Do Ponies on Earth have Magic Dreams?

by Tiki Bat

First published

The story of an optimistic young night pony, the special pony that enters his life, and how the two of them follow their dreams to make the world a better place!

Set in the Pandemic Universe (which existed well before the very real pandemic and this is in no way shape or form related to that) and takes place after the original story, though that’s not required to read.

All dreams start somewhere. For most night ponies, they start in the dreamscape itself, but that's not always the case for all. Two months after the ETS Pandemic changed the world forever, a bright, optimistic dream starts, whether the ponies responsible for it realized it or not. While some choose to cling to the past, some choose to leave it behind. This is the story of one of those ponies, Silver Eclipse, crafter of dreamscapes and dreams. In the waking world he helped create a dream called Oasis, a place where dreams can come true. But all dreams start somewhere, and this is the story of where that dream started, and the very special pony without whom it would never have happened.

Halira's stories, What you are Meant to Be and Picking up the Pieces offer some expanded night pony lore which introduce and expand on some of the concepts in this story, but it's not necessary to read. The original story is also recommended if you'd love to learn more about this universe.

Special thanks to:

for offering much needed feedback and advice over the course of writing this story.

This is a rewrite of my very first story, and definitely my passion project as of right now. Any feedback or comments would be greatly appreciated, even if it's just something simple or small. Thanks!

Prologue: This Wasn't Your Average Everyday Flu...

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From his father’s vantage point from the door, the purple night pony colt was all snuggled under his covers and peacefully asleep, gently snoring and looking as cozy as he could be. The midnight blue stallion with a sandy blonde mane could see right through his ruse, however he didn’t immediately call the colt out on it, instead he ducked his head out of the room and waited for the colt to stir. The little colt should have known better, especially considering who his father was. Silver Eclipse might not have been the most powerful night pony on earth, but he wasn’t just an average night pony either. Whenever dream magic and sleep was involved, you could count on Silver to have a far stronger grasp on it than most other night ponies had.

This was what he did best, at least that’s what he had figured out over the almost nine years he had been practicing and testing his limits. It took a lot of trial and error when he had first started out, but now he could do things that other ponies could only dream of doing. Sure, he could do the usual stuff like walk between dreams, fight off nightmares, etcetera, but he could also do so much more than that. The greatest pride he felt outside of his family was for his persistent dreamscape, a place that felt as close to real as you could get in a dream, and it even stuck around when he was awake. Most importantly, it was a place where he could do his part to spread creativity and wonder to the rest of the dream realm, which he gleefully did whenever he could.

Silver’s ears perked up as he heard the telltale rustling of the covers that confirmed his suspicions, followed by a loud bark and a muffled voice shushing it. A sly smile crept across his face as he slowly tread into the dark room. In a flash he jumped into sight, scaring the colt who had pulled out one of Silver’s old science fiction novels.

“Gotcha!” He shouted, causing the colt to jump back in surprise and their rescue dog, Cosmo, to start excitedly wagging his tail.

EEEEEEK!” he shouted back in a daze, the well worn book laying open to the side as the colt leaped away from his small, but well stocked bookshelf.

“You’re supposed to be sleeping Orion, you’ve got school tomorrow and I know that your mother would not be happy to see you up right now.”

“I… was sleeping,” he weakly explained, earning a stern look from Silver.

The older stallion shook his head and let out a hearty laugh as he remembered how his own parents had caught him staying up late at night trying to read. He looked down at the colt and shook his head, “I’m your father, I know you weren’t asleep.”

“But how did you know?” He dropped out of his defensive stance, cocking his head to the side in confusion.

“Well you just told me now,” he teased, “I’m also your father and fathers know these things.” Silver answered as he trotted over to the bed, pulling the colt close with a wing, and taking a curious glance at the book he had been trying to read, “From the Earth, to the Moon,” he smiled, “You know, when I was your age this was my favorite book, and grandma and grandpa caught me trying to stay up late to read it too.”

“It was?!” He asked in awe as he snuggled up on the bed in between Silver and Cosmo.

“It was.” Silver confirmed with a proud smile, “It was mommy’s too.”

“Really?!” He excitedly perked up.

“Of course,” Silver cheered back, “It’s one of the big things that mommy and I loved about each other. We could sit down and talk for hours about space and be really happy.”

“I like space!” Orion excitedly cheered.

Silver let out another laugh as he looked around the colt’s room that was decorated with an abundance of space themed paraphernalia, “Really?! How much do you like it?”

“A lot!”

“A lot?! What do you like about it?”

The colt paused in confusion for a moment, as if Silver had asked him about some unknown secret of the universe that was impossible to fathom. He took a few glances around the room and settled his gaze on a large glowing depiction of the moon in the corner. After a few moments his ears perked up and an adorably happy expression spread across his face as he hopped up and pointed to it, “I want to go there! Like in the story!”

Silver looked back over to the book and excitedly tousled the colt’s mane, “You wanna go to the moon?! Well you gotta get your sleep then.”

“Why?” His face turned into a pout, giving Silver this odd sense of nostalgic deja vu as he remembered how often he refused to just go to sleep as a kid.

He couldn’t blame the colt though, he and his wife had spent almost every waking moment of his childhood sharing their hobbies and dreams with him, and he had developed a love of space and science fiction that could easily rival their own.

Silver smiled again, “Why?! Well all space ponies have to get their sleep, otherwise they’ll be too tired to go to space. The moon’s pretty far away and you don’t want to be asleep for the ride, right?”

“Oh,” he replied. He looked back up at Silver and gave another pout, “I’m not tired though!” He protested, earning another laugh from Silver.

“What if I make you a really fun dream to run around in? You, me and mommy could go to space if you wanted to.”

“For real?!” He asked, jumping up again.

“For real,” Silver nodded, pulling him back down and trying to settle him, “But only if you go to sleep first.”

“I’m not tired though,” he protested again, trying to wriggle his way out of the elder stallion’s grip.

“Well, what do you want to do then? We could go play with Cosmo, or we could go work on some more of your homework, I know that always made me tired when I was your age,” he teased.

“What about a story?” Orion asked, clearly not thrilled with the idea of doing homework, and probably too tired to want to go run with the dog outside.

“A story?” Silver proudly smiled, “Well what kind of story?”

He sat back down on the bed and considered this for a moment before looking back at Silver, “Did you and mommy ever go to space?”

Silver laughed, “No, I wish though. Why?”

“You said you and mommy liked space.”

“Oh we did,” he began to think back to the many nights spent under the stars, just chatting the nights away with the mare he loved, “and that’s what we fell in love over.”

“What is?”

“Space. Mommy showed me all the stuff she shows you, and I fell in love with her.”

“What happened next?” he excitedly asked, jumping up again.

“We did what two grownup ponies that love each other did. Spent time together, told how much we loved each other. Spent a lot of time just flying around at night. That sort of stuff.”

“What else?! How did you meet mommy?” His questioning got even more excited.

Silver chuckled, settling him back down again, “That's a long story little Buddy, and it’s a boring story.”

“But what happened?” He insisted.

“Well,” Silver picked him up and laid him down under the covers, tucking him in with his wings and making sure that both the colt and his dog were comfy, “I guess I could start at the beginning, but you have to snuggle up and get ready for bed, can you do that for me?”

Orion snuggled up in his covers, nuzzling up close to the dog, and slowly nodding his head, “The beginning?”

“The beginning,” Silver continued, “back before you were born, when a lot of the older ponies weren’t ponies.”

Thoughts that he hadn’t focused on for years about the world before everything had changed started to flood back to him, bringing a nostalgic smile to his face.

“When they were humans?” Orion continued, pulling Silver out of his nostalgic trip.

“Mhmm, even mommy and I were humans too back then.”

His face scrunched up in confusion, as clearly this was something that was too hard for a colt who had only ever been a pony to understand, “But you’re ponies.”

Silver let out another chuckle, “Orion do you remember the story they told you in school about the big scary unicorn named Sunset Shimmer who created the Equine Transformation Syndrome?”

He slowly nodded his head, “She was the big mean pony that tried to make everyone a pony with her sickness thingie!”

“And then what happened?” Silver quizzed.

“Twilight Sparkle helped stop her!” He excitedly cheered, making the dog perk up again and making Silver push him back down.

“That’s right!” He praised the colt, “You’re such a smart kid, you know that?” He brushed his mane back again, “Mommy and I were both humans that got turned into ponies, but that wasn’t a bad thing at all.”

“It wasn’t?”

Silver shook his head, “It was one of the best things that could have happened to us. We never would have met each other if it didn’t happen.”

“Oh,” he paused, “was it scary?”

Silver paused, “Yeah… it kind of was at first. I guess I never really thought of that much…”

Silver began to trail off as he tried to remember back to the very first time he actually started to feel scared about everything…

Art by:

Joshua snuggled back into his blankets, refusing to wake up and open his eyes. Laying on his side, he buried his face deeper into his pillow. It didn’t help though, he felt completely wide awake despite the time of night. Giving up, he rolled onto his back and felt a wrenching pain that made him yelp and sit up. Sighing, he reached up to rub at his shoulder, the odd pain quickly shifting lower to remind him that he was now sitting on the tail like growth he had developed.

“What’s up with my shirt?” he asked himself as he became more aware, it was being pulled up from behind. He could also feel the material rubbing against something… else on his body but he was at a loss at what that feeling meant as he had never felt it before.

Reaching up he pulled the thin shirt off himself and felt an odd sensation like if his arms or legs had been tangled in a blanket suddenly being released from their confines.

His eyes bolted open as he flinched back in surprise, a flurry of worried and panicked thoughts running through his head. For a moment he thought he was simply asleep and having another really vivid dream, but the strange alien feeling he got when he briefly ran his hand over the new growths could only convince him that this was somehow real. He tried to word some kind of response to this, but found that the words simply didn’t come to him. No matter how hard he tried to rationalize this in his head, none of it made any sense, and he was too afraid to even begin to question what it meant.

Hopping out of bed, he quickly rushed to his bathroom, staring at his reflection in the darkness. He shakily turned around, letting out a short gasp as he took sight of the new limbs that were attached to his back. He closed his eyes and shook his head, hoping again that all of this was just some bad dream and that he’d wake up in the morning good as new, just as he had been before everything had started.

The shifting hair color was one thing, you could at least explain that as some weird practical joke, but then everything else started happening. His eye color had changed and he’d even grown a tail. And he couldn’t figure out why none of that had so genuinely sparked a moment of fear in him like seeing a pair of bat-like wings growing from his back.

He took a deep breath and splashed some water on his face, wandering over to the window. The cool moonlight beamed in, giving him a strange momentary sense of calm, as if everything was as it was meant to be. He shook his head again and cursed under his breath. A million thoughts began to run through his head— none of this was normal, why had he been so calm during all of this before?

The brief thought to go run down and see if the rest of his family had changed at all ran through his head, but he shook those thoughts. His mom, dad, and brother had all gone to bed early, and they didn’t deserve to be woken up in a panic, especially if it turned out that he was the only one who had grown wings. He looked down at the clock, noting that it was barely eight thirty. Great, he had another sleepless night to look forward to. It wasn’t that he didn’t enjoy the night, it was actually one of his favorite times. But lately he’d been having trouble getting to sleep, and that was starting to get annoying. Being able to sleep peacefully was one thing, but no doubt he’d get woken up by his family in the morning.

He looked back out the window and sighed, twitching his new wings involuntarily. He had no idea what the next few days would have in store for him, and he was nervous to find out. Deciding to take a walk so he could get some fresh air and clear his head, he began toward his door, pausing for a moment as he caught sight of his new limbs in the mirror.

A few thoughts ran through his head, making him wonder how many others out there had woken up with the same new horrifying discovery that he did. Color changing hair and the other changes were on the news and he couldn’t have been an isolated case, could he? Could there be others wandering around outside like he was? Should he even consider going outside to try and find out? His wings twitched again, as if they were reminding him that they were there, and earning another sigh from the young man.

“I should probably try to cover you up, at least until I know that I’m not the only one like this,” He said aloud, earning another twitch from his wings.

While no one would probably be out and about, he still didn’t want to bother with trying to answer what had happened and why. He reached over to his bed and grabbed a soft blanket before starting toward the door. As he walked through the hallway he couldn’t help but peek into his brother’s room, curious to see if he was going through the same thing in his sleep. Despite the pitch black darkness of the room, he could still make out his brother’s sleeping form wrapped up tightly in a blanket. The blanket was gently rising and falling, but aside from that, Joshua couldn’t make anything else out. He smiled and carefully shut the door, being sure to keep as quiet as possible.

“Sleep well buddy, hopefully you’re not in for a scare in the morning,” He whispered back at the door.

He slowly walked toward the stairs and past his parents’ room, keeping deathly quiet as he walked down the aged steps. A few small creaks sounded out, but as far as he could tell no one was bothered by them, which earned a sigh of relief. He didn’t want his family to be woken up with a scare like he had in the middle of the night, so he took extra caution to keep the sounds to a minimum— which was easier said than done.

Reaching the bottom of the stairs, he tip-toed toward the door and reached for his keys, pausing for a moment as he remembered the blanket. His wings twitched again as he carefully draped the soft blanket over them, reminding him again how sensitive they were. He smirked as he adjusted the makeshift covering, surprised at how much he could feel from them, and glad that he hadn’t pinched them like he did before. As he stepped through the door his wings twitched out, catching the frame and earning another sharp wince. He had spoken too soon, and quietly cursed under his breath as he rubbed his aching wing.

“Okay, I guess it wasn’t going to be that easy… guess we’re going out without the blanket eh?”

His wings gave another involuntary twitch as if the leathery limbs had heard him, making him shake his head again as he started off into the cool moonlit night.

It hadn’t been long after when his transformation had finished and had just barely begun to grow comfortable in his new body that the event that would form the basis of his outlook going forward occurred. He had always been a vivid dreamer, but the dream he had on that fateful day was one that was far more vivid than any he had had before, and one that was unknowingly a taste of the magic he would become so well versed in. Whether he had been somehow predisposed to dream magic or not, the vision he and so many others had experienced would shape who he was as a pony.

Joshua found himself standing on a cool and comforting beach, a scene that reminded him of the fond memories he had made with his family as a kid. The moon shined brightly overhead, and the sounds of the waves crashing on the beach gave him a calm, almost idealistic sense of peace. Something was off though, and he didn’t know what yet. Leaping into the air, he let unfamiliar instincts guide him towards the small village nestled along the coast. It was small and almost antiquated… yet in a strange way it felt almost… perfect?

Yes, perfect… that’s what it looked like to him. From the way that the pegasi moved rain clouds above, to the way the earth ponies used their strength to move the land around them, and the way that the unicorns helped guide the others along with their magic… it all just seemed so… welcoming. And welcoming it was, because in a moment the denizens of this quiet village seemed to welcome him in with open arms.

As the ponies around him settled down for the night, a group of night ponies suddenly took their place. Some jumped into action, patrolling the village and keeping the creatures of the night away from it, while others kept a watchful eye on those who slept soundly. The sounds of yelling pulled his view over to a pair of night ponies who were caught in the middle of both groups. One wanted to join the protectors outside, the other wanted to keep watch over the sleepers inside. The shouts almost seemed to lurch towards physical violence, but finally cooler heads prevailed as the two noticed Joshua standing before them. Realizing that they didn’t need to argue, they made amends and turned towards him, offering him a choice between joining them, or keeping watch over the day ponies.

A strange, almost paternal feeling seemed to pull Joshua towards the sleeping ponies. Feeling almost sickened by the argument, he was quick to offer his help, and left the other two ponies to help their peers outside. In front of him he could see a mare twitching in her sleep. Without knowing how he knew it, he could recognize the signs of a nightmare, and his instincts guided him towards dispelling it. He didn’t know why, but the idea of keeping watch and protecting these ponies from the terrors of their minds felt almost natural… as if it was his purpose here. Despite their different approaches, both groups were the protectors— the ones who kept this village safe at night, and the ones who shepherded the sleeping day ponies into a peaceful dream-filled sleep.

Reaching a hoof out to the mare, he sensed her nightmare and the fears that fueled it. Unsure of what to do, he closed his eyes and focused on the light he saw beyond his vision, letting that fill the darkness in her mind. He couldn’t see for certain, but in his heart he knew the nightmare was gone, no doubt replaced with a peaceful, calming dream.

The gentle sounds of hooves in the sand pulled his attention away from the sleeping dreamer, and the sight he saw took his breath away. A large mare that seemed to glow with an almost ethereal energy stood before him. He had no memory of who she was, yet he somehow knew she was there to guide him.

“What have you learned from what you have seen, Joshua?” she asked in a smooth, motherly voice.

“I…” he stammered out, “I’m sorry?”

“Your actions, what have you learned from them?”

Joshua looked down at the sleeping ponies around him, and then out to the ones protecting in the night. Turning to face the mare, he nodded. “I… I don’t know how, but I kept them safe in their dreams… pushed their nightmares away and left them feeling happy and rested.”

The conversation soon turned towards the different scenes that Joshua had witnessed. Each seemingly disconnected and innocent enough, but focused on familiar tenets such as friendship, forgiveness, loyalty, generosity, community… and others that painted an almost perfect picture of utopia.

But utopia was just a myth, right? There was no way that a scary magical virus could do away with millions of years of war and hardship and inequality… right?

Joshua turned towards the celestial being and shook his head, “This all sounds nice and grand… but it’s not doable, right? You can’t just zap an idea into ponies heads and suddenly make them see eye to eye.”

“Perhaps not,” she accepted, “but that doesn’t mean you can’t guide them. Think back to the ones that forgave each other in the midst of a fight, or the ones that welcomed you in… forgiveness and friendship is in the very nature of ponies.”

“But you can’t just magic that into someone though,” He argued. “Utopia is wonderful, but it’s not going to happen in just a night.”

“Nothing happens in just one night, but there is much you can learn in that time.”

Joshua shook his head, “No. This is just all a dream, and as good as it sounds, It’s unrealistic.”

“Is anything impossible though? Did you not once have dreams of what a brighter would could be like?”

Joshua stopped and hesitated for a moment. “Sure I have, and I’m sure everypony’s had one thought or another about what that world’s like and what it means… but it’s still something that can’t happen in a day. As much as I wish we could have every problem solved, making a better world is something we have to earn and make for ourselves, as hard as that might be.”

The mare seemed to frown, “I can not tell you what to do or what not to do. Your purpose in this world is yours to discover, and yours alone. You have the tools to see what could be, and perhaps you will find it in it’s own course.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” He raised an eyebrow.

“Our conversation shall not continue, though I wish you luck in finding your path… farewell.”

The celestial mare faded out of view, and with her so did the dream that Joshua had found himself in.

His eyes opened and he was greeted once again with the dim light of his room. The events of the vision he had seen in his sleep danced before his eyes briefly, but were soon replaced with the bright sun shining through the partially parted drapes.

He sat up in bed and squinted at the clock. Not much time had passed since he had slept, but now he found that his drowsiness and fatigue were replaced by a slew of thoughts. Was he the only one who had seen this dream? Was it all just a figment of his imagination… or had he been visited by something greater than he had ever known? Joshua had no real idea or understanding of what he had seen, but little did he know that the vision of utopia that he had rejected would be the very thing that framed his future...

Chapter 1: A World of Change

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Joshua squinted at the noon sun’s light and let out a small yawn as he lazily flew back toward his home. Not too long ago, when he had been human, he would have thought that going to bed in the middle of the day was weird, but now it didn’t feel strange in the slightest. In fact, it was one of his favorite parts of the day. He had always loved the nights; something about them was always so peaceful and relaxing, so being able to stay up and enjoy them more made this whole new species situation a little better. Sure, he didn’t get to spend as much time with others, which made him feel increasingly lonely at times, but there was still plenty of time at the beginning and end of his days to socialize. He hadn’t realized it at first, but there weren’t a whole lot of other night ponies around town, and it made him question whether he was special, unlucky, or just hadn’t explored around enough to see if there were more. He supposed that it didn’t matter much now; there would probably be plenty of time to go looking around later.

For all he knew, most of them could be holed up in one of the shelters, he hadn’t spent much time there since he had fully transformed, and maybe that’s why he hadn’t seen as many. As the small two-story home that he had lived in for most of his life grew closer, his open bedroom window almost seemed to beckon him in. His mom, dad, and brother were still in the shelter so he’d have the whole house to himself, so he didn’t really need to go straight to his room, but the thought of sleeping in his nice cozy bed was too much to ignore. Plus, he could get his room nice and dark when he closed the curtains, perfect for the young night pony. With as much precision as a sleepy non-aerodynamic pony could have, Joshua glided through the open window and came to a soft landing on the carpeted floor. As much as he wanted to just close his eyes and fall asleep right there, the sun’s light still shone through the window, and he couldn’t possibly get to sleep comfortably with that. Grabbing the bottom of the curtain in his mouth, he pulled it shut, darkening the room around him. Finally content, he crawled up onto his bed and curled up in the soft blankets, letting his muscles relax as he slowly floated off to dreamland.

Joshua opened his eyes and hesitantly looked around the strange dream that he had found himself in, sensing something odd about it that almost seemed alien to him, as if he had entered a dream of someone else’s creation. His dreams had definitely been way more vivid in the days since he had finished transforming, and even more so once he had seen the vision, but something about this dream just felt… weird.

Bright stars set in an endless black void surrounded him, which wasn’t all that dissimilar to a fair number of the dreams he had been having lately, but something about it all just felt far different than usual— well, as usual as usual could be when it came to this kind of thing. As he turned around, his eyes landed on a tall dark blue mare with both wings and a horn who greeted him with a warm smile, “Greetings, I apologize for intruding upon your dream, but my time here is limited. There are many more night ponies I need to visit, and I only have so much time to visit them.”

The night pony raised an eyebrow, “I’m sorry, and you are?..”

“My name is Princess Luna; I lead the night ponies in a world known as Equestria, a world that is, unfortunately, the source of the crisis upon your own. We believe we have found a way to end the further spread of the magic transforming humans into ponies, though we can not do it alone.”

Joshua contemplated her words as he looked around the starry expanse of the dream, “I don’t get it,” He paused for a moment, “What’s going on that is, meeting you here in this dream, if I am actually meeting you, is kind of the most normal thing I’ve been through in the past few days. So I guess I have to hear you out… I'm Joshua, by the way,” He turned back towards her, “Though I do have a question or two of my own.”

The princess nodded, “Please do ask, young Joshua, though do keep in mind that our time is limited.”

Joshua nodded, “Well,… why me? What can I do to help?”

The princess eyed him with an unreadable expression for a few moments before giving a small nod, “You are among the night ponies that have rejected the vision that was presented to you, that sets you apart from many.”

“It does?” He let out a chuckle, “That’s funny; I’m sort of an outcast in a lot of the others’ eyes because of it. They think I’m weird for not going along with it,” he shook his head.

“Do not fear; I would only expect suspicion and curiosity given everything that’s transpired for you. To put it simply, your rejection of that vision shows that you have not fully cast aside your former life and that you may be willing to help stop this crisis, even if it’s only through playing a small role.”

The night pony nodded, “Right then, that answers that. In that case, how can I help?”

“You are no doubt aware of your world’s crystal ponies, no? I know they are small in numbers, but no doubt you’ve come across one before.”

“What about them?” He answered with a shrug, turning once again to gaze at the bright stars around him, their otherworldly light stirring a strange feeling of pride within him.

“They are the key to spreading the spell that can end this, though I’m afraid that we must have their agreement if we wish to have them cast that spell.”

“And how can I help with this? I don’t know how much you know about our world, but I’m in an area where there are not very many ponies around, let alone crystal ponies. In fact, I think I’ve only ever come across one out there in the waking world.”

“Physical distance is not an issue within the dream realm.”

“Oh?” He raised an eyebrow, “Dream realm? Is that where we are?”

The mare nodded, “Yes, night ponies naturally tend to have the ability to dreamwalk. While it may not have manifested yet in you and others, the vast majority of you will be capable of doing it.”

“So I’ll be able to walk through dreams? Like into other pony’s?”

“Correct. If you would be willing to assist, I could show you how to utilize this ability.”

A frown slowly spread across his face, “Is that the catch?” He turned towards her again, taking a few steps forward, “You want me to do a different version of the vision? Like I told that white pony, I’m sorry, but I’m not in for the whole invading other ponies' minds thing. I’ve already said no to that a couple of times already.”

The princess shook her head, “It appears you misunderstand the purpose of this request; I only ask that you share this message with them, nothing more,” She paused for a moment, “It is appropriate that you hold such reservations, I know you have no reason to trust me, but could you please share this message? Surely you can see the importance of it.”

Joshua contemplated this for a moment before nodding, “If all I’m doing is acting as a courier, then sure. I’m not a big fan of the mind games that the others tried to pressure me into, something about it all just left a bad taste in my mouth, but if you are who you say you are, I guess I’ll trust your word. As I said, I don’t know how many I can actually talk to in the waking world, but I promise I’ll share this with whoever I can,” He paused, “So this is their choice in the end, right? I won’t be influencing their decision like I was asked to do with the vision?”

The mare shook her head, “You are merely a messenger; their approval or denial will ultimately be up to them.”

He nodded, “Okay then. I’m in, but only because it gives them the choice and not forcing it upon them. Though I can’t promise how many I’ll be able to share this with, I'll try my best.”

Luna smiled, “That is all that I ask. Perhaps someday we will have the chance to meet again under less dire circumstances.”

“So what’s this message I need to get out? I mean, I feel like, for the first time since all of this happened, I have an actual purpose, a new direction to go in if you will.”

The mare stayed silent for a moment as if contemplating something before shaking her head, “First, I’ll need to teach you how to navigate the dream realm.”

“Alright, so how do I do this then? Do I just close my eyes, click my hooves together three times, and will myself into somepony’s dream?”

“Not quite,” she chuckled, “Close your eyes for a moment and clear your head.”

“Aren’t I asleep with my eyes closed already?” He asked with a raised eyebrow.

“Please, this isn’t a guarantee, but I have found this kind of meditation to aid in first-time dreamwalkers.”

The night pony slowly nodded, unsure of whether this was some kind of joke or not. Seeing no point in avoiding it, he closed his eyes and took a deep breath, clearing his head and trying to feel out whatever she was talking about.

“That’s good, now, can you feel your magic? Feel your connection to the dream realm? The stars in the void symbolize the dreams of those around you, those most familiar to you. Close family and friends will be the easiest to identify; you’ll know them by the feel of their aura because you know it in the waking world even if you hadn’t yet realized it. With practice, you can even see their tribe; for now, I’ll help you learn how to find the Crystal Ponies.”

A strange feeling began to well up from within him. He didn’t know what it was specifically. It felt new, but also familiar in a weird way. He started to chase that feeling, watching as a field of stars lit up around him in his mind’s eye.

Taking another deep breath, he opened his eyes and looked around at the bright lights that had materialized around the pair. A goofy smile began to spread across his face as he looked back toward the princess, “Is this… Did I… Did I just dreamwalk?”

The princess let out a small laugh and shook her head, “Not yet, but now you are actively visualizing the dreams of nearby ponies. The next step is to begin traversing those dreams.”

“And I can just… walk right into them?”

She nodded, “Indeed. It will feel strange at first, but trust your instincts and let them guide you. While they may feel real, I assure you that you will be safe within them. Non-dreamwalkers lack the ability to shape the dream realm, so only you will be able to change what is happening.”

“And what if I want to leave a dream and come back here? Do I just do whatever I just did now?”

“Yes, simply feel out your connection back to your dream, or the dream realm itself. You’re catching on much quicker than others. I wish I could take more time to teach you properly, but our time is limited. I will help you locate the nearest crystal pony and share the message. After that, you’ll need to seek them out on your own.”

“Alright,” Joshua smiled, “Thank you, Princess, for taking the time to teach me, that is.”

“No thanks are needed, young Joshua,” she replied, beginning to scan the stars around them. “Come, tell me if you can feel the difference between these two.”

He nodded eagerly, wanting nothing more than to succeed with this amazing new ability.

Chapter 2: The Lonesome Bat

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The full moon shone brightly overhead, dimly illuminating the lone figure of a midnight blue night pony resting in the grass on a hill overlooking the nearby city. Silver Eclipse sat there reflecting on the past couple of months and the crazy changes he had lived through. Born Joshua, he chose his new name after waking up with a cutie mark after that fateful night he had met Princess Luna and learned about his talent for crafting dreams.

It had only been a short amount of time, but the Equine Transformation Syndrome had really changed a lot more than just his physical form. In a sense, it had both literally and physically changed his entire life— and the entire world as a whole too. Ponies not getting along with ponies, humans not getting along with humans, and both not getting along with each other— the same old world problems were now amplified even more, but with a whole other sentient species thrown into the mix. For a while after the smoke had cleared and humanity was still adjusting to it’s wild change, things seemed rough. You had fighting, looting, panic, and all of the associated chaos that came with a sizable portion of the population having been changed into something else, but months after the fact things seemed to at least be settling.

Human and pony relations, while finally seeming to get a bit better, were still far from being perfect and this put Silver in an awkward position. You see, he was a pony, and his family were still human— almost everyone he had ever known was still human for that matter, and at first it only drove him into those deep feelings of loneliness and wistful sorrow. That sorrow turned to anger and frustration over time, because while he had made peace with the fact that there was no going back to his former humanity, his family still seemed to struggle with that.

He was still their son, but he was also the weird bat-like pony in a family of humans. At face value this might have seemed fine, he wasn’t alone after all but in the post ETS world it meant he was followed with a never ending stream of hushed whispers and snarky comments that were clearly not meant to be heard. Ponies had good hearing, and unfortunately that meant he wound up hearing a lot of the comments that otherwise wouldn’t have been heard. He was nocturnal too, which led to even more frustration when his family complained about how he was sleeping in too much and not spending any time doing anything productive.

“But I’m a night pony,” He had tried to explain on so many different occasions to no avail, “So it’s really hard for me to be up during the day.”

But without fail it usually turned into comparing him to other ponies, which only led to more arguments when it was clear that there weren’t a whole lot of other night ponies around. As the time went on, almost every interaction he had with his former family and friends seemed to end in increasingly frequent arguments. As much as it stung, he could understand why things kept going the way they did. So many ponies just outright acted differently after the vision was spread, and while he hadn’t spread it, he had still changed. His suddenly drastically different behavior and often sour mood at being woken up during the day only reinforced that idea that he wasn’t the same old person he had been as a human in his family’s eyes.

He knew that it was just pony emotions getting in the way and that his family didn’t truly hate him, but the constant arguments and shouting matches between them were just too much for the night pony to take, so he did what any rational pony would do; cut out the negativity from his life and try and move on as best he could, which was easier said than done. As much as it stung him and made him want to just shut out the world, in a weird way he could understand their fears. His understanding did little to help his own struggles however, and he continued to dwell on these feelings often.

So much had changed in such a short amount of time, and all the fear and resentment was only natural. It still didn’t make it feel any better however. Silver thought back to those chaotic times, when it seemed as if the entire world was on the verge of ending. The pandemic had started innocently enough, seemingly just another bad case of the flu that everyone seemed to be getting. However as time went on it had become very clear that this was not the case when the first signs of the transformation began to show.

While his immediate family had started down the same road he had, neither of his parents had fully transformed, leaving him and his brother to feel like outcasts. They had been lucky, still having had the chance to rehumanize and try to return to their old lives, and in the end so did his brother. The fact that he was the only one to wind up as a pony in the long run and earn his own mark had probably been one of the biggest things that drove such a large wedge between him and his family. As happy as he was to have earned it at the time, the novelty was starting to wear off and it was only bringing his mood down more. It didn’t seem as bad at first, and for a while it even seemed like he could just resume his life as normal, but as the days went on his family only seemed to distance themselves more from him, treating him as if he was something less than their own flesh and blood.

He had tried to stay at home and continue his life as usual despite the fact that he was never going to truly fit in with them again, but it never seemed to work out the way he had hoped it would. For a few days it almost seemed as if it was, but then the big argument happened. His father couldn’t accept his new direction in life, and the two had finally hit a breaking point. Mean words were exchanged and feelings were hurt, and Silver had decided that it would just be better for him to go find his own way in life, even if it meant having to do it on his own. He had started with renting out hotel rooms for a few nights, and then crashing on couches when he had blown through his funds. When even that fell through, he decided to just rough it out in the wilderness, camping out under the stars most nights, and spending time with some of the local pony groups that had all come together. As much as he enjoyed the friendship, he was still more often than not the only night pony in the group, and it only made him feel like more of an outcast.

He wiped a tear from his eye as a wave of emotion surged back through him, making him curse that mark again for causing all of this. With a deep sigh, he looked back to the mark that seemed to taunt him, reflecting on the image of the moon caught in an eclipse that now dictated who he was, though he couldn’t help but feel at least a small bittersweet acceptance at his fate.

He shook his head, trying not to let his emotions get the better of him. Some things couldn’t be helped though, and as much as he wanted to be the big scary night pony the world saw him as, he couldn’t help but let out another sad sigh. The self isolation was clearly getting to him, and it was definitely not healthy in the slightest. It was just so hard for him to interact with the others when he was on a completely different schedule, and there were so few night ponies around him that he just couldn’t help but feel all alone in the world.

He let out another sigh, "I can't let this get in my way, my life may have changed in a big way, but that doesn't necessarily mean that this has to be the end of it right? If I quit now and don't try to do anything meaningful then what have I been working towards all this time?" He calmly said to himself.

As if he was waiting for an answer that was never going to just come to him, he sat in silence for a long while, enjoying the calm serenity radiating from the scene in front of him. Reflecting on all of these things and thinking towards the future, his new future. Perhaps with time, old relationships could be mended, that was still near the top of his list. However he was also determined to pursue his research no matter what species he was and regardless of what others thought of him.

Most of the ponies that he knew took hold of the vision they had all received shortly after transforming, seemingly no longer caring for the world that they had left behind. It was a wonderful idea, but he just couldn’t settle for something that felt too good to be true. Perhaps he would be proven wrong, he knew that he couldn't spend all of his time dwelling on the past after all, but he still couldn’t stop himself from wondering “what if?”. What if his life had taken a different turn, what if he hadn’t transformed? What if ETS was just all a bad dream?

These were all questions he asked to himself every time he spent meditating. He felt something during every session, and the more he focused the more it felt as if he was reaching some peaceful plane that hovered somewhere between being awake and asleep, and it was something that called out to him, pulling him forward and giving his lonely life a semblance of meaning. Silver was determined to make sense of his talents and abilities but he knew it wouldn’t be as easy as it sounded coming out of his own mouth. So much had changed around him and his own self imposed isolation didn’t do much to help either, the bitter feelings of loneliness only acting as a constant reminder of his past.

The dream realm was at least a place where he could feel at home, sometimes he’d remain alone in his own dream, trying to craft it into amazing and fantastical places. Then there were the times he’d go off and explore some of the other dreams, curious to see what others were doing with their abilities, meeting his own fair share of strange and unusual ponies along the way. The experiences only seemed to make his interest stronger, and in turn that drove him to spend more time in his own dream, eager to do something amazing with his ability that he just knew he’d unlock if he could only focus a little harder.

Silver let out a long yawn, and he decided to put his thoughts on hold for now. He’d be asleep soon, and that meant he’d have more time to play around with his abilities, a thought that brought endless joy to him. As his thoughts began to drift off to sleep, he began to plan out his new course, taking note of everything that he needed before embarking on his grand journey. As the morning sun rose Silver reflected on one final thought before falling into a deep sleep: It would be a new dawn for him, and he wouldn't need to worry about anything or anypony else to ensure that his dreams would become a reality.

A lone mare sat amongst the starry backdrop that comprised the dream realm, pondering on what they were about to do. ETS had changed her life just as much as everyone else’s, but it also seemed to open her eyes to something else. Much like Silver, she was the only night pony in her area, and it left her feeling all alone in the world. She didn’t know whether it was instinct or intuition, but she could almost sense a similar feeling when she had stumbled across his dream before, and it brought a smile to her face knowing that there might be other ponies out there that felt the same as she did.

The mare felt a little strange at the thought of just trying to jump into someone else’s dream, the ability was still new to her, but she figured there was no harm in at least talking, even if at the very least it helped her make sense of her situation.

The pony who’s dream she had been watching was determined to make the best of their situation, even if it was a little unorthodox. Self isolation and meditation wasn’t normally out of the ordinary, but this pony chose to spend more of their nights in their own dream, just tinkering with the landscape like it was some advanced computer game. It was hard for her to get a good read on other ponies' dreams, but this one felt different, and she was intrigued to learn more.

She supposed that it wasn’t the weirdest thing imaginable, but it definitely stood out for a night pony, and she couldn’t help but feel a certain compassion for this pony that was very obviously hurting. She didn’t know if it was her new pony instincts talking, or just the thought of another pony being sad driving her forward, but It would be a detriment to her very own morals if they didn’t make an attempt to change somepony else’s life for the better, even if that change was simply offering friendship to somepony in need.

There was much to do in order to meet his goals, and Silver honestly had no real idea of where to start or what to really do. His hobby as of late had been creating a dream that he could summon time and time again. A daunting task for a detail oriented night pony, but one that he was determined to perfect, even if it meant he stood out amongst the other night ponies. With no other direction, he started as he always did, with a large room, adding in the detail as he imagined it. He had always found that visualizing a floor plan made the experience a lot easier to tackle, and so he did. Each night he focused on trying to recreate that room and pushing it further. Sometimes it was a few small changes here and there, other times it was trying to make something bigger.

“Did you make this on your own?” Came a lone voice from the far side of the room, pulling him from his work.

“Huh? Who’s there?” Silver turned towards a red night pony that was looking around at the dream he had been constructing, “I wasn’t expecting any company tonight.”

“Sorry if I’m intruding. I take it you don’t get very many visitors? I’ve seen your dreams before… something about them just drew me here.”

Silver slowly nodded, “Right... So uh, what’s up?”

“Well I guess an introduction’s a good start. I’m Scarlet Moon, nice to meet you.”

He nodded, “Silver… Silver Eclipse.” He awkwardly paused for a few moments before letting out a small laugh, “I know it’s a little corny, and I’m blue, not silver, but what can I say, it fits my mark, so why not just roll with it?”

Art by:

She smiled, “I like it, has a nice ring to it. So do you do this kind of thing often?”

“Make dreams? Kind of…” He paused, looking around at the small library he had built, “I’m sorry, I guess I’m just not used to this, is there anything I can help you with?”

She shook her head, “I guess I’m just curious about you,” She hesitated for a moment, “Look, this is going to sound strange, but I can sometimes feel things that others can’t, It’s not always clear, and I can’t always get a good read on it, but I felt so much sadness and unease when I came across your dreams a while ago, and it made me think about my own situation.”

“Your own situation? Wait, you’ve been to my dreams before?”

She nodded, “Just in passing, but I picked up on a strong feeling when I did, and it really made me think about my own life right now. I’m sorry if I’m just assuming things, but you’re probably the only night pony in your area too right? If it’s anything like my situation, it must make you feel—”

“ — alone…” Silver turned towards her and smiled, “That’s exactly what I’ve been going through. So is that why you’re here? Because you feel the same?”

She shrugged, “I… I don’t really know. I guess I just didn’t know what to really do going forward. This whole dream walking thing is new to me and It’s just hard to get a good feel for. I hopped through a bunch of dreams at random, but yours was the only one I felt any kind of strong emotion from, I thought that maybe trying to talk with someone that’s going through something similar would be a better way to make peace with it all… if that makes sense.”

Silver nodded, bringing up a couple of chairs and a table, “It does… I guess I’m not really the best at making friends, but uhh, feel free to stick around if you want. I can’t say I’m going to be the most interesting conversational partner, but if this helps you then I won’t argue.”

Scarlet nodded and took a seat while Silver summoned a couple of drinks, “So what’s your whole goal with this? Like I said before, I guess I’ve just never really seen a night pony do something like this before.”

Silver shrugged, “Just trying to get a better grip on crafting dreams. It’s tricky but I feel like I’m starting to get a hang of it.”

“Dream crafting… interesting, can’t say I’ve seen too many ponies that give that a shot.”

Silver nodded, “Me neither, but hey that’s why I’m trying it out,” He paused for a moment, “So uhh, If you don’t mind me asking... what did you do in life before this all happened?”

“A little of everything, but a whole lot of nothing I feel. I always liked to stargaze though, and wanted to do something with that, but never really figured out what,” She gestured towards her flank, “Got my mark in it though, so I guess that’s a plus. I don’t really know what my talent is, but it’s almost like I can pick out objects in the night sky really well, like I just know where they’re at and what they are.”

The blue night pony passed her one of the drinks and took his own seat, “Well, it sounds like you figured it all out… Stargazing, that’s something I haven’t done in a very long time.”

She smiled, “Well, if you’re ever in the mood to take a trip up my way I’d love to reintroduce you to it. So whereabouts are you, anyhow?”

“Well, right now I’m kind of on the edge of LA. Lived there most of my life but I had some… stuff come up that I’d rather not get into. Needless to say I’ve just kind of been camping for a while now. Not really sure where I’m headed overall. How about you?”

“Me? I’m in the mountains, up in Idyllwild. There’s a little pony community set up in an old campground that my parents used to take me to all the time as a kid. Thought it’d be a nice getaway given that I couldn’t really afford my home anymore.”

Silver nodded, “Well, maybe I’ll take you up on that offer sooner rather than later, I’ve kind of been drifting around here, haven’t really found anywhere to just set up shop in.”

“Do you have anything concrete planned out?”

Silver shrugged, “Well not really, at least not out there. It’s going to sound strange, but I want to try and put my powers to good use in here. This is a dream right? None of it’s real so we could probably do anything we wanted to do here then, so why not do something productive.”

“What kind of things do you have in mind?”

Silver shrugged again, “I guess I don’t know yet, I’ve been trying to make the same basic construct each night, see if I can make something that sticks. I guess my plan from there is to try and figure out what I can actually do with the concept.”

The night pony smiled, “Well it sounds like a fun idea, need any help with it?”

Silver smiled, “Well, I’m not a hundred percent sure how you could help with this specifically, but it’s always nice to have a good friend. You don’t know how great it is to finally have someone I can just talk to again, even if they’re just some random dream stranger. I mean, I feel like the world’s ended, my family doesn’t want to talk to me, I don’t really have any close friends left, and there’s hardly any pony around me that I can feel a connection to. It’s just… frustrating you know?”

Scarlet nodded, “Definitely. Like I said, it’s just so lonely out there, it’s really nice to chat with someone that’s going through the same kind of thing.”

“Well, I guess that’s a stroke of luck then? We’re both a couple of loners wondering what’s going on in the world then,” He paused for a moment, looking back towards the mare, “Well, tell you what, maybe I could try and make a trip up there sometime, I’m sure it’d be a lot better than just sitting around in the grass on the outskirts of town like some lost puppy. So what’s the little community called anyways? You said it was set up in some old campground right?”

She nodded, “It’s called Hurkey Creek, we’ve taken over a part we’ve started calling Green View. Lots of nature and trees all around, seemed like a fitting name. Do you still have a phone or something? I could send you the address,” She paused, taking a drink from the cup, “I know it sounds crazy right now, inviting you along to some random little village, but we’re social creatures and I know the isolation’s been killing me, I’m sure it’s the same for you, especially if you’re just out on your own. I could show you around and introduce you to some of the locals.”

Silver smiled, “That’d be nice, I haven’t charged my phone in a few days, but let me give you my info anyways, I know a place I can charge it at tomorrow. I’m sure it’ll be a hassle to fly all the way out there, but it’ll sure beat sitting around all alone.”

As he gave her his information, he couldn’t help but feel a twinge of happiness knowing that he wasn’t all alone in the world right now. It felt like a crazy idea, travelling such a far distance on his own just to meet up with a dreamer he barely knew, but it was a chance to be around another pony he had something in common with, and if it meant that he wouldn’t be so alone, then maybe it wasn’t the craziest thing that he could do in a world that had just gone through such a crazy change in itself.

Chapter 3: Only the Essentials

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Silver sat on the small hill that overlooked his family home, glancing down to his phone every few minutes. It felt so silly to glance down at his phone constantly, it wasn’t like he was just jumping into this out of the blue. He had called his brother early in the morning and asked if he could stop by later in the day. Luckily he was home, and more importantly, his parents weren’t, and surprisingly he was very nonchalant about it. The sun was just barely starting to set over the horizon, and his brother was turning on the lights in the house, a sign that he was home. It felt weird to duck around the property like this, but the truth was that he didn’t feel comfortable or fully welcome, so there was more than a little bit of nervousness on his part. If there was one saving grace to the whole situation, it was that his brother was the only other person in his immediate family who had gotten close to fully transforming, and so he at least understood Silver’s situation to a certain degree.

A week had passed since he had first met Scarlet in his dreams, and since then they had spent each night together, learning more about each other as they explored the different dreams that surrounded them. Silver couldn’t tell if it was just the herd instinct at play or if there was already a genuine friendship forming, but the more time he spent with her the more he loathed returning to the waking world. Being the only pony around that was up all night could be painfully lonely at times, and it only pushed him closer to doing something that he would have formerly thought was incredibly stupid: meeting up with some stranger he only met a week before. If anything it offered him somewhere to get away to for the weekend, and if it turned out that he liked it there, then maybe it was all meant to be.

A small smile spread across his face as he imagined a place where he could fit in and feel at home, though it also brought up a lingering feeling of doubt and anxiety. As weird as it was to say, it was almost as if a small part of his former human self was protesting the idea of just upheaving your entire life and contemplating doing something so big so soon. He couldn’t help but reflect on this for a moment, shrugging as he put more of the pieces into perspective.

His formerly comfortable life here was more or less done, he had burned the last bridge with his parents in the argument that had caused him to leave in the first place, and he was stuck drifting around from place to place, hoping that he could settle into a new sense of normality. It was obvious that the idea was woefully optimistic and moving to a community that was mainly made up of ponies was no doubt the best option he had right now. Sure it was making a quick decision, but he also had nothing to really lose from it.

A shiver ran down his spine as his thoughts returned to the argument. In hindsight it had been something he had sparked on his own, but that wasn’t necessarily hard to do when tensions were strong and he was still getting used to his new aggressive instincts. The snappy replies and aggravated remarks that might have seemed normal to his new self were admittedly maybe not the best to use with his rehumanized family, and he knew that it had only added fuel to the fire.

In retrospect the act that had sparked up that argument wasn’t as big of a deal as Silver had made it out to be, but it still didn’t excuse either of their actions. It was obvious that his parents still loved him, but it would be a lie to say that they weren’t in the camp of humans that wished life could just return to the way it had been before ETS had happened. To Silver, their frustrated remarks and comments read as them saying they cared more about if he was human or not than if he was happy.

The aggressive night pony part of his brain seemed to always latch onto that feeling, and in a matter of weeks he had grown more distant and frustrated until it got to the point where his father had snapped at him over it, implying that becoming a pony had completely changed him from the man they knew into someone that seemed just as alien as they looked. His father’s bad wording had sparked up an argument that grew increasingly heated until Silver had finally let out all of his bottled up emotions, ending the argument with some emotional words that in hindsight were incredibly shallow and uncalled for. Regret had instantly filled him but that didn’t change the fact that both parties had made it clear that they didn’t want to be around each other, so Silver had simply taken off, choosing to venture out on his own until he could either resolve things with his parents or find a place of his own.

Now that time had passed and he had grown more accustomed to his instincts and had gotten better at controlling them rather than the other way around, he couldn’t help but feel regret every time he thought back to that memory. The pony side of him made him want to run back home and apologize, but the protective side of him still felt resentment and anger, even if he knew that it wasn’t fully warranted. None of it made a difference however, it seemed as if his parents had gone out of their way to avoid him at every cost, and at this point it felt like a lost cause to him.

Maybe moving on was the best thing he could do for now? Regardless of what the answer might be, he realized that he couldn’t start his new life on his own, which brought his attention back to the small two story house that sat below him. While he was lost in thought he had failed to notice that the outside light had come on, and as he looked down towards his phone he noticed that sure enough, his brother had replied to him, asking when he was going to stop by again.

He slowly stood up and collected his few belongings, slinging his bag over his back as he leaped into the air and glided down towards the small home, coming to a landing in the soft overgrown lawn. He took a moment to adjust his bag again and trotted towards the front door, knocking on it a few times and stepping back. A few long minutes passed before he heard sounds from within, and he couldn’t help but feel an anxious longing as he waited to greet the person inside.

After what seemed like an eternity to the night pony, the door opened and the tall figure of his brother greeted him with drowsy eyes, “Sorry, was taking a nap. What’s up Josh?”

Silver cleared his throat and nervously looked around, “It’s um, Silver now. But anyways sorry to bother you, I’ll keep it short. Are you still off of work by chance?”

The human scratched his head and slowly nodded, letting out a long yawn, “Yeah, at least until next month when the shop’s back up and running… why?”

“I have a favor to ask.”

Letting out a small chuckle, he slowly shook his head, “Why did I have a feeling that this wasn’t just going to be a friendly visit?”

“So is that a yes?”

The human’s brow furrowed as he looked down towards the pony, “You haven’t even told me what kind of favor it is yet.”

“Oh”, Silver replied in embarrassment, “It’s nothing big, I just need you to drive me somewhere. I promise it isn’t far, it’s just an hour or two away.”

His brother reached down and gently grabbed a wing, “And you can’t use these to get there… why?”

The night pony flexed his wing back in agitation and let out an annoyed sigh, “Because flying around long distances with a lopsided backpack haphazardly strapped to you doesn’t work well. Also I wanted to grab a few things before I go and It would be a lot easier if you could help.”

His brother stepped through the door and slowly walked towards a worn wooden bench that sat near the garden, “Alright alright, simmer down. So where are you going and why do you need to go there all of a sudden?”

Silver followed his brother and laid down in the grass, shifting his bag to the side, “It’s a campground up in Idyllwild, I met a new friend last week that lives up there and they offered to show me around, I figured it’d be a nice change of pace to actually hang out with a night pony that doesn’t treat me like some freak for not wanting to commit an act of mass brainwashing.”

His brother let out a laugh, “So just hold on, you want me to go drive you an hour away to go meet up with some pony you’ve only known for... how many days now? Two?”

“Seven,” he flatly replied. “And yes, weird I know, but they’re like me— a night pony.”

The human paused for a moment, “And none of that seems sketchy to you at all?”

Silver raised an eyebrow, “Why would it?”

“Josh you’ve known this pony for a week and you’re acting like he’s already a trustworthy friend, how do you know he really is who he says he is?”

“She, and it’s a night pony thing, you wouldn’t understand. Trust me on this,” he replied with a smile. ”You know how you said sometimes it was easier just to go along with something instead of asking a bunch of questions? This is one of those things.”

His brother laughed, “My big brother the big nerd has discovered girls?” getting a glare from Silver.

He rolled his eyes, “Okay fair enough, but what do you mean by it’s a night pony thing though? You’re not going off to join some cult are you?”

Silver flashed him a mockingly confused look as an idea floated into his head, “What do you mean? The night watch isn’t a cult, it’s just a group of night ponies working in secret.”

John stared at him with a confused look, “You know, I was joking about the cult thing… right?”

Silver’s serious facade broke and he burst into laughter, “Yeah, I did. I just wanted to see your reaction.”

His brother shook his head and smiled, “Glad your sense of humor’s still around,” He paused, “So for real though, what’s up?”

Silver nodded, “It’s honestly nothing too crazy, but probably sounds really crazy to a non night pony. We’ve been chatting in our dreams, and she told me a little more about the village she’s in. Invited me over because she’s also the only other night pony there, and figured it’d be better for both of us if we weren’t all alone.”

“Uh huh,” He replied, “Don’t you think you’re moving a little too fast there? Like isn’t this usually how one of those catfishing shows goes?”

Silver shrugged, “I told you it’d sound crazy.” He paused for a brief moment, trying to figure out the best way to form this in a way that wouldn’t sound like he had completely lost his marbles, “Okay, look at it this way. It’s better than all the couch crashing I’ve been doing for the last couple months and it beats being alone. This gives me a place where I can just be around another night pony and not have to feel like a burden to all my friends.”

The human shook his head and sighed, “It’s not a bad point, but that still just sounds weird. I’ll just take your word for it and assume you know what you’re doing.”

“Thanks,” he smiled, “I wish I could explain it more,” He thought back to the dreamwardens that governed the dream realm, and the complicated rules that surrounded both them and it, “It’s just really complicated dream magic stuff that’s hard to explain unless you’ve actually experienced it. Think of it like this,” he gestured between the two and then around the overgrown yard.

“Like what?”

“Like this— like we’re sitting in a place just having a conversation. That’s what dream walking is like.”

The reality of dream walking was way more complicated than his example, but this was probably the easiest way that he could explain it to a non-night pony.

“Right… and you just, like see the other pony? Like in the real world?”

He nodded, “Just like the waking world.”

“And she can’t just pretend to be someone else?”

He shook his head, “Maybe with other ponies, but not to another night pony. Being able to dreamwalk means knowing what’s real and what’s not. It’s like another world, but just… dreamy? I guess that’s the best way to put it.”

John sat there in silence for a few moments, clearly trying to wrap his head around the whole explanation. With a shake of his head and a short chuckle, he continued, “I swear you ponies are way too trusting.”

“Is there a problem with that?” Silver replied with a low growl.

“Aside from you just running off to meet someone you’ve never actually met like some brainwashed lunatic? I guess not. Just don’t come crying to me when you wake up missing a kidney or something okay?”

Silver rolled his eyes, “Okay look John, you’re acting like I’m going to actually go run off and join a cult or something, how is this any different from you meeting up with those weirdos from that online prop making forum? I’m an adult, I know how to take care of myself. I’m the older brother remember? I think that makes me qualified to make my own life decisions and not get hassled by you over them.”

“That was in a public place with plenty of other people around, this is you going up to a secluded campground in the mountains after showing up out of the blue for the first time in months. It sounds pretty sketchy if you ask me,” He let out a deep sigh, “But you’re right. You’re just some small scary horse with anger problems and I’m some big dumb hairless ape right?”

“Oh don’t tell me you’re coming back again with the pro human crap like mom and dad were? I mean really, it’s not like I have a choice at this point, so what if I want to go be around ponies that actually accept me?”

His brother shook his head and reached into his pocket for his keys, “Alright fine.”

“So that’s a yes then?”

“If I say no then you’re just going to try and get there on your own anyways, might as well get you there safely. Now do you have anything you need to grab before we go? Your books? Computer?”

Silver nervously looked towards the house, “They’re not home right now… are they?”

“Nope, they’re off on another weekend getaway so if you want to go grab some stuff then now’s your time to do it.”

Silver nodded, “Okay. I won’t be long then, just need to grab a few things before we go.”

The night pony trotted up towards the door and paused for a moment, remembering the trouble he had before. His brother let out a small laugh and walked towards him, “Betcha wish you had hands eh?”

Silver shrugged, “Not really, I think being able to fly and walking around dreams is a fair trade off if you ask me.”

“If you say so.” He pushed open the door and stepped aside, “Just give me a heads up when you’re ready to go okay?”

“Gotcha,” he nodded, “I promise I won’t be long, just gonna make sure I’m not leaving anything important behind,” Silver replied with a nod.

“Mhmm, take all the time you need.”

Silver carefully climbed up the stairs, almost tripping a couple times as he wasn’t used to climbing stairs with four legs. After a couple minutes and a few hushed curses later, he had reached the top, and he excitedly trotted towards his room.

Much to his relief, the door was already cracked open so he didn’t have to resort to awkwardly fumbling with the handle with his mouth. He slowly pushed the door open and stepped into the cozy room, smiling at the familiarity.

Almost immediately he began to browse through his many possessions, and for a brief moment he wished that he was a unicorn, realizing that packing a bag wasn’t going to be as easy as he thought it would be. As Silver gazed out the large window in his former room, 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.

He slowly trotted towards the window and gazed up into the sky above. A bittersweet feeling of nostalgia with a dash of sadness filled him, with the thought that he’d be saying a final goodbye to the place he had lived almost his whole life. He knew that he was never coming back before, but now the reality of it started to hit home harder than he imagined.

Seeing no point in delaying the inevitable any further, he began to carefully search through his trinkets and treasures, a wave of memories and emotions flooding back to him as he did so. Silver turned to one of the many shelves that lined the small room, 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.

A smile spread across his face as he thought back to all the stories that he used to read as a kid, and he began to pick through some of them, finding it hard to pick which ones he would take, and which ones would stay here. Silver knew that the vast majority of what he used to own as a human would serve him no use now, so he decided to take only the essentials with him and leave the rest in the care of his brother. He began to dig through it all, settling on a few choice selections from his private library, his camera, compass, a durable blanket, his laptop, and a few hard drives 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.

“You almost done there Josh?”

Silver turned towards his brother, “Huh? Oh, yeah. I think I just about have everything I needed.”

“Good, car’s all warmed up, I’m gonna assume you’re not going to pay me back for the gas, so let’s just consider this my repayment for making you drive a few hours to pick me up that one time, sound fair?”

Silver let out a chuckle, “Well I don’t really have anything to pay you back with aside from my old consoles anyways so that’s fair to me.”

Silver looked up at the car and then back towards his brother, “I uhh… don’t suppose you’d be willing to help me get in right?”

“What? Haven’t ridden in a car as a pony yet?”

Silver shook his head, “Nope. I mean I could try climbing my way in, you’d be surprised at how good my wings work for that sort of thing, but I don’t think you’d appreciate me scuffing up your nice clean seats with my wings and hooves.”

The human nodded, “Good point. Give me a second,” He jogged back towards the house and picked up the doormat and returned to the car, dropping the mat in front of Silver, “Wipe your hooves off first.”

The night pony eyed the mat with an annoyed expression, “For real?”

“For real,” He nodded, “I just got this thing detailed, I don’t need you tracking a bunch of mud and grass into it or scuffing up the seats with your hooves.”

He let out a sigh and stepped towards the mat, wiping off his hooves and turning back towards his brother, “Happy?”

“Yep!” The human teased with an exaggerated smile.

“Okay then, mind lifting me up then?”

The human awkwardly reached around Silver and lifted him into the back seat, being careful not to pinch his wings in the process, “There you go, all set. Make yourself comfortable, I don’t think the seatbelt’s going to really work well for you so just try and stay low okay? I don’t need to get a ticket over this.”

Silver laid down on the seat and shifted his bag off, making himself as comfortable as he could. He let out a few yawns and turned towards his brother, who had taken his seat in the front, “Hey John, do you mind if I drop out for a few? I’m kind of running low on energy here, had to get up early after all.”

“You mean I don’t have to listen to you for an hour or two? Oh man why didn’t you say that earlier?”

The night pony rolled his eyes, “Har har, you’re a real comedian you know that?”

“I try my best.”

The night pony shook his head and adjusted in his seat as the car started to move. As his eyes started to close he turned towards his brother one more time, “Thanks again John. I really appreciate this.”

“Sure thing Josh— Silver. Sure thing.”

A smile slowly spread across the night pony’s face as he fell into a deep sleep, thinking about the new life he was embarking on.

Silver opened his eyes and smiled at the familiar dream that greeted him.

“Geez, what took you so long? I was starting to think you suddenly became another pony with how late you fell asleep.”

Silver smirked and turned towards the familiar mare, “Sorry about the wait, had to pick up a few knick knacks from home before I left. My brother’s human, so I figured it’d be best if I worked on his schedule for this.”

“So you’re on your way then?”

Silver nodded, “Yep! Should be like an hour or so before we get there, though I’m sure you can help me pass the time.”

A smile spread across Scarlet’s face, “Well I don’t think we’ll have enough time to go on another dream adventure, but we can definitely chat the time away if you’d like.”

“I’d love that, I’ve been meaning to try and play with my dreams some more, I could try and make us a cool hang out or something if you’d like.”

“Sure, give it a go and let’s see what happens.”

Silver nodded and closed his eyes, taking in a deep breath and focusing on what he wanted the dream to be. He was still new to this, and he found that it helped to visualize something familiar. Immediately his thoughts turned to one of the books he had brought along with him, and when he opened his eyes he found himself in the grand salon of the Nautilus from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea… or at least something that borderline resembled it.

The dream was sort of there, not very detailed, but not exactly a blank slate either. Two large windows, a boxy looking thing that he meant to be a pipe organ, and some couches were all that filled the room, but it brought a smile to his face nonetheless.

Scarlet looked around the newly crafted dream and smiled, “Let me guess, the Nautilus? Can’t say I’m surprised you chose this, you did talk my ear off about your favorite stories the other night after all.”

Silver smirked, “I know it’s not much, but hey it’s a start right? It seems like the easiest dreams for me to craft right now are small cramped spaces. Less detail to add in and all that.”

Scarlet nodded as she walked towards one of the couches and took a seat, shuffling around as she tried to get comfortable, “It’s cozy, has a nice feel to it, though maybe next time you could make the couches a little softer.”

“Duly noted,” He trotted over towards her and took a seat on the couch, “So anything fun happening up there that I can look forward to?”

“Well this geeky stallion I met is stopping by for a visit, maybe if he asks nicely I can take him stargazing tonight.”

Silver smiled, “Well, how about it?”

“Hm?” She replied with a smirk.

A small smile spread across Silver’s face, “Could you please take me stargazing tonight?”

“I don’t know, you don’t sound all that excited for it,” She teased.

Silver rolled his eyes, “Pretty please? I promise I’ll be a good student and pay attention to everything.”

“Oh do you now? How do I know you really want to go?”

Silver let out a laugh, “Because we're a couple of dorks and I know you’ll make it interesting and fun for me despite the fact that I haven’t done this in a while and I’ll probably mess things up.”

She smiled, “Well, when you put it that way… Oh alright, I’d love to take you stargazing tonight.”

“I can’t wait. You’re sure this isn’t a bother or anything? I know it’s just such a sudden move up there, I don’t want to be troublesome.”

She shook her head, “Not at all, it’s so boring up here, I’d love to have another night owl around to geek out about the stars with, I’m sure you understand how lonely it gets at night.”

Silver nodded, “Painfully so. But hey that makes all of this worth it. You don’t think it’ll still be lonely with just us two though?”

Scarlet shrugged, “I’m sure it’ll beat being all on our own separately.”

“Good point, well thanks again for inviting me over, I really can’t wait to be around actual ponies again.”

“Of course,” she paused for a moment, as if she was unsure of how to continue, “So what did you actually do before all of this? Didn’t you say you were a teacher or something?”

“Close, a teacher’s assistant at the university, I internerned in the robotics program, we were actually doing some pretty cool research before ETS shut it all down.”

“So a book nerd and a science geek, I think we’re definitely going to be great friends.”

Silver smiled, “And what about your astronomy stuff? I know you said you were in a program, what wound up happening with that?”

She shrugged, “Same as you, ETS came in and swept everything away. I’m not too upset about it though, it was a lot of your boring standard fare college coursework where they don’t let you have fun, if anything it was a blessing in disguise. I’ll take it wasn't quite the same for you though was it?”

Silver shook his head, “Not really. I’m kind of bummed it’ll probably never see the light of day again. We were working on advanced artificial intelligence and robotics, not as cool as it sounds though I’m afraid. Basically we were working on training an AI to control a rover. The project lead, Alex, had a lot of big plans for it, it’s a shame he’ll probably never get to see those come to fruition.”

“I’m guessing he wound up as a pony too?”

Silver nodded, “Yeah, it’s funny. You’d think something like this would bother someone in his position, but he’s always really been into fate and destiny, wasn’t phased by this at all. Wound up turning into a pink unicorn, started calling himself Luxor and kept talking about how he wanted to try and study magic. I swear he’s the most optimistic pony I’ve ever met, gets his dreams crushed by some forced transformation and all he can think about is how he’s going to make the best of it.”

“Sounds like it didn’t bother him too much then.”

“Yeah, no kidding. Maybe I should take a few notes and follow his example, just run off and do what I want to do, you know? It’s like all these other ponies know what they want to do and I’m sitting here trying to figure that out for myself. I’ve definitely met a few interesting characters.”

“Oh? Tell me more.”

“Well the bulk of them seemed to hang out in their own little pockets, were super interested in chasing the vision— well most of them at least, it seemed like almost all of the ponies I came across were interested in following the vision to a T, but I ran into one that actually questioned it, or rather, questioned me about it.”

“So I’ll take it you’re not into the vision then?”

Silver shook his head, “Not entirely. There’s stuff I like about it, like the value of forgiveness, helping others, et cetera, but I know it’s not realistic to fully follow it. More power to the ones that do, and I hope they’ll be successful, but I don’t personally think it’ll work out as perfectly as the vision painted it to be.”

“So what did they question you about?”

The stallion shrugged, “Well, what I thought about it, why I only chose to follow parts of it, that sort of stuff. I think his name was Lunar… something? Dusk maybe? It’s kind of embarrassing that I can’t remember it right now.”

“Hey you’re just a pony, nothing wrong with making a mistake here and there,” she consoled.

Silver shrugged, “Still kinda embarrassing if you ask me. I mean he must have been one of the first ponies I had run across that seemed interested in doing more than just what the vision told them. I think there were only one or two others who fell into that category at the time, some pony named Stardust was one, and the other’s name escapes me. He went by a human name though, and I still run into the two in dreams occasionally.”

“Just not as much as me I’m guessing?” She asked with a smile.

Silver nodded, “Yep, you’re my best dream friend.”

“That’s what I thought.” She smirked, “So what kind of stuff were they into then?”

“Some kind of interesting stuff,” He smiled, “Stuff like making their own place in the world, and well, I couldn’t fault them for that. It’s a cool idea, and It’s something I’ve been trying to figure out for a while now. In hindsight it probably would have been smart to tag along with them, but I guess I just didn’t think about how lonely it would be if I didn’t. In the end I invited that Dusk guy into my camp for a few days but he parted after the interview, had some big plans of his own it seemed. It definitely gave me some inspiration to go off in my own direction, especially after feeling like I had missed that message a couple times before, though if I’m going to be honest I don’t really know where that’ll take me.”

Scarlet smiled, “Well you’re on your way here, I hope that’s a step in that direction.”

Silver perked up, “Oh absolutely! As much as I’d love to get back into those projects I’ve got enough of a direction to go in after ETS to at least keep busy.”

“What kind of stuff do you have in mind?”

Silver looked away, “Well it probably sounds silly, but I want to learn more about my dream magic, It’s a long story but I’ve got big dreams for what I want to do with it— no pun intended.”

“A long story eh? Well I’ve certainly got time to listen.”

Silver hesitated for a moment, “You sure? It’s probably really boring.”

Scarlet shrugged, “Maybe? But so is stargazing to a lot of ponies, so we can be boring together.”

Silver smiled, “I like the sound of that, well I guess let me start at the beginning… it all started the night before the counter spell, when I wound up meeting someone that really gave me some encouragement for where to go next…”

Chapter 4: Stargazing

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Silver let out a low grumble as he was shaken awake. With a long yawn he squinted open his eyes and looked up towards his brother, taking note that the car was parked in a simple dirt lot. “I’m guessing this is my wake up call and we’re there?”

The human nodded, “Yep. I pulled in maybe 5 minutes ago, there were a couple signs leading back here. I was going to shake you awake sooner but you looked so peaceful sleeping, I thought I’d be nice and give you a few more minutes.”

Silver nodded,” Thanks.” He looked up towards the gathering darkness and then back towards his brother, “Don’t tell me you’re going to drive all the way back home tonight, are you?”

John shook his head, “Nah, I’m not a lunatic. Besides I might as well relax a bit, it’s been forever since I’ve gone camping.”

“You mean you’re going to camp here?”

“If you’re asking if I’m going to be the third wheel with you and your new little pony friend then don’t worry.”

Despite the darkness, Silver could easily make out the form of three ponies approaching from down the road, a unicorn, a pegasus, and an earth pony.

Ignoring them for now, the stallion turned back to his brother and rolled his eyes, “That’s not what I meant, but I guess that’s a good consolation. But for real, you’re going to be okay here tonight?”

The human shrugged, “I’ve got some food packed away in the trunk, I think I’ll be fine. Besides, I’m going to go see Clara tomorrow, she’s not really that far from here so no point in turning back.”

“You two are still a thing?”

“Sure. Just because we both rehumanized doesn’t mean we still didn’t appreciate each other’s company during all that. In fact it gives us something in common.”

“Well hey you do you. I guess I’m not one to talk, I drove a long way from home just to meet up with a friend I’ve only ever met in my dreams,” Silver replies with a shrug.

“You mean you had me drive you a long way from home to meet up with a friend you’ve only ever met in your dreams,” he paused for a moment, “I still can’t get a handle on that, is it just like you two chatting away telepathically or do you actually get to see each other?”

“Well you know how we’re talking right now? Imagine that but maybe we're on some nice tropical beach, or maybe in some empty forest, sometimes it’s space— and maybe even the odd hellish landscape if it’s a nightmare.”

“And it all just seems… real?”

Silver cocked his head to the side, “Kinda sorta. It’s hard to explain really. It feels like second nature to me at this point but it’s still very clear that it’s a dream. The physics aren’t really there, like you’ll lean against a wall or something and just fall through it, or sometimes you’ll jump and wind up soaring through the air… the more time you spend dreamwalking the easier it is to actually get a grip on it. Wish I could show you more but that’s kinda impossible.”

The human shrugged, “Well it sounds cool. So did you let your little friend know that you’re here?”

“I uhh, well no,” Silver paused, “you kind of rudely woke me up before I could do that.”

The human nodded, pointing towards the group of ponies that were now clearly visible, “well I have a feeling that they might know you’re here, is she in that group?”

Silver sat up and squinted his eyes, shaking his head quickly, “Doesn’t look like it. Last I checked she didn’t have a horn or bird wings. I'm sure she’ll be here soon enough though, I mean I just blipped away from the dream after all.”

“Well you better get your stuff then. Want me to comb your mane? Give you a breath mint maybe? You know, get you looking presentable for your big date?” The human added with a laugh, earning an annoyed scowl from Silver.

“It’s not a date, we’re just friends,” Silver replied with an eye roll.

“Well it’s my job as your brother to antagonize you.”

“That’s my job though, I’m still the older brother.”

“Yeah?” He let out a chuckle, “Well right now I’m the bigger brother so I think that puts us at a stalemate.”

“I guess it does,” Silver stood up and looked towards the handle, “I’m going to need a hand with this. If you don’t mind.”

“Really? Gee I might as well be your personal chauffeur at this point.”

Silver let out a laugh, “You’ll have to work on the accent first.” A small smile spread across his face, “Why couldn’t things just be like this more? I mean with mom and dad. Sure I’m different than you three, permanently, but we’re still giving each other trouble for everything.”

The human shrugged as he exited the car, walking around towards the back seat and gently opening the door, “maybe it’s because I was further along than them, maybe the pony sense of self and attitude carried back over when I rehumanized.”

Silver looked back towards his flank, pausing for a moment, “John, why did you rehumanize? I know everyone has their own reasons but why you?”

“Hm? Well I guess I never really put much thought into it. Maybe it was pressure from everyone else, maybe it was some small lingering worry and fear in the back of my mind— I honestly don’t know. If you’re asking if I regret the decision I don’t, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t wish I could have spent more time adjusting to see if it was the life I wanted to actually lead instead of jumping the gun on it.”

The night pony smiled as his brother helped him down, “Thanks for this John, it means a lot more to me than I think you’ll ever know.”

“Of course. We might get on each other’s nerves from time to time but we’re brothers and I’ll always be there for you, and I hope you’ll do the same.”

Silver nodded, “You know it.”

“Good, now go have fun, drop me a line if you ever need anything else. I’m probably going to head out in the morning so I guess I’ll see you when I see you.”

Silver returned a smile, “You too. Take care out there.”

As he began to turn toward the village proper, the three ponies that had been eying him and his brother stepped forward, momentarily startling Silver. He took a few steps back and fought the instinctual urge to hiss at them, deciding that that wouldn’t be an appropriate first impression to make.

“Sorry to frighten you,” the larger of the three, an earth pony, spoke up, “I just wanted to welcome you here.”

“Nice to meet you,” Silver began, pausing for a moment, “I’m Silver, Silver Eclipse.”

“Aha, so you’re the night pony that our resident astronomer has been chattering about.” He held out a hoof, giving Silver a warm and inviting smile, “I’m Axel, the pegasus behind me is Storm Struck, and the unicorn is Sage. We’re the leaders of Green Creek Village.”

Silver met his hoof and nodded, “Nice to meet you three.”

“I hope you didn’t get the wrong idea with us keeping an eye on you from the shadows at first. We like to give a warm welcome to anypony stopping by, but it’s not often that we’ll get a human or a night pony showing up.”

“Not to say that we thought you were going to cause trouble or anything,” Sage, the unicorn added.

“We just wanted to catch a glimpse at the weird hairless monkey and his batty sidekick is all,” Storm finished with a smirk, “No offense intended by the way. We just haven’t seen either of your kind in a while, made us a little wary at first.”

“It’s fine,” Silver assured them, “Though… calling me the big hairless monkey’s sidekick is a little bit of a low blow if you ask me.”

Axel chuckled and waved him forward, “I can see why Scarlet spoke so highly about you now.”

“She talked about me?” Silver asked.

“Don’t worry, she only said good things.”

“Oh that’s a relief,” he said in a dramatically relieved tone, “I thought she’d mention my deep dark past.”

“You’ve got a deep dark past?” Sage perked up, “How deep and dark are we talking?”

“Well when I was five I dug a big hole in my parents’ backyard, snuck out in the middle of the night to do it, though I guess it wasn’t that deep.”

The three laughed and Axel shook his head, “You’re going to fit in just fine here.”

As Silver trotted with the trio of ponies, he couldn’t help but feel excitement well up inside him. As nervous as he was to leave his home, he was really looking forward to finally meeting someone that could say they were going through something similar. He glanced around a little before gazing through the trees and upwards towards the clear night sky, marveling at the stars up above.

The earth pony laid a hoof on his back and paused his stride, “I hate to leave you out on your own, but I’ve got a feeling that you won’t be alone for long.”

Silver paused and raised an eyebrow, “Huh?”

“It’s getting late, and we have some things to wrap up before calling it a night..”

“What he means is that the other bat lives down that way,” Storm gestured with a wing.

Silver gave a nod of understanding, “Gotcha. Well, I guess I’ll see you all later then.”

“It was nice meeting you,” Sage replied with a smile, “I’m sure we’ll have plenty of time to get to know each other soon.”

With a final goodbye, the three left him to make his way to the trail alone, though he didn’t mind much. The drastically different locale was already growing on him, and he just knew that he’d be right at home here. In stark contrast to the busy streets and crowded buildings back home, this place was absolutely beautiful. From the towering pines to the stunning views that he was seeing right now— even the lack of pollution in the air, it all brought a sense of glee to the night pony and he couldn’t help but smile as he walked around the campground.

A cheerful voice greeted him from afar, interrupting his thoughts, “Gee what took you so long? I thought I was going to be waiting here all night.”

Art by:

Silver turned towards the voice, smiling as he took in the sight of the red night pony with an image of a telescope framed by stars visible on her flank, “Was it really that long?”

She smiled, “Probably not, feels like it though. I guess I was just so excited to have some real company again that I got a little impatient. No offense to the other ponies here but they can get a little boring at night. Always going to bed so early and whatnot.”

“Oh I can imagine,” Silver mused, looking off into the distance, “I’ve run into a few others on and off back in LA, but it was kind of sparse. I definitely have an idea of how you must be feeling.”

“So you’re probably worse off than I was then, eh?” She let out an angelic laugh, bringing a smile to Silver’s face.

Silver smiled and glanced around at the towering trees and lush greenery, finding himself smitten by his surroundings, “This already seems like a nice change of pace. Something about the beauty of this place just gives me peace like I haven’t felt in months.”

“It really is something special, especially at night,” She agreed, “There’s hardly any light pollution so you can just see so much of it!”, She excitedly replied back, “So how was your trip? I’m guessing you didn’t run into too much trouble getting down here?”

“Well, aside from the lovely chat we had, it was pretty boring and uneventful. Got a really nice rest though, which I hadn’t realized I was lacking for so long.”

“So what you’re saying is that you’re up for some fun nighttime activities then?”

“Depends,” he replied, “What’s your definition of fun nighttime activities?”

She slowly meandered around him, pulling him close, “Maybe some stargazing? I figured it was a nice way to ease you into village life.”

“Yeah? Well I think it’s a fantastic idea. You know, I was actually just thinking to myself that I never get to just stargaze anymore, It’s really been too long. I used to love doing that before ETS…”

Noticing the somewhat sad tone that his voice took toward the end of that, Scarlet perked up, “Well, if you want we can go do a little bit of that right now, I wasn’t kidding when I said I’d love to show you.”

With a smile, Silver replied, “I’d love that. Do you have anywhere special in particular? Or am I just overthinking this?”

“I do, there’s a nice little clearing a ways away that just looks so beautiful,” The mare waved him along towards a gap in the trees, “It’s a little area they cleaned up, I already have my telescope set up there.”

Silver nodded, “Is there any wildlife we need to worry about up here?” He began to trot after her, catching up and trying his hardest not to stumble over his own words. Silver was never one for the dorky love at first sight stuff, but something about Scarlet was different. He had only ever met her in his sleep, but he could tell that he was going to enjoy every minute here.

“We had some trouble in that department early on but as long as you stay on the paths you should be fine now,” Her beautiful voice pulled him back to reality.

The stallion blinked a few times and gave a nod, glancing into the darkness around them with a slight twinge of worry, “Kind of makes sense eh?”

She nodded, “Yep. As long as you respect their area they shouldn’t bother you.”

“Noted,” Silver said with a quick nod. As they continued along he couldn’t help but gaze around slack jawed at everything as if he was unaccustomed to the tall trees and lush green plants— which he practically was.

Noticing this, Scarlet paused for a moment and turned towards him, “It’s really something isn’t it? They seemed so tall when I was a human, and now they feel twice as big. 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! It’s just like...”

“Beautiful?” She offered, finishing his sentence for him.

“That’s exactly what I was thinking,” he finished, almost a little too excitedly. The mare giggled at his dorky expression and waved him along, causing his face to turn a deep crimson out of embarrassment.

Despite this, the two continued on, walking down the natural path that was carved through the forest, and before long they had arrived at Scarlet’s clearing. Tall trees surrounded them on all sides, providing a tall forested barrier that seemed to block out the outside world even more, giving them a feeling that they were the only two ponies in the world.

“Well here we are, my favorite place in the whole wide world.”

Silver looked around, then back up towards the stars, “I can see why, this place is beautiful!”

“It’s like a waking dream for me, someplace special I can just go to relax in and shut out the rest of the world.”

“So what brought you here in the first place? What brought anyone here for that matter?”

Scarlet shrugged, “Well, for me it was just a place I came across when I felt that I was all alone in the world. I lived around Palm Springs, which isn’t too far from here, but I was up visiting my grandmother over in Idyllwild and it just seemed like a good place to settle down in at the time.”

“I’m guessing a lot of others had the same idea?”

She shook her head, “Kinda. It started small, and from what I understand, it really wasn’t meant to be a village at all at first. He doesn’t talk much about it, but Axel lost his wife shortly before ETS hit. Lived up here all his life, and just decided to spend some time out in nature away from everything after to try and clear his head. Poor guy didn’t really get a break at all though, wound up catching ETS while camping and well, the rest is history I guess.”

“Seems like he figured out a good path at least.”

“You could say that. Turning into a pony did something to him— in a good way. He always said he was depressed and down after losing his wife, and transforming helped give him the strength to move on— gave him a new purpose in life.”

“Like a second chance,” Silver commented, earning a nod from Scarlet.

“They had a small shelter set up in town, and after everything was said and done, he noticed that there were a lot of ponies that didn’t really know what to do or where to go. Living in their old homes was frustrating for them with how big they were and with how many of them were earth ponies that didn’t have the room to use their magic.”

“Yeah…” Silver began, “Sounds like a real pain in the flank. So I’m guessing that that’s when he decided to go off and make a town?”

“Almost,” she said. “When he left the shelter, he gathered up some of those ponies and a few others down on their luck who hadn’t found their place in the world, and together they all kind of just drifted around the area for a bit. There weren’t too many campers around so he and another pony decided that it wouldn’t hurt anypony if they set up camp here.”

“And that’s when the town started.”

“Pretty much. I’m not sure if the county knows it’s here, but the sheriff does, and she’s just happy we’re taking care of it, one less worry for her.”

“Kinda explains the welcoming committee,” he laughed.

“Yeah, no it absolutely does. It works out well though, most of the time you only have to deal with the wildlife. It wasn’t like that from the start though, when Axel and Sage started this place there were humans that got their kicks from harassing us. That’s actually how I wound up hearing about this place.”

“Wait, I thought you said you were visiting your grandmother at the time?”

“Oh I was. But I got accustomed to late night flights alone. Thought it’d be a good way to get a lay of the land and all that, I mean she’s still human so not like she was going to be up when I was most of the time.”

“Makes enough sense. So how’d you actually show up here then?”

She glanced up at the night sky and smiled, “Well I was still doing my thing— you know, flying around early in the evening and trying to see if I could find any other night ponies around, when I saw a couple of humans and ponies having an argument over in camp, kinda where you met up with Sage, Axel, and Storm. I didn’t want to get involved, but didn’t want to just leave them on their own either, so I snuck behind the humans and hid behind a dumpster. Turns out that a few humans had decided to give him and Axel some trouble, which was not going to end well.

“So what happened next?”

She shrugged, “One of the humans pulled a knife on Sage and that’s when I jumped out. Didn’t really know what I was doing until I did it, and did my best to chase them off. I helped Sage up and he told me about this place. I was hesitant at first, but something about the idea of a whole little pony community seemed nice. I thought it could be a fresh start, and I guess it was, it’s just been… lonely.

“So I’m guessing that’s why you like to hang out here? Just because it’s so peaceful?”

Scarlet nodded as she started to adjust her telescope, “I actually had them build my cabin near this place for that reason too. It’s the perfect place to just watch the stars. No light, no distractions, just peace. I figured that if I wasn’t going to be awake when they were, then I might as well make my own little perfect getaway, a place where I could just enjoy doing what I’ve always loved to do.”

Silver smiled and began to think about his own interpretation of the vision, “It definitely sounds like a wonderful idea on paper, how’s it been going for you guys here?”

“It’s been going well enough, obviously it’s not just a simple walk in the park, but the rest of the ponies seem to be doing a good job at sustaining this place, why?”

“I’ve just been doing a lot of thinking. I mean I’ve spent the last couple months trying to find a purpose, maybe I was just trying to find something when it was right in front of me the whole time…” he said, gesturing at the scenery surrounding him.

“Think you’ve found something good here already?”

Silver nodded, “Yeah, it’s not bad at all. I’ve been practicing meditation a lot lately and this seems like it’s a great place to do that.”

“It sure is, trust me when I say that there’s nothing else that compares to just relaxing out in the wilderness.”

Silver smiled as he watched Scarlet aim the telescope up into the sky, “So this is it?”

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She nodded, “it’s not much but it’s exactly what I need,” she paused for a moment as she gazed up into the night sky, “Do you ever just look at the stars Silver? Wish you could just fly away into the unknown and see what’s out there waiting for us?”

The night pony shrugged, “Sometimes, not as often as I’d like though.”

Scarlet looked back towards him, “Well now’s a good time to start then, do you have a favorite constellation or star? Or anything in the night sky really?”

Silver nodded, “Orion. It’s a long story but I got lost in the woods as a kid one time, my dad taught me how to find my way around by looking at the stars, and that one was always so easy to find. Sometimes I just like to look for it to remind me about where I’ve come from, and where I’m going.”

Scarlet smiled, “That’s one of my favorites too, it’s always just been so beautiful. You can use it to find other stars easily too, so that’s what I’ve always liked the most about it. That said it’s not visible right now unfortunately. Got another one in mind though?”

Silver paused for a moment, staring into the night sky, “Ursa Major?”

She aimed the telescope towards the constellation and smiled, “Ursa Major it is. Don’t be shy, it’s waiting for you.”

Silver lowered his eye to the telescope and smiled as he looked up towards the constellation, “It’s beautiful, I could really get used to this kind of routine if this is what you do every night.”

“You think so?”

Silver turned back towards her and nodded, “I’ve barely been here an hour and I’m already in love with the place, it’s like a little slice of heaven in a changing world.”

“Would you want to stay a bit longer than just the weekend?”

Silver paused for a moment as he gazed up at the constellation Scarlet had aimed the telescope at, “Yes. I think I would. I don’t suppose they can get another cabin built around here?”

“We can ask if you’re really interested, Axel handles that so we can talk with him in the morning, but you’re more than welcome to stay with me as long as you’d like, I won’t mind a bit.”

“And we can stargaze every night right? You’ll show me all the cool stars and planets?”

Scarlet smiled, and gazed back up at the stars, “Maybe…”

Silver smiled back and looked back into the telescope, “You know, it’s a real shame that I never really got into this much. There’s just so much beauty just sitting out there and we choose to ignore it.”

“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 there’s something else out there? I think that’s always been what’s most alluring to me, that there’s so much we don’t know about our own universe.”

Unsure of how to answer, Silver just said what felt right. “I’m not sure to be honest… but that’s part of what keeps me moving forward and trying to make the world a better place… I mean sure, we’re just a small spec in the grandeur of space, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make a difference on our own right?”

She smiled, “That’s why I like to look at the stars, maybe I’ll never know more about them, maybe I’ll never get to discover something new and exciting, but the thought of doing something small that can at least make me happy is what makes it all meaningful.”

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Silver let out a laugh, earning a confused look from the mare, “Sorry, I wasn’t laughing at you, you just reminded me of someone I met a while ago.”

Scarlet raised an eyebrow, “Who? I mean if you don’t mind sharing that is.”

“You’ll never believe it, Princess Luna of all ponies. To make a long story short, she stopped by my dream shortly before the counter spell was cast, asked why I didn’t spread the vision and then encouraged me to do more with my magic like I had wanted to do. I guess that stuck because I’ve been practicing and playing around with it more ever since.”

“That seems like an odd conversation to have. She didn’t want anything else after?”

Silver shrugged, “She said she wanted to learn more about me, actually stopped by my dream again a while later, but the conversation seemed a little less involved then. I get the sense that I wasn’t the only one she was talking to at the time, but still she was delightful and told me to keep at it, that it was admirable that I wanted to help others with my magic and that sometimes making a small difference is the best way to be part of something bigger than yourself.”

“Do you think she was looking for wardens? Or rather ponies to fill those roles?”

Silver nodded, “Sure, that wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest. Go find all the weirdos that weren’t for the mass brainwashing and go from there. Now, whether I was on her list or not, I don’t know, and I don’t think I’ll ever know.”

“Would you have done it? If she asked you?”

Silver paused for a moment, “I don’t know to be honest. That’s not just something you agree to on a whim. Forever is a long time, especially when you have to live with yourself for all eternity. Maybe in time I could have been up for something like that, but a small part of me is glad she never brought it up. Before she left, she did help teach me some dream magic I had been trying to figure out on my own, it was nothing too advanced, mainly how to start crafting dreams of my own, but it was nice.”

“And that was it? She just left and never came back?”

“As far as I know yeah. I kind of wish she would, I have so many questions I want to ask.”

“Like what?”

“Well stuff about dream magic, how I can do more, learn more, et cetera. I don’t know how I did it, but I somehow slipped into the dream realm while awake one time. It was just something that happened while I was meditating, I guess part of me dozed off a bit and somehow made the connection back and I’d love to learn more about that.”

“Did you ever think to ask one of the wardens?”

Silver slowly nodded, “The thought crossed my mind. But to tell you the truth they kind of give me a weird feeling. Sometimes you catch one who’s sweet and nice, other times you get one that treats you like some kind of guilty monster for doing anything slightly out of line, you know?”

A scowl came across her face, “Oh I know. I’ve had my fair share of run-ins with Sha’am.”

“Ouch. You too? Her methods are definitely a bit too extreme, I thought I’d be cocky and press my luck by not saying the oaths one time and she didn’t even bat an eye at drowning me on the spot. It kind of kept me away from even bothering to seek them out after that.”

“Well maybe it’s a good thing that Luna never asked you then. It’s one thing to live with yourself for an eternity, it’s another to live with some cruel witch.”

“I’ll take it you’re not a fan?”

Scarlet let out a laugh, “I don’t think even the most extreme masochist could be a fan of her.”

“Good point.”

Scarlet smiled, “Well, why don’t we head back to my place so you can drop your stuff off. Are you hungry? I could get some food whipped up for the two of us, we could have a nice chat over breakfast or something.”

Silver nodded as he began to follow her down a well worn path, “Sounds like a plan,” he glanced around, “So is this place as rustic as it seems? Or is a little more modernized?”

“If you’re asking if we have electricity, running water and indoor toilets, then yes, we do. This place is definitely a mix of ponies that want to follow the vision and ponies that just want to relax and get away from the rest of the world. I don’t personally get out of this area much, never really saw a need to but Axel still keeps up with some neighboring towns so we’re not completely cut off.”

He paused for a few moments, taking in the scenery around him with a content grin on his face, “You know, I can definitely see why people set up shop here, this place is beautiful.”

“You should see the sunrise, it’s even more spectacular. It’s probably my favorite thing to see before bed.”

“It sounds amazing, you’ll have to show me later.”

“For sure,” She replied with a nod, “Like I said the other day, I’m pretty much the only night pony here, we’ve had a few visitors, but none that stop by for good, so sorry if I wind up talking your ear off.”

“Oh don’t worry, I understand completely. We’re social creatures so it’s got to be a nightmare to be all alone.”

“Finally someone that understands, the other ponies here are nice enough, but I only get to see them for a little while, doesn’t really make for any long lasting relationships,” She waved him down another path towards a small cabin, “Here we are, home sweet home.”

Silver smiled, “It looks cozy. So you said they built yours, were there others around before then? Or did they all come after Axel and Sage started this place up?”

The mare shook her head, “There were a couple, but a bunch of the day ponies got together and built some new ones. They’re small, but cozy.”

Silver’s eyes widened in surprise, “Wow, they built these all on their own?”

“Kind of, Axel had some humans come in and help out with the finer stuff like wiring the houses up and getting some of the permits sorted out. That’s the big part of why he wanted to focus on including humans too. Said we can’t make this place without working together, so we did.”

“I know it’s a dumb thing to get excited about, but I can’t help but be amazed at all of this. I mean back home you’d be hard pressed to find ponies and humans working together like that without the humans calling them brainwashed and the ponies getting all feisty over it,” he continued to look over the structure, and then off into the direction of the village proper, a small blush spreading across his cheeks, “I… don’t suppose there’s any vacant ones back in town? I wouldn’t want to be a burden on you.”

Scarlet shook her head, “Not yet, Axel wanted to get some more built, but the construction teams he worked with are all really busy right now and he usually gets some more advanced notice before a newcomer moves in. I don’t mind though, I’m a small pony now, not like I take up that much space anyways,” She pushed open the door and invited him in, “Come on in and make yourself at home.”

Silver nodded as he gazed into the small single room cabin, “Do you have a guest bed or anything?”

“I’m afraid not, unless you want to go sleep in the tent cabin across town? And trust me, it gets cold and lonely there.”

Silver glanced over at the couch, and then over to the small, but cozy looking bed. While it might have lacked all the bells and whistles of a usual human home, he had to admit that the quaint cabin was just perfect for a pony. Warm and inviting, just like the mare who lived in it.

“Seriously, feel free to lay down wherever you want, I don’t bite or anything,” Scarlet assured him, earning a small smile from the stallion.

Silver tossed his bag onto the couch and turned back towards her, “And you’re sure you don’t mind at all? I don’t have a lot of money on me, but I’d feel bad if I just stayed here rent free.”

“Keep your money, what am I going to do with it anyways? If you feel so bad about it then feel free to help out around here, there’s not really a lot of chores but an extra set of helping hooves would be greatly appreciated. Do you cook?”

Silver nodded, “I can’t say I’m an amazing chef or anything, but yeah I can cook.”

“Good, you can help with that too if you’d like,” She looked out the window and smiled, “I’ll grab dinner tonight, we can switch every other day if that’s alright with you.”

“Sure, that sounds fair enough.” He replied with a smile, “Think you need a helping hoof tonight?”

Scarlet smiled, “I wouldn’t turn it down. How does fruit salad sound?”

“That sounds delicious, though it seems like it’ll be a little tricky to do with hooves.”

“Well I guess it’s a good thing I’ve got another helper then.”

“I guess it is, why don’t you lead the way, I don’t know about you but I’m definitely a bit peckish.”

“That sounds like a good plan to me,” she gestured with a wing, “Kitchen’s over this way, just got some fresh fruit in today so this should be lovely.”

Silver smiled as he stood up and followed her towards the cozy kitchen, “Can’t wait!”

Chapter 5: Dreamlike Reunions

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The two night ponies happily ate their meal at the small table, telling stories and sharing a little more of their past with each other. The thick black curtains on the windows were pulled tightly shut to keep the sun’s bright rays out, leaving the pair comfortably in the dark.

“So you just ran off into the forest and got lost?” Scarlet asked in between a few bites of her salad.

Silver nodded, taking a sip of water and clearing his throat, “Yeah, we were actually camping out in a park that wasn’t too far away from here I think. It might have even been this place too for all I know, it’s kind of hard to remember all of that.”

She chuckled, “Well seems like it was your destiny to come back here then. So did you guys do stuff like that often? Or was it just a once in a while kind of deal?”

He smiled, “My brother and I were Boy Scouts growing up, so we camped a lot until we both outgrew that. There were a lot of summers spent in the forest, or along a riverbank— all stuff I just loved as a kid.”

“I bet it was a blast, my parents used to take me and my sister camping all the time when we were little and I think that’s part of why I found my way back over here.”

“Oh it was,” he excitedly cheered. “I’ll never forget those memories, really gave me a real appreciation of the outdoors, and even helped out a bit when I was on my own for a while.”

“After ETS you mean?”

Silver nodded, taking another bite of his salad, “Yeah, when I had the falling out with my dad I just decided to go off on my own for a bit. Camped around some nights, crashed couches on others, even stopped by a few pony villages from time to time. It was kinda fun but definitely lonely. Only ever really ran into a few other night pony stallions which started to make me think that I was maybe the only one around for a while. That made things feel kind of lonely and awkward when you think about it,” he paused for a moment, “— I mean in the sense that there weren’t many ponies around that were on the same schedule.”

The mare let out a small laugh, “Don’t worry I get what you mean, but hey at least you’re a step up from that now.”

Silver smiled, “That’s right, I’m camping with another geek now, what could be better than that?”

“Camping with a geek out on the beach maybe?”

“That does sound relaxing. Maybe we can take a little excursion somewhere sometime?”

“That’d be a ton of fun, I’m dying to get back down to the pier.”

“I haven’t been there in ages, so I like that idea.”

“All the more reason to go then,” Scarlet added in between bites.

“Sounds like a solid plan to me.”

She smiled, “See, I knew we’d be great friends.”

“I never doubted you for a moment.”

The two continued their conversation between bites, and before long they had finished up their meals. Silver stacked up the bowls and carefully brought them toward the sink, rinsing them off and setting them aside to dry.

He glanced back toward Scarlet who had already hopped onto the bed and burrowed into the covers, “Are these fine here?”

She nodded, “Yep, if you can’t tell, I don’t really have a dedicated glassware place, so just anywhere out of the way works fine for me as long as it’s not complete chaos.”

“What about organized chaos?”

She replied with a playful frown, “How about no chaos?”

He smiled, “Gotcha, a little chaos it is.”

She shook her head, letting out a laugh, “I guess I can live with a little chaos, as long as it doesn’t get too out of hoof.” She glanced back toward Silver, who had taken his place on the couch and let out a chuckle, “You sure you’re okay on the couch there?”

Silver nodded, “Yeah, I think I’ll be fine.”

“You think or you know?”

He slowly shrugged, “I.. I mean I think so? It can’t be that bad right?”

“Maybe not, but are sure you don’t want to share the big comfy bed that’s being taken up by one incredibly small pony?”

Silver began to speak, but paused for a moment, looking between the two options, “I… You sure it won’t be a bother?”

Scarlet shook her head, “Not at all. It’s a big bed that I have all to myself, and you have an uncomfortable couch that’s going to give you a stiff neck in the morning or something. I really don’t mind sharing, you don’t need to worry about being in my personal space or anything.”

“You sure?” he asked with a raised eyebrow. “Ugh, I sound like a human.”

She nodded, “Yep, no need to worry, I don’t bite.”

“I didn’t realize that was something I had to worry about,” He replied with a small laugh.

She let out a chuckle of her own, “Well we do have fangs but last I checked I wasn’t a vampony, so I think you’re good.”

Silver nodded as a smile spread across his face, “Right, well uh I guess that works for me too then.” He hopped off the couch and trotted toward the bed, hopping up and making himself comfortable.

“See? Better right?”

Silver nodded, “Better.”

A small smile spread across the mare’s face, “Told you so.”

“I never should have doubted you. So what kind of dreams should we explore today?”

“Dunno,” she shrugged, “I think it’s your turn to pick.”

Silver nodded, “Well I ran into a night pony that had some crazy nightmares a while ago, that might be fun to explore.”

“Nightmares? You have a weird definition of fun, my friend.”

“Oh come on, doesn’t a big adventure through some crazy nightmare sound like a great time? We don’t even need to worry about breaking it up, this is kind of his thing.”

“For Freddy Krueger maybe,” she replied with a laugh, “but if that’s the dream you want to go explore then that’s what we’ll do.”

Silver let out a yawn, “I promise it’ll be a great time.”

“I’m sure it will,” she let out a yawn of her own and rolled onto her side, “sweet dreams Silver.”

“Sweet Dreams.”

Thunder crashed in the distance, lightning illuminating the forest around him and casting strange shadows all around. The night pony fearfully glanced to the side, swearing to himself as the shadows seemed to stretch into terrifying wraith like figures. The sounds of those shadowy monsters crept ever closer from the darkness, seemingly surrounding him. To say that Stanley was afraid would be an understatement... he was terrified, but his night pony instincts kept telling him to be brave and push forward through the forest, he was the scary monster after all, not them.

The thunder continued to crash all around, the bright flashes doing nothing to reveal the creatures hunting him. Two more crashes, another series of flashes... Stanley made a run for it, running like he had never run before in his life. The heavy downpour of rain did nothing to make this feat easier, only making his fleeting attempts at escape even more fruitless. Soon enough Stanley found himself cornered against the cold rocky face of a mountain, facing a snarling beast that he had no chance of reasoning with. This was it, he knew that there was nothing he could do to escape his fate, and with another crash of thunder and a strike of lightning, the creature lunged out from the abyss...

A strange feeling welled up from within Stanley, and for once in his life as a night pony instead of flinching back and accepting the worst, he simply closed his eyes and decided to be brave, stomping a hoof on the ground and trembling as he expected to meet a grisly end. Almost immediately he could tell that something was off. The usual crushing feeling that followed this part of the dream simply hadn’t happened. With a hesitant pause, he opened his eyes and jumped back against the rockface, staring back at the shadowy creature that was just sitting there frozen in time, as if he had simply hit the pause button on reality.

“So uhh, having a fun time I see?” Came a voice from all around him, causing the yellow night pony to glance around the dim forest.

“What… who... who’s there?”

Silver and Scarlet walked into view, gazing at the strange wolf-like creature that was frozen in time, “Hey Stanley, long time no see.”

The night pony’s face softened, “Oh, Silver, it’s just you. Good to see you again,” He glanced toward the red mare, looking back toward Silver, “A new friend of yours I take it?”

Silver nodded, “Stanley this is Scarlet, an astronomer from over near Idyllwild. Thought we’d stop by and see if you had any crazy nightmares for us to explore.”

The night pony waved around, “Well as you can see it’s all just nice and peachy here, no nightmares at all.” He paused for a moment, returning a smile, “So Idyllwild eh? So I’m guessing you’re not down in LA anymore?”

The stallion shook his head, “Not anymore. We met a week ago in my dream, though we had crossed paths before that too.”

Scarlet stepped forward, greeting the other pony with a smile, “Yeah Silver got tired of being all alone so I figured why not solve that problem by inviting him up to the mountains.”

“And I thought it was a great idea,” Silver cut in. “Life got a little boring after you went back to OC and that Dusk guy didn’t stick around too much after so I was kind of a loner for a while.”

“Oh shoot, you should have told me, I know a few other night ponies who set up camp in the area, they probably would have let you tag along.”

Silver shrugged, “Nah it’s cool. I love the mountains and Scarlet had said it was really nice and secluded from everything else. Besides, it’s not like I don’t get interaction, I’ve still kept in contact with some of the others.”

“Others like Dusk and Star I presume?”

Silver nodded, “Every once in a while. I’m guessing you still hang with Moonlight?”

“Off and on, If you’re asking if we’re a thing then the answer’s no. As much as it’s nice to have each other’s company we’re not that close. Besides, she’s made it clear that she wants to stay down here, while I still don’t know if I want to stay out in OC or catch up with some old friends in Arizona. I was actually going to go see one of them in a few, I haven’t talked to him since before ETS, but maybe a move could be a nice change of pace.”

“Well hey, if you ever want to stop by and rest your head along the way I’m sure we could find a place for you,” Scarlet replied back to him.

The yellow night pony glanced back over to the mare and smiled, “That sounds wonderful. Maybe I’ll make a trip up there if I ever wind up getting bored down here. I still don’t know what I’m going to do for sure, I guess it’ll depend on what my friend’s up to, for all I know he could still be human.”

“Have you tried walking to him yet?”

Stanley shook his head, “I did earlier, but came up short. If he’s a pony he’s probably not a night pony, unless he’s staying up for some reason. I figured I’d work through some stuff and then maybe check back a little later when he might actually be asleep.”

“Well if he’s in Arizona it shouldn’t be too much longer.”

The night pony nodded, “Yep. Figured I might as well work through some stuff while I waited, you guys happened to show up toward the end of it.”

“Still getting those nightmares regularly then?”

He waved around the frozen dream, “Yeah, still dealing with them, though I’m getting better at working through the actual fears. I’ve talked with Phobia Remedy a few times and she’s helped me work through some of them, now it’s just second nature to confront them instead of blindly trying to run from them.”

Silver nodded, a warm smile coming across his face, “Well that’s great to hear, I always thought it was good that you were choosing to run through them with friends instead of away from them, and I’m glad it’s actually helping.” He paused for a moment, “So I’m going to guess you have some other plans today then?”

The night pony nodded, “Yeah… sorry if I can’t really host a big nightmare for you, I mean I could probably set one up, but there were some other friends I wanted to try and get in touch with. I feel like I’ve just barely gotten my life back on track as a pony, and figured why not just go down the list and see how everyone’s faring.”

Silver nodded, “That’s fair enough, I understand.”

“But hey, I’m game for something tomorrow if you’re still interested, I’ve got the whole alien dream that I’ve still never worked my way through, maybe that could be a fun exercise?”

Silver smiled, “Sounds like a blast.” He glanced back at the red mare, “Well I guess we’ll leave you to your little adventure, we’ll probably go run around some nearby dreams until night, feel free to stop by if you want to hang out or anything.”

“Will do Silver, take care.”

“You too Stanley.”

The night pony nodded, opening up another dream and walking off, leaving the pair alone as the rest of the nightmare faded away, leaving them in the open dream realm once more.

Scarlet looked toward Silver and smiled, “Well he seemed nice.”

“Glad to see he’s doing well,” he paused for a moment. “Guess that kind of puts a damper on our plans eh?”

She shrugged, “Wanna go jump into a random nightmare or two? See what kind of adventures we can go on?”

“You mean jump into something we’ll have no chance at preparing ourselves for?” he said in a surprised voice, doing a small double take.

An adventurous smirk slowly spread across her face, “You afraid or something?”

Silver replied with a smirk of his own, “You wish!”

“Let’s get going then, I’m sure there’s plenty of adventures out there just waiting for us.”

The stallion let out a small laugh as he followed her lead, heading into a nearby nightmare.

A dark cramped hallway greeted Stanley as he walked through his friend’s dream. As he glanced around the narrow space an uneasy feeling passed through him, though he simply pushed that lingering fear into the back of his mind. To the casual observer this might seem like the start of a bad nightmare, he knew what nightmares felt like, and this was definitely no nightmare.

Figures he’d have some weird alien dream, The night pony thought to himself, shaking his head and letting out a chuckle as he proceeded down the hallway. As he stepped through the door at the end, he found himself in a large circular chamber bathed in a pleasant blue light, an annoyed voice echoing through the chamber.

“Look, I told you a dozen different ways, there need to be more tests! No... we’re not set up to transport anything that far and you know it! We don’t even have a good grasp on sending inorganic things across a room and you want to try and send someone clear across a state?”

A harsh muttering came from the comm, though Stanley couldn’t make sense of it. The unicorn at the comm shook his head again, letting out a sarcastic laugh, “This is groundbreaking work and you’re treating it like some high school science project. If something goes wrong then I’m not going to be the one responsible for it… No, no you don’t get it, you’re saying what those mad scientists want you to say, and believe me my friend, they’re not working in your interests.

Stanley crept closer, still keeping to the shadows as he tried to get a better read on the pony sitting at the terminal. The voice sounded familiar, but aside from that the pony bore no resemblance to the human he had previously been, something that didn’t surprise Stanley in the slightest.

“Yes of course it’s a potential risk! Didn’t you bother reading their documentation?! Teleportation isn’t something you can just mess around with, there’s far too many variables involved to just jump in without the proper safety failsafes!” He paused, letting out an annoyed sigh, “Oh really? You’re just begging to get hit with a slew of ethics violations when your travelers show up at their destination as a pile of ash! Ha, that’s a good one, no, go ahead and get the think tank on the comm and then I’ll consider helping out with whatever crazy plans you’ve got in mind.”

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 as his chair turned around.

“Heya Pat.”

The figure jumped back in surprise, nearly falling over his chair as he lit up his horn to better illuminate the room, “Who are you? How on earth did you get in here?!”

“Why don’t you take it down a few levels Pat, It’s just me,” the night pony casually replied back.

He dropped his defensive stance for a moment as the familiar voice clicked in his head, “S...Stanley? Is it really you?”

Stanley walked out from the shadows, revealing himself to his old friend, “In the flesh… or fur I guess? It’s been ages since we chatted, thought I’d stop by now that the world’s kind of getting back to normal.”

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… but can we finally let that nickname die?”

“Oh you know I can’t do that Wolfie, you remember how scared you were when you first saw that movie?”

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

“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 brought back a slew of memories he hadn’t thought about in a long time, “Ok Pat, I’ll give you that, but let’s get serious for a moment. How have you been lately?”

“Two months is a little late for a reunion checkup don't you think? But hey, better late than never right?”

The night pony shrugged, “Guess so. I’m sorry about that by the way, I figured phones are kind of hard to use with hooves so I wound up ditching mine. I guess I could have been a little more proactive with trying to get in contact with you though. I know it’s only been a couple of months, but I’ve been slowly working down the list and trying to see what’s up with everyone from back in the day.”

“So you came to see me first then right?”

The night pony let out a laugh, “Of course, who else would I visit?”

“Jess maybe?”

“Yeah, as if… I kind of already ran into her in the real world, she’s in the same boat as me.”

“She’s a scary bat horse too? Why do I feel like that’s fitting.”

“Probably because it is, remember how competitive she’d get whenever we played? That energy’s gotta go somewhere.”

“I’ll take it she was a little too busy to fit in a visit to her old flame then?”

Stanley shrugged, “Probably, I didn’t realize you still thought so much of her.”

“Oh I didn't… though another visit post… well whatever you can call the global schism would have been nice.”

“I’ll pass that onto her, who knows, maybe she’ll finally stop boasting about the hockey game she killed you in.”

“You mean the one where she cheated?”

“Totally.” He paused for a moment, “Not that I don’t find this years long grudge interesting, but I’m kind of here for another reason.”

“Oh? And what’s that?”

“Well I’ve been thinking of skipping town, figured I might try and get in contact with some family out in Arizona. I heard there’s some promising pony communities popping up around there,so I thought it might be a good idea to touch base with some of the ponies I knew out there.”

Patrick let out a small laugh, “So uhh, funny you say that. I’m actually up in one of those myself, some place out in the Grand Canyon if you’re interested in stopping by.”

“No kidding, well truth be told, I’m kind of interested.”

He shrugged, “I figured you might. Want me to go ahead and send you the info?”

His face lit up, “That’d be great, I don’t know if I’ll stick around forever, I’m just so genuinely curious to see if they’ve actually been able to get it off the ground. All the little villages around me feel like they’re halfway there, but I know it has to be working for some.”

“I’m gonna assume you’re following the vision?”

Stanley froze for a moment, “Well… not fully. It’s hard to explain, but I guess I just like some parts of it. I mean I see stuff like Riverview popping up out east, and I kind of want to see more.”

“Well hey, come on down and stop by and see if it lives up to the hype, it’ll be just like the old road trip days,” he added with a smile. “So have you ever actually been to the Grand Canyon?”

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

“That’s the spirit 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. Where’d you wind up after all the chaos anyways?”

“Not too far from where I was. I’ve been visiting some of our old haunts lately, I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t making me nostalgic for the old days.”

“Well I can’t wait to see you again. So uhh… is there a good way to send you the coordinates for this place? I mean it’s a little hard to describe it especially if you’ve never been there before.”

“Send it to my old Discord if you can, I’ll see if I can get someone to help me out with it. I’ve been long overdue for a visit with my parents, I don’t think they’ll mind at all.”

“Hey whatever works best for you Wolfie. This is going to be a blast, I’ll let some of the locals know you’re stopping by.”

Stanley let out a laugh, “Oh I’m sure it’ll be a blast, let’s just hope it’s not the literal kind again.”

“Still upset over the firecracker incident?”

Stanley flashed his fangs for a moment, “Do you even have to ask that?”

“Oh lighten up Wolfie, it was just a prank.”

“Har har.”

Chapter 6: Dreaming of Tomorrow

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The two night ponies slept in peace as the fan quietly spun in the dark cabin, making Silver’s ears twitch as he slowly drifted into wakefulness. He never ceased to be amazed at how much more fine tuned his senses seemed to be as a pony. It was always the small things he noticed first, like the quiet hum of a fan that he might not have ever heard as clearly as he did now, or the scent of the pony next to him in bed, to even the sensation of the gentle breeze against his fur. All of these little senses flooded his mind, giving him a sense of being that could never compare to how he felt as a human. As he slowly started to take notice of the environment around him, a stream of disconnected thoughts came into his head. Thoughts of the last few days, months, and even years— giving him a sense of nostalgia and happiness.

His thoughts always seemed to drift to these reflections in the moments before sleeping and while waking, but something felt different this time. Maybe it was the change of location, or the mare that was cuddled up next to him, but for the first time in a while he didn’t feel the momentary twinge of regret that he often felt when he thought back to his old life. Stretching out his limbs, he sleepily opened his eyes and let out a long yawn, taking sight of the crimson mare that was cuddled up next to him. For a brief moment he considered that before ETS this might have been considered awkward or weird, but the pony part of his mind quickly told him that it was fine and he should snuggle back under the covers and relax. Not seeing any real reason to hop out of bed, he relaxed his muscles and let out another yawn, making himself comfortable again.

The minutes passed by in silence except for their breathing, and before long the mare began to stir, slowly moving away from him and letting out a few yawns of her own, “Good evening, did you sleep well?”

Silver rolled over in bed and smiled, “Definitely, probably one of the best days of sleep I’ve had in awhile. Great call on steering me away from the couch.”

“Told you so,” she teased, sticking her tongue out and earning a laugh from Silver.

“You sure did, and I’ll definitely remember to take your advice in the future, that’s two for two so far.” They both cringed back as Silver peeked out of the heavily curtained window, the direct view of the sun setting still being bright enough to bother them after having just woken up.

“I don’t think I’ll ever get used to that,” Scarlet replied back with an annoyed grunt.

Silver nodded, “Yeah me neither… but hey it makes the nights so much easier to enjoy,” He looked toward her, “Right?”

She cocked her head to the side, “Yeah, I think I’d call that a fair trade off… for me at least.”

“I know I definitely like it.”

“Oh? You weren’t a day pony— err person, before?”

“Oh definitely not,” Silver let out a laugh, “I’ve always been kind of nocturnal, ever since I was a foal… kid.” He chuckled as he caught himself, “I guess there’s still a lot to get used to, but at least there’s a feeling of familiarity with some of it,” He looked back out the window, “You know?”

“I’m guessing you’re meaning the staying up late part and not the becoming a weird bat horse part… not that you’re weird or anything.”

Silver laughed, “Yeah you’ve got it figured out,” He paused for a moment, “So what’s on the agenda tonight then?”

“Well, what do you want to do?” She asked, shrugging at his question.

He rubbed his hoof against his chin, pausing in consideration, “Maybe you could introduce me to some of the other villagers? You know, before they all go to bed?”

She nodded, “We could do that, there’s a couple of geeks here who might be right up your alley.”

“A couple of geeks you say? Are they as cool as the geek I’ve already met?”

She returned a smile, “Not going to say no… but no. They’re a little dry, kinda goofy too, but hey they might be right up your alley.”

“Dry and goofy in the high school chemistry teacher way or the undergrad lab assistant way?”

She let out a small laugh, “A little of both maybe? It’s hard to explain really, they’ve got this whole left brain right brain dynamic going on. You’ll see when we get there.”

“Left brain right brain as in..?” He asked, raising an eyebrow.

“As in one's really creative and outgoing and the other’s kind of logical and calculated about everything. Trust me, it’ll make more sense when you see them.”

“Works for me,” He glanced over to the clock on the nearby table and turned back toward her, “Seven forty-six, think they’ll still be awake?”

“Probably, most of the ponies around here are out by nine, ten at the latest, but these two have a reputation of being early sleepers. I only really ever interacted with them in the morning because they were usually awake during my morning walks.”

“Well worst case we wind up taking a nice little evening walk, maybe stargaze for a little, go make friends with the rest of our neighbors… you know, the fun stuff.”

“That sounds like the exact opposite of a problem to me.”

“Best of both worlds eh?” he answered with a smile.

“Oh you know it Eclipse!”

“Eclipse? Isn’t that… a little formal?”

The mare shrugged, “Guess I’ll have to work on the nicknames, eh?”

“Yeah, that’s probably a good idea Moon.”

“Guess we both do. Don’t worry though, we’ll have plenty of time to do that later.”

A happy smile spread across Silver’s face as he made way for the door, opening it wide and stepping out into the cool mountain air with Scarlet. The mare took the lead and guided Silver over to the worn path that led back to the main part of the village, waving him along with a wing.

The stars were starting to come out as they neared another clearing attached to a smaller path.

“So this all used to be one campground?” Silver asked as they crossed into an area that was mostly empty save for a large tent-like cabin.

Scarlet nodded, “Yep, Axel set the village up in the groups section on the other side of the creek, but left the rest alone. This is where the visitors or regular campers stop by. We don’t really get a whole lot of them, but Axel likes to keep the place ready for whenever we do. It’s also where you stay if you’re waiting for a cabin to be built, or if you’re not rooming with an awesome mare like you are,” she added with a smirk. Turning toward the outskirts of the campsite, she waved a hoof toward a strange looking cart, “and there they are now.”

Silver looked on as they neared a pair of ponies, one pegasus and unicorn. The two were clearly in the middle of an argument, and as they neared them their conversation started to become ever more audible.

“And I’m telling you that it could work,” replied the unicorn, a flat and annoyed tone carrying in his voice.

“But why that ghost town in particular? Why can’t we just set up shop in Phoenix with Marcus and call it a day? He’s even giving us the opportunity to live there rent free.”

“Yes, I’m aware of that but Phoenix isn’t the kind of environment that would suit our experiments.”

“Your experiments,” the pegasus corrected.

Our experiments. You might be a Pegasus, but you still have magic of your own. If my research is correct then Mesa Verde could very well be the perfect location for our research— it’s out of the way, free from the burdens of other ponies, and it’s in a valley that’s full of many fascinating legends that might serve my plans well.”

“It’s also pricey and expensive.”

The unicorn scoffed, “And that’s an issue why?”

“Because if we squat there we’ll be liable to get shot by some cowboy that’s not too keen on a couple of ponies performing a bunch of magic tricks on his property. I thought you were supposed to be the brains of the group.”

“It’s an old abandoned ghost town, nopony’s going to be there anyways.”

“Well, then you can make a solo voyage out there if you’d like, but I think I’m going to stick with the safe route on this one.”

The unicorn rolled his eyes, “I thought you were supposed to be the easy going creative type, where’s the fun in playing it safe?”

“The fun is not being hassled by some human that’s not a fan of trespassers.”

The unicorn let out a deep sigh, “Fine. But I still want to try and get the psycho-electromagnetherigraph up and running.”

“Which I encourage you to do— in the safety of an area we’re allowed and expected to be.”

The unicorn paused for a moment and let out another sigh, “This kind of research could get us that grant money we’ve been looking for, you know that right?”

“Of course, but that’s a pipe dream at this point and you know it. Look, I want to see both of our plans succeed but we need to be realistic with how much we can achieve right now.”

Scarlet let out a cough, earning a surprised glance from the pegasus. He turned toward his assistant, “We’ll talk later.” The unicorn gave a quick nod before the pegasus turned back toward the mare, “Scarlet, nice to see you again.” He paused, “I see you brought a friend along tonight.”

She nodded, “Yep! This is Silver Eclipse, he’s a friend that decided to stop on by for a visit, he’s also a science geek.”

“A science geek you say? Well that’s wonderful!” He turned toward Silver, “So are you planning on staying here, or passing on to parts unknown?”

Silver smiled back at the pegasus, “Sticking around for now, I thought it’d be nice to meet some of my new neighbors and Scarlet said I’d fit right in with you two.”

“Well pleased to meet you, I’m Tinker,” He waved toward the unicorn with a wing, “And this is my good friend and assistant, Gyro.”

The unicorn nodded, “Hello.”

“So what are you into Mr. Eclipse? It’s not often that we have someone who’s interested in the more scholarly pursuits pass through here,” The pegasus continued.

“I was part of a robotics team at CSUF. I’ve actually been doing stuff like that since high school.”

“Robotics eh? Are you still keeping up with that?”

Silver shook his head, “Not really, I’d love to jump back into it but the team kind of fell apart unfortunately.”

“Mhmm, well this might be on the spot, but would you be interested in maybe helping out with the occasional late night experiment every once in a while?”

Silver looked toward Scarlet, who nodded back with a grin. He turned back toward the pegasus and smiled, “I’d love to, as long as it’s nothing that’s too crazy,” He paused for a moment, “So what were you two arguing about?”

The pegasus paused for a moment, turning to face his companion, who replied with a silent nod. Tinker turned back toward Silver and gave a nod of his own, “Well, Gyro here is a bit of an occult nut— thinks that the old legends about ley lines and spiritual activity might be true and could actually have many parallels with magic.”

“Tinker’s more concerned with the hard grounded science of the pre-ETS days to give the more mystical side of things a try.”

“Do you think that kind of thing could actually be linked?”

The unicorn shrugged, “Maybe. I guess we’ll find out someday.”

Tinker cleared his throat, stepping forward, “So… Silver, Scarlet… Would you two care to see a couple of the gadgets we’re working on? I’ve never been a great conversationalist but I could talk your ear off about my inventions if you’re not careful.”

Scarlet nodded, cutting Silver off before he could even have a chance to respond, “We’d love to.”

A big cheerful smile spread across the pegasi’s face as he gestured toward one of the small tents that was set up around their cart, “Right this way!”

The pair followed him in as Gyro ducked into the cart, the sound of tools clattering around began to ring out as he presumably resumed whatever he was doing before their argument had started.

Silver looked around the compact tent, noticing all of the assorted devices that littered the tables around the tent, a smile coming across his face as he felt right at home. Unsure of what to look at first, and without any further prompting, he trotted up toward a strange looking mask that seemed more like something you’d find during the Black Plague, but made of metal with tubes and wires running out of the sides, gently lifting it up with a hoof.

Tinker trotted you behind him and began to speak in a proud voice, “Aha, the BioMask X05, it’s something we were testing out in one of the villages we were staying in a couple of months ago. It was meant to help make living in more polluted areas a little more manageable for ponies… though I’m afraid it hasn’t really caught on.”

Silver smirked, “Let me guess, the design isn’t resonating with ponies?”

Tinker let out a laugh, “It's that obvious?.”

Silver nodded, “A little, and I can see why. It looks a little… scary? Not the best word I know, but personally I think it’s a cool idea, you guys could definitely market this to someone.”

The pegasus nodded his head, “Well it’s only a prototype for now, but we might look into that sometime in the future,” He looked toward a weird bulky bracelet that sat on another table, “I think you might like this next one, it’s closer to a working prototype than any of the other inventions here.”

Silver glanced toward the table, taking a slow step toward it, “What is it?”

“It’s something that Gyro and I are working on. It’s supposed to be like a smartwatch but it’ll do so much more… it kind of has to be if we want to make something that can really stand out amongst the rest of the designs that’ll no doubt be flooding the market.”

“What kind of things are you trying to do with it?”

“Well there’s a communicator built in, that’s pretty self explanatory, but we’ve also been trying to pack in more gadgets and gizmos— stuff like mechanical fingers that can at least partially emulate how you might grasp something with a hand, utensils that you can deploy to help with stuff like eating, writing notes, and even some small tools like a screwdriver.”

Silver’s smile grew larger, “That’s honestly kind of amazing, how much of the prototype actually works the way it should?”

“That’s the tricky part, we’ve gotten the easy stuff like the communicator and some of the tools to work, but the fingers don’t have the mobility and grip strength we need, right now they only work with buttons on the side which isn’t ideal for what we’re trying to do… and as you can see the thing is way too bulky to be practical… but it’s a start.”

“And that’s better than nothing,” Scarlet added.

“Mhmm. Well hopefully in the future we’ll be able to do more with it, it might just be a proof of concept now, but it could be so much more.”

Silver paused for a moment, looking back at the prototypes, “So I have to ask, what keeps you two motivated to keep doing stuff like this? I mean you have all these amazing inventions just sitting here but it seems like you’re not doing anything big with them.”

The pegasus paused for a moment, staring around at his creations. A smile slowly spread across his face as he turned back toward the pair, “Because it’s the right thing to do… at least I feel like it is. Maybe it doesn’t seem like much now, but someday it might be useful to someone else.”

Silver nodded, “I think I understand,” he paused for a moment, a cheerful smile forming on his face, “You know, I used to love history. The past can give us all some valuable knowledge on how to address problems in the future… it’s up to us to use that knowledge to make a difference in the world.”

“That’s exactly what motivates me, and while it might not always come across the same way, I think that’s what motivates Gyro too. He’s more of a cold pony, but underneath the cynicism and stoic facade there’s a pony that cares a lot about the world.”

“I can’t say I blame him, it’s easy to be a cynic right now, I mean we just basically went through an apocalyptic event, and now who knows what the future has in store.”

“Indeed, but that’s why we need to move on and make the best of a weird situation. I mean just think of everything we’ve just now discovered?”

“Like the idea that there’s other life out there? That the multiverse is actually real? You know, that sort of stuff?”

Tinker nodded, “it’s a scary thought to be honest, but hey there’s a lot of things I would have considered impossible a few months ago, so maybe there is such a thing as extraterrestrial life.”

“Well, I guess like you said, every day there’s a chance to change the world— to make a better future for ourselves. We just need to believe that it’s possible, right?”

Tinker smiled, “You’re a real optimist, I feel like that’s hard to come by nowadays.”

“What can I say?” Silver shrugged, “Life threw me a curveball and I decided that I could either mope around on my own and be bitter about the fact that my relationship with my parents fell apart because i'm a pony, or I could move on with my life.”

“And I’ll take it you chose the latter?”

Silver nodded, “One of my old buddies from the robotics program did that exact thing, he realized he couldn't continue his old life so he ran off and tried to do the best he could, and last I heard that was working just fine for him. Scarlet helped show me a route I could go down, and even though it’s been like a week, I’m already feeling so much more cheerful about it all. It’s like I have this new outlook on life, and seeing that I’m not the only one going through a mini identity crisis makes it so much more enjoyable.”

Scarlet cleared her throat, “And I’m glad you did, I haven’t had this much fun on an outing in a while, it’s like I forgot what it was like to talk about dorky stuff with a bunch of nerds again.”

Silver looked back down to the prototype, the wheels turning in his head as he had an idea, “You know, I might know a few ponies and people that might be able to help more with this, I’ve got some old connections and even ran across a few new ones, and maybe they might have an idea or two.”

Tinker nodded, “Feel free to ask around if you’d like, but don’t feel obligated to. We can’t really afford to pay anypony for help, but if you find someone who might be able to give a few pointers I wouldn’t be upset.”

Silver smiled, “Will do,” he turned toward Scarlet, “Maybe that’ll be tomorrow’s big adventure? I know a few ponies that might be all for this kind of thing.”

She shrugged, “If that’s how you want to spend your day then I’m fine with that.”

“So, wanna go do some stargazing? Maybe take a nice nature walk? Grab a bite to eat?”

The mare smiled, “You read my mind.”

Their night had passed by in a breeze, and now the pair were back in bed, ready for the next part of their day to begin. Silver snuggled up in bed and closed his eyes, letting the comforting hold of sleep take hold of him. When he opened his eyes again he was greeted with a peaceful dream paying out— his old childhood home.

“An old memory I’m guessing?” Came the voice of Scarlet.

Silver nodded, “My old house when I was a kid.”

“Did you make this or is it just your regular dreams playing out?”

“Regular dream. I sure wish I could make stuff like this.”

The mare looked around the cozy home, and then back to Silver, “Well you could try? You made that other dream last week, why not try for something more complicated?”

“But it’s your night to choose the dream—”

“— and I’m choosing this one, I think it’s cool that you can make dreams, it’d be even cooler to see what kind of stuff you could make.”

A smirk spread across Silver’s face, “trying to go on a dream vacation or something?”

“Maybe,” she replied with a smile of her own, “So how about it?”

“Well, where do you want to go?”

Scarlet paused in consideration for a minute, “You ever been out to Temecula? My grandparents had a house out there and my sister and I used to spend our summers there, it was really nice.”

“So a big grassy valley? It might be tough but I guess I can try.”

She nodded, “Sure, give it a shot and see what you can do.”

He closed his eyes and concentrated on crafting a landscape, imagining a place that could only exist in a dream. A strange, almost subconscious feeling began to well up inside of him as he continued to focus, chasing that feeling and putting all of his energy into following it. A gasp pulled his attention away for a moment, and when he opened his eyes he let out a gasp of his own.

A field of bright stars, brighter than any he had ever seen in the waking world filled the sky above them and a cool breeze lazily blew across the grass and trees, sending a wave of calming peace over him. It was definitely 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 sense of pride welled up inside of him as he realized that he had crafted this place, and all it took was embracing the natural flow of his magic rather than trying to brute force it like last time.

A chuckle that came from behind him pulled him from his trance, making his ears perk up. “You really do have a talent for this, don’t you?”

Silver smiled, “I… wow, I didn’t realize I could do something like this. It’s just so—“

“— amazing! Exactly what I had in mind too,” Scarlet patted the ground next to her,” So are you going to just stand around all day or are you going to come and cuddle up next to me?”

Silver raised an eyebrow, “Wait you mean you just want to sit down and do nothing?”

She let out a few small laughs, “Well I want to sit and watch the stars you made, they’re beautiful and I’d say that’s definitely something.”

“But it’s not a fun dream, it’s just doing what we did earlier…”

“Which I love to do, sometimes it’s just fun to do boring things, you know?”

Silver smiled and turned towards the mare, “They’re not at all accurate, I hope you know that. Let’s just say I was a little spaced out when I thought of them.”

She chuckled. “Spaced out eh? Get over here you joker.”

Silver nodded as he walked over to Scarlet and sat down next to her, looking over the dream, “You really like it?”

“Of course, it just reminds me of so many good memories as a kid. I used to go camping all the time as a foal,” she continued, “and we’d always stop by this great big forest up by my grandparents’ house. You definitely captured the feel of that place, just somewhere special that I’ve always loved to think about.”

Silver smiled warmly. “Well I’m really glad it’s good enough for you.”

“Of course it is, you should definitely try and keep at this, I’d love to just spend a few days playing around in some imaginary paradise.”

“You would? Well maybe that’ll be tomorrow’s dream, just a big open beach with only the two of us.”

“Well I can't wait, just make sure it’s a beach that doesn’t have sharks or anything.”

“You don’t want dream sharks chasing us around?”

“Definitely not.”

He smiled as he sat and watched the stars with her, perfectly content with just spending time with his friend. Not every dream needed to be a big adventure after all, sometimes the best kind were the ones that played out peacefully.

Chapter 7: A Trot Down Memory Lane

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The sun sat low in the air, but despite that the sidewalks were still packed with people, both ponies and humans alike. Even with the assorted groups of ponies around, he was still painfully the odd one out. In fact, he had seen less than a handful of other night ponies, and of that already small amount, he was the only stallion, making him feel even more out of place than he already did.

Despite feeling like a complete outsider, he still continued to wander through the familiar locale, trotting down the street and toward the hotel he had spent much of his youth hanging around in. The crowded sidewalks might have normally bothered him, the tourism in the city had definitely started to return to a semblance of normalcy after all, but today something just kept him in a good mood. Maybe it was the crowded buses shuttling a mix of ponies and humans down Harbor, or maybe it was the tourists walking to the nearby parks, but for the first time in months he felt as if the world was almost as it was before ETS, his weird feelings of loneliness aside.

He cheerfully whistled a tune as he neared the Anaheim convention center, taking in the sight of the large hotels that sat out front of it, which seemed even larger to him now. A group of bystanders had already stopped at the crosswalk, and as he approached it the signal changed, letting the group cross.

He could have flown to the hotel of course, but the angry glares he had gotten during his first few city outings gave him the inclination that maybe it wasn’t the best of ideas. Not that it would matter much if he got fined or in trouble, he’d be gone from the state in a few days anyways, but not causing trouble would make his life a lot easier in the present, as small of a time as that was.

As he trotted into the front lobby of the hotel he couldn’t help but notice the stares he was getting from the humans around him, no doubt confused as to why a pony was stopping by a regular hotel rather than one of the pony hostels which had opened in the area. He shrugged it off though, this visit was long overdue and he felt bad enough that he had waited this long to see his parents in person.

Stanley had never lived too far from the rest of his family, preferring to stay close by so he could continue to spend time with them. However, much to his regret he had seldom tried to contact or communicate with his parents in any way since he had transformed, worried about whether they’d still accept him now that he was a pony.

Those guilty feelings of regret had finally reached a peak, and the young night pony had decided that today was the day he’d reconnect with them, at the very least just to ease each other’s worries. If they didn’t accept him then at least he could say that he tried to make that connection again, and at the end of the day that was what was most important to him.

Stanley had always been an only child, but to him that was just fine. In his eyes it meant that he got to spend more time with his parents, time spent making so many fun and exciting memories that continued to flood through his head as he approached the row of tall counters. Stanley didn’t know how his parents had fared, but could only hope for the best. They were always cheerful, even when times were tough, and he knew that whatever had happened to them during ETS, they would have made the most of it.

With a smile on his face, Stanley approached the concierge, who greeted him with a look of confusion, “Can I… Help you... sir?”

He nodded, “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, let alone ones that ask for members of staff by name. I hope you can understand my hesitation.”

“That’s fine,” he nodded, “you can tell him that Stanley’s come for a visit and I’m sure he’ll understand someone interrupting him for that.”

The tall human nodded for a moment before typing something on the computer in front of him, looking back down to the yellow night pony, “Just a moment,” With yet another confused look on his face, the concierge walked through a door behind the desk.

“Go ahead and tell him I’ll be in the lobby,” he confidently shouted through the open door.

Stanley knew the layout of the hotel well enough that he could probably navigate it with his eyes closed, and he knew that no doubt the human was walking down a short hallway to the row of offices that his father hopefully still occupied. His father had been the hotel’s event manager for close to 30 years, and with that came many chances for the young Stanley to run around the areas of the hotel that normal guests couldn’t. This unique upbringing gave him a good sense of where everything was, and more importantly, when certain members of staff, like his father for instance, would be in their offices.

Turning back toward the lobby, the night pony smiled as another wave of nostalgia passed through him. This place had definitely changed a lot over the years, but it still looked and felt like the hotel he had spent a lot of his childhood running around in.

Soft piano music echoed through the large room as he trotted toward one of the tall windows that overlooked the pool. Taking a seat, he couldn’t help but smile again, feeling out of place, yet right at home. Everything from the familiar location to the peaceful piano music, to even the orange glow of the sunset outside— it all gave him this happy feeling of comfort, as strange as it might have felt when he had first thought about walking into this place.

“Stanley, is that you?” Asked a calm voice from behind him, bringing a smile to the night pony’s face.

He turned to greet the human, his smile growing even larger, “In the flesh— or I guess fur now.”

The human scrutinized him for a moment before taking a seat, letting out a small sigh as he looked the night pony in the eyes, “I’m so glad you’re okay, you dropped off the face of the earth for so long, your mother and I couldn’t help but get worried sick about all of this. Why did you wait so long to see us in person again?”

A twinge of regret passed through him, “Well to tell you the truth, I wasn’t sure what you’d think of,” he gestured toward himself with a hoof. “It was silly I know, and I’m sure mom’s been worried sick. I thought about stopping by the house earlier, but I kind of got cold hooves and thought meeting you over here would be better. My phone’s been dead for months now, and well, I guess I just decided to take a trot down memory lane.”

“Oh she has been,” he let out a chuckle, “believe me, I didn’t think I’d ever see such a colorful vocabulary come out of a pony’s mouth. Regardless of what you might look like now, you’re still my son, nothing could ever change that.”

Stanley paused for a moment, taking note of his father’s pony-like ears and the small discolored streak that ran through his hair, “So she’s…”

The human nodded, “Yeah, she beat me to the chase and transformed a few hours before that light show kicked in. I was close but not close enough.”

“And she stayed a pony?”

The human shrugged, “She didn’t have a choice, wound up getting her mark before she had the chance to go back— not like she was planning to as it was, but that mark kind of settled it for good. To tell you the truth, it was a little awkward at first but we’re going to make it work.”

“And if you can’t?”

He shrugged again, “Who knows, we never thought that far ahead. I love your mother no matter what she is and nothing would ever change that, as much of a challenge as this will be for us.”

Stanley nodded, “Well I’m glad to hear that you two weathered the storm.”

Valentino nodded, “I’m more than glad to see that you’re doing well too. I’m guessing you’re still in your apartment for now? Or have you decided to join up with one of those pony communes that’s been popping up outside of town?”

He nodded, “I’ve been staying in the apartment for now, though I’m pretty much out of funds to keep that going much longer. The bank’s definitely not going to take me back but oddly enough I think I’m fine with that.”

The human furrowed his brow in concern, “So what you’re saying is—”

“ — yes,” he nodded, “I’m probably going to get evicted, but don’t worry, I’ve got a couple plans for this.”

“Like?.. I know you said not to worry but this is something to worry about.”

“You know Jessica?”

“As in that girl that lived down the street when we were in Orange?”

The night pony nodded, “Yeah.”

“What about her?”

“Well you asked about it I was joining up with any of the local pony villages, and that’s definitely a thought. You see, she’s in charge of a pony village just outside of Santa Monica. We did a little bit of talking and if my other plan doesn’t work out then she’ll let me stay there— now I know what you’re thinking, it’s risky and weird, but don’t worry, they’re doing really well for themselves, and it helps that one of my best friends is running it.”

The human nodded, “Right… and what’s your other plan?”

“Well, I talked with Patrick and he’s staying in this town over in Arizona, I was kind of thinking about heading up there, you know just to start fresh somewhere else, put the past behind me and if all else fails then I’ll just come back home here and stick with Jess.”

“Stanley…” his dad began disapprovingly.

Stanley raised his hooves up, “I know, that’s far away and I just said I’m almost out of money, but I’ve got this all planned out though. I have the whole route planned out on a map, including bus routes, and there’s even plenty of stops on the way there. I’ve got a few thousand saved up and I’m going to use that to make sure I’m covered until I get up there. The place I’m moving to is a self sustaining village so I won’t even need money there.”

“I’m glad you’ve got this all planned out but that’s still a long way for you to just travel on your own. I mean you’re a small pony now, I can’t imagine that’s going to make it easy for you,.“ He paused, “We can drive you up there you know? It could save you a lot of money that you could just hold onto in case of an emergency.”

“I know dad but—”

“ — in fact I’d feel a lot better if I did. Look, you’re not my little boy anymore, and if you want to go move to some pony village in Arizona then I don’t really have a way to stop you. It’s better that it’s with a good friend like Patrick, but I’d rather drive you up there instead of you finding your way there on your own. It’ll be a lot safer that way, and it’ll stress your mother out less.” He paused for a moment, “Plus it’ll give me an excuse to skip town for a week, your mother and I were meaning on taking a little trip over to that timeshare we used to go to in Scottsdale, so it could be like one last big family road trip.”

Stanley laughed, “You just want to go on vacation early don’t you?”

The human smirked, “A little. I was supposed to go on vacation next month but I think Steven will be more than glad to trade given that you’re here.”

“Uncle Steve?” The night pony’s face lit up, “Maaan I haven’t seen that guy in years, I didn’t even know he still worked here.”

“Yep, he even managed to get a small promotion when his boss turned into a pony and decided to quit, lucky him. You know, he’d probably be pretty happy to see you again if you’re up for giving him a quick visit.”

Stanley nodded, “Sure, It’s not like I had anything else planned for today, I just wanted to catch you before I officially started to head out.”

“Oh, nothing else planned? Why don’t you join us for dinner then, I’m sure your mother would be more than happy to see you in person.”

“Alright, well lead the way then, it’ll be like one big trot down memory lane!” Stanley excitedly replied, earning a laugh from the human as he stood up.

Stanley was sitting out on the empty pool deck, sipping away at his soda by a covered fire pit. The sun had long set, and he was definitely feeling more awake now than he had been earlier. Revisiting with some of the staff that had been there when he was a child was a fun experience, but most of them had gone home for the night, leaving him alone while his father wrapped up his own work for the day.

Happy memories of his childhood continued to race through his head as he just peacefully took in the atmosphere, the fire’s warmth matching the warmth he felt on the inside.

He’d be lying to himself if he said he didn’t have any reservations with moving to an entirely different and unfamiliar area so suddenly, but with all the change that had taken place in a few months time, he supposed that something like was normal and underwhelming by comparison.

A lingering feeling of sadness also filled him, the thought of not being near his close family being something that just wouldn’t leave his head. A smile came across his face as he realized that he wouldn’t really be all that far away, having a pony for a mother meant that he could at least dream walk to her and keep in touch that way if he wasn’t able to use his phone like normal.

That brought up another reminder, he had all but abandoned his phone, not even bothering to pay the bill since he had transformed. If he was moving so far away on his own it wouldn’t be a bad idea to just pick up something small that he could use in emergencies, just in case he ever needed to get in contact with them. He made a mental note to get that sorted out before he left, he’d definitely need his dad’s help to get the voice controls set up, that would at least make dealing with it a lot more manageable for him.

”Are you ready to go?” The sound of his father’s voice broke through the nostalgic trance that held him.

“Huh?... Oh, yeah.” Stanley stood up from the lobby chair and nodded, trotting toward the side door, keeping a slower pace with the human, “So I’ll take it you two are still in the house?”

“Yeah, we weren’t sure what the plan was going to be at first, but we’re staying there as long as we can.”

The two walked out into the crowded parking lot, the moon shining brightly above them. Valentino reached into his pocket and aimed a key fob toward the same small car that he had driven for many years now, remotely starting it, “Have you ridden in a car since becoming a pony?”

Stanley shook his head, “I felt brave and took the bus a few days ago, but no actual car rides yet. I actually wound up giving my car away after ETS, though I had thought about selling it for some extra cash but so did everyone else apparently. I didn’t even get to give it one last ride.”

“Well this should be interesting then,” he gently opened the door, patting the blanket covered seat with a hand, “Your mother loves riding along, you know how much she used to love driving so I’m glad she can still enjoy this to a degree.”

The night pony carefully climbed onto the seat and made himself comfortable as the human walked around to the other side, “does she wear a seat belt?”

His father shook his head, “No, and I’m pretty sure that’s borderline illegal but I doubt we’ll get ticketed for it.”

Stanley shrugged as the car began to rumble, “Well if it hasn’t been an issue before then I guess we’re good to go.”

“Traffic should be light tonight, I’ve been taking the back road out of here and it’s surprisingly been fast lately, which is maybe the best thing to come out of ETS.”

Stanley let out a laugh, making himself comfortable by laying down on the seat. 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 ridden 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. He could add that to his growing list of things he never thought he’d think about. The ride flew by in a blue, with the night pony barely paying attention until the human gently reached over and shook him out of his nostalgia induced trance.

“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 just been very nostalgic.”

“I asked you what made everything different. You were afraid of everything before 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,” he paused for a moment, “So 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, you can’t fault me for asking.”

The night pony shrugged, “Guess I can’t. So you really don’t mind if I stay over today?”

The human shook his head, “Of course not, your mother’s going to be so excited to see you again, I’m sure she’ll be up all night asking you questions.”

Valentino pulled into the driveway of the simple one story home, a small but cozy dwelling nonetheless. Another flood of nostalgia washed over him as he gazed at the home.

Stanley sat up in his seat and excitedly looked out the window, “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 and turned the car off, jogging over toward the passenger door and opening it for the night pony, who hopped down onto the concrete below.

Valentino walked towards the door, fishing his keys out from his pocket, turning 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.

“Sounds good Dad.”

The human flipped on the hallway light and 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.

Stanley’s father let out a laugh, “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.

“Uh… hey 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… where were you?! Do you know how worried we were?!” She excitedly ran up, embracing her son in a tight hug, “I’m just glad you’re all good, it’s good to see you again.”

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 to contact you guys sooner, I kind of got caught up with some stuff.”

“We’ve all been, why don’t you tell us what you’ve been up to over dinner, we’re having spaghetti for dinner, I know that that’s your favorite.”

“It feels like forever since I had spaghetti.”

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 at the table, his father prepared a plate for him, bringing it over and setting it down in front of him.

“I still use Grandma’s family recipe… with just 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 already looks so much better than the boring stuff I’ve been eating for the last few months,” He eagerly said as he began to dig in.

“Tell me what you’ve been up to since ETS, did you do anything exciting or have you been staying out of trouble?” his mother said in between bites.

“Well, like I told Dad earlier, I met somepony who was able to help give me some advice on the role of fear and how to find the strength to face it. It gave me some confidence to plan out what I wanted to do going forward, and I’ve got a great plan in the future. And how about you? I know the human cities are kind of hard to live in.”

She shrugged, “It’s irritating when I have to go downtown, 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?”

Stanley paused for a moment, “Unemployed, probably for the indefinite future.”

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?”

“A lot better than you might think. I’m not going to be able to afford the apartment anymore, but that’s alright. I’ve actually been thinking about paying Patrick a visit again, he’s out in some pony village in Arizona, and it’s been such a long time since we’ve seen each other.”

“Arizona? Isn’t that a little far to go Stanley? I know you’re a night pony now, but please make sure you’re really ready.”

“I’m pretty sure I am. To tell you the truth I was more worried with how you’d react to seeing me again, especially after I kind of ghosted you for two months, but that’s just another fear that I can put to rest again.”

“Stanley,” Aurora spoke up, “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.”

Finishing his meal, he stood up and awkwardly dragged his plate to the sink, rinsing it off and trotting into the living room, brushing a hoof against an old record player, “You guys 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 gentle piano melody of Stardust that had been playing in the lobby earlier.

As he entered his old room another rush of memories came flooding back to him. 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 sat there now, untouched by the hands of time. As he sat down on the familiar bed and closed his eyes for a moment, he was left with one final thought… he had a lot to be excited about in the future, and this was just the first few steps of his new life.

Chapter 8: Out and About

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With quiet steps, Stanley carefully made his way inside, not sure if either of his parents would be up this early in the morning. Making sure not to let the door slam, he gently closed it behind him, dropping his bag off on the nearby shelf. The night had been quiet and almost lonely for him, but the walk he had gone on had at least let him clear his head a little more so he could make sure that the move really was something he wanted to commit to. It definitely wasn’t a small decision to make, but the fact that he at least knew someone out in the area gave him a better feeling about it. If it all didn’t wind up working out then he at least had a few other options he could look at, and those thoughts helped reaffirm his final decision.

Shaking his head to clear his thoughts, Stanley trotted out into the living room and almost immediately spotted his mother, who much to his surprise, was currently enjoying some tv show from the large chair she was sitting in, the report catching his attention for a moment.

“... 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...”

“There’s still partials out there? I would have thought they’d have rehumanized by now.”

The pegasus snapped back in surprise slightly, turning toward Stanley and greeting her son with a small scowl, “You could announce your presence a little better you know, right?”

Stanley nodded, “I definitely could. Sorry for the scare, I didn’t know if either of you would be up by now or not.”

Her face softened as she flipped off the TV, “It’s okay, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that you were out and about. To answer your question, yes. There was a lot of pressure for them to, but there’s still pockets of holdouts that refuse to go back.”

“Why wouldn’t they? ETS is gone, there’s no going forward for them.”

“There’s little groups here and there that are clinging onto the hope that the Equestrians might let them go all the way through with the transformation,” she let out a sad sounding sigh, “And I honestly wish them the best in that.”

She paused for a moment, flipping the TV off and smiling at her son, “So how’s life been treating you lately?”

“You know, it’s been pretty good. Once everything settled down I had time to look at everything and figure out where I wanted to go. I felt like I was given a fresh start, and thought about chasing the vision, but I guess you could say that I wasn’t really in any kind of rush,” he trotted into the living room and took a seat on one of the comfortable couches, “What about you?”

She shrugged, “It’s been a mixed bag, not having hands sucks, but… I guess it’s better than the alternative I had before.”

“The alternative?” He asked, raising an eyebrow.

“I never really shared this with anyone except for your father, but my arthritis has been really bad for the last few years, and this is the first time I can say I haven’t had to deal with it. Maybe it was greedy, but I almost didn’t want to go back, and I secretly prayed that I wouldn’t have to choose.” She gestured down to the mark of a canvas with a paintbrush and pencil crossed over it on her flank, “This thing showed up one day and I got my wish.”

Stanley nodded, “I never knew you were dealing with that.”

She shrugged again, “I never wanted anyone to have to worry about it. I think your father kind of hoped for this too, and he’ll never say it, but I think he was hoping he’d transform as well. I’d be lying if I said that him having to go back was more than a little devastating, but he was uncomfortable and I’d rather we both feel comfortable than one or the other having to suffer.”

“I’m sorry you two have to deal with that, I wish I could say something better than that, I really do.”

“It’s okay, that’s not your burden to bear. It might be tough for us sometimes, and we might get weird looks whenever we go out, but we love each other more than anything and nothing will ever change that, even if I wish we could just flip a switch and have your father transform as well.”

“That’s why you can’t blame the partials that were on the news then… right? Because you think Dad might have wanted to go down that route too?”

She shook her head, “Not entirely, while I’m sure he’d love to go down that route, he chose to go back. I can’t blame the ones that want to continue though.”

Stanley nodded, “I understand. So dad’s back at work I’m guessing?”

“Yeah, he only had a short day today though, he should be home around noon. Did you need anything from him?”

The night pony shook his head, “Oh it’s nothing urgent, I just needed to ask a couple favors of him.”

“Well you shouldn’t need to wait long,” The mare stood up and stretched out her wings for a moment, “They’ve been cutting back hours a bit lately, tourism still hasn’t fully recovered but it’s starting to pick up speed again.”

“So what are you going to do today mom?”

“Well I don’t usually plan every little thing out, but I like to go for an early morning flight on most days. I don’t exactly have work anymore so I’ve also gotten into gardening again, it was a little tricky at first but if the earth ponies can do it then so can I. Now, I know you just got back from a walk, but do you want to tag along for any of that?”

The night pony paused for a moment, before giving a quick nod, “Okay, I’m game. I can’t really promise I’ll be any help in the garden, but I’ll definitely sit around and chat if you’d like.”

“I’d love that. I don’t know how much flying you’ve done around the city, but seeing it at sunrise is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.”

He cocked his head to the side, “To tell you the truth I haven’t really flown during the day all that much, I’m usually inside or in the shade. I’ve done a ton of night flying though.”

“Then this should be an awesome experience,” she smiled, “Let me just get some water and we can head out, you’re not going to want to miss this, trust me.”

“Sounds like a plan!”

“So where are we going anyways?” Stanley asked as Aurora led him through her small backyard garden.

“Up,” was all she replied with, earning an annoyed sigh from Stanley.

“Well up where? I hope you know I can’t walk on clouds like you can, trust me, I’ve tried.”

“Don’t worry, we’re not going up to a cloud. It’s not even that high of a place,” she added reassuringly as she adjusted the small bag she had slung across her back.

“So where is it then?”

“You’ll just have to wait and see. Trust me, you’re going to love it,” Aurora kicked off the ground and started up into the sky, Stanley quickly joining behind her.

“I’ll have to trust you on that then.” He steadied himself in the air as they continued to fly higher than he was used to flying. With a nervous glance he called over toward her, “It’s going to sound stupid but I’m not used to flying around this high. I’ve kinda been keeping low when in the city, you know, so I don’t piss off the humans around.”

“Well we don’t have to worry about that this far out, especially this early in the morning. Just relax and let your instinct take over, It’s really nice once you just start taking everything in.”

“Right, though my instincts don’t really like being this high,” He nodded back, evening out in the sky and trying to relax a little more, “And you just do this kind of thing every morning?”

“Every single one, I haven’t skipped a day in weeks.”

He glanced down at the quiet city below, feeling a wave of calming peace wash over him, “It’s so different from up here, I guess I just never paid that much attention to it.”

“You get used to it fast, I personally think it beats flying around at any other time. It’s like I can just relax and clear my head, makes me feel like I’m the only one around.”

“Maybe I’ll take it up more, I’m sure there’s going to be so much more to see in Arizona.”

“I’m sure there will be, maybe I’ll have to join you for a few morning flights sometime too.”

The mother and son flew high above the city, the golden light from the sunrise giving everything an almost dreamy look. Aurora led the flight, banking around in the sky and veering toward a small hill that overlooked everything. Coming to a smooth landing, she waved Stanley over with a wing.

“This is the best part, I can’t tell you how many mornings I’ve spent up here.”

Stanley let out a small gasp as he took it all in, “It’s just so beautiful, makes me wish I had a camera.”

“I do too sometimes. It’s better without that though. Sometimes you just need to sit out on your own somewhere and just enjoy the world around you.”

“That’s fair enough. Does it ever get boring to you though?”

She shook her head, “Never. I’ve even started to sketch out some of these views sometimes. It’s just a fun hobby and really brings back some of that creative spark I used to feel.”

“You do? That’s awesome! I don’t suppose you have anything with you right now, do you?”

The mare smiled, gesturing down to her cutie mark, “I didn’t earn this mark by just sitting around. I always like to carry a sketchbook around whenever I fly.” She began to dig around in the bag she was carrying, “It took a lot of trial and error, but once I figured out how to strap the pencil to my arm it was a lot easier to relearn the basics.”

“I bet that must have been hard at first.”

She carefully pulled out the small book, passing it to the night pony, “It was, but it also gave me a good excuse to take a few refreshers. They’re all rough sketches, mostly practice but I’ve been thinking about trying out painting again someday.”

A smile started to spread across Stanley’s face as he awkwardly flipped through the pages. There weren’t a lot of pages drawn in yet, but the stuff that was there was beautiful all the same. Pictures of nature, random ponies she must have seen while she was out and about, and even a few sketches of his father— it all told a story to him without even having any explanation, “These are amazing, I’d love to see you get back into painting, I used to love doing that with you as a kid and a lot of these would translate really well.”

“And it would give me something else to do during the day,” she added with a laugh. “To tell you the truth I’m getting pretty bored of the same old routine. There’s only so much time you can spend gardening before you’ve really done all you can do.”

“Well that sounds like a wonderful idea, Mom. I know everypony would just love to see your paintings.”

“You think so?” She asked with a furrowed brow, “I mean I know I got some of them into a few local shows back in the day, but do you think it might be doable for a pony?”

“Well I was kind of meaning that in the supportive son way, but I suppose you could. I mean haven’t you seen what other ponies have started to do? I don’t watch a lot of tv anymore, but every time I do there’s always ads about how we’re just as good as humans are, and there’s even a bunch that are all about pony artists. I think you could absolutely do it, and does it even matter who painted something if it looks nice?”

A smile spread across the older mare’s face, “Maybe that’s just what I’ve needed to hear.”

“Have you tried painting yet?”

“Not yet, those sketches are pretty much everything I’ve done so far.”

“Well you should really give it a try, because I know you’re going to be great at it.”

She smiled again and reached for the sketchbook, “Why don’t you go stand over there and I’ll try sketching you out?” pointing to a spot near the edge of the hill.

“I’d love to,” the night pony responded as he slowly trotted into place, smiling back at his mother as she began to work away on the drawing.

Aurora pulled a few weeds from the garden and moved on to her tomato plants, carefully checking that they were all fine. The sun’s light had made Stanley cringe back every so often, but an old pair of his dad’s sunglasses had at least mitigated the problem a little.

“Sorry if this is a bore, you don’t need to stay out here if you don’t want to.”

Stanley shook his head, “It’s fine, maybe not my preferred activity, but it’s fun to just talk.”

“You sure? I won’t be offended if you decide to go in and take a nap or something. I can wake you up when your dad gets here.”

“Nah it’s fine,” He shook his head, “I’m not even that tired yet.”

“Well you let out a few yawns earlier, so you could have fooled me.”

He shrugged, “Well maybe I’m a little sleepy, but I’m not tired yet.”

“There’s a difference?” She asked with a chuckle.

“Sorta? There’s this nice little gray area where I’m still functional even if I don’t look the part. Trust me though, I’ve stayed up way later before, which was probably not the best idea.”

The mare rinsed her hooves off in a small trough of water that she had set aside earlier, “Just don’t wear yourself out okay?”

“I won’t mom, trust me.”

“I know, I know, but I’m your mother. It’s my job to look out for you, even if you’re more than capable of doing that yourself.”

“And I’ll always appreciate that.”

The sound of a car locking echoed from the front yard, cutting through their conversation.

“Perfect timing, that should be your father,” Aurora answered back as she finished wiping off her hooves before walking back into the house, Stanley keeping close by her.

“Aurora, I’m home.” came the voice of Valentino, as he walked in and closed the door behind him, stepping into the living room.

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

“Hey Dad… have a fun day at work?” Stanley asked from a distance.

Valentino set down his keys and untied his tie, kicking off his shoes as he walked towards the kitchen. “It was kinda boring, needed to get a last minute event set up before I left though, Steven’s going to cover the rest of it from here on out. What about you?”

“Not much, I just went on a fly with mom earlier, then just sat out in the garden for a while.”

“Well that sounds like a productive day if I’ve ever heard one. Got anything else big planned for today?”

“Funny you ask that, I actually had a few things I needed to ask you. I need to run back home and grab some stuff, and then I can get the directions to the village that you needed.”

“Is there anything else?”

“Well… I’ll need help packing up a few things from home that I don’t want to lose, I don’t know where I’m going to put it or what I’ll do with it, but there’s a few sentimental items I’d hate to just abandon. I’m also going to need your help getting my phone set up to work with prepaid minutes, we can stop by Best Buy or something on the way back, we should be able to get everything done there.”

“That’s doable, and you know, you could leave your stuff here in your old room if you like. What are you going to do with the rest of your stuff?”

The night pony shrugged, pausing for a moment, “To tell you the truth, I was just going to leave it. There’s a bunch of clothes I wanted to bag up and drop off at Goodwill, maybe a couple blankets too, but the rest is either too hard for me to use, or just not worth taking out of there. I was just going to leave it for the landlord to sell off or trash, as inconveniencing as that is.”

“Well I can help out with that, I’m guessing we should probably jump on that sooner rather than later, just so we can get some of it done before some of those places close for the night.”

“The stores out here are still closing early?”

“Some of them are,” his dad nodded. ”It’s different across town, but this far out there’s still a lot of them that are struggling to fill the hours.”

“Well maybe it’s best we get that out of the way then. I’m not dead tired now, but I will be in like an hour, and I probably won’t be up until like eight.”

The human shrugged, “Well you’ve got an hour to get some running around done then, how much do you need to pack up?”

“Not much, just my phone, tablet, some blankets... maybe my backpack?”

“Okay, and do you have all the clothes and blankets you wanted to donate organized?”

“It’s all in the closet and dresser, I haven’t touched that stuff in months so it shouldn’t be too hard to just throw it into a bag. Not like we need to sort it much.”

“Okay, well let me go get changed, have a quick bite to eat, and then we can head over to your place. We might need to drop the donations off in the morning if that’s alright with you, I just don’t know if we’ll have time to do everything today.”

The night pony nodded, “If it’s fine with you then it’s fine with me. I’d like to at least get my phone situation sorted out, that’s probably an important thing to have next to everything else, just in case there’s an emergency and I need to get ahold of you.”

“Sounds like a plan then.”

Chapter 9: Road Tripping

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Silver sat inside his dream, carefully crafting the world around him as he chatted away with Scarlet, “So this is like the ski lodge you used to visit when you were a foal?”

The mare nodded, “It's close enough, not perfect but you’re doing a great job with it.”

“So is every day just going to be a literal dream vacation now or are we going to go back to some of the adventures?”

“Well I’m having you build this place for a reason, I was kinda hoping to have a nice big snowball fight and then end the day with a nice comfy rest in front of the fire.”

“Stuff you liked to do as a foal?”

“Stuff I loved to do as a foal,” she corrected

“Well, if that’s what you want to do then that’s what we’ll do, though I can’t promise that we’ll actually be able to have real snowball fights, I don’t think I’m that good at making dreams yet.”

“Then this is good practice I’d say. Worst case, it doesn’t work, we just skip right to the end and snuggle up by the fire, maybe share some more stories.”

“You sure you don’t want me to make some big yeti to chase us around the forest?” he asked, raising an eyebrow. “I don’t know about you, but that run in with the Sasquatch the other day was a blast.”

“You have a weird definition of fun, you know that right?” she teased.

He shrugged, “What can I say, we can do whatever we want in here and nothing can actually hurt us, might as well make it a high energy adventure through whatever crazy scenarios we can make up.”

“I dunno, that kind of sounds a little extreme, I think I’d like to just stick to the snowball fights and warm cuddles by the fire today.”

“Suit yourself,” he replied with a smile, making a few small adjustments to the dream. A few trees here, some snow banks there, and before long the two were standing just at the edge of a small snowy clearing surrounded by tall pine trees.

Silver glanced around at everything, from the small cozy cabin to the wilderness he had just created, a smile spreading across his face, “aaaaand there. I think everything should be all set now.”

Scarlet looked around at the snowy wonderland that Silver had made, trotting off of the wooden deck and into the snow with a smile. As she stepped onto the snow, she stopped and turned back toward him, “Alright well it looks like snow, but it definitely doesn’t feel like snow.”

Silver raised an eyebrow, trotting to the edge of the deck and leaping onto the snow. With a soft thud he landed on the hard surface, not even sinking into it. He looked back up at her and laughed, “Okay well I guess that’s the problem. It’s like concrete.”

“Room temperature concrete too.”

He nodded, “Cuddle by the fire time?”

“Cuddle by the fire time.”

The two started toward the rustic lodge, trotting through the open door and laying down on the comfortable cushions in front of the stone hearth. As if on cue the fire sparked up, casting a warm glow over the two.

Art by: ArtTartistry

“I got that nailed down at least.”

The mare let out a chuckle “Thank God for that. So I’m perfectly happy hanging out here for a little while, but you got me thinking. What if we go explore some dreams in a little bit? I might have done some exploring of my own before you fell asleep and I think I found some cool ones.”

“You mean it? Because I’m totally happy just sitting here and relaxing. As much fun as the crazy dreams are, you do kinda have a good idea with just taking it easy every so often.”

“Why not? Maybe it’s not how we spend the whole day, but we can definitely end it with a bang.”

Silver smiled, “That sounds like a blast, so where do you have in mind?”

“Going on some big adventures eh?” came a voice from behind the pair, surprising them for a moment.

Silver turned around, his ears perking up at the voice, “Stanley? Hey what’s up man?”

“Oh not much, I just wanted to stop by and chat real quick.”

“Well chat away,” Scarlet added.

He nodded, “Well firstly I just wanted to say thanks for offering a place to stop by and rest. I wound up chatting with my friend the other day and it turns out he’s staying in a village out in Arizona.”

“Arizona? What part?” Silver asked, “I’ve got a lot of family up there.”

“It’s a spot overlooking the Grand Canyon, I guess it’s a popular place for ponies over there. My buddy said it’s been growing a bit and it seems like they’re actually doing quite well for themselves.”

“Huh, well I can’t say I’ve been up that far, but I bet it’s got to be such a beautiful place to set up a village, hopefully they don’t get chased out of there when stuff starts winding down.”

“Hopefully not. A lot of them are following that vision to a T, don’t even want to reintegrate with the rest of the world apparently. It’s going to wind up being a rude awakening when the National Park Service service decides they don’t want a bunch of ponies squatting in their park.”

Scarlet raised an eyebrow, “A bunch of ponies following the vision too eh?”

He nodded, “That’s the way it sounds. To tell you the truth, I’m not sure how well that’ll go, but I’m curious to see how it goes.”

“Well let us know how it goes, maybe we’ll come over for a visit sometime.”

“You guys think you want to?”

“Probably not for a while,” Silver replied, “I’m still getting settled in at Scarlet’s, I don’t think I’m ready for a big vacation just yet, but maybe once I’ve had some time to figure out what I actually want to do going forward.”

“But thanks for the heads up, we’ll definitely let you know when we are ready for something like that,” Scarlet added.

“Hey no problem,” he smiled, “if anything I should thank you guys for giving me a place to stay, even if I didn’t need to use it.”

“Ponies help each other out after all,” Scarlet replied with a smile.

“That they do, which is why I want to return the favor. If you’re ever in the area let me know, I don’t really know what I can do, but I’d love to host you guys.”

“You really don’t have to,” Silver replied.

He shrugged, “Yeah… but I want to. Consider it my treat… I know I can’t really offer much, but hey, it’s the least I can do.”

Well we appreciate it. I can’t promise you that we’ll be able to stop by soon, but when we can we’ll definitely drop you a line.”

Stanley smiled, “Thanks again you two, sorry if I interrupted your dream. I just wanted to stop by and thank you, it sounds weird but you’re some of the only friends I have.”

“It’s no trouble at all, hope the move goes well,” Scarlet replied back.”

With a nod, the yellow night pony vanished, leaving the pair alone by the fire again.”

The yellow night pony dug through his bag and awkwardly fished his phone out, letting out a drowsy yawn as he slid it over to his father. It was just barely sundown at this point, and Stanley was still waking up a little. Bags of clothes sat in Stanley’s old room, and a small bag full of some of Stanley’s most prized possessions sat near the door. Another box of random odds and ends that the human had decided to salvage and hold onto for later sat in the garage.

“So I know this is probably a pain for you to use, but hopefully the voice commands can at least make it a little easier.”

Stanley let out a laugh as his dad popped the prepaid SIM card into the phone, “it’s funny, I used to have to help you guys with your phones and now here you are helping me with mine. A little bit of a role reversal.”

“I guess it’s payback eh?”

“Maybe?” Stanley shrugged, “Well hopefully this will be the only time either of us have to deal with this.”

The human nodded, “It should be. I’m not a tech whiz like you, but I think I’ve picked up enough to get this going,” He adjusted his reading glasses and quietly flipped through the phone’s menus, giving the night pony a small nod as he adjusted a few of the settings, “Alright, you should be good to go.” He showed his son the screen, “All you have to do is say that and it should start up. Hopefully you’ll never have to use it, but if you do then at least you won’t have to fumble around with it.”

Stanley smiled, “Thanks Dad, I appreciate the help.”

He nodded, “Of course, it’s the least I could do to help you out.” He glanced over toward their bedroom, turning his gaze to the pink Pegasus who was sitting in the living room, “Aurora, I’m going to go get the car started, could you do me a favor and grab the travel bag? I left it in the room.”

The mare nodded, “Sure thing Val,” stopping to give Stanley a small hug before she made her way to the bedroom , “Are you all ready to go?”

“Yeah, I think I’ve got everything I need— which isn’t really much,” he paused for a moment. “Can I be honest with you for a moment?”

She nodded, “Of course, what is it?”

He shuffled his hooves around before looking her in the eyes, “I still feel really bad about never coming to see you two once things settled down. I could have but I didn’t… and I don’t know, I just feel guilty about it.”

“You don’t need to be, trust me. The world’s been so crazy lately,” She gestured to herself, “So don’t be so worried about it. What’s important is that we’re all together, and we’re all safe.”

He smiled, “I love you mom, and I promise I’ll dream walk to you if I can. I don’t think I can’t do this with dad, but at least I won’t have to be so far away from you. Maybe we can even chat every week or something?”

The mare smiled, “I’d love that. Now I don’t know if you need to grab anything else, but why don’t you go grab your things and meet your father out by the car, I’m sure he’s antsy to get going, and I’m sure you are too.”

He nodded, “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t, it’s exciting to think about.”

“Of course, it’s a big change in your life, and it’s a little exciting for the two of us too.”

Stanley trotted out into the evening moonlight, “Hey dad can you give me a hand with the door here? I still haven’t figured out how that works with hooves and I’d rather not scuff up your paint trying.”

Valentino gave the night pony a quick nod before stepping over and opening the door, helping the stallion into the back seat, “All this time spent doing the same thing for your mother and you’d think I’d be used to it by now, I guess it’s hard to adapt sometimes.”

Stanley nodded, making himself comfortable and covering his head with a wing, “It’s all fair enough, now I don’t know if I’ll be the most talkative pony during the ride, I’ve always spent the nights just peacefully wandering around, thinking about stuff.”

“Don’t worry, we won’t take it personally.”

“Glad to hear, I definitely owe you two a nice breakfast or dinner or something, it’s the least I could do.”

“That’d be wonderful,” Aurora answered back as she trotted up to the pair. “I’m all ready to go Val, you can go lock up whenever you’re ready.”

He nodded, “Sounds like a plan, you get all settled in and we’ll be off in a minute. I need to stop and get gas, do you want me to grab either of you anything to drink?”

The mare smiled, “Just some water if you can, but make sure it’s the kind that has the pull up cap, the other kinds are just so annoying to try and fiddle around with.”

He nodded, “Can do, how about you Stanley?”

Stanley sat up in his seat and peeked out of the window, careful not to scratch the interior with his hooves, “I think I’m all good, thank you though.”

The human nodded, “Sounds good, I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

Feeling a sense of excitement, Stanley couldn’t help but smile as he thought about the trip that they were all about to take. As strange of a turn as his life had taken, he couldn’t help but feel as if it was at least starting to resemble something of how it used to be before ETS, even if it was only for a brief moment.

Chapter 10: Fears and Friendships

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Scarlet opened her eyes and let out a long yawn, stretching out her limbs and rolling over in bed. She didn’t often wake up and immediately roll out of bed, and tonight was no exception. She squinted and glanced over to the nearby clock, and then over to her sleeping companion. She had only known him for a short while, but with the way the two ran around the village and their dreams, you could have assumed that they were lifelong friends.

At face value it might have seemed weird that she had befriended him so quickly and had opened her home to him, but that’s what ponies did, and none of it bothered her in the slightest. Maybe it was weird, but the more time they spent together, the more it felt like Silver was closer than just a regular friend, and she couldn’t help but wonder if he felt the same too.

In the end it didn’t matter to her, the two were part of their own little herd, and as long as they were able to spend time with each other, she was more than happy. As she sat face to face with the midnight blue stallion she couldn’t help but smile. She had tried her hardest to make him feel at home, and as nervous as he was to move in with her at first, he was definitely well-adjusted by now.

He slowly started to stir, a smile spreading across his face, “Evening,” he replied with a long yawn.

“Sleep well?” She asked as she let out another yawn of her own.

Silver nodded, “You know it, how about you?”

“Well my nights aren’t as chilly anymore now that I’m sharing the bed with somepony else so I’d say being nice and warm is a great thing.”

“That is a nice perk,” he sat up in bed, “So what’s on the agenda for tonight? Wanna do some more stargazing? Or maybe we could take a trip down to the creek.”

“Why not both? Go for a nice night swim and round it all up with a nice stroll under the stars.”

“That sounds wonderful, I just love how peaceful it is here at night. It feels like we have the whole village to ourselves.”

“We practically do, I mean at least we do for the best parts of the night,” she paused, “So it was definitely worth coming up here then, don’t you think?”

Silver looked around the small room and nodded, “Well, I get to spend time with an amazing, welcoming, and kind mare. I get to spend that time with her exploring a relaxing forest that may as well be out of some nature postcard, and we get to run around a bunch of fun dreams every day… what more could I ask for?”

“Don’t forget about the part where you get to geek out about nerdy hobby stuff with me too.”

Silver smiled, “And I get to geek out about nerdy stuff with her too. It’s like a dream come true.”

“A dream come true for me too, peaceful and beautiful… but lonely without an awesome friend to share it with.”

The two hopped out of bed, with Silver trotting toward the small bathroom. Stepping in, he flipped on the sink and started to brush his teeth, “You know, it’s the perfect kind of environment to just meditate in, I've started doing that more whenever you’re busy with stuff or whenever I just need a little alone time.”

Scarlet nodded as she fished around the fridge for the remnants of the fruit salad they had shared the previous night, “Aha, so that’s why you wander off into the outskirts of the woods alone sometimes, just to mediate and nothing else.”

“What did you think I was up to?”

“Oh nothing,” she replied as she started to take a few bites of the salad, “I assumed you had your reasons, didn’t see a need to pry into your private life and question why you were running off into the dark forest late at night,” she teased, “Now if you were running off into the bright sunny forest all alone during the day then that’d be a different story.”

“Har har,” he replied in between brushing. “You know, it's really relaxing, you should come along sometime. There’s a nice little clearing with a few small waterfalls and it’s like my own little slice of heaven. Sometimes I’ll just sit there and think about everything for an hour or two.”

“I think I’ll stick to my own dorky hobbies, thanks for the offer though.”

“Did I mention you can really see the stars so clearly from there? It’s even further away from any of the lights.”

Scarlet poked her head into the bathroom, “Even less light pollution you say, why didn’t you just open with that?”

He rinsed his mouth out with water before returning a smirk, “Well I had to get your attention somehow. Maybe it’s not the most entertaining thing out there, but I’d love to spend more time with you, and trust me, that place is amazing.”

“Well, if it’s as amazing as you say it is then I’m game.”

“See? I knew you’d warm up to the idea.”

Scarlet started to fill up a couple of water bottles as he walked out, already ready for their usual evening walk, “What can I say? You know exactly what I love.”

“Glad we’re on the same wavelength then. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t in love with everything up here.”

She slid a bottle over to him and nodded, “Glad to hear. So are you going to eat breakfast or are you itching to get out?”

The stallion paused in consideration for a moment, “Maybe something light to go? We could have a nice picnic out in the clearing later if you’d like.”

“I’ll take that as a no then. That’s fine by me, but don’t complain when your stomach starts grumbling.”

Silver shook his head and snickered, “Okay, I’ll grab one of those little breakfast bars you had stored away.”

“The ones from those traveling farmers, right?”

“As opposed to the ones with the hard to open wrappers? Yeah, I’ll take the easy to eat ones.”

Scarlet nodded and reached for her saddlebag, swiping a few of the bars on the way, “I’ve only got a few left, so save some for me, alright?”

“Wouldn’t dream of doing anything else.”

She passed him a bar, “Good, now I need to go freshen up too, so do yourself a favor and eat. We don’t need to be in a hurry to get out of here.”

“Alright, well if you insist,” he sarcastically replied back as he took the food, “Thanks for looking out for me.”

Scarlet started to trot toward the bathroom, “No need to thank me, just keep helping out around the place like you’ve been doing.”

“We make a pretty good team, don’t you think?”

“You could say that,” she replied back as she kicked the water on, “hang tight, I won’t be long, and then I promise we can go on our walk.”

“Take all the time you need.”

She ran a hoof through her mane and smirked, “Trust me, I will.”

Silver held open the door for her and smiled, “Shall we?”

“Finished up with your breakfast?”

“For now, can’t promise I won’t sneak a snack or two later though.”

“I guess that’s fair enough. You’re a grown stallion after all, not my problem if you don’t start the night with a nice balanced meal.”

“Trust me Scarlet, I’ll be fine.”

“Alrighty, just don’t take it personally when I get to say I told you so,” she chuckled, “C’mon, let’s get going.”

“Well that sounds like a me problem then,” he teased.

Scarlet slowly led Silver along the worn path that led to the nearby creek, “So you said you stopped by up here as a foal, but did you ever go swimming in the creek?”

Silver shook his head, “We dipped our toes in the water a few times, but never actually swam in it.”

“Even when you’re out in your little meditation spot?”

He nodded, “The water’s too shallow there, barely goes above my hooves.”

She smiled, “Then this should be a blast. By the way… how do you feel about snakes?” She turned toward him, unsure about whether it was something he’d be afraid of or not.

“Snakes? I can handle snakes, why?”

“Oh it’s nothing,” she shrugged, “we just get the odd snake or two slithering down by the water sometimes, and it usually scares ponies away from the place if they’re not expecting it.”

“Understandable. Now if it was spiders that’d be a different situation entirely.”

She let out a small laugh as she imagined such a small thing scaring a night pony like him, “Not a fan of them?”

“Nope, definitely not. Just thinking about them sends a shiver down my spine.”

She shifted her face into one of mock sympathy, “Well if we see any big scary spiders along the way I’ll take care of them, okay?”

The stallion let out a laugh, “You’re my hero, you know that?”

“Oh I’m sure I am. The small red pony against a legion of scary arachnids, a real hero if I’ve ever heard of one.”

“Don’t sell yourself short, you’re a lot braver than I am when it comes to that sort of stuff.”

“It’s kind of funny that that’s your biggest fear, I would have thought it’d be something a little more…”

“Scary?” He finished.

“Yeah, something a little more scary.”

The stallion shrugged, “It’s the legs, I don’t know what it is about them, but man they’re just so freaky!”

“Hey, if that’s what you’re afraid of then that’s what you’re afraid of, nothing wrong with that. We’re all afraid of something.”

He paused and looked over to the mare, “What are you afraid of?”

She paused her stride, glancing back toward the stallion,” You really want to know?”

“I mean, if it’s nothing too personal. You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to, that’s perfectly fine.”

“No, you shared your fear with me, it’s only fair that I share mine with you. It’s pretty ironic though.”

“What is it?”



“Yep,” she nodded, “like I said, it’s ironic. I practically lived on a fault line my entire life and you’d think I’d get used to it by now, but ehhhh….”

“Let me guess, you hate them?”

She nodded, “With a burning passion.”

“Trust me, that’s nothing to be ashamed of, take it from the guy who freezes up at the sight of even a tiny spider.”

“And there’s nothing wrong with that either. We’ve all got our own fears to face, even if they seem a little silly.”

“Even when they’re more than a little silly? I mean look at me, I’m this little bat horse thing with big scary looking bat wings and I’m mortified by a tiny household pest,” he replied with a laugh.

“Maybe, but hey, it’s a part of you. I don’t think it’s that silly at all.”

He smiled, “Well that makes me feel a lot better,” he paused, “So, how much further is it?”

“Not too much further, we’re almost there. See that little drop off?” She gestured with a wing, “It’s right over that.”

Silver trotted forward and paused as he reached the small hill, “So this is your hangout place eh?”

“Was, for a while at least.”

“So uhh… how’s the water?”

“Why don’t you tell me?”

“What? You’re the one that’s swam in here before.”

Her face shifted into a smug smirk, “Come on, are you afraid it’s going to be too chilly or something?”

Silver shifted on his hooves, “Well not afraid, just uhh—“

Before he had a chance to reply, the mare quickly pushed him toward the water, leaping after him. The two rolled down the hill and landed in the creek with a large splash, the brisk water surrounding them and eliciting a few shivers.

“Wh..what was that for?” Silver asked through chattering teeth.

“To get you in the water of course!”

Scarlet began to splash water at the surprised Stallion, making him laugh and throw back a few splashes of his own.

Art by: ArtTartistry

She laughed again, and relented for a moment, giving Silver a chance to relax. “I knew it’d be cold, and I knew that if I told you it’d be cold then you’d never jump in with me.”

“So you thought it’d be a good idea to push me in?”

“Yep!” She replied with a laugh, “You’ll get used to it in a few minutes.”

He slowly nodded, treading in the water awkwardly “I'll take your word on that.”

“Tell you what, I’ll make us something nice and warm for dinner, even though it’s your turn to cook.”

“Well… if you’re putting that on the table then I guess I can forgive you,” he replied back as a small smile spread across his face.

“See, it really wasn’t that bad.”

“You’re right,” he looked up at the night sky above them, laying back and floating on the water’s surface, “That said though, I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to swimming like this.”

“First time doing it as a pony or something?”

The stallion nodded his head, “Yeah, I mean I swam around at the beach for a little while, but got spun around by a big wave and wound up washed up in a daze. Wasn’t a fun experience and I guess it turned me away from it.”

“Well in that case I’m sorry for pushing you in without any warning, I didn’t know—”

“ — Don’t be,” he interrupted, “It didn’t traumatize or anything, and hey, maybe I just needed that push,” He paused for a few moments, “and I’ve really gotta say, I’m glad you did.”

“Oh? Why’s that?”

“Because I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of this.”

She raised an eyebrow, “The stars or spending time with me?”

“Both,” he smiled, “Coming up here’s been like a dream come true. I felt alone for so long, felt like I didn’t really have a family anymore, no close friends… and then you came along.”

“I know how you feel. My family lives so far away, and I don’t really get to talk to them as much as I wanted to, using a phone is such a nightmare that it’s almost not even worth it sometimes. My old friends were a bunch of humanity first speciests, and I just got so tired of hearing their crap all the time.”

“Well, it seems like we were meant to be friends then, doesn’t it?”

“Two loners in the world making the best of a bad situation… maybe you’re right.”

“Maybe ETS was a blessing in disguise. I mean I never used to just sit around and watch the stars at night… or even just enjoy nature for that matter. I was always so engrossed in my work and then some alien from another universe showed up and threw a wrench into those gears, and in the end I wound up meeting somepony I’d say is one of my best friends.”

“One of yours?” She asked with a laugh.

“Okay, my best friend.”

“That’s more like it.”

The two continued to float along the surface, relaxing and just enjoying each other’s company. Scarlet had loved to do this before meeting Silver, but being able to share it with him made it even more enjoyable. It was as if the two of them filled some personal void that they had been missing, and she wouldn’t trade this time for anything in the world.

“You weren’t kidding, I think I’ve definitely gotten used to the water now,” Silver chimed in, breaking the silence between them.

“Oh? Well that’s great. That means we can do this more often, right?”

He nodded his head, “Absolutely. Can I be honest with you for a second?”

“You haven’t been so far?”

He chuckled, “You know what I mean.”

“Of course, so what’s on your mind?”

“I really love spending time with you, I seriously owe you one for being so inviting.”

“That’s what friends are for right?”

Silver smiled, “You know it.”

“So, you had some nice little meditation spot you wanted to show me, right?” She sat up, “Why don’t you take me over there and show it off?”

“You mean right now? What about swimming in the creek?”

“Like we’ve been doing? It’s not going to go anywhere, and you said you’re game for coming back more often.”

Silver shrugged, “Well, you’ve got me there. If you really want to go it’s not too far away.”

“I’d love to, it’s been forever since I’ve gone for a night fly. I usually just glide around in the mornings to watch the sunrise, there’s so much empty forest to see at night though, and you can even see the city lights in the distance which is just so beautiful.”

“Well let’s take the long way then, I can’t think of anypony else I’d love to explore nature’s wonderland with.”

The two swam toward the banks of the creek, shaking the excess water off of their coats and shivering briefly. Scarlet began to brush her long mane aside, pushing a few stray strands back into line, “You wanna lead the way Silver?”

He nodded, “Sure, I think I’ll be able to find it even easier from above.”

“Well lead on then,” She replied back with a grin.

With a nod, Silver took off into the sky, Scarlet following close behind him.

The bright stars seemed to surround them as they flew over the trees and down toward Silver’s spot. The bright city lights in the distance seemed to be the only indicator of the outside world, making the two feel as if they were the only two ponies around— something they didn’t mind one bit. As they neared the small clearing they lowered into a sharp bank, coming to a soft landing near the small pond.

“Well, here we are,” Silver gestured around as the crimson mare looked around.

“This is beautiful, you really spend some nights here all alone?”

He nodded, a smile coming across his face, “You can see why, right? It’s like the best place to just sit down and clear your head.”

“I can imagine. So what do you do out here anyways? Just meditate?”

“Sometimes I meditate, sometimes I awkwardly try to doodle in a sketchbook. That really hasn’t gone anywhere, but the meditation is still nice.”

“Care to show me how you do it?”

He raised an eyebrow, “You mean show you how I meditate?”

She nodded, “Why not? You’ve given your own rave review on how nice it is, why not relax together?”

“You really want to?”

“Why not? You took the time to show me here, and I didn’t just ask to see it for nothing.”

Silver closed his eyes and took a few deep breaths, “Okay, well I usually start out small. Just taking deep breaths and focusing on clearing my head.”

“And then what?”

“I usually just let the thoughts come to me— you know, have my brain fill in the blank canvas. Sometimes it’s like I’m dreaming, and I almost want to try and chase that feeling, see where it takes me.”

“Have you ever tried that?”

He opened an eye and peeked over toward the mare, “Not yet actually. I mean I never really saw a reason to…”

“Why not give it a try tonight? Might be worth giving it a shot.”

He shrugged, “You think so?”

“Maybe, I mean what’s the worst that could happen?”

“I bore myself to sleep?”

“See?” She beamed, “No reason not to give it a try.”

“Well, I guess you’re right. Don’t get your hopes up though, I don’t think it’ll be all that interesting.”

Silver closed his eyes again and began to clear his mind, letting the outside world fade away. Thoughts, feelings, fears, wants— all began to melt away as he took in a few more deep breaths. As his mind emptied a strange, almost familiar feeling began to well up from within him, almost the same kind of feeling he got whenever he would dreamwalk with Scarlet. While he would normally ignore this feeling and simply let his imagination fill in the blanks of his mind, today was different, today he was going to latch onto this feeling and try to go deeper.

Letting his instincts take hold, he followed that feeling as if it was a path laid out in front of him, imagining a long winding road that he could trot down. Stars, memories, lines connecting dots— a whole visual world seemed to come together, growing ever more vivid as the minutes stretched on. The further he walked down this road, the more of the outside world faded away, until finally the road seemed to reach a peak. Feeling a small shiver run down his spine, he opened his eyes, only to find himself in the endless starry expanse of the dream realm.

He jumped back in surprise for a moment, in shock that he was actually here. For a moment he thought he was simply asleep, but none of this felt the same.

“This… I… is this really happening? Am I really here or am I just imagining this all?” He shouted out to no one in particular.

His first instinct was to simply try and wake up, but something kept him here. Call it a strange curiosity, but this was new territory for the young night pony, and something about it seemed to drive his interest further.

Looking skyward toward the stars, he called out to anyone that might hear him, “Any wardens that might hear this, I have a question that needs an answer.”

He sat in silence for a few moments before the world suddenly shifted into a long hallway of doors that seemed to stretch on forever. From out of the darkness swam a strange pony-like creature, that seemed like a mix between a mermaid and a pony.

“Uhh hi..? You’re one of the wardens right?”

“Yes I am, Silver Eclipse, and I think you’re forgetting something very important.”

He nervously shuffled his hooves, afraid of whether this would end like the time he tried to press his luck with Sha’am, “Wait, how did you know my… never mind, you’re a warden and I owe you the oaths. My bad, this won’t happen again— I promise!” He took a deep, very much unneeded breath, and continued, silently overjoyed that it wasn’t the Warden of Death who had shown up,

“Psychic Calm, we promise ponies shall dream in peace.
Yinyu Wu Yan, we shall not allow our passions to lead us to folly.
Ghadab, the Wardens' anger is unyielding and just.
Phobia Remedy, fear of the Wardens keeps us safe.
Tikhiy Krik, we shall keep the secrets of the Wardens.
Sha'am Maut, better to die than to face the Wardens' justice.”

The creature smiled, “Very good! So what kind of question did you need me to answer? Something fun I hope?”

He put on a nervous smile, “You’re uhh… not like the other wardens are you?”

“Definitely not, I don’t think we’ve actually met before either,” The creature held out a fin, “I'm Yinyu Wu Yan, the Dreamwarden of Lust. Nice to meet you!”

He slowly nodded, awkwardly shaking the offered fin, “Nice to meet you too miss… Yinyu... So uhhh I guess this is going to be a boring question, but where am I?”

“You’re in the dream realm silly. You should know it well, you and your little marefriend spend so much time running around other ponies’ dreams.”

His face reddened at the mention of Scarlet, “She’s uhh not my marefriend, we’re just good friends— trust me.”

“Right… well you two make a cute couple. Where is she by the way?”

He shook his head, “She’s awake… I thought I was too, but then I showed up here. Is… is that normal?”

“Nope!” she cheerfully replied back. “You must have entered a waking dream, it means you’re dreaming while awake.”

“Should I be worried?”

“Probably not, ponies don’t do it often, but it’s not impossible either.”

“So you’re saying that I can do this again?”

“Probably, which means you get to see me again if you do!”

“Right…” He glanced around at the long hallway, “So uhh… how do I actually do this? Like what did I do to get here?”

The sea pony shrugged, “You tell me, you were the one that found your way here and asked for me, not the other way around.”

He nodded, “Okay, well I guess that’s fair enough… to tell you the truth, I have no idea how I got here.”

“Well, what were you doing before?”

“Uhh, well I was in a nice quiet spot in the woods with Scarlet—”

“ — I thought you said you two weren’t a thing,” She teased.

“We weren’t doing anything fun— well actually no we were swimming in the creek together —”

“ — fooling around in the creek? You two are more fun than I thought, I should stop by your dreams more often.”

His blue face turned an even darker shade of red, “We were just swimming, and then we went to this quiet little spot where I like to meditate when I just want to clear my head and try to get some ideas figured out. So I started meditating like usual and felt something kind of like what I feel when I’m in here, so I just followed it and uhh… well, wound up here.”

“Well, I think you have your answer then.”

“Wait I do? You mean It was the meditation then, right?”

She lazily swam around him, “That’s my best guess, you probably figured out how to get yourself into a nice little dream while doing it, and here you are now. So what were you trying to do in the first place?”

“Well I guess I was trying to do this… I’ve been trying to see what I can do with my dream magic, I really want to try and do as much good as I can with it. I’ve been crafting dreams for me and Scarlet to spend time in, and I think I’m really getting the hang of it.”

“You made dreams just for you and Scarlet? Sounds like fun.”

“Not in the way you’re imagining. But yeah, it is. I just want to do as much good as I can with all of this, even if it’s just little stuff like helping someone work through a nightmare, or giving them something fun they can do in a dream. There’s so much more I want to do too. I used to be really into lots of sciency research stuff, and I don’t know, I guess I thought that maybe I could use this place for that someday somehow. Get back into that lifestyle again you know?”

“And this is something you just decided to do out of the blue one day?”

He shook his head, “Not entirely, it’s actually something some Equestrian encouraged me to do. One of their princesses, Luna.”

“You’ve met Princess Luna?” she asked in surprise.

“Uhhh yeah… I’m guessing you know her?”

“More than you can imagine, but that’s besides the point. If it’s something you’re trying to do for good then keep doing it. And if you ever want to invite me over to one of your fun dreams with Scarlet I wouldn’t mind either.”

Silver rolled his eyes, “Right, well I’ll definitely think about that. It was genuinely nice meeting you, hopefully we’ll cross paths again someday…”

“The pleasure’s mine, feel free to call me up again if you need anything else.”

“Will do…” He gave a quick nod before forcing himself out of the dream realm and back into the waking world.

With a jolt he opened his eyes and shook his head, quickly looking around to try and get his bearings.

Scarlet perked up and raised an eyebrow, “You okay bud? What’s wrong?”

“How long was I out for?”

“What do you mean?”

“How long was I uhh… in that weird trance thing?”

She flashed him a concerned look, “You closed your eyes for like a minute… is everything okay? What happened?”

A big grin spread across Silver’s face, “I did it Scarlet!”

“That’s uhh… good? What did you do exactly?”

“I took your advice and wound up latching onto that weird feeling I got. I somehow entered a dream… you said I was out of it for like a minute? That’s weird… I guess I’ll have to ask them about that later.”

“That’s good… why don’t you take a seat and drink some water, tell me all about it.”

He nodded, “That’s… maybe not a bad idea, I feel like I was gone for a lot longer…”

“Yeah… let’s sit down and calm down for a minute, okay?”

Silver smiled and gave a quick nod, “Okay!”

Chapter 11: A Grand Reunion

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Stanley trotted around the bright sunny landscape, squinting his eyes as he walked along the soft, but sturdy cloud that made up the floor. Random objects floated around, seemingly with no rhyme or reason to them, and the sky’s hue constantly shifted between bright blues and golden oranges. A lone unicorn sat in the center of the cloud, fishing in a small pond that sat in front of him.

“Did I ever tell you that you have some of the weirdest dreams I’ve ever seen?” The night pony laughed out.

“It’s a bad day for fishing, you know?”

The night pony raised an eyebrow, “You know, I don’t.”

“Well there’s going to be dinner later. Lots of flying fish on the menu and the clouds too.” He replied back, as a comically large fish started to fly out of the water before turning into clouds that evaporated into nothing a few moments later.

“The clouds too, right, sounds delicious. So, having any luck today?”

The unicorn shook his head, “They’re not being very friendly today.”

“Mhmm,” Stanley nodded along and placed a hoof on the unicorn’s shoulder, “so why don’t you really tell me about it Patrick.”

The unicorn stared up at him in confusion for a moment before blinking a few times, “Haunting my dreams again, eh Wolfie?”

Stanley let out a small laugh, “Oh you know, maybe. What can I say? It’s easier than trying to yell into my phone and hoping it doesn’t pick up my overly conversational parents.”

“They’re still a couple of chatterboxes? Man that’s got to be so annoying.”

“Ehhh it depends,” he shrugged, “I sleep like a rock, always have. You remember summer camp right?”

“Oh you mean when you fell asleep and left me to chat with your parents during the ride up? Yeah… Yeah, I do.”

“Well I can tell you they sure haven’t changed.”

“And neither have you apparently.”

Stanley smirked, “Guilty as charged.”

Patrick looked around at the peaceful landscape and then back toward the other stallion, “I promise you I have no idea where any of this comes from.”

“Don’t worry, you’d be amazed at how many weird and surreal dreams I run across. Most of the time it feels like it’s rare that I find a normal one. A couple of my friends have made a game out of running around weird dreams and stopping nightmares— it’s kind of their way of having fun.”

“Sounds like a weird way to have fun… but I’ll take your word for it,” He paused for a moment, “So is this a personal visit or should I just assume that you’re here to tell me you’re on your way and need a place to crash?”

“Maybe a little bit of both.”

“How far are you then?”

“Well, we crashed overnight in Kingman, and we’re about an hour away I think? Honestly, time works kind of weird here.”

“I’m just going to guess it’s night pony stuff and roll with it.”

Stanley nodded, “That’s for the best, trust me. I’m sure you’ve got your own brand of weird unicorn stuff that I wouldn’t even begin to understand either.”

Patrick smiled, “There’s a whole lot of weird unicorn stuff that I don’t even understand, so we’re in the same boat there, believe me.”

“So, anything we need to know before we actually get there? You know, stuff like where to park, what to expect, et cetera?”

“Not a whole lot. I don’t think they thought of parking when they set this all up, so I guess just park anywhere you can. Should be some old dirt lot not too far away that they haven’t touched yet.”

“A simple dirt lot, gotcha. I’ll let my dad know so he doesn’t drift around trying to find the right spot. So how’s the actual town?”

“As in?”

“Well, what’s it like. Big? Small? Maybe somewhere in between?”

“I guess you could say somewhere in between. The place has honestly grown so much since I’ve gotten here, it’s hard to gauge just how big it is. They’ve done really well for themselves, dug into the history books to make their buildings and all that.”

“Really?” Stanley asked with a raised eyebrow, “What kind of stuff are they doing there?”

“Lots of down to earth stuff, mainly farming and trading with other smaller villages. The whole place is made up of these cozy adobe buildings— a little old fashioned, but surprisingly nice.”

“And everyone has one?”

“Kinda?” Patrick shrugged, “There’s a lot of us that choose to room together, but if you really want your own they’ll gladly make one. The earth ponies love it, it brings the whole place together like one big family.”

“It really sounds wonderful. I’m not going to lie, I had my reservations at first but it honestly doesn’t sound that bad. Do you have any friends down there at all?”

The unicorn shook his head, “I’m buddy buddy with a couple of farmers, but I don’t think that really counts as being friends. I’ve made a good impression with village management, I guess having that kind of organizational background looks good, but that whole group is so hush hush about everything. I guess the leader likes to run stuff so I haven’t really had the time or chance to network there.”

“Weird, seems like you’d fit right in there. You’d think they’d want an old apartment manager to run this sort of stuff.”

Patrick shrugged, “You’d think so, but they’re like a tight knit group. Run the place like clockwork and I guess it makes enough sense. Don’t want too many cooks in the kitchen and all that.”

“That’s gotta be boring for you I bet.”

“Ehh, not as much as you might think. I guess I should be thankful that I can just relax and run messages between the different villagers.”

“So you’re the village postman?”

“I like to call myself the village courier, it has a nicer ring to it. And it’s certainly better than the errand boy.”

Stanley laughed and shook his head, “Alright Courier. I should probably get going, but I can’t wait to see the place for myself.”

“I can’t wait either Stanley. It’ll be a blast.”

Stanley started to stir from his sleep, the dream fading in moments. Immediately his ears were bombarded with the sound of his parents’ conversation, bringing a small smile to his face. As he sat up he let out a long yawn, briefly making eye contact with his dad from the mirror.

“Did you sleep well?”

Stanley glanced out at the quickly moving desert landscape and gave a quick nod, smiling as he took in the sunset, “More or less, neck’s a little stiff, but I’m pretty sure I’ll live.”

“Did you dreamwalk to Patrick?” His mother asked, craning her neck over to look at the night pony, “He knows you’re on your way, right?”

“Yeah. How much longer do you think we have?”

“I don’t have a specific time frame, but not too far though, ” his dad answered back. “Did you need anything?”

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

Valentino continued to look at the road as he gestured to the back. “Your mother left some in the cooler on the floor. Use that loop on the top to open it if it gives you trouble.”

“Thanks!” Stanley leaned over and carefully went to open the lid, struggling at first but quickly figuring out the makeshift handle his father had made. Awkwardly using both hooves, he pulled a bottle out and dropped it down on the seat in front of him. Biting down on the cap, he pulled up and began to take a few sips, already feeling a lot more refreshed.

“Thanks for getting the bottles with the easy to use caps. The local stores near where a bunch of the ponies have been staying have been out of these for a while. I guess regular water bottles are just too tricky.”

“It really seems like it’s a nightmare to not have hands,” his dad commented. “Is it really that hard to get by?”

“It depends on what you’re doing. I can’t play my games anymore which bums me out a lot, I can’t work on the computer without it being frustratingly difficult, and I can’t really grab anything like I used to be able to. It really makes me realize how much I took for granted when I can’t even open a door on my own half the time, unless I want to bite down on a doorknob.”

“That’s uhh… not exactly the most sanitary thing.”

“Yeah… don’t get me wrong though, there’s a lot of good that’s come out of this, but it’s a double edged sword sometimes. Makes me realize that ETS didn’t really make every aspect of life better like some ponies think it did.”

“You seem to be taking it in stride though,” his mother added, “It’s not always easy to make the most of a situation, and we couldn’t be any more proud of you.”

“What else is there to be proud of?” He laughed, “I haven’t done much as a pony yet.”

“Just in general,” the mare replied, “You’re so grown up and it’s hard to imagine you as the scared little foal you used to be.”

His father cleared his throat before cutting in, “Sorry to interrupt, but we should be coming up on the park soon. I don’t know if you want to try and call your friend or not.”

“I already told him we’d be there soon. He should be there to greet us.”

“Good to hear, I think we’ll camp out for tonight, and probably head out to Scottsdale sometime tomorrow.”

Stanley nodded, “Sounds good. If you want I can ask if you can stay in the village overnight. I don’t think they’ll mind at all.”

“You don’t need to, we’re perfectly fine sleeping in the car,” his mother replied back.

“Nah, don’t worry about it. It’s just for the night and you two deserve to sleep somewhere better than a cramped car while you’re on vacation. A cramped car might be fine for me and you, but Dad’s still a tall human. Plus I bet there’s some amazing views of the canyon for you to sketch out.”

“He’s got a point Aurora.”

The mare nodded, “Alright, well we can give that a go then. I just don’t want to be a bother at all.”

“Don’t worry about it, Patrick said the place is like one big family, they’re not going to mind at all.”

“Well in that case then we’ll wait and see. Are there any humans in the village?”

Stanley shrugged, “I’m not sure to be honest, but I imagine there has to be. Ponies can do a lot but they still can’t do everything that a human can. I can’t imagine that building houses and buildings is easy with hooves, even if some of them can use magic.”

“You know, I for one can’t wait to check it out, the sunset and sunrises have to be amazing,” Aurora added.

“Going to do some sketching, mom?”

The mare smirked, “I might. Maybe I’ll even try working on some portraits, nature is just so inspiring and I’ve been meaning to pick that back up for a while now.”

“Well you’ll definitely have plenty of time to work on that,” his dad chimed in from the front, “Is that it over there Stanley?”

The night pony glanced over in the direction his father was pointing, noticing a collection of clay-like buildings surrounded by a wooden fence.

Stanley gave a quick nod, “That looks like a pony centric village if I’ve ever seen one.”

“Where should I park?”

“Probably a good distance away from it, you know how ponies get around cars Val,” Aurora replied back.

“You two seem alright with them.”

“Alright is one way to put it. Yes, they might be a part of our normal lives at this point, but that doesn’t mean we really like them,” she scrunched her muzzle in disgust. “They’re noisy and the smell makes me nauseous most of the time. The ponies out here probably won’t be too happy with it, especially if they’ve been camping out here this far from the rest of the world.”

The human nodded and pulled off to the side of the road, “Works for me.” He turned off the car and turned back in his seat, “Would you like any help with your things? Or do you want us to hang back here for a bit while you get settled in?”

“Why don’t you just hang back for a bit, let me scope everything out.”

“Afraid we’re gonna embarrass you?” Aurora teased.

“Maybe just a tad.”

“It’s alright, we won’t take it personally,” his father joked back.

“Gee, thanks. Anyhow, I won’t be long. I’m just going to see what’s up and then I can introduce you to everypony, sound good?”

“Sounds great,” the two replied in unison.

Stanley wandered around the mostly empty national park, nervous and excited to see what waited for him inside the village. For lack of anything better to do, he sat and just breathed in the cool air for a few minutes, looking over at the Canyon in front of him. He knew his friend would probably be on his way, and as if on cue a loud commotion could be heard from within the nearby brush.

A smile came to his face and he turned around, standing up and turning to greet the source of the noise, “You know, you didn’t need to sneak through the brush just to be dramatic.”

“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.

“Believe me, I already have. So how have you been man?”

“Oh me? I’m great. It’s really good to see you again, it’s been waaaaaaaaay too long Wolfie,” he dramatically emphasized, “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 how was the drive?”

“It was great, slept like a rock through a lot of it.”

“Good, good. So how about I show you around town and introduce you to everypony else.”

“Sounds great.”

Stanley and Patrick began to walk along the narrow trail that hugged the canyon wall for a short while until they reached a smooth adobe wall and an open gate.

“All hoof made in case you’re wondering. It was kinda awesome to see them set these up,” Patrick commented as he gestured at the adobe walls.

“I bet, ponies haven’t had a chance to do this kind of thing out by me.”

“They haven’t yet? Weird, I would have thought they would have. Happened a lot out in Goodyear.”

Before Stanley could reply back, the two were interrupted by a red-orange night pony with a fiery mane, “Evening Patrick, is this our newest resident that you were talking about earlier?”

The unicorn smiled, “Evening Dawn, sure is.” He turned toward Stanley and gave him a pat on the shoulder, “This is Stanley.”

The mare cheerfully extended a hoof, “Well pleased to meet you Stanley, I’m Dawnlit Blaze, the village leader, but you can just call me Dawn. We don’t have very many night ponies here so it’s wonderful to see another.”

Stanley nodded, “It’s nice to meet you. So what do you guys call this place anyways?”

“We like to call it the Sanctuary. It started out as a haven for ponies that were chased out of their homes, but we did eventually grow to have a few humans.”

“Sanctuary… has a nice ring to it,” Stanley looked around at the small homes and nodded, “How many ponies— er people, do you have here now?”

“Around forty, most of which are earth ponies and pegasi, though we do have a few unicorns like your friend here.”

“And at least two night ponies now,” he replied.

A door opening pulled Dawn’s attention away for a moment, before she returned a large smile, “Three actually,” she gestured with a hoof, “here comes my assistant, Midnight.”

A dark green night pony mare trotted up to the group, nervously looking back towards the building she had just exited from, “My apologies Dawn, I was caught up with that new earth pony that stopped by last week.”

“Is he still complaining about the farm?”

Midnight nodded, “Yep, I tried to explain that we can’t do all of the fancy stuff he’s been wanting to do, but he’s not having it. Says it’s an earth pony thing and we wouldn’t get it— should just let him take care of it.”

“Mhmm, well I better go have a chat with him, I’m sure it’s nothing we can’t sort out together.”

“Want me to tag along?”

Dawn shook her head, “No, we have a new guest here, I’d like you to show him around,” She gestured toward Stanley, “Midnight, this is Stanley.”

The mare smiled, “Pleased to meet you, I guess I’ll be showing you around while Dawn handles that.”

Dawn nodded, “It was nice meeting you Stanley, sorry I have to dash off but we can chat more at dinner, Midnight will show you there.”

“Sounds good, see you then,” Stanley replied back as the mare trotted off toward the building that Midnight had come from.

“Now Patrick said you came here with your parents, correct?”

Stanley nodded, “Yep, they’re just staying the night if that’s alright.”

“That’ll be fine. We’ve got a guest lodge set up by the creek, it’s nothing more than a makeshift tent cabin I’m afraid, but it’s better than being out in the open.”

“That’ll work. Why don’t we go grab them and then we can all take a tour.”

“That’s fine, you want to lead the way?”

Stanley nodded and waved her toward the place they had parked at, “It’s not too far. Just so you’re aware of the situation, my dad’s a human and my mom’s a pony. I don’t know if you’ve seen that before, but apparently some of the ponies around them think it’s weird.”

“Unconventional maybe,” she shrugged, “but if they make it work then more power to them.”

“So what do you do here Midnight?”

“I’m part of what Dawn calls the hospitality department. Basically the group that handles all the day to day needs. A lot of us came from hotel backgrounds, that’s actually how Dawn and I met.”

“You met before ETS I’m guessing?”

The mare nodded, “Yeah. Dawn and I worked at Buffalo Bill’s out in Primm. It’s right on the California border if you’re not familiar with it. After ETS hit we were kind of out of a job, and Dawn had this bright idea to move out here with a few of our other friends. Don’t ask me why she picked this spot, I couldn’t answer that but I think it has to do with wanting to just leave the old world behind. Reconnect with nature and all that jazz.”

“Makes sense. My dad’s in the hotel trade so I get a little bit of that from him.”

“Oh really? Where at?”

“The Anaheim Marriott, I used to live out there, my parents still do.”

“Oh, so you’re really coming from far away then. If you don’t mind me asking, what brought you all the way out here?”

Stanley pointed toward Patrick, “He’s my oldest friend, we grew up together and I honestly didn’t have anywhere else to go.”

“Huh, well that’s good at least. Dawn’s the only pony I know from before all of this, and it’s definitely nice not feeling so alone out here, especially given that we were the only night ponies here.”

“I’m definitely glad to be here, maybe we can all hang out tonight. I don’t know how much you work, but being able to hang out with other night ponies sounds great.”

Midnight smiled as the three neared the parked car, “That’d be great. Why don’t we all chat more over dinner, I can tell we’ll all get along just fine here.”

Chapter 12: Deep Dreams

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Silver sat and meditated in an empty dream, trying to keep his mind as clear as possible. He had no idea if his experiment would work, but he was curious to try it anyway. Scarlet sat off to the side with a bored expression on her face, no doubt wishing she was off on some adventure, or at least in a more entertaining dream.

“So… what are you doing again?” Scarlet asked with a raised eyebrow.

Silver peeked open an eye and shrugged, “Trying to see if I can do whatever I did the other night… but in a dream.”

“But... you’re already in a dream, can’t you just dreamwalk normally?”

He sat up and shrugged, “It's like… different. Luna had me meditate in a dream before, and that helped me figure out how to dreamwalk. I figured that I’d try meditating like I did the other night and see what’d happen if I was in an actual dream.”

“So we’re just doing a bunch of dream experiments today then. Just lots of sitting around and seeing what happens? No crazy adventures today?

“Well… when you put it that way, it doesn’t sound as interesting…” he paused. “You’re not… I mean, you don’t mind, do you?”

She shrugged, “A little? Don’t get me wrong, I like taking it easy and just cuddling up in a nice cozy dream, but no offense, it’s kind of boring just watching you sit there quietly. I was kind of hoping that when you said we’d just relax that it’d mean doing something like we did before. You know, sitting by the fire wrapped up in a nice cozy blanket and just chatting the day away?”

“That’s… fair; I guess I didn’t really think to get your opinion, sorry about that.”

“It’s fine… I just kind of want to do something a little more… fun, you know?”

Silver nodded, “Tell you what, let me try this out one more time, and then I promise I can make us some comfy place to cuddle up in, or we can go off on some big wild adventure— whatever you’d like.”

“And we’ll just relax? No more dream meditation tonight?”

He nodded, “No more dream meditation tonight.”

A small smile started to spread across her face, “How about we make a nice cozy place to cuddle up by, and you can make some fun dream for us to watch play out.”

“Like some kind of super immersive dream movie?”

“Something like that, maybe? Just try making a little world again and see what happens.”

Silver smiled, “That sounds like fun. Can’t say it’s going to be anything amazing, but I’ll see what I can do.”

“I don’t really expect it to be.”

“Got any ideas for where we should get away to? Maybe a nice seaside vista or maybe a dark cave?”

“Both of those sound nice, but why don’t we focus on that after you do your dream meditation thing. Unless you’re gung-ho about making more dreams, that is.”

Silver paused and considered it for a moment before giving a quick nod, “As tempting as it is to flex those creative muscles, I still want to give this a shot and see how it goes.”

“Fine by me, let's get that out of the way first then. I’m fine waiting a little longer.”

“Thanks, Scarlet,” he replied with a smile, “I promise this won’t be long.”

“I believe you, now go have fun with your weird dream stuff.”

Silver gave a quick nod again before adjusting himself and taking a deep breath. He closed his eyes and began to feel out his link to the dream realm again, visualizing and following the subtle magical connection like he had before. At first, nothing noteworthy happened, however the young night pony could almost sense something lingering just beyond his grasp.

Deciding to change his strategy, he visualized the dream realm’s starfield in his head and imagined that he was traversing it like normal. Clearing his head further, he focused harder and began to chase this feeling even more. He lunged forward toward the star in his mind. Much to his surprise, the star seemed to fade away, as if this strange sense was reacting to his thoughts. Taking another deep breath he focused even harder, and felt a strange uneasy feeling wash over him.

Unsure of what this meant, he decided to call it a day rather than get frustrated. There would always be more time to try this out another day, he didn’t want to keep Scarlet waiting any longer.

“Okay Scarlet, I’m gonna call it here…” he paused for a moment as he opened his eyes, “Wait… what?”

The dream he found himself in surprised him in more ways than one. For one, it felt entirely different than any other he had been in before. He couldn’t tell what was so different about it, but it almost had a familiar feel to it. As if it was a deeper part of him than his regular dream was. Was it his dream? Or somepony else’s? It had to have been his, because the location he was now in was eerily similar to his family home, a place that was immediately recognizable to him.

He slowly rose to his hooves and took a few tentative steps forward, curious to explore this new dream.

“Hello?” he called out, his voice loudly echoing through the entire dream, “anyone there?”

No pony replied back, but if he focused hard enough he could make out quiet echoes of voices— voices that were all too familiar to him. The sounds of his parents and brother chatting away filled the space, though he couldn’t make out their source. It was as if the sound was all around him and nowhere at all, similar to what his own inner thoughts sounded like in the waking world… only louder as he focused on them more.

He began to explore the home, taking a few steps through the dining room and over toward the living room, curious to see if there was anyone else here. The echoes around him flickered in and out, sometimes getting louder, and sometimes fading into an almost inaudible whisper. He poked his head into the family room and took a few long glances around, trying to make sense of why he was here. He paused and closed his eyes again, trying to concentrate on those echoes again. Much to his own annoyance, the voices seemed to fade entirely, giving him reason to open his eyes again.

To his own surprise, he didn’t see the small family room again, but the form of his crimson night pony companion, who was staring back at him with a confused look.

“So uhh… you going to start?”

Silver shook his head, “What? Didn’t you just see me disappear or something?”


“No,” he paused. “So I really just sat there with my eyes closed? How long was I doing that for?”

“Maybe a few seconds? You sat down, closed your eyes, and then made this weird annoyed face before standing up again.”


“That’s one way to put it. Are you feeling okay?”

Silver nodded, “I… yeah. That was just weird. I swear I was in another dream, and it felt like I was there for a few minutes.”

“Uh huh… Maybe we should just call it a day and go relax somewhere, you’ve been working really hard with this dream stuff, what if that’s just wearing you out?”

Silver shrugged, “Maybe? I don’t know, I feel fine. I guess that’s just another thing I’ll have to ask one of the wardens about later.” He paused for a moment, hoping that he hadn’t accidentally summoned one just now. With his luck it’d be Yinyu and that’d lead to some awkward conversations between the three of them, conversations he didn’t really want to have right now.

“Do you want to go ask one right now or wait until later?”

“Wait until later,” he blurted out as thoughts about his previous interactions ran through his head. Could wardens even hear his thoughts? Deciding that he didn’t really want to find out, he cleared his head and summoned a comfy cushion for the two to sit down on.

“So it’s relax in a dream time?”

Silver smiled, patting the seat next to him, “Yep, so what do we want to make first?”

“Maybe a little ocean? With a nice relaxing beach nearby?” She suggested as she took a seat.

“Mhmm,” he began to craft the scene out of the empty space below them, “What else? Maybe a pirate ship or seaside village?”

“Why not both? You could build the village into the walls and have this whole port with a boardwalk below.”

“Right, and is this a pirate port or are they invading it?”

“Let’s go with a pirate port. Like their secret hideaway.”

Silver nodded and slowly built more up, “And are they friendly pirates or a bunch of bloodthirsty cursed pirates?”

“I don’t really think of friendly when I think of pirates, so why not go with that. A bunch of jolly sailors that just came back from some big adventure on the high seas.”

“Jolly pirates, got it.” With another nod a group of colorful pony pirates appeared in the little scene that was being built up. A goofy band of sailors and adventurers that wandered around the ship as it pulled into the port.

“You’re really getting into this, aren’t you?”

Silver smiled, “It’s actually a ton of fun. So what’s next?”

“Well they’ve got to unload their treasure right? Bring it back up to their secret pirate cave before running over to the tavern.”

A skull shaped cave entrance with glowing eyes appeared on the side of the cove, and the group began to carry their treasure towards it.

“And a tavern? That’s got to have a whole pirate band there too, right?”

She nodded, “Of course, it wouldn’t be a pirate tavern without one.”

A small band appeared and began to play a cacophonous tune that carried through the scene.

Silver stared down at his work and smiled, “You know, this is actually pretty fun. It’s kind of like playing a computer game or something.”

“It looks fun,” she agreed, “It's too bad you can’t make it stay though. You could open this place up as like some dream attraction. Bring ponies in to watch the little scenes you made.”

“Like a little zoo?”

She shrugged, “I guess that’s the best way to describe it. As weird as it sounds.”

“Weird maybe, but it’s not wrong. Maybe a better description is a diorama?”

“What about a dreamorama?” she suggested

“Dreamorama… you know, I kind of like the sound of that. So what’s next?”

“I don’t know,” she looked out over the miniature ocean scene, “Maybe we just sit back and watch the waves? Share some more stories, you know, the fun relaxing stuff.”

“I like the sound of that a lot,” Silver smiled, “So what do you want to talk about?”

“Well, we’ve spent all this time together but I feel like we haven’t even talked about what we really want to do someday. I know you’re into the robotics stuff, or at least you were before ETS, but you also said you were trying to learn more dream stuff.”

“Ah, yes. Well I guess I don’t know for sure what I want to do. Robotics stuff would be cool to get into again someday, and maybe it’s doable somewhere down the line, but right now I really want to help ponies.”

“With your dreams?”

“Mhmm,” he nodded, “that’s why I’ve been trying to learn more about how our magic works and how I can use mine better. There’s been a few days where we kind of do our own things, that’s how I spend mine. Trying to find other ponies that know more about it so I can learn from them.”

“And how’s that worked out for you so far?”

Silver shrugged, “It’s been a hit or a miss. When I first met Luna she said she could tell that I was a fast learner and could pick up stuff quickly. I don’t know if that meant that I was naturally good at this sort of stuff or not. But after spending all this time dreamwalking around, I’m starting to think that I am.”

“What makes you say that?”

“Well, everypony I’ve come across has no clue how to answer what I’ve been asking. I guess other ponies don’t craft dreams the way I do, or at least the majority of the ones I’ve come across don’t. And nopony else has even heard about the whole awake dreaming thing I did the other night.”

“Huh, well look at you, you’re a natural dreamwalking prodigy then, aren’t you?”

Silver let out a laugh, “Maybe, I guess I just didn’t think too much about it before. But yeah, that’s what I want to do. I want to learn as much as I can so I can help other ponies, even if it’s just helping them make sense of their dreams, or work through some nightmares… if I have this power, I might as well put it to use.”

“That’s a pretty big goal, but I guess it’s nice that you want to do something like that.”

“Well ponies help other ponies right?” he asked. “Just because I didn’t like the vision doesn’t mean it didn’t have its merits.”

“It’s a good dream. Optimistic and kind, just the kind of stuff the world needs right now.”

“So what about you?” He paused, “What do you want to do?”

“Me? Well if you haven’t put it together from all the stargazing and astronomy we’ve been doing, I want to be the first big pony astronomer. That was always my dream job, and I really didn’t know if it’d be doable now. But spending time with you, and seeing how you wanted to still get back into your old hobbies made me realize that I’d be dumb to just give up on my dream.”

“Would you ever want to go to space?”

“Maybe?” She shrugged, “To tell you the truth, I’ve always had my head in the stars. I don’t know how much I’d actually want to go up there, especially now, but I’d love to be the pony that finds the next earth or something. Maybe even get a star or asteroid named after me.”

“Or a constellation?”

She smirked, “I don’t think that’s how it works, but it’s flattering.”

“Come on, there’s totally room for a pony constellation out there, I’m sure it’d look really good for the whole human pony working relationship that they’re trying to patch up.”

“I guess we’ll have to wait and see then,” she laughed. “Honestly, I’d just be happy to help out with something in that field.”

“Well let’s do it then.”

“Do what? Go become career astronomers?”

Silver excitedly nodded his head, “Yeah! I’ve got that robotics background, the inventors back in the village have the mechanical know how, and you’re a gifted astronomer. I’m sure we could cobble together some cool prototype telescope and convince some of the villagers to help us build our own little observatory.”

She laughed, “Silver, that sounds like an absolute blast, but it’s not going to happen anytime soon.”

“Why not? We could totally do something big if we put our minds to it.”

“It’s just such a big undertaking. Observatory telescopes are sensitive pieces of equipment and I don’t think that we’d be able to even remotely put one together on our own. They’re also expensive and last I checked neither of us have jobs or income.”

Silver smirked, “Well we won’t get it done with that attitude. Maybe we could start smaller, upgrade your telescope so you can see further and better?”

“If you want to go talk to the nerds then you can.”

“Perfect, I’ll run over in the evening then, before they go to bed.”

She smiled and shook her head, “You’re really into this aren’t you?”

“Well I’m following my dreams, you should be able to, even if you’re a pony and it seems impossible.”

“Alright Mr Robopony, I’ll leave that to you.”

“See? That’s the spirit!” he cheerfully replied back, earning a laugh from the mare.

“Well, I think we’ve done enough laying around.” Scarlet slowly stood up, “How about we take a little field trip. Why don’t you take me along on one of your dream field trips, maybe see if you can try your luck at learning something new again?”

Silver raised an eyebrow, “What about wanting to just sit back and relax?”

“That was before we had that whole heart to heart. I’m kind of curious to see what kind of dream stuff you can do now, and it’s also nice to get out and visit some more, we’ve been cooped up here in your dream all day. No offense but it’s feeling a little stale now.”

A small grin spread across his face, “Aha, that’s it then. You just want an excuse to take a dreamwalk.”

“It’s a little bit of both. I’m genuinely curious to see what you do when I’m not around, and it gets us out of the same old dream for a little bit. So, would you like to lead the way?”

Silver slowly stood up, “Well, I didn’t exactly plan on doing this tonight, but I did come across a group of dreamers that were talking about some really strong night pony, they brought me to her dream once, and I think she was powerful enough that I could probably pick hers out again.”

“Cool, let's go there then.”

“Right,” Silver nodded, “Fair warning, I didn’t interact with her because I got woken up so I don’t know what we’re getting into. It could be some sweet down-to-earth pony or it could be somepony running on a power trip.”

“Well, I trust you.”

“Alright, if you’re up for it then I am.”

He closed his eyes and felt out his link to the dream realm again, picturing that strong dream in his mind once again. When he opened his eyes a bright star sat in front of the pair, a star that felt and looked different than any other they had visited so far.

As the pair entered the star they were surprised to find themselves back out in the open dream realm. Scarlet glanced over to Silver and met him with a confused look, “Is this where we're supposed to be?”

He shrugged, then caught sight of a dark blue mare. He turned back to Scarlet and nodded, “This is exactly where we’re supposed to be.”

“And why are you here?” An unfamiliar voice cut in from behind them, “I don’t really visit with other ponies here, and it’s probably not a good idea for you to stick around.”

Silver turned toward the source and smiled, “Sorry to intrude… Josie, right?”

She nodded, “Mhmm, and why are you intruding?”

“I just wanted to try and get ahold of you.”

“Uh huh, and what brought you here...”

“Oh, Silver, Silver Eclipse,” he gestured over toward Scarlet, “And this is my good friend Scarlet Moon.”

“Okay, well nice to meet you Silver and Scarlet. So uhh… what’s up?”

Silver glanced around at the open dream realm he had found himself in, “Well, you're the strongest night pony… or at least that’s what everypony has been saying. I guess what I’m asking for is some advice. Maybe even a tip or two.”

The dark blue mare raised an eyebrow, “A tip or two for what exactly?”

“For getting better at using my dream magic. If I’m going to be honest I didn’t do all that much with it after rejecting the vision— no offense by the way, I know you created it, it just wasn’t for me.”

Josie turned her head slightly, “You rejected it? Why?”

“Like I said, it wasn’t anything personal. I just didn’t feel comfortable spreading it. I guess I stood out because of it, so Luna encouraged me to try and do more… I’ve just been kind of figuring out stuff as I’ve been going along.”

“Maybe it’s for the best that you didn’t spread it,” her face shifted into a grimace, “Sha’am’s been pretty harsh about that whole thing.”

“She has?” Sliver questioned, “I mean I guess I can see why, but still… how harsh is harsh?”

“Have you ever had to watch your friends get tortured in front of you while you were helpless to do anything? Or treated like a criminal for doing what you thought was right? Because I have, and that’s what they do if you still spread the vision… if you’re lucky.”

Silver’s eyes widened in shock, “If you’re lucky? They’re torturing you and your friends, that’s nothing to just sit down and accept.”

“Not they,” she shook her head, “Sha’am. And I haven’t accepted it, but what choice do I have? It’s this or watch my friends get hurt, and I’ve seen more than enough of that.”

His voice shifted into a low growl, “Of course it’s her. Who else would it be?”

“She doesn’t play nicely with stuff like that, believe me. If it wasn’t for the fact that my friends were being hurt by this I’d still be doing it.” Her voice dropped into a growl, “It’s not right that they’re taking this away from me and torturing others because of it.”

“Oh, I believe you, and that’s what’s so messed up about this. Maybe you’re doing something that the wardens don’t want you to do, but that’s still crossing so many lines.”

“I guess in her eyes she’s in the right, even if I don’t really think she is.”

“Do you think you’re in the wrong?”

The mare shook her head, “No, I don’t. You don’t like the vision which is fine, but I still think it’s worth sharing. It teaches ponies what’s right and what isn’t.”

“Through mind control… but that’s besides the point. It’s still torture. I might not agree with the vision, or even condone spreading it, but that doesn’t justify doing something so terrible,” he let out an annoyed sigh, “I’m sorry if this has torn open any wounds, I just wanted to try and learn from the best…”

“Well the best is closed for business. I’m done letting other ponies get hurt because of me.”

Silver let out a sigh, “That’s fine, I understand.”

As he started to turn away Josie called out to him again, “Do you want to know a secret Silver?”

Silver turned around and nodded, “I would.”

“There is no trick to learning more about your magic. You kind of just have to feel it out for yourself. I can tell you’ve got a lot of heart for it and you genuinely mean well. Don’t quit, that’s how you’re going to learn.”

He nodded, “Well, I guess that wasn’t the answer I was looking for, but maybe you’re right. Thanks again, I guess I’ll give that a shot and see how it goes.”

“Good luck.”

As the two started to walk away, Scarlet leaned in close to him, “Well, I guess that didn’t go as planned.”

Silver shrugged as they passed back into their own dream, “Oh well, she’s got a good point. I just have to keep at it and see what I can learn— on my own time that is, I’m not gonna bore you any more with this for now.”

“Oh come on, it’s not that boring… most of the time.”

“Well, why don’t we go look at some other dreams? See if we can find a nice beach to go relax on?”

She smiled, “Sounds good to me.”

Chapter 13: The Great Outdoors

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Scarlet let out a long yawn as she slowly opened her eyes. The first thing she was greeted by were the gentle sounds of Silver snoring next to her, followed by the sounds of birds chirping outside. As often as she had done this, she still never got tired of it, and always looked forward to the start of her night. A few orange rays of sunset shone through the heavy curtains, but otherwise it was still nice and dark in her cozy cabin, just the way she liked it. A smile slowly spread across her face as she rolled over to greet the blue stallion that was groggily starting to open his own eyes. Something about his messy bed mane and sleepy smile just made him look so peaceful, and in turn that made her happy.

She waited a few moments until he wiped the sleep out of his eyes and returned a smile of his own. In a soft voice she greeted him with a cheerful, “Evening Silver, sleep well?”

Silver slowly nodded his head as he sat up, “You know it. How about you?” he asked with a long-drawn-out yawn.

“Oh, I slept wonderfully. I’ve never really had a bad day of sleep here, especially not since you showed up.”

“That’s always great to hear,” Silver replied as he lazily rolled out of bed and groggily trotted toward the bathroom. “So what’s on the agenda for tonight then?”

Scarlet sat up in bed and brushed her own mess of a mane back, “The usual I guess. I kinda wanted to do some stargazing later, but that’s not high on the priority list right now, why? Did you have an idea or something?”

“I might have,” Silver called out over the sound of the running sink.

Scarlet’s grin slowly twisted into a sly smirk, “Oh no, that’s dangerous.”

“Har har,” he stuck out his tongue, “but yes, I had an idea.”

“Well, let’s hear it.”

“I was kinda thinking, well, what if we went camping today?” he suggested, turning off the faucet and doing a few stretches.

“Camping?” She raised an eyebrow, “You know we’re already kind of doing that, right?”

“Can we really call this camping though? Sure we’re in a campground but we’re sleeping in a nice cozy cabin all day. I’m talking about roughing it out in the great outdoors, sleeping under the sun, that sorta stuff.”

Scarlet reflexively cringed back slightly at Silver’s mention of the sun, “Isn’t that going to be… you know, bright and sunny?”

“Not if we build ourselves a nice little tent to sleep away the day in,” he replied back. “Plus, there’s plenty of trees around, we’ll be golden if we find a nice shady spot to set up shop in.”

“You mean build a tent out of blankets? Like the ones we just washed yesterday?”

“Yeah,” he replied back with a nod, “that’s exactly what I had in mind.”

“Silver, we just washed those, I don’t want to get them all dirty again. You know how much of a hassle laundry is.”

The stallion shrugged, “Well, you asked if I had any ideas, and that’s my idea. If you’re worried about the blankets I’ll gladly wash them again tomorrow. By myself too, I won’t even make you help with that.”

“All by yourself?” she asked with a laugh. “So, you’re really not going to ask for help or leave them out for days?”

Silver nodded, “Yep! If it means we get to have a fun break from the norm then sure, I’m fine taking on that burden. What’s a few hours of laundry compared to a day of making fun memories with my best friend that I’ll cherish forever?”

Scarlet couldn’t help but smile, at his reply. His whole idea was dorky and probably more work than it was really worth, but something about just spending quality time together out in the wilderness put a smile on her face. The stallion might have been a bit goofy at times, but he genuinely meant well, and Scarlet was overjoyed that he felt so comfortable around her and considered her such a close friend. The two were almost inseparable at this point, and if Silver wanted to do something fun, she’d be more than willing to go along with it.

She hopped out of bed and trotted toward the small stove, flipping it on while carefully grabbing a couple of eggs from the fridge, “Alright, well I’ll let you lead the charge on this then, Camp Ranger Silver.”

“Fine by me. So while I’m getting everything packed away, is there anything you want to bring along? Maybe some games? Some music? A few of those raunchy novels we like making fun of?..”

She considered this for a moment before turning back toward him, “Music sounds pretty nice. You think you could fiddle around with your old tablet too? That wouldn’t be a bad thing to bring along.”

“Why?” He raised an eyebrow, “You up for some movies or something?”

“If it isn’t a bother. I know it’s probably not the easiest thing to do, but I have a stylus you can borrow if it helps.”

“Sure, it’s not too much of a bother if you’re fine lending me the stylus. Just might be a bit awkward to navigate. You know, I still want to make something that works way better than that, something a little more elegant than just holding it in my mouth or tying it to my leg.”

“Well I’m sure you’ll get the hang of it. Now do you want one egg or two?”

“I’ll take one.” He let out a small laugh, “I still don’t know how you manage to cook those without getting them everywhere.”

A small smile spread across Scarlet’s face as she carefully cracked an egg open with the small contraption one of the inventors had come up with a while ago, “Patience and lots of practice… plus this little tool helps keep the shells out of the pan.”

“I still think that’s really cool. Where’d you even get that anyways?”

“Where do you think?”

“Those two inventors?” He asked.

She gave a small nod, “They were on this whole ponies helping ponies kick a while ago. Went around town coming up with all of these goofy gadgets that were supposed to make our lives easier. Some worked, some didn’t.”

“That’s sweet of them… To tell you the truth, I’d love to start doing stuff like that sometime.”

“Cook eggs?” she asked with a confused look.

Silver shook his head, “No, no, I mean helping other ponies out. You know, making little tools like that. Stuff that lets them get by more on their own.” He trotted over to the bedside table and rummaged around for a moment before holding up a makeshift tool he had made, which resembled a hook strapped to his forehoof, “Stuff like this, remember how easy it made hanging up the laundry line the other day?”

She nodded, “Mhmm, it was pretty nifty. I guess it did save some of the hassle.”

“And it’ll save some of that hassle when I make our awesome tent!” he cheerfully replied back.

“Right, well I guess I can see why you’d want to do something like that. I mean you should have seen me before I got this thing,” she joked as she held up the little leg mounted tool.

“Was it bad?”

She let out a laugh, “Oh it was bad. We’re talking lots of broken eggs and frustrated mornings levels of bad.”

“Yeah, that sounds like a real pain in the flank. I guess it’s a good thing that you’re so good with that tool. I still can’t figure out how you hold it so well.”

“Lots of practice and patience, like I said. Don’t feel bad though, you do a good enough job with your lunches and dinners, I’m fine with you sticking to those.”

Silver shrugged as he started rounding up a few blankets and folding them into tight squares, “A good enough job? You mean a great job, right?”

Scarlet carefully slid a couple of eggs out of the pan and onto a nearby plate with carefully practiced moves, “Your meals come from the heart so I think that says more than enough, unless you’re looking for a confidence boost or something.”

“I definitely try my best, and I think that’s a good enough answer for me.”

“If it makes you feel any better, I’m not exactly a five star chef either,” Scarlet carefully turned off the stove with her muzzle and gently grabbed the plate in her mouth, sliding it onto the nearby table, “You don’t mind sharing a plate right? I don’t feel like digging one out of the cabinet.”

“Not at all,” Silver replied back as he trotted over to the table and took a seat across from her. “So I was thinking we could go camp out in that little meditation spot I showed you the other night. I think it’s like the perfect place out here.”

Scarlet took a few bites of her breakfast and nodded, “You mean the one that’s kinda far away?”

“Mhmm,” he nodded, “it’s just such a nice peaceful spot, and there’s that section with the trees that we can set our tent up in, and the little pond with the waterfall nearby. It’s so secluded that we won’t have to worry about anypony bothering us out there.”

“It does sound pretty peaceful when you put it that way. We’re just going to have to lug all out stuff over there. I guess it’s not really that much, but I don’t want to make you drag everything over if it’s going to be a hassle.”

“It shouldn’t be. I might just need your help with strapping some of it to my back. There really isn’t a whole lot to bring along anyways. Just our blankets and saddlebags.”

“And my telescope I’m guessing?”

Silver nodded, “Of course, how else are we going to get into that?”

“Well we could always just look up at the sky the old fashioned way.”

“We could, but I love zeroing in on all the stars too, it’s just so cool. And maybe you could even teach me all about the constellations some more.”

“You actually liked all that?” She paused for a moment, “I didn’t realize you really took that kind of stuff to heart.”

He took a few bites and smiled, “Yeah, it’s just so relaxing and I love learning more about it from you. You’re a great teacher for that kind of stuff.”

Another small grin spread across her face, “Buttering me up eh? I’m definitely fine with that, but is there anything else you want to do? Or is it just going to be the Scarlet’s hobby power hour?”

“There’s not a whole lot of hobby stuff I can really do out there. As much as I’d love to try and go into that waking dream thing again, I want to just spend time with you tonight. Besides, I’m starting to really get into astronomy too.”

“For real though? You’re not just saying that to be nice?”

He shook his head, “Why would I? It’s right up my alley and I love doing it with you. I wouldn’t have gotten back into it if it wasn’t for you, and you just have such a great way of explaining everything.”

“You’re too nice. If it really means that much to you then I’ll have to think up some actual lessons. Stuff that isn’t just the regular old trivia and facts, you know?”

Silver nodded, “I’m sure you’ll figure it all out. I’m not too picky, and I’d be happy enough with the regular stuff if you really don’t want to put all that effort into it.”

“Nah it’s fine.” She shrugged, “This gives me an excuse to dig up some more advanced stuff. Who knows, maybe you’ll be an astronomer yourself someday.”

“With a teacher as good as you, that’ll probably be sooner rather than later.”

She nodded and stood up, trotting toward her telescope’s case, “You realize we don’t really have a whole lot of camping supplies either, right? Not that I’m not onboard with this, but we’re not gonna be roasting marshmallows by the fire and fishing in the creek.”

“Oh I know, and that’s fine. Maybe it won’t be an authentic textbook camping trip, but it’ll still be a fun little getaway for the day.”

“Just the day? You don’t want to do more?”

Silver shrugged, “I’m definitely down to do more, I just suggested it so we could take a break from our regular routine. Change things up a bit, you know?”

“Which is fine by me. If you don’t have any other objections then I think we’re set.”

“Do you know the way or do you need Camp Ranger Silver to lead the way?”

“Camp Ranger Silver can lead the way if it’s going to really get him into the camping spirit,” she laughed. “Just don’t make me sing those dorky campground songs, alright?”

“You have a problem with those?” he jokingly asked.

“Yes, I do. They get stuck in my head for days and it drives me crazy.”

Silver gave a mock pout before breaking out into a few cheerful laughs, “Oh alright, I won’t torture you with the dorky campground songs… as much as I want to.”

Scarlet simply replied with a big grin followed by a stuck out tongue, earning another laugh from Silver.

Chapter 14: A Little R&R Under the Stars

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Scarlet followed along while Silver cheerfully led her through the dark forest along the creek and over toward his favorite meditation spot, merrily chatting away without pause. She might have been a little more than annoyed if she had been human, but to a pony it was as normal as normal could be. That said, something about the way Silver excitedly went on about how excited he was to go camping just made her happy in ways that other ponies hadn’t.

“...So that’s when I said ‘well I don’t care if you have a problem with ponies, I’m not gonna go trot to the other sidewalk just because you’re upset that your kid said they wanted to be a pony.’

Scarlet nodded along, “And I’m guessing they weren’t too happy about that?”

“Ha, no,” he laughed. “She tried to pull some BS about how we shouldn’t be allowed to walk around on the same sidewalk with them, and how we shouldn’t fly, and a lot of other stupid stuff.”

“So, what’d you do then?”

“I shrugged and went back to my walk. Apparently, she wasn’t happy that she couldn’t get a rise out of me and started to launch into some tirade. It got really annoying listening to her wailing, so I just hissed back at her and flew off.”

“And that was that?”

Silver nodded, “That was that. I wound up chatting with Stanley and his friend Jess, and I guess that woman had a reputation around town as a crazy pony hater. I didn’t visit around their neck of the woods too much after that, but I guess it wasn’t uncommon to see that kind of stuff there for a while.”

“Well, I guess it’s a good thing you didn’t stick around there then, eh?”

“Yep, maybe it was lonely back home, but at least I got to move up here with you.”

“Which is better than down in that cramped polluted city.”

“Oh, absolutely.” He laughed, “I guess I got used to it after the first couple of weeks, but the second I moved up here it really hit home.”

“Which is a great thing. Lots of fresh air, great company, gorgeous views… what more could you ask for?”

“A pony amusement park?” he jokingly replied back.

“You’re into that stuff?”

Silver shrugged, “Used to be. I tried going down to Disney and Knott’s back when they started reopening, but it was obvious that it wasn’t really set up for ponies. Had a lot of bizarre rules too, like they wanted me to wear some weird harness thing so I wouldn’t try and fly around, that was a big pass for me.”

“Maybe it’s different now?” she suggested. “We could take a trip down there sometime if you wanted to.”

Silver nodded, “I think I’m good for now, as much as I want to.”

“You sure? We can both go down there, my treat.”

“Your treat?” He laughed, “Scarlet, they’re still ridiculously overpriced. Maybe we can pool our money together if we really want to go once things lighten up a little.” He paused and looked around at the clearing the pair had entered. A smile spread across his face and immediately he began to set down the cargo he was carrying, “Were here!” He excitedly cheered.

Scarlet looked around at the peaceful retreat and smiled, letting the previous conversation and the rest of the world just fade away around her for a few solitary moments. This is definitely going to be nice and relaxing, she thought to herself. Another smile flashed across her face as she turned back toward Silver, noticing that he was already springing right into getting the tent set up, with a blanket in his mouth and the length of rope splayed out on the ground in front of him. She was content to let him continue on his own, but clearly his bright idea already wasn’t working out the way he thought it would.

“Need some help there?”

He shook his head and waved a wing, dropping the blanket and instead going for the rope. This ought to be good, she thought to herself again, trying hard not to laugh at the Stallion’s goofy attempts to do the impossible on his own. He jumped from place to place, awkwardly wrapping one end of the rope around the tree’s trunk before running to the other side to try and do the same before the first fell. Obviously this had worked way better in his head than on paper, and judging from his frustrated grunts and sighs she could tell he was coming to the same conclusion.

Finally Silver spat out the rope and licked his lips for a moment before looking up toward the tree, “Okay, well this isn’t going to be as easy as I thought it’d be.”

“You think? You kinda do need fingers to tie knots after all.”

“Right… guess I didn’t think of that.”

“It’s fine, I didn’t really think of it either so we’re both the dumb ones tonight.”

Silver nodded, “Mhmm… so uhh, what should we do then? Call it a night and just head back home? Or should we try again?”

“Give me a few minutes to think about this,” Scarlet looked around at the tree, noticing a broken branch that would be the perfect place to hang a rope. Immediately an idea popped into her head, an idea that also made her blush as she thought of it. It was a suggestion that would definitely get way more intimate than she thought the night would go, but it might also be the right way to approach a subject that she knew was on both of their minds. He definitely liked her, she could tell from the way he looked at her, and she’d be lying if she said she didn’t feel the same way towards him. Scarlet silently thanked her luck that the blushes blended in with her coat and then turned back toward Silver, “Okay, well I think I have an idea, but it might get a little awkward.”

“How awkward are we talking?” He innocently asked.

“I guess it depends on how you feel about me.”

He raised an eyebrow, “What do you mean by that?”

“Well, we’re gonna have to try and tie the ends into a loop so we can hang them up on those broken branches. Things might get a little… intimate if we’re both holding rope in our mouths and trying to get it into a loop like it needs to be. Like your face against my face kind of close.”

The Stallion’s face flashed red for a moment as he slowly nodded, “Right… a little awkward then. And there’s no other way you want to go about doing this?”

“Not that I can think of.” She shrugged, “We don’t really have hands to make this work, and the only unicorns we know are all asleep and would probably get cranky if we bothered them right now.”

“So, either we try tying a rope into a loop by basically kissing each other in the process, or going home… and I’m guessing you really don’t want to do the latter?”

She shrugged, “Why would I? We came out all this way, it’d be kind of a shame if we just went right back home.”

“Right,” he agreed, “it just feels a little… I don’t know, I mean I don’t want to make this…”

“Awkward? Is it really that bad though? I mean we’ve been cuddling up together every day, you know, in a very intimate way?”

He nodded, “I just don’t want to make things weird between us. I mean cuddling up in the same bed is one thing, but…” his face flushed red again, earning a laugh from Scarlet.

She smiled, “You know, It’s cute seeing you get so flustered over this. So why don’t you tell me what’s up? Obviously we both have a lot on our minds, why not have a heart to heart?”

Silver nodded and let out a small sigh of relief, “I just didn’t want things to get awkward,” he repeated, and paused for a moment, his face reddening again. “You don’t want to just sleep out in the open?” he innocently asked, earning a laugh from her.

“You mean out in the bright sun that both of us can’t stand even on a cloudy day? Doesn’t exactly sound like a fun day.”

He paused for a moment, trying to find his words. Before he could continue, Scarlet cut him off. “Silver, if you’re worried about this being awkward, or if you’re nervous to share your feelings, then it’s perfectly fine. I wouldn’t have invited you into my home and let you sleep in my bed with me if I wasn’t comfortable around you. You’re not just an acquaintance to me, you’re more than that, and I think you and I both have a lot to talk about with each other.”

Taking another breath, he turned back toward the mare and greeted her with a nervous smile and half nod, “You’re right. Do you mind if I get something off of my chest?”

“I could probably guess what’s coming, but yes, please do.”

He took another deep breath, “I think I like you… a lot.” He quickly turned away, trying to hide the blush that had spread across his face.

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Scarlet stared back in silence for a few moments that must have felt like an eternity for Silver. Finally she smiled, “I was starting to think I’d never hear you say that,” she ended with a laugh, earning a confused look from the stallion.

“Wait, what?” His eyes shot open.

“Silver, I think it’s pretty obvious that we’re not just a couple of roomies anymore. I mean you haven’t done a great job of hiding your feelings either, which isn’t a bad thing, mind you. I actually think it’s kinda cute.”

He sat there with a blank expression on his face for what seemed like minutes, but in reality it was only a few seconds before he finally formed a coherent response, “Is it really that obvious? I mean how long have you known?”

She let out another laugh, “From the beginning. You were different when we first met, but I could tell you were starting to loosen up a lot around me, and then you started looking at me differently, and I’d be lying if I said something didn’t start to spark with me too… also, you talk in your sleep,” she finished with a smirk.

His jaw dropped for a moment and he greeted her with another goofy face that she could only assume was a mix of happiness and confusion. Shaking her head, she booped him on the muzzle, earning a surprised squeak from the stallion who looked as if some great secret had been revealed to him.

“I… what… I mean you felt the same way?” He stuttered out.

“I guess I’m better at hiding that than you are,” she teased. “But yes, I felt the same way. Maybe not when I first met you, but then we started spending all this time together, and well, we’re both the only ponies here that stay up all night. You really get a lot of opportunities to learn about each other when you’re practically together twenty four seven.”

He let out a small laugh of his own, “All this time I was so nervous and you knew all along…”

“Don’t feel so embarrassed by it, I thought it was cute, and I wanted to let you tell me on your own time.”

“You don’t know how great it is to hear that,” he laughed. “I was keeping all of this bottled up for so long, I was worried about what you’d say if I finally said it out loud.”

“And now you know.”


“So, let's just call this a first date and relax a bit. I like you too, and I don’t want you to feel so nervous about sharing this kind of stuff with me. Does that make this at least a little less awkward for you now?”

Silver slowly nodded, “A little. At least our first kiss will have a funny story behind it,” he nervously laughed.

“See? Now it’s not going to be so bad then, right?”

“Right… I uhh, well, should we just get going then?”

“You tell me,” she laughed, “You’re the one leading this little excursion.”

Silver paused and contemplated this for a moment before grabbing an end of the rope with his mouth, giving her a nod.

“Okay, so this is probably going to be tricky and take some trial and error, but I think I have a good idea of what to do with it, just hold still and let me drive for a moment, okay?”

He gave another slow nod, giving her all the confirmation she needed.

Scarlet took a step back and looked at the small tent they had set up. It had taken a lot longer than she expected it to, with a lot more close encounters between the two than even she had expected there to be, but finally they were done and could start to relax.

She looked over toward Silver and nodded, “See? Was that so bad?”

He gulped down some water and smiled, “Not really, I mean it wasn’t as easy as I thought I’d be, but at least we did it.”

“And you even loosened up a bit, I thought you’d just sit there frozen in place the whole time,” she trotted over toward him and nuzzled up next to the stallion, “and now we can spend some real time together.”

“That sounds… wonderful,” he finished with a smile, leaning into her.

“So, what do you want to do first? A little stargazing? A little cuddling under the stars? Maybe watch a movie?”

Silver glanced over toward the nearby telescope and nodded, “Stargazing sounds like a blast. You still need to teach me about the constellations and stars, remember?”

“Stargazing it is then. Just give me a few minutes to go get some stuff from my bag, I had a whole notebook that had some of this written down, probably makes it a lot easier than having me just ramble on for hours about this.”

Silver nodded as Scarlet started to trot off, “Sure thing, I’m just going to make a couple of adjustments to the tent, I don’t like how the side’s drooping down so far.”

“Gotcha, just don’t tug it loose, I don’t want to spend another couple of hours trying to get it set up again.”

“Don’t worry, I won’t.”

“Mhmm,” she replied as she started to dig through her bag, “I trust you on this one.”

The quiet sounds of leaves and twigs rustling filled the air followed by a few annoyed grunts from Silver, who was no doubt struggling with the tent. As she continued to dig through her bag, she finally came across a well worn spiral notebook that had some of her old notes written down in it. This wouldn’t have everything, but at least I’d be enough to give the dorky stallion a primer in basic astronomy, assuming he was actually interested in it and not just saying that to flatter her.

A few more loud snaps could be heard along with the frantic flapping of wings, earning an amused laugh from Scarlet, “You okay back there?”

“Yeah… just a little tangled up is all. I think I’ve got this though.”

“Okay, well just be careful, I don’t need you hurting yourself,” she paused for a moment, “And be careful around my telescope, it’s old and fragile and—“


Scarlet’s heart skipped a beat as she heard the telltale sound of metal clanking on the ground and broken glass. Dropping her notebook, she quickly turned toward the sound of the noise and let out a gasp. Laying amongst the broken telescope was Silver, who was caught up in some of the loose rope from the tent, which had somehow miraculously not fallen apart. She couldn’t say the same about her telescope however.

The stallion looked at her with an expression of regret and terror, and she couldn’t blame him. This hobby was her life and he had just broken the main tool she had used for it, and it wasn’t like they could just go out and buy another. Sure, they probably had enough money between each other to do that, but the closest store was so far away, and their internet connection was spotty at best.

“Scarlet I am so sorry!” He blurted out, “It was an accident, I swear!”

“It’s alright. I know it was,” She let out a sad sigh and slowly trotted toward the nervous stallion, laying down next to him and nuzzling close. Her mind was racing with a hurricane of thoughts and emotions, but she couldn’t take it out on him. Accidents happened, and unfortunately that’s exactly what had happened right then.

“Are you… mad at me?” he asked with an air of confusion.

She shook her head, “I’m upset, yes. But I’m not mad. You didn’t mean to do it, and I shouldn’t have left it so close to the area we were working in. These things happen, it’s fine.”

She didn’t know if she really believed that she was fine with it, but she didn’t want to hurt Silver’s feelings, especially after they had both just admitted their feelings for one another.

He draped a wing over her, pulling her attention back, “It’s not alright. This is your passion and I just ruined it.”

“You didn’t mean to do it. This doesn’t change anything between us, we’ll just have to go take a trip down to the city sometime, or try and order one online if the connection will even hold for that.”

“Well, let me at least replace it then. I broke it, and I want to make this right.”

“You don’t have to Silver,” she flatly replied. “It’s just a telescope, it’s not like it’s the end of the world,” As dumb as it was, she still felt a twinge of sadness over the whole incident, even if Silver hadn’t actually done anything maliciously.

The stallion shook his head, “I’m still going to try though.” He paused for a moment, “Nothing’s changed. I’m still your friend and I want to treat you to something nice. Even if it’s just getting you a new telescope.”

“You really don’t have to, it’s fine. Ponies forgive, right?” she replied with a sigh. “Let’s just cuddle up and watch a movie or something. See where the night takes us. We can worry about this more tomorrow.”

Silver seemed as if he was about to raise another retort, but closed his mouth and gave a small nod as he trotted toward the tent, snuggling up in one of the blankets, “That sounds wonderful. Now why don’t you come snuggle up and I’ll find something for us to watch.”

Scarlet slowly trotted toward the tent and cuddled up next to Silver, “Something action-heavy?”

Silver nodded, “Something action-heavy.”

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Chapter 15: Bats, Breakfast, and Broken Treasures

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The gentle touch of the cool evening air was the first thing that Scarlet noticed as she slowly drifted into wakefulness. The serene sounds of nature surrounded her, giving off this peaceful feeling of calmness that reminded her why she had moved up here in the first place. The weight of the blankets she was bundled up in surrounded her in a soft comforting embrace, but something was missing. For one, she was bundled up in a pile of comfy blankets, which she didn’t mind at all, but her newly christened stallionfriend was also absent. She slowly peeked open an eye and glanced around, trying to see if maybe he was just rolled over in a different part of the small open air tent, but as far as she could tell, he was missing.

Maybe he ran off to go to the bathroom or something? She thought to herself, shrugging it off as she slowly rolled over in the makeshift tent. Another blast of the cool mountain air sent a small chill down her spine, making her thankful for the comfy assortment of blankets that Silver had no doubt left her in. I’m sure he’ll be back in time, she thought to herself again. He had left their dream earlier than usual, so no doubt he was up and about already, and hadn’t wanted to disturb her from her sleep.

Her thoughts began to drift toward the previous night as she cuddled up in the blankets again. A warm smile spread across her face as she remembered the evening spent together. They had definitely made some good memories, memories that only made her happier to have Silver near her as both a friend, and now something closer. Maybe ponies were more social than humans, to the point of even being too close at times depending on who you asked, but she didn’t care. She had met her other half, and she couldn’t be happier that he had felt the same about her.

The previous night’s memories only got better when she remembered some of the late night bonding they had done. Setting up the tent, chatting under the stars, and even some of the more intimate moments that made her blush as she remembered them. It was definitely a night she’d remember for as long as she lived. As if the universe had decided that she was too happy right now, the thoughts of what had happened to her poor telescope flared back up in her mind. It was almost like a dam had broken, and for some reason she couldn’t take her mind off of it, even though it was like crying over spilled milk… or at least that’s what she was trying to convince herself of.

It was just a telescope, those could be replaced… but it was also the tool that fueled her life’s passion, and something she was definitely attached to. As she dwelled on the memory more she couldn’t help but let out a frustrated groan. Ponies weren’t supposed to get angry over this kind of stuff, but night ponies were different, and her instincts demanded that she do something about it! She cursed her night pony instincts and took a deep breath, knowing that Silver didn’t mean to break it, but it still didn’t lessen the blow that she felt.

Scarlet rolled out of the blanket pile and began to absentmindedly tap her hoof on the ground, unable to let the sight of her most prized possession lying broken on the ground leave her mind. At least it wasn’t out in the open anymore, and in fact it seemed to be carefully set aside in a neat organized pile. She didn’t remember moving it before, so she could only assume that Silver had. She couldn’t blame him for taking so much care in it, he had seemed so upset over the accident— even more than she had last night. The poor stallion probably felt like he blew his chance with her right then and there, even after all of the romance that had followed.

Great Scarlet, you probably scared him off because you just had to be upset about a stupid telescope, she angrily thought to herself. She began to kick around some of the loose leaves, trying to burn off some steam to no avail— the cascade of thoughts just continued to flow.

She let out another annoyed groan and more out of frustration than anything else, she lashed out and bucked the nearby tree with one of her back legs, cursing as her hoof made contact. A momentary burst of pain surged through her leg, before dulling to a low sting. Great, I probably screwed something else up now. Great idea Scarlet, now you can add a doctor visit to the list of unneeded expenses. She took a seat and inspected the cracked trunk of the tree, letting out a frustrated yell and earning a scared sounding squeal from Silver, who had just rounded the bend.

The stallion’s ears flopped down, against his head, and he nervously glanced over toward the broken bark and the frustrated night pony, “Is… everything alright?..”

Scarlet thanked her luck that he couldn’t see her embarrassed blush through her dark red fur and then nodded, relieved that she hadn’t scared him off after all… yet. She fumbled to try and try and find the right words to salvage the situation, hoping for the best, “Yes… just uhhh… getting some frustration out is all. I’m not angry at you or anything, just going through some stuff.”

“Angrily kicking the tree doesn’t sound like a very great way to get through that,” he noted. “You sure everything’s okay?”

“It is,” she reassured him, “I’m just frustrated at a lot of things right now, and I probably hurt my hoof in the process too. Another thing to get annoyed at I guess.”

“Understandable,” he trotted toward her and nuzzled up next to her. “You want to talk about it?”

“I don’t really want to, but I guess I should,” she leaned into the embrace. “This is normal to you?” She asked with widened eyes, amazed that he hadn’t ran off after her flimsy excuse of an explanation.

“Sure,” he shrugged, “gotta get that out somehow. I’m just glad I wasn’t the one getting kicked into oblivion.”

She slowly smiled, letting her anger fade a bit, “You don’t know how relieved I am to hear that. I thought I scared you away.”

“You could never scare me away,” he laughed, standing up and helping Scarlet to her good hooves, “I was more afraid that I turned you away with the whole telescope thing.”

She shook her head, carefully testing her weight on the injured hoof, wincing slightly “I’m mad at a lot of things right now… I don’t really know what, but you’re definitely not one of them.”

Silver laid a wing across her back and started leading her away from the splintered tree, “Glad to hear, I half expected that whole commotion to ruin everything.”

“After the romantic night we had together?” She laughed, “I’ll take that as your apology for it, even if it was just an accident.”

“Well the apologizing isn’t done yet. Now let me give you a hoof, I’m not a doctor but you should definitely keep your weight off of it for now. I’ll look at making a splint when we get back home, it might not be the best but it’ll at least be better than nothing, even if it’s just a little sprain.”

“If you say so, doc,” she slowly started forward again, keeping close to Silver. “Now let me guess, that’s what your little evening stroll is about?”

“Something like that,” he laughed, “just act surprised when we get there.”

“Surprised about what?” she replied with a smug grin.

“That’s the spirit!” Silver cheerfully laughed back.

“Right… So how long have you been up anyways? I was starting to get a little worried when I woke up all by myself today.”

“Just a couple of hours, that’s why I disappeared for a bit.”

“Ahh… did you have a rough day or something?”

“Kinda?” he admitted. “Not saying our little cuddle session wasn’t relaxing and comfy, I just had a lot on my mind.”

“I’m guessing you can’t stop thinking about last night?”

Silver slowly nodded as they continued to follow the small creek, “Yeah… I know you said it wasn’t my fault and you weren’t mad at me, but I still feel awful about it.”

“Don’t,” she replied back, “it was an accident, I know you didn’t mean it.”

“I know, but I ruined your telescope and that’s your passion. I wanted to do something to make it up to you.”

“Silver, you don’t need to do anything. I already said it was okay.”

“Then consider this our second date,” he cut in, gesturing over toward a small picnic blanket down by the edge of the water. A basket full of fresh fruit was already laid out waiting for them, and Scarlet could already tell that he had worked hard to find her favorite fruits.

Scarlet paused for a moment, emotion swelling up inside her. Without warning, she pulled the stallion into a tight hug, catching him by surprise, “I really love you Silver. You didn’t need to do any of this.”

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“But I wanted to,” he replied back as he embraced the hug. “I just saw how upset you were and wanted to make it better, or at least try to.”

“Well you did a great job with it,” she broke the hug and cheerfully trotted over toward the delicious looking food. “Where did you even find all of this?”

“I kind of didn’t know where to go, so I took a walk and ran into one of the earth ponies back in town. Bountiful Harvest I think? He picked up that I was feeling down and asked about it, and long story short he wound up taking me over to his greenhouse. The stallion’s got all sorts of good things over there.”

“I can tell,” she licked her lips as she looked over the collection of fruit, pausing as she took sight of a delicious looking pineapple.

Silver gave her a short nod, “Well dig in, I didn’t just get this to look nice.”

Without any further hesitation Scarlet reached over to the fruit, turning it around in her hooves for a moment and trying to find the best way to get to the juicy center. For a moment she considered stomping it apart, but that would risk ruining the fruit and probably cause more of a mess than she wanted to deal with. She paused as an idea came to her head, and in a moment she excitedly bit into the fruit, hungrily eating it from the outside in, almost as if she was eating corn on the cob. Before any time had passed, the remnants of her previous frustration melted away as the juicy tropical fruit bombarded her senses.

The stallion let out another long laugh as she ate away, “I’m glad you like that. It wasn’t easy to get, had to barter with one of the traders because Harvest didn’t have one.”

Scarlet wiped her face with a hoof and nodded, “I love it!”

“Glad to hear. To tell you the truth I had no idea how you’d even cut into that, and I didn’t want to spend too much time digging around the cabin to try and rig something up to make it easier.”

“Well you got your answer,” she replied with a smirk, licking some of the pineapple juice off of her leg. “We definitely need to get more of these.”

“I’m up for that,” Silver agreed. “I talked with the trader I got it from and she said she’ll probably pass through pretty often. Lives just down in the city so she’s not too far away at all.”

“Maybe we could try and grow some too?” she offered.

Silver nodded, “Now you wanna become pineapple farmers? That’s a little overkill don’t ya think?”

“Maybe? How about just for the two of us, and only us,” she added. “My dad showed me how to grow them from the tops. It takes a while but we could use a cute little houseplant to liven up the cabin.”

“Well we’ve got all the time in the world up here, don’t we?”

Scarlet leaned into him and nuzzled up against his head, “We sure do.”

Chapter 16: The Bullheaded Bat and the Agitated Earth Pony

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Stanley slowly stirred from his sleep and rolled over, stretching his wings out. It was late in the night— for a pony, at least, but it still felt too early for him. The pony-sized clay building was cool and comfortable, but waking up in an unfamiliar pony-sized place was still a weird experience at times. Up to now, he hadn’t been anywhere on Earth that was designed this way. Still though, as the days went on, he was definitely growing more comfortable with it.

The dwelling itself wasn’t anything to write home about, just a small clay hut with a couple of rooms that reminded him of Yoda’s house from Star Wars, but it did the job and was surprisingly comfortable. He was a little hesitant at the lack of privacy around the village at first, but after a few days, the worries faded from his mind. Ponies weren’t wired to care about that sort of thing, and spending time here really made that all the more apparent. As much as he wanted to just relax in his comfy bed, there was still a night of work ahead of him, and he was already wasting enough time as it was. He groggily began to climb out of the cozy bed in Midnight’s spare room and started toward the doorway.

“You awake in there?” came a voice from the adjacent room. “I was starting to think I’d have to go shake you awake myself.”

“Yeah,” Stanley replied as he started to trot out into the shared living space, “you all start so early here, guess I’m not used to it.”

Midnight Sun shrugged, “That’s the administrative staff life for you. If it makes you feel better, tomorrow’s our day off so you can sleep in as long as you want.”

“Thank God for that,” he replied as he let out a long drawn-out yawn. “So what’s on the agenda for today? More negotiating with those traders from Flagstaff?”

“Talking with Giz about the farms,” she flatly replied. “He’s still stubborn about how Dawn wants to run it. Says that a night pony shouldn’t be calling the shots on an earth pony’s job.”

“Figures,” he let out a small sigh. “I didn’t expect to be dealing with mediating some argument in my first week living here.”

“Better get used to it,” she laughed, “Giz and Dawn are both bullheaded about this kind of stuff, so we’re the ones that get to deal with it.”

“Sounds like maybe something needs to be done about that then. I mean, we can’t just keep applying a bandaid over this kind of thing.”

Midnight shrugged as she started digging into her breakfast, “If you wanna be the one to sit Dawn and Giz down, then be my guest. I tried this before, and it didn’t really work out the way I wanted it to.”

“Right,” Stanley rummaged through the cupboard before settling on a fresh orange, “Well do we have any kind of regular gathering or meet up or something? I mean, there’s got to be a good way to get the two to see eye to eye with this kind of thing.”

Midnight nodded, “Sweet Song likes to host campfire songs every week or so. That’s kind of our way of getting together outside of dinner.”

The stallion began to bite away at the side of the fruit, tearing some of the peel off and spitting it out, “Well, there we go, get Dawn and Giz over to the next one and see if we can get them to talk to each other without arguing.”

The mare let out a small laugh, “I’ll let you try that out, and you can tell me how it goes. Those two have butted heads on everything, and neither is willing to compromise.”

“Right… I guess it’s not all just some fun perfect little paradise is it?”

Midnight shrugged, “Running a village isn’t a small task. I’m sure you've already gotten a good rundown of that.”

“Kinda,” Stanley agreed, “but I think the problem is that nopony’s willing to try and work together to fix the issues. Dawn and Gizmo are fighting over crops while we’re left to deal with everything else. Once we start doing anything else Dawn takes a break and takes control. Why don’t we all try to sit down and talk it over, break up what needs to get done and whatnot.”

“Are you calling Dawn a micromanager?”

“Maybe? What I’m trying to say is that there’s obviously patterns that I’m noticing that could be improved on. Stuff we could be doing that could make our lives a whole lot easier. You know?”

“I get you. That’s going to be easier said than done though, I hope you know that. Dawn likes running the show, I think it’s her way of making sure everything goes according to the vision.”

“She’s a real stickler for that, eh?”

“I’m surprised you haven’t noticed yet.”

“Guess I’ve been occupied with getting to know everypony here. I’ve never been a ‘Get involved with other ponies’ problems’ kinda guy.”

“Looks like you get to be now,” she laughed, “I wish you the best of luck, this kind of thing happens pretty often here.”

He took a few final bites of his orange and cleaned up the peels, dropping them onto a plate, “Well, shall we?”

She nodded, “I’ll lead the way. You’re still new and I think it’ll be easier to get on Giz’s good side if a stranger doesn’t just waltz into the middle of the argument.”


The two stood up and started to make their way toward the door, dropping the remnants of their breakfast into a compost bin, and heading out into the village. There wasn’t much in the way of evening lighting, but that was perfect for the pair. Hardly anyone else was out at night like they were, so there was no need for the extra expense of having lights. A few small lanterns were enough for the few day ponies and humans that stayed up this late. Not wanting to delay the inevitable, the pair headed toward the small farm, where they’d hopefully manage to get everything settled peacefully without it devolving into a shouting match.

The pair paused for a moment, trying to gauge what the appropriate response would need to be. Dawn and Gizmo were already arguing back and forth, but so far it hadn’t turned into anything more heated yet, which was better than what Midnight was expecting.

“I told ya this was an earth pony job, Dawn, so why don’t you get back to mindin’ your own business?”

The crimson mare shook her head, “Making sure everything runs smoothly is my business Gizmo. We’re missing crop deadlines, and food rations are starting to get more than a little strained, we don’t have time for your pet projects.”

The stallion shook his head, “You’re micromanaging again. You can write up all the farm plans and schedules you want but that’s not going to change the fact that crops don’t listen to rigid plans. Nature doesn’t care if you expect something to be done down to the minute on a certain day, and no amount of earth pony magic is gonna change that.”

“What about that pony out east, Wild Growth? She made all those plants grow in an instant.”

“She’s different. Something about her is special and if you haven’t noticed, nopony else has been able to do anything even remotely close.”

“I’m not asking for the impossible here, I’m just asking that you work harder to increase the yield.”

“No, what you’re asking us to do here is to try and use magic in a way that won’t work. We can guide things along but we can’t magically force something to grow. Nopony can.”

“Clearly some can, so try harder.”

The conversation began to grow more heated, threatening to take a turn that neither of the two bats wanted to break up. Before it could get to that point, Stanley and Midnight stepped in, keeping their distance but still staying close enough to take control of the situation, not wanting to cause any kind of scene.

“Alright, let’s simmer down for a second,” Midnight cut in with a calm voice. “Let’s all just take a deep breath and talk about this.”

“There’s nothing to talk about,” the earth pony replied with a frustrated roll of his eyes. “Dawn’s getting into earth pony business again, and she still doesn’t know what she’s talking about.”

Stanley glanced between the two frustrated ponies, glad that he wasn’t the one leading the charge here.

“That’s not the problem at all,” Dawn replied back. “Gizmo is refusing to come to a compromise on the farm planning. Plans that the rest of the village all agreed on mind you.”

“Plans that don’t make any sense at all because none of the writers were earth ponies.”

This stood out to Stanley, but he held his tongue. Bringing up the absurdity of the largest tribe in the village not having a say in the farming plans was just asking for more arguing between the two, even if it was justified on the earth pony’s side. Not wanting to open that can of worms, he resolved to ask Midnight about this later.

“Giz, let’s not get accusatory right now, okay? We’re going to settle this one way or another,” Midnight flatly replied. “What’s wrong with the plan?”

“The plan is written as if no one writing it has any idea what they’re talking about. Lots of deadlines for the crops that can’t be met and a lot of insistence that the earth ponies just use their magic to make it happen. I was trying to explain that that’s just not how it works.”

“Are you rotating crops or just growing everything at once?” Stanley chimed in.

“Well, everything at once right now. It’s kind of hard to do some experimenting with the ridiculous deadlines that we have.”

An idea started to form in Stanley’s mind. An idea rooted in his fond childhood memories. It was a long shot and out of his territory, but it was worth bringing up all the same if it meant that the two wouldn’t be at each other’s throats so much.

“Okay,” he nodded, turning back toward Dawn and Midnight. “Is this harvest going to be enough to get by if we ration it a bit more?”

Dawn raised an eyebrow, “What are you asking?”

“I’m not a farmer but I used to grow vegetables in my backyard with my dad when I was a foal. We used to stagger them out while growing so there was always something being grown.”


“Well, what if we did something like that here? Stagger them out a bit so we don’t need to wait for one big harvest and then hope that lasts us until the next. This way the farmers can experiment with what works best without completely shutting down our production.”

“Given all the constant bickering and arguing between you two that I’ve been hearing, maybe it’s not such a bad idea?” Midnight added. “I mean it’s worth a shot, right Dawn?”

Dawn hesitated for a moment, giving Stanley the impression that she was against the idea. He doubted she’d outright say it, but the way she sat there and the expression on her face told him everything he needed to know. Much to his own surprise, she gave a short nod.

“We can give it a limited try, but if it doesn’t help then we’re going back to the plan, no questions asked. If it works we can hold another town meeting and vote on it together.”

A small feeling of victory welled up inside him, he had hoped that the two would be able to calm any would be argument, but he didn’t expect it to work out so nicely. The two frustrated ponies still shot annoyed glances to one another, making it clear enough that there was still a lot left to cover, and that tonight’s small victory was just a bandaid on a larger problem.

“Well let’s hope for the best, okay?” Midnight asked, almost pleadingly. “And, I think Stanley here had something else he wanted to say, isn’t that right?” She turned toward him.

He gave a slow nod as all eyes were suddenly on him, “I uhh… yeah, well, what if you two come on down to the next campfire night? It’d be a great way for all of us to get to know each other better, and maybe even be a nice break from getting at each other’s throats over this kind of stuff.”

“That’s right,” Midnight added, giving the stallion a sense of relief that he wasn’t the sole pony leading this again. “In fact, I think that’d be a great idea. You both should definitely come on down, maybe even do a little singing yourself, eh?”

Both Dawn and Gizmo seemed to consider this for a few long moments before giving a short nod.

“So that’s that then, we’re all settled for now then. Is there anything else that either of you needed?”

Gizmo started to speak up but held his tongue. It was obvious that he wasn’t a fan of the compromise, but could keep quiet enough about it for now.

“Nothing?” Midnight continued. “Alright then, well I think we all had a productive little meeting here, let’s hope it stays that way, okay?”

Once again the two ponies nodded. There was no telling if anything agreed on here tonight would work or not, but ever the optimist, Stanley was eager to see how it’d hold up.

Chapter 17: It's Urgent... Care

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Silver gently tapped a hoof to Scarlet’s side, giving her a small shake, “Hey, Scar can we talk?”

The mare slowly stirred and smiled at the nickname. Letting out a long yawn, she rolled over and gave him a very drowsy nod, “Mhmm, what’s up Silvie?”

“I think we need to go see a doctor,” he flashed her a worried look, “Your leg doesn’t look so great.”

She shifted in her bed and glanced down, flipping on the nearby light and gasping as she took sight of the bruised back leg. She looked back toward Silver and gave a nod, “Right… do we uhh… have to do that? Maybe it just needs time to heal on its own,” she nervously replied back.

Silver stepped forward and took a closer look himself, letting out his own gasp of surprise once he saw it in better light. The leg was definitely bruised, and that was putting it very lightly. A large dark blob took up a sizable portion of her back leg, and he couldn’t help but be reminded of the time he had gotten hit in the leg as a kid. That had hurt a lot, and Scarlet’s must have been even worse if he could see the large bruise all the way through her fur, “No, no we definitely need to go see someone.” He looked up to her in worry, “That doesn’t look good at all. Does it still hurt if you put weight on it?”

“I haven’t tried yet, it’s been sore the last couple of nights, but hasn’t really been a searing pain or anything.”

“Just try slowly. We did a lot of walking last night, I just want to make sure we didn’t put too much strain on it or anything.”

“Silver… I… it sounds silly but I get kinda nervous going to the doctor,” Scarlet admitted.

Silver nodded, “I get you. Nothing wrong with being nervous.”

“You don’t think it’s weird?”

He shook his head, “Not at all. I’m not a fan of going to the doctor either, I don’t think anyone really is.” He looked back down at the large bruise, “You definitely need to go though, and I’ll be right by your side the whole time, okay?”

“I just… it’s,” she let out a sigh, stopping as Silver pulled her into a tight embrace.

“I love you, and I want to be with you forever. We just need to make sure your leg is good so it doesn’t get worse.”

She returned the embrace and nodded, “I love you too. I just can’t help but get a little shaky about this. It’s dumb and I feel dumb.”

“Don’t. It’s perfectly normal. I’m not judging you, and no pony else is going to judge you for that.”

“I’ll go, but I’m not gonna like it, and you owe me a lot of cuddles after,” she joked.

Silver laughed, “I'll cuddle with you for a whole week if it makes you feel better.”

“It would.”

Scarlet slowly began to maneuver herself out of the bed, but quickly winced in pain as she put pressure on the leg. Silver’s heart sank and he rushed to help her up, not wanting her to be in any pain.

“Yeah, we definitely need to go see a doctor about that.” He began to frantically look around the room for his seldom used phone. It wouldn’t be a trot in the park to use, but he could set aside his own frustration for a few minutes given the situation.

“Ya think?” she replied in a sour tone, pausing as she looked back up to see his frantic expression. “Sorry, guess that came out a little rude.”

“It’s fine,” he calmly answered back, “you’re in pain and I’d be a little cranky too if I was in your place.”

“Thanks for understanding,” she readjusted herself in bed and shimmied closer to him. “So who do we even go to? No offense to Helping Hooves, but she’s not exactly a top rate doctor.”

“That’s what I’m trying to figure out. There's not really any nearby hospital or urgent care we can just waltz on into, and I don’t think any pony here can really help.”

“And neither of us have income or insurance to throw at this kind of thing,” she added.

“I’ve got some cash stashed away for emergencies… I was kinda hoping to use it to buy you a new telescope but this is way more important.”

“You could splint it back up again, and I’ll just get used to walking on three legs for now,” she offered.

He shook his head again, “Nope, we definitely need to get this checked out,” he glanced out the open window. “You said you used to live an hour away, right? Down in Palm Springs?”

“Yeah, why?”

“Do you still have family down there?”

“My parents are still down there, got an idea or something?”

“Well I can’t spring for a hotel room or anything, but maybe they could let us crash on their couch for a night or two? Just to make sure we’re good in case we need to have a follow up or something.” He looked back at her, “Think they’d mind us staying a couple of days?”

“I don’t think they would,” she shrugged, “if you dig out my phone I can give them a call and see.”

He hopped off of the bed and trotted toward their shared closet where Scarlet’s phone was stashed away, charging, “Glad you have family there. My brother’s ex is the only person I know there and I’m sure that’d be an awkward request to make out of the blue.”

“They’re gonna bombard you with tons of questions though just a heads up.”

“Mhmm, what kind of questions?”

“Your standard fare, easily excitable mom and dad kinda questions. Stuff like when are we getting married, are we gonna have foals, what kinda stuff do you do, where did you live, are they invited to the wedding… that sort of stuff.”

Silver slowly nodded, unsure of what any of those answers would be. They had just barely gotten to the cute pet names and more aggressive cuddling part of their relationship and he didn’t even have a clue about what the next step would be. Taking a nervous gulp, he looked back toward her and flashed his best attempt at a confident smile, “Well, I can answer honestly and say we don’t know or I can play with them a bit and say we’ve already got a foal on the way and the wedding’s next week. Think they’d get a kick out of that?”

She rolled her eyes and let out a small laugh, “Probably not the best first impression to make. Dad might get a kick out of it though, mom would be mortified.”

“You think?” He laughed, “Alright, I’ll play it straight with them and just say we’re a couple of romantics just getting started.”

“That’s probably for the best,” she replied, pulling Silver into a tight embrace. “Thanks for taking care of me. I don’t really need you taking care of everything, but I still appreciate it.”

Silver leaned into the embrace, nuzzling up to her, “Anytime. This whole thing’s low key my fault so I think taking care of you and making sure you’re nice and comfy is my responsibility.” He looked down at her leg again, “We just need to figure out how to get down there too… not like we can just call an Uber all the way up here.”

“Something tells me that a normal doctor’s not gonna know much about this either,” Scarlet added.

Silver hadn’t considered that, but she was absolutely right. By all rights, ponies were practically aliens and they’d be hard pressed to find a doctor that was actually trained to deal with pony injuries. Still though, someone with professional medical training might at least know how to basically treat something until they could get a hold of someone more suited to their needs. Scarlet’s point brought up another thought: the pair would definitely need a checkup eventually. Especially if their innocent cuddles went any further.

He shook his head, that was a talk for another time, there were more important matters in the present, “That’s a good point, but we don’t exactly have a choice. At the very least maybe they can give us some advice, or point us in the right direction or something.”

“Guess we’ll find out. That still leaves the matter of how we even get there. I don’t know about you, but I’m not really up for hiking down to the valley.”

“We could fly,” he offered. “Sure it’s an hour away, but that’s also because of the way you have to drive to get up here. We could just as easily fly right over there and maybe shave a good chunk off of the trip.”

“You want to fly all the way there? Doesn’t that seem a little far to you?”

“Maybe, but I’ll tell you what. I’ll pack some necessities and if it gets to be too much then I’ll set up camp somewhere safe and we can take a break. You just have to flap your wings and if you need help I’ll be there.”

She paused for a moment before giving a short nod, “Guess it’s worth a shot.”

“Glad you agree, now you just sit there and relax, I’m gonna try and figure out where to go.”

“Sounds like a plan. I’ll go ahead and give my parents a ring and let them know what’s up. You better save some energy to chat with them, because they’re gonna talk your ears off.”

Silver let out a small laugh and began to work his phone. It wasn’t the easiest task in the world, but one he could deal with. Before long he managed to make a few searches and jot down a number for the nearest place they could get to. Obviously it wasn’t a normal situation in the slightest, but it was their best bet, and that was better than nothing. He gave the number a call and sat for a few moments as the phone continued to ring. Realizing that the room was going to get too noisy with both of their phones on speaker, he trotted outside and gently shut the door, just in time for the voice on the other end to greet him.

Not really sure of what to do, or how to explain the situation, he simply gave a quick rundown of what had happened, and in turn answered a few of their questions. It was clear to Silver that whoever had answered had no clue how to treat a pony, but still they collected any information they could— stuff like how much it hurt for her to put weight on it, how old Scarlet was, what tribe she was— lots of mundane things that Silver assumed would give a basic idea of what the doctors were dealing with.

After a few more questions, they had apparently gotten everything they needed, asked him a few similar identifying questions, and gave him instructions on what he should do once they got there. Hanging up the phone, he trotted back inside and looked over toward Scarlet, who was finishing up her own call.

“So, what’d they say?” Silver asked as Scarlet hung up.

“Mom and dad are fine with it, really excited to meet you too.”

“They are?” He raised an eyebrow, “How excited are we talking?”

“Very excited. Like I said, they’re gonna ask you a lot of awkward questions and it’s gonna be embarrassing for both of us, but that’s just how they are.”

“Fair enough. Guess it’s not really a huge shock or anything, they’re probably itching for good news after the whole huge portion of the population are now alien horses thing.”

“Probably. So what’s the plan for the trip?”

Silver gestured toward the bundled roll of blankets on the ground, “We take our blankets and a few supplies. Not a whole lot. Just my cash, the phone chargers, and some water and breakfast bars in case we need them.”

“And you still want to fly?”

He nodded, “If you’re okay with that then I am. We can cuddle up and rest when we get to your parents. I called into the urgent care and they said they don’t know how much they can help us, but they can at least have one of their guys take a look at the leg and see if they can offer anything.”

“Better than nothing I suppose.”

“Exactly. I guess Equestrian doctors are hard to come by. The guy said we can talk about options once we’re there and they can actually take a look at what the problem is.”

“Wanna help me out of bed? I need to grab a bite to eat and should probably shower off before we get going.”

“Sure, just keep off that leg. I’d feel better if you just relaxed while I whip us up something to eat.”

“Or I could shower off while you make breakfast,” she offered, “Don’t worry, I’ll take it easy and give you a holler if I need help. That little scrubber thing you rigged up the other night should make it nice and easy to deal with, even with a busted leg.”

Silver hesitated for a moment, before giving a short nod, “Sounds good. You want eggs or fruit salad today? Or something else?”

She considered his question and smiled, “Eggs and maybe some French toast? Haven’t had that in a while.”

Silver returned a smile of his own, “French toast? I’m all for that!”

“Well, I’ll let you get to it.”

After their breakfast, the two had packed up their few supplies and had started on their trip, stopping by Helping Hooves’ place on the way out. Truthfully, neither she nor Silver had any idea if they were splinting the leg properly, but it seemed to ease some of Scarlet’s pain so it was as good as they could hope to get. The flight itself was easier than Silver thought it would be, taking almost half the time as the car drive would have taken. Silver had expected the views to be amazing, but words couldn’t describe how beautiful everything from above was. He was used to flying often, but he never just took in the sights as much as he was right now, and that was something he was determined to change going forward.

Just as soon as the flight had begun, it was over, and the pair had come to a gentle landing not far from where they were headed. The city they had landed in was mostly quiet, something that Silver was silently happy for. He didn’t realize it much before, but in the short time he had spent with Scarlet, he had gotten more used to being around ponies, and less used to humans. He wasn’t afraid of them, but he was definitely a little more wary of them, if only just because he was visiting an unfamiliar place that he had only gone to a few times before as a human.

“You all good Silver?” Scarlet asked, leaning up against him.

He nodded, “Yeah, just not as used to being back in a human place I guess.”

“A couple of weeks up in the mountains and you’re already forgetting about human cities, eh?” she teased.

“A little,” he laughed. “Guess I just forgot how big their buildings are.”

“And these aren’t even as big as the ones you probably had back home. They love their mountain views too much for that.”

“I figured. Still just takes a moment to get used to again I guess.”

“Well if it makes you feel any better I feel the same way.”

“At least we can be weirded out by human stuff together then,” he replied with a laugh. “So how about we get the boring doctor stuff out of the way, and then you can show me around.”

“Or the two of us can cuddle up together while my leg heals,” she offered.

Silver’s heart fluttered at the idea, “That sounds even better. The sooner we knock this out the sooner we can just get back to being all cuddly.”

“Cuddles are a good motivator, eh?” she laughed.

“When you’re the one dishing them out,” he retorted, giving her a small boop on her muzzle. “We’ll have a lot of time for that after this.”

The couple laughed as they continued toward the urgent care building, which thankfully wasn’t too far away from where they had landed. Just a short block’s walk away down an empty sidewalk that was lit by dim fluorescent lighting. Soon enough they reached the large (to them) building marked with a simple “URGENT CARE” sign. Silver glanced up toward the tall door before giving it a firm push, holding it open for Scarlet, who trotted in. Much to their relief, the cozy waiting room was mostly empty except for a bored looking attendant sitting at the desk, and a few humans sitting off to the side. As the door jingled, the woman at the desk looked up and flashed a confused look, shaking her head and muttering quietly to herself.

Clearing her throat, she stood up and looked down at the pair, “I’m going to go out on a limb and say you’re the pony that called me earlier?”

Silver helped Scarlet up onto one of the soft chairs, and then trotted up to the counter, awkwardly standing up on his hind legs and giving the woman a nod, “That’s us.”

“Alright. I went ahead and gave Doctor Ramirez the basic rundown of what happened. He’s still probably going to ask you again though, just a heads up.”

“That’s fine. So are we able to see him right now?”

“Not yet, he’s in with another patient so just hang tight. While you’re here though, mind helping me fill out some info? Just basic stuff that’ll let us figure out your friend’s medical history.”

Silver nodded, “That’s fine by me. I can’t promise I’ll know everything, so I might need to run back and ask a few things if that’s alright.”

“Sure, sure. I’m going to guess that you at least know her name, right?” she joked.

Silver let out a small laugh, “We’re together so I’d sure hope so.” He looked back toward Scarlet, and then back up to the woman, “Her name is Scarlet Moon.”

“Right, so I’m actually going to need her real name. Or, pre pony name I guess.”

Silver nodded, pausing for a moment, “Just a sec, okay?” He returned to his quadrupedal stance and trotted over toward Scarlet.

The mare looked up at him, “Everything alright?”

Silver shrugged, “Just a little snag. She needs your old human name.”

“She does? Okay, well it’s just Scarlet Delgado.” She paused for a moment and smiled at Silver’s confused look, “What? Is it that weird to you or something?”

“Ehh, not really. Guess I don’t know what I was expecting.”

“I figured the first name worked well enough, just changed the second part to match my hobby and cutie mark,” She laughed as she gestured back toward the telescope on her flank, “I told you I was a space nerd, and I guess I fell in love with more than one kind of eclipse.”

“Hey it works,” he replied with a small laugh. “You might as well come along, she’s gonna ask you some questions too.”

Scarlet nodded, carefully stepping off of the chair. Silver gave her a small hug as they trotted back to the counter, and to the human who had now stepped out and gotten down on a knee to better talk to the pair.

“Scarlet Delgado, Miss,” Scarlet replied, giving a cheerful smile to the human.

“Delgado. Got it,” She scribbled down a note onto her clipboard. “So Miss Delgado,”

“Just Scarlet’s fine. Easier for both of us,” Scarlet interjected.

“Right,” she nodded. “So Scarlet, your boyfriend said that you hurt your leg the other night?”

“Mhmm. It’s a long story, but I wound up bucking a tree hard and it’s been aching ever since.”

“Alright. Have you had any difficulty moving it in the last couple of days?”

“A little,” she emphasized with a small flex of her back leg. “I can move it just fine, but it hurts if I go too fast or put too much weight on it.”

“Right, that’s about what I was expecting from that.” She paused, taking down a few more notes, “Well, I think that’s everything I need right now. If you don’t mind, I’m going to have you two take a seat in the waiting area, and I’ll call your name when the doctor’s ready to see you.”

Silver smiled, “Thanks miss…”


Silver nodded, “Thanks Claire.”

The human smiled for what felt like the first time since the two had trotted in, “My pleasure. If you two need anything feel free to ask.”

“We will, thanks again for the help,” Scarlet replied.

Chapter 18: The Many Mysteries of Pony Medicine

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“Scarlet Delgado?”

Scarlet looked up toward the sound of the voice, catching sight of a tall human standing in the doorway.

“That’s me,” she replied with a nod.

“My name is Doctor Ramirez, and I’m all ready to see you now.”

She nodded, carefully stepping down from the chair with Silver’s help. She probably could have done it herself just as easily, but she still appreciated the thought. Plus, it was probably better just to be safe in case she stumbled or something. Making her injury worse would just be what the two needed right now.

Letting her sarcastic thought fade, she looked up at the Doctor, “So am I your first pony patient?”

“Mhmm,” he replied as he led them down the hallway. “Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen my fair share of ponies, but I’ve never had any stop by here. I got pretty far along in the process too, but then that spell kicked in and stopped it dead in its tracks.”

“And then you rehumanized,” Silver added.

“Yep, was actually one of the first once it was available out here.”

“Do you ever wish you could have gone all the way?”

He paused and looked down at Scarlet, “To tell you the truth, sometimes I do. As a doctor, all of this has just been so…”


He nodded, “That’s a good way to put it. This is why I was interested in your case. A lot of the doctors around here got hit with ETS, and some even decided to stick around as ponies, but none really stop by here much anymore. There’s not much I’ll be able to do, but this might give me a better understanding of how different you guys are. It could maybe even help others that get into similar predicaments.”

“So, you’re not kidding around when you say I’m the only pony patient you’ve ever seen?” Scarlet asked.

“Nope, but you all also seem very durable, so I think that’s a good explanation why.”

Scarlet slowly nodded as they stepped through the door and into one of the exam rooms, a feeling of worry starting to well up inside her. She was sure she’d be fine, but what if she had really hurt her leg bad? Evidently, ponies were super durable or something, but that bruise looked really bad, which meant she must have really messed something up. Not to mention that this doctor had never seen a pony patient before, and apparently, no other doctor out here had either.

“So, what do you think you can do then?” she nervously asked.

“Well, that’s the hard part. This is something I’m not trained in, though I am planning on taking the crash course that’s being offered soon. Luckily many things are the same from one mammal to another, a bone is a bone, an ankle is an ankle. I want to at least take an X-ray and see how bad the damage is, but if I’m going to be honest here, I don’t think I’ll be able to do much other than offering some recommendations on how to take care of it so it won’t get any worse.”

“Is there anyone you can recommend us to that could help more?” Silver asked, “I know you can’t do much, but maybe someone else can.”

The doctor paused for a few moments, giving Scarlet another sense of worry. It was only a few quiet moments, but the silence was deafening.

After what felt like an eternity, the doctor finally spoke up, “I don’t know anyone who’s medically trained to handle ponies outside of the larger cities. An old friend of mine is supposed to get training on that soon too, but we don’t have any time frame for when we might get that here.”

Scarlet’s ears perked up, and a small smile spread across her face, “Oh good, so you can direct us his way once you have the X-rays?”

The human shook his head, “He’s way out east, so unless you’re heading that way, you’re out of luck. Last I checked, there were a couple of doctors being trained in Colorado, and a couple I knew down in Florida; maybe even elsewhere if there’s a large enough pony population to make it necessary. The most we got was some basic literature, but no one here actually has any formal training.”

“Not really a necessity then.” Silver concluded.

“Yep. That’s how it is, though. We’ll get some in time, but we’re pretty low on the list as far as I know.”

That optimistic feeling melted away just as quickly as it had shown up. Scarlet shook her head; this was a doctor; he wouldn’t just let her run off if she was in danger of hurting herself worse. But he also couldn’t treat her efficiently. Still though, he was a doctor, and she wasn’t. She’d just have to trust that he knew what he was doing.

“So…” Scarlet started, unsure of what to even ask.

“So, I’m going to run a few tests, get some X-rays, compare them to some of the notes I do have, and we’ll see what happens.”

“What kind of tests?” Silver asked with a raised eyebrow.

“Just some basic things. See where it hurts, how much she can move it, and then just what the X-rays look like. That will at least give me an idea of what we’re dealing with. At the very least, I can maybe tell you whether it’s fractured or not.”

Scarlet slowly nodded. She’d be lying if she said she wasn’t nervous, but the doctor’s confident voice at least eased her worries slightly. It helped that she had Silver along with her too; she had always been the nervous type when going to the doctor, and having someone familiar that she felt comfortable with near her made the experience a lot less stressful.

“So, what’s first?” she asked, her voice sounding less anxious.

“I’m going to have you sit up here,” the doctor patted the bed, “and then we’ll see what hurts and when it hurts. Do you need help getting up?”

Scarlet shook her head, gently flapping her wings and carefully flying over to the bed, coming to a soft landing, “I got it.”

Doctor Ramirez looked back with a bewildered expression, “I’ll never get used to that.”

“Seeing ponies fly?”

“Mhmm. It shouldn’t be possible, but somehow it is.”

“Hey doc, I don’t want to sound rude, but can we maybe hold off on the idle chit chat until after we know what’s wrong?”

He looked over toward Silver and nodded, “I’m sorry, I didn’t get your name,”

“Eclipse. Silver Eclipse, and I am. What if she broke something or—“

“—it’s nothing to be worried about, Mr. Eclipse. If it was broken, I don’t think she’d be able to move it without it hurting like crazy.”

“It’s been hurting pretty bad lately,” Scarlet chimed in.

“But you’ve still been able to move it, right?”

She paused, giving it a few small flexes, “Yeah. I can’t put a lot of weight on it, though, and if I lay wrong, it hurts like hell.”

“Alright,” he stepped closer, pulling off the makeshift splint and looking down at her bruised back leg, “who wrapped this?”

Scarlet looked back at Silver and pointed towards him with a wing, “He did.”

“You did a very good job with this. Did you do this kind of stuff as a human?”

Silver cocked his head to the side, “No actually, just took a few classes back when I needed to fill some college credits. I never thought I’d have to use what I learned, but guess I’m glad I did.”

“I’m glad you did too. I can tell you right off the bat that this could have been a worse injury if you had just let it sit.”

“Guess that’s another one I owe you for, eh Silver?” Scarlet teased.

“Oh don’t start with that, you would have done the same thing for me.”

“Maybe,” she smiled. “So anyhow doc, how bad do you think it is?”

“Probably not too horrible. Now, I’m going to put some slight pressure on it and move it slightly to see if we can figure out that answer. If it hurts too much, just let me know.”

Scarlet nodded, “Okay, doc.”

The doctor began to slowly move the injured leg, stopping as Scarlet let out a small wince of pain.

“Everything okay?”

She nodded, “Just hurt for a sec,” she glanced over toward Silver, who seemed as if he was tense and on edge. No doubt, he was worried sick about her, and she couldn’t help but feel a wave of sympathy pass through her.

“Gotcha,” he took a step back. “So, it’s definitely a sprain, at least that’s what I’m guessing it is. Hard to tell without knowing what I’m looking for, but I can tell you that it isn’t broken.”

“How bad of a sprain?” Silver anxiously asked.

“Hard to say. It’s not bad, but it’s not good either— no sprain is.”

“So, what does that mean?” he shouted back, flashing an embarrassed look as he noticed his small, probably unintentional outburst, which made Scarlet laugh. “Sorry, I mean, what do you think this means for her recovery?”

“What it means is that it’s not broken and she’ll probably make a perfect recovery, but I don’t know how bad it is, or what we’re dealing with. You have to remember that you’re put together a lot differently than a human is.”

“So,” Scarlet cut in, not wanting to see Silver get sent out to the waiting room for being too loud and anxious, “what’s next?”

“Like I said, I want to grab a few X-rays and check the documentation the pony trained doctors sent over, but I don’t think I can treat you, at least not effectively.”

“So what does that mean then? It just has to heal on its own?”

“That’s generally how these types of injuries go,” he offered. “But if you want a second opinion, and this is going to sound completely silly, but your best bet is probably going to be going to a vet and having them take a look at you. I have some basic notes and literature, but that’s nothing without training, and I can tell you that I’m not going to have any idea how to treat this properly without running the risk of making it work.”

“But, a vet can?” Silver asked.

“It’s not a guarantee, but they might be able to tell how your limbs work a little better than I can.”

“Right now?”

“I want to do a bit of research and make some calls, see what I can learn about this, and we can go from there for a follow-up.”

“A vet,” Silver repeated back again.

“Yes, trust me, it sounds weird to me too, but they have equipment that’s probably better suited for your anatomy.”

As weird as it was to Scarlet, it made enough sense. She looked over toward Doctor Ramirez and nodded, “And they’ll probably have a better understanding of how to deal with something like this because of that.”

“Correct. It sounds dumb enough, but it won’t hurt. I don’t think we’re looking at severe long term damage, but I would rather have you go to someone who might have a better idea of what’s up rather than me, a human doctor who’s only ever dealt with human patients before, at least until I have a better idea of what we’re working with.”

Scarlet glanced back over in Silver’s direction, noting that he seemed a little more relaxed and calm now. She couldn’t blame him for being nervous, he felt like he had indirectly caused this whole situation, and he was probably feeling a pretty potent mix of guilt and worry. She’d have to treat him to something nice later, if anything, just to reassure him that he was still fine and was making a mountain out of a molehill.

“Gotcha, so do you still wanna grab some X-rays then?”

“Yes, you’re kind of the guinea pig here, but seeing the actual damage makes learning about it a lot easier.”

“Well, let’s get to it then. You said you had a friend who was being trained by an Equestrian doctor, too, right?”


“Any chance you could send him a copy to see what he has to say on it? Even if it’s just getting a second opinion? I’m fine going to the vet, but I kinda want to at least have a trained doctor look at it, just to give me that extra reassurance.” She glanced back to Silver, “To give us that extra reassurance.”

“Of course. How long it will take him to respond, I don’t know. Might be for the best though, there’s a good chance it’ll get us moved up on the list for getting actual training from Equestrian physicians if we’re dealing with a couple of pony patients.”

“I think that’s a pretty good deal for all of us then, eh?”

“It seems so.” He looked over to Silver, “Now, I’ll need you to go wait out in the waiting room while I get her X-rays. You all might be pretty durable when it comes to physical things, but I still can’t let you back in for that part.”

Silver looked over at Scarlet and gave a slow nod, “If it’s okay with you, Scarlet.”

A twinge of her earlier anxiety flared back up for a brief moment before it was quickly calmed. Scarlet felt dumb that she was so nervous earlier, Doctor Ramirez had done an excellent job at calming her worries, and she trusted him enough to leave Silver for just a quick X-ray session.

“It is,” she nodded. “Just hang out for a bit, and I promise I’ll treat you to something nice in the morning.”

He gave her a small hug, “You don’t need to do that.”

“Sure, I don’t, but I want to. You’ve done so much to make sure I’m comfortable, and I think it’s time I treat us both to something.”

Silver began to protest, but stopped, giving a nod, “Okay.”

Seeing his hesitation, she gave him another embrace, “Why don’t you go leave our phone number with Claire? I’m sure they’ll need that if the doctor needs to get ahold of us.”

“That’s a great idea,” Doctor Ramirez commented. “It won’t take long to get the results back, but it will probably take a while to hear back from my friend. If it’s any consolation, I have a good feeling that we’ll see each other again sooner than later.”

Silver and Scarlet had finished up their business with the urgent care and were already making their way over to the vet in record time. They had left their information with the receptionist, with the reassurance that they’d be in for another follow up before long. Much to Silver’s relief, the checkup didn’t wind up breaking the bank, but it wasn’t cheap either. He would be cutting it close if he wanted to buy Scarlet a new telescope, assuming that the vet didn’t eat up the rest of his cash.

The two had lucked out with the fact that the nearest vet happened to be open late, and they wouldn’t have to get up early to see them. The tall (for a pony) stucco building seemed to tower over them, though they had gotten a little more used to human dwellings again by this time. Wanting to avoid any awkward questions, Scarlet had had Silver call ahead and explain the situation to the local vet, who had thought it was a prank at first, but seemed to understand once Doctor Ramirez had explained everything.

Much to Scarlet’s relief, the door was propped open, making it easy enough for them to enter without having to fumble with the door awkwardly.

“You’re the special case, eh?”

Scarlet jumped out of surprise and looked up at the tall man sitting by the door once she had gotten her bearings, “Yeah, I suppose that’s me,” she flexed her back leg.

“Mhmm, well, you’re in luck; we can have someone take a look at that and hopefully get it sorted out.”

“That’s good to hear,” Silver added,

He held open a door and waved the pair over, “I don’t think you guys are going to complain, but this is kind of off the books. I’ve never had to process an order like this before.”

“Why’s it off the books?” Scarlet asked.

“Well, you’re a pony, but you’re not actually an animal. This is a veterinarian’s office, we probably know more about how to help you than a regular doctor, but we’re not allowed to work on people. Soooo… what that means is that you brought your dog with a sprained paw in, and no one’s going to question that. Sound good?”

Scarlet nodded, “Yeah, weird, but it works,” she replied with a laugh.

“You could totally play the sick puppy act, Scar,” Silver laughed back, earning a smirk from his marefriend.

“Glad you two understand,” he pushed open another door. “Go ahead and take a seat, Clara will be in in a few minutes to see you.”

The couple trotted over to a pair of small chairs and took a seat, cuddling up together. Scarlet looked up and nodded, “Sure,” she scanned for a nickname, picking it out, “Thanks, Mark.”

“Mhmm, if you need anything, feel free to give a holler, I’ll just be over in the next room.”

“Thanks,” Silver replied.

The human stepped out, letting the door softly close behind him, leaving the two alone together. Scarlet wasn’t as anxious as she was earlier, something she could tell that Silver had caught onto as well. She glanced over to the stallion and nuzzled up next to him, noting that he had relaxed a bit too.

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“So, I still owe you a nice night out after this. What do you say we go stop by my parents' place and get the introductions out of the way, and then I show you around the old stomping grounds?”

“Is anything going to even be open once we’re out? This didn’t really peg me as the up all night kind of place.”

“Some stuff maybe,” she shrugged, “and if it isn’t, I know a guy at one of the libraries that’s in charge of the observatory there. I’ll show you what a real telescope’s like.”

“Some advanced stargazing, eh? Sounds like a hot date.”

“For me, it is,” she teased. “I don’t know what kind of stuff you’d be into here, but there might be some nice little hangouts we can stop by. Maybe even get some snacks at a bar or something.”

“You wanna go hang out in a bar?”

“Maybe. Don’t think I’ll do a whole lot of drinking, but the mood’s always nice. We could get our own little booth and just chat the night away.”

The door opened, interrupting the pair, and a shorter woman walked in, looking down at the two with a warm smile, “Alrighty then, I’m Doctor Clara, and where is this sick puppy?”

Scarlet chuckled to herself and raised one of her front hooves, “That’d be me.”

“Perfect. Mark gave me the rundown of what’s up; I’ve got the exam room all prepped, so this shouldn’t take long at all.”

“You’re all ready to go?” Silver asked.

“Uh-huh, this is such an odd case, and I figured you two probably want to get this sorted out sooner rather than later. We’ll sit down, take some pictures of your hurt leg, and then hopefully get you all patched up before long.”

Scarlet might have been nervous at first with the last doctor, but right off the bat, this vet was warm and inviting, making her feel perfectly comfortable and not at all nervous. She returned a cheerful smile and nodded, “Sounds good! Think you’ll be able to get it all fixed up then?”

“We’ll find out in about half an hour. If you want to follow me, I can get started.”

Scarlet hopped down off of the chair and glanced back toward Silver, “Can my stallionfriend come along too?”

The vet smiled, “He’ll have to go sit out in the hallway when we’re doing the X-rays, but yeah, there’s no issue with that at all. Feeling nervous?”

Scarlet shook her head, “Not at all.”

“Great,” she held the door open, “Right this way then. It’s the second door on the left,” she looked down at Silver, “And this is going to sound kind of silly, but there’s a nice big dog bed off to the side, go ahead and crash there for a bit if you want. It’s probably a lot comfier than the ground.”

“A dog bed?” He hesitantly replied, “I…” he paused.

“It’s weird, I know. Don’t worry, though. I just washed it earlier today, and if you think you’ll look weird, then don’t worry. It’s just Mark and me here right now, and Mark’s not going to bother anyone.”

Silver nodded, “Thanks, Doctor.”

Silver nervously glanced around and took a seat on the soft-looking dog bed, letting his body relax as Scarlet trotted through the open door with Doctor Clara.

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“Alrighty miss Scarlet, this won’t take too long, and I’m sure you went through most of this in the urgent care,” she helped Scarlet up onto the table and continued, “I’m just going to need you to lay very still, and you might feel a little pain when I move your leg. I don’t know what to expect, but it can’t be that different from any other similar creature, right?”

“Well, I’m a former human, now a small other-dimensional horse looking thing with fangs and bat wings, and some of us can use magic. So I’m going to guess it won’t just be that simple.”

“Probably,” she shrugged, “at the very least, I’ll be able to splint the thing up better so you can let the sprain heal on its own.” She slowly unwrapped the splint, making Scarlet wince as the pressure was put on the sprain.

“Was it not done up enough before?”

The vet shook her head. “I can tell it was done by a doctor that deals with humans, and that wouldn’t normally be an issue… but you’re obviously not a human. Don’t get me wrong though, it did the job well enough but I’m just going to make sure it’s done in a way that’ll better support your leg. But first,” she pulled the apparatus closer, “it’s X-ray time!”

Chapter 19: A Night on the Town

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Silver’s earlier anxiety and worry was practically gone now, and more than anything he was just overjoyed that Scarlet hadn’t seriously injured herself. It was as if a huge weight was off of his conscience, because despite what she had said plenty of times that night, he still couldn’t help but feel guilty over it. Sure, she was fine with it, maybe a little annoyed at the time, but fine in the end.

But, all that said, she was still down one prized telescope, a telescope that he had broken, and had almost caused her to break her hoof over as a result. He had thought it was all over right then and there, but much to his own relief and surprise, Scarlet had accepted it as an accident and moved on. Now that the aftermath was cleared up, they could finally begin to relax together.

“Now that wasn’t so bad, was it?” Silver joked as he trotted out the door with Scarlet close by his side, leaning against him for support.

Scarlet paused for a moment and gave a quick glance back to her newly splinted back hoof, “Not really. Still feels weird having to go see a vet about this, but eh, I guess it’s better than nothing.”

“Of course it’s better than nothing,” he corrected. “Remember what the vet said? You’re lucky you didn’t break it.”

Of course, it’s just you know, a lot of money for two ponies with no income to spend on. Plus it’s kind of embarrassing…”

“But you’re safe and sound now, and that’s what’s most important. That money was for emergencies anyways,” even if I was going to splurge on a new telescope for you, he thought. “Not like we were planning on making any other big purchases,” except you know, fixing my mistake...

“True, I guess that’s the bright side.”

“And you wanted to just let it heal on its own,” he teased, sticking his tongue out at her.

“Har har, guess that’s another one I owe you then, eh?”

“Oh?” he smirked. “Nah, we’re even. Clean slate from here on out.”

“Clean slate you say? Well I guess I get to be the first one to treat the other to something then.”

“Oh?” he replied back in mock surprise. “Well I guess that means that I get to be the first one to one up the other.”

She waved him along the sidewalk, walking down the worn concrete as if she had done this plenty of times before— which she probably had if she had lived here her whole life.

“You wanna make this a game Silvie? Because I can make this a game.”

“More cuddles under the stars?”

“More cuddles under the stars, and maybe even more depending on how we’re feeling. The little dinner date is just the tip of the iceberg tonight my friend, I still promised you a trip to the observatory, remember?”

“Are you saying it’s a date?”

“Oh it’s a date, you know, just after we get to my parents’ place. Mom and dad know this place better than I do, I’m sure they’ll know where all the ponies hang at, and if that doesn’t work out then I guess we’ll just find something else to do.”

Silver smiled, leaning close to her, “Even if it doesn’t, we’ll make it work out.”

“Will we now?” she smirked. “You don’t even know what’s around here.”

“Maybe,” he shrugged, “but it’s us, we’ll find some way to make it fun if nothing else works out.”

She let out a small laugh, “I love you, you know that?”

“I love you too,” Silver finished with an overjoyed smile.

Scarlet was right, he really didn’t have any idea of what kind of night life there was in the valley, let alone what places would even cater to ponies, but he didn’t care. The two could be thrown into the most mundane situation and still find something to have fun with, even if it was just chatting and sharing stories together under the stars. It was corny and dorky, but the more time Silver spent with Scarlet, the more he grew to just love his situation. Being a pony might have been awkward and frustrating at first, and even a little lonely, but he wouldn’t trade anything in the world to go back to being a human, as long as it meant he got to spend time with his best friend in the world.

He had no idea if it was the same for other night ponies, he only knew a handful, and of all that small group, none were dating. But he and Scarlet spent almost every hour of the day together, and that only helped grow their bond. Sure, there were little patches where the two got on each other’s nerves— every relationship had those, but in the end it always turned out just fine, and he always knew that they could weather any storm, no matter how rough or rocky it was. Sometimes it was dumb stuff like Silver leaving the blankets out, or Scarlet’s choice of dreams to spend time in, but at the end of the day, the two were never afraid of sharing how much they meant to each other, and that made it all worth it.

A small smile spread across the stallion’s face as he thought about his best friend. He knew he just needed to get her a new telescope, even if he had blown through the majority of his emergency cash tonight. She had made him feel so happy and loved, and had asked for nothing in return except for the same feelings, feelings which he definitely shared. She deserved to have something nice to really pursue her hobby, even if he had to work hard to get it— and he would. Sure, he might not have a ton of cash to go spending on something like this, but he had a mechanically inclined background and just so happened to have a couple of new friends that could definitely fix up Scarlet’s old broken telescope.

“Silver, did you hear what I said? You almost just walked into the street.”

He blinked a few times and nodded, “Sorry, just lost in thought I guess.”

“Well I was saying that maybe we should just fly over to my parents place instead of having me hobble over there. Not that I don’t like being so close to you and all, but you know, it’ll give us some more time to just enjoy ourselves tonight.”

He nodded, glancing around at the dimly lit street, “Probably a good call. Is it far?”

“Nope! And it’s even closer if we just fly over everything else,” she paused. “So, whatcha thinking about anyways?”

“You.” He smiled, “I’ve only known you for a short time, but it feels like we’ve been lovers forever.”

“Dream realm does that to you I guess,” she agreed. “Not that it’s a bad thing, I think it’s kind of sweet that we can spend so much time together. Really makes it all the more special.”

“And a hell of a lot less lonely. I was just thinking that I wouldn’t ever trade any of this to go back. To being human I mean. Sure, maybe I had some fallings out because of it, but I never would have met you if it didn’t happen, and I’m so glad that I did.”

“I’m glad I did too Silvie.” She gave him a small kiss, “How about we go for a nice long flight and I can show you what this place is like? Trust me, it’s probably not like any other night flight you’ve taken in a while.”

He returned the kiss, “Sounds great Scar!”

With an excited trot in their step, the two ran forward and leaped into the sky, gracefully sweeping up and over the nearby homes, heading toward Scarlet’s old home, where the couple would no doubt be hounded with a million excited questions.

Scarlet walked ahead of Silver as they neared her family’s home, being sure to keep the pressure off of her injured back hoof. She paused just a short distance from the lawn, glancing between the home and her stallionfriend a couple of times.

“Okay, just let me do the talking, don’t get embarrassed with their questions, they’re just gonna be excited to see you.”

Silver nodded, “Gotcha. Can’t be that big of a deal right?”

“Welllll you haven’t met my parents. Just don’t be afraid to tap out if it gets to be too much. They’re… excitable and energetic, and think ponies are adorable.”

“Guess that makes making a first impression a bit easier, eh?”

She chuckled, “Probably. Just be yourself, they’re gonna love you.”

“Can do!”

She nodded and let out a small breath, “Alright, well let’s go give ‘em a knock, see how they are.”

“Should I leave out the part about having to go to the vet that wasn’t trained for this kind of thing?”

“What do you think?”

“Me? Oh I think they’re gonna think it’s adorable.”

“Silver!” she shouted back, eliciting another laugh from the stallion.

“What?! You said to be ready for the barrage or embarrassing questions, what better way to do that then deflect them with an embarrassing story?!”

She shook her head, “I’ve made a monster… just uhh… let’s leave out the vet part for now, I don’t need them bringing that up every time they see me.”

“You think they will?”

“Silver, they’re my parents. Of course they will. Hey Scarlet, how’s the leg? Remember that time you kicked a tree and your stallionfriend had to take you to the vet? Did you get a treat for being good after? Yeah no, I don’t need that hanging over my head for the rest of my life, thank you very much.”

“Oh come on, I think it’d make for some fun conversation.”

“Yeah? Okay pal, you’re not the only one that can weaponize stories like that.”

Silver slyly smiled, “Is that right? What do you have against me?”

“Oh I don’t know, maybe the story about our first kiss, or the time you rolled out of bed because you didn’t realize you had cuddled up with me in your sleep, or maybe when you were cuddled up in a dog bed at the vet and looked really sad and distraught when they made you leave?”

Silver froze in place, “Well… I, you see…”

“That’s what I thought.” She stuck her tongue out, “Now let’s give the teasing a rest for a few and get the parent encounters out of the way.”

“Alright, we’ll call it a truce for now.”

“Good,” she smiled, “I’ll lead the way and do the talking, you just keep looking cute and play along, kay?”

He nodded.

“Awesome,” she began to trot forward, with Silver following close beside her.

He didn’t know what to expect, but based on the description and warnings so far, Silver could only assume that they were going to be super excited to see him, which gave him even more reason to get through the meeting quickly. He chuckled to himself, the embarrassing stories would definitely have to wait until later.

Scarlet paused and peeked over at Silver, before raising her hoof up and giving the door a few quick knocks. At first there was just silence, and then a small murmuring behind the door could be heard, making Silver twitch his ears in anticipation.

The door quickly swung open, revealing a kind looking couple that beamed down at the pair. The woman, who Silver guessed was Scarlet’s mom, was the first to speak up.

“Oh my gosh! Scarlet, is this your little boyfriend?!”

She ran forward and was pulled into a tight hug, making Silver smile at the sight.

“Hey mom! Hey dad! It’s so good to see you guys again!”

The woman let go of her daughter, “It’s great to see you too.” She turned toward Silver, “And it’s really good to see you! I’m Margaret, and you must the pony that Scarlet called us about.”

“Nice to meet you!” Silver beamed, “Scarlet’s told me all about you guys.”

“Good things I presume?” her father spoke up.

Scarlet nodded, “Very good things. I think you guys are gonna get along really well.”

Margaret looked back toward Scarlet, and grimaced at her splinted hoof, “Let’s get you two inside so you’re not standing around on that leg.”

“It’s fine mom, it doesn’t hurt that bad.”

“I don’t care, you need to relax for a bit.”

“Plus it gives us some time to chat with you two. You know, it also gives us a chance to get to know more about Silver too, before you two can run away from us.”

Scarlet laughed, making Silver feel even more welcome, “What do you say Silvie? Wanna sit down and get the embarrassing parent questions out of the way? I’m sure they’re really itching to get to those.”

“It depends, are there going to be embarrassing baby pictures too?”

Scarlet’s father broke into a laugh, “I like him already Scarlet, he’s gonna fit right into the family.”

Silver couldn’t help but smile even more. He had only known her family for a few minutes at most, but it already felt like he had known them for ages. Something about the way they talked with him just put him at ease and brought a smile to his face. He knew the embarrassing questions were on the way, but he wasn’t as worried as he was before, because he knew he could just feel at home in their house.

As the pair trotted in, Margaret gently closed the door, waving them toward the cozy looking living room, “This is a total cliché, but I’ve got some cookies in the oven, they’re your favorite too Scarlet.”

“Grandma’s chocolate chip and butterscotch cookies?” she replied, licking her lips in anticipation.

“Grandma’s recipe,” she confirmed.

Scarlet leaned in close to Silver, “Maybe this was a good idea after all.”

Silver nodded, “Maybe? Free cookies on the table automatically wins me over, so I’d say this was a great idea.”

“So Silver, Scarlet told us all about how much you two loved each other, any future grandkids we need to know about?”

Silver’s face reddened as he glanced over at her father, “None yet…”

“Yet… So you’re saying that’s in the cards for the future?”

Silver looked over at Scarlet with an anxious look on his face.

“Let’s not jump the gun just yet dad, I’m sure you two will be the first to know if we ever decide to do that, isn’t that right Silver?”


The two bats soared high above the sprawling valley, the shimmering field of lights below almost looking like a vast galaxy in the middle of the dark and dusty desert. Silver couldn’t help but gasp out loud, earning a snicker from Scarlet.

“What’s up Silvie? Haven’t you seen a city from above before?”

“Sure,” he nodded, “just not one that’s so… flat. And spread out too,” he glanced over toward his marefriend, “It’s just so weird I guess. Back home was so… hilly and packed in, this whole place is like the opposite, you know?”

“Well that’s the valley for you hon. I don’t know about you, but it reminds me of space in a weird way.”

“That’s actually pretty much what I was thinking about. Something about having the bright lights above and below us just feels so… nice. You know what I mean?”

She smiled and drifted from side to side, closing her eyes for a brief moment, “It does. Ever since I was a filly I’ve dreamed about going up there, and this kind of almost feels like I’m doing it,” she paused and weaved across the sky in a way long arcs. “You know Silver, I never realized how much I missed doing this and I’m glad I can share this with you.”

“You did this before?”

“Mhmm,” she paused her graceful swim through the night sky, coming into a hover near the stallion. “Just after I transformed, when there were still a lot of ponies out here. There wasn’t much to do, but this was perfect for me. Made me feel like I had the whole world to myself, and it was like a dream come true too.”

“And then you moved?”

“Yeah. There wasn’t really a life down here for me, at least not one I wanted to live out. I could have stayed here and tried to continue my old life, but I thought why not just wipe clean the slate and start from scratch, and that was the best decision of my life… even if I do miss doing stuff like this.”

“I said it a bunch before, but I’ll say it until the day I die. It was the best decision of my life too, and I’m so glad we can spend this time together.”

“I am too.” She glanced down toward a more densely grouped spot of light in the city, “I think that’s the place mom and dad were talking about.”

“That pony bar?”

“No, the pony watching paint dry museum,” she teased. “Of course it’s the pony bar. Guess that place has been popping lately.”

“Didn’t they say it used to be some human run place?”

“It was, then I guess they decided to rebrand for a new audience or something.”

“Hey, it gives us something to do that isn’t answering all those awkward relationship questions from your parents,” he shrugged. “They’re nice, but maaaaan they know how to really grill you.”

She let out a loud laugh, “Heh, that’s on you buddy. I gave you advanced warning so you knew it was coming before you even caught sight of them.”

“True, true. Guess it could have been worse too.”

“Oh yeah? And how’s that?”

“Well, they could have been the don’t you dare break our daughter’s heart or we’ll come after you kind of parents.”

His response earned another laugh from her, that joyful sound bringing a loving smile to Silver’s face.

“Guess that’s true. My best friend growing up had a couple of parents like that. They were even like that through college too which probably got awkward.”

They slowly began to dip their altitude, their wings making subtle, almost involuntary adjustments while they kept to their conversation.

“Probably?” He glanced toward her, “How about very. I can’t imagine having my parents gush over someone like that as an adult.”

“Yours aren’t like that I’m guessing.”

“Far from it,” he agreed back, “They never really concerned themselves much with that kind of stuff.”

“So what are they like then?”

Silver froze at the innocent question, his thoughts just drifting away to the last conversation he had had with them. It was an argument, one that ended in his father calling him a brainwashed fool, a broken heart, and lots of tears on a good friend’s couch that night. A frown began to spread across his face, and his body tensed up as he tried to form a response that wouldn’t lead into him getting choked up.

“I think I told you this before, but I don’t really talk to them. I didn’t leave their place on good terms and it’s still an open wound for me.”

Scarlet slowed her descent and came to a hover. “Silver,” she laid a hoof across his back, “I didn’t realize it was a touchy subject.”

“It’s okay,” he replied, his voice taking a decidedly more sour tone, “It's just… I don’t know, I wish things could have ended better, but what he said just stung so much, and I wanted to just wash my hooves of it and move on.”

“It’s not okay though, you’re hurting and I feel bad for bringing it up.”

He looked her in the eyes, flashing the most sincere smile he could muster, “Scarlet, don’t feel bad. I never would have met you if I wasn’t a pony, and meeting you was the greatest moment in my life.”

“You’re too sweet.”

“I mean it though, you’ve done so much for me without even realizing it. You’re a pony who I can just share everything with, and it’s helped take my mind off of that,” some of the confidence returned to his voice. “Maybe it’s too soon to say, but I like to think it’s made me a better pony in the long run.”

“You think so?”

“I know so. I could have just resigned myself to being sad and upset over the falling out, but I didn’t. I decided to see what I could do, and meeting you only pushed that further. I’ve got a lot of dreams, and you’ve helped me follow them. So don’t feel bad, sometimes you just have these rough patches in life and then you meet someone that makes all the difference in the world— someone who really feels like your other half.”

She smiled, “Glad you’re handling it so well. So how about we check that place out and see what’s happening, get our minds off of what’s been bringing us down and just focus on us.”

“I think that sounds like an excellent idea.”

“What does?” came a new voice from nearby, startling Silver out of his hover.

He glanced over at a night pony with a purple coat so dark that she almost seemed to blend into the night sky. It was no wonder he didn’t see her approach, the mare almost had the perfect natural camouflage, her neon colored hair and piercing pink eyes were the only things that seemed to stand out in contrast.

“I uhh, sorry, guess I didn’t see you fly over.”

“Lots of ponies don’t.” She held out a hoof, “The name’s Sine Wave, nice to meet you Blue.”

“Blue?” he replied back with a confused face.

“Well I don’t have a name and you’re blue, aren’t you?”

He glanced over at Scarlet, who was scanning the new mare with an unreadable expression that almost seemed to shout Back off, I don’t like you.

With a few idle blinks, her expression softened and she flew in between Silver and Sine Wave, “Nice to meet you Sine. I’m Scarlet, and this is my stallionfriend Silver.”

Sine Wave gave Scarlet an apprehensive glare that quickly faded into a small smile, “Nice to meet you two. You from out of town or something? I don’t remember seeing you around.”

“He is. I grew up here though,” she replied. “How about you?”

“I’m a local. I grew up close to Phoenix, but wound up moving over here a while ago.”

“Sooo…” Silver interjected, sensing the tension in the air, “What’s up?”

“Not much. Saw a couple of bats flying around and figured I’d go say hi. There’s not a lot of us around here, so it’s a nice change of pace. How about you Blue?”

“We were just about to go stop by that pony hangout that’s popped up.”

“The Golden Horseshoe? I hate to burst your bubble but you’re not gonna find a whole lot of ponies down there right now. At best you’re gonna have like the only two other night ponies in the valley hanging out. Maybe the partial bartender too.”

“That’s fine by me,” Scarlet responded. “We were kind of planning on just hanging out tonight anyways.”

“Like a date?”


Silver picked up on the unease and flew around Scarlet, “We kind of had a whole plan for tonight. Didn’t think we’d run into any other night ponies around here.”

“Mhmm, understandable,” Sine glanced down toward the bar. “Guess you’re not looking for another friend to hang with then.”

Silver glanced over to Scarlet, flashing her a look that he hoped read I need you to make a call on this. Taking his cue, she cleared her throat.

“We weren’t really planning on that… but some more company wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. Just expect a lot of mushy romance stuff, this was kind of our date night.”

She shrugged, “Fine by me, that kind of stuff’s never really been my thing but I guess it’s better than sitting alone again.”

Silver gave a short nod, “You’re like the only other night pony that either of us has seen in the real world in a long time. First friendly one at least, I kinda pissed off most of the other ones back in LA who didn’t like how I wasn’t into the vision and they pretty much distanced themselves from me.”

Sine’s face shifted into an almost aggressive glare that Silver had seen a handful of times before, making him nervously gulp, “You were against the vision?”

Chapter 20: A Memorable Evening in More Ways Than One...

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Silver reared back and braced himself for the inevitable confrontation, speaking in a lower tone that he hoped would make him sound more confident and less nervous, “No, actually, I didn’t. Is that a problem at all?”

Sine deepened her glare for a moment, making Silver’s fight or flight instincts start to flare up. Time seemed to stretch into eons before Sine dropped her angered expression and burst out into a loud cackling laugh, “Nope, I just wanted to scare you. I wasn’t for all that crap either; nopony out here was.”

“Well, sounds like we’re in a good place then,” he let out a sigh of relief and relaxed his tense muscles. “I thought we were gonna get chased away for a sec,” he glanced over at Scarlet, who seemed just as on edge as Silver was, but her demeanor dropped before Sine could notice.

“Me too,” Scarlet agreed with a hint of hesitation carrying in her voice. “I was getting ready to leap into action, not gonna lie.”

Sine nodded, “Nothing says fun like getting that kick of adrenaline.”

“Right…” Silver replied back, hesitantly.

He had no idea what to make of this pony. And now his heart was pumping from all the adrenaline, which only made him more uneasy around the unfamiliar mare. He had to admit, though, it did fill him with this almost instinctual feeling of suspense and glee, kind of like what he felt when riding a rollercoaster, which only made him more confused.

“You scare all the new people you meet?” Scarlet asked, breaking the silence.

“Sometimes,” Sine shrugged. “It sets the bar on whether we’ll all get along well or not. Day ponies don’t like it, and I don’t get along with them, so I rest my case.”

“Uh-huh,…” Yep, this was probably a bad idea, or so Silver thought, “So this place? You said it’s probably going to be deserted?”

“Probably. Unless there’s some other night owls or insomniacs up, it’s gonna be pretty quiet, but that’s better, trust me. All the day ponies are too friendly and loud; I like it more this way.”

“You’ve been here before?” Scarlet asked.

“Mhmm, I’m like Dean’s number one customer. There’s nothing else to do at night around here.”

“Nothing else?” Scarlet asked with a bewildered inflection in her voice, “What about all the nightlife?”

“Too many humans. They’re just as loud as the day ponies and even more annoying. Always wanting to give you head pats or pet you or always asking about what it’s like to be a pony.”

Silver raised an eyebrow, “You’re not a huge human fan, are you?”

She waved them down, “Nah, bats are better company anyways. At least when they don’t get so jumpy about stuff.”

“You mean like how you made us?”

“Nah, you two are chill; some of the other bats freak out and attack if you rile ‘em up enough,” she swooped over in the air and slowly began to descend toward the street.

“Don’t you think that maybe you shouldn’t scare them then?” Silver asked as he followed.

“I could stop it,” she shrugged, “but where’s the fun in that? Nothing wrong with a good scuffle every now and again, right?”

“Can’t say we’re on the same page there, but you do you,” Scarlet replied.

Sine touched down, going into a small trot toward one of the nearby buildings, “Right back at you. Vector pony’s the same way.”

“Vector pony?” Silver asked in confusion.

“One of my friends, don’t worry about it, Blue.”

Silver began to correct her, but quickly realized that nicknames were just her thing, and went along with it. The three trotted into the cozy, dimly lit restaurant, the sounds of hoofsteps on the wooden floor drawing the attention of the bartender, who almost looked entirely human except for his two mismatched eyes, some patches of orange fur along his arms, and a bright purple streak that ran through his dark brown hair.

“Heya Sine, catch a couple of newbies tonight?”

“Sure did, Oddball,” she glanced over to another blue night pony sitting alone in a corner, who was working away on some tablet with a stylus strapped to his hoof. “Heya Star, back again?”

“Yep. Neighbors were being loud, so I figured I’d get some work done here.”

“I feel you, Vector. Whatcha got this time? Logo? Banner?..”

“A few help wanted ads for some of the places that were barely scraping by,” he answered without looking up from the tablet. “They’re getting pretty desperate and want to pull in more of the ponies around here, you know, show what a nice and inclusive place they are and all that.”

“Ha, good luck with that,” she laughed. “The day ponies are all dead set in that bogus vision still, I don’t think any amount of flashy advertising and promises of a promising pony career path is gonna pull them in.”

He shrugged, “That’s their problem to deal with, not mine. Sure it’s a dumb job, but it’s easy money, and it’ll keep the lights on for another month.”

“So, where’d you drag the couple in from?” Dean interrupted. “I thought you two were the only night regulars ‘round here.”

Sine glanced back at the bartender and smirked, “Couple of visiting bats from out of town. Red’s from around here but moved away, dragged Blue along for some visit.”

“I lived like 10 minutes away, had to stop down for a doctor visit,” she gestured back to her leg. “Kind of wild to be back here though, thought I’d never visit again.”

“Well, welcome back then, it’s always fun to see some new faces ‘round here. Why don’t ya take a seat, see if anything sounds good to you.” He slid a large drink menu toward the pair, “Go ahead and relax wherever you want, just give a holler if you need anything.”

With a nod in unison, the pair maneuvered through the cramped but cozy interior toward a comfy looking booth off to the side. Pillows and cushions littered the floor, but it made perfect sense, given the restaurant’s more equine clientele. Something about the hand-decorated feel of the place just made it seem so… inviting and welcoming, which only reinforced the idea that this was a popular pony hangout place.

The bartender took a glance at the trio and set his sights on their newly met acquaintance, “You want your usual, Sine?”

“Mhmm, that’d be great.”

“Gotcha, one mint dream coming right up.”

Silver and Scarlet both took a look at the menu, taking in the long list of specially made drinks.

Scarlet looked up, “I guess I’ll have a sparkling rain; that’s just water, right?”

“Water distilled by some of the local pegasi, but yeah.”

“Awesome, how about you, Silver?”

The night pony’s eyes fixated on one particular item on the drink list, something called The Moonlight Mango, which 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 popular with the night ponies lately. Traded a couple of drink recipes with some night pony visiting from Florida. I’d personally recommend it if you like some nice tropical drinks.”

“Sign me up for one of those then,” Silver gleefully replied, his mouth watering as he imagined the delectable mango flavor.

The human nodded and went to work, mixing up the custom drinks.

“So you two were in for a doctor visit? Mind sharing what happened?” Sine questioned.

“It’s a pretty dumb story,” Scarlet replied. “We went out on a camping trip, an accident happened, and I angrily kicked a tree like an idiot and almost broke my hoof.”

“And apparently none of the doctors out here knew how to deal with that,” Silver added, earning an annoyed glare from Scarlet.

“Thankfully, a specialist knew how to set it at least so it wouldn’t get any worse.”

Silver smirked at her description and nodded, “We got lucky… though it kinda made a big dent in our emergency funds…”

“Isn’t that great? Guess you guys lucked out; Dean’s got the good stuff for cheap.”

“That’s a funny way to say it, Sine,” the bartender piped up, “I like to think it’s affordable rather than cheap.” He slid a few delicious looking drinks over, “It’s good business, good drinks for a good price and ponies eat it up.”

“Cheap, affordable, same difference. Point is, you’re like the only place with decent grog and grub that caters to ponies.”

He shrugged, “You got me there.”

“So, you finally get that new late-night menu all figured out?”

The mostly-human flipped the menu over and nodded, “Dean’s late-night bites, ready for you to enjoy.”

Sine glanced back to the pair, “I’m gonna grab a bite to eat; you two want anything?”

Silver looked over at Scarlet and paused, a loud grumbling seemingly answering the question before he could ask. He looked back to the menu and nodded, “Yeah, that’s probably a good idea. What looks good to you, Scar?”

She pulled the menu over and looked up to the bartender, “Just an FYI, I’m covering this one before he has a chance to go for the bill.”

Silver looked back to Scarlet, “Hey, I got this.”

“Nope.” She shook her head, “You paid for the doctor visits; I got this. I said I was going to treat you to a date tonight, and I’m not gonna take no for an answer.”

He shrugged back, “You sure? What if you just grab the tip, and I grab the tab?”

“Nuh-uh, I know for a fact that you spent most of your savings on the bills. Just sit back and let me take care of this.”

He gave a short nod, “Gotcha.”

Scarlet smiled and returned her attention to the menu, browsing it for a few moments before settling on something, “Mango flatbread and the fruit platter.”

“Wow, you two are sure on a mango kick tonight, aren’t you?” Sine chuckled back.

“What can I say? Stuff’s good,” Scarlet laughed.

“I’m just joking with you. I kind of figured you’d go for that; it’s like the best dish here. Right, Star?”

The other night pony looked up from the tablet he was drawing on and gave a short nod, “Sure is; I’ve blown like four commissions on them.”

“See? That stuff’s the best.”

“Guess we’ll find out, won’t we?”

Sine looked back at Scarlet, “Trust me Red, you’re in for a real treat.”

Silver’s mouth watered as Dean placed the flatbread in front of the two. The sweet aroma of mango and other assorted flavors made him realize how hungry he was and how much he was looking forward to this. He glanced over to Scarlet and smiled, “You picked well, hon.”

“You think so? You haven’t even tried it yet.”

“I figured you should get the first bite.”

“Really? Because I think you should have the first bite, after everything you’ve done.”

He shook his head, “Nah, you’ve earned it. I still owe you for the telescope, and you insisted on paying for this.”

“I have an idea,” Sine chimed in, “What if you two just both take a bite at the same time and cut the cute banter.”

“Lady and the Tramp style?” Silver asked.

“Maybe not like that, unless you really want to get into the mushy romance date night stuff. Just a fair warning, though, I’ll probably ditch you and go chat with Vector pony over there,” she gestured over to the other night pony.

Scarlet gave Silver a playful smirk, “Well, I think the idea’s kind of cute; it is date night after all.”

She picked up a slice of the flatbread in her mouth and held it up in offering, giving Silver a wink.

The stallion’s face reddened as he slowly approached the offered food. He was hesitant on whether he really wanted to do something like this in front of a couple of random ponies and a human, but one whiff of the delicious-looking food pushed those thoughts to the back of his head.

He leaned forward and took a hesitant bite, immediately grinning as each of his taste buds was bombarded with the raw flavor. He took another bite and pulled back, blushing as he looked back to Scarlet.

“Okay, we gotta come back here again.”

She finished her half of the slice and smiled, “That good, eh?”

Silver excitedly nodded his head, “Oh, you bet.”

“Well, huh, I didn’t think you two would actually do it. I’m gonna go ahead and let you two have some privacy for a bit. I’d love to chat later, though,” Sine replied with a playful smile. “Just give me a holler when you’re done, or don’t; I was kind of the one that butted into your evening anyways.”

Scarlet flashed an annoyed expression before shifting her face into a probably forced smile, “Thanks, Sine.”

“Sure thing Red. Now you two don’t get too lovey-dovey here; it’s a family place.”

“Got it, Sine, only PG hoof holding and maybe a few light kisses from us,” Silver joked.

She flashed a mocking grimace before sliding out of the low cushioned booth and making her way over toward the only other pony in the room. Finally, the pair were alone, and they could relax for a bit.

“Finally, a little privacy,” Scarlet muttered under her breath, just loud enough for Silver to hear, but not so loud that either of the other two ponies would.

“What? Not your idea of date night?” Silver smugly replied.

“Oh no, believe me, I wasn’t planning on making a new friend tonight. She’s friendly enough, but…”

“But you wanted to just spend some one on one time with your favorite pony in the whole wide world?” He offered.


“Well, hey, think of this as just the date night pre-game. You wanted to show me that observatory across town, right?”

“For sure, and maybe even some other stuff. There’s some nice hiking trails around here, and if we time it right, it’ll be extra special.”

“See? We can just politely say our goodbyes after this and go do that kind of stuff. Plus, she realized we wanted to cuddle up on our own, so we have that going for us too now.”

“Could be worse,” Scarlet agreed, “It’s not like she’s a bad pony or anything, just… different.”

“Aren’t we all?”

“Fair enough. Guess she’s kind of in the same boat we are.”

“Just minus the being madly in love with the only other night pony around part,” Silver joked.

Scarlet glanced over at the other pair, letting out a small laugh at the other stallion who seemed more annoyed than he was interested in whatever conversation Sine was engaging him in.

“What, you don’t think those two are madly in love?”

Silver peeked over and laughed, “Yeah…. no. Unless they’ve got some weird chemistry going on.”

Scarlet took another bite of the flatbread, closing her eyes as she savored the flavor, prompting Silver to take another slice for himself. He had no idea that fruit like this could be so good, and he was definitely eager to try more creative ways of adding it to dishes like this.

She opened her eyes again and smiled at Silver, “What’s that look on your face for?”

“Hm?” Silver’s attention was pulled front and center, “Just thinking about what I’m going to cook for you when we get back home.”

“Oh? Got something in mind?”

“Maybe,” he smirked.

“Anything you wanna share?”

“Nope, it’s gonna be a surprise. But between you and me, it’s gonna have a lot of fruit in it.”

“Can’t wait to see what you make, Chef Silver. If it’s anything like this, then I know it’s gonna be great.”

“If it’s anything like this, then I’ll go start my own restaurant. You chose well, and I don’t think I’m gonna be able to top this.”

“Hey, you won’t know unless you try,” she offered.

“True, true. Guess we’ll have to have plenty more date nights like this… just maybe with the home-cooked food instead of going out to eat… for a while at least.”

“Hey, any time with you is a perfect enough date night for me.”

“I’m sure anything else would be more perfect than tonight; I don’t think starting it out with a doctor visit is my idea of perfect.”

“It’s perfect enough for me,” she shrugged, “and it’s only gonna get better.”

“That’s what you keep saying, and believe me, I’m excited.”

“You should be. It’s not gonna be a big action-packed night, but spoiler alert, it’s going to be romantic.”

“You mean more romantic than sharing a mango flatbread in a mostly empty restaurant?”

“Oh yeah, way more romantic than that. We’re talking cuddling under the stars and watching the sunrise romantic.”

“Hey, I hate to interrupt you two lovebirds, Sine interrupted, “but you’re probably not gonna want a third wheel tonight anyways, so I’ll go leave you to your mushy date stuff. I’d love to chat later, though, if you guys are up for it, at least.”

Scarlet nodded, letting out an annoyed sigh, “That sounds good, Sine. Thanks for giving us some space.”

“Anytime Red, you two have fun now, just not too much fun.”

“Thanks, Sine," Silver replied.

Silver snuggled up close to Scarlet and sighed a happy sigh as the morning sky grew closer to dawn. They had excused themselves from the restaurant after getting Sine’s information (or rather having it handed to them by the excited night pony), and had flown over to the library observatory that Scarlet was so eager to show him. Much to their disappointment, it was closed for the night, but they didn’t let that bother them much. Instead, they had chosen to simply cut right to the chase and spend the rest of their night cuddled up on one of the nearby hiking trails, excitedly waiting for the beautiful sunrise that Scarlet had promised to share.

“You ready, Silver?”

He tightened his wing around her and nodded, “Yes, and no.”

“No?” She looked up at him, “What do you mean, no?”

“I’m excited to see it, but once it happens, that means our night’s over.”

“You enjoyed it that much?”

“Of course, I enjoy every night with you. Even the mundane ones.”

“You know we’ll just pick this up with some big dream adventure after, right?”

“Yeah, of course, but that’s not as good as the real thing. I don’t feel your warmth in the dream realm, or pick up your scent, or hear your breathing. I love cuddling up in a nice cozy dream, but I really love doing that out here more.”

“Aww, that’s sweet,” she nuzzled up next to him, “I really love spending time with you too.”

A big smile spread across Silver’s face as the sun’s golden rays started to slowly light up the valley below.

“It’s something, isn’t it?”

“Believe me, it really is. You don’t know how hard it was to leave this place.”

“Ever wish you could come back?”

She shook her head, “Nah. Sure, there’s some nice perks, but it’s also noisy, and there’s too many cars around. I like our nice peaceful home better.”

“Me too,” he closed his eyes and breathed in the cool morning air, “I had a perfect night tonight, unexpected doctor visit and all.”

“Even randomly making a new friend?”

“Even randomly making a new friend,” he confirmed. “You gotta admit though, it is kinda nice meeting other night ponies.”

“Sure, guess I just wasn’t ready for another overly friendly pony. I kinda forgot what that was like.”

“Forgot? Look at us. Barely knew each other before starting a deeply romantic relationship.”

“Yeah, and we spent time together almost twenty-four seven, that makes getting to really know somepony a lot easier and faster.”

“Sure does, and I wouldn’t have it any other way,” he looked skyward again and let out another gasp. “Why don’t we do this kind of stuff more often?”

“Go out on romantic dates?” Scarlet inquired.

Silver shook his head, “Watch the sunrise.”

“The trees.”

“Hm?” He looked back over to the crimson mare, “What about em?”

“They’re tall, you dork.” She laughed, “We can’t just cuddle up and watch the sunrise back home like this unless we’re flying. Plus, it doesn’t light up home like this.”

Silver looked down across the sprawling desert valley and nodded, “Fair point. Guess I never put two and two together.”

“Let me guess; now you’re gonna say we need to make more trips out here to do this, right?”

His eyes opened in surprise for a moment, betraying the fact that Scarlet had practically read his mind.

A sly grin slowly spread across his face, “Only when we’re feeling extra romantic.”

“So every day then is what you’re saying,” she joked.

“No, no, no. I mean, extra romantic. When we’re really head over hooves in love and just want to go do something fun together.”

“That’s different from every other day?”

“Yep!” he cheerfully replied, “You’ll know when it’s time for that.”

“Oh, I’m sure I will,” she laughed.

Silver pulled her closer as the sun slowly began to show over the mountains in the distance, “I really can’t tell you how much you mean to me. So thanks for everything, Scar, it means the world to me.”

“Ponies help ponies, even if it’s just giving a shoulder to cry on or an ear to listen with. In our case, I guess it’s a lot more.”

“You guess?” He smiled, “We really do make a great team, don’t you think?”

“We sure do, Silver,” Scarlet responded, pulling him closer as she gazed up at the sun peaking over the mountains, letting out a happy sigh of her own.

The two sat in silence for a few brief moments before Silver spoke up again, “So… wanna spend another night here, or do you want to get back home and relax?”

“Doc said I should give my hoof a test from time to time, so resting is probably the best option. And as much as I’d love just to spend a whole lot of time doing romantic stuff with you… we’re kinda pressed for cash to do anything.”

Silver slowly nodded, “Yeah… guess you’re right there,” he stopped for a moment as an idea came to his head, “Nothing says we can’t have more romantic nights at home.”

“Nope, nothing at all. Maybe we’ll have to just take some more early morning flights.”

“And I can turn our little retreat spot into an awesome hangout!” Silver excitedly interjected.

“For who? The only two nocturnal ponies there?”

“Who else?”

“Oh, I don’t know, Sine Wave, maybe?” Scarlet shot back with a glare.

He pulled her into a loving embrace, “Sine might be moving up there, but our retreat is our special place, and I wouldn’t even dream about bringing any other ponies there.”

Scarlet’s grimace slowly melted away as the two leaned in for a kiss, the sun’s light enveloping them in its radiant warmth as their embrace grew more and more passionate.

The two lovers trotted along the street and up to the small one-story house that Scarlet had lived in for most of her life, exchanging a few laughs and even a few kisses along the way. The rest of the street seemed quiet and asleep, but the lights inside Scarlet’s parents’ house were on, cluing them in that at least someone was awake. A quick glance into the driveway showed that the car out front was gone, making it pretty evident that they at least wouldn’t be bombarded with as many questions this time around, which they were relieved at.

Scarlet reached up to the door and gave a few hard knocks, waiting patiently next to Silver while her mother opened the door.

“My two favorite little ponies! How was your night?”

Silver let out a long, involuntarily drawn-out yawn and then blushed at his unintentional rudeness, “Romantic and wonderful.”

“Well, tell me more. What did you two lovebirds wind up doing all night?” she eagerly asked as the pair stepped into the cozy home.

“Had some good food, made a friend or two, and then just spent a lot of time making out together in the hiking trail above that one shopping plaza I used to work in,” Scarlet replied back candidly.

“That’s all? Did you two go anywhere fun?”

“Scarlet was going to bring me to the library that had that observatory, but it was closed. Guess we showed up too late for the other night owls,” he let out another yawn. “That was fine though; we can make anything fun. Even if it’s boring.”

“Well, Scarlet always had a knack for that.”

“Yep!” she replied, letting out a yawn of her own. “Thanks for the heads up on that pony hangout. Was a nice place with some decent enough company.”

“And we might even have a new recipe or two to try out,” Silver added.

“That sounds lovely. What kind of recipes?”

“Mango flatbread and some fruit drinks,” Scarlet replied. “Stuff that’s not up your alley, but I wanted to try and make some desserts too.”

The older woman’s eyes lit up in glee, “Oh my gosh, you can come back down and try out some new baking recipes with me then.” She looked over the pair again, “How long are you two staying here anyways? Just today, or is this going to be a little staycation?”

“Just today, mom, we’re gonna crash and then bounce later tonight.” The woman began to frown, but before she had a chance to speak up, Scarlet continued, “But, I have a follow up that we need to schedule, so we’ll definitely be back.”

“Did they not schedule one for you already?”

“Nah, but don’t worry. We had a chat with the doc, and they said it was fine as long as I didn’t put too much weight on the hurt hoof. Gave me a number to call if it gets worse, then said call them back, and we’ll schedule everything in time.”

“I see… well, at least you’re in good hands… or hooves?”

“Good hands. I’m apparently the only pony patient out here.”

“That’s right,” Silver cut in, “Scarlet’s extra special.”

“Stop it, you,” she playfully shouted back.

“Well, I’m going to guess you two are pretty tired and probably want to rest your heads for a bit, right?”

“That’d be lovely, Mrs. Delgado,” Silver politely replied.

She stood up and waved them toward the hallway and pointed toward an open doorway, “Scarlet’s old room is there. Bathroom is right across, and if you need anything feel free to help yourselves. I’ll be back around noon.”

“Short shift at the diner?”

She nodded at her daughter, “Yep. They’re splitting the shifts between everyone so we can all get some hours.”

“Makes sense,” Scarlet nodded, letting out another yawn. “We’ll be sure to say our goodbyes before heading out.”

“And you’ll stay for dinner too.”

Scarlet shook her head, “Don't worry, you don’t need to do that for us, mom.”

“I don’t need to, but I’m going to. The house has been so empty ever since your sister ran off to New York; it’ll be our treat.”

“Thanks, mom,” Scarlet pulled her into a tight hug, “I’m so glad you and dad got to meet Silver.”

“I’m glad you introduced us. Hopefully, you’ll come by and visit often?”

“You know we will,” she cheered back.

Margaret smiled, “You two have a nice day. If you need anything, give me a call, and don’t be afraid to make yourselves right at home, okay?”

“Definitely.” Silver smiled, “Thanks again for everything; I already feel like I fit right in here.”

“I’m glad to hear that. Have a nice sleep.”

She gave Scarlet one last hug and left the pair to their own devices. Scarlet was the first to trot into her old room, and immediately paused as a wave of nostalgia no doubt rushed through her. From what Silver understood, she hadn’t been gone for too long, but nothing beat the feeling of coming back home to a familiar place.

“Feels like I never even left,” she commented, waving Silver toward the cushy looking bed. “Need anything before we hit the hay?”

Silver shook his head, “Just some warm cuddles before bed.”

Scarlet carefully hopped up, patting the soft covers next to her, “Well, come in over and get them then, you big goofball.”

The stallion excitedly trotted toward the bed and leapt onto it, working his way under the covers and snuggling up next to his lover.

“Love you, Scarlet, see you in the evening.”

“Love you too, Silver.”

The last thing Silver felt before drifting away to sleep was the tight loving embrace of the pony he loved.

Chapter 21: There’s No Place Like Home...

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The sun sat low in the sky, and the valley around the two was more awake than either had seen it during their day trip there. The pair was cheerfully trotting down the sidewalk away from Scarlet’s home, avoiding the street lest they run the risk of a collision with one of the many cars that were now out. Everyone was off work now, it seemed, or at least that’s what Silver assumed based on how many more cars and trucks were out driving around. A small involuntary grimace spread across his way as he coughed on the overpowering fumes.

“Gotta say, I like this place a lot better at night,” he said as he scrunched his muzzle, “Too many people.”

Scarlet let out a small laugh, “This is nothing. You should see it during the winter. You think it’s annoying now, but none of the snowbirds are here.”

“It can’t be that much worse, right?”

She laughed even harder, “Yeah, no, hon, this is like a small fraction of what we get out here during the winter.”

“Uh-huh,… guess I can see why you escaped into the mountains.”

“Uh huh,” she jokingly replied.

“Hey, wait up!” A familiar voice called out to them.

Silver turned to face the voice, finding himself nearly trampled by the dark purple night pony that now clearly stood out in the daylight.

“Sine Wave…” Scarlet muttered, “What’s up?”

“Nothing much Red, saw you two trotting around and couldn’t let you leave without a goodbye,” she cheerfully replied, ”I’m guessing you two are fleeing the valley?”

“That makes it sound like we’re criminals on the run or something, but yeah, just heading home,” Silver replied.

A small hint of sadness seemed to carry in her otherwise indifferent face, “Just kidding around with you, Blue. So I’m guessing this is goodbye then?”

“For now. We’ll be back, though.”

“I sure hope so. I hate meeting new friends and then just never seeing them again…” she trailed off, “Starts to get really boring.”

Something about the way she carried herself and replied just then struck something inside Silver. It was almost as if her snarky facade was betraying some of her inner thoughts, and he couldn’t help but feel a sense of compassion toward the other night pony. Was this how Scarlet had felt when she first met Silver?

“You’re lonely here, aren’t you?” Silver asked, though it was more of an observation than an actual question.

Sine glanced off to the side, “I… well, no… just, I don’t know, bored?”

Scarlet seemed to pick up on this too, and shifted her previously annoyed expression into one that was clearly backed by compassion as well, “Sine do you want to tell us something? It seems like something’s getting to you.”

Sine froze for a moment before letting out a long, frustrated sigh, “Is it really that obvious?”

“A little,” Scarlet added, “you’ve got that look in your eyes, and it carries in your voice.”

“It’s fine if you are,” Silver added. “Trust us, both of us went through that, and it’s not fun being all alone.”

“But I’m not all alone,” she protested, “that’s what’s frustrating. There’s Vector and Cookie Crumbs, they’re the only other two bats out here, but they’re still good enough company.”

“You’re just bored is all. Too many humans, too much pollution… that kind of stuff,” Scarlet concluded.

Sine shrugged, “I guess? I’m not like bored-bored, but I guess it just gets stale here. There’s like nothing to do except hang out at Oddball’s place or go on some night hike and hope a coyote doesn’t try and ambush you.”

“You don’t sound like you want to stay here then,” Scarlet observed.

“I… I don’t know,” she looked between the two and then off to the side, “I mean, I guess I saw you two stop by here and thought this place might finally be a bit more… lively, but now you’re heading out, and it feels like things are going to just get stale again.”

“Would you like to come visit our village, Sine?” Scarlet asked. Silver knew that she wasn’t all that fond of Sine, so this sudden about-face threw him into confusion.

“Like move in or just stop by for a little get-together?”

“Your call, but maybe you just need to go somewhere new for a while.”

Silver perked up, “Yeah, that’s a good idea. You’ll either wind up missing home and move back, or you’ll wind up moving over. Or maybe even look at what else is out there,” he shrugged.

Sine sat in silence for a few moments before giving a nod, “I guess I could check it out for a few days. Is it far from here?”

Scarlet shook her head and pointed her to the mountains in the distance, “Not at all. It’s like 45 minutes of flying away, so you’re not so far from home at all.”

This seemed to calm the mare slightly, or at least that’s what Silver was able to deduce from her body language. Her previous tensed muscles had relaxed a bit, and she even seemed to carry herself in a more relaxed way. Was she really this lonely and bored here? It wasn’t unheard of; both of them had felt the exact same way and had moved for those reasons.

Another thought began to run through Silver’s mind. He hadn’t paid much attention to this before, mainly because he had only come across a handful of other night ponies, but the overwhelming majority of those he had seen in the waking world were mares. The wheels started to turn in his head, and a twinge of sympathy welled up inside of him. Sine wasn’t just bored, she was lonely and bored, and the only other night ponies around her weren’t giving her the kind of attention she wanted or needed.

Moving up into the mountains obviously wasn’t her catch-all solution, and inevitably she’d run into the same problem she did out here, there. Sure, the village was small, but eventually, she’d start feeling the same way she did, especially if Scarlet and him were going to spend more time making romantic nights for each other. Whether Sine realized it or not, this was never going to be a permanent move.

“I… I guess I could give it a try then,” Sine replied, “I just feel like I’m so lost on what I want to do.”

“It’s no sweat. Ponies help each other out, and sometimes you just need a good friend to be there for you,” Silver added.

“And even if we can’t always be there, there’s other ponies in the village that I’m sure would love to meet you. And if you want to still hang out here, it’s just a short flight away.”

She looked over to Scarlet and smiled, “You guys really are too nice. This won’t be a burden on you at all?”

Scarlet shook her head, “Well, our cabin is pretty full right now, but you can crash in one of the tent cabins, or we can set up something for you outside.”

“What’s the tent cabin like?”

“It’s like this big permanent outdoor tent thing, but it’s got a solid floor, a bathroom and shower nearby, and some bunks. There’s a couple of ponies hanging out there right now, but they’re day ponies, so you’d be pretty much alone.”

“So, I’m basically hanging out in a tent with a couple of roomies that I’m never going to see?”

She nodded, “Mhmm. Like I said, it’s your choice. If you decide you want to stay you can talk about having a cabin built, but it all depends on who’s around to help and whether you can afford the materials.”

“How pricey are the cabins?”

“They’re made for ponies so they’re small and pretty barebones, so you wouldn’t be looking at some ridiculous cost. The fanciest thing ours has is indoor plumbing and some electrical hookups for the mini fridge and stove. Some of the others in town might be able to help out, you’ll just have to go help them for a bit.”

“How do you afford to pay for that kinda stuff? Can’t electricity get expensive?”

“Village has a solar farm set up that covers some of it, and the water hookup isn’t anything particularly fancy. You’d be surprised at how little ponies use up there.”

“Right… what if it gets cold though?”

Scarlet gestured toward Silver, “You snuggle up together under some really comfy blankets and take care of it that way.”

“It almost sounds too good to be true,” Sine observed.

She nodded, “It seems like it, but I didn’t just move in for free. I took a lot of the cash I wasn’t using anymore and put it forward toward most of the material cost, which wasn’t cheap, but I also wasn’t going to be using that money anymore. It’s not like it broke the bank completely, but I wouldn’t have done something like that as a human.”

“I see…”

“Don’t feel like you need to spring for that right now, that’s only if you decide to move up there and actually want to live in a nice cozy cabin. I don’t think any pony’s going to throw a fit if you stick it out in the tent cabin, just expect them to ask for more help around the village when you can.”

“Just something to think about,” Silver added, “It’s a lot to take in, but you’ve got time and you don’t need to decide right away.”

A smile spread across Sine’s face and she pulled the two into a hug, “Thanks, I don’t mean to get sappy but I’ve never had other ponies treat me so… nicely”

Silver couldn’t help but smirk. If she greeted every other pony she ran into like she did them, then it was fully understandably why she might not have the best reputation around. As snarky and indifferent as she appeared at face value, Silver could tell that she was genuinely kind inside, and that’s what was showing through right now.

“It’s no problem at all,” Scarlet replied, giving her a hug, “It’ll be nice having another night pony around.”

“Do you need to grab some things? We can wait for you if you’d like,” Silver offered.

“Just a few keepsakes and gadgets,” Sine nodded, “Shouldn’t be too long, meet you guys over at the park in like twenty?”

“Sounds good to me,” Silver finished with a warm smile.

The three trotted down the gravel path that led into the village, chatting cheerfully along the way.

“So Sine, you wanna go drop your pack off at the tent cabin or do you want to go take a walk around first?” Scarlet asked.

“Let’s get the meeting and greeting out of the way first.”

“Sounds good, let us do the introductions though, we don’t need you scaring anyone.”

Silver looked over to Scarlet, “Who should we go see first?”

“Sine, you said you were into vintage electronics right?”

She nodded, “Yeah, that stuff’s always been right up my alley.”

She looked back to Silver, “The inventors.”

“You think they’ll get along?”

“You think they won’t?” Scarlet laughed, “I think they’re the three ponies that would get along best in the village.”

Silver smiled, “The inventors it is then.”

“The inventors?” Sine asked with a raised brow.

“Mhmm, a couple of ponies that tinker around with stuff. You’re gonna fit right in with them,” Silver answered, “Trust me on this.”

Sine seemed to consider this for a moment and nodded, “Sounds interesting. What kind of stuff do they do?”

“Guess we’ll get to find out,” Scarlet replied, waving her along.

The three continued their trot down the path, stepping through the main part of the village, which was further away from Scarlet’s cabin, and made their way toward the inventors’ camp. It was barely sunset, which meant that the village was as active as could be. Ponies from almost every tribe were cheerfully trotting through town or chit chatting away with each other, and in true pony fashion, some were interested in seeing who the new arrival was.

“Heya Scar, brought another new friend in?” Lavender Mist, one of the many earth ponies cheerfully asked.

“Maybe,” she laughed, “Sine’s just stopping in for now.”

“But you never know,” the other night pony mare replied. She held out a hoof and gave what seemed to be her signature smirk, “Name’s Sine Wave, nice to meet you Earthy.”

“Oh, my name’s Lavender, not Earthy.”

Silver let out a chuckle, “Well it’s Earthy now, Sine’s big on nicknames I guess.”

“You guessed right Blue,” she replied with a chuckle.

“Earthy… I kinda like it,” Lavender smiled, “It’s nice to meet you too,” she looked over to Scarlet, “I was gonna head over to the creek with Jet and Aero,” she waved over to the two pegasi behind her, “You guys wanna come along too?”

“Yeah, it’s been ages since we’ve had a chance to hang out with you night walkers,” Aero, the other mare in the group, teased.

“I know you had that leg thing going on so we can take it easy if you’d like,” Jet replied.

Scarlet smiled, “as much as that sounds like a blast, we’re gonna have to pass for now. We wanted to go show Sine around some more. Maybe later though?”

“Sounds good to me!” Lavender replied, “You three have fun!”

“Thanks Lav, we will,” Silver cheerfully replied.

The three gave a cheerful goodbye and started off on their path again, passing by a handful of cabins arranged in a circle and then over to a stretch of road that passed through a small, very shallow section of the creek and into a more deeply wooded part of the village. The towering trees and lush vegetation almost gave it this feel of being stuck in twilight, even during the brightest parts of the day.

“Not a lot of ponies wind up going over this way, it’s kind of where the more reclusive ones hang out.”

Sine looked to Scarlet and raised an eyebrow, “So all the recluses go hang out together? Sounds like my kind of place. How many others are over here?”

“About five. The two inventors, a pegasus, a unicorn, and the only crystal pony in town.”

“Well I know where I’m gonna spend my time then.”

Silver smiled, “I think you’ll fit in just well. You get a pretty even split between the bookish and the more laid back ponies.”

As they approached the small cart that was nestled along the edge of the worn path, the voices of the two inventors carried through the air. They were clearly in one of their trademark loud discussions, which made this area of the village all the more perfect for them.

Silver trotted up and gave a short, but loud knock, and waited for the voices to die down.

The metal door quickly swung open, a bright white light spilling out that made the three of them shrink back, “Silver, Scarlet,” the red pegasus glanced over to Sine and paused, “And friend…” He took notice of their cringing and squinted eyes and quickly dimmed the light, “Oh dear, I’m sorry about that, I always forget that you bats are frightfully sensitive to bright lights.”

“It’s okay Tinker,” Silver groaned, “It’s just gonna take a few minutes until I can actually see what I’m doing, but it’s fine.”

“I’m sorry about that, now is there anything I can help you with?”

“Not anything specific, we just wanted to introduce you to our new friend, Sine,” Silver finished.

Sine looked over to the pegasus and scrutinized him for a few long moments before a smirk spread across her face, “Nice to meet ya Redwing.”

Tinker looked at her in confusion until Scarlet cut in, “Sine’s a techie kind of person like you and your other friend are. We figured that if there were any ponies in the village that she’d get along with it’d be you guys.”

“Ahh,” he nodded, “I see. So tell me Sine, what kind of stuff are you into?”

The mare smiled, “Retro electronics mainly, but I also like old geeky video game stuff too.”

“What kind of electronics if you don’t mind me asking?”

“Well I dug out an old C64 a while ago, tried fixing it up as best I could, and then I found some old Gauntlet arcade board that someone was selling on Craigslist and I started tinkering around with that before ETS hit.”

“What about after ETS? Do you still tinker around with that kind of stuff?”

She shrugged, “When I’m able to. I can do the little things though. Tried to see if I could use my wings as big awkward hands, but that didn’t go the way I wanted to too. Got a real nasty burn on the ends from trying to use a soldering iron one night, trust me, you do not want to hear about that one.”

Silver cringed back reflexively as her story, imagining how it must have felt to have something burn one of the most sensitive parts of his body like that. He shook his head, trying to get the image out of his mind. Something else did come to mind at least, the idea of using wings as a set of hands.

“Does the wing thing actually work?” He asked.

“Huh? What’s that Blue?”

“Like could you actually use your wings like hands?”

“A little?” She raised an eyebrow, “Don’t tell me that you or Red haven’t tried anything like that yet.”

Silver glanced over to Scarlet and remembered the night they had confessed their feelings for one another, and he was silently glad he hadn’t tried to set the tent up with his wings, otherwise their night might not have taken the romantic turn that it did.

“No, actually,” he looked back over to his marefriend, “Guess we just never thought about doing that.”

Sine laughed, “Man, what else haven’t you two done? I would have expected you two to play around with your wings before given how lovey-dovey you were last night.”

Silver’s face flashed red and much to his own relief, Scarlet took over, “Who says we haven’t Sine? You don’t know what we did after you cut us loose.”

Silver’s face reddened even more, earning a laugh from the two mares.

“Alright Red, you made your point,” she looked back to Tinker, “So I guess to answer your question, yes and no. I burned my wing and basically stopped playing around with that kind of stuff until I could do it without giving myself light burns.”

A smile started to slowly stretch across the pegasi’s face, “So what you’re saying is that if you could get back to manipulating small things like that then you would?”

She nodded, “Uh-huh. I would now if I was a masochist, but yeahhhh… that’s not gonna happen.”

“It could,” he offered, “That is, if you had a safe way to handle stuff like that.”

“What are you getting at Redwing?”

“Give me just a moment,” he ducked back inside and fumbled around for something, seemingly finding it and trotting back out with a paper rolled up in his mouth. Trotting over to a small wooden table, he dropped it and smoothed it out, putting a few rocks on the corners to hold the drawing down, “The helping hooves… something that we’ve been trying to brainstorm for a while,” he proudly said as he waved a hoof at the drawing.

Sine and Silver leaned in, taking in the detail of the rough drawing.

“Is that supposed to be some kind of watch or something?” Sine asked.

“It could be,” the pegasus shrugged, “but it could be so much more too!” He laid out another page, pointing to a part of the gauntlet-like device that almost resembled a set of mechanical claws, “This could be the kind of gadget to help you out, no?”

Sine took an even closer look at it and slowly started to smile, “You know Redwing, it might be. Let me guess though, it’s not working right now and probably won’t for a long long time?

“Well… when you put it that way it sounds rough, but that’s not to say we couldn’t build a prototype…”

“We? What’s this we stuff?”

He pointed to her and Silver, “You, him, my assistant, and even Scarlet if she’d be interested in this kind of thing.”

Scarlet let out a laugh, “I think I’m gonna pass on that. Not that it’s not interesting, but I’d have no idea what to do and it’s just not up my alley of things I’m into. You guys are free to play around with that if you’d like,” she said, looking at Silver and Sine.

“What are you gonna do though?” Silver asked.

Scarlet shrugged, “Go take Lavvy, Jet, and Aero up on their offer to hang out in the creek before they go to bed, and let you guys geek out on your own here.”

Silver leaned in for a kiss, “Okay, but don’t have too much fun, I owe you a nice romantic walk under the stars later, and maybe some fun dreams after if you’re up for it.”

She returned a kiss of her own and smirked, “Same goes for you. I’m gonna take you up on that star walk and it better be as romantic as you’re saying.”

“Wouldn’t dream of anything else,” he replied.

“Alright you two lovebirds, save it for later or go get a room,” Sine sarcastically replied, earning a playful glare from Scarlet, who pulled Silver into a tight hug.

“Oh we'll save it for later, don’t be surprised when you hear lots of kissing coming from the cabin.”

“I’ll be sure to keep faaaaaaar away from that.”

Scarlet smiled and let go of Silver, “Have fun Silvie, love you.”

“Love you too Scarlet,” he smiled, giving her one last kiss goodbye.

“Now, if you two want I can go drag my model out of storage and we can really start brainstorming this project,” Tinker interjected, “It’s not going to just become a reality overnight, but now you’ve got the gears turning in my head and I kind of want to just write down every crazy idea I can think of and start working away at it.”

Sine nodded as Scarlet began to trot back toward the main part of the village, “Sure thing Redwing, let’s get going!”

“So Redwing, what’s stopping you from making some of the basic stuff?” Sine asked as she looked up from the drawing table.

“A lot of things really, supply issues being the biggest one.”

“Ahhh, can’t get the stuff you need I’m guessing?”

“You got it. We can get scrap and cheap aftermarket parts, but the stuff we’d need for this project is… pricey to say the least, especially for a couple of ponies that barely have any kind of income.”

“That’s scarcity for you,” she replied, “So what’s your plan then?”

“There isn’t one,” Gyro replied as he trotted over to the table.

“There is a plan,” Tinker cut in, “Just not a plan that you’re happy with.”

“Well what kind of plan is it, if you don’t mind me asking,” Silver asked.

“We have a friend out in Phoenix that might be able to get us some supplies. He’s an old buddy from back in the day and he owes us a favor or two.”

“That’s a big favor to ask,” Sine flatly replied.

“It is,” Tinker shrugged, “But Marcus and I go way back, and if getting some hard to get electric components is the favor then it’s at least worth asking.”

Sine grimaced, “Hopefully he likes you guys enough for that. I pretty much had to pay an arm and a leg for the secondhand junk I got.”

“It happens,” he agreed, “But the only way we’ll know is if we ask. So hooves crossed.”

“Hooves crossed,” Sine added.

“So…” Silver started, “Speaking of hoping for the best, I’ve been meaning to ask you something for a few days now…”

“Oh?” Tinker raised an eyebrow, “What’s that?”

“Well…” he slowly began, “I kinda broke Scarlet’s telescope the other day. She insists it’s not a big deal but I know it is, and I know how much it meant to her.”

“And you want us to repair it?”

His eyes widened and an excited smile spread across his face, “Yes actually! I wanted to just buy her a new one but the doctor visits sucked a lot of my cash away and now that’s definitely not going to happen now.”

“Smart choice then,” he commented, “How bad is the damage?”

“The telescope itself is pretty beat up but otherwise all in one piece, but the big lens on the end is cracked and if you shake it it makes this awful rattling noise.”

“I could wager a bet and say you probably screwed up the focusing lenses,” Sine added, quickly quieting herself as she noticed Silver’s worried expression, “Uhh… sorry, didn’t mean to strike a nerve or anything,” she apologized.

“It’s fine,” Silver replied, “Mind giving us a few minutes to talk about this though? No offense but it’s just kind of a personal thing I want to surprise Scarlet with.”

“That’s fine Blue, I’ll go talk with The Grouch for a bit, just give a holler when you’re done.”

“Thanks,” Silver smiled, his smile shifting into a frown as he noticed the pegasi’s sour expression. Knowing how much of a techy person he was, he was no doubt personally imagining what the poor telescope must have gone through.

“So… we’ve got some wear and tear and probably more than one broken lens…”

“Right… so can you fix it?” Silver optimistically asked.

“I…” he paused, “Well first off, I don’t have it in front of me so I don’t know how bad the body is, but I can already tell you that the cracked lenses are going to be tricky. Gyro can re-set them but that brings us to the hard part.”

“Hard part?” Silver’s ears dropped.

“Hard part,” he nodded, “I think we can fix most of it, but—“

“— Oh thank God!” Silver sighed a breath of relief, quickly being shushed by the older pegasus.”

“But…” he continued, “We don’t have replacement lenses out here, and I can already tell you that they’re not going to be cheap.”

Silver’s heart sank again, “So what does that mean?”

“What that means is that you’ll have to foot the bill for the lenses. However, I can probably get you the information you’d need to get proper replacements.”

Silver could feel a sense of sadness welling up inside of him. He desperately wanted to make this right for Scarlet, even if she had already forgiven him for it. He cared so much about her and in his eyes it wasn’t fair that she couldn’t do the thing she loved most because of him. He shook his head, calming himself and deciding that he needed to be optimistic and look at the bright side of things. Tinker and Gyro could fix it, it was just up to him to come up with new lenses.

“So… I’m almost afraid to ask, but how expensive are we talking when you say the lenses are going to be expensive?”

“It would depend on the type of telescope,” he replied, “if it’s just a hobby telescope then you’re looking at probably a few hundred dollars for a set, maybe less given the state of the market but I wouldn’t get your hopes up, those things probably went fast to whichever hobbyists are still into this kind of thing.”

Silver’s heart sank even further, “A couple hundred dollars?”

It sounded so silly gawking at that out loud, but as a pony with basically no income, that kind of money was just too hard to come by. Not to mention he was down to well under that now, and that was supposed to be his emergency funds.

“A couple hundred dollars,” the pegasus repeated, “I’m going to take it that that’s out of your price range?”

“Uh huh,” Silver sadly replied, “You could say that.”

Tinker flashed him a sympathetic look and began to dig through a stack of papers on a nearby drawer, “I know money’s tight right now, and I can see how much you want to do this, so I might have a solution for you, but I don’t know how much you’re going to like it.”

Silver looked up, “Huh?”

The pegasus grabbed a business card in his wings and offered it to the night pony, “I know a guy down in that valley who runs a scrap yard. He won’t have the lenses you need, but last I checked he needed somepony to keep an eye on the place at night. Had some trouble with looters. Is this something you’d be interested in?”

Silver paused for a moment, “I… like a job, right?”

He nodded, “It wouldn’t pay well, but it’d at least give you some source of income that you could put toward that.”

“And toward emergencies,” Silver added, “I need to get a nice nest egg built up too, because I didn’t realize how expensive the doctor stuff would be.”

“Plus, you might be able to get a good deal on scrap and salvage. I don’t know whether that’s of any use to you, but if we want to say… improve your marefriend’s telescope, I could put together a list of components and materials I’d need for that.”

The idea piqued Silver’s interest, and whether he was genuinely interested in the job or not, he needed this money, for emergencies and for his own personal gift to Scarlet.

He nodded, “It’s worth a shot. Think I should call tonight or wait until tomorrow morning?”

“I would call him as soon as you can. He’s probably heading out in the next hour or so, so if you’re lucky you might be able to schedule something with him.”

Silver smiled, “Thanks Tinker, you don’t know how much this all means to me.”

“Oh I have a good idea,” he laughed, “You’re head over hooves in love with her, and you just want to make her happy.”


“If you want to go grab the telescope I can start taking a look at it tonight. I can’t promise that we’ll be able to do anything yet, but it’s worth taking a look at.”

“Gotcha,” Silver excitedly cheered, “I seriously can’t thank you enough for this.”

“It’s no trouble. Good luck with the job too, I don’t think he’s going to be picky at all, which works well in your favor. Now go ahead and go grab what you need, we can chat more when you get back.”

Without wasting another minute, Silver took off down the path and back toward the main village, excited and perhaps even a little nervous about what the future had in store.

Chapter 22: Salvaging the Future

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Silver let out a few frustrated curses as he struggled to dial the number Tinker had given him. Currently, his phone was laying out on an old stump, and his awkward attempts to try and tap out the numbers with his hoof had gotten him nowhere. With another frustrated grunt, he flared his wings open and hissed at the phone, before quickly looking back toward the cabin and praying to whatever higher power existed out there that Scarlet hadn’t seen his unintentionally aggressive display.

Flexing his wings a few times, an idea struck him… an idea that might just be dumb enough to work. With careful precision, he flexed out his right wing and slowly held the thumb of it over the phone, giving the screen a light tap.


It chimed back, making his ears perk up in excitement.

Beep beep boop

Came the next few tones

Beep boop bop beep

A proud smile was plastered across his face as he hit call and began to hear the phone ring on the other end of the line, a nervous, almost excited feeling welling up inside of him. That and the gentle sounds of nature were the only things that he could hear, except for his steady heartbeat that seemed to loudly pound like a drum in his chest.

“Thank you for calling Valley Scrap and Salvage; this is Duncan speaking,” came the other voice on the line, elevating that nervous feeling tenfold.

Silver anxiously cleared his throat and spoke in the most confident tone that he could muster, “H—hi! I’m calling about the job you wanted to fill.”

He facehoofed at how weak the opening was, and the little voice in his head was already shouting, you blew it. To his relief, though, Duncan hadn’t hung up yet, and almost seemed to shift into a relieved tone.

“May I ask who’s calling?”

“Silver Eclipse,” he responded, “I’m a night pony up in the mountains, but it’s a swift flight down, and one of my friends gave me your card and said you were looking for someone to fill a night job.”

The human paused for a moment but didn’t hang up, “The night security job? You’re the first to call about it.”

“I am?!” He excitedly replied, “I mean, I am?”

“Uh-huh. So you’re a night pony, huh?”

“Yeah…” Silver hesitantly began, “Is that a problem?”

“Nah, just means I won’t have to worry ‘bout you sleeping on the job. Have you had any security experience in the past?”

“I worked security in a strip mall for like six months back in college,” he shrugged.

“I see… well, at least you know what to expect. I’ll tell you what, I’m kind of in a tight spot and needed someone to watch the place at night. Why don’t you stop by sometime tomorrow, say like five, and I’ll give you the rundown of what you’ll be doing.”

“So, I have the job?” He perked up.

“It’s not a hard yes or no yet, but you’re the only one in the running right now, so we can talk about this more tomorrow.”

Silver almost didn’t know what to say. He was feeling excited but also anxious, but more than anything, he felt a sense of relief, relief that he wouldn’t need to worry about Scarlet’s next appointment, and excitement that he could maybe start making her something that she’d love.

“That sounds wonderful! Should I just stop by the office tomorrow, then? And do I need to bring anything along?”

“Yeah, so just come by the office at five, and I’ll get you caught up to speed. You don’t need to bring anything, maybe some headphones if you’re still able to use that kind of thing. Your job is going to just be keeping an eye on things overnight and just making sure that no one tries to hop the fence and make off with anything.”

Silver raised an eyebrow, trying his best to get a good read on the situation to make sure it wasn’t too good to be true, “You’ve had problems with that?”

“Not a whole lot, but enough that I want someone to keep an eye on things overnight. It’s mainly been a few cases of someone smashing a window or making off with some old piece of scrap, but that’s still an issue to me.”

“Gotcha, keeping an eye on things and scaring off any would-be trouble makers. I think I’m all set, and I can’t wait to see you tomorrow!”

“Ditto. I’ll see you tomorrow Mr. Eclipse.”

Silver smirked, “Oh, go ahead and call me Silver. Mr. Eclipse sounds way too formal.”

“Gotcha Silver, have a nice night, looking forward to having you onboard.”

“Me too, Duncan! Thank you again for the opportunity; it means a ton!”

The human let out a small laugh, “Hey, thank you for giving me a call; it’s been a nightmare finding someone for this, so you’re doing me a favor.”

“Have a great night!”

“You too,” he finished, going silent and leaving Silver with this euphoric feeling that made him want to jump up in the air and fly until he couldn’t fly anymore. He hadn’t shared any of this plan with Scarlet yet, and a small part of him cried out in sadness at the thought of not being able to spend every part of his night with her, but it was all going to be worth it. He’d have his peace of mind that they wouldn’t have to stress over costs as much, he’d be able to get her a new telescope eventually, and they’d even hopefully have some stable funds saved up for any future endeavors the pair decided to go on.

His thoughts turned back to the pony he loved and the future he dreamed of with her. While he hadn’t known her for long, as night ponies, the two spent more time together than most couples would, which made the short time fly by and feel far longer than it actually was. He loved her with every ounce of his being, and there wasn’t anypony else that he could imagine spending the rest of his life with, or anypony else he’d even want to consider spending his future with.

That’s why he would go out and do the best job that he could do, even if it wasn’t the most exciting job out there.

You’ve got this Silver, just gotta relax and think of the future… you can do this, he mentally hyped himself up.

The stallion picked up his phone as best as he could with his wing and clumsily tossed it over to the bed as he trotted through the door, “Okay, I think I’m set!” He excitedly announced.

Scarlet looked out from the small restroom and raised an eyebrow as she used her wings to pull a towel across her wet mane, “Set for what?”

“I think I have this job locked in!”

She paused her grooming and stepped out, throwing the towel around her neck, “Job?”

He nodded, “I picked up a job just now! At a salvage yard back in the valley.”

She glanced around the small cabin and shook her head, “Hang on a sec, Silvie, what’s going on now?”

Silver pulled over the notebook he had sloppily scrawled some notes down on and gestured toward it and the owner’s card with a hoof, “These are the medical expenses we had to make, and the amount we have left in cash. I had this realization that we have to make a follow-up appointment, and we’re going to need cash for that.”

“So you’re going to work in some strange place in the valley with some strange person you’ve just randomly called on the phone?”

“It’s not a strange place; it’s a salvage yard,” he corrected, “trust me, it’s better than it sounds, and it gives us at least some income.”

“It’s a scrapyard in the shady part of that town. I’m not saying that getting a job is a bad idea or anything… just… well, can’t it be closer? Or something better?”

Silver looked around the small, cozy cabin and shook his head, “It sounds like this is better. You know how strapped the job market is, especially for ponies, right?”

Scarlet began to protest but quickly silenced herself, “I… yes,” she sighed, “especially for night ponies. I just want you to be safe, is all. I don’t need you getting hurt or crushed by that car crusher machine…”

“Don’t worry, Scarlet; this is real life, not some tacky story. The place I’m interviewing at doesn’t even have one of those.”

“Okay, then I don’t need you scraping yourself on some rusty fence, or stepping on a rusty nail or something. You think a sprained hoof is bad? I don’t think dealing with an infection is going to be a trot in the park.”

Silver noticed her worried expression and pulled her into a tight embrace, narrowing his gaze until she was the only thing in the whole world, “Hey, I love you. I want to spend the rest of my life with you, and I want to make sure that we can support ourselves for however long that is. Getting this job is just a start; it’s not the end, and I don’t want it to be the end.”

“So, what’s your endgame with it?”

He shrugged, “Get some money set aside for emergencies, and then maybe get some more set aside to treat you to stuff.”

She laughed, “I get the emergencies part, but you don’t need to treat me to anything.”

“Sure I do; I’m still going to get you a new telescope one of these days, whether you like it or not.”

She gestured around the small cabin and then pointed to Silver, “I’ve got everything I want in the whole wide world right here.”

“Everything?” He skeptically asked, “Well, I’m still going to treat you to some nice things. At least a nice dinner every once in a while, or some specially imported fruits, maybe?”

Scarlet’s mouth began to water as she remembered the fruit plate that Silver had painstakingly put together for her, “Okay, I’ll let that slide,” she looked back up at him, “I just want you to be safe though, okay? Don’t go playing around things you’re not sure of; we don’t need to add more medical expenses to that list.”

He gave her a tight hug in the dim light, “Thanks for looking out for me; I appreciate it.”

She leaned into the embrace and smiled, “That’s what friends are for.”

“I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

“Probably be stuck in some boring old town on your own?” She offered, eliciting a laugh from the stallion.

“Yeah, yeah, that’s true,” he began to frown, “Just realized too, this means less late-night stars walks and cuddles under the stars.”

“You really like those that much?”

“Yeah?” He laughed, “Is that even a question?”

“Fair enough. Guess that’s the price of getting that job then, eh?”

“You could always come along and hang out on my breaks if you really wanted to,” he offered.

“And then sit around for the rest of the night alone? Might as well get my own job too at that point.”

“That’s honestly not a bad idea if you think about it.”

Scarlet glanced out the window and up at the night sky above, “You think so?”

“Well yeah,” he followed her gaze, “I mean, I know we’ve been talking a bit about our future lately; it wouldn’t hurt to have a little extra stashed away for that kind of thing.”

She laughed, “You’re probably right,” She looked back at him, “You’re telling me you don’t think we could start a family just on hopes and dreams someday?”

He shrugged, “We’ve got the hopes and dreams part down; it’s just making sure we can cover anything else that those won’t cover.”

She smirked and shook her head, “You go in tomorrow for your first shift, right?”

“Uh-huh,” he nodded his head, “Why?”

“Maybe I’ll take a look around town. See what’s out there and who’s hiring.”

Silver paused, “You don’t have to jump right into it if you don’t want to; it’s just an idea for the future.”

“Yeah… but I’m not the stay at home and do housework in a tiny little cabin kind of pony. If I’m not spending time here with you, then I might as well go spend my nights doing something productive.”

“You could spend time with Sine if you wanted to,” he smirked.

“I get the I can only handle small bursts of interaction with this pony kind of vibes with Sine. Trust me; I don’t think we need to spend all of our time together while you’re at work.”

“Fair enough, fair enough,” he shrugged, “I absolutely feel you there.”

Scarlet nodded and gestured toward the door, “Now how about some late-night stargazing and maybe even some cuddles later?”

Silver raised an eyebrow, “What kind of cuddles are we talking?”

“What kind do you think?”

“The lovey-dovey see where the night takes us kind of cuddles?” He questioned.

“Mhmm,” she replied, “So let’s get going; this is probably the last night we can hang out and do this sort of thing for a while. Better not waste it,” she teased him with a flick of her tail.

“Oh, believe me, I won’t,” he retorted as he started to trot toward the door with her, “So where to? Our clearing, the creek… maybe that spooky cave we found a while ago?”

“You wanna go cuddle in a spooky cave?”

“Maybe?” He shrugged with a goofy smile on his face, “Something about it just seemed so… cozy, you know?”

Scarlet shook her head and laughed to herself, “You’re such a dork.”

“Hey, I’m your dork.”

She nuzzled up next to him, “And I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Art by:

Chapter 23: Night Security at the Salvage Yard

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The two night ponies slowly flew along the sunlit street, the orange light slowly giving way to a cool twilight. To say that some of the buildings around here looked decrepit would be an understatement. Scarlet had said that this part of town was a little more run down, but she neglected to mention that it looked practically abandoned. If Silver had to guess this place hadn’t been touched since at least the eighties, if the incredibly out of date architecture and sun-bleached paint of the buildings were any indication. Their faded signs with cracked and peeling paint only gave him even more of a sense that this place was abandoned, despite the prominently lit OPEN signs clearly visible in some of the grimy windows.

“Alright, promise me you’re going to be safe, okay? You don’t have any kind of hoof protection, and tetanus is the last thing you need,” Scarlet cautioned for what felt like the dozenth time as the two neared the salvage yard that would serve as Silver’s new job site.

Silver looked around at the ancient-looking buildings and nodded, “Gotcha. Trust me; I’m doing this for you; I don’t need to add any more medical bills onto our list.”

“Glad we’re on the same page then,” she paused and looked up at the simple gated compound with a bright neon Valley Scrap and Salvage sign flickering above the gate, “Feels weird that we won’t be together all night for once.”

“Feels weird that I’m going back to work like I’m human again or something,” Silver agreed. He looked back over toward her and smiled, “Maybe it’s not a bad thing though, gives us some time apart to just do our own thing, not like we don’t hang out all day in our dreams anyways.”

“True,” she agreed, “Still though, I honestly have no idea what I’m gonna do during the nights.”

An idea clicked in Silver’s mind, eliciting a gleeful smile, “I know I broke your telescope, but you could fly across town to that observatory if you wanted to. Get some real advanced stargazing in.”

“I dunno,” she trailed off, “It was closed that one time; maybe they’re just not able to keep it running right now.”

“Well, maybe they just need somepony to come in and run it at night. Seems like the perfect job for you if you really want to pick something up like that.”

She looked up the stallion with longing eyes, “You think so?”

“You’re the best astronomer I know; of course, you’re the best pony for the job!” He excitedly cheered, his voice echoing through the empty street.

“I’m also the only astronomer you know,” she teased, “Plus, I’m a hobbyist more than anything. They’re probably looking for someone who’s actually done that kind of thing professionally, if they’re even hiring at all.”

Silver considered this for a moment, trying to think of something creative to say. As if a lightbulb blinked on above his head, an idea hit him, “Still though, job market’s probably pretty strapped for a pony like that, you just gotta sell yourself!” He tried to convince her in his most confident, almost salesman-like voice.

Scarlet smiled and brushed a lock of her mane out of her eyes, “I’ll let you know how that goes after work, okay?”

“Sure thing, future astronomer.”

“Alright, Scrapper, you better get over there unless you wanna be late on your first day,” she pulled him into a hug and left him with a kiss, “See you after work, give me all the juicy details if anything crazy happens.”

Silver tapped the small bag that was hanging around his neck, “You got it! Have a fun night, Scar.”

“I’ll try my best,” she smiled.

The two sat wordlessly for a few moments, almost as if they were seeing who would decide to fly off first. With a graceful leap, Scarlet took off into the darkening night sky, leaving Silver with the crumbling buildings and stray alley cats for company.

The stallion laughed to himself and glanced down at one of the strays, “There a lot of crazy action around here? Or is it just going to be a boring night alone?”

The cat looked up at him with an indifferent expression and simply meowed, giving Silver no hint at an answer to his rhetorical question.

“I figured that’s what you’d say,” he bluntly replied. Shaking his head, he looked back over toward the scrapyard’s flickering neon sign and confidently nodded his head, breaking into a cheerful trot toward the small (but still large for a pony) office building with a broken window that sat next to the bent and patched up chain-link gate. As he approached the door, he held up a hoof and gave a short, but firm knock, almost afraid that he’d break the worn down door. Much to his relief, however, it was solid enough, and was probably reinforced… or at least a lot sturdier than the rest of the place looked.

In a quick move that almost frightened Silver, the door swung open as if the person behind had been waiting in anticipation.

“You Silver?” The tall, slender human asked in a gruff voice.

The stallion peeked into the cramped, yet surprisingly pristine (at least compared to the rest of the building) office and nodded, “Uh-huh, that’s me.”

The human smiled and held out a hand, then left it hanging when he realized that the greeting didn’t exactly translate over to ponies as well, “Duncan. Nice to meet you,” he waved Silver in and gestured to an older looking chair that seemed practically ancient, but also seemed surprisingly comfortable, “Take a seat if you’d like, I just have a couple of things to go over and then I can give you the grand tour.”

Silver nodded and stole a few glances around the packed room. While there were boxes stacked as high as the ceiling and papers strewn about on any surface that was available, the place wasn’t a total wreck, which surprised him. Well, that bodes well, he thought to himself. Maybe the old saying don’t judge a book by its cover had some merit to it, after all, because from the look of this place, Silver imagined it to be run down and stuck in the past. Despite that perception, though, a pretty new looking computer sat on his desk, and even though the office looked horribly disorganized, his inner collector could tell that the human knew precisely where everything was in his accumulation. Needless to say, Silver’s first impression was a lot better than he had thought it would be, even with the strange mish-mash of old and new in the room.

The stallion hopped up onto the chair as carefully as he could manage, not wanting to break the poor chair.

“So, you’ve been having some trouble here at night?” Silver asked, breaking the ice.

Duncan nodded, “Yeah. It hasn’t been anything super crazy, just some hooligans stopping by and throwing rocks, and sometimes the odd scrap thief or two. Like I said, nothing major, but something that’s become enough of a problem that I need someone to keep an eye on.”

“Right,” Silver nodded, that explains the broken window and patched up fence, “So my job is basically scaring off the hooligans and thieves then.”

“More or less,” the human gestures around the office, “I handle most of the day to day stuff in here with a couple others that come in in the morning, but you’ll be pretty much alone on your own for this. I’ll stick around with you tonight, though, just to show you the ropes.”

“Sounds like a lot of peace and quiet then.”

“Is that an issue?”

“Hah! No,” Silver laughed, “I think you just gave me the best job ever. I’m getting paid to watch over a salvage yard on my own, and I don’t have to deal with salespeople or customers? That sounds like heaven!”

Duncan laughed and shook his head, “I already like you, Silver. So do you have any questions before I show you around?”

“I mean, I’ve got the obvious what are the hours and what is my hourly rate questions, but aside from that, not really.”

“Well, to start, I’m looking to have you around during normal business days. Monday through Friday from like… seven-thirty at night to say… four-thirty? You get a lunch break at eleven and a break every couple of hours. Truth be told, though, you’re going to have a ton of downtime, so I’m not going to throw a big fit if you stretch the breaks a little.”

“Just make sure I keep an eye on things and don’t goof off or sleep on the job?”

He nodded, “Yep! You can put on some music, play a movie in the background… whatever you want as long as it doesn’t get in the way of your work. It’s a pretty straightforward shift,” he pointed over to a set of monitors at one of the desks, “Check the cameras there, and every hour I’d like you to take a walk around the yard. Check the fences, note down any disturbances, etcetera. Aside from that, relax, take it easy, and keep an eye on things.”

“Check the cameras, trot around the yard, make sure nothing weird’s happening. Got it. Anything else I need to know?”

Duncan shook his head, “No, not really. I’m going to have to pay you under the table right now, if that’s okay.”

Silver raised an eyebrow and sat up in his seat, laying his hooves on the desk in front of him, “Wait, why’s that?”

“I don’t know how long I’m going to need you. It could be a week, a couple of months… it’s just going to depend on how things are looking. Right now, I’m treating it like a temporary summer job, so expect to be working until at least August or September. Pay’s a bit less than minimum, which is really honestly stretching what I can afford, but I’m desperate to get someone in for the night. I know it’s not ideal, but is it going to be an issue?”

The stallion softened and shook his head, “Sounds fair. It’s gonna complicate some things but at the same time I’m not really paying for much as it is so I can live with it. So I’m going to guess I basically have nothing in the way of benefits then?”

“I’m sorry about that,” he nodded, “Money’s tight enough as it is right now, but I’ll tell you what. I don’t know how interested you’d be in this kind of thing, but if you see anything you like that isn’t like some giant piece of machinery or part, then set it aside somewhere, and I’ll let you know if you can have it.”

A lightbulb went off in Silver’s head, and excitement began to build up within the young night pony.

“So hang on, say like I found an old telescope or something, I could have it?”

Duncan stroked his beard for a second and nodded, “Yeah, I probably wouldn’t be able to salvage much from it anyways, so sure. Small things like that are just fine. Run it by me first, though, okay?”

“Sounds good to me,” he beamed, practically hovering out of the chair at this point.

“So if you don’t have any other questions… how about a tour? The compound isn’t really much, but I can walk you through your patrol and let you get a feel for everything. Then we can go sit down, and I’ll show you how the monitors are all set up, show you where the emergency numbers are, first aid kits— the usual boring stuff.”

“Well, let’s get right to it then,” he cheered, standing up and trotting in place like an excited foal before quickly composing himself, “Sorry, I uhh— I’m just excited for the job.”

Duncan laughed and pushed his chair back from the desk, “I admire the enthusiasm; I can’t say I’ve ever had a new hire get this excited about starting. I think you’ll be a great fit here.”

He gestured toward the simple door labeled Salvage Yard and held it open for the stallion, “Might as well start with the area you’ll be hanging around in.

Silver trotted forward and peeked out the door, taking in the mountains of scrapped vehicles and all matters of discarded appliances that seemed to tower over him, a child-like sense of curiosity and wonder carrying in his face.

Duncan let out a laugh and laid a hand on the night pony’s back, shaking him out of whatever stupor he was in, “Hey, I’m sure it looks like a total mountain of junk from where you’re standing, but trust me, there’s lot more to gawk over once you go further into the yard.”

Silver gave a few quick nods and continued to look around the section of the yard that he could see. It wasn’t that the piles were tall, however he was small, at least in comparison to them, which only made the modest collection of scrap seem like an entire kingdom of discarded trinkets and treasures, one that Silver was more than excited to explore. He didn’t know what to really expect from this job, but so far, it seemed like it’d be a breeze, and in no time he’d have enough saved up for Scarlet, himself, and whatever other future endeavors the two had planned… at least that’s what he optimistically hoped for…

Chapter 24: Letting Her Passion Take Flight

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Scarlet leaped up into the air and gracefully took off into the rapidly darkening sky. The lights of the city below comforted her and gave her this warm sense of familiarity that she hadn’t realized she had longed for. Maybe both of us getting jobs down here is a good thing after all, she mused to herself.

Sure, maybe there would be a little disappointment over the fact that she couldn’t spend as much time with Silver, but that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. They were both in that super lovey-dovey frame of mind now, but how long would it be until spending every single moment of every single day got to them? As much as she loved hanging out with him, she had to admit that spending at least a little more time apart would help make their relationship even stronger in the long run. They had plenty of time on the weekends to catch up on that kind of stuff after all.

Even right now the solitude gave her a chance to reflect on her day and the thoughts that ran through her head, a chance that she might not normally have when spending time with Silver.

See Scarlet? You’re already finding something productive to do and it’s not like you’re gonna be crushingly lonely again, she thought to herself.

She glanced back at her bandaged leg and grimaced. It was still sore, but not nearly as bad as before. The harsher realities of the world were already starting to crack through the perfect idealistic facade that came with being a pony, and it was pretty clear that they would only continue to do so going forward. This reality brought another thought to her head; she had neglected to bring her phone along. As frustrating as it would be to use it, it meant that if there was any kind of emergency she’d be on her own to deal with it.

A momentary feeling of worry washed through her, but a quick glance back down at the bright lights below eased her fears. Nothing bad was going to happen, and if it did she’d just have to go find somepony to help. Sure, that was easier said than done, but not outright impossible. From her vantage point in the sky, she could easily see the library’s observatory in the distance, and her thoughts turned toward that exciting hope that maybe, just maybe, she’d be able to spend more of her nights there.

Keeping her goal in mind, she shifted her attention down to her target; the community library that just so happened to have an attached observatory— the very same place that she had tried to bring Silver to just a few nights before, but had been closed. That small, sometimes overly optimistic voice in her head was screaming that maybe it was only a temporary closure, and that surely she’d be able to find her way into a job at the very place that would perfectly fit her passion. On the other hoof, the realistic part of her told her that it was probably still closed, and that this was a fool’s errand. Still though, she had nothing to lose except a whole lot of time that she wasn’t planning on doing anything crazy with.

Swooping down into a steep dive, she glided toward the building in question. The rushing air and burst of adrenaline was one of her favorite parts of flying at night, and she relished every moment of it. Before long though her trip was nearing its end and she touched down onto the neatly swept sidewalk out front. Running a hoof through her mane, she smoothed it back and slowly trotted up to the tall glass doors, frowning as she noticed a simple paper printout taped to the window that taunted her with a simple Observatory Closed Until Further Notice :(. She let out an annoyed whinny and gave the door a tentative nudge, seeing if there was at least a chance at it opening and her being able to talk with someone inside, but her efforts were for naught. From her completely uneducated observations, the library simply didn’t have enough people to staff the observatory, and likely not enough people actively interested in that sort of thing to bother doing so.

“Anything I can help you with?” Came a voice from behind her, scaring her and spurring a frightened hiss from Scarlet.

Taking a second to compose herself, she dropped the defensive stance that she hadn’t realized she had taken, and nodded at the pegasus that was pushing a broom along the sidewalk, “Yes actually. I was wondering if the observatory was open… but I guess I got my answer,” she sheepishly gestured to the paper sign.

The stallion nodded, “Ahh, I see. Sorry to scare you by the way, there’s usually not a whole lot of people ‘round here right now,” he shifted the broom over and held out a hoof, “Name’s Marshall, I handle some of the cleaning before closing.”

“Mhmm,” she replied, extending a tentative hoof of her own, “I’m Scarlet.”

Art by:

“Nice to meet you,” he grinned, “Don’t see too many night ponies ‘round here,” he paused, “So what’re you interested in the observatory for anyhow?”

She lazily meandered a short distance from the door and looked up at the sky, gesturing back at her cutie mark, “If it’s not all that obvious, I’m kinda into this stuff… and I’m guessing I’m really the odd one out around here.”

“Funny way to put it,” he mused, taking his own look up at the stars, “But yes, for the most part.”

She nodded, “So it’s safe to say that there’s no one keeping an eye on the observatory then?”

The sky blue pegasus gave an affirmative nod, his long rust mane bobbing down in front of his eyes, “Hence the sign on the door.”

A sly smirk spread across Scarlet’s face as she glanced toward the makeshift sign, “I see… sooooo… what would you say if say… I knew a pony who could keep an eye on it,” she not so subtly asked, giving the stallion a probably more than gleeful grin.

Marshall let out a hearty laugh and shook his head, “You’d be running the place by yourself,” he took notice of her disappointed look and set the broom aside, trotting away from the door and lowering his voice into a friendlier tone, “The real truth of the matter is that you’re not the only one who’s been asking about the observatory, but there’s not enough interest to warrant getting it set up and calibrated again— at least not now.”

“Figures,” she bluntly said aloud. Doesn’t anypony care about astronomy anymore? I mean it can’t be that costly to get it working. She returned a smile and nodded, “So it’s out for right now… but what about in the future? What if I tried to round up all the would-be astronomers around here and build up some interest?”

Marshall shrugged, “You could try, but that still leaves the budgetary issue. Volunteer astronomers are nice and all, but maintenance costs aren’t. I’m no expert, but this isn’t just like going into Home Depot and getting a few space parts off the shelves.”

“Right, money’s an issue,” she trailed off.

Scarlet’s thoughts drifted back to the whole reason why Silver was getting a job in the first place, remembering the conversation the two of them had had in turn. I know I said I’d maybe get one just to get some cash built up too… but what if I tried to organize some donations for this place too… she smirked as the idea came to her mind.

“Okay, well what if I got the volunteer group together, and helped coordinate donations? I know I can’t pay for this on my own, and a couple others won’t be able to too, but what if we started working on small stuff? Get some milestones set up, work up to hosting little events here and there… you know, stuff that’d build up interest so it’s not just sitting here on mothballs?” She proposed.

Marshall considered this for a moment, leaving the two in silence save for the clicking of one of the nearby flickering lights that Scarlet had only just now noticed, giving her some brief sense of annoyance now that she couldn’t get it out of her peripheral.

Finally after a long minute, Marshall nodded, “I suppose you could try doing that. You’d have to go bring it up with the head librarian, but it’s worth a shot.”

Scarlet squeed in excitement, jumping up in a victorious pose before flashing the flustered pegasus an embarrassed look, thanking her luck that once again someone couldn’t see the deep blush that enveloped her crimson face.

“That’s great! Do you have her card or something? Or a time when she’ll be in again?”

He’ll be in sometime tomorrow, but I don’t know when you’ll be back around this way. You all sleep in all day right?”

Scarlet raised an eyebrow in confusion before realizing that he clearly meant night ponies as a whole, “Yes, generally we do, but I could be here earlier if needed.”

The pegasus began to speak up, but paused, choosing to raise up his wing instead. Scarlet hadn’t noticed this before, but a small strap ran across his body, leading to a small, almost flush to his body, pouch that he had kept safely under his wing. He gently pulled it forward and rummaged around a pocket for a second, holding out a business card in offering, “Here,” he spoke up, “You should take his card anyways. Give him a call, set up an appointment, and come with your idea written down and ready to present to him, it’ll help your case a lot more, trust me.”

Scarlet took the offered card and flipped it over in her hooves, taking note of the name and number before stashing it away in the bag she had slung across her body, “Thanks Marshall, I’ll give it a look.”

“Don’t thank me, I’m just the janitor ‘round here. Good luck though, you might need it.”

The stallion made his way back toward the abandoned broom and pulled it back toward him, giving it a short, but sturdy push, “It was nice meeting you, Scarlet.”

Scarlet returned a nod and trotted toward the empty street, “It was nice meeting you too. Guess I’ll see you around,” if this even gets off the ground, she thought to herself. With a graceful leap, she took off into the sky, no real destination in mind except for the dark and inviting sky, her mind full of new thoughts to mull about.

As she reached a comfortable altitude (Noticeably higher than what she was accustomed to) she slowed her ascent, coming to a gentle cruise in one of the places where she could feel most comfortable— the night sky. She wouldn’t normally have flown this high up during the day, but in an odd way, having the blanket of darkness around her gave her comfort that she didn’t usually have otherwise, even with Silver. Despite her wishes otherwise, the observatory likely wasn’t reopening anytime soon, and she’d just have to deal with that. She didn’t have to give up though, she just had to work hard toward this new goal.

“Okay, observatory job is out,” she shook her head, taking a deep breath and letting herself relax, “Guess we’re going with the finding something else route.”

The memory of the numerous help wanted signs that were plastered in the windows of some of the businesses near the scrapyard popped back into her head again, earning a scowl as she remembered the state of some of those businesses.

I’m not that desperate, she mused to herself, thinking back to the distinct lack of any such signs on this side of town.

“I don’t even really need a job anyways,” she said aloud, glancing back down to the building from her position in the sky. A deep sense of longing filled her, pulling at her heart and soul and earning another sigh, “Okay, maybe I do. I mean I could always just buy a new one…” she trailed off, considering the opportunity she might be able to wriggle her way into, “Buuuuuut I could also work my way into an actual observatory… even if it’s just a community one.”

With her mind made up, she swooped over toward the direction of the part of town she had left Silver in, and dove toward it, her hopes high that she’d be able to find at least something that’d get her some semblance of an income.

Scarlet let out an annoyed whinny as she trotted out the door of one of the nicer looking buildings on the otherwise run down street. This had been her fifth attempt at trying to see if anyone was willing to hire a night pony, and so far they had all ended with a polite, but stern We’re not hiring.

“Not hiring ponies is more like it,” she grumbled, giving an angry flick of her tail as if to emphasize her frustration to the empty street.

She took a breath and sighed, glancing over at the last two options she realistically had. A shady looking gas station or a seedy looking motel, neither of which looked particularly appealing to her. With another drawn out sigh, she turned toward the motel, seeing it as her only real option.

She glanced into the street out of habit, not really expecting too many cars to be driving around right now, and trotted toward the faded stucco building, grimacing at the dead planters that sat out front, which she could have only imagined had once looked beautiful back in their heyday. In fact, she could have imagined that this whole town had once been beautiful… time just hadn’t been kind to it.

Remember Scarlet, don’t judge a book by its cover, she mentally prepped herself. She took a glance up at the grimy, but perfectly intact front door with a brightly colored HELP WANTED sign proudly on display, and pulled it open, hearing a dull bell ring as she stepped in.

An older looking woman with graying hair glanced up from the magazine she was reading, and seemed to do a double take at the sight of the night pony. The room smelled of stale cigarettes and looked as if it hadn’t been updated since the day it was furnished, tempting Scarlet to scrunch her muzzle up in disgust. Not wanting to offend the woman, (and likely dash her hope of getting this job,) she put on the warmest smile that she could muster and trotted up to the desk, using it to steady herself so she wouldn’t be putting as much weight on her bandaged hoof.

“You lost?” The woman asked inquisitively, but bluntly.

Scarlet shook her head, taking note of the woman’s surprisingly pristine name tag that read Mildred, “Nope. It’s gonna sound weird, but I’m actually here for that job,” she gestured back over to the door, “I know it’s probably weird to you, but I’ve been trying to put some cash away for something.”

Mildred stared at her for a few moments, making Scarlet acutely aware of how much she stood out here, “This isn’t some joke, is it?”

“Of course not,” she replied, almost offended that this woman would assume that.

“Because ponies don’t usually get jobs,” she continued, an almost annoyed tone carrying in her voice.

“Well this one is,” Scarlet countered, resisting every urge to roll her eyes or really speak her mind. She flashed her forced smile again, “Look, I know it’s weird, but trust me. I’m not some communal farmer, and I’m not gonna go protect some field for a cut of the harvest. I just need a job that pays actual money and if it’d be an issue having me up here then I’ll gladly go work laundry or housekeeping or something,” she pleaded, trying not to sound too desperate.

She didn’t really want to work in either of those departments, but it was that or the gas station, and she really didn’t want to have to resort to that option.

“Think it’s worth giving me a chance?” She politely asked.

Mildred sat there for a moment, clearly considering just turning her away, an outcome which Scarlet was bracing herself for, but much to her surprise the woman nodded, “Just hang out here. I need to go talk with someone.”

Scarlet’s eyes widened in surprise, more out of shock than excitement, but it was at least a step further than she had gotten before. Not a bad sign, but also not a confirmation of anything… yet.

Not really having anything else to do, Scarlet took another look around the room, taking in the detail of the quaint lobby. It was old and outdated… and that was putting it very lightly. For one, the furniture of the place was old, faded, rickety, and clearly hadn’t been touched or really even cleaned in a very long time. Being the only one in the room, Scarlet freely scrunched up her muzzle, glad that she didn’t take a seat on the worn down couch. The wallpaper was peeling in a few areas, but surprisingly well maintained… at least compared to the rest of the room’s condition. Water lines ran down a corner of the wall, making it all but evident that the roof had some serious problems, which at least wouldn’t be much of an issue out in the desert valley.

Finding it hard not to pick apart the place, she stole a glance at the worn down shag carpet, which was torn in more than a few places, and haphazardly patched up in even more. Giving another grimace, she shifted on her hooves, no doubt sure that the carpet hadn’t seen a good cleaning in years. Just looking at the whole place made her feel as if she needed a good bath, and she couldn’t wait to have that chance. She could live with this though. It was just a job, a job that was going to be temporary. It’s better than the gas station, she mentally reminded herself.

The loud creak of the door behind the desk pulled her attention front and center, making her ears perk up and her thoughts of disgust momentarily fade away.

“So you’re the pony looking for a job, eh?” A significantly older looking woman with white hair asked.

Scarlet nodded, “That’s me alright.”

“Mhmm… I’m Sherry, the manager here. Do you know how to use a computer?”

Scarlet glanced down at her hooves, “Probably not the best with these,” she held a hoof up, “But if you need me to, then I can learn.”

Another thought ran through her head. She had seen Silver awkwardly using his wings to type on his phone just a day prior, which gave her an idea, “But— I might be able to use my wings to type away too,” she offered, flexing one of the appendages.

“We don’t see a whole lot of activity here at night, so plenty of time to learn either way.”

Scarlet’s brow furrowed, “So…”

“So, let’s just say you’ve got the job.”

Chapter 25: All Work and Some Play

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The deafening silence that had earlier embraced Scarlet was now starting to fade away as the sounds of both nature and man started to pick up more. It was still too early for the majority of the humans to be out, but this area was home to more than a handful of early birds it seemed… and that only annoyed Scarlet even more. Not to say there was anything wrong with being up early and starting your day before the sun had even risen… but Scarlet wasn’t in the mood for random stares and whispered conversations about the weird mean looking pony sitting on the cold concrete bench in the less than pristine part of town that she most definitely did not want to be in this time of night. In all fairness, nothing was actually keeping her there aside from the fact that she didn’t have her phone to message Silver with. Sure, she could always trot on over and knock on the door to get her answer that way… but she didn’t even know whether anyone else would be there at this hour, and didn’t want to get Silver in trouble on the off chance that there was. No, she just had to be patient and wait for Silver to get off work, which would hopefully be sooner than later.

Scarlet tapped her hoof on the cracked concrete, trying her best to stay patient. As is often the case though, that was infinitely easier said than done, especially in the mood she was in now. She found it hard to place her exact mood, because it was drifting in that nice little gray area between being tired, frustrated, and pissed off. Her first night at her new job had gone as well as it could go— meaning it was quiet and boring, but easy enough for her to deal with, the disgusting environment and indifferent supervisor aside. Mildred had gone over the basics of her job, making it clear that she probably wouldn’t do much aside from playing solitaire on the front desk computer, or at least that was what Scarlet guessed based on how the older woman spent the bulk of her night, leaving her little in the way of an actual understanding of what she was going to do, and more with the impression that that meant she’d be doing most of the work while the human slacked off.

She glanced up at the slowly brightening night sky, debating on whether it was worth taking another flight to clear her mind and burn off some aggressive energy, or whether she should just stay right in her place. As she considered this, she took notice of her stallion trotting out of the scrap yard’s small office building, a decidedly cheerful look plastered on his face in stark contrast to her more than likely sour one.

Thank God he’s not gonna keep me waiting any longer, she thought to herself, just wanting to get back home and into her warm comfy bed— after a hot and thorough shower of course.

Putting on her least I’m in a bad mood face that she could muster, which was hard in her current state, she leaped off of the bench and cheerfully trotted up to Silver. Without so much as a hello, she leaned up against him and sluggishly nuzzled up against his neck, taking in his familiar scent, and just happy that she was with another pony.

“How was your night?” she asked, the slight tremble in her voice betraying how hers had gone.

The stallion blushed at the sudden display of affection and returned the embrace, “Pretty good. Gotta say, I wasn’t expecting it to be all that great, but it was actually kinda neat,” he looked up at her, taking notice of her body language that more than likely clearly betrayed her actual mood, “I’m guessing yours wasn’t as nice?” He shifted into a more comforting tone.

“Ha,” she laughed, “You could say that,” she flicked her tail in annoyance, “The observatory’s out for now, but I managed to pick up a job at the seediest motel imaginable. It’s like that place couldn’t be any more cliché if it tried.”

Silver slowly nodded in understanding, clearly trying to gauge how best to handle this. He shifted his expression into a caring one and embraced her tighter, “Aaaaaand I’m gonna guess it wasn’t your first pick…” he winced in sympathy.

Scarlet let out a sarcastic laugh, “Oh hon, this place wouldn’t even be my hundredth pick… but it was the only one willing to hire a night pony.”

Silver softened his expression and nudged her along, “Why don’t we chat about it on the way home? I don’t know about you, but I could go for some before bed cuddles.”

She nodded in agreement, “After I take a nice hot shower. Just sitting in that place made me feel like I was absorbing all the grime and dirt in the world.”

“That bad?” He chuckled, “You know, you don’t have to stay there if you don’t want to. I can set enough aside for what we need for right now.”

“No,” she agreed, “I don’t have to, but I want to. At least until I can get a nice little nest egg stashed away. There’s some stuff I want to organize around the library so we can get the observatory open, and that’s gonna make it all worth it in the end. I just have to keep telling myself that there’s that awesome light at the end of the tunnel.”

“That’s the spirit!” He playfully jabbed her side, “just gotta look at the bright side there.”

“And then I can never set hoof in that place again,” Scarlet added, with an almost gleeful tone that clearly emphasized her dislike of the establishment.

“Exactly,” Silver gently rubbed the base of her wings, “Now how about we get to the part where we fly home and relax for a bit, I’ve got a fun dream related idea in mind for today and I think we’re overdue for a nice fun adventure.”

She flexed her wings and relaxed her tensed muscles, giving the stallion a brief head nod, “Do I want to know what kind of a dream this is? Or should it be a surprise?”

Silver considered this for a moment and met her with a sly smile, “Let’s leave it as a surprise, It’s something we haven’t done in a while and I know you’re just gonna love it.”

“Let’s get going then. I’ve been waiting to unwind for hours and I’m ready to do more of that and less of whatever this is…” she waved a hoof around the two.

“Being grumpy and tired in the shady side of town?” He jokingly offered.

Sticking her tongue out at the blue stallion, Scarlet offered a simple “Yep!” Earning a laugh from her stallion.

As annoyed as Scarlet was after work, she couldn’t help but smile, unsure of what kind of adventure she was in store for, but sure that with Silver by her side it’d be a special one.

Obnoxious red lights flashed and warning sirens blared all around, giving Scarlet a dull throbbing headache that she didn’t even think was possible to get in the dream realm.

“This was your idea of a good time?” She yelled over the deafening noise.

Silver nervously glanced around and shook his head, “I didn’t think it was gonna be a nightmare!” He shouted back.

Warning, containment breach detected! A computerized voice robotically announced.

Great, now we’ve probably got some big monster chasing us now, just my idea of a relaxing dream, she thought to herself. She paused and took a deep breath, calming herself down. The breath was completely unnecessary in the dream realm, but she found that going through the motions helped all the same.

“Okay, it’s fine,” she turned to Silver, “So dream boy, what do we do now?”

The stallion peeked down one of the metal hallways and turned back to Scarlet, “We could abort and go elsewhere but…” he trailed off, glancing back again.

“But… what?” Scarlet asked with a furrowed brow.

“Well…” he hesitated.

“Uh huh?” She pressed on, “You can get it out, I believe in you.”

“Well, it’s a nightmare and I… I don’t know if we should stick around here.”

She let out a loud laugh that cut through the sirens and alarms, “So we’re staying here and helping this pony out then is what you’re saying.”

The hallway rumbled, surprising the two for a brief moment before Silver continued, “Do you want to stay here?” He asked, his voice betraying a mix of emotion that Scarlet found hard to place.

“It’s stay here and help out this pony or leave them to deal with the nightmare on their own so…”

“I figured that’s what you’d say,” he replied with a smile, “You know we’re technically not supposed to dispel nightmares though right?”

“Phobia doesn’t want us to dispel them… which is fine. I can’t do that anyways and you can barely even handle it with smaller ones.”

“Barely even?” He replied with a confident pose? You’d be surprised at what I can do in here now.”

“You been practicing or something?” She laughed, “Alright dream boy, let’s see it in action then. Let’s go help this pony work through her nightmare.”

“You’re still fine with this?”

It would have been a bold faced lie if Scarlet had said yes, because in her mind she wasn’t fine with it… at least not fully. It’s true that she wanted nothing more than to just lay down and relax in some dream, or go explore some serene environment, but a part of her was also secretly overjoyed at having the chance to go running through a nightmare, and that’s the part of her that was coming to the surface right now.

“You promised me a fun time tonight, so let’s see it.”

Silver nodded and waved her along, “Okay,” he closed his eyes for a second and turned toward one of the large metal doors, “The dreamer should be down this hallway, past the turbo lift on the left, and in the bridge. Whether there’s any defenses set up…”

Another loud rumble interrupted them, prompting them to continue, as Scarlet could only imagine that whatever creature was loose was inevitably going to track them down, and she sure wasn’t ready for that.

“Down the hallway, past the turbo lift, and up to the bridge. Got it,” she replied, tapping her hoof against the metal grate that made up the floor, “So what’ll it be then? Mad dash to the bridge or stealthily navigate it?”

Silver considered this for a moment before shaking his head, “Probably mad dash to the bridge. This is a pretty detailed dream, but it’s not my kind of detailed dream,” he concluded, tapping a hoof to a nearby vent and pointing inside, “It’s all just visual, there’s nothing we can sneak through.”

Scarlet peeked into the vent (or what she had previously thought was an actual vent) and gave a silent nod of understanding, “Okay,” she looked back up at him and the hallway beyond, “Lead the way then Mr. Navigator.”

“Mr. Navigator?..” he questioned, shaking his head and trotting forward, “Okay!”

The pair began a steady trot down the dim hallway, the amber lights bathing them in a warm glow, but it still seemed infinitely darker than it should have been. This was always the weird thing about dreams. Endless hallways that led to nowhere, stairs that seemed straight out of an Escher painting, or in this dream’s case: doors and vents painted onto walls that gave the impression that the ship they were running around in was actually a living breathing space. In reality, like many dreams that weren’t specifically crafted, this place was merely more like some fantastical movie set; designed to only show what was meant to be seen, and nothing else.

Scarlet never really concerned herself with this kind of thing. She much more preferred to spend her dreams the way they were meant to be played out. However, having a stallionfriend like Silver— who was eager to explore and learn about every facet of dream magic that he could (even managing to do things that regular night ponies seemingly couldn’t, as small as they were), meant that she was given more than her fair share of glimpses behind the metaphorical dream curtains.

Dreams were weird, she admitted. But as the two ran down this hallway ducking into cubby holes and avoiding exotic looking creatures, she could see what drew Silver to them. In the waking world, the idea that you could do anything you dreamed of was always just a clever optimistic phrase meant to emphasize that someone could do seemingly anything if they put their mind to it, but in the dream realm that was literally the reality. There was no chance that the two could ever go on the kind of adventures they embarked on in here out there, and that’s exactly the kind of creative canvas that she knew Silver relished.

She knew from their first day spent in the dream realm that he was the caring and creative type, but he didn’t exactly have the best outlet for his hobby in the waking world like she did (or previously did before her telescope had been damaged), and his dream magic gave him all of that and more. As high octane and energetic as this dream was, it scratched an itch that Silver didn’t really have a chance at scratching while awake, and she could appreciate that. This wasn’t just an adventure for adventure’s sake, it was Silver sharing everything he loved about his hobby with her, just like she often did with him, and that only managed to bring them closer, even in an alien environment like the one they were running through now.

“Okay,” He whispered, somehow still being able to be heard over the sirens, “See that big door up ahead?”

Scarlet looked toward where he was pointing with a hoof and nodded. The door was sparking and opening slightly every few seconds, halted by the body of one of the creatures that had broken containment.

“Let me guess, we’re gonna have to slide under that and not get crushed or eaten by a monster?” She replied.

“I… Uh… am I really that predictable?”

“It’s video game logic,” she shrugged, taking note of his confused expression, “What? Didn’t you ever just get into gaming to blow off some steam?”

“I— well, yeah, but I guess I didn’t…”

“Expect the bookish mare with her head in the stars to be into that sort of thing?” She finished for him with a sly smirk, “Oh hon, you’d be surprised at the hobbies I used to have.”

“Like…” he paused, “Okay, we can share more of our hobbies later… you better bet I’m finding us something to play when we get up though!”

She shook her head and laughed, “Can’t wait.” Scarlet narrowed her gaze at the door and gave a confident nod, “Okay, so there’s no creatures running about in this section… except for the dead one under the door.”

“Timing seems steady enough too,” he observed.

“Two drops down and then it stops, shoots up, and repeats,” Scarlet commented on the door’s pattern, “Giving us about two seconds to slip in. Cutting it close, but it’s a dream and I’m sure we’ll be safe enough.”

Silver flashed a nervous glance, “I… I don’t know, something inside of me doesn’t want to find out if you’re wrong.”

“All the more reason to nail it then,” she laughed, “It’s that, or you leave this poor frightened pony alone in a nightmare without helping them work through it.”

Silver seemed on the fence, but looked back at the door with a confident look on his face, “We wouldn’t be very good night ponies if we left then, would we?”

“Some would say it’s better to leave them alone and let them work through whatever’s caused the nightmare,” Scarlet pointed out.

“But we’re not those kind of ponies,” Silver finished, “I know Phobia’s got her whole mentality about this thing, but she’s also the pony advocating for the beneficial role of fear in your life. If you think about it, helping them work through this,” he waved around the room, “is just helping them learn from and work through their fear.”

“That’s the spirit!” She cheered, “Now, you wanna give this a go first or do you want to get shown up by a mare?”

Silver glanced over to the sparking door and then back to the mare and shrugged, “You’re the expert on this apparently,” he gave a sly smirk, “So I’ll let you one up me.”

Scarlet felt a wave of both anticipation and adoration well up inside of her, making her break the sarcastic facade for a moment with a warm smile, “This is the fun part,” she laughed.

She trotted forward, glancing to the sides of the hallway before directing her gaze back to the door. Two drops down and then it stops, shoots up, and repeats, she mentally repeated back to herself, taking note of the door’s timing and pattern. Seeing the right opportunity come up, she ran forward and dove down, sliding through the barely open space and whipping her tail through just before the door slammed down again.

While it’s true that Silver probably could have just paused the dream if he had really focused hard enough, she had to admit that this made the experience more fun, and if she was going to explore this dream with him then they might as well play by its rules.

She leaped up and did a happy trot in place before looking through the glass and smirking at Silver, “Your turn!” She teased.

The stallion took a few slow steps forward and kept his eyes on the door, following its motion like a hawk tracking its prey. She giggled at the adorable expression he was making and watched as he finally ran forward and slid under, narrowly missing the door on its harsh return down.

With unexpectedly shaky hooves, Silver stood up and nodded, “You beat me.”

“Oh?” She raised an eyebrow, letting out a snicker, “This is a game now?”

He playfully punched her in the shoulder, “It was a game the second you decided to stick around here. And guess what, that was the final trial,” he gestured to the door, “At least it should be.”

“This is a big cliche sci-fi nightmare,” Scarlet reminded him, “You just know there’s going to be a big cliche sci-fi nightmare boss fight up ahead when we get there— assuming we’re not going to interrupt it.”

“Well,” he glanced down the hallway toward the even larger door ahead, “There’s only one way to find out…”

As the pair stepped into the ship’s bridge the alarms and sirens seemed to fade away into the background, giving Scarlet a much needed respite from the irritating sound. Instead, the loud noises were replaced by the sounds of a frantic purple night pony firing some strange energy weapon at a large alien queen, a sight that both terrified and excited Scarlet.

“I told you so,” she teased, playfully jabbing Silver’s side.

“You two just gonna sit there or are you gonna help?!” the purple mare with a striking red mane called down to them.

Silver flashed a confused look and then glanced to Scarlet, who gave him an equally confused look of her own. The other mare’s sudden shout more than likely meant that she was aware of the dream… and she was running through it just like Silver liked to do. This told Scarlet something else as well: this mare was fully aware of her nightmare and was actually running through it instead of immediately dispelling it...

“What uhh…” Silver started, shouting up to the mare.

“Grab an energy lance from the rack and get your tails over here, it’s got a weak spot under the belly but it’s hard to hit when it’s moving!” She grunted.

As Silver ran to the rack, Scarlet eyed the creature, noticing the bright glowing spots under its belly that the mare had described.

Bright energy beams shot out from behind her, striking the creature, but missing the weak spots entirely. Silver evidently wasn’t as good of a shot as he thought he was, even with the strange magical dream weapon he had strapped to his arm.

“This is actually kind of cool!” He excitedly exclaimed, sliding Scarlet one.

Scarlet tapped a hoof to the strange, circular device, jumping back as it quickly liquified and wrapped around her hoof, solidifying into the same form as the one on Silver’s forehoof.

“I…” she started, giving Silver a confused look.

“Just point and think about firing, trust me.”

Scarlet raised an eyebrow but didn’t question him further, instead choosing to aim toward the creature. With an electric spark, the hoof mounted device shot out, striking the creature’s weak spot with a bright flash.

A loud scream echoed out, shaking the walls and windows, threatening to crack them apart. Thankfully that didn’t happen, but what did happen was the creature being thrown into a wild frenzy that was now dangerously close to hitting them. The mare jumped out and pushed both Silver and Scarlet back, giving Scarlet reason to shout out in anger for a brief moment as she was harshly thrown against the wall.

Sensation in the dream realm was never quite what it was like in the waking world, but that still didn’t mean the action didn’t hurt, and she wasn’t afraid to really speak her mind on it.

“Hey! What the hell are you doing?!” She shouted back at the purple mare who had leapt into the creature’s path.

Before she had a chance to even reply to Scarlet’s angered questioning, she was consumed by the creature in a bright flash of lights and menacing roar, giving Scarlet a momentary feeling of dread followed by confusion as she realized that this must have been according to some plan… at least that’s what she hoped. Because what reasonable pony would just willingly do something like that, even if it was within a dream? Before she had a chance to question it further, the creature suddenly burst apart in a gory mess of entrails and liquified goop, that she was thankfully able to duck under a console to doge in a surprise, almost reflexive move. Silver however, clearly wasn’t as lucky at all, at least that’s what she could guess based on his coughing, curses, and loud sounds of disgust. As she slowly poked her head out of her hiding place, she let out a snicker before flashing the stallion a sympathetic look from a distance as he loudly retched in disgust.

“My mouth was open!” He exclaimed, looking more green than his usual midnight blue… That is, more green underneath the bits of liquified alien queen.

The purple mare trotted up and shook like a dog that had just gotten out of a mud puddle, shaking the goop and entrails all over the place, which miraculously missed Scarlet entirely. Brushing her mane out of her eyes, she extended a hoof in greeting before noticing the pair’s disgusted expressions and blushed.

“Guess I owe you a greeting now, eh? I’m Morgana… Morgana Darkshadow.”

Silver nodded, still looking nauseous, but less so than before, “Nice to meet you… I’m guessing you’re into this kind of thing then?”

“Nightmares?” She asked, “You could say that. In fact, I love em! Maybe even as much as Phobia Remedy herself!”

“So you’re a Phobia fangirl then?” Scarlet interjected.

“In a way,” Morgana agreed, “The Warden of Fear’s words have true value to them, especially when you live in an area that’s dangerous,” she seemed to trail off, as if lost in thought. Perking up, she continued, “Fear keeps me strong and safe, and my nightmares give me insight into my flaws giving me a chance to better myself out there. In the place where they can harm me.”

Scarlet couldn’t help but let out a small snicker. Silver was into some strange mediums of fun in the dream realm, but this mare clearly gave him a run for his money.

“Interesting…” Silver trailed off, “So did you make this? Or did your subconscious?” He asked, gesturing around at the grisly scene, “The detail’s fascinating and I’ve never seen a pony embrace a nightmare like this before… it was almost… fun?” He said with a smirk.

“A little bit of both,” she explained, “The mind made the broad strokes of it all and I just painted in some of the details. I’ve been doing this for a while now.”

“Look at that Silver, you’re not the only one making your own crazy dreams to play in,” Scarlet laughed.

“You’re into this kind of thing too?” Morgana asked with a curious expression, “Dream crafting that is,” she clarified.

“Well yeah,” Silver proudly stated, “I haven’t been doing it for long, but I’ve been giving it a spin a lot more lately— and I think I’m getting pretty good at it.”

“Would you care to share it?” she asked, stirring a weird protective urge inside of Scarlet, “If your marefriend is okay with it, that is.”

Scarlet flushed a surprised look, unsure of whether something in her body language had betrayed her feelings, or whether it had just been an innocent coincidence from out of the mare’s courtesy.

Silver looked over to Scarlet and raised an eyebrow, “What do you say Scar? Wanna head back to that experimental dream I’ve been working on?”

Scarlet shrugged, “That place is… weird, but sure. I’m sure you two will have a ball there.”

“I’ll let you choose the next dream,” he promised, “Even if it’s just a nice relaxing one,” he added.

Scarlet smirked, “That sounds wonderful, Silvie.”

Chapter 26: Campfire Songs

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The crackle and popping of the warm fire stirred some nostalgic emotion inside of Stanley as he gave off an involuntary shiver in the cold desert air, scooting closer to the fire. He should have been used to this by now, especially given that he was covered head to hoof in a furry coat, but still, it didn’t give him full respite from the brisk air. He took a look around the small amphitheater with the fire in its center and shivered again, waiting for the rest of the village to file in for the evening festivities.

While his friends were off starting their new jobs, he was struggling with one of his own. He had come all this way looking for a new and more interesting life, and now he found himself with a job, one that felt like more work than it was worth. With each night, he felt more and more like the mediator of the village, something he had never intended.

As much as he was yearning for everything to begin, the relative solitude was at least a nice break from having to deal with annoying and often frustrating village stuff. Aside from him, the only other ponies around were Dawn, Gizmo, and Midnight, none of which were currently interacting, which left him plenty of time to shiver by the cold and reflect on his thoughts for the day.

Much like every other day, it would probably be filled with boring administrative stuff, like helping count the harvest, look at village supplies, work with Dawn to plan out trade opportunities… the usual boring old work that he started to find he wasn’t super fond of. He let out a groan as he gazed over at the mare that led the village, knowing that with her, a task that should take maybe an hour tops would wind up stretching through his evening, and into early morning.

It wasn’t that he was unhappy, it just wasn’t the kind of work he expected to do as a pony, which in retrospect was a silly thought. It wasn’t like becoming a pony would magically relieve him of all responsibilities and issues in his life after all. No, he would just have to bite the bullet and get used to it. He was hundreds of miles away from home, and far away from any other town, which meant that for all intents and purposes he was stuck in this place, whether he liked it or not.

And he did… at least some of it. Always one to look on the bright side, he thought about all of the good things he could at least look at. Patrick, one of his oldest friends, who was at least close by, and Midnight was proving to be a pony that he could just share his thoughts with and be comfortable around, despite only knowing her for such a short amount of time.

“Cold?” Midnight asked, giving him a knowing look.

“Huh?” He shivered, “That obvious, eh?” He nodded, still thinking about his time spent with her so far.

“Trust me, you’ll get used to it,” she reassured him, “I think it took me a good two or three weeks, but hey, it’s all good now.”

Stanley let out another shiver, “Just gotta think warm thoughts for now then, right?”

“That…” she glanced over to her home a short distance away, “Or I could go grab you a blanket or something.”

Stanley considered this for a moment before shaking his head, “I think I’m good,” he moved his hooves closer, adding, “for now at least.”

“You’ll get there,” she tapped a hoof on his shoulder. “Trust me, we all do.”

The yellow night pony leaned in a little closer to the mare, looking around at the amphitheater space, “So… you think this’ll actually work?”

“Hard to say,” she glanced over to Dawn and Gizmo, who were both sitting near each other, but still avoiding interaction, “what usually happens when you put two bull headed and stubborn ponies together and ask…” she paused, “No, tell them to play nice?”

“An argument or worse… which hasn’t happened yet.”

Yet,” she pointed out, recoiling at the stallion’s grimace, “But maybe this time will be different.”

“Hopefully,” he offered.

Stanley warmed his hooves by the fire again as a few more ponies trotted up to the small amphitheater-like space. Despite the time he had spent here already, he hardly knew any of them. A small frown spread across his face as he thought about this, but a quick shake of his head dispelled it. As a human this might have been weird or abnormal, but things were different for night ponies. It was hard to make friends out in the waking world when you were seemingly the only one around at night. Even being around another pair of night ponies didn’t seem to change it that much.

If anything it just left Stanley in an awkward position most of the time, with Dawn and Midnight not getting along very well and in turn being the pony that Midnight would vent to. Not to say he minded much. Having a pony that shared the same frustrations as he did was nice, but it was also obvious that he was filling a role that he shouldn’t have needed to fill in this village. A role that almost left him feeling more alone than he had back home. All the ponies in the world couldn’t change the fact that getting roped into being the village mediator every day was tiring and lonely.

Gentle music began to play as a bright blue unicorn mare with a deep scarlet mane trotted up with a guitar held in her magic. For a moment Stanley couldn’t remember her name, but then the conversation with Midnight that had set this whole thing into motion came back. Sweet Song, which seemed like a very fitting name for her just given this very brief first impression.

“Alrighty everypony! Who’s ready for some campfire songs and a little good old fashioned community fun?” She cheerfully shouted, failing to earn even a semblance of a smile from either of the two grouchy ponies.

“I think Giz and Dawn are!” Midnight volunteered the two of them, “They were the first ones here after all.”

Dawn shot Midnight daggers while Gizmo laughed from his place across the campfire, clearly amused by Dawn’s reluctance.

“Yeah, I agree,” Stanley added in, “You both have an important role here, why not get the fun started so everypony else can join in?”

Dawn’s scowl grew stronger, however Gizmo’s actually seemed to soften a bit, making Stanley smile.

“Ya think so?” Gizmo asked aloud, earning a cheerful nod from Midnight.

“Of course,” she cheered, “You two work so hard, you just need to let loose and have a little fun. Trust me.”

Dawn looked back over to Gizmo, the unicorn, and then finally the other two night ponies. Her scowl was still plastered across her face, but also mixed with an expression that seemed to imply she was considering this a lot more than she let on.

Finally her face softened and she gave a small nod, “Alright then.”

“That’s the spirit,” the unicorn gleefully replied before either of the night ponies could say anything, “Now I’m going to need some help from everypony for this first song. Whenever I pause I want you to stomp your hooves.”

With a spark of her magic the small collection of instruments that she had laid out behind her began to jump to life, starting up a cheerful little melody comprised of a drum, her guitar, and a tambourine.

With a final and cheerful round of hoof stomps, the unicorn doused her magic and took a seat, wiping away the sweat on her face, “Alrighty! I’m gonna need a break after that one, but we’ll have some more songs later!” She cheered, out of breath and panting from the magical exhaustion.

“So, that was fun, eh?” Stanley perked up.

“It was… a nice break from the norm,” Dawn agreed, “Though it was more of a distraction I’m afraid.”

“Hm?” Midnight questioned, “What do you mean?”

“There’s still a lot of work left to get done, and last I checked, there was still a sizable hurdle to get over.”

Stanley rolled his eyes and looked between Dawn and Gizmo, “That’s what tonight was for. You know, get to know each other a little more and actually see each other as ponies instead of…” he trailed off.

“Instead of arguing like a couple of bickering foals,” Midnight offered.

“It’s not arguing it’s directing,” Dawn replied with a roll of her eyes, “And the only reason it gets so heated is because Gizmo won’t listen to reason on what’s best for the village.”

“Because you won’t let me actually explain what’s going on and why we can’t do what you want,” he flatly replied, pulling the trio’s attention toward him.

“I give you plenty of opportunities to chat about it. You just refuse to actually compromise on your issues.”

Now it was Gizmos’s turn to roll his eyes, and Stanley could tell that this wasn’t going the way him and Midnight had hoped.

“I refuse to compromise because you want miracles. It’s not my fault that you’re too stupid to realize that a handful of earth ponies can’t even begin to do what one statistical deviant can.”

“It’s magic, how hard is it to figure out?”

“Okay, let’s switch tracks a little,” he fired back, “Why don’t you go manifest some dream that can explain to me exactly what you want? You bats can just take your thoughts and make them into a reality right?”

“That’s not how it works,” Dawn countered with a firm shake of her head, “Dream magic is complicated and unbelievably hard to explain to somepony that doesn’t experience it.”

“There you go, just like how earth pony magic is hard to explain and fathom for somepony who isn’t an earth pony.”

“I’m in charge of this place, I was voted into that place for a reason.”

“A reason that makes no sense considering the largest demographic of the village now. Maybe it made sense before you had the number of earth ponies that you do now, but the reality is that we don’t get a say in how we use our talents and magic. And you don’t understand why we can’t do what you want us to do. Not to mention you won’t even listen to why we can’t,” he shouted back.

“I’ve told you a thousand times now, there’s a proper avenue to air your grievances, you’re more than welcome to pursue it that way. We were shown a vision of what a thriving pony community could be, and I intend to follow those ideals like the way we were shown.”

The old earth pony muttered something under his breath and shook his head, clearly holding back saying what was really on his mind.

Before either had a chance to escalate their shouting match, Midnight stomped her hoof, scaring both the two agitated ponies and Stanley. “Can’t you two see what you’re doing? Because this isn’t what I’d call a healthy conversation, and clearly it’s only getting worse.”

Dawn looked at Midnight with an expression of surprise and confusion. Even without Stanley’s own limited understanding of the underlying issues, he could clearly tell that Dawn never expected an outburst like that from the usually reserved Midnight.

“She’s right you know,” he spoke up, “I realize that there’s a whole plan and process to everything here… but it’s clearly not working the way it oughta.”

“Finally somepony else gets it,” Gizmo muttered, earning a sharp glare from both Midnight and Stanley, “I mean— well… you get what I mean.”

“Yep,” Stanley continued, “which is why we really need to just sit down and make some tough decisions. I know it’s going to be frustrating and all, but you need to take a step back and look at the problems here and start talking about how we can address them.”

“What problems?” Dawn asked the yellow night pony, turning her nose up at the idea that there could be anything remotely close to a flaw in her attempt at creating a pony utopia.

“Well I’ve only been here for a short time, but I’ve already noticed some pretty glaring problems that I can tell are just going to lead to more trouble down the line. The earth ponies feeling like they’re overworked is probably the biggest, but there’s still plenty of other small things. Trust me when I say it doesn’t take an expert to realize that something’s up.”

“He’s right you know,” Midnight interjected before Dawn had a chance to chime in, “I’ve been trying to tell you this for a while but you’re always so interested in making sure everything is done the right way, as in Sunset’s right way, that you don’t see what’s actually happening.”

Dawn sat in silence for a few moments before shaking her head, “You don’t understand what running a village is like, it’s not just a simple trot in the park. There needs to be a careful balance to keep everything in line.”

“Which isn’t actually happening. You’ve got that vision stuck in your head of what a perfect pony society should be, that you’re not seeing the actual reality of it,” Midnight argued. “It’s a flawed vision that just doesn’t work in our world with the way it is right now. I’m not saying it needs to be a radical about face, and obviously we can’t compromise with every demand from all sides, but I think we really need to all come together, sit down for a big meeting and plan out a new routine for everything. Everypony gets a say, we can balance out what works and what doesn’t.”

“If you want to try and do that then you know the proper avenues to propose it with,” Dawn countered, “But until then we’re sticking to my plan.”

Without any further argument Dawn stood up and flew away, leaving the three alone again.

“So it’s gonna be more of the usual then eh?” Gizmo replied before shaking his head, “I don’t want to be the spiteful old stallion, but if things don’t change then Dawn’s going to find herself out of a workforce sooner than later, then she’ll really be in hot water.”

Midnight flashed him a frustrated look and shook her head, “I wouldn’t jump to that, a work stoppage is only going to make things worse for everypony.”

Gizmo shrugged, “Sometimes things need to get worse before they get better. You’re a nice mare, but kindness and a warm smile isn’t fixing the problems around here.”

“I know that,” she nodded, “It’s just… difficult.”

“Dawn said something about the proper ways to handle this and bring up our concerns right?” Stanley suddenly spoke up, an idea forming in his head.

“Uh huh,” Midnight acknowledged, “Every month we have a town meeting. To discuss things, look at harvests, motivate the workers, et cetera. If any pony has a problem then they can bring it up and have it addressed—“

She was suddenly cut off by Gizmo, “— Except that Dawn doesn’t listen to any of those problems.”

Stanley held up a hoof, “Okay, so let’s think of a way to handle this in a peaceful way that’ll get our point across then.”

“What’s your idea then?” Midnight asked with a furrowed brow.

“We get Gizmo to hold off on the strike for right now, and instead get him to rally all of the upset ponies during the meeting. Let their voices be heard by Dawn, and get a vote called for what we want to see. There’s a lot of earth ponies here, and I think a big problem is that there’s really only one voicing the complaints.”

“Okay, so get everypony to use their voice. And if that doesn’t work?”

Stanley shrugged, “Then Gizmo gets his strike and Dawn either gets strong armed into listening or there’s a village civil war here.”

Midnight frowned and shook her head, “Let’s just hope the meeting goes well then… I don’t think this place can survive being divided like that, especially when one half controls the food supply and the other half controls the water purification.”

“Wait, what now?” he asked in surprise, “I thought we got that from the river?”

“We get some of it from the river, mainly the water we use to irrigate and bathe with. The earth ponies handle the food supply, the pegasi help control the weather around the village and distill water from the clouds. The hoofful of unicorns here usually help that side of the village and the three bats, that’s us, basically handle admin stuff. So you’re more or less dividing the village in two, because last I checked the unicorns and pegasi weren’t up in arms about Dawn’s policies.”

“Great,” Stanley sighed, “So we’ve got labor disputes and classism now… the perfect model community if I’ve ever seen one.”

“That's… one way to put it I guess. Let’s just try and handle this diplomatically first, okay?”

“Yeah, no that’s the best we can hope for… I just hope this works.”

The sound of drums and tambourines started to ring out as Sweet Song trotted back into the space, starting up her next set.

As the music began to pick up, Stanley leaned close and raised his voice until it was just audible enough for only Midnight to hear, “Okay, let’s chat after this and get a plan in place,” he looked at the mare, “We’re not giving up on this place, we’ll get it all figured out. I promise.”

Chapter 27: Dreaming on the Job

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Silver soared through the air with Scarlet by his side, taking in the beautiful night sights in awed silence. While he had initially shrugged off Scarlet’s excitement over this kind of night flight, he had to admit that something about it was really growing on him, and he was almost looking forward to the long flight they’d have to endure almost every day. It was peaceful, quiet, and the perfect way to relax before a long and boring work shift, something that the two of them were currently on their way to do. If there was a bright side to the boredom, both of them were lucky enough to have the same weekend days off, which they were more than grateful for.

As mundane as it was already starting to be, Silver’s job had at least proven to be interesting enough once he was left on his own, the mountains of salvage and scrap electronics being interesting enough to keep his attention. On the other hand however, from Scarlet’s description of her new job, he could only assume that she was in for another boring and rough night. As he glanced over to the mare he made a mental note to give her some cuddles later. Plus, even if her night went better, he was sure she would still be up for those.

“So… lots of boring stuff waiting for you tonight?” Scarlet asked from the side.

“Yeah, probably,” Silver replied, though it was probably more of a lie than anything. While true at face value, he was still able to make it fun enough. He didn’t want to rub it in her face though, so bending the truth a tiny bit was fine in his eyes, “It was kinda fun yesterday though.”

“Oh?” She questioned, “I don’t remember you talking about that.”

“Guess it slipped my mind,” he laughed, “I thought somepony was trying to break in or something but it turned out it was just a couple of coyotes scratching at the fence.”

“Talk about a letdown,” she mused, “I can see why you forgot to mention it.”

“How about your night? Couldn’t have been that boring, right?” He gave a heavy flap of his wings and arced over to her other side, following her gaze down to the town below.

“It was that boring,” she replied with a sigh, “Unless you count listening to some drunk ramble on about random nonsense all night.”

Silver wished he could have given her a warm hug, but being in the air, that was ill advised. Instead he laid a hoof on her back, “Hey, if you really don’t want to work there it’s okay. I just want you to be happy and not have to stress about anything.”

“It’s fine,” she said in an unconvincing tone that clearly betrayed her true thoughts.

“No, it really isn’t, I can tell,” he reassured her.

She let out a deep sigh, “Okay, fine. I hate the job and I don’t look forward to it, but I really want to save up for some stuff. There was this fundraiser thing I wanted to set up at the library so we could get the observatory open again, and I want to at least save up a little to get the ball rolling on that.”

“How much do you need?” Silver asked.

Scarlet paused and trailed off for a few moments. With a small voice she started again, “Probably a lot more than either of us have,” she admitted.

“Well how much then?” Silver pressed on.

“Probably in the thousands just to cover maintenance and diagnostics if we’re lucky, maybe more if something’s somehow broken in the time they’ve just let it sit there.”

“Is the telescope really in that bad of shape?” He questioned.

Scarlet shook her head, “Not really, but it’s been sitting there for a while and they need to get a professional in to give it a check up— make sure that everything’s in working order, recalibrate it, run some diagnostics...” she paused.

“Basically you have to pay a lot to have someone come in and say it’s either broken or it’s perfectly fine?” Silver finished.

Scarlet nodded her head and laughed, swooping up next to him, “They have to pay that, and yes. Pretty much that. After that it’s just saving up for routine maintenance and hoping they can get enough donations to cover that sort of stuff regularly. That’s where my cost comes in.”

“Setting up events, fundraisers, et cetera… gotcha. So we’re shooting for the small stuff then?”

I am,” she corrected, “You’ve spent enough on me already.”

The blue stallion smirked, “I don’t know, I think I still owe you one new telescope, and paying for this lets you use a big fancy telescope,” he teased.

“Still on that?” She laughed, “I’m serious, it’s no big deal. I promise.”

“Yeah? Well then what if I want that telescope then? I mean I’ve been wanting to learn about the night sky for a while now after all.”

“Uh huh? And let me guess, you want to find a really good teacher too eh?” She nudged his side, pushing him off course ever so slightly, but not enough to send him into a tumble.

He corrected his path and then glanced down at the salvage yard in the distance that was growing ever closer as they neared it, “You know what, no, I don’t.”

Scarlet opened her eyes in surprise, clearly taken aback by his response, “Huh?” she started saying, but was quickly cut off.

“I don’t have to find a good teacher, because I already know a great one,” he continued, giving her a goofy smile, “So what do you say? I get myself a nice fancy telescope and you show me how to use it to settle this whole dispute?”

A wide grin spread across her face as she accepted that he was going to work toward this no matter what, “Alright, fine,” she paused for a moment, looking away from him, though he could tell that she was probably blushing, even under her crimson fur. Coming in closer to him, she lowered her voice, “You know I really love you, right?”

“Not as much as I love you,” he countered, “I only insist on getting us the telescope because I know how much me breaking your old one hurt, and because I love spending time with you under the stars.” He paused for a moment, letting a small blush cross his face, “Plus you’re even cuter when you’re geeking out about your hobby stuff.”

“Really?” She said with a big smile, “I mean I can’t be that cute. I’m just some nerd freaking out about the cool space stuff. If anything that’s embarrassing.”

“Scarlet,” he chuckled, “You being so geeky about this kind of stuff is what makes it so awesome. I swear you’re going to give me a heart attack someday because of how adorable it is to see you get so excited about teaching me space stuff.”

The mare let out a small squee of excitement before a mischievous grin spread across her face, “Okay fine, you’re probably right. But I think you’re wrong.”

“Oh? In what way? I think it’s an objective fact that you’re the cuter of the couple.”

She shrugged, “I dunno. I’d say that you excitedly telling me about your favorite stories and making dreams to explain everything was probably the most adorable thing any night pony has ever done.”

Silver blushed again, “Nah, I think saying that I’m one of the most adorable night ponies ever is a bit of a far stretch.”

“Well, of all the night ponies I know, you’re the most adorable,” she stuck her tongue out at him.

He blushed even harder and held his silence for a few more moments as they began to descend. Touching down on the cracked pavement, he dusted himself off and turned toward her, “I’ll tell you what.”

“What?” She laughed.

“I’ll concede and say that we’re both the cutest night ponies we know.”

“Okay fine,” she accepted, wrapping him in a tight hug and leaning close to his ear, dropping her voice to a sultry whisper, “But you’re still cuter.”

Giving him a peck on the cheek, she pulled away and smiled, batting her eyes at him and earning another blush from the flustered stallion.

“You…” he shook his head and smirked, “You’re evil, you know that right?”

“If making you blush and look even cuter makes me evil, then yes. I’m a supervillain.”

He pulled her close and lowered his voice to a softer tone, “I love you. Don’t let work get you, like I said, you don’t need to stay there if you’re just going to be unhappy.”

She sighed and leaned into the hug, “Love you too. I’m going to stick with it for a bit. It’d be pretty dumb to just leave a job because I had one bad night.”

Silver nodded in understanding, “I get you. I’m just saying that you don’t need to stay there just to stay there though, if you’re still feeling uncomfortable by next week then just go your own way and we’ll figure something out. I’ll be more than happy to throw some cash over at the fundraising stuff. I mean it.”

“Thanks Silver.”

“Any time,” he replied, holding the embrace for just a little longer, “If it doesn’t work out then maybe I can convince Duncan to hire you on too, or just let you hang out around the yard… or something?”

Scarlet shook her head, “That has liability risk written all over it, but I appreciate the thought,” she smiled, “I’ll be fine. I promise.”

He glanced at the salvage yard’s flickering neon sign and then back to her, “You promise?”

She gave him a confident nod, “I promise. Now have a good night, and make sure you show those big mean coyotes who’s boss,” she joked.

“Alright,” he started to laugh, “But only because you told me to.”

With a final embrace, the two went their separate ways.

Silver lazily meandered along one of the catwalks that ran around the outside of the office and part of the yard. The moon glowed above, though the hazy night sky diffused it’s light, leaving him with only the sickly yellow glow of the compound’s electric lights to keep him company. He didn’t mind all that much though, being alone like he was at this time of night meant that he was probably in store for plenty of extra break time tonight, which was no concern for him, especially when he was finding ways to make his own fun.

Passing by a pile of rusted car frames, he paused as he heard the rattling of the fence. A quick glance over in the direction of the offending sound though revealed that it was only the wind rustling a loose piece of corrugated metal that had been used to haphazardly patch the fence. The stallion trotted toward it and gave a few knocks, putting pressure on the metal to make sure it wouldn’t budge.

Creeeeeeeaaaaakkkk, it whined loudly, making him cringe back, but not giving entirely either.

Satisfied that it wasn’t going to go anywhere, he instead made his way toward a cozy looking area in the shadows, in a makeshift den carved into a cubbyhole between an old rusted truck and a pile of broken TVs. Ducking into the small shelter, he brushed off the ground and took a seat on an old worn down couch cushion that served as his impromptu break area.

The yard should be good for a few minutes, and Duncan did say I could relax for a little bit every now and again after my patrols, he thought to himself as he closed his eyes and began to clear his head.

A cool wave of relaxation began to wash over him as he felt out his instinctual connection to the dream realm, same as he had accidentally done before, and like he had been practicing to do during his down time. As his mind drifted from his waking body and his senses faded into the background, a bright starry abyss began to stretch out in front of him, making him smile at how much easier this was starting to become.

He stood up and took a moment to get his bearings, finding the sensation of slipping into the dream realm to be as strange and alien as it always was. The thing that always got to him more than anything else was the sensation of his waking body and life still existing in the background while he was moving around in here. The two were never truly separate in this state, with the sounds and senses from the waking world still seeping into his mind and making him feel a little nauseous or dazed from time to time, but if he focused hard enough on the dream realm the rest would fade into the background.

“Sleeping on the job are we?” Came a playful, yet stern voice from all around him.

He jumped back in surprise and let out a frightened eeek at the sight of the sea pony-like warden that had swam up toward him.

“Yinyu, Jesus, you’re gonna give me a heart attack or something,” realizing his critical error, he quickly recited his oaths in a frenzied, yet apologetic voice before he could figure out what kind of punishments Yinyu would be fond of.

The warden seemed satisfied with his oaths but gave a playful pout regardless, “Aww, I was hoping to have a little fun showing you how I punish naughty stallions. Oh well.”

“I don’t know if I want to know what fun means with you,” he commented, “Especially given your title. I think the jump scare was more than enough if it’s all the same with you.”

“I promise my idea of punishment is far more fun than Phobia Remedy’s. Assuming your mare will share.”

Silver hadn’t realized he could blush in a dream until then, and clearly Yinyu was enjoying his embarrassment, “Ummm, yeah, umm, I don’t think that’d fly with her,”He slowly continued, “So uhh, not to be rude or anything, but why are you here?”

“Well I’m asleep silly. I’ll always be here when I am, you just decided to pop in.”

“Right… guess that was an obvious one. I guess what I’m actually asking is why you’re here talking with me right now?”

“Well, you’re projecting, which sticks out a lot.”

“Projecting?” He asked, confused.

“Yes, like what you westerners call astral projection, visiting the dreamscape while awake. We call it projecting since you’re not completely here..”

“Huh, I guess I didn’t realize it had a name…” He raised an eyebrow, “Is this really that out of the ordinary though? I mean, doesn’t anypony else do it?”

“Sure,” she offered, swimming around the empty dream void, lighting up the stars in waves as she glided by, “There’s a few other ponies that do that too, we just like to keep an eye on them when they do.”

“Big brother is always watching,” he chuckled.

In an act that surprised Silver more than anything else, she actually seemed confused and dropped the playful act for a moment, “You have a brother watching you?”

Silver raised an eyebrow before shaking his head, “It’s an expression… I guess what I’m saying is that you don’t want any… projectors… causing any trouble then?”

“Bingo!” She excitedly cheered, coming right down next to him, an uncomfortably close distance away, “but a better question is, what are you doing sleeping on the job?”

Silver flashed her a confused look and took a few steps back, “What uhh… what makes you think I’m sleeping on the job?”

“Because you are, silly! You picked out your favorite spot to rest and now you’re in here.”

He hesitated for a moment before opening his mouth to ask another question, “How did you—“

“—know what you were doing?” she asked.

“Yeah, actually. How did you know what I was doing?”

She swam around him again, shifting the stars into a crude drawing of him laying down on the cushion in the scrapyard, “You were thinking about it right now, that’s how.”

“You can read minds? That’s uhh… kinda creepy?”

“Only in here,” she corrected, “we know lots of things.”


“Like all of the fun things you’re thinking about doing with Scarlet this weekend,” she replied, giving him a sultry look as the stars shifted into a crude scene portraying him and Scarlet that only made him blush a deep crimson.

“Okay okay, I get it, let’s not project that to the entire dream realm, okay?” he quickly stammered out, trying his best not to look as flustered as he was.

The stars shifted back into their usual appearance, giving him relief from the embarrassment as the sea pony swam back down to his level, “You and I are the only ones that can see this,” she reassured him. “The information in here stays in here unless you say otherwise,” she reminded him with a tap of her fin to his head, making a hollow knocking sound.

Alright, so don’t think about Scarlet when I’m around Yinyu, got it, he thought to himself.

“I can still hear you, little dreamer.”

He rolled his eyes and laughed, “You know, you really have a talent for making ponies go through half a dozen emotional states at once.”

“Fear, excitement, embarrassment, and… whatever comes with the cute romantic stuff you’re thinking about?”

Silver blushed again and nodded, “Yep, you’re a natural at that.”

The sea pony began to laugh as she swirled around, though another sound echoed in the back of Silver’s perceptions…

The sounds of a fence rattling… and this time he could tell it wasn’t just the wind. Cursing under his breath, Silver commented, “Break’s over,” before suddenly disappearing from the dream.

He jumped up and opened his eyes, feeling a rush of nausea course through him as he struggled to regain his bearings. As much as he practiced this many nights before, the return to the waking world was still a rough landing— one that threatened to empty the contents of his stomach right now. Swallowing bile, he kept to the shadows and glanced in the direction of the clattering noise, taking a defensive stance out of instinct more than anything.

The sight he saw sent a surge of protective aggression through him, something he rarely felt outside of the ever growing list of times he was jump scared. Three hooded humans stood at the patched portion of the fence with a pair of bolt cutters, and were currently struggling to tear their way through another section.

Repeat offenders? He thought to himself, shaking his head and returning his attention to the crime in progress. It didn’t matter if these were the humans who were causing the salvage yard so many problems or not, all that mattered was that he needed to get them away and make sure they stayed away.

The night pony silently poked his head out of his hiding spot and took inventory of his surroundings. There wasn’t much to work with, at least in terms of things he could use to defend the salvage yard, but as he glanced up to the nearby catwalk and took sight of the power switch that controlled the lights, an idea struck him like a bolt of lightning. He looked back up at the hazy sky and the angle the moon was sitting at, grinning as he realized that he had the perfect plan in the making.

A few dented and dusty paint cans strung together by the staircase would serve as the perfect distraction, and he just so happened to be close enough to them to knock them over and slip into the shadows again. With his impromptu plan in place, he quietly galloped toward the cans, quickly kicking them over before leaping into the air at the perfect moment, evading the sight of the humans— or so he hoped. A loud clattering gave the three a reason to pause in their criminal work, and almost in unison they turned toward Silver’s distraction, a confused look plastered across one of their faces, a bearded face that Silver was careful to memorize.

“What was that?” asked the man, turning toward the shorter of his two lackeys.

“I don’t know, and I don’t care. Let’s just get in, grab what we need to grab, and get out. We’re making enough noise as it is.”

“I don’t know man, I think we should call this off.”

“Oh give it a break Jameson,” the third voice joined in, “It’s probably just a rat or something.”

“I dunno man, I’ve never heard a rat make that much noise,” Jameson replied.

“Will you two cut it?” the bearded human harshly whispered, “let’s just hurry up and finish this.”

Smiling like some kind of hunter in the shadows, Silver reached for the light switch and yanked it down, throwing the yard into darkness with a loud click.

The three jumped back in surprise, one of them dropping the bolt cutters in the process.

With a burst of over dramatic flair, Silver flared his winds and looked down at the three from his vantage point, the hazy night sky silhouetting his aggressive display. With a glint of his fangs, he let out a loud hiss, sending the three humans running off into the night, their plans seemingly forgotten…

For now.

Chapter 28: Discontent is the First Necessity of Progress

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Stanley sat in the small, but cozy den of his shared living space with both Midnight and Gizmo, who were looking out the window and over towards the village’s center. There were still a few days before the next town meeting, but the night pony knew that they needed to start fostering discussion sooner than that. These kinds of delicate topics couldn’t just be approached the day of if they wanted any chance at fostering a peaceful resolution. So being the optimist that he was, he had scheduled a meeting with Dawn, and the three of them were just waiting for the sun to set so they could get on their way.

That small meeting that they had planned for tonight was a deviation from his plan however, if he could even call what they had all discussed a plan. So far, really the only thing they had talked about was the plan for the town meeting itself, but Stanley knew that waiting that long to try and broker some kind of peace wouldn’t pan out. No, they needed to think smarter and come up with actual steps to work towards. Still though, she was as stubborn as any night pony was, and that meant that they had to play by her rules or risk ending this whole plan before it even had a chance to get off the ground.

Dawn wasn’t going to see their perspective, he knew that for a fact, but he didn’t expect to win her over right away. Instead they needed to make baby steps— start small with things that wouldn’t drastically change her whole vision fueled dream of what a pony village should be like. It was a long shot, but that’s what they needed to do right now.

“Okay, so let’s go through this again,” he started. “Giz what are you going to ask from Dawn?”

The earth pony looked down to the paper in front of him, squinting at the roughly drawn out notes from their earlier discussion, “I’m going to ask if I can make some small tweaks to the crop schedules so we can get better yields and use our space and resources more efficiently.”

“And…” he looked over to Midnight.

“And I’m going to reassure Dawn that we’re still sticking to her plan, but making quality of life changes that’ll hopefully help relieve some of the pressure from the earth ponies.”

“Good,” Stanley clopped his hooves together, “And then all three of us emphasize that we’re working on a revised proposal with the other earth ponies that we’ll bring up at the next meeting.”

“I still don’t think this is gonna work,” Gizmo replied, “Dawn’s a control freak, she ain’t gonna like someone messin’ with her plans.”

“He’s got a point you know,” Midnight added, “I appreciate your optimism, but you’re new here. You don’t know how things work out in the long run.”

“Maybe,” he shrugged, “but you two have been struggling with this forever so maybe having another pony to mediate the situation will help. If not then we have our other plan.”

“The strike,” Gizmo nodded, “she’s not gonna handle that well.”

“Which is your whole intention then right? Force her hoof if she won’t reason with the rest of the village farmers.”

“That could go good or bad though. What if she just tells Gizmo and his farmers to leave?”

“Then she’s out of a workforce and the village collapses from a lack of food then?” Stanley shrugged, “I don’t want things to get that bad, which is why bringing this up with her so soon is so important. You need to speak her language and come in with a different angle.”

“That sounds great on paper, but reality is going to be a lot different.”

Stanley looked at the earth pony and nodded, “You’re right, one hundred percent right. In all likelihood this isn’t going to work out well at all and we’ll be back to square one, but we have to try, right?”

“Right,” Midnight agreed. “Just have to have a good mindset I guess.”

“No guessing, just have a good mindset and hope for the best. If it doesn’t work out when we figure something else out, and if push comes to shove then Gizmo has his plan.”

“Sun’s getting nice and low,” the earth pony commented, “Should we go knock this out?”

“Yeah,” Stanley agreed, “the sooner the better. We all want to see this place thrive, and I know Dawn does deep down on the inside. She just needs to see another perspective to get the idea.”

“I think she does too,” Midnight paused, “It’s just going to be really hard to get her to actually see that. So let’s hope it all works out.”

Stanley stood up from the soft seat he was sitting on and made for the door, squinting his eyes at the last rays of orange sunlight that were stretching through the open window. He turned back toward the two and waved them over, “Hooves crossed this works.”

“Guess we’ll just have to wait and see,” Midnight paused in thought, “best case it all works out, worst case it doesn’t.”

“And if it doesn’t, it probably wasn’t meant to be,” Gizmo added. “Can’t say we didn’t try our hardest.”

“Exactly, but let’s be optimistic. I genuinely think that Dawn wants what’s best, she just has a weird way of doing it and it’s up to us to show her that we need to work together.”

With the three in agreement, they began to make their way over to the town’s center, determined to make peace and uncertain of what the future had in store if they couldn’t.

“I believe we all agreed to talk about this during the next town assembly,” Dawn commented from behind her small wooden desk.

“We did,” Stanley agreed, “However, I figured it’d be best if we took some baby steps before then.”

“Baby steps?” She seemed to consider the idea of just sending them out entirely, but hadn’t yet, which made Stanley optimistic. With a smile, Dawn nodded, “Okay then, humor me. What do you have in mind?”

“Well,” Stanley took a step back and gestured for Gizmo to come forward, “First off, Gizmo has some small tweaks that he wanted to ask about to help make things more efficient.”

“Now when you say small tweaks do you really mean he has some big radically different plan that he wants to put in place?”

“Not today,” Gizmo answered for Stanley, “You know where I stand on this, but I’m willing to try and at least compromise right now.”

“Let’s hear it then, what kind of compromise are you asking for?”

The earth pony cleared his throat, muttering a few curses under his breath but not going any further, “You won’t let us make sweeping changes, but what about small things? Things like small tweaks to the crop schedules and rotations so we can get better use and yield? And even smaller things like letting a couple of the farmers try out some experimental methods.”

Dawn stared back with an unreadable expression, “Okay. So, how are you implementing this then? And what kind of impact is it going to have on food production?”

Gizmo’s eyes opened in surprise at the lack of an outright refusal, “Well for starters, right now you’re directly controlling production. Deciding what gets grown where and when, but you’re not an earth pony or a farmer so you don’t really know what you’re doing.”

“No offense intended,” Stanley interjected, “but you’re thinking like a human.”.

“Right,” Gizmo agreed, “We’re coming from a place of wanting to see this place thrive. And Stanley there had a good point that we need to work together as one if we want to do that.”

“And that means taking small steps to build toward a better solution,” Midnight added.

Dawn slowly nodded, “What kind of experimental methods do your earth ponies want to try?”

“Huh?” Gizmo asked in surprise, “Well it’s just using different methods to try and get a better yield. Stuff like aquaponics, vertical growing, et cetera. Stuff we can definitely do but also stuff that goes against your direct orders.”

Dawn raised her hoof and shook her head, “That’s going to be an issue. Because we need everypony doing their jobs to keep this moving along.”

“Yes, we realize that Dawn,” Midnight paused for a moment and looked back at Stanley, “but what Gizmo’s asking for is just a tiny reduction in that workforce, so he can redirect a few ponies elsewhere. So he can hopefully make the production a lot more efficient.”

“It’s not a flat out redirection of your order,” Stanley added, “But it’s a test of what Gizmo wants to do. Just at a smaller scale so there’s little to no risk of having any kind of big failure there. If his way doesn’t work out then it only cost a couple of workers and some surplus crops, rather than an entire field’s worth of food.”

“We still need every pony doing their jobs.”

Midnight facehooved, and Gizmo let out an annoyed whinny. In contrast to his friends, Stanley trotted toward Dawn’s desk and rested a hoof on it, “Dawn, I know you want what’s best for the village, and I can’t fault you on that at all. But we need to take a step back and look at everything as it’s individual parts, because you’re only looking at it as a whole.”

She let out a small sigh and shook her head, “I’m not trying to be a tyrant. I just want this place to survive, and in this climate on our own that’s easier said than done. Everything in the world has a precise balance, a reason for happening and that’s no different here.”

“And that’s important, but remember, we’re ponies,” Midnight stepped in. “You’re trying to do what’s right for the town, but in the process you’re ignoring the reality. The vision is great and all, but you’re looking at it like a human would. This kinda stuff works well on paper, but it’s a lot more complex when you actually put it into action. And you’re forgetting that Equestria has shown that ponies can do amazing things if we try.”

She looked up at Gizmo and nodded, “I know you mean well too. The truth is, I don’t budge on stuff like this because I need to put the needs of the village over the needs of single ponies. I realize that some ponies get the short end of the stick, but in the grand scheme of things we can’t afford to gamble on something working, if there’s a risk that it could fail and doom us all.”

Gizmo slammed his hooves down on the desk in frustration, earning a surprised hiss from all three of the night ponies. Letting out another frustrated growl, he gestured out the small window that overlooked the village, “I’m not asking you to gamble on a large scale right now. I’m asking you to let us test out this kind of stuff on a small scale— where it won’t make or break anything.”

“But…” she started, “But you need to realize that if we break the order then what else is going to start to slip by? What if your farmers aren’t happy with their experiments? What if more want to jump into their place because they’re not happy with what we have now?”

“Then you’ll have to deal with this one way or another.” Gizmo flatly replied, “Because we’re trying to do this diplomatically, but the truth of the matter is that we outnumber you, and we want what’s best for the village too.”

“Are you implying that you’re going to try and stage a mutiny or something?” Dawn growled back as she stood up.

“Maybe I am,” Gizmo replied.

“ENOUGH!” Stanley shouted, stomping his hooves on the ground in a rare show of aggression. Lowering his voice, he continued, “Look, I know you two aren’t going to get along, but I’m going to be blunt, this place is going to fall apart if you don’t try to at least budge a little and agree on something. We’re not asking for everything right now, we’re just trying to broker some kind of peace so we can continue to make this place into something amazing.”

“Dawn, if you’ll let me speak for a moment I’d like to reassure you that what Gizmo wants isn’t a complete overturn of your plan, but rather a tiny little nudge. If you give him an inch I’ll personally make sure that he doesn’t take a mile,” Midnight spoke up.

Dawn started to speak, but paused, shifting her gaze between the three. Letting out a long sigh, she turned to Stanley, “Okay. You have a point.”

“Wait what?” Midnight asked in surprise.

“Yes,” she continued, “I have my own objections, but I’m going to try and compromise a little here.”

“We’re listening,” Gizmo started, but stopped himself from saying anything further.

“What’s your plan Dawn?”

She turned to Midnight and smiled, “I’m going to give Gizmo his request. Starting tomorrow, take three of your earth ponies to the smallest vacant plot, and that’ll be their working area.”

“Is this for real? You promise it isn’t a joke?”

Dawn nodded, “Yes Gizmo, but on one condition.”

“Oh?” He asked, “Well, what is it?”

“My condition is that whatever new methods they develop need to be brought up to me before being implemented. Administration reserves the right to deny the use of those methods if it constitutes a risk to the village’s ongoing stability.”

The earth pony’s eyes briefly lit up before a frustrated expression returned to his face. Stanley could only assume that Dawn’s caveat was to blame, and he couldn’t blame Gizmo for being annoyed. Still though, this was a positive step in the right direction, even if Dawn’s logic wasn’t fully sound— at least to the group’s consensus.

“Is that fair Giz?” The stallion asked.

He considered this for a moment before nodding, “It’ll have to work for now. I have a lot of objections though, but I’ll hold my tongue.”

Stanley cheerfully clopped his hooves against the desk, “Alright, well in that case, I think we covered what we needed. So Giz and the farmers can work on their ideas in a small scale setting, and Midnight and I will keep an eye on them and make sure they keep their end of the bargain. In return they’ll ask you before moving forward with anything big. Sound good?”

“Aye,” Gizmo agreed.

“That works for now,” Dawn nodded.

“Good. Now hopefully we can keep things peaceful, and we can chat more about all of this at the next meeting.”

Bolstered by their success, Stanley was a little more optimistic for the meeting, but he also knew that the next few days would test whether this whole idea would work or not…

And he desperately hoped that it would.

Chapter 29: We’ve Just Begun to Dream

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The sun was setting, and a gentle bird song carried through the open window of their cabin, making both of them feel perfectly at peace. This was one of their favorite times of day because of that. Usually the two would be close together enjoying their dinner, but some days were different than others. For instance, today, Scarlet was reading an old book she had often read as a kid, and Silver was… making a lot of noise. Scarlet looked up from the book as Silver rummaged through his bag. Laying the thumb of her wing across the page to keep her place, she glanced over at the clock and then back to him.

“Already time to go brainstorm with the science nerds?” Scarlet teasingly asked.

Silver stuck out his tongue and laughed, “Science nerds? You know you’re one of them too via technicality.”

“I guess I should have said the other science nerds.”

“Well, in that case, I guess I am,” he dropped the bag and trotted towards her, “Though truth be told, I don’t think I’m going to enjoy their company as much as the other science nerd I know.”

“I’m flattered; just remember the dream adventure you promised me earlier, okay?”

Silver nodded as he pulled the mare in for a hug, “Wouldn’t dream of forgetting about it.”

“Was that a pun?” She let out a small chuckle.

“Am I really that predictable? I mean, do you think I’d stoop so low as to make a terrible cheesy pun under your roof?” He asked in mock offense.

“Yes. Yes, you would,” she laughed.

Silver paused for a moment, “Okay, that’s a fair judgment. I’ll give you that one.”

“Just don’t have too much fun without me, okay?” She sighed, “Workweek was dry and frustrating, and I could really use some fun to cheer me up.”

Silver hesitated as he looked toward the door, “I promise you I’ll make this a good evening. You sure you don’t want to come along?”

She shook her head, “Sine’s gonna be there, right?”

The stallion nodded, “Yeah, she’s tied to this project; why?”

She let out a sigh, “I think I’m good here.”

“You sure? I know she won’t mind at all.”

“Silver,” Scarlet started, “I had a frustrating week at work, and I just want to relax. I don’t have the energy or patience to deal with Sine’s snark for the whole night.”

“Okay, okay, I get it.” He started to gently rub a hoof along her back, “I didn’t realize that work was that draining. I promise you I’ll make tonight quick, and then we can just relax and cuddle up under the stars or something.”

“How quick is quick?” She asked as she leaned up against him.

“I’m just gonna head over, drop off the stuff, and then at least let them get started. After they’re set, I’ll come right home. Sound good?”

“Promise you’ll make it quick?”

Silver hesitated again, “As quick as I can. You know how the three can get.”

“Rattling your ear off for hours on end. Believe me, I know.”

“Right,” he paused, “I promise I’ll try and avoid all of that as much as I can.”

A smile returned to the mare’s face, and she pulled Silver in for another hug, “Good. You’re gonna owe me big time if you keep me waiting.”

“Silver slid the bag over to the door and turned back toward Scarlet, “Why don’t you tell me about your work week?”

“Don’t you have something you wanted to do?”

He shrugged, “Sure. But I also have a marefriend who had a frustrating week and needs to vent about some things. Other stuff can wait.”

“You sure?” She raised an eyebrow, “It’s just been me dealing with a bunch of weirdos all night.”

“How weird are we talking?” He asked, ignoring her question.

She sighed and buried her head in her hooves, “What kind of people do you expect to just trot on into a seedy motel late at night? Because I can tell you that it isn’t well adjusted families.”

He rested a hoof on her back, “Good point. Well how about your coworker? I mean surely she helps break up the boredom.”


“Yeah, does she at least chat with you?”

Scarlet looked up at the stallion and shook her head, “Ha, no. When she’s not napping in the office she’s either flirting with the janitor or smoking me out with cigarette smoke.”

“They let her smoke in the lobby?” Silver asked, astonished.

“Nope. But she does it anyways. No cameras around, no night managers doing their job, and it’s my word against hers so nothing’s going to be done anyways, even if I bring it up.”

Silver pulled her into another tight hug, “Hey, you’re doing your job right at least. In the end you’re the one who isn’t breaking the rules.”

“I guess,” she shrugged, “how’s the scrapyard been?”

“Boring as usual,” he replied without breaking the hug, “Lots of downtime, which at least means I get a lot of time to practice dream stuff.”

“Glad you can at least have fun during it,” she replied.

“Yeah? Well tell you what. When I get back from the inventors’ I’m going to make us something really great to eat, we’re gonna do some solid cuddling, and I’m going to make us a super fun dream to spend some time in. Sound good?”

She gave him a small kiss and nodded, “Just don’t be too long, okay?”

“I promise I won’t. Like I said, in and out, not too long, and I’m gonna avoid the drawn out conversations if I can,” Silver promised as he returned the kiss.

“Good,” she broke the hug, “Now go have fun with the other nerds.”

“You sure you don’t want to come along? We can make it less nerdy and more fun if you want.”

Scarlet shook her head and gave Silver a small smile that made his heart a little happier, “I’ll pass. I’m probably going to go take a nap and take a walk around town. I know Aero wanted to hang out some more and I’ve been blowing her off all week. Thanks for the offer though.”

“Anytime, now before I go, promise me that you’ll have some fun too.”

“I promise,” she let out a laugh, “Thanks.”


“For making me feel better,” she clarified, “Sorry I’m not my usual on brand happy cheerful self today, guess work’s just been draining me.”

“Oh, it’s fine,” He reassured her, “You deserve to just take it easy after your week, and I’m going to make sure we make up for that this weekend.”

“Thanks Silver, I love you.”

His heart skipping another beat, he pulled her into a tight hug and smiled, “I love you too.”

Silver lazily flapped his wings as he slowly hovered over the creek. The dim electric lanterns that dotted the rest of the nearby path gave off a cool glow and the sounds of nature around him filled him with this calming sense of peace. The inventors’ camp was closely nearing ahead, and Silver was already bursting with new ideas to share with them tonight.

The bag full of scrap that was slung on his back gave off a metallic clank and jingle as he came to a land, reminding him of his other mission too: repairing Scarlet’s telescope… or at least starting that process. A twinge of guilt ran through him as he realized that he would indeed probably be spending a longer time in the camp than he had promised Scarlet, but this goal was important to him, and he knew that the sight of her prized possession restored and returned to her would more than make up for it.

He had worked hard to gather up the scrap that the inventors had requested, and had even managed to find a new lens for sale online while at work. Buying it had depleted the last of his funds, but payday was fast approaching and he was determined to set that all aside for their future.

“Evening Silver,” Tinker called from the work table outside.

“Evening Tinker. You guys get all your stuff set up yet?”

He nodded, returning his gaze to the bulky wristwatch-looking prototype that was on the table in front of him, “Gyro and I started about two hours ago, Sine hopped in and brought us her smart watch, then went to go take a nap.”

“Sounds like Sine,” he laughed, “Well how’re we doing on it then?”

“Good, good!” He cheerfully exclaimed, “Gyro helped tear that down and last I checked he was working on snapping the module together.”

“And that?” Silver asked as he gently dropped his bag on the table.

“That’s the strap and tool modules.”

“Right… that’s going to be the part that lets you snap on different tools, right?”

“Mhmm, like those cheap wrist straps that are already sneaking into the market, just a little more refined.”

“Now when you say refined,” Silver started as he leaned in closer to inspect the prototype, “Are you talking with the finger things working too, or just a better way to attach tools?”

“The latter for now,” Tinker replied, “I’m thinking a smooth outside with some strong magnets to hold everything in place. Sine was arguing for the finger components, but were honestly a long way away from that kind of thing.”

“Right, don’t want to cast our net out too soon.”

“Uh huh. The sooner we get a working prototype built, the sooner we can start working on bigger things like that.”

The pegasus pressed down on a few small components until a soft click was heard, and then looked back up at Silver, “So, whatcha got for tonight?”

Silver slid the bag over and carefully unzipped it with his mouth, “Just a lot of scrap. Couple of old VHS motors, some nuts and bolts, and a couple of things for the telescope.”

The pegasus smiled, “Perfect! I’m not sure how much we can actually use, but it’s always good to have some extra parts lying around.”

“Always a pleasure. So do you think you can use any of it for the telescope?”

Tinker glanced down at the bag’s contents again, giving Silver a small smirk, “I think we might. Still need that lens, but the tripod is the easy fix, the little parts over there,” he gestured to a metal plate and a couple of rings that Silver had collected, “should be enough to patch up the part that was actually broken. The rest is just giving it some TLC and then swapping out the lens.”

“Which I managed to order,” he proudly stated

“That’s good to hear! Hopefully it didn’t run you too much.”

“Oh it did,” Silver blurted out, “but that’s beside the point. It’s all for Scarlet and I’m happy doing that.”

“How nice of you,” he picked through the scrap with a wing before nodding,” I can definitely work with these. When’s the lens supposed to arrive?”

“Probably a week,” Silver replied with a sigh, “But hey, at least it’s going to get here soon. I thought I’d be waiting a lot longer if I’m going to be honest with you.”

“That’ll honestly work out fine,” Tinker assured him, “We’ve got a project in progress for Golden State and Bright Sun, they needed a better irrigation system for their farm. Should eat up some of our time until the lens gets here.”

“Oh good,” Silver beamed, “I can’t thank you enough for helping with this. It means the world to me.”

“No thanks are needed. You’re helping us out and it’s only fair for us to help you in turn.”

“I mean I’m only bringing you scrap right now. You, Gyro, and Sine seem to be doing a lot of the actual heavy lifting.”

The pegasus shrugged, “You’re bringing us some supplies and parts, that’s a huge help in itself so don’t feel like you’re not contributing.”

“Well I’m always happy to help.”

“Hey Blue, didn’t hear you flap on over,” Sine shouted from the cart, surprising Silver and earning a laugh from the dark blue night pony.

“Were you just waiting for the right moment to jump out or something?” He asked.

“Me? Waiting to scare a poor innocent pony?” She gasped in mock shock, “Why I’d never!”

“Are you finished up with Gyro, Sine?” The pegasus asked, ignoring her banter.

“Uh huh, I kinda just sat and watched while he got the bigger things sorted out.”

“So where’re you at then?” Silver asked with a raised eyebrow, almost immediately regretting his decision as he realized that he’d get dragged into a long explanation.

“I’m glad you asked, Blue! Let’s go take a look and you can see for yourself!”

“I—but,” he started.

“That’s the spirit!” She cheered as she pushed him toward the cart, earning a laugh from Tinker.

After a long winded explanation of everything they were working on, plus everything they still needed to save up for, Silver was exhausted. A quick glance over to the nearby clock only confirmed that he had spent the better part of an hour in the inventors’ camp now, and he could only assume that Scarlet was going to be annoyed with him once he had gotten back.

Definitely going to have to make this up to her today, he thought to himself.

He took another long look at the prototype electronic that was strapped to Gyro’s hoof and nodded, “So you actually got some of it working then, huh.”

“Define working.”

“What he means is, did you get the smart watch part up and running or is it just a big piece of scrap metal and plastic?” Sine clarified on Silver’s behalf.

“Yeah, what she said,” Silver chuckled.

“Mhmm, well the basic module works, but we’re still a long way out from anything really functional. The form factor needs to be ironed out and refined, and we’re far from having any of the utility functions work.”

“That’s still progress though,” Silver said as he looked at the module that the unicorn had been working on.”

“Mhmm. I’m going to call it here tonight and work on it more later, but it’s progress.”

“Past your bedtime eh?” Sine laughed, teasing the unicorn.

Gyro rolled his eyes and opened the door with his magic, “Sure, whatever you say.”

“Well it’s been exciting to see at least, and I can’t wait until we get a good wearable version made,” Silver pointed to the section that Tinker had been working on separately.

“We still have some battery problems to sort out, but I’m going to play around with a few things tomorrow maybe.” He let out a long yawn and shook his head, “Now it really is getting late, and not to sound like I’m kicking you out, but I’m going to hit the hay soon.”

“So you’re kicking us out, got it,” Sine jabbed him in the side, “Cya later Sparky.”

“Bye Sine.”

As the two night ponies stepped out of the cart, Tinker waved at them with a smile, “We made some great progress today! I don’t know what else you two are up to this week, but we’re going to have a small get together this week, call it a little celebration for our first big milestone.”

“Just give us a day and time and we’ll be set,” Silver replied, trotting closer to him, “And you’ll be able to fix up the telescope once I’ve got the lens in, right?”

“Of course, that shouldn’t take long at all.”

A huge grin spread across Silver’s face as he pulled the Pegasus into a hug, “Thanks, you don’t know how much this means to me.”

Giving him a pat on the back, the other stallion wriggled his way out, “Believe me, I have an idea. I know how much you’ve been wanting to do this for Scarlet, and I promise that I’m going to make this extra special for her.”

“Ready to get going Blue?” Sine interrupted, “I don’t want to interrupt this sappy moment but I also need to get home so I can grab a few things before Rocky goes to sleep.”

“Sleeping in with that farmer, eh?” Silver teased.

Sine shrugged, “He let’s me crash on his couch, but he also snores like a sleeping bear and startles easily. Believe me when I say that I don’t need a groggy earth pony bucking me into a wall out of fear.”

“Better get going then, eh?”

“Uh huh.”

Silver nodded and turned back to Tinker, “Thanks again for everything. I’ll give you a holler once the lens gets here.”

Another glance at the clock made Silver grimace. He was definitely keeping Scarlet waiting and right now he just wanted to go see her more than anything. Waving Sine along, he began to trot down the path toward the main part of the village.

“So, got any big plans tonight?” Sine asked with a wink.

“None that you probably want to head about,” he retorted, “but in case you’re wondering, Scarlet had a bit of a rough week at work and I’m going to just spend some time with her.”

“I see…” she paused, “So guess that’s a no on hanging out some more then?”

“Yeah, for tonight at least. We’re probably going to hang out in a dream later if you really want to stop by, but it’s probably gonna be full of gross couples stuff.”

“Blegh,” she stuck her tongue out, “Yeah no, I think I’ll pass on that. I don’t need to be the third wheel in some freaky dream romance session.”

Silver blushed slightly, “Why do you always jump to that kind of thing?”

She smirked, “Because it’s fun making you blush.”

Silver blushed harder and glanced away from her, “Fun for you maybe. I’d appreciate it if you cut back on the awkward jokes though.”

“Fine,” she dramatically rolled her eyes, “You’re no fun, you know that?”

“I dunno, Scarlet thinks I’m pretty fun,” he smirked at her, earning a drawn out laugh.

“Well you’re not my kind of fun.”

Silver punched her on the shoulder, “Well I think I can live with that.”

As he glanced away from her he caught sight of a very annoyed looking Scarlet who was staring back at the two.

“Hi Silver,” She curtly said, “I thought you said you weren’t going to be gone for long?”

Chapter 30: Bright Little Stars

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Silver’s heart dropped at the tone that Scarlet’s voice had taken, and a deep feeling of guilt and regret filled him. He had promised her a relaxing night where she could just decompress from the week’s stress, and here he was, walking around with another mare two hours later. His friendship with Sine was just that— a friendship, but it still probably wouldn’t help the situation, and he could only imagine that Scarlet was feeling a little hurt at the sight. In retrospect, a lot of his downtime after work was spent with the inventors (including Sine), and that probably only made Scarlet feel even lonelier, especially given how draining her work seemed.

“Scarlet, I…” he began.

“No, it’s fine,” she snapped, “I’ll let you spend time with your friend.”

He began to stammer out a confused response, but before he could explain further, she took off into the sky, leaving him alone with Sine Wave.

In a rare display of seriousness, Sine looked off in the direction that Scarlet had flown, dropping her normally snarky and sarcastic tone, “Hey, I’m gonna go ahead and dash for now Blue. I think you’ve got enough on your plate right now,” Sine blurted out as she zipped off into the sky, leaving Silver all on his own to go mend the situation.

Without hesitation, he leaped up into the air and took off after Scarlet, trailing behind her from a distance as she flew to their shared cabin. Uncertainty coursed through his mind like a rabid animal, dominating his thoughts with a flurry of emotions that ranged from confusion to concern. He knew she needed him right then, but he hadn’t realized how much the stress of the week had gotten to her. More importantly, he didn’t know what was running through her mind. Her reaction almost seemed to convey a hurt frustration, but then why would she just run off from him without hearing him out?

Was she mad at him? Upset? Or just indifferent to the situation? This wasn’t the Scarlet he knew, that Scarlet was always cheerful and upbeat, and rare to show such a strong emotion unless something was really bothering her, so he knew that he owed it to her to tread lightly and make things right— whatever he had done wrong. The sounds of stifled sniffling could be heard as he touched down outside of the cabin, and taking a deep breath he entered.

“Hey Scar, let’s talk.”

The mare was laying on the bed, and her ears twitched as he walked in, but she didn’t turn to face him. Instead she took a moment to compose herself before dropping her voice into an annoyed tone, “Why don’t you just go spend time with your friends?”

“Because I promised you I’d spend time with you, and I’m sorry that it took so long.”

The mare let out a frustrated sigh that conveyed a mix of emotions that Silver couldn’t quite place, “It’s just… I don’t know. I shouldn’t be upset, but I feel like I am right now.”

“Which is underst—“

“— no, it really isn’t,” she interrupted him, looking towards him with tear filled eyes, “You have every right to spend time with your friends, and I shouldn’t be jealous or upset over that, but I am for some dumb reason.”

Silver slowly trotted up to her and rested a hoof on her back, “Yeah, but you’re my best friend. You’re the one I want to spend the most time with, especially after the week you’ve had.”

“What about Sine?” She asked with a bitter tone to her voice.

“Sine? What about her?” Silver asked, “I mean she’s fun to chat with every once in a while, but she’s not you.”

“I don’t know. You two seemed pretty deep in conversation, and I see the way she looks at you whenever you’re together.”

“And you think that I’m liking you less? Because let me tell you, you’re the most beautiful mare I’ve ever met, and nothing would ever change that.”

She let out another sigh, “I know that you’re trustworthy and awesome and all that, but I just… I don’t know, Sine looks at you like she’s interested in you, and even though you say it means nothing, I still can’t help but feel like a part of her might try.”

Silver raised an eyebrow, “Do you think that Sine’s trying to steal me away from you or something?”

“No,” she shook her head, “Or… I don’t know. I don’t know if Sine would do something like that, it it’s just,” she paused again, “Agh, this is just dumb. I’m stressed and I’m seeing things that aren’t there and now I’m just being dramatic about stupid things.”

“Hey, you’re not being dumb or dramatic,” he reassured her, cuddling up in the bed next to her, “Believe me.”

“I know, I just… I feel jealous sometimes. And I shouldn’t, but I do and it’s just frustrating. You don’t deserve to have me to get snappy at you, and neither does Sine.”

“Why?” He asked, “You shouldn’t feel dumb about that kind of thing.”

“I do when it’s unplaced and just overdramatic.”

“We’re night ponies,” he countered, “Isn’t it in our nature to get protective of the things we love? I don’t show it a whole lot because I try to be the cool and collected pony that people want to see, but I get frustrated with things too, and I’d probably snap into a frenzy if anyone ever hurt you or did something to upset you. I mean I literally dropped everything just to make sure you were comfortable and safe.”

“But this is me being jealous over another mare being friendly with you when she’s not actually trying to steal you away.”

“I don’t know if you’ve noticed this or not, but we haven’t run across very many stallions. I think it’s fair to be protective over the one you love.”

Scarlet let out another sigh, “Great, add that to the list of things to be frustrated about then.”

“I think it’s cute,” he teased, “It shows that you’re serious about taking care of the ponies you love, and it makes me want to just cuddle up with you even more.”

“It also makes me sound like I’m some kind of mindless animal that’s protecting her stallion from other mares because there’s only one around.”

Silver paused for a moment before shaking his head, “You’re not some mindless animal, you’re just stressed.”

“I just,” she paused, “I have so much going through my mind right now, and I just want to go buck another tree or something. It’s just so frustrating, you know?!”

He nodded, rubbing his hoof along her back, “Of course I do.” He paused and smirked as a thought came to his head, “Okay, so how bout something else?”

“Huh?” She looked up at him.

“Well, I promised to give you a nice night, so let’s make this into a nice night.”

“Silver, what do you mean?”

“The rest of the night is yours. We do whatever you want us to do, and when it’s time for bed we go wherever you want us to go. No matter what it is, I’m down for it, and if you just want to cuddle then I’m down for that too.”

She let out another sigh, “You know what I really want to do with you?”

“What?” Silver asked, raising an eyebrow.

She pulled him into a warm embrace, pressing her lips against his in a passionate kiss. A moment later, she broke from her embrace and grinned for the first time during their whole exchange, “That.”

“Just that?” he said breathlessly, “Because I can do that.”

“Maybe a little more,” she replied with a sultry grin, “You said we could do anything I wanted tonight, what if I just want to make it a nice romantic evening?”

A deep blush began to spread across Silver’s face, and without another word he went in for a kiss of his own, pulling her into another warm embrace, “I can do that too.”

She smiled and pulled him closer, barraging him with another round of kisses which he gleefully returned. The two lovers entwined in a loving embrace let the world around them fade away until they were the only things that mattered. And both were perfectly happy with that.

Back in the present, Silver briefly paused his story, trying his best to figure out where to go next in a way that would be appropriate for a colt to hear.

“So what happened next?” The purple colt asked as he looked up at Silver, clearly enthralled by the story so far.

“Huh?” He replied as a small hint of a blush momentarily flashed across the stallion’s face. Deciding to skip to a less mature moment, he let out a hearty laugh, “Nothing, kiddo. Just lots of lovey-dovey stuff with mommy, nothing you’d care about.”


“Really,” Silver nodded. So much more had happened that night. Strong memories of a tender moment with the mare he loved and the start of the family they built together flashed through his mind again, sending a warm rush of love through his heart. Those were memories that he’d fondly remember until the day that he died, but that was something that would always stay between Silver and Scarlet. He looked down at the colt and smiled, “But that’s not where the story ends.”

“It isn’t?” He asked in that adorable melt your heart kind of way.

“Ha,” Silver let out another laugh, “There’s so much more after that, kiddo. I didn’t even tell you about the part where I got to be the brave security pony that protected the kingdom of junk from the scary humans, or how mommy got her new telescope.”

“Was mommy still mad?” He asked, ignoring what Silver had said.

Silver didn’t imagine that Orion would actually care about the more romantic parts of the story, but clearly the thought of the two of them ever being unhappy kept him attached to that specific part.

“No,” he shook his head, a warm smile spreading across his face, “No, she wasn’t. In fact, that’s probably the happiest we had ever been up until we had you.”

“But she was so mad about Auntie Sine being your friend,” he replied.

“She wasn’t that mad. She just wanted to protect me.”

“But Auntie Sine is family.”

“She is, but night ponies were still figuring a lot of stuff out back then. You know how Cosmo gets so protective of you whenever the geese start scaring you?”

The foal’s eyes widened as he looked over to the dog, who in turn gave a happy wag of his little tail, “Yeah!”

“Well it was like that.”


“Oh? That explained it that well?”

The colt looked up at Silver again and slowly nodded.

“Good. Now how about we skip ahead a little bit, you do want to get to the cool stuff, right?”

“So mommy wasn’t mad at you anymore?” He persisted.

“No, not at all,” Silver chuckled, “We both knew that night that we loved each other more than anything, and nothing was ever going to change that.”

“Oh,” the colt smiled, “I like the happy parts.”

“I do too kiddo, I do too,” Silver began to reminisce again, resuming his story once more as the colt sat and listened in awe.

Scarlet slowly began to stir from her restful sleep, the sensations of the waking world returning to her. A smile plastered across her face, she rolled over and wrapped her legs around Silver, holding him close and just appreciating his presence.

While she had felt so stressed and annoyed earlier, those feelings were now gone, replaced by love and happiness, feelings that she wanted to hold onto for as long as she possibly could. The week ahead of her was likely to be just as stressful, but she didn’t care about that now. Right now she just cared about her best friend in the whole world, and wanted to keep whatever she was feeling going.

The night had been romantic, and the day spent in their dreams even more so. From the incredibly romantic stuff in the waking world to just cuddling up by some cozy ethereal fire in a starry void, it had all been part of an experience that made the pair’s appreciation for each other grow even stronger. Scarlet hadn’t realized how her stress and frustration was affecting her at first, but in retrospect Silver’s words were true. Much like her incident with the broken telescope and the tree that she had sprained her hoof by bucking, she had started to put the pieces together. Night ponies were aggressive and protective, and without a proper outlet for that, their emotions and frustrations boiled to the surface in ways that weren’t always fun.

I’ll have to figure out how to avoid that in the future, she thought to herself, making a mental note to pick up some kind of high energy hobby to help alleviate that kind of stress. Silver had his dream stuff to cover that for him, maybe she could try taking a page out of his book for that.

I could always have him teach me how to make some crazy fun dreams like he always likes. I’m sure he’d love that, she thought to herself again, a smile coming to her face as she thought about the kind of romantic memories that could lead to.

The quiet rustling of their blanket pulled at her perceptions, making her aware of the fact that Silver was starting to wake up.

“You up too?” Silver groggily started before looking back at her with an adorably sleepy grin.

“Mhmm,” she replied, “Was just thinking about yesterday, and about the future.”

“Me too,” he admitted, “Did you sleep well?”

“Best day of sleep I’ve ever had,” she smiled, “How about you? Last night was… a lot probably.”

“Best sleep of my life,” he rolled over and faced her, “I love you so much, you know that right?”

“Course I do, and I love you too Silver,” she said, her heart melting as the romantic evening and equally romantic dreams played out in her mind again, “Thanks. For everything, and just making me feel less stressed out. I didn’t realize how much it was getting to me until things started to crash on me, and it made me really think about a lot of things.”

“Like what?”

“Like the fact that I need to find some hobby to get all this energy out in a more productive way.”

“Ahh, not a bad idea,” he sat up in the bed and let out a long, drawn out yawn, “Sine’s into old video games , maybe she can hook a few of her old systems up and we can all get a chance to just start things off on a better note.”

“Hmm… Maybe. But I was kind of thinking about another kind of hobby. You’ve got your dream stuff, maybe you could show me how you do that sometime?”

“We really do need to go mend things with Sine sometime,” he paused, “But maybe it’s better to do that later.”

“That’s probably for the best. Think you could show me some of your dream stuff though?”

Silver slowly hesitated, “Alright. But we really can’t push off talking with Sine. I know it’s going to be awkward, but we need to.”

“I…” she paused, “No, you’re right. We definitely need to. I promise you I’ll do that sometime soon.”

“Good,” He smiled, “So dream stuff eh? I guess I could show you some of the basics. You know, how to channel that kind of magic, the easy starting stuff.”

“That’d be wonderful. Thanks!”

“I should really thank you,” he countered, a blush spreading across his face, “Before I met you I was a sad little pony that didn’t really know what they wanted to do. I didn’t have a lot of close friends and I didn’t even know what I was going to do, and then you came along and really made everything better.”

“I could say the same,” she nuzzled up next to him, “Guess we both found the ponies we needed.”

“You could say that again,” He gave her a small kiss, “I seriously love you so much.”

“I can tell,” she laughed, “I’m sorry I got so frustrated and stressed out last night. The whole week just came crashing down on me and I guess I lost my cool.”

“Don’t sweat it, I think we more than made up for that.”

A feeling of affection washed through her and she gave him a nod, “We’re even then,” she paused, “We should probably get out of bed and start on some of the chores, eh?”

Silver shook his head, “I dunno, I think I’m perfectly happy snuggling in bed some more with the best mare in the whole wide world. We’ve got one day left where we don’t have to do anything, and I think it’d be a crying shame to waste it.”

“Doing nothing’s not wasting it?”

“Not when I’m doing nothing with you,” he shook his head, “You’re the only pony in the whole world that I think I could have a blast doing nothing with.”

Scarlet blushed and snuggled up closer to Silver, “I think I’m okay with that plan.”

A smirk spread across his face, “So, you still jealous about Sine?”

Scarlet let out a loud laugh and buried her head in Silver’s chest, “No, not at all.”

“Good, because I’m always yours, and no pony will ever change that.”

She giggled, “That’s right.”

Without another word, the couple held each other close in a tight embrace. They didn’t know what kind of future laid ahead of them, but they were more than happy with the new path they were carving out for themselves, and they knew that this was just the beginning of their story, a story that they’d write together.

Chapter 31: Journey Into Your Imagination with Silver Eclipse

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Scarlet sat up and looked around her cozy dream. She wasn’t a big dream crafter like Silver was, but she could still quickly make herself aware of her dream, something that wasn’t always the case with night ponies. It was always interesting seeing what kind of place her mind would conjure up, and today was no different. A dim and cold cave, normally something that any rational human would probably avoid, but Scarlet wasn’t any old human, she had stopped worrying about that kind of stuff with no regrets and had gladly embraced her new nature. She was a night pony now, and for a night pony, this was as close to a perfect place as you could probably get. She hadn’t noticed this much in the waking world, (probably because there weren’t really any caves that she was exploring constantly) but something about this place just filled her with this warm sense of glee.

“Interesting dreamscape,” Silver commented from behind her, “Wouldn’t have been my first pick, but it’s not bad either.”

The mare smiled and turned toward him, “About time you got here. You know it’s not nice to keep your marefriend waiting around, right?” She teased, sticking her tongue out at him.

“Totally my bad,” he trotted around her, “So what’s the punishment then?”

“I take the reins on our dream adventures today and you get to teach me more dream stuff.”

“I said what’s the punishment, that sounds like a dream come true to me.”

“Oh?” She raised an eyebrow, ”Well if you want an actual punishment I can call a warden over or something, wasn’t it Yinyu who talked about something like that before?”

Silver’s face reddened for a moment and Scarlet couldn’t help but let out a hearty laugh, “You're cute when you get all flustered, you know that?”

Silver only blushed more and let out a nervous stammer, “I’m not nearly as cute as you are.”

“Yeah, you’re even cuter.”

The stallion looked away, earning another round of laughs from Scarlet. She smiled and reached a hoof out to him, “Okay, let’s get to the teaching stuff before you just shut down entirely, sound good?”

Silver slowly nodded, “Y—yeah.”

“Good. So what should we start with today?”

Taking a moment to compose himself, Silver looked around. An unreadable look spread across his face and he gave a short nod, “Alright, well you did the basic crafting the other day right? Well, what if we shift gears a bit.”

“What do you mean?”

“Let’s step away from crafting today, and try out something else.” An old school blackboard popped into existence behind him and Silver quickly turned it over, crude chalk drawings of what was presumably him and Scarlet drawn across it in a series of doodles that she couldn’t quite understand.

Art by:

“Huh?” she asked, trying to make sense of the presentation, “What’s up?”

“Dreamwalking,” he answered, “Today’s lesson is on dreamwalking.”

“What about it? We’re doing that right now right?”

“Not quite,” he commented, “It's a part of it sure, but there’s more to it as well.”

“Well, lead on then mister professor.”

“Mhmm. So, it’s also moving from dream to dream and finding ponies. Hard if you don’t know them well, and even harder if you want to try and figure out who you’re going to. But what if I told you it wasn’t?”

“That’s today’s lesson?” She asked skeptically.

“Hear me out,” he reassured her, “Because up until now we’ve just been randomly jumping through dreams, really only knowing what kind of dream it is. It’s hard to get a feel for who the dreamer is and what tribe they’re from, but it’s actually doable.”

“So, what’s the point of all that?”

“Well, you pointed out that I was the only night pony stallion around, and that’s true by us. But that doesn’t mean we can’t go try and make some friends in here.”

“Do we really need to though? I was kinda hoping we could just have a fun day where you teach me how to do some dream stuff and I make us some cute little place to hang out in or something.”

“And we can still do that, but let’s be real, it’s healthier to branch out and make some friends every now and again.”

“We’ve already got some friends though?”

Silver nodded his head, “Yes, but of those friends, I’m the only night pony stallion and it’s honestly not a bad idea to meet more. I was thinking a lot about what you said, and maybe just being around more would help make both of us more comfortable.”

“You’re making it sound like I’m just a slave to my instincts. I only really got annoyed when you were around Sine because she was acting all buddy-buddy with you and looking at you like a mare that really likes a stallion does.”

“Right, and maybe we just need to spend more time around mares and stallions just so you can feel more comfortable with that and not like I’m going to get stolen away by some other mare— because I’m not.”

Scarlet let out a sigh, “No, you’re right. I guess it just feels like there’s not really any others out there and I don’t know…”

“It makes it feel like there’s competition?” He offered.

“Yeah.” She nodded, “It really does. And it’s stupid, but it does.”

“It’s not stupid at all,” he rested a hoof on her back, “We’ve got all of our protective urges dialed up to like eleven. It’s totally understandable, and always will be.”

“It doesn’t need to be though,” Scarlet complained, “We don’t need to be overly protective of things.”

“Well,” Silver paused, “We’re stuck with what we’ve got, might as well make the most of it.”

Scarlet pulled him in for a tight hug, “I love you.”

“I love you too. We’re gonna work through this together, I promise.”

She squeezed him tighter, “Thanks.”

“Of course,” he smiled “So how about we go off on a little field trip? Maybe visit a night pony stallion that we both know just so we can break the ice a little more?”

Scarlet looked up, “Who do you have in mind?”

“Somepony you’ve already met before.”

“That yellow guy? What was his name again? Steve?”

“Stanley,” Silver corrected, “I haven’t seen him in a while, which'll make this a little trickier. But that’s good for our lesson.”

“I’m sure there’s a good reason, but just humor me. Why is it a good thing?”

“Because I’m not as familiar with him as I am with you, which means that his dream signature is less easy to spot.”

“So, you’re going in blind again?” She asked in confusion.

“Not entirely. Remember what I said about identifying dreams?”

“You said it about five minutes ago so…”


“Well what? We’re going to use context clues to make sure it’s the right dream?”

“Yep!” Silver excitedly clopped his hooves together. “You won’t notice much at first, but I want to feel out with your magic once we enter the dream. It’ll be subtle stuff, but if you do it right you should be able to notice a couple of differences between how his dream feels compared to mine or yours.”

She shook her head and let out a laugh, “Where on earth did you learn all of this?”

“Long story.”

“Time’s pretty slow in here, I think I can afford to hear it.”

“You sure?” He laughed, “It feels weird when I look at it all in retrospect.”

“I mean we’re talking magical horses in a parallel reality that’s solely created by magic. Everything looks weird in retrospect,” Scarlet pointed out, trying her best to hold back a laugh of her own.

“Well,” he shuffled his hooves around, his eyes betraying his hesitation, prompting Scarlet to wonder what his secret could be.


“Well… you’re right. It’s not really all that weird when you hold it up next to everything else.”

“So, what’s your big deep dark secret?”

“The truth is, I didn’t learn all of this by myself. Well, not true. I figured out I could do a lot of it, but a couple of the wardens, and that mare we visited a while ago helped me direct my magic. Figure out what I can do, how things work, what to look for… you know, that kind of stuff.”

A brief vision of the wardens teaching Silver like some kind of foal ran through Scarlet’s head, finally breaking the dam and eliciting a playful snicker.

“So, you’re learning from the wardens, eh? Seems kinda advanced.”

Silver shook his head, “Trust me. I’m a fast learner and I can do some cool tricks, but I wouldn’t say I’m doing anything advanced yet.”

“What about that dream within a dream thing you did that one time? Or that meditation thing you can do?”

“Huh? Oh. I mean they’re advanced, but I still don’t have the best handle on them.”

“That’s still pretty cool.”

“Maybe, but we’re missing the point here. Today’s lesson is learning some of the context clues you can figure out from a dream.”

“Right. So how do we do that?”

“We go to somepony else’s dream. Like I said before, you know how my dream feels—“

“Adorable and cute, like you,” she interrupted, relishing in the fact that it earned yet another blush from the flustered night pony.

“Right… and you know how your dreams feel. So, I want you to think about how both feel different, but what you can pick out from each. Then we’ll step into another night pony’s and you can get a sense of how his dream feels. Maybe if we have time we can go find another tribe’s dream too.”

“Let’s get dreaming then.”

Silver nodded and closed his eyes for a moment, summoning a bright star that seemed to just radiate with a warm happiness, Scarlet’s first clue about the dream’s content. Unfortunately for Silver, it was also the perfect chance for her to launch yet another jab that was sure to embarrass her already flustered stallion.

“It’s a happy dream right?”

Silver nodded, “Yep!”

“So, how’s this different from that happy dream you had the other day? You know, the one where we were trying on some cute outfits and I caught you staring at my flanks while I was wearing those socks? And then you asked if you could try on a pair too?”

Silver tensed up and looked away, a deep red blush spreading even further across his face.

“Hey it’s nothing to be embarrassed about, I thought you looked really cute in them too. Cute enough that maybe we need to get a few pairs out in the real world, don’t you think?”

“I.. I, why— ahhhh” he stammered out, making Scarlet’s smile grow even larger.

Trotting up to him, she gave him a kiss and laughed, “I’m just teasing you. But I do think those were cute and I’d love to see you in them again sometime.”

“I… okay,” he took a deep breath, “So you clearly know the different emotions that make up a dream.”

“Oh, believe me, I think you gave me a good crash course in that.”

“Right. So let’s hop on in then, and we can start making more friends too. When we get back I want you to tell me everything you felt from the dream, okay?”

“Okay,” Scarlet laughed, “I guess I should stop teasing you then, otherwise I’ll probably only pick up your emotions.”

Silver let out a nervous chuckle, “Do you just take pride in pushing my buttons or something?”

“Maybe,” she offered with a devious smirk, “You’ve got a lot of buttons to press, and it’s fun watching you get all flustered from them,” she paused, “and maybe later I can give you another wing massage? Those buttons are especially fun to push.”

Silver blushed hard but didn’t turn away this time, “That’s not fair, you’re not supposed to be this evil!”

Scarlet did the only thing she could think to do at the moment; let out another series of laughs as she entered the dream with Silver.

The experience of crossing into another dream was something that Scarlet could never quite put into words. More often than not, it was a weird feeling that she could best describe as an out of body experience for lack of a better term. From her very limited understanding of the magic behind it, they were essentially jumping into another pony’s mind, or at least a representation of a part of it, and with all of that came the ghosts of feelings— sensations, emotions, sometimes even the echoes of thought. All of it an overwhelming experience to her if even only for just a brief moment in time.

A thought began to run through her head as cheerful emotions flooded her mind. Maybe this is why she and Silver had grown so close over such a relatively short amount of time. Getting to know a pony was one thing, actually jumping into their dreams and getting an impression of them was an entirely different thing, which she was perfectly content with. Still though, as the emotions leveled out and the dream materialized around her, it only reinforced the idea that none of this was comparable to what she had ever felt in the waking world.

A beautiful desert landscape caught in a perfect sunset greeted the pair. Like any dream, it wasn’t perfect, but that didn’t matter much when you were in awe of the important parts.

“Silver? Long time no see!” A masculine voice exclaimed from behind them.

“Hey Stanley,” Silver replied, a hint of happiness carrying across in his voice, “You don’t mind us popping in for a little visit, right?”

Scarlet looked around the new dreamscape, letting out an involuntary sigh of happiness as she took in the picturesque sights of the Grand Canyon. A deep happiness welled up inside of her and for a brief moment she was lost in the dream, becoming a part of it’s narrative. This was another thing that she never heard many ponies talking about. It didn’t happen often, but on some occasions a dream was so overwhelming and powerful that a pony couldn’t help but enter its narrative. This wasn’t always a bad thing, but one could easily get sidetracked if they had other things to do, something that she was definitely up to today.

A short shake of her head was all it took to clear the lingering haze of the dream, her attention turning back to the yellow stallion who’s dream they had visited.

“Hey Stanley,” she greeted him, slowly feeling her perceptions return to normal.

“Sorry to just drop on in,” Silver continued, “But I wanted to introduce Scarlet to some of my friends and show her a few dream things.”

“Hey no trouble at all,” the yellow night pony cheerfully replied, “Was just clearing my head for a bit.”

“Oh? Something bothering you?”

Stanley hesitated for a moment before nodding, “Just some drama out here. I guess it’s not really shaping up to what I thought it’d be.”

“That village you were going to?”

“Mhmm,” he nodded, “I got tossed into an admin role and it’s just turning into me being the mediator between a perfectionist and a realist.”

“I see, I see,” Silver commented, “Doesn’t sound like a fun thing to deal with at all. What do you think Scar?”

Scarlet looked up at the blue stallion and shrugged, “Sounds like a hassle.”

“You could say that again,” Stanley chuckled, “It’s okay though. We’ve got a big town meeting coming up and I think I managed to broker some kind of peace between them.”

“That’s good,” Scarlet smiled, remembering part of the reason for their visit. She started to lazily walk around the rocky area, looking off over the canyon in the distance before turning back toward the two stallions, “So, uhh, what kind of ponies did you wind up meeting out there? You were kinda in the same boat that we were, right?”

Stanley nodded, “A couple of night ponies, a bunch of earth ponies, and then some pegasi and unicorns. Go figure that the night pony running the place and the lead Earth pony butt heads constantly.”

“Sounds like you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place then.”

He shrugged, “Yeah, you’re not wrong. I have a good feeling about the next meeting though. Dawn’s a perfectionist and I know she’s never going to be onboard with what Midnight and I were able to negotiate, but it’s a step forward at least. Midnight says she’s got some kind of backup plan, so I guess we’ll just have to see how things go.”

Another thought ran through Scarlet’s head for a moment, giving her reason to question whether the fact that she had seen so few stallions around was merely coincidence or something far more skewed. She hadn’t thought much about it until recently, but more of the pieces were starting to fall into place, and she was already dreading the thought of possibly having a repeat of the other night’s frustrations between her and Sine again. Or any other mare for that matter.

“So you’re the only stallion around then?” Silver asked, clearly putting together some of the pieces as well.

Stanley raised an eyebrow, “As in the only night pony stallion around? I mean I never really thought of it that way, but I guess I am.”

“Interesting,” Silver noted, “Anyways, sorry to bother you.”

“Don’t be,” he waved a hoof at them, “I needed to clear my head, and spending time with friends helps.”

“Why don’t you get us caught up with what’s happened since we met up last,” Silver offered, “It’s been a while, and a lot of things can change in that time.”

“You two are evidence of that,” Stanley laughed, “You’re sure looking a lot more lovey-dovey since the last time I saw you.”

Scarlet suddenly became aware of the fact that she had gravitated towards Silver and had leaned up against him. It wasn’t the kind of interaction that she’d normally think much about, but something about the clear lack of stallions, and the way that she had let her anger flare up just cast these kinds of displays in a new light for her. The feeling of a warm wing pulling her close brought a sense of ease and happiness to her, and she quickly let those thoughts fade into the background as she just enjoyed the embrace of her stallion.

“I’ve got an idea,” Silver offered, taking note of the hesitant look that had spread across Scarlet’s face. “You catch us up and we’ll catch you up. You’re not wrong, a lot’s changed since we hung out last, and I honestly feel bad for letting this sit for so long.”

Stanley shrugged, “Don’t sweat it, it’s not even been that long.”

“Feels like it’s been,” Scarlet muttered.

“Well,” Silver started, “I guess a good starting point is right after you left us last time…”

As Silver began to recount the things that had transpired, Scarlet couldn’t help but take note of the different emotions that filled the dream, and all of the subtle feelings that made this dream feel different from the rest. It was something she hadn’t ever really paid attention to, but just as Silver had said, it was there.

She looked up at him again, smiling as she looked forward to the future that the two had planned together. After all, big things were on the horizon for them, and she couldn’t wait to experience it with him.

Chapter 32: Getting an Inch... Taking a Mile

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Meanwhile in Arizona, Stanley, Midnight, and Gizmo were finally starting to put their plans into motion. The town’s meeting had been staged, the earth ponies were rallied behind Gizmo, and all they needed now was for Dawn to formalize the agreement they had all discussed at their informal meeting a few days prior. Dawn had called a break for dinner, promising to resume talks after, before shifting into the duller administrative talks about trade routes, relations with other villages, and all sorts of dry topics that threatened to put even Stanley to sleep.

“Think this is going to actually work?” Midnight asked while the three trotted back toward the quaint town meeting hall.

“Maybe,” Stanley shrugged, “I think having the rest of the workforce behind it will keep her from backing out if that’s what you’re worried about.”

“Giz?” Midnight asked, looking at the elder earth pony.

“Hm? Oh. I think Dawn’s a mare of her word, but I have a hunch that she’s going to work against us.”

“How’s that?” Stanley asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Well, I don’t think she’s going to just outright back out of it. She made a big deal about how she was giving us a chance. But I do think she’ll make it easier to fail.”

“Mhmm,” Midnight replied, “you’re probably not wrong about that.”

“So what’re you thinking then?” Stanley asked.

Midnight kept silent for a moment as they continued down the dusty dirt path, clearly formulating something in her mind, “Okay. I’m going to look out for you, and make sure she doesn’t do that.”

“How?” Stanley asked.

“Don’t worry, I’ll cover it. It’s like you were saying before, sometimes you just need to nudge things in the right direction.”

“Okay, but what kind of a nudge are we talking about? This is a big thing that could either make or break the dynamic of the village, we don’t need to just throw a wrench in the gears.”

“We won’t. But you and I are in administration and we have a role that we can play to help push things along.” She paused, looking the yellow night pony in the eyes, “Just trust me, okay?”

The stallion let out a sigh, “I trust you. Just don’t do anything rash. We don’t need to buck a hornet’s nest.”

If anything goes wrong then I’ll be the one taking the fall. That’s a big if though.”

“Let’s hope we don’t get to that point then. Okay?”


The twinkling of bells pulled their attention back up at the small structure, signaling that it was time to resume the meeting.

“If this works out then we’ll seriously owe you a debt of gratitude,” Gizmo commented.

“Don’t worry about it,” Midnight replied, “It’s doing what’s right for the village and giving you all the voice that you deserve.”

“Let’s head in and wrap this up so we can finally start working on other things,” Stanley waved them towards the entrance with a wing.

Stepping inside, they were immediately greeted by a bored looking Dawn, who was busy jotting some notes down into her ledger. Looking up, she gave a short nod and cleared her throat, “Before we get going on the rest of the administration stuff, is there anything left that we need to tie up?”

“Just confirmation that our agreement is actually on record,” Giz replied, the notably large group of earth ponies that had returned to the meeting offering nods of agreement.

“The farming changes?” She held up her notebook, “Consider it done. But the stipulations we talked about are still in effect, and I’ll be checking in from time to time on that.”

Gizmo seemed annoyed, but if he was opposed to Dawn’s stipulations then he sure didn’t voice his concerns.

“Will that be a problem?” She asked, clearly gauging his reaction.

“No,” he simply replied, “No, it won’t be at all.”

“Good,” she cheered, “If there aren’t any concerns then we’ll move onto the next item on the docket…”

Dawn’s topic faded into the background as Gizmo, Stanley, and Midnight stepped outside, trotting a fair distance away from the quaint building. The two night ponies exchanged a few silent glances before turning to Gizmo. Clearing her throat, Midnight nervously looked back at the town hall and nodded, “Okay, I said I was going to look out for you, and I meant it.”

“Huh?” Gizmo raised an eyebrow, “What do you—“

“Just trust me,” Midnight interrupted, letting out a sigh, “I have an idea but I know it’s probably a bad one.”

The stallion gave a short nod, “Why do I have a bad feeling about this?”

“Because Dawn gave us an inch and I’m about to take a mile,” Midnight admitted, “I’ll explain more once we’re there.”

“Are you sure that that’s a good idea?” Stanley asked.

“No,” Midnight shook her head. “It’s honestly a terrible idea, but Dawn needs that nudge and we can’t afford to just sit around and watch this place fall apart.”

“But if you’re taking a mile then that could throw off everything,” Stanley protested. “We just got Dawn to ease up a bit and trust us, and now you’re saying we’re going to just work against that?”

He started to think back to the conversation he had had with Silver and Scarlet the previous day. The conversation had been pretty basic and uneventful, but he had been so happy to tell them about how things were finally looking like they were going to go well in his village, and now the thought of it falling apart only hit him harder.

Midnight seemed nervous and jittery but didn’t deny his claim, “No… I’m going to work against it. None of us ever had this conversation, I just told Gizmo that he and his farmers could branch out more without any prompting from either of you.”

“That’s still a risky move,” Stanley pointed out, “you could lose your role here, or worse. Dawn could easily come in and say that we’re getting nothing and demand that things go back the way she had them before.”

“Then my ponies strike,” Gizmo flatly replied. “We’ve tried to make it clear that this isn’t going to just fly. Dawn isn’t some dictator.”

“Which is why this is even more risky,” Stanley shot back. “There’s a paper trail tying all of us together and I know for a fact that Dawn’s going to be smart enough to see it.”

“Then Dawn doesn’t need to know,” Midnight replied.

Stanley raised an eyebrow, “What? You’re just going to hide this from her?”

“As much as I can,” Midnight confirmed. “It won’t be easy, but she only stops by there every couple of days right now. It won’t be hard to make up a reason for her to skip that, especially if production increases.”

Stanley shook his head, “It’s a huge what if,” he paused for a moment. “You know, I have two friends that offered me a place to stay before I got here, don’t you think it’s easier to just maybe look outside of this place? Doing something like this is only going to drive a wedge between every pony.”

“This place is my home,” Midnight proudly stated, “and it’s home to a lot of other ponies too. We all came here for a reason, and mine was to create a place where we could really follow that vision,” she paused. “Sure, it needs a lot of work, but like you said, sometimes we just need to give a small nudge in the right direction, and I think Dawn will see that.”

“You’re paraphrasing a bit…” Stanley started, “But I guess you have a point. But I still think we’re setting ourselves up for failure with this. Believe me, I want to see this place thrive too, but going behind Dawn’s back is going to just burn us in the end.”

Midnight let out a deep sigh, “Have you ever wanted to see something succeed so much that you’d be willing to take a fall for it? You know, take a leap of faith just on the off chance that something could work out the way you need it to?”

Stanley paused for a moment, resting a hoof on the cool wall of the building they were huddled by, “I…” he started, finding it hard to piece the right words together.

“Because that’s what this is to me. We were shown a vision of what ponies and humans could do if they worked together, and even though it’s more of a dream than a reality, I still think it’s worth giving it a shot. We’re stuck here, ponies aren’t going away anytime soon, and this kind of dream could really be something that could change the world.”

“And you have a great point. But this is taking a leap backwards I think. Dawn’s still running with the original vision in mind,” Stanley pointed out, “you know, the one that didn’t include humans?”

“Yet she’s still letting some work here,” Midnight countered, “I think she’s willing to budge on some things.”

“It’s a leap of faith,” Gizmo commented, “Like she said, none of us would still be here if we didn’t believe that what we were shown was possible. It’s foolish to follow it blindly like Dawn is, and dangerous if it’s misconstrued like the Shimmerists are seeing it, but at its core it’s something that’s important.”

“Something that the world needs,” Midnight added. “Maybe we're a small village, but doing our part to show humanity that we’re not a bunch of brainwashed freaks goes a long way. Making sure that we can keep a village built on those ideals afloat is a huge step, and that’s what I’m trying to do here.”

“Dawn’s still not going to like it,” Stanley said shaking his head, “But what am I arguing for? You two have this set in your mind, and I can’t change that.”

“Is that a bad thing?” Midnight asked as she rested a hoof on his side.

“Not entirely,” he admitted. “It’s risky and could blow up in our faces, but if we’re going to do this then we might as well all do it together. As much as I don’t like the idea.”

“Thanks,” Midnight smiled, “I know it’s a lot, but I appreciate your help.”

Stanley nodded, “I just have one question though.”

“Oh?” She replied.

“What happens if this doesn’t work, and no matter how hard you try, how hard you push for it to work, it just won’t?”

The mare paused for a second, clearly having not thought much about this. She looked up at Stanley and for the first time, he saw a look that almost read as both worried and scared, but with a hint of determined confidence. “Then it wasn’t meant to be, and we just go our own way. We’ll try something new, somewhere else maybe.”

“Like starting a new village?” He raised an eyebrow.

“Maybe?” She shrugged, “It could be our own little oasis somewhere. When we’re all ready to start it.”

“You’re that big on this dream?”

Midnight nodded, “That’s the only reason why I gave everything up to start something new here. I really want this to work out, but if it just doesn’t and it’s impossible to make it work, then I want to at least try something else, maybe sometime in the future.”

“That sounds a lot like you’re just trying to force it to work.”

She shook her head, “Not exactly. There’s a lot we can learn from here, and I like to think that with enough help we could make something great.”

Stanley slowly nodded his head, “I see. So what’s your endgame then? What’s the whole point of putting so much effort into this dream? How is it going to make the world a better place in the end? I know it sounds like I’m being tough on you, but if I’m going to help you try and make this dream into a reality I need to know what the reason is— why it’s so important of a thing that you’re not willing to just give up and settle for what you have.”

Midnight let out a frustrated whinny, “Because I’ve said to is all before. Ponies aren’t going away. And it’s obvious that we need to show the world that we will be a part of it.”

“Like what they’re doing over in South Carolina?” He countered, “I mean have you seen the stuff they’re already doing there? It’s a huge explosion of industry, of ponies and humans both working together to make that kind of place. Wouldn’t it be easier to just migrate there and call it a day?”

She shrugged, “It could be. But what’s that showing us? That there’s only one real place that ponies are doing that? What about this side of the country?”

“What about it?”

“We need to show that we’re willing to make a place for ourselves in this society too. I don’t know how much you’ve traveled, but the east and west coasts are so radically different from each other, and I really believe that we need to show that we can do that kind of thing too.”

Stanley let out a small sigh, “It’s not going to ever be easy, you know that right? Like if we’re having a hard time doing that here now, then what’s going to make it any different if we start up fresh?”

“We find the right ponies to help. The ones that can agree to work together, because that’s where Dawn fails. She’s not a bad pony, but she’s misguided about what the vision is supposed to mean, and that’s why we’d need to find ponies that are willing to work outside of some rigid outlook.”

“And that’s if we can’t make things work here right?”

Midnight nodded, “It won’t be easy, but if it doesn’t work here then maybe it isn’t meant to.”

“Gizmo, what do you think about this?” Stanley questioned.

“Me?” The old stallion held a hoof up to his chest, “I don’t care what happens as long as I’m not being told what to do without any say. Give me that and I’m onboard with whatever you do.”

Stanley nodded, “Okay then. We give this a shot, even though it’s super risky and if all else fails we try again with the right ponies.”

“It won’t be easy finding them though,” Midnight admitted.

“I might have a few in mind,” Stanley reassured her, Silver and Scarlet briefly coming to mind, “But what happens if that fails? Then what?”

She hesitated for a long moment before giving a small nervous grimace, “Then I’m wrong and I’ll admit that we should just leave it up to the ponies that know what they’re doing. But we have to give it a shot, right?”

Stanley thought long and hard about this, weighing both his own thoughts and the reality in his head. On one hoof, this was probably going to be a plan destined for failure, but was it really such a bad thing to try? At his very core he merely set out towards this place to find somewhere where he could feel like he belonged, so what did it matter if things worked out or not? His friends were the reason he was enjoying this place, not the dream of the village’s founders or even the village itself, so was tagging along with their plan really the worst thing imaginable? He had nothing to lose except time, and time spent with friends was more valuable to him than anything else, so surely there wasn’t any real issue with this.

He looked up at Midnight and smiled, “It’s crazy, and it won’t be easy, but I’m with you if this all goes south.”

The mare smiled and pulled him in for a hug, “Thank you, just for taking a chance on this.”

Stanley shuffled around slightly, but didn’t break the embrace, “You’re welcome. I don’t know how I feel about all of it, but I’ve got your guys’ backs on this.”

He truly didn’t know if their plan would work, and there was so much stacked against Midnight’s contingency, but realizing that this was something that he couldn’t predict or control, Stanley decided to just sit back and let the universe take its course. It had already brought so much change to their world in such a short amount of time, that some crazy harebrained backup plan to start an oasis of their own hardly seemed out of the ordinary.

He just had to hope that his friends would be willing to help if things went south… and that was the important factor he didn’t know how to predict…

Chapter 33: A Touch of Reality

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The twilight sky enveloped the two night ponies in a warm embrace, lighting up the world in a dreamy golden haze. Silver looked up at the brightly lit neon sign above his workplace, and then down to Scarlet, who was in a strange mood that seemed to border between sadness, distaste, and longing.

“Hey,” he broke the silence that had taken hold of the two of them during the majority of their flight down to the desert floor, “You have a good night at work, okay?” Silver spoke to Scarlet as he laid a hoof on her cheek, “Try to just relax tonight, and I promise we’ll practice some more dream stuff tomorrow.”

Scarlet nodded her head, “That’s easier said than done, you know that right?”

The stallion pulled her in for a tight embrace, “I do, but just try, for me?”

The mare smiled and leaned into his embrace, “Trust me when I say that I try my best. It doesn’t help that I have a lazy human as a coworker who kisses up to the night manager, who just so conveniently doesn’t really like ponies a ton.”

“Hey, you don’t know that.”

“Ehh, I’m pretty sure I do,” she corrected, giving her ears a wiggle. “I don’t think he realizes I can hear way better than any human could, and the stuff he mutters under his breath is pretty mean spirited.”

Silver froze for a moment, having realized that his plan just wasn’t going to work. Instead, his mind shifted towards something else that he knew would make a smile crack through the disinterested facade.

“Tell you what,” he started with a nervous smile.

“What?” she replied with the telltale flick of an ear, an act that betrayed her budding curiosity.

Silver let out a hesitant sigh, “If you promise to try and make the most of your night…” he paused, his face reddening slightly.

“Go on?” She raised an eyebrow, the disinterested looking fading more from her face.

“If you promise to try and have a great night at work… I’ll make a dream for us, and you can dress me up in those socks again.”

A sly grin slowly spread across her face as she raised her voice, “You mean the ones you were so bashful about wearing? The ones that really accenuented your flanks perfectly?”

Silver’s blush deepened even more, and he frantically looked around to make sure no one was around, “Shhh!” He whispered.

“What? There’s nothing wrong with liking to wear cute things. I think you personally look adorable in them, and you’re even cuter when you get flustered about it!” She laughed.

“Why are you like this?” Silver asked in a mockingly dismayed voice.

“Because I love you and you know how to make a crappy evening good.” She paused, “and because I do like seeing you wear cute outfits.”

“Yeah? Well if you want to see more then I guess you’ll just have to have a good night then.”

“Maybe I will. Maybe I’ll make this the best night ever? How about that?”

“Is that a threat?” The stallion nervously chuckled.

“No,” Scarlet mused, quickly flashing her fangs in a devilish smile, “It’s a promise. You already said I could dress you up in cute stuff tonight, so no backing out of it. I hope you’re ready to teach me all about how to conjure up outfits in dreams tonight.”

Silver nervously gulped, but didn’t back out of his promise. If being embarrassed in a dream meant that his marefriend would try and make the best of a bad work situation, he would gladly put up with modeling whatever Scarlet wanted to conjure up. He just had to pray to whatever higher power there was that Yinyu wouldn’t make an appearance, because he only knew that that would make an embarrassing situation even worse, and Scarlet would definitely pounce on that opportunity.

“What’s wrong Silvie? Cat got your tongue?” Scarlet playfully teased, pulling his attention away from the thought.

“I…” he stammered, “Yeah, that sounds great!” he blurted out, earning a snicker from the mare.

“Your face is like five shades darker than it usually is, you sure something isn’t bothering you?” She knowingly asked.

“Uh huh,” he quickly nodded, glancing around at literally anything else in hopes that he’d avoid any further embarrassment.

“You’re cute when you’re flustered,” Scarlet replied as she pulled him into a tight embrace. “Hope you’re ready for our dream date after work, I’m gonna spend the next few hours thinking up all of the different things we’ll do!”

Silver leaned into the embrace, “Love you, evil plans and all.”

The mare let out a devious snicker and shook her head, “I love you too Silver. Thanks for cheering me up.”

“Don’t thank me, we’re in this together,” Silver corrected, “through the thick and thin.”

“Yeah? Well I’m gonna thank you anyways,” she laughed. “You always manage to cheer me up even when I know that it’s going to be a stressful and boring day, and that really means a lot.”

The stallion gave her a warm smile, “I’ll always be here for you, no matter what.”

“Even if I make you wear cute outfits?”

Silver let out a small laugh, “Even if you make me wear cute outfits.”

She smiled, “You have fun at work hon. I should probably let you run off to that.”

Silver stole a glance at the salvage yard and then looked back at Scarlet, “You know, you really don’t need to go work at the motel if you don’t want to. I know we had all that cute banter and stuff, but I mean it.”

Scarlet brushed him off with a wing, “I don’t need to, and I don’t really want to, but I’m also not going to just quit when a job gets stressful or boring.”

“But you don’t need to be stressed out like that,” he protested.

The mare simply shrugged, “Let me give it an actual month’s worth of work before I decide whether it’s too much or not. Trust me Silvie, I’ve got this.”

Silver hesitated for a moment, his mind turning back towards the fundraising she had talked about doing before and her justification for everything. As a smile spread across his face, he gave her a short nod and continued, “Okay, you’re right. You’re a grown mare, you know yourself best, and I just need to trust you.”

She laid a hoof across his cheek, “I’m flattered that you want to make sure I’m okay, but you already do a lot of that already. I don’t need you stressing over my stuff too.”

“I love you, Scarlet.”

“I love you too Silver. Now go have some fun, but not too much fun because I’m going to make sure we have even more fun after work.” Her devious smile returned again, “Maybe not the kind of fun that you’re looking for, but believe me, it’ll be fun.”

Breaking up the seriousness for a moment, he let out a big laugh and shook his head, “You know, just spending time with you is fun enough. As embarrassing as it gets sometimes.”

Inside the compact compound, Silver was excitedly trotting around with his boss Duncan, who was currently inspecting the various devices that the stallion had managed to rig up.

“So what’s up with this, Eclipse?” The human asked as he pointed towards a small wire that ran from one end of the fence to a strange assemblage of bottles.

“Give it a pluck,” Silver replied, rather than explaining it to the human.

Duncan shrugged and gently tugged on the string, his efforts being rewarded with a loud clattering of glass and metal. Letting out a snort, he shook his head, “So you’ve rigged up a bunch of traps around my yard?”

Silver shook his head, “Not traps… just… low cost security alarms,” he answered. “You know, stuff that’ll tip me off if somepony’s digging around where they shouldn’t be.”

“Okay Kevin. So answer me this then, how do you know if it’s actually someone and not just the wind blowing?”

Silver simply flicked his ears a few times, earning a confused look from the human. Realizing that Duncan hadn’t picked up on his answer, he began to explain.

“Pony hearing Duncan. We can hear so much more than a normal human can. So like I hear the little clanks right now, but a human clank sounds way different from a wind clank.”

“I see… so like, you can just hear better?”

“I can see better, smell better, hear better… you get the idea. Basically, I can tell the difference between whether a human or a coyote is at the fence just going off of these little cues.”

“And if it’s a human you can cut the lights out in the yard and still see them?” Duncan guessed.

“Uh huh,” the stallion beamed, “So while they’re disoriented from the sudden darkness I can have a few seconds to make myself as intimidating as a small bat horse can, and hopefully get the jump on them.”

“Huh,” the human laughed, “you’re really taking this job seriously, aren’t you?”

Silver lazily trotted around the human and shrugged, glancing at his reflection in an old hubcap for a moment, and smirking at the warped visage, “Yep! It beats just sitting around and doing nothing all night. I like to meditate on the down time and making these little contraptions helps give me an idea on what’s going on around the yard when I do.”

“Like a spider in its web,” Duncan mused. Looking down at the stallion, he couldn’t help but laugh again, “Man, I really wish money wasn’t so tight right now, because you’re really proving your worth.”

“It’s all cool, what you’re able to give is more than enough.”

“Which makes this next part a lot harder to ask,” the human flatly replied, earning a confused flick of an ear from Silver.

“What’s up?” Silver pressed.

“I know that when I hired you I said I only needed you on weekdays, because we don’t have normal weekend hours right now and all that.”

“Yeah? So what’s up then?”

He gestured towards a recently patched section of the fence, “I thought I didn’t need to worry about that as much on the weekends because that’s usually when I stay overnight to do some extra work, but clearly I’m not as alert as you are.”

“Aaaaaaand let me guess,” Silver started, “You need me to work weekends now too, eh?”

“I did talk about raising your rate of pay before.”

That sounded like more of an excuse or technicality than anything else, but Silver held his tongue. While he wasn’t thrilled to have to give up his weekends, especially given that those were the only days where the two of them shared a day off, he could only assume that this wasn’t really a question.

“So, I’m going to guess that this isn’t really a question and that you’re just asking me this as more of a formality than anything else.”

“I’m not going to make you do anything you don’t want to,” the human paused, “but I also really need your help on the weekends. I know it’s a huge sacrifice, which is why I’m going to try and cut that back and keep the shifts a little shorter. But I really do need you here on weekends.”

“This is more than a huge sacrifice Duncan,” Silver replied, trying his best not to get frustrated, “I have a marefriend that’s already stressed enough as it is with her job, and the weekend’s the only time where we can just relax together and forget about all of that.”

“I know, and I don’t want to do you dirty either so I’m willing to pay higher on the weekends. It won’t be much higher but you’ll at least get a full day’s pay for half shifts.”

Silver let out a sigh, taking a moment to clear his head, “Duncan, Scarlet and I are starting a family soon. I really need those weekend days.” He trailed off as an idea flowed into his mind, “I might have an idea if you’re really dead set on getting help those days.”

Duncan raised an eyebrow, “Oh? You gonna tell me you have a clone of yourself lying around or something?”

A small smirk spread across Silver’s face, “Not a clone, but I ran into another night pony that was looking for work. Used to be a detective or something and we got to chatting about what I did for a living.” He paused and looked the human right in the eyes, “Would you be opposed to bringing on weekend help?”

“Not necessarily, but that means you’ll lose two extra days of pay.”

“I’m fine with that. Like I said, weekends are kind of special for me, and I really can’t afford to lose them.”

“Well if you have help in mind, go ahead and bring em’ in. Have him shadow you as soon as possible and if he fits the bill then consider that matter sorted out.”

“I think he’ll definitely fit the bill,” Silver chuckled, “At least I’d hope so.”

“Hopefully so. I don’t want to inconvenience you, but you really do do a great job here, and I really do need some extra help on the weekends. So if this works out then that’s great.”

Duncan started walking back across the catwalk and toward the office, Silver quickly following him. The click clack of hooves on metal made any attempts at conversation pointless, so instead of continuing, Silver began to think about how he’d go about getting that extra help in.

“So just a heads up though,” he began once both he and the human had stepped into the office. “The other guy’s gonna have to relocate closer. Shouldn’t be an issue if he’s working weekends, but it might be a few days until he can shadow me.”

“How many days are we talking?”

“I dunno, he’s from out of state,” Silver stated, though conveniently leaving out how far out of state that his contact was. The night pony he had run across was one of a handful he had run across during his dream adventures, and of all of them so far, this pony had been the only one who had opened up more about their waking world plans. After hearing Silver mention having a job, they’d gotten to talking about how hard it was to find a job. The pony had mentioned having been a detective before the change, and how nobody wanted to hire a pony afterwards. Silver was counting on him being serious since he had made it abundantly clear that he was looking anywhere for work, even if it meant going out of state to get it.

“Do you think before the weekend?” Duncan asked with a hint of hesitation.

“Mhmm, probably,” Silver answered with a determined confidence in his voice, truly ignorant of what the actual answer would be.

“Gotcha,” Duncan flipped through a few pages of his logbook and nodded, “Well, just give me a holler when he’s joining you then. I’ll let you take over for now, if you need anything feel free to drop me a line if you can’t handle it yourself.”

“Will do, boss!” The stallion cheered, eliciting a laugh from the human.

Left alone with his thoughts once again, Silver contemplated the conversations he’d have to have later with both Scarlet and this pony that he barely knew. Scarlet would probably be bummed out about having to potentially delay their weekend plans, but Silver was optimistic about where things were headed. Returning his attention to his starting work, he stole a glance at the cameras and made his way back out onto the catwalk to begin his nightly patrols.

Chapter 34: Night Patrol

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Silver Eclipse trotted along his usual patrol route, bored out of his mind. It was true that this job was boring and rather uninteresting, but at the same time he knew that he was lucky to have a job that didn’t really require a whole lot of actual work. In his former life he would have killed for a job like this, but that still did little to make it any less boring.

The truth was, Silver just wasn’t a pony that liked to sit around doing nothing all night— unless of course he was doing nothing with his marefriend. In those cases he would gleefully do nothing with Scarlet and still have a blast, just enjoying her company more than anything. He felt a small sense of longing as he thought about how she had impacted his life for the better, and even a little bit of fear as he thought about the big future together that they had started to talk about lately. Planning out a family was a big step, and as scary as it was, he was excited to see where life took them. The twinkling of glass in the distance cut through his thoughts like a hot knife, and a small grin began to spread across his otherwise indifferent face.

Seems like something’s afoot in sector four, he thought to himself, quickly leaping into the air to get a better view of the situation. As he silently glided towards the section of the yard in question, he began to scan the landscape, specifically the area near the many times patched fence. The sound his little trap had made didn’t sound like the sound or pattern that the humans would normally cause, but humans were sneaky creatures that were usually smart enough to evade detection if they really tried hard enough.

As much as Silver didn’t want to deal with a bunch of hooligans tonight, he had to admit that the possibility would be a fun break from the otherwise boring night. A twinge of excitement began to well up inside of him as he considered how he’d go about confronting the potential intruders. However much to his own disappointment and perhaps even a little relief, as he dipped down towards the ground he noticed that indeed none were present. Instead it was another lone pack of coyotes— probably the same pack that liked to forage around this part of town if he had to guess.

This might have frightened or confused him a short time ago, but this had happened enough that by now scaring them off was second nature to the young night pony. With a practiced routine that was practically second nature by now, he dropped out of the sky and came to a firm landing in front of the creatures, a thin wire fence being the only thing that separated each other. Flaring his wings and baring his fangs, Silver let out a loud, raspy hiss that sent the three coyotes running off into the desert and away from him.

Laughing to himself, he dropped the aggressive display and meandered over to the fence, resting his head against it as he inspected the patches. Duncan’s quick fixes had held up enough, though Silver could only assume that he’d have to repair it again by the end of the week. The troublesome trio of coyotes weren’t really all that big of a threat, but Silver didn’t need them sneaking into the yard and making a mess, and he sure didn’t need them giving any would be thieves a convenient entrance either.

Making a mental note to tell Duncan about the need for a proper repair, Silver stepped back and resumed his patrol, running a wing along some of the less rusted out car frames that were stacked across from the fence. Was it smart to just idly run a sensitive limb across something that could scrape or puncture it? No, but Silver was bored and idling, and he needed something to do to break up the monotony lest he wander off like he was currently doing.

Shifting his attention to the ground in front of him, he paused as he caught sight of a small ladybug that had chosen an old hubcap as its resting place. Having nothing better to do, Silver leaned down to inspect the insect, being careful not to crush it or frighten it away. Having seemingly become aware of his presence, the bug crawled closer to inspect the new intruder, climbing up onto Silver’s muzzle and earning a curious Eep from the night pony.

Art by: Almy

A faint tickling feeling threatened to make Silver both sneeze and laugh, but not wanting to scare off his new friend, he held his breath, relaxing as the feeling quickly went away. Silver carefully stood up and watched as the insect continued to crawl around on his muzzle, but didn’t fly off.

“Guess you’re my new partner here, eh?”

The bug looked up at him and in Silver’s bored state he couldn’t help but imagine that that was some kind of silent confirmation.

“So, if you’re sticking around then you’ll probably need a name. How’s Carl sound?”

Again the bug didn’t react, leaving Silver to fill in the blanks with his imagination.

Sure thing partner, what’s on the docket for tonight? he imagined the insect saying.

“Well, we’ll have to check sectors one, two and three, four’s clear for now. Buuuuuut I’ll get to that in a tiny bit. I haven’t heard anything go off in those yet.”

In that moment Silver knew that he probably sounded crazy. He was a grown stallion and here he was, talking to some bug like it could actually perceive what was going on. Still though, he was incredibly bored and sometimes you just needed to flex your imagination a bit.

Deciding to do just that, Silver sat down and took a final glance at his new ladybug friend before closing his eyes and letting his consciousness slip into a dream. He didn’t plan to stay there for long, but he had a pony he needed to speak too, and it was probably better to get the word out sooner than later...

The flicker of the camera feed and the occasional car passing by was the only thing proving that the cameras themselves were actually functional, otherwise one might be fooled into thinking that they were just for show and that the monitor was simply showing static images.

“I can tell you what’s in our forecast today, Carl,” Silver mumbled to his ladybug friend that was sleeping in a little bowl on the desk, “A whole lotta nothing.”

The stallion spun around in the office chair a few times, staring up at the ceiling and trying his best not to enter another waking dream lest he completely abandon his duties. His dreams and his reality, while usually so very radically different from each other, both shared one thing in common tonight: the seconds and minutes seemed to stretch into a veritable eternity.

“You know, this is boring. More boring than I ever imagined a job could be. I don’t like boring very much, you feel me?”

The sleeping bug didn’t reply, but Silver continued anyway.

“I worked as a teacher's assistant for the better part of two years before all of this, and that was boring. But at least I got to talk to people, right? Like, that helped make the time fly by, and I didn’t realize what I had until I didn’t have it anymore.”

His thoughts returned to the job he had worked so hard to get. A teacher's assistant wasn’t a fancy job by any stretch of the imagination, or even remotely close to the kind of job that would give him fame and fortune, but something about helping out in the robotics lab and having a chance to dig into the boring history stuff that would put any normal human to sleep was just so great to him. It wasn’t his end all, but it was a big step in his plans, and it was a job he had very much enjoyed. A lingering feeling of sadness filled him as he thought about how those plans had fallen apart after ETS, and how the college had said they wouldn’t be able to bring him back on. It stung and it was just one of the many things that had led to the falling out with his family. Not wanting to dwell on past sorrows, he shook his head and returned his gaze to his sleeping companion.

“You ever just get weirdly nostalgic for the dumbest things?” he asked aloud. “Because I’m feeling that hard right now. Mom and dad used to take me and Johnny to Disney, Universal, and all those kinds of places when we were foals. I don’t know why, but thinking about the kind of future that Scarlet and I are talking about just makes me think of all those wonderful moments.”

He let out a small sigh and looked back out the grimy window, “I mean, I guess I know why I’m getting nostalgic about that stuff. I mean, we’ll have a foal of our own someday, and we’ll get to take him to all of these amazing places… and I guess it just has me getting excited about doing that kind of thing again someday, you know?”

Of course the bug didn’t know, but that didn’t stop Silver from musing on the past again.

“That kind of stuff is really exciting to think about, but also really scary. It feels like such a huge step forward, but at the same time it just feels right. Like everything’s just going according to the universe’s plan.”

And maybe it was, he thought to himself. He didn’t know what to think about what might exist beyond the universe he called home. While he had never been particularly religious, he was still open to those kinds of thoughts.

“Maybe it’s just weird pony instinct stuff pushing me forward, but everything just feels so… right with Scarlet, and I think that’s part of what feels so scary about the future. I mean that’s what all of this is for,” he gestured around with his hooves, “We don’t need jobs, but I just want to save up and treat her to something amazing someday, because she deserves it so much. Like it’s like I’m in a constant dream, which I guess is true half the time with us,” he chuckled, looking back at the indifferent bug, “But enough about my boring life fears and worries.”

He glanced at the clock and smiled, “I think it’s time for a little break.”

Peeking at the cameras one more time, and satisfied that everything was still dead quiet, he made himself comfortable in the seat and closed his eyes.

The sprawling void of the dream realm stretched out in front of him, the usual stars lighting up in clusters of light that danced around in the distance. A warm feeling of home filled him, along with a sense of familiarity as he felt the small touches of another presence nearby.

“Anypony out there?” Silver asked aloud, not sure if he was going to sound dumb or whether someone was actually around and just hiding in the shadows. He knew that wardens could do that, and had to guess that one was nearby, or at least keeping an eye on him for some reason.

“You’re very perceptive little dreamer,” came the familiar voice of Yinyu, who swam into view, “A lot of dreamers can’t sense a warden if they’re just watching from a distance, but you still picked up on that.”

Silver quickly recited his oaths and smiled, “Feeling like someone’s watching you isn’t a feeling I get often in here— unless I’m on my own doing that meditation thing.”

“Projecting,” she corrected.

“Right, guess that gives you all a reason to keep an eye out. I’m not like most dreamers aren’t I?”

You’re different,” she confirmed, “But in a good way. It just means you’re learning things and using your magic in ways that most other night ponies usually don’t.”

“How different is different though? I mean like, I’ve run into ponies that can do lots of other things, but this just feels… I don’t know, I guess I’m still learning about what I can and can’t do.”

“Not sure. Lots of ponies are different, it’s just a matter of watching them and seeing where their magic goes. You use yours to do stuff that we haven’t really seen a whole lot of other ponies do.”

“So that’s why you’re always conveniently around eh?”

“That’s why we’re all conveniently around. I’m not the only one watching you,” she teased, “I just happen to be the one you run into the most when you do your projecting. There’s so few of you that it isn’t hard to keep an eye on you just to make sure you don’t get into trouble.”

“I see… so what you’re saying is that I shouldn’t do the stuff I was going to do with Scarlet later then?”

“No, you can do that. We don’t really pay attention to that sort of thing unless you give us a reason to,” she swam up close to Silver and wrapped a fin around him, “Or unless you’d like an audience.”

Silver blushed and wriggled free, “Yeahhh, no, I think I’m good.”

His head filled with the thoughts of what Scarlet might say in response to this, and more embarrassingly, what she might do if she knew that Yinyu was seemingly interested in watching.

“I think she’d like it,” Yinyu playfully teased, giving Silver an acute reminder that she could in fact read minds.

“Both of you are evil. You know that?”

The Dreamwarden giggled, “What can I say? It’s fun making nervous little stallions blush and get all flustered.”

“It gets a little repetitive too sometimes.” He paused, “Hey, while you’re here I guess I can bombard you with a few questions I had that I’ve been sitting on for a while now.”

“Oh? And what would those be?” she asked as she flew back near him.

“So a while ago I did this thing where I sat down and meditated like how I usually do to get here while I’m awake. I don’t know how to explain what it was, but like… I found myself in this weird dream. I didn’t know where it was other than it felt like part of my own.”

The warden sat silent for a few moments, eyeing Silver with an unreadable expression that filled him with a nervous anxiety, almost as if he did something wrong.

“Interesting,” was all she replied, only giving Silver even more room to question what she was thinking.

“Interesting? So what was it? Scarlet said I disappeared when I did it, but I don’t know where to…”

Yinyu swam close and shrunk down to his level, “Can you do that for me again?”

“The meditation thing?” He asked, confused.

“Mhmm, I just want to see something.”

Silver slowly nodded, anxiously looking around as he sensed the faint phantom of another presence, “Sure. Just give me a second.”

She replied with a warm smile, something that he had just realized that he didn’t see often from her. It wasn’t that she didn’t smile, out of all the dreamers he had run across in his time as a night pony, she was one of the ponies that smiled the most, but those smiles were always playful and mischievous, never warm and inviting like hers was now.

Sitting down, he closed his eyes and began to clear his mind, reaching out with his magic to take hold of that familiar feeling of entering a waking dream. The sounds of his waking reality and the sounds of the dream realm began to fade even further into the background, leaving him with the quiet echoes of memory that he only now just began to perceive.

Opening his eyes, the familiar setting of his former home greeted him, appearing just as it had the last time he had been there, except for some of the pictures on the wall which had changed to happier scenes of him and his family.

“Very interesting,” the warden commented again, appearing next to the night pony in a decidedly smaller scale than she normally would.

“Right? So like… what is this?”

“It’s your dream,” she replied, “But it’s almost like a second dream.”

“Uh huh… so what does that even mean? Like is that even possible?”

“Clearly it is. But I’ve never seen a pony do this before.” She turned to face Silver, “Do you mind if I share this with my brother, Psychic Calm?”

Silver raised an eyebrow, “He seems pretty level headed, so sure. Between you and me though, I still get a little nervous around you all.”

“You should be silly!” she teased, “But you don’t need to be afraid. I’d like you to try something for me though.”

“Sure, what do you need?”

“Try modifying this place. Maybe something small and familiar?”

A smile started to speed across his face, “I’ve got the perfect place in mind.”

The familiar surroundings suddenly shifted into the even more familiar appearance of Scarlet’s cabin, a place that was warm and comforting to him.

“A treasured location? I can tell you already have so many happy memories tied to it.”

Silver looked at Yinyu and sheepishly nodded, “You can tell that from my thoughts?”

“That and a lot more. Your emotions seem stronger here, which makes me want to see what Psy thinks of it even more now.”

“You really think he’s going to be that interested in it?”

“Oh, he’s going to be all over it,” she giggled. “This is really his kind of thing not mine, I just happened to be around to see you do it.”

“So what do you think of all of this?” Silver turned his attention back to whatever it was that he had discovered.

“I think that you’re a talented little dreamer who has some really promising potential, but I don’t personally know what to make of it or what it really is.”

Silver nodded, “That’s fair. So what you’re saying is that I’m better off waiting for Psychic Calm then?”

“Yup!” She cheerfully responded, “He’s going to know more about it than I do, but I do want you to try one more thing if you can.”

“Sure, what else do you need me to do?”

“Try conjuring something.”

“You want me to make something else? Like what?”

“Anything,” she shrugged her fins, “It could be something big, something small— just something that’s recognizable and will stand out to you later.”

“Something memorable then, gotcha.”

The stallion closed his eyes for a moment and pictured the most memorable thing that he could in his mind, and focused all of his magic on making something out of those thoughts. This part of the process was always a weird feeling to him, because it could vary so much, especially if the dream he was in wasn’t his own. A warm feeling flowed through him as he opened his eyes to see the painting of Scarlet that he had imagined, sitting on the wall in front of him.

“That’s a very good choice. Now can you do me a favor and try and memorize as much as you can? I want to test something and there’s really no better way to do it.”

Silver nodded, “Shouldn’t be a problem at all.”

“Good, we’ll find out what this is later. Until then, I’d like you to return to your own dream and avoid coming back here, at least until the Warden of Peace has had a chance to see it for himself.”

“Stay out of the weird dream place, got it,” he paused and hopped into the decidedly more familiar location that he usually spent his days in, “Thanks again, Yinyu.”

“The pleasure is all mine, little dreamer.”

Silver couldn’t help but let out a chuckle, and before he had even realized it, the warden was gone. Though he guessed that she was still watching from a distance— and all of them might be for the foreseeable future for all he knew. What he did know was that there was still some work to be done, and he only had a short amount of time to do it. Deciding to take a brief moment to check through his work duties, he returned to the waking world, though it wouldn’t be for long…

Clearing his own dream, Silver sat and pondered what he would make. He had set a timer to go off so he wouldn’t be playing around in here for too long, and now he could just relax and enjoy his break. Time moved differently in the dream realm, and while he was still tethered to the waking world, his perceptions were still rooted here.

“Hmm… what to do, what to do,” he thought aloud, crafting up a set of walls to start. Visions of a cozy old book shop filled his head, and thus the spark of inspiration was ignited.

The plain smooth wall suddenly formed the shape of bricks, and the empty void that made up the floor was replaced by dark wood planks. The lights dimmed and he conjured up a set of shelves that gave the room a cozy sense of organized clutter. The books wouldn’t actually be functional, but he wasn’t aiming for functional here. This was his dream getaway, and he just cared about seeing how detailed of a place he could create in the time he had to create it.

A smile stretched across the night pony’s face as he shifted into high gear. He was in his element now, and once his creative juices started flowing there was no stopping him. A few doors here, some windows there, and even a few cozy little chairs. Slowly but surely his comfy dream retreat was coming together, and he was perfectly happy. Well, as happy as he could be when building a place that would probably disappear when he returned later that day.

Still though, this was his brand of fun, and he’d gladly build many more if it meant that he got to just create whatever he wanted to his heart’s content. As he stepped back to inspect his work, he paused. Everything seemed to fit right in, however, one of the doors that he had summoned was noticeably different from what it looked like before. The door he had created had been replaced by the opening of an alleyway. Letting out a small laugh, Silver took a step forward to examine it, having a good idea of what it was doing there..

He only had to wait a few moments before a figure stepped out of the alley. Dressed in a trenchcoat with a fedora pulled low to hide his face, the figure sidled over to him. Leaning in, the figure spoke in a gravelly voice, “Are you the one they call Silver Eclipse?” Silver smirked as he confirmed it, and the figure continued, “I hear you have a problem you need solved. Solving problems is my thing, I’m a private dick.”

Silver shook his head and chuckle as he slapped the pony with a wing, “Can’t you simply step into a dream like a normal pony Tweyelight?”

The trenchcoat faded away, and now the fedora was tilted back on the pony’s head, revealing a messy orange mane that looked like it had never met a brush. Grinning at Silver he replied, “Now where’s the fun in that?”

“I guess you’ve got a point there,” he mused, “So here’s the deal. You were looking for work, right? Well what if I told you that I might have a security job that’s got zero applicants lined up for it?”

“Well I’d say you’ve got my attention, Eclipse…”

Chapter 35: Dreams Within Dreams

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Stepping out of the small and simple shower, Scarlet dried off her mane as best as she could, brushing a few long strands out of her eyes. As much as she loved growing it out, the hair was beginning to get in the way more often than she liked.

“You know Silvie, maybe we could go get a mane cut sometime?” She called out into the cabin.

“You think?” The stallion replied from his place on the bed.

“Yep. Yours is getting a little long too, so we’re both overdue for that kind of thing.”

“Probably not a bad idea then. You think somepony in the village could do it? Or would you rather stop by some salon and see if some human could do it the next time we’re in town?”

“Well given how we got sent off to the vet, I’m sure they’d just send us over to some groomer if we tried that. My mom could probably do it though.”

“Think she’d be up for that?”

Scarlet poked her head out of the bathroom and laughed, “Hon, she’d probably squee in excitement if I asked her. You know how much she loves having us around.”

“Aren’t you worried that she’ll try and dig out the embarrassing family photos?” Silver countered with a grin, “because I’m fine with that too.”

A twinge of embarrassment filled Scarlet for a moment, but she didn’t let her body language betray that to Silver. Instead her lips curled into a devious grin as she stepped forward, “I’m fine with that but you better bet I’ll work overtime to embarrass you even more.”

“Mutually assured embarrassment, got it,” he nodded, “So should we give her a call now or wait until tomorrow?”

“Wait until tomorrow,” Scarlet answered as she flopped onto the bed, “I’m too tired now, plus I’ll just stop by before work tomorrow.”

The stallion smiled and made himself comfortable as Scarlet curled up next to him.

“I didn’t realize we were ending the day with some before bed cuddles.”

“You thought we’d jump right into sleep? Please. I’ve been on my hooves all night and now I just want to hear how yours went.”

“Boring as usual,” Silver admitted, “But I did make a new friend.”

“Oh?” Scarlet asked as she looked up at him, “Go on then. What’s his name, what does he look like, and what on earth is he doing up at night?”

“Well he’s short and red, and has a bunch of black spots all over him. Your guess is as good as mine for why he’s up so late, but he made for good company all the same.”

For all of the cute rational things that Silver normally said, this was a rare exception that completely threw Scarlet for a loop.

“He’s got black spots?” She asked, amazed. “I didn’t realize ponies could have spots.”

“Oh? He’s not a pony,” Silver burst out in laughter.

Scarlet furrowed her brow and sat up in bed, “Hang on, what now?”

“He’s a ladybug, Scarlet.”

The mare paused for a second and then playfully punched Silver on the side, “You’re a real comedian, you know that?”

Silver couldn’t help but flash a goofy grin, “What can I say, I try my best!”

“So work was boring is what you’re saying.”

“Yeah, pretty much. I did get ahold of an acquaintance that might be able to help me with some stuff though,” Silver admitted, earning another confused glance from Scarlet.

“Oh? I didn’t realize you had the time to chat with friends.”

“He’s another pony that I run into in the dream realm sometimes.”

“Uh-huh, so what’s he going to help you with then?”

“Well…” Silver gave her a nervous look, sparking a stream of questions in her mind over what on earth he’d be so hesitant about.

“Well?” She pressed on.

“Well, Duncan’s been having trouble on the weekends. Said he needed me in to help keep an eye on the yard when he can’t.”

“So what he’s asking is for you to work seven days a week?” She asked in an almost frustrated tone.

“Yes, but—“

“But that’s way overstepping.” She continued, “You’re an employee not some junkyard dog that he can just order around.”

“That’s what the friend is helping me with.” Silver cut her off, explaining the situation.

“Huh?” Scarlet asked again.

“Yeah. So this pony I befriended in the dream realm was looking for work and said he’d be up for this kind of thing. So he’ll be riding down here in the next few days.”

“He doesn’t live around here?”

“Not exactly…” Silver trailed off, “he’s kinda in New Jersey.”

“So there’s no guarantee that he’ll actually show then?” Scarlet replied with a sigh.

“Hey, just trust me,” he reassured her, “Duncan knows how important our time together is and I made it clear to him that I’m not able to work those days.”

“And if this pony doesn’t show up?”

“He will. Trust me.”

This was a huge what if, but against her better judgement, Scarlet simply shrugged it off and instead cuddled up even closer to Silver.

“I’ll trust you. If it means we can keep our weekend time together then I’m fine.”

“You know, I’m kind of surprised that you don’t have to work weekends either, aren’t those supposed to be the busier days?”

Scarlet rolled her eyes, “They are, but the humans get those days.”

Silver’s expression perfectly matched what Scarlet felt about the whole situation, making her wonder if he had thought about this before.

“That’s totally unfair,” he blurted out, “Like I get that you’re set up for the night shifts, but they can’t give you better hours?”

“Remember what I said yesterday, they don’t think I can hear them. So, while They’ll never admit it around me, it’s pretty obvious that the human staff there gets treated better than the token pony.”

Silver nuzzled up next to her, “Well at least we both lucked out on having weekends off then.”

“I don’t even know why it bothers me, it’s not like I’m ever expecting it to be some big fancy job that I’ll excel in.”

As much as Scarlet didn’t care about the job, she knew exactly why it bothered her. She still had pride in her work and she’d be lying if she said that seeing the humans getting preferential treatment didn’t strike a nerve with her.

“Okay, not true,” she admitted, “It’s a pride thing I guess.”

“Which makes complete sense,” Silver reassured her. Letting out a long yawn, he made himself more comfortable, “So why don’t we hit the hay and get to the fun dream stuff.”

“I thought you’d never ask,” Scarlet smiled as she curled up under the warm blanket.

Silver opened up his eyes and stood up. As much as he hoped that the dream would have stayed the same, it was now some entirely different scene. Gone was the comfy library he had carefully crafted, and in its place was a brisk wintery village. While beautiful, it wasn’t his dream, and he’d be lying if he said that he wasn’t disappointed that he couldn’t show Scarlet what he had made.

“What’s with the hold up?” Scarlet asked as if on cue.

“Huh?” Silver absentmindedly replied.

“Don’t tell me you forgot,” she dramatically said as she trotted up close to him, “I believe you promised me a little fashion show.”

As her grin grew larger Silver remembered what he had agreed to, and his expression dropped into an embarrassed grimace. “Do we really have to?”

“No,” Scarlet countered, “I don’t have to do anything except enjoy the show you said you’d put on.”

As much as Silver was loathing it, he couldn’t help but smile. “You’re evil.”

“The worst!” She proudly beamed, “So how about it then? Wanna make a catwalk or should we pop over to my dream and I’ll try and make one?”

“I uhh…” Silver started to stammer out. Nervously glancing around, his silent prayers were answered as the dream shifted into a comfortable grassy clearing inhabited by a large ethereal stag.

Without any hesitation, the two night ponies broke into their oaths, the strange recitations having become second nature to them at this point.

“Saved by the bell,” Scarlet teased as the Warden of Peace turned around to greet them.

“Hello, I’m sorry for intruding on your dream unannounced, but I believe there was something that my Sister wanted you to show me?”

Silver looked up at the warden and slowly nodded, “Yes actually. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t forgotten, so I’m glad you stopped by.”

“Mhmm,” he nodded and turned towards Scarlet, “Now as for you miss Moon, If you don’t mind I’d like to chat with your stallionfriend alone for a little while.”

The mare looked back at Silver for a moment before nodding. As she vanished, Silver couldn’t help but feel a brief sense of longing before his curiosity took hold.

“We’ve been observing you for a while now,” Psychic Calm started, “and Yinyu’s been sharing some of your discoveries.”

“Oh? She’s been saying good things I hope?”

“Yinyu has her own… particular way of saying things. But she hasn’t shared anything bad. To get right to the point, I’m intrigued by what I’ve seen and heard.”

“Then that was you earlier, wasn’t it? In the dream I mean.”

He nodded, “For a brief moment, but I didn’t stay long.”

Silver slowly nodded, “So, what I did really isn’t normal?”

“Indeed, but not in a bad way. Of all the sleeping minds we keep watch over, a few have stood out as ponies that can use their magic in exceptional ways.”

“Like Josie?” Silver blurted out. “She was the first night pony right?”

Silence filled the air for a few moments as Psychic’s gaze trailed off for a moment. The warden’s disposition didn’t outright change, but the dream around him shifted in a few small, but noticeable ways. The clouds in the air grew darker, and small rumbles of thunder could be heard in the distance. Silver wasn’t anywhere close to being a psychologist, but the change in tone gave him the distinct impression that Josie wasn’t a popular topic amongst the wardens.

“Yes.” He replied, “She’s one of those ponies that’s landed on our radar.”

“Is that good or bad?” the stallion asked with a hint of hesitation.

“That doesn’t concern you,” he deflected, “But I believe you do have something to show me?”

“Right, the dream within a dream.”

Silver wasn’t happy with the deflection, but knew better than to try and press a dreamwarden for more information. The most that would get him is either a flat out no or depending on the warden, some severe over the top punishment. In that moment he thanked whatever higher power was looking down at him and making it so he almost never had to deal with Sha’am, the Warden of Death.

Returning to Psychic’s request, Silver took a seat in the grassy meadow and closed his eyes. The gentle sounds of nature seemed to grow even louder as he focused hard on his magic, clearing his mind to the point where he hit that creeping plateau of magic before dropping into his second dream entirely. The main thing he noticed above all else was that the sensation of doing this while asleep was a lot less jarring than when he projected into the dream realm while awake. Those same sensations were all the more vivid and real while asleep too, and almost gave Silver this comforting sense of homeliness compared to when he visited while awake. In stark contrast to his earlier disappointment at his dream having faded, he was overjoyed to see that this one had stayed almost exactly as he had left it.

“Interesting,” came the voice from beside him, “this is very interesting.”

“That’s what Yinyu said,” Silver replied as he stood up. “So what exactly is this place?”

“Your subconscious mind.” The warden answered.

“Wanna run that by me again?” Silver raised an eyebrow, “Because I’m not clued into all the psychological stuff that you are.”

“This is your subconscious, a part of your mind that’s not quite awake or asleep. It’s essentially a dream within a dream, one that you’ve somehow managed to enter.”

“Right… so this is like, a deeper part of my psyche?”

“More or less,” he looked around at the cabin and then directly at Silver, “How did you figure this out?”

“You mean to tell me you don’t know?” Silver asked astonishedly.

“I have an idea, especially after watching you do it in person, but I don’t know the actual process.”

“Well, it’s kind of like what I did to get in here in the first place. While awake I mean.”

“Mhmm, so you tried projecting into the dream realm while inside of a dream?”

“I guess? Basically, I’ll sit down and meditate to get here while I’m awake. Just for kicks I tried to do that in here to see what would happen…”

“And you somehow tapped into the subconscious part of your mind rather than the dream realm itself,” he finished for Silver.

“Right… so the next question is: what does this even mean? Like is it good, is it bad?.. this dream stayed the same as I left it, while my other one cleared out like normal.”

“What it means is that this dream doesn’t fade as quickly as the rest, because it isn’t being interrupted. However, that doesn’t mean that things won’t change.”

“What do you mean by that?”

He gestured towards the portrait of Scarlet that Silver had summoned, “This is not the same portrait that my sister described, for instance.”

Silver took a closer look at the portrait, immediately noticing that both the size and pose had changed significantly from what he had conjured up.

“So things will stick around, but they might change? Yinyu mentioned that my emotions were a lot stronger here, does that have anything to do with it.”

“More than likely,” Psychic answered. “Things you create and summon might stay in place, but your subconscious mind could change and affect them depending on what they are. You care a lot about your marefriend right?”

“Of course, I love her to death,” Silver responded without any hesitation.

“Then that would explain why the portrait changed but the location didn’t.”

So, that’s why Yinyu wanted me to make this place?”

“Correct. It was to test a theory, a theory that you just proved.”

“That this is a persistent dream?”

“You’re on the right track now.”

Silver couldn’t help but grin as his head filled with a thousand different thoughts about what this might mean.

“You sure seem happy about this.”

Silver looked back up at the warden and nodded his head excitedly, “Of course I am! Do you know what this means?”

“I might have an idea. But humor me, what does it mean?”

“It means I can have a place to store all of my ideas that probably won’t ever go away. You don’t know how good that is, do you?”

Psychic grinned, “I can think of a few reasons why that might be good. So what do you have in mind with it then?”

Not even knowing where to begin, Silver grabbed onto whatever stray thought he could think of first. “Well for starters, I’ve always wanted to find a way to use my magic to help others. This gives me a better way to do that.”

“Oh? What do you think you can do with this then?”

“A lot of things. I’ve really wanted to help others, and this could be a big classroom where you could learn anything anytime. There’s no language barriers, and no real limitations on what can exist as long as you have enough creativity to make it.”

“And what about those who can’t visit it?”

“You mean people out in the real world?”

“Yes. What about the people in the waking world that can’t visit your dream?”

“Well to tell you the truth, ever since ETS happened I wanted to try and make the most of my situation. I’d love to help make the world a better place out there, but I’m just one small pony. There’s honestly not a whole lot that they can do with this,” Silver admitted, “but maybe there’s things I can still do to help?”

“Like what?” The warden pressed on.

“Well, one pony can’t change the world, but a bunch working together might be able to spark those flames of progress, right? I have friends out there who want to do the same kind of thing. Are always inventing all of these crazy inventions and keep wanting to do all of these crazy experiments someday. I don’t think that any pony will ever really give them the time of day, maybe I can use my dream to help visualize things. Test out what looks good, what doesn’t, and then somehow relay that back to them or have somepony else do that.

“Are these friends ponies?” he asked.

“Yeah, but they’re not dream walkers. Well, at least one two of them isn’t. They’re a trio of ponies trying to make the world a better place, and I’d love to try and do my part in here.”

“That’s a huge ambition though, don’t you think?” The warden asked again.

Silver slowly trotted around the cozy cabin, letting his words run through his head again. Turning back to face the dreamwarden, he nodded, “It is. An impossible one if you’re more of a pessimist, but that’s what I want to try and do. That vision showed us what we could do if we all worked together, and even though I didn’t agree with all of it, I still think it had some good merits.”

“Like using your newfound magic to help others?”


Psychic considered this for a moment before meeting Silver with a warm smile that seemed to hide more behind the surface.

“You really want to help people, don’t you?”

“In any way that I can, even if it’s just spreading joy and fun in here.”

“Would you mind if I shared some of this with the others?”

Silver raised an eyebrow at the warden’s question. While innocent enough, it implied that there was something more than just a surface level fascination with what he had discovered. A few scenarios ran through his head, but seeing no real bad sides to it, he simply shook his head.

“Go ahead. Just as long as I’m not in trouble or anything.”

For the first time in his entire life of dream walking (as short as that had been so far), he heard one of the wardens let out a genuine laugh that almost broke through the imposing facade that they all wore.

“You’re not in trouble at all. That said, I’d like to keep an eye on you, maybe even stop by from time to time.”

“To make sure I don’t get into trouble?”

“More like to take progress reports.”

“Are there lessons attached to these reports?”

“Some tutoring can be arranged if you’re seriously interested in that kind of thing.”

Silver could feel his excitement bubbling up to the surface again, and with that he excitedly nodded his head, “Sign me right up!”

The warden smiled again and gave a short head nod before vanishing, “I look forward to seeing you again in the future, Silver Eclipse. Take care.

The warden vanished out of the dream, leaving Silver alone once again. That solitude was short lived however, as the cheerful voice of the mare he loved called out from behind him.

“About time you two finished up, I was getting bored stuck in my own dream.” Scarlet trotted up and glanced around at the facsimile of her cabin that Silver had painstakingly put together, “You know, when I suggested you craft your own catwalk for your little show, I didn’t expect you to recreate our house.”

Silver let out a laugh and shook his head, “Oh I have so much to tell you Scarlet.”

“You can tell me after you uphold your end of the bargain,” she teased with a sly smile.

Chapter 36: An Extra Set of Helping Hooves Really Makes a Difference

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Four days had gone by since Silver had gotten in contact with Tweyelight, and much to his joy, the Stallion had made the journey to California and was all set to meet him at the Salvage yard. Scarlet was skeptical of the whole arrangement at first, but after meeting him in a dream, she had warmed up to the thought, especially when it became clear that he was serious about taking up the weekend shifts.

“Feeling comfy?” Scarlet asked with a teasing tone as she batted her eyelashes at Silver, who returned a nervous glance.

“Yep,” he replied, not even letting his voice give her the hint of the response she wanted.

Art by:

Little challenges here and there had become their new routine, and as silly as it was to say, he enjoyed the new break in their norm. Night pony aggression translated well into challenges it seems, and Scarlet was already a natural at coming up with new ideas. He didn’t know if it was his own pride, or his love for her, or maybe just something else entirely, but he wasn’t going to back out of one of hers, even if it meant looking dumb for a night.

“Good,” she smirked, pulling him out of his entirely internal tangent, “I half expected you to back out of this.”

“You call wearing socks a challenge?” He laughed, “If I knew you’d just go down that route then I would have put waaaaay less effort into mine.”

“Oh, I’m just going easy on you right now. The real fun comes later.”

“Lucky me then I guess,” he said rolling his eyes.

“That’s the spirit,” she laughed, “you’re handling well enough that maybe this’ll have to be a regular part of your ensemble.”

“You think? Well I’ll have you know that it’s my turn to drop a challenge next.”

“And my turn’s right after that. So maybe we’ll see what I can cook up by then, eh?”

“You really wanna go down the one up route?”

“Maybe I will, maybe I won’t. Wanna try calling my bluff again?”

“No, I don’t think I do right now,” he grinned. “Just know that I’m totally gonna get you back for whatever you try next.”

“Yeah? What’re you gonna do then?”

“Oh you’ll see, and I’m not gonna tell you when it’s coming either,” he retorted.

“Well you better jump on it soon, the longer you wait, the more embarrassing things I’ll think up for my next challenge.”

As much as Silver wanted to say that he hated this or had some actual plan to embarrass her more, he simply couldn’t. Sure, maybe this particular challenge was uncomfortable and even a little embarrassing, but he could easily put up with it for a single day.

“Guess time will tell.” Was all he could give in reply. “If I wasn’t training the new guy at work you bet I’d be cooking up plenty of ideas tonight.”

“Pity, guess I’ll have plenty of time to figure out my next one.”

“Har har, last I checked you weren’t thrilled to go into work.”

“Thinking of new ways to challenge you keeps my mind off of the dull frustrating things.” She shrugged, “Guess I really owe you a thanks for that.”

Silver broke his confident grin and pulled her in for a tight hug, “I’m glad that you’re keeping your mind off of things there. You don’t deserve to be frustrated and stressed so much.”

“Thanks Silvie,” she held him tight. “I know we’re doing the playful kidding around stuff right now, but I seriously love you and hope you have a good night at work.”

“I love you too Scarlet.” He paused, “It’s your day to pick the dream right?”

“Mhmm,” she replied with a curious look.

“Mind if we just spend some time cuddling up in a nice cozy dream? You could even practice some crafting if you wanted to.”

“I think that sounds wonderful,” she smiled, “it’s been way too long since we’ve just sat down and done nothing in a dream.”

“A week is too long?”

“In the dream realm it is,” she mused.

“In that case, let’s do it more often then.”

“Let’s. Now you have fun at work, and I’ll have fun thinking up plenty of other things to embarrass you with. Sound like a fair deal?”

“Not really, but that just means I’ll have to work harder at getting you back,” he smiled, “You have a nice night too, love.”

Giving a final wave goodbye, Silver trotted off towards the gate and smiled as he took sight of the scruffy looking cream coloured night pony with an orange mane who was waiting there for him.

“Tweyelight? Glad to see you made it!”

The stallion smiled and held out a hoof, “Pleasure’s all mine. Hope you don’t mind that I poked around the office a bit already, I needed a place to leave my bag.”

“It’s no sweat at all. You’re seriously doing me a huge favor with this.” He paused, “So you already got caught up with Duncan then?”

“Yessir, he told me you’d get me up to speed on everything else.”

“For sure,” he waved him forward with a wing, “So how was the trip out here anyhow?”

“Would you believe me if I told you train hopping is as fun as the stories say?” Seeing Silver’s dubious look, he chuckled, “Alright, maybe it wasn’t the best plan, but eh…. It worked. Mostly freights although I hitched a roof on a passenger train for a bit. Best part about having wings was no layovers and easy transfers.”

“So I’m going to take it that the trip went well then?”

“Better than you could imagine.”

“Alrighty, well I guess this is a good place to start then,” he plopped his saddlebag down on the desk, “My first stop of the night is basically here in the office. Duncan is sometimes here when I show up, but usually not for long.”

“Mhmm, I figured. He dashed out of here like he had somewhere else to be.”

“Right, that’s the usual for him. I don’t know how much you’ve chatted with him, but he’s honestly pretty relaxed about stuff around here, just as long as we do our job and keep everything in order.”

“So what is our job exactly? We just guard the place? Keep the critters out?”

Silver pointed towards the desk in the corner and a whiteboard on the wall, “Pretty much. Duncan writes out some of the stuff he wants us to pay attention to, so I check those first. Cameras for the yard and the whiteboard for any information or things I need to keep an eye out for.”

“So what’s our plan for tonight then?” Tweyelight asked, staring at the mostly empty whiteboard.

“Training,” Silver replied. “Duncan usually doesn’t leave a whole lot up there, but if you look over in the corner you’ll see that he circled a part of the map, that’s what we’ll look at first.”

“Got some trouble brewing in the yard?”

“A little,” Silver nodded, “probably just a weak spot on the fence that we’ll have to patch up tonight. A couple of coyotes have been poking around over there lately, but there’s sometimes a scrapper or two that’ll stop by and try to make off with stuff, or a vandal… you know, people that shouldn’t be here.”

“Right. You run into that often here?”

Silver pushed open the door and trotted out onto the catwalk, “Enough that I know what to look out for,” he pointed over towards the section he had previously stopped at a few nights before and continued, “I’ve got little alarms set up around here, and what I’ll show you how to figure out what’s going on from the way they sound.”

Tweyelight followed behind as Silver trotted along, their hooves making an annoying cacophony of sound that fully announced their presence to whoever might be within earshot. Normally Silver would try and keep quiet and out of sight, but tonight he didn’t care as much. Training his new coworker was more important than playing the part of the junkyard dog.

“Duncan said something about nightly patrols,” the stallion started, “is this a part of those?”

Silver nodded, “Yep. Normally I’m not this loud, but I’ll show you how I try and keep quiet. Right now I just want to show you the ropes and get you up to speed, then we’ll run a little exercise.”

The stallion glanced over towards a few threads leading to the glass bottles and cans that Silver had rigged up, “These the ropes?” He joked.

Silver let out a laugh, “I guess you could say so. They’re basically my alarm system,” he jostled the loose part of the fence, a quiet clattering quickly echoing out.

“Smart,” Tweyelight observed, “So let me guess, you can differentiate between whether it’s the wind, some hooligans, or just whatever else?”

“Yep!” Silver smirked, “It’s not a perfect system but it at least gives you an idea of if something’s happening. I’ve got a few of these strung up around the yard, and I’ll show you some more later.”

“But right now we’re investigating whatever it was that Duncan was trying to point out?”

“You got it. So it just seems like the quick fix we made the other day came loose, so let’s just get that out of the way first.”

Silver trotted over to the fence and pushed up the piece of sheet metal that he and Duncan had used to cover a hole that had been cut in the fence. Beckoning the other stallion over with a wing, Silver gestured towards a box of tools that were stowed away in one of his little hidey holes.

“You’re pretty crafty, eh?” Tweyelight asked as he inspected the box.

“Yeah,” Silver replied, “I got tired of dragging the box over here every night and having to spend an hour fumbling around with stuff, so I just hid where nopony would probably look.”

“Makes enough sense. So what’s the plan then?”

“There should be a box of zip ties in there and a little tool I put together to help tie them. Just slip that over your hoof and fish out a tie, we’re just making a quick fix to this for now until Duncan can get a proper patch made up.”

The night pony did as instructed, fiddling around with the rudimentary tool until he had managed to lay one of the ties into the little clamp strapped to his foreleg.

“Now what?”

“See that little spring lock thingy? Just lay it down over the tie so it doesn’t fall out and then come over here.”

“Can do,” the stallion replied, trotting over towards Silver.

“Alright, just feed it around and try to get the tie back into the locking part, once you’ve got that down just hit the little release and pull the tie tight with your mouth, I’ll go grab the other corner.”

With a careful precision, and a few missteps along the way, the two had managed to patch up the broken portion of the fence, at least for now. In their focus, they failed to notice a trio of humans who were casing the place from only a short distance away, having taken advantage of the noise to move closer and inspect the two ponies. However, before either could notice, they had ducked away into the shadows and vanished into the night, leaving no trace of their presence.

“So how about we get to the fun stuff,” Silver spoke up with a grin, “I showed you the boring repair work, but now I can show you how I scare away any would be hooligans.”

“You’ve got my attention. Go on.”

“Right,” Silver spread his wings and leaped into the air, “The name of the game is learning how to hear when somepony is sneaking over to an area where they shouldn’t be. In our case, that’s everywhere.”

“And the key to that is listening for those bottles you rigged up,” he finished for Silver.


“Alright, you head back to the office then, and I’ll try to sneak in.” He looked over towards the office’s door, and more specifically the old bell that was mounted to the wall next to it. “If I get in and ring that bell then I win, if you stop me then you win.”

“And what stops you from flying over and giving it a kick?”

“Hmm, good point,” Silver replied. Glancing around the yard, an idea struck him as his eyes landed on a set of cargo straps that had been left out, “Tell you what, I’ll bind my wings so there’s no cheating. Sound fair?”

“It’s as fair as fair can get all things considered.”

“Great, why don’t you give me a hoof and we can get this show on the road.”

Normally this kind of thing would be difficult, especially considering that they were tying up the two limbs that Silver usually used for this, but having another pony to help made the process quick and painless. In no time at all Silver was all ready to go, and had trotted through the yard’s gate and into the dimly lit street.

Tweyelight, taking to the skies for a moment, gave him a wave and Silver returned a nod. The game was on, and now it was up to him to figure out the best way to sneak in and avoid suspicion.

Not wanting to waste any time, Silver began to slowly trot along the perimeter of the fence as the ideas started to form in his head. The key to success here would be keeping to the shadows as much as he could and trying his best to keep quiet. A lot of this was easier said than done given that both him and his pursuer could see and hear each other better than any human could, but that just made this game even more fun. The thought of having him wear sunglasses and something to muffle his hearing briefly came up, but that would have been overkill for something as simple as this.

This wasn’t meant to be a perfect simulation, and in all honesty, it was meant more as a time killer that also doubled as a creative way to train the new guy than anything else. After all, if he had to train another pony to do their job, he was going to at least have fun with it.

As he snuck along his way, he briefly paused and considered pushing open the patchwork fence, but knew that Tweyelight would almost immediately catch him there. No, he needed to give the night pony a challenge, even if it meant that he’d have to get creative.

Silver wasn’t out of shape, but he also wasn’t as nimble as a human was when it came to climbing up a fence— at least not without his wings. Climbing was obviously out, but Silver knew this yard like the back of his hoof, and he knew that there was a small narrow section that was bent out of shape in the far corner of the yard. He had never been as concerned with patching it up before given that only a pony would be able to slip through without difficulty, and he was going to use that to his advantage.

The stallion’s ears twitched a few times as the telltale clip clop of hooves on metal echoed out from afar, signaling that Tweyelight was just perfectly out of sight should Silver try and sneak on by. And that’s exactly what he did.

He stole a few glances over to make sure that he was still in the clear, and briskly passed across the narrow pathway he was able to navigate. He paused and took a deep breath before trotting over to the corner of the yard. The path around this section was a little less narrow, and here he only had to worry about an adjacent building making any would-be escape an issue.

He couldn’t help but let out a laugh, the lack of an easy escape for a would-be thief was a very good problem to have, which is probably why this corner of the yard was never as problematic as the other.

The clip clopping on metal suddenly died off, being replaced with the faint sounds of leathery wings flapping in the air. That energizing feeling of anticipation built up inside of Silver as the sounds grew more distant.

It was now or never, and Silver began to carefully nudge the bent part of the fence. A small rattle threatened to betray his location, but he quickly found that if he worked slowly then the fence wouldn’t make as much noise. As he pushed his way through the hole, he couldn’t help but stifle a laugh at the luck he was having. Clearly Tweyelight hadn’t caught sight of him or heard him, which meant that Silver’s infiltration had so far gone off without a hitch.

As he slowly began to meander forward a sound stopped him in his tracks. Adjusting his ears, he only heard the same metallic clip clopping, but he could have sworn that he had heard the flapping of wings in the air.

Shrugging it off, he cautiously pressed forward only to be greeted with another quick whoosh.

He whipped around to glance behind him, only to see nothing at all.

Okay Silver. You’re overthinking this. Just need to get to the bell and I’m done, he thought to himself. Shaking his head, he turned around and jumped back in surprise as he was greeted by the grinning face of the new hire.

“I win,” Tweyelight proudly said.

“I… wow. How long were you trailing me?”

“Since you passed by the broken spot in the fence,” he shrugged.

Silver paused for a moment and let out an involuntary laugh, “Guess that’s on me for thinking I could beat an old detective at something like this. You’re totally a natural.”

“Best two out of three?” the night pony asked with a hint of pride in his voice.

A small smile formed on Silver’s face, and he nodded, “Sure, but how about you try to sneak in this time, really get a feel for the yard and all that.”

“I’d say that sounds like a great idea to me. Game’s on, Eclipse, can’t wait to see you at the finish line.”

Chapter 37: Occupational Hazards

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Clock in, patrol the yard, clock out. That’s the way Silver’s nights usually went. It was a mundane and boring job, but also one that was oddly relaxing. Working away his nights as a junkyard dog was the kind of curveball job that he never expected to take, but the solitude and serenity made the job a breeze, even if it was a little boring at times. All of this had changed with the hiring of Tweyelight, and Silver couldn’t have been any happier to have him onboard.

Clip clop clip clop

Metallic clattering rang out in a loud cacophony as the two night ponies trotted through their patrols. Tweyelight had proven he was more than up to the job and that led to the two simply dividing up their nightly patrols for the remainder of his training days. Tonight was no different, save for the fact that they had decided to split up rather than stay together. Each would take a side of the yard and give it the usual look over before meeting back up on the catwalk.

Silver couldn't help but feel a nagging sense of boredom, but it wasn’t the other night pony’s fault. At least not directly. As it turned out, Duncan really did only need one pony to watch over the yard at night, and dividing up the work together meant that there were even longer stretches of nothingness than there already were on a normal night. If there was a bright side to all of this though, tonight was the last night they’d be working together like this, and another pony offering help meant that Silver could have even more time to relax with Scarlet.

Originally Tweyelight was only going to cover weekend nights, but Duncan had decided to split the shifts up a little more evenly, giving Silver an extra day off every week though now he’d have to stay until five thirty. He had to admit, it was a small price to pay for having an extra day to spend doing whatever he wished. Sure, an extra day off wouldn’t make much of a difference in his life, but Silver liked to make the most out of any time he had however, and already his mind was filling with different thoughts about what he’d use that time for.

Practicing his dream meditation was one idea, doing some extra work around the cabin was another. Having a chance to work with the inventors more was a big possibility, and that was the one idea that he was really looking forward to for a myriad of reasons. On one hoof he could hopefully help make any last minute tweaks to Scarlet’s telescope, and on another he could also help more with their big projects. Not to say he couldn’t help already after work, but having extra time to do that just made him even more excited about it.

As their paths crossed, Silver cleared his throat, “I really have to say, I’m still so thankful that you actually showed up here.”

The former detective raised an eyebrow, “Surely you didn’t think I’d stand you up?”

“A little,” Silver admitted, “but I’m just glad you made it. I honestly didn’t really have any kind of plan for what I’d do if you didn’t make it.” Drawing himself up and doing his best to look serious, “And don’t call me Shirley, only one pony gets to do that.”

His new partner smirked, “Of course Doctor Rumack, I’ll keep that in mind.” Still smiling, “But, be honest with me, was I your only pick for the job, or were there others? It’s not an issue or anything, just curious.”

The memory of the worry and anxiety that had filled Silver at the time boiled back up to the surface of his mind, repainting the events again. He hadn’t realized it at the time, but Tweyelight had been his first and really only pick. In retrospect it probably wasn’t a great idea to just hedge all of his bets on a pony that lived halfway across the country actually following through with his very out of the ordinary offer.

Chuckling to himself, he nodded, “I’ll admit it, you were the first. I had a lot running through my head that night and you were the only night pony I knew that was actually asleep at the time. Plus you were the only one that really seemed serious.”

“What about the night ponies out here?”

“What night ponies?” he asked with a laugh. “Last I checked there were two left out here before you got here, and three up our way counting me, Scarlet, and one of our friends that moved from out here. Not exactly a huge pool to pick from given the fact that the others all seemed to have their own jobs, if they’re even bothering with one.”

The other night pony looked away for a moment, “Guess I’ve been keeping to myself a bit. Hadn’t really run into all that many here except for the other ponies in the house.”

“That doesn’t really surprise me at all. Like I said, there weren’t really very many here to begin with. If what our eccentric friend said was true, there’s basically one place they all hang out at regularly, and that’s about a good fifty or so minute drive across the valley.”

“Huh, no kidding. Guess you’ll have to take me there sometime.”

“That can definitely be arranged. Why don’t we finish up our patrol and I’ll see if I can remember what it was called.”

“Sounds like a plan to me.” He smiled, “Thanks for trusting me Eclipse. It’s a hard thing to come by nowadays, and it means more to me than you can imagine.”

“You’re welcome. If anything I’m the one that should thank you a whole lot more. I mean you seriously took such a huge weight off of my shoulders.”

“Guess we’ll call it even then, eh?”

“Guess we will,” Silver chuckled.

As the two split up again, Silver couldn’t help but laugh to himself. As dumb as it felt to admit, little moments like this really only emphasized how much he had changed since becoming a pony. Could he really blame people for thinking that every pony in the world was some brainwashed freak? Not entirely. Depending on how you saw it or who you asked, that’s exactly what had happened with the vision. But what about ponies that rejected it or never got to experience it? He flat out dispelled it at the time so it hadn’t affected him as much as it did the others around him, but yet he wasn’t at all the same person he was before.

Sure, the core of his personality was still there, but if you were to put him next to his old human self, the two would be almost completely different people, species aside.

Was this a bad thing? he wondered to himself.

No, no it wasn’t. He was still his same old self, just… evolved? This line of thinking was sometimes a scary one to follow, but at the same time it was exactly the kind of existential debate he found so interesting. What made him… him? Was it simply his core personality that was still the same? The dreams, hopes, fears, needs? Or was it the experiences that made him? Before ETS his life was going down an entirely different path, but that one critical moment in time sent him careening down a different one, and because of that he had had the chance to experience so many new and different things.

A smile started to spread across his face as he thought about where he was now, and what he had gained from all of his experiences after. Sure he had painful memories, like falling out with his family and friends, but without those events he never would have met the love of his life or the new circle of friends he had started to think of as a second family.

Fate was strange. He always knew this, but never really thought about it in detail until this moment. There were still so many wrongs he wanted to right, but maybe everything happened for a reason, and accepting that and moving on would be the best course to take. Nothing said he couldn’t try and reconnect down the line after all. And if the pieces of his old life were incompatible with his new one? Then so be it. For the first time in a while, Silver could say that he was genuinely happy with his situation. The feeling of losing the ties to his family had sat in the back of his mind for a while now, and always would to a degree, but knowing what their rejection had led to made the sting of it a little less painful to think about.

A quiet rustling in the distance which would normally never elicit even a passing thought from a human broke through Silver’s train of thought like a bull in a china shop. It wasn’t particularly loud, but it had the telltale signs of suspicious activity, and a glance across the catwalk confirmed that Tweyelight had caught this as well.

Silently waving him towards the office, the two ponies began to make their way towards a rendezvous. With a practiced precision, the clip clop of hooves didn’t dull or increase in speed. If the potential intruders could already hear them walking then there was no need to alert them to the fact that they had been caught so soon. No, right now it was better to give them the perception that they were still undetected and in the clear.

“Alright Tweye, I’m going on break. Keep an eye out here for now, okay?” Silver spoke aloud. Leaning close to the night pony, he lowered his voice to a whisper, “I’m going to go check out what’s going on over there. Wait until I give you the signal then cut the lights and hit the speakers.”

The cream colored night pony gave a short nod before returning to his patrol. Silver on the other hoof, walked into the office and propped the door open. Making a beeline to the desk and surveillance monitors, he paused for a short moment as he passed his ladybug friend’s enclosure.

“Tonight’s the night Carl, I think our little human friends are back to play.”

He hopped up onto the rolling chair and flipped over to the cameras set up on the far end of the yard. Sure enough, a trio of tall figures were fiddling around with the fence, though this time in a different spot than usual.

“Guess they finally grew enough brains to try a different spot. How inconsiderate,” Silver mused.

Being careful to keep as quiet as possible, Silver hopped off of the chair and trotted out of the office, flashing a knowing look at his coworker before hopping off of the catwalk. Gliding down to the ground, he quickly navigated towards their location, and in a perfectly timed moment the lights around the yard suddenly cut off. A low rumble started to carry through the air as the yard’s loudspeakers lit up with the sounds that Silver had thrown together during his down time a few nights before. A devious grin spread across his face as the sounds of rustling grew loud and more frenzied, and even a few curses could be heard as he hopped up into the air.

Flapping his wings with determination, he folded into a dive and glided down towards the trio, landing behind them with a loud stomp.

“You shouldn’t be here,” he spoke in a low growl, letting out a loud hiss as one of the humans jumped up in surprise.

Clearly this startled his other two cohorts a lot more than Silver had intended. Without a chance to even react a loud crack rang out as the taller of the three humans met Silver’s side with a hard kick. Letting out a raspy wheeze, Silver collapsed to the floor as wind was knocked out of him. Realizing what they had done, the three humans started to run off, but there was no way for Silver to stop them. Instead, he fought through the pain long enough to take in as many details as he could. Their worn out hoodies, their running shoes, two heads of dark brown hair and a third, (the tallest of the three,) had a head of blond hair. As far as he could see, there were no recognizable tattoos or identifying marks.

In a flash, Tweyelight dropped out of the sky and stomped his own hooves in the ground before the fleeing humans. Baring his fangs, he charged towards them, knocking the tallest of the three back towards Silver and into the fence. Seeing a quick moment to escape, the other two abandoned their friend and ran off into the night. Turning back towards Tweyelight, Silver couldn’t help but feel a rush of adrenaline as he saw the night pony standing over the human, pinning him to the ground and against the fence.

“You’ve just made things so much worse for yourself, I hope you know that!” he shouted out with a touch of venom in his voice.

The human tensed under his hooves but didn’t fight back, and from the look on his face he most likely wouldn’t any time soon.

Letting out a pained groan, Silver tried standing up but a sharp pain in his side sent him collapsing back down onto the ground.

“Don’t move, Eclipse. I called for help, they shouldn’t be long!”

“Yeah no, definitely not trying that now,” he groaned.

“How bad does it hurt?”

“Pretty bad,” Silver replied, “he definitely broke a rib.”

The sounds of sirens in the distance grew louder, distracting Silver from the intense pain he was feeling.

“Help’s on the way so just hang tight.”

A worried thought crossed his mind as he took a few deep breaths, “I need you to call Scarlet if you’re able to when they get here. If I have to go to the hospital then she needs to know.”

“Got a phone on you?”

“I do in my saddlebag. She’s probably going to flip, so just let her know that they’ll probably take me to JFK. She’ll know what that means and how to get there.”

“Gotcha, just hang tight Eclipse.”

The only response that Silver could muster was a weak nod followed by a pained groan as he tried to position himself better. For a moment he considered slipping into the dream realm to try and help clear his head, but the sharp pain he was feeling made his normal meditation all but impossible. If there was one thing he could be thankful for right now, it’s that he had another pony here to help him, otherwise who knows what would have happened. He looked up at his coworker as the sirens grew louder and the lights started shining from the front of the compound.

“Tweyelight?” he slowly asked aloud.


“Thanks for taking up the job.”

He rested his head on the ground and did his best to let the pain fade into the background as the shouts and voices around him grew louder.

Chapter 38: A Certainly Uncertain Future

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Pinpricks, needles, confused stares, and a bumpy ride were the only things that Silver could remember of his ride to the hospital. Admittedly it was probably a short ride, but the pain in his side was seemingly enough to dull the new memories into a blur of events that he could barely pay attention to. Instead his thoughts had drifted to Scarlet and the feeling of worry that came with knowing how much this kind of news would eat away at her. No doubt her bosses wouldn’t approve of her leaving work early, and in fact it wouldn’t surprise him in the slightest if she’d wind up getting hit with some kind of ridiculous disciplinary action against her, but none of that mattered right now. Night ponies were fiercely protective, and Scarlet wasn’t going to be any different.

Sitting up in bed, Silver let out a loud wince as he felt a stabbing pain in his side. Short pained breaths followed as he slowly tried to get his bearings, finding the sensation overwhelming at first. This was definitely not how he had imagined the night to go, and now more than ever he just wanted to curl up with Scarlet and go to sleep. This wasn’t a problem that would just magically fix itself and he knew that. Much to his own relief however, the door to his room opened and a tall human doctor with a noticeable violet streak in his hair walked in.

“I see you’re awake now, my name’s Doctor Chambers and I’ve been keeping an eye on you for the last few hours.”

“Last few hours?” Silver replied, rubbing a hoof against his temple and letting out a loud groan, “So… I guess a good question is what’s the damage, how long am I gonna be here, and why does it feel like I just got hit by a freight train?”

“Well, I can get to that in a moment. But first what’s your name?”

“Eclipse. Silver Eclipse,” Silver replied.

“Right, but what is that your legal name?”

Silver shook his head, “Doesn’t exactly sound like a human name does it? But it’s my name now and it’s the name I’d like to be called if that alright with you.”

The doctor held up his hands in mock surrender, “Hey it’s perfectly fine by me, but I still need your former name for medical record purposes.”

Silver nodded, “Joshua Richards. I should have an old ID somewhere in my bag.”

“They didn’t bring you in with any bags.”

“Uh huh,” Silver let out a sigh. “It’s back at work then, I’ll have my coworker or marefriend bring it over later if that’s alright with you.”

“The sooner you could do that, the better.”

“Consider it done then. So uhh... you mind filling me in on what happened? The ride over was kind of a blur for me.”

“Yes,” the doctor started, straightening his glasses, “From what I understand, you were attacked at your work and you hit one of the EMTs in the side when they went to pick you up. You kept trying to move your wings. In the interest of safety for both parties, they had to sedate you. Now don’t worry, it’s not your fault or anything. Believe me when I say that you’re not in trouble, and you’re not the first pony we’ve had to do that to.”

Silver’s eyes widened as some of those memories started to come back to him, “Is he okay?”

“A little shaken but he’ll be fine. It was more for your safety than anything else, we didn’t need you moving around and making your injuries any worse.”

Silver softened a bit and nodded, “Good. Glad to hear. So what’s the damage then?”

The doctor slowly nodded, “Would you prefer the good or the bad news first?”

“Who doesn’t want to hear the bad first? Might as well just get it out of the way,” he sarcastically replied.

“Right. Well bad news is that you’ve got a broken rib and possibly another fractured, and not a single member of staff knows how to treat that for a pony. Good news though? We don’t think it’s severe. We do want to run some more tests if that’s alright with you though.”

“So that means you get a crash course in pony care then eh?”

“Not exactly— at least not now. We do have a specialist coming in though, which is lucky for everyone. Apparently she’s the first Earth graduate from an Equestrian medical school.”

“I see, I see,” Silver replied in his best I totally understand what’s going on voice.

“Now as for the tests we’d like to conduct. We’ll probably wind up doing another series of X-rays once our specialist gets here, just so we can have a clearer idea on whether we’ve missed anything or not.”

“Didn’t you just say you’ve dealt with ponies before?”

“Our specialist on call has, but none of the staff’s been able to get training for that yet.”

“I guess that’s as reassuring as it’ll get. So is there anything I need to do right now then?”

“Just hang tight and relax,” he paused, looking down at his clipboard again, “Now how would you rate your pain level on a scale of one to ten, with ten being the worst?”

Silver adjusted himself in the bed and let out a small wince as a spike of pain shot through him. It was excruciating, but it also wasn’t comfortable either.

“Eight maybe?” He groaned, squinting his eyes shut as he tried to focus on anything else than the sharp aches and pains.

“Maybe?” The doctor looked up from his clipboard.

Silver rolled his eyes, “Look, This is like my first time in the hospital, I don’t get injured very often. All I know is that breathing in hurts and it feels like somepony’s twisting a knife around in my side. I know it’s not a ten but I’m also not very comfortable at all.”

“Right, eight it is then. Is there anything we can do to make your stay a little more comfortable?”

“A glass of water, some hard core pain killers, maybe a sandwich or three, and if you could send my marefriend in then I’d really appreciate that. I’m sure she’s worried sick right now.”

“Miss Moon is actually out in the hallway right now.”

Silver’s eyes lit up in happiness as his pain briefly faded away, “Bring her in then,” he blurted out, quickly feeling a rush of embarrassment, “I mean, if it isn’t really any trouble.”

“It’s no trouble at all. Just hang tight for a minute.”

The doctor took a step out but no longer than a few seconds later he was replaced by Scarlet, who dashed over to Silver’s bed before he even had a chance to greet her.

“Who did this to you?! Did they get away?! Because if they didn’t get away then I’m gonna make them wish they got away!”

“Scar take a breath for a second. Tweyelight pinned him against a wall and I’m guessing the cops arrested him.”

“Then it looks like I’m about to spend a night in jail then because I’m going to rip him apart!”

With great effort and another wince of pain, Silver wrapped his hooves around Scarlet and held her close as tightly as he could muster. Admittedly in his current state that wasn’t remotely right at all, but Scarlet didn’t seem to care, and in moments she relented and leaned into the hug.

“I’m gonna be okay Scarlet,” Silver reassured her between pained breaths.

“Are you though? You’re in the hospital with a broken rib, maybe even some fractures, and you’re wheezing. You don’t sound good, and no offense, but you don’t look good either.”

“Maybe, but I’ll pull through, trust me,” he interrupted. “The doc said that as far as he can tell everything’s okay. They even have another doctor coming down who knows how to handle pony injuries.”

Scarlet began to mutter under her breath, but a glare from Silver quickly dispelled those actions. Instead the mare began to look around the room, and finally let out a deep breath.

“Okay. But I’m still going to make that human wish he never laid a finger on you.”

Silver couldn’t help but laugh at her response.

“What’s funny?” She asked with a growl.

“Nothing. You’re just cute when you get all riled up like this.”

She shot an annoyed glare of her own at him, “You really wanna play this game right now?”

“When you’re being cuter than usual? Of course,” he snickered.

“Just remember that it’s my turn to pick the dream tonight.”

“Oh no, you’re gonna make me wear more outfits in your dream? I think that’s a small price to pay for this.”

“Nope,” a devious smirk spread across her face, “I’m going to invite Yinyu over and then make you do that.”

Silver might have gotten all flustered before, but seeing an opportunity to surprise the mare, he instead broke into a fit of laughter, “I guess more’s the merrier then, eh?”

Scarlet flashed him a confused look, but before she had a moment to come up with some response, the door opened and the doctor from before stepped in again.

“Alright Mister Eclipse, the specialist will be here sooner than later, but it’ll still probably be a bit of a wait. So feel free to just relax for now, and let us know if you need anything.”

Silver gave the human a nod and turned towards Scarlet, “Need anything Scar?”

“You to get better,” she replied, “but some water would be nice.”

The doctor nodded, “I’ll have a nurse bring you some.”

“Thanks,” Scarlet replied with a smile.

As the doctor stepped out of the room, Silver let out an involuntary yawn. He hadn’t realized how drowsy and tense he had been before, and having Scarlet by his side had really calmed him down and eased his worries. Still feeling a little drowsy from the night’s events, and no doubt the sedatives and pain medication they had pumped him full of, Silver began to let his eyes close. This was way earlier than he was used to going to sleep at, but he didn’t care. He needed the rest, and with Scarlet curled up at his side he was as comfortable as he could possibly be. With a content smile spreading across his face, he shut his eyes and drifted off to dreamland.

Silver looked around at the boring mishmash of memories that formed today’s dream. Visions of family vacations long past, friends running through the park, fun adventures through an abandoned old building, and so many others danced all around him. Dreams were weird, and no matter how many times he had gone through them the mind’s knack for crafting something weird yet beautiful never ceased to amaze him.

Normally this would be the part where he leaped out of his own dream to go off on some fun adventure with Scarlet, or the point where he’d dispel the dream and instead start crafting something. Today was neither of those, and instead Silver closed his eyes and slipped into his subconscious dream.

Sitting up in the familiar cabin, he felt a warm calmness rush over him. He was home, in more ways than one here. A dash of joy ran through him as everything appeared to be in the same state he had left it, and already his mind was racing with so many thoughts about what he would add to this place. Maybe he’d try expanding it next— build out some of the surrounding forest? Or maybe he’d do something entirely different. This world was a blank slate after all, he could mold it and shape it to whatever his heart desired. The feeling of a familiar presence interrupted his thoughts however.

“How are you feeling?” asked the familiar voice of Psychic Calm, the Warden of Peace.

Glancing toward him, Silver quickly began to recite his oaths, but was quickly cut off.

“You don’t need to worry about those right now. I’m here as a mentor, not a warden today.”

“Right…” Silver nodded, noting that he had appeared in a pony form rather than as the stag that he usually appeared as. “So this is very out of the ordinary then, huh.”

“It’s not common,” he admitted. “To be honest, the reason why I came is because I could sense your distress. While it’s true that we haven’t known each other formally until recently, I felt like it was my responsibility to check up on you and make sure you were okay.”

“Makes sense I suppose. You’re a psychologist as well as a night pony and both parts of you have a need to protect and help others in need.”

“More or less,” he nodded.

Silver sat for a moment before looking over to him, summoning a comfortable chair in the subconscious dream space he was crafting in, “Take a seat and relax then. I honestly appreciate you showing up, and I wish it wasn’t under some stressful circumstance of me being knocked out in a hospital bed.”

“You’re stressed out and laying in a hospital bed,” he observed, “care to have a chat about it?”

“Not particularly,” Silver replied, “it’s just me being stressed about dumb stuff.”

“Stressing about your job and finances isn’t dumb.”

“How did you…” Silver raised an eyebrow. “Wait, no I’m dumb. You can still read minds, can’t you?”

“It’s true that I’m not here in the capacity of a dream warden, but that doesn’t change who I am.”

“Can’t turn that part of your brain off, eh?”

He shook his head, “Not at all. I hear every thought that everypony thinks all at once all the time, but you do learn to tune some of it out.”

“Okay, but still, you’re not here as a warden, it’s not your job to babysit me and make sure I’m feeling okay.”

“But I am mentoring you, aren’t I? Talking about people’s problems is literally my job, and you seem like you have a lot on your mind right now.”

Silver hesitated, “You… you don’t get to do this often, do you?”

“Talk like a normal pony with another in the dream realm? No, not nearly as much as I’d like.” He slowly walked around Silver and towards the offered chair, “Would you like to know a secret?”

“A secret? Uhh, sure?”

“We seem big and scary when we’re enforcing the rules of the dream realm because we have to. But that doesn’t change the fact that at the end of the day we’re ponies too. It’s a side of ourselves that we choose not to show often in here and for good reason too mind you.”

“It’s tough love, I get it,” Silver responded. “It’s keeping us in line in the ways that our instincts respond to the most.”

“Indeed. But is it right? Is it going too far? So many see us as monsters that sometimes it makes you wonder whether it’s the right thing to do or not.”

“I think I can see this from both points of view.”

“Can you though?”

“Of course I can, I mean this is a wild new frontier. It can be used for good things but it can also be abused. I mean you guys’ trials have already shown that clear as day.”

“And the other perspective?”

“People seeing you as monsters? I can see that too. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t see some of you like that, but that’s the key word there. Some of you.”

“Oh? And what do you mean by that?”

“What I mean is that there’s the wardens who do their job and understand that there’s lines that shouldn’t be crossed… and then there’s Sha’am…” a brief surge of fear coursed through him, “I’m sorry if that’s speaking out of turn.”

“You have no need to be sorry. This is your dream and as I said before, I am not here as a warden. Even if I were, not liking and disagreeing with the actions of my fellow Dreamwarden is not a violation of the rules, provided you aren't rude. Even Sha'am knows that very few ponies like her or her actions.”

“Right. Old habits die hard I guess. But I guess I mean it. What I said about Sha’am that is.”

“Do you think it’s poisoned how the world sees us?”

“Sha’am’s punishments?” He started to speak but paused, nodding his head, “I think it has for right now, one bad apple spoils the bunch, but that doesn’t mean it will forever.”

“Believe me, I do. Better than anypony else might.”

“So, I don’t want to just ruin this heart to heart, but why are you sharing this with me? Doesn’t this.. you know, kinda go against the whole strike fear and discipline into our hearts motif?”

“To ease your fears and worries, because I’m not here as an enforcer but as a friend, and because I know you won’t share private information shared in a dream.”

Silver slowly nodded, “Thanks for trusting me then. Guess it really is easy to forget that you’re all just ponies too.”

“Many people do.” He spoke in a cool voice but Silver couldn’t help but pick up on a lingering sense of regret, “and they can’t be blamed. So many see monsters and tyrants taking fantastical forms, yet so few actually see the reflections of our waking selves.”

“I’ll take it as an honor then,” he paused and looked away for a moment. “You’re right by the way.”


“About me. I’m absolutely stressing about job and finance stuff, and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t getting to me. I’m also stressing about how Scarlet’s taking all of this too, and it’s just… I don’t know. It’s just a lot to deal with.”

“You’re worried that you won’t be able to afford the care and hospital stay, and you’re worried that it’s going to eat at Scarlet too.”

“Oh, I’m beyond worried about that,” Silver let out a half hearted laugh. “Paying for Scarlet’s sprained leg ate up the rest of my nest egg and I know for a fact that the pennies I make at work aren’t going to cover this.”

“And you’re not an on the record employee so there’s no benefits or healthcare pay,” Psychic nodded in understanding.

“Nope. So yes, I’m worried, I’m scared, and I don’t know how we’re going to handle this. The most we own is a cabin in the middle of the mountains and I can’t imagine having to tell her that now that’s been taken away by some debt collector. Not to mention the fact that there’s probably a good chance I’ll lose my job considering I’m now a liability and I’ve basically trained a replacement that’s way more qualified.”

Psychic nodded and looked up, “What if you didn’t need to worry about that?”

“What do you mean?” Silver raised an eyebrow.

“What if I was able to help cover your medical expenses? Would that help take away some of the stress?”

“That would take a way a ton of it… but I couldn’t ever ask any pony for that.”

“You’re not asking, I’m offering of my own volition.”

“I haven’t even gotten the bill yet, and they’re bringing in some doctor that was trained in Equestria so I just know it’s going to be ridiculously expensive,” he exclaimed. “No offense, but we’re not exactly close friends or anything. In fact, I feel like this is the first time I’ve actually met the real you, and even then we’ve only been interacting for what? A week at most?”

“And?” He countered, “You want to help ponies correct? What if I’m also a pony that wants to help other ponies? Are you going to just turn me away?”

Silver stopped and considered this for a moment, “It’s just…” He sighed, “No you’re right, I’d be a hypocrite then. I guess it just feels like a lot to accept is all.”

“It is,” he shrugged, “but I wouldn’t be offering that if I wasn’t serious.”

“I… what’s the catch though? It just feels wrong taking this and giving nothing back in return.”

“There is no catch,” he paused. “However, if you want to give back then I’ll make a deal with you.”

“Sure, what’s the deal then?”

“You want to help ponies right?”


“Then if I help you cover this, would you be willing to work with a few ponies I know? I can’t say on what exactly, but if you agree I’ll gladly pass your information along.”

“Work with in what way?”

“Do you remember when you told me about your friends the other day? The inventions you were working on and all of those big dreams you told me about?”

“Yeah, what about them?”

“The ponies I know might be in need of a group like yours. I understand if it’s too much to ask for their help, which is why I’m not asking you to bind yourself to any deals. But if you really do want to give something back in return then I can connect you with my contacts. You can all talk it over and go from there, and see what happens.”

Silver sat in silence for a few moments, before smiling, “Okay. So let’s just say I agree to this right now? How do I approach my friends about this? This is all private information right?”

“Correct. If you agree right now then you don’t need to do anything until my contacts get in touch with you.”

“How will I hear from them?”

“They’ll approach you in here. It’s the best way to keep these talks secure after all, and they’ll give you more information on what comes next.”

“Right… In that case, I guess I’m in. I can’t promise my friends will be, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”

The warden’s face formed the closest thing that Silver would count as a smile, “I was hoping you’d say that. Consider your expenses covered, and expect to hear back from my contacts sooner rather than later.”

An overwhelming feeling of happiness welled up inside of Silver, and before he had realized what he was doing, the warden was pulled into a tight hug, “Thanks… I really can’t tell you how much this means to me.”

“It’s my pleasure. I look forward to working with you more in the future, and once you’re back on your hooves maybe we can look into some of those lessons you had asked me about.”

“That sounds amazing,” Silver smiled, releasing him from his hug. “So how do I explain this to the hospital staff?”

“If the doctor they’re bringing in is who I think it is, I’ll speak to her. She’s a night pony, one of the first blessed by Yinyu, she’ll take care of the arrangements.”

“You really know the specific night pony doctor that’s being sent to my specific hospital? Doesn’t that feel a little too convenient?”

“You’d think that, but in case you haven’t noticed, there are very few ponies that have been trained by Equestrian doctors. Let’s just say that it wasn’t hard to track them down at all.”

Silver couldn’t help but let out a hearty laugh, “I guess I should have expected that, eh?”

“Would you expect anything less?”

“No, I guess not,” he shrugged, “But can you blame me?”

“Not necessarily,” Psychic replied, “But I do believe this is where we say our goodbyes.”

“What do you…” Silver started, but before he had the chance to finish his sentence the dream began to quickly fade around him as he was pulled back into the waking world...

Chapter 39: Checking Up and Checking Out

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The bright lights of the hospital room burned his sleepy eyes as he suddenly became aware of the mare shaking him awake.

“Scar? What’s up?”

“Doctor’s here for you, sleepyhead,” she leaned up close to him, being sure not to press up too hard. “Sleep well?”

“I mean I’m still in pain but the rest was really nice.” He looked up at her and smiled, “I have some important dream related things to talk about too, but let’s do that later.”

“Oh? What kind of things?”

“Dream things that I shouldn’t talk about here. Plus I have a good feeling you’ll hear some of it sooner rather than later.”

“Should I question that or just go in blind?”

“Probably go in blind. I think whatever I say is just going to make you ask a dozen more questions, so let’s just go with that. If it helps, we don’t need to worry about what this is going to cost us.”

“Yeah okay, that totally doesn’t make me think of a dozen more questions on its own,” she sarcastically replied. “I’ll just take your word that you’ll explain all of this later.”

“Yep,” Silver smirked.

A knock on the door silenced them for a moment as a striking white night pony mare with a dark blue mane and strange red markings on her wings trotted in. Something about the markings seemed odd to him, and for a moment his thoughts drift back to the description that the Dreamwardens had given of her. The memory was a little foggy, as most dream memories could be upon waking, but he definitely remembered Psychic saying something about her being blessed by Yinyu. Was this some strange part of it? Shrugging it off, he resolved to ask more later when he wasn’t dealing with a searing pain in his chest.

“Rise and shine sleepyhead,” she cheerfully called out as she walked up to the bedside.

“Morning, Doctor,” Scarlet greeted her.

“Good morning. I’ve already met you,” she nodded at Scarlet, “but I haven’t had the chance to make your acquaintance yet, Mr. Eclipse. I’m Doctor Fitzpatrick, but you can call me Tender Cure, and I’m the one who’s going to make sure you’re all good to go.”

“Nice to meet you, Doctor.”

“So, now that you’re awake, how are we feeling today?” she asked in a sing-songy voice.

Silver adjusted himself in the bed and smiled, “Doing okay. Still really sore and it hurts to breathe in, but I guess it could be worse.”

“Understandable and not uncommon. But you’re not in any severe pain?”

“Not severe,” he replied as she trotted over to inspect his X-rays.

“Alright, well looking at it now I’m a lot more confident that you’ll be back to normal sooner than later.” She trotted back over to his side and rested a hoof on his bandaged side and paused for a few moments, “I’m going to apply some light pressure, just tell me when it hurts too bad and I’ll stop.”

Silver nodded, “Gotcha.”

With a nod, the mare gently applied pressure, quickly earning a pained yelp from Silver.

“I’m sorry about that,” she replied.

“No…" Silver wheezed, “It’s okay. First time I’ve ever had a broken rib, wasn’t expecting this to…”

“Hurt so bad?” she offered. “Few do. But the good news is that from what I can tell based on your X-rays and even just this is that you only broke one rib.”

“And that’s a good thing I’m guessing?”

“No, it’s a terrible thing,” she replied. “Broken ribs aren’t fun to deal with and it isn’t going to be a fun recovery, but it could have been a lot worse.”

“I’ll take your word for it then,” Silver smiled.

“Mhmm. Now how does it feel when you breathe in? Is there any difficulty or pain?”

“Yeah just a bit,” he started, letting out a cough. “Hurts like hell if I breathe in too deeply, so I’ve been keeping them kind of shallow.”

“But no severe pain? What about when you’re resting? Anything severe?”

“It’s not like an I’m going to die kind of pain, but it sure doesn’t feel good. It aches a lot, especially when I move but if I lay still it kind of dulls a bit.”

“Alright. Good to hear,” she went to inspect his X-rays again. “So, as far as I can tell you won’t see any long term complications. You’re looking at a painful fracture but thankfully it’s nothing worse. We’re going to give you some anti-inflammatory medication to help, but my best advice to you is for you to take it easy and get lots of rest.”

“I think I can do that,” Silver smiled. “So when do you think I’ll be better again?”

“Hard to say exactly. Pony injuries are still new territory for me obviously, but it shouldn’t be more than four to six weeks at most.”

“Doesn’t seem too terrible. Anything I should keep in mind then? Work is probably out I’m guessing.”

“Indeed. I’d prefer if you took it easy and didn’t do any strenuous activity for at least the next week. That means absolutely no flying, no running, and no doing any other strenuous activities that I’m sure you don’t want to hear me say aloud but I know you can probably put together in your head.”

Silver flashed an embarrassed look as he gave a short nod, “Okay, I think I get the gist of it.”

“I don’t want to embarrass you, but I have to say these things for a reason. You’d be surprised to hear the stories I’ve heard from past patients about why their recoveries weren’t going so smoothly.”

“So no exercise then?”

“No strenuous exercise. Obviously you can get some small exercise. Stuff like going for small walks, maybe a quick trot in a week or so, but considering you live up in the mountains I’m going to ask you to keep it short so you don’t wear yourself out.”

“When should he come back for a check up?” Scarlet asked.

“You’ll probably want to come in for a follow up next week, and you’re actually in luck too. I was told that there was another doctor out here who was trying to get training specific to ponies, and managed to get in touch with another Equestrian trained doctor who’s also flown down here. Between the two of us, you should be able to get very thorough and specialized treatment.”

“Would the doctor who’s trying to get training happen to be named Ramirez?” Scarlet chimed in.

The mare raised an eyebrow, “Yes actually. How did you know?”

Scarlet flexed her back hoof and smiled, “Let’s just say that we’ve already met and had a chat about that.”

“Aha, well it seems he’ll be getting his wish and more then.”

“Anything else I need to know?” Silver asked in a more serious tone.

“Aha, I’m guessing you’re referring to the bill and those other nasty affairs nopony likes to deal with.” She trotted over towards the door and shut it, turning back to face the pair, “Has she been allowed to hear about your arrangement?”

“Yes. I didn’t get into too many details though.”

“Alright. I’ll say what I can then. Our mutual friend is going to cover the expenses for your treatment and your stay here. I was only told what I needed to know, and to reassure you that you won’t be saddled with any unnecessary expenses. You’ll hear back from them probably tomorrow so just keep that in mind.”

“So do either of you wanna tell me what’s going on?” Scarlet asked.

“I do,” Silver admitted, “but I think you’ll have to tag along with me the next time we go to bed to find out. You know the dream rules and all.”

Scarlet nodded in understanding. She clearly wasn’t a fan of being left in the dark, but was more than certainly able to piece together some of what the conversation pertained to, and the consequences of breaking the Dreamwardens’ rules about sharing information acquired inside of a dream.

“Can’t share what was told privately. Got it.”

“Sorry I can’t share more,” Silver replied. “I mean I could just rip the bandaid off if I wanted to but something tells me that we’ll be missing out on a big opportunity if I do.”

“That’s a wise decision,” the doctor agreed. “Anyhow, if you’re antsy to get out of here then we can go ahead and discharge you.”

“That sounds great,” Silver cheerfully replied.

“Now this is going to sound kind of silly, but the process is still going to be the same as if you were still a human. Which means you get to take a nice wheelchair ride out to the front.”

“You’re telling me I don’t have to walk? Well sign me right up because that sounds lovely.”

The three ponies laughed before the doctor warmly smiled again, “With a sense of humor like that you’ll be back on your hooves in no time. If you have any questions feel free to give the hospital a call and they can put you in contact with me, otherwise feel free to ask our mutual friend and they can direct you towards me within a dream.”

“Thanks Doctor, I really appreciate what you’re doing.”

“I mean it’s my job to help.”

“Of course, but you’re also being very personable and making a scary situation not so scary. And it really does mean a lot.”

“You’re welcome.”

As Silver was helped into the wheelchair and wheeled down the hallway his thoughts once again blurred into a mix of the deal he had made and what the future had in store for him. A lingering feeling of worry and anxiety filled him as he thought about what his boss would say, and more than anything else right now he just wanted to know what to expect going forward. At face value his world wasn’t changing a whole lot, but he knew that change was on the horizon, and it was surely speeding towards him.

The sudden lack of motion pulled his attention back to reality, and before long he was being helped out of the chair and walked over towards the waiting car. Silver leaned against Scarlet as he took a few slow steps forward. The pain in his side was bad but manageable, and his consolation was that at least they didn’t have to fly all the way home. Instead Scarlet’s mother would drive them back and stay over for the next handful of nights, at least until Silver could manage better on his own. The thought of needing someone around to help take care of him made him feel like some kind of small helpless animal. He couldn’t help but laugh at the thought because by all accounts he was a small helpless animal.

“What’s so funny?” Scarlet asked.

“Nothing. I just feel like a little hurt puppy.”

“Well if it makes you feel better, that means I get to take extra special care of you until you feel better.”

“You know, it does.” He smiled, “I’m going to need a lot of cuddles tonight.”

“I can do that,” Scarlet laughed. “Mom should be here in a minute or two.”

“You know,” Silver started, letting out a pained grunt, “she really doesn’t need to do this.”

“Yeah? Well too bad. You’re going to take her help because you’re already having trouble walking and the doctor already told you there is absolutely no flying at all. You better believe I’m going to make you follow the rules.”

“But…” he started, “Okay fine. You’re right.”

A moment later and Scarlet’s mother hopped out of the car to help, and before Silver could even turn his head to face her she was running over to him as any concerned soon to be family member would. Normally now would probably be the moment that he was pulled into a rib cracking bear hug, but given his injury, Scarlet’s mother had chosen to spare him that fate.

“Oh my goodness,” she gasped as she took in his bandages and bruised appearance, “I didn’t know you were hurt this badly! How are you feeling?!”

Silver returned the warmest, most it’s okay I’m not hurt too bad smile that he could muster, “Like I got kicked in the side and broke a rib, but better than before. Breathing still hurts and I’ll definitely feel this for a while, but the doc said I’ll be fine.”

“Well, you’re going to get lots and lots of rest for however long it takes for that.”

“I really appreciate you helping us Mrs. Delgado.”

“You really don’t need to stay over if you don’t want to, Mom,” Scarlet added pleadingly.

“I don’t want any of that, Scarlet. Your boyfriend’s hurt and you’ll need someone to help take care of him.”

“We have someone,” she retorted. “It’s not good for you to stay up so late with us all week.”

“I stayed up late when you and your sister were babies, and I didn’t complain then.”

“Okay, but that was more than twenty five years ago.”

“And?” She laughed, “Think I’m too old to do it again now?”

“You know,” Silver laughed, “she’s got a point there. It’s usually not a good move to call your mom old.”

“See? Silver gets it,” the woman replied victoriously. “So why don’t you both get comfortable and we can get headed home? It’s a long drive and the sooner we get there the sooner you can get to resting.”

Scarlet shook her head and broke into a fit of laughter, “Okay, you win.”

The drive home was as uneventful as driving from the valley and into the mountains could be. In fact, for most of the ride Silver spent his time curled up in a blanket next to Scarlet with his eyes closed. His pain had dulled a bit, but was still ever present in the background, and he just couldn’t wait to get home and sleep in his own bed. The worries about work were still ever present, but he simply couldn’t deal with them in his current state. There were way more important things on his mind, so he instead compromised and resolved to talk with Tweyelight about everything later. If there was any small consolation, it was that the nurse had apparently already called the salvage yard with some help from Scarlet, and had filled the other night pony in on some of the details.

Was it unfair to leave a new hire on their own without any other explanation than he was okay? Probably. But Tweyelight was more than capable in the job, and more than likely at least had a basic understanding of the scope of Silver’s injury and the chance that he was fine and headed home. Duncan was the person Silver was more worried about. The human was already struggling financially and a workplace injury with a worker who was being paid under the table would not look good for him at all. A nagging feeling of guilt welled up to the surface, making his call a priority over others.

Scarlet’s mother pulled up and stopped the car, setting it in park.

“Looks like you have a few friends waiting, that’s sweet of them.”

Silver struggled to sit up in his seat and peeked over the dashboard, “No kidding. Wonder what they want?”

“Maybe they caught wind of your little trip to the ER,” Scarlet proposed.

“You think?”

“Maybe,” she shrugged. “Guess we should go catch them up to speed.

“You two do that, I’ll find a better parking spot and unpack my stuff. Scarlet you go get Silver tucked in too, I don’t want him on his hooves for too long now, okay?”

“Gotcha mom. There’s a gravel patch over on the side of the cabin if you want to just pull over there.”

“I can do that.”

She hopped out of her seat and in the following moments helped carry Silver out of his seat and gently set him down on the soft grass before hopping back into the car. The loud engine made the group’s ears all twitch in unison, but a little noise pollution was the least of their worries right now.

The sight of three of Silver’s closest friends hanging out outside of his house would normally be an exciting break from the norm, but considering the fact that he hadn’t talked with any of them about his accident yet only filled him with a sense of confusion. Surely they didn’t know about it yet, and if they didn’t then why were they waiting outside?

Their gasps and sympathetic glances told him that his appearance was definitely a surprise to them, which only made him wonder more about why they were waiting. He wouldn’t have to wait long for an answer however, as Tinker trotted forward to greet him with an apprehensive stare.

“Silver… what happened?!”

“What happened was I scared a few would-be thieves at work and learned what happens when a human who’s clearly had some self defense training can do when you scare him.”

“Are you alright?!—“

“—Someone hurt you Blue? Where is he because I’m gonna rip his throat out when I find him!” Sine Wave suddenly yelled in a surprising outburst.

Silver flinched back as she leaped towards him, knocking Tinker out of the way with her aggressive display.

“Sine it’s all good. The cops picked him up and I’m pretty sure he’s going to get hit with assault and breaking and entering charges.”

“That still doesn’t answer my question.”

“Sine, go sit in the corner and give the bat a chance to talk. Can’t you see that he’s too hurt to set up your revenge plot?” Gyro barked out.

“Look this is a night pony thing so stay out of it, Gyromite,” Sine countered.

“Trust me Sine,” Silver interjected, “my coworker already gave the human more than a good scare.”

“Did they now? Did they really?” She snapped back.

“Yes. He’s a bat, and an ex private eye, knows a thing or two about getting this kind of stuff done.”

“Good,” the mare backed off. “So uhhh… you feeling okay?”

“As good as I can,” Silver replied with a half hearted smile followed by a short wheeze, “Just hurts when I focus on it, move around, or breathe in…”

“Which is why he needs some space so he can go rest,” Scarlet cut in.

“Oh, of course,” Tinker replied. “It’s admittedly bad timing but we have some good news that I wanted to tell you both about.”

Scarlet let out a small sigh as she stared wistfully at the small cabin’s door, “Can this wait until tomorrow? I think we’ve had enough excitement for today.”

“Not if you don’t wanna hear it over the phone,” Sine snickered.

Silver perked up, briefly tuning his pain out, “What do you mean by that?”

Tinker shot a glare back towards Sine, who returned a small blush.

“What Sine Wave means is that while you were gone, I got a call from one our our associates over in the Phoenix area. It started as a catch up call but turned into an opportunity that we just couldn’t refuse.”

Silver’s mind raced with thoughts about his own opportunity that he couldn’t refuse, and briefly wondered if this was just pure coincidence or whether there were other actors at play.

“Small world,” the blue night pony laughed. “I had an opportunity in the works that I was going to talk to you guys about too, but that’s kind of up in the air right now.”

“Oh? Care to exchange stories then?”

Silver shook his head, “I’ll hear yours, but like I said, mine is still very much a big maybe right now and it’ll be easier if I just don’t try and explain it until I know more.”

Putting it in those words was bending the truth more than just a little bit, but the reality was that Silver didn’t even fully know what his possible deal with the Dreamwardens would entail. There was a good chance that he wouldn’t even be able to share the true nature of it anyways so it was better to just leave it up to the imagination for now.

“Keeping secrets from us, eh?” the pegasus laughed before running a hoof through his silvery white mane. “I’m just giving you a hard time.”

Silver couldn’t help but laugh at Tinker’s remark, feeling a sharp jab in between that threw him into a coughing fit. Lowering his voice, he gave a short raspy response.

Dropping his voice to a more serious and stern tone, he leaned close to the pegasus, “Let’s just say it’s classified and if I told you I’d have to kill you...”

“I uhh… that serious eh?”

Unable to maintain the facade, Silver burst out in laughter, whining at the pain it brought on, “Nah, but I can’t really get too deep into it now.”

Looking back at Scarlet, he could get the hint that it was time to speed things up given the concerned expression that she was giving him.

“So why don’t you give me the abridged version of the story so I can get some rest before Scarlet drags me to bed.”

Tinker laughed, “Probably for the best eh?”

“Yeah, it is,” Scarlet laughed back.

Tinker straightened up and continued, “So the big surprise is that the opportunity we were offered was to move over to Phoenix and assist our associate in some of his own endeavors. He runs a local machine shop and in return for us providing whatever help we can, he’s willing to give us a proper workspace all to ourselves in one of his vacant warehouses.”

“That’s great!” Silver exclaimed, “So I’m going to wager a bet and say that’s why you’re here then? To say your goodbyes?”

“Not exactly,” he began. “The three of us were wondering if you two would be interested in coming along? I know it’s a lot to ask, but I also know you’ve shown interest in this kind of thing before.”

Silver hesitated for a moment and glanced over to Scarlet, who simply gave him an unreadable expression that didn’t betray a thought on the matter one way or another.

“I…” he started, “I… I really appreciate the offer, but I don’t think I’m in any position to make this kind of decision right now. Both of us still need follow ups with the doctors and I think this is something we really need to sit down on and talk about together.”

The pegasus slowly began to nod his head, looking away from the other stallion for a moment before his warm ankle returned, “I understand… I knew it was a lot to ask but it would be a disservice to you if I didn’t.”

“When are you all moving?” Scarlet perked up.

“We’ve been packing up our stuff while you were both away, and we’ll most likely head out tomorrow afternoon.”

“So it gives us a night to talk this over then,” she nodded turning towards Silver. “Let’s chat over dinner then.”

Silver began to speak up, but before he had a chance to talk, Sine jumped in again.

“Just saying, those two are for sure moving. I didn’t wanna jump to anything until they ran it by you two.”

“You’re making your decision based on what we want?” Scarlet asked, confused.

“Maybe,” Sine shrugged. “Bats gotta stay together right? Otherwise we’d all be back to where we started… just uhh don’t take too long, I kinda wanna have some warning for if I have to pack up my worldly possessions or not.”

“Do you have a lot to pack?”

“Kinda. I got lots of retro video games that I dug out of my old home before I ditched that place. Gotta take care of those babies right otherwise they’ll burn out on me.”

“Right,” Scarlet nodded, “how about we turn in for today, chat about it, and then we’ll give you an answer, okay?”

“That’s fine by me,” Tinker replied.

“Good, then we’ll catch up with you guys later. And we’ll stop by your cabin or something before, okay Sine?”

“Aye aye Red. Now you two get some rest, and take it easy Blue. No crazy shenanigans from you anymore, kay?”

Silver let out a half hearted laugh as Scarlet gently nudged him towards the door, “Gotcha.”

Stepping in, Scarlet pulled the curtains closed and turned towards Silver, “First things first. You, bed, now,” she pointed to the bed with a wing.

“Huh? Scarlet I—“

“—You are injured and you need to go lay down and get some rest. I know you wanna talk about this whole thing but not until you’re nice and cozy and I’ve had a chance to get you some water.”

Silver nodded his head and gently laid down on the bed while Scarlet rummaged around for a bottle of water.

Bringing the bottle to him, she continued, “So you want to go with them, don’t you?”

Her question hit him like a semi truck. It wasn’t as if he wasn’t expecting it, but he certainly wasn’t expecting it so soon.

“I uhh… it’s complicated,” he admitted. “I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to go, but at the same time we’ve got a lot stacked on our plates right now, right?”

Scarlet looked away for a moment and nodded, “Yeah. Doctor visits, jobs, families…”

“Our future together,” Silver added.

“That too. But we don’t even know what’ll happen yet,” Scarlet snuggled into the bed next to him and rested her injured hoof on a pillow, “Tell me this, what do you want most?”

Silver hesitated for a moment, trying to find the right words to put his thoughts together. Nuzzling up against her, he said what was really on his mind, “The nice happy life together that we’ve been talking about.”

“And would moving make that harder?”

“No,” he shook his head, “I don’t think it would, but if I’m being completely honest, I like the idea of settling down out here more. You know, it’s nice and quiet, and it’s not a bad place to raise a kid in either. Not as much stress as a big city like Phoenix. Plus a big move might be a whole world of stress that neither of us need right now.”

“You think so?”

“I guess we won’t know until we get everything figured out with the doctors, but I think I’d be happy staying here for a while. Not like we can’t go join them later if we really wanted to.”

“You sure? I mean you have the opportunity sitting right there outside. You could take it and we could make it work in whatever way we needed to.”

“But why? Why give up what we’ve made here?” He paused, “Scarlet, you’re my best friend in the whole world. You make me feel so loved and so happy and I can’t tell you how glad I am to have met you.”

Scarlet sat in silence for a moment, but her expression clearly conveyed the raw emotion she felt.

“My real dream is what we’ve been doing. Making a place for ourselves, for a family, and just seeing where life takes us. Maybe I can’t just run off and play scientist right now like I’ve been doing on the weekends, but that doesn’t really change anything for me.”

“So we're staying here and settling down then?”

“For now,” he agreed. “I think what we need to do is schedule a follow up for both of us, and maybe get a check up from the doctors too. See how your leg is doing and see if they can answer some of the embarrassing starting a family questions that we need answered, and go from there.”

Scarlet smiled, “I think that sounds like a great idea.”

Silver snuggled up to her again before stealing a glance towards the door, “So should we get a little bed set up for your mom?”

“You’re not doing anything except relaxing right here, but if you want my honest answer, I think she’ll figure it out once she’s done unpacking her stuff from the car.”

He grinned, “Well I suppose I can do that if you can offer some cuddles to help make the pain go away.”

Scarlet shook her head and laughed, “Oh alright, but I charge for those.”

“Do you now? Well name your price.”

“I get to choose the dreams for the next two weeks.”

Silver let out a deep laugh that also made him wince back in pain for a moment. Lowering his voice, he agreed to her terms, “Consider it a deal then.”

Chapter 40: The End of Something Small, the Start of Something Big

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Scarlet stretched out her back and let out a content sigh as she ran through everything in her head again. Silver was peacefully sleeping in bed, which would normally be a concern to her given that it was almost seven, but considering the medication he was on and the nature of his injury, this was perfectly fine. It was still a weird sight to see, but it was also a blessing in disguise that gave her a chance to go wrap up some other business that needed to be attended to, just as long as she had someone to keep an eye on him.

That someone would be her mother, who thankfully was still awake. She hopped out of bed, being sure not to disturb her sleeping stallion, and trotted over to her mother, who was making herself busy with taking count of the food and ingredients that the pair had.

“Hey mom, mind if I ask a question?”

The older woman raised an eyebrow and ignoring her question, offered one of her own. “You two really don’t have a lot of variety stocked here, do you?”

“What do you mean?” Scarlet asked.

“What I mean is that your fridge is full of fruit and a few eggs and almost nothing else, and your pantry just has some pasta and bread. Don’t you ever change things up?”

A strange realization struck Scarlet, because up until this point neither of them had really considered that they had fallen into the routine of eating basically the same few dishes every week.

“Oh, that,” an embarrassed blush blended into her already dark red face, “guess we never thought much about that.”

Her mother shook her head and laughed, “Your sister really got all my love of cooking, eh?”

“Guess so,” Scarlet laughed, “but I got your creativity and smarts.”

“Well you two could really use a fresh selection don’t you think?”

“Maybe,” she paused, “but we don’t really have a grocery budget for that kind of thing. We get what we can get from the farmers in town and live just fine with it, but thanks for the concern though.”

“Well let me treat you then. I’ll run down to the store sometime tomorrow and get you all sorts of goodies.”

“You really don’t have to, mom,” Scarlet insisted.

“Sure I do, if I’m going to help out around here then I’m going to spoil you both. Anything you like in particular?”

Scarlet was about to protest further but realized the futility of it. Instead she simply shook her head, “Something with mango and pineapple wouldn’t be bad. We really love those.”

“Something that isn’t more fruit? You guys have a lot of that already.”

Scarlet let out a small sigh and rolled her eyes, “Mom I just started getting used to the fact that almost everything I used to enjoy eating as a human is off the table now, so of course we’re going to stock up on fruit and other things that aren’t going to make us throw up all over the place.”

“There’s got to be something else you can eat though, don’t you think? I don’t want to tell you how to live your life or anything, but you should really switch things up.”

She began to lick her lips as thoughts of all of the junk food she had avoided for the last few months floated through her head, “Maybe some chips and other snacks? Haven’t had those in a while.”

“So nothing nutritious then… Okay, I’ll figure something out on my own then.”

“Thanks mom,” she started towards the door but paused. “Also, I really need to go talk with those other ponies that were here earlier, mind keeping an eye on Silver while I’m out? It won’t be too long, I promise.”

Scarlet’s mother looked over towards the sleeping stallion and nodded, “Sure. But I don’t want to stay up all night so try and be back sooner than later, okay?”

“Will do, shouldn’t be long at all,” Scarlet replied as she jumped into a hug.

Trotting out of the cabin, she leaped up into the evening sky and dove into a low glide towards Sine Wave’s shared cabin. The cool air sent a momentary shiver down her spine as she flew up and into the inky blackness. These brief moments were often her favorite, and even though tonight’s flight would only last a few minutes at most, she still relished in the serenity offered by it.

A light on the outside of the small cabin below confirmed what Scarlet was wondering— that Sine was actually home and not out and about. She’d have been lying if she said she didn’t wish that her flight could be extended, but at the same time her mother’s loosely imposed time limit made her journey just ever so slightly more pressing. Given the time of night and the blanket of darkness that covered the rest of the village, Scarlet could only assume that the mare’s roommate was still asleep. This wasn’t an issue however, because after all this was only going to be a quick visit.

Gently dropping onto the ground, (keeping her injured hoof free from the impact) she was surprised to see Sine sitting under the covered area outside with a surprising assortment of old Nintendo and Sega cartridges carefully stacked on the table beside her. The mare sitting alone wasn’t surprising, Sine often wandered around late at night on her own, even on nights where she hung out with the couple, but her current action was definitely something that Scarlet hadn’t seen from her.

Noticing her presence, Sine flicked her ear slightly but didn’t look up from the screen. “Heya Red, you two make up your minds?” She asked as she tapped a few buttons on the controller with some weird stick strapped to her hooves.

“Are you…” she watched the colorful spaceship sprites dance across the screen in awe, losing her words for a moment.

“Playing a game? Yep. Citrus Head got tired of me doing this inside at night so I set up my own little rig out here for that.” She paused the game and looked over at Scarlet, “Wanna join in?”

“In the game?”

“No, in sitting around outside in the dark— of course Red, this stuff’s more fun with friends anyways,” she smiled, and offered Scarlet a nearby controller and a strap of her own.

Scarlet stared at the square Nintendo controller for a few moments before reaching towards it. Brushing a hoof against the aged plastic, “How does this work with hooves?”

“Simple. You take that strap and put it on your hooves and then you can press the buttons nice and easy. Then you just have fun and play the game.”

“And it really just works that well?” She eyed the weird cobbled together accessory.

“As well as it can,” Sine admitted. “I still want to make a more pony friendly design sometime. This kind of stuff is what really caught my eye before ETS.”

“Playing games or designing controllers?” Scarlet asked as Sine started up a new two player game.

“A little bit of both. I’ve never really said it to anypony, but before ETS I was really into this kind of stuff. Played in local tournaments, collected God knows how many years worth of memorabilia, all that sort of crazy stuff.”

“Huh, I never would have guessed that to be honest.”

“Not a lot of ponies do,” she shrugged. “But what does it matter to them? A lot of them see it as worthless crap now, but not me. I grew up playing these kinds of games because we never had a lot of money and secondhand stuff was the best we could get, and in all honesty I really prefer it more to all the big flashy expensive stuff.”

“Doesn’t this stuff get pretty expensive too though?”

“It can if someone knows what it’s worth,” she nodded, “but deals aren’t that hard to find. Besides, I might be a little biased, sue me,” she emphasized by sticking her tongue out.

“Guess it worked out in the end though, I feel like this kind of stuff is weirdly almost more accessible now.”

“Bingo, Red.” She smiled, “Simple controls while still having engaging and fun gameplay. Maybe it’s dumb but I’d love for this to really make a comeback. Maybe even to the point that I could make my own games sometime.”

She started up the game and Scarlet’s attention was drawn to the flashing colors and sprites, “Wouldn’t that be cool?”

“It would be more than cool, Red. Ponies are social, and what better place to be social at than an arcade, you know?”

Scarlet’s mind drifted to the memories of the tiny arcade at the mall that she had visited as a kid, which while even on its way out, was still one of the most oddly comforting places she had visited regularly back then. Scarlet looked away from the screen for a moment and nodded, “I think it’d be really cool, but isn’t that stuff a little… hard to find though?”

“A little. Helps that I had my own modest collection though, and that storage locker is the one and only thing I’ve been funneling my cash into through all of this.”

“You have a whole storage locker full of arcade games?”

“I wish. I’ve got maybe four cabinets and a few old boards I scrounged together from a bunch of Craigslist and eBay listings. But if I had any kind of prized possessions, those would be them.”

“Right…” Scarlet trailed off as her thoughts lingered on what Sine had said. “So that’s why you were waiting to see what we said then, right?”

“Part of the reason. But I also meant what I said about sticking together. I know we don’t always hang out all the time, and I know that you and I aren’t like best friends or anything, but it’s nice hanging around with other night ponies… really makes you realize how lonely it can get when there’s so few of us.”

The sounds of the game cut through the silence as Scarlet reflected on what Sine had said, and it made her realize something that she might not have seen on the surface. As loud and in your face as she could get, Sine was still just another pony, and the loneliness and constant need for friendship hit her just as hard as it had hit Silver and Scarlet.

Pausing the game, Scarlet looked Sine in the eyes, “You know, I’m really glad you and I could chat about this. I guess it made me realize something I didn’t really think about before.”

“You thought I was just some crazy in your face pony that has a weird sense of humor, right?”

A feeling of guilt passed through her as she nodded, “I won’t lie, that’s kind of how you came off at first.”

“I don’t blame you, because that’s who I am most of the time. It’s just how I’ve always been.”

“But you’re so much more than just that.” Scarlet continued, “You’ve got all of these ideas and ambitions and it really isn’t all that different from what Silver and I want.”

“Aww, now don’t get all sappy on me,” Sine laughed, though her voice also carried the lingering quivers of uncertainty in it.

“I never answered your question,” Scarlet continued, “Silver and I did make up our minds.”

“And you’re staying?” The other mare guessed.

“Is it that obvious?”

She shrugged, “A little. I know you two weren’t just being lovey-dovey for the fun of it. You’re starting a family, and a big move when you’ve barely just settled down is hard— even harder if there’s a foal thrown into the mix.”

“I…” Scarlet paused, “It is, and I think what makes it hard is that everything is just happening so fast. The world changes, we change, we find something special, and now we’re at that crossroad where we want to do one thing, but we also want to do another.”

“So relax and take it easy then. Starting a family is a big deal, running off on some adventure with a couple of mad scientists isn’t. It’s not like you can’t change your minds later on.”

Scarlet pulled Sine into a tight hug, “Thanks Sine, I think I just needed to hear something like that. If anything, just to clear my head a bit.”

“It’s all good Red, that’s what friends are for, right?”

“Right,” Scarlet smiled. “So how about a round two then?”

Sine raised an eyebrow, “Think you’re gonna beat my high score?”

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“Maybe,” Scarlet replied with a smirk, “guess you’ll have to wait and see.”

The gaming session with Sine Wave turned hours into minutes, and for the first time in a while Scarlet felt completely relaxed and at peace. Guilt at the thought that she had completely disregarded what her mother had asked for hung over her as she returned home, but after explaining her extended absence to her mother, she had understood. Explaining the need for interaction and the strong emotions felt by ponies (and even more so with night ponies) was never easy for humans to understand, but her mother had tried her best to look at everything with an open mind.

With that stress out of the way, her thoughts had drifted back towards Silver. It wasn’t to say she didn’t feel peaceful and relaxed with Silver, but work stress mixed with both of their injuries meant that there were very few opportunities for her to just sit back and clear her mind on her own for a while. In a strange turn of events, that gaming session sparked the fire of a hobby that she hadn’t indulged in in a very long time, and that gave her a long neglected sense of longing for the chance to play again.

She had always enjoyed sitting back and playing a good game every now and again, but that had become a hobby that she had lost time for as she buried herself in her schoolwork, and just the feeling of getting lost in a game again made her excited that Sine (and her surprisingly robust collection of vintage games) was sticking around with them for the foreseeable future.

She couldn’t help but smile at the idea of playing games with Silver, as dumb as it was. It was a simple pastime but one that could at least inject some much needed happiness into the stallion’s recovery. Dragging him over to Sine’s cabin might be an issue though, but with more than one console in her collection and a plethora of games at her disposal, Scarlet figured that she wouldn’t be opposed to letting them borrow a few things.

Silver looked up at her when she came into the room, and did his best to give her a weak smile.

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“So, how’d things go?”

“I told Sine about what we decided on and just chatted with her for a while. I was going to head over to the inventors’ camp and tell them everything but Sine said she’d pass along the message so I could get back to taking care of things here.”

The stallion sat up in bed and nodded, letting out a wince, “Mhmm, that’s good. So what’d you two chat about then? Just boring moving stuff?”

“We actually had a really nice talk about everything,” she trotted over to the bed and gently pushed him back into a more comfortable position. “A little about her past before ETS, the hobbies she likes, stuff about how you and I feel about starting a family… stuff like that, you know?”

He raised an eyebrow, “What’d you tell her about us?”

“Just the stuff that’s obviously out there. We talked about how we were deciding to stay because it’s less stress, better for raising a foal, etcetera. She had a very good point that it’s not like we can’t change our mind down the line anyways, but right now it’s just better for us if we hang out here— especially until we’re both healed and have had a chance to get checked up.”

“That’s good, I’m glad you two got along nicely.”

“Me too,” she agreed. “I didn’t expect that but I feel good about it too. So now for the important stuff, I’m going to make the call and set up some appointments for us. I can get my leg checked on, and so we can figure out what to do with you.”

“And the other stuff?” Silver asked.

“And the other stuff. We’ll get it all figured out. So do you need anything before I go get that set up?”

“Get what set up?” Scarlet’s mother asked as she looked over from her organization.

“Some of the doctor appointments we needed to get figured out. I might need your help with the phone.”

The human shook her head, “You give me the paperwork they had you sign and I’ll get that stuff taken care of.”

“Mom, you don’t need to do that. I’m an adult, I can make my own doctors appointments.”

“I don’t need to but I am. I worked at that hospital for twenty years and I know it like the back of my hand. Trust me, this’ll make it smoother for both of you.”

“But we’re not going back to the hospital.”

“Just trust me, you need to go take care of Silver.”

A weak feeling of embarrassment of having her mother treat her like a kid again flared up inside of Scarlet, but looking back at Silver replaced that with a protective feeling that pushed her towards him.

Deciding that protesting at the former nurse wouldn’t get her anywhere, she nodded, sliding her saddlebags over to her mother without another word spoken.

“There, was it that hard?”

“Nope. Just let me know what they say though, this is kind of important for both of us because you know, this isn’t like dealing with the medical stuff you used to deal with.”

“I will. Now take it easy.” Grabbing the bag, she stepped out of the cabin, leaving the couple alone once more.

“Can you believe her,” Scarlet turned toward Silver, “acting like she’s…”

“Like she’s your mom? Must be nice. Mine hasn’t bothered to even check up on me in months.”

Scarlet’s ears drooped down, “I didn’t mean to bring anything up, I just—“

“Hey, it’s all good.” Silver flashed a weak smile, “she cares a lot about you, you know. Not everypony’s as lucky to have something like that.”

“You’re right. I guess I’m just stressed with everything. It’s still so much to figure out and plan for.”

“Which is why I’m glad we have somepony to help us.”

Someone,” Scarlet corrected, “but maybe you’re right. Gives us a chance to just relax and get the rest we need.”

“And a good excuse to cuddle,” Silver added.

“That too,” Scarlet laughed.

Laying down on the bed, she cuddled up close to him and just enjoyed his presence. Their blissfully quiet stretch of cuddles dragged on for who knows how long before a knock at the door pulled Scarlet’s attention back to the present.

Rolling out of bed, she trotted towards the door and opened it up, finding herself face to face with Tinker.

“Heya Tinker, Sine passed along the message right?”

“Yes, and I just wanted to stop by before we made our final goodbye.” He glanced over to Silver, “Mind if we come in?”

Scarlet stepped aside and nodded, “Yeah, sure.”

The pegasus and his unicorn friend trotted in, wincing in sympathy as they took in Silver’s battered appearance.

“Hey Silver. I’m sure you heard what I just said, but I just wanted to say goodbye, and thank you for all of the help you did.”

The stallion sat up in bed and smiled, “Pleasure’s all mine. Sorry we couldn’t come along with you, but who knows, maybe we’ll make a trip out sometime when things cool down a bit.”

“We’d love to host you. I know you’re probably wondering about what’s going to happen with the project, and I just want to say that we’re not letting that die off. It’s a long ways away from being finished, but it wouldn’t have gotten anywhere close to where it is without your help.”

“Aww, I appreciate the flattery but we all worked hard on the prototype. I mean I really just helped with the wrist straps.”

“Well, that’s still an important part is it not? I still mean what I said, you sacrificed your free time to help work on an old fool’s project and that’s something that means the world to me. I promise you that you’ll get to help finish it in some way whenever we get to that point.”

“Thanks Tinker, I’m glad I could be a part of it.”

He nodded and looked towards Scarlet. With a wave of his wing, Gyro pushed in a large tightly wrapped package that seemed oddly familiar in form, but was otherwise unfamiliar to the mare, “There was another reason why I came here, but I think I’ll let Silver take the lead on this one.”

Silver raised an eyebrow, “Huh? What do you…” he stopped for a moment before a knowing grin spread across his face.

Curiosity filled Scarlet as she picked up on his expression, “What’s up?”

With the help of his magic, Gyro brought the package over to Silver.

Waving Scarlet over, he began to explain, “So, this is something I’ve been working on for a while now, and I wasn’t sure when I’d have a chance to finish it up. Scarlet, I broke your telescope and I’ve felt guilty about it ever since—“

“Which you didn’t need to feel,” she reminded him.

“True, but I still did,” he continued. “You’ve made me the happiest stallion in the whole world but I’ve never been able to make up for that. Soooo…” he pushed the package towards her, “Why don’t you have a look?”

Scarlet eyed the package carefully before judging at the wrapping with a hoof. Digging into it, she was briefly confused before excitement welled up inside of her. What lay in front of her was both familiar and unfamiliar in the best kind of way— it was her old telescope, but all fixed up and seemingly upgraded.

“Silver I…” she started, but a wave of emotion surged through her and all she could think to do was leap into a careful hug, happy tears welling up in her eyes, “I love it so much, thank you!”

The stallion blushed and leaned into her embrace, “I’m so happy you like it, we worked hard to get everything together for it, but it was really worth it.”

Sniffling, her smile never faded as she leaned in close to him, “I really love you, you know that?”

“Of course I do. I love you too Scarlet.”

Chapter 41: Changing Plans

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The couple had been cuddling up together for a long while now, but Silver didn’t have a care in the world. He was with his best friend, he felt like he had a huge weight off of his conscience, and for the first time during the whole injury debacle, he felt confident and at ease about the future. Planning out everything while also dealing with setting up appointments and follow ups was growing more stressful than Silver cared to admit, and even though it might have been a mark against his pride, he was secretly relieved that Scarlet’s mother had been so insistent at helping the two out.

Maybe it was some motherly intuition guiding her, or maybe it was just plainly obvious that the pair had enough stacked on their plates and needed a break, but regardless it was a much needed relief from the growing mountains of stress that they were dealing with. A knock on the door broke through their silence and with a small sigh from Scarlet, their moment together was over.

“I didn’t interrupt anything did I?” Mrs. Delgado asked as she slowly opened the door.

“Not at all mom,” Scarlet replied, though Silver knew that it was a half truth. “How’d you make out?”

“Well, I’ve got your appointments set up. Dug through the paperwork you had and got Silver’s follow up scheduled for next week, and also got you a follow up about your leg. I also told them that you wanted to talk about some private family planning stuff and that nice pony doctor you talked to was relieved to hear it. She thinks it’s a blessing in disguise because she can use you two as guinea pigs to teach the other doctors how to handle pony patients better.”

“We get to be guinea pigs? Wow sounds like a great description,” Scarlet chuckled.

“Hey it’s her words not mine. But if it makes you feel any better, you’ll get a nice hefty discount on all of this, she said it had something to do with taking part in some pilot program with the hospital.”

“That sounds great Mrs. Delgado, thanks for helping out. We really appreciate what you’re doing,” Silver cut in.

“The pleasure is all mine. I haven’t had a chance to just get out of the house and do something in a while.”

“You’re retired though, mom. You should just relax and enjoy your time.”

“Relaxing at home gets so boring, believe me. Taking care of and spending time with you two is more than enjoyable for me.”

“Wanna trade then?” Scarlet offered, “You go work the crappy motel job and I hang out at home all day?”

“In your dreams,” she laughed. “Now I need to get a little running around done, is there anything else you need before I’m out?”

“Not really,” Scarlet answered, “How about you Silvie?”

“Some fruit juice wouldn’t be bad,” he smiled, “If it isn’t any trouble.”

“That won’t be at all,” she looked over to Scarlet again, “You sure you don’t need anything else? Last call.”

The mare finally caved and rolled her eyes, asking her request in a small voice, “Dried mango please.”

“Dried mango? Got it.”

“You might wanna get a few bags of those,” Silver added, “We kinda go through those fast here.”

Mrs. Delgado shook her head and laughed, “I’ll get two but that’s it.”

“Thanks mom,” Scarlet answered back.

As her mother left, Scarlet hopped off of the bed and flipped the lights off, letting out a content sigh. Sliding back into bed, she made herself comfortable and turned towards Silver, “I dunno about you, but that much light for that long was starting to kill my eyes.”

“Yeah mine too,” he agreed, “Guess we gotta deal with it for a bit though. At least while your mom’s here.”

“Guess we should have asked for blindfolds then too, eh?”

“Probably,” Silver weakly laughed. “We'll make do though.”

“We always do,” she leaned into him and relaxed her muscles.

Feeling somewhat comfortable, Silver curled up next to her and let the world fade away until the two of them were the only things left.

“You know, maybe being stuck in bed isn’t such a bad thing. I get to cuddle up with the best mare in the whole world all day and I don’t have to feel like I’m being lazy or anything.”

“Guess there’s a bright side to everything, eh Silvie?”

“Looks like it,” he smiled.

The sudden sounds of a muffled phone ringing from across the room broke their embrace. Looking over at the source of the disturbance, Scarlet let out a sigh, “Your phone’s ringing. Want me to grab it?”

“No,” he replied, “But you probably should. Could be my boss or the hospital calling.”

“Or it could be a spam caller?”

“Maybe,” he half shrugged, “but we should probably take a look at it.”

Scarlet rolled off of the bed and meandered her way over to it, her face being lit up in the darkness by the bright light from the screen. Using the tip of a wing, she unlocked the phone and answered it.

“This is Silver’s phone, can I ask who’s calling?” she answered in her well trained hospitality voice. “Need to talk with him?” she continued, glancing over to the stallion. “Important, got it. Okay just give me a second.”

“What’s up?” Silver raised an eyebrow.

“It’s your boss. Sounded like he had something important to say, should I run outside for a bit or am I fine staying here?”

“You’re all good.” He carefully lifted the phone over with his hooves and unmuted it, “Duncan, what’s up?”

“Silver, glad to hear you’re doing okay. How are you feeling?”

“Everything hurts and I want to just sleep. But all things considered I’m okay. So what did you need?”

“Well obviously I wanted to check up on you…”

“But…?” Silver pressed.

“But there’s another thing we needed to talk about.”

Silver nervously gulped, “Okay. Why do I have a bad feeling about this?”

“Because it’s news you’re not going to like, and believe me, I don’t like having to give it.”

A handful of thoughts began to flood through his mind, and none of them were particularly good.

“I see… go on then, just get it over with.”

The line went silent for a moment before Duncan began to speak again, “I need you to realize that what I’m about to say comes purely from a liability standpoint and nothing else. You’re a fantastic employee and you’ve been nothing but great… which makes this really hard to say but I have to.”

“Duncan, I know whatever it is it’s important and I know you want me to know that, but I need you to just rip the bandaid off before I have an anxiety attack over this because my mind’s racing with all of the bad what if’s right now.”

More silence followed, but right as Silver was about to speak again, Duncan continued.

“I need to let you go.”

Now it was Silver’s turn to sit in silence. He knew something bad was coming, but this hit him like a freight train.

“I’m sorry, what?”

“It’s a liability thing, not anything to do with your performance.”

Silver’s jaw dropped as a rush of emotions ranging from anger to confusion to sadness shot through him. His eye twitching, he straightened himself in bed and raised his voice, “What do you mean it’s just a liability thing?”

“You got seriously injured on my property while on the clock. I’m paying you under the table and under the minimum, and normally I’d need to file paperwork for this which could land me in some serious trouble with osha.”

“So you’re just firing me then? Like that?!”

“I don’t want to, but I don’t really have a choice.”

“Of course you do!” Silver raised his voice, letting out a small wince at the pain it brought on. “You had me on under the table, why not just brush this whole incident under the rug too?”

“Because this is a lot more serious.”

“Is it though?!” Silver let out a deep sigh, “Look, I’m mad at the situation but not you. I’m still annoyed at you, but I get where you’re coming from. It’s just…”

“You needed the money, I know. And believe me, I’m sorry that I can’t keep you on, but now there are police reports. There’s a real chance I could lose my insurance… and the yard.”

“Is there any way I could come back in the future? Maybe when things blow over?”

“I don’t know right now. I don’t want to say no, but I also can’t say yes.”

The stallion rolled his eyes and shook his head, “Okay, thanks. I guess just let me know whenever, it’s not like I’ll have a lot to do anyways.”

“I really am sorry about this,” Duncan continued, “I know it’s not the kind of call you wanted to hear and I really hate that I have to make it.”

“No it’s fine, you’re looking out for yourself and your business. I get it.”

“But it sucks, I know. I’m going to let you relax and cool off, and I really hope you have a smooth recovery.”

“Thanks Duncan. Guess I’ll see you around.”

“Goodbye Silver.”

The phone clicked and the call ended, leaving Silver alone with his thoughts and Scarlet.

“I’m so sorry Silver,” Scarlet spoke up, cuddling up next to him.

“Sorry for what? It’s not like we could have changed anything.”

“But it still sucks and it’s ridiculous.”

“Yep, it is,” he flatly replied.

A cold silence permeated the room as the two awkwardly sat there, trying to formulate the right words to say. Silver didn’t let things get to him often, but he would have been lying if he said he wasn’t crushed by the news. There was at least one small consolation he supposed, their medical expenses were seemingly out of the equation this time around, which had been the whole reason he had gotten that job in the first place. But why did he feel so worried still?

“Hey, we’re gonna be fine,” Scarlet finally spoke up, breaking the silence.

“Are we though? We’re not dealing with hospital bills right now, but what about our future? Raising a foal isn’t exactly the kind of thing we can just coast on by without any income.”

“We don’t even know if that’s on the table yet though,” she offered.

“We don’t know if it isn’t though. We haven’t exactly been playing things safe and neither of us knows how this really works for ponies.”

“My mom can help us,” she countered, “even if things get scary and we get overwhelmed.”

“Is it bad that I kind of just want to go back to bed and not think about this for a while?” He asked.

“It probably isn’t good to push it back, but I guess it’s understandable right now.”

“I just have a lot on my mind, you know?” He let out a long yawn, “And I’m still just overwhelmed with everything.”

Scarlet let out a yawn of her own and peeked over at the bedside clock, “Okay, it’s getting late for us, and I’m getting sleepy too. But you have to promise me that we’ll talk this over when we wake up, okay? We can even talk about things with my mom and see what she thinks.”

Silver hesitated for a moment before nodding, “Okay, sounds like a deal to me.”

“Good,” Scarlet smiled, “now let’s get comfy. I’ll even let you pick the dream tonight.”

“Thanks Scarlet,” Silver smiled, feeling a little less worried, but still a little overwhelmed.

Silver lazily mashed bits of architecture together with no real rhyme or reason. He simply had too much on his mind to make anything other than some weird surreal landscape, and just the act of creating something helped out at least some of his frustrations at ease.

“Wow, you’re really getting the hang of this, eh?” Scarlet commented as she scrutinized the dream space that Silver was working on.

The stallion shrugged, “I dunno, it feels like I’m just smashing buildings together.”

Scarlet looked up at one of the twisting skyscrapers that bent around them and connected to a warped brick building, “Well just so you know, there’s a lot of people that would consider this abstract art. And good art at that.”

“I appreciate the sentiment, it’s just hard to be cheerful right now, you know?”’

Scarlet walked close to him and leaned up against him, “I do. I’m sorry things didn’t work out with your boss, but just try and cheer up.”

“Oh I’m trying. He looked at her, “Sorry… I’ll try harder. It’s not fair to get snappy with you.”

“You’re right, so how about this. You take a break from crafting and I’ll make us a nice cozy dream to relax in. Just the two of us.”

Silver smiled and gave a short nod, “That sounds good.”

In a flash the dream suddenly shifted. The bright hues of the buildings seemed to drain into drab and dreary grays and the orange sky above grew dark and cloudy. An icy chill ran down his spine as he suddenly became aware of the oddly familiar presence that he could sense looming in the background. It was a warden no doubt, but one who hasn’t decided to reveal themselves to him. He knew that something was here with him however, and no matter where he looked he couldn’t shake the feeling that someone was staring at him just out of sight.

“Hey, I know you’re here, so wanna cut the theatrics and just show yourself so I can get back to cuddling with my marefriend?!”


Great, I sound like a complete lunatic, he thought to himself.

His thoughts were suddenly interrupted as he sensed another dreamer entering his dream. Scarlet flashed him a look of concern, raising a hoof to Silver’s head and pulling his gaze back toward her, “Silver, what’s up?”

He shook his head and pointed toward the corner of the twisted desert cityscape that he had been creating, taking sight of an orange pegasus with a purple mane. More shockingly, if his memory served him correctly, this was none other than Tonya Middleton— a pegasus who had been tried by the dreamwardens for using mind magic to commit murder and had somehow managed to survive their judgement with her mind intact.

Scarlet followed his gaze and looked back toward him, “That isn’t… I mean it can’t be— right?”

Before he could reply, the stranger spoke up, earning confused looks from the pair of night ponies, “Um, I’m sorry if I’m interrupting you.”

A strange feeling of familiarity radiated from the stranger, sparking some realization in Silver’s head. Something about her voice was familiar, as if he had heard it before, giving him a feeling that he knew this pony from somewhere, but he couldn’t place where.

A realization suddenly came to him as the pieces fell into place. With an audible gasp he stepped back, meeting the stranger’s gaze, “You? This has got to be a weird prank.”

“This isn’t a prank, I can promise you that”, she replied in a calm voice.

He raised an eyebrow. “So you’re the pony our mutual friend was talking about?”

“It seems so. So what do you think?”

“About what he said or about you? You know, the convicted mind magic abuser that’s somehow able to dreamwalk. Last I checked, pegasi couldn’t do that unless I’m missing something.”

“Last I checked most night ponies didn’t build giant twisted cities inside a subconscious part of their mind that they managed to access, but here we both are.”

“That still doesn’t answer my question. My dream magic is one thing, but you don’t have that ability… right?”

“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?”

Silver gave a short nod, “Not really, just unusual is all.” He glanced around at nothing in particular before looking back at her, “So I’m going to just assume that we’re not all alone here then. I can feel one of them hiding in the shadows.”

“Mhmm, well that’s not what’s important. What’s important is the offer that’s on the table.” She looked toward Scarlet, “For both of you— and the rest of your friends actually.”

“Alright, that’s fair enough. Before we get into this though, I have a few questions to ask you.”

“Ask away then. I can’t promise that I’ll be able to answer everything, but we’ll see.”

“For starters, who are you with?”

She raised an eyebrow, “What do you mean? I’m here on behalf of our mutual friend.”

“Right, but who are you really here with? I know he wouldn’t just ask me something in a really weird roundabout way.”

“But what if he did?” She offered.

Silver shrugged, “I’d be confused but what isn’t confusing in here? That said, I might not know Psychic super well, but I know enough about him to know that he would never do things this way. He’s the dry and straight to the point kind.”

“You’re very perceptive. So I’ll tell you what, I’m here to offer a deal from my wonderful fiancé, who happens to lead an advanced research group out east.”

“Sunset Blessing, right?”

“Right, and I’m going to guess that your next question is how did she find us, what does she want from us, and what’s the catch?”

“Something like that,” Silver answered.

“Well the how is real easy. I don’t know what it was, but something you said or did seemed to stand out to our friend, and he passed along some of your information to Phobia, who might have passed some of that along to me over breakfast a little while ago.”

A flicker of realization sparked in Silver’s head, “Aha, so that’s why he asked me if he could share what we talked about.”


“Okay, so how about the what?”

“Another easy one. Sunset’s always looking for scientists that can help with some of her projects. She thinks you and your friends seem like a group of ponies that might be able to help with a small project or two to start, with maybe some bigger projects down the line if everything seems to be going well.”

“Mhmm, but what do two inventors, a robotics nerd, a programming geek, and an astronomer have to bring to the table?”

“A lot surprisingly. You’re a group of ponies working on researching science and magic, that’s not exactly common or easy to find right now,” Tonya calmly replied. “Besides, she also funds research projects that will lead to products that can be sold to ponies.”

“Okay, but are our hobbies really the kind of stuff that put us on Sunset’s radar? Because I’m finding it hard to believe that she’s just found a bunch of nobodies out in the middle of nowhere and is willing to offer them employment.”

“Well I guess I should have been more specific. Your dreams did too. The stuff you keep talking to other dreamwalkers about. Stuff like the projects you dream of getting to work on again, that base the inventors wanted to work on out in the desert— that sort of stuff. There’s not a lot of ponies willing to just blindly work towards something in the way your friends are trying to, especially out in your neck of the woods and that makes you and your friends kind of unique in that regard. That’s why Sunset took interest in you.”

Silver nodded, “Okay, so what’s the catch then? We just work with Sunset? Does she expect us to just completely pack up shop and move halfway across the country? Because honestly that’s not gonna be doable right now.”

“Don’t worry about that, moving isn’t necessary, and we can figure out the finer details if you decide to take the offer.”

“What is the offer then? I can’t really speak for everypony right now, but it wouldn’t hurt to hear what’s on the table.”

“The offer on the table 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 components? They’re yours. Need some advanced computer? Sure. All you have to do is help out with her stuff and you’re free to do whatever you want in between. You can even work from wherever is most convenient— no need to move out here. That’s it, nothing more, nothing less. Does that sound fair to you?”

Silver contemplated this for a moment. Sure, she was here with an offer that almost seemed too good to be true, but something told him that this was a much larger part of something else, and that alone intrigued him enough to almost jump right on the opportunity. He needed to think this through though, because after all he couldn’t just speak on their behalf. He thought back to the two inventors and the argument they had had when he first met them, and then he thought back to his own projects that he never thought he’d have the chance to work on again. On one hand, if he accepted this deal on their behalf they’d all be able to work on their dream projects, and maybe he could even work on building up something even bigger than a cobbled together telescope for Scarlet, but on the other he’d be accepting something without having the chance to put more concrete thought into it.

Clearly this was something that needed careful consideration, and that’s just what he was about to do. 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?”

“Mind if we talk this over for a second?” Scarlet asked, interrupting the two for the first time since Tonya had arrived.

Silver turned toward Scarlet and then back toward Tonya, who replied with a nod.

Scarlet lowered her voice to a whisper, leaning in close to Silver, “Do you think we can trust her?”

“I don’t know. To tell you the truth, I don’t think we’re in any position to fully agree without talking to the others… what do you think though?”

“Well if we agree that means we’re agreeing to work with a really notable Shimmerist, that might not look so good for us.”

Silver nodded, “My thoughts exactly… but it might be the only way we can do any of the things we’ve been wanting to do.”

“I’m perfectly content with the life we’re leading now though, I mean we just talked about that out there too, does this change anything?”

“Not for us. I’m fine sticking around where we’re at,” he replied back in a calm voice, “but I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t an interesting proposition. I mean if not for us, it might be useful for the other two. You saw how much they really wanted to work on their bigger projects, and this might be a way to get back into some of the stuff I’ve been thinking a lot about lately.”

She glanced over toward the pegasus, “Okay, well maybe we should put a pin in this and do a little more research with those two then.”

“My thoughts exactly, if they don’t think it’s a good idea then we just politely decline and continue our happy lives.”


Silver turned back toward Tonya, meeting her with a smile, “Okay, so I’m interested in this, but I’m going to hold off on saying a hard yes or no until I can talk it over with the others. I have a couple conditions of my own, you know, assuming we agree to this.”

“And they are?”

“Firstly, we get a final say on what we get to do in our downtime. If we’re working with your projects then Sunset can dictate how we handle them, but she stays out of our own business unless we can come to some agreement that’s fair for both parties. Secondly, whatever we’re working together on— I want to make sure that it’s something that’s not going to go against our own morals. I want to make sure that we’re not going to be doing anything questionable that puts us in any awkward positions.”

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. “Well, assuming we all come to an agreement, I think we’ll need help getting some more resources set up. I know the two inventors were having some discussions about that, but kept running into budgetary issues. I’m sure Sunset could spare a few dollars if it’s making this whole partnership a lot more efficient. Obviously I’m going to need to discuss the matter more with the others and get back to you on it before we can actually know what we’ll need so let’s go ahead and put a pin in this for now and meet up again later. Let’s say a week from now, same dream, same time? Does that sound alright to you?”

Tonya nodded, “That’s fine by me. I know Sunset’s got a reputation that might not be what you’re comfortable with, but she’s not a bad pony, the stuff she’s trying to do could change the world someday, and I’m sure being a part of that will reflect back nicely on you all. So just consider the offer, okay?”

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 week when you’re all ready. Have a nice rest of your… day I guess?” She said cheerfully.

“You too, take care.”

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

Scarlet was the first to speak up, looking back toward Silver, “So…”

“We’re being watched by some Shimmerist and her mind magic abusing fiance… who’s offering us some deal...” he let out a laugh, “I’d say this has been the weirdest day in a long time, but I honestly don’t know if it is.”

“Do you really think it’s a good idea? Taking the deal that is.”

Silver shrugged, “No, it probably isn’t, but we should definitely tell the others, at least get their thoughts on the matter. Let’s be realistic, Sunset Blessing is a powerful pony with some far reaching connections, connections that would make their projects a lot easier to actually accomplish. I mean you saw the stuff they were working on, maybe this might give them the chance to make some of those prototypes into an actual reality.”

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

“I will, we’re all in this together.”

Chapter 42: Good Dreams and Bat Dreams

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As one night pony pondered the implications of a suspiciously beneficial deal, another was alone pondering the stressful politics that were flaring up back home in his dream. As creative and artistic as he could be, Stanley wasn’t a dream crafter, which was fine by him. Some ponies like Silver Eclipse were naturals at it and would spend countless days building up some fantastical dream, but Stanley was more than content just using the quiet place to reflect in.

Dreams were often strange and hard to follow— even for night ponies, but they could also reflect a deeper insight into one’s subconscious thoughts, and that’s just what filled Stanley’s current dream. A warped desert village with shadowy phantoms sprawled out in front of him, a dark and foreboding rift torn through the center of it. On one side, there were earth ponies and night ponies united together in the farm fields; on the other, there was another night pony surrounded by unicorns and pegasi. In the center was Stanley, who was standing on his own isolated chunk of land, the two different sides of the village caught in a complicated dance around him.

This dream wasn’t surprising to him at all— it was clearly a representation of the current situation back home. By all counts, the side with the unicorns and pegasi represented Dawn’s loyalists, who were kept in the dark about the betrayal that was happening right in front of them. The earth ponies represented Gizmo’s loyalists, who had been granted permission to do as they pleased by Midnight Sun, albeit off the books. Their ambition and desires were not misplaced, but the fact that they were now granted the permission to simply do what they wanted without any formal compromise between themselves and Dawn meant that any further negotiations would most likely fall through.

In the center sat Stanley, the pony who saw both sides of the drama and was drawn into it whether he liked it or not. Maybe that was his problem? Perhaps his kindness and drive to see things with an open mind was itself misplaced. Could he have possibly avoided the position he was currently in? Probably not, at least not forever. No, it was clear that this shaky peace was a stopgap at best.

Closing his eyes, he decided to clear the dream and move onto the next part of his reflection. Opening his eyes, Stanley looked all around at the infinite darkness of the dream realm and smiled. As weird and as scary as it could be before, by now the place had become a sort of second home— maybe even an extension of his self as some night ponies had come to see it as. In here he was just another lone soul in a pool of millions of countless other minds, but despite that, he still felt as if he was a part of something greater than just himself.

He could have sat and just reflected on the nature of Dreams for the whole night if he wanted to, the serenity and solitude would have done wonders to ease his current stresses, but he had something important to get off of his chest. What felt like ages ago, Silver and Scarlet had offered him a place to crash, and the growing discontent that a number of his close friends were feeling towards Dawn was pushing him to consider any alternative options that he could.

In this case, it boiled down to finding a new home for him and, for sure, at least two others. However, the growing rift between Gizmo’s loyalists and the ponies loyal to Dawn was growing at an alarming rate, and he wouldn’t be surprised if half the village decided to pack up and move. Feeling antsy just sitting around, he reached out into the endless starry void and felt for the familiar signature of Silver’s dream, taking note of the fact that there seemed to be two familiar but subtly different stars floating in the void.

Focusing harder, he decided to ignore this fact and instead latched onto the stronger of the two dreams, pulling its gateway towards him. Opening his eyes, a brightly lit star that somehow seemed to shine a little differently than usual greeted him. He couldn’t immediately tell what it was, but something was different here. This wasn’t a passionate or lust-filled dream, and it wasn’t a sad or happy one either… it just looked and felt like any ordinary dream would, but with an almost ghostly shine to it, as if it was somehow in a different plane of existence than other dreams were.

Choosing to ignore the growing sense of curiosity that was currently welling up within, Stanley trotted into the dream. Greeted by a distinctly alien environment, Stanley let out a gasp as he looked around at the twisted buildings that Silver had created. It hadn’t been all that long since he had last visited his friend’s dream, but the stallion’s proficiency had grown so much in that time.

A somber quiet filled the air, and for a brief moment, Stanley almost felt as if he was alone, but surely this dream wouldn’t still be active if he was. Deciding to investigate, he trotted around the twisted cityscape, taking in the mysterious otherworldly nature of it all. The buildings themselves were made up of strange materials that seemed to shine with the sheen of polished metals but felt more like stone to the touch. The stars in the sky up above shone with an uninhibited clarity that would never be possible out in the waking world.

In the back of his mind, something felt off, as if this dream was somehow different than the many others he usually explored, but he couldn’t quite place what it was for certain. A grim feeling of unseen eyes watching him sent a shiver down his spine and almost caused him to jump back at the unexpected sensation.

“Stanley?” the voice of Silver called over to him, “Hey, what’s up man?”

“Oh, not much, just the usual,” he half-heartedly replied.

The stallion trotted up to him and scanned him over, “Everything okay? You seem a little down.”

“Just stressed,” he admitted.

“More trouble in the village?”

“Something like that. Basically, it’s a lot of politics that I didn’t expect to have to deal with, and there’s a divide growing between the earth ponies who aren’t happy and the ponies loyal to the village leader who don’t want to change anything.”

“That sounds like a pain in the ass.”

“Yeah, no kidding,” he paused and looked up at Silver, “so that’s kind of why I’m here.”

“Oh? What do you mean?”

“Well… remember when you and Scarlet said I could maybe crash with you?”

“Uh-huh, still need a place to stay?”

“Me and about two others, and maybe a bunch more— if things don’t work out, that is.”

“Right,… well, I think that’d be a little too cramped for our cabin, but if it’s just you three, I can see if there’s any room in the village.”

“And if there’s more of us?”

Silver paused. “That’d make things a lot trickier. How many are you talking?”

“Probably a dozen or so, mostly earth ponies. But there’s also a few pegasi and unicorns who might tag along.”

“Yeah… that’s going to make things difficult. If it was just the three of you, then we could probably find a place for you to crash at, but an entire village’s worth of ponies is out of the question right now. There’s only so much space to go around without cutting into land that still belongs to the humans and there’s no telling whether they’d let us expand out more.”

“That’s what I figured, but I thought I’d give it a shot anyways.” Stanley looked away and summoned a gateway to another dream. “I need to go talk with one of my friends about this, so I’ll get out of your hair.”

“Hang on a sec,” Silver replied.

“Huh?” The stallion turned back to face his friend.

“This is going to be a total long shot, but I might have a solution. I just need to go talk with some of my friends about something else.”

“Well, I don’t want to bother you with it any more than I have to. Unless you’ve got a whole empty village lying around, then I don’t think you’ll be able to help, but I appreciate it.”

Silver’s face briefly twitched as if what Stanley had said had sparked some thought in his mind, but if the stallion had an idea, then he sure wasn’t going to say it right now.

“It’s not a bother at all,” Silver continued. “Like I said, it’s a huge long shot, and I don’t want to get your hopes up, but I might know a way to get this to work out good for you. You’re up in Arizona, right?”


“Even better. Just hang tight for now if you can, and I’ll come find you when I know more.”

“Not to sound unappreciative or selfish or anything, but how long do you think this’ll take? Because I don't think that things are gonna last if the village drama keeps going the way it’s going. One of the leaders is basically going behind another one’s back to make her side of the village happy, and I just know it’s going to go south real fast.”

“Can you hold on for a week?”

“We can try. I don’t think peace will last that long, but I’ll try and nudge it towards that as long as I can.”

“Great. Just give me a week to get some stuff worked out, and I’ll let you know what happens.”

“When you say you’ll maybe have things worked out, what do you mean? Because I’ve got a lot of ponies that’ll probably need new homes if things don’t work here, and I can’t just lead them on with a maybe.”

“I can’t say a whole lot because it involves stuff learned in a dream that I can’t share. But the short answer is that I have friends over in Phoenix who are working on some stuff, and there’s a small chance that they’ll maybe get a facility of their own set up at some point. It’s a small chance, mind you, and almost all of it’s up in the air right now.”

“And you’re saying a bunch of refugee ponies could stay there or something? What kind of facility is it?”

“I’m saying something like that. I don’t know what they had in mind, but they talked about wanting to buy up an old mining town someday, and I might have found a way for them to do it. It’s not much, but it’s at least better than nothing, though,” Silver added.

“If it actually goes through,” Stanley countered. “You said it’s all up in the air, right? Is that something you can really figure out in a week’s time?”

“As crazy as it sounds, yes. If I can get everything worked out, then they could hopefully get everything settled sooner than later.”

What Silver was proposing sounded way too good to be true, but the Stallion seemed so genuinely sincere with his plan that it gave Stanley a mix of thoughts. If this worked out the way Silver wanted it to, then that would quickly solve one of the biggest issues Stanley was facing right now, but that would also bring forward its own issues. A village was only as good as the ponies that ran it, and starting another would only end in failure if they didn’t address the actual issues that kept creeping up.

A lingering sense of unease and anxiety boiled to the surface, but despite his better judgment Stanley nodded. “This is a huge leap of faith, but if you can make this happen, then I owe you one. A lot of ponies will owe you one, in fact.”

“You don’t have to owe me anything; ponies help each other out, right?”

“This is a huge help, though. There’s a lot of ponies that might need an oasis of their own soon, and this is giving them that chance, even if it doesn’t seem like a huge deal to you.”

“Tell you what, I have to call up my friends, so I’ll see what comes up tomorrow, and I’ll get back to you. I won’t know everything for sure, but I’ll have a better idea of what’s in the cards then. Can you do me a favor in the meantime, though?”

“Sure, what do you need?”

“A list of how many ponies might be displaced and their tribe. If we’re going to start something, it’d help to know at least the basics of that. We can probably work the rest out later.”

Stanley nodded. “Alright, consider it done.” He rested a hoof on Silver’s side, “Thanks again for looking into it. I know it’s huge to ask, but I still appreciate it. I wish I could say that things would work out well where I am… but I can’t. So thanks.”

Silver smiled and nodded, “It’s no trouble at all. That’s what friends are for, right?”

“Right…” he agreed.

Looking back at the twisted buildings, he almost couldn’t help but imagine them as another reflection of what he felt inside, even if this wasn’t his own dream. Regardless of what it reflected or didn’t, his mind was still filled with an uncertainty that he’d just have to trust. Things were about to get a whole lot more intense, and he just knew it…

Chapter 43: Ponies Helping Ponies

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Sharp aches and pains jolted through Silver as his consciousness slowly returned to the waking world. As weird as it was to think of it that way, in a sense, a part of him was traveling to an entirely different realm when he slept. In his current state, he had been doing a lot of that— being stuck in bed with few other sources of entertainment meant that small excursions to the dream realm both while awake and sleeping were becoming ever more common in his life.

Of these two options, sleep was definitely his preferred because it dulled the pain significantly more, with little of it bleeding over to the dream realm as a result. Sitting up, he let out a pained groan, earning a concerned glare from his marefriend, who quickly abandoned the notebook she was toiling away on to trot over to his side.

“Morning, how’re you feeling?” she asked with a compassionate but hushed tone to her voice.

Taking note of her tone, Silver glanced over at her sleeping mother and lowered his voice to a raspy whisper. “Still feel like I was kicked by a horse, but it’s aching a little less than before.”

“Good.” She smiled and looked back towards the notebook, “Just an FYI, I’ve been poking around at some of the observatory fundraising stuff some more, so I might have to take a little field trip later.”

“Yeah? Well, maybe we can go for a little night flight, and you can tell me all about it.”

“Nice try,” she laughed, “Doc said no flying until the follow-up, and I’m not going to budge on that.”

Silver sat up in bed and flexed an uncomfortably stiff wing, “It’s been days, though, and I really ought to stretch them out some more.”

“Then you can stretch them out when you go take a shower, but I’m not going to let you make your injury worse by flying and overexerting yourself.”

“What about a little glide then?” he proposed. “That wouldn’t be putting too much pressure on it.”

“Nope,” she refused, “I can call the doctor up and ask about wing exercises, but until I hear back from her, then that’s a hard no.”

Silver let out a deep sigh, “Okay, fine. How about we just take a little trot outside then and look at the stars? That doesn’t count as overly strenuous activity.”

“If you want to do that, then we can do that, but I’m going to set everything up, and you’re going to take it easy, got it?”

“Got it.” He stole a glance over towards the bathroom and then back to Scarlet, “Mind helping me up? Might as well get the shower out of the way.”

“Right now?”

“If it’s not too much trouble. I can go shower myself; I just need help getting out of bed.”

“You’re not going to shower yourself; I know you’re not going to be able to get everything.”

“It’s all good; I’ve got this. Trust me.”

“And I’m saying I’m going to help you because I don’t need you slipping and falling when you accidentally put too much pressure on your ribs.”

“It’s just a shower; worst case, I call you or your mom for help.”

Scarlet glanced over to her sleeping mother, “You really wanna wake her up?”

“No, probably not. But I also don’t want to bother you.”

“You really think it’s a bother? After all this time we’ve spent together?”

“Well, I dunno,” he started, “I just don’t want you to have to stop what you’re doing just to take care of me.”

“And what if I want to? Maybe I need a shower too?”

“Yeah? And is that all we’ll do?”

“What else would we do?” She teased.

“Probably stuff that counts as strenuous activities,” Silver replied.

“And you know what the doc said about that then.”

“You’re a tease; you know that?”

“Maybe I am. But it’s fun to see you get all flustered. Maybe if you’re good and don’t overwork yourself, we can have some fun in a dream later?”

“What’s your definition of fun?”

“Guess you’ll have to wait and see, won’t you?” She smirked.

“That doesn’t exactly instill hope.”

“Oh? Why not?”

“Because knowing you, it’s going to be an embarrass your stallion friend in front of the Warden of Lust kind of dream.”

Scarlet gasped and stepped back in mock offense, “You insult my honor; I would never do such a thing when my stallion’s recovering from an injury.” Notably, she was silent about the possibility of such a thing after he was recovered.

“You promise?” He raised an eyebrow.

“Yep. I’ll even have Yinyu close off our dream so we can do whatever we want uninterrupted.”

“What if I just want to snuggle up with you?”

“It’s your call. I just thought you’d like to do something a little more special.”

“Wanna see how the night goes and go from there?”

“Sounds like a plan.” Scarlet glanced back over to her mom and then back to Silver, “I’m serious about taking things easy though, she’s gonna kill me if I let you overexert yourself, so just sit tight and let me take care of things.”

Gently pushing Silver back into bed, she trotted towards the bathroom and flipped the shower on. Unable to do much at the moment, Silver’s thoughts drifted back to the conversation with Stanley that he had had in his dream. Dreams were always fuzzy when he woke up, even if they were a lot more vivid now, but the dire nature of the other stallion’s request was crystal clear in his mind. He needed help, and Silver was determined to do his part as soon as possible. A quick glance at the clock told him that the day pony inventors were still asleep, so a call to them would have to wait. The thought to simply dreamwalk to them crossed his mind, though it would probably be best to wait until a little later to jump into that line of questioning.

There was probably more than a lot to think about, and it wouldn’t hurt to prepare what he needed to say in advance. The prior day had also brought along an interesting deal that involved them at its core, and if they agreed to it, it could solve two potential problems at once. Silver honestly didn’t know what the inventors would say or how they’d react, but the chance at possibly being able to get their own workspace would probably be enough to push them towards it.

“Ready to go, or do you need some more time to daydream?” Came the playful interruption from Scarlet.

“I think I’m good. Just thinking a lot about that talk we had with that friend yesterday.”

“Yeah?” She trotted up to him and gently rested a hoof on his side,” still on the fence with it?”

“Haven’t had a chance to talk it over with the others yet, so yeah. Something like that.”

“Well, why don’t we get the showering out of the way so we can kill some time with a little stargazing. I’ve been dying to play with my new telescope some more; then when we’re done, maybe you can go do your weird dream trance thingy and touch base with them?”

Silver smiled and nodded his head. “That sounds great.”

A blanket of bright shimmering stars hung in the sky above the pair as they sat together in the soft grass outside of their cabin. The refurbished telescope that Silver had worked so hard to fix up for Scarlet sat off to the side, momentarily forgotten as the two simply gazed up at the shimmering void with their own unaided eyes.

Breaking his gaze, Silver looked over to Scarlet and smiled, “I really mean it when I say this is one of my favorite things to do with you.”

“You mean hearing me geek out about a bunch of fiery orbs in the sky that are millions of light-years away from us while we just look at them?”

“Uh-huh,” he nodded.

“Don’t you think it’s a little boring, though? I know you’re not super into this stuff like I am, but you can’t really enjoy it that much, right?”

Silver laughed. “I don’t get like half the things you’re saying when we look up at the night sky, but it’s adorable that you’re so into it, and I just love spending the time with you. Even if I feel a little lost when you get into the real complicated physics.”

“Right, well, what I’m trying to get at is that maybe we should take some time and do stuff that you like to do once you’re feeling better. I get that you like stargazing too, but what about those trips we talked about a while ago?”

“Stuff like the amusement parks and the beach?” he asked. “We could take a look at that sometime. I just don’t know how some of those are gonna work with ponies.”

“We’ll have to give it a look and see then. Maybe we can’t do all of the rides, but it’d be fun to go look around and try out the ones we still can,” she offered.

“That’ll be expensive. You know that, right?”

“Then we save up, easy.”

A twinge of wistfulness filled Silver as he thought about his former job, “A little hard to do when I just lost my job,” he replied.

“Who said you have to pay for it? I still owe you something special for the gift you gave me.”

“You don’t need to do that for me,” he smiled, “I’m happy just relaxing with you somewhere.”

“And you didn’t have to fix up my telescope, but you still did because you wanted to make me happy. So just sit back and let me make you happy; it’s something I’ve been wanting to look at too.”

“You like that kind of stuff?”

“I did growing up,” she confirmed. “My mom and dad used to bring us to Six Flags and Knott’s all the time. I just haven’t had a chance to go back in a while.”

Silver began to speak up in objection but stopped himself. He had no real reason to try and get out of it, and Scarlet was clearly not going to budge on spending her own money on a small trip for the two of them.

Instead, he smiled and cuddled up closer to her, “Let’s call it a date then. We can figure out where we want to go once I’m not hobbling around like an injured puppy.”

“I’d say you’re a little more graceful than an injured puppy, at least.”

“And as cute as one, right?”

Scarlet laughed and nodded her head. “Right.” She looked up at the sky and let out a content sigh, “As much as I want to just stay out here, what do you say we stop back in and get something to eat? I think there’s some leftovers from yesterday.”

The thought of the previous night’s meal made Silver’s mouth water in anticipation. Grilled cheese had been one of his favorite meals as a human, and that was one thing that ETS hadn’t taken from him. As much as the pair had the resources to make them, fumbling around to try and make the sandwiches had proven to almost be more work than they were worth, which left them as a sort of delicacy for the two night ponies.

Breaking from his trance, he vigorously shook his head in agreement with the idea.

“I’m sold,” he blurted out, earning a laugh from his marefriend.

“Well, let’s go in then, and I can warm them up. If you want, I could even put on a few movies after.” Scarlet carefully helped him up, and the two started the short walk back to the cabin.

“I need to go dreamwalk to Tinker and talk about the stuff too, so maybe I’ll do that while you’re getting dinner ready?”

“Think it’ll take long?” She asked as she pushed the door open and held it for him.

“Not at all. Maybe like fifteen minutes at most?”

She raised an eyebrow as Silver trotted towards the bed, “Do you think he’ll have an answer that soon?”

“Doesn’t matter much if he does or not, we’ve got time to think about this.”

“I guess that’s fair.”

The mare trotted over towards their laptop that was hooked up to the tv and browsed through the list of movies that Silver had saved on his hard drive, finally landing on the classic Frankenstein.

“It’s just putting the idea in their court and seeing what happens. I honestly hope it does because Stanley’s counting on it too. He’s got a whole lot of ponies that might be out of a home soon, and this might be the best way to take care of them.”

“Hooves crossed,” she commented.

As Scarlet started to prepare their leftover meal, Silver took the opportunity to drift into a waking dream.

As he closed his eyes, Silver’s perceptions crossed into the dream realm, and in a moment, he found himself standing in the starry void of the open dream realm. A serene quiet filled the space around him, but the sounds of the waking world still echoed around in little flashes of auditory sensation. Unsurprisingly to him, he soon felt the telltale uneasy feeling of an unseen warden staring at him from all around.

“Good evening, little dreamer,” the friendly voice of Yinyu spoke out, “you’ve been stopping by here an awful lot lately, haven’t you?”

Silver quickly recited his oaths and nodded, “Yep. Turns out that being confined to a bed for most of the day leaves you pretty bored, and there’s only so many pirated movies you can watch before it gets boring.”

“I would think that movies about pirates would be extra entertaining.”

Silver chuckled at her misunderstanding and nodded, “Guess too much of a good thing wears you out. It’s not all bad though, I’ve been able to practice a lot more in here as I’m sure you’ve seen.”

The warden giggled, “I suppose that makes sense. Have you tried flying outside of your body yet, or are you just sticking to the stuff you know?”

Silver raised an eyebrow and shook his head. “That’s a thing?”

“Maybe,” she slyly replied, “guess that’s something you’ll have to try for yourself sometime.”

The weird half denial only piqued his interest even more, and he couldn’t help but press forward with another question. “Is that actually a thing, though, or are you just pulling my leg? Because I honestly can’t tell with you sometimes,” he looked up at her, “No offense.”

“None taken,” she replied. “But to answer your question, you’ll have to tell me. What’s the fun in just telling you what is and isn’t possible? That’s why you’ve been practicing in here, right?”

“Right, something along those lines.”

“So that’s your homework then. Give that a try sometime and let me know how it works; I’m sure Psy would love to hear about it too.”

“You’re teaching me too now?” He laughed, jumping back in shock as a sharp pain shot through his side, briefly pulling him out of the waking dream. A brief moment of meditation and a few deep breaths helped him return, however.

“Didn’t that cute doctor tell you to take it easy?” asked the hauntingly familiar voice of Yinyu from all around him.

“I am,” Silver exclaimed, “just took too deep of a breath out there, I guess. I’m still getting used to the whole consciousness disconnecting from the waking world thing.”

“You’ll get used to it, trust me. If you’d like, though, I can try to ease your pain in here. It won’t disappear entirely, but I might be able to dull it a little more.

The sounds of the monster movie that Scarlet had put on echoed faintly in the background, serving as another reminder that he was still awake out there and only partially in the dream realm. The reminder also brought forward a few solitary thoughts on what Yinyu had said about leaving his body. Was this something possible, or was it just the stuff of fantasy? Regardless it would be yet another item on his increasingly growing list of things to try out.

“I haven’t lost you, have I, little dreamer?” Yinyu’s voice pulled him back to the dream.

“Huh? No,” he replied. “Guess I just got lost in thought.”

She swam closer and nodded, resting a fin on his head. The sounds and sensations of the waking world faded further into the background but were still faintly perceptible. A cold numbness also spread throughout him, giving him a strange feeling of almost nothingness. His pain, however, had dulled into a nearly unnoticeable ache, which was a more than fair trade-off in his book.

“There, feeling better?”

Silver’s eyes widened. “Yes, actually. Thanks!”

Yinyu smiled and swam away from him, “That should help you for the time being. It’ll only last as long as you’re in here.”

“What did you do exactly? And why won’t it just stay this way?”

“I temporarily altered how you perceive sensations inside of the dream. It’s not stopping the pain, but you’re not perceiving it. That also means you’re not perceiving a lot more of what you normally would, and we can’t have that. You’ve got your big dream date with Scarlet after all.”

Silver’s face reddened for a second, and he quickly changed subjects to avoid what would probably be an unneeded embarrassing conversation. “Well, I appreciate it regardless.”

“It’s my pleasure. Now I believe you had some other business you wanted to attend to?”

Silver raised an eyebrow in confusion for a moment before the realization that she could still read his memory flashed back into his mind.

“Right, boring business talk with my pegasus friend. Thanks again for helping.”

She returned a smile and flew off into the dark sky above, leaving him alone. With a clearer head, he was able to turn his attention to the matters at hand and quickly felt out his friend’s dream. Wasting no time at all, he dove into it and was quickly thrust into the active and unfamiliar dream.

Silver found himself in a dark and foreboding dungeon— a scene that was straight out of one of the classic monster movies he had loved so much growing up. All around him were several strange and weird creations that littered the lab, but the strangest and weirdest one was the device that the dreamer he was looking for was working on. In the center of a large room sat a metal pony on an industrial-looking metal slab. Several glowing electrodes that pulsed with a dim light connected it to the various instruments around the room as if it was feeding energy into the mechanical creature itself.

“At last, my greatest creation shall become a reality!” Shouted the mad doctor, who looked like Tinker’s deranged evil twin.

Silver couldn’t help but stifle a laugh from the shadowy hiding place he was inhabiting. The sight of his friend acting out his role in the dream was just so absurd but also somewhat fitting for the cheerfully optimistic pegasus.

With a dramatic flourish with an equally dramatic clap of thunder, the mad doctor continued his speech. “At last! The moment we have been waiting for this entire time is finally at hand! Gyro, throw the switch!” he once again dramatically yelled, striking an equally dramatic pose.

“Yes Sir.” Shouted the assistant aaa another well-choreographed flash of lightning illuminated the European countryside outside.

In the Dream’s climax, 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 too were coming to life. An electric hum echoed through the room, and the lights brightened to a blinding level, threatening to shatter into a flurry of sparks and glass. That didn’t happen, though; instead something much more dramatic occurred. Like a scene straight out of Frankenstein, 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.

A low mechanical groan joined the electric hum and a set of piercing blue lights lit up on the robotic creature’s gaunt face. Sparks began to dance around the machines as electricity arced through the wires connecting it.

“We need more power!” Tinker suddenly shouted as the room grew brighter.

“It’s at maximum power sir!”

As if on cue, another bolt of lightning struck, shaking the walls of the castle and threatening to raze it to its foundations. Of course that didn’t happen either, this was a cliche monster movie dream after all. Instead more energy poured into the machines, earning another round of sparks and electric arcs. Finally the machinery and instruments gave out their last breaths, shaking and sparking into an explosion such as the mad scientist had never seen.

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

The lights in the dungeon finally gave out as the room was plunged into darkness. That wasn’t a cause for alarm though, for the once piercing blue eyes of the automaton had now darkened into an intense red that lit up the surroundings in an eerie, almost threatening glow.

“Yes… YES! Gyro… We’ve done it... It’s alive! IT’S ALIVE!!!” The doctor screamed and laughed to himself. “Eat your heart out Doctor Frankenstein!”

With another barrage of maniacal laughter, the mechanical creation began to rise from it’s cold lifeless slumber. If Silver didn’t have other more pressing things to talk about, he might have summoned a box of popcorn and let the dream run its course. There was no telling what kind of Frankenstein-esqe direction the story would take, but unfortunately he wouldn’t be able to find out.

Hitting the proverbial pause button, the stallion finally made his presence known to the dreamer who had frozen in place like some kind of scripted NPC.

“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.

“Everything okay?” Silver raised an eyebrow.

“Yeah, no it’s all good,” the pegasus stammered out. “It’s just…” he paused.

“Weird?” Silver offered.

Tinker shook his head, “Not quite. Just… fascinating.”

The pegasus trailed off for a moment and looked around at the frozen dream in awe.
He stared back at Silver and opened his mouth, clearly trying to find the words to describe the experience.

“I can tell it’s a little jarring, it is for all of us the first time we realize we’re in a dream.”

“It’s more than just a little jarring, Silver. It’s amazing! So this is what my brain cooked up then?”

“Uh huh,” the stallion replied.

“Are you enhancing or augmenting this?”

“As in what you see or as in was I the one who paused the dream?”

“Both?” he shrugged.

“No, and yes. I could change things in here if I wanted to, but I don’t need to and it’s harder than trying to change my own dream. No you can’t go there either.”

The pegasus nodded and opened his mouth again, clearly having another question or eight on his mind.

Silver raised a hoof in the air and stopped him before he could star, “Let me just try and answer your next handful of questions that I’m sure you’re already thinking of: Yes it’s really just a dream, I know it’s realistic and feels like we’re out in the waking world but we’re not. No, I won’t tell anypony out there about what I saw in here. Yes it’s really me talking to you, no I don’t know how it all works other than it’s just magic. That clear everything up?”

The pegasus hesitated for a moment and confirmed as much, “Probably as much as I could hope to understand. It’s just… wow, you get to experience this kind of thing every night?”

“Sure do. But I’m not here for a Q and A. I’m here because I had somepony approach me with an offer that I think you might be really interested in.”

“What kind of offer would that be?”

“Well here’s a little background for it. Yesterday a pony representing a big research and development group out east stopped by. Said that some of the chit chat about the stuff we were doing out there spread around in here and made its way to them.”

“And they’re interested in the prototype?” He guessed.

“They didn’t say specifically. But what they did say was that they’d like to offer us a contract to work on some part of a project for them. What kind of project that is I don’t know. But here’s the deal, they’re offering us funding, facilities, and automation. That’s something you and Gyro were trying to get set up a while ago, right?”

Tinker didn’t immediately answer, but the look on his face told Silver everything he needed to know: the terms of the deal had hooked the pegasus.

“I…” he started. “I— who did you say they represented again?”

“Some group out east. They don’t really have hooks here yet, but they’re clearly trying to branch out.”

A confident look crossed his face and he raised an eyebrow. “Would this group happen to be called SPEC?”

It was Silver’s turn to be surprised, “What makes you ask that?”

They’re the only group out there big enough to try this kind of thing. I don’t keep up with everything in the world, but you better bet I keep up with stuff like this. So what does the preacher really want with us then?”

Silver shrugged, “Probably some big fancy secret project that they don’t want getting out there.”

“Or maybe they’re more interested with pushing more pony-centric products out there?”

“Like your inventions?” Silver asked.

“Potentially,” he considered this for a moment before continuing, “That could be a very good thing or a very bad thing, you know that right?”

“It could be,” Silver agreed. “But here’s the benefit for us. They’re funding whatever you need, including a base of operations and whatever you’d need for a lab. Like maybe that old mining town in Arizona that Gyro was talking about?”

“You think that town’s a good investment for this?” Tinker asked.

“I’m not an expert at all on that, I’ll be honest,” Silver admitted, “but there’s another reason why I bring it up.”

“Oh? What’s that?”

“I have a friend who’s having some trouble in his home. Basically there’s some management issues in the village he’s in and it’s probably going to result in a bunch of ponies getting exiled very soon…”

“And he was hoping they could crash with us?” Tinker finished for him.

Silver nodded, “Yeah. It’s mostly farmers with some pegasi, a couple of night ponies, and maybe some unicorns.”

“So ponies that would be willing to help out around the place then.” He looked up at Silver, “I’m going to have to run this by Gyro, you understand, right?”

“I do, and I know he’ll probably look at this as deeply as you will.”

“Now here’s a question for you,” Tinker spoke up.

“Oh? What’s up?”

“If we do this, are you moving out with us, or staying back home?”

Silver hesitated. Not because he didn’t know the answer, but because he was still split on what he truly wanted. The creative spark he had always had never faded, but the hesitation that kept him in his village was still at the forefront of his mind.

“I don’t know. As much as I want to join you guys, I still have my family to consider, and I don’t think I can just turn away from that.”

Tinker smiled, “I figured. But you still want to work with us, right?”

“I mean I’d love to, but that’s not really easy.”

“Are you still off of work?”

Silver let out a sarcastic laugh, “Yeah. Forever actually.”

Tinker’s face shifted into a sympathetic grimace, “They cut you loose?”

“Mhmm. Sucks but what can you do? Boss was going to get hit with OSHA fines and kind of had to sweep me under the rug. My coworker got some paperwork written up to cover their bases. I’m not gonna pretend like I understand all of it, but he had me sign some stuff and said basically I was working for him, so I didn’t need to lose sleep over it. Didn’t say no to having me come back someday, but also said he’d probably have to replace me, so it wouldn’t be anything that’d happen anytime soon. It’s fine though, what’s done is done.”

“Well, if we’re going down this route, and there’s no promise that we are. But if we do actually agree to the deal, then we’ll need somepony to help out with the paperwork stuff. Do you think that’s something you’d be interested in helping with?”

“Record keeping? I mean I guess I could. Isn’t that gonna be an issue when I’m in an entirely different state though?”

“Probably not,” Tinker shrugged. “You could probably manage all of that stuff online anyways.”

A happy feeling began to well up inside of Silver, and a warm smile spread across his face. “I think I could do that then. Just let me know what Gyro says and I guess I’ll relay that back to my friend and the SPEC rep.”

“It’s not the sciency stuff I know you want to do,” Tinker added, “But any help is still greatly appreciated.”

“Thanks Tinker… I really hope this all works out.”

“Me too Silver. I’ll give you a call sometime tomorrow and we can figure out what the next step is, okay?”

“Okay.” Silver confirmed.

“Great. Now am I just gonna return to the dream? Or am I stuck here or something?”

“I should probably put you back into it before you get lost in some dream void or something.”

“I understand. This was a nice chat, I hope you feel better soon, and please do give Scarlet my regards,” He finished with a smile.

“I will. See you when I see you, friend.”

In a flash the dream had resumed as it was before, as if the entire conversation had simply never happened. As Silver left his friend’s dream and returned to the waking world, his thoughts filled with a mix of anxiety, excitement, and optimism for the future.

Chapter 44: Deception is a Dangerous Thing…

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Stanley felt a growing uncertainty as he stared off into the sunset on the horizon. This bittersweet reflection was only undercut by the odd excitement that the talks with both Silver and his inventor friend had brought on. The idea that they had a plan B if everything went wrong admittedly took a huge weight off of the night pony’s conscience… but he still had his lingering doubt. Spreading his wings, he leaped off of the village’s large stone wall and his worries briefly faded away as he increased his altitude to the point where he could see the sprawling Grand Canyon in the distance. A sense of longing filled him as he eyed the clouds with a twinge of envy that he couldn’t just sit up on a cloud and watch the sunrise forever.

It wasn’t that he disliked being a night pony, but he had to admit that he’d gladly become a pegasus if he ever had the chance— not that he ever would. Still though, he had to figure that if he was a pegasus then maybe he wouldn’t be dealing with some of the same issues he was dealing with now. It was a silly fantasy but one that often made him think about how different his life might have been if he hadn’t been turned into a night pony.

Would he have decided to come out this far out of a lack of companionship? Would he have seen such a radically different pony in the mirror every morning than the human he used to be? How much of his old self would have been retained if he wasn’t so driven by his instincts? He wouldn’t have been exactly the same as before of course, but would he have at least resembled more of the human who was so afraid of everything that he had once been?

There was no way to know, and no way he’d ever know for that matter, but he still couldn’t help but let his mind wander. He supposed that ETS changed him for the better in the long run, even if being a night pony had inadvertently placed him in the role of a divided village’s mediator. With a sigh he shook his head and dropped into a quick dive, letting the adrenaline clear his scattered thoughts.

As Stanley pulled into a tight landing, he shook off his wings and trotted towards his unsteady home. And as he slowly passed through the calm and quiet village he couldn’t help but feel a mounting sense of unease, because while everything was calm and peaceful right now, Midnight had been working behind Dawn’s back to give the earth ponies what they wanted. Her real plan, as she had explained it, was to give them what they wanted up front while hiding that from Dawn until she could slowly ease the unapproved changes into normalcy.

The way she had explained this was logical enough, make little changes that slowly enveloped parts of what they wanted so it all looked good on the record, but while giving them the full control they desired too. Midnight’s plan in essence was to play the long con, which could totally work, but it was also incredibly risky if you considered how nosy Dawn could be. Midnight had already had at least two close calls with Dawn wanting to review the current growing schedule and inspect the farm personally. The first request had been easy enough to deflect— all Midnight had to do was simply write up a fake schedule. The second however, had been a very close call.

Dawn had been making her usual morning rounds before retiring for the day, and had unexpectedly broken her usual routine to give the farmers a surprise visit. Some quick thinking and a sudden avalanche of a local trader’s wares had pulled her attention away from the farm visit. After lending a hand with organizing the Knick-knacks and other hoof made tools and trinkets, Dawn had been too tired to bother with her visit, but such a lucky break wouldn’t last forever. As he passed through the doorway to the town hall he greeted Midnight with a warm smile.

“You slept in a bit,” Midnight observed.

“Just for a little while,” Stanley corrected. “Had a quick call to make, about some of the stuff we talked about.”

“And what were you two talking about?” Dawn curtly asked as she trotted in from the council’s chamber.

“Stuff that isn’t really any of your business,” Midnight casually replied.

“But if you’re wondering, it's just possible vacation stuff, nothing really interesting.” Stanley interjected.

While Midnight’s response wasn’t outright aggressive, it was the kind of response that might elicit a negative reaction from the normally stoic mare. Not wanting to give her a chance to read into it further, Stanley instead shifted his voice into the most cheerful tone he could muster and continued his explanation.

“I wanted to call a friend and see if he’d let us crash on his couch for a while in case we wanted to go visit in a few months.”

“I see,” the burnt orange mare nodded. “Sounds like it was my business then after all. Were you going to ask for that time off or were you just going to spring it on me?”

“We were going to bring it up when it was right to,” Midnight ran with his story. “In fact, we’re just now barely even planning some of it out.”

Dawn raised an eyebrow, “You haven’t even planned any of it?”

“Nope. We’ve got a few ideas, but there’s not really anything concrete yet and things could change at any moment.”

Trying to do his best to keep the conversation neutral and calm, Stanley continued from Midnight's explanation. “Trust me Dawn, we’ll keep you in the loop once we actually know what we’re doing. Right now we’re just thinking about what we actually want to do and making sure we can actually crash somewhere first.”

“We were gonna ask you if you wanted to join us, but we figured it’d be better if the entire administration team wasn’t off chilling at some beach.”

Midnight let out an audible laugh, “For real though, we’ll let you know in advance, I promise.”

“I’d appreciate that.”

“So what’s on the agenda tonight, Dawn?” Stanley asked, changing the subject.

“A lot of the usual, and speaking of which I have a meeting with head mage Indigo coming up soon.”

“Oh yeah? Well what’s Indigo up to nowadays?” he continued.

“About what you’d expect from him. The crazy old unicorn’s apparently got some breakthrough with his organization spell that he’s been insisting he show me and I’ll never hear the end of it if I’m late.”

“That’s alright Dawn,” Midnight interrupted, “Stanley and I can cover for you. I think you just had to talk about reports with the earth ponies and pegasi right?”

“Correct. But you don’t need to worry about that.”

“No,” Stanley interjected, “we probably don’t, but we will. You don’t need to overstress yourself, and we all know that Indigo’s ten minute demonstration is going to really be three hours.”

Dawn hesitated for a moment, taking a quick glance outside. With a warm smile she nodded, “Thank you. I guess you’re right.”

No need to thank us Dawn, it’s what we’re here for.”

Dawn nodded once more and turned towards the door. “In that case, you two have a nice evening. We can talk over the reports later.”

Stanley bowed his head in respect to her, “Sounds like a plan.”

The fiery mare trotted off and left the two in peace, though Midnight still seemed to carry herself with a sense of caution and suspicion, as if she was afraid that Dawn would return at a moment’s notice. Stanley couldn’t blame her, the mare wasn’t one to just make a greeting and run off. No, she was the kind of pony that loved to hear about your day and talk all about your plans. If anypony were to stick around and return unannounced, it would one hundred percent be her.

Almost as if she had been reading his thoughts, Midnight glanced around to make sure that Dawn was actually out of ear shot and turned back to Stanley. “So what did your friends say then?”

“Do you want the long story or the short one?”

“Long one is probably best to be honest. I’ve got some stuff I need to talk to you about too and it’s probably a good idea to at least know what’s on your mind.”

“Right, we’ll for starters we’ll have a place to go if things don’t work out here.”

The truth of the matter was that there wasn’t a clear guarantee that they would take whatever deal was being proposed, but Silver seemed to be confident in it and so Stanley was willing to take a risk on this.

“That’s good,” Midnight commented. “So what’s the place like then? And can it handle all of us?”

“It should. The place they’re moving to eventually is an old mining town out near the Verde Valley that’s basically abandoned. The two ponies in charge of it are a couple of inventors and I don’t know what they’re doing out there, but it’s a place that might give us all what we really wanted here. It’s going to need a lot of work to fully set up yet so they would really appreciate all of the extra help, and they don’t really mind the idea of setting it up as a functional village. They just need it for some experiment and as long as they can do that then they’re good.”

“Right…” Midnight considered this for a few moments before raising a skeptical eyebrow, “and we can trust them?”

Stanley paused for a moment and thought about the impression he had gotten from the pony he had talked to, Tinker. He hadn’t actually met the stallion, but his voice carried the jolly, optimistic tone that gave off the distinct impression that he was the kind of pony that could be anypony’s friend. This obviously wasn’t a sure fire thing to go off of, but Silver seemed to trust him well enough and Stanley trusted Silver enough to take his word.

“It might sound super sketchy and maybe a little dumb, but one of my closest friends trusts him so I’m going to trust him too.”

Midnight sighed and nodded, “I’m just worried about everything, you know?”

“Still tied up on whether we should try and make things work here or just go our separate ways?”

“Yeah. I really am,” she admitted.

Stanley walked closer to her and sat down, laying a wing over his friend. “I know this is a hard decision to make, but I’m with you either way.”

“I know. As much as I want to just make things work here we really need to look out for the ponies that need it more.”

“Mhmm. Well tell you what. What if we get Gizmo and his ponies together and we all vote on that once I know for sure whether my friends are getting their place or not. If they vote to move there then we move there and just cut ties peacefully.”

“And if they don’t?”

“Then we do whatever we need to do. I think the important thing is giving them what we can within reason, and if some want to stay and argue with Dawn then so be it. But we need to make up our minds on what side we’re on.”

Midnight slumped over and sighed, “It’s hard to choose that, you know? Dawn’s not a bad pony but she’s also misguided and clearly doesn’t want to compromise. This is also my home too though and it feels like a lot to just abandon it because we can’t see eye to eye.”

“Then look at it this way, is the stress you’re feeling now worth it? And if it isn’t then what do you want to do about it?”

“That’s hard to answer too. Everypony here has a purpose and a role, I can’t just step back from what I’m doing now but I also can’t just stick around doing it forever.”

“Because you’re burned out and it’s eating away at you?”

“Yeah. That’s it exactly. But then I’m also stressing about whether moving hundreds of miles away is a good choice too, because what if it isn’t? What if that village just falls apart too?”

“That’s the hardest thing to predict. But what I’m seeing is a whole bunch of ponies that aren’t happy trying their best to bargain with a leader who isn’t willing to budge on her idealistic dream. Maybe it isn’t my place to say, but I think at that point we need to cut our losses and move on so we can all be happy instead of falling into this looping cycle of unhappiness.”

“So you’re saying we should go?” Midnight looked up at him with an uneasy and anxious look on her face.

“If things don’t improve? Yeah. The plan you’re working on now works, but what happens when Dawn catches wind of it? What happens if she isn’t willing to just gradually buy into it?”

“She’ll snap and shut everything down and we’ll be right back where we started.” Midnight answered. “Okay, then I have an idea.”

“Please do tell,” Stanley reassured her, “I’m really curious what it is.”

“We have our vote, and we come clean to Dawn. If she still has an issue with that then we’ll move on and see what happens. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t, but whatever happens you’re right. We can’t just stick around just to stick around.”

“You want to come clean to Dawn?”

“It’s going to hurt her probably but we should. Ponies shouldn’t lie to their friends, even if the truth is going to hurt them.”

Stanley nodded, “I see… well should we go talk with Gizmo then and figure out when to take the vote?”

She nodded, “Yes. We need to take a trip over to the farm and have a talk with him, he should be waking up soon anyways.”

“Let’s do it,” was his only reply as he stood up and made for the door.

The feeling of worry and unease echoed back into his mind as he realized that their days in Sanctuary were more than likely numbered, and even though they wouldn’t be without a home for long, Stanley still couldn’t help but worry about the future ahead of him. Not just for his or Midnight’s sake, but for half a village’s worth.

Stanley didn’t know it at the time, but the following week would be his last spent in Sanctuary…

Chapter 45: The Best Time of Your Life

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The week went by about as slowly as Silver could have expected it to, and in some cases, it almost felt even slower. He had been confined to bed for most of it, except for some light wing exercises and short nightly walks that he had been allowed to partake in. The wing exercises had left a lot to be desired and never got anywhere close to scratching that flying itch, but at least it helped alleviate the stiffness in his wings.

Being forced to do nothing but rest and letting another pony take care of him was starting to grow old as well, but he had to admit that it added an almost extra level of bonding to his and Scarlet’s relationship, even with her returning to work on most nights. Lastly, it also gave him a chance to practice the limits of his dream magic and attempt to learn more. Both Psychic Calm and Yinyu had been his guides and mentors throughout the week, and through their tutelage he had grown even more adept at slipping into the dream realm and crafting his own dreams.

These new abilities and the limitless potential of the dream realm were the perfect outlets for his boredom, and that’s the point he was at now. Crafting another corner of Somewhere— the name he had decided to give for his subconscious dream space. What started as a cabin had turned into an open desert with twisting psychedelic buildings, then become a sprawling volcanic island with intricate paths spread throughout it. Each day and night was spent adding onto the island and carving out new locations until he was pleased with the additions— then he’d move onto the next part. From industrial docks to intricate observatories to serene tropical hideaways— it was all part of his healing process.

In the times where he grew tired of designing things for himself, he simply pulled from his friends for inspiration. A peaceful retreat for him and Scarlet where the two could spend their time doing whatever they wanted, a bright neon arcade for Sine, a gothic castle built into the side of the volcano, and a quiet scenic overlook for Stanley. Such endeavors were where his creative energies lay in the present, and he was hard at work making some adjustments to his quiet cove at Scarlet’s request. Admittedly some of her changes like the large stage set up on the side would inevitably be used to embarrass him, but he could live with such indignities in here. This was his own private world after all, and much to his own enjoyment it had become a place that he could persistently create. The gentle feeling of a hoof on his side in the waking world cut through his perceptions in the dream realm, signaling that it was time to pause his progress for the time being.

He opened his eyes and adjusted himself in bed, smiling as he caught sight of his marefriend.

“Have a nice nap?” she asked in a gentle voice.

“Absolutely,” Silver replied. “I built some of the stuff you asked for in our little cove, and I really can’t wait for you to see it!”

Scarlet smirked, “Can’t wait either. But we’re gonna be late for our appointment unless you hop out of bed and get cleaned up.”

“I’m not that bad,” he fired back.

“Yeah? Well your mane’s a mess and you haven’t showered today so you better get to it unless you wanna get some talks about hygiene from the doctor.”

“When you’re right you’re right,” Silver replied.

With a carefully practiced precision he dragged himself out of bed and got right to it, and before long he was dried off and hopping in the back of Mrs. Delgado’s car. The ride to the clinic itself was boring and uneventful, though instead of jumping into another dream, Silver chose to cuddle up next to Scarlet and enjoy the scenery. Checking into the clinic was another boring and uneventful process that felt almost routine at this point considering they had already done it before. The familiarity of it was nice though, because it took some of the anxiety away from it all.

Next came the equally boring and personal questions about health, what they had been doing, how the healing process was going, exercises to do… the usual stuff that Silver probably should have paid more attention to but found himself struggling to. Finally, the two were split up and examined on their own, with Doctor Fitzpatrick taking care of Scarlet and Doctor Wu, her in-training protege, watching over Silver.

Despite lacking a lot of the training that his teacher had, Doctor Wu was still more than capable of examining Silver.

“So how’s your breathing been, Mr. Eclipse?” The doctor calmly asked him.

“It really only hurts a lot if I breathe in too deeply, but I don’t feel like I’m going to pass out or anything anymore if that’s what you’re asking.”

“Good,” he scribbled out a few notes with a pen held in his magic, “and any issues you’ve noticed come up since then?”

Silver reflected on his rather boring week and shook his head, “Not really my wings are just kind of killing me because I haven’t been able to fly around.”

“Mhmm, well that's completely normal. You’ve been keeping up on your daily exercises though, right?”

“Yeah. The wing stretches and all that. I’d kill for the chance to do some actual flying though.”

“I bet. I can’t imagine what it’s like obviously, but I’ll talk things over with Doctor Fitzpatrick and see what she says. She’s admittedly more of an expert on that subject than I am.”

Silver smiled, “Thanks.”

“My pleasure.” He glanced down at the clipboard held in his magic, “Have you noticed any pain or problems in any other part of your body?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well is your pain just limited to the injury site or is there any other pain?”

“It’s pretty much just around the ribs. The scrapes and bruises aren’t really bothering me anymore.”

“Good. And you’ve been resting as much as you can? No high stress or overly strenuous activities?”

“Only in my dreams, but out here I’ve just been laying around for the week.”

Glancing back to his list, he paused for a moment, “I apologize, this question is a little more personal than the rest.”

“Okay, go ahead.”

“Have you engaged in any sexual activities?” he read out in a flat, neutral voice.

Silver’s face reddened for a moment at the unexpected question. With a very quick shake of his head, he stammered out a response. “Nope, just been laying in bed like I’m supposed to.”

“Alright.” He checked off a few items on the clipboard and nodded, “Well that’s everything. If you’ll excuse me I’ll go check in with Doctor Fitzpatrick and she’ll be able to explain more to you. For now I’ll just have you wait outside and she’ll call you when she’s done with Miss Moon.”

“Thanks Doc.”

“Mhmm, it’s no problem. If anything I should thank you, you’re the first real pony patient I’ve had.”

“Glad I can help?” Silver laughed out.

Silver’s time in the waiting room could have been spent in the dream realm, but Silver decided to instead read one of his books that he had brought along. It was an old favorite of his— Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. It had been far too long since he had just cracked open a good story, and as much as he would have loved to just get lost in a dream instead, he wanted to save that experience for later. Everything was better in moderation after all.

He had of course read it more times than he could count, it was one of his childhood favorites after all, but it still never ceased to make him smile. Fond memories from his past that he had long neglected drifted back through his mind as he gleefully read page to page. Time itself lost all meaning to him as he got lost in the narrative, and before long the sudden sound of his name being called by a familiar voice pulled him back to reality.

Stepping out into the waiting room, Doctor Wu waved towards him and called his name again. “Mister Eclipse, please follow me.”

Silver glanced up from the book and nodded.

As he followed him down the hallway he leaned in close, “Is everything okay?”

“Everything is perfectly fine. There’s just a few things that Doctor Fitzpatrick wanted to talk to you and miss Moon about.”


Turning down the hallway, he led him into the exam room that Scarlet had been brought to and gestured towards the open space next to the mare. “Please take a seat, this isn’t anything bad, but I think it’ll be better if you’re sitting down and comfortable.”

Silver was about to protest, feeling more comfortable standing than sitting considering all of the rest he had been doing. Hopping up onto the table next to Scarlet, he took a moment to make himself as comfortable as he could possibly be.

As he did this Doctor Wu quietly stepped out and Doctor Fitzpatrick entered with a clipboard held under one of her tattooed wings. She gave a small cough and chuckled, “Comfy enough or do you need a moment?”

Silver looked back with a surprised look as if he had been caught in the act of something, “No I’m all good.”

“I dunno Silver, we could always get you one of those dog beds you liked so much if you’re not comfy,” Scarlet teased.

Silver nervously laughed and shook his head, quickly changing subjects. “I think I’m all good, thanks for asking though. So how does everything look, Doctor?”

“First thing’s first, let’s start with you. You’re showing very good signs of recovery though you’ve still got a long road ahead of you. I’d like to see you back next week if possible just so we can gauge how it’s going, but you could see a full recovery in less than a month’s time maybe even sooner if you keep taking it easy.”

“What about flying?” he asked almost with a hint of desperation carrying in his voice.

Doctor Fitzpatrick grimaced and shook her head, “I would really prefer if you didn’t for right now. You’re on a good road to recovery and I don’t want to risk having you overexert yourself and now you’re back to square one. However, if you really absolutely have to fly then keep it low to the ground and no more than ten to fifteen minutes at a time. I don’t want you flying without a partner either, the last thing we need is you getting injured and falling back to Earth alone.”

Silver rolled his eyes at the thought of still not being able to fly. He had to cool his frustration though, the doctor was right after all. It was only a minor grounding and would at least ensure that he wasn’t grounded even longer than necessary.

“Okay, that’s fair. So low to the ground for a short period only. Gotcha.”

“I know it’s frustrating, but it really is for the best.”

“I totally get that,” Silver smiled. “Don’t want to be grounded forever after all.”

She nodded, “Glad you understand.” Turning to Scarlet, she continued, “Now I have two things for you Scarlet. I talked with Doctor Ramirez about your sprained leg and as of right now it looks like you’ve made a very good recovery. The X-rays show no signs of any lasting or permanent damage, but I would still take it easy for a little while longer just because it might be a little stiff or tender. Obviously continue with the exercises you’ve been doing, and if there’s any issues then feel free to call Doctor Ramirez or myself, but aside from that you’re good to go.”

Scarlet let out a happy squeak, “That's great to hear! I know Silver’s been stressed about that for a while now and I’m glad neither of us have to worry about it.”

“Now we just have to worry about me,” Silver interjected.

“Hopefully not for too long,” Scarlet seemed to hesitate for a moment, “why don’t you tell us, Doctor?”

The mare smiled, “During your examinations Scarlet told me about how you two were planning on starting a family together.”

Silver’s heart dropped in anticipation of what she’d say next. Was this going to be big news or disappointing news? Would it change the way they lived? Was there something wrong? All of these questions and more surged through his head but he stopped himself before breaking into a frantic line of questioning that would probably scare the doctor away.

“Uh huh? So what’s up?” He gulped.

Looking back towards a very anxious looking Scarlet, Doctor Fitzpatrick continued. “I ran a pregnancy test and was able to get the results back. Now Scarlet asked me to wait to tell her until you were present too, and well…” she trailed off, leaving Silver in suspense.

“Well?!” He blurred out, realizing that he had practically yelled it after the fact.

“Well, the result is positive,” she smiled. “Now, I don’t know the tribe or gender because it’s way too early to know any of that stuff, but I do know that based on the test results, you two have a foal on the way. I know it’s all super early but I’m here to tell you that I’ll be able to answer any questions you might have on that because believe me, I know you probably have a lot and there’s a long road ahead.”

Ignoring her offer for the moment, Silver pulled Scarlet into a tight hug, momentarily ignoring the sharp pain that shot through his side.

“Oh my gosh, Scarlet we’re gonna be parents!” He excitedly shouted out.

The mare leaned into his embrace and held Silver close. “I love you so much Silver!”

“I love you too!”

Art by:

Visions of the things he wanted to do with her and their foal danced through his head, and both pride and excitement filled him from top to bottom. The worries, anxieties, pain, and everything else faded into the background as he was overwhelmed with happiness. Finally after a few long minutes in each other’s arms, the two broke their embrace.

Doctor Fitzpatrick smiled, “I’m very happy for you two. So are there any questions?”

Scarlet looked at Silver and raised an eyebrow, “Where should we start?”

“Maybe with the obvious?” he answered.

She gave a nod and started asking the doctor what was on her mind, taking the lead from Silver.

The car ride home was loud and full of tons of questions from Scarlet’s overjoyed mother. In an unsurprising move she even put Scarlet’s father on the car’s speakers, and the human was just as excited to hear the news. Their joy was infectious, but it also filled Silver with a bittersweet longing for his own family. He hadn’t thought about them in a while, but the warm happy feeling that Scarlet’s radiated brought his own family to the forefront. So much had changed since he had left them, and he wondered what they’d think of the course his life had taken so far.

“Hey Silvie, what’s got you down?” Scarlet asked, clearly taking notice of his more restrained body language.

“Hm? Oh, not much. Just thinking about family stuff.”

She hugged him and nodded, “I get it. It’s hard.”

“It really isn’t, they were kind of toxic to me and I didn’t need that in my life.”

“But it still hurts, they’re your family.”

Silver shrugged and felt tears well up in his eyes, “That’s what makes it so hard you know? I almost want to call them and tell them the news but I haven’t talked to them in months. I’m such a different pony now, would they even recognize me as their son?”

“Maybe you should?” she offered. “If they love you then they’ll be happy about the news, and if they don’t then oh well. Guess they miss out on this really awesome chapter of our lives.”

Silver nodded, brushing a hoof against his eyes, “I’ll call my brother first, I know he’ll be so excited to hear this.”

“And then your parents after?”

Silver paused, not giving an answer. He had no obligation to tell them, but he almost felt as if he owed it to them. “Maybe. I’ll tell them when the time is right, I don’t need anything bringing my mood down.” He smiled at her and hugged her tightly, “I love you so much.”

Joyful tears welled up in Scarlet’s eyes. “I love you too. I’m so excited for this Silvie, we’re going to be parents! I just can’t stop thinking about everything we’re going to do with our bright little star.”

“I can’t either Scarlet. I just can’t. We’re going to go to so many places, see so many things… and we’re going to do it as a family.”

She leaned into him and held him close, “I don’t want this feeling to ever end.”

The stallion cuddled up to her and smiled, “Me neither Scarlet, me neither…”

The world faded away as he thought all about everything that was happening. It all felt so unreal, yet here it was happening in real time. As happy as he was, his joyful reverie was interrupted only by the realization that their meeting with Tonya was scheduled for later that day, and that almost paled in comparison to the current news.

The rest of the evening was spent cuddled up under the stars with a picnic dinner courtesy of Mrs. Delgado. The blanket of stars above gave them a calming sense of peace, and surprisingly enough there was very little conversation. Just happy giggling between the pair followed by romantic embraces. Before long the sun was rising and the excitement of the night was beginning to take its toll on the two, and the call of their warm bed was more alluring than they could hope to avoid. Foregoing the usual bedtime routine, they simply hopped into bed and made themselves even more comfortable, quickly falling asleep in each other’s arms.

Silver found himself in a specially designed room on his dream island. It was a completely unnecessary addition, but one he had gleefully worked on during some of his down time. Dark mahogany paneling accented the room’s walls and ceiling and a large panoramic window looked out into the deep blue undersea world that laid beneath the island’s bay. A handful of comfy velvet cushions sat around the low sitting oak table, and decorative glasses sat at each place.

Silver, Scarlet, Sine Wave, and Stanley all had seats at the table, and a fifth seat sat at the far end of the table for their special guest. With the exception of Scarlet, none of his guests had appeared yet, though he sensed a distinctly familiar presence lingering in the background of his dream, and if he had to bet one or more wardens were currently present.

Not feeling too particularly concerned with who it was, he ignored that feeling of having some unseen presence staring at him. Instead he turned towards Scarlet and smiled, “I don’t know about you, but I’m getting pretty antsy thinking about this.”

“I can tell,” she giggled.

“Yeah? Is it really that obvious?”

The mare playfully jabbed at the fancy suit that Silver had conjured up for himself and nodded. “You never dress up this fancy in here unless we’re having a special dream.”

“Hah… yeah, good point. Just wanna make a good impression I guess, you know?”

“Of course, I totally get it.”

The sudden appearance of Sine Wave quickly shut the conversation down as she trotted over and leaped into her seat, kicking her hooves up on the table in a fittingly dramatic fashion.

“I gotta say, you clean up nicely Blue.” She glanced towards Scarlet and batted her eyes at her, “and you don’t look half bad yourself Red.”

Scarlet rolled her eyes and laughed, “Nice to see you too Sine.”

A flash of light marked the arrival of Stanley, who cheerfully trotted up to one of the open seats and took his place. “Hope I’m not late or anything.”

“Not at all,” Silver smiled, “you’re actually right on time.”

He pointed to the large bar off to the side, “Feel free to grab a drink. I tried making stuff that tasted good out there but I have no clue if it’ll carry over for the rest of you… I’m still new to this kind of thing.”

Sine Wave and Stanley poked around at the bar and both left with cans of soda that leapt up and poured into their glasses on their own. Sine Wave looked up with a skeptical glare and smirked, “Gee Blue, got a flare for the dramatic or what?”

Scarlet simply laughed and shook her head, “That’s my Silvie all right.”

The group was suddenly interrupted as the large doors at the end of the room swung open, followed by the unmistakable form of the orange pegasus who had visited them before walking in.

Silver smiled and straightened up in his seat, “Welcome back Tonya! Feel free to grab a drink and take a seat. I brought a couple of friends along, they’re part of the group. I’d have the other’s along too, but they’re not in your… unique position.”

“That makes sense.” She briefly stopped by the bar, eying the drinks before leaving with a bottle of water, “So how have you been? Feeling better I hope?”

“Well,” he looked at Scarlet, “we just found out that we’ve got a little one on the way so all things considered I’m pretty happy. How about you?”

The mare smiled, “That’s really great news! I’m doing well too.” She looked between Sine and Stanley, her gaze lingering on the latter. “Nice to meet you two, I hope this isn’t too much of a surprise.”

“Convicted mind magic abuser stopping by and offering some crazy deal? Yeah seems pretty unsurprising,” Sine laughed out.

“Uh huh…” Tonya replied, clearly having no idea what to actually make of Sine’s response. Instead she turned towards Stanley, “You’re Stanley right? Phobia’s said some nice things about you. I guess she was the one who met you when you first dreamwalked?”

“Yes… she was.” He nervously looked around, “It’s uhh… nice to meet you outside of a trial...Glad that uhh… worked out well for you?”

Silver sat up in his chair and took a sip of his own drink, “With the greetings and small talk out of the way, why don’t we talk some business?”

“You all thought it over then?” Tonya asked.

“Mhmm,” Silver nodded. “Took some bouncing back and forth, but I think 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. So why don’t you lay it on me then?” she said, smiling.

Silver smiled, taking another sip of his drink before continuing. “Well you said we’d need a base of operations, and the inventors seemed to have an idea for one that would work really well and also act as a home for a couple dozen ponies that might be in need of one very soon.” He looked towards Stanley, “The place they have in mind is an abandoned mining town in the Verde Valley out near Sedona. Last they checked it was basically abandoned and up for sale. From what I understand, all we really need is the land and mineral rights, a small construction crew to help clean up the town, and some basic materials to get a solar farm up and running. Stanley’s got a team of ponies that can help with farming and agriculture, and if Sunset can help us with the other stuff 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 old Jules Verne books.”

Silver smiled, “Oh, believe me, I was pretty surprised that it was so tame too. The inventor’s aren’t anywhere close to those projects yet, so let’s just say we all got lucky there,” he laughed.

Tonya smiled back. “I don’t see why that wouldn’t be doable. For starters though, let me just tell you what Sunset’s going to want in return though, because she’s got her own terms for this kind of thing.”

“Sure, sure. What’s she want from us then?”

“Well, firstly I know you had a concern that your friends wanted to work on their own projects too 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 on a case to case basis so you should be fine doing your own stuff. I know some of 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 or overly dangerous, 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.”

“Okay, I suppose that sounds fair enough. So she’ll be able to get what we need then?”

“Oh don’t worry, Sunset can get you what you need for her projects, and any other equipment you need, but just keep in mind that those will be loaners. You can use them as much as you want though, and for whatever you want, but if you purposely stall or delay her projects or decide to end the agreement then she’s going to have to ask for the equipment back. If you really really need it then I’m sure you can work out a payment plan. 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. So how’s the land management going to work then? I’m guessing the catch to her paying for it is that she’s going to own it or something?”

“Not personally. There’s a separate company set up to manage this kind of thing, and they’ll be taking care of that. You can either lease the land from them freely in return for your assistance, or you can finance it until the initial investment’s paid off. It doesn’t matter what you do, though from the sound of it you’ll want to own the land for yourselves eventually.”

“I guess that’s the price we have to pay if we want to do this then, eh?”

“Mhmm.” She continued, “If it helps, think of it this way. The majority of the work you’ll be doing is an extension of things you already wanted to do. It might not be the craziest stuff ever, but believe me, you’ll be helping a lot of ponies whether you realize it or not.”

“So are we just going to wind up doing small things then?”

“It could vary,” Tonya admitted, “she’s looking for ponies that have a particular area of expertise. I think most of what you’ll be working on is smaller components using some of our existing research as a base, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be doing important research. All of this stuff, it’ll be for a greater purpose in the end. Maybe it’s small computer chips that wind up being used in consumer products, maybe it’s some components for the military, or maybe it’s even those gauntlets you and your friends were working on? Sunset’s got connections in that industry too you know?”

The idea was tantalizing, and even though the inventors weren’t present, Silver wasn’t exactly in a place where he could refuse. The thought of asking the wardens to bring the two day ponies into a shared dream was tempting, but given the strict secrecy that the night ponies were sworn to (and the scarily harsh punishments for breaking that secrecy) kept his request at bay. He didn’t need to take part in a trial of his own after all. Besides, he was fairly certain they would trust Sine and him.

Nothing was definitively stopping him from rejecting the offer though. He could have if he really felt it wasn’t worth it, but the pressure of crushing the hopes of half a village’s worth of refugees looking for a home and the potential financial security in his future was keeping him from denying it. Thoughts about the family he was starting with Scarlet came to mind too, and the chance at making a better future for their foal was just too much to sway him.

Seemingly picking up on his hesitation, Tonya continued with another reassurance. “If it’s ever too much or crosses any lines then you’re free to tell us that. We’re not forcing you to work for us after all, and UMAD won’t just throw you off property if you do decide to pull out of the deal. Just keep in mind that the equipment is SPEC’s, and she’s letting you guys use it in return for helping her.”

“And if we want to buy it instead of leasing it?”

“Then you can talk it over with Sunset’s accountant if you really feel you need to do that. If you’re serious about that, I’m sure she can work out a very favourable deal. Keep in mind though, SPEC’s a big company and can pay you very well for the work you’re doing.”

Silver looked around between the handful of ponies that he had assembled, hearing no objection from any of them. That didn’t mean he had his own reservations of course, but he was just the manager right now, and if Tinker and Gyro wanted to follow through with the deal then Silver saw no real reason to object.

“Yeah that’s fair enough.” He confirmed, “So I believe that that’s everything then? Nothing else on the agenda?”

“Oh, yes!” Tonya shot up in her chair, “One more super super important thing too. 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 government security clearance you can imagine. Under no circumstance are you to ever share any of it with anypony who isn’t directly involved with the project. If you do, Sunset will make sure that you’ll never be able to conduct serious research again. Those are her words not mine mind you. 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 and how serious the consequences of breaching her security 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 is willing to throw some cash and resources our way then we’re willing to look past our own reservations in return.”

“I’m glad you understand. I know it’s a lot but you guys are going to have the chance to change the world and help so many other ponies.”

“It’s only fair after all,” Silver agreed.

Tonya looked at Silver and the three other night ponies, “So we’re all good then? No other questions, comments, or concerns?”

Silver shook his head, “I think that’s everything. I talked about this with the lead inventor and he’s more than willing to work with Sunset as long as we can maintain a level of independence in our projects.”

“That’s perfectly fine, just remember that she’ll want to see progress on her own projects more than yours when they’re assigned and active, 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 then.”

Tonya shifted in her chair, “I think we are! I’m glad this was able to work out Silver!”

“Me too. So do we need to send any of our info to you guys or…”

“Oh, you don’t need to worry about that. Sunset has all of the information she needs.”

Silver couldn’t help but shake the very uncomfortable sense that he was being watched, and with Tonya’s response, now he’d feel that in the waking world for a while. It shouldn’t have been all that surprising though, Psychic Calm had managed to track down the exact hospital he was in when he was injured and had already sent a highly trained night pony doctor to it. For all he knew everypony involved had some highly detailed file on some SPEC server with who knows how much detail… It was frightening, but then again he wouldn’t have been surprised in the slightest.

“Good to know…” he replied.

“I’m going to head out now, but we’ll be in touch about what you need sooner than later.”

“Send Sunset our regards, we look forward to working with you.”

“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.

Chapter 46: Sometimes the Most Important Decisions are the Hardest to Make

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The orange colored morning sky heralded what would be the final hours that Stanley and the ponies that had become his closest friends would spend in Sanctuary. A bittersweet feeling of nostalgic longing (for lack of a better term) ate away at the young night pony’s heart, for as much as he had grown to see this place as his home, he knew that it wasn’t meant to be. Sanctuary was exactly the kind of place he had dreamt of finding only a short time ago, but like most dreams, the reality was often more disappointing than the fantasy.

In this case, the disappointing reality was the drama and politics that had cropped up and driven a divide between the village. As beautiful and inspiring as the vision that drove him to this place had been, he supposed that not even ETS could change the fact that overpowering egos and blind faith towards that vision couldn’t have ever worked out without a level of compromise. That compromise was something that Dawn was either incapable, or unwilling to do, and as much as it tore at him he knew that leaving was the right decision in the long run.

Clay and rock walls surrounded the modest farm that sat a small distance from the village proper, and almost ironically gave Stanley the feeling that the farmers had always been the lone wolves of the village, finding their place as a pack in their own separate walled off compound. If any pony had a right to be unhappy here, it was them, because they were the ones that worked tirelessly to feed the rest of the village, and had often been written off as wanting more say than they deserved. This was something that both Stanley and Midnight yearned to do with their future endeavors: give every pony the chance to live in the paradise that the vision offered, but in a way that was actually attainable.

As he looked around at the fifteen or so ponies that had gathered together, he couldn’t help but see them as a sort of family of ponies that were all dealing with the same thing. In truth he only knew maybe four or five of them, and had really only grown close to Midnight and Patrick, but that didn’t change anything.

“Are you ready?” Midnight whispered to him.

“As ready as I can be,” Stanley replied. “What about you?”

She shrugged. “My stomach’s in knots over this, but it’s a little too late to back off of it now.”

“A lot of us have reservations,” Patrick chimed in, “but the majority of the vote was in favor of us leaving. If you want to stay around then you can, but there’s a lot of ponies here looking up to you two, and they need a leader right now.”

This struck Stanley with a feeling of doubt that was very hard to shake.

He shook his head. “I’m not a leader, and I don’t think I need to be that for anypony.”

“Whether you want to be or not, that doesn’t change the fact that these ponies look up to you.” Patrick countered. “The village had a lot of problems that you unintentionally helped bring to the surface, and while it might not have been the best thing to do right after showing up, it would have happened eventually. You just happened to be there to help guide it into something good instead of something that could have ended very badly.”

Stanley reflected on this for a moment. As true as Patrick’s words might have been, he still didn’t consider himself a leader, but the gathered ponies certainly saw him as one, or at the very least they saw him as one above Dawn.

“Thanks Patrick, but I think it’s important to remember that we all have a role to play in this. Sure there’s the more logical ponies like me and you, but there’s also the compassionate ones like Midnight and the physically strong ones like Gizmo.”

“Which makes it all the more important that we stick together on this. You know, show them that we can do what Dawn couldn’t.”

“I hate to interrupt,” Midnight interrupted, “but the Sun’s almost up. We should get going before Dawn checks out for the day.”

“Does that really matter?” Stanley asked, dragging the moment out longer, if even just subconsciously.

“I’d say so,” she reaffirmed. “We’re not antagonizing her, so it’s important that we do this amicably while she’s still in town hall. Give her our reasoning for leaving and officially part ways that way.”

“If that’s what we need to do, then that’s what we need to do. I said I’d be with you so I’ll stand with you in this.”

Midnight smiled, “Thanks Stanley. It means a lot to me.”

“Ponies help each other out, right? I know I’m kind of mixed on everything, but it’s a little late to turn back.”

“Right… well, I guess it’s now or never.”

The walk from the farm in the outskirts to the town hall was quiet and surprisingly tranquil, even though the feeling in Stanley’s gut kept him on edge. More scattered thoughts that jumped from his time before ETS and up until the present flashed through his mind again, and with a cautious sense of optimism he looked forward to the future. That was always what he was good at— finding optimism in even the most uncertain situations.

“Everything okay Stan? You seem a little on edge,” Patrick asked.

“Just thinking a lot about how far I’ve come is all.”

“Oh?” the unicorn raised an eyebrow. “What do you mean?”

“Well I was a shy timid human and here I am now, leading a group of ponies to exile. It’s just a weird shift, you know?”

Patrick laughed and nodded his head, “Oh believe me I do. Sometimes I sit up at night and think about how things were before.”

“Is that right? What kind of things?”

The question seemed to catch his friend by surprise, because he sat silent and considered it for a moment.

“All sorts of things. Stuff like where I was, where I was going— lots of thinking back on my career choices and wondering if I made the right ones?” He paused for another moment and seemed to well up with emotion. “I lost my dad before ETS, and that was a big thing that I kept thinking about. Really made me wonder if it was worth staying where I was or whether I should just pack up shop and start fresh somewhere else.”

“And that’s what got you to move out here?”

“It was part of it,” he agreed. “The whole turning into a pony thing really made me realize how unhappy I had been for a while. Made me realize that I needed some more laughter in my life and that got me thinking about what I needed to do to fix that. Wound up hearing word of a place called Sanctuary, a village for ponies that wanted to start anew, and well, the rest was history.”

Now it was Stanley’s turn to pause, and in a move that caught Patrick off guard, he pulled his friend into a tight hug. “I’m sorry you had to go through all that, and I’m sorry that now you’re being pushed out of this place.”

“It sucks but what can you do? I moved on before and I’ll move on again, there’s no point in dwelling on what’s lost…”

“Because you’ll just lose sight of what’s ahead.” Stanley finished for him.

Patrick smiled, “I can’t believe you still remember that.”

“How could I forget? That was practically your dad’s motto when we were kids.”

“He always was a real optimist, eh?” Wiping a few tears that had welled up in his eyes, Patrick continued his stride. “Thanks for everything, I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future, but I’m looking forward to it.”

The town hall was slowly approaching, and with it came another hushed silence. Midnight stepped forward into the meeting chamber and nervously looked back before taking a very deep breath.

“Dawn, we need to talk.”

The striking orange mare looked up from her desk and raised an eyebrow, “Midnight? I thought you had today off.” She looked past her and towards the gathered crowd, “I’m going to take it that this is an impromptu meeting then?”

“You could say that,” she replied. “It’s important though.”

She rolled her eyes and nodded. “Well, I guess the floor’s yours then.”

She took another breath. “It’s time I come clean. After our last meeting I went behind your back and gave the earth ponies exactly what they wanted. This was dishonest, untrustworthy, and went behind your back because I got tired of trying to make peace here.”

Dawn sat speechless for a moment, no doubt unsure of what to make of the situation.

“What did you do?” she finally asked aloud.

“I scrapped your approved plan,” Midnight admitted, “I let the farmers have their free reign and hid it from you. Faked records, diverted you away from there… and I lied to you about it all.”

Dawn stood up from her seat, “Midnight I… you did all of that?”

“I did.”

“I… I’m going to be honest, I feel very betrayed right now.”

“And you have every right to be.”

“Oh do I now? I have every right to be upset?” She began to raise her voice, “I’d ask you if you knew how much I had to sacrifice to keep this place afloat but I know full well that you do.”

“I do Dawn, and that’s why I’m owning up to this. Because the guilt was killing me and instead of continuing it like I was going to do I decided I owed it to you to come clean.”

“Well thanks for considering my thoughts on this,” she sarcastically quipped. “As for you,” she turned to Gizmo, “I’ve had about enough of your antics and at this point I’d rather have you gone. So consider this your eviction notice.”

“We actually took a vote,” Stanley added. “And the result was us deciding to self-exile instead of sitting here and overthrowing your order even more.”

The mare shook her head, “So you’re all leaving too then? Leaving me without an administration team?”

“You seem to do a fine job of ruling over this place by yourself.” Gizmo fired back.

Dawn’s gaze narrowed into a furious glare, “All of you can leave right now. And if I see you around here again, security’s not going to play nice.”

“Adding threats in doesn’t help your case,” he calmly replied.

“We’ll leave without any trouble, Dawn,” Midnight answered back to her. “I know it seems like we’re coming over here just to rile you up but I felt I owed you an apology and a goodbye before leaving.”

“Apology rejected. We could have negotiated and handled this in a way that didn’t involve going behind my back, and if you were really sorry then you would have thought of that.”

“What can I say? We already tried negotiating with you and that ultimately went nowhere. It really hurts me to do this but if I wasn’t sorry then I wouldn’t have made the effort to come clean. We would have just continued as we were or left out of the blue one day. I respected you and considered you a friend as much as we butted heads, and I only did what I did because I didn’t want to see this place fail.”

“Well it probably will now.” Dawn shook her head, “What hurts the most is that I considered you a friend too, and I don’t think I can say that anymore right now.”

The petty drama was starting to annoy Stanley, but he wisely chose to remain silent instead of voicing his opinion on the matter. This was clearly something that could have just ended as it had, and Dawn’s insistence at making it a bigger problem wasn’t helping.

Deciding to try and move things along in a more productive way, Stanley interrupted the two. “Okay, let’s step back and just accept that what’s done is done and move on. I realize that what Midnight did hurt you, but we can’t change that now. We’re about to leave forever so if you have anything to say you should probably do it now.”

“I don’t have anything else to say to you. Just know that you’re hurting the village with this, in ways you can’t even understand.”

Stanley could have fired back that the blame went both ways and that Dawn’s own inability to compromise had directly led to this, but he simply nodded and waved Midnight out, not wanting to go down the path of another argument. “Goodbye Dawn.”

Stanley quickly but carefully packed his few belongings into the bag he had come here with, and let the fresh memories of this place rush through his mind again. This was it, the last time he’d ever see this room, and the last time he’d see this place. There was still that loose sense of longing for a peaceful resolution that would have fixed all of the problems here running in his mind, but he knew for a fact it wasn’t as strong as the one Midnight had to have been feeling.

She had helped start this place, and in a way she had also ensured its end. Stanley could only assume that it was hitting her hard with the sunken and withdrawn way she carried herself which only seemed to confirm that. Her dark purple coat almost seemed a shade darker, as if her emotions had bled out into her physical being, but alas it was only a trick of the light. A part of him wanted to pull her into a tight hug and say everything was going to be okay, but she deserved to have this final moment to herself.

“You know, I knew this wouldn’t last. The writing was on the wall for a very long time,” she spoke in a low voice. “But even right now it feels so… surreal.”

“It's a big change. But you just have to stick with your feelings and look at what both decisions would have ended with.”

“I am,” she nodded, “but the guilt’s still there, even if I really don’t have much to be guilty about.”

“It’s valid though,” he reassured her, “you made a tough decision and just came clean to a pony who was a friend. It’s only natural that you’ll think about all the what if’s and run the scenarios through your head. But what’s done is done and we need to move on.”

“Do you think it’ll work?” Midnight looked up at him.

“Starting fresh? I don’t know to be honest. But I guess we have to make it work, right?”

“Right… we owe it to everypony else to.”

Midnight picked up the small bag that carried her worldly possessions and looked back wistfully at the building that she had considered her home for many months now.

“Okay, let’s get going.” She solemnly said as she led the way outside to the waiting group.

Slowly trotting through the village, the assembled group glanced around, no doubt reflecting on their own paths in life. Many would continue on with Midnight, Patrick, and Stanley, but a few others were simply parting ways and finding their own places in the world.

Together they hiked away past the parking area that Stanley had first arrived in, until they had settled in a field that was a safe distance away from the village. They could have taken the farm, or settled just outside the gates…. but together they unanimously chose to distance themselves from the home they no longer had.

Stanley looked up at the bright sun and squinted his eyes, turning to Midnight. “I’m going to go ahead and call my friends, see how fast they can get out here. We’ll probably be camping out until tomorrow though.”

“I think we can manage that.” Midnight smiled. “Just clue me in on what we’re doing and I can let everypony know.”

“Will do.” Stanley looked around for a good place to make his call and decided on a small stone bench that was a little further from the rest of the group. There wasn’t any reason why he couldn’t just make the call from where he was, but with how loud and nosey ponies could get, he figured that at least a small semblance of privacy would be best.

Fishing through his bag, he pulled out his phone and used the voice command function that his father had helped him set up. For a moment the brief question of whether he had entered the right number flashed through his mind. The phone continued to ring for a few short moments before the person on the other end finally picked up.

“Marcus speaking, what’s up?”

Stanley’s ears perked up and a rush of relief washed through him. He had no idea what he would have done if he had screwed this one very important task up.

“Hey umm, this is weird but I’m one of Tinker’s friends and he said that you’d be able to help us out?”

“You’re the bat with a whole village’s worth of ponies coming down this way, right?”

“Something like that,” he agreed. “So Tinker told you about the situation then?”

“Just what I needed to know. Group of ponies is skipping town and needed a human to help drive them over to the spooky old ghost town?”

“More or less. So what do you need from us?”

“Location, how many ponies you’ve got, and when you want to get picked up.”

Stanley glanced over towards the group a short distance away and quickly took a mental count of them. “There’s about fifteen or so ponies here, as soon as possible would be nice, and I can send you the directions. It’s not really on the map but I can drop the closest spot and guide you over.”

“Fifteen you say? Gotcha.”

“That’s not going to be an issue, will it?”

“Not at all. Just gotta spring for the shuttle instead, won’t be trouble at all though. I won’t be able to get you until tomorrow though, so you’ll have to hang tight until then, is that good?”

Stanley thought back to the discussion that he and midnight had had, and nodded out of habit. “Yeah, that won’t be a problem at all.”

“Then it’s set. I’ll get you sometime in the afternoon tomorrow. I’m good to call you back at this number then?”

“Yeah, that’s fine. Just let me know when you’re on your way and we’ll be all set.”

“Groovy, I’ll see you then.”

“Thanks!” Stanley cheerfully replied.

The line went dead and with it so did some of his anxiety. There was still a sense of urgency and uncertainty, but at least it wasn’t as strong as before. Time would only tell what the future had in store… but the next day would hopefully bring a bright start to it.

Chapter 47: The End of the Line…

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Stanley had always had sensitive eyes as a human, and becoming a night pony had only dialed that light sensitivity up even further. Right now the world to him was a bright blurred mess that hurt his eyes and made him both tired and agitated, and the only real thing keeping him from outright going to sleep was the fact that Marcus was supposedly almost there. The definition of almost there it seemed, was actually much longer, because their last call had been roughly an hour before, and now it was just the waiting game of whether he’d actually arrive or not.

Letting out a deep sigh, Stanley curled up on the ground under a wispy shrub and wrapped his wings around his head, making a little tent around his head so he could actually see his phone’s screen. As he could have probably guessed, it was nothing. No text, no calls, not even a simple read receipt on his last message (that he had frustratingly typed out with his wings no less, because dictating the message in a crowd of talking ponies just wasn’t going to work.).

“Hey, he’ll get here.” Midnight commented as she laid down next to him.

Stanley peeked out from his little wing-tent and furrowed his brow, a task that looked almost comical with his harshly squinted eyes. “I know, it’s just frustrating not knowing anything right now. I feel like there’s a lot on our shoulders right now.”

“There is, but we’ve done all we can do. Now it’s time to just sit back and relax. There’s a lot of work ahead of us and getting burned out right out of the gate isn’t going to help much, now is it?”

Stanley shook his head. “No, it won’t, but it’s hard. I’ll feel a lot better when we’re not stuck out in the middle of a desert with no real way to get back home. And let’s not forget that we also don’t have electricity to charge my phone, which is our one tangible lifeline to civilization right now.”

“I know it’s stressful. Just relax though, when was the last time you talked to him?”

“About forty five minutes ago.”

“Then he’s probably close by and just took a wrong turn. You know how weird and hard to follow that path was at first, right?”

“Right.” Stanley agreed, “It’s just hard to settle down, you know?”

“Would it help if I kept an eye on the phone for a while then? So you can relax and take a nap?”

Stanley looked down at the phone and hesitated for a moment, almost hoping for it to suddenly jump to life in a burst of activity. When it didn’t, he simply nodded. “Okay… let’s do that then. Just wake me up when he’s here?”

“Of course.” She held out a hoof and Stanley begrudgingly passed it over to her. Waiting another moment for a call that didn’t come, he finally relented and settled down for an uncomfortable nap. The middle of a hot desert in broad daylight made for a terrible resting place, even with his pitifully bad source of shade, but Midnight was right. They had a lot of work ahead of them, and he needed all the rest he could get before it.

Closing his eyes, he slowed his breathing and entered a calm dreamless sleep, which was a rather unusual ability for him to have, but nonetheless a welcome one. Sometimes a night pony just needed a break from dreams, and Stanley was more than happy with it.

Sleep as a night pony was always weird once their magic developed fully. Not in the traditional sense of the word, but in the sense that they didn’t get a chance to truly sleep and not have at least some perception of their dream. A lot of ponies like Silver Eclipse could alter and change the dream, or simply just fall into its narrative, but as far as Stanley knew, not many would just dispel it and turn off their perceptions for lack of a better word. Stanley could though, and that’s exactly what he chose to do.

The experience to him was unexplainable. It was like you just entered a quiet empty room and sat around until you woke up, with only a phantom memory lingering to remind him of the experience. As he also found out (through an accidental discovery with Midnight), he could guide others into a similar peaceful sleep. Whether this would prove a useful skill or not, he didn’t know. But what he did know was that it helped him relax when he was particularly stressed out, and today was one of those days.

A gentle rocking pulled him out of the peaceful rest and back into the bright burning desert.

“Bwa?” He grunted out, straining to keep his eyes squinted open.

“He’s here.” Midnight replied.

Stanley briefly considered asking about how long he had been asleep for, but instead jumped up and dusted himself off, looking around until his eyes fell on a sleek black shuttle van parked with the small crowd of ponies around it.

“Oh good,” he smiled. “So where are we at then?”

“I went ahead and took a head count while you were out, and I made up a list of everypony who’s still coming along. A couple decided that they’re going to take their chances elsewhere, but almost all of them will follow us along to Mesa Verde.”

“Who’s leaving?”

“Hudson and Fractal.”

“So we’re down a unicorn and our only crystal pony.”

“Yep. The rest of the earth ponies are sticking with us though, and Blue Spring and River Breeze are coming along too.”

“They are? I thought they were still going to hang around in the village?”

“They had second thoughts.”

“No kidding,” he marveled. Spring was the one that just moved here from Colorado, right? That’s got to be a rough move.”

“Mhmm she said she’s done moving around after this, so I guess that’s another reason for us to make sure things go as well as they can.

“Well another unicorn and pegasus tagging along for the ride is going to make this a lot easier.”

“I agree. So, should we get going?”

Stanley nodded and looked off into the distance again, “Yeah. Let’s do that.

The voices of the ponies around Stanley swirled into a loud cacophony that made his ears twitch in agitation. Boarding the shuttle and getting a final headcount was the last thing to do and then he could settle down for a well earned sleep. Thankfully for him, both of those things didn’t require a ton of participation on his part.

“So let me guess, you’re Stanley?” a tall human that Stanley could only assume was Marcus asked as he slicked back his jet black hair.

“Mhmm,” the night pony looked up at him. “So you’re Marcus?”

“Last I checked I was. So this is the group of outcasts and exiles eh?”

“Yeah, it makes it sound a whole lot cooler when you say it that way though,” Stanley laughed out. “We’re just a bunch of ponies trying to find their place in the world.”

“An old mining town in the middle of some old cursed valley is your place in the world?”

Stanley shrugged. “Could be. Guess we’ll find out.”

“Uh huh… well, can’t say it’d be my first choice but hey, if that’s what yours is then it’s not my place to judge. So is everyone— er, pony? Here?”

Stanley looked over to Midnight and shrugged, “Not sure, we’re kinda working on that right now. Should know soon.”

“Gotcha. Well, anything I can do to help out?”

“Got any food and water? I know a bunch of them are probably a little famished.”

“Already got that covered. Took a detour to the first store I could find just to stock up on some water and snacks. I’ll go ahead and let you all break into those once everyone’s settled and we can get going.”

“Good. So we’re set to go then?

“Yessir, Barney and Giles got the go ahead that they could head down there today, and were just getting their stuff packed up for that.” he paused and through the harsh blinding light of the sun, Stanley could see him scanning him with a hard to read stare. “Sorry it took so long, by the way, I should have given you more notice before instead of just leaving you in the dark.”

“Barney and Giles?” Stanley started to ask before realizing that that must have been the inventors’ human names. “It’s okay, I’m just glad you’re here now.”

“No problem at all, friend,” the human took an exaggerated look at the crowd of ponies that were slowly filing into the shuttle, and turned back to Stanley. “So I can’t imagine there’s a good reason that this many ponies are just taking a mass exodus, wanna give me the rundown of what happened?”

Stanley let out a long yawn and looked longingly at the front seat of the open shuttle. “It’s a long story, too tired to explain, ask one of them about it.”

Midnight trotted up towards the pair and laid a supportive wing across Stanley’s back. “Look, we’re a little tired, we’ve had a long day. Night ponies aren’t good with direct daylight like this either. Nice to meet you by the way, I’m Midnight Sun.”

“Well it’s nice to meet you too, Midnight. Guess you guys had a bit of a wild day then, eh?

“Yep, you could say that. The short rundown is that some stuff wasn’t working out here and we had a really good opportunity open up that would let us leave on a good note.”

“And that mining town is the good note I’m guessing?”

“Yep! If you really want the full rundown then one of the others can give you that while we’re driving.”

“Well we’ve got a long ride ahead of us so we’ll have plenty of time for a story or ten.” Marcus cheerfully replied.

Stanley nodded and groggily made his way towards the shuttle’s open door. With a little bit of effort, he hopped up into the front seat and made himself comfortable, briefly glancing back at the ponies behind him. Midnight pulled herself up into the spot next to him and loudly called out the names on her list one final time, making sure that no pony would be left behind.

Turning his attention back towards the village in the distance, the shuttle’s radio drowned out the voices around him, leaving him with a brief moment of reflection. So many thoughts ran through his head, of the world around him, the future ahead of him, and how they’d all have to come together to make their own place in it.

Seemingly satisfied that everypony was present, Midnight slid her notebook into her bag and dropped it onto the floor. “Alright, we’re all set.”

Marcus nodded and turned the radio down, “Alright everybody, get nice and comfy because we’re all set to go. Be sure to keep your hooves, legs, tails, and heads inside the van at all times, and if you need anything please feel free to holler at me.”

“Got anything to drink?” River Breeze, one of the few remaining unicorns in the group asked.

“There’s some water and some snacks in the back, if it’s too hard to get back there then have someone send it up to you. I’m not gonna make you all wear seatbelts… we don’t really have enough anyways, so please try and stay In your seats as long as we’re moving, okay?”

“Ya know, ponies are pretty durable right?” Gizmo asked from his seat towards the back.

“Yes, but I’m also the driver so I make the rules here… plus I really don’t want to get pulled over and ticketed for some weird seatbelt law technicality, okay?”

There was silence and no pony seemed to have any objections. Happy enough with this, Marcus turned the radio back up and put the van into drive. “Alrighty then, let’s get this show on the road, I'm sure you’re all ready to get going.”

A few cheers and hollers of excitement rang out, bringing a smile to Stanley’s face. For a short while it was almost deathly quiet, with only the sounds of the road filling the van, but then somepony in the back