of herself. “Rainbow, while I’m sure that would be interesting to watch, maybe you should start with something a little less… dangerous?” Twilight suggested, looking back to her own book as she considered what it said about paradoxes and wondering what the Doctor would think about these theories.

“Oh, come on, Twilight.” Rainbow closed the book and set it aside, flipping a bit in the air. “How can you not be excited by all of this? In case you haven't realized, we have a time machine!”

“Rainbow, it’s not our time machine. And don’t forget, there are rules.”

“Yeah, yeah. I’m already trying to follow Rule Number One.” Rainbow waved the unicorn off. “No ordinary days. And I think this counts as one of the better ones.”

“Don’t think you can go back there and give them pointers or help out. That sort of thing,” the unicorn warned, eying her friend suspiciously.

“What makes you think I would do something like that?” Rainbow Dash looked almost insulted.

Twilight’s smile faded as she went back to her own reading. Unfortunately, she had read the book that Rainbow was holding… and she knew how the story ended. “Look at the next page, Rainbow Dash.”

Her own curiosity now piqued, Rainbow did so, taking a moment to read before her eyes widened with realization.

Dominating this page was a portrait that was made of the same team, dated summer of that year, which depicted only four members of the original nine Thunder Chasers, not including the famed Mad Mare. And unlike the previous picture, none of them were smiling.

“But… But…”

“Rainbow, things haven’t always been so peaceful in Equestria, you know.” Twilight looked up, trying to comfort her friend with facts. “History is, unfortunately, filled with tragedy. Everything we have today has been won over time and learned from hardships that our ancestors have faced since the Wild Era. There was a time, not even that long ago, when there were other horrible dangers out there. Not just in places like the Everfree Forest, but everywhere. You know the Walls of Trottingham? Those weren’t just decorative back when they were built, they were meant to protect the ponies there. Before Manehattan, all of the major pony cities had walls and defenses like that to protect against monsters, dragons, and other sorts of attackers. Weather was really dangerous and a constant threat. Not like now where every once in a very long time, a wild storm might sweep in from places like Everfree or off the oceans, and entire teams of elite stormbreakers can move in to fight it.”

The pegasus' ears lowered, as did her mood, while Twilight made her point.

“If we go back there, it won’t just be ‘history’ or ‘a story’ to us. We’ll be seeing what actually happened, as it happens... And it's not always pretty.”

“...Y-yeah, you’re right. Sorry, I just got a little carried away," the blue mare admitted glumly, then she attempted to shake herself out of her funk. "I want it to be really cool, though. I mean, me… Rainbow Dash... time traveler! What could be cooler than that!?”

Twilight smirked slightly. She did have to admit, the Doctor’s show the night before, up on the Moon and then in deep space to see the Serpent Nebula up close, had been beyond spectacular, and was making her anxious as well to get back into the blue box that was waiting downstairs to see what else they might find.

But unlike with Rainbow, her own experience with time travel was tempered by the knowledge that not everything about it was pleasant.

“How about…” Rainbow started, undeterred as she went to look over the books she had been going through earlier, finally picking one out of the pile. “Aha! 910 C.R. The very first roster and show of the Wonderbolts! Canterlot’s Tenth Annual Aerial Exhibition!”

Twilight smiled at the pegasus’ enthusiasm. “Now that sounds like somewhere to be.”

At that moment, there was a familiar ringing of a bell as the door opened to the library, causing Twilight to react reflexively.

“Welcome to the Books and Branches, where knowledge is at your hooves. What can I…” The unicorn paused in surprise as she noted who had come in. “Oh, hey, Applejack. What are you doing here this time of day?”

“Mornin’ Twi, Rainbow. Uh... listen, have you girls seen…” The farm pony looked around nervously, making absolutely sure that there was nopony else in the library before finishing her question melodramatically. “…the Doctor around?”

“AJ, I know it’s tough for you to keep a secret, but you have got to relax a little bit.” Rainbow tried not to laugh at her good friend’s paranoia as Applejack let go of a breath.

“Ah don’t know how y'all do it. Ah mean, ever since Ah got up this mornin’, Ah’ve had ponies askin’ about how mah night was. What am Ah supposed ta tell ‘em?”

Twilight cocked her head to the side as she too noticed the slight bags under Applejack’s eyes. “Applejack, are you okay? You kinda look like day two of Applebuck Season all over again,” the unicorn observed.

Applejack sighed at the reminder of her week of stubborn sleep deprivation, and drooped a bit where she stood. “Ah guess Ah didn’t sleep well, even after Ah got home. Jus’ kept thinkin’ about what we saw and all,” the blonde mare admitted. “And on top a' that, Ah had this really weird dream… or a memory... Ah don’t know. Anyways, Ah figured Ah needed ta talk ta the Doctor.”

The bell rang again behind Applejack as, just on cue, the chestnut stallion himself strolled in.

“Well, here he is! Hello, girls! Oh, wait… Mares? Or, is it fillies?” The Doctor walked up next to Applejack, confidently strolling with a slight swagger as he showed off his new look. “What do you think? Rarity went and fixed me up. Adventurer’s special!”

“‘Girls’ works just fine, Doctor,” Twilight responded as she took in the sight.

“Whoooaaa… Nice digs, Doc.” Rainbow nodded in approval as Twilight too couldn’t help but appreciate the outfit. Nopony in Ponyville could deny that Rarity knew what she was doing.

Applejack, however, seemed concerned with other things, and before anything else could be said, found herself saying what was on her mind. “Uhhh, Doctor? Do y'all know why yer box was in a three thousand year old paintin’ Ah saw ten years ago?”

At this, the Doctor turned to Applejack with a much more focused and curious expression than before, and she realized a moment later that she suddenly had Twilight’s and Rainbow’s attention as well. In spite of the fact that these were her friends, Applejack felt more than a bit of stage fright at the sudden attention.

“No, I don’t… But I am certainly interested in finding out,” the Doctor said, his tone curious and eager. “Please, Applejack, start at the beginning.”

————————
Inside the TARDIS
Basement of the Books and Branches
11:11 p.m.

“Leonard DiHoovsie?” The Doctor smiled, shaking his head at the name while he moved towards the control panel of the TARDIS, with Twilight, Applejack, and Rainbow Dash following behind. “Fascinating! A mirror counterpart of a historical figure from my universe with an equine-inverted name for a subspecies of horses. Oh, the similarities that abound... So, he was a great painter. What else do we know about him?”

“A great painter...? More like the greatest painter!” Twilight looked at the Doctor incredulously. “Doctor, Master DiHoovsie is a legend! During the Reneighssance he was…” She had to pause as the Doctor caught a fit of the giggles. “And just what do you find so funny about that?”

“Oh, nothing… Nothing at all.” The Time Lord fought to control himself as he looked over the TARDIS' controls. He had learned over the last short while with this world that it seemed to be a perfectly natural part of pony speech to roll the "neigh" sound of their vocabulary with a soft whinny-like vocalization. Something that he had not yet been able to imitate, but that he couldn’t help but find strangely amusing.

“Anyways… Leonard DiHoovsie was nothing short of a genius. He painted, sculpted, and built all sorts of innovative machines. He was the first to categorize the various forms of magic, invented any number of tools and theories, wrote hundreds of theses on alchemy and science...”

“Yeah. Even pegasi recognize him as being the first pony to figure out that it was even possible to manipulate the weather,” Rainbow added, moving up beside Twilight as the Doctor went around the console. “Back in flight school, there was a statue of him sculpted out of black nimbus. Do you have any idea how hard it is to sculpt black nimbus? And he’s a unicorn. Just having any statue in Cloudsdale is a pretty high honor for anypony, but that should put it in perspective.”

"Alright, I get it. This particular pony is a very vital and central part of your cultural identity,” the Doctor noted, his interest growing the more he learned of this particular figure of Equestrian history. “Applejack, you’re saying there was a big to-do about Leonard that you went to when you were young, and there was a painting of the TARDIS there?”

“Yeah... Ah didn’t remember it till after last night. Didn’t seem important… but Ah'm pretty sure it was yer box.” Applejack strained to remember the details of that night. “An' maybe sumthin’ about it maybe bein’ his last work.”

“Wait a minute, Applejack. I’m not an expert on art, but I’ve seen all of the famous DiHoovsie works in books, and I’ve never seen anything he painted that looked like the TARDIS,” Twilight brought up, thinking back to the seven or eight dedicated biographies that were stored in this library alone, not to mention course studies on famous ponies of the past back in Canterlot.

“Well, it weren’t a famous one,” the cowpony explained, though now that she had told the story aloud, she was feeling a bit silly for having brought it up. “It was a big thing about a new art wing in the Manehattan Museum when Ah was with mah Auntie and Uncle Orange. An’ they were showin’ all a’ his stuff, even the thangs that'd been locked away since he passed on.”

“Alright, so, silly question from the alien cross-dimensional time traveler…” The Doctor waved a hoof to get the two mares' attention. “Where did Leonard live, and when?”

“Oh, well, he was born in the town of Hoovsie, hence the title," rattled off the lavender scholar of the group. "But most of his life was spent in Roan on the northeast coast of what's now modern day Equestria, 1471 A.R. to 1538 A.R. That would have been… Hold on… C.R… Si.R... D.R... A.R... About…” Twilight licked her upper lip as she did the math in her head, breaking down the calender as she tried to think on the roll of the years and how the dates tended to change from Reign to Reign. “...three thousand years ago, give or take a decade.”

“Well, girls, there is one very easy way to solve this mystery and find out just what is going on,” the Doctor told them, moving to shift a lever, press several buttons, and pull on a hanging cable with his teeth as the doors to the TARDIS closed.

“We’re going to check out the museum?” Twilight asked, thinking it the next logical step. “But if Applejack was already there, isn’t that breaking Rule Number Two?”

“Yes, it is, which is why we’re not going to Manehattan.”

Applejack’s eyes went wide at the realization while Rainbow smiled, her excitement already catching up as she braced herself against the console. Twilight also braced, even as she voiced her disapproval. “But, Doctor, shouldn’t we at least read up on the era? Try and get an idea of customs and figure out what we’re even looking for first!?”

“Oh, come now, Twilight...” The Doctor grinned, before throwing one more switch.

The TARDIS began to rock violently as Applejack grabbed hold of the railing, with that lyrical, warping sound echoing through the time machine as the Doctor frantically moved around the console, pressing buttons and grasping switches seemingly at random.

“Where’s the fun in that!?”