The huge red stallion looked over from his bucking to see his sister and her blue pegasus friend, Rainbow Flash, standing together under a tree.
"Me and Rainbow Dash are going into the village. We gotta, um... do stuff."
Flash, Dash, whatever. It wasn't important. He didn't particularly care what his sister chose to do in her spare time. Or who.
"You ok to handle the buckin' til ah get back?"
"And ya know Applebloom's over at Rarity's today?"
Perfect. He would be alone at last, free to do as he willed without fear of interruption or discovery. It was as if Celestia herself had presented him with this opportunity, and he intended to make use of it.
"Well okay then. Ah guess ah'll see ya later then big brother."
Big Mac didn't feel it necessary to grace that with a reply. Instead he returned to pounding the trees around him with his powerful rear legs. Each one he struck quivered and dropped its load of precious apples into the waiting basket below, which he then picked up and tossed carefully into the already half-full cart.
As soon as the two mares had disappeared from sight he paused, cocked his head, and listened. Nothing but the sound of the wind through the trees. Definitely no hiding fillies. He grinned deviously and hitched himself up to the applecart. He wouldn't normally allow so many trees to be left unbucked, but he'd be able to catch up later. He'd make the time to do it.
Arriving at the farmhouse, he unbuckled the load from behind him and left it where it stood outside the front door. He'd come back for it sooner or later. Instead of heading indoors, he made his away over to the second barn, the one that had only been built in the last year. As he entered, he cast a furtive glance over shoulder. Nopony there. Good. This was something that he wasn't ready for Ponyville to see. Maybe one day he'd be comfortable with showing it publicly, but probably not, and certainly not anytime soon. This was going to be the first time he'd tried it properly anyway. And besides, they probably wouldn't understand even if he tried to explain it.
Big Mac gently shut the barn door and cantered over to the haystack in the corner, looking around himself again. Still nopony there. Satisfied, he began to tap along the wall, knocking lightly until he heard a soft 'chnk', the sound of a horseshoe hitting metal. He laid his hoof flat against the disguised section, cunningly made to look just like the rest of the wooden wall, and pushed. Suddenly, and with a melodramatic hiss that could almost have inspired a cackle of diabolical laughter, the floor shifted as the hidden doorway to Big Macintosh's secret lair swung up, allowing him entrance.
He quickly descended down the steps to a subterranean level where he was met by darkness as the doorway clanked shut behind him. Clopping his front hooves together twice, he continued onwards while above him a strip of lighting illuminated by itself, revealing the marvels that lay within. Big Mac had built the barn above completely by himself after Applejack had got Rainbow Smash to knock the old one down. It hadn't been particularly difficult to conceal the underground facilities he had added from those simpletons who lived with him, and nopony else came near the barns. What was difficult, and irritating, was always having to mask his vastly superior intellect when interacting with other ponies. It was a necessary evil though: it just wouldn't do for them to know that one as knowledgeable as he walked amongst them. Even Twilight Sparkle's powerful mind was dwarfed by his own. He would not dare to think of questioning the Princesses of course, for they had lived the lifespans of many, and so could probably come quite close to matching him in wits. All other ponies, however, had not a shred of hope should he ever decide that he'd like to be evil.
But no, he was no villain. Simply a forward-thinking, self-driven, brilliant stallion. He smiled contentedly to himself as he surveyed his masterpieces, all lit by the ceiling's glow. To the left were some of his smaller works, like a cider maker six times more efficient than the Flim Flam Brothers' machine, a mechanical mane brush that gave the perfect coiffure every time, and a chalkboard. Nothing special about that, but even a genius needs to write down his notes from time to time. To the right lay the driving force behind almost all of his new work, the thing that quite literally empowered him and let him finally achieve his dreams: a power generator. Sure, Equestria had steam and coal and other natural fuels, but that just simply wasn't enough. To do what he wanted, Big Mac needed something stable and more powerful than anything the public could access. So, he had worked for months on end to create the first real electricity output ponykind had ever seen. Soon, once he had discovered a convenient way to distribute the power, he would quietly get his contact to sell the idea to the Palace, which would allow him to settle his remaining financial difficulties. It annoyed him that somepony such as he could have any debt, but in order to create anything, you needed parts, and those parts came at a cost. For now, however, the generator merely powered the lights which illuminated the hideout. That would soon change.
Right in the centre of the mechanical menagerie sat his pride and joy, the one invention his life had been leading up to. Ever since he could remember, there had always been one thing Big Macintosh wanted to do: he wanted to travel through time. He wanted to be the first pony to discover the secret, to break that barrier, to make the impossible happen. After years of research and trial and error, just two weeks ago he had finally cracked it: he had worked out the kink in that final algorithm that would allow him to slip back or forward as he liked through the ages. He was ready, and had been waiting for an opportunity like this to put his theories and hypotheses to the test. Now he had it, and he wasn't going to waste it standing around admiring his own handiwork. No, as beautiful as it was, there would be time for that later. All the time in the world in fact.
He chuckled to himself at that, and strode torwards the dormant machine. It was cuboid in shape, and the gleam from the overhead lighting betrayed its chromium exterior. That was not entirely necessary, but he had assuaged himself with the knowledge that appearances can be vital. Two powerful antennae emerged from its top covering, ensuring he would be able to maintain a radio link wherever he went. Using his mouth, he picked up the power cable and solemnly walked over to the generator, where he proceeded to connect his two master creations. There was a faint crackling as the electricity burst along the link, eagerly rushing to give its stores of energy to something more worthy to house it.
It hummed vibrantly into life. As Big Mac turned to observe, the three small lamps he had installed on the exterior began to flash in quick succession, indicating that the circuit was functional: the time machine was live. There was a sound like fire burning as the power worked its own kind of magic, and the smell that accompanied it was just delectable. If he hadn't more important tasks to focus on, he would happily have stood there and savoured his creation's mechanical scent. That would have to wait though: there were things to do. Despite his excitement, the large red stallion proceeded to carefully check and ensure he had everything accounted for before opening the door and stepping inside. Supplies, notes and a pencil all went into a saddlebag which he slung over his back, just in case. Even the brightest mind in Equestria couldn't be too cautious when preparing to shatter (or at least rewrite) some of the rules of reality.
Once inside, he shut the door behind himself. It was surprisingly spacious, especially given Big Mac's size, but as he well knew, appearances could be deceptive. He turned to the panel built into the left-hoof wall which was covered in an odd array of dials, switches and displays. To an ordinary pony they would have seemed quite confusing, but this was no ordinary pony. He deftly used his hoof to adjust the settings to precisely the right positions necessary to travel to where he wanted to go, before pausing a moment. He supposed when he wanted to go was actually more important than where. He looked down at the large-scale keyboard before him and scratched the back of his mane. Well, he was going back for certain; he wanted to leave the future alone for the moment. Where was the genius in inventing something you already knew was going to exist? But specifically what time period did he want to visit - did he want to see famous composers like JS Barebach? Or perhaps masters of art and invention, such as Leo Hoovinci? Maybe he would even go as far back as Starswirl the Bearded's time - that would certainly be interesting.
After a minute's thought, he decided, and rapidly keyed in a date. If he was going to go back, he figured, he might as well go all the way back. In his experience, the beginning was usually the best place to start after all. He glanced around himself, noting the cables connecting softly beeping monitors to the main processor, and the large store of hay-crackers he knew he would doubtlessly require while time travelling. He was ready at last: ready to prove he could do it; ready to make the impossible possible; ready to show that he was, in fact, just as clever as he thought he was.
Without more than a quarter of a second's hesitation, he slammed his larger than average hoof into the shiny golden button protruding from the wall beside him, and then quickly grabbed onto the hoofrail he had built as the machine began to shake more violently. There was a noise like somepony drawing a saw through cabbages, and the lights seemed to dim and twist a little. Not sure how that was even possible, Big Mac reached his nose into his saddlebag, and pulled out his large pair of goggles, the same he used when it came to making cider. He smoothly slid them over his eyes, just to be safe from any more distortion to the lightwaves in the air around him. The vibration continued to increase, its frequency already into extremely uncomfortable levels. The stallion clenched his jaw and felt his massive brain rattling around inside his skull. The whine being emmitted from seemingly everywhere was also simultaneously raising and dropping in pitch, causing an incredible pressure between his ears.
The intensity of the sensations assaulting his senses were almost enough to overwhelm him, but Big Macintosh stood strong. He would pay any price to witness the realisation of his dream.
Abruptly, all fell silent. The machine gave one last shudder before finally growing still. After about a minute, Big Mac eventually unwrapped his hooves from around the rail where he had locked them in place. He hadn't expected the journey to be quite so... volatile. But no matter - the important thing was, had it worked? Slowly, very slowly, he crept to the exit. Taking a deep breath, he cautiously pulled back the catch and allowed the door to simply swing open. The sight that greeted him slapped him in the face, and his jaw dropped.
It was perfect - everything he had hoped for.
As far as the stallion could tell, he was still roughly in the same place that he had left; the hill he was perched upon looked vaguely similar to the one his barn was built atop. But everything else, oh it was all so fantastically different. All around were giant trees and plants, most of which were at least twice as tall as the farmhouse, with huge leaves which hung like tents from the boughs above. He spotted a daisy the same height as himself, and his mouth watered, but he shook his head to clear it. He needed to be in control right now - there was simply too much to see to be getting distracted already. Big Macintosh carefully cantered out of the time machine, releasing the breath he had forgotten he was holding. It was just so indescribably... brilliant. A thick primordial fog hung in the air, but it didn't seem to impede his oxygen intake; in fact, the air actually tasted cleaner than back in Ponyville. It truly was a marvel. The atmosphere felt so very alive and untainted by civilisation - everything was exactly how nature had intended it to be, and it was beautiful.
He began to make his way down the slope, eager to see what other wonders lay further afield. He cast his gaze about him as he trotted, trying to take everything in. At the base of the hill he noticed some rocks that shone in all the hues of the spectrum, standing out in the slightly swampy terrain. They glimmered with the same inexplicable light as the zap apples that grew on the farm did, bright and colourful. A large part of him wanted to scoop up a few of the fascinating stones and bring them home for further examination, but he reminded himself that he couldn't afford to risk the impact that might have on the passage of history. He was here purely for the joy of observation.
Suddenly, a muffled but loud thudding sound broke through the natural silence of the place. Big Mac whipped his head around to the left, searching for the source of the unexpected noise. He saw nothing moving there, but after a moment it came again, and this time he felt the ground tremor a little as well. Flipping his mane out of his face, he pushed up his goggles with a hoof and looked back the way he came. Nothing there either. The sound came again and again, a little louder each time, shaking the earth and making the red stallion distinctly uneasy. It sounded as if something large was...
His thoughts trailed off as, cresting an adjacent hill, a rabbit bounded towards him. It was bigger than he was and each leap took it closer and closer to where he stood frozen in shock. Lapinodentus Magnum. Sabretooth bunny.
A gleam from the weak sun reflected off the shiny tusk protruding from its maw, and something clicked in his mind. Spinning, he took off, galloping away from the prehistoric beast. Fortunately, it was not particularly swift due to its size, nor was it very intelligent. After a few minutes' sprint, he slowed to a panting canter, and then to a trot, as he could no longer hear its pounding steps hitting the ground. He finally halted to catch his breath and regain his bearings. It would not do for him to be injured or eaten during this excursion.
Looking about himself, Big Mac realised he had gone further than he had thought - he was almost all the way to where the centre of the village would be in the present day. He wouldn't get lost though, as he had a strong sense of direction, and he knew the land well, even if it looked pretty different right now. As if he needed an example, something caught his eye and he frowned. Over to his right, there was a small cliff he didn't recognise at all, with a few caves dotted along its base. He knew it was not still there in his own time, because that was exactly where Miss Sparkle's library was situated. This was somewhat confusing: an entire rockface like this couldn't disappear completely through natural causes alone. Something else must have happened to remove it so completely - perhaps an earthquake? This wasn't an area that was prone to those though... It bothered him, but he had to let it go. He wasn't going to find out what had happened until he did some research, so he started to canter over to the imposing feature, intending to explore the caves a little. His mood began to pick up as he imagined what fascinating geological obscurities might be concealed within - perhaps some more of those rainbow rocks he had already seen. Even if he found nothing else, he would be happy with just those.
It didn't take long for the large pony to reach one of the cavemouths. Stepping inside, he cast his head around, squinting as he tried to see in the dim light. The back wall was completely shrouded in darkness, and he couldn't actually make out how far back the cave went. Still recovering from the shock of everything that was happening, it took him a moment to remember he had packed a lantern into his saddlebags. He quickly brought it out and lit it, shedding light on the rocky walls and illuminating what the weak sunlight could not. What he saw made him gasp. The walls glimmered with an ethreal sparkle, covered as they were with a violet gemstone he didn't recognise, and they seemed to be interspersed with what appeared to smatterings of gold. Big Mac was not a greedy stallion, but even he would have considered taking just a few samples back with him, had he not been so thoroughly distracted by what lay all over the floor of the cave, barely three steps from where he stood. The powerful red stallion stood extremely still as one of the about twenty ponies let out a massive snore and shifted in its sleep.
They looked rather like ponies, but he knew they couldn't be, not exactly. They must have been another species, an ancestor to modern ponykind. Perhaps, given their hulking bodies and large muzzles, these were examples of Equus Magneanderum. That would probably fit with the time period he was in too. The scholar within him was getting extremely excited at having the chance to observe these prehistoric ponies, but the rest of his mind kept him paralysed for fear of waking them. Big Mac was a tough stallion to beat, physically, but he didn't really want to take the chance against this group of ancient creatures who looked at least as muscular as he, if not more so. After a few minutes mental deliberations, he began to edge backwards very quietly towards the mouth of the cave. Then, just as he was about to turn and exit, the walls seemed to shake from the sound of a terrible, screaming roar from outside.
Instantly, several of the pony-like creatures were up on their hooves, grunting and shrieking as they bashed the heavier sleepers into wakefulness. Big Mac could only watch in horror as, one by one, they began to notice him. At first they seemed as shocked as he was, but that soon passed as they recognised a foreign invader to their home. The volume of their grunts steadily rose as they began to slowly approach him, at which point he decided that it was probably an opportune moment to flee. He span on his back hoof and galloped out of the cave, heading in the direction that he had come from originally. With a gut-wrenching cry, the pony-like creatures gave chase, sprinting after him at an alarming pace. He moved as fast as he could, power in his legs from all the years of bucking, but they still seemed to be right on his tail. Suddenly, the wailing roar that had woken the creatures came again, and he turned his head back just in time to see a midnight blue dragon with bright yellow crests and underbelly crash down onto the top of the cliff he had just vacated. Under the beast's weight, the enormous stone feature began to crack and crumble, falling to pieces before their eyes. All of Big Mac's pursuers had stopped to watch as the massive creature destroyed their home in a landslide of rock, but quickly returned to the chase with a renewed rage. They clearly wanted vengeance and the unfamiliar red stallion would have to serve as their target, since the dragon was now chasing them as well, and would probably be a bit more difficult to defeat.
Heart pounding, Big Mac ran harder than he ever had before, his breath rattling and blood pumping in his ears as he attempted to lose both the furious mob of his ancestors and the winged wyrm that was at least the size of Ponyville town hall. Out of the corner of his eye, something gleamed as the hill where he had left the time machine came in sight, and in his mind he groaned. The sabretooth bunny looked up from the giant daisy stem it was gnawing on and spotted the group heading its way. Immediately, it dropped what was left of the flower and began hopping towards them. The pony's red coat bristled with a fear unlike he'd ever felt as adrenaline coursed through his lean body. He reached the bottom of the slope and risked a glance over his shoulder as he began to climb. Thanks to the momentary distraction of the dragon, he had managed to pull a little further away from the prehistoric ponies, and it appeared that the huge beast was taking its time and walking rather than flying towards them, shaking the ground with its thunderous footsteps. The giant rabbit was closer though, so he continued to race up the hill to his one-way ticket home.
He slammed inside the time machine and madly began mashing on the mechanical motherboard, inputting the date to get him home. He had had quite enough time travelling for one day. He threw his hoof against the golden button and grabbed onto the rail, hanging on for dear life as the noises from outside grew louder, the dragon loosing another tremendous roar.
It took him about two and a half seconds to realise nothing was happening, and a further three before he figured out what was wrong. His eyes shot wider than apples, and he barged the door open with his shoulder, galloping round to the rear of the machine.
There, lying uselessly on the ground, was the power cable. For all his genius, he had neglected to remember the fact that his machine needed electricity to work, and the only known working generator sat safely under a barn in Sweet Apple Acres, thousands of years in the future.
Numbly, the red stallion walked back to the front of the time machine that he had built, and sat heavily on his haunches. He looked down over the crowd almost all the way up the hill, speeding towards him with a ferocity that reminded him of the timberwolves from Granny Smith's stories.
Big Macintosh took a deep breath and gulped.