Pandemic: Departures

by Cosmic Eclipse

Ch 16 - "Future Tense"

Gadget flipped the light on as she walked into the room, “Alright Sprocket what is it that’s gotten you so riled up lately?”

“Just sit down, I need to get this set up,” Sprocket said as he turned away from her and fiddled with his prototype.

“Come on Sprocket, I’ve got other things I need to do today.”

“Just one more second” he said as he awkwardly secured it to his foreleg, “Alright, now it’s not fully functional yet, but I think I’m close to making a breakthrough…” he slowly turned towards her, “ta da!”

Gadget gazed at the clunky prototype secured to Sprocket’s leg, it wasn’t elegant, but it certainly looked like he had spent some significant amount of time on it, “So… what am I looking at? Another model?”

A warm smile crept across his face as he shook his head, “No, that’s just it Gadg! It actually works!”

“It… It does?”

He shrugged, “Well… mostly, I don’t think I’m able to really get every little piece working, but the bigger stuff does!”

“How… how on Earth did you manage that?”

“I… Well it took a lot of patience and practice with manipulating tools with my mouth. Not an easy task mind you, but I’ve had like three months to actually work on this after all. Plus I made a few unicorn friends who were happy to help.”

“Is.. is this really what you’ve been doing? I mean I feel kind of oblivious right now, how on Earth did you manage to keep this on the down low for so long?”

“Well I didn’t, it’s just that this is the first time it’s actually working, the last 20 or so that you’ve been teasing me about have all been half working prototypes that I never quite got to work right.”

“I can’t believe I’ve just ignored all of this… So how does it work?”

“Well, it’s really really clunky right now, I kind of took that smart watch you gifted me and strapped it into this thing so it’d be more useful. It’s not perfect but I can flip the tools out, call you, take voice recordings… a lot of basic stuff but it works.”

“Even all of the little tools?”

“Yeah, the tools all have little springs on them, it makes it really easy to use, kind of tricky to get them all deployed but it’s better than it was before. This is kind of like a swiss army knife mixed with a smart watch right now, but hey it’s something right?”

“Won’t some of those make it awkward to use?” She asked, gesturing towards the tools that were on the back.

“Yeah, but watch this.” He lightly pushed on the band, slowly moving it around and bringing them to the front, “It rotates really nicely, doesn’t snag on my fur or anything… took a lot longer to get that to work than you might imagine, but hey it works!”

“You know… I’m sorry that I didn’t offer to help you more, I kind of got burned out on inventing for a while and didn’t even think to take your own thoughts into consideration…”

“You didn’t need to, what’s important is that you did what you wanted to do.”

She thought for a moment, suddenly lighting up with an idea. “You know Sprocky, I think we both know a group of ponies that might have the resources you need to get it fully working…”

“You don’t think--”

She jumped up, “--I do!”

“Do… do you think they’d even give us the time of day?” He asked hopefully.

“Well… you sort of have been working on this for months now, and now it’s actually working. I think this is the kind of project they’d love to see from you.”

“Do you… do you really think so? I mean what if they don’t care about--”

“--Sprocket this has been consuming your every waking moment for months now, I think they can appreciate your work.” She replied back with an authoritative tone.

“I… Oh alright. I’ll see what I can do.”

“What do you have in mind?”

Sprocket paced around the room a little, thinking about his next plan, his face lighting up as an idea struck him, “What was that courier’s name?”

She raised an eyebrow, “You mean Gemini?”

“Yep, that’s the one! Go grab him, I have a package for him to deliver.”

The two night ponies slowly hiked through the hillside, looking over the town below. The occasional trees and brush were welcome changes compared to the rest of the vast sandy landscape that the Oasis was situated in. Giz and Patrick had taken the lead, quickly outpacing the two bats. Midnight gazed out at the valley, marveling at the real beauty that nature could provide.

Stanley picked up his conversation again. “So Midnight, what brought you out here? I know you wanted to get away from Dawn’s little town, but why stick with us?”

They continued to walk along the path, stepping over the loose rocks and brush.

“Well, you guys are working towards everything we wanted to work towards… but you’re not trying to be perfect.”

Stanley cocked his head to the side, “What do you mean?”

She looked down to the town below, “Well you know, you guys are trying to make a place for ponies and humans, and you want to genuinely make the world a better place. We wanted to do something like that, but Dawn’s own quest for perfection kind of turned us into a reclusive village.”

“Why do you keep saying we? I thought Dawn was the leader of the town.”

“Dawn was, but I helped found it with her.”

He paused, looking back at her with surprise, “You did?”

She nodded, continuing, “Yeah, It was right after we spread the vision. A small group of us wanted to try and make it work, even knowing that we’d have to learn to coexist with humanity eventually.”

“So why the Grand Canyon wouldn’t have you been pushed out for taking over part of a national park?”

She looked over the landscape, “Well, it was beautiful and secluded. We both figured that it was a great way to reconnect with nature and leave the world behind… Obviously it was a fool’s dream, we knew that it would have never lasted… but we still held onto that idea.”

“And then Dawn ruined it all?”

She shook her head. “No, I think we’re both really to blame.”

He raised an eyebrow, “Huh? What do you mean?”

“I could tell that Dawn was trying to chase some warped perception of perfection and was hesitant to try and stop it, I didn’t want to see everything get torn apart. I saw the signs, but I didn’t do anything to try and stop her and that’s what let it get as bad as it did.”

“And I’m guessing that it just got out of hand from there?”

“Yep, and then you, Giz, and Pat came along and I guess I realized that it didn’t need to be bad. I wish I would have done more sooner though, I didn’t want Dawn to have everything torn away from her.”

He glanced forward at the pair that had very rapidly out paced them, “You’re still thinking about all of that aren’t you?”

She nodded her head, pausing her stride, “I am… Do you think that maybe I should have tried to talk with her before?”

“I don’t know… I mean you could have changed a lot, but I think what you did was ultimately a good thing… even if you didn’t realize it at the time.”

“You think so? Was it really a smart idea to just take everything?”

He nodded his head and began to resume his walk, “Yeah, she was taking advantage of you guys, it wasn’t healthy being in that environment, and if hurt her in the process then that’s on her. She shouldn’t have just treated you all like that.”

“I guess you’re right, I just wish I could tell her that.”

“So do it then, dreamwalk to her and get it off your chest, It’s not like she’s going to do anything, and just relax okay? Enjoy the nature, the view, whatever it takes to keep your mind off of this.”

She smiled, looking back over the town below, “Thanks Stanley.”

“Thanks for what?”

“For listening to me ramble on about this, you didn’t have to.”

“It’s no problem, sometimes you just need somepony to talk to right? We all do.”

Tinker paced around his workshop, talking to Gyro with a frustrated tone carrying in his voice, “Gyro, I have to ask. Do you really feel that the Ark is necessary?”

He nodded his head, “I do.”

He paused for a moment, hastily walking back towards the unicorn, “I was afraid you might say that.”

“What’s wrong with it Tinker?” he asked as he continued to fiddle with the electronics that sat on the desk in front of him.

“I’m just worried that it might be what’s driving us all apart, we’ve not exactly been on the best of terms lately.”

He gently put the soldering iron down, turning towards his long time friend, “Tinker, if it helps, your little conversation with Silver seems to have gotten through to him. We’re going to start working on getting our projects out there right?”

“Well I’m glad to hear that… I just… I don’t want to see this place fall apart so soon. We’re putting so much into it and we can’t all seem to agree on how to run it… I just want to help others, and this seems like the most efficient way to do that assuming we can get past our own pitfalls.”

“I don’t think we’re going to have to worry about this place falling apart.”

“Huh? And why do you think that?”

“Because Sunset Blessing’s invested a lot into this place, she’s not going to just let it go to waste.”

He rolled his eyes at the mention of the overzealous unicorn, “I… really don’t think that we should be relying on her so much, I don’t know about you but I sure don’t trust her.”

“You and the rest of the team. She’s our best bet for funding right now though.”

“Until we get our own research and projects out there right?”


Silver laid on the couch in Stanley’s office, staring off into the distance, “Stanley?”

The yellow night pony looked up from the budget reports on his desk, “Yeah Silver?”

“What do you think about the Oasis so far?”

Stanley raised an eyebrow, “What do you mean by that?”

“I mean is it the place you’ve always dreamt of?” he asked, gesturing out over the construction below.

He turned his head, following Silver’s hoof, “Isn’t it a little early to ask me that? We’ve got so much left to do…”

“Yeah I know, but do you think we’re off to the right start with it?”

“It’s hard to tell really. I mean I think we’re off to the right start, but there’s really so much more that we could be doing.”

Silver sat up in his chair. “Please tell me more, stuff like what?”

“Well, We’re getting all this funding right? I know a lot of it is going into Sunset’s projects, but we’re still making some money on the side. What if we put that to better use?”

“What kind of projects do you have in mind?”

“Well look at the world now, what kind of issues do you think really need to be solved?”

“Making lives easier for ponies is one that I can think of.”

“What about all those little tools and gadgets that Tinker and Gyro have been working on? Why not push funding into some of those? They’ve been asking for it for a while now.”

“That could be an option… but what about all the other plans?”

“Like my request to bring more humans in?”

He sat up and looked over to the yellow night pony, “What do you mean by that?”

“Silver, this place was supposed to be a big example of what we could all do together… but so far we’ve only been bringing more ponies in.”

“We have Marcus--”

“--Marcus is the only human here. I know you’ve been kind of stressed out lately but haven’t you noticed that a lot of the newer recruits seem to be more interested in making a place for ponies?”

“I… I-- really haven’t… but I guess it does make a little more sense now that you mention it. It sounds bad, but ponies kind of fit into some of the specific roles we’ve been trying to fill a lot better than humans would right now, like the weather team for instance,” He pivoted around to glance out of the window. “Do you really think that we’re not setting our sights high enough though?”

“I think it’s maybe the opposite?”

He turned back towards Stanley, “You think so? I mean could it be a bad thing that we’re trying to do so much?”

He smiled, “I feel like you’ve finally stumbled onto the main problem Silver.”

He looked him in the eyes, “That we can’t settle on one plan to follow?”

He shook his head, “Nope. I think our problem is that we have way too many plans to follow. Why not focus on fixing what needs to be fixed here first, and worry about the bigger projects later, once we’re not on the verge of falling apart.”

“We’ve got a plan for that actually, Tinker and I placed a little call and we’re expecting to hear back soon. I’ll fill you in on all the details once we’ve got a better idea of what’s going to happen.”

“Well I’m definitely glad to hear that Silver, please keep me updated.”

“I will Stanley, I will.”

Silver returned to his own office and sat on a soft cushion, facing the large floor to ceiling window with an expressionless face. His eyes were closed and his breathing was slow, but he was far from asleep. Visiting the dream realm while meditating had become a regular part of his work routine, it was a way he could keep an eye on the sleeping residents and make sure that they were at peace and undisturbed without having to force himself to sleep. It had taken some practice to get to the point where he could successfully dreamwalk this way, but it was well worth the effort if it meant that he could better serve his new community.

The clip clop of hooves on tile stood in stark contrast to the peaceful sounds of nature that played through the speakers in his office. “You almost done with that work?” Scarlet asked from the doorway, walking in and closing it behind her.

“Huh?” he opened his eyes, blinking a few times and raised his head, looking back towards her, “Oh, yeah. Sorry, I just have a lot of stuff that I needed to sort out.”

“In the dream realm, this close to noon? You’re distracted again aren’t you Silver.”

“Am not…” he began to trail off again, “Alright, fine maybe I am.”

She walked over and sat down next to him, “Of course you are, so what’s on your mind today?”

“I don’t think you want to know…”

“Sure I do, so let’s hear it.”

He paused in hesitation for a moment, “We might be doing something incredibly illegal.”

She flashed him a look of surprised bewilderment, “Huh, well alright, that’s definitely a big statement. What makes you say that though?”

“You know those weather ponies I had you connect me to yesterday?”

“Yeah? This has something to do with them?”

“Yeah… we might be breaking federal law just to set up a weather operation here under the table…” he said as he lowered his ears.

“Did they say what they were doing? If they’re going to help you out?”

He shook his head, “No, just that they were going to get back to us soon. I’m not sure when but possibly sometime tonight.”

“Alright well let’s just go home, I’m beat.”

Silver sat up and smiled, “Alright, maybe you’re right.”

She smiled, “Of course I am, now let’s get going.”

“Okay, I’ll go let Diamond know that he can take over for now.”

The two stood up and walked across the hallway to Diamond Glider’s office. The pegasus tilted his head up, greeting the two as they walked in, “Hey man, how're you doing today?”

“I’m good Diamond, just clocking out for the day, you’re in charge until 8.”

“Is it almost noon already?”

“Yeah, time just flies doesn’t it?”

He laughed, “It sure does Silver. Have a nice night man.”

Silver walked over to the large floor to ceiling window, looking out over the town. It was a largely unattractive landscape right now, but once all the construction was completed it would be a truly beautiful place. Their architect might have been a little eccentric, but he was the perfect pony to get the job done. It would be a while until the city would really be anything worth talking about, but Silver could be patient. There was still so much to worry about, but they were at least off to a good start. The team was still struggling through their own issues, but Silver was determined to try and rectify them, even if he had to make some compromises here and there to do it.

“Silver are you all ready for bed?” Scarlet asked from the bedroom, stifling a yawn.

He turned away from the window, “Huh? Oh yeah, sorry, just thinking about some stuff. I’ll be over in a minute.”

“Alright, well try not to take too long.”

He smiled to himself as he began to walk over, just clearing his mind of all the worry and stress in the process. He plopped down onto the bed next to Scarlet and closed his eyes, snuggling up close to her. He could have started dreamwalking if he had really wanted to, but sometimes letting a dream run its course was the best way to relax. His thoughts soon faded away, carrying him off to dreamland.

He ran through the labyrinth as the wraith chased him, adrenaline coursed through him, but it only further fueled his flight. He looked off to his fellows and smirked, taking to the skies as the phantoms pressed forward, their loud shrieks echoing through the labyrinth.

He quickly glanced behind him, trying to formulate the best plan of action possible, raising his voice to a shout, “Zax flank em over there, Comet get to the Sanctum! We can’t let them get to us!” They nodded and took off, flying in all directions as the hoard neared ever closer. Just as it seemed that they would come out victorious the wraith began to laugh a menacing laugh that shook the very world that they inhabited. “He’s onto the plan, get back to the sanctuary, I’ll take him on. Hurry!”

An otherworldly force knocked him from the sky, earning a pained groan as he skidded across the pavement below. He slowly picked himself up, wincing as he felt a sharp pain in his wing. He turned his head to face the shadow king, putting on a brave face as he faced the wraith, “Let’s have a little chat shall we? I know you’re not one to shy away from a bargain, so let’s make a deal. You free my friends and I’ll ensure that you’re successful in your little crusade.”

The wraith met his request with a bone-chilling smile, “And just how do you suppose you’ll go about doing that?”

“I’ve studied this plane, I know how you draw power from the outside, how you entangle with others. It’s how you’ve brought us all here right? Well what if I told you I could project my thoughts through to the other world? To him. I could easily tell him the truth… or I could see that he continues down that path you’ve been trying to guide him down…”

The wraith laughed a menacing laugh, “You, my friend, are in no position to bargain.”

He smirked, “You know, I was kind of hoping you’d say that,” He quickly bolted to the side, shouting out to his hidden compatriots, “NOW!”

The wraith looked up as the sky collapsed around them, plunging the world into darkness…

An annoyed voice started to fade in, stirring the night pony from his rest. “Hey Silver! Silver get up!”

He groggily sat up and rubbed his eyes, yawning as he turned towards his marefriend. “Scarlet?”

“You have a call on line one, it’s those weather ponies.”

He snapped awake, glancing towards the clock, “Already?!”

She quickly nodded her head, gesturing to their office with a wing. “Yeah! Hurry, you don’t want to keep them waiting!”

Without another moment of hesitation Silver jumped up, running out of their bedroom and into the office, quickly pressing the flashing button on the phone. “Hello! Sorry to keep you waiting, Maple, I was uh… indisposed.”

An unfamiliar mare’s voice responded. “You didn’t keep me waiting long, and Maple gave me some details on your problem asked that I give you a call back. I’m Jasper.”

“Hi Jasper, I’m Silver Eclipse. Thank you very much for returning my call.”

“I’m lead to believe that the pegasi working for you…”

“Working with,” he corrected.

The voice on the other line gave a pregnant pause as if annoyed before continuing. “With… in the desert... haven’t figured out how to manage the weather and you need some help to get started.”

“That is exactly it, yes.”

“What sources of water do you have available?”

“There’s uh… one river that passes through the valley, the Verde River.”

“You say river, but how big of a river? Could a pony easily walk through it without difficulty or would you be helplessly dragged downstream?”

“Well… it’s one of those you’d be fine in some spots but might get swept out in others… depending on the day.”

“I’ll need to look it up to be sure but that sounds like it would be suitable for small scale precipitation production.”

“We were hoping it would be enough, there’s not a whole lot of other options out here.” he added.

“Is this an emergency? Or are you getting by?”

“We’re struggling but getting by for now. Ideally we would want to get our pegasi up to speed so we can be self sufficient as soon as possible.”

“As soon as possible… Normally any pegasus looking to work within our weather program will need to go through the actual application process to keep an accurate record. But we are not going to do that as you are asking us to take a risk and do something highly illegal.”

“If it’s too much I understand, I don’t want to put you at risk.”

“Alright we won’t.”

The realization of what he’d just said immediately began to set in, bringing a panicked feeling in the pit of his stomach with it. “Wait wait! That’s not what I meant!” He took a moment to compose himself. “Sorry, Is there anything you can offer that won’t compromise everything you’ve worked on? Maybe something you can just do under the table? We’ll take full blame if anything gets out about this, and we can even work out some kind of payment if that’d help at all.”

“I just don’t see how we can work with you, Mr. Eclipse. However… word of your little oasis in the desert has spread through the office and three of our ponies are interested in visiting on vacation. Would you be able to accommodate them?”

He started to lower his head in resignation. “That’s fine, I underst…” He snapped his eyes open, excitedly jumping out of the chair to hover in the air. “Yes! I mean, yeah, that would be perfectly alright. Can you go ahead and send their information over? How long they’re staying, when they’re staying, just so we can make sure that we can accommodate them properly.”

“Maple will be in contact with those details. I’m sure they’ll have a lovely time visiting. Goodbye Mr. Eclipse.”

“I know this isn’t exactly help per say, but it’s more than I could have hoped for! Thanks so much… Jasper right?”

“Right. And you don’t need to thank me, it’s really more me imposing and I should be thanking you. It’s like how Sapphire likes to say, keep it simple, life doesn’t need to be complicated. If you can help a pony do something good, you do it. So it’s really too bad that we can’t help at this time.”

“That’s perfectly understandable, and hey it’s no trouble at all. I look forward to seeing them when they get here. Take care!”

The phone clicked, leaving Silver alone with the dial tone. He stood up from his desk and walked over to Scarlet who was sitting in the adjacent room. “Well that was interesting.”

“So how’d it go? Are they going to help you guys?”

“Well… not quite… but we are going to have a few guests stopping by soon. They’re not going to be helping us directly… it’s just too much of a risk for them, but maybe their ponies can give us some advice while they’re down here.”

“That sounds better than nothing, when are they coming here?”

“I’ll hear back about that sometime soon. Anyways, do you know where Tinker’s at right now?”

“If I had to guess I’d say that he’s probably out in town grabbing dinner, why?”

“Oh it’s nothing big, I just have some stuff I want to talk to him about, but we can do that later. Want to go grab something to eat first? Maybe get some drinks after?

“I’d love to! I kind of want to stop by the observatory if we can though, I still needed to get a couple things hooked up if it isn’t too much trouble.”

“We can stop by on the way there. I can’t promise that I’ll be much help though, you’re the expert with this kind of stuff, I’m just really along for the ride.”

“Perfect! It shouldn’t take too long, just gotta run a few checks on the systems, make sure it’s all in working order, you know, all the fun stuff I have to do before I can actually do all the real fun stuff.”

Silver shrugged and smiled. “I’ll take your word for it, it’s beyond anything I think I could hope to understand.”

“Don’t worry about it, that’s why I’m in charge of this stuff after all.”

“Thanks Scarlet, I don’t know what I’d do without you!”

“Struggle with phones maybe?”

The two chuckled.