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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14. Chapter 8 - Power Shift

Several forms hit the floor with loud splats and splashes of water everywhere.

“What?! Great whickering stallions! What’s going on here, Derpy?”

The grey mare disentangled herself from the sodden pile and gave the Doctor an apologetic grin. “Sorry, Doc. They were in a hot tub when I arrived, and we didn’t have time to dry off.”

The Doctor sighed. “I suppose not.” He frowned as the others got up from the floor, sending splatters of water everywhere. “Would you please be careful – that’s important equipment that you’re getting wet,” he said irritably.

Cinder glared at him and replied, “It’s hardly our fault that we arrived here soaking wet.” She concentrated, and her hide seemed to glow a little. The water on her started to evaporate into steam.

“I wish I could do that,” Blue said as he carefully set aside the bundle that he had managed to grab before being drawn into the vortex.

“At least you don’t have sodden feathers to deal with,” Lucida griped as water poured off the tips of her wings.

“At least you’re here this time,” the Doctor commented. “Let me help you with that.” In a quiet mumble to himself, he added, “And save my poor workshop!”

The Doctor took a device from a workbench nearby and adjusted a setting on it. Then he pointed it at Lucida and it made a shrill noise. Lucida felt an odd sensation, and all the water that was saturating both feathers and fur vibrated off, leaving her dry and not a little fluffy. The Doctor repeated the task with the others until he came to Silk. His eyes widened in surprise.

“Who are you?”

Silk gave him a tight smile showing the tips of his fangs. “I could ask the same thing of you.”

The Time Stallion turned to his companion and raised an eyebrow. “Derpy?”

The cross-eyed mare shrugged. “He was in the tub with all the others.”

The Doctor shook his head in resignation. “Can’t be helped, I suppose.” He dried off Silk as he had with the others. “I’m Doctor Whooves, and you’re now involved in big trouble, so listen to what your friends tell you.”

Destined stepped forward and said, “It’s alright, Doctor. Silk Touch is my companion, and I’ll take care of him.”

Silk raised an eyebrow at Destined’s words and smirked. “I’m pretty good at taking care of myself.”

“You’ve never been in this situation before,” the Doctor snapped.

“Any clue what we’ll be up against this time, Doc, or are we going to have to figure it out as usual?” Pif asked.

“I’m afraid it’s like the other two occasions – I only had enough time to isolate us from the history change. We should be near the epicenter though.”

Silk’s eyes grew wide in shock. “History change?”

Citrine grinned. “Yep! Last time, Queen Chrysalis defeated Princess Celestia, and then we stopped that from happening.”

“And the time before that, Chrysalis won the battle of the Crystal City, and our father was killed in action,” Pif added.

Silk gaped in disbelief. “And you fixed that? How?”

Blue held up the vortex manipulator that he had just extracted from his bundle. “With the help of this device, power from me, and guidance from Des, we can go back to those moments and fix them... or, at least, mostly fix. It’s kind of tricky.”

Silk was anything but mollified. “Again, what do you mean, mostly?”

Lucida interjected, “We were able to set history down a path that largely intersected with the original one we were born in. However, the changes made by Chrysalis required more changes to shift future events back on track. As a result, only those of us who traveled back in time have experienced or remember the original events.”

Silk was nearly panicked now. “More changes? What more changes?”

Blue smirked and then replied, “Just a few insignificant details that made no discernible impact on reality. For instance, in the original time line, you were a mare.”

Silk opened his mouth but no sound escaped; just a slight twitching of one eye.

Destined walked up to Silk and pulled him close with a wing. “Blue, stop teasing him.”

Blue rolled his eyes. “Ah, yes, I forgot. That's your job.”

Destined gave Silk a quick nuzzle. “He's not serious. Don't let him get to you.”

Silk jolted back into movement. “But how can you all be so blasé about this?”

Lucida answered confidently, “Because we are House Path. We've dedicated our lives to fight oppression and protect the innocent. This is what we do.”

Silk looked around his companions and saw that same comforting, confident smile across all of species present. “Wow! So what’s happened this time?”

“That’s what we have to figure out,” Lucida replied.

“But muffins first!” Derpy cheerfully announced as she came back into the room after departing unnoticed.

Blue grinned and eagerly reached out for a muffin from the tray that Derpy was carrying. “We didn’t have a chance to have dinner, so I’m pretty hungry.”

“There’s plenty more,” Derpy said cheerfully.

“You always have great muffins,” Blue mumbled through a mouthful.

Derpy blushed and left the tray on a bench to go fetch some more.

Soon everyone was happily getting their fill of muffins and tea, while Silk was getting a bit concerned.

“If history has been changed, shouldn’t we be getting to work?”

“For starters,” Pif replied, “it doesn’t matter how soon that we start because the change would have been made years ago. We’ll have to go back anyway once we figure out what it was. For seconds, what’s this ‘we’? That’s our family’s task, and you should stay here with the Doctor until the rest of us are done.”

Silk glared at the ponyling. “I’m involved now, and you’re not going to leave me out of it. Besides, I’d just be worrying about Destined while you’re gone.”

The alicorn blushed a little before replying. “Come on, guys – Silk could be an asset.”

Pif rolled her eyes, but Lucida nodded. “A thestral on the team could be helpful. If Silk wants to join us, I will let him.”

As the nominal leader of the group, the others readily acceded to Lucida’s statement.

After Blue finished equipping himself with everything that he had brought along, the team lined up at the exit to the workshop.

“Good luck, everypony,” the Doctor said cheerfully as he opened the door.

“Try to find the source of our problems, Doctor,” Lucida said as she followed the others.

The Doctor nodded glumly. “If only I could,” he said quietly. “Sometimes though, others have to do it, and pay the price.”

Fortunately, no one heard that last part, and they all were gathered in the street outside.

“We’re back in Canterlot,” Citrine said.

Blue looked around and said, “More to the point, we’re exactly where we were the last time. Notice the surrounding buildings, Cinder?”

The dragoness nodded. “Yes, and the Doctor’s workshop is exactly where that abandoned warehouse should be. How does he do that?”

“Something for us to try to figure out later,” Lucida said. “First – a bit of careful reconnaissance. Destined, I want you to teleport over to Ponyville and see what it’s like there from high altitude. Just a quick survey and come straight back.”

Destined nodded and disappeared in a bang and a flash.

Lucida continued, “Blue, go have a look around and see if anything looks wrong.”

Blue immediately headed out of the quiet side street to do his surveillance.

“I’ll check the hive-mind situation,” Pif said, her eyes unfocusing. After a moment she said in a puzzled tone, “That’s odd – there seem to be two Blue networks.”

“What’s different about them?” Lucida asked.

“One seems to be closed up tight and shunning connections, but the other appears to be its opposite, and it’s warm and inviting. I should be able to join that one easily enough.”

“Stop!” Lucida commanded. “You’re far too eager to get into an unknown situation. Wait for the others to return before we proceed any further.”

“Okay, but don’t leave it too long. You know how I hate being disconnected.”

“I do. Be patient.”

Blue returned and reported. “As far as I can see, there’s nothing significantly different about Canterlot this time. Ponies are going about their business as usual, and I even saw a couple of griffons passing by with no exceptional reactions. Whatever has been changed, it doesn’t appear to have made an obvious difference here.”

Lucida accepted the information thoughtfully, but Destined reappeared before she could comment.

“I’ve found one significant difference already, and it’s one that has happened both the other times. The Chrome Hive is absent. Other than that, though, Ponyville seems utterly normal. Mom’s castle is there, and life in the town seems to be like any other day there.”

“Okay, that still square’s up with something that Chrysalis would do to affect history, but leaves us with no clues so far as to what did happen,” Lucida said.

“Time for me to check out the network?” Pif asked hopefully.

“It would seem so. Be careful though – I find this dual Blue network quite disturbing.”

Pif nodded and concentrated. “I’m in. I’m feeling around the edges of the network now…. It seems to be localized here in Canterlot, while the closed one felt much further away…. I don’t perceive any presence of Chrysalis so far, but I am coming across many links to a Queen Gossamer….”

“Gossamer? Isn’t that what Chrysalis called Papa Free?” Blue asked.

Lucida frowned. “I don’t like this. Pif, I think you had better…”

The hippogriff was interrupted by a scream of pain from Pif, and her eyes flared white with power. Her form shuddered and started to shift. The hybrid pony-changeling form that she normally wore started to change color and grow feathers, until eventually a magnificent female griffon was seated before them. They all gasped in recognition – aside from the gender change, this was Free Agent who now faced them, or at least the same person who would have called himself that.

 

 

“Well, isn’t this interesting?” the griffoness said, eyeing the group before her.

“Would I be correct in assuming that we are addressing Queen Gossamer?” Lucida asked sternly.

“You know me?” How intriguing! My little honeypot seems to have attracted some very unusual characters this time. You’re an unexpected but interesting variable, so let’s see how much fun you can be. Welcome to Canterlot!”

Gossamer’s form flared with green flames and a chrome changeling collapsed to the ground.

Citrine rushed to Pif’s side and picked her up. “Are you okay?”

Pif groaned and replied, “I feel burned out. So that’s what that’s like at the other end.”

“I thought only you have ever been able to do that communications trick?” Lucida asked.

Pif nodded. “Yeah – the other Queens tried and failed. We figured it’s because I’m a mutant and have some special trait that the others don’t have.”

“But you could have inherited that trait from your mother who has the same mutation,” Lucida pointed out.

“And Gossamer figured out how to do it too. Dad never tried.”

“Papa Free has never been terribly interested in that sort of thing,” Blue observed. Maybe we should encourage him to learn how, just in case it comes in useful for House Path.”

“But only for emergencies,” Pif added. “I feel like I’ve been run over by a cart, and I’m weak as a kitten.”

“At least we now have a clue where things have gone wrong,” Lucida said. “If Cirrus Ironbeak never grew up to be Free Agent, but became Queen Gossamer instead, there must have been some major influence that prevented Cirrus from ever making friends with Dad, and all the events that led up to the formation of House Path have never happened.”

“So, should we pay Gossamer a visit and ask her about her past?” Citrine asked.

Lucida shook her head. “Not yet. Pif needs to recover, Blue needs to start accumulating energy for the trip back in time, and it’s getting late and we’re all wanting dinner. I propose we find ourselves a restaurant and a place to stay for the night. If Mama Twilight is here as normal, she might be using her room, and we don’t want to stir things up, even if anything we do right now will be neutralized by the history change later.”

Blue extracted a coin bag from his pack. “I’ve got plenty of bits stashed for just such an occasion.”

“Great! Is everyone fine with our normal favorite restaurant?”

There were nods all around.

“Pif, can you manage a disguise?” Lucida asked.

“I’ll try, but I’m low on energy.”

Citrine hugged and nuzzled Pif. “Borrow some of mine.”

The dose of love was enough for Pif to shift into her common unicorn form, but she staggered on her hooves. Citrine steadied her until Cinder walked over.

“Put her on my back,” she said.

Destined lifted Pif with his telekinesis and settled Pif on Cinder’s back, between her wings.

“Right, let’s get going,” Cinder declared.

The seven adventurers set out on the start of their quest for food.

# # #

After their meal, the team checked into a hotel, booking two suites to hold them all. Blue, Cinder, Pif and Citrine shared one suite, while Destined, Silk, and Lucida shared the other. They settled in for an early night so that they could get off to an equally early start in the morning, and soon they were all asleep.

One of the team was restless, however, and got up from bed and wandered around the room, stopping by the other bed. After a while, they made their way back to their own bed and settled down once more.

# # #

As they were finishing breakfast the next morning, Lucida asked, “Does anyone have any suggestions as to where to start looking for Queen Gossamer?”

Not unexpectedly, Pif raised her hoof. “After that intimate contact yesterday, I think I can practically take us to her doorstep.”

“That’s convenient, and probably deliberate on her part,” Destined commented. “What will we do when we get there?”

Lucida said, “Well, that depends on what we find there. Although Gossamer evinced no threat, her use of the term ‘honeypot’ indicates to me that she is actively attracting Blue drones. We have to determine if that is of any threat to us, or merely something that has to do with the Blue Changelings only. Of course, Pif being technically a Blue too has made her a factor that we have to take into account. Ideally though, we go to Gossamer and request an audience. A little careful questioning, and hopefully we’ll have our answers.”

“Sounds like a plan to me,” Blue said. “Hopefully we can get through this one without a fight for a change.”

“Speak for yourself, Big Blue,” Citrine said. “I’m itching for a tussle with some changelings.”

“Don’t start anything, Citrine,” Lucida ordered. “I know that you dislike them because of their association with Chrysalis, but things might be a lot different with Gossamer in control.”

“Yeah, yeah. It’s not as if that’s different from Free’s hive,” Citrine griped.

The group made its way out of the dining room and checked out of the hotel. They exited the hotel and then looked to Pif for guidance.

“This way,” the disguised changeling said, heading off up the street.

As had happened the previous evening, only Cinder drew the occasional stare and concerned look. Destined had hidden his wings as usual, and the rest of the group did not attract any attention. Only Silk was discomforted by the bright morning sunlight, having left his shades behind at the spa.

Pif led them into the high-society end of the city where even the shops exuded wealth. However, it was a large and ritzy club that they eventually stopped outside of.

“Gossamer is the queen of a nightclub?”” Blue asked skeptically.

Lucida shrugged. “It makes as much sense as anything else. The club might be just a front for her hive. She certainly has a prime position here.”

“Shall we go in and find out?” Destined suggested.

With no other suggestions, they went ahead with that plan. To their surprise, it seemed as if they were expected. The doorpony nodded at them and let them inside.

“I suppose that Gossamer let him know what we looked like. It seems our visit won’t be a surprise,” Silk commented.

Lucida nodded. “That could be a good thing. If Gossamer feels at ease in her position of authority, then she might be more accommodating to help us.”

They were met inside by a smiling unicorn. “Please follow me. Madam Gossamer wishes to talk with you.”

Cinder grinned. “Looks like you were spot on, Lucy.”

The unicorn led them into one of the rooms which looked like a large dining and events area. Some staff were there apparently still cleaning up and re-setting the tables after the previous night’s events, but they totally ignored the newcomers. The group was taken to the foot of a stage which only held a large plush chair which was little short of a throne.

“The Madam will see you shortly,” the unicorn informed them before stepping aside to supervise the workers.

They did not have to wait long before a side door opened, and Gossamer strode through it. To their surprise though, she was immediately followed by a very large and familiar figure.

“Princess Celestia!” Blue gasped in surprise.

The alicorn did not even appear to notice Blue’s outburst, nor paid the rest of them any attention. As Gossamer climbed onto the chair, Celestia took a position in front of her.

Gossamer smiled at Celestia and said, “You were most satisfactory this morning, my dear. You may go and get ready to attend to your royal duties now.”

Celestia bowed her head low. “Yes, Your Majesty.” Her horn lit up and she disappeared in the flash of teleportation.

 

The entire team was shocked, not only because of Celestia’s words and attitude, but because she clearly smelled of sex, and there was no doubt with whom she’d had it.

Gossamer gave them a broad grin. “Thank you for coming. I’m sure that you’re wondering what is happening, considering that you are unfamiliar with this version of history.”

Lucida’s eyes narrowed. “So, you gleaned that information from Pif’s mind, I assume.”

“Correct! That and so much more. It’s been quite fascinating.”

“Then perhaps you’ll understand and be willing to help us correct the situation?”

Gossamer chuckled. “Oh, I understand alright. That’s why I can’t let you continue.”

“What?!” several of them exclaimed.

Gossamer’s visage hardened. “Let me lay it out for you. I am the true power in Canterlot, and through Celestia, I control Equestria also. Why would you think that I would do anything to change a perfect situation for myself?”

Lucida’s blood ran cold, and she realized that she had made a mistake. She had imagined that Gossamer would be like the other changeling queens, but Free Agent had never done anything like his peers, and neither did Gossamer, apparently. “This history only exists because of meddling by Chrysalis and her agents. You should be so much better than this.”

“Better? I don’t think so. Don’t think I don’t know what you’re talking about, with your stupid ideas of friendship and love. I get all the love that I can consume, and I have everything else that I could want. I don’t need friends when I have so many loyal subjects.”

“Loyal? How many are enthralled like Celestia?”

Gossamer gave Lucida a wicked smile. “Lots. Even more than you suspect. That’s what makes them so loyal.”

Lucida glared back defiantly. “I’m afraid that we’re going to have to upset your plans.” She looked over at the others. “Come on, let’s leave. She’s not going to help us.”

“Oh, I’m afraid I can’t let you leave,” Gossamer said malevolently. “Epiphany, please detain them.”

Pif’s eyes suddenly glowed green, and she shifted to her full changeling form and positioned herself between the others and the exit.

Lucida stared at Pif in shock before whipping her head around to glare at Gossamer. “You enthralled her! Let her go!”

“Ha! Don’t be ridiculous.”

“Don’t make us fight our way out of here. We have more power here than you.”

Gossamer’s grin grew nastier. “I think not. Epiphany, activate your minion.”

Pif’s horn glowed, and Blue grunted. His eyes lit up with the same green light as Pif’s, and he stepped over to the changeling’s side.

“Blue! What are you doing?!” Cinder cried.

Lucida gaped. “What…? How?”

“While you slept, I instructed Pif to enthrall the strongest in your group. Granted, I thought it would be the alicorn, but the young one seems to be very literal-minded, and for some reason chose the blue pony. No matter – I believe you are at a disadvantage now.”

Lucida looked around and realized that all the staff had stopped working and were focused on the rest of the team now. Some had shed disguises to reveal themselves as drones, but Lucida suspected that the rest were enthralled ponies. Suddenly they were facing stiff odds. Nevertheless, they could not afford to be captured – they had a whole history to save. She leaned over to murmur to Destined, “Be ready to teleport us out of here.”

“Uh-uh!” Gossamer chided. “I know what you’re thinking, and I can’t let you do that. Blue, take out the alicorn!”

Blue streaked forward in attack. Destined was no slacker in the speed department, but he barely managed to dodge before firing a stun spell at Blue. The earth pony avoided the beam with ease and turned to attack again. Destined threw out a barrage of spells, only to have them all miss the speedster, but at least slowing him down enough for the alicorn to dodge again and again. Destined realized that Blue was not fighting at his full capability though, otherwise this fight would already be over, and he reasoned that the enthrallment was preventing his brother from acting to his total potential. It mattered little though because he knew that Blue could keep this up far longer than he could avoid his sibling while firing off spell after spell. In their sparring sessions at House Path, Blue had always beaten him easily, but that was exactly what was normally expected of the warrior pony. Now Destined had to figure out a way to beat him, all while trying desperately not to get hit by his aggressor.

 

 

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