• Published 22nd Dec 2011
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The Trouble With Time Travel - SolvableSphinx



Twilight Sparkle is sent to the past, although not the one she knows.

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Chapter 1: A "Second Chance"

The original Space Battles thread where this story is updated, and commentary is posted.

Chapter One: A Second Chance

“That is the exploration that awaits you—not mapping stars and studying nebulae, but charting the unknown possibilities of existence.” –Q, Star Trek: The Next Generation

To say that Twilight Sparkle is an impatient mare wouldn’t be accurate. In the thirty years that she had been the bearer of the Element of Magic, she had gotten used to crisis management. From mundane problems such as the annual Winter Wrap Up to the more fantastic problems of dealing with fully grown dragons, even the disaster that was known as ‘Ambassador Rainbow Dash’ wasn’t very far outside of her considerable abilities.

It had come at a cost, though. The more the Elements of Harmony did, the more that they were expected to do. As the group’s fame grew more and more ponies, and even a few non-pony species, asked for their help on a regular basis. Their unique powers were called upon to win the day more and more often, and instead of aging the magic they drew upon made the six friends grow larger and become more regal and majestic in the eyes of the common pony. There were only two other beings in recorded history who grew quite the same way Twilight and her friends were, a fact which made them all uneasy in some way.

In truth it was embarrassing. Twilight Sparkle didn’t want to be revered like the princesses. It was natural to want to be respected for her talents, but the near and sometimes actual worship she received was a bit much. She wasn’t the only one. Rumors were flying like crazy, all of them to the effect of either replacing the Princesses altogether or taking on important positions of leadership. Even if they did not have formal titles outside of their professional ones, for better or for worst the Elements of Harmony were effectively nobility.

Walking through the library that was her home, reorganizing the books that were used by the students of the university that she nominally ran, Twilight found her heart longing. She just wanted some time to enjoy the company of her friends instead of putting out seemingly every proverbial fire. In many was she just wanted to go back to simpler times, like when she just entered Ponyville to check on the Summer Sun Festival for Princess Celestia.

“Easily arranged, my diminutive sentient equine!” a jovial voice declared.

Twilight sighed as she heard the announcement. “And there goes my evening.”

The draconequus slid closer to her, before beginning his over the top theatrics. “Come now, Twilight Sparkle. You wound me! Am I truly that dull, that trite, that I am nothing but an annoyance?”

“In a word, yes,” Twilight said, shelving the advanced agricultural books that Equestria A&M University lent to her library. “You’re really kind of predictable for someone who masquerades as our Spirit of Disharmony and Chaos.”

“And how exactly do you know I’m not the genuine article?” the draconequus asked.

“Because I keep the real one mounted over there,” Twilight responded, pointing to the statue of the vanquished foe standing beside the doorframe. Hanging from Discords horns were a couple of hats, and a sign helpfully proclaiming that quiet areas were on the second and third floors was sized and positioned to be held by his innate stone hands.

“How uniquely brutal,” the draconequus said, appreciatively stroking his beard. “Do you always use the petrified shells of your vanquished foes as tacky ornaments?”

“Not always. He’s actually a time share,” Twilight stated in a casual manner. “It’s a Monday, so you’re not going to cause havoc. And you’re not even making a serious attempt to impersonate Discord. So why are you here?”

“Come now, Twilight Sparkle. You don’t always have to treat me like a stray cat. Today’s a day of celebration! Of joy and merrymaking! Today my child turns five days old!”

“Congratulations then,” Twilight said absentmindedly, before the full weight of statement hit her. “Wait. You have a child?”

“Of course! Producing young was the only way I could end that nasty civil war. If only more conflicts could be solved that way.”

Twilight shook her head. “I don’t even want to know.”

The impersonator rolled his eyes. “Come now, its good news! No bursts of dreadful gamma radiation to cause the mass extinction of all life in this lovely parsec. A shame you don’t understand the concept of ‘radiation’ fully, although I am impressed by your efforts not to invent ‘dying by radiation poisoning’.”

"Well, the statement still stands. Congratulations on ending your war and becoming a parent. Does that mean you’ll be leaving us alone now, Mr. …?” Twilight asked.

“Oh, I’m feeling whimsical today. Call me John. And this is my adorable little rascal, Keegan.” The draconequus said, snapping his fingers. In a brilliant flash of white another draconequus appeared. This one, presumably Keegan, was almost exactly like John in miniature. “Say hello to your future tutor, Keegan.”

The little draconequus pointed at Twilight instead. “She’s a NEEERRRRRD!”

“Now Keegan, what have I told you about telling mortals the truth?” John admonished, causing Twilight to roll her eyes. “Do forgive him, Twilight Sparkle. He was born fully conscious and with all his powers, but he still has the mind of a child. In fact, it’s been such a wonderful thing. Look!”

With another snap, a small planet appeared, floating above John’s right hand. “His first planet,” John said, voice full of pride. “He’s made such wonderful pieces of art with the part of cosmos that he plays in, but this thing, right here, will always have a special place in my heart.”

Twilight was taken aback by how casually John referred to the creation of an entire world, in the same way a parent might refer to a special drawing. This sense of bafflement grew when a small, metallic speck of dust flew away of it. “And he’s master changing the cosmological constants too! His people are developing unmanned space travel.”

“What… are you?” Twilight asked. John smiled.

“Why, isn’t it obvious? We’re omnipotent beings, greater than the petty gods you venerate and fear by many orders of magnitude. And because I’m feeling so generous from my son’s accomplishments, you finally get to have your time off.”

“Now wait just a minute!” Twilight began. Unfortunately, she wasn’t given a choice in the matter, for all it took was the snap of fingers to send her back to a simpler time.

* * *

Twilight Sparkle blinked her eyes, dots seeming to still be flying around from her brief transport. It was like her teleportation spell, only of a greater magnitude. The strangest part was that she did not feel any of the world’s innate magic in the spell. It was as though this John being could change how the universe works on a whim, on a level not even Celestia or Luna could replicate and with much greater technical finesse.

‘That was probably the point. Demonstrate how he could lord over me,’ she thought, shivering.

Her attention was quickly diverted to her surroundings. She was in Canterlot, not a very difficult jump to make. Things were different, though. Everything was both smaller and bigger, brighter and yet more dull. It was as though she were reliving a memory of times past.

She looked around. The park was familiar, and one of her regrets in becoming famous was that she couldn’t just be anypony in the crowd without an admirer doing something either sweet but (by now) annoying, professing their admiration in the same way she would if she met Dr. Neil deGrass Tyson as a young mare or doing something was either creepy or outright illegal. Yet the three skyscrapers that had been built to accommodate Equestria’s nascent export industry were gone. She couldn’t see it directly, but she felt less magic in the air as well.

Finally, looking down, she saw a familiar book on Pony mythology. The page was turned to Nightmare Moon’s exile. The pieces fell together, causing her to sigh.

“It must be a Tuesday,” she muttered to herself. “I could never get the hang of Tuesdays.”

She threw her book into the saddle bag and walked to the river. She leaned over the edge of the bank to see her reflection in the river. Looking back at her was herself in her late teenage years, just before she went to Ponyville for the first time.

“Definitely a Tuesday,” she said, nodding to herself. “Probably a game of some kind, knowing the sort of guy John is. I just figure out a way to win it to his amusement, and then I’ll be back home in an embarrassing pose just like the last three times this has happened.”

“Well there you are Twilight Sparkle,” said a mare on the bridge. “Moondancer is having a little get together this evening. You want to come?”

Twilight smiled at them. It was a trio of ponies on the bridge, each one of them laden with gifts to the birthday party that somepony named Moondancer was having. She didn’t remember these ponies at all, but this part always played out for some reason.

“I’m sorry girls,” Twilight said. “I should have remembered. But the Summer Sun Celebration is coming up and I’ll have to leave soon to check on the preparations.”

“Oh! Well, if it’s for the Princess then I’m sure everypony will understand. Isn’t that right?” the leading mare asked. The other two nodded.

“I wish I had more time,” Twilight said. “It seems all I do is study and run errands. I need to make more time for my friends.”

“There’ll be other parties,” the white mare said. “As long as you aren’t blowing us off...”

“I wouldn’t do it intentionally,” Twilight said. “But I really need to get going. See you later?”

“Sure,” the mare said, as Twilight cantered off. A simple spell could have been used in order to hear what the mares were saying as she was leaving, but Twilight didn’t bother to cast it. These things happened decades ago from her frame of refrence, and she had moved on with her life.

“Now, let me see,” Twilight said to herself as she walked down the road. “John is probably not going to let me off easy, it doesn’t seem his style. I’m here right before Nightmare Moon manifests herself. I could play things straight through and try to avoid altering the timeline, but the timeline probably doesn’t exist. What to do, what to do... Hey Lyra.”

“Hi Twilight!” Lyra replied, grinning happily. “Going to the party?”

“I can’t right now. Planning to be at the Summer Sun Celebration?” Twilight asked.

“You betcha! See you then?”

“Sure. Say hi to Bonbon for me,” Twilight said, walking on in the direction of the castle.

As the lavender pony past them, Lyra’s walking companion looked over to her. “Who the hay is Bonbon?” she asked.

“No idea,” Lyra replied, shrugging. “She’s always been a strange filly. But then again magic students are like that, and she means well. So, about that commission… I was thinking maybe a Vulcan with darker skin…”

Twilight quickly turned off the spell, focusing straight ahead and blushing slightly. Lyra had always been a strange mare, but she meant well. What Lyra did with her spare bits in her spare time was her own business.

Soon enough she was at the tower that was once her home. She carefully opened the door, and sure enough a younger Spike was skittering past to try and avoid it.

‘He’s so small,’ Twilight thought to herself.

“Umm… you okay Twilight?” Spike asked, a present in his reptilian hands. “You’re looking at me all weird.”

“Oh, sorry Spike,” Twilight said as she gathered her thoughts and walked through the library. “I guess I’m feeling… oh, I don’t know how to describe it.”

“Ill?” Spike asked.

“No, I’m pretty sure I’m okay.” Twilight said. “It’s… hard to explain. A lot of big things are about to happen.”

“Well duh, the Summer Sun Celebration is happening soon,” Spike said.

“I know but… how do I explain?” Twilight said. “Okay, it’s going to sound crazy.”

“Go for it,” Spike said, genuinely curious.

“Well, I have good reason to be believe that the story of the Mare in the Moon is based on truth,” Twilight said, walking to a shelf. “And that she is really Nightmare Moon. I also have good reason to believe…”

Twilight stopped, a shiver running down her spine.

“What happened?” Spike asked.

“I don’t know,” Twilight replied. She walked up to the large hour glass in the center of the library, unsure of what she felt from it. “It was like there’s something, just at the corner of my eye…”

As she stared at the hour glass Spike began feeling uneasy. “Are you feeling okay, Twilight?”

“I’m feeling perfectly fine,” Twilight said, before pulling the book and setting it on the stand. “Mare in the Moon… Mare in the Moon… under M… Aha!

The Mare in the Moon, myth from old pony times. A powerful pony who wanted to rule Equestria. Defeated by the Elements of Harmony and imprisoned on the Moon. Ledged has it that on the longest day of the thousandth year the stars will aid on her escape, and she will bring about nighttime eternal.

“Okay, so there’s a myth that’s in a book,” Spike said. “But you’re the one who told that while every myth is based on truth, no myth is absolutely true. And a thousand years sounds too neat.”

“It would under normal circumstances,” Twilight said. “Some prophecies are only for a ballpark range of time, or a certain set of decisions that may or may not happen. Free will hampers the effects of predicting what anyone would do with great accuracy.

“But prophecies are very good for things that are set to happen but can’t be controlled. Volcanoes and earthquakes, for example. For magic this is especially true, since certain numbers have special properties in different places, and some are universally special. Significant events happen in threes, lucky primes can mean good tidings or bad, so on and so forth.

“Some numbers are culturally specific, though. That’s how eight and 108 are lucky numbers in Neighpon, but not in Equestria. We use a base ten counting system, so a thousand years for something that is specifically magical isn’t outside of the realm of possibility.”

Spike looked confused. “Base ten? Lucky primes?”

Twilight sighed. “Right. You haven’t gotten that far in math yet.”

“Some numbers are lucky, some numbers are special,” Spike said, earning a surprised look from Twilight. “I’m not dumb, Twilight. But you’re still talking about an old pony’s tale.”

“I know, and that’s why nopony is going to take me at my word even though I’m absolutely serious. I’ll show you,” she said, before grabbing a piece of parchment and handing to Spike. “Take a note, please. To the Princess.”

My dearest teacher,

“My continuing studies of pony magic has lead me to discover that we are on the precipice of disaster.

“Hold on,” Spike said. “Preci… Prece…”

“Threshhold,” Twilight corrected.

“Eeaahh…”

“Brink?”

Spike gave her a befuddled look.

“We live in a library, Spike,” Twilight deadpanned. “You catalogue books.”

“Well yeah. But just because I know the Dewdrop decimal system doesn’t mean I eat dictionaries,” Spike responded defensively.

“Then what about when you ate…”

“I was four!”

“It was an expensive volume. It had the modern language, all known words of Burguete and Kathiawari, Zebra…”

“It was covered in diamonds! I was hungry!” Spike said angrily. “Can we get back to writing the Princess a letter? Please?”

“Alright,” Twilight said, “Where were we?”

“Something about disaster,” Spike helpfully stated.

“Right. We are on the brink… ‘B-R-I-N-K’… of disaster. I have firm evidence that the mythical Mare in the Moon is in fact Nightmare Moon, and that she is about to return to Equestria and bring with her eternal night. Although it is a foregone conclusion that this letter will be ignored, something must be done to ensure that this terrible prophecy must not come true. I await your quick response.

“Your faithful student, Twilight Sparkle.

“Twi-light… Spar-kle!” Spike said to himself, as he finished transcribing the words.

“Great! Now send it to her,” Twilight requested.

“Now?” Spike asked.

“Of course!” Twilight replied.

“I don’t know, Twilight,” Spike said. “Princess Celestia is really busy getting ready for the Summer Sun Celebration. And that part about ‘forgone conclusion’ sounds a little angry. Besides, you said a thousand years, right? That doesn’t mean this year, does it?”

“That’s just it, Spike. The day after tomorrow will be the thousandth year of the Summer Sun Celebration!” Twilight exclaimed. “That’s why it’s imperative that the princess must at least be told of what’s going on.”

Spike looked down at the scroll. “Impera…”

“IMPORTANT!” Twilight yelled, surprising Spike and causing him to stumble backwards into a bookshelf.

“Okay, okay. Geez,” Spike said, before rolling up the parchment. With a breath of dragon fire the parchment evaporated into so much fine dust, being sent to where Princess Celestia was at the moment. “It’s on its way. But I wouldn’t hold your breath.”

“I know,” Twilight said, sounding all too tired for somepony her apparent age. She walked over a window, looking down at the parts of Equestria and Canterlot visible from the tower. The land was green, yellow, full of trees and crops and untouched by any sort of disaster. It was as though the entire nation was a well maintained garden, carefully watered and pruned and planted, without any touch of strife and burden.

A simpler time.

“Spike, I know I don’t say this enough, but no matter what happens… I really appreciate you.” Twilight knew it was probably meaningless, with this Spike being an illusion or hallucination, but it still felt like something that needed to be said.

“You make it sound like something really bad is going to happen,” Spike said, a touch of concern in his voice. “You’re starting to scare me, Twilight. This isn’t like you.”

Spike then burped, producing a letter. Twilight stared out at the landscape as he read it.

My dearest and most faithful student Twilight,

You know that I appreciate your diligence and that I trust you completely. But you simply must stop reading those dusty old books.

My dear Twilight, there is more to a pony’s life then just studying. I fear that by doing nothing but studying you’re isolating yourself at such a critical age, an oversight that I feel obligated to correct. It also sounds as though you probably need a break.

So I am sending you to supervise the preparations of this year’s Summer Sun Celebration in this year’s location, Ponyville. And I have an even more essential task for you to complete: Make some friends.

Your mentor,

Princess Celestia

Twilight sighed. “See, what did I tell you? A forgone conclusion.”

“Twilight,” Spike began, his concern obvious in his voice. She then turned around, giving him a smile.

“The Princess is right,” Twilight said, “I need a break. Going to Ponyville may be just the thing I need.”

“That’s the spirit!” Spike exclaimed. “So, do you know any good places to eat?”

“I know a few places,” Twilight said confidently. She then caught herself, realizing that she wasn’t supposed to know that yet. Spike didn’t seem to catch on, too busy talking excitedly about the trip in the way only a child could.

Twilight hoped that she could play the part of ‘Princess Celestia's faithful student’ long enough to pass whatever test was being given to her.