So I get to meet the ultimate fruit of my grandfather's work soon. I wonder what they are like...
The 'home base' of the Thomas's reclamation team was nothing more than a over-outfitted standard house. In an era gone by, it would have outwardly looked like the pinnacle of suburban life with a modern twist. The house was fairly large, enough room for the six girls and their sleeping bags to have some room while the guys kept their normal rooms. The last week or so was full of a lot of acclimation for everyone involved. The girls, having been sealed in those pods for the last seven decades, spent most of their time learning the new iterations of the technology since then. The guys spent most of their time going to pick up the clothes they let the girls order, thankful the 3D Printers made clothes quite cheap relative to their pay-scale. Besides being runners for their new house guests, the guys had to get used to the fact the Equestrian Magic was starting to reassert itself in those girls, much to the delight of Professor Eastson.
"It's been too long since I've seen you work your literal Technical Wizardry, Dawn," Prof. Eastson said, getting used to the less robust systems of Thomas and crew's home.
Dawn was fiddling with some leftover electronics that Richard had salvaged, seeing what she could restore/upgrade with her magic and technical skill. "Well, it's taken awhile to link ourselves back to what little Equestrian Mana is left. Oddly enough, Choco helps quite a bit in that regard."
"Choco always helps!" the Slave Pony said excitedly, bouncing up and down like a little colt. The six girls couldn't help but feel queasy around the foal-like chocolate brown and white-maned stallion.
At the same time, however, his presence was comforting in another sense; it was proof that Ponies still existed in this world. The internal contradiction only served to confuse the six ladies even more.
Jewel came back into the main room where Dawn, Richard, and Eastson were fiddling with the house's computers. "Choco certainly means well, but I see the Slave Ponies haven't gotten any smarter in the last 70 years."
"Yeah and I guess the Powers-That-Be would like it to stay that way. We try to treat Choco as best as we can given the circumstances, but it's hard to look at that face and not be disturbed," Richard said, as he examined another processor panel to see if it was worth letting Dawn and Eastson upgrade.
Eastson sighed as he switched 'faces' on the cube in order to look straight at Jewel and Richard. "It is truly a terrible situation everyone finds themselves in. If it weren't for the Slave Ponies, Humanity would not have been able to reclaim the lands they sacrificed to execute their campaign against Equus as a whole. But, in my opinion anyway, it really should not have degenerated to that point to begin with."
Dawn sat Indian-style on the floor as she levitated a circuit-board in her sky-blue aura. "I could sit here and continue to be mad at the state of the world, but just doing that isn't going to get me or the rest of us anywhere. I guess we'll just have to continue on as we were until we can figure out if anything can be done about, well, everything."
Peaches, Bubbles, and Harold were in the basement, which had been converted into a training room and the sleeping quarters for the orange and reddish haired ladies. Bubbles was stretching on a machine built to help improve flexibility, while Peaches had a pair of gloves and shin-and-foot-guards with sensors to test her punching and kicking power.
"Well I'll say this about you two, and I guess I can extend this to the rest of your group: you all are in peak physical condition given your frames and personalities. In fact, if I dare say I think Peaches here might have been at least a semi-professional fighter in a past life," Harold said as he looked at results from the strike power tests.
Peaches gave Harold a bit of playful look as she started to recount a bit about her life before she arrived at the Eastson's lab. "Like I said before, I was a cage-fighter in the border areas of the main cities. Ya know, the space where the slums meet the more, I guess middle-class areas. They said I set records in the women's division for wins and knockouts; even got over on a few men slightly below my weight class on top of that. Then... some things happened. Next thing you know my hair looks like fruit and I'm throwing around 50 Kg weights like it's nothing."
Harold could tell by the tone of her voice in the last statement whatever happened to her was quite painful, so he didn't pursue the issue.
Bubbles perched herself on one of the pieces of equipment, her relatively small frame keeping her from banging her head against the ceiling of the basement workout area. "Yeah, she might be a good striker, but she can also stretch you out pretty bad. Although I can slip out most of her holds. Unless I eat one of her pies, or take too long in the shower..."
"Uh, I think I get the idea Bubbles. At the very least, you have good hand-to-hand combat instincts and skill, those hands and feet of yours are wicked" Harold stated after managing to cut Bubbles off from blabbing too much. He noted himself that her striking power was well above average for a male of her size and build, let alone a woman.
"The thing that truly pisses me off though, is how this world is both doing better and worse in the years since we went into stasis. Yeah, everything is more green, and there seems to be more to go around. But it doesn't look like the slums have gotten any better," Peaches said, striking the bag even harder than she was before.
Harold was a bit rattled, not used to Peaches invoking some of her Pony Magic. Looks like she has a bad temper too, we're gonna have to watch that if trouble comes calling... Harold thought to himself as he watched Bubbles hop down and move on to a different piece of equipment.
Stormy, Demi, and Thomas were along the top balcony, on a second floor patio overlooking the general neighborhood. Thomas had the patio built overlooking the greater city of the East America First Cluster, once apparently known as New York City. The cluster is what the old societies would have termed a megalopolis, an urban area stretching an inordinate amount of space, as if a bunch of smaller cities merged into one big super-city. Thomas's Reclaimer group, being of modest means, managed to scratch together enough to move from the slums into what was a nice little enclave of green, compared to the gray of those slums.
"I look out at all of that, Tommy, and it's strange how there are these islands of green in the middle of all that neutral gray and whatever," Stormy said, already having made up nicknames for the her three Reclaimer hosts.
Thomas just chuckled at the braggadocio of Stormy as he continued on with the discussion. "Well, the Powers-that-Be said they wanted to construct these suburbs and Green Islands as sorta, I dunno how they termed it. I think it was 'Morale Boosters' and 'Goals to Shoot For'. I guess they figure everyone in the slums could pull themselves up high enough to buy something like this. I think me and my crew got lucky at first, we happened to get an assignment where he made a damn good haul, and from there we got the best assignments. Which means we got the best pay. And now, here we are in this reasonably nice house."
"So what about Choco? Did he come with the house or was he a gift or a purchase," Demi asked with some bit of trepidation. She was the girl who felt the most towards Choco, and the condition of all of the Slave Ponies.
"Well, Choco is a bit of an odd situation. Usually having a personal Slave Pony is only for the upper-middle class and the upper classes outright. We literally found him on a mission. He was left behind by his previous owner I can only assume; heard this whimpering, and there he was, sickly but still alive and breathing. Eventually we nursed him back to health and we couldn't bear to turn him in to a facility. So now he's our one-Pony house and yard maintenance crew," Thomas answered, rubbing his hand along his face and chin.
Stormy looked on at Choco in his shed-come-personal-barn, humming happily as he tended to his little personal flower garden. "Yeah, Choco isn't too bright by our standards. But, he means well enough, and does the best he can. I guess in the end that's all you can ask for. Just wish it'd hadn't had come to that. Who knows what he did in his past life: he could have been the worst of murderers, or some guy caught in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Thomas just put his head in his forehead to telegraph his internal consternation at the thought. "That's one of the things that always drives me crazy about the Slave Ponies. There shouldn't be any reason why they should be kept so... stupid, to be perfectly blunt. But girls, do you want to know what I believe, as crazy as it might sound?"
"Huh Mr. Pullman?" Demi and Stormy asked in unison.
"Not every Pony on this planet is in that condition. I don't know, but something just... it just tells me Celestia isn't the only right thinking Pony in existence. Although given what my ancestors did to her... might be hard to say she's right-thinking right now," Thomas responded, almost looking beyond the stretch of buildings and past into the vast wilds there were just now becoming wild again.
Stormy and Demi looked at each other for a few moments. This was one of the few times that they heard any human talk about Celestia, the White Horse Invader from Equus, without being metaphorically spitting upon her ‘grave’. At the same time, despite what they felt when the serum was used on them, they knew something was wrong the former matriarch. But all six of the girls were hard-pressed to figure out what exactly that something was.
The next hour or so was spent cleaning up the main area of the house, with Bubbles and Demi helping Choco in the task. Thomas and Professor Eastson were expecting a guest this afternoon, Eastson's granddaughter and geneticist in her own right, Diana.
"So when is she supposed to get here?" Stormy asked while perched up on the balcony near the staircase leading up to the second floor.
"According to her last call, within the next few minutes. She usually works and lives in the industrial part of Cluster-One so she doesn't get out to the Green Islands that much," Eastson replied, as his cube sat on a pedestal.
"So what is she like, Professor Eastson?" Dawn asked as she paced around a bit, brushing some of her tri-colored hair out of her face.
Eastson replied quickly, also while trying to calculate when exactly she should arrive given the prevailing travelling conditions. "Well, honestly it's been hard for me to contact her in the last ten years. Any message I send out from the labs had a potential for back-tracing. But while she was in the university she was like any other bookish girl."
Everyone just shrugged their shoulders as they began to formulate the mental images as best they could.
As Easton predicted, a nice looking car was heard pulling into the driveway of the Reclaimer's home. Everyone wondered if their quickly formulated mental images would come true. The lady then walked through the door, her hair somewhat messy, clothes a tad bit oversized given her figure, and lab coat still on. Her glasses also showed the signs of someone working around goop and chemicals all day, bits of green and red all over the frames.
"Ugh, I hate it when they try to get me to work overtime, I told them I was taking off at 3 PM but they simply insisted that I run a couple of trials on the bee prototypes again," the woman said as she was still clearly angry about not having a chance to get herself in better straits.
Professor Eastson chirpped up as the other nine just kinda stared at the woman who looked like she just walked through a wind tunnel. "So dear Dianne, how are you doing today? It's been far too long since we've talked."
"Other than the minor overtime, just fine grandpa. Anyway, I have a change of clothes in my car. Would you mind if I delayed for a while to get cleaned up?" Dianne asked as she frowned at how rough she looked, looking back at herself in a compact mirror.
"Oh yeah, Jewel can show you around upstairs, right?" Thomas asked when he finally snapped himself back to the present.
"Yes, yes I can," the blue-haired dame stated, got up and went next to the stairwell.
After a few moments, Dianne walked back in with her change of clothes that Jewel went to put in the automatic presser, while Dianne herself went upstairs to shower and get her hair straightened out.
The next 45 minutes were passed with various side discussions and games, most notably Demi playing checkers with Choco and Choco keeping up a little bit with Demi.
Afterward, Dianne finally came back downstairs. She looked much more 'normal', wearing blouse and a knee length skirt with stockings and flats. To her and most outside observers, it was semi-conservative, but still far better at showing off her figure than her normal work clothes. After a few minutes of introductions, they began talking more earnestly.
"Well it's nice to see that you clean up well, almost literally," Harold said somewhat jokingly.
Dianne just sighed and chuckled. "And it's nice to see that you're a pretty honest guy. Truth be told, I don't like dressing like this while I'm on the clock. The boys tend to pay too much attention to me versus their work. And with the sensitive things we work on, that really can't hold."
That last statement perked Dawn's attention. "Oh? So what do you and your lab work on, Miss Eastson?"
Dianne crossed her legs and thought a few moments, deciding to go ahead an answer. "We are working on bio-mechanical equivalents of various dead or low-population species in order to get the Earth’s biological environment working in a more independent manner."
Most of the non eggheads in the audience were visibly confused by the statement, so Dianne proceeded to clarify. "Well, insects and other tiny actors are needed to make sure the world keeps turning, metaphorically. Pollination, corpse decomposition, so on and so forth. We cannot be so reliant on active management of Slave Ponies and larger machines."
Everyone began to nod in various degrees after thinking about it for a few moments.
"Are you all willing to indulge me while I step on my soapbox for a bit?" Dianne asked, while looking at the group for any dissent or the like.
"That is why I requested this little meet and greet," Professor Eastson replied. "I wanted you to tell the girls here the condition of the wider world in the current day. I think you'll be a little better, no offense, than the Reclaimers at giving the macro picture."
Thomas just shrugged while he continued to listen to the good miss Doctor.
Dianne then continued. "Well part of the problem, as far as I can see, is that the world outside of the purview of the City Clusters is still in very poor conditions. It is almost impossible for anything to live far away from a Cluster, and this feels like a grave problem to me."
Everyone looked at each other, trying to figure out what exactly the problem was.
"It means that the Powers-that-Be basically have too much direct control over things. Think about the forced Slave Ponification for minor offenses, along with the lack of ability for more people to live a decent life and truly pursue what they want to. All of it just implies that they want to keep the clamps on the population at large so that they can continue on their glide path. The problem is, that aside from the accumulation of wealth and social power, I have no idea what the end game is."
"You'd think already being on top of the world would be enough. I guess if you got everything but still want something, you have to start making up some kind of goal to achieve," Richard mused out loud.
Dianne nodded in agreement. "You know, you might not be too far off the mark, Mr. Richard. The rumors are rampant that the odd requests are starting to come from the upper echelons. If said rumors are true, then it appears the Powers-that-Be are growing bored with the state of things."
"I would say that so long as it stayed in the upper circles it'd be fine. But it won't be fine until things start to get, I guess, unclogged in the lower echelons. A lot to think about as we try to find out way out here," Demi said while stroking Choco's mane.
Dianne nodded again in agreement. "Indeed, Demi. What you all and my grandfather have said about your, peculiar circumstances, has piqued my interest. I'm afraid that any extensive interviews or in-depth demonstrations would have to wait until I can get a weekend off, though."
"I believe we could still show you some things of interest," Dawn said, beaming with pride in the gifts bestowed upon her and other five.
"Since I do have the rest of the day off, that would be nice," Dianne said as she went into the kitchen with Bubbles to looking for something prepare for a late lunch for everyone.
Meanwhile, in a nice office in the Inter-Dimensional Spirit Bureaucracy Central Committee there 'sat' a rather curious looking figure. He simply watched various footage of the Ponies-in-exile wandering about trying to figure how they were going to deal with eternity; incredibly amused by the entire spectacle.
"Oh dear Luna, what are you and your cohorts going to do with the rest of Time staring you all in the face..."
In another direction, he could 'see' the thoughts of the imprisoned Princess of Equestria, buried deep under the ground of the Earth-8437. He could not figure out what was more amusing: Luna and the other miscreants in Purgatory trying to wander through the mists of time, or Celestia trapped a glorified coffin.
"And dear Celestia, how it must plague you not knowing what happened do your Dear Sister and your subjects, how it must plague you indeed..."
He simply laughed for the next few minutes, before an attendant knocked on his door. It was time for him to attend yet another of the imminently boring Council meetings.
"Well my two favorite former Council-members, I do have work to do!"