Edited by: uSea
CHAPTER 3: The lost herd
Once upon a time, in the dying land of equestria...
“Good night fillies and gentlecolts, this is Lonesome Pony speaking and you're tuned to Radio 52: all the news you need to hear about Big 52 and nothing else! Well, almost nothing. In fact it seems that now the biggest radio station on Equestria is broadcasting through all of the wasteland. Some saint went down to Fillydelphia on behalf of DJ PON-3 and bucked the transmitter till it worked again. So hooray for those guys at Tenpony Tower, they took over the world!”
A boisterous music played for a few seconds.
“A-hem, back to work. News news news... what do we have? Oh right! Hey, my little ponies, are you afraid of ghosts? You should... Do you remember the story of the Carnival? Don't worry if you don't; good old L.P. is going to give a quick recap for those that didn't their homework.”
“Far away on the north end of the Big 52 there is a solitary barn, the Redtrotters call it the Carnival. It's a cursed relict from a long lost age, but unlike a lot of its siblings it never went to sleep. Once a year since my grandpa could remember, a ghost leaves the building and lurks the hills nearby, inviting everypony to its party and looking for company. When the next morning comes a foal is gone. No matter what, nopony ever returned. Approaching the Carnival was suicide thanks to the state of art laser turrets that defended the place, but if you did succeed in getting close enough without being shot you could hear music coming from the cursed barn, all day and all night long. Just like a permanent party of horrors.”
“Well, my little ponies, it seems that somepony just yelled 'I ain’t afraid of no ghosts!', rushed inside the barn with the party in full swing and blew the roof off that whole place. Quite literally. No more foalnapping ghosts for the Redtrotters. I tried to gather some information about this benefactor but what I got was a bit messy. Apparently it's some sort of ghost itself; a foal wearing a yellow radsuit and rising from death in a pink cloud. Well, Yellow Ghost, nice work. One problem solved, nine hundreds and ninety nine to go. Oh, did I mention the fact that this year's victim made it safely to home? Celestia bless our souls! And now back to good old Pony Marcus!”
I can see that lone star from a thousand miles away
Calling me back home though I've ventured far away
When I see that beacon shining for me all along
It calls me to Equestria and a home!
DAY 4 - TIME approximately 00:30 A.M. - LOCATION: Salt Cube Flats, Big 52 N Branch
Puppy trotted along Route, 52 heading south; the big city had grown from a silhouette on the horizon into a large, sprawling mass just a few kilometers in front of her. The foal trotted all day long, and now that the light was fading into darkness, the filly's eyes turned bright pink, shining in the night while she walked down the road. Without the day light it was possible to see a green glow around the dome of Salt Cube city, while the bigger skyscrapers of Downtown were lit with some sparse fires; the largest part of the city simply faded into the darkness of an ever clouded night sky.
Around midnight, the filly in yellow spotted a small caravan coming in her direction from south. There were half a dozen of ponies and they had... some strange two headed cows with them? Puppy sat down in surprise, and waited for them to draw near. Obviously the caravan guards spotted the foal quite soon, mostly because she was a light source sitting by herself in the middle of the road. Needless to say, the guards were already on edge.
A large buck wearing a light combat saddle mumbled to another. “What do you think, could be that 'ghost' from the news?"
The leader of the guards, an earth pony mare with a big revolver, shrugged; rising a hoof she made the caravan stop. “Dunno, but I'm not taking any chances. Let's move: two on the sides, two here; I’m trying diplomatic approach, cover me or forget your pay.”
Two of the guards detached from the caravan and left the route, circling Puppysmiles, one on each side; in the meantime, the leader ran ahead while the caravan with the remaining two guards kept their distance. The sight of the filly was quite an eerie one; the small yellow silhouette with a glowing pink light coming from the glassy helmet was already a perfectly valid argument in favor of opening fire. The chief of the guards approached the creature with caution, hoping that the other two guards were fast enough with the trigger in case of complications.
“Hi! I'm Puppysmiles!” The foal raised a hoof waving it to the guard leader. Well, at least it didn't seem hostile.
In the wasteland’s survival guide there’s a sentence that dwarfs all the others when it comes to the sheer number of times it’s iterated: better safe than sorry: Not seeming hostile doesn’t mean safe. “Ok, now don't move and tell me what you are and why I shouldn't transform you into fertilizer.”
Puppy giggled; fancy words always made her giggle. “Tee-hee, pretty pony is funny! I'm not Forty Liza, I'm Puppysmiles! What's your name?”
The guard leader hesitated for a moment... was this foal simply retarded or it was all part of some well schemed trap? The whole situation just smelled wrong. “Yeah, I'm Solid Slug. Are you alone?” Without waiting for an answer the guard gestured to the two on her sides to check the surroundings.
“Nopey mopey, I'm with mister Voice! He's super smart or super stoopid, it depends... but for sure he knows where my mom is!”
“And... where is this mister Voice now?”
“Inside the space suit! See all the lights and the pretty dots? He makes them appear!” Ok, nine out of ten she was just a retard.
Solid slug took a better look at the helmet of the suit, trying to ignore Puppy's brightly shining eyes: there was an active HUD, quite similar to the one used into some models of battle saddles. At first sight the harness seemed a very expensive piece of equipment. Solid wondered how a foal could ever find something like that, but that pink light somehow gave her the feeling that there was something more. Long story short, Solid Slug had been in the business for a whole lot longer than most caravan guards and had picked up more than a thing or two about the wasteland in all that time; this allowed her to formulate her next question.
“Say, are you from Canterlot by chance?”
“Yush! My house is... ah... was just under the mountain in Clover Leaf Terrace, but the other day it went down, so now I'm looking for my mom. She wasn't at the old barn but mister Voice says that there is another place in that big town so I'm going there now!” Puppy pointed a hoof somewhere southward.
Solid Slug nodded a couple of times while listening, raised a hoof and gestured to the caravan; after some preparations the carts started moving again. “Wow you chat a lot, don't you? Lonesome Pony was speaking about your exploit at the Carnival.”
“My what? You mean the old barn? I didn't explode there, it was the barn that exploded, silly filly.” Puppysmiles giggled. “That pinkbot was totally baked bad! At first it was really creepy but I'm a brave pony!”
Solid slug scratched her head trying without avail to follow Puppy’s chattering. “Uh, yeah that’s great; I’d stay here and chat for ages but we have to keep moving. If you're going to Salt Cube City the ghoul community is at the Dome: I think they call it the Glow; don't wander too much in Downtown, they don't like your kin. Oh right, and good luck little ghost.” When the caravan arrived the other ponies of the group launched curious looks at Puppy but Solid Slug whispered something to a purple unicorn with a red mane and they simply kept moving. The filly in yellow stared with amazement at the brahmins and waved a hoof to the pretty ponies as they disappeared in the night. Once she was on her own again the foal trotted away heading south along the Route.
DAY 4 - TIME approximately 11:30 A.M. - LOCATION: Downtown, Salt Cube City
The gate was a simple barricade built with sandbags and salvaged metal plates. On a wooden platform, a pony with metal barding operated a Gatling gun, while two other guards checked every pony that wanted to get in Salt Cube City; one last pony unicorn wearing an officer uniform sat inside a small metal structure writing things on a register.
It was almost noon but the traffic on the north end of Downtown was as dead as the wasteland. This time Puppysmiles was ready: she had that metal thing with the painted apple and showed it to the guards. One of the armored ponies approached her while the others kept their weapons ready.
“Let's see. Yes, this is a valid pass. Now, what's your name and business here?”
“I'm Puppysmiles! What's your name mistur pretty pony?”
The guard raised the visor of his helmet, giving Puppy an annoyed look. “Corporal Farsight. Now, what’s your business in Salt Cube City, kid?”
“Oh, I know this one! I'm looking for my mom! She is somewhere in that direction!” Puppy pointed her hoof toward a cluster of ruined buildings and the guard sighed.
“Very well, I guess that's enough. Just another question: why are you wearing a full environmental suit?”
“Oh, this one? I'm stuck inside it but that's okay because mister Voice lives in the space suit too and he's helping me with my mission.” The filly lowered her voice, whispering to Farsight: “He's not very good with that but don't tell him: he's quite grumpy.”
The guard lowered his visor again and shrugged. “As long as you're not going to blow a megaspell in Downtown you can dress as you like. Welcome to Salt Cube City, kid.” The filly in yellow trotted beyond the roadblock but Farsight called her back one last time. “Oh, right, don't go anywhere near the Dome: there are feral ghouls in the area and it's heavily irradiated.”
“Okie dokie loki! Bye bye mistur guard Farsight!” Puppy trotted merrily toward the big skyscrapers at the bottom of the boulevard even though the pink arrow pointed to a different direction.
Downtown was your typical trade hub along the Big 52: there were guards that kept ponies from killing each other and a couple of dozen tents with signs of the different trading companies operating in the area, like the Water Herders or the Bullet Gallopers; there were even freelance traders and some trade posts from the nearest tribes. The open market was placed in the streets but the real Downtown were the four skyscrapers that still stood in the middle of the settlement. Salt Cube City had been the target of a single megaspell during the war and the missile vector that should deliver it malfunctioned: the warhead hit the Salt Cube Dome in the city periphery, piercing the roof and exploding at ground level; the massive structure of the Dome shielded the surrounding area from the worst effects of the direct hit but not from the fallout. During the successive two centuries, the most weathered buildings surrendered one by one to the ravages of time, but the four biggest and least damaged skyscrapers survived and still stood in the middle of the city.
The four towers were the symbols of power of Salt Cube City: two of them were each the main hub of a trading company while the third was the headquarter of the Hired Hooves, a powerful mercenary company. The last building was the smallest one and housed the White Apples, the original tribe that inhabited the city; they were formally the real proprietors of the whole town and got a share of all the commerce going on in the place. The White Apples were also the main breeding ground for the Hired Hooves, mostly consisting of the families of the ponies that worked for the mercenary company.
Puppy stood in front of a small tent marked with a red splash, the symbol of the Redtrotters. The shop sported a vast choice of melee weapons and light armors on the shelves; a mare with an old cowboy hat was sitting on an ammunition box just in the middle of the exhibition.
“Hey, nice dress little one. Say, are you from the north?” The mare smiled at Puppy and lifted her hat with a hoof, revealing a horn on her forehead; the cutie mark on her flank depicted a basket ball.
“Hi! I'm Puppysmiles!” The foal waved a hoof and trotted toward the mare. “I'm from there.” Puppy pointed a hoof at the street outside the tent.
“I'm Play Maker, I think that Lonesome Pony mentioned something about you last night.”
“Uhm, you mean the chatty pony of the music channel?” Puppy scratched her helmet with a thoughtful expression. “Last time he was speaking of the importance of drinking pure water...”
“No, no, I mean the news about the Yellow Ghost. Uh, maybe there is more than a pony wearing a radsuit around. Anyhow, what do you need?”
Puppysmiles frowned “Why is everypony calling me a ghost?”
Play Maker smiled. “So it's you after all, I knew it!” the unicorn tapped her chin for a moment. “Say, aren't you a bit too young to destroy a cursed barn? Actually, aren't you a bit too young to go around on your own? Are you a Crusader?”
“Nopey mopey. I'm looking for my mom and I'm not alone: I have mister Voice with me.”
“Your mom? Maybe I can help you: a lot of ponies visit Downtown everyday. What's your mom's name? What's her cutie mark?”
Puppy smiled widely. “Oh, her name is Rainy Days, she's purple and has an orange mane and her cutie mark is a cloud with raindrops! Have you seen her? Mister Voice says that she's somewhere in this place! That way!” Puppy pointed her hoof again in the direction of some destroyed buildings.
Play Maker shook her head. “I'm sorry, kid. Can't remember a pony with that palette or cutie mark, and the name doesn't ring a bell.” The merchant unicorn looked in the direction that the foal was pointing and frowned. “That way, you say? This can't be good. That's the radioactive area; the only standing building in that direction is the Dome and, trust me, you don't want to go anywhere near to the Dome.”
“The Dome? What's that?”
“It's a place filled with feral ghouls and other horrors; It's highly radioactive but maybe that's not a problem since you're wearing a radsuit. The real problem are the inhabitants: a small community of fanatical religious ghouls live there, but they’re on the brink of madness. In fact some of their 'siblings' went actually mad and attacked the caravans heading here. There’s quite a situation now and the White Apples are looking for a way to get rid of those rot heads They blast any ghoul that shows his face outside, but they can’t go in and finish the job: the whole place is a deathtrap if you're not immune to radiation, so they reached a stalemate.”
Puppysmiles frowned. “What's a ghoul?”
“You... are you kidding me? You don't know what a ghoul is?” Play Maker stared at the blank expression of the foal and sighed. “No, you're not kidding,” she shook her head, “a ghoul is a pony that was poisoned by radiation a long time ago, when the megaspells hit. Instead of dying they were transformed into... I'm not sure what they are; living dead? Maybe some sort of zombie? Anyhow, many of them went crazy because of that mutation and became feral ghouls: aggressive creatures that attack and try to eat everypony they see. Others retained their sanity and became immortal, but were disfigured by the mutation. Their manes fell out, their hides burned away and their flesh began to blister and rot. Every ghoul looks like a decomposing corpse, but somehow they remain alive. The problem is that sooner or later every ghoul goes ‘boing’ in the head and changes their diet for a meatier one.”
Puppy frowned, the unicorn could see fear and realization in her eyes. “Miss Play Maker... uh... if my mom is really where mister Voice says, will she be okay?”
“I...” the unicorn lowered her hat, hiding her eyes from the filly, “I don't know, little ghost, but the Dome is a dangerous place. I hope you're not going there after what I told you.”
Puppy stood on her hooves with renewed determination in her eyes. “I have to go! My mom could be there, she could be in danger!”
Play Maker realized that she’d never be able to talk her out of that suicide mission. “You're not family, I can't tell you what to do and what not, but please listen to my advice: go to that tower, the one with the big white apple on the sign. Tell the pony at the entrance that you want to enroll for a scout mission into the Dome: they'll give you some equipment and maybe a weapon. You have a radsuit and they're so desperate that they'll accept anypony at this point, if they think you could at least stand a chance.”
Puppy smiled. “Okie dokie loki! Hang on mom, I’m coming to rescue you!” The foal galloped out of the tent and eagerly rushed into White Apple Tower.
DAY 4 - TIME approximately 2:00 P.M. - LOCATION: Salt Cube Dome, Salt Cube City
“Warning. Mild radiation detected. Threat level: negligible.”
The Dome was a humongous elliptic structure that had once served as an expo center where a large number of events could be hosted at the same time. A gigantic globular roof once covered the building but now it was almost completely destroyed, leaving only the external walls still adorned with columns and arches that made the structure vaguely resemble an oversized coliseum.
A boulevard headed right to the main entrance of the Dome: a monumental arch that led into a hall where the huge remains of a marble statue littered a floor that once was made of polished stone tiles, but now was mostly a carpet of rubble. Puppy stood in front of the archway, looking at the pink arrow on the compass.
“Okie dokie mister Voice, what are we doing now exactly?”
“Ministry of Morale hub reached. Primary objective attained.”
“Yes, I know that we are here. I'm asking what's next. What are we supposed to do here?”
“Secondary objective: investigate the ghouls and/or get rid of them. Warning. Mild radiation detected. Threat level: negligible.”
“So, we find these ghouls, ask them where is mom and then we try to make them go away?”
“Affirmative. This is one possible approach.”
“Great, I love having a plan. Let's do it.” Puppy stepped into the hall and yelled, “HEY, GHOULIE PONIES!” Her voice echoed several times into the large structure but it didn't seem to get any answer, so the filly in yellow trotted toward a large stair at the bottom of the entrance hall.
“Warning. Heavy radiation detected. Threat level: negligible.”
“Hey, I think I've seen somepony moving behind that statue! Hey you, wait!” Puppy galloped in the direction of a shadow that was hiding behind the pedestal of another broken marble monument. As the foal reached the hiding pony, she slowed to a trot and called out to him or her. “Hi, I'm Puppysmiles! Have you seen my-”
That pony! It was him: Count Horse Tile! He was right in front of her, even uglier than she could remember and somehow a lot creepier.
“Warning. Hostile detected. Feral Ghoul. Distance: two meters. Threat level: low.” The creature was looking at Puppy's face, drooling a yellowish goo from it's mouth; it seemed oddly uncertain about it's next move.
Puppy stepped back, terrified by the macabre sight. “W-why are you still coming after me? Leave me be, go away!”
The creature growled and lowered it's head, Puppy turned on herself and galloped away as fast as she could.
Alas, it wasn't fast enough.
The feral creature jumped on her, foaming and biting, aiming for Puppy’s head. The Helmet was designed to withstand some direct hits, so the first assault of the raging beast simply hurt Puppy's innocence; the sight of a hoofful of rotting teeth scratching on the helmet while dripping yellow slime at less than ten centimeters from her face was a shocking experience that left the foal paralyzed in fear.
“EEEEEEEEEEEK!” At first Puppy reacted on pure instinct: the filly tried bucking the ghoul away but it was a lot heavier than she was and it pinned the little pony on the ground with its weight. “Rock! ROCK! NOW!” The little pony didn't stop screaming as she grabbed The Rock Of Destiny with both hooves and started hitting the monster repeatedly. “Stop moving! STOP MOVING NOW!”
A couple of minutes later, Puppy was still beating the brown slimy pulp that was once a pony head; the scratches on her helmet and some minor bruises on the fabric were already gone due to the self-repairing spells built into the suit. Slowly, the beating simmered down until it stopped completely; the ghoul was positively immobile and Puppy needed to catch her breath. It had been terrible but at last the dark shadow of Count Horse Tile was gone! No more hiding or running away: the monster was stopped once and for all, his reign of terror extinguished! At last Puppy felt relieved, then she raised her eyes from the dead ghoul.
And finally noticed the three other ghouls that were looking at her with empty eyes and drooling mouths.
“Warning. Hostiles detected on a count of three. Nearest target at 12 meters.”
“Hey, mister Voice. What is a miss under... uh... static?”
“Misunderstanding. The act of giving the wrong meaning to a sentence, creating confusion. - The more you know!”
Puppy nodded slowly while the three ghouls were looking in her direction from the end of the hall. “Good. What is exactly a Horse Tile Count?”
“Hostile count. Number of enemies or ill intentioned creatures in sensor range. Actual hostile count: three. Feral ghouls. Threat level: moderate.”
Puppy sighed, threw The Rock Of Destiny at the ghouls and charged; the ghouls did the same thing from the other end of the hall.
DAY 4 - TIME approximately 2:30 P.M. - LOCATION: Salt Cube Dome, Salt Cube City
“Warning. Several breaches in the containment suit. Warning. Littlehorn Agent detected. Warning. Compass malfunctioning. Warning. Inventory management spell temporary offline. Warning. Energy crystal cells damaged. Emergency cells on 29.06%. Warning. Deadly radiation level detected. Threat level: negligible. Subject deceased, condition stable. All clear.”
Puppy stood in the middle of a scene of mayhem, decorated with goo and rotten flesh; the bodies of three ghouls lay scattered on the ground with their heads missing. The whole fight had taken a while and been very messy with the ghouls regenerating because of the radiation in the area and Puppy regenerating because of the Pink Agent and her radsuit’s enchantments. In the end the foal's dedication at aiming only for their heads won against the brainless biting and bucking of the ghoul trio but in the process she had been beaten like a bucking bag, her flanks were half eaten and a thin pink cloud invaded the area.
“Hey, mister Voice... Are you sure that mom is in this place?”
“Affirmative. Actual position: Ministry of Morale structure ID 00201 – Salt Cube Dome.”
“Okie... dokie... loki...” Puppy stopped listening at affirmative and bit the dust falling on the ground, exhausted from the fight. “Because the only thing I want to do now is crying.”
A couple of figures appeared from another entrance of the hall; they seemed to whisper something to each other before one of them took a hunting rifle and the other moved cautiously toward the filly in yellow. Puppy reached out with her hoof for The Rock of Destiny in front of her and grabbed it, but her eyes were so tired, she just wanted to lie down a little more. “Please... go away... please... stop being mean... I'll behave...”
The nearest pony now was close enough to let Puppy take a good look at it. It was another ghoul, but somehow different from the others. This one was wearing a uniform similar to the one of the mare that gave her the suit, moreover it didn't drool, had some intelligence in its eyes and last but not least, it spoke.
“Hey, are you okay little one? This place is deadly dangerous.” The pony's voice was like a chalk screeching on a blackboard, but somehow Puppy felt like it was a mare's voice. “Hey, Soft Air! We have to take this foal out from the radioactive zone before she dies! Do we have some rad X or some rad away?”
“I don't think so. Stay out from the pink cloud, it seems awfully familiar; I'm almost sure it's something dangerous.”
The scouting pony abruptly stopped before getting too near to Puppy and tilted her head. “Oh, so it's not just my bad eye?” The ghoul trotted around the pink cloud that was quickly dissipating, as if the suit were drawing it back inside itself in the process of self repairing.
“Containment restored. Warning. Critical level of radiation detected. Threat level, negligible.”
Puppy slowly raised on her hooves while the ghoul mare drew near and the other kept his weapon ready. The filly had to try something diplomatic. “I, uh, hope that those ugly ponies weren't your friends?”
“The word you're looking for is ghouls, little one. And yes, there was a time when they were our friends, but I guess that right now you did them a favor. So, no bad blood.” The ghoul mare stopped in front of Puppysmiles and took a look inside the helmet. The face of the filly was annoyingly well conserved, not showing scars or signs of deterioration, but the pink flames in her eyes burning bright with the radiation of the place spoke volumes about her nature. “You are quite a strange ghoul. I'm Peach Blossom, what's your name?”
“Uhm, oh, yeah, I'm Puppysmiles. I'm looking for my mom, she's supposed to be somewhere in this place but all I found were these ugly ponies.”
Peach waved a hoof calling her companion. “Soft Air, stop being paranoid and come here!” Then she went back speaking with the foal in yellow. “Could you please stop calling us ugly and just say ghouls? Anyhow, if your mother is here she has to be a ghoul too, otherwise she is going to be super slim. What's your mother's name?”
“I know this one! Her name is Rainy Days and she's super cool! Have you seen her?”
The buck coming near overheard the conversation. “Rainy Days, Rainy Days... that name sounds familiar. If you give me a second or two to think about it I might remember something.”
Puppy looked amazed at Soft Air. “Really? Please please please where is she?”
“Hey, wait, I told you I can't remember her very well! My memory is not as good as it used to be... anyhow, if you don't want to meet other ferals we should move. Let's go to the Glow.”
Peach Blossom nodded. “Yes, let's get back, after all we found what we were looking for. Anyhow, Puppy, where are you from?”
“Canterlot!” Puppy smiled with pride; Canterlot was the best city ever, why not being proud of it?
Both ghouls frowned, Peach looked away while Soft Air sighed. “Oh, so you are one of those.” Peach muttered to herself. “War sucks.”
DAY 4 - TIME approximately 3:00 P.M. - LOCATION: The Glow, Salt Cube City
The Glow was mostly a small circle of tents pitched in the central hall of the Dome. The roof was missing and large metallic debris littered the ground. The tents were all sporting a three pink butterflies symbol on a yellow background, they were large and sturdy, made of a tough material that was built to last and indeed they had survived for more than two centuries.
Quite obviously the Glow wasn’t called as such because of the tents nor for the ghouls: it was the twelve meter tall salt cube glowing in a green blueish light that made the Glow deserve its name.
“Warning. Radiation level off the scale. Sensor emergency shut down activated in order to prevent irreversible damage. Threat level: negligible.” The HUD of the helmet disappeared, Puppy frowned for a single moment, then shrugged. Maybe even mister Voice needed a little sleep sometimes.
The cube was drawing all of Puppy's attention at the moment; it was shiny and glassy and super nice. The foal wondered if she could have some little shining cubes to keep in her bedroom: this could get rid of that bad scary monster that lived under her bed. For a moment the foal missed her home and felt like crying, but she was a filly on a mission and she didn’t have time for these things, so she asked, “What's that pretty shiny cube? I can has shiny cube too? Please? Puppy please?”
Soft air chuckled. “I don't think so, Puppy, but I could have something nice if you will be a good pony. Deal?”
Puppy started jumping all around. “A present? For me? Gimme gimme gimme!”
“Now, now... I told you to behave, right? First of all we are going to have a little chat with Sand Box, then we'll try to find something about Mrs Rainy Days.”
Puppy stopped jumping and began to trot alongside Soft Air and Peach Blossom. “You know? Even if you're pretty ugly you are funny and nice ponies.”
Peach deadpanned. “Well, thank you miss monster. Anyhow, there he is: Sand Box, the leader of the camp.” Another ghoul was looking at a block of paper, reading it and scratching his head seemingly in confusion. “Even if he seems elsewhere at times he's smarter than the average scientist. Hey, boss, we got a visitor.”
The leader of the ghouls was wearing an old lab coat and a pair of glasses, he seemed quite alarmed from the look he was giving the papers in front of him. The ghoul replied without even looking at Puppy. “Yes, great, give him the usual speech and warn him against Downtown. Excuse me but I'm trying to avoid a cascade.”
Puppysmiles giggled and trotted up to him, trying to look at his face. “Tee-hee, ugly pony says fancy words! Hi, I'm Puppysmiles but you can call me Puppy! Have you seem my mom?”
Peach tried to stop the foal but it was already too late; the ghoul guardian opened her mouth to say something, but was interrupted by the reaction of her leader. Sand Box adjusted his glasses and studied Puppysmiles for some seconds. “Luna buck me if I thought i’d see another functioning Mark VI. That was a hay of a failure, wasn't it?”
Both Peach and Air tilted their heads, staring in puzzlement at Sand Box as he continued. “They were designed to keep foals safe from the worst effects of a fallout, loaded with all the best medical talismans and up to date logical spells that in some cases were even more advanced than the ones used by Stable Tech in its pipbucks.” The ghoul shook his head, his expression turning sad, “What we didn't expect was the reaction of all this technology and magic in case of a Pink Agent attack: the suits had enough medical supplies and healing power in their talismans to mitigate the first effects of the gas, creating the perfect conditions for a... merging process.” The scientist turned toward the other two ghouls, “Have you ever heard of the Ghost Herd?” Both ponies shook their head, Sand Box put a hoof around Puppy's neck, making her stand next to him.
“It was about a month past the day the Goddesses fell. A small herd of little ponies wearing yellow suits just like this one left Canterlot; most of them lost their minds because of the mutation, the others had simply no clue about what was going on. They were ghosts indeed: obsessed with the loss of their parents and clueless about what happened, they wandered together mostly because everypony else in those days was dead. The herd came here, heading south. They met some survivors on their path but the crazed ones simply slaughtered any living thing that they met; the others... well, they were afraid of being alone and followed the herd.”
Peach stepped back. “She doesn't seem that dangerous to me.”
Sand Box chuckled and kept narrating his tale. “They are mostly immortal like us ghouls,but they rise from their own dust unless you tear their bodies apart, like Canterlot ghouls. Even worse, the MK VI has a very advanced self repairing spell that lets them recover even from some amputations and such. They are quite the little yellow devils.”
Soft Air tapped his chin. “But if they were so invincible, where are they now?”
“I have no idea. Most of them were taken down, at last. A decapitation combined with the destruction of the main spell matrix and the backup system should do the trick but it's not that easy if you don't know what you're doing. Anyhow at some point they left, disappearing left and were never heard from again, the whole thing lasted a couple of weeks at most. You had to be there to remember them, but it was quite a disheartening sight. All those foals left alone and cursed in a dying world... poor things.”
The elder ghoul patted Puppy on her helmet. The foal listened to the whole story trying to follow it, but she seemed a bit confused. “I don't like this story, it makes me sad.” Sand Box simply sighed and kept his hoof around Puppy's neck.
“Don't worry, little one. It's just an old ghost story, don't let old mare tales sap your enthusiasm. I think I have a Pinkie Pie plushie somewhere, let's do this: now just tell me why you are here and I'll give it to you, yes?”
A large grin appeared on Puppy's face: the story of the ghost herd already forgotten in favor of a way more interesting new toy. “Sure! I'm looking for my mom, her name is Rainy Days and she is the best pony ever!” Puppy seemed to remember something else. “Oh, right! And I'm here to tell the ghouls to go away and never come back! Have you seen any ghoul around, mister Ugly Pony Boss?”
Peach Blossom facehoofed.
Footnote: Level up! (2)
New perk added: Little Leaguer - You gain a +5% in throwing, melee and unarmed combat.
This fanfiction is based on Fallout Equestria by Kkat; a familiarity with the source material may aid your understanding.
You can read Fallout Equestria by Kkat on Equestria Daily
If you enjoy Fallout Equestria Side Stories you will want to check the Fallout Equestria Side Stories post on Equestria Daily and the Fallout Equestria Side Stories thread on Ponychan
The Ponychan group is also a hatching ground that you can join if you want to share your experience, writing or comments with us.
Edited by: uSea
Additional thanks to Anonsamurai and Llama Llumps for reviewing and a big help with some basics in English I completely missed.