• Published 19th Sep 2012
  • 8,829 Views, 122 Comments

TCB: A Beacon of Hope - Khenlos

Story about the remnants of humanity and their strugle for freedom as newfoals in the New Earth.

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-1- The Advent of New Athens


The Advent of New Athens

Newfoals were still disappearing without a trace. While the equestrian government tried to investigate the possible causes of this, thousands of newfoals still went missing constantly during the last five years.

Since the detonation of the purification spell and the massive ponification wave during the last hours of human Earth, newfoals began to vanish. At first they were just small groups, never more than two dozens. But with each passing day, more and more began to leave Equestria, and since the odd radio signal began, the exodus of their numbers increased dramatically.

The few ponies who saw the last of these groups counted about three hundred newfoals, spending all the bits they had before leaving Equestrian civilization in massive migration caravans. The government didn’t do anything about it, but concern began to grow in Equestria when they noticed that these newfoals, nearly all of them, were illustrious humans in the past: doctors, and engineers, teachers, researchers, they held all humanity's lost knowledge. Most of those were also known for being no cooperative with their equestrian counterparts, relying in that “their knowledge didn’t belong to ponykind”.

Not many months ago, ponies ex-members of the PER offered to help about the newfoals’ disappearance. They built a long-ranged radio, based on human technology, a process that took months to finish, as they needed to rebuild each and every single component from scratch. At the present day, they managed to make it work, and searched the frequency of the ghost signal that had been calling to the converted humans for over three years.

Celestia was with her sister in the throne room, attending some petitioners, when the PER team scrambled into the room wielding the new radio. Their faces had unreadable expressions on them. “Your highness…” the leader began, “we are sorry to interrupt, but you need to hear this.”

“Very well… Guards, please, leave the premises.”

The guards did as commanded, leaving the PER team with the princesses. The team nodded between them, and the leader spoke again. “Your highness… you are not going to believe what you are going to hear…”

After a brief, tense moment, the pony turned the radio on.

“… to the events that will come. This is a great step for us, and I am sure that you agree with me. With this new dam, New Athens will have water and electricity beyond our consumption capacity. We will not have any more water or energy shortages!” a stallion’s voice said through the radio. The sound of clapping and hoof stomping could be heard as a gesture of approval.

“We are glad to announce, too, that the new solar plant Apollo One will be finished soon, giving enough power to sustain industry by itself. No more compromising the supply for civil uses.”

A multitude of claps and murmurs of approval seeped through the speaker.

“The Council of the Wise wants to remember to our citizens that the schools are going to open in the next months,” the stallion continued. “Thanks to the Industrial Department, we have a fully functional printing house, so this year, our children will have text books to use!

“And remember, beloved citizens…”

“For the future of humankind, hail New Athens!” the crowd cheered. “Long live the Council!”

Suddenly, the noise of being outdoors was cut off. Another stallion talked this time. “Well, that was the speech of the spokesman and head of the Council, Elder Socrates, about the inauguration of the new dam. People in the streets of New Athens approved the administration of the Council without hesitation. That’s a blast, remembering the Old World Governments, right, Sheila?”

“That’s true, Nick,” a mare said. “I can remember the problems we had with the political system back in Old Earth. Anyway, in other news, it seems like a migration caravan is approaching the frontier. That’s the third caravan in a month. What is happening in Equestria?”

“I don’t know, Sheila, and I can’t care less about it. But that remembers me about something that happened past week. An equestrian pony was with one of the caravans! Can you believe it? He wanted to be in our Polis!”

“Ouch, that probably didn’t end well, did it?”

“Oh, don’t worry Sheila, the infantry sent him back home with supplies to last the trip. But one of the soldiers told me that the face of the pony was priceless when they told him ‘Sorry, no equestrians allowed’. After that, he was a bit infuriated. Can you imagine it? An angry pony! I wish I could get angry. You know, that drug cocktail, the ‘Serum’ , sure gives the brain a kick…”

“You are drifting again, Nick… Focus…”

“Oh, that’s right.” Somepony, most likely the spokespony, coughed a little. “In other news, the use of…”

Celestia turned off the radio. Her expression was unreadable, much like the one the PER team had. “Luna, send for Twilight Sparkle. We need to investigate this personally”.

I opened my eyes when the sunlight bathed them, giving me the signal to engage the new day. Standing on my hind legs and with the aid of my prosthetic hands, I wore on my pants and shirt, along with the faithful bandana that always went on my forehead. My Council coat was in the floor again. “I must try to put my clothes in the closet before sleep…” I grumbled. Needless to say, all this was practically a ritual.

After I prepared myself for the new day, I opened the window and looked around at the world beyond the gentle breeze. It was something I dreamed of years ago, when the Apocalypse fell upon mankind – a bursting city, full of life, beamed into my eyes. It wasn’t New York, but we didn’t have the need for such big skyscrapers. A dozen residential towers were in sight, built with the aid of our former technology expertise and the hideous magic learned from the equestrians. Between the towers, lots and lots of residences sprawled across the land, showing a little of how much remained of our people.

The streets, even at this hour, were pretty alive, with lots of ponified humans strolling around. Most of them walked over their hind legs and wore clothes, like me, as they did before the fall of our race. It wasn’t mandatory, but most didit anyway. I could understand why: like me, they didn't want to let go of their ancestry if they could help it. And since everyone in New Athens had to at least carry one prosthetic hand, in order to use human-based artifacts, wearing them on the forelegs made it much less of a hassle. In the sky, there was quite a sight for the casual watcher, multiple pegasi and aerial vehicles cruising in harmony.

The streets were the apex of human urbanism, an almost perfect balance between nature and technology. The streets were paved with white or beige concrete, surrounded by lines of trees and flowers. There were green spaces everywhere, and since the water was unpolluted, the fountains and basins were very popular spots for their free usable water.

A feeling of bliss filled my heart. We made this ourselves. Sure, it would have been a lot harder without the magic of the unicorn newfoals, nut nevertheless, we were blooming again.

A new hope for humanity.

“A ponified humanity…” I retorted to myself. I was closing the window when a continuous beep from the intercom putted me back on reality. “Socrates at the com. What is it?” I answered.

“Elder Socrates, the rest of the council members are ready to depart to the inauguration of the Museum of Old Earth.”

“Thanks, Camille. I’ll be in the hall in a minute.”

I stretched a bit, snapping some of my joints in the process with loud pops. As I walked, I remembered how much my apartment looked like a small version of the ones back on Old Earth, simple and functional. It was a bit dull, but it was comfortable. I sighed and looked at the calendar. “May 22nd, 2089,” I read out loud. 'Time sure flies.’

I looked at my reflection to make my hair more suitable. I was one of the lucky shots that didn’t have anything against nature, in coloring terms; light brown coat, onyx-black hair, greyish eyes, and no other defining features. I styled my hair and ran to the hall of the building, careful about falling down the stairs. Living on the top floor, I'd be guaranteed a nasty drop, which is why we restricted the skyline to only six floors above ground at most.

Once I was on the hall, my six comrades and four bodyguards were waiting for me. “You sure took your time,” A yellow mare with red mane said. “You know you have an alarm in your clock, right?”

“What can I say? Yesterday was a great day. It drained all my energy, Sappho.”

A unicorn stallion, with green coat and a long, brown mane laughed. “Come on, Socrates! Move your lazy ass here. If yesterday was important, today will be the icing on the cake.”

I sighed. “Give me a break, Darius…”

They laughed more, and I joined in. We were happy because our dream was taking form and becoming true in front of our eyes. Nothing could sour our mood.

We were walking thought the main street when one of the council members, a pegasus mare with pink coat and blonde mane, approached me, a bit worried. “Hello, Socrates. How is your…” she didn’t finish, looking my forehead.

“I’m OK, don’t worry, Minerva. I haven’t had a headache since yesterday.”

She nodded and we continued to walk. I hate when they were concerned about ‘that’.

Soon enough we arrived to a stand in front of a wide building, with a dome in the middle of its square-like structure. Clad in iron were letters that we could read as “Museum of Earth” on a stand in front of the building. There was a square with a covered statue, which was our destination, between the two.

We stood up the stand, chatting a bit while the seats and spaces in front of us filled with citizens. A big crowd of happily chatting newfoals was waiting after a moment. Seeing as everything was ready and there was a sizable audience, I picked up a cord that was attached to the covered statue, went to the microphone and coughed, trying to get the attention of all of them. “Beloved citizens of New Athens! It’s a honor for me and the rest of the Council to announce that, after one year of construction and organization… the Museum of Earth opens its doors to the public!” I proclaimed, pulling the rope and showing the statue.

It was a representation of Old Earth in the twentieth century, and on top of it a human spreading its arms to the sky. It was all white marble, as clean and untainted as our hopes. “With this building open, we are one step further along the path to recover our identity, both as a species and a culture! We will not let our customs and knowledge fall upon alien hooves or claws! For Humanity!”

There was a massive roar or applause from the crowd. After that, some of them stopped to talk a bit with the council members, while the rest moved in for the museum's first tour.

I was chatting about the new schools with a young mare called Maria when one of our bodyguards approached with an alarmed expression. “Sir, we have a problem right in the frontier,” he whispered. I nodded and made a signal to my comrades, and they nodded. They were going to stay on the stage; if all of the council's members left the scene, people would start asking questions, and if the guard's alarm had a valid reason, it would be a spark that would erupt the powder keg.

The bodyguard led me to an empty street for security. “Elder Socrates, Alpha Squad in the eastern frontier says that they have an incoming flying carriage. What should we do?”

I thought for a bit. This was a major problem; only the equestrian elite used that kind of transportation. “Deploy the Pegasus Squad over the frontier and try to stop them civilly. If they don’t oblige, ask for credentials.”

The bodyguard came back after a short info relay. He was pale under his coat. “Elder Socrates… the Pegasus Squad was informed that they are the Equestrian Princesses and a VIP.”

‘Celestia, Luna and Twilight Sparkle… Predictable.’ “Tell them to escort the Equestrians to the front of the Council Chamber. Don’t talk to them and don’t try any hostile approaches. Then, you'll inform to the rest of the council that we have an Alpha-01 scenario. Can you?”

“Yes sir! A-01 scenario,” he replied nervously.

“Excellent. Now go. I'll be at the Chamber.”

Time was of the essence, making me do something I hated – I put off the prosthetic hands and cantered on all fours to the Council Chamber, a semicircular building in the fashion of the ancient Roman theatres. There, I stood right at the front and put my hands back again. I was waiting. I was not scared of them. I felt towards them a feeling supposed to be suppressed by the serum.

I hate them.

When they arrived with the escort, their looks betrayed them: as they looked around our city, they were amazed. But the well-known purple unicorn was the most impressed by far, not suppressing anything. They had only seen the decayed cities of the past, polluted and corrupted, not this little piece of technologic paradise. It wasn't a surprise that it would awe them so much, especially when it all came from human effort.

Their expressions did a one-eighty when they looked at the citizens.

Thanks to the Murphy’s Law, all of the ponified humans in sight, even the younger ones, were standing as bipeds and wearing clothes. Some of them looked at the Equestrians with disgust, others with fear. Some of them managed to even show anger.

I thought it was enough contact with New Athens’ citizens, and they seemed to think similarly, since Celestia addressed me before I could talk. “Are you the one known as Socrates?”

“I am Elder Socrates, leader of the Council of the Wise.” I took a step forward, making it clear that I was not walking as a quadruped, and I did some light gesticulation with my hands while I spoke to get the point further across. “I must say, in the name of my comrades and I, that I am very much not excited about the intrusion of Equestrians on New Athens. Though, since we want no hostilities, you were allowed this time. Let's enter the Council Chamber. We can talk in private there.”

Luna was about to speak when her sister stopped her. Twilight looked aggravated too, but Celestia nodded and followed me into the building, the other two in tow. Once inside, I walked to my seat in the center of the round side of the hemispherical meeting table. They stayed of their hooves behind the plain side.

“As a token of respect for your presence, I will not take a seat. I can see that our furniture isn’t adequate to your needs,” I said in a monotone. “Now that we are in a proper place to discuss... I must ask why both diarchs of the Principality of Equestria decided to come to our deliberately isolated city-state.”

Celestia looked at me, confused, while the other two were staring daggers at me, most likely because of the lack of decorum.

How amusing.

“We heard a radio transmission, and it converges with the disappearance of Equestrian newfoals over the past years,” Celestia said in a concerned tone.

I stood firmly, not changing my expression. “I didn’t know Equestrians had long-range radio technology...” I said, taking note about what the remnants of the PER and other newfoals over Equestrian soil were capable of. “But I suppose that is irrelevant. Is it that unsettling that we wanted to use our knowledge for our own benefit? We are a beacon for humanity, and the newfoals came here in search of their identity of their own will. They found a home far away from you ponies.”

“You are a pony, too, you are lying to yourself if you think otherwise!” Twilight replied angrily.

She was about to say more, but Celestia stopped her with a hoof. “We saved humankind from themselves. We offered our friendship and a way to survive with the Bureaus. We gave you new bodies free of your corruption…”

She stopped seeing my emotionless expression. “Sorry, Celestia, I am not falling for that. There are many newfoals who are very happy with their lives, of course. I am happy for them and hope they have successful and long lives in Equestria. But we of New Athens are not. I didn’t choose to be this… crime against my very being,” I said as I gestured at my body. “And so think our citizens. Almost everyone here walked through a forced ponification, and one of the things that we cannot tolerate is the violation of our free will.”

They had mixed reactions. “Maybe you wanted to die instead of living in a pure place like Equestria?” Luna said.

I closed my eyes to give my response. “Maybe yes, maybe no… I didn’t have a choice in the matter, did I?” I looked to my prosthetic hands and back to them. They were shocked at my words. “I didn’t sign up for this, and I wouldn't have even if I could have refused. I was forced.”

Celestia looked at me, surprised like she had just seen a ghost. “You… I remember you…”

I scowled. “I already told you what happened to the lost people over these years: they came to our city in hopes of finding a refuge, a haven to have free will and free speech. They found a new society, a thriving one. They live here, a human city made only for humans. Even with these cursed bodies, most of us remain almost the same mentally and emotionally, ones more than others, if I may add. So, to answer your 'question', Miss Twilight Sparkle, we are not ponies.”

My eyes landed on the clock mounted on a wall. “If you want to ask something else, make it quick, if you don’t mind. The Council is very busy right now, planning our schedule for the next months.”

“You are one of those newfoals that fled from Equestrian help,” Celestia said. “You didn’t even have an Equestrian name, did you?”

That started to make me angry. “I am not here to answer personal questions. If you don’t have more inquiries pertinent to the subject you came here for, I must politely ask you to leave New Athens.”

“How dare you speak to us in that tone!” Luna yelled at me, moving my bandana a bit. “You are our subjects, we are your sovereigns, and you shall address us as such!”

I didn’t flinch. The hate was compelling me not to break my stand. “We are not your subjects,” I said firmly with half of her volume and twice the sharpness. “We of New Athens decided, under our very own free will, to not accept your sovereignty and seek our liberty. Under the same free will we established a new independent city, far away from Equestrian frontiers, with our own laws and with the benefits of our own knowledge.

“We are a sovereign and independent state, and because of that, I address you as an equal, because I am one of the heads of the government of New Athens. As such, I must remind you that attempting to impose your sovereignty over ours is a crime against our rights and freedom, and will be treated as a declaration of war.”

Luna balked instantly at my words and their implications. They made her angry, but I had just listed a consequence she didn't want to risk facing.

Things were escalating quickly, and somepony made her reservations known. “Why are you rejecting us? Why are you doing this?” Twilight asked.

“Why did you exterminate us, Miss Twilight? Why did the equestrians slaughter an entire race? Just because we were different? You have performed the worst case of genocide in the story of our planet, and you nourish against us a feel of xenophobia just because we think differently. I can see it in your eyes.”

She winced and looked away.

“It was an easy choice. We didn’t want to live alongside an entire race that rejoiced in the extermination of another sentient race, our race, so we brought our knowledge and used it to create a new nation, independent and free. Our country, where we will be free of your tyranny and misconceptions.”

Celestia directed me a hurt look, but that didn’t work to break my will.

“That’s it? You decided to found your own country because you hold a grudge against us?” Luna replied. “We were just saving you from your fate. You destroyed your planet just by your mere presence!”

That card wouldn't win any chips; I was prepared for it. This was one of the predicted scenarios, after all. “We were healing our planet when you arrived. A big cluster of ecologist organizations, alongside the best of our scientists, developed ways to clean air, seas and soil. We were not working as nations, but as a race, united in a common goal, that is, until you arrived.” I directed an expression full of unmasked hate to them, to which there were mixed reactions. “You brought the end of the world for us. You destroyed our history, our cultures, our identity. You erased the very existence of humankind from the planet.

“That’s why New Athens exists: to preserve the legacy of our kind and, in time, see us reborn as a new humanity. In fact, we are now a new humanity, even with this cursed body.” I smirked. “It’s funny, though, that thanks to your wretched serum, the hatred between former humans disappeared. Now we can work together in common goals without hindrances.”
I felt accomplished for spiting that in their faces.

In the momentum of my speech, my bandana slipped further. “Sorry, just a moment,” I said as I turned to fix it, a bit embarrassed and hoping they didn’t noticed ‘that’.

“You are the philosopher…” Celestia said in a concerned tone. “Now I recognize you. What happened to your…”

“Nothing happened to my anything,” I replied, a little too quickly.

“His what, princess?” asked Twilight, always meddling in other people's affairs.

“Didn’t you notice, Twilight? His horn is missing.”

Just in a matter of fractions of a second, she and Luna changed their expressions from sad and angry to disbelieving and worried. Without asking, Luna pulled my bandana off with her telekinesis. They gasped, and boy how they gasped. In the middle of my forehead was my broken horn, nearly leveled to the rest of my cranium, making it easy to hide under the cloth.

“How… what happened?” they asked almost in unison.

“It’s not important.” I tried to say. “We were discussing…”

“It is important!” Twilight interrupted. “How long you have been like this?”

“Irrelevant,” I retorted. “I am not going to answer personal questions.”

“Five years and four months,” Celestia replied for me.

Luna and Twilight looked shocked at Celestia, who, in her turn, was looking at me with a grim expression.

“How do you know that, Princess?” Twilight asked

“Easy,” I replied. The gig was up now that Celestia had revealed something on the matter. I knew they wouldn't stop probing, so I decided to come clean. “She was present.”

Celestia let out a long sigh. “It is true, my faithful student. I found him soon after we started the last wave of forced ponification.” She looked to the nothingness, remembering that day. “He was still in his university when we found him. He managed to stay conscious during the process, and because of that his mind didn’t change in the way we planned. How he made it was still a mystery… but somehow he kept what he defined him as a human… an indomitable will and rejection against us.” Her voice sounded sad. “After I explained the situation to him, he just…”

She couldn’t continue, but I could, and that's what I did. “I broke my horn against a wall. I have the ‘ability’ to sustain great deals of pain, thanks to some freaky genetic mix.

“She tried to stop me, but she was too shocked to react properly, so I did it and ran away. Without anything that can hold magic in my body, nobody could track me.”

Celestia looked absolutely horrified. “I thought that after that you were going to fix your horn! But you damaged it even to make it look like it isn't there…”

I tuned her out; I didn’t need her bullcrap.

The face of astonishment Twilight had on was priceless. “But… without a horn, your magic must be building up inside you! You should have died by now!”

I laughed. “Well, I do have headaches, pretty bad ones, but nothing that some analgesics and a discharge every now and then can’t handle.”

“You… gave up your magic… just because you rejected what you have become?” Luna asked, considerably disturbed as well.

“Yes, I did,” was my matter-of-fact reply, “and I would have done a lot of more for New Athens. By breaking that horn, I gave my people a role model that gave up what he made him special as a pony in order to be as he was supposed to be: a person, defined by his own actions and will, not by a magic-throwing appendage or a mark on his rear.”

Celestia looked to my leg, to my flank specifically, and took a step back at what she saw with her magic. I just smirked at her. “Yes, I gave up all, Celestia. Absolutely everything.”

Twilight was speaking. “You… you need some help right now. You are not thinking properly. What you did to yourself, it's…”

“…like the deeds of a mad pony?” I laughed again, his time with some actual humor. “I am not mad, Miss Sparkle. In fact, I still have full understanding and use of my mind.” My voice turned accusatory. “It is you who are afraid of what you don’t know, like what we are doing here. A utopia that differs from yours. We are a wild variable in your pretty and sparkly order, and you don’t like it at all.” I was making them even more uncomfortable, if that was possible, and I enjoyed every second of it. The sly grin never left my face. “That is what you fear, little unicorn…”

I calmed myself a bit. “But that’s enough talking of me or any personal issues,” I said, covering my broken horn with hair and recovering my bandana. “If you don’t want to talk about really serious matters…”

“Yes, I have one… Socrates,” Celestia said, making it a point to address me by the name I’d given them.

“Feel free to talk,” I asked, polite but cold. “What do you have in mind?”

“We want to open an embassy in New Athens, and sustain good political relationship with your country,” she said slowly. Luna and Twilight were so surprised, they had their mouths wide open.

I smiled in more ways than one. She accepted the inevitable, and I knew that their beloved ponies didn’t want a war. We didn’t want one either, but we were ready to defend our freedom.

“I'm afraid I cannot allow that for the moment, if at all. As a basic rule of our government, any contact with Equestria or any other native nation is strictly forbidden,” I replied, again with my monotone voice. My expression betrayed my mood, though. “Just as we are not prepared for advanced external politics, we do not desire it.”

“But… but why? The princess just wants to be friends of your… nation,” Twilight said, again concerned. I asked myself how much shock she could take before she had a mental breakdown. From how some strands of her mane were already popping out, I would say ‘not many’.

“Look at this from our side, Miss Sparkle. Humankind was wiped out by ponykind, your kind. The other races didn’t help us in our times of need. We are living under human laws and society standards. Therefore, we don’t want any kind of relationship with any other sapient race in this planet. They left us to die at your hooves, so we have no reason to extend our hands to them.

“We want to be an isolated community. When our survival as a society is secured, maybe we can be open to think about such a bold petition as to allow an alien embassy.”

“Alien? What…” Luna tried to say, indignant. They didn’t like being called ‘aliens’.

Like I care.

“We don’t share anything right now. Neither history, nor culture, society or ideals. Nothing. The only thing we have in common is our physical forms, and I hope that, in time, we can rectify that at least to an extent. As you can see, even right now I do not stand or move like your kin do.”

Celestia nodded sadly. “I see. It truly saddens me that some of our little ponies reject me and my sister, but we cannot force others to accept us,” she lamented, walking towards the door. “I hoped that Equestria could be a friend of New Athens, and that our people could walk over each other’s territory without fear-”

“We are not your little ponies, Celestia,” I cut her off. “We never were. As for political relationship… I wouldn’t count on it soon.”

She and the others remained quiet.

“I can’t say it was an honor, since you know that you are the embodiment of all I reject right now. But It was a… pleasant meeting, at least,” I said. “I hope that, now that both heads of the Equestrian Government know their people are personae non gratae in our lands, no subjects of yours will try to enter our frontier.”

Luna frowned at me. “We can’t speak about other kingdoms, and I assure you that I will not talk in your benefit,” she snarled, unable to keep some of her temper in check.

I shrugged with a smug smile. That threat was moot. “We may not be in shape to establish foreign relations, Luna, but that doesn't mean we can't defend ourselves.”

She said nothing, brushing past the door and into the chariot. Twilight, in turn, was regarding me with the same sad expression Celestia had. “I know all of you in New Athens are scientists, teachers and researchers… If only we could share knowledge… we can learn so much about each other’s cultures and technologies…”

I scowled at what she was saying. “You lost your right to ask about it in the moment you called us monsters. Now we are going to keep our 'monstrous' knowledge and all you see here,” I extended my arms to the entire city, “so you can’t be 'tainted' by it.”

“You changed the meaning of our words. You are not monsters anymore,” she replied, offended.

That got a laugh out of me. “Just because we had our body shape changed? We never were monsters, Twilight Sparkle. Unlike your species, none of us holds the weight of destroying an entire world over their shoulders.”

She flinched as she walked to the carriage, but didn’t reply back. That would give them something to think about.

“Farewell, Socrates,” Celestia said, sad and frustrated. “I wish you and New Athens luck in your quest.”

“I will be a hypocrite if I do the same. Farewell, Equestrians.”

I made a two finger salute, looking at them until they disappeared in the sky. I sighed, and massaged my head, where a headache was building up.

Before I could do anything about it, the rest of the members of the Council were around me. “Socrates, we heard everything through the internal com system,” Darius said, smiling and patting me on the back. “You gave them a piece of our minds! Too bad we couldn’t break in there to show them how-”

A blue unicorn mare with a lighter blue mane interrupted him. “Shut up, Darius! You were terrified back in the bunker!”

“Come on, Pantea, you are being too harsh. We were all scared out of our wits, but Socrates managed it as well as planned,” said a white pegasus stallion with short, grey hair.

“We know, Caesar, but it doesn’t change that Darius is being an asshole,” rebutted Pantea.

We laughed a bit, but stopped when I hissed as the pain came back, making me a bit dizzy. Minerva approached me with worry. “Socrates, you're delaying your discharge session too much this month. You'll end up in the hospital again, like this.”

“I know, I know… I was going to do it after the event, but this kinda escalated a bit to do it, right?” I said, smirking a bit.

The last of the Council members, an orange stallion with a long, brown mane, approached us. “I'm not gonna carry you again, and you know it. Or maybe that is what you want?” he said with a play-seductive voice.

I punched him in the shoulder. “Perseus, you're an idiot,” I replied with a smirk.

“But all of you love me this way!” he said with a toothy grin. I tried to kick him in the face, but he jumped back. “Well, look at that. If he can try a roundhouse, he walk to the hospital by himself!”

“Yeah, yeah, anyway, we need to put up our schedule in motion,” Darius said, returning the discussion to its professional aspect. “We need those industries up and running ASAP. With the actual power outcome we can spare some of it to the production sectors of New Athens, and God knows how much we need them to produce composite alloys and electronic parts.” We all nodded in agreement.

“We need those quickly. Weapon producion rates are too low for my tastes,” Perseus said. “With that out of the way, we can finally research more in terms of cybernetic implants. I am really dying for a real set of arms and legs! Well, they are artificial but… you know what I mean.” Everyone snickered.

“We will try to put those at top priority. With healthcare and education covered, and hydroponic and irrigation crops at top production, we can focus on our defenses at last. Earth Pony magic may be helping us get there far more quickly than we originally predicted,” I said, “but we cannot nap right know. There's still too much to do.”

“You're right,” Pantea agreed. “On another note, we need to build another module factory as soon as we can. The last census estimates that current population is around twenty thousand and growing; we need to build more towers right away or the refugee camps around the city will get overcrowded. Their living conditions there aren’t the best we can offer,” she added with a frown.

I sighed and massaged my temples a bit. “We cannot put all of our problems at top priority, you know. But I hope you can find that out without me, because I need a discharge right now or my head is going to explode. Maybe I’ll see you later.”

After I left them, I heard hoofsteps. Minerva was by my side. “I'll go with you. I know those sessions leave you very exhausted,” She said, looking at me from top to bottom.

“Thanks Minerva, and yeah it does...” I replied tiredly. My head was really killing me.

We walked in silence, looking around our city while doing so. Everyone was happy, living their lives as they were meant to be. That filled my heart with joy in many ways: our very existence was a kick in the face to the royal sisters and the rest of those sick aliens, and on top of that, we were starting to recover.

My expression must have been very noticeable, because Minerva spoke at that moment. “What are thinking about? You have a very creepy smirk on your face right now.”

I laughed. “Just thinking about New Athens, Minerva, and how we are thriving right in front of Celestia’s white snout while she can't do anything to stop it. If she tries to declare war, we're superior in warfare technology, even as scarce as it is right now, they won't have the potion to rely on this time, and on top of that, she will be going against what she thinks we are… Her pretty little ponies. There are very few positive scenarios for them. If what we know of the other nations is true, the least bit of aggravation against us will reflect in their international affairs, and we're all pretty sure that the last thing she wants is a world war.”

“That’s a very dark scheme, Socrates...” she whispered. “Sometimes you really scare me.”

I sighed. “I know. I don’t want to be an evil overlord, Minerva, but I want our society to survive. We've been working on this for the last four years, and thanks for the efforts of all of us we managed to erect this city, in record time to boot!

“But I can’t let our people lose their focus, and that’s why I must give the picture of a strong leader. They don't need a caring pony to coddle them, Minerva. They need a determined leader, an icon to drive them on, and that's what I try to keep the council as,” I said with a tired but tender smile to her. “You know people tend to follow a strong and charismatic leader. Look at the Equestrians: they'll follow their princesses to the end of the world and beyond.”

I chuckled a bit. “That’s the only good thing about the serum.” That blasted thing made us more herd-like in our minds, so we were more easily swayed to follow an icon strong enough to be present on our lives. And she knew as well as I did that I had become that icon.

We were near the hospital, so enthralled on our conversation that we hadn’t noticed it before.

“But what when you're gone, Socrates? You know you can’t live forever…”

“I’ll try, at least,” I joked. “But remember, in all of my speeches, I always talk about the Council of the Wise, never about Socrates. They'll grow used to obey and respect the Council and, in time, I won't be necessary. Right now, our little society is like a newborn baby, and we need to do our best to make it grow, so it can survive the clash with others.”
She nodded, convinced, and we stepped inside.

“This is an outrage!” Luna yelled. “We cannot tolerate their ways, Tia! They are mocking us!”

Celestia sighed and closed her eyes. “What can we do, sister? If we try and succeed to bring them to us again against their will, we will be portrayed as the tyrants they say we are. They have already won, Luna. There's no choice here; we have to leave them be.”

“I cannot believe this, Tia! Just look at how that Socrates regarded himself as one of us! Us, the celestial sisters!”

“He's a very tormented pony. I’m still in shock thinking about his horn…” Twilight said, concerned. “It hurts so much just to crack it... I can’t imagine how painful it is to break it completely...”

All of them were shaken by their visit to New Athens. The unbelievable happened, a bustling city filled with human technology, unlike anything the could have expected, and to make it worse, its inhabitants were unanimously unfriendly to them.

“I do not care for that foal! He spat at us and all we offered them!”

“Enough of your tantrums, Luna!” Celestia shouted over her sister, making both her and Twilight freeze. She sighed. “I'm sorry about that, but yelling will not help a bit. I know this is a touchy issue, but we cannot let ourselves dwell in despair. They do not want to do with us, and even when I sensed hatred in Socrates’ mind I knew he was being honest with us. Maybe we just need to give them time...”

Luna was confused at Celestia’s words. “Are you really letting them establish a new country, just like that?”

“Luna, even if they don’t want our guidance, they are our little ponies and we need to respect their wishes,” Celestia replied.
Luna looked to Celestia and walked away from the throne room, stomping the floor in frustration and leaving a sad alicorn in her wake.

“Princess Luna looked pretty angry…” stated Twilight.

“I know, my faithful student. But I know her, she will not do against my wishes. I’m afraid about New Athens, though. They looked so promising, and yet they reject us…”

“Don’t worry, Princess. I’ll think of something. I’m sure that there must be something we can do,” Twilight reassured.

“I know,” the princess smiled, “but all seems so uncertain right now…” Celestia sighed. “Please, Twilight, I need to be alone right now. If you can…”

“Don’t worry Princess, I’ll be on my quarters if you need me,” Twilight said, walking out the throne room. She wandered through the castle with a thoughtful expression, thinking about how they could approach these rebellious newfoals. ‘After all, they're part ponies, they have a heart and only want to live in peace and harmony…’ she thought.

Something clicked on her mind, a plan already forming inside her head, all pieces coming together. They despised all about Equestria and the princesses, so she only needed to find something to make them move onto a more desirable path of action, make themselves more approachable....

The unicorn's face was adorned with a broad smile, her head feverishly considering a number of ideas.