Fallout: Equestria

by Kkat

Chapter Six: The Truth of the Matter

Chapter Six: The Truth of the Matter

“’Tis better to be alone, than in bad company.”


“My name is Scootaloo. You probably know me (since I am pretty famous) for my awesome performances at events like last year’s GALLoPS, or maybe just as the founder of Red Racer.


“None of which means a damn anymore, of course. If you’re hearing this, that means Omega-Level Threat Protocols have been enacted and you are... are now... aww, dammit!!


“Okay... right now, I’m talking to you as vice-president of Stable-Tec. You have been appointed as Overmare (or, in the case of Stable Twenty-Four, Overstallion) of a Stable-Tec life-preserving Stable. You have been chosen for your sense of loyalty and duty, both to the ponies around you and to this company. And while the Stable-Tec HQ might be... probably is... nothing but blasted rubble now, our ideals live on.

“Your Stable has been selected to participate in a vital social project. The first goal of your Stable, like all others, is to save the lives of the ponies inside. But you also have a higher purpose beyond saving the lives of individual ponies. We here at Stable-Tec understand that it doesn’t do ponykind any good to save ourselves now only to annihilate each other later. We must figure out where we went wrong. We must find a better way. And we must be ready to implement it as soon as possible once the Stable doors open. ...And survive what our current leaders have managed to do to Equestria...

“...dammit! I-I really hope no pony ever has to h-hear this. Can’t this all just be for nothing? They’re really going to destroy us all, aren’t they?...

“...I’m sorry. Again, I’m totally off script. Where was I? Oh, yeah. In short, Stable-Tec is working to ensure a more... a more Stable society for future generations.

“Inside the safe in your office, you will find a set of special instructions and objectives, as well as details on how your specific Stable has been fitted to carry out your part. If at any point, you believe that your part in the project is threatening the safety and security of the ponies in your charge... as a whole... you are to cease participation and take any necessary steps to rectify the situation. In any other circumstances, however, it is crucial that you keep to the directives provided, and keep Stable-Tec appraised of all results as per your sealed instructions.

“Thank you. From all of us. From all of Equestria...


“Thank you, and may somepony up there have pity on us all.”

*** *** ***

Not the message I had been expecting. Now my feelings about the Stables were completely twisted up in my head, and I just wanted to forget about them entirely.

“Away with the old, embrace the new, right?” I clopped my hoof on the counter again. “Apple Whiskey, another of your specials, please!”

Apple Whiskey, the bartending unicorn who owned and ran Turnpike Tavern, poured me another glass. Then, as I watched, he lined up seven apples on the counter -- beautiful golden apples quite unlike the pale and flavorless ones back not-home -- and waved his horn over them, magically transforming them one-by-one into bottles of the most delicious, pain-numbing, mind-easing fermented apple beverage. Beside me, Calamity clopped his hooves on the floor in applause and several mares in the tavern let up a whoop.

“Dunno why I was surprised,” I half-whispered, leaning near Calamity. “Your leader is a stallion, after all.”

Calamity’s ears perked up and he gave me a look of shocked confusion. “My leader? Ah don’t have a leader!” I couldn’t tell whether he sounded more offended or worried.

I hoofwaved. “I heard him. Over the sprite-bot. When it wasn’t being Watcher.”

Calamity looked at me with deeper confusion. And then broke into a too-riotous laugh. “What? Red Eye?” He turned to the rest of the bar. “Hey, everypony. LilPip here thought Red Eye was our leader!”

The whole tavern joined in on the laughter.

“Good Goddess, girl!” cried one of the mares down the counter from us, “Red Eye ain’t nothing but a puffed up prancer! Hell, Ah don’t even listen to that broadcast! Not when DJ’s on the dial!”


“Ayep,” agreed a buck from a nearby table as he gathered a pile of bottle caps from his cross-looking companions, many of whom were looking at colorful squares in disgust. “Just let ol’ Red Eye try an’ come out here and make New Appleloosa part o’ his so-called ‘new world’! Ah’ll personally take all his unity an’ brotherhood an’ shove it right up his...”

“Just deal!” the pony next to him interrupted grumpily.

“So...” I fought to shove new facts into the puzzle I was building in my head. The drinks were great for forgetting, but not so great for thinking. “...the not-Watcher voice on the sprite-bot is Red Eye, and he’s not your leader...”

“What’s this watcher stuff?” the mare closest to me asked. “Those sprite-bot’s are just radios. Red Eye can’t actually watch ponies through them. They ain’t cameras!” She turned to Calamity. “I mean, could you imagine if he could...?”

Okay, now that I knew wasn’t true. But apparently the fact those sprite-bots can be used to spy wasn’t common knowledge. Watcher had tipped me off to something.

One of the bucks from down the counter called out, “Hey, Apple Whiskey! Put DJ on!” Apple Whiskey looked up to a brown box on the top of one of the shelves which had wires running to speakers throughout the Turnpike Tavern. With a slight glow of his horn, the radio turned on, and a beautiful mare’s voice, possibly the sweetest I’d ever heard (or, at least, a close second to Velvet Remedy’s) began to pour out of the speakers.

“How did this happen? What have I done?
I was only trying to help, but I caused so much pain.
I wish I could hide. Wish I could run.
I wish I could find a way to do it all over again...”

The voice, and the song she sang, was so solemn and sad and filled with determination that it made my mind go to unhappy places. I soon felt like crying, and had to force myself not to. I figured more drink would help, so I finished mine and clopped for another.

“...I lost sight of the war while fighting my battles.
and now I carry the weight of the world on my saddle...”

Oh, this was unbearable. My heart was breaking, and I wasn’t even sure why. I grasped at a distraction, “DJ? Who is DJ?”

The answers came fast, almost too fast to keep up with. It seemed every pony in the tavern had something to say.

“DJ Pon3, of course!”

“There’s always a DJ Pon3!”

“Best music in the Equestrain Wasteland!”

“...yeah, all, what, twelve songs? Twenty?”

“He’s a ghoul pony. Been around forever.”

“No he’s not. They keep changing. Back when I was a filly, DJ was a mare!”

“Ah hear he’s a pegasus. He’s got station up in the clouds. That’s how he always knows everything what’s goin’ on.”

“That’s stupid. Everypony knows DJ Pon3’s station comes outta Tenpony Tower in the Manehatten Ruins!”

“He is too a ghoul pony! He’s been around since before the war!”

“Ah heard the original DJ Pon3 was actually a mare named Vinyl Scratch who was killed when the zebra balefire wiped Manehatten. But her nephew was spared, bein’ in Tenpony an’ all, an’ took up the mantle.”

“I heard it was her sister.”

My head was spinning. Calamity was smirking at me. Leaning close, he whinnied “There’s always a DJ Pon3.”

And in the background, the voice of seemingly infinite beauty and sadness, cried out, “How can I fix this? How many times must I try? Please, this time, let me get it right!”

The music died away. And a voice came over the radio. “This is DJ Pon3, and that was Sweetie Belle, singing about that one great truth of the wasteland: every pony has done something they regret. And now, my little ponies, it’s time for the news! Now you ponies remember when I told you ‘bout those two ponies who crawled themselves out of Stable Two? Well, I’ve been gettin’ reports that one of those little ponies took out the raider nest in the heart of Ponyville, and saved several pony captives -- including the beloved author of The Wasteland Survival Guide, Ditzy Doo! Hey kid, thanks! From all of us! And now the weather: cloudy everywhere, with a chance of rain, gunfire and bloody dismemberment...”

I didn’t really hear the rest. I was too stunned. I was on the radio. DJ Pon3 was talking about me. My heart mixed with pride and panic, the latter quickly swallowing the former. I’d been outside less than a week, and I already had a reputation that was spreading across all of the Equestrian Wasteland... a reputation that built me up into somepony far more heroic and capable than I actually was.

“…one last thing, the other Stable Dweller was last seen out near Appleloosa. My prayers go out t’ that one. And that’s the truth of the matter. Now back to the music. Here’s Sapphire Shores singing how the sun can’t hide forever. From your lips to Celestia’s ears, Sapphire!”

For a moment, everything seemed to stop. What?!? I turned to Calamity, “Near Appleloosa? I thought this was Appleloosa!”

Calamity snickered, still not done having fun with me over my wasteland ignorance. “No way, LilPip! This here’s New Appleloosa! Ya can’t have a new without havin’ an old, now can ya?” Then he quickly got serious. “Now, ya don’t wanna be goin’ anywhere near old Appleloosa, ya hear me? That’s a slaver town!”

Apple Whiskey interrupted. “Well, there’s no harm goin’ up that way t’ trade. Ah sell a good bit o’ my trademark apple whiskey to those folk.”

I was stunned. Surely he was kidding! “You… trade with slaver ponies!?”

“Ayep. In fact, got a train headed out that way on the morrow.”

I looked about with disbelief. “You trade with slavers!?!”

Calamity whispered in my ear, “Why ya think I never took up livin’ here.” It wasn’t a question.

*** *** ***

Next morning, I found myself out in the continuing downpour, staring at the train and feeling not a little guilty that I’d spent the last evening helping load the flatcars as part of my training with Crane. That evening would have gone a bit differently had I known where those goods were headed.

“Ah can’t talk ya outta this, can Ah?” Calamity stood next to me, checking the loads on his battle saddle.

My head was thudding dully -- the aftermath of too much apple whiskey -- but I was thinking clearly. I knew this was foalish, but where there were slavers, there were slaves in need of rescue. I knew part of me was just trying to live up to my overblown reputation; but I’d also been a captive of slavers, if for only a few hours, and I couldn’t just ignore the fact that there were ponies up there who needed somepony to care enough to try and help them. “No.”

“Well, then Ah’m comin’ with ya. Always wanted t’ take a shot at that damn place. Figure, if there’s two of us, might actually have a chance.”

His words left me feeling immensely relieved.

“Ah’ll talk to Ditzy Doo fer supplies. Don’t want neither of us t’ run outta ammo up there. Or food. We c’n take the train up the mountains and out over the desert, but chances are, we’ll be trottin’ back.”

I mulled that over, and suddenly realized that even if we had our own supplies, what about any ponies we rescued? And would they be in any state to make that kind of trip? Not that such questions deterred me at all. But I’d have to find a way to talk the ponies pulling the train to wait for us. As we “robbed” the town they were trading with, no less. I voiced my concern to Calamity.

“Yer gonna hafta do some fast talkin’ if ya wanna convince them o’ anything like that,” he replied, then seemed to have an idea. “Ah know somepony in town that jus’ might have whatcha need t’ pull that off!”

Calamity trotted off, leaving me staring at the train once again.

While I waited, I tried to familiarize myself with the train. Flatcars and boxcars held supplies. Passenger cars, of which this train had only one, were for carrying ponies. The fancy red car on the back and the big, bronze one with the smokestack which rode at the front were mysteries. I knew nothing about the former, and the latter I only recognized from a similar train car in the hodgepodge construction of Absolutely Everything.

Curious, I asked one of the puller ponies what those cars were for. He was happy to answer.

“That there back one, it’s called the caboose.” He pointed a hoof towards the red car in the rear. “That has the breaks. Y’see, when we go up the mountain, we have ta keep switchin’ out puller teams cuz that there’s hard work. One team pulls, one team rides and keeps a lookout fer raiders. But when we go down the mountain, every pony rides. And we use t’breaks t’ keep us from goin’ too fast.”

Now he pointed at the one in the front. “That there’s called an engine. It’s fer pullin’ the train. Although mostly we just use it for the whistle. Keeps varmints off the tracks.”

Huh? “For pulling the train? I thought you bucks pulled the train?”

“Ayep. We do.”


“Well, cuz the engine don’t work without coal. Ain’t got no coal, ain’t got no coal car even if we had it. So instead, we use pony power.”

That didn’t make any sense. “So the engine is to pull the train, but the engine can’t pull the train, so you all have to pull the train and the engine?” I had to be missing something.


Arrugh. “Okay… then why don’t you have any coal? Where’s the coal?”

The train pony rolled his eyes at me, “Oh, their ain’t any coal in Equestria.” I felt something in my head snapping. “All the coal’s in a far, far away land.”

“Then… how… was the coal… supposed to get here?”

“By train, o’ course!”

Arrugh!! That was it. I needed to stop learning about trains. They hurt my brain. This conversation had made the pounding in my head much worse!

Splashing through puddles, Calamity trotted back. After the train pony had gone back to his work, Calamity reared up and waved his forehooves around, making a mock-spooky face. “Oooooh! All the coal’s in strange far-away lands… full of zebras! oooOOOoooh!”

I stared at him non-plussed. “Done now?”

He dropped back to standing and pulled a tin out of his saddlebag, offering it to me in his teeth. I levitated it close for a look. The tin had a scratched out picture of a zebra on it.

“Those what are in there are called Party-Time Mint-als. Brewed up using Mint-als an’… well, some other stuff. Guarenteed to make ya the life o’ the party. Those things ‘ll clear up yer hangover, clear up yer head, an’ make you the smoothest-talkin’ pony in all the wasteland.”

I looked dubious. But then, I trusted Calamity, and what did I have to lose? Telekinetically opening the tin, I pulled out one of the little squares inside and put it into my mouth, chewing experimentally. I had to admit, they were tasty, although the aftertaste was kinda bitter. But I didn’t feel any different than I…


The whole world shot into stark focus. Colors became brighter and more pleasant. Even the rain seemed nicer. And my thoughts! I was thinking more clearly than I ever had. I was figuring things out I never could before. By Celestia, where had this wonderful stuff been all my life!?

I felt confident. Figuring out just what I needed to say was going to be easy. I could talk anypony into anything! And I was about to prove it!

*** *** ***

Hours later, I stared out the window of the passenger car, watching the landscape roll by. Or, at least, as much of it as I could see considering the sky had darkened and the rainfall had escalated again. Remembering rivulets running down the cliff face near Stable Twenty-Four, I prayed the storm wouldn’t cause us trouble when going up the mountain.

Talking the train ponies into waiting for us had been easy, making up for the crash when that Party-Time Mint-al wore off, leaving me feeling half-blind and horribly stupid without its help. It was all I could do not to eat another right away. In fact, I would have done so if Calamity hadn’t snatched the tin away. Even now, I cast furtive glances at his saddlebags.

Ugh. Think of something else. I tried tuning in the DJ Pon3 station; it was barely audible through a haze of static. New Appleloosa, I figured, was near the edge of good reception. I tried another station on my PipBuck, and found the music of the sprite-bots. Calamity told me to turn it off.

Staring out the window again, I found my mind drifting until it settled on, of all things, Ditzy Doo. I was wearing my utility barding, now upgraded to be effective armor thanks to the strange but cheerful pegasus ghoul. That poor pony, I thought. Seeing her home obliterated, and then turned into a rotted mockery of a normal pony and made to live with that memory for centuries. Raiders, slavers… she’d suffered at the hooves of both of them. Actually seen things that horrified me to contemplate. And as if that wasn’t enough, as a ghoul pony, it was as if she had a magical sword hanging over her brain, waiting to drop. It was amazing that she wasn’t a broken wreck of a pony. I remembered her smile, wondering how she could be happy…

And then I got it.

Calamity asked, “What’s got ya smilin’ like that alla a sudden?”

A chuckled at myself, shaking my head. “Laughter is a virtue.”

“What now?”

I smiled, holding back a laugh of my own. “Maybe not giggle-giggle laughter, and definitely not bwah-ha-ha laughter… but the kind of inside laughter that allows a pony to take everything this world throws at her and not lose… joy.” Maybe it was a little stretch to call that laughter. But it was definitely a virtue!

I turned back to the window, my own spirits somehow higher than they had been in days.

Lightning flashed outside. I gasped, jumping back from the window. I could have sworn I saw a the head of a giant pink pony, the size of an ursa major, peering at me over the hilltop, grinning.

*** *** ***

“Ya ready?” Calamity shouted through the downpour.

The train was approaching Appleloosa (old Appleloosa). Calamity and I were standing on the rain-slick roof of the passenger car, wind whipping rain into our faces and pulling at our manes and tails. I nodded.

Wrapping his forelegs around me, Calamity stretched out his wings and caught the wind. The storm snatched us up off the train, and Calamity began to steer us towards a ridge that overlooked the slaver town.

The wind buffeted us, making me fearful that we would crash, but Calamity’s course stayed true.
We landed… and I immediately slipped and fell in the mud.

Calamity barked a laugh. I shook really hard, flinging at least half of the mud onto him, and then laughed too.

But then we stopped. Virtue or not, there was a time and a place for laughter. And this wasn’t it. I floated my binoculars over to Calamity and then pulled out the sniper rifle to peer down its scope at the collection of dilapidated wooden buildings, derailed boxcars, makeshift metal structures and slave cages that made up old Appleloosa. The train was just pulling in.

Between the darkness of the storm and the distraction of the train, there would never be a better time to sneak in. Through the sniper scope, I could make out the silhouettes of guards walking along catwalks that ran between the buildings and above the cages. In the cages, I could see slave ponies laying under the pouring rain, forlorn shapes in the storm.

I felt a familiar pissed-ness taking hold.

“Calamity, you stay up here. I’m heading down in.”

“Ah didn’t come all this way t’ stay back.”

I levitated the sniper rifle to him. “You’re my cover. And my quick exit if things go bad. Unless you think you’d be better at picking those locks and I’d be better at flying you out.”

He clearly wasn’t happy, but conceded my point.

Pulling out Little Macintosh and checking to make sure it was loaded, I started down the slippery ridge. I didn’t want to have to use the gun. Not that I was feeling particularly live-and-let-live about slavers. It was just that for all the things Little Macintosh was, it wasn’t quiet.

*** *** ***

I was most of the way to the first set of cages when a flash of lightning illuminated the landscape starkly. If it hadn’t, I would have been dead a moment later. As it was, I was merely screwed.


All around the cages, the fucking slavers had scattered mines. The rain had washed away the dirt covering some of them, the orange metal casings reflecting the flash of light. There were surely more, but I had no idea how many. Or where.

After my session with Crane, I was much better at self-levitation. But that only got me to the fence. I was far less confident that I would have the power to levitate all the slaves to safety.

“Hey, who’s there?” A voice out of the darkness, a slaver pony. I wasn’t the only pony to have seen something in that flash of light. Dammit!

I scooted, moving as stealthily as I could. I hated to leave the slave pens, but I needed more time. If I shot, I’d bring the whole place down on me. If I tried to take out a slaver pony with my hooves, I knew he’d be able to call for help before I took him down. So, instead, I decided to hide, slipping into the nearest shack.

I immediately regretted it. The shack was only a few rooms, and from the one upstairs, I could hear what I really hoped was two slaver ponies going at it. I felt both embarrassed and disgusted.

Trying not to make a sound, I looked about for a place to hide. I didn’t want to be standing right inside the door if that guard pony decided to take a peek into the shack. I also started peeking in boxes. I knew this was stealing, not just scavenging, but these ponies stole other ponies, so I didn’t figure they had any standing to complain.

With screwdriver and booby pin, I didn’t even spare the lockbox I found in the next room. Sitting inside, I found something… unique. A little totem. A statuette of an orange pony with yellow mane and tail, poised in mid-buck. What struck me was the three apple cutie mark, identical to the mark on Little Macintosh. I floated it close to read the inscription on the base (Be Strong!) and felt a surge of magical energy.

I’m not sure what it did but… I actually felt stronger! Not just physically, but in confidence. Slipping the statuette into my saddlebags, I finished my looting and…

The door banged open. “There you are!”

I whipped around, sliding into the comfort of S.A.T.S., and fired two shots into the pony -- one in the head and one in the chest -- before he could reach me to pummel me with his spike-shod hooves.

The sound carried. Immediately, the two ponies above stopped their intercourse and came charging down the stairs. Only one of them had stopped to grab a firearm.


Little Macintosh roared like thunder. The slaver pony with the gun never even got a shot off. I reloaded as quickly as I could. Luna dammit! Well, I was in it now.

*** *** ***

Fire blasted past me as I dove behind a rock.

A flamethrower! This fucker was attacking me with a flamethrower!

“Oh, I smell roasted pony for dinner,” snarled the slaver with a flamethrower battle saddle. “How about a little barbecue!?” I was seriously hoping he was just being awful, that these ponies weren’t so depraved as to actually eat other ponies!

Lightning flashed. Thunder boomed above me. I ran for the cover behind a crazily-tilted boxcar. Flame whooshed out behind me, catching my tail! With a yelp, I thrashed at a nearby puddle with it until the flames disappeared. Ow. Ow. Ow.

“Come out, come out, wherever you are!”

Cringing back, I brought out the combat shotgun. Little Macintosh had finally run out of bullets five dead slavers ago. Two of those had been unicorn slavers wielding shotguns, and now I was in no danger of running out of shotgun shells any time soon.

The flamer slaver stepped around the corner and got a faceful. He went down hard.

Swiftly, I took what I wanted from the body, leaving the battle saddle behind. I had neither the natural aptitude nor the professional training to use a battle saddle and I didn’t need that kind of weight slowing me down. I looked around nervously for more attackers.

Including the pony with the flamethrower and the three back in the first shack, I’d put down a total of nine slavers. A lot, but by no means a town’s worth. I was surprised that all the gunfire wasn’t drawing a lot more attention. The thunderstorm might account for much of that, and these guys seemed to have a level of stupefying ego that prevented them from just running to get more help. But there had to be more at play than dumb luck, dumber slavers and the weather!

Battling the slaver guards was pushing me closer to the huge multi-story barn at the heart of town. There was a lot of light pouring out from the windows, and a lot of noise. As I drew closer, I could hear music. I checked my PipBuck, but old Appleloosa appeared out of the range of every station except one, the sprite-bot station. (How that station covered everyplace, I had no idea. Although I suspected the sprite-bots themselves might actually be acting as relays too.) This music, however, was not that music.

Going in the front door would have surely been death. But creeping up the catwalks to a second-floor entrance proved safe. I tried to slip in quietly, but the moment I had cracked the door open, the wind flung it wide with a crash. I cringed. Then poked my head inside. The room was empty. Of ponies, at least. It was crammed with broken furniture and old filing cabinets. Bottle caps, ammo, and packages of cigarettes were in several of the cabinets; they found a new home in my saddlebags. I didn’t smoke, and had no intention of starting. But I could sell the packs to Ditzy Doo, who would resell them to the surprising number of Appleloosians who did.

A door towards the far end opened onto a balcony. From there I could see the manticore’s share of the room was a wide open saloon, packed with ponies who were drinking, gambling and watching the performance on a stage directly below me. The balcony ringed the saloon, and there were guard ponies walking around it in a pattern. They were focusing on the chaos below and hadn’t spotted me. Yet.

Wait! I… I recognized that voice! Crouching flat on the balcony floor, I poked my head over the edge to see the singer.

Velvet Remedy!

Footnote: Level Up.
New Perk: Mighty Telekenesis (level two) – You triple the mass that you can levitate with your unicorn magic. Effects are cumulative with Mighty Telekenesis level one, which is required in order to take this perk.