Buck to the Future
Going Buck in Time
An MLP:FiM Fanfiction by Midnight Shadow
PS: nopony calls me a chicken!
Scootaloo opened her eyes and groaned as the sunlight streamed in through her curtains. She jammed her eyes closed again, hoping that by ignoring it, the morning would give up and go away. It didn’t work, it never had so far. It was the last day of school before the weekend, and that made the whole day just so boring!
She groaned again, when chancing a look at her alarm clock showed it was still early in the morning. School didn’t start for another two hours! She rammed the pillow onto her muzzle and screamed in frustration, but that did no good either. She’d have to get up now, she’d woken up and seen the clock, she’d never get back to sleep.
Now what was she supposed to do? Sweetie Belle wouldn’t be up yet and Apple Bloom would be either busy or sleeping too. In any event, it was a long way through town to Sweet Apple Acres.
Then she remembered - the Doc had been dropping hints that his latest gadget was almost ready. Time to go help out! Scootaloo jumped out of bed with a back-flip as she threw the covers off into a corner of the room. She stretched each leg in turn, followed by her wings and a final shake of her neck and mane. The bones popped and cracked - she was growing! As she idly measured their span against the notches on the wall, her heart leaped in her chest, maybe one day soon she’d take off! She hurtled herself through the doorway and buzzed down the stairs without touching a single step, “I’m going out Ma! Back after school!”
There was a muffled grunt from her parents’ bedroom and a muzzle peered blearily around the corner at the retreating filly. It winced when the front door slammed, and shook in amusement. Scootaloo’s mother headed back to bed, where a delighted pair of ponies decided to make the most of their sudden spot of freedom.
Scootaloo zoomed through town, the wind whipping her wild mane around as the unruly locks poked out from under her helmet. She steered her scooter expertly through the early morning rush and managed to clear every obstacle, although a few ponies weren’t too impressed with her leaping her scooter over their stalls, even if she had managed to pull off a perfect double somersault. They had a few choice words for her which were thankfully lost in the wind. Scootaloo was built for speed, when she was on her scooter she was the fastest thing around. She grinned wide and poured on the acceleration as she headed to her favourite place in all of Ponyville, after the snack shop... and after the clubhouse. And... well, it was one of her favourite places, anyway.
When she arrived at Whooves’ treehouse, it was empty. She knocked on the door but found it unlocked. “Doc? Doc? You around? I just wanted to know if I could check out your newest... invention?”
Scootaloo poked her head in, the pegasus was a relatively frequent visitor to the Doctor’s lair and was usually greeted warmly with a cup of cocoa before being proudly presented with the Doc’s latest gadget. The gadget usually exploded, or caught fire... or caught fire then exploded, but it was cool either way. This time, the treehouse was empty of the Doctor and his mystery new gadget, but not empty of all his stuff. There was his solar-powered torch, and his tea-powered radio, and there was his overly elaborate water-and-sand device which seemed to be attached to an intricate system of pulleys and a large mallet, and a gong. The doctor was a heavy sleeper.
“If the doc ain’t here,” said Scootaloo to herself, “then maybe...”
The little orange pegasus closed to door, grinning even wider. She snuck down to the basement and turned on the lights. There it sat, the doc’s prized posession. All eighty eight keys of pressure-powered awesome. The thaumatic grand piano.
“This is gonna be so awesome!”
Scootaloo jumped into the seat, pedalled the actuators, flipped the switches with her hooves, dialed up the thaumometer to eleven and hit the power switch. The beast hummed into life with the powerful insistent crackle of barely restrained magics.
“It is time,” said Scootaloo, “to make... the musics!”
She hit the first power-chord.
Ordinary thaumatic-powered pianos weren’t a new invention, they’d been around for a few years. The Doc’s piano, however, was something special. Some pianos were small, meagre affairs. Some were full, concert-level instruments that could be played in front of thousands of ponies and be heard perfectly. Doctor Whooves' piano was unique, it was hoof-made to his own eccentric and somewhat exhuberant specifications.
A note sounded out; long, pure, and - overall - loud. Explaining the full experience of listening to a power chord from the Doc's piano would take a lot of gesticulating and shouting - mostly because of the decibels. The simplest way is to bring attention to the results; a clear country mile away, as the full force of the instrument swept through the Everfree, manticores ran for their lives, timberwolves hid and cowered, and nobody ever quite discovered what happened to the cockatrice, all that was ever found were feathers scattered in a blast-radius pattern.
Out of the rubble, branches and piles of smoking leaves and furniture, poked a small orange head with a purple mane. Her eyes slowly uncrossed and she touched a hoof to what remained of her eyebrows and extinguished the last few smouldering remnants of the fire.
“Maybe he won’t notice,” she said to herself as the last blistered bark wall of the tree fell slowly outwards to reveal traumatized passers-by as they involuntarily picked their teeth with the Doc’s dresser.
“Yeah, I’ll... tell him... umm. I’ll blame Sweetie Belle.”
Out of the sky dropped a piece of paper, badly singed and smouldering faintly, it read
Don’t touch the grand piano! I need to reset the limiters on it, in inexperienced hooves it could prove somewhat unstable.
Scootaloo blushed and coughed, looking left and right as most of the spectators wandered away, some staggering slightly with shocked expressions plastered to their muzzles, mumbling incoherently.
“You can say that again,” snorted Scootaloo to herself, but she carried on reading.
If you have time before school, can you come to Lookout Hill and assist me with a test-run of my new invention? It’s a secret, but it’s going to change everything!
See you soon,
PS: I mean it about the piano!
Scootaloo looked at the clock on the dresser. The dresser was in pieces, and the clock face had exploded, but the clock had stopped at barely fifteen minutes past the hour.
“Woohoo! I still got time to help the Doc with an experiment!”
Scootaloo pulled herself out of the wreckage, dusted herself off and pulled on her helmet. The day, she realised, as she accelerated away through Ponyville, had suddenly gotten a lot more interesting.
Lookout Hill was, unsurprisingly, a hill outside of Ponyville. Behind it was a lake, in front of it lay all of Ponyville. If one wished, he or she could turn around and gaze upon Dragon Mountain, or turn back and peer at Ponyville and, far off in the distance, great Canterlot. This morning, however, neither sight interested Scootaloo. What captivated her was a brown earth pony with darker brown mane and tail, and an hour-glass for a cutie-mark. He was alternately reeling in and letting out a strange winged device made of what looked like wooden struts and bed sheets. The wings looked somewhat like a dragon’s, they were attached to a frame which was undoubtedly one of Rarity’s ponnequins.
The Doc was hopping about with glee, making notes with a pencil on a pad he had weighted down with a rock next to him, at every swoop and dive of the strange flying device.
“Hey Doc! Ooh, watch out!” Scootaloo dived for cover as the creation, bereft of lift due the vagaries of the uncertain wind, came crashing down to earth, landing on the earth pony. There was a splintering noise and the makeshift wings snapped and crumpled.
“Yeah, I know,” groaned the earth pony, “this is heavy. Help me up, young Scootaloo!”
The pegasus ran to the aid of the earth pony and between them they disentangled the wreckage from the doctor’s notes.
“Hmm,” said the earth pony to himself, squinting at the mess, “slightly bigger tail section and more flexibility in the wings, adjust the weight ratio a tad... yes, yes, I think we have something! It may work after all!”
“What’re you building, Doc?” Scootaloo trotted closer, pulling her helmet off and setting it down with her teeth.
“Oh, a bit of this and that...”
“Doooccc!” whined Scootaloo, “Your letter said you’d tell me!”
“Well, if you promise to keep it to yourself,” the earth pony looked left and right, conspiratorially. He checked under the paper-weight rock, just in case spies were lurking there. Satisfied the pair were alone, he went to his waistcoat and pulled out a yellowed piece of paper, “this,” he said triumphantly, as he smoothed the folds down with a hoof, “is my latest, greatest creation. It’s taken me practically weeks to perfect it. The Flank Capacitor!”
“The Flank Capacitor!” repeated the Doc, with a flourish.
“What’s it do?”
“When suitably powered up, and I’m not sure on the necessary thaumic field required to power the base circuits, and when exposed to a powerful enough burst of high-yield thaumic radiation, not really sure how powerful a field there either, come to think of it...”
“Dooooccc!” cried Scootaloo, exasperated.
“In conjunction with the Flank Capacitor, this harness will allow the wearer,” he paused and drew himself up to his full height of almost three impressive feet, “to travel in time!”
Scootaloo blinked, “That?” she pointed with a hoof at what looked like an intricate, if slightly tacky, harness, inscribed with multiple sets of runes and a strange chest-piece adorned with numbers and what looked like a small thaumatic tube. “That lets a pony travel in time?”
“Well, I think so. Probably. Quite sure. If not, there’ll be a rather large explosion and time travel won’t really be a problem any more. It’s perfectly safe!”
“That’s what you said about the piano,” grumbled Scootaloo.
“No, no, I distinctly said the piano was dangerous and you weren’t to touch it. You... you didn’t touch it, did you?”
“Who, me? Touch your piano? ...How’s this flank capacitor work, anyway?”
The Doctor narrowed his eyes, “Touche! I could explain, but... I’d rather show you!”
“And how are you planning on doing that? If all you need is the harness, what the wings are for?” Scootaloo asked.
“Well now, that’s the thing. Whilst it will work for anypony when in a powerful enough magical field, generating that field is not easy. According to my calculations, it would need either a powerful unicorn, or a pegasus that can break the sound-barrier.”
“Rainbow Dash!” exclaimed Scootaloo, “She’s so awesome! She was at the Young Fliers competition and had to save Rarity, and...”
“And she did a sonic rainboom. I know, I was there. I’ve had this idea for ages but could never find the right sort of magical field to power it.”
“So... only a sonic rainboom will do?” asked Scootaloo in a small voice.
The Doctor looked down at the young pegasus, and shook his head, “Any pegasus, if my theories are correct, can generate the required field, but they have to be travelling fast enough. Any pony can do it if they can harness enough magic, even an earth pony, come to that! We all hold powerful magic inside of us, Scoots, It’s just that so far, the simplest way to harness such magic is by getting a pegasus to go really really fast. When they hit the critical velocity, they send out a burst of thaumic radiation I’ve measured at one point twenty-one jiggathaums!”
“Your wingy-thingy can help you go that fast? You can’t even flap them! How are you going to fly that fast with wings like that?”
The Doctor grinned, ear to ear, like a foal sneaking into a candy store, “That's what the harness is for. I built the flank capacitor into a flight-suit. It enhances the strength and dexterity of any pony wearing it. If you’re weak, you become strong. Slow, you become fast... with those wings I’ve made, and that flight-suit on...”
“A flightless pony could take to the skies!” yelled Scootaloo, leaping into the air and doing a backflip.
“Quite! Just as soon as I can get the molecular bonding to work, damned sonic screwdriver, still doesn’t work on wood. It’s embarrassing! Setting apple-conch-b is the closest I can get, and that just causes it to catch fire. Or turn blue. Blue wood, who needs blue wood? Why on Equestria would I need blue wood?”
“Could... could I travel in time?” interrupted Scootaloo, as the Doctor began to ramble.
The Doctor shook his head, “Hmm? No I don’t think so. No cutie-mark. The flank capacitor requires a focal point of thaumic discharge to function.”
“So ‘cause I’m a blank-flank, it won’t work?” Scootaloo sighed, sniffing sadly as she looked at her hind quarters and frowned.
“Highly unlikely, although it could theoretically induce premature cutiemarkization when exposed to the native thaumic resonance field in a suitably-attuned circuit... but it could also cause a permanent overflow cascade in your natural cutiemarkation gland.”
“If you wore it, you might get a cutie-mark and it might work, but it could also render you cutie-markless forever.”
Scootaloo looked at the twinned devices - the flight suit and the Flank Capacitor. Her heart skipped a beat - flight, a cutie mark... and to be the first pony to travel in time. She swallowed, reaching out a hoof, “So if a pony wore the flight suit and she... was a pegasus who couldn’t fly, she’d be able to take off?”
“Hmm?” asked the Doctor, “Oh, almost definitely, but even then a pegasus would need to get up to speed in order to generate the required one point twenty-one jiggathaums.
Scootaloo’s heart fell, “How in Equestria‘m I... I mean you, gonna go that fast?”
The Doctor grinned again, “I’ve got a plan. Plans are cool.”
The track was long, and straight. It was made of wood, with strange metal bands placed every so often at regular intervals, with odd wires that wound around strategic points. It hummed and spat with the energy running through it. Scootaloo had no idea what it did, or how the Doctor was powering it, but the sight of it was awe-inspiring and the energy discharge made her pelt stand on end.
“Tell me again what this does, Doc.”
“This is a linear accelerator. A pony climbs on that truck there,” the Doctor pointed a hoof, “go on, it’s perfectly safe.” He smiled absently as the filly’s face lit up.
Scootaloo leaped for joy and clambered up onto a strange little cart, placing her hooves into four upraised pads. The energy-field around her was palpable now and her nose itched.
“When you hit this button,” the Doctor pointed to a big red button marked ‘DANGER’ with a hoof, “it will power up the motive runes until the main balefire engines engage. When they do, that cart will be accelerated down the track, faster and faster, until it’s going fast enough to launch a pony into the air so he or she can break the sound-barrier.”
“So all I’d have to do, if I was gonna use it which I won’t ‘cause I always do what you say and you said it’s terribly dangerous, would be to hit that button?” Scootaloo was the picture of sweetness and innocence. The Doctor clapped his hooves together happily, pointing to the various levers and buttons necessary for activation.
“After turning it on, yes! The power-up cycle takes a minute or so, so it only takes a single pony to push it. Just think, I’ll finally be able to go back to last year and prevent myself from breaking my other time machine!”
Scootaloo’s ears pricked up, “The blue box of yours really is another time machine?”
The Doctor nodded, then turned to continue waving a strange blue wand over his accelerator device. He nodded once again, apparently happy, and put the strange device down. The blue glow that had shone brightly from one end died and the Doctor snorted happily, “All ready for her maiden flight! I'm running the system in burn-in mode at the moment, so it's all powered up. I'm just making sure the system can take that much power before we have a test-run.”
“Now?” asked Scootaloo breathlessly.
The Doctor shook his head, “Nope, later this evening. Besides, you’ve got to get to school!”
Scootaloo looked at the clock on the wall of Cheerilee’s classroom, above the blackboard. It ticked, insidiously. The noise said I can do this all day, and I think I will. She grimaced at it angrily. The clock was edging inexorably closer and closer to midday, noon, when they’d be let out for lunch. Scootaloo grit her teeth and doodled on her maths paper. The pencil snapped. She sighed. She looked back up at the clock - if she hadn’t known that sort of thing was impossible, she’d have sworn that the dratted clock had gone backwards when she wasn’t looking. She scowled, it was possible. The Doc had said as much, he’d said he even had two time machines; one was that strange blue box that was bigger on the inside, but she wasn’t supposed to tell anypony about it, even if it was broken. The other was this new Flank Capacitor-mawhatsit. She wasn’t sure about that, nothing the Doctor built worked quite as it was supposed to. It usually caught fire. The one time an invention hadn’t, had been when it was supposed to. That particular invention had skipped the whole bursting into flames and had gone straight for the melting.
If none of his inventions worked properly, mused Scootaloo, why was she so sure that the Flank Capacitor would? The Doctor blamed it on ‘Equestrian pre-industrial technomagical thaumatical dissonance’, whatever that meant... she sighed. Not everything the Doctor had was a disaster. One such object was in her school bag - the strange blue-light-tipped wand. He’d forgotten it in his haste to pack up and send her off to school, and he'd probably be mad that she had it. Scootaloo pulled it out, discreetly, with her muzzle, and looked at it. A curious device. Playing around with it, the orange pegasus filly almost yelped and fell out of her seat when it lit up. Cheerilee looked up, startled. Scootaloo did her best to appear nonchalant and innocent, for once it seemed to work and the mauve earth pony teacher looked down again.
She'd found the 'on' switch! It was strange, now she held it in her hooves, she kind of knew how to work it. The controls were odd, runic almost, and seemed to twist and change about as she looked at them. She couldn't read what they said, and they didn't seem to say the same thing every time she tried to look at them, but she could understand them.
It was time, she thought to herself with a smirk, for a test. She pointed the wand at the clock above the blackboard and pushed the trigger. The hands spun round, faster and faster until... sproing!
Cheerilee squeaked with fear and leaped to her hooves, causing the foals in the classroom to titter nervously with laughter. Scootaloo tried to stifle her giggling as pieces of the clock rained down around her teacher to litter her desk and the floor around her.
"M-miss Cheerilee? The clock says it's lunch time, can we go?" Apple Bloom spoke up, pointing with a hoof at the ruined timepiece still rolling around on Cheerilee's desk. Just before it too fell off, the one remaining had pointed solemnly to the top of the hour. Having done it's duty, it saw fit to fall to it's untimely demise, where it was lost between the cracks of the floorboards.
"Really? Oh, I... uh... guess so! Come on then, children, time for lunch. I'll have somepony replace that clock in the meantime."
Miss Cheerilee didn't have to speak twice, the inexorable tide of foals were out of the stuffy old classroom almost before she could blink. She stood, swaying on all four hooves for a few moments, before laughing softly and following them into the bright sunshine, sparing less than a glance at the wreckage.
Scootaloo sneaked around the side of the school, keeping low so she wouldn't be seen. Glancing about, she retrieved her helmet and her scooter, and buzzed as quietly as possible off towards Lookout Hill. She wasn't going to actually touch anything, she told herself, oh no. She was just going to look, yeah. Look, real close.
The harness hung on a ponnequin, under a hastily-erected shelter. For a moment, Scootaloo wondered how the Doctor could trust that nopony would borrow it, but then she remembered how often Doc's stuff malfunctioned, incendiarily.
Shrugging into the harness, Scootaloo felt her fur prick up around where her cutie-mark would be one day as the flank capacitor powered up. This wasn't touching, not really. Besides, she was only going to borrow it for a minute, right? It was amazingly easy to put together, even with all the wiring strewn about. As the last clip clicked into place, she could feel a vibration that was almost an audible hum. It filled her body, made her feel as wide as the sky and twice as bright. The flight harness was working, she was sure of it!
Experimentally, she flapped her wings, flapping them as fast and as hard as she could. Leaping into the air, she felt for the first time her pegasus magic kick in. She was hovering! She was doing it! She was flying! She was...
"Ow! Ow! Cramp! Horseapples! Ow!" Scootaloo fell to the ground, rolling around. Her wings hurt and her hind legs felt like they'd seized up, but it didn't matter. As the young filly lay there, massaging her recalcitrant limbs as best she could, a wide beautific smile split her muzzle. Scootaloo had been flying, and it was all down to the Doc's crazy invention! Maybe she would, maybe she could, really, really be the first pony to travel in time too? Rainbow Dash flew faster than rainbows, but nopony had ever out-flown father time.
"Well, just for a minute then..."
Scootaloo clambered up on the trolley, sensing once again as the field of the pre-primed thaumatic machine enveloped her body. She braced herself on the trolley, splaying all four legs out, crouching down as if she was zooming forwards. Flapping her wings, she felt the trolley move slightly. It was almost like her scooter! Maybe she could... it couldn't hurt, could it? Maybe if she just... flapped a little, didn't even use the machine, just got up some speed and then... jumped a little. Yeah. She could fly, just a little, and what better way to go that using this trolley-device on this race-track to do it?
It couldn't hurt, she rationalized, just as long as she didn't push the button.
The trolley barreled along the track, sparks flying as it passed the charged accelerator rings, with a small orange pegasus filly holding on for dear life and flapping her wings as hard as she could. With a defiant leap, the filly shot into the air and levelled into an easy glide. It was awesome, and with every attempt she flew further and further! Soon she'd be flying like Rainbow Dash, carefree, footloose, up amongst the clouds. Her earth-pony parents loved her a lot, but they didn't really know how much flying meant to her.
As Scootaloo landed lightly, she sighed. It was probably time to go back to school. She hopped back up on the track and kicked the trolley idly. Walking it back was so boring, and she was probably late. This time she'd fly it back.
Pushing against the force-field from the accelerator rings was a chore, but the trolley was moving. The sparks made her fur stand even further on end, but she ignored them. Sparks were normal from the Doc's inventions. It was the ones that didn't spark you generally had to look out for.
The Doctor was a studious inventor. He was a relatively new arrival in the strangely pleasant land he found himself somewhat trapped in. His own strange blue box, a stall he insisted was called a TARDIS although nopony knew what it meant save the Doctor himself, wasn't too fond of the new laws of physics it found itself ignoring, so the Doctor had decided that it fell to him to investigate his new surroundings and see if he could either cheer up his blue box out of it's trans-dimensional sulk or find a way to greener pastures. Only without the whole grass eating part, not that grains weren't tasty.
One thing he didn't have patience for - although he certainly did have time for it - was safety overrides. Safety overrides usually had to be overridden, in his experience, so why bother with them? As such, his accelerator platform was on a hair trigger. It was powered up, it had been powered up since the morning, and all that power was just sitting there waiting to be unleashed.
Scootaloo was, whilst ignoring the starter button, kind of turning the crank. The trolley slid home into the launch platform at speed, sending a burst of thaumatic feedback towards the control station. The trigger triggered, the generator generated and the accelerator rings did what they did best, they accelerated.
Scootaloo felt the field change, and guessed just a few moments too slow to get off, what it meant. "Oh... horseapples."
Flying backwards, reasoned Scootaloo, had to be some kind of talent. The trip had been a short one, so far, but the Doc hadn't been lying when he'd said it would accelerate a pony to a speed great enough to break the sound-barrier. Scootaloo's tail was whipping up around her muzzle, which was turned backwards over her withers in an attempt to steer the trolley and keep it on an even keel. The less said about the windchill factor on her nether-regions, the better.
Suddenly, as tracks are wont to do, the track ran out. It curved up at the end, a graceful lift that flung the trolley and the filly skywards. One of them was screaming.
Scootaloo was nothing if not graceful. She pushed herself off the trolley, spun in the air, and found herself flying upside down. At least she was facing forwards as she shot skywards. She rolled in the air, righting herself, and flapped her wings in a beautiful, textbook flight maneuver.
That was all it took, that one flap.
The air around her burst into purple and orange light as Equestria's first Sonic Scootaboom rent the air asunder. She'd broken the sound-barrier.
Her flank tingled, a shape began to form. Scootaloo felt it, somewhere deep in her bones, like a musical note that sang through her entire being even above the kaleidoscopic light show that spun and burned around her. He elation was short-lived, however, and she didn't even get to check it out.
The flank capacitor needed a cutie-mark.
She was getting a cutie mark.
The flank capacitor needed a pegasus to break the sound-barrier.
She'd done that.
The flank capacitor also needed a destination date.
Ah. This... wasn't going to end well.
There was a second explosion, lighting up the sky, and a brief outline of flames burned in the noonday air, heading roughly in the direction of Cloudsdale.
Of Scootaloo, the flight suit, or the flank capacitor, there was no sign.