• Published 6th Jan 2016
  • 527 Views, 9 Comments

Fallout Equestria: Ashes to Ashes - Swordslinger



In a world turned to ash and fire, a single creature awakens to a world he no longer knows.

  • ...
7
 9
 527

One Way Sign

“Aahhh that’s the stuff.” Rail Spike muttered as he dumped some radioactive water over his bare shoulder with a pan, the rotten skin glowing with radioactivity as he did so.

From a good distance away and sitting on a crumbling roadblock, Braeburn leaned over to Translucent, “What’s he doing that for?” He asked, ignoring the constant ticking of his Pipbuck.

“Ghouls can heal when subjected to radiation, more importantly though, they need it to survive.” She answered, then squinted her eyes towards the Ghoul, “Though, he looks a bit different from the ones I’ve seen.” She confessed. At Braeburn’s questioning look, she elaborated, “Usually they look downright rotting, with pieces of skin and coat flaking off. He just looks more like a burn victim.”

“Ah thought ya said that some go feral.” Braeburn said, “What did ya mean by that?”

“Just what I said.” Translucent shrugged, “Lose their minds, go nuts, act like a wild animal.”

“Then what’s keeping Rail Spike there from going...co-co?”

“My stunning good looks and my winning personality.” Rail Spike said, suddenly in their faces.

Jumping slightly in his seat, Braeburn had a bashful look while Translucent turned away and coughed.

Stuttering out a reply, “Ah’m mighty sorry, ah didn’t-”

Waving his hoof, Rail Spike rolled his eyes, “Ah, leave it alone kid. Trust me, I’m starting to wonder why I don’t go feral myself. Personally, I think it may have something to do with all the radiation around here.”

“Ah’ve been meaning to ask something if ya’ll don’t mind.” Braeburn began, “What in tarnation happened to the world? Ah keep hearing ya two talking about that there radiation, what in hell’s name is it? All ah know about is that it’s in some of that Sparkle-Cola for the taste.” Looking between the two, who looked at him weirdly, Braeburn shrugged, “Ah’m sorry, ah just...All ah saw was the bombs going off, I didn’t see any of that radiation.”

“You saw the bombs going off?” Rail Spike repeated, “You ain’t no Ghoul, so the hell are you talking about kid?”

“Let’s just this out of the way…” Translucent muttered, looking at Rail Spike, she nodded towards Braeburn, “Horns here is from the old world, apparently he was trapped in a Stable for the past two hundred years and only woke up yesterday. That answer your question? Good, moving on.” Before Rail Spike had a chance to protest or even reply, Translucent turned to Braeburn, “Anyway, to answer yours, when the bombs fell, they released magical radiation on the land when the warhead hit. It mutates, corrodes, and transforms whatever it touches. Rail Spike here was made a Ghoul who was exposed to too much radiation and didn’t have the good fortune to die.”

“I’m mighty happy to be alive Sweetie.” Rail Spike grinned, “After all, I got to meet you.”

Translucent rolled her eyes, “Charming. But moving on: The reason you didn’t see any radiation was that when the dust settled, was, because, well, you can’t. It’s invisible to the naked eye unless you have the right equipment for it, like that Pipbuck on your hoof. The fallout, if you will, covered all of Equestria, though a few fringe cities and areas made out it okayish.”

“Fallout…” Braeburn muttered, “Equestria? Can’t be….” Mumbling a few things to himself, he put his head in his hands and turned away from the two.

Raising an eyebrow, Rail Spike looked to Translucent, “Is your friend okay? He seems a little out of it.”

Translucent opened her mouth to reply, then closed it, opened it again, then closed it. Finally, she shrugged, “I dunno.”

“Riiiggghttt….Anyway, I appreciate you two saving my bacon and all, so how about I pay ya back by taking ya to the old homestead?” Rail Spike offered, “There’s enough beds for ya both, if you don’t mind some tight living quarters that is.”

“Got any food?” Translucent asked.

“Hope you don’t mind dining on veggies, all we got growing in the garden. Aside from the occasional odds and ends mind you.” Rail Spike said, “But let it never be said that Polka Face can’t offer a friend a place to stay.”

“That mare who shot called you Polka.” Translucent said, tilting her head, “What exactly did she mean by that?”

“Ah, ya see this little band I got?” Gesturing to his shoulder which still had the yellow ribbon around, Rail Spike grinned, “Shows that I am a member of Polka Face, one of the four gangs of the Coalition.”

“Coalition? Gonna have to explain that one.” Translucent urged.

“In a bit sweets, it’s a long story.” Turning around, the Ghoul pony motioned to follow him, “Come on, Nelson ain’t that far.”

“Right right. Braeburn?”

Braeburn turned, as if just noticing her presence, “Huh?”

“It’s time to go.” Jumping off the roadblock, Translucent grinned, “Come on, you can talk to yourself later, preferably when there’s a roof over our heads.”

“....If ya say so.” Braeburn muttered, hopping off his seat.

“By the way, are you sure you don’t want to hold onto your revolver?” The unicorn asked, “A .44’s pretty useful, and a gryphon one even more so.”

Shaking his head, Braeburn held his shotgun at the ready, “Don’t have a holster for it, besides, unless yer got ammo for it, it’s too valuable to waste.”

“Amazing how often you can’t use something that should be used…” Translucent mumbled, but saw his point.

Setting off, the three began a lonely trek through the outskirts of Vanhoover, the only sound being heard was from Braeburn’s heavy metal feet, and his Pipbuck’s radio, which was playing a somewhat somber song about a pony reminiscing about his long lost home.

And as it seemed, he wasn’t the only one.

“Don't know why I left the homestead, I really must confess….”

“I'm a weary exile, singing my song of loneliness…”

“The grass is the springiest, the bees are the stingiest. The birds are the wingiest, the bells are the ringiest…”

“Gotta say, “Translucent spoke up as they walked, “I haven’t heard that song before. It isn’t one of Sweetie Belle’s, who sung it?”

“Don’t rightly know,” Braeburn admitted, “Ah think it was popular a few years back...Ah mean, in the middle of the war.”

“Oh yeah, that reminds me.” Rail Spike spoke up, “Are you really from the old world? ‘Fore everything went to shit?”

“A living fossil, that’s him.” Translucent said, “Just a few extra parts added on.”

“I wasn’t gonna ask about them.” Rail Spike said quickly.

The unicorn rolled her eyes, “You were.”

“I was.” Rail Spike admitted.

“Well, truth be told ah’m still figuring this out for myself.” Braeburn admitted, holding his left hand up and examining his fingers, holding them to the sun, “Ah didn’t ask for any of this though, that’s for sure.”

Rolling her eyes, Translucent bumped into Braeburn good naturedly, “Oh, you have fingers now. You can hold shit.”

Chuckling, he nodded, “There’s that for sure, but ah still don’t know about these things on the top of my head though.” Looking at the two metal prongs running parallel above Braeburn head, Translucent tilted her head.

“Oh yeah, they don’t look like unicorn horns, can you cast magic through them?” She asked.

“Don’t rightly think so, that robot didn’t mention any magic, ah just think they’re supposed to be Minotaur horns.”

Glancing back at them from the lead, Rail Spike blinked in comprehension, “So that’s what they are, been bugging me for a bit.”

“They look more like ram horns then a Minotaur's though.” The unicorn pointed out, “After all, they’re supposed to be on the side of your head, not the top. Unless it’s a female one, that is.” Letting the information sink in for a minute, Translucent grinned slyly, “So, Braeburn, how’s it feel to be attractive to male Minotaurs now?”

Braeburn’s eye twitched, and he shuddered, feeling like she had just stabbed his soul with an ice pick.

“Heh, you two are a strange pair, known each other long?” Rail Spike asked.

“Nope.” Translucent chirped, “Just met him yesterday.”

“Huh, never would’ve guessed the way you two talk.” Rail Spike admitted. Looking over his shoulder at to Braeburn, he smiled real friendly-like, “So, from a Stable right? Which one?”

“It was rightly called Stable 100, but ah honestly don’t know much about it.” Raising his Pipbuck and checking the map, Braeburn nodded, “It’s actually not that far from here. Probably about ten miles off if this doohickey is right.”

“Hm, how far can that thing see?” Rail Spike asked.

Zooming out on the map, Braeburn shrugged, “Looks like...maybe everything in three hundred miles? Ah’m just guessing here.”

“Hm, interesting…” The Ghoul muttered, then went back to trotting along silently.

A little off put of their companion’s sudden silence, Braeburn turned to Translucent, “So...been anywhere interesting?” He asked.

Translucent shrugged in reply, “A few places, I think.”

“Like what?”

“Well…” The unicorn paused in thought, “I’ve been to the Ponyville ruins, Tenpony Tower, oh, and Junction R-7. I’d think you’d like it there.”

“What makes ya say that?” Braeburn asked.

“It’s...a bit more honest than New Appleloosa, they used to trade with slavers and I just don’t….Oh damn, I did it again.” Translucent cringed.

Stopping in his tracks, a heavy scowl was over Braeburn’s muzzle, “They. Traded. Slaves?”

By this time, Rail Spike had stopped in his steps as well and turned to face the now angry looking earth pony. Taking a step back, Translucent gulped and backpedaled, “They don’t anymore! Really! They’re much more honest now!”

“Ah did not make Appleloosa over from scratch just so that it could become a….Slave town!” Braeburn snarled with venom, particularly spitting out the words as he did.

Translucent cringed, “I didn’t-Wait, from scratch? The hell are you talking about?” She asked with a confused look on her face.

The anger washing away from him, Braeburn breathed and released a fist he didn’t even know he had made. Walking over to a nearby railing, he put his hands and leaned against it, putting his weight against the rusty metal and looked at the landscape around him, “Back during the war, Appleloosa started smuggling Zebra drugs which the Ministry of Morale took a blind eye. Was downright disgraceful in my eyes, so ah took a few like-minded individuals and made Appleloosa over again. My fiancé, Little Strongheart was one of them. Sides, Appleloosa was needing to expand anyway.”

Looking sheepish, Translucent hung her head, “Oh...I’m sorry, for what it’s worth. It’s better now though, if that’s any comfort.”

“Ah’d like to believe ya miss…” Braeburn said, a tired tone in his voice, “Honestly, ah can’t help but think this is all a dream...some nightmare ah can’t wake up from.”

Looking in between the two, Rail Spike shrugged, “Well, I don’t know much about slavers unless you’re talking about the Dragoons, but I can tell ya Nelson ain’t a bad place to stay if you’re looking for a place to settle down.”

The cloaked unicorn shrugged, “I’m more of a wanderer, but thanks. Braeburn?”

“....”

“Braeburn?”

His back facing them, Braeburn didn’t respond.

“...I think your friend’s a little out of it.” Rail Spike said, leaning over to Translucent.

Sighing, she nodded reluctantly, “Let’s...go, we can worry about his mental state later.”


“There’s something ah’m still having trouble figuring out.” Braeburn began as they walked southwards, they had made a little progress since their last impromptu stop, and during that time, Braeburn had been almost completely silent. Honestly, Translucent couldn't really blame him for taking a while to process everything about the fate of Equestria.

Hey, Translucent was a bitch, not a jackass.

“What’s up Burn?” She asked as they trotted.

“Ah thought ah saw the city blown up by a bomb.” Braeburn said, pointing to the still somewhat intact city of Vanhoover which loomed in the distance, “Ah mean, there was a large explosion, ah saw it going off.”

“You must’ve seen the one that hit Tall Tale.” Rail Spike injected, “See, from what I hear there were two bombs, one to the northwest that hit the coast, and one that hit to the south of Tall Tale. Tall Tale’s a hell hole now, but it took the brunt of the blast when the bomb hit.”

“Well, ah remember two bombs alright.” Braeburn said, rubbing his waist where a few burn scars mixed with a few surgical ones lay, “But why did they hit Vanhoover? Ah don’t recall it being a major military city during the war.”

“I don’t think the Zebras cared about that.” Translucent snorted, “But I saw a few old maps, Cloudsdale wasn’t that far away when the bombs hit, this place was in a convenient firing line. Wouldn’t surprise me if they just chucked bombs at the general area and didn’t care what they hit.”

“Hm….”

“You’re awfully well traveled Lucent.” Rail Spike noticed, “How in Celestia’s sweet flank did you get here in the first place?”

Raising an eyebrow, her face scrunched up in confusion, “Me? I just-”

“Who the hell is making all that racket?!”

Three heads darted towards the sound of the noise, towards a nearby two story house that was starting to come apart. It was an old voice, belonging to a mare of advanced age. Translucent was wary, taking out her shotgun and looking around, Braeburn froze in place with a stricken look, and Rail Spike?

Rail Spike just laughed.

“Ha! Old Betsy, that you?” He called out carefree.

“Rail Spike?”

There was a shifting of debris, and out on one of the two story windows was an old looking mare, hefting a crude looking rifle in her hooves. Her face was wrinkled and her coat grey with a syringe on her flank, not to mention her voice sounded even raspier than the ghoul’s. As she spied the three with silver eyes, a halfhearted smile came onto her face, “Well, aren’t you a sight for sore eyes Spike. Who’s your friends?”

“This pretty mare here is called Translucent.” Rail Spike said, pointing with his hoof, “And the freakshow is called Braeburn. Saved my life, so show ‘em a little hospitality.”

“Hmm...Well, he’s certainly a show alright.” Old Betsy said, eyeing the apple stallion with a wandering eye.

Braeburn shuddered and Translucent cringed.

“Anywho, where’s Pepper? That crazy Ghoul owes me twenty caps.” Betsy asked.

Rail Spike shrugged, “I dunno, we got separated after we got ambushed by the Adepts.”

Sharing a look of apprehension, Braeburn coughed, “Uh, was this “Pepper” a Ghoul quite like you?”

Rail Spike raised an eyebrow, but nodded, “Yeah…”

“Did he have a band on his arm?” Translucent asked.

“He did…”

Translucent’s horn enveloped itself in magic, and out from her hidden saddle bag, came the coat they had scavenged earlier. Floating it over to Rail Spike, he scanned it over.

Looking over the coat, Rail Spike sighed, “Well, damn.”

“Ah’m sorry, for what it’s worth.” Braeburn said.

“Appreciate it.” Rail Spike muttered, “Pepper was a bit of a dick, but….ah, nevermind, let’s just get you settled in.”

“So, Pepper’s dead then?” Betsy asked from above.

“Looks like it.” Rail Spike affirmed.

“Damn,” Betsy cursed, “Well, come on in then, Nelson’s just around the corner.”

Nodding in agreement, Rail Spike motioned for them to follow him. Setting the coat back into her saddle bag, Translucent and Braeburn followed behind the ghoul.

As they started walking again and turned a corner, Braeburn tilted his head. In front of them was a walled off section of a suburban neighborhood, houses that withstood the test of time were being used as guard towers, if the ponies milling about in them were any indication that is. A few of the more observant ponies in the houses stopped whatever it was they were doing and turned to look at the newcomers. Their faces hard to see from the distance, but it was clear they were being regarded with suspicion.

“Ah, leave em be, folks here aren’t that bad if you get to know em.” Rail Spike said, apparently noticing the discomfort the two new arrivals were causing.

As they came close to the end of the block, they were soon joined the older mare from earlier as she came around the back of the building they were walking by. As she did, she winked at Braeburn flirtatiously.

“Hey there handsome.” She greeted, “Oh, and you too Spike.”

“Yeah yeah, try not to molest the kid while he’s here.” Rail Spike grumbled, not even pausing in his steps as they walked.

“....You know, I feel like I should make a joke about that, but yeah, that’s really creepy.” Translucent said, shuddering slightly at Betsy’s antics.

“How do ya think ah feel?” Braeburn muttered, “Ah’m the one she’s hitting on.”

“And the rest of Equestria thanks you for your sacrifice.” Translucent quipped, making a formal bow as she did.

Braeburn grinned despite himself.

As Rail Spike and Old Betsy chatted away about something as they trotted alongside the wall of Nelson, Braeburn felt what remained of his legs become sore with each passing second. This walking on two legs was hard, in fact, he wasn’t sure if he’d ever get used to it. His back hooves were so…

Oh right, didn’t have those anymore.

Oh Celestia he didn’t have hooves anymore.

A feeling of revulsion grew in Braeburn stomach, and he suddenly felt the need to find a toilet to throw up in.

“Braeburn, are you alright? You just turned green.”

Translucent’s voice snapped him back to reality, but the feeling of queasiness still remained. “Ah, just, give me a minute…” He said quickly, shuffling away from the group and into a ruined building.

“Braeburn?” Translucent reached out to him with her hoof, but was stopped when a sickly green hoof grabbed her shoulder.

“Where’s he going?” Rail Spike demanded.

“I don’t-”

“HUURRRRRRRKKKKKK!”

Translucent cringed as the sound of Braeburn vomiting echoed throughout the block, “I think he’s just relieving some pent up stress.” She explained, “From what he told me, he’s sorta been high strung since yesterday and I don’t think he’s really let myself uh, deal with what’s going on.”

“Right, I think he just ate something that didn’t agree with him.” Rail Spike snarked.

Rolling her eyes, Translucent snorted, “Well, I told him that meat’s on the menu nowadays and he freaked out. So I think it’s safe to say he’s a picky eater.”

“Hmm...Your friend, Braeburn was it?” Old Betsy began, a twinkle in her eyes, “I don’t suppose he has a lover, does he?”

Translucent shrugged, “Well, he said he had a fiancé, but that should’ve been, like, two hundred years ago. So I think he’s single if that’s what you’re saying…”

“Oh really now….” The old mare drawled on, looking where Braeburn should be.

“.....How old are you, exactly?”

“Twenty-nine!” Betsy said happily.

“......What.”

Narrowing her eyes, Betsy glared at the younger unicorn, “Something you want to say?”

“Oh, um, nothing, it’s just…” Translucent’s mind raced to find some words, “You look really good for your age, is all.”

Smirking wryly, Betsy titled her head smugly, “Hm, I thought so.”

As Translucent breathed a sigh of relief, Braeburn came back into view, a little bit of puke on his muzzle.

“Sorry bout that, just felt sicker than a Buffalo in the middle of summer for a bit there.” Braeburn said as he rejoined the group.

“The hell are Buffalo?” Rail Spike asked, but was ignored.

“Um, Braeburn, you have a little…” Translucent made the motion of rubbing her mouth with her hoof. Copying her, Braeburn cringed as he felt the sticky goo end up on his arm. Rubbing it against his jumpsuit, he nodded ‘thanks’ at Translucent before turning back to Rail Spike, who raised a radiated eyebrow at him.

“You kid, are hella strange.” Then, the Ghoul grinned, “You’ll fit right in with Polka Face.”

“Okay, now this is the second time you brought it up.” Translucent noted, “I’d like an explanation now, if you wouldn’t mind.”

Rail Spike chuckled, “Ah, alright then, now that I got Old Betsy here, I suppose I could explain how things work around here.”

“Brace yourself kids, this one’s gonna take a while.” Betsy said.

As the four trotted on, Rail Spike took in a breath, “Well, for starters, that Coalition thing I mentioned? That’s just a fancy name made up to keep the four main gangs, tribes, whatever floats your pesagi, all affiliated. See, them gangs, there’s a lot of ‘em, but the main four, or big four, fantastic four, hot and dirty four, fours-”

“We get it.” Translucent groaned.

“Right right, anyway, there’s the Dragoons, Polka Face, Siren Song, and the Thunderhooves.”

“Thunderhooves?” Braeburn murmured, “Can’t be…”

“Starting simple, Polka Face is my gang, well, the one I’m belonging to, at any rate. We usually have a yellow cloth of some sort on us, that’s why I’m wearing this thing.” He guested to his yellow band, “Polka Face is probably the largest out of them all, but uh, we don’t have what one would call a “formal command structure.” We basically do whatever we want.”

“So you’re raiders then.” Translucent snorted.

“Can’t say that some of us aren’t, but us Nelson ponies are good folk, if’ you treat us right.” Rail replied, “The Dragoons on the other hand, well, let’s just say they’re overly fond of the color red. Far as I figure them, they live by, “Survival of the fittest,” whatever that means.”

“That means they think whoever’s strongest gets to live.” Betsy snorted, “Sounds like a lot of hogwash if you ask me, but they’re good fighters if nothing else.”

“Right, and then there’s Siren Song. Can’t say I know too much about them, but I hear they like the color blue, for some reason.” Rail Spike shook his head, “The last but not least, The Thunderhooves, suffice to say, I can’t say much about em.”

“Translucent raised an eyebrow, “Two secretive gangs huh?”

“Eh,” Rail shrugged, “This time, it ain’t because I don’t know much, it’s because there ain’t much to say. Those Thunderhooves like to keep to the north if you want to go looking for them. They mostly stick to green and whatnot, they’re a mostly peaceful folk, make their living hunting whatever irradiated game they can.”

“They’re eating meat too?” Braeburn asked.

Rail Spike looked at him, confused, “Yeah…What about it?”

Translucent rolled her eyes, “Remember, two-hundred-year old pony.”

“Oh, right. Forgot about that for a sec.” Rail Spike rubbed the back of his neck, “Anyway, that’s about it for the Coalition.” Just in time too, they had finally made it to Nelson’s main entrance, a large rolling gate that stood over them that was made out of metal and wood. It looked like a pretty shabby defense, if Braeburn was being honest, like all it would take to bring it down would be a half decent fire spell or a single frag grenade. To its credit though, there was a single guard tower made out of wood that sticked out of an old two story house. Poking a head of the window was a Stallion with a scar over his right eye, he looked half asleep, and didn’t even notice the four of them approach the gate.

“What about them ponies in armor?” Braeburn asked.

As soon as Braeburn said that, Rail Spike groaned and Betsy huffed, “Oh, those assholes.” The Ghoul said, “The Adeptus Unitas, our belligerent neighbors. They’re mostly just a well-armed group of jackass holed up pretty far southwest. I think they sit on a munitions factory or something.”

“I thought they found some kind of pre-war weapons cache.” Betsy added, “Could explain all their fancy toys.”

“Hm,” Translucent’s brow furrowed in thought, then turned to Braeburn, “Hey, Brae-to-the-B, you know what "Adeptus Unitas" means, right?”

Braeburn blinked, “Uh….Adeptus means “skilled,” if ah remember right, and...Unitas means united….Ah think.”

“Neeerrrrrdddd.” Translucent chided.

“Ah am not a n-”

“Moving on.” Rail Spike injected, rolling his eyes and knocking a hoof against the gate, he called out, “Hey! Duct, open up! It’s me and Betsy, got two newcomers here with us.”

A small peeking hole opened up through the gate’s left hand door, through it, a green eye spied the four and closed as quickly as it came. The sound of a latch being undone was heard, and the gate was slowly lumbered open. On the other side was a bright green, overalls wearing unicorn stallion with a roll of tape visible on his open flank, his mane was rugged and short, but his eyes were lively and full of cheer.

“Hey there Spike, Betsy.” He greeted, looking in between the two, “How’d the scavenging run go?”

“Well, as it turns out, the dips are trying to worm in our turf, so no.” Rail Spike said, “Pepper didn’t make it.”

“Ah, damn.” Duct said, “Anyway, who are these two?” He asked, directing his attention the newcomers.

“This here is Braeburn and Translucent, try to make em feel at home while they’re here.” Rail Spike turned to the aforementioned two, “This one here’s called Duct Tape, he’s our resident mechanic, so treat him nice.”

“How do ya do?” Braeburn greeted.

“Yes, hi.” Translucent drawled.

Duct Tape didn’t respond, instead, he was focused very, very intently on Braeburn, more accurately, he was focused on his metal bits. Braeburn shifted uncomfortably as Duct Tape looked him over, an awkward silence descended over the group, Translucent took to looking around, trying to desperately ignore whatever was going on as a bemused grin appeared on Betsy face, and Rail Spike just sighed.

“...Can ah help ya with something?” Braeburn finally asked.

“You’re beautiful…” Duct Tape said, mesmerized by the sight of the earth pony.

Braeburn’s eyes widened, “Err, what?” He asked, taking a step back. Undeterred, Duct Tape took a step forward.

“I said, you’re beautiful.” He repeated.

“....Ah-Ah need an adult!” Braeburn cried, flustered and very confused.

Duct Tape grinned, “I am an adult.”

Meanwhile, off to the side, Translucent had a very surprised, and very pleased grin on her face thanks to this sudden development.

“Tape, stop scaring the poor kid.” Rail Spike, “We lost one today, I don’t want to lose another.”.

“Aw,” Duct Tape pouted, “But I want to look him over!”

“No, no molesting the new guy. If you want to put him in bed, at least buy him a drink first.” Rubbing his head to relieve a growing headache, Rail Spike turned and muttered something under his breath and walked away.

Duct Tape frowned, but chuckled slightly as he did, “Ah, always fun to screw with him. Anyways, pleasure to meet ya, Braeburn, Translucent.” He nodded at the two of them, then walked away.

Finally, Betsy let out a hearty laugh she’d been holding in, “HAHAHAAHAHAHAHahahhaaaaa…..Ah, I needed that.” She smiled, then turned to Braeburn, whose eye was twitching in discomfort, “Don’t worry about Tape none, he doesn’t mean no harm, he just has a thing for fancy tech, and, well, look at you. You’re particularly a wet dream for him.”

“....Come again?” Braeburn asked.

“Oh, you know…” She leaned up against his chest, “He’ll have fun thinking about you.”

Leaving Braeburn with that mental scar, Betsy went after Rail Spike with a swing in her step.

Translucent held up a hoof to her mouth, clearly struggling not to laugh and failing miserably, “Well-snort- Braeburn, you’ve already go-hhaahaha-two admirerassshhaaaahhahhahahha!” Unable to hold it in any longer, Translucent fell to the ground in a fit of giggles and laughter, “I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” She pounded her hoof against the ground as she laughed, “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to make fun of-No, wait, Braeburn, come back! I’m sorry! I won’t make fun of your attraction to stallions! No, wait, that came out wrong. Braeburn!”


“Look, I said I was sorry, I didn’t mean to imply that you were gay. There’s nothing wrong with being gay, in fact, the Lightbringer was involved with another mare and she’s kinda been my inspiration. See? I’m not against you being gay Braeburn.”

Pinching the ridge of his eyes, Braeburn looked at Translucent and sighed, “Ah’m not gay.”

“Not that there’s anything wrong with that.” Translucent said quickly.

“Ugggghhhh….” He groaned.

They were sitting at a table in Nelson’s local watering hole, which was, in fact, a literal watering hole. The two of them sat on chairs that seemed to barely held their weight, rust and grime covering the tabletop, it seemed that nopony in 202 years had bothered to clean them off. Around them, ponies of all sorts moved about, chatting about their own adventures in the Vanhoover pocket, or simply griping about whatever was going in their lives. Nearby was a small shack which had a working oven and bar being worked by a mare and, out of all things, a male Gryphon. It was titled, somewhat uncreatively, “The Watering Hole.” All in all, it served as a low tier restaurant, but Braeburn suspected it might as well have been their own little slice of heaven.

Speaking of which…

“Here you two are, one Sparkle Cola and Instamash for the good looking mare, and one serving of Pork ’n Beans for the gay Stable Dweller.” Rail Spike said, heft a tray of food on his back and approaching the two.

“Thank you kindly.” Translucent quipped, levitating the food off the tray and letting it rest on the table.

“Don’t mention it.” Rail Spike shrugged nonchalantly, “Consider it my “thank you for keeping me breathing” gift.”

“Ah still ain’t gay.” Braeburn huffed, crossing his arms.

“I know, just like ribbing ya.” Rail grinned.

Rolling his eyes but grinning slightly, Braeburn turned his attention to the food in front of him. Recoiling slightly in disgust, he pushed the can away with his metal finger.

“It’s not that bad Braeburn.” Translucent murmured, “Just give it a try.”

“I have a fork if you need it.” Rail Spike offered, the aforementioned utensil in his mouth.

Braeburn shook his head, “No, ah’ll...give it a try.” Gulping, he poked the can as if it was waiting for a chance to attack him, looking at Translucent, he gave her a nervous smile, “Gotta...get with the times, right?”

“Sure, the times, yeah.” Translucent agreed, “Now eat it already.”

“Uh…” Braeburn looked to Rail Spike, “How many Bits was this?”

“Bits?” Rail Spike’s brow scrunched in thought, “Oh, you mean those shiny coins? Yeah, those aren’t worth anything anymore. We use Caps now.”

“Caps?” Braeburn asked.

“You know, soda caps.” Rail said.

“....Yer serious.”

Rail Spike shrugged, “Hey, I don’t make the rules pal, I just extort them.”

“Speaking of Caps,” Translucent spoke up, “I’ve got an assault rifle to sell, know any place where I can get some caps for it?”

“Try Joe’s, just look for the big shack with a store out front.” Rail supplied, “He’s always looking for new things to buy.”

“Hm,” She turned to Braeburn, “I take it you want to keep your revolver, anything else you want to sell?”

Braeburn thought for a moment, “Nothing ah can think of.”

“You sure? Nothing at all?” Translucent asked again, her eyes flicking to his left hoof.

“Ah’m not giving up my Pipbuck.” He said sternly, glaring at the unicorn, “Ya’ll have to pry it from my cold, dead-”

“I wasn’t saying that!” Translucent held up her hooves, “I mean, doesn’t that thing have inventory on it? I thought you could check!”

Blinking, Braeburn remembered that his Pipbuck did have that particular function. Lowering his head, Braeburn looked at Translucent apologetically, “Sorry ‘bout that. Still a little testy ‘bout...every gosh darn thing.”

“Don’t worry about it.” She waved her hoof, “If you weren’t, y’know, you, I’d be a bit more worried if you did just bounce back right away from...whatever it is you went through.”

“Hm….Now that you two are all settled,” Rail Spike began, “I don’t suppose you two are looking for work?”

“Does it pay?” Translucent asked.

“That it does.”

“Then I’m looking.” She affirmed.

Rail Spike looked to Braeburn, raising an eyebrow.

“Ah suppose ah’m lookin’ too.” He shrugged.

Rail Spike smiled, “Good. Here at Nelson, we have to make do with what we have, more often than not scavenging whatever we can. Now I know what you’re thinking, “Sir Rail Spike, how? You have particularly everything you need here!”

“Sir?” Translucent snorted.

Ignoring her, Rail Spike continued on his trade, “Well, I’ll tell you sweet child, that we make what we can here, that being food, buildings, and other such things that don’t require fancy materials to work with. But, in order to supply such five star restaurants as this one,” He flashed a ghoulish smile to the waitress who was working the bar, who rolled her eyes and went back to work. Ignoring the fearsome scowl the Gryphon was sending him, Rail Spike continued, “We need to find places that can offer us the bare necessities.”

“So, basically, you want us to scout out place where you guys can loot it.” Translucent summed up.

“In a nutshell, yes.” Rail Spike agreed, “Fair warning, it may not go so well. You two saw what happened earlier today.”

The unicorn shrugged, “We saw.”

“Where do ya want to loot?” Braeburn asked.

“Just a market down the street.” Rail Spike said, “Used to be a shopping mall, if I’m reading the signs right, but now days it’s called “The Hey-Barrel. It’s about a mile south of here, but I have a map...”

As Rail Spike fished around in his bag, a Pipbuck animation of all things appeared in the corner of Braeburn’s vision as Rail Spike finished speaking, causing him to sputter in surprise, “What the?” Watching it, Braeburn spared a look at his Pipbuck in confusion, it was the image of a young, green looking colt dressed in a Stable suit was heading towards an abandoned building with a unicorn wearing a heavy cloak in tow.

“What’s up BB?” Translucent asked, raising an eyebrow at him.

“Just...getting used to this darn thing.” Braeburn said, holding up his arm, “It keeps showing this weird animation in front of my face.”

“Hm,” Translucent looked at the Pipbuck, pondering over what he said, “You really have a strange Pipbuck, you know that?”

“Looks like it.” Braeburn agreed.

“Anyway, that thing has a map it, right?” Rail Spike asked, to which Braeburn nodded, “Then I guess you two are all set.”

“Whoa, hold on, what about pay?” Translucent began, “We aren’t doing this for free.”

“I’m not surprised there miss.” Rail Spike admitted, “100 caps.”

Translucent’s eyes narrowed, “200.”

“150.”

“Deal.”

“Ah’m not interested in the caps, but ah am looking for a few ponies.” Braeburn spoke up, “My old squad mates, they were in the Stable with me. If ah help ya with this, can ya tell me where ah might be able to find em?”

Rail Spike shrugged, “Can’t say I’ll rightfully able to help you there, but I can give you a bit of information that might help.”

“What is it?”

“There’s a place, deep in Vanhoover, called the Tree Fort, home of the Everfree Masons.” Rail Spike said, “I don’t really go there myself, but there’s lots of traders and whatnot there, your friends might have gone there.”

“Everfree Masons?’ Braeburn rubbed his head, “Like the Everfree Forest that’s near Ponyville?”

“I think that place has become ever worse.” Translucent said.

“Ah find that hard to believe.” Braeburn remarked.

“Oh, no, it’s become a death trap.” Translucent argued, a dead serious tone to her voice, “Don’t ever go there. I’m not kidding.”

Slightly confused but understanding nonetheless, Braeburn stood up, “Well then, ah suppose we’d better get going, right Lucent?”

Standing up, Translucent nodded, “Of course-Wait.” She peered down at the table, “Braeburn, you didn’t eat your food.”

Braeburn smiled nervously, his eyes darting to the pork n’ beans, “Ah’m just not feeling very hungry, that’s all.”

Translucent looked at him for a few seconds, then snapped, “Eat the damn food already!”

“Ah….Ah….It’s Gryphon food!” Braeburn shrieked.

“The hell is wrong with Gryphon food?!”

“They’re mercenaries!”

“Some of them, yes! But newsflash, that’s kinda a common occupation nowadays!”

“Y….Yer an occupation!”

“What does that even….wait….Are you calling me a whore?!”

“Ah didn’t say that!”

“Were you thinking it?!”

“......No.”

“....Okay, you have five seconds to start running.” From out of her saddlebag, Translucent levitated her shotgun into firing position.

Taking a step back and raising his hooves in defense, Braeburn gulped, “Now Miss Lucent…”

“One thousand...two thousand…”

Seeing that talking was useless, Braeburn promptly turned tail and ran, his metallic feet clanging all the way as Translucent sprinted after him, screaming obscenities at him as she did.

Rail Spike, left all alone at the table, sighed, and rubbed his decaying head, “Young’ns these days…” Looking at the discarded food, Rail Spike shook his head and shrugged, “Oh well, more for me.” Picking open the can of beans, Rail Spike dug in.


“Ah said ah was sorry.”

“Sorry don’t mean squat. You are now my pack mule to the third power until I decide otherwise.”

“...Don’tcha mean to the second?”

“No.”

Braeburn rubbed his head on the spot where the bruise was starting to form in the shape of a hoof print, wincing as the pain flared up again, the farmer glared evenly at Translucent's turned back. That was the conversation they had shared after Translucent caught up to the feeling Braeburn and knocked him upside the head. She was currently bargaining over the sale of their assault rifle and other materials at this “Joe’s shack,” idly Braeburn wondered if he was related to that Donut Joe he kept hearing about way back when, but dismissed it as ludicrous.

If the yells of frustration were anything to go by, it wasn’t going well.

“182 caps! Are you kidding me?!”

“Hey, look honey, I don’t make the rules, I just sell em.”

With one last cry of frustration, Translucent slammed the door behind her as she walked out of the store, muttering various curses under her breath, she grunted at Braeburn, who was leaning against the wall, “Stupid asshole apparently doesn’t understand an Assault rifles are worth 300 caps, not 200.”

“What makes ya say that?” Braeburn asked.

“Usually something’s value is determined by it’s condition.” Translucent explained, floating the weapon into view, “This one’s holding up pretty well, even more than I’d thought it be.” Lowering her head in frustration, she sighed, “Stupid idiot, if only I had a Pip….” She glanced at the device on Braeburn’s arm.

Then face-hoofed.

“Oh, duh.” Braeburn opened his mouth to speak, but gunmetal shoved into face cut off his line of thought, “Here, hold this and look it up in your Pipbuck, tell me how much it’s worth.”

Braeburn blinked in confusion, but did as he was told. Grasping the firearm in his metal fingers, he hefted it, only to pause in thought, as something in his brain had clicked as he looked over the rifle. He wouldn’t be able to use this, he realized. It was made for a battle saddle, and the way he stood now, the way he walked around, unless he wanted to perform a one pony three-gun salute, he’d be firing straight upwards.

And unless he wanted to stick his rump into the air like before, he was stuck using pistols and other mouth weapons.

“Braeburn, you there?” Translucent voice dragged him back to reality, snapping awake, Braeburn glanced at his Pipbuck’s inventory.

“Yeah, sorry bout that…..What am ah’m looking for?” He asked.

“The status bar.”

“The what now?”

Translucent rolled her eyes, “That little green bar at the bottom.”

“Ah don’t see it.”

“Look, at you looking at the weapons?”

“Yep.”

“Are you on the assault rifle?”

“Eeyup.”

“Then you should see a small bar with part of it filled in, how much of it is?”

“There isn’t.”

“....Okay, lemme see.”

Lifting up his Pipbuck for Translucent, the unicorn squinted at the screen. Opening her mouth to speak, then shutting it, opening it again, before finally shutting it with a click, she could only say, “Huh.”

“What’s wrong?”

“There’s no….what.” Grabbing Braeburn’s arm in a magical grasp, she pulled the Pipbuck closer, and by proxy, Braeburn, closer so she could see the screen better, “Data, inventory, weapons, appeal, misc, junk, notes, quests, a wow, this thing really is different from the others.”

“Big Bang called this a mark five, does that help ya at all?” Braeburn asked, his voice strained from standing in a such a way that most acrobats would wince.

“Not even a little.” Releasing her magical grasp and ignoring Braeburn’s squeal of fright as he fell to the ground, she sighed, “Great, so the weapon value is lower here than in the Equestria Heartland, that means we won’t be able to make enough unless we sell in bulk, or we stumble across...I dunno, power armor….”

“Begging your pardon, but do ya mean like a Steel Ranger?” Braeburn asked from the ground.

“Or the Enclave.” Translucent shrugged, “Either one, really.”

“The Enclave?” Braeburn repeated, “Ah’m afraid ah don’t know what that is.”

“Oh, it’s...Hm.” Translucent rubbed her chin, “It’s kinda long story, come on, let’s go to the Hey Barrel, I’ll explain on the way.”

“Alrighty then.”

As they walked through the town of Nelson, Braeburn took the time to actually look at the town from the inside. It was actually a tad bit smaller then he thought it'd be, but it seemed to be a working settlement, all around he saw ponies hard at work, some of them were farming crops, others were scavenging water out of an old rusty pump, and some were doing what they could to repair the broken buildings, if they weren’t, then they were tearing them down for scrap, if it wasn’t for the wall all around them, Braeburn might have mistaken this place for a genuine farm.

If it wasn’t for the wall.

“Are things….is everywhere like this?” Braeburn asked.

“Maybe.” Translucent said, “It’s a bit different in the heartland, so I can’t tell you that much about this region.”

Braeburn glanced at her, “How come?”

“I’m new here too, remember?” Translucent said, “I had to get around the mountains, it was hard, but here I am.”

“Is that why you're wearing that cloak?”

“Sure.” Translucent shrugged.

“Anyway, about this here Enclave, what were ya talking about?” Braeburn asked.

“The Enclave, or Grand Pegasus Enclave, was, or is, not really sure which nowadays, is a faction composed entirely of pegasi.” Translucent answered, glancing upwards, she nodded towards the clouds, “They used to have a large cloud layer over all of Equestria, though, as I said before, I don’t think Vanhoover ever had one, I don’t know why though.”

Braeburn blinked, “Cloud layer? Ya mean they covered up the sky?”

“The pegasi needed farm-land and they could move clouds about, do the math.”

“But...couldn’t they have just asked some of the earth ponies to-”

“They couldn’t,” Translucent said sharply, “They forbid anypony from going to the surface. For better or worse, they were afraid of what was happening on the ground and didn’t want anypony going to or fro. Any Pegasi that were left on the ground were cut off and if they tried to simply fly up? Lightning bolt to the face. And, well, the unicorns and earth ponies weren’t in the best of shape. Long story short? Lots of shit happened.”

Braeburn was silent, digesting this new information with frown on his muzzle.

Pausing in thought, Translucent placed a hoof to her chin, “But, to be fair, I hear that it was mostly just the higher ups, most of the common folk weren’t even aware of what was happening.”

Sighing, Braeburn crossed his arms and walked away, “Is there one thing in this world that ain’t screwed up?” He mumbled.

Trailing behind him, Translucent sighed, “A few things, actually…” She said to herself.

The mood was hostile now as they headed towards the town’s exit. Nodding to Duct Tape in greeting as the approached, he trotted up to them with an easy smile on his face.

“Hey there, you two heading out so soon?” He asked.

“Rail Spike wants us to clean out some mall,” Braeburn said, “Ah don’t suppose ya’ve got any advice?”

Duct Tape grinned, “Don’t let any ferals get at your face, it’s too pretty.”

Rubbing his face to help ease the pain, Braeburn groaned, “Ah meant real advice.”

“No, really, don’t let a feral get at your face.” Tape said, looking a tad bit more serious this time, “Ghouls tend to leave infected wounds, not pretty.”

“If they’re anything like Zebras, ah can handle it.” Braeburn said, rolling his eyes.

“Don’t know much about Zebras, but you shouldn’t underestimate them.” Duct Tape warned, then his face shot up, as if remembering something, “Oh, speaking of, if you see a strange looking pony out there, could ya let him know that his parents are looking for him? Goes by the name of Glenn.”

Braeburn tilted his head, “Glenn? That short fer something?”

“Yep, but don’t worry, you’ll know ‘em when you see ‘em. He’s not the kind you can mistake.” Duct Tape said.

Sharing a look with Translucent, Braeburn nodded, “We’ll keep a look out.”

“Thanks you two, keep an eye out for any glints.” His horn glowing alight, the Nelson’s gate opened slowly, and the two wanderers stepped back out into the world.

As they walked southwards, Braeburn’s Pipbuck guiding the way, they settled into an amiable silence, Translucent’s heavy cloak blowing slightly in the wind as they walked down a lonely dirt road with only the sound of Braeburn’s radio broke the silence. The song being played was something Braeburn recognized as being one of Sweetie Bell’s, a somewhat lonely song about being only able to meet one loved one’s after many hardships and pain, despite all of that though, there was a current of hope throughout the song. But, as the song reached it’s finale, it ended on a somewhat sad note, with the singer calling out to their lover as if they were being pulled out of reach.

So, yeah, good travelling music.

“Uh, that was Sweetie Bell’s “Hope’s Sombra” Gotta say, I don’t really know what that was about so uh...here’s some news!”

Sharing a look with Translucent, the two of them stopped in their tracks to listen to this newscast, the broadcaster had a very light voice, so much so it was hard to tell if it was a mare or not, “I’ve got reports of an away Adept team gone missing, the commander’s younger sister, Cinquedea, was with them, if anypony sees them, be sure to give em a hoof. If, you know, you want to, that is.”

“Anyway, there’s been a...rumor? I guess, about that shockwave we felt two years back, and that bright circle we saw in the sky, some ponies think that it was Celestia herself coming back, I don’t think so. The only trade the Cup gets is from way across the coast with Las Pegasus, and that’s uh, months apart each time…..Oh yeah! The Dragoons are up to their old antics again, so if you’re a part of the Polka gang, keep an eye out, I don’t mean to be….mean, but those guys can be jerks, don’t wanna get skewered with a pole cue after all. This is Coloratra….Coloratura! Signing off with….Rocket 69!”

With a new song being played, Translucent made a bemused smile, “I guess every wasteland has a DJ.”

Braeburn frowned, a pang of guilt piercing his heart, “Cinquedea? Ah think that was the name of that pegasus mare we met.”

“The one who shot at us?” Translucent asked.

“Er-”

“The one that seemed to be prejudiced against Ghouls?”

“Now, to be fair-”

“The one, if I recall correctly, threatened to shoot you in the knees?

Braeburn narrowed his eyes, “All right, ya made the point.”

“Good,” Translucent nodded, satisfied with her victory, “Now, about this Coloratura, does she...he, sound familiar?”

“Ah heard of the name Coloratura before,” Braeburn admitted, “Used to go by Countess Coloratura, if’s ah remember correctly, she was pretty dang popular ‘fore the war, then Sweetie Bell took over the spotlight awful quick.”

“She’s probably using the name as a hoof-me-down.” Translucent mused, “Another DJ back in the Heartland did the same.”

Braeburn raised an eyebrow as they started walking, “Which one?”

“DJ-PON3, from what I hear, she’s holed up in Tenpony Tower’s top floor.”

Crossing his arms, Braeburn tilted his head, “That’s Arcane Ministry's Manehattan building, right?”

“Yep, actually kinda nice, if you can get in.” Translucent nodded.

“What’cha mean?”

“Tenpony’s got some pretty strict entry and residence laws, mostly because of the raiders that live around there.” Translucent explained, “And the ghouls, those too.”

Braeburn thought about that, recycling what he knew about the tower in his head, he once heard Twilight mention, in passing, that they were designed with some kind of protective shields…..Actually, what happened to Twilight? And Applejack? What happened to the rest of the Ministry mares?

The quickly growing cynical part of him said they were dead, 200 years tended to do that to ponies.

Ah’m still alive. His brain pointed out.

That don’t mean a damn thing, sides, ya think Fluttershy could’ve survived the bombs? The cynic shot back.

She might have, ah survived ‘fter all.

We got lucky.

Ah got lucky.

Keep telling yourself that, boy.

Boy? Ah’m thirty-five!

Uh-huh.

Ah can’t believe ah’m arguing with myself...

You’re not.

What in tarnation are ya talking about?

Braeburn, do ya really think…. “That you’re alone in your head?”

Braeburn stopped in his tracks, that voice, it was way too damn close, it was particularly on his shoulder. Double checking his sides, cold sweat dripped down his brow, “What….” That voice, not again….” Silver-Star?”

“Braeburn? Are you alright? You’re staring off into space, again.”

Fixing his attention back to the mare with the purple shade, he blinked, as if remembering he had company, “Uh, yep.”

“You sure?”

“Ah’m fine.”

“If you say so.” With nothing more to say, Translucent trotted ahead, but as she did, Braeburn couldn’t help but think of just how familiar her coat color was….Where had he seen that shade of purple before?

Oh yeah, Twilight Sparkle, Translucent had the same shade as she did. Huh, what a coincidence….


Shoving the last cartridge into the double barrel, Braeburn barely saw the lunge towards his head by a feral ghoul, ducking out of the way and falling on his back due to a misstep into a grocery aisle, he brought up the shotgun to bare just in time as the ghoul made a flying lead for his head. Pulling the trigger just in time, Braeburn promptly received a gore shower of radioactive blood and guts.

“Burn! You okay?!” Translucent called over the roar of battle.

“Brafgh!” Braeburn responded smartly.

“I’ll take that as a yes!”

Wiping a bit of flesh off his face and sputtering out some vulgarities, Braeburn picked himself off the ground and looked around, his vision showing three more blips on the compass, “We got three more of those varmints!” He shouted out.

“Good to know!” Coming into his line of sight with a big grin on her face, Translucent held up the gryphon revolver in a magical hold, “Here, you might need this.”

Discarding the double barrel and accepting the revolver with an open hoof, Braeburn panicked when Translucent tossed the revolver to him. Flumbing to catch it with his metal fingers, he breathed a sigh of relief as it came to rest in his hooves, “Don’t do that!” He shouted.

“What? You caught it.” Translucent replied, grinning, “Come on! Let’s go find some more ghouls, this is like hunting!” As she trotted out of view, Braeburn rolled his eyes.

“Glad one of us is having fun.” He mumbled, taking a step forward, Braeburn found his progress halted when he felt something crawl up his coat. Glancing down at his leg, he saw a leather belt wrapped around his prosthetic. Leaning down and lifting his foot up, Braeburn held the belt in his hand, looking it over. Setting the revolver down on a nearby shelf, Braeburn tugged on it slightly, to which he found the belt restrained by a piece of pony meat. Trying to keep his food inside his stomach, Braeburn pulled harder, freeing the belt from the gore in a splatter of blood.

Needless to say, some of it landed on his face.

Shuddering, he wiped it off with a metal finger and re-examined the belt, judging by the length, it would fit around his waist comfortably. Why would a Ghoul have one on it was beyond Braeburn, but at this point, he didn’t care.

Fitting it around his sides, Braeburn took his .10 mm’s chest holster and began to jury rig it so would fit on his waist, rather than his chest. He didn’t know why he did, but it seemed...right, if that made any sense.

“Yo Brae-Brae, what’s the hold up?” Translucent’s voice called over, momentarily distracting Braeburn from his work.

“Ah’ll be there soon!” He called back. After a few minutes of scrambling to finish his work, Braeburn nodded in satisfaction as the holster nested snugly on his leg.

“There we go…” He said to himself, grabbing his revolver off the shelf and storing it in the freshly made holster. Placing the 10mm in his mouth, Braeburn headed to where Translucent’s voice came from, and headed into the Hay-barrel.


Level up!

Gunslinger, rank 1! Appleloosa will always be your home, non-automatic pistols now do 20% more damage!

See you around, Stable Dweller.