Time Tuner

by Zephyrus Scary

Chapter 1: Through Stein's Gate Again?

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Time Tuner

Zephyrus Scary

Chapter 1:

Through Stein’s Gate Again?


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bed?—(defunct) Future Gadget Lab?/(reinstated) CRT store apartment?

So… sick! “Ghuh?…hng…” The only thing I can tell for sure is that I’m laying on what I can only assume to be a very soft bed that I’m mostly sure I never owned; shifting under the blankets, it feels like I’m trying to pull my arms out from under a concrete slab, and I can’t tell if that’s because of the weight of the blankets or my own weakness. Wiping at the sweat of my fever, I dimly note my sense of touch has been afflicted by whatever has invaded my body, for all I feel is a single, distant pressure, and upon testing my fingers by flexing them, they barely respond or at least I don’t feel them moving. What happened?

“Uhhfuh…huhng…keh?” Too sick… Can’t think…! Only moan pitifully… like… a moaning, pitiful thing. Like I-

I! Like what happened to me when I was a kid! When-! Reading Steiner-! That’s it—that’s what I’d needed to jolt into relative lucidity. Relative, because although the shock lends me enough strength to sit up, the interest is swift and terrible, promptly sending me back bed-ward even weaker than before, and the bounce agitates my headache back into existence. “Oh. Ooooh. Bad… idea.” I manage to mutter past a tongue and palette made thick, sticky, and strange by a lack of saliva.

Apparently, and thankfully, the sounds of my stirring has attracted attention by… my caregivers? Two sets of footsteps on the wooden floor meet my ears… or is that just another symptom? On that note, as the footsteps get louder to the point of being painful, I’m pretty sure I feel muscles I never had twitching… or perhaps I simply forgot I had them thanks to my fever. A mystery for another time; right now I need to deal with the cause! “Don’t step so loud,” I try to yell, but I don’t even reach my normal speaking voice, achieving a sore throat more than volume. “… Please,” I add after considering that Kurisu might be one of those coming to check up on me; thankfully, the footsteps soften and come at more manageable intervals.

When I hear a doorknob click, I turn towards the sound and squint, expecting to be tortured by lights, but all that meets me is a wavering candle flame. Huh, how long has it been since I’ve seen one of those? Strange, I guess, but also quite considerate of-. Upon finally looking up to my mystery nurse, even my thoughts freeze in place for a moment. Cogs slowly creaking back to life, my mind jumps to the word “equine”, even though I know very well that no horse, zebra, pony, or any such creature ever looked or ever will look like that!

Giant visible sclera, no doubt capable of looking forward to provide stereoscopic vision (what kind of herbivore would need such a thing?!), but this one’s eyes are currently… the only word that comes to mind at the moment is “derped”: facing in two different, uncoordinated (as far as I can tell) directions. Her gold eyes, blond…—“mane” is it called? I do think so—mane, and gray coat of fur, by contrast, don’t seem all that unusual for an equine, but I’m no… “horse-scientist”. “Equinologist”? Oof, now I know this fever is getting to me! That expressionful face does not belong to an equine!… “Expressionful”? What am I saying?! -thinking?!

“Tutuu ruu! Good Mor- Ah, Afternoon, Timer!” The creature somehow manages to make perfect human-like sounds with its—her?—muzzle. Actually, she sounds a lot like Mayuri, especially with that distinct signature greeting… I’ll just assume it’s safe to assume she is, for now. … Wait, what was that thought again? “assume that it’s safe to assume it’s safe to be safe to-?… Darn fever! “Derpy heard you stirring, and thought if you woke up enough this time that you’d like some soup, so she heated some up for you! Derpy made sure to make some without anything in it this time, so it’ll be easy to eat! eh… or drink?” Slowly, I realize that that Mayuri is actually carrying a tray in her mouth, yet speaking rather easily—enough that I hadn’t noticed any distortion—upon which is a bowl (supposedly of soup), a spoon, and the candle I had noted earlier when Mayuri had entered. Mayuri… or “Derpy”?

Whichever… “Ah, Mayuri? Soup? How do you expect me to eat it? I can barely feel my hands.”

“Derpy can help!” Her eyes close from pure cheer as she steps up to me and places the tray beside me on the bed. “After all, it’s a hostage’s job to care for their, uhm, hostage-taker, right, Timer?”—“Hostage”… This is definitely Mayuri—“Oh, and Derpy doesn’t know what a ‘Mayuri’ is, she-…” Her words trail off as I watch her carefully take the spoon between her teeth and scoop up some of the soup; something is closing in on my mind.

Something important…

“Mayuri,” I interrupt—I think. Had she stopped talking before? Her expression, specifically the shape of her lips, suggests she had been in the middle of vocalizing something. “I think I need to go to the hospital.”

Still holding the soup-filled spoon, she pulls her head back in what I think is an expressing of surprise, if this creature has similar mannerisms to humans, which it has so far displayed as true. “The hospital? -but why? You’re getting so much better!” She goes back to looking cheerful. “-Especially your fever; it’s almost gone!”

“Listen to me: I’m hallucinating,” I say as clearly and seriously as I can with a dry throat. “Hallucinating-…” How can I explain what I’m seeing? “-really complex hallucinations. If anything, I must be getting worse.”

“Oh… Oh my!” Mayuri lift up a hand- hoof- forehoof-? -to her mouth in a way I’m pretty sure is impossible for non-hallucinated equines. “How worrying! Uhm… but Derpy is curious: What are you hallucinating? Is… that why you’re calling Derpy ‘Mayuri’?”

Am I actually calling her “Derpy” when it sounds like “Mayuri” to me? -and vice versa? “Yes, I’m… hallucinating that you’re calling yourself by a different name, but, more importantly, I’m seeing you as some kind of… mutant pony-like creature with weirdly crossed eyes.” Much to my confusion, this causes Mayuri—or my hallucination of her?—to begin tearing up, giant eyes holding an impossible amount of crying-fuel.

With my sickness-induced super-hearing, I catch her murmuring. “’mutant’?… ‘weirdly’?…” Then, all of a sudden, she burst out in a wail that’s like an explosion to my ears; I jump, sending the tray tumbling off the edge of the bed. At Mayuri’s cry, the spoon had been sent flying right into my chest; its tiny but scalding contents sends me into a passionate dance of “get this hot liquid off of me!”, but I remain aware of the sounds of retreating footsteps (not “hoofsteps”; that’s just an hallucination) and bawling. Mayuri crying… and I’m the cause!… Itaru or Kurisu or maybe even Yuugo is most likely going to come in here and chew me up for that… Ugh, just what I need when I’m trying to recover. Wait. Why is she upset, though? She’s not really a not-pony-mutant-thing!… Right?… No! No, of course she’s not. That’s insane… -but the spoon-? No. It didn’t go flying because she was holding it in her mouth before she started crying; she just threw it at me in her anguish. -and I deserved that… even though all of this was unintentional!

Mayuri crying! I have to do something before everyone finds out and collectively decides to kill me!

Easier thought than done: Just trying to lift myself up on my elbows sends the room spinning for too long before I finally blink everything back to stillness. Then, the scent of smoke reaches me.

Fire! I shuffle to the edge of the bed as fast as I can, but sigh in relief upon seeing the soup’s death had extinguished the candle’s life along with it. That means the only crisis I have to deal with right now is Mayuri. Perhaps I should call her “Derpy” for now, since apparently my hallucinations are switching the names around. Right. My hallucinations; I suppose that also qualifies as a crisis, since in all likelihood it means something is wrong with my brain… “-just what a mad scientist needs!” I grumble.

I reach out with intent to grip the edge of the bed in order to pull myself out, but my arm doesn’t go that far before I stop, staring at… my foreleg!? With a hoof! Just like-! No. Stay calm. It’s just part of the hallucination. A very constant, surprisingly consistent hallucination that appears to almost have its own internal logic about it… How intriguing. If only I was a neurologist, capable of actually analyzing the situation scientifically instead of being capable of nothing more than simple ponderings on the wonders of my own addled mind… Oh well. All I can hope for now is that I’m also “hallucinating” having the ability to walk on four hooves.

Now pulling self to hang partway off the bed, I let my forehooves—Hmm, “forehooves” and “four hooves”… I have the feeling that’s going to get annoying quickly, which is all the more reason to get this taken care of!—drop to the wood floor, which is surprisingly slick when combined with spilt soup and hooves. Except the hooves are hallucinations, of course, so… it’s hallucinated slipperiness. -just like I thought: internal logic!… So, I’m guessing if I slip and fall on my face in the hallucination, I slip and fall on my real face.

I don’t get that far, however, for the sound of rapid hoofsteps—galloping—I wiggle myself back to laying completely on the bed just before a different mutant-not-pony with decidedly unusual pink fur, a light purple-ish mane, and similarly colored eyes—currently narrowed in anger, it deserves to be mentioned—stomps in with a now-silently weeping “Derpy” slumping in after. “Time, what did you do?!” She cries in a voice that all the same is very masculine. -almost… like Itaru? Why would I be perceiving him as a mare?!… Wait—something else: Are they really calling me “Timer” and “Time”? –or I’m hallucinating those names, too? Hey, Subconscious, or wherever this hallucination is originating! I’m not that egotistical! Ugh, I’ll deal with you—myself—later.

“I’m sorry!” I cry out, irritating my throat to coughing, which of course only makes the pain worse. “You know me, Itaru! I would never do such a thing in my right mind! It’s-”

“Since when have you ever been in your right mind?” The Itaru-mare growls.

I just give him-her a good long, narrow glare before continuing. “As I was about to explain, it’s the fever, or perhaps something worse that’s messing with my mind. I’m having the most elaborate hallucination where everyone appears to be some kind of ‘equine’ from an alien planet.”

There, that should do it, judging by how he-she loses all traces of anger… for a moment; it returns but is quickly covered up by him-her smacking himself-herself on the forehead with a forehoof. “Ungh… You’ve really lost it this time, haven’t you, Time?” I nod rapidly, encouraging, but when he-she looks back up at me, he-she explodes. “What are you trying to pull! We’re ponies! Hello! We’re all ponies here, and we always have been! Unless you’re saying you’ve forgotten what you were born as,-”—Nope, he-she definitely doesn’t believe me… What if my hallucinating is not only altering Mayuri’s name, but my story, too! Which means… I need to say the opposite of what I’m referring to: “Human” means “equine”- or “pony”, apparently, and “pony” means “human”—“-try pulling my tail again!”

“What I mean is that… uhm, I see us all as… human? -and, of course, I know that we’re really… ponies, but-… Drat.” Even before then, I know it’s a lost cause; even if I hadn’t messed up my story before (completely not my fault—thank you, hallucination, for messing with my very perception of the meaning of words…), my hesitation now levels the wreckage that once was my credibility. Mare-Itaru begins stomping towards me again, but he-she hadn’t noticed the spilt soup, and a splash is all the warning he-she gets before one of her forehooves slips from under her by the force of her stomping, launching her into the bedframe muzzle-first. Mayuri and I cringe at the crack of teeth against wood. “Itaru!” I pull myself back towards the edge of the bed. “Are you all right?!”

At first all that comes is groaning, but, to my relief, words soon form from the incoherency. “Honghshssguuzg… Ooo… g’eat, I zhust hast t’at toos ’eg’own rast meek… Minty V’esh is gon’na kir me…” Stumbling, eyes spinning from dizziness, Itaru manages a wavy stance only by spreading out his-her hooves. Only for a few seconds, though, for then his-her eyes lock on to me with renewed fury. “not fefore I kir you, t’ough!” He-she leaps for me again, and soup-soaked fur gets me wet as Itaru wrestles with me; sick, I’m hardly capable of preventing him-her from soon enough holding me down with a choking forehoof on my throat, the other pulled back for a punch aimed at my face.

“St-Stop!” Mayuri finally finds her voice, coming to my rescue. “Please, don’t fight. Derpy doesn’t like fighting… She just wanted Bear to talk to Timer for her… He was just calling Derpy mean names, not fighting…” All at once, the rage rushes out of “Bear” (how strangely appropriate a name) so swiftly that I practically feel it in the long sigh he-she lets out that brushes through my fur. Really, Brain, you’re outdoing yourself with the detail in this hallucination!

“So’vy, Ditzy… and Time… I zhust got ang’vy at meing fulled away f’on my wo’k and t’en rosing my toost, not you.” He-she lowers his-her raised hoof next to my head, gently pulls back the choking hoof, then hops off the bed; the way her—definitely her—tail flips when she jumps leaves nothing to my now-blushing imagination. Why must I also be seeing them as naked! Granted, “ponies” don’t wear clothing, but they don’t talk, either! As a distraction, I turn to Derpy/Ditzy, who now could hardly look happier with her carefree smile from before that squints her eyes.

“Uh, apology accepted…” I was mistaken: she can look happier! “-and… Derpy, I’m sorry. I really, honestly didn’t know what I was saying.” Truly, in the most complete way, given that what words I’m speaking are being distorted in my mind to fit the hallucination!

“Apology accepted!” She returns, nodding with a bounce.

“Hmph, why couldn’ you acce’t my afology ’vike t’at?” Bear complains without real steam behind the words; she’s actually smiling behind the blood dribbling from between her lips.

“Ha!” I shake my head. “Zero-Zero-Three, I’m neither as cheerful as Derpy, nor, at the moment, do I have the energy to even try to act as if I am.” I have to turn serious though, staring straight at Bear. “Honestly, though, I need to be taken to the hospital. I am hallucinating; it’s just… hard to describe.”

Bear straightens her smile and nods. “Ar’ight. I sufose emen a c’azy colt would ’vecognize if t’ey veh getting mo’e c’azy.”

I blink a couple times. “Uh, Derpy, can you handle that? I think everyone would have an easier time understanding you, if you don’t mind.”

Straightening her posture and saluting, Derpy even loses her smile to her seriousness. “Don’t worry, Captain Time Turner! Derpy will return with a doctor quicker than-!… uhm… -quicker than… -than… quicksand!” She releases the salute and an instant later has zoomed out of the room; in the next instant, Bear and I release our chuckles.

“Oh… Mayuri…”

Bear stops laughing. “What’s… ‘Mayuri’?” She says the name as if it’s from a foreign language she’s just started studying.

“Oh, that’s part of the hallucination… I think. I hope.” Bear raises a brow. “I know: weird. ‘Derpy’ becomes ‘Mayuri’, ‘Mayuri’ becomes ‘Derpy’… I’m not even going to attempt to explain; it’s just one of the many, many ways my brain is messing up right now.”

“Woah. Se’fiousry?” I nod. “Emen I nemer meen zhunk enough do conpuse somefony’s name ’vike t’at!” Okay… I think I’m starting to get a hang of understanding her “broken-tooth dialect”… She dabs at the little stream of blood, then wipes it on her foreleg; inexplicably, I find my eyes drawn to the movement, and see the unusual detail in how the blood mingles with the soup in Bear’s drenched fur. Wait… That doesn’t make any sense: Itaru’s never been much of a drinker… or has any lab member or, really, anyone I know. That, and Itaru has never lost a tooth before… On that note, what does she- or rather my hallucinating mind mean by “regrown tooth”?! Strange… but even more strange: Was that suppose to be “somepony” she said just now? Creative, Brain, very creative. That was sarcasm, by the way.

“Timer! Timer!” Derpy calls before reappearing in the doorway.

“De’py!” Bear cries in alarm for me—good thing: I’m starting to feel my sickness catching up to me. “You were sufosed do get a docta’!” Ha! -and Itaru always complains about me calling him a “hacka” instead of hacker!

“Oh, Derpy will do that, but she just remembered something Timer told Derpy to do if he ever insulted her, even accidentally! So-! Uhm, just wait a minute for Derpy to get it.” With that, she zooms away again. What could she be referring to? I never gave her such an order…

“Ditzy Doo! We don’t have time for-!” Bear runs for the doorway, looking down the hall in the direction Derpy had gone, then looking up, at the ceiling. “What in the attic could be so important?!” Attic? We don’t have an attic… well, technically, yes, but Mr. Braun doesn’t let us use any of the space up there—stingy CRT store owner!

All the same, A sound of scraping as something is moved, inched along across what can only be the attic above me, comes, and soon enough Bear, entering the hall properly, lets out a cry of alarm just before a great bang of something heavy falling into the hallway sends my vision spinning for a moment from the pain. “What d’a buck is t’is?! Why does Time need it?!”

“Derpy doesn’t-HNG-know. All-HNG-she knows is that-HNG-Timer said he would know what-HNG-it means!” Derpy’s grunts of effort accompany more sounds of scraping in the hall now growing closer. As she nears, Bear steps back into the room to presumably get out of Derpy’s and the whatever-thing’s way. Slowly she pulls into my view, appearing to be dragging the thing by her teeth and- flapping wings!? How did I miss those?… Doesn’t matter… Ever so slowly, she pulls the thing within view through the doorway, wisely opting to not try to pull the very heavy whatever-it-is into the room itself. A… giant… hourglass? I find myself asking myself when about a third of the object is in view. No… That’s not all: something is on top of it, but at a bad angle…

“There!” Derpy cheers “Oh, oopsie, wait!” She flies up and turns the thing on top of the hourglass so I can see it properly.

I freeze. I can’t even breathe.


The Divergence Meter: Self-inventing time travel assisting device that only occurs in World Lines where time travel has been invented. Which means… sometime in the future, I’ll invent a time machine and visit Derpy in her past. That’s when I’ll give her this Divergence Meter along with the instructions she thinks I already gave her, but in reality happen in my future…

Now for the real question: WHY will I invent time travel?! The only frames of reference I have are two Attractor Fields: one of World War Three and the other of a future dystopia controlled by SERN using time machines… One in which Mayuri dies, and the other… Mayuri lives, but Kurisu dies.

Please… Please don’t tell me this is the same thing all over again!

“Derpy, Bear, forget the doctor; get the other lab members. We’re having an emergency lab meeting.” I say without moving my eyes off the Divergence Meter, even though I know the number can’t change without being affected by some kind of time travel. Of course. Reading Steiner! That’s why I’m sick in the first place, after all! That number: 94! A far cry from the “0” and “1” Attractor Fields I’ve been in… Something unimaginably wrong with a time machine experiment must have happened in order to so drastically move the Divergence Number… and a drastic move in the Divergence Number must mean an equally drastic change in the world, which means…

“-Time?! Time Tu’ner?!” Bear, PKA Itaru (also previously known as a male, not a mare!… -or perhaps the “good old pervert” was MTF all along?!… Ha! I don’t think so.) is yelling, looking quite alarmed, presumably at my unresponsiveness; Derpy has also joined me at my bed side… wet, assumedly from slipping into the soup in turn. “You’re hallucinating! You-!”

“No! No, I’m not! I’m- I’m actually-… I really am a pony!” Also, I guess that’s my name now: Time Tuner- Turner. Time Turner. How could I have made the same mistake all over again?! I witnessed a pager message sent to the past, before Ruka was born, change him from male to female! Considering that, changing the species of, presumably, everyone on the planet isn’t actually that much a stretch!… “Before Ruka was born”, Hm? Well, that pretty much cements that this was caused by something terrible happening with some ignorant fool’s time machine…

“What? Oh, no!” Bear smacks a forehoof to her forehead. “You are not getting out ov d’is t’at easy! What you need is the emergency room, not an emergency lab meeting.” Interesting. So even in this Attractor Field where I’m a horse, I still have—or had—Future Gadget Laboratories. Good to know, definitely. Some part of me even wants to see what sort of deranged creatures the others have become! Given Itaru being a mare (apparently with a drinking problem), and Mayuri being a cross-eyed winged equine, anything could happen!

“That? Ha!” I wish to envelop myself in a hearty evil laugh, but just that one “ha” assures me that my throat isn’t up to the task. “I’m over that already! It must have been my fever—yes!—the very same which just caused me to think Derpy was a stranger! However, you can now see I’m over that. My sickness leaves me as nothing more than a completely sane mad scientist!”

“Well, that’s too bad.” At least Itaru still has his wit! I would have honestly missed that. -and she seems to be readjusting to her lost tooth, now. “Huh, ac’shually… now that you say that, that reminds me: For shome reason, Ditzy was certain that you would ‘change’ in some way after you recovered from this sickness…” Bear tilts her head for a moment, then rights it with a shrug.

“Oooh! Yes, Derpy remembers now what Bear’s talking about! That was the other thing you told me, Timer! You said, ‘Something will change so that I won’t remember me telling you this’!” As if there was any doubt left! I should probably remember this so that I can relay the same two pieces of information so that in the future I’ll be able to tell Derpy this and not accidentally reset to a new World Line!

“Hmm…” I narrow my eyes at the surprised Bear. Is she starting to be convinced now?

“Oh, I think I understand, now.” She puts up a forehoof to her face, exasperated. “This is another part of that ‘game’ you two play, isn’t it? Oh, fine. I suppose if you’re well enough to have remembered the ‘rules’ you set who-knows-how-long-ago, you’re not really hallucinating. That was all just part of the-. Whatever!” Bear rears up and throws her hooves in exasperation before turning away to the door. “I’m going to take a shower… and, Derpy?” Bear looks back at us. “You should join me, unless you want to smell like soup all day…”

“No, thank you!” Derpy answers in a way too cheerful tone. “Derpy will be right behind-. Wa-aaait! What about Timer’s Emergency Lab Meeting! A shower can wait! We have to gather everypony up!”

Bear shakes her head and looks about ready to dispute my right as Lab Member Zero-Zero-One to call emergency meetings—I cut over him. “-and while you’re out could you pick up a Dk. Pepper* for me?”

“You want… Doctor… who?” Derpy rubs the side of her muzzle, confused.

“You just got through arguing that you didn’t want to see a doctor, and now-?… GAH!” Bear rears up before slamming her forehooves down in a rather intimidating display—not that Itaru had never needed such; any treat of getting trapped under his weight would’ve been fear-inducing enough!

“WAIT! You misunderstand! I’m-…” it slowly begins to dawn on me. “…-asking for a soda. A drink.” I implore, hoping against all evidence.

“A… ‘soh duh’?” Bear says the word in that same slow, unfamiliar way as she had said “Mayuri”. Don’t tell me… “I’ve never heard of any kind of d’rink called a ‘soda’ or ‘doctor pepper’…”

Can’t be… “NNNOOOOO!!-hak! Gah! Ow.” I scream to the heavens before being reduced to coughing. What kind of EVIL World Line is this!?

Author's Notes:

*“Dk. Pepper” is the Don’t Wan’na Get Sued version (used in the Anime) of the best soda in the world.

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