Rainbow Dash is behaving strangely, and Applejack is very confused.
Rainbow Dash seems to be losing her mind, forgetting entire encounters and continually saying things that don't make any sense. Scootaloo gets to see Dash twice as much as she'd ever expected. Twilight Sparkle slips into full on-hermit mode. Applejack just wants answers... and to be with Rainbow Dash.
There's a double rainbow. What does it mean? It's so bright, so vivid....
It was another beautiful summer day in Ponyville. Rainbow Dash napped on a cloud floating lazily in the sky. She could rest easy knowing the weather didn't need any adjustments - not that she would've let a little work get in the way of a good nap. A stiff breeze ruffled her feathers slightly and she began to stir, but before she could protest against the disturbance the breeze intensified a thousand fold as a sound like mountains colliding ripped through the air. She was sent flying.
She tumbled off the edge of the cloud and spun wildly for a moment before she snapped to attention, flapped her wings twice, and leveled off - glancing rapidly in all directions trying to understand what had just happened. "What the hay was THA..."
Dash stopped as she caught a glimpse of something up above. She was absolutely entranced by the unbelievably massive rings of color spreading over the skies of Equestria. The resemblance to a Sonic Rainboom was uncanny, but there was no way anypony - or anything even close to the size of a pony - could make an effect as massive as... whatever it was she was staring at. No matter HOW fast it flew.
Fluttering in place for a few seconds, not realizing how far her jaw had dropped, Dash didn't even notice the rainbow trail blazing its way through the rings and speeding toward Sweet Apple Acres. She noticed when it hit the ground.
Another sound loud enough to wake the dead tore through the air as dirt, rocks, and apple trees were scattered several hundred feet in all directions. Rainbow Dash again stared and hovered, waiting for her brain to finish trying to process what had just happened.
Applejack spoke with a great enthusiasm about the finer technical details of the apple farm while the pencil levitating in front of Twilight scribbled furiously. Applejack had been hesitant to agree at first, but Twilight had eventually convinced her that the plan would work and this year's crop would be nearly double what was expected. She just needed to get some data to fine tune the numbers, and Twilight was certain everything would work perfectly.
Everything probably wouldn't have worked perfectly, what with the way something always seemed to go wrong and everypony learning a valuable lesson while fixing the problem, but the chance didn't present itself. No, this year there would be a significantly SMALLER crop of apples what with the number of trees that were uprooted or destroyed entirely.
Applejack picked herself up off the ground and stumbled over to where her lavender friend lay. "You okay Twi'?"
"I think so...", Twilight said through a fit of coughing. Somewhat miraculously, both ponies were unharmed. Neither had been sent very far or hit by any debris. They both just took an unexpected trip through the air a short distance and hit the ground once. Painful, but perfectly survivable.
"Well ah think we prob'ly ain't gonna git ta finish our little conversation right now. Got more important stuff to see to, tryin' ta fix as much o' this damage as possible. It looks like an awful lot of mah poor trees have... been..." Applejack trailed off before galloping off at full speed.
It didn't take Twilight long to see what had gotten her friend's attention. Over at the center of the... whatever just happened... lay a glowing Rainbow Dash. Laying with her eyes open wide, but unscuffed, unharmed, and glowing at the center of what had been a very devastating wave of force. Something wasn't right here. Applejack stopped just in front of her and began yelling.
"WHAT IN TARNATION DO YOU THINK YER' DOIN' DASH? YOU COULDA BEEN HURT. ANYPONY ON THE FARM COULDA BEEN HURT. THE APPLE TREES ARE DEFINITELY HURT. And fer what? Some ridiculous stunt of yers? I know you got tha Wonderbolts to train for and yer pride to uphold and whatever other ridicalous nonsense yer always goin' on about but do you never stop to think about the DAMAGE YOU CAUSE? I mean accidents happen, windows break even if it doesn't take a pony flyin' through 'em to do it. But THIS? I would say you're lucky you didn't get hurt but that's not entirely true because if you HAD been hurt I'd probably have a much harder time being this ANGRY at you! Are you even LISTENIN' TA ME?"
Dash's glow began to fade as her pupils shrunk down to tiny little dots. After a moment, they grew back to their normal size. She jerked her head around, clearly confused, before something in her head seemed to click. She stared at Applejack. She stared deeply at her face for several very long seconds. Just as Twilight had trotted over to the two ponies and Applejack was about to begin yelling again Dash bolted upright, turned toward Twilight, and opened her mouth.
"IT WORKED! I CAN'T BELIEVE IT WORKED! I mean I know I'm the fastest flier in Equestria and all, and you're the biggest Egghead I know Twilight, but I still can't believe we ACTUALLY DID IT!" Rainbow Dash was clearly excited about something. Twilight was confused. Applejack wavered between angry and confused.
"What are you talking about? Did what?" Twilight asked.
"Well, not WE we. ME, yes. And you. But not YOU you. Oh man, I totally wasn't paying attention when you told me how I was supposed to explain it to you..."
"Sugarcube, you're goin' to need to start explainin' yerself. NOW."
Dash shrunk back down a bit as she turned toward the orange earth pony. "I'm sorry AJ. I really really am. But I have orders. I need to talk to Twilight, and only Twilight. And I need to do it now, before... before...." she trailed off, struggling to find the right words and looked around at the damage done to the farm. Her voice lost a lot of its usual confidence. "I really can't tell you anything right now but I promise I'll make it up to you... eventually. I'm REALLY sorry about the farm and I hope this doesn't screw up anything between us. Just... I dunno, force me to help you clean up and replant later. Don't listen to me when I start being an idiot."
Snapping her head in the lavender mare's direction, her voice regained its usual qualities. "C'mon Twilight. I need you to teleport us back to the library. As fast as you can."
"What? Why? What exactly is going on here, Dash? And don't you owe Applejack at least a LITTLE explanation for... whatever this was that just happened?"
"Yes, I do, and I swear I feel really really bad about all this but I don't think we have a lot of time. I'm a pretty impatient pony and I really don't like having my naps interrupted and I'm positive I would be pretty buckin' curious if I saw any of what just happened."
"But what exactly DID just happen? What do you mean you WOULD be curious if you saw it? You were THERE!"
"AAARGH... I really REALLY wish I'd paid attention to you before I left... you told me exactly how I was supposed to explain all this and now I'm screwing it all up and everypony is going to be talking about this. Look Twilight, I can explain everythin... ALMOST everything to you, and ONLY you, if you just take us back to your library. I promised I'd do my best not to ruin everything and explaining everything to everypony is pretty much exactly how to ruin everything. So I need you to hold onto your questions for ten seconds while you take us back to the library. Now. I'd fly us both there myself but I'm actually pretty exhausted."
"I'm sorry Applejack, but do you think I could do what she says and just go back? I can explain whatever she tells me to you later. I'd just really like to get started on understanding what is going on here and it looks like Dash isn't going to let us do that unless I listen to her."
Applejack looked around at the apple trees, or what was left of them, and sighed. "Rainbow, you are going to work yer flank off to pay fer all this damage as soon as you're done with whatever you needed ta tell Twilight. Do I make mahself clear?"
"Yes ma'am. C'mon egghead let's GO! It's like, an emergency. We need to get the hay out of here RIGHT NOW before I ruin everything!"
A soft purple light enveloped two of the three ponies, and then they were gone.
Applejack had calmed down as she had begun to clean up. As infuriating as Dash could sometimes be, Applejack was sure that she wouldn't let her down. The apple family would need help getting the farm in running condition again and replanting enough of the trees that hadn't been destroyed to have a decent harvest. She hadn't expected to see Dash again so soon.
There was the soft thud of a rushed landing. "Hey AJ, what the hay happened here? What crashed over there?"
"Rainbow... yer kiddin' me right? You..." Applejack stopped herself. She could feel a powerful anger building inside her. She had every right to be upset at the cyan pegasus for what she had done, but then to come back and act like nothing had happened... it was enough to make her want to do something she'd regret. She glared daggers at Dash for what seemed to be an eternity as Dash slowly shrunk back and looked hurt. What was going on here? It was like nothing HAD happened. There was nothing in her eyes but innocence. She came to check on her friend and was asking questions about the scene in front of her.
"Rainbow ah... ah think you'd better go." Even if Rainbow Dash was completely innocent, Applejack couldn't fully suppress her anger. This was all Dash's fault, and she couldn't even get any answers out of her. Especially not now that she seemed to have forgotten the whole incident.
"Where's Spike?" Dash asked, looking around for any sign of the baby dragon and seeing nothing but books.
"He's over at Sugarcube Corner helping Pinkie with some kind of secret project."
"Oh, okay. Cool then. So it's just you and me here?"
"I'm pretty sure. So now, what exactly is so important that it couldn't wait for just a few minutes? And why in the wide world of Equestria couldn't you tell Applejack about it?"
Dash let out a long sigh. "Okay Twilight, I need you to stay calm and listen to me. I know I'm not the element of honesty, but I swear what I'm about to tell you is true and I need you to believe me. I ALSO need you to keep everything I'm about to say a secret, and I know you'll understand why. Are you ready for this?"
Twilight sat still, remembering the last time she tried to keep a secret and how that turned out. This seemed a lot more important. The purple pony put on a very serious face and stood up straight. "Okay. I'm ready."
"Twilight, I am the fastest flier in Equestria. I know I can be a little smug about it, but it really is true. It's also true that you are the smartest pony I've ever met, and the princesses aside you've got the most powerful magic I've ever heard of. Working together, we did the impossible."
"Dash I'm getting really confused here. What did we do? Teleport from Sweet Apple Acres to here? That's not all that impressive. I mean I guess it kinda is, most unicorns probably couldn't manage it, but it's far from impossible and doesn't require you to contribute at all."
"No, Twilight, not the teleport just now. Before that... er... AFTER that I guess." She paused and took a deep breath. "Twilight... I'm from the future. Using your crazy egghead powers and awesome magic, and my even MORE awesome speed, we were able to send me back in time."
"W w... what?" Twilight managed to stammer.
"I know, it's crazy. I can hardly believe it myself. But after getting a good look at Applejack I'm sure of it. And you told me that as soon as you understood that, you'd understand why we can't tell people about this. Disrupting the space lime continue or whatever. If we change the past, it wrecks the future."
The gears were visibly turning in Twilight's head. "Okay. So that leaves a very important question. Why did you come back at all?"
This time it was Dash's turn to slip into thought. "Because I had to, because I already did. If I try to understand or explain it any better than that I'm going to hurt myself trying. You're the egghead."
There was a very long silence before the spark of understanding flashed across Twilight's eyes. "You came back... because you came back?" Dash nodded. "So what's happening right now happened. And then later once I had worked out the details of what makes time travel possible, I knew I had to send you back in time so that you could talk to me about it, so that I could start thinking about time travel, so that I could send you back, so that you could show up and give me the idea in the first place?"
"So we caused a stable time loop, and I suppose I'm worried that disrupting it might cause some sort of paradox. I have to develop time travel and send you back to close the loop. And we had to get away from Sweet Apple Acres, because YOU were about to show up there wondering what just happened and you didn't meet yourself when YOU went there."
"Um... also yes?"
Suddenly realizing that she was about to invent TIME TRAVEL, Twilight Sparkle lost herself in a fit of giggling and hopping and glee.
A note of worry crept into Rainbow Dash's voice. "So um, Twilight... I guess I forgot to ask you before I left... how am I supposed to get back to the future?"
"Oh, that shouldn't be too hard. Forward, backward, why would one be significantly more difficult than the other? I'm sure once I work out one direction the other will follow. More importantly, what are you supposed to do while you wait? You can't just go out there, you could bump into yourself and cause SERIOUS damage to the spacetime continuum!"
"Yeah yeah race lime whatever. You don't send me back here for like, a WEEK! You know I can't stay cooped up in a library for that long! I just need to avoid myself, right?"
"Dash, if you run into yourself it could very well be the end of Equestria!"
"Yeah, so I just have to stay away from wherever I am for a week. Like right now I'm at Sweet Apple Acres and then I think I went to Sugarcube Corner. So as long as I stay away from both of those places today, I shouldn't see myself."
"But even if you don't bump into yourself directly, some other pony could see you in one place and then turn around and see you again somewhere else! Ponies will get suspicious, and if anypony talks to you about it you might decide to try to investigate!"
"But I didn't! I was there, I would know! There was some confusion. My friends said a lot of things that didn't make any sense, but I never bothered looking into it. I just figured everypony was going crazy. But now that I know crazy magic stuff was going on with me from the future, don't I have to go out and CAUSE my friends to say all those weird things? To stabilize the time loop whatevers?"
Twilight hadn't expected Dash to be right. She REALLY hadn't expected herself to be wrong. With a frustrated 'fine', she shooed Dash away and got back to work.
The cyan pegasus thought to herself about all the mischief she could pull off. She wouldn't even have to deal with the consequences! Well, she would, but she already did? Not her, the other one. Whatever, that was the past. This. The present was the past. Or, something? It was making her head hurt, but she couldn't come up with any reason she shouldn't go all out on everything. The only limit was that she had to make sure not to be in the same place that she already was. Now where was she, again? This might be harder than she thought.
Rainbow Dash was speeding away from Sweet Apple Acres, deciding to figure out what was up with Applejack later. She was kinda hungry, maybe she would stop by Sugarcube Corner and pick up something sweet. Steering herself in the right direction, she rocketed off toward Ponyville.
And directly into Scootaloo. What in the hay was SHE doing up in the air? She couldn't fly yet!
"OHMYGOSHRAINBOWDASH! Do... do you want to do something?" Scootaloo was a vibrating orange mass of energy. She didn't seem even the least bit injured, which was good because it meant Dash could leave.
"Heya squirt, sorry but I gotta fly."
Scootaloo didn't try to hide her disappointment at the immediate rejection.
"Aw, cheer up kid. How about later today, we can go hang out or something?"
"YOU MEAN IT?!?"
"Sure, I guess. Later." With that she was gone and Scootaloo's vibrations began to slow down. She picked her scooter back up and looked at the 'ramp' she had just gone flying off of. Deciding against another run, she turned around and stared. "RAINBOWDASH! I thought you had something you needed to go do. Does this mean you don't? ARE YOU FREE RIGHT NOW? CAN WE HANG OUT YET? IT'S LATER!"
Dash looked at the filly bouncing in place, before remembering the encounter that had just taken place. Scootaloo could be a little bit too eager at times, but what else was Dash going to go do? She couldn't go to Sugarcube Corner, and just to be safe she should probably stay out of Ponyville for a bit. She wasn't entirely sure what else she had done that evening. She could probably go to Fluttershy's place and hang around there for a little, but that wouldn't be very fun. Applejack would be way too curious about what was going on and probably really mad at her for wrecking half the farm.
That thought made Dash's heart sink. She didn't like upsetting any of her friends, but she really couldn't stand making AJ unhappy. She wasn't sure when exactly... THOSE feelings had started, but even before then she had felt more comfortable around AJ than her other friends. Twilight was too much of an Egghead. Fluttershy was too afraid to do anything fun. Rarity was... ugh, RARITY. Pinkie Pie was pretty great sometimes, but she could just be so random. It didn't come as too much of a surprise to Dash the day she realized how she really felt about her. It did surprise her yesterday to find out the beautiful orange mare felt the same way about her. She would have to make sure to spend LOTS of time at the farm when she got back.
As much as she really wanted to go talk to Applejack right now, she knew that probably wouldn't be a good idea. They hadn't had 'the big talk' yet, and Dash was currently wrapped up in ridiculous time shenanigans. Well, they DID have the talk, but that was before. Er, after. Whatever. Dash's head was starting to hurt again. Without a lot of other options, she decided to spend some time with her biggest little fan.
Rainbow Dash came barreling out of nowhere and almost slammed into Applejack. Stumbling onto her hooves, she wobbled over to the farmer having not yet shaken the stars out of her vision. Giving her head one quick shake, she sucked in a sharp breathe to prepare herself to do something very difficult. Stupid Twilight, always being right about everything.
She knew the other mare felt the same way about her for a while too, but somehow knowing this took place before she had told her that made her nervous. For some foalish reason, she was afraid THIS Applejack wouldn't return her feelings. But she had to do this. The fate of Equestria could be hanging in the balance.
"Rainbow, whut are you doing back here? I thought I told ya' that" AJ was interrupted as Dash quickly grabbed her in a tight embrace.
"APPLEJACKILOVEYOUOKAYGOTTAGOBYE!" she managed to squeeze out in about a second before planting a quick kiss and flying away at an impossible speed.
Twilight Sparkle shoved her muzzle back into the book she had been reading. This was the third time she'd been interrupted for some ridiculous social activity she didn't have time for. There was studying to be done! Finding her place on the page, she began to read again before there was a very insistent and loud knocking at the door. Letting out a groan, Twilight got up once again and headed for the door.
The moment the door was open, a figure wearing a cloak barged in and shut the door behind itself. Throwing off the cloak, Twilight was surprised to see... Rainbow Dash?
"Twilight! Okay, I did what you told me to. No, not YOU you. YOU didn't tell me anything. I'm not the Dash from before. I'm the other Dash. Not that one. Wait... ARGHH. You're smart, you'll figure this out, and I don't have time to explain. Anyway I think the Applejack situation is under control. Now before I find some place to hide, I need to know. How many of me have you seen so far today?"
Twilight's left eye twitched slightly. "Wait... you... the other Dash... carry the one... Wait, what's this about Applejack?"
"So I haven't... Nevermind, it's not important for you. Yet. You'll get to that later. Right now I need to go hide before this gets any crazier, but first I need to know how many of me you've met today."
"Three. There's the you from the present, the you from the future who told me she was from the future, and now the you right here. I'm assuming you're from slightly FURTHER into the future?"
Scootaloo lay down, breathing heavily. She'd just finished a very exciting adventure with her idol, and she was enjoying a well earned rest. Today had gone GREAT! She'd learned tons of great new tricks, she'd flown - it technically counted as flying, even if her wings didn't do anything - and she'd been assured that she was 'a pretty cool pony'. And she wasn't covered in tree sap or anything! Letting out a contented sigh, she watched the most awesome pony she knew fly off toward Sweet Apple Acres.
Rainbow Dash landed next to her. "Aw, what's got you so tired? I came by to let you know it's time for something AWESOME!"
Confused, but excited at the opportunity to hang out with Dash more, Scootaloo got up. She was about to ask a question about whether or not Dash had something important to take care of with Applejack, but decided it might be wiser not to look a gift horse in the mouth.
Applejack sat at the kitchen table, idly chewing the same piece of apple pie that had been in her mouth for the last ten minutes, trying to sort out her feelings. She loved Rainbow Dash. That much was easy. She'd gotten angry at her earlier in the day. That was unpleasant, but simple. But then the beautiful mare came rocketing out of the sky for the second time that day and confessed that she felt the same way before kissing her. And then immediately flew away at top speed. It was almost like she'd been dared to do it. There was no way that was a real, honest confession of love. Nopony blurts it out, kisses you and runs. What did that mean? How did Dash really feel, and why had she done that?
The orange earth pony was snapped back to reality at the sound of rapid knocking on the front door. She got up to open the door, and jumped back in surprise at the sight of Rainbow Dash standing there calmly like nothing had happened.
"Rainbow you have some SERIOUS explainin' ta do!"
Dash stepped back. "What? Oh! Are you still thinking about what happened earlier? Can you please just forget about how weird I was acting? And anything crazy I might've said? I really am sorry about all the trouble. I just came by to offer my help fixing the damage I caused to the farm." Dash was lying. That wasn't her only reason for stopping by. She wanted to see Applejack, even if they couldn't be together just yet.
Applejack felt Dash's words twist in her heart. The confession was just crazy talk? She was SORRY for kissing her, and was hoping she'd have FORGOTTEN? She wanted to fix the damage to the earth pony's farm, but not her heart. A stream of tears started to flow freely from those honest green eyes, and the cyan pegasus gingerly put a hoof on the shoulder of the mare she loved.
"So before you sent me back again, you told me to always check in with you to make sure we keep the timeline straight. But if you've only seen past me and um... future me, then future future me hasn't been here yet. Which means everything is still screwed up because I rushed things way too fast with Applejack." Rainbow Dash was clearly frustrated.
"Why is Applejack so important for this?"
"Because we have to make sure that everything that happened before this mess started still happens."
"I'm well aware of that, and I'm pretty sure future me is the one who told you. But what exactly was it that 'happened' with Applejack that hasn't happened yet? And why do you need to interfere to make it happen?"
Rainbow Dash took a step back and blushed slightly. "AJ and I... uh... we... " Stammering with embarassment, Dash realized her wings were beginning to tingle. She would need Twilight's help making sure this all worked out, and it'd be hard to get help if she didn't know what was going on, but that still didn't make admitting it any easier. They hadn't told any of their friends yet. Or, their future selves wouldn't have... yet... told... their future friends. That sounded right. Taking a deep breath, the cyan pegasus prepared to let out her secret.
"APPLEJACK AND I ARE IN LOVE!" Dash quickly shouted, her blush and her wings rising.
"That's... that's great Dash! But how does that relate to... when did you two figure this out?
"Yes, great, but you can't tell anypony about this yet! For one, WE don't know it yet right now, but even once we DO we hadn't told anypony else yet and I couldn't tell any of you if she wasn't ready. I'm only telling you now because I have to! We had our big talk about how we felt yesterday. But not the yesterday that was before today. The yesterday that it was for me before I went back to the here today. I think? This stuff is really confusing Twilight!"
"And at least one of you, besides the 'past' you, talked to Applejack about this?"
"Well, yes and no. Original past me eventually does, but we're worried about the future mes. And the FIRST one didn't. We did talk, but only about the farm. You told me you were ready to send me back to the future, and that we didn't have a lot of time for some reason. You rushed me back, and then you... future you... started asking me a bunch of questions about when and where I talked to who. And AJ had been really angry with me when we talked, so I was sure I'd screwed up. You told me you had figured out that I had been supposed to talk to AJ about... how I feel. So I needed to go back again."
"So that's you now? Then what's this about ONLY three of you?"
"That's just it, you told me that you had already sent me back a second time to fix the AJ situation! You told me that THAT me was going to get things moving in the right direction, but you weren't sure whether or not everything would be completely fixed. You went to go look at all these crazy charts and graphs and notes you had and told me that I would need to go back and do something drastic with Applejack AFTER the first two of me that went back talked to her, but BEFORE the past me who hadn't done any time travel. The last one of me that was mucking around with time travel needs to be positive that AJ is ready to have 'the talk' with the me that's from the time we're going back to. I figured it wouldn't be too hard to do that, so I went back again and... um... did something drastic with Applejack. But she acted like it came completely out of the blue! It sounded like I hadn't told her anything yet, and this whole thing about who was where when got really confusing. I came here to try and have you help me clear it up, but apparently I got back here BEFORE the future me that was supposed to start talking mushy. So now I'm worried that things are gonna be more screwed up than ever because I almost definitely pushed her too fast! She didn't seem ready. I think I got to her before the first future me even apologized for the farm!"
"Oh... wow. I'm actually really impressed you were able to keep track of all that. Charts and graphs sound like a great idea to help keep this going smoothly. You'll have to thank future me the next time you go back for inspiring me to... give myself the idea. So okay, I'll keep some documentation going to help us figure this out. You just make sure any time you go forward or backward, you check in with me and give me all the details. Now as for YOU you, you just go hide somewhere like future me wisely told you to do, but not anywhere that you already are. Make sure that each time I tell you to hide, you hide somewhere that you aren't already hiding. Think you can handle that?"
Okay everypony, I hope you're ready. I don't know if 'adventure' is the right tag, but none of the others adequately describe shenanigans of this calibre. No, we won't be slaying monsters or finding ancient artifacts. But we WILL be tying the timeline in knots. Get ready for this to get much more complicated now that the warmup is over. THIS time, I'm spelling everything out in a nice Egghead Planner to Witless Executor chat to keep everypony on the same page as we set out for ridiculousness. But that might not always happen.
ALSO, let me know if you feel the chapter lengths are appropriate. I keep thinking they should be longer because so many other stories use longer chapters, but they feel right to me. What do YOU think?
Rainbow Dash hid herself, poorly, in a small gathering of puffy clouds floating lazily above Sweet Apple Acres. She hadn’t hid here before, or before, so she thought she would be safe from herself. She was wrong.
Rainbow Dash crashed directly into Rainbow Dash, and as they tumbled across the surface of a cloud she put her hoof over the other mare’s mouth and made a shushing gesture.
“GAH! What the hay are you DOING here? We aren’t supposed to bump into each other because of the space time whatever!” one dash whispered somewhat loudly to the other.
“Usually no, but if I already did run into myself before, then I need to run into myself so that I’ll have been run into by myself! I think. Whatever, you know how stupid this is getting. It’s fine this time. When I was hiding here, I ran into me and I told me what I’m telling you now. You can’t talk to Applejack.”
“Huh? But why? Don’t I need to set her up for me to… uh… kiss? So she won’t freak out?”
“No, because you didn’t! You can’t set yourself up for something that you didn’t set yourself up for! You didn’t talk to her earlier and she wasn’t ready. You can’t go back and change that now. Everything that we’re doing has already been done. I stopped you from setting it up because I stopped me from setting it up!”
“So that means I have to go back to the future, to go back to the past to be you to stop me?”
“Yeah! At least I’m pretty sure… yeah that sounds right. Twilight’s started planning this all so each of us only does one thing. For every trip back, we hide until we’re needed, do whatever we’ve gotta do, and then hide until we can go back. She says this way there’s less chance for us to screw up.”
“What, she doesn’t think we can do this? Who made her mayor of time travel town?”
“I KNOW, right? As long as we understand what we’re doing, we’re just as capable as she is! And that’s not even the worst part! She’s not telling any of us the whole truth. Didn’t she tell you to come back here and see Applejack? Even though you can’t, because you didn’t? Why bother sending you to do it and me to stop you instead of just not sending either of us?”
“As much as I don’t like not knowing what’s going on, we probably should listen to Twilight. She’s the smartest pony we know. I trust her.”
“But it’s almost like SHE doesn’t trust US!”
Rainbow Dash landed softly next to Rainbow Dash and Rainbow Dash. The newest arrival of the multicolored multiples opened her mouth. “There you two are. Come on, we need to go find me. Er, you. Um… the one that hasn’t done any time travel yet!” Both of the conversing ponies faces contorted in confusion.
Twilight Sparkle sat alone… she glanced around anxiously… ALONE, for now. There were currently no rainbow maned pegusai impeding her progress. If time travel was simple enough that she could figure it out so quickly, then why was it so hard? What other combinations of magic and speed could there be? She had already run the numbers for hundreds of possibilities, but none of them turned up positive. There just didn’t seem to be any way to harness enough energy to manipulate the flow of time. But she couldn’t give up. She literally COULDN’T give up, because she already hadn’t. She had figured it out and sent Rainbow Dash back in time. She had to finish this so she could close the loop. There were a lot of smaller issues dealing with individual Dashes and Applejack’s feelings, but none of those mattered at all if she couldn’t send anypony back in time.
There was a knock at the door. Twilight did not try to hide the her exasperation at being interrupted - again. Upon opening the door, she was not surprised to see Rainbow Dash. Again.
Applejack lay alone in her bed, trying desperately to fall asleep – hoping to wake up tomorrow and put this nonsense behind her. Even if she could have fallen asleep, there was no way she’d be able to forget a day like today. When that stupid, brash, STUPID, gorgeous mare had ruined half her farm, she was angry. She knew she’d get over it eventually. When Dash showed up again later and blurted out a confession of love, she was felt a deep confusion accompanied by a small warmth. All her worries and fears about whether or not the other mare felt the same feelings she did had melted away, knowing that she had just been having a difficult time admitting to the truth. Everything was going to be okay. No, better than okay. Everything was going to turn out amazing.
But that confusion turned back into a wave of anger and buried the warmth. Rainbow Dash came back. She came back and tried to pretend the confession hadn’t happened. Hadn’t meant anything. That there was nothing between the two mares and there wasn’t going to be. Applejack didn’t understand why.
Rainbow Dash, Rainbow Dash, and Rainbow Dash watched Rainbow Dash from a distance. Dash and Dash still hadn’t gotten a clear explanation from Dash about what they needed Dash for, and any time either of them tried asking a question, they were quickly shushed. They didn’t understand, and they didn’t like it.
Although she hadn’t liked the interruption, Twilight Sparkle had to admit that she was stuck in place with her studies and had hardly made any progress recently. Maybe this interruption could be useful and Rainbow Dash could remember a few details about how the process worked. Actually, that was a great idea. Twilight was ashamed she hadn’t thought to ask earlier and tried to stubbornly figure it out all on her own. Dash had already been through the procedure, and surely any details she could remember would be helpful.
“Hey Dash? What do you know about how this all works?”
“ME? You’re the egghead, I thought you were supposed to figure this all out!”
“Well you’ve done it already. Don’t you remember anything? Did I cast a spell on you, did I use any magical artifacts, was teleportation involved? You have to know SOMETHING.”
“Oh, um… well let’s see… I’m pretty sure you cast some kind of spell on me, and then you told me to do a Sonic Rainboom. You also warned me to get somewhere out of the way so I wouldn’t hit anything when I landed, but we both know what happened to Applejack’s farm. I swear I was somewhere over the Everfree forest when I did it though, so I don’t know how I landed there!”
Slowly but surely, the gears in Twilight’s head began to turn once more. A spell that affected an entity, not a location. That was a useful start. And then requiring a Sonic Rainboom, or at least a great deal of speed and/or energy in addition to the spell… And for some reason, the process could displace a pony by a fairly large distance… But how to combine the energies of the spell with something she knew so little about?
New ideas in mind and fresh theories to work on, Twilight Sparkle resumed her work with an intense vigor. She didn’t say another word to Dash, and didn’t notice her leave. She probably wouldn’t have noticed much outside of the library collapsing around her.
Rainbow Dash, you are one clever pony. Dash thought to herself. Arriving back in the future, where everything made a LOT more sense, she had the most awesome idea for how to fix everything. Forget Twilight’s stupid charts! She would just go ASK Applejack what happened. Sure, in the past she had to be careful not to screw up timelines or whatever, but back here all that was already dealt with. She could just head right over to Sweet Apple Acres and ask her lovely marefriend what exactly she had been up to during the rather… chaotic… period leading up to the big talk. Being the element of Honesty, Dash knew she’d get the truth. It might make AJ a little angry to know Dash had been keeping the whole situation a secret, but she was sure that “not destroying all of space and time” would be a fine excuse.
Landing just in front of the farmhouse, the cyan pegasus knocked on the door. As the seconds rolled by, she became increasingly anxious. When the door finally opened, a great relief washed over Rainbow Dash. Here, after a very long and crazy series of events, she was finally in front of her marefriend. The one that knew how she felt, and returned those feelings. Unfortunately, it wasn’t time to rest just yet.
One horribly stapled together and incredibly inaccurate summary of the situation later, Applejack let out a long whistle. “I really wish I could help ya’ Dash, honest I do. But that whole mess I was such a trainwreck mahself I doubt I properly remember half o’ whut I was feeling when. All I know fer sure is when I first realized how ah felt about ya’ and how happy I was when we finally talked everything out.”
Dash nuzzled the earth pony gently. “I’m still pretty confused myself. My head is kinda spinning from all this crazy stuff. But I’m pretty sure I’ll never forget when I first realized how I felt about YOU, or how happy I’m going to be when I’m done with this and we can finally spend some time together.”
“We’ve both been waiting a long time, sugarcube. We’ll be okay waiting a little more. It’ll be nothin’ compared to tha months I was too afraid ta talk ta ya.”
“So hey, uh… when did you…?”
“Just a lil’ while after Pinkie’s hotsauce party.”
Dash shuddered remembering that particular event. “Huh. I think for me it was when I helped you go pick up that special fertilizer from Hoofington. I just remember that night when we set up camp on the way back I couldn’t get to sleep. I just couldn’t stop staring at you and I was having a hard time figuring out why.”
Applejack’s face twisted into a confused glare. “What trip ta Hoofington? Ah’ve never needed to go nowhere ta get no special fertilizer.”
There was a long silence, during which Dash thought much harder than she could remember thinking before. Finally breaking the silence as the pieces started to fall into place, Dash groaned. “Oh no... Applejack, I think we’ve got a long way to go before this is over.”
Rainbow Dash held the door to the library open for Rainbow Dash. One was just coming in, the other was just leaving. Following behind Dash was Applejack.
“Twilight, we’ve got a problem. Applejack doesn’t remember something we did a few months ago.”
Twilight Sparkle wanted to make a somewhat sarcastic remark about nopony having perfect memory, but stopped herself. Dash wouldn’t be bringing this up if it didn’t have to do with that tangled knot of a relationship she had with the farm pony. It was a good thing Twilight had already figured this part out.
“Correct. Applejack does not remember the day you realized you were in love with her, because she wasn’t there. You didn’t fall in love with Applejack, you fell in love with APPLEJACK!”
Rainbow Dash frowned. “I was afraid you’d say that…”
Applejack looked confused. “And jes what exackly does that mean?”
“It means you don’t remember that day because you hadn’t lived through it yet. You have to go back in time and go on a trip to Hoofington with Rainbow Dash. You have to ensure that she realizes how she really feels about you so that you two end up together and we FINALLY STOP THIS NONSENSE! Honestly, if this is what it takes to find love you can count me out.”
Applejack’s eyes quivered and it looked like she was only barely holding back tears.
Rainbow Dash put a hoof on the earth pony's shoulder "Hay, what's wrong?"
“Are… are you telling me that I haf’ ta LIE to you? I have to make up some cockamamie nonsense ‘bout special fertilizer and drag you all the way to Hoofington fer nothin’?”
“It’s not for nothing. It’s absolutely vital to your relationship, and because you two just HAD to get your relationship tangled up in time travel, it’s vital to the fate of Equestria. Applejack, I know you’re the element of honesty – but you MUST do this. There just isn’t any alternative.”
Applejack hated this whole trip. Here she was, right next to the mare she loved, but completely unable to truly BE with her. She had to pretend they were just friends, and also had to make sure her ‘just friend’ stared at her for several hours. She had to be just a few steps away from her dream mare, doing everything in her power to make certain she was in the other mare’s thoughts, but maintaining the image that nothing was going on and indeed knowing that nothing WAS going to go on until well after this trip. She had to LIE TO HER. This was all awful, wasting so many hours and getting no work done. Spending so much time with a friend, but not having any fun. Repeating the same lie over and over and smiling as if nothing was wrong.
When they finally made camp on the return trip, Applejack excused herself for a minute to go to the nearby stream for a drink. Rainbow Dash was there.
“So, is it workin’? Are ya starin’ at me yet?”
“No, I’m not. I keep spacing out, probably thinking about flying and stunts. You’re going to have to do something to get my attention.”
“Like wut, LIE more?”
“Hay, you know this isn’t your fault. You had to. I forgive you.”
“I know ya do, sugarcube, but it still hurts. An’ ah still have to go back out there an’ lie to ya some more. An’ all this is just ta trick ya’ into fallin’ fer me.”
Rainbow Dash nuzzled her marefriend. “No, AJ, that’s not true. I already had feelings for you before tonight, I just didn’t realize it. It wasn’t the first time I’d stared at you and felt something. It was just the first time I understood what it was I was feeling.”
“Then why aren’t ya staring at me yet?”
“I don’t know, maybe I’m afraid that you’ll see me staring and get the wrong idea. You know I have a hard time keeping my wings down.” Dash blushed.
“But I thought ya said ya didn’t know ya felt that way yet?”
“There’s a big difference between finding somepony attractive and wanting to be with them. I’m sure Rarity and Prince Jerk Blood have proven that. I’ve always thought you were beautiful. I mean, even without your cute freckles and your amazing eyes and your awesome hair, you’ve still got a KILLER body. I mean just look at your…” *Sproing*
The blue pegasus’ wings shot up into the night sky. Applejack laughed softly. “Alright, I’m gonna go back out there and do…” her voice shifted to a lower, more seductive tone “…whatever I can to catch your eye.” She stretched and wriggled slightly, not any more than would be expected of a pony trying to get comfortable, but somehow pushing all the right buttons.
Dash gulped. “Alright. Just keep an eye on my wings, and you should know when you’ve done your job.” She paused. “I love you.”
Scootaloo fell out of her bed, completely exhausted. She couldn’t remember the last time she had done so much in such a short time. She didn’t care. The last few days had been more awesome than she’d ever dreamed. There was barely any time where she wasn’t hanging out with her idol, pulling crazy stunts and listening to fantastic stories. She ALMOST hoped she wouldn’t see Rainbow Dash today, if only to have some time to rest… almost. Today however, she had already made plans with the Cutie Mark Crusaders. As awesome as Dash was, ditching your friends was not cool.
When Scootaloo dragged herself up to the clubhouse, Sweetie Belle and Applebloom were already there.
“Scootaloo, you’re late.”
“Sorry, I slept in a bit. I’m really tired.”
“What’ve ya been doin’ to make yerself so tired? We haven’t seen much of ya lately.”
“Oh, I’ve just been hanging with THE coolest pony in Ponyville.”
“Applejack?” “Rarity?” The other two fillies asked simultaneously.
“No! C’mon guys, RAINBOW DASH! Jeez.”
Sweetie Belle looked at Scootaloo curiously. “But hasn’t she been over at the Library with Twilight a lot?”
Applebloom looked at both of her friends. “Are you guys sure? Ah thought she’s been here on tha farm helping mah sister.”
“Well, she is the fastest flier in Equestria. Maybe she’s in three places at once!” Scootaloo stared out the window into the sky searching for rainbow colored trails, obviously feeling that her explanation was perfectly plausible.
Rainbow Dash flew by in the distance, in what looked like the direction of the library.
Rainbow Dash peeked her head into the clubhouse. “There you are Applebloom. AJ is looking for you.”
Sweetie Belle and Applebloom didn’t seem to have noticed the distant Rainbow. Scootaloo briefly considered whether or not her cutie mark would have to do with making absurd statements become reality.
There was another knock at the door. Twilight Sparkle groaned as she magically opened the door, not bothering to look up from her notes.
“Dash, I don’t know how you ever expect me to figure this out if I keep getting interrupted like this.”
“You can’t. That’s why I’m here.”
Twilight craned her neck to get a good luck at herself. “I’m sorry, run that by me again?”
Rainbow Dash stepped in through the still open door. “You’re going to switch places with yourself. You already know how this works, and I need to start heading back. There are getting to be way too many of me hanging around here.”
The lavender unicorn who wasn’t confused looked at herself. “It’s simple. I’m going to send you with Dash here to the future – to a time when there’s only ONE of everypony. You get peace and quiet so you can think, and I get started sending all the Rainbows forward to where they need to be next. THIS Rainbow Dash needs to get back to a few minutes after she left so I can send her back again to stop herself from stopping herself so they can all go find her and get her turned around so she doesn’t run into herself.”
Twilight Sparkle blinked.
“Nevermind, you don’t have to worry about this part yet. NONE of them ever end up talking to Applejack. They’re all just loose ends that need to be tied up. I’ll be dealing with all the leftover Rainbows. YOU worry about their relationship and getting time travel up and running. That should just leave a few extra Applejacks to deal with before everpony involved in this mess has been tended to. Rainbow Dash, could you please escort me back to the future? I haven’t got a lot of time right now. Well, I guess I do, but you know what I mean.”
Twilight Sparkle, Twilight Sparkle, Rainbow Dash, Rainbow Dash, Applejack, Applejack, Applejack, Twilight Sparkle, Rainbow Dash, Rainbow Dash, and Rainbow Dash all stood around the chalkboard in the middle of the library.
“Are ya’ COMPLETELY sure ya’ve got this all under control? I know y’all’re mighty smart, but this seems like a bit much ta handle, even fer you. Even fer three of ya.”
Nopony said anything for a few moments. Twilight Sparkle seemed to be calm, but Twilight Sparkle’s left eye was twitching slightly. Twilight Sparkle finally broke the silence. “As difficult as this is, bringing in more help will only make it worse. I’m already regretting deciding to get my help.”
Twilight’s ears fell slightly. She knew she didn’t mean it like that, but still… Twilight didn’t seem to notice, still mentally looking over her charts and graphs. Rainbow Dash spoke.
“Maybe we should ask the Princess for help. Maybe somepony before has messed around with time travel, and the Princess knows something about it?”
“Are you CRAZY? We can’t tell Celestia about all the trouble we’ve caused! She would probably banish us! Or throw us in a dungeon! Or…”
“Yeah yeah, banishment AND a dungeon, we’ve heard. But come ON Twilight, you know the Princess wouldn’t do that! Fluttershy birdnapped her pet, and she didn’t get punished at all!”
“There’s a pretty big difference between taking a phoenix and putting it in no real danger, and jeopardizing the whole of Equestria by juggling a few dozen ponies back and forth across time!”
“So what do ya recommend we do? Just keep quiet about the whole thing forever, and if anypony asks just lie and say we was havin’ a party? The Princess is gonna find out sooner er later.”
The argument was interrupted by Rainbow Dash bursting through the door. “Everypony calm down, there’s no point in arguing anymore. I just took Twilight to Canterlot. She’s going to explain everything.”
“What? No! I have to stop me! “ Shouted one of the lavender mares. She turned to face Rainbow Dash. “You have to go bring me back!”
“Don’t be ridiculous, if she could do that, then it already would have happened! She’s obviously thought this through and taken precautions to stop you from stopping her.”
“But I AM her! I’ll be able to figure out a way around whatever I’ve set up to stop me from stopping me!”
“But you ARE her, eventually. Which means you chose to do this after more thought than you’ve given it yet. You eventually come to the conclusion that it’s the right answer.”
“Why are you on HER side? I can’t believe I’ve gone so crazy that I think telling the Princess is a good idea!”
“Well I can’t believe that I was so crazy that I thought I could thwart a plan set into motion by my FUTURE SELF. Don’t you realize that you know everything you’re going to try to do? You’ve already tried it! You can see every move you make before you even make it!”
Three Rainbow Dashes had decided to ignore the spectacle and discuss getting some food. Rainbow Dash couldn’t stop thinking about what she could do with THREE Applejacks - not that she’d get the chance. Rainbow Dash had snuck off to a corner with Applejack.
Applebloom and Sweetie Belle had dismissed it as impossible, but Scootaloo was sure that Dash had been in two places at once. She followed Rainbow Dash as stealthily as she could. The rainbow maned pegasus must have been quite distracted, because Scootaloo was not particularly stealthy. Attempts at becoming Cutie Mark Crusader Ninjas went very poorly.
The little orange pegasus wasn’t watching where she was going, and tripped over herself. No really, she tripped over HERSELF.
“What the hay?” “What the hay?”
“Who are you?” “Who are you?”
“I asked you first!” “I asked you first!”
“Nuh-uh, I asked you first!” “Nuh-uh, I asked you first!”
The two Scootaloos sat in silence, staring at each other for several minutes before simultaneously starting to grin mischievously. It didn’t matter how or why there had come to be two of her, but she knew herself well enough to know she wouldn’t want to waste a chance like this. This was going to be good.
Twilight Sparkle had finally figured it out. It was so obvious, she couldn’t believe she hadn’t seen it before. Time travel was so SIMPLE.
She thought about the gnarled mass she had made out of the timeline... Okay, so simple was the wrong word. But still, Twilight couldn’t help but feel like a foal for not realizing the obvious truth so much earlier. The Sonic Rainboom generated almost exactly half of the energy needed. Why had she never thought to use two? Twilight Sparkle would cast the spell on Rainbow Dash, and Twilight Sparkle would cast the spell on Rainbow Dash. Then Rainbow Dash would perform a Sonic Rainboom, and Rainbow Dash would perform a Sonic Rainboom. The spells would gather the energy from both sides, and what was essentially a portal through time would open.
The Dashes would trade places. The numbers worked. Everything made sense. It explained why a pony wouldn’t necessarily appear in the same place they had left from. They would appear wherever the other side was. But something tugged at the back of the purple mare’s mind. She was overlooking something. There was no way it was really that simple. There had to be a catch of some sort. If the only tricky part was gathering the energy, then all it would take would be a large group of gifted unicorns. Time travel would have been mastered long ago, and anypony could pop into or out of any era they pleased.
That thought only stopped Twilight for a few moments, before the feeling returned. No, there was something else wrong. A much deeper flaw was hiding in her theory… but what?
The little orange pegasus had an unusual smile on her face. This was not the wide, beaming smile of a child basking in the attention of her idol. “Hi Rainbow Dash! Do you have time for a race?”
Rainbow Dash looked around the streets of Ponyville, searching for herself. She was pretty sure she was nowhere near here right now, and she had nowhere else to be at the moment. “Sure, Scoots.”
Dash had to admit, the speed the orange blur disappeared with was pretty impressive. But she was the fastest flier in Equestria, and she wasn’t about to let somepony else win a race.
She stopped cold when she saw Scootaloo standing off in the distance, letting off an exaggerated yawn. Slowly, she turned around and looked behind her. There was nopony there. Turning forward again, she sucked in a deep breath and closed the remaining distance in a fraction of a second.
Scootaloo snickered. “What took you so long?”
“How did you… I… but you’re just… you were right behind…” Dash turned around again to point a hoof. She stopped. Something caught her eye. Something orange. Again blasting off at an incredible speed, Rainbow Dash was staring down at Scootaloo before the little filly had a chance to move an inch. She had been trying to hide in an alleyway, but couldn’t resist peeking her head out to get a look at the action.
“What in the hay… but you’re over there!” Dash turned back to other orange pegasus. “How are you…” The gears in the cyan pegasus head started turning again.
“Did you see me do any Sonic Rainbooms today?”
“YEAH! It was amazing!”
An orange blur shot across the streets “WHAT? NO FAIR! HOW COME YOU GOT TO SEE IT AND I DIDN’T?” Scootaloo was breathing heavily in her own face.
Rainbow Dash turned toward the outraged filly and put on a very serious expression. “Scootaloo, you need to go home. Right now. You need to stay away from me for a while.”
The filly’s eyes started quivering. “I’m sorry… did… did I do something wrong?”
“No Scoots, it’s okay. But I need you to promise me you won’t follow me for a few days. I’ll come get you and show you a Sonic Rainboom after this is all over. Right now I need to go and find Twilight.”
“Isn’t she at the library, like always?”
“… It’s complicated.” Dash turned to face the other orange pegasus. “Come on, Scoots. Twilight is going to fix everything and send you home… I hope.”
“WHAT? I thought you said I needed to stay away from you! How come SHE gets to go find Twilight with you? THAT’S NOT FAIR!”
Scootaloo blew a raspberry at herself. “Come on Rainbow Dash! Let’s go find Twilight!”
“NO! That isn’t fair! Why does she get to see a Sonic Rainboom AND go do more stuff with you while I have to sit at home and not see you at all? I thought you were finally starting to think I was cool! We were hanging out and doing cool stuff and we were both having fun! What did I do wrong? Am I not cool enough?”
Rainbow Dash turned away from the angry filly and sighed. “I’m no good at explaining this crud. Just trust me, everything’s gonna be fine and you’ll get to do all the things you’re doing right now.”
“Um… okay, how about this. Scootaloo, do you remember being over there getting mad that you wouldn’t get to hang out with me?”
“Yeah! It sucked.”
“But now you’re coming with me to find Twilight. Before, I told you that you couldn’t, but now you can! Isn’t that awesome?”
“So now Scootaloo, listen to yourself here. You remember that you were here getting mad, but then later you came back and now you get to go with me So right now you're here getting mad, but later you get to come with me!”
Both Scootaloos tilted their heads to the side and made confused faces.
Dash sighed again. “Okay, how about HEYLOOKOVERTHERE!”
Scootaloo turned her head back. “There’s nothing there!”
And there was nothing in front of her anymore either.
Of course! The problem was one of targeting! How would any two Rainbow Dashes be able to trade places with each other when there were so many others? There was no way to pick which two would be linked by the spell. Any time she sent Dash back, she could end up trading places with of any number of other Dashes. There wasn’t even any way to ensure the Dash she was working on was the one going backward and not forward!
She would have to add some kind of seeking to the spell, so that the right connection would be made. That wouldn’t be too hard, but now it was a question of finding something unique to seek. Just seeking Dash or some residue from Twilight’s magic wouldn’t work, because ALL of them were Dash and ALL of them would have the same magic residue on them from the spell. Maybe if she just designed a pile of throwaway spells with different magical signatures and used a different one on each Dash… That could work, but then how would she know which one to seek? Any Dash that needed to go forward would need to have her spell tweaked to seek the right signature from the future, but the magical signature was in the FUTURE and there was no way Twilight could know what it was before she placed it herself.
Even if THAT problem were resolved, that would just add one more variable to track in her notes. As much as she didn’t want to admit it, it was getting to be too much for her to handle. She would need a simple solution that didn’t require any extra information…
Lost in the invigorating buzz of solving a new puzzle, Twilight Sparkle lost track of the light tugging in the back of her head. It had weakened, but not disappeared. Somewhere deep in her subconscious, Twilight continued to pull on a loose thread that was begging to come unraveled.
Once again, Twilight Sparkle had an epiphany. She discovered a simple and elegant solution to the problem at hoof, and all was right with the world. Really, she felt foalish for not having come up with the idea earlier. Encoded within the magic of each ‘signature’ spell was the date and time at which it was cast. It didn’t introduce any new variables to track, because she already was tracking the time very closely. It didn’t require knowledge about the signature she wouldn’t have, because the only unique component in the signature was the time. The only POTENTIAL problem was that if there were ever two Dashes trying to leave at the same time, the spell would have trouble differentiating and might target the wrong one. But that wouldn’t be an issue, because so far every dash through time had been at least several minutes apart, and now she would take precautions to insure this remained the case.
All that remained now was continuing to trace the timelines very carefully and applying the spell she had just finished when appropriate. Managing Applejack and Rainbow Dash had been… tiring, at first, but she had begun to get the hang of it.
Why then? Why did the nagging feeling in her head persist? All the difficult portions were complete or well under control. What was left to worry about? No other ponies had gotten involved on her watch… but they had on HER watch! She had told Princess Celestia! WHY? WHY WOULD SHE DO THAT? Everything was under control! They didn’t need the Princess to interfere, and so there was no reason to risk getting everypony banished for tampering with the fabric of reality. As much as Twilight Sparkle trusted herself, she still had trouble understanding what could possibly have compelled her to do something like that. Of course if she had eventually decided it was the right thing to do, then that meant she was eventually going to decide it was the right thing to do.
Understanding where she was coming from, she was less angry at herself. She felt she was ready to be herself and try to convince herself that she wasn’t crazy, even if she didn’t fully understand what made her choose to tell the Princess. She was sure she would listen to herself explain that she should trust herself, just as she was doing now. Of course she wouldn’t listen, because she didn’t, but this thought was squashed as ridiculous. She was logical, why wouldn’t she listen to herself?
Rainbow Dash came skidding to a halt. Once again, she found herself on a mission to the past trying to… well trying to do SOMETHING. She wasn’t really sure what the end goal was anymore. Thinking back over the long and crazy series of events that brought her to where she was now, a smile flashed across her face. She had lost count of exactly how many, but she had performed a lot of Sonic Rainbooms recently. What used to be nothing more than a legend, she was pulling off over and over as if it were nothing. While that was great proof that she was the best flier in Equestria, it was also a little bit sad. With the Sonic Rainboom so easy now, what other tricks could she work toward? Was this it? Was she at the top? A gust of wind from a nearby Rainbow Dash snapped her out of her thoughts and she remembered she needed to go nuzzle and comfort a confused and angry Applejack.
Scootaloo peeked her head out from the tiny bush she was trying to hide in. Off in the distance, she spotted Rainbow Dash… stepping into her house? What was Rainbow Dash’s house doing over here? And on the ground? More determined than ever, she crept toward the pile of cloudstuff unnaturally sitting on the dirt. Reaching the wall of fluff, the orange pegasus pressed herself against the front door. She couldn’t hear anything. Rainbow Dash was in there being awesome, as usual, but also mysterious, and she needed to get closer.
The ‘window’ would do. Like most cloudhouses, Rainbow Dash’s home didn’t have any glass windows. Wherever a view or a breeze was necessary, there was just an absence of clouds. Jumping up and down trying to see inside, Scootaloo’s heart stopped when she heard the door opening. Her idol would be mad, knowing she’d been following her, and there was nowhere she could hide. Unless…
Scootaloo clambered up and through the window and crouched down on the other side, breathing heavily. After a minute of deafening silence, she poked her head through the window to check that the coast was clear. Seeing no ponies anywhere nearby, she breathed a sigh of relief. And then she started to smile. She may have lost Dash, but it wasn’t every day she had a chance to explore her house.
Twilight Sparkle slumped to the floor in defeat. She had finally found the fatal flaw in her plans, and realized the awful truth. The whole thing was impossible. There was no way to close the loop, because the spell required one target to be in the past! Whichever Dash was sent back to the earliest time would have no Dash to switch with because none had gone back any further. The timeline could twist and turn and go through as many corkscrews as necessary to accommodate the middle, but there was no way to link the beginning and the end. And yet here she was, sitting very much in the middle of it. Solid proof that the beginning and the end HAD linked, no matter how impossible that seemed. Maybe she was going to need the help of somepony besides herself. Could the Princess somehow have the answer? Was that the reason she needed to go talk to her?
An explosive rumble gave the library a devastating shake, knocking Twilight to her haunches. Dozens of books tumbled off the shelves with a series of loud thuds and the flapping of thousands pages. After the library stopped moving, the purple unicorn shakily got to her hooves and looked around, surveying the damage. Something at the edge of her vision caught her attention, and she trotted over toward the window. Her pupils drowned out the rest of her eyes as they grew to a size that shouldn’t even have been possible. Barely understanding – and certainly not believing – what she was seeing, Twilight gazed up at the exact copy of Ponyville hurtling toward Ponyville.
Scootaloo could not contain her excitement. Buzzing around the house at speeds that would make Rainbow Dash proud, the wide eyed filly took in every detail she could. Cloud houses were SO COOL. Everything was soft and mobile. Need a blanket? Pull one up out of the excess material in the floor! Want a new window? Kick one into the wall! Need to rest? Every surface is super comfy! She wondered what sort of awesome weather stuff the bathroom made use of when she noticed the weird feeling in her stomach. It was almost like she was falling, but somehow backwards.
Was she… going UP? Galloping to the nearest window, the orange pegasus began scanning the outdoors and seeing only blue skies and white clouds. She jumped up into the window and looked down. The house was rising. It wasn’t very high up yet, and it wasn’t moving very fast, but it was definitely moving.
An inconceivably loud noise caused Scootaloo to jam her front hooves into her ears, begging the painful sound to stop invading her head. As the thunderous boom faded into a low rumble, the house shook. With only her hind hooves to support her, the shaking cloud structure tossed the poor filly out the window and into the open air.
Princess Celestia raised an eyebrow. “That is quite a plan, my faithful student. While I do agree that it would be best to minimize the number of… temporal transgressions… involved, are you certain there isn’t a better way? As you have demonstrated, the chance is unfathomably low, but should the worst case come to pass it will not be possible to save Equestria. Even if everything unfolds exactly as you have planned, there is still a very important and poorly understood consequence to be considered.”
“I understand your concerns, Princess, but I have had an awful lot of time to think this over. We need to act as quickly as possible, before things get any worse. While I can’t say for sure what sort of effect we’ll see, I’m positive that at least the original will be stable.”
“Very well. Twilight Sparkle, in light of the grave situation Equestria finds itself in, I hereby grant you full command of the Wonderbolts.”
The rain came down in thick sheets. Applejack stood inside the barn, grateful that it kept her dry even though it limited her field of vision. Anxiously scanning the patch of sky she could see through the door for any sign of a rainbow, the farmer shivered slightly.
This would be the day. She knew Rainbow Dash had somehow discovered the feelings she had tried so hard to hide. It was as clear as day the last time they had seen each other, and they both agreed that they needed to talk. There was no use trying to hide it anymore – the element of honesty was no good at lying. They arranged a time and a place, and went their separate ways.
So here she stood, shivering in the barn and worrying herself sick. How would the mare of her dreams respond to her feelings? Try as she might, Applejack could not envision a future where Rainbow Dash returned her feelings. She wasn’t even sure if the brash blue pegasus liked mares at all. There HAD been a variety of events lately to suggest Dash longed to be with her just as much, but everything was clouded in a haze of confusion. Dash had been acting too strange lately to take any of her bizarre actions or words to heart.
Applejack needed to have a clear and honest conversation with Rainbow Dash, and both mares would need to be completely serious. It was time. She had waited and suffered long enough. No outcome could possibly be worse than wallowing in the sorrow of unrequited love, forever keeping her feelings bottled up… she hoped.
Rainbow Dash soared alongside Rainbow Dash, enjoying the company of the only pegasus as fast as she was… or at least ONE of the only ones, all of whom were the same one? They had both grown to hate thinking about time travel, even if they couldn’t deny some of the benefits it brought. They raced out a great distance away from Ponyville, trying to make certain this new stunt would be far enough away that nopony would get hurt. Neither of them knew just how big the shockwave would be, and so they continued to fly further and further until at last there was not a single visible landmark to indicate proximity to civilization. Simultaneously deciding that this was far enough, they both stopped and swallowed the last of their hesitation.
“You wanna take East or West?”
“Doesn’t matter. East I guess.”
“Alright then. You think five minutes will be far enough?”
With no time to think about anything but the eminent flattening of her home, all Twilight Sparkle could do was react. First instinct when about to be crushed by a falling object – GET OUT OF THE WAY! Mustering up more strength than she ever knew she had, Princess Celestia’s prized pupil teleported the whole of Ponyville out of the way of Ponyville and promptly passed out.
Twilight Sparkle got to her hooves and shook the dizziness of the impact out of her head. Whatever had just happened, it had been a doozy. Slowly trotting out of the library to get a look at what had happened, she was very surprised to see Ponyville off in the distance, not too far from the edge of Ponyville. She galloped through crowds of bewildered ponies, dodging the debris in the streets and reached the edge of the town. She could do nothing but stare in awe. That was definitely Ponyville. Right over there. It looked almost like it was in the wrong spot. The landscape seemed to indicate that HER Ponyville was in the correct location, and this one was just a bit off.
It didn’t take long for ponies to start flooding out of each town to see what was going on. Twilight noticed nothing but familiar faces coming from the other Ponyville, many of whom she had passed on her way here. She reasoned that some magical mishap, albeit a very large one, had taken place and the best course of action was to find herself. When she arrived at the library, she found herself unconscious on the floor and began to panic. Maybe Princess Celestia would know what to do…
Twilight Sparkle jumped up to her hooves in a panic. She thrashed her head about for only a minute before her memory caught up to her. Right. Ponyville had been falling, and then she had… what had she done again? Ponyville certainly didn’t look destroyed.
“Oh good. You’re awake. Things have taken an interesting turn.”
She craned her neck to get a look at the pony speaking to her. It was her. Oh, right. Time travel.
The lavender mare waved a hoof dismissively. “Yeah, you’re from the future, got it. We can get back to that mess later, but first I need to know what just happened here. Ponyville was falling out of the sky, and it was going to crush Ponyville!”
“The future? What are you TALKING about?”
“Okay, so you’re from the PAST then… but then why don’t I remember this happening? What is going on here?”
“That’s what I’d like to know!”
“Okay, let’s back up and start over. I was here in the library, when suddenly an exact duplicate of Ponyville fell out of the sky. What about you?”
“I was over there in MY library,” Twilight Sparkle pointed a hoof, “when suddenly there was a huge impact, not entirely unlike what you’d expect from a gigantic object crashing into the ground. So that explains THAT, but how did my Ponyville get up in the sky above your Ponyville? And why are there two of everything?”
“I’m still working on that one. I’m also not sure why I’m not a pancake. You were directly above us!”
“Well we definitely aren’t now. Both Ponyvilles are on the ground next to each other, relatively unharmed. I’m actually surprised everything held up as well as it did.”
“Next to each other… which one is where it should be?”
“Oh yeah, I had noticed your Ponyville seemed a little off.”
“But that’s impossible! Ponyville should be right where it always is, unless somepony just MOVED the…” She remembered an instinctual need to move out of the way, followed by the only solution she could think of. She wouldn’t have been able to run fast enough, so she teleported. Even with no time to think, she knew her friends were in danger as well. She knew she couldn’t leave them behind... Had she? But there was no way. No pony, except maybe the Princess, was that powerful. You can’t just pick up and move a whole town in the blink of an eye. It’s impossible! Then again, impossible had described time travel until recently…
Right – there was a more important matter to attend to. The other Twilight seemed confused at the mention of coming from any time other than the present. Neither of them knew how she, or Ponyville, had gotten up in the sky. Everything was enough of a confusing mess when all involved parties knew what was going on, and this could only be worse. She doubted she would like the explanation when she found out.
“Okay, Dash. This is the last one. You go start a light storm over Sweet Apple Acres before you get there, and then you and Applejack have your big talk in the barn while you fly back to me. That wraps up the ridiculous romantic subplot and brings us back to the big problem.”
“What big problem? You and me switch with the past you and me, er, present I guess, who are in the future right now. We’re supposed to be there, and they’re supposed to be here. But that’s the last of it. We do one more and then everypony is when they’re supposed to be.”
“Not exactly. You see, I’m still not sure how we got you back for your tip to Hoofington.”
“Whaddaya mean? I already went back. I brought Applejack with me, and she… well the important thing is that it worked. Did we screw it up somehow?”
“Yes and no. You didn’t do anything wrong, but I’m not sure how we were able to get you there. It was the first and only time we’d gone back that far. There WAS a spell signature for me to track, and enough energy for the other half of the spell, but YOU weren’t there. I have no idea how that spell signature got there or where that energy came from, and that worries me. We have to tie up all the loose ends and close all the loops, but no matter how simply it fits we can’t finish the puzzle if we’re missing the last piece!”
“And what the hay are we supposed to do about that? We just wrapped everything up in pretty little bow, and now you want us to go back and ruin it all?”
“NO! No. No, we’re not going back or forward any more after this last one. Never again. Never, EVER again as long as I can help it. But I do have an idea. Before we go back, I’m going to need you to take me to Canterlot so I can see the Princess.”
“Awesome. So you go tell the Princess what’s wrong, she fixes everything, and then we’re done. And maybe you just get a liiiitle bit banished. You’ll be fine. I’ll come visit you!”
Scootaloo was in one piece. She hadn’t fallen far enough to suffer any real injuries, but her whole body throbbed with a dull ache and her head swam in circles. Not knowing what else to do, she decided to just go home and rest. Scanning her environment, the orange pegasus found it difficult to get her bearings straight. She didn’t know the outskirts of town all that well, but she could’ve sworn Ponyville was over that way behind those trees. But there it was, in the opposite direction. With a sigh and a shrug, she trotted toward the town. Once she had made it into Ponyville proper, she knew exactly where she was going. She could make it home with her eyes closed, if she wanted. It would be nice to just rest her eyes for a minute… She clumsily bumped into another pony and fell backward onto the ground.
“Sorry. I was just…” All the fatigue and ache left the filly instantly. “OHMYGOSHRAINBOWDASH!”
The pony she had run into turned around. “Oh, hey Scoots. I’m sorry, but I’m still busy. I swear I’ll show you that Sonic Rainboom I promised. Just… later, okay? C’mon Applejack, we need to get to Twilight’s. I’m sure she’ll know what’s going on.”
The two mares turned and cantered off at a brisk pace, their concern showing in their hoofsteps. Scootaloo sat still with a pleased, but puzzled, look on her face, muttering quietly to her herself.
“Rainbow Dash didn’t promise to show me a Sonic Rainboom…”
Rainbow Dash blazed west across the sky at speeds that were utterly phenomenal, even for a pegasus of her talents. Rainbow Dash ripped eastward through the sky at a speed slightly higher even than her other self. Adjustments would need to be made for this to work correctly.
There had been no calculations. That wasn’t the way Dash did things. She had always hated those math problems with the two trains going opposite directions. She would simply FEEL the right thing to do, as she always did when performing her stunts.
Whether by instinct or skill or blind luck, the necessary corrections were made. In the tiniest fraction of a second during which they crossed paths, both speedsters simultaneously slipped through the sound barrier. Two Sonic Rainbooms exploded not across the sky, but upward into the atmosphere. Slipping back and forth across time, Rainbow Dash had gotten plenty of practice and no longer needed the assistance of gravity to reach super-sonic speeds. The brilliant rainbow halo could now expand outward at any angle she chose to fly at. For THIS trick, however, the angle was unimportant.
The incredible force that pulled in the wake of the explosion was being countered by an equally incredible force in the opposite direction. The effect was stunning. Everything caught nearby was thrust into the infinitesimally small space between the blasts and torn asunder. Every ray of light was ripped into its component colors, further enhancing the already awe inspiring display. It wasn’t just a pretty rainbow effect hanging in the air. It was as if a small part of reality itself had been converted into a rainbow. It was perfect. It was ART.
Rainbow Dash could not be blamed for not hearing the strange noise at the center of the spectacle. It was completely drowned out by the thunderous ‘boom’ portion of the trick. There probably wasn’t anypony who could have heard it, but it was there. Somewhere in the middle of it all, there was a faint tearing sound… almost like a piece of cloth being ripped in half.
“Really? Rainbow Dash and APPLEJACK? That’s almost as unlikely as Applejack and Rarity!”
“I know, I know. I wasn’t expecting it either. And it wasn’t… ISN’T exactly easy making sure everything works. But you won’t have to worry about any of this because apparently it never happened! You’ve gone quite a bit past the point where Dash should’ve shown up.” Twilight Sparkle frowned. “I still don’t understand what exactly this all means. You’re not from the same… gosh I don’t even have a word here… you’re not from the same point of origin as us. I have no idea where, or what, you’re from or how you got here. It makes enough sense to assume that whatever process brought you and your Ponyville here was off slightly and that’s how you ended up in the sky. I don’t think it’s possible, but the only explanation that makes sense as to why my Ponyville has moved is that I teleported it. My memory is hazy, but it seems to fit and it would explain why I was unconscious when you found me.”
“Far be it from me to tell you you’re wrong. If anything you have the intellectual advantage here from what sounds like quite a lot of deep study. Maybe casting all those time travel spells has been kind of like ‘training’ and your magic has been getting more powerful without you realizing it?”
“That can’t be the case. The spell was only really complicated to figure out. It’s really pretty easy to actually cast and doesn’t take much energy at all. Almost all the power behind it comes from Dash’s Rainbooms.”
“Do you think you could teach me?”
“As much as I know this is going to disappoint you, no I can’t. Until I get a solid grasp of what exactly is going on here, I think it would be best if nopony went backward or forward through time at any rate besides one second forward per second.”
Applejack pushed the bits into the bucket and thanked her latest customer. Sales today had been good. Not great, but nothing to complain about. She was happy enough, most of the time. She worked hard, but it felt good. She loved her family, and she was thankful for her wonderful friends. But any time she found a herself alone, her mood would sour. Something was wrong with her life, but she couldn’t put her hoof on what.
As she stood, thinking the same thoughts again, her smile started to fall. So did the town beneath her.
The dust cleared and the hardy earth pony stood. She coughed once and looked around. Whatever just happened, it had been a doozy. Was that Twilight running off down the street? Losing sight of her friend around a corner, Applejack took off after her. As athletic as she was, it was too difficult to follow a pony at full gallop through streets this full. The ever shifting crowd could present plenty of space for one pony to get through before crashing together and completely blocking the next. She lost sight of the lavender unicorn again just before rounding a corner to see… Ponyville?
That sure did look like Ponyville over there, but that didn’t make a lick of sense because Ponyville was right HERE. Without even realizing it, Applejack had begun to canter toward the other Ponyville. Somewhere between the two towns, she stopped when a familiar voice called out to her.
“AJ! Do you have any idea what’s going on?”
“Rainbow! No, I can’t rightly say ah’ve got any idea. There was some sorta crash an’ when ah got up ah saw Twilight gallopin’ off. Ah followed her for a bit, but ah lost sight of her. And then, well then ah saw THIS!” Applejack made a sweeping gesture with her front hooves, pointing toward the two towns.
Rainbow Dash landed softly next to Applejack and nuzzled her gently, eliciting a soft gasp and a light blush from the oblivious mare. “I’m sure everything’ll be fine. That egghead probably just invented some new crazy magic again, but this time it’s not gonna involve us.”
“Rainbow, ah’m not entirely sure what yer goin’ on about but…”
“It’s just a guess. Don’t worry about it.” She turned away and looked back, lowering her voice into the most seductive tone she could manage and lightly flicking her tail across the front of Applejack’s neck. “See you tonight.” She spread her wings and flew off.
Applejack’s mouth hung open slightly. That interaction had doubled her heart rate and brought an entirely uncomfortable amount of heat to her face. A few months ago she had realized how she felt about the other mare, and she had always hoped her friend would return her feelings, but… THAT was awfully sudden. Applejack was confused and aroused. Mostly confused.
“Okay, Dash. So you’re confident you can do it exactly the way I just described? We can’t afford even the slightest mistake.”
“Yeah, yeah… I’ve got this. It won’t be a problem.”
“Okay. I trust you. So with that taken care of, we just need to confirm that the OTHER ponies involved can handle it. I’ll need you to make sure they can do their parts as well as you do yours.”
“You’ve already got some ponies in mind? I was wondering how you were gonna find awesome enough fliers. Who d’ya got for me? I’ll whip ‘em into shape in no time!”
Twilight Sparkle flashed a wry smile as she opened the door to the library and stood to one side. “Rainbow Dash, I present to you: The Wonderbolts.”
The brief silence was ended by an ear splitting squeal. This would be the most awesome thing EVER. Not only would Rainbow Dash be taking the lead on a stunt unlike any ever performed, but she would be leading a team to do it. And not just any team, either. She would be leading The Wonderbolts! It was unbelievable! Never, not even in her wildest dreams, had the simple weather pony thought she would be taking part in something this… EPIC. Even if she could convince herself that this was real, the whole thing was pushed straight into the realm of the inconceivable by the fact that she was going to be commanding her idols. She knew she would never forget this day, and neither would anypony in Equestria. Everything else paled in comparison. This would truly be the BEST. DAY. EVER.
For a variety of reasons from breaking records to saving Equestria to pushing the boundaries of magic and/or science (it was hard to tell what exactly Twilight was talking about) it would go down in history… probably. Stupid Twilight and her stupid crazy theories.
“Rainbow!” Applejack galloped toward the rainbow maned pegasus hovering nearby. “Ya got any idea what’s goin’ on?”
“Oh, hey Applejack. Not really, no.” Rainbow Dash landed in front of the earth pony. “Just that there are two Ponyvilles for some reason.”
“Call it a hunch, but ah think Twilight mighta had somethin’ ta do with it.” The farmer sighed and stepped toward the other mare, nuzzling her softly. “Ah thought we’d finally settled this whole business.”
The cyan pegasus backed away, a look of surprise and confusion on her face. Her wings drifted a short distance upward. “Um… what business are we talking about here?”
Applejack cocked her head to one side and stared at Rainbow Dash for a few seconds before returning her head to its normal position and trying to suppress a slowly growing smile. She could get mad at Twilight and/or Rainbow Dash for causing all the time troubles later. For now, she had a Dash in front of her that didn’t know her feelings were mutual. A Dash that would be far too afraid or embarrassed to let anypony know how she felt. She was SO cute when she was embarrassed…
The four prized pupils of Princess Celestia stood in a small circle.
“Okay then. So to recap, in my timeline nopony travels through time at all. The first Dash didn’t come back and none of this happened. Applejack and Rainbow Dash have feelings for each other, but haven’t admitted that to each other yet. In your timeline, the Princess was visiting the library when the first Dash came back. She was there when you realized you were going to invent time travel and set everything in motion. She wisely cautioned you about making things more complicated than they needed to be, and it was eventually agreed that after Dash returned to the future there would be no more time travel. Dash told herself that everything would work out and she just needed to tell Applejack how she felt. She did, and it worked. She then returned to the future and that was that. In your timeline,” Twilight Sparkle pointed a hoof toward the chalkboard covered in equations and charts and graphs, “THAT happened. And in YOUR timeline,” the unicorn she was referring to shivered in place, one eye twitching rapidly, “everything went completely out of control. You somehow managed to keep it all in line with Pinkie Pie’s help, at the cost of the majority of your sanity.”
Twilight Sparkle paused, both to catch her breath and to give the others time to make any corrections. “Now in all of your timelines, almost everything managed to stay tied up neatly. The only missing link is from the beginning to the end. In each case, the Dash that went back the furthest was somehow able to lock onto a signature and draw power from a time where neither should have been available. Somehow, a strange sort of split-wormhole formed that didn’t have a simple point to point relationship. Entering from the future point lead back to the past, but there was nothing to enter from the past side. Since nothing from the past locked onto the future, that left the signature open for use. Those were used by the last Dashes to come forward, making the forward and backward links from that point connect to different points in space and time. This makes a complete circuit, so that each Dash has one smooth and continuous path through the time jumps that begins and ends at the same point. It’s all very elegant, but it leaves a very pressing question that none of you were able to come up with an answer to. How did the energies and signatures used to tie off the earliest point in the series get there? And perhaps MORE pressing, what happened to put so much of a strain on the space-time continuum that random chunks of matter are phasing between timelines?”
Twilight Sparkle paused again, but was interrupted by herself before she could continue. “Are we really supposed to believe it’s a coincidence that every chunk has included us? And that the chunks just happened to all land at roughly the same coordinates, at roughly the same time, in the same timeline?”
“Of course not,” chimed Twilight Sparkle, “I’m sure there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation and we just need to figure out what it is.”
“I propose one of us stay focused on the origin of the past signature while the other three get to work on figuring out what’s going on now. If any more of us show up, we should put them to work in roughly that same ratio. For every three working on the timeline collision, one works on discovering how that energy and that signature were placed there. Also, as I’m sure you’ve all already decided, we should not abuse time travel to bring more of us here to work on the problems at hoof. Two of us know that ends up being far more trouble than it’s worth.”
“Make that three of us.” The purple ponies turned their heads to see that there was a fifth Twilight standing in the frame of the open door.
Rainbow Dash flared her wings and began to slow down. “We’re here.”
Her passenger dropped the short distance to the ground and landed with a small ‘oof’.
“Thank you. Now I know you don’t like to stay still, and this will take a while. Fortunately for you, you happen to show up back at the library pretty soon to tell me that you dropped me here. And as you know, you already picked me up when this was over. So you’re off the hook. Go on back to Ponyville and let me know I’m here.”
“Awesome. Maybe now that you’re calling in the big guns we can get this whole thing taken care of!”
“Not exactly… this isn’t for that. I figured out you and Applejack a while ago. Somewhere around four days from now. This is a much bigger problem that I just don’t have the resources to resolve on my own.”
“You’ve got as many of you and me and any other pony as you need! How can you not have enough to work with?”
“No, I’ve only got one of you and one of me. And one of a few other ponies after I talk to the Princess.”
“Well, yeah right NOW you only have one of each. But you can just make more!”
“While I COULD do that, that’s actually part of the problem. Something… really bad is happening. And I’m fairly certain we’re responsible. Ponies aren’t meant to travel through time, and nothing good can come of it.”
“You saying me and AJ being together isn’t a good thing?”
“No, but SOME ponies have found much easier ways to confess their love for each other than dashing back and forth through time to set it all up. Like maybe just coming out and SAYING IT.”
“It’s… it’s not as easy as you make it sound, Twilight.”
“No, I suppose it probably isn’t. But it can’t possibly be any harder than THIS.”
Four purple unicorns circled a table and discussed the fate of Equestria, while one more ran through large and complex calculations on a chalkboard off to one side. Rainbow Dash burst in through the door, earning glares from all five of them.
“TWILIGHT…S! WE HAVE A PROBLEM!”
Two Twilight Sparkles groaned while two more questioned in unison, “What is it this time, Dash?”
“THIS!” Dash shouted as she held thrust out a hoof, holding Scootaloo in the air.
“You’re going to need to be a little more specific. Yes, she and the other Crusaders can be a handful, but what exactly did she do that relates to our particular brand of concerns?”
“THERE ARE TWO OF HER! The other one is still in Ponyville as far as I know. Wait, why are there five of you? I thought we had fixed everything!”
“Which Ponyville did you find them in?”
“Wait, WHICH Ponyville? As in… there’s more than one?”
“Okay! Question time is over. We need to focus. Scootaloo is a secondary concern – there are two or more of a lot of things there shouldn’t be two or more of right now.”
“So what do you want me to do with her?”
One Twilight switched to an angry expression. “I don’t know and I don’t CARE. Take her to get ice cream or something! We’re very busy, and every minute we waste is another minute that another timeline collision could happen. For the first time in a long time, we don’t have much time to waste! We can’t risk going forward or back from here to help us fix everything because there’s already too much stress on the fabric of reality and we have NO idea what kind of effect we’ve been having on it. It’s quite probable that we caused this! Now where was I/we? Do any of me have any fresh ideas? We need to figure out what to do as soon as we can, because whatever strain is causing all this in the first place certainly can’t be alleviated by even more of us showing up!” She was breathing heavily, one eye twitching intensely. Another Twilight brushed past Dash and joined the circle of unicorns at the table. Twitchy Twilight began to lose control of her other eye.
Rainbow Dash slunk back and left the library. Just outside the door, she spotted herself. “Hey, any idea what’s going on?”
Somewhere, if the concept of ‘where’ even had any meaning back there, a lavender unicorn smiled. She stared deeply into the spider web of light in front of her, carefully watching each strand of light and each bright point as the thing pulsed gently. Her horn emitted a soft glow and a bright spot in the web dulled as a line stretched outward from it to connect with a nearby bright spot. Soon, if the concept of ‘soon’ even had any meaning back there, her master plan would be complete. The metaphor worked on so many levels. An intricately woven plan, put together by a master predator to catch a hapless fly. A fly that would provide the nourishment necessary for the spider to carry on. The whole thing was just too delicious.
For the first time, if time had any meaning anymore, in quite a while… she felt a swelling of pride. She had been taught well. Here she was, working with magics too deep and arcane for all but the very brightest to even begin to understand, and skillfully playing a chess game of incredible complexity. That metaphor tasted sour. Rainbow Dash’s versatility obviously required her to be considered the queen, while Celestia was awkward and difficult to put into place. She didn’t like the idea of Queen Dash and Knight Celestia, but she let it go. You can’t win them all. If the concept of ‘all’ even had any meaning back there.
Rainbow Dash had performed the Sonic Rainboom. She had flown faster than any other pegasus. She had literally flown through time. Impossible had become just another word to the brash mare who could do it all. And yet, this moment… it was still indescribable. Breathtaking. She was diving faster than she ever had before, hurtling toward the ground at a speed that would put Celestia herself to shame. And there was more.
She was performing a highly complex and entirely original routine with the Wonderbolts. THE WONDERBOLTS. Her lifelong idols. A stunt of this magnitude was entirely unprecedented in the history of organized flight, and she was a part of it. More than a part of it. She was the CENTER of it. She was, if only temporarily, the Captain. And there was MORE.
A magical undertaking beyond any other was in progress, again with her at the center. She couldn’t magic her way out of a paper bag, and yet here she was at the center of the grandest spell ever conceived. Beyond that, this was the first time two disciplines so unrelated had been fused so perfectly. The flight and the magic were not two cogs working together as part of a whole machine, they were one. The magic breathed new life into the art of flight even as the flight weaved sigils and crests into the air.
Rainbow Dash could see it now. The enormous symbol carved into the sky by her team. She would be there before she had time to blink again. The Sonic Rainboom had happened quite a bit higher up. Much greater speeds were required when she crossed the critical point.
Applejack coughed one more time before going limp. Rainbow Dash pressed her ear against the farmer’s chest. She waited. She cried.
“It’s not FAIR! WHY? After everything we went through, after EVERYTHING we did for each other… why does it have to end like this… why does it have to be my fault…” Tears streamed down her face and splashed against the cold dirt. She didn’t know how much time had passed before she moved from her mournful spot, but it didn’t matter. She was Rainbow Dash. She had leapt through time to win Applejack’s heart, and she wasn’t going to let her be taken away without a fight. It didn’t matter if she had to fight herself. It didn’t matter if she had to fight Twilight. It didn’t matter if she had to fight the laws of causality. She was going to get her love BACK.
Twilight Sparkle was suspended in place, her magic sealed off, unable to fight back. She was held almost completely still, given just enough room to breathe and was about to try to speak. Her muzzle was forced shut in a hazy purple glow.
“This is the part where you throw out a tired line like ‘You’ve gone mad!’ and I’m supposed to respond with ‘No, I see clearly for the first time and it is the WORLD that has gone mad!’ and then proceed to give the big villain speech about how wrong the world is and how I’m going to fix it. Well let me just save us both a whole lot of time… hah! Really, I thought I’d stopped using language like that. Where was I? Oh, right. No, that’s not quite the direction this is going to go. While it’s true that I can see clearly and the world is mad, it has not suddenly become that way. Everything has always been mad.”
“You’re crazy!” wheezed Twilight.
“What was I JUST SAYING? We’re not going down that road. I’m going to try to show you. I’m going to try to teach you, as I was taught. Once you cast aside the veil of time you can see reality for what it really is, what it always has been. It is chaos. The whole of existence is a big, ugly, boiling, churning, stinking wad of chaos. Ponies are only able to live happily because of how blind they are. The flaws in any one reality are insignificant and can be overcome. I have seen the answer to each timeline, and I could fix them were I given the chance. It is only when realms bleed together that everything begins to fall apart. There is too much to be controlled, and whatever cracks allowed the intrusion to begin with only spread further with each pulse. I would have been content to be a martyr, casting myself into the fire to restore the illusion. I would have been okay dying so that nopony had to see what I have seen. Your plan is noble, and I would gladly let you carry it out if only it would work. But it won’t. It doesn’t. It can’t.”
A single tear fell down into the infinite nothingness below as the mare turned away. The magic restraining Twilight began to weaken.
“Instead, it’s come to this. The delicate fabric lies in tatters on the floor, and there is no power in all of creation capable of mending it. The true nature of our existence will destroy the sanity of all living things. I have seen into that uncaring abyss, and I know it to be a fate that none deserve. But there is yet one answer to the problem. One hope against the discord... all things can stand united in the harmony of oblivion.”
The physical restraint was gone, and Twilight was capable of moving under her own power once more. But she did not move. She stood staring with determination, and she spoke.
“You’re wrong. There is no harmony without togetherness. Without friendship. Without magic. I thought the Princess taught you better, Twilight Sparkle.”
The mare turned around, her eyes burning coals of rage as her magic flared with an audible roar. The force holding back Twilight Sparkle’s magic was released. “YOU WILL NOT REFER TO ME BY THAT NAME. TWILIGHT SPARKLE IS THE ONE WHO CAUSED THIS TRAVESTY. I AM THE ONE WHO WILL END IT. TWILIGHT SPARKLE IS CHAOS. TWILIGHT SPARKLE IS DISCORD. I… I AM ORDER. I HAVE OBSERVED YOU AND YOUR FRIENDS FROM EVERY POSSIBLE TIMELINE. FROM EVERY ANGLE. THERE IS NOTHING YOU CAN DO. YOU CANNOT DEFEAT ME AND THOUGH YOUR END WILL NOT BE SWIFT, IT IS ONLY BECAUSE IT IS MY WILL THAT YOU SUFFER.”
“There is just oooone teensy little thing you may have overlooked. One element that fell through the cracks.”
“Alright, Scoots. We’ll do it this afternoon, I’ve got some stuff to take care of first. How about you go to Twilight’s place and study up a little first?”
Scootaloo nodded her head vigorously and took off on her scooter at an impressive speed, leaving Rainbow Dash with a smile. Not much later, she burst into the library and flung herself head first toward the lavender unicorn on the other side of the room.
Twilight stared off into space for a moment, visibly trying to process something. She mumbled a few bits of nonsense and some seemingly random numbers before shaking her head and coming back to the real world.
“I’ve actually already got three really good books set aside that I think will help you a lot.”
A light more brilliant than Celestia’s sun exploded across the sky. The crests and sigils pulsed with energy. In the middle of it all, Rainbow Dash broke free of the feeble bonds of the laws of physics and smiled. On the ground below, Twilight Sparkle saw her plan coming together and smiled. Someplace lacking a distinct location in space or time, a cackling mare saw her plan coming together and smiled.
When an object passes the speed of sound, an incredible shockwave blows out from the point where it happened and an accompanying BOOM can be heard for a great distance. When an object passes the speed of light, physics gets mad at you because you can’t do that. Physics throws a temper tantrum that sends out shockwaves many orders of magnitude greater than those accompanying a sonic boom. Had this not been part of an incredibly elaborate undertaking, Ponyville would likely have ceased to be in the wake of the blast.
The immense energies were necessary. Unless in a perfectly frictionless environment, anything in motion will slowly bleed energy into the materials it passes by. If only given one initial push, the further something is meant to travel the more energy it needs at the kickoff. Twilight smiled inwardly at her ability to solve any and every problem that had been thrown her way lately. ‘How did that energy get back there’ indeed.
Twilight Sparkle didn’t understand. She didn’t want to believe it, but there was little room for doubt. Every prediction had come true. Even the impossible ones. ESPECIALLY the impossible ones. It was with this knowledge and this lack of understanding that she sat waiting. Her horn emitted a dull glow as she spread a thin aura all about her and let it sit. She could wait. Time clearly wasn’t important anymore. She would sit and she would wait and when the opportunity presented itself she would move. She would take the chance she had been given, and she would understand. She would use her new knowledge to make everything right. It would take a tremendous amount of magic, and if even if she could still muster up the strength to teleport back she wasn’t sure it would be possible. Everything would be different back there. She’d been taught that, and while she didn’t understand it, she did believe it.
Twilight Sparkle would see the crack forming and she would go back there. She would get behind the curtain and she would clean everything up. And if she couldn’t come back, that would be a sacrifice she’d be willing to make.
Scootaloo stood over the broken pony, scowling down at her. The mare’s eyes quivered in fright. Her limbs were useless and the pain was too intense to focus on her magic. She had won. The game was over. She had cornered every piece, and there wasn’t anything left that could have been used against her. So how? How had this happened? Why was she bleeding? Was she going to… to die? She turned her head toward Twilight.
“Like I said. One element fell through the cracks. And I do mean that in the most literal sense of every one of those words.”
“I WATCHED ALL OF YOU… FROM THE BEGINNING TO THE END OF THIS NONSENSE. THERE WERE NO LOOSE ENDS. I KEPT A PERFECT WATCH OVER EVERY LEAP. WHEN DID…” her breathing grew more ragged and the volume of her voice diminished, “when did she get here?”
Twilight Sparkle smirked. “I just told you. I know we can accomplish amazing things when we focus on our studies, but it is important to stop from time to time. To look around you. To smell the roses. To be with your friends and to think about the future. To understand that actions have consequences.”
“Do you know how utterly RIDICULOUS it is for YOU to lecture ME on causality?”
“It’s not the slightest bit ridiculous. You never once considered the repercussions of your actions and the effect they would have on the ponies around you. All you ever paid attention to was keeping events flowing in their temporally correct order, regardless of what that meant.”
“I thought it meant keeping Equestria ALIVE! I know I was wrong now, and that’s why I was trying to FIX EVERYTHING! YOU OF ALL PONIES SHOULD UNDERSTAND THAT!”
Scootaloo stomped a hoof next to the mare’s head. “You’re so DUMB! She’s not trying to tell you what you did was wrong! She’s just trying to tell you that an event doesn’t magically stop affecting the world as soon as it’s been wrapped up in a paradox-free bow! Just because all the stupid loops and cracks and branches have been taken care of doesn’t mean something is over!”
She turned to look up at the angry orange pegasus, and for the first time in a long time (she really thought she had moved beyond such linear thinking), she was confused. “I still don’t understand… where did you come from? How did you arrive here without me knowing?”
“Jeez, you must be really dense. Twilight already told you! I FELL.”
The Wonderbolts rocketed back toward Canterlot, having been dismissed by their temporary master. Everything had gone off without a hitch, and the pesky knot at the beginning of the loop was closed off. Twilight let out a breath she didn’t realize she was holding, and slumped to the ground with a smile on her face. She was exhausted, but at least it was almost over. There was just one brief moment where there had been an extra Scootaloo wandering around town. She was sure it was just a mistake that was already taken care of. Somewhere along the line, the filly had accidentally gotten dragged along through time and then later gotten dragged back. There was definitely only one Scootaloo right now, so it didn’t look like there would be any work to do. It was just a precaution, making certain there were no temporal troubles unaccounted for.
Twilight heaved herself into a standing position and turned toward the library, offering only a subdued ‘later’ to Rainbow Dash. Dash didn’t notice or care and continued napping on the low flying cloud. After she had gotten her well-deserved rest, she would fly over to Sweet Apple Acres and regale her marefriend with a completely unexaggerated account of how she had defied the natural order, led her idols on the single greatest magical/aeronautical/magical-aeronautical event in history, and saved all of Equestria. Applejack would be incredibly impressed, and would surely reward her for her efforts.
Everything had gone great and everything would continue to go great and there was absolutely nothing that could ruin her day.
Twilight Sparkle was at her wit’s end. She stomped furiously about the empty library in an attempt to vent her frustrations. It wasn’t enough. She needed somepony to scream at. Somepony to blame for everything, even if that pony was herself. But it didn’t work that way. Her hoof had been forced by her future decisions and she had no way to reshape the timeline. She wanted to be angry at herself for setting things up this way, but she knew that she had just been following her own decisions the same way she was now.
Still, it felt wrong. Shouldn’t being the pony who INVENTED time travel give her some say in the matter? Time was already bending backward over itself to make sure the decisions she made were able to be carried out, why shouldn’t she be able to nudge things around a bit? Why should she have to play by such a ludicrously complicated set of rules? Almost none of the events she set up even had any direct impact! Most of the effort went into stopping sloppy mistakes she thought she shouldn’t have made in the first place. Why would a project planned and directed by the prized pupil of the Princess be so messy?
Twilight turned to go stomping in a different arbitrary direction and stumbled over a stack of books. She didn’t fall, instead steadying herself with a hoof against the chalkboard. Setting the hoof back on the floor, she noticed the smudge she had made and sighed. Her horn lit up as a piece of chalk floated upward to correct the now erroneous portion of the notes she had left for herself. They were very helpful, and she certainly wouldn’t want to leave them incorrect in case she forgot something. It only made sense to fix it now before it became a problem, but something was strange… it almost looked like…
The chalk dropped to the floor, as did Twilight’s jaw. She had left herself a hidden and encoded message! But how did she know she would smudge that exact spot? That was a stupid question – because she had already smudged it herself. Picking up some blank paper, and her jaw, Twilight was about to begin deciphering whatever she was trying to tell herself. Her jaw dropped again, as did the papers, and she quickly scrawled the original notes back onto the board.
The very first portion of the message was a warning. Nothing could be written or spoken and no clues could be left. Enemy eyes were everywhere. She would have to mentally re-smudge the board and do all the decoding in her head. Whatever she was trying to tell herself, it was clearly of the highest importance.
Working as quickly as she could, the studious unicorn realized exactly why she had made such a jumble out of what could have been a much simpler affair. If you need to write a long letter, you need a lot of paper.
Rainbow Dash lay curled up in a tight spiral, breathing softly but covered in a thin film of dried sweat. The hard part was over, and she had somehow found it in her heart to forgive Applejack for what she had put her through. At the center, surrounded on all sides by the warm and tender embrace only a mother is capable of giving, lay a very small pegasus filly. Her love for her daughter was strong, but there was something else in the air. As terrible as it made her feel, there was one emotion continuing to fight its way to the top. She just couldn’t shake the confusion she felt.
Her daughter was a pegasus, that made plenty of sense. Although she had never payed attention in school when discussing genetics, she figured any oddities in coloration could be chalked up to her crazy rainbow nonsense – pick any color, she’s got ‘em all. Still, THIS coloration was impossible. Sure, time junk or whatever could explain just about anything so that nothing was TRULY impossible, but that still didn’t make it any less of a shock. It did nothing to make the moment feel any more real. Applejack had fainted the moment she made eye contact with the newborn pegasus.
The filly began to stir and whimper. Setting aside her befuddlement for now, Dash nuzzled the precious little ball of fur and focused on giving her all the love she deserved. Maybe, just maybe… it was a long shot, but there was a chance it was a coincidence. They could still try to be a normal family. The filly uncurled and stretched her limbs before looking up into her mother’s face. Looking back down at her daughter’s face, Rainbow Dash realized she was deceiving herself. The colors matched too perfectly. The face was EXACTLY the same.
She set aside her confusion and decided that in the ever-so-grand-and-convoluted scheme of things, it didn’t matter. Somehow, some way, it had happened. It was probably Twilight’s fault, but it just didn’t matter. Rainbow Dash had given birth to Scootaloo, and all she could do about it was love her.
Scootaloo rubbed her aching head. Everything was spinning. And fuzzy. And making a weird ringing noise. What had she been doing? She was up in the air doing… something… and then she had fallen down? Where was she? She stood slowly, shaking. The confused little filly looked around for something, ANYTHING, that might give her a clue as to what had just happened. Or what had happened before that. Or before that…
Why couldn’t she remember… much of anything? Name: Scootaloo. Cutie mark: not yet. Favorite color: all of them. Was that it? Was that all she could remember? No, she remembered there was a word for this. She had... what was the word… amnesia. Yeah. She had amnesia. She must have been doing something in the air and fallen and hit her head. The impact must’ve fogged up her brain. That was it. She just needed to go find a doctor and make sure she was okay, then wait for her memory to come back. She remembered that in the movies it usually only took a few days.
So what if Twilight said no more time travel? So what if her stupid flux whatever spell was what made it possible to begin with? Who cares if paradoxes are bad for reality? If you can’t stand up for something worth fighting for, what’s the point?
Every day since the first trip back, Rainbow Dash had become more and more amazing. Stunts that were downright inconceivable became second nature. She was no longer just the best flier in Equestria, she was the best flier in HISTORY. She could go faster than anything else, and if she had to fly faster than time or causality or reality or physics or whatever was in her way, she would.
Rainbow Dash was going to find a way back, and she was going to stop herself from making the biggest mistake of her life. She wouldn’t try to do that stupid trick, and Applejack wouldn’t get hurt. Either Applejack was going to be okay and they were going to be happy together for a long time, or existence itself would be torn asunder by a pony being foolish enough to go back to try to change the past. Whatever the odds, it was a chance she was more than willing to take.
“I don’t get why everypony has such a hard time understanding this, Twilight. I’m just a filly and I got it in no time at all!”
“Falling down explains nothing!”
“Now now, you know you’re a special case… I’m… I’m still sorry.”
“I already told you, it’s okay. You did what had to be done, and it’s not like I even knew what was wrong anyway...”
“No, Scootaloo, it’s not okay. It wasn’t right of me to use you like that. It’s not okay because I still have to ask you to do one more thing for me.”
The broken mare coughed. “Don’t ignore me!”
“Really… I’m okay with it. So everything got a little screwed up, it’s not like anypony got hurt. And now I’ll get to spend all the time I want with mom, and I’ll even get to fly! I can do one last thing to help save Equestria and then I can go home.”
Twilight’s eyes shimmered with a fine mist. She tilted her head down, not wanting to make eye contact. “I’m sorry, Scootaloo. This last thing isn’t for Equestria. I need you to do something for your mom. Something... really difficult.”
“I’ll do anything, just name it!”
“I need you to pretend none of this ever happened.”
“What… what are you…”
“We’re going to get back home, and I need you to just land on the ground and pretend you fell out of the sky trying to fly. That’s not exactly a lie. Pretend that you never did any of this, and that the other pegasus who looked exactly like you running around Ponyville all that time really was just a coincidence you’ve heard stories about now and then.”
“So after all this… I don’t even get to be a hero? Mom doesn’t get to be proud of me?”
“Your mother already has plenty of reasons to be proud of you. And now you get to go home and be a family again. Like you said, you’ll finally get the chance to fly. You’re young and full of potential and you can do anything in the world… except talk about this. Please… for Rainbow Dash. You don’t know how badly it would hurt her to know the truth.”
Scootaloo turned and faced away from Twilight, fighting back tears of her own. “And how am I supposed to explain my cutie mark? I got it from falling? My mom’s not stupid, you know!” The mare lying at her hooves began to stand.
“I may not understand how you have managed to sneak something past me, but I should think it rather unwise to ignore an enemy who is not incapacitated.”
“There are two of us and one of you. You’re injured and we’re not. I’ve bested you in a strategic game where you had the advantage. It’s over. You’ve lost.”
The mare spat a glob of blood as she reached a standing position again. “Oh have I? You’re not going to finish me. You’re not that kind of mare. You’re going to be as peaceful as possible, using as little force as you can get away with to subdue me. And it’s not going to work, because as you may have forgotten we are on MY turf and it looks like you’ve already played your trump card. You went all in, and you won that hand. But I’m not out of the game yet, and I’ve still got quite a few aces up my sleeve.”
“What is WITH you and your stupid metaphors?”
“DO NOT QUESTION MY METHODS, CHILD. YOU HAD THE ELEMENT OF SURPRISE AND YOU WASTED IT. YOU ARE STILL IN MY DOMAIN AND I STILL DRAW BREATH. YOU WILL NOT FOR MUCH LONGER. YOU DO NOT TRULY GRASP THE DEPTHS OF MY ABILITIES. ALLOW ME TO REVEAL MY HAND.”
“Enough with the cards! We GET it already! But apparently YOU don’t, because this is NOT your domain. Take a good look at me and think carefully about everything you’ve seen leading up to now. Think about what I’ve done and how any of it is even remotely possible! Look at my cutie mark. This isn’t your domain. It’s MINE!”
Linear Chronology of Alpha Timeline Initial Temporal Disturbance – Critical Rupture
This is a helpful guide, since so many people have expressed their confusion. The purpose is NOT to explain everything to you. It is to HELP you. It provides no information that you do not already have or cannot deduce, so it is not required reading. As the title implies, this only covers the primary timeline and only up to a certain point. (P) denotes present and refers to the instance of that character native to that point in time. (#) provides only convenience and has no real meaning. (?) means I’m still not giving you all the answers – deal with it. Everything said here is 100% correct and these events happen in exactly this order. That does not mean that this is 100% of everything that has happened or that other events cannot have happened in between these ones. Twilight is not infallible.
1) A large mass of energy arrives near Ponyville, carrying a unique magical signature.
2) The energy is spent opening one half of a split wormhole.
3) One Rainbow Dash (1) and one Applejack (1) come through the wormhole.
4) Applejack (1) locates the present Rainbow Dash (P) and sets out for Hoofington with her. Rainbow Dash (1) follows.
5) Rainbow Dash (P) begins to understand her feelings for Applejack.
6) Rainbow Dash (1) and Applejack (1) now have several months to themselves while they wait for the chance to be sent back to the future.
7) Rainbow Dash (1) and Applejack (1) switch places with Rainbow Dash (2) above Sweet Apple Acres.
8) Rainbow Dash (2) levels half the farm.
9) Rainbow Dash (2) talks to Twilight Sparkle (P) and Applejack (P) before leaving with Twilight to discuss the invention of time travel.
10) Rainbow Dash (P) arrives at Sweet Apple Acres and is oblivious as to why Applejack (P) is angry.
11) Rainbow Dash (P) heads back to Ponyville and runs into Scootaloo (?), promising to hang out with her later before leaving.
12) Rainbow Dash (2) runs into Scootaloo (?) and hangs out with her, vaguely remembering promising to do so.
13) Rainbow Dash (3) waits in the clouds to start hinting at her feelings toward Applejack.
14) Rainbow Dash (4) appears to stop Rainbow Dash (3).
15) Rainbow Dash (5) appears to take Rainbow Dash (3) and (4) to go find Rainbow Dash (P).
16) Rainbow Dash (6) arrives at Sweet Apple Acres and startles Applejack (P) with a sudden confession and kiss.
17) Rainbow Dash (6) returns to Twilight Sparkle (P) and gives her the idea to keep charts.
18) Rainbow Dash (7) goes to apologize to Applejack for wrecking the farm, giving the impression she is apologizing for event 16.
19) Rainbow Dash (7) meets Scootaloo (?) for “something awesome.”
The dim moonlight that filtered in through the window was pretty. It was not the reason Scootaloo couldn’t sleep, but she still couldn’t stop herself from being annoyed at it. She was in a bad enough mood that everything around her seemed to be trying to bother her. Plenty of days had gone by, and her memories had still not returned. Nopony in town recognized her, and there had been no word of a missing foal matching her description… everypony had come to the unspoken agreement that she was a wandering orphan. A sad little homeless pony who happened to be unfortunate enough to have lost her memory. A kind young couple with no children of their own had taken her in, promising she could stay for “As long as she needed to.”
Food, shelter, and ponies who cared. Shouldn’t that have been enough? Scootaloo felt like a selfish jerk for thinking she needed more in her life. Something very important to her was missing, and although she couldn’t remember what, it didn’t seem right to be unhappy with what she had.
It happened a few days later, out by the market stalls. The shopping trip was boring, as usual, and the short distance back to the house didn’t hold much promise. There had been just a few fluffy white clouds lazily floating through the sky on the otherwise perfect day. No, that wasn’t true. There was a single gray cloud hovering above a nearby patch of grass. A cyan pegasus dashed in from nowhere and flew away with the cloud. Some sort of spark ignited deep inside, strange feelings she didn’t have names for making their way to the forefront of her mind. Her natural curiosity easily overpowering her adoptive parents’ orders to not wander away, she galloped off in the direction the mare had gone.
Less than a minute later, Scootaloo found herself staring at a strange sort of tornado that was somehow also a rainbow. When it stopped, she saw the pegasus from before. Had she done that? Could ponies DO that? This was definitely no ordinary mare, and she’d have to keep her eyes on this one. The strange feelings bubbled up into her head, and without knowing how, she knew this pony was what she needed. A friend? An idol? Maybe a mentor?
Panting and sweating and utterly unable to move, Rainbow Dash lay cemented to the earth with a wide grin plastered on her face. She didn’t know or care about the technical details of how she had done it, but even if she did she wouldn’t have been able to explain it. And she would NOT be explaining it. Applejack had come to an immediate, almost supernatural understanding of what had just happened. Trying to explain anything to Twilight would result in a lot of yelling.
Dash had done what was never supposed to be done. What was never supposed to be ABLE to be done. History had changed. Originally, Dash had gone back to the farm to see Applejack and nothing had gotten in her way. Now, however… now things had gone differently. She could even feel her memories reshaping themselves as it happened. She didn’t go straight to the farm. A blinding flash of light in front of her had forced her to stop. A crater at least twenty feet across stretched out in front of her. The crater was filled with a swirling foggy mist that somehow held every color and yet none of them. She saw herself at the bottom, slowly making her way up toward the edge.
The other her was breathing heavily. “Don’t.”
“Didn’t Twilight say we were done with all this junk?”
“She isn’t involved this time. This is more important than that.”
She shook herself free of her memories. She had just had the other side of that conversation and there was no need to go through it again. Everything worked. Applejack was okay, Equestria wasn’t destroyed, and the crater even fixed itself. The impact had un-happened right in front of her eyes as her other self vanished. There was no need to involve Twilight because there was nothing to involve her in. The one single event was self-contained and complete, or so she thought.
Funny thing about paradoxes… you can’t possibly predict what’s going to happen. They don’t follow the rules. Hell, the rules say they can’t even BE. Once you’ve got one on your hands, the rules go right out the window. Do you remember the bit about how energy bleeds off of things that are in motion? A paradox doesn’t follow the rules. A paradox can’t even rightly be described as a thing.
Rainbow Dash hadn’t formed a wormhole during her latest endeavor. Too tricky. Too roundabout. The quickest path between two points is a straight line. Dash had just plowed straight through the fabric of reality to her destination, not caring what damage she did along the way. She then went back the way she came, but she wasn’t alone. The paradox had been pulled along behind her, repairing the damage she did along the way. Why and how did it repair the damage? It’s impossible to say. They say a paradox destroys space and time, but they have no evidence to base that on. You can’t actually predict what will happen.
When she stopped, it didn’t. It kept moving forward and it didn’t follow the rules…
Twilight Sparkle had painted herself a clear picture of what had happened and the threat that needed to be dealt with. Her message to herself explained in full detail how Rainbow Dash had inadvertently caused a rupture that was spreading out across realities. That things should be coming through these tears and that in the infinite sea of possibility all things were bound to happen at least once.
Forces naturally follow the path of least resistance. The ordinary ‘resistance’ permeating the cosmos that held alternate timelines apart had been stressed most in the areas located (physically and temporally) near Twilight’s recent escapades. And yet for some reason, nothing had been detected. This was unlikely… many orders of magnitude more unlikely than things immediately tossed out as impossible. The only plausible explanation was that some figure was in control. The math worked out. If an appropriate crack appeared, it should be possible to slip in and explore the space between realities. The place behind the curtain.
Without any data to work with it was impossible to be sure exactly what could be done from back there, but it was the only idea to go on. No forces she had a proper understanding of could perform this kind of manipulation. Since Twilight Sparkle had been directly involved in the events that lead to the rupture, as well as the various effects reducing the chrono-linear displacement resistance around her, anypony smart enough to get backstage would be smart enough to keep an eye on her. Somepony was back there controlling things, and that pony would be watching her. That pony had purposefully refrained from contacting her or letting her deduce what had happened by allowing matter to phase across the lines.
Somepony was very good at this, and that pony didn’t trust her enough to let her in on what was happening. When the fate of all that is rests in your hooves, you can’t afford to take chances. Twilight Sparkle had no choice but to treat this unknown entity as anything but an enemy.
Twilight Sparkle stared at the infant Scootaloo, her mouth hanging open. She glanced back to Rainbow Dash. Neither spoke. She remembered Dash barging in during the crisis on infinite Equestrias shouting about Scootaloo being a problem, but that issue was cast aside as being of far less importance. As ashamed as she was to admit it, she had actually forgotten all about it. The damage had just stopped spreading and then began to fix itself. All the Twilights went into a frenzy trying to push themselves and any other matter they came through with back to their rightful places before they were trapped forever. In the confusion and the chaos, the issue of elements being slightly out place in their own timelines was dropped entirely.
Twilight had burned all her notes to prevent anypony from attempting to travel through time again, but she still remembered some details. Concentrating hard, she could recall a small number of inconsistencies regarding Scootaloo… but that couldn’t be right! Inconsistencies along the timeline would cause massive instability if they didn’t outright destroy it!
Even assuming she was mistaken and everything did play out correctly, that did nothing to explain how or why she was looking right into the face of a Scootaloo who was no more than a few days old.
“You’re about to ask me a whole bunch of questions, and I only know the answer to one of them.”
Twilight paused with a thoughtful look on her face. “What’s her name?”
“You have half a guess.”
“So then how…”
“I don’t know, and it doesn’t matter.”
“It absolutely matters, Dash! We have a responsibility to clean up after ourselves. This is pretty clearly our mess, somehow or other, and we need to do something about it. You can’t just run around leaving all the hard problems for future generations to solve!”
Scootaloo made a gurgling noise, blinked, and smiled.
Twilight felt awful. She knew it had to be done, but that didn’t make her feel any better. The magic was hidden. Magic wasn’t even the right word for it. There was SOMETHING in Scootaloo. Something strange buried under the surface that you couldn’t see if you weren’t looking at just the right angle. Something powerful.
She reached back through her memories for all the details she could remember. The three books glowed softly, floating in front of her. It wasn’t right to use somepony like this. To push them in a direction they couldn’t understand and leave them stranded there alone. But it had to be done! Scootaloo had been in the past, and Twilight needed to make sure she got there. Maybe she even had a hoof in fixing everything. It didn’t matter, though. As terrible an act as it was, Twilight needed to separate mother from daughter and leave her stranded in the past for... how long? When was the first time Scootaloo showed up? Where? How to retrieve her with minimal temporal impact?
For now, Twilight Sparkle could put it off. She could excuse herself from the task, claiming that she needed more information. Needed more time to plan it perfectly. That was partially true, but she couldn’t fool herself forever. Sooner or later, she would have to be the most dishonest and least loyal friend she could be. She could only hope her friends would be able to forgive her.
Scootaloo couldn’t wait. She really couldn’t. She was already trying out the things she was reading in those books Twilight had given her, even though she’d been warned many times that this would be dangerous. She didn’t care. Today she would fly.
She was a little confused. Some of this junk didn’t seem to have anything to do with flying, but she wasn’t exactly an expert yet. She cast aside her doubts and charged forward. She didn’t notice when the books began to glow slightly.
Each of the three books had been enchanted to impart an effect on her. The first book would ensure she remained safe. It provided a magical shell strong enough to fall from hundreds of feet in the air and sustain absolutely no damage. The third book would launch her much higher into the air than the flight exercise it described was designed to. The second book was supposed to prepare the magics necessary for time travel and implant the required energy. Twilight had worked very hard to find an efficient method for storing that much power. The second book had failed.
The spells relating to time were repelled, unable to affect the little orange pony who should never have been born. Without a suitable receptacle, the energies that were meant to follow bounced back into the nearest available magical conduit. The third book radiated an intense light. Scootaloo stopped her wing exercises and stared at it. It was meant to trigger when she made a specific motion, but the added magic had intensified the sensitivity of the triggering mechanism. She stepped toward the book and was flung skyward. Up and up and up she went. Hundreds of feet into the air. Then thousands.
Scootaloo sat still and thought. She pushed her little brain as hard as she had ever pushed it, trying to fit the pieces together. There was a puzzle to be solved. Something was going on, and she needed to know what.
Idolizing another pony is nothing unusual. Tons of foals have idols they worship. But Rainbow Dash was different. There was something more. Something incredibly special. She had felt it every time she was near her for as long as she could remember.
She had a perfect working memory of everything AFTER one particular point in time. She suffered from near total amnesia of everything before that point.
There had been two of Rainbow Dash flying around that day. There had DEFINITELY been two of herself just a minute ago playing a little prank on one Rainbow Dash.
Some special, unnamable bond existed between the mare and the filly. There were somehow at least two of both of them. She had amnesia. She’d never bothered asking… maybe Rainbow Dash had amnesia too? Maybe they were both part of some mad science experiment… or maybe they were related. Could they be sisters? Dash was too young to be her mother…
Time slowed to a stop. All color drained from the world. All sound faded to nothing. There was only Scootaloo and the tidal wave of memories flooding back to her all at once. She screwed her eyes shut and clamped her forehooves over her ears, curling into a ball on the ground. If her eyes had been open, she would have seen the cracks start to form in the world around her.
An enormous spider’s web of unending complexity unfolded. The more closely it was examined, the more detail could be seen. All around her the world was illuminated by the shining threads of the web, reaching out into the whole of the world, but the only pony capable of seeing it refused to look.
Linear Chronology of Alpha Timeline First Backward Leap – Paradox Birth
(F) is now the present LATER. Think of it as the future if you want. This portion of the appendix is written with the point where Twilight first successfully casts the time travel spell anchored as the present, so that is where (F) points now. (P), if you like, could stand for past now. It’s the present from before. The presence or absence of an event in these listings is not related to the importance of the event. There is a semi-arbitrary process I am using to decide what goes in and what does not. Like I said before, this is a helpful guide and not a complete cheat sheet. I want you to understand, but I want you to reach that understanding via brainy thinky times.
The previous appendix gave a sense of how events flowed even with ‘multiple’ ponies appearing. This one should start to show how the multiple paths fold across each other, letting you get a feel for how connections are formed… as well as showing you one of the important ways Twilight was wrong.
26) Rainbow Dash (2) switches places with Rainbow Dash (F – now 1) and Applejack (F – now 1) via Twilight (F)’s first time travel spell.
27) Twilight Sparkle (F – now 1) and Rainbow Dash (2 – now 8) switch places with Rainbow Dash (7) to go perform event 24.
28) Rainbow Dash (7) switches with Rainbow Dash (3) (4) and Twilight Sparkle (2).
29) Rainbow Dash (4 – now 5) switches with Rainbow Dash (10) to go to event 15.
30) Rainbow Dash (10) switches with Rainbow Dash (6) Twilight Sparkle (3) and Applejack (2).
31) Rainbow Dash (6) and Twilight Sparkle (3) switch with Rainbow Dash (10) and Twilight Sparkle (4) to go see Princess Celestia in the past.
32) Rainbow Dash (10) switches with Rainbow Dash (7).
33) Rainbow Dash (7), The Wonderbolts, and Twilight Sparkle (4) coordinate their efforts to send the energy and signature back to event 1.
34) Rainbow Dash (7) returns to Sweet Apple Acres to be with Applejack (2).
35) An undisclosed accident causes the death of Applejack (2).
36) Rainbow Dash (7), without the assistance of any Twilight Sparkles, sends HERSELF back and rewrites history to prevent her lover’s death.
Scootaloo stood on shaking legs, stumbling about physically as well as temporally. She still didn’t quite have the hang of this, but she had all the time in the world to figure it out. She reached forward gingerly and placed one hoof on the crack in front of her. It was solid, cold, and unyielding. Like stone. Concentrating, she pushed her hoof to one side and the air around it rippled as the crack warmed. Reality pulled itself aside with the motion of her hoof and the crack was no longer a crack, but a wide triangular opening. One side of the curtain had been lifted, and she could see beyond.
On the other side there was a gray unicorn carrying a gray dragon toward a gray building. Scootaloo sighed and withdrew her hoof, letting the fabric fall back. So many amazing things came to her so easily now, but not the important ones. The tear in the curtain mended itself and the crack was no more. This was clearly the wrong approach, but that didn’t help her figure out the right one.
The little orange filly began to cry. This wasn’t the way it was supposed to work. Having a full and unimpeded range of motion was worthless if there was nothing to DO at any destination. She could go anywhere she wanted. She could go anyWHEN she wanted. When she got there, time would just stubbornly refuse to move forward again.
Losing your memory is sad. Losing your family is a tragedy. Losing both and then much later having it all come back – while at the same time gaining a super power – only to lose your whole world is unbearable.
Shuffling back to where this ordeal started, Scootaloo examined the books lying on the ground. She craned her neck in the direction of the library. It wasn’t quite possible to ask Twilight for help, but a library full of books was almost as good.
Rainbow Dash was screaming through the air at a speed that had long since ceased making any sense. She was pouring her all into this, and it didn’t matter one bit. As beautiful a sentiment as it might be, love can’t quite conquer all. No matter how fast she flew or how determined she was, Rainbow Dash would not be able to pierce through to the past with raw momentum and emotion. Everything stopped.
Scootaloo stepped forward from behind a gently flapping strip of spacetime and gazed up at her mother. She turned around, looking at the pitiful falling pegasus behind her, and frowned. She had tried so hard to find one that would work. One she thought she wouldn’t have to feel bad about ‘sacrificing’, even if that wasn’t exactly true. She had sobbed heavily for hours when she found one.
This Rainbow Dash was from a universe where everything had gone wrong. A world where she failed in front of the Wonderbolts. A reality where Applejack did not share her feelings. This sad, lonely Rainbow Dash had decided to end her life. Describing exactly the fate that would befall her is something that can’t be done, but it would not quite be death. In that way, it could almost be said she was giving her a second chance. Scootaloo apologized to her anyway, even knowing that frozen in her fall she couldn’t hear a word. It still felt wrong. She would never return to Ponyville and her friends would grieve deeply. In some ways, she really WOULD be gone.
Scootaloo didn’t care what the consequences for herself would be. She wasn’t trying to save herself from nonexistence. She was even fairly certain that if she ceased to be the damage would be minimal and Equestria would survive. But Twilight Sparkle had other plans, and Scootaloo was the only one who could stop her. She needed to ensure she would be.
A paradox really is a tricky thing, and this one was no exception. Rainbow Dash hadn’t flung herself back in time to stop herself from making a mistake… because she couldn’t. She did not alter the flow of events to keep Applejack alive, and Scootaloo was never born.
Yet here she was, frozen simultaneously at every point in time and space, trying to make certain that exactly what didn’t happen – exactly what COULDN’T happen – would happen.
Twilight’s secret to time travel was to apply the energy of two Dashes to a focal point, straining the resistance of the natural order to its breaking point and forcing a tunnel through. One Rainbow Dash couldn’t do that. But two could. Scootaloo brought the other Rainbow Dash through a fissure between the worlds. Time did not flow, and Dash did not fully phase through. The matter she was composed of was present, but intangible. It was out of place, vibrating at a frequency that was foreign to her surroundings.
Scootaloo apologized again before placing Dash so that she was occupying the same space as her other self. The two clumps of matter would fuse into one, and in a strange way the suicidal Dash would live on. Bolstered by the addition of herself, Dash would be able to do it. Where a single Rainbow had failed, a double rainbow would succeed.
Scootaloo trotted back past the curtain to the spatially local but temporally regressed Ponyville she had landed in. Where she had just been, color had started to return. Time resumed flowing as the paradox caused itself to be. One continuous loop that cannot be broken and yet cannot be fed back into itself and all around the impossible filly the world began to move once more. As colors sparkled back into their places, one extra patch of pastel purple began to shine.
An enormous smile spread across her face. Colors and motion and joy were real once more. There was still a threat to be dealt with, but she had all the time she could need and decided to take this moment to enjoy herself and revel in the simple pleasure of BEING. She didn’t notice the bright violet Möbius strip on her flank.
“THAT CANNOT BE. IF YOU PASSED THROUGH MY REALM I WOULD HAVE DETECTED YOUR PRESENCE.”
“Not if you were frozen and unaware.”
“YOU CANNOT HALT THE FLOW OF TIME IN A PLACE BEYOND IT. IT IS A COMPLETE IMPOSSIBILITY.”
“I’M a complete impossibility, or haven’t you been listening to a word I’ve said? You really need to pay more attention to what goes on around you. If you’d been watching closely, you could’ve even caught on. I made a pretty boneheaded mistake that should’ve grabbed your attention. I know it was foalish of me, but I missed it too much to leave it behind. Where and when do you think my scooter came from?”
“Y’know, Twilight, it’s almost funny. You’ve done this sort of thing a few times before… just on a smaller scale. You get overwhelmed by what you think of as a huge problem and you go completely nuts trying to find a way to fix it, but in the end it turns out there was never really a problem to begin with and everything had been under control all along.”
“WHY DO YOU OPPOSE ORDER?”
Scootaloo sighed. “I don’t. You’re just too caught up trying to solve the problem in front of you to see anything else.”
“WHAT EXISTS OUTSIDE OF THE CHAOS THAT UNDERPINS EVERYTHING?”
“There is no chaos consuming reality! There never was. Everything is in perfect working order, and you’re just too busy staring at individual spinning cogs to see the mesh of teeth connecting them all together. Every event causes another, each gear turning the next. Every one of them has to be exactly where it is out of necessity. If any part was out of order, the whole thing would be broken. But it’s not, because none of them are. The wheels keep spinning and the world keeps turning. Do you understand?”
“Did you hit your head or something, Twilight? Nothing you’re saying makes any sense at all!”
“How can you SAY that? You love Applejack, don’t you?”
“Well, yeah… but we’re both mares, Twilight. We couldn’t have a foal even if we wanted one. And I still have no idea who this filly you keep going on about is. None of the Crusaders are pegasus ponies.”
“She’s your biggest fan!”
“I’m sorry, Twilight, but you’re losing me here. As far as I know, there is no Scootaloo – there never was.”
Uncountable eons later, the universe came to an end. It’s somewhat impossible for that to really have any meaning, though. Matter and energy can’t be created or destroyed. The universe can’t ever end or begin. All the matter and all the energy always were and always will be. Except that they weren’t and they won’t. Paradoxically, the universe does have both a beginning and an end. But if you put enough pressure on two points...
As reality came to its inevitable and impossible conclusion, the universe reached its inevitable and impossible birth. Maybe this time, Twilight would understand. Changing history is impossible, but so are a lot of other things.