They were looking out towards the sea, the vast, seemingly endless Orientem Ocean from their place overlooking the Fillydelphia harbour. In the modern day, the port of Fillydelphia was a major commercial port, and heavy industry centre. Unlike the modern day though, the population of the Fillydelphia of the past was permanent.
In the modern day, very few people actually lived in Fillydelphia, almost its entire workforce was transient, coming in from the suburbs to work in the harbour, or, probably most importantly, the Fillydelphia Ironworks.
The Fillydelphia Ironworks was a wholly owned subsidiary of FutureTec. Responsible for the creation of heavy vehicles, ships, dirigible airframes and the like, and with the Ironworks located on the sea, they were readily able to bring in raw materials and ship out their newest creations as soon as they were completed.
In this setting, however, Fillydelphia was not like that in the slightest bit. It was still a port town, of course, but it was a small port, and a smaller town. Ironically enough, it still ended up being one of the larger cities of the Old Monarchy, but when the population of Equestria in that time was less than six hundred thousand, that wasn’t saying much.
Kelso noticed however, that the harbour was not idle. There were plenty of ships that were moored in, and even more were entering, ships that looked far too modern for Old Monarchy Equestria. One of the ships that they could see was bearing the Red Ensign of the Kangaroo nation of South Island, the flag emboldened with the stars of Crux, the Southern Cross. In the slip next to it was another ship, this one flying the Schäferhund tricolour of black, white, and red with an Iron Cross in the middle of it. There were many others, but they were all too far away for any of them to see.
Vinyl Scratch stood next to them on the hill overlooking Fillydelphia peering through a set of binoculars. She was looking towards the harbour and at each of the ships out there. Much to their surprise, something of which, they all kicked themselves for using that particular word, Surprise was standing next to her.
Vinyl Scratch, seemed to be unconcerned by the ships however, and she turned her binoculars towards the city centre and grinned widely. ‘Hey Surprise? You ready?’ She asked as her grin became impossibly wider.
The red eyed pegasus mare nodded her head in affirmation.
‘Excellent!’ Vinyl said taking a look through her binoculars again. ‘Then Operation: SUPERBALL is a go!’
'SUPERBALL?' Kelso asked.
‘SUPERBALL?’ Surprise asked.
‘SUPERBALL’, Vinyl repeated with a grin. ‘Part two. Problem?’
‘Nope!’ Surprise said cheerfully.
'Hold on, if this is SUPERBALL part two, then what was SUPERBALL Part One?' Hopely asked.
Sparky racked her brain, thinking back for any relevant stories that her grandmother might have told her, suddenly, she smiled and shook her head, and remembered a story from when she was a child. ‘SUPERBALL is one of my grandmother’s most generic plans, and oddly enough, it seems to be one of her most effective’.
‘What is it?’ Dizzy asked.
‘Throw caution to the wind and run in a straight line towards the objective!’ Sparky said simply. Almost as if on cue Vinyl Scratch and Surprise bolted, they galloped off at full speed towards the city centre. Kelso and company were quick to follow.
‘What if somepony sees us!?’ Surprise cried out as she followed.
‘Nopony is going to see, they’re all too busy getting ready to watch the parade for the World Leaders’ Conference!’ Vinyl Scratch said, dismissing the worries of the pegasus mare.
The World Leaders’ Conference, of course, that would explain all of the warships moored in the harbour. In the times of the Old Monarchy, once per year, the heads of state of many of the major countries of the world of Belleau would come to Equestria where they would use words to work through problems, rather than using force, with Princess Celestia acting as a neutral mediator.
As one could probably imagine, the World Leaders’ Conferences were always a complete disaster, thanks to Princess Celestia’s lack of caring about what she thought of as the petty problems of the other nations and in some cases, the World Leaders’ Conference ended up causing more problems than they solved. There was one such case during the conference in Year 127 before the Republic that provoked a full scale war between a Welaran Empire-Cheval Third Republic-Coassack Confederation-Twin Gryphon Kingdoms coalition, and an Alliance between the Schäferhund speaking nations of Schäferhund Kaiserreich, Österungarischereich, and the Capran Empire that resulted in the deaths of millions of lives on both sides.
Many argued that the war could have been prevented had Princess Celestia taken a more firm stance in mediating the disputes of Cheval President Georges Poincaré, and the Schäferhund Kaiser Friedrich. As one could expect though, she absolved herself of all blame, and washed her hooves of the whole affair. The Old Monarchy would not become involved in the war and the inhabitants of Equestria would be only vaguely aware that the war was even going on.
Further World Leaders’ Conferences were suspended until the end of the so called ‘World War’, and upon the end of it, they soon continued again in the same general, ineffectual trend that they had taken in the time before it, up until the Fall of Canterlot, and the establishment of the Equestrian Republic. Under the first Prime Minister Twilight Sparkle, who actually took the World Leaders’ Conferences seriously, things began to change, and the Conferences were able to actually sort things out. Or, at least they did until Year 24 of the Republic, when the November Revolution took hold in the Cossack Confederation, transforming the nation into the modern Unified Præsidium of Socialist Republics, when the Præsidium’s Supreme Soviet under Vasily Dzhugashvili declared that they would no longer participate in the conferences, causing the eventual cancellation of all conferences from then on.
Vinyl Scratch’s Operation SUPERBALL (Part II) ended up being largely successful, the town square of Fillydelphia was completely deserted, and she skidded to a halt in front of a large stature of an earth pony in the centre of a fountain, spitting water from its mouth in a rather disgusting fashion.
Viola frowned at the statue as she looked at it. ‘This statue is still there in the modern day, and I don’t know how, but the modern one is even more ugly than it is right now’, she said with a scoff.
‘Hey Surprise? Guess what time it is?’ Vinyl said flashing a grin at her companion.
‘Time... to cause... property damage?!’ Surprise guessed grinning brightly at the thought.
‘You get far too excited when we do this’, Vinyl said returning the grin. ‘I can’t take you anywhere!’
Surprise said nothing, instead sticking her tongue out at the unicorn mare and blowing her a raspberry. Vinyl chuckled and opened up her saddlebag, bringing out a comically large rock, and chucking it as hard as she possibly could at the statue with her telekinesis, and watching as it quickly impacted upon on the statues' head.
The passive observers were caught by surprise as the head tilted back and then snapped back forward, almost as if it was held on by spring hinges. The fountain stopped spitting, and the water began to drain from it as two concrete blocks moved apart, revealing a secret passageway.
'My only question is: how did vandals not find out about this first?' Hopely asked aloud to herself.
Vinyl vaulted over the into the fountain and trotted down the staircase, Surprise and the passive observers quickly followed, and not long afterwards the concrete blocks slid shut behind them and they heard water filling the fountain up above them.
‘How did you know this was all down here?’ Surprise asked.
‘Emerald Sparkle’s book has notes written in the margins’, Vinyl said simply as she pulled a book out from her saddlebags, holding it up to show Surprise before quickly returning it to the bag before Kelso could catch a glimpse of the title. She lit her horn for the light and the two of them continued to trot down the staircase, they reached the bottom and discovered a lift door with the letters FDIW printed in white on them, somewhat similar to the letters printed on the gear shaped door to the Everfree Plains Missile Base that Kelso and Company had seen in an earlier memory.
‘FDIW… Fillydelphia Ironworks?’ Dizzy asked aloud as Vinyl Scratch pushed the call button for the lift.
‘Probably, I don’t know why we should be surprised, I mean, FutureTec’s already scavenged everything that they have from the Kingdom of Equestria and from scientists like Emerald Sparkle’, Sparky said with a frown as the lift door opened in front of them.
Vinyl Scratch turned to Surprise and offered her a grin. ‘Once more unto the breach!’ Vinyl Scratch called enthusiastically as they stepped inside and the doors shut behind them, and the two mares plus their passive observers began their descent.
'Your Grandmother must really like that saying', Dizzy said turning towards Sparky.
'Probably', Sparky said with a shrug. 'Sometimes, it's almost like she knows we're watching and she does it just to annoy us'.
'Did you hear something?' Vinyl Scratch asked as she turned towards Surprise, causing Sparky and the rest of the group to look at each other with worry.
'I'm sure that was just coincidence', Kelso said with a shrug.
'I've heard lots of things in my life!' Surprise said cheerfully in response to Vinyl's question. 'Most of them were voices that belonged to ponies that weren't there!'
The passive observers looked at each other uncomfortably, and even though they couldn't be seen by the two mares that actually belonged in this memory, they wanted off this lift car before things got weirder.
The lift reached the bottom, and opened out towards a long hallway. Vinyl Scratch, Surprise, and the passive observers stepped out and began to trot along the corridor towards the door on the far end. As they walked, Vinyl Scratch’s ear began to twitch, something was off, and she heard something that was unnatural to this setting.
‘As if there is anything natural to this setting’, Hopely mused to herself as they walked along after her.
Vinyl Scratch, Surprise, and the rest of the passive observers reached the end of the hallway, and as they did, the door opened before them. A dozen or so unicorn ponies dressed in royal blue robes raced out of it and surrounded them. Each unicorn was levitating a firearm at head level, an odd mix of pistols, lever-action shotguns, and submachine guns. One of them even had a rather nasty looking rifle, and all of them were of origins that not even the passive observers, who were quite frankly all of the worldly type, were able to recognise.
‘Well’, Vinyl Scratch said flashing a grin. ‘You machine cultists sure know how to make a filly feel welcome’ she added as she glanced over to Surprise, whose expression had turned from childlike wonder to one of distress. She was uneasy, but continued to not say anything.
Sparky, Dizzy, and Hopely looked at each other in shock, they had heard that term before. The Cultus Mechanius, was a group of ponies that supposedly had the technological prowess to rival FutureTec, and for it, FutureTec had made every attempt to stamp them out of existence.
The machine cultists did not respond to Vinyl Scratch, however, out of the doorway another pony soon appeared, he was an older unicorn stallion, a coat of beige and a mane that had once been jet black, but now had turned to a light grey. He was wearing a set of deep purple robes, and he looked at her and offered a rather strange and disconcerting smile.
‘’Well hello there’, the unicorn stallion said simply. ‘I’m Chapter Master Archimedes. I’m head of this chapter of the Cultus Mechanius. Welcome to Fillydelphia, Vinyl Scratch, we’ve been expecting you’.