• Published 20th Feb 2019
  • 224 Views, 12 Comments

Pandemic: Departures - Cosmic Eclipse

Following the ETS Pandemic three months prior, A group of ponies embark on a journey to find their place in a rapidly changing world, with dreams to change the very future itself!

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Ch 15 - "A Story About the Future!"

Author's Note:

Very special thanks to Lawra for collaborating and offering some feedback with some of this chapter. Just a heads up, it does contain very minor spoilers for Her Story Though it is stuff that was heavily implied in Monsters We Make and very briefly alluded to in Aftermath’s Epilogue. Chapters should be resuming as normal, though I may hit a few delays here and there.

Three Months Later:

The disgruntled pegasus stared out to the horizon. The open ocean was calm and serene, something he was thankful for. The waved gently rocked the boat, though he never had a moment of doubt in his mind that he would be safe. These solitary moments of peace that he had were often the only times he could truly feel relaxed, the wreck of the Orca hadn’t initially seemed so severe, but it became very clear that there was no salvaging it, not when they couldn’t even manage to hold their own research together.

The once cheerful mariner had slowly become a bitter drunk over the last few months, as it became ever clearer that his team would be splintered apart by their own in fighting. He sighed and gazed out at the ocean in front of him, wishing that his fellows could share the sight with him. The crew of the Orca II were long gone though, leaving him as the sole inhabitant. Moray took another sip from the rum bottle, shaking the last few drops out as he cast it aside into the pile with the rest.

“Run into some bad luck eh?” Came the solitary voice beside him.

Without turning to face the stranger he simply shrugged and reached for another bottle. “Aye, you could say that.”

“You’re Dr. Moray I presume?”

Moray turned towards the figure, raising an eyebrow at the strange blue night pony, noticing the “N” emblanized on his hat. “Aye I am… I presume that from your attire you’ve got an affinity for the “great” Captain Nemo?”

The figure smirked. “You could say I’m a fan of him… Let’s talk about you though--”

“--No, answer me this first Mr. Captain. What are you really here for? I know you’re not just some sympathetic siren come to ease my soul.” He paused in his questioning for a moment, moving closer to get a better look at the strange night pony, “No you’re obviously some dreamwalker invading the dreams of some old washed up drunk. So why are you here? Can’t you just let me drift away in this endless ocean in peace?”

The Captain was caught off guard, it was rare that a non dreamwalker was able to easily distinguish a dream from reality unless they were particularly gifted or lucid. “You’re correct, and as for why? Well let’s put it this way. I’ve heard that you’ve been looking for employment and I might have an offer for you and your particular talents.”

Moray arched his brow in confusion, “Yeah? And where did you hear that from?”

The Captain smirked, “I’ve got eyes and ears all over the place, ponies looking for dreamers like you. That is the ones that want to actually make a change in the world.”

“Alright then, well who said I was looking for any kind of help?”

“It’s pretty clear, the days spent doing odd jobs just to get by, the desperate attempt to continue your own research despite the fact that the odds seem stacked against you, the fear that your group will splinter under the pressure… all stuff I’m dealing with as well… you could say we share a certain degree of similarities. And if I’m not mistaken, I believe that you’re in need of a new ship too right? What if I could get you one? Maybe some new facilities? All you’d need to do is assist me with some special projects.”

He shook his head, “Look whatever you’re offering I’m not interested, what you’re suggesting sounds suspicious at best, you haven’t even shared who you really are. That doesn’t exactly shout “trustworthy” to me, so what’s the deal Mr. Captain? Who are you really? What makes you think that you have something to offer me?”

The Captain nodded, “Alright, well let’s start over then. The name’s Silver Eclipse, nice to meet you. You’ve never heard of me, but I’m in charge of a little research site out in the middle of the Arizona desert known as Mesa Verde, or the Oasis as it’s better known. Perhaps you’ve heard of it.”

His brow arched, “Research? What kind would that be? You do realize that I’m a mariner, unless you’ve found a way to turn the desert into a great ocean I’m afraid I won’t be of much use to you.”

“Oh that’s perfectly alright, I’m not asking you to make a move out to us, though your talents with weather manipulation might be useful. To answer your question though, it’s a bit of everything, magical, technological… some real groundbreaking stuff, but with everything that’s happened lately I’m sure you can understand why we haven’t come forward with our discoveries yet. We deal with certain parties that I’m not going to name, and as I’m sure you’re aware there’s still some major concerns following… well everything that put our future plans in question. To put it simply, we’re looking at alternative options going forward so we can ensure our future operational stability, and bringing you and your team on is a part of that.”

“I knew there was some sort of catch. So you’re just using us?”

“No, it’s quite the opposite actually. Think of this as a symbiotic relationship, you get what you need to get by, we gain some influence and insight out east that we desperately need, perhaps even some help with some of our own problems. Think of this as a mutual partnership, you get a shiny new lab and ship, and we get some assistance that we’ve been in need of, perhaps even the makings of a foothold out east.”

He laughed, casting his bottle aside, “Ha, that’s a good one. Let me guess, you’re some crack society of secret ponies slaving away in some hidden enclave pulling strings here and there to influence the world around you? You see how this looks? Spoiler alert, it sounds too good to be true. So Mr. Silver, if you really are who you say you are, and not just some fragment of my drunken imagination, then I’d love to take you up on your offer. But I doubt that, I’m sure I’ll wake up as always, drunk in some derelict shipwreck with friends who have grown to increasingly doubt our ability to actually get by on our own.”

“That’s all I needed to hear, I’m sure we’ll be speaking face to face soon enough.”

The pegasus merely scoffed. “Ha, talking to myself, how original!”

“Farewell Captain Moray, just know that the world still has a use for your talents, even if you’ve forgotten that.”

“Uh huh, see you around Mr. Captain, If you’re real I’m sure you know where to find me.”

“In the bar?”

“Ha! That’s a good one. I like you kid.”

The sun set on the horizon as Moray gazed out, reflecting on Silver’s words as the world was engulfed in darkness.

Silver glanced out at the afternoon sun, it was incredibly early for him to be up, but hopefully his nap would help alleviate his drowsiness a little. Tinker had insisted on speaking to him personally earlier, and that had thrown his entire plan for the day off.

He looked out the window and rubbed his eyes, the town had already grown quite a bit, but the initial spark of energy was starting to wear off. More and more often the directorate meetings would end in arguments and stalemates, bringing their progress to a halt…

Day after day it became blatantly clear that morale was starting to slip, and if Silver didn’t do anything about it the group likely wouldn’t be together much longer. Being the director of an entire research group was definitely stressful. Many a night had been spent dealing with contractors, construction teams, and new recruits, making sure that each and every individual that was involved with city affairs was able to execute the group’s vision.

In the three months that followed its establishment, the Oasis grew from a small village into a slowly thriving town. What once was a collection of abandoned buildings was now the beginning of a city, their dream of the future coming true more and more each day that passed. The population had grown from a relatively small group of about 8 ponies to a nice healthy group of close to two dozen, with some even having made cross country journeys to offer their own talents.

As positive as this growth was, Silver couldn’t help but feel as if something was very off. Sunset seemed far too interested in them just to offer some funding and nothing more, but there was hardly any evidence to back up his theory. Maybe he was just letting the stress get to him, but he was still hesitant to fully trust Sunset, which only drove him to seek out others that might form lucrative partnerships.

Trust was something that the group couldn’t afford to waste, not when they had so much to lose. Much to the frustration of Tinker and Stanley, their most advanced projects were still kept on a need to know basis, accessible only to the most trusted researchers. Silver hated to fight with his closest friends, but there was so much happening in the world that could have direct repercussions on their plans. They had to be careful, there was just too much to lose if they didn’t. Someday, when the world was ready, the group would share their secrets with them all.

Silver reached over to the comm on his desk, dreading the knowledge that there would likely be another argument or three by the end of the day.

“Diamond, could you please send Tinker in, I believe he had some matters that he wanted to discuss with me.”

“Sure thing boss, he should be up in a moment or two.”

Silver sat at his desk, idly navigating through his computer. “So Tinker, I believe you had something you wanted to discuss?”

Tinker nodded. “I do. Let me get right to the point, it’s about the Ark, we can’t keep sealing our greatest resources away like this, I know your thoughts on it but I see what’s happening here, what’s happening to us. It isn’t going to end well for us if we can’t come to a compromise.”

Silver rested his head on a hoof and stared outside. “Look Tinker, I know you have concerns but--”

“--I do. How do we know that we’re able to really keep a foothold here? What if someone decides to come in and just take this place from us? You’ve seen what’s been going on in the world right? All the rising tensions? What if this sparks some radical change in how the rest of the country views ponies and their magic?...”

“Tinker please…”

“...Hell most of them think that we’re all a bunch of brainwashed animals as it is, the vast majority of the ponies out here don’t even want to buy into the idea of making things normal again. Silver we need to be real, I want this to work just as much as you do, but how do we ensure that we're all going to even get along well enough to keep the group together?”

Silver sat up and made eye contact with Tinker, clearing his throat. “Well for one, we technically own this land ourselves, Sunset was able to get us what we needed for that and we’ve been slowly paying her back for it. As for another reason, The president’s in favor of the homestead lands, even though we don’t fall under that banner it’s clear that he’s in favor of ponies having their own place in the US. I don’t think anyone’s going to just come on in and push us out, not when we’re actively working on projects that might actually have a positive impact on the world--”

“--Projects that you insist on keeping secret, projects that we should be sharing. Gyro’s been cooking up some fascinating magical theories but even he’s locking those down now. These are the kinds of projects that I think would really bring a lot of good publicity for ponies, three months ago the idea of a pony research team was laughable at best but despite that we’ve actually been making some progress. It was a lucky break that you somehow earned the favor of Sunset Blessing, but if it wasn’t for that we never would have gotten this far. What I’m trying to say Silver is that we should be trying to make a name for ourselves.”

“I understand that Tinker, but you need to remember that Gyro’s experiments might not technically be the most legal right now, I’m sure there’ll be a time and a place to share them, but now is not that time… not unless you want this whole operation to get shut down. We really need to settle out our own issues before we get to that point, it’s not the world outside the city that’s giving us trouble, it’s the world inside.”

He raised an eyebrow, “Silver… what do you mean by that?”

Silver stood up and walked towards Tinker. “Have you noticed that every single meeting ends in an argument now? Hell, we can’t even manage the weather on our own, we can’t just open up to the world outside if we’re at risk of falling apart. Do you know how bad that’d look? That a pony research group out west can’t even keep it together long enough to really showcase their ideas?”

“Silver you’re acting like we need to be perfect, that we need to showcase something that has no potential at failure--”

“-- because we need to, at least that’s going to help our cause a lot better than you realize. You don’t deal with Sunset’s team often, I do. We can’t rely on her or the government forever, not after everything that’s happened. We can’t just push for magical research either, It’s clear that people are still afraid of pony magic, and saying that we’re trying to combine that with technology might spark more fear. What’s to stop some group like us from weaponizing something? You think the world’s ready for those fears?”

“Well no… but that doesn’t mean we can’t at least come forward with some of our more tame research.”

Silver sighed, nodding his head, “Alright, fine. Let’s talk about that then. Do you have a list of projects that we could start to push out?”

“I have a few options down there,” he paused, looking at his friend with sympathy, “Silver, I’m only against the Ark because I don’t believe that we should be hoarding our knowledge, ponies share. We’re doing the world a disservice by keeping these projects to ourselves.”

Silver walked over to the window and sighed. “You really think so?”

Tinker nodded, filling his voice with compassion. “I know so Silver… that’s why I pushed to make you the Director, because I knew you had the potential to really lead us to do something great, that you could see the world for what it really is, a place of endless potential… but your fears of losing it all is what’s going to cause that. We need to really shift things back to how they were when we started.”

Silver turned his head back towards him. “Ok, come with me, we’ll take a little walk down to the Ark, we can look at what we can start to share and what we can’t.”

“Do we really have to?”

He nodded his head, sternly replying to his friend. “We do. We can’t talk about those projects up here, you know that.”

“Fine, I’ll let you lead the way.”

Silver nodded, reaching for the comm. “Diamond, I’ll be down in the Ark with Tinker, if you need me you know how to contact me.”

“Alright Silver.”

Silver reached over to a panel on his desk, carefully entering a passcode, a few seconds passed before the computer chirped out a cheerful reply, “Good afternoon Director Silver.” The bookshelf on the wall behind him slid open, revealing a simple elevator. “Well shall we?”

“You know, did you really need to have this built like some kind of supervillain lair?”

“That’s a question for Arcade. He’s the one who was in charge of this, I just asked him to design something that would meet our end of the agreement, a secure and secret basement to hide our more sensitive projects.”

Tinker rolled his eyes. “If you say so Silver…”

The two stepped into the waiting elevator as the door slid shut.

“Descending to Center Core - The Ark. Please Stand By.”

Discarded bottles of Midnight Mango littered the small studio, as the night pony continued in his solitary task, one he had devoted the last three months to. Night after night he sat in the same place toiling away at his prototype, finally seeing the true potential in it. As bitter as he was at the time, he really owed a lot to that argument. It was the first time in his life that someone had called him out on his flaws and actually managed to get through to him. It was all a blur for him at this point, with this task being the only thing that he regularly focused on.

He sat up and gazed at his work, X-21 was proudly stenciled onto the side. A bolt of glee ran through him, it was finally done, his new life’s work could finally show practical promise! He jumped up and faced the bathroom, shouting to his friend.

“Gadget! It’s done! It’s finally done!”

She shouted her response back, her voice echoing in the small room. “What’s done?”

“The X-21! It’s finally able to run on it’s own!”

“Really? That’s what you’re interrupting me for? Sprocket just go get ready, we can’t just keep Arrow and Jet waiting forever. Can’t you just show me later?”

He shook his head, “This can’t wait until later! It’s my greatest achievement!”

“Uh huh, well you said that about the other 20. Just get ready and show me when we get home. You’ve been at this for months now, I’m starting to think that maybe you’re taking this too seriously…”

“I am though, it’s a chance to finally do something for others instead of myself!”

She paused, smirking slightly, “Are you sure you’re still the same Sprocket?”

He enthusiastically shook his head. “No, he’s gone now, we’re better off without him.”

She rolled her eyes and chuckled, “Ok Sprocky I believe you, now get over here and let’s get ready!”

He began to voice his objection. “But…”

“No buts, this is for your own good.”

He sighed. “Fine, I’ll show you first thing when we get back though!”

“That’s fine.”

The elevator chimed as it reached the Center Core, the heart of the PRISM’s operations. As the doors opened the pair were greeted by the industrial atmosphere of the Ark, their new secure vault and testing lab. The room smelled of fresh paint, and indeed many sections of the room were either just now being completed, or were almost finished. Secrecy was an important part of their deal with Sunset Blessing, and as such the Ark had been a project that they had put all their resources into early on, something that was absolutely vital to their operations.

This was the real heart of everything that they were working on, a place where their brightest and most secret projects would live. It was a place of great contention amongst the directorate but also a place where the future was actively being made. Silver often spent his work nights meditating here alone, worrying about the world and it’s looming problems, and keeping an eye on his friends and family.

The two walked out onto the landing, looking down at the clinical looking lobby below. Simple metal staircases ran down both sides of the circular room, with hallways and doors leading off in all directions. To any passerby the Ark would surely look like something you’d find a James Bond villain inhabit, but this was a place that the common passerby would never see, a secure bunker designed by some intrepid young architect who gladly built their most secure structure with the promise that he would have free reign over the design of the city, designs he was now starting to plan out en mass.

Tinker cleared his throat, “So you wanted to talk? Let’s get talking.”

Silver nodded, “Alright, well it’s clear that you and Stanley are right and we need to start putting some of our work out there, I’m open to that but we need to figure out what’s actually workable right now. I’ve even been contacting a few potential prospects to solve some of our other problems so it won’t just be us dealing with everything in the future.”

“So you’re saying you’re actually going to let us share some of these discoveries?”

He nodded his head, “Some… not all, at least not yet. We can start marketing components based on our research though. Little pieces here and there that are tested and working, stuff that could really make a small difference. The world isn’t ready for the big stuff yet, those are projects that we need to refine more before we can even remotely think about sharing.”

“Alright, that’s fine enough. But what about our own needs here? We still have the significant issue of not being able to properly manage the weather here, how do you suppose we’ll handle that?”

Silver paced around the room considering his response. “I might have a solution… or at least an option that could get us started. We can’t do anything on our own, at least not with our current weather team, no offense. It’s not that I don’t believe in you guys, but you simply don’t have any training or coordination--”

“--Which is exactly what I’m trying to figure out here, if you’ve got something better then by all means share it with the group.”

Silver nodded. “I do have something in mind… though it does come with a couple complications. There’s a few Pegasi that might be able to offer us some advice that could potentially help us get going. Granted a lot of this is based mostly on word of mouth, but I think I have a couple good places to start.”

Tinker raised an eyebrow, “Who did you have in mind?”

“Well the most obvious is Sunrise Storm, she’s consistently said to be one of the most gifted pegasi on earth… though given everything that’s happened I don’t really know if she’s available, able to, or even willing to offer up some advice right now, especially if she learns we work for Sunset Blessing.”

Tinker shrugged. “Alright that’s understandable enough I guess, who else is on the list though?”

“This one’s a little more of recent discovery, a pegasus up north, somewhere in Michigan I think. Her name is Sapphire Sky. She runs some sort of government weather program, talked about it in a TV interview that made the rounds a few months ago. Flew completely under the radar up until that point.”

“And her status?”

“Her’s is actually a lot worse, as she’s currently off realm. She was one of those lucky candidates selected for the exchange program, no doubt she’s learning really advanced weather manipulation techniques from the Equestrians on Equestria right now. So this might make getting in contact a little tricky to say the least.”

Tinker rolled his eyes and sighed. “So we have no options then? What was even the point--”

“--But what if we contact her office? It’s a big government sanctioned program up there, surely it’s got some office we can call right? There has to be somepony there who’ll be able to hear us out.”

“I suppose it wouldn’t hurt…”

“Come on, let’s go take a walk.”

Silver led Tinker down one of the staircases and over to the far side of the room, greeting the stationed guard along the way. “Good afternoon Onyx, how’s the wife and foals?”

Onyx smiled and seemed to relax a little. “Oh they’re doing quite fine, Winter absolutely loves it out here.”

“That’s great to hear, try not to work too hard alright?” Silver said as he patted him on the shoulder.

Onyx chuckled. “Sure thing boss!”

Tinker cut in. “I hate to interrupt, but where exactly are we going?”

“We’re going to my private office. In case you didn’t know, cell phones and radios don’t get reception down here, my office has the only working line in or out of here. It’s a security thing you know?”

Tinker nodded his head. “Yeah yeah, I get it… So what’s the plan anyways? Just call them and ask for all of their protected secrets? Secrets that are most assuredly illegal to practice in a completely unsanctioned and private environment like you’re suggesting we do?”

Silver flashed him an embarrassed look. “Well… it sounds bad when you put it that way but yeah, that’s basically the gist of it.”

He sighed and lowered his head, shaking it as if he was answering some unasked question. “Okay, I can’t believe I’m going along with this, but if you actually manage to come through with this you might actually have a chance at ending the next meeting without another argument or stalemate.”

Silver chuckled. “There’s the Tinker I know! Now, come on, my office is right over this way.” He said, gesturing towards a plain looking metal door with a simple security notice posted above the keypad.

“That’s not nearly as ornate as I figured you’d make it.”

“Well it’s a different case when we’re dealing with something the public sees versus something that’s meant for our eyes only. Give me a second, I need to enter the code.” Silver said as he started entering the security code.

“Access Granted! Good afternoon Director Silver.” Came the cheerful computerized reply.

“Well?” Silver said smiling as he gestured towards the now open door.

Tinker simply countered with an unenthusiastic “After you.”

Silver led him in and set his saddlebags on the ground behind his desk. He sat down and calmly dug through the various files had been reading through the previous night. Finding the one he desired, he reached over to the phone on his desk, pressed one of the modified buttons and waited for the response.

“Heya Silver I’m a little busy right now, what do you need?”

“Hey Scarlet, can you do me a favor and connect me to…” he read the name on the file, “...The Michigan Weather Management Program?”

“Sure thing, give me a minute.”

Tinker started chuckling to himself.

Silver raised an eyebrow. “Is there something funny?”

“Yeah, you’re making your marefriend dial the number for you, it’s just kind of funny that the director needs assistance to do something so simple.”

Silver rolled his eyes. “Har har get your laughs out now, I’m not as good at using the phone as she is, sue me alright?”

“Oh it’s quite alright Silver, we all need a helping hoof from time to time.”

Much to his relief she chimed back in. “Hey Silv it’s all connected on line one when you’re ready. I’m going to go run down to the observatory and get some work done, the telescope guy’s there and I need to get that sorted out so just give me a call if you need me.”

“Thanks Scarlet!” He quickly pressed the flashing button, switching over to the other line and waiting for them to pick up.

“Hello, thank you for calling the Michigan Weather Management Program, this is Maple Berry speaking. How may I assist you today?”

“Hello Maple, my name’s Silver Eclipse and I represent a private research group in Arizona, if you don’t mind I’d like to ask a few questions regarding your whole program. I realize Sapphire is currently on leave as part of the exchange program, but I figured that you might be able to direct me to the appropriate ponies.

“Certainly, what do you need?”

“Well, to put it simply, we’ve found ourselves in need of some assistance in regards to managing the weather around our project site and--”

“--I’m going to have to cut you off there, Sir. It is against federal law to assist or to encourage large scale weather manipulation by private individuals in areas not granted exception by federal authorities. I'm sorry but we cannot help you.”

All he was able to stutter out was a simple “I’m sorry?” as the phone suddenly disconnected.

Tinker sat up in his chair, smirking. “Well that went somehow worse than I thought it would. Got any other bright ideas?”

“I… Well…” Silver was interrupted by the phone suddenly ringing again. He pressed the button and answered. “Uhh hello?”

“Yeah hey, sorry about that but there's no way I could talk to you over the public landline. So can you be more specific on what you need? This is of course totally off the record and it'll be denied if you at all implicate us in helping you in any illegal weather control projects.”

Silver took a second to compose himself and quickly set it to speaker so Tinker could listen in as well. “Yeah, so our situation is that we are in the middle of the Arizona desert, the Verde Valley to be specific. From what I’ve been told by our inexperienced weather team here, they don’t seem to be having any success gathering moisture from the air to produce clouds. And as I’m sure you can understand it’s a bit of a difficult situation to be in a desert without being able to plan rain for our crops or for drinking water.”

“That does sound like it would be a problem. So you were looking for advice to implement a plan working around the limitations of your… arid environment.”

“Exactly.” He glanced over to Tinker. “We’re kind of in a tight spot with this one, so anything you can offer would be immensely appreciated.”

“I see, and was that all that you wanted help with?”

“Yes, for the most part. We just need to get off the ground with this so we don’t have to keep relying on outside help in the future.”

“I’m not really able to give you anything directly, I’m a unicorn and not exactly the best with understanding weather magic. But we do have a few pegasi who I can talk to that will get in contact with you when they can. Is this a good number for them to call you at? And is there any specific time that works best?”

“Any help is better than no help at all, this number will work perfectly fine, sometime in the late evening, around say 10 or so would be best. If I’m not in have them leave a message with my assistant and I’ll get back to them as soon as possible.”

“Alright, well I’ll pass that information along to one of the pegasi, we’ll try to get back to you as soon as possible. Was there anything else you needed today?”

“Nope, that should cover everything nicely. Thank you so much for the help again!”

“Mhm. Just remember this conversation never happened.”

The phone disconnected again, leaving the pair in silence for a few long minutes.

Tinker was the first to break the silence.“Well, I’ll give it you Silver, you actually managed to do it.”

“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves Tinker, we still don’t know what help, if any we’ll be able to get. This is a good sign though.” He paused for a moment, unsure of what to say next. “I’m not going to lie, I’m not sure what to do next as I wasn’t expecting us to get this far.”

“Yeah, we got lucky eh? So should I let the others know?”

Silver shook his head. “No, we’d better wait until we actually have more information. I’ll keep you posted on this though. Go ahead and get those projects put together though, I can look at marketing some of them as soon as they’re ready.”

Tinker stood up and began to walk towards the lab. “Well if that’s all we needed to discuss then I’ll get cracking on it, hopefully this is the start of our new beginning.”

He nodded, “Bye Tinker.”

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