“Hmm? What’s this?” Tabby was sitting on the floor, tossing random items out of her suitcase onto the hotel room carpeting. She lifted out a crumbly old scroll. Where had such a thing come from? She eyed it speculatively, and the frayed gold ribbon that tied it shut. Oh, now she recognized it. It had been a wedding gift from the Mysterious Guy with the St. Bernard three years ago. Still, she knew she hadn’t packed it for this weekend trip to New Pony with Thomas to attend a veterinary conference. So how had it ended up in her suitcase? Shrugging, she added it to the growing pile of items.
“Neat and orderly as always, I see,” Thomas said, reentering the room after taking care of a quick errand.
“What?” Tabby eyed the pile again and then giggled. “Sorry. I was just picking out relevant items on the magic injections for tomorrow.”
“Well, I just picked up a message in the lobby. Steuben has invited us to dinner with his wife this evening.”
“Hooray!” said Tabby. “This will be fun.”
“Yes,” Thomas agreed. “I’m looking forward to seeing them again.”
* * *
After a rough scene break, the dinner party commenced at Steuben’s large house in a ritzy section of New Pony. Tabby was meeting the veterinarian and his wife, Spindrift, for the first time, but Thomas was already quite well acquainted.
After introductions had been concluded- Tabby immediately warmed up to both strangers- Thomas explained for Tabby’s benefit, “Steuben was invaluable to me in getting set up in this field. I did my internship for him in college, and after graduation he helped me land a real job.”
“Not to mention all the dinners he took with us,” Spindrift smiled kindly. “It’s so pleasant to see you again, Thomas, and of course your lovely wife, too. I did often wonder what had happened to you after you left Parkside.”
“Yes, it’s unfortunate we got out of touch then,” Steuben agreed. “That’s something we’ll need to rectify in the future. In the meantime, though, I’m very excited by this opportunity to learn more about these magic injections. What a coincidence it was to find out that your wife was involved with them at one time! Perhaps, my dear,” he extended his foreleg to Tabby, “you could give me some background information on your injections before the meeting tomorrow.”
Tabby giggled and accepted the gesture, and Steuben led her to be seated across the room. Spindrift was left looking accusingly at Thomas.
“You could have at least invited us to the wedding,” she said, eyeing him with reserve.
“Oh... well...” Thomas laughed nervously. “I didn’t think you two would want to be bothered by an annoying college student you’d known once.”
“Oh, nonsense!” Spindrift scoffed. “You were never annoying, just inquisitive. Steuben always loved going over pet diagnoses with you, because you had such unique insight into them...” Her face softened, and she smiled again, hugging him. “Well, I am glad that you’re here now. Welcome back to New Pony.”
“It feels a lot like home now,” Thomas grinned back.
* * *
The next morning, a variety of veterinarians from all across the country congregated in a large meeting room at Steuben’s veterinary complex. All of them had been specifically picked to attend due to their knowledge of magic injections or their insight into animal care.
Clearing his throat, Steuben stood at the front of the room and explained the purpose of the meeting. “We gather here today in order to investigate more fully the miraculous healing qualities of the so-called ‘magic injections’. For years rumors have been heard of this incredible medicine, and some veterinarians have even had the pleasure to administer it. Unfortunately, the recipe has proved to be unstable and impossible to mass-produce. But recently come to light is a talented young veterinarian who claims to have successfully stabilized the magic injection potion to be used across the country in any time or place. If proven to work, this would revolutionize the field of veterinary medicine... if the magic injections are as powerful as some of you have witnessed. Now, may I present to you, Dr. Marina!”
A bright blue mare came prancing into the room and took Steuben’s place at the front as the stallion took his seat. “Hello, everyone,” she said brightly, swinging her brilliant aquamarine hair. “As Dr. Steuben here was just telling you, it would be a fabulous thing if the magic injections could be mass-produced. Unfortunately, all the recipes uncovered so far have ‘expired’, and even then they only worked in certain regions. I have been a long-time researcher of the formula, however, and I believe that I have just made a major breakthrough in their creation!” Marina paused for dramatic effect. “Now, who here has used the magic injections before? Does anyone know their ingredients?”
Feeling proud of herself for knowing the answer, Tabby promptly spoke up, “It is composed of sphinx mushrooms, krulototite, and black blood of the earth.”
“Very good!” Marina praised her. “Only three ingredients, sphinx mushrooms, krulototite, and black blood of the earth. It is the same formula for every recipe I have researched, what all magic injections are based on. When mixed together in certain places and certain times, these three items are endowed with a special magic quality that gives them their healing power. I’m still not sure of the source of this power, but in each region in which the injections appear, their power only lasts for a limited amount of time. There is still much work to be done in uncovering the root cause of this magic, but I believe I have found a way to bypass it by use of a different strain of magic.” Marina smiled dazzlingly at her audience. “I won’t go into details, since magic is a very difficult thing to explain, but allow me to demonstrate for you.” Snapping her hooves, the door opened and an assistant wheeled in a cart with a metal cage on top. Marina whipped out a syringe from her bag and lifted a little grey creature out of the cage. “This little mouse was badly injured in a mousetrap, but still lives, even though his legs are quite battered. But, watch!” Taking the syringe, she injected it into the rodent’s body. Immediately tissue and fur regrew itself; and in a matter of seconds the mouse was on his paws again, trying to escape.
Marina turned to her audience and smiled brightly. A spattering of polite applause broke out, and she deposited the mouse back into the cage. “As you can see, all experiments performed with my formula have been an absolute success. With these, veterinary care will be a cinch, since no ailment is too small or too big for the magic injections to handle. Of course, we may have to all start looking for new jobs after awhile,” she winked at her audience, “but that’s a small price to pay for the well-being of all of Ponyland’s pets.”
Tabby suddenly spoke up. “Wait a second. The effects of the magic injections I used wore off after about a year and the injections didn’t have any effect on animals that had previously received them. Even if the recipe lasts, will the effects on injected animals continue?”
Dr. Marina looked at her condescendingly. “My injections are superior in every way, I assure you. Of course, it will take time to determine for certain, but I have every reason to believe that my advanced formula is permanent in its effect.”
“Oh,” said Tabby. She sank back into her chair, positive everyone was looking at her and laughing after that remarkably condescending glance Marina had bestowed on her.
Tabby was imagining their reaction, however. At that point a number of the other participants started asking questions, and the session dragged on for a long time. The general consensus seemed favorable to Dr. Marina’s medical finds. Tabby tapped her hoof on the table meditatively.
At the end of the day, the formal meeting broke up; but most of the ponies remained for informal chatter and further questions for Dr. Marina. Tabby had wandered over to the mouse cage at the front of the room when Marina sidled up to her, finally escaping her latest questioning.
“It’s too bad most of the guys here are so geeky,” Marina whispered conspiratorially to Tabby. “I was glad to finally see that stallion that came in with you. He’s pretty cute. Do you know him well?”
“He’s my husband,” Tabby hissed back.
“Oooh,” the mare nodded knowingly. “I see. Oh well.”
“This mouse seems a bit... violent,” Tabby commented, turning her attention back to the cage after glaring at the blue unicorn.
Marina shrugged. “Oh, so they get a little bit testy. That’s no big deal, is it?”
Tabby watched the little mouse bare its teeth and lunge at the bars of its cage. She imagined either of Thomas’ Siamese, or even her crayfish, coming at her like that. She shuddered, and refrained from answering the question. “What kind of magic exactly did you use?”
“Oh, I just adapted something from an old family tome to work with the formula,” Marina replied vaguely. “But if you’ll excuse me, there’s someone over there I have to speak with. Catch ya later.” Waving insolently, she wandered off.
Tabby tapped her hoof on the floor, blankly staring off into space. On the outside, Marina seemed smart and friendly. But there was some undercurrent Tabby was picking up on- of hostility? fear? smugness? Or was it just Tabby’s imagination? She wasn’t sure, but something didn’t seem right with Marina and her injections.
Steuben, noticing Tabby’s pensive expression, walked up to her and engaged her in conversation. “A very enlightening conference, wouldn’t you say, Tabby?” he pronounced jovially.
“What?” Tabby’s head snapped up. “Er... yes, very enlightening.”
“I can see your thoughts are elsewhere,” the older pony chuckled. “So tell me, what do you think of Marina and her injections? Since you took part in making one of your own once, you should have some insights into her method.”
“She really didn’t go into much detail of her method,” Tabby said seriously. “It seems... very...”
“Yes?” Steuben prodded.
“I don’t know,” Tabby finished anticlimactically.
Steuben looked taken aback. “You have uncertainties?”
“No... or maybe yes. I’m not sure.” Tabby shook her head to clear her thoughts. “She’s entirely too reticent on their magical properties, however. If they could be tested, separated into component elements... hmm...” she mused.
“I see,” Steuben said, not discarding his old protege’s wife’s reservations but also unwilling to find any fault in his new “pet” doctor and her finds. “My knowledge of magic is limited, of course, so I don’t have any insight myself. Her formula seems sound otherwise, though, wouldn’t you say?”
“I can’t find fault with the other ingredients,” Tabby admitted. “But I am still curious about the magic involved. I asked Dr. Marina about it myself, but she was rather vague on the matter.”
“Really?” Steuben sounded surprised. “Well, I’m sure it’s nothing to be concerned about.
Still, perhaps you’d like a sample injection to study on your own, if it would set your mind at ease.”
“That might prove interesting,” Tabby said, narrowing her eyes contemplatively.
“Remind me tomorrow,” Steuben said, inclining his head respectfully. “And now, if you’ll excuse me, I see Gilly is about to leave and I wanted to ask her about an operation she was conducting...” The stallion hurried off and Tabby was left on her own again. She crossed the room to rejoin her husband and found him in conversation with Marina and a stallion Tabby recognized from the past. Tabby’s face became stony as she came upon the group.
“Thaddeus! What are you doing here?” Tabby came to stand in front of the yellow stallion and pinned him with an accusatory stare.
“Uh... hi... Tabby?” Thaddeus said haltingly, looking up at her.
“I hardly think you’re of high enough caliber to be here at this meeting.” Tabby crossed her forelegs. “After what you did to our clinic that Christmas...” Her hooves clenched in unquestionable anger. Several years ago, Thaddeus (a college friend of Elaine) had been given charge of the Dream Valley clinic over the Christmas holidays while Tabby and Thomas were away on vacation. Thaddeus was well-meaning but rather clumsy. The entire clinic had practically been in shambles after Christmas, and Tabby had never quite been able to forgive him for the offensive blight it had taken days to get in order again.
Thomas sent Tabby a warning glance as the other stallion stuttered a reply. “Oh, well,” Thaddeus flushed bright red, “Steuben actually just has me here taking notes.”
Marina sent Tabby an I-told-you-so look concerning nerdy stallions, but egged Thaddeus on anyway. “And you were a very good note-taker,” she assured him, going to hang off his foreleg. “Would you perhaps be so kind as to go and fetch me a glass of punch?”
“Sure. Anything you want, Marina,” Thaddeus blushed again and ran off on his errand.
“He is kinda sweet, but not the sort I’d want for an admirer,” said Marina critically as she watched him go.
“Or for a temporary fill-in,” Tabby said cryptically.
Marina looked curious. “Why, what experience do you have with him?”
“It was dreadful. You wouldn’t believe the destruction he wrought in our office after just one week of having him fill-in,” Tabby declared in melodramatic overtones.
“Now, Tabby,” Thomas was able to break-in for the first time since his wife had arrived on the scene, “he did apologize for that, and he didn’t do it on purpose.”
“I cannot comprehend how a single stallion,” Tabby went on unheedingly, “could knock that many shelves over. And judging from the condition of the desk drawers, I swear he managed to drop each of them upside down at one time or another!”
“How gruesome,” Marina said in captive awe.
“It was worse than gruesome,” Tabby assured her. “We have had wild animals loose in those rooms that have done less damage! Why, the x-ray machine was damaged beyond repair and I didn’t even know it could be knocked over!”
“Actually, it just needed a single replacement part,” Thomas corrected.
“It sounds dreadful,” Marina sympathized. “I did think he looked like the clumsy type the first time I set eyes on him this morning. Apparently I was correct.”
“Oooh,” Tabby said, looking across the room. “I think he just spilled your punch on another girl.”
Marina giggled at the sight. The petite creamy-beige pony with glasses and punch-stained pastel green hair looked rather starstruck at the stammering stallion that had suddenly appeared in her life. Thaddeus looked equally affected. “Well, it looks like he’ll be otherwise occupied for the time being. Shall we sit down and have a nice chat? You two must have such an interesting life! I want to hear more! Thomas was just telling me about the mysterious summons that caused him to come to Dream Valley, and Steuben mentioned something about a Bigfoot connection you had, Tabby, with knowledge of the magic injections...”
So the three proceeded to have a comfortable coze. Tabby always liked telling embellished accounts of her various adventures. Occasionally Thomas inserted comments to tone down the exaggerations, which caused Tabby to call him “boring”. Marina listened, enraptured, but when questioned about her own life she had remarkably little to say. The only fact she revealed about herself was that she had a small private practice in the country and catered to the smaller communities scattered around the outskirts of New Pony.
Eventually, though, Marina took her leave of them. “This has all been so interesting,” she said earnestly, “but I’m afraid I’ve taken up enough of your time.” She extended a hoof to each of them. “I’ve loved meeting you both and I trust I’ll see you again tomorrow?”
“I’ll- we’ll be looking forward to it,” Thomas said warmly. A bit too warmly, Tabby considered?
“Yes,” Tabby agreed after a slight pause.
“I’m glad to have been able to meet Marina,” Thomas commented on the way out. Tabby’s mind, in its current mode, noted that the “Dr.” prefix had been dropped. “She hasn’t let this fame over her discovery go to her head at all. And she’s so intelligent and friendly.”
“Something is strange, though.” Tabby frowned and Thomas looked puzzled.
“I thought the two of you were getting along great,” he said.
“We were,” Tabby said, but she continued to look pensive.
Thomas looked at her curiously. “Are you all right? You don’t usually look so serious.”
“I trust that was meant as a compliment,” Tabby said archly. “But never mind. I’m not sure what I’m thinking yet. But can we go shopping now? It’ll help clear my head.”
“Sure,” Thomas said, finding her thoughtful attitude unnerving for its unusualness. But obviously she wasn’t going to say what was on her mind. Hopefully shopping would turn her back to her usual cheerful scatterbrained self.
For awhile, it worked. The remainder of the day and part of the evening was spent covering every single store Tabby could find in New Pony that carried toys, and she was caught up in the thrill of shopping. Spike had given her a long list of action figures to look for, and of course there were My Little People for Tabby’s own enjoyment!
“Isn’t this exciting? Isn’t this exciting?” Tabby squealed upon seeing yet another huge display of My Little People. She frantically started rummaging through the pegs. “It will be months yet before any of these things start showing up in Dream Valley! This is so cool! Here, hold these.” She shoved a pile of My Little People packages at her husband before dashing off to the next aisle.
Finally, even Tabby’s hooves hurt, so she agreed it was time to go back to the hotel for supper... even if there was that one last toy store they hadn’t gotten to. She sighed longingly. Well, maybe tomorrow. Thomas had been relegated to the task of carrying all of Tabby’s bags for her, so it was with relief when he was finally able to drop everything off back in the hotel room.
Over dinner at the hotel restaurant, though, Tabby had time to think again about everything that had happened earlier that day- namely, what had happened in regard to Marina. She picked at her food lethargically, staring down at her plate pensively.
“All right, what’s on your mind?” Thomas couldn’t take the silence any more and stared across the table at her intently. “I thought you were usually in a good mood after a successful shopping trip.”
“Well...” Tabby randomly twirled her fork around. “I’m concerned about Dr. Marina.”
“Concerned?” Thomas looked taken aback. “I’m sure she’s not in any danger.”
“No, no,” Tabby shook her head. “I mean that I’m concerned that’s she up to something... evil.”
“What? Where did you get this idea?” The utensil Thomas had been holding dropped down to the table with a clang.
“Did you take a close look at the mouse she treated? It was positively evil!” Tabby insisted, warming up to the subject. “What if Marina’s injections do that to all animals?”
“How do you know the mouse wasn’t like that to begin with?” Thomas said skeptically. “He was severely injured, taken from his home, stuck in a cage, and put on display. I don’t think any animal would adapt well to that situation.”
“This was unnatural,” Tabby persisted.
“Is one ill-tempered mouse all that’s got you worried?” Thomas looked at her carefully. “Might you be overreacting?”
“It’s just...” Tabby hesitated. “...there’s something about Marina... I can’t say what... instinct or whatever... but I feel that she’s not entirely on the up-and-up!”
“I see.” Thomas still looked unconvinced.
“Marina seems good and reasonable and all that, but what if that’s just a cover-up?” Tabby pressed on. “What if she’s really planning something evil? What if she means to turn all pets in Ponyland evil? What if...”
“Tabby,” Thomas said firmly. “It’s been a long day, and you’re exhausted. It’s really no surprise that you’re blowing this out of proportion.”
“You mean you don’t believe me?” Tabby’s face fell. “But...”
“Everything’s going to look a lot better in the morning. Believe me.”
“It might,” Tabby said sullenly.
“It will. Come on. You’re going to bed.”
* * *
Tabby fell into a fitful slumber. She kept having nightmares... nightmares about Marina, surrounded by followers, and all of them laughing hysterically at her. Nobody would believe her! She tried to scream and shout that Marina was a fraud, but it came out in barely a whisper. And they only laughed all the harder at her for it.
Finally she couldn’t take it anymore and sat bolt upright in bed. There was something wrong about mass-produced magic injections. She could feel it, but she couldn’t prove it. But- what if she was wrong? What if Marina was an honest researcher? What if Tabby was just being overcritical?
And suddenly it came to her. The scroll. The mysterious scroll she had tossed aside during her unpacking, the scroll she was certain she had not packed. It had been a gift from the Mysterious Dude with the St. Bernard. The Mysterious Dude with the St. Bernard had also given her and Tiny the recipe for magic injections once. Might there be something pertinent on the scroll-?
Well, only one way to find out! Tabby jumped out of bed and cautiously made her way towards her suitcase leaning against the desk. Remembering seeing a flashlight sitting on the desk earlier, she managed to snag that without making any loud noises and shine its weak beam onto her luggage where all her papers were stored. She dug through all the compartments frantically and finally dumped everything on the floor. All her literature on the magic injections was here- but not the scroll that had mysteriously found its way into her suitcase. Where had it gone?! When she finally decided she needed it-!
Oh, wait, there it was. It had rolled under the desk. Tabby grasped it, untied the ribbon it was wrapped with, and carefully rolled it out in front of her. As she read the words printed on it, a smug smile broke across her face. It read as follows:
When I developed the formula for the magic injection, it was my intention to have them used only in dire circumstances when there was no other hope of saving an animal’s life. I did not wish the Little Ponies to grow dependent upon this magic, however. If they did there would be no further medical discoveries and there would be nothing to strive for in the future, nothing to work towards. Because of this I will limit each formula that I hand out, so that they will not become permanent and depended upon. In the meantime, I hope that every pony will continue searching for natural ways to better the lives of all the inhabitants of this land, without relying on outside aid. Signed, Lacretius Holbrook, August 16, 1901.
Hah! I knew it! Something’s definitely wrong with Marina’s injections, Tabby gloated. But even though this told Tabby her instincts had been correct, she knew that this crumbly piece of paper wouldn’t prove anything to the scientific vets at the conference. She needed some further evidence. And when Tabby wanted to do something, she wanted to do it now. Even if “now” was one o’clock a.m., that wasn’t going to stop her.
So she furtively opened up the door and slipped into the dark hallway.
* * *
It was one-thirty in the morning and Tabby was nowhere to be seen. It was certain that she was off doing something foolish and probably dangerous. Thomas’ gaze fell on the pile of papers scattered on the floor, all the info she had collected on the magic injections. Was she still that hung-up on her suspicions concerning Marina and her injections? No doubt she had decided to take things into her own hooves and further investigate those injections on her own. Thomas began to feel guilty for not listening more to her concerns and, instead, writing it off as fatigue. Well, he had a pretty good idea of where to find her. He’d better get there before she got herself into any trouble.
* * *
Luckily, Tabby had always had an easy time of breaking into buildings. Thanks to her unicorn magic, she could temporarily transform herself into a louse or a dust mite or something equally small and creepy and could easily slip inside a crack in a door or window. The object of her break-in that night was, naturally, Steuben’s clinic. He had said something about obtaining an injection for her to study more closely. She was just taking advantage of his offer- a bit covertly, maybe, but that was no big deal when the fate of Ponyland’s pets was at stake!
Turning back into her true form, Tabby made her way back to the conference room. She stopped a bit to chat with the feisty mouse, who was still there in his cage at the head of the room. “Hello, little guy,” she spoke cheerfully as he lunged at the bars. “Ooh, you’re a feisty one, aren’t you! I bet you weren’t before Marina’s injection. Of course, you were close to death then, but... hey, don’t take it out on me! I’ll see if I can find a way to make you better. Do you happen to know if there are any magic injections stored around here?”
Tabby wasn’t able to get any reply except for some snarls and hisses (she hadn’t even known mice could make those noises!). However, she did locate a satchel with Marina’s name on it in a closet by the door. And inside the satchel was a syringe conveniently marked “Magic Injection”.
“See ya, little guy!” Tabby waved as she trotted out the room toward the lab. In it she found all manners of high-tech testing equipment used by the vet clinic. Looking around for a moment, though, Tabby shivered, and then ran back to get the mouse’s cage. Returning, she set it on an empty counter in the lab. Tabby hated the dark, and having a bloodthirsty mouse as company was better than being all alone in such an atmosphere. So, maybe she had taken a few bites to the hooves. At least she had someone to talk to.
Then Tabby proceeded to do all manner of things to the supplied magic injection in order to find out more about its evil properties. The author will skip any details of these tests, seeing as she has no clue what any of them would be. Anyway, Tabby was happily experimenting away when she heard hoofsteps in the hall. She immediately froze, standing rigid over the counter. And then the door creaked open.
The single word hit Tabby like a bullet. She gasped, and her hooves went to her throat.
“Don’t you know this is a stupid thing to be doing?” Thomas emerged from the shadows. “Walking the streets alone at night? Breaking into a building? What if it had been one of the personnel that had found you here and not me?”
“Nobody’s here at night. Besides, I didn’t break in. I just walked in. Sort of,” Tabby defended herself.
“Uh-huh.” Thomas wasn’t convinced.
“I have to do this, don’t you see!” Tabby looked at him desperately. “I’m the only one that can. Something is wrong, but unless I can come up with proof, no one will believe it!”
Thomas was about to rebuke her again for being so unmindful, but paused as he stopped to look at her, really look at her. He took in the dark rings around her eyes, the bloody bites on her hooves, and the fact that she was working alone in a pitch-black building (except for a few small lights in this room) in the dead of night. Tabby was petrified of the dark. Thomas finally realized just how important this was to her and made a decision. “Then let me help you.”
Tabby just shook her head. “I can find what I need to by myself. Besides, if it hadn’t been for the scroll, you’d still be against me.”
“Didn’t you see it? The one-”
“No, I didn’t see any scroll. But it wouldn’t have mattered.” He advanced closer and took her hooves in his. “Because I believe in you. And if Dr. Marina is up to something, we’ll find it.”
“You won’t be... very...” Tabby hesitated. “...disappointed if Marina is doing something evil, will you?”
“Disappointed? Of course I will. Everyone involved will be if this miraculous cure turns out to be false.”
“But you seemed very... taken with her.” Tabby faltered. “You don’t like her... better than me, do you?”
“You are very insecure, aren’t you, Tabby? And paranoid to top it all off. Just because I admired her work doesn’t mean I’d fall in love with her, like with you.”
“Really?” Tabby breathed.
“You really are an idiot, you know. Well, what have you done so far?”
“I found one of Marina’s injections and I’m splitting it down into its component parts. I still need to separate the magic element in it, though, because I think that’s what the root cause of the problem is. I suspect it’s dark, evil magic, because good magic wouldn’t have worked contrary to what the originator of the spell had intended- oh, but you didn’t see the scroll, did you? Well, just take my word for it. Oh, and I need to cure that poor little mouse yet, too. Here, hold this.” She thrust a vial at him and skipped across the room to resume her work.
After a long night the two were successful in their mission. “There!” Tabby held up the vial of dark swirling magical energy proudly. “I knew there was evil involved in this.”
“But why would Marina have done it?” Thomas said pensively.
“Some nefarious plan, naturally. What do we do now? Confront her with the evidence? I wonder where she’s staying? Ooooh, and I still need to come up with an antidote for the little mousy!”
“Both of those things can wait until tomorrow... today,” Thomas said firmly. “You’ve done more than enough tonight, and you can bring up your finds at the meeting tom- later. But now you’re going back to the hotel to get some rest before that.”
* * *
By morning, Tabby did have a guilty conscience. And since she and Thomas had been invited to have breakfast with Steuben and Spindrift on this, their last day in New Pony, Tabby decided to make a clean slate of it before the conference.
“Er... well, I really hate to say this, Steuben, after all the hospitality you and your wife have offered....” Tabby said uncomfortably after being admitted into the house. “It really was a bad way to repay you, and I hope you won’t hold it against Thomas at least... but I felt that it was very important to do what I did...”
“Yes?” Steuben looked perplexed as he led them to a breakfast nook off the kitchen.
“Well... you see, I broke into your lab last night.” Tabby said it in a rush and shut her eyes immediately as if expecting some terrible punishment.
“We both did,” Thomas interjected.
“It was my fault,” Tabby insisted.
“You... what?” Steuben blinked rapidly.
“Well... you had mentioned something about getting an injection for me to investigate further. And I needed to do it. Last night. So...”
“And it couldn’t wait?” Steuben was more perplexed than angry.
“No, it couldn’t. To have delayed would have had formidable consequences.” And Tabby pulled the vial out of her bag and held it up for viewing. “This is the magic element Marina uses in her injections.”
It was black, swirling with dark purple highlights.
“Is that...” Steuben faltered.
“Yes, it is. Dark magic. What we would have started injecting all animals with.”
“Indeed,” Tabby intoned solemnly.
“Hello again, my dears...” Spindrift entered the room effusing good spirits, but quickly noted the serious expressions all around her. “Why, whatever is the matter with all of you!”
“That,” Thomas said, leading her to the table, “is a topic that would be best discussed over breakfast.”
* * *
“It will, of course, take time to do further work on the injections until they are safe for mass production and wide-spread use. And afterwards, of course, we may all have to start looking for new jobs,” Marina introduced the next day’s follow-up meeting and smiled at her audience. “But I think everyone here agrees that it will be worth it-“
”Not really.” Tabby’s voice rang out like a rocket as she stood up, and all eyes were upon her. “Seeing as your injections are powered by dark, evil magic.”
A collective gasp rang through the room at this blasphemous charge. “I don’t understand what you’re saying,” Marina said in well-feigned shock.
“I think you do,” Tabby smiled grimly. “Observe!” She held the vial of dark magic aloft for all to see. “To test my suspicions, I separated the magic bond from the other ingredients. And this is what I found!”
“Well, maybe it is a little dark in nature,” Marina said, glaring at Tabby. “It still doesn’t mean-“
”You mean you admit that you used dark magic?” the mare with glasses from yesterday asked in shocked tones.
Marina crossed her forelegs stubbornly. “But I don’t think it really matters, if it’s the only way to get them to work! The inventor of the spell should have known-“
”The inventor of the spell knew more about what he was doing than you think.” Tabby extracted another item from her bag and unrolled the crumbly old scroll onto the table. “This is his explanation, written in his own hand.” Whispers had broken out at the beginning of this conflict, but everyone sank into silence as Tabby’s commandeering gaze fell on them. Then she read aloud the message she had uncovered just last night. Everyone was very touched by the end.
Tabby set the paper down thoughtfully as she finished. “Hmm, he looks remarkably well for his age. Not a day over sixty!”
Marina had the grace to look a little repentant, but she wasn’t ready to give up. “What I want to know is how you, Tabby, gained access to methods to experiment on my formula like that.”
“Oh, well, you know,” Tabby waved a hoof through the air. “I guess I kinda sorta...”
“We employed the use of Steuben’s lab last night,” Thomas said in a tone challenging anyone to complain.
“Without Steuben’s approval, I’ll bet!” Marina said angrily. “See? She’s not really on the up-and-up, either!”
Steuben turned to Marina with a grim expression. “In light of what she found, I don’t think anyone here will hold it against her,” he said forcefully. “And besides, she was willing to make a very charmingly put apology.”
“I have nothing to apologize for. I didn’t think it was necessary for everyone to know the details,” Marina said, tossing her mane. “Magic is very complicated, you know, and an explanation would have been tedious.”
“Only because you knew we would have disapproved,” Steuben said sternly.
“You withheld pertinent facts from us!” someone across the table exclaimed angrily.
“It isn’t fair!” Marina snapped. “Tabby broke into your lab, but you won’t even give me the benefit of explaining myself! As a matter of fact, she’s blowing it all out of proportion. It’s not nearly as bad as she’s making it out to be. Sure, there’s a chance that the pets will turn evil; but my early research suggests that very few pony injuries would result...”
”It was irresponsible of you, to say the least,” Steuben pressed on impatiently, ignoring Marina’s justification, “to conceal the fact you were making these injections with dark magic. And even planning on using them on pets! It is a grave disappointment to me to have entertained such a.... such a...”
“It’s an outrage,” one of the others spoke-up in disgust. “How can you call yourself a caring pet doctor with practices like these?”
“You’re a disgrace to the field.”
“Thank goodness it was found out in time.”
“I can’t believe I fell for her ploy.”
“We should have realized it was too good to be true.”
“That Holbrook fellow was right. A miracle cure could never replace the value of ponykind’s own achievements.”
Marina stomped her hoof petulantly, eyes blazing, but everyone was too busy now discussing her scandalous behavior to pay any attention to the cause herself. “I don’t know why you’re all being so unreasonable! Can’t you see the benefits? Are you going to write me off just like this and destroy my credibility?” Her voice rose steadily higher, but no one heeded her.
Tabby discreetly walked over to Marina and patted her on the shoulder reassuringly. “It’s all right. Your credibility may be shot out here, but you could come and work for us in Dream Valley. I’d vouch for you.”
Marina eyed her with a mix of disbelief and suspicion. “Are you trying to make fun of me? After what you did?”
“Well, I did ruin your chance to make it big, I’ll admit,” Tabby agreed. “So I figure it’s only fair to give you another chance at our clinic.”
“As the cleaning lady or something yucky, I bet,” Marina muttered.
“No, you can still be a veterinarian. I assume you’re competent in animal care without using dark magic?”
“Of course I am,” Marina retorted hotly. “I do have a degree, you know! I just do magic in my spare time. Because most ponies don’t seem to appreciate it.” She tossed her mane defiantly.
“So do you want to do it?” Tabby prodded.
Marina narrowed her eyes, weighing her options. “What’s this Dream Valley place like, anyway? Besides the strange creatures in the Dark Forest.” That part about what Tabby had told her yesterday had surely gotten her attention, but...
“Oh, I think you’d like it,” Tabby said cheerfully, knowing what Marina was angling for. She purposely saved it for last. “It’s big, but not too big. Lots of places to go. Oh, and lots of cute guys.”
“Cute guys?” Marina’s eyes lit up. “Lots of them?”
“Oh, loads,” Tabby blithely assured her. And even if she was exaggerating a bit, she’d be sure to hunt some up as soon as she was back.
“There are single stallions all over the place,” Tabby went on, waving a hoof through the air. “You wouldn’t believe it. They’ll all be falling over themselves to get a shot at a new mare in town.”
“Hmm,” Marina said thoughtfully. “Okay, I’ll do it!”
“Okay!” said Tabby energetically, taking Marina’s hoof and leading her across the room. Time to show Thomas his new employee!
* * *
“I still don’t fully understand why you offered Marina a job,” Thomas puzzled as they boarded the plane for their flight home that evening. “I thought you didn’t like her.” Marina would be flying out to her new place of employment next week after straightening out some of her affairs.
“But I think I can make something useful and productive out of her,” Tabby said earnestly. “It’ll be fun!”
“Ah, another of your projects.”
“Yes! Hey, can we have a Halloween party at the mansion this year? I want to make everyone dress up in costumes!”
“Are you sure you’ll have the time?”
“I always have lots of time!”
“Oh... whatever you want, then,” Thomas said vaguely. It was no use reasoning with her once she had made up her mind on something.
“Oh, good! I’m going to make a kimono. How about you? And who all shall I invite? Oooh, this is going to be so much fun!”
Author’s note: You know what I have realized? Thomas never gets a really big role in any stories, which doesn’t seem fair. Tabby always takes the spotlight from him so he doesn’t get a chance to do anything. How to resolve this, how to resolve this! Hmm... I’ll have to work on his character in the next story. He MUST be able to do more than keep Tabby in line! (Though granted, that IS a full-time job...)
Oh, and if anyone is wondering, Tabby DID cure the little mousy. She took him with her back to Dream Valley and set him free in the Dark Forest.