The Hourglass Society
((EqD Artwork by Amber: http://eevie-chu.deviantart.com/))
(1) Prologue : A New Mission is Taken Up
(2) Chapter 1 : The Life and Times of Brown Sand
(4) Chapter 2: Ponyville and Preparations
(5) Chapter 3: The Past Is Changed (For Good)
(7) Chapter 4: Understanding Responsibility
(9) Chapter 5: The Hourglass Society
(6) Chapter 6: Onset of Discovery
(8) Chapter 7: Run
(10) Chapter 8: Stop
(11) Chapter 9: Retirement
(12) Chapter 10: Rogue Agent
(13) Chapter 11: Do You Have Any Right?
(14) Chapter 12: How to Kill a Friend Not Yet Made
(15) Chapter ???: Infinite or One? The Hourglass Flips
(3) Epilogue: Looking Back at What is to Come
NOTICE: This is NOT a Dr. Whooves Fic. The author has only watched one complete episode of Dr. Who. This is a completely original time-travel fic, filled with new rules, ideas, plots, and so forth. Any and all possible connection to Dr. Who can and will be regarded as hilarious by the author.
(1) Prologue: A New Mission Is Taken
OPENING HOURGLASS SOCIETY LOGIN SCREEN
USER RECOGNISED. WELCOME, AGENT COLGATE.
WHICH FILES WOULD YOU LIKE TO EXAMINE?
ACCESS DENIED. ALICORN LEVEL CLEARANCE PASSWORD NEEDED TO ACCESS THOUGHT RECORD DATABASE
In the tunnels underneath Manehattan, a charcoal unicorn colt with bright white hair walked down a long, dimly lit hallway. He wore a black suit with a white tie as a pair of dark glasses rested in front of his eyes, below a long horn. An onyx and silver watch was strapped around his front-left leg. His flank bore a white hourglass with black sand.
I’m getting far too old for this sort of thing. I need to think about applying for a desk job one of these days.
He shook the lack of sleep from his eyes as he continued preparing his mind for his next assignment. As he paced to the end of the hallway, the colt pushed open two doors, revealing a large white room. The sides were filled with large brown file cabinets. Along the back side were a few large glowing screens that displayed names, dates, times, and other information. Inside around fifty or so ponies focused on their work, either reading the numbers as they appeared on the screens, inserting different information through the hoof-controlled computers, moving around different folders in the file system, or at their desks filling out reports.
“Agent Contrast! Agent Contrast!” a pegasus called out as she ran up to the black and white colt and nuzzled against him. “I’m so glad you’re okay! I was so worried that after your last mission that I wouldn’t be seeing you again! I mean, it’s been almost four months!”
Contrast backed away from the contact, but grew a soft smirk on his face. “The pleasure is all mine, Evening Showers. Has it really been that long?” He looked up at the ceiling wistfully, putting together timelines in his head, and making note that he would not be able to see her for the four months prior. After a moment, a tired smile grew on his face. “Of course I’d come back to see you, dear, but who else could I trust do my work?” He chuckled quietly and sighed. “They need me here and now, so this is where I’m at. Speaking of which, could you look up an agent’s file for me?”
Evening frowned at the sentence. “Don’t they ever let you get a break? I mean, what about your life? Don’t you ever want to get away, do the things you want to do? Maybe even go on a real date with me that isn’t secretly a mission?”
He chuckled as he thought of the memory; the look of annoyance on her face when she figured it out. He had been planning to take her someplace nice to eat, and it just so happened that one of his missions had him doing just that. Looking back, he should have seen all the different ways that could have gone wrong. It would be the last time Evening would see him until this moment. “All the time, Evening. But we both know this work is important to Equestria. And even for a pony with my abilities, time is something far too fleeting.” He looked up at the ceiling, as if in a daze. “I have plenty of plans for later, but those will have to be saved for another day.” A determined look condensed on his face as the warmth drained from his eyes. His voice grew cold and serious. “Now, Ms. Showers. I need the file on Agent 0290. The Temporal Clearance Password is 783415275.”
Evening backed away, eyes filled with worry, remembering his wish towards professionalism and efficiently, as she hid away her sullen look. “Right. Number 0290. One moment.” She trotted over to a particular group of black cabinets and nosed her way through the different files. She picked one particular folder up with her teeth and trotted back to the unicorn.
In truth, it had been over three years since that fake date from his perspective. He had seen Evening a few times before now, both in the past and in the future. In the past, she didn’t even notice him. In the future, she was screaming at him. It was a blur, he wasn’t even sure what she was screaming about. He could only remember one word she said to him. Disconnected. There was quite a bit of truth to that, as current month and year became more a place than anything else as he grew used to his work. He watched her carefully, feeling as if there was a glass wall made of time between them. She was right there, he wanted to feel close to her... and yet it felt as though they were a mile apart. Moments like these were the only times in his life Contrast regretted his special powers. After all, how could a story be enjoyable to read when you already know how it ends, especially the story of another? If you know the ending and beginning, any normal pony should be able to fill in most of the gaps.
Contrast picked up the folder with magic and started skimming through it. Seeing him deep in thought, Evening went back to her desk and pulled out another stack of papers to fill out.
Alright, let’s see here. Name: Brown Sand. Pegasus Pony. Agent class, Supporter subclass. Looks suspiciously like the Doctor himself, aside from having wings and a very different voice. Keep on watch for connections between the two. Temporal anomalies around Mr. Sand before recruitment recorded on section A-6… okay, not bad. Decent history with education, work experience, and athletics. There shouldn’t be any real mental problems. Still, not sure why I was ordered to show this particular greenhoof the ropes, but it’s fine. Not a lot of information here. He must have just been recently recruited… and there’s my name as the recruiter. So basically, go a month into the past, convince him to come with me, stop by Ponyville before taking him to training center 32. Then it’s waiting further instructions from the higher ups.
Agent Contrast trotted over to Evening Shower’s desk, where she was deeply focused on her own work. He set the folder down beside her and, and after making sure no one was looking, kissed her softly on her mane, then quietly paced back out through the doors he came from.
I’m sorry for leaving you like this once again, disappointing you once more. But from what I’ve read, this might be the pony we’ve been looking for.
END OF FILE
The Hourglass Society
(2) Chapter 1: The Life of Brown Sand
“Damn that Rainbow Dash!” Brown Sand stomped his hoof down, bringing it partly into the cloud under him. He could count the number of times he had cursed in his life on his hooves, but he couldn’t help himself this one time. He went over what had just taken place over and over again in his mind. He wasn’t sure exactly when, but he remembered Rainbow Dash having a distinctly lower number than he did, and she was the last to perform! Suddenly told to go out threw him off his game, but he still did fairly well. He was sure he did a routine that surely impressed the Wonderbolts! But no, Rainbow Dash’s messy debut ended with that Sonic Rainboom of hers, and everyone forgot about his performance. Forgotten in the crowd, mistaken for someone else, just like so many other times in his life.
He pulled his hoof out, the sunny skies that shone on him only contrasted against his fuming demeanor. He reached back at his flank, pulling off the number two on it. As he spit the replaced number out, he stared at his cutie mark. That golden hourglass, it seemed to be his very own never-ending riddle. Those marks were supposed to signify a person’s special ability, and all it had done was confuse him. He got it when he was flying faster than he had ever before; he had expected it to mean that he was an exceptionally speedy flier.
He pushed himself into athletics, to little avail. His speed seemed… inconsistent at best, and downright erratic at worst. He could win some races, and then go to lose terribly in the next set. Sometimes he would blow past the competition in the beginning, only for them to mostly pass him in the end, or sometimes the reverse would happen, and he’d just barely win when he shouldn’t have been able to catch up. Dropping out of racing, he had tried to get into stunt performances, with this competition being his personal big chance to get in with the Wonderbolts!
Brown passed by a clothing store, and turned to look at himself in a window’s reflection. He sat down on his haunches, and stared at the colt looking back at him. Who was he? He was simply a pony that could never stand out of the crowd, one that took up a dull and repetitive job in Cloudsdale’s City Hall. (“Always on time!” he professed, trying to get some kind of job to make a living while he practiced.) His bosses always complimented his unnatural efficiency while focused, but he rarely took any pride in his work. Even his name was dull, given by his Earth Pony father who wanted a down-to-earth name for his pegasus son. Thanks to those genes, he was slightly stronger than his flying peers and had greater endurance, but he was simply not built as well for fast flying.
But all that was in the past, and he made his way through life here in the sky. Brown started reflecting on how his life was right now. He leaned towards the reflection, glaring at himself.
“What are you looking at, Brown?” asked a mare in the reflection beside him.
“GLUHHH-“ Brown fell to his side, heart racing. The mare next to him continued to stare into the window, looking at all the clothing items in the store inside. She had a dull grey coat with a bright blue-silver mane that shimmered in the sunlight. Her flank bore the silver outline of a cloud.
“Silver, you gotta stop sneaking up on me like that!”
Silver Lining didn’t hear or simply ignored him, glancing at the items beyond the window. “What were you looking at, Brown? Planning to go somewhere nice soon? On a date perhaps? Were you looking at the suit coat, or perhaps the full tuxedo? Or… are you more of a saddle-wearing kind of guy?” She smugly turned to look at him still trying to recover to his hooves. “I didn’t really think you were into that, Brown.”
Brown simply shook his head. He had met Silver at his job; she was responsible for the city government’s PR department, bringing in residents and tourism while promoting the City Council’s latest decisions. Unlike Brown who felt like it took forever for his shift to finish, she loved her job, and found joy in promoting the wonders of the pegasus city. Over the past two years or so since moving to Cloudsdale, Silver had become his closest friend. “I’m so annoyed I had to work today, I would have loved to see that Sonic Rainboom! That’s all they’re talking about all over town! Wait, you were there, right? Did you see it? Was it as amazing as everyone says it was?”
Brown’s eye slightly twitched. “Yeah… I saw it. It was…“ he sighed, “pretty incredible.”
“Oh wait, YOU were competing in that as well right? Now I’m extra annoyed I missed it! I should have just called in sick or something. Or better,” she put her hoof up to her mouth thinking, “I should have just convinced my boss just to let me go for research purposes. So, how did you do?”
Brown turned his head to the side. “I did… alright. It was nothing to write home about.”
“Oh, stop being like that. I’m sure you did great. You tried your best, didn’t you?”
“Right… my best.”
“Look, winning or not, you worked hard and were able to perform in the Best Young Flyer’s Competition. That’s gotta count for something. Stop by my house later this evening, okay? I want to talk about something with you. Sorry, I’ve got to be somewhere right now. Just open your mind to… taking a risk, okay? Talk to you later, alright?”
“Wait, what did you want to talk-“ but it was too late. Silver Lining had already spread her wings and taken off to a different cloud. He thought about following her, but he was already going to meet her tonight, so what was the point? He shook his head and started off towards his home.
It was about noon when Brown reached his house. As with most non-border Equestrian cities, Cloudsdale had an extremely low crime rate. Even on days with a large influx of tourists such as this one, the Cloud Patrol kept a steady eye over, around, and under the city. As such, he hadn’t bothered locking the door to his house.
He opened his door and sighed. It was a long day, and he had a lot on his mind. It would be quite a few hours before he went to meet up with Silver, so that gave him the rest of the day off.
“Hello,” called out a deep voice from the shadows.
Brown froze in the doorway to his home. Somepony was in the shadows, in his own home uninvited. The mystery pony announced his presence, so he probably wasn’t a burglar, but he was still trespassing.
“Hello?” Brown responded, “Who’s there? Show yourself!” He scanned the room, wings out and to the ready.
There was a moment of silence as a large male unicorn stepped out from the back hallway. Sporting a dark black coat and shining white hair, Contrast appeared to be looking through one of Brown’s novels. The book was placed down to a nearby table, and he looked up at Brown. Brown grew edgy, as the dark sunglasses made him unsure if the mystery colt was looking directly at him or not.
“Excuse me, Mr. Sand. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Agent Contrast, and I have been personally assigned to meet you unannounced, talk you into coming with me immediately, and eventually recruiting you to my organization where you will find the true meaning of what your cutie mark actually means.”
A long moment of silence passed between the two, as Brown stared wide-eyed at his mystery intruder. Ponies in Equestria have a stronger tie to claims of “destiny” than most other races. With cutie marks reassuring them that they will always have a unique quality that will both show how they are individually special and how they fit within their community and society as a whole, ponies are more easily swayed into doing what they feel are “supposed to do.” This applied extensively to Brown, who was finding nothing fulfilling from his mark.
However, Brown Sand finally concluded either a crazy pony or someone from a “Cutie Mark Failure Insanity Rehabilitation Camp” had heard about him and wandered into his home. With a calm belying his unease he simply grabbed the lanyard with a spare key by his door and backed out of the doorway, closing it and locking it as he went. Shaking his head at what just had happened, he needed to find a member of the Cloud Patrol and report the intruder. Clouds used for buildings were made of sterner stuff than most clouds, so while the “Agent” could dig himself out through the walls, it would take too long to do it before he got back with someone of authority.
As soon as he reached the next block of houses, Brown rounded a corner to find himself face-to-face with… Agent Contrast.
“Ah,” Contrast started, “Mr. Sand. Just the pegasus I was looking for. Let me introduce myself. My name is Agent Contrast, I am a member of the Hourglass Society, and I have been assigned to-“
“HOW DID YOU… I JUST LOCKED YOU IN MY HOUSE A COUPLE MINUTES AGO! How did you escape? How are you even walking on clouds anyways?”
“Oh, that’s a simple spell, any unicorn of above-average magical ability can… hold on… are… are you saying that you met me before? Did I happen to be introducing myself?”
“Yes!” Brown closed his eyes in frustration. “Look, I just had a difficult day, screwing up my biggest chance to perform for the Wonderbolts, and I’m really not in the mood for any of this. If you leave me now, I won’t ask how you got out of my house or even report you to the Patrol.”
As he opened his eyes, Brown saw the person in front of him was already gone. He looked left, right, and up, and didn’t even see a trace of the pony that was before him. Just as well, Brown was starting to get a migraine.
He probably just pushed open a window enough to squeeze out of. But just now he looked like he hadn’t ever seen me before. A pony with short-term memory loss, perhaps?
Once again Brown reached his house, trotting around it to look for any structural damage. There didn’t appear to be anything pushed out of place. Sighing, he grabbed the key around his neck and unlocked his door.
“Mr. Sand,” came a voice from behind him, ”I would like to speak with you, this time regarding your performance at the Best Young Flier’s Competition and your current employment status.”
“AAARRRGGG!” Brown yelled as he whipped around in place. “Okay, who are you, what do you want, and what can I do so you leave me alone!”
Contrast gave a slight smirk. “As I’ve tried to state twice before now, Mr. Sand, my name is Agent Contrast, I represent an organization called the Hourglass Society, and I would like you to come with me so that I may show you something.”
Brown brought his head down in defeat. “Will it take long?”
“We’ll be back before you know it.”
They set out on their journey, as they travelled around counter-clockwise to the other side of Brown’s house… and stopped. “We’re here,” Contrast plainly stated.
Brown looked around. There didn’t seem to be anything out of the ordinary. “Okay… so… are you going to show me how you escaped my house, or what?”
“In a manner of speaking, yes. I’m assuming you haven’t even noticed the mark on my flank yet.”
Brown casually glanced at Contrast’s side. Next to his formal attire, the cutie mark seemed to blend in with the coat and the outfit.
“An… hourglass,” gasped Brown. He hadn’t seen, or at the very least hadn’t noticed, another pony with an hourglass cutie mark. He looked up, wide-eyed at the monochromatic unicorn.
“Yes, very much like your own. It comes to those few ponies whose elements are based in the flow of time itself. I would like to show you one more thing, if I may have a bit more of your time. Please place your hoof up to my own.” Contrast held his hoof up in the air, hanging it before Brown.
The flow of time itself? What does that even mean?
Brown hesitantly placed his hoof against Contrast’s.
What have I got to lose?
Contrast’s horn glowed a soft purple, and instantly purple lightning rose up around both of them. Brown’s line of sight flickered as he noticed a bird flying above him seem to slow down and almost stop in midair. He felt his entire being begin to stretch, seemingly pulling his entire body, mind, and soul like rubber. Then at once, there was a bright flash, and he felt himself come back together with a snap.
He looked around. Both of the ponies appeared to be in the exact same spot, as if nothing had changed. The bird Brown had noticed before had long gone. Brown felt dizzy and sore, as if every muscle in his body had been pulled in a way that shouldn’t have been possible. The pegasis staggered, trying to keep his balance. He felt ill, and that perhaps he should lay down a bit. But for all of the physical effects, nothing seemed to have happened.
“What… what changed?” Brown managed to blurt out.
“If I did it right, absolutely nothing. Let’s go.”
Brown wearily followed Contrast around the rest of his building. Walking in a straight line continued to be a difficult challenge. He almost ran into Contrast, who was standing at the corner of his house, staying in the shadows. Contrast held out his watch, using the reflection to look around the corner, where Brown’s front door should be. Brown realized he could hear voices coming from in front of his house. He paused to listen.
“Will it take long?”
He knew that voice! Brown was sure of it! But where could it have been from?
“We’ll be back before you know it.”
No. This couldn’t have been happening. This was impossible. Brown pushed Contrast out of the way, as he peered around the corner just in time to see his own hindquarters disappear around the opposite corner. A silence hung in the air as Brown fell on his haunches and tried to contemplate the situation.
“I do make it a point to be honest,” remarked Contrast, “We were back before you knew it.”
Brown shook his head, if that was them from a few minutes ago, then those two were about to go back into the past to become them. Brown pushed past Contrast and started around the house again, following his past self. “Wait!” Contrast called after him.
I need to make sure. I need to see for myself what really happened.
Brown turned the final corner and found himself staring at the past versions of the two ponies. A bird flew overhead. When it was directly above them, the Past-Brown placed his hoof up against the other, and both vanished in a sparkle of purple magic. The entire process took less than a second. In the last moments, it appeared the Past-Contrast had spotted him, but it was difficult behind his pair of sunglasses. The bird flew past him, and dove down under the cloudy city.
Contrast came around the other bend, both now on the backside of the house again. “I believe you wanted to know how I escaped from your house. It’s really quite simple. When I found you, you mentioned how you just saw me a few minutes ago in the past. Thinking it a good opportunity to subtly show you, I went back in time ten minutes to introduce myself, when you promptly locked the door on me. Remembering how you mentioned being in the competition earlier today, I went back again, remember your door was unlocked at that time, and viewed the competition for myself. As odd as it was for a unicorn to be in attendance, there happened to be quite a few other non-pegasus ponies that had used the same spell I had, I’m surprised you hadn’t noticed, and thus, didn’t stick out too much. After that, I came back to meet you after you had unlocked your house. It’s all pretty straightforward.”
Brown’s jaw hung open. He tried to speak, but no words came out. It sounded logical in his mind, but the basis of it all was still stuck somewhere in the “Impossible” range in his mind, even after experiencing it personally.
“Now then,” Contrast continued, checking his watch, “I would love to set up and explain stable-time loops all day, but the last Air Carriage to Ponyville is in less than an hour, so we really should get going. If you would join me, I will show you how that hourglass on you truly sets you apart from all the ponies around you.”
Brown Sand thought for a moment. I messed up on performing, I don’t fit with my job, I don’t really have anything to strive for at the moment. There is Silver Lining… but even she left me with the words… how did she put it? “Just open your mind to… taking a risk, okay?”
Brown smirked at the coincidence. “Fine. I have the next couple days off, so you have until then to convince me.”
Contrast said nothing, but simply turned away and started walking towards the Air Carriage station, as Brown followed close behind.
END OF FILE
The Hourglass Society
(3) Epilogue: Looking Back at What is to Come
Even working six months in the Society, with all the strange and wondrous things he had experienced, he couldn’t have imagined being in this situation.
He sat uncomfortably at the last seat in a long line at Princess Celestia’s Royal Breakfast Table. To his right, at the head of the table, sat the Princess herself, softly munching on a piece of toast held by her magic.
Brown looked around. It was far too grand a room for just the two of them. The arching stone roof must be at least three stories high, and the stained glass windows decorated the floor with dancing colors as the sun slowly started its trek westward. The colored light reaching Celestia’s ever-flowing hair made for a radiant sight. He heard a variety of birds chirp outside as they started getting ready for the day ahead. He looked down at his own plate, a simple but beautifully prepared meal of eggs (sunny-side up, of course), toast, fruit, and two glasses of orange and apple juice. With all that was going through his mind, Brown couldn’t get himself to even take a bite or sip of the undoubtedly delicious meal that lay before him.
Princess Celestia either didn’t notice or didn’t mind. Keeping her eyes closed, she brought up a small napkin and lightly patted down her mouth, removing the excess bread crumbs. She then brought up her crystal goblet of orange juice and slowly sipped from it. Behind her a door quietly opened.
“Good morning, sister,” said Luna. Her eyes were tired, and her nightcap (daycap?) was already on her head.
Celestia turned around and looked warmly at the midnight-blue alicorn. “Good morning, Luna. I know you didn’t get to bed until lunch yesterday, so have a good sleep.”
Luna yawned and nodded. She glanced over at the other guest in the room, as Brown quickly did a quick bow on the silk pillow he was sitting on. Luna smiled and nodded, and then shut the door in front of her with a light click.
The room was in silence once more. Celestia once again took the small napkin and delicately patted her mouth. She then gently opened her eyes and looked down at Brown, as he nervously stared back into the eyes of the ruler of Equestria.
“Now, Agent Brown Sand,” Celestia started, “I believe you had a report for me?”
Brown gulped. “I... I believe all the necessary information was placed in that file I dropped off a week ago, your… your highness. Did you not receive it?”
Celestia kindly smiled. “Oh, I received it,” she placed two cubes of sugar in her tea cup and began stirring. “I actually took such an interest that it became the main reason I called this meeting in the first place.”
Brown shook his head. I can’t believe I fell into another amateurish stable time loop. What a novice mistake! Note to self: stop giving ponies ideas on things you don’t want them to think about! Well, it could have gone worse, I suppose.
Brown darted his eyes around the room, trying to avoid making contact with those glimmering eyes across of him. “Was… was there any additional information I forgot to mention, Princess? I tried to keep it all within Society report standards…”
“Oh, the report was more than fine. I simply want to hear your personal take on the issue. How do you feel about what happened?”
How do I feel? What kind of question is that? …I can’t feel anything. How am I supposed to, feeling like I’m trapped between being a puppet and screwing up time itself?
“I don’t wish to say… it feels… uncomfortable… at least while Colgate and Contrast are standing outside the door.”
“Don’t worry, they can’t hear you, I’ve made sure of it. Now tell me the truth.” She leaned in closer, eyes filled with sympathy. “Tell me what you feel about what you saw at the end.”
Brown sand quivered as he tried forcing words, any words, to come out. “I feel… terrified. I can’t get the image out of my head. I see my future self as almost a blur of brown, his, or maybe better said, my own blade released from the holster. I see my… enemy, that terrible... thing, falling to the ground, as the other-me stands over it. I… I always thought of myself as a pony that could get things done when it was needed, but I never thought of myself as a killer. To watch my own blade go through… the neck of another pony… to watch the blood drip as the life leaves him… knowing I’ll probably do the same later in my own life… it’s just… it’s just…” Brown trailed off. He felt his throat constrict as his vision blurred up.
Here I am making a first impression on our immortal guardian, the one I’m supposed to serve, and here I sit close to bawling my eyes out. Some Agent I am.
Princess Celestia looked down knowingly at the quivering pegasus. She closed her eyes again and breathed deeply, knowing the gravity of the situation. A loud cry made Brown look up. A bright, fiery bird dove through the only open window high above, and soared down to the two sitting below. She perched on a Celestial banner sticking out from the wall and cawed triumphantly for attention.
Celestia afforded herself a small smile, but didn’t look towards the phoenix or even open or eyes. “Hello, Philomena,” she remarked.
She opened her eyes, staring back at the pegasus. “Whether you think so or not, you are still new working for the Hourglass Society. I know personally you will see many things you won’t be prepared for before you leave it. You will fight monsters that shouldn’t exist. You might fight them in alternate timelines, or in our own. You’ll defend those around you from harm, even if it is from themselves. For that is what you are. You may be another Agent, but your subclass is Supporter for a reason.”
Brown looked up, eyes wide at the white alicorn. She continued, “Let me give you some advice from someone who has lived a few more years than you. Live in the moment. You might not get to choose what has happened, or what will happen, but you can choose what you do now. I’ve seen nations rise and fall, millions upon millions be born, grow, and die before me. If I tried thinking of the ‘big picture’ as you might say, I would surely go mad. Instead, I live each and every day seeing what I can do right now. I see ponies before me, and I try to make each and every one of them as happy as I can. I talk to officials, listen to citizens’ complaints and praise, help teach unicorn students, negotiate relations with different cities and countries, all of it fills my day with such complexity it makes raising and setting the sun seem trivial in comparison.”
Philomena flew off her perch on the wall and glided down to Celestia. She gently perched herself of Celestia’s back, eliciting a small chuckle from the Princess. “Have you seen the timelines where things didn’t turn out right?” Brown shuddered as he recalled his first real experience time traveling, not just a small stable loop like Contrast used to recruit him. “Have you seen the ones where Equestria is engulfed in war, or perhaps the ones where I’ve become a true tyrant, ruling over the world with an iron hoof at best and an everlasting day at worst? I’ve read all about them in reports, some of them are quite harrowing.”
Celestia took a moment to look at the bird on her back. She had a look of sorrow on her face, or was it relief? The phoenix brushed against her face, lovingly. “What’s truly frightening, however, is that the list of differences between the Celestias there and the Celestia sitting before you is shorter than you might imagine. We just happened to make a few different, but still reasonable at the time, choices. That’s the true purpose for the formation of the Hourglass Society in the first place. I don’t want to head down the roads I could have chosen, or let Equestria collapse because of a simple mistake. But I need to know how things go wrong, so that they won’t go wrong in the future. To learn what happened in the past, or what could have happened, so that we don’t make more of those timelines, to eliminate the possibilities so I can keep working hard as I do and make sure I make the best decisions I can.”
Brown Sand stuttered as he tried to put his thoughts together. He had always known the Hourglass Society was a government program that reported to Celestia, but to think of the extent that Princess Celestia needed help... it almost seemed blasphemy. But it still made sense. Even the Goddess of the Sun needed help keeping the kingdom, and herself, at peace for millennia.
“In any case, I’ve already talked with the head administrators of the Society on your behalf. Whether you remember it or not, you were authorized lethal force when dealing with the Rogue. They place no charges against you for your actions.” She took another small sip of her tea. “And neither do I. Should you choose to take responsibility for the Rogue’s death, the only requirement be that it be your full, unpressured choice. It has already happened, that can’t be changed. What has yet to be determined was whether that ‘future-you’ was actually you or simply you from another timeline. I’m leaving it to your capable hooves to decide each available now you get, Brown Sand.” She stood up, her full height towering over Brown. “Was there anything you wanted to tell me before you left?”
Brown thought for a moment. He had tried to get out of this whole meeting. When it happened anyways, he ended up being consoled most of the way through instead of giving an actual report like he was requested to. A small spark of memory surfaced. Brown stood up, and looked back at the Princess with, for the first time in the meeting, true confidence.
“Princess? Do you happen to know a pink pony named Pinkie Pie?”
Princess Celestia stopped for a moment, and let out a small chuckle. “Why, yes, she’s one of my star pupil’s closest friends. What about her?”
“I know it’s out of place for me to be asking you a favor, but… the next time you see her, could you tell her ‘Thank You’ from me?”
There was one last moment of silence between them. Then Celestia shone one more of her warm smiles. “I believe… that could be arranged.”
With that, Princess Celestia opened the doors and walked confidently into the hallway, two royal guards quickly to her side. Brown followed soon after, and looked at Contrast and Colgate, both waiting patiently. Contrast had his usual expressionless demeanor, (he would have insisted on the word “stoic” instead,) but Colgate wrinkled her nose as she analyzed Brown’s face trying to figure out what happened inside there. Brown simply gave the best smile he could as he nodded to his two teammates.
“You okay?” questioned Colgate.
“I’m fine, though I am a bit tired. I think I know what I need to do now.”
“So,” Contrast looked at Brown over his shades, “when and where to?”
Brown looked over at Contrast. “Drop us off before the last Air Carriages leave for Ponyville and Cloudsdale, and you can pick me up in the morning, and pick Colgate up when she tells you to.”
“Which would be in about a week,” interjected the unicorn mare.
“In the meantime,” continued Brown, “you are hereby ordered by your Agent Supporter to take Evening Showers on a real date, to whichever end that might entail. You are not allowed to come pick us up until after this task has been completed.”
Contrast froze in place at the mention of her name, but if there were any other physical reactions, Brown and Colgate didn’t notice them.
“After that, we’ll go get our next assignment, and we’ll go from there.”
The other two nodded again. They placed their front hooves up to each other’s and disappeared in a flash of purple sparkles.
END OF FILE