• Published 16th Aug 2019
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Silent Night - Sixes_And_Sevens



Rumble hates winter. It reminds him of everything he's lost. So when the Doctor takes him back to visit a Frost Faire, he's less than happy. Things only get worse when murder enters into the matter. Will this Hearth's Warming be Rumble's last?

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WITHINTOWHERE A Respiratory Bypass is Very Useful, and a Cunning Plan is Not

“Run!” Rumble yelped, leaping away from the crashing storm of glass jars that fell to the floor as the creatures inside fought their way to freedom. The Flutterponies pulled the pins out of their abdomens and began to rap sharply at the glass imprisoning them. Taxidermied animals began to slowly pull themselves from their fastenings and lumber steadily toward the ponies. The jar of eyeballs… bubbled. Menacingly. As menacingly as a jar full of eyeballs in formaldehyde can be. The Doctor bucked a large table, and it collapsed in the path of many of the attacking corpses. Unfortunately, it also fell directly into Rumble’s escape route.

The colt, seeing the obstacle, skidded on his hooves, spread his wings and leapt into the air. The next moment, however, a hefty weight smacked him back down to the floor. Rumble rolled out of the way of another blow just before it would have turned him into a throw rug. The pegasus stared in horror at the rocky creature. “A cave troll? How did we not see a cave troll?”

“I think it was behind the microscope,” the Doctor said, pulling the colt to his hooves. “Come on! Run!”

“Oh my word,” Maple stammered, staring in horror at a disembodied tentacle that had unfurled off of the wall. “Oh my giddy aunt!”

“Maple! Move!” Rumble shouted. The other pegasus snapped to and leapt away from the grasping appendage.

The trio raced down the steps. Tartan Stripes stepped out of the shadows to glare up at them. “Hey, hey, keep it down up— what th’—”

“Come on!” the Doctor shouted, racing past the landlord. The stout earth pony backed away from the oncoming cloud of beasts. He wasn’t fast enough. The screams echoed out into the street as Maple, Rumble, and the Doctor raced over the snow-covered ground.

***

Rumble peered out from the alleyway. “I don’t see anything,” he whispered. “I think we lost them.”

“Good,” Maple said, shivering. “That was terrifying! It’s not like that in the newspapers…”

“You shouldn’t believe everything you read,” the Doctor said. “Even Daring Do leaves a few things out of her books.”

Maple’s brow furrowed. “Daring who?”

“Never mind, after your time,” the Doctor said with a wave of his hoof.

“So now what?” Rumble asked. “How do we stop the Intelligence? I mean, there’s no convenient cloud to buck this time.”

“No,” the Doctor agreed thoughtfully. “It’s clever like that, always has a new strategy. What’s its game this time, I wonder?”

“And where’s Dr. Climber in all of this?” Maple asked.

“Dead?” Rumble suggested.

“Rumble!” the Doctor sighed. “Stop being… so…” he trailed off. “Actually, that would probably explain a few things.”

Maple gasped. “What? Dead?”

“Probably killed by his own creatures,” Rumble said. “Poetic, really.”

“See, now that’s just unnecessarily morbid,” the Doctor said, pointing a hoof at the colt. “Really? Poetic?”

“Well, it is,” the pegasus replied defensively. “He built his whole career on capturing and killing those guys to put in his sideshow, and now they’ve killed him. It’s like karma.”

“Except for the part where they’re also trying to kill innocent ponies,” Maple said.

“Yeah, apart from that,” Rumble agreed.

“Well. I know of one way to settle this,” the Doctor said, rubbing his chin thoughtfully.

“Oh?” asked Maple. “What’s that?”

***

Maple and Rumble stared up at the building in front of them. The hospital loomed up before them like a haunted castle. “You want us,” Rumble said deliberately, “to go in there.”

“Yep!” the Doctor replied.

“To the morgue,” Maple said.

“Mm-hm!”

“Which is full of dead bodies,” Rumble said.

“Well, that is what we’re looking for!”

“So that we can find clues to stop a monster that can control, for example, dead bodies?”

“Yes!” The Doctor paused. “Ah. Well, when you put it like that, it does seem a tad risky.”

“A tad risky?” Rumble asked. His cheeks were turning scarlet, and it wasn’t just from the cold. “A tad risky? If we go in there, they won’t need to take us back out!”

The Doctor puffed out his cheeks and sighed. “Well…” He caught sight of something, and grinned suddenly. “Oh. Oh! That is good!”

Maple cocked her head. “What?”

The Doctor pointed to a clothesline. A white bedsheet flapped in the icy breeze, suspended over a campfire. Rumble squinted. “Who uses a clothesline in winter?”

“Ponies who need dry sheets and don’t have a fireplace?” the Doctor guessed. “That’s why the fire’s there, I suppose, to get that lovely warm feeling of coming right out of the drier. Clever, very clever.”

Maple frowned. “So… what, are we going to do with a sheet? Snuggle the Intelligence to death?”

The Doctor frowned and tilted his head. “That might work on the Windigoes, but I doubt it would affect the Intelligence itself. Not a bad idea, though…”

“I was… I was just joking.”

The Doctor glanced over with either genuine surprise or an excellent facsimile. “Were you? Well, never mind that, then. Now, here’s what we’re going to do…”

***

Shutter Screen, the elevator operator, looked at the newcomers to her elevator with mild suspicion. “I’ve never seen you ‘round here before,” she said, glancing first at the short, cream mare and then at the young grey colt beside her.

“Uh,” said the mare.

“We’re students,” the colt explained. “We’re getting some work in to earn our medical degrees.”

Shutter eyed the covered figure closely. “An’ I suppose this is your practice cadaver?” she asked drily.

“Yeah. It is,” the colt snipped. “You want to check for a pulse? See if he’s breathing, maybe?”

Shutter eyed the covered figure. It appeared to be perfectly still. Nevertheless… She whipped off the sheet. “Ah—”

A brown earth pony lay on the gurney. His eyes were wide and empty, and his mouth was snapped shut. The two medical students gave Shutter identical flat looks. She swallowed. “Hhhhaaah,” she said.

The grey colt sighed and, snatching the cloth back from the elevator operator, re-covered the body. The cream mare frowned. “Have some respect,” she scolded.

“Yes. Of course. Terribly sorry, it’s just— there’s been some grave robbers running around lately, you know.”

The two pegasi exchanged glances, their hard glares melting. “We didn’t know, actually,” the mare said.

“Bodies have been stolen from this building?” Rumble asked.

“Mhm. Only practice cadavers, for some reason. Still, better safe than sorry. But, um, sorry.” She nodded at the deceased. “You want the morgue?”

“Yes, please,” said the colt.

Shutter pulled a lever, and the grate on the elevator closed. Another lever, and the lift began slowly to descend. The sheet on the gurney shifted slightly, and Shutter’s eyes flicked toward the figure on top. “That’s, uh, rigor mortis setting in, right?” she asked.

“Sorry?” the colt asked.

“The twitching. Rigor mortis?”

“Oh, is he twitching?” Rumble asked. “Yeah, that’d be a muscle spasm of some sort. Nothing to worry about.”

“Right.”

A few seconds of silence. Then, the other medical student asked, “Uh, how many floors down is the morgue?”

“Almost there,” Shutter promised. “Just three… two… one…” She yanked back on the lever, and the lift came jostling to a halt. “And there you are,” she said with satisfaction, pulling the grille open once more to reveal a torchlit stone chamber.

The two students wheeled the gurney out of the lift. “You want me to wait for you?” Shutter asked.

The duo glanced at each other. “No,” said the colt. “This might take awhile. You go on ahead.”

“Right,” Shutter said with a nod, closing the grille once more.

As soon as she was out of sight, Rumble lifted the sheet off of the Doctor’s head. “Clear,” he said.

The brown eyes of the ‘corpse’ blinked, and the Time Lord sat upright. “Thank heavens for that. I think I’m about toowWACHOO!” He sniffed. “That.”

“So, explain to me again how we’re safe from the Intelligence?” Maple asked, glancing nervously around.

“Well,” said the Doctor, examining open one of the bodies. “The Intelligence may like to believe itself a god, but it’s far from omnipotent. I’d wager that putting itself in all those sideshow exhibits spread it too thin. Too many bodies, not enough Intelligence. It was a sloppy attack, hardly what I’d expect of it.” He frowned.

“Isn’t that a good thing?” Rumble asked.

“Not really,” the Doctor said, trotting over to the next body in the room. “It means that whatever part those creatures play in the Intelligence’s scheme, it isn’t a very important one. Worse, it means that it’s more willing to be sloppy, which means it’s much less predictable.”

“Oh,” Rumble said, scratching his head.

“So… how does that keep us safe?” Maple asked again.

“Well, that means when it lost track of us, it really did lose track of us. It didn’t see us steal the sheet, gurney, and doctor’s outfits, it didn’t see me activate my respiratory bypass, and it doesn’t know that we’re here.”

Rumble blinked. “It seems like there’s just… so much that could go wrong with that plan.”

“I agree,” said Maple.

“So do I.”

The Doctor scowled. “Neigh-sayers,” he sniffed. “One way or another, we had to get in here without attracting too much attention, and this was the best plan we had.”

Rumble glanced around at the slabs that filled the room. “You probably should’ve worried more about finding the body once we got here,” he snipped.

The Doctor sighed. “I didn’t think it would be so full! Look, we know what he looks like! Unicorn!”

“Grey coat,” Maple agreed.

“White mane.”

Rumble rolled his eyes. “Isn’t there a mortician or somepony we could ask?”

The Doctor frowned and glanced about. “You know, that’s a good point. There really ought to be somepony on duty.”

“It’s not that big a room,” Maple said. “Maybe they’re out having a coffee or something?”

“Or maybe,” said the fourth pony, who was a grey unicorn with a white mane, blue eyes, and a scarlet-stained throat, “I killed her.”

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