• Published 3rd Oct 2014
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Fallout Equestria: Tactics - lordlaneus



Driven from his home in Stable 16 due to a combination of superstion and bad luck, Scouts Honor now has to survive in the harsh enviroment of the Equestrian wasteland.

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Ignorance

Prologue

War. War never changes. Not when Nightmare Moon first rose to power, not when the Zebra nations and Equestria began to feud over resources, nor even when the Stable Dweller fought for control of the Single Pegasus Project. The means may vary; sticks exchanged for spears, spears for firearms, and firearms for megaspells, but the underlying, all-consuming malice remained constant -- a self-sustaining malevolence that continued to grow -- endlessly feeding on itself until one day the world could take no more and cleansed itself with the only implements available: balefire and radiation.

My name is Scouts Honor and I’m writing this because the truth matters. Someday the fruits of my inquiry will inevitably be lost to the sands of time, but I’m going to do my damndest to make sure that everything I’ve learned over the course of my adventure stays around for as long as I can possibly make it. Unedited. In its entirety.

So, where to begin?

I was born in Stable Sixteen. I never knew my father, and my mother died while I was young, but luckily the Overmare took me in. From the time I was a colt, I never fit in very well with my peers. As I grew, I discovered a talent for strategy games, which eventually led to the pawn that adorns my flank to this day. Shortly after my mark appeared, the Overmare officially named me her successor, despite the fact that it meant I would be the Stable’s first Overstaillion. But I suppose my story doesn’t really begin until the day my curiosity got the best of me, and I decided to start pressing for answers.

Fallout Equestria: Tactics
by: LordLaneus

Chapter 1: Ignorance

“Imagine ponies living in an underground den which is open towards the light; they have been there from foalhood, having their necks and legs chained, and can only see into the den.”

Sixteen.

What did it mean? Sixteen what? No one knew anymore. Whatever its original significance, the architect had deemed it important enough to be plastered on every wall, doorway, and piece of clothing in the entire Stable. I had spent the last half an hour staring at my door attempting to unravel the puzzle of its mysterious numerals. I tended to spend a lot of time lost in thought. The only alternatives for passing the time were playing board games or telling stories. I consider myself lucky in how much I genuinely enjoy all three of those activities. There really wasn't much else to do. Maybe that's what the sixteen on the door meant. Maybe it referred to the sixteen waking hours that we had to find some way of filling every day.

I was forcefully dragged back to reality when the door let out a loud hiss. It retracted into the ceiling, revealing the tall, dark grey form of the Overmare. She seemed surprised to find me already standing at the door, my muzzle a scarce few inches from her own. Her expression barely hinted at her confusion, but the hint, however subtle, was clearly there. "Ah, Scout, I'm glad to see I'm not interrupting anything," the mare said in a neutral tone. "I require your assistance in my office." With that she turned and trotted down the hall. I followed closely behind.

"Is this about the Renewal?" I asked, trying to keep up with her brisk pace.

"Indeed. I wanted to make the announcement for everypony to begin their final preparations, but had some difficulties with the intercom."

Ah. I understood. The primary intercom terminal had always been finicky, but unlike faulty PipBucks or medical equipment, it was attached to Overmare's desk, which was bolted to the floor. This meant that it could not be easily placed into a repair chamber. Usually the standard procedure would be to wait a day or two for it to repair itself, but the Renewal added time pressure that ruled out that option. Luckily, it seemed I had a knack for coaxing stubborn machines into serving their intended purposes.

As soon as the door to her office closed behind us, the Overmare relaxed her muscles, slouched slightly and turned back into Jubilee. For some reason she insisted on maintaining an air of stuffy, detached professionalism whenever she was in public. The effort she spent to maintain the pretense was obvious from how quickly she returned to her true self once in private, yet I couldn't recall a single instance of her letting it slip without meaning to. She gestured towards her desk and I went to work.

I pressed the button labeled ‘Intercom.’ No reaction. It was loose, but this was hardly a novel condition. I attempted to twist and wiggle the button into functionality. Hmm… that usually worked. I would have to open the panel. I turned towards Jubilee and asked "Do you have a screwdriver? Maybe a knife? Something pointy? I don't have anything."

To her credit she didn't laugh. She even managed to suppress her smirk, but I saw her eyes shift ever so slightly, and her gaze move to my forehead. She was the closest thing I had to a mother. I trusted her, and I knew she had my best interests at heart. But even so, whenever she looked at me, I knew my condition was never far from her mind. I lowered my head and sank to around half of my original height.

When I looked up, Jubilee was repentantly offering me a screwdriver. Her behavior still stung, but I opted to accept her apology rather than dwell on the sore subject. Screwdriver in hoof, I returned to the console.

I unscrewed the front panel and poked my head in. The interior was dim, but I had enough light to manage. The pieces of circuitry relevant to the intercom were enclosed in small plastic covers that would have to be removed if I wanted access to them.

I wiggled my hoof looking for where I had left the screwdriver. Jubilee must have seen my struggle and passed me the tool. As she did, I thought I saw a faint flash of light coming from somewhere behind me. I turned my head as far as the tight quarters would allow, but couldn’t identify the source. Whatever. A frayed wire may have been slightly dangerous, but the Stable would repair itself within a few days.

I unscrewed the intercom panel and instantly saw the problem. The wire that was supposed to be attached to the button, was instead dangling freely. Hopefully, reattaching the wire would fix intercom. Or at least make it operational until the Stable could repair itself properly. “Hey, I think I see the problem,” I called out, as I came up for air, “Do you have any tape or glue?”

“Sure, one moment,” she replied from the corner of the room. Wait. Hadn’t she been right next to me a moment ago? She rummaged through her drawers before handing me a bottle of wonderglue. Perfect.

I carefully put a dab of glue on the end of the errant wire, mindful to only get it on the rubber outer part, and leave the internal metal uncovered. I’d learned that that mattered for some reason. I pushed the wire back into place and held it there for a few seconds. Once I was satisfied that it would hold, I emerged from the console.

“Presto!” I announced, “The intercom should work again, but I would let it sit for a few minutes before testing it to make sure the glue is dry”.

"Thank you for your help, Scout," Jubilee said as she trotted towards the back of the room. "While we wait would you care for a game?" She didn't have to ask twice, and I didn't even need to answer. She saw how quickly my ears had perked up, and took that as a yes. She retrieved her crystal chess set from the highest shelf. This I had not expected.

Those thirty-two crystalline figurines were by far the Overmare's most precious physical possessions. Each piece appeared to have been ornately hoof carved from glass. The attention to detail was impeccable; each individual pawn had a slightly different stance, uniform, and expression. I'd never seen them used for anything less than the championship match in the Stable-wide chess tournament. They were incredibly fragile, and what's worse, the Stable's repair chambers refuse to fix them for some reason. Hence, the single chip on a single white pawn lingering from a blow sustained long before I'd even been born. Notwithstanding the chip, these figures were clearly the type to be cherished and carefully cared for, not the type to bring out for a quick game between friends while some glue dries.

I reflexively backed away from the board in an attempt to minimize the risk of destroying a Stable heirloom. But Jubilee assured me, "Don't worry, I have faith in your coordination, and even if you did do something stupid, I'd probably just make up a story involving some shoddy shelving or a wayward radroach. Beside this will probably be the last game I play before all records of our lives are wiped from the Stable, so let's make it a good one. I'll start."

Pawn to e4. A standard opening.

I cautiously approached the board, "Do you ever wonder about the Renewal?"

Pawn to g6. An unusual response.

"What's there to wonder about? Computers only have thirty-six hundred days of memory. Once they run out, they naturally have no choice but to wipe themselves clean or else they would be unable to keep functioning."

Pawn to d4. She stuck with convention.

"Well for starters, the Renewal doesn't happen every thirty-six hundred days."

Pawn to c5. This should rattle her a bit.

"Hmm? What do you mean?"

Pawn d captures c5. Bait, taken.

"Did you know that Porkpie has been keeping track of the cycle? Every Renewal, he take notes of how many days it's been and adds it to the list of previous counts. Then he enters it all into a computer as soon as they come back up. He's done that for the last five cycles."

Bishop to g7. I bring out my first major piece.

"Why would anypony ever bother doing that?"

Bishop to f4. Her counter was clumsy.

"I don't know, but each cycle actually lasts three thousand six hundred fifty-two days."

Pawn to b6. A seemingly innocuous play.

"I don't see how knowing the exact amount of time changes anything."

Pawn c captures b6. She clearly didn't see what I was playing at.

"Because here's where it gets interesting. You may not have noticed, but that the last Renewal happened exactly three thousand six hundred fifty-two days ago, and yet the next hasn’t happened yet. This is because, every other cycle lasts exactly one extra day longer."

Queen caputers b6. Now the game begins.

"And what do you suppose causes that?"

Knight to c3. She bides her time.

"Well, since every machine in the Stable is wiped clean, maybe there's some exterior force?"

Pawn to d5. I attempt to draw her aggression.

"Scout! If anypony else had heard you say that to me, I would have had no choice­­­­­­ but to issue severe consequences! And besides, it's absurd. The very concept of 'outside the stable' is a logical contradiction. By definition, the Stable is the only thing that wasn't destroyed by Magic."

Queen captures d5 A stronger reaction than I had anticipated.

"I'm sorry, I was just thinking out loud."

pawn to f5. I play the fool.

"That really is your problem, you think too much. Especially about the things that matter the least."

Queen captures 8a. She bought the feint.

"Spending less time lost in thought would leave me with a lot of extra hours to fill; what would you suggest I do with them?"

Pawn f caputres e4. I let her think she is in control a bit longer.

"Everypony else seems to manage. You should try actually interacting with them more. The only time you ever talk to anypony else is when there's a game board between you, and you almost never participate during story tellings. Why don’t you try and make some more friends."

Knight captures e4. The predictable response.

"We both know why."

Knight to f6. I apply a bit of pressure.

"You're wrong. Nopony cares about your condition! You just need a little bit of confidence. That's the only thing your horn actually took from you."

Knight to d2. She goes exactly where I wanted her to.

"You don't know that. For all we know this stupid bone is stabbing all the way through my brain, doing who-knows-what kind of damage."

Knight to d5. I attempt to lure her further

"Scout, please. There’s no reason to believe that it’s anything more than aesthetic. Besides, I've spent enough time with you personally that I can say that I am one-hundred percent certain you do not have brain damage."

Queen captures b8. She maintained course.

"But that's my point. You can't be. None of us really know anything!"

King to d8. I fortify my position.

"This is starting to get ridiculous."

Night g to f3. She fumbled for a move again.

"No, do you want to know what's ridiculous?"

Pawn to e5. The final bit of setup.

"Scout…"

Bishop to g3. She's still too hesitant to attempt anything.

"How can we know so little about something as important as the length of a Renewal cycle? Why do we just assume we're seeing everything there is to see?"

Rook to e8. I begin my final assault.

"I don’t know."

Knight captures e5. A hasty response.

"What about the repair chutes? Where do they lead? How do they work?”

Queen capture b8. I press on.

"Why does it matter?"

pawn to c4. Now she is in a complete panic.

"And why does every surface in the Stable automatically clean and reapair itself, but that pawn’s been chipped my entire life?"

Bishop captures e5. The final nudge that makes her give in.

"Because it was designed that way!"

Queen side castle. By the time she’d realized what she’d done, it was too late.

"Interesting"

Queen captures b2. Checkmate.

As I looked up from the completed game the Overmare did not meet my glance. Without a word, she began to slowly rearrange the chess set, piece by piece. Once the board had been returned to its initial configuration, she carefully placed it back onto its prestigious position on her shelf. She turned to face me, let out a long sigh, and finally spoke. "Scout… do you trust me?" The words barely trickled out of her mouth. “Because I need you to believe me when I say that what I’m about to show you really is the only thing I know. Can you do that?”

I nodded solemnly. The gesture was sincere, though at that point I was so ravenous with curiosity that my response had little bearing on my sincerity.

Jubilee sighed, walked over to her desk, and unlocked the bottom draw. She opened the drawer and removed a small grey rectangle. “This is a holotape,” she explained. “It contains the only permanent recording in the entire Stable. It is intended for the Overmare’s ears only. But as my successor, this office and everything in it, including this tape, will be yours someday. So I’ve decided that you deserve to hear it now. You’ve earned that much.” Her tone was somber. This was one of the few occasions when I was unsure if I was talking to Jubilee or the Overmare. “Besides, you’re curious, you would have eventually found out about this tape anyway.” Her playful smile and affectionate tone immediately removed any doubt as to her current role. “Put the cover of my console back on. and I’ll play the tape for you.”

I eagerly lined up the panel with the console and screwed it back into place. Jubilee connected the tape to her terminal which began to emit soft sputters and pops, and then eventually a mare’s voice as well.

“Hello, my name is Scootaloo, and I’m the vice-president of Stable-Tec. If you’re hearing this, that means that the Omega-Level Threat Protocols have been enacted and you have been chosen to be the overmare of Stable Sixteen”

“You are now the last, best hope for equinity. But it’s not enough to merely ensure the survival of our species; we must do everything in our power to never repeat the mistakes that led us so close to extinction. In service of this goal, you have exactly one job: To Forget.

“Your descendents are to live their lives untainted by the knowledge of our bloody history. Therefore the central computer system is set to purge its memory core once every ten years, a similar modification has been made to all of your PipBucks. Furthermore the stable itself is equipped with numerous cleaning and repair talismans that will prevent any information from be recording manually. All of the operation necessary to keep Stable Sixteen running smoothly have been automated, so that you won’t have to concern yourselves with anything other than putting as much distance between our societies as possible

“However, should a catastrophic failure occur that threatens the survival of the stable, there is a tunnel hidden underneath your desk that will allow access to the stables innerworkings so that you may attempt to correct the problem. Otherwise your only responsibility is to survive.

“Thank you. From all of us. From all of Equestria. Best of luck, and may Stable Sixteen and all its ponies live long and well.”

We sat in silence for several seconds. When I opened my mouth to speak, a few dozen questions all attempted to reach my mouth first. How does this tape work? Why was it a secret? Who’s Scootaloo? What’s Stable-Tec? Are there more Stables? When was this recording made? What are we supposed to be forgetting? What ‘bloody past’? What’s a year? Why would anypony do this? What was in the “stable’s innerworkings”? Just why?

But my question only managed to become wedged in my throat. I closed my mouth again. To my surprise Jubilee was the one to finally break the silence. “I trust I can count on your discretion in this matter?”

Her question allowed a few of my own to break from the herd and gallop out of my lips. “Why? Why didn’t you show this me until now? For that matter, why doesn’t the entire Stable know?”

“Because, that’s just the way it’s supposed to be.” The Overmare was looking down at her hooves, as she gave her answer, “When my mother handed down her title to me, she played that tape for me. Her final act as overmare was to order my silence, just as my grandmother had done to her, and I am doing to you.”

“So it’s a secret, but we have no idea why?” The absurdity of the situation made my head hurt.

“You’re right, but have you considered that maybe, just maybe, whoever originally decided that this should be a secret actually did know what they were doing? The only guidance we have for dealing with this tape says to keep it a secret. Could that guidance be wrong? Maybe, but as you so eloquently put it “we have no idea.” Besides, what good would making it public actually do? I’ll ask again, can I count on your discretion?”

Her argument didn’t sit right with me, but I was unable to find the words to criticize it. It just didn’t seem right to lock away something as scarce as knowledge. Besides, she had a point: knowing that our predicament had been engineered wouldn’t help us solve it. I nodded.

“Scout, this is serious,” She said in stern tone, “I need to hear you say it.”

I reluctantly complied. “I promise that I won’t reveal anything I’ve learned from the tape, or even the that the tape exists at all, to anypony else in the stable, cross my heart, hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye.”

Despite ending with a sarcastic rendition of a nursery rhyme, my response seemed to appease the Overmare. “Alright, Scout, I have an announcement to make, and we all of have big day tomorrow; you should return to your room and rest up.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” was all I could manage as I walked towards the door. A few seconds after the door closed behind me I heard the intercom activate, and the Overmare’s voice filled the Stable.

“Attention all residents… this is the Overmare. As you should all be aware, the next Renewal is imminent. In fact, Scout has just shared a theory with me, which if correct would mean that the Renewal will occur tomorrow. His evidence seems strong, so to be safe we should act under the assumption that he is correct. Take the rest of the night, and tomorrow morning to memorize any information that you need, or want, to retain. Once the Renewal has occurred, and you’ve re-entered as much information as you are able, please make your way to the atrium, for an assembly to discuss what information was and wasn’t lost during the Renewal, and to discuss our plans moving forward into the next cycle. That is all.”

By the time the broadcast had finished I was already back to my room, lying on my bed, staring at the ceiling. The other residents of Stable sixteen were busy memorizing as much as they could fit into their brains. But all of the vital information I had just learned was already safe from the Renewal. Had I not been so overwhelmed with what I had just learned, I would have been offering my mnemonic services to somepony else who had too much valuable information for them to keep track of by themselves. This was in fact how I had spent the previous Renewal, and how I had first became acquainted with Porkpie.

The information that Porkpie deemed worthy of preservation was, for lack of a better word, scattershot. That particular cycle, he had been attempting to save the average temperature of every month for the last four Renewal cycles (A constant seventy-three degrees), various population statistics (equally unphenomenal) and of course the number of days between Renewals. It was the last of these that piqued my interest enough for me to offer my assistance. Since then, Porkpie has been my only real friend. We were never as close as I was with Jubilee, but while Jubilee treated me with affectionate parental authority, I was able to interact with Porkpie as an equal, even if he was three Renewal cycles my senior.

Equal. That word stung. Until now Porkpie and I had shared anything we had that might help us solve the many mysteries of the Stable. And I now here I was with the single biggest clue of my life, and a direct order from the Overmare not to share it with anypony. I wasn’t sure if I would ever be able to talk with Porkpie normally again now that I knew so much that he didn’t. I thought about listening to one of his theories, but the idea of having relevant evidence that I was unable to share was enough to make me scream. Softly of course. If my neighbors heard and decided to come investigate, I would be forced to come up with some lie to explain my distress. That idea was almost enough to elicit a second scream.

***

My mind was a battle ground. Some parts were trying to process this new and revelatory information while the others were cowering in fear of the situations that this knowledge would engender. The combination proved to be a potent agent of insomnia. By the time the alarm on my PipBuck went off the next morning, I had only secured an hour or so of sleep. I silenced the alarm and refocused on some much needed rest. Just as drowsiness was about to reclaim me, I remembered what day it was and reluctantly forced myself out of bed.

Bleary eyed from lack of sleep, I went through my morning routine in slow motion. The actual Renewal wouldn’t occur for several more hours, but the morning before a Renewal was when the Stable was at its busiest. I wouldn’t normally be attracted to busyness, but when it only came once every thirty-six hundred days, it became an event that I didn’t want to miss.

As I traversed the hallways, I navigated a sea of ponies attempting to memorize as much as they could. Some were huddled in groups dividing up duties, other were pacing back and forth chanting mnemonics under their breath, and a select few were relaxing secure in the knowledge that they had already memorized everything they would need to know months ago. When I reached the cafeteria, it was predominantly occupied by the third group. And that happened to include Porkpie.

I started towards Porkpie. I still didn’t like the idea of having to conceal anything from him, but I couldn’t just avoid him. I would have to talk to him eventually, and eventually might as well be now. But then again, I was pretty hungry, and the dispensers were serving apple today. Okay. I decided one quick detour to get breakfast and then I’d go talk to Porkpie.

I grabbed a bowl and brought it over to the dispensers. I took a few seconds selecting what I wanted, even though apple was by far my favorite. I held my hoof up, and the dispenser registered my PipBuck. The dispenser gurgled and began filling my bowl with sweet red paste. Well, no more stalling, I sat down next to Porkpie.

“Oh! Scout! I just realized something last night!” Porkpie said, completely unaware of how much his own revelation was doomed to pale in comparison to my own.

“What’s that?” I asked trying to act as normal as possible.

“Well, I was wondering how the dispensers kept track of who’s eaten how much each day. And that’s when it hit me! What would happen if I maxed out my daily food allotment the morning before a Renewal?”

“Then you would go hungry that night.” I tried to put on my best pokerface, but quickly realized that a poker face was not casual attire for a normal conversation between friends.

“Well I guess we’ll see about that.” As he finished speaking he gestured towards the five empty bowls sitting next to him.

“Wait,” I say in genuine surprise, “You ate all of those yourself? Why would you do that?”

“First off, I didn’t eat them myself, I gave them out as compensation for helping me preserve all of my data today.” The corners of Porkpie’s mouth were twitching with the desire to form a smirk. “Secondly, who says I’ll go hungry? If the Renewal happens then how will the machines remember not to give me anymore food today?” There’s the smirk.

I pretended to be thinking about what he was saying while desperately tried to formulate exactly what I would have said in that situation if I hadn’t recently learned of persistent computer memory. I drew a blank. Eventually I simply responded, “What if your plan doesn’t work?”

“Even better!” he beamed. “If that happens it means that I just discovered a way to store information that will survive the Renewal.”

I had to literally bite my tongue to keep my promise to Jubliee. “Totally impossible! No way, no how. I mean, I’m sure nothing like that exists anywhere else in the Stable.” Smooth, Scout, Smooth.

Luckily Porkpie was too excited to notice my less than convincing ruse and just continued speaking, “You realize that if we could get the whole Stable involved in this we could store upwards of fifty bytes of data this way?”

Damnit. Twelve hours ago I would have been thrilled about this. Sure the logistics involved were absurd, and fifty bytes would only be enough to store a short sentence, but I wouldn’t have cared, this would have been a breakthrough. But now I knew about that damned holotape. It had a permanent record of a full two minutes of high quality audio, at least fifty-thousands time more data than Porkpie’s method could handle.

Porkpie was still rambling excitedly, but I wasn’t able to muster the effort to listen. I wondered if I ever would again. From that point on my only contribution to the conversation was the occasional half hearted nod. Porkpie was still too engrossed in his cleverness to notice I was acting strange. But that was fine. His plan was genuinely brilliant, I just couldn’t care about it anymore.

Eventually I noticed my bowl was empty, and took the excuse to leave the table. The only one I could talk to was Jubilee, but she was busy running around making sure everypony was ready, I would have to catch her after the assembly. Till then? I wasn’t sure.

I wandered the Stable until I noticed the congestion beginning to thin. My PipBuck’s clock confirmed that the Renewal was rapidly approaching. I still didn’t have any information to transcribe, so I decided to just go to the atrium early. When I got there, a few ponies were already waiting, It seemed they had had the same idea I did. I found a spot that was out of the way, and waited.

About thirty minutes later, the clock on my PipBuck struck twelve, and the entire stable was plunged into darkness. The usually barely perceptible humming of machinery was suddenly deafening in its absence. Nopony dared speak, partly for the benefit of those trying to remember things, but mostly out of awe for the spectacle. I don’t know how long the darkness lasted; having a clock permanently affixed to my leg had robbed me of any natural sense of time, but somewhere between two and fifteen minutes later, the silence was broken by a low hum. The lights came back on and the stable was filled with the din of hundreds of hooves furiously entering data as quickly as they could.

I took this opportunity to reboot my PipBuck, which was already diligently informing me that it was still twelve o’clock on the dot, completely ignorant of the past few minutes of darkness. My PipBuck was also asking me to “UPLOAD PRIMARY DRIVERS”. Nopony knew what that meant, so I just pressed ‘CANCEL.’ The PipBuck displayed a loading icon for a few seconds before prompting me to try and come up with a better name for myself than the default “OCCUPANT-413.” I entered my name carefully. Once it was set, it couldn’t be changed until the next Renewal, and I didn’t want to spend the next 3,600 plus days as ‘Scouts Bonor.’ With my name submitted, the PipBuck returned to its familiar home screen.

I wondered why a glorified watch had to involve so much setup. Hadn’t the mare on the tape said that modification had been made to all of our PipBucks? Maybe they were originally supposed to be capable of doing more than just telling us the time, our own names, and occasionally serving as a flashlight. The entire device was covered with buttons and gauges that didn’t do anything, so this seemed likely.

By this point the atrium was starting to fill, up so I didn’t notice Porkpie sneaking up behind me. “Hey, what’s going on with your PipBuck?” He had noticed me looking at my foreleg.

“Nothing,” I replied, “I was just re-entering my name, and I started wondering why it had so many extra buttons.”

“Yeah, and what the hay are ‘primary drivers’ anyway?” he responded, in almost exactly the same way he had the last time we’d had this conversation.

I was struggled to give a response unaffected by my newfound knowledge. What had I said the last time this came up? Eventually I decided to just start talking. “Well-”

“Welcome, everypony!” The Overmare mercifully cut me off, “They’re are a few stragglers still entering data, but the majority of the Stable has already made its way here. Today is a day to celebrate. For the first time in living memory, we were able to successfully predict the exact date of the Renewal. If our theory continues to hold, we will be able to better prepare for future Renewals, and hopefully drastically minimize lost information. This breakthrough was thanks to the vigilance of Porkpie and Scouts Honor. Could you two please come up to the stage?”

Porkpie began moving towards the front of the crowd, I quickly followed after him and quietly asked “Did you know she was going to call us up?”

“Yeah,” he responded in a hushed tone, “I thought I warned you about this at breakfast.” Well now I knew at least what one of my half hearted nods had been in response to.

We nervously climbed steps up to the stage; neither of us were particularly comfortable in front of large crowds. Once we were at the Overmare’s side, she resumed her speech.

“These two inquisitive minds have made one of the largest advances that the Stable has ever known. What they have discovered will make everypony’s life that much better for generations to come. I believe that this qualifies for a round of applause.” The room erupted into a cacophony of hoof beats. My earlier trepidation washed away completely. I had to admit, the attention actually felt pretty good.

Good enough that I let my guard down.

I don’t know who said it, but from somewhere within the cascade of congratulations, my ears picked up a single sentence, that completely shattered the moment. “Nice work, bone-head!”

That could have been the end of it, just a single asshole in a crowd of hundreds. But, no. This particular asshole decided to take things a step further. I saw something small whizzing towards me from his direction. I closed my eyes and braced for impact.

...

Huh? did he miss? The trajectory had looked spot on. I tentatively opened my eyes to discover an ordinary die suspended in mid-air, a few feet in front of my face. The only clue to it’s flagrant disregard for the laws of gravity, was the transparent silver glow surrounding it. The rest of the Stable was dumb struck by the spectacle, but to my confusion only half of them were looking at the die. The rest had their eyes firmly affixed to my horn. Moving my eyes up I saw the same silver energy field engulfing my horn.

My heart skipped a beat and the die fell to the floor.

Eventually someone in crowd worked up the courage to speak, “Magic’s back to finish what he started! He’s going to destroy the Stable!” The rest of the crowd seemed to agree with the sentiment. The applause from a moment ago was replaced by a volley of threats and slurs.

One pony in the front row shouted for my head, and began to rush the stage. The others followed
With my eyes welling with tears, I turned to Porkpie for support. Porkpie stared at me, slowly shaking his head, and mouthing the words “I’m sorry.”

Jubilee proved a far more valuable ally. She quickly grabbed my shoulder in her teeth, and half led, half dragged me through the ravenous mob. Hundreds of hooves and jaws reached out at me as the mob attempted to rest me from Jubilee’s grasp. We cleared of the atrium and only a few of my assailants continued their pursuit. Jubilee galloped towards her office faster than I had thought possible, but I somehow managed to match her pace. We raced up the stairs and into her office. The door closed just as our pursuers reached it. Denied entry, they began pounding on the door.

Now that I had six inches of metal between myself and my assailants, I suddenly became aware of my exhaustion and terror. I collapsed on floor in a blubbering pile of pony. “Listen, Scout. Things are going to be okay, but you need to be strong right now,” Jubilee reassured me. “I don’t know what happened out there, but here’s what I do know. You aren’t a minion of Magic, you aren’t being controlled by Magic, and you certainly aren’t Magic himself.”

A long career as the Overmare had left Jubilee with a cool head in a crisis. I, on the other hand, could only muster a few “buts” in reply

“No! You are Scouts Honor, and I’ve known you your entire life. You think about things, and you fix things. You do not destroy them. I know that, you know that, and deep down the entire rest of the stable knows that.”

Her reassurances were helping me to slowly regain control of my breathing. I was almost able to form words again.

“They’re just scared right now. Probably even more scared than you are. So all we need to do is keep you safe until everypony else has chance to settle down and think about things calmly. I’m sure that once they do, they’ll realize that you would never betray them.”

“But,” I managed to choke out, “What am I going to do till then?”

“Do you remember the secret tunnel mentioned in the tape I showed you?” By the time she had finished asking the question, she had already pushed a secret button on her desk, causing her entire work station, to retract towards the wall, and rise several feet off the floor. Underneath where her desk had previously sat there was a dark staircase leading into the unknown. “This leads to the under-Stable. That’s where you need to hide. I don’t know what you’ll find down there, but I’ll need a week to calm things down. Do you think you can make it that long?”

I nodded in the affirmative.

“Good, but you need to leave immediately.”

“What? but, why right now?” I stammered.

“Because the next few hours are going to be critical. I can’t spend them in here, but as soon I open that door, a lot of scared and angry ponies are going to rush in, and you can’t be here when they do.” She was right.

I took a deep breath and entered the tunnel.

Jubilee, called down after me, “Alright, tomorrow I’ll leave you some food and water at the top of these stairs, I should be able to wrangle up enough to last you for the rest of the week. Don’t worry, I promise I’ll sort this out. Just survive one week, and everything can go back to normal, and we can figure out what’s going on”

I turned around and said the only thing that came to mind, “Thank you. For everything.” Jubilee continued to wear her strong reassuring smile, but I saw the tears beginning to form in her eyes.

Jubilee disappeared from the ring of light at the top of the stairs, and a moment later I saw the desk move back into place, completely blocking all light from entering the stairway. So there I was. Surrounded by absolute darkness. With no idea where I was going. Completely and utterly alone.
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Footnote: Level up!
New Perk Added: Horse Sense-- You are a swift learner. You gain an additional +10% whenever experience points are earned.
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Author's Note:

LordLaneus: Hey! First off, thanks for reading it this far. If you have any comments, questions, anything you can send them to FoE.Tactics@gmail.com. See you all in chapter 2.