by ToixStory

Chapter 1: Prologue: Tomorrow Comes Today

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A warm summer sun washed over the quiet mesas and sand dunes that surrounded the city of Sundown. It was a shining city of downtown high-rises and surrounded by suburban homes made of sandstone. Further out, massive fields of oil wells pumped day and night, bringing bubbling crude to the surface where it was put into barrels and shipped across the country.

The city clustered around one long highway that stretched across the desert valley. It was the same road, the Red Road, that ran across the country, connecting the cities of Teton from sea to shining sea. Though the modest desert city was not the largest, its choice of location had always stood as a testament to the perseverance of ponykind.

Past the edge of the city, in the shadow of the mesas, was a large camp. White tents were scattered across the rocky valley floor and their flaps blew in the restless wind. Ponies ran to and fro through the camp and around the edge of a large building in the center. It was a squat, metal building with heavy rivets that kept it in place over the ground.

Guards were kept posted outside the building at all times, and kept a sharp eye out for intruders. When they spotted the party walking toward them that day, their backs stiffened and nostrils flared. It wasn’t until the oncoming group flashed their badges that the stallions stepped aside from the entryway.

The mare at the head of the small column turned to face her party. She wore a white hat with a wide brim over her golden mane. One teal hoof held it against her head to keep it from blowing away in the wind.

“This is the primary dig site!” she yelled over the ambient noise. “We’ve been expanding on pre-existing mine shafts and wells to expedite the digging process!”

The mare pointed out the building behind her and the logo on it, a phoenix with its talons crossed. With a smile: “By doing so, we have limited the costs to the university substantially!”

A thin stallion in the back, dressed in a blue blazer that hung off his lanky form, raised a hoof in the air until the mare called on him. “But it still is costing the University of Sundown money, Miss Sunny?”

“That’s Professor Sunny,” the mare said. “And yes, but we have alleviated some of the larger costs the university was concerned with by funneling them through national grant programs and private investors.” Sunny beamed. “With those measures, the Department of Hippology is operating with the lowest overhead of any research branch!”

“Yes, yes, we understand, you’re saving us money,” a rotund mare at the front said. “But what the university financial committee is here for today is not cost-cutting, but results. We are all aware of your track record, Professor.”

Sunny glared at her. The corners of her mouth wavered to keep the smile plastered on her face, but she managed. “Yes, of course you are. But I am here today to prove to you that we have done far more here than we could have ever predicted.”

“I’ll believe it when I see it,” said the rotund benefactor.

Sunny ignored her and led the party through the entryway of the squat building. The interior was lit by bright red lamps to allow for natural night vision should they go out. A platform took up the middle of the room, painted bright yellow and with a security panel on one end. The sound of the crowd’s hoofsteps on the metal echoed around the chamber.

Sunny took up position at the security panel and faced her flock. They milled around, looking for some of what they had been promised. The young mare shook her head and pulled a lever on the panel.

“You all may want to steady yourself,” she warned. “It’s a bit of a ride.”

The platform shuddered and, with a high-pitched groaning noise, began to descend. Dull maroon lights built into the surface of the floor sprang to life, lighting the way for the moving rotunda.

A counter appeared on a digital screen attached to the security panel. Two hundred petra. Three hundred. Four. The sediment and rock around the platform warped and changed. It was darker, more packed together.

They passed another at a thousand petras down, then another at three thousand. The lights flashed over the stone and minerals in eerie silence. The benefactors huddled on the middle of the platform and watched thousands of years pass by in the blink of an eye.

At four thousand petras below the surface, the platform passed by the edges of the old coal mine. The walls were smoother, having been cut away by pony machinery. Below that layer, fossils in the wall appeared.

They were familiar to Sunny, but several of the gathered audience gasped at them. A massive dog-like creature that had walked on both four and two legs was one. The other prominent bone structure was that of some sort of hybrid creature: a flying animal with the back end of a mammalian predator.

Sunny looked away and watched the screen on the panel. It showed oxygen, nitrogen, and other gas levels at optimal down the tunnel. There appeared to be no breaks or leaks. The company had been keeping careful since re-opening the old mine shafts had hospitalized several workers. When the screen read ten thousand petras, she pulled the lever again and the platform began to slow down.

The brakes ground on the side of the shaft, filling the air with an ear-splitting screech. Sparks flew and bounced across the metal floor. Several of the delegates grabbed at their ears and cried out. Sunny just stared straight ahead and waited for the platform to come to a screeching halt at the bottom of the long, dark shaft. Looking above them, the ponies could no longer see the surface, just dark walls that spiraled up into nothing.

In front of the platform was a tunnel carved out of the rock, and lit by more red lights. Sunny hopped over to it and beckoned the crowd after her. “Readings from our sensors went off the charts when we were drilling down here,” she explained. “We have been excavating here ever since.”

She led the group of ponies in a trot down the tunnel, past stacks of excavation equipment and examination tools that lined the passage. Thick wires snaked along the ground, bringing electricity so far underground.

The group emerged out of the tunnel into a chamber in the shape of an upside down bowl. The walls sloped up to meet a point about thirty petras above them, fifteen times the size of the average pony.

“Most of our work has been concentrated here,” said Sunny, “though we have a few other branching tunnels to spread the site. So far, none have been so fruitful.”

The fat mare coughed and spoke up again. “And just what is so fruitful about this chamber, Professor?”

Sunny glared at her. “If you’ll all try to keep up, I’ll show you.”

She led the party across the chamber, toward a grouping of rocks that jutted out from the center of the hall. The boulders rose like spikes toward the ceiling. Large lamps on stands surrounded the site, and boxes filled with tools were piled around.

Sunny took them in a circle around to the back of the rocks. When they reached the other side, many of the benefactors gasped and murmured among themselves. Sunny smirked and watched them fall over themselves, much of their hostility gone.

There was an object embedded into the center of the largest rock among the group. It was a large, glowing crystal, not unusual in the cave, but what was different was the shape. The cerulean crystal was carved into the shape of a perfect heart. The curves were far too sharp to have been made with anything but tools. Somehow, it glowed even when lights didn’t shine on it.

“This is the . . . object you spoke of?” the rotund mare asked.

Sunny nodded. “We uncovered it a month ago while clearing away debris. We’ve been studying it, but the progress has been slow.”

“Has it always been this active?” a stallion asked, moving closer to the heart. It almost seemed to pulse and glow with pale blue light.

Sunny stared at it, and shook her head. “I’m sure it’s just, uh, perfectly normal.”

The stallion reached out a hoof to touch the heart. Sunny saw and galloped over to him, smacking his hoof away and standing in between him and the heart. “No! We don’t touch the artifact!” she barked.

He backpedaled and coughed. “I’m sorry you didn’t make protocol clear,” he mumbled. “Besides, why do I not get to touch the artifact, but you do?”


“You’re touching it.” The stallion pointed to her hoof that was pressed against the surface. “Right there.”

Sunny watched the heart begin to glow and pulse, faster and faster. “Oh, so I am.”

A blast of light shot out from the heart, throwing her off and away the heart into a pale blue heap on the ground. She cried out and bit her lip as her hoof glowed bright blue and pulsed with energy.

Ponies gasped and shouted around her. They ran across the chamber away from her, leaving her alone next to the heart. With a grunt, Sunny raised herself to her feet and looked at the heart.

A beam of light extended from the top of the heart to the top of the chamber. Sunny watched as it expanded and rippled. It engulfed the heart and flooded the chamber in blinding light.

Then, the shaking began.

Sunny screamed and hugged the ground. The world convulsed and heaved around her. It spun and thrashed like a newborn child, tossing her in the air before slamming her back into the ground again.

She fought her way across the uneven ground toward the center of the chamber. Her legs threatened to buckle out from under her, so she crawled the rest of the way. The crystal heart spun in the air above her, surrounded by the beam of light.

Sunny grabbed on to a rocky spire and clung to it for dear life. She curled her body around the stalagmite and shut her eyes. She was yelling, but couldn’t hear herself over the noise of the earthquake tearing apart the chamber.

Then, just as quickly as it had started, the shaking stopped.

A few spare rocks fell from the ceiling and hit the ground around Sunny’s head. She stared at the crystal that drifted down to the ground. It touched a bare area of ground next to her and stood on a perfect point.

“What in hades just happened?” she muttered.

The first thing Police Sergeant Carpenter noticed when he woke up was a light fixture swinging on the ceiling above him. The fluorescent bulb flickered and cast a sharp glare on his cerulean coat.

He let out a groan, and the police officer rose to his shaky hooves. He shook off dust from his navy blue uniform and looked around. Slick, tiled floors were cast in a red glow from the hospital’s warning lights. He could hear warning sirens going off all around Sunset General Hospital and shook his head.

The memories came slow to him. Carpenter had been sitting in the waiting room when the shaking started, then he remembered rushing to get to his wife in the maternity ward and then . . .

His eyes widened.


The name of his wife spurred his memory back and he cantered down the hall once more. The heaviest shocks had hit before he had managed to find the room, leaving him directionless.

Carpenter’s eyes scanned the rooms, looking for any sign of his wife. The burly stallion bit his lip. Each room looked identical to the last in his eyes, and he started to shake.

“Frankincense!” he yelled. “Someone, anyone, help! My wife’s having a baby!”

No reply reached his ears. Carpenter briefly considered the idea that he might have been the only pony in the hospital to survive the quake, but quickly shook the thought away. His hooves echoed in an empty hallway as he ran toward the end of it.

Carpenter ran around the corner and nearly slammed into a group of nurses. They were clustered around an open door and peering inside. When he skidded to a stop in front of them, they all turned and stared at the newcomer.

“Oh thank Solaris,” he gasped. “Can I have some help? Please, it’s my wife! She’s having a baby and—”

One of the nurses stepped forward. “Are you Sergeant Carpenter?” she asked.

He nodded and surged forward. “Yes, I am! Is that my wife in there? Is she alright?”

“I’m sorry, sir, but you can’t go in there,” the nurse began. “Your child had some, ah, unforeseen complications.”

“Complications?” Carpenter exclaimed. “Like . . . like what? He’s alright, isn’t he? The doctor told us he was going to be a healthy little colt!”

The nurse put a hoof on his shoulder. “Your child is fine, Mr. Carpenter, but right now we’re not sure—”

He didn’t wait for her to finish. With the assurance that his little baby colt was at least alive, the police sergeant barreled past the gaggle of nurses and into the maternity room. The main lights were off, so the room was cast in an eerie red glow from the emergency lights in the corners.

Carpenter stepped around fallen IV stands and rolls of bandages. His wife lay on a gurney in the middle of the room, away from collapsible walls. Several doctors stood on the other side of the hospital bed, watching Carpenter but not moving to stop him.

The policestallion could see her teal mane matted to her head, his wife’s light yellow coat streaked with trails of sweat. To the new father, though, she looked beautiful.

“Honey, honey, I’m here,” he told her, standing by her side. “It’s okay, I made it.”

She smiled up at him and motioned to the bundle of swaddling clothes lying in her hooves. “This little one did too,” she said. “I think he wants to see his daddy.”

Carpenter bent down and smiled. His wife moved back some of the cloth covering the colt’s face. When she did, the new father’s expression of joy turned to surprise, then horror.

Sticking out of the colt’s tan forehead was something he had only seen in fairy tales: a unicorn horn.

Next Chapter: Chapter 1: Lost in the Supermarket Estimated time remaining: 4 Hours, 52 Minutes
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