Pandemic: Departures

by Cosmic Eclipse

Ch 7 - "A Meeting of the Minds!"

Silver opened his eyes and immediately cringed back at the light coming through the window in his quarters. He slowly sat up and started rubbing his temples, recoiling from the headache that was currently pounding on his head. The previous evening was starting to come back to him, they had celebrated their arrival and rekindled their friendship with Marcus over a lavish dinner and discussed some of their plans going forward. Everything following that was a bit of a blur, but Silver remembered drinking quite a bit to celebrate… social events were fun for ponies after all, surely the intruder wouldn’t fault him for indulging a little more than usual if he was at least coming out of his shell.

Silver sat up in bed and rubbed his eyes, glancing out the open door and across to Stanley’s room, which was presumably empty. Stanley and Marcus had likely already departed, and would be well on their way to the Grand Canyon by now. Silver suddenly remembered what had been so important to him, and proceeded to jump out of bed faster than he had in a long time. Immediately he ran down the hallway and into the central warehouse space, startling Tinker and Gyro, who were groggily enjoying a late lunch, evidently still hung over from the night before as well.

Ignoring his headache he shouted out to the two inventors, “Tinker, Gyro! I have some great news!”

The two recoiled at this sudden outburst, their ears flinching down.

“Silver, do you really need to shout right now?!” Tinker said with a twinge of annoyance, his usual cheer and charisma drained at the moment.

“Yes! Err.. sorry, I know we’re all probably a little hung over from last night…” Silver said, ignoring his own headache once more. “...But I’ve got some really great news that I think you’re all going to really enjoy!”

“Okay, so what is this news, Silver?” Gyro said, holding a hoof to his head, a twinge of annoyance in his voice.

Silver ignored this, knowing that he was undoubtedly causing quite a bit of discomfort for the two inventors. “Ok, well you two remember our discussion about the Oasis, and how it wasn’t a viable solution?...”

“Yes?” the two inventors said in unison”

Silver smiled, cheerfully raising his voice again. “Well… It’s viable now.”

Gyro sat up in his chair, “Hold on, what do you mean it’s viable now?”

“Ok well I don’t know how to drop this lightly so let me just rip the bandage right off. I was doing my usual dream routine, and I thought that an old… friend had stopped by. It wasn’t that friend though, it was an... emissary sent by a pony going by the name of Sunset Blessing… you ever hear about her?”

Tinker suddenly sat up, spitting out his water, drawing another annoyed glare from Gyro. “That shimmerist down in South Carolina?! How on Earth did you manage to draw her attention?”

Silver beamed again, barely able to contain himself. “Well it turns out that gossip spreads fast amongst dreamwalkers, and word of my searching for ponies like you two, the ones who want to change the world, eventually spread down to Sunset Blessing, and she sent forward an interesting proposal.”

Gyro perked up but remained as stoic as ever. “What’s the proposal? What does Sunset want from us?”

“She’s been looking for ponies to help her with some of her projects, we happen to fit the bill for some of that, in return for our aid she’d be willing to help us acquire certain resources… this might be exactly the kind of thing we need to get the Oasis up and running. It’d be a home base, someplace of our own where we could actually start working on some innovative projects to try and make the world a better place without any interference and all we’d need to do is help Sunset with some of her projects every once in a while. I know you can already see the potential Tinker, I can see the wheels turning in your head.” He said as he turned towards Tinker.

“Yes, well I certainly can… what kind of projects did she have in mind?” Tinker said curiously.

“Her emissary… didn’t say, but it’s a small price to pay to attain a largely unattainable goal. I didn’t fully agree to anything yet by the way, so if you’d rather work out of a borrowed warehouse with the budgetary and governmental limitations that we’re dealing with right now then that’s perfectly fine too. I’ll let you think on it.” Silver turned to look out the window, seeing the large mountains in the distance. He smirked, before adding, “You know, Sunset’s stirred up a lot of influence in the government by the way, influence that might turn out useful with the Oasis project. Influence that might be able to get certain restrictions for a project of this size lifted--”

“--I’m in!” he loudly proclaimed, surprising Silver.

Silver merely smirked, and turned back towards the duo. “Glad to hear!”

Gyro snapped up in his seat. “Sir? Are you positive?”

“Yes Gyro! This is the chance of a lifetime, to fully realize our own goals. We want to help other ponies correct?”

Gyro sighed, knowing where this was going, “Yes.”

Tinker continued, “Well, this is the chance to do that right? Everything we could ever need is being handed to us on a silver platter and all that’s being asked in return is to work on some projects here and there! It’d be foolish to turn this opportunity down!”

“You’re dead set on this Sir?”

“I am Gyro. Now you know we can’t afford to let this opportunity slip away.”

Silver stepped in, “I’m glad we can all agree on this. I know you have your own reservations Gyro, I do too. That’s why I scheduled the final meeting for a couple days from now, so we could go over our ideas, what we need and where we need it. I’ve put a little bit of thought into this, if we want to start right away we could always look at taking over an abandoned mining town, there’s a few out in the Verde Valley that might suit our needs nicely, I’m sure it wouldn’t be too hard for Sunset to acquire one for our needs.”

“Why the Verde Valley?”

“Well it’s close for one, secluded and beautiful for another, but most of all it’s got some interesting legend rooted in mysticism. Have you heard some of the local legends of the area? There’s a lot of spiritual debate about it, but what if those legends aren’t just legends? There might be something about the region that helps channel magical energy, what if we could find a use for that?”

“Are you talking magical research?”

“Exactly! What if we could unlock it’s mysteries, make something amazing that could really help both ponies and humans?”

“It’s an interesting concept but we still know so little about magic, I doubt we’ll make any breakthroughs anytime soon.”

“What’s the harm in future proofing though? If we have a permanent base of operations we don’t need to worry about that, besides the seclusion would suit our needs nicely. No nosy neighbors to have to deal with.”

“Ok. You have a point, you’ve won me over.” Gyro chimed in, rubbing his temples with his hooves.

“Alright Silver, so what do we need to prepare for your next meeting? Is there any chance we could sit along with you?”

“That’s… err, complicated. Dreamwalking isn’t really something you two can learn to do, so I’m afraid Stanley and I will have to sit in for that. We’ll brief you on everything when we wake up though, and we can even arrange for Sunset to send us any of the relevant documents that we might need. I know it’s not the most ideal situation but it’s better than nothing.”

“Well, I suppose that’ll have to do. I’m excited to see where this all goes!”

“Me too Tinker, Me too!” Silver beamed, hardly able to contain his excitement.

The sun shined through the window shades in the small studio. As the it continued its journey through the sky the solitary beam shining through the window moved until it reached a pair of sleeping night ponies, causing one of them to stir. Sprocket woke up much the same as he would any other day, but something had piqued his interest the night before. A group of ponies had pulled a strange looking cart into town, definitely an unusual sight for the town. The night pony stood up and walked over to the bathroom, rinsing his face off and looking up at his reflection, noting his disheveled jet black mane that would no doubt be a pain to sort out on his own.

He sighed and walked back over to his sleeping companion companion, shaking her from her sleep. “Gadget I need your help again.”

She rolled over, pulling the comforter over her head. “What is it now Sprocky?”

He sighed again, feeling embarrassed by the simple request. “My mane’s a mess and I need help. Again.”

The covered night pony just giggled to herself. “Cmon Sprocky, you’re almost 25 and you still need me to take care of you?”

“Yes. I do. Now come on, let’s go!”

Gadget sighed, rolling out of bed and stifling a laugh when she saw the state of her friend’s mane. “Ok, come on champ let’s go see what we can do.”

The two walked into the bathroom, Sprocket flipping the light on, causing the two to squint their eyes for a moment, still sensitive to the bright overhead lights. Gadget turned the water on and started to brush his mane out. “Ok Sprocky, you really gotta sort this out for yourself sometime… but it is kind of relaxing, almost like i’m brushing a big dog.”

Sprocket simply rolled his eyes, sarcastically commenting, “You’re a real comedian you know that?”

“Well I’m glad at least one of us is!”, she chuckled back.

Sprocket spoke up again. “Gadget, did you happen to see where those strange new ponies wandered off to? The ones with the cart--”

“--Do you think they’re what we’ve been looking for?”, she finished, continuing to sort out her best friend’s mane.

“I mean, well what have we been looking for? A group of strange ponies pulling a strange cart into town isn’t exactly normal. Do you think they’re--”

“Other Inventors?!” the two said in unison.

Sprocket chuckled to himself, “They might be? Shall we roll out the proverbial red carpet? Wine and dine them? Pick their brains and see if they’re the kind of ponies we’ve been looking for?”

“Do you think they’d be interested in our idea? It’s not exactly the most conventional idea now… plus they might take us as a couple of shimmerists.”

Sprocket straightened up, obviously annoyed at her response. “Wanting to stay separate from the humans isn’t shimmerism Gadget! I don’t know how many times we need to get that across!”

Gadget took a few steps back, “Ok, ok. Calm down, I’m just stating a fact backed by every other interaction we’ve had so far. I’m about ready to leave this town and take my chances in some other community if it’s all the same with you.”

“It isn’t.”

“And you think this idea is a better alternative? What’s wrong with crashing with the other ponies? And you need to sit still otherwise I’m going to pull on your mane and you’ll really be annoyed with me!”

Sprocket settled back down, as Gadget resumed brushing his mane. “Well for one, they seem open to the idea of working with humans eventually… I just don’t feel comfortable with that right now.”

“You were literally one of those humans no less than 3 months ago Sprocket, isn’t it a little ironic to suddenly distrust them like you’re doing?”

“Ok that’s a fair point, but can humans fly? Can humans dreamwalk? I don’t think so. Yeah they have thumbs and hands, but I’ll take this any day over that. “He dramatically flexed his wings, earning an annoyed glare from Gadget. “Besides, we’re better off now, better suited to the environment. You get the idea?”

Gadget sighed, finishing up his mane, and starting on her own, pulling it back into a simple ponytail, using her wings to help. “I guess. So you wanna go see them now? Why’d we even wait this long? There was a night pony with them last night so it’s not like he wouldn’t have been awake.”

Sprocket smirked as the two shut off the water and light, and headed out into the room, “I thought you’d never ask! Oh and to answer your question, you know I can’t just cancel my evening plans on such short notice like that!”

Gadget just rolled her eyes at him, grabbing her saddlebags. “So where did you even see them go off to?”

The two walked out of the small studio, Sprocket simply leaving the door unlocked, for what valuables did they even have to steal anyways? “Some old warehouse”

The two continued to walk down the street, heading to one of the local parks, a popular destination for the town’s ponies. “Ok but how are we supposed to find them? Just knock on every single warehouse door until we find three ponies and a cart? Phoenix is a big city Sprocket, I don’t know if you understand that or not?”

Sprocket chuckled at her question. “Well it’s an unusual sight right? Let’s just ask around and go from there. Besides, they were close by yesterday, I can’t imagine they would have gone far.”

“I… I guess that works. Want to go grab something to eat? I’m starving.”

“Really? Now?”

“Oh come on Sprocky, it’s not even that bright out right now!”

Sprocket sighed “Fine. It’s your turn to pay this time though.”

“Oh come on, you’re really going to make me pay? I thought you were a proper gentleman” She teased

“Yep! I sure am!” He replied, smiling smugly.

“You’re no fun sometimes, you know that?”

“I sure do.”

Gadget smirked at him.

The two sat under a large tree, enjoying their little picnic meal. The park being a popular hangout for ponies. Sprocket picked up his grilled cheese and took a bite, talking with Gadget in between bites. “So you think they’ll even be interested in working with some others? I just need to get all this creative energy out, you know what I mean?”

Gadget took a sip of her lemonade, and replied, “Well it’s worth a try asking them right? I mean what’s the risk?”

“The risk is that we can’t come up with something to barter our rent with, and we get evicted. I’m surprised that Deb even lets us trade her the cobbled together inventions in lieu of rent pay.”

Gadget chuckled, remembering a story from one of her old high school teachers. “That reminds me of something my old history teacher Professor Davis told me, She and an old friend of hers were renting out some studio in the middle of the California desert and their landlord would accept paintings as rent, so is this really all that different?”

“I guess not, but those were paintings, these are glorified metal boxes stuffed full of used pinball machine parts. I don’t know when Deb’s going to realize the scrap we’re shoveling to her isn’t actually useful, but let’s hope that she doesn’t catch on.”

Gadget took another sip. “You know, I don’t think we should cheat Deb like that, she’s always been so nice to us.”

“We don’t really have an alternative right now Gadget, unless you want to go live in some hippie commune with a bunch of naturalist ponies.”

“Ok, I’m just being honest with you.”

The two finished their meals and threw away their trash, walking over to a couple of the regulars who frequented the park. The two pegasi were currently feeding the ducks down by the pond. The older of the two, a stallion named Jetstream excitedly greeted the pair. “Hey Sprock, Hey Gadg” How’re you two doing today?!”

Sprocket cleared his throat, taking a sip from his water bottle. “Oh you know, just wonderful as always, can’t beat a nice picnic on such a beautiful day right?”

“Oh you know it, that’s why Arrow and I love spending so much time here!” He said, nuzzling the mare next to him.

Sprocket shifted in place uncomfortably. “So anyways, you guys saw those weird ponies that pulled in last night right? The ones with the cart?”

Jetstream stopped and turned back towards Sprocket. “Yeah, why?”

“Do you know where they went?” Sprocket said, raising an eyebrow

Jetstream smiled. “No, but Zeke does.”

Sprocket stared back at them with a confused look. “Zeke?”

“Yeah, that drummer over there, he’s a bit of scatterbrain but he’s got a memory like an elephant, if anypony’s seen them it’d be Zeke.”

Sprocket sighed and walked over to the pony they were pointing to, a pegasus playing some drums with his wings. “Zeke.. is it?”

“Yeah, how can I help you?” He said as he continued to drum away.

Sprocket was starting to shout so he could actually be heard over the drumming. “You see where those weird ponies with the cart went off to?”

The pegasus paused his drumming for a moment, realizing that Sprocket was starting to get a little annoyed. “Oh that weird trio that came in last night? Yeah, I think my pegasus friend Zane saw them pull into some warehouse off of Buckeye and 35th. Why?”

“Oh… they’re just uhh… some... friends from out of town.”

Zeke raised an eyebrow and shifted back. “Ok? Well have fun with that I guess.”

“Thanks… Zeke.”

“Sure thing Sprock.” The pegasus returned to his drumming, having some fun with it in the process.

Sprocket and Gadget walked back towards their bench, looking out at the ponies enjoying their day in the park.

“So I guess we have our heading then. Wanna go get a head start?”

“Is that even a question?”

“No, it’s rhetorical.” Sprocket said as he smirked.

Gadget smiled again. “Har har you big joker, let’s get going then.”

The two stood up and started walking over towards the address the strange drummer had given them.

The two ponies approached the dilapidated looking warehouse, it certainly didn’t seem like the kind of place that creative ponies would go to. Maybe they were completely off about them.

Gadget looked to the building and then back over to Sprocket, a look of concern in her eyes. “This uhh…  seem like the right place to you?”

“No. It doesn’t. It looks like a place that a bunch of serial killers would hang out in.”

“Do you think that maybe we just misread the situation? Like the last dozen times? You know? Like we always seem to do?”

Sprocket sighed, rubbing his temples with his hooves. “Yeah. Sure.. Maybe-- So now what? Think you can outrun a few axe murderers?”

Gadget shot him an annoyed glare, “You have the weirdest sense of humor, you know that? I’m going to wager a guess and say you want to go see anyways though right?”

Sprocket smiled at her comment. “You know me so well! Well on we go, 19th times the charm right?”

Gadget smiled, punching him on the shoulder playfully. “There’s the Sprocky I know! Now let’s not just stand around here like a bunch of lost children, cmon, don’t you want to see if these are the inventors you’ve been desperately looking for?”

“Okay, okay let’s go check it out. I guess our 20th failure won’t hit my ego any harder than the other 19.” he said rather sarcastically as he started walking up to the door. “Do you want to do the deed this time or shall I?”

“Oh you can do it Sprocky, if these are a bunch of axe murderers I’ll let you distract them while I bolt off.”, she teased.

Sprocket raised a hoof and knocked on the door a few times.

They waited...

And waited...

And waited…

Sprocket was starting to lose his patience. He looked up, seeing that the lights were on, and knocked a lot harder this time around.

A loud cash could be heard inside followed by the clip clop of hooves on concrete echoing from behind the door. The door suddenly swung open followed by a very annoyed looking Tinker, holding an ice pack to his head.

“Hi. Can I help you?” He winced, rubbing his head. “You woke me up so I presume this is an urgent matter?”

“Ah yes, You’re the Tinkerer I presume? My name’s Sprocket by the way.”

“The Tinkerer?”

“Yes, that inventor that made an impact by dragging some fantastical cart into town with a night pony and unicorn.”

“Oh… I guess my reputation precedes me then, the name’s Tinker by the way… but “The Tinkerer” does have a nice ring to it!”, he smirked. “So what can I help you with?”

“Well let me rip the proverbial bandage right off. I like to consider myself and my companion here an inventor as well… but we’re not having much luck here. Let me put it this way. I think ponies can do some pretty spectacular things if we all work together, can you imagine what a bunch of the brightest pony minds could do? Let me answer that for you. We could revolutionize the pony world as we know it! We can cut out the middle man, skip humans entirely, do our own thing!”

Tinker shifted the ice pack to his other hoof, considering Sprocket’s words. “Well… That is an interesting idea, but it’s quite… I don’t know how to put it, kind of shimmerist don’t you think?-- not that that’s a bad thing, it’s just not what I’m exactly lining up for right now.”

Gadget smirked at Sprocket, but didn’t say anything.

“It… has been interpreted that way, but no. To be honest, I’m not a big fan of shimmerism. Yeah I think ponies have some advantages, and this is kind of a huge leap in evolution for us, but the entire world turning into ponies won’t just magically solve every problem. I’d rather just work on advancing our own abilities away from the humans for now. Maybe in time we can work with them, but for now I think there’s a lot more potential to be had on our own.”

“Why’s that? I think that humanity still has a lot to offer us.”

“I guess I worded that wrong, let me rephrase that. We could make a name for ourselves, get the fame and fortune that comes along with this kind of idea. We’d be using our talents to help all the wayward ponies and never have to worry about dealing with petty human problems again! Rent? Traffic? Annoying neighbors? Hell no! We’d be paving our own road with a whole slew of inventions that could solve everypony’s problems!”

“I… suppose that I can see your point of view. We’re kind of dealing with something similar. We want to help everypony-- er, everyone, but it’s such a big task to deal with that we’ve decided to work on the pony problems first. We actually came here to try and set up a more permanent base of operations so we can actually start planning some of this out.”

“Well, it seems our goals are aligned after all! Let me just get right down to business. Wanna collaborate? Just imagine all the good we could all do together! This is just the beginning by the way, an Hors d'oeuvre, an aperitif if you will. This could be the start of something really great!”

Tinker seemed to consider this for a moment, no doubt thinking of the possibilities. “Well, I don’t know how long term this could be, but I think that something in the short term would be wonderful!”

Sprocket’s entire demeanor changed with this. “Fantastic! I really look forward to working together! Mind if I come in and have a drink? We can talk about some ideas, work out some details, all that fun stuff!”

“Well… We’re actually not set up for that right now… We may have celebrated a little too hard last night and we’re still sleeping that off. I’m sorry Sprocket-- Maybe tomorrow though, we could chat over lunch!”

Sprocket smirked. “That sounds like a plan then, farewell Tinkerer, you’re gonna just love this, I just know you will!”

“Goodnight Sprocket, Just stop by tomorrow whenever you’re up!”

Tinker closed the door and a few minutes later the lights in the warehouse turned off.

“Well I think that went well, I guess try #20 wasn’t a bust afterall eh Gadg?”

Gadget just laughed as the two started flying back towards their studio. “Oh I guess not, I’m glad you’re so cheerful Sprocky, I was worried that that sarcastic scowl was going to get stuck on your face!”

Sprocket just laughed, as the two landed and walked into their studio, shutting the door behind them. Gadget laid down on the couch and turned on the TV as Sprocket started to prepare their dinner, thinking about all his plans that could finally work out. For the first time in his life he might actually get the recognition he thought he deserved, the recognition that he felt was robbed from him. This was a real good day, a real good day indeed, he thought as he smirked to no one in particular.