• Published 20th Feb 2019
  • 196 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 17 - "Future Bound”

Silver spent this night much like he did any other, running through the different dreams with Scarlet, exploring the many amazing worlds that dreamers could come up with. To him, the experience of running through different adventures each night was impossible to describe, it was just something that you had to experience to really get a good feel for. Nothing in the waking world could even remotely compare to the wild disorganized nature of dreams in his eyes. As crazy and out there as they could get, he still managed to find a strange sense of order in them. Testing the limits and boundaries of his abilities in the dream realm was something that Silver had spent more and more time on as the days went on. In his own dream he had a limitless canvas to craft to his liking, and he took full advantage of that, slowly experimenting and building up this canvas into a dream paradise he came to call “Somewhere”. Before long, the two returned to Silver’s persistent dream, laughing together as they flew around the bay.

“Wow that was really something else wasn’t it?! I mean I haven’t felt that much energy in months!”

“It sure was! You should have seen your face when that spider showed up!” She shouted out in between laughs, flashing him a mocking face of fear.

He rolled his eyes and snickered, “Har har, laugh it up, you sure looked pretty funny when you ran from that giant python.”

Her face scrunched into a look of revulsion and disgust that Silver had seldom seen before as she came to a graceful landing in front of the Nautilus, “Yeah well that’s a cheap shot, you know how much I hate snakes.”

“Right, well you know how much I hate spiders too but you don’t see me complaining about that now do you? Besides, that was a giant one that towered over me, anypony else would have been just as afraid if they were in my shoes…” the two paused before breaking out into cheerful laugh, “So what should we do next? Meet up with Stanley and Midnight or go dream hopping some more?”

“Well, we could always--”

A pony suddenly cleared her throat from behind them, "Excuse me? .... Sorry to interrupt but I need to speak with Silver for a few minutes."

Silver turned towards the source of voice, "Oh, hello Tonya, nice to see you again. So what do I owe the pleasure of your visit?"

She looked around at the twilight sky, then over to the large mountainside building that loomed over the bay, "This place is... certainly different from the last time I visited."

He smiled, “You like it? I’ve been trying out something new, seeing how it all works. It’s kind of been a learning experience for me.”

“Making dreams?”

He shook his head, “Making dreams that persist after I awaken,” he corrected, “It’s a neat little trick I discovered when I was trying to make some particularly complex constructs. I don’t really know how it all works yet except for the fact that it exists in a sort of subconscious plane and isn’t actually tied to REM sleep. To put it simply, it’s a sort of second dream that kind of exists in the background of my mind if that makes sense. But enough about that though, I’m going to go ahead and assume that this isn’t just some personal visit?”

She shook her head, “Sunset’s got another project for you guys. It’s a little different than the other stuff you’ve worked on, but she seems to think you guys are up to the challenge.”

Silver nodded and pulled the two into his library office in “Somewhere”. He walked over to his desk and took a seat, gesturing to the vacant seat in front of it, “Please take a seat Tonya, make yourself comfortable. I hope you don’t mind Scarlet being here too.”

“That’s fine, she knows the rules though, this stays between us and your team members who are working on the project.”

Scarlet nodded, and walked over towards one of the large stained glass windows, gazing out at the bioluminescent plants that peppered the Island, “Don’t worry about me, I’m just here for the ride.”

“Tonya, if you don’t mind me asking, where exactly does Sunset get these projects from? We’re dealing with stuff that shouldn’t exist or work but despite that it always seems to go just fine without any complications whatsoever. It’s highly unusual and I know for a fact that Sunset isn’t the one cooking all these plans up.”

“I’m in the dark about that just as much as you are, she won’t tell me the details, she just has me memorize the plans and share them with you.”

He nodded and shrugged, “Alright, fair enough I guess. I was just curious about it.”

“Mhm. So Silver, this one’s a bit of a big one, do you happen to have a pen and paper handy? It might make this a whole lot easier to explain.”

“Yeah sure, I’m guessing that this isn’t just some little science experiment this time. The rest of the team will be happy to hear that, I think they were starting to get a little bored.” He said as he conjured up and slid the requested items over.

“It’s definitely not some small little project. In fact, I think this might be right up your alley. It’s a small little component but Sunset thinks it might be very useful, you guys were working on some big complicated computer right?”

He slowly nodded his head, “Right… Project Foresight. It’s not really a viable project right now, but we’ve already learned a lot from the whole process. Why do you ask?”

She began writing out instructions, complete with a few rough sketches, “We don’t really understand anything about what this thing is supposed to do, but maybe you guys will. It might even be useful for that computer project.” She slid the papers over to Silver.

He carefully scrutinized each paper, “I can’t make sense of this either, but it shouldn’t be an issue memorizing these, Tinker’s definitely my top pick for this project, he’s going to love this.”

“Mhm. Please let us know what it winds up doing, you can do whatever you want with it after, Sunset just wants the data you guys get from it.”

“So can I assume that we’ll get a revised budget with this?”

She paused for a moment, cocking her head to the side, “That… wasn’t really part of the plan, are you guys already out of money?”

He shook his head, “No… I was just curious. We had some… improvement plans and a little extra cash might have been useful for those.”

“Well what did you guys have in mind? Is there anything big happening out in the Oasis that we should know about? I know you guys have been doing a lot of work there and Sunset’s really looking forward to seeing how everything’s going.”

“Well… we were having some issues with the weather, I believe I sent Sunset my report on that… her wording could have been a bit better, but that’s water under the bridge now I guess. Though… we never did wind up solving that unfortunately.”

“Her wording? Oh… about getting some help with training your weather team, right. Sorry about that, I guess we never got back to you after the first request.”

He shrugged, “No, don’t worry, I think Sunset’s message was very clear, you can’t just send some instructors out when you’re still getting your own team set up. It’s rough out here but we’ve managed so far.”

She nodded, “I hope you can understand.”

“Oh I do, it’s no sweat. We actually figured out a good solution on our own, that’s where a lot of our facilities budget is going right now.”

She raised an eyebrow, “Oh? And what’s that?”

“We were able to get a hold of a representative from that special weather program in Michigan. They can’t really help us out directly but were willing to let a few members of their weather team come out to the Oasis for a vacation,” he winked his eye a couple times, “They’re going to help us sort out the problems we had getting our… let’s just say haphazardly thrown together weather team up to speed.”

“That’s good for you guys, so who’s paying for their trip?”

“Oh we are, kind of a professional courtesy. We figured that it’d be for the--”

“--Sunset will be more than happy to pay for it.”

“Wait what? She would?” He asked in surprise.

“You’re talking about the Michigan Weather Management Program right? That whole thing’s been generating a lot of conversation, pegasi working with human technology to control the weather? That’s a pretty big deal, what with how magicphobic the feds are getting. I mean I’ll have to ask her to be sure, but I know she wouldn’t say no knowing who it’s for.”

He paused, shaking his head, “Wait but why? What does she want in return?”

“Nothing, she just wants to make sure that she’s going to get a return on her investment in the Oasis. If this is going to help you out then she’s willing to put a little more in. We’ve been trying to get in contact with them for a little while now and it just hasn’t been working out. So if they’re willing to help you out then this might just be a good enough gesture to show them that SPEC would be a good organization for them to work with.”

His face lit up in delight as he stood up from his desk, “Well.. well thanks! I.. I don’t know what to say, but thank you so much! Seriously though, what do you want in return? I feel like Sunset never just gives anything out for free.”

“Well she is this time, like I said, she really just wants to make sure you guys have a chance to get everything set up.”

“Well this honestly means so much to me, I don’t know how we can ever repay you guys for this.”

She smiled, “Just keep working on making a better future, that’s all she wants from you guys.”

“Well I really do appreciate it. Was there anything else you wanted to talk about before you go?”

“Not that I can think of,” she said, shaking her head.

“Well take care then.”

She nodded, “Goodbye Silver, be sure to keep me updated on how things go with those weather ponies” She cheerfully said as she began to walk away.

“Oh one more thing Tonya.”

The cheerful orange pegasus turned around, “Huh? What’s up?

“Please give Sunset my regards. I’m planning a little trip out there sometime, I’d like to meet you both in person, thank you guys for everything that you’ve done. It really means a lot to me.”

“I sure will, I’m sure she’d love to show you around sometime.”

And in an instant she was gone, leaving the two night ponies alone once again. Scarlet walked back towards the desk with an unreadable expression on her face, “Alright, well I guess that was a lucky break.”

“You think? I mean we’ve really been on a roll lately, it feels weird to me that Sunset’s just funding this without any questions asked though.”

“Well don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, we’re lucky that she’s being so friendly and hospitable, I mean you’ve heard enough about her reputation.”

“Doesn’t it seem weird to you though?”

“Weird as in Sunset wanting to make a big impression on some group she’s been trying to contact? Because that seems right in character with her.”

“Alright, well I guess you’re right. Wanna get back to our little adventure?”

She smiled, “Gee Silver, I thought you’d never ask!”

He slowly laid the plans out on the metal table, carefully pushing some of the loose papers and components aside, and waving the two inventors over with a gentle flap of a wing, “Alright so what do you make of all this?” Silver asked with a hesitant tone.

The duo marveled at the written pages, taking a long pause before Tinker finally met his gaze, “You’re 100% positive you memorized this correctly?”

He nodded his head, “Absolutely, it’s all here just as they transcribed it… why?”

The pegasi’s face lit up with excitement, “Silver, this could be groundbreaking!”

“What do you mean?” he asked, furrowing his brow.

Gyro cleared his throat, speaking up with an unusual tone of interest carrying in his voice, “It’s unlike anything that exists currently, revolutionary if it’s accurate.”

Silver cocked his head to the side in confusion, “I’m sorry, but could you please tell me this in English?”

Tinker paced around the room, his eyes darting between the array of pages, “Silver, if these plans are really correct, then we’re looking at a new type of theoretical computer processor, one that would be able to handle complex computations better than anything else in existence right now… maybe even in the next few decades...”

Silver rolled his eyes and stood up, approaching the bewildered pegasus, “Tinker, I said in English please. Is this just a fancy calculator? Because that’s what it sounds like to me.”

He held a hoof up as if to stop the night pony’s sarcastic response, “In layman's terms, yes. Think of this as the brain of a computer, except it’s so much smarter than anything else that currently exists-- er that is if we’re actually able to create it. It’s impossible to tell if we’ll be able to but there’s so much potential for this if we can!”

“Well Tinker, it sure looks like we’ve found a good project to start marketing,” he said with a smile.

“That’s just the thing though… this will all hinge on this actually working, which is easier said than done… but if it actually does it’ll revolutionize consumer electronics as we know it!”

“What could we realistically do with these plans if we can’t create the component?”

“Well we could still use it as a sort of building block for other projects. We might not be able to make this exact component but we can definitely take what we can learn from these plans and apply them to less complex projects in the meantime.”

He lowered his voice, walking closer to the pegasus, “Do… do you think it could handle the Oracle’s calculations then?”

Tinker simply shrugged, “Well, it’s being incredibly optimistic, but it might be able to?” He leaned in close, “If you want my opinion though, this is almost like opening Pandora’s box. I’m honestly afraid of the implications of pursuing that particular project any further.”

Silver raised an eyebrow, “What’s there to be afraid though? This could honestly solve so many problems, just imagine it. What if you knew the outcome of a problem in advance? You could reduce the risk of somepony getting harmed by a significant percent!”

Tinker flashed him a concerned look, hesitating before speaking up, “And spawn a whole series of other accidents as a result? We can’t just blindly trust it to predict every foreseeable outcome of our experiments, just because it could analyze the potential doesn’t mean it could accurately predict those outcomes every single time. Did you ever stop and think that maybe we shouldn’t try and know the answers to everything? That maybe everything happens for a reason and we shouldn’t try and meddle with that order?”

His ears lowered in worry, “But Tinker, this could help us pinpoint when their arrival will occur… it could tell us how long until we have… that has to outweigh the risks right?”

“Silver, they’re millions of years away from arriving, this isn’t a problem you need to solve now, it never was. We just need to worry about sticking together long enough to lay out the groundwork for others to solve it in the future.”

“And this component is a part of that… I just want to make sure that we’re doing everything we can possibly do. We owe it to the world and having something this advanced that we can learn from could really be the start of something revolutionary.”

“It’s a noble cause Silver, it really is, but just remember that you can’t and shouldn’t try to do everything, it’s impossible.”

He smirked, “Nothing’s ever truly impossible though, is it?”

“That’s… kind of being extremely optimistic but I suppose it isn’t. Let’s worry about getting this component made first, we’re going to need ponies with a real solid understanding of electrical engineering. It shouldn’t be impossible but we might need to do a bit of digging to find the right candidates.”

“That’s another thing, why just ponies? What about humans? I thought the plan was to work with both afterall.”

Tinker enthusiastically nodded his head, “Oh it still is, I actually have a few human candidates lined up, though they might be a little busy. It’s still worth feeling them out though.”

He raised an eyebrow, “Oh? And who are they?”

“Oh you know, some buddies of mine from way back. They can be a little stone faced at times but caring all the same. One’s actually been working with microprocessors for years now, he’d probably be our top asset if we can get him to sign on.”

“Well let’s do it then, what’s it going to take?”

“Well it certainly won’t be easy. We’ll have to fly him in from Japan for one, secure a visa for him and his family, and most importantly, get him to agree. Last I heard, he was working on producing processors for medical instruments, it was always kind of a passion of his.”

He nodded, walking over towards the window, peeking outside, “Just remember, we can’t exactly share all of these details with him unless he signs on, but let him know they were working on something revolutionary and he’s more than welcome to help.” He turned back towards the duo, “I’m even willing to let him license the patents from us for next to nothing, if our work helps save lives than I’m willing to lose a little profit on this.”

“I’ll see if I can contact him, it might take a while though.”

“When do you think you guys will be able to start working on this? Sunset’s going to be expecting a full report on everything about it.”

“Well, we could begin the initial groundwork tonight, we just need a budget set up… though I’m afraid we’ve pooled all of that into the improvement fund.”

“Oh don’t worry about that, Sunset’s paying for their trip.”

He suddenly jumped up in surprise, “She’s what!?”

“Yeah, Tonya said that Sunset would be more than happy to fun this if it helps us out.”

“I… I have a few concerns…”

Silver put a hoof on his shoulder reassuringly, “Hey, I do too, but let’s just take it at face value, we can’t afford to turn this down.”

“I suppose you’re right. Just please be careful okay? I don’t fully trust Sunset.”

“I don’t fully trust her either, believe me, I’m going to keep a close eye on all of this.”

“I sure hope you do, for all of our sake.”

Silver walked back towards his office, Scarlet by his side. “Alright, so today’s certainly gone better than I could have expected it to.”

“That’s one way of putting it. Do you think they’ll be able to help us out?”

“I sure hope so, I don’t know what we’re going to do about the whole weather situation if they can’t. I mean Sunset’s already basically given us a hard no on sending some help out.”

“Basically? She practically told you not to bother asking about it again because it wasn’t on the table in your negotiations, that’s a pretty hard no in my book.”

“Alright, well you’ve got a great point.”

He pushed the door open and walked in, immediately noticing a package on his desk. He sat down and pressed a button on his phone, paging his assistant. “Hey boss what do you need?”

“Diamond, what’s with this random package? It doesn’t have a return address.”

“Some courier from Phoenix dropped it off, said it was important and to deliver it to you as soon as possible, there should be a note attached.”

Silver turned the package over in his hooves, noticing a simple piece of paper that was attached. “Oh, I see it now, thanks Diamond.”

“I’m going to head out for the night boss, if you need me feel free to give me a call.”

“Alright, you have a nice night.”

The phone clicked, leaving him in silence. “So shall we see what this is?”

Scarlet nodded, “It’s worth a shot.”

He carefully opened the box, immediately recognizing the prototype that sat inside of it. He reached for the note, reading it over. “Nova City, Let’s talk - 10pm.”

“Who’s it from?”

“There’s no name but I have a pretty good idea. I won’t know until later, but let’s go ahead and worry about that later on, ok?”

“I guess I’ll take your word for it.”

Sprocket sat there in complete silence, staring off into the distance with an emotionless expression on his face. It would seem strange to any passing pony or human, but to most night ponies his odd vigil would make perfect sense. Reaching a waking dream took practice, but it was definitely doable with the right practice and a little patience. Every night pony had an innate connection to the dream realm, and those that were well enough attuned to it could tap into it even when awake. Still though, Gadget looked on in concern, “Sprocket, you’ve been sitting there staring off into space for an hour now, are you feeling ok?”

He sat unmoving, taking slow breaths as she waited for an answer, that confused and concerned look spreading further across her face. She sat and waited for a response that never came. She could have simply dropped it and moved on, but instead she continued to prod further, staring on in curiosity, “This is honestly kind of freaking me out, you’re like the only night pony I’ve seen do this. Do I need to call someone?”

He blinked his eyes a few times, turning back towards her, “Huh? Oh. Sorry about that, just waiting in a waking dream, I wanted to chat with him asap.”

“And this is… normal?”

“Yeah, I know we never really see a lot of night ponies doing it but it’s possible. There’s only a handful of us here, and it’s not like we really hang out with any of them except for a few special occasions.”

“Alright, well you have a point. It’s still just kind of weird to see, it’s almost like the lights are on but nopony’s home. You did tell him what time you wanted to talk right?”

“Yeah, left it in the letter, I figured 10pm would work out fine. I haven’t really kept up on everything he’s done but I know for a fact that he’s got a knack for dream stuff, he’ll find a way over whether it’s through a waking dream or sedating himself. Point is I’ve thought this through.”

She nodded, “Okay, I believe you, but Sprocket it’s nine, you’ve been at this since you woke up. Shouldn’t you just wait until it’s time?”

“Well… I could, but I just wanted to think about what I was going to say. It helps clear my mind a little bit, if that makes sense.”

“Right, well I’m going to run out and run an errand or two, I’ll leave you to your little daydream. Did you need anything while I’m out?”

“No, not really… unless you want to try and barter for some more bottles of Midnight Mango.”

She smirked, “Well I can’t make any promises but I’ll see what I can do.”

“You’re the best, you know that?”

“Of course I do, now have fun with your little daydream adventure okay?”

“I sure will.”

Gadget smiled and shut the door behind her, leaving Sprocket to his own devices.

Silver closed his eyes and sought out the dreamer, hoping that he was correct. A shimmering star suddenly materialized in front of him, answering his silent call. Smiling, he jumped in and braced for the dark and gloomy atmosphere, but much to his genuine surprise the landscape had shifted greatly from what it had been the last time he had visited it. What was once a large desolate city was now a humble garden. Green plant life thrived all around, and a peaceful stream ran around the perimeter, emptying into a small pond in the center. A blanket of fog obscured the world beyond the garden, no doubt masking the edge of the dream.

The lone figure sitting in the center stood up and smiled, “Hey Silver, I figured you’d get the message and put the pieces together. It’s really good to see you again.”

The night pony stared on in disbelief, “Sprocket, did you actually get your prototype to work all on your own?”

He nodded, “Yeah, it wasn’t easy but it’s almost there. I figured that you guys would be interested in seeing how it’s gone so far. You can keep that by the way, consider it a little thank you gift, for helping to open my eyes.”

“Open your eyes? What do you mean?”

“You guys were absolutely correct about me, I needed to really find something positive to work on, and this project was the one.”

“Well… I’m glad we were able to help,” He looked around at the garden, marveling at the simple, yet tranquil landscape, “This place is so different to what you had made before, what happened to the whole city?”

He smirked, “It was fake, all of it. Just a simple illusion that seemed more complicated than it actually was.”

“How did you manage to make something so complex though? I mean that isn’t normally an easy task, even I’ve been struggling to make something that can persist between my dreams.”

“Are you familiar with the concept of forced perspective?”

Silver nodded his head, “Well yeah, of course. It’s one of the oldest tricks in the book, making something seem taller or deeper than it actually is, why?”

He turned towards the pond, calmly walking towards it, “It was kind of like that, a bunch of flat buildings and layouts hidden away behind the fog. I thought I could make something amazing without putting in the actual effort, but I didn’t need to.”

“Well Sprocket, you’ve actually done something amazing on your own though, that prototype could be something that’s really useful.” Silver said as he walked up beside him, resting a hoof on his shoulder reassuringly.

“It could. That’s the main reason why I shared it with you, I can’t do the rest of it alone, it’s just too complicated for me to do by myself. I was kind of hoping that you guys would be able to help me with it, maybe even take the concept to new heights… together.”

“You… you want to work together?”

He nodded, “I do. It’s not going to necessarily be easy, and it might not even work the way I want it to, but it could be a fun little project. And if it at least serves as a useful tool for somepony than I’ll be happy.”

“Sprocket you know you’ve come a long way, I honestly would love to work on this with you. I’m going to be honest, I always saw potential in you, but I didn’t think you’d be able to see that in yourself. I’d love for you to stop on by sometime, we can chat more about this in person.”

He smiled, “If you’ll have me than I won’t decline, where would you like to meet?”

“There’s a campsite above the city, a nice little overlook that has a stunning view of the place. I’d love to talk with you there.”

“Well it’s settled then, when do you want to meet up?”

“Does tomorrow work for you? Sometime at night maybe?”

He nodded, “That would work. I’ll see you there at 8:00.”

“I look forward to talking with you in person, the prototype really has so much potential, I know we’ll be able to get it working, together.”

Me too Silver, I really can't thank you all enough for making this clear to me.

Author's Note:

A few weather ponies taking just a normal everyday vacation out to an arid settlement in the middle of a desert on one of the most notable shimmerist’s dime? What could possibly go wrong?

Special thanks to Halira for letting us use her characters in the set up for this little adventure. Keep an eye out for updates on that project in the next few weeks!

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