“Well, aren’t you two a couple of killjoys,” the Doctor grumbled sourly.
Normally, one of the most enjoyable parts of taking on new companions for the Time Pony was always seeing their reaction upon entering his Tardis. Even Derpy had gotten used to and expected the awe and excited looks on ponies faces once they stepped through the door’s interface and saw the vast amount of space inside the simple box that should have barely had enough room inside for one pony, let alone four.
They had wrongly assumed this would be another one of those times when they would be treated to huge eyes and wondrous looks.
Never had they been so incorrect in all their travels!
Luna’s hand-picked Night Guard, Dark Watch, crossed the threshold and took in the space inside with all the enthusiasm of tackling another routine, boring evening’s guarding of a door that never opened nor did anything exciting. They watched his eyes slowly scan over every inch of the spacious console room, the walls with their peculiar, embedded circular pattern in the metal between the upward swooping buttresses, and then down to rest at last on the ship’s centerpiece console itself. This at least he walked slowly around to take in every inch of to the point where Derpy swore he was memorizing every button, lever and switch upon its multi-paneled surface.
Nyx, while having a similar though less intense reaction, was no more entertaining to their hosts in her own right. It was worse trying to figure out where she was looking with those black, soulless eyes of hers. The only way one could tell she was looking from side to side if she was not moving her head was to intently watch the tiny reflections of light on the surface of her eyes, track their wobble as the eyes themselves moved in their sockets and neither the Doctor nor his companion showed any interest in coming close enough to her to attempt that. And while Nyx had appeared quite animated during her confrontation with the Royal Pony Sisters, that had quickly died upon entering the Tardis.
The Tardis itself, however, had quite a reaction to her that was neither skittish nor at first apparent.
The first hint of trouble was that the door to the Time Box was stuck open. No matter how Derpy pulled and tugged at it, it would not close.
When the Doctor could not get the console to program in any coordinates and saw why on the readouts, he called out, “Derpy, can we get that door closed please?” a mixture of pleasantry and impatience in his voice.
“I’m trying, Doctor,” she replied back, grabbing the edge of the door and heaving with all her small frame’s might when endless tugs on the door handle had failed her.
Nyx and Dark Watch turned to each other, exchanging raised eyebrows. They turned their attention back to the hapless mailmare as the Doctor joined her in trying to close the door. Even together they were having no success.
The Marazon TimeWitch closed her eyes, listening to the slight increase of ambient noise around them, especially those sounds that emanated from the console. There were a lot more snaps and pops and lower-toned rumbles than when they had first entered. Luna’s night guard watched her processing this information with interest. Nodding, Nyx opened her eyes.
“Your ship doesn’t like me,” she told the Doctor and his companion.
The Doctor and Derpy turned to her, surprised. “She likes everypony!” the Time Lord countered. “Well, except Cyberponies, Daleks and anypony that tries to kill me or doesn’t like me…” he eyed her suspiciously. “You perchance don’t either dislike or want to kill me, do you?”
“Not yet, Doctor,” she replied. “unless you give me a reason to later, of course.”
He looked askance at her, concerned there was a caveat to her friendliness she so honestly admitted to. “Yes, well, that is good to know.” He looked sharply at Luna’s night guard. “What about you?”
“Sounds like a reasonable set of exceptions to me,” he agreed with Nyx. Nyx fought an urge to smirk at the remark and failed.
“Great!” Derpy muttered as the Doctor turned back to her. “this is going to be a fun trip!”
“I guess I’ll just have to be on my best behavior then, won’t I?” he announced to them. Then, to Derpy in a low voice, “You’ll make sure I’m on my best behavior, won’t you?”
“That all depends on you, Doctor,” she informed him.
He nodded, wisely not saying anything, then turned his attention back to his box’s stubborn door. “You said ‘she doesn’t like you’, Nyx,” he called over. “well, can you convince her that as of right now you have no plans to either dislike or kill me? It would really help us get going faster.”
“That’s not the problem Doctor,” she shrugged. “since neither condition yet exists to us, either it is something I have done in the future she does not like, or there is something else about me that is bothering her.” Her hoof ran lightly over one of the wall’s buttresses. “Or, perhaps it is her?”
“Oh? And if it were her – which it isn’t, what would that possibly entail?” he asked with a hint of sarcasm, still trying to close the door for lack of anything better to do with his hooves.
“That would be hard to say,” she answered. “She might have a nervous disposition – “
“- faced the Dalek fleet. She’s got nerves of steel!” he announced proudly.
“Be claustrophobic,“ Nyx listed off next.
“Nope, been inside tight-fitting spaces hundreds of times,” he dismissed.
“ – underneath a hundred million tons of solid ice?” Nyx said casually, examining a hoof.
The Doctor turned to them, opened his mouth to reply, but thought about it. “Ah – really? A hundred million tons?”
“The pressure would be enormous,” Dark Watch nodded, adding in his opinion.
Once he thought on it, comparing their various, prior adventures, Whooves shook his head. “Been in the planet’s core,” the Time Pony recalled with surety. “lot more pressure there.”
“What were you doing in the planet’s core?” the guard asked in surprise.
The Time Pony grinned a manic grin. “Survive this adventure long enough and I’ll tell you.”
The guard was not impressed. “Is that a threat, Doctor?”
“No,” Derpy spoke for him, not trusting the Time Stallion to speak. “Just a statement of the hazards of the job,” she sighed. “So, Doctor, what do we about the door?”
Ponies were starting to gather outside the Tardis, peering in curiously. It was starting to make the Doctor uncomfortable. “Nyx? Could use more helpful suggestions about now.”
Nyx’s ear twitched. No one could tell if that was a sign she was annoyed, agitated or one of a hundred other emotions. “I need to talk to her, it appears,” she settled on at last.
“She’s a telepathic matrix and only I can communicate with her as such,” Whooves announced with a bit of pridefulness in his voice, Nyx could have sworn.
“I guess I’ll be taking you back to Princess Luna to face judgment then,” Dark Watch concluded, eyeing the TimeWitch.
“You’d serve better, guard, guarding that door,” the Marazon nodded towards the entrance.
“I won’t need to if this little adventure is done before it’s started,” he countered, reaching for Nyx.
“Ah, that’s just great!” Whooves snapped, stomping his hoof on the floor. He felt a twinge start in his head and fought it off, but realized it was not as bad as the others had been when Nyx had jumped time tracks outside in the throne room.
Seconds later, she reappeared at the console, studying the readouts as casually as if she had just walked over, not moved in time, then space, then jumped back into their time stream. Dark Watch scowled and Whooves ceased his fight with the door, stalking over to the time rotor.
“He has his work cut out for him,” Derpy muttered.
“Crap baskets!” Watch cursed under his breath. He moved to the door, deciding guarding it might be about the only thing useful he could do on this trip if apprehending the TimeWitch was going to be that much of a problem.
“Hey!” the Doctor said loudly from behind Nyx, startling her and everyone else. Annoyed, she turned around, but was met with a much more annoyed Time Pony. “That was very foolish, I’ll have you know! Do you have any idea what that would have done to you if we had been in the time vortex at the time?!?”
“It would have – tickled?” she said sarcastically.
“It would have torn you apart!” he snapped in reply. “You would have ended up outside the protection of the Tardis, in the vortex. Nothing organic can survive in the time vortex, Nyx. NOTHING!”
She went back to looking at the readouts. “Point taken, Doctor,” she acquiesced. “Now please, I have no idea what I am looking at here. I need to locate something.”
“What, er what?” he took his angry tone down once he realized she had understood why he was so furious.
“The pool,” she answered.
“The what?” Dark Watch asked. “Why?”
“Got rid of it,” Whooves replied. “Not having another one in here. Took a wrong turn at a supernova, ruined every book in the library. Never getting another one.”
Nyx snorted. “Never say never, Time Lord.”
He reared back. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Ask me again when you change bodies,” she muttered.
“Change what?” Luna’s guard asked, again not getting a reply.
“All right,” Nyx dipped her head, accepting there was currently no pool. “How about a meditation room?”
“Oh, a zero room?” the stallion asked.
“What’s that?” she cocked her head, curious.
“A room of neutral energies as respects the outside world,” he explained.
“No,” Nyx shook her head. “no good. I need to be able to communicate with – “ she gestured around them, indicating the travel machine.
The Tardis’s interior lights dimmed, plunging the room into darkness except for the weak light coming in from the door.
Whooves looked up, incensed. “Dear!? Aw, c’mon! It isn’t like we have any choice, y’know!” He glared at the TimeWitch. “What did you say to her?!?” he demanded.
“Nothing, apparently. I cannot communicate with her, remember?” she said acidly.
“You said something!” he huffed, ignoring Derpy who had come over, scanned the console and flicked a switch. The emergency lights came back on.
Nyx finally stopped searching the console since all the readouts had gone dark. “All I did, Doctor, was ask your temperamental lady friend what the Tartarus her name was so I could stop referring to her mentally as that tetchy, obnoxious, time-hopping joyride, and for some reason, she took offense to that!”
“Can’t imagine why,” Derpy muttered under her breath.
Whooves tapped his fore hoof impatiently on the console. Nyx looked at his hoof. “She doesn’t like when you do that, you know.”
“She told you that?” Watch asked her.
“Basically. Imagine being tapped on your – “
“You know, Nyx, I can see why you and King Sombra got along so well,” the Time Pony snapped, interrupting.
“Really, Doctor?” Dark Watch said sarcastically, having come over to join the three travelers. “He never put up with such snark and arrogance unless it was his own!”
Nyx did a double take at his presumptuousness. “Like either of you would know,” the mare spat bitterly.
“Geez, stop it, you three!” Derpy spoke, up, the tension finally fraying her nerves as well. “This isn’t helping!”
“Sorry, yes, Derps. You are right, of course,” Whooves apologized.
“Please, Doctor,” she pleaded. “just get Nyx what she needs so we can get going before the Princesses see us stuck out here and change their minds.”
“That would be wise,” Dark Watch agreed.
“Yes,” the Doctor took a calming breath, then turned to Nyx. “I am sorry, Nyx. And I don’t actually in fact, know her name. I always call her, ‘Old Girl’, myself.”
The lights came back on, slightly softer than they were before. They reflexively looked up. “She likes that,” Nyx said quietly, calming down. “but I would not feel right using it. It is your term of affection for her.” She put a hoof to her head. “Really?” she perked up. “Oh. Thank you,” she said aloud.
“She told you?” Whooves asked.
“What is it?”
“A name she has not used yet, but will, and has,” the Witch replied. “she said it is/was/will be Idris.”
“Sorry, what was that?” the mailmare asked her.
“It is/was/will be Idris,” she repeated.
“Wow, that is weird,” Derpy said, shaking her head as if it would clear her hearing up. “It sounded like you said ‘is’, ‘was’ and ‘will be’ all at the same time.”
Nyx grunted. “Hmmm…probably. That has been known to happen when I get a bit ‘wobbly’ as regards being stabilized in one time frame.”
Whooves nodded. “That might be why my ship isn’t particularly thrilled with you, Nyx. In a way, you are like her, bouncing around time zones. Maybe you two are too much alike.”
Nyx shrugged. “If you like, Doctor, but doubtful, I think. It is more likely in an alternate reality I gutted you and stole her away.” She looked down, frowning. “Probably in a time and place where my King had broken what little sanity I had left when he kidnapped me.” She closed her eyes. “I am not like that, Idris. Please, all I want is to be with my King,” she whispered aloud. “Please believe me.”
The lights came on stronger, the door closed of its own accord and the console hummed quietly back to life. Everyone sighed, relieved.
“Thank you,” Nyx said gratefully, her eyes flaring green for a moment under her eyelids.
* * *
The Tardis disappeared from Canterlot’s hallways soon after and reappeared above the continent of Equestria, high enough in orbit they were surrounded by darkness, the curve of their planet beneath them. The Doctor and Derpy had not eaten since breakfast and took the opportunity to sit down to dinner in a room that mimicked a Chinese restaurant, complete with a koi pond next to their table. The guard and TimeWitch declined the invitation to join them, spending the moment with the Tardis door open to space, marveling at the view.
“I have always wanted to accompany Princess Luna on her night watch,” Dark told Nyx, enraptured by the splash of stars caught in a cluster that glowed red above the curve of the world. He half-laughed. “I never thought I would get there without her assistance. It makes me want to enroll that much more.”
Nyx merely nodded, remaining quiet. She scanned his timeline, going over it in her mind like reading pages of a book. Or tried to. The pages to come in his book were blank. She sighed. If he only knew…
The guard looked over at her. “But you can see that, can’t you?” he asked. “you know what will happen.”
She shrugged. “I see so many possibilities in the futures of – everything. And they are just that – possibilities.” She turned to him. “What happens depends on you, not my foresight.”
“Do you already know if we can fix time?” he asked.
She was silent for a long moment. Then she shook her head. “No. I do not. I cannot see anything beyond touching down in the center of the Empire. It all goes dark. As dark as out there, beyond our world.”
Watch frowned. “The center of the Empire? But I thought we were going directly to wherever King Sombra is entombed?”
“I am sure that is where the Doctor will attempt to land us,” she nodded. “His track record for perfect aim, I understand, is not the best.”
The night guard looked over at the entrance to the rest of the ship, across the room, then back to Nyx. “Neither is his propensity for telling the truth,” he confided.
“Yes,” she agreed, still staring outside. “You noticed as well?”
“He is stalling,” Watch nodded. “and I want to know why.”
“Most likely he does not trust me,” Nyx replied.
“I do not trust you either.”
The mare grunted. “You should not, guard. I trust none of you, save Derpy.”
His eyebrows raised underneath the helmet. “Really? Her?”
“And why is that?” he asked.
“She is very poor at hiding her emotions,” the TimeWitch told him. “she has no ulterior motives. She is quite pure of heart. One day that will save her life.”
“It pleased King Sombra. He detests treachery, subterfuge. He loves/loved sources of purity he can corrupt and influence. His mere presence before her was so powerful it caused her to bow before him, as it does many ponies.”
Dark Watch crossed his fore legs. “’will save her life’, ‘pleased King Sombra’? Which is it? It is very confusing following your speech, TimeWitch.”
“I make no apologies for it,” she shrugged. “For me it has already happened, but in another reality I am aware of. The true one. The one that was not corrupted by whatever changed my beloved’s sentence from a thousand years to eternity.
For Derpy, it has not yet occurred, but will. Time is an endless circle in which events have, are and will happen until time ends.” She shot him a glance, smiling. “You think you have it hard understanding me? Try being me.”
Watch appeared to have no interest in trying. He was a guard in Princess Luna’s elite night force and all he cared about was fulfilling his duties to his Princess. He huffed. “If that one bows or bowed before Sombra,” he indicated Derpy, nodding in the direction of the Chinese restaurant. “she is a traitor to Equestria,” he stated flatly.
“It is not that simple,” the Marazon shook her head. “As a King, he is due respect, whether you are his subject or not. It is not for mere mortals or your own precious rulers in Equestria to render judgment upon him.” She looked pointedly at Dark, locking his eyes with hers. “If you disagreed with Princess Luna’s orders, would you refuse to do as you were told?”
“Of course not,” he replied immediately.
“Would you question her?”
“Not as such. I might express concern if I did not understand her motives.”
“Because she allows you to,” Nyx nodded. “There are those who are born to rule – sane or not, right or not, and there are those born to serve.”
He could not argue her the point, going back to looking out into space. “I know which I was destined to do. It has always been to serve one greater than I.” He glanced at her. “Which were you born to do, Marazon?”
“There is a third caste,” she replied. “though they can be of either first two as well. I am of them,” she declared.
“And what are they?” he asked.
“Cursed,” was all she said.