Chapter 9 > In which there is a group of birds
“I think we’ve established that ‘k-caw k-caw’ and ‘tookie-tookie’ don’t work.”
Matchstick Flare and I galloped as fast as we could after Hotshot, heading straight for the rocky outcropping jutting out of the wasteland. It loomed ahead of us, looking surprisingly bigger than it had from a distance, even judging in the whole perspective thing. Hotshot had gotten quite a head start on us, in her panic to save Walnut and her son. By the time we were chasing in earnest, she was already halfway up the winding path that led to the top of the outcropping. Looking up, I saw that it plateaued at the top. Whatever was up there was out of sight for most of the approach up the outcropping, but could probably see or detect in some way whoever was coming towards it. If there was anything hostile up there, Hotshot’s wild charge up the path wasn’t the smartest of moves…
“Coin! There is danger ahead!” Mezzer shouted in my mind, and sure enough, moments after he said it, my EFS registered… son of a kumquat… at least a dozen little red bars. Either they were all on top of the plateau, or they were hiding along the rocky approach up to it. Either way, charging up the hill was not a good idea.
“HOTSHOT!” I shouted, galloping faster, trying to catch up. Matchstick shot me a glance and poured on the speed, her flaming tail and mane billowing out behind her in a streak of light and heat. Her stovetop-plated armor intensified in glow from deep red to brilliant orange, and I could feel heat waves emanating from her even at a distance.
“What’s wrong?” She shouted at me, seeing my no-doubt suddenly panicked expression.
“My… pipbuck is telling me that there is danger on that hill! A lot of danger!” I shouted back. “We shouldn’t charge in recklessly!”
“And if there’s one thing Hotshot is good at, it’s charging the fuck in! Looks like we have a problem!” Matchstick looked ahead. Hotshot was already at the base of the hill. “HOTSHOT! HOLD UP YOU STUPID BITCH! Argh, it’s no use, she’s going to get herself killed…”
“I do believe thou art within my firing range.” Mezzer mentioned. Why would that matter… oh! Mezzer was a stun gun! I quickly drew the blue, boxy weapon and aimed the screen at Hotshot. Not sure I could make the shot on the run, I activated that newfangled thing I now had… SATS. Time slowed down to a halt, and I saw the numbers ‘73%’ hovering over Hotshot’s torso. Better than nothing, I guess. I tagged a shot, and released the spell.
Mezzer fired, the strange noise it made accompanying a wave of energy blasting from the emitter-screen. The blast… missed, and paffed harmlessly into a rock right next to Hotshot’s head. She balked, and stopped, looking back at us.
“What the fuck are you doing!?” Matchstick shouted at me, even as we began to catch up, a dangerous look in her eye. Shoot, from her perspective, I just drew my weapon and shot at her friend. Which I did… the main point was that this particular weapon couldn’t hurt Hotshot.
“This is a Mesme… a stun-gun!” I said, quickly trying to clear things up before she decided to give me a hug. “I use it for catching slaves, but it could also be used to stop blindly charging mares from killing themselves!” I had actually only used it to ‘catch’ Shimmercoat, but I had no doubt I’d be using it on other potential slaves eventually.
“Well, you missed.” Matchstick pointed out, smiling once she realized I wasn’t shooting with intent to hurt Hotshot.
“I realize that, but at least she stopped.” I huffed. We caught up soon enough. I was panting after the sudden sprint, but it looked like Hotshot and Matchstick weren’t even winded. The wasteland around us was featureless except for the mall off in the distance, and the remains of the highway right next to it. My EFS was crawling with hostile signatures… my first guess was that this outcropping was basically the only natural shelter for miles, so there was no doubt things living in or on it. The fact that the plateau on top made a natural watchtower for the surrounding area meant that those things may not necessarily be animals… and may be watching us right at this moment.
“What’s the big idea, you great flaming idiot!?” Matchstick Flare gestured obscenely at Hotshot. I had a feeling that she would have slapped her fellow ganger if she were capable of doing so without burning her.
“Wha… she shot at me!” Hotshot said, pointing her big rifle at me.
“To stun! He’s Mezzer, my stun-gun!” I said quickly before she decided to take a shot at point-blank with that thing.
The two Flaming Hooves both did a comical-looking simultaneous double take, looking at me with raised eyebrows, slowly gaining matching smirks as well. “What?” I asked.
“He? Your gun is a stallion?” Matchstick said as Hotshot actually giggled. The mare with a spiky mohawk was giggling at me calling my weapon a ‘he.’ Besides, Mezzer was a he!
“Indeed.” he said.
“So, is ‘he’ any good? Does your gun… satisfy you?” Matchstick waggled her eyebrows at me, barely containing her laughter. I blushed, and Mezzer stammered incomprehensibly inside my head.
“I… he… that’s not the point!” I said, embarrassed beyond all reason. He was just my gun, alright?! Nothing was going on between us… time to change the subject, before things got out of hoof. “My EFS is telling me that there are hostiles in or on this outcropping. We need to take it slow and stick together so nothing surprises us. We’ll do Peanut no good if we get ourselves killed blindly chasing after him.”
“EFS?” Hotshot asked, confusion replacing the amusement on her face.
“This thing.” I waved my pipbuck at her. “It tells me when things are around that want to hurt me. I’m not really sure how it knows, but it’s never been wrong yet.” Not that I’ve actually had it that long…
“Can it tell if Peanut is near?”
Hmm… hadn’t thought of that. I took a careful look at the EFS, spinning slowly in place (and getting weird looks) and searching for a yellow bar amidst the worrying amount of red. “I’m sorry, doesn’t look like he’s anywhere near…” I started.
“Hold up! He is here! Thou should look directly at the plateau, wait for the red to disperse a bit.” Mezzer interrupted. I did as he asked, and sure enough, every so often the moving red bars would scoot away from one of the three yellow bars displayed, the other two being Hotshot and Matchstick… it looked like they were going back and forth over it.
“He’s here! Or at least somepony my pipbuck tags as friendly is here. And it looks like they’re in trouble!”
Hearing this, Hotshot turned and galloped up the winding path leading to the top of the plateau. “Hey!” Matchstick shouted, giving chase.
“Wait! Shouldn’t we be more stealthy?” I asked as I trotted after them at a slower pace, trying to keep up while checking each nook and cranny we passed for danger. Just because there’s confirmed danger at the top of the plateau didn’t mean we could ignore the possibility that a wild animal of some sort wouldn’t come leaping out of a hole in the wall at us.
“No time!” Hotshot shouted back. I was about to respond when I heard a sound that sent a twinge down my spine.
“CAW! CAW! CAW!”
“Wait!” I shouted, now galloping up the path myself, hurrying around a switchback and catching up to the two gangers. “I know what’s up there! You can’t just go charging in, you’ll be killed!”
“If it’s that dangerous, then that’s all the more reason we need to get to Peanut faster!” Hotshot said, jumping up over the ridge at the top of the plateau and out of sight before I could warn her. I growled in frustration. Some ponies were just too stubborn to think tactically! I’m only trying to help!
“Sometimes, slowing down to discuss tactics will only hurt those thou art trying to rescue. Time is of the essence if that crow mare is really attacking Peanut… we already may be too late.” Mezzer said.
“Guess we better help, otherwise they’ll both be killed. Sounds like a lot of crows are waiting for food, I’ll make sure to cook ‘em a meal if anypony has hurt little Peanut.” Matchstick growled as she also jumped over the final ledge.
Grimacing, I leapt up from the path to the ledge as well, holding on with my front hooves and peeking up over the ledge before climbing over it. Hotshot was shouting obscenities and Matchstick was charging in at exactly what I feared.
Crows. At least two dozen, probably more. They were swooping over a crashed skywagon, pecking at the windows and doors, crashing into the weak, rusted metal, and doing whatever they could to try to get inside. I saw Peanut’s wide-eyed, terrified looking face through one of the windows; he had shut himself inside to avoid becoming bird-chow, though there was no way of telling how long the old cart would hold out against a constant assault. The birds were lightweight, but enough impacts on a weakened rust spot could make a hole big enough for them to get inside… normal crows would have given up by now, if they had even begun to attack at all. Being carrion birds, that was unlikely, unless they were controlled by an outside force…
I looked to the other side of the plateau and saw her. The crow mare. Wearing her slick, full-body combat armor, beaked mask, and wide-brimmed hat, she simply watched as her pets assaulted the skywagon. What was she doing here, and why was she attacking Peanut? Those questions passed through my mind, but I didn’t care as I climbed up over the edge and ran up next to Hotshot, who was lining up a shot at the crows. Her rifle’s sharp report caused the crow mare to jerk her head towards us. The lenses on her mask covering her eyes glinted.
“Look out! She’s controlling them!” I had just enough time to shout a warning before we were swarmed. All the crows immediately abandoned the skywagon and started to tear at us. I screamed as beaks and talons tore at any exposed flesh, and I felt some land on my barding and try to rip at it as well. One flew at my face, pecking my cheekbone, dangerously close to my eye. I bucked and kicked, running around and trying to get away… the pain was intensifying with every small peck at my flesh. Crows were aiming for my eyes, and before I lost one I quickly levitated my goggles down from my forehead to protect myself. Beaks clacked against the lenses as I tried to dislodge the crow perched in my mane. I’ve been shot before, and that hurts like nothing else, but this… I was covered in dozens of shallow wounds, the crows stripping away my skin and digging into my flesh with their putrid, disgusting beaks. They were landing on me and pecking again and again… I was being eaten alive!
“Roll around! Get them off thy body!” Mezzer shouted mentally, and I dropped to the ground, rolling around madly. Dust stung many small wounds that coated my hide, but the crows latching onto me with their talons flew off or were crushed.
The next thing I heard was Hotshot’s bloodcurdling scream. I kept rolling, and as soon as I got some breathing room, stood up quickly, drawing Mezzer. If I could stun the crow mare, maybe the attack would stop! As soon as I oriented myself, however, I saw Hotshot running around blindly… literally. She screamed and flung herself to the ground, rolling as I had… but she did not have goggles. Both her eyes were gone, the sockets bleeding streams of blood down her cheeks.
“Get off! Get off you fucking birds!” Matchstick Flare leapt over Hotshot, jumping over her again and again as she rolled around in a blind panic. A few of the crows, surprisingly, threw themselves at Matchstick, latching onto her stovetop armor and attempting to peck her… at least, before they caught flame and fell to the ground, thoroughly roasted. The rest of the crows peeled off, and I looked to see the crow mare looking directly at Matchstick, distracted. The flaming mare did have a few small bleeding peck wounds, but not nearly as many as Hotshot and I. Crows only got to peck her once before dying, it seemed.
I flipped on SATS. Time for me stopped, giving me that wonderful opportunity to take a mental breath and calm down. The crow mare was about fifty feet from me, and had the number ‘95%’ hovering over her torso. This one wouldn’t miss.
The wave of energy from Mezzer’s screen smacked square into the crow mare’s armored chest. As soon as it hit, half the crows in the air fell to the ground, stunned… but not dead. What? Did the mezz effect the crows too?
Before I could react, the other half of the crows flew up high into the air and started circling. The crow mare turned to face me, and cocked her head, her beaked mask expressionless. “I do not understand! That should have rendered her senseless!” Mezzer said, sounding thoroughly shocked. “Her… her crows! She is linked mentally to them, and they’re soaking my mesmerizing effect for her!
“What… what was that?” a rich alto voice asked, sounding almost bored. “Some sort of mental weapon? Interesting. A weapon of incapacitation, it seems. You’re either a pacifist, which would be frightfully stupid, or… you want ponies incapacitated instead of dead.”
“Don’t worry about that, I’ll make sure you end up dead, cunt!” Matchstick shouted, charging for the crow mare, who made no attempt to dodge. She slammed into the armored pony, black smog immediately rising from the contact of the slick black combat armor and the superheated stovetops covering Matchstick. The crow mare rose to meet the charge at the last possible second, grappling with the flaming ganger. Her hat caught fire, but that appeared to be the only cloth on this mare, and it was flung off by her magic as they wrestled. Apparently ignoring the fact that her opponent was on fire, the crow mare swept her hind hooves under Flare, tripping her up and sending her flopping hard on her back. The crow mare continued talking in the same bored sounding tone, even as Matchstick got back up again and launched herself at her.
“Ponies who want ponies incapacitated instead of dead in this world, and who use a weapon to make sure this happens…” the crow mare said as she deftly blocked a kick from Matchstick with her forehoof. More smog rose from her armor, and there were definitely burn marks all over it where Matchstick had made contact, but the mare under the armor didn’t seem to be suffering any ill effects. “…why, the only ones who would use such a weapon would be slavers, by my reckoning. Slavers and gangers. Pleasant company out here in the wastes. Though…” the crow mare’s horn glowed tan, and Matchstick, seeing this, leapt back, preparing for whatever magic she was casting.
Of course, now that Matchstick was out of the way… I lined up another shot in SATS and fired Mezzer again. The crow mare’s horn flashed just as the wave of energy hit her square in the face. She wobbled, and then shook her head, as if dazed. Did it work?
About a dozen crows rained down, landing all over the plateau. I looked up… and gulped. There were twice as many crows as there was when we first climbed over the ridge! “It’s rude to interrupt a mare when she’s talking, little slaver.” The crow mare said. “I was about to say it does not matter whether you are a ganger, slaver, or not. Being with these gangers has obviously corrupted your little pony mind. As it had this child. Death is the only mercy the Wasteland has for wretched scum like you... wait a second. I… my my my. What do we have here?” The crow mare’s tone changed from self-righteous boredom to sudden, intense interest. She turned towards me, staring at me as she took a step forward, light gleaming off of her mask’s lenses. Matchstick took this opportunity to charge her again, but before she even got close, the entire flock of crows above swooped down in a suicide attack against the flaming mare, beating her back with their sheer mass. The smell of burning feathers rose into the air, making me gag and retch. Great cheese, that stank!. I heard the crow mare chuckle. “Well, and here I thought… I guess I will spare you, for now. My name is Murder. I cleanse the wastes of scum like these gangers… and you. But, for now… I will leave the stain where it is.”
The flock of crows was dead, and Matchstick charged a third time, determined to burn this mare. “For pony’s sake…” the crow mare… Murder… said. “You are an extreme annoyance… and something my crows cannot handle, it seems.” Matchstick was covered in small peck marks, but obviously did quite well against small animals swarming her. They just couldn’t handle the heat she put out at close proximity. She tackled Murder again, this time feinting a charge at her chest and then suddenly sweeping her hooves out, catching Murder by surprise and tripping her up. The masked mare grunted as she landed heavily on the ground, and Matchstick, quickly grappled her, pinning her as best she could. Murder struggled, and got her hooves free, clubbing Matchstick upside the head. Smog rose from her armor, and I saw Matchstick inhale some of the noxious fumes. Murder squirmed under the flaming mare, and it was clear that Matchstick’s apparent fighting style of ‘grab on and hold on until they burn’ wasn’t going to work… or was it? The paint on Murder’s combat armor was peeling off, and I saw that the ceramic and steel plates were starting to glow red under it. Murder’s squirming became more frantic, more erratic. She wasn’t screaming in pain or anything (making me wonder if she was under the effects of Med-X or not), but her armor wasn’t totally fireproof, it just took a little while for the heat to get through. Murder was doing her level best to make sure that didn’t happen though. Matchstick’s eyes fluttered as Murder clubbed her upside the head again. I looked around, wanting to help, to do something… her crows were gone, maybe Mezzer would work this time! If Mezzer was right and the crows were soaking the mezz for her, if they were gone… I activated SATS, aimed at the head, and fired.
Murder’s head twisted out of the way at the last possible second, the wave of energy clipping Matchstick’s hoof as it slammed down where Murder’s head used to be.
Matchstick Flare’s eyes rolled up, and she flopped down on top of her beaked victim. Laughing, Murder’s horn and Matchstick glowed, and she lifted the flaming mare off of herself just enough to slide out from under her, her armor considerably less slick-looking, but apparently no worse for the wear as far as coverage went. She looked at me, the lenses of her mask glinting in the light of the fire… and she disappeared in a tan flash. Teleportation. Something I could never get the hang of… Ma was going to teach me, so long as I stayed a good little filly…
I stumbled towards Matchstick. The fight was over, there were burnt crow bodies everywhere, and I heard the door to the skywagon open as Peanut slowly ventured out. “Is… are they gone?” the little colt asked nervously.
“Blurrrrr… stop the world, I wanna get off…” Matchstick replied. I sighed… I’d screwed up. Sure, misses happen, but to hit my ally was…
“Not thy fault. Thou didn’t know that would happen. At least everypony is alive. That mare has more about her than meets the eye, I wager. And she seems to have taken an interest in thou. I suspect we’ll encounter her again soon enough.” Mezzer reassured. Even though it was true, it felt as if I could have done… more. More than just sit there and watch Matchstick struggle against a mare in fireproof armor. Of course, shooting into a melee fight went about as well as expected. The pain shooting through my many wounds blurred my next thought… and I had no healing potions. Neither did MG-MS11, back at the mall, they were being used on Walnut. He might have leftovers afterward… but it wasn’t something I could count on.
“Oww… Peanut? You okay?” I said. I heard sobbing in return, and turned around.
Peanut was sitting next to Hotshot, whose empty eye sockets gazed up at the cloudy sky. My breath caught in my chest, but then I noticed that Hotshot’s own chest slowly rise and fall. She appeared to be unconscious. Peanut turned to me, tears streaming down his face. “I… I saw some crows circling… I thought maybe somepony had died up here… left something to scavenge… I was only gonna get it and come right back…” he sobbed.
I hobbled over to him, and put a hoof around him as he burst into tears, crying into my chest. “There, there… it’s alright now…” I murmured. “Nothing’s going to hurt you… we’re only glad that you’re safe…”
I heard hoofsteps behind me. “Geeze… you get the license plate of that cart that just hit me?” Matchstick Flare said, having shaken off the effects of the mezz. “I hate fireproof armor. Hate it.” She was apparently unaware of the fact that I had shot her. Probably thought Murder had hit her in the head. I didn’t see any reason to mention otherwise right now… maybe later. “How’s Peanut?”
“Shook up, but fine. Hotshot, on the other hoof...” I replied, pointing to the unconscious mare. “I’m sorry… I don’t know for certain, but I don’t think MG-MS11 can fix that…”
Matchstick examined Hotshot, and quickly turned her face to face the ground, careful to not touch her for too long. The blood pooling in her eye sockets drained out, and as soon as it had finished, Matchstick took a small piece of metal from her armor, and stuck it in the socket… “What are you doing!?!” I said, shocked. Peanut looked up, before flinching and looking away from the grisly scene.
“If I don’t cauterize the wound, she’ll bleed out before we can even get her to your robot doctor. Better blind then dead.” Matchstick said flatly. She cauterized the other socket, then put the metal back on her armor. The smell of burning pony flesh meshed with the burnt feather stench permeating the air already… I retched, just barely kept myself from puking. “I can’t carry her, you’ll have to.” Matchstick said. She had lost the vim and vigor that was usually in her voice… it seemed like she was running on autopilot or something. Frankly, I think I was too.
Even though we had technically won the fight… it still felt like we had lost, somehow. Hotshot was blind, perhaps irreparably. There was some mystery mare called Murder who apparently was on a mission to ‘cleanse the wasteland,’ and we hadn’t stopped her. I knew that there were dozens of goody-four-hooves that were out to basically do the same thing… but Murder seemed like somepony who would ‘cleanse’ for the sake of cleansing, with no considerations as to who her target was. I remembered the last time we met her, when we were headed to Fillydelphia courtesy of Red Eye’s slavers. The crows that had attacked us had eaten quite a few of the ponies from Maregaton. And she didn’t seem to care about the age of her targets either… Peanut might technically be a Flaming Hoof, but he was just a colt for broccoli’s sake! Add to that the fact that I had about three dozen small wounds too many and… yeah. Not a good day.
I sighed, let go of Peanut, and hoisted Hotshot onto my back, grabbing her rifle as well. We hiked back down the hill and back to the mall in silence.
Shimmercoat was the first to see us. He was walking around the perimeter of the strip mall, still looking around for Peanut, though I could tell by his body language that he didn't expect to find anything. When he spotted us, he immediately came trotting up, increasing his pace to a gallop when he saw what condition we were in. “Dear Luna! What happened to you guys?” Shimmercoat said, his horn glowing as he cast a spell. The weight of Hotshot was lifted off my back as he summoned a force-field stretcher under her.
“That crow mare was attacking Peanut.” I replied, and Shimmercoat’s eyes widened in surprise. “Her name is Murder. Guess what she was trying to do.”
Ignoring my sarcasm, Shimmercoat looked over at Matchstick and Peanut. “I’m glad you guys are okay… though…” he looked at Hotshot. “We need to get her to MG-MS11 right away.”
“Where do ya think we’re headed, Captain Obvious?” I said. I grimaced, the pain from the crow pecks flaring up with every small movement. We trotted as quickly as possible without jarring Hotshot on her stretcher to the back door of the store the Flaming Hooves were holed up in. Upon entering the room where the others were, Grinder and Crescent Wrench gasped in shock at the state we were in. Hiss looked up and wagged his tail at our entrance.
“Hotshot!” Grinder called out as Shimmercoat laid her on the mattress next to Walnut. “W-what happened?” he gasped at her condition, turning to me.
I sat down and explained the situation as best as I could. I told them about the events that happened before we met them, starting with when Price had accosted me about blowing up Maregaton. About how that had been interrupted by Red Eye’s slavers, and about how we had almost found ourselves in Fillydelphia. “There was an opportunity presented to us that we used to help everyone escape, however…” I said. “Right at the outskirts of Filly… this mare attacked the caravan. She can somehow control a huge flock of crows, and tears ponies apart with them while sitting in the background. When she attacked Red Eye’s slavers, she just ignored most of the slaves, and we made our getaway. Though…” I paused, and shifted to a more comfortable position. If I didn’t move very much, my wounds didn’t hurt as much. “She didn’t exactly discriminate who the crows ate. Some of the townsfolk went down.”
“Actually, sometimes it seemed like she was attacking the townsfolk on purpose, when I shielded them with my magic.” Shimmercoat piped up. “The fact is that we barely got out of there alive, and we were quite lucky that she didn’t decide to chase us all when we ran away.”
“I… I don’t think I want to go through that again…” Crescent Wrench whimpered, her ears folded down. I patted her back sympathetically… for somepony so young and so fresh out of the Stable, she was holding up remarkably well, but I had seen ponies before who seemed fine… right before they snapped. I really hoped that that wouldn’t happen to Crescent.
“Anyways, Peanut said that he saw crows circling up on that hill, and thought there was a corpse up there to loot or something.” I continued, Peanut nodding in affirmation of what I was saying. “Turned out it was Murder, and she said something along the lines of how she wanted to ‘cleanse the wasteland’ of gangers and slavers or some other such nonsense.”
“Pfff.” Matchstick snorted, rolling her eyes. “Good fucking luck.” I frowned at her swearing, but had long ago figured out that ponies that swear (and are thusly not good little fillies, like Ma said I was) usually don’t break that habit, even if I told them to stop. I cleared my throat and kept talking.
“When we arrived, the crows were trying to get at Peanut through a downed sky carriage he was hiding in. Hotshot attacked, and…” I sighed. “We were wearing her down, I think, but not before the crows got Hotshot’s eyes, and she ran off before we were able to do much of anything to her.” I didn’t mention the fact that she seemed to recognize me. I didn’t know whether it was from the whole ‘captured by Red Eye’ incident, or something else, but it probably wasn’t a good thing that this ‘Murder’ mare had my number.
Silence prevailed for a few minutes as the information soaked into everypony. Shimmercoat was muttering to himself, I caught a few phrases like ‘should have signaled’ and ‘could have been prevented.’ His muttering was aggravating. If I had known we were going to be facing the crow mare, I would have done everything I could to have Shimmercoat with me. His shield magic would have been invaluable against the swarm-attack of crows that Murder was fond of.
“Will…” Peanut started, then coughed a little. He cleared his throat, and continued. “Will your doctor be able to help Hotshot?” he said, his voice catching in his throat a little when he said the stricken mare’s name.
“MG-MS11, report!” I turned and shouted at the Mr. Gutsy hovering over an unconscious Walnut. “We’ve got wounded here, what’s your status?”
One of the robot’s eye-sensors turned to look at me. “Still operating on the patient as ordered, Sarg… Great alicorns in all the heavens! Are we under attack?! What happened to you Sarge? I’m reading multiple shallow wounds and several deep lacerations indicative of the Praetorian Special Forces! Were they invisible? Readying combat proce…”
“Stand down, and keep healing her, Sergeant!” I ordered. I was getting good at interpreting what the crazy pre-war bot was saying, and was able to respond in kind in a manner that would get my point across. “Nothing as special as Praetorians, just some soldiers with knives. We took care of ‘em, but we’ve got wounded. Can you heal multiple targets, or can you only focus on one thing at a time? Also, what is the status of your current patient?”
“Good on ya, Sah, showing it to the enemy! Unfortunately, the M.E.D.I-Gun is single-target only, and I’m afraid that I am deep into the purification procedure for this patient right now. If I were interrupted, I could not guarantee that she would survive Sah!”
I picked up some of the healing bandages that we didn’t throw into MG-MS11’s storage compartment with my telekinesis, and started wrapping some of my wounds in them. “Then we’ll make do without your heal-ray for now.”
“Aren’t you going to clean yourself first? You’ll get an infection.” Crescent Wrench said as I bandaged a particularly deep gash. Healing bandages didn’t heal as fast as potions, so I couldn’t immediately feel the effects of the magic. In other words, it still hurt. A lot.
“Umm… should I?” I asked. Shimmercoat smacked himself in the forehead with his hoof.
“Yes, you dolt.” he said. “Bandages don’t ward off infections, and you traipsing about getting dust in your wounds probably didn’t help matters. Do you have a source of running water, Grinder?” Shimmercoat asked.
“There’s a sink in the bathroom…” Grinder started. But as he spoke, a horrific gurgling noise erupted from Hotshot’s mouth, followed by a small trickle of blood… and a scream.
“HELP! THEY’RE EATING ME!! HEEEELLLP!” Hotshot thrashed in her bed as Shimmercoat, Crescent Wrench, and Grinder all dove to hold her still. “WAAAALLLLNUUUT!” Hotshot was strong, but couldn’t resist the three ponies holding her still, and after a few minutes of thrashing, she held still and just sobbed, crying out Walnut’s name.
“Hotshot, Hotshot, it’s me, Grinder…” Grinder said softly, close to her ear. “It’s alright… you’re safe. The crows aren’t here anymore, you saved Peanut. You’re alright.”
“G… Grinder?” Hotshot said, before groaning. “Aaaa… fuck. It hurts Grinder. Peanut’s safe?” Grinder nodded, then remembered himself and gave verbal assent. “Good… wouldn’t want to worry Walnut when she wakes. Fuck… do we have Med-X?”
“I’m afraid not.” I said. I couldn’t quite tell whether Hotshot realized she was blind or not…
“Fuck. Why is it so dark in here? Is it nighttime? How long have I been out?”
Guess she didn’t realize yet.
“Hotshot…” Grinder started. “You… your eyes.”
“Hurt like a bitch. Wait…” Hotshot hesitated before gasping in pain. I saw her eyelids flop around a little… she was trying to move her eyes, blink, something, and it wasn’t working. “I… I can’t see! The… Grinder?”
“Yes…” he answered, his own eyes downcast. I could tell this wasn’t easy for him.
“My… am I alright? Really?”
"I'm afraid I can’t tell you that, Hotshot." Grinder said softly. "That bird bitch got your eyes."
There was a moment of silence, before Hotshot replied, her voice catching in her throat. “S-so… I’m blind? What about that robot? Can he heal me?” She sounded hopeful.
“He says that he has to stay with Walnut, or she might die.” I said.
“Oh… then screw that. If it’s a choice between my eyesight and Walnut, well, that’s no fucking choice at all. I don’t need to see. I need Walnut.” Hotshot said, sounding more sure of what she was saying then anything else I had heard her say since we met. “Aaagh… still hurts like Flare’s shoving her hoof into my eye though…”
“Actually… I did have to cauterize your… sockets. Otherwise you would have bled out, I think.” Matchstick said, sounding almost meek.
“Ah. Well, uh… thanks, I guess. I like my blood inside me.”
“We should clean everypony’s wounds and bandage them up until MG-MS11 is ready for more patients.” Crescent Wrench said, sounding like an older pony then she really was. “You said there was a bathroom with working water, Grinder?”
“Yeah, it’s this way…” Grinder said. Shimmercoat picked up Hotshot in his shield-stretcher, and Grinder led us to where the bathroom was in the empty grocers. After rinsing our wounds with irradiated water, (Which, for some reason, everyone told me was better then just leaving them dirty. I have no idea why.) we used our supply of healing bandages to stop the seeping of our wounds, wrapped Hotshot’s eye sockets with more bandages, and returned to the pharmaceutical area of the store, where MG-MS11 was still working on purifying Walnut of her radiation poisoning. Matchstick Flare refused the bandages for her wounds, saying she would just burn through them, and ‘cleaned’ herself with her tongue, licking her wounds instead of rinsing them in the sink. I have no idea why that was okay, but just leaving the wounds to heal on their own was not. Something about infections.
I might need to re-read that medical book I picked up at Stable 11.
We gathered around the fire pit in the center of the pharmaceutical area and rested while MG-MS11 finished his 12 hour-long procedure on Walnut. Still hurting, though less so now that I was all properly bandaged up, I curled up and was about to go to sleep when Hiss wiggled his way in-between my hooves. Smiling, I snuggled the nightstalker’s rough fur and fell asleep.
The wastes around the Coin family casino were mostly flat, though there were the ruins of blasted out commercial buildings and residences dotting the Big 52 here and there. The first time I had really gone any more than 50 yards from the casino had been when I sold Fiddlesticks to Mr. Opportunity… my dear ol’ Ma had told me not to wander off, and I always listened to her… at least until now.
I ran, tears streaming from my eyes. How… that was wrong, wasn’t it? My Ma loved me, I knew that, I always knew that… but… how could she do… what she did…
She was drunk, right? I’d seen ponies do some crazy things when they were drunk in the casino, sometimes Hammer had to get rough with them or throw them out. I hadn’t really seen Ma get drunk before… maybe she accidentally drank too much? Or was drugged! Yeah… there was no way she’d do that to me normally. Somepony had to be at fault, my Ma was the best Ma in the world, only depraved wasteland raiders did that to their foals… right?
I looked around, wiping away the tears. I had run up the Big 52 towards Broccoli, the scent of the vegetable that was the staple of so many ponies in this area’s diet heavy in the air. I couldn’t remember how long I had run. After Ma had… finished, she’d fallen asleep, right in the middle of our dumping area. Some crows had been pecking at the bag she’d thrown over the fence, and I was feeling… something. I don’t know what I was… what I am feeling! She was calm, collected Ma! Never let anything or anypony bother her! Her special talent was accounting for goodness sake! How could she lose control like that… Ma never lost control, not ever… I didn’t know how to react, what to do, who to tell, or anything. Would I get in trouble if I told Pa? Or Hammer? Would they do the same thing? I don’t want that… I don’t know what to do…
“Hey there, filly… hehehe.”
I stood stock-still. There was somepony behind me… sounded like a stallion. I heard the sound of hooves slowly approaching me from behind. “You out here alone? You crying? I could make you feel better…” a yellow hoof rested on my shoulder.
I screamed. Before the stallion could react, I bolted up the highway. If I could make it to Broccoli, maybe somepony would help me…
“Hey, get back here, you little fucker!” the stallion shouted, and I could hear him galloping after me. I looked back, seeing a dirty, bloodstained raider stallion with a yellow coat and orange mane chasing after me, and screamed again. He was gaining!
My hoof caught a piece of ancient asphalt, and I went tumbling off into a small ditch at the side of the road. I hit my head against a rock, my vision now blurry as I opened my eyes, trying to see what was going on. The stallion peered over the edge of the ditch at me, smiling a nasty smile that was missing quite a few teeth. He put a hoof on the edge of the ditch…
His head blew into a million pieces as a shot rang out, and I was spattered with brain bits as his body fell over with a thud. My vision blurred again.
I was back at the casino.
What? I remember… somepony getting me out of the ditch, helping me up. How am I back here? I was watching the casino floor as security, waiting for Hammer to get done with his business meeting with Ma so he could take his shift again. Hammer was less mechanically inclined then Fiddlesticks, who he replaced after I had sold the repair pony, but he made a great security guard and I basically was only doing his job right now because he was busy with Ma. Not that there was much I could do if anypony tried anything, I was just a little filly…
Now I was in my room, reading a Guard of Honor comic… wait, what?
Flashes of memories, scenes in full detail, from sight to smell to touch started flashing before me in rapid sequence. What was going on?
That dark night where I made my first sale, Fiddlesticks whining pathetically as Mr. Opportunity slapped chains on him.
Counting my caps, gleefully finding that Mr. O. had overpaid me by 14 caps.
Ma reminding me to take out the trash.
Pa drinking… again…
I held my head with both hooves as I was whisked away to another memory. What was going on? I couldn’t focus as flashes of my fillyhood whipped through my mind. My ears started ringing loudly, and I started to feel heat… burning… my body was on fire… Ma’s hoof… the casino…
The casino was on fire. No… not this… I don’t want to remember this… the fire… all around me…
I was in my room when I smelled the smoke. I had been asleep… dreaming of a green Equestria like what was depicted in my comics. The smoke was thick enough that I had woken myself up by coughing. “Ma? Pa?” I shouted, looking around blearily, the smoke blocking my vision. I jumped down from my bed and crawled low, where the smoke wasn’t as heavy. The floor was hot… very hot. I didn’t know what was going on… but I knew that where there was smoke, there was fire. Was the kitchen on fire? Was the casino on fire? I needed to get out of here, find Ma and Pa, or Hammer, or somepony. I grabbed my cap pouch, just in case, and also grabbed my ski goggles and Hoof of Honor that I had gotten from Mr. Opportunity. I wore the goggles, they helped keep the smoke from hurting my eyes, and crawled for the door, opening it.
The casino floor… the bar area… the offices… the entire bottom floor was ablaze! I quickly took a look at the stairs… they were on fire too! My home was on fire! “Help!” I shouted, backing back into my room, but shouting through the doorway. “Somepony help!!” There was no way I was going to get through the front or back door… I looked at the small window in my room. The window that hadn’t been opened for probably two hundred years. Could I get through it? I thought so, I was small enough. I just had to get it open. There was a two story drop outside, but if it was between that and burning… I started hyperventilating, then coughed as smoke filled my lungs. “Don’t panic… don’t panic…” I said to myself, coughing every few seconds. I wouldn’t burn, I’d suffocate at this rate if I didn’t get that window open! I looked around… all that was in my room was my bed and an empty dresser, not much to break the window open with… wait! I looked at the Hoof of Honor. It was still too big for me to wear, but it was metal and I did have a basic grasp of telekinesis… this window had survived the balefire bombs and two hundred years of decay, though. Would a royal guard’s horseshoe be enough to break it? My red magical field surrounded it, levitating the Hoof into the air. Only one way to find out.
Nothing. The shoe made a crunching noise as my telekinesis slammed it against the window, but it didn’t so much as even crack. I coughed as more smoke made its way into my lungs, and the floor… it was getting hotter. Was the ceiling of the room below me on fire? I imagined myself falling through a crumbling, burning floor into the inferno below, screaming as…
No, I couldn’t let it end this way! Tears streaming down my cheeks, I slammed the Hoof of Honor against the window again and again and…
A crack! I was breaking through! I focused through the smoke as much as I could and brought the horseshoe down on the spot where the crack had appeared. Each impact widened the fissure in the glass until, finally, with a shatter it broke. Almost cheering, I used the metal Hoof to clear away the broken glass, ready to try and climb up and…
There was a second pane in the window. Son of a gun!
I went at it again, but this layer of glass was much weaker, probably because it was actually exposed to the outside. It shattered in two smacks. I cleared away the glass with my telekinesis and clambered up to the window as fast as I could. Smoke was pouring out the window as a way for it to escape was opened, and I coughed, barely able to see even with my goggles. Trying not to breath, I looked down… two stories doesn't sound far until you have to jump it…
I jumped, screaming the entire way down. As soon as I landed, my hooves gave out from underneath me. Instinctively, I rolled with the impact, and ended up with nothing worse than a few bumps and bruises. It still hurt though, and I was covered in soot and coughing up a storm now as I inhaled ragged breaths of fresh air, clearing my lungs. Tears blurred my vision as they tried to clean my stinging eyes, and I limped wearily away from the burning building as fast as my little legs would carry me. Once I was about ten yards away, though, I collapsed, coughing even harder and just trying to focus on breathing.
“COIN! COIN!!” Pa’s voice shouted out, and I heard rapid hoofsteps approaching. I looked up, smiling weakly as Pa reached out and lifted me close to him, tears in his eyes. “Oh, thank the goddesses, you’re alright…” he murmured into my ear. I cried into his shoulder, my soot-covered face mussing up his coat.
“Did… where’s Ma?” I asked.
Pa set me down, and looked towards the burning casino in a panic. “You mean… you didn’t see her? She didn’t come out after you?” Pa looked frantically around, but Ma was nowhere to be seen.
No… I don’t want to remember this… I thought pitifully. I pushed with my mind, trying to force myself awake, force myself out. The scene flickered like a bedsheet flapping in the wind, then stabilized. I fell back fully into the memory. Pa snorted in shock as we both saw a silhouette in the dingy window of Ma’s office, running around and looking altogether panicked.
“Stay here, Coin…” Pa said, a determined look on his face. No, Pa… don’t… don’t go… again…
Pa leapt into action, racing through the flames ringing the doorway. I saw him jump over a burning beam… then the smoke obscured him completely.
Three minutes later, the building collapsed. I screamed as the wreckage let out a huge plume of smoke, still burning away. Nopony was around as I cried, screamed, and pleaded with the burning wreck of the casino to somehow, please… let my parents go, let them climb out unhurt, or even just alive… I don’t want to be alone…
“Thou art not alone, Coin Slot. Not anymore, and never again.” Mezzer said as the memory faded away. “With each passing hour I understand thee more and more…
I screamed, launching my tiny filly body at the starry stallion that Mezzer manifested as whenever we were inside the black emptiness of my head. I pounded my hooves against his chest, and he reared up in shock. “WHY!?!” I cried out, tears streaming from my eyes. “Why are you making me live through this again?! I already lost my parents once… I didn’t need to lose…” I broke down, weakly punching Mezzer’s leg as I sobbed. The memory had been as vivid as if it had actually happened, and the emotional scars of that of that day were ripped wide open again, raw and bare. Mezzer, though his head was just a faceless gun, gave off the impression that he was shocked.
“I… did not know that thou was going to be so… effected by my dalliances through thy mind.” he said. “In order for me to survive, for me to effectively work with you… I need to know all about thy past. I need to know the body I’m in, its experiences, its limits…
“I’m not just your… host! I’m not a ‘body!’” I shouted through the sobs angrily. “My memories are mine! My feelings are mine! I told you to stop using my memories as a playground, I told you you had no right to fiddle around with them, and what do you do?! Bring up… make me relive…” I curled up at Mezzer’s spectral hooves, crying. I felt him lie down next to me, putting a hoof around me and nuzzling my cheek. Though his head was a gun, it felt as if a pony’s muzzle was nuzzling me, and I didn’t have enough energy to push him away. I felt violated, even worse, I felt violated by something I knew I couldn’t leave behind, or ignore, like last time…
“It was not my intention to force thee to relive thy most traumatic moments.” Mezzer said quietly into my ear. “I… I do not understand what thou art going through, or what thou hast gone through. I am new to this world, I do not even understand what my purpose is here. I thought I could find the answer in the memories of the pony I bonded with… I am apparently incorrect, and all I have done is hurt thou. There is no excuse besides my own selfish desires as to why I did what I did. I am deeply sorry.”
Through the tears, I sniffled and looked up. The starry stallion surrounding Mezzer’s gun-head was curled up around me, just like dear ol’ Ma had done when I was upset… at least before she… In any case, it was comforting to be embraced again like this, even if it was by the pon… thing that caused my discomfort in the first place. “Do… do you know what you are?” I asked.
“No. Beyond the obvious, I do not. Dost thou know what thou is?” Mezzer replied.
“Of course. I’m a pony. A unicorn.” I said, standing up. The endless black mindscape Mezzer and I had these chats in was fading away, and I was back in my full-grown mare body. I must be waking up.
“And I am a stun gun. A Mesmetron. Manufactured by General Atomareics. Except I’m not, and I know this. I did state, ‘beyond the obvious.’ Dost thou know what thou art?”
“Then…” I said as a white light obscured the starry stallion. I thought about the question. It wasn’t ‘Who are you?’ It was ‘What are you?’ What kind of question was that? Beyond the obvious? “I… I don’t know…”
I groaned as I stretched, slowly waking up, the pain of my peck-wounds duller then it had been… the healing bandages must be taking effect. Hiss was still snuggled up next to me, though he wasn’t between my hooves anymore. I must have moved around in my sleep… not surprising, given what I had just been forced to go through… again.
I sat up, feeling a little melancholy. What am I? Well, I’m a slaver… but that was just my profession, I could change that at any time if I really wanted too. I didn’t know the answer, because I had never really thought about the question before… I didn’t even know what that question was supposed to mean.
“Oh, you’re awake.” Shimmercoat’s voice shook me out of my musings. “MG-MS11 says he’s nearly done with Walnut.”
“Indeed, Sarge!” I turned to look over to the hovering robot. “I estimate only five more minutes are required for the purification process to be complete! Initiating wakeup sequence…” Walnut started to stir.
“So… where are we gonna go, Coin?” Crescent Wrench asked me. “Now that Walnut is healed…”
“We’re headed where we were headed before… towards Auction House. Once we get there, I can get another job, we can resupply and restock, get some rest, and maybe buy some new toys. I know you two need better armor then those jumpsuits you’re wearing, and I’ve been thinking about upgrading from leather recently…” Leather armor was great in that it was lightweight… but it didn’t do much against a swarm of crows…
“Yeah, we’re gonna be headed back out too. Back to Neighpalm.” Grinder said. “Back there we might be able to get some help for Hotshot, and it’ll be easier for her there than out in the wastes anyways.”
“I told you you don’t need to fucking baby me! I can take care of myself! Plenty of ponies are way worse off than I am!” Hotshot growled.
“H… Hotshot?” Walnut groaned. MG-MS11 whirred, and the M.E.D.I-Gun stopped projecting onto her, the robot returning to an idle hovering stance. “What do you mean?” Her eyes fluttered open as she sat up. “Oh my Celestia!” she shouted, seeing Hotshot’s eye’s wrapped up. “What happened?!”
We all took turns explaining what was going on, and the events that had happened while Walnut was out. “So yeah… Bottom line is, my eyes hurt, and I can’t see anymore.” Hotshot said. “But… how are you feeling?” she sounded nervous.
Walnut stood up, trotted over to Hotshot, and embraced her suddenly, giving the other mare a kiss on the snout before saying, “Never better, knowing you saved my little Peanut. I’m just glad you all made it back okay.” She then silenced Hotshot’s reply by kissing her deeply, holding her close. I turned away… it was kind of awkward for those of us watching…
“I, for one, do not mind at all. Mezzer said.
“Shut up, I’m still mad at you…” I growled under my breath.
Matchstick Flare sighed, looking wistfully at the two lovers… enjoying eachothers company. “Yay… back to Neighpalm. Where everypony gives me a twenty-yard berth. Fantastic.” she muttered.
“Well…” Crescent said, blushing slightly. “Um… MG-MS11, could you try and heal Hotshot’s eyes? I mean, it doesn’t hurt to try, right?”
“Never done optometrist work before!” MG-MS11 said. “Though my databanks are telling me that preliminary tests with the M.E.D.I-Gun didn’t work well with eye injuries, which struck the researchers as odd… it could regenerate pulled teeth, but not eyes. Nothing like giving it the old collage try, though! I must alert the Sarge, though, that my healing potion reserves are, once again, low. Only 17% capacity, Sah!”
“Oh, you don’t… you’ve done so much already…” Walnut said, breaking away from a stunned Hotshot and turning to me.
“Besides, it was my fault anyways…” Peanut said, looking down at the ground. I felt sorry for the kid… he was blaming himself for the loss of Hotshot’s sight, despite numerous attempts by all of us to convince him otherwise.
What am I?
“No… no, it’s a good thing to try now. MG-MS11, use your remaining potion stock on Hotshot, see if you can’t regenerate her eyes.” I said.
“Yes, Sah!” the robot said, firing the stream of healing light towards Hotshot. She sighed as her multiple lacerations closed under their bandages.
“I… well my eyes don’t hurt anymore. Nether does the rest of me.” she said as MG-MS11 halted the healing beam, stating that he was at less than 10% capacity and now in ‘critical injury only’ mode. Considering that he went into this mode last time when I was having back surgery, I briefly wondered what was considered a ‘critical injury.’
“Well, let’s find out if it worked…” Walnut said softly, removing Hotshots eye-bandages.
Empty sockets stared back at her. “…I don’t think it worked.” Hotshot said, sounding… not sad, but disappointed.
Peanut started to cry. “I-I’m sorry, Hotshot! I should never have gone out…” tears streamed down his face as he sobbed, and Hotshot, using the noise he was making, located him and pulled him fiercely into a hug between the two mares.
“Hush, you.” she said. “I won’t have you blaming yourself for something that wasn’t your fucking fault. It doesn’t hurt anymore, and I have you two to help me see, so it’s not… not that big a deal. I’ll just need a little more help than usual.” Walnut smiled softly and joined in, comforting Peanut.
Matchstick Flare sighed. Grinder glanced over at her, a sympathetic look on his face. She was sitting next to Shimmercoat and I, so I asked, “What’s wrong?”
“Oh… nothing. Nothing worth mentioning anyways.” Matchstick said.
“She’s obviously mildly jealous of the fact that Hotshot, Walnut, Peanut, and basically any other pony can, well, hug. Comfort with touch. Bodily contact, I’ve noticed, is a major part of pony communication, and if she wasn’t always this way, then she knows what she’s missing out on. Quite sad, if thou think about it long enough.” Mezzer said. He was right, a nuzzle from dear ol’ Ma was all that was needed to cheer me up, back when I was a filly… at least, usually it was.
Shimmercoat seemed to notice Matchstick’s melancholy as well, and he patted her on the back. “It’s alright, I’m sure you’ll find a special somepony someday…” he muttered absentmindedly, his horn glowing faintly. After a small pause, he glanced at everypony staring at him. “What?” he asked, oblivious. His hoof still rested on Matchstick’s back, a barely perceptible glow emanating from it.
Matchstick was the first to recover from her shock. “Y-You! You can touch me?!” she asked, her voice growing from shock to ecstatic joy with every syllable.
“Huh?” Shimmercoat said. He looked at his hoof, briefly lifted it in surprise, then poked Matchstick again. “Oh! Yeah, I guess I can. Ha, looks like I made my shield spell just block heat, and that’s it. Doesn’t take much in the way of focus or energy, I could do this all day!” He continued poking her shoulder, unaware of the growing smile on Matchstick’s face. “Wonder why I didn’t think of that before, it’s so simple…”
Shimmercoat was interrupted by Matchstick tackling him, hugging him so tightly that his eyes seemed to bulge a little. He coughed. “Ak! Oof… heh, good thing it’s so simple to cast…” he muttered, patting Matchstick gingerly on the back. The rest of the Flaming Hooves all had big smiles on their faces, happy for Matchstick. They knew how much being able to touch somepony meant to her.
Suddenly, Matchstick looked up from her embrace of the former overstallion, her gaze aimed straight at me like a precision laser. I dared not look away from the fire in her eyes, her stare was as intense as the sun hidden above the clouds. She opened her mouth, about to speak a sentence of such potency that even I could almost not bear to hear it.
“A thousand caps.” she said, her eyes gleaming.
Almost not bear to hear it. My mouth salivating at the thought of such a large stack of caps, I took a quick glance at Shimmercoat. He eyed her up and down, smiled, and shrugged, nodding at me and flashing that stupid sexy smile of his.
“Sounds like a deal to me.” I replied, grinning.
Level up! (Lv. 10)
New Perk: Life Giver: You’ve provided new purpose and drive to a desperate mare in the wasteland! For some Celestia-forsaken reason, this gives you +30 HP. No, we don’t know how that works either. Don't spend them all in one place.
Author’s Note: Woo, another chapter that took me forever to type/get to! I swear, the universe does not like me writing, but screw the rules, I got ponies. Things get a little dicey with the whole ‘college’ thing, but I’m determined to finish this, so you can count on me to get chapters done, even if it takes a little while for me to get the time.
Also, it pains me to do this, but since I know that for some reason people do actually read this, I’m going to put it down here. I am a very broke brony. Not that I’m not used to this state of being, but I tell you what, it really sucks. I’m not the begging type though… if, however, you want to, for some reason, donate some coin to help me through the edumicative systems that are college, my paypal is firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s also my email, if you want to toss me a line, or spam ;) .
AND! Like I said, I’m not quite the begging type. I also happen to be a fairly good pony plush crafter, or so I’m told. I have examples of my work on my deviantart, sirleadhead.deviantart.com, right in my gallery. If you want a reasonably priced pony plush of any type, be it OC, fallout equestria related, or even a cannon pony (gasp), then by all means contact me! My prices are listed on my deviantart, but they are totally negotiable, and if you really want one, but are a few bucks short, I’m certain we could work out some sort of deal ;) .
Thank you for reading, and if you got any questions or comments, feel free to slap a comment on down there at the fimfic entry for this story. Love you guys! :D
HUGE thanks to Kkat for writing Fallout: Equestria and giving us sidefic writers a great big sandbox to play in. Also thanks to Lesolan and Shimmercoat, and brand new editor (for me, anyways, I know he’s worked on several other sidefics before) Wirepony for help editing and proofreading this slog to make it something enjoyable. Really couldn’t do this without you guys. And thanks to all who hang out at the Sidefic Compilation doc for providing feedback and inspiration to write my own story. Also thanks to Bethesda and Hasbro for two great franchises. Hope you enjoy!