Pandemic: Departures

by Cosmic Eclipse

First published

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!

(Chapters 1-12 will be seeing significant rewrites in the near future to address pacing and other issues that I've wanted to address - They're more than a bit rough in some places, but hey this has been a great learning experience!)

Set in the Pandemic Universe

A Scholar on a journey,
An Optimist seeking out an oasis,
An Inventor with dreams of a better Tomorrow...

Three months have passed since the ETS pandemic left a quarter of the US population transformed into ponies, completely changing their lives for better and for worse. A group of ponies set out to find something new in the world, their paths crossing at an important junction in their lives. Trying to put the past behind them, the group sets out to make their dreams of a brighter tomorrow a reality...

...However, not everything is as perfect as it seems... for some, the future is merely a means to an end, the path to fame and fortune... will the group be able to overcome the many challenges involved with creating the future?

Halira's stories, What you are Meant to Be and Picking up the Pieces offer some expanded night pony lore which give a fuller understanding of the concepts brought up in this story. The original story is highly recommended as it offers the basic premise for this rather niche sub universe.

Special thanks to:
for offering much needed feedback and advice over the course of writing this story.

Ch 1 - "A World of Change"

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“Good morning everyone, this is the pre flight announcement for flight 496 from LAX to Denver Colorado, we’ll be boarding in just a few moments so I’d like to ask you to please gather all of your personal belongings at this time and prepare for boarding with your boarding pass and identification out and ready, thank you!”

This was it, Joshua’s flight. He was on a two week vacation, but also had bigger pursuits in mind. Joshua was at a rather important crossroad in his life, looking forward to visiting the nearby colleges and towns. Little did he know that his life was about to significantly change in more ways than one.

He gathered his carry on bag and the rest of his personal belongings and boarded the plane.

“Welcome aboard!” came the cheerful greeting from the flight attendant.


“Any time.”

As he settled down for the long flight ahead of him, he couldn’t help but contemplate the world of change that was ahead. He had lived in the same house in the same town for most of his life, and the prospect of moving to an entirely different state and town was frightening to him.

His thoughts and worries seemed to melt away as he closed his eyes, falling into a peaceful sleep. This was something that he would always irrationally worry about, the future, change, all of it. That was largely the reason for this trip, to go out of his element and perhaps even plan a more permanent move as a result. In many ways he was uncertain of the path ahead, but he had a hunch that it would all turn out okay in the end.

How wrong he could be…


Silver Eclipse entered what was once his home before ETS had irreparably derailed his life. It had been a week since he had resolved to set out and explore how the rest of society in the United States had fared, hoping to find other ponies who shared the same knack for research and discovery as he did. Silver browsed through his many possessions, and for a brief moment he wished that he was a unicorn, dreading the tough task ahead of him.

It was a rather small dwelling, set in the outskirts of Los Angeles, but it was a home nonetheless, something he had worked towards on his own, a place where he felt a peace. As Silver gazed out the large window in his former office, he couldn’t help but feel a small twinge of sadness, knowing that he would genuinely miss the familiarity of it all, the beautiful sight of the mountains in the distance being a strong source of inspiration for him.
Silver gazed through his telescope, looking into the night sky above. He couldn’t help but feel a small sense of fear, knowing that somewhere out in the vast unknown there were creations working their way over to their universe, to snuff out all life as they knew it. Silver shuddered at the thought. He was never afraid of the unknown before, but the stuff he had come to learn in only a relatively short amount of time scared him. If it was any small consolation, the Devourers weren’t supposed to arrive for another millennia or two. That didn’t stop him from worrying about it though, the thought wouldn’t leave his mind, driving him to spend his nights building his own fantastical worlds within his dreams as a distraction to keep the nightmares at bay.

Silver knew that he couldn’t stay however, his home would serve no further use for him, he could never hope to comfortably live in it, and his enhanced senses just made it too challenging to live in the city any longer. Not to mention the humans in his neighborhood would likely never fully tolerate him there. Most of the other ponies who had lived in the city had already left, finding their own ways elsewhere, away from humanity. His neighborhood, while not being bad per say, was still full of humans that held a rather negative view towards ponies and he didn’t want to be antagonized any further.

Seeing no point in delaying the inevitable any further, he began to carefully search through his belongings. So many great memories flooded back to him, and if he could take it all he would, but there was just no easy way to do that, and he was taking enough time as it was anyways.

Silver knew that the vast majority of what he used to own as a human would serve him no use now, not to mention that he didn't even know what his final destination would be. Full of uncertainty, he resolved to take only the essentials with him and leave this place behind. A few choice selections from his private library, His camera, compass, a durable blanket, and digital archive would more or less be all he needed. He realized that some of this would be harder to travel with, but he was willing to deal with it if it meant that some of his greatest treasures would be safe.

Silver turned to one of the many shelves that lined what was once his office, glancing at the bound volumes that were organized before him. He brushed a hoof over the aged books on his shelf, trying to choose only the most important volumes to bring with him. He paused when he reached one of his favorite books, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

In a sense he felt like Captain Nemo had, turning his back on humanity for reasons that were good to him, while also having an intense desire to help those who needed it. He didn’t hate humanity per say, but humanity seemed to hate him. It was a tough decision to cut off contact with the people that he knew and considered friends as a human, but if it meant that they could all live in peace then he was willing to deal with the feeling of sadness and loneliness that came with this exile.

Even now the loneliness was getting to him, pushing him ever forward on his mission. The vast unknown that was the future called out to him, and he was determined to make the best of his situation. There was much to do however, and he hardly had the resources to do them at the current time. Such was the nature of science however, and Silver would push forward regardless of the result.

He knew that there was so much more to sort through. However he couldn’t let his emotions get in the way of the task at hand, so he resumed the sorting, hoping that it would help distract him further. For him, the sooner he was done, the better. By the end of the night, Silver had flown a short distance away, his most treasured belongings packed up with care. Silver was getting tired, dawn was close at hand and he usually prefered to sleep around this time. Seeing no reason to push himself further, he decided to make temporary camp at one of the local pony towns, a small village in the mountains going by the name of “Greenview”. Fittingly enough, it had a wonderful view of nature, a view that slowly faded away as the tight hold of sleep pulled Silver in.


Silver stood in a foggy dark void, trying to imagine each and every detail of the labyrinthian structure that he had devised in his imagination. It was a little flashy, but the detail oriented night pony could find ample distraction here. He closed his eyes and focused even more. He took in a deep breath, and when he opened his eyes he was greeted with the now familiar sight of the ocean through one of the large circular windows of the Nautilus’ Grand Salon.

“You know, you’ve been getting a lot better at this. The detail is stunning and it only seems to get better as the days go on.” Came the voice of a mysterious intruder, obscured by the shadow, they were nearly impossible to make out.

Without turning to greet the intruder, Silver replied: “Here again for another one of your “check ups” as you put it?”

“Why of course, whatever else would I be here for?”

Ignoring his question, Silver simply replied, “I’m fine.”

“You sure don’t sound convinced of it. You know, you can lie all you want to me, but you can’t lie to yourself. You’ve been doing this routine for months now, and it always ends the same way, with you dwelling on your past time after time after time.”

“Look, I appreciate our little chats, I really do, but I have work to get done, work that is currently being interrupted by you.”

“You could be a little nicer, lose the attitude?”

“You’re usually the calm and collected type, is it really bothering you all that much?”

“Not nearly as much as it should be bothering you.”

“Oh really? That’s an interesting concept. Why don’t you tell me more?”, Came the sarcastic reply from Silver, seemingly disinterested in the conversation that was occurring.

“Because it isn’t healthy Silver, you keep holding onto the past without ever moving forward. You can’t go back, there’s simply no possible way to do that. The best thing you can do is to take what you have and move on with your life.”

Finally turning to greet his intruder, Silver calmly replied, “Look, I know you only want what’s best for me, but I need to find that on my own. It’s hard to move on from the past when the future is so frightening. I can’t help but fear the unknown, the news that the devourers are so far away and will likely never be here in any of our lifetimes should put me at ease… but it doesn’t. All I can think about is how we might not be prepared for that. What if we don’t do anything now? It’s fine for us because we’re not the ones who have to deal with those repercussions, but what about our descendants? Who’s looking out for them? Every day a thousand thoughts race through my head, thoughts about the future, thoughts who’s implications scare me. This is all I know right now, the only way to really feel like I’m in control of my own destiny.”

“You aren’t though, it’s foolish to believe that you are. I know you’re frightened Silver, I am too, But what can we do? You don’t even know anything about them, what hope do you have to even begin to prepare for their arrival?”

Silver sighed, closing his eyes. “You’re right. I don’t know anything about them, I don’t know how we can even hope to prepare for their arrival. What I do know is that we can at least try and make the world a better place in the meantime though, there’s so many problems that we can work towards today, maybe we’ll discover something that might help us in the future in the process of solving those problems?”

“I guess you have a point Silver, but what are you going to even start with? It’s not really an easy task, and I don’t mean to sound rude, but you’re not exactly going to do this all on your own. I can’t force you to do anything, but just think about it? Try to be realistic. I’m doing this because I care about you, I don’t want to see you waste your life away chasing the past.”

“I know I don’t dreamwalk often, but when I do I try and find others who seem to have a knack for this kind of thing. I haven’t had much luck yet, but word does seem to spread amongst dreamers, maybe some of the creative ones will find their way here. I can’t even begin to tell you how much gossip seems to spread among night ponies, It’s honestly quite fascinating in itself.”

“Well I’m glad you’re at least trying to do something productive Silver, even if it is a bit far fetched. I just want you to be happy and not dwell on your past so much. Can you at least try to do that?”

“I can promise you that I’ll try. Now if you don’t mind I’d like to get back to work.”

“Sure thing Silver, I’ll see myself out.”

Gyro woke up much the same as he had for many years now, with a new idea in mind and the sun still below the coastal horizon. He had been friends with Tinker for as long as he could remember, however In stark contrast to Tinker Gyro was significantly more reserved and stoic, choosing to focus on his plans and ideas more than conversation.

Still though he was thankful to have a friend as loyal as Tinker was. The strange turn that their lives had taken only served to inspire them on what path to go down, and to be completely honest, it was really a blessing in disguise.

Tinker was always a kind person, but he never really invented for the sake of others, but rather for the reward and praise that came with it. Transforming was an extremely humbling experience for him and he realized how much he could truly empathize with others.

Gyro on the other hand, was not so quick to immediately trust others. Tinker meant well, but he was almost too optimistic for his own good. Gyro didn’t believe that his friend was too naive, in fact he knew that Tinker was a smart pony, it was just that in his quest to help every pony, he could sometimes let his goals get in the way of common sense.

Tinker had great intentions in mind, but his ideas were testing the limits of the duo. The problem and more importantly, it’s solution became ever clearer: They needed more help.

It wouldn’t be easy though. Gyro and Tinker had been traveling the U.S. when the pandemic had first started, at the time, like many others, they had just assumed that it was a particularly bad strain of the yearly flu. How little they knew at the time.

Their dreams of a brighter tomorrow, while possible now, would still take immeasurable time to execute to their full potential. Help was the greatest thing they needed at the moment, but it was hard to come by in the current climate.

Help would have normally been easy to find pre ETS... but now it was different. Tinker had decided to try and head home when the signs of transformation had progressed beyond some weird hair color, the duo realizing that this was no normal illness when the first prominent signs of transformation had begun to show.

-=A Few Months Prior=-

The inventive duo had been travelling across the United States when it had all gone down, finding themselves in Arizona when the severity of the pandemic had started to dawn on them.

“Sir, this has progressed beyond what I would call... usual. All signs point to this being something that is far beyond the realm of known science.”

“Look, I know. This is incredibly concerning and I don’t know what to do about it. Whenever we’ve encountered a problem in the past my genius granted us a simple solution. That isn’t happening here, I don’t know what to do!” Barnabas yelled.

“Panicking won’t help now Baxter! Some incredible new branch of science is awakening and you’re panicking like some scared child. I hate to be blunt with you but your hysterics aren’t helping the situation much.”

“I’m sorry, I’ve just never dealt with this before. I need to think about this for a moment.”

And so he thought, pondering the change that was currently running rampant.

“How fast do you think we could get to Marcus’ lab?”

“Excuse me sir?”

“I said how soon can we get there!?”

“I.. I don’t know Sir? Air travel is most definitely out, but we could probably make it there fairly quickly if we drive straight to it. But there’s other considerations to...”

“Fine let’s do it. I don’t care about the considerations as long as we get there as soon as possible.”

“If you don’t mind me asking... Why?”

“I need to get to Marcus’ lab, he has an MRI we could likely use, I want to see the extent of the change that’s occurring within so I can map out what might be happening.”

“What’s your hypothesis? I believe we might be on the same page.”

“I’ve noticed that the basic changes seem to progress following bouts of sleep, it’s evident that something beyond the normal limits of our scientific understanding is occurring, and it’s beyond what I would consider to be a normal anomaly... as evidenced by the widespread cases”

“Let’s get moving then.”


The duo had driven to Phoenix as fast as they could, hoping to convince their old colleague that the pursuit of new science was more important than his own irrational fears. As they drove through the city Barnabas could be heard angrily yelling into his phone, his assistant sitting there stone faced as ever.

“What do you mean no?!”

“I told you, I can’t afford to expose myself to this, word’s spreading fast and you know how I feel about germs.”

“Oh stop being a germaphobe , this is possibly one of the greatest breakthroughs in scientific history and you’re afraid of catching the flu.”

“This isn’t just a normal bout of the flu, you, your assistant, and so many other cases are all a clear indication of this! I’m sorry, but I’m being firm on this.”

“Fine then, I’ll figure it out on my own without you!”

“I’ll take it that we won’t get through to him then?” his assistant calmly replied.

“No, we will not be getting through to him any time soon… He’s made that very clear.” Barnabas flatly said, a hint of frustration and annoyance in his voice.

“So what do we do now Sir?”

With an annoyed sigh, Barnabas flatly replied, “I guess we’ll just Travel back to base tomorrow, if we push straight through to California without taking any breaks we’ll arrive at a workable time. Liam might have access to a medical lab if he’s still got his contacts with the University.”
“Well I won’t stop you Sir…” Not that I can anyways... he thought to himself.


Back in the present, Gyro reflected back on those events. His premonitions had been correct of course, there were other considerations to take into account, travel locking down being one of them. The duo had travelled to Arizona as fast as they could, but they found themselves unable to leave the following day. Barna… Tinker, could be rather hot headed when the moment called for it, his final interactions with Marcus being rather negative. To Gyro that likely was what prompted such a large and positive change in Tinker’s behavior.

Gyro thought back to that final interaction. Marcus’s hypochondria had finally helped him it seems. The transformation seemed to speed up towards the end for seemingly yet unknown reasons, and some powerful magical forces were at work behind it. This was all purely speculation of course, the government would most assuredly never make their findings on the matter public.

It was something that he couldn’t really study now and would likely remain that way for a very long time, as the respective data was far too insufficient for his needs. It was an interesting thought though, perhaps someday somepony could help aid that task.

As he pondered on his many thoughts, the one important one came back to him. He looked down from the loft, into the open space that constituted their makeshift laboratory well outside of town. The workshop might have been a little run down, but it worked well enough for their needs. As he glanced down at Tinker, he noticed that he was still near the cart, but now asleep. Tinker could be a handful at times but his dream of the future, and more importantly, the lengths to which he would follow it was really inspiring to Gyro.

It was a dream that he would continue to follow until it was seen through. Maybe they were a little too optimistic, but in a world that had changed so much, optimism was a resource that was more valuable than anything else he could think of.

Gyro stood up from his work desk, and brought a blanket to his worn out friend.

“Sleep well old friend, you’ve earned this rest.”

There was much to be done and Gyro knew that Tinker would stress about it until the very end, never willingly resting until the swift release of sleep wrangled him away from the waking world.

He owed it to his friend to at least continue the work while he was out, for he knew that his visions of the future wouldn’t ever truly cease.

In many ways Gyro found moments like this to be the most enlightening for him. He was able to work on the various problems and solutions he would think up with relative peace. Tinker was a good friend but he could get a little over the top from time to time.

He was nearing the end of the process, finishing up a few safety additions. By the time Tinker had awakened, the project would be done, and they could finally set out.


With Marcus having denied the duo access to his lab, Barnabas and his loyal assistant were left to simply take in the data as best as they could. With travel being restricted at this point, the duo were forced to make due with what they had available to them, using their van as a makeshift laboratory.

“Sir the condition’s only getting worse, I’ve recorded the signs for a week now and the numbers keep coming in from around the U.S. it seems that the most harshly affected areas are Arizona, Colorado, most of the south, and notably Florida.”

“And what do you make of this?”

“It’s all speeding up. Early reports show that many in larger cities are showing the first signs of transformation, only a few handfuls are showing more advanced signs.”

“Fascinating. How have you held up so far?”

“Adequately enough Sir, but I keep getting these irritating headaches.”

-=Present Day=-

In a departure from the norm, it was Tinker who had woken before Gyro. As Gyro headed into the main area of the abandoned warehouse he was enthusiastically greeted by the cheerful pegasus.

“Gyro, I believe you’ve done it! We only need a few small details and we’ll be set to go!” Tinker shouted, the sheer happiness and excitement obvious in his voice.

Gyro, caught off guard by the emotion, simply replied, “You’re very welcome sir.”

“You don’t know how much this all means to me, it’s a chance to do the right thing, this time for the right reasons.”

“Believe me Tinker, I know very well.”

“We only have a few tasks remaining, have you made preparations? Scouted the routes?”

“I have, my contacts are fairly certain that the route we’ve chosen is the safest and most efficient route for this.”

“Very well, we’ll make final preparations tomorrow and set out as soon as we can. There’s a bright new world waiting for us and I can’t wait to share the future with it!”

And on that cheerful note the duo went to sleep, feeling refreshed and relaxed for the first time in nearly three months.


The morning they had been waiting for had finally come at last. Tinker and Gyro sat in silence staring at the scene before them. Their brand new mobile lab was finally complete at last, a brave new world laid out before them, with an incredible journey ahead. Truth be told, Tinker had no real plan or direction for where he was going, but rather a more general plan for the future. He and Gyro discussed the matter and determined that the best course of action would be to head back to Arizona and work with some of their newer contacts from the shelter, at least for a while.

Gyro it seemed, had made some enterprising connections throughout the post ETS U.S. and received word that civilization was already beginning to find order out east, but for now they needed to build up their own numbers and resources. Getting word out as soon as possible would be the most beneficial for ponies and humans alike. Gyro had always been that way, seemingly able to network with others with ease. It was a strange contrast to the pegasi’s normally stoic and reserved nature. Still though, the unicorn could rudimentarily operate his phone, so perhaps that made things easier.

“Gyro my friend… I believe that we’re looking at the dawn of a new era. An era where ponies no longer have to feel fear.”

“So what’s the plan now?”

“Well… We do what we’ve always done time and time again, reinvent the world around us, but this time we use our gifts to help better pony kind, and once we’ve done that we can set our sights higher, bettering mankind, and someday… someday we can set our sights to the stars… Just think of the possibilities Gyro!” Tinker excitedly yelled out.

Gyro was hardly ever one to show genuine emotion, but today was different. His friend had changed for the better, genuinely caring for those around him, hoping to help everypony that he met, and those that he couldn’t… well he’d invent something to help them out too. Gyro knew that the road ahead wouldn’t be easy, and it would definitely be filled with new risks and challenges, but he owed it to his friend to keep his best interests at heart and make sure that his plans could come to fruition.

“Sir? Just a word of advice. I know that you’re excited to finally begin your new life’s work, but please promise me that you’ll be careful. You’re not naive but I also know how passionate you can get about your goals. Please be careful, don’t let someone take advantage of you.”

“Gyro, you’ve always been one of my best friends. This means a lot to me and I promise you that I’ll repay your kindness someday. Thank you for everything that you’ve done to make this dream a reality.”

And on that note, the dynamic duo set out into a new world, with their sights set on an impossible task, one that they would work day and night to make a reality. They did not know whether they would find the success that they were searching for, but not trying would be the same as not caring, and that was something that they wouldn’t throw away for the world.

As they packed up their remaining possessions and pulled the cart out of the warehouse, they could only think about the future and the road that lied ahead of them. By noon they had reached a village in the mountains, deciding to rest for a couple days and get their bearings, they set up camp. An idea came to Tinker’s head, this could be a good opportunity to test out their mobile lab, see if perhaps the ponies of the west would be interested in the duo’s ideas.

Tinker approached Gyro, gazing down at the valley below.

“It’s a beautiful sight isn’t it?”

“What? The valley?”

“The horizon… I don’t gaze at it as much as I’d like to but it really is something special.”

The two just sat and watched the sunset for a while longer, enjoying the rest that they had worked towards for almost three months now.

“You know Gyro, I have an idea… what if we share our ideas with this village? Surely these ponies could benefit from them.”

“What do you mean sir?”

“Haven’t you noticed? They’re at peace but they still live in fear, fear of the wildlife, the humans only a short distance away, all of it. With our inventions maybe they can get some peace?”

“What are you proposing sir?”

“A demonstration, a public showcase of our inventions, we can even give them away if we want. This village doesn’t exactly have an economy to work with but isn’t helping others the best kind of payment we can get?”

As the sun began to disappear behind the horizon, Gyro contemplated this. “You know sir, if you’re interested in doing this then I’m willing to go along with it. We can’t just give all our plans away for free and hope to stay afloat, but if it’s what you feel we need to do… then I’m onboard.”

The two sat there, watching the sun finally set behind the horizon, revealing the beautiful night sky. Gyro wasn’t sure whether their plans would fully work out the way he had hoped they would, but looking down at the valley below, bathed in the soft moonlight, he had a peaceful feeling that everything would be alright.

Ch 2 - “A Dream of the Future”

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The calming release of sleep had come at last, the one time of the day where Silver truly felt in control of the world around him. Truth be told, the loneliness was starting to really get to him, in time though, that wouldn’t need to be an issue. That is, if his master plan came together how he had hoped it would. So far he hadn’t had much luck with finding other dreamers like himself, but he did meet some interesting ponies along the way, some that had listened to his ideas, but ultimately didn’t see a lot of practical potential in them. Still though he did have potential allies if he ever did start to make some progress.

Silver stood alone in his observatory, carefully scrutinizing each and every detail. He had devised this place as an escape, a place where he could be in control. It admittedly wasn’t a very healthy choice to stay cooped up in here, but Silver didn’t care. He couldn’t bring himself to stop.

He glanced around at the detail throughout, admiring his work. Conjuring this place accurately time and time again had been easy enough to learn over the last few months, but going beyond familiar detail was still a little bit of a challenge. All things considered, mastering the ability to construct his own dreams was one of the greatest discoveries of his life up to this point and all he could think about was the potential that it had for him.

Like the great Captain Nemo in one of his favorite stories, Silver surrounded himself with his many scientific and scholarly pursuits to keep himself distracted from the world he had left behind. The grand library he had fashioned together in the very heart of this observatory even resembling the spectacular Grand Salon of the mighty Nautilus. The walls were lined with books and paintings of some of the best literary minds that had ever walked the earth. All priceless treasures to the young night pony, even if they were only hollow replicas.

Here, in his dream, he felt at home. In a world that had cast him out, this was the place where he could feel whole, a place where he could be in control. He wouldn’t be able to actually work towards his goal of working towards a better world yet, but he was still on the lookout for ponies that could help him. That was fine for the meantime though, he could continue to design a world of his dreams, both literally and figuratively and then venture out and explore other dreams when he felt comfortable.

He reflected on his thoughts for a moment. For the world hadn’t truly cast him out, he knew that overblown fears and perceptions were largely to blame for his friends and family shunning him. He could live with that, though it didn’t help the bitter pain vanish any more than it usually did. He still had his hopes set high, believing that someday his relationships could be mended. But that was a problem for another day, for now he directed his attention back to his observatory, ensuring that every detail was correct.

The Dreamer’s Observatory, as he started calling it, would never make sense in the waking world. Some rooms were underwater, some were among the stars, and many more were situated in different landscapes that could resemble any number of places. This was all perfect for his own desires however. In here he could have peace, as much as he was wary of the vast unknown that the dreamscape consisted of, there was certainly an interesting call to it. That strange feeling continued to nag at him, but he ignored it like he always did.

“You know, you don’t have to keep yourself locked away in here all the time.” Came a voice from behind Silver.

Without even turning to greet the mysterious intruder, Silver sternly replied “And you know you don’t need to check up on me like a child all the time.”

“Well that’s not a very nice way to greet me.” The stranger said flatly, moving around to observe the detail of the library that surrounded him. “Jules Verne, H.G. Wells… some fine authors indeed. You know I’m quite the fan of their work myself?

“You arrived unannounced and uninvited, if you want to know how I’m doing, I’m fine. You can either stay or leave, but I’d rather not argue on the matter. I don’t go meddling with your affairs so I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t meddle with mine.”

“I could argue that I’m well within my rights to be here, you know? I’ll just say this though, what you’re experiencing could be considered one of the worst torments for a Night Pony to endure, being cut off from dreamwalking, yet you willingly confine yourself to your own dreams, in a prison of your own making. It’s a marvelous prison, and you certainly show some great talent, but it’s a prison nonetheless which keeps me asking… Why? I’m quite positive that it’s driving you mad so why keep up the act when you have the full power to end your suffering?”

“It’s complicated ok? If you need to know though, I just feel comfortable here. In here I can distract myself from the fear that keeps lurking in the background, the fears that drive me to do what I do. Let’s just say that I have my own reasons and I’ll leave it at that. I’m sure you could piece it together for yourself eventually.”

The intruder walked over to Silver’s desk and sat down, adjusting the glasses that seemed to materialize on their head. “What are you doing Silver? Everytime I see you here you’re just brooding alone in this room, maybe leaving your own dream every couple weeks.” They leaned forward, resting their head on their hooves. “I know you’ve told me all about your ideas, trying to find ponies that think like you do, have the same aspirations, but really, what do you do out there? Please, just help me understand.”

Silver closed his eyes for a moment, sighing as he started to speak in a somber tone. “You know, I used to love history. The past can give us all some valuable knowledge on how to address problems in the future… but that’s just it. We’re not doing anything to address these problems today. There’s so many problems in the world that we can work towards solving, but we’re not even trying! We’ve been told that Judgement Day is coming and we’re just ignoring it entirely, like it isn’t something that we should be concerned about!” Silver walked away from the window, turning to face the intruder. “I want you to think about this for a moment, if you knew what the future had in store, if you knew that something could swoop in at any moment and end everything you’ve ever known and loved, would you be terrified of it? Would you even try to stop it? What reasonable person wouldn’t?! Every day there’s a chance to change the world, to make a better future for ourselves, maybe even discover something new that could help us down the line! We just need to believe that it’s possible but we’re not! We’re fighting about whether this is even going to be a threat, and because we don’t believe it will be we’re not doing anything about it! We’re all sitting here, both humans and ponies alike, squabbling amongst ourselves because we can’t set aside our differences long enough to ensure that we’ll still even be around in the future. The canaries are dropping dead all around us and yet we’re still digging away, ignoring the obvious solutions that are in front of us! Every time I dreamwalk I hope I’ll be able to find somepony who might know where to start, somepony who might be just as afraid of this as I am. It’s a desperate attempt to change the world, I know, but is it really such a bad thing?”

The Intruder considered his words for a moment, sitting up in the chair. “That’s fair enough I suppose… Just please try and leave your dreams more, go out and find these ponies. It’s not healthy to keep to yourself here like you’ve been doing. I know you’re afraid, that’s what makes you a person though. The fact that you’re so concerned about this speaks louder than anything else. You act cold and stoic but these concerns break through the mask, and show me who you really are. You’re compassionate Silver, please share this compassion with others. At the very least we could talk about things from time to time, just so you’re not alone constantly.”

Silver dropped his cold facade for a brief moment, knowing that the intruder only had his best interests in mind.

“Listen, I really appreciate these talks. I really do. I’m sorry if I ever come off as cold, it’s just… so much has changed in such a short amount of time… I don’t always know who I can trust nowadays.”

“It’s understandable, I really appreciate the honesty. The offer still stands, if you should ever need me, I’m sure you know how to find me.”

The intruder seemed to have vanished almost as soon as he had arrived, leaving Silver alone to his thoughts once more.

Most Night Ponies couldn’t stand the feeling of staying in their own dreams, but Silver preferred to run his own ship, attempting to avoid the dreamwardens and their policies entirely, unsure of how to feel about them based on his previous interactions. His instincts gnawed at him to explore the many dreams out there, but he forced that part of him to remain quiet. Perhaps these feelings wouldn’t surface as often once he had found other ponies that shared the same concern about the future as him. That was the next item on his agenda, but he had no idea of where to even start on this task.

Every time he ventured out into other dreams he just found much of the same. Ponies that weren’t concerned about the future, or ponies that were more worried about the humans. Sometimes it was ponies that used their dreams as an escape-- to do what they couldn’t in the waking world anymore, but most of all it was simply ponies that didn’t care to hear what he had to say. That feeling of wanting to just go explore nagged at him again, never giving it a rest. The brief moments of contact would only reignite his instinct to go find a group to stick with. At times this could be both a blessing and a curse.

Silver knew that this dream wouldn’t be easy, likely taking decades to show any real promise… but he could stay content with that. If he always had work to distract him from his instinctual feeling to go be social, he could hopefully ignore that ever present nagging feeling in the back of his head.

Stanley explored the countless dreams as he had been doing for a week now, still looking for any lead that might help him find his oasis. Tonight wasn’t a very fruitful night to say the least... that is until he reached a very curious dream. Stanley was no expert on dreams but he had never entered one that was so lucid and real. He found himself standing in the entrance hall of a grand library the likes of which he’d never seen before. His curiosity got the better of him and he began to explore.

The rooms he found were all strange to say the least. Each room offering something unique and different from the rest. The one he was in now resembled a museum, paintings and sculptures as far as the eye could see. There was so much to take in and so many questions that arose from the strange sights before him. Surely a normal pony couldn’t have envisioned and formed all of this on their own? Or could they?

Stanley wandered to the next room, seeing no other path to take. He came across what looked like a boardroom. Ornate curtains lined the walls, with empty picture frames sat behind each seat… aside from one. Behind the head of the table sat a large painting of an indifferent looking night pony, his eyes seemingly gazing out the nearby window, looking into the empty abyss of space.

Stanley took a moment to gaze out the window, noticing the vibrancy of the stars around him. Stanley had never been an astronomist, but he knew that these stars and constellations were vastly different from any other that he had seen in the waking world. The scene was strange, but fascinating to see at the same time. The longer he stared at the points, the more he noticed the faint lines that seemed to connect the dots, forming both familiar and unfamiliar shapes.

A cheerful smiling dragon looked back at him, but Stanley decided to move on. The following room was unlike the ones that he had encountered this far. A large collection of strange and unusual plants were sitting around the conservatory. A desert scene sat outside these windows, but it was unlike any desert Stanley had ever seen. In the distance a large mountain could be seen, breaking up the vast emptiness that sat beyond the domed structure.

As he continued wandering through the dream, a faint organ tune could be heard playing… It was a calm, relaxing tune, almost familiar sounding but he couldn’t quite place it. It gave him an idea though, surely he could follow the tune and find whoever was at the heart of this mysterious place. He ventured on, finding himself in a strange, crystal filled cavern. The sight was truly breathtaking, but he couldn’t let himself get distracted, he was on a mission now.

The building was seemingly a labyrinth of information stacked as far as the eye could see, but Stanley continued to push on, following the music until he stumbled into a large but cozy library, with windows overlooking an underwater scene. At the far end of the room was a midnight blue night pony sitting at an ornate desk, a huge pipe organ sitting on the level above, the figure seemingly unaware of his confused guest.

“Hello?” Stanley hesitantly greeted the stranger.

The night pony stirred from his work, glancing over with an almost confused look. “Huh? Who are you? I wasn’t expecting any more guests today.”

“Oh… I’m very sorry, I found this place and was curious so I took a look around, I’m sorry if I intruded on you… I’ll just go find my way out…” Stanley quickly turned and began walking out.

“WAIT!” Yelled Silver, startling the young Night Pony, “Sorry to scare you, but I have to ask, what brought you to my dream? This isn’t exactly a particularly interesting dream, what would possibly compel you to stay here and explore for so long?”

“It’s just… well… I used to be a banker, I dealt with organization every day of my life, I feel like I can’t find a place where I fit in, but this dream feels different, it feels more… comfortable to me, the library and whatnot. And well, you’re the only other male Night Pony that I’ve run across so far, the change of scenery is actually kind of nice for once.”

“You’re not like the others are you? That is, shunning away humanity, following some manufactured visions of perfection, etcetera… you seem to have more to you.”

“Well… like I said, I’ve never really fit in back home, I’ve been too afraid of change to do anything about that… well up until recently that is. I’ve suffered from nightmares as long as I can remember, and one day… well one day that all just stopped. I found something extremely interesting one night… a dream of an oasis, something that was or could be a reality. I just had to find it… It was… a place, where I could fit in for once.”

Intrigued by the stranger’s response, silver reflected on this for a brief moment. “Why don’t you stay a little longer? I could really use someone like you on my team…”

Caught up in the conversation, he realized that he hadn’t even introduced himself.

“Oh, my apologies, I haven’t even introduced myself yet. I’m Silver Eclipse, enterprising researcher. The magnificent grand library that you are currently standing in is what I would like to call… The Dreamer’s Observatory… Kind of a flashy name I know, but it fits nicely. I’ve been trying to set up a team, and all I needed was a few enterprising ponies to join it, and well, a meeting place to meet in. You’re free to join or leave as you wish, however you seem to have talents that I’d hate to see go to waste. Consider the offer, I’m sure you’ll know how to find me again if you so desire.”

“I’ll do it” the stranger interjected suddenly.

Silver was caught off guard by the sudden decision, most others would think it over a longer term, the sudden response both surprised and intrigued him. “I’m sorry?”

“I said I’ll do it… This might be a positive opportunity for me, and besides, I could use someone smart to offer advice along the way.”

“Do you have a name by chance?”

“Oh… my bad… it’s Stanley. Just Stanley.”

“Well just Stanley, welcome aboard, I think we’re going to be fast friends.”

And so, each gained something that they had been missing that night. For Silver, it was a friend, someone he could share his thoughts and ideas with. For Stanley it was someone who thought like he did, and perhaps even someone who could teach him.

“So Silver, was it hard to learn how to create all this?” Stanley said, gesturing at the scene around him.

“At first it was, but like anything, with practice you can refine something down into a practical skill. Have you been dreamwalking for long?”

“I can’t really say that I have, I just learned recently so I’m still learning the ins and outs”

“Who taught you?”

“Well… no one. I’ve kind of just been following my instincts and hoping for the best.”

“Well that works for a start, but there are definitely better ways to go about doing it. Would you like me to show you sometime?”

“Yes!, I mean, that would be wonderful.”

“You mentioned me summoning this place, let’s start there, but with something smaller. Follow me to the table.”

Silver led Stanley over to a large ornate table in the center of the room.

“Now I want you to clear your mind and visualize something you can easily picture in your head. Close your eyes if you need to. I want you to think about it, every part of it, every detail. The clearer the picture the better. Got it?”

“I think so…”

“Perfect. Now keep visualizing it, and when you think you have a clear enough picture, I want you to imagine it sitting on the table in front of you. Take your time, it’s a tough thing to master at first, especially in somepony else’s dream, but as you practice it’ll get easier and easier.”

Stanley focused as hard as he could, imagining the old music box he had kept on his desk back home. He opened his eyes, to see a somewhat misshapen replica sitting on the table. Detail was lacking in most places, but the general shape of it was there.

“I… I did it!”

“You did! Now the important question. How does it compare to the actual object?”

“The general shape is there, but the detail is very far off”

“That’s perfectly fine, you’re just a beginner after all. I believe that you have a great talent for this already Stanley, if you want you can continue practicing this tonight, or we can focus on something else.”

“I think I want to practice this a little more if that’s alright with you.”

“That’s perfectly acceptable to me. I’ll be at my desk if you need me. Just remember to keep it small, it isn’t easy to change another’s dream.”

Stanley sat there practicing for some time, each successive music box he summoned getting closer to the detail he had wanted. They were far from perfect, but it was something he could take time and practice with. As he needed.

Silver on the other hand sat at his desk, reflecting on the events thus far. His thoughts returned to the mysterious intruder that had visited him earlier. He had been right of course, Silver was slowly losing his mind by staying cooped up alone in his dream. The unexpected visitor turned friend that he found in Stanley was a great opportunity for Silver. He finally had a pony that seemingly shared his interests, one that could be a much needed friend.

What was a friend? The question he thought he had an answer to continued to elude him, his thoughts drifting back to those who he had considered friends before all this had happened. He couldn’t fully blame them, he knew that fear was a powerful motivator, his condition serving as an almost constant reminder. He hated to think of his reality as a condition, but to him it was. One that he would never recover from as much as he had hoped he would.

As he sat there left alone to his thoughts, he felt as if he needed to reflect on some old memories, memories that ceased to fade. It was partially from his doing of course, if he was a different pony he could simply act as if his past was unimportant like so many of those around him, but it felt wrong to just denounce that this was exactly who he was meant to be in life. Sure he felt as if he had always been this way, but that thought scared him. He knew very well that he was meant to be a human, but his instincts spoke otherwise.

“Stanley, I’m going to go inspect something in another wing of the observatory, if you should find yourself needing anything don’t hesitate to call into the cone near my desk, the sound will travel throughout and I’ll return.”

“Uh huh, ok. Take your time”

Silver stood up, pulling out one of the ornate books on the shelf behind him, revealing a hidden entrance to one of his favorite rooms in the Observatory, The Gallery. The room before him was simple, but practical. A circular room with a simple recliner in the center, a domed ceiling full of brilliant stars sat over him. Silver approached the chair and sat down, recalling the bitter memory of his friends cutting off all contact with him.

Joshua couldn’t take the isolation any longer. He needed to go find his friends, and he needed that now more than anything. In other towns and cities, the few who had progressed far enough had moved to shelters for support. There was only one shelter in his city, and he knew that it was only a matter of time until some of his peers would wind up there.

Joshua was stubborn though, refusing to go to the shelter until he absolutely couldn’t function on his own any longer. As he wandered through the empty streets, his thoughts kept turning back to his friends.

“Maybe I should go see them, It’s not like they can’t get any sicker than they are already.” He thought to himself. Quickly turning towards his home, he entered his garage, walking towards the simple motorcycle inside. He knew that he shouldn’t be driving, but he didn’t exactly care. There were hardly any cars on the streets, not since the transformations began, so he was sure that there was hardly a risk.

He rode out into town, turning towards one of his friends houses. Mark had always been a close friend, but understandably the revelation that this was no normal flu had scared most of the neighborhood into staying indoors.

Joshua knocked on the door. No answer. He waited for a few, until the door finally opened, revealing his friend Mark.

“Look Josh, I don’t want to talk right now, you’re one of them.”

“One of them?”

“Yeah, one of those… I’m sorry. I… Look man, you’re one of my best friends, but I’ve heard about the transformed out east and you’re obviously becoming one of them, and… well I don’t want to go down that route. I’m sorry.”

And with that the door was unceremoniously closed.

“You know, you’re already showing the signs too, it’s not like it can get any worse!”

His retort was met with silence, so he did what he always did, moved on.

Joshua was met with much the same response with every friend he had tried to contact. He knew that he was fighting a losing battle. A solitary thought told him that maybe he should just give in an accept his fate. He reasoned with himself though, knowing that he couldn’t let this get in the way of his plans. He had only recently applied to his dream school, though he figured that with all the commotion going on, school wouldn’t be in session for quite a while, if ever.

The memory ended, and Silver was left alone in the room again. There was more to the memory of course, but Silver couldn’t bear to continue it. It was just too much of a bitter reminder for him. The intruder was right once again, this wasn’t healthy. It was a bitter substitute for real interaction and he knew it.

He could never go back, so why did he dwell so much on his past? Other ponies had moved on effortlessly, and while the thought of just moving past this was certainly good, Silver couldn’t bear to just completely abandon his humanity. His dreams of research and finding like minded individuals seemed to finally be coming true for the first time in months, so why was he still doing this to himself?

Silver knew the answer to this question, but refused to fully acknowledge it. It was too hard to simply throw away everything he had worked towards in his life up to this point. The solution was right in front of him yet he refused to follow it. His thoughts and emotions conflicted every day that he confined himself here and yet he still did it.

He was still wary to dream walk, knowing that he really had no friends dreams to visit, and he wasn’t very interested in the dreams of those around him. Sure he could explore the countless other dreams that existed, but it was a reminder that his friends had left him. Perhaps with Stanley he could reignite the same feelings that dreamwalking had first given him when he broke the through boundary of his dreams that first time.

That was a lesson for another day however, and Silver knew that he couldn’t just continue to sit alone in silence, he had a new friend that he was just ignoring so he could go live in the past one more time. Silver resolved to change from this day forward, the first step would be cutting back his time in the Gallery until he no longer needed to dwell on those past memories. Friendship it seemed, would be the best solution going forward.

He left the room, heading back into the Grand Salon to check up on his friend’s progress, feeling a little better about his situation.

“So how’s your progress so far?”

“I’m getting there, it’s still not quite perfect but I’m getting close.”

“That’s great… could I ask you something?”

“Of course?”

Silver struggled to word this question, unsure of what his new friend would answer with. “What is a friend to you? It’s a question that I’ve been caught up on for a long while now and I have yet to answer it with any real sense of finality.”

“That’s tough to answer to be completely honest. It depends on your view of the world, what makes up your thoughts, opinions, ideals… For me, a friend is someone who is there for you when you need help, someone you can share your thoughts with, someone that will hear you out.”

Silver thought on this for a moment. He knew that he still needed to come out of his shell and start trusting other ponies, and he knew that it wouldn’t be easy. But with ponies like Stanley, ponies who accepted who they were and what they now were, and still resolved to follow their dreams, it would certainly make it easier.

“Stanley, have you ever had a dream so crazy and so monumental that you’re not even sure if it’s possible?”

Stanley looked over to Silver with a confused look on his face. “Where are you going with this?”

He continued. “Has something ever scared you so much that you can only think of wild solutions to the problem?”

“I… I suppose…”

“What did you want to do in response to those fears?”

Stanley shuffled in place for a moment, hesitantly answering back, “It’s… it’s kind of a crazy idea. I don’t know if you’ll understand it.”

“Please, trust me on this, I’m sure my own ideas are just as, if not more crazy.” Silver assured him.

Stanley thought back to his final encounter with his boss, noting the prejudice that ponies seemed to face in many of the nearby human majority cities. “Ok well… I just want to find something… somewhere where ponies and humans can just live and work together-- as equals.”

Silver smiled. A thought coming into his mind. “That’s a wonderful dream Stanley… there’s a lot of potential in such an idea… you know?”

“What’s... your dream… Silver?”

“My dream? My dream is something I don’t think I’ll ever be able to accomplish… but that’s what makes it a dream right?”

“But what is it?”

Silver stared off into the distance. “Fear makes us do crazy things… what if we could inspire others to work towards solving two problems at once?”

“What kind of problems?”

“Why don’t you take a break for now? I have yet to give you a proper tour of the Observatory.”

“But what kind of problems? Where do we even start?”

“Let’s start at the beginning shall we?”

“But you haven’t told me anything yet!”

“Let’s get to know each other a little more first. We can talk about my dream later…”

And the two were off, Silver excited but unsure of the road ahead of him.

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

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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!

Ch 4 - "Making Connections"

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Silver’s excitement was through the roof, as much as he shied away from social interactions he couldn’t deny that they felt so good. As he ran through the wooded landscape he could only think about how much had changed for the better in just a few short days. He had finally started to feel peace with his condition. It felt wrong to think of it as a condition, but Silver just couldn’t think of a better way to describe how severely ETS had derailed his life. As he looked around the ponies that had called this place home, he couldn’t help but feel like some sort of outcast. The village was beautiful, towering pines spaced as far as the eye could see, the only smell in the air being that of nature. No cars, pollution, or fumes to bother him.

If he wasn’t already so committed to his own plans he certainly wouldn’t mind staying here for an extended amount of time. His fears and drive to change the world pushed him forward however, and he knew that he couldn’t just put his new friends behind him. He continued walking along, there was no reason to rush, it wasn’t as if he had a whole lot to pack up anyways so there wasn’t really any harm in taking the time to enjoy nature. As he meandered through the forest he couldn’t help but feel at peace… maybe this was truly what he needed all along, just some peace and quiet.

That thought was interrupted however as a cheerful voice greeted him from afar. “Well I can’t say I’ve seen too many other night ponies wander through here, why don’t you wait up a minute?!”

A red night pony ran up to him, the image of a telescope framed by stars visible on her flank.

“Sorry if I scared you, I just haven’t seen very many night ponies stop by here… I was starting to think I was all alone here. My name’s Scarlet by the way.”

With a slight look of confusion on his face, Silver replied, “Nice to meet you… Scarlet. I’m Silver… Eclipse… Sorry, you just caught me off guard.”

“That doesn’t surprise me, you seemed a little distracted after all.” She chuckled to herself, “Mind if I join you?”

“I don’t mind at all, I’m just heading back to my camp.”

“Are you just passing through then? Or do you plan on staying a bit longer?”

“I’m just passing through for now, I’m going to join those two inventors on their journey.” This reply seemed to disappoint Scarlet, not wanting to ruin the moment Silver added on, “But I honestly wouldn’t mind stopping by here again sometime… Something about the beauty of this place just gives me peace like I haven’t felt in months.”

She seemed a little happier with that reply, “It really is something special, especially at night, have you seen the stars out here yet? There’s hardly any light pollution so you can just see so much of it!”, She excitedly replied back.

“You know, I was so busy that I never even stopped to stargaze. It’s really been too long, I used to love doing that before ETS…” Silver said, with a slight hint of sadness towards the end.

Noticing this, Scarlet perked up, “Well I’ll definitely have to show you when it gets darker out! You’re the first night pony I’ve seen here in awhile, it’ll be really nice to stargaze with somepony again!”

With a smile, Silver replied, “I’d love that, I’ve really been keeping to myself so much, it’ll be nice to actually spend time with somepony again. Where should I meet you at?”

“I was hoping that we could hang out for a few… if you don’t mind that is” she said with a hint of embarrassment at the end.

“I don’t mind at all, my camp’s just over there” he said, gesturing at the gap in the trees. They started walking along the path, heading towards Silver’s camp. “You know, it’s so weird, everything here feels so far apart, but when you’re walking through it you realize how close together everything is.”

“It’s really something isn’t it? I just love it though, it makes you feel like you’re really secluded in nature.”

“It really is, there’s just something that’s so wonderful about it.”

The two continued on, walking down the natural path that was carved through the forest, and before long they had arrived at Silver’s campsite.

“So this is it eh? Not really anything to write home about.” Scarlet gestured at the rather small tent set up between a few trees on the outskirts of town.

“It’s small but cozy, besides I was only going to be here for a few days at most, it wasn’t exactly worth setting up anything larger.”

“I suppose so, but didn’t Axel offer you anything better?”

“He offered to let me stay in his guest room for a few days, I kindly declined… I just didn’t trust him at the time but after being here for a couple days, he really seems like a genuine pony.”

“Axel really is… He lost his wife shortly before ETS hit and moved up into the mountains to just shut out the world. Something about this place gave him a sense of purpose.”

“I never realized that he had went through so much. It’s kind of inspiring really.”

The two just sat there for a moment, looking around at the tall trees.

Scarlet was the first to break the silence, “So what do you need to do now?”

“Pack up the camp, go drop off my stuff, and then I guess just enjoy the view until I get tired.” It wouldn’t be long until the sun set, and Silver was genuinely excited to stargaze, this night pony was strangely cheerful but she seemed genuine enough. “So where’s the best place to stargaze?”

“There’s a nice clearing outside of the village, I had them build my cabin near it for that reason. It’s the perfect place to just watch the stars. No light, no distractions, just peace.”

As they were talking, Silver folded up the simple tent he had fashioned for himself and packed it away into his bag.

“By the time we drop my stuff off it should almost be time for that, should we start heading over?”

“Just lead the way, Silver!” she excitedly chimed back, the two walking back towards the center of town.

Coming out of his shell really hadn’t been as bad as he had thought it would be. Maybe ETS wasn’t really the worst thing to ever happen to him. It may have derailed his entire life, but was he truly happy with where he was headed before? Sure, he was planning out a big move, but ETS hadn’t really changed any of that -- in fact, in a twist of irony it only sped that up for him. Besides he had met some genuinely interesting ponies in only a few days time and he was genuinely happy as a result. It was a strangely cheerful feeling, and it made him genuinely rethink his entire plan. Would it really be so bad to just move on? I guess I’ll have to figure that out for myself… he thought, reflecting on the last few days.

“You know, you sure get distracted easily, I think this is the third or fourth time I’ve had to snap you out of it. What’s on your mind Silver?”

Silver blinked a few times, looking back up at the night sky above him. “Sorry, I’ve just been doing a lot of thinking. I started this whole journey because I was so conflicted on everything. I was afraid of some news that came up and along with that I felt that I needed to find somewhere where I could just fit in, I was afraid to just completely abandon my past and decided to run away from my own problems to try and hold onto what I really didn’t have. I feel like I’ve started to find that for myself, but in a strange way… I don’t know if I’m really going down the right path anymore. I’ve met some really great ponies over the last few days… you included… and it’s really opened my eyes quite a bit. I thought that ponies were simply following something blindly, but seeing this place, everything you guys have built here… it kind of opened my eyes. Maybe I was the one who was trying to find something when it was right in front of me the whole time…” he said, gesturing at the scenery surrounding him.

Scarlet blushed slightly at his comment, but felt like she could empathize with him. She had left her home to try and just get lost in nature, it was just too irritating living in the city and the wooded escape was a nice change of pace for her. The lack of fellow night ponies was lonely to say the least, and finding another that shared her own interests was a refreshing experience. Even though she had only known him for a short time, she genuinely felt like she could consider Silver a friend, or at the very least a step up from just an acquaintance… she almost didn’t want him to leave.

“Do you ever just look at the stars Silver? Wish you could just fly away into the unknown and see what’s out there?”

“Where are you going with this?” Silver replied, confusion evident in his voice.

Scarlet looked back to him, “We’re not so different, we both ran away from our problems… the best advice I can offer you is to follow your heart. As great as it is to finally have somepony else to stargaze with, and as much as I’d love for you to just stay here, you need to follow your own heart. If leaving with those inventors is what’s truly important to you then you should absolutely do it.”

“You… wanted me to stay here?”

“I know we’ve just met, but it’s nice to have another night owl here… I guess I see a bit of myself in you, it’s just refreshing to have somepony else to talk about my interests with. I was hoping we could be friends, you know, stay in touch?”

“I’d love that. You know it’s still possible? We can dreamwalk after all… I know it isn’t the same but it’s genuinely nice to just talk with someone who understands me.” his thoughts returned to the intruder who regularly frequented his dreams. Silver truly didn’t know their identity, but they seemed genuinely concerned with Silver’s interests. Maybe taking their advice and dreamwalking more wouldn’t be such a bad thing to do. “It’s better than just moving on and never speaking to each other again.”

Scarlet smiled, and gazed back up at the stars, “I’d like that Silver, I really would.”

Silver smiled back and looked back into the telescope, “You know, I never really gaze at the stars anymore… it’s a real shame. There’s so much beauty just sitting out there and we just ignore it.” a hint of sadness was evident in his voice.

“There’s so much unknown too… that’s the real beauty of it to me.” With a slightly concerned look, she turned back to Silver, their eyes meeting for a moment. “Silver… do you think that the Devourers are really out there? Just making their way over here from some vast unknown galaxy in some long forgotten corner of the universe?”

Unsure of how to answer, Silver just said what felt right. “I’m not sure to be honest… but that’s part of why this is so important to me… I can’t help but wonder, “what if?” What if they’re really real and we’re just sitting by doing nothing… I know that everypony seems conflicted on it, so while they’re arguing why not try and at least work towards making a better future? If anything it’s the chance to leave our descendants something to work with, even if it’s just all for nothing and there’s really no threat looming out there.”

“This is really something important to you isn’t it?”

“It’s something I doubt I’ll ever live to see in person… the thought of that is something that genuinely scares me more than anything, but what’s the harm in at least trying to make a better future?” His thoughts returned back to his favorite novels, the works of Jules Verne in particular being something that inspired him as a kid, giving him dreams set in the stars, undersea, and even within the vast unknown that was earth… these were all stories that drove him to try to inspire others.

Smiling back at him, she replied, “I can appreciate that Silver. As much as I’d like you to stay here, I’d hate for you to just give up on your dreams… and like you said, we could always dreamwalk from time to time. Oh -- that reminds me, do you still have a phone? We don’t really get service up here but Axel was able to get a mostly stable wifi connection set up, we could always chat sometime too.”

“I don’t use it as often, but I still keep it with me. Why don’t you go ahead and write down your details and I’ll give you mine.”

The two just sat there, enjoying each other’s company while gazing up at the heavens above. Silver knew that he would have to return to his new friends soon, but for now he just wanted to sit here and enjoy the peace. There was a lot for him to reflect on, and a lot for him to consider for the future going forward.

Silver was starting to get sleepy, and he knew that the inventors would likely be waking soon. As much as he wished he could just lay here forever there was work to be done and if he stayed, he would likely never leave.

Silver turned to his new friend, dreading the next few words. “Scarlet… I should start heading back over to their camp.”

“Do you really have to go so soon?” she replied, with a touch of sadness in her voice.

“I do… As much as I wish I could just stay here forever I probably would never leave. Let’s keep in touch though, if everything winds up crashing and burning I’ll at least know where to go. Do you want to walk me back over to their camp?”

“I’d love to Silver. I’d hate for you to leave without a proper goodbye.” she said with a smile on her face.

The two stood up and started to walk down the dark path towards the rest of the village.

“So what do you think you’ll see out there Silver?”

“I’m honestly not sure, Tinker and Gyro are headed towards Phoenix, I used to have some family down there… it might be interesting to see how they’ve fared. Aside from that I’m not sure. There’s a whole big world out there and I’m sure there’s plenty of things left to discover.”

The two walked back to the center of the village, to Tinker and Gyro’s campsite. “Well I guess this is goodbye.” Scarlet said, a hint of sadness in her voice.

“It’s not really goodbye, I’m sure we’ll see each other again… sooner rather than later.”

With a final hug goodbye they went their separate ways. Silver walked up to the cart and knocked on the door.

“Ah yes, hello again Mr. Eclipse!” came the cheerful reply of Tinker.

“Just Silver, please. I’m all packed up and ready to go”

“Splendid! You’ve come at the perfect time, I was just getting the morning preparations done. We’ll be all set to depart shortly!” Noticing a slightly sad look on Silver’s face “Is everything alright Silver? You seem a little down.” He added, concern evident in his voice.

“Huh? No it’s alright. Just thinking about the future, nothing to worry about I promise.”

“Well surely you must be tired, please don’t let me keep you up. By the time we awaken we should be in Blythe, after that we’ll press on into Arizona. We can brief you on the details when we arrive at our next destination. Most importantly of all, have a good night!”

“Thanks Tinker, I will!”

Silver entered the small, but cozy cart and folded down one of the spare bunks, stashing his few belongings underneath it. Without any hesitation he flopped down onto the mattress and closed his eyes, sleep soon arriving.

Silver sat in the grand salon of the observatory once again, as he had done for many countless nights before. Taking in the scene of the ocean outside one of the large windows, he truly felt at home here. He closed his eyes and just relaxed, enjoying the peace and quiet.

“So, did you make any more friends today?” Came that recognizable voice from behind him.

With an annoyed tone he replied, “Don’t you have time to bug someone else?”

“Oh I assuredly do, but you know I can always clear a spot in my busy schedule for a little check up.”

“Well if you must know, I believe that I did”

Clapping his hooves together, he cheered back, “Wonderful! I knew that you could do it!... Now how about you actually leave your own dream for a change?” The stranger said knowingly.

“I’d rather not, I’m expecting company and I’d like to discuss something rather important with them if that’s acceptable to you”

“Don’t lie to me Silver, I’m well aware of your little secret field trip. It must have been a rather refreshing change for once. Oh and believe me, any time you spend interacting with somepony else is perfectly acceptable to me. I only want what's best for you after all. You know Silver, you’re making some great progress.”

Silver stood up and walked towards the intruder, lowering his cold facade again. “Thanks old friend just don’t expect this to be a constant thing. Now if you don’t mind, could you please get out of my seat?”

The intruder smirked, and with a cheerful tone replied, “As you wish!”
And with that, the intruder was gone.

Silver was alone again, left to his own thoughts once more. The intruder was once again as right as ever. His little trip into that strange pony’s dream was refreshing, but it had only made the little voice in his head that was currently yelling at him to go explore some more dreams even louder. Maybe he could go meet up with Scarlet? The thought was tempting but he didn’t want Stanley to intrude on their dream.

He was unsure of how long he had sat there, but the sound of his new friend calling out to him stirred him from his thoughts.

“Silver are you there?” Came a voice from outside the Grand Salon.

“Yeah, I was just finishing up some business, please do come in. Make yourself comfortable, food and drink are available in the center of the lounge, they won’t do you any real good, but I’m sure the comfort will help you relax all the same. I have good news to share today, very good news.” Silver said excitedly.

Stanley walked in and took a seat in front of one of the large windows that overlooked an endless sea, grabbing a cold drink along the way.

“Firstly Stanley, let’s discuss something I neglected to talk with you about. The problems I want to try and solve.”

“So what are they?”

“They’re problems that I think go hand in hand with your own dreams… What if something loomed in the vast unknown reaches of our universe, waiting to snuff us out?”

“Like… aliens?”

“Maybe? Truthfully I doubt anypony knows. But what if?”

“Silver… is this something that you’re really afraid of?”

“Not entirely… but what if we were given a second chance as ponies? What if we can fix the damage we’ve done to the world?”

“How does this tie in with my dreams?”

“Your Oasis… the place where humans and ponies could work and live together… what if it could be a place that uses the most cutting edge technology we could get our hooves on, and inspire others to start working towards solving the problems that we’ve created? I don’t think it’s a viable option right now, but maybe someday it could be.”

“I think… I understand-- how would we even do this though?”

“That’s what makes it a dream right? I doubt we could ever truly make this a reality on our own… but what if we found more ponies and humans that could help us?”

Stanley thought on this for a moment, seeing the value in it. “Do you really think that would work though?”

“I don’t know… but what’s the harm in trying though?”

“I don’t know… but maybe we should actually work on a plan if we want to even begin this. What are your thoughts?”

“Well we can start small. Make a little village, but design it with our goals in mind from the start. We could use renewable energy, try and do things as efficiently as we can, live with the land, avoid wasting our resources-- that sort of stuff. I mean ponies can’t stand living in large cities as it is right now, the pollution is just too much for us to handle, but what if we didn’t have to worry about pollution? There’s plenty of small things that we could do to start with that could spiral into something greater down the line. When we get big we could even start pushing the boundaries of science, maybe even try and combine magic with machinery, the possibilities are limitless and all we need is the key!”

“You’ve really thought this through haven’t you?”

Silver enthusiastically nodded. “I’d be lying if I said that the thought hasn’t left my mind since you told me about your dreams. It’s a perfect opportunity to start something new, share it with others… try and inspire the change we want to see in the world. We’re both drifters right now, so is there really any risk in trying?”

“I… I guess not. Where do we start though?”

“I… I-- Haven’t really worked that out yet… but I have some ideas. We could always go talk with some of the smaller villages, or we could set something of our own up, work our way up from there. We can’t really do anything about it now, but maybe someday we’ll be able to.”

“Don’t we need more ponies to help though? A village with two ponies isn’t really a realistic start…”

“I’m glad you’ve asked that Stanley, I really am! I have some great news to share with you! News that might help with that part of the equation!”

“So what’s the news?”

“Let me cut right to the chase, we have two new allies!”

Stanley sat up and looked at Silver, “Are they here?”

“I’m afraid not, they’re not night ponies so they’re unable to dream walk like we can. One’s an enterprising pegasus and the other is a somewhat reserved but crafty unicorn. They’re part of some inventing team, hoping to help all of ponykind with their creations.” Silver explained.

With a smile, Stanley replied, “That’s great, it sounds to me like they’re the perfect fit for the team, but if you don’t mind me asking, how are we supposed to collaborate in here if they can’t dreamwalk?”

Silver thought on this for a few brief moments.

“To be completely honest, I don’t know. The best case scenario right now is that I share our progress in the waking world. It’s not quite an ideal scenario but it’s the best we can do with our resources at the time.”

“Could we try to visit their dreams, talk with them there?”

“We certainly could, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have my own reservations, but if we’re visiting fellow researchers I think I can look past them.”

Why was it so hard for him to admit that he was driving himself crazy this way? No one would judge him for it, but yet he still imposed his own self enforced confinement to this dream.

Deeply sighing,Silver looked towards Stanley. “You know… I think it’s time I showed you a better way to explore the dream realm.”

“Are you sure Silver? I don’t want to force you to do anything you don’t feel comfortable doing.”

With a slight chuckle, the first real emotion that Stanley had seen from him, Silver replied, “You sound like an old friend of mine Stanley… I appreciate the concern though. He was right, I need to stop ignoring who I am and embrace it. And if this is the way to do it then it needs to be done.”

“Where should we start?”

“Follow me to the Grand Hall, it’ll make the following demonstration a lot easier.”

The two stood up and walked out into a large gallery, paintings of different moments from Silver’s life lined the walls around them.

Silver turned around to face Stanley, a serious look on his face. “Ok Stanley, this is going to take some practice. I want you to close your eyes and imagine someone you know closely. Preferably someone you can imagine with a clear image. Imagine every detail you possibly can about them, the clearer the picture the easier it is to find them.”

Stanley thought back to his friend Jess… or Moonlight as she preferred to go by now. She was one of his closest friends back home, and he had hardly tried to make contact with her since he had left.

Silver interrupted his thoughts, “Before we go in, who is this pony to you? It’s important to know before beginning.”

“A friend of mine back home, one of the closest friends I’ve ever known.”, Stanley beamed with happiness.

“Perfect, that’ll make it all the easier to find them again if you so desire.”

Stanley looked at him with confusion, “How does that work?”

Silver sat there for a moment, unsure of what to say. “It’s… complicated… Let’s just say It’s magic and settle with that.”

Stanley just shrugged, not really understanding how any of this worked. “Well if you say so…”

Silver blinked for a few seconds, Stanley was nowhere to be found, presumably having found his friend. He decided to wait a few moments, so as to not intrude on their interaction.

Silver just stared towards the center of the room, not used to seeing other dreamers just vanish when trying to find a dream. This would make things interesting, it usually meant that they either woke up or the person they were trying to find was in the dream realm, outside of an actual dream. “Well that was strange.”, He simply said to himself.

Stanley suddenly found himself in the starry expanse of the dreamscape. Confusion registered on his face for a brief moment, his eyes settling on the form of his long time friend looking at a nearby star. The night pony in front of him froze for a brief moment, suddenly looking back at him, a look of confusion in her eyes. “Who… Stan?”

“Hi Jess.”, He cheerfully greeted her.

“It’s Moonlight… please. What are you doing here Stan?”, she replied, seemingly a little dazed.

“I told you I’d catch up with you when I left.”

“Well I’m glad you finally stopped by…”

Silver Eclipse walked up to the duo, Moonlight taking a more defensive stance. “...I hate to intrude on you, I just needed to make sure you were able to figure this out Stanley.”

“And who’s your friend there?” she asked skeptically, moving between Stanley and Silver.

Stanley walked around her with a disapproving look on his face, “Oh sorry, this is Silver… Silver Eclipse. He’s my new friend, he’s been showing me a better way to dream walk.”

With a slightly relieved look on her face, she relaxed a little, turning to face Stanley once more, “That’s good Stan. How’s travel been treating you?”

“Well enough, I’m not too far right now, Just outside of Orange. I stopped by to visit my parents, I really felt bad for just leaving them in the dark for so long. They were happy to see me though, my mom’s a pegasus now, I guess I didn’t really need to worry about whether they would accept me now.”

“That’s really great! I told you had nothing to worry about!” She chimed back excitedly, “ Were you finally able to get in touch with your friend?”

Stanley shook his head, “No, not yet. I think I might be getting close though.”

“Well that’s good to hear Stan. I’m so glad that you’re doing well.”

He looked a little sad for a moment, asking a little quietly, “How are the others? Back home that is?”

“They’re doing good. Everypony misses you you know?”

“I know, I know... You know why I had to leave though…”

“... I do and I can respect it. Just remember what you told me before you left...”

Silver walked up, interrupting the two. “...Well Stanley, I hate to get in the way, if you want to…”

“So tell me about yourself Silver.” Moonlight said flatly, moving back between the two.

“I’m sorry?”

“Sorry if I’m a little protective. Stanley’s been afraid of everything his whole life and he’s suddenly making friends?”

“He stumbled into my dream, he was different from the others. Something about him resonated with me and we became fast friends.”

“Have you met him in the waking world yet?” she asked defensively.

Stanley walked around her again, an annoyed expression on his face, “Moonlight… Stop being overprotective please?”

“Look Stan… I’m sorry. I’m just looking out for you, you know that?”

“To answer your question… Moonlight was it? I haven’t yet. I’m on the move in the waking world, I don’t have a permanent residence anymore. Stanley stood out to me as somepony who was interested in making their own mark on the world, a pony with dreams of something greater than themselves and wasn’t afraid to set out to make that dream a reality. I’m on a similar path in life and it’s refreshing to see somepony that doesn’t just blindly follow what everypony else is doing.”

“You’re saying it like working together is a bad thing?”

“It’s not that, it’s blindly following something that everypony else is without even considering a different option!” He said with a little more annoyance in his voice. He didn’t realize it until the damage had been done.

“I did. But you know what?! Moving on and working with everypony else is what worked the best for me.” She angrily replied.

Silver thought back to his earlier interaction with Scarlet, and the villagers in Greenview. With a sigh he replied, “Look, I think we got off on the wrong note. I’m sorry if I came off as insulting or rude to you. There’s just been so much change in my life that it’s hard to really trust others.”

The three stood there for a moment, Stanley unsure of what to do.

Moonlight shuffled awkwardly, seemingly unsure of what to say. “I’m sorry too. For being overprotective. Look, Stanley’s decided to trust you, so I think it’s only fair for me to trust you too, as much as I don’t want to.”


The three sat there for a few awkward moments, just looking at the lights around them.

Moonlight was the first to break the silence. “I should get going. They’ll be expecting me in town soon.”

“Goodbye Moonlight.” Stanley cheerfully said

“Goodbye Stanley!” Her tone suddenly changed as she turned towards Silver. “…It was nice to meet you too… Silver.”

“The same to you.” Silver said somewhat flatly.

The two ponies suddenly found themselves standing alone amongst the stars again.

“Well she sure seemed nice…” Silver said, an undertone of sarcasm evident in his voice.

With a sympathetic look, Stanley replied, “You know she means well. I promise she’s not normally like that.”

“If you say so… let’s just head back to the Observatory for now.”

Silver awoke, greeted by the sight of the two inventors.

“We’re here.”, Gyro flatley replied.

“Where’s here?”, he asked, rubbing the sleep from his eyes.

Tinker interjected, “Sorry, don’t mind Gyro, he’s never been one for long conversations with others. We’re at our next stop, Just a few miles out from the Arizona border. We’ll be crossing over the Colorado river soon, we can stop and take a look later if you’d like.”

Silver groggily stood up and walked outside, taking a few moments to glance around at the desert expanse that surrounded them. “What’s your plan for now?”

“We make camp for tonight, and then move into Arizona tomorrow.”

“What do you need me to do?”

“Just keep guard over the camp, we’re going to set out fairly early tomorrow but we’re still a little far out in terms of getting to our final destination. We’ll likely have to make camp tomorrow as well.”

“What time is it?”

“Oh I’d say around noon, give or take an hour or two... Why?”

“I need to discuss something with you later, I want to introduce you to an intrepid young night pony who’s become a sort of protege to me. We want to discuss our plans going forward if that’s alright with you.”

“Sure, Just give me a heads up before I go to sleep so I know what to expect. None of this is familiar to me so I’d rather know what I’m getting into.”

“Sure thing, I’ll let you know beforehand.” Silver decided to explore the area, curious about where they were. “If you don’t mind, I’m going to take a look around, this whole place seems… interesting.”

“Don’t let me get in your way, just come back before dusk if you don’t mind. Try not to get lost either, don’t deviate from the road unless you feel confident enough in your abilities to navigate back.”

“You got it, I won’t go far, I’m just curious to see the surroundings.”

If Silver had to guess, they were near Blythe. The mountains and surrounding area seemed familiar enough from what he could remember, granted it was the desert so everything had a tendency to look familiar if you’ve wandered around it long enough. He had travelled through here a couple times ages ago, but the place wasn’t exactly the most familiar to him, so these views were all he had to really place it from. The town had almost seemed like a ghost town the last time he had seen it, and he couldn’t help but wonder how it had fared post ETS. Without any real reason to sit idly, he took to the skies, curious to see how the place had changed since he had last visited.

Ch 5 - "No Time Like the Past"

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As Silver took to the skies he couldn’t help but marvel at the sight of the city in the distance. It was certainly a lot different than how he remembered it, and not just in the way you’d normally see a city change over the years. Almost nothing of the original town could be seen, the aged buildings just weren’t there or were covered in all manner of plant life. Despite the distance he still had left to fly, he could already tell that this little adventure was not going to go the way he had initially thought it would… but not necessarily in a bad way.

The city was nearing closer, the large green fields standing out in stark contrast to the arid desert landscape that surrounded them. Already he could tell that this would be an interesting day. Below him could be seen all number of ponies working away in the vast fields, harvesting and planting various plants, Silver couldn’t wait to see what lied in store. He didn’t exactly know where to go, so he flew down to a large open field, gracefully landing in the center of it.

“Excuse me?! What on earth do you think you’re doing! Do you realize you’re trampling my crops?!” Came the angry shout of a nearby earth pony, catching Silver off guard.

Silver looked around, noticing the plants he had carelessly crushed underneath him. “I..I’m sorry! I didn’t mean it! I didn’t even notice them at first!”

“Well no shit! They’re just little seedlings you dolt! Look, Just get out of here ok?!”

Silver bolted off, yelling out a final embarrassed “Sorry!”

The farmer just scoffed and muttered back “Dumb tourists!”

He slowed down to a normal walk as he reached the road… or path as it seemed now. As hard as he looked it was nearly impossible to find anything that hadn’t been torn up or reclaimed by nature, a far cry from the desert ghost town he had seen so many years ago. Try as he might it was hard to really get a feel for where anything was, a large portion of the town it seems was laid out with no rhyme or reason, almost as if the entire focus was merely on the farming rather than the day to day life of the residents.

Silver frantically glanced around, hoping to find someone who could help better direct him, his eyes landing on a few pegasi sitting around at the top of a large tree. “Hey excuse me, could one of you please help me?”

The trio looked down at him, confusion moving across their faces.

Annoyed at their silence Silver replied a little louder, “Excuse me?”

One of them finally spoke up, “You’re not asleep?”

“I’m sorry?”

“You’re a night pony… but you’re awake right now?”

With a little more annoyance, Silver replied, “... Yes? We don’t just all sleep during the day you know? Yeah we’re nocturnal but that doesn’t mean we can’t be awake during the day either. So can one of you help me or should I just move on?”

The pegasus gave an embarrassed look to Silver, replying back, “Sorry, I guess that was a little rude of me to assume. We don’t get a lot of night ponies here so we just have rumor to work with, I hope you can understand. What did you need?”

“That’s fine, I guess I should have been a little more patient. I’m just a bit lost, I need you to direct me to somepony that can help me figure out the lay of this town.”

“Oh… You should go see Botanicus, he’s the leader, he loves helping new ponies around town.”

With an even more annoyed tone, Silver replied. “And how would I find Botanicus?”

“Well you just have to head to town hall, he’s usually up there overlooking the operations.”

Silver facehoofed and sighed. “How do I get to town hall? I don’t know where it is!”

“Oh well you don’t need to yell, here, follow me.”

The pegasus jumped down from the tree and glided down to Silver. “Come on, it’s this way!”

The two started trotted through the city, chatting idly along the way.

“So what’s the story here?”

“Story? About what?”

“The city, this used to be a ghost town and now it’s booming.”

“Oh, well that’s easy, you know all the little pony villages scattered around?”


“Well they need food right? And what better way to get it than go to the farmers.”

“So you guys provide food for all those villages?”

“A lot of them, mostly the smaller ones that haven’t been able to get their own farms up and running yet. There’s also some that simply prefer to do their own farming… which is fine mind you, but many of them just prefer to have us deal with it.”

“How do you all manage that? I mean that’s a lot of mouths to feed.”

“Oh believe me, it is, but we all help each other, they trade us materials they can produce and we trade them the food we harvest here. It’s a perfectly symbiotic relationship!”

“What about…”

“...Oh perfect, we’re almost here! Botanicus can answer all your questions, I need to get back to work soon. Nice meeting you… Sorry I didn’t catch your name.”

“Oh… It’s Silver. Silver Eclipse.”

“Nice meeting you Silver Eclipse! I’m Bountiful Harvest!” He extended his hoof out, Silver initially confused by the gesture, but realizing he was missing a pretty big social cue.

“Oh I’m sorry I haven’t been out much, I hope you’ll understand.” Silver raised his hoof, touching it to Bountiful Harvest’s

“No problem at all Silver. I’ll leave you to go talk with Botanicus now.”

Silver approached the large building, and entered the empty lobby. An earth pony secretary was sitting at the desk, reading some book, seemingly unaware of Silver’s presence.

“Um… Hello?”

“Here to see Botanicus? He’ll have an opening in about 30 minutes, please take a number and wait over there.” She gestured with a hoof, not looking up from her book.


Silver took a number and walked over to the empty waiting area. It reminded him of the DMV… He hated the DMV and desperately hoped that this wouldn’t be a comparable experience. As he glanced around he noticed that there was more or less nothing to occupy his time, so he just closed his eyes and tried to take a quick nap.

“Please no sleeping in the lobby!” The secretary sternly replied.

“Alright, fine.” Silver said a little grumpily.

Boredom was killing him, stretching the minutes into hours. As he glanced up at the wall clock he was stunned to see that only a few minutes had lapsed. He needed to do something about this wait. An idea hit him, he dug around his bag, looking for something that could divert his attention for a little while. He only kept a few essentials in it so he didn’t have access to his books. After a minute or so of digging, he found the objects he needed. He pulled out a sketchbook and pencil and began sketching out a basic layout. Seeing this place and Greenview had inspired him and his thoughts kept drifting back to Stanley and the Oasis that he imagined would never truly be a viable project to work on. Still though, it kept him distracted at least.

He sketched lines all around the page, noting farms, buildings, workshops… anything he could think of that might serve useful for a town. His little map wasn’t anything to write home about, but it was a start. Silver had never been an artist but he figured that having a rough layout of what they had in mind would be better than nothing.

“What is that you’re drawing?” a voice suddenly asked, startling Silver from his distraction.

“Huh?! Oh… I’m just sketching out a little design for something I had in mind…”

“Sorry to startle you, my assistant called your number out a few times but you were drawing so intently that you must have tuned her out. I’m Botanicus, I can see you in my office now if you’d like.”

Silver thought back to what Scarlet had said to him the previous night and chuckled to himself. “You know, you’re not the first pony to say that I get distracted easily… I’m Silver Eclipse, I don’t want to take time out of your busy day, I just had a couple questions.”

“Oh don’t worry about that at all Mr. Eclipse, I always have time to spare for new visitors. Come with me, you can make yourself comfortable and ask me anything you need answered once we’re in my office.”

Silver hopped off his chair and followed the earth pony into the hallway.

“So you’re the mayor?”

“Well I’m the leader, mayor is a bit too formal for my tastes… so no, we don’t have any real hierarchy here you see.”

“How does the town run like that then? I mean surely you need some kind of authority?”

“We do… and we have one. It’s a little volunteer program, those that volunteer their time get a few extra bundles of food on harvest day, It’s a small token of appreciation but one they appreciate nonetheless. As for leading, well, I’m more like the director. I give some direction to the farmers but I don’t force them to do anything. If they don’t want to produce anything then that’s fine, there’s plenty of other farmers who would be willing to help the town. Ah, here we are, my office. Please make yourself comfortable. I’m going to go grab some water, would you like anything to drink?”

Silver walked into the office and sat down on a large (well for a pony that is) couch, “I’ll take a water too please.”

“Splendid, I’ll be right back, this won’t take long!”

Silver took his time and glanced around the modest office, noting that behind the desk sat numerous pictures that had obviously been printed out from a computer, most of them featuring Botanicus with what Silver could only assume was his family. One however caught his eye, it was of Botanicus with some of the ponies from Greenview, Axel, the town’s leader standing happily next to him. At that moment the dark green earth pony walked back in.

“Alright Mr. Eclipse, so what is it you wanted to talk with me about?”

“Well, this is all a bit formal, I really just wanted to get a little tour of the town, figure out where everything is. I haven’t been here in quite a few years so nothing really stands out to me very well. Now that you mention it though… I actually do have some other questions if you don’t mind me asking that is.”

“Please Mr. Eclipse, ask away!”

“How did you organize this place? Those plans I was sketching out, you asked me what they were so let me tell you. A friend of mine had a dream, a dream of an oasis where humans and ponies could work and live together, I thought the idea was great, but not something that’s really viable for us right now. Truth be told we’ll probably never have the resources to get it set up, and I had some other plans of my own in mind for it that differ a bit from my friend’s. What if we could make a place where humans and ponies could live and work together, but instead of stopping there, what if we worked towards making a better future for everypony… everyone as well? That’s what I was drawing, a rough idea of what we might want to work towards someday.”

Botanicus nodded, replying, “Well you know, this was a massive undertaking. As soon as we could organize enough earth ponies, we basically set out to repurpose or reuse anything we possibly could. There was plenty of farmland around here already which helped tremendously, we didn’t have to waste time setting up fields so we could focus more on how we wanted to organize the town. Right now we’re in what I like to call, “Old Town”. This is the town proper, or at least it was before ETS hit. We were already a farming town before, but after ETS hit, we were left with more earth ponies than any other tribe. There was only a small handful of humans that managed to avoid the full transformations, so the majority of the town decided to reorganize to suit our needs more. Right now we’re still deciding what to do with this part of town, but I’m sure you’ve noticed that we’ve already started to break down some of the older structures and use their space for parks.”

“I noticed that, and I also noticed all the additional plantlife that’s seemingly grown over everything else…”

“Yes, that… That’s a little work in progress. We’re seeing if we can mix plant life with existing structures so we can maximize space in the old section of town. Speaking of towns, your plan is certainly interesting, but do you think it’s attainable? Don’t get me wrong, I admire your optimism but I have to be realistic.”

“Well it certainly can’t be done in a day, or even a few years… but that’s not the point of it. The point of it is to work towards something we can attain. If we can work towards our goal while working with what resources do we have available we can hopefully start making something that’s truly grand.”

Botanicus smiled at this response. “You know Mr. Eclipse, you remind me of myself. Let me give you some sage advice. We were extremely lucky in this case, most of the town was transformed so we didn’t have to go through all the bureaucracy of purchasing all the land. We were already equipped for farming, so we could focus on the real meat of the city while also jump starting our agricultural operations. The only real major issue that we ran into early on was the occasional band of river pirates that tried to steal food from us, but we settled that matter in an amicable way that ultimately worked out well for all parties. 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. It’s not going to be done in a day, but if you find the right associates you’ll get through it a lot easier. Now was there anything else you needed before we take a tour of the town?”

Silver shook his head, smiling at what the earth pony had said. “I think I’m all set to go… thanks for the advice Botanicus, I really appreciate it… if I ever get this plan rolling someday I’ll be sure to stop by and properly thank you.”

The earth pony simply smiled and replied, “The pleasure is all mine Mr. Eclipse, now please follow me and I’ll show you around town.”

The two stood up and began to walk outside, Silver excited to see everything that these ponies had done.

The two had walked around town for an hour, Botanicus showing him the different experimental farms, some of the old town, and even took him down to see the riverbanks. Currently they were walking through the large field that Silver had accidentally trampled on earlier, the grumpy farmer having cooled off a little in the sight of Botanicus.

Silver had enjoyed his little day trip, however one thing stuck with him more than anything else. “All these farms are cool, but how did you manage to make such an inhospitable place so… hospitable?” he asked, pausing his stride

Botanicus stopped for a moment and turned towards Silver. “You’re familiar with how this place was before ETS right?

“Yeah?” Silver asked, confused.

“Well this is just a linear step up from that. Humans have farmed in deserts for thousands of years, and this city was already such a large agricultural site that all it took was some careful teamwork and planning in order to make what you see today. We have a lot of earth ponies here to help with the agriculture, but we also have a lot of other ponies as well, the pegasi in particular were such an important part of making this all work because the river wasn’t as regulated as well as it was before ETS… not enough people to regulate the water level up at the dam you see. It took a while for enough of them to really manipulate the weather in any decent enough capacity to help irrigate when the water in the river was low, but the small amount of help that they’ve been able to offer has been a huge help nonetheless.”

“I see, so really you’re just expanding upon what the town was already equipped for?”

Botanicus smiled, “Exactly!” he gestured with his hoof, adding a touch of cheerful finality to the statement.

“So all of this is really just a complex combination of nature and magic?”

“Well the magic part is kind of an afterthought. Yes, the Earth ponies and pegasi have natural abilities that help with this kind of stuff, but a lot of them were farmers to begin with and know the land better than anypony else here. They could be any tribe and probably make this place work as well as you see it now.”

“Well thanks for everything, I don’t really know what I expected to find here, if anything I just needed something to kill some time with, but I feel like this has actually answered quite a few questions I didn’t think I even needed answered, and I appreciate it.”

“I know you have plans, but if you ever find yourself in town again please feel free to stop by!”

And with that Silver bid the earth pony goodbye, and began to head back towards his camp.

It was nearly 10 pm, Silver had arrived back at the camp a couple hours before. His little adventure through the city was fascinating to say the least, Botanicus had shown him the experimental earth pony farms and a better way to navigate the labyrinthian town. The town it seems was divided into sections that each focused on something different. Each section had a main path that would lead back to the hub, or “Old Town” as Botanicus had called it. Silver wouldn’t have minded staying a little longer, though this place didn’t quite stir the same peaceful feeling that Greenview had.

Silver glanced over towards Tinker, who was running through his nightly sleep routine. “Sorry to keep you up so late, I just wanted to make sure you had a chance to meet our collaborator.”

The eccentric pegasus simply chuckled and cheerfully replied, “Don’t worry about it, I’m used to pulling long nights, I’ll just trust that I’ll understand what’s happening when I see you in my dreams.”


Silver was left alone to his own thoughts and simply sat guarding the camp, enjoying the nice reflection that he could have.

Before long, it was 2am and Gyro had awoken.

“I’m awake, shall I take over?”

“If you’d like. I’ll be awake for a couple more hours if you need me.”

Silver walked to the edge of the camp, gazing back up at the stars, wondering if Scarlet was doing the same. It was amazing how something so simple could be so relaxing, and Silver already longed to stargaze with his new friend again. Maybe once they had set up a more permanent camp he could make his own little personal trip out to Greenview.

Before long Silver felt his eyes begin to get heavy, as he fell into a peaceful sleep.

Illumination had found him, and now he was set down a path of inspiration. These last few days had been very good for Silver. He was coming out of his shell more than he thought he would ever be able to. There was still much to be done however, so he wasted no time in setting up the usual dream.

Silver knew that Stanley would likely be a while, so he simply paced around the Salon, reflecting on the previous few days.

“So many possibilities, but so few resources. We’re missing some vital pieces to the puzzle, but it’s still possible...” He said out loud to himself, just trying to clear his head.

His solitary thought was interrupted by the usual intruder. “Who are you talking to?”

Silver simply smirked and replied, “You’re not as punctual as you usually are, I was beginning to think you got lost or something.”

“You know that that’s practically impossible right? Dreamwalking working as it does and whatnot.”

“It was a simple joke is all, you shouldn’t take things so seriously”

“Who could have guessed? Silver Eclipse making jokes! Maybe coming out of your shell was a bad thing after all…” The intruder reacted with an overjoyed expression of mock surprise. “So what’s on the agenda for tonight?”

“Are you genuinely interested in my plans or do you simply have nothing better to do?”

“Oh I’m sure you know full well the answer to that question. However let’s just say, a little of both.”

Silver rolled his eyes in response. “Well if you must know, we need to make some serious decisions in regards to our own plans. There’s a lot of different variables to think about, and even more left to discuss. Stanley’s dreams are really the heart of all this, but there’s something about it that calls out to me, and now hopefully our other new allies.”

The intruder raised an eyebrow, “So you’re dead set on doing this all then? It isn’t exactly going to be easy you know.”

Silver chuckled, “I know, I know… I met a few ponies that gave me some sound advice, we’re going to try and recruit others that share our dream, work with the resources that we have. It’s not going to be easy, like you said, but hopefully with that we can at least work towards something positive.”

“New Recruits? How big of a plan do you really have?”

“It’s hard to really say right now, but it’s big. You were right all along you know? Ponies aren’t meant to be isolated for so long, and I can’t just pretend like I can go back to my old life. I’m marked, it simply isn’t possible...”

Silver paused for a moment, feeling a strong surge of emotion pass through him, something he hadn’t embraced in a while, something that he just needed to let out. The intruder made it very clear that he would never judge him, so what was the point in torturing himself further by hiding his true emotion away any more?

He resumed, confidence rising in his voice, “...but maybe I can work towards something bigger, something positive. I grew up reading all these stories about the future, with my head in the stars, and I figured that maybe… maybe they don’t need to just be dreams.”

The intruder sat in silence for a moment, the genuine moment of emotion had caught them off guard. “This is why I enjoy visiting your dreams every night, you’re a bit rude at times, but I know you mean well.”

“Is this why you spend so much time annoying me instead of all the other countless dreamers that probably have far more interesting dreams?”

“Well what can I say, those other dreams get so drab, nopony else just talks with me the way you do Silver…” The intruder glanced up at the large organ on the loft behind Silver’s desk,
... or should I just call you the Phantom of the Dreamscape?” he added, with a smirk.

Ignoring his added nickname, Silver just flatly replied, “Sarcastically and disinterested?”

“You got it Mr Phantom.”

Seeing no reason to avoid it, Silver decided to ask what was on his mind.

“So listen, let me be serious for a moment. You come into my dreams night after night concerned about me… who are you?... or rather, what are you? You seem inclined to offer help and advice to those who you visit, why?”

“I don’t know if I’m comfortable going into full detail, this is your dream after all, you’re in the spotlight here. But to put it simply, let’s just say that I like helping ponies, and I can’t quite do that as efficiently in the waking world as I can here.”

“But why all this, why me?”

“Because you needed it. I could see the signs, the unhealthy obsession with your past, all of the moping around on your own. You needed somepony to come in and make a difference, and well… that’s where I came into the picture. Think of it as a favor.”

“What did you do before all of this? The transformation that is.”

“I think you’ve asked enough questions for tonight, I believe you’re expecting a visitor soon, and I’d hate to interrupt you two.”

“Oh trust me you wont…”

As Silver turned to face the intruder, he had found that they were simply gone again. Oh well, Stanley would be arriving soon enough, and then the real discussion could truly begin.

Silver truly didn’t know what to make of the strange intruder. They could be the voice of reason that he needed, while also being a nuisance at the same time. Perhaps in time even they would make a great addition to the team? Silver knew far to little about them to pursue that option however. That was an interview for another day it seemed.

Silver sat at his desk, thinking about the friends he had made over the last few days. Scarlet came to mind again, and Silver felt a twinge of guilt about not trying to dreamwalk with her like he had promised. He would have to send her a message later, he didn’t want to stand up a new friend after all. Time was sometimes hard to gauge when he was meditating like this, but after what felt like eons, the familiar voice of Stanley rang out through the Observatory.

“I’m sorry I’m late Silver!... I was trying to dreamwalk to an old friend… but I ran into some trouble with it.

“Hello Stanley, that’s perfectly alright. Please take a seat and make yourself comfortable. What we are about to discuss will set the course for our research going forward.”

“Have the others fallen asleep yet?”

“Hopefully, I asked Tinker to try and sleep as soon as he could, we can try seeking him out in a few moments. First though, a question. Tell me Stanley, do you consider yourself a man… pony of science?”

“Not in the same way you are, I’m more into the statistics. That kind of stuff, why?”

Silver seemed to hesitate for a moment. “Just... curious, there’s some stuff I need to discuss with the others when we’re able to, but for now let’s not worry about that.”

Stanley picked up the momentary hesitation, noting it. “Silver… what’s this about?”

Silver sighed. “This whole plan you have, for the Oasis, it’s not going to be easy to do alone. We need to seriously think about our plans moving forward if you’re really dead set on pursuing it, how we determine who we’re going to recruit and whatnot. We’ll be stopping in Phoenix for a more open ended amount of time, at least until Tinker’s able to make contact with his old marketing contact out east. It’ll be a good chance to potentially find more recruits.”

“Recruits? Are you thinking of expanding already?”

“Yes. To put it lightly, changing the world is a big task, and we’ll need all the help we can get if we even want to begin to start doing it. There’s powers greater than our own looming somewhere out there and we need to make sure that we can build a better tomorrow before they become an active threat. You, Tinker, Gyro… dreamers that is, are all keys to a plan that I’m trying to put into motion, a plan to help lift this world from the depths of hell and into heaven, before *they* can destroy it.”

Stanley stepped back, an almost fearful look on his face. “Who’s... “they”?”

“The powers that threaten our very existence, you heard the reports right? Of ancient creations that consume magic itself? The larger science community are still arguing over whether they’re real or not, but I don’t want to take any chances, not when the very future is on the line.”

Stanley let out a sigh of relief. “But they said that’s not going to be an issue for millenia, so why worry now?”

“Because if we don’t, then what are we going to leave for the world in a millenium? If we can work to make a brighter tomorrow for everypony now, we’ll potentially solve two problems: Solving an issue that’s cropping up right now in the present, and equipping our descendents in the far future with the knowledge, resources, and dreams that we can start building for them now. If the Devourers never even show up then we’ll at least be able to give our descendents a better world. What’s the harm in at least working towards that?”

Stanley considered this for a moment. “Have you talked with the others about this?”

“Not yet. Shall we see if Tinker is finally asleep?”

“It wouldn’t hurt”

“Alright, this will be a little different than last time, so I’ll go first. Give me a few minutes and then try and find me like how you found Moonlight.”

Tinker wandered around the castle dungeon, his preferred setting of maniacal laboratories. All number of strange and weird creations littered the lab, but the strangest and weirdest one was the one he was currently attending to. In the center of a large room sat a metal pony, electrodes connecting it to the various instruments around the room.

“At last, my greatest creation shall become a reality! The moment we have been waiting for this entire time is finally at hand! Gyro, throw the switch!”, he dramatically yelled, striking an equally dramatic pose, a flash of lightning illuminating the rainy countryside outside.

“Yes Sir.”

With that, the humble assistant threw the switch, a flurry of sparks flying in all directions as the various scientific instruments around the room began to light up as if they were coming to life. A bolt of lightning struck the lightning rod on the side of the castle, the raw energy flying through the cables and directly into the automaton in the center of the room.

“We need more power!”

“It’s at maximum power sir!”

As if on cue, another bolt of lightning struck, shaking the walls of the castle itself. More energy poured into the machine, sparks flying, the machinery and instruments sparking and shattering, threatening to shake apart into a grand explosion such as the mad scientist had never seen.

“This is it! THIS IS IT!!!” he excitedly yelled.

The lights in the dungeon shattered in a shower of sparks as the room was plunged into darkness. The glowing eyes of the automaton lit the surroundings up in an eerie red light.

“Yes… YES! Gyro… We’ve done it... It’s alive! IT’S ALIVE!!! Gyro, we’ve just created life itself!” The mad scientist laughed to himself, as his creation began to rise from it’s mechanical slumber. “Eat your heart out Doctor Frankenstein!”

“So this is what your dreams are like?” Silver chuckled to himself. “I’m not going to lie, this is more or less what I figured it would be.”

“Silver?.. How… Oh... the dream…” Tinker took a moment to compose himself, the dream paused as if someone had simply pressed the pause button, “I’ll take it that this is the intrepid young protege that you were talking about earlier?”

“Tinker, I’d like to introduce you to Stanley. Stanley, Tinker. There’s not much to discuss tonight, but I’d like to just establish the focus of my research. Stanley, why don’t you begin, with your oasis?”

“Yes… well uh… I found inspiration, a new idea, something that called out to me. A dream of a place where humans and ponies could work together.”

“A most intriguing dream indeed… do you think it would be possible?” Tinker asked

“Absolutely! We just need to find the right ponies for the job!” Stanley excitedly exclaimed, suddenly feeling at home in the strange lab.

“Where are we at in terms of members?”

Silver spoke up, “Just us four for now, which is why we need to discuss recruitment at some point. Stanley’s Oasis isn’t really a viable option for us right now, it likely won’t be for a very long time…”

“That’s likely not an easy thing to do while we’re still out on the road…”

“...Which is where Stanley’s Oasis comes in...”

Stanley stepped forward, confidently replying, “...If we can set it up, we don’t need to worry about whether you’re out on the road or not.”

“Do you have any ideas for how to go about doing this?”

“I sure do, I have a friend who might be the perfect kind of pony for this job he was always an optimist, trying to find ways to make the world a better place, I’m trying to make contact with him so I can get his help.”

“Do keep us posted on that, if you’re so set on this idea we need to really sit down and go over all the logistics. It won’t be easy Stanley, I want this idea to succeed, but we don’t have any of the resources we need right now…”, Silver interjected

Now it was Tinker’s turn to speak up, “Do you have an ideal location?”

“I’m still working on that… I kind of have to find my friend first, but do you have any ideas Silver?”

“I might… I can look up some places that might suit our needs better. This isn’t going to be easy though Stanley, I’m just trying to be realistic. If it makes you happy though we can look into what options we do have.”

“Well if you don’t mind, I’m going to try and get a head start on contacting my friend.”

“Don’t let us hold you up, Tinker and I can discuss this more in the waking world.”

As Stanley was about to leave Silver called out to him once more. “Stanley, I forgot! We’re heading into Phoenix soon, we should be there in a couple days. I know you still need to figure out where exactly your friend is, but if you find yourself in Phoenix please stop by, we need to properly meet in the waking world so we can really plan everything out. I have some sketches I’d like to show you and we can go forward from there. Let me get your number so I can send you the location we’ll be staying at.

“That’s a good idea… I’d love to sit down and plan everything out when we actually have a chance… there’s only so much we can do in a dream before it gets too complex to continue on.” Once Stanley had gotten Silver’s information he went his separate way, determined to finally find his friend.

Stanley focused hard, trying to imagine every detail of his old friend, but despite his progress he was still having trouble.

“Don’t get frustrated Stanley… Just focus!” he said to himself.

He sat there, recalling every single detail that he could about his friend, the times they had played together as children, their adventures out in the Californian desert, the memories they had shared together.

He opened his eyes, seeing nothing.

“I just wish this could be a little easier!”

With a deep sigh he closed his eyes again.

“I just need to relax, take a break, that sort of thing.”

Stanley sat and meditated for a while, calmly picturing his friend in his mind. When he opened his eyes he noticed a large star sitting in front of him.

“FINALLY!” he excitedly shouted before diving right into the dream. The first thing he was greeted with was a large circular chamber bathed in a pleasant blue light.

“Look, there need to be more tests! No... we’re not set up to transmit that far and you know it. Listen, you might be concerned with the final result more than anything else, but if the subject suffers complete molecular dissociation the blood will be on your hands not mine!”

Stanley suddenly perked up, noticing a lone unicorn sat at some sort of control terminal, angrily yelling into the comm.

“Yes of course it’s a potential risk! Didn’t you bother reading the documentation you dolt?! Teleportation isn’t something you can just mess around with willy nilly, there’s far too many variables involved to just jump in without the proper safety failsafes! Oh really? You’re just begging to get hit with a slew of lawsuits when your travelers show up at their destination as a pile of ash!”

As if he needed to emphasize his anger, the figure angrily hit the desk.

“Look, I’m not approving your request, and that’s final!”

He angrily hung up the comm, and resumed pressing buttons on the console. The lighting in the room around him suddenly shifted from pleasing blues to harsh reds, a large shield lowering over the tube in the center of the room.

“Patrick? Is that you?!”

The figure shifted suddenly, suddenly noticing the night pony sitting among the shadows.

“Who are you? How did you get in here?!”

“Patrick! It’s me!”

“S...Stanley? Oh my God it’s really you… How is this possible?”

Stanley walked out from the shadows, revealing his form to his old friend.

Patrick stood there for a few moments, finally chuckling to himself, “You know? I shouldn’t really be surprised that you turned out to be a night pony… Stanley “The Wolf Man” Himself… Sorry if it seems like I’m laughing at you, I’m not. Though maybe Drac is a more fitting nickname now eh?”

“Don’t worry Pat, I’ve learned to face my fears… do you really have to bring up that childhood nickname again though?”

“Oh you know I do Wolfie, you remember how scared you were when you first saw that movie?”

“Come on Pat, I was afraid of everything…”

“Of course, but you also insisted on leaving every light on at night for a month so the Wolf Man wouldn’t get you.”

Stanley couldn’t help but laugh with his friend, as annoyed as he was it was a bit funny to him in hindsight.

“Ok Pat, I’ll give you that, but let’s get serious for a moment. I’ve had some amazing luck over the last few days and it’s given me some enlightenment. I’m going to work with some amazing ponies that are dead set on changing the world for the better, and I knew that that was something you might be interested in. I’m headed towards Arizona to go meet up with them, do you still live out there?”

“I’m not going to lie Wolfie, the idea is… interesting to say the least. Oh and yes, I still do, but let’s just say that I’ve had to move down the road a little bit… about two hours down the road… You ever been to the Grand Canyon?”

“No… but it’s never too late for a first time visit right?”

“Perfect! I can’t wait to see you again, we’ll have to catch up over lunch like the good old days when you get here… By the way? Where did you wind up? Hopefully you’re not still in Crystal Cove… right?”

“I was… but now I’m not. I’m near Orange, visiting some old haunts from my past, I should be able to get to you in a few days if everything goes well.”

“Well I can’t wait to see you again. Do you still have your phone?”

“I do… It’s not exactly easy to use right now though… you know, no horn to manipulate it with and all that…”

“Yeah… I guess I kind of forgot about that… Well do you think you’ll be able to at least navigate to your messages? It’s a little hard for me to give precise directions to my camp right now, but I’ll send you the location as soon as I can if that helps.”

“It might be a little hard, but I think I can manage it. I guess if I need any clarification I could always contact you again like this.”

“Whatever works best for you Wolfie, I really can’t wait to catch up again, it’s been far too long since we’ve had the chance to really do that.”

“Me too Pat, me too…”

Ch 6 - "Close Encounters of the Curious Kind"

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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!

Ch 7 - "A Meeting of the Minds!"

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Silver opened his eyes and immediately cringed back at the light coming through the window in his quarters. He slowly sat up and started rubbing his temples, recoiling from the headache that was currently pounding on his head. The previous evening was starting to come back to him, they had celebrated their arrival and rekindled their friendship with Marcus over a lavish dinner and discussed some of their plans going forward. Everything following that was a bit of a blur, but Silver remembered drinking quite a bit to celebrate… social events were fun for ponies after all, surely the intruder wouldn’t fault him for indulging a little more than usual if he was at least coming out of his shell.

Silver sat up in bed and rubbed his eyes, glancing out the open door and across to Stanley’s room, which was presumably empty. Stanley and Marcus had likely already departed, and would be well on their way to the Grand Canyon by now. Silver suddenly remembered what had been so important to him, and proceeded to jump out of bed faster than he had in a long time. Immediately he ran down the hallway and into the central warehouse space, startling Tinker and Gyro, who were groggily enjoying a late lunch, evidently still hung over from the night before as well.

Ignoring his headache he shouted out to the two inventors, “Tinker, Gyro! I have some great news!”

The two recoiled at this sudden outburst, their ears flinching down.

“Silver, do you really need to shout right now?!” Tinker said with a twinge of annoyance, his usual cheer and charisma drained at the moment.

“Yes! Err.. sorry, I know we’re all probably a little hung over from last night…” Silver said, ignoring his own headache once more. “...But I’ve got some really great news that I think you’re all going to really enjoy!”

“Okay, so what is this news, Silver?” Gyro said, holding a hoof to his head, a twinge of annoyance in his voice.

Silver ignored this, knowing that he was undoubtedly causing quite a bit of discomfort for the two inventors. “Ok, well you two remember our discussion about the Oasis, and how it wasn’t a viable solution?...”

“Yes?” the two inventors said in unison”

Silver smiled, cheerfully raising his voice again. “Well… It’s viable now.”

Gyro sat up in his chair, “Hold on, what do you mean it’s viable now?”

“Ok well I don’t know how to drop this lightly so let me just rip the bandage right off. I was doing my usual dream routine, and I thought that an old… friend had stopped by. It wasn’t that friend though, it was an... emissary sent by a pony going by the name of Sunset Blessing… you ever hear about her?”

Tinker suddenly sat up, spitting out his water, drawing another annoyed glare from Gyro. “That shimmerist down in South Carolina?! How on Earth did you manage to draw her attention?”

Silver beamed again, barely able to contain himself. “Well it turns out that gossip spreads fast amongst dreamwalkers, and word of my searching for ponies like you two, the ones who want to change the world, eventually spread down to Sunset Blessing, and she sent forward an interesting proposal.”

Gyro perked up but remained as stoic as ever. “What’s the proposal? What does Sunset want from us?”

“She’s been looking for ponies to help her with some of her projects, we happen to fit the bill for some of that, in return for our aid she’d be willing to help us acquire certain resources… this might be exactly the kind of thing we need to get the Oasis up and running. It’d be a home base, someplace of our own where we could actually start working on some innovative projects to try and make the world a better place without any interference and all we’d need to do is help Sunset with some of her projects every once in a while. I know you can already see the potential Tinker, I can see the wheels turning in your head.” He said as he turned towards Tinker.

“Yes, well I certainly can… what kind of projects did she have in mind?” Tinker said curiously.

“Her emissary… didn’t say, but it’s a small price to pay to attain a largely unattainable goal. I didn’t fully agree to anything yet by the way, so if you’d rather work out of a borrowed warehouse with the budgetary and governmental limitations that we’re dealing with right now then that’s perfectly fine too. I’ll let you think on it.” Silver turned to look out the window, seeing the large mountains in the distance. He smirked, before adding, “You know, Sunset’s stirred up a lot of influence in the government by the way, influence that might turn out useful with the Oasis project. Influence that might be able to get certain restrictions for a project of this size lifted--”

“--I’m in!” he loudly proclaimed, surprising Silver.

Silver merely smirked, and turned back towards the duo. “Glad to hear!”

Gyro snapped up in his seat. “Sir? Are you positive?”

“Yes Gyro! This is the chance of a lifetime, to fully realize our own goals. We want to help other ponies correct?”

Gyro sighed, knowing where this was going, “Yes.”

Tinker continued, “Well, this is the chance to do that right? Everything we could ever need is being handed to us on a silver platter and all that’s being asked in return is to work on some projects here and there! It’d be foolish to turn this opportunity down!”

“You’re dead set on this Sir?”

“I am Gyro. Now you know we can’t afford to let this opportunity slip away.”

Silver stepped in, “I’m glad we can all agree on this. I know you have your own reservations Gyro, I do too. That’s why I scheduled the final meeting for a couple days from now, so we could go over our ideas, what we need and where we need it. I’ve put a little bit of thought into this, if we want to start right away we could always look at taking over an abandoned mining town, there’s a few out in the Verde Valley that might suit our needs nicely, I’m sure it wouldn’t be too hard for Sunset to acquire one for our needs.”

“Why the Verde Valley?”

“Well it’s close for one, secluded and beautiful for another, but most of all it’s got some interesting legend rooted in mysticism. Have you heard some of the local legends of the area? There’s a lot of spiritual debate about it, but what if those legends aren’t just legends? There might be something about the region that helps channel magical energy, what if we could find a use for that?”

“Are you talking magical research?”

“Exactly! What if we could unlock it’s mysteries, make something amazing that could really help both ponies and humans?”

“It’s an interesting concept but we still know so little about magic, I doubt we’ll make any breakthroughs anytime soon.”

“What’s the harm in future proofing though? If we have a permanent base of operations we don’t need to worry about that, besides the seclusion would suit our needs nicely. No nosy neighbors to have to deal with.”

“Ok. You have a point, you’ve won me over.” Gyro chimed in, rubbing his temples with his hooves.

“Alright Silver, so what do we need to prepare for your next meeting? Is there any chance we could sit along with you?”

“That’s… err, complicated. Dreamwalking isn’t really something you two can learn to do, so I’m afraid Stanley and I will have to sit in for that. We’ll brief you on everything when we wake up though, and we can even arrange for Sunset to send us any of the relevant documents that we might need. I know it’s not the most ideal situation but it’s better than nothing.”

“Well, I suppose that’ll have to do. I’m excited to see where this all goes!”

“Me too Tinker, Me too!” Silver beamed, hardly able to contain his excitement.

The sun shined through the window shades in the small studio. As the it continued its journey through the sky the solitary beam shining through the window moved until it reached a pair of sleeping night ponies, causing one of them to stir. Sprocket woke up much the same as he would any other day, but something had piqued his interest the night before. A group of ponies had pulled a strange looking cart into town, definitely an unusual sight for the town. The night pony stood up and walked over to the bathroom, rinsing his face off and looking up at his reflection, noting his disheveled jet black mane that would no doubt be a pain to sort out on his own.

He sighed and walked back over to his sleeping companion companion, shaking her from her sleep. “Gadget I need your help again.”

She rolled over, pulling the comforter over her head. “What is it now Sprocky?”

He sighed again, feeling embarrassed by the simple request. “My mane’s a mess and I need help. Again.”

The covered night pony just giggled to herself. “Cmon Sprocky, you’re almost 25 and you still need me to take care of you?”

“Yes. I do. Now come on, let’s go!”

Gadget sighed, rolling out of bed and stifling a laugh when she saw the state of her friend’s mane. “Ok, come on champ let’s go see what we can do.”

The two walked into the bathroom, Sprocket flipping the light on, causing the two to squint their eyes for a moment, still sensitive to the bright overhead lights. Gadget turned the water on and started to brush his mane out. “Ok Sprocky, you really gotta sort this out for yourself sometime… but it is kind of relaxing, almost like i’m brushing a big dog.”

Sprocket simply rolled his eyes, sarcastically commenting, “You’re a real comedian you know that?”

“Well I’m glad at least one of us is!”, she chuckled back.

Sprocket spoke up again. “Gadget, did you happen to see where those strange new ponies wandered off to? The ones with the cart--”

“--Do you think they’re what we’ve been looking for?”, she finished, continuing to sort out her best friend’s mane.

“I mean, well what have we been looking for? A group of strange ponies pulling a strange cart into town isn’t exactly normal. Do you think they’re--”

“Other Inventors?!” the two said in unison.

Sprocket chuckled to himself, “They might be? Shall we roll out the proverbial red carpet? Wine and dine them? Pick their brains and see if they’re the kind of ponies we’ve been looking for?”

“Do you think they’d be interested in our idea? It’s not exactly the most conventional idea now… plus they might take us as a couple of shimmerists.”

Sprocket straightened up, obviously annoyed at her response. “Wanting to stay separate from the humans isn’t shimmerism Gadget! I don’t know how many times we need to get that across!”

Gadget took a few steps back, “Ok, ok. Calm down, I’m just stating a fact backed by every other interaction we’ve had so far. I’m about ready to leave this town and take my chances in some other community if it’s all the same with you.”

“It isn’t.”

“And you think this idea is a better alternative? What’s wrong with crashing with the other ponies? And you need to sit still otherwise I’m going to pull on your mane and you’ll really be annoyed with me!”

Sprocket settled back down, as Gadget resumed brushing his mane. “Well for one, they seem open to the idea of working with humans eventually… I just don’t feel comfortable with that right now.”

“You were literally one of those humans no less than 3 months ago Sprocket, isn’t it a little ironic to suddenly distrust them like you’re doing?”

“Ok that’s a fair point, but can humans fly? Can humans dreamwalk? I don’t think so. Yeah they have thumbs and hands, but I’ll take this any day over that. “He dramatically flexed his wings, earning an annoyed glare from Gadget. “Besides, we’re better off now, better suited to the environment. You get the idea?”

Gadget sighed, finishing up his mane, and starting on her own, pulling it back into a simple ponytail, using her wings to help. “I guess. So you wanna go see them now? Why’d we even wait this long? There was a night pony with them last night so it’s not like he wouldn’t have been awake.”

Sprocket smirked as the two shut off the water and light, and headed out into the room, “I thought you’d never ask! Oh and to answer your question, you know I can’t just cancel my evening plans on such short notice like that!”

Gadget just rolled her eyes at him, grabbing her saddlebags. “So where did you even see them go off to?”

The two walked out of the small studio, Sprocket simply leaving the door unlocked, for what valuables did they even have to steal anyways? “Some old warehouse”

The two continued to walk down the street, heading to one of the local parks, a popular destination for the town’s ponies. “Ok but how are we supposed to find them? Just knock on every single warehouse door until we find three ponies and a cart? Phoenix is a big city Sprocket, I don’t know if you understand that or not?”

Sprocket chuckled at her question. “Well it’s an unusual sight right? Let’s just ask around and go from there. Besides, they were close by yesterday, I can’t imagine they would have gone far.”

“I… I guess that works. Want to go grab something to eat? I’m starving.”

“Really? Now?”

“Oh come on Sprocky, it’s not even that bright out right now!”

Sprocket sighed “Fine. It’s your turn to pay this time though.”

“Oh come on, you’re really going to make me pay? I thought you were a proper gentleman” She teased

“Yep! I sure am!” He replied, smiling smugly.

“You’re no fun sometimes, you know that?”

“I sure do.”

Gadget smirked at him.

The two sat under a large tree, enjoying their little picnic meal. The park being a popular hangout for ponies. Sprocket picked up his grilled cheese and took a bite, talking with Gadget in between bites. “So you think they’ll even be interested in working with some others? I just need to get all this creative energy out, you know what I mean?”

Gadget took a sip of her lemonade, and replied, “Well it’s worth a try asking them right? I mean what’s the risk?”

“The risk is that we can’t come up with something to barter our rent with, and we get evicted. I’m surprised that Deb even lets us trade her the cobbled together inventions in lieu of rent pay.”

Gadget chuckled, remembering a story from one of her old high school teachers. “That reminds me of something my old history teacher Professor Davis told me, She and an old friend of hers were renting out some studio in the middle of the California desert and their landlord would accept paintings as rent, so is this really all that different?”

“I guess not, but those were paintings, these are glorified metal boxes stuffed full of used pinball machine parts. I don’t know when Deb’s going to realize the scrap we’re shoveling to her isn’t actually useful, but let’s hope that she doesn’t catch on.”

Gadget took another sip. “You know, I don’t think we should cheat Deb like that, she’s always been so nice to us.”

“We don’t really have an alternative right now Gadget, unless you want to go live in some hippie commune with a bunch of naturalist ponies.”

“Ok, I’m just being honest with you.”

The two finished their meals and threw away their trash, walking over to a couple of the regulars who frequented the park. The two pegasi were currently feeding the ducks down by the pond. The older of the two, a stallion named Jetstream excitedly greeted the pair. “Hey Sprock, Hey Gadg” How’re you two doing today?!”

Sprocket cleared his throat, taking a sip from his water bottle. “Oh you know, just wonderful as always, can’t beat a nice picnic on such a beautiful day right?”

“Oh you know it, that’s why Arrow and I love spending so much time here!” He said, nuzzling the mare next to him.

Sprocket shifted in place uncomfortably. “So anyways, you guys saw those weird ponies that pulled in last night right? The ones with the cart?”

Jetstream stopped and turned back towards Sprocket. “Yeah, why?”

“Do you know where they went?” Sprocket said, raising an eyebrow

Jetstream smiled. “No, but Zeke does.”

Sprocket stared back at them with a confused look. “Zeke?”

“Yeah, that drummer over there, he’s a bit of scatterbrain but he’s got a memory like an elephant, if anypony’s seen them it’d be Zeke.”

Sprocket sighed and walked over to the pony they were pointing to, a pegasus playing some drums with his wings. “Zeke.. is it?”

“Yeah, how can I help you?” He said as he continued to drum away.

Sprocket was starting to shout so he could actually be heard over the drumming. “You see where those weird ponies with the cart went off to?”

The pegasus paused his drumming for a moment, realizing that Sprocket was starting to get a little annoyed. “Oh that weird trio that came in last night? Yeah, I think my pegasus friend Zane saw them pull into some warehouse off of Buckeye and 35th. Why?”

“Oh… they’re just uhh… some... friends from out of town.”

Zeke raised an eyebrow and shifted back. “Ok? Well have fun with that I guess.”

“Thanks… Zeke.”

“Sure thing Sprock.” The pegasus returned to his drumming, having some fun with it in the process.

Sprocket and Gadget walked back towards their bench, looking out at the ponies enjoying their day in the park.

“So I guess we have our heading then. Wanna go get a head start?”

“Is that even a question?”

“No, it’s rhetorical.” Sprocket said as he smirked.

Gadget smiled again. “Har har you big joker, let’s get going then.”

The two stood up and started walking over towards the address the strange drummer had given them.

The two ponies approached the dilapidated looking warehouse, it certainly didn’t seem like the kind of place that creative ponies would go to. Maybe they were completely off about them.

Gadget looked to the building and then back over to Sprocket, a look of concern in her eyes. “This uhh… seem like the right place to you?”

“No. It doesn’t. It looks like a place that a bunch of serial killers would hang out in.”

“Do you think that maybe we just misread the situation? Like the last dozen times? You know? Like we always seem to do?”

Sprocket sighed, rubbing his temples with his hooves. “Yeah. Sure.. Maybe-- So now what? Think you can outrun a few axe murderers?”

Gadget shot him an annoyed glare, “You have the weirdest sense of humor, you know that? I’m going to wager a guess and say you want to go see anyways though right?”

Sprocket smiled at her comment. “You know me so well! Well on we go, 19th times the charm right?”

Gadget smiled, punching him on the shoulder playfully. “There’s the Sprocky I know! Now let’s not just stand around here like a bunch of lost children, cmon, don’t you want to see if these are the inventors you’ve been desperately looking for?”

“Okay, okay let’s go check it out. I guess our 20th failure won’t hit my ego any harder than the other 19.” he said rather sarcastically as he started walking up to the door. “Do you want to do the deed this time or shall I?”

“Oh you can do it Sprocky, if these are a bunch of axe murderers I’ll let you distract them while I bolt off.”, she teased.

Sprocket raised a hoof and knocked on the door a few times.

They waited...

And waited...

And waited…

Sprocket was starting to lose his patience. He looked up, seeing that the lights were on, and knocked a lot harder this time around.

A loud cash could be heard inside followed by the clip clop of hooves on concrete echoing from behind the door. The door suddenly swung open followed by a very annoyed looking Tinker, holding an ice pack to his head.

“Hi. Can I help you?” He winced, rubbing his head. “You woke me up so I presume this is an urgent matter?”

“Ah yes, You’re the Tinkerer I presume? My name’s Sprocket by the way.”

“The Tinkerer?”

“Yes, that inventor that made an impact by dragging some fantastical cart into town with a night pony and unicorn.”

“Oh… I guess my reputation precedes me then, the name’s Tinker by the way… but “The Tinkerer” does have a nice ring to it!”, he smirked. “So what can I help you with?”

“Well let me rip the proverbial bandage right off. I like to consider myself and my companion here an inventor as well… but we’re not having much luck here. Let me put it this way. I think ponies can do some pretty spectacular things if we all work together, can you imagine what a bunch of the brightest pony minds could do? Let me answer that for you. We could revolutionize the pony world as we know it! We can cut out the middle man, skip humans entirely, do our own thing!”

Tinker shifted the ice pack to his other hoof, considering Sprocket’s words. “Well… That is an interesting idea, but it’s quite… I don’t know how to put it, kind of shimmerist don’t you think?-- not that that’s a bad thing, it’s just not what I’m exactly lining up for right now.”

Gadget smirked at Sprocket, but didn’t say anything.

“It… has been interpreted that way, but no. To be honest, I’m not a big fan of shimmerism. Yeah I think ponies have some advantages, and this is kind of a huge leap in evolution for us, but the entire world turning into ponies won’t just magically solve every problem. I’d rather just work on advancing our own abilities away from the humans for now. Maybe in time we can work with them, but for now I think there’s a lot more potential to be had on our own.”

“Why’s that? I think that humanity still has a lot to offer us.”

“I guess I worded that wrong, let me rephrase that. We could make a name for ourselves, get the fame and fortune that comes along with this kind of idea. We’d be using our talents to help all the wayward ponies and never have to worry about dealing with petty human problems again! Rent? Traffic? Annoying neighbors? Hell no! We’d be paving our own road with a whole slew of inventions that could solve everypony’s problems!”

“I… suppose that I can see your point of view. We’re kind of dealing with something similar. We want to help everypony-- er, everyone, but it’s such a big task to deal with that we’ve decided to work on the pony problems first. We actually came here to try and set up a more permanent base of operations so we can actually start planning some of this out.”

“Well, it seems our goals are aligned after all! Let me just get right down to business. Wanna collaborate? Just imagine all the good we could all do together! This is just the beginning by the way, an Hors d'oeuvre, an aperitif if you will. This could be the start of something really great!”

Tinker seemed to consider this for a moment, no doubt thinking of the possibilities. “Well, I don’t know how long term this could be, but I think that something in the short term would be wonderful!”

Sprocket’s entire demeanor changed with this. “Fantastic! I really look forward to working together! Mind if I come in and have a drink? We can talk about some ideas, work out some details, all that fun stuff!”

“Well… We’re actually not set up for that right now… We may have celebrated a little too hard last night and we’re still sleeping that off. I’m sorry Sprocket-- Maybe tomorrow though, we could chat over lunch!”

Sprocket smirked. “That sounds like a plan then, farewell Tinkerer, you’re gonna just love this, I just know you will!”

“Goodnight Sprocket, Just stop by tomorrow whenever you’re up!”

Tinker closed the door and a few minutes later the lights in the warehouse turned off.

“Well I think that went well, I guess try #20 wasn’t a bust afterall eh Gadg?”

Gadget just laughed as the two started flying back towards their studio. “Oh I guess not, I’m glad you’re so cheerful Sprocky, I was worried that that sarcastic scowl was going to get stuck on your face!”

Sprocket just laughed, as the two landed and walked into their studio, shutting the door behind them. Gadget laid down on the couch and turned on the TV as Sprocket started to prepare their dinner, thinking about all his plans that could finally work out. For the first time in his life he might actually get the recognition he thought he deserved, the recognition that he felt was robbed from him. This was a real good day, a real good day indeed, he thought as he smirked to no one in particular.

Ch 8 - "A Grand Reunion"

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One chilling word
Like shriek or killer
Can spark the mind
To start a thriller...
Add some more sparks!
Like dagger, blood and gory!
And then ...
A mystery story...

Stanley started to stir from his sleep, the dream fading in moments. Marcus was sitting behind the wheel of the van, a good sign to the young night pony, it meant that he had likely slept through most of the journey so far. He took notice of Stanley’s movement and turned down the loud rock music that was currently giving him a headache. “Hey kid you finally awake?”

Stanley rubbed the sleep from his eyes, looking around the strange van he woke up in. “uh huh. I am now.” It was a little bit of a bumpy ride, and Stanley was glad that he hadn’t drank as much at the celebration dinner. “Where are we?... how much longer do we have?”

“Oh I don’t know kid, maybe 45 minutes to an hour? We’ll be there soon enough. Need anything?”

Stanley started to say no, but stopped himself as he suddenly became aware at how dry his mouth was. “Oh.. uhh just some water if you have some.”

Marcus continued to look at the road, gesturing to the back as he spoke. “There’s a whole box of it in the back if you want to crawl back there and get some.”

“Thanks!” Stanley sat up and carefully crawled to the back of the van, reaching for a bottle of water.

“Hey Kid, grab me one too while you’re back there.” Marcus called from the front.

“Oh.. ok Marcus, sure thing!”

Stanley crawled back into the front seat, and stared at the rapidly passing desert landscape, thinking about everything that was about to go down. He would see his old friend for the first time in years, something that he couldn’t wait for.

Stanley had to be patient however, so he simply laid down, watching the world zip by him at a rapid pace, humming along to the music.

Marcus spoke up. “So you ever been this way before kid? You’re looking at everything like it’s some alien world.”

This pulled Stanley out of his trance. “Oh uh.. Well no. What about you? Have you ever driven over here?”

“To the Canyon? Yeah, plenty of times! Every few months I’ll stop by, if anything just to watch the sunrise over it. It’s a spectacular sight to behold... the canyon that is, you’re gonna really love it!”

This put Stanley at ease, and he relaxed a little, just enjoying the ride and scenery.

Stanley had evidently zoned out again, as the next thing he noticed was Marcus pulling into the seemingly abandoned park entrance.

“Okay kid, sit tight. I’m going to pull into the parking area and get some stuff set up before I cut you loose. Do you have your phone on you by chance?”

“Uhh yeah… why?” Stanley said, as he awkwardly dug through his bag to find it.

“Here kid, let me help. If you’re going to be out for a while you might as well have actual use for your phone in case you need to call me for any reason.”

Marcus took Stanley’s phone, flipping to the settings and setting up voice controls, adding his number to the contacts, and marking the van’s location on the phone’s GPS app.

“What are you doing?” Stanley said as he craned his neck to see what Marcus was working on.

“Don’t worry kid, I just set some stuff up to make your life a hell of a lot easier in case you get lost or caught up in a sticky situation. Just ask your phone to “Call Marcus” if you ever need something. I also programed the van’s location into your GPS, it’ll make it easier to find your way back if you ever get lost. I know you’re not used to this so I’m just keeping an eye out for you.”

“Oh well… uhh thanks?”

“No problem kid, I’m gonna set up camp here for a while, just give me a ring if you need anything ok? Oh and be careful out there, there’s some dangerous wildlife around here and I don’t want to have to call out some search party on you if you wind up getting bit by some rattlesnake or stung by a scorpion.”

Stanley’s eyes widened at this. “W..what… what do you mean? Rattlesnakes? Scorpions?!”

“Yep! Don’t worry kid you’ll be fine.”

“I really wish you hadn’t mentioned the scorpions and rattlesnakes.”

“Ok, my bad. Look, you’re going to be fine, if you hear a rattling just fly out of there. You’ll… probably be ok on the scorpion front, they shouldn’t cause any problems for you as long as you don’t mess with them.”

Stanley sighed. “Ok Marcus, I’ll trust you… there’s no going back now.”

“Don’t worry kid, you’re a natural! I believe in you.” He said as he started grabbing some supplies out of the back of the van.

Stanley wandered around the empty national park, nervous and jumpy from Marcus’ admittedly blown out of proportion warning. Still though fear was something that kept him safe, all night ponies had this drilled into their heads, so he saw it as something to at least trust, lest he invade some critter’s privacy and wind up on the receiving end of an angry rattle snake’s bite. As he pushed on through the ghost town that was the national park he couldn’t help but marvel at how untouched everything was. It was just as if everypony had simply vanished into thin air. He continued to walk around the park, eventually coming across a little scenic lookout. A little ways away there was a relatively new looking trail leading down to the Canyon floor, and further down a small village could be seen.

He couldn’t help but wonder about the village off in the distance. Was it only ponies that lived in it? How did it even come to be? Pony only settlements that were bigger than a small handful of ponies weren’t all too common, so if he was looking at one he was looking at something unique indeed. Stanley walked over to one of the old but still functional binoculars, and gazed out towards the village. He couldn’t make out much but he did notice a few figures flying around above it, but it wasn’t enough to really confirm or deny his theory. He simply shrugged and walked over to a concrete bench near the lookout, not really seeing any reason to investigate the village any further.

Stanley sat and just breathed in the cool air for a few minutes, looking over at the Canyon in front of him. The bench wasn’t the most comfortable thing to sit on, but it was better than the floor, so he put up with the minor inconvenience. Stanley sighed and dug out his phone again, awkwardly navigating to his messages, and clicking the link that Patrick had sent him. He was definitely in the right place… but probably the wrong time. He didn’t know when Patrick would arrive, but he was where he was supposed to be so it didn’t matter much.

The sight before him was truly beautiful, the fact that such a wonderful sight was left untouched by the world around it, save for the small village set up in the distance, was something amazing to the young night pony and it genuinely took his breath away. Stanley glanced down at his watch, glad that one of his most prized possessions could still be of use to him. His old friend should have been there already, Stanley hoped that he didn’t run into any kind of trouble along the way.

As if on cue a loud commotion could be heard from within the nearby brush.

“Gah! Get out of here!... I’m really not set up for this, this isn’t a life for a Unicorn!”

“Pat is that you?!” Stanley shouted out, obviously surprised by the sudden interruption.

“Stanley?! Man is it good to hear a familiar voice.” His friend stumbled out of the brush, dusting himself off. “Would you get a load of the local wildlife?” He joked.

“I… already have. So how have you been?!”

“I’m great! It’s great to see you again, it’s really been too long Wolfie. Damn, it must have been at least three or so years since we’ve caught up in person right?”

“Only two… but that’s still too long. I’ve been doing great, I had some… help… with getting over my fears.”

“That’s great to hear! Anyone from the old gang?”

“Well… Let’s just say they’re a friend and leave it at that.”

“Hey that works for me, so what do I owe this unexpected visit? You’ve never been one to just venture out into the world and explore…”

“I kind of needed to, it’s weird but transforming really made a lot of things easier for me. I found the strength to conquer my fears and move on with my life. There wasn’t anything left for me back in Crystal Cove. I had a dream, something that gave me a new direction, something to look and work for. It started as a pipe dream of my own, but fate brought me to new friends, friends that could help with this dream.”

“What is that dream?”

“It’s a dream of the future… kind of vague I know, but it’s the best way I can word it. It’s a place where ponies like me can fit in, where ponies and humans can work and live together without having to fight or be afraid… that’s what I want at least. My new friends have dreams for it too, but they’re more focused on changing the entire world one small step at a time. I think it’s a lot of work but I won’t argue with them.”

“... So a city of the Future? That’s a tall order Wolfie, you know that right?”

“I do, which is why we need all the help we can get. I know that you’re not really a scientist, but I also know that you’ve always been an optimist, those are the kind of people that we need.”

“Well Wolfie… I suppose I could give it a chance. I mean hey, I’m a drifter right now as it is, so what’s another adventure?”

“I’m glad to hear that Pat, I really am. I think you’re going to get along with the others just fine! So what brought you all the way here Pat?”

“That’s a fine question indeed Wolfie, my reasons for coming here are more out of necessity more than anything. I kind of got run out of my old town, so I’ve been drifting around Arizona for a while, trying to find a more permanent home. The Grand Canyon is beautiful, but it’s also home to a small tightly knit pony community. “The Court of Miracles”, “The City of Silence”, The Mirage in the Canyon”... a lot of fantastical names, for a seemingly un-fantastical place. Truth be told I’d rather take my chances with you and your friends, but I’ve come all this way, we might as well take a look at the village, see what kind of ponies live there… you know?”

“Yeah… I know… something seems off though. Look, my camp’s not too far away, we can head over there if you want, settle down for the night, and then head back to Phoenix in the morning.”

“Well let’s just give it a quick look then, maybe grab a bite to eat, and then head back to your camp.”

“You’re dead set on this then?”

“I’m not dead set on it… but I’m curious… what’s the harm in at least looking?”

Stanley sighed deeply. “Ok Pat, fine. We can go look-- but not for too long ok?!”

“Sure thing Wolfie!”

Stanley and Patrick walked along the narrow trail that hugged the canyon wall for a while until they reached a larger ledge overlooking the canyon floor. The sun began to set, Stanley was amazed at the sight before him. The canyon walls lit up by the sunset were really a sight to see.

“You really think we should go down there? I mean my friends are setting up a more permanent home in Phoenix for now, I don’t think they’d mind if we stayed with them…”

“...That’s fine, but I’ve come all this way and I’ve been trying to find this for a while. I kind of just want to get some closure on it if that’s alright with you? Come on Wolfie, it’s time to take a Journey… to the Center of the Earth!”

With a somewhat hesitant tone in his voice, Stanley replied, “Oh alright, but just for a little while ok? This place kind of gives me the creeps.” A Jules Verne reference? Pat and Silver are going to get along just fine when they meet… he thought to himself

With that the two friends ventured down into the canyon, coming across a smooth adobe wall and a closed gate.

“This is genius! It’s all so authentic!” Patrick yelled as he gestured at the adobe walls.

Stanley nervously glanced around. “I’m still a little hesitant about this Pat, it just feels too… perfect?”

“We’ll be fine Stanley, look, if you’re worried just give your friend a call.”

“No, it’s fine Pat.”

“Awesome! Let’s go in then!” Patrick pushed the gate open, and the two friends walked in.

Stanley gave off a few more nervous glances. “Ok we stopped by!--”

“--Look Stanley, more night ponies, maybe you’ll make a few friends here too!”

“I don’t know, I think maybe we should leave--” He was suddenly cut off by a cheerful greeting.

“A warm welcome to you both! You must have come a long way if you’ve found yourselves here, why don’t you sit down for a little bit, we’ll get you some food and water!”

“See Wolfie, we’re fine. Let’s just sit down and have a quick meal and then we can go, ok?”

An orange night pony mare trotted over to the duo. “My apologies, I haven’t even introduced myself yet. My name is Sunset Dawn, the leader of this fair community.”

“Well nice to meet you too Sunset, I’m Patrick and this is my good friend Stanley. I heard all about this place a few weeks ago when I was riding with some drifters out in the desert, and I’ve been looking for this place ever since. You’ve sure started quite a few rumors in the local villages.”

“Well rumors are rumors of course, I hope nothing bad though!” She laughed out.

“Sunset Dawn? Isn’t that a little contradictory?” Stanley said out loud.

“Well my dear, it’s more symbolic. Surely you’re not shy to the concept of Shimmerists right? I personally believe that the ETS Pandemic was some miracle of fate, that we’ve been given a higher purpose in our lives. Sunset Shimmer gave us a new dawn, and I believe that we have an obligation to take it.”

“I… I suppose that makes sense”

“Fear not travelers, you’re safe from the outside world for now. Now, you’ve yet to receive a tour of this wonderful city, one of our wonderful residents will guide you through the city and show you all that it has to offer and bring you down to our marvelous great hall, where you can eat and drink as much as you’d like. Who knows, you might never even want to leave!”

Stanley was getting a very strange feeling of unease, this place, these ponies… they all seemed too… perfect.

Patrick on the other hand was as cheerful as ever. “Thanks for the warm welcome Sunset--”

“--Dawn, please. We’re all friends here, so I ask that you just call me Dawn.”

“Sure thing Dawn, thanks for all the hospitality, we appreciate it.”

A dark green night pony mare trotted up to the group, nervously looking back towards the building she had just exited from.

“Aha, your guide is here at last, Midnight you’re late again.”

“My apologies Dawn, I was caught up with our other new resident.”

“Now you know I don’t like excuses, we can talk about this later. Please introduce yourselves to our new guests, Stanley and Patrick.”

“It is very nice to meet you both, my name is Midnight Sun, I’ve been a resident here for a couple months now, and I’d be pleased to show you around the city!” She said somewhat cheerfully.

“Well I’ll leave you three to it, I have some business to attend to, I’m sure we’ll all meet for dinner later in the grand hall.”

“We would be delighted to Dawn!” Patrick enthusiastically said.

With that, Midnight led the duo down the hall she had exited from earlier, leaning close to the pair.

“Sorry for the overly zealous act, I need to put on a show for Dawn otherwise she’ll get on my case… Look, you shouldn’t have come here, It’s dangerous, these ponies seem welcoming at first but the group is like a cult. I can help you leave though… I want out too.”

“What do you…” Stanley began to ask, Midnight cutting him off before he could finish his sentence.

“Shh, I’ll answer all your questions later, but we need to get to a more private area.” In a louder tone she started pointing out the different sights and facilities of the village. “And over here we have our library, a truly wonderful little room, real good for all your entertainment and intellectual needs! Shall we take a look inside?!”

“Uh… Sure?”

Midnight opened the door and led the duo in, keeping an eye out for any other ponies that might have been shadowing them. Seemingly pleased with the situation, she shut and locked the door behind her.

“Ok, we should have enough privacy in here, Gizmo you can drop the act now.”

An older looking earth pony sat in the corner of the room, examining a weathered copy of the bible. Sitting up, he adjusted in his seat, looking towards the group.

“Finally, I can’t say it’s a real page turner, but you guys have the good stuff under lock and key… Oh howdy there, pleased to make your acquaintance, I’m Dr. Jacques Seeker… but please just call me Gizmo, or Giz, whatever suits you best.”

Patrick led the charge this time

“Well hello there… Gizmo. I’m Patrick…”

“And I’m Stanley. Nice to meet you.”

Midnight just rolled her eyes and looked at the clock on the wall. “Ok, we don’t exactly have a lot of time so let’s drop the formalities. You’re all fools for coming here… all of us are to be honest…”

Patrick looked at Midnight with a look of pure confusion. “I hate to interrupt, but what makes you say that?”

Midnight just rolled her eyes again. “Are you blindly optimistic or something? Did you not question why everypony’s been so cheerful and happy here? It’s not just some coincidence, Dawn’s a bit of an overzealous nutcase and she’s attracted like minded company. The city is nice enough but the residents just give me the creeps.”

“I… well… Look, optimism has nothing to do with it, they’ve been very hospitable to us so I’ve just been trying to repay their kindness. What do you mean by all of this? You’re making it sound like they’re some kind of cult.”

With a slightly annoyed tone, Midnight replied back, “Look, they practically are… Dawn runs this place like a cult and once you’re in She’ll find any reason to keep you here. I could have just flown out but I have nowhere else to go, no supplies, you guys evidently do. I want to go with you.”

“Ok, let’s get back to the topic at hand, arguing back and forth with each other won’t get us anywhere.” Stanley said, suddenly gaining a bit of confidence.

Gizmo sat up in his chair. “Your friend’s right… Pat was it? I might be old but with age comes wisdom, and your friend’s got a wise idea.”

Midnight spoke up again. “Ok listen, Dawn, her guards, and the leader of the guard, Calamity, won’t let you leave. At least not tonight. They’ll cite the danger of the world outside the walls, the wildlife, whatever they can think of. Besides, it’s not exactly the smartest idea to just go wandering through a dark canyon at night. I know we can see in the dark but Giz and your friend here can’t.”

“I’m sorry… Midnight, but what exactly do we need to do?”

“Be yourselves, Stanley. Pretend like you’re interested in seeing the community. These zealots might be overzealous but they’ll respect you if you act out the motions. It’ll help keep the heat off of us for when we decide to leave. Giz and I have been plotting out the patrols, trying to guess the schedule. There’s some guards that go into rotation early in the morning that should be friendly towards us and won’t go running for Dawn and Calamity. They can’t do anything about us leaving, but they’ll talk our ears off and just wind up distracting us.”

“So what you’re saying is that we sit and wait?”

The green earth pony perked up, facing Patrick, “Yes, that’s more or less the gist of it. I used to be a botanist before… well before all of this, so i’m used to waiting around all day.”

“Which is why you’ll be playing the part of the unassuming guests skipping town. Dawn’s going to be upset when Giz and I try to leave, but if we’re just escorting you out she probably won’t realize we’re gone until we’re far from this place. Dawn’s got an ego bigger than the canyon so this is going to hit her right where it hurts.”

It was Stanley’s turn to speak now. “Ok… I think this makes sense. When is this all going down?”

“Tomorrow. It’ll lessen the blow. I don’t hate Dawn, and I’d hate to genuinely hurt her, but she’s just not the kind of pony I want to be around.”

“I guess that makes sense… I can’t say that really I trust anypony here to be honest. No offense or anything.”

“I can’t either kid, these shimmerists are unlike any other that I’ve encountered. You ever hear about the shimmerists down south? Led by some fanatical unicorn going by the name of Sunset Blessing. Now I don’t care much for her fanaticism, but she sure knows how to lead a cause… She’s rallied the whole town, some town goin’ by the name of Riverview, into expanding out. Last I heard they were already building entire neighborhoods of new houses for ponies and humans alike, it sounds like some tall tale but I’ve lived through enough tall tales to believe anything at this point.”

Stanley thought back to his interaction with Silver a couple nights prior, specifically Sunset’s offer… “Yeah, I know about Sunset Blessing. That’s… reassuring though. It really is, thanks… Gizmo.”

“Glad to help kid, when we’re out of here I’d love to tell you all a few stories around the campfire, not exactly the best kind of thanks but for me sharing stories is one of the most valuable things a group of drifters can do.”

Midnight smiled, showing genuine cheer this time around. “I’d love that Giz, maybe we could grab a real drink or two somewhere too… that communion wine isn’t doing shit for me anymore, and I can’t justify raiding their stash anymore without raising more suspicion.”

“Only if you’re buying, it’d be awfully rude to make our new friends pay, wouldn’t it?”

“Well you know Giz, all three of you kind of owe me for this masterfully thought out plan after all… Oh come on, you know I’m just kidding of course.”

“Alright, well with that out of the way, is there anything else we need to cover? I’m sure three newcomers to town hiding out in one room with a long time resident doesn’t look super natural when we’re all supposed to be on a tour of the town.”

“Don’t worry about it Patrick, Dawn encourages spending time in the library, you could spend every waking moment in here and no one would even suspect a thing. It’s the perfect meeting place for us.”

“Well… if we’re going to fit in, it wouldn’t hurt to finish our tour of the town.”

“You know, that’s not a bad idea Wolfie.”

Stanley jumped up from his spot at the table, seemingly embarrassed

“Damn it Pat, did you need to use that dumb nickname!?”

“Wolfie?... I’m sure there’s a good story behind that.” Midnight chuckled to herself.

“It’s really a dumb story for a dumb nickname.”

“Oh don’t worry about it Stanley, I think it’s kind of cute.”

“Alright you two, I don’t know about you but I’m starting to get a little peckish. Maybe we should head down to the great hall and grab something to eat.” Gizmo interjected, cutting through the awkwardness

“Yeah… I like that Idea, let’s go grab something to eat!” Stanley said, grateful that Gizmo had spoken up.

“Alright… Wolfie, I can finish showing you two around on our way there.” Midnight said, still chuckling to herself.

“Well don’t let me stand in your way, I’d love to get some real food for a change, none of that scavenged stuff I’ve been living off for a month now.” Patrick said, chuckling at Stanley’s annoyance.

And on that note, the four ponies exited the library, with their grand plans for departure fresh in their minds.

Stanley sat in the roomy guest quarters reading a book and trying to bide his time until they would make their leave in the morning. Patrick and Gizmo were already fast asleep-- had been for hours now. He had mellowed out a little since he had first entered the village, but something was still nagging at his thoughts, and despite his best efforts he couldn’t get it to leave his head. Stanley sighed and stood up, walking over to the adjacent cottage, really more of a small shack that Midnight Sun had called home.

“That you Stanley? I can almost hear your hesitation you know?” came the deadpan voice from the other side of the door.

Stanley was taken aback for a moment, suddenly remembering that pony hearing was a lot more sensitive than human hearing. “Uhh.. yeah it is. Sorry, I just needed to talk with you about something. Can I come in?”

“Door’s unlocked, feel free to come in.”

Stanley opened the door and walked in, midnight closed her book and reached over for a glass of water and took a few sips. He noticed a small bag sitting by the door, no doubt recently packed. “You’re all set to go?”

“Yeah. Nothing much to take with me, it’ll make it easier at least.”

Stanley flashed a few worried glances, finally finding the right words. “Midnight… you said this place was a cult right? Why haven’t you just called the police or some other group that might be able to help?”

“I said it was like a cult. Dawn and her loyalists are overzealous and fanatical but they’re not actually doing anything illegal-- well except maybe vandalizing a natural park, but that’s a whole different can of worms. Their operation is extremely unethical yes, but illegal no. No one’s a prisoner here, but it’s not exactly easy to leave on your own. Dawn keeps most of the food under strict lock and key, so there’s not exactly a lot of resources to flee with unless you spend weeks saving up small amounts of food.”

“Why haven’t you tried to leave already?”

“Why? Well let me tell you the truth Stanley. I was onboard with Dawn’s ideas at first, thought that maybe following the vision could work out for us but over time I guess I just grew distant from her constant spiritual lectures about how ponies are far superior to anything else and that we should try and spread that message as far as we can. I do think that we’re better off as ponies, but I’m tired of Dawn treating this like some religion. Giz coming in a few days ago, followed by you two today was the final thing I needed to convince me to make my exit.”

“Do you think that there’s others like you in here?”

“Other ponies that are maybe second guessing their decisions? Yeah, definitely. But none have come forward with it yet.”

“What if we help them?”

Midnight sighed. “Stanley… I know you mean well, but how do we help ponies that aren’t actively pointing out that they need help?”

“That's… well… ok fine-- what about the guards though? The ones that you befriended?”

Midnight’s face scrunched up into a look of confusion. “What about them?”

“What if you tell them to keep an eye out for anypony that wants to leave but doesn’t know how to, and we just come up here and hide resources outside the city every once in a while? Or maybe offer them a route out of here?”

“I guess that could work. Listen Stanley, if you want to coordinate that I’ll gladly help. But I’m not staying here any longer than I need to ok?”

Stanley shook his head. “Okay.”

Midnight smiled back at him. “Good. Now go get your stuff packed together and maybe let your friend know that you’re gonna have two extra passengers joining you on the trip home, just so it isn’t a surprise to him.”

“Alright, good idea Midnight… thanks.”

“Any time Stanley, any time!”

Ch 9 - "Seizing The Future..."

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The morning sun lit up the whole city, and Tinker was already hard at work plotting out his day. He sat there cooking his usual breakfast of eggs with a side of toast. A simple breakfast but enjoyable nonetheless. Tinker was never one for huge breakfasts, and truth be told on most days he’d eat his meager breakfast, more often than not cold by this point, hours after preparing it. It was a weird little quirk for him, a strange habitual ritual that he never really was able to break himself of. There was just too much to do in the day, and far too little time to do it.

Gyro had already been up for a couple hours, no doubt having found his own tasks to work on for the morning. The two worked this way often, each taking on some solitary task, working away at it until around noon, when they would reconvene for a brief lunch, and share their ideas and plans for the day. It was a strange way of collaborating, but it worked out well for them nonetheless.

As Tinker continued to cook his breakfast he thought back to the conversation with the strange night pony the previous night. “The Tinkerer” he chuckled to himself. It was a bit of a laughable nickname but it was becoming of him. As strange as the two ponies were, Tinker was at least excited at the prospect of there being more inventive ponies in the world, the fact that he had found so many creative minds in one place brought a smile to his face. He looked back down at the pan, and seemingly pleased with the results, turned the stove off and moved his meal to a proper plate, taking a few small bites before moving back to his work area.

Tinker’s monumental project of the day would be drafting up plans to better utilize their space, while also making preparations for the Oasis project, jotting down all the important equipment and resources they would need to negotiate with Sunset Blessing and briefing Silver so he could make sure it was all committed to memory. Tinker continued to walk down the hallway, carefully balancing his plate on his back and holding it in place with his wings.

Loud rock music could be heard from the central room, a good sign that Gyro was already hard at work with whatever crazy project was consuming him today. The two inventors were practically brothers, but despite their closeness their music taste couldn’t be further apart. While Gyro prefered loud rock music, Tinker prefered calm quiet classical music or other instrumental tracks.

“Gyro… do you think we could change to a less… loud track next?”

Gyro carefully levitated a soldering iron in front of him, making minute changes and tweaks to one of his gauntlets. Noting his friend’s request, he reached over to the speakers with his magic, turning the volume down slightly. “That ok?”

“You know how the noise gets to me…”

Gyro sighed, turning towards Tinker. “Alright. I’ll let you pick next. I don’t think you’re going to like what’s in my playlist though.”

“What if we meet at a compromise? Do you have anything less… loud?”

“Less loud?.. Yeah ok, sure. Give me a sec.” Gyro said as he carefully set his soldering iron down.

“Let’s take a look.” Tinker said as he picked up a stylus in his mouth and started flipping through all of Gyro’s different tracks, grimacing as he passed through some particularly loud rock albums. Seemingly defeated, he set the stylus down. “Ok Gyro, just hit me with your best shot, I don’t think I’m going to find anything I’ll enjoy in there.”

“Hit me with your best shot? Alright Sir I suppose that’ll do.”

“Wait what?” Tinker said with an air of confusion in his voice.

Gyro levited his phone and stylus over, scrolling through his different albums until he came across the desired track. “Aha, here we are.” he said as he tapped the song, the speakers immediately coming to life.

“Gyro I uhh…” Tinker stood back in surprise, the song was actually kind of catchy and he couldn’t help but nod his head to the beat. “Well alright Gyro, I think this’ll suit me nicely!”

“Uh huh.”

The two inventors continued their solitary projects while nodding along to the music, the time just seeming to fly by. By the time Silver had walked into the central room to greet them they were already nearly done with their own little projects.

Tinker continued to dance along to the music, earning a confused stare from Silver, who after a good minute or two of this merely shrugged. “Oh, Silver! Good morning! Come on over, I have some plans I need to discuss with you involving what we need from Sunset!”

Silver rubbed the sleep out of his eyes, pulling up a crate to sit on, knowing that Tinker’s list would likely occupy a large part of his afternoon. “Ok, let me hear it.”

“Splendid! So first we’ll need some photovoltaic cells, the necessary materials to properly support them, some battery cells to store the converted energy… ooh and a few thousand yards of wire, some computer terminals to run everything…” The list went on and on, with Tinker excitedly reciting everything to Silver from memory, as Silver could only stare back in bewilderment, the only question on his mind being “What on earth have I gotten myself into…”

Sprocket woke up just the same as he always did, in his nice comfortable bed in his cozy little studio with his best friend by his side. If there was one thing in the world that Sprocket cared more about than himself it was Gadget. Sprocket was a bit self centered, the understatement of a hundred million lifetimes, even he could acknowledge that, but he genuinely cared for her. Gadget had been there for some of the toughest parts of his life, and more importantly some of the best, and he could never hope to repay her for that. In a world that he felt had cheated him at every turn, her kindness was the one thing he truly treasured more than anything else.

He sat up and climbed out of bed, taking a peek through the window shades, curious at what the town was up to today. He quietly walked to the kitchen, and poured himself a glass of water, careful to not wake his sleeping companion. He sat and read the news for a little while, had a small snack, and then decided to wake up Gadget.

He walked towards his friend, gently shaking her shoulder. “C’mon Gadg, wakey wakey!”

She smiled and rolled over. “Come on Sprocky, just a few more minutes!”

Sprocket chuckled. “Now now, how am I supposed to get ready without your help?”

“You don’t… do you really need to go out today?” she said, giving him her best puppy dog eyes.

Sprocket considered this for a moment. “Yes… as much as I’d love to just cuddle up and sleep all day, I can’t. You know I can’t just leave those tinkerer ponies alone, I promised the leader that I’d stop by today, I don’t want to spoil this opportunity.”

She sighed, her smile returning. “Ok Sprocky, but only because you’re so nice to me.”

“You know Gadg, I don’t tell you this enough, but you’re really my best friend!”

She laughed at him, “Oh c'mon Sprocky, sometimes I think that I’m your only friend.”

“Well that makes you the best then!” Sprocket said, smiling proudly.

The two laughed, just enjoying their company as they began their usual wake up routine.

“If you don’t mind, I’m going to go grab some groceries while you’re out. We’re getting low again and I need to go talk with Deb about extending our next payment.” she said while brushing out Sprocket’s mane.

“Yeah that’s fine, I mean I can’t stop you no matter what you do!”

She smiled back at him, finishing up her handiwork. “There you go, one wild mane sorted out, that’ll be $25 please!” she teased.

“Ha ha, joke all you want, you could probably legitimately go into business with this if you really wanted to.”

“Oh come on Sprocky, you know that’d be too boring for me. Besides, you’re the only one who gets this kind of treatment, you’re special like that!” she said sticking her tongue out at him.

Sprocket just smiled as he hugged Gadget, walking over to his desk and grabbed his bag. “I’ll be back later Gadget, want me to grab anything special for dinner on the way home?”

“Surprise me!”

Sprocket chuckled as he walked outside and shut the door behind him. He walked down the street towards the warehouse, a bag full of unfinished inventions and spare parts was slung across his back. He could fly if he wanted to, but what was the point in spoiling this nice afternoon. As confidently as he walked, there was still the strange empty feeling of loneliness that always followed whenever Gadget wasn’t by his side. Sprocket would never admit this to anyone, but Gadget was probably the only pony in the world that he could consider a friend, and it was a friendship that he had cherished for a long while now.

Sprocket couldn’t even be sure if Gadget really knew how much her friendship meant to him, but it didn’t matter. As long as he had his best friend by his side he didn’t need to fret about the stresses of day to day life. The two had met a few years ago, while traveling through Arizona. Both fresh out of college and seemingly alone in the world, the two had soon become fast friends. Their friendship only grew over the years, especially during the whole ETS debacle, having a close friend to rely on now that he couldn’t do everything himself only made Sprocket’s life all the easier.

Silver sat there listening to Tinker ramble on and on about everything they needed, feeling as if he was about to lose his mind, but not wanting to snap at the enthusiastic pegasus. Silver was starting to have serious doubts that he would be able to do anything productive with his day, and it was maddening to say the least.

OH and we’ll need some high quality security cameras to monitor the site, some necessary chemistry supplies-- just to cover our future bases of course, oh and some high quality server racks to keep everything up and running smoothly…”

A loud knock could be heard ringing throughout the warehouse. Silver perked up, a look of genuine relief on his face. “Oh I’ll go get it!” Silver said, hurriedly jumping up from the crate he was using as a makeshift seat, and running to the door.

As he opened the door he was greeted by the sight of the dark cyan night pony, with a striking jet black mane, who greeted him with a surprised look. “Oh hello, I don’t… believe we’ve met in person yet.”

“I don’t believe we have… and you are?”

Tinker perked up at the sound of Sprocket’s, forgetting Silver’s interruption. He stood up and walked out to introduce the two. “Ah Silver! I see you’ve met Sprocket, hopefully a long term partner for our operations!”

“We can talk about this later. Hello Sprocket… good to meet you.”

“Likewise…. I’m sorry, what’s your name?”

“Silver. Silver Eclipse.”

“Well hello Silver. Mind if I come in?”

Silver backed away. “No, don’t let me get in your way.”

“Wonderful. Now Tinker, I believe we were going to discuss some of our plans.” He pulled his bag off, shifting it in front of him. “I’ve taken the liberty of bringing a few of my prototypes with me, I’m sure you’re an intelligent enough pony to see where I’m going with all of these.”

“Well let’s take a look. Please follow me to the workshop, we can go over some of your plans and some of ours there.” Tinker leaned closer to Sprocket and spoke in a low voice. “Don’t mind Silver, he’s a little defensive when it comes to meeting new ponies.”

Silver could only glare back in annoyance. This pony hadn’t done anything wrong yet, but something about him just didn’t resonate well with Silver, it was almost as if he had met him before but he couldn’t place where.

Tinker and Sprocket walked into the workshop and sat down at the table. “Ok Sprocket, show me what you’ve brought along today.”

Sprocket smiled and reached into his bag. “These are all prototypes mind you, but they should be workable.” The first item he pulled out was a small item that resembled a speaker with a battery and microphone taped to it. “This is a sonic amplifier, ponies can already hear far better than any human could, but this augments our hearing further. Useful for if you need to be on the alert for anything looming in the distance.”

“I can see the use in that, but is it really that much different than what we could already find in stores? I’m not saying it’s a bad idea, but what else do you have?”

Sprocket set the amplifier down and reached in again, pulling out a strange hoof mounted device. “Well this one’s a little more extreme.” He quickly mounted it to his leg and raised his hoof. “This is a personal defense device, useful for if you’re caught in a sticky situation. It has charges for pepper spray, and spring loaded bolts that can be shot out as a last resort.”

Tinker seemed a little taken aback at this invention. He scrunched his muzzle up in discomfort. “Sprocket… No offense, but I can’t say I’m a fan of this one. I want to help ponies, not hurt them.--”

“--This isn’t a weapon! I assure you, it’s meant as a last resort, a last line of defense if you will.”

“Sir… Need I remind you that we have our own stun gauntlet design?”

Tinker craned his neck around to look at his usually stoic assistant. “Well… That is true Gyro, but your gauntlets don’t have any offensive capability. They’ll deliver a mild shock but that’s it.”

Sprocket raised his own defense at Tinker’s questioning. “I know that you’re worried about this Tinker, but just think about all the ponies that you can help with these kinds of inventions.”

“Ok… I’m still a bit apprehensive about this but I’ll think about it. Anything else you have?”

Sprocket’s face brightened. “In fact, I do have one more invention that might pique your interest. I saved this for last in case you weren’t a fan of the other two. This one wasn’t exactly something I thought could make it out of the prototype stage, but I guess there’s no harm in showing you it.” Sprocket reached into his pack and pulled out another wrist mounted device. “This is a utility device, not unlike those straps that have already started to flood the market. Only mine’s better.”

Tinker raised an eyebrow and leaned forward to get a closer look at the strange device. “How is it better?”

Sprocket slowly used his wings to open up and extend the different utilities, an action that reminded Tinker of someone using a Swiss Army Knife. “It has all sorts of useful tools packed into it, and some are even mechanized to make the user experience all the better!”

Tinker was definitely intrigued by this idea. “Can you show me how that part works?”

“Well… It’s just a model right now. I do have an idea of how everything should work though, but it might be a while until it’s useful and affordable enough for ponies to actually use as a real tool.” He trailed off for a moment. “--But it’s a start, and it’s something we can work on together! Pool our resources if you will.”

Tinker sat back, rubbing his chin with a hoof. “It’s an interesting idea, I don’t know how feasible it is yet, but it’s honestly the best thing you’ve shown me today.” He paused for a moment, before turning back toward Sprocket. “You know Sprocket, this is the kind of project you should really put your resources into. You seem like the kind of pony that wants to help others, I see a bit of myself in you, and I was in your place once. The world needs ponies like you, the ones who can care about solving problems for others, and I really think that this could be the kind of invention to do that with.”

“Do you… really think so? I mean this is just some random tool, nothing that could really get my name out there.”

“I know so Sprocket. I know you have your heart set on the defense gauntlet, but there’s so much more that you can do with the utility one. You seem like the kind of pony that’s so concerned with getting some recognition that you’ve been blinded to the real potential you have. This is the kind of invention that could help so many different ponies, and I’d love to help you make this project into a reality. It’s of course your project, but I’d love to offer some assistance on it if you’ll let me. Do you have the blueprints with you?”

“I do, would you like to pull a copy of them?”

Tinker nodded. “I would if you don’t mind. Oh, while I’m working on that, please feel free to speak with Gyro and see if there’s any of our projects that you’d be interested in working on as well. Who knows, you might even find something that might prove useful in getting the utility gauntlet off the ground!”

Sprocket handed the blueprints over to Tinker and smiled. “Sure thing friend, Just let me know when you’re all done.”

“Alright Sprocket, I will!” Tinker said, smiling.

Gyro sat at his work desk and continued to fiddle around with his latest prototype. The stun gauntlets were more or less done, so he was now focusing his attention on the upgraded biomask. It was a passion project of his, something that he genuinely felt could help other ponies deal with the irritation that came with hanging out in the more polluted cities. The mask needed refinement, right now it looked too much like something out of a post apocalyptic movie, not exactly the warm inviting look that enticed ponies to spark up conversation… not that Gyro was one for conversation as it was.

Unbeknownst to Gyro, Sprocket was slowly trotting up to him. Gyro was like a machine though, and flicked his ears back towards him. He suddenly snapped around, lighting his gauntlet defensively.

Sprocket jumped back in surprise, raising his hooves in mock surrender. “Whoa, whoa, easy there Gyroscope. Calm down buddy, I’m only here to ask a few questions, that’s all.”

Gyro lowered his gauntlet. “Don’t do that again.”

“What? Ask questions or sneak up on you?”


“Ok pal, I think we got off on the wrong hoof, let’s take it back a little. Your friend over there said you had some blueprints I could look at?”


“Can I see them?”

“Can you?”

May I see them?”

“What do you want to see?”

Sprocket was starting to lose his patience. “The Blueprints.”

“What blueprints?”


Gyro sighed and shouted back his own response, a move that was incredibly out of character for the normally stoic unicorn. “Which blueprints do you want to see?! I’m not a mind reader!”

Sprocket sat there in surprise, blinking a few times before wording a meager apology. “Oh… Sorry. I guess your gauntlets.”

“Ok. Standby.” Gyro stood up and walked over to a filing cabinet and proceeded to dig through it for a few minutes. “Here you go.”

“Uhhh.. Thanks?”

“Uh huh. Don’t damage them, they’re fragile.”

Sprocket rolled his eyes. “Alright I won’t” Sprocket unrolled the plans and started taking a few pictures, the easiest method he had to make quick copies. “Do you uh… mind if I grab a few shots of the actual gauntlets? For reference of course.”

Gyro rolled his eyes and slid the gauntlet across the table. “Do NOT Drop these.”

“Alright pal I won’t.” Sprocket carefully moved the gauntlets around, taking numerous photos of them and the different modules that powered them. “This could prove useful for my own gauntlets…” He thought to himself.

“Are you finished?” Gyro impatiently asked.

“Oh… Yeah, sorry. Mind if I look over some of your other prototypes too?”

“I do mind. But Tinker doesn’t, so I’ll trust his judgement. They’re over there in that cabinet. DO NOT DROP THEM. These are the only ones we have, they’re fragile. If you break them you’re paying us back for them.”

“Alright buddy, I’ll be extra careful just for you!”

Gyro rolled his eyes again.

Tinker walked up to the duo, shooting Gyro an annoyed glare. “Sorry Sprocket, don’t pay Gyro any mind, he’s a bit protective of our inventions, he’ll warm up to you in due time. All of our prototypes are over here, and their blueprints are all stored away in that cabinet. We have a particular organizational system so please just leave the prints on the counter when you’re done and we’ll handle their organization ourselves.”

“Alright, thanks Tinkerer. I appreciate it.”

“It’s uhh.. You know, nevermind. I like the “Tinkerer” nickname. It kind of suits me!”

The two chuckled awkwardly for a moment.

“Well uhh… Mr. Tinker, I think I’m going to grab a few photos and head on out. I need to talk with my assistant about some ideas we have and what we want to work on. I think you’re right, my little utility gauntlet is just the kind of invention the world needs, I’ll bring some more plans for it over tomorrow and we can go from there.”

“Take care Sprocket, I look forward to seeing you again tomorrow!”

“Likewise Tinkerer! Cya later Gyroscope!”

“My name is Gyro.”

“Uh uh, nighty night pal.” Sprocket chuckled as he walked out the door.

Gyro rolled his eyes once more. “He’s really getting on my nerves.”

“I know, but let’s just see how this goes. The pony’s a genius.”

“I don’t know if I’d call it that.”

“Oh hush Gyro, you need to lighten up a little more!”

“Sure thing Sir.” he replied flatly.

Sprocket trotted down the street, humming a cheerful tune. The meeting today was… interesting to say the least, but he felt that it was at least fruitful. The unicorn’s stun gauntlets might very well be the key to getting his own gauntlet plans off the ground, but still, the tinkerer’s own thoughts on those plans kind of put some doubt in Sprocket’s mind… maybe the utility gauntlet’s would be the way to go. Gadget would never truly understand his obsession with getting the defense variety working, but he didn’t need her to. He didn’t fear much in this world, but losing her, his only real true friend, was the biggest fear imaginable for him. Some things were better left unexplained.

He continued to walk down the sidewalk, finally arriving at his shared studio. He juggled the multiple bags, one holding his prototypes and the other holding their dinner, Sprocket’s favorite: grilled cheese.

He pushed open the door and called in. “Hey Gadget, you in there? I’m home now!”

“Hey Sprocky, I’ll be out in a minute!” He could hear the sound of the shower stopping, and a few minutes later Gadget emerged. “It’s about time, I’m starving!”

“Me too!” He reached for the dinner bag, bringing it over to the table. “I’ve got some interesting plans to go over with you after dinner by the way.”

“Uh huh, sounds good. So what’d you get us?”

“Oh you know, my favorite!”

“Grilled cheese?”


“Alright well let’s go set up the table.”

The two jumped right into work, setting the table and pulling up a couple chairs.

“So what’s our next big project?”

“Well there’s two things. Both are gauntlets, one is the defense gauntlet the other is the utility gauntlet.”

Gadget sighed. “Sprocky, do we really need to make the defense gauntlet? You know how I don’t like working on weapons.”

“It’s not a weapon… It’s for self defense.”

“It’s a gauntlet that shoots out bolts and pepper spray. Sounds like a weapon to me.”

Sprocket turned his ears down and looked away, not enjoying her reaction. “Alright alright, let’s work on the utility gauntlet for now, if that’ll make you feel better.”

“It really would Sprocky.”

He lightened up a little at this. “You know, that Tinkerer pony seemed to think the same thing.”

“So why don’t you take his advice?”

“It’s… It’s complicated Gadg, just trust me on that ok?”

“But why is it complicated Sprocket?” She asked, frustration evident in her voice.

“I… Just please Gadg, I don’t want to fight about this!”

She sighed. “Ok Sprocket fine. I just don’t like how you get all nervous and anxious every time this comes up. You’re my friend and I can’t stand to see you get worked up about something without telling me what’s working you up.”

“I know Gadg, Thanks. I’m sorry, we can focus on the utility gauntlet for now if you really want to.”

She leaned in and hugged him. “Thanks Sprocky.”

The two finished up their dinner and cleaned up the table.

Sprocket seemed a little more uncertain than usual. “Gadget, do you think we’ll really be able to get the utility gauntlet to work?”

“Sprocket, when have you ever doubted yourself?”

“It’s just… you think other ponies will really like this?”

“I know for a fact that they’d sure like it a lot more than a weapon.”

“It’s not a…” he began to mumble out, stopping himself when he noticed Gadget’s annoyed look. “I mean… I guess we have our direction…” Sprocket stood up and started walking to the bed. He paused and looked back at his friend.”

“Thanks Gadg. I don’t know what I’d do without you, you know that right?”

“I do Sprocky, I do.” She chuckled, “though… it is kind of nice to hear you admit it every once in a while!”

“You really are a real joker, you know that Gadg?”

“Of course I do Sprocky. Want to start blocking out some of our ideas? I don’t know about you, but I sure am excited to start work on this!”

“I… I think I am too!”

“Well what’re we waiting for then! Let me go get my sketchbook out and we can start working on it!”

“I’ll go get the plans and snacks set up!”

“Snacks? But we just ate dinner!”

“Oh c’mon! You know we can’t design without some snacks!”

“Oh alright, I guess we can have some snacks.”

“You’re the best Gadg, you know that?”

“I Sure do Sprocky, I sure do!”

Ch 10 - "The Cartographer's Crusade"

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The sun had started to rise over the horizon, and the group, now assembled in Midnight’s quarters, watched as the guards opened the gates. Midnight stood up and walked towards the door, turning to face her assembled team.

“Alright everypony, it’s go time. You all know the plan right?”

Stanley nervously looked between the assembled ponies. “We… make a run for the exit before Dawn notices?”

“Exactly Stanley! If we can avoid Dawn we’ll avoid a lot of unnecessary baggage.”

“And why is that a bad thing?”

Midnight turned towards Patrick. “Dawn is a little… emotional, for lack of a better term. She freaks out whenever anypony tries to leave, she can’t stop them but she sure as hell tries… even makes it hard to do. I’m afraid that if she catches wind of so many ponies leaving at once, especially one of the original residents like me, she might finally tip over the edge.”

“Wait, wait… So Dawn’s just some lunatic on the verge of snapping?”

“I wouldn’t put it past her. Dawn’s a little high strung, she’s got an ego big enough to fill the canyon and then some. I don’t think she’s really in the best place mentally to be completely honest with you.”

Stanley shivered at the thought. “Y-you’re not really putting me at ease Midnight…”

“Just don’t worry Stanley. I’ll make sure we get out of here fine.”

Stanley sighed. “Ok, I guess I’ll trust you on this Midnight.”

“Thanks Stanley.”

Gizmo cleared his throat, “Alrighty, should we start makin’ our move or are we just gonna sit ‘round here all day?”

Patrick nodded in agreement. “I agree with Gizmo, we should probably get a move on before Ms. Dawn wakes up and throws her temper tantrum like you think she will.”

“Right. Just follow me and stay quiet, Dawn makes early morning rounds, she likes to keep an eye on the city and the ponies that live here. There’s rarely a plan or incident that she’s unaware of and that’s why I’ve had to work extra hard to slide under her radar like this. It’s so hard when she breathes down everypony's neck. So anypony have any more questions before we go?”

The three others shook their heads. Midnight, seemingly pleased with this unlocked her door and stepped outside, waving at the other ponies to follow. The four silently but brisky made their way towards the gates, nodding at the guards as they started to near them.

Midnight stopped and turned towards one of the guards. “Alright, before we go I have a special request for you. If you should ever notice anypony else who wants to leave but doesn’t know where to go or how to get the resources they’ll need to survive the trip, direct them up to the overlook. We’re going to hide some resources there from time to time. Maybe even place someone loyal there to direct them full time. Can you do this for us? Can you keep an eye out for ponies like that?”

The guard nodded. “Dawn won’t like it, but I’ll do the best I can Midnight. We’re gonna miss you but I don’t blame you for leaving. Dawn’s been going more and more and more overboard with her devotion to shimmerism. I was fine with it when it was the somewhat innocent “We’re better than humans for these reasons and the humans have run us out of everywhere else so let’s go do our own thing.” mantra, but now it’s becoming the “Ponies are the ones who should really be in charge, we should forcibly take back what’s ours even if we have to resort to violence to do it.” one, and there’s a noticeable schism forming in her ranks as a result. You might see more like minded individuals follow you out sooner than you realize.”

Midnight was taken aback by this, but she continued. “Well I appreciate this nonetheless, thanks for the help Strong, I know I can count on you.” Midnight looked back into the town, and then to her new friends. “Ok, let’s get going before Dawn makes her morning rounds.--”

“--What are you up to today Midnight? Going out on a little expedition?”

Midnight closed her eyes and sighed. She turned around, facing Dawn. “I’m leaving Dawn. I know this is going to hurt, but you’re not well, you’ve turned from somepony who genuinely felt that ponies should work together apart from humanity into somepony who thinks that ponies are superior to humans and should fight with them to get your way. I just don’t understand it Dawn. I can’t stand to be here any longer and whether you like it or not I’m leaving.”

Dawn’s entire demeanor seemed to shift in that very moment. “Midnight Midnight Midnight… I think you of all ponies can understand my message better than any pony else here. These… humans— they’re no different than a bunch of savages fighting for whatever they want. Haven’t you seen how they treat each other and us? All the cases of humans pushing ponies out of the homes and land that have every right to inhabit? Why reason with beasts that refuse to return the same courtesy to us?”

Midnight stepped forward, anger swelling up within. “Because humanity has more to offer than what you’re seeing through your own clouded lenses. Yes humans aren’t perfect, but you know what Dawn? They’re a hell of a lot better than you!” She calmed down a little. “Yes I think that we’re better off as ponies, but that doesn’t mean that humanity has nothing else to offer us. Have you stopped to even consider that maybe the reason why you hate humanity so much is because you’ve only dealt with a small sliver of it since becoming a pony? Don’t forget that you were one of those beasts no less than three months ago.”

“I was one of those beasts, that’s true. But I’ve moved beyond that—“

“— You know what, you’re exactly right Dawn. You’ve moved from criticizing and belittling those that didn’t fit your perfectly moral standards to criticizing and belittling others just because they aren’t the same as you! You’re no different than before Dawn, it’s just that now you’ve found someone else to preach damnation on! In fact you’re even worse, you’re honestly no better than a common racist now!”

Dawn walked away from the gate, anger swelling within her. “Well it appears I thought wrong of you Midnight, you weren’t the shining beacon of change that I took you for. You’re just one of those human sympathizers who aren’t even fit to handle the grunt work with those lesser ponies here. And to think I was genuinely hurt by you leaving.” Dawn spat back with anger.

“Call me what you want Dawn, but at the end of the day I’m not the one who’s going to have to atone for my actions… you are. Now, seeing as how you’ve not only insulted me, your guests, and now the very residents that really do all the work here, I think it’s time we made our exit.” Midnight confidently and smugly strut away, pausing for a moment. “Oh and if any of you were personally offended by Dawn’s little outburst, or might be having second thoughts about staying here, feel free to come with us.”

A hushed silence spread across the crowd of ponies that had formed as the residents of the town considered both sides, Midnight’s crusade had been the spark, and Dawn’s outburst had been the fuel. A slow clamor of hooves on the rock slowly rose as many of the residents simply dropped what they were doing and began to march towards the gate. The fire had been lit, and Midnight could only smugly smile at Dawn, as she watched Dawn’s perfect little world crumble apart in front of her.

“Looks like your so called believers weren’t too happy at your choice of words Dawn, have fun doing all the work on your own from now on!”

Dawn’s eye twitched as she realized her mistake all too late. She began to get flustered, trying to save face as best as she could. “No.. y-you don’t understand! When I said lesser ponies I simply meant that you were lower on the totem pole!—“

“— It’s too late for that Dawn, Midnight has a point. You preach about how humans are horrible vile creatures that don’t care about others and all the other horrible names and slurs that you can think of calling them, but you’re no different at all! You’re a hypocrite Dawn. I guess it just took one brave soul to speak up for me to realize that.”

“Calamity! You— please don’t tell me that you’re actually siding with this human sympathizer!”

“I am Dawn, and the fact that you still can’t see what’s wrong with all of this only backs up my decision further. I’m tired of intimidating and striking fear into others just so you can get your narrative across, I’m done hoarding all the food and water just so you can keep ponies here without actually taking them prisoner. It doesn’t atone for every morally questionable thing I’ve personally taken part in, but you know what? The fact that I realize I’m part of the problem only makes me better than you. So enjoy your city Dawn, this is everything you’ve worked towards after all!”

“Calamity… Please!”

“No Dawn. Not any more. You’ve had your chances to change and you’ve only gotten worse.”

Dawn was fuming now. She turned to Midnight and started to yell. “You’re going to pay for this beast. You can go wherever you want but remember, I have friends all around, in every town, village, city, from here to Blythe. There’s nowhere you can go where I can’t find you so just keep that in mind!”

Midnight stopped and stomped her hoof down in anger. “Is that a threat Dawn?! You realize if you try anything you’ll be rotting away in a cell faster than you can even say “what happened”? The humans are already pretty tense and if you start some stupid shit the only pony that’s going to regret this will be you.”

“I don’t believe I stuttered Midnight. Just remember that. I’ll find you, wherever you are, and you’re going to pay for this.”

“Pay for what?! Are you seriously this upset over ponies actually realizing that you’re not the leader they should be following? Are you that much of an egomaniac that not being able to assert your will over others is going to drive you to doing something really stupid? I know you’re smart Dawn, so please, let’s just deal with this like two adults.”

“What do you think?! For subverting the natural order! I had a plan! An actual plan to get what’s rightfully ours, and now you’ve come along and poisoned the minds of all my citizens!”

Your citizens” Do you know how crazy you sound right now Dawn?! Because you’re not sounding like a rational pony right now. Back off, and leave us be. This is your last warning.”

“Fine. But you will regret this, judgement day is coming, and it’s coming sooner than you realize. You can run, but you’ll never hide from the truth, even you know that!”

Midnight angrily grabbed her bag and stomped over to the gates. “Well are we going or what?!” She angrily shouted at the three bewildered ponies.

“S-sure.. M-mm-midnight!” Stanley said, shaken by her sudden outburst.

“Look Stanley, I’m sorry if I scared you. Let’s just go.”


The crowd exited the city and hiked up to the overlook. By the time they reached the top, it was well past noon and the two night ponies were struggling to stay awake. Stanley was already up a lot longer than he usually would be, and the bright sun didn’t make it any easier for him.

Midnight groggily tried to reassure Stanley. “C’mon Stanley, we can sleep when we get to your camp. Just stay awake a little bit longer ok?”

Stanley squinted his eyes, yawning. “Ok. Let’s just hurry ok?”

Midnight turned towards the assembled mass. “I’m sorry you all had to hear that little argument earlier, but I’m just glad that Dawn’s not going to be able to corrupt anypony else with her poison any longer.”

“But she’s still there, won’t she just regroup?”

“I guess she could Stanley, but she threatened me, and by extension you, Pat, and Giz. I know Dawn’s going to pop up again, and she’s probably going to do something really incredibly stupid that’ll land her in some hot water. We can’t really do anything right now anyways.”

“But why not?”

“Because Dawn hasn’t technically done anything illegal. She’s smart like that, but I think I struck a particularly sensitive nerve this time around. It wouldn’t surprise me if she tries something dumb and gets herself arrested or something at this point.”

“Ok ok, let’s just go back and meet up with my ride.”


“Now uhh.. Stanley, what’re we supposed t’do now?”

Stanley yawned again. “Go meet up with Marcus and drive back to Phoenix. My friends are there, they’ll help us. Marcus can explain more. Let’s. Go.”

“Alright Wolfie, just lead the way!” Patrick cheerfully replied.

Stanley was running low on patience and shot Patrick an annoyed scowl.

As the group walked towards Marcus’ camp midnight noticed the disgruntled form of Calamity, who was now sitting at the overlook point, glumly looking over the city in the distance. Midnight gave him a sympathetic look and turned towards Stanley. “Stanley… I’m really sorry about this, but let me just have a word with Calamity real quick ok?”

Stanley sighed in annoyance. “Fine.”

“Thanks!” Midnight ran over to Calamity, gently touching his shoulder. “Hey, we’re going to Phoenix, you heard Dawn threaten me and my friends, I’d feel more comfortable if you were close by.”

“You still trust me? Even after everything I did? How I acted?”

“You were misguided but you realized your faults. Besides, you know Dawn better than anyone else. We could use you.”

The crystal pony considered this for a moment and shrugged. “Alright, well I have nowhere else to go so I guess it doesn’t hurt.”

“Thanks Calamity!”

An annoyed shout interrupted the two. “Come on guys, can we go now?”

“Yes… Sorry Stanley!”

The group hastily worked their way back over to Marcus’ camp. The human sat alone playing Solitaire ignoring the crowd that was currently making a mass exodus. “You back kid… I uhh… see you brought some friends with you…”

“Yep, ok let’s get going.” Stanley said as he hastily opened the van and jumped in. “Ok, everypony in!”

Marcus set down his cards and stood up. “Hey hold up a second, I thought you were only bringing one friend with you! What happened to that?”

“It’s a long story, too tired to explain, ask one of them about it.”

“Look, we’re a little tired, we’ve had a long day. Night ponies aren’t good with direct daylight like this. Nice to meet you by the way, I’m Midnight Sun. Ask Pat or Giz about what happened, they’ll explain it al,l ok goodnight!”

“I uhh… alright then, everybody in I guess.” Marcus said as he packed up his chair and makeshift table.

Midnight and Stanley curled up in the corner of the van, draping their wings over their eyes and quickly falling into a deep sleep. The three remaining ponies all shuffled into the van, quickly taking a seat.

Marcus hopped into the driver’s seat and turned the van on, pulling out of the parking space. “Ok, so does anyone want to tell me what happened?”

“Yeah sure. So uhh.. I’m Patrick, Stanley’s best friend, I’m sure he’s told you all about me. Ok so we visited a pony village in the canyon, the three other ponies with us lived there… except the earth pony. Giz was like us and was just stopping by. Midnight is the night pony and she was the reason why you saw that huge group of ponies follow us out to the camp. The big crystal pony is Calamity.. He was uhhh.. A guard. Let’s just say that.”

“Ok, so what’s the deal, why are they with us? What made all those ponies leave?”

“Look, it’s a long story--”

“--We’ve got plenty of time, might as well just get everything out now and save the frustration later.”

“Ok fine, so Midnight may have struck a nerve with this overzealous Shimmerist named Dawn. Dawn uhhh… Snapped and basically insulted the entire village, and Midnight was able to rally them to leave. Stanley figured that Midnight, Gizmo, and Calamity could help us out. And well… that’s where we’re at now.”

“It sounds like you guys had a wild time…”

Gizmo chimed in, chuckling to himself. “That there is the understatement of the century son!”

“I’ve seen worse, trust me.” Marcus said with a knowing smile.

The group was nearing the city, and the three ponies that were still awake were starting to get antsy. Noticing this, Marcus decided to crack a few jokes at their expense. “Alright kids, I know you’re all anxious to get home but you need to settle down or I’ll turn this car around.”

“Wow this one’s a real joker, eh Wolfie? Stanley you there… Oh that’s right, nocturnal... Hey Giz you ever been to Phoenix before?”

“Yep, It’s sure been a long while, but I stopped through here with my old Colleague Claire years and years ago. We used to love to visit the city, I’m afraid we’ve lost touch though. How ‘bout you?”

“Me? Well I used to live here, for a while at least. It’s been some time, but It’ll be refreshing to see my old stomping grounds again. What about you Cal?”

Calamity rolled his eyes. “It’s Calamity. No. I haven’t been here before.”

“Gee pal, lighten up a little, Dawn’s gone, you don’t need to keep up the tough guy act anymore!”

“Look. I used to be a police officer, if you can’t tell I don’t exactly have a job anymore. At least not with the old force. Midnight asked me to come along with you all, I still don’t know whether I can fully trust you yet. No offense.”

“Alright alright, none taken. Lighten up a bit though! We’re almost home free!”

“Hey, settle down and just sit ok? We’re about to make our exit and I don’t need the cops getting on my ass about driving a van full of ponies with no seatbelts.” Marcus called from the front of the van.

“Alright Marcus. We’ll settle down. Do you have our sack lunches and juice boxes? Us kids need our nutrition after all!”

“Can you please stop yammering? You’ve been talking our ears off all day!” Calamity snapped with annoyance.

“Gee ok.” I think you’ve earned your own fitting nickname Mr. Hyde… or is it Dr. Jekyll? I guess it doesn’t matter. He thought to himself.

“Lighten up a bit Calamity, the kid’s got energy and spirit, somethin’ I wish I still had!”

Calamity sighed. “Alright, I guess I’m used to dealing with rowdy citizens, maybe I was a little too extreme.”

“HA! Told you so! Score one for me!”

Calamity just rolled his eyes.

“Ok, We’re almost there. Get your stuff packed up and give me a few minutes to get the van parked. I’m sure the others are going to be just as surprised to see three extra heads as I was, so let me explain it to them first so they aren’t surprised at this. Ok?”



Marcus turned off the van and walked into the warehouse, catching the two in the middle of some debate. “Hey Barney, Giles I need you out here ok?”

“Look Gyro, we can finish this later. What is it Marcus?”

“Change of plans. The Kid’s brought some more friends along. He thinks they’re all important for you guys’ plans. Surprised me enough but they seem like nice enough ponies. I guess I’ll let you guys be the judge on that.”

“How many?”

“Three. A night pony, a crystal pony, and an earth pony. Plus Stan’s unicorn friend.”

“Fascinating. Well let’s go meet the group shall we?”

“Yes Sir.”

“Thanks for your input Gyro, C’mon Marcus, let’s take a walk.”

The trio walked outside to the van, Tinker beaming with excitement.

“Alright, get ready to meet the kids. Marcus pulled open the van door. “Alright children, come on out.”

“Oh man I thought I was going to lose my mind in there! Hey nice to meet you, the name’s Patrick but you can just call me Pat.”

“Do you need to continue with the demeaning nicknames Marcus?”

“Howdy there, name’s Jacques. Just call me Gizmo.”

Tinker raised an eyebrow. “Uhh Marcus? This is only three ponies.”

“Yeah, the others are asleep, give me a moment.” Marcus sighed and stepped in, banging on the side of the van as he walked in. “Hey up and at em you two! We’re home!”

“Give it a rest Marcus, we heard you the first time!”

“They’re uhhh… a little grumpy right now Barney, give em’ a moment to compose themselves.”

“Come on Stanley, we can get some sleep back inside.”

“Aha, there you two are! Welcome back Stanley, I take it your trip was fruitful? Hopefully enjoyable as well!”

“Yeah no. It’s a long story. I’ll tell you later. C’mon Midnight, my room’s got curtains set up to block the light out.”

“And you are?”

“Midnight. Nice to meet you, goodbye and goodnight.”

“Told you Barney. They uhhh… had a long day, Just ask Pat to tell you about it.”

“Well alright, I suppose that’s fine. Let’s go on in and get settled, I guess we can clear out another guest room for you all. Just uhh. Go sit tight in the workshop and we’ll get this all sorted out as soon as we can.”

Stanley awoke, finally feeling well rested after their eventful day. He squinted at the clock, noticing that it was already close to 9PM. It probably wasn’t healthy to throw off his sleep pattern so suddenly like this, but it probably wasn’t healthy for all those ponies to stay in that town with someone as manipulative as Dawn. Stanley groggily stood up and shook Midnight awake.

“Hey Midnight, we should probably get up.”

She stirred slightly, groaning out a response. “Ughh, just a few more minutes…” the sound of snoring slowly picked up again.

Stanley face hoofed. “Alright, I’m really sorry for this Midnight, but it’s time to get up, we need to go get dinner and explain everything to Tinker!” Stanley shut his eyes tightly and pulled the blanket out from under the sleeping pony, unceremoniously knocking her to the floor.

“Ouch, Stanley what the fu--”

“--I’m sorry! We need to go talk with Tinker though!”

“Oh… I’m uhh… sorry Stanley, I guess today was just so draining. Sorry, what do we need to do?”

“Go explain it all to my friends, I’m sure Pat’s already given them the rundown, but I think you should fill the others in on everything else they might have missed… Pat’s been known to… well... he kind of over exaggerates things. We also need to make sure Tinker and Marcus are going to be ok with having four extra ponies living in the warehouse.”

“Oh, right. Well I guess you should lead the way then.”

Stanley helped Midnight up and the two walked out the door and into the hallway, passing by the cleared out spare room, where Gizmo and Calamity were already hard at work arranging it to suit their needs. They could already hear discussion in the main room.

“... But this is four ponies Sir. I was fine with one, maybe two extra. But four! This and letting random strangers just use our plans! What are you even thinking!?”

“I know Gyro, but just hear me out. We’re on the verge of moving anyways, we weren’t even planning on staying here permanently as it is, all we need is Silver to get the rest of the information for us.”

“Fine. But they better all pull their weight.”

Stanley cleared his throat, pulling the two inventors out of their little disagreement. “I uhh… I hate to interrupt, but we needed to talk with you Tinker.”

“Oh, don’t apologize Stanley, Gyro and I were just having a brief debate.”

“Sounded more like an argument to me…”

Stanley lightly punched Midnight’s shoulder, earning an annoyed glare from her. “We heard you two arguing and that’s actually what we wanted to talk with you about. I have a feeling that Pat’s already given you some tall tale explaining what’s happened, but let’s just clear some stuff up.”

“He well… painted a kind of clear picture. You fought off some evil cultists, freed an entire city, and fled the Canyon with Marcus?”

“That’s… creative. But no, we pissed off a horribly misguided shimmerist, she snapped, and that convinced most of the city to abandon her after she made it clear that they were really only needed in the city to do the grunt work without any real thanks or appreciation. Midnight’s afraid that she’s going to do something bad, so she brought that guard crystal pony along, and Gizmo’s just a botanist that I thought could be useful for the Oasis project.”

Marcus chuckled, setting down the glass he was drinking from. “Yeah, you know, this really doesn’t surprise me at all. Barney and Giles have had their own fair share of crazier adventures and this just doesn’t even begin to phase me. I don’t know about you, but I’m gonna pack in for the night, I’ll be at home if you need me, just drop me a line if you need something.”

“So what we needed to talk about was if you’d be okay with them tagging along with us. Midnight’s a cartographer, Calamity’s an ex police officer, and Gizmo’s a botanist. They could all help us out a lot, especially Midnight.”

“You think so?”

Stanley shifted to face Gyro. “Yeah. We still need to figure out where we’re even building the Oasis, a cartographer could really be useful for that you know? Plus a botanist could help us with our food stuff Gizmo’s worked in agriculture before, Patrick’s done all sort of odd jobs and knows how to manage a big operation, and having someone to lead a security team wouldn’t hurt either.”

Gyro blinked his eyes a couple times. “Ok.”

“You’re fine with that?”


Tinker chuckled. “It’s that easy to sway you?”

“As long as they can contribute something to this I’m fine with it.”

“Well that was easier than I thought it would be.”

The two ponies started to walk back to Stanley’s room, Midnight pulling him close for a second. “Thanks for vouching for us Stanley, I really appreciate it.”

“You’re welcome, I knew that we needed all the help we could get, and I figured that you probably didn’t have any other plans... So... what do you think you’ll do now?”

“Work with you all I guess. I know we need to keep an eye out for Dawn though, I just can’t shake the feeling that she might have gone off the deep end this time. I know her, she’s going to do something she’ll regret.”

“Maybe you should just let her then? If she’s really going to do something illegal then let the actual police handle it.”

“Dawn’s cold and calculating, I want to just hope she’ll make some dumb move but I’ve thought about it more, and I feel like she’s going to lurk from the shadows for a while, slowly planning out her next move, and then striking from the shadows when we least expect it.”

“Midnight… you sound a little paranoid…”

“I know. I don’t know if that has to do with living around Dawn so much, or genuine intuition. I want to keep every potential scenario in mind though. We basically took everything from her, or at least she thinks that… she made it clear enough with her little monologue.”

“So what do you think we should do?”

“Play it safe, keep an eye out on everything around us, make sure we don’t see anything suspicious, and if we do, keep an eye on them and make sure we’re not caught off guard. It’s only a matter of time until Dawn shows up again, and when she does I want to be ready.”

“Midnight… you’re scaring me again…”

“Fear’s a good thing though right? It keeps us on edge, alert… like night ponies should be right?”

“I… I guess so.”

“Come on Stanley, let’s go take a walk, tell me about the Oasis, it’ll help calm your nerves.”

“Oh alright…”

And the two did just that.

Ch 11 - "If We Can Dream It... We Can Do It!"

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It was another early morning for Tinker and Gyro, but today marked a notable departure from the norm for them. Instead of starting their own separate tasks right at the crack of dawn, Tinker decided to spend the day planning things out for the future going forward. The unicorn would likely be annoyed at the prospect but Tinker knew that this discussion was an inevitability, there was so much change on the horizon for them, and this was their chance to nail everything right from the start and not have to stress about it later like they so often did. There was much to do and Tinker needed to work as efficiently as he could, a usually tricky task for him as thousands of thoughts and ideas raced through his optimistic head.

He thought back to the previous night, and the strange turn of events it had resulted in. As much as it was a lot to take in, it was fortunate enough for his liking. At least there were now four new ponies to help with the move, and tonight was the big night, where Silver would meet up with Sunset’s emissary and finalize their agreement. There was still a lot of planning left to do, and Tinker knew that if he didn’t start soon he’d get distracted with some other project or idea before long.

TinkerTech’s future success was still very much in limbo, but setting up a permanent base of operations would help them greatly, even if Tinker would have to shift their focus away from regular consumers for now. He hated to admit it, but ponies out west just weren’t interested in really even being a part of the economy. Tinker hoped that that would change someday, but it just wasn’t feasible to try and market their inventions here for now.

He sighed and walked over to his desk, calling in his assistant. He sighed deeply and hung his head in defeat, dreading having to admit defeat to the stoic unicorn. “Gyro, I think we need to be realistic with ourselves… most of the ponies out here just don’t care about living like they did before, it’s a dumb idea to try and sell consumer products to them right now...”

Gyro furrowed his brow in confusion. “What are you proposing Sir?”

“That we shift our focus to a more industrial approach. I think the BioMask is a great way to do that, we just need to focus on getting that refined more.”

Gyro nodded. “I’m already on it.”

“I know you are Gyro. No rush though, I have a feeling that we’re going to have plenty to occupy our time, what with the Oasis and all.”


“You’re quite the conversationalist Gyro!” Tinker said smiling. “If you don’t mind, I’m going to email Dave and let him know about the change of plans later, I just need to get the hang of using this infernal machine first.”

“Have fun with that Sir, I’ll be out in the workshop.”

“Alright, you do that Gyro! I’ll see you later…” he paused, holding up a hoof. “Wait a second, you’re still in on the plan right?”

“For Silver? Yeah.”

“Good, go shake Stanley awake before you start your work, I want to get his input on it.”


Silver couldn’t have been any more cheerful, for one, today was the big day, the day where he would finally seal the deal and make the Oasis a viable project. Silver never honestly thought that the Oasis could be a truly feasible project in his lifetime, but it was something that he really needed. Something that he could work towards to distract himself from the fears and memories he refused to move past. Silver was still apprehensive about dealing with Sunset Blessing, he had done his fair share of research over the last few days and didn’t quite care for her overzealous devotion towards shimmerism, still though, she could get things done, and it would be incredibly stupid to say no to someone who had the connections she did. Silver could only hope that Sunset would be more personable once he had the chance to actually interact with her, Tonya seemed to imply that she wasn’t really all that bad so he at least had that to ease his discomfort.

He knew more or less everything they’d need to discuss, and to make matters even better, Midnight was a cartographer and knew the area better than probably anyone else in the group. She’d sat down with him and gone over the various sites that might suit them nicely, and as such Silver had extended her an invitation to formally join the group. Something she had accepted in a heartbeat. Silver only saw it fitting that she sit in on the meeting tonight, seeing as how she filled in the final piece of the puzzle that they needed. There was a lot of prepwork to do before the big meeting, and Silver needed to sit down with her and Stanley and discuss what was going to happen. Touching base with Scarlet beforehand would be useful too, as she was the perfect kind of pony for the team… plus Silver just enjoyed her company.

The two had been messaging each other and exploring different dreams for a few nights now and as the nights went on Silver found himself spending less and less time in his own dream and more time with her. As hesitant as he was to spend time with her at first, he had slowly grown to value her friendship, and it was something that he genuinely looked forward to each night now. It had taken some practice to find each other at first, but once they did it only made it easier the more they met up.

Silver pulled out his phone and set it on the table, typing out a message with his stylus. “We need to talk later, my dream, Usual time. It’s important.”

Silver stared at the screen for a few minutes. Before long the reply he was waiting for came.

“Ok, cya then”

“Perfect! I better go talk with Stanley and Midnight, let them know what they’re in for tonight…” Silver stood up and walked to the bathroom, figuring that he might as well try and make himself look presentable to the others. He splashed some water on his face, and then smoothed his mane back to the side, really not caring to do more with it. He shut the water off and walked over to Stanley’s room, knocking on the door.

“Come in!”

“Stanley,... Midnight, good to see you both. I know you two kind of had a rough night last night, glad to see that you’re at least up now. I know we talked a little bit about what was going to happen tonight, but I guess it wouldn’t hurt to at least clue you in on it a little more Midnight.”

“What to you mean? “Clue me in”? What’s going on?”

“Seeing as how you’ve been an instrumental part of this plan, helping us find the best site and whatnot, I think it’s only fitting that you sit in on our meeting.”

“Well thanks Silver, It’s really nothing though, I mean cartography is my life after all and-- Wait, meeting? What do you mean meeting?” She added with confusion.

“We are meeting an emissary of Sunset Blessing, but I’ve had to keep some of this information private from all the non night pony members. I think you’ll understand why, so let me cut right to the chase.” Silver glanced around a little and leaned in, lowering his voice to a whisper. “We’re meeting Sunset’s fiancé Tonya Middleton--”

Midnight gasped and tensed up. “The mind magic abuser?!”

Silver quickly shushed her, frantically looking around to make sure that no one else was around. “Keep it down! And yes. The very same pony.”

She lowered her voice, whispering out a hushed reply. “Why are we meeting with her?! Do you really think we can just trust her?!”

“Because she’s Sunset’s messenger, at least for this. Besides, the wardens gave their judgement and that should give us more than enough reason to trust her. She survived their wrath after all, if that doesn’t make her trustworthy then I don’t know what does.”

Midnight seemed slightly hesitant, but closed her mouth and nodded. “Fine, you have a point. I’ll just have to trust you on this.” She relaxed a little. “So when and where’s this taking place anyways? Is Tonya really here? This far from South Carolina?”

“No Tonya isn’t. We’re having this meeting in a dream… my dream. Shortly after I sleep, probably around early morning? Time’s weird in dreams, but we can just hang out until she shows up.”

“We’ve just met though, how am I supposed to find your dream?”

“Well, you could try dream hopping with Stanley if you think you know him well enough, or try and call out to Phobia if that doesn’t work out. Apparently she’s good friends with Tonya, I’m sure she’d be able to direct you to the right place.”

“That’s kind of a big “What if”... I’d rather not annoy her for some simple request like that… but I guess if push comes to shove it’ll work though. Do we need to do anything in the meantime?”

“Not really, the day is yours to do with as you please, just as long as you’re asleep and in my dream by the set time. We’ll be moving forward regardless of whether you’re there or not, but I really would like you to sit in with us.”

She simply shrugged. “I’ll give it my best shot.”

Stanley nervously glanced around a few times. “Silver… I uhh.. Can’t help but feel a little nervous about this. I mean it’s Sunset Blessing…”

“Still nervous? Don’t be. Think of us like contractors, yes we’ll be working on Sunset’s behalf for some stuff, but I don’t think we’ll ever have to actually deal with her in person. And if we do you’ll be fine. You just want the Oasis to be up and running right? You’re not actually going to be involved with the research and development stuff.”

“Well I… I mean yes? but--”

“--Well then you’ll be fine. Sunset only cares about the project side, not the operational side, which you’ll be working with. So you really have nothing to worry about.” He said reassuringly.

“I… I guess you have a point.”

“We’re all good then?”

The two ponies nodded in agreement.

“Perfect. I’m going to go see what the others are up to in the meantime, go over some final stuff with Tinker and whatnot, make sure we’re all in agreement… you get the idea. If you need me just hollar, I won’t be far.”

It was late in the afternoon when Gadget and Sprocket had made their way to Tinker’s workshop and Gadget was more than excited to start work on the utility prototype. She saw it as something positive that Sprocket could work on that could actually be used to help others rather than some hacked together project that he could use to fuel his own ego. Much to her annoyance the day had not gone the way she had wanted it to so far. Sprocket had seemed to fall back on his promise, practically begging her to help him with the defense gauntlet. As much as it hurt them both, most of their time there had been spent engaged in a rather heated debate, something that neither of them really wanted to happen.

Gadget sighed, frustration rising in her voice. “Sprocket what did we talk about last night?”

“I know Gadg, just please hear me out. We’ve come so far on this project and I just want to see it come to a close.”

“But Sprocket why can’t we just finish it after the utility prototype?”

“Because I need this!” He yelled back in frustration, immediately regretting his decision.

Gadget started to raise her voice again. “Why do you need it though?! Why won’t you just talk to me about this?! I’m your best friend, don’t you think that you could share whatever’s bothering you?”

Sprocket shrunk back with his ears lowered. “Just trust me please?”

Gadget sighed and paced around in place. “Fine. But can you please just tell me about why it’s so important for you?”

“I can’t Gadget… I don’t want to hurt you.”

Gadget looked on with a look of concern on her face. “What’s going to hurt me though?!”

“It’s just… there’s some stuff in the past that happened that I don’t want to get into. It’s too much to burden yourself with.”

Gadget brushed a hoof against his face. “Sprocky please, just tell me.”

Sprocket shrugged away. “I’ll tell you when I’m ready. It’s not time yet, I need to sleep on it.”

Gadget stepped back, evidently hurt that he wouldn’t tell her what was bothering him. “Fine… but please just tell me sometime, It hurts me to see you stress about stuff like this.”

Sprocket smiled. “I will Gadget, just let me figure out when I’m ready for that.”

Silver walked down the hall and into the main workshop, noticing that Sprocket had brought another pony with him this time. He still couldn’t shake that weird feeling that he got whenever he saw him and he didn’t quite know why. He walked a little closer, while still keeping his distance, trying to see what they were working on. He leaned a little closer, noticing that their plans were seemingly pulled from Tinker’s archive, and seemed to be of Gyro’s stun gauntlets. The mare with him was currently holding a similar gauntlet that still looked distinctly different. The two seemed to be arguing about something, but must have resolved it because they returned to fiddling around with the design.

Silver stepped away and walked over to Gyro, who was currently manipulating a soldering iron with his magic, carefully modifying his mask.

Silver turned his head away from the two, looking towards Gyro. “Hey, I don’t want to distract you but I just wanted to ask you something.”

“You’re doing both right now. Ask away though.”

Silver glanced back towards Sprocket. “Those two ponies, do you know what they’re working on?”

“Some project of their own, Tinker… decided to trust them with our plans and prototypes, the blue one wanted to see my gauntlet plans the other day.”

“It looks like they’re copying one of your designs, or at least using it as a base for their own project.”

The unicorn set the iron down and turned towards Silver. “What do you mean?”

“The gauntlet, they’re doing something with the plans, fiddling around with their own design.”

“I wish Tinker would communicate a little better, I would have liked to know what they were coming in here with. Give me a second, I’m going to go see what they’re doing.”

Gyro stood up and walked over to the pair, the conversation audible enough for Silver to eavesdrop on. “What are you two up to today?”

Sprocket stopped his arguing for a moment, cheerfully greeting Gyro. “Oh, hey Gyroscope! Just working on some old self defense prototype while we plan out some stuff for the other thing. I hit a roadblock with it and figured that I might as well look at how you did things.”

“It’s Gyro. And that’s fine, make sure you don’t just copy my work though.”

“Oh we won’t Gyroscope! Just seeing how you solved some problems!”

Gyro rolled his eyes and walked back to his desk, leaning close to Silver. “We don’t need to worry about them… yet. We can just keep an eye on them and go from there. I don’t trust them.”

Silver nodded his head. “I feel like I’ve met Sprocket before, but I can’t place where. It’s a weird feeling but I just can’t shake it. Something just screams don’t trust him but I can’t place why.”

Gyro resumed his work, seemingly disinterested in continuing the conversation further. “Don’t stress about it, just keep an eye on them for now.”

“Alright Gyro. I just don’t want anything to jeopardize our plans when we’re so close to securing this.”

“Noted. Have you ran everything by Tinker yet?”

“No. I was on my way to doing that.”

“You should get back to it.”

“Alright, I’ll let you get back to work.” Silver started to walk away, but turned back towards Gyro one more time. “Thanks Gyro. I appreciate this!”


Tinker sat in his office, carefully dictating an email into his laptop. “Dave, we’re going to be working on expanding our operations soon, I’ll be sending you the revised correspondence address soon, along with our new operational plans going forward. At your suggestion we’re shifting focus from less of a consumer based company to more of an industrial based one. We have ideas that may cross between the two nicely, but for now we’re going to work on getting our bigger projects out to parties that may find better use from them. Our initial data has shown that it simply isn’t feasible to focus our efforts on anything consumer based out here at this time, but we do want to look into pursuing that at a later date when it’s a more feasible endeavor. Thanks, Tinker.”

Silver silently worked his way into Tinker’s office, seemingly unnoticed by the distracted pegasus.“Not happy with how the ponies out here are receiving your ideas?”

“Huh? Oh, Silver. I didn’t hear you come in. To answer your question… It’s not that I’m not happy with that, It’s just not as feasible for us right now. We’ve got many innovative and spectacular ideas, we just don’t have the kind of market share that we need to get those out there right now is all. Some other enterprising minds have beaten us to that, but they’re dealing with the same problem out here as we are.”

“Alright calm down, I’m just teasing you.” He straightened up. “So we’re all set for tonight, I’m going to have Stanley, Midnight, and an astronomer friend of mine sit in on the meeting.”

Tinker raised an eyebrow. “Who’s the astronomer? I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure of meeting them yet.”

“Scarlet Moon, a good friend of mine. I met her back in Greenview, she’s smart and has a natural love of astronomy. I figured that if we’re going to be out in the middle of the desert, we’ll have a great view of the night sky, and an even better site for an observatory… to do some interstellar research you know?”

“Well if you think she’s a necessary asset then I won’t argue with you... Captain.

Silver’s face scrunched up in confusion. “Captain? What do you mean?”

Tinker sat up and smiled. “More like Director. It has a nice ring to it doesn’t it?”

“I’m sorry, what?”

Tinker smiled. “Oh, that’s right, we didn’t tell you. Let me call the others in.” He pressed a button on a small console on his desk, leaning closer to speak into it. “Gyro, Stanley, please come into my office.”

A few moments later, the door opened and the two ponies walked in. All three had knowing smiles on their face.

Silver stepped back. “What’s this all about?”

Stanley walked forward. “Silver, the three of us talked before you woke up, and we think you should be the leader. You brought us all together after all, if it wasn’t for you none of this would be happening.”

Silver was taken aback. “But… you really think I’m the best candidate?”

Tinker jumped up excitedly. “Why of course! You caught the eye of someone who’s got a lot of government influence Silver, in a good way too mind you. That’s not exactly the easiest thing to do. Stanley’s got a point, you brought us all together, you brokered a deal with Sunset, I think you’ve been the leader all along even if you haven’t quite realized it yet.”

“I… I don’t know what to say.”

“Thanks would do just fine.” Gyro flatly replied.

Tinker shot a stern glare at Gyro. “What Gyro meant to say is that you shouldn’t sell yourself short. If we’re actually going to try and inspire others to make a better world, we need to organize ourselves better. An important part of that is actually having some level of organizational hierarchy. You’re the Director, Gyro and I are the R&D directors, and Stanley is in charge of operations. We can expand as needed when we actually start making progress, but for now we need to actually start making a name for ourselves.”

Silver nodded. “Alright, well I guess if I’m going to be the director, our group needs a proper name. Any suggestions?”

The four sat and pondered this for a few minutes. Gyro was the first to break the silence. “R.D.M.S. - Research and Development in Magic and Science.”

Silver didn’t seem enthused by the suggestion, but didn’t have the heart to break it to Gyro. “That uhhh.. Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue as well. But that’s just me. Anypony else have any ideas?”

Stanley shrugged. “I’m fine with just the Oasis.”

“That works for the site’s name, but I think we need to have something a little more marketable as a group.”

Tinker sat at his desk, holding his head up with a hoof. He suddenly bolted up in excitement. “Pony Research Institute?!”

An idea suddenly hit Silver, if this was a cartoon a lightbulb would have brilliantly sparked to life above his head. “I have an idea! What if we call ourselves the “Pony Research Institute of Science and Magic”? Or just P.R.I.S.M. It rolls off the tongue a little better… plus it sounds cool.” he added with a smile.

Tinker’s face lit up in happiness. “I think you’re onto something Silver! PRISM it is!”

“Is everypony ok with that?”

“Fine by me.”

“Yeah.. I like it! It’s kind of takes all our suggestions and rolls them up into one!”

Silver almost couldn’t find the words to speak, this all felt so sudden to him but Tinker was right, they needed to really organize themselves better. Right now they were a band of overly optimistic ponies drifting around the desert, trying to tackle the impossible task of making a better future for themselves. With this, they could at least make a name for themselves and look slightly more professional… as professional as a bunch of pastel ponies trying to be taken seriously could look. “Well I guess it’s settled then. We’re really official now, aren’t we?”

Tinker nodded his head, smiling from ear to ear. “I believe we are, Director Silver.”

More than a few hours had passed and Silver was beginning to feel a little anxious. As calm and personable as Tonya was, he still couldn’t help but feel a little nervous about the meeting. He shook his head, forcing his thoughts to clear, it wouldn’t help him to worry about it when there was really nothing to stress about. Silver walked into Stanley’s room, excitement building in him. It was almost time for him to sleep, which meant that their big meeting would be mere moments away. “Alright, I’m going to start getting ready for bed. You both know the plan?”

“Try to follow Stanley to your dream, go run and cry to Phobia if it doesn’t work and hope she’s actually asleep, willing to help, and able to help?”

“Yeah that’s more or less the gist of it. I don’t think you’ll wind up having to go through with that, but if you have trouble finding Stanley it might be your only way in.”

“Well I guess there’s only one way to find out isn’t there.”

Silver nodded his head. “Mhmm”

“Silver, I think we’re all good to go. I’ll see you in there!”

“Alright Stanley… Midnight, Goodnight.”

Silver walked back across the hallway and into his room, quickly typing out a message to Scarlet. “We’re on, see you soon!”

He didn’t need to wait for her message to arrive, he was sure that she’d already be heading to sleep in a few moments anyways. Seeing no other reason to wait, he lied down in his bed and closed his eyes, taking a deep breath and quickly drifting off to sleep.

Silver found himself in a relatively peaceful dream, a starry landscape greeted him outside of a large hexagonal window. He was aboard some spaceship, a genuinely fascinating dream to him, but he unfortunately couldn’t sit and watch it play out. Deciding to wait for his friends, he summoned five chairs and arranged them around a simple table. Silver sat at the head of the table and gazed out the window, trying to guess who would be the first to arrive. Before long he was greeted by Scarlet, who trotted up to him and gazed out the window with him. A few minutes later Stanley appeared, followed by Midnight.

He turned towards Midnight, smiling warmly. “Good, you’ve made it. I trust nothing went awry?”

“Well I’m here aren’t I? I think that answers your question.”

“Very good. Please, take a seat in an open chair. I’ll get our little meeting room set up, it’ll just take a few moments to do so.”

The three visitors took their seats quietly. Stanley leaned over to midnight and whispered to her. “You’re gonna like this part, it’s always so cool to see!”

Silver closed his eyes and conjured his usual dream, however with a few major differences this time around. The Grand Salon was the only room he bothered to summon, and it was currently set up as more of a large banquet. What were once a set of five simple chairs mere moments ago were now five ornate and comfortable seats set around a large intricately carved wooden table. Silver sat at the head of the table, dressed in a more formal suit, an ornate ensemble that resembled something you might see the captain of an elegant ship wear. Scarlet, Stanley, and Midnight Sun sat off to either side of him in their own elegant seats, though vastly underdressed by comparison. Another seat, albeit currently empty, sat at the far end of the table.

Off to the side was a large bar containing a fine selection of drinks, none of which would really have any real effect on the dreamwalkers, but the hollow comfort would help them relax nonetheless. The ceiling above them was noticeably different too, large glass panels revealing the serene ocean above replaced the steel ones that normally sat in their place. The organ in the loft above began to play a calm tune seemingly on it’s own, almost as if it was being played by some unseen phantom. The entire atmosphere of the room seemed to reflect a more calm and collected mood, as if Silver had specifically crafted this particular dream to give off some grand and mystifying impression. The only thing left to wait for was for their special guest to make her appearance.

Midnight looked around the room, surprised by the sudden transformation. “That was uhh…”

“Cool as always!” Stanley finished.

“This is the Nautilus isn’t it?!” Scarlet excitedly shouted out to Silver.

Silver smiled warmly. “Welcome aboard!”

Scarlet spoke up again. “So Silver, I don’t think you ever introduced me to your friends here.”

Silver took a drag on the pipe he was holding, breathing out the smoke for a moment. “Well Stanley, Midnight, I’d like to formally introduce you to Scarlet, an intrepid astronomer with her head in the stars, a valuable member of our team as I’m sure you can agree.”

“It’s nice to meet you-- Scarlet.”

“It’s wonderful to finally meet you too Stanley, and what about you?” She asked, looking towards Midnight.

Stanley suddenly spoke up. “Oh-- Scarlet, This is Midnight Sun. She and another new recruit helped Pat and I out with some trouble in the canyon.”

Silver smiled. “She’s a relatively new recruit, but she’s been extremely helpful in scouting out and researching potential sites. Cartography is her talent and as such she has unmatched insights into the local land and the advantages and disadvantages with each site. It was very fortunate that she wound up finding her way to us, and we really have Stanley to thank for that—“

The group was suddenly interrupted as the large doors at the end of the Grand Salon swung open, followed by the unmistakable form of Tonya Middleton walking in.

Silver spoke in a low voice. “Ok keep cool everypony, this might be a bit of a shock to your systems...” Silver sat up in his chair, and called out to her excitedly. “Welcome back Tonya! Please-- sit down and have a drink, we have a fine selection of beverages available, not that it’ll really compare to the real stuff, but hey, it’ll offer comfort all the same. Tonight’s a celebration after all! I hope you don’t mind that I’ve brought along some of our other members, I’d rather we have our entire group here, but that’s just not possible at this time… and there’s rules and secrets that they aren’t privy to, plus the fact that they’re not in your… unique position, so the night pony members will have to do for now.”

“Yeah, that makes sense. So how have you been?” Tonya said as she sat down at her seat at the table, looking over towards Stanley, who was eyeing her with a look of fearful bewilderment. “Oh and you must be Stanley! Phobia’s said some nice things about you. I guess she was the one who met you when you first dreamwalked.”

“Yes… It’s uhh… nice to meet you outside of a trial...”

Silver sat up in his chair and took another drag on his pipe. “I’ve been doing wonderful. So sorry for freaking out at you last time… you have to understand that it was a little… frightening and surprising to say the least.” He leaned forward in his seat, setting his pipe down for a moment and straightening his jacket. “So, let’s talk business. After considerable deliberation with the others, we’ve come to an agreement in regards to what we’d like to request from Sunset in return for our… services.”

Tonya sat up in the chair, taking a sip from her drink. “I can’t wait to see what kind of crazy and wild requests you’ve thought up!” she said, smiling.

Silver smiled, taking another drag on the pipe before continuing. “We need a more permanent base of operations. The Oasis is currently a pipe dream and we need to start seriously planning our next course of action if we want to even begin to build it up. We’ve carefully scouted out and researched the potential sites. With Midnight’s assistance, we’ve identified one that might suit our needs nicely. There’s an abandoned mining town in the Verde Valley out near Sedona. All we require to start is the land rights, a small construction crew to help clean up the town, and some basic materials to get a solar farm up and running. If Sunset can help us do that then we’re open to assisting her with any project she needs our help with going forward.”

Tonya raised an eyebrow in surprise. “Huh… ok, well that’s not as crazy as I thought it would be. I was expecting some crazy out of the blue idea like a rocket or submarine or something that you might have found in one of your Jules Verne books.”

Silver smiled, “Oh, we’re not anywhere close to those projects yet, but let’s not worry about it for now! Those particular type of plans are still very far out on the horizon!”

Tonya smiled back. “That should all be doable. Let me just tell you what Sunset’s going to want in return though. I know you had a concern that you wanted to work on your own projects and that’s fine. Sunset’s not going to force you to come up with anything for her, and in fact she’s only going to give you the details of her projects as needed so you should be fine doing your own stuff. I know you also had some concerns about the nature of her projects, but she wanted me to let you know that they won’t be anything unethical, and you’ll never work on them for more than 60 calendar days, but keep in mind that those might not always be consecutive days.”

“Well that sounds fair enough. So about the resources we’ll need? I can understand if it’s a little too much to ask for, so we’re willing to work with Sunset and negotiate something that’s fair for both of us.”

“Oh don’t worry, Sunset can get you any equipment you need, but they’ll be loaners. You can use them as much as you want, and for whatever you want, but if you purposely stall or delay her projects she’s going to have to ask for the equipment back. That’s understandable right?”

“Right. I can only assume that she just wants to make sure her investment isn’t going to waste, and that’s perfectly fair.”

She continued, “You can pull out of the deal at any time, but just remember that the equipment is hers, and she’s letting you guys use it in return for helping her. It’s fine if you decide to part ways but if you still need the equipment you’re going to have to buy it from her. You can negotiate payment how you see fit, cash is fine or you can sell whatever patents interest her to SPEC in lieu of actual payment, whichever works best for you. Is that fair?”

“Yeah that’s fair enough. So I believe that that’s everything, anything else on the agenda?”

“Oh, yes! One more thing too, and this is going to sound really really harsh but I can’t stress how important it is. All of the details about Sunset’s plans should be considered extremely classified. We’re talking like the highest security clearance you can imagine. Under no circumstance are you to share any of it with anypony who isn’t directly involved with the project, and if you do Sunset will make sure that you’ll never be able to conduct serious research again. Those are her words not mine. I know she sounds harsh but she’s putting a lot of trust into you guys and just wants to make sure that you all know how important these projects are. I hope you understand that this isn’t personal, it’s just a serious matter to her.”

Silver gulped for a second, but quickly fell back into his confident “all business” mode. “I can… understand that completely, and I appreciate you bringing our concerns forward to Sunset. This is obviously a lot to take in, you’re basically handing everything we need to us on a Silver platter, but if Sunset can help get the Oasis up and running then we’re willing to look past our own… reservations… in return. It’s only fair after all, I know we’re asking a lot but this is a good opportunity to jumpstart our plans. It’s going to be a small operation at first, but in only a few short years we’ll hopefully be at a point where we can actually start going public with some of our plans. I’ll even add this in, if we develop anything that might be of use to Sunset we can negotiate sharing those discoveries with her as well, even though that’s not part of her deal. Consider it a thank you for doing so much for us!” he said as he smiled.

Tonya looked at Silver and the three other night ponies, “So we’re all good? It’s a done deal then?”

The three nodded in return, with Silver adding, “I’ve personally talked with our other members on the matter, and they’re willing to work with Sunset as long as we can maintain a level of independence in our projects. We’re happy to help Sunset with her projects but we’d like to also maintain our own projects if that’s alright with you.”

“That’s perfectly fine, just remember that she’ll want to see progress on her own projects more than yours, just to make sure her investment and resources aren’t being wasted.”

Silver sat up in his chair and reached for his drink. “I think that that means we’re at an agreement!”

Tonya shifted in her chair, “I think we are! I’m glad this was able to work out Silver!”

Silver lightened up, raising his glass. “A toast then, to the future!”

The other ponies lifted their glass as well. “To the future!”, they called out together.

“I’ll notify the others when we awaken, Let me give you our contact information so you can forward any relevant documents and information to us in the waking world. When we receive confirmation on the agreement we’ll head directly to the site and begin work!”

“I’ll forward it to Sunset and you’ll hear back from her soon. I’m glad everything worked out. I can’t wait to see what you guys come up with!”

“Likewise, if you should need anything else please do not hesitate to contact us again, for now, feel free to stay and have another drink, relax, whatever suits you. If not, no hard feelings, adieu, au revoir, auf wiedersehen, and farewell! Please do send Sunset our regards as well!”

“I sure will, she’s going to be so happy to hear that. Goodbye Silver! Nice meeting you three as well, I’m glad the trial didn’t scare you all as much!” she said, earning a hesitant look from the other three night ponies.

And in a moment Tonya was gone, leaving the four night ponies to their discussion.

Midnight, Stanley, and Scarlet simply sat in bewilderment for a moment. Midnight finally found the courage to speak.

“You uhhh… sure weren’t kidding when you said your friends had some big plans in mind wolf man…”

Stanley sat there blinking for a few moments, finally speaking up. “Silver told me all about how this might go down and what I should expect, but it still couldn’t really prepare me for it. Sorry if I froze up a little, the fact that she knew me by name kind of caught me off guard… and the fact that she’s apparently friends with Phobia Remedy herself.”

Silver set his pipe down and stood up to go refill his drink. “Yeah… I know I mentioned it before, I was hoping it’d be enough to ease your mind on that, but I’m sure it’s still surprising to hear it all the same. I hope you all weren’t too surprised by this.”

Scarlet shook her head and smiled. “Well justice was served right? I can’t be too surprised or afraid of somepony if the wardens executed their judgement and she lived to tell the tale. She seems nice, that Sunset character sounds a little too harsh for my liking, but I guess I just didn’t really know how big of a plan this all was.”

Silver set his pipe down, no longer seeing it necessary to relax further. “It’s uhhh… well, it wasn’t originally this big of a plan-- or at least it was, but we never imagined that so much would be possible in such a short amount of time. I’d consider it a very fortunate blessing that we’ve come across, hopefully it won’t be a curse as well. I believe she left enough open so it won’t tread on that ground.”

“So what’s next? Where do we go from here?”

“That’s a good question. Seeing as how we’ve just solved a very important piece of the equation, I’d say we really only have a few items left to tackle. We’ll have to start packing up our warehouse, Tinker and Gyro are already so organized that shouldn’t be an issue. So next we’ll have to start making a move out to the site as soon as we can, that shouldn’t be an issue, but we’ll probably need Marcus’ help with that, especially now that we have more members than we initially started with. More importantly though, we need to start planning how everything is going to be organized. We’ll need to expand our leadership hierarchy, set up project teams— really anything we can think of in that front. We all have talents that can be put to good use in different divisions so we’ll have to hold a meeting and go over that with the others as soon as possible. Were there any other questions?”

“No, not really, not for me at least. What about you two?” She said, looking at Midnight and Stanley.

The two night ponies glanced at each other and then shook their heads in unison.

“Well if there’s no more questions then I think we’re set! We can discuss this more with the others when were all awake. For now feel free to enjoy yourselves or leave, I’ll probably remain here for a little while and reflect on everything.”

And the group did just that, celebrating their newfound direction, and excited for the bright new tomorrow that lied ahead of them.

Ch 12 - "Reflections in the Desert"

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Silver sat up and excitedly jumped out of bed, trotting over to his tablet on the other side of the room, curious to see if the files he needed had arrived yet. With a stylus held in his mouth, he awkwardly navigated to his email and hit refresh a few times, eagerly waiting as the minutes seemed to stretch into hours. He cursed the slow internet as the little progress wheel continued to taunt him endlessly. Silver sighed and trotted over to the TV sitting at the side of his room, turning it on and flipping through a few channels before settling on the news while he impatiently waited.

The report was already midway through, and Silver hardly paid much attention to it, letting it fade into the background as he kept glancing over to his tablet. Before long something piqued his interest slightly more than the rest, snapping his attention back to it.

“... unfortunately very little progress has been made to connect with the partials in Avalon and expand the rehumanization program there. In other news, yet another string of unusual thefts across the US have been reported. The identity of the perpetrators and their motives are still unknown at this time. Whether or not these events are linked to other similar cases has yet to be seen, but the relevant authorities have assured us that they will be conducting a full investigation into them...”

Silver sighed and turned the TV off. One thing ETS hadn’t changed was how boring and sensationalized the news could be at times. As much as it had been briefly interesting to watch today, he couldn’t bear to sit through the rest of it. Deciding to be productive, and not wanting to waste time just sitting around staring at a screen, Silver walked to the bathroom and began his usual afternoon routine while he waited for the slow connection to process.

As he glanced in the mirror he paused for a moment, raising a hoof up to his unkempt mane, chuckling at how ridiculous his reflection looked. As much as Silver began to begrudgingly accept his fate, he still found daily annoyance in the fact that becoming a pony had its fair share of down sides. Not having hands for one sucked more than anything else, even if flight and enhanced night vision were cool. It wasn’t all bad though, If he had one thing to be thankful of it was that at least he was already practically nocturnal as a human so he didn’t actually mind being up for the entire night… it could be lonely at times sure, but Silver genuinely enjoyed the peace and quiet that the night brought... and it introduced him to some new friends, friends whose company he genuinely enjoyed.

He stretched out his wings, looking over his reflection. It was a strange thought to him, but he had realized that in the almost four months of being a pony he had rarely taken the time to actually look at himself in the mirror and get a good feeling of what he had become. He leaned closer, inspecting his fangs. If he had to live in this form at least he could look cool. Not that he cared much about his image, but he at least had some small pride in this. He turned on the shower and hopped in, just letting the warm water wash all of his worries away.

By the time he was done and dried off the email he was waiting for had finally loaded in. Just as she promised the night before, the documents he had requested were all scanned and waiting in his inbox. He excitedly hit print and trotted over to the borrowed printer he had had Marcus set up. One by one the desired documents printed out, immediately being shuffled into a waiting folder. After the last document had been printed, he confidently walked out to the workshop, with the valuable folder held under his wing.

He noticed Tinker sitting alone at his usual spot at his desk in the workshop. Silver glanced over to the plate of breakfast that was undoubtedly cold at this point and chuckled to himself, catching the pegasus off guard. “Tinker, I hope I haven’t interrupted you, I’ve got some great news to share!.”

“Well good afternoon to you as well Silver! You sure seem to be in a good mood today!”

Silver did a short run in place, beaming from ear to ear. “I am! We’re all set to go!”

Tinker did a double take, lifting his makeshift goggles off of his head and sitting up. “Great Scott, we are?!”

Silver enthusiastically nodded his head. “We are!”

Tinker jumped up out of his seat, smiling more than he had in a long time. “Well share the details! Where are we headed!?”

“To a little mining ghost town called Mesa Verde. Isolated, unpopulated, and in a valley full of mystical legends going back hundreds of years, if not longer. It’s just the kind of secluded place we need to work on our projects in secret.”

Tinker seemed to be taken aback a little. “In secret? Don’t you think we should be sharing these projects with everypony else?”

“Well I do, but there’s also projects that require the utmost secrecy.” He leaned in, lowering his voice to a whisper. “Specifically Sunset Blessing’s projects. Seclusion is the most important thing we can have, especially if we have Sunset backing us.”

Tinker flashed him a worried look. “I was afraid there’d be a catch…”

Silver raised his hooves and gestured towards the pegasus. “This isn’t a catch per say, we can do whatever we want with our own projects, we just need to keep Sunset’s a secret, even from our own team. The only ones that can know about them are the ones who are directly working on them.”

“But why the need for such strict secrecy?”

“Sunset Blessing is in with the government, I think that speaks for itself.”

Tinker raised an eyebrow skeptically. “We’re not working on anything bad are we?”

“No, not at all. Sunset’s emissary even promised me that we wouldn’t be working on anything that’s morally or ethically questionable. This is just a security precaution Tinker, secrecy is important when we’re working on sensitive projects like these, projects that are being given to us by a pony that has ties to the government.”

“I… alright well I guess I can understand that. All that matters is that we’ll be able to help ponies soon, this is what we’ve all been working towards after all. I shouldn’t have assumed that we’d just get everything we’ve needed for free without Sunset expecting anything in return.”

“Exactly, I’m glad you understand. If it’s any consolation, we’ll never work on any of her projects for more than 60 calendar days. Granted they won’t always be consecutive, but that’s about 2 months out of the year give or take, leaving us 10 more months to do whatever we want with our own projects. Plus look at it this way, once we begin to recruit more ponies to the team we can actually start assigning more ponies to each team so we won’t need to spend time away from each project.”

Tinker nodded and seemed to relax a little more. “I guess I just didn’t take the bigger picture into account. So when can we start moving, Director?”

“Director?” Silver asked with confusion. “Oh, that’s right…” Silver dug through the folder again, finding the document he desired. “Well, seeing as how we have the land rights, or will by the end of the day, we can start heading over as soon as we we’re all ready. It’ll take some time to get the construction teams and solar equipment dispatched, but we can at least work on cleaning up the town in the meantime.”

“Well I’ll go tell the others, you should go get your belongings all packed up, or you can leave them here for now. We can make multiple trips if need be, but I’ll let you decide that for yourself. Marcus will keep the warehouse safe so it’s not like anypony’s going to take your stuff.”

“Keep in mind that we probably won’t have any space to safely keep all of our stuff there just yet, I’m going to bring just the essentials for now and I suggest you do the same. We can start moving everything else over once we have some actual facilities set up and in place.”

“Alright, I suppose that sounds fine, I’ll share that tidbit of information with the others as well.”

Silver began to walk away but paused, thinking back to his concerns about Sprocket the previous day. “Tinker… What was that Sprocket pony working on?”

“Oh Sprocket, well he was working on some weaponized defence device, but I think I steered him away from that. Last I saw he was going to start work on some utility device, a gauntlet that was kind of like a Swiss Army knife mixed with some strap to hold tools, you know, with a bunch of built in gadgets that would make life easier for ponies… why?”

Silver looked over, to Gyro, calling out to him. “Hey Gyro, come over here, I wanted to talk with you and Tinker for just a moment.”

The unicorn slowly put down his tools, carefully making sure his prototype wouldn’t be disturbed. Removing his makeshift goggles he hopped off of his stool, and trotted over to the two. “I’m on a limited time frame, make it quick.”

“You saw Sprocket working on that defense gauntlet again yesterday right?”

“Yes. He was fiddling around with my plans too.”

Tinker seemed to show a look of worried concern. “Now… now I’m sure you’ve only seen one side of the story, Sprocket seemed to really consider my own concerns on his defense project, and I think I pushed him to focus more on the utility project.”

“But Tinker, we both saw him working on the other one…”

“Silver, I know you have your own concerns about him, but he seemed to really consider my own thoughts on this. We’re at a stalemate right now, it’s two separate accounts that show two different stories. Perhaps he was merely working on that to clear out some creative energy? You know what I’m talking about Gyro, we’ve both been known to jump from project to project just to clear our palette and not lose that creative energy.”

Gyro rolled his eyes and tapped his hooves impatiently. “I suppose Sir, you know how I feel about this.”

“I know Gyro, we had our own private discussions about this. It’s fair to withhold your trust while you still take the time to really get to know them. I’m just telling you two what I personally heard from him. Let me just make myself clear that I’m not doubting you both, I’m just saying that I think it’s too quick to judge him on that.”

Silver glanced around the room, making sure that the duo weren’t present or within ear shot. “He still gives off a weird feeling Tinker, I don’t know if I really trust him as much as you do. Maybe it’s just because I’m a night pony and we have those natural protective instincts. I just wanted to bring up my thoughts on it to you… if I’m the director then I think I should at least just keep an eye out for the group, make sure that we’re not doing anything in haste…”

“And I understand that Silver. I appreciate your concern, I truly do. Just give him a chance, I see a lot of my former self in him, he’s got a bright mind, he just needs the right encouragement to really tap into that potential.”

Silver seemed to hesitate for a moment. “Alright… I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. I just don’t think we should involve ourselves in any projects that could be weaponized. Even if they’re just prototypes meant for defense.”

“Duly noted Silver, thanks for bringing this up. At the cost of sounding somewhat rude, I’m going to take brief break and pack my room up. I need to clear my head a little bit, and finding something productive to do outside of work has always been the thing to do it! Thanks for sharing your news by the way, I want to get set up in the town as soon as we can!”

With that, Tinker walked off, pushing the trunk that served as his makeshift stool into his room and shutting the door.

Gyro leaned in, glancing at the room around him to make sure that no one else was listening, and in a rare breach of character spoke in more than a single sentence. “If it’s any consolation I don’t exactly like him either. He’s kind of strange… and I don’t exactly want to bring him along to the Oasis with us if it’s all the same with you. Tinker wants to take everything public as soon as he can, but we need to spend more time actually researching and testing stuff before going forward with it. His problem now is that he’s so excited to build a better world that he only gets as far as the prototype stage before trying to market something, and as a result he winds up showing off some buggy prototype that deters others from the ideas… I know I’ve never really been up front with you about stuff, but I’ve decided to trust you more than I normally would, just keep this little conversation in mind ok? We can’t afford to jeopardize our plans when we’re dealing with projects like Sunset’s.”

Silver sat bewildered at the unicorn’s unusual verbosity, it took a confused glare from Gyro to snap him out of it. Silver nodded his head and replied. “Alright. I’ll try and keep that in mind, I’m going to talk with Tinker and mention that for now we’re only going to bring the essential staff with us, and that’s just us four, and Stanley’s three new friends. If he tries to argue I’ll bring up your concerns and we can debate about it more then.” Silver started to walk away but paused. “Thanks for that Gyro, I appreciate your trust.”


A few hours had passed, and Tinker’s room was all packed up. He glanced at the clock, noting that Sprocket and Gadget had likely already arrived. Deciding to greet him he stepped out into the workshop, noticing the pair unplugging their gauntlet from the wall.

“Ah yes, hello you two! How are you doing today?”

The two carefully removed their tools from their mounts, and turned to greet the inventor.

“Hi Tinkerer. Just working on some stuff again, as always!”

“Wonderful! Care to tell me all about it?”

Gadget seemed slightly annoyed. “I’m going to go take a walk Sprocket, you can go ahead and tell him all about the project.”

Sprocket sighed. “Yeah… Sure, Just don’t take too long Gadg, I can’t work on this all on my own.”


Gadget set her makeshift tool holder down, and walked outside.

Sprocket seemed to have some hesitation in his voice, glancing back to the door and pausing for a few moments. “So we’ve been working on the utility gauntlet like planned… but I kind of wanted to focus on this too-- I know you discussed some concerns with me, and they’re fair enough, but I just wanted to see this through… I hate just leaving projects left unfinished…”

Sprocket… you seem to have something on your mind… want to just talk?”

He sighed. “No… but I suppose you’ll prod at me until I tell you…” Sprocket stepped back, with an anxious look on his face. He glanced around, making sure that Gadget was still outside. “Tinkerer, what I am about to tell you has never been shared with anypony else, It’s going to stay that way, you do not share this with a living soul, got it?”

Tinker raised an eyebrow. “What’s this about?”

“My reasons for not trusting humanity go way further than just thinking that they’re not worth our time. The world is still run by humans, it’s foolish to think that it isn’t. Whether we like it or not we’re the minority, every major thought, movement, and creation is going to be led by humans for the foreseeable future, at least until they can learn to tolerate us more.”

“I don’t see where you’re going with this…”

“What I’m saying is that humanity lacks compassion right now, certain… events during ETS really made that clear for me. It’s obvious that they’re afraid of what we can do, and I don’t want any part in working with them right now until we can both be amicable to each other. My greatest fear is also my greatest weakness, it’s something I’ve never been able to admit to anypony other than myself.”

“Sprocket… What is it?”

“It’s losing Gadget… She’s really the only pony I could ever call a friend, and I’m afraid that telling her what really made me the way I am is going to drive her away, especially after I’ve kept it from her for this long…”

“What happened to you? Please, feel free to tell me, it’s obvious that you need to get this off your chest. I assure you that I won’t tell a soul.”

Sprocket took a deep breath and closed his eyes. “It was the last few days of my transformation, I decided to try and go out for a walk. It was still tough at this point, but we needed groceries and I still didn’t want to admit defeat and go to the shelter. I awkwardly made my way down to the store, which was still closed mind you. I’m not going to claim that stealing and looting was right at the time, but I don’t regret it. We were too prideful to go to the shelter and admit that we couldn’t manage anything for ourselves… I thought that if I did this on my own, that I’d be able to do anything. It wasn’t hard to get in, the window was already smashed by some other looter, but my biggest mistake was thinking that I could do anything, that just because I had this sudden protective drive nothing could hurt me. I couldn’t have been any more wrong. I tried to sneak out with a bag of supplies, but a group of humans noticed me… You have to realize that humans were still very much against ponies at this point… and I guess still are to a degree, but it’s gotten better. They harassed me and I learned a valuable lesson that night…”

Sprocket took a deep breath. “I learned that attacking three humans without thinking was not a wise idea. When it was all said and done I was battered and bruised, but nothing else broken aside from my pride. I couldn’t admit to Gadget that I was stealing just so I wouldn’t have to take another hit to my pride, and I knew that if I told her the truth it’d only worry her even more. I wound up telling her that I tripped and fell when I was going down some stairs, a flimsy lie that I doubt she fully believed, but the painful walk back to our studio only made it clear that humanity didn’t care about us. To them we were alien, no longer worth giving the time of day to. That’s why I’m so passionate about this project, because I never want to have to live through their cruelty unarmed again...”

Tinker sat there wide eyed and unmoving, shocked by his story. “But Sprocket… you have to realize that tensions were still high during that time… to many the world seemed on the verge of some great apocalypse! You can’t just let the actions of one small group reflect the actions of the rest!”

“Have humans shown you any care?”

Tinker nodded. “One of my best friends has. Marcus is the owner of this warehouse, he let us all use it… granted I think that was partially out of guilt for turning us away before, but still.”

“Then maybe it’s true, maybe humans still can show compassion for us…” Sprocket sighed and looked away. “but I’ve moved beyond that, I’m not willing to work with them now, not when I’ve seen what they can really do.”

“Sprocket, you’re not even considering that--”

Sprocket snapped his head around, facing Tinker with a newfound anger. “Considering what?! That humans and ponies will just work together without any problems? That they’re not going to just take everything from me? I’ve lived my whole life having everything robbed from me. I could have been well known, my name could be up there with the likes of other great inventors, but around every corner someone’s there to steal it all away!”


“Sprocket what?! Do you know how frustrating it’s been? Having to hide this all away from Gadget because I can’t just swallow my pride and tell her the truth?! I couldn’t live with myself if I drove her away!”

“Sprocket just take a breath, you’re getting emotional…”

“And you’re just like the rest I bet! Tell me this, are you inventing for others or yourself? Do you really care about others or do you just care about the fame and fortune that comes with it?! What makes you so enlightened that you get to judge somepony else on what makes them vindicated or not?!”

“Sprocket, I’m not judging you for anything. I think you and I are more similar than you’ve initially considered. Just calm down and we can talk about this.” Tinker got closer to him, laying a hoof on his shoulder reassuringly.

Sprocket merely shifted away. “Don’t touch me. I’m not a foal needing consolation…”

“Sprocket just--”

“I SAID LEAVE ME BE!” Sprocket suddenly turned around, swatting Tinker’s hoof away, seeing a bright spark as his arm made contact. He realized his mistake as it was too late. He looked down to the overcharged gauntlet and then back to the fallen form of Tinker, who seemed to be caught in a momentary daze. Realizing the gravity of the situation, he threw the gauntlet to the side and ran off, running to Gyro’s room and hurriedly throwing the door open.

“Gyroscope, I need your help stat!”

Gyro sighed and turned towards Sprocket. “What was that noise?”

Sprocket’s words came out in a stammer, a mixture of fear, regret, and concern was evident in his voice. “Gyro… I’m sorry… We were talking about something and-- and I accidentally hit him with the charged gauntlet! I’m… I’m sorry-- I didn’t mean it!”

Gyro suddenly jumped up, running to the door. “What have you done?!”

“It was an accident!” Sprocket said pleadingly.

“Get out of my way, I need to go help my friend.” Gyro ran out into the workshop and over to Tinker, helping him up. “Silver, get out here!” he called out angrily.

“Please, Gyro! It was all a misunderstanding!” Sprocket fearfully begged.

“Shut up and sit down, we’ll deal with you in a minute!” Gyro angrily snapped.

Silver walked out of his room, taking note of the scene around him. “What’s all the commotion Gyro?”

Gyro angrily flicked his tail around, gesturing forcefully at Sprocket. “Electro over here hit Tinker with his gauntlet. He’ll be ok, he’s just a bit dazed. He’s lucky he didn’t stop his heart or something.”

Silver angrily turned towards Sprocket. “You did what?!”

“It was an accident!”

Tinker tried to sit up, groaning in pain. “Silver… give him a break, it was a mistake…”

Ignoring his response, Silver continued to push his question. “What was an accident?! Just spit it out and tell me so we can actually figure out what to do with you!”

Sprocket shifted around uncomfortably, taking a breath and clearly relaying the previous events leading up to his outburst. “Tinker and I were talking, he asked about the defense gauntlet so I told him, I… got a little emotional, and in the heat of the moment I accidentally hit him with it, just on the arm though-- I didn’t mean to hurt him!”

Silver stomped on the ground angrily. “How do you just accidentally hit somepony with a shock gauntlet?! You’re a genius, even you should have known that this could have happened!”

“Silver Please!--”

The door opened, and the four ponies turned towards the sudden intruder, noticing a very concerned and confused looking Gadget staring back at them. “What...What’s going on, Sprocky? What’s gotten all of you up in arms?”

Without hesitating Gyro snapped out an angry response. “Sprocket hit Tinker with the gauntlet, he’s lucky he only momentarily dazed him.”

Gadget took a step back, her worried look only growing. “Sprocky… you did what?!”

“Gadget, it was all an accident!” He pleaded.

Gadget put a hoof to her temple, letting out an annoyed sign. “Sprocket this is why I didn’t want to even work on this! I knew that something like this was just going to happen!”

Sprocket’s ears lowered as he stammered out a weak reply. “Gadget… Please, let me explain it...”

She ignored his plea. “Sprocket, why did you need to make this?! Why couldn’t we just work on the other one?! Why did you need to make some weapon?!”

Sprocket sighed, seeing no other option. “Gadget… I never wanted to tell you this, but I guess it was going to come out sooner or later, I was wrong to hide it from you. Do you remember when I showed up all bruised after we finished transforming?”

“Yeah, do you want to tell me the truth about what happened now?!” she angrily replied.

“Gadget, please… just listen…”

“I’m listening Sprocket, just spit it out already!”

Sprocket lowered his ears and looked away “I… I didn’t fall…”

This only angered her further. “I knew that already! So what happened Sprocket?!”

“I… I was going to go loot a store… I couldn’t admit that we needed help and couldn’t do stuff on our own.”

Her eyes widened more than he thought possible. “You did what?!”

“Gadget please, I was egotistical, I wasn’t thinking--”

“--Yeah, you sure weren’t! So what happened next? How’d you get all bruised up? Do you know how worried you had me?”

“I tried to attack a group of looters that tried to take my stuff--”

“--You mean the stuff you stole?!”

Sprocket lowered his head in shame. “Yes…”

Gadget took a couple moments to cool off, lowering her voice. “Sprocket… why couldn’t you just tell me about this?!”

He raised his head and looked her right in the eyes. “Because I didn’t want to hurt you! You mean more to me than anypony else in the entire world!”

Her face shifted to an unreadable mix of anger and worry. “Sprocket, why did you have to lie though!”

“Because I was afraid you’d leave if you knew how rash a decision I made! Ponies aren’t supposed to steal and loot, I didn’t want you to think any less of me.”

“They’re not supposed to lie either!..” Sprocket winced at her reply, pulling a noticeable reaction from her. She lowered her voice once more. “Sprocket… you need to stop treating me like some foal you need to protect, I’m glad you’re looking out for me, but you’re obviously not thinking everything through completely.”

Sprocket sat back up, composing himself. “We’re night ponies Gadget, protecting those we care about is in our blood!”

Gadget raised an eyebrow, both touched and annoyed at his instinctual devotion to protecting her. “But you didn’t need to go this far just for me.”

Sprocket sighed. “I did though!”

“Sprocket, am I just some object to you? Something you need to take care of like some kind of pet?”

Sprocket tried his hardest to hide his true emotion, turning his head away and cursing his night pony instincts. “No Gadget-- It’s not that, I just… I just need you!”

Gadget put a hoof on his shoulder. “Then why did you let it get this bad?”

Sprocket closed his eyes, lowering his ears. “I… I didn’t think!”

Gadget took a deep breath. “Sprocket… you’re still my friend. I know you only meant well, but that doesn’t justify all of this.”

“Gadget… please.”

“Sprocket, can you please just swallow your pride and admit that you’re not thinking clearly? You let this obsession with protecting me get to the point that you could have seriously injured somepony else!”

Sprocket looked back over to Tinker. “He’s alright though!”

“Sprocket! Do you seriously not see what’s wrong with this though?!”

“Protecting us?!”

“Making some weapon because you had a bad experience while trying to steal from others because you couldn’t admit that you’re not some flawless pony?!”

“Gadget… I’m not perfect okay?! Can we please just move past this?”

“Move past this?! Sprocket, we can, but you need to seriously just sit back for a moment and realize how serious this could have been!”

Sprocket raised an eyebrow, worry rising in his voice. “What are you saying?”

She turned away, looking at Tinker, and the two ponies sitting by his side. “I’m saying that I don’t know what to think right now… not when you’ve kept so much from me!”

“Gadget please… don’t just leave...”

“I’m not leaving you Sprocket... I just need some time to clear my head. You can’t take back what you’ve done, but I don’t think you’re a bad pony. The fact that you’re so remorseful about all of this just backs that up. I just need some time to think about this for myself.”

“Gadget please don’t…”

“Sprocket, just relax, we can talk in a few days. You need to stop treating me like some kind of foal though! We’re adults, but you’re acting like a foal crying over nothing right now!”

Sprocket sat up. “Fine. Can we at least talk about this over dinner?”

“No, not tonight.”

Sprocket sighed. “Fine. Just please… please don’t think of me any less because of this.”

“I’ll think about it, but you need to stop acting like you’re perfect! You have a lot of faults Sprocket, but so does everypony else. You need some time alone to think about this!”

“Ok Gadget, fine… I will.”

It took some time, but the ponies had all settled down for the most part. Calamity sat nearby, in case tensions flared again. So far everyone was amicable, not needing him to jump into action. Silver shuffled in place, feeling some slight guilt at acting so hostile to the evidently hurt inventor.

“I wanted this news to be a bit happier, but unfortunately you kind of caused it to not be. We’re moving to a more permanent base, Tinker suggested bringing you along, but we’re going to have to ask that you don’t join us for the time being. We can review this later on and discuss it, but for now I don’t trust you.” Silver turned towards Gadget. “I hope this doesn’t come off as rude, but we’re going to ask that you don’t follow us along either. You two need to work this out and we can’t let drama get in the way of our progress.”

“That’s fine Silver. Thanks.” Gadget walked towards the door, turning to face Sprocket one more time. “Sprocket… We can talk in the park in a few days, I just want you to know that I don’t hate you.”

Sprocket only nodded, closing his eyes in sadness.

Silver turned towards sprocket, giving him a sympathetic look. “Sprocket. You have to realize that the only pony you can blame for this is you.”

Sprocket nodded. “You know Silver… when you visited my dream I thought you were intriguing… you stood out like a sore thumb to me, but I could tell you genuinely had a hope for a better world… I genuinely hope that you guys are successful out there.”

Something suddenly clicked for Silver. He looked at the pony’s jet black mane, realizing where he had seen him before. His current demeanor was a far cry from what he had seen from him initially. “You know, I do remember you now… Photon… I’m sorry if I was quick to judge you, but you have to realize that you’re in a pretty compromising position right now. Trust is something that takes a long time to build up, but mere seconds to shatter. You shattered it early on by the way you acted… at one point I thought that you might have made a good recruit, but your ego got in the way of that. If you can move past that I’d be willing to try and give you a chance.”

“You’re absolutely right. I guess this might be what I needed to open my eyes.” He looked over to Tinker, who was currently holding an ice pack to his head. “Tinker… I am so sorry for this. You were right. The utility gauntlet is really what I should have been focussing on.”

“Sprocket… It’s fine. You can’t let your genius go to waste. I just hope you really are taking this as a learning experience… I’d love to see what you’re really capable of if you put your mind to something.”

“I… I guess.”

Calamity leaned forward, anger rising in his voice. “You guess?”

“Look, I just lost my only friend, I don’t really think there’s a whole lot left for me right now.”

“You didn’t lose her though, she even said that you’re going to talk in a few days.”

Sprocket shrugged. “But do you think that she’ll really trust me? After this?”

Silver spoke up again, cutting Calamity off before he could say anything. “I can’t say Sprocket. You’re still letting your ego get in the way of things. I think she’ll still accept you, but you need to realize that the world doesn’t revolve around you. You need to show her that you can realize that for yourself.”

“I guess… I just don’t know. This is kind of how everything’s gone my whole life. I try something, it goes bad, and then I’m left picking up the broken parts, trying to make them into something else. I guess I wasn’t always this way, but It’s hard to move past who I am now. When you do something for so long it’s hard to break those habits.”

Calamity sat up and nodded reassuringly. “I’m a testament to that you know? I was horrible, I intimidated ponies, took the things they valued most from them, treated them like dirt, because I was on some fucked up power trip. The pony I answered to only fueled that trip, and it made me a terrible pony as a result. It took others to finally make me realize that, and while it doesn’t make up for my actions, it at least gave me something to work towards, something that I could do to try and better myself. I guess what I’m trying to say is that we’re not so different, I think you have the ability to change, to better yourself, you just need to open your eyes and see that.”

“I’ll give it a try, but I’m not hopeful. I’ve screwed up too much…”

The crystal pony’s anger seemed to flare once more, but he caught himself before snapping. “Did you hear a single thing I said?.. I was in a bad place, the lowest of lows that you could probably get. Everything a pony shouldn’t have been. You’re nowhere near that, you just need to move past this idea that you are! Get up, realize that you’re a pony that’s made mistakes, mistakes that your friend is giving you the chance to rectify! Apologize to her and mean it and maybe you might actually have a chance at not being such a sorry excuse for a night pony!”

Sprocket sighed again, turning to look Calamity in the eyes. “Fine. I’ll give it a chance. I hope you’re right.”

“And I hope you’re actually going to learn something from all of this.”

“I’ll try Calamity… I’ll try…”

Ch 13 - “Planned Obsolescence”

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Sprocket closed his eyes as he walked out the door. He couldn’t help but mentally berate himself over the fact that he had driven someone else away again. His whole life had seemingly been failure after failure, and this was only the latest in a long string of them. He hated to admit it, but Gadget leaving him, even if for only a few days, was one of the worst possible things he could imagine. It was selfish to think so, but he didn’t really care about anything or anyone else nearly as much. Sprocket could get by on his own just fine, he had for most of his life, but not having his best friend… or ex best friend as it now was, by his side really made things all the more depressing for him.

He knew that he couldn’t just sit around doing nothing, so he walked down the street, avoiding going home. It was still late afternoon, but sulking around alone in his studio would just ruin his day even more. He needed to go find somepony… anypony to talk to. If he could distract himself constantly he wouldn’t spend the rest of the day letting these negative emotions get to him. He paused in his stride for a moment, hanging on a momentary thought. It was strange for him to admit his own faults, unnerving even. It wasn’t often that he reflected on his own actions like this.

He shrugged and resumed his walk, maybe it was a good sign that he was actually acknowledging his mistakes, perhaps if he actually worked towards bettering himself it would make his talk with Gadget go by so much smoother. Maybe it was his pony instincts talking, but Sprocket needed friends, and he needed them now more than ever. He knew exactly who to talk to, and he was sure that they would still be there. He paused for a moment, finally taking flight and doing what he did most other days: head to the park for a nice relaxing stroll… or at least try to.

Assorted boxes all sat stacked around the workshop waiting to be loaded into Marcus’ van. It seemed as if the entire warehouse was all packed up… or at least the majority of Tinker and Gyro’s belongings were. If one thing never failed to amaze Silver, it was the speed that Tinker and Gyro could accomplish something when they needed to work in a hurry.

The pegasus flashed his new director an embarrassed look, avoiding making eye contact. “I uhhh… I guess we’re going to need a bigger van.”

Silver facehoofed. “Tinker… What did I say about only bringing the essentials?”

Tinker scratched the side of his head, resuming eye contact. “Well Silver… these… these are the essentials!”

Silver gestured to one of the many boxes that littered the room, leaning closer to inspect the label that had been hastily applied to the side. “So scrapped plans are essential for getting our initial base set up?” he replied in a questioning tone.

“Well I…”

Silver sighed and rubbed a hoof against his temple. “Tinker. For Marcus’ sake we’re only bringing the bare minimum essentials that we need. No more, at least not yet. Once we have actual facilities built up we can go from there ok? I know you’re excited to get to the site, but you need to realize that by the time we get there it’s going to be night and we’re not going to have a lot of time to set anything up. If you weren’t so gung ho about this I’d hold us for the night and leave in the morning.”

Tinker hung his head in resignation. “Oh alright, fine.” He rummaged through a few boxes, finally condensing his many belongings down into a couple bags. “You’re the boss, if you think we should wait until tomorrow then why aren’t you vetoing this?”

Silver smirked and lightened up a little. “Look, to be completely honest, I’m excited to get there too. We just need to assess the site as soon as we can, and the more time we spend driving there the less daylight we’ll have to check on stuff. A small construction crew’s already been dispatched and should be setting up the basic camp, but it’s going to be easier to see what the extent of the work will be during the day… well for the rest of you that is. If we get there tonight we’ll have all day tomorrow to actually look at what we need to really do.”

Tinker nodded in agreement. “So what kind of living situation are we looking at once we’re there?”

“It’s… kind of complicated right now, but I requested that the crew secure the old town hall, it’s an abandoned building but should be sound enough to work for us, at least until we can start overhauling the place. Sunset Blessing’s been doing this in Riverview for a little while now and it’s seemingly working in her favor, plus it was easier to acquire some abandoned ghost town than it was to go buy a bunch of land and start building a city there.”

“Well... it’ll be a roof over our heads at least… that’s better than nothing!”

Silver smiled. “Let’s get going friend, I’m sure Marcus is all ready for the drive.”

The two walked out to the waiting van, their few belongings in tow.

Marcus was already hard at work herding the group in, much to the excitement of Silver and Tinker. He seemed to be in good spirits, and Silver was glad for that. Marcus stepped to the side, dramatically gesturing at the door of the van. “Alright children, everyone in, we’re taking a little field trip today!”

“Alrighty, who do I hand my permission slip to?!” Patrick enthusiastically shouted much to Calamity’s annoyance.

The crystal pony rolled his eyes, unenthusiastically hopping into the van. “Great, can’t wait to hear loudmouth yammer to us for the entire ride again…”

In stark contrast, Patrick ran up, excitedly jumping in. “Awesome! We can be carpool buddies again!”

Midnight and Stanley chuckled to themselves as they walked up, settling in the back corner, taking a seat next to Silver. The three would likely all be asleep for most of the journey. Staying grouped together in one place would make it all the easier for them to sleep relatively undisturbed.

Tinker and Gyro opted for the front of the van with Marcus, they’d likely be talking about some of their usual jargon for the ride.

Gizmo was the last to enter, and took a seat in the middle next to Patrick and a very annoyed looking Calamity, much to the latter’s relief. Gizmo could handle the young pegasi’s enthusiasm and he figured that Calamity would certainly not object to it.

Marcus pulled the door shut and made sure their luggage was all secured, asking one final question. “Alright, everyone all buckled in? That’s rhetorical by the way, I don’t think seat belts exactly work for you all. Please keep your hooves, arms, wings, and legs inside at all times, and remember to watch your kids!"

As was the norm, Calamity rolled his eyes, giving a terse reply. “Cut the crap Marcus and let’s get this over with. Loudmouth here’s just going to talk our ears off for the ride anyways so the sooner we get there the better.”

“Oh come on Calamity, I’ll be quiet just for you!”

Calamity just rolled his eyes.

Sprocket walked through the park, trotting up to Arrow and Jet. The two were as close as always, hanging out in their usual spot by the pond. With a lack of knowing anypony else in the park, he tried to start idle conversation. “Hey guys, what are you uhh.. up to today?”

The two broke their eye contact and looked back at him. “Oh not much, just the usual. Hanging out in the park with my best friend, enjoying the beautiful afternoon together!” Jet replied, cheerful as always.

“That’s… that’s fun. Do you mind if I hang out with you guys?”

“I… Well sure, I mean the more the merrier right?”

Sprocket smiled. “Yeah!”

“Speaking of more… where’s... Gadget?”

Sprocket sadly looked away, hanging his head low. “She’s… She’s out on her own right now.”

“When’s she going to be back?”

“I… I uhh.. I don’t know. We kind of had a bit of a falling out I’m afraid. We’re taking some time apart to clear our heads.”

Arrow leaned in close, embracing the night pony. “Sprocket… I’m sorry to hear about that, I know you two were good friends…”

He shifted uncomfortably. “I know… Just please… can we change the conversation?”

Arrow spoke up again, hoping to salvage the conversation. “Well… Oh I know, what’re your dinner plans Sprocket? Jet and I were going to go grab something down at that new pony restaurant across town…” She looked at her coltfriend with a brief look of concern. “You’re more than welcome to join us if you want.”

Sprocket seemed to cheer up a little. “Really?”

“Of course, Arrow and I love hanging out with others, and you seem like you could use a nice fun evening dinner. We’ll treat you!”

He smiled. “I’d… I’d really like that!”

“Well, do you want to start heading over now or should we wait a little?”

“I’m fine going over whenever you are!”

“Awesome! Let’s fly over, just follow me and Jet.”

“Th..thanks guys…”

“It’s cool Sprocket, we all have our down days, I’m just glad you’re not letting it get to you too much!”

The three took to the skies, flying at a leisurely pace, admiring the sight of the spectacular city below them. Sprocket dared not turn his head towards the pegasi, for fear of accidentally throwing off his flight path. He hesitantly began to speak to them, careful to keep his focus in check. “So uhh… have you guys gone to this place before?”

Jet answered, maneuvering around to face him. “No, not yet. We’ve actually been hoping to go along with some of the other ponies around here, but well… I guess they were all busy. But hey you’re just as good as the others Sprocket, Arrow and I are glad to have you join us.”

The three slowed down for their landing, coming to a graceful stop right by the entrance. The restaurant certainly seemed new to Sprocket, and his thoughts returned to Gadget, wondering what she was up to right now. The two loved to explore the little hangouts around town and this place would have been right up her alley.

“Heya Sprocket, you feeling ok?” Arrow asked with concern.

Sprocket snapped out of his daze. “Oh, yeah. Sorry, I guess I was daydreaming a little. Gadget would have loved this place, we love… loved seeing all the little pony hangouts around town. I guess I just let that distract me a little.”

“Don’t sweat it Sprocket. I know you’re not having a great day, it’s fine. Just try not to think about that.”

Sprocket rolled his eyes and muttered under his breath. Well that’s easier said than done… not that you’d understand.

“Sorry did you say something?”

“Huh… Oh no, sorry. Just talking to myself I guess.” Maybe I do need to lighten up a little bit. “Anyways, let’s go in. I’ll buy you guys a round of drinks.”

“You don’t have to do that for us Sprocket--”

“--No I should, what’s one good deed? You guys have always been so welcoming to us, you’re even treating me to dinner. I think this is the least I could do to repay all your kindness.”

“It’s fine Sprocket, ponies help each other out, we’re just looking out for you--”

“--No no, I insist. Ponies share too right? Well what better way to share than by buying some friends some drinks.”

“Well we really appreciate it, isn’t that right Jet?”

“Absolutely. Let’s go grab a seat.”

The three trotted into the fairly busy looking restaurant, greeting the cheerful looking hostess. All sorts of ponies were currently occupying the cozy dining room, their conversations coming together to form a loud cacophony that was all but unavoidable. Sprocket cringed back a little, relaxing when he caught the confused gaze of the hostess.

“Hey there, welcome to The Golden Horseshoe! Is it just the three of you today?”

“Yeah, it’s just us.”

The mare smiled cheerfully. “Wonderful, would you like to sit indoors or outdoors? As you can see our dining room is a little busy but we could probably find a seat for you at one of the group tables if that’s alright with you.”

Jet glanced between Sprocket and Arrow, noticing Sprocket’s more reserved stance. “Well you can’t beat the patio right? You guys ok with that?”

“Sure am!”

Sprocket seemed to loosen up a little, glancing out to the relatively empty patio. “Yeah ok, that’s fine by me!”

“Super, just follow me!”

The four walked out to the patio, and Sprocket, Arrow, and Jet took their seats at the low table.

“So is this your first time here?”

“Yeah, we’ve finally had the time to stop by, I’ll take it you guys have been doing well?”

“Well welcome, it’s always fun to see some new faces here, we just opened a few days ago and we already have a nice batch of regulars. You know how ponies love company. I’ll go ahead give you guys a few minutes to look over the menu. Can I get you started with anything to drink in the meantime?”

Jet, Arrow, and Sprocket looked through the drink list for a few solitary moments.

“I’ll have a Mint Dream, what about you Jet?”

“Oh I guess I’ll try a…” He squinted his eyes at the menu, scrutinizing the odd assortment of beverage choices a little more. Sparkling rain - a delectable mix of sparkling rain water produced by local Pegasi with a dash of natural citrus thrown in “Well... the Sparkling Rain kind of sounds good. I guess I’ll have one of those. How about you Sprocket?”

The night pony’s eyes were fixated on the drink list, something called The Moonlight Mango seemed to call out to some instinctual part of his mind, making his mouth water as he imagined the sweet flavor. “What’s the Moonlight Mango?”

“Oh that? It’s been really popular with the night ponies lately. One of the owners traded some drink recipes with a little circle of entrepreneuring ponies for our menu and that was one of them. Some night pony out in Florida came up with it... I’d personally recommend it if you like some nice tropical drinks.”

“I’ll… I’ll take one-- the biggest size you have!”

As the waitress left Arrow and Jet chatted while Sprocket sat, reflecting on all the times he had spent with Gadget. He never really considered her more than a friend, but looking back, she really was someone special to him. This whole ordeal had really been an eye opener for him, but he was still unsure of what to make of it. He supposed that he could try and change his demeanor a bit, but old habits were often hard to break. He owed it to himself to at least try though.

“Sprocket, you there?”

He shook his head to clear his thoughts, blinking a few times in return. “Huh? Yeah sorry. What did you need?”

“What do you think you’re going to get? Arrow and I are going to split the fruit salad.”

“Oh. I uhh… I guess I’ll take a look.”

Sprocket glanced down at the menu, not really seeing anything the particularly piqued his interest. “I guess I’ll just go with the mango flatbread… I guess that sounds good.”

“Wow, you’re sure on a mango kick tonight aren’t you? Are you sure you’re ok Sprocket?”

“Yeah. I just have a lot on my mind, sorry.” He flashed her an unconvincing smile, stalling her line of questioning for the meantime.

The cheerful waitress trotted back up to them. “Are you all ready to order now?”

“Yeah, we’ll split the fruit salad.”

“And for you?”

“Oh.. I’ll have the uhh.. Mango flatbread.”

“Super! I kind of figured you’d go for that, as you can imagine it’s been very popular with our night pony patrons! Anyways I’ll go get your orders started for you.”

“Thanks... ”

“Willow, Desert Willow.”

“Thanks Willow!” He smiled as the waitress walked away.

“So Sprocket, what’re your evening plans?”

“Huh? Oh. I guess just go hang out, maybe work on some project… I’m not actually sure.”

She furrowed her brow. “Oh.. Well Jet and I were going to catch a movie if you wanted to join us. “

Sprocket smiled. “I appreciate the offer, I really do, but I need to clear my mind a little more after this.”

Arrow nodded, a smile spreading across her face. “That’s understandable, I’m just glad you’re not letting something ruin your night.”

Marcus was currently unloading the van as the group stood in front of a rather desolate and run down mining town. It was a bit of a shock for them to see how bad of a condition it was, and Silver was already making a mental list of the obvious things that would need to be addressed first. What was important was that it was theirs, and was a quick way to at least get their plans for the Oasis jump started.

“So this is it huh? Your Oasis in the desert?”

“Now look Cal, I know it’s a bit rough right now, but it has some serious potential--”

“It’s Calamity. Not Cal. Anyways, why did you bother rushing us out here if we’re just going to live in some ramshackle building that I’m pretty sure can’t even be called structurally sound.”

Silver gestured to the town around them. “Because we needed all the time we could to analyze what needed to be fixed versus what we need to demolish and rebuild. Just trust me on this--”

“--It’s not that I don’t trust you, it’s just that we’re out here in the middle of the desert, setting up shop in an old abandoned mining town that hasn’t been inhabited in close to 30 years. What about food? Water? Did you even consider that? We’re in the middle of the desert for God’s sake, we’re going to need as much of that as we can possibly get! You can bet your ass that the pegasi won’t be able to solve that problem, there’s hardly any clouds here, let alone ones that could even remotely condense enough moisture to give us even a speck of rain. So yes, I trust you, but I’m a skeptic… I think I have a right to be one right now.”

Silver sat there and considered the crystal pony’s words for a moment. “Well Calamity, that’s where Gizmo comes in... for our long term food production at least. There’s a water station being set up inside town hall, that’s where we’ll get our water for now. We’ll have some rations at our disposal too, but it won’t be long until Giz can get a farm running and then we’ll be all set. Once we have the initial town set up we can work on getting proper utilities run out here. As for the cloud problem? Well I doubt it’d be too hard to set up a mister system around the city once we get to the reconstruction point, I’m sure the pegasi would be able to utilize that to form more substantial clouds, but in the meantime we need to focus on even getting to that point first.”

Calamity rolled his eyes again. “Fine. I’ll give this a chance, but just make sure that you actually have a clear plan.”

Silver’s tone changed to a more relaxed one as the two seemed to calm down a bit. “I know you have some concerns, but we’ll discuss this as soon as I can get everything set up. Sunset’s not going to let her new assets just wander into the desert unprepared. You’re a part of that too you know? You, Midnight, and Giz have all lived in a village that wasn’t all that different than what we’re doing here. Midnight told me you guys thrived there for months, so what’s a few more?”

Calamity raised an eyebrow. “You actually trust Blessing? What if she just cuts you loose and pulls out of your little deal? What then, are we just supposed to give up and go back to our everyday lives? Need I remind you that that’s not even remotely possible for some of us.” He seemed to consider something for a moment, but quickly resumed his line of questioning. “What’s your plan Silver, for this, for the PRISM, and of course if Blessing pulls out of your deal? Do you really even genuinely care about making this better world for others?”

“I do… this place… It’s going to change the world Calamity… you ever have a nightmare that just refuses to leave your head no matter how much you try and distract yourself? Something that genuinely scares you to the point that you go to some crazy extreme to try and solve it? That’s what my plan is. When I was a foal I used to read anything I could get my hooves on. Eventually those old foals stories bored me and I moved on to stuff like Jules Verne and H.G. Wells… those stories… these crazy tales about men going to the moon, taking a journey to the center of the earth, exploring the unknown depths of liquid space, taking a trip through time… they inspired me, they made me think that anything was possible if I worked hard enough to do something. That’s what this is all for, I want to spark that same sense of inspiration in others, because maybe if ponies and humans believe that we can solve this problem… we might actually be able to.”

Silver took a breath and glanced out at the landscape around him. “Yeah, I’ll admit that it might have been a bit of an over optimistic pipe dream before, but now we actually have funding! Funding and resources that we never could have dreamed about having a short time ago. Yes there’s some caveats, but there’s provisions in our little deal that ensure that both parties will have the opportunity to pull from the deal amicably. To put this in very simple terms, anything we develop on our own is ours, and once we get going and actually have stuff we can patent we’ll have a viable means of staying afloat financially. I don’t think I need to delve into every little intricacy of this just to prove some point to you. Believe me, I don’t exactly know what to think of Sunset right now, but I think she genuinely has good intentions… her emissary seemed to imply that heavily and I’m willing to trust them. So tell me this, are you in or out Calamity? Because regardless of the answer, we’re pushing forward with or without you.”

“I said I’ll give it a chance Silver. A chance is more than I would have given a few days before. I would be lying if I said you guys’ plan didn’t catch my interest, I think you genuinely care about the world. The idea of really making a positive impact on the world is what inspired me to become a police officer back before ETS, if anypony else shares your vision it’s me, I just wanted to know what was really at play here, whether it was genuine compassion or merely blind faith… I think I know my answer now, or at least have a better feel for you.”

Silver lightened up, looking the crystal pony in the eyes. “Thanks Calamity. It means a lot more to me than you probably even know.”

The sun had already set, the van was unpacked, and Silver had assembled the group around a large bonfire, hoping to raise morale a little. His thoughts were all over the place tonight, and he couldn’t help but wonder if he had jumped to conclusions with everything too soon… Sprocket especially. This whole place, the Oasis that is, needed smart ponies, and Sprocket seemed like just the kind of pony that might fit the bill, but he needed the right motivation. Calamity’s little outburst earlier, while a little accusatory, was perfectly warranted and genuinely made Silver rethink his whole plan and whether all of this was truly viable or not. Everytime he asked himself this he came to the same conclusion: he had to at least try and inspire some positive change in the world, no one could fault him for trying, not when the future was on the line.

“Silver, if you’d be so kind, could you please snap out of it? I believe you had something to say to all of us?”

“Oh… that, well… thanks Tinker. I just want to say thanks for everything, I know this isn’t exactly the Oasis we’ve all had in mind, but I know we can make it that... and we can do so much more. It’s going to take a lot of work and time, and I know this is just the start, but if we all work together we can do it. We need to remember what’s important, and that’s working towards making a place where we can push the boundaries of what’s possible and hopefully inspire others to do the same.”

Gyro raised an eyebrow. “There’s a lot to do.”

“But you’re right Silver, it’s possible. It’s going to be a lot of work but I know we’ll be able to get it done. What’s the first order of business?”

“Well we need to take stock of everything. I want to at least get town hall up and running, we can use that as our own little home base for now and go from there. I have some… blue sky plans that I drew up, but I’m not sure if they’ll even be useable, but it’s something. I have a few ideas for town hall that might work out well for us.”

“What do you have in mind?”

“Well ideally we want a bunch of multi purpose rooms that we can use as flex space as needed. Definitely a boardroom, maybe a couple specialized labs while we get the rest built, a canteen, and living quarters, at least until we can get some proper houses built. Offices too, I think the the first floor will be all our temporary stuff, the rest of the floors can be a little more permanent because those will be for the operations and administration teams.”

“I take it you already have the plans in mind?”

Silver smiled and tapped his head with a hoof. “They’re all in here!”

“When can we start?”

He poked the fire a little, keeping it going steady. “Tomorrow. I’ll draft up some general plans tonight and turn them over to the crew to make sure they’re all sound.”

Tinker smiled. “I’m excited Silver, I really am!”

“Me too, me too!”

The three sat and finished their meal, ending the evening with a final round of drinks. An assortment of empty drink glasses sat in front of Sprocket, much to the bewilderment of his two friends, who shared a surprised look on their faces. He might have gone just a little overboard with the mango drinks tonight but he was genuinely happier, and as wary as he was of spending time with the others he had to admit that Arrow and Jet were genuinely good ponies. They could be a little… much at times, but Sprocket knew that they would happily include him any time.

Willow walked up, collecting their plates and setting them onto a nearby cart. “Did you happen to save room for dessert tonight? We have a fantastic mango sorbet that you might be interested in!”

Sprocket’s eyes widened at that, and he was half tempted to order one, but his friends’ look of concern quickly dashed those plans. “No… I think I’m good. I’ll take another Midnight Mango to go though!”

“Another? You’ve had a dozen already though.”

“Well what’s one more right?”

“Alright… if you say so… I’ll uhh.. be back with your drink and check, just give a holler if you need anything else.” She flashed him another concerned look before pushing the cart back to the kitchen.

Sprocket looked back to his two friends, feeling a cheerful warmth pass over him for the first time in hours. “Thanks guys… it’s been genuinely fun.”

“Would you want to join us again tomorrow? We might go stop by some new bar and we wouldn’t mind if you tagged along again!”

Sprocket began to decline but stopped himself. “I.. I would like that a lot. Thanks guys!”

“Any time Sprocket, it hurts to see other ponies get so sad, we’ll never mind your company if it makes you feel better.”

Sprocket smiled and thanked them again, taking flight once more. He quickly flew back to his studio, walking into the empty apartment, and turning on the TV. As he tossed his bag onto the couch he heard the metallic clink of his fragile prototype. His ears flinched back as he quickly ran over to it, sighing a sigh of relief as he noticed that it hadn’t been damaged too harshly. A solitary thought hit him as he gazed at the object that could have completely saved everything… maybe he really could put his talent to better use with this. The Tinkerer and Silver seemed to believe it and It was certainly the right kind of project that he could use to show Gadget how much the day’s events had really opened his eyes.

Sprocket sighed, picking up the lone gauntlet and walking over to the table. He slipped his tool strap on and began to inspect the damage. “I guess there’s no harm in seeing this through to the end.” He began to tinker with the gauntlet, finding new found inspiration, quickly working through the night before dozing off.

The fire was safely out, and Silver walked back towards his makeshift office, settling down for his first sleep in Mesa Verde. It was hard to tell whether the group would have the motivation necessary to really make this dream a reality, but he figured that stressing over it wouldn’t help him at all. Instead he settled down on his makeshift bed… a rather uncomfortable cot, but it was better than the floor. He looked out the broken window, looking at the desert landscape outside. It was a beautiful landscape and Silver was happy to finally call this place home. He closed his eyes and let the hold of sleep carry him away, his last thoughts being about the future that lay ahead of him.

Silver was back in the Observatory again. It seemed like he had been spending less and less time in it as his life took the radical turn that it had. There was no sign of the intruder so far, so Silver simply walked over the large window and took a seat, gazing out at the ocean beyond. There was a lot on his mind and he just needed to clear his head tonight, worried that he had maybe done something a little too drastic with how he handled Sprocket earlier.

“Long time no see Silver, I almost gave up checking on you at your usual time.”

Silver smiled and greeted his old friend the only way he could think to do. “And you’re quite late you know?”

“Well sorry but that kind of tends to happen when your prime patient breaks out of his shell and stops being a recluse…” They smiled warmly. “ It’s good to see you again Silver, I’m genuinely glad you don’t need my help anymore.”

“You too old friend, you’re going to be so proud of me! We’ve officially formed a team now, and they elected me to be the director. We’re actually at our site now, just waiting for Sunset’s construction team to get the grid up and running. The city’s a little rough… rougher than I originally realized, but I think it has some promise! It’s all ours too, lock stock and barrel.”

“You’re leading a directorate now, and a fledgeling city too? And to think that you were merely a social outcast a short while ago.”

He gazed out at the inky abyss of unknown. “You know, you’re an intelligent pony, you would make a great addition to the team. We need ponies like you, the ones that care about others, about the future.”

The figure smiled. “I’m honored Silver but you know that I can’t. My pursuits in here are far too important for me to just give up on.”

“That’s why I’m asking you to join us. We need dreamers from far and wide, and you spend all your time seeking out those that feel like they have no purpose, to try and help them. I wouldn’t be where I am without your constant encouragement. All I’m asking is that you keep an eye out for ponies that are like us, and when you find them, send them our way.”

“I’ll consider it Silver. I have my own reservations on the matter but I do see it’s potential merit.”

Silver chuckled. “You know, It almost sounds like the roles have been reversed this time doesn’t it?”

The two laughed to themselves, both realizing how far they had come in the short time they’d known each other.

Silver gazed out of the window again, smirking again. “There’s so much that I’m still worried about, but seeing that there’s other ponies in the world that care, that share the same fears as me, really gives me hope that somewhere out there, there’s ponies that are working towards the same goal, and that maybe someday we’ll actually find something to use… I know it’s a pipe dream, but just knowing that there are ponies that care eases my fears a little. I don’t know if we’ll ever find something, but just knowing that ponies are actually giving this dream a chance reassures me more than anything else… Thanks again friend. I know I don’t say this to you a lot, but I really do appreciate everything you’ve done, it means more to me than I think even you know.”

Silver turned towards the intruder, and chuckled again, seeing that they had sneakily made their exit. No longer able to tolerate being alone in his own dream, Silver stood up and sought out Scarlet, the only pony he could even think to visit right now. He smiled warmly and closed his eyes, thinking about all the dreams they explored together, eager to see what they’d do tonight.

Ch 14 - "End of Line..?"

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Silver smiled and closed his eyes, visualizing her in his mind, thinking back to the time they had spent together exploring other dreams. When he opened his eyes a star sat in front of him, presumably that of her own dream. He happily jumped right in and was immediately greeted by a vast forested plain with a bright expanse of stars brighter than he’d ever seen in his entire life sitting above. A cool breeze lazily blew across the grass and trees, sending a wave of calming peace over him. It was definitely Scarlet’s kind of dream, that special kind of peaceful and calm place that could only ever exist in a dream. Silver almost couldn't bring himself to move, the scene was just too beautiful to miss.

A chuckle that came from behind him pulled him from his trance, making his ears perk up. “So are you going to just stand around all night or are you going to come and cuddle up next to me?”

Silver smiled, and turned towards the voice. “Oh I don’t know yet, everything’s just so great to look at, it’s a little hard to think of anything else.”

She chuckled. “Oh get over here you joker, what’s kept you so long anyways?”

“Oh you know, just the usual. I was catching up with an old friend, wanted to give them a little update on my life, that sort of stuff.” Silver walked over to Scarlet and sat down next to her, looking over the dream. “I… How… You didn’t make this did you? It’s so hard to make detailed stuff unless you’ve been practicing for a long time.”

Scarlet smiled. “Jealous that I’m better at making dreams than you?”

“” Silver smirked. “Ok maybe a little. But you know why!”

She smiled and laughed. “Alright well if you really want to know, I didn’t make this place all on my own, at least not consciously. It’s the dream I was having before you showed up, just changed around a little. I used to go camping all the time as a foal, and we’d always stop by this great big forest up by my grandparents’ house. This is kind of that place, just somewhere special that I’ve always loved to think about.”

Silver smiled warmly. “Well it’s beautiful all the same!”

The two sat there and gazed up at the stars. “So how was your day Silv?”

He gave off a mock sigh of boredom. “Well it was kind of boring… a lot of the usual business of figuring out how we’re going to even plan this all out…” Silver paused and smirked. “Oh and we moved out to the Oasis today--”

“--Get out! You did?!” She excitedly yelled.

“Yeah! Just settled down yesterday. It’s a… little rough to put it lightly, but I think it’s got some great potential. It’s hard to tell now, but in a few months we should be ready to start taking some actual recruits in!”

“Do… do you think I could stop by sometime?!.. I mean if that’s not too much to ask...” she started to trail off.

Silver cuddled up close to her. “Of course! I’d love that! You know, there’s a wonderful little forest that looks over the whole town, it might make for a nice little campsite if you want to take a little weekend camping trip...”

“It’s a date then! I’ll see you this weekend!”

He smiled and enjoyed the peaceful scene in front of him, happily thinking about his new weekend plans.

Silver opened his eyes and smiled. For the first time in a while he was genuinely excited at the prospect of what the day had to offer, and even more so at the fact that Scarlet would be visiting sometime soon. He climbed out of his makeshift bed and jumped right into his usual daily routine, walking out to the makeshift camp out front. Much to Silver’s relief, the showers were all set up outside. They weren’t anything special by any stretch of the imagination, but he was at least grateful that he could rinse himself off and not have to be constantly covered in dirt and dust.

He hopped into one of the stalls and turned the water on, flinching back from the sudden icy chill of the water. After a few long moments the water warmed, bringing a sigh of relief from him. Closing his eyes, he let the water wash all of his troubles away, as he stood there and reflected on everything that had led up to this point, smiling at the thought that he was so close to fulfilling his dreams. He couldn’t sit there all day though, there was too much to get done, and hardly enough time to do it.

Feeling refreshed and relaxed, he turned off the water and stepped out with a sigh, hastily shaking his wings to try and dry off quicker. Satisfied that he was sufficiently dry, he took to the skies and flew up to the room that would serve as his temporary office going forward. It was broken and wrecked by age and neglect, but it was something that was his. He carefully came to a land on the balcony and stepped over some broken glass. He started to survey the damage, noting that a thick layer of dust covered everything, almost making him sneeze as he instinctively flapped his wings.

He walked over to the far side of the room, where an ancient looking desk sat. He carefully tested his weight on it, seeing if it was even sturdy enough to be of any value to him. It creaked and crackled a little, but much to his surprise it miraculously stayed intact. It wasn’t ideal but it would serve him well enough for now. Satisfied, he carefully set his belongings on the desk and moved on to the next task, cleaning up the rest of the room.

It was something he wasn’t looking forward to, but it was a task that had to be done regardless. He hastily began to straighten up the room, moving the assorted pieces of junk and trash into a pile to be thrown away. It was a lot of work, work that he realized would be easier to do with assistance. To say that this place needed a lot of work would be an astronomical understatement to say the least. The fact of the matter was that there was far too much to be done and far too few to help do it. He could really use an assistant.

If The PRISM were to ever start building the future that they dreamed of, they would need to solve their problems as soon as possible. It wasn’t going to be easy, and it sure wouldn’t be done in a day. Silver realized that he really needed to meet with the team and properly discuss how they should go about recruiting from here forward. Sunset Blessing likely could offer assistance, but he didn’t want to press his luck by asking too much so soon.

Realizing that he couldn’t do this alone, Silver stood up and walked towards the door, heading down the hallway and back into the main foyer. He carefully pushed on the aged door, hoping that he’d at least find someone who’d be able to help. Upon opening the door he was greeted by Tinker and Gyro sitting down, evidently waiting for him.

“Uhh hi… am I interrupting something?”

“Ah yes, good afternoon Silver, come, let’s go take a walk. We’ve already taken note of the state of the town and I have some concerns.”

“I figured you might… So what’s the damage?”

The three walked outside, trotting along the long worn out path. “Well let’s start here, the roads are completely shot, so we’ll need to completely replace those at some point or another.

“Tinker, I’m going to assume that you have all of this noted down right?”


“Ok, can you give me the quick rundown then? I kind of had some other plans for today, and I’m sure you have your own fair share of preparation to get done too.”

“Alright, fair enough. Well about half of the buildings are going to need to be completely demolished, a good half of the remaining ones need a lot of serious work, and the remaining ones need only minor work.”

He nodded, walking further down the path. “That’s all? Well let’s get to it then--”

“--Silver, I realize our resources are spread thin, but I have some concerns regarding the current list of projects too. We’ve got so many planned out and practically nopony to work all of them… What’s the plan for that?”

He paused in his stride, turning back towards Tinker. “Firstly, did you talk to the foreman about this?”

Tinker and Gyro both nodded their head in unison. “Yes. They’ve been prepping the demolition first, once that’s done they’ll work on repairing the rest. We still need an architect to actually design the new structures, though I do have an idea for that.”

“Alright. As for the staffing issue… I realize that that’s a significant problem, and I do have a solution in the works. In order to address that we need to ramp up our recruiting efforts more going forward. We’ll have to talk with Stanley about this, but I’m sure we all have our own fair share of ponies in mind. Our… emissary might be able to offer assistance too, though that’s likely not something I’ll press for right away.”

Tinker nodded in agreement. “I definitely have a few ponies in mind who’d potentially be willing to help us. The architect I was mentioning is one of those ponies. He’s a little loony but he’s a genius when it comes to this kind of stuff, and I have a feeling that he’s having trouble finding work right now.”

“Well by all means bring him in, what are you waiting for?”

Tinker shuffled his hooves nervously. “That’s just it, he has kind of a high price…”

“Well… that might complicate things slightly, but how much is he asking for?”

Tinker shifted around uncomfortably. “Well… he kind of wants full creative control over the projects. As long as we can facilitate those projects he’ll do all the design work for free, but he insists that he must be the exclusive architect of the city.”

Gyro flatly spoke up. “He’s crazy but he’s competent. I don’t know anypony else who’d be up to the challenge.”

Silver shrugged and started resuming his walk. “Well, I’m not going to be one to just turn free help away, we needed to hire on an architect anyways so I don’t exactly see an issue with this. Go ahead and bring him in, let him know that that’s fine as long as he can build something specific for us first. After that he can do as he pleases.”

Tinker paused for a moment. “What do you want him to build for us? Nothing crazy right?”

“No, nothing too crazy at all. We’ll need a secure lab to work on Sunset’s projects in private, if he can build that for us then I’m more than happy to give him the metaphorical key to the city and let him design as much as he wants.”

“A secret lab? That sounds fascinating… I’ll take it it’s going to be part of some purpose built building?”

Silver smiled. “Absolutely, I’m thinking of calling it City Central, a nice big city hall that we can manage everything from. Perfectly designed to suit all our needs, with a nice big lab in the basement. We’d be the only ones who’d have access to it of course, but that’s just so we can uphold our part of the deal.”

“Well… I suppose that that’d fine. So going back to new recruits for a second, how should we go about doing that? We’re not exactly equipped for that right now.”

“Well, like I said, we have a few options, Stanley, Midnight, and I could dreamwalk and find ponies that way, but I also have some contacts that might be able to point us in the right direction, I’m going to be keeping an eye out on that and move forward when we can.”

“Alright, well that works well enough. What about the long list of projects that seem to be stacking up though?”

“Well in the meantime we’ll have to shelve the projects that aren’t a priority… so everything that doesn’t have to do with getting the Oasis up and running or something specifically assigned by Sunset Blessing.”

“I understand. I have some other things to show you if you’re interested.”

“Sure, I’ve got nothing else planned for today anyways.”

The sun shone brightly above the dusty field. It would soon be setting behind the stunning mountains that surrounded the entire valley, but as long as he still had sunlight the aged earth pony would be able to work. His resources were definitely limited, and this was hardly what he’d consider a suitable plot for his farm, but it would have to do for now. Gizmo was in his element, and once he got going hardly anything could stop him.

As usual, Patrick was full of energy, something that could be both a blessing and a curse at times. Gizmo didn’t care though, the more energy he had to burn the better. He was currently shuffling around in place, evidently ready to jump right into action. “Alright Giz, so what’re we doing today? And why don’t you just have Tinker here, don’t you need pegasi anyways?”

Gizmo smiled, happy to see enthusiasm in the young unicorn’s response. “Well Pat I need some help setting this farm up, and you’re one of the only few who isn’t caught up in some busy project.”

“Cool, so why’s Wolfie here then?”

He was taken aback for a few moments, the nickname was still somewhat foreign to him. After a few seconds it clicked with him. “Wolfi… oh Stan. Well you see Pat, to put this simply, I’m old. I need help movin’ stuff ‘round, and he had nothing else to do either.”

“Alrighty, fair point. So whaddya want to do first?”

“Well we need to get the farm set up, so I’ll need some help tilling this field, and then if you can I’ll need ya to help water it because we still don’t have proper utilities here and your magic’s gonna make that a hell of a lot easier for us all.”

“Well let’s get moving! C’mon Wolfie let’s get going!”

Stanley’s ears pressed back against his head as he flinched back. “Pat do you need to yell so much?”

He excitedly jumped up, raising his voice even louder. “Yeah Wolfie! We’re out here in the wide open desert, no neighbors to yell at us, no ponies to argue with, just the great outdoors!”

Stanley glanced around, hoping that no one would be unfortunate enough to be in the immediate vicinity of the excited unicorn’s cheerful outburst. “Ok Pat but just keep it down a little ok? I think Cal’s going to lose his mind at this rate.”

“Gotcha, Cal needs to lighten up a bit though!”

He nodded his head in agreement. “Yeah yeah I know be does, but could you just try and give him a break every now and again?”

Patrick rolled his eyes and nodded. “Oh alright.”

Gizmo chuckled and shouted out to the two, interrupting their little conversation. “Hey if you two’re done yammering let’s get going while the sun’s still out.”

“Aye aye captain!”

“So uhh Giz, what do you want me to do?”

“Go grab one of those plows over there and drag it over in a line, we’ll just start small for now to see if this’ll even work. Patrick see if you can go get some water.”

“Alrighty, well there’s not exactly much to work with but I’ll give it a try.”

“A try is all we really need for now. This’ll be what makes or breaks this whole operation, if we can’t get our own farm set up then we’re going to be in some deep trouble...”

Patrick simply replied with a cheerful “Aye aye!”

Tinker was back in his makeshift lab, eagerly planning out each and every area in his head. “Gyro can you give me a hand and go fetch Marcus? We’ll need some help lifting some of this rubble and other detritus away.”

“Alright. You know I can just use my magic right?”

“I… I guess I kind of forgot… Go grab him anyways though, I’m sure we’ll need another helping hand before long.”


As the unicorn ran off Tinker began to unpack his bags, sorting the various objects into different areas of the section he had already cleared out on his own. Assorted components, notebooks, and devices were already starting to stack up, filling the young inventor with joy as he could already visualize his future lab.

A voice called out from behind him, catching him off guard. “Hey Barney what’d you need?”

Tinker looked over, seeing that Marcus and Gyro had entered. “Oh Marcus, not a whole lot right now, just some help clearing everything out and setting our lab up.”

“Alright, that’s easy enough. So what’s the plan now?”

“Oh just sorting out what I brought, figuring out what’s going to go where, and what we’re going to have to bring over from the warehouse.”

“Alright well let’s get to work then.”

Gyro set up a small speaker and started his usual playlist, and the three went to work. Tinker did as much as he could on his own, while Marcus and Gyro did more of the heavy lifting and work that magic made easier. They worked well into the early evening and before long the trio had finished their task. A clean and organized space now sat before them with the inventors’ various belongings laid out ready to be organized.

“Alright so what do we do now?”

“You two go out and grab a few tables, there should be plenty of spares lying around somewhere, we’ll need to go get better ones eventually but they’ll work just fine for the time being.”

The sun had long set and Midnight sat on top of the town hall, staring out at the landscape below. She glanced to her side, noticing the crystal pony that had decided to join her. “Cal, I know I’ve asked this a lot, but are you really sure you’ll be able to keep an eye on everything here?”

He nodded his head slowly. “Yeah. Maybe not when we have more ponies here, but for now there’s so few of us here that it’s not hard to keep an eye on everypony.’

She sighed. “That’s reassuring.”

“You’re worried about Dawn aren’t you?”

She quickly glanced back at him with an embarrassed look. “Is it really that obvious?”

He nodded once more. “Yeah… you’re not exactly being subtle about it.”

“What do you mean by that?” She asked as if she was offended.

“Your body language for one is a huge indicator. You’re nervous, glancing everywhere, jumping at your own shadow… you get the idea.”

“I’m not jumping at my own shadow!”

“Uh huh-- Hey who’s there!?” he suddenly yelled out as he jumped up.

Midnight jumped back, glancing towards the rooftop door. “What is it?!”

“See what I mean? You’re jumpy, freaking out at everything and anything, even a perceived threat.”

Midnight shot him an annoyed look. “That’s not funny Cal… but I guess I see what you mean…”

Calamity lightened up a little. “Look Midnight, you’re going to be fine here. Dawn’s not stupid, she’s not going to just barge on in and fight you. Have you even seen sight of her lately?”

“Well no… not here. She dreamwalked to me a couple times but didn’t say much and left shortly after.”

“And what’d she ask you?”

“Not much, just asking if I’m enjoying myself, if I got some thrill from taking everything from her… that kind of stuff.”

“Ok well she doesn’t know where we are right? You didn’t tell her?”

“No… at least I don’t think so. She always told me how she had eyes everywhere, friends in every village, town, city from there to Blythe… I know she can’t possibly have that much influence but she’s a natural leader, charismatic… it makes me doubt myself sometimes… you know?”

“Midnight, I was her top enforcer, the one pony that she confided everything to. She does have some significant network of friends, but none who’d be willing to cross me. I was her best weapon, a pony that could intimidate others to no end. I doubt any of her contacts particularly like me, but that’s fine. Hopefully their fear keeps them from crossing me… from crossing us. The point is, I don’t think Dawn’s going to have any friendly faces willing to come and harass us so whatever she has planned it’s going to be on her own.”

“You think so?”

“I know it for a fact Midnight. Dawn’s playing mind games with you, making you doubt yourself, fear your own shadow. Her charisma and charm is her real talent in the world, it’s something that she prided herself on, and what she couldn’t do herself she’d charm others into doing for her.”

“But how can you really be sure?”

Calamity rolled his eyes. “Because like I said I was her top enforcer, her confidant. I was her most loyal asset and she never doubted that. We were unethical but never broke the law, that was something that Dawn saw vital to our whole little operation. She’s not going to just come and break the law just to enact some egotistical revenge. So relax Midnight, get some sleep when you can, I promise that I’ll keep you all safe.”

“Th..thanks Cal, I know we never really got along before, but I appreciate this.”

“It’s the least I can do to atone for my actions, I can’t take back the things I’ve done but I can sure as hell start to act how a pony actually should going forward.”

“Cal you can’t beat yourself up over it, I know you regret it all but you fell victim to Dawn’s own talent just as we all did. She dragged you in with false promises just like everypony else. What I’m trying to say is that you’re not a bad pony, you were just led to make some bad decisions… we all were at one point or another with Dawn. No pony can blame you for that.”

“I appreciate it Midnight, you’re not the one who can judge me though, nopony is. Whatever greater power lies beyond the veil of death is the one that will decide my fate when I reach that point. The most I can do now is try and rectify what I’ve broken, make myself a better pony going forward.”

Calamity started to walk away.

“Calamity wait!” He turned towards Midnight. “Thanks again… for everything.”

“You’re welcome Midnight. I’m going to go to bed now, but just remember what I said, ok?”

“I will Cal.”

Midnight awoke in a strange inky landscape, a dream she had had often in the past. She never really knew the significance of it, but it was something that both fascinated and confused her. She thought back to the conversation she had had hours prior, and the reassurance that Cal would keep an eye over her before she fell asleep. She was grateful that she had ponies that she felt she could genuinely trust, it made all of her unease and fear fade slightly.

She shook her head and dispelled the dream. Instead deciding to try and craft something of her own, something that could take her mind off of what had been stressing her out. She closed her eyes and tried to envision a simple clean room, something small that wouldn’t require too much effort to make. She had nowhere near the talent that Silver had, but she still figured it was worth a try.

She decided to start simple, summoning something simple, something that didn’t need a whole lot of effort to do. Dreams could be weird sometimes, and nothing ever seemed to work quite the way it would in the waking world. She closed her eyes and tried to imagine a simple ball, it wasn’t anything crazy, and it certainly shouldn’t have taken any effort at all. When she opened her eyes she was greeted by the red ball she had envisioned.

“Huh! It actually worked!” She calmly walked over to it and gave it a tentative push, rearing back in surprise when it didn’t quite roll how she thought it should.

“It’s weird isn’t it?” Came the voice from behind her.

She quickly spun around to greet her intruder. “Dawn, what are you doing here?!” She spat back with venom in her voice.

“Well Midnight, I thought I’d pay you a little visit, see how my favorite little heretic was doing.”

“You should leave Dawn, before I call one of the wardens over and make you leave.”

“You think they care about the petty squabbling of a couple night ponies?”

“No I don’t, but I know that they sure do care about dreamwalkers respecting the wishes of others.”

“I’ll leave, but I just want you to know that I’m very much aware of your little oasis in the desert. If you wanted to hide you shouldn’t have chosen friends that made such a big deal about their plans.”

“I wasn’t trying to hide Dawn, I was finding a home, a place where we could actually do real good in the world.”

“Maybe I’ll pay you a little visit in the waking world, see how your little plan goes there?”

“Is that a threat?”

“I think you know what I’m talking about.”

“Dawn are you seriously stupid or something? Don’t forget that Calamity’s on our side now, and he’s an ex cop. He has friends that can actually do something about your shenanigans whether you try or not.”

“Typical, getting others involved in a personal matter…”

“You made it his problem when you threatened all of us! I’m only going to say this once, you better take the advice or you’re going to regret it. Run and hide Dawn, justice will come for you one way or another, be it legitimate or vigilante, you try anything and you’ll only hurt yourself. The odds are stacked against you. So run and hide.”

“Goodbye Midnight, I’m sure our paths will cross again someday…”

Ch 15 - "A Story About the Future!"

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Three Months Later:

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

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

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

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

“You’re Dr. Moray I presume?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“In the bar?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Tinker please…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Do we really have to?”

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

“Fine, I’ll let you lead the way.”

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

“Alright Silver.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He began to voice his objection. “But…”

“No buts, this is for your own good.”

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

“That’s fine.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And her status?”

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

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

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

“I suppose it wouldn’t hurt…”

“Come on, let’s go take a walk.”

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

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

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

Onyx chuckled. “Sure thing boss!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tinker simply countered with an unenthusiastic “After you.”

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

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

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

“Sure thing, give me a minute.”

Tinker started chuckling to himself.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Certainly, what do you need?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Mhm. Just remember this conversation never happened.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

He nodded, “Bye Tinker.”

Ch 16 - "Future Tense"

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Gadget flipped the light on as she walked into the room, “Alright Sprocket what is it that’s gotten you so riled up lately?”

“Just sit down, I need to get this set up,” Sprocket said as he turned away from her and fiddled with his prototype.

“Come on Sprocket, I’ve got other things I need to do today.”

“Just one more second” he said as he awkwardly secured it to his foreleg, “Alright, now it’s not fully functional yet, but I think I’m close to making a breakthrough…” he slowly turned towards her, “ta da!”

Gadget gazed at the clunky prototype secured to Sprocket’s leg, it wasn’t elegant, but it certainly looked like he had spent some significant amount of time on it, “So… what am I looking at? Another model?”

A warm smile crept across his face as he shook his head, “No, that’s just it Gadg! It actually works!”

“It… It does?”

He shrugged, “Well… mostly, I don’t think I’m able to really get every little piece working, but the bigger stuff does!”

“How… how on Earth did you manage that?”

“I… Well it took a lot of patience and practice with manipulating tools with my mouth. Not an easy task mind you, but I’ve had like three months to actually work on this after all. Plus I made a few unicorn friends who were happy to help.”

“Is.. is this really what you’ve been doing? I mean I feel kind of oblivious right now, how on Earth did you manage to keep this on the down low for so long?”

“Well I didn’t, it’s just that this is the first time it’s actually working, the last 20 or so that you’ve been teasing me about have all been half working prototypes that I never quite got to work right.”

“I can’t believe I’ve just ignored all of this… So how does it work?”

“Well, it’s really really clunky right now, I kind of took that smart watch you gifted me and strapped it into this thing so it’d be more useful. It’s not perfect but I can flip the tools out, call you, take voice recordings… a lot of basic stuff but it works.”

“Even all of the little tools?”

“Yeah, the tools all have little springs on them, it makes it really easy to use, kind of tricky to get them all deployed but it’s better than it was before. This is kind of like a swiss army knife mixed with a smart watch right now, but hey it’s something right?”

“Won’t some of those make it awkward to use?” She asked, gesturing towards the tools that were on the back.

“Yeah, but watch this.” He lightly pushed on the band, slowly moving it around and bringing them to the front, “It rotates really nicely, doesn’t snag on my fur or anything… took a lot longer to get that to work than you might imagine, but hey it works!”

“You know… I’m sorry that I didn’t offer to help you more, I kind of got burned out on inventing for a while and didn’t even think to take your own thoughts into consideration…”

“You didn’t need to, what’s important is that you did what you wanted to do.”

She thought for a moment, suddenly lighting up with an idea. “You know Sprocky, I think we both know a group of ponies that might have the resources you need to get it fully working…”

“You don’t think--”

She jumped up, “--I do!”

“Do… do you think they’d even give us the time of day?” He asked hopefully.

“Well… you sort of have been working on this for months now, and now it’s actually working. I think this is the kind of project they’d love to see from you.”

“Do you… do you really think so? I mean what if they don’t care about--”

“--Sprocket this has been consuming your every waking moment for months now, I think they can appreciate your work.” She replied back with an authoritative tone.

“I… Oh alright. I’ll see what I can do.”

“What do you have in mind?”

Sprocket paced around the room a little, thinking about his next plan, his face lighting up as an idea struck him, “What was that courier’s name?”

She raised an eyebrow, “You mean Gemini?”

“Yep, that’s the one! Go grab him, I have a package for him to deliver.”

The two night ponies slowly hiked through the hillside, looking over the town below. The occasional trees and brush were welcome changes compared to the rest of the vast sandy landscape that the Oasis was situated in. Giz and Patrick had taken the lead, quickly outpacing the two bats. Midnight gazed out at the valley, marveling at the real beauty that nature could provide.

Stanley picked up his conversation again. “So Midnight, what brought you out here? I know you wanted to get away from Dawn’s little town, but why stick with us?”

They continued to walk along the path, stepping over the loose rocks and brush.

“Well, you guys are working towards everything we wanted to work towards… but you’re not trying to be perfect.”

Stanley cocked his head to the side, “What do you mean?”

She looked down to the town below, “Well you know, you guys are trying to make a place for ponies and humans, and you want to genuinely make the world a better place. We wanted to do something like that, but Dawn’s own quest for perfection kind of turned us into a reclusive village.”

“Why do you keep saying we? I thought Dawn was the leader of the town.”

“Dawn was, but I helped found it with her.”

He paused, looking back at her with surprise, “You did?”

She nodded, continuing, “Yeah, It was right after we spread the vision. A small group of us wanted to try and make it work, even knowing that we’d have to learn to coexist with humanity eventually.”

“So why the Grand Canyon wouldn’t have you been pushed out for taking over part of a national park?”

She looked over the landscape, “Well, it was beautiful and secluded. We both figured that it was a great way to reconnect with nature and leave the world behind… Obviously it was a fool’s dream, we knew that it would have never lasted… but we still held onto that idea.”

“And then Dawn ruined it all?”

She shook her head. “No, I think we’re both really to blame.”

He raised an eyebrow, “Huh? What do you mean?”

“I could tell that Dawn was trying to chase some warped perception of perfection and was hesitant to try and stop it, I didn’t want to see everything get torn apart. I saw the signs, but I didn’t do anything to try and stop her and that’s what let it get as bad as it did.”

“And I’m guessing that it just got out of hand from there?”

“Yep, and then you, Giz, and Pat came along and I guess I realized that it didn’t need to be bad. I wish I would have done more sooner though, I didn’t want Dawn to have everything torn away from her.”

He glanced forward at the pair that had very rapidly out paced them, “You’re still thinking about all of that aren’t you?”

She nodded her head, pausing her stride, “I am… Do you think that maybe I should have tried to talk with her before?”

“I don’t know… I mean you could have changed a lot, but I think what you did was ultimately a good thing… even if you didn’t realize it at the time.”

“You think so? Was it really a smart idea to just take everything?”

He nodded his head and began to resume his walk, “Yeah, she was taking advantage of you guys, it wasn’t healthy being in that environment, and if hurt her in the process then that’s on her. She shouldn’t have just treated you all like that.”

“I guess you’re right, I just wish I could tell her that.”

“So do it then, dreamwalk to her and get it off your chest, It’s not like she’s going to do anything, and just relax okay? Enjoy the nature, the view, whatever it takes to keep your mind off of this.”

She smiled, looking back over the town below, “Thanks Stanley.”

“Thanks for what?”

“For listening to me ramble on about this, you didn’t have to.”

“It’s no problem, sometimes you just need somepony to talk to right? We all do.”

Tinker paced around his workshop, talking to Gyro with a frustrated tone carrying in his voice, “Gyro, I have to ask. Do you really feel that the Ark is necessary?”

He nodded his head, “I do.”

He paused for a moment, hastily walking back towards the unicorn, “I was afraid you might say that.”

“What’s wrong with it Tinker?” he asked as he continued to fiddle with the electronics that sat on the desk in front of him.

“I’m just worried that it might be what’s driving us all apart, we’ve not exactly been on the best of terms lately.”

He gently put the soldering iron down, turning towards his long time friend, “Tinker, if it helps, your little conversation with Silver seems to have gotten through to him. We’re going to start working on getting our projects out there right?”

“Well I’m glad to hear that… I just… I don’t want to see this place fall apart so soon. We’re putting so much into it and we can’t all seem to agree on how to run it… I just want to help others, and this seems like the most efficient way to do that assuming we can get past our own pitfalls.”

“I don’t think we’re going to have to worry about this place falling apart.”

“Huh? And why do you think that?”

“Because Sunset Blessing’s invested a lot into this place, she’s not going to just let it go to waste.”

He rolled his eyes at the mention of the overzealous unicorn, “I… really don’t think that we should be relying on her so much, I don’t know about you but I sure don’t trust her.”

“You and the rest of the team. She’s our best bet for funding right now though.”

“Until we get our own research and projects out there right?”


Silver laid on the couch in Stanley’s office, staring off into the distance, “Stanley?”

The yellow night pony looked up from the budget reports on his desk, “Yeah Silver?”

“What do you think about the Oasis so far?”

Stanley raised an eyebrow, “What do you mean by that?”

“I mean is it the place you’ve always dreamt of?” he asked, gesturing out over the construction below.

He turned his head, following Silver’s hoof, “Isn’t it a little early to ask me that? We’ve got so much left to do…”

“Yeah I know, but do you think we’re off to the right start with it?”

“It’s hard to tell really. I mean I think we’re off to the right start, but there’s really so much more that we could be doing.”

Silver sat up in his chair. “Please tell me more, stuff like what?”

“Well, We’re getting all this funding right? I know a lot of it is going into Sunset’s projects, but we’re still making some money on the side. What if we put that to better use?”

“What kind of projects do you have in mind?”

“Well look at the world now, what kind of issues do you think really need to be solved?”

“Making lives easier for ponies is one that I can think of.”

“What about all those little tools and gadgets that Tinker and Gyro have been working on? Why not push funding into some of those? They’ve been asking for it for a while now.”

“That could be an option… but what about all the other plans?”

“Like my request to bring more humans in?”

He sat up and looked over to the yellow night pony, “What do you mean by that?”

“Silver, this place was supposed to be a big example of what we could all do together… but so far we’ve only been bringing more ponies in.”

“We have Marcus--”

“--Marcus is the only human here. I know you’ve been kind of stressed out lately but haven’t you noticed that a lot of the newer recruits seem to be more interested in making a place for ponies?”

“I… I-- really haven’t… but I guess it does make a little more sense now that you mention it. It sounds bad, but ponies kind of fit into some of the specific roles we’ve been trying to fill a lot better than humans would right now, like the weather team for instance,” He pivoted around to glance out of the window. “Do you really think that we’re not setting our sights high enough though?”

“I think it’s maybe the opposite?”

He turned back towards Stanley, “You think so? I mean could it be a bad thing that we’re trying to do so much?”

He smiled, “I feel like you’ve finally stumbled onto the main problem Silver.”

He looked him in the eyes, “That we can’t settle on one plan to follow?”

He shook his head, “Nope. I think our problem is that we have way too many plans to follow. Why not focus on fixing what needs to be fixed here first, and worry about the bigger projects later, once we’re not on the verge of falling apart.”

“We’ve got a plan for that actually, Tinker and I placed a little call and we’re expecting to hear back soon. I’ll fill you in on all the details once we’ve got a better idea of what’s going to happen.”

“Well I’m definitely glad to hear that Silver, please keep me updated.”

“I will Stanley, I will.”

Silver returned to his own office and sat on a soft cushion, facing the large floor to ceiling window with an expressionless face. His eyes were closed and his breathing was slow, but he was far from asleep. Visiting the dream realm while meditating had become a regular part of his work routine, it was a way he could keep an eye on the sleeping residents and make sure that they were at peace and undisturbed without having to force himself to sleep. It had taken some practice to get to the point where he could successfully dreamwalk this way, but it was well worth the effort if it meant that he could better serve his new community.

The clip clop of hooves on tile stood in stark contrast to the peaceful sounds of nature that played through the speakers in his office. “You almost done with that work?” Scarlet asked from the doorway, walking in and closing it behind her.

“Huh?” he opened his eyes, blinking a few times and raised his head, looking back towards her, “Oh, yeah. Sorry, I just have a lot of stuff that I needed to sort out.”

“In the dream realm, this close to noon? You’re distracted again aren’t you Silver.”

“Am not…” he began to trail off again, “Alright, fine maybe I am.”

She walked over and sat down next to him, “Of course you are, so what’s on your mind today?”

“I don’t think you want to know…”

“Sure I do, so let’s hear it.”

He paused in hesitation for a moment, “We might be doing something incredibly illegal.”

She flashed him a look of surprised bewilderment, “Huh, well alright, that’s definitely a big statement. What makes you say that though?”

“You know those weather ponies I had you connect me to yesterday?”

“Yeah? This has something to do with them?”

“Yeah… we might be breaking federal law just to set up a weather operation here under the table…” he said as he lowered his ears.

“Did they say what they were doing? If they’re going to help you out?”

He shook his head, “No, just that they were going to get back to us soon. I’m not sure when but possibly sometime tonight.”

“Alright well let’s just go home, I’m beat.”

Silver sat up and smiled, “Alright, maybe you’re right.”

She smiled, “Of course I am, now let’s get going.”

“Okay, I’ll go let Diamond know that he can take over for now.”

The two stood up and walked across the hallway to Diamond Glider’s office. The pegasus tilted his head up, greeting the two as they walked in, “Hey man, how're you doing today?”

“I’m good Diamond, just clocking out for the day, you’re in charge until 8.”

“Is it almost noon already?”

“Yeah, time just flies doesn’t it?”

He laughed, “It sure does Silver. Have a nice night man.”

Silver walked over to the large floor to ceiling window, looking out over the town. It was a largely unattractive landscape right now, but once all the construction was completed it would be a truly beautiful place. Their architect might have been a little eccentric, but he was the perfect pony to get the job done. It would be a while until the city would really be anything worth talking about, but Silver could be patient. There was still so much to worry about, but they were at least off to a good start. The team was still struggling through their own issues, but Silver was determined to try and rectify them, even if he had to make some compromises here and there to do it.

“Silver are you all ready for bed?” Scarlet asked from the bedroom, stifling a yawn.

He turned away from the window, “Huh? Oh yeah, sorry, just thinking about some stuff. I’ll be over in a minute.”

“Alright, well try not to take too long.”

He smiled to himself as he began to walk over, just clearing his mind of all the worry and stress in the process. He plopped down onto the bed next to Scarlet and closed his eyes, snuggling up close to her. He could have started dreamwalking if he had really wanted to, but sometimes letting a dream run its course was the best way to relax. His thoughts soon faded away, carrying him off to dreamland.

He ran through the labyrinth as the wraith chased him, adrenaline coursed through him, but it only further fueled his flight. He looked off to his fellows and smirked, taking to the skies as the phantoms pressed forward, their loud shrieks echoing through the labyrinth.

He quickly glanced behind him, trying to formulate the best plan of action possible, raising his voice to a shout, “Zax flank em over there, Comet get to the Sanctum! We can’t let them get to us!” They nodded and took off, flying in all directions as the hoard neared ever closer. Just as it seemed that they would come out victorious the wraith began to laugh a menacing laugh that shook the very world that they inhabited. “He’s onto the plan, get back to the sanctuary, I’ll take him on. Hurry!”

An otherworldly force knocked him from the sky, earning a pained groan as he skidded across the pavement below. He slowly picked himself up, wincing as he felt a sharp pain in his wing. He turned his head to face the shadow king, putting on a brave face as he faced the wraith, “Let’s have a little chat shall we? I know you’re not one to shy away from a bargain, so let’s make a deal. You free my friends and I’ll ensure that you’re successful in your little crusade.”

The wraith met his request with a bone-chilling smile, “And just how do you suppose you’ll go about doing that?”

“I’ve studied this plane, I know how you draw power from the outside, how you entangle with others. It’s how you’ve brought us all here right? Well what if I told you I could project my thoughts through to the other world? To him. I could easily tell him the truth… or I could see that he continues down that path you’ve been trying to guide him down…”

The wraith laughed a menacing laugh, “You, my friend, are in no position to bargain.”

He smirked, “You know, I was kind of hoping you’d say that,” He quickly bolted to the side, shouting out to his hidden compatriots, “NOW!”

The wraith looked up as the sky collapsed around them, plunging the world into darkness…

An annoyed voice started to fade in, stirring the night pony from his rest. “Hey Silver! Silver get up!”

He groggily sat up and rubbed his eyes, yawning as he turned towards his marefriend. “Scarlet?”

“You have a call on line one, it’s those weather ponies.”

He snapped awake, glancing towards the clock, “Already?!”

She quickly nodded her head, gesturing to their office with a wing. “Yeah! Hurry, you don’t want to keep them waiting!”

Without another moment of hesitation Silver jumped up, running out of their bedroom and into the office, quickly pressing the flashing button on the phone. “Hello! Sorry to keep you waiting, Maple, I was uh… indisposed.”

An unfamiliar mare’s voice responded. “You didn’t keep me waiting long, and Maple gave me some details on your problem asked that I give you a call back. I’m Jasper.”

“Hi Jasper, I’m Silver Eclipse. Thank you very much for returning my call.”

“I’m lead to believe that the pegasi working for you…”

“Working with,” he corrected.

The voice on the other line gave a pregnant pause as if annoyed before continuing. “With… in the desert... haven’t figured out how to manage the weather and you need some help to get started.”

“That is exactly it, yes.”

“What sources of water do you have available?”

“There’s uh… one river that passes through the valley, the Verde River.”

“You say river, but how big of a river? Could a pony easily walk through it without difficulty or would you be helplessly dragged downstream?”

“Well… it’s one of those you’d be fine in some spots but might get swept out in others… depending on the day.”

“I’ll need to look it up to be sure but that sounds like it would be suitable for small scale precipitation production.”

“We were hoping it would be enough, there’s not a whole lot of other options out here.” he added.

“Is this an emergency? Or are you getting by?”

“We’re struggling but getting by for now. Ideally we would want to get our pegasi up to speed so we can be self sufficient as soon as possible.”

“As soon as possible… Normally any pegasus looking to work within our weather program will need to go through the actual application process to keep an accurate record. But we are not going to do that as you are asking us to take a risk and do something highly illegal.”

“If it’s too much I understand, I don’t want to put you at risk.”

“Alright we won’t.”

The realization of what he’d just said immediately began to set in, bringing a panicked feeling in the pit of his stomach with it. “Wait wait! That’s not what I meant!” He took a moment to compose himself. “Sorry, Is there anything you can offer that won’t compromise everything you’ve worked on? Maybe something you can just do under the table? We’ll take full blame if anything gets out about this, and we can even work out some kind of payment if that’d help at all.”

“I just don’t see how we can work with you, Mr. Eclipse. However… word of your little oasis in the desert has spread through the office and three of our ponies are interested in visiting on vacation. Would you be able to accommodate them?”

He started to lower his head in resignation. “That’s fine, I underst…” He snapped his eyes open, excitedly jumping out of the chair to hover in the air. “Yes! I mean, yeah, that would be perfectly alright. Can you go ahead and send their information over? How long they’re staying, when they’re staying, just so we can make sure that we can accommodate them properly.”

“Maple will be in contact with those details. I’m sure they’ll have a lovely time visiting. Goodbye Mr. Eclipse.”

“I know this isn’t exactly help per say, but it’s more than I could have hoped for! Thanks so much… Jasper right?”

“Right. And you don’t need to thank me, it’s really more me imposing and I should be thanking you. It’s like how Sapphire likes to say, keep it simple, life doesn’t need to be complicated. If you can help a pony do something good, you do it. So it’s really too bad that we can’t help at this time.”

“That’s perfectly understandable, and hey it’s no trouble at all. I look forward to seeing them when they get here. Take care!”

The phone clicked, leaving Silver alone with the dial tone. He stood up from his desk and walked over to Scarlet who was sitting in the adjacent room. “Well that was interesting.”

“So how’d it go? Are they going to help you guys?”

“Well… not quite… but we are going to have a few guests stopping by soon. They’re not going to be helping us directly… it’s just too much of a risk for them, but maybe their ponies can give us some advice while they’re down here.”

“That sounds better than nothing, when are they coming here?”

“I’ll hear back about that sometime soon. Anyways, do you know where Tinker’s at right now?”

“If I had to guess I’d say that he’s probably out in town grabbing dinner, why?”

“Oh it’s nothing big, I just have some stuff I want to talk to him about, but we can do that later. Want to go grab something to eat first? Maybe get some drinks after?

“I’d love to! I kind of want to stop by the observatory if we can though, I still needed to get a couple things hooked up if it isn’t too much trouble.”

“We can stop by on the way there. I can’t promise that I’ll be much help though, you’re the expert with this kind of stuff, I’m just really along for the ride.”

“Perfect! It shouldn’t take too long, just gotta run a few checks on the systems, make sure it’s all in working order, you know, all the fun stuff I have to do before I can actually do all the real fun stuff.”

Silver shrugged and smiled. “I’ll take your word for it, it’s beyond anything I think I could hope to understand.”

“Don’t worry about it, that’s why I’m in charge of this stuff after all.”

“Thanks Scarlet, I don’t know what I’d do without you!”

“Struggle with phones maybe?”

The two chuckled.

Ch 17 - "Future Bound”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Well, we could always--”

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

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

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

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

“Making dreams?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She nodded, “I hope you can understand.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Well take care then.”

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

“Oh one more thing Tonya.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I… I have a few concerns…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Alright, you have a nice night.”

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

Scarlet nodded, “It’s worth a shot.”

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

“Who’s it from?”

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

“I guess I’ll take your word for it.”

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

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

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

“And this is… normal?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You’re the best, you know that?”

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

“I sure will.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Open your eyes? What do you mean?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You… you want to work together?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ch 18 - "On the Horizon!"

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“Ok cool down for a moment and start over. What’s going on?” Scarlet asked, raising an eyebrow.

Silver looked between the three ponies that sat in his office. It was earlier than usual for him to hold a meeting, but he wanted to get as much set up as he possibly could before noon, “We’re meeting up with Sprocket at the campsite, I’m telling you, he’s really changed quite a bit. I think we can really do something good with his prototype.”

“Do you really think so?” Gyro asked pointedly.

He nodded his head, “Yeah, just look at it,” Silver said as he turned his leg a few times, showing the different tools, “Imagine if this could actually work the way he wants it to? Even better, just imagine how we could improve it.”

Gyro leaned in closer, eyeing it carefully for a few minutes before nodding his head, “Alright, I’m with Silver, this could be a useful project.”

“Could be? This would be incredibly useful, I mean just look at everything I need you to use your magic for already,” Tinker looked back towards the prototype, and then up to meet Silver’s gaze, “What kind of improvements did you have in mind for this Silver?”

He paused, looking back down to the device, “A lot, but mainly voice controls, just to make everything easier for us to manage.”

Tinker nodded his head, “I can definitely see the value in that. Voice recording too I presume?”

“Yeah, and transcription eventually too. I mean why worry about having to spend time taking notes when you can just have a computer transcribe them for you and conveniently print it out?”

“That could take some more work, but I do enjoy a good challenge every once in a while,” He turned towards the unicorn, “This’ll be just like the good old days eh Gyro?”

“Those good old days were six months ago Sir…” He turned back towards Silver, “So when are we actually meeting up with him?”

Silver glanced down to the notes on his desk, reading through them for a moment, “Around 8, you guys think you’ll be awake then? If that’s too much then we’ll just note everything down and relay it back to you.”

The pegasus held a hoof to his chin in consideration, “If you don’t mind I’d rather meet up for a late dinner after, I’m not usually up that late and neither is Gyro so we’ll probably both be pretty drained.”

He nodded, “That’s understandable, I wasn’t really expecting you to take a little hike over there anyways. I’ll see you in the cafe sometime after, it could wind up being closer to 9 though, just FYI. So really, don’t worry about it, I won’t be offended if you two head out early.”

Tinker slowly nodded his head, “Duly noted, but I’ll try my best to be there regardless. So what’s the plan for today then?”

“Scarlet and I were going to go get a few things set up around the camp, just to make it feel a little more welcoming, and then get some shut eye before the meeting.”

“Would you like some help getting everything set up? I know we’re kind of on a limited time frame, it’ll be noon before you know it and I’m sure you two are already starting to get a bit sleepy, it probably wouldn’t do you any good to stay up later just to get everything set up when you have a few extra sets of hooves to help.”

Silver nodded, “Well I certainly won’t turn it away, but only if you really want to. Don’t feel like you need to take time away from your projects if you don’t need to.”

Tinker smiled, “Don’t worry about that Silver, I’m intrigued by the prototype and I’d love to get working on those improvements, but we kind of need it’s inventor here before we can do that.”

“Alright, it’s settled then. I’ll have Diamond get the facilities team together and we’ll meet you over there.”

Silver, Scarlet, and Diamond Glider flew towards the campsite, eager to begin their work. It was getting close to noon but they still had some time to get the basics set up before letting the three day ponies finish up. As they neared the campsite Silver could make out Tinker and Gyro already clearing out some debris from the space.

Scarlet came to a land next to Silver, “Do you really think this’ll all work out?”

“Yeah, he seemed really genuine in his dreamscape, I could really tell that he was invested in this project… why would he send us his prototype if he wasn’t? I mean you saw how he was the last time we saw him.”

She shrugged, “Alright well I guess you’ve got a point. I really do hope it all goes well, I’d love to have my own little gauntlet so I don’t have to awkwardly type on the phone just to get ahold of you.”

“Hey that’s a cool little trick you do with your wings though, but I get what you mean. I’d love for everypony to have one of their own too, it’d make all of our communication so much more efficient and streamlined. Not to mention how it’d help the non unicorns here. I mean we’re lucky that we can do basic stuff with our wings, but everypony else isn’t as lucky in that regard.”

She nodded, “Well we better get cracking on this, I don’t know about you but I can’t wait to just curl up in bed and have a nice peaceful sleep.”

“Yeah, me too.”

The pair sprang into action, quickly clearing out the rest of the plant life that had covered the seldom used campsite while the other three worked on creating a little rock barrier on either side of the path. There wasn’t a whole lot left to do, and having a few extra sets of hooves and Gyro’s magic to help only made the task go by quicker. In no time at all they were finished. Silver and Scarlet said their goodbyes and flew back home while the three finished up a few small adjustments to the path, calling it a day and breaking for lunch.

Silver wandered around the vast landscape that comprised “Somewhere”, smiling as he thought back on each memory that had inspired the many buildings around the bay. He came to a stop in front of the Nautilus’ dock, smiling as he remembered some of his very first experiments that went into setting this construct up. He stepped forward and pressed a switch, pausing as the ship’s hatch slid open invitingly.

He carefully stepped down into the chart room, pausing before working his way into the Grand Salon, one of his favorite places in Somewhere. He had seldom visited in the last three months, but today was a special occasion. He continued forward, activating the iris mechanisms that sat in front of the window, letting the outside world invade one of his most private sanctums.

He took a seat at his desk, relaxing as a flood of memories hit him as if he was visiting an old haunt. As he closed his eyes and took an unnecessary breath he became aware of another dreamer’s presence, bringing a smile to his face, “Say there friend, you’re about three months too late you know that?”

“Well Silver, you’ve certainly come a long way since that haven’t you? I mean I always knew you were talented, but a whole persistent Island hangout for you and all your friends? It’s just amazing! Pushing the limits of what’s possible in a dream must be so much fun!”

He smiled, “Maybe you should drop the whole counselor act and give this a try instead? You might enjoy it just as much, it might even suit your little goal even more.”

“Oh no, I’m afraid that this just isn’t my kind of past time. I don’t have the same kind of creative vision that you do, I’d probably summon some boring cubicle filled office space, not the big grand constructs you’ve been dreaming up lately.”

He softened up, “Oh come on, don’t be too hard on yourself, you’ve got talent where it counts, and that’s caring about others and trying to help them the best way you can…” he paused for a few moments, “ so speaking of that, what’s today’s little visit about I haven’t seen you in months.”

Their face seemed to soften into one of sadness, “I came to say goodbye.”

He raised an eyebrow, “Goodbye? You know I was just kidding about wanting you leave all those times right? I genuinely enjoyed all of our little chats,” He said reassuringly.

The intruder’s smile returned, “Oh don’t fret Silver, It’s the good kind of goodbye, the best kind really.”

“And what kind of goodbye is that?” he asked inquisitively.

“It’s the goodbye where someone that’s concerned about another doesn’t have to worry about them anymore. One where they know that they’re going to be just fine on their own.”

“I… I’m afraid that I don’t quite get it…”

They smiled, “Of course you do Silver, don’t you see this place? How far you’ve come in half a year? You don’t need my help anymore and that’s something I’m both happy and sad to say. I’m going to miss you, but I’m happy knowing that I might have made a good impact on another pony’s life. That means more to me than anything else really.”

“Well… well thanks, I don’t know what to say, but you really have been a great friend when I was desperate for one. The encouragement and guidance really helped, and I know you know that.”

They smiled, turning towards the door, “Goodbye Silver.”

He nodded, “Goodbye… friend.”

The Intruder paused for a moment, turning back towards him, “Oh and one more thing Silver…”


“It’s Silent Dream.”

He raised an eyebrow, “I’m sorry?”

“My name, the very first thing you asked me all those months ago.”

A smile crept across his face, “Will I ever see you again?”

Silent Dream shrugged, “Maybe someday, but there’s others who need my help too you know.”

“You know, I can really admire that goal. I guess you were right about something, you and I really aren’t that different. I guess it just took time for me to realize that for myself.”

The Intruder smiled and walked towards the open doors.



“Thanks for everything, Silent Dream.”

The intruder smiled, “It’s been my pleasure Silver, now get out there and get dreaming, I know you have so much potential that the world’s just waiting for.”

“Goodbye friend.”

He was alone once more, but this time he knew which direction to take.

Midnight walked around the starry landscape, eager to explore the dreams and clear her mind. Running through other dreams was a great distraction and Midnight was more than happy for it.

She walked along, pausing for a moment and raising her voice to an annoyed tone, “Hello Dawn... I don’t want to talk tonight--”

“--Listen, I’m not here to antagonize you.”

“Oh? Ok well what are you here to do then?”

She walked forwards and sat down, “Just to talk.”

She rolled her eyes, “Well that’s sure out of character. What makes you think I’m willing to even hear you out?”

“Nothing, you have no reason to, and I have no right to ask you to.”

She shook her head, “Alright well let’s hear it then.”

Dawn lowered her head, “You were right. About everything.”

“I… What do you mean Dawn?” she asked in confusion.

“I was the problem. I thought I could do everything… but I couldn’t.”

“So why are you telling me this? I thought you were running some little crusade against me or something.”

“I just wanted to say that I was sorry.”

Midnight raised an eyebrow, “Yeah? And I’m just supposed to accept that? After the months of you getting under my skin and making me fear my own shadow?”

“No, not at all. I could never ask you or anypony else to do that. What’s done is done and there’s no taking it back, but that doesn’t mean I can’t work on bettering myself going forward.”

“Well I can appreciate that Dawn, but you’re not going to get any sympathy from me.”

“As it should be, I’m not asking for any. I just wanted to thank you for making everything clear for me and to wish you luck on everything.”

“What do you mean wish me luck?”

“You guys are doing everything that we wanted to, but you’re actually doing it right. You guys are trying to make something great, and I truly hope you’re able to do it.”

“Thanks… I guess?” She paused and walked closer to her, “Dawn are you really feeling alright? I mean what’s with the sudden shift in behavior?”

She nodded her head and looked around at the glowing stars, a smile coming to her face, “Yes. I guess I just had a moment of clarity, it’s been something that I’ve been thinking about for a little while now. I found a friend that kind of set me straight, made me realize that I wasn’t going to get anywhere if I held some petty grudge and tried to follow through on some stupid threat.”

“And what are you going to do now then?”

“I don’t really know yet, I think I’m going to do a little soul searching, and try to find my place in the world.”

Midnight sat there with a bewildered expression, finally finding the right words to respond with, “Well Dawn… I genuinely wish you the best in that.”

“Thanks Midnight,” With a smile she vanished, leaving Midnight Sun with a strange feeling of warmth and confusion.

He stifled a few yawns as he finished getting ready, “Well it’s almost time, I should probably start heading over.”

She looked over, yawning before replying, “Do you want me to come with you?”

He turned towards Scarlet, shaking his head, “You can come along, but I’d like to talk with him one on one. Gadget should be here too though, you two can chat a bit if you want.”

“Alright, well let’s get going.” She said as she jumped up and came to a hover.

He nodded, “Right. I told the others to meet us at the Cafe at 8:30, I don’t think we’ll go past that, but I don’t think they’ll throw a fit if we’re a little late.”

The two flew towards the campsite, smiling as they saw that Sprocket had arrived early. Scarlet nodded at Silver and left him to talk with Sprocket alone. She took a seat next to gadget and the two began to idly chat while Sprocket stepped forward, extending a hoof in greeting towards Silver, “Hi Silver, it’s good to see you again.”

Silver extended his hoof and returned the greeting, “Sprocket, welcome. I didn’t realize you’d be here so early… sorry if I’ve kept you waiting.”

He smiled, “Don’t worry one bit, that’s on me for not really giving you any kind of advanced notice,” He paused, looking down at Silver’s foreleg, “So, what do you think.”

“Of your prototype?” He paced around the campsite and looked out over the construction, finally turning back towards Sprocket, “Sprocket I think this could be a great project to work on, even if it’s going to take some time to get working properly. Do you see all of that down there? That’s the culmination of so many ponies working together to make something amazing that we can share with the rest of the world. I’d love for you to be a part of that.”

“I think so too, I know it’s still a heavy work in progress, but all of this really does mean a lot to me,” he paused momentarily, “Look, I’m sorry for everything before.”

“You don’t need to apologize, accidents happen, none of us are perfect after all. I mean you didn’t even do that much to begin with.”

“No, I did, I just chose to pretend that I was faultless in anything and made a mountain out of a molehill, did something dumb and played with tech I really shouldn’t have been playing with for stupid reasons that I thought were good.”

“Well who hasn’t done something stupid? I mean I isolated myself to my own dreams when I thought that it was the only way I could have control over my life. I regret it a lot but everything happens for a reason.”

“I suppose you’re right. I’m just still unsure about a lot, I mean it seems like ETS was only yesterday and now we’re dealing with humans fearing pony magic and things getting taken to extremes, I mean what’s next? Somepony’s going to just swoop in and say that some cosmic threat’s going to loom on the horizon and we have to scramble to get everything in order?”

“Well if that happens we’ll work through it together. But in the meantime this is a chance for you to do something now, something that could really help so many ponies.”

“Well in that case, I’m in. I’d love to be a part of your team.”

“And we’d love to have you. Would you and Gadget care to join us for dinner? The directorate is all waiting there and I’m sure they’d be more than happy to talk about your prototype some more.”

“We’d love to. Care to lead the way?”

“I thought you’d never ask,” He began to walk towards Gadget and Scarlet, “Come on you two, dinner’s waiting.”

They paused their conversation and nodded in unison, standing up and following the pair along. With a few flaps of their wings they were in the sky, quickly flying out towards the Oasis’ Cafe.

Silver rested his head on his hooves, watching as the group talked as if they were old friends. This was a small private dinner, with only the main directorate, Diamond Glider, Scarlet, Sprocket, and Gadget in attendance. The rest of the Oasis’ residents had been notified that a private event was going on but nothing more. Even the ponies in attendance had no idea what was about to play out, and Silver was excited to bring his new plan forward.

The scene brought a smile to his face as he thought of the future that lay ahead. Following through on their dream would never be an easy task, it was just impossible to do everything that they wanted to, but he’d be damned if he didn’t at least try. Maybe that was part of the problem though, he was too invested in trying to solve these problems without considering that he could very well be causing a lot of the friction himself by not taking the others’ thoughts and input into consideration. It was clear that they were hardly organized and Stanley’s little talk only made that all the more clear to him.

Stanley’s voice calling out to him pulled him from his thoughts, “Silver, are you paying attention?”

“Huh? Oh, no… sorry. I just got lost in thought again, what was it?”

“I was asking you what the plan is now?”

He stood up and faced the group, a smile coming to his face, “That’s a very good question. Our little chat gave me some very important insight…” he paused, considering his next words, “Maybe… no... I am a big part of why we’re struggling to get off the ground so much.”

Stanley raised an eyebrow, “Silver, what do you mean?”

“What I mean is that it’s clear that I haven’t thought all of this through as clearly as we should have, I wanted to do so much despite the fact that we’re not set up for that right now. So you know what? Our new plan going forward is that we’re going to take each project at a pace that we can work with. We’ve still got Sunset’s projects to handle of course, but once we’re not obligated to do those we’re going to work on what the majority of us want to do.”

Gyro leaned forward, “We’ll optimize the process so we can work as efficiently as possible right?”

He shrugged, “If that’s what the group wants to do then that’s what we’ll do. I’m the director but we’re still a team. From now on we make decisions together because that’s the whole point of this place— a creative playground where we can all work on making a better world.”

“Silver that might be a bit of an operational nightmare you know that right?”

“Yes Stanley, I do, which is why we’ll work within reason. I’ll step in and take charge when needed, but I’m not going to just make every single decision for us anymore, it’s not fair to you, or anypony else on the team for that matter.”

“That’s an incredibly bold move, but I like it. I’m with you Silver.” Tinker interjected, a smile creeping across his face.

“I’m glad to hear that, Tinker. We’re all in this together, as a team. No more arguing back and forth about how to run this place, everypony here gets an input into it,” he said with a smile, pausing to let his words sink in.

Sprocket cleared his throat, cutting through the silence, “So Silver, while this is all wonderful to hear, what about the Gauntlet? I would like to get a few more revisions out, maybe even make a set for each of you… you know, just to make it easier to communicate around here. These things have comms built in after all.”

Silver nodded, “Yes, that’s definitely an important project, so how about we take a vote now,” He turned to face the others, “Who’s up for working on the Gauntlet project?”

Sprocket enthusiastically spoke up, “Need I remind you all, this isn’t exactly a super complex project, not with all of us working on it together… plus it could make your lives a whole lot easier…”

Tinker nodded, “There's a definite value in this project, I’m in.”

Gyro looked from Tinker and back to Sprocket, “I suppose you’ll be needing magical assistance with this, the little pieces can’t be easy to assemble with hooves… I’m in too.”

Silver looked towards Stanley, Diamond, and Scarlet, “And what about you three?”

Diamond smiled, “You know man, being able to call you anywhere instead of having to chase you around town would sure make my life a hell of a lot easier, so yeah, I’m fine with this.”

“Don’t ask me, I’m just an astronomer, I’m fine with whatever as long as I can still work on the Observatory.”

Silver nodded, “Right, so that’s a yes then?”

She nodded, “Yep.”

Silver smiled, “And you Stanley? What are your thoughts?”

The yellow night pony looked around at the team, “If the others are in, then so am I. I was never specifically in this for the project, I just wanted to follow my dream, and if we can help ponies by doing this then I think it’s worth doing.”

Silver nodded, “Alright then, it’s settled. Sprocket what do you need for this project?”

“Not much, I have a little spec sheet for the prototype you’re wearing, that should have all the components we’ll need on there. The only hard part is getting the processor unit, for yours I kind of tore apart a smart watch so it’s kind of hacky and buggy right now.”

Silver smiled, “Well Sprocket you’re in luck, I can’t give you the specifics yet, but we’ve got a processor related project in the works and Tinker and Gyro seem to think that it could be big… bigger than anything that’s currently available.”

“Well that’s great, if you guys can get that working then I think that’ll solve a pretty big hiccup in this project’s development.”

“So it’s set then? We’ll begin this as soon as we’re done with our other obligations?”

The group nodded in unison

“Right then, well here’s to the future… our future!” He excitedly announced as he carefully held his glass up.

Silver didn’t truly know whether the group would be successful or not, but he felt all the more confident about their future now that they had resolved to make some serious changes going forward. There were still many more issues to overcome, but hopefully they would find the help that they desperately needed. The group of weather ponies from Michigan were one of the first big steps in getting that help, and Silver was excited to have them as the Oasis’ first real guests.

Six months ago he felt as if his world was ending, that there was nothing he could do about his situation. While he still had doubts about the future going forward, he knew that it would be an exciting journey that he would take with his new friends and family, and in the back of his head that lingering sense of doubt and fear lost a little bit of it’s traction. It wouldn’t be easy, it never was, but he knew that this was something that he and his team would make together, and that thought brought a smile to his face.

"A World... Changed!" - Epilogue

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Six Months Later:

Dr. Moray sat in The Roost drinking away his troubles as he had often done ever since the tempest had wrecked his ship and drove a wedge between him and the rest of the mariners. He had tried to stay positive as they resorted doing odd jobs to try and fund their repairs but their morale had been steadily declining to the point where he just couldn’t bear to face their disappointment anymore.

He chuckled to himself and began to somberly sing to no one in particular as he reflected on the turn his life had taken lately.

Show me the way to go home,
I'm tired and I want to go to bed,
I had a little drink about an hour ago,
And it's gone right to my head,
Wherever I may roam,
By land or sea or foam,
You will always hear me singing this song,
Show me the way to go home.

The bell on the door rang as a lone night pony walked into the bar and took a seat next to him, eyeing him over for a few solitary moments before hesitantly speaking to the disgruntled Pegasus, “So your luck’s run aground eh Doc?”

Moray simply took another gulp of his drink and shrugged. “Aye, that’s a bit of an understatement if I’ve ever heard one.”

“Care to share your story? I can’t say I’ve seen too many ponies that drown out their sorrows like this.”

He began to speak in a somber tone, “I don’t see why it matters. Why do you care?”

“You could say I’m a bit of a sympathetic soul.”

He shrugged again, “Well I thought that we had a breakthrough, our boat’s run aground, my team’s on the verge of breaking up, and here I am… drinking away my troubles like the failure I am.”

The figure shook their head, “Oh you’re not a failure, believe me. Life has a funny way of showing it sometimes but you’ve definitely still got a lot of potential.”

He rolled his eyes and took another sip of his drink, “And why should I believe that? Let me guess? This is all some part of God’s plan, and I should just pray and beg for the answers I need?”

He interrupted the pegasus, “Because I’ve been in your place once, maybe not in the same way you are now, but I shut myself away from others because It was the only thing I could do to keep my mind off of what was getting to me.” The figure waved over the bartender. “I’ll have something with mango please.”

The bartender nodded and returned with the requested beverage.

“So why are you here then? Just want to rub it in?” Moray cut in.

“No, I’m here because I have an offer for you. An offer I don’t think you’ll want to refuse.”

“Oh a mysterious offer? Ha, that’s a good joke,” he sarcastically chimed.

The figure smiled, “It’s not a joke, this is a serious offer and I wouldn’t have travelled all this way from Arizona if I didn’t feel that you were up to the challenge.”

“Alright, well who even are you then?”

“Well, let’s just say a friend. But I guess a proper introduction is in order. My name’s Silver, Silver Eclipse. Nice to meet you.”

He turned towards Silver, raising an eyebrow in confusion, “Silver Eclipse… why’s that sound so familiar?”

“Oh I believe we’ve talked before, Doc. Not in person though. No, I met you a few months ago, in your little dream adventure out on the high seas… though I guess adventure really isn’t the right word for it.”

Moray suddenly snapped up. “So that really happened then?”

Silver nodded his head, “It did. As for why I’m here though, some… friends of mine brought some of your work to my attention and I think it has promise. I can’t help but notice you’re down one research vessel though. What would you say if I offered to fully cover the cost of repairs or a replacement of similar value, and in return you help me and my team on a few vital projects?”

“I’d say that that’s some sick joke and you should take a walk off the pier… but then again, if you really did make your way all the way out here from Arizona I guess you wouldn’t be joking unless you get some sick pleasure out of crushing other ponies’ dreams,” he said coldly.

“It’s no joke Doc, I mean it. I have some grant money set up for this kind of project specifically and your group’s expertise is well worth the cost to me.” Silver reached into his bag and pulled out a set of blueprints, carefully passing it over to the disgruntled captain. “This is what we’re working on… or at least part of it. The Arizona desert isn’t exactly the most ideal place for this kind of construct though, and I can think of no better team suited for this than yours. You still want to prove to them that you can be more than just a group of pegasi with their heads in the clouds? I think this could be your chance. Do you still think that this is some kind of sick joke?”

He raised an eyebrow as he carefully looked over the plans, finally turning to face Silver, “The Sea Castle eh? It’s got a nice ring to it, but what is it?”

“It’s an undersea laboratory, an experimental one, but an important one nonetheless. You see, I’ve got a little plan for the future and this kind of research would be very useful for it.”

“Well what kind of research do you have planned exactly?”

“Well let’s just say that I think mixing magic and machinery could be a very useful project. We’re still probably years away from making any kind of headway on anything super complex like space travel, but the ocean still has many mysteries that are just locked away from us. What if we could try and use our new gift to unlock some of those mysteries?”

“That's… a bit of a tall order but if you’re seriously offering this than I guess I can’t question your reasons. So why do you want us to work on it specifically?”

“Because researching the sea is your life’s work, and you obviously need some help. You’re the kind of pony that I think we need more of in the world, your whole team too. You’re the ones that care about the future and want to make the world a better place with your work.”

“This is insane though, how are we supposed to even build this?”

Silver waved a hoof dismissively at him, “Don’t worry about that part. We’ve been pre fabricating most of the major components for a little while now, in fact we could even be ready to begin construction this week. All I care about is the data you get from it, you can do whatever other research you want in the lab. Just keep it running and report back on the data we need. I’ll even turn the lab over to you once we’ve gotten that data. No strings attached, it’ll be yours, lock, stock, and barrel. Sounds fair?”

“And if we don’t agree?”

“Well if you don’t, you can go back to sulking in the bar and running up a tab the size of this island, we’ll look at other options, other options that might not be as good as you guys and go from there,” he waved over to the bartender, “I’ll take my check please!”

“So you’ll really pay for our repairs?”

“Or the cost of a ship of equal value. Whichever you want.”

“And all we need to do is manage an undersea lab for you and report back some data?”


Moray sighed. “I guess it wouldn’t hurt then. You have a deal then Mr. Eclipse,” He carefully lifted his mug, “Here’s to swimmin’ with bow-legged women.”

Silver smiled, “Fantastic, let me get the information for you!”

One Year Later:

The sun had long set but that meant nothing to the ponies below who were enjoying their evening. Scarlet sat at the top of City Central, looking down at the city below, enjoying the view while she waited for Silver to return. She glanced down at her gauntlet to check the time, and then smiled as she slowly walked over to the purple night pony foal that was playing a short distance away, “Orion guess who’s going to be here in a few minutes!”

He smiled and ran over, earning another smile from her, “That’s right, Dad’s going to be home soon! Are you excited?!”

The foal responded with a big grin, jumping into the air and flapping his wings in excitement, earning a laugh from her, “Alright, calm down little buddy, Silver’s gonna be so sad if you’re all tuckered out when he gets here.”

Orion ran up and cuddled up next to her as she draped a wing over him. She gazed back down at the city, reminiscing at how much The Oasis had grown in In just a year’s time. It had gone from a humble ghost town to a slowly growing city of their dreams, a place where imagination and creativity were more important than anything else. On the surface, the city was merely a modest example of what ponies and humans could do when they set aside their differences and worked together, but it was also a place where its scientists and researchers worked tirelessly to inspire the world around them, in the hopes of making it a better place.

It was a woefully optimistic dream, but it was something that they felt was worth fighting for. The PRISM was still a fledgeling group, but this city was their gift to the world. It was impossible to truly know whether they’d ever discover something that could brighten the dark future that they feared, but it didn’t matter to them, not as long as they at least tried. What started as an escape for Silver, a desperate attempt to try and make sense of his fears, had now become a goal that was becoming more and more attainable as the days went on.

In the distance Scarlet could make out a helicopter flying in, Silver was punctual as usual, something she could always count on. As it neared closer she picked up Orion and took a few steps back, giving the pilot some room to land. The helicopter came to a graceful landing and a very tired looking night pony hopped out. Orion took up, cheerfully running over to his father, who’s face lit up at the sight, “Hey there buddy, I sure missed you!” He said as he pulled him in for a hug, then carefully lifted him onto his back.

With a big smile on her face Scarlet ran over, excitedly calling out to him, “Welcome back Silver! You get enough sleep on the ride over? I know you’re probably a little tired.”

The night pony smiled back, lightening up a little, “I did, but hey, at least I’m home now.” He lifted the sunglasses he wore off of his head, and warmly greeted her, “You sure are a real sight for sore eyes you know that?”

He waved to the pilot and walked off of the landing pad as the helicopter took off. “You know, I really need to bring you along on one of these trips sometime, the Mariners’ lab up in Maine is starting to really show some promise, they’ve really been making some amazing progress with the Sea Castle.”

Scarlet leaned in and hugged Silver tightly, careful not to disturb Orion, “It’s great to see you too, I don’t know how you manage to stay sane after running everything here non stop.”

“Well I have you and Orion and that helps quite a bit. C’mon, let’s go take a walk.”

The two ponies started to walk back into the large building, chatting and catching up along the way.

“You know what Silver? We really need to take a proper vacation sometime, no business, no responsibilities, just us relaxing somewhere for once.”

“Well go get ready then, I can put in a little vacation time for just the two of us. Where do you want to go?”

“Wait, you mean right now? What about Orion? I can’t just leave him here alone with a sitter.”

Silver shrugged, smiling as an idea came to him. “Well We’ll just take him along too, it could be our first big family vacation.”

“You think he’s fine to travel?”

Silver nodded. “Of course! My Grandmother took me all over the place as a kid and I turned out just fine.”

Scarlet laughed at him. “Well that’s certainly debatable.”

“So where should we go? California, Florida, Hawaii... anything in particular pique your interest?”

“Hawaii sounds fun, but I’d rather save that trip for later. What about Michigan? You know, we never took Sapphire up on her invitation. It might be nice to show that we’re not still mad over everything.”

“Michigan? You know it’s going to be pretty cold up there right? Like colder than anything we're used to down here.”

“I think I’ll manage just fine, I mean how bad could it be?”

“Alright well if you say so… I’ll go get everything settled once we get to my office.”

The two looked out the window and over the lake in the distance, watching the residents enjoying their evening, “You know, this place sure has changed a lot over the last year… I mean that whole storm fiasco last year kind of threw a wrench in our operations for a while, but it was oddly productive.”

“I’d say it worked out really well. Sapphire really lightened up once you explained that it was all one big misunderstanding.”

“That’s true, it could have been so much worse right? Like thank God she’s only a pegasus, can you imagine what would have happened if a unicorn of her caliber had tried a stunt like that?”

“I don’t want to think about that, let’s just be glad we pissed off who we did, otherwise we’d have never made the kinds of connections that we did. How did Sunset handle your request by the way?”

“She said it was fine, but I made it very clear that if she ever does something like she did with the whole Sapphire situation again we would not hesitate to pull out of the deal. She seems a lot more welcoming in person, but I still don’t know what to make of her yet.”

She chuckled, “Maybe that sudden vacation is a good thing after all. Want me to come along with you to your office? Keep you company?”

“Don’t you have some work over in the new observatory?”

“Nah, the shipment got delayed again, nothing big, just a lot of complicated parts that they found defects in. Had to recall a whole truckload.”

“Well in that case, I’d really love that.”

The two continued walking down the plain hallway, an occasional door or window breaking up the bland walls.

“So did I miss anything interesting while I was gone?”

“Oh you know, nothing special, just the Neptune team making an emergency call right before you touched down. Isa wanted to speak to you over the video phone, it sounded like they ran into an issue with the Aquarius project right after you left and needed some emergency resources to make repairs.”

“Oh just approve it. Their research was starting to really show some potential when I was down there. I know they’re a bit eccentric but they’re hard workers and we need that data for the Horizon project. How’s the Helios team been handling?”

“They’ve been… handling.”

“Not good?”

The lights flickered a few times before briefly blacking out, “Not good. They’re trying though, the grid’s just having trouble holding up.”

“That’s fine. I know they’re giving it their all.”

Silver opened the door and walked in, cheerfully greeting Stanley. “Hey Stanley, so what’d you need?”

“It’s Phoenix. Anyways… I don’t know how to say this Silver, so let me just rip the bandage right off. I’m stepping down. Effective immediately Patrick’s taking over as director of the Facilities and Operations division.”

Silver shifted uncomfortably.“That’s… err, ok. It’s just a little sudden Stanley.”

“Silver I told you, it’s Phoenix now. Rising Phoenix.”

“Right, sorry, I’m still getting used to that. Look Phoenix, I really think you should reconsider. It’s not that I don’t think Patrick is up for the task, it’s just, well.. you’ve been such an integral part of making this place what it is and I just hope this isn’t a sign that you’re leaving.”

He nodded his head, “Silver, are you still afraid of a looming apocalypse?”

“Phoenix, what does this have—“

“Are you?” he interrupted

Silver sighed, “You know the answer to that…” He looked away. “Yes.”

“Facing my fears, and helping others get over their own has become an integral part of who I am.” Phoenix said as he gestured to his cutie mark of a phoenix rising from a dark cloud of ash. “One year ago I was probably the most fearful pony there was, but look at me now. I’m confident, I’m not as fearful, and a lot of this is because of you.”

“But what does that have to do with any of this?”

“You’re afraid that I’m going to leave, and you don’t want that. You’re still afraid of change, even if you don’t consciously realize it yet. It’s only natural Silver. Fear is something that’s a part of what makes us who we are. But I could argue that change is something that’s almost equally important too.”

“What do you think you’ve learned from my fears?” he asked as he made eye contact.

“That you’re a pony that cares deeply about his friends but is still trying to hold onto the cold and indifferent public persona that you’ve meticulously crafted to try and give off the illusion that you’re fearless. I’m not leaving Silver. This is my home and a dream that I feel is finally starting to come true, but I also found something in it that suits me better. I have the chance to really help other ponies this way. I was happy before but now I have the chance to really share what I’ve learned to help others. You included.”

Silver shuffled in place, finally taking a deep breath. “Maybe I am afraid of change.”

“And that’s perfectly fine. I know you’re afraid of their arrival, but you can’t let this obsession with the devourers consume your entire life. I know it’s scary, and I know you only want to help other ponies, but you need to help yourself too. If you won’t do it for your sake do it for Scarlet and Orion’s.”

“I… I’m just so worried that in the lines upon lines of calculations and predictions that we’re still missing something. What if this isn’t some far off threat?”

Phoenix shrugged, “We'll never know that Silver, all we really do know is that the best thing we can do right now is to try and find a solution to that threat now, in the present, if not for our sake, for our descendants sake. You’re not going to live forever Silver, so you shouldn’t let fear control your life like I did. You’re only going to miss out on the special moments in life and wonder where all the time went if you do, and then it’ll really be too late.”

“Do you think so?”

He nodded his head, “I know so. Trust me on this Silver.”

Silver hugged his friend. “Thanks Phoenix, I really appreciate this.”

“I know you do, now go enjoy the rest of your day off, I know Scarlet’s been waiting for you.”

Tinker, Gyro, Sprocket, and Marcus were hard at work trying to get the new system online. The helios team had done their part and now it was up to them to get the grid to hold with the modifications. It had been a thorn in their sides for the last few weeks, but they were finally at a stage that they felt might be the end.

“Alright, go ahead and count me down Marcus!” Tinker called out from the maintenance pit.

“Sure thing Barney.” Marcus flashed a nervous glance over towards the unicorn who was currently monitoring the computer readout, “Giles, you think this’ll work?”

The stoic unicorn shrugged, “Probably not, if this doesn’t trigger another shutdown then I’d say we’re extremely lucky.”

“Oh come on Gyro, you know what they say, 25th times the charm right?” Sprocket said with a laugh.

He turned towards him, “Yeah alright, well if this works I’ll pay for the celebration party.”

“Alright well I’ll hold you to that.”

“Don’t worry, I’m a pony of my word.”

Marcus looked over at the two, “Alright, well if you two are done with your little back and forth I’d like to get this over with. You’re good to go for a full powerup of Project Helios in 10 seconds and counting.” he hesitantly pulled down on the lever as the computerized voice began to count the seconds down.”

The tension in the room was steadily rising as the team looked on at the system’s status readout, praying that it would stabilize successfully. “Reaching peak output in 5 seconds.”

C’mon, don’t fail on me now! Tinker pleaded to himself, “Where’re we at Marcus?”

“We’ve reached peak power output and… and it’s holding-- It’s actually holding!”

“Power output successfully stabilized.” the computer announced.

Tinker excitedly flew out of the maintenance pit, coming to a land in the field next to Marcus, Sprocket, and Gyro. “I… I can’t believe we’ve finally gotten it to hold!”

Sprocket raised an eyebrow, looking over to the pit, “So how’s the capacitor bank looking?”

“Well with Gyro’s new driver it seems to be holding up perfectly fine, I don’t know how we managed to get it to adapt to the old grid, but it’s holding surprisingly well! We’ll have to keep an eye on it for awhile just to get some more data, but I think we might be good as gold!”

“Well hey, that’s better than rolling blackouts! How about a round of drinks to celebrate? Gyro’s paying.”

“Sure, just as soon as we’re all set here.” the pegasus looked over to his assistant, “You coming along too Gyro?”

“Uh huh.”

“Splendid, I’ll call ahead and set up a reservation, I’m sure Silver would love to come along too!”

It was close to noon the next day and the two night ponies walked down the hallway, trying to stifle their yawns as best as they could. Orion slept peacefully on Scarlet’s back, a sight that melted Silver’s heart. They paused for a moment as a pegasus quickly flew past them in a gray blur before coming to a well practiced landing.

Scarlet looked towards Silver, “Oh boy, this should be good.”

Zipper folded his wings, walking towards the couple, “Oh hey, what’re you two up to today?”

Silver smiled, trying not to laugh, “Heya Zip, not painting your wings anymore?”

He rolled his eyes, “No. That was… that was just that one time.”

“Oh lighten up Zip, I thought it looked pretty cool. Anyways, we’re just taking that vacation you were briefed on yesterday.”

“Oh that’s today?” He asked in mock confusion.

“Yes, that’s today. Can we help you with something?”

“No… but maybe I can help you. You’re going up to the MWMP right? I was just thinking that I could come along, ya know to pickup… some of the more advanced techniques so I could come back and teach the team down here…”

Silver shook his head, “That’s not quite how it works. Sure we’ll be up in the UP but we’re there strictly on vacation, for real, not like that vacation they took down here last year. At most Sapphire will probably show us around and that’s it.”

“Okay, but I could still stop by and try and touch base with them.”

The two started walking forward, Zipper quickly following behind them. Silver shook his head once more, replying with a calm but stern tone, “I think we’re good Zip, that’s a federal program and they aren’t going to just let you fly around with them. What happened a year ago was a one time deal and we almost got washed away because of it. Besides, flights full, they’re not going to let you squeeze into the seat next to us.”

“Oh come on, are you sure you don’t need an extra set of hooves to help out on your trip? I could keep an eye on Orion if you two just wanted a little time to yourselves.”

Scarlet flashes him a warm smile, “Really, we’re good Zipper, thanks.”


Silver paused, turning towards the gray pegasus, “Zipper, I know you want to come along and visit, but you’re the weather captain and your team needs you here. You knew that the job came with a lot of responsibilities when you volunteered for it. I can look at giving you some vacation time once you finish training your co captain, alright?”

“But… it’s not fair! you guys get to go up there and see Dazzle and the others…” he quickly corrected himself, “I mean you guys get to go up there and see all of the other weather ponies while I have to stay here and work!” He grumbled out in a sad tone.

Silver chuckled, “You want me to tell Dazzle you said hi?”

His face lit up, “Would you?!”

He let out a few more laughs, “Absolutely Zip, maybe I’ll see if she wants to make another trip down here.”

He jumped into the air, coming to a hover, “You’re the best, Silver!”

“Alright Zip, now please go get back to your team, they’re kind of waiting for you.”

“Sure thing Boss!” He nodded his head and zipped off into the distance, meeting back up with his team.”

Silver sat in his office with Scarlet and Orion, scrolling through his list one final time, “Alright, sunglasses… check, chargers… check… I think we’re ready… are you all ready to go Scarlet?”

“That’s the third time you asked me,”She smiled back and nodded her head excitedly, “But yes I am!”

“And all of Orion’s things packed in there? I know he doesn’t need much but you know how cranky he gets sometimes.”

“I’m bringing the essentials. I’m sure they’ll be able to help if we need anything else up there.”

He nodded, “Just making sure. The last thing we need is a cranky colt on a plane without anything to distract him.”

“Hence why we’re leaving so early. So he’ll hopefully sleep the entire trip?”

He nodded his head, “Yeah, yeah, I know. You know how he can get though, waking up and crying for seemingly no reason at all. At least he’s not dreamwalking anymore.”

“No kidding, I didn’t realize that surging night ponies could do that, and I thought making sure he didn’t run around in the waking world was hard enough as it was.”

“That lecture from Sha’am sure didn’t make it any easier, at least she’s nice around foals. And at least she sent him back to his own dream before laying into me about keeping an eye on him.”

“Oh come on, I thought she was pretty tame with that, she didn’t even punish you.”

“Fair enough. We really should start heading out if we want to get there on time, I don’t know how much you’ve flown before but I have the worst luck with getting through security.”

She nodded, “Extra time to get through would be good especially with Orion.”

They stood up and trotted out of Silver’s office and headed down the hallway, up a flight of stairs, and out onto the roof, where Diamond Glider was waiting at the landing pad with a portfolio held under a wing, “Alright you two, I got your tickets all printed out, you’ll have a connecting flight at Chicago, before landing at Sawyer. I sent your itinerary ahead so they’ll be waiting. I’m sure you’ll recognize them the second you see them.”

Silver chuckled, “Ya tend to remember a pony who can summon Oasis sized storms. Thanks for getting this all set up Diamond, you’re sure you don’t mind taking over for a little while? I know it’s a lot of work.”

“Ha, you kidding? I’ve been used to doing your job for a while now,” Diamond joked. “But I’ll give you a call if anything important comes up that I need your input on, your gauntlet should still function up there, if not then I’ll just have Phoenix dreamwalk over to you.”

“Thanks again Diamond.”

“It’s my pleasure, enjoy your vacation.”

Silver nodded, patting his friend on the shoulder, “You’re the best Diamond, seriously. I don’t know what we’d do without you.”

Diamond gave a quick nod as the trio walked over towards the helicopter, Orion meekly hiding behind the pair and lowering his ears in worry as they approached it. Silver looked down to the purple night pony colt that was hiding behind Scarlet and began to reassuringly talk to him, “Hey don’t worry buddy, you’re gonna have so much fun on your first big vacation.”

“As adorable as that is, I don’t think he can understand your sentiment,” she chimed in with a smile.

“But he understands the tone, right? Don’t you?” He insisted in baby talk, Orion responding with a big smile and happy little squeal. Straightening up he turned towards Scarlet, “See! Don’t doubt my highly tuned paternal instincts.”

“Hmm kay,” she replied sarcastically. “Let’s not keep the nice helicopter pilot waiting while you show off your stallion instincts, we can’t make memories if we’re standing here.”

“You’re right,” he watched as she wrapped her legs around Orion and quickly flew up into the helicopter, much to the colt’s delight.

They had made it to the Phoenix airport without any hassle, and as tired as they were, they were more than grateful for an afternoon flight if it meant that they wouldn’t have to worry about Orion causing a scene. Checking in was an easy enough process, almost easier than what he had remembered from his past experiences, and before they knew it they were making their way to the security checkpoint.

Orion was peacefully asleep on top of Scarlet’s back, much to their relief. If there was one really great thing about becoming a pony it was being able to go through the security checkpoint with ease. No shoes or belts to remove and they didn’t pack as much so didn’t need to pay for more luggage. Not wanting to press his luck, Silver quickly put the single small bag they had packed onto the conveyor, and walked forward. As if on cue Orion chose this moment to stir awake, drawing annoyed looks from all around when he began to cry and make a fuss.

Silver flashed a frantic embarrassed look and quickly ushered the two through, grabbing his bag with a wing on the way out of the checkpoint. Scarlet was able to soothe him quickly, ending the tantrum almost as fast as it began. Silver gave a sigh of relief and helped lay Orion across her back again and they continued over to their gate.

“Thank God you got him calmed down, I was worried that we were going to be that family whose kid just screams the entire time” He looked around, letting a big smile come across his face, “I don’t know about you but I’m so excited for this!” he enthusiastically shouted before snapping a couple quick photos, gaining some annoyed looks for the outburst from nearby travellers.

Scarlet looked around at the travelers that were now looking directly at them. “Silver, I get that you’re excited, but do you really need to document every single leg of the journey? I mean we haven’t even left the state yet.”

“Of course! It’s our first big family trip, we’re going to want to remember this forever!”

She smiled and shook her head, “You’re such a goofball, let’s go find a spot to rest, I know I could sure use it.”

He nodded his head, letting out a few yawns, “Yeah, me too.”

Good morning everyone, this is the pre flight announcement for flight 82 from Phoenix to Chicago, please gather your belongings and have your boarding passes ready, we will be boarding in just a few minutes. Thank you.

The pre flight announcement was enough to pull Silver from his nap, but Scarlet and Orion were still peacefully asleep next to him. He reached over and gently shook Scarlet awake.

“What is it Silver?” She asked with a yawn.

“They just gave the pre flight announcement, we should get ready. Wanna trade?” he asked as he looked down at the sleeping foal by his side.

“Nah, he looks so happy right now, I wouldn’t want to ruin this precious moment.”

He smiled and stood up, carefully lifting Orion as to not wake him, “Wanna give me a hoof?”

“You want him up on your back?”

“Yeah, just so he can stay nice and comfortable. We can settle him down when we’re on the plane.”

Scarlet gently deposited the sleeping foal on his back and he adjusted his wings to act like guards so Orion wouldn’t fall of. “Want me to go first then?”

“Yeah go ahead, I’ll let you handle the tickets.”

They trotted towards the line, waiting their turn to board.

Scarlet greeted the attendant with a smile, handing over their tickets and waving Silver over, “We’re all set to go in the pony section, three seats on the outside.”

He walked down the gangway and onto the plane, cheerfully greeting the attendants along the way. He moved forward into the pony section and stashed their bag under one of the cozy seats, carefully laying Orion down on the middle seat. The pony section was still a weird sight to get used to, instead of the standard seats, there were rows of what almost looked like cushions with lower seat backs spaced out in rows, that sat closer to the floor.

Content that he wasn’t going to suddenly wake, Silver and Scarlet took their seats and settled down for the long day of travel ahead of them, excited for their first big trip. He glanced over to Orion and Scarlet, who had already begun to fall into a peaceful sleep and smiled. He made himself comfortable, and closed his eyes and fell into a relaxing, dreamless sleep.

Orion was wide awake as they began their final descent at their destination, nose pressed firmly against the window with a wide-eyed expression. Below them a sea of green trees stretched out as far as they could see, gently rising up to meet them. Silver shared a glance with Scarlet and laughed, “He really takes after me, my grandmother always told me that I looked like that when I used to fly as a kid.”

“Well now you can tell her that goofy wide-eyed expressions run in the family.”

“She’s gonna love to hear that, Mom and Dad will too... quick, get a picture! They’re going to kill me if I don’t snap this for them!”

She chuckled, “You sure you shouldn’t have taken the name Shutterbug? You’d think that three dozen photos of a plane ride were enough.”

“But that’s not enough! We’ve gotta remember this forever!”

She smiled and shook her head, “Alright shutterbug. You better sit upright because we’re about to land.”

He nodded and faced forward, tapping on the seat with his hooves in excitement.

“You excited?” Scarlet asked rhetorically as she slid the camera back into their bag.

“Do you even have to ask that?”

She chuckled, “No.”

Orion lost all sense of bravery as they walked down the noisy arrival corridor and out into the gate area, keeping close underneath Silver’s hooves and nearly tripping him several times. “It’s okay little buddy,” he said reassuringly as he gave the foal a nuzzle.

Even for a pony the gate area was small, it had enough seats for just one flight but had gates for two planes to be loaded. The TSA screener was right next to a glass door that went out into a larger airport space. With the rest of the passengers already streaming out through the doors, he encouraged Orion to follow and headed out with Scarlet. Much of the crowd immediately took a left to head through a larger waiting area to the baggage claim area.

Which gave them an easy view straight out the main doors and over to Sapphire Sky and her family waiting. The blue mare was sitting on the floor with a sign saying Eclipse Family resting against her forelegs. Her fiance, Crescent Shadow sat next to her with a green pegasus filly peeking her head out from between his legs.

Silver had thought Sapphire was the most well muscled pegasus he had ever met but the black furred Crescent looked like he could take on an earth pony. Which he supposed was fitting as the pony was from Luna’s guard.

Silver gestured towards her their host and leaned down to get down to Orion’s eye level, “Alright buddy, I need you to be on your best behavior when we meet miss Sapphire, she’s being very nice and invited us over for our vacation, can you do that for me?”

Orion took a moment where he appeared in intense concentration before he responded with a big grin and happy flap of his wings.

The group worked their way over to the pegasus, Scarlet leading the charge, “Sapphire, you weren’t kidding when you said this airport was small.”

The pegasus smiled, “It’s cozy. So how was your flight? Hopefully you all got some rest on the way over. Better visit the bathroom before we head out for the hotel, it’s about a thirty minute drive.”

Silver nodded, gesturing down to the excited colt, “Sure did, Orion slept almost the whole way, woke up about an hour ago,” He looked towards Crescent and smiled, “I don’t believe we’ve met before, I’m Silver Eclipse, this is my wife Scarlet, and our foal Orion.”

“Greetings, I’m Crescent Shadow and this little filly here is Aurora,” he greeted with an Equestrian accent and gestured down towards the filly with a wing. The young pegasus was watching everything with bright hazel green eyes but refused to come out from underneath her father’s legs, “Sapphire’s told me all about you.”

“Good things I hope?” He said with a nervous chuckle.

He chuckled and nodded his head.

Scarlet broke in with a question. “You’re into astronomy right? I would love to hear about Equestria’s stars if you have time.”

“I have a couple books that I could show you,” he responded with a small smile as Scarlet lit up at the prospect of having access to actual Equestrian astronomy books.

She excitedly nodded her head, “I’d love to take a look at them! Thank you so much, I wish I had thought to bring some of my own.”

Looks like everypony is going to get along well, Silver thought to himself, as he looked over to Sapphire, “So where are we staying anyways?”

“Normally I would have you stay at my home. But I thought some place a little closer to the nightlife and fancier would be nice. I know how hard it can be to fly around with a young foal. So I got you a room at the Landmark Inn. It’s right downtown so it’s easy to get around and has one of the best views of the lake.”

“Thank you so much for setting up this trip, it’s so nice to get away from work and see someplace new.”

Sapphire smiled, “We’re glad to have you.”

“I can’t wait, this is going to be so much fun!” He excitedly shouted as Sapphire led them out of the terminal. Or intended to up until Orion started whining and getting in his way. “I guess we do need to visit the restroom.”

Two Years Later:

Silver sat back and let the starry expanse of the dream realm materialize in front of him. He tried to get a sense for Sapphire’s dream, but found that he just couldn’t locate it.

“Figures, looks like we’re doing this the hard way,” His thoughts drifted towards who would be able to get him to Sapphire’s dream the easiest. Emily seemed like the best pony for the task, She was with Will who was good friends with Sapphire. He was familiar enough with her to easily find her in the dream realm. He felt out for her dream, suddenly finding himself out in the open dream realm.

She turned towards him, “Silver? Did you need something?” Emily asked like he had interrupted something.

“Hey Emily, long time no see. This is going to be an odd request so let me just get right to it. I need you to help me get to Sapphire’s dream.”


“I just want to catch up with her, I heard she’s back on Earth again.”

“Sapphire’s not your average pony, you know that right?”

“Yes…” He thought back to his first encounter with her, “I’m well aware of that, but what does that have to do with it?”

“Alright, well I don’t know how many powerful ponies’ dreams you’ve visited so be careful. Their dreams are a bit more… than anything you’ve probably normally seen out there. It’s not going to be easy for you to control so just keep that in mind.”

“Thanks for the heads up, I’ll be careful,” He watched as Emily nodded, bringing him to a star that seemed a little larger and brighter than others. “Thank you Emily, do you want to go in first and feel it out?”

She shook her head, “Oh no, I’m not going in. This is all you.”

He looked to the star, trying to get a feel for what the dream might be but found that he couldn’t, “Is it really going to be that bad?”

“Honestly, I don’t know. I’ve dream walked her a couple times but she wasn’t dreaming at the time and Luna isn’t a good barometer.”

“Ah, I see… wait did you just say Luna?”

“Yes, Princess Luna. Sapphire mentioned that she has visited her to assist with a couple bad dreams she had on Equestria.”

“Oh dear,” he nodded with a gulp, “Right, well here’s hoping it’s a nice peaceful dream somewhere relaxing and not something crazily chaotic.”

He hesitantly entered the dream, closing his eyes as he crossed into it. When he opened them he was relieved to see that the dream he had entered was… relatively boring and normal. “This almost looks like a castle”, he thought to himself. He tried to look around but found it was a struggle to even move his head away from the scene of Sapphire pacing back and forth across a closed double doorway high enough for the tallest human to pass through easily. Crescent Shadow stood resolutely watching, clad in the dark royal armor of Luna’s guard but with his helmet held underneath a wing..

He sighed in relief and began to hesitantly walk forward. Or tried to, he struggled in alarm as he found that he couldn’t move at all. He took an unneeded breath, trying to relax for a moment, “alright, this is just a dream, no need to panic. Nothing can really hurt me here,” Sapphire’s voice echoing through the dark hallway pulled his attention forward again.

“What do we do if they say no?” she asked and he felt a wave of despair tinged with hope wash over him, pulling him sharply into the dream’s narrative.

“They won’t,” Crescent responded reassuringly.

“But if they do…”

Silver couldn’t help but feel hopeless, like he was speeding towards a brick wall and about to hit.

Crescent stepped forward and embraced Sapphire. “Then we’ll convince them to change their minds. Even if you return to Earth without me, I won’t stop trying until they agree.”

“I won’t return without you.”

“Then we’ll convince them together.”

He fought against the emotions, trying to break free from its hold. Silver took in another breath and focused his magic, trying to push forward through the dream with everything he had in him. After a few long moments of trying, the dream came to a pause and he collapsed onto the floor in front of her, the feelings of doubt and worry fading away along with Crescent Shadow.

“Silver?! How’d you get to the palace?” A look of realization spread across her face, “You’re in my dream.”

He slowly stood up, “Just trying to pay an old friend a visit…” he paused for a moment, looking around the hallway, “Is there someone else here? I swore I could feel another dreamer… maybe it’s just the emotion running through me still” He rubbed his temple with a hoof, “Sorry if I seem a little out of it, your dream was a lot stronger than anything I’ve ever really dealt with before.”

“Was it really that strong?”

He slowly nodded, “Yeah, worry and doubt are strong emotions and really drown out everything else. I couldn’t move for a while and it was kind of frightening at first. I wanted to ask how everything went over there… but I feel like you’re still figuring that out for yourself, want to talk about anything?”

“I don’t know, my counselor tends to be much taller than you.”

“Right, well she’s not here right now, I’m sure it’s still productive to get it off your chest if something’s bothering you.”

Sapphire spent a moment looking around at the palace around them. “I don’t remember many of my dreams, this seems like it was a conversation I had with Crescent before our audience with the Princesses. It went well so I’m not sure why I would be reliving this.”

“Well I’m not a psychologist but I can only assume that it’s something you were stressing over, I used to get stress dreams about work and school and even though something might have turned out okay it’d still creep up in my dreams. Even though this might have gone well you still might be worrying about it if that makes sense.”

“Odd, if it was stress I would think I would worry about her.”

“Who’s her?”

“That would be me!” A voice cut in from the end of the hallway.

Silver turned to the voice to see a black pony with a strong resemblance to Sapphire lazily walking through the hall towards them, her iridescent green eyes passing over him with cold dismissal, as a pale blue mane and tail floated through the air like they were in water. He thought for a moment she was a pegasus until he saw the dark spiral horn and realized this was an unfamiliar alicorn.

“A friend of yours or a dream?” he asked, hoping desperately for the latter with how this alicorn oozed malice. He couldn’t remember ever feeling this intense need to get away from a pony before.

“She is my nightmare.”

“Nightmare? I should be so lucky to carry that moniker,” the alicorn chuckled, her voice echoing in the empty hall but instead of falling off it grew louder. “I would like to pick up where we left off,” her laughter in the hall fell away to a dead silence. The black mare’s wing’s spread wide and her horn lit up with a sickly green color.

Sapphire spread her own wings and took a defensive stance. “You want me to hit you with another lightning bolt? I’d be happy to!”

“Maybe some other time,” Silver cut in, using every ounce of his strength to pull Sapphire from her dream. Briefly they were out among the endless stars of dreamers before being deposited into Somewhere. Checking to make sure that Sapphire’s nightmare hadn’t followed somehow, he breathed out a sigh of relief. “Sorry for the sudden shift in location, I’ve never tried to pull a dreamer out of their dream before, I hope you don’t mind.”

“Unexpected but better than the alternative,” she answered while looking around at the strange location she now found herself in. “And this is?”

“Somewhere… it’s a sort of persistent dreamscape I threw together a couple years ago. It was the easiest place I could pull you too on such short notice.”

“I didn’t know that was possible.”

“I didn’t either at first. It seems to be a rare talent, I haven’t met another night pony that can do it like I can but Emily got kind of close with her own method before,” he paused for a moment, “So did you want to talk about THAT?"

“There isn’t much to talk about.”

“Not much to talk about?! I may have not visited very many powerful dreams but that’s the first time one came to life and tried to attack me!”

“My imagination runs away from me sometimes. And she wasn’t going to attack you, she was going to attack me.”

“Forgive me then, I’m still a little dazed from being dragged into the dream’s narrative, I could feel every emotion as it was happening, really threw me off.”

“Don’t worry, she was just something brought to life briefly and now I hold onto that memory so that if I ever find myself agreeing with her then I know I’m on the wrong path.”

“That’s… actually not a bad idea. It feels a little odd, but if it works for you I can’t argue with that.”

“It’s not literal. I just remember her mentality. Luna has warned me about letting our thoughts gain lives of their own, thankfully I have no power in the dream realm. As I really don’t need my own Tantabus.”

“Tanta-what?” he shook his head, realizing she was referencing something she picked up on Equestria that Earth wasn’t yet ready to find out. “Since that dream is done, did you want to find a nice place to sit? I would love to hear about your trip and to catch up. If not I can put you back into a dreamless sleep.”

“I’ll tell you about Equestria, while you give me a little tour.”

Silver paced around his office in Somewhere, finally turning towards Scarlet, “I don’t really know what to make of it all, those strange projects that are more advanced than anything else we’ve ever seen? Some shady contract with Sunset Blessing? That has to be the connection right? I mean this can’t just be some big coincidence.”

“You’re back on this? Do you think they’d really involve themselves? I mean it’s waking world stuff we’re talking about. They’ve made it pretty clear that they wanted to stay out of that.”

“I know, I know. But just think about it for a second, I mean who else would have the potential ability to do this? I mean they’re functionally immortal and shy away from the outside world as much as they can, who knows what else they’re keeping from us.”

The feeling of another dreamer entering Somewhere drew his attention away for a moment. It wasn’t uncommon that he’d have visitors, but something felt off. It was as if a different type of dreamer had entered and he couldn’t quite place who it might be.

He paused for a moment, “I… I think we have a visitor…”

“Well let’s go give them a hello, maybe it’ll take your mind off of this a little.”

He shook his head, “That’s just it, I felt another presence enter, but I can’t pull them over, it’s as if they’re not really here or something...”

“Maybe it’s one of the Wardens, I mean we were just talking about them and they do have ears everywhere.”

“I… I guess that makes sense. Something just feels off about this. Maybe it’s just me imagining things...”

“Well it’s not worth fretting about, if there was really something wrong then I’m sure you’d know by now.”

“I guess you’re right. Things have felt a little off ever since I dreamwalked to Sapphire the other day, maybe there’s still some residual emotion that’s just carrying over, I mean that was the most powerful dream I’ve ever been in.”

“That’s probably it. So we’re still sticking with the SPEC partnership for another year?”

“For now, yes. I’ve made it very clear that we’re not going to do anything outside of our original agreement unless we can be absolutely sure that we’ll never run into another incident like Sapphire’s storm. I mean if my theory is correct, and there’s no way to prove that it is, dropping our partnership could mean losing the path towards a viable solution. It’s a huge what if but it might be our best bet right now.”

“You’re still convinced that we should be doing more?”

“Yeah. I mean why not try and solve two problems at once? I don’t think it’s wise to just completely cut her loose… at least not yet. I want to feel this out a little more, wait and see how these projects all pan out, you feel me?”

“Yeah I do. Just think this through okay? Now I’m going to go visit Midnight’s dream, you want to come along and we’ll all go on another adventure or do you want to sulk around in your castle contemplating dealing with a backstabbing manipulator some more?”

“You run ahead, I’ll meet up with you guys in a little bit. I wanted to add a few items to the museum, I was thinking that a little nightmare Sapphire would compliment that miniature storm cloud nicely. It’d make for a cool little moving visual.”

She smirked, as she started walking towards the door, “Alright, see you in a few hours then…”

He stood up and laughed, “Oh alright, I’ll add that to the museum after our adventures are done. Go ahead and tell them I won’t be long, I’ll be right over.”

She nodded and vanished, leaving him alone. As he stood up and began to follow her, a calmly soothing voice spoke out from behind him. “You have a wonderful ability to create such detailed scenes.”

He hesitantly turned towards the source of the voice, marveling at the strange dragon like creature that stood in the center of the room. He cocked his head to one side in confusion “I’m sorry but are… Are you one of the wardens?” He paused for a few moments, thinking this over. “No… no, you’re something else surely. You do seem familiar though, have we met before?”

She smiled and shook her head. “I am certainly not one of them and we have not met, though I have been keeping an eye on you for some time now.”

He was taken aback by surprise. “Me? Hold on, so what are you here for…” He paused for a moment, flashing an embarrassed look. He stood up and walked over to greet the creature. “I’m sorry, how rude of me. I’m Silver Eclipse, and you are?”

She smiled warmly, as if to ease his confusion. “While I long for the day when I might hear my name spoken aloud again, it is far simpler if you merely acknowledge me by Triss.”

He slowly nodded. “Nice to meet you… Triss. So uh… to what do I owe the pleasure? You’re obviously not a warden, but you’re not just a normal dreamwalker either are you?” He began to walk over towards some comfortable looking chairs near his desk at the far side of the room, pausing and waving her over. “Please, feel free to make yourself comfortable.”

“You know of the Equestrian princesses, the Alicorns, I am… this reality’s only remaining one, though I am not a pony as you can likely tell. As for why I am here, I have been watching you for some time now, I believe you have the potential to accomplish tasks far above what you have done so far.”

He idly inspected one of the many shelves that surrounded them, nodding his head and turning back towards her. “If you don’t mind me asking, what do you mean by potential? I’ll take it that this isn’t just some chance encounter, this place isn’t exactly the kind of place that ponies have just stumbled on into. Usually the only ones that are here are the ones that have specifically sought it out.”

She hesitantly sat down in one of the offered chairs, shaking her head in response to his question. “I’m here to get a sense of who you are. You spent a considerable amount of time to create this dreamscape, please tell me about what inspired you to shape it?”

He shrugged and smiled, taking his seat behind his desk. “Well I’m glad you asked. It’s an amalgamation of many different things. Some of the stories I’ve read, the places I wish I could be, and places inspired by my encounters out in the waking world,” He swiveled his chair around, pulling them both out onto the balcony, “That submarine down there for example, I’ve always loved the ocean and that was one of the first things I started building here,” The two were suddenly standing in the Nautilus’ Grand Salon, “In this case I was inspired by one of my favorite books, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. I guess I always found a certain sense of peace from having a little world to myself under the sea.”

“What about being under water soothes you? Do you wish to hide away from the world?”

“It’s quite the opposite actually. I want to help so much but obviously I can’t do everything. The world’s such a hectic place sometimes, in comparison, the ocean is a tranquil place away from it all, a place where I can just sit and reflect on everything and not have to worry about the world out there for a little while.”

Her questioning continued. “So you feel helpless at times? That you want to do more but find that you can not?”

He quickly looked up at her and nodded his head. “That’s exactly how I feel.”

“Tell me a little more, about this place, about your dreams. I can tell that you really do care about the world around you.”

Their perspectives shifted once more, giving a beautiful overhead view of the Island, “Well I guess I can start with the beginning, you asked what inspires me to make dreams like this, I guess I never really thought much about it before. When we all first… well transformed I learned that with practice you could craft your own dreams. It wasn’t easy at first, but it was something I could work on. It was originally something I could distract myself with, something I could do to keep my mind off of what was troubling me at the time but it quickly spiraled into this grand place once I figured out how to make things stick around after I had awoken.”

“Was it merely things that you feared? Or something else entirely?”

They were suddenly back in the Grand Salon, the room seeming to darken a little as he thought back to those days. “Well, it was more than just my fears, but those did play a bit of a role. To tell you the truth though, it was unease, anxiety... the kind of stuff that makes you feel like you’re helpless in the world. At the time I felt helpless. I had just had my entire body changed into something completely alien to me. I didn’t really know any other ponies, and I mistakenly kept to myself in dreams as a sort of escape because it was something I could be in control of.”

“Please, do go on. What was it that finally drew you from this place?”

“It was after the counterspell and when things seemed to be calming down that I heard about the Devourers. Naturally it scared me, a real life apocalypse after going through what many still think of as one. That’s when I started venturing out more, trying to find others who had that same fear as me but didn’t want to cower in the face of it. But to move forward and face it head on. It was... woefully optimistic for me to think I could really do anything when I didn’t have anything but a backpack full of stuff, but I was driven to look for others who wanted to try and do something to address it.”

“Something to address it? You’re quite an ambitious little pony. But you believe their threat is hundreds or thousands of years away, what could you achieve in your lifetime?”

He nodded his head and smiled. The landscape shifting into the form of the Oasis with the sun rising behind it, “That’s correct. But I figured that maybe if we started to try and make a better world in the present, it would build up into something that our descendants could have in the future. Maybe we’d find something we could use to stop them along the way. Made sense to me then, does now too. Even if it’s a fool’s goal It’s a goal I want to keep working towards.”

“That is very noble of you, young Silver. Being the change you wish to see in the world is not an easy path when one wishes to see grand change.”

“It’s easier now that I have help from my friends, that’s what our oasis really is, it’s a chance to try and show the world what’s possible if we all try and make a difference together. Some would call it a fool’s dream, I call it optimism.”

She pressed on further. “Do you ever feel that you could be doing more?”

He considered this for a moment. “To tell you the truth, sometimes I do. Is… is that why you’re here?”

She nodded. “It is a reason, yes. Though I had hoped not to weigh our first meeting down with such a difficult subject.”

“But the cat’s out of the bag now isn’t it?”

“I am not familiar with what that idiom means.”

“It means that something secret is now known.”

“That tale you mentioned earlier, it has been so long since I have been able to read a story, tell me, was a cat let out of the bag in it?”

Silver smirked and sat up in his chair as the two were returned to the Nautilus, “That’s… That’s just an expression, so not literally. It’s a fantastic story about three humans who hunt what they think is a sea monster and wind up getting lost at sea after they are shipwrecked and saved by the mysterious Captain Nemo. He and his crew roam the ocean in the Nautilus, but because no one can ever learn of the Nautilus, they are his prisoners. At first it seems like they’re in pursuit of their own scientific knowledge, but then he shows a more vicious side, sinking ships in an act of revenge against the world that he believes has wronged him.”

“Is his reason for vengeance a just one? The ones he hurts deserving?” She asked with both concern and curiosity in her voice.

“It’s… kind of tricky. You see, Nemo believes his cause is just, but he was misguided, overcome by grief after losing his family and home. He’s not a complete monster in the story, at times he even grieves for enemy sailors. He’s neither good nor evil.”

“I fear that there is nuance lost in this summary.”

“I wish it was possible to share these with you, there’s probably so many different stories that you’ve never even had the chance to hear about.” He seemed a little sad at this thought. “Humans have so many stories about trips to the moon, aliens invading the earth, invisible men, time travel, monsters, legends, impossible odysseys… so many that might seem impossible, some that are now all too real after ETS. But a lot of them share good lessons that we can learn from. That’s what I try to take away from them the most.”

A dark shadow passed over the room as a shape flew past the portholes, and Silver felt the presence of a Dreamwarden manifesting in his dreamscape.

Triss seemed to glance at the porthole with a look of annoyance

Silver’s face briefly shifted into a look of concern, quickly changing into a cautious smile, “Well it appears you’re not my only guest today, Triss,” he remarked before a heavy metallic clang resounded against the closed door to the room. “Come in friend,” he called out.

The door unlocked itself and swung open but the large shaggy furred form beyond was too big to fit. There was a snort and then the Dreamwarden shrunk in stature just enough until the minotaur form that could only be Tikhiy Krik ambled through carrying a trident. With a few heavy steps he came in to sit down before resuming his previous size to almost have his head reach the ceiling.

Silver smiled as he stood up, extending a hoof out in a warm greeting, “Well this sure is a pleasant surprise, I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure of meeting you yet. Welcome to Somewhere, I believe you’re the first warden to stop by, so it’s a real honor. Please, do make yourself comfortable. If there’s anything I can do to make your stay more… hospitable, please don’t hesitate to ask.”

Krik regarded him with an unreadable expression before looking to the left where one wall had been replaced by a field of stars that shifted to spell out a sentence. Forgive me for intruding upon your dream.

“Oh hey it’s no trouble at all, you know that you’re all always welcome here. I’m not normally this popular in dreams, so I take it this isn’t some personal visit? If you’re wondering how this all works I’d be more than happy to share, I know you probably haven’t encountered too many perpetual dreams.”

It is not about that, Triss knows she is not welcome in the dream realm to conduct her business. She is here to manipulate you for her own ends.

“I don’t mean to sound rude, but we were just having a nice conversation about old stories, you know, the books I like to read. That kind of stuff. I appreciate the concern though, I truly do.”

Her nice conversation is a pretext to offers of ascension. I do not mean this as an insult to you but she is reckless and desperate to force others into the same curse of immortality as her.

He glanced back over to the dragon-like creature. “Ascension?.. Triss is this true?”

She nodded. “I recognize your potential and hope that I can help worthy ponies ascend with their eyes open to all the risks and rewards of doing so.”

He raised an eyebrow. “And just what are the risks and rewards?” He looked back to the Minotaur. “I’m not agreeing to anything yet. I’m just curious about what exactly she’s trying to offer, please let me hear her out.”

I will only force her from the dream if you request it, but know that nothing has ever bound her to the truth. Be wary of her silver tongue.

“That may be, but I’m also the one in charge of making my own life decisions, having power that’s far beyond any earthly comprehension is an extremely scary thought, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t curious as to what she’s seen in me. Not to mention who the others are.”

She spoke up with a resigned tone to her voice. “I’m sorry, Silver. But I don’t think I’ll be able to properly explain with this one looming over us. He already knew we were talking without manifesting a form. So this is just cheap intimidation.”

He looked down sadly. “I… I understand. I do wish I could hear more about it though, even if I’m not necessarily fully on board with the idea. I know what he says is true and that you’re not obligated to tell me the truth, but this is kind of like the cliffhanger to a good story. It just builds up all of the interest and leaves you hanging there.”

Triss gave Krik a dark glance before favoring him with a smile. “Sometimes, as another once told me, waiting is part of the story.”

“Hopefully it’s not too long.” Silver said with a smile, feeling as if he recognized those words from somewhere.

“Then farewell Silver Eclipse, I wish you the best of luck in your endeavours.”

Triss faded away as she left, leaving Silver and the warden alone once more.

He turned towards the towering minotaur as the two were suddenly transported to the peak of the smoking volcano, “Sorry if I seem a little annoyed, I’m sure you can understand that it’s frustrating when someone brings information like this up and leaves you hanging.” He stood up and walked over to the dreamwarden, extending a hoof out in greeting. “You know, it’s been far too long since I’ve had so much company here, let alone two unfathomably powerful beings, we should really do this more often. Please do give my regards to the others, It’s been genuinely nice to see one of you on better terms again. I do hope we’ll meet again under better circumstances someday.”

Krik looked at him and nodded, fading away and leaving Silver alone once more. He smirked and signed goodbye to the now vacant floor space, lowering his hoof back down. “Alright, nice seeing you too. Take care Krik.”