• Published 4th Apr 2013
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Fallout: Equestria - Gaia Prevails - John Colt

The Wastelands! Where everyone is his special kind of crazy. I can, however, claim that I'm special! Nightmare freaking Moon wants me to be her new host. Umm... fun stuff...

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Chapter Eightteen: Monsters

Chapter Eightteen


We were moving forward again. Finally I was out of this City and the speed in which things progress was that of what I do, and not just waiting for something to happen, like the date of the election creeping nearer. More than a month we spent in Hufstein, and, while I was glad that we had a place to stay, I came to dislike my own house for some reason. So the moment Shining Light took office in town hall I was out of it.

Clint, once you got to know him, was way worse than the first impression you get of him. He’s a sadistic bastard and he doesn’t like ponies in general; he also seems to have an addiction to tobacco. As a dragon he could simply burn it himself and the smoke might not be hindering his health, but that doesn’t mean it’s nice towards us when he intentionally blows smoke in our direction.

Turbulence doesn’t like him, and Cirrus is out right afraid of him, but was able to not show it too much when he was actually present. I don’t like him either, but he was a mercenary, he does what he’s getting paid to do. While I don’t trust in him personally, I trust in my instinct that he’s capable and gets the job done when needed. He also knows that I have money and am likely to hire him if I need him so he’s playing nice.

Our goal was Black Oak, a settlement around an research facility in the Haunted Woods in zebra territory. The name of the settlement alone was somewhat eerie, but the information that the ‘Haunted Woods’ already had that name and a series of horrifying creatures before the was disturbing. It seemed unwise that anyone would enter that place, but it was also a great place to hide a research facility for the Zebras. Ponies wouldn’t dare to search the forest to, when they don’t know the exact location of it.

Just as the third day since we left Hufstein ended, and we were about to set up camp for the night, suddenly Turbulence, who was flying overhead came down to inform us. “We are being followed.”

“Great, I didn’t get to kill anyone in weeks. Is it raiders? Please tell me it’s raiders!” Clint seemed very excited.

Turbulence sighed, as if he wouldn’t want to give him that satisfaction, but had to answer truthfully. “Likely.”

“Okay, defensive position.” I didn’t help in their dispute, but simply ordered them to behave like the situation requires them so they won‘t bump heads again. I banged at the carriage. “Cirrus! Have you heard?” It had been Cirrus’ turn to ride inside the carriage, and our new one was well armored and doesn’t let through much sound.

She opened the window further. “Hmm..?”

“We got company. Put on your barding, get your weapon and come out, they’ll arrive shortly.”

It took her a while to process that we might get attacked. “Okay.”

I don’t know about Turbulence, he seemed only displeased about the knowledge that there’s a high chance we would be in a fight soon, and Clint was looking forward to it. I was nervous, my Pegasus friends have at least been thought to fight in the Enclave, all I‘ve ever did was shoot at cans. I know Craft wouldn’t help me this time, I was on my own, or… well… with my companions, but without the help of our dear evil spirit.

“Turbulence, what’s their status?”

“There are ten of them, I couldn’t make out their equipment. They might have come from a raider-camp I know is located about half a day south from here.” The information he has from his profession came in quite handy. “If I assume correctly where we are at the moment.” He added.

“Do you know anything about the camp?”

“If it is the one I think it is, then no. Only the next settlement way southeast from here has noteworthy raider-activity I remember from my days in the office, sorry. I‘m glad I remember the vague locations of them.” ‘His days in the office’ That sounds like he’s retired. “But, what I do remember is, most of the zebra-raiders trade to a high degree and you can pay them so they leave you alone.”

“So don’t shoot, but negotiate?” I asked.

“Of course not,” Clint stated as if it was obvious. “They’re raiders! Get your priorities straight there; you kill the bad guys. The less bad guys there are the better‘s the world, right?”

“No, Clint, we negotiate.”

“It’s my mission to get you to Black Oak, alive.”

“Yeah, so why have a fight if we can negotiate? My chances of survival are higher with no fight, aren‘t they?”

“There will be a fight,” He stated matter-of-factly, and I was afraid he was right, still we could try. “we should make an initial strike while we can, after all we are outnumbered.”

“Behave, Clint.” I rebuked him mostly because of our pegasi who can’t stand him, but as the de facto leader I have to look at the situation objectively. And he was right, but… “You can have a ‘I told you so’ later if it comes to it.” Just as he tried to speak up again I continued. “Though we won’t be careless here. Our que is going to be ‘that goes to far.’ After that, Turbulence, you shoot one of them who seems to be most ready to start shooting. Clint and Cirrus you shoot for the big guns if they have some. I’m going take whoever ‘went to far’, just because.”

“Aww, what about negotiation?” Now he’s just screwing with me.

Cirrus backed me up. “Well, if they went to far, they went to far, right?” Maybe she only did so to have a reason to disagree with Clint, now that he verbally changed his mind and she could give him a comeback.

“Hush now. Everypon- Everyone knows what to do? Good then, until they are near enough, let‘s set up camp for the night, have an excuse why we stopped to wait for them.”

So we waited for those people to arrive. As the minutes passed I realized that we could have simply continued and eventually get rid of them as our carriage is comfortably powered, and they have to stick to their slowest member or split up.

Ohh… I hope the raider ‘going to far’ isn’t the most ready to shoot with a big gun, or the whole plan goes down in ruins. Oh, come on, Aideen, You’ve been through worse. It’s 4 versus 10, and 3 of us can fly, I have SATS and my magic, we’re all well armored except for Clint and they are probably only raiders with bad barding, and bad things all around. If they live up to the cliché.

We might not even get attacked! Yes. That’s a viable option. And, maybe, we are going to see the sun today.

When they came close enough to see clearly through the spyglass I’ve acquired in Hufstein I could confirm they were raiders, judging from their hairstyles and the way the walked alone. Thankfully, only three of them were armored, and those bardings were a joke compared to our equipment. None of them had a big gun either, only pistols, rifles and shotguns as far as I could make out.

“Well, look at what we got here.” Raiders… “Ahh… Fresh meat.” Yup, those were Raiders… “Seems like we got to have some fun tonight.” With no intention of trading or negotiating. “I get some pussy.”

“Too far.” I informed my companions, who immediately started firing, and I slipped into SATS…

I saw zebra stallions get shot perfectly in his head, I could see how his muscles tensed up in reflex, and got stuck because there was no more brain activity to tell the muscles to relax again. He fell to his side with the stupid grin forever drawn on his face.

I saw a another zebra stallion get hit by a cyan bolt of plasma energy, burning off the coat on his right side. His face got deformed with pain before the bolt exploded and disintegrated him into dust.

I saw a zebra mares throat get ripped apart, blood and gore flew in slow-motion from him while he tumbled and fell unceremoniously, unlike the way you see in plays. She was way older than I had expected a raider to be. I always thought they were all somewhat young because of the occupational hazard.

That makes me think… raiders had to come from somewhere, they needed to be born and raised. In filthy conditions, sure, and they never struck me as the happy-family kind of people, but still… There was also my thought about them not using protection for intercourse. She was quite old… there’s a high chance she was a mother, that she could have kids.

I focused the raider whom I said I would shoot. His enthusiasm to have ‘I get some pussy’ had been my trigger to signalize ‘too much’ to my companions. He was young… very young. In a broken society where he had to life in he probably had to earn rights like having sex. This might be one of his first missions, where he goes out to hunt for it. He had identified Cirrus and me as Mares and was enthusiastically looking forward to it, maybe some kind of initiation-ritual for them.

My time in SATS ran out and the world took on its normal speed again. The sound of so many shots being fired hurt my ears and made me wince. But, no matter how horrible it is, I couldn’t stop watching those zebras being slaughtered by my companions. We had cover, and barding; they had nothing.

A shot hit me in the chest, and I finally had the good sense to disappear behind cover. The bullet hadn’t penetrated my barding, but pain tentacled out into my body.

“Reloading?” Turbulence too had left his position and covered behind the carriage. He was refilling his plasma pistol with sparkcells. “Aideen?” He shouted over the sound of shots.

“I got hit.” I shouted back, not knowing what else I could say.

He quickly inspected the spot where I had been hit shortly. “Good barding, probably a broken rip.” His face showed condolences, but didn’t make much of my bruise, but my bruise wasn’t the issue. He saw that my 44 wasn’t smoking or anything, of course not, I hadn’t fired it. “Jammed? Ahh.. No time, take your sword.”

They were close enough to have taken cover on the other side of our carriage. I don’t know how many of them are left, but now the fighting had transformed into us covering on one side and them on the other. Turbulence flew up to shoot down onto them from on top of the carriage.

I had taken his advice and swapped my weapon to the sword, but I couldn’t move. At any time one of them could come up right next to me if he bolted around our cover. I couldn’t even dare to look over my cover, I just pressed myself to the carriage and hoped that, if one shows up in front of me I‘d have the courage of cutting his head of… I’m going to die.

No. No, I’m not. I’ll survive, because I have to. This is survival. I’m going to kill to not get killed myself. I can do this… I can do this… I lifted my sword ready for the situation of one of them sneaking around the carriage. I was ready to strike. Just… wait for my opportunity.

Around the carriage came Cirrus. My sword sirred down to her. “Ahhh…” We both screamed. I managed to avert it’s course, saving her from decapitation, but not without hitting her head hard with the handle. The sound of bullets being fired was gone. How long has it been silent already?

I looked around. Turbulence was looking down from the carriage. Cirrus plumbed down to the floor, grapping her chest to feel her heart from the shock I induced her, and Clint… where’s Clint? He turned around the carriage on the other side. Having an rather amused expression at the situation he concluded from Cirrus’ panting, the sword next to her, my helpless expression, and the scream earlier.

“Lurker underneath.” He informed us and blindly grabbed under the carriage to pull out the young zebra. He tangled the colt upside down in front of us, shaking him a bit so he lost his weapon. It was the one I was supposed to shoot.

Zebras have an equivalent to cutie marks. They call them glyph marks, or just glyphs for short. This colt… doesn’t have his. He couldn’t be older than fifteen.

“Hey, wasn’t he yours?” I seriously hated Clint now.

“Her 44 got jammed.” Turbulence explained.

“Well…” Clint lifted the boy further up and bit down on his leg, making the colt scream in pain. Lot’s of blood shot out of the colts obviously severed artery, and I’ve heard a cracking sound. “Here, all yours.” He threw the colt in my direction.

I simply stared at the colt. Judging from Turbulence’ expression he was equally disgusted by the thought of killing a, now helpless, foal. Different scenarios ran through my head, one insaner than the other. There was nothing I could do with him after we would heal him up, we can’t go into the raidernest and give him back. We cant’… do anything here. The only logical conclusion, the only real thing that needs to be done here was to kill him.

“Your gun’s not jammed. I saw you freeze earlier. I can’t believe you’re supposed to be…” He paused. “Well, here’s your wasteland baptism. Kill the colt. You’ll be doing him a favor, he’ll bleed out from that wound anyway. I also saw in your eyes that you came to the conclusion that we have to do it. Go ahead. Kill him.”

“Aideen, you don’t have to.” Turbulence tried to comfort me, but…

“Yes,” There was no use in giving the task to one of the three. “I have to.” ‘Wasteland baptism’, huh? Actually somewhat fitting. I was about to draw my first blood. I think I always knew I had to at some point, but I always imagined it in a heated situation, like earlier, but I fucked up that chance. Now I have to do it cold blooded and controlled… hm… That wasn’t such a bad thought. It was better to have control over the action, than if it would happen instinctively out of self preservation.

“Do it, bitch.” The colt growled.

“Yeah.” I lifted my sword up again, and positioned it over his neck. “Any last words? Not many people get that chance.” I feel like stalling this action would be the normal reaction to the situation.

“Nah, I‘m good.”

“Fair enough.” I nodded, and brought the sword down, severing his neck in one clean motion.

*** *** ***

Besides my broken rip only Clint had received noteworthy bruises. He ran into them like a berserker and sliced around with his blades, a tactic the raiders had been utterly unprepared for, they ended up shooting in their midst and hurting others of their group. We were able to quickly cut out a shrapnel which might have spread an infection, but other than that, nothing even pierced his hide. I decided that I’m not going to take a healing potion for the one broken rip, it would have been wasted on such a ‘minor’ thing. We were going to need them once something’s really wrong with us.

For the aftermath of the fight I insisted we would destroy the evidence, besides it being the right thing to do, so we buried them. Craft had been present for the entire time we dug graves, but it eluded my understanding what exactly Craft’s expression means. Was she proud that I had my first kill? What was her opinion on us digging graves for them? I don’t know.

After we were finished Turbulence tried to catch my attention. “Aideen.” I had been staring at Craft for a while. “Can we talk?”

I know where this is going. “No.”

He specified. “Not about you.” Hmm… “Nor Craft.”

“Okay.” I agreed.

“Let’s walk.” He lead my a little bit outside the hearing range of Cirrus or Clint and only then began talking. “I’m worried about Cirrus.”

“What do you meant?” I was genuinely confused. Why would he be worried about her? “She’s fine.”

“Exactly. ‘She’s fine.’ I saw her kill four people and she’s fine. She acts like it’s nothing. It’s even worse than that lizard who took pleasure in it. Cirrus’s practically a normal mare. She had basic training, and nothing more. I have trouble shooting raiders, and I’ve done it before.”

He’s right of course. Although I didn’t see her when she was in action, I saw what she was like just after it. She was only scared because I almost killed her.

“I’m bad at this emotion stuff.” I admitted. “Not like you don’t know this.” I added with a shor laugh. “But I don’t know what to do with her. Do you want to confront her?”

“I was planning to, yes. But, I thought, I should ask you first.”

“Ask me? Why?”

“Because you’re kind of our leader, and I know you’re new to this, so I thought I’d give you the heads up that you… that we should keep track of the emotional status of all party-members.”

“Sure… Uhm…” I took a strong voice. “Report your findings to me, solider.”

“That wasn‘t funny, Aideen.” There was sadness in his voice. He turned around back to camp. “The second time I’ve said it I’ve known your gun didn’t jam. Your expression told me as much, I was just giving you an excuse out, you know.” Without even looking at me he added, “I was trying to protect you.”

I sat down where he left me, thinking about what he said more thoroughly. Was Cirrus a threat? To herself? To the ‘party’? To others? So she was able to kill raiders without hesitating, is it really a big problem? Where does she draw the line on who deserves to live and who to die? We killed them and took all the belongings they had with them, wouldn’t that make us raiders too in some sense?

I killed that colt, because “it was the best course of action“. It’s not the first time somepony justified their kills. I remember how Craft said that it’s always wrong, and with every time you kill, it will get easier. This was something to be afraid of. Then I thought how carelessly Craft killed all those people just to help win the election, or, how she justified it, to get me in a nurse outfit. How many people has she killed already to be able to make such a decision?

I’m on my way of becoming a killer too. Has my dam broken? I’ve killed a foal! I feel bad… somewhat. Not because I’ve been forced to make that decision, and not because I’ve actually done it, but because… the control it gave me… I’ve liked it. Having live in your hooves, it was very empowering.

“You want a hug?”

I ignored Craft, and bolted towards the camp to apologize to Turbulence.

*** *** ***

A few days later we arrived at the edge of the haunted woods. It immediately got our groups mood down a bit. Only looking inside it had that effect. I had to think about how eerie it will be once we were actually inside of it.

Cirrus and Turbulence seemed a lot better. He informed me that the only way Cirrus could do the things she did was that she convinced herself that those raiders weren’t even equines. With all the horror stories she got to hear from me and Turbulence, and her own vivid imagination she made them into monsters. Something with no value to pony kind, and only exists to be slain. I can’t say that I’m happy with that conclusion, but if it keeps her sane it was okay with me.

“We should go back about half a mile and set up camp.” Clint introduced his plan. “The less nights we spend inside the forest or right next to it the better.”

“But we still have half a day left.” I understand Cirrus objection, but I have to agree with Clint on this matter.

He simply answered, “Trust me.”

“Trust you? Hah!” Okay, I need to step in and the avoid conflict.

“Trust him.” I insisted. “He’s been in there already, haven’t you?” He nodded. “So we should take his experience to our advantage. We’re all on the same team here.” Cirrus seemed hurt that I take his side. “So Clint, what is our best course of action?”

“We need to travel the furthest amount per day. Spending a night in there is hard. The best thing would be if most of us stay awake all the time. Inverse of normal sleeping schedule when we are keeping guard at night. We’re four so I’d say everyone gets 6 hours of sleep until its time for the next one.”

I didn’t have to think about it for long. “I agree. What about our moving patter, when is it wise to walk around?”

“I’d say we shouldn’t be moving from 7pm to 9am. Sound kinda extreme, but things come out as soon as it grows darker and the things that catch the early worm are the ones who evolved for speed, nothing you want to mess with.”

“That leaves us only 10 hours to move…” I thought out loud. “I trust your expertise. I know I should have asked this ages ago, but what kinds of things will expect us in there?”

“The kind of stuff that doesn’t leave witnesses to let itself get named.” He expression showed me he wasn’t joking just to scare us. “But mostly stuff there is no name for in pony tongue. Their names wont help you.” He thought for a while.” I should sleep at night to be awake when we move to lead you, because even some of the plants might try to kill you.

“Okay… Let’s lay our sleep schedule starting at 7pm, so the times when the next ones start are 1am, 7am, and 1pm. You get 1am. I’d like to be awake when we enter the forest tomorrow so no 7am for me. Cirrus, Turbulence? Any takers?” It was also the shift that required them to stay awake the longest if they’d start now.

“Jo!” Turbulence volunteered.

“1pm? Cirrus? I know you always have troubles with guard duty, can you sleep in the afternoon? I can do it too.”

“I’d appreciate that.”

“Okay, than I’m gonna start going to sleep right now.” I entered the carriage. “You manage to cook for yourself, right?”

“Oh no!” Cirrus was shocked. “Aideen asleep before 7 pm? What are we going to eat for dinner?!” She looked to Turbulence.

He returned her an equally shocked expression. “We’ll starve to death! Noooo!”

Clint was not amused at their joking, and, to be honest, neither was I.

“I’ll be awake for lunch every day… Good night, or afternoon or whatever.” I closed the carriage door from the inside.

*** *** ***

Like the past days I’ve slept bad, I assume my dreams were guilt dreams about killing that colt, but I wouldn’t know as I can never remember my dreams anyway. Also 1pm was a weird time to go to sleep and my body wasn’t quite expecting this. Only sleeping bad is better than being plagued by nightmares, so I think I was actually very good off.

The dinner Cirrus cooked was good, not great, but good nonetheless. We had good ingredients and good kitchenware, so there’s nothing that should grade our food down to ‘acceptable’, even when Cirrus was cooking. Her greatest fault is that she doesn’t know how to use spices like those we have. I guess there haven’t been anything like that in the clouds. We have agreed on not talking about their old life, and not talking about cloud-food was probably among those things.

“So, you look… good? How come?” I pointed out our pegasis appearance. Both their coats were shimmering a little and Cirrus’ hair looked especially fluffy.

“Cloud-bath.” Cirrus explained. “It’s not really something we’ve ever done, but I think this is our last chance to do it, figuring the sky above the forest is nothing you want to venture in…”

Clint told us that much too. You wouldn’t want to fly overhead that forest unless you were a dragon… a big dragon. Clint was a grown-up, their kind doesn’t grow much larger, and have a shorter lifespan in general. A normal, house-sized dragon could fly over with no problems.

“But, don’t worry, the Enclave didn’t spot either of us or anything, we kept low and were very careful.” Turbulence tried to ease my mind.

“Oh, I didn’t even think about that. More like how nice a bath would feel right now.” I didn’t properly clean myself in a week, and according to Clint we might take another four days to get to the heart of the forest with our approximate speed, and if nothing happens.

“We could get you one down,” I know how this offer is going to end. “but…”

“Yes, fluctuation in cloud mass needs to be checked out, we can’t risk that just to make me feel better.” I assume I already know way more about the Enclave than their citizens and average member.

“So I’m going to go to sleep now.” Cirrus stood up from our small fire.

“I’m also going to get a bit of sleep.” Turbulence also stood up. “I’d have to stay awake too long until 7am, you know, and we’re not in the forest yet, so I think it’s not to bad now if just the two of you are awake, okay?”

“Sure. Fine by me.” I gave my allowance. “Clint? This distance from the forest we should be fine with just the two of us, right?”

“If that’s his agenda, of course.” What does he mean by that?

“Good Night the two of you.” I hope they sleep better than I did.

“Good Night.” Cirrus gave almost a small bow.

“G’night.” Turbulence only nodded.

Clint didn’t wish them anything, but we have come to expect that of him. Our pegasi entered the carriage and closed the door. “Didn’t that seem weird to you?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well… They already took a bath together earlier, and now they go to sleep together…”

“They are not a couple.” Shouldn’t he know this?

“Yeah, that is also what I gathered from my surveillance of you. I can’t help but notice things about them too.” So why does he have to ask? “Also it might come in handy if my employer wants to know about them.”

‘His mysterious employer’. The closer we came to that guy the more I began to doubt my decision to go with Clint in the first place. Clint should have been surprised that I so willingly come with him, and maybe he was, but it made his job easier, so why bother? And meanwhile I also scrapped my idea of his employer being this ‘watcher’-guy; it doesn’t make sense that someone in the midst of a forest in zebra land would have control over Sprite-bots. Asking about him doesn’t bear fruit, because Clint was under contract not to reveal his identity.

Maybe… “What do you think of your employer personally?”

“Nutjob.” Not reassuring. “But lots of money, so I guess the term is ‘exocentric’, right?” He laughed. “Ahh, how the rich people have it good, we use fancy words to insult them, and those words don’t even sound all that bad.”

This was somehow incredibly funny to me at this moment, and for the first time I shared laughter with Clint. “And why is he an exocentric?”

“Maybe because of the way the evil lair is chosen. Inside the forest? Come on!”

“And the research facility?”

“Oh, yeah that might be a reason.” He obviously acted like he never thought about that, and we laughed again.

“Can you tell me what has been researched there?”

“Sap.” He simply said

“Sap?” I repeated.

“Amber and mosquitoes.” As if that would make it much more clear to me. No wait… amber and mosquitoes? That rings a bell.

“Like Jurassic Park?” I joked.

“Yes.” I waited a while for him to get out of that joke. “Well, not exactly, but close.”

I waited again, but as he didn‘t continue I had to encourage him. “Go on.”

“Bypass spell. Shields usually work for a certain person only, so you get a mosquito to get a drop of their blood, and so on…” That was strangely unsettling. “But how would I know how it works? As far as I know it never even worked out. And, what they do now with the facility, I don’t know.”

“Maybe they make pretty jewelry with the amber now.” I started giggling again, and he laughed too. Wait, what? I’m giggling? I stopped. ‘Giggling’? That doesn’t sound like me. Get yourself together, Aideen! “I’m drugged.” I realized, before I started to giggle again.

Clint too had his fits of laughter, but he was able to take a serious expression for a second. “Me too.” Then he started quivering again, but when he wasn’t able to hold it anymore he laughed again.

“Shit, shit, shit.” Cirrus must have used the seriously wrong spices. I crawled to our portable cooking and alchemy station. ’Crawling’? Isn’t crawling the process to walk on all fours, aren’t ponies crawling all the time? I checked my drugs. Yep, they have been opened. This was incredibly funny. These herbs have been expensive. I hadn’t had this much fun… ever. This was totally worth it.

Craft leaned back on a chair and was playing air-guitar and sang something with an text with something like “Free drugs in your grapefruit.”

I don’t even know what a grapefruit is. I know what grapes were. Are grapes fruit? They grow on bush thingies, I believe. Maybe grapes count as berries. But I only know about the cultivated things they’ve used before the war, I’ve seen pictures. Wait… Strawberries are fruits, and so are tomatoes, and those grow on bushes. Grapes have to be fruits. But what’s a grapefruit? I believe Craft has referred to my head when saying grapefruit. So a grapefruit was probably a really big grape with a rough skin and a brainy inside. I wonder what kind of seeds these brainy grapes have.

I… I have to inform Clint about the drugs in our system…

“You know… of all the things I’ve ever eaten parts of I dislike ponies the least. Wait…” He realized his double negative and shot his eyes wide open. “No… fatty ponies, no muscles, and unhealthy food they are themselves what…” He gulped. “what… what they eat themselves.” He closed his eyes. “Bad, bad ponies. Horrible taste. I like you, Aideen. Fine flank. Probably nice, nice eatin’.”

“I like you too, Clint.” I was really happy that he thinks I’d probably taste good. “I think you’d taste good too. You‘re like a…” I have to think of a good metaphor. “Like canned peaches. Your skin’s thick, I’d rather not eat the can, but inside really tasty. I’d eat…” Wait eat! Focus, Aideen. “CLINT!” I shouted his name. “Cirrus used drugs instead of spices.”

“Cirrus…” He took a deep breath. “What do you think wings taste like? I mean, I’ve eaten wings before, but of small creatures, like birds, but…”

“They’d taste great!” Hmm… what spices would I use to cook Cirrus’ wings? “We should wake her and ask if I can have one.”

“Yes, we…”

“NO!” I immediately interrupted him. “Clint, We’re drugged. We cannot eat Cirrus, or any part of her.”

“Sooo Turbulence?”

Somehow that made sense. We can’t eat Cirrus because we are drugged! Let’s eat Turbulence. Wait… “No. Not him either. Clint, we can’t actually eat anyone.” I had to steer the topic away to something else. “The forest!”

He considered. “We cannot eat the forest, Aideen.”

“No, we should keep watch.”

“Yes! Yes, we should.”

Two hours later Clint and I agreed to never mention this again.

*** *** ***

The thing that disturbed me most about the forest was that nothing happened. Since three hours ago when we’ve entered the forest we haven’t come across any sign of life. It’s as if the forest tries to fool us into believing it wasn’t all that dangerous. Maybe it wasn’t… But I trust Clint’s opinion about dangerous things. He wouldn’t have said it was that dangerous when it actually wasn’t… Unless he gets paid by the day and wants to stall us so he can get a few more days to get paid. Then again I don’t believe he would act out such an cautious way of movement through the forest for a few days. He wouldn’t have that kind of patience to ‘act’.

After our acid trip together I believe I start liking him. I believe him when he said that he has eaten ponies, or at least parts of ponies before. He wasn’t a pony himself, so it wasn’t cannibalism, and I believe that he wouldn’t hunt for innocent ponies. It was a strange scenario I have to deal with here. But I think if I’d get paid to kill radigators, I’d probably try them too. If they’d talk it would be somewhat weird though. I’d might try some if I have the opportunity, especially because I’ve heard they are ‘fine eatin’. Maybe Clint has heard ponies taste good at one point in a dragon den or something?

Hmm… Why didn’t I buy that meat way back then? I was certainly curious for the high price it is sold. And people actually bought it so it must be good. I think Craft had scared me about radiation poisoning when I eat that. She said she’s repressing it for her host if I’d get radiation poisoned through normal circumstances, but not if I’d willingly ingest it.

“Shift change. Aideen, your turn.” Like I could sleep in a forest like that.

*** *** ***

Absolutely nothing happened for two days straight. Cirrus accused Clint of scaring us unnecessarily, and Turbulence agreed. I had to agree too, but didn’t took a side. Clint’s expression was to on edge to be faked. He was scared shitless about the forest being quiet… too quiet. But, at the end of the third day something happened.

“Aideen, wake up.” Shit, shit, shit. I was awake immediately.

“What happened?”

Clint carried Cirrus inside the carriage, she was moaning in pain, her face was flushed, but I couldn’t see anything wrong with her. “She got bitten.”

“Bitten?” I jumped up and rushed to her aid. Upon closer inspection… I saw nothing. Not where you would defend yourself if an wild animal would attack you. “By what? Where?”

Turbulence carefully extended her wing, with her repressing to cry out. He pointed at a place where her secondary go into her primary feathers. There was a small red glowing tick. “We don’t know what it is exactly, she just cried out in pain suddenly and fell over.”

“How long ago?” I discarded the first-aid kid and went for our medical instruments.

“A minute maybe, we immediately stopped. She said it was in her wing, she managed to extend it earlier…” He looked down at the mare at his hooves who was breathing through her teeth.

Cirrus seemed in horrible pain, on the edge of screaming herself senseless, and then… she passed out.

“Not good, not good, not good, not good, …” I took a scalpel and cut a little deeper than just skin in about an quarter inch in radius around the tick, removing some feathers in the process. “Can’t risk that thing leaving it’s teeth in.” I carefully removed the piece of flesh. “Oh god…” The ticks teeth were longer than the rest of it’s body, I could see them sticking out on the other side of the small flesh lump, but I’ve made the right decision, they would have broken if we would have tried to rip it out with a forceps. The flesh underneath wasn’t as… fleshy as it should be. It almost looked like it was stocking. It was hardening like meat when it’s getting cooked, and it was taking an orange color.

“Don’t kill the tick.” The command came just in time when Turbulence wanted to squash the thin like it would deserve. I put it in an empty phial. “We might need it… Clint. How far until the settlement?”

“At night… maybe three hours if we rush, but it’s nightfall. “But it’s getting dark now pretty quick…”

I looked at my PipBuck, it said 6:27pm. “You’re fast… Can you run ahead and inform them about the situation for them to sent aid our way?” I practically asked him to run alone through the forest at nightfall.

“Without the carriage and all… maybe an hour, but I….” His expression told me he knew that I’m going to insist this of him.

I breathed in heavily… “3000 caps.”

He saluted. “Yes, ma’am.”

I gave him the phial. “Go!” He rushed out. “Turbulence, we need to hurry too. I have no idea how to treat that. This is not a bruise or broken bone, where a healing potion would do any good.” The only thing that helps my mind now was to get her to someone who might me able to help her.

But right now I felt immensely helpless…

*** *** ***

Footnote: You have reached Level 14!

New Perk: Cold Heart: It comes easier to you to make immoral decisions to further your means

Quest: Blind Date:
[ ] Arrive at Black Oak.
[ ] Meet Clint‘s employer

Companion Quest: Ticks
[X] Apply first aid to Cirrus
[ ] Get her professional help.