Dark World Doctor Whooves:
"The Turn of the World"
Written by OracleMask
Two brown ponies with matching hourglass cutie marks stood facing each other in an empty void. The pair might have been mistaken for identical twins, if not for several crucial differences. One pony had a unicorn horn sticking out of his forehead. The other pony had neither horn nor wings. Both ponies had muted colors, though there was a hint of lightness to the earth pony's coat that the unicorn seemed to lack. But the most striking difference between the two of them was in how they carried themselves, and their expressions.
The unicorn sneered at his counterpart. His body language was relaxed, his poise perfect. He was the epitome of confidence. His eyes were practically shining with malicious anticipation of what was to come.
The earth pony looked like he'd been roused from much-needed sleep far too early. He kept turning his head to look at their nonexistent surroundings, his every motion sudden – as if he expected to be attacked at any second.
“...Wh – Where are...we?”
Hearing the nervous tremor to the earth pony's voice made the unicorn's sneer deepen. He took a step closer to his almost-exact double, seemingly uncaring of how the earth pony physically recoiled from him. If anything, the gleam in the unicorn's eyes only brightened at the sight.
“Now, now. Can't you tell? I'd think it should be obvious...my dear Doctor.”
Feeling the unicorn tap him lightly on the shoulder – a mockery of a teacher chiding a pupil that had made an obvious mistake - the Doctor shuddered and stepped back out of hoof-reach. Even the slightest touch from the unicorn made his insides squirm. A nauseating sense of Wrong. Seeing the Doctor's discomfort made the unicorn laugh.
“Then again, you are an idiot. You see this colossal, empty, and utter waste of space? It's the inside of your head! I must admit that there were a few odds and ends left over when I moved in, so naturally I tided it up. I find it's been much improved. Don't you agree?”
Sudden horrifying recognition blazed in the Doctor's eyes.
“What? Wait, that means you're – you're -”
“Bloody HELL, you're thick!” the Valeyard cut in, practically howling with laughter, “Not recognizing your better and best self on sight!”
Shaking his head, the Doctor took a stumbling step back, trying to get further away from the thing parading itself as another incarnation of him. But the Valeyard just took another step forward in response, happily invading the ground the Doctor was giving up.
...Was the Valeyard taller than he'd been a minute ago?
“For Rassilon's sake, don't tell me you don't remember what happened?”
The Doctor shook his head, slowly. And then, there came a flickering sense of something.
He could almost see...
Blood. Screaming. Checkerboard. Pain. Always pain. Claws, stained red. The stabbing agony of twice-shattered legs. Can't run. Have to run. Can't run. Screaming. The sick wet feeling of hands rummaging inside the torn-open hole in his belly –
“Gotcha! Now then...unlimited lives, here we come! Up up, down down –”
Tearing and pulling and tugging and twisting on things that should never ever feel any kind of physical touch. Screaming.
“ - and START!”
Burning, clawing, screaming, burning, stabbing, burning, twisting, screaming, burning, burning, BURNING -
The Doctor forced the vision away, the screams catching and dying in his throat as the memory sputtered to nothing. No, no more, no more memories, he didn't want to remember this, he didn't want to remember anything –
“Oh, poor little Doctor. That life didn't end so well for you, now did it? Maybe the next one was less disappointing,” the Valeyard said.
Before the Doctor could question anything about that statement, a new memory began flashing before his eyes. And he could feel everything, he could see everything, he could smell and taste and hear everything.
Dizzy. Sick. Head so muddled. Like trying to think through pea soup. Only things that were completely clear were the stabbing pains in his legs where they'd been re-broken. And wings, there were two broken wings on his back. The wings were new, weren't they? He couldn't remember, it was just so hard to think...
“Hey, you match your little marefriend now! All we need is to get you a muffin-foal and you can start walking laps too!” Discord noted playfully.
A friend...with wings?
...Heh...h-heh heh heh...that WAS funny! She was walking, walking, walking outside. They DID match now. It was FUNNY! Cackling madly, the Doctor wiggled his broken legs and wings. Ooh, that pain was delicious. Coming out of the fog, it was the only thing crystal clear. So the only thing that made sense in the universe was pain, right? Everything else...wasn't important. Everything else was ridiculous. Everything else was FUNNY!
“Great! Glad to see you're finally getting the joke, Doc,” Discord grinned, “Y'know, I could use somebody that sees things my way around here...”
The Doctor jolted out of the memory. Or was it a memory? That wasn't what happened, he'd been...the personality that had taken over in the end was standing in front of him now, not that madpony of a masochist. No, it must have been a trick. It had to be!
“Wh-What was that supposed to be?! That never happened!”
“Oh, it didn't?” the Valeyard asked in a faux-innocent tone, “Are you sure? You were killed so many times, it might've slipped your feeble little mind.”
“I – I know I remember what happened next! You took over, you maniac, and -”
The Doctor paused. He...did remember what happened next. Even with more than a few of those memories digging into his mind like giant bloody shards, the Doctor remembered. He could even feel the imprint of Derpy's hooves in his ribcage, though that damage really should have been erased by the regeneration she'd triggered...
“...I remember. You lost,” the Doctor breathed, staring at the Valeyard, “You...lost! Ha ha ha, I remember it now, she beat you! That brilliant, beautiful mare you only saw as retarded – she took you apart!”
Finally, the Valeyard's expression showed completely different from his previous smug confidence. Snarling in fury, the Valeyard's teeth were bared and his eyes were dark with unconcealed wrath and malice.
“That stupid, pathetic reject of a mare! Yes, thank you for that reminder. I intend to pay her back a thousandfold for the humiliation once this little business of ours is concluded, rest assured of that Doctor.”
That...ended the Doctor's sudden cheerful mood on the spot. And it clicked with him then – there was something else grievously wrong with what was going on here.
“You...wait, you – you died. You died! That means you're gone. Wiped off the mental map, so that a new persona can generate to replace yours,” the Doctor said, “So then why are you here? And come to think of it...why am I here?”
“Finally, he notices the obvious!” howled the Valeyard, “Of course I died! And guess what you've been trying to do?! You complete, utter IMBECILE! You've been trying to abort the regeneration!”
If he'd been in a physical body, the Doctor would have felt his hearts stop dead. He...he was...no, that couldn't be it! ...Could it?
“You and your stupid, useless morality – only a few centuries of living as me, and you're already trying to end it all! And even with all those extra lives – you're going to throw them all away, just like that? I won't have it! Fortunate for me that that fool Discord removed the part that lets us choose to die...it gives me such a lovely opportunity.”
Okay, now the Valeyard was definitely getting taller. His evil incarnation loomed over him as the Doctor scrambled to back away from the unicorn. Were...were the Valeyard's colors starting to darken too? Or was it just a trick of the light?
...Please, the Doctor thought, please let it be a trick of the light.
“Wh-what are you doing?!”
“You want to die, don't you? And I want to live – no, I deserve to live! I have so much more to do! So many more things to accomplish, so much order and structure to bring to the deluded fools that dared consider themselves equal to or greater than me! But you just want to run away and die, you coward. No matter, I'll be generous now and grant you that wish! A simple matter for me – I'll kill you off permanently and take my body back!”
The Valeyard was practically frothing at the mouth.
“I'll make a new template! No, I'll make countless templates! So that I will never again be usurped! Then I'll have all the time I need to utterly annihilate those pathetic horses that dared to stand against their Lord and Master! Oh, and don't worry...”
Quite suddenly, the Valeyard's composure returned. Though there was definitely something not-sane about the vicious grin on his face.
“I'll plan something extra-special for little Ditzy! She'll finally understand just who she's dealing with once and for all! And maybe in the end, I'll grant her the mercy of joining you in oblivion...if I ever grow bored of playing with her.”
And in an instant the fear the Doctor had felt gnawing away at his innards this entire time subsided. In its place, the Doctor could feel the heat of an answering wrath of his own, rushing up like a tidal wave to meet the Valeyard's.
In a moment of blind rage, the Doctor charged at the Valeyard! The unicorn clearly hadn't been expecting this, and reared up in surprise as he tried to avoid the incoming earth pony. But the Doctor pressed on and slammed bodily into the Valeyard's now-exposed belly, knocking the other Time Lord hooves-over-head backwards!
At the same time, the Doctor cried out, nearly collapsing as an invisible fire suddenly blossomed across his skin. All along the shoulder where he had made contact with the Valeyard, a black stain that looked and felt more like a burn erupted. It burned like ice and fire, like death and life, it BURNED –
He danced in a bloody pool, splashing the red liquid everywhere.
“Oh pish-posh, why the long face? HA HA! Get it?! A long face!”
The Valeyard's laughter echoed through the large room in the castle he'd appropriated for himself and his 'guest'. Lying prone in the pool of blood, which was made up of more blood than one pony had in their entire body, the torn body of a formerly blond-maned and blue-coated pony lay. The Master had stopped talking a few forced regenerations ago...not that it had been that interesting. A lot of 'when I get out of this' and 'how dare you' and even one 'you monster', the last of which hadn't been very fair in the Valeyard's opinion. Even the Master agreed that the Valeyard's lily-livered 'Doctor' self was ridiculously sentimental and soft. Now that the Valeyard was acting so much less ridiculous, suddenly he was a monster? How rude!
“C'mon, Master! Where's that sense of humor?” the Valeyard teased, poking his old nemesis in the oozing mass that was once an eye socket, “I guess you must not be a funny version. Time to see if the next one is!”
Taking up a cleaver that he'd 'borrowed' from Discord's favorite minion Fluttercruel, the Valeyard nonchalantly slammed it home in the Master's chest. There was a wet gasp from the mutilated Time Lord on the floor as a rib snapped and torn through his final remaining lung. And as the Valeyard watched eagerly, the familiar glow of regeneration appeared...
...But it started fading before it really got going. What the hell? The Master's wet chuckle clued the Valeyard in – that unbelievable BASTARD! Aborting his regeneration like that – the coward was cutting and running! He really thought he was better off dead than staying here and spending time with his oldest and best foe? The Master really ought to know better than to think he could escape.
“Oh yes, why don't we have a nice little last chat while you have your easily avoidable demise in front of me, I don't think!”
With lightning speed, the Valeyard yanked the cleaver out of the Master's ruined chest and slashed open his own throat. Gurgling a little as the blood poured out of his neck, the Valeyard mentally urged his regeneration to speed up. In seconds, the Valeyard's body was a blaze of light. And the second the cut to his jugular was healed up, the Valeyard jabbed his hooves into the Master's bloody flesh and blasted the rest of the regeneration energy down.
The Master's look of horror was priceless.
As for the Valeyard, he was feeling even more brilliant than usual. Bloody hell, if he'd known how quick and easy this process would be he'd have hunted down the Master ages ago! No need to depend on having a template handy, and it kept the Valeyard's newest diversion around whether he wanted to stay here or not! A win-win for everyone!
“You're not leaving me that soon, Koschei,” the Valeyard purred into the Master's newly restored ear, “Oh no...no, we're just getting started here, you and me.”
He looked at the cleaver, looked at the Master, and then carelessly tossed the slicer over his shoulder with a shrug. This time, the Valeyard wanted to be a bit more hooves-on.
“Sound off! And a ONE! TWO! THREE! FOUR!”
Every roared-out number was punctuated with the sickening crack of hooves slamming into bone...and after a few dozen hits that cracking noise was mixed up with the squelch of flesh and blood giving way.
Equine bodies physically could not vomit. This little fact failed to keep the Doctor from leaving the current contents of his stomach all over his hooves.
“Hohyes, now those were good times,” the Valeyard said, back on his hooves and suddenly all smiles once again, “Such a pity he managed to kill himself in the end. We had so much FUN with the Master that time!”
“You...there aren't even words for what you are!”
“Of course there's words for what I am,” the Valeyard countered, “What I am is you. Filtered and purified down to the most brilliant essence, naturally, but still you. You, on the other hand, are a piece of cast-off rubbish I've been meaning to put outside for centuries. Let's just take care of that right now, shall we?”
The Valeyard took a step forward again. His earlier anger completely lost after experiencing that hideous memory, the Doctor needed no further prompting before he turned tail and fled.
“Default strategy for you,” the Valeyard laughed, “Well then Doctor, let's watch you run!”
His horn glowed briefly, before the Valeyard vanished in a flash of light. As the Doctor ran like a madpony across the empty, featureless landscape (was this vast emptiness really all in his mind?), he had to make a violent right turn as the Valeyard reappeared with another flash of light – directly in his path. Somehow the Doctor's scrambling hooves kept their footing.
“Since when can you teleport!?” the Doctor shouted over his shoulder.
“Since always! All this talking, forgot to tell you: I'm a genius!” the Valeyard yelled after him.
With another flash, the Valeyard blinked directly into the Doctor's path again. The earth pony dodged left this time. It was a much easier dodge now that the Doctor wasn't getting caught by surprise by the teleports. A frown was growing on the Valeyard's face as he tried blinking into the Doctor's path one more time. Instead of dodging left or right, the Doctor used his now-considerable forward momentum to duck and roll under the unicorn, pop up on his hooves once he was clear of the startled Valeyard, and keep right on running!
...Slowing down and eventually stopping when he finally noticed that the Valeyard had stopped blinking after him, the Doctor eyed his sinister counterpart warily from a safe distance. Despite not being physical, the Doctor's lungs were heaving for air. But it would take a good long while for him to get too exhausted, thanks to his impressive physical stamina and centuries of practice. The Valeyard's mana supply, on the other hoof, was small and finite – he was no Twilight Sparkle.
“You might as well give up,” the Doctor called over, “I could keep this up all day! You won't win, Scrapyard.”
“Oh good, we're back to using the name puns,” the Valeyard deadpanned, “Doctor, you could at least spend your last moments being the slightest bit original.”
“Maybe if these were my last moments, I'd indulge you. But you can't even catch me! How d'you expect to get your grubby little hooves on my remaining lives if you can't even keep up with me?”
“Who is it that can't keep up with you?” asked a voice from behind the Doctor.
The Doctor startled, whirling around and bumping into someone behind him. It was a dark brown earth pony with an hourglass cutie mark. This version had a closely-cropped beard to go with a shorter, flattened mane. The Doctor had just enough time for a near-hysterical thought about how much this other Valeyard resembled an old body of the Master's before something rudely shoved itself into his head.
Frustration! All his plans, ruined by a stupid unicorn. Discord's power given a life of its own and turned on its wielder, and the idiot expected him to fix her mistake?! Of course he couldn't.
Stupid unicorn maybe not so stupid after all. Psyche ripped open and gutted before he was left for dead. Template a liability now, the damage not a physical part of the brain. Regeneration was useless, it changed nothing. No will to move without outside direction.
Death by drowning.
Death by angry mob.
Death by lightning strike.
Death by hungry cannibals...three times.
Death by being torn apart. FINALLY, the template was lost.
The world was gone to pieces. Help yourself and others, if you can. Live under the radar until a chance to bring sanity to the chaos arrived. Find a light to fling into tomorrow.
Death by hellfire and then oblivion –
He scrambled backwards, desperate to put some distance between him and this...this other Valeyard. The bearded pony only looked amused by his efforts. Meanwhile, the unicorn Valeyard was laughing his head off.
“Don't you see? The most brilliant thing about being me,” the Valeyard declared, “Is that there's so MANY of me! Check it out, it's so cool!”
And to the Doctor's horror, nine more Valeyards popped out of thin air. There were earth pony Valeyards, unicorn Valeyards, pegasi Valeyards...there was even a pair of virgacorns and a hippogriff in the mix. The Doctor suddenly felt very small in front of the crowd of smirking, smug faces.
Then he did a double-take. One of the pegasi had broken wings and wrongly-healed legs? It was just like...earlier, with that image the Valeyard showed him, but then...that meant...what did that mean, it meant something important...
“...Did you pull them all from alternate timelines?” the Doctor asked warily.
The original Valeyard (easily identified as he was a head taller than the others) snorted.
“Not quite. They're all versions of me from previous runs of this madhouse that that fool Discord calls home. Some of them are almost brilliant enough for me to call them my other selves with pride, but a few...well, they're just you after going off the deep end. Barely useful at all.”
Most of the other Valeyards turned a frown on the unicorn, though three of them (including the masochist pegasus) seemed unable to tell that they'd been insulted. Partially because he wanted to know what was going on – and partially because if the Valeyard was busy talking, he wasn't busy trying to kill him – the Doctor countered that with, “Dunno, that sounds a lot like 'they're from other timelines' to me...”
“Try 'overlapped iterations of our primary temporal hypertrack', idiot.”
“Overlapped iterations of...” the Doctor's jaw dropped, “No. No, that can't be it.”
“But that IS it,” the Valeyard retorted, “Poor old Discord seems to be the anchor for it, but lucky for me I've been able to back up my minds up in the TARDIS a few times. I just need a few more loops to finish polishing the final details on my master plan...and then I'll have the perfect carrot to coax that mad menagerie into doing my bidding!”
The other Valeyards stomped their hooves and cheered. His stomach twisted in on itself as the Doctor let the reality of this sink in. So what he'd seen after bumping into the bearded Valeyard, that was a memory of a previous loop? And the vision of himself as a pegasus going mad from pain...that had really happened. The 'visions' he'd experienced were just storied memories in the process of integrating into his consciousness. If he absorbed too many, the Doctor could lose his grip on the parts that made him a separate self in the first place...exactly what the Valeyard was counting on.
Ri – Right, so all he needed to do was keep running...FOREVER...or until all the Valeyards got tired of chasing him and gave up. Except that some of them had wings, and some of them could teleport, and he was outnumbered...a hell of a lot. Eleven versus one. So the much more likely result would be them chasing him into the ground and his own untimely erasure from existence...
“Oh, don't be so down, Doctor...”
The original Valeyard stepped forward, the others stepping aside to make way. Somehow, the Doctor found himself crouching down as the unicorn moved closer, willing himself to run while he still had the chance...but his legs had locked up and refused to move.
“Your existence in this dimension was always a mistake. Then again, your existence in general was always a mistake from the start,” the Valeyard said, his tone a mockery of warmth and comfort.
“Don't you see? Even from the beginning, you were always meant to become me. Why else would you be left behind, forced into a single tiny life? The one you loved only there with you so she could watch you, just to make sure you couldn't hurt anyone else.”
“I – I never,” the Doctor stammered , “I never did...I wasn't...!”
“Never blew up any civilizations?”
“DALEKS DON'T COUNT!”
“That's not what he thought,” the Valeyard purred, “And you saved that prison dimension anyway, how noble! A nice little sacrifice to prove yourself to them...just like what he would have done. Or maybe you were counting on getting out of there once and for all after you finally grew tired of pretending to be him? You know, it was awfully convenient that you landed safe and sound in this pony universe instead of actually dying like you assumed you would.
“Oh!” the Valeyard raised a hoof, cutting off the Doctor before he could even begin to think up a retort, “But even then you kept up the act! What a shame, seeing how well trying to be him amongst the ponies worked out for you. Teatimes and biscuits, how nice...and all the while, you were seething under the reins that that miserable horse forced on you. Play nice, or be thrown out. Let the ponies go around the universe obliviously, or else. Obey, obey, always obey! Such a humiliation...just like our old exile days with UNIT! Remember? Remember how it burned to be treated that way again. Forced to dance to her tune. As if she knew how to safeguard time and space better than we did!”
The Doctor's mouth was open, but no sound came out. He couldn't deny any of it...sickening as it was to hear it from the unicorn's mouth...the Valeyard was right. He remembered that frustration, even after all this time. But – but there had been good times! Loads of them! Those all outweighed that annoyance and the threat of banishment followed by imprisonment in the place he was banished to...didn't they?
“That fool Discord...he only unleashed the true self that was hiding under your pathetic facade the entire time. You? You're nothing but the leftover eggshell from my hatching. And anything you can do, I can do better. Did you want to save the ponies from Discord? HA! I have a thousand ways to do that that need nothing but our sonic screwdriver! Ooh, I know, maybe your bleeding heart wants to save Discord too? 'No one is insignificant' and all that? Idiot, I can have it all done before breakfast! The power and talents I wield are the best of what you are! But you deny them, clinging to that hopeless fantasy of being the one who threw you away!”
No, no, that wasn't...that wasn't...was it true? Could it be true? He had...in the beginning, he had resented it so much. But hadn't he found a place for himself? Or...or had he just resigned himself to what seemed inevitable, and taken the first exit out? Was he nothing but a failed copy after all...?
An uncertain grayness crept around him, sending him sinking down to the ground as the Valeyard's words played through his mind over and over again. What should he do now? What was he supposed to do now?! Someone, anyone...please, he needed something, anything he could hold on to!
“Brave heart, Doctor.”
The Valeyard recoiled.
Slowly, the Doctor turned his head to look at the hoof that now rested on his shoulder. It felt like warm mornings on the Eye of Orion. Then he looked further, toward the hoof's owner. It was a brown earth pony with an hourglass cutie mark. More importantly, he was wearing a white and red cricketer's jacket with a celery stalk pinned to the lapel.
“...How?” the Doctor's voice was a whisper.
“Can't get rid of us that easily,” another voice chimed in.
Turning his head to his other side, the Doctor's eyes widened. There stood another brown earth pony...but this one wore a long brown coat and wore red trainers over his rear hooves.
This was, by all definitions, impossible. But the sight of two more Doctors was doing a number on the Valeyard, sending him staggering backs into his crowd of Valeyards. Flanked by the selves he knew the best and respected the most, the Doctor was able to climb back to his hooves (when had he fallen down?), though there was still a tinge of gray to the world around them.
“You idiot! Are you really going to cling to being a pitiful copy?!” the unicorn Valeyard growled.
“Well! You're one to talk, aren't you?” a short brown pony with a bowl cut mane pointed out.
Another brown pony, this one wearing a mishmash of colors masquerading as a jacket, nodded firmly in agreement. Looking around, the Doctor could see a brown pony wearing a leather jacket and a brown pony with a snow-white mane moving to flank the crowd of Valeyards. He felt rather small, surrounded by all these...these other hims. No, not small...he was...safe? Safe and sound, and...right where he belonged...
“No! I will not be thwarted by you tiny, insignificant fools!” the Valeyard cried, “Fall to the might of a superior mind!”
The crowd of Valeyards charged at the gathering of Doctors. The pegasi Valeyards took to the air, but were promptly knocked back down as brown ponies wearing lace and crushed velvet appeared on top of them. On the ground, the leather jacket and the eyesore Doctor both charged into the fray, the gray-haired Doctor close behind. Wasting no time, leather jacket (Doctor number nine) slammed bodily into the hippogriff Valeyard, and both promptly vanished in a puff of gold.
It happened again – crushed velvet (number three) pulling off a tricky Venusian Aikido move that hit both virgacorns at once, all three vanishing at once. And his eighth and first selves took out the smaller unicorns (the original Valeyard was staying well out of harm's way, an increasingly enraged expression dominating his face), while number six took obvious pleasure in double-bucking one of the earth pony Valeyards in the face. Now down to three and facing four Doctors, the remaining Valeyards looked rather less interested in fighting.
“Figured it out yet? You will, clever lad,” a small brown pony with a umbrella said, winking at the Doctor and tapping his nose with his hoof.
Before the Doctor could ask his seventh self what that meant, the brolly-wielding pony had teamed up with his second self to take on the remaining earth pony Valeyard, all three vanishing in another puff. The pegasi took to the air again, the masochist looking a tad distant and dreamy with every beat of his broken wings, and the Doctor felt his fifth and tenth selves tense up.
“Seems like this is it for us. You'll have to manage the rest,” Five said.
“What?! No, I can't!” the Doctor protested, “Not alone!”
“Who said you were alone?” Ten retorted.
Instead of answering him, the Doctor's other selves leaned in, pressing up against him to brace him one more time. For a moment the Doctor could feel something warm deep in his chest...like it was tucked away in-between his hearts.
To days yet to come.
All my love to long ago.
Ten and Five charged.
The Doctor closed his eyes at the last moment, not wanting to see them vanish. He only dared look again when he heard the Valeyard's laughter. Aside from the large unicorn facing him, the Doctor was...once again...alone.
“As much fun as that little interlude was,” the Valeyard sneered, “It's time we got back to business. No more playing around. No more copies interfering. Just you and me...and my inevitable triumph!”
You're one to talk, aren't you?
The Doctor looked around sharply, but there was no sign of his second self. It was only a memory of the words he'd spoken...but there was something else, something important.
Figured it out yet?
What had Seven been trying to tell him?
Who said you were alone?
Was that true? But he couldn't see anyone besides the Valeyard! Not even the Valeyard's...copies...
“That's it,” the Doctor breathed, “Oh, that's...that's clever. Almost got me, didn't you Junkyard?”
The Valeyard paused in mid-step.
“What are you babbling about now?”
“You backed your mind up in the TARDIS, you said! That means you put copies of yourself into external storage! That's what those other versions of you were!”
“Only you would find something that obvious to be a new discovery,” the Valeyard sighed.
“Oh, I'm just getting started. See, those other copies of me? The TARDIS makes automatic backups of the pilot. They're put into the same system you've been using. A system that can't be accessed through the telepathic controls – you have to use the mechanical interface. So how did they all get in here?”
The Valeyard blinked.
“I'll tell you how!” the Doctor shouted, “Because the Valeyard – the real Valeyard – strapped himself into the interface just as the regeneration really got going!”
“I am the real Valeyard!” the Valeyard shot back.
“No. You're a copy,” the Doctor said, “You're nothing but a download! A virus, meant to overwrite whatever persona the regeneration could produce! Another backup plan to keep the Valeyard from ever losing! But it's not working the way he thought, is it? It's not an abort at all – it's a failed regeneration. Like a failed organ transplant, you're being rejected. Normally that would be fatal...but Discord's meddling keeps us from dying. So here you are, trying to break the stalemate and fulfill your program.”
“You...how dare you...” the Valeyard growled.
“Shut up,” said the Doctor, “Now then, I believe I asked you a question earlier. Where. Are. We?”
“I told you, this empty waste is the inside of your head!”
With a crack like thunder, the background changed. It was still a vast, empty whiteness...but an invisible veil had been torn down, revealing it in full. There was no chance at all that this place would be the inside of a sentient creature's mind, not at the scale that was revealed. And in the distance, there were so many shapes! Some were dark and some were colorful, but the fact remained that the Doctor and the Valeyard were not alone.
The Valeyard screeched, the sound not quite like anything a pony could make, and his horn flared with red light. In an instant, the Doctor found himself dragged toward the Valeyard via telekinesis. In a rage, the Valeyard slammed the Doctor down into the floor at his hooves, before rearing up.
“Goodbye for the very last time, DOCTOR!”
He expected to feel a sickening crack or the like as his ribs caved in when the Valeyard's hooves came down. Instead, it was more of that burning, that horrible burning – images he had never seen and deeds he had never done flashing before his eyes – and the Valeyard's hooves were sinking into him, melting into his form, bleeding into his mind. Maybe the Doctor screamed in agony. Maybe the Doctor-Valeyard howled in triumph. He couldn't tell where their selves ended, he couldn't feel anything but the fire, the flames eating away at him, killing him and killing him –
There was a sudden sickening crack as the Valeyard's ribs caved in. With a squelch, the unicorn's hooves pulled free of the Doctor, hurtling sideways to land in an ungainly heap.
It took the Doctor a bit longer to pull himself back together. He blinked away tears – tears of pain, that was new...then again maybe not – as he tried to see who was standing over him now. It turned out to be two ponies, a purple one and a blue...one...
“Wh - What?”
“That's for what you did to my MOM, you bastard!” Sparkler shouted at the fallen Valeyard.
“Doctor! Now now, why the long face?” the Master asked with a smile, peering down quizzically at him.