Blinking blearily, I rubbed a hoof against my eyes. According to Rhodan, I had been out for a respectable four hours. Doing some seriously impressive mental math, I realized that we only had a measly hour left, give or take a few minutes. My gut wrenched as I remembered the beautiful alicorn that had appeared to me in my dream.
“You will be tempted to stay on the bus. Resist this temptation…” her words, at the time, seemed unimportant, as absorbed as I was in her grand appearance. Now, they just made my stomach do uncomfortable acrobatics as my overactive imagination conjured forth images of promised riches in the town after Fillystone. Or perhaps the entire town would just explode, and I would be frightened into just cowering on the bus. I felt my face burn in embarrassment as I realized it wasn’t too far from the truth. And despite my armor, cobbled together with the last vestiges of money I had, and my as-of-yet untested SMG at my side, I still didn’t feel like a mighty Vault hunter. Panic levels within my brain began to mount as I feared that Discord would be a trial by fire, effectively baptizing me in the flames of my own demise.
The only thing that could potentially be my salvation, I figured, was the one thing that I knew only I possessed. And I knew I exclusively had this because I was the only one left alive after the Hyponion exploded.
I groaned, every single muscle of my body screaming as if it were on fire. It was the only thing, I think, that had jolted me out of my stupor. As I regained coherency, I realized that all I could see was blackness.
Was I dead?
As I groaned again, I thought that there was no way in hell that death could hurt this much. But this realization did nothing to stymie my fears of being permanently blinded. I raised a panic hoof to my face, ignoring my body’s screaming protest. I expected to feel some malformation, a deformity that had somehow rendered me blind.
Instead, I merely found out my eyes were closed.
Hitting myself internally, I struggled to open my eyes. The sight that greeted me when I finally managed the task was not a welcome one. I was amidst the blowing red dust that was trademark of the toxic planet below the Hyponion.
I jumped up, panicked, and cast my eyes around. Then the lightheadedness hit me as the world paled and took on an electric blue-green tint. I gasped, realizing that my brain had simply told me the dust should be red, and what I was actually seeing was swirling blue-green dust that looked like it belonged in a rave.
Not only that, but time seemed to move at a crawl. As a plume of dust blew past my face, I realized that I could count each individual particle. I was dumbfounded, to say the least. Maybe I was dead, and had managed to remain so neutral in all of my interactions that I was in limbo.
Banish the thought, a nagging voice in my head told me, you aren’t quite dead yet.
Scowling, (who was this voice and where did it come from?) I nervously pawed the ground, and then did a double take. My body was…well, it wasn’t gone, but it was….
Corporeal. I looked like a ghost, for lack of a better term. I was outlined with a light blue glow, everything else was simply gone. Transparent.
It felt like ice water had been poured into my horn by the gallon, and slowly trickled its way into my hooves. I felt frozen. Slowly, tentatively, I lifted a hoof and waved it in front of my face. The wind from the motion was the only sensation of feeling I had.
Well, at least I wasn’t dead.
A terrifying noise tore through my state of mental shock. Panicked energy flowed into me, as I desperately looked around to find the source of the sound. I saw nothing.
You’re not a clever pony. Look up!
Irritation at the new voice was minute compared to the pure fear I had when complied. Hurtling towards me was what looked like the main engine component off of the Hyponion. And there wasn’t near enough time for me to scramble out of the way.
I closed my eyes and sent a prayer to Celestia, hoping that, wherever she was, she would usher me on my way to a brighter place than this.
My entire body stiffened at the sickening sound of the metal collapsing on itself, warping and twisting into what I knew would be an unrecognizable mess.
I just had a thought.
That means…I’m not dead?
Taking a chance, I opened my eyes and looked around. Had I been in a perfectly normal state, the sight before me probably would have driven me to insanity. Or, at least, alcoholism.
I was standing inside the twisted, white hot metal husk. I couldn’t believe it. Space junk, falling from the heavens, had failed to kill me. Maybe I had been dead the entire time.
You’re such a foal. Get out of the wreckage now.
I whimpered softly, my legs moving to obey even as my tired mind processed the thought of walking.
I walked (or maybe the correct term is ghosted?) through the wreckage, finding myself standing outside, back to the swirling green-blue mist. Gathering what strength I had leftover (weariness hit me with the force of a brick wall), I raised my eyes skyward to determine where the junk had come from.
Instead, the sight that my eyes beheld was a swirling, twisting vortex, the exact same color of blue that I was at the time, except this vortex was outlined in a color I can only describe as pitch black.
Oh, and congratulations on your cutie mark.
That voice…was so…annoying…
My legs suddenly decided that standing was no longer on their list of things to do, and as the ground rushed up to greet me, I couldn’t help but think, what cutie mark?
Go away, Dad.
Dad, I said go away! I’m tired!
“WHAT?” I screamed, leaping to my feet and expecting to confront my father. Instead, I met the crimson eyes of Rhodan, containing within them a worried look.
“You were muttering and whimpering in your sleep,” he informed me, voice dropping down to conversation level.
“I fell asleep again?” I looked about hurriedly. Same bus, same chipped windows, same disgusting floor.
“Yes, you practically passed out with that worried look on your face,” Rhodan’s own face was practically wiped clean of any trace of worry, and went back to neutral. “I imagined you were exhausted, which is why I didn’t wake you until now.”
“How long was I asleep for this time?” I asked.
“Just over half an hour,” he replied casually.
Eep. There was only half an hour left until that dreaded moment.
“Ouch!” Rhodan jumped, then put a hoof to a singed patch of mane on his flank.
“What? What happened?” I jumped to my own feet, glancing down at the hay for any sign of fire.
“You happened!” Rhodan replied, glaring at me. “Turn the light show down!”
Oh. My worry got the best of me, and I was sparking a bit. I willed the sparks back into my coat and trotted over to my original seat. The pegasus snickered at me while the grey earth pony in the back rolled his eyes.
It just occurred to me that I didn’t know either of their names. But it didn’t seem to matter at this point, since I was going to be stepping off this bus in a matter of minutes anyway.
Sighing in resignation, I levitated my saddle bags in front of me, opened them, and began to take stock of what I had. It was pathetic, to say the least. I had barely a hundred rounds of ammo, a few measly cans of carrots, and a knife.
A kitchen knife, no less.
Growling, I unceremoniously threw my saddle bags back on and fumed for a while at my own stupidity. What the hell did I think I was doing here? I was minimally armed, and had rations for maybe three days. Three days eating the absolute minimum to stay alive.
I didn’t even know how to fight effectively.
Oh, sure, levitating the gun and pulling back the trigger is easy. In fact, it’s child’s play. But if I attempted it, bullets would just fly everywhere, hitting everything except my target.
Because that was an effective way of defeating enemies, right?
Not only that, but as I was thinking about what the bus driver said about raider ponies, the more I came to fear that I would end up facing another pony in battle. Even if that pony was dead set on my blood watering the ground and stringing up my carcass like a twisted trophy, I’m not sure if I could stomach killing another pony. Skags were a different matter, of course, but other ponies…
“Alright, time to wake up!” the driver yelled unnecessarily. We all glared at him as he continued. “We’re heeeere. Welcome to Fillystone!”