...Runnin' down the avenue. See how the sun shines brightly in the city on the streets where once was pity. Mister blue sky is living here today hey, hey...
Sparky bobbed her head along with the music as the autopilot for her car drove her onto the motorway, getting into the right leg fast lane and heading north east through downtown Ponyville. She loved this song, and when the chorus came up, she couldn’t help but sing along.
‘Mister blue sky please tell us why you had to hide away for so long?’
‘Where did we go wrong?’ Sparky sang. Fortunately for her, no one else was in the car, because she could not sing. Not in the slightest. Grandma V would always like to joke that Sparky had inherited her musical ability from her late husband’s side of the family. Grandma V and her late husband had both been musicians when they were younger. Grandma would always tease her husband that he had no talent and that she had married him out of pity.
Suddenly the music stopped as her mobile phone began to ring. Sparky looked down at her MIP, bringing up the holographic interface and holding it over her car’s dashboard, transferring the call over to the car’s onboard computer.
She answered the call, the holographic display bringing up an image of the person on the other end. Sparky smiled when she saw who it was. ‘Commodore Heartstrings! What a pleasant surprise... little early to be calling isn’t it?’ she asked.
‘Probably, but I saw that you were online, and it’s kind of important’, said the small holographic image of the pony that she was speaking to. ‘And don’t start with this ‘Commodore Heartstrings’ thing, we’ve known each other far too long for that, for you? It’s just Dula’.
Sparky couldn’t help but smirk. Sparky had grown up living next door to Dula Heartstrings, like her, Dula was a unicorn. The two of them had been friends for as long as she could remember, even though Dula was quite a bit older than she was. Dula’s family had a history of public service going back to the founding of the republic. After finishing High School, Dula joined the Equestrian Republican Navy and rose through the officer’s ranks on a fast track to her rank of Commodore.
‘What can I do for you Dula?’ Sparky asked.
‘I’m getting stonewalled for information by FutureTec on the Discovery project every time I request an update. It seems like every time someone says we're moving towards a paperless society, I have five more forms that I need to fill out to request that someone will look at my request for information on the project’, Dula said with a sigh. ‘Damn bureaucracy’.
‘The Discovery Project?’ Sparky asked as she thought about it. The Discovery Project was the culmination of the Republic’s space exploration programme. The goal of the project was simple, the first manned mission to Tartarus, one of the gas giants that orbited their sun, and what was probably a more important achievement, the furthest any pony had ever been from their home world. Several months ago when the craft launched, her department at work had been ordered to drop everything that they were doing, in order to provide tracking and support information for the crew of the Discovery One space craft. It made sense that Dula was calling her, ordinarily, Sparky would have agreed to the request, Dula was an old friend after all, but this... this was something that could get her fired. ‘When you say it’s important... is it the Praesidium?’ Sparky asked.
‘It’s always the Praesidium’, Dula said with a nod.
‘You don’t think that they’re going to try something, do you?’ Sparky asked with a grimace.
‘They’re up to something, haven’t heard anything since Discovery One passed beyond real time communications range, we’re worried that the Praesidium might have hijacked the ship... honestly? It’s not out of the realm of possibility’.
Sparky grimaced at the idea. Around the same time as the founding of the Equestrian Republic, in their world’s western hemisphere, another nation rose in the east. The Unified Praesidium of Socialist Republics arose after a popular revolt overthrew the autocratic Cossack Confederation. At first, the Equestrian Republic had not only applauded the change in government, thinking that the Cossacks would be moving to a democratic system of government just like they had, they fully supported them. It was only when they realised that the individual leading the revolts, Vasily Dzhugashvili, was not only an autocrat himself, but worse than any Czar had ever been. Under his rule more than six hundred thousand Cossack ponies had been executed by the state. This alarmed the Equestrian Republic into reconsidering their relationship with the Praesidium, and the two nations experienced cold relations and mutual distrust ever since.
In recent years, however, the relationship between the Praesidium and the Equestrian Republic had cooled significantly. Enough that both governments were willing to work with each other on the Discovery Project, as their space programmes were the most advanced on the planet. It had been something of an embarrassment to the Republic that the Praesidium had beaten them to every major milestone in space. Who launched the first artificial satellite into orbit? The Praesidium. Who put the first pony in space? The Praesidium. Who put the first pony on the moon? Once again, the Praesidium, the Equestrian Republic was never far behind, but that was just it. They were behind. Always behind, and it seemed impossible for them to catch up no matter how hard they tried.
This was to be different with the Discovery Project, the first manned mission to Tartarus, and even then, half the crew aboard the Discovery One space craft were Praesidium cosmonauts. Sparky could understand Dula’s fears that the Praesidium would try to take another major accomplishment out from under them.
‘I’ll do what I can Dula’, Sparky said.
‘I appreciate that Sparky, I really do, let me know when you’ve got something. Heartstrings out’, Dula said with a polite nod as the holographic image of her dissolved as the call ended.
Sparky looked out the window as her car piloted itself into the left lane, taking the off ramp into Whitetail, Ponyville’s industrial centre, and the location of FutureTec’s Whitetail Industrial Complex. Within a few moments, her car pulled up to FutureTec’s gates. Sparky rolled down the window and ran her MIP over a small scanner to open the gate. The gate popped open in response to her positive identification as an employee, and the car rolled inside and over to her parking space.
FutureTec’s Whitetail Industrial Complex had one time been a forest as well. Before the foundation of the Republic, the area had been known as Whitetail Wood, and had no other purpose than harvesting tree sap for making maple syrup. Sparky looked up towards the skyline. Even with all of the buildings that lined the sky, she could still see the mountains.
In the olden days before the Republic, the Equestrian capital was located in the mountains north east of her present location. The city had been built into the side of the mountain, and had been called Canterlot. When the princesses were over thrown, Canterlot’s supports were weakened to the point of breaking, causing the entire city to literally fall down upon Whitetail Wood below. The resulting fires burned Whitetail Wood to the ground. FutureTec bought up all the land, cleared out the rubble of the city, and built the Whitetail Industrial Complex on top of it.
FutureTec was founded in the early days of the republic, and quickly became one of the largest manufacturers, not only in Equestria, but in the entire world. FutureTec’s manufacturing made it possible for the Republic to spring up as it did. Before the Republic, Equestria was a preindustrial absolute monarchy, and after the Republic was founded Equestria’s rapid industrialisation took them from backward society to the cutting edge of technological prowess.
Sparky found it hard to believe that with FutureTec on their side that the Praesidium still beat them into space. Sparky shut down her car and went outside, trotting over towards the main entrance. She pushed open the glass doors and stepped inside, the blast of air conditioning chilled her entire body, causing her to shiver. It was still quite warm outside even though the sun had barely risen. The room of the main entrance was a small one, containing only a receptionist’s desk along on the eastern wall, and a few rows of chairs for visitors waiting to speak to someone in the company on the western wall. The receptionist had yet to get in, so Sparky payed the room little mind. Along the northern wall was a single personnel lift. Sparky trotted up to it and waved her MIP over the lift’s control console, unlocking the lift and opening the door for her. She stepped inside, allowing the door to shut behind her. A small holographic console popped up before her showing every stop the elevator had. She tapped on the button for her floor, and watched as the holographic display disappeared and the elevator began to move.
The feel of the elevator dropping as it sped to the bottom floor of the complex, several dozen metres underground, really got her blood moving. Soon enough the elevator door opened up and Sparky stepped outside into a large metal room filled with holographic display terminals.
On the far side of the room a large holographic sign that read in bold white letters: ‘Welcome to FutureTec Discovery Project Command Centre! We’ve gone 154 days without a workplace accident!’
Sparky watched as the holographic sign ticked over, it now said 155 days, and she smiled. Her job was like her second home, and it felt good to be home.