• 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 3 - "A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow... Today!"

The day that had followed had gone by in a blur. Silver had met the village’s leader, a friendly earth pony named Axel. Silver hardly knew what to make of him, but he seemed genuine enough. The relaxing day dragged Silver into another restful night. This time was different however, Silver knew that a new world of possibilities had opened up to him by befriending Stanley. His plans could finally begin to play out. He excitedly summoned the usual Dream, and wandered into his office at the heart of it all.

The mysterious intruder from the previous night was sitting at his desk, ready to greet him.

“Aha and so the prodigal night pony returns!”

“And I see the ever observant intruder has returned as well… you’re in my seat you know.”

“Oh come on, I know you appreciate my visits, you know you can’t hide that from me!”, The intruder glanced around the room, taking in Silver’s work for a brief moment. “I have to say, you really do have a talent for interior design, I should really hire you to do my office in the waking world sometime, I’m sure that you’d be just the pony for the task.”

“Is this all you came here for? To admire my observatory and offer me a job?”

“No, not really, I’m not exactly here for the usual visit this time, so let’s get right to business. I heard about your visitor last night, finally coming out of your shell it seems?”

“Oh would you give me a break?… to answer your question though, I do have to admit, it’s good to finally have somepony else to talk with”

“See? I told you it would be a good idea, you should have never doubted me. Now, how about a thank you? Would it kill you to be a little more friendly every now and then?”

“You’re really serious about this?”

“You of all ponies should know by now that I absolutely am, I’ve given you some liberties in the past, but now’s not one of those times, now let me hear it…”

Sighing deeply Silver admitted defeat. And began to give in to the intruder’s request.

“Very well, I’ll concede this time… Thanks…”

“There you go! Was it really that hard?!”

Stanley wandered around his old hometown, on a personal mission more than anything else. His adventures in the dreamscape were interesting, but also reminded him of something he had neglected for a while now. In the week since he had left Crystal Cove, he had mostly been drifting around, staying relatively local. As he trotted towards the large imposing structure in the distance he could only hope that he would still be there.

Stanley had never lived too far from the rest of his family, the fear of the unknown keeping him close to what he knew best. ETS had drastically changed a lot for the young night pony however, and much to his regret he had seldom tried to contact or communicate with his parents in any way since he had transformed. Stanley had always been an only child, but to him that was alright, he enjoyed the many memories he shared with his parents and the fun adventures they would go on around town.

As he continued to trot through the city, the pollution was starting to irritate him. Stanley didn’t care though, his own personal mission was more important to him than his own personal comfort was. He paused for a moment, looking up towards the large hotel his father had worked at for most of his adult life. The imposing structure bringing on a sense of both worry and nostalgia. Stanley didn’t know how his parents had fared, but could only hope for the best. With a nervous sigh, he walked towards the front door.

Stanley approached the concierge, who greeted him with a look of confusion.

“Can I… Help you sir?”

“Yes actually… can you tell me if Valentino is still here?”

“May I ask who’s asking?... We don’t get very many pony guests, I hope you can understand my hesitation.”

“That’s fine… you can tell him that Stanley’s come for a visit, he’ll know exactly what you mean, trust me.”

“Just a moment.” With yet another confused look on his face, the concierge walked through a door behind the desk.

“I’ll be in the lobby when you return!” he confidently shouted through the open door.

Stanley knew the layout of the hotel well enough, he was practically raised in it as a young child. His father had been the hotel’s event manager for close to 30 years, and with that came many a chance for the young Stanley to run around the areas of the hotel that normal guests couldn’t. Just from his memory, Stanley could only assume that the concierge had ventured into the administrative offices, to go personally find the Senior Event manager.

Stanley decided to walk towards the lobby, looking over the vast multi story atrium that he was so familiar with. Without even realizing it, a smile had crept onto his face. Everything was exactly as he had remembered it. From the marble flooring to the grand staircase that connected the two lobby levels, even the glass piano that sat near the bar. It all brought on a wave of nostalgia that he hadn’t felt in a very long time. There was hardly anyone in the lobby right now, which was even better. He could simply sit here and enjoy the music. The haunting melody of Moonglow echoed throughout the lobby, bringing back so many good memories.

Before long a cheerful voice greeted him.

“Stanley?... is that you?”

Pulled from his nostalgic trance, Stanley turned towards the source of the voice.

With a smile on his face, and an excited tone in his voice, Stanley greeted his father, “It sure is Dad!”

Despite his excitement, Stanley felt a little twinge of worry. His father was obviously untransformed, but he didn’t seem to harbor any ill will towards him.

“Stanley… It’s good to see you again… your mother and I hadn’t heard anything from you after the counterspell was cast, we could only worry and hope that something bad hadn’t happened to you…” Turning towards the concierge he simply dismissed him. “You may return to your post. I appreciate it.”

The concierge simply nodded and walked away. Leaving Stanley and his father alone near the top of the grand staircase. One of his favorite tunes Stardust now echoing throughout the lobby.

“Is this... what you’d consider “the worst”... Dad?” Stanley hesitantly asked, unsure of whether his father would accept what had happened or not.

An agonizing eternity seemed to float by, but before long his father simply replied, “Far from it son, we were just worried that something bad could have happened. Your mother’s transformed too if you’re worried about how I might react to this revelation. You can put your fears to rest, regardless of what you might look like now, you’re still my son, nothing could ever change that.”

Relieved, Stanley let out a deep breath, finally relaxing again. He looked back out over the lobby, overjoyed that his great memories of this place wouldn’t be soured by a bad experience. He turned towards his father again.

“Dad, what did Mom wind up transforming into?”

“Well Stanley, why don’t you stop by for dinner and see for yourself, I’m sure your mother would be more than happy to see you again.”

With a smile, Stanley cheerfully replied, “I’d love to Dad, mind if I hang around here for a while? I’d love to walk around, see how the place has changed over the years… It’s so great being back here again… so many good memories…” He started to get caught up in the memories again.

“Sure thing, I’ll meet you back here in a couple hours.”

As Stanley nodded towards his Father, he began to walk down the grand staircase, the music only growing louder as he approached the beautiful glass piano that sat in the center of the room. The pianist continued to play that beautifully haunting memory, as Stanley wandered towards the Hotel’s courtyard, one of his favorite places as as a child. Pausing for a moment, to hear the ending of the song, he was left with one thought… It had been a real good day.

The sun had barely begun to rise over the horizon casting it’s warm glow over the valley below. The sight was truly something to behold, for morning ponies at least. Silver was most assuredly NOT a morning pony. In fact, the only reason he was awake at this hour was due to the loud commotion that had stirred Silver from his sleep. Annoyed at the disturbance, he glanced at the duo currently hanging flyers around town. With a new found curiosity he stood up to get a better view, curious to see what was the cause of all the commotion.

Silver walked out from his makeshift camp, and slowly headed over to where the flyer had been placed. His curiosity getting the better of him, Silver decided to read the flyer that sat before him, curious of what all the commotion could be about.

“The latest marvels of modern science brought to you by TinkerTech, Here to help you Seize a brighter Tomorrow… Today!

Come see the future for yourself!

Our demonstration area will open at 12PM sharp, located in town square. We look forward to sharing a bright new world of innovation with you!”

Some new up and coming tech company was in town, ready to showcase the latest and greatest gadgets to the unassuming masses it seems… perhaps the transformed truly hadn’t all given up their humanity. The strangely optimistic Night Pony he had seen in his dream the other night only proving that. This was good.

Silver was intrigued. This could be a grand opportunity indeed. Fate had been kind to him the last few days, bringing him a valuable friend who could help give an insight of the world along the way. Hopefully these “TinkerTech” ponies would be just the inspired minds that he needed. Now if only he could manage to convince them to join his cause...

Hardly any pony was out and about at this hour, perfect for Tinker’s plans. He didn’t want to spoil the surprise after all. After today, his nearly three months of planning would finally pay off, the chance to help so many more ponies! He was so excited at the prospects!

The duo had been out placing flyers all throughout town earlier this morning, and were now just finishing their final preparations for the big showcase that they had planned for later in the day. Gyro had gone off to resume his plans, leaving Tinker alone to make his finishing touches.

He jumped into his work, running through the last few items on his to do list.

"There's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow, Shining at the end of every day…

The Pegasus sang softly to himself, focusing on finishing the display for the showcase. This would be the culmination of months of planning, today would prove whether his plans could possibly work out. A few more tweaks here… Some touch ups there… He was nearly done now, only a few small details remained… Once this was finished he could finally begin his true plans. His plans to change the world-- or at least help as many ponies as he could… that would be enough for him. The pegasus continued to sing to himself, working on his project, the favored tune only helping him move forward.

"...There's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow... Just a Dream Away!

It was done! Tinker took a few steps back, admiring his work. Before him stood a small, but magnificent stage with his and Gyro’s latest inventions proudly displayed all around the makeshift pavilion, all ready for the big exhibition later today. It seldom often that Tinker would finish his day’s work so early, the sun barely rising above the mountain tops, but he couldn’t have waited any longer. The planning that went into this whole project was just too much to waste any time.

“Gyro, the stage is all set, I trust that you have your demonstration plans all finalized?”

“Yes Sir, nothing’s different. This is exactly like every other town we’ve stopped by, this time we just have a mobile lab to make everything easier.”

“Is there anything we’re missing?! I feel like there’s something missing here, maybe we’re forgetting to hook something up…”

“Tinker. You need to relax. You’ve been at it for months and you’re going to lose your mind if you keep stressing over this. I know how important it is for you, and I’m happy that you’re finally putting your talents towards a noble cause, but please for the love of everything that is good… TAKE. A. REST!”

The sudden… verbosity of the usually reserved Unicorn genuinely caught Tinker off guard, which is exactly what Gyro was intending.

“Th..thanks for that Gyro. I needed someone to tell me that.”

“Of course Sir… Look we need to talk. I need to know, what’s the point of all this? Why set up an exhibition here when we can just head to Phoenix and resume our work there? It’s almost like something’s possessed you and replaced you overnight… you’re just so much more… optimistic now.”

Tinker seemed to be lost in thought for a moment. “Gyro, you remember how I was before right? Never really caring about others, only inventing for my own sake rather than the sake of others?”

“Of course Sir.”

With a hint of remorse in his voice, and a look of sadness on his face, Tinker calmly replied, “That’s why… I see these ponies living here, with an obvious problem needing a solution, and I feel obliged to help them. For me it’s a chance to finally start doing the right thing for once.”

“You say that like you were some sort of terrible person before Tinker, you weren’t… you just didn’t have the bigger picture in mind, no one can fault you for that.” Gyro replied, his voice full of confusion.

“I only cared about what my knowledge and talents would do for me though, now I… we... have a chance to really change that, help others who genuinely need it… that’s why. I know we’re running a fool’s errand, we’ll likely never find the success we want if we only ever hand our inventions out to small groups that are only concerned with themselves, but surely this is a chance to start righting the wrongs of our past... right?”

With a note of resignation, Gyro replied, “I suppose you’re right. But why here? Why now? How is this different from any of the other places we’ve been to so far?”

Tinker looked out at the village, seeing the cabins and shacks scattered around. Ponies from all walks of life called this place home, putting their own pasts behind them and coming together to help one another. The village was a wonderful escape from the world around them and the view of it all awakened something within him. He thought back to their first night here and the view of the sunset over the valley and the connection to nature that he felt now.

“Seeing this place and everything that these ponies have built despite facing everything they have, be it prejudice, loss, or even the inability to continue on where they were before this all happened inspired me. They keep moving forward even though they’re still dealing with the wildlife and the fear that the humans might try and take this place away from them. They’ve been nothing but welcoming to us and this is the least we can do.”

Gyro sat there for a moment, reflecting on this. Axel, the village’s de facto leader, had been a genuinely welcoming pony to them. He genuinely seemed to care about those that stayed in his village, even encouraging his fellow villagers to establish this place as a haven for any weary traveler that needed a place to just lie down and rest. He asked nothing in return other than the promise that anyone who travelled through would protect the natural wonders around the village and treat it’s inhabitants with the same respect that they gave in return.

“I think I understand now Sir, I never really thought to look at it from your perspective… I’m sorry for confronting you on this, I really am.”

“That’s quite alright Gyro, I’m just glad that we can see eye to eye on this. You know, if we weren’t on such a short timeframe, dealing with Marcus and all, I’d absolutely stay here longer. Something about it all just feels so relaxing to me.”

Gyro nodded in agreement, “That’s not at all surprising to me Sir, nature does tend to have that effect after all… it certainly is a nice place though, I wouldn’t mind stopping by every now and again, just to get a break from the outside world for a while.”

Silver knew that he had time for a quick nap, it would certainly help make things easier for later. He had plenty of time until the demonstration was set to begin after all, so the more energy he could conserve the better. Seeing no point in wasting any more energy being awake, Silver closed his eyes and began to doze off.

The intruder was nowhere to be seen… a good sign for what he was about to do. For months Silver had seldom dream walked, finding the process to only bring up bad memories. The dreams of the transformed just saddened him, it was if none of them cared about the past. He knew that this wasn’t wise, ignoring a fundamental part of who he now was, and in fact it was taking a toll on him mentally, but he continued to refrain from it… up until now.

Silver entered the dreamscape for the first time in more than a month, wary of the vast expanse he was now in. The Intruder would hopefully leave him be for the time being, as he didn’t want to admit that he was absolutely right. The dreams around him were a little more palatable this time around, perhaps ponies were changing after all. Like riding a bike, Silver flew to one of the first dreams that he could see, sensing that it was perhaps a memory, seeing it rude to intrude on someone’s personal memory, he moved on.

The next dream that he came to was something fictional, something that might prove interesting to the young night pony. Seeing no reason to delay further, he jumped right in. The scene before him caught him completely off guard, it was seemingly a dream of a dystopia, the sky full of clouds and smoke, but with a delightful Sci-Fi aesthetic.

“Halt! State your business traveler!” Came the shout from a guard.

“Just passing through is all”

“Be on your way, the governor doesn’t tolerate loitering.”

The governor? Silver was intrigued in the narrative more than anything, he decided to tag along in the shadows, keeping an eye on the strange scene before him.

A masked figure could be seen running towards the guard, who was now patrolling in the opposite direction. “Hey wait up, where’s the Governor at? I have an important appointment with him and can’t be late!”

“Standby, NaviGuide updated”

“Thank you very much.”

“Thanks noted. Resuming Patrol.”

Silver followed the masked stranger, enchanted by the sights of the strange city. At its heart sat a large skyscraper, larger than any he had ever seen in the waking world. Silver hoped that this was the stranger’s final destination, surely this was important.

As he neared the building he noticed a group of guards patrolling the front.

“Halt citizen, state your intention or be removed.”

“I’m here to see the Governor”

“Acknowledged, proceed to City Central.”

“City Central?” Silver said, realizing that he had said it out loud thereby giving away his cover.

“Halt citizen, Proceed to City Central!” The guard sternly replied.

“Alright, you don’t need to yell.”

Silver walked into the large building, and another pair of guards directed him to a raised platform in the center.

“The Governor will see you now, please stand by.”

As the guard spoke, the platform began to rise. The walls around him began to darken as music slowly began to play.

“Welcome traveler, you’ve certainly journeyed far. In a moment you’ll be face to face with Governor Photon himself, but before then I’d like to share with you a brief history of our fascinating city.”

Whoever had created this dream certainly had a flair for the dramatic.

“We began with a dream, a vision of a place where dreamers could roam free. A place unbridled by the meager limits of the waking world.”

“This could be good…”

“Remain silent during the presentation, this is your only warning.” The guard had sternly interrupted him. Perhaps this wasn’t the kind of pony he was looking for.

“When Governor Photon first dreamed of this city, it was but a small suburb, but with time he was able to slowly expand it into the thriving metropolis you’ve experienced today. And now, it is my proud honor to present to you, Governor Photon”

The room darkened once more, as visuals of the stars soaring by slowly faded into view. As the music reached a crescendo, the stars formed an ornate door, opening to reveal a large office with a lone pony sitting at a desk. To say that his clothing was strange would be an understatement. Not a single organic part of this pony could be seen, save for his black mane, his face obscured by a fantastical helmet, no doubt lifted from some sci-fi movie.

“Well hello there traveler, a warm welcome to Nova City, a bright escape from the drudgery of modern life. What brings you here on this fine gloomy day?”

“I was just passing through the many dreams when I found this place. This is amazing. I have to ask, did you create all of this from scratch?”

“I assure you that I have, however it was made over the course of many years, I came up with the first layout in my youth, as a dream city. You could say that I’ve found certain… inspiration from the world around me. There were so many… eager volunteers to help fashion something this spectacular, and the dream realm gave me the perfect outlet for this place.”

Silver was unsure of what to make of this strange pony, his choice of words came off as incredibly deliberate, as if he had carefully chosen and rehearsed each and every word. He certainly gave off a very odd feeling, almost unsettling.

“I’ve been creating my own dreams for a long while now but I haven’t even begun to get anywhere close to something like this. What’s your secret?”

“Well let’s just say that that’s… proprietary. I’ll give you a hint though, it’s easy to trick one’s perceptions within a Dream, surely you’ve noticed that yourself? Layouts that don’t quite make sense, buildings that just should be able to exist. Have you kept a close eye on the city skyline for instance?”

“Well no… I can’t say that I have.” As Silver paid closer attention he could see that Photon was indeed correct, the city had changed slightly. Subtle details vanished and replaced with others.

“This isn’t an exact science I take it?”

“It’s quite the contrary, the mind has a tendency to fill in the blanks, you give it a simple framework of recognizable locales and it does the rest naturally. It’s a little experiment that I’ve been running, and you’re just the latest in a long line of would be helpers.”

Silver could see some potential in this strange pony. He couldn’t help but feel an odd vibe from him though. There was evidently more to him than met the eye, and it was unsettling.

Stanley was an honest pony, with his intentions clearly made. There wasn’t that same inspiring spark with this pony. He might prove to be a valuable recruit eventually, but Silver would have to keep an eye on him and decide for himself at a later date.

This has certainly been an… enlightening experience and I appreciate it. I don’t dreamwalk very often… but I believe that I’ll make an exception for you.”

“You don’t dreamwalk? Surely there’s a compelling reason for that?”

“It’s complicated… to say the least. Look, I have other plans in the waking world that I’m surely cutting close to, but I’ll be back at a later date. Photon was it?”

“Governor, Photon” he corrected

“You’re not serious about that are you?”

“Oh believe me, I absolutely am. This is my Dream so I’d like the respect that I deserve. Those are my rules, if you don’t agree with them then I’ll have to unfortunately ask you to leave.”

“Alright, Governor Photon.” Silver flatly replied

Yeah, this pony was definitely strange.

The moment he had waited for all this time was finally at hand. Tinker walked up onto the makeshift stage, proudly and excitedly greeting the small audience that had formed. The following events would tell Tinker exactly what he needed to know, whether ponies were ready for this brand new world or not.

“Ladies and gentlemen, the inventions you are about to see are very real, it’s no illusion but rather the culmination of a dream of the future made real today by TinkerTech. Our mission is to help you seize a brighter tomorrow… today, and as such we’ll be offering these inventions to you for free, in the hopes that you can utilize them to make this town a safer place to live." The crowd seemed interested, however they sure didn’t show it with the applause that tinker had been expecting. "Now without further delay, Ladies and Gentlemen, prepare yourselves for a truly unforgettable experience!"

And with that he stepped back, and watched the crowd with anticipation. The crowd slowly wandered to the display area, curious of the strange creations that lied before them. Tinker eagerly observed the crowd’s reactions, unsure of how to read them. On one hand they seemed incredibly interested in the creations, yet they seemed hesitant. The duo would need to conduct more research over time for sure.

The strange pony on the stage finished his somewhat theatrical introduction and officially dropped the rope that had been blocking the display area. Silver approached the displays with an eager optimism, all around him a number of fantastic devices could be seen. As he walked up to the first case he read the small placard.

“The TinkerTech BioMask X-01 - An Efficient Option for all your air purification needs!”

Silver looked up at the display case above him, seeing a strange looking mask. These ponies were strange but they obviously had good intentions. As he continued to browse the various items on display, he couldn’t help but get a feeling that this was exactly what he was looking for.

Another small crowd had formed around the stage, and Silver decided to see what was happening.

“...This is just merely the beginning after all! Our dream is to help as many ponies as we can, these inventions are all a part of that!”

Silver approached the stage, patiently waiting for the crowd to disperse, planning out exactly what he was going to say next…

He didn’t have a lot of time to plan out his next move however as the crowd was already starting to disperse. Silver knew that staying up this late was definitely worth it after all. He had to recruit these ponies, they were just the kind of resourceful individuals that he was looking for.

As he approached the stage, he calmly greeted the Pegasus, “Mr... Tinker, could I have a word with you real quick?”

The cheerful pegasus turned towards him, excitedly reply, “Of course, what did you think of the exhibit? I hope you’ve found something of value here today.”

“It was absolutely stunning, which is actually what I wanted to talk with you about. I can’t help but notice that there seemed to be a somewhat… polarized reaction. Let me get right to the point, I’ve been looking to set up a team of some of the greatest pony minds that I could find. Ponies that I think could have a knack for trying to solve some of the world’s problems… today. You and your assistant are the perfect fit for that team. Would you be interested in joining it by chance? I realize that you aren’t night ponies but that is perfectly acceptable.”

“Well I will say, this is something that piques my interest, but what is your overall goal? We can’t afford to generally be tied down to this place right now...”

“...You wouldn’t have to be, you see, I’m able to correspond with my fellow researcher through our dreams so I’d be willing to tag along with you along the way. Helping out and pulling my weight of course.” he added on at the end.

“I admire your spirit but surely you can’t just uproot your life to go follow a couple mad scientists on some wild journey right?”

With a smirk, Silver began a long winded and seemingly well rehearsed response, “Well I can assure you that I can. You see, I’ve actually been embarking on a journey myself, a journey of discovery and research. I’m trying to put my past behind me, there’s not exactly much left for me back home… my brother was the only one in my family who wound up being transformed and I don’t exactly have very many close friends. If I’m going to be honest, the news about the Devourers scared me more than anything I’ve ever feared before. I have plans, big plans about making the world a better place that I can’t even begin to tackle all on my own. A big part of this is searching for ponies such as yourself and your assistant, the ones who still want to make a better world for everyone, not just ponies. This would work out perfectly for me.”

Tinker was taken aback for a few moments, unsure of what to make of this pony. He seemed to have a genuine interest in helping others, and more importantly he was willing to help out. His decision was made. “Well if you’re not going to object, I certainly won’t. Welcome aboard Mr…”

“Oh I’m terribly sorry, I’m Silver Eclipse, but you may call me Silver.”

“Well welcome aboard Silver, let me go introduce you to my assistant, Gyro.”

The stoic unicorn simply replied, “Sir, a word with you for a moment?”

“Absolutely Gyro, Silver please excuse me for a moment would you?”

“Of course”

Silver left the cart, giving Tinker and Gyro a moment to talk in private.

Gyro leaned in closer to Tinker, not wanting Silver to hear the conversation, “Sir, are you sure we can trust this…”

“Silver, his name is Silver Gyro.”

“Do you think we can trust him?”

“Look Gyro, you were the one that told me that we needed help. Well here’s some pony offering to help us out and he’s not even asking for anything crazy in return, I don’t see why we can’t.”

“But do you know anything about him?”

“He gave me a general past history, to put it simply, he put his past behind him, seeking to move on and conduct research with like minded individuals such as ourselves. He doesn’t really have any close friends, save for his brother, his family is untransformed, and he feels shunned by humanity so he’s looking for an escape of his own.”

“I’m still wary, I hope you know that.”

“And that is perfectly understandable Gyro, let’s just give him a chance first and if it doesn’t work out we can figure out what to do moving forward. He’s offered to work for free so we can’t exactly turn down the help can we?”

“I suppose you’re right, let’s just keep an eye out until we can know for sure.”

Tinker waved Silver back over, glad that Gyro had agreed with him. “Silver, my assistant and I had a brief meeting, and upon further deliberation… we’d like to personally welcome you to the team.”

“I’m glad to hear that! Sorry if I’ve come off as a little out of it, I had a bit of a strange night…”

“Now that does bring up an important little detail, is this going to be an issue with your sleep?”

“As far as I can tell, it shouldn’t. I usually prefer to sleep from early morning until around noon, but I could just as easily adjust to a more convenient pattern if it would be easier for you.”

“We can figure out the details later, there’s plenty of work to do, I just want to make sure that you get your rest. For now, Gyro and I will finish up here and make preparations for our next stop. We’ll brief you on the details shortly.

“Come on Stanley, let’s get going.” The sound of his father’s voice breaking the nostalgic trance that held him.

“Huh?... Oh sure ok.” Stanley stood up and walked back up the grand staircase, gazing down at the elegant fountain that it wrapped around one final time, greeting his father at the top of the stairs.

As they walked out the front doors the valet already had Valentino’s car ready.

“Thank you Tony, punctual as always!”

The valet simply nodded in return, holding the door open for the two.

As they drove out of the hotel grounds nostalgia continued to flood Stanley’s thoughts, distracting him once more. His vision blurred as he reflected on the day. Stanley hadn’t driven in a car as a pony yet, and the experience was certainly a strange one for him, the drive feeling so familiar, yet so different.

“Did you even hear what I said Stanley?” His father said with a somewhat annoyed tone.

“Huh? Oh… I’m sorry, it’s just so much to take in, today’s been a very nostalgic day, I’m just getting lost in memory again.”

“I asked you what caused such a momentous change. You were afraid of everything and now you’re walking around with more confidence than I’ve ever seen you convey in your entire life. Did ETS do this?”

“It’s… complicated Dad. I can’t really say much about it, but I had some very… enlightening… experiences to say the least. Somepony very knowledgeable on the subject gave me some advice and it helped me a lot... a lot more than you could imagine.”

With a confused look his father answered, “Well Stanley that’s awfully vague, but if it’s helped you for the better than it’s fine by me… Was this someone… or rather somepony special?”

“No Dad, it’s not like that.” Stanley said with an annoyed look.

With a smirk his father simply replied, “Alright Stanley, well we’re almost home. Your mother’s going to be so excited to see you again!”

Valentino pulled into the driveway of the modest home that Stanley had grown up in. It was a simple one story home, small but cozy nonetheless. Perfect for the small family. Another flood of nostalgia washed over him as he gazed at the home.

“Wow, this place hasn’t changed a bit.”

“Well we’ve done some changes here and there but yeah, for the most part everything should be just as you remember it.” his father said with a grin. “Shall we go in Stanley?”

“Well there’s no point in waiting.”

Valentino walked towards the door, fishing his keys out from his pocket. He turned to Stanley with a smirk on his face, “You know, maybe this should be a surprise, let’s let your mother guess who’s coming in shall we?”

“Let’s do it” he said, the father and son chuckling together.

Valentino unlocked the door, and after a few glances waved Stanley into the foyer.

“Ok you wait here until I call you in, sound good?” He whispered.

“Sound good Dad.”

Valentino walked into the kitchen, excitedly shouting to his wife. “Aurora we have a special guest tonight!”

“You didn’t tell me we were having guests over tonight Val, the house is a mess!”, the familiar sound of his mother’s voice rang back with an annoyed tone.

Chuckling to himself he simply replied, “Oh I don’t think our guest will mind one bit.”

“I don’t care if they don’t mind it, I. Do.”

Valentino poked his head back into the foyer, “Why don’t you come in?”

With a large smile on his face Stanley trotted in.

“Hello Mom, it’s good to see you again!”

The pink pegasus stared at him with a look of disbelief on her face, silently staring back for a few long moments.

“Stanley… We were so worried about you!” She excitedly ran up, embracing her son in a tight hug. “You transformed too! Look at you! My son, a night pony! I can’t say I’m surprised, you were well… kind of afraid of everything after all!”

With the smile returning to his face, he excitedly replied, “It’s great to see you too Mom!... I’m sorry I didn’t try and contact you guys sooner, I kind of got caught up with some stuff, found myself, a new direction in life. For the first time in what feels like forever I’m not afraid of everything and it’s great!”

“That’s wonderful to hear! I’m so happy for you Stanley! Let’s talk some more over dinner, we’re having pasta for dinner, I know that that’s your favorite.”

“That sounds wonderful Mom, I’m glad to see you again!”

Stanley walked over to the table and set a place for himself, echoing the same actions as he did as a child. As he prepared his place his mother prepared a plate for him, bringing it over and setting it down in front of him.

“This was one of your favorites as a kid, Grandma’s family recipe… with a few modifications to make it palatable for ponies.”

Stanley looked down at the food in front of him, the smell of it bringing back even more great memories.

“This is so much better than the simple food I’ve been eating for the last few months, it’s even better than I remember!”

“So Stanley, tell me, how did you get along so well after… well after this all?”, his mother said in between bites.

“Well Mom, as I told Dad, I met somepony who was able to help, gave me some advice on the role of fear and how to find the strength to face it. And you? I know the city’s hard to live in but hopefully you’ve managed fine this far out.”

“It’s irritating when I have to go into the city, but it’s not as bad out here. There’s been enough to keep me busy so I don’t need to go there as often.”

“What about your job? I know you were planning on retiring anyways, in a way this was kind of a blessing in disguise if you think about it.”

“I was a few months out when ETS happened, Mr. Chambers and I both agreed that retiring early was the best option going forward… We left on good terms though, he harbored no ill will or anything towards me, he just felt that it was too hard for me to continue as it was especially when I only had a few months left. What about you? I know your boss wasn’t exactly the most… agreeable person in the world.”

Stanley froze for a moment, thinking back to his last interaction with his boss, a feeling of anger and dread coming back over him. Not wanting to spoil the happy reunion, he took a deep breath and sighed.

“No Mom… He wasn’t… We didn’t exactly meet on good terms, and to put it lightly, I’m no longer employed at the bank.”

With a worried look, his mother simply replied, “Oh Stanley, I’m so sorry to hear that. I know how hard you worked to get where you were, how have you been taking it?”

Thinking back to that fateful encounter in his dreams, the resulting moment of clarity he had found, and most importantly the inspiration and motivation he had discovered. He grinned, turning to look at his mother.

“A lot better than you might think, I’ve found a new direction, something I’m going to try and work towards… for a while at least. I’ve made some new friends, and I really think that together we’re going to be able to really do something special. I’ve been thinking about trying to touch base with Pat again, it’s been a long time since we’ve seen each other, and I think it’d be a nice change of pace don’t you agree?”

“It’s a lot Stanley… but if you think you’re up to the journey then I won’t stop you. Just please make sure you’re prepared, I know you’re a night pony now, and I trust that you’ll be safe, but please make sure you’re really ready.”

“Thanks Mom, Dad. I’m not going to lie, I was worried with how you’d react, but that’s just another fear that I can put to rest again…”

“... Stanley you know perfectly well that your father and I would never turn our backs on you, No matter what happens you’ll always be our little boy.”

“Thanks Mom, it really means a lot to me, from both of you. Dad said the exact same thing earlier.”

He didn’t think that he could feel any more happy, but yet he still was. He excused himself from the table and walked over to his grandfather’s old record player.

“You don’t mind if I put on some music do you?”

“Oh not at all son, not at all!” Valentino cheerfully replied.

Stanley browsed through the many records in the collection, coming across one of his favorites. With a smile he put it on, walking towards his old room, carried on by the same haunting melody of Stardust that carried him on earlier. As he entered his old room, seeing it completely unchanged, another wave of nostalgia rushed over him yet again. From the desk, to the bookshelf, to the posters on the wall… it was exactly as he remembered. His old treasures and knick knacks that he had left behind, lay there now, untouched by the hands of time. As he laid down on the familiar bed and closed his eyes he was left with one final thought… It had been a real good day… and tomorrow… tomorrow would be a real good day too, he could just feel it!

Author's Note:

There's a lot of dream sequences early on, I know, they're going to start getting less and less prominent as the chapters go on.

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