• Published 2nd Dec 2018
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The Multiverse in a Nutshell - Pennington Inkwell



What do you do when you accidentally break the multiverse and scatter your friends to the cosmic winds? Go on a ROAD TRIP, of course!

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Braver Than You Believe

"So, here's the plan."

Sunset was still half-asleep and groggy. It was five minutes before five in the morning, and she and Penn had been up late "training" with their flying box and learning to fly it without throwing themselves from wall to wall. Penn didn't look to be faring much better, barely able to keep his eyes open. Once again, the agents of SHIELD had gathered in the lab. Skye and Fitz both looked nearly dead on their feet, but there was a content smile on Skye's face.

"Skye and Fitz managed to crack the encryptions and firewalls on the data core last night. Not only did they make the necessary modifications, but they got us a little something extra." Coulson waved his hand to reveal a cross-section of a dalek ship. "A map!"

"The idea is-" Fitz stepped forward, only to stop and have to stifle a yawn. "The best point of attack would be the repair bay, located here." He pointed to a medium-sized room at the bottom of the ship. "All you would have to do is replace the data core in an existing Dalek with our modified version and Skye's programming will do the rest."

"Not only are these coordinates going to become the new home of a nasty black hole, I've added a few other little viruses that should turn their systems inside out..." Skye was trying to sounds smug, but her tired monotone made her sound like the most miserable person in the room.

"The mission is going to be fast and simple. You get in, swap the data core in the repair center, and get out. Shouldn't take more than an hour and you'll both be back home safe and sound, got it?" Coulson looked between Sunset and Penn. Penn gave a sluggish salute, and Sunset simply nodded.

"Meanwhile, Agent Ward and I will be taking Fitz-Simmons and going after the scouts at the same time," the older woman (who Sunset now knew was Agent May) stated. "Once we've taken out one, we'll disconnect its weapon and add it to our own, then split into two teams. Then four. The scouting party will be destroyed before they know what hit them, and Skye's virus will discourage them from sending any more."

Coulson nodded in agreement. "I'll be coordinating from here. If any team runs into trouble, I'll inform the rest and adjust plans accordingly." He turned his attention on Sunset and Penn, pointing at each of them. "You two: if I say abort, you ABORT, got it? Trust me, we'll find another way, I don't want to lose any more casualties to these monsters."

"Won't have to tell me twice..." Penn mumbled. A second later, his eyes shot open wide. "Uhm... Did I just say that out loud?"

Sunset rolled her eyes. "I think what he MEANS to say is that we'll follow orders to the letter, sir. No need to worry." She offered a quick salute. This seemed to satisfy Coulson, who reached down and produced a small plastic case. Inside were a pair of small earplugs. Penn reached out and took one, placing it into his ear without hesitation. Sunset quickly mimicked him. She could guess that they were some kind of communicators.

"Alright, everyone! Time to save the world..." he took a quick glance around the room, before letting out a frustrated sigh.

"And seriously, get some coffee, or something."

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"Alright, listen closely. You want to bear thirty-two-point-three degrees north-by-northwest of here for five miles, the temporal-spatial rift is approximately one hundred meters off the ground." Fitz declared, pointing out into the brown landscape. "We've put a GPS into the 'ship' to get you there. Once it loses signal, there'll be a second system that will record your movement through three-dimensional space. When you're ready to extract, hit the red button, it'll automatically take you back along the same path through space and through the rift. Understand?"

"Sounds simple enough... When we want to come back, just hit the big red button!" Penn declared.

"Are you sure you'll be okay, Fitz? You're pretty tired already, and now you're going out to fight more Daleks here on Earth!" Sunset asked. Fitz shook his head.

"This isn't my first all-nighter. Exam week at the academy, I didn't sleep for three days straight without even realizing it! I'll be fine. Now don't worry about us back here, we'll do our part." Fitz reached into the pocket of his coat, producing a small, bronze, egg-shaped item. "This is the data core. Find one in the repair bay, swap it with this one, and our virus will do the rest. Good luck, both of you." Fitz gave her a pat on the shoulder before turning and running back to the back of the plane. Sunset watched him and the rest of the agents were pile into the humvee before driving out of sight. Penn tapped a panel on the side of the storage container, opening the doors.

"Ready, Sunset?"

Sunset grinned and ran inside, grabbing the hastily-installed joystick that served as the controls.

"I should be asking you the same thing! At least I was awake during the debriefing!"

Penn rolled his eyes and tossed aside the empty energy drink in his hand.

"I'm good! In that case... let's go save the world!"

Sunset grinned and flicked a switch, activating the hoverskirt and lifting the container into the air. With a gentle push of the joystick, the ground fell away from beneath them and they were on their way.

"Ever been to outer space before?" Penn asked, staring out the window. After a few seconds he backed away and made a concerted effort to stare at the walls and floor around them.

"Nope. You?"

"Do daydreams count?"

Sunset chuckled. A quick glance at the GPS showed they were off-course. A small adjustment later, they were back on course. "Guess that makes this a new experience for both of us?"

Penn nodded, staring wide-eyed out the front window. Sunset noticed a small tremor in his hands.

"Is now a bad time to mention I'm scared of heights? And dying in the cold vacuum of space? In all of the excitement, I kinda forgot."

"Oh! That's actually a common misconception! Vacuum can't have a temperature! What's cold are the extremely thin gases spread throughout, which are usually only about three degrees above absolute zero, and..." Sunset glanced over to see Penn keeping a death grip on the handles fixed to the walls, eyes wide and face pale. "And I'm not really helping, am I?" Penn shook his head.

"Well, let's put it this way: I am VERY good at this. That's why we were up until almost midnight last night! I'm not going to fly us into anything. We'll make it there safely. Once we do, you're the one I'm counting on to keep us safe! Each of us relies on the other, it's fair!" A quick glance at the GPS showed that they were almost on top of their target. Sunset looked up at the sky, trying to spot the rift.

She nearly missed it, at first. It was a shimmer in the air, like the heat coming off of a road on a broiling summer day. She could feel the energy coming off of it like the sun on her face, bypassing walls and barriers to tingle directly on her skin. The GPS began to beep softly, indicating that they had arrived. She turned and glanced at Penn, taking a deep breath of her own.

"Only one way to save the planet... you ready?"

Penn tore himself away from the wall and joined her at the front window, looking up at the portal.

"Not really, but we're going anyway... Allon-sy, I suppose..."

Sunset nodded and flipped the hoverskirt switch a second time, propelling them upwards.

This portal wasn't like the one between CHS and Equestria. It felt gentler, like stepping out the door of a building and into the outdoors. If she hadn't been paying attention, she might not have even noticed that they had transitioned into another world.

Fortunately, she WAS paying attention, because outer space was not a sight she would have wanted to miss. It was as if the absolute clearest and most beautiful night sky to ever exist had been taken and layered on top of itself a dozen times over, then copied over to cover every inch of her vision. Far away, great clouds and nebulas light-years across billowed and rolled across the heavens, auroras of color and light that seemed to sing with wonder and majesty. Sunset felt like she was peering into the heart of the cosmos, ready at any moment for some deep wisdom to fill her mind. Rather than some all-knowing voice of the stars, however, she was gifted only the sight of the Dalek ships coming into view. It was only now that she could really get a feel for how colossal they were, towering in the distance and dwarfing their tiny little box. She swallowed loudly and began to press forward on the joystick, driving them onward and deeper into space.

"Wow..." Penn whispered from behind her. Sunset could only nod in agreement. Penn reached up and pressed his finger to his ear with the communicator. "Coulson? We're through..."

"Good job. Everything is going well on our end, the team's taken out their first scout and split into two teams. Everything is going according to our timetable. Press on." Coulson's voice declared in Sunset's ear. She tried not to flinch at the volume of it, and made a note to ask later about turning down the decibels.

There were blissfully few obstacles to avoid as they drew in closer and closer to the alien armada. Soon, they were less than a hundred meters from the closest of the dalek ships.

"Penn? What exactly was our way in?" Sunset whispered. Almost on cue, a panel on the side of the ship opened. It looked to be about Dalek-sized, but Sunset could tell that she'd be able to get the container through with careful piloting.

"I guess that question answered itself."

Sunset pushed the joystick forward, bringing them right up to the opening. She could hear Penn sucking in his breath through his teeth.

So much for a vote of confidence...

She unwrapped her fingers from around the controls, giving them only the lightest brush with her fingertips. Meticulously, the container slid through the passage and into the room beyond. When she was certain they had cleared the entrance, Sunset reached over and flicked the switch for the hoverskirt, bringing the container down with a clang of metal-on-metal. The door slid shut behind them, followed by the sound of air rushing into the room outside. Behind her, Penn finally released the breath he had been holding, taking deep gulps of oxygen from the room around them.

"D-do you think we should open one of the oxygen containers they left us? I'm feeling kinda woozy..." he muttered, staggering to his feet.

Sunset smiled and folded her arms over her chest.

"I feel just fine. Told you I was good at this!"

Penn nodded, bending over and grabbing one of the steel containers, anyway.

"There haven't been many episodes showing the inside of Dalek ships, but every one we HAVE seen has shown them to have a breathable atmosphere... Still, we should keep this ready, just in case."

Sunset nodded, walking to the other side of the container and hovering her hand above the sensor for the door. She exchange a nervous glance with Penn, who tightened his grip on the O2 tank and nodded. Sunset exhaled, emptying every drop of air from her lungs, and pressed the button. The doors slid open. Sunset's heart skipped a beat as she felt a difference in pressure between the two rooms pull a chunk of air out of their room, but by the time her ears had popped to accommodate they had already equalized. She glanced over at Penn, who seemed to be watching her with equal trepidation. Each of them was waiting for the other to take the first breath of alien air. Finally, she watched him let out a long sigh, then inhale deeply from the new air. His face scrunched up in displeasure, but he didn't panic immediately.

"Smells like tinfoil, but I think it's safe..."

Sunset took a deep breath. She didn't get the tinfoil scent that he claimed, but the air did smell... clean. She was standing on an alien spaceship, and there was no smell at all to the air. It was just... air.

"Why is there breathable air on a ship of alien war machines?" she whispered.

"Skaro had a breathable atmosphere, I guess it's tradition? Saves on energy for individual life support? I don't know..." Penn muttered. He reached into his pocket, unfolding a copy of the map Skye had gleaned from the data core.

Sunset did NOT like the individual she was entrusting with her life to shrugging off the question of how they could breathe, but Penn stepped out of the box and towards a door leading out of the airlock they had landed in.

"Okay, this way to the repair shop..." he whispered, motioning for her to follow. Sunset took a deep breath and reached up to her ear.

"Agent Coulson? We made it on board."

"Great! You're doing great, Sunset. Remember, no unnecessary risks!"

Sunset nodded and stepped out of their container. This was no time to be afraid. She had a job to do, a planet to save!

Now if only I could get that message across to my hands so they'd stop trembling...

Penn stepped to the side of the door frame and waved his hand, activating the door and causing it to slide aside. He poked the tiniest sliver of his head through. After a moment, he nodded in affirmation.

"Coast is clear. Follow me..."

The two of them tread carefully down the hallway. Sunset tried her best to balance speed and silence, keeping her footsteps light and matching Penn's pace. Everything around them was bronze and black, dimly lit by blinking lights behind warped glass panes. The hallways went on and on for what felt like miles. Every second, her heart pounded with fear at the thought that a Dalek could come rolling out from behind one of the countless doors that they were passing and alert the entire ship to their presence. Just ahead of her, she could see Penn constantly mouthing out numbers for every door they passed, glancing back at the map every few seconds. At last, he drew up short and pressed himself against the wall beside one of the doors. Sunset followed suit, placing her back to the wall and trying to make herself as small as possible. Penn pressed his finger to his lips, then pointed to the door. Sunset nodded.

As if I needed encouragement to keep quiet...

Penn reached out and waved his hand in front of the door, causing it to slide open. Inch by inch, he eased his way out around the corner. With a sudden and frantic motion, he pulled himself back out of sight, chest heaving up and down as he repressed his urge to scream in surprise.

Sunset guessed that there had been a Dalek on the other side, and readied herself to run. To her surprise, however, the silence remained unbroken.

Did they not see him?

Penn appeared equally surprised. Sunset watched as he took a long, deep breath, then turned back to the door. Sunset grabbed at his shoulder, yanking him back before he could peer around the corner again. Penn turned and stared at her, eyes frantically searching for any other reason she could have panicked before settling on her face.

Are you CRAZY? She mouthed the words noiselessly.

Penn shook his head, then pointed to the doorway before holding one hand flat and tiptoeing his fingers across it.

We won't make it! Sunset shook her head. Penn held both hands up to either side of her head, blocking off the corners of her vision.

Tunnel vision... He mouthed, bringing his hands in closer until all that she could see was his face to demonstrate his point. It made sense. Only having a single eye surely left the Daleks with a terrible field of view, which explained why the head of the one they'd fought before had been able to swivel completely around.

Sunset shook her head, taking the map from his hands to look for another path. As much as she hated to admit it, the next passageway to the repair room was nearly half a mile farther down the hallway they were standing in. It would be a huge risk to try to travel that far undetected.

Are you sure? she mouthed.

Penn leaned back, taking another glance through the door. With a nod of certainty, he stepped away from Sunset and into the hallway, disappearing from sight. Sunset screwed her eyes shut, waiting for cries of "Intruder alert!" and "Exterminate!" But the silence that meant their safety only continued to endure. With no choice but to continue, Sunset stepped out of hiding and into the hallway.

Daleks lined the walls, crammed back to back and side by side. Each one of them had their plunger-like appendage connected to what looked like a computer terminal and were facing the walls, their eyestalks pointed straight ahead. Standing in the center of it all was Penn, inching his way through by standing sideways and slipping through the gap between their backs. Sunset's jaw dropped. She'd been in roomier spaces when the whole band had been crammed into the back of a minivan! One wrong move and there would only be Daleks to fall onto!

Guess I can't make one wrong move... Sunset thought to herself, swallowing her fear and taking her first step down the hallway. None of the Daleks noticed as she slipped her body between them, turning sideways to keep herself as narrow as possible. She silently prayed to whatever gods were left that the Daleks wouldn't hear her heart pounding away in her chest. At the end of the hallway, Penn had nearly cleared the last pair of Daleks. Sunset watched with anticipation as he extricated himself from the line, triumphantly holding a fist to the sky. Sunset smiled, elated as he proved that it was possible to make it through undetected. The moment's distraction, however, was enough to throw off her careful balance as one of her ankles began to buckle. Her whole body lurched to the left as she desperately swung her arms to keep her balance. Just as she regained control, she heard a soft blushing sound as her hair swung out and collided with the back of the Dalek behind her. Sunset's eyes widened and her head turned meticulously to the side, trying to glean any sign that the Dalek had noticed her presence.

The eyestalk began to turn. Sunset ducked, cramming her body as low to the floor as she could without losing her balance. The Dalek's head turned one hundred and eighty degrees and the eyestalk flicked up and down. Sunset held her breath. After several seconds, the Dalek's head rotated the rest of the way to swivel back to its work. Sunset waited another ten seconds, taking the opportunity to peer down at her parter. Penn had hidden behind the last Dalek in the line, which was still totally engrossed in... whatever it was these Daleks were doing. When she finally felt the moment had passed, Sunset continued down the line with twice the care she'd been taking before. It was slow, but relatively safer. Time continued crawling along at a pace as slow as her own, but Sunset finally reached the end of the line, where Penn was waiting with both hands clasped over his mouth. Sunset rolled her eyes and pointed to the door before stepping to the side to make sure she was out of sight of whatever was on the other side. Penn nodded and did the same thing before waving his hand. The door slid open, revealing another empty hallway. The two of them eagerly stepped through to safety, each letting go of a sigh of relief when the door slid shut.

ARE YOU OKAY? Penn mouthed the word with such enthusiasm, Sunset could practically hear it. She simply nodded, placing her hand on her chest to try and slow her racing heart. This new hallway only went one way, with no other entrances than they way they had come in and no exits other than the one they stood facing.

Sunset took a few deep breaths to steady herself before motioning for Penn to lead the way.

I still can't believe that worked... she thought to herself as they approached the next door.

The process repeated itself several times without complication. They would approach a door, Penn would make sure the coast was clear, and they would silently slink through to the next hallway. Finally, they came to a stop outside an archway wider and taller than any door they'd seen so far. Penn grinned and pointed gleefully to their map: they were standing right outside the repair station. Penn peeked around the corner, motioning for Sunset to wait. Once again, he retracted violently backwards. At the same moment, a Dalek came rolling out of the room, passing directly by them with its gaze fixed straight ahead. Sunset moved one of her hands up to her mouth to repress a scream as it passed by close enough for her to have reached out and touched it with her hand.

In this moment, everything came down to which way the Dalek would turn. Their lives were in the hands of fate.

That was when she felt Penn's hand grab hers and pull hard. In less than a second, they had both thrown themselves around the doorway's edge and inside the room, hiding on the other side of the same wall. Sunset watched in horror as the Dalek turned in the direction they had come from and drove away.

If we'd stayed there, it would have seen us!

A glance to her side revealed Penn had let go of her hand and stumbled to the corner of the room, where he had collapsed to the floor in a way that made it look as if his knees had given out beneath him. All color was gone from his face and his chest was heaving up and down as he hyperventilated from the shock of what had just happened. Sunset moved towards him, but he simply held up a hand for her to stop, pointed to his eye, then rotated his finger in a circle. Sunset understood the meaning: look around.

The room was definitely different from any other she had seen on the ship: she was tempted to classify it as "messy." Broken and half-disassembled Daleks were all over the room. The majority appeared inactive, though Sunset could see at least three with glowing light still behind their eyestalks, but all three of them were without their guns. The lights on top of one's head were blinking on and off at a rapid pace, as if it were talking but no sound was coming out. Another turned its head to stare at her, but otherwise didn't react. The plating at the front of this one was open, revealing only an empty cavity where the organic creature should have been. The third one was different from the rest: painted with a white body instead of the standard bronze and bright gold accents. Half of the spheres on the bottom half were missing, along with the gun and at least three of the armor panels. It looked as if something organic had taken a bite out of the top half, leaving it with only the left side of its upper body and a cracked eye.

In this case, I'd say silence is golden. Nothing shouting "EX-TER-MIN-ATE!" is music to my ears! she thought to herself as she made her way up to the open-fronted Dalek and began to examine it. She reached inside her pocket, retrieving the modified data core. She examined the item in her hand, then the insides of the Dalek. She frowned as her search came up fruitless. There was no sign of a data core to replace in this one. She turned back to Penn from across the room, shrugging her shoulders. With no lack of strain, Penn staggered to his feet and crossed the room. He glanced at the inside for a moment, then mimed the act of snapping his fingers. With a careful grasp of the eyestalk, he pulled the front of the head downwards. In an almost comical manner, the top of the Dalek popped off on the other side like a bottle cap. Sunset rushed around to the other side, peering in from above. In the center of the Dalek's head was a pillar with the data core sitting on top. Sunset grinned and reached inside, plucking the device from its place. With her other hand, he carefully placed their modified version where the old one had been. The machinery gave a satisfied click and a hum as a three-part case folded up around the data core and retracted into its proper place. Sunset stepped away as Penn released his grip, letting the top of the Dalek click back into place.

"REPAIRS COMPLETE! NEW DATA CORE AC-CEPT-ED!" the empty Dalek announced.

Sunset and Penn looked at once another. Penn's delighted grin was all the confirmation Sunset needed that their mission was completed. Penn pointed to his ear with the communicator, mouthing the words Call it in? Sunset shook her head, drawing her fingers across her lips in the motion of a zipper. Penn nodded and pointed towards the open doorway, and Sunset nodded in agreement. It was time to go.

The two of them tiptoed across the room and back up against the wall. Penn peeked around the corner, smiled, and motioned for Sunset to follow. As they made their way back towards their spaceship-box, Sunset took extra care to monitor her own actions. This was the most dangerous part of any task: the home stretch. This was where people got sloppy. Together, the two of them made their way back through empty hallway after empty hallway until they were standing in a hallways she remembered too well. The next room was the one where they had nearly been caught. Penn paused before he opened the doorway, nodding to the closed door and mouthing You ready?

Sunset took a deep breath to steady her nerves. She had made a mistake last time. This time, she would be perfect. She steeled her gaze, looked directly into Penn's eyes, and nodded.

It was at that moment that the door on the other end of the hallway opened of its own accord, revealing a Dalek staring directly at them. Even the Dalek seemed surprised, backing off slightly. It took less than a second to recover, however, rolling towards them at what Sunset could only assume was its maximum ground speed.

"INTRUDERS DETECTED! EX-TER-MIN-ATE!"

What happened next was a blur for Sunset. It was as if time slowed to a crawl. She saw the blast of light leave the Dalek's gun, pointed directly at Penn. She felt panic well up in her, only to suddenly be replaced by an overwhelming peace, a moment of "zen" among the tides of hysteria. She felt something in her hand, her thumb pressed up against a switch. She knew where the blast was going. She knew where it would be. Where she could send it. Sunset Shimmer made her move and pushed the switch.

The blast ricocheted back down the hallway and straight down the Dalek's eyestalk, blowing it to smithereens. Sunset heard the hum of plasma and looked down into her hand.

It was the empty handle from the hardware store. She didn't even remember reaching down to grab it from her belt, but it was there in her hand. Now, however, the handle was no longer empty. A long blade of red light had extended from the hilt, humming with power as Sunset held it at a protective angle between the Dalek and Penn's body. Penn's eyes were wide with shock as he pressed himself to the wall.

"IS THAT A LIGHTSABER?" he screamed, shattering the silence that the two of them had kept since they'd boarded the ship. Before Sunset could even attempt to answer, the lights in the ship turned red and the voice of a Dalek rang across unseen speakers.

"A-LERT! A-LERT! INTRUDERS DETECTED! MAXIMUM EXTERMINATION!"

Sunset shook her head and waved her hand at the motion sensor, opening the door in front of them.

"No time! COME ON!" She grabbed Penn's hand and yanked him into the next room. There was no attempt to be sneaky this time, Sunset could see that the Daleks in this room were disconnecting themselves from their tasks. Instead they two of them barreled down the center of the line at top speed, trying to get through before the Daleks even knew they were there. Sunset felt a single beam fly past her shoulder as they rounded the corner and thanked the heavens that these Daleks appeared to have awful aim.

"Coulson! We got the data core planted, but we've been made! We're going to be coming in hot!" Penn shouted, using his free hand to activate his earpiece.

"Get out of there, NOW! We just wiped out the last of the scouts, we'll all be waiting to cover your exit on this side!"

Sunset took what comfort she could from the statement. Now what mattered most was to get out alive and back to Earth. Their team would have her back covered from here. Suddenly, she felt a jerk on her arm that nearly pulled it out of its socket.

"Sunset, here! It's THIS door!" Penn shouted, pulling her to the side and waving at the sensor frantically. The door opened, revealing the most welcoming ramshackle spacecraft Sunset had ever seen.

"EX-TER-MIN-ATE!" a voice came from ahead of them, and Sunset felt a powerful shove on her back. She stumbled forward and into the airlock, switching the plasma sword back off to avoid impaling herself. Her momentum carried her into the room and through the doors of the container, only barely managing to catch herself on the control panel.

The doors of the container slammed shut and the hoverskirt activated on its own, which appeared to activate the outside door automatically.

"What? NO, STOP!" Sunset began to frantically scramble for the controls with her left hand, only to find them unresponsive. Realization dawned on her as she slowly lifted her right hand, trembling and quaking with fear.

She had pressed the red button. The ship was auto-piloting itself back to Earth.

"NO! NO NO NO NO!" She screamed, repeatedly pulling on the joystick to try and turn herself around, only for it to snap off of the control panel in her hand. With tears in her eyes she reached up to her earpiece.

"I- I tripped! I tripped and hit the red button and nowIcan'tturnitaroundandPENNISSTILLINTHEREHELPMEPLEASE!"

"You WHAT?" Coulson's voice came back. "Sunset, you need to talk more slowly, I can't understand you!

"The box took off without me, Coulson..." Penn's voice replied, breathless and on the verge of cracking. "I- I managed to lock myself in another airlock, but it won't be long until they figure out where I'm hiding..."

"Penn, I'm SORRY!" Sunset tried to hold back a sob as the box piloted itself further and further from the ship. "I didn't mean to!"

"Don't worry about it... accidents happen, right? I pushed you too hard." Penn's voice held a terrifying resignation to it.

"Penn, you're the expert, TELL ME there's another way off that ship!" Coulson demanded.

"Coulson, Daleks ARE spaceships, they don't NEED escape pods. I could try to find a teleport or a transmat or something, but I don't know what they look like or how to use them, it'd be a shot in the dark! The only thing that gets off a Dalek ship alive is a-" Penn's words cut off suddenly, and Sunset felt fear for the worst race through her.

"Penn? PENN?"

"I have an idea. You go on ahead, Sunny. I'll find my own way."

"Penn? Penn, please don't go!" Sunset was overwhelmed by a wave of exhaustion as her head felt like it was spinning. She slumped against the wall of the container as darkness crawled into the corners of her vision. "Please... I don't want to be alone again..."

As the world outside faded to black, Sunset Shimmer was alone, floating through the not-technically-cold vacuum of space by herself because she'd ruined the life of another friend she didn't deserve. Coulson's voice was chattering away in her ear, but it quickly grew softer and softer as it proved itself unable to follow her into unconsciousness.

"Fitz! I need you to be ready to pilot that thing back! Ward! May! Grab... guns... I'll... operation... save..."

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Penn yanked the earpiece out of his ear and stuffed it into his pocket. His brain was running a mile a minute and he couldn't afford to trip up, mentally or physically.

Forty-five! Fourty-six! Fourty-SEVEN! he counted off the doors and leaped into the hallway, pushing and shoving his way through the crowded Daleks in the hall. He felt dull pains all over his shoulders and limbs as his speed sent him bouncing off of metal body after metal body, but no searing hot pain of a laser blast. He kept going, sliding his way under the door to avoid waiting for it to open entirely.

Help is coming, why risk all of this? Find a place to hide and stay there! the voice of Reason ordered.

SHIELD is good, but they're not "Dalek Mothership Rescue" good. Besides, what if one of them is killed? They're in the first half of the first season at BEST, what happens to the rest and the other four seasons? Paradox! I HAVE to get back on my own! Penn replied to himself as he blew past the Dalek Sunset had killed with the random lightsaber. He would have to think about THAT set of questions later.

Twelve doors down right, down two halls, and back thirty-two more doors, followed by four more halls and sixteen more doors! If you stop sprinting and take it slow, you CAN sneak your way there! Take your time! Reason commanded.

They probably have some kind of scanning technology they can use to find me, slowing down means death! Just have an awful lot of running to do! Penn retorted as he leaned into his next turn and began counting off doors as fast as he could. Thanks for remembering the way!

At the mention of the title, he could hear the opening guitar strums of Chameleon Circuit's song, "An Awful Lot of Running." He reached up and pounded his palm against his temple to kick the mental jukebox.

No time for songs, unless they're fast! Fast- gotta go faster! he pushed his legs harder and faster, trying to ignore the Sonic X theme that had begun playing in the back of his head. It was serviceable.

You have no idea how to do what you're planning on doing! This is just as much a shot in the dark as trying to find a teleport! Reason shouted.

Well, I KNOW where to find this one! Now do me a favor and pull up our memories of "The Witch's Familiar!" Season 9-

SERIES Nine- Reason corrected.

SERIES 9, episode two!

Penn's lungs were beginning to burn and he could taste phlegm rising up from the back of his throat.

You are NOT an endurance runner. You should save your strength for when you're being shot at-

"EX-TERMINATE!" a blue-and-silver Dalek shouted as it slid out from a door in front of them. Penn dove to the side, barely avoiding being shot and driving his already-sore shoulder into the wall as he rebounded off and tried to regain his former pace. He could feel a familiar tightness in his chest binding his breathing.

You go on a quest to find the Rainbooms across time and space and don't think to put your inhaler in your pocket? Reason chided.

You know, you are NOT being helpful right now! Penn thought as he staggered his way back into the repair room. He reached down into his pocket, retrieving a small multi-tool. It was no sonic screwdriver, but it serve his purposes just fine. So do something nice, and tell me which wire I need to cut!

He closed his eyes, trying to recall the episode. He could see bits and pieces as he sorted through the unimportant details, finally reaching the scene he was looking for. He could SEE it, but he couldn't be sure where it was or which one.

You can't do this, it won't work! The odds of cutting the right wire are-

If a disarmed crazy time lady with a pointed stick can do it, so can I! Penn cut off Reason's whining and reached up into the empty Dalek, yanking out a wire that matched his memory. So shut up and pray, already!

All of this wouldn't be necessary if your cards had worked... You're not worthy. You're weak. You're not doing it right. You screwed up. It's your own fault you're stuck here and going to die. Reason gave way to Depression, and Penn shoved them both to the back of his mind to be tormented by the Sonic X theme on repeat. He'd gotten what he needed. Now all he needed was faith. He snipped the wire in two with the pocket tool and shoved it back into his pants before seating himself amid all of the assorted machinery and electronics of the Dalek.

"My cards might not be real, but let's see if I can't pull off a little banned spell, anyway..." he muttered, pressing the tips of the wires against his temples. Shooting, stabbing pain came from both sides of his head, leaving him in a blur. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see a blurry bronze shape coming into view.

"EX-"

Run away!

"TER-"

It didn't work!

"MIN-"

You can't die! I need you, too!

"ATE!"

In that moment, caught between a chance at survival and the certainty of death, another voice started talking: a memory of only a few minutes ago.

"Please... I don't want to be alone again..."

Every sense sharpened as fear was overwhelmed by outrage. His friend thought that he had left her alone in the universe. That he had abandoned her. That... was unacceptable.

Penn's gun fired first, obliterating the other Dalek. The armored plating slid into its proper place and his view of the outside world was reduced to a blue-tinted display of a fish-eye lens.

"Well, whaddya know? I activated the spell card 'Change of Heart!'"

You are such a nerd. Reason chided.

Penn took it as a compliment.

And was the Sonic X theme SERIOUSLY STILL STUCK IN HIS HEAD AFTER SOMETHING SO COOL JUST HAPPENED?

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"Sunset? Sunset, wake up!"

Sunset cracked her eyes open, finding herself staring into the face of Agent Coulson, who gave her a relieved smile.

"Thank goodness you're awake. Welcome home, Agent."

Sunset glanced around, trying to understand where she was. She was still in the container, but the doors were wide open, revealing the dead grass of West Texas. Coulson was knelt on the ground beside her, one hand on her shoulder to keep her in a sitting position in the corner.

"Simmons! Get over here and make sure she's okay!"

Almost instantly Jemma came through the doors, kneeling beside Coulson and shining a light into her eyes. Sunset flinched away from the bright spot, but it was quickly switched off and replaced by a hand on her forehead.

"Proper light response from the pupils, no sign of a fever... Sunset, do you think you can walk?"

Sunset gave her legs an experimental kick. They seemed responsive enough.

"Y-yeah..."

"Okay, good! That's good!" Coulson encouraged as he and Jemma each put a hand under one of her shoulders and lifted her to her feet, draping her arms across two sets of shoulders. Seconds later she was back outside in the fresh air and blistering sunshine. As her blood began to flow a little faster to her brain, Sunset realized what had made her pass out, to begin with.

"PENN! Where's Penn? Did you get him? Is he safe?"

Simmons frowned and glanced up at Coulson. Coulson didn't look at Sunset, keeping his eyes locked straight ahead.

"That's our next mission. Fitz is already working on repairing the controls. We have weapons that can kill these things, we can send Ward and May in for an armed extraction." Sunset felt an attempt at a reassuring pat on the back that wasn't very reassuring.

"We'll find him, I promise."

Sunset shook herself free of their shoulders and reached to her belt, feeling the empty hilt back in its proper place. She raised her hand to her forehead in a loyal salute.

"Then I'm ready for the next mission, sir."

Coulson looked confused while Simmons's jaw dropped in shock.

"Y-you're joking, right?" Simmons asked. "You're not in any condition to go back out there!"

"The whole reason I'm IN good condition is because Penn pushed me out of the way of an attack! I never got hurt! I'm ready to go back in and save him!" She reached down to her belt, grabbing the empty hilt and flicking the switch. Once again,the blade of red light jumped out, prepared to slice through anything she turned it on. Coulson's eyes grew wide.

"Is that a REAL-LIFE LIGHTSABER?"

"Incoming!" Agent May's voice shouted. High above them, a Dalek appeared from the portal, only to be blasted to pieces by a laser blast from the ground.

Agent Ward approached from the side, holding one of the Dalek guns in his hand. "We've been blowing these things out of the sky ever since we got back, I think they've been trying to follow you- is that a lightsaber?" he asked, pointing at the sword.

Sunset was starting to get the idea that this thing was called a "lightsaber."

"Another one!" May shouted, opening fire. This time, however, the blast wasn't enough to destroy the Dalek, knocking it off of its path and sending it spiraling to the ground in a trail of smoke.

"I think that one survived..." Simmons whispered.

"Hold your fire! Maybe if we take this one alive, we can trade it for our man! Or at least get some information out of it!" Coulson called. Everyone rushed to the crater where the Dalek had landed. It was still smoking from a large hole near the top of the dome, exposed wires sparking and arcing inside. Ward and May both kept their guns trained on it, ready to fire at a moment's notice as Simmons, Sunset and Coulson caught up.

Staring down at the monster, Sunset couldn't contain her disgust. Penn had been right: these things were the antithesis of everything she and her friends stood for, and now they had taken her new friend away from her.

"My name is Agent Philip Coulson, I represent the Strategic Homeland Intervention Logistics Division," Coulson announced with practiced ease. "You are being held as a member of an invading alien force and we ARE authorized to use lethal force! State your name, species, and intent!"

"I AM A DALEK! I AM A DALEK! I HAVE COME... TO SEE... THE END OF DAY!" The Dalek seemed to be struggling to say anything outside of its normal one-word vocabulary of "Exterminate."

"End of days? Are Daleks religious? Could there be a theological connotation?" Simmons pondered, hiding slightly behind Coulson.

"It's a machine and it's broken. It's not going to make sense." Agent Ward took aim. "I say we eliminate the threat and get ready to send in the extraction team as planned."

Coulson took a deep breath, then nodded.

"Do it. We can't waste time."

Sunset couldn't say she wasn't happy with the decision.

"END OF THE DAY! MERCY! END OF THE DAY! MERCY! MERCY!" the Dalek began to repeat over and over.

End of the day? What's so special about he end of the-

Deep, deep in Sunset's mind, something clicked.

"WAIT!" She jumped up and shove the barrel of Ward's gun up, firing it harmlessly into the air. She positioned herself in front of the Dalek, blocking any more potential shots with her own body.

"Sunset, what are you DOING?" Coulson shouted. "Get away from that thing, it'll kill you!"

"I figured it out! 'End of the day!' What happens at the end of the day?" she urged, pleading with them to understand.

The other agents looked at one another in confusion, but Simmons's eyes went wide.

"The end of the day is SUNSET! Oh my word, it's calling your name!"

Behind her, Sunset heard the hiss of pressurized air escaping. Looking down, she watched the armor plating of the Dalek expand and part, revealing a familiar face sitting inside. He was thoroughly covered in bruises and had trickles of blood running from the places two wires connected to his head, but it was unmistakably Penn.

"Itsh me..." he mumbled, his eyes rolling back into his head as he passed out.

"I AM A DALEK!" shouted the Dalek.

"PENN!" Sunset leaped down into the crater, examining him from head to toe. He was in sorry shape, completely unconscious, but still breathing. "I'm sorry... I'm so sorry..."

"Simmons, go wake up Fitz. I get the feeling it's going to take both of you to get him out of there..." Coulson whispered.

"Right away, sir!"

"Well, I'll admit it... I'm impressed." Ward muttered, lowering the gun for good. "Wiring himself inside one of those things to get home? Just when you think you've seen everything on this job..."

Sunset wasn't listening. She was just happy to have one of her friends back.

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