• Published 29th Jun 2014
  • 863 Views, 45 Comments

Fallout: Equestria - A Heart of Steel - FD Imaginations



Crossword, a budding Steel Ranger in the Far South Contingency, finally gets a chance to prove herself in the field, but everything is stacked against her. What will it take for her to reach her dream?

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Chapter 3 - What 'Lies' Beneath

Author's Note:

Well I didn't manage to get an editor and I'm still looking if anyone is interested, but I couldn't resist another crack at getting this chapter right in some of my recent spare time. This is'nt exiting hiatus sadly, not yet.

I really want to apologise, after reading this chapter through in depth, I didnt realise how many errors there actually was. But I've mowed through what I believe to be nine out of ten of them.

I know I shouldn't be relying on you reading this to mention any errors, but it is always appreciated

Enjoy reading, comment any Q&A's and corrections below
- Flash Deviant

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A Heart Of Steel

Chapter 3 - What 'Lies' Beneath

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They lied when they said this armour was a legacy of engineering, more like a legacy of pain. This thing was digging into my flank and chest so badly I thought I would break some bones eventually. I could barely see out of my visor as it wasn't powered, leaving it tinted a deep black.

What I did know was that I was being pulled along on my cart by two other rangers. I didn't recognise them too well, but from their attitudes, they didn't seem to be Crusaders or anything higher. The one taking the front, Pierce, had what appeared to be a blood red coat with a cutie mark that looked like a bullet with a slip-stream. The other, Gravy, was out of my sight, but had a deep and uneducated voice. Pierce appeared to be taking the lead on all of this, I would have to be more weary of him when making my escape. My view was locked at a 45 degree angle, making it very difficult to get my bearings and figure out where I’m going. This wasn't going to be easy.

"Ugh, how long have we gotta go, I can't see a thing back here?" grunted Gravy

"Another few minutes, it's just round another corner." answered Pierce

I believe somepony must have requested that the armour has to be returned to the armoury, which wasn't a surprise. But that would mean I would be stuck inside there until I was retrieved. The place was designed to be a small replica of a Stable, the hardest place to break into during an invasion if there was to be one, containing a portion of the pride and joy of the contingent. And I certainly wasn't going to be hanging around with Water Talismans and Sprite-bots, no matter how electric the atmosphere may be.

One thing that intrigued me is that it was still the afternoon, and nopony has even attempted to investigate the unusual black-plated power armour that was being lugged through the Watering Hole. I mean, surely there had to be at least one pony who noticed it, I know I would.

Suddenly the cart came to a halt. Pierce dropped the rope onto the floor and walked off, out of my cone of vision with Gravy following his tail soon after.

"What do we d..." Gravy asked but was cut off suddenly

"Quiet. We're not supposed to be here remember." hushed Pierce.

Interesting. I'm sure if they are recovering something for the armoury under orders, they are within their right to be here. Where else would they put me that was restricted? I heard the sound of a shutter. The sound was prolonged and very quiet as the two of them attempted to maintain their stealth. Strange. The armoury door was like four-foot thick, it made a much more powerful noise than that, and it can only be opened by the on-duty guard.

But forgetting that, this was as good a moment as any to start my escape. Their eyes would be off me and I assume I'd have a direct line of escape from here. I used my teeth to push the release button on the mouth grip of the helmet as well as pushing my left hind hoof into the emergency pressure plate below it to trigger a manual release. I kept pushing into both of them as hard as I could but to no avail, possibly a bit tough being as it's quite old. Beads of sweat began to develop as my jaw muscles began to give up. I stopped and let out a breath just to see that Pierce had returned to pick up the rope. Time was running out, and I’m past being stealthy. I attempted stomp on the button instead which emitted a clanking noise, but it was drowned out by the wheels of the cart rolling on the ground. But among all the noise, no audible, unlocking clicks. Pierce dropped the rope and escaped my vision again. I tried with all my might thrusting my leg once more and following it through, until I heard a loud clack. Finally. But the armour still wouldn't budge.

BASH!

Oh no. That was the shutter.


I had been standing suspended in this armour for what had been hours. There were no lights, giving me nothing to examine in my limited field of view, the visor just made the dark... darker. I had attempted to start the armour up, but I didn't even get a spark. I went through every possible way to start it up as I was sure it wasn't broken, it was in such a good condition that it was impossible. Bar the releases I guess. I was stuck like this. The armour wouldn't start, the release mechanism was jammed, and nopony was likely to attempt to put the armour on as it was vintage and obsolete.

What felt like hours later, I heard the sound of a door opening in front of me, about a metre or two away. My eyes were bathed in light, and damn did I miss it already, despite them burning in their sockets for the first ten seconds. The sound of hoof steps approached until I saw the figure. A beige unicorn stallion with black frizzy mane the stretched down his neck. He was wearing a utility barding with various electrical tools and wires sticking out of it. One of the repair ponies we had acquired from one of the stables just at the border of Equestria most likely. From what I heard, a team of knights rescued them from a ghoul attack and have been a valuable asset to the Watering Hole since, performing maintenance around the place. He appeared to give me the once over and reached into one of his pockets with his magic and revealed a power jack. He attached one end to his Pip-buck and and put the other end into one of the ports in the side of my neck. My visor sparked up suddenly with a little battery symbol, revealing the power armour in fact was completely drained. The repair pony also recognised this I guess as he produced a great sigh.

"I'm soooo not in the mood for recharging this armour, as well as reconfiguring it," he complains, throwing his head to the ceiling.

"Pfft, tomorrow's work, I can find an excuse for Harrow." and he threw the extra pockets strapped to his barding on the floor below and left, leaving the light on.

Ok, so the armour does function just fine, but there is no power to actually release the locks or power up, and the manual release is jammed. Completely stranded. I begin to scream and shuffle in frustration for a few minutes. Surprisingly nopony heard me as the door remained firmly shut. I take a look at the equipment the repair pony left. I saw plenty of different length wires, jacks, screwdrivers, a small crowbar and... A spark battery. With a power jack and that spark battery, I should be able to charge the armour just enough to get out. But there was no physical way to do it. That repair pony can just flick the stuff around with his magic, which was a skill I had to sacrifice to be able to choose to do Knight training. But hey, I had plenty of time, I guess it was worth some pathetic shot. I had used some very basic forms of magic as a filly but only in the forms of levitation, very appropriate right about now. I began to focus, I hardly expected much to happen as I had no horn from which to emit my magic.

3 minutes of focus and nothing happened, not even a glow from above. I carried on further, almost thinking I might be able to discover some sort of trippy dimension at the back of mind or something as I heard some weird resonating hum. It grew louder and louder as my concentration carried on further. I decided to give up after a few more minutes but was unable. I was lost in shear concentration and couldn't find a way out. I then heard the lamp lighting the room beginning to flicker and buzz violently, and similar sounds came from different areas around me, including the floor where the spark battery was. Suddenly a powerful chill swept across my brain and down my spine just as a huge booming sound of lightning sounded throughout the room. My eyes shot open just to see lots of electric bolts darting across the room towards me. I shut my eyes out of fear and screamed yet again.

I stood there suspended by the armour still, eyes clenched shut. I peeped one of my eyes, surprised I was not in searing pain. What the buck did I just do? Did I do that? No that's impossible. I could only levitate tiny things as a filly, how could a hornless unicorn create some sort of... EMP... from her stub? Then in my series of questions, my visor once again lit up, but not with a battery symbol or another error. A start-up prompt? How is 'that' possible? I'm getting overwhelmed with developments here. The suit was drained and surely that EMP would have frazzled the last of whatever was left inside it. But... didn't those electric... things... come to me? And I clearly didn't conduct it. So the armour must have. I charged up my armour with some sort of electricity... magnet... using magic. Without a horn...


Serial Crack was glued to his terminal, hoping for a good sign that Crossword was still breathing and not caught. Last he needed was somepony, his friend... his 'best' friend, following in his footsteps. However he had to tip his hat to the ingenuity she had to hide in the armour, there couldn't of been another way out of that pickle. But that didn't draw from the fact she was in danger. Over the past two hours his ecstasy had diminished to guilt. He never wanted this for Crossword, he shouldn't of allowed her to encourage him, nothing good will come of this.

Upon his terminal screen was a radar, displaying all the Steel Rangers activated power armour in its radius, which covered most of the Watering Hole. The radar was linked to the large antenna sat upon the roof of the building. It was used for long distance radio broadcasts, but was also very good at detecting energy crystals, the ones in power armour specifically. He had his hopes that the Mark III had a unique gem contained within it due to its different architecture. This gem will show up differently on the radar to the other readings, revealing Crosswords location. But to his dismay, nothing had appeared yet that matched the specs. No readings in the armoury, just the usual guard outside it. The command building didn't appear to have much going on. Harrow was in his office, A couple of senior paladins on the floor below, and an assortment of crusaders on the floors stretching to the ground. Around its base, was a perimeter fence, making the front the only accessible entrance. Occasionally a knight entered, occasionally one left, like clockwork.

But... that didn't look like clockwork. Two signatures within the perimeter fence, at the back of the building. That's not normally accessible by anypony. The two knights made slow progress around the building within the perimeter for a few minutes until stopping at the rear. What could they possibly be doing there? The pair didn't budge for a moment, but the whole thing got more peculiar when they disappeared suddenly. It must be a glitch or something. Only way that could happen is if their armour powered down or they entered a room that was cloaked or something, which was absurd being as nopony out there would have that sort of technology.

I pondered on this further, watching as the same two signatures reappeared a minute or so later and leave the perimeter. It must be some sort of glitch developing from my make-shift setup, but despite it making no sense, it was just to unusual. And coincidental. Two knights came to pick up that armour. The armour that Star Paladin Hard Harrow wanted, not the Elder, or the Armour. It may just be a simple delegation, but he had always struck me as somepony with something up hidden his magazine. The fact that he always left unannounced was not the suspicious part, it's the way he goes about it. One day he'll be here, the next he would be gone, leaving even Cucumber Salad in the dark I have heard. I was never much of a trusting pony, but I smelled a rat. There might have been a possibility he is retrieving this armour unofficially, but for what purpose would he need it.

Suddenly I heard a large boom. It didn't sound like a bomb mind you, but more like some kind of pulse. Like a sonic boom I guess. Soon after hearing it, my entire dorm was left in darkness, my terminal abruptly left on a black screen.

What just happened?

"Evacuation now, everypony! I want all of you standing in front of your dorms ASAP!" shouted a clearly senior figure of the Watering Hole

Shit. I was hoping this day would never come, but sadly this was one of the few things that would mean me having to leave the safety of my den. I did have a contingency however for if an evacuation was initiated...


Star Paladin Hard Harrow looked down upon the Watering Hole from the emergency assembly point halfway up the crater. He was in deep though. How could such as damn simple job like this end up in shambles. I was looking after the most insignificant part of the whole Contingent, who in their right mind would attack here when there was a Head Quarters with much more equipment they could go for. Damn these fucking recruits, they don't have a hope in Tartarus to become true Steel Rangers.

Images of his last mission, the mission that ruined his life, came back to haunt him again. It was guaranteed to be a success, but I was given the worst team I could ever imagine. They blamed me for getting them all killed when it was clearly down to their ability. So here I am, in a place training more lousy recruits, to apparently make me learn from 'my' mistake. Those memories pinched a nerve every single time. I kicked my bare hoof to the ground, cracking what was beneath it. Fucking Cucumber Salad and his ideas. He should have just stripped me of my rank.

"Sir!" saluted a Paladin who approached him from behind

He returned from his angered thoughts and kept his gaze upon the Watering Hole

"You better have some reassuring news for me, 'cus I'm blowing a gasket here" he replied, remaining calm but visibly twitching with inner rage.

"From what our searches tell us, there wasn't a bomb at all. It appears that some sort of EMP went off near the main generator outside the Command Building. The engineers are working on restoring power, they say it will be a few hours. Otherwise, no damage has been inflicted, zero casualties.... Sir." reported the Paladin.

There was a long stretch of time where Hard Harrow spoke nothing, remained still, even his twitch was absent. A warm, dusty draught passed the pair of them, leaving the young Paladin slightly nervous. He was warned that bringing a report to Harrow never went smoothly. Suddenly Harrow turned to face him with a blank face.

"Get everypony back inside as soon as power is restored, I need to go back and check something." commanded the Star Paladin. He then returned his gaze to the Watering Hole and began to walk down the crater.

"But... Sir! I forgot! Cucumber Salad, he wants a report from ..." he pressed, but immediately regretted his words as Harrow stopped, his left hoof in mid-air.

He turned head to the Paladin, his face striking an incalculable amount of fear into his bones. Just when the face reduced his confidence to nothing, he changed his direction, approaching the Paladin who was now collapsed before him. He shoved his face in front of him and asked simply...

"I. Will report to him. When I. See. Fit." Harrow told the Paladin simply. Spelling the words out to him so he understood, his left eye twitching constantly as he stared at him with a deranged look.

"Of... course..." replied the Paladin, shuddering in fear of him.

"Of course. WHAT!" he blasted, the power of his voice literally throwing the frightened Paladin back.

"Of... C...c...course... Sir" the Paladin struggled the get the words out.

Harrow's mouth began to peak at the edges, smirking at the whelp he had made of the newly promoted Paladin.

"Good," he spat. Raising his head and resuming his path towards the base.

"Pleasure meeting you, newbie." he chuckled sinisterly, leaving the Paladin emotionally destroyed, lying in the dirt, staring at a hole in the hard rock crater, the same shape as a pony hoof.


I peered round the corner of the doorway to see the entire population of the Command Building leaving in file, following the instruction of two Senior Paladins standing either side of the doors. A siren had been blaring for the past 10 minutes, ever since that EMP went off. This entire espionage thing has been blown out of proportion here. I just wanted to get something off a terminal, now everypony in the Watering Hole was being evacuated. I don’t see a good ending to this. I messed up big time here.

However, this was a great opportunity. The electric devices in the Watering Hole appear to be down completely except for power armour apparently. They must think it's some sort of attack or something. But on the brighter side of things, there would nothing preventing me from getting to the bottom floor. I just had to bide my time, I’ll review my great escape and alibi when I achieve my mission. I retract my steel-clad head behind the frame of door. It's probably best I keep this on now, especially as it's working. I held back a squee as it dawned upon me what I was actually wearing and operating. This was gong to be fun.

After the ghost cleared about 10 minutes later, I slowly made my way out of what was apparently a secure repair bay, with an unlocked door. Scouting around the the seemingly empty main floor, I was happy to say that the command building was completely empty. Locating the route to the stairs, I literally skipped (or at least what would pass as skipping while in power armour) like a filly through the hallways towards them. No defences to worry about, no guards to hide myself from and no cameras to dodge. The armour really did show its worth being extremely light compared to the standard model and providing a night vision feature so I can find my way in the dark. It easily let me travel down the stairs two at a time with a slight jump. I passed all the office doors which were jammed open, all of which being empty to my relief. Inside them was the same, uniform sort of layout. Occasionally there were a pair of desks when the office was shared, but the decor down here was very bleak. Compared the the dorms anyway.

Reaching the bottom floor I counted each of the doors. It was number seven on the left hoof side. 1, 3, 5, and 7... There it was, wide open. I stepped in to see the format was identical to all the others on this floor and the two above me. An iron desk with a terminal embedded into it. A couple of paper filing trays, pen pot, the sort of stuff you would expect to see in a office I guess. I took my position at the terminal and plugged it in to my suit to power it up.

My prayers were answered finding the terminal unlocked when I placed the key in a slot behind the keyboard, opening up a bunch of random files. The terminals across the building appeared to sync with each other, sharing notes with each other. All of them appeared to have dates, so I sifted through until I found the same day as my entry into the knights. Nothing there, just a list of random names and such. The day before had more files, a mission list, armour distribution tables, and a job assignment roster. Bingo. Checking through I look at the title.

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Entry Knights Job Assignment Roster
Rangers attending:

- Elder Cucumber Salad

- Star Paladin Hard Harrow

- Senior Paladin Pearl Barley

- Crusader Mellow

- Initiate Cherry Strudel
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Right, so now I know exactly who was responsible, but I need more. I flicked through, seeing if somepony was writing minutes for the meeting, until I found a video. It was filmed. A monitor was located across the room in the wall, I moved over to it and attempted to do some crazy yoga position to plug both peripherals into my suit. I had more than enough power to do it thanks to that EMP. The monitor flipped on with a spark from the socket and played the clip until it came to my assessment...


"Ok, next Initiate, Crossword." announced Pearl Barley.

"Nope, deny it. She is trouble, will never be fit for duty.. Personally I think she should be put in the Scribes Roster if we have to do something with her." retorted Mallow

"On what grounds? Sound like this Initiate did something pretty bad to earn such a bad reputation from you?" questioned the Elder

"Where do I start," replied Mellow rolling his eyes with a snarky tone

"Hacking in to my personal terminal, aiding and abetting this Initiate here to cheat on her exam, and most importantly, nearly got herself killed in the Cage by a ghoul, never attempting to fire, just running away like a coward. She is a danger to herself and others, and I can be vouched for by the staff teaching her I’m sure."

"Well we already disputed the case of the hacking and found the evidence inconclusive. As for her abilities, I see your point. I'm going over her file now and there does appear to be a strong fault in her ability to shoot and kill. Her accuracy and skill with a weapon is satisfactory however, just the killing part from what I can see." Cucumber analysed

"And don't you think that that small fault in her file, is actually a big part in being a knight? What sort of Knight can't kill!?" shouted the Crusader, bashing his hoof on the table.

"I second that." stated Harrow, his head to the ceiling with a lack of interest in the conversation.

"If I may, Sir" spoke up Cherry

"Go ahead." he accepted

All eyes in the room were now on her, even Harrow left one eye staring at her.

"I can vouch that she would be a great Knight. I've known her since we both joined the programme together. She has a decent skill with weaponry, more importantly in how they work, exceeding my skills in that area admittedly. She may not be able to follow through a kill, but I think she needs more time. She was and still is an avid reader, which meant she wasn't really involved with all the extra stuff to do with target practise. I believe if we gave her the chance, she would be a valuable asset to any team. Highly knowledgeable, skilled and her single most powerful aspect. Determination. So strong, some would call it obsession." spoke Cherry, giving a very heartfelt speech from what I could see, her face showed very strong emotions as she spoke each word.

There was silence as everyone thought through what was said, with the exception of Harrow who seemed to fall asleep halfway through the speech. Mellow appeared to glare at her when Cherry returned his gaze, smirking a little.

"I see that her file supports all of what you say," acknowledges Cucumber

"It appears that she would make an invaluable scribe, but the problem with scribes is that they are unskilled in the field, making them a risk in the wastelands. Being as she is capable of showing the base skills needed of a knight, and the knowledge of a scribe, it makes her very promising in my eyes. But the issue of the killing is still there. Sadly I agree with Mellow, despite how strongly you feel on this Cherry."

"I concur," Pearl Barley spoke up.

"I do think she would fit in well with the Knights, with the correct applied practise. If we keep her out of the field for now, and say, put her on a safer job, one that would be very hard to mess up. I think she would gather that experience easily within a year or so. She is a very rare individual I must say, to lose her would be a great loss."

"What sort of job did you have in mind?" asked the Elder

"Possibly some local sweeps of the crater, border patrol? Nothing to intensive or risky. Most she will find out there is a stray Bloodwing or something. If we have some more capable Knights with her, the peer pressure will kick in soon enough." suggested Pearl

"I don't know, sweeps recently have uncovered some pretty dangerous hazards, I’ve only put senior knights on the job recently just in case, isn't that right?" questioned Cucumber, nudging Hard Harrow who was snoring next to him.

He woke loudly, nearly falling off his chair.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah... I put them on the sweep..." he moaned, not happy about being awoken.

"Hmm... Border Patrol is a possibility. I like the sound of that, she can practise her aim, even take a shot at some of those pests we have. Kill two pegasi with one stone." the Elder brainstormed, beginning to warm up to the idea

"You can't be serious, your actually considering this train wreck?" complained Mellow

"Yes, and if you have a problem with my personal decision in this matter, you can hand over your key, your armour and you can kick you own flank out of here, is that clear?" threatened the Elder quite sharply.

Mellow grumbled slightly but kept his mouth shut.

"Alright then Cherry. I will accept her to Border Patrol, but nothing more, at least until we see an improvement. However, if you truly feel she will fit in to the knights, I need something from you to prove your words are honest." the room returning their gaze back upon her.

"What did you have in mind, Sir." returned Cherry, her voice showed a slight tremble.

"We have had a very important mission going now for a very long time. I have sent countless numbers of parties on it, but none never have returned. However after the last attempt, I left it a little while. Admittedly the parties I sent were a little under skilled for what I see now as a very specialised task. We were considering... looking at some of the talent we have here now... putting you on this mission." the Elder explained.

"How many parties have failed, are they still alive?" inquired Cherry, she wore a look of fear upon her.

"Five parties to date. We have no information to tell us they are alive or deceased, missing in action is all we can say." he answered

"I'm not sure, is there something else I can do?" pleaded Cherry

"No. This is your promise. I highly doubt that this time we'll fail, we have great ponies on this mission this time, I'll be damned to see none of you return, empty saddled or with the objective. So are you in?" the Elder passed over a piece of paper with a pen.

Cherry took them both and examined the details upon what she must have considered a waiver of sorts. The pen held in her mouth was trembling as she began to relinquish a tear. Pearl took notice of this and went around the table to comfort her.

"I can really see you care for your friend, but we don’t live in a world of friends, we live in a harsh world where we must think of ourselves more than others. I'm sure we can find another way of getting Crossword into the knights in a few years time when she grows up a bit but..."

"I promised her. I don't break promises." she interrupted

"Well. I'm leading this mission, and I personally selected everyone on it, including you. I've watched you become a very strong pony from when you first began training, I watched all of you, and I only choose the best of the best."

Cherry looks up to her, giving her a very confused face.

"I believe in the team, and we sure as hell are coming back. Having you, Cherry Strudel, on the team will only make our chances of success greater." complemented Pearl

Pearl placed a hoof on her back and then made her way back to her seat. Cherry sniffed up the last of her tears, and placed the pen on the paper. After signing the waiver, she kicked it back across the table to the Elder.

"Very good, I'll put you on Pearl's roster and Crossword on the Border. I suggest you go back to your dorm and cool off a bit, thank you for you help in the meeting so far Cherry." said the Elder, again showing a little emotion for her.

Cherry spoke nothing as she got up from her seat and left the room.

The video clip was reaching it's end as they all began to leave the room, Pearl leaving last just when...

"Pearl? Just a minute." requested Cucumber

"Sure. What did you need, Sir?" the Paladin replied

"How sure are you that you and this team can wrap up this mission once and for all? I have made enough tries at this and lost enough Rangers to make me question if this is worth it?" he questioned

"I am just a desperate to find out what it holds out there as you are. Clearly if the past attempts failed consistently, it must be well protected, and extremely important. The Ministry wouldn't have placed something unimportant out there in the Bale-lands, it has to be of worth to us." convinced Pearl

"As long as your certain. The mystery of Project 17 has gone on long enough." the Elder said in a half relieved, half regretful manner before making his exit.