Silver smiled and closed his eyes, visualizing her in his mind, thinking back to the time they had spent together exploring other dreams. When he opened his eyes a star sat in front of him, presumably that of her own dream. He happily jumped right in and was immediately greeted by a vast forested plain with a bright expanse of stars brighter than he’d ever seen in his entire life sitting above. A cool breeze lazily blew across the grass and trees, sending a wave of calming peace over him. It was definitely Scarlet’s kind of dream, that special kind of peaceful and calm place that could only ever exist in a dream. Silver almost couldn't bring himself to move, the scene was just too beautiful to miss.
A chuckle that came from behind him pulled him from his trance, making his ears perk up. “So are you going to just stand around all night or are you going to come and cuddle up next to me?”
Silver smiled, and turned towards the voice. “Oh I don’t know yet, everything’s just so great to look at, it’s a little hard to think of anything else.”
She chuckled. “Oh get over here you joker, what’s kept you so long anyways?”
“Oh you know, just the usual. I was catching up with an old friend, wanted to give them a little update on my life, that sort of stuff.” Silver walked over to Scarlet and sat down next to her, looking over the dream. “I… How… You didn’t make this did you? It’s so hard to make detailed stuff unless you’ve been practicing for a long time.”
Scarlet smiled. “Jealous that I’m better at making dreams than you?”
“N...no.” Silver smirked. “Ok maybe a little. But you know why!”
She smiled and laughed. “Alright well if you really want to know, I didn’t make this place all on my own, at least not consciously. It’s the dream I was having before you showed up, just changed around a little. I used to go camping all the time as a foal, and we’d always stop by this great big forest up by my grandparents’ house. This is kind of that place, just somewhere special that I’ve always loved to think about.”
Silver smiled warmly. “Well it’s beautiful all the same!”
The two sat there and gazed up at the stars. “So how was your day Silv?”
He gave off a mock sigh of boredom. “Well it was kind of boring… a lot of the usual business of figuring out how we’re going to even plan this all out…” Silver paused and smirked. “Oh and we moved out to the Oasis today--”
“--Get out! You did?!” She excitedly yelled.
“Yeah! Just settled down yesterday. It’s a… little rough to put it lightly, but I think it’s got some great potential. It’s hard to tell now, but in a few months we should be ready to start taking some actual recruits in!”
“Do… do you think I could stop by sometime?!.. I mean if that’s not too much to ask...” she started to trail off.
Silver cuddled up close to her. “Of course! I’d love that! You know, there’s a wonderful little forest that looks over the whole town, it might make for a nice little campsite if you want to take a little weekend camping trip...”
“It’s a date then! I’ll see you this weekend!”
He smiled and enjoyed the peaceful scene in front of him, happily thinking about his new weekend plans.
Silver opened his eyes and smiled. For the first time in a while he was genuinely excited at the prospect of what the day had to offer, and even more so at the fact that Scarlet would be visiting sometime soon. He climbed out of his makeshift bed and jumped right into his usual daily routine, walking out to the makeshift camp out front. Much to Silver’s relief, the showers were all set up outside. They weren’t anything special by any stretch of the imagination, but he was at least grateful that he could rinse himself off and not have to be constantly covered in dirt and dust.
He hopped into one of the stalls and turned the water on, flinching back from the sudden icy chill of the water. After a few long moments the water warmed, bringing a sigh of relief from him. Closing his eyes, he let the water wash all of his troubles away, as he stood there and reflected on everything that had led up to this point, smiling at the thought that he was so close to fulfilling his dreams. He couldn’t sit there all day though, there was too much to get done, and hardly enough time to do it.
Feeling refreshed and relaxed, he turned off the water and stepped out with a sigh, hastily shaking his wings to try and dry off quicker. Satisfied that he was sufficiently dry, he took to the skies and flew up to the room that would serve as his temporary office going forward. It was broken and wrecked by age and neglect, but it was something that was his. He carefully came to a land on the balcony and stepped over some broken glass. He started to survey the damage, noting that a thick layer of dust covered everything, almost making him sneeze as he instinctively flapped his wings.
He walked over to the far side of the room, where an ancient looking desk sat. He carefully tested his weight on it, seeing if it was even sturdy enough to be of any value to him. It creaked and crackled a little, but much to his surprise it miraculously stayed intact. It wasn’t ideal but it would serve him well enough for now. Satisfied, he carefully set his belongings on the desk and moved on to the next task, cleaning up the rest of the room.
It was something he wasn’t looking forward to, but it was a task that had to be done regardless. He hastily began to straighten up the room, moving the assorted pieces of junk and trash into a pile to be thrown away. It was a lot of work, work that he realized would be easier to do with assistance. To say that this place needed a lot of work would be an astronomical understatement to say the least. The fact of the matter was that there was far too much to be done and far too few to help do it. He could really use an assistant.
If The PRISM were to ever start building the future that they dreamed of, they would need to solve their problems as soon as possible. It wasn’t going to be easy, and it sure wouldn’t be done in a day. Silver realized that he really needed to meet with the team and properly discuss how they should go about recruiting from here forward. Sunset Blessing likely could offer assistance, but he didn’t want to press his luck by asking too much so soon.
Realizing that he couldn’t do this alone, Silver stood up and walked towards the door, heading down the hallway and back into the main foyer. He carefully pushed on the aged door, hoping that he’d at least find someone who’d be able to help. Upon opening the door he was greeted by Tinker and Gyro sitting down, evidently waiting for him.
“Uhh hi… am I interrupting something?”
“Ah yes, good afternoon Silver, come, let’s go take a walk. We’ve already taken note of the state of the town and I have some concerns.”
“I figured you might… So what’s the damage?”
The three walked outside, trotting along the long worn out path. “Well let’s start here, the roads are completely shot, so we’ll need to completely replace those at some point or another.
“Tinker, I’m going to assume that you have all of this noted down right?”
“Ok, can you give me the quick rundown then? I kind of had some other plans for today, and I’m sure you have your own fair share of preparation to get done too.”
“Alright, fair enough. Well about half of the buildings are going to need to be completely demolished, a good half of the remaining ones need a lot of serious work, and the remaining ones need only minor work.”
He nodded, walking further down the path. “That’s all? Well let’s get to it then--”
“--Silver, I realize our resources are spread thin, but I have some concerns regarding the current list of projects too. We’ve got so many planned out and practically nopony to work all of them… What’s the plan for that?”
He paused in his stride, turning back towards Tinker. “Firstly, did you talk to the foreman about this?”
Tinker and Gyro both nodded their head in unison. “Yes. They’ve been prepping the demolition first, once that’s done they’ll work on repairing the rest. We still need an architect to actually design the new structures, though I do have an idea for that.”
“Alright. As for the staffing issue… I realize that that’s a significant problem, and I do have a solution in the works. In order to address that we need to ramp up our recruiting efforts more going forward. We’ll have to talk with Stanley about this, but I’m sure we all have our own fair share of ponies in mind. Our… emissary might be able to offer assistance too, though that’s likely not something I’ll press for right away.”
Tinker nodded in agreement. “I definitely have a few ponies in mind who’d potentially be willing to help us. The architect I was mentioning is one of those ponies. He’s a little loony but he’s a genius when it comes to this kind of stuff, and I have a feeling that he’s having trouble finding work right now.”
“Well by all means bring him in, what are you waiting for?”
Tinker shuffled his hooves nervously. “That’s just it, he has kind of a high price…”
“Well… that might complicate things slightly, but how much is he asking for?”
Tinker shifted around uncomfortably. “Well… he kind of wants full creative control over the projects. As long as we can facilitate those projects he’ll do all the design work for free, but he insists that he must be the exclusive architect of the city.”
Gyro flatly spoke up. “He’s crazy but he’s competent. I don’t know anypony else who’d be up to the challenge.”
Silver shrugged and started resuming his walk. “Well, I’m not going to be one to just turn free help away, we needed to hire on an architect anyways so I don’t exactly see an issue with this. Go ahead and bring him in, let him know that that’s fine as long as he can build something specific for us first. After that he can do as he pleases.”
Tinker paused for a moment. “What do you want him to build for us? Nothing crazy right?”
“No, nothing too crazy at all. We’ll need a secure lab to work on Sunset’s projects in private, if he can build that for us then I’m more than happy to give him the metaphorical key to the city and let him design as much as he wants.”
“A secret lab? That sounds fascinating… I’ll take it it’s going to be part of some purpose built building?”
Silver smiled. “Absolutely, I’m thinking of calling it City Central, a nice big city hall that we can manage everything from. Perfectly designed to suit all our needs, with a nice big lab in the basement. We’d be the only ones who’d have access to it of course, but that’s just so we can uphold our part of the deal.”
“Well… I suppose that that’d fine. So going back to new recruits for a second, how should we go about doing that? We’re not exactly equipped for that right now.”
“Well, like I said, we have a few options, Stanley, Midnight, and I could dreamwalk and find ponies that way, but I also have some contacts that might be able to point us in the right direction, I’m going to be keeping an eye out on that and move forward when we can.”
“Alright, well that works well enough. What about the long list of projects that seem to be stacking up though?”
“Well in the meantime we’ll have to shelve the projects that aren’t a priority… so everything that doesn’t have to do with getting the Oasis up and running or something specifically assigned by Sunset Blessing.”
“I understand. I have some other things to show you if you’re interested.”
“Sure, I’ve got nothing else planned for today anyways.”
The sun shone brightly above the dusty field. It would soon be setting behind the stunning mountains that surrounded the entire valley, but as long as he still had sunlight the aged earth pony would be able to work. His resources were definitely limited, and this was hardly what he’d consider a suitable plot for his farm, but it would have to do for now. Gizmo was in his element, and once he got going hardly anything could stop him.
As usual, Patrick was full of energy, something that could be both a blessing and a curse at times. Gizmo didn’t care though, the more energy he had to burn the better. He was currently shuffling around in place, evidently ready to jump right into action. “Alright Giz, so what’re we doing today? And why don’t you just have Tinker here, don’t you need pegasi anyways?”
Gizmo smiled, happy to see enthusiasm in the young unicorn’s response. “Well Pat I need some help setting this farm up, and you’re one of the only few who isn’t caught up in some busy project.”
“Cool, so why’s Wolfie here then?”
He was taken aback for a few moments, the nickname was still somewhat foreign to him. After a few seconds it clicked with him. “Wolfi… oh Stan. Well you see Pat, to put this simply, I’m old. I need help movin’ stuff ‘round, and he had nothing else to do either.”
“Alrighty, fair point. So whaddya want to do first?”
“Well we need to get the farm set up, so I’ll need some help tilling this field, and then if you can I’ll need ya to help water it because we still don’t have proper utilities here and your magic’s gonna make that a hell of a lot easier for us all.”
“Well let’s get moving! C’mon Wolfie let’s get going!”
Stanley’s ears pressed back against his head as he flinched back. “Pat do you need to yell so much?”
He excitedly jumped up, raising his voice even louder. “Yeah Wolfie! We’re out here in the wide open desert, no neighbors to yell at us, no ponies to argue with, just the great outdoors!”
Stanley glanced around, hoping that no one would be unfortunate enough to be in the immediate vicinity of the excited unicorn’s cheerful outburst. “Ok Pat but just keep it down a little ok? I think Cal’s going to lose his mind at this rate.”
“Gotcha, Cal needs to lighten up a bit though!”
He nodded his head in agreement. “Yeah yeah I know be does, but could you just try and give him a break every now and again?”
Patrick rolled his eyes and nodded. “Oh alright.”
Gizmo chuckled and shouted out to the two, interrupting their little conversation. “Hey if you two’re done yammering let’s get going while the sun’s still out.”
“Aye aye captain!”
“So uhh Giz, what do you want me to do?”
“Go grab one of those plows over there and drag it over in a line, we’ll just start small for now to see if this’ll even work. Patrick see if you can go get some water.”
“Alrighty, well there’s not exactly much to work with but I’ll give it a try.”
“A try is all we really need for now. This’ll be what makes or breaks this whole operation, if we can’t get our own farm set up then we’re going to be in some deep trouble...”
Patrick simply replied with a cheerful “Aye aye!”
Tinker was back in his makeshift lab, eagerly planning out each and every area in his head. “Gyro can you give me a hand and go fetch Marcus? We’ll need some help lifting some of this rubble and other detritus away.”
“Alright. You know I can just use my magic right?”
“I… I guess I kind of forgot… Go grab him anyways though, I’m sure we’ll need another helping hand before long.”
As the unicorn ran off Tinker began to unpack his bags, sorting the various objects into different areas of the section he had already cleared out on his own. Assorted components, notebooks, and devices were already starting to stack up, filling the young inventor with joy as he could already visualize his future lab.
A voice called out from behind him, catching him off guard. “Hey Barney what’d you need?”
Tinker looked over, seeing that Marcus and Gyro had entered. “Oh Marcus, not a whole lot right now, just some help clearing everything out and setting our lab up.”
“Alright, that’s easy enough. So what’s the plan now?”
“Oh just sorting out what I brought, figuring out what’s going to go where, and what we’re going to have to bring over from the warehouse.”
“Alright well let’s get to work then.”
Gyro set up a small speaker and started his usual playlist, and the three went to work. Tinker did as much as he could on his own, while Marcus and Gyro did more of the heavy lifting and work that magic made easier. They worked well into the early evening and before long the trio had finished their task. A clean and organized space now sat before them with the inventors’ various belongings laid out ready to be organized.
“Alright so what do we do now?”
“You two go out and grab a few tables, there should be plenty of spares lying around somewhere, we’ll need to go get better ones eventually but they’ll work just fine for the time being.”
The sun had long set and Midnight sat on top of the town hall, staring out at the landscape below. She glanced to her side, noticing the crystal pony that had decided to join her. “Cal, I know I’ve asked this a lot, but are you really sure you’ll be able to keep an eye on everything here?”
He nodded his head slowly. “Yeah. Maybe not when we have more ponies here, but for now there’s so few of us here that it’s not hard to keep an eye on everypony.’
She sighed. “That’s reassuring.”
“You’re worried about Dawn aren’t you?”
She quickly glanced back at him with an embarrassed look. “Is it really that obvious?”
He nodded once more. “Yeah… you’re not exactly being subtle about it.”
“What do you mean by that?” She asked as if she was offended.
“Your body language for one is a huge indicator. You’re nervous, glancing everywhere, jumping at your own shadow… you get the idea.”
“I’m not jumping at my own shadow!”
“Uh huh-- Hey who’s there!?” he suddenly yelled out as he jumped up.
Midnight jumped back, glancing towards the rooftop door. “What is it?!”
“See what I mean? You’re jumpy, freaking out at everything and anything, even a perceived threat.”
Midnight shot him an annoyed look. “That’s not funny Cal… but I guess I see what you mean…”
Calamity lightened up a little. “Look Midnight, you’re going to be fine here. Dawn’s not stupid, she’s not going to just barge on in and fight you. Have you even seen sight of her lately?”
“Well no… not here. She dreamwalked to me a couple times but didn’t say much and left shortly after.”
“And what’d she ask you?”
“Not much, just asking if I’m enjoying myself, if I got some thrill from taking everything from her… that kind of stuff.”
“Ok well she doesn’t know where we are right? You didn’t tell her?”
“No… at least I don’t think so. She always told me how she had eyes everywhere, friends in every village, town, city from there to Blythe… I know she can’t possibly have that much influence but she’s a natural leader, charismatic… it makes me doubt myself sometimes… you know?”
“Midnight, I was her top enforcer, the one pony that she confided everything to. She does have some significant network of friends, but none who’d be willing to cross me. I was her best weapon, a pony that could intimidate others to no end. I doubt any of her contacts particularly like me, but that’s fine. Hopefully their fear keeps them from crossing me… from crossing us. The point is, I don’t think Dawn’s going to have any friendly faces willing to come and harass us so whatever she has planned it’s going to be on her own.”
“You think so?”
“I know it for a fact Midnight. Dawn’s playing mind games with you, making you doubt yourself, fear your own shadow. Her charisma and charm is her real talent in the world, it’s something that she prided herself on, and what she couldn’t do herself she’d charm others into doing for her.”
“But how can you really be sure?”
Calamity rolled his eyes. “Because like I said I was her top enforcer, her confidant. I was her most loyal asset and she never doubted that. We were unethical but never broke the law, that was something that Dawn saw vital to our whole little operation. She’s not going to just come and break the law just to enact some egotistical revenge. So relax Midnight, get some sleep when you can, I promise that I’ll keep you all safe.”
“Th..thanks Cal, I know we never really got along before, but I appreciate this.”
“It’s the least I can do to atone for my actions, I can’t take back the things I’ve done but I can sure as hell start to act how a pony actually should going forward.”
“Cal you can’t beat yourself up over it, I know you regret it all but you fell victim to Dawn’s own talent just as we all did. She dragged you in with false promises just like everypony else. What I’m trying to say is that you’re not a bad pony, you were just led to make some bad decisions… we all were at one point or another with Dawn. No pony can blame you for that.”
“I appreciate it Midnight, you’re not the one who can judge me though, nopony is. Whatever greater power lies beyond the veil of death is the one that will decide my fate when I reach that point. The most I can do now is try and rectify what I’ve broken, make myself a better pony going forward.”
Calamity started to walk away.
“Calamity wait!” He turned towards Midnight. “Thanks again… for everything.”
“You’re welcome Midnight. I’m going to go to bed now, but just remember what I said, ok?”
“I will Cal.”
Midnight awoke in a strange inky landscape, a dream she had had often in the past. She never really knew the significance of it, but it was something that both fascinated and confused her. She thought back to the conversation she had had hours prior, and the reassurance that Cal would keep an eye over her before she fell asleep. She was grateful that she had ponies that she felt she could genuinely trust, it made all of her unease and fear fade slightly.
She shook her head and dispelled the dream. Instead deciding to try and craft something of her own, something that could take her mind off of what had been stressing her out. She closed her eyes and tried to envision a simple clean room, something small that wouldn’t require too much effort to make. She had nowhere near the talent that Silver had, but she still figured it was worth a try.
She decided to start simple, summoning something simple, something that didn’t need a whole lot of effort to do. Dreams could be weird sometimes, and nothing ever seemed to work quite the way it would in the waking world. She closed her eyes and tried to imagine a simple ball, it wasn’t anything crazy, and it certainly shouldn’t have taken any effort at all. When she opened her eyes she was greeted by the red ball she had envisioned.
“Huh! It actually worked!” She calmly walked over to it and gave it a tentative push, rearing back in surprise when it didn’t quite roll how she thought it should.
“It’s weird isn’t it?” Came the voice from behind her.
She quickly spun around to greet her intruder. “Dawn, what are you doing here?!” She spat back with venom in her voice.
“Well Midnight, I thought I’d pay you a little visit, see how my favorite little heretic was doing.”
“You should leave Dawn, before I call one of the wardens over and make you leave.”
“You think they care about the petty squabbling of a couple night ponies?”
“No I don’t, but I know that they sure do care about dreamwalkers respecting the wishes of others.”
“I’ll leave, but I just want you to know that I’m very much aware of your little oasis in the desert. If you wanted to hide you shouldn’t have chosen friends that made such a big deal about their plans.”
“I wasn’t trying to hide Dawn, I was finding a home, a place where we could actually do real good in the world.”
“Maybe I’ll pay you a little visit in the waking world, see how your little plan goes there?”
“Is that a threat?”
“I think you know what I’m talking about.”
“Dawn are you seriously stupid or something? Don’t forget that Calamity’s on our side now, and he’s an ex cop. He has friends that can actually do something about your shenanigans whether you try or not.”
“Typical, getting others involved in a personal matter…”
“You made it his problem when you threatened all of us! I’m only going to say this once, you better take the advice or you’re going to regret it. Run and hide Dawn, justice will come for you one way or another, be it legitimate or vigilante, you try anything and you’ll only hurt yourself. The odds are stacked against you. So run and hide.”
“Goodbye Midnight, I’m sure our paths will cross again someday…”