• Published 20th Feb 2019
  • 223 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 6 - "Close Encounters of the Curious Kind"

Author's Note:

Sorry for the delay on this, the scope of the chapter changed early on, but there was still a lot of work left to do. Special thanks to Halira for helping with the last perspective!

Silver was the last to awaken, Tinker and Gyro were already nearly done packing the camp up. The sun was still bright, making Silver cringe back for a moment. He had never been a morning person to begin with, his transformation into a night pony only feeling all the more natural as a result. Stumbling out of his sleeping bag, Silver greeted the two.

“I apologize for sleeping in, I was unaware that you had plans to set out so early today.”

“Oh Silver, good morning. Don’t worry about it, you’re quite alright!” Tinker said cheerfully. “We’ll be heading out further into Arizona, we should make it to Phoenix by night fall, we’ll be able to make more permanent living arrangements there.”

“So what’s the plan then Tinker? I can’t say that I’ve travelled this way often so I’m unsure of our exact heading.”

“Well we’re on what was once the I-10… well, it still technically is, but as you can see there isn’t much active traffic on these roads nowadays. It’s unfortunate for the humans’ industry but it serves our use nicely.”

“So let me get this straight, we’re just following this through to Phoenix then?”

“Of course, I know we had some slight deviation from this route, but this runs from Santa Monica to somewhere in Florida… I personally haven’t taken it that far, but it’s the quickest land based route to where we need to get. Gyro and I traversed it back to Crystal Cove when the travel block had ended.”

“What can I do to help?”

“Well if you don’t mind, you can help pull the cart. We have a lot of ground to cover and the more help we have the easier it will be. We have a spare harness that you can use, feel free to take any position you’re comfortable with.”

While the duo finished their preparations Silver put the harness on.

“Tinker, what should I do now?”

“Just sit tight, we’re almost done securing everything for travel. Gyro will take the lead this time because he knows the route best.”

The open desert was admittedly beautiful, as much as Silver thought he would never be able to grow accustomed to it, it was starting to grow on him. Gyro had led the team along the I-10 for close to an hour now, not really a daunting task considering how straightforward it was, and “The Kick” as Tinker like to call it, certainly helped quite a bit… when it worked that is. Still though, Silver couldn’t help but feel a little exhausted, not being used to this kind of workout.

“Tinker, how does “The Kick” work? If it’s charged up why can’t we just use that instead?”, Silver called out, keeping his eyes ahead of him, not wanting to get distracted while running

The Kick is a powerful but experimental motor. We could fully rely on it for the entire trip but what if it fails and one of us gets hurt and can no longer pull the cart? No, for now we can only afford to use it in low power mode as an aid, it’ll make pulling the cart easier, but we won’t have to risk burning it out.”

“I’d rather not die in the middle of the desert.”, Gyro flatly chimed in.

Silver contemplated this for a moment, and shrugged. “I guess that’s a good point. How much longer until you think we’ll be there?”

Tinker looked at the GPS that was attached to his harness and replied, “Not too much longer, maybe a day or two at most? We’re about half way there, once we get closer we can jumpstart The Kick and coast on that for a while. If you need a break just let us know, we’re not on some set deadline and I know that you’re not used to this, so please do let us know if it’s too much for you!”

Silver perked up a little, “Would you mind if I ride along in the cart for a little bit? I think I just need a short rest.”

“Alright, we’ll need some help later when we set up camp for the night, so try to just relax for a while.”

They pulled off to the side, and the two inventors helped unhook Silver from the cart.

Silver, now resting in his bunk, had plenty of time to reflect on the past few days some more, but more importantly he had time to ponder the future as well.

The Oasis would be no easy thing to set up, but Axel and Botanicus had given him some good advice that he was determined to take to heart. His thoughts drifted back to his encounter with Axel on his first day in Greenview.

Silver’s first morning in Greenview

He had woken to the peaceful sounds of nature, and the sight of a large earth pony standing near his camp, a quizzical look on his face.

“Hello? I’m sorry if I woke you, you just suddenly showed up to town and I wanted to make sure you were ok. Are you just another traveler passing through or do you plan on settling down here for a while?”

Silver groggily looked towards the pony, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. “Huh? Oh… I’m sorry, Give me a second to get my bearings.”

“Please, take all the time you need. Sorry for waking you, I just wanted to make sure you’re fine.”

“It’s fine. So. Who are you?”

“Oh, how embarrassing, I’m Axel, the town’s chief. I like to greet every pony that stops by-- as a sort of personal gesture. It also helps to know whether you intend to settle down here or not, I don’t want any ponies sleeping out in the open unless they specifically want to for some reason. There’s a lot of dangerous wildlife around these parts, I just want to make sure that everypony is safe.”

Silver stood up and straightened his mane out a little. “Oh, I’m just stopping by for a day or two… I’m not quite sure where I’m going, but I just need to get away from everything back home, there’s too many bad memories that just keep getting to me.”

Axel raised an eyebrow, with a sympathetic look on his face. “Do you want to talk about it? I’ve been through quite a bit too… and please, let me find you a better place to rest for now, you shouldn’t sleep out here alone in this… well this thing.” He said, gesturing at Silver’s makeshift tent.

“I appreciate your offer Axel, but I’m just not interested in bringing those old memories back up right now.” I do that enough in my dreams as it is… He thought to himself.

“Then please at least let me find you a better place to stay. You can even use my cabin if there’s no other suitable residences.”

“Axel, I appreciate the offer, I really do, but I’m fine here.”

Axel sighed, but turned back towards Silver. “If you’re set on staying here I won’t force you to do anything… You know, there’s nothing like the great outdoors to ease your soul, so if you’re happy here I’ll drop the subject.”

“Thanks for understanding…” Silver genuinely felt bad for Axel, he seemed like a nice pony but Silver was more comfortable on his own. He decided to spark up a conversation to try and salvage this interaction. “So Axel, tell me about the town, it’s honestly one of the most peaceful places that I’ve been to in a long time.”

Axel perked up at this, a cheerful look spread across his face. “Let’s take a walk through the woods, over to the lake. That’s easily the most peaceful place here!”

“Sure, I’ll let you lead the way.”

The two walked along the well tread path through the trees and brush and Silver listened to Axel’s story along the way, there was obviously more to him than met the eye, but he seemed to shy away from the more personal questions. However, the questions that he did respond to were equally interesting to Silver.

“... So that’s when I decided to set up this place, in the old campground I used to visit as a scout. I just needed to get away and reconnect with nature.”

“So Axel, how did you set this place up? It couldn’t have been easy to do.”

“It wasn’t, but with every pony that passed through here, one or two would decide to settle down, and very soon we had enough hooves to help build a few small cabins. It took some work but well… as you can see, it all paid off.” He said, gesturing to the cabins spaced around the town.

“How did you manage to get all the resources you needed though?”

“That’s an easy one, this place basically became a trade outpost, a cozy little place where the weary traveler could settle down for a few days and trade stories and supplies. Eventually we got enough crafty travelers to settle down that we were able to make our own little farms and construction teams together. The cabins are easy enough to make, they’re all made authentically like they were back when settlers were blazing the trails out here.”

“That’s actually really fascinating, did you plan on that from the start?”

“Well not exactly, I didn’t really plan on anything, I just wanted to escape from my life and get lost out in nature, but yes, once we put this place together that was generally the plan.”

The two arrived at the lake, and Silver decided to just lay down and relax by the shore for a few, it wasn’t often that he had the chance to just enjoy nature and he intended to take advantage of every moment he had here… If only he could have stayed longer.

A rough shaking tore Silver out of the memory, everything coming back into focus.

“Silver! Are you listening to me?!”

Tinker shook Silver again, snapping him out of his trance.

“I’m sorry, I was just thinking about something…”

“We’re setting up camp, we need some help. It’s like you were in a trance or something… are you sure you’re feeling ok?”

“I… I get that a lot. Don’t worry, I was just thinking about some stuff. It’s nothing you should worry about.”

“Well if you say so… come on, let’s get set up for the night.”

The cart had already been pulled off to the side of the road, all that was left to be done was to secure it and set up the campfire. An easy enough task for Silver, one that he was grateful for nonetheless.

Stanley woke up in his bed, almost feeling as if the last couple days were merely a dream. As he opened his eyes his thoughts were confirmed… Those wonderful days had definitely been no dream!

A large smile came across Stanley’s face, and as he crawled out of bed his thoughts returned to the reunion with his old childhood friend. Stanley ran over to his phone, awkwardly waking it from sleep mode to see if his friend had followed through on his promise. The first thing he noticed was a series of messages from Moonlight, no doubt asking about Silver, but as he awkwardly scrolled down, he saw messages from Pat, firstly asking if the dream had been real, and secondly showing the exact coordinates of his campsite.

Stanley ran through his morning… or rather, afternoon schedule, and excitedly entered the living room, noticing that his mother was sitting in her favorite chair, an old heirloom from his grandmother.

“Hey Mom, good… well afternoon.”

His mother turned away from the television to greet him, “You’re finally awake! I wasn’t sure how sleep worked for you, but I made breakfast for you anyways, it’s in the microwave if you’re hungry. It’s your favorite, eggs and hash browns!”

“Thanks Mom!” Stanley rushed to the kitchen to retrieve his cold breakfast, not that that bothered him much. “So is Dad back at work?”

“Yeah, he only had a short day today though, actually, he should be home soon any minute now if you needed anything from him.”

“It’s nothing urgent, I just needed to ask a favor of him.”

The sound of a car locking echoed from outside, startling Stanley at first. “Aurora, I’m home!” came the voice of Valentino, as he walked in and closed the door behind him.

“Ah Val, Welcome home! Stanley and I were actually just talking about you.”

“Hey Dad… I have a big question to ask…”

Valentino set down his briefcase and untied his tie, kicking off his shoes as he walked towards the kitchen. “Well ask away son.”

“I managed to talk with Patrick, you remember him right?”

“Yeah of course, how could I ever forget little Pat? So what about him?”

“He’s out in Arizona now, I kind of wanted to meet up with him, meet some other friends out there too… Could you… maybe…”

“...Drive you to Arizona?” He said, raising an eyebrow.


“Stanley, you know how far of a drive that is? Almost 6 hours…”

“Well… to be fair that was before ETS… I’m sure there’s way less traffic now… Arizona did get hit pretty hard after all…”

Valentino sighed, looking from his wife over to Stanley. “Alright. I don’t know why I’m agreeing to this, but where do you want to go?”

“Phoenix should be fine.”

Valentino raised an eyebrow at this. “Should be or Will be? There’s a big difference between the two Stanley.”

“Will be. I have some trustworthy friends out there…”

“Ok, well if you don’t mind can we at least head out in the morning? I don’t really want to be out so late, This is basically a whole day of travel for me you know?”

“That’s fine Dad… Thanks!” Stanley said, as he embraced his father in a warm hug.

He ran to his room, packing up some simple belongings for the road. His excitement seemed to just make the day fly by, and before he knew it, he was having dinner and saying goodnight to his parents. He would be heading to bed himself soon enough, and heading out into new territory. Stanley was nervous but excited at the same time, knowing that he might have a chance to finally start making his dream come true. Without realizing it he slipped into a peaceful sleep, his father eventually carrying him out to the car and setting out early in the morning.

The three had packed up their camp early in the morning and continued down the road. Soon they would be close enough to Phoenix to safely fully engage “The Kick” and significantly speed up their journey in the process. The wide open desert flanked by mountains was still a spectacular sight. They weren’t that far out from civilization, but still, even now the open desert made them feel as secluded as they could possibly be.

“Silver, Gyro, we’re almost to our final stretch! Once we pass that marker we can fully engage “The Kick”... Sounds fun right?!” Tinker excitedly said, pointing towards a large sign signifying the route to Phoenix.

“Yeah... It sounds… fun…” Silver said, distracted by the wide open expanse and the large mountains in the distance.

“Silver. Your disinterest is evident.”

“Well at least I try to sound interested Gyro…” Silver said under his breath.

“Now now, take it easy you two, there’s no need to fight, we’re almost to Phoenix! Let’s pull off for a moment and prepare “The Kick”!”

Tinker unhooked the harnesses, and shooed the two reserved ponies into the cart, flicking a lever on his way in.

Silver looked a little concerned, as the cart hummed to life. “I can’t imagine this is particularly… street legal… anyways you have the plans all finalized right Tinker?”

“Well… Let’s just say--”

“That’s a no then. You’ve thought this all through... right Sir?” Gyro piped in, it almost sounded like he was used to this.

Silver looked back from the mountains, smirking at his thought. “There you go Tinker, Gyro and I can agree on something after all… So you do have a plan right?”

“I have a plan…” Tinker said hesitantly.

“And it is?--

Tinker interrupted Gyro, looking out at the mountains, gesturing at all the various desert plants rushing past the cart.“--Aren’t these mountains just spectacular to see?!”

“Tinker… The Plan?”

“Oh… Yes I have a plan, look, I’ll explain it more when we get closer.”

Stanley stirred from his sleep and sat up in the chair. The sun was high in the air, the light making him squint a little.

Valentino glanced over at Stanley, quickly looking back to the road. “Oh good, you’re awake son. We’re almost there!”

Stanley looked out the window, seeing the city in the distance. “Sorry I slept through most of the trip Dad, it’s just so hard to stay awake during the day… Thanks again though!” he said, rubbing the sleep from his eyes.

“It’s alright Stanley. So where am I dropping you off?”

“Oh… Right. Well they gave me the address for the warehouse, it’s out near the edge of the city. Let me pull it up.”

Stanley awkwardly fumbled with his phone, navigating to Silver’s message.

“Aha, here it is! Should I just send it to you?”

Noticing his son’s struggle, Valentino simply chuckled, replying, “Yeah.. that’s probably a smart idea.”

“Here... just take my phone, it’s just easier if you go from that.” He said in defeat.

“So Marcus said we’re good to stay in his warehouse?”


“Sir… Did you secure it or not?”

“I figured that we could call on that favor he owed us…”

“You mean the favor we guilted him into owing us for locking us out during ETS? Do you think he’ll even honor that Sir?”

“I mean it’s worth a try…”

Silver seemed a little more nervous “So uhh, what’s this about possibly not securing the warehouse?”

Tinker looked back to Gyro with an embarrassed look on his face. “Look, Marcus doesn’t even use that warehouse anymore, he’s just held onto it for storage. I’m sure he won’t mind us staying in it.”

Gyro sighed. “So we don’t have a plan then--”

“-- That’s... sort of a plan-- we just need to work through the details!”

“Sir, you’re just trying to coast on your luck again. I hope for our sake you’re successful.”

“Well… there’s only one way to find out!” Tinker said, as he walked up to the door and knocked.”

The three sat there for a few agonizingly long minutes. Silver couldn’t help but break the silence.

“So… is that a no?--”

Silver was interrupted as the door finally swung open, revealing a very stern looking human.

“So… did you guys just get a group rate or something?” Marcus said jokingly, a smile spreading across his face. “Barnabus, Giles! It’s so great to see you two again! --I’m sorry our last meeting wasn’t as cheerful… you know how fears were running rampant and all.”

“It’s good to see you too Marcus! Now… I hate to break up a wonderful reunion but I have a favor to ask of you.”

“I figured there might be a catch… I feel bad about leaving you two out in the cold before, so please tell me this isn’t anything too extreme…” He sighed, expecting the worse.

“Quite the contrary in fact! You know your old warehouse? The one you hardly use anymore?”

“Yes…? Let me guess… You want to use it?”

“Just for a little while, we won’t mess with any of your stuff, I promise! We just need a more permanent place to stay for a little while, at least until I can talk with one of my old marketing colleagues.”

Marcus sighed and considered the favor. “Ok… I’ll let you use the warehouse-- on one condition! You deal me in to whatever crazy scheme you two have planned out.”

“What makes you think we have some crazy scheme?”

“When haven’t you two had some crazy scheme?”

“I… suppose you have a point. Alright, you’re in.” Tinker said, turning towards Gyro with a smug look on his face.

“Don’t say it…”

“I told you so!”

Silver could only look on in bewilderment, unsure of what to make of the situation.

Valentino drove through town, the car’s navigation signalling that they were almost to their location.

“Well we’re almost there Stanley. You’re going to be ok right?”

“Yes dad. It’s hard to explain, but I trust these ponies…”

“You hardly know them though.”

“It’s a night pony thing dad… it’s hard to explain” And even then I can’t…

“I’ll have to take your word for it Stanley… Just be safe alright?”

“I will dad, I will.”

Your Destination is on the right, this concludes your navigational guidance! Came the cheerful reply of the GPS

“Well this is it Stan, the end of the road…” Valentino said as he parked the car.

“Thanks for everything Dad! This means a lot to me!” Stanley said as he leaned over to hug his father.

Stanley stepped out of the car, walking up to the large imposing warehouse that sat before him.

“Well here goes nothing…” He said to himself anxiously, as he began to knock on the door.

The door swung open, revealing Silver, who’s demeanor changed at the sight of his friend.

“Stanley! I’m so glad you finally made it! Please come in, the others are waiting inside!”

Stanley turned back towards the car, waving goodbye to his father one last time before turning back and walking into the warehouse.

“It’s great to finally meet you in person Stanley! I can’t wait to show you the stuff I’ve sketched out for the Oasis!”

“I... can’t wait to see it, I need to talk with you all once we’re in though.”

“Is this something we need to worry about?”

“No… It’s just a little side trip.”

“Alright. We can talk at length with the others.”

As they passed through the hallway and into the central space of the warehouse the cheerful voices of Tinker and Gyro grew louder.

Silver spoke up, interrupting the two. “Tinker, Gyro, settle down for a moment. Our friend has arrived at last!”

The two walked over, cheerful looks on their faces. Tinker spoke up first, “Aha, Stanley I presume? It’s good to finally make your acquaintance. Silver has spoken very favorably about your dreams.”

“My… Dreams?”

Silver stepped in, “The Oasis, Stanley. Tinker seems to think it’s possible, even more so than we do. I’m trying to be realistic, we’ll probably never create the place we want to, but we’ll at least have something that we can be proud of and work towards.”

“Well you certainly won’t with that attitude Silver! You just need to dream big! Nothing’s impossible if you just try!” Tinker said cheerfully.

“Sir, if you don’t mind me interrupting, we’re still barely on our feet, we can’t even begin to market our inventions until you get in contact with David, even then we still have a lot of work to do until we can begin to get real word out. I’m with Silver on this.”

“Now Gyro, don’t get me wrong, I know we have a lot of… roadblocks, but it’s not impossible!”

“You’re both right you know? It’s a big task, but if we each use our talents it’ll be a lot easier.”

The two inventors looked towards Stanley. A smile came across Silver’s face as he turned towards Tinker. “I told you he was the right kind of pony for this!”

“Now while we’re all here and awake, I have something I need to talk about.”

“Go ahead Stanley.” Silver replied, evidently interested.

“You know that friend I was talking about? I was able to dreamwalk with him. He’s not too far away, somewhere near the Grand Canyon. I’m going to go out and visit him, see if I can get him back out here.”

Silver raised an eyebrow, “When are you leaving?”

“Tomorrow afternoon. I’ll hopefully only be gone a few days at most, I got the impression that he wasn’t exactly settled down anywhere permanent…”

“Well Stanley, that is certainly soon, but I won’t deny another potential ally. Is there anything Gyro or myself can offer to make the journey any easier for you?”

“If you can get me a ride that would help… a lot!”

“I can try talking with Marcus, he hasn’t been as busy lately, so this might work out well in your favor.”

“I’d really appreciate it!”

“I hate to interrupt this discussion, but is there any chance we can talk over dinner? I’m not sure about you three but I’m starving.” Silver added, his stomach growling as if to make a point.

Gyro looked at Silver, and then to Tinker and nodded, “That does seem like a sound proposal Sir.”

“Oh yes, of course… I guess I got a little carried away with our discussion. We’ll get dinner started and talk more when we’re all settled down at the table.”

The table was all set, and the four ponies cheerfully sat around it, enjoying their company. As reclusive as Silver tried to be, he couldn’t deny that spending time with others was truly an enjoyable experience. Every day he spent with his new friends, the more his cold facade seemed to crack and crumble away. He was still reserved, but not nearly as much as he had been early on. Arizona had been hit hard by ETS, leaving a significant population of ponies, and while Silver was still annoyed at how they just unquestionably accepted their predicament, he was starting to at least see some of it from their own perspective.

The group had invited Marcus over to the warehouse, as a sort of “thank you for letting us take up residence in your warehouse even if we guilt tripped you into doing it” dinner. Everyone was in good spirits though. Tinker had broken out a bottle of champagne that he had been saving for their arrival, and Silver was putting the finishing touches on their little celebration meal. The sweet smell of masterfully prepared fruit dishes dominated the room, not the most traditional celebration meal, but they worked with what resources they had available to them-- not that any of them would complain!

“So Marcus, how have you been holding up in town? Your hypochondria has actually paid off for once, you seem to be one of the only humans in town who hadn’t even shown signs of transformation.”

“Well I’ve been holding up… I’ve had some trouble filling the hours though, you know, I’m trained for humans… not ponies.”

“Aha so that’s why you’re so eager to get a slice of our little deal eh?” Tinker chuckled to his old friend.

Marcus chuckled back, “Well, I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t part of the reason-- So what’s the deal anyways? What’s your latest and greatest scheme?”

“We’re not like that anymore Marcus. We’re only doing work to help other ponies-- and humans of course! It’s just easier to help ponies in the meantime. I think Silver and Stanley can explain this a little better than I can, gentlemen, shall you take over?”

Silver shuffled in his seat, not expecting the spotlight to suddenly be on him. “Well, uhh… where to start? So Stanley had-- has a dream of a place where Humans and Ponies can live and work together. My dream is an extension of that, what if we could work towards making a better world by starting small? Set up a community that could eventually inspire others? It’s a tall order, and to be completely honest I’m really so interested in it to distract myself from the past. If I have something positive to work towards then I don’t need to keep living in the past, trying to chase who I was as a human. There’s other reasons too… but I don’t want to bore you with the details. Besides, it’s not like we can even begin to tackle those problems right now.”

Marcus raised an eyebrow, “That’s a big thing to work towards you know? Do you think you even have the resources to even start out?”

“Well… no. I don’t. But that’s something to work towards, I know there’s other ponies that feel similar, these three are all a testament to that. If we can find others like them, we can each use our specific talents and passions to work towards this larger goal. It’s hard to explain, but when we transformed we were given a vision, a vision that at least inspired me. This whole idea is something that’s been sitting in the back of my head for a while.”

“But why just uproot your whole life in pursuit of this outrageous goal? I’m sorry if I’m sounding confrontation, just help me understand your point of view for a moment.”

“I used to live in California, in Los Angeles. California was hit kind of late, so we don’t have nearly as many who were fully transformed. The city is a little hard to live in, and the human pony relations were a little… strained. I’m sure it’s gotten better, but the prejudice right after transformation honestly soured the place for me, I just needed to just move on with my life.”

“Well with all the craziness that’s happened in the last few months, I suppose this isn’t as crazy of an idea as it would normally be. I guess I just don’t understand the pony point of view. I admire your optimism though, the world needs more people… er, ponies like you.”

“Thanks, Marcus. I genuinely appreciate it.”

“So Marcus, I believe Stanley had something he needed to ask you.” Tinker asked, evidently noticing Silver’s more somber expression.

“Oh yeah? What did you need Stanley?”

Stanley looked around nervously, still a little weary of the imposing human. “Oh… Well it’s kind of a big question-- I don’t really want to bother you with it…”

“Please, feel free to ask away, I-- I don’t exactly have a lot to do right now so I’m sure whatever it is I can offer assistance.”

“Ok well… I’m supposed to meet up with an old friend of mine, He’s been camping out at the Grand Canyon, He was kind of the whole reason why I set out, and… would it be too much to ask for a ride over there?”

Marcus chuckled at Stanley’s request, putting Stanley’s mind at ease. “That’s it? That’s honestly nothing compared to what I was expecting. These two mad scientists have a way of making the most absurdly large requests but asking for them with such charm and charisma that you almost want to say yes. A few hour drive is nothing compared to the random things they’ve asked in the past. Yeah, absolutely. When do you want to go?.. It’s not like I have anything else to do as is.”

“Sometime in the morning? I usually don’t wake up until noon but If I sleep in the car on the way there I’ll have more time to spend with my friend.”

“Yeah, that’s fine. I guess I can just stop by and wake you in the morning. How long are we going to be out? I don’t have anything to do, but it’d be nice to at least have an idea.”

“Oh… well, I’m not actually sure-- but not too long hopefully. I really hope you don’t mind doing this…”

“So let’s just say 3 days for now. Do you think that’ll work out fine for you?” Marcus said, jotting down a few notes into his notepad.

“Yeah!-- I mean, that’ll be fine, I’ll let my friend know! We can talk more about it in the morning if you want!”

“Sure thing kid, glad I could help.”

Silver was lost in thought again, just reflecting on everything that he had experienced over the last few days. He knew that a big change was in store for his life, he just didn’t know that it would be this big. He started out on his little journey dismissive and untrusting of other ponies, but sure enough those very same ponies were the ones that helped bring him out of his shell a little more. Silver could definitely see the value in everything that had happened so far, and he would resolve to start out fresh, live life with a newer perspective. There was still a lot to be happy about, and moping about his transformation wouldn’t change the fact that he had to just move on.

Tinker leaned in a little closer to Silver, “Hey, are you feeling alright? You’re doing that thing again, where you just gaze off into the distance.”

“Huh? Oh… It’s nothing. I’m just thinking about everything, all the ponies I’ve met in the last few days, you know.” He took another drink from his glass.

“You’re a good pony Silver. I hardly know you but I can tell you really care about others, even if you hide behind that cold mask at times.”

Silver smiled, his mood lightening. “How about another round of drinks? This is a celebration after all!”, he excitedly said as he finished his glass.

Tinker smirked at his reply, “Well you do have a point!”

It was starting to get late, for Silver and Stanley at least. Tinker and Gyro had fallen asleep shortly after Tinker’s uplifting talk with him, and Marcus had left shortly after, going over the details with Stanley one last time. Silver had talked to Scarlet a little over the phone, it was still difficult for them to dreamwalk together, but the communication was nice nonetheless. Silver felt his eyes getting heavy, he had drank quite a bit at their little celebration dinner after all, and quite frankly he didn’t see any real reason to stave off the growing pull of sleep any longer. Yawning deeply he closed his eyes and fell into a deep sleep.

Silver sat in the usual solitary construct that comprised the Dreamer’s Observatory, waiting for Stanley to make his appearance. There wasn’t as much to discuss this night, but Silver wanted to just talk with Stanley about their plans going forward. Truthfully Silver cared more about the interaction than anything else, the little break in his routine sent him spiraling down a path of interaction whether he liked it or not. There was stuff he definitely enjoyed. He found genuine friendship in both Stanley and Scarlet, the two sharing many interests with him. Tinker and Gyro were friends, but it was a different kind of friendship. Not necessarily a bad one, but it was more of a working relationship rather than a casual one. Something about sharing a dream with other ponies just strengthened the bonds of friendship unlike anything in the waking world could.

Silver stood up from his desk and walked over to one of the large windows that flanked the Grand Salon, and gazed out into the ocean beyond. It never truly compared to the real thing, but it was comforting nonetheless. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes, just deciding to enjoy the serene peace until Stanley or the Intruder arrived-- whichever would inevitably happen first.

As if on cue he could hear the slow approach of hooves on the metal floor, a sound which usually signaled the arrival of his old friend… the Mysterious Intruder.

“You know friend, you’re rather late, I was beginning to get worried that you weren’t going to make your usual appearance tonight…” Silver said in a mocking yet friendly tone.

“Um, I’m afraid you’re mistaking me for somepony else--”

Silver frantically snapped towards the sound of the voice, a mix of fear and shock was on his face. Despite only hearing it a few times it stuck with him, instantly identifying the stranger.

“You!... HOW?! This has to be some illusion!”

The pony stepped back, obviously taken aback by his reaction, “I promise you that this isn’t an illusion Silver--”, she replied in a calm voice.

“-- How do you know my name?!” He shouted back in shock.

“Look, I’m not here to harm you or anything--”

“--Then what are you here for?!” he asked defensively.

“Silver, I know that this is shocking but you need to calm down--”

“You realize that this shouldn’t be possible right? That’s why I can’t calm down!”

“Silver please, I’m here for a specific reason and we need to talk about a couple things, I think you’re going to like what I have to say, but if you can’t calm down I’ll have to leave.” She said flatly, trying to calm him down. The fact that Silver had recognized her instantly evidently came as a surprise to her, perhaps she could understand why he was in such a shocked panic, especially after everything that had happened as a result of her actions.

“What do you mean we need to talk?! Why are you even here? And why me?! And HOW are you even here? Are the Wardens involved?!--”

“Silver, please take a deep breath for a minute!” She shouted back at him, trying to calm him down so they could actually talk.

Silver hadn’t realized that he had started to question her in a frenzy, but seeing the sight of Tonya Middleton, the very pony that had been put on trial for murder via mind magic, was a serious shock to his system. By all rights she shouldn’t have been standing there in front of him, night ponies were seemingly the only ones who could dream walk after all, yet there she was.

“How?! How are you here?!”

“Weren’t you paying attention during the trial? I specifically requested the ability to dreamwalk… This isn’t something that’s exclusively available to night ponies you know? I know it’s not common, but is this really so shocking to you? Especially after everything you’ve seen?”

“Ok but what are you even here for? Who’s involved and what do they want?!”

“Look Silver, you need to relax. I’m here because you’ve caught the attention of my wonderful fiancé Sunset Blessing, and she has an offer for you. You... do remember her right?”

Silver took another deep breath, taking a few minutes to compose himself, calming down slightly in the process. “I do. She’s been making quite a name for herself out there, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that an offer from her is interesting to say the least. So what are her terms?” He hesitantly replied, unsure of how to read the pegasus.

“That’s actually what I’m here to talk with you about. Sunset’s been looking for scientists that can help with some of her projects, and you and your team have stood out to us--”

He suddenly snapped back into his defensive position, “--How exactly did you find out about me-- us? We’re not exactly established publicly yet…”

“You keep to yourself here all the time, that kind of sticks out to a dreamwalker--” Tonya calmly replied.

“--Ok fine, but what about that put me on Sunset’s radar?”

“Your dreams. Your ideas to make a better future to be specific, the Oasis seems like a neat idea too. There’s not a lot of ponies willing to just blindly work towards building up a better future with the humans the way your group is trying to, and that makes you and your friends kind of unique.”

“Ok? So what’s the deal then? We just work with Sunset? Does she expect us to just completely pack up shop and move halfway across the country? And how do you even know about the Oasis?!”

“Gossip spreads like wildfire among night ponies you know, no distance is too far in here which works great for us because it makes hearing about ponies like you a lot easier, not everypony you’ve proposed these ideas to has been so tight lipped about it. Even Phobia’s gossiped about it a few times in the waking world. Phobia and I are really close, we've been friends since longer than I can even remember. It’s not often that she’ll gossip about other dreamers over breakfast like she’s been doing, especially when it’s about a bunch of random scientists out west. I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t have talked about some some random dream as much as she did unless it was something that really piqued her interest. The stuff she said sounds wildly optimistic, but that’s exactly the kind of stuff that we’ve been looking for… we’ve kind of been keeping an eye on all of you since, I hope you don’t mind.”

“Isn’t that in direct violation of the Oaths? You know, the rules you broke and got put on trial for?!”

“That was different, besides, I could argue that you’ve been advertising this openly outside your dream.”, She teased. “The rule is that you can’t divulge private information outside somepony’s dreams. You’ve made some of that information public, even if you didn’t fully realize it at the time, so it’s fair game to discuss. You’ve also caught the attention of at least one dreamwarden, and while it doesn’t exactly speak much for the others, that’s something that isn’t exactly common unless you do something bad. Let me just cut to the chase. My fiancé’s intrigued by your idea, and she’d be willing to help you attain some of your goals if you’re willing to hear her offer.”

“Okay, I guess that’s fair enough. So what’s the deal? What does Sunset want me to agree to?”

“The deal is that you work with Sunset on a few projects of hers every now and again. In return she’ll help fund whatever crazy blue sky projects you have in mind. Need some hard to get electronic component? It’s yours. Need some advanced computer? Sure. She’ll just need you and your team to work on a few projects every once in a while. You can even do it from wherever you’ve set up shop at. That’s it, nothing more, nothing less. Does that sound fair to you?”

Silver contemplated this for a moment. On one hand a convicted mind magic abuser, one who wasn’t even a night pony, was standing here in his dream, but on the other hand she was here with an offer that almost seemed too good to be true. His earlier conversation with Botanicus echoed in his mind, “...You should find something that works well for your goals, but is also attainable. Find like minded ponies and humans that would want to work towards this dream of yours, and make it a reality...” This was seemingly the answer to at least a large part of that. The Oasis might never even be remotely operational if they simply continued on as they were, but this offer, Sunset’s offer, would open up many new doors for Silver and his team.

Silver took another deep breath and turned towards the pegasus. “So there’s no catch?”

“The only catch is that if you refuse, the offer is void, and you won’t get whatever you decide to request from Sunset. That’s fair right?”

“Ok. I’ll agree to those terms-- on the condition that we remain independent for the most part. I’m willing to share resources and collaborate on projects, but we get a final say on our own projects. If they’re Sunset’s she can dictate how we handle them, but she stays out of our own projects unless we can come to some agreement that’s fair for both parties. Does that sound fair to you?”

Tonya Smiled, “I can’t promise anything, but I’ll let Sunset know about your concerns. We’ll try to accommodate your requests as much as we can, I can promise you that. So what do you want from Sunset?”

Silver was all business now, seeing a golden opportunity in front of him and the entire ambience of the room seemed to lighten up at this. “We need help setting the Oasis up more than anything else. I’m sure you already know about our plans so I won’t bore you with the details, but right now we only have a rudimentary plan. With Sunset’s resources I’m sure we could jumpstart our operations considerably. I know that the Oasis isn’t the whole reason for her interest in us, but it would make our plans go by a lot smoother. I’m going to need to discuss the matter more with the others and get back to you on it. Let’s say a few days from now, same dream, same time, in three days? Does that sound alright to you?”

Tonya smiled again, excitedly replying, “That’s fine by me. You’re never going to regret this Silver!”

Silver lightened up a bit more, the initial shock having died down for him. “Was there anything else you needed?”

“Not tonight, we can talk more in a few days when you’re all ready. Have a nice rest of your… day? Silver!” She said cheerfully.

The pegasus was suddenly gone, leaving Silver alone once again for a few silent minutes.

“So who was your guest Silver?-- I’m sorry I’m late, I didn’t want to intrude on you.” The Intruder said with a smirk.

Silver smirked at the irony, turning to face the Mysterious Intruder. “Let’s just say that they’re an ally, and leave it at that.”

The Intruder stared back at Silver with a perplexed look, “I guess I’ll just take your word for it…”

“I’m expecting Stanley to stop by soon, was there something you needed?”

“Oh you know me, just checking up on an old friend again. So, do you want to tell me why a pegasus of all things was in your dream? How does that work out? And was that who I thought it was?”

“I think you know the answer to at least two of those questions. As for the first, It’s kind of a private matter so I’d appreciate if you wouldn’t press the issue further, but this is going to help us out a lot, in ways that you can’t even begin to imagine.”

“Why does this sound like you’ve just struck a deal with the Devil?”

“Don’t worry, the deal is mutually beneficial for all parties involved. If we don’t come to an amicable agreement then both parties withdraw, no hard feelings-- you get the idea.”

“If you don’t mind me asking, and please stop me if you do… Who did you strike a deal with? I can’t imagine that the pegasus would have some great need to strike a bargain with some random pony, no offense to you.”

“If you need to know… It’s Sunset Blessing.”

“You’re striking a deal with a shimmerist?! One that’s associated with a convicted mind magic abuser need I remind you!”

“Firstly, I may have overreacted a bit when I first saw her here, but justice has been served, so there’s no reason to dwell on her past crimes by reacting that way. Besides, It’s a deal that we can’t afford to decline, I won’t go into detail, but the positives far outweigh the negatives in this case. If it makes you feel any better I haven’t agreed fully to anything yet, only that we’ll help her with her projects. Tonya will be back in a few days to finalize the terms, I’m going to discuss this with the others soon.”

“Why can’t you just work towards the Oasis like you planned with Stanley?”

“Because let’s be realistic, it could take years to even remotely get near the place we’d be at if we accept this deal. I’m sure we could do it, but Sunset Blessing is a powerful pony with some far reaching connections, connections that would make this dream a lot more attainable. With her help we could potentially skip the first major steps that we’re hung up on-- acquiring the land we need and setting up our basic support needs and start working towards creating that better future we’re all so interested in. We’ve just been handed everything we need on a silver platter and you’re acting like this is some big mistake.”

“Just make sure you know what you’re getting into Silver, Ok?”

“I will friend, thanks for the genuine concern. I know I haven’t always been very polite to you, but I appreciate this. If you don’t mind, I’m going to ask you to leave for tonight. The discussion I’m going to have with Stanley is something I’d like to keep confidential for now. We can talk more later if you’d like, but I’m not going to get into detail.”

“That’s fine Silver, I can respect your wishes. Goodnight!” The Intruder said cheerfully.

Silver walked back to his desk and sat down, pondering his next moves and the terms that they would need to propose for Sunset’s deal. The Oasis might finally become more than just a dream, but they would need to calculate their next moves carefully. Silver didn’t want to push his boundaries by asking for something too crazy too soon, they would need to start small. Some supplies to get the initial base started would work nicely, maybe a small construction team to help get things started. Once their initial projects showed promise then they could ask for some bigger stuff.

It wasn’t long until the familiar form of Stanley appeared, making Silver sit up in his chair.

“Stanley, good news!

“Hi Silver… What is it?”

Silver continued to beam as he spoke. “It’s something very good! I’ve found the solution for our problems, the end to that little debate we all had earlier!”

“Well go on...”

“Stanley! I had a special visitor stop by my dream today… one who gave me-- er, us an offer we can’t refuse.”

“What was it?...” Stanley said, evidently intrigued.

“Are you familiar with a pony going by the name of Sunset Blessing?”

Stanley took a step back a knowing look evident on his face, one that betrayed a mixed feeling of both shock and intrigue. He nodded his head in response looking at Silver with a look that could have read “What did you get us into?”

“Look, I know what you’re thinking… but she’s built up quite a following down there… and a lot of influence too. Let me get right to the point: her fiancé, Tonya Middleton stopped by my dream with an offer. We help Sunset with a few projects every now and again, and she’ll help get the Oasis set up. I’ve been assured that the only catch is that if we don’t agree we won’t get the resources we need.”

Stanley looked slightly concerned, but intrigued nonetheless. “Silver… I have some concerns, but I’ll trust your judgement… as much as I’m afraid to right now. What happens now?”

“Well, I didn’t want to decide everything for us, so I told her to come back in three days. We need to talk with Tinker and Gyro about our plans, and what we need from Sunset.”

“Don’t you think that this is all a little too convenient?”

“It might be, and I’ve told Tonya about our concerns. I told her that we’d be willing to help, but I want our own personal projects to be independent from Sunset’s. Tonya couldn’t promise anything, but she said she’d bring our concerns forward. I want you to be present for that next meeting, we can discuss anything else we need with her there.”

“So how did she find out about everything?”

“Gossip spreads apparently. I guess somewhere along the line we must have talked about our plans and somepony thought that it was interesting enough to share. You might find this interesting too… I guess Phobia Remedy of all ponies was one of those gossipers… That’s how Tonya and Sunset wound up seeking us out.”

“A… Dreamwarden heard about our plans?”

“Yeah… kind of ominous right? I guess they really do keep an eye on us.”

Stanley stared off into the distance, seemingly lost in thought for a moment. “Phobia was the first Warden I met, she seemed interested in my nightmares… maybe she found out about the Oasis that way? I swear I’ve seen her before when I was trying to face my fears, but I thought that maybe it was just a trick of the light.”

“Well I guess you got your answer now eh?”

“I... guess so…”

Silver could only sit there, smiling. He couldn’t wait until their next meeting, knowing that it wouldn’t be long until they would have the chance to really start making something great!

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