ACT I: DAWN
Chapter 1: The Sound of Silence
Good evening everypony, this is Mister New Pegasus speaking, bringing you the latest news and the sweetest tunes to comfort your weary souls. Today has been a remarkable day for the great city of New Pegasus! The flagship casino of the New Pegasus Strip, the Platinum Horseshoe, has reopened to the grand public after decades of silence and mysteries. The once believed dead owner of this juggernaut of pony entertainment, Full House, has had the deference to send message to this humble pony here. I will not play it, as per his request, but I will tell you what he told me. He told me that the Horseshoe is now the best casino in town, the one with the best facilities, the comfiest rooms, the most entertaining sideshows and the biggest, juiciest prizes. Everypony is welcome to the new Horseshoe!”
“In other news, the City Board has decided to welcome the ever growing New Equestrian Republic to establish a diplomatic delegation within the city walls, provided they respect the independence and self-govern of the city. So, dear citizens of New Pegasus, if you happen to see ponies wearing uniforms with a two-headed unicorn, don’t go running back to your homes and set up the barricades! These soldiers are friendly and welcome, as long as the City Board doesn’t say different. According to the City Board, the NER will have a permanent Embassy in the northern end of the Strip, close to the walls.”
“However, as a nasty side effect of this diplomatic maneuver, the City Security Force will start conducting thorough Citizenship checks, so don’t forget to carry your Citizen Card or Badge with you at all times. You risk being kicked out of this little piece of paradise!”
“Now, to all our everyday listeners and to the newcomers, here’s something fresh out of the oven. Coming directly from Manehattan, broadcast by the very DJ Pon-3 himself, here is Velvet Remedy’s last hit. Remember, this is New Pegasus Radio, and I am your host, Mister New Pegasus, straight into your soul...”
“Farsight,” the Overmare started speaking in a rather formal tone, “let me express my infinite gratitude for your sacrifice today. Rest assured that the lives of the ponies of Stable 188 are forever in debt with you. We shall never forget you, and what you’ve done for us.”
I looked at the Overmare. I wasn’t angry, nor sad, not even scared; but I knew that fear would come to me as soon as the gate closed behind my back. At that instant, every negative feeling I harbored towards the Stable, its organization, its rules and ways, and most of all, towards the Overmare, were substituted for pure disappointment and bitterness. She had driven me into a total checkmate, turned me into a pariah in my own home, crushed my aspirations of doing something good for the rest; and finally, she was throwing me to my death.
“Overmare,” I replied, my teeth clenched, looking at her in pure, utter hate, “I really hope you’ll have the guts to tell that to your filly if she gets picked.”
I turned and crossed the gate, entering the endless dark void. I looked back to see the gate slam shut behind me, but... did I spot a faint grin on the Overmare’s face?
*** *** ***
Darkness. All around.
When the heavy door slammed shut behind me, the world faded to black. There was nothing but darkness and silence, which made me notice that the Stable gates were magnificent sound isolators. I bet the Dwellers could be throwing a massive party right behind the door and I wouldn’t even notice.
I stood still for... how long? I didn’t know, but then again, how was I to know, being surrounded by pitch-black darkness, without a single reference to start? As I had imagined before, I found myself shaking in utter fear. What could lie before me? I couldn’t see a single thing, I couldn’t hear a single thing, and I damn sure couldn’t feel a single thing; and what was even worse, I couldn’t think clearly. My imagination had gone berserk and was starting to picture eldritch horrors that were just a step away from me, waiting to drag me to their dark pits to tear me apart.
I felt my guts churn once again, this time more violently, and I could even taste the vomit coming up my throat, then I threw up. Once. Twice. Three times; until I had nothing left in my stomach. I could feel my entire body shaking, both from fear and weakness. Then came the tears. I did nothing to hold them back, I just let them flood my eyes and slip down my cheeks. I kicked and wailed and cried like a little foal, damning all the Stable Dwellers to a slow and painful death, blaming their hypocrisy as the culprit of my fate. I stomped the floor with my hooves and let my rage loose by wailing like crazy. Maybe it wasn’t the most mature of actions, but it helped me feel a bit better.
I slowly started thinking about my life in the Stable. Did I miss it? I guess I did, but I wasn’t that sure, anyway. It was safe, it was comfortable, and food was guaranteed as long as things didn’t mess up, so it was good overall. However, I had been a loner for all my life, with no real friends, only artificial relationships product of my hard work trying to grasp the principles of speech and charisma. Looking back at it, I couldn’t remember the name of a mare or a buck that had positively expressed fondness towards me. No, nopony liked me in there. I felt tears fill my eyes again, but this time it wasn’t fear what fueled them, nor rage. It was sorrow, it was the regret for having lost everything I’d never had.
Then, the grin of the Overmare came to my mind. I had seen it, I had no doubt. Why was she smiling, if the moment was meant to be one of total solemnity or even sorrow? As Overmare, she was sending one of the Dwellers of her Stable to a most certain death! How could she find that amusing at all? Or maybe it wasn’t amusement what made her grin.
...No. No, no, no! NO! I refused to think that, there was no way she could have rigged the election! As much as I hated her, I wanted to believe she had a tiny bit of decency in her. However, a little voice in my head told me I was a fool for believing it. What if mine wasn’t the first election she had rigged? How come all her “friends” were so calm at the moment of the Lottery? Wasn’t that suspicious? The very thought of it made me shake in anger. That disgusting bitch! If I could have put my hooves on her that very moment, I would have torn her to shreds.
I breathed deep two or three times to calm myself down, and remembered about the PipBuck I was wearing. When I was given the device, the instructor pony told us that it had a light function. How could I have forgotten that? I operated the knob using my telekinesis, which made the PipBuck start glowing with a faint golden light. Now that things weren’t pitch black, I could see the world around me, and I was quite surprised to see I wasn’t out in the open as I had thought, but in some sort of underground service tunnel, four walls of concrete that led to a place unknown. Other than that (oh, yes, and my fresh vomit in the floor), there was nothing to be seen or done here.
One hoof after another, I slowly crept into the dark tunnel, hoping there would not be any monsters out there. The records in the Stable spoke about the horrible effect of radiation on living beings, the mutation, the warped abominations that came out of the tests performed before the War. For all I knew, those horrors could be easily roaming the world right now. However, my fears were soon over, since the tunnel ended abruptly in a concrete wall with a ladder leading to a ponyhole in the ceiling. Suddenly, my PipBuck emitted a faint beep. I looked at it to see that the map function had started working and showed that I was standing on... Stable 188. Obvious. This led me to think that the map had to have been recorded sometime before or during the War, and as well as somepony had added Stable 188 to the database, other locations should be in there as well.
What was I going to do now, I wondered. I needed a goal in my life, something to strive for, and right now I had nothing, since there was no returning into my former life, as bad as it could be. However, I didn’t know what awaited ahead, and honestly, I was scared of whatever I could face when I left the tunnel, but I found something in the deep of my mind that fueled me; I found the wish for vengeance. Something inside me told me that I would come back to the Stable someday, and that the Overmare would have to pay for casting me out. First, though, I had to survive to see that day.
Leaving those thoughts aside, I moved the ponyhole cover in order to find a way out of the tunnel. The faint blue glow of my horn flooded the room, casting tilting shadows of myself and of the ladder in the process. The ponyhole cover moved aside, and a stream of light entered the tunnel from above. Could that be... sunlight? Maybe all I had read and all that the Overmare had told us was a lie? Maybe the world outside was still green and sunny? After having lived a whole life underground, would I get to see the light of day, the power of the Goddess? Almost tripping from the excitement, I climbed the ladder and exited the tunnel.
*** *** ***
“*Bleep!* You have discovered Las Pegasus Strip!” The PipBuck beeped and let me know I was somewhere other than in Stable 188, but I was too busy to actually notice it. My eyes wandered around in delight, from light to light. It was not sunlight, as I had thought in the first glance. It was pure and simple magic, entire buildings lit like torches, from top to bottom, showing massive, glowing billboards that announced entertainers, singers, magicians, comedians, exhibitions, and almost all over the place, gambling. This was Las Pegasus, the Capital of Fun in Equestria, as the records said.
My mind was suffering a total breakdown. How was this possible? Wasn’t this supposed to be a deserted Wasteland where ponies had a hard time surviving? What kind of fucked-up mockery was this? There had to be a catch somewhere. Either the inhabitants were all dead, or they were cannibals waiting for ponies to come out of the Stable (please, Celestia, don’t let it be like that) or the whole Stable was a sort of absurd behavioral experiment. Nothing seemed to add up, and I felt so confused at the moment that I almost felt the urge to turn around and knock the Stable door to tell them there was a city above.
When I came out of the ponyhole, I found myself in a small dead-end street between two cinder block buildings, their walls smeared with graffiti that said things such as “NER go home!” or “Who is Full House?”. The paintings were recent, so that ruled out the idea of the city being deserted. I had honestly no idea what they were talking about. NER? What in Equestria could that actually mean? And who could Full House be? Trying to put my thoughts in order, I left the alley to enter into the main street.
It was plain and simply glorious. Coming out of the darkness of the underground corridor, I found myself in a world of blinding lights. My jaw opened wide in amazement as I started looking around, trying to grasp as much of this new, breathtaking world as possible. This had nothing to do with the picture I had of the Wasteland. Instead of a barren, lifeless desert; I encountered a vibrant, living city where the gleam and glory of the Past still endured.
The lights were blinding, the music was harmonious, the mares were beautiful and the stallions dressed in style. As far as my eyes could see, the avenue continued, surrounded by buildings, each one bigger and more lavish than the previous. There were bars, fancy restaurants, casinos, hotels, dressmakers, general stores... but mostly casinos. I could count up to six of them in a ten minute trot down the Strip. Everything looked so fancy, so attractive...
A sudden rumble of my stomach reminded me that I hadn’t eaten anything since that morning, and come to think of it, after having been expelled from the Stable I had thrown up so many times I doubted I had anything left inside me. As I was walking towards the restaurant, a buck dressed in an uncomfortable looking livery stopped me dead in my tracks. He gave me a look up and down, as if he was judging me.
“Sir,” he said, “I’m afraid I can’t let you in. Your dress is not proper.”
“Proper?” I asked in disbelief. My jumpsuit was clean and tidy! Why shouldn’t it be adequate?
“Yes, sir. This restaurant takes great pride on its dressing standards, and I’m afraid a... jumpsuit isn’t what fits our etiquette. Besides, even in the risk of being impolite, I don’t think you can afford the prices in our menu.”
Money! I had to refrain from facehoofing. And I consider myself a smart pony! I had read so much about money in the Pre-War times; I knew about trading and investment, and I even had some notions in Economy. However, I hadn’t thought that there would be money involved. After all, if this city was like a pre-War one, it was reasonable that there was a pre-War economy working.
“Excuse me, sir, but I will have to ask you to leave.” The buck was looking at me with a stern face. “If you refuse, I’m afraid I’ll have to call the police.”
I didn’t want to mess things up from the very beginning. After all the fear I had felt when I left the Stable, somehow I saw an easy way out of the problem. This city, this Las Pegasus, could be my safe haven. If I could just find work in here, maybe I could make a living away from the dangers that were out there. Suddenly I was feeling much more light hearted, almost cheerful. Things didn’t look so bad from this angle.
My happiness, however, was quickly replaced by anguish. Where could I find a job in a place like this? All my life I had been working as an accountant, a manager of ins and outs; so I had no skills like the ones a restaurant or a casino would require, and most probably, they wouldn’t hire me anyway. After all, who was I but a homeless pony? Who would actually want to hire a buck that comes out of nowhere, dressed in a strange jumpsuit, who is alien to all the ways of the place? Nopony, that’s the answer.
I would have to try, though, since this one was a rather do-or-die situation. I slowly meditated about what I could offer to the inhabitants of this city. Fuck, Farsight, you’re a smart pony, I thought; you can make out a way of finding a job. I could handle money, whatever it was called. In the Stable there was no money at all, but there were resources, such as power, water, oxygen, food or fuel. Somepony had to control the quantities, the ins and outs, the ups and downs, and all things considered money was just another resource; so I had the feeling that it could be my way of getting a job.
If not, I had computers; after all my PipBuck was especially modified to have the power of an actual terminal, if not much more. Besides, I had worked all my life in front of a terminal, and I had learned how to make those things tick. I could design programs to manage robots, to automate accounts, to deliver messages... Maybe that could be useful as well.
A sting of sorrow came to me once again. The Stable, my life... gone, forever. My life hadn’t been happy in there, I know, but now I was missing it. Even in the bright lights of this city, all felt alien to me, as if I didn’t really belong here. I felt darkness grasp my heart again as I remembered my daily routine. My small office, the old desk where my terminal was located, the smell of the books in the shelf... I did miss that, the simplicity of it all. I tried to hide my tears; instead, I laughed softly in irony. It’s amazing how you can get to appreciate simple things when you’ve lost them.
And once again, thinking about the Stable brought me to my exile, or the way it had been staged. I blamed the Overmare for her actions, but a small part of me knew that I could have avoided everything by having said nothing and having been a good, obedient pony. I wanted to have my revenge, but something was starting to change in me. It wasn’t the Overmare I wanted to punish, it was the system who had done this to me. I realized that the Overmare was nothing but a figurehead, the visible appendage of an invisible monster formed by the bigotry and the narrow mindedness of the Dwellers; so all of them were to blame. All of them were responsible of my fate, since none of them had stepped forward to aid me. Therefore, I would have my revenge upon all of them, that I swore.
*** *** ***
“I’m sorry, but I can’t hire you.” The fancy mare in the outfitter store shook her head, her face showing a perfectly faked sadness. “You don’t have enough references.”
“Enough references?” I asked in anger. “Can’t you see I’m fresh out of a Stable? Do you want me to crawl back there to ask for references?”
“I don’t care about what you do.” Her face had wiped away all sadness to show a stern rejection. “No references, no job.”
“Now leave or I’ll call the police!” She pointed a hoof at the door.
I left the store, because I didn’t want to alert the police. Somehow I knew that doing so would be unwise, but I was starting to feel desperate, as my stomach was rumbling and my head was a total chaos. Ever since I had been kicked out I had been wandering the city with no actual place to go, stumbling from one shop to another, almost kneeling to beg for a job. However, I had been rejected everywhere, and I was running out of places to go. The restaurants had thrown me away because I was dirty, the outfitters had despised me because of my clothes, the hotels rejected me because they feared I could be a burglar. No matter how fancy I tried to talk, they wouldn’t give me an opportunity.
And what was worse, every attempt ended up with greater chances of attracting the police towards me. With every door closing for me, I saw my chances of survival vanish before my eyes. I wanted to scream for help, I wanted to beg for a single carrot. That was another lesson I was starting to learn: nopony cared about nopony in this outside world. The Stable had some principles of love and solidarity, nopony was left behind. This, however, was a competition. Survival was a one-pony-job, and the sooner I understood the hard truth, the better I would do; so I shook my head and tried to think straight. I’d have to look for more places. Maybe the Casinos could profit of my fancy talking.
*** *** ***
Have you ever tried to fancy-talk somepony that is pointing at you with a gun? That’s the situation I found in all the Casinos I entered looking for a job. No, they didn’t want me as a croupier because I couldn’t be trusted. No, they didn’t want me as a security pony because I was a wimpy colt with no experience. No, they didn’t want me as a bartender because I wasn’t attractive enough. And hell no, they didn’t want me to handle their money. All of this said with the black, gaping mouth of a gun aimed directly at my face.
They were very clear: I wasn’t welcome in town; and they wouldn’t call the police, because they had other ways of handling uncomfortable intruders. A bullet to the head and the problem would be over. Then, they’d drag my corpse to the Wasteland and let the predators do their thing so, they said, I had better leave their casinos before they ran out of their agonizing patience. A wave of fear shook my body, and I swear I was close to soiling myself. The Wasteland was this as well. Beneath the blinding lights, this place was a savage society. There was little difference with what I had been taught in the Stable. All traces of love and tolerance had gone down the drain.
Scared as I was, I left each casino with a mixture of relief and despair. On the one hoof, I had barely escaped a more than probable death, but on the other hoof, I had returned to my very worrisome situation; because I had nothing to eat, no money to pay for anything, and I was starting to bring the attention of the citizens towards me. It was just a matter of time until they called the police to take the homeless pony with the Stable jumpsuit off the streets.
*** *** ***
After roaming the streets for a while, drowning in a spiral of my own pessimism, I stopped before a big red building with a metal roof. It wasn’t as massive as the casinos, as beautiful as the outfitter shops, or as fancy as a restaurant, but it was exactly what I needed. The silver sign on the street read “Las Pegasus Public Library”, but the “Las” had been badly covered with a wooden plank where the word “New” was scribbled, which made me realize the city wasn’t Las Pegasus but New Pegasus. Why did they change the name in the first place? As I was reading the sign, I spotted from the corner of my eye that two robots had stopped their patrol and were looking at me. They were quite a work of engineering, indeed. The engineers had tried to resemble a pony as much as it was possible, since they had their body with the four legs and the head; but that was the limit of similarities; from there on, they were different. The front left and right legs were joint into a big wheel, and so were the back ones. The head was a monitor, like the one in my terminal, and it showed a static image of a stern-looking pony with a security officer cap on it. Somepony had finally called the police, and I assumed these devices were the ones responsible for keeping the city safe... according to whatever standards they gave to safety. I also assumed that they wouldn’t make a move for me if I didn’t notice I was being closely watched, so I decided to carelessly trot around the building.
My hopes of walking away unnoticed were quickly dashed, as I saw from the corner of my eye that the patrol robots had started pursuing me. They kept their distance, as if they didn’t want to scare me away, but they were definitely behind me. My heart started beating faster as I tried to shake them off my tail with no good results. Why were they behind me in the first place? What had I done to be pursued? Was this the fate of the Outcasts, to be hunted down like animals in this city? I wanted to cry, but I held my tears as I tried not to attract any more attention toward myself. Suddenly, I found myself back in front of the Library, and desperate as I was, I ran into the building trying to lose the robots.
The front desk was a Pre-War work of art and craftsmanship, two tones of wood entwined themselves forming a representation of the Goddesses, Celestia and Luna, fulfilling the role of raising the sun and the moon. On the wall, a massive poster of a blindfolded pony soldier standing before a book watched over the whole reception. Although aged and close to losing all its color, the inscription was clearly readable:
Soldier, keep your mind fit!
Ministry of Arcane Science
That was, most probably, a wartime propaganda poster, if the records from the Stable were right. I stood staring at the poster, thinking on how the image symbolized my current situation, since in a way, I was running around blindfolded in a world unknown to me.
“What’s so funny about the poster?” asked a feminine voice from behind the counter.
I noticed the small golden-coated mare that was trying to stick her head above the desk. She had an apple-green mane, gracefully braided behind her head, and wore a pair of small, round glasses. I stood there looking at her without saying anything, and I guess she didn’t like my face, because she gave me a rough look.
“Hey, what is wrong with you?” she asked again.
“Oh, sorry, sorry. I got carried away,” I replied in a hurry. My voice trembled and my heart felt like it would burst. “I-I... I have a problem.”
“We all have problems, friend.” She didn’t seem very helpful. “Now make it quick, I’ve got work to do. How can I help you?”
“Help me?” I tried to smile but my face was twitching in anguish. “My name’s Farsight, I’m new here. I need a job.”
“Oh, you’re one of those Stable ponies, aren’t you?” she asked, pointing at my blue and yellow jumpsuit with her hoof.
“Yes. Yes.” I replied nervously, worried about whether that was a good or a bad thing. I didn’t know what concept they had in New Pegasus about Stable ponies. Maybe they hated them. Maybe they killed them for sport. Oh, no, please, no.
“You’re not the first one I’ve seen. In fact, I lived in there as well.”
“You WHAT?” My eyes opened wide. “How come I don’t know you?”
“I was thrown out some years ago.” She scowled. “You must have been a colt back then. Probably nothing more than a blank flank.”
“I suppose so.” I shrugged. “Could I ask you one question?”
“Tell me.” Her face showed clearly that she didn’t want to answer any questions, but she was forcing herself to be polite. Just for an old compatriot.
“Where did your family work?” I asked.
“Father worked at the reactor level. He had to deal with all the radiation and the heat. That poor sod died very young, leaving Mother and me alone.”
Fuck this, I thought. It was the same I had noticed. Only the low-class ponies were the ones prone to be cast out. The highborn would live safe and comfortably in the Stable for their whole lives.
“I’m sorry to hear that,” I mumbled. “What about your mother?”
“Mother worked in the Canteen. All the day, stuck behind smoking pots, breaking her back so that the Stable could eat. But then I got picked, and I don’t know what happened to her.” I would have expected her to show some sorrow or regret, but she didn’t. Whatever she was feeling was hidden under a mask of indifference.
"If it helps, I understand." I nodded to show that I did indeed understand. "I was thinking of getting a job, and waiting for when the next pony is cast out of the stable. Expose the truth, confront the Overmare, and maybe in the process we could learn about your mother."
Mentioning her mother didn’t seem to be a good idea at all. Tracker’s jaws clenched shut in anger, giving her the look of a killer. I swear I felt my blood freeze when I tried to meet her gaze.
“Listen to me. I have been patient with you because you’re a fresh outcast, but you are starting to piss me off. What’s done is done and buried, and I damn sure don’t want any smartypants coming here to remind me of my past.”
“I am sorry. I didn’t know it was something so painful for you to remember.” I tried to look as pitiful as possible, since her resentment had given way to anger, and to be totally honest, I preferred the disdain she had shown in the first part of our conversation. “Please forgive me.”
Tracker grunted, waved a hoof and gave me a judging look. “Stop acting, you dickhead. Let’s forget about this and speak about your job. What are your abilities?” She was the same grumpy, cold-as-ice mare as before.
“My abilities?” Stupid question, but I was so nervous that I couldn’t think straight.
“Yes, your abilities, stupid.” She looked at me with an ironic smirk. “Because you’ll have abilities, won’t you?”
“I’m good with computers.” That was my only card. If it didn’t work...
“We already have a technician.” The mare behind the counter shook her head. “Besides, these computers don’t need much more than a toaster repairpony.”
No! I needed to get that job! Besides, I noticed that the robots had already spotted me and were coming my way.
“Please!” I begged, tears coming to my eyes. “I need a job! Please! I NEED IT!”
“I said no, so shut up!” she barked. “Stop pestering, or I swear I’ll call the police!”
What a coincidence, the two patrol bots had just entered the library and were coming for me.
“Citizenship Card, please.” The bot emitted a toneless voice.
“Citizenship Card, please.” Again, the same response. The other bot had flanked me in the meantime and was standing behind my back. That was it. My life was over. I prayed to the Goddesses to strike me dead.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Come with us, please.” The front bot turned around and the other pushed me from behind, forcing me to hastily trot out of the building. Destination, unknown.
*** *** ***
If I didn’t know it wasn’t like that, I might have thought that I had returned to my lovely Stable room. Everything around me was gray, dull and gray: gray walls, gray ceiling, gray floor, a gray mattress left on a corner of the small room. Leaving aside the fact that the place was not meant to be beautiful or comfortable, the room was in a rather good condition. No cracks on the paint, no chipped floors, no scratch marks on the walls saying “Fuck the Police” or anything like that. In fact, the only thing that differed from a standard Stable room was the small window on one of the walls, which let a beam of the blinding lights of New Pegasus enter the room, or to be more precise, the holding cell.
The bots had taken me from the Library into a small, ugly, two-storey building that stood on a sidestreet, far from the activity and glitz of the main avenue. The building itself was a cube, with no hint of aesthetics in it, just plain functionality taken to the edge of paroxism. Offices in the first floor, barred windows on the second. The small sign in the main entrance let me know I was being dragged into the New Pegasus Police Department, accused of what I assumed was illegal immigration.
There was nothing to do in the cell, well, nothing except reading a small booklet that was lying on a corner. It was a dirty old brochure, most probably from before the War, titled Las Pegasus and its surroundings, and it had been edited by the Las Pegasus Tourism Board. I hovered through the pages containing old pictures and small reference texts. Nothing too interesting, since I had other things that worried me much more, like my future. However, a small voice in my head advised me to scan the book into my PipBuck, which I did. Then, I realized I had nothing more to do, other than to fall into despair once again.
I missed the Stable; something I never thought I would, but as the hours went by, I started wondering what the Dwellers would be doing. Then I remembered my bed, warm and cozy, and tears came to my eyes as I realized I wouldn’t sleep on it again; or more properly, I wouldn’t sleep in a bed again. As a natural course of reason, I thought about the Overmare, and rage filled my brain. I hadn’t stopped thinking about the events that led to my banishment, and minute after minute I was more and more convinced that the Lottery had been rigged. I wanted revenge, but there were other things to worry about. I had been thrown out from my home into a place which, oh, the irony, considered me an illegal alien. I’d surely be kicked out once again, this time into the actual Wasteland.
I was, once again, shaking with fear at the sight of leaving the last hint of civilization and being forced to survive in a wild environment, for which I was far from prepared. I felt weak and laid down on the floor, crying in silence. I felt like vomiting, but I had nothing left on the stomach to throw up, just some bile that came to my mouth and went back down again, so I laid my head on the floor and waited for somepony to come for me.
*** *** ***
“Oi! Get up and move here!” a rough voice yelled in the darkness.
Where? What? Oh, I had fallen asleep in the end, and I still was in that dull gray holding cell. There was one difference, though. The door of the cell was open and a pony in a police uniform was standing there, looking at me with total disgust, which sparked my anger. Ever since I had left the stable I had been looked upon as if I was a rat or a rotting body, and I wasn’t going to take it anymore.
“What’s wrong with you, you lazy zebra?” he groaned. “I told you to get a move on!”
With no little effort, I got back on my hooves and sloppily moved towards the guard pony. When I came closer, I noticed he couldn’t be much older than me, up to the point that I could swear he was younger. His cutie mark was formed by two crossed, smoking guns, so I assumed that it made him a trigger-happy foal.
“First day at work?” I asked. Honestly, I felt so angry that I didn’t care of the consequences. I just wanted to hurt somepony, and if it wasn’t physically, at least I’d piss him off.
“Yes, how do you... argh, shut the fuck up and keep moving, scum!” he burst in anger, hitting me with his hoof on my side. I felt the pain propagate across my body, and I almost lost balance; but the pain acted as a relief, giving me strength to carry on.
The guard led me to a small room with nothing but a table and some cuffs on one side of it.
“Over there!” he spat, and cuffed my rear hooves.
“You can’t possibly think I’m going to run away.” I grinned smugly. “If you do so, then you’re even more foalish than I thought.”
I knew what was coming and got ready for it. The guard sent his hoof straight into my foreleg, making me lose my balance and kneel. My head also hit the table before me, and I felt the taste of blood in my mouth, then it went slipping down my throat. Even if I was close to enjoying being whacked, the little voice of logic in my head was warning me constantly. Learn your place, Farsight, for this is not the Stable anymore; and here a slip of the tongue could mean your death. As soon as you learn that, the better you’ll do.
“Standoff, that’s enough!” an older-sounding voice ordered. Standoff. Two guns. Who would have guessed?
“But chief, I...” Standoff sounded like a little colt being caught in the act of stealing candy on a shop. Even in pain, I smiled. That would teach him a lesson.
“If you want to beat ponies to a pulp, you can go travel the Wasteland as a Celestia-damned raider! The New Pegasus Police Department needs no thugs.”
“He was being disrespectful!” Standoff whined.
Oh, come on. You could have said “The bad pony in a jumpsuit started!” and you would have been more convincing.
“I. Don’t. Care!” the older voice replied, in a cutting tone. He was definitely not amused by the situation. Maybe there was a spot for actual kindness and respect in a place like this? I finally managed to get up on my hooves again and look beyond the table. I gazed at the Chief, the older pony that had ordered Standoff to stand down. He was a tough-looking big, dark green stallion with a greying mare, cut very short. When he noticed me, he looked me up and down, then stared at me with a stern face.
“What’s your name?” he asked. He irradiated respect and dread with every word. Looking at him, all my anger and my irony vanished, leaving place to a reverent fear.
“Farsight, sir,” I said and gulped down, again tasting blood.
“I’m Brass Badge, Captain of the NPPD. Pleased to meet you, Farsight. Coffee?” the captain asked. His tone had become softer, a bit paternal. If he hadn’t been so harsh before, maybe I could have trusted him.
“No, sir. I don’t think I could shove anything down my throat right now.”
“Fine, have it your way.” Badge let a faint smile appear on his face. “You know why you’re here, don’t you?”
“The bots spoke about Citizenship Cards or something like that.”
“Right on the spot. Let me explain what the fuss is all about.” Brass Badge cleared his throat and started walking up and down the interrogation room, just as if he were about to give a speech to a crowd. “New Pegasus has been a haven of civilization in the midst of the Equestrian Wasteland, a spire of light in the darkness; and like light attracts flies and vermin, New Pegasus started attracting all kinds of ponies from the wastes. Some of them were good, hard-working ponies who helped the city to thrive; yet others were clearly unwanted. Raiders, junkies, tribals, or worse. New Pegasus couldn’t risk to be swallowed by the tide of chaos coming from the Wasteland, so the City Board decided to limit citizenship to those ponies who really showed they could give their best for the welfare of the city. The rest, well, they have no place in here.”
“But why can’t I have a chance?” I begged.
“Ah, Farsight. I’m so sorry to have to say this to you, since I know exactly what you’re going through. I was a Stable pony myself too, got picked in that stupid Lottery years ago.”
I couldn’t believe it. Two in one night? Did the city feed on the ponies of the Stable or what?
“You too, sir?” I asked, amazed. “I’ve met two in the whole night.”
“Then you must have met Tracker, the librarian.”
“Yes.” I nodded. “She didn’t seem to enjoy watching her past before her.”
“That is true,” Brass Badge agreed. “Her banishment was, according to her words, unpleasant.”
“Mine was as well.” I lowered my head and felt the tears rising. “I... stood for what I believed in, and that got me kicked out.”
Brass Badge shook his head and grunted.
“You confronted your Overmare, did you?” His voice came out like pressured steam out of a pot, hissing with anger and resentment.
“I did.” I nodded sadly. “I thought I could bring some sense into the Stable and try to eliminate the Lottery once and for all.”
“You actually tried to do that?” Badge seemed surprised. A sincere smile broke his dreadful look, making him appear paternal. “Wow, that’s more than what I had expected. I tried to point out that the job assignment system wasn’t fair, since the hard jobs always went to the same population. Some weeks later, I got picked in the Lottery.”
Once again, my theory of a two-class Stable was being proven right. I shook my head in utter disgust when I heard his story.
“And you didn’t try to get revenge?” I asked.
“Of course I did.” Badge smiled again. “The first weeks or so. I counted the days for the Stable door to reopen, and then I’d fight my way back in.”
“Why didn’t you do so?” I felt intrigued by Badge’s story.
“Well, I got myself a nice job as a police pony. The pay was good, and the folks here at New Peagsus respected us Stable ponies, since we had education and tech and things like that. Then, well, I met a beautiful mare, we married and had foals; so I realized that I had found a new home. Besides, the City of New Pegasus watches the Stable closely the rest of the year, which means that at the slightest sign of trouble you’ll have an army pointing at you. In a word, if you want to take over the Stable, you have to rule the City.”
Rule the City? That was a massive challenge, much more than I could even imagine to achieve. The sensible thing to do was to try and do like Brass Badge did.
“Can you help me get a job, Chief?” I asked.
“I’m sorry, Farsight, but I’m afraid things aren’t that easy. If you had popped up a couple of months earlier, you would have been welcome to join the New Pegasus society, like all of us Stable folks. However, since the NER arrived at our gates and Full House opened his resort again, the City Board has decided to restrict new citizenships.”
Please, Celestia, send me to the moon; or anywhere but here, because once again, my luck had kicked me in the flank and sent me headfirst into the mud. I wanted to cry and slam my head into the table. Why me? Why the fuck did it have to be me? Why couldn’t I have been banished a year ago? However, I didn’t cry, probably because I was too scared of Badge to actually cry.
“The NER?” I asked, as I realized I needed all the information I could get to try to talk my way out of this one.
“The New Equestrian Republic. A big bunch of fancy pants Raiders, if you ask me.” Brass Badge seemed utterly displeased with them. “Can’t tell you much, apart from the fact that the radio keeps listing settlements that join under their banner. Still, I can’t bear them. All they have is guns, a hell of a lot of cannon fodder and no respect, even if they speak of law and order.”
Brass Badge stomped a couple of times in the floor, just to add some punch to his last statement. Indeed, there was no trace of doubt that he didn’t like those NER ponies at all, and he was starting to seem irritated, which brought back the fearsome pony I had first seen, so the best choice was to change subject.
“Bad bunch. Troublemakers, criminals, highwayponies, murderers, rapists, arsonists, everything you wouldn’t want to have close to you. We call ‘em all Raiders. It’s a commonplace name.”
“And Full House?”
“Would you believe me if I told you I don’t know either?” Brass Badge grinned, this time broadly. He was being sincere this time, no doubt. “Word in the street says he - or she - was a Pre-War businesspony, and that he - or she - owned half of old Las Pegasus. When the bombs fell, Full House vanished. We all thought he - or she - was done for, but now the Platinum Horseshoe has reopened, and it seems Full House has a fair share of power on the City Board, so we’re talking about a true VIP.”
“I see.” I hated to admit I had run out of conversation topics, which probably meant my stay in New Pegasus was going to end up pretty soon.
“Okay, now let’s get back on track. Since you don’t have a Citizenship Card, and you’re not going to get one in the next twenty minutes, I’m afraid you can’t stay within the walls of New Pegasus, which means I have no choice but to send you to Freedom Field.” His voice had become stern and cutting again, but this time I was pretty sure he was hiding his disapproval with the new law.
“Freedom Field? What’s that?” I asked in fear. Was it some kind of prison? A concentration camp?
“It’s just the old North Las Pegasus. Now it’s an independent township, with its own laws. Not as civilized as New Pegasus, but anyone can live there. It’s either that or the Wasteland, pal, so it’s your choice.”
If he was trying to offer me some comfort, he failed. He totally failed.
“Freedom Field,” I muttered.
“Then Freedom Field it is,” he proclaimed. “Good luck, son, you’ll need it.”
*** *** ***
After being uncuffed and carried to the main entrance of the building by Brass Badge, a pair of security bots dragged me down New Pegasus, the same way I had been taken into the Police Department. I didn’t pay much attention to the folks around me, as I didn’t care if they were watching me, what they thought about me or the face they had. I only cared about where I was going.
An independent township with less civilized laws, that’s how Brass Badge had described Freedom Field. What could that possibly mean, anyway? Would that mean I’d have to fight for my food, kill or be killed? Oh, dearest Celestia, please have mercy upon me...
The closer we got to the northern wall of New Pegasus, the more obvious it was how “uncivilized” things were beyond the limits of the city. The shiny, flamboyant casinos were substituted by tasteless brick towers, with many of their windows broken or covered with planks. The fancy restaurants disappeared, only to be replaced by cheap “gummy-on-a-stick” carts or glowy apple vendors. There were no more classy hotels; instead, some gritty bed-and-breakfast joints advertised themselves...poorly.
The massive hulk of the city walls showed up before me. I had expected to see sturdy, straight concrete walls, but unlike what I had in mind, the walls were made of a conglomerate of sheet metal, old billboards, rubble, cinderblocks, chariots and all kind of sturdy, heavy garbage joined together with a generous layer of concrete. Above all that junk, a triple thread of barbed wire dissuaded anypony from trying the upward route. Hold on a minute...what about pegasi? Hadn’t they thought about the pegasi? Something was off here.
Close to the gates, I noticed a small building that stood out as clearly new and far more cared for than the ones around. It was a one-storey complex, built in grey bricks and copper coloured metal, and surrounded by a small perimetral wall. A flag post stood in the entrance gate, where a big flag was displayed: a red piece of cloth, with two crossed unicorn heads in black over a white circle. I assumed that it had to be the flag of the New Equestrian Republic. So these were the ones that Brass Badge hated that much. Still, I couldn’t tell why.
*** *** ***
*CLUNK! SCREEEEEEEE!* The gates of New Pegasus opened and I was pushed out of the city. Beyond the gates laid a massive checkpoint full of heavily armed security bots that patrolled all the way along the walls. Beyond laid a dark, grim avenue between buildings almost reduced to rubble. The light of the casinos was no more, only several bonfires along the streets pierced the darkness of the night, casting dreary shadows of the ponies that roamed the place. A stench of death and dirt filled the air, making my gut churn for the tenth time in the night. Totally overwhelmed by fear, I started walking, as the PipBuck beeped again, prompting the map. This was Freedom Field.
Note: Reputation Change
Stable 188: Banished. You’re not allowed to enter this place again, and its inhabitants don’t want to see you.
City of New Pegasus: Not allowed. Unless you prove your worth (or bribe your way in), you won’t be able to enter.