The sun had started to rise over the horizon, and the group, now assembled in Midnight’s quarters, watched as the guards opened the gates. Midnight stood up and walked towards the door, turning to face her assembled team.
“Alright everypony, it’s go time. You all know the plan right?”
Stanley nervously looked between the assembled ponies. “We… make a run for the exit before Dawn notices?”
“Exactly Stanley! If we can avoid Dawn we’ll avoid a lot of unnecessary baggage.”
“And why is that a bad thing?”
Midnight turned towards Patrick. “Dawn is a little… emotional, for lack of a better term. She freaks out whenever anypony tries to leave, she can’t stop them but she sure as hell tries… even makes it hard to do. I’m afraid that if she catches wind of so many ponies leaving at once, especially one of the original residents like me, she might finally tip over the edge.”
“Wait, wait… So Dawn’s just some lunatic on the verge of snapping?”
“I wouldn’t put it past her. Dawn’s a little high strung, she’s got an ego big enough to fill the canyon and then some. I don’t think she’s really in the best place mentally to be completely honest with you.”
Stanley shivered at the thought. “Y-you’re not really putting me at ease Midnight…”
“Just don’t worry Stanley. I’ll make sure we get out of here fine.”
Stanley sighed. “Ok, I guess I’ll trust you on this Midnight.”
Gizmo cleared his throat, “Alrighty, should we start makin’ our move or are we just gonna sit ‘round here all day?”
Patrick nodded in agreement. “I agree with Gizmo, we should probably get a move on before Ms. Dawn wakes up and throws her temper tantrum like you think she will.”
“Right. Just follow me and stay quiet, Dawn makes early morning rounds, she likes to keep an eye on the city and the ponies that live here. There’s rarely a plan or incident that she’s unaware of and that’s why I’ve had to work extra hard to slide under her radar like this. It’s so hard when she breathes down everypony's neck. So anypony have any more questions before we go?”
The three others shook their heads. Midnight, seemingly pleased with this unlocked her door and stepped outside, waving at the other ponies to follow. The four silently but brisky made their way towards the gates, nodding at the guards as they started to near them.
Midnight stopped and turned towards one of the guards. “Alright, before we go I have a special request for you. If you should ever notice anypony else who wants to leave but doesn’t know where to go or how to get the resources they’ll need to survive the trip, direct them up to the overlook. We’re going to hide some resources there from time to time. Maybe even place someone loyal there to direct them full time. Can you do this for us? Can you keep an eye out for ponies like that?”
The guard nodded. “Dawn won’t like it, but I’ll do the best I can Midnight. We’re gonna miss you but I don’t blame you for leaving. Dawn’s been going more and more and more overboard with her devotion to shimmerism. I was fine with it when it was the somewhat innocent “We’re better than humans for these reasons and the humans have run us out of everywhere else so let’s go do our own thing.” mantra, but now it’s becoming the “Ponies are the ones who should really be in charge, we should forcibly take back what’s ours even if we have to resort to violence to do it.” one, and there’s a noticeable schism forming in her ranks as a result. You might see more like minded individuals follow you out sooner than you realize.”
Midnight was taken aback by this, but she continued. “Well I appreciate this nonetheless, thanks for the help Strong, I know I can count on you.” Midnight looked back into the town, and then to her new friends. “Ok, let’s get going before Dawn makes her morning rounds.--”
“--What are you up to today Midnight? Going out on a little expedition?”
Midnight closed her eyes and sighed. She turned around, facing Dawn. “I’m leaving Dawn. I know this is going to hurt, but you’re not well, you’ve turned from somepony who genuinely felt that ponies should work together apart from humanity into somepony who thinks that ponies are superior to humans and should fight with them to get your way. I just don’t understand it Dawn. I can’t stand to be here any longer and whether you like it or not I’m leaving.”
Dawn’s entire demeanor seemed to shift in that very moment. “Midnight Midnight Midnight… I think you of all ponies can understand my message better than any pony else here. These… humans— they’re no different than a bunch of savages fighting for whatever they want. Haven’t you seen how they treat each other and us? All the cases of humans pushing ponies out of the homes and land that have every right to inhabit? Why reason with beasts that refuse to return the same courtesy to us?”
Midnight stepped forward, anger swelling up within. “Because humanity has more to offer than what you’re seeing through your own clouded lenses. Yes humans aren’t perfect, but you know what Dawn? They’re a hell of a lot better than you!” She calmed down a little. “Yes I think that we’re better off as ponies, but that doesn’t mean that humanity has nothing else to offer us. Have you stopped to even consider that maybe the reason why you hate humanity so much is because you’ve only dealt with a small sliver of it since becoming a pony? Don’t forget that you were one of those beasts no less than three months ago.”
“I was one of those beasts, that’s true. But I’ve moved beyond that—“
“— You know what, you’re exactly right Dawn. You’ve moved from criticizing and belittling those that didn’t fit your perfectly moral standards to criticizing and belittling others just because they aren’t the same as you! You’re no different than before Dawn, it’s just that now you’ve found someone else to preach damnation on! In fact you’re even worse, you’re honestly no better than a common racist now!”
Dawn walked away from the gate, anger swelling within her. “Well it appears I thought wrong of you Midnight, you weren’t the shining beacon of change that I took you for. You’re just one of those human sympathizers who aren’t even fit to handle the grunt work with those lesser ponies here. And to think I was genuinely hurt by you leaving.” Dawn spat back with anger.
“Call me what you want Dawn, but at the end of the day I’m not the one who’s going to have to atone for my actions… you are. Now, seeing as how you’ve not only insulted me, your guests, and now the very residents that really do all the work here, I think it’s time we made our exit.” Midnight confidently and smugly strut away, pausing for a moment. “Oh and if any of you were personally offended by Dawn’s little outburst, or might be having second thoughts about staying here, feel free to come with us.”
A hushed silence spread across the crowd of ponies that had formed as the residents of the town considered both sides, Midnight’s crusade had been the spark, and Dawn’s outburst had been the fuel. A slow clamor of hooves on the rock slowly rose as many of the residents simply dropped what they were doing and began to march towards the gate. The fire had been lit, and Midnight could only smugly smile at Dawn, as she watched Dawn’s perfect little world crumble apart in front of her.
“Looks like your so called believers weren’t too happy at your choice of words Dawn, have fun doing all the work on your own from now on!”
Dawn’s eye twitched as she realized her mistake all too late. She began to get flustered, trying to save face as best as she could. “No.. y-you don’t understand! When I said lesser ponies I simply meant that you were lower on the totem pole!—“
“— It’s too late for that Dawn, Midnight has a point. You preach about how humans are horrible vile creatures that don’t care about others and all the other horrible names and slurs that you can think of calling them, but you’re no different at all! You’re a hypocrite Dawn. I guess it just took one brave soul to speak up for me to realize that.”
“Calamity! You— please don’t tell me that you’re actually siding with this human sympathizer!”
“I am Dawn, and the fact that you still can’t see what’s wrong with all of this only backs up my decision further. I’m tired of intimidating and striking fear into others just so you can get your narrative across, I’m done hoarding all the food and water just so you can keep ponies here without actually taking them prisoner. It doesn’t atone for every morally questionable thing I’ve personally taken part in, but you know what? The fact that I realize I’m part of the problem only makes me better than you. So enjoy your city Dawn, this is everything you’ve worked towards after all!”
“No Dawn. Not any more. You’ve had your chances to change and you’ve only gotten worse.”
Dawn was fuming now. She turned to Midnight and started to yell. “You’re going to pay for this beast. You can go wherever you want but remember, I have friends all around, in every town, village, city, from here to Blythe. There’s nowhere you can go where I can’t find you so just keep that in mind!”
Midnight stopped and stomped her hoof down in anger. “Is that a threat Dawn?! You realize if you try anything you’ll be rotting away in a cell faster than you can even say “what happened”? The humans are already pretty tense and if you start some stupid shit the only pony that’s going to regret this will be you.”
“I don’t believe I stuttered Midnight. Just remember that. I’ll find you, wherever you are, and you’re going to pay for this.”
“Pay for what?! Are you seriously this upset over ponies actually realizing that you’re not the leader they should be following? Are you that much of an egomaniac that not being able to assert your will over others is going to drive you to doing something really stupid? I know you’re smart Dawn, so please, let’s just deal with this like two adults.”
“What do you think?! For subverting the natural order! I had a plan! An actual plan to get what’s rightfully ours, and now you’ve come along and poisoned the minds of all my citizens!”
“Your citizens” Do you know how crazy you sound right now Dawn?! Because you’re not sounding like a rational pony right now. Back off, and leave us be. This is your last warning.”
“Fine. But you will regret this, judgement day is coming, and it’s coming sooner than you realize. You can run, but you’ll never hide from the truth, even you know that!”
Midnight angrily grabbed her bag and stomped over to the gates. “Well are we going or what?!” She angrily shouted at the three bewildered ponies.
“S-sure.. M-mm-midnight!” Stanley said, shaken by her sudden outburst.
“Look Stanley, I’m sorry if I scared you. Let’s just go.”
The crowd exited the city and hiked up to the overlook. By the time they reached the top, it was well past noon and the two night ponies were struggling to stay awake. Stanley was already up a lot longer than he usually would be, and the bright sun didn’t make it any easier for him.
Midnight groggily tried to reassure Stanley. “C’mon Stanley, we can sleep when we get to your camp. Just stay awake a little bit longer ok?”
Stanley squinted his eyes, yawning. “Ok. Let’s just hurry ok?”
Midnight turned towards the assembled mass. “I’m sorry you all had to hear that little argument earlier, but I’m just glad that Dawn’s not going to be able to corrupt anypony else with her poison any longer.”
“But she’s still there, won’t she just regroup?”
“I guess she could Stanley, but she threatened me, and by extension you, Pat, and Giz. I know Dawn’s going to pop up again, and she’s probably going to do something really incredibly stupid that’ll land her in some hot water. We can’t really do anything right now anyways.”
“But why not?”
“Because Dawn hasn’t technically done anything illegal. She’s smart like that, but I think I struck a particularly sensitive nerve this time around. It wouldn’t surprise me if she tries something dumb and gets herself arrested or something at this point.”
“Ok ok, let’s just go back and meet up with my ride.”
“Now uhh.. Stanley, what’re we supposed t’do now?”
Stanley yawned again. “Go meet up with Marcus and drive back to Phoenix. My friends are there, they’ll help us. Marcus can explain more. Let’s. Go.”
“Alright Wolfie, just lead the way!” Patrick cheerfully replied.
Stanley was running low on patience and shot Patrick an annoyed scowl.
As the group walked towards Marcus’ camp midnight noticed the disgruntled form of Calamity, who was now sitting at the overlook point, glumly looking over the city in the distance. Midnight gave him a sympathetic look and turned towards Stanley. “Stanley… I’m really sorry about this, but let me just have a word with Calamity real quick ok?”
Stanley sighed in annoyance. “Fine.”
“Thanks!” Midnight ran over to Calamity, gently touching his shoulder. “Hey, we’re going to Phoenix, you heard Dawn threaten me and my friends, I’d feel more comfortable if you were close by.”
“You still trust me? Even after everything I did? How I acted?”
“You were misguided but you realized your faults. Besides, you know Dawn better than anyone else. We could use you.”
The crystal pony considered this for a moment and shrugged. “Alright, well I have nowhere else to go so I guess it doesn’t hurt.”
An annoyed shout interrupted the two. “Come on guys, can we go now?”
“Yes… Sorry Stanley!”
The group hastily worked their way back over to Marcus’ camp. The human sat alone playing Solitaire ignoring the crowd that was currently making a mass exodus. “You back kid… I uhh… see you brought some friends with you…”
“Yep, ok let’s get going.” Stanley said as he hastily opened the van and jumped in. “Ok, everypony in!”
Marcus set down his cards and stood up. “Hey hold up a second, I thought you were only bringing one friend with you! What happened to that?”
“It’s a long story, too tired to explain, ask one of them about it.”
“Look, we’re a little tired, we’ve had a long day. Night ponies aren’t good with direct daylight like this. Nice to meet you by the way, I’m Midnight Sun. Ask Pat or Giz about what happened, they’ll explain it al,l ok goodnight!”
“I uhh… alright then, everybody in I guess.” Marcus said as he packed up his chair and makeshift table.
Midnight and Stanley curled up in the corner of the van, draping their wings over their eyes and quickly falling into a deep sleep. The three remaining ponies all shuffled into the van, quickly taking a seat.
Marcus hopped into the driver’s seat and turned the van on, pulling out of the parking space. “Ok, so does anyone want to tell me what happened?”
“Yeah sure. So uhh.. I’m Patrick, Stanley’s best friend, I’m sure he’s told you all about me. Ok so we visited a pony village in the canyon, the three other ponies with us lived there… except the earth pony. Giz was like us and was just stopping by. Midnight is the night pony and she was the reason why you saw that huge group of ponies follow us out to the camp. The big crystal pony is Calamity.. He was uhhh.. A guard. Let’s just say that.”
“Ok, so what’s the deal, why are they with us? What made all those ponies leave?”
“Look, it’s a long story--”
“--We’ve got plenty of time, might as well just get everything out now and save the frustration later.”
“Ok fine, so Midnight may have struck a nerve with this overzealous Shimmerist named Dawn. Dawn uhhh… Snapped and basically insulted the entire village, and Midnight was able to rally them to leave. Stanley figured that Midnight, Gizmo, and Calamity could help us out. And well… that’s where we’re at now.”
“It sounds like you guys had a wild time…”
Gizmo chimed in, chuckling to himself. “That there is the understatement of the century son!”
“I’ve seen worse, trust me.” Marcus said with a knowing smile.
The group was nearing the city, and the three ponies that were still awake were starting to get antsy. Noticing this, Marcus decided to crack a few jokes at their expense. “Alright kids, I know you’re all anxious to get home but you need to settle down or I’ll turn this car around.”
“Wow this one’s a real joker, eh Wolfie? Stanley you there… Oh that’s right, nocturnal... Hey Giz you ever been to Phoenix before?”
“Yep, It’s sure been a long while, but I stopped through here with my old Colleague Claire years and years ago. We used to love to visit the city, I’m afraid we’ve lost touch though. How ‘bout you?”
“Me? Well I used to live here, for a while at least. It’s been some time, but It’ll be refreshing to see my old stomping grounds again. What about you Cal?”
Calamity rolled his eyes. “It’s Calamity. No. I haven’t been here before.”
“Gee pal, lighten up a little, Dawn’s gone, you don’t need to keep up the tough guy act anymore!”
“Look. I used to be a police officer, if you can’t tell I don’t exactly have a job anymore. At least not with the old force. Midnight asked me to come along with you all, I still don’t know whether I can fully trust you yet. No offense.”
“Alright alright, none taken. Lighten up a bit though! We’re almost home free!”
“Hey, settle down and just sit ok? We’re about to make our exit and I don’t need the cops getting on my ass about driving a van full of ponies with no seatbelts.” Marcus called from the front of the van.
“Alright Marcus. We’ll settle down. Do you have our sack lunches and juice boxes? Us kids need our nutrition after all!”
“Can you please stop yammering? You’ve been talking our ears off all day!” Calamity snapped with annoyance.
“Gee ok.” I think you’ve earned your own fitting nickname Mr. Hyde… or is it Dr. Jekyll? I guess it doesn’t matter. He thought to himself.
“Lighten up a bit Calamity, the kid’s got energy and spirit, somethin’ I wish I still had!”
Calamity sighed. “Alright, I guess I’m used to dealing with rowdy citizens, maybe I was a little too extreme.”
“HA! Told you so! Score one for me!”
Calamity just rolled his eyes.
“Ok, We’re almost there. Get your stuff packed up and give me a few minutes to get the van parked. I’m sure the others are going to be just as surprised to see three extra heads as I was, so let me explain it to them first so they aren’t surprised at this. Ok?”
Marcus turned off the van and walked into the warehouse, catching the two in the middle of some debate. “Hey Barney, Giles I need you out here ok?”
“Look Gyro, we can finish this later. What is it Marcus?”
“Change of plans. The Kid’s brought some more friends along. He thinks they’re all important for you guys’ plans. Surprised me enough but they seem like nice enough ponies. I guess I’ll let you guys be the judge on that.”
“Three. A night pony, a crystal pony, and an earth pony. Plus Stan’s unicorn friend.”
“Fascinating. Well let’s go meet the group shall we?”
“Thanks for your input Gyro, C’mon Marcus, let’s take a walk.”
The trio walked outside to the van, Tinker beaming with excitement.
“Alright, get ready to meet the kids. Marcus pulled open the van door. “Alright children, come on out.”
“Oh man I thought I was going to lose my mind in there! Hey nice to meet you, the name’s Patrick but you can just call me Pat.”
“Do you need to continue with the demeaning nicknames Marcus?”
“Howdy there, name’s Jacques. Just call me Gizmo.”
Tinker raised an eyebrow. “Uhh Marcus? This is only three ponies.”
“Yeah, the others are asleep, give me a moment.” Marcus sighed and stepped in, banging on the side of the van as he walked in. “Hey up and at em you two! We’re home!”
“Give it a rest Marcus, we heard you the first time!”
“They’re uhhh… a little grumpy right now Barney, give em’ a moment to compose themselves.”
“Come on Stanley, we can get some sleep back inside.”
“Aha, there you two are! Welcome back Stanley, I take it your trip was fruitful? Hopefully enjoyable as well!”
“Yeah no. It’s a long story. I’ll tell you later. C’mon Midnight, my room’s got curtains set up to block the light out.”
“And you are?”
“Midnight. Nice to meet you, goodbye and goodnight.”
“Told you Barney. They uhhh… had a long day, Just ask Pat to tell you about it.”
“Well alright, I suppose that’s fine. Let’s go on in and get settled, I guess we can clear out another guest room for you all. Just uhh. Go sit tight in the workshop and we’ll get this all sorted out as soon as we can.”
Stanley awoke, finally feeling well rested after their eventful day. He squinted at the clock, noticing that it was already close to 9PM. It probably wasn’t healthy to throw off his sleep pattern so suddenly like this, but it probably wasn’t healthy for all those ponies to stay in that town with someone as manipulative as Dawn. Stanley groggily stood up and shook Midnight awake.
“Hey Midnight, we should probably get up.”
She stirred slightly, groaning out a response. “Ughh, just a few more minutes…” the sound of snoring slowly picked up again.
Stanley face hoofed. “Alright, I’m really sorry for this Midnight, but it’s time to get up, we need to go get dinner and explain everything to Tinker!” Stanley shut his eyes tightly and pulled the blanket out from under the sleeping pony, unceremoniously knocking her to the floor.
“Ouch, Stanley what the fu--”
“--I’m sorry! We need to go talk with Tinker though!”
“Oh… I’m uhh… sorry Stanley, I guess today was just so draining. Sorry, what do we need to do?”
“Go explain it all to my friends, I’m sure Pat’s already given them the rundown, but I think you should fill the others in on everything else they might have missed… Pat’s been known to… well... he kind of over exaggerates things. We also need to make sure Tinker and Marcus are going to be ok with having four extra ponies living in the warehouse.”
“Oh, right. Well I guess you should lead the way then.”
Stanley helped Midnight up and the two walked out the door and into the hallway, passing by the cleared out spare room, where Gizmo and Calamity were already hard at work arranging it to suit their needs. They could already hear discussion in the main room.
“... But this is four ponies Sir. I was fine with one, maybe two extra. But four! This and letting random strangers just use our plans! What are you even thinking!?”
“I know Gyro, but just hear me out. We’re on the verge of moving anyways, we weren’t even planning on staying here permanently as it is, all we need is Silver to get the rest of the information for us.”
“Fine. But they better all pull their weight.”
Stanley cleared his throat, pulling the two inventors out of their little disagreement. “I uhh… I hate to interrupt, but we needed to talk with you Tinker.”
“Oh, don’t apologize Stanley, Gyro and I were just having a brief debate.”
“Sounded more like an argument to me…”
Stanley lightly punched Midnight’s shoulder, earning an annoyed glare from her. “We heard you two arguing and that’s actually what we wanted to talk with you about. I have a feeling that Pat’s already given you some tall tale explaining what’s happened, but let’s just clear some stuff up.”
“He well… painted a kind of clear picture. You fought off some evil cultists, freed an entire city, and fled the Canyon with Marcus?”
“That’s… creative. But no, we pissed off a horribly misguided shimmerist, she snapped, and that convinced most of the city to abandon her after she made it clear that they were really only needed in the city to do the grunt work without any real thanks or appreciation. Midnight’s afraid that she’s going to do something bad, so she brought that guard crystal pony along, and Gizmo’s just a botanist that I thought could be useful for the Oasis project.”
Marcus chuckled, setting down the glass he was drinking from. “Yeah, you know, this really doesn’t surprise me at all. Barney and Giles have had their own fair share of crazier adventures and this just doesn’t even begin to phase me. I don’t know about you, but I’m gonna pack in for the night, I’ll be at home if you need me, just drop me a line if you need something.”
“So what we needed to talk about was if you’d be okay with them tagging along with us. Midnight’s a cartographer, Calamity’s an ex police officer, and Gizmo’s a botanist. They could all help us out a lot, especially Midnight.”
“You think so?”
Stanley shifted to face Gyro. “Yeah. We still need to figure out where we’re even building the Oasis, a cartographer could really be useful for that you know? Plus a botanist could help us with our food stuff Gizmo’s worked in agriculture before, Patrick’s done all sort of odd jobs and knows how to manage a big operation, and having someone to lead a security team wouldn’t hurt either.”
Gyro blinked his eyes a couple times. “Ok.”
“You’re fine with that?”
Tinker chuckled. “It’s that easy to sway you?”
“As long as they can contribute something to this I’m fine with it.”
“Well that was easier than I thought it would be.”
The two ponies started to walk back to Stanley’s room, Midnight pulling him close for a second. “Thanks for vouching for us Stanley, I really appreciate it.”
“You’re welcome, I knew that we needed all the help we could get, and I figured that you probably didn’t have any other plans... So... what do you think you’ll do now?”
“Work with you all I guess. I know we need to keep an eye out for Dawn though, I just can’t shake the feeling that she might have gone off the deep end this time. I know her, she’s going to do something she’ll regret.”
“Maybe you should just let her then? If she’s really going to do something illegal then let the actual police handle it.”
“Dawn’s cold and calculating, I want to just hope she’ll make some dumb move but I’ve thought about it more, and I feel like she’s going to lurk from the shadows for a while, slowly planning out her next move, and then striking from the shadows when we least expect it.”
“Midnight… you sound a little paranoid…”
“I know. I don’t know if that has to do with living around Dawn so much, or genuine intuition. I want to keep every potential scenario in mind though. We basically took everything from her, or at least she thinks that… she made it clear enough with her little monologue.”
“So what do you think we should do?”
“Play it safe, keep an eye out on everything around us, make sure we don’t see anything suspicious, and if we do, keep an eye on them and make sure we’re not caught off guard. It’s only a matter of time until Dawn shows up again, and when she does I want to be ready.”
“Midnight… you’re scaring me again…”
“Fear’s a good thing though right? It keeps us on edge, alert… like night ponies should be right?”
“I… I guess so.”
“Come on Stanley, let’s go take a walk, tell me about the Oasis, it’ll help calm your nerves.”
And the two did just that.