• Published 16th Oct 2012
  • 8,025 Views, 304 Comments

Alarm Clock - Meta Four

Ditzy Doo sees things nopony else can see: higher-dimensional spatial anomalies, fae creatures, and eldritch abominations. She solves problems that other ponies don’t even know exist. But now, she may have bitten off more than she can chew.

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Prelude: Cloud and Proud

“You look like you’re thinking hard about something. Are you thinking the same thing I’m thinking?”

“Probably not. What are you thinking?”

“Well, it’s just, I’m reminded of the morning that this—you and me, all of this—started. I’m wondering how things could have turned out differently. What if I had turned off my radio sooner?”

Alarm Clock

On a normal morning, Ditzy Doo would fully awaken three seconds after her alarm clock radio sounded. On a normal morning, she would immediately shut the radio off and prepare for the coming day in silence. On a normal morning, she would hear no more than eight seconds of whichever chart-topping pop song the morning show DJs had selected.

This morning, Ditzy stayed her hoof. Well, she thought, there’s a song I haven’t heard in years.

“It’s just an average daaaaaay
and nothing really stands out!
I’m just skating on the same route!”

The singer apparently couldn’t decide whether to sing like a punk or a crooner, so he split the difference. Behind him, the band’s horn section played a peppery counter-melody over an electric harp rhythm emphasizing the off-beat.

“I’m feeling fiiiiiiiine,
got nothing to complain ’bout!
I’m on my way,
it’s just an average day!”

Ditzy trotted into her bathroom as the song continued. Just as she finished washing her face, the song ended, and the morning show DJs chimed in.

“What the hay is this? Hey, Two Tone, did KTRT turn into an oldies station while I wasn’t looking?”

“Well, that depends, Vinyl. I recall that song playing on the radio when we were both in high school. So if that qualifies as an ‘oldie,’ what does that say about us?”

Ditzy trotted back into her room.

“It means you were born old, you hips—”

She shut off the radio, then turned to look out her window. The horizon was growing lighter, but the sun hid behind heavy clouds—and behind a thick stream of anti-photons pouring from the eleventh-dimensional rift in the sky.

Inside the rift was a riot of colors and anti-colors. Light, darkness, anti-darkness, and maxin-light all swirled together like puddles of luminescent ink. On the eastern edge, a pink-beige spiral transformed into a brilliantly transparent green-magenta, and then again into a dark, glistening plum-purple. On the northern edge, a gray-yellow blob pushed against a brown—with undercurrents of brown—one. Ditzy could almost imagine the two blobs were arguing. On the zwostern edge, a tendril of obsidian uncurled, then collapsed on itself as an adjacent blob of concentric yellows and whites exploded in a burst of sour pinks.

“Pity no one else in Ponyville will see this,” Ditzy said.

Before her eyes, the rift grew smaller as the eleventh dimension rapidly mended itself.

The fabric of space is a lot more resilient than most ponies would think, Ditzy thought. Aloud, she continued, “I wonder how long it will take us to clear up all those clouds to—”

A song echoed in Ditzy’s head, interrupting her monologue—a decade-old melody with lyrics about what an average day it was. She shook her head. “Darn it! Stupid song.”

She snorted as she trotted into the kitchen to make breakfast.

Prelude: Cloud and Proud

As she placed her bowl of oatmeal on the table, Ditzy bumped one of its legs. One side of the table lifted and slammed back down. Ditzy’s eyes widened, not at the oatmeal sloshing out of its bowl, but at the the salt and pepper shakers. They tipped, teetered, and fell on their side, spilling their condiments across the table’s surface.

Ditzy tensed as a shadow fell across the table, and she heard the clicking of far too many claws on the tile floor behind her. The instinctive, animal portion of Ditzy’s brain was screaming at her to flee—or to deliver a solid kick to the creature with her rear legs—but its urgings were easy enough to ignore. Instead, forcing casualness, she grasped the salt shaker in her mouth. With her eyes closed, she jerked her head to the side. The angle and speed were just right: salt crystals flew from the shaker, over her right shoulder. A snort sounded behind her, then the shadow disappeared.

As the kitchen fell silent, Ditzy relaxed. She set the salt shaker down and grabbed a rag to wipe up the mess on the table. Once the table was clean again, she lowered her muzzle into the oatmeal bowl. A few mouthfuls later, she bolted back upright. “Oh my goodness!” she exclaimed, spewing specks of breakfast with every word. “This oatmeal is perfect!” And indeed it was: not too hot, not too cold, and with just the right amount of cinnamon.

In spite of a millennium of harmony between the three pony tribes, there remained a few subjects on which they could never see eye-to-eye. Biology conspired to give each a unique insight into some very particular subjects, which they could never properly explain to members of the other tribes. But that didn't stop ponies from trying. Unicorns would exposit at length about the finer points of the most esoteric spells they could cast. Earth ponies would brag about the feats of strength and endurance they performed regularly in their jobs.

Pegasi were the exception. Their contributions to intertribal understanding were mostly accidental. For example, the average pegasus would complain about any given weather management project being too easy for her. But when anypony else—especially an earth pony or unicorn—described weather patrol as an easy career, that same pegasus would answer by laughing her rump off. Naturally, she would refuse to explain what she found so funny.

Thanks to the doozy of a thunderstorm the previous night, this day’s sky-clearing operation was nothing to sneeze at. And Ditzy was an average pegasus in at least one regard. After several hours, her flight muscles began to burn, but she said nothing and pressed on. Eventually the pain faded into a dull ache, and her hind legs began to hurt as well. There was no end to the cloud-bucking in sight. Without a word to her coworkers, Ditzy decided she needed a break.

She alighted on a small raincloud. First, she took a few minutes to stretch her legs. Then she examined her wings, squinting through the golden glow to ensure that all her feathers were in place.

That finished, she examined the cloud beneath her hooves. It was a C-22 Rainbearing, “cumulonimbus” model 2.17, and it was uncharacteristically soft. Wow, she thought, prancing in place and noting how deep her hooves sank. This would make a really nice bed. Indeed, the cloud bed she currently owned—a C-16 Ornamental, “cirrus” model 1.13—was beginning to wear a bit thin. This raincloud would be a fine replacement.

Aloud but under her breath, she added, “I can make it home and back in just a few minutes. I bet nopony will even notice I’m gone.”

Ditzy swooped to the side of the cloud and began pushing, but it only moved a few feet before stopping suddenly. Looking up, she met the eyes of a purple pegasus who had perched on the purloined cumulonimbus. Her mane looked like a flock of angry seagulls, her wings were flared threateningly, and her glare was directed squarely at Ditzy.

“And where do you think you’re going?” Cloudchaser asked.

“Um ...”

“Well then quit twiddling your hooves and get back to work!” Cloudchaser lifted off and slowly spun, sharing her glare with all the pegasi who had stopped working to watch her outburst. “That goes for all of you!”

“Hey!” Rainbow Dash’s sandpapery voice was every bit as distinct as the multi-hued, psychedelic aura cast by her wings. She separated from the crowd of pegasus onlookers and flew right up to Cloudchaser. “Who died and put you in charge?”

Everypony else’s attention was now on the two arguing pegasi. This would be a perfect distraction, Ditzy thought. “No, no,” she said, “slipping away myself isn’t a good idea now.” I’ll just have to use a Krasnicker tube.

“I’ve got places to be this afternoon, Rainbow Dash,” Cloudchaser said. “I don’t want to be late because a bunch of lollygaggers couldn’t get these skies cleared in time!”

Ditzy scanned the sky. Ponyville had a surplus of non-simple, extra-dimensional space-time connections. However, she needed one that led back to her home and looked at least relatively stable. She found a promising candidate and pushed her cloud towards it.

“For your information,” Dash said, “our sector is ahead of schedule. If you’re so worried about getting this job finished on time, why don’t you quit riding our rumps and go buck some clouds in your own sector!”

Ditzy stopped at the Krasnicker tube’s mouth. Traveling through it herself, a dangerous idea even under the best circumstances, was out of the question for a job this trivial. On the other hoof, shoving the cloud itself through was a perfectly reasonable course of action. Ditzy turned away from the cloud and prepared to buck it.

From this angle, she could see Cloudchaser flying away, shouting at Dash as she left: “Fine! But there will be Tartarus to pay if you mules hold the rest of us up!”

Ditzy kicked. She glanced back to confirm that she had used just enough force to send the raincloud traveling down the tube without damaging either. Turning forward, she found Rainbow Dash’s face, only a few feet away from her own.

Oh hailstones! Ditzy thought. How much did she see?

“Nice buck, Derpy!” Dash said. “No debris or anything!” She extended a foreleg and placed it on Ditzy’s shoulder as she continued, “Don’t let that featherbrain get you down. Keep up the good work, and you’ll be almost as awesome as me!”

Dash then darted higher and addressed all of the gathered pegasi. “Western sector! You heard what Cloudchaser said. Those snobs in the southern sector think we can’t pull our own weight! Well, I plan to prove them wrong, so who’s with me?”

The crowd roared its approval, and Ditzy couldn’t help but cheer along with them.

“I’ll make you all a deal,” Dash continued. “When we finish clearing our skies before any of the other sectors do, we’ll all go out for drinks after. The first round’s on me!”

The crowd cheered even louder.

Ditzy returned to sky-clearing with renewed vigor, humming to herself. But as she went, her song slowly changed. It took a few minutes to notice she was humming the song from that morning. “Darn it! Stupid song, get out of my head!”

That evening, when Ditzy made it halfway through washing up before realizing that something was missing from her apartment, she blamed it on the drinks.

A quick scan of all her rooms and closets confirmed that her cumulonimbus—her would-be new bed—was nowhere to be seen. She circled the outside of the apartment building and saw no trace of it. She even knocked on all her neighbors’ doors to ask about stray storm clouds materializing in their apartments: no dice.

Weird, Ditzy thought, as she lay down to sleep in her old cloud bed. If that Krasnicker tube didn’t lead here, then where did it lead?

Author's Note:

I heavily edited this chapter since originally publishing it. The edited version went live on 2 February 2015.

For historical purposes, I've preserved the original version on Gdocs, here.