“Good morning everyone!” Steam Drive’s voice came over the speakers in the detainment car. “Or at least it would be morning if there was a sun. As you may have noticed out the windows, it’s completely pitch black outside and we still have the internal lights on.” From the small slot windows, I could see that he was right. “Apparently, with the cloud cover gone, Nightmare Moon was able to regain her full power and has escaped her lunar prison. She’s up to her old tricks and has cast us all into an eternal starless night. Does anyone on board have any Elements of Harmony?”
There was a pause as the NCA soldiers on guard started to mutter nervously to each other. The train guards in the car just facehoofed.
Then the voice from the speakers returned. “Just kidding! During the night we entered a long tunnel that cuts through part of the Croup Mountains. I bet any feelings of claustrophobia seem kinda silly now when compared to the possibility of an evil goddess blotting out the sky! We should be leaving the tunnel sometime in the late afternoon.” I was really starting to get tired of that guy.
Great, more tunnels. At least if it was Nightmare Moon it would be somepony I could hit. I think. Who is Nightmare moon?
“I’m bored!” Serenity moaned, and then trotted over to Celly. “Let’s play tag. You’re it!” When she swiped a hoof to tag the other filly, Celly quickly backed away from it.
“I’m sorry.” Celly said awkwardly when she saw Serenity’s confused look. “I just don’t like being touched”. Oh… even for a not smart pony like me that often meant one thing.
“Oh…” Serenity said sadly. “I understand.” What? No! You shouldn’t understand something as terrible as this, you’re just a filly! “There was a filly that I used to know in the Watchers that also didn’t like to be touched.” Citquine and Celly looked like they were feeling the same thing as me.
“No, it’s not like that at all!” Celly said quickly waving her front hooves.
“Not like what?” Serenity asked confused.
“Um. Not like anything. It’s actually a funny story. I’ll tell you it later,” Celly said quickly with a smile, and then levitated one of the cups we got with breakfast. “How about instead of tag, we play magic catch?”
They started to toss the cup back and forth with their magic. To me it looked more like training than a game. Serenity only missed it a couple of times, and I don’t think Celly missed once. After a while I stopped watching and looked around the rest of the train car. Even without looking I still felt the familiar tingle in my shoulder whenever Serenity used her magic, and over that was the constant burn of Celly’s magic.
Wait a moment.
I looked back and saw that even when tossing and catching the cup Celly’s horn never glowed. A unicorn’s horn always glows when they use magic. Doesn’t it? There was a yellow glow around the cup when she caught it, so she was using magic. Is it different with alicorns?
I looked over to where Citquine was sitting. He just gave me a serious look that said I shouldn’t say anything. At least, that’s what I guess that look meant. I’m not always the best at reading ponies, and he has a serious look on his face all the time.
“Ambassador Citquine,” An NCA pony said as he entered the car, from his fancy floppy hat I guessed that he was higher in rank than the other soldiers, “your identification has been confirmed. We deeply apologize for this terrible misunderstanding. You and your daughter are free to go.”
Citquine stood up and straightened his suit, then looked at the soldier in the hat with a serious expression. A different serious expression than the ‘keep quiet’ one he gave me before that is.
“Two corrections,” He said seriously. I think you get the picture, he’s a serious pony. I should know, since I’m a serious pony too. Seriously! So just take it that he always looks serious unless I say he isn’t. “First. Celly is not my Daughter. I have found that assumptions like that can lead to more serious misunderstandings down the line and are best cleared up early.” Oh, that’s a good answer. I need to use that later. I have found that Assumpthings like… fuck, what did he say again?
“My apologies sir. I meant no…” Hat pony started.
“Secondly,” Citquine interrupted, “you neglected to mention that my bodyguard, Ms. Gun, and her technician, Ms. Serenity, are also free to go.” Wait. His what now? Was he helping us get out of here? Why would he help us? I know that Celly mentioned last night that he would, but why? Celly shot me a look to keep quiet, it wasn’t as good as Citquine’s, and Serenity just giggled at being called as Ms. Serenity.
“Sir? We didn’t know that this…” Hat pony shot a disgusted look at me. I just smiled back. “Pony, was traveling with you. Yet, we can’t release her. She and her accomplice assaulted two of my men, and she must...”
“I was detained by an unknown and possibly hostile military force.” Citquine interrupted again. His voice was calm but sounded even more serious. “I would have fired her on the spot if she didn’t turn this train inside out, and anyone who got in her way, while trying to get to me. My report to your commanding officer is already extensive as it is. I would regret having to add to it that you further endangered my life by detaining my bodyguard for doing her job.” Oh. He’s good.
“My mistake sir.” Hat pony turned to one of the train guards. “Release them all at once!”
Ok. It wasn’t my most exciting escape from being captured. As they say, any escape you can walk away from is… Well, an escape. At least I wasn’t shot at.
“Ms. Gun,” Citquine said once we were all out of the cell. It took a moment for me to realize he meant me. “Please escort the fillies to our private room. I’ll be joining you once I finish resolving any lingering issues with the officer here.”
“Umm. Yes, sir,” I said trying to sound convincing. Where was his room any ways?
Fortunately, Celly lead the way out of the car. “Let’s get out of here. He can get scary when he gets litigious,” she said with a laugh.
“As the Rail Chaser makes its way to the front of the train, more and more ponies disappear. Until the whole train disappears!” Serenity finished telling Celly the ghost story that Flare told us this morning. She didn’t tell the story as well as he did, and she kept forgetting parts and having to start over. The story did feel a little more scary this time though. Going by how scared Celly looked that is. I wasn’t scared at all. Maybe it was because of the steady shaking of the train or the lights flickering now and then. It wasn’t because we were in a tunnel. No, that was totally not anything to do with me -- I mean Celly -- being scared.
“But the scariest part of all is this…” Serenity continued with a smile. Hmm? Is she making more of the story up? “When you tell this story on a train, that train is the next to be attacked by the Rail Chaser!”
“You just told it on a train.” I pointed out. Does this mean that this train will be hit? If the Rail chaser starts at that back, it will get rid of those Steel Rangers first. That will make this job… What am I thinking? Serenity just made that up. There is no…
Suddenly the train car shook violently and the lights went out. The room was suddenly filled with three screams. I mean two screams. I wasn’t screaming. Why would I be scared about being in the dark in a tunnel with the Rail Chaser? There is no Rail Chaser!
The lights came back on and the screaming face of the Rail Chaser stood over me.
More importantly, Serenity was still screaming.
I struck out and hit the Rail Chaser across the face with my metal hoof. It went down like a sack of apples and lay unconscious across the floor of the room.
Well, that wasn’t so tough.
Serenity had stopped screaming and hid behind me as I took a better look at the passed out Rail Chaser. It wasn’t blood red like in the story. More of a dark purple. It was a huge alicorn though, easily half a head taller than me. She could give Torr a run for his money. She? The Alicorn had a very female figure. Like some of the ‘dancers’ back at The Moon, but scaled up much, much, bigger. Not that I was staring at her long legs or anything. I was certainly not looking at her slim flank with a cutie mark of a wisp of cloud in front of a light blue wall…
Wait. I saw that cutie mark before.
“Apparently we ran over some metal debris that was in the middle of the....” Citquine said as he slid open the door the room. He then saw the alicorn on the floor and face-hoofed.
“Ughh…” The alicorn said, waking up with blood dripping from her mouth. “Please tell me that I was knocked out again by a Steel Ranger with an automatic grenade launcher, and not just by some short mare.” Short? Me? Well that’s a first.
“No such luck, Celly,” Citquine said with a smirk. I think that’s the first time I’ve seen something close to a smile from…
“So, that clears everything up?” Citquine said, finishing his explanation.
Apparently Celly was the imaginary friend of some mare long ago, and a magical accident made her real. She was a filly that couldn’t be killed, but then she died, and then came back as adult alicorn mare. Lots of big complicated magic stuff was involved. It didn’t make much sense.
“Yeah. Makes sense,” I said.
I was alone in the car with Citquine. Well, Firefly was there too, but I don’t think sprite-bots count as a somepony. It was hovering around the room playing music like a flying round radio thing. Serenity and Celly had gone off to the market car to find a bottle of radioactive water. It seems that radiation heals Alicorns, like ghouls, or something. After Celly changed back into a filly, I mean. How does she do that?
“How does she do that?”
“You mean look like a filly?” Citquine asked. I grunted. Well-spoken as always. “Her special talent is imagination, rather fitting given her origins. Particularly, she can use her magic to make illusions of what she imagines, hence the smoke and mirror cutie mark. She’s still learning how to control it though, so the only illusion she can keep up for any length of time is herself as a filly. She spent 150 years looking like that, so it’s like second nature to her.”
Ok, it’s magic. I can understand that much. That explains why my shoulder always burned around her. she was constantly casting that illusion spell.
“That illusion comes in handy when we travel to places where alicorns are uncommon,” Citquine continued. “No point scaring the locals. The drawback is that her illusions don’t actually change her size. She’s still there, larger than life, just invisible. The filly that you see isn’t physically there, and if she’s not careful things can pass through her. That’s why she uses the ‘doesn’t like to be touched’ excuse.”
So she’s there, but isn’t, and takes up space but things can pass through her. Ugh, alicorn magic is more confusing than normal unicorn magic! I’ll just think of her as a filly until she isn’t looking like one.
A familiar dull burn and tingling gradually grew stronger in my shoulder.
“Looks like the girls are back.” I said to Citquine. He looked at me puzzled for a moment before they slid the door open. I smiled back at his ‘how did you do that?’ look. Ha! You’re not the only one with weird hard to explain magic stuff going on.
“I don’t know what you said to those NCA ponies, Quiny, but the train staff is falling over themselves, treating us like royalty.” Celly said with a grin.
“Yeah, we even got to see the engine room!” Serenity added excitedly. “Did you know that the steam engine is powered by three unicorns that all have the special talent to boil water? It used to be just two, but then Steam Drive found Skippity Doo working in a tea shop.”
“Ah, I was wondering what they used in place of coal.” Citquine said. You were? I just figured the train ran on, you know, magic. I guess I was right in a way. “So, you get fixed up Celly?”
“Yup. You wouldn’t believe how radioactive the water was one stallion was selling,” Celly said as the filly faded away and the large mare appeared, her voice changing also. That’s going to take some getting used to. “He was selling it to a couple of fillies no less! Well, anyway, we found something for Silver too.”
I then noticed that Serenity was holding up with her magic what looked like two oversize markers. They each had wide caps that I guessed showed what color they drew in. One was a ridiculously bright pink, and the other was a just as bright yellowy green. They both had ‘Industrial Highlighter’ written on the side.
“Ah.” Citquine said approvingly. “Silver will love them!”
What? Why would I? How do they know that name? Nopony should know that? Is this more weird alicorn magic? I tried to voice these questions, but I think it came out as “Habawah?!”
“Silver Bell is a friend of ours back in Equestria.” Citquine explained, looking confused at my reaction. “Her mother is getting married soon, and she’s been looking for the perfect radiation green and pink cloud pink for a picture she’s making. She’s quite the artist for her age actually.”
“Oh. Of course…” I said trying to smoothly recover. “Thought you meant another Silver that I knew.”
Citquine facehoofed. “It wasn’t some old stallion with an over engineered battle saddle claiming to be an NCR ranger was it?”
“What? No.” Just how common was my name? I guess Hired Gun wasn’t that bad after all. At least it was unique.
“Good. I wouldn’t put it past him to have run all the way out here.” Citquine sighed and stood up. “There are a few more issues that I need to talk to Hired about. We’ll be back later.”
“Where?” I asked.
“The bar car. I need a drink.”
There’s a car that’s a bar? How did I miss that? I hope they have whisky!
Yes! Whisky! I was partway through my first bottle and starting to feel all warm and happy. Well, mostly warm. Getting to the happy would be easier if Citquim… Clitrine… Citquer… if Cit (his name and Whisky don’t mix) wasn’t still so serious.
Cit just sipped his sarsaparilla and was talking about… something serious most likely. Seems when he says ‘I need a drink’, he means he’s thirsty. Where’s the fun in that? Wasn’t sarsaparilla supposed to give you more sass? It must be defective. I would know. I was closely watching his sass.
“Speaking of that. What’s with your cutesy mark, Cit?” I asked, taking another pull from my bottle. Was his special talent flipping a coin? Heads he wins, tails I get to…
“Don’t call me that, and we weren’t discussing anything related to cutie marks,” He said with a sigh. We weren’t? I guess that was only my train of thought. Hehe, train. This was good whisky. “But if you must know, it’s a gold ring.”
“Your talent proposing?” I guessed.
“No. My talent…”
“No special somepony, Cit?” He’s available. I’m not the marrying type though. I make too many bad decisions. I also travel a lot. It just wouldn’t…
“What? No! I said not to call me that, and that’s not what I am talking about. I mean, I do. Well technically not a somepony….” He fished awkwardly and quickly took a drink of his sarsaparilla. Wait, he’s blushing? He was seriously blushing! in a serious way. Cit’s got a special someone! Cit’s…
Actually, no fuck. There goes getting some of that sass. Need more whisky…
So, not a somepony? What does that mean? Do alicorns don’t count as ponies? “Is it Celly?”
His eyes went wide and he suddenly spat out his drink. All over my face… He then started to sputter and cough. The noise briefly woke up the only other pony that was sharing the bar car with us. “Celly?! No! Goodness no. She’s like an older sister to me!”
I gave the sarsaparilla running down my muzzle a lick. Bleh, I’ll stick to my whisky. I took another pull to wash the taste out. He didn’t even notice my sass anyways. Not that I cared or anything. It’s just that… Shut up.
Cit’s serious look returned and he straightened his suit. “The ring represents how I help others. That’s my special talent, and that relates to what we were talking about before this tangent. Since I’m going to be helping you, I need to know what your real reason for being on this train is Ms. Hired Gun.”
“I have a job to do.” That’s all he needs to know. “And I don’t need your help.” I need your…
“I’m paying you to be my bodyguard,” He said interrupting that thought. “so I need to know if I can trust you. So that means telling me everything.”
Damn. He had me there. “Simple job. Returning a stolen item. Some Steel Rangers are making it not simple.” That should be enough for him to trust me… Wait, I’m not his bodyguard! That was a lie he told Hat pony. I glared at him for tricking me. Him and his sass. Well, mostly his sass.
“Ah,” He said with a small smile, “I thought it was along those lines since you were checking out the baggage cars. Celly thought you might be here to kill me for some reason, so I had to make sure.” He took another sip of his drink. “Taking back something stolen is morally grey enough that I don’t have a problem lending a hoof, and I certainly have no love for Steel Rangers…” That last part was said with a rather dark tone. “As for not needing my help, that’s irrelevant. My talent is helping you whether either of us wants it to or not. I find that it’s best to just go with it. Last time I refused to help someone I wound up nearly killed by manticores. Magic is sometimes dumb like that.”
“Dumb magic.” I had trouble following most of what he just said, but that part was clear. The brain wasn’t helping my whisky think any better than normal. I went to drink more but the empty was bottle.
“So what’s your plan for getting this stolen item out from under the noses of the Steel Rangers, and then off the train?”
Oh yeah. Plan thing. Need one of those. Also need more whisky. “I’ll tell you over another bottle,” I said as I stood up. The train was waving back and forth all blurry like, so it was not easy walking to the bar. They should fix that.
“I don’t think that would be a good idea,” He said getting up also. “I think you’ve had …”
I cut him off by raising a hoof. Hey, it does work! “Cit! Stay! Be good!” I ordered him in what seemed like a good play on words.
I think I’m getting better at handling my whisky. Normally by now everything would blur into a black…
I hurt everywhere. More than just normal hung-over hurt too. I felt like I went another round with Torr.
I could feel that I was lying on my back and that my barding was gone. Against my better judgment, I opened my eyes.
Gah! There was a painfully bright white light directly above me. I squeezed my eyes shut again.
I turned my head away from the light. I then felt somepony’s breath gently caress my muzzle. Please don’t be a mare. I’m not into mares. I just keep ending up in bed with them!
Carefully I opened my eyes and met the dark purple eyes of adult Celly. “Mmm… You were great,” She purred.
I quickly tried to roll myself in the opposite direction, only to end up falling to the floor. Who builds a bed that high off the ground? Looking around I noticed that everything in the room was all clean and white. Also, the bed that I was on was actually an examination table. I was in the medical car!
And ponies were laughing at me.
Celly was standing beside the table, laughing her fool alicorn face off. She was evil! On her back Serenity was laughing too. Traitor!
Only one in the room not laughing at me was Citquine. He just facehoofed all seriously. “Yeah… Great at getting shot that is.” He sighed. Shot? What happened?
“What happened?” I asked.
He looked down at me on the floor. “Your ‘plan’,” He lifted his forelegs to make hoof-quotes. “Consisted of staggering drunkenly to the baggage cars, screaming ‘Hiiiired GUN!’, and then charging the Steel Ranger guarding the secured car. You're like a trained manticore. Without the training!”
I’m not sure if that was a compliment or not. “Did it work?”
Citquine rolled his eyes. “Surprisingly enough, yes. You managed to take out the steel ranger bare hoofed while drunk. Which was impressive, I’ll admit.”
I smiled proudly.
“Then the second Steel Ranger showed up and started to open fire.” My smile fell. “That’s when it got really ugly. In the end it took the NCA, train security, and half a dozen Zap Apples to break you two up. I had to use all my diplomatic clout just to convince them to drag your bleeding body to medical instead of chucking it overboard.”
I put my not metal leg over my aching eyes. Whisky, you have betrayed me again! My over-sensitive ears heard four tiny hooves jump down and walk over to me. I then felt Serenity’s little head nuzzle against my big dumb head.
“Mommy?” I lifted my leg and looked into Serenity’s grey eyes. They looked red and puffy. Had she been crying? “We need to talk,” she said in a small voice.
Not this again. Not now. “We talked about this already.” Didn’t we? My sense of continuity was all fuzzy. Stupid hang over. “I’m not…”
“No.” She interrupted. “Not about that. Something else.”
Whatever that something else was would have to wait. A lanky tan earth pony in a white doctor’s coat walked into the room. His curly mane stuck straight up like some kind of bright orange muffin. Looking over quickly, I saw that Celly was already back to her filly look. Still giggling though. Evil.
“Ah! I see that you’re up. Or down as it were,” he said with a silly chuckle. “Surprising for somepony that went five rounds with a Steel Ranger. You must be tough.”
“I get that a lot,” I said getting to my hooves. Serenity hopped onto my back as I got up.
“And stupid!” he added with a laugh.
“Get that too,” I grumbled.
“So, how are you feeling?” Currently? Hung over, beat up, insulted, embarrassed, and stupid.
“Sore,” I said.
“Ah. I have just the thing for that.” He picked up a syringe of med-x from the table, with his mouth, and jammed it into my flank.
“Ow! You really a doctor?”
“Yup!” He said yanking the needle back out. Ow. “Been practicing medicine on the rails for going on fifteen years now. I guess you could say I’m well trained! I have a great track record, too. I used to work on a monorail, but I ran out of one liners.” These puns were not helping my hangover.
Ah, but that med-x was. Sweet med-x, you would never betray and hurt me like whisky does. Would you?
“We’ll give you some time to talk,” Citquine said as Serenity and I entered the private room. “Then we’ll come up with a real plan. While you were out, Steam Drive announced that once we cross a small bridge it would be just a few hours more to our destination. After joking about crashing to our doom that is. So you don’t have much time.”
“Right,” I said. “My talks don’t take long.”
He slid the door shut and I waited for the dull burn of Celly’s magic to fade away.
“Hired…” Serenity started.
“One moment,” I said and walked over to the door. Lowering my head, I bit the lock and slid it closed.
There it is.
“Why are you locking the door?”
I carefully turned around to Serenity. “What do you think of those two?”
“What?” She asked, puzzled. “That’s not what I wanted to talk about.”
“I know. But, this first. Then what you want to say.” I walked to the side of room opposite of her and sat down.
The light pink filly thought for a moment. “Well, Quiny is ok, I guess. He’s all serious though. Even more than you!“ Thanks. “Aside from that fake smile when we first met, I don’t think I’ve seen him happy.” He smiled? Did I miss that? “Also that leg of his is bor-ing!”
“And what about Little Miss Big Huge?”
My little filly giggled at the name. My filly? No, I mean… I’m getting to that. Later. Maybe. “Celly is fun, and she has lots of stories. Did you know that she has a little foal in her head that she’s looking after? She’s a bit like you that way.” A foal in her head? Are all alicorns this weird!?
“You trust them?”
Serenity nodded. “I know they are a little weird, but they are good ponies. Like you.”
I’m not a good pony. “I don’t trust them.”
Serenity rolled her big eyes. “You don’t trust anypony.”
“They’ve been lying and tricking us,” I said flatly.
“What? No they haven’t!” Serenity protested.
“Celly used her magic to look like a filly.”
“But… That’s different; she wasn’t trying to deceive only us. A lot of ponies don’t like alicorns, so she has to hide it.” She then pointed a hoof at me. “You knocked her out when you saw what she really looks like.”
It wasn’t like that! I Don’t have anything against alicorns. Serenity was screaming too. “I thought she was the Rail Chaser! I was trying to protect…” I began to blurt out, and then I realized how foalish that sounded. From the grin that she was now wearing, that was just the reaction Serenity expected. Outsmarted by a filly… Which of us was the parent again?
Ah, no! Neither of us. Not my filly! Shut up.
I shook my head. Time for a different approach. “Citquine’s leg is a custom combat shot gun. He could kill us any time.”
“But...” Serenity’s resolve faltered. “He wouldn’t. Why would he?”
“Celly doesn’t trust us,” I continued. “She thinks we’re here to kill Citquine. She could have him kill us before we kill him.”
“But we’re not! “ Serenity yelled. The thought that the ponies she liked might try to kill us clearly troubled her. “We’re just here for that yellow box! You have to tell her we’re not bad ponies.” You’re half right Serenity. You’re a very good pony.
“Why would she believe me? If they were a target I would lie to them.”
“I’ll tell her then,” Serenity said in a worried voice. “Since I’m just a filly maybe…”
“Celly would think that I was using your cuteness to trick them. It’s what she does.” I hated making Serenity worry like this. I was trying to make two points to two ponies at the same time. I’m not a clever pony and this was the only way I could think of.
“There has to be some way to convince her.” The little filly was on the verge of tears. “I know that they are good ponies. We have to clear up this misunderstanding before they make a terrible mistake and you hurt them.” After all I said she still trusts them. She’s also more worried about their safety than ours, if they did try to attack us. I agree that it would be a rather one sided fight, even with his Buckshot 12. I should feel proud of her confidence in my skills, but for some reason it worried me.
Ok. Enough of this show.
I stood up and walked towards the door. I then lifted my forelegs up and rested my knees on thin air. “That good enough for you?” I asked the blank space in front of me.
Serenity gasped as adult Celly appeared in the room, with my knees resting across her flank. I knew that on the other side of the door an illusion filly disappeared.
“You were spying on us?” Serenity said wiping her eyes.
Celly kneeled down to look the filly in the eyes. This also caused me to lose my shapely perch and my hooves awkwardly fell to the floor. Did I say Shapely? I meant, umm… Aw to hell with it. She did have a fine ass.
“I’m sorry, Serenity. It was rude of me to eavesdrop on you like that. I just really needed to know that you two were telling the truth about why you’re here.” The alicorn sighed sadly. “Citquine is the only family I have left, and I worry a lot about losing him. Can you forgive me?” Then she added in a loud whisper to Serenity. “And between you and me, your mom is kinda scary!”
“I’m not…” I started.
“You are kinda scary at times.” Serenity giggled. That wasn’t what I meant… “I forgive you Celly.”
The big alicorn hugged the little filly. “This is a dangerous world,” Celly continued. “You have to be very careful of who you trust, even if they do seem like good ponies.” Hey! That was the lesson that I was trying to teach her! Go train your own filly on the dangers of the world!
“Well, duh.” Serenity rolled her big grey eyes. “It’s not like I’m some baby foal who doesn’t know that.”
I think my jaw dropped farther than Celly’s, but not by much.
“But...” Celly started confused. “You said you trusted us because we were good ponies…”
“Well that wasn’t the only reason…” Serenity looked away with a guilty expression. “I also, kind of, sort of, read Quniy’s diary.”
Ok. Celly’s jaw dropped farther that time. Then she whistled, impressed. “When did you manage that?”
“While everypony was in the medical car. I snuck back here and read it. I had to make sure that he hadn’t planned for momma to get hurt.” Serenity then looked at Celly pleadingly. “Please don’t tell him I read it!”
“I don’t care what anypony says, you two are definitely related! You’re both the same level of reckless crazy!” Celly snorted with laughter. “Your secret is safe with me. I only managed to read his journal once, and that was only because at the time he was paralyzed and I was immortal. I could only imagine what he has written in there since then, and how much he would flip out if somepony read it.”
Serenity then blushed a brighter pink. “He did write a lot about his griffin friend and…” Griffin friend?
Celly put her hooves to her ears “No, I can’t hear that. It would be too dangerous for both of us. Lalala!”
Standing up, she then faced me. “So, we all trust each other now?” I nodded. I didn’t fully trust her, of course. I trusted her enough for this job, though. “Good. I’ll leave you two alone to talk now.” Changing back into her filly appearance she walked out of the room. Then turning around she asked. “How did you know that I was still in the room before?”
“Magic.” I said with a grin and slid the door closed. This time I did feel the dull burn in my shoulder fade as she walked away.
Ok, that could have gone better. At least the issue with Celly was dealt with. But then, since when did I care if somepony trusted me? Was I getting soft? Or this just my normal level of stupid? It was also pretty stupid of me to think I could teach Serenity something. Just another reason in the list of why I shouldn’t be her mother…
And on that note… “Ok, what did you want to talk about?”
Serenity sat down on her haunches and lowered her head. “Promise you won’t get mad first,” She said in a weak voice. What? This isn’t the normal ‘be my mommy’ conversation is it…
I knelt down on the floor to be as close as I could to her. “I won’t get mad, I promise.” Then I added with a small laugh. “Unless you broke Subtlety, then all bets are off.”
The joke didn’t help. She looked up at me and her little face was full of concern and worry. “No, I just… I don’t think that…” She was struggling with her thoughts. Whatever this was about, it was really troubling her. I reached out with my hoof and brushed her mane. She took a deep breath. “It’s like what Celly said about Quiny. You’re the only family I have, and I worry a lot about losing you.”
Was that what this was about?
I sighed. “I know what I do is dangerous, but…” before I could say any more she shook her little head.
“No, that’s not it.” It’s not? “You’re good at what you do, and I like helping you when I can. You’re big, and strong, and tough. I know that you’ll do whatever you can to survive. It’s just that…” Her voice trailed off.
“What is it?”
“You need to stop drinking so much.”
What? Was that all? Me getting drunk? I let out a laugh in relief. I thought it was something really serous!
Then I saw the tears in Serenity’s big grey eyes. This was something serious to her.
“It’s not funny!” she sobbed. “You nearly died last night! Before that it was the huge fight in that bar. Before that was your debt with the Mustangs. It keeps getting worse. When you drink you get more reckless and stupid. It’s like you stop thinking about surviving and become a different pony!”
I do become a different pony. I become Silver Storm, the naïve mare that gets the ponies she cares about killed because of her stupid impulses. Impulses like wanting to have fun, or wanting to be a hero, or wanting to be loved, or wanting back…
I sighed and wiped the tears from Serenity’s eyes with the tip of my hoof. “I’ll try to cut down.” I can’t be that other pony any more. I had to be Hired Gun. I had to survive.
I felt something inside me reject that thought. Must be the part that really likes whisky…
“Ok, the plan is simple, but we need to act quickly to pull it off,” Citquine said once we were all together in his private room. “Celly managed to snag a Zap Apple from train security during your drunken row last night.” I facehoofed. ”She’s going to levitate it up to the Steel Rangers inside her filly illusion and set it off.” He then gestured to me. “Once they are out, you and I will board the secured car, open the side door, and then throw the box overboard.” Serenity winced at that part. The stallion turned to her. “Don’t worry. From the description that Hired got, it sounds like a hazmat transport container. Those things are designed super tough and have magical enchantments. So whatever is inside will survive the fall without any problem. Then once we get to the station your pegasus friend can fly back and retrieve it for you.” Citquine then sat back confidently. “It’s a variation on the plan Celly and I used at the Applelation facility. So it should work as long as we pull it off before the bridge.”
“Didn’t that plan end with me nearly getting blown up?” Celly added.
“The plan still worked though.” Citquine said awkwardly. “Also, it’s not like that can happen again. We’ve all seen the Steel Ranges guarding the door and neither of them have that kind of firepower on them.”
“I’ll bring another bottle of radioactive water just in case.” Serenity grinned at the alicorn.
I pointed my metal hoof at the filly. “No. You’re staying here.”
“Hired is right.” Citquine said. “This will basically be a stealth mission, and the three of us are already a lot as it is.” That’s putting it lightly. 3 of the largest ninjas ever… “It would be just Celly and Hired ideally, but I should come along in case the side door is locked.”
“You’re going to blast it open with BuckShot 12?” Serenity rolled her eyes. “Yeah, that’s really subtle.”
Citquine looked like his surprise epic hero moment was just spoiled. He shot a dark look at Celly.
“Hey, I didn’t tell them.” The alicorn pointed a hoof at me. “Shorty over there already figured out your leg was a gun.” Shorty?
Citquine then looked at me doubtfully then turned back to Serenity. “Well, however you found out…” Hey, did he doubt I was even smart enough to recognize a gun?! “That was the plan. I know it’s less than ideal. Back at the Applelations we had a silent step spell to muffle our hooves, but no such…”
Serenity’s eyes beamed and she opened her moth.
“No.” I cut her off before she could say anything.
“But I could…” She started again.
“No,” I said, putting my hoof down.
“What’s going on?” Celly asked as she watched our back and forth.
“Nothing. Serenity is staying here,” I tried to say. But no sound came out. I glared silently at the filly as my shoulder tingled in time with her horn glowing.
“I know a silence spell.” She grinned.
Citquine looked impressed. “I’m sorry, Hired, but Serenity is coming with us.”
“Yush!” The pink filly exclaimed, pumping her hoof in the air. Where did she pick that up?
I opened my mouth to object. I then glared at Serenity until she turned off her spell. “It’s too dangerous.”
“Actually it will be far less dangerous with her with us,” Citquine replied. “With her silence spell we won’t have to worry about train security or the NCA hearing us.” Using reason and smarts is an unfair way to win an argument…
“Now I wish I had brought along my Pip-Buck. I would be able to communicate with yours even when Serenity’s silence spell was up,” He added. You can talk through Pip-Bucks?
“How would you manage that? Pip-Bucks don’t have the capability for real time communication.” Serenity asked. Oh, so you can’t talk with them?
“Normally they don’t, but the friends of mine that gave me it modified the operating system. They added an application that could receive signals from a headband and retransmit them as thought or text.” A Pip-Buck that could read your mind? I wonder if mine already had that option. That would explain why it never does anything.
“Wait.” Serenity shook her head. “You have a telepathically operated Pip-Buck, and you don’t even wear it?!”
“Well, I would mostly just use it for the radio or the mapping system.” He said matter-of-factly. “Since I already have Firefly and my auto-map, there’s not much need for it. So I modified the latch so it could be taken off easily.”
Serenity face-hoofed. “You’re just as bad as Hired...”
“Well, that’s not a good sign,” Filly Celly said, looking at the pile of train security ponies in the baggage car.
Citquine lightly put a hoof to one of their necks. “They’re alive. Most likely taken out by their own Zap Apples. It appears that after last night’s escapades, they upped the security here.” He carefully stepped around them. “I should have anticipated this. Fortunately though, someone has already saved us the trouble…”
“Stay close,” I said to Serenity. I then realized how pointless that was since she was in her usual spot on my back.
She gave a small laugh and then hugged my neck. “This better momma?”
Any objection I had was lost in the silence spell as Citquine carefully opened the door to the last baggage car.
“This is your last warning, little filly. Take you’re big friend there and leave.” One of the Steel Rangers announced.
All four of us froze with the door half open. How did they know we were there?
“I don’t think so,” A mare’s voice said from past the door. “Ferris and I have a job to do. So you boys better just stay out of our way if you don’t want to get hurt.” They weren’t talking to us?
The four of us silently snuck inside the car and hid behind the piles of luggage. The mare the Steel Rangers were talking to was the size of Citquine. She was coved head to hoof in a tattered, old cloak.
“Damn it. This is the third big pony with a filly that’s come back here this trip. I’m starting to bug out, man.” One of the Rangers said to the other.
“You had your chance, boys,” The mare said. But it didn’t come from the big pony. Looking over I then noticed that beside the big pony was… That grey filly that I helped on the train?! She pulled a cigar out of the shoulder pocket of the strange barding she was wearing. With it clenched in her teeth she pointed her little hoof at the Rangers. “Teach them some manners, Ferris.” The big pony, Ferris I guess, lifted a metal foreleg at the ranger. There was a sudden high pitch hum. A bright blue ball of energy shot out of the hoof and smashed into one of the Rangers. Now why can’t my metal leg do that? Oh yeah, because I would just shoot myself in the hoof… with my hoof…
The struck Ranger staggered. The other activated one of the weapons built into his armor. “Filly or not, you two are toast!” A roaring jet of flame shot from the metal suit.
In a sudden motion Ferris moved in front of the filly, blocking her from the flames. The cloak began to catch fire. In seconds it burned away, and the pony under it… Wasn’t a pony?! It was some big pony shaped robot thing. It’s body was heavily armored, but it’s legs looked disturbingly like my own skeletal metal one.
“You foals don’t know who you’re dealing with.” The filly said in her not filly voice. She pressed her cigar against the hot metal of the robot until it lit. The back of the robot then opened up and the filly jumped inside it.
The robot (or was it now power armor?) reared up on its hind legs as the sockets of its metal skull glowed red. The filly’s voice came from it metallic and amplified. “I AM IRON MARE!”
Sneaking done. Fighting now.
New Quest Perk: Your parenting is bad and you should feel bad. – You made Serenity cry… twice! -10 health. You can get it back after you hug her and say you’re sorry.
New Quest Perk: Yakety S.A.T.S. – After talking about Pip-Bucks with Citquine you have gained a slightly better understanding of them. +5% accuracy in S.A.T.S. Not that you’ll ever use it…
((A/N: Again, This fic is a big shout out to No_One for making Heroes, and to Kkat for making this wonderful wasteland that we all play in. Also, big thanks to Julep for editing. Comments and criticism are greatly appreciated!))