Sepia Tock was awakened by the sound of his shop erupting into a din of alarms. He yawned and removed himself from his bed, picking a pencil up in his mouth, and then entered the store proper. His neighbors hated this morning ritual, but Sepia refused to cease it. He compromised by moving the trigger up an hour, but he felt it was his duty to perform the check every morning, walking by the shelves holding the alarm clocks, studying them one by one, stopping at each clock, leaving a tick on its tag if it worked, turning it off, and then moving on to the next in line. Those failing the test were moved to the back when Colgate arrived, and they would be carefully opened, the inner cogs and springs carefully examined by the two crafters of timepieces, magnifier squinted on eye, tweezers in mouth.
Sepia enjoyed his work. He had inherited the trade from his father, and with it the shop and position in Ponyville. He tried not to be haughty, but what he did was important. Without his finely crafted instruments, ponies would not be able to keep their busy schedules, cook for the proper length of time, or know just how long it was until quitting time. He couldn't be sure, but from the occasional orders from Canterlot for his most accurate constructs, he suspected even the Princesses made use of his work. As such, he made sure always to make each new clock and hourglass better than the last. Then there were the clockwork toys he crafted with spare parts, placed on a low table, and sold for a small hoofful of bits each. He was, however, very doubtful that he was appreciated for the years of study under the kind tutelage of his father that got him where he was; instead, he found his popularity came from odd town gossip and bizarre tales.
The silver bell signaled the entrance of Derpy Hooves, holding Sepia's mail in her mouth. "Mmm mph mm, mm-mph!"
"Thank you, Miss Hooves." Sepia said with a nod, halfway through his morning chore, "Please just put it on the counter."
Derpy dropped her load on the counter. "Good morning, Doctor," she said, innocent smile on her face, "What do you have planned for the day?"
Sepia sighed. Doctor Whoof. The name followed him everywhere he went. When it started, he had tried his best to correct those who referred to him as such, but it grew faster than he could fight it. He had eventually decided that it wasn't worth the battle if it hindered his work. Not that he didn't fight the small encounters as they arose.
"Once again, please just call me Sepia," he said through a forced expression of good humor, "Mr. Tock if you want to be formal."
"Whatever you say, Doctor!" Derpy answered.
Every morning he would attempt to at least convince Derpy of his identity. If he could get that silly Pegasus to stop, the rest of town would seem much simpler. Sepia smiled wearily, "Would you like a muffin, Miss Hooves?"
"Everyone wants to give me muffins." Derpy mused, "I don't know why, though."
"Is that a no then?"
"Of course not! I love muffins!" Derpy exclaimed, "Just don't know why people keep giving them to me."
"Eludes me." Sepia answered, retrieving a muffin from the small kitchen in the back of his shop, bringing it to Derpy, "Have a safe route, Miss Hooves," he said as Derpy accepted it graciously and flew off, nearly knocking Colgate over as they passed each other at the door.
"Good morning, Sepia." Colgate said.
"Good morning, Colgate." Sepia replied in kind, finally finishing with the alarms, "The eighth clock from the office door is malfunctioning."
Colgate gave the clock a glance. "This is just a guess," she said, "but I believe that might be caused by the fact that it isn't an alarm clock."
Sepia Tock paused mid-way through the winding of a watch. "Oh… mind moving it to a different shelf for me?"
Colgate obliged. Sepia had taken her on as a sort of apprentice after she had earned her cutie mark. She got to pursue her calling, and Sepia got a unicorn to do what he just couldn't quite manage, such as moving stock en masse. Plus, she was one of the desperate few who called him by his real name.
Sepia sifted through his mail, throwing the fan mail addressed to Doctor Whoof into a drawer of the desk he used as a sales counter. He often considered discarding them, but he couldn't bring himself to. It struck him as a bit rude. He saw a package from Fluttershy had been included. "Colgate, would you mind granulating these egg shells and adding them to the rest?" he asked.
Colgate levitated the brown paper parcel. "Want me to measure out some for an hourglass?" she asked in turn.
Sepia considered this. "Yes… I'll make two later," he said, "egg shells and marble."
"I'm on it." Colgate went to the workshop.
Sepia placed what was left of the mail in a neat pile by the register, and sat, waiting for customers. He glanced out the window, where the eyes of three fillies briefly looked back. They dropped quickly from eyesight.
"Should we ask him how he got his cutie mark?"
"Didn't he just have it when he regurgitated?" Scootaloo answered.
"I don't know, my sister says he's just a kook." Sweetie Belle said, "She says he just started raving about time travel and aliens after some sort of traumatic incident with an apple salespony."
Apple Bloom took another glance through the window and suddenly began whistling, feigning innocence to a crime no one had accused her of.
Sepia poked his head out of his shop door, "May I help you girls?"
The Cutie Mark Crusaders huddled to discuss. Finally, Apple Bloom stepped forward, "Excuse me, Doctor-"
"Actually, it's Sepia Tock."
Apple Bloom paused for a fleeting moment before continuing, "Well, we wondering if you could tell us how you got your cutie mark."
"Don't leave out any details to spare us, either!" Scootaloo said, "We can take whatever exciting adventure you had to face!"
Sepia looked around to check if any customers were coming, and then sat down with the three girls. "Well, it's not really that exciting, nor that outstanding, but I do recall it fondly," he said, "My entire life, I had watched my father, Russet Tock, build clocks and hourglasses for the whole of Equestria. Sometimes he would let me do a little work, placing a cog here and there, filling an hourglass with sand. As time went on, he let me do more and more work, until finally, one day, he let me make an hourglass by myself. Mind you, it was hard work, heating the glass tube just right as you spin it, using a rounded edge to put in the pinch. It took me the whole day, but when I finally finished, I stepped back and realized how much I loved it. I decided then and there that I, like my father, would build timepieces." Sepia smiled at the blank faces of the Crusaders. "I hope that helped."
Disappointment filled the three faces as they thanked the clockmaker, and walked off, whispering between each other. "Do you think he'll still take us on an adventurer if we ask?"
"If he won't tell us how he really got that mark, then I doubt he'll help us get adventuring cutie marks…"
Sepia Tock went back in to his shop, trying his best to ignore the overheard criticisms. He told Colgate to take charge of the sales counter as he went into the workshop. He turned on the most recent of Octavia's solo records, and then turned to the glass tube suspended on a contraption he had devised. It had taken him awhile to engineer it, to get it to hold the thin glass and spin it without cause it to crack or burst. He turned on the welding torch suspended at the center of the tube and began to turn the wheel at the end, which began the rotation of the entire tube. Once it reached a desirable speed, he backed away from the spinning wheel of the contraption and crouched down to turn a smaller nob under the wheel, which brought up the bar used to place the distinctive pinch between the bulbs. He slowly moved the bar in place until, after minutes of slow progress, alternating between the knob and spinning wheel, the bar reached its highest point. Sepia then went back to ensure the wheel was turning at an even speed. Soon, with the pinch well in place, Sepia took hold of another knob, this one bringing up the bars that shaped the bulbs of the hourglass. When the bulbs were shaped, he turned off the torch and lowered the bars.
His father used to form the twin bulbs by a method of blowing and spinning them on the end of a tube, but Sepia had found the technique to be slow, inefficient, and hard to master, so he instead built the contraption. He left the shaped tube to cool, removing two empty hourglasses he'd made previously from the kiln, which cooked the glass to a tougher consistency. He placed the two, one by one, on the counter by the cups holding the ground-up eggs shells and marble sand, which were always carefully measured by Colgate. He took two funnels from the hooks above the work bench, inserted the ends into the small opening on the top of the hour glasses, and poured the cups into the half bulb of the funnels, which slowly dropped the grains into the hour glass. Sepia opened a box under the bench and removed some premade hourglass bases, setting them down next to the bulbs until the sand finished pouring in.
The phone rang in the shop proper, answered by Colgate.
Sepia moved over to another bench, covered with clocks in various states of completion. He selected one and moved it towards the end of the bench, where he used a clamp to secure it in place. He examined the various tweezers he had acquired, selecting one with a fine pincher, and slid open a drawer in the bench, which filled with cogs of various sizes. He selected one, picking it up with the tweezers, and carefully placed it in the clock, meshing it with its nearby partners.
Colgate poked her head in. "Hey, the Mayor is having trouble with her office clock," she said, "I'd handle it, but I know she's got one of the more complicated models, and I'm afraid I'll do more harm than good."
Sepia carefully finished securing the cog and set down his tweezers. "Alright, I'll go handle that promptly," he said. He walked over to the saddle bags hanging on a hook in the back, grabbed a roll of tools from a small pile and threw them in, shouldered the bags, and set out.
Ponies shuffled aside as he walked forth, whispering amongst themselves.
"Is that who I think it is?"
"What's he up to?"
"Can't be too important, he's not running-"
"I mean, I sit oddly one time to crack my back, and I get a reputation."
"Does he have his screwdriver?"
"Where's his box?"
Some stole glances, some more subtle than others, while others averted their gaze. Here and there, a pony would tell a tale of his supposed exploits, soon to be topped by another and then another. When it all started, these actions had got on Sepia's nerves, but now he noticed them only on a subconscious level. He walked through town until, after much discussion with her friends, a pony pranced up to him.
"Excuse me, Doctor?" The pony, pale yellow in coat and green in mane and tail, said to the legendary figure, "I was just wander if."
"No," Sepia said, "I will not take you on an adventure, show you my sonic screwdriver, or show you my blue box. Sorry. If you have a clock that needs repair, I'd be more than happy to lend you a hoof, after I've finished addressing the Mayor's."
The prospective companion accepted this without a word and, head bowed, returned to her friends. "I guess I'm just not good enough,"she told her friends.
"He talked to you? What did he sound like?"
"Maybe he's just too busy. We should try again later."
Sepia walked on.
"Madam Mayor, Doctor Whoof to see you."
"Why, hello there, Doctor, what can I do for you?" The Mayor said when Sepia entered her office.
"You needed your clock fixed?" Sepia said.
"How did you know that?" Mayor said, flabbergasted.
Sepia swallowed a sigh. "That's what you told us when you called."
"You're working for the clock makers?" She gave Sepia a wink, "Clever cover."
No it's not, it's a terrible cover, Sepia thought to himself, but said, "Would you mind pointing me to the clock in need of my attention, ma'am?"
The Mayor pointed, and Sepia set to work, placing the clock on a nearby table and opening the back. He donned his magnifier lens and checked the intricate mechanizations. "So, what's the problem?" he asked.
"Well, planning for Winter Wrap-up is falling behind yet again, Princess Celestia wants to spend a day in town, and I still haven't gotten my ticket for the Grand Galloping Gala," the Mayor answered as she shuffled through the cluttered mess on her desk, examining papers here and there.
Sepia counted to ten in his head before speaking. "I meant with the clock, ma'am."
"Oh, yes, the clock," The Mayor said, "It's been running a bit slow."
"Have you been winding it?"
"My secretary winds it every day," the Mayor answered.
"M'hm," Sepia said, "Well, it looks like the spring's been over stretched. I'll have to replace it. I'll return it to you tomorrow morning."
"Thank you, Doctor," the Mayor said, "How much do I owe you?"
"It's Sepia Tock, Madam Mayor," Sepia said, "We can discuss payment upon my repairing it." He added as he put the clock into his bag.
"Thank you, Doctor." The Mayor said as Sepia left her office.
Sepia politely made his good bye, and left.