Writer’s notes: First things first, This is a story based off the magnificent work of Kkat (Fallout Equestria) if you have not read the work in its entirety what are you doing reading this swill? Go read it. Now. Here is the link. (not required, but very strongly recommend)
*5 days later*
Done? Good, you may continue.
Second, I use a unit of measurement called a hoof (I was originally going to use feet but it struck me as out of place). A hoof is equal to six inches.
Third, I know I use some inaccuracies on equine anatomy (such as Flank as rump instead of side). I do this because the term has been defined for this universe and that trumps our definition in this case.
Finally I also use inaccuracies on guns, explosives and such, this is based on the main characters skills, if they don’t know the correct word it won’t be used. (I only mention this because it seemed to bother some folk in the other chat rooms)
P.S. I know this section is a bit awkward and I apologize for that. It will not appear in any future chapters if all gos well, but I felt it necessary to get this out of the way.
War. War never changes. For a thousand years Equestria remained in a state of blissful stagnancy. That was until a single spark set the world ablaze. War was reborn. Raging for decades, the ruinous flames engulfed cities, nations and ponies’ very souls. Finally, in the blink of an eye, the maelstrom ended in a wave of balefire and silence fell across the remaining cinders...
...But this was not the end, as many had predicted. Pockets of life remained in underground shelters known as Stables and similar installations. These ponies slowly emerged into the wasteland unprepared for the savage life that would face them. With limited resources, conflicting ideologies and the wasteland itself seeming to conspire against them, ponies descended upon one-another, destroying any shred of innocence that may have survived in the equine heart...
...In the frozen north of The Canterlot Mountains sits a small settlement. Shetland, frozen in time and untouched by the Apocalypse. Shetland, the only island of life in a endless ocean of radioactive death. This is your home. This is your life. This is your world.
Life in Shetland was safe. Life in Shetland was reliable. Life in Shetland was… like watching paint dry. An idyllic little town of 250 ponies nestled in a mountain valley, north of Canterlot. Shetland had been fortunate to have been designed by Stable-Tec, saving it from the horrors of the apocalypse.
My MoM mandated alarm clock woke me a bit before sunrise with a nasally party horn and a blast of illusionary confetti. I was in my same little, brown room, wallpapered with advertisements for various inconsequential products, wood burnings I had made with the store’s pester beam and posters of a quite attractive, white, unicorn mare with a purple mane; a pre-war singer I liked. I lit my horn to push back the pre-dawn gloom and pulled on the same green vest with the same ‘Hello, my name is Ochre Bullion’ pin. I always wondered why the only Shetland General Store employee would need a name tag, but those were the rules. I plopped myself down in front of the same mirror and stared into the same, half-mast gold eyes as I absent mindedly made my short, black mane slightly more presentable than bed head. With a long yawn I trudged my way down stairs. I took my place behind the counter just in time to see the sun peek over the mountains.
The shop was packed to the brim with little bits of everything from farming tools to sacks of flowers. The walls were lined with shelves well up into the rafters; this would have been an utterly daft design choice if the town wasn’t populated solely by unicorns. There was even a sparkle-cola machine, complete with a life sized, promotional stand up of their spokes mare; a lovely, yellow pegasus with a flowing pink mane, holding a bottle with a look of near ecstasy. I stood next to my cardboard companion, behind a compulsively shined, oak counter adorned only with a, slightly dented, stainless steel cash register and a completely superfluous bell. Under the counter was a low powered beam pistol, called a pester beam. Only capable of rising welts or minor burns at worst. It had come in handy a few times in getting some foals to rethink using my store to get a larceny cutie mark.
The day’s affairs went by without incident. Ponies came in; picked up various sundries, shared snippets of gossip that everypony had known for weeks and made transparently insincere attempts at small talk.
My days were so predictable that at one point I had everypony’s orders pre-bagged and priced for the week. That didn’t go over well with Mayor Goldlight, as she apparently felt I was being ‘presumptuous and condescending’. Fortunately the mayor’s aid, Keystone, a quiet, tawny buck and one of my best friends, had managed to smooth things over for me. I never had the arrogance to try to make things more efficient, or *gasp* different again, at least not publicly.
You see, Shetland was obsessed with tradition to an unhealthy degree. We always celebrated winter wrap up, even though it is always winter up here. We had a summer sun celebration, even though we had no Celestia. The world was devastated by war, but the only mention it ever got was that ‘it happened’. I was not the most popular pony around, as I was of the opinion that we had gone beyond traditional. We were stagnant and stagnancy kills.
My last customer of the day, a fairly attractive orange mare named Spring Fresh, picked up a half dozen bottles of apple preserves and her daily Sparkle-Cola. She was half way out the door when I noticed that her saddle bags were missing.
“Spring, excuse me, but I think you misplaced your bags around here somewhere.” I said as I began to scan the store.
“What are you talking about?” She replied with a bit of snark in her voice.
“Huh?” I said as I looked up, lo and behold, there they were, bright blue with an embroidered trio of red flowers, matching her cutie mark. How could I have missed that? “Oh, sorry, have a nice day.” I apologized sheepishly.
She walked out with a huff.
“Wonderful, not only am I arrogant and cynical, but now I’m losing my mind.” I mumbled to myself, counting out the day’s bits and giving them a bit of a shine to match the one on my flank. It was about what I expected. I’d pulled in a few extra bits thanks to Moon Bell breaking a window while trying for a hoofball cutie mark.
As the sun started to sink back under the mountains I trotted up to the front door to lock up. I looked down to magically fish my keys from my vest. When I looked back up I was staring into a pair of massive, green eyes pressed against the glass.
“Primrose.” I said in a deadpan as I opened the door for the light pink, vintner mare. She strode past me, swishing the vines on her flank with each step, and planted her forelegs on the counter. Well, she definitely wants something today. I strode back over to her. “We were just closing up.”
“You live here,” She purred. “you’re always open, so I’d like a drink.”
“Two bits.” I replied, holding out a hoof. “We take cash or credit.”
“Awww.” She wined, putting on a pout. “Can’t this one be on the house?”
“Nothing is free.” I smirked.
“Hum, how about this?” She whispered before leaning over and giving me a peck on the muzzle.
“Payment accepted.” I sighed, well there goes my windfall for the day. I had to hand it to her; she knew how to get me motivated. I pondered the depressing realization that she could probably get me to part with my sparkle cola cutout, an irreplaceable relic even before the war, with little more that a swish of that deep blue tail while she chugged her beverage.
“Well, down to business then.” She said with all hints of seduction dropping from her speech. “Keystone and Mayor Goldlight will be returning from their trade run tomorrow and I have been delegated the responsibility of preparing their welcome back celebration.”
“And I’m sure it will be lovely.” I said as I took the now empty bottle from her and set it aside for refilling on the mayor’s next trip.
“Yes, it will be, but first I’m going to need some supplies.” She said looking at me with puppy dog eyes and slipping into a woe is me voice. “You see, I’m a bit short on bits and the next decanting isn’t for a month.” That adorable face had cost me more bits than I cared to count over the years.
“I think I might be able to help you out.” I replied “On one condition.” I was not going to come out of this in the red again. “That next batch of yours, I get to take the costs out wholesale.” I raised a hoof. “Plus a glass now, for interest.”
She took my extended hoof. “Deal.”
We walked out of the store to make for Primrose’s vineyard for my “sample”. The town looked like something out of a storybook. Short, wooden buildings popping up around twisting, dirt roads and colorful stalls, overflowing with produce and homemade crafts. Unicorns casually milled from place to place, though notably fewer than I would have expected, going about their daily routines. The idyllic scene was topped off with a fluffy coating of perfectly white snow.
We managed to make it half way across town when my head began to spin and a sharp stabbing pain started above my front, right hoof. I stumbled and fell. My vision started to blur and my senses numbed except for the pain in my leg, which only seemed to intensify.
I was vaguely aware of Primrose’s attempts to pick me up when a horrific noise, that was a mix of grinding gears and a vacuum cleaner, blared across the valley. The town vanished in a blast of static and rematerialized a moment later as a distorted mess.
“Ocher!” Primrose screamed. I looked over to her, my vision clearing rapidly, and couldn’t help but scramble back. Her tail was sprouting from her cutie mark, her eyes had become completely transparent and her front legs had disappeared. “What’s happening!?”
“I… I…” I stammered as baked away, to my shame, from the deformed vintner, looking frantically from side to side. Everything was falling apart. The snow was blinking in and out of existence. Ponies stood on limbs that were no longer there. One stallion had even become some form of hideous cyclops pony.
Everything repeatedly dissolved into static, each transition leaving the town in worse and worse shape, lasting just long enough for me to take in the new batch of horrors. Within seconds all the ponies around me collapsed into jagged blobs of screaming color.
With a final blast of the grinding noise my senses started failing again. As the world faded into blackness I could have sworn I saw a floating block of white text.
‘Is there anything you would like to change about your childhood before continuing?’
I awoke coughing as a rubbery hose pulled out of my throat. All my senses returned just in time to notice the withdrawal of several other obtrusive tubes from my body.
I was lying on my back in some sort of egg shaped pod with slowly dimming blue squares swirling across its surface. I panicked and began futilely thrashing against my metal prison. My body felt heavy and sluggish, I had never been a particularly strong pony, but this was the first time I felt truly weak. Lashing out with spells provided equally negligible results, as my horn seemed to be in some sort of clamp that was sapping my magic. Not that a flash of light or foalish telekinesis would have done me much good anyway.
Finally calming down, mostly due to the unexpected strain of moving my own legs, I noticed a small, grey computer was clamped to my aching hoof. It had nearly blended into my grey pelt in the quickly darkening chamber. The words ’PipBuck Model 3000’ were embossed on the side. A message was blinking on the display.
’Life support disengaged- open pod? Yes/No’
With the blue lights dying completely I immediately started mashing the yes button with my hoof as fast as I could. There was a rumbling groan as the pod split down the middle and slid to the sides.
The pod was on a platform in the center of a square room with strobing red lights. Its walls were lined with computers save for a single steel door. The only computer bigger than a terminal that I knew of was in the mayor’s office. But how could I have gotten there? What happened to everypony else? What in Celestia’s light was that pod? Why was there...?
A soft click pulled my attention away from my ever growing list of questions as my horn popped out of the magic sapping clamp. Now able to move, I crawled out of the pod, making my world start spinning again. I promptly stumbled, fell off the platform and lost my lunch on a bundle of cables that snaked out of the pod.
Yuck. That probably wasn‘t good for them, but at least they were insulated so I didn’t get shocked. I slowly lifted myself out of the grassy smelling, green bile, that didn’t even remotely resemble the lingonberry sandwich I had eaten earlier that day. I resumed my wobbly, ten hoof trek to the door, feeling a bit less ill, but notably slimier.
Two small bars appeared at the bottom of my field of vision, one red and one white, followed a moment later by a line of white text.
‘>Eyes-Forward Sparkle online.’
Uh hu, wonder what that’s for?
I froze, my hoof inches from the door control, when I heard another pod opening.
There was a groggy mumble. That sounded like Bastion. He was one of the teachers at the Shetland Schoolhouse. Somepony else is down here, I’ m not-
The white bar disappeared and Bastion’s mumbling ceased.
I opened the door and, Oh Goddesses!
Across an empty, circular room, ringed with doors there was an emancipated, earth pony mare wearing a long coat with a, still smoking, double barreled shotgun in her mouth. She was standing over a pod, identical to the one I had just vacated, containing the, now headless, teacher‘s body.
I dropped to my knees and wretched in vain, apparently I was out of green stuff. She had killed him... He couldn’t be dead. He was teaching the foals about cutie marks tomorrow. This wasn’t happening. Yeah, this was a dream. Any moment I’ll wake up. I was hyperventilating between my futile attempts to throw up. Unfortunately, the murderer didn’t seem to understand that she was just a figment of my imagination.
I screamed as hot lead ripped through me, peppering my right foreleg with holes. Okay, not a dream, dreams could never hurt that much. The shock knocked me on my back as my new E.F.S. flooded my vision with medical alerts. I curled up around my injury, moaning.
“One o’ you fuckers woke up early, eh?” The mare sneered, dropping her spent weapon and approaching me. “That keen to die?” She ground her hoof into my wounds extracting another scream. She continued to stomp on my leg; I could feel my bone start to buckle.
I had to do something, anything. As she lifted up for another blow I swept my hind legs into hers. The blow knocked her off balance and she fell on my head, hard. I heard a gurgle from above me as something warm and wet dripped down my face. Looking up I saw the mare gasping for breath with my horn lodged in her throat. The red bar disappeared and a message popped up on my E.F.S.
‘>The Unity infamy gained, Vilified.’
“I… I just killed a pony.” I mumbled in disbelief. The Unity mare had stopped gasping shortly after I read the message. It had taken me several minutes of flailing, my injury not helping matters, before I managed to pry myself out from under her. Several more before I could think clearly enough to form that sentence.
“I had to, right?” I asked nopony in particular. “Yeah, it was me or her.” I stared down at the dead body, magically wiping the gore from my eyes. “No, she shot me. She killed Bastion. She wasn’t a pony. I killed a monster; there is nothing wrong about killing a monster… Right?”
I checked the other doors, using my meager telekinesis to keep weight off my wounded leg. The first one opened into another pod room. A green pony with a brown mane, that used to be the barmare, Holly Heart, lay in one of the pods with her chest blown open. Every new door showed me a new dead neighbor. Lily Blue, clockmaker, dead. Mango Nectar, beekeeper, dead. Sugarcoat, tailor, dead. Dead. Dead. Dead.
One more door. Please, I didn’t want to open it, but I had to. I had to know if it was Primrose or Keystone. The steel plate hissed up, revealing...
A hallway… A thousand years of praise to Celestia.
Gray metal walls, lit by dim lamps along the ceiling, barely two hoofs over head split onto two corridors heading in opposite directions. At the end of the left hall was a sign ‘Stasis Banks 11-25’ and one on the right ‘Stasis Banks 1-9, Residential‘.
I was about to make for this ‘Residential’ place when several red bars appeared, accompanied by distant pops and yelling. I promptly backed into, what I now knew as Stasis Bank 10; having recently learned red was bad. I would need something to defend myself with and unless I intended to fight with my horn, that left the Unity mare’s shotgun. I just hoped there was more ammo for it.
What luck, not only were there two dozen spare shots for the gun (which on closer inspection seemed to be held together with rust and duct tape, not so lucky there), but I also found a bottle full of light brown liquid labeled ‘regeneration potion’. I downed the potion immediately. My wounds began to slowly knit closed, allowing me to stand on all four hooves again, as an added bonus it tasted like mint chocolate. There also seemed to be a lot of useless junk, an old inhaler, bottle cap collection, and bottles of filthy, gray water. No sense in getting weighed down so I left them behind. I did however need a place to hold the shells so, much to my displeasure; I slipped on the filthy long coat.
Okay, I was as ready as I’d ever be... I really didn’t want to do this, but stagnancy could very well get me killed.
The door opened into another corridor, identical to the one I had just left. Bank 9 was no better than the last one, ten more dead. I couldn’t even think clearly enough to put names to the faces... Numbers. That was all I could see them as, numbers. Numbers of ponies who weren't Primrose or Keystone. Numbers of ponies I would never see again.
Bank 8 was different, only six dead; they must have taken the others. Bank 7, seven dead; no Primrose. Bank 6, nine dead; no Keystone. Bank 5, seven dead. Bank 4, only three. Nine dead. Six dead.
Bank 1, thirteen dead? Among the bodies of seven of my neighbors (still no sign of my friends) were five Unity raiders and a green pegasus in blue and black barding with the word ‘Security‘ embroidered on it. The pegasus was torn to pieces by buckshot. It looked like she died defending the ponies in this room. I’d found a hero, a dead hero, she was still warm. I moved her into a more serene position against one of the less blood stained walls, closed her eyes… and took her sub-machine gun. She was a hero, I was sure she wouldn’t mind.
If she could give her life to protect ponies she probably didn’t even know what right did I have to be numbly skulking around? No, I was lost, I was pissed, I had a gun and I was damn well going to use it.
Floating the shotgun in front of me I opened the door to the Residential area. And right into two Unity raiders. I swung my weapon up as fast as I could and everything seemed to stop.
‘>Stable emergency code Harmony is in effect.’
‘>All Stable 114 residents deputized.’
‘>Stable-Tec Augmented Targeting System online’
I had never fired a ballistic weapon before, but at this range I doubted I could miss. At 95%, S.A.T.S. agreed. I released the spell.
They’re not ponies anymore. *BLAM!* A raider’s head burst like an over ripe fruit.
They’re murderers, not ponies anymore. *BLAM!* A second was blasted back into a pile of dead ponies in blue jumpsuits. More murdered innocents no doubt.
“Then what does that make you?” Asked somepony with an icy voice, in the back of my mind as I reloaded behind a wall.
“Shut up me!” I snapped at myself. “I don’t have time for this right now. I promise, first chance I get, I‘ll go wallow in…” *BLAM!* A Unity mare’s foreleg was torn from her body. “Whatever it is ponies are supposed to wallow in. Pity?” *BLAM!* The crippled raider’s chest caved in under the cloud of lead. “Yeah, pity works.”
A combination of the narrow corridors, S.A.T.S. and my E.F.S. had allowed me to rampage more or less unopposed through Residential. Pausing only long enough to empty the raider’s bags and let S.A.T.S. recharge. Things were steadily getting more difficult as the rooms were getting larger and I was encountering raiders in groups now.
Two raiders were blocking my path. I pulled up S.A.T.S., queued up two shots on the heads of the two monsters, 90% and 75%, not bad. *BLAM!* One dead. *Crunch* The shotgun’s trigger tore clean off. Crap.
Dropping the mangled mess of metal, rust and tape I jumped back through the door. I pulled out the SMG I had taken from the security pegasus; my PipBuck had labeled it The Grim Harvest. I had no skill with these things, but I hoped I could make up for it with volume. The surviving raider stepped out of the doorway just as I finished loading. This time he was faster and I caught a pistol round in the shoulder, only a few inches from my unarmored throat. The dusty gray, leather long coat my PipBuck had identified as a ‘Merc Cruiser Outfit‘ provided surprisingly good protection, soaking up most of the impact and leaving me with a hoof sized bruise instead of a hole. The raider’s armor proved much less effective as I emptied half the clip into his face with S.A.T.S., turning it into mulch.
I could hear gunfire from the next room, apparently between five red bars and one white one. Every survival instinct was screaming at me to just slip around, two had nearly killed me, but I had to do something. If it weren’t for that pegasus back in the pods, I would have woke up to six raiders instead of just one. I owed her my life. I hated owing debts.
I opened the door to, what appeared to be a rather out of place diner, complete with a fountain bar, stools, a jukebox and everything. A small security-mare was hiding behind the counter trading pistol shots with four raiders and a fifth bleeding out on the ground. I glanced at Grim Harvest’s fifty round clip. S.A.T.S. was still down, but screw that; I had bullets to burn.
I stepped around the corner and opened up on the assembled raiders, drowning out all other noise with Grim Harvest's rattling roar.
Ten seconds later I was hiding behind an upturned table with an empty gun and several new bullet wounds. I had managed to perforate everything in the room except the raiders with my wild spraying. This aiming thing might be worth looking into. My beam pistol’s point and click was so much simpler.
Shots started bouncing of my improvised cover, what was this thing made of? Not that I was complaining, but who builds a bullet-proofed table?
New clip, S.A.T.S. up, let’s try this again. I peeked over the table and popped up S.A.T.S., targeting the closest raider. I queued two bursts and a third on one of the others; I really hoped that the 25% was per bullet.
*RATATATATAT!* *RATATATATAT!* *RATATATATAT!*
Fifteen more bullets and I had only scored four hits. Fortunately one had found a raider’s eye causing him to drop, twitching, to the floor. Three to go, *BLAM!*, correction, two. Security had a shotgun.
Only had one clip left, this thing ate bullets like there was no tomorrow, needed to make it count. I really hoped this would work. Leaping out of my cover I clamped my eyes shut, fired off the brightest burst of light I could mange from my horn and charged ahead as fast as I could. The raiders opened up on me almost immediately but only a handful of the shots even grazed me. I had gotten within about twenty hooves before their vision cleared, by then it was too late. I had an automatic weapon and was too close to miss.
“Blossom?!” The security mare called out gleefully, hopping out from behind the bar grinning from ear to ear. She was a freckled, dark blue earth pony with a white mane held back by a mat black headband that seemed to be made out of the same material as her armor. She had ice blue eyes and a silver shield on her flank. Upon seeing me, however, she seemed to visibly deflate.
“Um, no. Sorry.” I replied digging through the raider’s bags for another regeneration potion. The bullets may not have gone to deep, but I was still more bruise than pony at this point. “My name’s Ocher.” No such luck.
“Wait, you’re one of the pod ponies aren’t you?” She asked, brightening a little.
“Pod ponies?” I cocked my head. “Do you mean the ones who were brought here from Shetland?”
“What are you...?” She paused and cocked her ear. “Well, let’s go with that for now. You must have seen Blossom on your way here.”
“Unless she was a raider, I can’t say I have.” I said, expanding my search for potions to include the bar and kitchen. “Who is this Blossom of yours?”
“Security Chief Harvest Blossom. Green pegasus, red mane, uncut diamond on her flank, you can’t miss her. In fact that’s her…” Her pupils contracted as we both seemed to grasp what had happened. ‘The Grim Harvest’. “Her weapon” She stared at the blood stained floor. “How? How did it happen?”
“I’m… I’m sorry.” I said in the most sympathetic tone I could manage in my current situation. “But she was killed defending the pods. She saved my life and probably the lives of at least a hundred and fifty others.”
“Batteries…” She mumbled under her breath. “She died for fucking batteries.”
“What do you mean batteries?” I said, taken aback. “She died for ponies, heroically I might-” She reared up, kicked my badly bruised shoulders and pinned me on my back.
“SHUT UP!” She moved her face within inches of mine seething with rage. “Just shut up. I need to get to the Overmare as quickly as I can and you’re the only other pony I‘ve found who isn‘t trying to kill me.” Her voice grew cold and almost mechanical. “So, I, acting Security Chief Maple Sugar, am conscripting you for the defense of Stable 114.” Maple ripped The Grim Harvest out of my magic grip and set it into an apparatus on the back of her barding, opposite the shotgun. “Got it?”
I just nodded dully. This wasn‘t at all what I was expecting.
We made our way to the armory as I was in dire need of a weapon I could actually hit things with. That and it happened to be on the way to this “Overmare‘s” office.
Maple made short work of the raider teams we came across, hosing them with bullets and buckshot. Still being a battered mess, my only contribution was casting a flare spell into each room and ducking behind something that looked durable until the area was clear.
The armory itself was located in the back of the security office. The office was a fairly plain room, half a dozen cells to the right, a few desks to the left, armory in the back and raiders in the middle. Four more Unity raiders and one unicorn who looked as if he coated himself in wonder glue and rolled in a scrap yard, all topped off with a pair of over-sized sunglasses. The raiders seemed to be trying to cut their way into the armory with some sort of industrial saw.
As I had the distinct impression that Maple would shoot me if I spoke two words to her, I followed our established strategy. I burst in to the room and set off my flare. Scrappy turned, seemingly unaffected by my spell and filled my chest with metal from his huge rifle. I immediately crumpled to the floor, blinding pain lancing through me, from the large spike embedded just above my heart.
I had a hoof long spike in my chest! Another inch and I would have been dead!
Maple’s attack was almost as ineffective as my own. Most of her shots pinked off Scrappy’s armor with no effect, but some managed to find the dazed raiders, dropping two and badly injuring a third. Here we discovered the weakness of our plan: Maple had just emptied both of her weapons in her opening volley, and my flashing lights had little effect on ponies with shades.
Maple dove behind one of the desks, biting my mane and dragging me with her. She started the arduous process of reloading while spewing a rather colorful string of explicatives involving Luna’s horn between mouthfuls of shells.
Something flew over our desk, struck the wall behind us and set it on fire. A few seconds later a second object came sailing over, this one I managed to catch. It was a bottle of vodka with a flaming rag sticking out of the neck. I chucked the improvised bomb back in the general direction of the three remaining red bars. With a crash, crackle and scream we were down to one bar, knowing my luck it had to be Scrappy.
Sure enough, a moment later the armored unicorn stepped around our cover, sections of his armor still burning. Maple swung her own PipBuck up just in time to catch one of Scrappy’s spikes. The blast knocked her off her hooves with a crunch, her forearm twisted back at an unnatural angle.
Scrappy advanced on Maple with a toothy grin, walking right past me. He may not have seen me or didn’t consider me a threat, ether way it was a big mistake. I levitated out one of the small revolvers I had taken off the raiders: Maple had taken all the larger rounds. I slid out from under the desk, magically jammed the gun under his helmet and entered S.A.T.S., it labeled him ‘Unity Scrapper‘, I was close. Let’s see you block this flash.
*Bang!* *Bang!* *Bang!*
I pumped three rounds into the base of his skull, making him spasm as the low caliber rounds bounced around in his skull. He instantly collapsed in a twisted, metal heap.
Maple rolled back to her hooves and made her way to the armory door without a word, dragging her injured leg behind her. The spike had punched through her PipBuck’s screen, but, as there didn’t seem to be any blood, hadn’t completely penetrated. I couldn’t help but marvel at the durability of the fetlock computers. I also couldn’t help but lament the fact that it would probably take one of those industrial saws if I ever wanted to get it off. Damn thing still hurt.
By the time I staggered over, Maple had opened the armory and cleaned out a box with the same color scheme as my sparkle-cola stand-up. Resetting her arm, she stabbed herself with some strange, four needled canister with a multi-headed, lizard-thing painted on the side. Her broken leg started to ripple as the bone and muscle mended themselves before my eyes.
“Hydra.” She said, seeing the confused look on my face. “Earth pony invention, regenerates limbs.” She gave me a look over and started digging through one of the lockers dotting the armory. She pulled out another set of security barding and tossed it at me. “You’re out of uniform.”
I looked at her in disbelief, pointing to the railroad spike protruding from my chest.
“Oh, right, sorry about that.” She slid a pair of the minty regeneration potions my way. “And… thanks.” She said with obvious difficulty. “I doubt he would have just killed me.”
I just stared at her. She flushed. “Are you going to use those or do you plan on bleeding to death?” That was a very good point. I levitated the first bottle to my mouth, pulled out the spike, and managed to lose an unnerving amount of blood before the potions finished knitting the wound closed completely. I was a bit light headed, but otherwise no worse for wear. I really should look into stocking regeneration potions when I got back home. If I got back home.
“So,” I said, wiggling out of my putrid long coat. “Since we have a moment and seem to be on speaking terms, I would like to ask some questions.”
“Make it quick.” She grumbled, poking at her destroyed PipBuck.
“Okay, first: Where are we and how do I get back to Shetland?”
“Stable 114 and down the south hall, third door on the left.”
“To get back to Shetland you go down the south hall and take the third door on the left.”
I pondered a moment. “But that’s the way I came from.”
I narrowed my eyes at her. “Could you get any more evasive?”
I stopped putting on the security barding, sat down and glared at her.
She looked up at me. “You’re not going to drop this are you?”
I shook my head slowly.
“Fine.” She sighed. “Shetland isn’t real, it was a VR simulation for this Stable‘s social project.”
That wasn’t possible: I had lived there my entire life… I had never left.
The idea just kept nagging at me. I knew could disprove it. I just needed to go through my life and I could prove it to this crazy mare.
Shetland was a nice, peaceful town. We had a population of exactly 250 unicorns... nestled in a special, radiation proof valley. We were ruled by a mayor who could locate and provide everything the town might want or need?
“It was all a lie.” The cold voice hissed.
It was like having a bucket of ice water dumped on my head. I was looking at the whole picture for the first time, and it suddenly made a lot more sense than the stories I had been fed all my life. I actually felt rather stupid for believing it for so long.
I looked up at Maple who had politely stopped while I contemplated my navel and was staring at me nervously. “I’m okay,” I assured her. “I just needed a moment to process everything. Please continue.”
“There’s really not much to it. The Stable-Tec ponies figured they would kill two birds with one stone. The initial concept was to.” She bobbed her hooves for quotations. “‘Preserve the innocence of Equestria.’ So they set up your little simulation. The problem came from the massive amount of power needed to run the system. So, to remedy that, the sim was limited to unicorns and arcane extractors were installed to augment the Stable’s generators.” She paused briefly. “At least that’s the official pitch. To put it more simply, you get the easy life so we get to use you as magic batteries.”
“That would explain the comment from earlier.”
She ran a hoof across Grim Harvest's clip and sighed. “That was wrong of me.” She started digging through a weapons locker. “I was angry and it easy to forget that the pods are full of ponies, not hardware. By the way, do you want another shotgun, or what?”
“You wouldn’t happen to have a beam pistol by any chance?”
She arched her eyebrow. “You know how to use one?” I nodded. “I think we have a rifle in here somewhere.”
A magic beam rifle? It would let me defend myself, but... This wouldn't be just fighting to survive, scavenging off those who wanted me dead. This would be choosing to kill, to knowingly prepare myself to take the lives of other ponies. Come on, they’re monsters, not ponies. We’ve been over this. They’re dangerous vermin, nothing more. There is no shame in this. Brave face now.
“Sweet.” I said through a practiced, false grin.
Having finally gotten my hooves on a weapon I could use and barding only soiled by the blood and bile still clinging to my coat, we made quick work of the few patrols between us and the Overmare’s office. We were confident we could handle anypony the raiders could throw at us. Opening the final door (Whoever designed Stables sure loved doors), Maple immediately pulled me to the ground and put a hoof over my mouth.
At least forty raiders and a dozen griffins were arrayed below the elevated office. A black and blond, unicorn mare with an eye on her flank was having a heated argument with the lead griffin through a shattered window. Well what do you know, The Overmare and Mayor Goldlight were the same pony, should have figured. While I had never been overly fond of her in the past I had to admit, seeing her chewing out a griffin, nearly twice her size, on the verge of tears, but still defiant, made me see her in a new light.
We were close enough for me to hear bits and pieces of their conversation and my PipBuck seemed to be filling in the rest.
“The might of the Unity has come to clam this Stable and all worthy of its blessing.” The griffin,who my PipBuck had conveniently identified as Gellwin, postured, looking down her beak at the petite pony.
“Blessing?!” Goldlight yelled back incredulously. “You broke into our home with that metal monstrosity of yours.” She took a step towards Gellwin, actually making the invader falter for a moment. “Then you let these savages lose to rape and murder at will and you have the nerve to call it a blessing?!”
“You small minded foals fear your betters.” The griffin replied, regaining her composure. “These are the children of the Unity. They have earned their place in the new world. Would you deny your children the chance to grow in a better Equestria?”
Goldlight was spouting another scathing rebuke directed to the assembled raiders when she caught sight of us and paused. It was a miracle that none of the raiders noticed, but then again their powers of perception had (thankfully) left something to be desired thus far. After a moment of staring (Seriously, were these guys blind or something?!) she dropped her head, nodded to the Gellwin and walked to the back of her office.
A moment later Goldlight’s authoritative voice blared throughout the Stable. “Attention all Stable 114 residents, this is Overmare Goldlight. I am officially ordering all Stable security to stand down. I repeat, stand down, we are surrendering.” Maple began grinding her teeth so loudly I was certain that it would have given us away if not for Goldlight’s continuing message. “I have been given assurances that anypony who surrenders peacefully will not be harmed.”
I couldn’t explain why, but this felt like more of a betrayal than finding out that my entire life had been a lie. I just wanted to strangle that mare.
A message popped up on my E.F.S.
‘>Ocher, I need you to listen. I couldn’t contact Officer Sugar’s unit, but I have a plan.’
Scratch that, I could kiss her.
“We have been given the privilege to be made part of The Unity, Equestria’s best hope for salvation.”
‘>I have sent most of the surviving ponies to Shetland. The excavator can’t fit inside the Stable and it should take these slavers weeks to get to them without it.’
“All praise to The Goddess and her noble prophet Redeye”
‘>I need you two to go find help before they do. I’ve uploaded the directions and my override codes to an emergency exit. May Celestia guide and Luna watch over you.’
“This isn’t right.” Maple grumbled next to me. “We shouldn’t have just left them.”
“What were we supposed to do?!” I replied a far bit more aggressively than I had intended. I sighed “I’m sorry, but what good are we if were dead?”
She just stared at the rusted grating we were walking along.
Goldlight’s emergency exit turned out to be a secondary ventilation system that snaked through miles of cable filled caves. With no immediate threat my adrenalin induced rampage was quickly catching up with me. By the time we reached the door to the outside, a massive slab of steel coated in reinforcements with a terminal fused to it, I was dead on my hooves.
With a massive hiss the door started grinding open, apparently triggered by proximity to the codes in my PipBuck. No sooner had the first sliver of natural light appeared than all the warm air was violently ripped out of the corridor. I was sweating so profusely that the resulting blast of arctic air almost flash froze me into my barding. The shock was like getting shot in the chest all over again, I had to get out of that armor. In my haste to remove the rock hard fabric I ended up ripping out bloody patches of my light grey coat. Maple, being a much tougher pony than I, withstood the gale far more stoically, only shifting slightly on her hooves.
I could have said so many things as I took my first, trembling steps out of the Stable. I could have wondered at the towering, snow coated mountains, descending into dense boreal forests bellow. I could have pointed out the glittering city, peeking over a distant rise, seemingly untouched by time. I could have been baffled by the impossibly tall towers in the distance, piercing the murky sky like the shining lances of some mythical knight. I could have gasped at the swirling super cell raging in the overcast sky to the north or the billowing pink mist, flowing out of a pass to the east. I could even have expressed horror at the warped and stunted expanses of wasteland radiating out from countless craters across the landscape.
I could have said so many things, but all I managed was. “I’m so cold.”
Footnote: Level Up
New Perk: Horse Sense -- You are a swift learner. You gain an additional +10% whenever experience points are earned.
Trait added: Pod Pony -- You grew up in a VR chair. You are far more educated than most (+2 skill points per level), but you have no experience with the real world (-10 to survival) and have seriously atrophied muscles (-1 strength). This will not stack with the educated perk.
Spell added: Auroramancer 1-- You may produce a spherical light (identical to your pip buck light) or a beam similar to a flashlight. With some concentration you may also produce a magical flare, temporarily reducing enemies perception.
New Companion Perk: To Serve and Protect -- While you are under the watchful eye of Officer Maple Sugar you gain a 3 point bonus to your DT. This effect stacks with armor, the toughness perk and any other effect that increases your DT.
(Special thanks to DiceArt, Tsosxychor and Twitchy for helping me go over this and making it as good as it could be. And to all the good folks at Fallout: Equestria Side Stories Compilation)