Chapter 11 > In which a building is climbed
“The humble and meek are thirsting for blood.”
Crescent, Hiss, MG-MS11 and I caught up with Matchstick Flare and Shimmercoat pretty quickly, thanks to the tag on Shimmercoat’s PipBuck. They weren’t in a broom closet like I had predicted, but in a small office, looking down at something on the ground. I guess I underestimated their ability to keep it in their metaphorical pants, which I suppose is a good thing. The last thing I needed to worry about was two slaves that couldn’t control themselves around each other, even if Matchstick fully deserved some alone time with Shimmercoat because of her condition. The office they were standing in had a crumpled desk and a few rusting file cabinets in it, and not much else. “Hey guys, we found some anti-rad medicine.” I said as we entered the room. It was warmer than the rest of the place… probably because of a certain mare on fire.
“You did? That’s a relief.” Shimmercoat said. “Check out what Matchstick and I found. You think you could use some of this, Crescent?”
They stepped aside, revealing the broken form of a robot that looked exactly like MG-MS11, red-and-yellow paint job and everything! After a closer inspection, the only difference was the designation emblazoned on the side, reading ‘MG-MS03.’ Apparently this was what remained of the third MG-MS prototype unit. It looked like it had been in some sort of fight, its armor was scarred and burnt, and it had large dents in its chassis. One of the eyestalks was missing, as was its buzz saw. Its M.E.D.I-Gun was broken in half. As soon as the robot’s remains were revealed, MG-MS11’s vocal unit sparked, and he took a wavering jet backwards, almost falling over until Crescent Wrench caught him. “Easy there, easy… it’s okay… I think seeing one of his line fallen makes him nervous.” Crescent said. “Though I can probably scavenge some parts off of this one…”
“From what I’ve seen of that robot, I don’t think he was nervous.” Matchstick said, smiling. “He was probably trying to say something patriotic and go charging off to find whoever did this, heh. Well, kiddo, if you need a cutting torch, I can try and melt through some metal for…”
Matchstick went silent as Crescent approached the dead robot and tore off a section of its chassis with a small grunt, revealing its inner components, some of which looked undamaged.
“Well fuck! You’re stronger than you look, Wrench!” Matchstick said, surprised. Crescent blushed, and shrugged, diving into the robot carcass with a pair of pliers that she pulled from her bag.
“You guys find anything else?” I asked Shimmercoat while we waited for Crescent Wrench to finish stripping the broken MG-MS unit of anything we could use to repair our own.
“I found some ammo for my pistol, and we found the body of a dead scavenger that was wearing some leather armor we can use to repair Matchstick’s armor.” Shimmercoat replied, showing the contents of his saddlebag to me. “Also found a few guns we can probably sell, along with some interesting looking books that I can read later…”
“Wow, you’re a natural scavenger, aren’t you, Overstallion?” I said, pleasantly surprised. The guns he had found were good quality 10mm pistols, common, but widely used both before and after the war. Those would sell quite easily. There was even the boxy shape of a laser pistol in there, and those sold even better than the 10mm. He had also found a few more healing potions, I noticed. To sell or use, healing potions were always valuable.
“Well, I surmised that out here in the wastes, supplies are what makes the world go round, right?” Shimmercoat flashed that signature smile of his at me, and continued. “If I make myself useful enough in other ways, perhaps it will not be... necessary... for me to contribute in other ways.” Other mares, was left unsaid. He was dancing around a tricky question, but I could understand what he wanted to know.
“Hold onto that thought.” I replied, saying neither yes nor no. If he turned out to make me more money being a scavenger-style slave then a sex slave, then by all means I was fine with that. He’d have to find some pretty good loot to outdo his good looks, though.
“There. The vocal unit on this one is busted too, unfortunately…” Crescent Wrench said, a little grease on her cheek as she came up from stripping down the broken robot. “I did find a stabilizer and some other useful parts, though. If we can get to a workbench, I can install them on Sargey and hopefully that will make him better! Oh, I also took what I could from that M.E.D.I-Gun. If ours gets broken, I’ll want to be able to repair it… though that will be easier with schematics, if we can find some… what?”
We were all giving her strange looks. Matchstick Flare was the one that broke the silence with a snort and a giggle, finally bursting out into laughter. “S-Sargey? Bwahahahahaha! Oh, that’s too rich! Oh, wow, of all the names I could come up with for that thing…” Crescent looked like she was about to cry again as Matchstick continued, but she was too caught up in her hilarity to notice. “I mean, think about it, ‘I’m the dreaded battle-robot-medic-of-doom, SARGEY!’ Bwahahahahaha!!” she laughed, her eyes clenched shut, waving her hooves around in the air when she mimicked MG-MS11’s voice.
“Um… Matchstick?” Shimmercoat said, putting a hoof on her shoulder. Matchstick wiped a quickly evaporating tear from her eye and looked at him, smiling. He nodded towards Crescent Wrench meaningfully. She looked distraught, obviously holding back tears and sniffling as she put robot parts into her bags.
“Oh… shit. Look honey, I'm… I'm sorry… fuck…” Matchstick said, holding out her hoof, then withdrawing it, knowing she couldn’t hug the young mare without hurting her.
We’re taking too long in here, remember the radiation. Mezzer helpfully pointed out.
“Why don’t we move on? We need to get to the fifth floor, that’s where the R&D department is, according to the terminal I read earlier.” I said, breaking the awkward silence. There wasn’t much I could do about Matchstick accidentally hurting Crescent’s feelings, even if the nickname she gave MG-MS11 was… strange. She was only 13, though, things like that were to be expected. “R&D is likely to have a place to work on robots, and the tools required to do so. We just have to get past all these red dots first…” I said. The hostile markers on my PipBuck had not gone away, and were probably going to be a tough obstacle between our goal and us, unless they were all bloatsprites. Which was unlikely.
“They might have been the ones that killed this MG-MS unit.” Shimmercoat said, looking at the damaged parts that were left after Crescent had stripped it clean. “Also…” he quickly whispered in my ear while Matchstick was looking worriedly at Crescent Wrench and Crescent was busy staring at the ground. “I’ll need to talk to you about Crescent at some point. It may be urgent… and she can’t be around.” I raised my eyebrow, but he backed away from my ear and wouldn’t say more about it.
“Oooo… kay. Well, any tactical suggestions before we head into what is probably a highly dangerous meat-grinder?” I said, hoisting Mezzer into the air with my telekinesis.
“Since this… building is so full of radiation, there’s probably ghouls up there, I’m guessing.” Matchstick Flare said, looking away from Crescent and visibly getting her head back in the game, standing up and heating her armor until the stovetops sewn into it were glowing an angry red-orange. “I’ll lead the charge… ghouls don’t last long against me.”
“This is a headquarters building of a presumably large corporate enterprise.” Shimmercoat pointed out. “I’d guess there’s also security robots and turrets as well. I’m surprised we haven’t bumped into any of those already, though by the looks of the dead scavengers we’ve found, they might have taken care of any hostiles up to this point already before we got here.”
“Um…” Crescent Wrench sniffled, then stood up, obviously trying to look brave and not hurt by what Matchstick had said. “I know how to shut down robots from behind if they don’t notice me…”
Hiss barked and stood next to Crescent, turning invisible, then visible again, looking her in the eyes as she looked nervously back.
“That’s what he did before he guided us between Red Eye’s patrols when you guys were captured.” Shimmercoat said, his eyes wide. “I think he’s offering to help you sneak! That freak of nature is smarter than he looks!” Hiss growled at him, but then sat there panting, looking at Crescent Wrench.
“Um… okay?” Crescent said, then squeaked in alarm when Hiss shoved his tail in her face.
“He wants you to grab hold of him so he can turn invisible and you’ll still be able to follow. Took me awhile to figure that out.” Shimmercoat said.
“So wait… your nightstalker is smart? Like, pony smart?” Matchstick had an incredulous look on her face.
“I don't know if I'd say pony smart, but...” I replied, also staring at Hiss in surprise. “One of these days, I need to figure out where he comes from. I ran into him wounded one night, healed him up and now he follows me around. He’s way smarter than the average nightstalker.”
“Huh. Weird.” Matchstick said, probably voicing everypony’s opinion on the mutant coyote.
Crescent Wrench gingerly held Hiss’s tail in her mouth, by the rattle, and he turned invisible, making it look like she was standing there gaping. I stifled a chuckle, she didn’t need her feelings hurt more; not before we were about to go into battle.
“Alright, here’s how we’ll do things.” I said, laying out the plan I had in mind for getting to the fifth floor. “Matchstick, you go in first, and grab as much attention as you can from any ghouls you find. Take care of them, and keep close to us. The last thing we need is to get separated. Hiss and Crescent Wrench will sneak along the sidelines and shut down hostile robots and turrets. I…” I raised my Hoof of Honor and Mezzer. “Will do my best to cover Shimmercoat and MG-MS11, who will be hanging out in the rear. I need you shielding MG-MS11 to make sure he doesn’t get any more damaged, Shimmercoat… if he gets permanently disabled, all this will be for naught.”
“Hold on.” Shimmercoat frowned, stepping forward. “I should be close to the front of any fight, so I can shield all of us.” He looked defiant, and I could tell that he was worried about Matchstick running point.
“Shimmer, baby, you don’t have to worry about little ol’ me! A few ghouls are nothing!” Matchstick said, apparently also catching on that he was worried about her. “All ghouls can really do is run up and bite somepony, and they find me to be a bit… spicy.” she grinned cockily. I don’t think she viewed ghouls as much of a threat.
“You were wounded by those crows earlier, even if you did burn them. Ghoul bites are more serious than a few small pecks. I can shield you with a heat-conductive shield that will burn anything you touch while still protecting you from physical harm.” Shimmercoat countered. “And… don’t call me baby. It’s… weird.” he blushed. Huh. I’d expect him to be more used to pet-names.
“Shimmercoat,” I said, and turned to face him. “I want you in back focusing all your shield magic on our objective. If MG-MS11 goes down, then we might as well not have come here at all. And I don’t want you overextending yourself trying to protect somepony that doesn’t need your protecting. She’ll be fine, even she thinks so.” Shimmercoat frowned at me, but didn’t reply. I hoped that had gotten through to him. “Alright, so is everypony clear?” a round of nods was my reply, ranging from Matchstick’s enthusiastic bobbing to Shimmercoat’s rolled eyes and small sneer. “Alright then, let’s move. We’re just trying to get to the fifth floor, don’t let anything distract you, even if you think it’ll net a ton of caps.” I paused as we started to trot down the hallways towards the stairs. “Well, if it’s worth more than 200…”
“Halting to loot in the middle of combat would be most unwise.” Mezzer said, and I got the impression of rolling eyes. Despite the fact that he lacks eyes of any kind. Or a head, for that matter.
“Fine. Just focus on getting to the stairs.” I said. Everypony agreed, smiling slightly. They must think I was joking about that over 200 thing…
The stairs to the fourth floor, according to the map on my PipBuck, were just around the corner of the hallway we were going down. “Alright Matchstick, take point.” I ordered, and the flaming mare stepped forward, grinning, the coiled stovetops on her armor glowing almost white. My EFS was still milling with the red icons that were wandering around above our heads, but I was pretty sure the stairway was safe…
So much for that.
The unmistakable hungry howl of a feral ghoul screaming to its companions that new prey has been located was the first thing we heard turning the corner leading to the stairway. Four ghouls awaited us at the bottom of the third floor landing. Matchstick didn’t look perturbed by this at all, in fact, if I wasn’t mistaken, she actually looked fairly pumped up. Maybe even excited. I, however, took an involuntary step back at the cry of the ghoul. I didn’t want to go back to the cavern’s cliff edge over the pit… shaking my head, I banished that memory. Ma wasn’t punishing me for being a bad filly this time, we were just trying to get to the top of a building, that’s all.
“Time for trouble! YAAAAA!!” Matchstick shouted back at the ghouls, charging forward to meet the ghouls as they ran towards us, her mane and tail wreathing her in intense flames. While they were distracted with the living fireball, I pulled out my cowpony rifle with my telekinesis, aiming towards a ghoul, and trying to fire…
Nope, it was as I thought. The trigger refused to budge so long as the rifle was pointed towards the ghouls. Apparently ghouls counted as ‘living.’ I couldn’t kill them. Swapping the rifle for Mezzer, and muttering to myself that the limitations our soul-binding put on me were a pain in the flank, I fired.
The pulse from Mezzer slammed into one of the ghouls, washing over their face like a breaking wave of water. The ghoul stood there, stunned, and Matchstick didn’t waste the opportunity, charging into the stunned ghoul as she met up with them at the bottom of the stairs, knocking it over and crushing its skull beneath her hooves. “WHO ELSE WANTS SOME?!” she shouted, grabbing the next ghoul that flung its hooves at her, trying to grab hold. Feral ghouls generally tried to grapple with their opponents and chew them to pieces… and Matchstick welcomed this tactic with open hooves. She wrestled the ghoul that grabbed her to the ground as it tried to bite onto one of her stovetop-shoulder pads, smiling all the while. The other two were about to join in on the pile, oblivious to the heat, but Shimmercoat dropped one with a few shots from his .44 Mag, with the fluid, almost robotic motions that indicated he was using S.A.T.S. A plasma shot from MG-MS11 whizzed by my ear to dissolve the second one’s head. MG-MS11 might have had trouble moving and talking, but apparently his gun still worked just fine.
A foul smell started to permeate the hallway, and sizzling noises came from where Matchstick wrestled with the remaining ghoul. She and it were both covered in flames, and I couldn’t really tell whether the ghoul was trying to kill her or trying to get away. She had it by the throat, holding on with one of her forelegs while the other worked hard at crushing its skull in, all the while it was being slowly cooked to death. I retched… dear beans on a platter that smelled awful.
“Don’t throw up! Thou still has medicine in thy stomach that needs to stay on the inside!” Mezzer said just as I was about to give up and toss my cookies. I resisted, swallowing back the bile as Matchstick stood up from her fight, victorious, grinning, and covered in blackening ghoul bits.
“Matchstick…” Shimmercoat said, covering his nose. “That’s disgusting.”
“I know, isn’t it great!?” Matchstick nearly shouted. “C’mon, let’s go find more! I love fighting ghouls, it’s one of the few chances I get to touch somepony! WOOO!” Matchstick charged up the stairs to the fourth floor, leaving the rest of us behind with shocked looks on our faces.
“Uhh… I thought I was going to…” Shimmercoat said, stepping forward.
“I don’t think she’s quite realized that ghoul fights aren’t her only form of pony contact any more.” I said. “You’ll just have to impress that fact upon her when we make camp for the night, Overstallion.” I grinned.
“I don’t need any nicknames from you, either.” Shimmercoat frowned. “C’mon, let’s get up there before she gets herself killed.”
“W-wait!” Crescent Wrench called out, being dragged up the stairs by Hiss. Apparently the nightstalker thought we should hurry up too. Carefully, with Shimmercoat and I supporting the crippled robot, we climbed the stairs.
The top of the stairs were, thankfully, clear of any enemies, which was the good news. The bad news was that Matchstick Flare wasn’t anywhere in sight. “Great. Didn’t I say that we should stick together?” I said.
“You did, and I have no idea why she’s charging ahead.” Shimmercoat growled. “Let’s hurry this tin can along so we can catch up to her.” He said, grabbing hold of MG-MS11 with his telekinesis. I did so as well. Between the two of us we could tow MG-MS11 along faster then he could hover.
Crescent Wrench, who was holding onto Hiss’s tail for dear life, rounded a corner and disappeared. True, they were supposed to be sneaking ahead and shutting down any robots they encountered, but the situation was quickly devolving from bad to worse as we split up more than I was planning us too.
“Thou must know that no plan survives contact with hostile forces, right?” Mezzer said.
“Shush.” I replied, not needing his lip right now.
“HAHAHAHAHAHA!!” Mad laughter came from one of the side rooms down the hallway. Shimmercoat and I quickened our pace, following the sound, and soon, the smell that Matchstick was generating.
The room she was in seemed to be a fairly large document storage room, or at least it used to be. File cabinets were strewn across the floor, and a collapsed ceiling blocked half of the room off. Dust and debris were flung into the air by the fight currently in the center of a more open area with no filing cabinets around it, where Matchstick punched and bucked at three ghouls out for her flesh and too stupid to realize that she was too hot to eat. She had a few scratches on her forehead and flanks, but seemed no worse for the wear, and the ghouls were covered in worsening and worsening burns. One’s jaw was completely burned off, lying on the ground a few feet away from the fight.
With Matchstick in such close quarters, I didn’t want to fire Mezzer into the fight… what if I accidentally hit her again? Shimmercoat seemed to be having the same thoughts, because he wasn’t firing his pistol. Instead, his horn was glowing, and I looked to see that Matchstick was now covered in a form-fitting semi-translucent blue shield. Whenever a ghoul struck her, the shield flashed. Matchstick, meanwhile, didn’t seem to notice, having fun mutilating any ghoul that got too close.
I turned around as quickly as I could, Mezzer’s warning ringing in my mind, as a sharp pain erupted from my flank. While I had been busy watching Matchstick, some more ghouls had come up from behind us and were now charging through the doorway we just came through! I screamed, thrashing, trying to dislodge the ghoul chewing on my hindquarters. More pain blossomed from that most tender of areas as the ghoul flailed it’s front hooves, and I hunched over in agony, dropping Mezzer on the ground as my magic gave out. Flashes of memories swam unbidden into my mind… the cries of ghouls out for my flesh… as I cowered on the tiny cliff edge, learning how to be a good little filly… my dear ol’ Ma finally coming to rescue me after I had learned my lesson… I almost froze up, tears in my eyes at the memories. I clenched my eyes shut, and swung my Hoof of Honor blindly at the thing’s head, scoring a lucky hit and pulping a milky eye, dislodging it and knocking the rotting pony a few feet back. Of course, however, it just got back up from where I knocked it and charged again. Shaking off the feelings of terror still trying to claw at my mind, I swung again, and the Hoof of Honor met it midway, as I gave it a swift uppercut in retaliation. It caught air, and flew towards Matchstick’s fight. Matchstick stomped on its stunned head, killing it instantly and flashing me a manic grin, yelling, “Nice!” before getting back to her own fight with the remaining two ghouls that were still focused on her. Breathing heavily, I turned back to Shimmercoat and MG-MS11…
To see that three more ghouls were swarming them! Shimmercoat had a shield up, but the ghoul’s hooves were striking at it again and again, and Shimmercoat’s brow was starting to moisten as he struggled to maintain his defenses. His magnum gave it’s loud report, but apparently Shimmercoat couldn’t aim very well in close quarters, because he missed three times. MG-MS11 was doing the best he could with his slightly busted saw, which wasn’t much. It was a good thing Shimmercoat was shielding him as well, or the second ghoul would be beating his metal carcass into the ground. I retrieved Mezzer from the ground and went into S.A.T.S, giving me some time to think as I targeted the ghoul attacking MG-MS11 first, and then tagged an attack on the one in front of Shimmercoat. Hopefully, if I missed, Shimmercoat’s shield would block Mezzer’s shot.
Before I came out of S.A.T.S, though, I decided to use the time that it gave me to think to take stock of what was going on around me. I cycled through all available targets, including Shimmercoat, MG-MS11, and Matchstick Flare. In doing so, I discovered three more ghouls charging in the doorway, and one more that was falling through the air, coming through the hole in the ceiling on the other side of the room. That didn’t bode well… that meant there was trouble on the fifth floor as well… unless we lucked out and that was the only ghoul there. Highly doubtful.
“It seems that we are about to be overrun…” Mezzer helpfully pointed out. I was hesitating breaking the psudo-time-stop that S.A.T.S was giving me… I didn’t want to see how this would end. Those three ghouls at the door were probably headed for me.
“Any bright ideas?” I thought back, hoping that he actually had one and wasn’t just pointing out the obvious.
“Tell Shimmercoat to seal the room with shields and deal with the remaining ghouls in the room. That way no new surprises will come charging in without thou knowing about it.” he replied. It wasn’t a bad idea.
I reluctantly came out of S.A.T.S, Mezzer firing two waves at the ghouls attacking Shimmercoat and MG-MS11, stunning both of them. The robot and Overstallion quickly dispatched them after they stopped moving, of course, but the three that had charged through the doorway were headed straight for me! I jumped back as best I could, pain in my flank reminding me of the nasty bite I had there, and leveled Mezzer towards them, firing wildly as they closed range. I managed to stun one before another one of the disgusting abominations bowled into me and knocked me over. I caught a glimpse of Matchstick taking care of the ghoul that had dropped through the ceiling before I hit the ground, cracking my head against a fallen filing cabinet. My right hind leg seared in pain as one of them clamped their jaws down on it, trying to rip me to bite-size chunks. “Shimmercoat!!” I screamed. “Seal the room! KILL THESE THINGS!!” I kicked at the one biting on my leg with my other leg, tears blurring my vision as the pain started to overwhelm me… though it might have been the concussion I probably had…
MG-MS11 disintegrated the ghoul I had stunned with his plasma caster. It was odd seeing him fight without hearing anything he was trying to say… he was almost cold and heartless, silently aiming and firing his weapons without any patriotic platitudes or fanfares blaring from his speakers… I honestly couldn’t decide which I preferred. With a final kick, I finally dislodged the ghoul biting my leg, though it took quite a large chunk of my flesh with it. I didn’t think I could stand…
It’s head exploded, and a split-second later I heard Shimmercoat’s pistol fire twice more, taking care of the last ghoul in the room. His horn was glowing, and I could see shield spells blocking the doorway and hole in the ceiling. A good thing too… two more ghouls were pounding at the shield in the doorway. He had a few scrapes, and was sweating pretty hard, but didn’t seem too hurt… myself on the other hoof…
“Owww… owowowowow…” I groaned.
“This coming from a mare that has literally broken her back before.” Shimmercoat said, helping MG-MS11 over to me. The robot doctor silently rotated his M.E.D.I-Gun into position. “You okay?” that time he sounded like he cared… too bad it was obvious that I wasn’t okay.
“My back didn’t actually hurt all that bad after a while… not until I started getting it fixed, anyways…” I replied, breathing heavily and trying not to think about the big chunks of flesh I was missing from my flank and leg. My vision wobbled and blurred for a second… yeah, I definitely have a concussion. “Ohhh… I hit my head pretty hard…”
A soft hum started up, and the glowing red beam from MG-MS11’s M.E.D.I-Gun enveloped me in its healing rays. My vision cleared right up, and the chunks of meat ripped out of me started to regenerate quite rapidly. The pain faded, and soon, I felt as good as new… almost. Heal-beams didn’t get rid of deep set fatigue… and I was getting a headache… I checked my PiPBuck.
“Ohh… how many rads do you have?” I asked, pulling out some Rad-Away. I had acquired over 140 rads during the fight, not a level I was comfortable being at. No wonder I was starting to get a headache.
“I could use some Rad-Away, thanks… could you get it for me… kinda… focused here…” Shimmercoat looked a little pale. The ghouls at the doorway were still pounding away.
“Here, I’ll take care of those.” Matchstick Flare, who was bleeding from a nasty gash on her forehead (though she didn’t seem to mind), trotted over from the other side of the room and charged at the other ghouls. She went through the shield, which was apparently a one-way shield, and started to do her thing with the ghouls, complete with gratuitous skull-crushing and burnt flesh smell. I almost threw up again, and looked away from the splatter she was painting on the walls before I lost the battle with my heaving stomach.
I sucked down a Rad-Away, trying not to gag, and passed one to Shimmercoat as well. He gulped his down using his mouth, his horn still glowing as he focused on his shields. I looked myself over, and saw that MG-MS11’s M.E.D.I-Gun had worked it’s magic once again. I had not a single scratch on me, even if I still felt tired. “Alright… let Matchstick back in here and let’s try and rethink our strategy here… it obviously isn’t working.”
Shimmercoat nodded, lowering the shield on the doorway to let Matchstick Flare back into our little shielded room. She trotted in, pleased-looking, and sat down, breathing heavily. “Whew! These ghouls are a bit nastier than your average fare.”
“They’ve been soaking up radiation all this time here in this building.” I said. “Frankly, I’m surprised we haven’t run into…”
Why did I have to open my big mouth? The doorway once again had a ghoul standing outside of it. It wasn’t a normal ghoul, though, it’s rotted flesh and eyes glowed with an eerie green luminescence that banished the shadows around it. My PipBuck started to click faster than it already was. “…a Glowing One.” I finished. “Never mind. There it is. Say, Shimmercoat, is your shield affected by large amounts of radiation burst into a specific area?”
“I’m not sure… why?” Shimmercoat asked, looking at the Glowing One standing there in a slight crouch, its glow getting brighter and brighter.
“Because Glowing One’s emit radiation in large bursts to attack…” I said, backing away from the door. Matchstick and Shimmercoat, and MG-MS11 also backed away, following my lead, and the Glowing One erupted in a flash of light. My PipBuck started to scream at me, high doses of radiation were being emitted from the Glowing One, and I felt the onset of radiation sickness again almost instantly. Shimmercoat cried out in pain… and I saw him fall over, his gun clattering to the ground, and MG-MS11 almost falling over as well as the small amount of telekinesis Shimmercoat was apparently giving him let go. Why he wasn’t just focusing on the shields and not doing everything at once to stress his horn would be a question I would have to ask him if we survived this debacle.
“SHIMMERCOAT!!” Matchstick shouted. “No! Oh, please no…” Matchstick pleaded as he fell over, either dead or unconscious, we didn’t know.
“Matchstick! The shield is down, take that thing out! I’ll take care of Shimmercoat!” I shouted quickly, rushing over to him as quickly as I could.
“YEAHHHHHH!!” Matchstick cried out in rage, tears in her eyes, and charged towards the Glowing One as it entered the room, no longer blocked by Shimmercoat’s shield. She tackled it, and started punching its rotting, glowing face again and again… green goo flew from its jaws as it struggled under the flaming mare’s onslaught. A jagged hoof cut a long gash in Matchstick’s flank, but she didn’t seem to notice, smoke coming up from the ghoul’s burning body as its face was beaten to a pulp. Eventually, it stopped struggling, and only moved when Matchstick’s hoof impacted it. It had less of a head now and more a crushed mass of flesh and bone where its head used to be, but Matchstick didn’t stop attacking. “NO! No no no… you did not just take the only stallion I can touch away from me NO!” she said, punctuating each syllable with a punch.
I looked away and took stock of how Shimmercoat was doing. I took his pulse… he was only unconscious. “Sergeant, heal Shimmercoat for me, quickly.” I ordered, and turned to Matchstick. “Matchstick! He’s alright! He’s just knocked out! Matchstick! MATCHSTICK FLARE!!” I shouted, trying to get her attention as she kept beating the dead ghoul. She looked up, teary-eyed, at me, pausing in her onslaught as the Glowing One’s corpse cooked underneath her. “He’s just knocked out, and that thing is dead, you’re alright… uh, are you okay?” I asked, as the tears coming out of her eyes started to run red… she was bleeding from her tear-ducts! Her nose also started to bleed just then, and her eyes rolled up until just the whites were showing, and she fell over, also unconscious.
“Ohhh… not good not good…” I muttered, trotting quickly over to her. My PipBuck once again started to scream as I got closer to the Glowing One’s corpse. Focusing, I used my telekinesis to drag Matchstick away from the radioactive ghoul, and with some effort, got her close to MG-MS11. Panting at the exertion of moving her (she was not a light pony. Her toned, muscled body was quite hefty and hard on my telekinesis), I said, “Sarge, I need you to heal Matchstick as well… whew…” Shaking off the tiredness, I pulled out two more packets of Rad-Away, and after thinking a bit, took out a third. Matchstick probably needed several doses. Shimmercoat was still knocked out, but looked better after MG-MS11 was done with him, no more scrapes or bruises.
“Why is he still out? This is bad… MG-MS11 should have healed him back into consciousness…” I thought. “And Matchstick hasn’t taken as much Rad-Away as the rest of us. I won’t be able to move the two of them!”
“Thou shouldst endeavor to anyways.” Mezzer said back, unexpectedly. I jumped a little at his voice, then blushed in embarrassment, glad nopony was around to witness that. “The fight has caused lots of noise and commotion. Surely more ghouls will come flocking soon. Also, I am wondering where Crescent Wrench and Hiss went. I hope that they are okay…” he continued.
“Yeah… first things first, though…” I thought, lifting the Rad-Away packets with my telekinesis. I used my telekinesis to open Matchstick’s mouth as well, pouring in one packet, then the next, being careful to make sure she was swallowing it all, and hoping I was in time to stave off the radiation poisoning. I also forced some Rad-X pills down her throat for good measure. It was easy to keep track of our radiation level when we weren’t fighting for our lives. The heat of battle put the threat of the constant rads to the side while we were fighting more immediate threats, though. We had to be more careful… even if we killed every ghoul in the building, it wouldn’t do us any good if we just keeled over from rad sickness afterwards. I quickly gave Shimmercoat his dose of Rad-Away, then took one myself, as well as giving us both more Rad-X. We needed to move.
“Urgh… what the fuck happened?” Matchstick Flare groaned, looking better as her wounds sealed up under the influence of the M.E.D.I-Gun. Her eyes widened. “Is Shimmercoat okay?”
I sighed, relieved that she was waking up. That meant she could move her own heavy self. “You charged into a Glowing One. And he’s fine, just knocked out. Shimmercoat’s fine, not the Glowing One. That thing is dead. Shimmercoat’s not coming out of it though… I think he might have overstressed his magic trying to block that radiation blast.” I answered. “We need to move before more ghouls show up.”
“Right… um… I can’t touch him, he doesn’t have his shield up…” Matchstick said sadly.
I nodded. “Right… help me get him on my back, just don’t touch him too long.” I said, and with some careful telekinesis and lifting, we got him on my back without any burns on either of us. He was far lighter than the flaming mare, and I was able to balance him easily with my magic. “Keep MG-MS11 up, and let’s try and meet up with Crescent and Hiss…” I said. The plan was falling apart, and we all needed to be together to get through this. Without Shimmercoat, our defensive abilities dropped drastically.
“Thou shouldst have anticipated some casualties. Thou were asking a lot of him to block every attack that came for thy entire party…” Mezzer said.
“That’s just it though!” I growled back at the living weapon. “I told him to protect MG-MS11! He shielded Matchstick too! And was holding up MG-MS11 with his telekinesis when there were more serious matters to focus on! Sure, I told him to seal the room, but he should have told me he was running out of juice!”
“In any case, thy EFS has spotted more hostiles. We should leave before the door is blocked again.” Mezzer pointed out, interrupting my griping. I was worried about Shimmercoat’s condition, but Mezzer was right. No less than five rapidly moving red markers seemed to be coming in our general direction.
“Come on Matchstick, take care of MG-MS11, and let’s get out of here before we have more company.” I ordered. Matchstick helped MG-MS11 balance, though she quickly heated up his chassis as she did so, and he started to push away, trying to hover on his own.
“He doesn't like being heated up…” Matchstick said, trying to keep the robot from overbalancing and falling over on his damaged levitation talisman.
“That’s because most machines work better at lower temperatures. Just try to minimize contact with him, and his armor should be able to sink the heat.” I said, and we slowly made our way out of the room, back into the hallway, and made a beeline for the corner, which hopefully hid the stairs we needed to go up. “If we see any ghouls, try to sneak around them, don’t go charging in… we all know how that ended up…” I said, glancing at Shimmercoat’s unconscious form on my back. I noticed his glasses were missing… we’ll have to get him new ones, we didn’t have time to go back and look for them. On a completely unrelated note, he looked pretty good without them…
“Now is most definitely not the time for that, young Coin Slot.” Mezzer chastised me.
I shook my head, focusing on where I was stepping. “Sorry…” I muttered.
“I’m the one who should be sorry… I hope he’s okay…” Matchstick replied, thinking I was talking to her. I pretended I was… and mentally facehoofed at myself again for responding out loud to Mezzer. The hallway we were walking down was surprisingly empty, even though I could hear the cries of ghouls somewhere nearby… we went as fast as the wobbling MG-MS11 would allow. Every so often we would pass an interesting looking office or storage closet, but we had to keep going. Between the ghouls and radiation, we did not have time to go looking for good loot to sell, unfortunately.
A yellow marker popped up on my EFS amongst the numerous red ones. “Hey, I think we’re getting close to Crescent Wrench.” I said as we turned the corner.
“Halt. Present identification.”
“Eep!” I squeaked, backing away, and nearly burning my rump from bumping into Matchstick Flare. An extremely deep voice confronted us as we rounded the corner. It was a Security Bot, a fearful and fairly common variety of robot found in the wasteland. It was nearly nine feet tall, heavily armored, mounted on three gigantic, puncture-proof wheels. Usually painted black, these things were an intimidating sight, especially since they were most commonly armed with miniguns and missile launchers. They had broad shoulders and pony-shaped heads that were completely encased in armor, with a red glow emitting from the sensors beneath a protective grill. Apparently before the war they were pretty commonly used as security for big companies who wanted to protect company secrets from their competitors, and spying Zebra eyes. How good a job they did, I didn’t know… but I suspected they did it fairly well. Even today they blew up scavengers looking through ruined office buildings, still protecting pre-war secrets… and we didn’t have employee identification. I wondered why these things hadn’t wiped out the ghouls if they were still around. I guess sometimes robots were picky with their targets. Lucky us.
“Present identification or leave the area. This is your final warning. Omega protocols are in effect; this unit is authorized to use lethal force. Please comply.” The robotic monstrosity rounded the corner after us as we backed away, it’s minigun leveled directly at my face. We couldn’t move fast enough to get out of its range before it would mow us down or blow us up, especially not with MG-MS11 being as slow as he was right now… and we didn’t have anything that could pierce that heavy armor… or we did, but MG-MS11 wasn’t bringing his plasma caster to bear on what he probably thought was a friendly Equestrian robot. I closed my eyes and waited for the inevitable…
“Security status red. Engaaaarrrrrrr….” The security bot’s voice petered out mid-sentence. I looked up in surprise to see the red glow from its grilled face winking out, it’s arms lowering into a shutdown stance. Crescent Wrench’s head popped up from behind it, a few wires in her mouth. She jumped down from its shoulders, and spat them out.
“That was close! Are you guys okay… oh my gosh, what happened to Shimmercoat?!” Crescent said, her proud smile quickly disappearing as she saw the stallion draped over my back. I saw a subtle shimmer in the corner. Hiss was here too, thankfully.
“We had a nasty run-in with some ghouls, and his magic got overloaded, we think.” I answered. “I’m glad you’re okay. Did Hiss help you out?” I asked.
“Yep!” she smiled. “We snuck around some scary ghouls, and looked around for robots. There aren’t many… in fact, if my count of recharging stations I found is right, that was the last one. There were only four charging stations, and I found one dead one and shut down the other two. Hiss took care of the two ghouls that found us while I was working on one… he’s such a good puppy!”
I sighed. At least one part of the plan had gone off okay. “Alright, we need to get moving before the ghouls that are chasing us catch up.” I said. Crescent Wrench glanced behind me and instantly lost her proud smile, going pale, her eyes widening.
“Y-y-you mean t-those ghouls?” she asked, pointing.
I turned around just as a loud death rattle signaled that we had been spotted. Five regular ghouls and another Glowing One were charging down the hallway from where we had come from right at us. “Yes… we can’t get MG-MS11 to move fast enough to run, Crescent! Make sure he’s not damaged!” I ordered, dumping Shimmercoat’s body behind the shut down Security Bot and drawing Mezzer. Crescent took Matchstick’s place beside the crippled Mr. Gutsy, drawing her sledgehammer and looking nervous, but determined. MG-MS11 started shooting plasma bolts down the hallway, almost taking the leg off of one of them, but they kept charging.
“Matchstick, we need to take out that Glowing One first, or else he’ll heal the rest of them!” I said. Sure enough, the high amounts of radiation coming from the Glowing One was regenerating the plasma burn off the leg of the injured ghoul even as I spoke. I fired off a few shots from Mezzer, stunning two of them, the other three leaving them behind as they got to our position.
Matchstick met the Glowing One head on, grappling it to the ground and giving it a solid punch that sent its jaw literally flying. Unfazed, it kept trying to bite her with it’s upper jaw alone, and grappled her right back, ignoring its sizzling flesh. One of the regular ghouls turned towards me, and I raised Mezzer and went into S.A.T.S before it could strike at me. In the frozen timescape I could see every detail of the rotting pony in front of me… it looked like it used to be a mare with a yellow coat, from what I could tell. There was even a faded image of a clipboard riding her flank. Her tattered work uniform hung off of her in bits and tatters. I could even see her employee I.D… it looked like her name was Bottom Line.
“That must be why the security bots haven’t wiped out the ghouls in this building.” Mezzer observed. “They must all have badges still on them. The ghouls here are former employees of General Atomareics.”
Now that I thought about it, the ghouls that had been attacking us did all have some form of tattered clothing on… there could very easily be badges still tacked onto them after all these years. Any that had fallen off had probably been killed by security long ago. I wondered now exactly how many employees had been ghoulified after the blast that ended the war… and whether any were still sane or not. Poor Bottom Line here though had clearly lost her sanity to the radiation, her glazed eyes were enough proof of that. I queued up two shots from Mezzer at her… it… and exited S.A.T.S. The shots both splashed off of the ghoul’s head, stunning it and sending it sprawling to the ground. I stomped on its head with the Hoof of Honor… but no matter how hard I stomped, its head wouldn’t crush under my hoof. I only succeeded in knocking it out, which for now was good enough.
I looked over to see the other ghoul that had charged us was taking a swing at MG-MS11 and Crescent Wrench. I was just about to dive in and help when Crescent took a swing at it with her hammer.
I ducked as its head flew past me, splitting open on the wall behind me. “Holy nutcracker!!” I shouted. Crescent Wrench had just pounded that thing’s head off!!
“Sorry!! I didn’t know that would happen!” Crescent Wrench look just about as surprised as I was.
“Heh, good on ya, kid. Hey, Coin, could I get another Rad-Away?” Matchstick Flare asked. She was done with the Glowing One, it now smoldered on the ground, its face looking similar to the other one Matchstick had killed. I passed her a Rad-Away… our supply was diminishing rapidly…
“Hey look!” Crescent Wrench said, pointing.
The two ghouls I had stunned had shaken it off… and were busy attacking the air around them. Puncture wounds appeared here and there as they fought, and sometimes hunks of flesh went missing. One keeled over suddenly, foam spewing out of its mouth, and the other soon followed suit. Once they were down, Hiss reappeared, slightly injured, but game for more. He ran over to us, panting and looking up at me happily.
“Good Hiss! Good boy!” I said, petting his head. “Um… you better take this, boy… it might taste bad…” I pulled out yet another Rad-Away. Hiss was just as important as any of us, and I would hate to see him fall to rad sickness as much as anypony else… though I didn’t know if nightstalkers were even affected by radiation. He sucked down the orange liquid anyways, and looked like he enjoyed it. I didn’t even know if nightstalkers had a sense of taste… they had pretty skinny tongues, after all..
“Anyways…” I said. “Did you find the stairs, by any chance?” I asked Crescent Wrench.
“Yep!” she answered, smiling. “It’s over by the robot recharging stations. Just around the next corner. Oh… I know you said not to pick anything up, but I found this in the robot recharging room… it’s small and shiny, so I just picked it up.” Crescent Wrench reached into her pack and pulled out a softly glowing orb.
“Ah… keep that, it’s very interesting…” I said.
She put it back in her pack. “What is it?” she asked, as we situated MG-MS11 and got Shimmercoat balanced on my back again.
“A memory orb. They were used during the war to record memories… like a journal. You need a recollector or one of these…” I tapped my horn. “…to view them though. I’ll look into it later, sometimes they have valuable information.” I said. Of course, sometimes they were just memories of two ponies… enjoying each other’s company, but hey, it was worth the risk. I had found valuable loot stashes before with the information garnered from memory orbs. They knocked you out while viewing them, though, so now was most definitely not the time. I was glad Crescent Wrench was an earth pony… if she was a unicorn and tried to pick it up by focusing magic on it… well, being knocked out in an irradiated area was a bad thing if you were alone. I’m sure Hiss would have gotten us if that were the case, but still…
In fact, that reminded me. “Hey, Crescent, do you need any Rad-Away?” I asked, pulling some out.
“No, I’m okay.” She answered, surprising both Matchstick and I. “My PipBuck says I only have fifty rads.”
“What? You’re shitting me.” Matchstick said, her fiery eyebrows raised high. “That’s nothing! We’ve been fucking mainlining Rad-Away, and we’ve got… how much, Coin?”
“Well, around one-hundred. And please don’t swear.” I answered. “Crescent Wrench must just be naturally more resistant to radiation than us… and she knocked that ghoul’s head off. She’s tougher than she looks.”
“I’ll say. That was fucking awesome, by they way! Good job, kiddo!” Matchstick said. Crescent Wrench blushed at the praise, scooting closer to MG-MS11, who she was supporting as he wobbled towards the stairs, which we had finally reached. I saw the recharging stations in the room Crescent Wrench had mentioned, and there were lots of papers strewn on the floor in the hallway right here, for some reason. The hallways here were pretty cumbersome… it must have been a pain to work here.
“I saw a ghoul jump down from the fifth floor through a hole in the ceiling, so we might not be out of trouble yet.” I said.
“Oh! Um, here.” Crescent Wrench said, handing me a card. Surprised, I looked at it. It read, “Bottom Line” and had a barcode and a smiling yellow mare’s picture on it. She had a green mane, blue eyes, and must have been very pretty before she was ghoulified.
“Why did you take this… uh, those?” I asked, seeing she was giving everypony an ID badge picked up from the corpses of the ghouls we had just fought, presumably. She even tacked one on Shimmercoat.
“Just in case there’s more robots upstairs, we should have ID’s right? That way they won’t shoot us, and if ghouls attack us, they’ll move in to help! They attempt to arrest aggressors of fights, and since they’ve got their omega protocols activated, they’ll just kill any ghouls that show hostile actions towards non-hostiles… like us.” Crescent answered matter-of-factly, smiling a small smile.
“Heh. You know a lot about robots, huh, kiddo?” Matchstick asked.
“It… I like robots.” Crescent said, blushing. I giggled.
“I’m glad you do. This is a great idea, Crescent, it should really help out.” I said. “Let’s get moving.”
We ventured up the staircase to the fifth floor, and I kept my eye on my E.F.S. A few red bars flitted to and from view, but it didn’t look like anything was close by.
“Hey, kid,” Matchstick Flare said as we reached the fifth floor landing. Crescent Wrench looked up, guiding MG-MS11 slowly up the stairs. He kept bumping up against them each time he rose up one step, and she had to keep a close eye on him to make sure he didn’t destabilize and fall over. “I was wondering… how come you were super bad-ass with those ghouls, even picking them over for these badges…” she flipped her I.D. badge up. It had started to char. “… and you almost wet yourself when you saw those raider corpses earlier?”
“Matchstick…” I said, exasperated. I didn’t want to explore any reason why Crescent had a change of heart regarding corpses, so long as it worked in my favor.
“Um, actually it’s pretty easy.” Crescent said, bringing MG-MS11 over the last stair and up to the landing with the rest of us. “Those raiders were alive… living ponies. And I don’t like the color of blood…” Crescent shuddered. “These ghouls… they aren’t ponies. They’re more like animals. Sick animals. Sure, they’re scary… but not the same kind of scary as ponies trying to kill us. Putting them down is a mercy. And I actually did throw up when getting their I.D. badges, but we needed them, so I had to get them.”
“Huh. Alrighty then, that works for me.” Matchstick said. “Personally the only difference between a ghoul and a raider for me is that ghouls have a skin condition.”
“And use guns. Raiders do, I mean. Not ghouls.” I put in.
“That too. So where exactly are we headed?” Matchstick asked.
“We need to find some sort of repair station. That way Crescent Wrench can get to work on MG-MS11, and we can get out of here.” I said. “The terminal downstairs said that this floor used to be R&D, and that they did research on MG-MS units here. If there’s any parts to be had for MG-MS11 in the wasteland, they’re here.”
“Yeah.” Crescent Wrench said. “Also, MG-MS11 actually doesn’t use as many specialty parts as I thought he did. I took a closer look at the design while picking over that disabled one downstairs. Besides some of the A.I. components, and obviously the M.E.D.I.-Gun, most of the stuff is basically of Mr. Gutsy or Mr. Handy design, just rearranged a little bit. If I can stock up on the specialty parts here, then I could repair him anywhere basically. Mr. Handy’s and Gutsy’s are… or at least were pretty common before the war… according to my teacher anyways… are they common now?” she asked.
“You find them here and there.” I answered.
“Well… in that case, we just need to go down the hallway and hit the first door on the left.” Matchstick said.
“Huh? How do you know that?” I asked, turning to give her a surprised look. She grinned back at me… standing in front of a small directory hanging on the wall that was miraculously still legible. It clearly stated that Robot Maintenance was in room 511, which on the little map was the first door on the left in the hallway that lead from the stairwell. I rolled my eyes. “Very clever.”
“Hey. It takes me a while, but I can read.” Matchstick said.
Slowly, we walked down the hall, keeping an eye out for things that wanted to eat us. A few turrets were mounted to the ceiling, and they tracked us for a moment… before pointing forward again. Looks like our badges were working. I hoisted Shimmercoat into a more comfortable position on my back, so that his forehooves were around my shoulders, and his head rested between my ears.
“Grhmmm…” Mezzer mumbled in my head.
“What was that?” I asked, remembering not to speak aloud this time.
“Nothing. I’m just slightly uncomfortable is all, but we must press on and get out of here as soon as possible.” he said.
“Really? I’m feeling pretty good” I said. Shimmercoat was heavy, sure, but the way I balanced him felt comfortable enough that I could keep carrying him for a while. “In any case, do you have any idea what happened to him?”
“I’m pretty sure that he’s suffering magical backlash from trying to block too much with his shield. All those crude melee attacks would have been a significant load on his magic. Add the fact that he was defending Matchstick as well, and that large burst of radiation finally did him in.” Mezzer said. “He’ll be out for a while… and won’t be able to cast magic again for quite some time.”
“I know what magical backlash is, Ma taught me about it when I was little.” I said. “How do you know about it?”
“I… I do not know. I may have picked it up from thy memories.” he replied. He at least had the decency to sound like he felt sorry about it.
“Anyways, you’re probably right. It sounds like something he’d do… I told him specifically not to overextend himself, for Pete’s sake.” I sighed. Sometimes I don’t think he got the hint that I was the master, and therefore knew best about my slaves. I’d need to have a chat with him once we got out of here.
“Alrighty, so far so good!” Matchstick said as she approached the door to room 511. “All we gotta do is…” Matchstick opened the door, and jumped back. “Eep! Ack!” She grunted as a large pile of rubble spilled out from behind the door. Dust plumed upwards, and the flames on Matchstick’s mane blew back as it settled. She looked panicked and jumped back further, behind me, her legs wheeling as she backed up as fast as she could.
“Whoa!” I said. The door was completely blocked by debris, but the rubble that fell out wasn’t enough to be dangerous. “What’s the rush?” I asked.
“Oh, uh, big clouds of dust and I don’t mix. Sometimes, if it’s in high enough concentration, it blows up if it has an ignition source… and… well…” Matchstick said, twitching her blazing tail.
“Ah. Say no more.” I said. I looked at the wall of rubble that blocked our way, and poked at it with a hoof. It shifted a little, but not by much. It was basically all dry wall, dusted concrete, and rotted wood. “I’m pretty sure we’ll have to find another way around. Did that map have any other entrances to this room?”
“I don’t think so…” Crescent Wrench said.
Suddenly, MG-MS11 whirred, and his voice-box sparked again. The fans on his levitation apparatus started to smoke as they spun faster, and he hoisted himself off of Crescent’s back and flew further down the hallway, trailing smoke and a few sparks. He turned a corner, bumping into the opposite wall with a clang and even more intense whirring noise.
“Sargey! Come back!” Crescent shouted, chasing after him. “You’re not well enough to go off on your own! Sargey!”
Matchstick snorted, but stopped laughing after I gave her a look. “Come on, let’s get him, quick. He’ll disable himself at this rate.”
We ran after the damaged robot, and Hiss jumped ahead of Crescent Wrench, growling and barking. Not a good sign. He turned invisible just as he rounded the corner, and Crescent was right behind him. I heard the report of MG-MS11’s plasma caster, but couldn’t really catch up with everypony else because of Shimmercoat’s weight.
A ghoul slammed into the wall as Matchstick rounded the corner, his head pulverized. “They’re attacking the robot and Crescent!” she shouted out to me, charging in. I rounded the corner after her, and saw three more ghouls right up on top of MG-MS11… who was on the ground, firing his plasma caster at any ghoul that came within his field of fire. Crescent Wrench swung her hammer, plastering a ghoul that was chewing on one of MG-MS11’s eyestalks. She had a… fervor in her eyes, like a pony possessed. Another ghoul was on the ground, foaming at the mouth, an invisible shimmer wrapped around its throat. Matchstick Flare tackled another ghoul off of MG-MS11, and proceeded to do her usual burn-and-punch tactic, beating its face in until it stopped twitching.
I drew Mezzer, getting ready to stun the last ghoul on MG-MS11… when out of the corner of my eye, I saw two more ghouls round the end corner of the hallway I was standing in. They were charging right towards me, my E.F.S. showed them as red, obviously… but to the side there were two yellow bars…
Before I could fire, a panel in the wall opened, and two security bots trundled out, saying, “OMEGA PROTOCOLS ACTIVE. ENGAGE HOSTILE TARGETS WITH DEADLY FORCE.” They chewed down the ghouls charging at me with their miniguns, and then turned to me. We stared at each other for a small moment, and I wondered if they were going to open up on Shimmercoat and myself.
“MS. LINE. PLEASE REFRAIN FROM PUBLIC ACTS OF AFFECTION WITH MR. WIRE WHILE IN THE WORKPLACE. THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.” They then trundled back down the hallway, sometimes shouting the word “PATROLLING…”
“Wha…” I was utterly baffled. Matchstick, Crescent and Hiss had taken care of the ghouls on MG-MS11, and apparently security was on our side like Crescent had said they would be… but... who the bloody kumquat was Mr. Wire?!
“I believe the security bot was referring to Shimmercoat. Shimmercoat’s badge belonged to one Mr. Live Wire. And… um… thou have been carrying him in a rather compromising position. Which is why I was uncomfortable, I just didn’t want to bring it up.”
“What do you mean ‘compromising?’” I asked. I reexamined Shimmercoat, still out cold, on my back, his forehooves around my shoulders, his hindhooves… oh… “Ak!” I said, nearly bucking the overstallion off before I regained my composure. His hindlegs were straddling my hindquarters… which was totally inappropriate, even if it was the most comfortable way to carry him.
“I mean that…” Mezzer started.
“I got it, I got it. Yeesh, I’ll move him. It’s not like he was actually mounting me, you little perv.” I thought at Mezzer, using my telekinesis to shift Shimmercoat around so that he was no longer straddling me. It was a good thing Matchstick didn’t notice…
“Hey, Coin, come over here. Something’s wrong with the robot.” Matchstick called out. I trotted over.
“Security for this level activated. And on our side. I don’t think we’ll run into much more in the way of ghouls.” I said. “What’s wrong?”
“Unfortunately those ghouls fucked him up real bad, according to Crescent.” Matchstick said, looking down at them. They were in the center of a circle of the recently made ghoul corpses. Hiss was standing guard, looking fierce, and Crescent had an access panel open, and was working feverishly within the innards of MG-MS11 on something. “She’s ‘doing emergency repairs,’ apparently.” Matchstick said.
“Everything okay, Crescent?” I walked around Matchstick, looking at the filly mane-deep in MG-MS11’s wiring.
“His levitation apparatus gave out! I’m trying to jump-start the talisman, but it’s barely functional after that overdrive he just gave it!” Crescent’s hollow, echo-y voice emerged from the robot. “We need to get him to a repair station! His power might go out at any time, he’s taken so much damage… ooo… if that happens, he’ll wind up just like that other one… t-that other u-unit…” she stuttered. She almost sounded like she was holding back tears. Every so often, MG-MS11 twitched. It looked like he was… dying.
I dumped Shimmercoat to the side of the hallway. “Matchstick, Hiss, watch Shimmercoat. I have an idea. Crescent, I’ll need your help to carry MG-MS11 to the repair station.”
Crescent Wrench popped out, her face streaked with grease. “But it’s b-b-blocked off…”
“Art thou thinking what I think thou art thinking?” Mezzer asked. “I am left wondering why MG-MS11 darted off like that. At first I thought he was just acting crazy, but after seeing those security bots pop out of that wall panel…”
“You read my mind… which, if you actually did, please stop.” I thought to him. Out loud, I said, “Just help me pick him up, Crescent. Sarge, if you could point your front eyestalk towards the panel that leads to the repair room…” MG-MS11 stopped his random twitching, leaning his front eyestalk towards a section of wall. Hoisting half of the robot’s insane weight up on my back, with the other half supported by Crescent Wrench’s freaky strength, we slowly made our way to that particular wall. It was just down the hallway MG-MS11 had charged down… and if I remembered my layout right, it was one of the walls of the maintenance room on the other side. Once we were directly in front of it, I slowly put MG-MS11 down, and started tapping at the wall, looking for a way to open it.
“What are you doing?” Crescent Wrench asked.
“The security bots that just came out came out through a wall panel. I guessed that MG-MS11 was trying to lead us to this one before he was jumped. It’s another way into the repair room…” I said, putting my ear to the wall and tapping. “I’m just trying to find a way to open…”
“AHHHHH!” I screamed. The wall clanged again… less loudly than when I had my ear to it. “What the… Crescent!!”
Crescent Wrench swung her sledgehammer a third time against the wall panel, the large dent she was putting in it getting even bigger. “We…” she said, hitting it again. “Don’t…” between each word, she hit the panel… it was starting to show its edges, depressing into the wall with each strike. “Have… TIME!!”
With that, Crescent Wrench laid one final determined swing into the panel. It collapsed inward under the force of Crescent’s argument, ripping off its tracks and falling into the maintenance room. Crescent Wrench panted, looking at me expectantly. “Ah… right…” I said, hoisting MG-MS11 up again. I was almost afraid that if I didn’t help move him, she’d cave my skull in.
“Everything alright? Yeesh, the kid made that hole in the wall?” Matchstick said from where she was diligently standing next to the comatose Shimmercoat.
“Yeah, everything’s fine… we found the maintenance room.” I said, looking in. It was covered in strewn papers, some of which the sketches and schematics were still visible on. A glowing terminal was on a desk near the front door… which was covered in collapsed building material from the roof above. I could see the clouds through the hole in the roof. Rows and rows of specialized alcoves and workbenches for several models of robot were here… it was a rather large room. Broken terminals lined the edges, along with propaganda posters that had the Ministry Mares on them and big blueprints of weird machinery. In the center of the room was another alcove for repairing and recharging robots… and it was occupied. Another MG-MS unit was nestled in it like an egg in a nest, deactivated. It’s spindly arms and eyes drooped down, and it was surrounded by robotic arms and tools that were obviously for repairs. It looked as if it was brand spanking new.
“We need that alcove.” Crescent Wrench stated, and started walking us towards it. I looked around… it indeed seemed to be the only repair alcove that was actually not either obviously broken or crushed under rubble. This room was in pretty bad shape. The alcove had a small terminal interface next to it, presumably to help with repair work and diagnostics. Once we were next to it, we laid MG-MS11 down again, and Crescent got to work… before crying out in frustration. “Nooo! It’s locked out! I don’t even get a chance at guessing a password!” She started to cry. “W-we need this other unit o-out… if we don’t…” Crescent Wrench hiccupped, tears forming in her eyes as she tried to hold her feelings back, even though they were obvious.
“I suspect she has more stake in getting MG-MS11 fully operational again than she is letting on.” Mezzer observed.
“It’s fine, she just likes robots, and MG-MS11 is basically our pet robot. I know I’d feel the same if Hiss was injured with no real reachable cure at hand, especially since we’re so close… we just got to get this other unit out…” I thought back to him. And the more I thought about it… MG-MS’s were highly valuable. They could repair the most intense of damage and perform the most complicated of surgeries. Their skills were invaluable in the wastes… 11 was ours, but who said we couldn’t sell another? They were prototypes, extremely rare… and expensive. I had been a little upset at not really getting to loot this building beyond what Shimmercoat had picked up… this would cover it all, though. I tried to check the designation number of the unit in the repair alcove, but it was covered by one of the clamps hooking it in.
“I can get it out.” I said. Crescent looked up at me, hopefully. “I’ll just dive into the matrix.” I winked, and my horn glowed as I activated the spell that let me travel into the magical matrices of the mechanical world. The lines of the diagnostic computer were pretty simple to get into… the machine was locked down only on the surface level, which my spell bypassed… in fact, I was surprised. The lines making up the matrix were surprisingly well in order, nearly no tangled knots or degradation that was usually found on these things. It was almost as if somepony had either programmed it to specifically last hundreds of years, or that somepony had been maintaining it. Or this particular machine just got lucky and didn’t really degrade. My bet was on that one. I surfed the lines a little, looking for a switch or key that would activate the MG-MS unit in the alcove and allow us to stick in ours… there! A swirl of yellow and red lines were disconnected… if I hooked them up to the main blue line that provided power… with a twitch of my magic, it was done, and on my way out, I logged the user into the diagnostic machine with the simple flick of a switch. That way Crescent could use it to help with repairs, bypassing the ‘locked out’ screen.
I opened my eyes, just in time to see the clamps unlatching from the awakening MG-MS unit. I stood in front of it, waiting for the boot sequence to finish. Crescent was already dragging MG-MS11 into position so she could hoist him into the alcove once this other robot was out.
The clamps fell away, and the other MG-MS unit moved out of the alcove under its own power.
And that’s when I realized that I had made an error.
“Ahhh… smell that fresh Equestrian air!” the unit said, floating away from the alcove. Crescent Wrench immediately, but carefully, put MG-MS11 in its place, and the repair apparatus locked in on the damaged robot. The other one continued, in an increasingly creepy voice, not like MG-MS11’s military-gruff voice. This was more like the voice I had heard some raiders talk like… the ones that liked to splay their victims open while they were still alive. “I haven’t been activated since… wow… nearly 210 years! What a nice rest… Wire? Mr. Wire? Where are you? Or how about that sweet Sunshine Daises? She up to see you again? Oh? Who… you’re not Bottom Line. Somepony has been stealing I.D. badges. You can fool the other robots, but not me… I’ve got an advanced A.I. More advanced than the others. Better. That’s my purpose. What they were testing. I know… I know…” the unit’s saw began to whirr, and its voice became more and more tilted… it sounded like somepony had used the recordings of a psychopath for this particular unit’s voice. “I know that pain will win Equestria the war! Pain from filthy zebra sympathizers like you! Now stand still! This will hurt a lot!!” It lunged at me, and I jumped back, drawing my rifle. The number on it was 14. MG-MS14… the one that Quantum Flux reported tried to saw Sunshine Daises in half…
Looks like he hadn’t changed a bit.
I fired my rifle, the bullet pinging off the chassis of MG-MS14. I could shoot at it!
“Well, yes. It isn’t living, even though it is sentient to a degree.” Mezzer said. “I’m more surprised as to why our bond classifies feral ghouls as sentient living beings. They clearly aren’t, so thou should be able to kill them.
“Would you be quiet?!” I shouted at Mezzer, dodging another swing of the buzz saw and firing again, missing entirely.
“I’ll be quiet later, darling, when I’m listening to the sweet, sweet sound of your screams!” MG-MS14 replied to me. “Don’t worry, this is a standard procedure! We’ve got to see what makes you tick! I detect surgery scars along your back, I can fix those up, just got to rip them open again!”
I jacked the lever of my rifle and went into S.A.T.S., zooming in on MG-MS14’s levitation array. It said I had a 56% chance of hitting… I needed to practice more with this thing. Even if its usefulness has dwindled since I got Mezzer, a pony still needed a bullet-slinger every now and again. I dialed in three shots and released the spell. The first shot went wide again as I was knocked back when I fired, MG-MS14 suddenly boosting forward and slamming into me. My second and third shots, however, found a nice juicy target conveniently right next to me as I lay on the ground. My telekinesis lifted my rifle up and two shots rang true, piercing the weaker armor around MG-MS14’s jets. He staggered, but didn’t fall.
“Got some fight in you, I see! Nurse! Sedate the patient! Nurse? What are you doing?! Get over here! Wait… you’re not Nurse Frozenhoof… IMPOSTER! ZEBRA SYMPATHIZER! I’M SURROUNDED BY THEM!! This will not do, starting eradication procedures.” MG-MS14 shouted, turning around, three of his four eyestalks looking squarely at Crescent Wrench. She was busy typing away at the repair station that had MG-MS11 in it, already working on him. Repair torches, rivet guns, and manipulation arms whirled around him in his little alcove, and every so often Crescent would reach into her bag or into a small supply bin next to the alcove and toss in some part or another into a hopper that whisked it away to presumably be added to the repairs. She was completely focused on it, and didn’t even seem to care that she had drawn the attention of the alcove’s former resident.
“Crescent, look out!” I shouted as MG-MS14 fired his plasma caster at her. She screamed and fell to the ground as the green bolt melted through her jumpsuit and into her shoulder. “No!” I got up off the ground and charged at the crazy robot, tackling the thing to the ground in a tangle of metal limbs and arms. The saw whirred dangerously close to my horn.
“Matchstick! Help!” I called out, punching the thing’s chassis with my Hoof of Honor, the old horseshoe denting it severely.
“Get off me you dirty little pony! IMPOSTER! Get off! When I get you on a table you’ll survive for weeks!!” MG-MS14 spouted, and I couldn’t help but feel a chill as he said it. He reminded me of a raider I had once met who had said nearly the same thing to a slave he had just bought. Not from me, from another in my group at the time… but still… maybe I should have stepped in…
“Keep thy mind on the task at hand. Mezzer oh so wisely advised.
“Wha… Coin! Crescent! Hold on!” Matchstick Flare called out from the doorway, having heeded my call.
“Help Crescent, she’s been shot!” I shouted, wrestling with the robot, trying to keep that saw arm away from me. I screamed… while I had been focusing on the saw, MG-MS14’s scalpel/manipulator arm got a hold of my rear right leg… and started tearing into it, exposing the bone in seconds.
“Yesss… scream for me, mare! Let’s see what you’re made of!” MG-MS14 sounded like he was enjoying this far too much for a robot.
A yellow hoof crushed one of MG-MS14’s eye sensors. Through the tears, I could see Matchstick Flare pounding on his chassis… I screamed again… my flank… my cutie mark!! He was cutting into it! “No! Stop!! Please!” I cried out, trying to get away… but I was tangled in a mass of metal limbs.
“This little thing will make a fine addition to my glyphmark collection!” MG-MS14 said. “And you with the severe fever, be a lamb and die from it like you’re supposed to, will you?”
“This thing is supposed to be a medic?” Matchstick sounded flabbergasted… I was focused on my flank… the sharp, cutting motions being made around it, he was skinning me! I needed to get away… do something, anything!
In desperation, I levitated my rifle up and started firing blindly at the mass that was MG-MS14, Matchstick, and I. A few times, my horn wouldn’t pull the trigger… that was when I was presumably aiming at either Matchstick Flare or myself. I heard a few pings of bullets hitting the robot when it fired, though… and the cutting stopped. I didn’t stop firing though, and focused on getting away, ratcheting the lever as fast as I could until the magazine of my gun was empty…
I was finally able to draw myself away, and I looked back. MG-MS14 was in a bad way… I had managed to shoot the manipulator arm off right at the joint by sheer luck, and Matchstick Flare had all but punched through his chassis. She was cut up the side by a now busted and crushed saw, and was raising her hoof for the final blow…
“Wait!” Crescent Wrench called out.
Matchstick paused midswing. This prompted MG-MS14 to say, “Oh? Why wait? I’m going to die a hero, protecting our fair facility from the zebra sympathizers. And I’ve been programmed to cause the most pain possible to all those who oppose Equestria, there is no way you mongrels will be able to stop me if you don’t kill me now! Do it!”
“I’m with him on this one, Crescent. Why am I waiting?” Matchstick asked.
Crescent Wrench limped over to them, sitting down, nursing her burnt shoulder. It was a pretty nasty burn, as plasma burns are usually, but she seemed to be toughing it out… which was something I didn’t expect from the little filly. Time and time again, she proved that, at least physically, she was a whole lot tougher than she looked. “I… I need to see his innards before he dies.” she said.
“A mare after my own heart!” MG-MS14 said cheerfully, despite being halfway to dismemberment. Crescent’s theory about robots feeling pain when they were damaged was on pretty shaky ground, in my opinion.
“Why?” I asked.
“I need to see how the A.I. core is hooked up… in comparison with MG-MS11. I might be able to make modifications that will make him… better.” she replied.
“Better? From him? I doubt it, this one’s a nutcase.” Matchstick said, but stepped off anyways. MG-MS14 was in no condition anymore to be able to fly, more than a few of my bullets had damaged his levitation array.
“My practice is one of the future! Through study of pain and its applications, I have found a way to make my M.E.D.I.-Gun heal faster than ever! Using less fuel too!” MG-MS14 said.
“Oh? Try and fig… ahh… figure out how that works, Crescent. Quickly…” I said, another pang from my leg and flank flaring up. I didn’t want to look… but I did anyways. My leg was split clear up from hoof to hock, the bone exposed, and skin pinned open by that wretched machine… blood trailed from the robot to me, and I felt woozy all of the sudden. It didn’t help that my PipBuck was now informing me that I had minor rad poisoning all of the sudden, not to mention the crippled leg… fantastic…
My vision blurred, but I snapped into focus when I saw the damage to my flank… oh… oh Ma, why… my cutie mark on my right side had nearly been completely skinned off, it was hanging by a thread, halfway hanging off… I gingerly moved it back where it was supposed to be, my vision blurring again…
“I figured it out! Quite a few of his safeties are off.” Crescent Wrench said. She looked up at me. “Oh my… are you okay?” she looked worried, as if this was the first time since the fight started that she had noticed my condition… which was probably the case.
“I'm… fine.” I mumbled. Which was bad, I had meant to say that louder… “What do you mean, safeties?”
“He can heal faster because he turned off the M.E.D.I.-Gun’s pain-reducing protocols. Whoever he’s healing feels every bit of it… which probably hurts real bad…” Crescent Wrench said. “But it would use less of every healing potion you put into it.”
“That’s great, we’ll keep that in mind. Now k…kill him.” I said flatly, breathing heavily.
“Um… I removed his core. He won’t be hurting anypony anymore.” Crescent said.
“So I don’t get to crush him?” Matchstick sounded upset.
“How… how soon until MG-MS11 is fixed?” I muttered. “I could… really use a heal right now.”
“Oh! He’s almost done, just got to run the last diagnostics before booting him up again.” Crescent Wrench said, smiling. Then she looked quizzically at me, “Uh… you’ll probably have to get those pins out of your leg… are you sure you’re fine?”
I laid my head on the ground. It was so soft… a little wet with red stuff, but soft… and I was so tired… Matchstick and Crescent started yelling at me… and I thought I even heard a voice in my head… I was just too tired…
I fell asleep, hearing the songs Ma used to sing to me when I was little.
Level up! (Lv. 12)
New Perk: Strong Back: All this carrying ponies and robots around has increased your carry capacity by 50 lbs!
Author’s Note: Will wonders never cease; it’s a new chapter! I tell you what, I thank every one of you who stuck with me thus far, even though I’m slower than molasses when it comes to writing. Here’s to hoping chapter 12 comes out sooner!
And now for my chapter-ly advertisement for myself! Self-promotion ho! My paypal/email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Feel free to donate, if it strikes your fancy. Lemme tell you, every bit helps a ton.
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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. Comments make the world go round, and I feed off of them more than a changling. 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, Shimmercoat, and 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!