• Published 20th Nov 2013
  • 2,199 Views, 33 Comments

FoE: Snippet Story - Windrunner



Set at various points in the Fallout: Equestria universe. Each chapter is intended to be a unique story unto itself. So many references, both ludicrously obscure and blatantly obvious. Even the title. No, not that. You will never figure them all out.

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Zemblanity

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The farm was a large desolate place, remote and sprawling. At one time it was a self-sustaining wonder solely dedicated to feeding a small town that once existed off to the southwest. All this, it was. It now again fulfilled this role on a much less grand scale, owing to the fact that very little could actually be made to grow on the tortured infertile land. At one time it had stood lush to overflowing with potential. Now it could barely sustain its own more recent inhabitants. The farmhouse proper stood two stories and a fair length. It had seen far better days long ago, back when the world was bright and full of promise. Now, the fields lay ill and difficult to farm.

A blossoming, yellow-coated young earth pony filly just nearing adulthood looked up from her storybook at the poor place. She and her father had shortly before finished the immense task of readying a new field to be planted next season, something all three of them had been at for several weeks in addition to their normal work. The small sparse fields now numbered three, the other two fields having just been harvested left it quite bereft. Harvesting was a serious problem in and of itself, requiring a whole lot of hard work and effort. They had only makeshift tools and equipment scrounged from wherever her parents had found them, really having no idea where they came from.

She was a very strong pony for her age, stemming from long hours helping her parents mend and work the ancient rundown farm. Long tedious days drifted by one after another blending into a dreary endless boredom. Before supper was the time of day she took to relax and look over her one prized possession once again: a keepsake of days gone by when the world was not so bleak. At least, that is how the book made it look. Could the world truly ever have been so filled with light? Its worn cover and pages were once brightly colored. That any color at all remained visible showed some things at least did endure. She flipped through the pages, the faded stories within firing her imagination.

The book contained her favorite story. A story about six friends who together through countless adventures came to rely upon each other, to know their strengths and weaknesses while facing many obstacles along the way. Friends which together went through pain and terror, joy and hope. The young filly had no friends herself thanks to the only town she knew of being nearly a full weeks travel to the south. Not that it mattered anyway, the town itself seemed sparsely populated only by fairly old ponies. Having no one to be friends with and no ponies around her own age fed her loneliness by the day. Her parents were good and kind, but could not replace that which a young heart needs.

Hardly knowing what friendship meant, the book was her only real window into its meaning. She knew nothing of friendship aside from the depictions in her beloved book, what did having a friend mean? How exactly would you make friends with somepony anyway? Her mother and father did not seem to have any friends either. Was it just their lot to have wound up in these long doldrums of existence? Her life was so boring. Nothing truly exciting ever happened, not here. Nothing exciting would ever happen here. There did not seem the slightest possibility of anything out of the ordinary occurring in this place. It was as dull and bland as she could imagine.

She shuddered at the mere thought of there being a place even less interesting. Her parents said this was a pretty safe area compared to much of the world. Perhaps they were right but she could not help feeling this seemed an arbitrary thing to say, you could still die or be hurt here with a misstep or bad decision. Even without any wildlife to speak of there was danger. The stifling heated winds that occasionally blew in were sometimes nearly unbearable. They eked out the semblance of a living here so far from any settlement. Rarely, they ventured to a town with crops in tow. Far in the back, within the shadow of the crystalline mountain ridge under which the farm stood was a partially buried hunk of metal and wire.

She looked off to it wistfully. On the side letters that were hardly legible appeared to read as VER. The rest was burnt beyond recognition. Whatever it was had long been left to endure the ravages of time and the outdoors. She had been warned not to play around with strange machines or devices found in the wastes. Her parents were clear about this point. The moment she was old enough to understand, it had been engrained in her that the past held many dangerous and unique secrets of its own. Secrets that could easily prove harmful or fatal if not approached with an abundance of caution. Such stories piqued her young minds curiosity, but they would never tell her how they knew these things.

She had never really felt endangered in her entire life so far, was the world really so bad and filled with it? Her parents seemed to feel this was the case. It was time for dinner. Before heading inside she tromped over to the ancient barn, her father had mistakenly left the door open again. A large tattered sign covered in years worth of dirt and neglect read 'Sadview Farms'. The name was fitting as the view of the mountains did indeed seem more sad than majestic. Had it always been this way? Farms seemed to indicate there had been others but this appeared to be the only other building for who knew how many miles. The dilapidated barn seemed to predate the war, leaving only portions updated to the common industrial grates and steel of the time. They dared not tread on the upper floor.

The stairs up the side were rickety and swayed seemingly continually, actually stepping onto them would likely invite them and possibly more to come crashing down atop anyone unlucky enough to be in the way. There was simply no material to repair or replace them with. A few wooden stands and bric-à-brac lay strewn about. Some broken curios were a grim reminder that the world had once known better times. She stepped inside to check that her father had not forgotten anything else. The one thing about this barn which puzzled her was a flat heavy steel door in the center of the floor with a number pad.

She had asked if her parents knew anything about it but as usual had shown little interest in it, saying that it was just another remnant of a time when ponies were powerful masters of the world around them. She was also told they left behind many dark secrets which should be paid great respect. A few times she had played with the pad, imagining somehow coming across the correct combination. What dark secret could a barn possibly hold? Surely it was just some ponies attempt at a bomb shelter or maybe it was a wine cellar or something. If there was something like that hidden in there it would be worth finding wouldn't it? She imagined so many things could be hiding within.

Everything looked fine. Shutting the door securely behind, she headed for the house. She marched into the dingy and dimly lit farmhouse, candles flickering here and there. A building of moderate size, it had once been unusually posh inside. Its grand wooden timbers badly warped with age. Long ago the beams had sagged under the oppressive years in such a harsh environment, how it even remained together a mystery. Perhaps the wood had been magically treated or some other unknown means used upon them ages before. On this floor a few broken terminals dotted the six largely empty rooms, two bedrooms sitting off the side in a sort of hidden alcove.

All the strange machines had long been rendered useless save for one in a dismal dank corner, its eerie green flicker a constant reminder of a past long since lost. The lonely terminal forever beckoned for a password that would likely never be entered. None of the three could figure what it had been and any clue to its nature likely crumbled to dust almost two centuries ago, possibly along with the buildings former occupants. Every third failed attempt locked it for 24 hours before allowing further guesses. Sometimes the young filly tried for amusement. Regardless they had little time to dwell on such things, as simple daily living required most of their energy and attention.

She did find it curious the terminal continually displayed the words 'Connection severed'. Connection to what? There was nothing around here at all to connect to. The devastation wrought upon the land so long ago had ruined almost everything. Imagining the purpose of the terminal stumped her. This was a farm, so why did it even have such things in it? Her musings on the reasons for the terminals existence were cut short as she approached the kitchen. The film of fine dust which covered basically everything had been over time cleared away as best they could manage. Cleaning supplies were non-existent and if they were found would be far more valuable to sell than use.

This had meant only tedious effort had slowly afforded an honest-to-goodness clean area in the house. In contrast to the rest of the the farm and indeed the world, it actually felt cozy. Sometimes she would let herself imagine when the house had been bright and new. Glorious. Sitting on the mantle above what was left of a once ornately decorated fireplace was a book they all held in high reverence. Although it was damaged and missing many sections it was the reason they could manage a farm at all. A large tome titled 'Farmers Almanac' lay there. Its tattered fraying pages contained a wealth of information on farming techniques, procedures and minutiae.

Unfortunately many of the more important pages were unreadable. They managed to glean just enough from its ancient pages to run the most basic of operations. It held the promise of so much more, if only intact copies of it could be found. This was an impossible dream, of course; ponies had long lost the bulk of knowledge attained over ages. These days they were more apt to fight each other over the scraps of what was left than go looking for old books. After all, what good would a book do you when you were starving, thirsty or hurt? This family knew better, and taught her how to read the few scraps and books that were available.

Her hooves clattered on the creaky flooring as she approached her parents sitting at an oval kitchen table, a paltry meal laid out before them much the same as every other night. Usually they had barely enough to sustain themselves and some left to barter with in the far away town. The new field was a sign of hope. She gazed at her protectors, her whole world. The ones who had told her bedtime stories, the ones who played with her when they needed to be working, laughing together at what little could be and teaching her what modicum they were able with so very little to offer. Even so, looking at them she felt something was missing from her life. In her heart was some indescribable sadness.

She looked to her father with that slightly sad and quizzical expression only those merely approaching adulthood could manage, pausing a moment to listen to their conversation before saying anything.

"Now Silver Quick, I know we need to sell more in town but we'd be leaving her all alone here for almost two weeks!" such a pretty painted and mottled petite looking unicorn was saying to her father. Her mother's mane was a disheveled blonde mess. He sat opposite her, a large heavy looking figure in the dim light, almost hulking. He made for a grandiose nearly monstrous sight of a powder-blue pegasus -- or would if his wings were not strapped tightly to his sides under a heavy, leathery looking cloak which covered his mark.

So well-hidden were the straps that not knowing they were there would mean missing them entirely. Small brown and silvery streaked wisps of his mane protruded slightly from beneath the cloaks hood, something he never seemed to be without. Due to their secretiveness she had never seen either of their marks.

"My dear Night Bloom, she is old enough to take care of the place for a few days aren't you sweetheart?" His adoring gaze shifted to his beloved daughter. He always seemed to beam with pride every time he looked at her. She nearly felt embarrassed by it, but the gleam in his eyes also somehow felt invigorating to her. He was usually so grim and serious.

Moments such as these were wonderful. They were giving her a huge responsibility, she quickly forgot whatever was on her mind for the moment.

"I, yes dad." She gasped excitedly and gave them both a nuzzle on the cheek.

"Both of you are going?" the young filly asked of her parents.

"Of course, usually only one of us would go but your mother cannot pull two full carts that far by herself. It is a long trip and our harvest is exceptionally good this time considering. Goodness knows we could use the extra caps for trade." Her father explained.

The young pony had always wondered why her parents had chosen to live in such a desolate place far from other ponies or why her father never just flew things to the town. It would be so much faster. Asking these questions always resulted in the same response of quietly insisting she not ever speak about her daddy being a pegasus or ask about either of their cutie marks, telling her it would all be explained one day. She had no idea what her parents marks even were, they were very cautious about not letting them be seen. How long would she have to wait to know what they were keeping from her? It bothered her. She had only been to the town of Far Side a few times. It was just as harsh and bereft as the farm, dirty and old. The residents all seemed fairly elderly with no foals to speak of, at least she'd never met any.

It made for a long and lonely existence without a single pony even remotely her age to play with. Her parents tried hard to help her have fun when they could. Unfortunately they had to dedicate so much time and effort to working the farm there was little time left over for her. She did like some of the old ponies in the town, they could be funny, a few she even knew by name. The small town itself nestled in a sort of ring against the bottom of another tall mountain range she never asked about. It looked scary and felt dangerous to her somehow. She felt an odd sensation just looking at it, as if just seeing it was wrong somehow and generally kept her gaze away from it.

It simply had a bad vibe, despite this oddity she liked it there. If only the small settlement was not so far away. The towns-ponies we not particularly outgoing or unfriendly but were not truly good candidates to make friends with either, mostly they just seemed to want to be left alone. They did however very much like the food crops the small family brought into town to trade with. If she felt a connection with anypony other than her parents it was with the proprietor of the apothecary named Grizzled Lily. Out of the few times she had accompanied her father on the long trip she had found herself wandering into the shop to hear the old mares tales of far off places she had visited in her younger years as a guard for a traveling trade caravan.

It sounded so exciting, almost glamorous compared to the drab dull living they carved out with the farm. The old mare was not without injury from her youth. A great scar across most of the left side of her face and crossing her eye confirmed that life outside the confines of what she knew was indeed dangerous. Before she was ever allowed to visit the town she had been told there were some things she must promise never to speak of or about in earshot of the local ponies, like the one machine hidden deep in the farmhouse that still worked. A slow pre-war water producing marvel, it did not make much or quickly, it was still an invaluable prize.

She knew her parents loved her very much, but why the secrecy over so many things? She did not understand, but she kept her promise not to talk of it. It had over the years worked into her mind that her parents must be keeping some horrible thing from her. She was by now desperate to know but knew how they would react if she asked, she could see it as it played out before. You're too young, you don't need to know those things yet. Bleh. They would have to tell her soon wouldn't they? She had imagined all sorts of scenarios about their reasons. None of them seemed like anything her parents would actually have done.

"Wait Dad, I thought you promised I'd get to go with you next time you went to town." She muttered. Her fathers deep gruff voice was always surprising even now.

"My dear daughter, I will make no excuses. I did promise you that, but I am going to have to alter it a bit. I keep my promises, but I am going to have to ask you to be patient. In comparison to what we usually get out of this blasted farm we can get a lot of caps." He paused a moment, looking at her deep in thought. "In the long run it will make things a bit easier on us, and I will have a surprise for you when we get back. Alright, sweetheart?" He seemed to be smiling ever more widely at her.

"A surprise?" She had never heard him say anything like that in her entire life.

"Really?" Excitedly she gave him an enthusiastic hug.

"So, can you do this for me? Take care of this place for two weeks?" Her reply was just as vigorous.

"Yes!" What could it be? Now this was exciting. The next morning the three gathered outside the barn and loaded the carts. The two carts were rickety things which strained under the unusually heavy load being placed on them, but which were just sturdy enough to make the lengthy trip to town and back.

"You know what to do?" Her mother asked yet again.

"Yes mother, I'll be fine." She told her in a reproaching tone.

"I'm sorry dear one, it is just we have never left you alone like this before.." Her mother seemed so frail, yet she knew this was not the case. Both her parents were physically strong from the efforts put into their farm, the work itself had kept them going. It had been no trivial task making anything grow with their limited knowledge, lack of tools or proper farm implements.

Without anypony to tell them how and lacking experience her parents had said it took a couple of years to make the first field workable. It was with great excitement they had greeted that first sprouting plant. Finally, all the years of hard work were truly about to pay off. She gave both of her parents a hug then watched them walk off into the distance, waving as they stepped out of sight. Walking back inside for her meager breakfast it slowly dawned on her just how alone she was here, and how empty a place felt without other ponies. Without other living things the old creaky farmhouse seemed to take on a haunted ethereal quality.

The town was nearly 60 miles off to the south which meant there was no way to get help if something should go awry in her parents absence. Finishing her food and setting to the days work her father had left for her she noticed the work felt harder alone. Having never truly been absolutely alone the thought of something bad happening quickly began to trouble her thoughts.

"Calm down, nothing bad will happen. This is the most boring place anywhere." She said to herself. The work truly was boring, really only amounting to the very basic things needed.

That night she was more fatigued than ever, taking care of things alone was hard. Walking into her threadbare bedroom she practically fell onto the rickety old bed. Her parents had somehow scrounged up enough pieces of softer material here and there to almost mimic the old style beds in books. It was still far less comfortable then they looked, but it served. She relaxed, glancing about her room. A few cobbled together things that her father had put together to serve as toys lay strewn about. In her younger years she had played with them a lot. Even now she would sometimes amuse herself with them, she was not an adult quite yet. The thought struck her that she did not know what being an adult meant either.

Did growing up mean she would stop having fun? She liked having fun, but it was hard having fun by herself. She still liked having fun, scooping her toys up she played with them a while.

"No, I will never stop having fun." Slowly her fatigue won out and she slept. When she awoke she found herself very thirsty. The ancient water producing device in the basement made all the difference here. It had obviously served to provide water to the fields at one time. By some process unknown to them the bulky machine produced just enough for their small family with enough left over to irrigate the two fields.

The only clue to it was an engraved tag reading 'Ponyworks Hydroconcentrator' It had once been connected to the formerly numerous fields by pipes but most of those had long ceased functioning. The reservoir container seemed to indicate it once created far larger amounts. Not knowing anything of how its mechanisms worked and desperately afraid of breaking anything they simply left it alone. What she found truly odd about it was that it did not seem to require a power source to function. Knowing little of the sciences practiced by the old world they were very cautious. She greatly disliked going in the basement, it was very dark. It was musty, but it was also cool and sometimes the best place to be.

Very rarely, a colder wind would blow down from the glimmering crystal mountains off in the distance to the north. When this happened it would hit the much warmer air and actually cause rain. In all her young life she had only seen it three times, it did not look like the rain in her book, it was a dirty wet affair when it happened. It was sickly, even dangerous. She'd been told that once the pegasus weather ponies used to gather great masses of fluffy beautiful clouds together whenever rain was needed. She wished she could see clear rain fall from such beautiful white clouds. Instead they had this, why had the world become so dreary? She knew of the war and its terrible end, her father had told the stories about it.

Didn't the ponies know what a beautiful world they had? How could they let it be destroyed like this? These questions made her feel a bit angry, but there was nopony to be angry at. Anypony involved in the end of that fabled happy time had surely fallen to dust by now. One week later she was beginning to regret accepting this responsibility. Most of the tasks she had been left were completed by now, leaving her little to actually do. Finding herself wandering about the empty place more than usual she began to feel nervous again. She knew what feeling lonely was but had never actually been entirely alone for such a long period of time before.

She thought about going after her parents, but they would likely be in town by now. Realizing she was also afraid of trying to reach the town by herself was disheartening. The big farmhouse upper floor had numerous rooms they never really used, for amusement and sanity's sake she decided to explore them thoroughly. She had of course been in them all before but never truly pried into every nook and cranny, this room was a bust. It had nothing more than a busted out window to the outside and lots of dust. Closing the door on its rusty hinges she moved on to the next. This had been some sort of sewing room at one time. An old, nonfunctional Tapony sewing machine sat in the corner covered in dust.

Even a skilled pony could not have fixed the useless wreck. How the pieces of the mechanism went together or worked was beyond anything her family knew, at least she thought it was. Her father did seem fairly knowledgeable about technology, if very cautious. This room had nothing further to offer. As interesting as the old machinery might be, it was useless. Dejectedly she trotted back into the hall and into the next room down. In here was an old filing cabinet, she rifled through the drawers looking for anything that might prove distracting, but anything of interest had disintegrated before she was even born.

Still, she did find it curious the old farmhouse her family called home had once housed so many disparate machines. For a farm it had a strangely high number of old dysfunctional terminals and other now essentially useless equipment. Again she had found nothing interesting, time for the third room. This door stuck a lot as she shoved it open, scraping against the floor noisily. So far there was nothing to show for her efforts, hoping to fare better this time she scrutinized the room from top to bottom. It seemed as bereft as the other rooms. There was really nothing of interest here either. With a growing sense of dissatisfaction she took one last look around the empty room and stepped back into the hall while yanking the sticking door closed.

This was so disappointing, surely there was something somewhere in this place that could amuse a young mind? It was rapidly becoming apparent there may be nothing at all. There were only three more rooms to explore. Hoping against hope she headed for the fourth. The door here was unusable, hanging off its hinges as it was. Her prospects of finding something amusing were a little better here, a few odds and ends lay about. She didn't hope that much though. This had obviously been a playroom at some point in the distant past, dull patterns that hinted at color adorned the walls. A carriage had been dragged into the room, probably just to store it.

The owners as all others likely had no idea what was coming when they put it in here for the last time. Imagining a happy couple raising a foal while expecting to enjoy the happiness that might bring and having those dreams cut short was a poor thought she pushed from her mind. Despite their quirkiness she loved mom and dad, and could not imagine how she would feel if they were gone or how it would feel for them to lose her. The only items in this room were less amusing and more creepy, something that looked like it was once a toy now appeared more like a deformed mass of tattered cloth than anything else. Not something she wanted to touch.

Looking through the once colorful playroom had a desperate feeling to it. Nothing more in here. Only two rooms left, would she ever find anything around here to alleviate her boredom? She could read her cherished book again but even that would become boring after repeated readings. The floor in here was a total mess and curved down slightly, meaning it was above the worst of the sagged beams below. The building had withstood the test of time and the elements rather admirably before her family claimed it as their home. She wandered into a large L-shaped room that could have been an office. She had heard the word before, but what was an office?

Her father said an office was a place where ponies did paperwork. She also did not know what that meant, in addition it wasn't clear he knew what it actually entailed either. Ponies worked with paper? Was the paper they worked with enchanted or alive? It was terribly dusty to a degree that soon drove her out of the room coughing. Well, that room would probably never be clean again. Only one more to search. Bored. Bored. Bored.

"Please let there be something interesting in here." At first glance it did not seem very promising either. An old rickety chair that somehow still held together sat in the center of the room.

Dirty shelves lined the walls dotted here and there with glass jars and tin cans the contents of which nopony would likely want to know. A pile of ancient magazines might have been of value, but time had let them meld together so badly the pages could not be separated without tearing them apart. Useless. The bored filly looked across the dusty shelves looking for anything of any interest at all. How was she supposed to amuse herself? Did her parents ever feel bored like this? This was going nowhere. Taking one last look around she went to turn and leave. Wait, a tiny dot of color.

"Huh, what is that?" In the far corner she leaned down to take a closer look at something jammed in between a shelf and wall that was barely visible. No wonder it had been missed.

"It's stuck," she mumbled while trying to gently tug out the strange rolled up papers with her hooves. It was so jammed she was afraid it would rip. More leverage could be placed on it with her mouth, but there was so much dust she did not want to try. Ever so slowly it started to move forward as she prized it from its hiding place.

"Come out, dumb paper!" She toppled over backwards as it suddenly slid out to land in a heap.

"Unh. Well, that's just great." Rising to her hooves and dusting herself off her eyes caught sight of where the mystery papers had landed. Carefully she started to wipe off the cover. Her jaw dropped. It was so colorful it was mesmerizing.

So. Much. Color. She finished clearing it off to reveal a marvelous picture of a handsome unicorn standing in front of a shattered fiery mirror. Above him a title read 'Adventures of Magnificent Vol. 4. This weeks stunning adventure, "Hark, A Mirror". She blinked incredulously. This had been here the whole time? Hurrying downstairs she placed it on the table to look over more closely. Underneath all of the dirt it had somehow retained its colors. The bright hues were a complete marvel to her eyes. This was a treasure. Something of the old world utterly untouched. It looked like new. How had it remained so clear and clean? She gazed at the title page in wide-eyed wonder.

Practically panting with excitement she leafed through the pages. Having never seen an illustrated comic before or how truly bright the colors could be she hardly believed her eyes. The imagery contained within was amazing. She read through it over and over. The images on the pages had such clarity they almost seemed to move. Eventually looking up with a start she realized it had been several hours since finding the comic pages. Had she ever felt this excited? The novelty finally wearing off she closed the newfound comic and gently placed it in on the mantle beside the almanac. Wandering into her bedroom wearily she slipped into bed. Falling asleep rapidly, grand colorful dreams came to her.

Halfway through the night she woke up in a haze.

"Huh, what was that sound?" Looking around she imagined there was a low scratching sound coming from under the floor in the basement, but dismissed it as simple grogginess. There couldn't be sound coming from under there anyway. That wouldn't make any sense. Slowly she drifted back into sleep. She had no way of knowing that by some miracle of coincidental timing, around 200 miles away the very inspiration behind the comic she had found was engaged in a frantic fight for his life. Her dreams were untroubled the rest of the night.

When she awoke it was with a slightly happier outlook on things. Something as simple as finding a little color in the world was enough to re-energize and invigorate. It was still boring, but at least she had a new thing to look at.

"Well, if I can find something like that around here perhaps there might be other stuff." She did not really expect this to be so, but finding something so special had given her a bit of hope it was possible.

"I know there is nothing else on this floor but I've never looked around t-the basement much." She picked up one of the few candles that were left. Mom would be picking up more on her trip to town for sure.

Walking down the creaky walkway she pulled open the heavy door to the basement. It squealed on its hinges terribly. She hated going down here even for water from the old machines tap and was usually quick about it. Steeling her nerves she set off down the stairs. It was cold down here, the air was nearly frigid in comparison. She had asked why it was so cold down here but her parents did not seem to know the answer. Maybe it was something to do with the water device was all they could say. The basement layout was somewhat different than the rest of the house. Pipes from the machine seemed to run all over the place above, but where did they actually go?

There seemed to be no end to them as if they simply ran into the ground off to the sides except for two that ran upwards from the huge device. Those two could be some kind of intakes. Since her parents were so overly cautious they made sure to hide the odd outside holes behind some ancient useless wood. Best to keep them out of sight they said. To her, this lifelong secrecy was becoming overwhelming. Giving her head a shake, she began to rummage around the main room. Only a portion of the floor down here was covered in what appeared to be rusted steel grates upon which the water machine sat. The rest was simply dirt. It was as if the builders had done that much then lost interest after it was placed.

She did not want to miss anything more that may have been overlooked while also wanting to hurry. She looked around the machine itself first. It did appear to have some kind of controls off to the side. A square box with dials and buttons sat there taunting with the promise of changing what the machine did. It was filthy and none of the levers or switches could be moved. It looked damaged, like it had been burned from the inside.

"I suppose it's amazing that thing, whatever it is, still works at all." Glancing around nothing particular caught her attention in the dimness.

The basement was subdivided into several smaller sections all of which appeared to have been simple storage areas. Storage for what was another matter entirely, no clue remained of what was once contained within them.

"What was that?" She tilted her head off to one side.

"Now cut that out, there is nothing down here but me and the dust. I must be imagining things." She moved on to the room at the end of the hall first. It was so musty and dark down here she nor her parents had ever thoroughly explored it. A quick check of this tiny room immediately revealed it held nothing at all. Turning she headed over to the one opposite.

It was only a slight bit larger and held only an empty shelf hanging off the wall at an angle. It had long ago detached at the other end. If anything had been atop it must have dumped onto the ground and rotted away. Nothing here either.

"Wait a minute, there's that sound again." Trotting back into the hall she looked around quizzically. Nothing.

"Alright, I must be letting my imagination get away on me." She shook her head and looked into a third room. This seemed more promising. There was an old barrel in the corner and what looked like a small rusty desk against the other wall. It had only a single drawer.

"Oh darn, it has a lock." She pulled at the drawer, but it would not budge.

"I don't suppose the key would still be here anywhere.." She did not expect to be that lucky. This room had an actual floor. The aesthetics of any pre-war building still standing all seemed to revolve around a very industrial look. The layout of many seemed to have been poorly thought out and simply constructed more to withstand damage than any other consideration. Few architectural examples remained to compare with though. Anything that was not able to endure was utterly destroyed in the vast sweeping destruction inflicted upon the land.

Her father said some portions of grand large cities withstood the blasts by either the circumstance of position or simple numbers, but how did he know that? Enough buildings had simply been in front of others to stave off some of the brunt. Her book had a few depictions of old-style buildings before the war, they looked cozy. A far cry from the near total industrialization of buildings that had been necessitated by the endless conflict. While thinking these things she spotted the upper half of the handle of a shovel. Useless. The candle holder in which she carried the candle was slowly filling with the melted wax. This candle was one that had been recycled and melted back together out of other used wax and salvaged wick pieces, this had the end effect of a faster burning candle. It was nearly halfway down already.

With the light growing dimmer she decided to leave the basement, she would hate to wind up down here with no light at all. As she turned to head back out the hallway to the stairs she halted.

"There it is again.." Beginning to get the feeling of being watched her heart started to pound. Something was very wrong here. A feeling of dread began to take hold as she carefully stepped forward down the hall towards the stairs. Each step stirred up the untouched dust of decades and her hoofsteps seemed extra loud.

"What..." She headed for the main room with the stairs and slid to a halt as the ground erupted around her.

Her eyes widening in shock she let loose a horrified shriek of terror as a shower of dirt sprayed over her while walking backwards hurriedly. Some horrible abomination was climbing up out of the ground in front. It was at least twice her size and moved with a strange lumping motion. The disgusting thing had a star shape on its face which writhed, twisting and snorting at the air. Somewhere in her mind she noted it had huge clawlike digits. She had to go this way to reach the stairs but it was right in front.

"This can't be!" At this the horrid thing turned its head towards her and swung an enormous claw which just missed slicing her.

She yowled as it swung again just missing by inches as she dodged backwards. Suddenly the monstrous thing dove back under the ground. The dirt heaped upwards as it came at her from beneath. It burst up throwing her sideways against the wall. Steadily she backed down the hallway as it snorted and reached around. It seemed to be blind. Barely having realized it was reacting to sounds she tried to be quiet, fighting tears and against screaming. Slipping into the room with the floor and the shovel end she set the candle she realized she was still holding on the desk and grabbed the end. It wasn't much but better than nothing.

The monstrosity had dove under the ground, again she felt a thud under the flooring which cracked slightly.

"No!" Another thud and the floor cracked again. She panted around the flimsy shovel piece in her mouth. The thing popped up outside the door just enough to show its distorted face, snorting some more, searching. Without thinking she jammed the ancient shovel end straight down into it. A horrendous squealing noise could be heard as it writhed in pain, rolling around like some mad bowling ball ending up shattering the opposing wall. If it kept that up the whole building might come down.

Thinking quickly while it shuffled about she dumped the hot wax on its face which elicited further pained squealing. The shovel end had been knocked flying further back down the hall when the abomination had been struck with it. She bolted to pick up the end again and spun around barely missing a wild swing of its claws once more. She picked up the now even more broken end and rammed it into the things gnashing teeth and mouth, she shoved as hard as she could until a horrendous snapping sound was heard. The huge thing groaned and rolled against the wall with a thud then lay still. Until now the filly had been unable to feel fear or think too much and had reacted instinctively.

Now that she had a moment to take it in, tears flowed down her face. She ran for the stairs, the light above a welcoming sight. She slammed the door behind and ran to her bedroom where she lay in bed shivering. Sobbing she gathered her few possessions to her and shook, crying. She wheezed and panted in a most pitiful manner

"Mommy...Daddy....mom...dad...they'll be back soon...they will....then it'll all be fine...all of it will be fine..mom..dad...soon.." Hardly able to catch a breath she sobbed and buried herself against the bed. The shock of it all settled in and she fainted.

Falling unconscious her thoughts were tormented by images of the behemoth that had attacked her, all gnashing teeth and claws. Rolling about the bed in the grips of a bad dream she twisted and moaned. Her tormented thoughts were brought on by shock. She awoke many hours later in a hushed daze.

"What a horrible nightmare.." All at once she noticed the things blood on her hooves which had spattered there when she shoved the shovel end down its throat.

"AAAH!" Her high-pitched scream echoed throughout the house.

Eventually the tears subsided as she calmed and decided to use what was left of the glass of water she had retrieved earlier to scrub the blood off of her face and hooves. It was slow and difficult to rub off. Surely her parents would return within a day or two and everything would be well again. In the meantime she did not dare return to the basement for any reason. As one day and then two ever so slowly passed by she became more and more thirsty. In unabated fear she remained huddled in her room most of the time trembling. Finally she heard her parents voices calling.

"Sweetheart, we're home!" Her father called.

At the sound she jolted upright and ran into the kitchen nearly tackling her father, crying and babbling near incoherently about monsters and being eaten.

"Whoa, whoa dear me. Hey, hey.." He hugged her tight and she lay against him like a lump.

"Alright, what happened here?" He asked. In a tizzy she rapidly tried to explain what had happened which came out as nothing more than a jumble.

"You poor dear, calm down and explain slowly. What could possibly be so terrible young one, did you have a bad dream?" Mothers sweet tremulous voice was soothing.

The poor rattled young filly told the story more calmly this time through watering eyes as her mother listened in increasing horror.

"It cannot..it can't be." Mom's expression was becoming ever more horrified. When she finished a hushed silence fell over them for a few moments as they took in what they had been told.

"Mom, Dad..I was really scared..I thought.." Father gently pushed them into a group hug for a long moment.

"Alright now, are you hurt?" He questioned.

"No, I'm just..really..thirsty..." She squeaked.

"I haven't had a drink in almost 3 days, I didn't want to go back down there!" She was shaking a little. Her parents looked at her in wide-eyed concern. Her mother was crying and pulled her close, holding almost too tightly.

"I will go check it out. Stay up here." He told them. Night Bloom lit a candle for him. Taking it he vanished down the basement stairs with a flourish of his cloak. A few moments later he returned and nodded slowly at them both.

"Here, drink this darling." He had retrieved some water for her, it tasted so good. As she drank he spoke.

"The creature, whatever it is, is dead..my brave girl killed it. I am so glad, and impressed." He scruffed his daughters mane gently and smiled reassuringly down at her. Some small feeling of embarrassment settled over her at this. His expression then turned more serious.

"There are some things we must do and discuss now, Night Bloom." He motioned at her mother. "It is finally time.' tears streaked down from her eyes as she slowly shook her head. "You know we have to now dearest. There is no choice." Her mother continued to slowly shake her head.

"Look, dear..we have to, she deserves to know everything. She could have died here without ever knowing the truth, and that would be wrong." He looked at them solemnly.

"Come in the kitchen, both of you." She had never seen this stern look on her fathers face before, what was he talking about? She followed her parents into the familiar room and all three sat at the table.

"I am so very sorry something like this happened to you. That thing must have come from somewhere across the mountains I suppose." Her father rambled on for a bit about the thing in the basement, but it seemed to her that it was just leading up to something else.

Finally, after discussing what to do with the corpse he took a deep breath and looked pointedly at her mother.

"Who should go first, my love?" Her mother sobbed and spoke brokenly.

"Why did this ever have to happen!?..I only wanted her to be my little pony..just for a while longer.." What did her mother mean?

"Mom?" Saying this made her sob some more. Night Bloom looked down at the table not meeting her daughters gaze for a few moments, finally with a deep mournful sigh she began to speak.

"I..both of us, that is we..are not your parents." She felt her heart sink as her mother spoke those words.

"What?" She could feel her heart starting to pound and struggled to understand what was being said. How could they not be her parents, they had always been mommy and daddy.

"I can't breathe." She huffed and panted trying to remain calm. Dads gruff voice came in. No, not dad was saying.

"Take it easy, take deep breaths." She did so while quivering with sweat rolling down her brow.

"But, you're mom and dad!" Tears welled in her eyes again.

"How can this be, how?" She demanded of them, how could they hurt her so?

"We are so very sorry about this. We will tell you everything sweetheart." The ponies she had known all her life as her parents looked down ashamed for a short while. Her adoptive father broke the silence.
"I hide who I am for your sake. I originally come from the Pegasus Enclave." She had been told to steer clear of any other pegasus if she ever saw any, but was never told anything other than it was very dangerous to meet or confront them. Mother looked pale and utterly dejected as he spoke.

"Every once in a long while, one of the bigwigs gets the bright idea to go looking for some old piece of technology on the ground. Due to my disobeying an order once or twice I found myself assigned to an E.S.I.R. team to be disciplined." Silver Quick took a deep breath and sighed mournfully.

"I had enough. I watched for my chance so long. I never wanted anypony to get hurt. I only wanted to be free of them. You were much too young to remember, but during my attempt to escape your parents got caught in the crossfire." He looked away for a moment. He rambled and sat there shaking as if in some terrible pain while he explained.

It was obvious now he had been dreading this day coming.

"With his dying breath your father begged me to take care of you, give you a good life. He was a good pony." In all her years she had never seen father cry. Now, as if a dam had broken a great well of sadness and pain burst forth from him. He had always seemed so strong, now he looked like some pitiful and lifeless thing. Sitting there moaning he seemed so weak and frail. She could never have prepared herself for this or what was being revealed to her now.

"Dad.." She went to say but this made him sob uncontrollably.

"I do not have the right to be called that.." He sort of gurgled out. Night Bloom had moved over to give him a tight hug.

"Dear husband, it is my turn to speak. Go collect yourself." She shuffled him off to their bedroom and returned.

"He managed to elude his pursuers with you in tow. Although he had survival training he was then alone, with very little supplies and a young filly he had promised to take care of." She had always liked mothers eyes. They seemed to shine with joy and love for her, but now seeing them felt tainted, spoiled. Would she ever be able to look in them again knowing she was not her mother?

"He hid his wings under a cloak and straps, then roamed from place to place to evade bringing trouble down on you. Eventually we met. Of course I did not know he was a pegasus at first, just that he was handsome, strong and mysterious, and for somepony like me at the time.." She trailed off then continued.

"He has tried so hard to keep his promise, to give you something. A safe life away from pain and suffering. Please understand, these are not even our real names. We did not want to keep any of this from you but not knowing who we really were meant protecting you." She closed her eyes tightly for a few seconds.

"Now it is clear that even here there is no real safety. He had such hope for this place and for you. He only wants to protect you, and now that we almost lost you both he and I are hurting so badly. For him, losing you would have meant failing to do the one thing he ever promised to do." Shuddering she stood.

"I know this is painful, and for some reason I thought this day would never come. I am so sorry. This is a lot to take in, you should rest." Even now she showed the same concern for her well-being that had always been freely given, it just did not feel the same.

"I..yes, rest." The young filly was not quite an adult yet and to have this weight placed on her shoulders was nearly too overwhelming. Slowly she just slipped into her room and hung her head. It was all too much. Her real parents, dead? She felt dizzy and collapsed into bed. A swirl of color came to her in a fitful dream of shadowy figures forever just out of sight. The next morning she crawled out of bed. Sleep really did help, but now what? These two she had loved as her parents were a fraud, worse still the one she called dad her whole life had in reality brought about her parents deaths. Even if it was not entirely his fault and he was truly sorry for it, where did that leave her now?

"Oh why, why did this have to happen now? I almost wish they didn't tell me the truth." She gave her head a shake.

"No, that's not true. I'm just angry, but they had no choice right?" Forlornly she walked into the kitchen.

"Huh?" There was a small ornately decorated wooden box on the table.

"What is this?" She asked father..no not father but that is what he had been her whole life, did that not make him her father?

"I feel so confused." She trotted up to the table.

"I said I would have a surprise for you, lift the lid." He instructed. She did so and a wonderful ethereal tune began to play. Her eyes widened in delight.

"It's called a music box. I hope you like it." He watched hopefully.

"It's beautiful." She found herself saying. The haunting melody felt calming, almost magical in itself.

"Some treasures from the old world are truly beautiful works of art. Before the war many such wonders existed, how many are left I do not know. The Enclave is not interested in them at all. Only in that which has to do with war, pain, suffering, and power. I had always wanted to find and save things like this more than anything." He had never told her this before either, just how much had they actually kept from her? Could she ever truly trust them again?

"I only wanted my freedom from them. What happened to your parents because of me has haunted me every day of my life. When we finally found this place far from others and vacant I had hoped I could start to bring life back to the land, for you and in honor of them." Sighing he looked to her.

"I will not ask for your forgiveness. I haven't forgiven myself for what happened." He coughed.

"Instead I have come to the realization that I have been wrong. I have been keeping you from the very freedom I myself craved in a very similar way to what I hated. I thought I could shield you from the world, but I cannot. Now I must give you the means to see the world on your own, and to protect yourself." He glanced at her half-cautiously.

"If you will let an old fool continue to act as your father, I will teach you self-defense. Do you agree?" Perhaps it was just the trailing off music from the box affecting her thoughts.

The dawning realization was that he had always done his best for her. Both her parents did truly love her, she had always known that. They had made it clear every day of her life, how could she truly distrust them now?

"Alright, but I don't think I can call you that, for a while..okay?" She looked at him and gave the slightest hint of a smile.

"We understand, let us earn your trust back the right way." Night Bloom interjected.

"I believe that thing that attacked you was once known as a mole, but this one was so much bigger than anything in the enclave cloud databases." He was saying.

"Cloud what?" The young filly asked.

"Oh, sorry. I guess I better get to teaching you a few other things too." He smiled. She had always thought her caregivers were so boring. This was all so new. Never having imagined either of them being this different to whom she thought they were it was very confusing.

"Before I got myself in hot water I was actually training to be a combat instructor." This was certainly a revelation she was not expecting. She decided to ask a few things of him before committing to whatever he had planned for her.

"Why did you leave the enclave? it sounds like you had food and safety and..friends." He startled her by laughing wildly in response.

"My only 'friends' in the enclave betrayed me and got me sent down here in the first place." He practically choked on the words.

"I'm sorry.." She went to say but he waved a hoof at her.

"No, in truth it was the best thing that ever happened to me..and so are you." That was still very embarrassing feeling to hear which elicited a soft blush from her.

"Umm, what are we going to do?" She changed the topic quickly.

"Come with me." He twirled in his cloak and headed out the door. Following in a hurry she trailed him straight to the barn.

"What are we doing in here?" Her inquiry was answered by him walking over to the strange door in the floor they had always ignored. Much to her surprise he entered a string of numbers which started a small clicking sound. She stared in awed amazement as the thick door cracked open and swung upward to the left, pushed out by telescoping steel rods.

A short set of steps was revealed which he promptly went down. Excitedly she walked down to find herself in a single room with buzzing overhead lights on tracks. The ceiling had what looked like spidery metal arms on rails, but it was what was sitting in the center of the room that held her attention. Was that a black metal unicorn? No, it was a hefty sort of steel looking suit. Despite this it appeared a bit frail.

"What, is it?" She managed to gasp.

"It is what my team was sent to locate and retrieve, and it was what let me escape." He pet it.

"Hello, old friend." Friend? what was he talking about?

"What are you doing?" But as she asked its visor flicked to eerie red life. Stepping back in fear she bumped into the wall.

"It was a research project started in the latter years of the war, an experimental stealth suit. That was all we were really told about it, but it is a whole lot more." Waving her over he spoke to the strange suit.

"Authorize new user: earth pony mode." A throbbing electronic sound was heard from within followed by a frighteningly deep voice growling.

"Mode change confirmed." At the same time the back opened outward pushed by bars, practically making her jump out of her skin. "Relax, it is just a machine. One which I do not know everything about. I have learned a few things over the years though. I am going to teach you how to use it." She had craved excitement, this was scary though. Taking a good look around the room she realized there were all sorts of electronic parts on permanently attached shelves lining the walls. Most looked fried. In truth only a few tools and some wire scraps were in any good condition.

"Why is this room here?" He chuckled at the question.

"I don't rightly know. It seems to be some kind of machine shop. I was quite surprised to find it here really. It is obvious this farm was once very advanced, perhaps they relied on robotics or something. There are no records of it that I know of." He smiled.

"It has proven most useful for hiding this." He noticed her looking up at the creepy rail-mounted arms.

"There is a connector for a spark battery over there, but we do not have a full one so I have never been able to see what those can do. Getting one would be very difficult and costly." If they could ever get their hooves on one she knew the first thing she would do.

"But first, I am going to teach you about fighting, tactics and strategy. Self-defense as well." He was going to teach her to use this thing and all that too? She closed her eyes for a moment, was this really happening? Her life up to now had been so boring she had started to hate it. Suddenly it was almost too exciting. They headed back topside.

"When I think you are ready I will give you the code to this door. Understand this is not going to be easy, and I am going to have to be very hard on you. Know that no matter what happens I believe you can take it, understand?" What was she getting herself into? This was the sort of excitement she had always desired wasn't it?

"Yes." Was all she could manage to reply with. "Good. I have set up a spot for training and exercises." She had the distinct feeling it was going to be a long day. A few hours later she was battered, sore, and aching everywhere. He really meant it.

"Now, what have we learned?" He stood by a makeshift dummy he had her practice defensive and offensive moves against for hours on end. Panting heavily her reply was ragged.

"Defenders always have the advantage. Never lose forward momentum. Never fight with your back to a wall. Uhh.." Staggering she continued.

"Avoid a fight whenever possible. Move at angles to enemies. If a fight must be joined do not second-guess or hesitate. Make your enemies defeat themselves. The first choice is usually the correct one. If it's worth shooting once, shoot it again." Her tongue lolled out.

"Can we stop now?" He looked over her with that same stern look she had never seen until recently then relaxed.

"Yes, I think that's enough for today." She had never felt so tired before. Thinking about the fact this was only just the beginning made her feel even more fatigued.

Over the next few months he drilled into her all there was to be known about survival. A long blur of rigorous endless training seemed to go on for ages. During all of this he had proven far more agile than she had ever imagined him to be. Every few days he would have her spar against him. Finally one morning he turned to her and simply said

"It's time." With that he moved over to where she stood.

"Time, time for what?" She questioned. Walking straight up to her he took a defensive stance.

"I have taught you everything I know. Put it all together to knock me down." She went to strike at him to immediately find herself on the ground. Ouch, this was new.

"What have I been teaching you all this time? Now come at me with all you've got." She stood and went to kick only to find the ground again.

"Stop holding back now. If you cannot knock me down I can never believe you can protect yourself, and I need to know." He admonished.

"I don't want to hurt you!" She cried out. At this she was on her back. Oww.

"This is not about what you want, or what I want. This is about what you have to do, so do it." He was never like this before.

She had always known him as the sweet caring pony that was her father until that awful day the truth was revealed. Had things really changed much? Sometimes she wished things hadn't changed at all. Was that true, did she really wish that? No, it was just the reality of it all finally sinking in. She still loved these two as her parents, it was who they had always been and always would be.

"Alright." Getting to her hooves again she promptly launched into a furious barrage of jabs and kicks at him. Everything he said, give it everything.

He was fending off every blow in a near mirror image of her movements stalling or deflecting every strike. Everything. At one of his counter jabs she sidestepped just barely knocking off his punch with a shot of her own. Everything. She rolled underneath him to jab him in the stomach and tripped him with a sweep of her legs. He fell off to the side.

"Oof!" He landed flatly with the wind knocked out of him. Much to her surprise he broke into laughter.

"Oh my, that was good. I think we are done with this portion of your training." This portion? It did not take him very long to recover. He was back on his hooves in nearly an instant and helping her up.

"You're so fast and strong.." She observed. He chuckled and motioned towards the barn.

"Hardly. I was never even all that great of a flier either." She nearly forgot about his wings, they were always hidden under that worn dark cloak.

"I think you are ready to start learning to use this. The code for this door is 1337." She keyed it in prompting the door to swing upwards on its hydraulic tracks.

"That's an awfully short code isn't it?" Her query was met with a smile.

"One of the cloud computing division officers once told me it had some meaning to the elite, or it meant being elite..or was that being discrete?" He was rambling.

"At any rate it used to be 1234." He explained.

"1234?, who would use a code like that?" He got the strangest look on his face.

"You'd be surprised." Now what did that mean? They stood facing the steel suit.

"Years ago this thing saved my life and gave me my chance at freedom. I call him Moonlight." He pressed a panel which made it sort of hiss and split down the middle.

"Him?" This got a laugh from her adoptive father.

"I suppose it is rather silly of me to think of it that way, but I got the strangest feeling of benevolence when I wore it. I call it Moonlight because of its nature. As a stealth suit it is meant for recon and support, not combat." Upon closer inspection she noticed it had a few dents in the metal here and there where hits had been taken. It was obviously ancient but was still operational.

"This thing is something like 186 years old or around there. Truly a masterwork of the time for it to still be functioning now." It was that old?

"Where did you find this thing?" His mood seemed to shift at the question.

"I'd rather not think about that time young one." He looked sad saying it.

"Whoever built this thing sure packed a lot of technology into it. I don't think there was anything else like it. That apparatus that looks like a horn there will let you use a very limited amount of magic." She blinked.

"You mean, just like a unicorn?" she asked excitedly. He couldn't help but grin at her enthusiasm.

"Well, no..it takes a heap of concentration to perform the simplest spell, but don't be disappointed since it does have its uses. Slip on in between the bars there, don't be surprised when it seals once you're in." She did as instructed.

Though she had been warned about it closing, apprehensive feelings still made themselves known. The suit clamped in around her, it was a bit frightening suddenly being encased in metal. A beeping sound was heard as floating gauges rolled up in her vision seeming to float in front and all around. A list momentarily popped up reading:

USCA AI-v28

Spell Matrix: Fully Functional

User Mode: Earth

M.R.A.P. 0% corrupt

K.S.T. 1%

A.E.G.I.S. Operating

Autonomous Actions: None Set!

All Systems Nominal

Some disturbingly red indicators then flashed across her vision as well reading:

Integrity: 63.2%"

Weak integrity: 32%"

Plating integrity:72.8%

Armor Compromised: 78% protection

Weak: Left Hind Joint

Some of that did not sound so good, what was all this? She looked around finding it a little harder and slower to do so than normal.

"Try moving around a bit, slowly." Going to stand she lurched forward.

"Whoa." She yelped, almost falling flat on her face she regained her balance just in time. Moving inside this thing was trickier than expected. Her motions were either too fast and exaggerated or too slow. It felt like the suit responded with too much force or far too little.

"A bit finicky isn't it?" Was that a joke?

"Ha Ha very funny, I must look ridiculous." Stumbling around she walked straight into a wall with a clang at which the suits guttural mechanical voice intoned 'Impact.' No kidding. Getting used to this was going to take a while.

"Keep practicing, once you can make it up the stairs with that on we can continue." He turned and left.

"Hey, wait." Going towards the stairs she suddenly moved laterally into the opposite wall.

"Oh, come on." She groaned.

An hour passed with much consternation and flailing. At first Moonlight seemed to move erratically in response to her actions but this was a misjudgement. She was finally beginning to appreciate that being a stealth suit it required finesse to operate. Its intended role was to move quickly and quietly, or very slowly and hidden in the shadows. Taking this into account seemed to make things smoother. Within another half hour she had it down. Nearly silently walking up the steps she practically glided. How did something like this move so quietly? There was unfortunately a flaw in this, the left hind leg joint sometimes squeaked ever so slightly from whatever damage had previously been inflicted upon it.

That could be an issue which they currently had no means of correcting. After exiting the room she found her father had set up some pieces of broken glass atop some wooden posts.

"What's this for?" She looked it over. He motioned her to where he was standing.

"Uh, dad?" She was finding it easier to call him that again. Her voice sounded a bit odd coming through the suits amp, almost like it wasn't her own.

"Yes?" She needed to ask him a question, now was as good a time as any.

"This has been great and all, and you have taught me so much..just..." She sort of trailed off for a moment.

"Well, out with it." That gruff voice of his always surprised.

"What good is this really? I mean, what am I supposed to do with it? We're farmers.." He nodded, grimacing.

"I knew this would come up, and I do have an idea. Before I explain, let's get you right up to speed with ole Moonlight here." He looked at the suits non-reflective surfaces.

"Always wondered what it was like facing this thing. You look downright intimidating sweetheart." She did, really?

"Let's start with the fun bit shall we?" Fun, that was always good.

"It's time for you to learn some magic." Right. Wha?

"But, I'm an earth pony.." Shushing her he began.

"That slick sharp looking metal horn thing there isn't for stabbing ponies ya know." She giggled a little at his words. It was not really funny and that sounded painful but she couldn't help it.

"Ahem. Focus on one of those pieces of glass there. Will it to come to you." Slowly a soft yellow glow formed around the apparatus as she struggled to make something happen.

Straining heavily she could just barely make out the faintest response in the glass. It vibrated softly but did not move. Panting, her concentration wavered and the glow faded.

"Oh, that didn't work at all." She accidentally kicked at the ground digging a large groove.

"Oops." It was a good thing her father could not see her face and how embarrassed she was to have done that.

"Not bad for a first try. Don't try to force it so much. You just have to visualize what you want to happen and let it work." He advised.

"Try again. Use your mind, not your muscles." This was about the only advice he could give about it. Taking a deep breath she imagined lifting the piece of glass. It took tremendous focus. Slowly the yellow aura began to form again around the apparatus and the glass more strongly. This was so hard. Finally the piece of glass rose up a couple of inches then fell to the ground.

"Ugh. How do you use this?" She Huffed as the aura faded. Each attempt felt very draining.

"You're doing great. That was good. Remember, the machine is only focusing your will, but you are providing the effort. It gets a bit easier with practice. Neither of us could ever hope to match a natural unicorn like your mother in magic though." Trotting over to the post he carefully set the glass atop it again.

"Practice for a while longer, then we'll call it quits for the day." Another 20 minutes of this and she was more tired than she had ever felt before. Having finally managed to float a piece over to herself she was very pleased. Her brain actually felt like it hurt. She noticed the indicator that read K.S.T now indicated 2%.

"By the way, it can also turn invisible for 2 minutes every hour." He said and moved beside her. Huh?

"What does all this gibberish I'm seeing mean anyway?" Speaking even felt difficult after all that.

"I can only tell you a bit. I'm not one of them there sciency type ponies." He brought them down into the room.

"To get out of there just tap a hoof on the ground three times quickly. Any of'em" Doing so prompted the back to separate once more. It was more difficult to slip back up past the separator bars than it was to get in. Silver Quick helped pull her out.

"Is there an easier way out of that thing?" She queried.

"Afraid not. I only know it wasn't even finished when the war ended." The bars pulled back together with a hiss and a click closing the suit once more.

"K.S.T. refers to a miniaturized talisman embedded in there somewhere. Seems they were looking for a way to let us non-magical sorts protect ourselves better along with that magic concentrator. It deflects bullets." Ooh.

"The better you are at using it the higher that percentage goes." Neat.

"Never rely on that. Never." He was emphatic, better remember that.

"That wrap thing or whatever it's called is supposed to protect completely against radiation of any sort by absorbing it, at least until the plate is full. I never felt like testing that myself." He took a moment to rub some dirt off the suit.

"I only got away with two of the plates since one was installed already, and another was strapped to the side for shipping I guess. I doubt there are more in existence." Contemplating the suit he looked almost sad.

"Is something wrong?" Rarely she had noticed that look in his eyes even when he seemed happy.

"Oh, nothing serious. You're still with us, unharmed and healthy. That is all that matters to us you know." He pulled her into a warm hug. Blushing ever so slightly, it was returned. He really was father after all.

"Daddy..dad..Why hasn't this enclave you spoke of come after you if they wanted this suit so bad?" She'd been wondering about that.

"The Enclave never really stops. They just never wanted the suit, it doesn't fly. They only wanted the technology in it, and only to help themselves. Frankly, I am glad to deny it to them." Shaking a hoof in the air while saying this he was a bit livid.

"What good is that? it only helps the obedient slaves that follow them, which is what I was. Almost 200 years and nothing has changed. We should be on the ground, helping. We could, but they love control so much it may never happen." Laughing dryly his only other comment was quiet.

"Let's go eat." Heading into the farmhouse she felt rather accomplished with what she had managed to do today. Entering the hall way she ran up to her mother.

"Mom, mom, I used magic!" She couldn't help herself.

"That is a surprise dear. Your father there never could do anything like that." Silver Quick looked positively shamed at her mothers words.

"Hey, I thought you said.." He hugged them.

"I love you both very much." That kept them quiet for a few minutes. A week passed by as she learned to use to the magic apparatus to the best of her ability. Managing to bring the percentage gauge up to 7% was very confidence boosting. Night Bloom had given her a few pointers on the basics of simple magic which helped considerably. It was nonetheless always a tremendous strain. She figured non-unicorns just weren't meant to cast spells, but her concentration definitely improved.

"Dad, I don't think I can get any better with this stuff." They sat around the table enjoying some well-earned relaxation.

"You are right I think. Next planting season is almost here anyway. It is time I told you my idea." Surprisingly, he spoke gravely.

"We have worked this farm for a long time, and have only barely managed. Without that book up there we never could have done even this. I want to do better." How could they possibly do better?

"What we need is to find a fully intact copy of the Farmers Almanac or a way to recover the missing information." He was serious. Was that even possible?

"For years I have dreamed of finding a method to restore life to the wastes. A way to grow vast fields of crops sounds like a worthwhile endeavor towards that end. What do you think?" He motioned at them both. Night Bloom looked apprehensive.

"It would be dangerous to go looking won't it? I don't want her to get hurt." Looking at her daughter sadly, she seemed resigned that it would happen anyway.

"But, where would we look? Where would we go? What if there are no other copies left? How.." He put his hoof over her mouth.

"I'll tell you tomorrow. Right now we need to get rested up. There will be a lot of work to do." Go on a real adventure? Could this be true? Did he really want her to go looking for something that might not even exist? Having never known excitement like this or the nervous anticipation the unknown would bring was a bit nerve wracking. Heading off to bed she wound up tossing and turning for a good while before slowly drifting into dreams. In the early morning before that dim light ever filtered through to the endlessly dull wastes a terrific bang was heard, causing her to fall out of bed. Groaning, she gently rubbed her head and got up to investigate.

Heading towards the kitchen an unfamiliar voice drifted to her ears prompting her to stop dead in her tracks. Who could it be? Nopony other than her family had ever come out here. A horrible cackling laugh was heard as she slipped up to the kitchen entrance quietly as she could manage.

"Gauh!, where is he!? Where is Fluffy!? I know Fluffy was here!" A heavy-set horrible looking pony with his mane up in spikes and wearing strange blood-streaked barding had a hoof against her fathers throat. He slammed Silver Quick up against the wall repeatedly.

"I don't know what yer talking about." he gurgled.

"Got out of his cage he did. So long to track him. I can almost smell his foul odor! Oh how we miss him, his disgusting face. His eviscerating claws. His filthy fur. Where is Fluffy!?" With that he smashed Silver Quick into the wall again. Noticing she was standing in something warm and sticky she glanced down to see her mothers still form lay on the floor.

"No!" She yelled without thinking. The crazy pony turned his head, this gave her father the necessary distraction he needed to hoof his assailant in the groin with a crunch. Screaming maniacally the raider fell on his back.

Flailing wildly in pain the crazed intruder threw a knife from a holster attached to the side of his barding which hit Silver Quick just above the heart. Snorting in agony he bashed the raider in the muzzle with a great crack leaving him to roll and rush off in pain, bowling her out of the way and yelling.

"Boss will get you for this!" Once gone, he fell to the floor.

"Daddy.." She bolted over to him in tears.

"Grab that cloth, hurry." He ordered. She did so quick as she could.

"Pull this out, pull hard and apply pressure with the cloth after." He huffed and yelped as she did.

"D-dad..mom..mommy...she.." Night Bloom lay off to the side, dead. She had been stabbed multiple times, leaving her skirt covered in blood. Gritting his teeth he spoke.

"You have to get out of here." He spat some blood out. What?

"But.." No no no no.

"Listen..darling...he said we..he will bring them here. You must go, now." This was crazy, it could not be.

Things had been getting better, why?

"D-d-daddy..what about you?" She shook and sobbed. Tears streamed from his eyes.

"I'm already dead, I'm sorry sweetheart..we won't be going on any adventures together..please, go.." He was wheezing badly.

"Go where? I don't know!" She cried. Coughing up blood he shuddered violently. Oh no no.

"East..about 320 miles, towards the coast..find griffon Captain Theach, he owes me a big favor..." His breathing became ragged as his heart slowed from blood loss.

"No, daddy! Please, you can't die. You just can't!" Moaning, he strained to speak. He looked at her softly.

"We loved you with all our hearts. Take the suit, caps, all the food and water you can carry." A fiery determination still was held in his eyes.

"You have been the light of our lives. Don't let that light have been meaningless. Help bring life back to the world.." He was slipping away.

"I will, I promise..daddy..." Smiling at her and finally letting his eyes close, her parents were both gone.

Frantically she raced about gathering together what food and water they had stored up, taking it out and throwing it into the back of the smaller cart along with the cap box. All the while a torrent of tears poured down her face relentlessly. She was only just getting over finding out she had been adopted in terrible circumstances and now her caregivers were gone. This was all happening too fast. Could she even manage to get so far away alone? Daddy knew a griffon? It was still half-dark outside, have to get away. In a confused daze she hurriedly finished packing the cart then headed for the barn. Slipping into the stealthy armor she felt slightly safer.

As the suits systems became operational far-off threat indicators worried her. They were coming from the direction of the crystal mountains, she had thought them to be impassable. Somehow in her confusion she still remembered to close the door to the room and piled some junk atop it in hopes it wouldn't be discovered. Slipping into the carts harness bars she rushed off into the darkness, following the suits bearing indicator due east.

"Oh Moonlight, what am I going to do?" She bawled as she trudged off into the wastes. Back at the farmhouse a small band of what appeared to be raiders had gathered inside.

Off in the shadows a large figure appearing almost a part of them looked on.

"You let these weaklings do this to you?" Its low reverberating voice grated on the senses in some indescribable and dark manner. The injured raider hobbled over to the bodies.

"Boss, this stupid filly distracted me. I want her bad. If I ever see her again she will pay for this!" The figure in the dark merely pointed, at which they all scattered.

"I only want one thing, find my beloved pet." Eventually they discovered the far away mound where the occupants had dragged and buried the mole creatures body.

The thing in the shadows became enraged when informed, letting loose a hissing growl. A moment later it regained its composure.

"Plans have changed. We will need these bodies." His eyes seemed to glint in the dark.

---

Is she beginning a reluctant adventuring career or is she just another soul about to be swallowed whole by the uncaring wastes?

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