They say you can’t be lost if you don’t care where you’re going. But, they’re wrong. When you lose all sense of purpose and direction you can’t be anything but lost. Lost in the world, lost in time, lost in your mind. Spend long enough there and eventually you’ll lose everything. It’s a hard lesson to learn, and one which leaves scars on all those who know it. The scars help you remember what’s important, give you direction and purpose again.
But, I’m far ahead of myself. Lessons are rarely learned quickly, and this was one which came harder than most. I suppose I should start at the beginning. The day I woke up and really began to realize how much I’d lost. The first marker on a long, hard road. The day I met Scraps and first laid eyes upon Junkyard. Where it all began. This is my story, for better or worse, and I just hope someone else can learn from my mistakes.
I was adrift amid the trackless wastes of the Equestrian Wasteland. Without reason nor purpose I walked endlessly across long abandoned ground, only the occasional lonely stack of bones torn by wind and rain to accompany me. Once I had been part of something larger than myself, I was sure of that, I had heard a chorus of voices in the distance which gave me direction and purpose. But now I was alone, no longer guided by a reason beyond myself nor given task or meaning. I don’t know how long it had been since the voices in my head had gone silent, only that one day I woke up to find myself alone in a world blasted by disaster. Some ineffable urge buried deep in my mind told me to travel, and so I traveled.
The day that changed my life was like any other, the sun’s brilliant light hidden behind thick clouds far above the wasteland which seemed to stretch on to infinity. The diffuse light gave the whole wasteland a dull grey coloration, making the colors of the world look washed out and sad even more than they would naturally. I walked in silence across the slightly rolling hills of what had once been beautiful plains, now the grass was shriveled and dieing from a lack of sunlight and an over-abundance of rain. The weight of my saddlebags made my hooves sink slightly into the damp ground with each step, leaving a faint trail which would be wiped away by the next rainfall. Had I been paying attention to where I was going I would have seen the junkyard long before I reached it, but with my head low and my mind empty I didn’t even realize it was there until my hooves crossed onto hard metal and I suddenly found myself climbing upwards on a gentle slope.
The sound of my hooves on metal shocked me enough to pay some attention to my surroundings. Though I still had no idea how I had gotten there, curiosity got the better of me and I walked slowly onwards. Up the slight slope of sheet metal and further into the junkyard. Walls composed of scrap metal and the broken remains of ancient machines filled my vision on both sides of the path. Limbs like those of the hovering service drones, the parts of a broken sky carriage and broken pieces of a destroyed suit of Steel Ranger battle armor were easily visible amongst the debris. Someone, or something, had clearly built this path through the wreckage which surrounded me and that thought drew me further inside. A chorus of thoughts filled my head, shattered and conflicting messages running through my mind, of the danger and interest and meaninglessness and confusion about this place. Maybe that’s why I didn’t notice what happened next until it was too late to stop it, if so I suppose I owe my madness some small debt of thanks.
As I reached an open junction in the middle of the piles of wreckage four paths opened before me. I had only a few moments to appreciate the choice which the world had put in my path before a horrible sound filled the air. Metal crunching against metal and the hiss of superheated air filled the world around me as the walls began to tremble just slightly.
A bizarre looking machine crested one of the small hills of junk surrounding my position, carried along upon a dozen spindly legs supporting a massive rounded central hull like some gigantic metal spider or crab. Two of its legs raised into the air, one glowing a sickly green which lanced across the air near me, scorching the sheet metal just a few feet from my position.
The sound of those green bolts filled the air with an angry buzzing mixed with the horrible sound of holes being punched in metal. I moved to run only to find that one of my legs had become tangled in a piece of the debris which was strewn across the ground in this area. I’d been too distracted by the sights and choices before me to even realize it until that moment. Reflexively my horn glowed a dark purple as a shimmering shield solidified around me, guided largely by instinct and fear at what might happen next. The monstrous machine’s other arm began to hum slightly before a deluge of brilliant pink light lanced across the open space between us.
The first two bolts of magical energy broke against my shield, but the third punched through it and scoured along one of my wings, scorching feathers and flesh alike. I let out a wordless scream of agony at the feeling, wrenching my leg to try to get it free of the debris. Struggling I began to search for something, anything, I could do to save myself from this machine. As it drew closer I spotted something in the wreckage which might help me, if I could live long enough for the machine to get closer. I wrapped my shield more tightly around me, as best I could without really understanding how the spell I was casting worked.
The sound of those pink energy beams filled the air again. The machine had stopped firing its green bolt-weapon, though I had no idea why. Thankfully that magical energy weapon wasn’t particularly powerful, and most of the shots were deflected by my shield or went wide of even my pinned form. The machine had been circling around me slightly as I waited for it to be in the perfect position. There! I reached out with my levitation magic, grabbing hold of a broken-off metal pole which was supporting a large portion of the wall behind the machine. My levitation had never been delicate or gentle, but it was strong, and so the sound of wrenching metal filled the junkyard for just a moment as the metal pole buckled and crushed beneath that field until it gave way, the wall tumbling downwards towards the machine like an avalanche of steel and gems.
The machine was swept up in the collapse easily enough, and I could see its long spindly legs ripped from it as it was dragged down the slope I had climbed to get into the junkyard, not moving. Unfortunately, that same slope meant that the path I had followed to get in was now covered in several tons of scrap metal, and while I might have been strong I certainly wasn’t going to be able to move all of that. With my wing scorched by energy weapon fire I wasn’t flying out either. That meant I had to go deeper and hope there was some other way to escape. But first I had to disentangle myself from the piece of metal which had hooked across one of my forehooves, which proved thankfully simplistic now that I wasn’t at risk of being shot.
Still panicked from the encounter with that machine thing, and worried there might be more in the direction it had come from, I picked the path to the far side of the split from where it had crawled up and began to gallop down the metal flooring. This, as it turned out, was a bad idea as the path only lead me further down into the junkyard. The metal surrounding me in every direction making even seeing the hills beyond nearly impossible. But I hadn’t seen any sign of more of those metal spider-things, so for a moment I entertained the idea that it had been unique and I was safe. Many of the conflicting thoughts in my mind warned me that was almost certainly not the case, whatever had created that thing was highly likely to have made others to guard this place.
The parts of myself skeptical about my freedom turned out to be correct as a moment later the ground under me bucked and heaved. The metal plating I was standing on shifted as a great mass moved under it forcing me to back up or risk being thrown from my hooves. Beneath the sheets was darkness as a form moved below, massive machine-claws reaching out from the shadows to attempt to grab me.
Backing away in panic I threw up my shield as best I could, but it was too late, the claw was already close enough to grab one of my forelegs and begin tightening. I could feel the bone break as pain lanced through that entire side of my body. A mass lurched from the darkness beneath the metal plates, this one rolling on large legs with some kind of heavy weapon mounted above a pair of huge pinching talons. It lifted me from the ground like a child might have pulled their toy into the air and hurled me into a nearby pile of junk.
The impact shattered my shield and smashed my already injured wing against hard metal, now I was certain it was broken. My vision was blurring badly, my head throbbing from injuries and expending more effort that day than I had in what felt like forever. The machine rolled closer, the multi-barreled weapon atop its frame beginning to spin up to speed. But I was already too far gone to even manage a cursory defense, consciousness beginning to fade as I heard a distant voice, half-drowned by the ringing in my ears, “... enough, bring her to the …” I blacked out without ever hearing the rest of the message.
I could feel a gentle wind and hear the sound of laughter, the scent of fresh cut grass filled my nose as I stood somewhere I couldn’t really see. The runny almost water-color like world around me shifting and swirling as my mind teetered on the razor edge between wakefulness and sleep. I wanted to stay there forever, adrift in peace and purposelessness, happy if only for a brief time, but such was not to be. The sound of a hoof slamming into a metal table jarred my mind towards wakefulness as I heard the soft tinkling of something metal falling across other metal things. The sound of a distant female voice on the radio filtered through my half-comatose mind, “... again next time for more incredible stories from me, the Amazing-” the radio clicked off audibly as my host realized I’d begun to wake up.
I struggled to open my eyes, my body felt heavy and I knew I should have been in pain from the injuries I had received. My first vision of my surroundings a blurry mess of colors and lights. A soft buzzing-whooshing noise filled one of my ears as the world around me began to resolve into something understandable, drawing my attention towards it. Movement out of the corner of my eye made me try to move my head towards that sound, only to find that I couldn’t even lift my head from the pillow it was resting on, the numbness of my body pinning me down. The sound of drinking drew my attention back towards the table sitting before me, and the pony sitting on the far side of it, a bottle of Sparkle~Cola held in her teeth.
The pony’s coat would probably have been a beautiful blond color were she clean, but as it was she was stained darker by oil and accumulated grease. Her hooves stained darker than the rest of her body, making them stand out clearly as she rested one on the table before her. A short, braided, blue mane which some part of me insisted must be the color of an unclouded sky were it clean fell to one side of her shoulders. I couldn’t see her eyes, hidden behind a pair of metallic goggles strapped around her head, opaque black lenses making reading her expression difficult to say the least. I was quite certain she was looking at me, though, from the way she paused in her drinking as I opened my eyes. Above her a fan which looked like it had been welded together from a dozen pieces of scrap metal spun slowly, circulating the air in the room, most of which I couldn’t see from my current position.
The soft sound of glass against metal filled the relatively quiet room as my host set the half-empty bottle of Sparkle~Cola down, regarding me silently a few moments as though trying to decide what to do with me before finally speaking, “I don’t see many of your kind out here.” I grunted quietly, barely able to do more than that with the way my body felt, though she continued on as though she didn’t hear me, “Especially not one carrying so many supplies. Why were you carrying all that food and drink, anyway?”
Something in my head was confused about why she’d decided to start her questioning there, but I wasn’t going to complain, at least that was something I could explain, “... hungry …” my throat was almost as numb as the rest of me, making speaking difficult, “Thought I would... Be hungry... Never was.” the mare before me regarded me skeptically a few long moments but seemed to accept the answer, or at least that she wasn’t going to get anything better out of me for that question.
“Alright then.” Her voice sounded slightly annoyed, “How about we start with something simple then, like your name.” I opened my mouth to speak. I knew this should have been the simplest thing in the world to answer, yet when I tried to remember a cacophony of words screamed into my consciousness leaving my head swimming with confusion.
A moment which felt like eternity later I slowly answered her, “I don’t know.” She gave me another skeptical look, but the confusion on my face must have been obvious as she didn’t press the question, instead choosing to move on to others.
“Where are you from?” Again my mind filled with colors and lights and sounds, as though a hundred different answers swirled just beyond conscious thought, a riot of madness hurtling through my mind as though someone had packed my memories with high explosives and attempted to paint the interior of my thoughts with the detonation. It hurt even to try to think about those images.
“I don’t know.” I repeated, quieter than before. My host gave me a look of irritation but slowly it passed, I like to believe because she could see my pain at trying to answer, but it may simply have been out of expedience. Her questioning continued.
“How did you get here?”
“I don’t know.”
“Why were you traveling?”
"I don't know."
“What do you want?”
“I don’t know.”
The questions continued for what felt like hours, each attempt to answer was answered in turn by my own mind betraying me until it became difficult to think about anything at all. Somewhere inside I hurt, those questions scraping against my mind painfully as I realized that I had no idea how to answer them. Each time I answered my voice grew quieter, less sure. Had I a world to fall apart around me, it would have been. Meanwhile, the mare across the table from me was growing more and more frustrated with the non-answers.
Eventually we came to the last, and perhaps most important, question she asked me that day. “Do you know what,” she dipped her head beneath the table to tug something from beneath it, tossing a construct of metal and glass onto the table, “This is?” the device skidded across the metal table briefly before coming to a stop hanging half way off it. The curved surface of the device was scratched and scuffed with years of abuse, screen a blank dark green field lacking any kind of light coming off it, the buttons were scraped and one of them appeared to have been forcibly removed. On the interior of the hollow cylinder of the device I could see the remains of padding, rotten and frayed with age and abuse, long ago worn away until now only tiny pieces remained to show it had once been built for comfort..
My mind swam with recognition on seeing the device, somewhere inside I knew it was important to me, and the fact that I couldn’t remember why only made the pain of the questions worse. “It’s a-” I paused a moment, searching my mind for the right word, “A PipBuck.”
I could tell even behind those opaque goggles that the grease-stained mare was surprised I recognized the device at all, drawing a smile to her lips, “Yes, a PipBuck. These things are pretty close to indestructible, too.” she reached out to grab the device in her teeth and pull it back to sit near her hooves, slowly swinging it open to look at something on the back of the screen, “That’s why I can’t figure out why somepony would go through all the trouble to etch something on THIS one, or why you’d be hauling it around with you all the way out here.” my mind swam with possibilities as she lifted the device on one hoof, focusing on whatever was inside of it, “It’s right here, etched into the metal, ‘Aurora Borealis’. I can’t imagine-” I didn’t hear the rest of what she was about to say.
The sound of those words echoed in my ears as my mind raced, the throbbing empty confusion from her prior questions thundered worse than before as the words she had spoken sunk in. Somewhere, far in the recesses of the madness of my past, it was as though someone had lit a candle. A guttering spark which cast long shadows across the swirling insanity around it even as that meaninglessness threatened to swallow it up again. A moment of recognition which made me want to smile, or cry, or both. Instead all I could draw forth the effort to do was speak, “A name... It’s a name... It’s my name.” My name, a piece of myself which was worth clinging to, the first road marker to my past. She looked at me incredulously, and I could hardly blame her, not more than five minutes ago I had told her I didn’t know my own name, after all.
“Why would your name be carved into the inside of a PipBuck? I mean, these things are almost impossible to damage short of high explosives as long as their spell matrices are still functional.” I was slowly beginning to regain feeling in my body by this point, the distant feeling of pain and ache seeping into my consciousness making her questions feel somewhat more dull than they had been, so I didn’t even have an attempt at an answer to that question.
Thankfully it seemed the question was more rhetorical than anything else, as she grunted a moment later, “Well it doesn’t matter that much I suppose. If it’s got your name on it it must have belonged to you at some point. Enough so that you or somepony else would feel the need to spend all that effort etching something like this into the casing.” she backed away from the table a moment and moved around to stand directly in front of me, lowering her head to eye-level, “It’ll be a few more days before you’re up and about, even with the rate you heal at. Tell you what, I’m running low on food and you made a mess of the main entrance to the yard earlier, so I’ll fix up that PipBuck for you if you’ll let me keep the supplies you were carrying with you. Oh, and promise not to try to incinerate me or something before you go.” I couldn’t even imagine trying to kill someone like her, well that’s not quite true, there were still parts of me insisting she’d wronged me with her robots before and deserved punishment. But, I was too weak and grateful to have even a sliver of myself back to seriously consider it. Slowly I raised my head from the pillow enough to nod before collapsing back onto it.
The mare grinned broadly in return, “Wonderful! A challenge! Just as a warning, I may have to reinitialize the spell matrix on this thing to get it working again, which means you’ll probably lose all the stored data it had on it before. But I’m sure I can get it up and running again!” she seemed absolutely thrilled at the idea of getting to work on the device, though at the time I couldn’t fathom why, she paused briefly as she got near the table where the PipBuck was sitting and turned back to me, “Oh, yes. My name’s Scrap Heap. Friends call me Scraps.” she paused a moment, “Then again, so does just about everypony else.” with that she laughed briefly before grabbing the PipBuck from the table and trotting out into another room. I decided to do my best to recover and closed my eyes to drift off back to blissful unconsciousness.
Quiet darkness surrounded me for a timeless span as I rested, neither knowing nor caring what was happening around me. Eventually consciousness began to filter back into my mind, my body feeling heavy and aching but no longer filled with the waves of pain or numbness which had defined my world when I went to sleep. I opened my eyes to the same familiar room I had been in before and gradually began to raise my head enough to get a proper look around.
The room was lit by a small lantern connected to a magical battery pack, shedding a pale yellow glow across the room. I was laying on a padded medical bed as I began to get my legs back under me again. The bed itself was sitting a few feet from any of the walls of the room, situated such that the large metal work-table in the center of the room was easily visible by anyone laying on the bed. Briefly, I wondered if Scraps regularly captured new visitors to interrogate them, or if she’d rearranged this room just for me.
As I turned my head I spotted a window set into one wall which showed the exterior, the junkyard illuminated by lights held up on long posts casting a pale light across all the metal beyond. The sky above was dark, I’d been asleep long enough for the sun to have set and somewhere above I knew the moon was pouring pale light across too-thick clouds. I could see in the distance what looked like several small spherical objects floating on rapidly beating wings, far out near the edge of the junkyard. They were painted a dull silver, and were it not for the lights reflecting off them I probably wouldn’t have noticed them at all against the wreckage of the yard itself.
Back inside the room I began to climb down off of the medical bed, onto the badly stained ancient red carpeting which covered the floor, once probably a luxurious crimson now a dark blood-clot color. It crunched slightly underhoof which was a bit disturbing at first but that passed quickly enough. A set of large metal lockers sat against one wall on each side of a closet with an impromptu sign hanging from it labeled ‘Spare Parts’. In the corner between that wall and the wall with the window on it sat a currently-deactivated robot, the bulb-like body and long spindly legs making it clear that it had been constructed out of one of those old utility robots. This one, however, had a pink cross with a butterfly in the center stenciled onto the side of its central chassis, marking it as a medical robot of some variety. I could see where several extra legs had been attached to the machine, most likely by Scraps, though I couldn’t fathom why at the time.
Across the room from the medical bed, behind the large table, I could see shelves covered in unidentifiable junk. Salvaged pieces of disassembled machines from the junkyard beyond, and on one shelf what looked like a heavily reconstructed radio, currently turned off. The corner of the room between the shelves and the lockers was filled with a heavily patched sheet of cloth and cabling which hung limply open like a bowl, a somewhat grungy and stained hammock which I could only assume was where Scraps spent most of her nights. She wasn’t there at the moment, however.
I approached the door set into the final wall of the room. Beside it hung a chalk board which looked like it had been written on and erased regularly, some bits of left-over chalk gave me the impression that Scraps used it to help keep track of jobs in progress. As I got close to the door I could hear the soft sound of breathing on the other side in the silence of the room, only the slight squeak of the fan on the ceiling to disguise it. I grasped the handle of the door with my telekinesis and very carefully turned it before nudging the door open enough to peer through to the other side. I could see Scraps on the ground just a few feet away as I opened the door further.
The adjoining room was much smaller than the one I had come out of. Mostly taken up by the large counter which stretched almost the entire length of the room. The doorway was behind the counter compared to the other door I could see which I assumed lead back outside into the junkyard. Scraps had fallen asleep behind that counter, and on top of it I could see the PipBuck she’d taken earlier, along with a myriad of odd tools I didn’t recognize. It seemed she had worked herself to exhaustion trying to get it ready and had fallen asleep out here rather than risk waking me up. This was the first chance I’d had to see her cutie mark, as it had been well below what I could see while still on the medical bed, a silver wrench sticking out of a pile of random bits of metal. Despite the unusual design it seemed to suit her perfectly.
I paused briefly in my exploration to return to the other room and check the hammock to find a blanket resting inside. Silently I levitated the blanket back across the room with only the slight crunching of the carpet to mark my passing before draping it across Scraps’ body. While I wasn’t going to try to carry her to her bed, at least I could do something to help make sure she was comfortable. That taken care of my attention turned back to the room.
This room was much more plain than her workshop had been, the counter dominating most of the open space. Random pieces of junk sat here and there on the counter aside from the PipBuck and tools clustered around it. Behind the counter hung a much larger chalk-board than the one which had been in her work room, notes scribbled on it listing prices and raw materials she had in stock, including a note in a different color of chalk which read ‘Repairs available, ask for details!’. While the rest of the board was slightly caked with repeated erasure and replacement, that section looked almost pristine.
The rest of the room was mostly empty, just set of small dilapidated couches and chairs tucked against the far wall for ponies to rest in while they waited for Scraps to finish her work. A stack of heavily worn magazines sat on a small table nearby, something laid out to pass the time. Standing out from the rest was a larger, much more recently made, judging by the lack of wear and tear, book with a pony skull on the front of it labeled ‘Wasteland Survival Guide’. Somepony had stuck a yellow note to the cover of it with ‘Read this!’ scrawled across it in less than perfect hoofwriting. With Scraps still asleep and an unknown time until dawn, combined with the fact that while I no longer seemed to be seriously injured I was still achy and slow, I decided to sit down near those chairs and do exactly what the note suggested. Peruse the book for whatever information I could gain about the situation I now found myself in. Even if there wasn’t anything useful inside, at least it was better than being bored.
It had been three days since I arrived at the junkyard, my wounds having finally finished healing with minimal use of magical healing supplies. That day saw me working in the Junkyard itself, helping pick over the remaining metal carcasses of long-destroyed machines for Scraps. She was in her workshop talking to me through one of her salvaged spritebots, painted in a dull grey color to match the metal of the junkyard. At the moment she was helping me pick through the junk for some materials she needed for her work.
“Not that one. The one on the left.” the crackle of the speaker conducted her mild annoyance remarkably well.
“Oh. Sorry.” I dropped the section of severed Steel Ranger armor I had been levitating and dug around in the scrap with a forehoof a few moments until I caught sight of the remains of a helmet which I yanked free a moment later, “This one?”
“Yeah, that’s it. Just bring it back in, I should be able to get the adaptor I need out of it.” With that I tucked the helmet into one of my saddlebags and spread my wings wide, taking to the air in a not terribly stunning display of agility as I soared briefly across the junkyard. I enjoyed the feeling of flying, but I wasn’t much good at it, only basic instinctual reflexes to prevent me from crashing. Thankfully for simplistic straight-line flight that was all one usually needed, and so a moment later I was standing outside Scraps’ workshop again.
Stepping inside I could see Scraps sitting behind the counter in the main room, my PipBuck connected to a small terminal system as she’d been working for the last day to get the magic matrix functional again. Prolonged mistreatment and lack of proper use had caused it to crash hard enough she was going to have to reinitialize it to production defaults just to get it running again. “So why do you need this thing anyway?” I dug the helmet out of the bag and placed it gently on the table.
Scraps just looked up to me with a grin, “Don’t you worry about that. It’s all very technical.” I got the feeling she just wanted to see whether or not I could find one of the helmets which was still intact in the yard, but I wasn’t going to say that out loud.
Scraps set about connecting cables to the helmet’s access systems and went back to the console, pausing after a few moments to grab the half-empty Sparkle~Cola bottle off the counter and down most of the rest of the contents, “Mmmm. Carroty.” she always looked happier after finishing a bottle of the soda, and I wasn’t going to deny her a simple pleasure like that. “The spell matrix is booting up now. It’ll have to realign with you when I put it back on, but you should have a functional PipBuck in a few minutes!” Her voice was filled with pride at that prospect, and not without reason. With what she’d said over the last few days, she’d repaired all the equipment she was using for this herself, rebuilt from the scrap of the junkyard.
The PipBuck chirped happily as its screen lit up brightly a few moments before settling back towards a more stable green color, flashing a generic ‘Stable-Tec’ logo on the screen. Scraps grabbed the PipBuck up in her teeth as she disconnected the wires from it and moved over towards me, dropping it on the ground, “Take your pick. Left or right. Just pick carefully, those things are a pain to get off again!” Snatching the device up in my telekinesis I carefully guided it over my left foreleg and locked it into place. The replacement padding which Scraps had installed in it fit snugly against my skin, molding autonomously to match the contours of my leg.
All at once my vision filled with strange symbols I didn’t recognize, leaving me confused and dazed a few moments, before they resolved into a more meaningful message. ‘Initialization beginning. Aligning medical spells.’ At first that didn’t make much sense to me, then I realized that the devices had been intended for use by Unicorns, Pegasi and Earth Ponies alike, and there wouldn’t be any way of knowing which type of pony would get them so it only made sense the medical spells were designed to self-align to their wearer. I wasn’t quite sure how I knew that they’d been designed for general use, but somehow I was confident that was the case.
After a few moments of the repeating message and the sign of a small pony in stable barding sitting at the edge of my vision bopping her head to the processes of the device my vision changed again. A wide variety of odd new overlays on my vision sitting just at the corners of my field of view, close enough to see but far enough that focusing on them was difficult. Scraps must have been able to tell my confusion about it all as she spoke up a few moments, “I’m guessing that your Eyes-Forward Sparkle must have just come online. Don’t worry too much about it, you’ll get used to the information after a while. It’s quite handy after all.” she gave me a reassuring grin which somehow just made me more nervous, “Just relax, if you’re right and that thing really does belong to you then you should still have some idea how to use it. I mean, it’s not like they’re particularly complicated on the user end anyway. ‘So simple even a child could use it without reading the manual’ was their slogan. Or something like that anyway!”
The insufferable positive attitude of my new friend was rubbing off on me, as for the first time in ages I was actually feeling positive about myself. I had a name! I knew somepony! Those were big moments for me, even though they must sound like the simplest thing in the world, “Thanks Scraps. This means a lot to me.” I gave her a smile and she just beamed in return.
“No problem Aurora. I’m just glad I got a chance to work on one of those things! Stable-Tec devices are really rare, after all. Especially way out here.”
That confused me a moment but I set it aside, speaking up again, “I found something else out there in the junkyard I was hoping you could help me with, actually...” Scraps looked at me curiously at that, she had sent me out there for parts, after all, and I don’t think she expected me to find anything else I cared about.
With a motion which felt so natural I only realized what I’d done after I’d finished doing it, I flicked on the inventory management spell of my PipBuck and dragged a disabled slave collar from my bags. Laying it on the counter I shuffled my hooves slightly nervously on the carpeting, “Do you think you could modify this so I could wear it?” the collar was made for a normal pony, which made it a bit too small to fit around my neck.
Scraps gave me a disbelieving look, “You know, Aurora, most ponies want to get these things OFF themselves. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of one looking to get one put ON before.” she frowned heavily a few moments at the prospect, until I finally spoke up again.
“Please? It’s... It’s important. I don’t know why, I just know that I need it. It’s something I shouldn’t have forgotten, and I don’t want to let go of that feeling.”
She looked at me curiously another long moment before nodding, “Alright, if it means that much to you I can. This shouldn’t be hard anyway. I think I have everything I need in the back.” grabbing up the collar in her mouth she headed back into the other room.
A few moments of silence gave me a chance to familiarize myself with my newly acquired PipBuck. I was surprised to find that its medical spells registered both my horn and my wings properly, and even seemed to have identified the shield I had cast before. Whomever had designed this thing must have been a serious genius to have anticipated the potential necessity of such things. Scraps was right, though, the process of repairing the device had wiped away all of its prior history. The auto-mapping function, notes, even the name of its owner had been wiped clean and had to be started again. Were it not for the name carved into the back of the device there would have been no way to know this one belonged to me and not some other pony. Somehow that seemed appropriate, we had both lost our past in the process of being reunited.
Eventually Scraps returned, looking triumphant as she carried the enlarged collar with her, coming around to carefully secure it around my neck. I briefly considered complaining, but she had more technical knowledge than I could hope for. The collar was loose enough not to be terribly uncomfortable, but the weight of it hanging around the base of my neck felt familiar, comforting and nostalgic all at once. Scraps spoke up happily, “There you go, that should fit you just fine. I removed the internal gem structure too, just to be careful. The radio which would have detected signals had already eroded to the point I don’t think that it could have been triggered. But, better safe than headless, right?” she gave me a cheerful grin as I could only smile nervously. I honestly hadn’t considered that possibility, too caught up in another tiny piece of my past found amongst this graveyard of machines.
“Now. How about you come with me out to the east side and we’ll see about getting that utility robot out from under the crashed sky chariot. I think that one might still have a functional levitation talisman in it!” Scraps was obviously excited at that prospect.
I nodded my head, “Sure.” walking with her back out into the junkyard. I was happy to help her however I could, especially after all she’d done for me.
Four more days had passed since I was reunited with my PipBuck properly. The robots of the Junkyard had finished cleaning the entry ramp finally. That morning found me standing side-by-side with Scrap Heap at the edge of the junkyard. Sunlight poured through the slightly thinner than normal clouds that morning as Scraps spoke to me.
“Are you sure you want to do this? It’s a dangerous world out there, and you know I could always use the help.”
“I’m sure. I can’t stay here, not if I want to find my past.”
“The past is just-”
“-A road towards the future. I remember.”
Scraps and I had had this conversation more than once before as I prepared to leave. She’d lent me some medical supplies, mostly magical bandages and a few healing potions. They weren’t much, but they were better than nothing. I looked towards her and smiled a few moments.
“Hey, I’m a monster of the wasteland, right? So it shouldn’t be any trouble for me out there!”
She still looked skeptical, and I couldn’t blame her. I’m sure she was aware that my lack of functional memories meant that I could barely cast the most basic spells, and even those were fueled purely by instinctual reaction. She just gave a sigh and shook her head.
“Good luck then. There’s a settlement a few day’s travel from here, or at least that’s what the traders who pass through here tell me. I don’t think there’s much of anything between here and there worth talking about, so you should be pretty safe getting there at least. They might have some idea where to begin searching, or at least have something you can do for them. Just... Be careful, alright? A lot of ponies out there in the wastes aren’t as open-minded as I am, and I’d hate for you to get shot because somepony thought you were a monster.”
I nodded nervously at that prospect, it was one I had considered more than briefly. But I knew I couldn’t stay, and with the path clear and my wounds healed it was time to leave. I straightened up onto all fours with a smile to Scraps, “I promise I’ll come back and visit as soon as I can.” With that I began walking across the endless expanse of nothingness surrounding the junkyard. The scraggly grass waving slightly in the gentle wind around my hooves. I didn’t have much, but at least I had more than nothing.
Aurora Borealis (Level 1)
Trait: Touched by the Sun - You are blessed with remarkable talents, making your inherent abilities significantly more impressive than most ponies. All of your SPECIAL traits are permanently increased by 1. However, this natural talent has made developing skills and training more difficult, as a result all your Skills begin 10 points lower (this can reduce a skill to less than 0%), and you gain 3 fewer Skill Points on level-up.
Trait: Shadow of the Moon - More superstitious ponies may believe that you are cursed to bring destruction to everything you touch, and they might not be entirely wrong. You gain +3% critical hit chance on all attacks, but all weapons wielded by you decay 15% faster and all offensive spells you cast cost 15% more energy than normal.
Origin: Unity Survivor - You were once a part of the Goddess’ Unity, having lost much of your sense of self and memories in the ordeal. You gain the standard Alicorn traits appropriate to your specific type. However, your level is immediately reset to 1, you cannot gain experience as long as you remain a full part of the Unity, you lose access to your Cutie Mark and have no Tag Skills nor gain any advantages associated with casting spells or making skill checks pertaining to your Cutie Mark until you manage to recover enough of your past self to reclaim it. Additionally you gain 10% less experience than normal, as the messy nature of your memories render future lessons more difficult than they would normally be.
Spell: Shield of the Goddesses (Rank 1) - You have a basic inherent understanding of how to shield yourself from harm, allowing you to form a magical barrier which has DT 5 and 10% DR for any damage which penetrates it. However, any single hit which inflicts more than 20% of your maximum health will cause the shield to drop temporarily and require you to spend an action re-casting it.
Spell: Unicorn Telekinesis - The most ubiquitous spell in Equestria. You can manipulate objects at a distance using your magic. Simple and efficient.