Memories are tricky things. They come and go without warning. Sliding from the recesses of your mind into your focus then retreating just as fast. Without them we wouldn’t be who we are. When we lose them we’re left with no idea what to do with ourselves.
But, how well do we really know them? They seem to have a will all their own, slipping away with time only to resurface again and again. The strangest things can bring them rushing back as though they’d never left. Even those memories we sometimes wish we could forget find their way to return when we least expect it.
Light glinted from the top of the large wooden tower which dominated my vision. The distant shine made me reflexively press myself more tightly against the damp stone beneath me. A cool, wet wind blew through my mane as I stared into the distance through the binoculars given to me by Applejack’s Rangers. A parting gift alongside the canned food which Requiem had had the prior night for dinner and again this morning for breakfast.
I had been here for close to an hour now, hidden amongst a section of broken stone thrust skywards by the destruction of the surrounding street. Watching the raiders move about in their fortress. It had been a prison complex before the war, though some part of me insisted that it was absurd that any city in Equestria would possibly need such a large facility for criminals. Now it stood as a fortress around a group who would have been amongst the worst scum of ponykind in more peaceful times.
The center of the yard was filled with a massive wood and metal tower, patched together from the remains of a dozen other shattered buildings. When this place was still a prison it had been the main watch tower, but most of its construction had weathered away since the war. The glint of light at its tip had attracted my attention more than once over the course of the past hour. Now I was certain of what I had been seeing, the raiders had a sniper in the tower, watching the gates to the prison complex, ready to shoot anyone who trespassed.
The tower itself sat directly above the main building of the prison, four floors high with barred windows. The building itself was partially collapsed, not even patched together the way the tower was. It was the only remaining distinguishable building on the yard, everything else having been broken down into rubble long ago, leaving the yard filled with broken bricks and torn scraps of paper. I wondered briefly whether the raiders preferred it that way, or if they were just too lazy to clean it up.
The shattered remains of four more guard towers were easily visible at the corners of the large stone wall surrounding the prison. The wall itself had collapsed in places and been patched with makeshift metal which reminded me of the hasty reconstruction job done on the Ministry of Peace Hospital. Briefly my thoughts wandered to the prospect that someone with these raiders had some kind of architectural knowledge. Most of me felt that was absurd, where would they have learned it?
A large flaming pony skull had been painted on the patched parts of the wall, and another on the main gates of the prison. We had passed several more on our way here as well, a marker left by the raiders. Who were they competing with in these ruins that they felt the need to mark what was theirs? I didn’t know, and wasn’t sure I wanted to know. At the moment I was more concerned with how to deal with what I was seeing, rather than worry about potentially phantasmal threats.
The main gates of the prison were close enough for my E.F.S. to pick up four red markers. Two of them were obviously visible, guards standing outside the gates. The other two I could only assume were on the inside, waiting to ambush anypony foolish enough to try and force their way inside. The gates themselves were not as impressive as those the Applejack’s Rangers had maintained, barely twice the height of a pony and mounted on more normal hinges.
Briefly my mind strayed back towards Requiem’s home and the ponies I had fought there. They were all well armed, and there had been what? Eighteen of them originally? I had killed six, that left at least twelve more ponies somewhere in that prison. Twelve heavily armed ponies, in their home, with an unknown number of defenses. That prospect did not fill me with hope, especially after the trouble I had killing even those six. But I at least had a few abilities I didn’t think they would be expecting. The part of me which kept trying to tell me that they were just normal ponies and could never hope to match my greatness was a mixed blessing at the moment, as it at least made me more certain of what I was about to do even if it made another part of me revolt at the conceit.
Levitating the binoculars away from my eyes I turned my attention back towards Requiem, who had been hunkered down barely a hoof’s width away from me. She had been watching the yard in silence for as long as I had, and was a substantially smaller target. I didn’t think their sniper had noticed me, at least they certainly hadn’t decided to start shooting at me yet, so I couldn’t imagine they had noticed her. She shuffled back slightly as I looked at her, as timid to my gaze as ever.
“I’m going to go in there and find the ones responsible for what happened to your family.” Requiem’s ears raised instantly at that statement, even with my voice barely louder than a whisper, “You need to stay here. Make sure no one sees you. I’ll come back and find you as soon as I can.” The scowl which instantly filled Requiem’s face made her opinion on that prospect clear to me, soliciting a frown from me, “I don’t... I can’t let you come in with me. They’ll try to kill you!” my mind drifted back to the raiders who had first captured her, and part of me reminded me that ‘killing her’ would be the merciful ending. I didn’t want to think about how I knew that.
Requiem slumped slightly at my insistence, her scowl remaining, “If I don’t come back, go back to the hospital. I... I think they’ll take you.” I wasn’t certain why I would believe that. They hadn’t offered, and I hadn’t asked, but I had to hope they were good ponies who wouldn’t turn away a homeless foal. Requiem deserved a safe and happy home, and right now I was going to risk myself to save a prisoner who might or might not even be alive.
Part of me insisted this was the stupidest thing I had ever done, but it didn’t matter. Somewhere in that prison was a pony who had been captured by these raiders, they had made that obvious in South-End Junction even to me. I couldn’t just walk away from that. It would have been the same as if I had left Requiem to be taken by them. No pony deserved the kind of fate they would face there.
I gave a nervous smile to Requiem as she folded her legs over and rested her head on them, “You trust me, right? I’ll come back. I promise! … So, stay here and stay safe. Alright?” My voice was not filled with confidence, Requiem for her part simply glowered at me before going back to resting. I had to hope that was sign enough she was listening.
Slowly I backed down the hill, far enough to be out of visual range of the tower. I could see through the slits well enough to get an idea what was inside that tower. I had to hope there wasn’t anything massive in the way of my arrival, or this was going to be a very short trip. My horn glowed dark purple as the world imploded around me.
Reality reasserted itself violently with the sound of metal breaking and an intense pressure against one of my rear legs. For the briefest moment my mind was filled with panic, fear that I had teleported into a solid object and just crippled myself completely. The shooting pain which went through my flank only seemed to reinforce that fear, but I barely had time to register it before my vision cleared of the glare of teleportation magic and I found myself staring at the raider sniper.
My unexpectedly violent arrival had already alerted the stallion to my presence by the time my vision cleared. At that moment he was struggling to get his sniper rifle clear of its mounting, frantically tugging at the locking mechanism which seemed to have jammed in place. I offered a silent, reflexive, prayer to Celestia for my fortune this day without even thinking about why.
With any hope of bucking the sniper into submission dashed by the tingling numbness in my rear legs my mind scrambled to improvise something to save myself with. At that moment my mind filled with a dozen different potential suggestions, all overwriting one another so quickly I couldn’t even keep track of them. Fragmented pieces of spells, demands of weapons, the desire to gore him on my horn. For a moment I lost myself to that madness, unable to focus or concentrate as my thoughts shattered.
The sharp clank of metal against my horn, and the sudden shock of cold which came with it, cleared the fog of madness in my mind enough to register the dark opening which hung less than a hair’s breadth from my eyes. Another moment and he would have pulled the trigger, ending my life with fire and steel. In a frantic moment of horror I wrapped my magic around him and his weapon and pushed as hard as I could.
The look of horrified surprise on his face as he found himself in mid air, his weapon having discharged harmlessly into the ceiling, seared itself into my vision for less than a second before he dropped out of sight. A long, panicked scream filled the yard, echoing in my ears. But it wasn’t the scream which truly disturbed me so much as the way it cut off abruptly and violently.
The sound of crushing stone and the rumbling impact of a pony’s body finding its flight violently interrupted by hard ground echoed through the momentarily silent surroundings. I knew I should have been horrified about what I had done, but the moment of danger was past and my panic about the state of my rear legs reasserted itself. Worse, I could hear shouting from the yard below. My actions hadn’t gone unnoticed by those guarding the gates, and there was no way of knowing how many would be coming.
A soft tug with my rear legs elicited a sharp sting of pain and numbness which ran up my flank. Fear again swam in my mind as I turned my head to look, half expecting to find that my legs had been fused or punctured by some great metal object. What greeted my eyes instead filled me with relief and hope. The remains of a metallic bed frame were twisted up around my rear legs, the springs having been bent and pulled taught by my arrival as the mattress was forced to one side. My legs were intact, but the pressure from the springs was rapidly making them go numb.
With the immediate danger passed it only took a few moments for me to pull the springs loose enough with my magic to extract my legs. They tingled painfully for long moments, but I was free and mobile again. Casting my attention across the sniper’s nest. It wasn’t large, barely big enough to contain me and the bed. A small table was overturned near where the sniper had been standing, a shattered bottle of dark red liquid resting on the ground beside it. The still intact part of the label read simply ‘Berry Patch Vineyards’.
Far more importantly I spotted a pair of small metallic ammunition boxes sitting on the ground opposite the table. One contained large caliber rounds I could only assume matched the sniper rifle which was now resting on the ground far out of my reach. The other, unexpectedly, contained small metal disks with lights on one side and adhesive on the other. Land mines. Who puts land mines in a sniper’s nest? The thought seemed utterly absurd to me. But at the moment I wasn’t going to complain as an idea formed quickly in my mind.
Moments later I tugged the hatch in the floor open, descending from the sniper’s nest towards the rest of the prison complex. It was a tight fit, as I was once again reminded rather directly of how unnaturally sized everything seemed to be compared to me. Just once it would have been nice to go somewhere and find the world was actually built to my scale. But I wasn’t expecting that to happen any time soon.
The dark purple light from my shield illuminated the twisting staircase leading downwards. The center of the tower was empty and I briefly entertained the notion of simply jumping down and catching myself with my wings. Part of me reminded me that the limited space in here was almost certainly going to make spreading my wings properly impossible. So I settled instead for concentrating my magic, allowing the world to implode around me and reassert itself instantly at the floor far below the sniper’s nest.
“... had a nasty fall, that idiot. What a way to get yourself killed!”
“Really. I knew he wasn’t the most coordinated of ponies, no matter how good his eyesight was. But I still can’t believe it was an accident.”
“Well the boss ordered somepony up there to find out what happened. The guards didn’t see anyone come in, after all.”
Two voices echoed across my awareness as I stood in a small store-room on the top most floor of the prison. It wasn’t much in the way of cover for a pony my size, I couldn’t even manage to get the door closed while I was inside. But I had to hope it would at least make it hard for them to spot me before they reached me. The voices themselves were familiar, the two ponies who had been mocking the remains of the mayor in South-End Junction.
My mind reeled in anger as I recalled that horror. Less than two days had passed and these two barely even noticed it! As they drew closer I could finally hear their actual hoof-falls, their conversation moving on to other topics though I barely even heard it. Filled with anger I raised my shield and concentrated, the world shifting instantly this time. The jump was short, barely a dozen hoof-falls away, reappearing directly behind the pair.
I moved before the pair even had a chance to turn around, snatching the small gun holstered at the earth pony’s side with my magic. The yelp of surprise at his weapon suddenly being missing was the last sound he ever had the chance to make as I opened up with the weapon without relent, not even bothering to activate my targeting spell. The resounding percussion of bullets echoed through the halls as his head was rapidly reduced to little more than red haze. Part of me insisted that it was better than he deserved, these ponies were monsters and deserved nothing less than destruction.
“Y-You!?” his companion’s words were barely audible over the roar of my gun as blood splattered across her flank and stuck to the exterior of my shield, “No! No, no! You can’t be here!” she backed away from me, grabbing hold of the bit for her battle saddle and jerking it angrily, tears in her eyes. The report from the heavy rifle mounted on her side rolled across my perception as the wind of the bullet’s passing whipped past my neck.
I didn’t dignify her with an answer, my anger at what had happened to Requiem’s family washing over all other emotions. The chorus of voices in my head demanded retribution, drowning out the tiny voices protesting. I lowered my head and charged.
The thunder of her weapon resounded through the halls again as sharp pain ran through my wing, but it didn’t matter, there was too much momentum behind my charge now for her to stop as my horn crashed through her armor and speared cleanly through her torso. Warm, wet blood dribbled down it across my face, a few drops making it as far as my lips filling my mouth with a thick metallic tang.
The unicorn raider gurgled quietly a few moments, her legs spasming and bucking as she pushed herself away from me, sliding off my horn and to the ground where she stared up at me with horrified eyes. “Wh-why..?” tears welled up in her eyes as she stared up at me in confusion, as though she truly could not fathom what reason I would have to fight them. The light of life fading from her completely a moment later.
It wasn’t enough. The chorus in my mind chanted, wanted more, demanded more. These two had defiled the dead, but they had all had their part in the destruction of South-End Junction. They were the reason the Rangers were now suffering. Why Requiem was without a home. They had earned this with their actions, and I was not going to deny them just repayment.
As I pulled the heavy rifle free of the battle saddle I could hear something else in the distance. A series of thunderous detonations shook the building, tiny bits of dust and plaster falling from the walls and ceiling closest to the remains of the watch tower. A moment later I could hear the death-screams of twisting metal and the riotous cacophony of crushing stone as the sniper’s tower toppled from its perch, the land mines having done their job admirably. If the raiders didn’t know I was here before, there was no way they were unaware now. Strangely, the idea that they knew there was something here to fear filled me with a sense of accomplishment and purpose.
I turned and rushed down the hallways, driven by the song of vengeance and destruction which resounded in my mind. I would find those who had tormented Requiem and make them pay. That was the way things were supposed to be. You protected what you cared about. Or so the voices said. Somewhere in the distance of my mind I could hear the jangle of chains.
The angry retort of my heavy combat rifle filled the air, three more raiders falling to the floor in a bloody heap. Between my teleportation magic and targeting spell they never even had the chance to see me. Satisfaction flowed as the three fell lifeless to the floor. Three less threats to peaceful ponies.
The carnage had grown uncontrollably since the first pony died. During my passing through the offices which dominated the top-most floor of the prison I had slain three others. With this group that made nine I could confirm dead, and some number more had been slain by my trap in the tower. The red blurs on my E.F.S. remained constant, tracking through floors and walls with equal ease. There was no sign of how many might remain, but it couldn’t be a small number.
It wasn’t enough. Not nearly enough. The chorus of anger and pain which surged through my mind demanded more. That it would never be enough. The distant sound of chains had grown louder, almost loud enough to drown out the din of battle as my collar felt hot and angry around my neck.
Bucking open one of the large doors which dominated the stairwells in the building I stampeded down the staircase. The world was a blur as I rushed onwards, rounding a corner to come face to face with yet another member of the raider band. An earth pony, who opened her mouth to say something which would never be heard.
My shot was instantaneous, not even pausing long enough to wait for her body to hit the floor before pressing on. Rushing onwards room by room, the thick blur of battle blending from place to place with every hoof fall. Shouts of pain and the gurgles of dieing ponies mixed with the clatter of chains and the thunder of my hooves on stone and steel, my weapons painting the walls red with anger and sorrow.
Stinging pain ran through my wing and my flank, but it barely mattered at all now. The screams of my enemies and their pain was all that meant anything to me. Even that barely managed to penetrate the haze of my mind. Something else did, though, a thunderous voice which echoed through the building. The same kind of amplified voice I had heard before from the Applejack’s Rangers.
“Somepony has attacked our home and is slaughtering everyone! We will not stand for this! We have owned this fortress since the day the world burned! Let no pony dare to trespass against us again! Gather your weapons, we will meet our attacker head on!”
The voice was filled with anger and confidence to rival my own. The tiny voices which protested what I was doing grew slightly louder, but were swiftly drowned out as more voices joined those demanding retribution. How many other ponies had these raiders harmed before I came along? How many more would they kill if I left now? I didn’t know the answers, but I didn’t want to find out either. I let the chaos of battle carry me onwards, my rage swallowing my mind and my regrets, it was so much easier that way.
My hooves slammed down against the wood and glass door, shattering the obstruction into shrapnel which exploded across the small room. Two more bodies lay by either side of the door, oozing blood onto the dirty tile floors. My head pounded in time with my heart, eyes refusing to focus properly on anything beyond what was right in front of me. I rushed through the doorway without thinking.
The room exploded in violent noise as a sharp sting ran through my flank, drawing my attention instantly to the unicorn mare in the room. She looked so small and helpless compared to me, cowering behind a desk with a rifle gripped in her teeth. She’d had it aimed at the door frame even before I entered, firing a shot at the first thing to come through the door. Instantly her weapon exploded in dark purple light as my magic wrapped around it, yanking it from her mouth. She screamed in agony a moment, as a thin red line ran down her lips from the violent extraction of her weapon.
She retreated away from me, backing towards the rear corner of the room. Wearing dark red and black armor, she turned as she cowered and I saw her flank. The world froze in place, a symbol was painted upon it which seared its way into my mind. It resembled a horseshoe but upside down, placed in the center of a circle and struck through, as one might for a sign meant to deny somethings existence.
My head throbbed angrily at that sight, the sound of chains which had echoed through my mind exploded into a symphony of torment as it mixed with cruel laughter and broken sobbing. Familiar burning agony filled my flank, so intense as to remove even the aches of battle. The weight of my collar around my neck felt like it had grown unbearable in that instant, searing my flesh with phantasmal heat.
She stammered in confusion, speaking words which did not penetrate the haze of rage and sorrow which now mixed in my mind. Even the voices which had been cheering me onwards were silent now, as my every thought and desire bent towards a single purpose.
“Where did you get it!?”
The unicorn stared in confusion at me even as she tried to press herself closer against the wall. Her voice was quiet, almost inaudible beneath my rage, “... wh-what..? Get... Get what?” Get what? Could she not see it? Not know how important it was!? Could she really be so blind?
The intensity of my anger only grew as my hooves carried me closer, wings spreading wide to cast a long shadow over her hiding place, “Where did you get it!?” My mind throbbed and burned as though the candle of my past had lit a fuse, burning angrily towards cataclysmic release.
The unicorn bolted, streaking past me towards the door with surprising speed. But as fast as she was, she was not perfect. It took less than the beat of an eye and I stood in the door frame, my hooves in the air. Slamming down hard against her head, suddenly pinning her between the cracked floor and my great bulk, my hoof rested firmly upon her horn. She screamed in agony for the second time, blood pooling upon the flooring from her missing tooth.
Thrusting my face closer some degree of clarity managed to burn through the haze of my mind, “That armor. Where. Did! YOU! GET! IT!?” The walls shook with my question as my voice rolled like thunder across the destroyed halls. A drop of thick, half-dried blood fell from my muzzle to land just below her twitching eye, staining her white coat, as tears began to stream across her face. Two burning red points reflected in her iris, eye twitching uncontrollably out of panic.
“Th-the... There’s a pl-place, through the sewers, under... Ce-Central Junction. Found it... Found it there. Please... Please let me go!”
My hoof ground more angrily into the floor as the sound of cracking reached my ears. The rage which had carried me this far pushed onwards without hesitation as a resounding cracking sound filled the small space between us. The raider leader screamed in agony beyond anything I had ever heard before as her horn shattered beneath my weight. It wasn’t enough. Not nearly enough.
Rearing up, I brought my hooves down as hard as I could against her mid-section. The sharp crunch of breaking bones filled the limited space again as she gurgled in pain. I could feel the ribs crack beneath my hooves. It felt good. Again and again I rained down my hooves upon her broken body, until it could barely be recognized as having ever been a pony.
Long past when she died I continued. The clatter of chains and searing pain seemed like it would never end. Just the thought of that symbol still existing anywhere in this world was beyond acceptance. The flame in my mind burned away the madness of mixed pasts, demanding my attention as my thoughts drifted to a different place, my body continuing its profane ritual without thought. I lost all track of time or sense of place amongst those distant memories.
It was dark, cold and damp. The tight weight around my neck was a constant. Just tight enough to cut into my throat with each heartbeat. Constricting my breathing just enough that every breath reminded me of its presence. A dull throbbing ache ran through my left flank. Weight rested heavily upon my legs, and as I shifted my position slightly in a desperate attempt to get more comfortable the clink of chains was audible. Every motion a reminder that I was not a free pony.
“I’m telling you, this one is cursed!”
A voice cut through the silent surroundings as I heard hoof-falls nearby. The voice echoed slightly in the tiny chamber as I focused my magic just enough for a dim grey light to fill the small cell. The soggy bedroll beneath me gave an unpleasant squish as I moved closer to the wall to listen more closely.
“Cursed? Bah! Zebra nonsense. There’s no such thing as curses and you know it!”
“But she is! Have you SEEN her Cutie Mark!? We’ll be lucky if we ever manage to do anything useful with her.”
“Hmph. Well she is clumsy, I’ll say that much. Keeps breaking everything we send her to work on. Boss keeps insisting we give her enough food to keep her alive, says ‘a dead slave ain’t worth nothin’.’ But she doesn’t deserve anything more than that.”
“Hah! I hear you there. She’s got one of those leg-mounted terminal things. Maybe we could sell her to the Rangers? Bet they’d love to have access to more of those things.”
“Are you kidding? They’d probably try to shoot us on sight. Bastards got no idea what proper business is like. Just kill anyone who gets in their way and take what they want. Barely better than Raiders if you ask me.”
“She’d be a decent looker if she were in better shape. Maybe we can move her to the Big T and sell her to one of the places there? They’d probably pay a premium if we could prove she’s disease free!”
“Yeah, right. Like anyone’s going to pay to spend a night with some clumsy mare fresh out of a stable. Have you SEEN the others who came from there? You’d be lucky if she even knew what way around everything went!”
“Pfft. Well, then, I guess we should get to TEACHING her, shouldn’t we?”
The sound of hoof-falls drew closer as the pale light of my magic illuminated a pair of stallions on the far side of metal bars. My stomach rumbled angrily, and at one of the worst possible times, as they approached. One of the two spoke up again, “Look at that. She even looks like she was expecting us!” vicious laughter filling the air.
The lock of my cage clanked open as one of the two yanked the metal grating clear, standing back to watch as the other approached. He was wearing dark red and black armor, with a symbol of an upside down horseshoe in a circle with a slash through it drawn upon its flank. That didn’t last long, though, as he quickly began to strip it off. Horror and resignation ran through my mind in equal parts, the realization of what they planned for me finally dawning.
He was not gentle, and I lacked the strength to fight back.
Heat flowed across my body, surging from deep inside. Thick red paste squeezed beneath my hooves and clung heavily to my coat. Broken pieces of red and black armor scattered amongst the thick jam which now coated the floor of the small office. Slowly I began to calm down, my mind still surging painfully as I struggled to focus my eyes on the surroundings.
Somewhere in my outburst I had toppled the desk over onto the floor, scattering now-bloodstained papers everywhere. The flickering green screen of a terminal smeared with red along with the sparks from broken ceiling lights gave the room an eerie glow. The pain which had been in my side was faded now, as I stood numbly amongst the destruction.
My mind reeled with the first real recollection of my past. I had found a part of myself at last! A part which seemed mired in misery, a murky memory of voices and shapes without proper definition. The crushing weight of what had happened to me doused the flames of rage with the intensity of a bursting dam. My mind slowed to a crawl. I didn’t want to think or move from that spot. Thinking was painful. Being was painful.
“Boss! I caught one of those intruders you wanted!”
A voice cut through the fog of my mind. The sound of hoof-falls growing closer.
“Celestia’s mane! What happened in here!? Hey. Hey! You better settle down or I’ll just shoot you and be done with it!”
The voice grew louder, barely enough to make me raise my head towards the doorway as a stallion climbed over the two dead bodies still laying on the floor outside the office. Clutched between his body and one of his forelegs was a small grey and red blob. A thin line of recognition ran through my sluggish mind as my eyes began to focus again. Requiem. He’d caught Requiem! But how? Why? Why was she here?? I’d told her to wait outside, hadn’t I? She should be safe! She shouldn’t have to see this!
The stallion stared in disbelief at what he was seeing, his smug confusion fading to palpable horror. “Boss..?” His voice echoed in the silence of the room, locking his vision on to me. My gaze remained fixed on Requiem, who had ceased her struggling to escape the moment she laid eyes on me. All thought had stopped in my mind, squelched by her wide-eyed stare.
The stallion’s leg slacked slightly. For her fear and confusion, Requiem’s instincts for survival and escape were as sharp as ever. The moment the stallion moved enough for her to do so she bit down hard on his leg. A scream of pain erupted which shocked my mind from its blindness, “AAAAAGH! You little cunt! I’m going to kill you for that!” Suddenly relaxing his leg enough for Requiem to drop the floor. I had hoped she would run to me. Take refuge with me. Return to my side like she always had before. Instead she bolted away from the doorway and out of sight almost instantly. The Earth Pony who had been carrying her bucked to bring his weapon up far enough to grab in his mouth.
I acted without thought. It was instant and effortless to activate my targeting spell. The resounding explosion of the heavy rifle I had stolen early in my rampage echoed through empty halls once again. His head burst like an over-ripe melon, splattering across the already bloodstained floor as his body toppled. Not even having enough time to fire a single shot.
Watching his body tumble to the ground my mind began to move again. Requiem ran from me. She fled from me as though I were the monster. As though the thought of risking capture by these ponies again was better than standing at my side! I had protected her! I had come here to..! To...
To what? To get revenge? Revenge wouldn’t bring her family back. To stop these ponies from hurting anyone? I had murdered them, destroyed them and broken their home. Done to them what they did to Requiem. Invaded their home, their safety, slaughtered them without thought or mercy. How many ponies had died here today?
I scrambled for answers, answers which wouldn’t come. Somewhere along the way I had lost myself to the thrum of battle and the mindless excess of destruction. Thick red paste dropped from my coat with a resounding ‘splat’ onto the floor. Oh, Celestia. What had I done here!?
Bolting from the room I turned, following the single non-hostile marker upon my E.F.S., desperate to find Requiem. To apologize. To explain. To do something, anything, to make this all right! I couldn’t lose her. Not like this. Not now.
The thick aroma of boiled cabbage managed to penetrate the metallic tang of blood which hung in my mouth and nose. Requiem’s flight from me had carried the two of us down twisting halls and another flight of stairs, now on the ground floor, leading to a massive open room filled with tables.
Spilled bowls and shattered glasses were scattered amongst tables which had been overturned or shifted violently from where they originally sat. A tiny collection of them remained intact, still-steaming bowls of food sitting on small trays. There had been ponies eating here when my attack began. Interrupted from their meal by the death of their friends and a mad Alicorn running rampant through their ranks.
The voices in my head were fighting a war over whether what I had done was right or not. Everything I had seen since leaving the warden’s office only seemed to be giving the side of me with regrets more ammunition. But I was preoccupied with Requiem, and too concerned for her safety to think hard about what I had already done.
My legs were shaking by the time I had crossed the large cafeteria into the kitchen. The tightness in my chest which had begun when Requiem fled from me had grown unbearable. My heart threatened to burst cleanly through my ribs and attempt to escape me forever. What if I couldn’t find Requiem? What if one of the raiders found her first? What if she got herself hurt and needed me? Would she ever trust me again? A myriad of horrible ideas thrust themselves through the back of my mind, tearing at the cobwebs of emotions which still clung to my desperation.
It felt like eternity as I slogged slowly across the kitchen, following the lone friendly marker which remained on my E.F.S. All of my hope pinned on that device, something I hadn’t even had a week before, without it Requiem would have been long gone and impossible for me to even try to follow.
The boiling water of unattended pots niggled at my mind. The shining doors of large freezers stood invitingly as though to tempt me to find their contents. Were it not for Requiem I would gladly have savaged the room with gusto and intent, but as it was I didn’t have time. My legs already felt like they were about to give out from under me as I fought back tears. Crying wouldn’t get Requiem back.
At the very rear of the kitchen I found a doorway. The door hung open limply, a staircase descending downwards into darkness before me. The marker I hoped was Requiem was somewhere down those stairs. Along with several more red markers. Raiders who had taken refuge in the storage basement when the attack began. Or after I slew so many. I could imagine them, down there, offering prayers that whatever had taken their friends would quietly pass them by.
Celestia, please forgive me for my trespass in this place. Luna, let my actions here die with time to be swallowed by the night. A silent prayer passed through my mind, unsolicited and yet distantly comforting, as I descended the staircase into darkness.
The cellar’s lighting was poor to the point of near nonexistence, reducing my vision to barely a few hoof-falls from where I was standing. Scattered junk coated the flooring, pieces of broken machinery, loose nails, broken planks. The raiders had apparently been using this place to toss all of the things they had no where else to dispose of. The hard stone walls were covered in graffiti, writing on top of writing until it was impossible to read any part of it through the thickness of the words. Some part of me found amusing irony in the way the walls here seemed to resemble my mind.
Somewhere not too far away I could hear voices in the darkness, drawing my attention away from the walls.
“Which way did she go!?”
“I don’t know. You’re the one with the damnable lamp! Why weren’t you keeping it on her!?”
“Fuck you, do you know how hard it is to keep a light on something that small moving that fast? You should have shot her faster!”
My mind froze at that. Shot her? Small, fast moving? Requiem... Had they caught her!? A quick check of my E.F.S. still showed a single friendly marker, but it wasn’t moving. My heart sank, my legs nearly giving out below me at that. They... Had they really? Had I gotten her killed? The thought was inconceivable to some parts of me, yet others insisted I’d been a fool to drag her from her home in the first place. The voices demanding vengeance returned in force, but this time they lacked strength enough to overwhelm my despair.
Turning I slowly proceeded towards the voices, purple light wrapping around me as I cast my shield, floating the heavy rifle which had thus far treated me well outside the shield. It was coming close to breaking now. I had to hope that I had enough left to deal with those remaining here. I was no mechanic, and even my PipBuck couldn’t make up for that limitation. Just as I was about to round the corner towards the pair who had been talking another voice cut through the darkness.
“Hah! Found that little bitch! You got her just fine, Gut!” Cruel laughter followed after.
Instantly I turned my head towards the new speaker. Two more red dots on my E.F.S., and a smaller friendly mark! But the way they were talking... My mind burned, whatever panic I had swallowing up everything else to steel myself for the pain of what had happened.
Lightning coursed through my nerves as I concentrated my magic. The world imploded around me, even without knowing where I was going beyond generalities. I wouldn’t give them the satisfaction of seeing her die! If they had killed her I should be there with her! This... This was my fault! I wouldn’t abandon her now.
The disorientation of my arrival was intense. It was one thing when you could see where you were going, but teleporting blind was another matter altogether. It took me a moment to even process what I was seeing. Two large stallions, significantly bigger than average, stood over the small crumpled form of Silent Requiem. Red liquid stained the floor beneath her. She wasn’t moving any more.
There wasn’t time to have any kind of witty exchange with the raiders, who had looked up from their ‘kill’ to me in a mix of shock and horror. One of them bit down and jerked hard on their battle saddle. The sound of screaming engine and the roar of bullets filled the small room as the massive gatling gun strapped to his side spat dozens of tiny projectiles.
Most bounced harmlessly from my shield, burying themselves in the walls and ceiling. A few managed to break through, tearing at the edges of my coat and leaving red grooves in my flesh. The pain seared my mind, focusing my thoughts for that moment. The rest of the world faded into a blur of meaninglessness as I triggered my targeting spell. Two shots each. Two shots into their heads. I would stop them, even if it killed me, I would not let them have her.
In such small corridors against stationary targets even my poor aim was sufficient. Two more ponies fell, adding to the bodycount of the day. My mind barely registered their fall. These ponies weren’t worth crying over. These ponies had tried to kill Requiem. Maybe even succeeded!
Panic swept over me again, my legs trembling as I rushed to Requiem’s side. In an instant I activated my inventory sorting spell, frantically searching for the medical supplies which I had received yesterday. I had to have something to help her! My heart sank, somewhere during my mad attack I had lost two of the three healing potions I was carrying. Only one remained, and barely any medical bandages. I had to hope it was enough. Requiem had to live.
Pulling the last remaining healing potion from my bag I forced it down her throat, watching her swallow weakly before carefully wrapping the medical bandages around her midsection where the wound was worst. My own wounds oozed blood across my already stained coat, the pain from them beginning to burn in my mind. They weren’t deep, they would have been perfect for the medical bandages to heal. Yet I couldn’t bear the idea to use anything less than everything I had in an attempt to save Requiem.
The ceiling of the room suddenly exploded, shrapnel and flames licking against the outer edge of my shield. Chunks of stone falling from above to rebound off the purple dome which surrounded myself and Requiem now. An angry curse was almost lost amidst the ringing in my ears and the blindness of the sudden light which made it difficult to ascertain what had happened.
Two more ponies were standing in the door frame. One of them was carrying a large metal tube strapped to his side. A missile launcher! These ponies were using missiles, inside their own home! Where they completely insane!? Had that hit directly it would almost certainly have killed me and Requiem both. I rose from where I had been sitting at her side as Requiem let off a quiet cough, the first sound I had ever heard her make. I could just barely see her opening her eyes again in my peripheral vision.
My targeting spell was still drained from my last attacks. My rifle was nearly broken. My aim was poor. I couldn’t move from this spot without giving them a clear shot to Requiem. My mind fogged with confusion and pain and rage as part of me broke. I dropped the rifle to the ground as the pony finished reloading, aiming another missile directly at me.
The anger and sorrow mixed to focus my mind to a razor edge, my horn exploding like lightning as the missile moved through open air. Time seemed to slow to a crawl as I focused my magic, purple light surrounding the projectile and ripping it from its course. The missile screamed angrily in the air, as it took all my concentration to keep even that single weapon from ripping free of my grasp, my horn aching from the delicate exertion.
Slowly, carefully, I turned it in the air. Had there been any more than this it would have been hopeless. As it was, I loosed the missile towards the pair who stared in disbelief, barely managing to turn from me to begin to run as the explosive lanced through the tiny corridors. The detonation tore into both of them, reducing what had once been ponies to nothing but charred flesh and shattered bones. The final two raiders joined their brethren in whatever came after.
Slowly, heavily, I turned my gaze back to Requiem. She was laying on the ground, still unmoving, staring up at me with eyes which were barely awake. She coughed again, quietly, before biting down her lips hard in an attempt to keep any other sound from escaping her. I sat slowly beside her, gently laying a kiss on her cheek.
“Please... Please trust me. I won’t ever let someone take you away. I will always protect you.” Requiem remained silent and passive. She didn’t squirm at my touch. She didn’t kick. She just laid there, staring at me in silence. Celestia, please let her be alright. My heart couldn’t take another loss today.
Time crawled by in agonizing slowness in the quiet dark of the basement.
The jangle of chains echoed through the quiet of the basement. At first I thought I was imagining them, that they existed purely in my mind. At least until Requiem began to struggle to her feet, ears tracking towards one of the doors. It had been only a few minutes since I gave her the healing potion, and already she seemed to be doing much better. As my sight tracked towards the door she was so intent on reaching I could see another friendly mark on my EFS, a quiet voice croaking out through the darkness.
“Hello? Is anypony there?”
The door itself was huge and reinforced steel, a storage door. Muffling the voice from within to being almost silent. Carefully I wrapped my magic around it and began to force it aside, producing a quiet squeak of metal on metal. This time, at least, it seemed that something in this place was built properly.
Requiem had managed to get to her feet and follow me at least as far as the door. For once I wished she wouldn’t stay by my side, we hadn’t had enough medicine to treat her properly and I could only hope she would recover. Like usual, she moved through the door before I could, squeezing past when it was only barely open enough to allow her through.
The room was small, less than half the size of the rest of the basement. The first sight to greet my eyes were chains hanging from a wall, the skeletal remains of a long-decayed pony sitting at the bottom of them in the murky half-darkness of the room. A prisoner, or what was left of one from long ago. Surrounded by random garbage and filth. The light above those remains was broken, pale white light streaming from the other side of the room.
“A filly? What’s a filly do-”
The voice cut off abruptly as I stepped through the doorway and cast my gaze in the direction of the light and sound. The voice itself was hoarse, pained and cracked noticeably, the voice of a mare or so it seemed. What greeted my eyes was not pleasant, but pleasant was a rarity in the wastelands it seemed.
Great metal chains extended from the wall, embedded deeply into its construction, towards an emaciated pony. So thin and sickly that her ribs could easily be seen through her coat, the outline of her spine easy to track beneath her ragged skin. The red of her coat stained darkly with grease and accumulated dust mixed with unknown stains which I didn’t wish to imagine where they had come from. What had once been a light brown mane was a tangled, matted mop of hair which seemed to be threatening to escape under its own power. Her tail was no better than her mane, knotted and abused. I could even see a few places where her coat had begun to fall out, from malnutrition and abuse, where it had been cut away and scars now ran along parts of her body. Her flanks were marked by a cutie mark resembling a gear with a green spark at its center. Something in my mind recognized that symbol, as conflicting emotions ran through me over it being a symbol some pony actually had.
At first I thought that the chains had been run straight through her sides, connecting her to the wall directly, but after a few moments I could see that they connected to something else. Extra limbs folded tightly against her side, wings. A pegasus, trapped underground and left to starve. Or maybe not. The raiders in South-End Junction mentioned a prisoner. There were pegasi in the radio station. The station was marked like this place was. Was she a survivor of the slaughter there? What had happened? Why were they fighting to begin with? I had so many questions to ask her, but her stare at me silenced all of them.
The gaze of terror on her face reminded me that I was still coated with the cooled gore of the raider leader. My face still stained with blood. I must have looked every bit the quintessential monster to her eyes. A horror from the nightmares of the wasteland, crawled from the darkness to steal away her life. She backed away towards the corner of the room, barely able to move from her spot because of the chains, shouting at me.
“Please! Please don’t hurt me! Not any more! I just want to go home. This was never supposed to happen!”
She rambled something which didn’t make any sense to me as I slowly approached. Requiem sat down in front of her, directly in her sight, without hesitation or fear. Tilting her head to one side as she stared at the pegasus. The intent was clear to me, even the filly wasn’t afraid of me, why would she be?
“Please let me go. Help me. I’ll... I’ll show you where they keep their weapons! Where they keep the supplies! Just help me. I’ll do anything!”
My vision tracked around her, catching sight of the workbench not far from where she was. My thoughts drifted to the rifle I had abandoned not long ago. The raiders had incredibly well maintained armaments. “It was totally worth the effort. I bet even those Rangers would be shaking in their boots the next time we came around!” The words of the raiders from South-End Junction echoed in my mind. They’d taken her, captured her, forced her to repair their weapons, then used them to murder everyone Requiem knew and loved.
Part of me was furious, demanding I do something horrible to this pony, who had had a part in Requiem’s loss. Another part of me reminded me that she was just as much a victim as Requiem was. I stared down at her quietly a few long moments before speaking. “I’ll do whatever I can. Hold still.”
That was obviously not the reaction she expected as she stammered out a brief thanks, staring at me in confusion and hope.
I didn’t know the first thing about removing the chains from her wings, and I had no more medical supplies to spare for her. But there was something else I did know how to do. Slowly and carefully I stepped forwards towards the place where the chains were embedded in the wall, gripping one of them in my mouth. The strong metallic taste mixed with the fading remains of blood on my lips, creating a soft electrical tingle through my mouth. My forehooves slammed into the wall hard enough to create radial cracks around where they connected, spreading out towards where the chains were secured. Planting them firmly a moment later I began to pull as hard as I could.
My teeth jarred, ached and stung at the exertion, my legs straining against the solid stone of the wall. The cracks my hooves had created splintered further, widening with a dozen tiny pops and snaps. The extreme age of the construction mixed with the poor anchoring by the raiders began to make part of the wall crumble, ripping the chain clear by its roots. The chain dropped to the ground with a clatter.
Slowly I continued to the next and repeated the process. Over and over, six times in all, the wall gave way to my strength. The pegasus, still pressed to the floor, stared up at me. By the time I had finished her gaze had changed from horror to amazement. “That... You... How could... What are you!?”
That question cut through my mind. It seethed. What was I? A monster. A horror born of darker eras. A thing which should never have existed. That was what my mind told me, some parts. Others insisted I was great and powerful, a gift to the world. That I was superior to ponies, the one who deserved to rule. My mind ached again under the feelings of shame and pain that I had spread today as those thoughts that I deserved the right to choose who lived and died chewed at the back of my mind.
I answered her with the only thing I could say for certain, “A pony.”
A weak smile passed my lips as the unnamed Pegasus struggled to her feet, swaying a moment at her sudden new found freedom. Beginning to trot towards the exit, only to sway and fall towards the ground half way there. Without thinking I wrapped my magic around her to catch her. She gave an annoyed grunt, “Can’t be this weak. Not after seeing that! Make us all look bad.” seemingly speaking mostly to herself.
I trotted up towards her, gently extending a wing to help her balance herself with a slightly brighter smile, “I don’t think a starved, captured, half-dead pony can make anyone look bad. Except maybe themselves, by being stubborn enough to refuse help.”
She just grimaced in return, leaning weakly against my wing as I helped her out of the room, “I’m Aurora Borealis, and this is Silent Requiem,” I glanced down to my constant companion, who had quickly moved to stand beside us again, “What’s your name? Even if you’re going to leave soon enough, I’d like to at least know who I’m saving.”
A dry laugh passed her lips which quickly turned into a coughing fit, “... Arsenal. Just... Arsenal.” giving a weak smile back up to me, “Thank you.”
“Don’t thank me just yet. We still need to get you some food, after all. And get out of here.”
Arsenal nodded weakly at that, before casting her gaze across the basement towards another doorway, “First, I’ll show you what I promised. At least I can have that much dignity.”
She lead us onwards across the debris-strewn basement.
The supply room was cramped. Another side-room similar to the one where we had found Arsenal, the walls were lined with weapon racks, most of them empty. Foot lockers were strewn across the floor haphazardly, with no obvious means of organization or order. Large drums marked with flammable warning labels sat piled in one corner. Half a dozen ammunition boxes littered tables.
Without prompting Requiem trotted into the room and began her typical art of searching. Beginning to tug her way through everything she could find. Arsenal watched her go with some curiosity, “Dedicated, isn’t she?” I let out a quiet chuckle at that. She had no idea.
The two of us made our way inside as well. Arsenal began searching for something specific. At least at a guess she was after something specific. The way she kept opening and closing boxes in irritation made it feel that way. My own vision slowly cast across the room, so many things here which made me wonder.
At least, until my eyes fell upon a large case. Standing up against one of the walls, half hidden behind an overturned locker. Its metal shined like new, despite its dark and dreary surroundings. But it wasn’t the state of the box which drew my attention properly. It was the marking on it. A large, flowing, blue R had been imprinted upon its side. My heart ached as my head swam with recognition. Like seeing the photograph in the library, I knew I had to have whatever was inside that box. I didn’t know why, it was just too important to let go.
My magic wrapped around the box and tugged it free easily. The resounding crash of the locker to the ground causing Requiem and Arsenal alike to leap away and glare at me, “Warn everypony before you do that!” Arsenal’s voice would probably have been intimidating if she weren’t still half-hoarse from malnutrition. My cheeks burned with a blush at that, part of me wondering how many times Requiem had wanted to yell at me since we met.
The case consumed my attention, though. Laying it out on the ground before me. It was locked, that wasn’t surprising. What was more surprising was the lock didn’t look like any I had ever seen before. A key-pad like the ones used on a terminal and a set of green display values were all the sign of how you would open it.
For a moment I stared at it blankly before Arsenal finally looked at it and let out an irritated sigh, “Never seen an electronic lock before? No surprise there.” she bucked one of the lockers open and let out a happy squeal at whatever she had found inside. I didn’t even bother to look up from the box, wracking my brain trying to think of how to open it.
Arsenal trotted over towards me, holding an odd looking device in her mouth before setting it on the ground, “Just get out of the way. I’ll get it open for you, if it means that much to you.” looking up to me with slightly raised eyebrows.
I just bowed my head and stepped aside, “Thank you...” hanging my head in shame. I knew I needed what was inside, yet I couldn’t get in on my own. If I hadn’t found Arsenal here, I probably would have ended up dragging the box with me all across the wasteland. That idea was funny, but not practical.
I didn’t catch most of what Arsenal was doing to the box, parts of me recognized the device she had now, an electronic lockpick. Doing a job not far removed from what I had done in the Library, except being designed explicitly for that purpose rather than a hack-job with a PipBuck. It didn’t take her long before the box let off a soft click-hiss, the lock and seal giving way.
“There you go. Don’t go hurting yourself with whatever’s inside.”
Carefully and slowly I nudged the top open. The interior of the box was lined with crushed velvet, stained dark red like wine. The center of the box was filled with a long tube, a rocket launcher by the look of it, like the one which the raider had been carrying. But this one was different. It was masterfully constructed, the metal shining like new, a pearl handle sitting as its firing mechanism and tiny gems embedded into the status monitoring devices. A small sight extending from one side. Along one side in flowing text like that on the outside of the box, but written in gold, was a name. Tom.
A custom-built missile launcher, with pearl grip and gemstone displays, silver plated with gold lettering? Who builds something like that? Who would WANT something like that? It seemed so absurdly ostentatious that it wrapped all the way back around the scale to being magnificent again. Someone, somewhere, somewhen had put a lot of effort into making this weapon. It broke my heart that it had been here, alone, for two centuries.
A small slip of paper fell from the box as I stared at the weapon, drifting down to land atop it just in my vision. Without much thought I wrapped it in my magic and unfolded it, curious to what might be written within. Flowing writing graced the page, beautiful and elegant. A style which part of my mind recognized instantly.
Dearest Twilight Sparkle,
I did as you requested and helped those poor boys in your lab with the finishing touches on this weapon. I do hope it lives up to your expectations. I just couldn’t leave the design alone. Steel and blinking lights? Who ever designed these crimes against proper fashion? This one at least will be presentable. I’m certain you will want to examine the results before sending this on to be reproduced by Applejack’s, ugh, ‘employees’. We should meet again soon, it feels like it’s been ages since we talked last!
My legs dropped out from under me as my heart sank through the floor. The weight of horrors which had happened today were still heavy in my mind and now this. An empty, lonely sorrow which rushed from an unbidden part of my mind filled every corner of my consciousness. Tears which had been held back by rage and fear and relief suddenly returned, carried past the breaking point by a familiar sorrow of things lost which should never have gone.
My sense of place and time were gone. Only sorrow remained as tears flowed down my muzzle and fell to the dirty floor. I didn’t want to move. Didn’t want to breathe. Didn’t want to think. I just wanted to lay there. To forget everything. Closing my eyes tightly, all I could see was the distant vision of a white unicorn, now far too far away.
Somewhere I could faintly hear Arsenal’s voice, “Is... Is she always like this?”
I wished the answer to that was no.
The tears flowed and flowed, for what felt like hours I lay upon the filthy ground. My gore-caked coat now covered in a fine layer of dust and debris as slowly my heart turned from despair to emptiness. Emotional exhaustion overtook my sorrow, swallowing up whatever remained of my mirth or fear or anxiety. I slowly rose again, wrapping Tom in my magic and carefully levitating the weapon from its case. Part of me insisted that it would be a travesty to leave it here, betraying the trust of someone who deserved so much better.
Requiem and Arsenal were gone by now. Wandered off to somewhere else in the building. I could hardly blame them, in the state I was in I wouldn’t have wanted to be around me either. The small pile of serviceable weapons and broken down spare parts which sat alongside a pile of ammunition, only some of which I recognized, were clear signs that Requiem had finished her usual desire to find anything and everything worth taking which wasn’t nailed down. They joined the other assorted objects she had found for me in my packs.
Back up the stairs I went, slow and heavy. Above I could hear the clatter of ponies in the kitchen. My eyes still blurred with now-passed tears as I set hoof on the upper floor again. The smell of boiled cabbage still filled the confines of the large room, though it was less noticeable now. I could see that several of the large refrigeration units had been opened, filled with chopped up meat of an unknown source alongside more of the strange fruit I had taken from Requiem’s home.
Trotting around the main cooking area I caught sight of Arsenal sitting at one of the large tables in the cafeteria, hungrily devouring slices of boxed cake. Three empty bowls sat beside her and a small pile of cake boxes had fallen to the floor around her flanks. The cake boxes had piled heavily enough to obscure most of the strange square rifle resting on the ground by her hooves. She seemed intent on cramming absolutely everything she could lay hoof upon into her mouth. I couldn’t suppress a mild laugh at that image, the pegasus intending to eat herself sick to make up for lost meals it seemed.
Arsenal looked up from her meal with a scowl as Requiem trotted up with another box of cake, tossing it onto the table for her, “Hey! You try going without anything but water and a tiny bit of fruit for over a week! We’ll see how happy you are!” Briefly I considered mentioning that I hadn’t eaten anything in... Well, I wasn’t sure how long. But a long time, at least. Instead I just allowed a mild smile to pass my lips.
“You’re right. You should eat, get your strength back. Just don’t eat too much, you’ll end up sick!”
Arsenal scowled at me and broke out the next box, scarfing down the contents almost entirely without looking at them.
Leaving her to her meal I slowly moved back through the kitchen. Searching for... Yes, there it was. A stove, with active flames. That would be perfect. Requiem was passing by me back towards the refrigerators, giving me a chance to speak to her, “Requiem? Start gathering up whatever food to take with us. There’s one more thing I want to do before we leave.”
Requiem glanced up at me with some surprise. She was still trying to avoid being looked at, especially after all this. All but that one moment when Arsenal desperately needed to believe she was safe. I merely gave back a weak smile, “We’ll be leaving soon. I know where we’re going next.”
With that I trotted back downstairs to leave Requiem and Arsenal to their desires. I needed to retrieve something from the supply closet before we could depart. My heart still heavy and numb.
“Ugh. I ate too much cake.” Arsenal walked slowly, head hung low, as we left the remains of the prison.
Thick, acrid smoke rose to the heavens out of barred windows. Deep inside the building a fire was burning, spreading across its interior. The sniper tower had cracked and fallen across the yard, smashing a sizeable hole in the outer wall. The building itself would soon be gutted by the flames I had set, burning the flammable chemicals from the storage room with the heat of one of the stoves. After my visit to the radio station I couldn’t simply leave anypony’s remains to rot unattended. Even raiders like these didn’t deserve that.
My heart had sunk again, hanging my head low. I had a new goal. A new place to walk towards. But at what cost? I had murdered the raider leader. No, worse than murdered. Defiled her. Destroyed her. What I did to her didn’t deserve to happen to any pony. Yet I couldn’t escape the feeling that if I had it to do again I would do just the same.
The skies thundered quietly in the distance as light rain began to fall once more. This time I didn’t raise my shield. The soft rain ran through my gore-caked coat, washing the blood from my face and my hooves. Sweeping it away from my body just as my tears swept sadness from my heart. Tears which ran with the water of the skies and left not a single mark in its passing.
The soft clanking of Arsenal’s chains, now wrapped firmly around her wings to keep them from dragging, joined the soft splatter of raindrops and distant thunder, creating a dower kind of music in their own right as we walked onwards towards unknown discoveries.
Aurora Borealis (Level Up! - Level 5)
Silent Requiem (Level Up! - Level 4)
Arsenal (Level 4)
Trait: Arcanotech Genius - You have a natural aptitude with things which mix magic and technology, granting you a bonus to all hacking attempts and your ability to repair magical energy weapons and similarly high technology devices. However, you find more mundane mechanical devices to be beneath your notice, penalizing you on lockpicking attempts and reducing the effectiveness of repairs you perform on conventional slugthrowers. Not that you’d ever want to use one of those unreliable things.
Trait: Well Trained - Unlike most wastelanders you have an actual education behind you! You receive +5 to all starting skill values and gain an additional 3 skill points at each level-up. However, your education has made you somewhat stuck in your ways and you find further improving your skills more difficult, penalizing you 10% on all experience gains. Sometimes learning by practice is better than learning in school.
Origin: Enclave Survivor - Once you were a mighty Pegasus of the Enclave! Now, you find yourself adrift amidst the madness of the wastelands. The military training you’ve received in the past grants you +10 to your Energy Weapons skill and the Power Armor Training Perk for free. However, lack of real-world experience and life in the relative safety above the clouds means you know little about the dangers of the world, reducing your Survival by -10 points and penalizing your Speech and Barter skills by -5 when dealing with wastelanders. Muckdwellers don’t really deserve your respect anyway.