One of the guards glared at me as I finished reassembling my AK. I flipped him the bird. Returning to the assault rifle in my hands, I slapped a new clip in place and chambered a bullet. That done, I made sure the safety was on and packed up my cleaning kit. Celestia had observed me taking the AK apart, clean its inner workings and put it back together.
“I guess you like the gun.” I grinned crookedly, turning my attention to the Uboinik.
“No, no, it’s not that. It’s your, uh… what do you call them?”
“Oh, my hands?” I wiggled my fingers.
“Exactly. They’re so dextrous. Although we have magic to call upon, it’s still intriguing to see you use your hands.”
“Wait, what? Magic?”
“Why, yes. Though unicorns and alicorns like me have gotten the long end of the stick when it comes to magic, all ponies have their own kind of magic. Earth ponies are naturally strong and are very adept when it comes to agriculture. Pegasi are able to influence the weather patterns. There’s more to it than I care to remember, but I’m sure my student will be glad to explain it all to you.”
“Pardon me for saying so, but magic doesn’t exist where I come from. It’s just a myth. And we have stranger shit going on in the Metro.”
“Really?” Her voice was equal parts scepticism and curiosity.
“Da. There are the anomalies, ghosts, Dark Ones… and then some.” I can see she’s intrigued by what I’ve said, but then her attention is drawn to the several bullets still lying on the table. She hesitantly coughs.
“I presume you’d be loath to give up your weapons.”
“Ymenno tak. It’s an unspoken law in the Metro – Keep a weapon with you at all times. But if it makes you feel better, I’ll ask questions first and shoot later.”
“Thank you. But those, uh…”
“Thank you again. Why are some of them shinier than others?” I chuckled, picking one of the rounds up and tossed it to the alicorn. She caught it with her, uh… magic, I guess. Yep.
“Money. Military-grade rounds. Made before the war. The dirty rounds are made in the Armoury – no shortage of them, too - but they aren’t as efficient at killing things as MGRs. I’d rather not spend my savings in a single firefight, too.” Celestia made to give the shiny bullet back to me, but I waved my hand.
“Keep it. ‘s only a single round.” She nodded, slipping the round behind her necklace thingy. Shut up, I don’t know what it’s called.
“Earlier you mentioned something called anomalies. Ghosts. Dark Ones. Could you tell me about them?”
“I guess. We’re still waiting for Bourbon’s surgery to end, right?”
“Then sit back and listen.” I grinned again. “We’ll start with anomalies. Think of a ball of lightning floating mid-air that has enough power to fry you dead in a blink.”
“Well, how does one avoid it?”
“Stand completely still and the anomaly’ll lose interest and float away. Dick about, however…” I let the words hang in the air, so to say. Celestia got the meaning and nodded. “Now, the ghosts are somewhat… odd.”
“Some say they’re souls of those that died in the Metro. They’re simply black outlines that you can see if you keep your flashlight on. But those things are deadly. I once saw a guy walk straight through a ghost. He just fell on the ground, curled up and… died. Just like that. Some say that ghosts are the souls of the dead, forced to relive the last moments of their lives forever and ever, and trapped in a limbo of sorts.”
“That sounds horrible.”
“You got that right. No one has an explanation for that stuff or why it’s happening. That leads us to the Dark Ones. Those things were once human. But they got changed by the nuclear blast. They can make you think yourself to death.”
“I’m not kidding. I’ve seen the victims a couple of times, myself – I was dropping off some unneeded supplies at Exhibition station – that place’s been having some rough times lately. The wounded were screaming at things that weren’t there. Some died later. It’s a losing war they’re fighting, but they have nothing else to do.” I sighed, feeling a bit guilty at her horrified expression.
“Well, be assured you can stay here as long as you need.”
“Thanks for the offer, princess, but I’m not sure if we can even go back to the Metro. I have no idea how we got here, apart from that anomaly zapping us because Bourbon can’t handle his drink.” She frowns, pondering for a moment before answering.
“I suppose Twilight Sparkle may be of help to you. She’s my star student. There are few things that are out of her expertise.”
“Well, thanks for that.” A pony walked up to us, clad in surgeon’s overalls.
“We’ve finished with his injuries, princess. He came to a couple of minutes ago, cursing and asking for a drink.”
“Oh, that mudak will get what’s coming to him.” I growled, standing up.” When Celestia looked at me worriedly, I continued. “Don’t worry; I’m not going to kill him. I’d like to, though.” I followed the two ponies through the clean hallways to where Bourbon was waiting for us.
“Come on! Anyone? Hellooo! I need some vodka!” Bourbon’s gravelly voice reached my ears as a pony guard grumbled under his breath.
“I know, man. He’s a jackass. Don’t worry, I’ll sort him out.” I pushed the door open and walked inside. Celestia was fidgeting nervously as I crossed the space between the doors and Bourbon’s bed and slapped the idiot.
“You, sir, are an asshole.”
“VODKA!” He shouted back defiantly.
“Yob tvaju maty, mudak! From now on, you’re never drinking again!”
“What? Come on!”
“It’s your damn fault we’re here – no offense to the royalty – and I haven’t the slightest idea how to get back!” Celestia strode in slowly, regarding Bourbon with that cool, level gaze of hers.
“Stop looking at me like thaaaaaat!” Bourbon whined, tossing about for a moment. The princess chuckled.
“Oh, grow up, you big baby.” I muttered, picking at my eyebrow as Celestia held his gaze.
“I trust the doctors have treated you well.”
“PLEASE DON’T EAT ME-What?”
“You have nothing to fear from me, Bourbon.” She fell silent for a moment before speaking. “You seem to be well on your way to a full recovery. With some luck, you will be released from the hospital in two days. Alyona, could I have a word in private with you, please?”
“Uh… sure.” As we walked away, I called out to Bourbon. “Stop staring at her ass, Bourbon. Then again, I didn’t know you swung that way.” Celestia, bless her heart, caught on, and winked at him suggestively. Poor bastard’s face went dark red as he stuttered. I couldn’t hold back anymore and started laughing. Celestia joined, but was more restrained. She still struggled to keep a straight face. I did, however, raise my hand, intending to high-five her.
“Alyona, I’m not sure I trust him.” Celestia whispered to me.
“Ah.” I sort of saw where this was going.
“I looked into his heart and saw many rather disturbing things. He has cheated and swindled many pon-er, people. I fear that his good deeds do not really equal his misdeeds. I ask for your opinion regarding what to do with him.”
“Huh. Hmmmm…” I rubbed my chin, lost in thought. “Well, I suppose I could keep an eye on him. See to it that he doesn’t do anything stupid. He’s not that bad, you know. Just an asshole.” She looks away, pondering for a couple of moments before turning back to me.
“You have proven yourself to be cooperative, Alyona. I hope my trust isn’t misplaced now. You and Bourbon shall be able to roam around freely. Should there, however, be any incidents, I will not hesitate to take action.”
“Ladno. We have a deal, then?” We shake hand to hoof on that.
“I would say so.” She smiles as I let go of her hoof. I can tell she’s still uncomfortable, but I say nothing. “Would you like to visit the town? Since your friend’s still confined to his bed, I guess I could introduce you to my student and her friends.”
“That’s a good place to start at as any, princess. Lead the way.”
I soon was sweating pretty badly. It was warm here, unlike in the Metro or The Surface and I had to stuff my jacket and the sweater in my backpack. The AK and Uboinik were slung across my shoulders as I fell into step at Celestia’s side. There was no one else around that I could see, but I felt like I was being followed all the same. Fucking creepy.
Celestia looked at me worriedly as I pulled back the hammer on my revolver.
“What? Is there trouble?”
“I don’t know. Something’s following us.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes.” I whispered back, tensing up.
I whirled around, trying to bring the gun to bear as a mass of something overly pink slammed into me, knocking me down on the ground. The revolver tumbled away, knocked from my grasp.
“HI! I’M PINKIE PIE! YOU MUST BE NEW IN TOWN!”
WHAT THE FUCK IS HAPPENING HERE?
“Heeeeeelp!” I screamed, trying to dislodge my assailant from my back. No success. Oh, god, it was going to suck my blood out and lay eggs in my eye sockets! Help!