Chapter 16: Push It To The Limit
“Good evening to all of you faithful listeners out there, and welcome to New Pegasus Radio, the station with the best music west from Hoofer Dam! I am your host, Mister New Pegasus, welcoming you to another entire hour of tunes and good vibes for all of you to enjoy! We have been listening to a rare jewel of our days, a faceoff between Dino Maretino and Swinging Voice, the two star crooners of the Clops and the Platinum Horseshoe, recorded live from the Grand Concert Hall of the Ferratura Casino!
You know, despite all the rivalry between the two facilities, rumour has it that the two artists are really good friends and that they share many moments together. At New Pegasus Radio we have heard many times that the two crooners, together with the zebra soloist Sunny Daybreak Junior, are willing to form a travelling band that will bring cheer to every end of the Neighvada Territory! We hope that this comes to fruition, folks, for every single music-loving pony will enjoy the gathering of these glorious singers in one meltdown of melody!
Let’s move to other less joyful matters, I’m afraid. Last night, unrest and chaos has broken loose in New Pegasus and Freedom Field. Around dusk, the Ferratura Family published an official statement in which they blamed Full House and his group of being behind the murder of Sandmound Ferratura, and decided to start a punitive action against the Platinum Horseshoe and the interests of its owner. At this very moment, the New Pegasus Strip has turned into a battlefield, in which House’s robot ponies and the Ferraturas’ hired guns are fighting for supremacy. From New Pegasus Radio we issue the following warning: stay in your homes, close the doors and windows and avoid getting close to the Strip.
In another fairly incomprehensible move, the Ferratura goons have attacked both the NPPD and the NER embassy, under the accusation of having conspired to crown Full House as the leader of New Pegasus, with the connivance of the Republic authorities. This will surely bring negative consequences to our city, as soon as the New Equestrian Republic deploys military forces back in Neighvada to deal with this uprising.
The situation doesn’t look much better in Freedom Field, either. Not so long ago, an internal conflict was threatening to break an all out war between the factions, but the work of unknown diplomats turned that potential turmoil into a peaceful and prospering community. However, the riots of last night have also spread to our neighboring township, as Ferratura forces have taken over the gate and have tried to storm the city and seize control of its governing facilities. We have no certain news of what is happening in there, but apparently the local gangs have organized a working resistance against the invader.
Outside the walls, things keep being pretty much the same as they were before the riots: the NER has moved away from Neighvada, leaving a small contingent behind to enact guard duty, but rumour has it that part of the Republican Army has turn around and begun its path back to New Pegasus, in order to enforce the law in town. From this little place I have in the waves, I would like to ask for common sense. Whatever these riots strive to obtain, it will be crushed as soon as the NER enters the walls and takes out the mob forces. Our unity makes us strong and independent. Please, let’s keep it that way.
Now that I have sent my plea, let’s return to the music for those of you who are at home, listening. We have heard some pretty new stuff, now let’s return to some classics, shall we? We all know Sweetie Belle had a prodigal career as a solo singer, but she did some collaborations as well! I bring you, probably, the best voice in the Old World; together with, probably again, the best string player in all of Old Equestria: Octavia! Enjoy the music, keep safe, and remember, you are listening to New Pegasus Radio, and I am your host, Mister New Pegasus, speaking directly to your souls…”
My whole body was in pain, once again. It was nothing too heavy, just a feeling of pulsating discomfort echoing up and down in every muscle, but it was enough to keep me from having a relaxing sleep. I had no idea where I was at the moment, but considering that I felt a soft and fuzzy surface beneath my body instead of a cold and hard one, I guess I could give me the pleasure of relaxing for a little while… if it hadn’t been for that constant burden.
I remembered having fought three Ferratura mercenaries in the basement of the Platinum Horseshoe, a present of the two brothers who, obviously, wanted me out of the picture for a reason I still couldn’t even fathom. I had managed to take the three out, but I hadn’t been able to avoid the attack from Full House’s security system, who had zapped me cold from behind. That being the case, I was surprised not to have been tied to a stake or chained to some torture mechanism.
I opened my eyes and let them get used to the level of brightness in the room. I had no idea how long I had been unconscious, but it had been long enough to make my weary eyes burn out the very moment I unrolled my eyelids. Once I was able to see, I found myself in a round chamber, with metal plated walls and a glass dome on the ceiling open towards the evening sky, covered as usual in clouds. I was starting to get an idea of where I had been taken to.
Overall, the decoration of the room was quite functional, although it didn’t lack style or taste. Despite the cold metal walls, every now and then a painting or a photograph had been hung from it in order to break the monotony of grey tones that encircled the viewer. Most of the works exposed in the bedroom were quite modern and abstract, whereas the pictures showed common scenes of pre-War Las Pegasus, such as entire chariots of tourists unloading at the front gates of the Casinos, or renowned artists such as Octavia playing at a concert hall.
The rest of the furniture employed didn’t overwhelm, for good or bad. A large bed presided the place, made of bright wood and a thick mattress. I couldn’t deny the fact that it was comfortable, as I had been lying there for a good time, as far as I knew. A pair of wardrobes contained all kinds of masculine clothing, such as suits, trousers, shirts, ties and jackets, the entirety of them in a surprisingly good quality, taking into account that there were very few tailors working in New Pegasus.
I had grown convinced that I had to be at the top of the spire of the Platinum Horseshoe, considering that I was in a round compartment, with a clearly recognizable decorative style, with the added fact that it was a high floor, since I had an unhindered view of the sky. The reason of why I was there instead of lying on a dungeon was far beyond me. I couldn’t understand Full House’s motives, nor could I know what his plans were. Even if he was still responsible for Stuka’s death, reason for which I couldn’t just let him go unpunished, I found it surprising that he had spared my life, where the Ferratura brothers had tried to kill me.
I looked through the room for more clues on my captor’s identity or personality, but there was nothing to be found. Everything seemed strangely impersonal, even fake, as if each element I came across had a reason to be there yet it failed to convey any sense of realism. Every suit was carefully conserved, hung and folded together in a level of care close to perfection, but they looked all too new to have been worn by anypony. Cufflinks, watches and tie pins shone in their cases, but it didn’t seem as if they hadn’t been used in the recent time. A large classic radio was standing on top of a bureau table, but it hadn’t been tuned to the working stations, as it only spewed static when I turned it on.
“Who is Full House?” I mumbled, remembering the graffiti I had seen when leaving the Stable. The question seemed quite appropriate, from the looks of things.
I walked towards the room door, which opened with a hissing sound, leading me to a ring-shaped chamber that encircled the whole bedroom in a single entity. The glass ceiling I had seen before spanned onto that hall as well, curving down as it turned from roof to side wall, all in a piece of the same thick glass. I couldn’t help whistling in admiration, and I had to admit that whoever had engineered such a place was a seriously bright pony.
For the first time, I noticed the silence that floated in the air. Such lack of any kind of noise was unnerving. In the Wasteland, total silence meant actual danger, and I had all my senses in full alert, even if I had my E.F.S. working and I was standing in a closed environment. One could never be careful enough, not after having survived an ambush just to have been captured the moment after.
I descended a small staircase and found myself in the middle of a small living room, a pair of couches and sofas distributed around a low-rise table, with a TV monitor in one end and a radio on the other, as well as a wooden bar with cupboards full of glasses and bottles. In other times, that would have been a magnificent spot to see the sunset or the sunrise, while having a cup of coffee or a cocktail, depending on the mood and the time of the day. At that time, it looked alien, like a set for a holomovie.
I kept on walking along the ring-shaped chamber, leaving the lounge aside and crossing a dividing wall into a less glamorous part of the spire: what looked to be like a large control room, with an enormous screen that blocked all the glass windows and a multitude of keyboards and control panels spanning across the room. Also, there was a door that appeared to be an elevator out of the top of the spire. I appreciated the hospitality, but I had no will to stay, so I pressed the button.
“Going somewhere, Farsight?” A voice echoed in the hall.
“Who the FUCK is there?” I roared, partly angry and partly scared. I was quite nervous, with all the silence and the uncanny feeling that place gave me, and a sudden voice out of nowhere was not the best to calm me down.
“I hate it when ponies sneak up on… what in Celestia’s blazing socket?”
I turned around to see that the gigantic screen on the glass wall had lit up, showing the face of a middle-aged unicorn stallion with a gently cut mane, combed backwards and held together with a respectable quantity of gel. Since the screen was black and white (or more precisely, light green and black), I couldn’t tell which colours his fur or hair had, only that his coat was bright and his mane was dark. Also, he wore a pencil moustache over his muzzle, making him look dandy and… aged.
“I hadn’t heard that one before.” The voice spoke, even if the picture didn’t move. It wasn’t live feed, then. “I’ll have to note it down.”
“Who are you?” I asked the question, even if I was quite certain of the answer.
“Don’t you already know?” The voice showed some enjoyment. “I expected more from you, Farsight.”
“That means we’re going to play guess, then?” I shrugged. “Fine, Full House, have it your way.”
“Good, good.” Full House laughed subtly. “So you did know who I am.”
“I didn’t, but there weren’t many possible alternatives, given the place where I’m standing.”
“Tell me, what do you think of it?” House asked.
“It’s impressive, I’ll give you that.” I replied sincerely, as there was no danger on telling the truth for once. “Quite a work of engineering.”
“I know, right?” House’s voice became proud. “It cost me quite a lot of money, but the result is always the same: pure amazement.”
“Still, it would be more welcoming if you didn’t have everything so underused. It feels like I’ve been the only one here in a very long time.”
“Yes, it’s a pity that I haven’t been able to enjoy my own little haven.” House sighed in resignation. “Alas, the life of a businesspony is like a massive machine that needs to keep on moving not to break down, and these last months have required my attention in body and soul… Someday I will be able to disengage from my obligations as a manager and then I will make use of the facility I commissioned up there.”
“I sincerely hope you’re able.” I lied blatantly. “Just tell me, House, I don’t think you’ve brought me here to discuss your real estate, right?”
“Always jumping straight to conclusions, huh, Farsight?”
“We all have our busy lives, House. Mind if I call you House?” I grinned.
“Go ahead…” House sighed. “You know, that’s the problem with having a two-word name these days. Everypony addresses you with one of them, so I’m either Full or House, but never Full House. It gets to my nerves.”
“It’s quicker, though.” I shrugged. “And for a long conversation like the one I’m assuming we’re going to have, I’d go for the easy option.”
“Fine, fine.” House’s tone became a little dreary. “Young ponies these days… Anyway, lucky you, Farsight, since you won’t suffer the same problem I face everyday.”
“Don’t get me wrong, House. I don’t mean any sort of disrespect towards you. If you prefer, I shall address you by your full name.”
“Never mind, Farsight.” House huffed. “You’ve made your point, and I think I will be able to live with that… Now, where were we? Oh, yes!” House giggled and his voice became unctuous. “The reason why you’re here at the moment.”
“Pretty please.” I frowned.
“You know, my blue friend, that you’ve caused quite an impression?”
“It’s not the first time I’m told that very same phrase.” I remembered Delvio’s background check at the Clops. If Full House intended to pull that very same trick on me, he would have no luck.
“I’m very sure of that, Farsight. After all, you’re not like the rest of the ponies.”
“Really.” I coughed. “What makes me so different?”
“Farsight, Farsight, Farsight.” House’s patronizing tone was quite irritating. I had to force myself to keep calm and let him do the talking. “I’ve got my fair share of years on my hooves, and I’ve seen a lot of ponies come and go. Las Pegasus has always been a magnet for ponykind, now and before.”
I noticed that he used ‘Las Pegasus’ instead of ‘New Pegasus’. Odd.
“Studying other ponies has been my job and my hobby.” House continued. “I’ve read them like books, extracting any tiny bit of information from their stance, their way of acting, their way of speaking… My job as a Casino manager required me to know everything about my customers, both actual and potential, in order to adapt and offer them the best service in town. That is how I managed to climb to the top. In the meantime, I learned to like doing that, and I enjoyed every new encounter as a way to know more.”
“That’s praiseworthy.” I yawned. “Sorry.”
“And you know what?” House hadn’t even paid attention at my impolite yawn. “I saw many differences, but there was a common trait shared by more than the 90 percent of the folks I met. They had their established lives and interacted with a very limited circle of ponies. Imagine the world as a large pond of clear and still water. Every pony I met was like a small pebble thrown to the pond. It would generate some small waves drifting away from it, but soon enough they would dissipate and disappear. You, on the other hoof, my friend, are a total anomaly; one of your kind.”
“How am I supposed to read that?” I grunted, uncomfortable with the show Full House was giving me.
“You are no pebble thrown to the pond. You are a large rock that crashes onto the water and creates a colossal tidal wave. You change governments, take some leaders down and crown others, and conspire to take your place in the scheme of things; while keeping in the safety of the shadows. History hasn’t seen many like you around, but when one appears, the face of the world changes forever.”
“Thanks for the compliment, House.” I smiled ironically. “I had never been called an anomaly before.”
“I meant no offence, if that is what worries you.” House’s voice tried to show kindness.
“There are more worrisome things than your possible verbal offences, House.” My voice sounded cold and cutting. “For example, the attack you launched on Freedom Field.”
“The attack? Oh, you mean that.” House grunted. “I didn’t like that mare at all, coming here so cockily, demanding me to aid her in her quest to recover what was rightfully hers.”
“Then why did you help her?”
“Me, helping her?” House laughed, leaving me totally confused. “No, Farsight, you got that wrong. I would have never helped her.”
“Then how come your goons were the ones conducting the assault?”
“Farsight, you should have already noticed that I don’t rely on goons to do that kind of job. I have my trusted roboponies for that.” House sighed. “When miss Swallow tried to crowbar some help out of me, I sent Rocky Shade to fetch a bunch of lousy hired guns from the gutter; I gave them guns and bardings and sent them to be killed. I was expecting you to find them and stop them before anything happened, and so you did.”
“There was one casualty, you know.” I grunted, my teeth clenched in anger at House’s attitude.
“Oh, yes. Stuka Talonblade, former Talon member and bodyguard of Saddle Buckmare. A worthy individual, it was a real shame that she had to die like that.” House’s voice showed true remorse. “Trust me, I regret not having shot Golden Swallow in the face the very moment she came to me.”
“You won’t expect me to believe those words, will you?” I grunted.
“Of course not. That doesn’t keep them from being the truth, though. What you do with my word is a completely different matter.” House’s voice sounded stern and even sincere. Could he actually be telling what really happened?
“Actually…” I steered those thoughts away. “There is something more in which you have made my life difficult.”
“I guess it involves your banishment and your citizenship.”
“You guess right.”
“Once again, I find myself in need to ask for forgiveness.” House sounded to be ashamed. “I should never have let you be exiled to Freedom Field, had I known what you would become in such a short period of time.”
“How obliging of you.” I grinned sarcastically. “One could have said that you even like me.”
“You mention it as if it were something outrageous.”
“It is outrageous.” I growled. “You have been a constant nuisance in my life, forcing me to take the hard way towards my goals, and yet you tell me that you have grown fond of me? Don’t make me laugh.”
“I did have the feeling that you would react like this. However, I have admitted my past mistakes towards you, and I believe you should show me a bit of mercy, in all fairness.”
“Fine.” I grumbled. “Let me hear what you have to say. I would be as stubborn as some bucks I’ve met in the world if I didn’t give you a chance. I will have to leave my feelings aside for a moment, but I warn you: don’t expect much from me, apart from what I’m already showing you.”
“A bit of patience is the only thing I ask for.” House’s voice became obliging and mellifluous once again. “You might not have noticed it, but I have been watching you for a long time now, Farsight.”
“What, are you going to do the same thing Delvio did yesterday?” I showed my teeth with malice. “That’s an old trick already, House.”
“Ah, yes, Delvio Ferratura. A brilliant mind, but devoted to a lost cause. His nephew could have changed the status quo, but with him dead and with Verrazano in charge, they are destined to be history in a matter of time. Too bad, I really liked the young buck.”
“What do you mean by saying that you really liked the young buck? You mean Sandmound?”
“Of course I mean Sandmound. I invited him twice to chat with me in the very place you are today, Farsight. Naturally, I did it without his family’s consent or knowledge, but he agreed gladly to join me for a cup of tea. We discussed many matters: politics, economy in the Wasteland, possible trades with the NER, sending aid to the caravaneers… Overall, he was a very polite and well educated colt, and he could have driven the Ferratura Family to a level of prosperity never known to that point. It was a real disgrace what happened to him.”
“Do you mean you didn’t have him killed?” I asked, baffled. That was a turn of events that I had never expected. I had considered the possibility of Full House not being the culprit, but I guess that my intent to profit from the case had clouded my sense of judgment. It had been a mistake from my side.
“Me?” House laughed. “I would never have done such an atrocity. Not because I have any regrets about having ponies killed, that is part of the routine; but Sandmound was valuable. He was… a chosen one, in some sorts. His fate was to elevate New Pegasus to a new age of glory, but that destiny was cut short by somepony else. What brings you to think that?”
“N-nothing.” I grumbled, feeling out of place.
“I see. That’s why you were here, right? You tried to convince the Ferratura Brothers to send a scouting patrol against me, and they betrayed you as soon as you set foot in the Horseshoe.”
“More or less.”
“Well, at least you didn’t get pummeled by them. I have to give you praise for your ability with the rifle.”
“You didn’t have to zap me to bring me here, though.”
“Ugh.” House grunted, and I swear I could picture a facehoof associated. “You know what, that’s the problem with roboponies. They lack subtlety. They can’t think for themselves, which would have been good in this case, because I doubt that you would have offered any kind of resistance.”
“I would have had little choice.” I shrugged.
“You see, roboponies are programmed to do simple tasks. ‘Disarm intruder’ can be done in many ways, depending on the circumstances. I would have suggested an invitation to join me, at gunpoint of course. However, their circuitry always assumes the intruder is hostile and zaps him.”
“I hardly believe that’s the limit when it comes to robotic intelligence.”
“Believe me, I know my share of experiments that have gone wrong. The current boundary is set by the circuitry; more complex operations would need more complex systems, and we can’t either develop or produce them. There have been trials of attaching pony brains to electronic platforms, but there has been little luck. The death toll of the brains is huge, and among those who survive, many suffer damage from the organic-inorganic interface. In a nutshell, we won’t be going nowhere anytime soon.”
“Lovely lecture. Still, I don’t see why you would bring me here.”
“Farsight, Farsight, Farsight.” Again that patronizing tone. “I have been watching you for a long time now. I let you go once, when you came offering yourself as a cheap employee for my Casino, still dressed in your Stable 188 jumpsuit. Tell me, do you feel homesick? At night, do you remember the coziness of your bed in your little, secure and perfect world?”
“My life down there was far from perfect, House.” I winced. “I was a loner and a freak for the rest of the Dwellers. It’s true that my exile was a very traumatic moment, but in the end, I think my life has become… better.”
“Yes, it’s fairly common that outcasts say that… Brass Badge, Tracker, as well as many others. It’s funny how Stables were built to preserve life and welfare, and how in the end they destroy their inhabitants, physically or psychologically.”
“I hardly consider myself psychologically destroyed, thank you very much.”
“Because you aren’t, Farsight. You are strong, and you have proven that. The death toll in Freedom Field is very high, especially for newcomers; even for those who come from the Wasteland. Muggers, bandits, bar fights… you name it, but chances are that you might end lying on a pool of your own blood while some dickwad is wasting your money in whores and booze. Yet, you survived. You quickly grasped where to go, where not to put your nose in; who to trust and who to shun. You became dextrous with guns and strong in your magic, and you set off for adventure in the Wasteland.”
“Isn’t that what everypony does?” I disregarded his speech.
“In the end, yes.” House laughed. “But it usually takes them a lot longer than what it took you.”
“The only thing you can extract from my trajectory is that I am a quick learner.”
“Are you? The world is full of ponies who want to travel the Wastes but can’t move away from the comfort and routine of a city, like Freedom Field. The Wasteland is not a place for weaklings, it eats them alive. An abandoned Stable is not a welcoming place, even for the weathered travelers.”
“How do you know I got into a lost Stable?”
“I have knowledge of all things that happen in New Pegasus, and of most of those that do in Freedom Field. Besides, Water Talismans don’t appear by magic, one must search them in the place they were implanted.”
“OK, fair enough. It’s logical that somepony found out about it.”
“It is indeed. You should know that I’ve got eyes and ears almost everywhere, and that I caress such information. How else could I have known that you were already working for Dee Cleff when you first left for the Wasteland?”
“I think I will stop acting surprised for every fact of my life you reveal.” I shrugged. “Just to economize my energies, you know.”
“Do as you wish, Farsight. It won’t change the fact that you’ve thrived with every step you’ve taken out there. The NER could have been a bite too big to swallow, but apparently you managed to impress them as well. I wonder what you offered them, but I think I can guess… you opened the gates of Freedom Field for them, did you?”
“Not really. I just was the middle-pony in the negotiations. I only had to piss Goldie enough to destabilize her alliance with Saddle Buckmare, and from there things went smoothly until the bitter end.”
“Bitter?” House whispered. “Why bitter? You got what you wanted, didn’t you?”
“Yes. But at an unbearable cost.”
“Stuka, of course. Once again, my condolences. I was quite surprised that you two developed such a relationship together, but I will have to admit that miss Talonblade wasn’t your usual griffin mercenary. I know that no words of mine will replace her loss, but please, take my apologies for what they are, sincere and deep.”
“I will, but out of politeness. I don’t trust you enough to accept your excuses just like that.”
“However, didn’t you enact your vengeance over Goldie, as you call her? Didn’t you cast all your rage upon her, giving you a certain closure and satisfaction?”
“Justice was made.” I grunted.
“No. You took revenge. That’s how it goes, Farsight. You can’t be the judge and part of the accusation; but I won’t get into an argument about such technicalities. I want you to look at yourself and to compare what you see with what you were when you surfaced in New Pegasus. You are a fully different pony, weathered by the worst of the Wasteland but keeping one of the brightest minds in perfect use. You are a well-oiled political machine that can restructure all the levels of power in this world. You are the anomaly.”
“Yes, so what?” I was starting to like House’s way of speaking. It had something charismatic, something of utter attraction that made me feel good. “Where do you go from here?”
“I’ve been trying to contact you ever since you crossed the gates. However, you always do a fine job avoiding my roboponies, and I didn’t want any unwanted eyes or ears snooping on our meeting.”
“You should already know what I think about your metal minions, House.”
“Yes, and I don’t blame you.” House sighed. “After what you’ve been through, it’s logical that you’ve grown a certain level of caution against them. Still, as I told you, I pursued you up and down the Strip, but you always managed to go one step ahead… until you came right into my lair. In the end, you have made things easy for me, Farsight. Very easy.”
“Remind me to punish myself for it.”
“Why should you?” House laughed. “It has given me the chance of getting to know you.”
“And that sudden interest in me?”
“I told you, you are a unique element in New Pegasus, and probably in the Wasteland. Your abilities have been thoroughly proven, and there is no doubt that you hold enough potential inside you to become somepony great. You just need proper guidance.”
“Are you offering to be my mentor?” I grinned. Such a proposal had never gone through my mind.
“It’s not a matter of mentoring you.” House’s tone switched to a certain nostalgia. “I told you that I’ve taken pride in my ability to read ponies like books, in catching every bit of information they displayed in their words and actions. That ability made me what I am today, that skill built this place and gave me my wealth and power. You, on the other hoof, have shown another ability that goes beyond mine: you can read ponies, and you can… rewrite them, so to speak. Make them think what you want them to think, railroad them towards a situation you have engineered before. I want you to join me, Farsight, and together, we shall bring prosperity and glory to New Pegasus, and beyond!”
“Wasn’t that supposed to be Sandmound’s doing?” I asked, remembering his speech.
“Yes, it was; but the strings of fate took him away. However, that very fate brought you into play, and I honestly think that you are far better suited for the job than the deceased Ferratura heir.”
“I lack his family ties, though.”
“But you excel in diplomacy and politics, my young friend!” House sounded as if he was prancing. “There is nothing you won’t be able to do. Think about it, Farsight. You have been worried for your survival and your well-being ever since you were cast out. It’s logical to do that, and it’s what all of us work to do every single day. I am offering you the chance of your lifetime, the opportunity to forget about surviving and to set your mind onto higher goals.”
“Do you?” I liked what I heard. “What do you want in return, House?”
“I want you to help me take over the Ferratura Family. I want you to lead my armies against those who oppose me, no matter whether it’s the Don, the NER or Celestia herself who wants to stop our glorious crusade.”
“I guess that’s something… that I should carefully consider.” I smiled. “Losing my freedom is not something to be taken lightly.”
“Who says you would lose your freedom?” House laughed kindly. “I’m not asking for your serfdom, Farsight; I’m proposing an alliance. The two of us, together and freely, pushing towards domination.”
I took a deep breath to think. House’s proposal was juicy and apparently harmless. Having a chance to forget about our daily worries and living a life of bigwigs was what I had been fighting for, and I had it in my hoof’s reach. I just had to agree and it would all be done. Suddenly, a large explosion rocked the building and the lights went off for a second, as well as the screen. The buzz of static coming from my PipBuck filled the room… apparently, the tremor had activated my radio.
“...Farsight! Farsight! Can you hear me?” It was Rose’s voice!
“Farsight, thank Celestia! Where are you?”
“I’m on the top floor of the Horseshoe Spire.”
“What happened to you?” Rose’s voice was almost covered by the sound of bullets.
“Long story! Was that a bullet?” I screamed.
“Yes, we’re held up at the NPPD, and things are getting ugly! House’s roboponies have started firing at random folks, and they’re trying to overrun us!”
“Yes, the Ferratura goons started attacking, but now they’ve been forced into some fortified spots down the Strip, apart from the Clops. Also, I think that both parties have taken the battle down to Freedom Field. What are you doing up there?”
“I’m being kept prisoner here by Full House. He’s being very… seductive.”
“Believe none of his words!” Rose yelled. “Whatever he’s up to, he’s not to be trusted! Be very careful, Far…”
The radio turned off as suddenly as it went on, but Rose’s words echoed in my head. Indeed, I had let myself be dazzled by House’s proposals, but while he was trying to convince me he had launched his robots to enforce his will over New Pegasus. So much politics needed for that.
“Sorry for that little inconvenience.” House was back on the screen. “The radio inhibitor system took a bit of a beating with that blast. Where were we?”
“Discussing your proposal, House. I told you I found it interesting, but I needed a bit of time to think about it.”
“And? Have you reached a decision?” House sounded eager.
“Before we get to that, House… what happened with the politics and the diplomacy?”
“I don’t understand what you mean.”
“House, if you needed me so badly to help you bring peace and prosperity to New Pegasus, why did you send your robots to trample over everypony?”
“My robots?” House tried to fake a tone of surprise. “They will be responding to the attack launched by the Ferraturas, I suppose.”
“The Ferraturas don’t hide in the NPPD building, and I’ve heard a report of an assault from your bots against the station. I don’t know what you are machinating, House, but don’t count me in.”
“I see.” House’s tone grew cold and menacing. “You do understand that the city is on the verge of chaos, with the Don’s ponies attacking both us and the NER. You are aware of what this will bring upon the city if we don’t act properly and soon.”
“Yes, I am fully aware of that, but I doubt that your decision has been the correct one to deal with that problem. I don’t like where I fit in your scheme of things, so I am afraid to tell you that I will have to decline your offer.”
“Farsight, think about what you are doing. You are making a big mistake by crossing me… something I will make you regret the rest of your life. At this very moment, many of your beloved ones are in danger, and I am the only one that can save them from such danger.”
The screen flickered and several pictures of Rose, Dee, Nadyr or even Ampera appeared in it, surrounding House’s static image, which hadn’t changed in our entire conversation.
“I will make this simple for you, Farsight. Join me and they will live, and I promise that nothing or nopony will harm them. Leave, and I shall destroy them without mercy. I have guns pointing at every single one of them, and I only need to issue the order. It’s your responsibility, Farsight. Choose wisely.”
Any other pony would have backed up and joined him. Any other pony would have felt fear and danger, and would have given up his free will to save those he loved. Any other pony would have believed Full House’s words as if Celestia herself had revealed them to him only. However, I was no any other pony, and I had spoken enough to Full House to notice that he was bluffing. He had nothing, and he was pulling off a desperate measure to keep me on a leash.
“Good bye, House.” I bowed. “You lost your chance.”
I turned around and pushed the elevator button, causing the machinery to start moving.
“Mark my words, Farsight. You will rue the day you chose to turn my offer down.”
“Don’t put all your caps into it, House, or you might get broke.”
The elevator door opened and I walked inside, calmly. Nopony was going to threaten me from the other side of a screen.
*** *** ***
The elevator hummed dimly as it plummeted down the spire axis. As soon as the doors closed, I had activated the PipBuck radio, trying to contact Rose once again, but there was nothing more in the waves than static. Her call had been a really lucky coincidence, for I had been really close to selling my soul to Full House, who was a bit of a devil.
It would have been a betrayal to all what I had done until then, but he had bewitched me so much that I had been unable to see it clearly. After all, I had moved driven by survival first, and by dignity second. When I got into New Pegasus, my ambition rocketed and I saw myself daydreaming about the possibility of ruling over a casino and being worshipped as a wise and valuable ruler. Besides, that would let me put all my wealth in motion, since I couldn’t use my gold without fear of being noticed and robbed.
However, giving in to House’s demands would have been a mistake and a letdown to all the ponies that had ever believed in me. It would have meant a disrespect to Stuka’s memory and a failure to Rose, Nadyr or even Dee. I had taken my decisions freely, without any restraint, and with full responsibility. No matter what House had promised me, he wouldn’t pay his dues. After all, I had seen what he was up to.
He had an army in the making, and he was preparing to use it. The attack the Ferraturas had launched was the perfect excuse to let his robots loose and take over the city, turning him into the de facto king of Neighvada, since the NER army was either at the other side of the Divide or beyond Hoofer Dam, and House would be able to entrench himself and use the population as a shield.
I had my rifle ready, hovering close to me, since I expected a rough welcome once the elevator hit the ground floor. I had no doubt that House would have issued an order against me, and that all the robots I came across would fix me as a priority target. In the meantime, I kept fiddling with the PipBuck radio knob, trying to find a voice among the static.
“Wheee…bzzz...whoooo…beeeep!” The radio emitted incoherent sounds until suddenly, the static broke. “Hello? Farsight? Anypony?” Rose’s voice spoke through the transponder.
“Rose? Can you hear me?” I yelled.
“Farsight! What happened? I found you and lost you so quickly…”
“Full House had a radio inhibitor system installed in the top of the spire. A sudden explosion outside disabled it for a minute.”
“Where are you now?”
“In the elevator of the Horseshoe Tower, heading down to the ground floor. What about you?”
“We’re pinned down in the NPPD, but we are fine.” Rose tried to be calm, although she was naturally stressed. “There are plenty of guns and ammo here to resist.”
“Who are you with? You spoke about ‘we’.”
“I’m here with Nadyr and Snake Eater. Dee and the rest of the gangs have entrenched themselves in Freedom Field, but she insisted in sending them both to help us in here.”
“Yes!” I pranced. House had nothing to hurt me with, since Rose, Nadyr and all the rest of the ponies I could care about were fine and giving House hell. “By the way, where is Brass Badge?”
“He and Standoff headed to the Library to establish a defense system. I think he might be worried about Tracker.”
“Good old Brass Badge and his Stable loyalty.” I smiled. “How are things over there?”
“We can handle for a while.” Rose spoke with a firm and secure tone. “Still, we need to know what to do next… this is a battlefield, and we can’t stay here forever.”
“Give me some time to get back to you, then we’ll discuss our next move. Although I have an idea in my mind that I think you will like.”
“All right then. See you soon!” Rose turned the communication off and static buzzed once again. I deactivated my radio and prepared for a fight, as the elevator was reaching its stop.
“Casino floor.” A metallic voice announced my arrival, and the doors opened.
I checked my E.F.S. to anticipate the attacks, but there were little hostile dots showing, and most of them were almost at the end of the detection range. The rest of the elements were marked as friendly, so I was able to relax a bit. The casino floor was full of ponies, most of them gamblers or regular citizens that had been surprised by the outbreak of violence in the streets. Most of them looked worried or anxious, watching the battle outside with evident fear in their faces.
“I don’t understand it…” one pony said.
“Who could have started this?” another asked.
“Don’t you see it?” a third pony bragged. “It’s House who’s behind this! Look, his roboponies are firing at the population!”
“That’s nonsense!” a fourth one replied. “I saw Ferratura grunts firing before!”
“Who cares? They’re destroying the city!”
“Somepony must stop this!”
“Go ask House!”
“No, go to the Ferratura brothers!”
“You go, I’m not risking my coat for that!”
The constant bickering in the gambling halls let me slip by almost unnoticed, as the ponies were too worried about who was to blame to pay attention to the blue armored stallion that had exited the elevator and was sneaking towards a side exit. Once on the streets, though, it would be another situation.
I had an eye on my Eyes-Forward Sparkle and another down the sights of my gun as I galloped down the side streets of New Pegasus. I had decided to take a detour in order to avoid getting caught in the middle of the fray, even if it would take me longer to reach my destination. To be honest, I was in a hurry, but I would be of little help if I took a bullet to the knee.
As the minutes passed, I grew more and more worried about Rose and Nadyr. They were pinned down in the police station, and despite all the words my filly companion had told me to keep me from freaking out, I knew for certain that they were in trouble. I had to help them as fast as possible, or I would never…
I felt something burning in my hindleg, as if a red hot iron had been pushed for an instant against my coat and then quickly removed. The sudden pain made me lose coordination and I stumbled headfirst into the concrete floor, then quickly jumped back onto my hooves in a mixture of rage and embarrassment.
“What on Equestria?” I groaned in pain and looked at my flank. Something had burnt my coat and my flesh, leaving a pretty ugly mark. “What hit me?”
“Throw - down - your - gun - or - you - will - be - destroyed.” A toneless voice spoke from behind a corner, and a robot pony rolled into the alley.
“Fuck, that must have been a laser bolt. Those things are dangerous.” I whistled in pain. “Now, about who’s destroying who…”
I fired three shots in a row, aimed at the screen where the pony face was displayed. From a logical point of view, there was no reason to think that a robot would have its ‘vital’ parts in the ‘head’, but I simply couldn’t stand looking at a fake face that had shot me from the back. The screen exploded in a rainstorm of sparks and the robopony stumbled, lost balance and fell to the side. I also noticed how one of the bullets went wide and hit the target on a metal-plated area, making almost no harm to the mechanic freak.
“No doubt they’re winning the battle…” I hissed. “These things are heavily armored!”
I searched the bot and found the laser beam cannon-thingy with which it had tried to burn me to a crisp, then began fiddling with it. With a little bit of skill I would be able to detach it and use it myself… hardly any plating would withstand a burst of laser fire. After a bit of tinkering, I had the gun and the energy capacitor system already out of the robot’s hull, and I only needed to wire it so that it would work as an independent system.
“That’s it…” I grinned malevolently. “That will teach those shiny asses who to fear.”
The nozzle of the gun had lit up with a dreary pink fluorescence, warning of its power and inherent danger to anypony brave or dumb enough to stand on its way. I was no handipony, but I knew my electronics good enough to be able to close a circuit… maintenance had always been lousy at the Stable, so one had to know how to perform some basic repairs.
Once properly armed, it was only a matter of melting robots (and some flesh-and-bone ponies as well) until I reached the NPPD building. It wasn’t suffering a major siege, but I had to clear out the entrance before I was able to get into the lobby. The main corridors and rooms had been turned into trenches by means of toppled tables, shelves or crates, but most of them had been holed through with efficiently fired laser beams.
Everything was too quiet, and I had a bad feeling in my gut. The pain in the leg wasn’t helping either, so I did something that I should never have done, according to the common logic of the Wasteland: I gave away my position.
“Rose! Nadyr!” I yelled. “Where are you? Are you alright?”
“Intruder!” A robotic voice echoed, and one of House’s soldiers popped out of a side room.
“Dangit.” I mumbled, and fired my laser gun, melting the chest plating of the droid and fusing all its internal circuitry. “Bad call. Rose!! Can you hear me?”
“Yes, we’re fine!” Rose screamed from somewhere in the building. “But there might be more bots inside, be careful!”
“I took one out, and my E.F.S. doesn’t pick up anything within range!” I replied. “Come to the lobby, I’ll wait for you here!”
I heard the sound of hooves against the floor, and a minute later, Rose and Nadyr came out of one of the interrogation rooms, followed closely by Snake Eater, who looked less like a friendly old buck and more like a grizzled war veteran, with a saddlebag-mounted heavy machine gun threatening to rain hell upon its enemies.
“Farsight!” Rose gave me a tight hug. “You’re fine! Thank the Goddesses!”
“Well, I’m fine… more or less.”
“What? Why?” Rose noticed my burn. “Ugh, laser fire. Don’t worry, I’ll have you patched up.”
Rose’s magic began working its miracle on my burnt leg, while Nadyr gave me a pat in the back while smiling cunningly.
“What’s up, bro? We thought we had lost you.”
“I can be annoyingly persistent, Nadyr. You know that more than anypony.”
“Hell yeah, I do.” Nadyr laughed. “I’m not going to ask you where you’ve been, since I know you’ve tried to play cards with Full House and the Ferraturas. Guess things didn’t go so well after all.”
“They play with marked cards, Nadyr.” I shrugged. “Always a lesson learnt. How about you?”
“I have only one word. Twins.”
“Twins?” I mumbled, suddenly catching what he meant. “Congratulations, my friend! How did you find out?”
“We went to Mixer’s for a global check, and that’s what he told us. Twins!”
“Good for you two then! Let’s not get you killed, alright? Those two will need a father.”
“That’s what ah told yer.” Snake Eater said.
“Hey Snake.” I smiled. “Watch where you point that, will you?”
“Ya mean this?” Snake laughed. “Dun’ worry, Farsight. Ah got it under control.”
“I hope you do.” I whistled.
“Done!” Rose cheered. “So, what is your plan, Farsight?”
“To put it simply, I want to get back into the depths of the Platinum Horseshoe and find out where Full House really is.”
“Didn’t you meet him on the top of the Spire?” Rose asked.
“He spoke with me via a communication device. I only heard his voice and saw a picture of his face displayed on a screen. We did speak, yes, but I can’t say I really met him.”
“Do you suspect something?”
“Not really, apart from the fact that he has an entire robot factory inside the Casino basement. With that in mind, it’s logical that he’s about to win this war.”
“So you think he might be down there?” Nadyr said.
“Ah would hide close to mah precious possessions.” Snake sentenced. “If House likes ‘is robots as much as ah think’e does, ‘e’ll be there.”
“Then that’s where we should go.” Rose nodded. “I am worried about the bots, though. They are very resilient.”
“Fetch their laser guns, in case you haven’t blown them to bits. I have found them to be exceptionally effective against mechanized enemies.”
“You heard the boss!” Nadyr laughed. “Let’s get scavenging!”
Twenty minutes and some rewirings later, we were back on the streets and heading for the Platinum Horseshoe. We avoided the Strip once again, for the battle kept raging and the Ferraturas had launched a counterattack in three crossings, forcing House’s robots to regroup and defend their positions.
“Sum’ponies know their strategy.” Snake Eater nodded in admiration. “Ah wouldn’t’ave bet a single cap fer th’Ferraturas, but look at’em now. They’re good’uns.”
“I agree.” I admitted. “Despite their weaker weaponry, they are being able to outwit the enemy. Let’s not lose any minute, though, or they might get into the Horseshoe before us.”
“Watch out, robot, three o’clock!” Nadyr roared.
“Not anymore.” Lavender’s voice spoke through Rose.
“Thanks, Lav.” I galloped forward.
“Lav?” The filly looked at me with a funny face; funny as in utterly pissed.
“Fine, Lavender.” I groaned.
We moved quickly through the alleys of New Pegasus, showing no mercy to any opposition, no matter if robot or Ferratura goon, that would stand in our way. Some minutes later, we were descending to the sewers through the ponyhole I had used one day earlier to guide the mercenary pack.
“Damn, and I thought Neighorleans smelled bad.” Nadyr whistled.
“I have a certain feeling of déja vu.” I groaned. “I know it smells like… well, like a sewer, incidentally, because that’s what it is!”
“Easy now, Farsight.” Nadyr grinned. “I meant no offence. It’s just that it smells… reeeeally bad.”
I disregarded the half-zebra’s comment and trotted down the tunnel, following the marker I had left on my PipBuck when I first planned the infiltration. I hadn’t even remembered erasing it when I got out of House’s trap, and now it was helpful once again. Soon enough, we were in front of the blast door, whose security protocols hadn’t been updated. I had no trouble hacking into the system and operating the controls, and a minute later, we were inside the complex basement.
“Ah, so the prodigal son returns.” House’s unctuous voice echoed through the metal corridors.
“Who’s that?” Rose asked, startled.
“That’s Full House… his voice, at least.” I answered, discontent. “He must be watching us.”
“But of course I’m watching you.” House replied. “And I can hear you too. You won’t think that after breaking into my casino once I would leave all security down twice, would you?”
“I may have a terrible opinion of you, House, but I know you’re no fool.” I looked to the ceiling in search of possible cameras. “I was expecting such a welcome from you.”
“Good, I knew that you were smart.”
“Thank you, House. You know how to treat a pony well.”
“Oh, I see you’ve brought company!” House’s voice became more unbearable. “Are these ones going to shoot you from the back as well?”
“They shouldn’t.” I shrugged. “But who knows, right?”
“Once bitten, twice shy, isn’t it, Farsight?” House laughed. “We all learn from our mistakes, and my mistake was letting you go. That won’t happen again.”
Suddenly, as House was saying that, two turrets appeared from the ceiling and aimed at us. I hadn’t seen them in my E.F.S., and that was quite worrisome. However, there were more pressing matters at hoof.
“Take cover!” Snake Eater yelled and fired a round of laser against the left turret.
We backpedaled to hide behind columns, while bolts of pink laser fire crossed the room, threatening to tear a burnt hole in our bodies. House’s maniacal laughter echoed through the corridors, making me extremely nervous. That pony had the innate ability to destabilize me.
“You seem very confident, House!” I called out, as I took a shot at the turret. “Don’t underestimate us!”
“I don’t think I am going to fall for that, my friend. I know what you are capable of… and about your companions’ abilities as well!”
“How does he…?” Rose whispered.
“He’s bluffing.” I replied in a very low volume. “He does that all the time.”
“Are you sure?”
Rose nodded and aimed carefully. A burst later, the left turret was gone in a flash and a bang. I smiled at the filly and took aim for the right turret. An instant later, we were free to go.
“You have mustered quite a notorious team, Farsight.” House whistled. “I wasn’t sidetracked when I regarded you as a leader.”
“Keep your fake praises to yourself, House.”
“Fake? How dare you say that, my good sir!” House overreacted. “All my words of recognition towards you are genuine. I feel offended by that.”
“Oh, boo-hoo-hoo.” Lavender whined, as we galloped forward, into the catwalk room where the Ferratura mercs had ambushed me. “You feel offended. What a big deal, mister Full House.”
“So it’s true. The little rose has a thorn hidden.” House mocked. “You must be the infamous Lavender.”
“Gee, you flatter me, House. ‘The Infamous Lavender’. It sounds good, it has class, presence, pizzazz.” Lavender laughed. “You do know how to treat a mare.”
“Why yes, but does your ‘employer’ know? Or is he something more?”
“Like what, like my lover?” Lavender let go a burst of laughter. “Seriously, House? Do you think I’d really let myself be shagged by Farsight?”
“You did tempt Rocky Shade.”
“Ah, Rocky. Poor little sod, he never saw it coming.” Lavender sighed funnily.
“Indeed, he was a fool, and therefore disposable.” House disregarded his death with a quick huff. “However, what if he hadn’t given in so quickly… would you have let him give you your first time? You know, when I hired Rocky he had a long backstory as a raider… and he took pride in the number of mares he had raped. I’m pretty sure that he would have taught you some of his tricks.”
“I don’t think so, House.” Lavender sounded uncomfortable.
“Ask yourself the following question. What would Farsight have done if Rocky had tried to negotiate with him?”
“What do you mean, House?” I grunted.
“What if Rocky had offered to lead you to me in exchange of a go with Rose? What would you have done?”
I saw House’s intent. He was trying to confront me with Lavender by means of posing a diabolic question. It was nothing more than a hypothetical situation, but if I didn’t respond in a way that left no trace of doubt I might be faced with the rage of a psychotic killing machine. It was all a matter of trust, and I had to be totally clear with Lavender or she’d never trust me again.
“Good question. What would you have done, Farsight?”
“If that had been the case we would have been forced to find another source of information, Lavender. I don’t sell my friends, period.” My voice was stern and firm when I issued my reply. There could be no trace of insecurity.
“Are you sure about that?” House crooned.
“Completely sure.” I sentenced. “Besides, that’s just a hypothesis that never came to happen. What you’re trying to do is totally inelegant and not what I had expected from a gentlecolt like you.”
“All is allowed in love and war, my little Farsight.” House giggled. “You should know that more than any, so don’t go pulling out the elegance card with me. Such matters are valid in a ballroom but not in a battle.”
“How narrow-minded of you, House.” I murmured.
“You are a wise being, Lavender. You should see what a disgraceful element you’ve teamed up with. In all honesty, tell me: is that your heart’s desire? Do you wish to roam the streets of any Wasteland town, following the tracks of a good-for-nothing schemer who thinks he can take over the world? Trust me, I’ve seen a few, and he will lead you to perdition.”
“You see, House, while I will give you that he gets a little too fired up with his plans and his plots; Farsight is a very sensible pony, and I hardly think he’ll take me to a dead end. If he does, though, I’ll make him regret it.”
“Thanks.” I whined.
“Don’t mention it.” Lavender grinned smugly. “I know where you’re leading me to, House, and let me warn you: I won’t fall for it. With his ups and his downs, Farsight is the pony my loyalties are up to.”
“Thanks.” This time, I said it without irony.
“Well, I am frankly impressed, Farsight.” House whistled. “I never thought you would be able to keep such an element in a leash.”
“Haven’t I already told you that I can’t be played with?” I grinned.
“Watch what you say…” House booed, and three more turrets popped out of the ceiling, forcing us to duck and cover.
I had been noticing a constant improvement of the signal quality from Full House’s broadcast as we moved inside the Casino, and I had been carefully following my ear to try to locate where he was emitting it from. The lower levels of the Platinum Horseshoe could be a massive labyrinth, and we had no time or will to spend finding a hidden pony by means of systematic trial and error. For that, however, we needed him to talk.
Turrets weren’t that much of a challenge for us. The entirety of the team had shooting experience, and even Rose was weathered in such things, so the defense system didn’t last too long. Anyway, I had the feeling that Full House wanted us to be in there. The level of resistance he was showing was close to none, and even if most of his robots were fighting on the streets, that didn’t explain the ease with we were moving through the basement.
“You have stripes!” House whistled suddenly. “I hadn’t really noticed, Nadyr.”
“Check your sight, fool.” Nadyr laughed. “It’s not like they’re so hard to see.”
“So you are a zebra after all…”
“A half-zebra, please.”
“How unfortunate. My condolences.”
“For you being such an abomination. Don’t you know? Ponies hate zebras, but they hate half-zebras more. Let me guess, you’ve been shunned all of your life.”
“That’s no real guess. It’s everyday Wasteland.”
“But aren’t you bitter? Aren’t you resentful of being constantly subjected to pony authority, to the hate and the dictatorship of those who designated you as their target practice?”
“Careful, Nadyr…” I whispered.
“Come on, Nadyr, be honest with me. You must have regretted being born. You must have felt shame for your condition, at least once in your life.”
“Every single day of my existence, there must be one pony that asks me that same question.” Nadyr huffed. “What is it with your unsolved guilt complex that you have to keep pestering me with the same issue?”
“Guilt complex? Me?” House laughed. “Don’t get me wrong, Nadyr, I don’t feel guilty. All this matter beyond zebras and ponies is beyond me, as they all pay in the same currency. I am a businesspony, and therefore, matters like petty racism and historic revenges are not in my agenda. They are bad for business. However… I see you surrounded by three ponies, and I bet that none of them thinks the way I do. Have you ever confronted Farsight and asked him what his opinion on zebras is?”
“N-no, not really.” Nadyr doubted. I had to admit that Full House was a true charmer. He knew how to use his voice and his words to cause confusion, to exacerbate or to eliminate feelings.
“Then, why don’t you ask the question you are afraid to ask?”
“You know you would feel much better if you set things straight with your alleged friends, Nadyr. Ask the question that’s been itching you inside.”
“That’s… pointless.” Nadyr was fighting with himself.
“Is it?” House whispered evilly. “If it’s as pointless as you say, why are you in such a fluster?”
“That’s because you’re making this to me!” Nadyr growled.
“No, you’re making this to yourself.” House said sternly. “You want to know the answer, but at the same time, you are afraid of what it might be. Those ties will be with you unless you break them and free yourself of the burden you’ve been carrying since the day of your birth!”
A convincing speech, I had to give House that point. Still, I believed in Nadyr being able to get over it.
“Farsight…” The half zebra looked at me with anguish in his eyes. “Tell me the truth, please.”
“The truth?” I smiled calmly, as if nothing was going on. House had turned all that issue into something big and painful, where there was little more than a fireside chat with a warm cup of coffee. “Listen to me, my friend. All of that is ridiculous. Whatever happened two centuries ago is long gone. I’ve lived in a Stable and I have heard a lot of crap about the zebras doing this, the zebras doing that and whatnot; and I won’t lie to you, the first time we met I did get a little anxious. However, after all we’ve been through, I can say for sure that striped or not, we can all get along properly.”
“Oh yes, and what about the ponies that harassed me as a child? Or the zebras, who didn’t like me either?”
“Nadyr,” I said as soothingly as possible, “the world is unfair and unforgiving. Many of those who disliked you did that driven by the fear of the unknown. If those very ponies met me they would despise me as well; and I’m not supposed to mean any danger to them, am I?”
“Besides, Nadyr, we’ve been together long enough to know what moves us.” Rose intervened suddenly. “Don’t you think that we’re over racial quarrels already?”
“Rose…” The half zebra blinked, puzzled. “You really think so?”
“Of course we do, you moron!” The filly laughed clearly, and it felt like everything had gotten brighter for a second. “Don’t you see what House is trying to do? He wants us to fight each other, to forget what we came here for. Remember that Dee is fighting out there with your two unborn foals in her, and if we don’t succeed now, we might regret it beyond ourselves. Come on, Nadyr, we are a team; and as such we need to push.”
“Rose is right.” I added. “You know, I sometimes lack the finesse she has to say things, and I think she has made my point pretty clear. No matter what you are, I need you by my side. Forget what this geezer is saying and let’s carry on. I think we’re almost there.”
Nadyr shook his head, as if he wanted to get rid of something, then he smiled again and looked at the speakers in the corners.
“Sorry, Full House, but I think that shot went right out the wrong end. I’ll admit it, you almost had me for a moment, but there are some things stronger than my past or the pattern of my coat, and those are my friends. I wouldn’t let them down under any circumstance.”
“Well, what a pity.” House whined. “I could have used a good fighter such as you to replace the late and disgraced Rocky Shade.”
“I will have to decline your offer. Other interests are more powerful.”
“I should have counted on that.” House mumbled. “What about you, Snake Eater? I know much about you and your troublesome past… I know that you were one of the first volunteers to the NER army… or was it the NCR then?”
“It was th’New Canterlot Republic then, yes.”
“What happened then was so sad and regrettable… twelve years of peace and then, another revolution, another coup d’etat. Where were you exactly?”
“Almost at th’Divide, scouting fer a way thru.” Snake’s voice was sad.
“Far from home, far from New Canterlot, and then…”
“Yes… ah couldn’t help at all.”
“Couldn’t you?” House laughed. “Come on, Snake Eater. Anypony could have seen that coming… the constant demonstrations demanding for the Light Bringer to return from Exile… the frequent attacks on the new Government… and then, the President was murdered.”
“Claiming the foundation of the New Equestrian Republic under the supreme rule of the Light Bringer. You could have resisted, as many did, but you fled. You were scared and galloped into the Divide, looking for shelter from the storm. Now, I don’t blame you, as you took the wisest possible decision; but I am very sure that you will have regretted that very day ever since.”
“It’s been on mah mind every night.”
“But after the years, you found your peace of mind, working as a bodyguard, with the NER separated by a magic barrier they couldn’t cross. However, they managed to get through and walk right into the heart of New Pegasus. I can imagine your anger when you saw their banner rise in Freedom Field.”
“Yer assuming many things, House.” Snake Eater tried to keep calm, but he was stirred in the inside.
“I am convinced that I am assuming them right, Snake Eater. Now, do you know that you’re walking right beside the pony that shook hooves with the Republic and opened the gates for them? That shouldn’t be a pleasant revelation.”
Snake Eater looked at me questioningly, and I feared for the worst. Full House might have found our weak spot, and he might be able to use it against us. However, Snake laughed and winked in a friendly way.
“Ah can’t be mad at’im. Whatever’e did, Freedom Field is gettin’ bigger an’ bigger every day, an’ ponies wanna live there. My past with th’ NER is mine t’solve, an’ maybe ah should be grateful with’im fer having brought’em to my door.”
“Thank you, Snake Eater.” I sighed in relief.
“Yer welcome, Farsight. Now, let’s get this phoney.”
I nodded. The last words of Full House had sounded very clear, and we had walked all the way to an antechamber with a large double door on one end. My bet was that House’s control center was right behind the mentioned gates, so I walked forward to meet my foe and settle things once and for all. The door opened hissing, and as soon as I crossed it, it jammed shut and all the alarms fired.
“What is going on?” Rose yelled.
“Farsight, are you alright?” Nadyr asked from beyond the steel door.
“I’m fine!” I yelled. “But the door is being remotely controlled. I need to find a way out.”
“Roboponies!” Snake Eater screamed. “Helluva lot of’em! Get ready to hold!”
The sound of gunfire barrage began to drown the voices of my companions, making me gulp in anguish. I needed to find a way of stopping the alarms and joining my mates, or at least finding them a way out of the ambush. However, I seemed to be standing on a dead end, as the room was in the dark and there didn’t seem to be any control consoles close.
“Trapped, Farsight?” House’s voice gurgled gleefully.
“House! This was your plan all along, wasn’t it?” I roared in anger. “Show yourself!”
“If that is what you wish…”
The lights of the room went on suddenly, making me flinch and cover my eyes. Once the initial flash was gone, I found myself looking at a large pod full with greenish fluid, in which the body of a pony was floating, connected to a series of cables that jacked into sockets in the back of his head. His bright coat and dark mane, coupled with the dandy moustache left no doubt of who I was looking at… Full House, in flesh and bone.
“What on Equestria…?”
“This?” House giggled. “I can’t believe you didn’t see it coming, Farsight. There are many things that couldn’t be explained assuming that I was a living pony, like for example how could I have survived since before the War.”
“You could be a ghoul, or an identity thief. After all, who could have proven you wrong?”
“That wouldn’t have worked. Sooner or later, somepony would have caught me on an uncomfortable situation.”
“Whatever… What the hell is this?” I waved my hoof towards the machine.
“Do you really want to know? Aren’t you worried about your companions?”
“They can handle themselves.” I smiled malevolently. “And yes, I really want to know. You’ve got a lot of explaining to do.”
“This is a Stable-Tec Stasis Container, a little gift from Scootaloo herself. I wanted to keep control over the empire I had built so long ago, and when I found out I was suffering a terminal disease, I acquired this lifesaver. Its peculiarity, though, is that my brain is kept in a conscious state while connected to a maneframe terminal. That is how I managed to keep awake and alive for two centuries, watching and listening to all the news and rumours that plagued the Wasteland; and that is why I am so powerful now.”
“But you’re tied to the Casino.”
“Who cares, really, when New Pegasus is the only worthwhile thing in the whole Wasteland. I’ll admit it, when the NCR was born I began paying attention to the world beyond the Divide, but until the NER managed to cross it, there was little I could want from them. Now, on the other hoof, I am definitely going to profit from that… and you can do so too.”
“Cut it out, House.”
“Won’t you even listen to me? Farsight, you are trapped and your friends are under heavy fire. If you keep being so stubborn, you won’t be able to save them. I am offering you the life of those you care about and the chance to rule New Pegasus by my side. I am giving you the chance to become the most important pony in Neighvada. You wanted to be a leader, didn’t you?”
“Who said that? I never mentioned wanting to be a leader.”
“Leader or not, my offer is simple: power and wealth in company of those you care for. Try to do anything else, and you’ll end up alone and broke, and all of those who you called friends will be dead and gone; and once that is done, I shall have you killed.”
“House, I have had enough of your stupid offers and senseless threats.” I grumbled.
“And what do you intend to do, little one?” House laughed.
Silently, I galloped to the maneframe and connected my PipBuck to it. The integrated hacking system began to fight the many security protocols Scootaloo had installed in Full House’s life support device. I could almost hear House taking a deep breath in anguish as he saw himself cornered; but on the outside, he appeared to be calm and mocking.
“Do you really think you can hack my Container, Farsight? You and your little PipBuck are no match for the defences of my computer!”
“Reeeeeally.” I smirked, as I saw one barrier fall after another. “What you don’t know is that my little PipBuck has been enhanced with the Stable-Tec security libraries. I’ve hacked more complex systems than yours, House. Enjoy your last minutes of life.”
“What?” House gasped. For the first time he realized how endangered he was. Suddenly, the alarm shut down and the shooting stopped. “Please, Farsight, let’s be reasonable. Let’s not take any decisions we might regret, OK? I have a lot to give you, if you let me live! I’ll teach you how to govern this city! I’ll be your counsellor, your voice of experience! Listen to me, Celestia-dammit!”
“Too late, House. The old must die to make way for the new. Rest in fucking peace, you abomination.”
With a last click, the control system opened wide and I selected the option of ‘disconnecting living body’ from the Stasis Pod. With a last gurgling ‘no’, Full House’s existence ended in three minutes. So much for two centuries of endurance against Nature.
I also reopened the gates, and Rose and Nadyr galloped to meet me. The two of them looked tired and worn out, but they had no apparent wounds or burn marks. Snake Eater was nowhere to be found, though.
“Farsight, are you alright?” Rose hugged me.
“Yes, I took care of House.” I sighed.
“House? Is that him?”
“Yes, a machine kept him alive and kicking… but no more.” I smiled. “Now we own the Platinum Horseshoe.”
“That’s my buck!” Nadyr gave me a tight embrace. “I effing knew you would make it!”
“Thanks, Nadyr.” I nodded. “Where’s Snake Eater?”
Rose looked at the floor with a sad expression, almost crying.
“He took a laser shot right at the chest. There was nothing I could do.”
“That’s a disgrace.” I grunted. “He was a fine soldier, I will miss him. However, I guess that’s the end he would have wanted; showing bravery in battle. Once a soldier, always a soldier, don’t they say?”
“I guess…” Rose sighed.
“We only need to honor him properly; and I swear I will look after that.”
Rose nodded and gulped, hiding her tears.
“What are we going to do now?” Nadyr asked.
“Give me a minute.”
I returned to the computer and began fiddling with the control systems. I entered the robot programming controls and rerouted them to my PipBuck, giving me direct command over Full House’s armies. A couple of button presses and the roboponies switched their pony face to my Cutie Mark, the ornate red eye. It gave them quite a menacing look, to be honest.
“Damn, they look scary now.” Nadyr laughed.
“Of course, they will learn to fear our wrath.” I replied.
I smiled cunningly and activated the broadcasting function of Full House’s maneframe. Then, I moved the microphone to my muzzle and sent a clear and irrefutable message:
“To the Ferratura Family.” I said coldly. “I am Farsight, the pony you sentenced to death in the dark corridors of the Platinum Horseshoe. As you can see, I have managed to take over Full House’s enterprise and his armies, and I shall make one thing clear: you have no idea of what I am capable of. This will be no easy competition, like it was the case when the deceased House was in charge. This is a hostile takeover. I will run you over and I shall take all what’s yours and keep it for me. You chose a very powerful enemy when you decided to betray me, Ferraturas. This means WAR.”
I cut the communication and dropped the microphone with unhidden rage. Nadyr came along and passed a foreleg behind my neck.
“All right! Let’s roll out and give them hell!”
Note: Reputation Change
Full House Group: Owned. You have taken over Full House’s domains, and now your banner can be seen hanging from the Horseshoe Spire.
Ferratura Family: War. The time for subtleties is over. Prepare to fight for your life.
New Equestrian Republic: Angry. The outbreak of violence in New Pegasus has caused the NER to deploy a conquest force against the city, and it’s your job to stop the conflict before it comes to happen.