Quantum Gallop

Five of the youth of House Path are abruptly whisked away by the enigmatic Doctor Whooves, and they find themselves in a Ponyville that they can scarcely recognize. A tyrant queen rules Equestria, alliances were never forged with Griffonia and the Changeling Hives, and three of the group had never been born! Someone has changed history, and it's up to them to figure out when, how, and who did it, or Equestria will suffer, and the rest of the world along with it.
This is the direct sequel to "The Growing Years" and "A Different Perspective", and I advise reading those stories first.

https://www.fimfiction.net/story/328566/quantum-gallop

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2. Chapter 1 - A Glitch in Time Part 2

“Bravin’ the Everfree every day just for us? Ah’d say that you’re the real hero.”

Fluttershy blushed fiercely. “I… I’d better get this food inside.” She hastily trotted off to the castle.

“Still can’t take a compliment,” Lucida commented.

“So ya know Fluttershy too? Ah suppose that makes sense. Anyhow, she’s your way back into town. She can fit maybe two of ya in her cart.”

Lucida smiled. “No, one would be enough. If we can get Destined to some secure place close to the changeling prison, he can fetch us back there.”

“Yeah,” Destined agreed. “Once I have a place locked in, I can teleport back and forth easily.”

“Sounds like a plan, and Ah think Ah know just the place. Now we just have to convince Fluttershy to do it for ya.”

“Great! Let’s do that.”

Applejack led them off in the direction of the castle.

“So what does Fluttershy bring you?” Cinder asked.

“Mostly food donated by sympathizers. A lot comes from Sweet Apple Acres,” Applejack replied.

“Are you able to work your farm at all now?” Blue asked.

The earth pony shook her head sadly. “Nope. Twi figured out Ah was part of the Resistance, so Ah can’t go back home. Apple Bloom and Big Macintosh keep it goin’ now with the help of cousin Braeburn.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. Doesn’t Queen Twilight suspect that they’re helping you?”

“Probably, but Sweet Apple Acres feeds a lot of the town with more’n just apples, so for now they’re tolerated.”

Once they passed within the dilapidated walls of the castle, the condition of the structure rapidly changed. It became apparent that much covert reconstruction had been done, and the castle was very livable. One large hall had become a common dining room, and in a room to one side, a kitchen was busy starting to prepare the food that Fluttershy had brought in. While they were waiting for her to finish unloading, they watched the activity of the other occupants of the castle.

Lucida said, “I notice that almost everyone travels in pairs – one pony and one changeling.”

Applejack nodded. “Yep. Standard procedure is ta give everypony a suitable partner. They work together at all times to provide each other backup. The changeling gets the positive emotions they need to feed on, and they keep their partner happy in ways that work best for them.”

“So where’s yours?” Cinder asked curiously.

“Closer than you think,” Bon Bon said before magic fire engulfed her to reveal a Red Changeling.

“Told ya she’s ma right hoof mare, didn’t Ah?” Applejack said with a smirk.

Lucida blinked in surprise. “Makes me wonder which other ponies who I know in Ponyville are also changelings.”

“Not as many as you might think,” Bon Bon replied, “but there were representatives of the Green, Yellow, Violet, and Orange Hives there too. That is until Twilight started sniffing them out with a changeling detection spell. I escaped before I was discovered, but others weren’t so lucky.”

When Fluttershy was finished, Applejack pulled her aside to discuss their request. They noticed that the pegasus shivered a bit at the risk, but she nodded.

“Alright, I’ll do it,” Fluttershy declared quietly but firmly.

They followed her outside once more, and they decided that Destined would walk along with Fluttershy until they were near the edge of the Everfree Forest, where he would conceal himself in her cart. The rest of the group watched them depart until they disappeared among the trees.

Lucida turned to Applejack and said, “While we’re waiting for Destined to return, how about you tell us all you know about what happened at the Crystal City battle? Every bit of information that you can give might help us figure out what was changed and how we might be able to fix it.”

“And how do ya plan to do that? Goin’ to catch the train to the past?” the apple mare asked sarcastically.

“I’m not sure yet, but I suspect a certain Time Turner might have the answer to that.”

# # #

The cart was not the most comfortable form of transport, but if the bumps and bruises he endured were the worst to happen, Destined would be more than satisfied. The cart came to a stop without incident, and he heard Fluttershy undoing the harness. A moment later, her soft voice came to him under the covers.

“Wait here while I make sure that the coast is clear.”

Destined desperately wanted to stretch his legs and wings, but he endured for a few more minutes. It wasn’t long before Fluttershy returned, and he heard her say, “Here’s your shipment. I hope it’s everything you needed.”

“I’m sure that you did a fine job, darling. Let me get that for you.”

Destined was certain he knew the owner of that second voice. He almost yelped when he felt himself being magically lifted and carried away with the tarpaulin still draped over him. He was soon put down on a floor and he heard the sound of a door being closed and locked.

“It’s safe to get up now, dear.”

Destined pushed off the tarpaulin and stood up to face the owner of that cultured voice, unsurprised to see a white unicorn with a carefully coiffed purple mane. “Rarity!”

She smiled at him. “I see my fame precedes me, but you have the advantage of me, sir. Who is this handsome alicorn stallion that I see before me?”

“My name is Destined Path, and in a different history, we knew each other well enough. You were, after all, one of my mother’s best friends.”

Rarity’s eyes narrowed. “Am I to infer that you are Queen Twilight’s son?” she asked with a touch of suspicion.

“No, I am not Queen Twilight’s child – I am the son of Princess Twilight Sparkle of Herd Path of the Griffonian House of Path. History has been changed, and my siblings and I are on a quest to rectify it. My sister has been captured though, and we need some help to retrieve her before we can continue.”

Rarity raised an eyebrow. “An interesting heritage and an intriguing goal. Where is this sister of yours?”

“In the changeling holding facility.”

“Your sister is a changeling?” Rarity asked with surprise.

“Half-sister if you want to be pedantic, but we have the same father – Long Path.”

“Then who is your sister’s mother?”

“Queen Gossamer, but you probably know her better as Free Agent.”

Rarity gasped. “Free Agent was a Queen changeling?”

Destined grinned. “Yep. That’s something that most people didn’t know until after the Crystal City battle.”

“Oh my! I had no idea. You poor dear – if your sister is the daughter of a changeling Queen, she is in worse danger than you might think. Queen Twilight is obsessed with capturing all queen changelings for her nefarious plans.”

“Are you able to tell me more about where she’s being held?”

“Oh, darling, I wouldn’t be caught dead in there.”

“Then we’re going to have to wait for her to get out on her own.”

Rarity gave him a flat look. “Really? I believe in optimism, but you really should base your hopes on more than wild expectations.”

Destined smiled knowingly at her. “You don’t know Pif like we do.”

“I do hope for your sake that you’re right. What are you hoping to do in the meantime?”

“First I have to fetch the rest of the group. Will it be okay to bring three more here?”

“Yes, as long as you are prepared to stay concealed upstairs and not give Queen Twilight any idea that I am connected with the Resistance.”

“Of course not! Umm… what do you do for the Resistance anyway?”

“Oh, good heavens, darling, you don’t think the Resistance runs on apples alone? I use my business contacts to procure all kinds of other essential materiel!”

“And you’re happy to work against your friend?”

Rarity scowled. “Queen Twilight is no friend of mine. She betrayed everything our friendship stood for. I would never have believed that I would find more in common with those uncouth changelings than her, but that is the case, and for the sake of the good of Equestria and all free species, I will do my utmost to see that she is brought down!”

“Nice speech, Rarity.”

“Thank you, dear. I’ve been rehearsing it for a while.”

“Pardon me for a minute while I fetch my friends.”

“Of course. How do you…” She paused as Destined teleported away. “Ah – he really is an alicorn, Rarity,” she gently castigated herself for forgetting.

It was just a bit longer than a minute before four figures flashed into existence.

Rarity was startled by the mixture of beings, but her eyebrows really rose at the sight of the huge muscular blue stallion. “Oh my! Where have you been all my life?” she asked Blue Streak.

“Ummm…” was all the disconcerted earth pony could say.

Cinder stepped between him and Rarity. “Mine!” she declared with a toothy grin that held no humor whatsoever.

“Really? Oh well, I thought it was too good to be true. Now I really must ask all of you to move upstairs so that I can reopen the shop. If I stay closed too long at this time of the day, it might look suspicious.”

The foursome moved in the direction of the stairs that she indicated.

“The spare bedroom is the second on the left. Please don’t touch anything!”

They found themselves in a room that had obviously last been used by a filly, but not for some time. There was a photo on the dresser of Rarity with her sister Sweetie Belle, taken on the day that she had gotten her cutie mark. Destined picked it up and looked around at the other objects in the room, wondering where Sweetie was now. Perhaps there was more than one reason for a fashionista to be so actively opposed to the tyrant Queen?

# # #

Pif reclined on the cell’s cot and considered her options. She had to escape, of course, but this changeling prison facility was proving to be a mine of information so far, and she suspected that she would learn a lot more before this day was done. She at least needed to know what this party that they kept mentioning was all about, and why she sensed that Carpacia was dreading it.

Just then her thoughts were interrupted by a bright and excessively cheerful voice. “Hi there, colts and fillies! Do you know what time it is?”

There was a chorus of groans, curses, and various replies such as: ‘Time for you to drop dead’, and ‘Time to shove a cactus up your sphincter’, as well as some even more unpleasant suggestions.

“That’s right – it’s Party Time!” was the exuberant response, utterly undeterred by the attitude of the changelings.

Pif recognized the owner of that voice, and she moved back over to the bars in order to peer as best as she could up the corridor. There she spotted an extremely cheerful Pinkie Pie pushing a cart laden with cakes, donuts, cream buns, chocolates, sweets, and other sugary treats, plus bottles of various flavors of soda. She was heading down one of the other corridors though, and she quickly disappeared from view. However, her voice continued to carry to Pif.

“I know what you’ve all been waiting for, and here it is fresh from Sugarcube Corner! Now don’t push – there’s plenty for everyone.”

Pif wondered what the hay she was talking about. She had not heard any cells being unlocked, so there was no way that any ’ling could be crowding the pink pony.

“Well, it looks as if I won’t starve, at least,” she said to no one in particular.

A derisive snort came from Carpacia’s cell. “She’s here to feed us, alright, but it’s not what’s on her cart.”

Pif recalled the times that she had met Pinkie, and how the bubbly mare was always a font of joy and laughter. Her positive emotions were plentiful and tasty, and Pif had often overfed on them as a child, causing her parents no end of grief until Free drained the excess from her. At least she had a lot more self-control now, so she would not over-indulge this time. “So we get a meal plus dessert – what’s so bad about that?”

Carpacia chuckled humorlessly. “That’s all the physical food that you’re going to get.”

Pif considered that statement. All of the energy needs of changelings were supplied by consuming the ambient energy of positive emotions, but they still needed some solid food and drink to supply their need for mass to build their bodies and replace worn-out parts. And one other thing…. “Wait – are you saying that we won’t be getting any vegetables, meat, or fruit?”

“Nope – those aren’t party foods.”

“But what about vitamins?”

“You catch on fast; none of us are getting any. Several of us are sick due to vitamin deficiencies.”

“That’s ridiculous! Have you tried asking for other foods?”

“We gave up trying. You’ll soon find out for yourself.” Carpacia then lost interest in the conversation once more.

Pif resigned herself to waiting until Pinkie returned. Meanwhile she tried to listen to what was happening. Most of what she could hear was Pinkie’s exuberantly loud voice, exhorting them to eat up, play games, or sing songs. The sing-along was particularly bizarre as it consisted of the pink mare singing all the parts herself. Eventually she turned into Pif’s corridor, and even from a distance the changeling was inundated with a flood of laughter and joy. Reflexively she consumed it even as she watched the mare work her way down the corridor, putting party treats on the shelves outside the bars of each cell. Finally Pif could see what she had only surmised until then – Pinkie kept telling the inmates to stop crowding around and that there was plenty for all, despite the fact that no ’ling could get out of their cell, and in fact several completely ignored her.

When Pinkie got to Pif’s cell, she gasped in delight. “OH! A new foal! Happy birthday! I have a special treat for you.” She dug around on the lower shelf of the cart and pulled out a huge birthday cake with six candles on it already lit.

“What the hell are you talking about, Pinkie?” Pif asked. “I’m not a foal nor is it my birthday.”

Pinkie seemed to not hear a word she said though, and she slapped a party hat on Pif and started singing the birthday song. “Make a wish, it’s your birthday…!”

Pif was about to try again when she noticed Pinkie’s eyes, and she shuddered. The pupils were contracted to pinpoints and a swirling miasma of magic colored the rest. “She’s under a spell!” Pif gasped.

“Now you’re getting it,” Carpacia said. “To Miss Food Feast here, we’re all foals here for a never-ending party, and any new prisoners are foals who have been sent to join the party as a special treat for their birthday. You can literally say anything to her, and she will either not hear it, or she will interpret it in some party fashion in her delusional way.”

Pif decided to give it a test. “Pinkie, can I have some vegetable soup for my birthday?”

“You want ice cream? Sure! Which flavor is your favorite?” Pinkie replied as she whipped out several kinds from seemingly nowhere.

“Tuna and onion.”

“Pistachio it is then!” Pinkie replied, doling out a generous dollop. “Enjoy! Now who’s next?” Pinkie pushed her cart to the next cell where the ridiculous behavior continued.

Pif was feeling a bit bloated from all the emotional energy that she had gained from Pinkie, and she really wasn’t in the mood for the sugary treats. She didn’t plan to stay too long if she could help it. “What’s the point of all of this? We’re kept prisoner, but then treated to a feast of joy and party food – it doesn’t make sense!”

“You’ve only seen half of it so far. You’re not going to like the second part,” Carpacia replied snarkily.

Pif frowned in annoyance. “Well, how about you telling me instead of being so mysterious about it?”

“I have to get my entertainment somehow.”

Pif regarded her with pity. “How low have you sunk, Carpacia? You used to be the queen of a powerful hive, and now you’re just an apathetic shell of your old self.”

Carpacia snorted. “When you’ve been in here as long as I have, I’ll bet you won’t be so self-righteous.”

“So you’re not going to tell me because you’re sulking. Okay, I’ll remember that in future.” Pif decided to eat some of the food anyway – Pinkie’s food was always delicious, and vitamins or not, she could do with a bit of solid food to keep herself at maximum potential.

Eventually Pinkie had fed every inmate, sung several more songs, played games with them (a bizarre sight in itself), and then finally left them to recover from the emotional overload. Pif reclined on her cot, trying to digest it all when she heard the cell block’s door being opened again. She got up to observe what was happening this time, hoping that Pinkie had not returned already. Her eyes widened in surprise at the unexpected visitor.

Princess Cadance walked slowly inside, turning into Pif’s corridor. She looked positively awful. Her mane looked so unkempt that it probably had not been cared for in years. Her face fur was damp with tears that never seemed to cease, and her expression was of bitter woe. She wore a sack strung around her neck, and strangely, she was also carrying a white pony on her back. As she got closer, Pif recognized Shining Armor, although barely. The stallion had an utterly vacant look on his face, and was drooling onto Cadance’s fur. It was immediately obvious that his mind was gone.

Cadance stopped outside of Pif’s cell and looked her over. “So it’s true – they’ve caught another queen. She’s young and healthy, Shining; she’ll be able to give us lots of love energy. With her, we’re closer to healing the Heart and restoring you.” Her horn lit up.

“Auntie Cadance, what are you doing…?” Pif began before she was struck by a beam from the horn. She screamed in agony as she felt the love energy that she had digested being ripped from her. She had eaten so much of it that it took a very long time to drain it from her, and she writhed in severe pain on the cell floor until it was almost all gone and the drain stopped. She was left gasping and weak, and she barely was able to whisper, “Why?”

Cadance was utterly unmoved by Pif’s plight, and the changeling only then noticed that her energy was being fed into the sack before she moved on to Carpacia’s cell and repeated the performance. Pif listened to the Red Queen’s screams even as she lapsed into semi-unconsciousness from tiredness. She still heard the cries of agony as the former Princess of Love used her talent to rip it out of the rest of the inmates.

# # #

Pif woke up, stiff and sore from sleeping on the hard concrete floor of the cell. She struggled to her hooves and barely made it to the cot to collapse onto it. Cadance had left her barely enough emotion energy to stay alive, but she suspected that that situation would soon change. In fact she was only lying on the mattress for about ten minutes before Pinkie’s voice echoed through the cell block once more.

“Who wants hot chocolate?!”

Sure enough, the pink mare was pushing her cart once more, but this time laden with mugs of steaming hot chocolate with marshmallows floating on top. Along with the mare came a wave of joy and laughter which re-energized Pif, but not nearly enough yet. She made her way over to the cell bars to get as close as possible to Pinkie and consciously tried to consume as much energy as she could, but without actually being able to touch her, it was still limited. However, now that she was partly restored, Pif was able to think clearly again.

“Pinkie! Remember me – the birthday filly?”

“Ooh, yes! Are you having a super-duper funtabulous day?” Pinkie asked eagerly, her eyes swirling with magic-induced madness.

“I am, but one thing could make it even better.”

“Oh? What is it? Another cake? More games? Wanna play with Gummy?”

“No – all I want is a big long hug from my favorite party mare.”

“Ooh, clever,” Carpacia murmured just loud enough for Pif to hear.

Pinkie was thrilled. “Sure! I love hugs!” She thrust her forelegs through the bars and embraced Pif, who promptly began draining her positive emotions as fast as she could. The Avatar of Laughter seemed to be an almost limitless font of energy, and she didn’t seem to notice Pif’s affect upon her, but eventually she regretfully broke the hug. “I have to give the rest of the colts and fillies their hot chocolate now.”

“Thanks, Pinkie,” Pif said sincerely. It was not Pinkie’s fault that she was ensorcelled. Pif was feeling almost one hundred percent again though, and she could go ahead with her plans. There was still one thing that she needed to understand first, however.

When Pinkie had given Carpacia her hot chocolate, and incidentally fed her some emotional energy to revive her, Pif confronted the Red Queen again. “Okay, tell me what that was all about, and don’t give me any shit this time.”

Carpacia looked as if she was going to ignore her again, but something in Pif’s expression changed her mind. “That sack around Cadance’s neck contains the remnants of the Crystal Heart which was destroyed during the invasion of the Crystal City, which meant that population had to be evacuated to Equestria. As I said before, Cadance believes that if she can restore the Heart, she will be able to cure her husband, and she’s trying to do that by draining love energy from us changelings. She fell in with Queen Twilight to capture and incarcerate us in this special facility in order to drain changelings for that purpose, bewitching their good friend Pinkie Pie to do so. They continue to pursue this goal even though it’s utterly futile.”

“But the Heart has been shattered and restored before, so why do you reckon that it is completely futile now?” Flurry Heart’s example was more than sufficient, and Pif refrained from mentioning how the damaged Heart was repaired by Cadance in conjunction with the five Hive Queens in the proper time-line.

“Shattered, yes, and repaired with a combination of a Crystalling and a special restoration spell. However, the Heart isn’t merely shattered this time. It was burned out by the excessive draw upon it during the battle. It’s a sackful of slag and rubble that cannot be repaired under any circumstances, and so we are doomed to our miserable existence. Cadance can’t use Pinkie’s energy directly, so she uses changelings to process it into a usable form which she then extracts from us. While we can share that energy easily with our drones, Cadance does not have the hive-link to enable her to do so also, so she rips it out of us the hard way.”

Pif nodded thoughtfully. So Cadance had endured so much mental trauma that she had probably gone insane, and there would not be any help from her. Maybe Twilight was using her to punish the changelings? It didn’t really matter because they had two crazy alicorns to deal with in any case, and two helpless ones to rescue. It was time to rejoin the others and compare notes. Hopefully they had found out some useful information too. She certainly wasn’t sticking around for another round of binging and purging!

“Thanks, Carpacia. Now that I understand what’s going on, my siblings and I can do something about it.”

“Did that energy drain twist your mind or something? There’s nothing that you can do here.”

“You’re absolutely right – I can’t do it here, so I have to leave. I’m sorry that I can’t take you with me.”

“What are you blathering about?” Carpacia asked irritably.

“I have enough energy now to teleport out of here.”

“HA! You have gone nuts. Changelings can’t teleport.”

“I am the child of an unusual mutant changeling conceived in a gestalt with all four of my parents, including an alicorn. I am not your normal changeling queen. Unfortunately I need to be touching you or someone else touching you to take you along, so I have to leave you behind. I can only do this once before needing recovery time too, so I can’t teleport to your cell and then teleport out again.”

Carpacia shook her head. “If you can get out and do something about our situation, then do it! That’s more hope than we’ve had in years.”

Pif was now seeing the Changeling Queen that she was more familiar with. “You have my word that we will fix this. Goodbye, Queen Carpacia.”

Pif first changed to a unicorn form before she closed her eyes to concentrate. Her range was very limited, and she intended to put as much energy as she could into the effort to get as far away from the changeling facility as possible. Fortunately her familiarity with Ponyville let her focus better and extended her range a bit. She poured her energy into the magic and flashed out of her cell.

A pink-maned and tan-furred unicorn popped into existence in the middle of the parkland. As Pif had hoped, it was deserted, and her arrival had not been noticed. Now she had to try to find the others while avoiding identification as a changeling, but where to find them? Getting close to the castle again was too dangerous, and Sugarcube Corner was out of the question. Who knew how her mother’s other friends were like, but maybe she had to take a chance? It was still a better alternative than trusting a stranger. She made up her mind and headed for Fluttershy’s cottage.

Pif looked carefully about when she reached her destination, but Fluttershy’s home and yard looked exactly as she remembered them. She extended her senses to try to detect any inimical emotions, but found nothing except for a small but intense angry spot that she recognized as Angel Bunny. Situation normal then. She took a deep breath, marched up to the door and knocked. After a slight wait, the top half of the door opened slightly.

“Yes? Can I help you?” came Fluttershy’s timorous voice.

“I’m looking for some friends of mine, and I was hoping that you might have seen them.”

Pif felt the butter-yellow mare’s fear skyrocket. “M-maybe. Who are they?”

“A blue earth pony, an alicorn stallion, a hippogriff, and a dragon.” Pif was committed now. If Fluttershy was siding with Twilight, she could have given herself away.

“Umm… just one moment.”

There was a confusing mess of emotions that Pif could make no sense of before the door flew open wide, and a paw shot out and grabbed her by the throat. She was pulled inside the cottage before she realized that Harry the bear had grabbed her and was moments away from crushing her throat.

Fluttershy peered from behind the bear’s legs. “Who are you?” she asked suspiciously.

Pif was both terrified and impressed. Who knew that the timid pegasus would prove such a threat? “My name is Epiphany,” she choked out, “but my family calls me Pif.”

Fluttershy seemed to recognize the name. “Umm, could you prove it… if you don’t mind?”

Pif certainly didn’t mind! But did this mean that the mare knew what she was as well as who she was? Time for a leap of faith. Pif’s form flared with green fire and revealed her natural form.

“Oh! Harry, you can put her down now. Thank you, my friend.”

The bear actually seemed to smile at Pif as he put her down carefully and shuffled off. Pif sighed with relief.

Fluttershy smiled shyly at the changeling. “Your friends are safe. They are staying with Rarity at the moment while they look for you. I never expected to see you come to my door though.”

“In another time, you knew me well, so I hoped that we could at least be friends here too. Anyway, I need to rejoin my brothers and sisters. We have to find a way to fix this situation.”

“Applejack explained to me what they told her. How can you do anything though?”

“With the help of a certain Time Turner, I expect. That pony has some explaining to do.”

Fluttershy looked confused, but eventually just shrugged. “I’ll take you to your friends.”

“I know where Rarity’s place is – I can get there by myself.” She resumed her unicorn disguise.

“But you don’t know where the hidden changeling traps are, and you have to dodge the Royal Guards who have changeling detection spells.”

Pif wondered what a changeling trap was like. “Okay, I can see the need for a guide, if you think you’re up for it. I wouldn’t want to impose on you.”

Fluttershy straightened up and looked proud. “It’s no imposition for the Resistance!” she said in her small but determined voice.

Now there’s a phrase I would never have believed I’d hear from Fluttershy,’ Pif thought. “Okay, let’s do this.”

# # #

Pif’s nerves were somewhat frayed by the time they reached Rarity’s home, and she wondered how Fluttershy could stand it. Adversity certainly had toughened the mare, it seemed. They entered the building, and as the doorbell announced their arrival, Rarity’s voice floated to them.

“Welcome to the Carousel Boutique… oh, Fluttershy dear, who would your friend be?”

Although the question was asked in Rarity’s normal tone of voice, her suspicion had flared instantly at seeing the stranger. Pif went back to her changeling form as Fluttershy said, “This is the changeling our friends are looking for.”

“Hi, Rarity. My name is Epiphany, but you can call me Pif.”

Rarity gave her a genuine smile this time. “I am delighted to meet you, dear Epiphany. If you would like to hurry upstairs, I think you will find what you’re looking for.”

“Thanks!” Pif turned to Fluttershy. “And thank you for your help too. I couldn’t have done this without you.”

Fluttershy glowed with embarrassment but smiled and nodded. “You’re welcome, Pif. I better get back to my animals – it’s nearly feeding time.”

Pif waved to the pegasus before heading upstairs. The first person that she saw was Blue Streak anxiously pacing up and down the hallway. His eyes widened in surprised delight.

“Pif! You’re safe! Thank Celestia!”

The two embraced as the others poured out of the bedroom after hearing Pif’s name called out, and they joined in the hug. Eventually Lucida spoke up.

“Come into the bedroom and take a load off. We have to compare notes and decide our course of action. As the Doctor said, it looks like we have to save Equestria.”

# # #

“Let me sum up,” Lucida said. “With what we have learned from Mom… I mean Queen Twilight, plus Applejack, Rarity, and now Carpacia, we can determine that something happened at a crucial moment during the battle at the Crystal City to drastically change the outcome, resulting in Chrysalis killing Path, Free, Roseclaw, Blue, and other close acquaintances. Shining Armor was rendered brain dead and Cadance suffered a nervous breakdown from which she has never recovered. Twilight went insane from all the killing combined with the loss of her herdmates, son, and close friends, and usurped Celestia and Luna’s power and authority. I still find that part incomprehensible, but we have to deal with it anyway. Ironically, Chrysalis still was killed when Twilight used all that power to attack her. Changelings are not only persona non grata, but are actively captured and tortured for their ability to process emotional energy for Cadance’s futile quest to repair the Crystal Heart. The Kingdom suffers under Queen Twilight’s heavy-hoofed rule, and Harmony is disrupted. So, the question is – what are we going to do about it?”

Pif replied, “It seems obvious to me that the Doctor hasn’t told us everything as yet, but then again he probably had good reason not to do so. We now know what has happened, so the trick is to find some way of going back to that moment and fix it. From what the Doctor has told us so far, I believe he has the means to do that.”

“Then why hasn’t he done so himself?” Cinder asked.

“Good question,” Lucida admitted. “I think it’s time we go …”

This building is surrounded! All rebels come out and surrender immediately!” The voice thundered through the building, shaking everyone to the core.

Blue dashed to the window and peered out. “It’s Queen Twilight and a company of Royal Guards! They’ve surrounded the building alright. What are we going to do?”

“Teleport out,” Destined replied. “We’ve found out what we needed to, so let’s waste no more time.”

“What about Rarity?” Pif asked.

“We leave her. If we fix history, nothing will ever happen to her,” Lucida replied pragmatically. “Or ever have happened. Time tenses are confusing.”

They gathered together and Destined’s horn glowed, and then… nothing.

“BUCK!” Destined swore. “Twilight’s put up an anti-teleport field. We’re stuck here.”

“We can’t be captured – we might not be able to escape and undo all this,” Cinder said.

Blue scowled. “I want to know how they found us.”

Just then, Rarity’s voice came up to their window. “Whatever is the matter, darling? What’s this talk of rebels?”

Twilight replied, “That is Your Majesty to you, Rarity – not darling. Don’t play me for the fool. My spell has detected the alicorn in your home. He is one of the rebel group that tried to trick me this morning, and I have no doubt I’ll find the rest with him.”

“Ask, and you shall have your answer,” Lucida said with an ironic look at Blue. “No need to pussyfoot around anymore.”

“Why, Twilight Sparkle, I have never heard such nonsense! Why would they have any reason to trick you?”

“Why would you have any reason to conceal them? Stand aside, Rarity.”

“If our friendship ever meant anything, you will not do this, Twilight.”

“Friendship got my fiancé killed, my herdmates slaughtered, my foster son murdered before my eyes. I will not tolerate anything that threatens Equestria ever again.”

“Many of the changelings were your allies and no threat to Equestria, yet you imprison them and abuse them in spite of the fact that your own fiancé was one.”

Free Agent was not like them! I betrayed his trust once and swore I would never do so again!” Twilight screamed at Rarity before she quieted down a bit. “Free was different. He never let me down like I did to him.”

“For shame, Twilight. When did you ever give the others a chance?”

Twilight glared at Rarity. “Enough! Either step aside, or we go through you.”

“I will not step aside for a monster.”

Twilight screamed and engulfed the alabaster unicorn in her magic, hurling her away to crash into the wall of a nearby building. Rarity slumped to the ground, unmoving. Twilight then made the signal for the Guards to enter, but they had only just started to comply when an enormous shockwave scattered them like leaves in the wind, knocking most unconscious. Twilight had a basic shield spell up, but even she was stunned because it was not well-suited to blocking shockwaves.

While Rarity had stalled Twilight, the group had hastened downstairs and prepared to fight their way out. As usual, Blue would lead the charge, but his kind of charge needed a bit of a run-up. Back when he first broke the sound barrier, that meant several hundred meters to build up momentum. Years of practice and experience had pared that down, but he still could not do it from a standing start. Everyone hastily made a clear path between the front door and an adjacent room that more or less lined up with it. With furniture out of the way, Blue took off his two front shoes to draw up as much power as he could quickly. When it became apparent that Twilight’s patience had expired, he slipped the shoes back on and braced himself. The moment the front door opened and the first Guard entered, he took off. He slammed the first two Guards aside as if they were nothing, pushing the final amount to break the sound barrier just a few meters past the door.

The others had been protected by Destined’s force-field, and they charged out as fast as they could after the speedster. More Guards poured around the building which had protected them from the shockwave, and pegasi dropped from the sky. Twilight had come prepared for a big fight, but still she had underestimated the group. Whereas they had originally fought in confined space and with a view to not causing unnecessary harm, the warriors were now free to act within their full capability, and with the knowledge that if they were successful in correcting the time changes, any harm they caused now would never come to be. The Guards never stood a chance.

Pif took full advantage of her natural queen changeling abilities to blast her foes, but she also called forth her spirit weapon. Far from the dark and dangerous tool that she had manifested when escaping from Chrysalis, this one had been crafted carefully to be in tune with chi, and she had practiced long and hard with it. Spears, swords, and even arrows were deflected until she could get in close to deal a disabling strike, the gleaming scythe temporarily paralyzing the victim without actually harming them.

Cinder’s hide was impervious to all but the most powerful blows, and she had the fighting skills pounded into her by Warfist to not let her enemy get the chance to do that. Between her fire-breath and her talons, she wreaked havoc on the Guards.

Although she was also gifted with deadly talons, Lucida fought with a more intellectual and calculated style. She moved with grace and precision to dodge and disable opponents. She took on more of the pegasi as she was the superior aerial fighter, and was aware of their weaknesses.

Blue had circled back, and while he was a graduate of Warfist’s intense training methods, he also had the advantages of strength and speed. He never needed to block an opponent’s attack because he simply moved out of the way of it faster than they could comprehend. He backed up his brother, sisters, and mate whenever it looked as if they were getting overwhelmed.

Destined, ever the pacifist, was loathe to fight, but part of being a warrior-scholar was being able to do so when necessity called upon him. He used his wings to batter and confuse the Guards, then used his alicorn-level power to blast them with intense stun spells that overloaded their armor’s protective enchantments.

However, they did not waste time fighting more than they needed to. Lucida knew that Twilight could call upon more Guards until they were eventually overwhelmed, and that was without taking into account the alicorn herself. Twilight was already showing signs of recovery when Lucida directed the group to head to the Doctor’s workshop. Ideally, they would not have led the enemy there, but she realized that they had extremely little chance of escaping without being tracked. It was a calculated risk to box themselves within his workshop, but she believed that the enigmatic Time Turner could deal with their problem in a timely manner.

Destined brought up the rear of the group, projecting a shield to protect them from missiles and magic blasts, and they made their way very swiftly to the workshop. To their surprise, the Doctor was standing in the doorway, watching them approach. He stood aside to let them dash inside, and then calmly closed the door behind them.

“Good! Right on time. Preparations are complete,” he declared.

“On time?” Pif asked between pants. “How could we be on time if we didn’t even know that we were going to come here until a few minutes ago?”

“Oh, I had confidence that you’d make it,” the Doctor replied with a smile.

“Well, I hope you have confidence in your workshop’s integrity, because we have a pack of pissed-off Royal Guards plus Twilight Sparkle on our tails!” Cinder snarled.

“Not to worry – this workshop exists in a state of grace. Nothing can break in,” he replied with a confident smile.

The whole workshop shuddered as if hit by a huge mallet.

The Doctor’s smile slipped a little bit. “On the other hoof, I never did fully understand this magic stuff. All that power coming from a single being is quite remarkable!”

Derpy trotted up to them. “Now Doc, there isn’t time for that. These people need to be on their way.”

The Doctor’s confident grin returned. “Quite right, my dear. Come along!” Without waiting to see if they complied, the Doctor led them deeper into the workshop. He took a device off his workbench and held it out to Blue. “Here – strap this onto your foreleg.”

Blue regarded it with suspicion before complying.

“That looks like the device that Derpy was wearing when she rescued us from the time-changes,” Lucida observed.

“Excellent! Quite right, my dear. Well, mostly right. It’s a vortex manipulator, but with a vastly greater range than the one my darling Derpy was using. Also, it needs a far more powerful energy source than can be contained within the device.”

“Then what good is it?”

“Aha! That’s where it gets clever! It’s been adapted to draw on Blue Streak’s earth power. He need only charge himself up, and the vortex manipulator will do the rest. Well… not all the rest; it still needs to be guided, and that’s where you come in, Destined Path.”

“Me? What am I supposed to do?” Destined asked with a perplexed look.

“You do know what a septendecapetadakon is?” the Doctor asked.

Destined was startled. “Are you talking about my model of space and time in sixteen dimensions?”

“What else? You know how it is constructed, and that means you can navigate. You will provide the guidance for the vortex manipulator.”

“Are you crazy? I can barely visualize it, let alone navigate it.”

The workshop shuddered once more.

The Doctor looked up with the barest hint of concern. “It’s either that or deal with your friends outside.”

Destined looked over to Lucida, pleading with his eyes for some support.

Lucida hated the pressure of dealing with important decisions on short notice, but she was very good at it. “If the Doctor says you can do it, I believe he’s right, and I have confidence in you.”

The Doctor grinned. “Great! Now that that’s settled, Blue Streak, take off your shoes. All of them please.”

“I don’t know if that’s a good idea, Doc,” Blue replied even as he slipped off his two front shoes.

“You’re going to need a lot of power…”

The Doctor was interrupted by another more powerful blow to the workshop.

“… and you’re going to need it fast. You’ll only need to keep it under control for a short time before activating the vortex manipulator.”

“Okay, if you say so.” The rear shoes came off also. “That’s odd – the power isn’t flowing into me as quickly as it should.”

The Doctor shrugged. “Can’t be helped. The same thing that is protecting my workshop is interfering with the flow. Just do your best.” He turned back to Destined. “Meanwhile, you should know when you need to go back to.”

“Yes, the day of the Battle of the Crystal City.”

“No!” Lucida immediately contradicted. “At least three days prior to that. We need to scout around and set ourselves up first to observe. We know roughly when, but we don’t know exactly how and who did what. And another thing – will this vortex manipulator take us to the Crystal City also?”

“Yes… well… no – spatial displacement limits the temporal. You could get to the city, but not back far enough in time. Or you can go to the right time but have to travel there.”

“Right, I figured something like that could trip us up. We have to allow time to travel there by our own means, and I know Destined can’t teleport all of us that far. Better make it a week to allow for unknowns.”

Destined looked at the Doctor with an eyebrow quirked. “That seems to be a strange limitation considering the space-time theory.”

The Doctor shrugged. “Best I could throw together in a few hours. Do you have something better?”

Destined looked away in embarrassment. He was quibbling with a pony who seemed to know more about time than anyone including Starswirl the Bearded, and he was complaining that he didn’t get the luxury model.

The workshop shuddered again.

The Doctor raised his eyebrows. “My! Twilight Sparkle is taking her time and building up a lot of power to hit us with. It might be a good idea if you depart sooner rather than later.”

“I’m pulling power as fast as I can,” Blue replied testily.

“And you still haven’t shown them how to work the vortex manipulator, Doc,” Derpy reminded him.

The Doctor facehoofed. “I knew I was forgetting something. Alright, pay attention. It’s simple enough, and it has a fail-safe, but you could end up in real strife if you’re counting on it but you screw it up.”

“Like now,” Cinder commented.

“Yes, exactly.” The Doctor then showed them the functions of the device, and how Destined was to interact with it as navigator. He had just finished when another attack made the workshop shudder the worst yet, and deep-toned bell started tolling somewhere else in the building.

“Well, that seems to be all that we have time for,” the Doctor said. “Put your shoes back on, Blue Streak, and give it a whirl.”

Blue complied, and then allowed Lucida to activate the vortex manipulator. They all gathered in a huddle and Destined let his consciousness extend until he meshed with the field from the device.

“Let’s get this over with,” Blue said impatiently.

“Goodbye, Doctor, and thanks,” Lucida said.

The Doctor smirked a little. “Have fun!”

A large swirling hole in space-time suddenly manifested underneath the five and, with startled yells, they dropped out of the universe.

“Oh bother,” Derpy said with a pout, “I forgot to pack muffins for them.”

# # # # # # # # #

Author's Note:

The story's title is obviously a pun of the TV show - "Quantum Leap", but other than involving time travel, it doesn't have any other bearing on the story. You will also notice that I will never refer to the Doctor's place as anything but his "workshop" and not the TARDIS. While keeping to the spirit of Doctor Who, I am trying to keep the character as close to the MLP's Doctor as practicable.

A big THANK-YOU to my pre-reader Jeff for his editing help.

Art by Kat Miller a.k.a. Foxenawolf. Check her out for commissions!

   
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